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Ched Evans – Through quotes and misquotes. What I actually think.

I’ve recently abandoned blogging for columning, and the formatting of such is a significantly better way to engage without spending hours reviewing and writing 2000 words.

The footballing world is divided as convicted rapist Ched Evans has been released from prison. The ex-Sheffield United striker has served two-and-a-half years of a five year sentence and left HM Prison Wymott at 05:00 on 17th October 2014.

Here’s the facts:
– Ched Evans played for Sheffield United, used to play for Manchester City.
– Evans was found guilty of rape on 20th April 2012
– The victim, 19, was found by the court-hearing as being “too drunk to give consent”
– Evans was sentenced to five years imprisonment and eligible to leave after serving half
– Evans has never pleaded guilty and continues to maintain his innocence

I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a judge. I have no experience in legal practises out-with the realms of business and contract law. I’m not going to make any attempt to regurgitate the case nor will I here question the findings of those more qualified than myself. This is my opinion on his reintegration from society, and the views of other high profile individuals. As I’ve seen on my twitter account, any attempt to cast doubt/questions over a case is seen as a clear confession that I agree with Evans.

I did need to add a disclaimer to this – If I don’t then I’m misquoted further down the line and labelled some sympathiser or victim-blamer. Welcome to the modern world of internet usage.

Evans, arriving at court.

Evans, arriving at court.

The discussion point, should Ched Evans be allowed to play football again?

As I mentioned at the beginning; everyone appears to be divided. The Players Football Association CEO Gordon Taylor has said:
I didn’t know there was a law that said once you come out of prison you still can’t do anything,
The PFA chief, speaking to the BBC’s Sport Wales programme, later added: “As a trade union we believe in the rule of law… besides that, he still wants to contribute to society.

Nick Clegg, deputy Prime Minister and MP for Sheffield Hallam has said:
When you take a footballer on, you are not taking just a footballer these days, you are also taking on a role model.” Before advising any club to “think long and hard” on any decisions to re-sign the player.

Neil Warnock and Phil Brown, managers of Crystal Palace and Southend United respectively, have also both shown support of Evan’s reintegration to society, stating that the player has served the time he sentenced – and now he must move on with his life.

The case is difficult, and with a rape case there is such an emotional sensitivity that delivering any opinion is often met with outcry from your opposing side.

Ched Evans is a football player, that’s his trade. A trade he’s worked on his whole life and a trade he’s suspended from since his imprisonment. Should the viewpoint stand that Evans should not be allowed back into football – then by default there’s other pressures on other sectors to not employ him either. A situation which could leave Evans completely unemployed. Should Evans be unemployed, the financial support would fall to the government and the benefits system established for those unable to generate income.

There’s been pressure for him to confess and publically apologise for the offense; while I’m not questioning the verdict delivered by a court-of-law, if Ched Evans genuinely believes he’s innocent then the expectation of him to show remorse and confess to the crime is unrealistic. He has every right to fight for what he believes is the truth.

No-one has a right opinion here, and I’m siding with Nick Clegg. I do believe that every ex-convict has a right to reintegrate themselves with society and resume a role within their previous profession after their sentence has been fulfilled. However, I do feel with high profile individuals it’s difficult to herald a convicted rapist as a hero to young supporters of football clubs. I certainly wouldn’t want my future children believing Ched Evans was to be idolised for a 35 goal season, given his off-field actions.
I like the idea of someone being able to continue with their life after their punishment has been completed, but I wouldn’t want him at my club, which probably tells you which way I’d fall if push came to shove.

………….. Over and out.


Listen up Greg Dyke, here’s what I’d do….. 10 things.


I really am bloody useless when it comes to this blogging thing, granted – I’ve never proclaimed myself to be a budding journalist, but I really should be averaging more than 3 blog posts a year.

I had the idea to write this – believe it or not – about 2/3 months ago, I even spent a night covering a 1m high whiteboard in information and points I wanted to make, I just never had the time! At least now this will give me something to shamelessly plug over the festive period above and beyond my @sundaynightslot podcast ramblings.

Anyway: This post is reflecting on Greg Dyke’s speech, and the things I would do if I was in his position.

As most of us know, Greg Dyke has been tasked with saving England’s footballing future, with ensuring tournament success and with re-structuring the English game to make that possible. So far, he’s set up a commission of ex-players, coaches, and other notable figures, as-well-as asking fans to get in touch with various ideas/theories they think may help.

So….what would I change? A ten step plan…

1) “That wall was NEVER 10 yards!”

If you were to plot a graph, on a Y axis have ‘How Annoying It Is’, and on the X axis have ‘How Easy It Is To Stop’ then this has got to be high on the priority list…. Encroaching walls at free-kicks. The ref marks out his 10 paces and your opponents start wiggling forward. Drives me insane.

Well, there IS a solution – been used in South America for 10 years – vanishing spray.

Vanishing spray also doubles up as a good way to ruin needlessly flashy boots.

Vanishing spray also doubles up as a good way to ruin needlessly flashy boots.

For those of you who don’t know what this foam is, or what it does; the referee carries the spray in a small 120 gram aerosol can, when he awards a free kick he steps 10 yards and sprays a white line on the pitch to mark the correct position of the wall, the line evaporates within a minute or so.

The idea behind the spray is to give officials a visual aid, and to make attempts at bending the rules more apparent.

2) “It costs too much to go to football!”

“Against Modern Football”, “Enough is Enough” – The spotlight was on Arsenal last season when Manchester City fans were charged £60 for their Emirates Stadium experience. Since that, many clubs have come under scrutiny to lower the costs to fans. The reaction has been mixed, Stoke City went first, and provided free coach travel to their away-dayers, others have entered agreements with other clubs: a mutual £10 a ticket, from Swansea/Newcastle/West Brom for away fans is an example, whilst the big boys have been a little more shy in helping out. The ever-present argument of “paying more to watch the good sides” becomes obsolete when you’re not prepared to lower the prices in subsequent times of lesser success.

My solution is simple, and it can be imposed by the FA; I charge your fans – what you charged mine.

This gives the power back to the supporters, Arsenal don’t care if they piss off Norwich fans – but they’ll quickly care if Gooners are complaining at being charged £62 for the return fixture at Carrow Road.

3) “How on earth has he given that?!”

In an ideal world, I love the idea of the referees being connected to microphones – with their voices being boomed across the stadium like in the NFL. Explaining their decisions to the spectators inside the ground…

…. But that’s too big-a step from the silence we’re subjected to now.

I’m proposing we meet in the middle, and referees have the gagging order lifted and they can take themselves out of the line of abuse post-match.

14th September 2013. Manchester United 2-0 Crystal Palace. Referee: Jon Moss.

Ashley Young is moving toward goal, Kagisho Dikgacoi is contesting the ball when he goes to ground in a desperate attempt to dispossess the United winger. Jon Moss is 15 metres behind and awards a foul, his assistant is unsighted, the Manchester United players are claiming for a penalty kick, and Eagles players are debating if it was even a foul. Jon Moss puts his hand to his microphone/earpiece in communication with his assistant.

Penalty. Awarded.

The incident in question.

The incident in question.

Television replays show the incident to be around 3-4 yards outside the box, keen lip-readers begin to analyse the conversation between the officials: “I can’t help you, I really can’t help you with that” are the words from the assistant. 

