Category Archives: Football

Sign Him Up


The flood of activity in the transfer market is gathering pace. Speculation, anticipation and a sense of optimism emanates round the football community. Eager fans wait impatiently like children on Christmas Eve, looking for clues wherever they can and speculating wildly. Who will be the clubs next signing? ‘Is this bloke from Djibouti going to be the answer to our defensive frailties’? ‘Is it true that the lad from Italy we’ve got on trial once played for Milan?’ ‘Apparently that Danish winger has supported us since he was seven; his parents brought him over to visit the Macclesfield silk museum on holiday. That’s exactly what we need, some real passion for the club’.

New signings usually come swathed in a blanket of praise and promise; their achievements are dressed up, like a neatly wrapped present. Nobody intentionally signs a bad player. Unless you’re Gary Neville rocking up at Anfield or El Hadj Diouf just about anywhere the chances are you will be given a fresh start and a clean slate. This is a time for optimism after all. ‘There is every chance that the ‘goal-scoring midfielder’ we’ve signed from Preston didn’t score a single goal last season because he was played out-of-position’. ‘Sure the new centre back was at the heart of the worst defense in the football league last season but I wouldn’t read too much into it’.

Gary Neville - Popular

Of course, once the season kicks off this buoyancy will quickly fade for most of us as we realise the Djiboutian full back is as adept at defending as the French Ardennes and the goal-scoring midfielder has a shot on him like Rory Milroy. If the team is not performing the honeymoon period for a new signing is not a long one. The first to feel the pressure are the strikers, just ask Fernando Torrez. They are usually the most lauded of the new recruits and have the misfortune of being expected to score some goals. Often this does not happen. Often the 30-a-season goal machine you were promised is in fact Thomas Brolin or Bosko Balaban .If this happens then you have bagged yourself an anti-hero, a goal-scoring flop. Do not fret, they will come good, if not on the pitch then certainly down at the pub as part of a brilliant anecdote. I think you will find a lot more fun can be had reminiscing about shit strikers than the good ones.

I take great pleasure recalling the potent threat caused by Danny Cademateri (7 in 91) and the clinical finisher that was Dean Saunders (3 in 44) during their time at Valley Parade. Bradford City has oodles of these menacing forwards littered throughout their recent history. Who could forget Eddie Johnston (7 in 64) or John McGinley (3 in 18)? It must be noted that although these may have arrived with a degree of expectation, thankfully none of them came with a huge transfer fee attached.

Goal Machine

Spare a thought, if you can these days, for Man City Fans. Brazilian Jo arrived in 2008 for a fee of around £6m, potentially rising to £18m with added bonuses; one would suspect this facility will not be being upheld. So far He has scored one league goal in three years. Since 2006 Man City have excelled in second-rate strikers, Corradi, Bianchi, Samaras , Bojinov, Caicaido, Benjani Santa Cruz and Dzeko all failed fantastically in sky blue. Between them they managed a miserly 32 goals in 216 games, one every 6.75 games, frightening. In transfer fees alone that’s over £3m per goal, double that with wages. People may be quick to point out mitigating factors but that is to be as deluded as you were when you believed they would be the answer to all your problems. Man City are the champions of Europe when it comes to shit signings.

Bianchi - Rubbish

However, as bad as the Eastlands contingent was, none of them flopped quite spectacularly enough. From a purely financial point of view Shevchenko puts them all in the shade. His spell at Chelsea cost the club over £50m during which time he managed only nine goals, hardly a shrewd piece of business. This is not really about money though; do Chelsea fans really care about their outgoings? Probably not, the same goes for Man City. He may have failed to match expectations but he just wasn’t bad enough for me. Nine goals, that’s prolific.

