Tag Archives: Managers

Reject Moi?

Top clubs and their managers are very lucky. Much like getting to the top of the corporate ladder getting there is the hard part. Sure at least in football results achieved whether by luck of design get you there rather than the lickspittle of  some in the corporate world – although how do many sporting directors get their jobs at European clubs?

These Managers and Sporting Directors at the very top are lucky they rarely lose a player they do not want to and can burn through squad players. Look at the Madrid and Siddy rejects currently looking OK compared to some of the bigger names at a World cup:

  • Wesley Sneijder fresh off a treble with the team “formerly known as Jose Mourinho’s Inter” sent away for 15 million Euros. Consider Chelsea paid that in Pounds for the 1 dimensional and poorer player Anelka with a long track record of not being a top goalscorer and a lousy all round player as well as a team cancer to boot.
  • Arjen Robben never really fit enough to be a world class player but on his game is as good as anyone. Yet Chelsea and Madrid discarded him like their poor school friends when they went university.
  • Robinho a sort of poor man’s Robben who Chelsea got very lucky to avoid. Yet in the slower pace of international football motivated a passable imitation of a good player.
  • Elano along with ‘Robbie’ looks like becoming a reject for England’s 5th team and a starter for Brazil.
  • Kaka himself could be about to join this list or at least the Robinho sort of owned by someone but not playing for them. Arguably Mourinho’s drawing up 442 and 433s and wondering where this lop sided Octagon piece fits especially as Ronaldo has to play, right. BTW Jose fits him in and stays sweet at Madrid for 3 years and I will personally deliver flowers to the Bernabeu. Before even the Slighty Odd one joined Kaka missed a lot of games last year with what has been described as an injury officially! Seriously in a itransfer fee less world Mourinho offered straight up swap Sneijder, Lampard (3 yrs ago) for Kaka you think he takes it?
  • Khalid Boulahrouz the player Mourinho did not want ( a great boost for Specialish one till you consider he wanted to pay 3 times as much for Micah Richards). A player seemingly given no chance by Jose as he was not chosen by Jose who after all had selected the 14 million pound full back Paulo Ferreira who is a great success and mining the Wes Brown seam of being paid more than he is worth but covering all positions with equal lack of aplomb – PF can left back as well.
  • Forlan United Reject. Pure Goalscorer. Perfectly decent player.
  • Rafael van der Vaart the one time child prodigy marginalised in Madrid. Wears the no 23 shirt – Beckham lite which of course was MJ lite.
  • Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from next Dutch master (a common theme in this list)  to Fenebache via Ajax, Madrid, Milan in 3 short years.

Indeed Ghana shorn of Essien are outperforming the Ivory Coast who never mind the draw are just not that good. Germany Ballack.

I have no answer but it does raise questions which are different in almost every case:-

  1. Are the top managers that much better or do they end up in the best jobs and have the easiest time – in England where they dominate clubs more than anywhere else.
  2. Are fringe players or position players at top clubs like Essien, Anelka, Wes Brown  and Mikel over rated and placed in their national teams not a difference maker at lower levels?
  3. Is the age profile and not being at top clubs of the 5 rejected once potential Dutch masters more important here than aging superstars coming off 55 top class performances game in game out. Apologies to Sneijder to a degree as he is hardly coming off a career downer even if it was not Madrid.
  4. Is it an advantage once your career has peaked to look for international glory?
  5. Is success and failure at top clubs largely down to fitting in with the coaches there? Are coaches at the top allowed to dump and change players too easily?
  6. Do teams pay too much for players who can be got for half as much a few years down the line?
  7. Do Dutch players get too highly rated too young? The thug van Bommel has had a good career but at the end of the day he is just a holding player. At one time he was touted to Arsenal for 15 million, when that was a big fee, and yet could have been bought for 2 million later.
  8. Do World Cups and league football favour different types of players. Different personalities even. I do not think the world has seen players who make so many fantastic performances every season like Messi and Ronaldo. To then ask them to dominate a world cup especially in a poor Portuguese team is madness.

Enjoy the world cup!

Club Managers Need To Lighten Up

The stories are all similar over bearing managers used to every detail in the new situation of  being away for weeks on end and their players having no outlet like going home or even for a walk. Rules and schedules whilst big egos not used to being challenged collide without their support structures of agents and flunkies to put the toilet seat down behind them.