Jon Moss was labelled: “cheat”, “bias”, “pro-Man Utd”, “gutless”, “elitist”, “not-fit-for-purpose”, and once I was finished… others called him names too. In reality – it was an honest mistake, taken with an unsighted view.

My expectation isn’t for referees to come out after every game, or even for referees to come out when asked. I want the control to be with the referees, so that in instances like the aforementioned; Jon Moss can come out and say:

“Yeah, I got that one wrong, I knew it was a foul but the angle that Ashley fell at I mistook it for a penalty – I spoke with the assistant but the incident wasn’t clear with him, I went with my gut decision” completely to the referees discretion.

All I want is accountability, or a chance to explain themselves.

So – that was the first three….. They were the EASY ones. They can be changed overnight. What are you waiting for, FA?

The next ones require a little more thought, a little more consideration, and would take a little more time:

4) “Did you know, from 2007-2012 Chelsea spent more money on compensating sacked managers, than Arsenal did on buying players?”

The list is endless. ENDLESS. How many managers have been brought in as the ‘next big step in the history of a club’ only to be sacked 3 months later, and the club having paid £2,000,000 in compensation? The manager’s left with a damaged reputation, and the club are back to square one.

The current tenures of Premier League managers. 17/12/2013.

The current tenures of Premier League managers. 17/12/2013.

It doesn’t help anyone. Particularly when, like with Di Canio’s Sunderland, you have 10+ newly signed players who won’t be departing with the man who signed them.

My suggestion: All new managers – regardless at what level – begin their tenure with a 1 year deal, no-more no-less. 

The only way young managers will develop is if they’re given a chance, 1 year is the minimum length of time to impose a style and philosophy on your club. If after a year it’s not right, you part company, easy. This may not work in the Premier League due to the financial rewards of safety, but the introduction at lower league could see a better class of coach develop. Compensation is killing clubs who are entering deals without thought. It’s in the interest of both parties to begin relations conservatively.

Final note, I do understand that sometimes it just doesn’t work. So I would leave the mutual consent option in there.

5) “I want to be a coach, but it costs way too much”

We can’t begin to develop top level footballers if we don’t have the quality in place to do so, and it’s no-coincidence that nations like Germany and Spain are able to field two-or-three XI’s with the ability to beat England. These numbers are slightly disputed, but England has 1,161 coaches at Uefa ‘A’ level compared with 12,720 in Spain and 5,500 in Germany. At pro licence level, England has 203 coaches, Spain 2,140 and Germany more than 1,000.


(Yes, please read that in a loud, shouting, Scottish accent, it helps for dramatic effect).

(Did you go down the Alan Hansen route? or the Shrek route? Either way… I’m not impressed)

…..Coaching badges vary in price: Levels 1 and 2 are do-able, £100 and £300 respectively.

UEFA B will cost you £695 if you are a registered coach and £905 if you are not.

UEFA A (Part one) will cost you £2,590 if you are licensed as a coach and £3,370 if you’re not.

UEFA A (Part two) will cost you £1,970 if you are licensed, and £2,560 if not.

And finally, for UEFA Pro Licenses – That’s the elite – you need to be invited, usually ex-players or existing coaches. No point in focusing there at this stage, but that’s the pinnacle.

So, the cost to get Mr X, the generic football lover on the street, from coaching his local side to a UEFA ‘A’ level could cost over £7k………… Go back to bed.

I’m not suggesting that we cheapen the courses, lessen their quality or even create an express version – but more funding has to be made available to get coaches through to that next level, to lessen the strain on the individual and develop the quality of coaching at levels below the Premier divisions.

League’s 1 and 2 should be a development ground for young British managers – I hate seeing clubs appoint a foreign import under the fictional pretence of “a better football culture”, if more funding for coaches can be made available in the UK – particularly at the lower levels of the Football League – then the quality will come up through the leagues, like players do. It needs a 5 year plan, structured investment, and an attainable goal to shoot for.

The evidence is there at some clubs already, Crewe have a stellar academy in place now, and Southampton are a shining example of the rewards it can all bring. All through coaching the coaches.

6) “The club don’t care about us!”

This point could easily derail into a spiral on how beautiful the German football model is because they respect and love the fans so so so so so so much…. But why add to what’s already the most drawn-out blog topic of the past decade? We know already… We get it.

*Enter generic photo of the Westfalenstadion Southern Terrace* - Every blog post in 2013 needs one, right?

*Enter generic photo of the Westfalenstadion Southern Terrace* – Every blog post in 2013 needs one, right?

The essence of the German fan:club relationship comes from the fan ownership, the sense of belonging to the club you support and pay money to watch. 50+1 is an idealists view, it was achievable in Germany as the league was in a poor financial position – they were re-forming their game top to bottom, and they had the foresight to sacrifice European and International successes while the sport developed. England, for various reasons, won’t accept that.

So, as 50% fan ownerships aren’t always feasible in the UK – how about 20%?

Benefits far outweigh the draw-backs for a larger fan-ownership; involved fans find it harder to boo when things don’t go the right way, they can’t call for a managers head when they had a hand in employing him. Fans can also select a representative to the board on a season-by-season basis, giving fair representation without saturating an existing board-room environment.

It also would see a dramatic increase in attendances, your loyalty to a club, and passion toward them is only heightened if you have the feeling of involvement – You OWN your club…. Regardless how little the share may be.

The only issue that remains is who will be the first to go… Once one does, they all will, spread the financial burden (and risk) on investors and have the club living within their means. Lower level clubs will kick it off, but for me, the first ‘bigger club’ to fully embrace Fan-Ownership will be Wigan Athletic. Dave Whelan, an aging businessman, “Mr. Wigan”, plus – he’d love the ability to say: “I was the first person to involve fans in my club”, Sky Sports would have a field day as well.

Did you know Dave Whelan broke his leg once? No-one ever seems to mention that.

Did you know Dave Whelan broke his leg once? No-one ever seems to mention that.

7) “Hoof”

You’ve played Sunday/Saturday league football, you’ve watched it, one of the things you’ll hear managers say is: “Let’s get the ball down, pass it, we’re better than they are technically…. Now let’s go boys…” to a brief, 5 min, exchange of short balls and 85mins of:


Grassroots has embraced the targetman/poacher partnership for too long; football has progressed since, and the game is now calling for space finders, the people who can thread a pass, staying on their feet and moving off the ball.

Our grassroots game is dominated by the physical attributes of the players, not the skill, only because the pitch dimensions suit it, the 3 most feared players you’ll face? The physical striker, the quick winger with an inconsistent end product, and the deep lying distributor with an accurate-ish long ball – English professional sides are littered with those players too, it’s systemic from grassroots culture. Good technical footballers get lost amidst the long-ball game, the huge pitches, and an overly physical match-up.

Zidane famously grew up playing on the concrete courts in the backstreets of Marseille, Nasri followed him. The Brazilian dribbling ability derives from their un-even, sandy filled, hard pitches – improving close control. The link between a nation’s grassroots and the culture at the highest level is incontrovertible. (love that word).

We have the weather for grass in the UK, we’re lucky in that, what we now need to do is make 11 a side pitches smaller nationwide. Remove the temptation to hit it long and improve close-play. From there, coaches will be able to see the players who are technically superior and fitness can be developed separately. Spatial positioning, vision, and awareness are attributes you’re born with, our issue isn’t that we don’t have the talent, it’s that the football culture in this country doesn’t allow us to unearth it.