Back in 2001 John Gregory paid £5.8m for Croatian goal machine Bosko Balaban, beating off competition from Juventus, Roma and Fiorentina. He played nine times for Aston Villa failing to score once. Swiftly loaned back to Dynamo Zagreb he rediscovered his form bagging 15 in 24 games. This prompted Villa to recall the player. Back in Birmingham with expectations riding high once more the Croat got back to work, or rather didn’t. He was accused of laziness and excluded from training. He never played again and having picked up his 20,000-a-week for two and a half years left the club for free. He scored 47 times in 83 games for his next club and has been on fire ever since. He is the most expensive Premier League striker never to score.

Runner Up, Gary Neville Tache -a-Like Competition 2001


As far as disappointments go Balaban is hard to beat. Never-the-less, given his record elsewhere it is unfair to condemn Gregory’s decision to sign him. Graeme Souness on the other hand has a lot to answer for. In 1996 he received a phone call from George Weah asking him to take a look at his cousin Ali Dia. Dia, he claimed, was a Senegal international and former Paris Saint-Germain player. The Southampton manager, believing this to be true gave him a one month contract and put him straight into the first team squad. At a time when foreign players were still a rarity in England, saint’s fans will have been eager to see their new man in action. They did not have to wait long, 32 minutes in and Matt Le Tissier came off injured. On strode the Southampton number 33, the new George Weah. What followed was probably the worst individual performance in Premier League history.

Dia bumbled around the Dell for the next 21 minutes producing a display that was not matched for inept ability until Dwain Chambers tried his hand at Rugby League. Realising he had made a grave error of judgment Souness hauled him off shortly after half time, never to be seen again. The phone call it turned out was not from George Weah at all, but from the player’s agent. He had of course never played for Paris Saint Germain, or his country and was in fact a bit-part player for Blythe Spartans who had recently failed a trial at Rotherham United. The most shocking thing about this is that he actually had an agent, a good one it seems as well.

Football is not really about winning or losing, it’s about stuff like this. Ask a Southampton fan what position they finished in the league that year or what the score was that day and they probably won’t remember. Ask them about Ali Dia and your certain to provoke a wry smile. Every club has one and maybe yours is lining one up as we speak. Long live the shit signings.


Goal For The Season


Forget the brilliance of Rooney’s goal for one minute and consider its significance. It may well have been the goal that won the title for Manchester United. It certainly ended their city rivals hopes, who are now nine points adrift having played one game more. The blue half of Manchester will now join Tottenham and Chelsea in a battle to secure a top four finish.

That leaves only Arsenal with a reasonable claim to be in the race. The gunners are four points behind with 12 to play, which doesn’t sound much but despite having a far easier run-in (Man U still have to play Chelsea twice as well as Liverpool and Arsenal) you just cannot see it happening. What Sunday’s victory underlined is something that’s been said time and time again, that Ferguson’s teams know how to perform on the big occasion. They know how to win titles and will win games they don’t deserve to.

I have heard Man United fans maintain this side to be the worst they have seen, yet they are still top of the league. If they are so poor does this reflect badly on the quality of opposition? No, I do not think so. Man City, Tottenham and Arsenal have all improved this season, an assertion we shall see for sure when they take on the best in Europe this week. It is clear then that consistency is the key, and United have been, by far the most consistent team in the Premier League.

So how have they managed to be so consistent when their rivals have failed? I think the reaction to Rooney’s goal tells us an awful lot. The United bench went wild; players, staff, and management jumped for joy, and in doing so displayed a true reflection of the unity within the squad. There where no solemn faces, headphones or looks of indifference, they where genuinely delighted. This is why I believe the title is heading for Old Trafford.

The main problem facing top PL managers is squad management, finding the right balance between a settled line-up and keeping your squad players happy. Get this right and you have a team prepared to work hard for each other and one that will grind out wins. Get this wrong and you risk creating a divided, sulky squad who are out for themselves. Competition for places is of course a healthy thing but when you have two or three high profile players competing for one place it’s hard not to imagine feelings of resentment. I’m not sure when you see Man City, Tottenham or Chelsea score the entire bench is necessarily very happy about it.


