Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Don't Call me a Mercenary!

'How's your big centre forward doing?' 'Oh he left for an extra £30 the greedy bugger.' This kind of conversation is beginning to become more common.

Friday, 24 February 2012

FM Anonymous: My Addiction

I have certain friends that I know are as enthusiastic about the great game of Football Manager as I am, these friends that when we get together, pretend to listen to the success of others, waiting patiently for their turn to share what player they’ve just bought on a free, who they’ve offloaded for mega bucks, which youth starlet has come through the ranks to become the clubs top goal scorer. I am the worst, I almost forget that sometimes this game is not real life. Jason Manford once said in his comedy sketch, that he met Micah Richards at a Man City training session, only afterwards to realise that he’d been really ‘off’ with the player as on his Football Manager game, Richards had requested to be put on the transfer list! I’ve had friends (with lots of time on their hands) that have got suited and booted for their team reaching cup finals, university pals who have almost failed their degrees due to FM addiction. In fact, one of my greatest achievements, not just in the game, but in my life, was that as Tottenham Hotspurs most successful ever manager, the club named their newly built stadium ‘Bysouth Arena’, no amount of Champions Leagues or World Club Championships could match the proud feeling when the stadium was unveiled.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Worst XI

Is there such a thing as a bad footballer?

We have all sat in pubs and living rooms and given our opinions on this great game of ours. Amongst the usual conversations regarding great goals, great players and stadia are the opinions on how bad players are or were.

Everyone has their view on how good or bad a player is and some are unanimous when assessing player ability and within minutes we can give a good or in this case a bad team.

What makes a bad player and are they really that bad? In some cases it simply involves making a mistake so bad that no matter what they have done previously or what they do after they will always be associated with the particular incident. There are just as many players remembered for a negative incident as a positive one. Should professionals be making mistakes at all? A sole purpose of putting a ball in between two posts. Can't be that hard can it?

Here is my 'Worst XI'

GK: Scott Carson
D: Igor Stepanovs
D: Anton Ferdinand
D: Richard Dunne
D: Frank Lebouf
M: Eric Djemba Djemba
M: Jonathan Greening
M: Karl Henry
M: Ronnie Rosenthal
F: Nicolas Bedtner
F: Carlton Cole

This will no doubt start a debate and some people will disagree with me on a lot of these but that's what is great about football. Everybody has an opinion.

Ronnie Rosenthal wasn't a bad player but the one thing that stands out was when he rounded the keeper and in the green of Liverpool, hit the crossbar from 18 yards. I don't care what he did before or after, he hit the bar?!

Nicolas Bendtner... Now I'm an Arsenal fan and yes he did have his moments but he came to the club with such a high opinion of himself and claimed to be one of the worlds best. He then proceeded to miss the majority of his chances and will forever be seen as a failure by the Arsenal fans.

Richard Dunne has the most own goals to his name in the history of the Premier League and Karl Henry has the most sending offs with 7 dismissals to his name. I don't know any of his career highlights but I know of the sendings off. Does this make him a bad player?

This can work the other way too. Andy Linighan for example. Many of you wouldn't have heard of him and he wasn't a great player at Arsenal. In fact he was Steve Boulds understudy- that should give you an idea of his ability, but Andy scored the winner against Sheffield Wednesday in the 1993 FA Cup Final and will therefore be spoke of more than most Arsenal defenders. All that seems to matter to the fans was that goal!

Everyone has got their opinions on good and bad players and I've done mine based on facts and what players were remembered for. I wonder how many of us could be professional footballers though?!

Frazer Triggs

Pep Talk

Pep Guardiola is undoubtedly one of the most successful managers in the modern era, producing a Barcelona team that even the most hardcore Madrid fans must admit to playing some of the most aesthetically pleasing football in recent times.

Guardiola spent a majority of his playing career with the Catalan giants, joining as a boy at the age of 13 and becoming a regular in a team that won La Liga by the time he was 20. He became one of the most successful players in Barcelona history, spending 17 years at the club and playing nearly 500 games for the club, before leaving for Brescia in Serie A.

