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

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>

A league of their own?


 

In the future could matches between Chelsea and United only be in a European league?

Something that has been spoken about in many pubs and bars across Europe for many years is the prospect of a European Super League. How many times have you heard someone make the statement “It’s inevitable, football’s all about money anyway and TV money drives everything so it’ll happen”. Usually this is closely followed up by someone else chiming in with “Yes but, who wants to watch Man U – Real Madrid four times a season, what about the local rivalries?”
And so it goes. Most supporters feel that someone, somewhere is working away at making this happen and that there is a willingness there, a desire to make this happen. However, you look at the current set up for the clubs, the money-spinning Premier League and the really major cash-machine of the Champions League.

Why change? Well certain other planets are currently coming into alignment which might push the game’s power brokers into reviewing their future horoscopes.

Platini’s so-called financial fair play rules are upon us. Rules which may – on the face of things – make European football more equitable and lessen the power and influence of the major clubs.
In short, clubs could be banned from European competition from the 2014/15 season onwards if they do not comply with the new financial rules. So what will this mean for the clubs? -read on>

Omar Cummings and the American Way


Can we learn from Omar Cummings and the American way?

Colorado Rapids talisman Omar Cummings isn’t exactly a household name within the realms of world or even domestic football. But his performances during a recent trial spell at Aston Villa could have altered the former, with Gerard Houillier pronouncing that Cummings was ‘getting better with every training session’. However, tragedy struck for Cummings, who was to be let down by a slip in the international rankings of his native Jamaica, rendering his work permit application an impossibility.

Cummings’ rise to relative, albeit short-term European fame highlights an intriguing contrast of youth player development between the US College system and the British YTS route. For us British football enthusiasts it would be unheard of to think that a recent graduate of even the English football powerhouse universities such as Harper Adams College or the University of Bath could eventually rise through the ranks to within touching distance of the Premier League in such a short space of time. -read on>

Playing Politics


 

Welcome to Thailand - Chonburi fans in Ayutthaya

The 2011 Thai Premier League gets underway on February 12th amid unprecedented levels of popularity. The huge wave of interest in the TPL generated by the 2009 relaunch shows little sign of slowing: attendances are high, half a dozen TV channels offer TPL coverage, big-name sponsors have got involved, new stands and stadia are springing up and the game has never been so awash with cash. And the game has never been so awash with cash. That fact is a double-edged sword. Money builds new stadia and buys quality players; money also creates vested interests. The concern is, and with no little justification as we shall see, that the waterfalls of money that have been pouring into the game will influence decision-making by those in power whose impartiality should be unquestionable. And whose decisions should be influenced solely by doing what’s best by Thai football. Doing what’s best, for example, by the national team.

The Elephants have been making headlines recently for the wrong reasons. Rather embarrassingly, they failed to make it out of their group in the AFF Cup in December. This tournament, contested by the eight best footballing nations in Southeast Asia, has been dominated by Thailand over the years. But in the 2010 competition, they didn’t manage to win one of their three group games and needed an injury-time equalizer to avoid what would have been a shocking defeat to Laos. The players complained of fatigue brought on by a hectic domestic league and cup schedule for their early exit. It’s not in my nature to indulge the complaints of the modern player; but this time he should be listened to. -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>

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>

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

The Championship turned upside down


Preston recently sacked struggling manager, Darren Ferguson

Going into the New Year, many Championship clubs will be looking at their prospects of getting a play-off, or automatic promotion place by the seasons end. But while everyone is discussing how close the league is, and how any number of teams are in contention for these places, we often overlook the state of affairs at the other end of the table; more often than not it mirrors the close situation at the top.

The clubs at the foot of the table will be recovering from their festive hangovers knowing that action has to be taken soon, to stifle their demise. While other teams in the bottom half of the Championship will realize that just a short run of bad form could see them pulled down into a relegation battle. That’s why January is such an important month for these teams. The transfer window is open, so new recruits can be brought in, and there is still enough time left in the season for a new manager to make an impact, and save a club from relegation. -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>

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>

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>

Qatar 2022: Winter wonderland or summer scorcher?


Sepp Blatter 'sheiks' hands with Qatar Qatar Football Association president Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed al-Thani

In 2022 the world will be watching with baited breath as Qatar try to host the world’s biggest event, the World Cup.  The Qatar bid has been a controversial one ever since it was announced it would host the competition by FIFA president Sepp Blatter in November.

Out of the nine World Cup bids aiming to win either the 2018 or the 2022 event, only Qatar’s bid was deemed “high risk” by FIFA officials, who evaluated all the bids.  Despite their own representatives coming to this conclusion, the FIFA voters didn’t listen, and Qatar was awarded the competition, beating the USA in the 4th round by 14 votes to 8, and FIFA citing the reason of “trying to expand the game around the World” as to why they come to this decision. read on

Umbrellas for Goal Post


This is England

Big Sam is renowned for taking a dogged approach to the game, his style often described as ‘dirty’ or ‘hit and run’. So would it surprise you that I would call Sam Allardyce innovative? Allardyce has had more ideas than Stuart Baggs, remember when the FA decided to change the offside rule so that you have to effect play to be offside….so Sam put two players on the line from a free kick. And what about his training techniques…according to Michael Owen, he had his Newcastle squad on morning bike rides and pilate’s (quite a contrast from the usual football training regime’s).

Despite being sacked from Blackburn in the week, Big Sam didn’t go down without leaving one of his latest ideas with us…’Youth Football should be played in the Summer!’