The Story Of Transfer Deadline Day


Transfer deadline day: sports greatest soap opera. More twists, turns, drama and sub-plots than an anniversary special, and almost as ridiculous. It is probably the most exciting yet repulsive day on the football calendar. For every jubilant fan, drooling over their new messiah, another sits dejected and mournful at the loss of their hero. Of course there will be the more uninspiring signings along the way, but today always looked set to be a big one.

It had all the right ingredients; big names, big asking prices and most importantly big holes to fill. The move everyone was waiting for was of course Fernando Torres; would he go to Chelsea and what would happen in the ensuing merry-go-round? Elsewhere Spurs seemed to be looking at every half-decent striker in Europe, Blackpool where sweating on the future of Charlie Adam and Man City where reportedly in the market for a left winger.

Predictably the day started slowly, gossip and signings trickled in slowly yet failed to inspire. All was quiet at Anfield. Then it picked up all of a sudden. At around half-ten rumors began to circulate that both Tottenham and Liverpool where preparing bids for Andy Carroll. Did this mean Liverpool had agreed a deal for a Torres departure? Had the Suarez deal fallen through? Kenny Dalglish tells the press “We’ve not brought anyone in as a replacement for anyone else. Movement is part and parcel of football but the most important people at Liverpool Football Club are the ones who want to be here.” A mixed message considering Torres had his transfer request turned down on Friday.

We were about to witness a huge statement of intent from the Liverpool board as almost as soon as the rumours had surfaced, news came in that Newcastle had turned down an astonishing £30m bid from Liverpool for Andy Carroll. Thirty million for Andy Carroll. Put that in perspective, it is the same amount Barcelona paid for David Villa in the summer. It is more than Rooney, Drogba, Tevez and indeed Torres. If Newcastle were holding out for more it was a risky tactic.

Elsewhere Tottenham’s hopes of capturing Aguero are quashed as he signs a new deal at Athletico Madrid. Apparently Spurs are now chasing Aguero’s teammate Diego Forlan but it is looking desperate for them now. Blackpool confirm the signing of Andy Reid, just as Manchester United emerge as favorites in the chase for Charlie Adam. The Tangerines however where playing hard-ball, apparently they were now refusing to take calls from Liverpool now.

Back to the big story and the plot thickens. Liverpool have made a second bid of £35m which we are told meets Newcastle’s valuation, Carroll is also keen it is said. The deal is on, or is it? We still have no idea what is going on with the Torrez deal or how it affected this one plus Luis Suarez is yet to put pen to paper. Liverpool could end the day with the best strike-force in the premiership, but then again they might end up with David Ngog. It also emerges that the second bid is also rejected by Newcastle, unbelievable stuff. Defiant Liverpool are however keen on their man, and inevitably a fee is agreed after the striker hands in a transfer request. Carroll is now on his way to Liverpool, as is Charlie Adam by all accounts in an incredible turnaround of events. The deals are far from complete yet though.

The Spurs striker search is now officially called off as Harry Redknapp announces there is “no chance” of the club signing a striker tonight, nor any chance of Peter Crouch leaving for Newcastle as Andy Carroll’s replacement. “This comes after reports Tottenham made a late bid to hijack the Carroll deal as well as approaching Villarreal forward Guiseppi Rossi. Disappointing news for those in search of drama as Spurs are usually good value for money on transfer day (unlike Andy Carroll (sorry couldn’t help it)). Mind you I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear from them again, late bid for Torres?

Well that would be impossible now as news comes in that Chelsea have had a £50m offer accepted and the Spaniard is on his way to London for talks. Not sure how Reds fans are supposed to be feeling now but it’s not long before they can breathe a sigh of relief. The first piece of the Liverpool jigsaw is complete, Luis Suarez has finally signed. One piece that will definitely be missing however is Charlie Adam after reported talks break down. Another big development, overshadowed up to now by all the madness, is that Chelsea are now very close to capturing David Luiz. That would take their days spend up to a staggering £70m, and we thought their big spending days were over.

