Throw bananas at a player at the Euros? Could be worse, you could have committed that most evil crime of flashing an unauthorised sponsor at the cameras. As you may have read Nicholas Bendtner did this recently and got slapped with a £80k fine – of course the bookies paid it and revelled in all the publicity it brought them.
If you made the lesser crime of racist chanting, like those loveable Croatian fans you’ll get a £64k fine. That’s a collective one. One wonders what the fine would have been had each of them held up a sign with the bookies’ name on it?
We now know what the real priorities are in football, racism is simply something the footballing bods say they’ll be tough on. Homophobia? Well – let’s have the World Cup in a largely homophobic country, to be fair Mr Blatter has warned any gay fans going there to not be as gay. Perhaps he should have asked black players to lighten up and whiten up at the Euros?
In other news the competition will be changed to accommodate more teams. Again the sponsors have their way, obviously furious that in such small groups some of the brand-heavy teams didn’t make it (Netherlands) there needs to be a system whereby groups only have two strong teams and enough smaller teams to make that awkward draw or shock group result not that damaging.
The answer? More teams in more groups – that shock result or awkward draw is now less impacting and you’ll be guaranteed to have the top teams make it through and the sponsors kept happy. This format is tried and tested – it’s what they’ve been doing in the Champions League for years now.
Let’s excommunicate the term “balances itself out over a season”.
Following Ukraine’s goal that wasn’t given in the game against England there was a crash as commentators and pundits fell over each other trying to be the first to remind us of how this somehow makes up for the Lampard not-given goal versus Germany a few years ago.
No. No. A thousand times no. I’m unsure where to start as this is a philosophical and logical epic fail. Any game exists in its own context, the implications of a decision in that game are near infinite and the exact situation cannot be replicated. For example a goal not given when you draw 1-1 in August cannot really be replaced by a dodgy one given to you in February when you are already winning 2-0.
The not-given goal in August might have seen a number of decisions made because of it (perhaps a player is dropped). The not-given goal in August might have caused a dip in morale for that team which carried over and caused poor results. It might have made a few players frustrated, perhaps leading to a silly yellow card or worse.
Decisions don’t balance themselves out because all games are different, each in their own bubble. The players involved may be different –does Lampard feel balanced out by a legit goal not given against England? Does it make him think “yeah – that decision to not award me a goal in a game versus Germany is now balanced by a goal not given in a game which I didn’t play in”? Doubtful I’d say. Do the Ukrainian players now think “yeah – the goal wasn’t given but that’s fair enough because in a game we had nothing to do with a few years ago England had a legit goal disallowed”
I doubt that even more.
Pep; taking it easy, for now.
Contrary to popular belief Pep isn’t really out of a job, currently he’s employed as the lazy journos ‘go to’ man for every vacancy that currently exists and even some that haven’t yet.
Ever since Fabregas eventually went to Barca the summers have been that bit longer for the average journo, but with luck they can link anything to poor Pep. Forget the fact that he left Barca due to finding it too stressful, I’m sure he’ll be well up for managerial work in the Prem. That non-stressful and stable working environment.
I’m also sure that within minutes of Pep joining your club all of your players will be transformed into technically astute marvels. In addition your youth academy will likewise morph into that miracle production line, instantly bringing forth a crop of Messis, Iniestas and the odd Xavi.
In addition your players won’t be bothered about 10k watches and ‘smashing it’, they’ll prefer the home life. Mum’s cooking and settling down. Perhaps the odd Pepsi ad but nothing more.
Crazy isn’t it? And that’s before we’ve even evaluated Pep. Shock horror, he might not be the next messiah. Here are some reasons:
1. He’s untested in managing outside of his home club. This is the club which affords him huge amounts of kudos. Convert it to currency and Spain’s credit rating would soar again. The players and fans adore him – this wouldn’t be the case at a new club.
2. Following on from the above – there’s a reason few teams play like Barca. Devoid of the likes of Xavi and Iniesta he’d have to find a new way of playing to accommodate the players he does have. He’s never had this challenge.
3. He’s not a big fan of pressure. Fail to win something in your first season (or in some cases winning something, like the double) will see a P45 your way. Even if you do have a cracking shirt deal.
4. He tapped into an amazing youth academy, he wasn’t responsible for it. Pep won’t make your darling that much better overnight. Barca are reaping the rewards of years of investment. On top of this the British preference of size and strength over technical acumen would be anathema to him.
So there you go. For what it’s worth I can see Pep wanting to go back in a year or so, perhaps he’ll join a club as a technical director or in a similar capacity? But don’t let that worry the fans and journos who see him as a panacea for all of their woes.
Rodger and Out
I see Brendan Rodgers has just become the Liverpool boss. I have no truck with him, but find it irksome in the least that he was being applauded for sticking by Swansea when Liverpool first came calling and spoke of how he couldn’t run out on the club. Is his move now ‘running out’ on the club? I doubt any journo will ask.
Blackpool's Ian Holloway points to where it's really at.
Fed up of yet another Prem preview free with a newspaper? Fed up with the same pics of the same players and a mention about a fantasy football competition?