8) “The referee has rushed into it, and got it wrong.”

I’m actually fully supportive of a total over-haul in refereeing practises ( but to do all that is another matter. I’ll keep it at base level:

Referees should have the ability to ask the fourth official to review a major decision. Not up to the managers, captains, anyone… Just the referee. Why are we forcing referees to make million-pound decisions in real-time when there’s a TV camera that can show him it in slow-motion in under 10 seconds lapse? It’s staggering how football has been kept in the dark ages while other sports embrace the technological enhancements in the world.

The cynics will argue that it takes control away from the referees; but I feel it empowers them to officiate in a fair and proper manner. Referees will still be able to put their personalities onto a match; the leniency of Howard Webb, the pro-penalty-giving nature of Mike Dean. But the integrity of the sport will remain, and the ‘buck’ will ultimately stop with the referee, as it should.

4th officials are wasted breaking up petty spats, let them help referees.

4th officials are wasted breaking up petty spats, let them help referees.

9) “The agent is turning his head”

There’s not many things more soul destroying than seeing players like Jack Rodwell, Wilfred Zaha, Scott Sinclair, Danny Wilson et al, ditch weekly first team football – and go for that big-money move to the star club, only to sit on the bench and let their talents rot.

Who’s to blame? For me… It has to be agents. Agents are a fundamental problem in football. I could write a Jerry Maguire style memo about the culture of agents but we all know what they are.

The main problem, for me: Is agents are paid as part of the signing process – the agent’s fee is wrapped into the transfer of a player, it’s usually a % of the fee and its purpose is to say: “Thanks for getting him to join us and not them”

Agents get a pay-day when a player moves clubs, so are they really neutral enough to advise a young star?

There’s two options:

A) The FA establish, and enforce, a neutral advisory body – for all players in England under the age of 21. This body decides the most logical step for the player’s development, be it – let the big club buy him, and loan him back (the transfer fee can be spread over multiple payments/earn-outs etc),  approve the transfer outright, or the panel can advise against it.

The player can over-rule the panel, but must wait until the subsequent transfer window to do so.

This would allow, theoretically, the player to properly assess his options, before diving into a big money move (keeping in mind that this would only happen in the rare occasions the panel decided against it).

B) Agents are no longer exclusively paid as part of the signing process, but part of the contract completion process.

This would require clubs to enter a pact, essentially, but where the British game is so unique is that we – historically – don’t export that many players, the desire is to stay in the country, it could work well.

Agents are paid when the contract is complete, or when the player/club reach a mutual agreement to sell. The theory behind this is that it stops scumbag agents from turning a players head just so he can get a few more quid….. Also, we’re all getting seriously bored of the Wayne Rooney to Chelsea story.

Either way, the benefit of this would be that young talents have a better chance to see their potential, to complete their development at the club where it was established.

10) Co-mission impossible. 

With these posts, by the time you get to number 10 the writer is usually so finger-numb that they begin to divulge into irrelevant bullshit, ramblings or an anecdote about their experiences of other writers. Not for me…. No way… I’m more switched on.

………….So finally, as Greg Dyke takes the role of Nick Fury, and here’s his avengers:

  • Former England boss, Glenn Hoddle
  • Former Leeds manager and FA technical director, Howard Wilkinson
  • Ex-England defender, Danny Mills
  • Football League chairman, Greg Clarke
  • New PFA chairman and Chesterfield player, Ritchie Humphreys
  • Crewe director of football, Dario Gradi
  • FA chairman, Greg Dyke
  • FA vice-chairman, Roger Burden
  • Roy Hodgson (late appointment)
  • Manchester United player, Rio Ferdinand (late appointment)

90% of them are actually a good choice, Dario Gradi is the stand out for a savvy inclusion – taking someone from an environment which required developing, and not buying.

Glenn Hoddle is on there as being an ex-England manager, but with Hodgson’s inclusion – he’s now a needless extra mouth to feed, particularly when he’s desperate for a return to the White Hart Lane hot-seat so would have a severe conflict of interests.

You could look at including Liam Brady, having run the Arsenal academy since 1996, and retiring in 2014 – the Irishman, who resides in London, could be the ideal consultant when discussing matters of player development. Stars from Wilshere to Henry have built or developed talents (starting at different ages) from the Arsenal set up.

Additionally, as well as looking to Germany for ideas in developing talent, the self-imposed restrictions of Athletic Club Bilbao stand out as another source of efficiency in coaching. The club is known for its policy of bringing Basque players through the youth set up, and only signing players who have been trained or born in the Basque regions, yet remain consistently competitive.

For England to win the 2022 World Cup, and for the other nations of the UK to achieve their goals of Qualification, it will take a synergy of all things football. The commission is a good start, but it must now embrace different ideals and cultures – before deciding on a plan and implementing it.

Dyke caught on camera giving his reaction to England's World Cup draw. WHOOPS.

Dyke caught on camera giving his reaction to England’s World Cup draw. WHOOPS.

If you made it this far, I salute you.

Feedback is always welcome, you’ll get me on my twitter – also, if you have any specific questions you want to ask, send them to @SundayNightSlot, and I’ll read them out on the podcast and try and give a verbal answer.

See you in another 5 months….

Over and out.

Transfers. Opinions, thoughts and eye-openers.


As Marca continue to talk – how many people are continuing to listen? The desperation of transfer windows really do bring out the worst in twitter. Last Summer was the “Year of the ITK”, what do we have this year? The ‘clued up journalist’ and the ‘man with inside contacts he can’t talk about’ seem to be striding out in front. Boring. My advice? Don’t get excited until you see it on your club website and his smiling face is holding the shirt. Nuri Sahin (2011, Arsenal) and the recent Gary Hooper (QPR) are proof that being at a club’s ground means nothing. 

1) I thought he was Gunner sign?

When a club is interested in a player, there’s a generic transfer routine they all follow.

Declare interest (receiving club can dismiss).
Indicative offer (receiving club can reject/accept in principle).
Approach players agent (to gauge interest from client).
Formal offer (negotiations begin at this stage, teams will sometimes authorise the player to begin medical process if they’re confident a deal will be agreed – this is what Peter Odemwingie thought was happening between Queens Park Rangers and West Bromich Albion.
Personal terms (Contract length, agents fees, signing on fees, fee from the old contracts).
Transfer complete.

Arsenal completed those first 3 stages, the indicative offer of £22m was good – until Napoli declared an interest. It seems Arsenal fans feel Real Madrid owe them something? Or didn’t act honourably? Ridiculous.

Real Madrid did to Arsenal, exactly what Arsenal did to Manchester City on both the Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Adebayor deals. They accepted a fee in principle, before finalising their asking price at the formal stage.

When Real Madrid wanted more money, Arsenal didn’t value him in the same region – and were eager to avoid a bidding war with Napoli. So, Arsenal moved on to another transfer target. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez.

2) Let’s talk about Cesc, baby.

Sorry to use a TV reference, but have you ever seen those American Sketches when they use ‘Garrett Morris – Headmaster of the New York School for the Hearing Impaired’? This is what Manchester United need, they need this guy to sit in the room with them and punctuate the fact Barcelona don’t want to sell.

