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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Warren meets... Kevin Davies

As you may know, last night (Tuesday) saw Bolton Wanderers come to Crawley for their Capital One Cup tie.

Anyway, you should know the drill by now, I never miss an opportunity to hassle someone and unfortunately for him, Kevin Davies was that man!

WL: Kevin, you started your long footballing career way back at Sheffield United, your boyhood club. You were released at 15, how hard was that decision to take?

KD: It was at the time yeah. It was a club I supported and a club I was at for a few years. Looking back now it was a blessing in disguise really to be honest because 6 months later I joined Chesterfield and it went from there. At the time it was difficult but it wasn't taken too hard and with my family behind me, pushing me on, I never looked back really.

WL: Was it pleasing to move there, even though you dropped down the leagues, with it still being fairly local to you?

KD: Yeah, like you say, they sort of snapped me up from the Sheffield boys side. There's was a lot of players that signed for some top teams before me and I was one of the, if not the last to sign. However, not many of them have gone on to do what was expected of them and haven't really had the career that I've had. I just decided to keep going and managed to get a good opportunity at Chesterfield and I just took it really.

Davies (blue) tussles against Middlesbrough for Chesterfield
WL: You did well at Saltergate and after 4 years at Chesterfield you headed south and joined Southampton. Was it difficult to relocate away from the family because you were still fairly young at the time?

KD: No, not at all really. As you say, I was young at the time at around twenty years old I think and I made some good friends down there and settled in really well. It's a lovely part of the world down there. I sort of had a good half-season there and picked up and injury. It didn't really pan out the way I wanted it to and I moved to Blackburn that Summer. I ended up moving back and I've got to be honest, I really enjoyed my time down there, I've still got a good number of friends down there and fond memories.

WL:You mentioned you've been there (Southampton) twice and even though you're at Bolton now is it still a club close to your heart?

KD: Yeah, definitely, like I say, I made plenty of friends down there and really enjoyed my time. We played some good football in my three and a half years there, had a good lifestyle and played with a great squad of players as well - There were really some fantastic players in that team.

KD celebrates a goal for Southampton
WL: Bolton ended up signing you on a free - A transfer that many believe was probably one of the best free transfers in English football.

KD: Yeah, for whatever reason it didn't work out in the end at Southampton. The new manager - Gordon Strachan came in and I didn't quite fit in. My face didn't fit for one reason or another which was a shame. At the time I was around my mid-twenties and I went out on loan to Millwall to get a few games and to get a bit of experience. I knew that there was a very slim chance I'd get a new contract there with Gordon Strachan so went to Millwall and got some games. I went to Bolton for a trial sort of thing that Summer, did okay and it really just went from there.

MISTAKE: Strachan allowed Kevin to leave
WL: Your international career now. You've made just the solitary appearance for England in 2010, do you still harbour hopes of maybe making a few more?

KD: No, no, I don't think it's going to happen again. I worked extremely hard to get there and had been on the fringes of the squad a few times, certainly since I've been at Bolton. I greatly enjoyed the experience overall and it was a great honour to pull on the shirt and get out there. I had a few close calls and a few heartaches and I was disappointed not to maybe make a few more but that's just football for you.

INTERNATIONAL: Davies on England duty
WL: Finally, a disappointing season with Bolton last season. This campaign I presume you're looking to take the club straight back up?

KD: Yes. We've had a steady start but we've got a good and we're looking to bounce back straight away. That's the plan.

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

Also, thanks to Jennie Kozlowski and her Bolton Wanderers media team for helping to ort the interview out - Good luck for the season.

Some photos courtesy of The Guardian , The Sun and the Daily Mail.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Reds Romp To Opening Day Win

I'd waited a long time for this day. Since I started my affiliation with Crawley Town way back in 1999, I've got to be honest, I never envisaged the Reds playing League 1 football. Today was the moment however, that the dream became reality.

The Crawley side was boosted by the news that new boss Richie Barker had made his first forays into the transfer market only yesterday; bringing in Jonathan Forte and Nicky Ajose on loan from Southampton and Peterborough United respectively.

