Thursday, 24 December 2009

The End of Mark Hughes

The lights are out for Mark Hughes and his 15 month reign Eastlands. To my complete amazement no sooner had he been shown the exit door and given his P45 Roberto Mancini was wiping his feet at the entrance quicker than a rat up a drain pipe!!!

Now we all know football can occasionally bring up some stories that bring Corrie writers to their knees but this is just simply ridiculous... actually it's stupid! Sparky certaintly raised the electricity bill with his expenditure of £200m including the likes of Gareth Barry (£18m), Adebayour (£25m), De Jong (£16m), Santa Cruz (£17 ½m), Lescott (£24m), Toure (£14m) and Tevez (heaven knows exactly how much). These are all core squad players starting the majority of games, so guess what? It will take time, Rome wasn’t built in a day, or should I say Abu Dhabi!!! Ever heard of process Mr Chairman????

Time has become a commodity in football and who is the seed with for this? Rich football owners who desire to use their cash to buy football clubs as their new play toy - demanding success as instant as their coffee, as quickly as they spent their cash.

On City’s officially website Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak stated ‘A return of 2 wins in 11 Premier League games is clearly not in line with targets that were agreed at the start of the season’. Were they targets made with a gun to Hughes’s head? They need time, learn how to play together as a team, understand each others strengths and weaknesses and manage the expectation that many of those players haven’t experienced before.

So 6th place in the league, the closest they have been to their local rivals since Technicolor, and in a semi final for the 1st time in nearly 30 years and to still lose your job!!! What signal does this sent to the rest of the Premier League? Messrs Zola, Brown and Megson will be feeling they could be stuffed come Boxing Day.

So what of the new boy at Man City? Roberto Mancini wasn’t the first choice, and only time will tell if he can cut it! Yes he’s won two Serie A titles, but City fans wanted a big name with Premier League experience like Hiddink or Mourinho, both proven men. Mancini's appointment feels hasty over a cloud of uncertainty and he will be under immediate pressure to succeed, especially now he has a head start being only two games away from Wembley.

This wouldn’t have done Man City’s PR any good over the handing of Hughes’s exit. Stay tuned to this drama - there are a few episodes to run still.

Premier League Team of the Year 2009

So here we go, it been a another fantastic year for the Premier League – a new multi-million TV rights contract, the League title going to the final weeks of the season. The relegation battle going to the final day.

The trophies were split between the big two of Man Utd (Carling Cup and Premier League) and Chelsea (FA Cup). The PFA Player of the Year went to Ryan Giggs and Football Writers Player of the Year is currently Steven Gerrard.

Do bear in mind that this team is for the calendar year of 2009 (including 2008/9 and 2009/10 seasons).

Goalkeeper – Edwin Van de Sar – Manchester United
Set a record for 14 consecutive clean sheets in 2008-09 a total on 1,311 minutes – a world record, if that doesn’t get you into a team of the year than nothing will.

Right Back – Bacary Sagna - Arsenal
Never the most glamous of positions is right back, was a tough call between him and Glen Johnson. France’s established right back, quick and consistent week in-week out and is an excellent outlet for another right sided midfielder. Not a fan of the hair though!

Centre Back – Nemanja Vidic – Manchester United
Since his arrival in 2006 Vidic has been the focal point of United’s three consecutive league titles. 14 clean sheets on the bounce in 2008-09 and started every league game that season. Winner of Man Utd’s supporters and players’ player of the year ahead of Ronaldo and Giggs.

Centre Back – Phil Jagielka – Everton
Surprise choice but throughout the 2008-09 was one of Everton’s most reliable players, including playing a major part of their run to the FA Cup final including scoring the penalty to book their place. Catching the eye of Fabio Capello earning caps against Spain in February and Ukraine in April. Cruelly missed the showpiece event at Wembley due to an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in April against Man City and hasn’t played since, still a worthy inclusion.

Left Back - Gael Clichy – Arsenal
Yes another year without a trophy but when Ashley Cole left in 2006 Mr. Wenger had a more than ready replacement. The only trouble for Clichy is that Kieran Gibbs is fast becoming a player that will give him a run for his money.

Right Midfield – Cristiano Ronaldo – ex. Manchester United
Do I really need to say why? One of the best players in the world – Former Ballon D’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year in 2008. Scored 18 leagues goals in 2008-09 season and lead United winning Carling Cup, World Club Championship and Premier League title in 2009. Only Messi is better than this boy.

Centre Midfield – Steven Gerrard – Liverpool
Football Writers Footballer of the Year 2009, the most prestigious individual award in English football, 16 Premier League goals. Quite simply Mr. Liverpool, season in-season out he carriers The Reds hopes and dreams. Fingers crossed he continues to reproduce the same form for England come South Africa.