Admittedly, there is a hilarious irony here. Given Barcelona poked, pinched, bit and fought their way to landing Fabregas , using every trick in the book, using every player in their power and exploiting the notoriously vague Tapping Up laws held by UEFA – they’re now upset that Manchester United are ignoring their pleas? Come off it.

But at the end of the day, he’s not available. When Barcelona signed him his buy-out clause was 200m Euros, and we’ve recently learned Arsenal have a buy-back option in the region of £37m. Aside from the Gunners, not many others have a hope.


An interesting addition to this, Sid Lowe (The Guardian) has an interesting theory as to why United are confident over Fabregas. If true, Darren Dein has played them rightly. Lowe thinks Dein is using United to remind Barcelona how important Fabregas is and others would take him. Clever. Darren Dein may be hated, but he does look after his clients.

3) Is he going to Bale on Spurs?

Similar to with Luka Modric, there’s a lot of talk around Bale being promised: “One more season – if we don’t make the Champions League, you can leave.”

Do I believe it? Well, you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to read between the lines here. Here’s some key points.

– AVB has stated contract talks with Gareth Bale have been ongoing since last year. That should ring alarm bells. Take their London rivals, Chelsea and Arsenal. Frank Lampard was desperate for a new deal, and got one in under 3months. Then there’s Tony Adams at Arsenal, who famously said: “I’ll sign whatever contract they put in front of me – I just want to play.” If Bale was committed to Tottenham, in 12+ months of discussions, something would have been resolved.
– Gareth Bale has twitter. If a player is committed, it really isn’t that difficult to make your feelings known. The only reason you wouldn’t tweet, or publically comment, on your position – is if you didn’t know.
– Finally, it’s Real Madrid. Arguably the biggest club in world football. That would test the resolve of any player, let alone a player feeling shackled by a lack of success.


Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

There’s no smoke without fire, Madrid are obviously interested – and we all know how low Spanish clubs will sink to get the player they want.

And Let’s not forget, Levy has a new stadium to fund. He’s a property man, the attraction of bricks and mortar draws him. He wants to stabilise long-term and there’s a cash-cow that will help him do that. What % of a stadium will £60m buy?

Replacements? Roberto Soldado or Edin Dzeko are leading the way. I believe Dzeko is a better buy. He’s got Premier League experience, he’s a more physical presence and I think he’d be cheaper.
Soldado has a fantastic goal record, but it’s a fantastic goal record in Spain. Spain. Any goal record in Spain is cheapened by the fact no-one can defend. Clean sheets are as rare as rain, and it’s not uncommon to see 6 goal matches – Soldado brings a risk, and Spurs need someone who can hit the ground running. Dzeko is the better option, for me.

4) And finally, what does a Transfer Request mean? 

In the case of a transfer request, the player is publicly stating his desire to move, and encouraging other clubs to make an offer for him. Due to the public nature of transfer requests, they may often be used by players to air their grievances in the open, such as frustration over contract negotiations or clash of personality with the manager.

…..But we know that.

The finer details of a transfer request are in contract law, and the breaching of contracts. For example: Arsenal wish to buy Suarez. Suarez and Liverpool have a contract in place stating that the player will represent the club, and the club will remunerate him for doing so. Straight forward enough. However, if Liverpool accept an offer from Arsenal, they’re terminating the contract – and Suarez is therefore entitled to loyalty bonuses, as is his agent – which vary depending on the length of time the player has left on his deal (3 years). The £50m Liverpool seek will factor in the pay-offs obligated from them. Should Suarez submit a transfer request, he breaks the contract – and forfeits those bonuses and Liverpool would be more likely to accept a lesser fee. Which is why my prediction is: Suarez to submit a transfer request, and the deal to go through in the region of £44m. The entitlement varies depending on your interpretation – I understand players to pick up around 30% of their remaining salary, if sold without submitting a request. Suarez being on £90-100k per week, you’d estimate he’d be getting £4-5m, and his agent £1.5m.


To wrap this one up, take twitter with a pinch of salt. ITK’s prey on the desperation of supporters hoping for a successful season. It’s best to see the story for what it is, read between the lines, and save all excitement (and tattoos! **KAKA**) until the deal is done.


Just Wait Until It’s Official.

What do you think? You know where to find me on twitter.

Over and out!

Old Firm Questions – My extract from an upcoming Scotzine issue.

It’s been so long since I last did one of these that I no-longer think I can keep apologising at the start of every one. Like goals from John Arne Riise, they’re rare – but usually they’re worth it.

A week or so back, popular Scottish Fanzine ‘Scotzine’ put out a call for Old Firm fans to be in touch – and to do a Q&A session on their experiences. It seemed to have been a decent enough response, and seeing I keep being harassed about who I support on twitter I thought I’d upload it.

In future, I’ve a few posts lined up, examples; ‘zonal vs man-marking’, ‘fixture lists – how the FA should do it and why’, and I’ll probably give in to the hipster urge of writing about the German League, and why they’re so much better than us.

So, my Q&A with Scotzine:

The Old Firm, from a Glasgow Rangers fan.

How long have you supported your club?
Since I was about 9/10 years old, but it wasn’t until the 01/02 season was the first I was old enough to really get into it.

Why do you support your club and what makes supporting them so special?
My parents ‘sides’ of the family were divided. Dad, Celtic, Mum’s side tended to be more on the blue side of the fence; but the area of Glasgow I was brought up in was slightly more in-favour of The Gers. I think Rangers had just come of the back of a dominant spell. Rangers are special, in my opinion, because the club is the most successful (decorated) club in world football. The fans are loyal (38,000 STs in League 3 proves that) – we have history of accolades and are known worldwide for it.

When was your first Old Firm derby match?
A 0-1 loss at Ibrox in February 2006, Maciej Zurawski scored early but it was a rather tame affair. Roy Keane’s first old firm game – he was booked for the most cynical foul on a breakaway Dado Prso, took me years to realise how smart that foul was – but it stopped a 4 vs 2 break.


Roy Keane gets his first, and only Old Firm booking.

How would you describe the emotion and feeling at experiencing the atmosphere and the derby game as a whole?
Tense, if I’m honest it’s not all that enjoyable, it means almost too much. Slightly less nervous watching them on TV (I live in England now). The only time I’ve really been able to enjoy a goal live was THAT Maurice Edu one in the 92nd minute, because I knew it was so late.

What is/are your favourite Old Firm derby game?
4-2 from a few seasons back stands out, when Naismith got a double and even Lafferty managed a goal. But, I’d probably say the 2002/2003 Cup Final, Lovenkrands scoring a brace, the Barry Ferguson Free-Kick and Hartson missing a penalty I think. That was a colossal battle all throughout the match, McLeish really announced himself then. Terrific game.

Worst moment in the Old Firm derby game?
The game I felt most bitter about was, and I can only half-remember the score, was Diouf at Celtic Park. Rangers weren’t getting the rub of the green and had Whitaker sent off pretty early for a nothing tackle of the half-way line. Bougherra also received his marching orders and Diouf was red carded at the end. Lennon confronted Diouf (neither of which are angels) and left his technical area to do so – then he and McCoist had a tear-up. It got out of hand, but I always feel the referees got that one wrong and lost control.


