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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Gills dampen my Christmas cheer

After polishing off a few of the day before's leftovers it was the beginning of the traditional Boxing Day football.   I've got to admit, I've never really been a fan of the swish dinners and the gallons of drink and festive cheer that Christmas time brings, but instead just look forward to the mass influx of games that my team are going to undertake in a short period of time.
Anyway, after the day started so well with AFC losing to Oxford at home and my old man spotting in the front garden two magpies (Something about seeing one for sorrow and two for joy) I was looking forward to a game which saw top of the table Crawley host the play-off chasing Gills.  Hessenthaler's men naming a a couple of ex-Crawley transfer targets in their starting eleven with former Peterborough winger Chris Whelpdale lining up on the right hand side of a four man midfield and striker Danny Kedwell, an ex-Wimbledon and Grays forward that always seemed to play well against us.
Kedwell was made welcome by the home fans
Our line up looked strong even without the influential loanee Andy Drury who had returned to Ipswich following his three month loan spell; another loan ranger, this time Michael Doughty replacing Drury in a midfield diamond that saw defender Kyle McFadzean play in the defensive position, Sergio Torres and Dannie Bulman in the middle and QPR man Doughty in the attacking position.
Opposite where I was standing behind the goal, The Gills had packed out their end; 1,300 hardy souls made the short trek from Kent.
An even first eighteen minutes occured before a shambolic backpass from the usually reliable McFadzean saw Jo Kuffour take a touch only to be taken down by Claude Davis and with little hesitation referee Darren Sheldrake showed red to the Jamaican centre back.  McFadzean then was moved to centre back alongside Pablo Mills; a partnership that worked so well during the promotion winning campaign of last season.
OFF: Davis is shown red from Sheldrake
The sending off looked to fire our boys up.  David Hunt's long throw went past everyone before trickling past Ross Flitney's post and Torres also fired wide after a loose ball dropped to his feet.
The breakthrough wasn't soon after when, after winning one header, McFadzean stooped for another only to be clipped on the head by a high Matt Lawrence boot.  Penalty to Crawley and up stepped the in form Matt Tubbs to smash the ball home for his 16th goal in all competitions.  Gillingham then had a little spell straight after the goal that lasted about 3 minutes where they tried to grab themselves a quick reply however we went in at half time a man down but one goal up.
Matt Tubbs smashes home the penalty
The second half saw our visitors come flying out of the blocks and after Chris Whelpdale's ball in, Jo Kuffour sneaked in at the back post before scoring with what looked as if it hit his stomach; the ball squirming past Scott Shearer in the Crawley goal.
Whilst on the subject of Whelpdale's balls, after the game it was confirmed that, after a high challenge where David Hunt was booked, the Gills winger had split his scrotum - an injury that makes every grown man wince!
YELP-DALE!: Winger needed stitches after his unfortunate injury
Kuffour's brace was completed minutes later when, after a Crawley attack, Gillingham caught the Red Devils on the break and after Kedwell fed his strike partner (Strange considering that it’s normally Kedwell the one getting fed) the ball around thirty yards out before the on loan Bristol Rovers man ran and ran and ran at McFadzean, beat the defender before firing past Shearer at his near post from inside the box.
Kuffour has 7 goals in 11 games for the Gills
From here, Crawley huffed and puffed without really earning themselves any noteworthy chances, Mills' effort from twenty yards was comfortably saved by Flitney and, during the five minutes of added time, Gillingham outcast Luke Rooney, who boss Hesenthaler said would never play for the club again after a contract dispute , was sent off after a second booking.
One last chance then occurred for the home side; Josh Simpson's cross was headed into the corner by Tubbs only to see his effort smashed off the line by visiting defender Garry Richards.
The defeat ends our fifteen game unbeaten run as Gillingham extend their to ten
Disappointing result.  We seemed to lack width the whole game.  The diamond never worked at the start of the season before Steve Evans changed the system to the basic 4-4-2 system with wingers.  We definitely missed Drury on the left.  In the 14 games he was here we never lost - He gets recalled and we are defeated!  After the game, I read a worrying stat that Crawley last won a game on Boxing Day against Welling United ten years ago so maybe the omens weren't with us.  
However, onto the next one (As Jay-Z's song goes).  Strugglers Barnet are next to the Broadfield on Friday.  Although they have picked up in recent weeks, I'm quietly confident of a win.