After his playing career ended, Pep spent a year in charge of the Barcelona B team, working almost as an apprentice to Frank Rijkaard before replacing him at the beginning of the 2008-9 season. Guardiola’s first movement as manager was to oust what he saw as some of the luxury players not needed in the squad, Ronaldinho, Zambrotta,Thuram and Deco all left the club, where as Samuel Eto’o was put on the transfer market and told to prove his worth to the manager. Eto’o eventually went in 2009-10 season as a makeweight in the Zlatan Ibrahimovic deal, which also saw Guardiola throw another 49millions euros at to secure the Swedes signature. Peps lavish spending has been a trait of his time in charge at Barcelona, big money has been spent on players like Dani Alves, David Villa, Alexis Sanchez and of course the return of Cesc Fabregas.

With the Spaniard increasingly becoming linked to English clubs Arsenal and Manchester United as both Wenger and Ferguson look to be nearing the end of their respective club careers, I question whether Guardiola would be able to adapt to life in the Premier League and away from the Blaugrana. Undoubtedly Guardiola has been successful with the Catalonia club, totting up La Liga championships and Champions League victories, but this has been largely assisted by the development of perhaps the finest youth system ever in club football, this generation along has produced what are now regarded as perhaps 3 of the most talented players in the world with Messi, Xavi and Iniesta all graduates, not forgetting Fabregas and Pique (who Guardiola brought back to Spain after spells in England) as well as club captain Carles Puyol and other Champions League winners such as Pedro and Sergio Busquets. I would argue it is Barcelonas youth system rather than Guardiolas forays into the transfer market that have brought such success to the club. Wenger has tightened the purse strings at Arsenal and despite comparisons to Barcelona in the way they try to play, would Pep really be allowed the same spending power as he’s enjoyed over the last few years? And although being regarded as one of the best in England, is he Arsenal youth system going to provide 8 or 9 players good enough to challenge for the Champions League in the next season or so?

This may sound critical, especially when I am a self confessed lover of the ‘Tika-Taka’ style Guardiola has implemented and Barcelona have become famous for, but there is a great differentiation in styles and tactics shown by Premier League Clubs, from the close passing conveyed by Arsenal and Swansea, to the directness of your Newcastle’s and Sunderland’s, then to the physicality of teams like Stoke. Guardiola has rarely shown the ability or awareness to adapt his tactics and although largely successful, the Tika-Taka has shown signs of waning this year with Barca being out thought and out played by several teams in La Liga this year, leaving them trailing Real Madrid and the championship as good as over.

My argument is that he may not be quite the tactical genius or wheeler dealer people will expect him to be, as Pep Guardiola is Barcelona through and through, he knows the club inside out from the boys in the u13s to every coach working towards the glamorously almost arrogant, but most wonderful product that is the Barcelona first team. Perhaps a little stubborn this year in his delay in signing a new contract and his inability to change in vital games, Pep is still planning for the future, giving chances to players like Thiago, Villanova and Tello must show this. Surely the emergence of Real Madrid under ‘The Special One’ as a real threat to Barcelona’s dominance will see Guardiola stick around and once again become number one in Spain.

Alex Bysouth.

Another Wonder Kid on the Scrapheap?

On the odd Sunday, I take a stroll down to the local shops to buy a newspaper and occasionally pick up a copy of The Non-League paper, a paper which is full of results, interviews and reports from the past week in Non League football. Some would even call it the grassroots bible. A few weeks back I was flicking through and saw a report from a game in the Ryman League- a league 3 steps below the Football League and professional game. The game in question was a middle of the table clash that ended in a 2-2 draw. The interesting thing to me was the goal scorers, both sides having goals from an ex Premier league youngster.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Fancy a Jager Bomb?

Many fans of Newcastle United may of hoped for a big January signing, a new recruit paid for by some of the £35 million they received from the sale of Andy Carroll, but what they got was a lot bigger- Sir Richard Branson. The deal meant that the toon army would be wearing Virgin money on the front of their shirts for at least the next 2 years, a deal worth around £20 million.

This got me thinking; where did sponsorship come from? How long ago and who were the first club to wear shirts with sponsors on them?

Most football historians credit Penarol, a Uruguayan club team, with introducing the concept of shirt sponsorship to the sporting world during the 1950s. A few clubs in France and Denmark dabbled with the idea although most European clubs were against it.