It’s getting late now, less than an hour to go and there is still no confirmation that the Torres, Carroll or Luiz deals have been finalized. This is classic deadline day stuff but we are yet to see an out of the blue, last minute development. Step up Tottenham Hotspur, we knew we had not seen the last of them, first a cheeky bid for Phil Neville is rejected, and then news breaks that Spurs are rushing through an eleventh-hour deal for…you guessed it, Charlie Adam. Terrible news for Blackpool fans with only minutes left to spare now. It’s 10:56 when the breaking news arrives; Andy Carroll has signed a five-and-a-half year deal with Liverpool. Still no news on Torres, what’s going on? One, two, three minutes go by and then right on the hour an official announcement from Chelsea, Torrez and Luiz have both completed their deals. Carroll’s record domestic transfer fee stood for all of four minutes.

Obviously there where countless other deals, no-deals, rumours and hear-say during the course of the day but ultimately everyone was, and will be talking about Liverpool. It appears they have re-found that big club mentality, we certainly would not have seen such bullish authority in the market this time last year. It’s also worth noting that none of the top three got involved today. Obviously they are happy with their squads and rightly so, but could this mean the second half of the season is about to take a different course?

Without doubt the biggest winners of the day where Blackpool, a truly heroic effort to keep hold of Adam, he will keep them up and that is priceless. The biggest losers? It’s a toss-up between Newcastle and David Ngog, neither look likely to get a sniff up front for the remainder of the season.


Home Nations Set For Comeback


A new sponsorship deal for the FA has brought about the possibility of a revived home nations championship starting in 2013. The home nations, last played in 1984 was already set for a comeback this year, albeit without England’s presence. Now sponsors Vauxhall, who also back Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are said to be actively encouraging England to compete. The FA, at the time of writing has said the 2013 tournament would be a one-off to celebrate its 150th anniversary, although the idea of an annual competition has not been completely ruled out.
The tournament was played annually for 100 years, England and Scotland dominating for the most part with 54 and 41 wins respectively. Its demise was attributed to falling attendances, crowd troubles and England’s desire to play against stronger opposition. Since then several attempts have been made to revive the competition, its supporters arguing improved attendances and a significant reduction in football related violence would make it viable again. However critic’s such as the FA claim fixture congestion and the relative importance of the World Cup and European Championships make it impractical.
FA general secretary Alex Horne said, “The reality of preparing for qualifiers that we face for the European Championship and the World Cup mean that managers rightly want to experience different playing styles, and fans want to experience different playing styles, and we only have a limited number of friendly matches available.”
As much as the proposal may be impractical it is likely to be a hit with fans who will relish not only the passionate nature of the fixtures but also the chance to actually win something. England would surely be favorites and winning could just be the catalyst needed to push on to greater things. Unfortunately the fixture list would dictate that other friendly games would need to be sacrificed to make way for the tournament. Unless the domestic game was to be drastically transformed in order to better accommodate the national team this is always going to be the case.


Snood Do You Think You Are?


Forget the obscene transfer fees, inflated wages, player power and petulance, there is one thing above all that has wound up football fans this winter. Snoods. The latest must have personal insulation accessory for the modern footballer. Ever since John Barnes controversially first donned a pair of gloves in the late 80’s keeping warm has increasingly become a pre-occupation for certain players. This seasons chilly weather has meant a huge surge in popularity for winter warmers. Does it really make a difference or are they just being indulgent pussy cats?

Ipswich Boss Roy Keane is certainly in no doubt, “Don’t get me started. I don’t know how they do it. It’s very strange. Gloves, scarves, I think somebody came on a few weeks ago for [Manchester] City who had a hat on.

“I don’t know how they do it and focus on the game, it’s weird. That’s the way the game’s gone.”

