Tevez says sorry – advantage Fergie

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

Ooh, Fergie’s gonna have be chuckling away to himself at this one. When in doubt, don’t bring in/back a hothead striker who may screw things up for you.

Tevez: The Lying King

Kevin Keegan knows that. I know that. You know that. The fact that Carlos Tevez has said sorry because he’s been fined about £16.2 million shouldn’t change that.

Maybe Mancini will keep him on the bench for the rest of the season and throw him a bone (sorry) in games they’re winning comfortably. But this is all going to give Fergie the chance to say, well, I wouldn’t have done it…wonder what the boy Dzeko makes of it sitting on the bench…won’t be long before he’s managing the club…etc etc.

Not sure it’s the right move. Quality player. But Aguero is a similar, better quality player. Tevez may settle back in and if he were to say, shoot Man City to the win over Utd in the league, it will be a masterstroke. But I don’t like it. Tevez has been on strike because he didn’t fancy coming on in a game/ the way the manager spoke to him.

That’s not good enough.

Here’s what he said: “I wish to apologise sincerely and unreservedly to everybody I have let down and to whom my actions over the last few months have caused offence. My wish is to concentrate on playing football for Manchester City Football Club.”

Well, someone said it on his behalf is what I meant there. He still doesn’t speak English does he? I mean give the guy a chance, he’s only been in England six years.

Am I being too hard on him? I don’t think so. Even if he’d come back, tail between the legs and apologised two weeks ago you might think there was contrition there and he’d learned some sort of lesson. But he criticised his manager in an interview instead. Just before returning?

This isn’t contrition. This is greed/boredom/building up for his customary summer pining for anywhere but England. Sooner he’s gone the better.

I (don’t) wanna hold your hand.

February 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Everyone from Liverpool has apologised in what appears to be the first move by the US owners to put this sorry Suarez issue to bed.

Suarez. A bit mental.

The apologies came after another weekend in which the media has gone to town on Liverpool. Jonathan Norcroft’s comments in The Sunday Times are phenomenal. The Liverpool fans who accuse media, the FA – and anyone else who condemns Suarez  – of bias are a joke, but some of the comments again this weekend will only fan the flames.

Norcroft: “Ah Suarez, South America’s greatest charmer since General Pinochet.” And: “Evra helped nobody with a post-match celebration that took him close to Suarez but it was hardly the same as racial abuse.”

Hmmm. A missed handshake is hardly worth mentioning in the same sentence as a mass torturer and killer. And Evra’s match celebration took him close to Suarez? The celebration was as obvious an attempt to gauge a reaction from Suarez as the initial incident between the two.

And Ferguson’s comments were also a disgrace. Stating that Suarez could have caused a riot because of a missed handshake? The only way a riot was starting was on the back of Evra’s inflammatory celebrations. And his statement that Suarez should never play for Liverpool again was apalling, coming from a man who has defended actions from Cantona attacking a fan to any of the combined incidents from players in Saturday’s lineup from Giggs to Ferdinand to Rooney.

There will be no apology from United for any of the above. And you can’t blame them for that. Their reputation soars every time Liverpool’s gets damaged each week. Evra was waiting for Suarez’ hand before accepting it. Gamesmanship that, like Ferguson’s comments, are easy to get away with because Utd’s actions aren’t under scrutiny here. Again, despite Evra being an odious character himself, his own actions will go completely unpunished by club, FA or media.

Evra: "I wanna hold your hand". Suarez: "Nah you're alright thanks Pat"

Suarez is an idiot though. He doesn’t have to like Evra. He’s been slandered across the world by people queuing up to call him a racist due to their spat. He’s missed out on 8 games for his club for something he feels aggrieved about.

But not only did his actions cause further embarrassment for the club, they put Liverpool under more pressure in the game. They were under massive pressure throughout against a riled-up team. Suarez’ own performance was poor and emulated in each Liverpool player.

As for Dalglish, I started to feel a resignation was coming today. He has been badly let down by Suarez saying he would shake Evra’s hand only to refuse to do so. And his comments generally appear ill-informed in the face of the media’s glare.

I feel sympathy for him at the same time. What he is trying to do in turning Liverpool into a fortress is the right thing to do. The club has been a soft touch for too long now and Ferguson is the perfect example of someone who turned his club into an ‘us against the world’ mentality.