Well – we may have the antidote for all Championship fans. Here you'll find no free of pictures of Rooney, stories about Mancini ‘losing it’ and the soporific Fabregas transfer yawnfest.
(Position in last three seasons: 17-18-20)
Manager Mark Robins left pre-season over player budgets so Keith Hill (ex-Rochdale) has stepped intro the breech. Hill takes over a side who have, in fairness, battled to stay in the division. Barnsley have been that side that occupies the lower third of the league and Robins has done well keeping them up.
Perhaps this season could be different. Barnsley have brought in fresh faces with Chesterfield’s Craig Davies and Miles Addison on loan from Derby. Davies will look to combine with the pacey Danny Haynes and Addison will add some backbone. Rumours abound that former player Michael McIndoe will return and ex-Bolton forward Ricardo Vaz Te will be added to the squad underline a zeal and excitement about the place.
A new manager can work wonders, the preseason has been impressive (unbeaten) and if the squad is further strengthened Barnsley could be a very tricky side. I see a nice safe mid table position.
It’s the oldest story in the book; aged businessman meets lonely club, romance blossoms, aged businessman has assets frozen and club then heads into downward spiral.
Last year lazy journalists heaped copy after copy over Arsenal’s supposed fall from grace after the League Cup Final (finishing a disastrous 4th place). They didn’t notice Birmingham’s far more dramatic fall, dropping out of the division entirely.
At the moment Birmingham are having a firesale of players. In amongst all of this they had the small issue of the manager leaving to rivals Villa. Not exactly a summer of fun.
The man expected to herd the cats here is Chris Hughton who many thought would go to West Ham. Instead Hughton’s taken on a momentous task.
Traditionally teams that come down don’t fare well simply because of the change in personnel and it’s difficult to see how Birmingham can avoid this. Any star performers will be keenly sold at Xmas. Hughton is the silver lining and in truth the main reason why I’ve not put them down as relegation scrappers. Mid table.
I’ve often thought that the Premier League should ban League Tables before ten games have been played. Few things are more ridiculous than observing who is in the relegation zone after three games.
Blackpool would probably disagree with this as last year they were flirting with Europe early on before doing what clubs seemingly do when promoted – do well pre-xmas and bottom out afterwards.
The dashing of Blackpool was soon dashed and they find themselves back in the Championship albeit without a few key players. Adam and Vaughan have all gone and were the driving force in their promotion. All is not lost, Gerard Bruna, Barry Ferguson, Angel Martinez and Kevin Phillips have come in. The other Philips (Matt) will be a real creative force this season – keep an eye on him.
Olly’s able to get the best out of his players and they’ll need to do exactly that to have a chance at going back up. Compared to the other teams relegated you get a sense that they are more homogenous and capable of doing well. Assuming they maintain their style from last year I expect a top ten finish.
New stadium? Check. Exciting manager with aesthetic style of play? Check. Money in the bank? Check.
The situation Brighton are in was previously found only on Football Manager after a crafty session on the edit clubs tool. For years Brighton have toiled in a ground which was short term solution and prior to that had to travel to Priestfield.
The timing of Poyet’s success couldn’t be better, season tickets have been sold out and Brighton are spared that horror of a shiny new half full ground. Poyet’s faced with the dilemma of a successful squad and the need to tweak which is probably why changes have been subtle. Will Hoskin’s has come in along with Mackail-Smith, Lua-Lua and Buckley. The latter two will be the more creative and look to fill the space left by Elliot Bennet. Mackail-Smith will simply look to resume his habit of scoring.
The million dollar question to go to a team with a million dollar (bit more than that actually) ground – how will they do? Poyet has a highly motivated and very happy squad and it will be interesting to see how well the good vibes flow if they suffer a few defeats after what has been a very happy period for the club and its fans. I sense mid-table with a flirt inside the top ten.
This time last year Steve Coppell to the season ahead, only to resign before the team had kicked a competitive ball. Keith Millen took over and although shaky at the start did well with a team who are on a bit of a come down since the Gary Johnson years.
David James will still be with the squad this season, celebrating his 362nd year in the game. In the transfer stakes the club have nabbed Neil Kilkenny whilst releasing Ivan Sproule (who should be a Harry Potter character with that name). The heat of the transfer speculation is fixed on Nicky Maynard. Can the club keep hold of him?
Assuming they can the club could expect a mid table finish.
Manager Eddie Howe will be looking for a play-off place with his squad this season. Recent events have seen the likes of Eagles, Mears and Carlisle leave. The club have been reliant on loans (Tripper and Mee) to cover the gaps; the probable signing of Treacy will give a bit more edge to a smaller squad.
The main attacking outlet will be at the feet of Jay Rodriguez, a local lad and fan favourite. Howe’s management ability will be tested fully this season but the team have the focus to do well. Assuming the physio’s couch remains empty I would expect a top six spot.
If there was an aristocracy in the Championship Cardiff would be a true member. Not the king exactly, but an old Lord who was slightly eccentric. They were the hot favourite to go up last year, adding Bellamy should have ensured an overdue promotion. Instead they had to suffer rivals Swansea nicking their crown and blowing raspberries at them.
