Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Ridsdale wastes no time in swinging the axe

Preston chairman has wasted no time in stamping his authority in club, sacking the club’s manager Phil Brown barely a week in the job.

Brown took over the Lancashire club last January and was immediately plunged into a relegation battle.

Those who bet on the Championship certainly fancied Brown’s men to lose their fight against the drop, which they duly did, given the desperate nature of the situation it did not reflect poorly on Brown.

However, what was expected was a sustained assault on the League One title or at the very least a crack at the play-offs.

However, the season has not panned out as expected, with a mid-season run of 10 games without a win plunging them down to 10th – though they are still just five points off the play-off positions.

A statement released by Ridsdale pointed to a poor run of football scores  as the key reason to letting Brown leave, though given Ridsdale has only been in the job eight days I suspect a clean slate was always on his mind.

It will do little to ease tensions among the Preston support, both about their league position and the arrival of Ridsdale. The spectre of Leeds United’s implosion still follows him round, seemingly becoming stronger with each rebuttal of responsibility that comes from his lips.

His repeated declaration that United’s troubles only occurred after he had left, following years of relative success under his watch, was scoffed at and mocked in equal measure, given their years of ‘living the dream’ was largely due to the irresponsible and unsustainable lending by Ridsdale and his fellow directors, and the troubles after – for which they are still paying the price – were similarly linked to his rash spending.

Is time at similarly cash-strapped clubs Barnsley, Cardiff and Plymouth has done little to repair his reputation – rightly or wrongly – and his first act at Preston has only deepened the sense of foreboding as to the club’s imminent future.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Dalglish uses DVD to point out ref failings

Manager’s moaning about referee’s is nothing new, it has always gone and probably will always go on. But Kenny Dalglish took things to another level by playing a DVD during his weekly press conference to point out examples of where his club were hard done by against Fulham last Monday.

The game, which the Red eventually lost 1-0, also landed Liverpool in trouble with the FA after Luis Suarez was charge after giving the Fulham fans the finger, while the club was charged for failing to control their players after they surrounded referee Kevin Friend following Jay Spearing’s dismissal.

Dalglish though was not going to take any punishment lying down, and could not help but let his frustration at the FA pour out in front of the media. The Scot was angered further from he sees as double standards following the FA’s successful appeal to downgrade Wyane Rooney’s England suspension from three games to two, meaning he can play in England’s final group game at Euro 2012.

"If anyone wants to see the truth it's on the screen," Dalglish said.

"If we have infringed rules we will have to accept it and take the punishment, but I'm not certain what the rules are when it comes to disputing a decision," he added. “What I do know is that referees are inconsistent with their interpretations. The only intent in Jay's mind was to get the ball, and normally our discipline is good, as our film clip can prove.

We just want to be dealt with fairly," Dalglish said. "We want the same rules to apply to us as to everyone else. At Fulham I think we got the short end of a lot of 50-50 decisions that on another night might have gone our way. Anyone watching the clips can see that for themselves."

What Dalglish fails to recognise is that he isn’t the only manager who feels hard done by referees. In live football games across the country it is an almost weekly occurrence, and often managers do have video evidence to make their case.

Earlier in the season Dalglish was the beneficiary of a generous sending off by Martin Atkinson of Everton’s Jack Rodwell for a challenge that was barely even a foul. Dalglish, however, said he ‘didn’t see’ the incident.

To be honest I think Dalglish knows decisions swing this way and that, he surely has so too much experience to really think Liverpool – not too long ago one of the ‘big four’ – are picked up by referee’s.

Instead I think he is merely playing the game, trying to influence referee’s by manipulating the press – something Sir Alex Ferguson has mastered over the years.

Will it work and turn the football scores in his favour? Well, he has a task if he is to rescue Luis Suarez’s reputation, mud thrown in the direction of ‘divers’ tends to stick in the English game, rightly or wrongly.

But apart from that I would not be surprised if a ‘favourable’ decision goes the way of the Reds in the near future.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Bruce goes, Kean surely next?

So Steve Kean at least avoided the ignominy of becoming the Premier League’s first coach to be sacked thi season. Poor old Steve Bruce has taken that title for him.

But with Rovers propping up the rest of the division and slung out of the Carling Cup by Cardiff in midweek, most managers in Kean’s position would be nervously awaiting a phone call from the chairman.

But in the bizarre world of Blackburn Rovers such performance earns you a pay-rise. Venkys’ loyalty to Kean is admirable and they do have a point when they say that stability is crucial to success. But that is only if you have the right man in charge.

Kean, with no managerial experience, was seemingly plucked from nowhere to replace Sam Allardyce (though the coincidence that he has the same agent as the company who brokered the Venkys deal raises suspicions).

His run of just six wins in 33 games is well and truly relegation form and his post-match interviews and denials of his teams’ failings are increasingly baffling.

If Ellis Short, Sunderland chairman, pointed to a furious supporter reaction towards Bruce as a key reason to sack his manager then Kean should have gone long ago.

A section of supporters – growing in number despite what Kean says – are demanding his resignation and have held several supporters protests before during and after games, even going as far as hiring a plane to fly a 'Kean out' banner over Ewood Park.