Well should it? -read on>

Car‘lost’ Tevez: Why are the Premier League’s best players looking to leave?


Tevez welcome's you to Manchester-sourced from http://www.footy-boots.com

What a picture… the image that rubs salt in to the wounds of bitter rivals Manchester United…Carlos Tevez is a blue, ‘Welcome to Manchester’.

How United fans will smile at that billboard picture now… just a season and a half later and Tevez looks like he is ready to turn his back on the blue side of Manchester. Despite City claiming Tevez will not be leaving Eastlands, Tevez has claimed he will quit if he isn’t allowed to leave.

In days gone by hearing the news that the best player of one of the top Premier League clubs wants to leave, would have been shocking news. But not now, not in 2010! Tevez’s desire to leave City just reiterates the thoughts of other top players in the Premier League. He joins a long list of players who have sounded their unhappiness at England’s top clubs; Fabregas, Rooney, Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, Mascherano. -read on>

Man United v Arsenal: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly


Giggs celebrates his 'wonder goal' vs Arsenal in 1999 - sourced from http://img.dailymail.co.uk

Arsenal are back on top of the Premier league, the place their fans will hope they will be come the end of the season. With Manchester United in second the match between the two on Monday, has been described as the most highly anticipated encounter between the two in recent years!

In previous seasons, the winners of the clash have often gone on to win the title, so what is it that we have seen in previous meetings that will re-appear in Monday’s clash?

Well one thing is for sure, when the two meet there is always; the good, the bad and the ugly. Just look at the pre match build up to Monday’s game, there has been Ferguson calling on United fans to get off Wenger’s back (the good),  Evra’s random outburst claiming ‘Arsenal won’t win the league’ (the bad) and the on-going who will/ who won’t be wearing a snood (the ugly). -read on>

What has happened to Chelsea?


 

John Terry - sourced from http://i.telegraph.co.uk

What is the form of Champions? Scintillating football without losing a game? well only one team has ever done that in the Premier League, but most champions hit that ‘bad patch’, the part of the season where wins are a distant memory! If Chelsea are to be the 2010/2011 Premier League champions then November/December will certainly be remembered as their ‘bad patch’! Read more of this post

Premier League vs La Liga


Premier League vs La Liga

David Villa Celebrates for Barcelona - sourced from www4.pictures.zimbio.com

In a week that saw every premier league club score in one weekend for the first time, and also one of the greatest team performances of all time from Barcelona, which is the stronger and more exciting league?

With some of the world’s greatest players no longer opting for the premier league and looking for clubs in other countries, is the English top division losing its appeal? In the past the top flight in England has boasted some of the greatest players ever to grace the field of play, names such as Ronaldo, Bergkamp, Overmars, and Cantona are just a few. But now, even though money seems no option for most of the big clubs in the premier league, big stars seem to go elsewhere.

The warm shores and attractive football of the Spanish La Liga seems to be the preferred destination for many of the world’s stars. David Villa is the most notable name to shun the premier league, opting to stay in his native Spain with Barcelona and turning down lots of offers on the table from English clubs, and after Monday night’s performance in El clasico few could blame him.

The performance of Barcelona in that game was one of the greatest team performances La Liga and the world has ever seen. The intricate passing and fluent skill of the Barcelona players blew Real Madrid away, as it would have done all teams. The performance stemmed from some of the world’s greatest players, Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and Villa. However, all of the Barca players can play the game with ease and quality.

The Spanish game is based on skill, quick short passing and fluency and you will see that in all the teams in the Spanish top division. It may be slow at times and some might say boring, but for true lovers of the game the precision, pure talent and vision on show is a joy to watch. The passing at times is a thing of beauty, and not just from the top teams such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia, lower sides like Hercules, Sporting Gijon, and Levante play the game of football with the same ethos. You will never see a Spanish team play “ugly” football. But at times this want for perfection can become painfully slow and boring with neither side taking hold of a game. read on

West Ham and the ‘Pack': The race to avoid the Christmas Curse!


Scott Parker shows what West Ham means to him - sourced from http://www.dlcache.indiatimes.com

This weekend, all Premier league games were tinted with a delicate skirting of snow around the pitches. The presence of snow throughout the UK is a reminder to all that, winter is here and christmas is just around the corner. This is the time of the year when clubs dwelling at the bottom of the table start to get itchy feet, the time when the race to avoid being bottom at Christmas starts.

In the Premier leagues 18 year history only one team has managed to avoid the drop after being bottom at Christmas (West Brom in 2005), this is why the trend has been dubbed as ‘the curse of christmas’.

So it was no surprise when West Ham manager Avram Grant referred to yesterday’s crunch match with Wigan, as the match to ‘Save Our Season’. With West Ham and Wigan joint favourites to be relegated the atmosphere  around the game was a very much a ‘do or die’ feeling.

Fortunately for West Ham, they won the game quite comfortably, 3-1. Although still bottom the win kept them only 3 points behind Fulham in 17th and in  touching distance of safety. More Importantly they managed to pull Wigan right back in to the scenario for bottom place, separating the two teams by just two points and two places.

At Upton Park there is one player blowing bubbles….Scott Parker. The ever inspiring vice captain was sensational on Saturday and he capped his fine performance with a well deserved goal. However looking around the rest of the squad there is real reason for concern. To me this season there appears to be a real lack of urgency and pride, traits that has been associated with West Ham teams of the past. Maybe due to a transfer policy that has involved buying to many ineffectual foreigners or maybe due to the up and coming players not being as good as home-grown talent of the past. -read on>

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