Has Scottish football and your club’s games lost any of its spice and appeal with no derby game?
Yes. But it’s been losing appeal with everyone for years for a few reasons. Edinburgh derbies don’t really excite me, Dundee Derby is usually a walk-over. The SFA used the ‘flashpoints’ of Old Firm games to market them to Sky, people watched for the fighting and horror tackles, but they gave all the money to the Old Firm teams, so they got stronger and pushed further ahead. They did this for 15 years and now are confused why no-one else can compete and the League Title is decided in September.

 What is your opinion of media coverage of your club and of the Old Firm in general?

Sensationalist. Both sets of fans are hell-bent that the media hates them more but it’s never been the case. The media has always sided with the most successful side, and then focused negative attention on the side doing not so well. The papers will create feuds on the pitch, and then smear the players for rising to it. They’ve done it with different players over the years, and will always do it.

What is your take on the Offensive Behaviour Bill in Football?
It’s a start, the SFA needed to do something and at least they’re now acting. With these things, they take a few years to iron out creased, and I fully expected an amended bill to come out soon – probably when Rangers return.

Is there any other game that can better the Old Firm derby?
I don’t think so, El Theatrico in Spain has good technical play but the diving is off-putting. Liverpool v Man Utd has similar levels of passion, but I think in recent years the games have been a bit stale and lackluster. You never have a boring Old Firm match. North London Derbies are exciting, but haven’t got years of such competition – Tottenham have only been in Arsenal’s sights for 5 years. Galatasary vs Fenerbache? Perhaps that’s of the same nature. For me, Old Firm games are special, the best, a city, a nation at times, families, can be divided for a day all pending the result of a football match. It’s astounding how much it effects Glasgow, and it goes all the way down through the youth systems.

If you could name an Old Firm XI who would it be – both Celtic and Rangers player in it….
Whilst I ‘know’ the legends of yester-year, not seeing them play live I’m going to avoid the old generations – and name my XI from the last 10 years-ish. This is on ability, performance in OF games, and presence under pressure.

Hutton – Weir – Mjallby – McNamara,

R. de Boer, Ferguson, Lennon, Thompson,

Larsson, Lovenkrands,

Special mentions for: Nacho Novo, Kenny Miller, Chris Sutton, John Hartson, Allan McGregor, Scott Brown, Rab Douglas, Steven Naismith, Stan Petrov and Lubo Moravčík.

Does Scottish football need the Old Firm?
Yes, it needs the two biggest clubs, but it also needs a fundamental shake-up and someone else to win the league. Hibs look the most stable, but they’re miles off. I’d love to see an Arab come in and mix-things-up. Scottish football needs restructuring and a more competitive league.

Would you like to see the Old Firm playing in a European league or in the EPL? 
The idea of the Dutch/Belgian/Scottish league interested me, all 3 nations have big clubs who have suffered from non-competitive leagues. I think the idea had some substance.
EPL? Do-able, but English sides have no reason to want them in – and with Scotland’s vote on independence up-coming I don’t expect the issue to be resurfaced any time soon. Personally I think RFC/CFC would more than compete with the top clubs, but would take a period of stabilisation. The only way they could do it is to join the Conference North/South, and all clubs entered there – then make 3 Conference divisions: I.e. North, South, Midlands. Then break the rest of Scotland into regional leagues like in England. It could work with structure. Could see Hearts/Hibs/Aberdeen in bottom Championship/top L1. People site ‘travel’ as a problem, but Germany Bremen>Munich isn’t a bus ride and it works fine. In all honesty though, Perhaps, for now, only the Old Firm would gain anything, I don’t think the other clubs could really compete like they are in Scotland. We need to sort out our game, make it stronger and our clubs stronger before we can think of integration.
A good way to test the ground would be a ‘British League Cup’ – both nations competitions are going stale, could make it interesting.

Anything else you would like to add about the derby game?
Both fans don’t realise how much they miss each other, as someone who’s left Scotland and now blogs about football from neutral standpoint, it’s funny how bitter supporters can be, but really – they long for those games back. I noticed it last week in-fact, then I seen a Hibernian fan donate £50 to the Hearts fundraising. He said: “We hate them, but we’d miss them if they’re gone.” – Celtic may dislike Rangers, but they’re suffering with the absence, players wanting to leave and the attendance levels dropping. SFA is the first port of restructuring, for me – they’ve let situations at Hearts, Pars, Rangers, Dundee happen and more will follow. Fan-owned clubs, 50+1 is the future of football. Scotland should lead the way.

Tweet me what you think, you know where I am on twitter.

Over and out.

January, to buy or not to buy? That is the question…

I’m back.  

Shameful really, but with a new job and a busy life, I haven’t had the luxury of time to write a blog post recently. In spite of that, I’ve found time to keep up with the farcicals of football right now.

Since I left; Suarez has been banned for racism, rightly so, should have been longer in my opinion; John Terry has been charged by the police for the same offence; Arsenal find themselves with their worst point total after 22 games in all of Wenger’s tenure, and Tottenham are flying. 

It’s been a funny few months, but can we expect change?

Here are my views:

On January transfer expectations, after a dire display against Manchester United, subsidised by a manager seemingly hell-bent on having them in the Europa League, you really must wonder:

“He’s had no full-back’s fit since the Olympiakos game (December 6th) – where he played his only fit player in a game which was literally meaningless – since then he fumbled through December knowing he would be without a recognised full back until February.”

1) Why didn’t he highlight a defensive target and get a loanee cover in place?

2) Why hasn’t he ensured that funds were in place to make sure he could sign the loanee quickly? 

No-one knows but him.

We all know the results though; Arsene is being punished for his arrogance, losing a hat-trick of games, and they’ve now taken seven points from the last 18 available. Arsenal’s form is the joint-second worse in the league, and it’s single-handedly his fault. Of the goals conceded in the last three games, six of the seven have come directly from a mistake at full back. Could it be that a reluctance to spend £4m on a loanee will cost him £40m for the Champions League? And that’s excluding the player exodus that may happen should they fail to qualify.

If Arsenal don’t panic-purchase like they did in August, forget about the top four, they won’t even finish fifth.

You just feel for the fans who are paying an extra 6.5% on tickets when the performances are, at times, laughable. 

On Liverpool:  Liverpool have suffered the negative fates of the January window. Buying Andy Carroll (the worst signing in the history of world football) for such a high price will always bring pressure, but they’ve spend £75m on Downing, Carroll, Henderson and wrapped them up on such long contracts, that no-one is going to want to buy them. Additionally, they have no more funds to improve the squad. Between the two they end up with a team deep in limbo. This presents  worrying times, and it’s no wonder Liverpool were eager to swap Carroll for Tevez; it’s hilariously desperate. It’s like me attempting to trade my girlfriend for Zooey Dechanel, unlikely.  

So back to my Gooners, there’s some good in the window, a few fantastic purchases over the years. Arsenal utilised January back in 2009, signing The Lazy Magician; Andrei Arshavin for 15m, a signing which ensured a strong finish to the season. Since then however, the purchases have dried up.

On Arshavin: I’m a fan of Arshavin, even now. My theory is; Just because Wenger plays him at Left-Wing, it doesn’t make him a Winger.

Arshavin has always been creative. For Russia and Zenit he was instrumental playing in the CF role, linking up with the midfield, beating players, shooting at will and assisting in the plus 10’s.

Arsene, likes to play a 4-2-3-1, and because of this, he plays Arshavin out of position, instead of creating a ‘false number 10’ like Barcelona do, and playing a system which suits everyone.