Rumour has it the Spanish now have a drinking room no manager is allowed in. The French are revolting (that was a comment and nothing to do with this piece). The English are uptight and issuing apologies. Others look like they’d rather be elsewhere than where their coach is.

My message to Cap’ is this relax off the field play on it. The boys are as fit as they are gonna be and Hollywood does not produce enough good films in 4 years to fill a day’s boredom never mind 8 weeks. Let them have their girlfriends over and if they need more their wives afterwards.

For once it seems the Dutch are laughing at everyone else falling out.

Managers Greedy Spivs?

Apparently Gianfranco Zola was going to maintain his dignity and walk from West Ham at the end of a season where his team will avoid relegation. It’s clear whatever the spoken word that the owners are at best ambivalent and at worst keen to see him go. Zola it seems may want to go but now thinks why go without a pay off. After all he loves football enough to try to extract every last penny from a club whose survival is due only to the new owners deep pockets that can guarantee a 100 million of debt.

For their part Gold and Sullivan did pretty much all they could to undermine him in the last few weeks of the season. Indeed I read from their comments that at best they were ambivalent on relegation and at worst wanted it. After all with parachute payments West Ham actually have some players to sell and the Curbishley players’ contracts coming off the books. I am sure Upson, Cole and Green as current fringey squad members of England have value. They also have a few young players of their own making and with parachute payments a chance for their own manager to build. Then again maybe Sullivan and Gold thought sounding off and threatening players with guaranteed contracts was a way forward? Logic Fail?

The owners were saying one thing whilst making a bid for a player without informing him nor offering enough money to get the player. They did this without reference to Zola but ensured it made the media. This was followed by a suggestion that all bar wee Scottie Parker was for sale again without reference to the manager. Cuckolding your manager surely is another constructive dismissal?

Now whilst they stated that they support the manager the way it was done raises doubts.

Hull pulled the other one as well trying to bring Phil Brown back from gardening leave rather than pay him off after laughably letting the fool Dowie fail to motivate their over paid team. Brown is now left to get good lawyers or take up an untenable position to get a pay off with a team and owners who do not want him. Not sure he has dignity and money pay off win it’s either or?

Of course it’s not just owners who play games. Liverpool is funny the owners were bullied by PR and fans into giving Rafa a contract that is massively expensive to get out of. Now he wants to go and they cannot afford to sack him. Is he a man and willing to resign? Is he bollocks he’s nothing more than a grubby low life holding the club to ransom so he can leave with a pay off to another club. Like Zola desperate to grab some money off the carcass of an impoverished football club. Looking for a technical way to get the money like Curbs and Keegan.

Yet more proof that who fans want to like does make them any better than the owners they want rid of.

Premier League : Excuses Cover Decline?

It’s been a given for a few years that the EPL would provide 2 or more of the last 4 of the Champions League. This year we have none. Is this because of some inate decline? A transition? Or just one of those things. After all Spain and Italy only have 1, only 1 of them can make the final. We have maybe excused our failures to win more of the finals with stuff like our hard season, the brilliance of Barcelona and inveterate whining about referees. I have had some sympathy with some of those positions and contempt for the latter.

I think the EPL has broken up into tiers. The the 2nd tier of clubs in Siddy and Spurs are showing more ambition. Everton continue to defy their playing staff. Fulham have flown the flag in the Europa Cup. However Liverpool are in decline and financially don’t have the ability to defy their lack of revenue generation no matter who owns them. Man United may be a cash cow for the owners but that is hardly a recommendation for future competitiveness and what happens if this year proves an outlier for Rooney’s goal scoring – and at 24 and half he’s already had a dictionary of leg problems. At Chelsea Abramovich has burned a Billion to have the team still built on Lampard and Terry who are both well past their physical prime – not to mention all their other stars are older or injury prone.

Chelsea probably at their best are our best but wore down when they had weeks of hard games and were unable to raise their game against an obdurate but limited Inter side – for Sky viewers that is the same as the team you call Jose Mourinho’s Inter.

Arsenal have a younger profile but were utterly outclassed by Chelsea and Barcelona and their main improvement has come from beating up the types of teams Wenger likes to whine about. The lack of cohesion in defence shown by Arsenal will not be corrected by buying a few older players and uttering cliches about experience.