The football betting has Kean favourite to be the next manager sacked, but it seems Venkys are determined to keep their man, with a new contract on improved terms so appallingly timed that it merely acted as a slap in the face for the supporters who had forced the owners to leave a game at Wigan at half time such was the level of abuse aimed in their direction.

Games against Sunderland and Swansea set Rovers up for the bust festive period, with the fear of being bottom on Christmas day looming (only one team in the Premier League era has been bottom on December 25 and stayed up – WBA in 2005). If the club fail to get wins in either of those two games then Venkys would surely be forced to act, if not I would bet on the Championship welcoming Rovers next August.

 But such is the rapid deterioration of the club since they took charge a little over 12 months ago, the question would be – who on earth would want to replace him?

Friday, 25 November 2011

AVB speculation sums up Chelsea’s weakness

"I don't agree [that I need help.] I don't solve problems on my own; I solve problems with my group of people and my group of players.

Says Andre Villas-Boas, who apparently is already under pressure in his role as Chelsea manager.

True, they face a fight to stay in the Champions League and the premier league odds have drifted to 14/1, but it is still a ludicrous suggestion, but one that is symptomatic of the Abramovich era at Stamford Bridge.

When the Russian took over Chelsea in 2003 and promptly set Claudio Ranieri on a wild spending spree designed to turn the club into the world’s best; critics – now doubt fuelled with a tinge of jealousy – argued they had sold part its soul in exchange for riches.

That argument looked weak when Jose Mourinho led the club two consecutive league titles – the first in particular a near perfect campaign from start to finish.

However, Abramovich became greedy and didn’t just want titles, he wanted to do it with attacking flair, rather than Mourinho’s conservative but effective tactics. Not to mention his burning desire to win the Champions League.

That led to him interfering into club affairs and the start of a succession of incidents that have undermined the man in the manager’s hot-seat at the Bridge.

First of all, Abramovich chose to sign Andrei Shevchenko for £30million. A player Mourinho didn’t want but had forced upon him, while also preventing him from having any cash to spend in the following transfer window.

With Mourinho’s position undermined by backroom appointments he called it quits in September 2007, and there began a succession of crises, manager sackings and a seemingly endless spiral of revival and failure.

What also needs to be pointed out is as a clique in the dressing room – we all know the names – that appear to wield a corrosive power at Stamford Bridge.

The unassuming Avram Grant was deemed not good enough despite leading them to second and a European cup final. Luis Felipe Scolari lasted seven months while Guus Hiddink was a temporary fix.

Carlo Ancelotti led them to a magnificent double but standing still is as good as going backwards and a failure to foresee (or able to deal with)  an aging and depreciation of a once great squad - as well as more backroom undermining - cost him dear.

Not that it was all his fault, Abramovich is clearly a man who gets what he wants and reacts wildly if he doesn’t.

So off went Carlo and in came Andre Villas-Boas, to the tune of £13million compensation to Porto. Now with just four months of live football in the Premier League under his belt he is under pressure.

It can be argued that the pressure was hyped up by the media – this is given weight by revelations that Roman has actually backed AVB and denied his job is under threat. English press in over hyping story shocker.

But chaos breeds uncertainty and the press are merely following on the pattern that has been set before.

It may hurt and be an unusual feeling for someone for whom money is the ultimate short-cut, but Abramovich may have to see things get worse before they get better. It may though lead to the type of success he was craving when he breezed into the Bridge eight years ago.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Ashley ends 118 years of history with Newcastle stadium re-brand

Mike Ashley certainly has an impeccable sense of timing. Whenever Newcastle are going well the club’s owner always seems to cause unnecessary disruption and incur further wrath from the supporters.

His latest act is to rename the club’s home – St James’ Park – the Sports Direct Arena, after his own company. With their shirt sponsor due for renewal next summer, Ashley is hoping to provide potential sponsors a taste of what it could be like for a combined shirt and sponsorship deal, similar to the ones seen at Arsenal and Manchester City.

It is a typical hard-nosed business decision from Ashley, a man who holds no room for sentiment when it comes to making money.

However, the uneasy marriage of business and football that has grown since the dawn of the Premier League has often left sentiment – something supporters hold dear – out in the cold.

Newcastle have played at St James’ Park since 1880 and the fans are hugely proud of their history and heritage. They see this move as a slap in the face and ignorant of their history. The timing is also pretty rotten, given the club are currently defying the football betting to sit in third place in the Premier League table following and unbeaten start to the season.

In a statement, United managing director Derek Llambias explained: "Our aim for Newcastle United is to continue to deliver success for the fans and everyone associated with the club. We must make this club financially self-sufficient in order to deliver that success.

"To grow sustainably and allow us to invest in our future, we will need to rely increasingly heavily on commercial income.

"These are very difficult economic times and the board have a responsibility to maximise all revenue streams for the benefit of the club."

The idea makes sense, but given the past few months has seen the likes of Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll and Joey Barton al leave with much of the cash received banked, the supporters feels their positive football scores this season are despite of Ashley and not because of him. This latest move is the equivalent of asset stripping the history of the club for profit and the fans are now hoping this disruption will not negatively affect a wonderful start that has given them hopes for a bright future after a difficult few seasons.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Sven sacking the price paid for rich ownership

It cannot be denied that Leicester’s current position of 13th is not really good enough for a club that spent in excess of £15million over the summer and has the highest wage bill in the Championship.