Centre Midfield – Frank Lampard – Chelsea
Yet another 20 goal season for Big Frankie Lampard, 12 goals in 37 league appearances for Chelsea. One of the first on the team-sheet every week for Chelsea, his 20th and most important goal of the season would undoubtedly been the winner at 2009 FA Cup Final vs. Everton.

 Left Midfield – Ryan Giggs – Manchester United
The only man to score in every season of the Premier League and winner of the 2008-09 PFA Player of the Year and Sports’ Personality of the Year. Giggsy has been consistent as opposed to electrifying and his awards this year have been a testament to the longevity of his fantastic career.

Centre Forward – Fernando Torres – Liverpool
The most complete striker in world football, great technical ability, superb speed, two footed, can score goals with his head too! Worth every penny and without doubt is Benitez’s best buy. Voted number 50 in a Times poll of Liverpool 50 most influential players - 62 goals in 101 games for Liverpool, better than 1 in 2. Fiat Accompli!!!

Centre Forward - Didier Drogba – Chelsea
If you asked most defenders in the Premier League who they least like to play against, the majority would probably say Didier Drobga. Yes he likes to throw a strop and can give Tom Daley a gold medal on the 10m diving board. But there is no questioning his physical presence, skill and damn knack of scoring big goals in big games. Case in questions: Goals in both the FA Cup Semi and Final of last season and his recent double of the highest quality against Arsenal in November (hurts me to say that!!!)

Manager of the Year: Roy Hodgson – Took over his team in two seasons ago in a relegation dog fight. Victory on the final day of the season at Portsmouth, then finishing 7th in 2008-09 season and have recently reached the last 32 of the Europa League.

Now as you read this you may be thinking, hang on a second, all but one is from the so called ‘Big Four’. So here an alternative list of players, who would also make a team of the year outside of the ‘Big Four’.

Team of the Year 2009 (outside of the ‘Big Four’)

Goalkeeper – Shay Given – Manchester City – Best keeper so far this season - knows how to save a penalty or two. Pity he won’t be at the World Cup.

Right Back – Mario Melchiot – Wigan - not the most glamorous role of positions, but very consistent, strong physical presence and very experienced.

Centre Back – Ryan Shawcross – Stoke City – Fantastic season surprising many teams with their ability to survive in the Premier League. Former Man United youngster, you know they are short of central defenders right now! An England call-up is around the corner.

Centre Back – Brede Hangeland – Fulham – Great year with Fulham that saw Arsenal considering a 15m bid for him, strong solid central defender - in a similar stature to Vidic.

Left Back – Stephen Warnock – Aston Villa – After a great few seasons with Blackburn moved to Aston Villa and has a good chance of being the 2nd choice left back for the World Cup.

Right Midfield – James Milner – Aston Villa – Ahead of team mate Ashley Young for England squad to the world cup, finally scoring goals to match his true ability.

Centre Midfield – Stephen Ireland – Manchester City – Proof that home grown talent does exist! City’s best player of their 2008-09 season a massive loss to the international scene for Ireland.

Centre Midfield – Clint Dempsey – Fulham – England want to watch him come June!!! Skilful and has a habit of arriving at the right time in the box. Huge cog in Fulham's successful year.

Left Midfield- Luka Modric – Tottenham – Spurs paid a few quid for this boy, but has the proven ability to unlock any defence, class act!

Centre Forward – Jermain Defoe – Tottenham – 5 goals in one game, joint top scorer in the Premier League, key member to the England World Cup squad, finally!

Centre Forward - Gabriel Agbonlahor – Aston Villa – Villa's leading marksman, 8 league goals so far this season, recent good form has got him back into the England squad.

Merry Christmas Football Fans.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The race is on again!!!!!!!!

A roar was felt across the country – Chelsea were beaten and with it the door left wide open for the race for the title.  Hats off to Man City, they showed some bottle (Arsene Wenger are you reading this?????) - despite going a goal down to Adebayor’s best attempts to show Carlo Ancelotti that he’s the man to fill the Drogba void come January.  Man City showed real levels of heart, commitment, effort, playing to their strengths and playing some decent footie - this was a cracking advert for Premier League football. Adebayor finally remembered he plays in sky blue and equalised for City before Tevez scores a goal - that really should have been saved by the once invincible Petr Cech.  Chelsea fans shouldn’t be too alarmed…..well at least until the new year.

On the subject of goalkeeping another blinder from currently the best keeper in the league: Shay Given made his 2nd penalty save within a month from the right boot of Frank Lampard, who last missed a penalty when Kajagoogoo were 'Too Shy Shy'. Lets’ hope Big Frank is getting them out of the system before SA – as with Jermaine Defoe for that matter!!! Whose Tottenham team gave another example of showing they are as soft and fragile as their North London Rivals.  In a nutshell: Spurs haven’t earned their Spurs!! And they’re not going to either!! All pretty football, good home form, but will get unstuck against any team that can rough them up away from White Hart Lane.

