Monthly Archives: May 2011

Premier League Round Up – Alternative Best XI.

So, once again the season is finished. And instead of the usual Team of The Year featuring the media hype players such as Bale, Parker, Wilshere, Vidic – I’ve decided to form my own version, not including the top 6 teams and avoiding players which weren’t good enough to avoid the drop – though with one shining exception.

I will try to justify my decisions throughout, but I do expect a lot of disagreement, also, I’ve attempted to include a variation of sides, not just hugging to the bigger clubs.

So here goes; “My Alternative Team Of The Year” (4-2-2-2).

GK – Ali Al-Habsi; The on-loan Wigan stopper’s heroics just may have kept them in the Premier League. With outstanding performances against Tottenham, Blackpool, Wolves and importantly final day against Stoke City at the tricky Britannia Stadium. Andy Gray once said that a good goalkeeper will win you 10 points in the Premier League. That’s good enough for me. Maybe returning to the Reebok to contest the no.1 jersey with Jääskeläinen next season. Intriging.

Full back (s) – Naming them as Full backs because I don’t want the aggro that comes with having two Left-Backs in a dream team. In this instance, I believe both deserve their place in the side, and I would simply rotate them when needed. Jose Enrique and Leighton Baines. Both been shining lights in their respected sides, Enrique was immense in his side’s 1-0 at the Emirates and Baines similarly kept his best for the capital, securing his sides progression in the FA Cup with a stunning free-kick at Stamford Bridge. Baines is also one of few players to have played every minute of this season and is the Fantasy Football top scoring defender. Purchase.

CB – Brede Hangeland – Dominating in central defence for The Cottagers. Mr Wenger enquired about purchasing him 2 years ago and was rejected. How the Gunners could have done with him this season. 7 goals this season in addition to only conseeding 43 goals – not bad for a mid-table side. Shame the club owner doesn’t demand the same respect as he does. Towering.  

CB – Christopher Samba (c) – His performance away to West Ham sums him up in a nutshell. Where there’s danger, you will always find Samba. An ultimate asset. Doubles up as a striker when needed and is never afraid to take one for the team. May be difficult to keep in the Summer with Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton all rumoured to be chasing him and a replacement would be hard to secure. Ox.

CM – Charlie Adam – “His corners & set-plays are worth £10M alone” – Not a bad review from the Knight of the PL. Very nearly single-handedly kept Blackpool in the Premier League, (here’s some highlights of him) and as I mentioned in a previous blog – Perhaps going down will make losing him that little bit easier. My bet is on Liverpool taking him, outside shot of Tottenham. Crucially, though not enough, in the last 14 league games of the season, Adam assisted, or scored, 12 goals. Quarterback.

CM – Stuart Holden – Bolton Fans POTY and rightly so. Influential in securing safety, and earning a trip to Wembley. Unfortunatly missing that match after being on the wrong end of a horror tackle from Jonny Evans at Old Trafford. The Scot-born-American has brilliant technique, a good tackle and commands the midfield. At just 25, he has a big part to play next season. Future.   

LW – Ashley Young – The most fouled player in the Premier League, and the joint highest penalty winner in the division too, along with his absent team-mate Darren Bent. Disappointing season for the Villa but Young’s form has been good enough to keep the young Marc Albrighton out the side, and his goals tally of 7 (with 11 assists) has kept them in the Premier League. Liverpool look to be favourites to sign him this summer and I’d bet on him to go. Replace-able?

RW – Matthew Etherington – 5 goals, 7 assists, an England call-up and a cup final appearance. All in a season for Etherington. His Stoke side may come under unfair critisism for their style of play, but 75% of goals against the top 6 have come from open play, and Etherington/Jones link up has a lot to credit for that. Aerial.  

CF – Peter Odemwingie – When he joined he promised the Baggies fans 15 goals and he delivered like Swiss Public Transport. Exact. Springing to life at the beginning and end of the season – Arguably when you need him most. And scoring in crucial times. He aims to add to his 15 next season, the Baggies fans will hope so too. Progression. 