Expectations are different for a winger. Arshavin’s not someone who’ll work hard without the ball, nor has he any intentions of tracking back, when you have full-back’s like Arsenal do, bombing on and hitting the by-line. You really have to wonder the tactical knowledge of Wenger when he insists on playing him at wide-left.

4-3-1-2 is needed, in my opinion. The back 4 picks itself, as does the goalkeeper.  Midfield 3 of Song, Arteta, Ramsey, Arshavin just behind; RVP and >Insert Striker here<.

Who should the striker be? Benzema, Olic, Kerzhakov. Anyone really, but it needs to be someone who’s an old fashioned STR. So that RVP could link up and wander around as he pleases. Dzeko, in a heart-beat.

On Gervinho I’ve defended Arshavin, so let me just revoke some of my previous comments on the wonderful; Gervinho.

Things I’ve said:

“Gervinho is the worst signing of Summer 2011”
“Gervinho is the worst player I’ve ever seen live”
“Gervinho is the worst finisher at the club”
“I would rather have Bendtner back, and as Club Captain, than need to spend another penny watching Gervinho”
“Gervinho makes Almunia’s contribution to the club look worthy of a Ballon D’or” 

Gervinho puts the ball wide.

SOME of the above, may – just may – be slightly harsh, so despite the fact he’s missed 9 one-on-ones, got himself sent off and single-handedly cost us games…. I want to just applaud his defensive work.

In recent weeks, due to Wenger’s reluctance to buy a replacement full-back, Coquelin and Djourou have been forced to adopt a make-shift role – where Djourou has been exposed, the LB position has always seemed that little bit safer. Why? I think Gervinho’s work-rate going backwards, is a lot more effective than he’s given credit for. Granted, it’s not his job, but it’s useful nonetheless.

That aside he’s still an atrocious finisher, and he’s pretty low down my personal preference of wingers. In-fact, with a full fit squad, I’d have him playing at Underhill with the reserves.

On the whole, Walcott and Gervinho are simply not good enough, but I’m supportive of a 4-4-2 type midfield with wingers, Wilshere next to Song for games that need width and fluidity. This is where Wenger needs to be more adaptable. 4-2-3-1 may work at Anfield, but it won’t work at home to Fulham. My 4-4-2 would probably feature Gervinho and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Both of them give more protection to the back-line which allows us to have 2 strikers.

But as always, we’re second guessing Arsene.

A repercussion to his arrogance and deliberate nature to not do something, solely because someone has told him too/when it’s been advised. It could literally define ‘frustration’, and that’s how the Gooners feel.

January 2011: Arsenal need to buy a defender.

Wenger doesn’t buy one, he perseveres with what he has and the club manage to finish 4th in a 2 horse title race, get knocked out of 3 trophies in 4 weeks and lose our 2 most creative midfielders.

And for this reason I justify my critics on twitter. He is too wrapped up in himself, he does value his own stubborn ways over what’s best for the club, he is obsessed with HIS concept of value, not the market price.

He’s still playing a formation based around a player who’s gone.

He’s refusing to listen to the players, this was shown in Van Persie’s frustrations recently; He’s not respecting nor appreciating the fans, and opponents don’t fear Arsenal. They’re seen, rightly so, as frail, weak, uncertain, like at 2-0 down you can still win because one bad decision and they crumble.

A disgruntled Captain, is rarely a long-standing one.

Teams relish playing Arsenal because they know they can get something from the game.

I’m ready to move on from Wenger, Ivan Gazidis too, Peter Hill-Wood as well. The only scenario where I think I’d re-unite my faith in Arsene would be if David Dein was to return.

On boo boys;  

Fans pay their money, they have a right to boo, jeer, cheer and clap whomever they please.

I dislike it when fans boo during the match, i.e, the Blackburn fans booing Yakubu for celebrating a goal with the under-fire Steve Kean.

Blackburn's Boo-Boys.

I dislike fans ousting individuals, like the booing of Walcott, Eboue etc. There needs to be more support for a player having an off game.

I agree with fan booing a bad result, a poor referee or a horrific decision from a manager – Like taking off your best player at 1-1, ensuring that you lose the game, Arsene. However, there is no right or wrong way to be a fan, just like there is no right or wrong way to support. At one end of the scale there’s the ever-green “nothing is ever wrong” fans, who follow the notion that everything has a silver lining and will always talk about ‘next year’; and then there are the cynics who disagree with everything and hate everyone.

But I think booing serves a purpose. Wenger needed to know that taking off A.O-C for the sake of it, was wrong. Manchester United is not the game to ‘test’ players, to ‘give them a run out’ or to bring on a favourite out of sheer nostalgia. It’s the kind of game where you play to win. Especially at a club like Arsenal.

On fans

With all due respect, there’s “Fans” and there’s “Associates”.

The associates are those who have only been to one game, will watch a game if it’s on sky, and will get one shirt every three years. To these people; you are not a fan, you’re a follower. You enjoy them winning to feel part of a cult, or tribe, but you don’t adhere to the literal abbreviation of fan-atic.

The true fans are those who know the under 18s; those who remember the awful players who had six months and three appearances, and those who put up with Bulgarian commentary on a dodgy link just so they can see the game. It’s these same people who hit a solid 10 games a season, and never miss one unless it’s unavoidable.

My point? I’m starting to notice the difference between the two groups more and more. How the fans are being supported by other fans; whereas the associates are sharing and supporting the views of one another. The two are clashing.

I think when you have an actual passion, you have a right to voice your opinion, and but it’s usually the ‘Associates’ who think they have a right to silence the paying ‘Fans’ for being outspoken. Which in essence is a lead on from my point on ‘right or wrong way’ to be a fan, no-one has the right to tell someone how to support a team, but it seems to be the ‘associates’ who feel they have the right to.

 On how the season will finish?

 Premier League – Manchester City.
Carling Cup – Liverpool.
FA Cup – Tottenham.
Champions League – Bayern Munich (Arsenal semi-finals)

What a season we have left, though.

As always I welcome the debate, so get in touch with me on twitter on leave a comment below;

Over and out.

Blatter’s ignorance to a plea of help. The referee’s paradox.

So, we have a week off from the ups and downs of the Premier League, but the joys of being a football fan does not stop there, oh no.

It’s the turn of the Welsh and the Scots this week to bemoan the poor officiating which has cost their side dearly in the international break; Wales, playing at Wembley, trailing 1-0, see Aaron Ramsey play a pass his old captain would have been proud of,  to the sprinting Gareth Bale, the Tottenham winger controls the ball and is ‘1 on 1’, only to be flagged offside, wrongly. What could have been. Mind, Rob Earnshaw had a chance to make amends had he not blazed a complete sitter.

3 days previous, at Hampden Park, Scotland suffer in the ‘tale of two penalties’. At 2-1 to the hosts, Czech striker Jezek dives under the presence of Wilson and is awarded a penalty, converted by Kadlec. 2-2. Then 50 seconds later, Christophe Berra has his ankles taken and nothing is given. A very costly draw for the Tartan Army’s chances of Euro2012 qualification.

So the argument was re-ignited; do referee’s need help?

I think the world of football is crying out for it.

Hawk-Eye, used in Tennis to determine boundary decisions.