Things weren’t much better off the pitch with a mass summer exodus including Chopra, Burke and Bothroyd. Dave Jones also went and his replacement Malky Mackay has made some interesting signings with Kenny Miller joining old boy Rob Earnshaw upfront.
Mackay’s a promising manager and it would be ironic if Cardiff did the unexpected this season, perhaps the lack of expectation might allow them to slip under the radar. They are still a strong side despite the players who have left and I expect to see them in the top six again.
The term ‘sent to Coventry’ sums up where the team seem to be at the moment. Starved of investment and selling their bets players the team can only look forward to a season best described as ‘gritty’.
Keiran Westwood went in the summer and has been replaced with Joe Murphy. On paper the team don’t look that bad – the likes of Clingan, Bell, McSheffrey and Turner (the latter looking a promising a few years back). But really it’s whether Eastwood picks up his flagging career and work well with Jutkiewicz that will be the key. Marlon King has gone and they’ll need to find someone to start scoring.
I think the stagnation off field cannot help things and I can only see a relegation scrap.
Palace have been the escape artists of the past few seasons, surviving points deductions and you do wonder what they can do now a bit more settled.
Most importantly they’ve kept players like Speroni, Ambrose and Clyne. Alongside these sit Garvan and Scannel. Transfers are scarce but the eye-catcher is surely Glen Murray from rivals Brighton. Scannel will also look to build on his growing reputation.
Though Freedman is new a season with a relatively settled squad and no points deducted makes for a promising one. I don’t expect anything sensational, but I don’t think Palace will be scrapping for their lives. With a bit of luck I can see Palace being in the top half.
This will be a make or break season for Clough, though he has stabilised them after the forgetful season in the Prem you have a finite time as manager before you need to show progress. His surname may have bought him time, but without a strong position he might be looking for a new club come the summer.
Lacking a 20 goal-a-season striker isn’t something unique to Derby. But their forward line up doesn’t look too appetising. Tyson wasn’t a great success at Forest and the attacking options seem full of players who offer pace and creativity, but not goals. Jamie Ward might be the answer if he can avoid being played on the wing.
I want Derby to do well this season, but I fear a mid table finish perhaps flirting with the top ten and Clough being given the boot.
If the Championship was a street Doncaster would be the chap who lives at 27 and keeps himself to himself. That’s not a bad thing, with clubs going bust and the financial circus following others Doncaster lives within their means and there’s a lot to be said for that. Although like anyone who keeps himself to himself there’s a dark side and it seems to reside with the playboy antics of the mascot, Donny Dog (google it).
Sean O’Driscoll has done wonders, not only off the pitch but the style with which his team plays. Tommy Spurr was a good signing and Billy Sharp will continue to show his worth. Rumours are that Giles Barnes might be looking to sign, if he can stay fit he’d be a great fit.
I think last season was a blip and I’ll go for a strong finish this season, say upper mid-table (if such a spot exists).
Hull did the textbook thing when find themselves relegated from the Prem, just get a solid finish and build on it. Build they have with Fryatt scoring last season and the recent addition of Hobbs at the back their transfer policy seems to be working very well. Bullard is an enigma, though perhaps not in the football sense. Currently the club have suspended him and his future is not exactly orange.
In terms of their squad they don’t look half bad. As well as the aforementioned duo of Hobbs and Fratt they have Jay Simpson, Aaron McLean (both ready to show their worth) as well as Dawson at the back.
The trick will be for Pearson to mesh these players and there’s little reason to suspect they won’t be in the top six come May.
Ironically the team with the equine themed badge could be the dark horses this year. Stockdale on loan is a shrewd signing, but so are Bowyer and Chopra. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas will add some flair though hopefully not as inconsistent as he has been.
The only downside is the defence, or lack thereof. This might mean for a few high scoring games as the Tractor Boys have got many options going forward and will need them.
Jewell is a difference-maker, he knows how to win this league and has finally got a chance to really form something with this club. Last year wasn’t nice for the East Anglians who saw their rivals go straight up. Assuming the new signings can gel I’d look at a top ten finish with an eye on the play offs.
Their first season in the Championship saw a healthy 7th place and this with Beckford going to Everton. Few wondered how they would fare and Leeds performed admirably. Losing Schmeichel was unexpected, but Lonergan is a very good replacement. Importantly they’ve not had to sell more players and the retention of Howson, Gradel (though this may change), Snodgrass, Becchio and Paynter means they will be a strong side this season. In addition Clayton is a youngster who has a lot of potential. Michael Brown will also add some experience to the midfield.
I expect a top 6 finish this season, Leeds have the right squad for a play-off date next summer.
It’s a bit harsh to name them the Man City of the Championship but Leicester must have more agents pass by the Walkers Bowl than at a James Bond fan convention. The sane man will point to how this can cause more hassles than anything. A saner one still will point out that Sven has always done well when he’s not had a lot to spend and instead been instructed to find bargains.
