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Liverpool FC: The new Leeds FC?

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Liverpool fans woke up this morning knowing their team is in dire straits after an insipid performance at home to a Blackpool team who knew they could win since boss Ian Holloway told anyone who would listen the previous week that his team were going to “go for it” at Anfield.

Pepe Reina has conceded seven goals in his last three Premiership games

And go for it they did. It could have been worse than a 2-1 defeat for  Liverpool. But after the game, was Ian Holloway ready to brag as was his right at pulling off one of the club’s most remarkable results? No. Instead he spoke as though he were sad to see the demise of the club. Referring to Torres’ injury and the ownership issues, Holloway was overly generous to the team his players had just beaten, aside from patches in the second half, with ease.

In fact he had these words to say: “To see the best striker in the world limp off after a few minutes, I can’t tell you what that did for us. His mere presence is awesome so to see him come off played into our hands and helped us.

“This is not far off the home of football – these supporters have seen some of the best football over the years and in my era as a player there was no better team in the world. The boys made me so proud and for that set of supporters to clap us off that is all I wanted – that was what my dream was last night.”

Odds on Hodgson to be sacked have been slashed to just 4/1

As for Roy Hodgson, the headlines this morning have the Liverpool boss saying his team are in a relegation dogfight. For now, that is not true and what Hodgson did say was that these are bleak times for the club. He has not spoken a truer word since taking over.

When Leeds were relegated in 2004 they had gone through managerial upheaval with first David O’Leary’s departure, followed by Terry Venables and Peter Reid. Star names such as Ferdinand, Woodgate, Bowyer, Keane and Kewell all departed the club as they slide from near Champions League glory in 2001 to relegation just three years later.

Three years ago Liverpool lost the Champions League final to AC Milan. It would be their last chance of silverware to the present day and beyond. Liverpool ran Manchester United close in the Premiership in the 2008-2009 season, but were always playing catch-up, albeit securing their best Premiership points finish. But ownership issues began to come to the fore and Liverpool sold Xabi Alonso, failed to sign Gareth Barry, and so began the inevitable decline of manager Rafael Benitez’ reign.

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Marlon King gets a ‘get out of jail free’ card

September 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Coventry City have announced the signing of former Wigan forward Marlon King following the striker’s release from prison less than two months ago.

The term striker is something that could easily be applied to King’s private life, given that he served jail time for breaking a woman’s nose in a nightclub after striking her in the face when she rejected his advances. That King was out celebrating his wife’s pregnancy at the time made the situation all the worse. That the woman he attacked was 20 years old made it worse again.  That King should be given another high-profile football contract with Coventry City despite having a string of previous convictions before his arrest for assault last year, is shocking.

One of the worst examples of a pampered footballer who doesn’t like to hear the word no, King has been re-employed by his former manager at Watford, Aidy Boothroyd, who says King was a “model professional” during their time working together.

How Coventry fans will receive the striker is another matter. The game that claims to embrace all types of fans, across the globe, has much to learn. Games like rugby and in Ireland, GAA, have fans of opposing teams, children, women and men watching in the stands side by side.

In many ways football can’t be compared to these sports in that it is far bigger, appeals to a wider audience but is, most importantly, a business. Coventry are in a league where they need to compete for players, hand-me-downs from the Premiership who can get them back to the coveted league but aren’t wanted by the top teams. In that sense you can feel some sympathy for Boothroyd who wants a good player to help his team.

Maybe the league should step in and say, this man can’t be a role model for young fans. Can’t be a pin-up for girls after what he did to the 20-year-old last year. What happens when he is antagonised by rival supporters, or even his own. King is a man who has been given chances again and again. This is one time he should be told no.

Three talking points from the weekend

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

  1. Man United’s priority is not getting back Wayne Rooney, but sorting out a defence that is lacking in cohesion.
    All the hype surrounding Everton’s remarkable comeback against Man Utd on Saturday focused on the absence of Wayne Rooney. Although it was a surprise and bound to create extra tabloid fodder, that it remained the headline at the end of the game was a disappointment. Both teams deserved more. Everton started superbly and by scoring two goals in injury time did to United what no team has done for almost ten years, cancel out a two-goal deficit with Sir Alex Ferguson’s team.
    Both teams attacked with creativity and imagination, the game flowing from end-to-end, but United’s weakness lies in an unsettled defence. Patrice Evra’s wild attempt at a clearance led to the first goal, while Johnny Evans is struggling alongside Vidic at centre back. Neville is no longer a first choice, but Brazilian Rafael appears to have lost favour with Ferguson for the time being.