Few people like Ferguson. But the fans don’t care. Once Utd win he can continue being a bully, who peddles abuse of officials from the sidelines every weekend. Dalglish is a warmer character, but maybe this weekend he’ll have learned that he needs to emulate Ferguson’s ability to ensure he knows everything going on about every issue within the club.

When Geoff Shreeves mentioned the handshake I think Dalglish betrayed genuine surprise. He glances to his left, potentially at a club official, and goes straight onto the defensive. Ferguson would have had his words planned beforehand.

However the apology below, along with that of Ayre and Suarez will hopefully be the end of this. However the initial reaction on Twitter from journos was that ‘it should’ve been done with ages ago’ and ‘too little-too late’. Don’t expect this saga to end till one, or both, of Suarez and Dalglish departs the club.

Dalglish: “To be honest, I was shocked to hear that the player had not shaken hands having been told earlier in the week that he would do. But as Ian said earlier, all of us have a responsibility to represent this club in a fit and proper manner and that applies equally to me as Liverpool manager.

“When I went on TV after yesterday’s game I hadn’t seen what had happened, but I did not conduct myself in a way befitting of a Liverpool manager during that interview and I’d like to apologise for that.”

Capello quits as England boss

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

So Fabio Capello has resigned as England manager in a move that might turn out to be the best solution to a sorry saga over (former) captain John Terry.

Fabio. He came, he saw, he....

Many of the main football writers will be happy. Around 50 per cent or more of the fans will be pleased. The Italian divided fans and pundits alike, and presided over an awful World Cup campaign meaning his job was always under threat.

However this may be perfect timing for both Capello and the England team.

The Italian knew he was presiding over a dressing room with serious fractures. Terry and Ferdinand, when fit, are first-choice defenders. One won’t shake the others hand. And he’s not even the difficult one.

Players are either missing through injury (Wilshere) or failing to find form (Gerrard, Lampard, Downing, Carroll, Bent, Defoe etc).

His stance is potentially the admirable and correct one. The FA implied guilt on Terry’s part, and cast aspersions on his character by fretting over the case hanging over him and the implications of him leading a team who may not want to follow him.

Capello: What really hit me and forced me to take this decision was the fact the much-vaunted Anglo-Saxon sense of justice, as they are the first to claim that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Will they want to even play with him? Terry shouldn’t have been reinstated in the first place after being stripped of the role first time around. But to keep him in the squad, under a different captain, with a squad that may have helped instigate it, will lead to its own problems.

The silver lining being that a new manager will focus the players to work on getting selected for the squad, rather than picking sides within it.

The FA released this statement:

“The Football Association can confirm that Fabio Capello has today resigned as England manager.

“This follows a meeting involving FA chairman David Bernstein, FA general secretary Alex Horne and Fabio Capello at Wembley Stadium.

“The discussions focused on the FA board’s decision to remove the England team captaincy from John Terry, and Fabio Capello’s response through an Italian broadcast interview.

“In a meeting for over an hour, Fabio’s resignation was accepted and he will leave the post of England manager with immediate effect.”

Capello was quoted as saying on Italpress:

They really insulted me and damaged my authority.

“In Terry’s case, they gravely offended me and damaged my authority at the head of the England side.

“What really hit me and forced me to take this decision was the fact the much-vaunted Anglo-Saxon sense of justice, as they are the first to claim that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

“In Terry’s case, they gravely offended me and damaged my authority at the head of the England side, effectively creating a problem for the squad.

“I have never tolerated certain crossing of lines, so it was easy for me to spot it and take my decision to leave.”

There’s only one (potential) England captain

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

*Rather than start this blog again, I will leave it as is. Fabio Capello resigning during the time it took me to write this article is quite funny really. Please replace Capello with (Redknapp).

While Liverpool and Spurs played out a 0-0 draw on Monday most notable for the cameo of a cat, England’s captain-in waiting was reminding Fabio Capello why he is second only to Joe Hart on his teamsheet this summer.

Scott Parker. Silly hair. Sensible character

Not Steven Gerrard, alas, but Scott Parker. A superb performance, that showed off plenty of characteristics to the tenacious midfielder that could be vital for an England team wanting to believe it can actually make an impact in a major tournament.

Most impressive was his attitude and commitment, as always, but his possession under pressure from the Liverpool team was equally striking. Neat passing triangles across the Spurs half continually ensured Spurs frustrated the Reds and were able to mount a platform from which to attempt a smash and grab win.