But in what remains an immensely truncated division, the Foxes are just three points off fifth place and only a further four off the automatic promotion places. Having a bet on the Championship is a wildly unpredictable exercise these days.

Yet those facts didn’t appear to matter to the board of Leicester City, who sacked their manager Sven Goran Eriksson just 13 months into the job.

From the outside it seems extremely harsh – it does need to be considered that we don’t know the internal workings of the club and any faltering relationships between players and staff. Yet still, just three months into a season with such heavy investment it seems needlessly disruptive to sack a manager and his assistant, with the various compensation costs that such a venture brings, and install a new man in charge, who will bring his own ideas and players to the table.

It appears though that it is the price you pay for wealthy ownership these days. Leicester have already been compared to Chelsea, who have had the benefit of Roman Abramovich’s millions to spend but have also gone through seven managers as the Russian seeks instant success.

It is this doubled edge sword that makes the take-over of football by rich owners as worrying trend in the long-term (the uber rich and imminently successful Man City apart, though so vast is their wealth, they should be treated as a unique case). This constant hiring and firing, throwing good money after bad and the spiralling wages and transfer fees is going to eventually lead to a total meltdown and a number of clubs hitting the wall.

Back to Leicester and it seems Martin O’Neill is the favourite in the football betting and the man the fans seem to want back. The Irishman enjoyed tremendous success with the club at the turn of the century, establishing them in the top ten of the Premier League and winning the League Cup twice.

However, putting to one side the adage that you should never go back, would O’Neill want to risk his reputation by going to a club with trigger happy owners?

Rumours are he is seeking reassurances of both funds and patience, which if intertwined is an appealing combination for a football manager. But should O’Neill take the job, despite the inevitable hero’s welcome he would – and should – receive – he must know that only success, and quick, will see him last longer than his predecessor.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Kean finds no home comforts in India

A mid-season tour of India was supposed to provide Steve Kean with a bit of relief from the storm brewing among the terraces at Ewood Park.

Instead it has merely fuelled the fires, with a ‘Kean out’ banner somehow making the journey to Asia with him and unfurled during a friendly and a third supporter protest planned upon his return.

He has received the backing of owners Venkys for now, though they admit football scores need to improve.

However, speak to most fans and they see the Indian owners as much of the problem as Kean.
The circumstances by which Sam Allardyce was sacked and Kean appointed raised suspicions and when you get off onto an uneasy start with supporters, you need to turn things round and fast.

Kean hasn’t, and neither has Venkys.

The Scot has won only nine games in nearly a year in charge, relying on a final day victory against Wolves to stay in the Premier League last May.

Five months later, five defeats from their opening seven games has seen the Lancashire club slump to second bottom, and the natives are restless.

The owners must also take their share of the blame. They arrived with outlandish claims about Blackburn piercing the top six. I am not suggesting it isn’t possible, but it won’t happen with the methods they are adopting, mainly name-dropping but then failing to deliver (Raul, Ronaldinho etc...) sacking an experienced boss and hiring a rookie replacement and embarking on a series of pr disasters which merely reinforces the feeling among some supporters that they are merely in it to improve their brand in the UK and even if they do care for the club, their lack of experience in football management is starting to show. If things don’t change I would bet on relegation at the end of the season.

They now face a crucial few months which could define their season and immediate future. If Kean can spark a mini-revival and quell the dissenters then this season can be salvaged.

However, when fans are unhappy it is very hard to win them back and so it will take decisiveness from Venkys to decide if and when they should replace Kean - the owners of West Ham admit they did not replace Avram Grant before it was too late. While I don’t like to see managers sacked but Kean is approaching that point of no return and only a sharp upturn in results, I feel, will save him.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Moyes’ stance with Saha the right thing to do

Premier League footballers and their mis-use of Twitter is rapidly becoming the primary source of news and entertainment for journalists and fans alike.

Free from the oppressive, bland media-trained arena of post-match press rooms, the modern day player on the internet is worryingly loose cannon for managers, with supporters and journos waiting on every tweet.

Whereas previously if footballers were frustrated they would shout their mouth off – at worst – in a pub, the dawn of social networking sites has made it easier to not only talk before they engaged their brain to the consequences, but also to spread it across the world in only a few minutes.

Not that Twitter is all bad, it has a flip-side that has allowed players and supporters to engage in way not seen since the commercialisation of the game 20 years ago rendered player celebrities who had no real connection with the clubs and supporters that paid them so handsomely.

But its compelling force for good matters little to managers like David Moyes when one of his players rants about not being selected before storming out of the ground.

Louis Saha is the player in question after he was left out of the squad for last Saturday’s game with Wigan for refusing to play in the reserves the previous Wednesday.

This is a striker, it has to be pointed out, who for most of his career has lurched from one serious injury to another, appearing to spend more time on the treatment table then playing live football, but who Moyes still took a chance on back in 2008.

At 33-years-old he isn’t getting any younger either, and the ravages of time will make his already fragile body even more brittle.

With finances tight at Goodison Park Moyes knows he not only needs everyone pulling in the right direction, but also to be fit enough to get the football scores the club needs to keep them in the upper reaches of the table - any hint of relegation will send the already worried bank managers into overdrive.