We can make excuses but even in the Premier League the top 4 of last year will have lost 30 games 20 between the top 3 at least.

However there are things that are exacerbating the decline other than the best players ageing and the loss of Ronaldo. They are not financial or player development or the lack of per se.

Firstly the managers of the top 3 have become obsessed with their top players over their  squads. We have imported from italy Ancelotti, Zola and Mancini none of whom appear to be tactical geniuses and fall more on man management – Mancini’s gifts remain hidden. Wenger’s selections have been utterly illogical and Ancelotti took months to rotate. United blew a substitution last night by starting an unfit star. Selection comes from a hierarchical place like any other profession.

Secondly it does seem in Europe at least the top managers do forsake some star stuff to play 433 after 15 years of largely futility following our re-admission to European football. After all I suppose we thought we knew the limitations of 433 having won the world cup that way 44 years ago. Being outnumbered in midfield did increasingly disappear from the lexicon of English football. Sadly it seems that we change formation without explaining to the players why or what they should do. Arsenal were a rabble for much of the 180 minutes against Barcelona. Most important I think the Europeans have changed up on us. They are matching our fitness and their tactics exploit this. I felt at the Emirates Barcelona emptied badly but I now think that was because of their pressing tactics and on another night it would have been 6-0 when Arsenal came back…. This was shown at the Camp Nou where it was like the 442 v 433 days where it seemed Barcelona outnumbered Arsenal by something like 14-8 it seemed from every frame with the ball had 5 Barcelona players surrounding 3 Arsenal. Such tactics cut across the formation obsession of the English teams. Arsenal formed nice lines on the pitch but were often not where the Barcelona players were – bizarre we man 4 man at corners and mark zone over the pitch! Of course Wenger introduced this tactic to us in the late 90s where Vieira and Petit would press on the opponents midfield in their own half.

Thirdly another tactic pioneered in Portugal via England the transition of teams when the ball is lost. Watching Wenger’s Arsenal turn opponents corners into attacking opportunities and pressing was merely a foretaste for Mourinho’s Chelsea and Inter or indeed Guardiola’s Barcelona. Both managers spoke this week of the transition from having the ball to not and vica versa. This seems beyond the ego preeners who our top managers are or have become in the celebrity culture of the UK. Combined with pressing a rapid transition saw Barcelona get Messi through on goal twice and also led to the decisive Bayern goal as Carrick was caught and after 2 corners it was 3-2.

For me we could be entering a phase where the importance of team especially in Europe and high pressure single matches takes over from the increasing English and Madrid obsession with star players – who can still bludgeon lesser sides in the domestic leagues. You can slurp Messi if you want and his finishing was great but Arsenal were beaten in every other quadrant of the pitch making his flourish the gilding. Indeed over the two legs Arsenal who are 6/1 for the title and would be 5/2 but for burning 2 points to prepare for Barcelona, who were miles below form in the Camp Nou BTW, were lucky to only lose 6-3.

So let’s hope that when Ferguson, Ancelotti and Wenger are replaced or get new number 2s they bring some people up to date with modern tactics and methods. It’s increasingly a team game and with the continental pressing game the old age of centre halves and holders who could barely pass is passing. It’s really an era of total football that is emerging from the Dutch/Barcelona/Cruyff line in my opinion.

Nani Proves It’s Easier At The Top?

When Sir Alex Ferguson goes you can bet his replacement will likely be the next top foreigner off the rank. The reason is that in other countries they change Coaches more frequently and the key word is of course Coach not Manager and a far greater range of managers get a chance to tick boxes. For every genuine up and coming talent like a Mancini there is a plethora of solid coaches like Ancelotti (10 years at Milan 1 title is ummh aggghhh) who gets in ahead of the likes of Moyes, O’Neill and let’s add Redknapp for fun.

The exception is Chelsea in taking Grant and Scolari they’ve not exactly looked at the next cab on the rank but rung a mini cab office and rolled the dice. Still no Brits is the point. Chelsea have tried to hire people on the cheap in that they have taken people out of contract or easily available but they lasted 18 months between them – it cost them a fortune.

