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Sunday, 16 December 2012

Reds battle back to stun Stevenage

Stevenage 1-2 Crawley Town

A Dannie Bulman winner against old club Stevenage grabbed Crawley the points as Richie Barker's side recorded their first win in eight.

Leaving at 11.30, the trip to Broadhall Way was disrupted by a few hold ups on the M25 before finally arriving at Broadhall Way almost two hours later.

Outside the ground was a memorial for former Boro winger Mitchell Cole who passed away last month.

Memorial: Mitchell Cole
Before the match began, there was a minute's silence that was impeccably observed by all before referee Michael Oliver kicked off the game.

Crawley started well and winger Mike Jones had two early chances within the opening five minutes; firstly firing wide and then straight at Stevenage goalkeeper Steven Arnold.

Stevenage had their own first notable effort after eight minutes when Robin Shroot, fresh from signing a new two-year deal, saw his run and cross tipped away by visiting 'keeper Paul Jones to Greg Tansey, who's follow up was blocked by Crawley defender Mark Connolly.

On 24 minutes, a driving run from Hope Akpan saw him reach the byline but his cross just eluded Nicky Adams at the back post.

Stevenage had possibly the best chance of the first half when, after 39 minutes, David Gray's burst from right back saw his low cross dummied by Lucas Akins to Lee Hills; his goal-bound effort was hacked clear by the impressive Connolly.

My view at Stevenage
The away side saw Josh Simpson's toe poke fly just wide after an out-swinging corner from Adams wasn't cleared by the hosts just five minutes before the break.

Stevenage came out with more purpose after half time with Tansey slicing wide just four minutes before Gary Smith's side earned the opener; a quick throw found Gray who's ball across the box reached Shroot, and he scrambled the ball past Mat Sadler on the line.

Despite going one down, the Red Devils upped the ante and Akpan had two efforts in quick succession just after the hour mark; shooting over the bar from 20 yards and seeing his downward header comfortably saved by Arnold.

However, Akpan's luck changed on 67 minutes when he pounced after Adams drive was only pushed away by Arnold.

Four minutes later and Crawley took the lead; a pass from Mike Jones found Bulman with space, he let fly and his 30 yard strike deflected of Bondz N'Gala and into the back of the net to send the travelling fans into ecstasy.

Stevenage boss Smith, made a double substitution on 78 minutes in a bid to get back into the game as Darius Charles and Luke Freeman replaced Miguel Comminges and Hills respectively.

Tansey had a few more chances that flew wide before Freeman and Tansey once more had Paul Jones flying across goal as Crawley held on for a much needed victory.

STEVENAGE: Arnold, Gray, Hills (Freeman, 78), Tansey, Dunne, Haber (Agyemang, 81), Akins, Roberts (c), Comminges (Charles, 78), N'Gala, Shroot

CRAWLEY: P.Jones, Sadler, Connolly, Akpan, Alexander (c), Simpson, Hunt, Bulman, Adams (Akinde, 89), M.Jones, Davis (Walsh, 46)

Monday, 10 December 2012

FA Youth Cup: Southampton 0-2 Everton

Everton earned a comfortable victory against Southampton at St Marys in the 3rd round of the FA Youth Cup.

An entertaining opening 20 minutes began with a host of chance for both sides.

Firstly, after 6 minutes, a mix up between Toffees goalkeeper Mateusz Taudul and centre back Curtis Langton almost gifted Calum Chambers to open the scoring but he sliced wide.

Next it was Everton's turn as a minute later, a 20-yard effort from the impressive Matthew Kennedy was tipped over the bar by Saints' number one Chris Johns.

The opener came after 11 minutes with Kennedy again causing problems for the home defence. He was the provider of a neat pass to George Waring who took a touch before slotting into the right-hand corner from 12 yards.

The hosts were looking for an instant reply and soon after, James Ward-Prowse's dipping volley flew just over after an Omar Rowe free kick wasn't cleared.

After 17 minutes, home defender Jordan Turnbull saw his strike sail just over the bar after Everton failed to deal with a tormenting Ward-Prowse free kick.

The Blues then raced up the other end and Kennedy's solo run and shot deflected off Saints captain Dominic Gape, thankfully for Southampton, into the arms of Johns.

A pulsating start soon cooled down and it wasn't until the 33rd minute until the next chance came. An excellent break from the home side started by Rowe eventually found Chambers but his shot was well kept out by the on-rushing Taudul.

Everton were again thankful to Taudul for keeping the score at 1-0 three minutes later when he beat away a stinging strike from Ryan Seager.


Southampton did have the ball in the net on 57 minutes when a strike from Gape ended up at the feat of Jason McCarthy. The defender with an excellent finish however, the flag was up for offside.

Everton managed to increase their lead just two minutes later as a deep cross from the left-hand side was headed back across goal by Gethin Jones and Conor Grant tapped in.

Jason Dodd's side were desperate to find a way back into the game and after 67 minutes a driving run from McCarthy culminated in a wayward strike.

There was concern for Taudul on 76 minutes as he went off with a serious looking injury and replaced by Russel Griffiths.

On 83, Turnbull headed over from a Jake Sinclair cross before Kennedy breezed past four defenders before hitting over.

The final chance came to the Saints in the fourth minute of added time as Matthew Targett's strike was pushed away by Griffiths, soon before the referee blew the full time whistle.

SOUTHAMPTON: Johns, Flannigan, Targett, Cape (c), McCarthy, Turnbull, Chambers (Reed, 65), Ward-Prowse, Seager, Sinclair, Rowe (Ariyibi, 76)

NOT USED: Fraser Colmer, Will Britt (GK), Charlie Higgins

EVERTON: Taudul (Griffiths, 76), Pennington, Touray, Kenny, Langton, Moleneux, Jones, Ledson, Waring (Dyson, 83), Grant (Charisley, 90), Kennedy

NOT USED: George Green, Ben McLaughlin

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Do Everton really have a lack of resources?