Therefore Moyes has every right to be careful with the Frenchman, especially as he hasn’t started a game for six months. For Saha to act like he did was childish, petulant and from what we can gather, out of character.

I must applaud Moyes’ tough stance though. Small squad or not he can’t afford to let players become comfortable in their positions in the side, there needs to be competition for places, even if much of it is an illusion.

For Saha it certainly isn’t an illusion anymore. Everton’s usually thin forward line has been boosted by the arrival of Argentinean forward Denis Stracqualursi and emergence of young Greek forward Apostos Velios, who nodded the vital second against the Latics on Saturday.

Tim Cahill has also been pressed into action as a emergency lone front man, proving that Moyes can be equally stubborn when proving a point to rule-breaking players.

I’m sure deep down Moyes knows he can’t afford to let go of Saha given the paucity of funds to buy a replacement – certainly one of Saha’s ability. However, discipline must be paramount if the club is to get the best out of his players – a hallmark of the soon-to-be ten year Moyes era.

Hopefully a further chance to reflect on his behaviour instead of playing in Wendesday's match against West Brom will be enough for Saha to put down his phone and concentrate on getting fit.

Monday, 5 September 2011

England need to be professional against improving Wales

For those looking in on England’s progress over the past decade, it is clear that both supporters and media oscillate wildly from boundless optimism to the depths of despair.

The Three Lions are either World-beaters or a bunch of over-paid prima donnas not worthy of the shirt – you would be led to believe anyway.

The feeling has certainly been leaning towards the latter over the past year, as the fall-out from the disastrous 2010 World Cup continues to hang over Wembley like a bad smell.

However, a new season brings new optimism and following a convincing 3-0 win over Bulgaria in the first live football of the new international season that got England’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign back on track, suddenly all the talk is of ‘new eras’ and ‘daring to dream’.

This is, of course, all part of being an England fan and the need to take a bucket load of salt with each glowing or scathing reference of the side has never been more important than when assessing the progress of Capello’s generation.

Hence why I feel the Italian should urge caution ahead of the crucial clash with Wales at Wembley on Tuesday.

It is a game, by rights, England should win easily. As bizarre as the FIFA rankings are they aren’t that inaccurate to suggest the gap between the two sides is any smaller than the current 113 places.

But the ‘derby’ aspect should not be discounted, with players on both sides familiar with each other from domestic encounters. In one of the more eye-catching football scores on Friday, Wales were mightily impressive in beating Montenegro – something England failed to do of course . And although they will be without the influential duo David Vaughan and Craig Bellamy, the presence of Tottenham’s Gareth Bale is enough to keep the England defenders busy.

Damaging draws with Montenegro and Switzerland mean England are still behind schedule in terms of sealing qualification. A tricky trip to Podgorica for their final game means they simply cannot afford any more costly slip-ups. The Euro 2008 nightmare is already rearing its ugly head at the backs of England supporter’s minds.

But a professional performance against Gary Speed’s men will mean only a draw against Montenegro will suffice to ensure qualification – and getting draws away in final qualification group matches seems to be something England are, unbelievably, quite good at.

Toffees stuck in the recession

It’s no secret that Everton have been relatively inactive in the transfer market this summer – and also that this inactivity was not necessarily through choice. It has been revealed by Toffees chairman Bill Kenwright that their hands are tied by the financial constraints of operating in post-recession Britain – and there have been more unsettling words to have come from the man in charge of the Goodison Park purse-strings:

“We've come to a stage with our bank where we just can't borrow any more. We know the situation at the moment: we cannot spend money like other clubs – that is sensible, even if it is not very popular – but at least we have been able to keep our best players.”

And it is this approach of keeping hold of their best players that has concerned a number of fans.

Their worst nightmares were realised on deadline day when influential play-maker Mikel Arteta was sold to Arsenal, with the player later stating that the club needed the money. With Jermaine Beckford and Yakubu also leaving, the arrival of two loan players is not going to do much to allay the fans fears over the size of David Moyes’ squad heading into the new campaign, as well as their ability to keep hold of other established stars the next time the transfer window opens.

Having finished seventh in the league last season despite a nightmare start to the season in which they collected just two points from their opening six Premier League matches, Everton will need improve their opening few football scores this year as the strong manner in which they tend finish seasons could push them towards European qualification rather than away from relegation.

Having had their first live football of the season against Spurs postponed in the wake of the London riots that sprung up in the Tottenham area, and then going on to lose their first home league game against newly-promoted QPR, Everton grabbed a somewhat fortuitous win away at Blackburn courtesy of a controversial 90th minute penalty.

It wasn’t a display to inspire confidence and with the Arteta sale following soon after, many fans have reached breaking point, with a protest planned for their next home game against Aston Villa to voice their dissatisfaction to a board they feel is slowly killing the club through stagnation and inactivity.

Miracle maker Moyes is once again going to have to pull anotehr rabbit out of the hat to keep Everton competitive this year. But the growing feeling is that he may not be willing to do so for much longer.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Premier League off to false start

One of the many vagaries of the transfer window (of which I am totally against) is the pattern of behaviour that leads to a mad-dash on deadline day.