Photos courtesy of

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Clinical Striker Needed For Reds

With January approaching fast and the re-opening of that winter transfer window once again the focus is on Liverpool and where I believe they need to strengthen if they are to achieve a top four place at the end of the season.

It's been just under a year since Kenny Dalglish sold Fernando Torres to Chelsea and at the same time bringing in Luis Suarez from Ajax along with Newcastle striker Andy Carroll.

Luis Cannon: The fiery Suarez hasn't been clinical
However, the partnership between the two hasn't really clicked, Carroll has been injured for most of his Liverpool career only playing 13 games since he arrived on Merseyside and although Suarez has shone, only has five goals to his name so far this season and doesn't look as if he is the 20 goal a season striker Liverpool need to break into the top four.

Everywhere else on the pitch they look solid; the backline Dalglish has the luxury of attacking full backs in Glen Johnson and another former Newcastle player, left back, Jose Enrique as well as picking two out of Martin Skrtel, Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger.  With Pepe Reina between the sticks as well who I believe to be one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League.

In midfield there are a host of options for the Scousers; summer signing Jordan Henderson, work-horse Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, captain Steven Gerrard and a re-vitalised Lucas when fit fighting for places.  At this present time though, Lucas is out for the season and he will be a big miss for the club (Never EVER thought I would write/say that!)

Lucas is starting to prove his worth
The Reds have only scored more than two league goals once this season (At home to lowly Bolton) showing their lack of fire-power and the clubs in-ability to beat the so called lesser sides such as Norwich City (1-1) and Swansea (0-0) with both results occurring at Anfield.

Its not as if Dalglish has a lack of funds, unlike city rivals Everton.  With John W. Henry taking over the reigns from Tom Hicks and George Gillett last year and promising to trust Dalglish with his cash, the gaffer duly went out and signed Adam from Blackpool (£7m), Henderson from Sunderland (£20m), Downing from Aston Villa (£18m), Sebastian Coates from Uruguayan club Nacional (£7m) and Enrique for (£6m) as well as signing 'keeper Doni and Bellamy on free transfers.

Downing hasn't done the business so far
So, here we are, coming up to late December, almost half way through the 2011-2012 Premier League season and Liverpool are currently in 6th place along with only scoring 18 in 15 games.  I feel that Liverpool NEED top 4 and Champions League football if they are to attract the top quality players.

My message to Kenny - GET A STRIKER IN!

Someone like a Karim Benzema, Edinson Cavani, Mario Gomez, Fernando Torres and, if they get Carlos Tevez, maybe AC Milan will be interested in flogging Alexandre Pato. Dalglish take note!

Pato: Knows where the net is

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Cobblers Pin Hopes on Aidy

Northampton Town Football Club - one of those clubs that seem to underachieve season after season today installed former Watford gaffer Aidy Boothroyd as their new manager.

At the start of the season, many bookmakers predicted that The Cobblers would be up there around the top six in League 2 - However, they currently sit in 19th place, two places above the drop zone.

The Summer had been one of hope for Cobblers fans, Gary Johnson, the man who took Bristol City to the Championship play-off Final only three years previously was at the helm and signed some decent players such as Adebayo Akinfenwa for his second stint at the club, Ben Toxer, Aaron Davies and Jake Robinson. Everything was looking rosy until they starting kicking a ball on the pitch.

Johnson and Northampton soon parted company
A disappointing 0-0 bore draw at home to Accrington Stanley set them on their way to a misserable start in the league in what would have been Johnson's first full season as boss at the club.  Despite a 2-1 win away at Ipswich Town in the Carling Cup and beating Aldershot Town away in the same week, Johnson's side then went on a run of nine games without a win - Gaining just one point in this sequence!

