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Sunday, 1 July 2012

Spain boring??? Are people watching the same game???

Spain have now wrote themselves in the history books for winning 3 major titles in a row, an incredible feat considering the true toughness of football now a days. Not only that, they have played a form of football that has blown away supporters in true brilliance and has often been mentioned as the right way to play the game. For some reason people are now going back on their words about Spain and that word "Boring" has been mentioned. I have never in my life heard such nonsense, well apart from every single Joey Barton tweet on twitter.

To be called boring for playing with no strikers is a ridiculous excuse as well. They did play a striker, they playerd Fabregas as the forward and had a ridiculous amount of support from the rest of the team going forward. Constant forward runs were executed by many of the team, notably seen in the final with David Silvas goal supporting Fabregas and Jordi Alba's goal. This goal I have to mention as one of the best goals you will ever see. What I mean by that is the overall build up to it. Spain refusing to kick the ball long, something so many teams do when their being closed down at the back. They stuck to their guns and played the ball around at the back to ensure they gave someone a bit more time. That was their keeper, Casilias, who proved that he was just as good on the ball and picked out a great ball up field. The goal came from all this and Xavi's pass to release Alba was nothing short of perfection. The right way of playing the game.

As a football coach myself, I never ever encourage any of the kids I coach to kick the ball long. I constantly encourage short passing and moving to get down the field as its impossible to play against. Quick passing and movement is very difficult to play against, as we have seen with so few teams been able to come close to matching Spain's standard of football. Why are people even contemplating criticising this? They are truly playing the beautiful game, even without the ball. Their work rates and stamina are fantastic and they work even harder without the ball than they do in possession. They have this young mentality of wanting to keep the ball so much that when they lose it they all go hunting to ensure they get it back in possession. The more possession a team has, the more they control the game and ultimately tire out the opposition. Believe me, chasing the ball for 90 minutes is not fun one little bit. Yes, there have been a few teams who have had success against this, but I mean few, and even those teams have rode their luck immensely.

Throughout this tournament I have backed Spain. They were certainly not playing to their usual fluid selves during the championship and deservedly were criticised for this (not for being boring), but they still found themselves in the Final of the European Championship. A team that conceeded 1 goal throughout the entire tournament. This is always a sign of a great team. Reminds me of the England rugby team in 2003, where they only started to play well in the Semi Finals, but they were in the semi finals playing sub standard.

Now Spain always had a few gears to progress through and they certainly showed that in the final. An incredible performance from in my opinion the greatest International team that has graced this planet. The scary thing is that in 2 years time I can see them doing it all over again, and part of me wants to see it too. No chance their football is boring one little bit. A joy to watch and a joy to be around during this time to be able to witness this.

(Someone pointed out to me today that Sergio Busquets - not one of Spains superstars as such, but a valuable member of the first team squad - had won 2 European Championships, 1 World Cup, 3 Liga Titles, 2 Champions Leagues, 2 Super Cups, 2 World Club Championships, 2 Coppa Del Ray's - he is just 23 years of age! - absolutely astonishing)

Sunday, 24 June 2012

England pay the penalty

It's so so disppointing that seemingly Championship after Championship we get knocked out on penalties. Is it a curse? Is it nerves? Is it a lack of footballing ability to score from 12 yards? I have no idea. But could anyone who really knows the game of football believe that England deserved to go through? I don't think so. We were simply second best to everything. Outplayed by a superior passing team. Out worked by a hard working team, and we were very fortunate to even have been given the chance of going through with a penalty shoot out. Italy deserved it. Those that know me, will know how much i hate losing and the fact I often blame outside influences. But today is not one of those cases.

England's expectations going into this tournament were at an all time low. We were relaxed as we were not expecting miracles from this team. Those expectations were exceeded when they ualified as group winners, undefeated and seemingly looking like they could grind out the right results come the knock out stage. The avoidance of Spain was another bonus and expectations rose at this point knowing a game against the italians awaited. I believed we could get through, however scrappy the game got.

THE GAME ITSELF

The first 15 minutes were more exciting than the whole 90 minutes in the Spain vs. France game. Chances either end, but seeing England miss theirs just didn't settle well with me. I always thought we would need an early goal to stand a chance in this game, but we couldn't get it. Italy controlled the game from then on and Pirlo was absolutely class throughout. His ball possession and passing was a joy to behold and he's 33 years old! From the middle of the 2nd half, bar the odd moments, this game was heading to penalties.