NEW BOY: Ajose's  not had the best time at Posh
Basking in the Sussex sun, Reds started off on the back foot as, after only five minutes, Kyle McFadzean, who signed a new three-year contract with the club only yesterday, had a Mark Duffy goal-bound strike cannon off his head and with  "Fadz" falling down more like a knocked out boxer, the referee awarded a drop ball.

The first noteworthy effort of Crawley's League 1 campaign came from newly appointed captain Gary Alexander who headed a Nicky Adams cross towards Sam Slocombe's right hand post only to see the effort saved.

The next chance fell to McFadzean who leaped highest only to see his header from Adams' corner go over the bar and on top of the stand where the visiting supporters were housed.

Scunthorpe then had two quick fire efforts just minutes later as Mike Grella's tame effort trickled  into the arms of Paul Jones and Christian Ribeiro, up from right back saw his stinging effort flicked over the bar by the head of McFadzean once again.

Reds soon had another strike on target as Adams' whipped free kick was tipped over by Slocombe.

There was almost a calamitous mistake after 22 minutes as Duffy's header back to Slocombe was short and Billy Clarke nipped in only to be foiled quickly by the alert Iron 'keeper.

The impressive Hope Akpan was next to try his luck as his powerful strike went wide of Slocombe's right hand post.

The Crawley pressure finally tolled as the opening goal of the game arrived. A wicked Adams free kick was nodded down by Akpan lurking at the back post and Alexander was there to get a toe to the ball and tap it over the line for 1-0.

Alexander headed over the bar from a Mark Connolly cross and another dangerous corner from Adams was headed down and just inches wide by McFadzean at the far post.

INVOLVED: Kyle McFadzean
Scunthorpe finally had a few more efforts as midfielder Josh Walker burst into the box before squaring the ball to Bobby Grant who saw his shot hacked away by Reds' left back Mat Sadler.

A corner from Walker then found the unmarked David Mirfin lurking at the back post but the captain spurned the chance to equalise by volleying wide when he really should have scored. A sitter.

On the stroke of half time, a menacing ball in from Grant found Andy Barcham lurking at the back post but Connolly raced back to win the aerial duel and head the ball away for a corner.

The second half began drably and it took till the 60th minute for either side to actually create a chance as Josh Simpson wriggled his way through only to see Slocombe save his strike at the near post however, the midfielder also saw the linesman's flag up for offside.

The second goal of the game came two minutes later as Clarke headed back to Alexander after Connolly's diagonal ball. Alexander, just as he was about to pull the trigger, was dragged down, the referee awarding a penalty and the former Brentford striker cooly slotted home, sending Slocombe the wrong way for his second goal of the afternoon.

GOAL: Alexander (C) celebrates with Adams (L) and Clarke (Top)
Then came the introduction of Forte as the big man replaced Clarke after 73 minutes. Six minutes later, he was on the scoresheet as well; Akpan's pinpoint ball was lofted through to Forte who bravely went up to loop his header over the onrushing Slocombe, scoring against one of his former clubs and seemingly wrapping up the three points for the home side.

Scunny could have got a goal back a few minutes later as Jimmy Ryan's effort was cleared off the line by Claude Davis after a smart pull back from Grella.

Alan Knill's side missed another guilt edged chance as somehow, Walker screwed his strike wide when he really should have put the ball past Jones at the back post.

Grant had another header roll into the hands of Jones as the Iron looked to have given up hope on getting goals back.

Forte was just millimetres away from adding his second as another ball in by Adams was taken off the frontman's toes by Slocombe with just five minutes remaining.

CLOSE: Slocombe flicks the ball away from Forte
A minute later and Scunthorpe were reduced to 10 men as Duffy saw his second yellow for pulling back Red Devils' substitute Sergio Torres.

As Akpan was named Man of the Match, Ajose replaced tormentor in chief Adams for the final couple of minutes and the referee blew for full time, putting Scunthorpe out of their misery.

Some photos courtesy of and

Thursday, 16 August 2012

nPower Championship Preview

As a celebration for my half century of blog posts on the site, I'm going to go through my predictions for the upcoming season... Who will be celebrating promotion come May and what club's players will be sitting on the field in tears come the end of the season? Of course, the play offs will also have to come into consideration so here goes!...