CF – Steven Fletcher – 10 goals this season which has seen him secure safety in the top division. Much a bit part player but has earned his place following the injury to Kevin Doyle. His 4 goals in the last 4 games of the season, including a winner against Black Country rivals West Brom makes him hard to dismiss as a partner to Doyle next season. Delivered.  

Manager(s) – Chris Hughton & Roberto Martinez. Together they would bring a balance to each-other, the resilience and never-say-die attitude that comes with Hughton, who was harshly sacked by Newcastle United with the flowing game of Martinez which only hasn’t delivered more due to the lack of quality at his disposal. Partnership.

Subs; All could have made the side, but for the brilliant of the players mentioned;

  • Darren Bent – Without his goals, Villa would be on 36pts. Relegated.
  • Richard Dunne – Made the most ‘last man tackles’ in the PL this season. Timing.
  • Charles N’Zogbia – Attempted the most dribbles per game, 8.8. More than any other player by about 3. Legwork.
  • Kevin Nolan – 12 goals, 2 assists. Outscoring Nani, Lampard, Nasri. Chicken.
  • DJ Campbell – 13 goals, including the 1000th of the PL season. Scraps. 
  • Paul Robinson – Blackburn Rovers FC POTY 2011. Stopper.

Please, let me know what you think people! Leave your suggestions below, or write to me on twitter!

Over and out.


FC Barcelona. “Mes Que Un Club”? You bet.

Mono. Spanish translation for ‘Monkey’, can be used as a derogatory insult towards someone of black origin. Barcelona Football Club know this, Marcelo at Real Madrid knows this, god, most of Western civilisation is aware of the hatred caused by racism – So why is it when Sergio Busquets is caught on camera during the Champions League Semi-Final 2011 abusing the Madrid full back with this phrase do UEFA not deem punishment necessary?  

I’ll let you make up your own mind if you can spot it;

To me, incidents like that should see a 5 match ban for Busquets, UEFA themselves have pressed hard the “Let’s Kick Racism Out Of Football” initiative in recent years, and backed heavily Nike’s “Stand Up Speak Up” campaign. So why has Busquets been cleared to play in the Wembley showpiece at the end of the month? Surely actions, or lack of, by UEFA undermine the aforementioned efforts to eliminate racism from the game? Admittedly, Spain has it’s problems with racism, English fans need to only look back to 2004 to remind themselves of the abuse Shaun Wright-Phillips & (C)Ashley Cole were subject to in Madrid, and that went essentially un-punished.

Now, if everyone is thinking; “Hang on a minute, hasn’t Busquet’s been in the firing line before for his sporting conduct?”, well…. You’re right. Last season Inter Milan were reduced to 10 men in their match with Barcelona following this incident. Thankfully, it didn’t effect the outcome of the tie, but looking further back down the line there are a list of examples of Barcelona being the beneficiaries of officiating. More later.

So, are FC Barcelona favourably treated by UEFA? Jose Mourinho seems to think so.

And he just might have a point.

Everyone who watches Barcelona play can see they are a footballing wonder. They dominate possession, they can be clinical, their first touch, incisive passing, ability to close the ball down defensively too. On their day, they are capable of beating anyone.

However, when it’s not their day, and particularly noticeable in The Champions League, they tend to get the ‘rub of the green’.

2011 Champions League Semi-Final vs Real Madrid (first leg), whilst Di Maria was arguably guilty of similar offences, the players of FC Barcelona continually play-acted, feigning injury. Most notably Daniel Alves in his quest to see Pepe red carded. Video replays show that Pepe, whilst being high, did not make any contact with the Brazilian, yet Alves rolled around the ground like he had broken his leg. At the same time, 9/10 outfield players, + goalkeeper Victor Valdes sprinted to the referee, demanding to see a red card – An offence FIFA outlined at the World Cup 2006 was punishable by a yellow card for unsportsman-like conduct.