THE PLAYERS

The selection of Milner again was defensive from the off and he continued to have his uninfluential tournament for England, offering just a bit of hard work but no creativity to the team. Walcott probably should have been in from the start, though when he did come on, England could not keep the ball enough to get him into the game.

The back 5 did themselves proud once more, with John Terry for me being the stand out England player on the day. For me, Glen Johnson switches off all too often and I am very critical of him I must admit. Sometimes very sloppy in possession too, but did OK today.

Gerrard was again excellent, though looked very tired in the 2nd half. Parker struggled somewhat against the numbers in midfield of the Italians. He also showed where his game struggles as he was very poor in possession and got dispossessed a lot. But he can be very proud of a very positive tournament none the less. Ashley Young was disappointing again, I think more so because we expect better from him, although still inexperienced on the International stage.

Rooney again failed to deliver at a Championships. He was undoubtably England's worst player against Italy. Looked off the pace, tired, his touch was poor and he struggled immensely to hold up the ball, something England missed until Carroll's inclusion. There was an arguement that the Welbeck Carroll partnership should have been given more of a chance, and Rooney's 2 performances highlighted this. I know he got an extended holiday after the season and maybe that was too long as his sharpness was definitely far shorter than many in the squad.
Welbeck is one player, along with Carroll who can hold their heads high. They both did a great job for a team who lost out on possession in every game of the tournament. They worked hard, chased balls down and held the ball up well throughout.

THE MANAGER

Pretty faultless performance by Roy Hodgson, considering how short a period of time he was in charge of the team. Made crucial changes at important times, no better than the inclusion of Walcott against Sweden. Not scared to make those changes either and stuck by key selections, including John Terry, who certainly paid Hodgson back with solid performances. Set a weak England team up to ensure they were difficult to break down. Brought in good quality coaches including Gary neville who I thought influenced the team harmony immesely and helped bring the group of players close together. There was no infighting, no tabloid stories, no dramas, and it was great that this was the case.
He set every player a job to do and he should be proud of his performance.


OVERALL

Although I am disappointed that we couldn't progress, I am fairly satisfied by the teams overall performance. Undefeated is no mean feat at International level and that is an achievement in itself. Going into the tournament with low expectations and coming out disappointed to be exiting at the quarter finals stage is quite a nice feeling. It was good to see the players playing with a lot of heart and fight and also seeing a manager on the sidelines kicking every single ball, was a feeling that hasnt been felt for a long long time. The passion was back, which as supporters is what you want to see from your team. Players seemed delighted to be representing their country and wanted to fight for the three lions. A big improvement from 2 years ago.

A change I am certain will happen and Hodgson should look to continue to draft younger players into the squad. The inclusion of a fit again Jack Wilshire who outplayed the Barcelona midfield just over a year ago, will help to bolster the energy and creativity in the centre of the park. Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck to continue to progress and Walcott to become more consistant will help improve the balance of the squad. The emmergence of "the OX" will help to develop his wonderful talent as well.

The future looks bright and thats where we need to start looking now.



Friday, 15 June 2012

England So Far So Good

I love football tournaments and big Championships like this is no different. Teams have been competing hard and i have been pleased with the competitiveness of the nations so far, bar unfortunately Ireland who seem to have been torn apart somewhat. The other groups however have been very close and the gamnes have been exciting and competitive which as a viewer we want to see.

As for England, well after the build up and the low expectations of fans, many still venting a huge amount of frustration at the team, we have done surprisingly well. In my opinion anyway. 4 points from the first 2 games, more than what most would of predicted before the tournament began. Hodgson settling in nicely, the squad playing with a lot more heart than 2 years a go, and their seems to be a team strategy that every player knows exactly their role in the team.

FRANCE 1 1 draw

Tough opener for any team, especially for an England team without Rooney and a host of injuries to key players like Lampard, Wilshire and Barry. People forget that france are on the longest unbeaten run out of any International team in world football. They are a class act, on the up and tipped by many as a potential winner of the Euros.