As the Premier League is a little predictable and you've probably seen plenty of the predictions for that league, I'll begin with a division that I believe is the best in England... The Championship!

The Contenders?

The Championship is a wide open division where you always get the odd surprise or two as both Southampton and Reading showed last season... In no particular order...

Birmingham City
The Blues were expected to be in the automatic promotion spots last season under the guidance of Chris Hughton but it didn't really happen for them.  During the Summer, Hughton has departed St Andrews and been replaced by former Huddersfield Town manager Lee Clark. Clark set to work at adding to an already very good squad and has added the experienced trio of Hayden Mullins, Peter Lovenkrands and Darren Ambrose to his ranks - The latter an absolute bargain in my eyes at a reported fee of £250,000. The emergence of Team GB goalkeeper Jack Butland has also been a plus for the Midlands' club and automatic promotion will be the aim. Up front, the firepower options of Marlon King, Nikola Zigic and Adam Rooney should give them a chance especially with the service that Ambrose, Nathan Redmond, Chris Burke and Wade Elliot will provide.

Ambrose (Blue) is proven in the Championship
It was surprising to see Ian Holloway's men in the play-offs last year. Many thought they punched above their weight when they made it into the Premier League two seasons back and believed it would be a period to rebuild for a season before going again. The club have a decent starting XI but do seem to be a little light in quality on the bench. Thomas Ince and Matt Phillips were two bright sparks for the Seasiders last campaign and they will have to be at their best if the Tangerines are to be successful. One poor move in my opinion was selling midfielder Keith Southern to Huddersfield - A great player who seems to go about his job without being noticed. Holloway picked up both Isaiah Osbourne and Scott Robertson from the SPL and time will tell if they can cement their places in the team. Up top, there isn't a lot of pace with Kevin Phillips still playing at the grand old age of  48  39 - Admittedly, he can score a goal but you do wonder whether he can fire them to where they want to be.

Ince had a great debut season at Blackpool
Huddersfield Town
I said at the start of this blog post that you always get the odd dark horse and for me, Huddersfield are this team!  I've been very impressed with their business so far and Simon Grayson is putting together a very accomplished team at the Galpharm Stadium. The highly rated Paul Dixon was signed on a free after his Dundee United contract expired with the former Scotland under 21 international joining the Terriers despite Premier League interest. Other signings include winger, Sean Scannell from Crystal Palace, Anthony Gerrard (Steven's cousin) joining from Cardiff City, midfielder Oliver Norwood arrived from Manchester United along with former Nottingham Forest defender Joel Lynch. Another player who joined was Adam Clayton, a regular in the Leeds United side and someone who has a bright future in the game. Up top of course, they could still have the goalscoring prowess of Jordan Rhodes. The Scotland international is hot property at the moment and should score his fair share. Norwich did it and so did Southampton, could Huddersfield be the third side in three seasons to go from League 1 to the Premier League in just two years?!

THE RHODE TO THE TOP: Jordan's goals could be key
Blackburn Rovers
Now we are onto Steve Kean's men and it's been quite a Summer up there! After suffering relegation to the Championship, a couple of the club's "star players" left for pastures new. Yakubu up sticks and went to China and Junior Hoilett went south to join QPR. Kean then decided to sign a couple of "ageing" players such as the evergreen Danny Murphy from Fulham and Nuno Gomes (I was surprised he was still playing to be honest!) from Braga. Also arriving for a stint at the Rovers Revolution were Leon Best and Dickson Etuhu - Both good signings although Best is out injured for  six months after damaging his anterior cruciate ligaments. Another new boy is Colin Kazim-Richards who signed after departing Galatasaray. I'm expecting to see Blackburn up there with Keano leading them to glory however, his case wasn't helped after the club's global advisor said he would be sacked if they lose three games on the trot - No pressure Steve!