2011 Champions League Round of 16 vs Arsenal at Camp Nou (second leg), with the tie poised at 1-1 (3-2 to Arsenal on aggregate), the Londoners were positioned to go through to the Quarter Finals. Van Persie, already on a booking is sent through on goal and lashes his shot sky high and wide. In the build up, Van Persie had been flagged for offside, the referee then deemed Van Persie shooting as an act of dissent, punishable by a yellow card, his second of the match. Replays showed that Van Persie had enfact shot 0.6 seconds after the whistle was blown, a whistle the Dutchman claimed to have not heard due to the 90,000 crowd’s atmosphere. Reducing Arsenal to 10 men allowed Barcelona to bring the full backs into play more, and ultimately the Catalans ran out winners. Looking further back, there’s evidence to suggest Barcelona’s equilising goal in 2006 Champions League final vs Arsenal was offside, too.

….. There’s a pattern developing.

Back a further few years to 2008, to what Jose Mourinho described as ‘a scandal’ in his post-match Bernabeu interview (2011, above), and Champions League Semi-Final vs Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (2nd leg), Chelsea being eliminated by the away goals rule thanks to a sublime Andres Iniesta strike late in the match. But the controversy came in the refereeing decisions once again; now, I’m by no means a Chelsea fan, enfact, I rather dislike the club as a whole, but I can see 3 penalties for them in the 2nd leg, ask many Chelsea fans and they claim they can see 10+.  Again, please, make up your own mind with ITV’s highlighted 4.

Is it UEFA? Whilst refereeing decisions have the benefit of replaying to analyse, the Sergio Busquets racist comments were put to a panel and dismissed – Can they be serious? Have they bottled making such a big decision which would affect such a big outcome? In 2008 when Darren Fletcher was wrongly red carded late-on vs Arsenal in the Semi-Final, missing the Final – UEFA upheld the decision then, (meaning Fletcher would not feature against FCB) in my opinion, wrongly. Different club, different rules?

Is football elitist? – I think we all know that’s a yes, particularly whilst Blatter and Platini are at the head of their not so respected governing bodies. My personal quarrel was the decision to seed the World Cup European Play-Off draws for the first time in 2010, coincidentally the year in which France did not qualify automatically.  

Is it a question of culture? Does Spanish football simply have no shame in cheating in order to gain the upper hand? It would appear not, but my question needs to be of Pep Guardiola, having played in successful Barcelona sides which had an aura of commanding authority, who played fairly and out-skilled their opponents, why wouldn’t he alter the on-the-field actions of his players? Barcelona clearly know that reducing their opposition to 10 men increases their chances of passing through them, is getting a player sent off a game plan? They are surely conducting themselves outwith the desired nature of the game?

During Mourinho’s post match interview from the Champions League Semi Final, he praises the footballing abilities of Barcelona, but questions the need for such a great team, capable of such great things, to be handed the upper hand in matches when things aren’t going well for them. To that point I agree.  Therefore, despite my Premier League dislike for the club, for similar reasons, I will be supporting Manchester United in the Champions League Final, because what they have achieved, who they have beaten – Fairly – in order to earn the right to play at Wembley, is far more deserved of my support.

Barcelona are a good team, at times they have the ability to showcase not only what I like about watching football, but what I aspire to in playing football. But for every Dr. Jekyll there’s a Mr. Hyde. And until they can win a Champions League trophy not tainted in scandal (and should they beat United I assure you that will not be one), they will not have my backing.

This debate in particular is close to my oh so opinionated self, so any comments/feedback etc will all be published regardless. I welcome your input. 

Over and out.

Are Blackpool F.C. to be taken seriously?

So now that my footballing thoughts are being cascaded onto the blogging scene and I look into the depths of my writings, trying to determine if I am doing a good enough job to merit the huge response from day 1. I feel the relegation scrap is as good of a place as any to further discuss the goings on in the Football world.