Nor is former Republic of Ireland forward Tony Cascarino, “It’s like a fashion accessory and personally, I think it’s typical of the modern footballer. I don’t want to seem like a dinosaur but I think the modern game is full of players who are of the ‘softer option’ when it comes to playing football. I would see it as a weakness, slightly, that they’re not a real man.”

The reason why we’re seeing it now, he says, is that the dressing room has changed into a much more indulgent environment.

“It’s not frowned upon now, but 20 or 30 years ago a player would not have got away with it. He would have been buried [with abuse].”

I have to agree that the modern footballer is certainly more indulgent than ever before. What-more I cant help noticing that many of the Premier Leagues snood wearers are also among the leagues more controversial figures. You would never see a Giggs or Scholes wearing one, (mainly because Ferguson has banned them) think about it, nearly all the PL’s snood wearers have a history of indulgence or scandal. A lot of them also play for Manchester City.

Carlos Tevez toys are never in the pram, much like teammate Mario Balotelli. Then there is the most over-paid player in the world, Yaya Toure. DJ Campbell, who was arrested in connection with a stabbing a few years ago. Liverpool’s Maxi Rodrigues, who was booted out of Athletico Madrid for his petulance. Not forgetting that nasty little piece of work at Arsenal, Samir Nasri. I’m pretty sure Craig Bellamy also likes to keep his neck warm.

There are certain circumstances where thermals may be considered acceptable, perhaps if your a goalkeeper, or maybe if you ply your trade in Russia. But wouldn’t it be nice if a few of these guys would show some respect for our footballing culture and man-up.

If you ever needed an example of this cast your minds back to Liverpool vs Tottenham a few weeks ago. Jamie Carragher is fuming as he is reluctantly led off the field with a dislocated shoulder, it soon becomes clear his anger is vented towards his replacement Sotirios Kyrgiakos who is busy tying his hair up.Roy Keane,


Top Five Unbelievable Tekkers


Unbelievable Tekkers‘ (adj)
a phrase coined by former footballer, actor and all-round good guy Andy Ansah. It describes a moment of technical brilliance and has become a cultural phenomenon among football fans.

Some tekkers are good, some tekkers are bad, but some are…… unbelievable tekkers. Here is my top five most unbelievable tekkers. Vote for your favourite and if you know of any more unbelievable tekkers please forward them to me.

Spain’s Mata with a ridiculous nutmeg during the warm up.

Sublime skill and finish from Jay Emmanuel Thomas for the Arsenal Reserve team.

Calvante scores an audacious penalty with his standing foot!

Hamut Altintop hits a 30-yard volley direct from a corner

Robinho mocks the opposition with this solo effort

The best 5-a-side goal ever

I know i did say this was a top five, but i just could not decide which clip to leave out. Please vote for your favorite and if you think you can find some examples of even more unbelievable tekkers please let me know.


FIFA Scum


So Sepp Blatter is now calling England sore losers following last weeks disgraceful goings on. Absolute rubbish. FIFA dismissed England’s bid because our media exposed them for what they are, corrupt, self-important money-grabbers. The BBC expose shamed FIFA, who rather than stick to the principles expected of such an influential organisation have reacted in a childish, self defensive manner.
Now we no longer have anything to loose it is paramount that we and anybody who cares to join us fully exposes FIFA corruption and pushes for change. Who are these 22 individuals who wield such power? What do they have to do have to do with football? and how can such an important cultural, financial and political decision be decided in such a secretive, backward way? The diplomatic boot-licking was sickening. Why should leaders and future King’s be groveling to these nobodies?
I may sound bitter, and I am,though not because we lost the bid. Because of the manner in which we did. Because despite having what was acknowledged as the best technical bid we received only 2 votes. Because since then FIFA officials have publicly blamed the English media for this.
The English media found solid evidence that proved FIFA was corrupt. A good journalist should always report what is in the public interest. Our media was fully justified in doing so. If anything, the best thing to come from this is that it re-enforces what we already suspected.