There's no doubt Everton are having a fantastic season so far, playing some exciting football and winning plenty of games.

However, something that seems to be a weekly thing is their "lack of money" or "lack of resources". The question I ask is... really?

I'm a big fan of Everton... when I say fan, I mean that they're one of the more likeable clubs in the top flight. They have a very good chairman in Bill Kenwright, a fan who who used to watch the Toffees as a youngster had done something that every other football supporter in the world would have wanted to do - taking over the club he loved.

They're a good business model, seemingly not trying to attract the star names to Goodison, instead, looking for the right players to compliment a side that David Moyes has been looking to build since he started his reign just over 10 years ago.

Moyes has been in charge for over a decade (CaughtOffside)
A regular feature that can be heard on Match of the Day on a Saturday night is "What a job Moyes has done" from the likes of former Everton striker Gary Lineker and pundits Alan Shearer, Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen, purring over the latest win for the Merseysiders.

Admittedly, Moyes has done fantastically well, but at the same time, the myth that he hasn't had money is false.

Marouane Fellaini signed for a club record £15m back in 2008 and, despite a tough start to his Toffees career, the big Belgian is finally starting to show some promise.

FELLAINI: Record signing (Eurosport)
Moyes spent a combined £10m on Leighton Baines (£6m) and Phil Jagielka (£4m) from Wigan Athletic and Sheffield United, just years after the duo were let go from the Blues' youth academy, something that not many know. Baines said: "I played Sunday league for a team called Key Ways. We had good players like Ryan Taylor (now at Newcastle) and David Nugent (now at Leicester). When I was 15, I knew I had to try to get a club, as I was coming towards the end of school

"I went back to Everton for a trial but they let me go again. I then went to Liverpool but they had a left back and stuck with him. It felt like the end of the world". (

TWO THAT GOT AWAY: Baines (L) and Jagielka (R) (Zimbio)
In more recent times, the likes of Steven Pienaar (£5m), Kevin Mirrallas (£6m), Johnny Heitinga (£6m) and Nikica Jelavic (£7m) have all arrived for hefty sums of money.

Looking back further, players such as Andy Johnson, Joleon Lescott (despite leaving Everton for a profit of the fees paid) and James Beattie all arrived for a decent amount of money too.

Lescott joined Manchester City for over £20m (Daily Mail)
So, is the famed "limited resources" actually true? You look at just some of the players listed above and I think that what is said about the Blues finances is complete codswallop. 

Admittedly the club haven't spent as much as the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United etc but, with all due respect, Everton aren't going to be a club expected to be challenging at the top with the big hitters in the Premier League.

In truth, although he gets a bit of stick from the fans, Kenwright is handing money over for players, Moyes is spending it and spending it very wisely indeed.

He's done a very good job though!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Match Report: Basingstoke Town 0-1 Dover Athletic

Dover Athletic won a tight encounter at a cold Camrose, leaving the hosts Basingstoke Town, fighting at the bottom of the table.

The goal that separated the two sides came early as after just 3 minutes, striker Ben May pounced when Stoke couldn't clear Daryl McMahon's free kick, poking in to the bottom left hand corner. Goal given, despite shouts of handball from the home defence.

It was almost 2-0 soon after as Billy Bricknell weaved his way past defenders Douglas Bergqvist and Robbie Rice before seeing his left footed drive beaten away by goalkeeper Ashley Bayes before being cleared.

The Dragons had their first real chance after 15 minutes when Shaun MacAuley let fly from 20 yeard but saw his effort well held by Mitch Walker in the Dover goal.

Tim Sills missed a guilt-edged chance ten minutes later; Walker dropping a high ball, Sills however smashed a shot embarrassingly over the bar.

The home side were getting on the ball more but had to be wary of a potential counter attack from their opponents - showcased when a May flick on sent Bricknell away. Fortunately for Stoke, 40 year-old Bayes was off his line quick enough to clear the danger.

Basingstoke had another chance on 34 minutes; firstly, MacAuley's shimmy helped the midfielder find space but his effort was once again straight at Walker.

On the stroke of half time, Sills' hook found his strike partner Delano Sam-Yorke whose shot was kept out by Walker, Jordace Holder-Spooner's follow up was blocked before another Sam-Yorke effort was quickly hacked away by Ian Simpemba.


The home side came out quickest for the second half and 5 minutes after the interval a Holder-Spooner cross from the right was on a plate for Sills who hit wide of the left-hand post.

After 53 minutes, a Jay Gasson back post header from an ouswinging corner was brilliantly kept out by Walker, keeping the score at 0-1.

Sills missed again after 64 minutes, his header whistling just wide from a Rice cross.

The visitors were struggling to get McMahon on the ball but had a chance to make the game safe on 70 minutes; Ricky Modeste's superb ball into the box flicked off the head of Gasson, Bayes reacting wonderfully to stick out a big right hand and flick away from danger.

A succession of substitutes soon ensued with Bricknell, McMahon and May made way for Jamie Smith, Dean Rance and Calum Willock respectively. Stoke bringing off Stuart Lake and Holder-Spooner for Callum McNish and Stefan Brown.

One final chance fell to the home side to find a last gasp equaliser as after a weaving run from Sam-Yorke, the big striker hit a fight footed shot only to see Walker keep the scores as they had been for the last 87 minutes.