His tussles with Gerrard were intriguing. The Liverpool captain was showing off his superior skills and flicks in the opening 15 minutes like an errant child attempting to gain his father’s approval in the stands. The burst of pace and flick for Carroll was inspired. A lot of the rest was unnecessary.

At one point in the second half Gerrard stood strong and ensured Parker bounced off him onto the floor. The fans cheered. This was Gerrard posturing, showing his rival for the armband there was only one man going to win Capello’s approval.

Later Gerrard crashed into a clean tackle on Parker (who had taken several knocks and carried on when others wouldn’t have) and the ball ran out for a throw. No playacting from Parker, rather an acknowledgement of a tackle he would appreciate with a pat on the back.

He had already won the battle at that stage, Liverpool were running out of ideas and Gerrard’s influence had long since waned. Parker was outstanding in possession and in temperament and is a must for England’s midfield.

What better way to exorcise the demons of captains and their indiscretions than to pick a man you could be proud of and is the closest bet to a sure thing in terms of not letting his country or fellow players down.

Stevie G. G is for good.

Gerrard is certainly a worthy choice, but hasn’t hit anywhere near top form as many pundits would have you believe. He may get there, and would potentially be a perfect partnership with Parker. And he is also probably going to be the captain. In truth Capello is struggling to keep the team together and can’t afford for Gerrard to feel snubbed and losing another senior player’s confidence.

By picking Parker he would also be ostracising Lampard, a key Terry ally.

But politics aside, surely the aim here is to progress through a major tournament. Politics aside, Parker should play and he should be captain.

Booing Evra (Let’s all calm down)

January 29, 2012 4 comments

The unfortunate thing about racism being a dominant theme in the media at the moment means that more and more incidents are set to occur like the man arrested for apparently making monkey chants at Evra on Saturday.

If he did, he’s an idiot. But the fact that he’s so focused on an opposition player (or fan) when everyone around him is focused on football, is indicative of an idiot regardless.

People who relish the abuse between fans more than a cup game with their biggest rivals are a strange breed who shouldn’t be allowed to tar all football fans with the ‘racist’ tag that’s being thrown about at the moment.

Liverpool fans 'abuse' Evra (Pic: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian)

But the criticism of booing (by people including PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor) is a joke. Liverpool fans aren’t booing Evra because they’re racist. They’re booing him because he plays for a team they hate and not only did the murky racist affair end with their star player being banned, but last time Evra was at Anfield he was kissing his badge, blowing kisses at the crowd and feigning injury (all shown in the video below) and waving imaginary yellow cards (for a dive by Downing which should also have been a booking).

Evra led the French team on a strike on what should be the world’s greatest stage, the World Cup. He regularly makes comments about ex-teammates and opposition clubs (as is his right). Evra shouldn’t be vilified for the colour of his skin but as an opposition player, booing is surely fair game.

And the ‘abuse’ Evra suffered at Anfield is the same ‘abuse’ Gerrard gets taking a corner at Old Trafford and the same ‘abuse’ Suarez will suffer in every ground from now on.

Let’s not kid ourselves here that Evra is a victim, full stop, and that booing him is a ‘disgrace’ as so many rent-a-pundits opined over the weekend. Evra’s no angel and he had his part to play in the racism incident. Both by starting it by insulting Suarez, and then complaining that Suarez called him a n*****. He didn’t.

And before I start getting abuse of my own – Suarez deserved his ban. Primarily for referring to Evra’s skin colour, but also because he blatantly lied to the FA’s commission. To say he patted Evra on the head and pinched his skin in a ‘conciliatory’ manner, was nonsense. He was trying to wind him up, and he was trying to get Evra to lash out. Both were obvious when watching the game. Had he said to the commission, “I was trying to wind him up, the same way he tried to wind me up by insulting my sister”, he would have been a reliable and accurate witness. The rest was a farce.

For the Anfield crowd to call Evra a liar doesn’t seem to me to be that big a deal. They’re defending their star player who got banned for 8 games for racism by a panel who found he wasn’t racist. Booing is more than acceptable, abuse isn’t. There were the usual stupid chants by both fans according to witnesses on Saturday, but little more when it came to Evra (bar, it seems, the idiot we’ve talked about).

Man Utd fans criticising the supposed ‘abuse’ of their left-back should probably hold their tongues. In less than two weeks  Old Trafford will be the venue for Suarez v Evra and I fully expect around 60,000 fans to be booing the Uruguayan. With justifiable cause. And presumably calling him a racist. With less justifiable cause.