Who Will Win The World Cup?


We ought to get this debate started early; it’s going to dominate our summers after all. Who will win the World Cup? With less than 50 days to go we are beginning to get a clearer picture of who’s fit, on form and firing. Unfortunately not many of these can be said of the England team right now, but I’ll save that for later. Of course there will be the usual surprises along the way but of the 32 teams most have little, or no chance of winning so I will focus on my top 8.

ARGENTINA

If Diego Maradonna knows what he is doing he does a very good job of disguising it. He used over 50 players in a terrible qualifying campaign that included a 6-1 defeat to Bolivia. World-class players have been dropped in favour of uncapped veterans in a series of bizarre goings on. There are even suggestions El Diego is holding back his countries best players in order to protect his legacy as the best ever. You would expect a similarly laughable World Cup this summer but somehow I doubt it. Argentina will have one of the most talented squads in South Africa, including the mercurial Messi. In spite of their manager I believe they will be a dangerous team capable of beating anybody. Don’t be surprised to see them win it, similarly don’t be surprised to see them fall at the first hurdle.
Prediction: Quarter Finals

BRAZIL

Always among the favorites, no different this time round. Brazil now have a solid defense to back up their traditional flair and style. Dunga has instilled a real battling spirit and managed to bring trouble causers such as Elano and Robinho into line. I’d expect them to be in the final, at England’s expense.
Prediction: Runners-Up

ENGLAND

The nation waits on baited breath once again on our walking wounded. At the time of writing it looks like Capello may just piece together a full strength squad, but history tells us to expect a major casualty a la Beckham, Owen, Rooney. It is popular opinion that England have no chance without the Manchester United forward, I do not subscribe to this theory. Yes he is one of the worlds best, yes he is integral to England, but we are not a one man team. England are blessed with several world class players that will be the envy of many others in the tournament. It remains to be seen if Terry and Gerrard can regain top form in time, but there are several others peaking just at the right time. Capello’s England have the resilience that’s been missing in recent competitions and I do not see them crumbling as easily under pressure. Unfortunately there is still a lot of ground to make up on Spain and Brazil so we may have to make do with a well earned 3rd place.
Prediction: Semi Finals

GERMANY

No outstanding players of note, but perhaps the most solid and well prepared team. I’m sure the same has been said of Germany for the last four or five tournaments but it’s just the German way. They will qualify from their group, get an easy run to the semi’s and narrowly lose to a far superior opponent.
Prediction: Semi Finals

HOLLAND

In many ways similar to England, great players great expectations, not-so-great results. If fit and firing they will be a good side and if Robben’s current form continues he could make them the surprise package. Their worry will be the poor form of so many others, who’s promising careers have stalled since their big money moves. Exciting to watch and will score plenty, just not against the big guns.
Prediction: Quarter Finals

ITALY

Very hard to imagine a repeat of 2006, mainly because I think the competition is much better but also because Italy do not look like the side they where. The core of the squad is aging and the new breed have not lived up to expectation, narrowly ousting Ireland to qualify. Will qualify from an easy group and will be hard to beat but do not look like world champions.
Prediction: Quarter Finals

IVORY COAST

May be a contentious choice in place of France in my top eight, yet the first African World Cup could yet see the first African champions. Captained and Spearheaded by Didier Drogba they have a powerful team with bags of european experience. Poor performance in the African Cup Of Nations was a surprise and they have arguably the toughest draw, alongside Portugal and Brazil. If they get past the group stage they may gain momentum.
Prediction: Group Stage

SPAIN

Best keeper, best midfield,, best attack, defense is not to shabby either should the opposition actually get the ball.
Prediction: Winners

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Do We Need Video Technology?