Blackpool F.C. were odds on to go down in August 2010, they currently have the English record of being the only team to be promoted through all 4 tiers via the play-offs, a stadium which some League 1 sides would feel is in-adequate and their finances, in which their combined squad wage budget couldn’t afford some of their opponents individual ‘stars’.

So why oh why, when many ‘experts’ predicted they “wouldn’t score 10 goals” this season, do they find themselves in a position where they could earn a second crack at the big time?

The answer, in the opinion of many, is the lovable Ian Holloway. In many aspects Ian Holloway incorporates the working class man, with an honest opinion and a straight-shooting-no-nonsense approach to the media which has seen even the FA show leniency in his post-match reviews. His on-the-field tactics come with the same entertainment, only a bore 0-0 whilst hosting Stoke has seen a clean sheet (by either side) at Bloomfield Road this season, and their “we’ll score one more than you” attitude has led to them pulling off some surprise away results, too.

Holloway’s team’s strength is focused around play-maker Charlie Adam, whom most of their play channels through, his long diagonal pass to the flank or over the shoulder of DJ Campbell has created numerous chances throughout, and his midfield partner Vaughan has been pivotal in winning the ball for him to distribute. With 53 goals after 37 games, they have scored the 2nd most goals outside the top 6 in the Premier League, and if the campaign was more like last season, their 39 points would have seen them finish 14th already, and be safe weeks ago.

So with such free-scoring ability, why do Blackpool find themselves going into a nervous final day? Their problem is their defence, though they have been free-scoring at one end, they have also let in 37 goals at home, and 37 goals away. An average of 1 a game, a stat which should frighten Tangerine’s given League Cup winners Birmingham, who will be fighting for their survival on Sunday too, won their last 3 matches before the Fulham defeat by a single goal, and have the resilience to hold a lead which sometimes Blackpool lack. The problems lay with the centre backs, and I think Holloway is all too sure that the signing of James Beattie from Rangers in January may have been the wrong area to strengthen. Kyle Bartley from Arsenal was available who’s young/quick/strong and at the time Jonathan ‘Sick-note’ Woodgate was looking to gain some match fitness, as well as Bamba (Hibernian) moving clubs in the same window. Holloway should have bolstered.  

Cathcart/Eardley & Evatt do not have, in my opinion, what it takes to be Premier League defenders. Too often have they been caught out by the simple ball through the middle, their pace being exploited throughout. Less noticeable when Blackpool play deeper I must add, but the nature of their game plan calls for a higher line in defence which can sometimes leave 40-50 yards of green grass to run through.

Blackpool FC are entertainment personified, they are not afraid to have a go at teams, securing a memorable ‘double’ over Liverpool – I believe the only other side to do so is Tottenham -, scoring some memorable goals and giving us some memorable Holloway moments. But as for the Premier League, I think should they lose Adam, and probably will, they may only receive 20M for him, tops. With that they would need to add 15M to get two centre backs, a full back, a C.A. replacement and a back up striker. Which would take some serious bargain buys considering I think only Norwich City will be shorter odds to go down, and their stadium, atmosphere doesn’t upkeep with the flashy footballers lifestyle so many are accustomed to. If they avoid the drop, securing a 3rd season without Adam may be too much to ask of them.

Perhaps the drop could be kinder for them? The parachute payment could be re-invested into the club to install undersoil heating, erect a permanent stand to increase capacity, and to develop a youth academy which could bring through sustainable talent to aid a future Premier League adventure.  

I’ll put my neck on the line, I think they’ll get a draw at Old Trafford.

  • Manchester United 1-1 Blackpool.
  • Wolverhampton 2-0 Blackburn.
  • Tottenham 3-1 Birmingham.
  • Stoke 2-0 Wigan.

Which would be enough to see them retain Premier League status for another season.