NUNO GOMES: Was decent about 10 years back
Nottingham Forest
To be honest, a few months back, I would have been putting Forest down for relegation rather than mounting a challenge at the top of the league! However, after the takeover from the Al Hasawi family along with the dismissal of Steve Cotterill, the new board haven't been shy to splash the cash after appointing Sean O'Driscoll as the new boss last month. O'Driscoll quickly made his moves, capturing Danny Collins from Stoke City and instantly making him captain. Following in Collins' footsteps came Dan Harding, a left back from Southampton and Greg Halford from crisis club Portsmouth. The signings make up for the departures of high profile due Garath McCleary and Chris Gunter who both joined Reading. Also arriving at the City Ground were Simon Gillett from O'Driscoll's old side Doncaster Rovers and a familiar face as Adlene Guedioura signed a permanent deal; the former Wolves player had a spell on loan at the club last season. The new signings bring some hope to being back fighting at the top for Reds fans after a disappointing campaign under Cotterill's guidance.

GILLETT: The best Forest can get?
Leicester City
In truth, it was a disappointing season for Leicester last season. Despite many tipping them for promotion after Sven-Goran Eriksson snapped up a number of high profile players in his bid for success. After just 13 games though, Sven was replaced by former Foxes boss Nigel Pearson who managed to guide the club to a 9th place finish. This coming campaign will be one where Leicester will be aiming for promotion once again with Pearson splashing the cash to bring in the highly rated Jamie Vardy for a reported fee of £1m and ex- Norwich defender Zak Whitbread on a free transfer. Pearson brought in former Manchester United duo Matty James and Ritchie De Laet as well, with the latter replacing Lee Peltier who moved to Leeds. Also departing was Matt Mills who headed north to join Bolton Wanderers. It'll be a big season for Leicester and unlike the last campaign, they'll have to start well.

The fee paid for Vardy was a non-league record
The dark horse...

Leeds United
It's been a Summer of transition for Leeds United for the beginning of Neil Warnock's first full season as manager. Despite the departure of star Robert Snodgrass to Norwich City, Leeds haven't been afraid to spend money too with Warnock raiding crisis club Portsmouth for a quartet of their better players in Jason Pearce, Luke Varney, Jamie Ashdown and David Norris. Strengthening a shaky backline from last season was key and Warnock  brought in goalkeeper Paddy Kenny (Seems to follow Warnock wherever he goes!) from QPR, right back Lee Peltier from Leicester and legendary Norwich left back Adam Drury. In midfield, Paul Green arrived from Derby on a free and the Whites paid a fee to land Rudolph Austin from SK Brann. One move that urked the fans was seeing El-Hadji Diouf sign; Warnock labelled Diouf  "lower than a sewer rat" after the Senegalese hurled abuse at QPR forward Jamie Mackie whilst he was on the floor after suffering a broken leg. Warnock was QPR manager at the time. I wouldn't write Leeds off; Warnock knows what it takes to get out of the division and United look solid at the back and have firepower in the likes of Luciano Becchio and Ross McCormack up front.

Norris (L) and Varney (R) joined from Pompey
 And at the bottom...

Barnsley are one of those clubs that seem to struggle every year but end up surviving - A Wigan-type if you like. This season, however, I can see them finally being wrestled from a league they have been clinging onto for years now! They never had any real top class players in the first place but Jacob Butterfield's move to Norwich puts their survival hopes in doubt for sure and you never know what Mido will turn up - The one that has the ability to score a few or the one that is lazy and doesn't bother to try.  The signing of Martin Cranie is a good move by Keith Hill but for me, it will be another relegation for Cranie who was a Coventry City player last season. Barnsley fans, you're in for a tough season, sorry!

MIDO: A bit on the crazy side

I saw first hand on Tuesday night that Millwall will be in for a struggle. Admittedly the Lions were without first choice goalkeeper David Forde and striker Andy Keogh who were both away on international duty with the Republic of Ireland but they were dominated by League 1 newboys Crawley Town for the majority of the game. Captain, Paul Robinson has been out injured for quite a while and defensively, the team were all over the place. Up front, they lack a clinical striker too; they were fortunate for a while last season to have Harry Kane on loan from Tottenham to score a few goals however, Kane's gone back to White Hart Lane and they seem to lack that killer instinct up front despite the best efforts of Darius Henderson. Boss, Kenny Jackett has brought in Danny Shittu to shore up the defence but it may not be enough.