BTFC: Bayes (c) Rice, Warner, Bergqvist, Gasson, Lake (McNish 81), Daly, MacAuley, Sills, Sam-Yorke, Holder-Spooner (Brown 86)

UN-USED: Nathan Campbell, Simon Dunn, Chris Paterson

DAFC: Walker, Sessegnon, Wynter, Thomson (c), Simpemba, Webb, Modeste, McMahon (Smith 76), May (Willock 86), Bricknell (Rance 76), Cogan

UN-USED: Shane Huke, Lee Hook


Dover rise to 7th, Basingstoke drop to 20th.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Warren meets... Wilfried Zaha

It's been quite a journey for a man, or, at the age of just 19, a boy who many tip for the top. Wilfried came down to my second home, Southampton for a chat on "Black History Month". I went down there too and managed to catch up with the Crystal Palace and England under-21 attacker.

WL: Wilfried, you've been at Crystal Palace your whole career and were taken on at Selhurst Park at 10 years of age. How were you spotted?

WZ: Basically, I went to a school called Whitehorse Manor and I played for the school team. We used to get entered for a number of different tournaments. We had a really good school team and we used to win most of them. One day, one game, a Crystal Palace scout came to watch us, liked what he saw and from then three of us got selected. When we got selected, out of the three of us, I was the only one who managed to stay on. I had to put in so much work - on my own, at home, practising in the back garden so yeah, I managed to stay, come up through the ranks and get to where I am now.

WL: Any ideas who the scout was that helped you seize your chance?

WZ: I can't really remember his name.... Dave... I think his surname was Webber... yeah, Dave Webber I think.

WL: The other two who didn't make it, do you remember their names?

WZ: I actually don't know what their doing really. One of the others is still a friend. His name's Adrian Thomas and I think he's still in education. I still keep in contact with him quite a bit but the other one, I don't know his name and I haven't a clue what he's doing.

WL: Of course, Palace have a very good reputation of bringing through youngsters such as you and Nathaniel Clyne, are you looking to follow in his footsteps and play in the Premier League, possibly with Palace?

WZ:  Yeah, definitely. That's my goal, that's where I want to be. I'm really enjoying it at Palace but anyone at my age will have the same goal and the Premier League is definitely a level I want to reach looking to the future.
CLYNE: Now playing for Southampton 
WL: You obviously know Nathaniel well, I take it the both of you still keep in touch?

WZ: Yeah, we do. Before a game, he'd send me a message saying "Good luck" and of course, I'd return the favour by wishing him the best of luck before any game that he plays. We're both friends and we constantly keep in contact all the time because we were both really close when he was with me at Palace.

WL: I can't not ask you about the Manchester United match last season. I've been there as a fan but playing there, walking out and getting the win must have been incredible!

WZ: It was sensational! No words can really describe what it felt like to be honest with you. To play at Old Trafford, against those players - who I looked to as role models and watching them on Match of the Day every Saturday night was unbelievable. To get the result as well was just mind-blowing. It was crazy!

Zaha (yellow) sheilds the ball from United right back Rafael
WL: You're a very highly rated footballer who many, myself included, believe are one of the best players in the Championship. When you're booed by opposition fans due to being a good player, does that motivate you to perhaps play a little bit better in a way?

WZ: It does. Because of all the grief I get from "bitter" fans, it motivates me more. I'm here for a reason and fans like to say I'm over-rated so I like to show them that I'm here because of what I've done, I'm not lucky to be picked, I've earned myself the right to be playing.

WL: Dougie Freedman (Palace manager) has left the club to join Bolton Wanderers, is that something that surprises you?

WZ: I'm dissapointed to see him go. I first met him when I was 14 so he's always been around the place in some key years for me. He's a good man and I've sent him a message saying goodbye and wishing him the best.
FREED: Zaha is sad to see his manager leave
WL: Let's talk about your international career now and looking in from the outside, I can see there are some very good players such as Tom Ince and yourself in the England under-21s. What are your views on the squad from inside the camp?

WZ: Being able to play with some of the best young players in England altogether is something that's difficult to explain.... There's not one player in the squad who isn't good if you know what I mean?! Players like Raheem Sterling for example who has got loads of tricks and lots of pace - playing with these guys just motivates you to play better with all the talent that you have around you really.

Sterling has broken through the Liverpool ranks this season
WL: Of course, we must talk about the unsavoury incidents in the Serbia game last week. You played in the match. It was shocking wasn't it?

WZ: It was just disgusting to be out there and to be treated in that way. The good thing was that Stuart Pearce (England under-21 manager) just told us what to expect. He told us not to react and just to have a professional mindset out there to do the job of getting to the European Championships and get it done. We already had a plan in our mindsets - we had to take it in and not let it affect us. It was ridiculous really to get that level of abuse.

Zaha leaves 3 players in his wake during the "disgusting" game
WL: Do you get that level of abuse over here in any of the games you have played in the Championship?

WZ: I got it once.... It was against Millwall. I don't let it affect me really. I go there to do what I have to do on the football pitch and then leave when the game is finished. I don't have to get into anything like arguments with any of the fans. To tell you the truth it doesn't get to me and at the end of the day, I'm only there to play football.

WL: You mentioned the Euro's earlier, what can England achieve from that tournament? Is the sky the limit?

WZ: Literally, the sky is the limit with the players we have. When you look at the quality in the squad then I really don't see any reason why we can't go there and win it.

WL: In the future, do you have any interests in playing abroad? Would someone like a Barcelona or Real Madrid be something that would interest you?

WZ: Definitely. That's one of my goals as well. I'm still young but playing for one of those teams is something I'd like to do - they're two of the best teams in the world.

WL: So Spain is the aim?!

WZ: Definitely. Spain IS the aim!