The 24-hours sports news channels love it, and to an extent so do the fans, but for the clubs it sabotages the opening weeks of the season.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Coleman blow bitter pill to swallow for Moyes

In the season previews I have read about Everton, most of them have stressed the importance of keeping their small squad fit and being lucky with injuries if they are to succeed.

So to have one of their brightest young prospects and key attacking threats, Seamus Coleman, crocked before the season began, is an ominous sign for the Toffees.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Everton tired of treading water

If you look down Everton's squad it is hard to see why their fans are so restless at present.

They have a team packed full of internationals and promising youngsters, with one of the best young managers in the game at the helm.

But look beyond that and you will see the fragile nature of the current side. Even the most mild of injury crisis would leave the squad down to the bare bones,

Monday, 25 July 2011

Premier League betting preview 2011/12

With the start of the Premier League season just around the corner now is the time to get all you season bets down with the bookmakers. The coming season looks an exciting and competitive one and one that certainly could through up a few surprises. So with this in mind we’ll be looking at all the betting for the season and try and find that extra bit of betting value to help win that little bit more from the bookies.

Probably the most popular betting market for season betting will be for the winner of the Premier League. This market is certainly more competitive than it has been down the years and the bookmakers are well aware of it. Currently, as many would expect, Manchester United are the bookmakers favourites with most of them offering 7/4 for Manchester United to lift the title. Although Paddy Power have decided to go alone and offer the best bookies odds of 9/5.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Shay Given – football's nearly man

While no-one was particularly surprised when Shay Given finally moved from the Man City substitutes bench in order to find first-team football at Aston Villa, the signing of a FIVE year contract may have raised a few eyebrows.

After all the deal would take him past his 40th birthday, old for even goalkeeping standards!

Then again, if you consider Villa's previous number one, Brad Freidel, is the same age Given will be when his contract expires, there may be method behind the apparent madness. Plus to look at the Irishman, you wouldn't think he was 35!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Villa making big mistake in McLeish move

The relationship between the second city's two clubs was frosty anyway, but relations between Aston Villa and Birmingham are now enveloped in a full blown arctic winter following the resignation of Alex McLeish from St Andrews.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Liverpool revival sparks excitement for the future

To a certain extent Kenny Dalglish was in a no lose situation when he took over at Liverpool in January. Things could barely have got any worse than it had under Roy Hodgson and Dalglish’s previous achievements as both player and manager at the club meant he would have had plenty of patience from the supporters should things have gone badly.

But I imagine even the Scot is surprised about how well things have gone and just how different the team is playing compared to those dark days under Hodgson. They aren’t just winning games they are blasting the opposition apart. Fulham are the latest victims though Newcastle, Birmingham and Man City have all felt the full force of the ride tide while Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United have all failed to beat Liverpool under ‘King Kenny’.

All of a sudden the club find themselves in fifth place, a position that seemed like a pipe dream in the Online betting stakes back in January, and even fourth is a distant possibility should Man City implode.

There is an argument that the Europa League is a distraction Liverpool could do without next season. But they are also a club that prides itself on being in Europe every season, if UEFA have chosen to ruin the competition by endless meddling the that’s not Liverpool’s problem. Plus I get the feeling some of the younger players Dalglish has fielded this year will get more game time in Europe next campaign.

The pressure now for the Scot is to deal with raised expectations, brought about his own success in the past four months. Liverpool fans were already misty eyed about their glory years in the ‘70s and ‘80s when Dalglish was first appointed, now they are playing free flowing attacking football again the excitement about next season is palpable.

But Liverpool have their fair share of false dawns when it comes to title winning squads, with each big summer signing seemingly being the ‘final piece in the jigsaw’ to finally nudge ahead of bitter rivals Manchester United and claim the league title they once thought was theirs almost by default. By their high standards even fifth place is deemed failure, even with Dalglish at the helm.

Now is perhaps the time for the board to fulfil their side of the bargain and back Dalglish in the transfer market in the summer to ensure he can make the fans dreams a reality.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Premier League Blog nominations 2010/11 - The vote is on!

What a nice surprise it was to recieve an email from the guys over at the excellent EPL Talk to say that I had been nominated for best EPL blog 2010-11.

Considering work pressure has meant PMP has been pushed into the background recently it is a bit of a surprise but a nice honour to be recognised. It is only the qualification round and there is stiff competition, but if you do have a spare few minutes and would care to vote for me it would be much appreciated.

Click here to see the full list


Javier Hernandez – Man United's new baby faced assassin

Money is said to be the deciding factor in football these days, with the old skills of actually, managing, coaching and scouting players displaced by a crude game of rich men’s fantasy football.

But at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford on Saturday you saw both old and new school try to prove their worth. Yes, Manchester United are one of the richest clubs in the world but they have never gone for the scattergun approach to player recruitment, in fact they have barely spent a penny since selling Ronaldo for £80million.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

England fans are as tired with the media as they are with Capello

International friendlies – especially those involving England – are never the most sparkling of affairs. But Tuesday’s game with Ghana is actually one that could be more entertaining than most, mainly due to the huge 21,000 away support that will provide the usually dour Wembley with some atmosphere.

It is frustrating then that the press have once again towed a negative line in the build-up to the game. Just like the string of England managers before him Fabio Capello can seemingly do no right and his decision to send five players home has resulted in a barrage of criticism by assorted journalists.

Some things don’t change eh?