Getting Schmeichel in goal was a sound acquisition; Weale was guilty of a few howlers last season. St Ledger and Konchesky will doubtless shore up the defence and Nugent coming in upfront could be a very good deal. Nugent has been waiting to deliver at this level for a while, he’s a class striker and if played centrally will bag goals. In midfield King will continue to get the goals and create. The addition of Michael Johnson from City (remember him?) could work well – he certainly needs the matches.
Leicester’s biggest struggle could be the pressure that these signings have placed them under. It’s obviously a promotion-chasing squad and these signings have placed them on something of a podium. Along with West Ham they are the side who have made it apparent that success is demanded next season.
A few years back the idea of Celtic and Rangers playing in the Prem was floated around. It met with a lot of disapproval. Not to be outdone those in favour launched ‘Operation Smoggy’ in which large amounts of ex Celtic and Rangers players would take over a club. That club was Middlesbrough.
It didn’t work out too well and agent Strachan was replaced with non-agent Mowbray. Middlesbrough have fared well in the Championship following his appointment, using the academy players and not spending vast sums has kept them in a more stable financial position than many ex-Prem clubs.
Mowbray has had to cut the squad down, with Emnes and Lita likely to go soon (joining Digard, Boyd and Taylor) he may have some cash to spend to add to defender Malaury Martin and probable free-signing Julio Arca. It seems Boro are in a transitional stage and I suspect they’ll be in the top ten.
Last season they did really well and that was in part down to Steve Morison, sadly he’s gone to Norwich and the Lions face a tough season ahead without him.
Kenny Jackett is a very capable manager and won’t go into the new season underprepared; the problem is whether the right players have come along at the right price. Henderson is proven at this level but they’ll need a bit more to keep out of trouble this season.
Sad to say I think the Lions will do well to keep their heads above water this season.
You could see the fear in Billy Davies’ eyes after the play-off defeat last season. Actually it was the lack of complaining about not having enough to spend that really pricked up the ears. Davies isn’t afraid of publicly asking money from the board and the minute he stopped and started being nice about them you got the sense that the power at the City Ground had shifted.
Out he went and in came Steve ‘Goldmember’ McClaren. Several playing staff also went including Earnshaw, Adebloa, Wilson, Bennet, McKenna and Tyson. This leaves the Tricky Trees in a, well, tricky, situation. They have had the squad over the past two years to get promoted and perhaps the funds to support that have dried a little.
Another way of looking at it is that the dead wood has been stripped. Tyson and Adebola weren’t prolific and Earnshaw didn’t have the best of times. When it came to attacking options the saying about cooks and broth came to mind. Forest still have Chambers, Cohen, Anderson and McGugan (and have added veteran Greening). So the first XI will still be very potent.
Assuming Goldmember does his Dutch accent Forest are sure to rival Olly in their press conferences. I’ll also tip them for a top ten finish.
Whatever Fergie jnr does this season he’ll improve on the last visit the Posh made to the Championship. In all honesty it’s going to be a very difficult affair after losing Mackail-Smith in the summer.
It’s never fair to associate a club with the ability of one player, but Mackail-Smith was the leading goal scorer and talisman. Without him Posh are going to find it tough and their prospects look as lean as their namesake.
Relegation looms unless Boyd can step up and fill the gap.
The definition of ludicrous is having players in the stand because you can’t afford to play them as it’ll trigger a clause in the transfer fee. This is what Pompey had to endure last year, though it was of their own making. The FA Cup might have been a bit of a poisoned chalice.
Still – Cotterill did a fine job and it’ll be interesting to see how they can do with their wings less financially clipped. The squad are experienced but perhaps lacking in mobility. Strikers like Varney and Kitson aren’t going to trouble you for pace and expect goals from set pieces with the signing of Halford (has a long throw on him).
A few more signings and I’d see Pompey as an upper mid-table side but the squad is a bit short and as such I can see a safe mid-table spot for them.
There is a pattern in the Championship wherein clubs seem to have a window to get promoted, if you miss it you have to then wait your turn whilst the players that almost got you there move on. Reading might be feeling this window closing.
Certainly Shane Long has been attracting interest and you wonder how long Shane will stay. The sensible bet is he’ll have this season and either go up with the Royals or get a summer move. McDermott must realise that this season offers his team a real opportunity. A forward line with Hunt, Long and Church demands respect with McAnuff and Kebe working the flanks. Goals will come and I expect to see the Royals in the top six come May.
Near bankrupt side bounce back with a new owner and backer – surely nothing can go wrong?? The Saints have been one of those ‘big sides’ operating outside the top two tiers of football for a couple of seasons. After Norwich’s success last year newly promoted clubs might look to push for promotion in their first season and with the Saints’ resources it could be possible.
The team have a strong squad, recent signing Jack Cork will add to the technical dimension, with players such as LLana and Hammond looking to create. Of course there’s Alex Chamberlain as well (assuming he’s still there).
Upfront they have a lot of experience with the likes of Lambert and Connolly. You do wonder if this is where they will need to improve though, perhaps a lack of firepower might hinder them.
Saints are strong and have a good chance at being in the top ten, mid table at the least.