Again, Northampton had another week where they won twice consecutively however that was soon halted by a 1-0 home defeat to Crawley Town - The following six games after that saw the side again pick up just one point in the league and getting knocked out by non-league Luton Town in the FA Cup - This was the final straw for Chairman David Cardozo who duly "Parted Company" with Johnson with former England goalkeeper Tim Flowers taking over as Caretaker Manager.

Flowers couldn't stop the rut - His two games in charge were both defeats - 7-2 at home to Shrewsbury Town and 4-1 away to Plymouth (The second half showing must have been better though as they were four down at half time).

So, fifteen points later since the well, it now must be said for Cobblers fans the "Pleasing"? draw against Accrington and two managers later here we are with Boothroyd now in charge of the same players that Johnson and Flowers had. 

This picture sums Northampton's season up
Bradford-born Boothroyd, who has managed in The Premier League with Watford, The Championship with Watford and Coventry and League 1 with Colchester is now in the bottom tier of the Football League with Northampton Town.  He has the job to firstly keep the Sixfields outfit in League 2 before aiming for the play-offs.  Cardozo, it has to be said has been clever in giving his new man at the helm a one year rolling contract which does change the Northampton way in giving managers longer contracts, the team don't perform and then the manager has been given a large pay-off before leaving - Sensible move.

Anyway, I for one wish Northampton luck with Boothroyd at the helm.  Apart from reaching the Premier League through the play-offs what now seems an eternity ago he has done very little else of note.  Still, It can't get much worse at Sixfields can it?!

Boothroyd: The new man at the helm

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Warren meets... Matt Le Tissier

As many will know, Matt Le Tissier is a bit of a legend down where I now live in Southampton.

Anyway, tonight I conducted a quick interview with Matt or as he is affectionately known by Saints fans "Le God".

WL: How did a lad from the Channel Islands enter the footballing world?

MLT: I was spotted by Southampton when I was playing for the Guernsey under 15s tour of Hampshire. I played two or three games and even played out of position in one of the games - Of course I'm a central midfielder and I got played out on the right wing and one of the scouts saw me, assumed I was a right winger and decided to invite me over for a trial.

WL: In the end you spent sixteen years at Saints, a long time and a lot of loyalty there. Would you consider yourself as the big fish in the small pond plying your trade at one of the so called smaller clubs?

MLT:  Yeah, definitely and that was probably one of the reasons I stayed - I loved the status, loved the place, the fans were great to me so I saw no reason to move on whilst we were playing in the top division.

WL: And, on the topic of loyalty what's your view of it nowadays in football?

MLT: There's not a lot of it nowadays to be honest with you but that is to be expected. The kind of money thats floating around in the game now.  I mean, I have to say that if given my time again and I was earning three or four thousand pounds a week at Southampton and was offered one hundred grand a week to go and play at Man City then I'm not sure how loyal I could have been with that kind of offer.  I can't blame the players for wanting to make the most of what they can while their doing it.

WL: Of course Matt you were renowned for your penalty taking ability. With forty seven successful attempts out of forty eight efforts tell me just what was the secret?

MLT: I think a lot of it came down to a positive mental attitude and a technique where I could side foot the ball pretty powerfully so I could keep the accuracy there into the corners and know that most of the time it was probably going to go in.

WL: Matt, whilst we are talking about penalty conversions why can't England win a penalty shoot out?!

MLT: Well we did win one against Spain in about 1996 - A long time ago! I don't know. I think we have kind of got bogged down with them an the players seemed to get affected by the fact that the media go on about it quite a bit that we are crap and everyone thinks that we're crap and we're going to be crap. Until we change the media's perception of it then it's going to be very difficult to get out of that rut.

WL: Continuing with national football, Spanish World Cup winner Xavi mentioned that you were one of his inspirations growing up which must be pleasing to hear?!

MLT: Yeah, yeah he did. It was nice yeah I mean for somebody who has gone on to win the World Cup and The European Championships to say that about you is quite an accolade really. Yeah, chuffed to bits!

WL: Still on the national scene, it must be disappointing that, for a player of your quality to have only made eight appearances for England. Surely you should have earned more?

MLT: Yes and no. Obviously my ambition was to play for England as a boy and I realised that it was a massive thing for me. I think you will have to ask the England managers why I didn't make more caps.  I think a lot of it was because I was playing for an unfashionable club - It wasn't one of the bigger clubs and you kind of don't get looked upon favourably as when your maybe playing for one of the big boys.