Looking at all aspects, I think they’re a lovable club. Very fairy-tale-esque. Their manager speaks on behalf of the people watching at home. Their football comes with an unpredictablity which typifies the Premier League. Their stadia represents a slightly FA Cup feel, in which you see them as a small club that makes you nervous of an upset. Their fans bring a colour, similar to the Brazilian carnival effect at a World Cup. 

Cast your opinions in the comments section below and/or vote here;

I’ll leave you with my favourite Ian Holloway quote, enjoy. The man is just brilliant.

Over and out.

British Premier League? Cardiff & Swansea now, Old Firm next?

In my young living memory <20 years, neither Cardiff or Swansea have featured in the top tier of the English Football divisions, though both of which are proudly Welsh, fly ‘The Red Dragon’ and compete in a fiercely contested Welsh Derby fixture. Despite their unique patriotism they remain largely governed by the English FA, operating in the English Football league, slugging away in the lower divisions and fighting to be promoted.

However, the play-off fixtures this season represent a real chance for an all Welsh final, and therefore, a 50% chance we’ll have a Welsh team in the Barclays Premier League. Something which has had the English, and the Old Firm as interested spectators.

My thought of a British Premier League has been mulling around my mind since I was a season ticket holder, in The Broomloan Stand of Ibrox, home of Glasgow Rangers FC. Seeing themselves and rivals Celtic dominate the Scottish Football scene for the last 25 years has deterred fans of the other clubs from attending games, and despite the ever-likely sell-out at Old Firm matches, weekly attendances to the so-called ‘lesser games’ have suffered for the Glasgow giants, too.

So what is the logistics of having a unified British Premier League? With the realistic possibility that it will no longer an all-English affair, I believe it’s time the matter is properly addressed. Though the English PL teams have rejected the above notion, emphatically. Most recently in 2009.

Now, first things first, on a political level, the ever pushing strive for devolution by the Scottish National Party is likely to hinder the prospects of such, and the ability of the nations to retain an individual status when competing the eyes of FIFA/UEFA will remain the key talking points in getting this to work. The Barmy/Tartan Army’s and the Welsh equivalent will always want to have their voice. But other aspects can be beneficial to collect the full debate.  

Many deterrents to the inclusion of the Old Firm come back to the logistics of supporters travelling to and from matches, and how expensive it could work out to the average ‘working class man’. Whilst I agree, I must highlight the fixtures of Newcastle/’Boro/Sunderland vs Portsmouth/Southampton et al. And the lengthy trips they pose, and the attendances don’t seem to have any irregular effect. Not to mention the UK as a nation isn’t a sizeable as Spain/France/Italy etc, and teams like Santander/Sevilla, Bordeaux/Toulouse, Palermo/Juventus still seem to take a fair support. So in other countries it seems to be a relative success.

Secondly, to this point, how would the clubs be filtered in? Who would determine the abilities of certain clubs to compete at a certain level? The power to place the clubs into the certain leagues would need to lie with the already existing English Clubs, and I do not think any club would have the right to enter straight into the Premier League, perhaps, Old Firm – Championship, Hearts/Hibs/Motherwell/Aberdeen – League 1, the rest League 2, have Scottish 1st Division teams in the Conference and then have a detached Conference Scotland which would engage in play-off’s with the conference north/south England which would host the remaining Scottish division 2/3 sides. Given 3/4 years the teams would naturally find their ‘place’.

I think the stature of the clubs are not in question, Rangers being won of the most decorated clubs in World football, and Celtic winning a European Cup that even the likes of Arsenal & Chelsea cannot boast, their Stadiums feature in 6th & 10th on the List of British Stadia by capacity and season ticket sales are always huge, year on year. Twitter-er Rio Ferdinand ‘rioferdy5‘ also stated that Old Firm clubs have the best atmosphere (see 3 up from bottom). What they as a pair can bring to the Premier League is a proper derby with fan bases to match the top 4. As well as such, both members of the Old Firm have recently featured on the Deloitte football rich list, though not since 2008, another feature of the decline of Scottish football. It must be opinionated that if they featured in the EPL, or BPL, along with their fanbases and large stadia, their ability to generate sponsorship money, they could be able to compete on the highest level, given time.