Though actually in this case I think they have. Not with the ‘glass half empty’ scribes peddling their scripts of doom, but the supporters who see through the frankly desperate attempts to make headlines and boost dwindling newspaper sales.

The ‘England manager is clueless’ line is on that has been used for 40 years and we now see through it.

He can’t win. Friendlies are seen as a useless, time wasting exercise when he plays his strongest team yet when Capello looks to experiment, as he has done this week, he is accused of ‘cheapening’ the contest.

One journo even said this was an England team stripped ‘down to the bone’. What? Only five players were let go and one of those, Michael Dawson, is a relative newcomer to the international set-up.

You a far more likely to watch a better game with younger, more in-experienced players anyway as they are desperate to impress, rather than Rooney and co playing within themselves for 45 minutes under instructions from their club bosses so they don’t get injured.

Don’t get me wrong this England team and their coach still have glaring weaknesses but the supporters no longer need the press to point them out for them.

Instead they need to actually report and analyse on what is there rather than pursue yet another England manager witch-hunt before the weary paying public abandon their publications completely.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Arsenal have a right to feel robbed after Barca ref farce

Journalists and stats fans have been quick to point out the vast disparity between Arsenal and Barcelona at the Nou Camp on Tuesday.

Ok I admit nineteen shots to nil and 724 passes to 119 don’t exactly add weight to Arsene Wenger’s assertion that Arsenal would have won the game had Robin Van Persie not been harshly sent off.

But when is any side going to out-pass Barcelona? Even a side like Arsenal?

Monday, 7 March 2011

The FA to blame as Premier League referee anger escalates

I don’t think there was much surprise when Sir Alex Ferguson refused to speak to the press after his side’s defeat to Liverpool on Sunday.

He will, of course, been frustrated after his team were thoroughly dismantled to fall to their second defeat in a week. But he will also have been aware that the last time he spoke to the press he ended up with an FA charge.

Friday, 18 February 2011

There is no magic to be had at Crawley v Man United

As the nation gears up for another FA Cup weekend journalists and TV producers are desperately searching around for the most romantic FA Cup angle to fill their endless coverage.

Non-league Crawley Town, the first side from outside the football league to get to the fifth round for 17 years, is an obvious story given they are heading to Old Trafford to take on the footballing behemoth that is Manchester United.

But ask any fan of non-league football and they will tell you the Crawley story isn’t necessarily the one of ‘plucky underdogs’ you might expect.

Quinn right to have Sunderland FC vision but he can’t blame stay away fans

Upon announcing losses of £25.5million – underwritten by owner Ellis Short – Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has gone on the offensive with regard to fans who watch his club’s games in the pub or on internet streams at home.

Quinn is concerned about falling attendances this season, despite the club hovering in and around the top six.

That wasn’t in the plan when he sold the future vision of the club in 2008 to Texan billionaire Short, who has invested a further £28million of his own money into the club this season alone.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

West Ham win new stadium ahead of Spurs, but no-one seems completely satisfied

In what has become an increasingly bitter and personal battle to win the right to take-over the Olympic Stadium West Ham appear to have won the race ahead of Spurs.

But if that proves to be the case, the decision has to be confirmed by London Major Boris Johnson and the government, you get the impression Hammers fans aren’t exactly ecstatic with the move.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Arsenal's Wilshire latest victim of England hype machine

Here we go again.

With the class of 2010 ruthlessly chewed up and spat out by the media; labelled spoilt over-paid, over-rated wasters, the press hordes have moved onto their next target.

That person is Jack Wilshire, a young player of extreme talent yes, but one who is already been placed on a pedestal he is not yet qualified to fill.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Predictable drop-outs for ill-timed England friendly

The difficulties in juggling club management and international management are once again in the spotlight this week with England set to play a pretty pointless friendly in Denmark.

Coming as it is between two sets of Premier League games and a week before the resumption of the Champions League it is little surprise there has been a flurry of drop outs.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Kenny Dalglish starts to make his mark on Liverpool

For Liverpool fans this victory is by far the sweetest of the four consecutive wins under manager Kenny Dalglish so far.

Games between Liverpool and Chelsea always have an edge anyway. The Reds represent the old guard, with esteemed history and tradition but have grown weary and fallen on hard times. Chelsea are the cheeky
nouveau riche upstarts, a symbol of Premier League’s modern excess.

West Brom the latest club to push the panic button

West Brom, usually a shining example of stability and sensible management at board level, have plunged their season into chaos by sacking their manager Roberto Di Matteo.

True, the club have been on a shocking run of 13 defeats in 18 games but as Di Matteo pointed out via the LMA on Sunday, they haven’t been in the bottom three since the opening week of the season.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Suarez sweeps in new Liverpool era

A massive PR exercise has been taking place at Liverpool in recent days.

Make no mistake the departure of Fernando Torres was a hammer blow to the club’s morale.

He, alongside Steven Gerrard, was a talisman and the two players they could truly call World-class.

The signing of Luis Suarez was meant to persuade the sulky Spaniard to stay at the club, a sign of their ambition, and fans were drooling at the prospect of the pair playing together.

But Torres’ insistence that he wanted to leave left Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool board with a problem – not least what to do with the giant Torres mural outside the club shop.

The £35million last-ditch signing of Andy Carroll was their answer.