WL: And after that, what are your feelings now towards Glenn Hoddle?!

MLT: Erm........ It was a long time ago.  We actually did have a chat - We were on the same golf trip in Dubai a few years ago and we sat down over breakfast, had a little chat and kind of resolved our differences so I'd like to say that my relationship with Glenn is fine now!

WL: Off the pitch, you have got a son - Mitchell - What are the chances of seeing another member of the Le Tissier clan grace the Premier League stage?!

MLT: Erm... (Laughs) No chance whatsoever!  He's actually far more into his cricket than he is football to be honest and he plays a little bit of five-a-side but there is no chance yu will see him in the Premier League I can assure you!

WL: When retiring, were you interested in maybe going into the coaching or managing side of things or was getting into media the real plan?

MLT: I kind of just fell into the media really - Never had that many great plans. It just turned out that way. I didn't have any ambitions to get into coaching but you never rule it out because you never know what hand life's going to deal you. Who knows what the future brings? I will never say never.

WL: As I've mentioned, you are in the media now and although it has its pros you must be dissapointed not to watch live games on a Saturday afternoon?

MLT: It does curtail my chances of getting to St. Marys but I do get down to the midweek ones when I'm not working. I think last season was about six or seven games and this season it will probably turn out the same but its my job and I've still got a mortgage to pay so it has to be done!

WL: Matt, its those old classics now - Best player played with and best player played against...GO!

MLT: Best player played with is definitely Gazza (Paul Gascoigne)... unbelievable player. I feel sad for him because I think that possibly playing thirty odd games one season and then getting a bad injury and not playing really at all the next hit him hard health wise - he just wanted to play all the time.  It was different to me because I just went on a downward spiral gradually during the latter part of my career!  Best player played against...... We played Juventus once and they had a fella called Roberto Baggio - he was alright!  The one player I really dreaded playing against was Stuart Pearce - If there was a chance of taking the ball and the man then Stuart would never turn the opportunity down!

WL: When you were a youngster who was the one player you wanted to emulate?

MLT: Liam Brady - I was a Tottenham fan back then but with me being from Guernsey and not London there was never really any real hatred towards Arsenal so admiring Liam was okay!  

WL: Finally Matt, Saints have certainly had a topsy-turvey last couple of years but now it looks like they are really on the rise.

MLT: Yeah its been a pretty decent start. I think its exceeded everyone's expectations at the start of the season so if we can keep it going then we will keep our fingers crossed that next season we'll be back in the big time.

Me and Le Tiss

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Newcastle show why having a settled side works

Newcastle United's unbeaten Premier League run came to an end on Saturday at The Etihad Stadium as table toppers Manchester City defeated the magpies 3-1.

The Summer saw a lot of comings and goings on Tyneside.  Many pundits predicted a season of struggle for the Toon after the departures of key midfielders Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton to West Ham and QPR respectively.

Barton joined QPR on a free

Newcastle still hadn't replaced Andy Carroll according to some, before Demba Ba started banging in the goals (8 in 12 Premier League games), unknown French midfielder Yohan Cabaye arrived from Lille... He won't replace Nolan's quality said some and Sylvain Marveaux was another import from the French league, after arriving from Rennes that the Geordies had ever heard of.

Due to the form of Tim Krul from the previous season meant that Mike Ashley didn't need to splash the cash in getting another goalkeeper meaning that the one position that had been untouched by boss Alan Pardew was defence.

The back four at the start of the season, from right to left consisted of Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini and Ryan Taylor.  The back four twelve games into the season - Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini and Ryan Taylor.

The settled back line has helped in Newcastle's brilliant start.  Krul knows whether his defence will leave a cross for him to catch and the backline knows when Krul will come for it - An element of trust is their now and The Toon finally seem to have some stability - On the pitch at least.  Ryan Taylor, playing in a more un-accustomed left back position has gone from strength to strength and even netted the winner against arch rivals Sunderland at The Stadium of Light.