We’ve recently got to see the great man Capello who is no doubt currently wrestling with finding out which farm yard animal Terry interfered with to justify the headlines. Cap’ seems to keep it simple. His 442 with tweaks is not hard to understand and without Rooney recently looked nearly as devoid of merit as Eriksson and McClaren’s paceless and heightless version. Indeed Cap’s big innovation from an England point of view is a large centre forward and some pace out wide, radical – will be interesting if he considers for 1 second putting the pace-less Joe Cole on either flank except as under study to Gerrard. The point is that replicating Capello does not require a genius just great personal qualities and common sense stuff.

So how does this all comes back to Nani? We all hope a really talented player is at 23 really doing his job and it is more than a 2 game mirage. How many other domestic managers could afford to wait 2 years for a £17 million player to show some form? He was bought alongside Hargreaves and Anderson. £50 million for a squad player, a prospect and a slacker even before his ‘injury’. Anderson cost more than Gareth Barry. More than Carrick. Ferguson and managers at the top can roll the dice and then roll them again.

I’ve pointed out how the seemingly unexceptional buying of 2 players for £13 million wiped out any good transfer business Portsmouth did by costing £40 million. For what Nani has produced in 2 games with wages that is what £75 million on Anderson, Nani and Hargreaves, some return eh? At least this year Ferguson got to lose his best player but it had been planned for at least a year. Most 2nd tier managers are always having to recruit. They cannot afford, although some try, to be buying expensive risks every year.

I cribbed O’Neill getting apparently upside free British based players but with Young, Downing, Heskey, Milner, Dunne and others but he has to stick to known quantities in a market bubble blown up on the never never by other clubs.

One thing to bear in mind the best team of the last few years Barcelona has gone with 2 rookie managers in Rijkaard and Guardiola. Now I think that shows that it’s the players stupid. Also neither has to pick their players. They also have a productive youth system. Both would be considered before a Martin O’Neill yet I’d argue O’Neill is clearly the better manager top to bottom of a club.

Where domestic managers could help themselves is by being more adult about defeats and decisions they perceive go against them. Their child like complaints do not encourage the likes of the Glazers, Abramovich, Hicks, Gilettes and Abu Dhabi boys you are a good choice never mind sane. Compare Hughes with Mancini I might actually want to listen to one of them after a game and he’s not Welsh!

Chelsea excepted people will say that is because these managers have high level experience of Champions League etc. That something special is required to do the top jobs. I am normally pretty elitist in that my threshold for greatness as a player say would not include an often very good player who aged well like Ryan Giggs who has never threatened to be a World or European Footballer of the Year. With managers I think the spread is not as vast as with players. After all when was the last innovator? True genuine innovator? Complete genius? Sacchi and before him Cruyff? Arguably Mourinho was close for 3 years only?

An interesting sub point here about great players not making managers. Consider the relatively small number of top jobs and top players and yet ‘Baby’ Hughes, Mancini, Guardiola and Rijkaard have had or have top jobs? Maybe on my scale none of them are great players but plenty would disagree with me on that. Ancelotti has 26 Italian Caps to boot.

Portsmouth & The Myth of £80 Million Transfers

The other day someone said they could not understand how Portsmouth having received £80 million for players they had not paid a great deal for were in trouble. Of course being football no one hired a forensic accountant or even tried to flesh it out but I’ll do my best.

The first thing to draw out is that money in and money out are two different things.

The fee in has to pay for whatever pay-off the players gets. Whatever agents that the club choose to pay-off for whatever reasons. Then you have sell on clauses from clubs who sold them players.

Fees out are minimal as you add on taxes and pay offs for whatever reasons for agents. You may have to even pay the player extra or his agent just to get the signature. Then there is interest on the debt – not at bank base rate but a higher rate charged for risky debt.

Did we mention wages. Even free transfers these days start sucking 7 figure salaries game in game  out. Portsmouth for instance have a 20,000 capacity and little or no corporate facilities. Being generous that is say 25 home games at 800K revenue. A wage bill of even 30 million would eat that up and most of the Premier League money – remember taxes on top of wages, interest on debt etc. Never mind Policing costs and maintenance on their tin shack of a ground.

This is before considering that the directors of football clubs and owners leech a fair amount in kick backs or bogus or inflated charges through 3rd parties they own. That is why the owners often end up the biggest debtor and sometimes stay in charge even when the company comes out of administration.

The clubs like to blame agents however the real blame lies with self serving board members and maybe some team managers. It also lies with a wilfully naive media insisting on pretending that you can equate agreed fees in and out for transfers.