GET YOUR JACKETT: Kenny could be in trouble
New owners, new manager and a number of new players at Watford but it's a bad move from them in my opinion. Sean Dyche worked wonders last season and led the Hornets to a creditable11th place. However, Dyche was sacked as the takeover of the club was completed and Gianfranco Zola was appointed. Zola soon made a host of new signings from a number of Italian clubs on loan and you do wonder how these young Italians will get on at places like Middlesbrough or Blackpool on a cold, Tuesday night in February and I fear the worst. Zola didn't have the best of times at West Ham and when you're relying on Chris Iwelumo to get you goals you know you're in trouble!

GOALMACHINE: Chris Iwelumo

My League 1 preview is also coming soon.

One photo courtesy of

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Meet The Manager: Gus Poyet

With the Brighton manager being a bit of a Premier League legend, I decided it was only right to have a chat with the big man about his career in the game after the Crawley v Brighton draw... ladies and gents, Gus Poyet!

WL: Gus, thanks for joining me! Growing up, was being a footballer always the plan for you?

GP: Well, Uruguay, my country, it's all about football to be honest! The other big sport it Basketball but as a kid, all you want to do is to play football. In those times, we were able to play football in the streets which is something that you really can no longer do these days! So, yeah, I was going to school and playing football most of the day!

WL: All that football paid off as your career really kicked off at Real Zaragoza. How was the La Liga experience?

GP: It was important to me because any South American wants to play in Europe. I had seven years in a very decent team and we won quite a few trophies. My time at Zaragoza gave me the chance to come to England.

IN SITU: I chat to Gus
WL: Yeah, and at Zara, you won both the Copa del Rey and The Cup Winners Cup, a great achievement for one of the so called "smaller clubs"?

GP: Yes. Especially the Cup Winners Cup. I think the Copa del Rey, it was, for the club, a "you've got a chance to win it" competition. The Cup Winners Cup was unique - It was not expected, the celebrations were magnificent and it was very, very nice to be a part of it!

WL: After seven years in Spain, you moved to Chelsea. Was playing in England always something you wanted to do?

GP: Not really, no! It was a surprise to me that Chelsea were interested! I was a free and for me, it was a big decision because I was 29 with two kids. I had to start again from zero, learn a new language. It was a tough decision to make the move but as you can imagine, it was the right decision!

Gus during his Chelsea days
WL: And at Stamford Bridge, you continued the fine cup success in your career by winning both the FA Cup and the Super Cup, where do these rank in your career highlights?

GP: The FA Cup, for me, was unique. It was a special place and we (Chelsea) were lucky enough to be the last winners at the old Wembley Stadium. It was fantastic for us and a great experience. We had a fantastic team and every year, we seemed to be winning trophies which brings people together.

WL: Four years after joining Chelsea, you moved to Spurs, was it a tough decision to leave the Blues?

GP: Well, I had a bit of an issue with (Claudio) Ranieri. He was not the type of manager that I would have done well with and I had to make that decision in terms of keeping myself playing in the game. I made a very good friend there in (Mauricio) Taricco, who's now my assistant at Brighton and I made the decision to move. At the time, I thought it was a normal move and then I realised there was a big rivalry between the two clubs! I wasn't trying to upset people at Chelsea and there was never a time when I was trying to go up against them - It was just a career decision.

Gus celebrates scoring another goal from midfield!
WL: You've gained a reputation as a goalscoring midfielder, what was the secret to coming in and banging in those goals from your position?

GP: Timing! Timing and the ability to be a player who was always concentrating on the game for 90...95 minutes. Always concentrating on the game, always reading the game and always paying attention for the whole game.

WL: Onto your international career now and with Uruguay, you won the Copa America, beating the likes of Brazil and Argentina, that must have been a pleasing moment!?

GP: (Intense grinning!)Yes! ... I didn't really play a lot for Uruguay. I had the chance to play in the Copa America for your country and, as you can imagine, to make your whole country so happy, it's really special. For me, it was probably one of the best... no, the best achievements that I made during my career.

Gus (L) in Uruguay colours
WL: And you soon went into coaching, joining up with your old friend Dennis Wise as an assistant at both Swindon and Leeds, did that whet your appetite to go into management?