Its not just defence that have earned praise however, Cabaye has been a revelation in the centre of the park and seems to be the heartbeat of everything good the Toon do and already has a good understanding with Cheik Tiote.

Cabaye keeps Toon ticking over in midfield
Up front, it took a bit of time but Ba is coming alive - since kickstarting his career on the Tyne with a hat-trick at home to Blackburn, the Senegal hitman has scored against Wolves and Tottenham before grabbing another treble away at Stoke.  The partnership between him and Leon Best is beginning to bear fruit with the latter being more of an assister to Ba's goals rather than a goalscorer himself judging by the three goals he has to his name so far.

Deadly Duo: Ba and Best have shown a good understanding
Right, I've given plenty of praise to the players on the pitch but a big pat on the back needs to go to Pardew.  The manager raised a few eyebrows when he was appointed by the owner however, he has slowly but surely got the Toon Army on his side.  Pardew obviously knew his best side early on, probably in pre-season and is sticking to his guns.  The team, although maybe not the best has shown that by knowing what each is going to do on the field they can be a success and can do well.

Happy Days: Pardew has answered his critics
Of course, the real test now is seeing how they do now that unbeaten run has come to an end.

Nevertheless, things are looking up at St James Park..... or is it The Sports Direct Arena nowadays?!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

How long has Steve Kean got at Blackburn?

The Blackburn Rovers' fans were never pleased when Steve Kean took over the reigns at Ewood Park from well respected manager "Big" Sam Allardyce,  and it has really never took off for the Scot.

Born in Glasgow, Kean's playing career never really got started where, according to Wikipedia, Kean played for  6 clubs; Celtic, Swansea City, Alloa Athletic, Academica Coimbra, Bath City and Newbury Town culminating in a grand total of 5 appearances.

It was more of the same when he turned his hand to management, where, apart from a brief spell as Assistant Manager at Fulham, Spanish side Real Sociedad and Championship strugglers Coventry City, all with Chris Coleman as the main man at the helm.

Allardyce, on the other hand is renowned for making sure that every club he manages at the very least stays in the same league before looking at the next aim - Famously keeping Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League before delivering UEFA Cup (Now Europa League) football at The Reebok Stadium.

Allardyce is now at West Ham United
Venky's, a meat processing and pharmaceutics company took over the club in November 2010 and straight away announced big things for the club, including mentioning Ronaldinho and former England captain David Beckham when referring to the January transfer window. Rovers fans were drooling at the mouth - New owners, lots of money, big signings etc.....
However, a month later, Allardyce was sacked and Venkys installed 44-year old Kean to First Team Manager when, after 2 years as a coach, where Allardyce brought him in, he replaced Big Sam, sacked on 13th December 2010, as Rovers gaffer.

Kean's first game began with a 1-1 home draw with relegation-threatened West Ham and, after scraping points throughout the second half of the season and after I'm sure narrowly failing with bids for Beckham and Ronaldinho in January, Rovers eventually stayed in the league on the final day of the season with a 3-2 win away at Wolves to finish 15th - Their fourth league win that season since Kean became boss.
Is the clock ticking for Steve Kean at Ewood?
Venky's gave Kean a contract until 2013 and the manager pursuaded big names Scott Dann, Yakubu, Ruben Rochina and David Goodwillie as well as other stars to sign for the club. Ronaldinho now at Flamengo and Beckham still in Los Angeles with LA Galaxy - LA or Blackburn... tough choice!

The 2011-2012 season didn't begin well for Blackburn; losing the first three games; two at home, to Wolves and Everton sandwiching an away defeat at Aston Villa.

Since then, chants and banners of "Kean Out!" have been heard and seen around Ewood Park but, after 11 league games, consisting of 1 win, 6 points, fans wanting the manager to resign and sitting at the bottom of the table, the club's owners are still sticking by their man.  Surely Steve Kean's time is up?

Rovers fans make their feelings known
Despite fans wanting the Scot out, Kean still tells the media that it is only "A small pocket of supporters" or "Most of the fans are sticking with us"... you get the jist of his interviews that are practically the same every single week.

