Relocation, Relocation


So closure comes, after much speculation and some huge moves, the transfer window has closed with an unbelievable final day.

Just two weeks ago Darren Bent moved from Sunderland to Aston Villa, a move at the time which many were questioning. He cost £18m plus and many thought this was a huge sum for someone who wasn’t even an England regular. What Bent has though is tons of goals, spread over 5 years. His record at Sunderland was great and therefore this transfer shouldn’t have raised so many doubts. Although he’s not an all-round forward by any sense he scores loads of goals and Villa have needed someone like to do that for years.
With Young/Albrighton one side and Downing the other Bent should have a field day. His goal against City being a prime example of his positional play and being ready to take any chance that may come his way. The deal also seemed great for Sunderland, they had sold a want away player for a much around double the fee they paid 18 months previously and Steve Bruce, a manager who has a history of bringing some great players in wherever he goes, could reinvest. He has since used the money to bring in Stephane Sessegnon (£6m) from PSG. Read more of this post

Homophobia in Football


Kick It Out are leading the way

If the average football fan was asked to name an openly gay player their answer would more than likely be based on speculation rather than fact. This is because in the modern game only one man has openly declared his sexuality, Justin Fashanu, and he sadly took his own life in 1998.

Homophobia is an issue that has very rarely been tackled in the “beautiful game” and is seen by many as a taboo subject, PR tycoon Max Clifford openly admitted telling two big name Premier league players to keep their sexuality hidden because English football “remains in the dark ages and is steeped in homophobia.” Read more of this post

How do we combat sexism in football?


West Ham's Karen Brady ahs led the way for women off the pitch

In recent years, women have started to have more and more of a substantial role in football. Karen Brady has led the way off the pitch, currently as vice-chairman of West Ham United Football Club and previously as CEO of Birmingham City Football Club. On the pitch, Wendy Toms was the first ever female assistant referee, officiating in the football league as early as 1994.

So why when women have been a part of men’s football for so long is there still sexism in our game? -read on>

City Undone by Lack of Ambition


Tevez, Silva and Balotelli - all possess enormous talent

Manchester City have soared to new Premier League heights this season on the back of an impressive away record that is second only to Manchester United’s. On Saturday however, facing a resilient Villa side, the dour uni-dimensionalism of City’s style was stripped naked to its ugly core.

Roberto Mancini’s structured approach to building a top-four team has made many a dull 90 minutes seem like 180. The Mancini method is as follows: make a strong and disciplined base and decorate with flair and creativity later on. Judging by the evidence of Saturday’s game, he is still a long way from putting the cherry on top. -read on>

Liverpool FC: Time For Heroes


Player-Manager Kenny Dalglish wins the double in 1986

If you thought the situation that Roy Hodgson met at Anfield was difficult, well then spare a thought for Kenny Dalglish who has walked into a complete and utter mess. Bereft of confidence a squad that should be comfortably in the European spots finds itself closer to relegation. The reasons are many but primarily come from the mismanagement of the club at the top level over the last few years. The club Hicks and Gillett bought was heading to its second Champions League Final in three years. Negative net spending, a chief executive and a manager later John Henry and NESV bought a club in the relegation zone. They needed to turn the club around and immediately appointed Damien Comolli in a Director of Football style role. The plan seemed to be to change managers in the summer. However, with Roy Hodgson’s methods serving only to further accelerate any decline the owners felt was time to bring back the biggest living Liverpool legend in an attempt to turn things around. -read on>

Spurs Searching For Their Killer Instinct


In Gareth Bale Spurs possess a frighteningly talented footballer

Spurs performed wonderfully against Manchester United on Sunday afternoon. At times, they completely overran their opponents, who remain undefeated in the league this season. They created the best attacking moves, and the best opportunities, but they could not land the knockout blow. Spurs are still lacking the killer instinct they urgently need.