In 1973 came the breakthrough when Gunter Mast, the nephew of Jagermeister creator Curt Mast, had the brilliant idea of placing the German liqueur’s stag and glowing cross logo on German Bundesliga squad Eintracht Braunschweig’s uniforms. Mast had previously launched a Jagermeister-sponsored motor racing team, but saw an incredible opportunity in the world’s top sport. Initially, the German football association denied the club’s request, but the league was powerless when Eintracht Braunschweig’s players voted to replace their traditional logo with the Jagermeister stag. On March 23, 1973, the team made its debut against Schalke in its new shirts. Seven months later, the Bundesliga officially sanctioned jersey sponsorship.

It wasn’t until 1976 that sponsorship arrived in England, the unlikely pioneers being Kettering Town of the southern league who accepted Kettering Tyres’ four figure sum to have their name on the front of their red and white kit. League officials demanded that they removed the sponsor and Kettering cheekily removed the last four letters and left “Kettering T” claiming that the T stood for Town. The league soon allowed sponsors.

According to a report by SPORT+MARKT, the total invested in shirt sponsorship in Europe’s top five leagues doubled from 235 million Euros in 2000 to 470 million Euros in 2011. One of the largest shirt sponsorship deals belongs to Manchester United, which agreed to a $131 million deal over four years with Chicago-based AON Corp after previously being sponsored by AIG. European clubs received an average of 4.2 million Euros per year for shirt sponsorship deals in 2010.

So shirt sponsorship has come a long way since the days of Gunter Mast and I find it very amusing that the first real sponsors of a club was Jagermeister- a drink that is becoming increasingly popular by the youth of today and the poison of many fans on a match day, whether it be in celebration or to drown some sorrows. All of this whilst everybody’s favourite bank or mobile phone company is emblazoned across the front their shirt.

Liam Kenna

Friday, 17 February 2012

Changing Countries

Ever since scoring the world cup winner in my back garden as a young boy, it has been my dream to walk out at the Millennium Stadium and represent Wales, my country of birth and the place I was brought up. I remember going to the old Arms Park to watch my boyhood heroes- Giggs, Speed and my favourite player of all time, Dean Saunders.

The news recently that anyone from Northern Ireland, or with a parent or grandparent born in Northern Ireland is entitled to British and Irish citizenship, and therefore can play for the ROI or the NI side was a strange one for me. Players picking nationality dependant on their religion is fine by me but a strange decision by FIFA to allow it.

Its not the first time that people have been able to switch allegiances. Back in the early days of competitive International football you could play for as many countries as you liked. The great Alfredo di Stefano played for 3 countries. Born in Buenos Aries he had scored 7 goals in as many games before moving to Colombia to play his club football and earned 4 caps for the Colombian national side. Stefano then famously moved on to Madrid and had a glittering career for both Real and for Spain.

Since then FIFA have tightened up their eligibility rules and since 2004 players can swap nationalities as long as the player in question has not played a competitive game for his country. Up until 2004 however a cap for an under 21 side tied you to that country.

Stuart McCall famously had a lucky escape when on the bench for England Under 21’s, he’d realised that England wasn’t the country for him and when asked to warm up, he took too long and missed the chance to get on. He then went on to have an established international career with Scotland. Tim Cahill was one player who wasn’t as lucky. At the age of 14 he answered the call of Western Samoa Under 20’s. Playing in a competitive match he was tied to Samoa for 10 years before finally making his Australia debut in 2004.

David Johnson, formally of Ipswich and Forest had offers galore. Johnson born in Kingston, Jamaica had British parents and therefore a British passport, entitling him to play for any of the 4 home nations. Johnson was called up to Wales (which he withdrew through injury) played for England B, played for Jamaica in a non competitive match and was then called up by Craig Brown to represent Scotland (which again he withdrew from)

Players have found themselves jumping ship. Players from smaller countries with no chance of international success adopting the country of their parents in hope of playing in major championships. Talking of adopting- how about the famous case of Tony Cascarino. English born Cascarino earned 66 caps for Ireland on the back of his mother being born in the Emerald Isle, it wasn’t until the end of his career that he found out that he was adopted and therefore not of Irish blood!

With the Euro’s fast approaching, it will be interesting to see if there is an International merry go round. We mustn’t forget that everyone’s dream is playing in a World Cup, walking out on the biggest stage, only now it seems people don’t care who they are representing.