FIFA President Sepp Blatter

So we have reached crunch time of the football season, every goal, every decision, every missed chance will now definine your clubs year. The difference between success, failure and mediocracy can be very little. With so much riding on each game it is often the man in the middle who comes under most scruitiny. A bad penalty decision or offside call may cost a team their season. These decisions sadly effect more than just a good day out for the fans. The sorry financial state of football means failure on the pitch can have a knock on effect for years to come as clubs financial predictions usually rely on their team reaching certain targets. I’m not going to blame this on referee’s, the problem is largely due to mismanagement, but we do have a situation where one bad call could even be the difference between a clubs existance or not. Most importantly bad refereeing effects our enjoyment of the sport. Ask a fan where their season went wrong and I guarentee most will recall a bad decision that cost them a game (at least Bradford fans will). Watch a game in a pub and the talking point will be all too often the referee. I understand I may be presenting a rather cynical view of the game but what I am trying to do, in a rather long winded way, is to bring up the argument for video technology.

Refereeing a football game is a difficult task and I don’t want to take anything away from the job they do. However the three men in black are no longer sufficient enough to officiate to the standards we expect. TV replays mean every call is under intense scruitiny, we all know better with heinseight, and multiple camera angles. We all know this within seconds of the incident, during which time the game has stopped while the ref shepherds away the hoards of protesting players. Surely the time would be better spent taking a quick look up at the screen? Problem solved. It seems a no brainer, but of course there is much more to it than that.

FIFA seem dead set against the idea and are rolling out alternative options such as the fourth and fifth officials seen in the Europa League. My favourite so far is the introduction of segways in next seasons Blue Square Premier so linesmen can keep up to the pace of play. My thinking is the Blue Square Premier may not be the most effective test for this particular new technology. Joking aside why would FIFA be so against video technology? First of all it would represent one of the biggest changes the game has seen, it is a massive decision to make. There are fears it could effect the rhythm and flow of a game, as I have pointed out action replays can be seen within seconds but how far do you go with it? Then there is the issue of restarting play, it is not always going to be cut and dry. For example with a turned down penalty appeal or offside appeal. These thing need careful consideration.

Rugby League is usually seen as the perfect example of how to use the technology and the fast paced nature of the sport means it is the closest comparison we have to football. Fans seemed to quickly warm to the change and it appears to have intergrated seamlessly into the game, even adding to the excitement. However scratch under the surface and you find all is not all so rosy. There are concerns it adds inconsistency to the sport, the technology is not the same for non televised games as it is for those shown live. This means the top teams enjoy the ‘advantage’ of video refereeing on a far more regular basis than others. Apply this inconsistency to football and you are adding to the list of so called advantages the big clubs have over their rivals. Footballs superior coverage should however mean these inconsistencies would not occur, at least within the same league. Of course there is the argument any change should reach down to the grass roots of the sport.This is never going to be possible for obvious reasons but for me it is not a good enough excuse to not to introduce the technology where possible.

Video technology does not represent an advantage, the officials remain impartial. What it does do is provide clarity and put a stop to poor decisions. The pace of the modern game is such that ref’s are often behind play and in no position to make a well judged call. Theo Walcott this week said he can do the 100m in 10.3 seconds, need I say more. The most important consideration is how and when to use it, it cannot replace the referee, merely compliment him or her. This means only using it when is strictly necesarry, such as to determine wether the ball crossed the goal line. I think it could also be used for difficult penalty decisions and crutial offside calls. The referee’s would have to use their own discretion when deciding to go to the replays.This way it will not spoil the flow of the game, it may not even be needed in most games. I’m sure referee’s will have the common sense and awareness to know when they need help. The point is if we have the tecnology on hand why not use it in those instances where it is needed. By searching for alternative solutions FIFA are aknowleging there is a problem, why not just accept the obvious resolution? Video technology now plays a part in most major sports, generally to good effect. Yes there may be teething problems and it may not be perfect, but neither are referee’s. I have a feeling FIFA bigwigs may just come round to the idea if a bad decision costs their team the World Cup this summer. Unless of course they are in their pockets afterall.