Many thanks to Wilfried for taking the time out to speak to me.

Some photos courtesy of The Sun, TalkSport & Zimbio

Warren meets... Craig Mackail-Smith

I was due to interview another Peterborough player on Saturday in Craig Alcock. Unfortunately, he didn't travel down with the squad however, I did see another Craig; Brighton forward Mackail-Smith lurking around after watching his former team mates play and I managed to grab a few words with him.

WL: Craig, you started your career kicking around in the non-league game, how were those experiences?

CMS: Yeah, it was fantastic, I think I've worked hard to get to where I am today and non-league kind of shaped my career and built me as a player. It taught me a lot about appreciating the game and, as I say, I wouldn't be the player I am today without my non-league background.

THE BOY'S GONNA BE SPECIAL: Craig during his Arlesey days
WL: So it's fair to say, playing at non-league grounds galvanised you to make sure you made it as a pro?

CMS: Yeah, definitely, I've been to some tough grounds and played some tough teams and tough defenders so yeah, it shapes you as a person and as a man. It introduces you to the men's kind of football and I always look out for the teams that I used to play for.

WL: You went to Dagenham & Redbridge, John Still brought you in, along with many other players from the lower leagues, how much of an influence did he have on you?

CMS: He was fantastic, he game me the opportunity taking me from Arlesey Town and changed me from a winger into a forward. He allowed me just to play my natural game and, as you say, he's brought on some great players like Paul Benson and Sam Saunders so it shows he's got an eye for talent in the non-leagues. He's done fantastically well with his Dagenham side.

WL: You then moved to Peterborough, you took a while to stamp your mark and had to bide your time there but soon struck up a brilliant partnership with Aaron McLean. It must have been great to suddenly get loads of games and bang in lots of goals?

CMS: Yeah, I think someone said that we couldn't play together because we were too similar and then I think we both ended up scoring 100 goals between us so, it was a fantastic partnership and we complemented each other so well on the pitch and got on well off the pitch so it was great to play together. I had a fantastic time at Peterborough, have great memories and I always try and get to games when I can.

DEADLY DUO: Craig celebrates yet another goal with Aaron McLean
WL: You scored 35 goals in your last season at Posh which triggered your move to Brighton, how big a transfer was that for you in terms of moving away from that area where you had played for a while?

CMS: I'd been at Peterborough for almost five years so it was a big change. Brighton had just moved into a new stadium, were a club on the up and were looking to push on into the Premiership. I felt it was a club that matched my ambitions to push on and Gus (Poyet) obviously sold me the club, sold me the vision and I moved there. I felt that I had a pretty good season but not fantastic; I felt I could have maybe scored a few more goals last season but it was a good place to start and hopefully this coming season, I can push on and
score a lot more goals.

WL: I think it was a record transfer at the time and still is, did that put pressure on you to succeed?

CMS: Yeah, it probably put a little bit of pressure, maybe more pressure than I put on myself; I should have just gone out there, played my natural game and enjoyed myself. Sometimes things are made a bit difficult and you go out there trying to justify your price tag, maybe that didn't help me and maybe I didn't score as many goals due to that. However, I have learnt from that and this season I'm just going to relax and enjoy!
RECORD BREAKER: Move could rise to £3.5m
WL: Previously, you've played for England C, from there you've then gone on to play for the full Scotland national side, that must have been a great experience as well?

CMS: Yeah it's been fantastic. I wanted to play for Scotland for a long time and it didn't come around when George Burley was in charge but Craig Levein (Scotland manager) gave me the chance about a year and a half ago and I love it. Everytime I pull the shirt on I wear it with pride and I love representing Scotland.

WL: So you made your debut against Brazil of all teams, that must have been an eye-opener!?!

CMS: Yeah it was fantastic to play against the world champions and unbelievable world class players in my first international game and it's certainly given me the appetite to get more and more caps and of course to play against better teams.
Craig meets Barcelona right back Dani Alves!
WL: Finally Craig, your in your prime at 28 now, where can we expect to see you in five years time... maybe at the Broadfield!?

CMS: (Laughs) Hopefully still in the Premiership. Hopefully I'll get to the Premiership, play there a few years.  You never know, once I get that little bit older I'll see where I go from there; maybe a bit of coaching or a bit of management. We'll see what happens!

I would like to thank Craig for taking the time out to speak to me.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Are QPR really too good to go down?

"They're too good to go down" - This, readers, is a quote you read/hear every season. It was said  during the season Newcastle United plummeted into Championship abyss, likewise when West Ham United suffered the same plight 2 seasons ago. This season, it's QPR's turn.

Newcastle had the likes of Jonas Gutierrez, Kevin Nolan, Jose Enrique and Michael Owen as they slipped through the trap-door. Similarly, West Ham couldn't rely on Demba Ba, Scott Parker and Mark Noble as their fate was sealed with defeat at Wigan Athletic.

HAMMERS CON-DEMB-ED: Ba couldn't save them
QPR's manager, Mark Hughes, simply had to strengthen his side that only just survived in the Premier League last season on the last day - you know the one, that boring game against Manchester City.

Looking in, it appeared as if he had some decent players coming through the door - Junior Hoilett was a highly rated winger at Blackburn Rovers who a number of clubs were looking to snare on a free transfer.

Esteban Granero also made the move from one capital city to another as the Spaniard swapped Real Madrid for a stint at Loftus Road for a fee believed to be around £9 million. A bright spark in a dismal campaign for the Rs so far.
Another high profile capture was the signing of Julio Cesar from Inter Milan. The goalkeeper who many believed was one of the best in the world in his position had somehow agreed to join Hughes' new revolution in west-London.