GP: Well, I learned a lot from my time (as assistant). I saw everything from the reaction of the players from the inside. After that, slowly, slowly, going through Juande Ramos at Spurs, then I decided to become a manager. I thought it would be a great experience to become a manager after that.

WISE GUYS: Gus (R) knew Dennis (L) from Chelsea
WL: So your grateful to Brighton for giving you that chance?

GP: Yeah... well, yeah, it was a big risk for them to be honest. But at the end of the day, it worked out very well for the Chairman as well! I'm pleased I made the decision to drop down as well because I wanted my chance to manage in the Championship but I couldn't get a job and I had to make the decision to drop down to League 1... In the end, it worked out fine!

WL: Of course, two seasons ago, you won promotion to the Championship with Brighton and with it, moved into a plush new stadium to boot... the perfect season in your view?

GP: Yeah it was. It was perfection. We needed to get out (of League 1) and it was a dream to win the league. The way we did it as well, was something very special too!

WL: Off the pitch, you've got your son Diego, have you made any moves to try and bring him to the Amex?!

GP: No, no, no! No chance. It would be difficult for me to manage him! What we will do is to make sure that we leave him in there (Charlton Athletic's Academy) and wait and see what happens!

WL: He currently plays for England under 16s, would you like to see him pull on the sky blue of Uruguay?

GP: I have no preference. It's Diego's choice, it's his decision and it's not an issue.

WL: Finally, you're at Brighton at the moment, is the aim the Premier League and would you like to manage Uruguay some time in the future?

GP: Yeah (on Uruguay). It's a long time off yet though. I need to get to the top first. You cannot go from a Division 1 team and then go straight into a national job. I'll need to get to the top and then, probably, you will be given the chance!

WL: Muchos Gracias Gustavo!

GP: De nada!

Me and Gus
Many thanks to Gus for speaking to me!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Warren meets... Michel Kuipers

A week or two ago, Three Bridges hosted Crawley Town. In the Reds net that night was Michel Kuipers and I had a chat with him about his early career as a Marine, his decade at Brighton and what the future holds.

WL: Michel, you began actually as a Marine, was that something you wanted to do when you were young?

MK: Yeah, that's right. I first had to do my national service - I didn't just want to waste my 18 months of national service and ending up like a lorry driver or something like that so I decided that I wanted to do something special and I did a 6 month in-test for the Marines and I ended up staying there for four and a half years.

WL: From the Marines you then joined Bristol Rovers, a bit of a change! How did that all come about?

MK: During the last year or so when I was in the Marines, I played for an Amsterdam club and we won the league, managed to get some publicity; newspapers, TV, radio. They were surprised by the fact that this team, for the first time in 25 years had won promotion and I got invited to a trial week at Bristol Rovers. Ian Holloway was the manager there at the time and after a week of trialing, he offered me a two-year deal.

WL: For one reason or another, it didn't really work out there. You then moved to Brighton and didn't really look back!

MK: Yeah, definitely. Me and Bobby Zamora both came at the same time. Bobby and I were both at Bristol Rovers and we both moved together to Brighton at the same time. We had some very successful years, he got a fantastic move to Tottenham and I stayed at Brighton for ten years! So, for the both of us, we really improved both our careers with the move to Brighton.

Zamora went on to play for England
WL: And in the ten years, you must have had a few memorable moments, can you pick out a couple of highlights?

MK: There's a lot! Winning my first Championship was really special and then winning another Championship the year after was even more special. Winning the play-off Final at the Millenium Stadium was memorable, sometimes, even staying up on the last day of the season in the Championship was also very special. There are loads of special moments, you know, beating Manchester City on penalties and saving the last penalty from Michael Ball to win the tie and to knock out the richest club in the world  - There are some very special moments that will always stay with me.

WL: Yeah, you've been rewarded for your loyal service to Brighton with a testimonial in around two weeks time. This must be something that you're really looking forward to.

MK: Yeah! I'm definitely looking forward to playing at the Amex Stadium. It's something that I campaigned for  for ten years. Finally the stadium is there and it's great for the community and it's great for Sussex that there's a stadium there that can be used, not only for football but to also educate youngsters during the day. A lot of people don't realise what goes on there during the day, there are a lot of young people using that stadium so it's fantastic news all round!