Liam Kenna

Shhh! Don't Mention a Ground Share

In this time of financial difficulties isn't ground sharing a sensible option? Across the continent ground sharing is a fairly common sight. Just look at the famous Milan clubs, long term residents of the San Siro. In Germany the 2 Munich clubs were set to share the fantastic Allianz Arena. Ultimately financial difficulties meant that 1860 were bought out by Bayern. So why is the idea ground sharing met with such resistance in this country?

Back in the 70's there was the idea of Arsenal and Tottenham ground sharing. The proposal was to build a new stadium on the grounds of Alexandra Palace. The idea however, remained idea. A ground share between these 2 rivals is nothing new however. During WW2 the clubs shared White Hart Lane. With Highbury being used by the army the Gunners took up residence with their north London rivals.

Back to the present day. One of the most logical ground shares would be between the 2 merseyside clubs. Both in need of new facilities but with limited space within the city centre and limited funds both have struggled to find a viable solution. Surely however a business minded person would see that a shared 60,000+ stadium in Stanley Park would be perfect for both clubs. Also a project like that is sure to be able to get council/government funding to rejuvenate the local community.

In the sporting Mecca that is Australia ground sharing is part and parcel of sporting infrastructure. The great MCG, home to over 100,000 seats is a multi sports arena used 12 months of the year. Where as over here in Britain many stadiums sit unused for months on end.

The only sport on our shores that seems to actively push ground shares is rugby. In London, 3 clubs in Irish, Saracens and Wasps have been sharing facilities with the likes of Reading, Watford and Wycombe for many seasons. Other than the occasional complaint from the groundsmen these symbiotic relationships have been of great benefit to the clubs and the running of the stadiums. With Saracens looking to relocate away from Vicarage Road to a purpose built facility at Copthall stadium the word ground share has been muttered by a few supporters of Barnet FC who are in desperate need for a new home. Plus with proposal of a state of the art synthetic pitch, wear and tear will not be an issue. Surely this sporting hub would be fantastic for the local community.

In conclusion, shared stadia is going to have to become more common if our great clubs are to survive. Also with a lack of space in inner cities clubs are being forced out to the baron wastelands of industrial estates. Let's keep these sporting churches packed to the rafters and keep our clubs close to the fans. If Milan can do it why can't Merseyside?

Greg Mackett

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Denílson de Oliveira Araújo; Who?

£50 million for Torres, £35 million for Carroll; Clubs after a quick fix and willing to pay over the odds for a player and satisfying the cries for a big money signing from the fans? Let me introduce you to a man who never lived up to the expectations.

Denilson de Oliveira Araujo or just plain and simple Denilson to his friends, ring any bells? I thought not.

Playing for Sao Paulo in his native Brazil at the tender age of 17, Denilson was already making a name for himself playing in the Copa CONMEBOL and winning the competition. The big guns of Europe were all aware of his talents and similarly to Diego, Kaka, Pato and the likes after him, a big move was destined for him. A big move came but not a move many imagined.

In the summer of 1998 Denilson completed his dream move to Europe in a world record fee of £21.5 million but instead of Milan, Manchester or Madrid, he found himself in Seville having signed for Real Betis. Betis were an ambitious club but a club without a Russian sugar daddy with the only recent success being the runners up of the Spanish cup the previous season.

Denilson found it tough in Spain, finishing his first season with 2 goals in 35 appearances. His second season was worse with Betis getting relegated to the Segunda B. A loan period with Flamengo was next for this tricky winger but by the time he came back and Betis had achieved promotion and a Uefa Cup position; he was nothing but a fringe player.

France was next, with Denilson eager to prove he could cut it at the top level, Bordeaux was his destination this time round. A good season was had and Bordeaux were narrowly piped at the post by Lyon. However talks broke down between club and player, wage demands were too high for the club and the now well travelled Brazilian international was clocking up some air miles once more.

Saudi Arabia, USA, Brazil and Vietnam were all stop offs in Denilson’s disappointing career. One final stab at European football fell through with Kavala in Greece and he retired in 2010 at the age of 34.

Having won 68 caps for Brazil people will argue that his career was not wasted but those caps were won between 1996 and 2003 when he was in his prime. I feel that the price tag was all too much for him. Betis tried to make headlines, paying over the odds for a player that was not established, especially not in Europe. The club are to blame of course, paying way over the odds but also Denilson is too for believing the hype. Like a good friend of mine once said “transfer fees are just business transactions, and we’d be wise not to take the numbers too seriously.”