Despite the slightly better players arriving, Hughes has also added the odd shocker, splashing a reported £5 million on 31-year-old Ji-Sung Park isn't good business in my book, a player who just runs around a lot. I've never really understood that "he plays in the big games" dross that comes out of some peoples mouths. If your QPR and don't really have any "big games" then it's a pretty pointless signing.

Another was Andy Johnson. Injury prone most of the time (he's on the treatment table at the moment) who should give company to Kieran Dyer in the physio's room. Released by a mediocre Fulham side, who finished above QPR last season. Thumbs up for that one Mark.

DOWN AND OUT: Johnson (blue)
Admittedly it seems a good mixture, however, for every Esteban Granero, you also have a Shaun Derry.

I suppose one positive for the team was getting rid of British football's Mr. Controversial in Joey Barton as the midfielder headed to France to join Marseille on a season-long loan with Stephen M'Bia coming the other way.
Hughes won't have been helped by the dreaded "vote of confidence" from the club's Chairman, Tony Fernandes, nor the fact that Harry Redknapp seems to be constantly linked to the Hoops' hotseat.

The next two games arent bankers either with in-form Everton at home and Arsenal away, I fear that Hughes' time in charge could be numbered - hard to believe he was snooping on the vacant Chelsea job not so long ago.
Is time running out for Hughes?
Images courtesy of Zimbio, Atomic Soda and The Sun.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Warren meets... Sergio Torres

After our game with Swansea City on Tuesday night, I met up with the player who gave me my best ever Crawley moment and had a chat with Reds' fans favourite Argentine!

WL: Sergio, firstly, let's begin with your time in Argentina; how did you get into football? Did you play regularly over there?

ST: Yeah, I've been playing since I was about 5 years old - that's when I started kicking the ball. I was playing for my home town team until I was around twenty one. I then played as a semi-professional in the 4th division for a couple of years and then had my chance to come and play in Europe. In Argentina, it's very difficult - if you're not in the top league by the age of twenty or twenty-one, it's very hard to make it as a professional footballer. For me, the dream was always to be a professional player so that's when I wanted to try my luck in Europe.

WL: So when you said you wanted to come over to Europe, what did your parents say? Were they happy with you coming abroad at a relatively young age?

ST: My Dad always supported me in football and he always wanted me to do well. However, my Mother didn't want me to go, she didn't want to miss her little boy! With me coming to England and not speaking English (at the time), she was a little worried. They've both supported me though and now I've been in England for 9 years so they've kind of got used to it!

WL: They keep coming over to see you now and again, I think they came up to Bury on the CTSA (Crawley Town Supporters Alliance).

ST: Yeah, they come maybe once or twice a year. My Dad especially misses watching me play football and they both come over. They came to Old Trafford as well which I suppose is the "main game" really!

Sergio with his Mum and Dad after the game at Rotherham last season
WL: We'll talk about your career in England now, and, you initially had a trial at Brighton. It didn't come of anything and you had spells in non-league at the likes of Basingstoke and Molesey, did these experiences at non-league level toughen you up?

ST: Yeah definitely - it taught me a lot about the English game. When I went to Brighton, I knew that I needed to adapt to the English game - I had to learn how to tackle more than anything. At Molesley and Basingstoke I learnt a lot, learnt how to tackle and how to defend. Both are a key part of the game and I feel that I am a more complete player now than when I first came to England.

WL: John Gorman then brought you to Wycombe. How grateful are you to him in giving you your big chance at being a professional?

ST: He's a legend to me. He's a great man. He was not only a good manager but he treated us all as if he was our Dad and I will always be thankful to him for giving me that chance that I was looking for since I came (to England). He's great.

WL: Do you still keep in contact with him (Gorman)?

ST: Every now and then I send him a message. I know he's retired from the game now but he's just a really nice man.

WL: You were then signed by Peterborough, unfortunately, injuries held you back a little, do you feel you could have been a regular in the Championship for them?

ST: I played about 9 games and I really enjoyed it when we played. Unfortunately, we got relegated back to League 1 that season. It was difficult - It was a good move for me but I kept getting injured here and there and I missed Wycombe quite a bit too - I spent 3 years there (Wycombe) and my head was a little over the place but thankfully I came to Crawley and it all came to life again. I've really had the most amazing and enjoyable two-and-a-half years here!

WL: Indeed. Now, you're a little bit of a legend here (Crawley) and I said to you on Twitter today about my favourite moment being that goal against Derby. Talk me through it. What was that like!?

ST: Wow! It was unbelievable! You're right, it was you that said it today and I had a look (at the video footage). It gives me goosebumps every time I see it and it was amazing! It's hard to explain that type of feeling - it was something that I've never had before in my life. It was the whole occasion, the club being in the 3rd round of the FA Cup for the first time in quite a few years, beating Derby - a Championship side and the whole crowd going crazy! It was just... unbelievable!

Check the video below out for Sergio's moment in Crawley history:

WL: So when the ball did come to you from Deano's (Dean Howell's) corner. What were you thinking? Just pass it in or slam it and hope for the best?!

ST: I tried just to keep it on target because I knew where the goal was but there were a lot of bodies in there. I thought if I smash it it could go anywhere! It's split second and you have to make the decision. Fortunately, I just opened my foot up and it went in there. I missed a chance just before when it was flicked off the line but thankfully, it went in!

WL: As you've said, you've been here (Crawley) for two-and-a-half years, did you think it would be this good when you signed?!

ST: No! I knew we had a good team when I signed. Steve Evans (Crawley manager at the time) told me we were proper going for it and I was really looking forward to the challenge ahead to fight for promotion. I never thought we'd be playing against the likes of Manchester United at Old Trafford - that was the dream. Even Stoke in the FA Cup. It's amazing and I don't know how many games I've played for us but I haven't lost many for Crawley Town. The boys have been great, it's been a really enjoyable time for me and I'm now one of the longest serving players I think!