Cardiff through to Carling Cup final

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Cardiff have beaten Crystal Palace to reach the Carling Cup final after winning 3-1 on penalties at the end of a 1-0 win and a 1-1 aggregate draw tonight.

A seventh minute own goal by Anthony Gardner and the dismissal of Palace captain Paddy McCarthy just over ten minutes from time were the main highlights of the game, watched by new Wales manager Chris Coleman.

However Cardiff were unlucky not to win the match with three shots hitting the woodwork and Speroni pulling off some decent saves. The pick of the efforts was a Kenny Miller swivel and left footed shot in the first half that ricocheted off the post, while Gunnarsson hit the bar from a free header with barely a minute left of the 120 for Cardiff.

Miller blazed a penalty horrendously wide with the first effort and I was beginning to think the £20 I invested in Cardiff to qualify in the second half of extra time was a goner. But Heaton was the hero in the Palace goal with two fine saves.

Zaha. All arms and legs. (pic from the Daily Mail - Getty Images)

In truth, Liverpool and Man City won’t be too worried. Palace with the likes of Zaha (see below),  Scannell and the right-back who looked really bright (and has been linked with a move to Man Utd) Nathaniel Clyne could have posed a few unforeseen problems and a bit of trickery. Cardiff were better, but will play more into the other semi-final winner’s hands.

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I watched to see what to make of Wilfried Zaha, the Palace youngster who’s been linked with Liverpool. He looks handy, strong enough despite getting a kicking, but seems to get his head down too much when looking up and spotting the right ball to play would set him apart from the rest.

He has skill, pace and looked one of the fresher players towards the end despite being at times triple-marked and playing in a side with ten men for almost 40 minutes. Think £10m is a bit steep, but he was brave and could be shaped into a good player.

Again, not sure Anfield is the place for him to do that though. Touch of the Ryan Babel about him in that he probably needs a club who’ll let him play, give him space and a chance to get a regular run of games to show what he can do.

Personally I preferred Clyne at right-back. Looked a real player, current England U-21, and out of contract at the end of the season.

 

Where does the buck stop at Anfield?

January 23, 2012 2 comments

Kenny Dalglish did the only thing he could on Saturday to deflect from the criticism that was bound to come his way following the poor defeat at Bolton.

The buck doesn’t necessarily stop with the manager if players are underperforming, but it does hint at something wrong with man management at the very least.

Dalglish had his finest successes in an era before Wenger, Zola, Cantona even, excluding his efforts at Blackburn. The foreign, modern influx of player that made the Premiership faster, fitter, was a rarity in his 80s glory days with British staples Rush, Barnes and Hansen the main men, but the signings of Carroll, Downing, Adam and Henderson are fast proving the moves of a man who is out of touch.

Dalglish has reverted to the old ‘Boot Room’ philosophy passed down across generations from the time of Shankly to Roy Evans when it fast became apparent that times had changed and that Liverpool needed to bring in a foreign coach in Gerard Houllier to show they were moving on from resting on the laurels of the glory days.

Criticism has been kept in-house. Suarez has been defended, to the detriment of the club’s image around the world. Carroll has been defended despite being criticised to the point of ridicule and regularly finding himself on the bench. Dalglish even went so far as to say Downing is ‘better than he thought’. A real head-scratcher that one.

Stewart Downing signs for Liverpool

Stewart Downing in happier times (around July)

Mistakes don’t get criticised. It’s all about the team and about Liverpool being the best football club in the world. A fortress. Siege mentality like the one Ferguson built around him to survive in the early 90s and turn into the most successful period in the club’s history.

But that changed at Bolton in an act of unusual outspoken criticism from the Scot. Players like Carroll, Downing and Adam to a slightly lesser extent are surely already worrying about their long-term places at the club. The Suarez incident needs sorting.

How he will fit back into the team and respond to the constant abuse he will receive at the hands of opposition players and fans only he will know. The smart money says it won’t be pretty. Dalglish has a massive battle on his hands keeping morale going at Anfield for the remainder of the season.

Despite that a Wembley final looms with a home semi final and a 1-0 advantage over Man City to come on Wednesday. Then Manchester United on Saturday, when the booing of Evra will bring up more problems in them media. And Liverpool remain within sight of Chelsea in fourth despite a wretched series of performances. The season can be salvaged, but after the performance on Saturday it’ll take one of the greatest feats of King Kenny’s  Liverpool career to-date.