With the Torres money burning a hold in their back pocket I don’t think they cared how much they paid, in fact the bigger the better, anything to detract attention from the sight of Torres in a blue shirt.

Ex-Liverpool players-turned-pundits filled the sports pages and sports news channels, telling us all what a good deal it was, how Torres wasn’t that much of a loss and they are better off now anyway. All of a sudden a desperate situation had apprently been turned round.

Whether that is true or not is open to debate and will only ever be proven a few months down the line. But for the here and now Liverpool don’t care, they needed to give the fans a boost and bring back that air of anticipation back to Anfield rather than the Hodgson-era feeling of dread.

Complete things by giving Suarez the number seven shirt and Carroll the number nine and the supporters entered the ground misty eyed, remembering glory days gone by and believing a new chapter was about to begin.

It worked. Stoke did their best to batter and bruise the men in Red, holding on for 47 minutes before the deadlock was finally broken. Then, as if written in the script, Suarez came off the bench and scored to the delight of the home crowd.

The plan has worked perfectly so far. But with the window now shut, this is where the real work begins.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

I'm not a Chelsea fan, nor a Liverpool hater, but I do find this funny

A reaction to my story about Torres handing in a transfer request on Friday:  
Anonymous said...

    lol ...dream on

Anonymous said...

    bull$hit story, will never happen. Torres won't hand in transfer request.

Anonymous said...

    Torres has loyalty. Sorry.

Imran said...

    Obviously written after a pint too many!
    Dream on ...

(at least Imran had the decency to put his name to his quote!)

Anonymous said...

    the drinking mans blog?...very apt cos you must be pissed rent couldnt call this the thinking mans blog after all could you? w*nker

Anonymous said...
Amusing rumour to liven up an otherwise rather pointless bid by Chelsea. Quite simply, no chance on earth. Liverpool will point-blank never sell Torres to another English club and the player has repeatedly made public his intention to stay at the club and honour his contract. I guess it's worth the risk to start the rumour, not as if the british press has any credibility to lose.
Anonymous said...

    more bullshit 

I'm guessing these are the same people who guranteed themselves a spot on the front pages of the nationals by burning their Torres shorts last night?

It  just goes to show that lots of money and the ticking clock of the trasnfer window does strange things - just ask Jim White.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Torres' Chelsea transfer edges closer as Liverpool agree massive, massive fee for Andy Carroll

This is turning out to be one of THOSE transfer windows, as in mental.

Liverpool have agreed a £35MILLION fee with Newcastle for Andy Caroll.

The world has indeed gone mad.

Liverpool accept offer from Chelsea for Fernando Torres

Ha! I told you so! All those Liverpool fans who gave me grief on Friday for daring to suggest Torres may push for a transfer request, it now seems Liverpool have accepted a bid from Chelsea for the Spaniard.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Ian Holloway offers to resign - knows it won't be accepted

It was a game of brinkmanship well worth playing, as Ian Holloway wasn't alone in thinking the Premier League would actually fine him for fielding a 'weakened' team against Villa last autumn.

But now they have, Holloway has been true to his word and offered his resignation, though I'm sure he knows it won't be accepted. At least then he can save face as he stuck to his word.

Fernando Torres to hand in transfer request to force through Chelsea transfer?

I have admit I scoffed at the news headlines this morning that said Chelsea had bid £40million for Fernando Torres. Much like the Guardian's Twitter-publicised Gareth Bale non-story the day before, I thought it was at best a PR stunt by Chelsea.

But the noises this afternoon suggest Torres may actually be on his way after all.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Major squad re-shuffle ahead for Man United?

Sir Alex Ferguson has always been a master at re-building squads over time, knowing the right moment to let players go and scouting out youngsters with potential and turning them into super-stars.

But in these days of financial uncertainty, with the Glazer’s self-imposed £500million debt hanging over the club, Ferguson faces a big a job as ever if he is to refresh the squad as well as balancing the books.

Arsenal captancy storm - Denilson has a point

Whether mis-quoted or not (and I’m fairly sure he was) Denilson has made a valid point about the lack of leaders in the Arsenal side.

True his actual quotes were taken from an interview meant only for the Arseblog and Arsenal Brazil websites by a third party, sold to the sun and then put through their trashy, tabloid story spinner in order to make dramatic if mis-leading headlines.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Bruce should know more than anyone about football loyalty

In the wake of Darren Bent’s shock transfer to Aston Villa Sunderland manager Steve Bruce attempted to side with the fans by declaring his dismay at the strikers transfer.

Bruce said he felt ‘massively let-down’ by the forward, who completed his £18million move to Villa Park on Tuesday.

But loyalty in football is some mis-given belief shrouded over the game by supporters in attempt to keep the connection with their club and their players alive.

Monday, 17 January 2011

West Ham board have lot to answer for

I doubt anyone could not feel at least a twinge of sympathy for Avram Grant on Saturday.

The West Ham manager’s dour persona means he isn’t one for displaying much emotion – in public at least. But he looked visibly moved at the end of the Arsenal game on Saturday; a man who knew his time at the club was up and had been let down by those above him.

More questions than answers for Everton and Liverpool

Considering they have only won at Anfield twice in 19 Premier League visits and three times in over 25 years Everton would probably be the happier of the two teams following Sunday’s 2-2 draw.