A great example Portsmouth bought Diarra for £6 million and put him on £60K a week for a year and then supposedly sold him for £20 million – how clever did they look? I bet that is line 1 on ‘Arry’s CV. However they owed the agent 2 million. Arsenal apparently got 25% . Thus Diarra cost 9 million fee and wages and at least 7 million in fees.  This is before any taxes and fees to other agents and the player to end his contract.

It leaves £4 million profit on the greatest piece of business supposedly in their history.  £4 million equals 2 or 3 poor players wages for 1 years? £4 million the fee for Kevin Prince Boateng from Spurs. So to have one year of Diarra and 1 game of KP Boateng that is 20 million gone. The team is worse and the interest on the interest on the debt accumulating and Boateng collecting wages.

In the end the player traders end up selling what they can and get left with useless players and large squads. Worse for Portsmouth it does appear whatever money went in the new owners were left with the debt, tax, sell on fees and agents to pay-off.

This shifting of clubs from people with no money to other people with no money whilst the Premier League does nothing will not stop until the money stops coming in and bigger dominos than Portsmouth fall.

Arsenal are the winners as they don’t pay silly wages, have a massive income and made 11 million from Diarra and Bentley who are not good enough to play for them anyway.

Megson Goes Under Fan Pressure

It seems the Bolton fans have forced out Megson. Now they are in the bottom 3 but their goal difference is only inferior to West Ham of the bottom 8. They are 3 points off 12th. They have 18 points in 18 games making them better placed than the two teams above them.

One can understand that the fans are not happy but their expectations are beyond Bolton’s means. Bolton have no money. The previous high league positions over stated their actual ability measured by goal difference. Indeed Megson took over when they were going down and kept them up.

It could be argued that Bolton might actually have been doing better had the fans not been on the team’s back. Most years their point a game would be out of the bottom 3 (Hull stayed up with 35 points last year).

Bolton’s fans have got what they wished for. Be careful.

Megson has probably enhanced his CV for me. Certainly he did a relatively far better job than the media’s darling the boorish Teflon clown Hughes.

Foreign Managers Here’s Why

For some reason the media and League Managers’ Assocation (LMA) are vexed at the sacking of the pantomime villain Mark Hughes. As a former TU rep I think you pick your ground and defending the infantile Hughes is probably not a good place to be. However there is a more general case to answer why our top jobs go to managers from a different football culture. 

Really I think I could sum up in one argument the reason for foreign managers being preferred over English ones. Broad Mindedness. Just a greater exposure to football and not the infantile mob mentality of a UK base that talks to itself and goes with machismo and instinct over rationality. Then sanctimoniously thinks it’s right all the time for some reason. Call it pragmatism in a word.

This manifests in many forms:-

  • Referee Delusion: UK managers generally speaking only see the game one way and are profoundly ungracious. Even when Arsene Wenger will not accept his team was 2nd best when they have lost a game or a championship is that any worse or not considerably better from his players’ point of view than blaming the referee every time? It certainly does not create the climate of intimidation and tedium that delusional attacks on the men in Black do. Is saying your team was better after a loss worse than blaming the referee? Obfuscation either way.
  • Perspective: Listen to the English pundits and press and attacking player’s chicanery (mainly those of darker skin palour) is supposedly the biggest problem facing football. David Moyes actually said that and many others may have. We’ve had no instances this year as even Eduardo was cleared and all the others have failed to win penalties. It’s hard with so many clubs bankrupt and broken to see how this is the biggest issue. Even in the context of the pitch it’s not as big as shirt pulling, deliberate and reckless fouling. Things which to varying degrees affect every weekend and shirt pulling etc affects seemingly almost every set piece. These things prevent more goals than chicanery nets in a year every weekend. 
  • Macho Culture: The inability to see fouling as worse than infrequent chicanery comes from a macho culture where the expression “it’s a man’s game” still predominates.
  • Corruption: Rightly or wrongly there was a time when managers would buy and sell countless players a year that left many clubs like Man City, Portsmouth, Crystal Palace, Everton, Sunderland, Leicester, Leeds and a host of others bankrupt. Whilst to a degree this culture pervades it’s more likely now to be board members benefitting. However many of the top UK managers are tainted by that past. Arguably concerns over probity led to Manchester United which should have been a financial behemoth reduced to a junk bond play thing of some not necessarily rich Americans.
  • Sideline and General Behaviour: City’s owners probably do not turn up or care so maybe Hughes ranting boor act did not grate on them. Nor Hughes vanity laden press conferences where he behaved like a Roman Emporer without the charm of a Zola, Capello or a Ranieri. Foreign managers by and large do not stand in the technical area ranting and raving. Sure we’ve seen Mourinho and the exception to all the above Rafa but compare Ancelotti and Zola to Moyes, Hughes and Bruce? Compare their post game interviews to the often delusional rantings of Hughes, Bruce, Moyes and Ferguson (this year at least). You’re the boss and your underling is ranting at shadows and raving every week might you not fire him? Be honest now. Some people are always making excuses and some are not, who do you prefer?