Man Utd cruised to an easy 4-0 win in East London, with a makeshift back four and the emergence of who could be the new Paul Scholes? Daron Gibson.  The Wenger Boys go back to winning ways with a win at home to Stoke but need to get the cheque book (or milk tokens in their case!) and get a striker quickly!! Wenger needed emergency breakdown services and called AA, costing more than £49 per year membership to get the job done.  Arshavin was fantastic, involved in everything rosy about Arsenal, showing strength, speed and terrorising the Stoke defence all day, winning a penalty (missed by Fabregas) and scoring a goal that was triple filtered and distilled 10 times.

Wenger believes Arsenal can still win the League – but Arshavin cannot lead the line week in week out, with no RVP (5 months), Theo Walcott (taking his exams) Bendtner (recovering from surgery) and Eduardo (still needs more time) Arsenal need to buy.  With Wenger ruling out Van Nistelrooy is it time to go for broke and buy Gabi Agbonlahor? - A player who Arsenal have been watching over the last seasons in a move that would do his England chances a power of good!

Now unless you have been on another planet South Africa staged the World Cup draw last Friday and our very own ‘Golden Balls’ dealt England a so called EASY (England, Algeria, Slovenia and Yanks) draw to progress to the second round. But as Tim Howard proved on Sunday England must not take any of these games lightly.  It’s a World Cup and its not 1966 - England are traditionally slow starts (1986, 1990, 2002), and USA did beat us in 1950!!  The real lucky so and so’s were the French – who not only were lucky to be in the draw in the first place but then got drawn with South Africa (the weakest of the seeded teams), Mexico (Sven Goran Eriksson managed them!!!) and Uruguay (?????) – lucky Les Bleus, a semi-final place beckons...  Let’s hope not.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Sporting ‘Crown Jewels’ – Cash or freedom for all to view?

Our proud nation of sports fans will be joyfully clapping at the news of the Free-to-Air ‘Crown Jewels’ suggestions from a recently announced independent report. This included the likely return of ‘The Ashes’ and away international football matches to terrestrial TV, but the removal of the Winter Olympics from the protected list.

Lets put this into perspective. This is only a recommendation report from David Davies (and a panel of broadcasters and former professional athletes), which has been passed onto the Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw to be reviewed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport over a period of 3 months.

The decision to bring back ‘The Ashes’ to Free-to-Air TV has disappointed ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) Chief Giles Clarke warning that it could lead to a ‘decade of delay’ for Cricket. ECB have a £300m contract with Sky and Five to provide Test Match coverage (Five currently show home series highlights) until 2013.

This money has been actively used to invest into many projects at the grass roots levels of the game, including opening the sports academy in Exeter, investment in England Women’s and Schools' Cricket; supporting all 18 Counties, employing 23,000 coaches and maintaining the 9 test grounds in England and Wales.  To lose the money generated from Sky will have massive repercussions on ECB and will without doubt cost jobs and funding.

The question is who will screen ‘The Ashes’ series in the UK? ITV seem quite content with their current sporting events: FA Cup rights, Champions League, Rugby World Cup, The Boat Race and of course the show-piece of 2010 FIFA World Cup. Channel 4 does not massively invest in sport, so that leaves BBC and Five.

BBC hasn’t screened Test cricket since 1998, but invests heavily in Radio, like the very popular Test Match Special (TMS).  For BBC to get the rights back will be a crying shame for the game and here’s why. BBC love Wimbledon and portraits every tradition that is BBC: they will do everything to keep Tennis’s major event on their screen. This will ultimately clash with ‘The Ashes’ - yes, they have more than one channel and there is the interactive service.  But what about those with an HD service?  BBC only has one channel for that! And if they have a choice it’s likely to be SW19 as opposed to NW1.

Five are possibly in the best position - they currently have rights to screen England Test Match highlights and have kept the commentary team from Channel 4’s cricket coverage, including Mark Nicholas, Geoff Boycott and Simon Hughes.  The biggest test for Five will be a financial one: they don’t posses the clout of either Sky, BBC or ITV.

The Ashes is a massive sporting event but it should be the decision of ECB to decide who has the rights to show it. If Sky have invested the money and can provide the coverage it deserves, they should have the right to show it exclusively.  If Free-to-Air companies want to obtain those rights, then they are encouraged to bid for them and create genuine competition. The problem is that Test cricket was taken off the Crown Jewel’s list 10 years ago. Now after England winning The Ashes back and ECB having a contract with Sky, noise is being made about bringing it back.  But what about other cricket series? The Crown Jewels aren’t interested in them. England vs. West Indies, South Africa and India are also key test match series and are the highlight to the English cricket summer.  Sky also screen live cricket at county level, including the popular Twenty20 Cup, The County Championship and The Friends Provident Trophy.

The ECB and Sky will fight tooth and nail to ensure that rights stay with Sky, there are still many overs left to be bowled in this innings.