4 5 1 against a tough French team was sensible and the first 30 minutes were fantastic. Poor after conceeding the goal, sat back far too much trying to protect their lead until half time, which was an error. But England scrapped and we knew it wasn't going to be the prettiest football, but it was effective none the less to ensure we didn't lose the game. People can criticise the manager and the players for the performance, but tournament football is very different and no one can deny that the way England played frustrated the French team.
A point, in my opinion, a very good start to the campaign.

SWEDEN 3 2 win

What a game! Considering many still believe England are playing unattractive football, no one can deny they were exciting against the Swedes, all beit by a lot of their own undoing. But 3 points none the less.

The game started with the change of Carrol for the Ox, one which I thought was a good move, as sweden are suceptible to headed goals even with their vast height throughout their team. a 4 4 2, not seen for a long while, but was a bold positive decision by Hodgson. Perfect start with the Carrol towering header and dominant first half display where we controlled the game and looked very comfortable, apart from when Ibrahimovich got on the ball.

2nd half though Glen Johnson falls asleep and doesn't push out with the rest of the team and then the whole defence falls asleep to allow a free header and a deficit. BUT positive immediate change by Hodgson again bringing on the inspired Theo Walcott for the rather lacklustre Milner. Changed the game very quickly back in favour of England and finished off with some lovely work to feed the sublime finish of Welbeck. Goal of the tournament contender no doubt.

I have read so much criticism by the display of England, and I don't get it. Criticise when they lose, no problem. But we have won! We have 4 points, are still in the tournament and have a great chance of progressing. There are improvements certainly, but that was a good win against a difficult Swedish side who as we all know have a good record against us.


I am not saying we will win it or getting above myself anymore than taking it game by game. Keep on doing that and you never know. immediate aim, get out of the group and then the Quarter Finals, Semis, you just never know what might happen.


Onwards and upwards and a big game on Tuesday. Get behind the team. Get behind Hodgson. COME ON ENGLAND

Sunday, 3 June 2012

England's Euro 2012 Build Up - The Fiasco

The build up to a major tournament is always scupperred with media reports, trouble and strife within the England camp. This tournament, with a new manager at the helm, has been no different. Injuries have blighted the squad, with Lampard, Barry and Cahill now all set to miss the tournament, but it's the replacements and the available/unavailable players that seems to be the biggest story in the build up.

First of all let me start by saying how anyone can make themselves unavailable for selection for their country is beyond me. It is a sad state of affairs when money has taken over the absolute pride of representing your country. Players who insist they are unavailable as they are not first choice is purely disgraceful. Wheres the work ethic been lost to? Where is the fight? Where is the desire to be the best you can be? When did it all start to go wrong? Many questions that I continually ask myself and find myself lost for words.

This time around we have players refusing to be on the back up list for the squad? This is for your country, and to me it shows a sign of complete arrogance for them to believe they are above other players. Micah Richards refused to be a back up, in my opinion should never play again for England. Maybe he should of been called into the main squad? That is down to the managers selection and unfortunately the right back spot is very competitive right now and he has no guarantees to play, or why should he. Another one is Michael Carrick. Yes there is talk that he is nursing an achillis injury, that Alex Ferguson said he needs rest on. But Carrick himself said he would go to the Euros if he was guaranteed to start every game! He's Michael Carrick, not Lionel Messi! What right does anyone have to demand that? If your injured, pull out of the situation. But he is not injured. He said he would go if he started every game. Does that sound like a player who is injured? Again, in my opinion he should never play for England again.

From players who don't want to play for their country to players who do, but have been showed so much disrespect its a disgrace. Rio Ferdinand. Overlooked for the original squad, which in all fairness to Roy Hodgson was down to his decision. He took into account the fact that he may struggle to play 3 games a week and you could argue for and against the decision. He spoke about the fact that he spoke to Alex Ferguson about the player and used that as a reason to not select him, which showed a big sign of weakness straight away. Then there was this overshadowing John Terry racial case against Ferdinands brother, Anton. Surely the FA have told Hodgson that they don't want both players there and I am certain the manager is worried about the harmony of the squad. Again in my opinion a sign of weakness, to not be able to deal with the situation.
Then the injuries started to mount up. Experienced players like Lampard and Barry were both ruled out. Players who are nearing the end of their playing careers. One mention of Ferdinand was made that England wanted to build for the future. I never like hearing that, because surely you want to build from tournament to tournament and put your BEST possible team out at a major tournament that gives you a chance of winning it. There are only 2 tournaments in 2 years!
Cahill, a center back, ruled out and his replacement is a Liverpool RIGHT BACK who has only just made his debut and barely played for his club all season. Picked over the former England captian, with a host of experience who played all of the last 16 Premier League games for Manchester United, a team with a great defensive record this season and a team who lost the league title on goal difference. If Hodgson, as he has always stated wanted to pick his best team, then he is lying to us all. There is no way right now that Kelly is better than Ferdinand. There is no case for him to be picked over Ferdinand. The FA have a lot of questions to answer for, but we will never ever hear the truth. The John Terry case is a huge part of this, it has to be.