Losing Malky Mackay, Buckley and Danny Graham have hurt the Glory Boys and I can’t see anything but a difficult season ahead. True they’ve brought in Yeates to add some flair and Dickinson at the back but there is still a large Graham shaped hole upfront.
Dyche knows this – but strikers don’t come easily in this division and it might be that he scours the lower leagues. The problem is this can take a while, current forward Troy Deeney is one such player and he has yet to really make the impression his skills demand he should.
Bearing in mind the strength of the teams coming up and the improvement of those in the division I’ll expect to see Watford scrapping it out for survival unless current players move up a gear.
Few teams have come down and been as desperate to bounce back to the Prem. There are three clear objectives, promotion, promotion and promotion. Simply put anything else is too horrific to contemplate.
You get the feeling that West Ham’s financial situation will be put under massive strain with only one season out of the Prem. As such a second could lead to one of those horrible descents down the football ladder.
They’ve chosen a good season to make the bounce, many teams are in transmission and the other two teams relegated don’t look like challenging. Keeping up with transfers is never easy but as I type this Nolan has joined and the team haven’t lost the core players who could easily see them climb back up.
Allardyce is a bit of a concern, he’s a very good manager when it comes to keeping clubs in the Prem but playing for out and out promotion is not something he’s done in a while. Expect lots of high balls but West Ham invariably climbing high because of it.
Wickham: Is he worth it?
Right now I have enough money to last me the rest of my life – unless I buy something” Jackie Mason
A short one today and prompted by the big money spent on Connor Wickham. The main question floating around is ‘why?’. Why spend so much money, how is he worth it…
Well – I’m not sure that’s the best way to look at it. Here are a couple of points to chew over:
(a) Wickham’s a teenager; as such you aren’t buying current ability (which makes irrelevant all the goal stats floating around). Instead you are buying potential. Potential is the crux of any transfer involving a young player, you buy what you hope he will be. Potential isn’t always definite, Rooney was a cool £27 million as a teenager transfer, a teenage Anderson cost Fergie £19 million.
(b) No player is really worth X, Y or Z. There is no scale to draw on, for example Darren Bent isn’t worth two Connor Wickhams. Football doesn’t work like that; transfers are individual responses to a single financial transaction at a particular point in time. What club X will and can pay.
(c) Moving from the previous point transfer fees are very difficult to make sense of. If I buy a car from someone I hand over a single payment. I don’t pay the seller half and then the rest after I’ve driven it X miles. I also don’t pay the seller a few years on if it hasn’t broken down. Or pay the seller 10% of what I make on it if I sell it later. Sometimes transfer fees also include the wages of that player over his contract, or at least the media like to inflate the sum by including this (and mentioning it fleetingly).
In this way transfer fees can really be spun to fit a particular narrative. The question now is what is it that Sunderland are trying to say? Well, they’ve grabbed the headlines and when was the last time they’ve grabbed them in such a way when buying a player? It’s good club PR. Fans can see money being spent on a promising English player.
There are also more subtle messages. If Sunderland are interested in another player the chances are that club aren’t going to try and haggle too much as they know that Sunderland have spent most of their kitty. It’s the reverse effect of what Chelsea and Citeh get, interest from either of those clubs can mean a sudden increase in the price tag of any player. I expect Ipswich will get plenty of that now.
Finally there’s a security to buying a player that expensive if the gamble pays off. £13 million is the least they’ll look to sell him for (again, assuming he’s a hit). This lessens the number of clubs that could feasibly afford him.
To put it this way – imagine he had been bought for £8 million. A good season in the prem would have clubs knocking on the door with bids of £12-15 million. Sunderland could lose him to a competing club.
The big price of £13 million means if he’s a success only the big clubs would be able to table a bid. The big price has reduced and predatory poaches and increased your potential profit margin.
Whether he makes it or not is another thing, what is certain is that Sunderland have made a big gamble.
“Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes”
- Oscar Wilde
It’s mid-June: the birds are tweeting lambs are skipping and an airport somewhere has a returning England side lumbering through it. Heads down and a due adoption of a sombre mood the players will trudge through it hoping to go unnoticed.
I’m not going to pick at the result, as ever our crop of superstars were undone by a Czech side who could defend against the long and direct play with ease. When it was our turn to defend the lead we managed less than 15 minutes. Such famous superstars managing to lose a game in the fame’s ration for us (according to Warhol) was ironic however.
It’s to the lazy barrel scraping that I turn to. Somehow defeat against Czech Republic, following dour draws against the Ukraine and a lucky one versus Spain was a good thing. Great even. The reason for this is that the players have had a great learning experience. These abject performances coupled with pub-style defending has improved our lot apparently.
As a footballer I understand the concept, being beaten means you have your weaknesses laid bare and exploited. As such you can move to shore these up and be, well, better. However, I’m not keen on it being used as a blanket reason to accept defeat and this logic has a number of flaws.
The first is that it sets up a dichotomy wherein you can only learn more by losing. That’s blatantly not true and it only takes a second to realise why. Winning teams often keep winning, they don’t suddenly opt into freefall because the beaten ones learn more and overtake them (presumably then losing themselves as such success apparently dictates). In summary: you can learn a great deal through winning.