This season has seen Spurs’ meteoric rise to the mantle of Europe’s great entertainers. Harry Redknapp has put his team permanently into the ‘gung-ho’ mode that even the most daring fan rarely flirts with on Football Manager. Top scorers in the Champions League; a stunning victory over the European champions; and in Gareth Bale, Spurs possess a frighteningly talented footballer.

But the success of the last 2 years is at risk of being a fleeting phenomenon. As much as their fans might like to deny it, Tottenham are not a big club. Two UEFA cup wins in 1972 and 1984, and a league and cup double in 1961 don’t hide the fact that this season is Spurs’ first outing in Europe’s elite club competition since the 1960s. -read on>

Arsene Wenger: How to Run a Football Club


Wenger with Petit, one of his bargain signings

 

Arsenal Football club are one of the most financially sound teams in the world. While the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea have gone out spending hundreds of millions of pounds in the pursuit for success, Arsenal have operated very differently, constantly making profits while still growing and challenging for silverware.

 

This is down to one man, Arsene Wenger, who during his tenure of 14 years has revolutionised Arsenal while at the same time making them a profitable organisation. But how? -read on>

Hegemony and Football: Forcing the Celebration upon Mario Balotelli


Robbie Keane Celebrates

With a glint in his eye, Robbie Keane launches himself into a fluid cartwheel-followed-by-forward-roll movement, finished with the customary gun slinging projection to the crowd. Meanwhile, Filippo Inzaghi hurtles with no inclination as to where he is heading, hands sporadic, with his mouth contorted in the image of Munch’s The Scream. Perhaps the crème de le crème though, is the Klinsmann dive – considered de rigueur within celebration etiquette.

What, though, is to be said for the arrogant glare or the refusal to acknowledge anything having happened. Of late, Balotelli has taken to declining the flamboyant nature of the celebration and rebuking the hedonistic divulgences of his piers, favouring a more minimalist approach. In turn, a slight moral panic materialised, the likes of which Britain had not seen since the snood threatened to effeminate the world. -read on>

The times, they are a changing


Platini handing Man Utd the Champions league runners up medal

Michel Platini. The name that sends a shiver down the spines of the Premier League big boys. He’s finally got his wish, ever since he was installed as king (or whatever) of U.E.F.A, he has been on a one man mission to demolish all that is evil about the European game. No, not the racist supporters of Italy, Spain and Eastern Europe. Not the bungs and backhanders from shady agents. Not the diving and cheating at the highest level. Not even the blatant tapping up of players through the media. Platini has seen only one thing that is a danger to the European game, English football. Be afraid; be very afraid, because he has finally found a way to destroy it. -read on>

New Year’s Resolution: Show Some Integrity


Alex Ferguson and Dimitar Berbatov

Old Trafford; Sunday afternoon; FA Cup. King Kenny’s return to the fold in the Liverpool hotseat coincides with the game that the fans most want to win. Two incidents mar the game: Dimitar Berbatov’s blatant dive to win an early and decisive penalty, and Steven Gerrard’s reckless two-footed assault on Michael Carrick’s shins. To all TV viewers then, not a penalty and a definite red card. Surely Alex Ferguson and Dalglish had no option but to agree? No, wait, of course not. Silly me.

You see, the thing is that managers believe they must defend their players at all costs. “It was a penalty… he was definitely clipped… the momentum is enough to bring the player down”, said Ferguson of his centre forward, who appeared to take two perfectly balanced steps beyond Daniel Agger’s dainty challenge before collapsing to the floor (or perhaps Ferguson would have us believe there was a sudden gust of wind). read on

Dani Pacheco, Liverpool’s Cesc Fabregas


Daniel Pacheco, Spain and Liverpool's young talent

It is the summer of 2007. A product of Barcelona’s famed youth academy has just been snapped up by a leading Premier League side. Hopes are high for the youngster. Comparisons are made with Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas. Have the Catalans let another young gem slip through their fingers? Liverpool hope that the answer is yes, as they unveil their new starlet. His name is Daniel Pacheco. -read on>

Does Foster have the ‘Hart’ to become England’s numer 1?