The main factor I see, which preserves the SPL in a negative light, and the one factor which does not apply to the Welsh pair, is the massive sectarian problem, highlighted recently with the fiasco surrounding Neil Lennon, and the recent Euro supporters bans imposed on Rangers FC.  Until the Government interfere, and work with the SFA and both clubs to rid the problem completely, a unified, well, Scottish included, league is possible. Which is another blog entry, but quickly, I’d give both clubs point deductions as punishments, that would quickly stop it, and play Old Firm games behind closed doors for a season.

Until then, the possibility of a British League Cup remains the safest option, that would act as a catalyst to kick some life into the competition and give it some credentials, as well as a good trial basis to see if the a British Football League could operate. Although, once again, I believe the SFA made the proposal and it wasn’t viewed with much excitement


 for daily opinions.

Over and out.

West Ham United – A shambles on and off the field.

So there we go, West Ham are relegated to play in the Football League Championship next season. How on earth has that happened?

I personally blame; 1) Avram Grant,  I think the man is a walking failure, and have recently labelled him as the worst manager to ever complete a full season in the Premier League. 2) The board, who have made numerous poor decisions. 3) I guess at some point you have to blame the players, however they have shown that they can perform well when on the spot, they just lack guidance.

West Ham United, in my opinion should of been pushing for the top half, borderline pushing for a Europa League spot. Realistically, this team has an unbeleivable side on paper. Green (international), Bridge (PL winner), Upson (experience personified), Hitzlsperger (PL experience at top clubs), Noble (youngest captain in PL history – don’t quote me), Parker (Writers POTY), Ba/Piquionne/Keane/O’Neill/Obinna are a front 5 who are literally capable of scoring 10 goals a season each, at least.

The problem this season has been Avram Grant.

As an individual, he lacks charisma, in interviews he comes off as if he hasn’t got any passion for the club. This was typified by the West Brom v West Ham game in February, at 3-0 they returned to draw the match at 3 a piece. Carlton Cole credited the comeback, and the half time team talk to Scott Parker. Where was Grant in all this? What’s the point in having a manager when he doesn’t manage?

On top of all that, more recently was the home game vs Blackburn. Now, with the Hammers already in the drop zone, Upton Park a sell out. He lines up with a 5 man midfield, defensive and looking to ensure defeat does not occur. A goal down to an early counter attack and he had nothing to answer for, attacking play was not seen until the final 15 minutes. It doesn’t strike me as a team with belief, and in my opinion, belief should be instilled by a good manager.

My statement, “the man is surrounded by failure”, is proven by this English record, 3 cup finals, all defeats, with a respectable 2nd in the League with an inheritied Chelsea squad.  Yes you could argue that he got them their, but a final is when you need inspiration and a natural leader. As an Arsenal fan I know all too much about it.

David Gold and David Sullivan, along with their favourite Apprentice star Karen Brady took over the club and had the chance to get rid of him, they didn’t. A fault by themselves. If the media reports are true, Martin O’Neill was ready to take the job, on the condition that the media didn’t discover the story until it was finalised. A lesson in press-relations is very much needed. Not to mention the likely effect the fiasco had on the players for those weeks.

I just do not understand how this team is bottom of the Premier League, on so many levels this has been a shambles this season. West Ham are a PL level club, the size, fan base. Upton Park and the ferocious echo of ‘Bubbles’ is always a sight to behold. To me, the management, on a footballing and business level does not match the passion of the East London faithful. And what’s worrying is, with the ‘stars’ in their squad, and huge wage bill, administration and a Leeds United style demise could be on the cards.

A very sad day for football.

Over and out.