Secondly losing doesn’t automatically furnish you with some sound inner knowledge. I did think about using Einstein’s definition of insanity (doing the same thing but expecting different results) as my sub-header. You might now understand why. Terry Venables once wrote how practice doesn’t make perfect if you are doing the same thing incorrectly. I wonder if there are a number of gamers in the journalistic profession who think some perverse ‘levelling up’ amongst players occurs when a team loses.
The England starting XI had approx 950 first team appearances between them, the Czech 790. If experience is this magical currency then we should have walked it. Unfortunately the reverse was true, anyone watching the game saw the Czech team keeps us at bay and then score at will.
Going into the tournament pundits spoke of how playing and winning together in a tournament prepares them greatly. I assume they are revisiting those thoughts and omitting the idea of ‘winning together’.
So, perhaps time to put the ‘losing is a great learning curve’ in its proper context. England being beaten in the group stage is certainly not a place for it to be used.
Send for the men in the white coats
“Luck never gives, it only lends” Swedish Proverb
I’m not partial to quoting U2 lyrics, basically because I’m not the type who sits in the SU bar talking about the social neo-modernist themes in Star Wars. However, one lyric I’ll remember was ‘Some days are bouncers and won’t let you in
’. Indeed. Some days doing anything means rolling that coin which has ‘screw up’
on one side and ‘flip again’
on the other.
Science could actually help solve the vexing question of why sometimes everything on the pitch is right and some days not. In case you were concerned that the workload of science was too much a burden to consider this have no fear. The fact that rats can’t differ between Dutch and Japanese when spoke backwards to them*, that lap dancers get more tips when ovulating** and that ducks can be homosexual necrophiliacs.*** All warranted research, apparently.
My study would be titled “Study into the variables in connections between bovine hides and small stringed instruments and the factorial element of doorways from large agricultural storage buildings
”. Men in lab coats could free themselves from the study adenine sexual preferences and settle for something far more relevant and pressing.
In case you are wondering what caused this and hadn’t clued into the title it was after Robbie Keane missed a sitter for Wham against Blackburn Rovers
the other week. For those that have not seen it the chance was a low cross across the six yard box which was fluffed by Keane. I’m unsure what the type of finish is named but it’s the one where the foot is parallel with the goal-line and the instep is used to angle the ball into the net. A simple pass with the instep really.
For the perfectionists among us the temptation is to place it as close to the far post as possible as it’s technically harder to do. Of course the perils are you miss the goal and flash it wide. Pub football doesn’t see this type of chance finished easily as the carpet of the Premiership is replaced by the surface of the moon. Given that this finish requires a good contact it’s often easier to put the laces through it. Less stylish but you avoid the humiliation of a miss.
In the replays I looked for the bobble, the mini grassy knoll that has put paid to many a strike and left fans cursing. There was none, it was a clear and definite miss.
As a forward I’ve had comedy goals aplenty, from a penalty which the keeper managed to fall over and throw into his net to my last goal scored, deflected off my beer-gut and looping wildly over the keeper and into the far corner. I’ve also had days where the opposite is true. A perfect lob over the keeper mid-winter finding a mini-swamp to sit in rather than carry on bouncing over the line, for example.
A central problem for a striker is that goals are the judge of him. Of course if you are a media darling you can simply be announced as ‘unfit’ until you score. You can do all the running you want but it’s about hitting the net.
Anyone who has played upfront will know that feeling when 5 mins in you know you’ll score that day. A through ball is taken in stride and doesn’t bobble around, keepers commit early, connections are good and everything is hit sweetly. Luck is a huge aspect to scoring goals and it never gets the credit when you are in a rich scoring vein. Ironically it’s often the first thing a forward complains of when he isn’t scoring, though this often sounds like whinging.
Very often getting the ball in the net involves more than your own ability, it involves the form of the keeper. Luck has a large hand, look out for replays which show a ball gliding through a defender’s legs as he stretches to block on its way into the net. In the same game Blackburn's Samba made a block
in the dying seconds which could easily have been one of the above had his shin been at a different angle. In this instance it was great defending, but he’s probably made several similar blocks that haven’t been as successful this season.
Keane’s in the latter category. It’s horrible and bridges the experience of any forward, from pub footballer to international.
As mentioned, I’ve been on ridiculous runs of form. There’s a species of goal you only ever score if you are already on the score-sheet and you are winning comfortably. Likewise there’s a type of miss which is the sure symptom of a bad run. A lucky toe from a keeper going the wrong way, or a sloping pitch which draws a shot wide. The list is endless. Sometimes it’s ridiculous, I remember a save last week on TV which saw the keeper nearly concussed – the ball smacking him in the face.
It’s why I feel for Keane and anyone like him going through that sort of patch and I imagine there’s many a forward who secretly does too. Perhaps when science bids are being tendered professional forwards like him could each pitch in to a fund and the chaps in white coast could solve it once and for all.