Ben Foster England's number 1?

We’ve heard a lot about English goalkeeping problems over the last year, and rightly so, but in my opinion, after several years in the goalkeeping wilderness, we now possess two who are potentially world class.  Joe Hart has been doing good things for the last two seasons, but it’s the man Manchester United kept hidden away who I wish to discuss: Ben Foster. -read on>

Chelsea’s Dying Breed


Chelsea's young and old; Kakuta and Terry, but where's the rest of the young talent?

For a moment, it was the revival. Finally shaken back into life after a long winter hibernation, and led by their inspirational captain, the Blues were back. When John Terry seemingly secured a comeback reminiscent of the Mourinho epoch against Aston Villa on Sunday, from 2-1 down to 3-2 up in a matter of moments, the natural order had been restored.

But, just as natural selection dictates the survival of the fittest, this Chelsea side were again proved to be a dying breed. Another defining blow to the weakening dynasty was, fittingly, landed by one of the Premier League’s new kids on the block. Ciaran Clark stole in with a late header, securing a deserved point for a tenacious Aston Villa side.

After a flying start saw them open a five point lead at the top of the table after ten games, this looked like being another successful season. Since 2004, a team held together by a stable foundation of Lampard, Terry, Drogba, Cech has won ten trophies, including three league titles.

But a less endearing number ten now hangs over a once great side. That’s the number of points it has secured from the last ten league games, the worst run since 1999. A run that suggests this is not just a blip. This is the beginning of the end for a team with an average age of over 28.5. And my, how quickly the end seems to be coming. -read on>

Have West Brom finally thrown away the yo-yo?


Before I begin can I just say a happy new year to all you football lovers. Without you guys reading our ramblings we wouldn’t be able to function…so thankyou!

As I sit here watching West Brom against Man Utd, still slightly inebriated from the New Year excursions, I wonder if West Brom have finally found the right style of football to stay in the country’s top divison? -read on>

Alex Ferguson The Great; Arsene Wenger The Very Good


Wenger and Ferguson demonstrating their love hate relationship

Arsene Wenger will never be a great manager. To be a ‘great’ you must become a legend of the game, and sit alongside such masters as Shankly and Busby and, of course, the top division’s long-reigning king, Alex Ferguson.

One characteristic seems to define great managers more than any other: pragmatism. The ability to be flexible in approach and adaptable to circumstances, and to make the right choices at the right time. Pragmatism is the quality that allows great managers to keep adapting, and keep wining. Arsene Wenger has many qualities, and his ability to spot talent and nurture young players is arguably the best in the game. But his downfall is that his particular ideology – of wanting to play the game and build a team in the ‘right’ manner – gets in the way of success. -read on>

It’s Lucky for Spurs


Tottenham won the FA cup in 1991

For many of us, a new year brings with it the promise of new beginnings. Fresh challenges are there to be overcome. Old habits are consigned to the receding memory of the year that has gone as we try to re-mould and re-shape our personalities and foibles in the hope that the coming year will make us better people in some capacity. It just so happens that this particular year ends in a ‘one’. Fans of Tottenham Hotspur are particularly well-versed in the significance of that number and over the coming months, commentators and pundits will take every available opportunity to remind us all that whenever the year ends in a one, ‘it’s lucky for Spurs’. Watch out everybody, I can
already hear the conversation taking place as Chas gives Dave a ring and says “Let’s get the band back together, for old time’s sake”.