Liam Kenna

GB or Not GB. That is The Question

2012, the year of the London Olympics, an event which I personally am extremely excited about. I remember the day in early July in 2005 when it was announced that games would be coming to London. I was highly excited about this sporting masterpiece coming to my shores. I think the games will be fantastic for uniting and bringing the country together. The perfect example of this should the football team, uniting the home nations together under one banner for our national sport.

So why the resistance from the powers that be?
The Football Associations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have publicly made it clear that they are against a Team GB. There has been statements that there is competitive implications with FIFA that may jeopardize their international standing. Not that the word of FIFA is exactly trusting but they have given assurances that everything would be fine. These FA’s have made it public that players are free to choose for themselves whether they make themselves available. Privately however you get the feeling that these same officials are privately putting pressure on these players to turn down any invite. Gareth Bale recently received criticism for wearing a Team GB shirt for a photo shoot from the Welsh FA. Free to make his own decision is he?

So is national pride holding things back?
If it is, I sure hope not. For years athletes have competed under their country and Great Britain. Golfers for decades have united under the banner of Great Britain & Ireland and more recently the banner of Europe for the Ryder Cup. Then there is the British & Irish Lions, the unity of 4 rugby nations in battle on the rugby field. Rugby a sport driven by passion and aggression, where the occasional punch is thrown on the field. Every 6 nations the home nations stand face to face in battle, where more than the occasional drop of blood is spilt. Come the Lions however, these enemies unite to stand shoulder to shoulder in battle for a greater cause. So why can’t we as footballers unite in the same way?

Then there is the simple theory that this would be good experience for our countries young footballers. The harsh fact is that in recent years England have failed to perform at major tournaments and the other home nations have struggled to qualify. Youngsters like Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have expressed their desire to play in the games and old dogs such as David Beckham and Ryan Giggs have also put up their hands. A tournament like this would be a fantastic experience for the likes of Bale and Ramsey as they lead Wales into a bright new future and hopefully major tournament appearances. As for Ryan Giggs a man that struggled on the international stage in a team of very average players, the Olympics could give him that one trophy that is missing from his cabinet, international glory. Who are we to deny that opportunity to one of the greatest players these shores has ever produced.

Finally they ask, is there room to have a Team GB every Olympics?
In my view, yes. If the pencil pushers at the top of the football associations can forget about everything and just think of the benefits from purely a players experience they would agree with me. As we all know however, the powers that be in sport, government, authority, life, don’t always think with common sense.

Greg Mackett

Referees...Glutton for Punishment?

As I enter the 20th year of my footballing journey as a player I can look back over the years with some satisfaction. It all started back in primary school, being the lanky kid I was the ultimate centre half, although the height counted I think it was my ability to miss time tackles and head the ball regardless of how hard it had been kicked, that pushed me up the pecking order. The present day has seen a transformation into a goalkeeper of which has been my preferred position for the best part of 15 years…… Why? Well the youngest of a pair of brothers meant I always end up in goal in the garden. This was not a problem as I actually loved being in goal and the challenge of protecting the windows from my brothers shots was a challenge I rose too. Plus I became pretty accomplished in doing it, 1 window in 5 years was a pretty good statistic and of course it was my fault for not saving it when it did smash. During those 15 years have seen a varying level of football from the Sunday league to Semi-pro, during which I think my team mates throughout all of my teams will confirm my commitment of both body and soul to the cause. I am my first critic in my performance and whilst I accept I am no Joe Hart, I like to think more often than not I contribute to the game in helping my team….

So during these 20 years of playing football there has been a consistent question in my head that I have never had answered, why would you choose to be a referee? Now this is not a dig in the slightest, I fully respect that if it had not been for the countless referees that turn up week in week out that football as we know it would not exist. Yes over my years I have had the odd clash with the man in black and more in my youth than now have been issued the yellow and red card . I for one acknowledge that they have a thankless job and all 22 players on the pitch do not make it easy. In my pursuit to answer the question of why, I have tried to referee a few games in my time. Not something I particularly enjoyed and whilst mostly at youth level the interaction with the players was honest and respectful. Add a few years into late teens and early twenties and these respectful players can turn into a foul mouthed assassin that provides 90 minutes of torment for no apparent reason.