But looking at the game the lack of form, confidence and in some cases quality is there for all to see across both sides.

One of David Moyes’ main criticisms is his negative tactics, especially away from home. Many feel that Liverpool are a side with a soft centre this season and by attacking them – like Blackpool have done twice – you can reap the rewards.

But once against the Toffees were far too timid. Slow and laboured in possession and all too often withdrawing onto the edge of their own penalty area, grimly hanging on.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Moyes struggles to balance the books

It says a lot for Everton’s finances that David Moyes has to loan a striker to a Championship club - who will cover all his wages - in order to fund a loan signing.

But as the Scot desperately searches for a striker he is forced to release one of his current crop – admittedly one who has only scored once in 15 games – in order to have enough cash to do so.

The financial restraints at Everton are bordering ridiculous levels now. All the big money signings since 2005 have been funded either by the sales of Wayne Rooney and Joleon Lescott or on loans guaranteed against future income.

Now the well has run dry any money the club brings in though TV deals etc.. flows straight out on the players wages. Moyes has assembled a talented squad at Goodison no question, and one that has to earn big money if they are to stick around. But the imminent departure of Steven Pienaar, who rejected a £60,000 a week offer in order to get £70,000 a week over four years at Tottenham, highlights the problem David Moyes faces.

He desperately wants to keep his squad together, but with no cash to improve the pressure rises when results don’t go as planned – as we have found this season. Those big players then start to get restless, and so the team will start to slowly break up. Recent wins over Spurs and Scunthorpe have raised hopes of a better season than first anticpated, but with such a small squad any sort of injury crisis could be catastrophic.

Bill Kenwright’s determination to only sell to the right bidder is admirable, but if Moyes continues to be forced to work with little or no money then Kenwright will damage the club just as much as if he sold to an unscrupulous owner.

Hammers board need to put up or shut up

After yet another post-match press conference dominated by questions about his future the same ‘will he, won’t he’ headlines appeared in the papers the next morning.

It is true that the press feed such speculation, their constant questioning of the Israeli immediately leads to more copy about his apparently imminent sacking.

But these rumours must have began somewhere. Someone deep in the corridors of power must have sparked off the story by suggesting the board were set to axe the Israeli.

If that is indeed the case then the board need to act decisively or give Grant the time and space needed to do his job.

Forcing him to manage the club not knowing whether he will have a job in the morning will only harm the club’s chances of staying in the Premier League this season.

Grant, as ever, has behaved with dignity over the past few weeks (I think his year as boss of crisis club Portsmouth helped with that) and a recent good run has lifted them back among the pack of club’s who they seemed cut adrift from just a few weeks ago.

Yet unlike his rivals around him in the table Grant seems to be the only one constantly batting away questions about his future.

It is time for the board to act – either end the speculation by publically backing their man or, if they do want to sack him, do so now to finally quash the negative vibes that are threatening to torpedo their survival hopes.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Man United rumble on

If I had a pound for the every time I have heard how Man United have won this season without playing well I would be a very rich man. Virtually every time they have won this season it has been from a 'below-par' showing with Tuesday's 2-1 at Stoke, which put them three points clear at the top, the latest example.

But the unconvincing nature of their performances, instead of pointing towards a weaker squad than in previous seasons actually shows just how good a team United are. You don’t go 20 games unbeaten, a Premier League run bettered only by the 2003/04 Arsenal ‘invincibles’ side, without being a very good side.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Ronaldinho bad move for Blackburn

The new owners of Blackburn Rovers, the India-based Venky’s group, have not done much to endear themselves to the supporters since their take-over last November.

They started by sacking Sam Allardyce, citing a desire to compete in the top six rather than at the bottom (despite Allardyce leading them to 10th on a meagre budget last season).

Monday, 3 January 2011

Hodgson only extends his Liverpool agony

For a few desperate minutes at Anfield on Saturday Roy Hodgson was staring at an inevitable sacking. A home defeat to Bolton, coming just days after a home reverse against Wolves, would have lifted supporter anger to insurmountable levels and the club’s new American owners surely would have had little choice but to relieve Hodgson of his duties.

Instead though a bit of magic by Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, something we with seen little of lately, brought the Reds level before Joe Cole snatched a last minute winner.

Relief was the main feeling billowing around Anfield with Hodgson quick to praise the fans after the game.

But while Hodgson can’t seem to stop praising the supporters after his criticism of them last week the feeling is definitely not mutual.

The former Fulham boss was never really popular choice in the first place, with Reds fans craving a bigger name to replace Rafa Benitez. But with the ownership issues that dogged the club last summer no big name would have gone near the club. Hodgson therefore was their best option.

He has had to deal with the change of ownership, limited funds and out-of-form star players but he has also been found out tactically. Their away form is awful, something Hodgson brought from his former clubs and some of his signings have proved disastrous.

This win has only extended his misery at the club; I can’t see their season turning around dramatically as they still could have easily lost this match such was their laboured performance.

If no potential suitors can be found now then Dodgson may lumber along until the end of the season.
But with terrace hero Kenny Dalglish waiting in the wings as a possible caretaker and the owners rumoured to be hunting a replacement; Hodgson’s days at Anfield are definitely numbered.