I wanted to finish on more of a high note. Well, a way of eating my words. I was very annoyed when Jordan Henderson was called up to the squad as I do not rate him one tiny little bit. I do not think he is good enough to wear the England shirt. However, this lad has showed the desire to play for his country, by not pulling out of the back up list, by continuing to work hard and to take his chance. One thing I know that if he gets a chance to play in the Euros at all, that he will give his all and try extremely hard, one thing us England fans love to see. We didn;t see much of that in South Africa, so some young Lion Heart is good for the team. I eat my words on that. He is showing the disgraced players, especially Carrick, that he is not afraid of hard work.


I am certain knowing the England teams dramas, that there will be more to come in the next 5 weeks of the tournament. Let me now your comments

Friday, 18 May 2012

What an Unpredictable Premier League season


What a season that was in the Premier League! By far the most exciting season for many years. So much at stake and so much going down to the wire and the last game of the season. The Championship, European places and Relegation all coming down to the final games and as we all saw, the final seconds. A truly amazing season that like many fans, I feel so happy to have witnessed it all.

First off though I thought it was time I review the final league positions to my pre season predictions. I wish I could lie and edit my league predictions, but I won't and I was so far off it was untrue!!! Have a see for yourselves:

FINAL LEAGUE TABLE (MY PREDICTIONS)

1. Manchester City.....(Manchester United)
2. Manchester United...(Chelsea)
3. Arsenal.............(Manchester City)
4. Tottenham...........(Arsenal)
5. Newcastle...........(Liverpool)
6. Chelsea.............(Tottenham)
7. Everton.............(Sunderland)
8. Liverpool...........(Everton)
9. Fulham..............(Fulham)
10. West Brom...........(Bolton)
11. Swansea.............(Stoke)
12. Norwich.............(West Brom)
13. Sunderland..........(Aston Villa)
14. Stoke...............(Blackburn)
15. Wigan...............(Wolves)
16. Aston Villa.........(Newcastle)
17. QPR.................(QPR)
18. Bolton..............(Swansea)
19. Blackburn...........(Wigan)
20. Wolves..............(Norwich)

I only got 2 matching positions, that of Fulham in 9th and QPR in 17th. Pre season I truly believed that my preictions were going to come very close, but the performances of the promoted teams, especially Swansea and Norwich really helped transform this years premier league. This is shown in the relegation of 3 established Premier League teams going down and no promoted teams suffering the drop.


One of the other notable errors was Newcastle United. I really thought they would struggle this year, as did so many fans and pundits, but they surprised everyone and had a fantastic season to finish 5th. This to me completely justifies Alan Pardew winning the Manager of the Year award. Not a manager I particularly like too much, but he has certainly turned my opinions with some shrewd business this season with the acquisition of Cabaye, Tiote, Ba and Cisse.


The top of the table I did not believe Manchester City were ready to win the league due to their participation in the Champions League. It takes so much out of teams to compete on all fronts. What happened was City dropped out at the group stages of the Champions League and concentrated on the league and their fantastic squad held up well. I was impressed with how quickly Mancini has built the City team up to win the Premier League. It shows that he really is a high quality manager.


Chelsea were the big surprise in the league, ultimately down to an ageing squad and the managerial issues in my opinion. It just didnt work for AVB unfortunately, probably due to the established stars in the team and the age of those stars too. Too much player power. Plus, he is still a very inexperienced manager and the pressures of the Premier League are extreme. Though Chelsea had great cup runs, winning the FA Cup and have the Champions League final to look forward too, which is an incredible achievement.