* Effects of Backward Speech and Speaker Variability in Language Discrimination by Rats," Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, vol. 31, no. 1, January 2005
** Ovulatory Cycle Effects on Tip Earnings by Lap Dancers: Economic Evidence for Human Estrus?" Evolution and Human Behavior, 2007
*** The First Case of Homosexual Necrophilia in the Mallard Anas platyrhynchos (Aves: Anatidae)", Deinsea: Annual of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, 2001.
Norwich are going up to "a daunting place full of plucky mid-table finishes and second season syndromes."
In football clichés are commonly used to supply end-of-match comments from managers. Though often mocked they serve a purpose to their masters, namely avoiding being misquoted. The media are thirsty for snapping a sentence out of the mouth of a manager and inventing it in a new way. Clichés help avoid this.
Clichés can be visual things too, the player kissing a badge on his shirt is an obvious one. It also draws out differing reactions, from those who see this as definitive proof of the player’s love for the club to those who see it more cynically.
A more amusing cliché was witnessed this week, though it still had a soft underbelly of cynicism and I’ll get to that later on. The scene is one you’ll instantly recognise, a dressing room full of celebrating players. It could be a team after a giant-killing or a cup final win. Here we had Norwich players celebrating their promotion.
Of course male-bonding was the call of the day. Mute the sound and set up a 'Ga Ga' bass backbeat and you’d have a very different interpretation of events (possibly involving a contact number to call and to meet like-minded men in your area). Players leaped and sprayed each other with frothy champagne. One player kept wandering across the background simply in his pants. Men hugged openly and tousled each others hair.
They say life imitates art and had Michelangelo finished his Battle of Cascina and added a couple of shin pads, a Sky microphone and a beachball it would give Dan Brown a potential best-seller.
The celebrations moved back onto the pitch which saw the semi-nudity reduced to the crowd. Lambert got bundled and looked like he was about to lamp someone, another beach ball skittled into view. The fans danced and whooped, their club was now in the Prem, a daunting place full of plucky mid-table finishes and second season syndromes. This thought midwifed more cynicism.
Norwich now find themselves in one of the more sterile leagues in world football. Like some dour medieval court everyone knows their place and when to bow accordingly. At best teams can aspire to mid-table security. Meanwhile greedy agents eye up moves. The sheer romance of back-to-back promotions is a done thing. Many championship fans whisper that the Prem isn’t where it’s at. Your players get mopped up by clubs that can afford to buy on form alone and gamble the consequences. You won’t score as many and will get beaten a fair bit. Even the lure of Europe is lost as the normal contenders near the king’s table scrap for the European Thursday Cup.
In terms of the players themselves the knowledge that contracts will change might have given an inch to their leaping and whirling. Contrastingly there is something magical in how a player can turn his (literal) fortunes around. Norwich are punctuated by lower league players, from David Fox (who was released by Olly at Blackpool) to Simian Jackson (Rushden & Diamonds and Gillingham).
Of course (and we are now at the high altar of cynicism) that’s assuming the players stay on. I looked to find desperation in the eyes of the more peripheral players. Unable to command a first team place in a team competing in a higher league must make the nervous even more so. Their celebrations must have been sullied by doubt. They must expect the manager’s office chair and a quiet chat about the merits of a loan at a Championship club at some point. Or even a transfer.
Already Lambert must be ticking names on and off a list somewhere. A Damoclean sword above them many will be planning the summer holidays, usually involving meeting up in the same Spanish island and in the same woman. All of this not realising that they’ve got ‘that chat’ when they get back. In a few seasons you’ll find out that X and Y know each other, even though one is at a Prem club and the other is in League One. You’ll ask why and be told ‘they were at Norwich when the got promoted”. You may certainly remember one, but not the other.
Sepp Blatter relents and allows goal-line technology.
The advent of democracy in ancient Greece begat a few problems. The main of this was the importance of being able to argue, of being able to debate something. Rather than pouring an opinion into a king’s ear a viewpoint could be constructed and influence the many. It could get you fame, fortune but also be the death of you. Early 5th century politicians often fell the way of league managers, early fame and then infamy.
It’s not surprising that this new idea attracted criticism, the comedies of the day feature characters who learn the ‘wrong’ argument, perhaps the forefather of spin. In essence bad arguments can undo a subject within minutes. Fudge and mist were now powerful tools for an orator.
The most common misframed and mistimed debate in football is probably technology. What to do with it and what it really is. Few brave into this, preferring to say the word, as if by saying it we all know what we mean and it’ll make it all better again. If I say the word ‘dog’ we all think of a dog, but not the same dog. Likewise ‘technology’ is mouthed by the blinking goldfish that fill the gaps at half times as they watch super slo-mo. None seem to want to define the actual debate, to decide on what type of dog we are talking about.
So, let’s have a a few agreed basics, as few agreed basics and unravel some of the tedious points that are tossed around as if they really mean anything.
1. Technology for all
The Sky footballing hierarchy (Prem = good and important and any other leagues are simply ‘cute’) dictates that technology will help all games. All?? Let’s not forget that until Sky decided to set up cheap soap narratives in the game we never really knew about over-the-lines or was-it-intentionals. The Sky product demanded controversy so cue its presenters doing a CSI on a linesman’s decision. Of course these are the same presenters who refrain from committing to an opinion at the time of the event.