WL: On leaving Brighton, you joined Crawley. You'd obviously had a spell on loan in non-league at Boston but were worried about dropping down to Conference level permanently?

MK: No, not at all. I was very happy to join Crawley because I was still doing my "Albion in the Community" work. It was good to combine the two and stay in Sussex. I really enjoy Sussex and I'm very happy living here. I thought that I could either move away or work for "Albion in the Community" and play for Crawley and it was an easy decision in the end to come and join Crawley. Two years later and the fourth and fifth promotion and I'm back in League 1 again! It's been very enjoyable, five promotions in your career, there's not many professional footballers who can say that!

WL:  Exactly! So, your first season at Crawley wasn't bad, a fourth promotion for you and of course, the superb FA Cup run to go with it! Manchester United away was alright as well!

MK: Yeah, it was very good! Manchester United away, Old Trafford, in front of... what was it? 78,000 people or 76,000 people, you know, it was really nice and it was a great experience. We gained a lot of confidence from that match and afterwards we never looked back really, winning the league and gaining promotion to League 2. Last season was another great effort by the lads once again went up by getting third spot. At one stage we were out of the automatic promotion places but we fought our way back in and in the end we got something that we deserved; promotion again!

Kuips (R) and David Hunt (L) after the Manchester United game
WL: Indeed. On the topic of that last day at Accrington, how nerve-racking was that for you?!

MK: Yeah, of course but at the end of the day, we went into it in the last place, the third place. All we had to do was to stay in that third position and that's what we did! Now we are in League 1 which will be hard because there are a lot of strong teams and a lot of good players, big teams that used to be in the Premiership like Portsmouth and Coventry, big squads and expensive players. We'll need to test ourselves, especially away from home at big stadiums, a big crowd will be on our backs and we'll sometimes have to defend as a team and stay strong and hopefully we will get all the support we've got in the last two years and hopefully they'll be backing us again!

Michel (C) in yellow, enjoys his fifth promotion!
WL: I hope so! Finally, you're in the twilight years of your career at 38. Do you want to get into coaching in the future or have you began already?

MK: Yeah, I'm doing my coaching now at Crawley and obviously still playing but I also do the goalkeeper coaching as well. Paul Jones has come in this Summer and he's been fantastic really. He's a very good goalkeeper and he's very eager to learn. My style of goalkeeping is the new generation; it's very specialised in techniques and detail. All the training sessions that we do are the latest ones. We work a lot on footwork and distribution. Every game I watch him and I analyse him and I set him different targets and every time, he has succeeded in hitting the targets that I set him. It's fantastic to work with him (Jones) and I'm very pleased that he is at the football club because he is a very good goalkeeper and a very nice lad. I think that with the goalkeeping union point of view, it's going to be another successful year!

Me and "The Former Dutch Marine"!
Many thanks to Michel for taking the time out to speak to me.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Warren meets... Ben Hamer

After the defeat to Charlton on Wednesday evening, I managed to get hold of their number 1 and former Crawley loanee Ben Hamer and had a chat on his career so far and his future!

WL: Ben, you've had a bit of a different life to most and at 2 you moved to Germany, how did that come about?

BH: I just moved out there with my family, was over there for a few years. We came back when I was seven or eight and moved back to the West Country. From there, I obviously grew up, left home at 16 and came up to Reading and the London area.

WL: Und du sprehen Deutsch? (And you speak German?)

BH: Ja!... Ein bisschen!

WL: What does that mean?! I'm not that good!

BH: A little bit!

WL: I heard you were fluent?!

BH: I was... well, until about six years ago when I stopped speaking it! It's kind of gone now though - my German tongue has kind of slowly evaporated!

WL: Did it take long to master?

BH: Well I grew up with it. As I said, I was only two so obviously, I was in Germany, I went to a German school. That was my first language really, I grew up speaking that until about six or seven when I came back to live over in England and I learnt to speak English again. German was primarily my first language but over the years I haven't used it and kind of lost it.

WL: Onto your footballing career now. Somerset to Reading is hardly around the corner, how were you spotted?

BH: It was in a county game really. I was 15, just playing for my school counties and there was a Reading scout who was there, was impressed and invited me over for a trial and it kind of went from there really. Signed as a YTS at 16 and later I came down to this wonderful place (Crawley) for a year!