In the end for me most of the problems stem  from the macho xenophobia around English football. Even the corruption which is not endemically English taints managers here as they are much more  a single authoritarian figure rather than a mere coach they would be in Italy or Spain.

There are two obvious exceptions. Rafa as ungracious a pig as any UK manager and Roy Hodgson. It’s no doubt instructive that Hodgson has worked mainly abroad before his ludicrously good stint so far at Fulham – an English manager interviewing in Norwegian!

Change is possible and it does not mean a manager has to become totally open minded and fair. Martin O’Neill can still complain but look how he is now far more controlled and nuanced than the younger ranter he was at Leicester.

Till there is some change like most UK players UK managers will travel like Ale in barrels on open top trucks in summer. It’s instructive how few of our guys work abroad as much as how many Foreigners we have working here.

England’s Toughest Opponent Always In Their Group

When England go ahead in decisive games something odd happens for a supposed top team. They generally speaking go out or at worst fail to win. I’ve covered this before but here is a recap for those who wish to not link (I’ve ignored non decisive games and games against some weaker teams (we beat Argentina 1-0 in the most scraping manner possible in 2002 but they were not qualifiers from our group)):

Note the 2 worst sides we faced are the only 2 we won outright. We have not lost a game we did not lead in!

  • Lost Leads Knock Out Games96 Game 5 : England 1 Germany 1 – Lost lead lost pens
    98 Game 4 : England 2 Argentina 2 – Lost lead lost pens
    02 Game 5 : England 1 Brazil 2 – Lost lead lost game
    04 Game 4 : England 2 Portugal 2 – Lost lead lost pens
  • Did Not Lose Lead/Have Lead Knock Out96 Game 4 : England 0 Spain 0 – Penalty win
    02 Game 4 : England 3 Denmark 0 – Win
    06 Game 4 : England 1 Ecuador 0 – Win
    06 Game 5 : England 0 Portugal 0 – Draw Lost penalties

Group games against main rivals is more shocking.

  • Lost Leads Group (decisive games against qualifiers)00 Game 1 : England 2 Portugal 3 – Lost 2 goal lead
    00 Game 3 : England 2 Romania 3 – Lost 2-1 lead
    02 Game 1 : England 1 Sweden 1 – Draw Lost lead
    04 Game 1 : England 1 France 2 – Lost lead
    06 Game 3 : England 2 Sweden 2 – Lost Lead twice
  • Did Not Lose Lead/Have Lead Group96 Game 3 : England 4 Holland 1 – A triumph
    98 Game 2 : England 1 Romania 2 – equalised and lost late

Mourinho’s first season Chelsea gave up 1 lead in 26. England have done it once or twice every tournament. We have basically taken out the trash bar 2008 qualifying which bodes well in a draw of stiffs before the semis – albeit it was a pretty ordinary Portugal side we went out to last time. I could add the failure to beat Greece and relying on the Woodwork and Finland to draw with Germany in 2006.

Capello said England’s problem when he came was low confidence and even though the Great Man has done well I suspect he has not conquered that.

In international football England have even under Capello even been outclassed  at times by the decent sides they have faced in Holland, Brazil and Spain. This despite, based not on bellicose British stupidity but world wide votes, at least 5 world class  players (Gerrard, Rooney, Lampard, Rio, Terry and arguably for some not me A Cole) – compared to say Argentina’s 1 and Germany’s 0.