Sport as a whole has always been surrounded by an aura of controversy, but with the development of technologies in the social and media universe, other sports have developed with the advancements; ensuring whilst the referee has final say, he is in a position to use the media to review the incident. Rugby uses the video-ref, tennis has hawk-eye, in American Football you “go upstairs”, and any race, be it horses/cars/humans there is photo-finish and in-race conduct being monitored.

Football is being left in the dark ages, held by the stubborn-ness of a Swiss dictator refusing to budge over the pressing issues. These decisions are literally re-writing history; Spain, won their first World Cup in 2010, however, in the Semi-Final vs Germany, Germany should have been awarded one penalty, and could easily have had a second. Costly in a game finishing 1-0. Furthermore, in the final, Dutch winger Robben had broken free of the Spanish defence only to be pulled back by Puyol as he attempted to shoot, could have been a game-changing red card in extra time.

The cynics will argue that it takes power away from the referees; but I feel it empowers them to officiate in a fair and proper manner. Referee’s will still be able to put their personalities onto a match; the leniency of Webb, the pro-penalty-giving nature of Dean. But the integrity of the sport will remain, and the ‘buck’ will ultimately stop with the referee. Under current rules, referee’s are being blamed for incidents in which they really cannot be expected to know for sure.

Frank Lampard’s shot clearly crosses the line, but officials didn’t spot it.

Take Germany vs England, for example. Whilst the Lampard phantom goal was blatantly obvious for us to see at home, one must consider; we had an elevated angle, we also had the benefit of a replay for clarification; it would take the 4th official a matter of seconds to confirm the correction to the ‘1st official’ and the goal would have stood. As it stands now the referee’s are so bound by dated rules that they can’t even use the replays on the stadium monitors to be sure, regardless if the fans can see an injustice: (Argentina v Mexico, WC2010, Arsenal v Everton BPL 2011).

Sepp Blatter: “The International Football Association Board is of the opinion that football will remain, for the time being, a game for human beings with errors on the field of play. We will try to improve referees but you will never erase errors completely.” – A categorical ‘no’ to the thought of video replays.

If it were up to me, I’d have a system which incorporated both the Tennis and Rugby practises. And here’s what and why;

Mr Blatter argues that video replays would make the game inconsistent, and the stop-start nature of the game would deter fans. My first argument is; football is already more stop start than everyone realises, with every corner/throw/goal kick etc taking an extra 15/20 seconds. Last season, the average ‘game-time’ of teams, i.e., the time that the ball was actually on the field and in motion, was around 75mins. With the lowest team being Stoke City FC. Averaging around 68mins per match. I think Rory Delap can have 5/6 of those minutes himself. My 2nd argument, and my solution, is; 3 unsuccessful challenges per side. The same as used in tennis. Assuming all challenges are used, at an average of 30 seconds for the 4th official to confirm/deny, that would only add 3 minutes to a game. Which is hardly an inconvenience for the sake of a fair result.

Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA.

Next, Mr Blatter wants to avoid scenes of players crowding the referees for every tedious decision. My solution to that would be taking a spin on the Rugby system of communication with officials; Only the captain/manager can request use of a challenge. Additionally, the sinned/sinned against player can too, in events of penalties/red cards etc, but captain must be present on field.

Enforcement of these rule changes would take the controversy out of the game, which would apportion the blame inexcusably onto the referees. Which would bring me to my final suggestion on the matter;

This is perhaps the only time in my life I may do so, but I agree with Tony Pulis;

Pulis told BBC Radio 5 live: “Every club should have one vote [annually] and mark referees after every game. Then they have a chance of being relegated to the Championship. It would be a great system.”,

He went on; 

“If the top three [referees] in the Championship got the opportunity to work at the top level, I think it would certainly clear a few referees’ minds.”

What. A. Brilliant. Idea.

….But…..with a few tweaks; whilst rating referee’s will be averaged I think it needs to be weighted; i.e. 25%, home manager, 25% away manager. 50% by the match assessor. That would counter the ever-moaning managers; Wenger, Ferguson, Pardew. And also protect the opinions of certain managers who never seem to complain too much; O’Neill, Bruce, Martinez.

Additionally, I completely disagree with the small pool of referees in the Barclays Premier League. In my opinion, this causes familiarity; which is detrimental to the chances of a fair referee. For example, how many times have you heard the phrase “he’s not that type of player”?

My point being, if Joey Barton makes a late tackle, all of a sudden all his previous misdemeanours are poured onto him and a collaborated decision is given. On the other hand, Theo Walcott, a player with only 2 yellow cards to his name in his Arsenal career, if he makes the same tackle… Are you trying to tell me that you’d give the same decision? I doubt it.

Furthermore, players and referees begin the get friendly, an unhealthy relationship to be had when a game is worth as much as it is. Notably, and perhaps only known by Everton fans, Mark Clattenburg is banned from officiating Toffee’s games after this incident;

Notice how Clattenburg takes a yellow card out of his pocket, then following an exchange of words with the Liverpool skipper, he changes Hibbert’s punishment to a red card. Worrying.

There are 18 referees with Premier League status, or to give it the proper name, 18 are full-time members of the ‘select group’, appointed by Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL). With Jon Moss and Neil Swarbrick sharing a part-time status after both officiating 2 PL games each last term. This means, that there is on average less than 1 full time referee per team, from that, in 2010/2011 it varied from Phil Dowd refereeing 30 games, and Anthony Taylor officiating 13. Moreover, and I hope you’re keeping up!, ‘high profile games’, between top 6 sides, bottom 3 sides, or derby games, go to the referee’s said to be the best; Dean, Webb, Dowd, Atkinson, Foy, Walton. Which can only mean familiarity for the top sides. Which is leading to fans accusations/predictions, and pre-emptive conclusions of ‘the unfairness to come’, all before some games have even started; I.e. Mike Riley had given Man Utd 8 penalties in 8 games at Old Trafford, Webb has given Man Utd 3 penalties in 6 games vs Arsenal, Atkinson is said to bias toward Chelsea, 13 games unbeaten under him. And Webb is said to always lean toward the home side. Meanwhile Dowd has a habit of placing himself at the centre of controversial results, comebacks, game-changing moments, etc.

Phil Dowd dismisses Chelsea skipper John Terry.

The thing is, the more help referees can get, to enforce the laws of the game, the easier the whole process becomes. A referral system gives the referees a chance to make a confident decision, and it takes away the curtain if the decision is wrong. Therefore it makes the individual accountable, which will lead to punishment, which will mean the referees that are the best, are officiating at the highest level. It’s a conclusion that everyone wants.

I am 100% Blatter and Platini; Out. They are corrupt, elitist and racist (in their constant ignoring of the monkey chants at Camp Nou, yet chasing trivial issues).

Whatever happens in the future – and, who knows, football might end up embracing technology as other sports have done – criticism of referees is unlikely to subside completely, but at least football will be rid of the blatant injustice which is currently crippling the sport.

Over and out.

Transfer Season – Part III

So, after a 13 day absence my internet is re-working, my degree is completed and I’m back in business. I’m 2 parts through my 4 part transfer saga and looking to wrap it up before any more movements. 

Further news, the list of Premier League free agents was publicised today, with a few big names out of a club; Lee Bowyer, Patrick Vieria, Seb Larsson, Nigel Reo-Coker, Owen Hargreaves, Jonathon Woodgate, Mathew Upson make up just some of the names who could have clubs, particularly bottom-half vying for their signatures.  