SIGNING ON: Ben (R) with John Medejski
WL: You did, was it difficult to move away from home (Somerset) at such a young age?

BH: Erm... not really. I suppose you've got to be mentally strong. I swapped schools when I was younger growing up so I was kind of used to new surroundings and stuff like that so it didn't really affect me. I moved up there and got on with my football because it was something I really wanted to do. It wasn't really a massive issue for me.

WL: As you said, you came here in your teenage years, a big opportunity to play plenty of games.

BH: Yeah, to be honest it was quite nice coming back here tonight. I think it's the first time in five years, I was 18 at the time and came here as a first team pro on loan. John Hollins (former Crawley manager) took me here and gave me my first experience in playing men's football so I'll always be grateful to him and the club for that. It was an opportunity to really get my foot in the door professionally really and gave me the opportunity to play football - It's a place I will always remember.

Ben in action for Crawley
WL: During your year at Crawley you also won the club's Player of the Year, a great achievement at such a young age!

BH: Yeah, Young Player of the Year I think it was. Yeah, it wasn't a bad season, we had money problems at the time, administration and we had minus ten points at the time as well. We started off at the bottom with the minus ten and I think we cleared that pretty sharpish within four or five games and built from there. In the end it wasn't a bad season, I really enjoyed it and made some good friends here. One still here is Dannie Bulman. I'm surprised to still see him here to be honest but he's still going strong so fair play to him!

STILL GOING STRONG: Dannie Bulman (Centre)
WL: You spent quite a bit of time at Brentford after leaving us (Crawley), you won League 2 in one of the seasons as well. Were you tempted to make the deal permanent after the number of spells you had there?

BH: Erm... I don't know really, it never really came into question to be honest with you. At Brentford I'd done well and played well for them and every time I seemed to come back on loan, Reading seemed to offer me a new contract. You know, it was good for me to be learning with a Premiership or Championship side - whatever Reading were at the time and I was happy to come out on loan and play my games that way. Then, obviously there came a time where I was getting older; I'm 24 now so last Summer I made the decision to leave with one year left on my deal. Luckily, Charlton came in for me and I made the decision to come and last season speaks for itself, we won promotion and it was the right decision in the end.

Hamer (L) celebrates Brentford's League 2 promotion
WL: Definitely... Now, I spoke to Bradley (Wright-Phillips), last week at the Three Bridges game and he said to me it was the best time of his career last season. Is it something you concur with?

BH: Yes I do, yes I do concur with that! From the start I could tell we'd have a chance because it was the same as when I was at Brentford and we went up.  The lads seemed to gel very quickly; it was a new bunch of lads that had been brought together. Even in pre-season you could tell that the lads were going to be fighting for each other and were good, level headed lads that had their feet on the ground and we had a positive vibe the whole way through the season. They're all a great bunch of lads and it was a very special season.

WL: And next season Ben, a Championship side now, do you look at what the likes of Southampton and Norwich have done in winning two successive promotions and aim for the Premier League? Go again?!

BH: That would be the ultimate for us. It'll be the first time in the Championship as a bunch of players, not many of us have played at that level, especially me - I've never made an appearance in the Championship yet. It'll be a new, fresh challenge and we'll look to do as well as we can and try and challenge the big teams that we're going to be coming up against and I'm sure we can hold our own. As far as promotion goes, I don't think you can say that just yet. We'll take every game as it comes and see how it goes, just like we did last year and look where it got us!

PROMOTION TIME: Can the Addicks do it again?!
WL: Finally, you've said, you're 24 now, you're number 1 in the Championship for Charlton, Premier League and England in a few years Ben?!

BH: I don't know... I don't know! Obviously, that is my goal in life and to achieve that I want to play in the Premiership. It's all about the tiny little stepping stones and gradually getting closer. As you say, I'm in the Championship now, hopefully I'll do well there. There is a long way to go but that is my goal and that is what I'll be striving for!

Me and Ben
Thanks a lot to Ben for taking the time to speak to me. I wish him all the best at Charlton this coming season!

Thanks also to Dave Burt at for the use of some of the images!