My biggest gripe is consistency if the decisions and game, I myself found it hard and it can quickly turn it a situation where control and respect from the players quickly diminishes. However, I do find it confusing when a large number of referees are not players of the game. I find it hard to comprehend that someone enforcing the rules has not played to a level that warrants an understanding of the game.

I think the main issue is culture around the role of the referee in the game of football. The man in black is often made a scapegoat for poor performance or player mistakes. As with anything that is dictated by man, human error happens and it goes both ways. I like to think that over the course of the season the good and bad decisions weigh up and come out equal. Ultimately I am a true believer that you create your own luck, if you happen to get 2 penalties in a game because your winger is brought down twice whilst charging through on goal. Take a step back and analyse it, yes the opposition might call it a disgrace and hard done by but he was in a position to cause issues for the defence. It was unlikely that this was his first venture into that part of the pitch and the continuous offensive push is likely to reap these types of reward. Then look at the flip side how many fouls are not given, probably a lot more than are given. The referee in my eyes is part of the game, just like the wind, rain or snow. You play the referee like you would the elements and each man is different in their approach. I am the first to stand up and say I play a physical game, I play hard and I enjoy the competition. I expect nothing more than a competitive but fair return from my opposition, at the end of 90 minutes it finishes there hands are shook and it is left on the pitch.

So every referee, is a person most commonly but not exclusively male like you and me and majority of footballers. They are human beings and should be treated like one. So why does it means that a small proportion of footballers think that they can treat a referee so badly. If you meet a referee in the street or in a pub he is no different to anyone else. So why is it that once in the black outfit that he can be subjected to a torrent of abuse and intimidating behaviour. I have heard things said to referees in games that are unrepeatable, why that is deemed acceptable in any culture dumbfounds me. Referees deserve a level of respect and in return they will give you theirs. Rugby seems to have the right balance, the referee is a figure of authority and respect. Maybe because of the physical nature of the game a risks of significantly injuries means they it is adopted fully. There has long been the discussion around the social classes within the UK and who traditionally played which game and I do tend to agree on that discussion. However, poor treatment of referees is deemed acceptable by some in the game of football and that is what lets us down. I have often thought that some behaviour would not be acceptable in form of society so why allow it on the football pitch?

In my eyes referees are essential to our game and they deserve the respect that comes with that. Greater protection needs to be provided at lower levels, we as a nation and social democracy need to provide the discipline and guidance with the youth to rid the minority that think treating a referee badly is acceptable. If we don’t we might find that in years to come the grass routes of football in England struggles to progress as who would want to be a referee? Not me, I am not a glutton for punishment.

Nick Dobson

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Club v Country

Every major tournament for an England fan ends in disappointment and the players commitment to their country is put in question. So here is the question.

Is playing for your country the pinnacle for a present day footballer?

In sports such as rugby and cricket the pinnacle for a player is stepping out on the field, often reduced to tears singing their national anthem before battle. Even for individual sports such as athletics they have the olympics where they perform under their national flag. When was the last time you saw an England footballer reduced to tears from singing the national anthem?

The greatest player on the planet, Lionel Messi, is regularly attacked by the media in his native Argentina for never hitting the heights that he does for Barcelona. Is it because of tactics, quality of the team or passion for the cause that has prevented him from reaching those heights? Or is it simply the weight of expectation of his birth country too much for this little genius. For now people argue that Messi is one of the greatest to set foot on a football pitch but history will hold the infamous argentine No.10 shirt in higher accolade. The great Maradona will always be held in higher accolade purely and simply for single handedly taking his country to the 1986 World cup trophy. Until Messi can lead his country to success, history is always likely to hold Maradona above him. Other greats likely to be knocked down on the ‘all time greatest’ lists will be George Best and Ryan Giggs, simply because of their lack of international accolades.

Rory McIlroy famously had to back track in 2010 for calling the Ryder Cup an “Exhibition”. However after 4 days of grueling competition and the emotional roller coaster at Celtic Manor, McIlroy had to admit he was wrong. The infectious passion from the crowds bellowing out his name on the first tee everyday had convinced him that the Ryder Cup is more than just an exhibition.

Anyway back to the England enigma. The so called ‘Golden Generation’ will likely go down as England’s biggest failures. Its certainly not down to talent, the likes of Owen, Scholes, Lampard and Gerrard are certainly not short of talent. Arguably its the managers fault, but looking at their records can we really say Eriksson, Keegan, Capello are bad managers? Should we blame the press? First to build up a nations hopes when we win but always happy to destroy them to sell a paper. Then again if the players bled for the cause like Terry Butcher and Paul Ince a nation would stand by someone who gave it all in honour of their country. Or is it simply that a player knows where their bred is buttered and that club comes before country.