Will the technology feature in Leagues 1 and 2? Who will foot the bill? Sky has always waved the ‘technology’ banner but doesn’t seem so keen on fleshing out the details.
2. Football is unique
Well, it is in many senses. But in this context we need to consider the examples of other sports that incorporate it that are always trotted out when technology is mentioned. Namely cricket and rugby. Both employ technology and both are often lazily cited by pundit A.
The important difference between rugby/cricket and football here is the consideration of what a ‘live’ and ‘dead’ ball means. Take rugby, a guy goes down the line and scores a try. Or does he? The ball is dead, the technology will merely answer whether he legally grounded it. The game has stopped, either it’s a try or the defending team will get the ball, in whatever format. In cricket too the ball is often dead when decisions are made (run-outs, for example). Most footballing decisions occur when the ball is ‘live’. A ball crosses the line, or does it? The game carries on. A player is offside, or is he? The game carries on. Read the same for handballs, late challenges etc etc. Football is a very fluid game. Comparing it to other sports doesn’t help the debate at all.
3. Technology may not solve it all.
Once let in technology would assume one form. It might be a ball with a chip in the centre to correctly identify whether it has crossed the line. It might be something else. The debate would invariably move to what ‘type’ of technology. And another bunfight ensues. Cricket has seen players intimidating the ref to not trust his instinct and refer up to the third umpire. A recent try scored for Wales saw a player make a completely illegal throw from a lineout.
4. There will always be mistakes.
Humans = mistakes. By clearing up the more headline-thirsty ones you’d soon have the less known ones move in to fill the gap. Don’t think for a minute that the absence of immediate controversy will suddenly prompt discussions on tactics or anything interesting. The correct position of free-kicks, the exactness of extra time and dubious throw-ins will suddenly become the ringing bells of the day.
5. There will always be mistakes, and managers love them.
You are manager X. Your team has played badly, beaten 2-0. Your subs weren’t effective and your gameplan was naff. But your shining light was that you had an incorrect offside decision. What do you think will inform the majority of your post match rant?
Of course we don’t necessarily need technology. A lot of controversy could be cleared up by simplifying the laws of the game. Offside if level (I remember it well) for example. Keepers allowed to pick up back passes. TV coverage could actually educate people by going over a few laws. They could point out that ‘last man’ isn’t actually a consideration in a sending off, that the ‘I got the ball’ excuse doesn’t negate a reckless challenge.
Referees could get some ground back and remove a lot of the misunderstandings of the game. However, it seems that the current administration love, cherish and revel in the sellability that is controversy. So perhaps we’ll have to wait.
Rob Green claims his Fleet Street 'calamity' crown.
The relationship between media and players is a curious one at best. Languishing in the media’s ranks are ex-players who will always back their colleagues through thick and thin. Journos have vested interests, criticising players might mean their paper doesn’t get the exclusive a season or so later. Examples of this are legion and often a paper that lost out to a rival on such a thing might be sharpening the blades for the player in question.
Some players seem to either get too much grief or avoid any sort of criticism. Likewise the media might reverse ferret on a player or situation (google it).
This week it’s…..
“Why?” You may ask, “What’s his great crime apart from being an upcoming England keeper?”
Well – to be fair it’s not really his fault. This week saw his team deflowered by Liverpool in such a way that would bring tears to the most ardent of masochists. King Kenny is back and all things on Merseyside are good. The media are squeezing the pips out of the Torres v Carroll contrast and if one equals bad the other equals good. That’s not a bad summary, but Liverpool fans have gone from loving him, to hating him and now saying he wasn’t much kop anyhow (pun intended). Chelsea fans are bemoaning the double-edged sword that is having a billionaire bankrolling the club and a bit concerned that Ancelotti hasn’t yet realised that the Chelsea pensioners should be watching the game and not playing it.
But back to Hart. Normally when keepers are loved or hated the press gorge on any minor detail to justify their position. Rob Green found out at the beginning of the season that any discrepancy saw him being crowned with the ‘Calamity’ epithet. One game saw a shot hit the post and whistle across the line, Green moved out of the way and even this was cited as some sort of dodginess. Perhaps keepers have to be insane simply to put up with this.
Roll forward to Monday night. Carroll picks the ball up and strikes a physics-defying curler from 30 yards out. The keeper can only watch. Well, that’s what the press would have you believe. The desperate crash to acclaim Carroll’s first goal hid the fact that an England keeper had been beaten in the middle third of his net. Carroll’s shot was ok, it proved the axiom of always keeping the shot on target and making the keeper work, but it was one you’d expect him to get to.
Now I realise the media need to invitation to the art of build ‘em up and knock ‘em down but something was amiss. Had this have been Rob Green earlier this season the press would have reached for the template “Rob Green is shit/World Cup hangover” article before wandering down the pub. Had it have been an Arsenal keeper Fleet Street would have combusted, leaving a fatty and smoked residue.