WL: You've recently become a father for the first time, how's fatherhood treating you? Sleepless nights?!

ST: Nah! She's (Sergio's daughter) been pretty good. She wakes up quite early sometimes to be fair. Sometimes it's 6am she's up! Me and the missus take turns with 1 night each but it's amazing and having a baby is the best thing in the world. We're definitely going to have another one soon (Laughs)!

WL: You know Russell Martin (Norwich City defender) and I think I remember seeing on your Twitter that he'd got either (Sergio) Aguero or (Fabricio) Coloccini's shirt. Are they hanging in your house?

ST: Haha! It was Aguero's... In fairness, I need to get them framed! Russ is a good friend of mine and whenever he is going to be playing against an Argentinian player he's always got me in his ear asking him to get me a shirt!
GET SHIRTY: Russell (L) and Sergio (R) with Aguero's shirt
WL: Finally, you're I think 31 now, have you been looking into coaching or anything outside of football for when you hang up your boots? How long can you keep playing?

ST: I want to still play. I don't know what level but hopefully I'll still be playing for a few more years yet. I'm still really enjoying it and just want to keep fit. I've recently started studying a Sports Science course with Josh (Simpson) at Manchester University. It's a long distance and it's me, Josh and Sads (Mat Sadler) who have to go up there next week. It's going to be a long trek!

Many thanks to Sergio for taking the time out to speak to me.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Reds Rue Missed Chances

At the start of the season, on paper, Colchester United v Crawley Town looked a difficult game to predict. However, with Reds riding high and the U's languishing at the bottom of League 1, surely a Crawley victory was on the cards?

The CTSA coach was full, which meant we had to drive up to deepest, darkest Essex. 4pm was the meeting time as me and 3 others departed.

It took longer than expected and we finally reached point at around 18.45. A £6 parking fee was slightly on the ludicrous side before a brief stroll to the impressive Weston Homes Community Stadium.

Over 200 Reds fans made the trip - a good turnout for a mid-week game considering kids going back to school and all that, and were in fine voice.

After just 1 minute, Crawley had their first chance as an in-swinging Nicky Adams free kick found Kyle McFadzean, but his header was tamely pushed onto the Mark Cousins' gloves.

Colchester had their opportunity on 6 minutes when Anthony Wordsworth's corner was headed over by Marcus Bean.
HIGHLY RATED: Anthony Wordsworth
After only 7 minutes, midfielder Shaun Cooper was taken off with a groin injury. The former Bournemouth man replaced by the returning Josh Simpson.

McFadzean's surge up-field saw him beat a couple of U's players before sliding a low cross to the back post, however, Gary Alexander couldn't get enough power, sliding in.

Mat Salder was next to try his luck but saw his left footed drive whistle just wide of Cousins' right hand post, just after the half an hour mark.

That was that for the opening 45 minutes as the half petered out with little else, with the referee adding an extra minute of time.

Reds played much better in the second half and seemed to up the gears.

Mike Jones cut in from the right, played a neat one-two with Alexander before unleashing a strike that went inches wide of the right-hand post.

On the hour, a Nicky Ajose cross found Alexander, but his effort was blocked off of ex-Red Magnus Okuonghae and out for a corner.
OLD BOY: Magnus started for the U's
With 63 minutes played, Colchester had their first clear cut effort as Brian Wilson curling free kick from 20 yards out was heading for the bottom left-hand corner, only to be pushed away by Crawley 'keeper Paul Jones.

2 minutes later and the visitors hit the post; Jones again found space before seeing his effort skim off the right-hand post.

U's manager John Ward brought on Freddie Sears in place of Ian Henderson as his side looked to snatch a winner.

However, it was Crawley that increased the pressure as Cousins' goal was leading a charmed life. The dangerous Adams, who tormented U's right back Wilson, all night turned the former Bristol City defender inside-out before curling an effort towards the far corner, only for Cousins to tip the ball onto the bar and away.
NUISANCE: Nicky Adams
From the resulting corner, Sadler's in-swinger caused confusion in the home box, and, despite shouts for a McFadzean hand ball, the Crawley defender poked in at the second time of asking.

HANDS UP: McFadzean does his best Maradona impression
Adams and Ajose quickly had efforts go over and wide and Jones saw his free kick sail just past the post again.

Colchester managed to grab an undeserved equaliser with just a few minutes left to play as Sadler was adjudged to have felled Bean, despite there being very little contact. Wordsworth stepped up and fired straight down the middle. 1-1.

Minutes later, substitute, Billy Clarke skipped past a couple of challenges before his drilled shot rebounded off that famous post and away to safety.

There were 2 more Crawley efforts before the whistle was blown for full time as firstly, Alexander's volley was heading in onto be be clawed away by Cousins and another Adams effort flew just over the bar as the game ended in a draw.

COLCHESTER: Cousins; Wilson, Okuonghae, Eastman, Rose; Bean, Henderson (Sears, 67), Izzet (c) (O'Toole, 76), Wordsworth, Massey; Morrison

REDS: P. Jones; Hunt, Connolly, McFadzean, Sadler; M. Jones, Akpan, Cooper (Simpson, 7), Adams; Ajose (Clarke, 78), Alexander (c)

Some photos courtesy of Pixel8Photos and Crawley Observer.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Gary's brace punishes Preston

Gary Alexander's brace sealed another fine away victory as Reds bounced back from last week's defeat at home to Portsmouth.

Preston began the brightest as John Welsh and new signing Stuart Beavon both went close.