The race for the Champions League places went down to the wire too. So many teams had control of that position it seemed, but couldn't cross the finish line. Chelsea, Arsenal, Newcastle and Tottenham were all competing this season. Arsenal seemed dead and buried at the start, but Robin Van Persie kept them in touching distance all season and the gunners will all be thankful for his achievements this year (I certainly am). Tottenham unfortunately are lacking some no how at the top of the Premier League. They have a good manager, a great team, but their are very few players who have been near the top of the league. Only Gallas and Adebayor spring to mind. More experienced quality players are needed for Spurs to push that bit further next season.


Overall what an incredible season! A review of this incredible season could go on and on. The failings of Liverpool, the relegation of Bolton and Blackburn specifically. Just shocks throughout the season. But for me, its been truly fantastic. The promoted teams have added so much quality to the league, that I cannot wait until next season!!!!



Monday, 9 January 2012

The King is Back - An Inspirational Story



If there ever were a script in football that you could say was from a Hollywood movie then this surely has to be up there as one of the greatest of all time. Thierry Henry, Arsenal's leading scorer of all time and arguably the greatest ever player for the club, re-signing with the Gunners at the age of 34 years old, then scoring the winner in the FA Cup in front of 60,000 at the Emirates Stadium. Its a dreamland, its a fairy tale, it is just well and truly a great moment and one that will be remembered for a long long time. It is what dreams are made of and one reason why we love the sport so much.



Signed by Arsene Wenger for a 2 month loan deal to act as cover for Robin Van Persie and to provide the Dutch superstar with a bit of relief. In reality the thinking was to try and give the rest of the Arsenal strike force a proverbial kick up the backside. Having someone like Henry around a club can only be positive, whether talking to young players, helping out other strikers or just having his presence will go a long way for the team. Who would of thought he would return to former glories and set the Emirates alight with some old magic that many believed he would never get back.

What a glorious finish it was and just pure and simply, Henryesq. The classically perfect first touch and then the traditional opened up body and slotting the ball into the far corner with his right boot. It's a thing of beauty in the game and one perfected by such an inspirational player in the game. How Arsenal have missed him, and how the whole premier League have missed such an inspiring individual both on and off the field.


Many will believe it is all a bit over dramatic, as at the end of the day it was a home game in the FA Cup 3rd round against a struggling Championship side like Leeds United, one which Arsenal should of cruised through. But we should embrace just a truly magical moment in the game, that makes us all stand up and believe in the beautiful game.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Suarez and Liverpool shoot themselves in the foot



The race row finally came to an abrupt end as so many people in football were extremely pleased about. The outcome I'm sure would have disappointed so many in the game that these issues still arise between players and in the football environment in general. However, some will see the outcome and an 8 game ban as good justice for the use of racist language. Others will see the ban as harsh and I am certain that plenty more will see the ban as too lenient. Whatever your view, it is essential that if issues arise that the people involved are dealt with severely.

That age old saying "innocent until proven guilty" certainly should be the case in all matters. The problem is that Liverpool took an incredible risk when they brought out the t shirts for the players to wear in support of Suarez, a risk that if found guilty could backfire immensely....which as we know is precisely what happened.



It is understandable for an employer to stand by an employee when facing outside disciplinary problems, but the level of this support should be very minimal. The reason being is that it accentuates the risk of the employer's name being brought into the incident with the employee if a guilty verdict is found. And this is exactly what happened in the Suarez case. Now Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, the squad and the club as a whole have fallen into the racism row in a negative way. They did not need to publicly speak out, they did not need to wear the needless t-shirts either. This in my opinion was making a mockery out of the whole affair. We are talking about Racism, something that should not be in today's society in anyway, shape or form. It is something that has caused huge issues worldwide and is not wanted in our game. Liverpool should have just said it is out of our hands now and that they would deal with the matter when the verdict is read out.


Liverpool will be regretting the mistakes I'm sure made when the guilty verdict was read out. What amazed me the most about it all was Suarez coming out and explaining what he said and how it has no connotations back in his homeland of Uruguay. He plead not guilty, though by speaking out and admitting using the word "negro" he has just shot himself in the foot and brought his club down with it. These are his employers who should have been educating him on all issues in his new society if he needed it (which he clearly does). All in all, both Suarez and Liverpool have come out of this extremely badly and both have a lot of work to do in order to rebuild the relationships with the footballing world.