A draw that gives no decent opposition till the semi finals brings expectation and that has killed many an England side. Their response to getting a lead is to retreat into a shell and stop playing which maybe against the rest of groups A to D is not an issue but  it makes for horrible viewing.

Gerrard a man whose personal highlights reel is dominated by moments when his team is behind said after 2006 we should never think England are good enough and never subject the team to that expectation again. Well England are a shorter price this time. Get a pacifier Stevie.

England with their record in shoot outs should want the lead and to be favourites. That is how to win  in turn and out of turn things England cannot say they do with the recognised talent they have.

Until the semis England have avoided the 4 teams I would to avoid  Brazil, Spain, Italy and the Dutch.

Liverpool To Protest About What?

I apologise in advance that I am cracking people connected to the City of Liverpool for being naive and blinkered again. For looking for easy explanations, scapegoats and failing to face the truth about the people they hold dear but I am.

Liverpool fans are apparently going to stage some sort of protest  at Gillett and Hicks before the United game. The grounds for this would appear to be that the owners are not rich enough to keep running the club at a massive loss  to fund further transfer follies.

Benitez has bought over 80 players.  Hardly the action of someone stopped from spending. People might point out that some money has come back especially the ludicrous fee for Alonso. This is to ignore that buying and selling players costs a lot of money regardless of fees in and out.

Manchester United just lost over a 100 million of players and got Valencia and Mickey Owen in return – a placeholder and a substitute at best. It does not seem to have killed them or led to marches and protests. United fans can face reality.

Whilst it might seem at times other people are willing to burn money on football clubs the fact is that Liverpool does not generate the revenue of Chelsea. Abramovich and Man City’s owners are the only two in the world willing to burn money from what I can see.

The only conclusion is their sense of footballing entitlement would not be out of place in the Tory party.

Manager Colour Counting Justified Unfortunately

I take great care to avoid hanging the ‘Black’ tag on the diverse ethnicity of dark skinned people. Dark skinned people are no less diverse in outlook and temperament than everyone else. However some things are so egregious you have to address the racism in other’s terms.

There are two black managers in the 4 highest football leagues.

Keith Alexander and Paul Ince are the only black managers.

This is ridiculous as anyone watching on the pitch would know.

Two out of 96 does not sound a lot but demographically counting all mixed race children as black (a wild assumption)  we get 3.2% black – 2% without mixed race – 91% White – 85.7% white British for all the whinging idiots complaining about losing their country. This means when John Barnes was in charge the score would have been par but for black players being vastly more represented as football players than in the general populace. Hence no one is complaining the larger Asian populace is not represented – 3.9% without any mixed race (again a mad assumption).

More worrying is that when there were three two of those were celebrity footballers in Ince and Barnes i.e. it’ll feel more confortable when it’s 10 to 96 largely playing nobodies, with some at Premiership level.

The other problem with football is that managers are generally speaking chosen, especially for top jobs. This opens up the probability of prejudice. It is likely difficult to change in the context of European Law unlike in the NFL where minority interviews are mandatory for vacancies.

I guess for this analysis to be more coruscating we would need to go deeper. To know the number of ‘black’ people with the necessary qualifications and the percentage of them who applied for various jobs. Nonetheless the Football League and Premiership clubs clearly have a case to answer.

The continual appointment and re-treading of managers with known problems and considerable suspicions attached to them tends to make one wonder why more younger managers are not appointed. Let’s hope when the 70s and 80s footballers are retired  in the new wave of managers black people will be at least as represented as they have been on the pitch since the 80s.

To any chairman or bigots out there the fact John Barnes failed is as relevant to another ‘Black’ manager as the managerial careers of Bryan and ‘Pop’ Robson’s are to Bobby Robson’s.

One day let’s hope the bigots are the ones counting the black managers with the aid of a calculator as their fingers prove as inadequate as their brains.  For now the colour counters point out an uncomfortable truth.

Sunderland Sign Boudewijn Zenden : Why?

Chelsea bought Zenden from Barcelona for real money 8 years ago even though he appeared next to useless. A winger without pace, tricks or crossing abilities – a Dutch Downing. After failing at Chelsea he then went to Boro and Liverpool before being released by Rafa. At 33 he is back in the top flight at Sunderland.