Crawley's first notable effort came when winger, Nicky Adams saw his 25-yard strike go just wide of 'keeper Thorston Stuckmann's top right-hand corner.

Soon after, on 26 minutes, Mat Sadler's left wing cross was headed just wide by Dannie Bulman. An opportunity for a rare goal from the fans' favourite.

Akpo Sodje was booked for Preston just prior to fracas between both sets of players as Kyle McFadzean was chopped down from behind by Lilywhites skipper Nicky Wroe. Somehow the referee felt a few words would suffice rather than a straight red card.

Wroe's challenge deserved more than just a chat
Graham Westley took off David Buchanan, a straight swap for ex-Stevenage man Joel Byrom as the second half began.

Within 3 minutes of the second half resuming, the visitors had another effort as McFadzean let fly from long range. The defender's header, however, was straight at Stuckmann.

The breakthrough finally came on 54 minutes as Adams' superb deep cross from the left hand side saw Alexander, who rose above Scott Laird to send the away stand into raptures.

Alexander added to his tally four minutes later when he turned North End centre back, Shane Cansdell-Sheriff and fired into the bottom right -hand corner with the outside of his right boot.

The Reds captain had a chance to complete his hat-trick but headed tamely at Stuckmann from another Sadler cross.

Westley decided to take off danger man Jeffrey Mounakana. The former Arsenal man making way for William Hayhurst with 12 minutes of normal time remaining.

Preston snatched a goal back at the death as an in-swinging Byrom free kick found Paul Huntington lurking in the box and the big defender fired past away 'keeper Paul Jones, just before the referee added 5 extra minutes of injury time.

One final chance fell to the home side as the natives found their voice; Wroe tried to head an effort past Jones, only for the former Peterborough stopper to tip over the bar.

Two successive corners ensued but North End couldn't find a way through a resolute defence.

REDS: P.Jones, Sadler, Connolly, McFadzean, Alexander (c), Hunt, Ajose (Clarke, 79), Bulman, Adams, Cooper, M.Jones 
(Walsh, 87)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Best Buys In English Football

Deadline day was as hectic as always on Friday, however, it was a very exciting Summer for fans of a number of clubs with the amount of transfers both incoming and outgoing. Here are my 10 top transfers and the 1 that just missed out. So, in no particular order....