In my view England will never win a major tournament until pride is restored in playing for your country. There is no easy fix to this. I believe it starts at the very core of society in this country, pride in the flag just isn’t what it used to be. However, the olympics may just kick start a change in passion for country over club.

Greg Mackett

Money Talks... At Every Level

In recent years we’ve seen the oligarchs and the sheiks gobbling up premier league clubs, and now even chic European outfits, as something to play with while their wives are buying up half of Harrods. Arguably, and ironically, it was Al Fayed who started this craze of high profile foreign ownership.

While non-league boardrooms may not be following suit in moving away from the local tongue, there has been a similar pursuit of success through reckless spending. Look at Crawley Town’s recent ascension to the Football League, Truro City are another example of one man’s ambition to capture glory at any cost in securing five promotions in six seasons; but both clubs have been in court courtesy of HMRC, and gone to the brink of extinction but for last minute settlements in full by their wealthy benefactors.

So, closer to my humble level of grassroots football, I am always astonished to learn of extravagant investments in local sides and the incentives to attract the mercenaries required to deliver the promotions and trophies.

I think back to when I first became aware of such goings on, ”So-and-so are offering petrol money”. And there’s never any question of a registration fee being required from the player, Heaven forbid. But then it becomes “there’s some money over at x – I can pick up £25” and soon it escalates; “£50 to sit on the bench and a win bonus even if I don’t get on!”. And for what? So the one man and his dog can enjoy a game of football? I can’t imagine his entry money will cover the wage bill for the home games, let alone the away games when the club don’t get a cut of the gate receipts.

Of course, the local businesspeople have earned their money and along with it the right to spend it how they wish but it makes life an awful lot harder for the rest of us who try to run a sustainable football club when the competition can afford to waive all fees, kit the conveyor belt of players out in new tracksuits (and there’s always a new face at training every week when there’s money to be had), and even have enough to pay these postmen, labourers, desk-jockeys to play a sport that they love.

And no matter what you say, money changes people. Even just £25 a week for turning out for a side a step or two up the football ladder. So when they fall from grace, they expect everything on a plate. And a fat little brown envelope sitting on said plate. That’s one of the toughest jobs at this level, getting cash out of the people that are actually getting the enjoyment out of the cause you’ve devoted yourself to.

Despite all that, introduce me to a sugar daddy any day!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Is There a Need For a Captain?

Following on from Nick Dobson’s blog about the England captaincy and who deserves it, I feel that similarly to Spain and Italy, the captain should be the man with the most caps. This takes the pressure off the manager who can then deal with the more pressing matters. This also means that managers don’t have to pick a player because he is the current holder of the armband. The captaincy just moves along to the next man in line, the heir to the throne if you will.

People will say that a captain has to be a leader of men, a warrior who will put his body on the line for his country but surely a country of England’s size and passion should have eleven leaders on the pitch. The honour of captain should in my opinion be earned by playing year after year and earning the respect of your team mates, the number of caps being an indication of experience.

Football unlike cricket and to some extent rugby does not need a captain to make game changing decisions. Captaincy in football is merely honorific, where the manager calls the shots and the captain is the link between referees and the players and manager to players.

Ashley Cole is currently the most capped player with any real chance of going to the Euros and even though I wouldn’t like to have a drink with the man, he has earned the right to captain his country. Cole is the first choice left back and in my opinion will hold on to that berth for the next couple of seasons so I think he is the best man for the job.