Here’s a quick history lesson. Pay attention. By May, you’ll know this off by heart. During the twentieth century, years
ending in the number one garnered two League Championships, five FA Cups and one League Cup for the north London club. Not only that but they also produced moments in the club’s folklore which have become mythological in their re-telling over the years: the only non-league side ever to win the FA Cup in 1901, the first club in the twentieth century to achieve the League and Cup Double in 1961, Ricky Villa’s stupendously outrageous dribble in the 1981 Cup Final and in 1991, Gazza, simply Gazza. -read on>

Rafael Van Der Vaart: the Big Fish Little Pond Effect


 

Rafael Van der Vaart and the Big Fish Little Pond Effect - Image Courtesy of Gregory Rodriguez Bott

We are working with These Are Utopias Who Never Happen to bring you a brand new Illustrations section to upper90magazine. If you are interested in having your artwork published by us please email us at upper90magazine@googlemail.com

Follow upper90magazine on Facebook or Twitter -read article aswell>

Window of Opportunity


Arshavin signed for Arsenal in the January transfer window in 2009

Sky Sports News doesn’t like to admit it, but often the January Transfer Window turns out to be a bit of a damp squib. Whilst there have been some notable signings such as Arshavin, Vidic and the loan of Mascherano, ultimately it can be disappointingly quiet. Teams prefer stability, and many don’t wish to lose key players halfway through a season. This in turn creates an inflated market for potential buyers. However, the top half of the Premier League appears to have more pretenders and contenders than expected this season.

After a disrupted winter schedule there are definitely four, possibly five, teams still with ambitions to fight for the title. Below them though are still a number of teams, including a couple of surprise packages amongst some underachievers, which still feel that they can push into the European places. With the league so close and the outcomes of this season still so uncertain, could the hype be justified as managers look to spend to try and gain every possible advantage and climb the table? The radio, papers and internet sites are already full of rumours. So what can we expect? -read on>

Identity Theft


Arsenal moved from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium

A sign of the ever-increasing financial pressure upon the modern game is the fact that many of England’s biggest clubs are in the process of arranging moves away from the sites they have called home for many generations. This isn’t new, in the last decade Manchester City moved away from Maine Road, their home of eighty years, and Arsenal departed Highbury, which had hosted the club since 1913. Arsenal were easily filling their relatively small capacity of 38,419 and were therefore operating with a huge financial disadvantage to their main competitor Manchester United who were hosted at the significantly larger Old Trafford. They took the opportunity to move out of Highbury to the Emirates which itself has been a financial success. But to what extent has it affected the identity and soul of the club? Surely there must be a negative side effect of leaving the home that for them had been the setting of countless triumphs? With Chelsea, Spurs, West Ham, Everton and Liverpool all planning on leaving their stadia for larger and more modern versions, fans will naturally be wary of the transition. All avenues should be pursued to ascertain what could be done to increase capacity whilst retaining the heart and soul of the club. Whilst for the business money and successes are key, the issue is a vital illustration of how for real fans nothing can replace the characteristics and traditions of the club that make it theirs. -read on>

Roy Hodgson: How to Lose Games and Alienate People


Roy Hodgson after signing for Liverpool

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Liverpool Football Club doesn’t sack managers. Well not very often anyway. The fans at Anfield are normally pretty loyal and it is because of this loyalty that the current climate surrounding the club feels so peculiar. There is an uncomfortable atmosphere surrounding all things Liverpool this Christmas. Even in the darkest days of the post-operation Houllier reign, fans never universally called for his head. After two dire seasons it was clear his time was up and it was obvious that the club had stopped progressing and instead was heading painfully backwards. It still wasn’t nice seeing him go. Even last season, whilst there was a share of Andy Gray worshipers venting their anger on 606, there was a considerable section of the fan base still 100% behind Rafa Benitez. These managers had their places in Liverpool fans’ hearts and minds and when they parted, it was with a sense of regret. However, when Roy Hodgson clears his desk at Melwood there won’t be that feeling. It is sad to admit it, but we all liked Roy more when he wasn’t our manager.

There’s something about Roy that seems to suggest he doesn’t quite get Liverpool football club. -read on>

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