    Johnny Evans is struggling to fill Rio Ferdinand's boots

    However, up front, Berbatov played well, stretching the Everton defence at every opportunity and taking the third goal with the confidence of a 40 goal-a-season striker. Rooney was hardly missed, while Nani delivered two superb crosses for the goals. Unlike the media love-in for Scholes, I didn’t feel he had a great game. Everton restricted his presence going forward by having Cahill and Fellaini as their attackers, both tough-tackling midfielders.

  2. Don’t believe everything you read in the media about players’ form or confidence:
    If Fernando Torres wakes up this morning and feels a little harshly treated by the media, well it’s because he’s been a little harshly treated by the media. Football writers around the country sat in stunned silence as Jamie Redknapp lambasted Torres for his first-half performance at half-time in Liverpool’s 0-0 with a superb Birmingham side.

    Reina shows off his Safe Hands

    The same writers then took their lead from the Sky pundit as newspapers criticised the man they claim is not right, still unfit, looks like he “doesn’t care” was another oft-repeated quote. This then the same Torres that got the winner against West Brom the previous Liverpool game and got two for Spain the following week, admittedly against Liechtenstein, but the two were good goals and Spain only managed four.
    The same writers were also slamming Pepe Reina after his mistake against Arsenal on the opening day. And they were asking questions as to whether he retained the confidence of his teammates. Well he made some of the best saves you’ll see this season (as he did against Arsenal too by the way) to show that form is exceptionally temporary, class is permanent. Oh and Torres will come up against Vidic next Sunday. If that doesn’t boost his confidence I don’t know what will.

  3. The league table is lying.
    Fair enough, Chelsea and Arsenal deserve to be up there. No-one is about to begrudge Blackpool their spot, but the likes of Everton shouldn’t be in this position after four games. Outstanding commitment and skill, Moyes’ men will start climbing the table very quickly with a decent run of games put together. West Ham are another team who deserve better than the zero points they currently have. With some tough games already behind them and a manager whose demeanour doesn’t exactly scream “give me some time because I’m loveable”, it’s been a tough start but the table is all topsy-turvy right now and we are going to boldly predict West Ham will finish in the top ten. Boom. Please keep reading the blog, I regret nothing.

Switzerland V Rooney (England) preview

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Gerrard has been keen to support Rooney and will hope they can continue their good start to qualifying tonight

It’s all eyes on Wayne Rooney tonight as the England man targets success on the pitch after a nightmare 48 hours on the front pages of the tabloids.

The Man Utd forward has seen allegations of encounters with prostitutes surface for the second time in his career so far with his marriage in the spotlight after a series of lurid allegations were made against him. We’ve all read them so we won’t go into them again here, instead we’ll look at how Rooney might respond.

The eyes of the world will be on the forward with pundits from the US already comparing Rooney’s story to that of golfer Tiger Woods last year who has seen his form fall dramatically since a series of women came forward with similar allegations of his infidelity.

Rooney hasn’t had the easiest year, berating the England fans for their reaction to the team’s 0-0 World Cup draw with Algeria and sarcastically clapping after being substituted in the recent friendly against Hungary. His goal trail dried up at the tail end of last season too, however after a penalty against West Ham and an excellent showing against Bulgaria on Friday, Rooney could be forgiven for thinking he had turned a corner.

England's star man will hope to silence his critics on the pitch tonight

How he responds tonight will be interesting to see. The temperament of 17-year-old Rooney seemed to be gone for the most part until returning in recent months. Rarely booked, the forward had a superb season last year and was being hailed as an exemplary model footballer who had turned his career around under Alex Ferguson at Man Utd.

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Ferguson vs the BBC: Round Two – fight

August 21, 2010 2 comments

Today’s Daily Express says that Manchester United have confirmed Sir Alex Ferguson will refuse to talk to the BBC after Manchester United’s clash with Fulham tomorrow afternoon. This is despite new FA rules which state that clubs, not managers, will be fined on a sliding scale for refusing to give post-match interviews to national broadcasters.

Thus, theoretically, Manchester United will be fined at least 37 times from now until the end of the season due to a decision by Ferguson to stop talking to the BBC six years ago. However it is the club that will face the punishment, not the manager.

History:

Ferguson took the unusual step of failing to talk to the BBC six years ago after a BBC documentary from 2004, Father and Son, which portrayed his agent son, Jason, as somebody who exploited his father’s influence and position to his own ends in the transfer market. Jason Ferguson was never found guilty of any wrongdoing but Sir Alex Ferguson claimed at the time he would never speak to the BBC again. To-date he has kept that promise.

Man Utd severed their ties with Jason Ferguson's Elite company in 2004

He said (at the time): “I think the BBC is the kind of company that never apologise and they never will apologise. They are arrogant beyond belief. They did a story about my son that was whole lot of nonsense. It all made-up stuff and ‘brown paper bags’ and all that kind of carry-on. It was a horrible attack on my son’s honour and he should never have been accused of that.”