West Bromich Albion; (last season, 11th)
Expected Transfer Budget Available – £25M
Highlighted positions; Utility men, CF, CB, LB, CM.

Despite finishing the season as one of the form teams, Hodgson will be under no illusions, WBA’s priority next season is to stay in the Premier League. Personally, I am a massive fan of Chris Brunt, I genuinely believe his ability of passing, technique and accuracy is of a level of Charlie Adam, however perhaps slightly behind when compared directly. I feel they need a ball winner in CM to compliment him, Hodgson could look back to Fulham or steal from the twelve CM’s at Liverpool. Ideally, perhaps someone like Guy Moussi at Forest could be a steal, or Craig Conway of Dundee United could be suitable along side if WBA could out-bid Glasgow Rangers. My steal for WBA, and appears a non-brainer, Emilie Heskey. Peter Odemwingie made my Alt-TOTY (below) with 15 goals, a link up man link Heskey could see him score more and with Heskey seemingly out-of-favour a smaller club may help him get back on track. Finally, and raiding the free-transfers once more, Matthew Upson would provide experience and cover should he be acquired.  
If I was Roy Hodgson, I would sign; Upson, Heskey, Moussi, Reo-Coker.

Newcastle United; (last season, 12th)
Expected Transfer Budget Available; Available? £40/50M, what will probably be given? £15M.
Highlighted Positions; CM, CF, CB, STR.

My opinion of Newcastle United has changed the most dramatically in the time between the initial planning of this blog and the transfers/movement that have happened since. The in-ability to keep Kevin Nolan to a Championship club is nothing short of embarrassing, you must wonder what he knew about the club that made him lose the faith in their continued growth. More, the expected departure of Joey Barton is leaving their mid-field looking rather bare, and without that core ‘fight’ which allowed them to pull out key results last season, particularly away to Arsenal and their home Dowd-assisted recovery from 4 goals. Newcastle simply must keep a hold of Cheik Tiote, had a fantastic debut season, they need a complimentary CM too, with a bit of creation. Perhaps signing Mark Noble, or Barry Ferguson could aid their midfield cause. They need experience and composure, in my opinion. Ben Arfa will provide flair going forward so a CF and an out-and-out striker are needed to put the goals away; Demba Ba looks prime to join the Magpies but someone quicker to play off him could be the ultimate compliment. Jay Bothroyd is a free-agent and Cameron Jerome has a price on his head. Matthew Upson at such availablity is at least worth an enquiry too.
If I was Alan Pardew, I would sign; Ba, Upson, Ferguson, Bothroyd. And Mike Ashley wouldn’t even need to dig deep into his gambling money…

Stoke City; (last season, 13th)
Expected Transfer Budget Available; £25M
Highlighted Positions; Full backs, CF, CM.
Stoke City finishing 13th is perhaps a poor reflection of them as a team, and their campaign as a whole, with the FA Cup final as an obvious distraction, and never looking a contender for relegation, one can forgive them for ‘taking their foot off the pedal’. That said, I think they are an incredibly balanced side, with no real weakness. However their over-all quality and additions of real class is what needs to be addressed to carry them forward. I can see the re-addition of John Carew on a permanent basis being very likely and I expect them to chase two established full backs as like for like replacements as well as acquiring a solid CM performer. Nigel Reo-Coker could be thrown into the frame, as well as pickings from the recently relegated; Ferguson, Vaughan, Bowyer, Gardner, Noble. I think another CF could be beneficial to help them all round, but someone a bit different from their usual ‘big/strong’ frame. Dj Campbell perhaps, free agent – Jay Bothroyd, or a lower-league raid.
As much as it pains an Arsenal fan to say, Stoke are making great strides to shake off their anti-football label, the FA Cup run has played a huge part aswell as the signings of more natural footballers like Carew, Jones, and the two wide men.
If I was Tony Pulis, I would sign; Ferguson, Bothroyd, Bougherra, Upson, Nigel Reo-Coker, Carew (massive strengthening).

Bolton Wanderers; (last season, 14th)
Expected Transfer Budget Available;
Highlighted positions; STR, CDM, CAM – Replacement for Cahill if sold.
Bolton, similar to Stoke are a side who can be forgiven for taking their foot off the pedal late in campaign. After the smashing at Wembley in the hands of The Potters, Bolton found themselves deflated and with nothing left to play for. As a side, they’re relatively well-balanced. Stand out players being; Cahill, Holden, Davies. They essentially just need a bit of class around with some effective passers to work with Holden’s technical abilities. Joey Barton at Newcastle is seeking the exit and Owen Coyle could have the man-management skills to bring out the best in him. An audacious bit to steal Stan Petrov from Aston Villa is another option they could look at, but it would take a lot to prize him off his captaincy, Jonny Evans has slipped down the pecking order and Liverpool have a silly number of CM players. Manchester City look to be the favourites to sign Gary Cahill, but the out of favour Nedum Onuoha could be involved in some deal, also the inclusion of any of their strikers would also be beneficial to them. City currently have over 8 out-and-out strikers and would be looking to trim the squad for the new season. A Scottish raid of David Goodwillie could be cost-effective and welcomed by the young Terror’s player.
Additionally, one cannot rule out Coyle’s ability to enroll students to what must say is the greatest finishing school in the country; Wilshere, Sturridge so who next? Carlos Vela, Henri Lansbury, Jay Spearing, Josh McEachren could all possibly enter the fray.
If I was Owen Coyle, I would sign; Vela, Upson, Goodwillie, Evans, Barton. As well as a proven striker, a big bid for Shane Long could be hard for Reading to turn down.

Blackburn Rovers; (Last season, 15th)
Expected Transfer Budget Available – £25-30
highlighted positions; RB, CF, CM, CB,
I really fear for the future of Rovers, they escaped relegation when really Robbie Keane (West Ham) and Manchester United should have put them in trouble in fixtures 36 & 37 of the season. They didn’t, and fortunate Rovers live on. Roque Santa Cruz has returned to Man City, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Chris Samba  are looking to move on, and transfer speculation for incoming players is quiet. Blackburn simply have too much to do, with a manager who isn’t good enough and not enough funds to make it possible. The Venky’s are wealthy, but they’re not the Indian monetary force of Tata. If they are to make a healthy account of themselves, they must strengthen the positions mentioned above. RB, Salgado is far too old, every week he’s skinned by anyone with a hint of pace, Alan Hutton is available after a breakdown in relationship with Harry Redknapp at Spurs and Kyle Naughton could be available as a youth investment or as a loan alternative to purchase. CB looks like Upson could most realistically move here, the set up is the most similar to how he is used to playing, but the likely success of WBA is the major competition.  If Robbie Keane puts his ego aside, and Celtic do not review their interest he could be a key addition to the side, as well as a lower league raid or moves for an out-of-for striker. Roque Santa Cruz will probably return but ultimately it won’t be enough.
If I was Steve Kean, I would run a mile. But If forced to stay, I would sign; Alan Hutton, Upson, Roque Santa Cruz, and enquire about Kevin Thomson.

Will be back soon with my conclusion to my transfer preview, hopefully my internet issues are a thing of the past but I do appreciate the enquiries I got from my readers on twitter about when the next one will be!

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And of course post below or on twitter with your thoughts on part 3!

Over and out.