Oh, and before I forget, Kean's managerial record for Blackburn Rovers since he took over in December last year:

G      W      D      L      Win %
32      6       10    16     18.75

My message to Rovers' fans... Erm... the only way is up!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Has the tide turned in Manchester?

Sunday 23rd October 2011. This is the date that Manchester City fans will remember for the rest of their lives. The day they mauled their arch rivals Manchester United 6-1, at Old Trafford - United's heaviest defeat since 1955.

Safe trip back to London
As much as the result was impressive, many people were instead asking the question Have the sky blues taken over from their city rivals?

One look at the squads of both sides and you feel that the answer is yes. Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney  Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck are United's four main men in the striking department whereas City have numerous top class strikers to choose from in Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and until January at least, Carlos Tevez.  The City midfield has an array of talent too - Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Adam Johnson, Nigel De Jong, James Milner and Gareth Barry are the regulars that Italian gaffer Roberto Mancini tinkers with whereas United, under Sir Alex Ferguson seem to have much less of an influence in the middle of the park since the retirement of Paul Scholes.

Scholes was key to the United midfield
The central midfield options of Anderson, Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Darron Gibson shows you that United certainly lack quality in that department and teams could, similarly like City and David Silva did on Sunday simply play their way through the middle of United's midfield.  There is no ball winner or Roy Keane like hardman in the middle. Anderson always flatters to deceive, Cleverley is an up and coming youngster, Carrick is not worls class, Fletcher... how has he won everything he's won? Should be playing for an average Premier League team such as QPR, Everton or everbody's second favourite team; Fulham.

At the back United, without Nemanja Vidic look extremely vulnerable.  In my view, Rio Ferdinand's best days are behind him. Its alright being rated 86 overall on Fifa 12 but in real life, sadly for Rio he is not up to the standard.  Speaking of not being up to standard I move on to Jonny Evans who seems to have been around for years but a quick look tells me the Northern Irishman is still only 23 years old. Evans always seemed dodgy to me and had another poor game for the Red Devils on Sunday with "Super Mario" Balotelli tormenting him, turning him and then getting Evans to bring him down which ultimately saw the former Sunderland loanee sent off.  As well as Evans you have two youngsters in there in Chris "Did you know he used to play for Maidstone" Smalling and Phil Jones - I do wish the commentators would stop going on about Smalling's past   I must have been told he played for a local Kent side about 2,028 times now. Jones is decent though and I feel he will be a regular England player in a year or two. Patrice Evra has also been a consistent performer over the years.

Smalling played for Maidstone dontchaknow!
Finally, the goalkeeper. David De Gea arrived with most United fans going on about just how great this bearded Spaniard is.  As far as I have seen De Gea flaps at crosses, doesn't save the easier shots and gets nutmegged a lot.  Yes, he maybe decent in the future but at this moment in time isn't that good in my opinion.  Maybe Sir Alex should give Kuszczak a go?

United can't believe their luck... Karma...
City on the other hand have a real leader in the Belgian stopper Vincent Kompany and ex-Everton player Jolean Lescott who I have to admit I have never been a massive fan of but he has had a terrific start to the season it has to be said.  At right back, Micah Richards is the man bombing forward to help City attack.  Richards should be in the England team in my view. Always seems to give his all but for some reason Capello overlooks him... having said that this is Capello we are talking about here... City also have two good left backs to choose from in Aleksander Kolarov and Gael Clichy - Both are very very attacking.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart is a reliable man to have inbetween the posts. 24 years old and still has a lot of time on his side. Excellent keeper who pulls of some top class saves but you do feel he has a mistake in him.

David Silva wheels away in delight after netting
So, on the pitch City have the advantage.

Off the pitch, money helps of course but you also need to buy the correct players. For the first time since the Sheikh factor was introduced, City seemed to play as a real "Team" on Sunday and looked brilliant.  If things aren't going well then I'm sure Mancini can sign a few decent players.  With Tevez probably on his way to the Manchester Airport Departures Lounge in January, City are likely to go out and get another forward when the transfer window re-opend. I know just the player, a young Argentine who plays in La Liga, decent prospect, quick, good brain, scores a few goals and seems to have a good attitude... thats it, Gonzalo Higuain!