Rule changes:

However this weekend the rules change and as part of an attempt to give further access to football stars by the FA, in a style befitting of American sport where players and managers are obliged to co-operate to a far greater degree, managers will be compelled to talk to the media after games and clubs will be fined on a sliding scale for each non-appearance.

The new rules could also force Ferguson to speak to the written press. For the last seven years he has been the only manager in the league to consistently refuse to talk to newspaper reporters after Premier League games, only giving interviews to Manchester United’s in-house television station MUTV. Under the new rules it is also mandatory for the manager or a senior member of the coaching staff to give a press conference.

Ferguson Vs the Man Utd fans

However the real question is this: how will Manchester United fans react to a situation where Ferguson is bringing fines on to the club despite the anti-Glazer protests amid fears the club is in financial turmoil?

Surely Alex Ferguson is the only manager in England who would believe it is his right to act as he pleases regardless of the consequences. Ferguson has complained in the past of being unfairly treated by the FA and yet here he is giving them every reason to come down hard on his every action or word.

The Manchester United fans are concerned that the owners are racking up enormous debts for the club while at the same time borrowing for personal gain against the club’s assets. Can Ferguson really continue to hold a grudge against the BBC and rack up dozens of fines for the club over a personal feud?

It is probably fair to say that Ferguson has every right to want to punish the BBC. How many of us could say we would settle at no further communication for a programme that attacked a member of our family?  However Ferguson’s job is as a manager of a football club. He does an excellent job, will be remembered as the best coach in the history of the game, but he risks alienating himself from genuine Man Utd supporters of over his boycott.

It is also worth noting that in any media outlet, there is generally a very thick divide between sports and news. A Panorama investigation is unlikely to hold much sway with Match of the Day‘s production team, unless its reporters decide to make the (stupid) decision to ask those involved, for example Ferguson, Harry Redknapp or Sam Allardyce (all of whom featured in the programme). Therefore while Ferguson is boycotting the BBC for a news programme, he is denying football fans the chance to see a top manager and understand his selection and thought process.

Football chiefs and Manchester United fans would have every right to be concerned if Ferguson refuses the BBC’s microphone on Sunday evening. For football’s sake and for the fans, the top manager at the biggest club in the country should be forced in front of the reporters and those cameras. And if he refuses, at least make him pay the fine himself.

Blackburn to become the tenth foreign-owned Premiership club?

August 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Blackburn Rovers have become the latest club to be subject to a bid from potential new owners.

It has been reported that Indian entrepreneur Ahasan Ali Syed, the head of Bahrain-Swiss based investment firm Western Gulf Advisory, has made a formal approach to the club’s advisors. Blackburn currently have debts of around £20 million and 36-year-old Syed is proposing wiping out Blackburn’s debts and investing heavily in the club to help turn around its fortunes under manager Sam Allardyce.

Syed is reported to have approached Blackburn’s advisers, Rothschild, and is set to launch a £300 million takeover bid that would lift the club back towards their title-winning status of 1995. WGA have a non-disclosure agreement about the talks but a company spokeswoman told The Sport Briefing: “I can confirm that we made a formal approach to buy Blackburn Rovers.”

Blackburn declined to comment on any potential takeover, saying the matter was in the hands of Rothschilds, although the report added the club was “interested in the approach”. Blackburn meanwhile have said they were in talks with a “number of interested parties” about a possible takeover, according to chairman John Williams. “There have been a number of interested parties for some time and discussions are ongoing,” said Williams.

If the bid were to come to fruition it would mean Blackburn becoming thetenth English Premiership club to be under foreign ownership after Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Chelsea, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Sunderland.

Bolton showing some pre-season promise

August 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Ivan Klasnic has made Bolton his permanent home

Bolton have completed the signing of Ivan Klasnic on a free, two-year contract.

Klasnic becomes boss Owen Coyle’s fourth signing of the summer after Martin Petrov, Robbie Blake and Marcos Alonso. The Croatian striker mutually agreed to terminate his contract with Nantes last week and has now moved back to the club where he played on loan last year and scored eight goals from 27 appearances in the process.

The signing will please Owen Coyle who said at the start of the summer that he would love to take Klasnic back and having secured some valuable additions already, is shaping up for a good first full season in charge. Coyle said: “I’m absolutely delighted to get Ivan back. He is a proven goalscorer and someone who has played at the top-level. Last year he was obviously on loan but I’m now thrilled that he is our player for the next two years. He was desperate to come back and join us and I’m delighted that we have to come to an agreement where everybody is happy. It’s a terrific piece of business because if we wanted to buy him last year then it would have cost £2mAlong with Martin, Robbie and Marcos we have strengthened our squad with real quality players.”