Time will tell whether the captaincy of England was really worth losing the best manager they have had in a long time…

Liam Kenna

Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I Smell The Job of an Englishman

So Fabio Capello resigned as England manager this week over the Terrygate saga, whether he was right to do so is a matter of opinion, although an opinion well voiced by every England fan claiming to be an expert on the beautiful game. The general consensus seems to be the nation was willing Capello to go, despite him being one of the most successful managers, bar, of course, Sir Alf, to ever take the England job. Capello has the distinction of winning a domestic league title with every club he has ever managed. Ranging from four Serie A titles in five years at perennial favourites AC Milan, to guiding an unfancied Roma team to their first Scudetto in eighteen years. Not forgetting two La Liga titles at two spells, five years apart with Real Madrid and a world renowned Galaticos team, as well as two Serie A championships with a Juventus team at the heart of a betting scandal, which were for this reason later stripped from them and the club relegated. So to England, Capello has the best win ratio of any England manager at nigh on 70%, but failed in his four years at international level to realistically get close to winning a major tournament and a humiliating defeat that saw a fancied England team outplayed and outclassed by a hungry, young German team at the 2010 World Cup saw the patriots in the nation calling for his head. The Italian never recovered from this, despite a convincing qualification campaign for the European Championships and the emergence of Harry Hotspur as the fans favourite to take over even before Capello’s resignation meant the nation rejoiced on Tuesday at the news of the departure of Don Fabio, ironically the same day Harry Redknapp was cleared of being a tax fraud and again available to get back to management. The nation is certainly calling for an English manager to take charge, despite the fact that no club lead by an Englishman has ever won the Premier League title. Perhaps the greatest chance of success is then the upcoming Olympics, Englands only trophy was won nearly 50 years ago now in the same city the Olympics is taking place, and in this barren time of successful English managers at club level, two Scots have taken Premier League medals, one of course has dominated. So a Great British team, made up of English players, Scottish coaching staff and Gareth Bale could finally end our wait for, not a major trophy, but a trophy none the less.

Alex Bysouth.

The England Captaincy, What Next?

In the wake of the John Terry being removed from the captain’s role of the national team by the FA whilst being investigated for racism. It has raised a very valuable social debate that does the England National team captain make a good role model for the youth of today? So playing for your country is the biggest honour any footballer may be awarded and something that in the world of football money just cannot buy. So, to be awarded the captains armband must be the highest accolade any player can achieve… This player needs to command the highest level of respect from his peers and is the sole figure that the nation places its trust within. He should be the epiphany of professionalism both on and off the field.

Ultimately captain appointment is decided by the national coach but as we have just seen The FA lost faith with Terry and stepped in to resolve the ongoing bad press around a criminal investigation relating to racist comments. Some along with myself would agree that he should not have even been in the role having had the captaincy removed previously in the wake of the scandal between Terry and Wayne Bridge.

Who is to blame for this recent poor judgement of character, the departing Capello or The FA? However looking back over the past few years and other players that have worn the armband on the list does not fill itself with glory so do we as a nation have a poor ability to judge a good character?

Tony Adams a self confessed alcoholic, who served 4 months at her majesties pleasure after crashing a car whilst 4 times over the drink drive limit. Steven Gerard at times one of the best midfielders in the world, has also been involved in events that left him in court facing charges of assault and affray. To his credit both charges were dropped but as a captain of both club and country a situation that should not occur. Rio Ferdinand reports of alleged numerous cases of adultery and high injury proneness has limited his chance of long term possession the armband.

As we look to the future who in the current set-up who would be an ideal individual to don the 3 lions armband? A player than can hold the respect of both his peers but of the nation with enough form and seniority to retain a regular first team spot whilst having the experience to conduct themselves at the highest level. A few names spring to mind but again fail to fulfil the criteria more commonly off the pitch. Wayne Rooney, England’s most consistent and inspiring player of recent years. However, sent off in last game for England for kicking an opponent and in his early career numerous media tales of adultery. Ashley Cole, the 6th highest capped England player of all time, perhaps with limited time left in his career at 31 years old but with off the field media attention due to previous relationships and certain air gun incidents he does not jump out to be the next captain.

In the post WW2 era 26 players have been awarded the prestige of the national armband. Since 1990, 10 players have fulfilled the role and of those 10 who can really be seen as setting an example for the nations hopes and dreams. Top of the list is Gary Lineker, Lineker captained his country 18 times, scoring 48 goals in 80 games. It cannot be disputed that Lineker fulfilled his time and honour impeccably and was well know for his sportsmanship whilst maintaining the highest level of competitveness. Lineker finished a dazzling career without ever being booked or sent off, a feat that no recent player has been able to match to club or country.

It is apparent the recent captains have a harder task in terms of the approach of media and that the growth of the internet and social media have led to increase spotlight pressures. Regardless of the increased forms of media the modern player seems to have lost the ability of self respect, control and professionalism that players of old exhumed.

Nick Dobson