United. Well, for starters they do need a central midfield hardman in there, being the Football Manager scout that I am, they could probably get someone like Roma's Danielle De Rossi fairly cheap. Another centre back and maybe another keeper should be top of Fergie's wishlist.

Has the pendulum swung in City's favour?  Yes! 6-1 is a rout no matter what team you are.  Add to the fact its against a team that are top of the league and away to your arch rivals show City mean business!

Monday, 10 October 2011

"Fat Frank" Biting Back on Critics

Despite the new Barclays Premier League season being just two months old and seven months in, this campaign has already been a topsy-turvy one for Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard.

Lampard had started the first five of the Blues league campaign since new boss Andre Villas-Boas arrived from Porto before being dropped for the home match against Swansea City.  Villas-Boas' side dominating despite being reduced to ten men after Fernando Torres' lunge on Swans' winger Mark Gower and ending up 4-1 winners.  New signings Juan Mata from Valencia and Portuguese Raul Meireles from Liverpool had greatly impressed and the pressure was now on for the number 8. to nail down his starting place in the team after ten years as a mainstay in the team under numerous managers; Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti.

Won't Mata? : Juan's arrival put pressure on Lamps

Questions were being asked of the 33 year old as to whether the time had come for a younger, fresher alternative and whether he was past his sell by date.

Villas-Boas was quick to quash talk of Lampard's time being up at Chelsea saying ‘Frank is an established, top-quality player, one of the most important at the club. He has nothing to prove to the football world. He will continue to succeed in this club and be a big player for Chelsea for as long as I am here.’
Time up? : AVB won't blow the full time whistle on Frank
On the Tuesday it was Champions League night for the west-Londoners where they travelled to the Mestalla, home of La Liga side Valencia and it was Lampard, starting the game, who put the away side in front in the second half.  Despite Chelsea having chances to kill the game off, substitute Salomon Kalou handled in the area allowing Roberto Soldado to equalise from the penalty spot late on. Lampard though announced that he felt he did enough to warrant a start at Bolton Wanderers the following Saturday.  "I've missed out on a few games recently but you have to keep on top of yourself, work hard and when you get your chance you have to show. That's what I tried to do tonight.  It's a big squad and the manager has to do what he sees fit. If he wants to bring young players through at times you have to go along with that."

Lampard opened the scoring in Spain
Lampard was in the starting XI at The Reebok Stadium and had a fine game; netting a hat-trick, his fifth in Chelsea colours and his 119th goal in Blue to take him into the top five of Chelsea's all time top scorers list. The game finished Bolton 1-5 Chelsea.  

Heavens above!: Lampard celebrates after scoring vs. Bolton

Frank Lampard; the finished article? I don't think so and I feel he will be a key member of the Chelsea AND England team for a few more years yet.  I find it sad that someone who I feel has been an excellent player and a good role model for many, many years has come in for some unjustified stick.  

Write Lamps off at your peril!!!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Forest's Forgettable Week

Its been a little bit of a mad week at the City Ground this week. Actually its been a few mad weeks at the Midlands club to be honest.

Pressure had been on the now ex-Reds manager Steve McLaren from the start of the former Wolfsburg gaffer's tenure at Nottingham Forest and the high profile gamble just had not worked out.  Notable defeats has occurred, in particular the 2-1 home defeat to bitter rivals Derby County where the Rams had 'keeper Frank Fielding sent off after just 2 minutes of the game starting.

On paper, Forest have a very decent squad at Championship level - the likes of goalkeeper Lee Camp, midfielder Lewis McGugan and right back Chris Gunter are all top players who could possibly play at a higher level yet it just hasn't worked out. Perhaps you will look at the forward line and feel that the likes of Matt Derbyshire and Ismael Miller will not fire you to a league title. For me, Robert Earnshaw, who left on a free transfer to Championship rivals Cardiff City will always get plenty of goals at this level. Another player who departed for pastures new was Nathan Tyson, who, despite being a battering ram, excuse the pun (Tyson is now playing for Derby County) will get his fair share of goals.