Bouncing Back


Like Alan Partridge Newcastle are bouncing back

Last summer a Newcastle fan ended an hour long rant about the state of his club by telling me “it’s alright we’ll gan strite back up, we’re tee canny good like”. I laughed in his face and told him they would be playing L**ds next season in League 1 (I’m a Bradford fan by the way). L**d’s recent determination to ruin their season yet again may just save me from ending up with egg all over my face, although on one count I was well and truly proved wrong. Mondays stalemate between Forest and Cardiff secured Newcastle’s promotion to the Premier League with 5 games yet to play. They have looked Champions in waiting all season and fully deserve to retake their place back where the geordie faithful expect them to be.

I doubt I was the only one writing off Newcastle last summer however. If there was ever an good example of how not to run a club this was it. We shall save Mike Ashley for later but here was a club suffering from serious instability. Four managers came and went in one season, all of whom seemed to have little or no control over who came and went. This is of course where former director of football Dennis Wise comes in. Directors of Football are rarely popular figures in the English game with fans and managers alike. A manager expects to be allowed to manage his squad and the fans expect to be allowed to hold him accountable when things go wrong.

DOF’s throw a spanner in the works. The appointment of Wise made no sense whatsoever, why did seasoned managers like Keegan and Kinnear need an inexperienced, unproven figure to ‘oversee footballing matters’? Players where signed and sold without the managers knowledge prompting Keegan to resign. Wise had been given given too much control it seems. I believe the best interpretation of the role is somebody who acts as a senior consultant, an experienced head on hand to offer advice, not to interfere.

The blame cannot rest solely on Wise’s shoulders however, most should lay with the man who appointed him. Chairman, Mike Ashley. Running a business is different to running a football club and Ashley looked out of depth. He has never been popular on Tyneside and with good reason. Inbetween hiring and firing Mr Ashley was also trying to rid himself of the club with little success. Thanks to his mismanagement Newcastle’s value plummeted in line with his popularity. He may be able to sell the shirts but he couldn’t sell the club that played in them.

Newcastle are a big club, their attendances prove that, their successes however do not. They may have nearly done it in 96 but for all the money spent chasing the dream they have hardly been close since. Supporters are right to feel let down, they are perhaps the best in the country. I think the fans however need to accept their responsibility in part for the clubs downfall. Sam Allardice is a solid manager who although may not have provided the entertaining football would certainly have kept them in the league. It was the fans who got him the sack. It was the fans who demanded big name signings and quick success. Newcastle supporters exercise a huge amount of power over their club and rightly so, they are the club. As we all know supporters of any club are usually the first to point fingers and demand changes when their team struggles to meet expectation. In having so much influence it may have just been the case that the their fans initiated the instability that has plagued the club.

That was a year ago and what a difference a year makes. On the pitch Chris Hughton has steadied the ship as has it appears Mr Ashley off it. Hughton inherited a slender squad, low on confidence and unfancied. Rather than sulk the player have knuckled down and responded to their managers professional approach. He seems quick to play down success and appears to have his feet firmly on the ground. I think this is what the club needs and the fans seem to have responded. Attendances have averaged over 42,000, only 5 Premiership clubs could better that, a tremendous achievement. Off the field Mike Ashley has been a far less conspicuous character. He released funds in the January window to secure promotion and seems to have set realistic budgets and targets.

Next seasons transfer kitty is rumored to be around £15million. This may seem a pittance in today’s market but Newcastle need to be mindful of their position. They are competing against the promoted clubs and next seasons primary target ought to be be survival. This season out of the top division should have served as a lesson and it would be disappointing to see them to return to their old ways. I honestly think they will do a lot better than survival but if not lets hope the supporters and chairman keep patience. They may never get back to where they where “ Them days is over like” but they certainly are bouncing back.