Eden Hazard (Lille - Chelsea) 
Chelsea were the real big spenders this Summer with Roman Abramovich seemingly allowing new manager Roberto Di Matteo to splash the cash for the newly crowned Champions League Winners. The long-wrangling saga of where Hazard's destination would be, was all the rage; the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid etc were all rumoured to be interested and I think I even heard that Dave Whelan was trying to entice the Belgian to Wigan Athletic (possibly unfounded). Anyway, Chelsea won the race for the signature of Hazard and he has impressed greatly in the "new Chelsea" system. He has linked up with fellow playmaker Juan Mata excellently and already has 6 assists in just 3 league games so far as well as scoring for Chelsea too. Excellent signing and, at the minute, looks to be worth every penny of the reported £32m transfer fee. Whelan must be looking on enviously - image the goals Franco Di Santo could have scored with that service!
HAZARD: A dangerous player
Clint Dempsey (Fulham - Tottenham Hotspur)
On the topic of transfer sagas, I think it's very appropriate that we now move on to our American cousin, Clint Dempsey. It looked for all the world that Dempsey was heading for Merseyside to join Liverpool when the window opened. For one reason or another, that didn't work out (LFC surely didn't splash their whole transfer budget on Joe Allen?!) In a bid to try and force through a move to Anfield, Clint refused to play for Fulham again, effectively going on strike to get his move. On deadline day, the Texan was still a Fulham "player" (not that he would play). Aston Villa tried an audacious move to bring him to Villa Park, Fulham agreed a fee with Paul Lambert's side however, Dempsey turned it down and, in a remarkable turn, out of the blue came Spurs and snapped up the USA international for a fee believed to be £6m (typical Spurs). Liverpool fans weren't happy. Spurs fans were. Clint... well, he certainly clocked up the mileage!
DEMPSEY: Got his move... in the end!
Steven Naismith (Rangers - Everton)
The Rangers situation wasn't a good one... unless you are managers that are trying to snare their players on free transfers. That's exactly what David Moyes did. The Scotsman (Naismith, not Moyes) decided against transferring his contract from "Rangers" to the "Newco Rangers" in a long wrangling case involving the club. Naismith linked up again, with his old strike partner, Nikica Jelavic. It looks a deserved signing for Moyes, after spending £7m on Jelavic just 6 months before he would have probably been available for nothing. A good signing for Everton, who seem famed for their lack of finances to sign a player. Naismith has already found the net for the Toffees, grabbing a hat-trick in Tony Hibbert's testimonial against AEK Athens... having said that, even Hibbert scored in that game so perhaps it's not that great an achievement. I'm sure he'll do well in blue.
NAISMITH: Back with his old pal Jelavic
Jan Vertonghen (Ajax - Tottenham Hotspur)
It was an interesting Summer for Spurs fans. The makeover took place; AVB (Andre Villas-Boas) came in to replace Harry Redknapp and Andre got straight to work in tearing apart a decent side, replacing a number of high profile names. Luka Modric joined Real Madrid, Rafael Van der Vaart returned to Hamburg are 2 examples. The Vertonghen signing was something that was needed; the centre back positions at Spurs were something that needed sorting out with the likes of Michael Dawson and Ledley King (now retired) being rather injury prone. At 25, he's a good age to develop, as well as having some good experience. He's another Belgian who seems to have a good future and he's not the last in this blog. Good capture for Spurs when you think he was courted by a number of decent sides. A fee of £14m is a reasonable price for a player in this day and age too.
VERTONGHEN: Will be a mainstay in the Spurs side
Julio Cesar (Inter Milan - QPR)
This was another transfer that almost came out of nowhere. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who took this move with a pinch of salt after first hearing about it. Julio Cesar, a goalkeeper, who, a couple of years ago was the best, if not, one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Now, he's turning up at Loftus Road to sign for QPR?! For some reason, Inter got shot of their Brazilian number 1 and it appears Tony Fernandes sold the club to him, especially after hearing this quote from Cesar: "I joined QPR because I feel we can win the Premier League". I'm not saying they won't, but can you imagine, in your head, Mark Hughes lifting the trophy?... No, me neither. Julio also has to realise that there may be times when the likes of Clint Hill and Shaun Derry will be in the same starting XI as him. On a more serious note, it's an excellent signing for QPR and it's a player I've always wanted to see in the Premier League so everyone's a winner, right? Well, unless your name's Robert Green.
CESAR: What is he doing at QPR?!
Shinji Kagawa (Dortmund - Manchester United)
You don't often get many talented Japanese footballers. I think the last half-decent one was Junichi Inamoto, who played for Fulham. However, this one is a very good player! In inaugural part of Borussia Dortmund's recent success, Kagawa was on the radar of a number of clubs for his impressive goals and assists tally during his time in the Bundesliga. United won the race for his signature after agreeing a fee believed to be around £15m... a tidy profit for Dortmund, who signed him from Curezo Osaka in 2010 for just 350,000 Euros. Good business! Kagawa likes to play "inbetween the lines", linking up with the midfield and the impressive strike-force that United now have to choose from. He'll make an impact in the Premier League and still has a long time left in his career. He's already opened his account for the Red Devils. Could be a United great.
KAGAWA: Good addition to United's squad
Santi Cazorla (Malaga - Arsenal)
It appears that Malaga's gamble of signing big names in a bid to shake up La Liga and the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid failed to pay off. The club's financial difficulties meant they had to sell their prized asset just 1 year after signing the talented Spaniard from Villarreal. Arsene Wenger soon swooped to grab the little schemer for a fee of £15m. Wenger spending money I hear you ask!? He's probably been 1 of the stars of the Premier League in these early games and he scored in Arsenal's latest win against Liverpool. Wenger would have been hoping Robin van Persie just ahead to bang the goals in but unfortunately for the Arsenal boss, Olivier Giroud is the man who is meant to score the goals. They've still got Marouanne Chamakh though. Finally, let's be honest, would I put Cazorla in my Fantasy Premier League team if he wasn't a good player?
CAZORLA: Arsenal's Spanish schemer
Andy Carroll (Liverpool - West Ham United)
This may be a little bit of a surprise to a few of you but I think the big man's move to Upton Park is a bit of a master-stroke by Sam Allardyce. Carroll reunites with his old pal and mentor Kevin Nolan in east London and Allardyce will be expecting goals from the Liverpool loanee. On Liverpool, I bet they're kicking themselves after letting the £35m man leave with only Luis Suarez (who's hardly prolific) and a youth team striker as the only recognised centre forwards on their books! Expect to see Carroll, with a run of games, to notch around 15 goals this season, especially from the service out wide from fellow new boy Matt Jarvis. An impressive debut against Fulham showed no signs of needing to gel in his new team in a 3-0 win. The move away from the north-west could just be the kick-start he needs to revitalise his slightly  flailing career.
Carroll (L) and Nolan (R) are back together again!
Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea - West Bromwich Albion)
The move to West Brom for Romelu Lukaku is an ideal opportunity to show everyone at Chelsea just what he can do. Since joining from Anderlecht last Summer, the striker's opportunities at Stamford Bridge were limited. Dubbed "the new Didier Drogba", Lukaku should work well up from with Shane Long in a little 'n large partnership. He caused problems against Spurs the other week as WBA started the season off very well. A shrewd move from Steve Clarke who's negotiations for Lukaku's services may have been helped by being pals with Blues' boss Roberto Di Matteo. Could play a big part in West Brom's season. On the topic of West Brom, for me, they've been a real surprise this season so far.

LUKAKU: Loan star
Pablo Hernandez (Valencia - Swansea)
The signing of Hernandez is another great piece of business by new Swansea boss Michael Laudrup. Laudrup seems to be taking more players from Spain than Rafa Benitez did at Liverpool and it seems to be working. Michu has been a real star for the Swans so far and with Hernandez whipping in the service from the right hand side, he should score goals for fun. A real snip at just £5.5m and at 27, you'd think that Hernandez would be in the prime of his career. A quality player who should set the Premier League alight. For me, a better replacement for Scott Sinclair, at a much cheaper price. If I was Laudrup, I would have tried to tie him down for longer than the three-year-deal he signed.

HERNANDEZ: Great signing
The one who missed out...

Gaston Ramirez (Bologna - Southampton)
The signing of Ramirez was one that sounded a little too good to be true. The negotiations seemed to go on for a lifetime before boss, Nigel Adkins finally tied up the deal. It's strange that Ramirez chose the south coast with (respectfully) bigger clubs chasing his signature. It looks a great piece of business, however, why has he missed out? The fee of £12m could be good for the long term however, it's a little bit of a gamble if the Uruguayan's potential doesn't come off. Added to the fact that he came from Serie A in Italy, and you do wonder whether there is some third party involved. We all know what happened with the Carlos Tevez/West Ham situation a few years back.

RAMIREZ: Hot property this Summer
Photos courtesy of Zimbio, Southampton FC, Swansea City FC, The Telegraph