Earnshaw = Goals

The final straw was the home defeat to Birmingham City last Sunday where the team lost 3-1 despite going 1-0 up, booed off the pitch at full time and soon later ex-England boss McLaren resigned from his position after just 112 days at the helm, leaving the former two times European Cup winners sitting in 21st place in the nPower Championship and without a home league win all season.

Good times ahead?: Things soon turned sour for McLaren
The next person to announce they were leaving their position was Forest chairman Nigel Doughty.  Doughty, a  lifelong fan of the club accepted that he was to blame for McLaren's poor Forest career.  "It was a very poor decision on my behalf to appoint him"  Doughty admitted. The chairman who had been top dog at Forest for 10 years had seen 7 permanent managers enter and then exit the City ground doors in his tenure told BBC that he would "I felt it was appropriate I take some responsibility and am stepping down as well as we find a replacement".

So... just who will take the top job at Nottingham Forest Football Club?  The rumour mill has already started; Peterborough's Darren Ferguson has ruled himself out of the running and names such as Martin O'Neil, Roy Keane, Dave Jones, MK Dons manager Karl Robinson, Sean O'Driscoll, Alan Shearer and even a possible shock return to the east Midlands for Billy Davies, the Scotsman took Forest to two consecutive play-off semi-finals before Doughty swung the axe on Davies two-year Forest managerial career. 

Whoever takes the plunge to become the boss at a club, based alongside the River Trent, expectations to get in the play-offs at the very least will be high but, first and foremost the new man may very well face a relegation battle on their hands.

Davies knows what it takes
Ferguson: Out of the running

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Anzhi Makhachkala on a mission to dominate Europe?

Before 2011 little was known of Anzhi Makhachkala from outside of Russia. Formed in 1991, Anzhi or "Daghi" as they are often called joined the Russian second league a year later before entering the Premier League 4 years later. Another few seasons of ups and downs continued before the fortunes changed in 2011 when billionaire Suleyman Kerimov took over the reigns.  

The winter transfer window saw Anzhi pull of a number of coups - most notably left back Roberto Carlos.  At 37, Carlos was or is no spring chicken yet the former Real Madrid defender still was a class above the other Makachala players.  At the end of the transfer window Anzhi pounced to sign former Chelsea and Ajax midfielder Mbark Boussoufka from Anderlecht. Another good signing for the little known club.

Then the summer window opened and Anzhi again looked to splash the cash.  A player linked with the club for a number of weeks was Cameroonian hitman Samuel Eto'o. Eto'o, a former Real Madrid youth teamer that was deamed not good enough and sold to Real Mallorca for around 4 million Euros had hit the headlines in recent years for his goalscoring exploits for Real's great rivals Barcelona where he found the net 108 times in 145 appearences. From here Eto'o was involved in a swap deal with Internazionale involving their forward, Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  Ibrahimovic and Eto'o eventually swapped between Inter and Barcelona with the Catalan's also sending £50 million to Inter as part of the deal.

Similarly to the West Ham deals involving Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano's transfers from Corinthians, Anzhi supporters felt it was too good to be true and yet, late in August Eto'o ended up signing for Anzhi for around £25 million - Sending a real message of intent to the world that they mean business. Eto'o is now reportadly the highest paid footballer in the world, 10 million Euros per season for the next three years.

In the same window Makhachkala completed deals for the highly rated Hungarian winger Balazs Dzsudzsak from PSV Eindhoven and Russian international defender Yury Zhirkov from Chelsea.

Eto'o's goals could fire Anzhi to Champions League glory
So, will we see "Dikaya Diviziya" in a Champions League semi-final or final soon? I think we may do. With a billionaire owner with plenty of money to spend on top class players like Samuel Eto'o I see no reason why not. Maybe in about 4 or 5 years Anzhi may have a team of superstars. Of sourse, the manager at Makachula will have to make sure the player's egos are all in check and make sure that all the team are happy but now the world knows about Russian moneybags Anzhi Makhachkala. The money and the quality of player that they have there have put them on the map for sure and who knows, Anzhi maybe just maybe a force to be reckoned with in a while. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Internazionale... in fact the world beware because the Anzhi Express train has only started pulling out of the station and it wont be long until it arrives at a Champions League game near you.