Just because someone was/is a Dutch international does not  make them above replacement level. After all it’s a country of 15 million and whilst it will have a few stars not all its World Cup 23 will be good. Not even a country England’s size has had many squads with 23 first class players until recently. Yet I feel this is how the market works on insinuation even though you can view almost every top flight game a player has played with a little effort.

I  hope Sunderland are barely paying him but doubt that. However a relatively low weekly wage will still be an insult to the fans of Sunderland and many would struggle to earn that in a year.

This spending appears more a power thing: managers judge a club’s commitment to them by what they get to spend: board members get to show off to the world (spivery).

Bruce has a good recent track record at Wigan so if I was a Sunderland fan I’d watch a few games to see if this works out.

Even if  Zenden works out I am sure  signings are often purely on name recognition  and assumption.

Hughes and O’Neill : Refuse To Win?

The first sign Venables was out of date for me was not his usage of 442 in 1996 after all as with managers before and after him he was undone by the need to appease his centre forward. The 442 try and  score through 1 striker obsession of the Lineker, Shearer and Owen eras brought 2 golden boots and nothing more. The irony being in 1966 a 433 team built around size and movement won the world cup with its best goal scorer on the bench. I guess England decided that was too easy or something. Venables tried the Christmas tree 4231 but Shearer went over 10 games without a goal so it was jettisoned.

It was not even the clownery when with Gary Neville absent he went a to a back 3 rather than use a reserve.  A move he with Steven McClaren would repeat because Stewart Downing was low on confidence in the Croatian qualifier in 2006 – no idea how those two were linked but that is what El Tel  said.

No the first sign that Venables was past it was after the 120 minute and penalties loss to Germany in 1996 we learned that Venables did not believe in substitutes. He did not change for anything but injury. It’s a great way never to make an overt mistake I guess.

Last night Villa Man City, in a game that was there to be won at 1 all, the subs we got were 2 for injury and 2 probably to let expensive players have a run out rather than an attempt to win the game. O’Neill and Hughes indeed did not use their 3rd substitute. This was despite the Villa players tiring badly. Indeed Ireland coming on for the vile de Jong, injured fouling Young, nearly changed the game against the worn out midfield of Villa.

This fetishing of the first XI thinking comes from an era where you only had one or no subs. It’s still the dominant theme if you listen to the pundits. Yet with 3 subs and the pace of an English league game you wonder if, particularly with attacking players, it makes any sense at all?

It was clear to me Villa last year using only 14 starters to Christmas ran out of steam. It’s also obvious that tired forwards trying to run at pace risk injury and lose their ball control. Villa have enough forwards to rotate and do the old Mourinho trick when his teams dominated games by replacing a lone forward and winger(s) between 60 and 70 minutes.

Too often premiership managers use their substitutions merely in the hope a weak ref  will blow early and not add the extra time. Personally I see that as a waste and worse silly thinking. A striker or winger who knows he only has to last 70 minutes can do more damage and leave his marker ripe for destruction.

Ironically with Robinho due back and Tevez and Bellamy as undroppable as 2 players can be at present I  think Hughes will inadvertently do the right thing. The question is will he be brave and do it after 55 or 60 minutes not 70+ and 80+?

Keegan Demands only £25 Million To Show His Love

The price of getting rid of Kevin Keegan has been 2 million for Newcastle and some would argue that was a very generous decision by the Arbitrator. After all some of us 200 miles away knew they had a director of football. Indeed whilst the sum appears large to us plebs it’s really a 4 or 5 month payoff and actually quite small. We also do not know what conditions have been placed on this as well. This is nowhere near the 13+ million paid to Jose Mourinho even though ‘the delusional one’ said he quit and was not dismissed.

Keegan will have spent plenty on grafting lawyers – amazingly you pay someone for an opinion they tell you what they think you want to hear especially when it is to their financial benefit.

What we do know is that Keegan was well within his rights to sue like anyone dismissed by an employer. The point being that how much does he love the club to demand 25 million? What if he was just a jobbing manager for any old club? Would he have asked for 50 million if it had been say Sunderland? 125 Million if it had been Chelsea?

Players and managers generally do not love clubs without financial reason. For instance Ray Wilkins attaching himself as Mr Chelsea is not heart warming. He left at 23 to pursue more money. Even if they have genuine emotion for the club it does not seem to be so public until the money is on offer.

Hopefully this a wake up call to Newcastle fans to stop living in a fantasy world and face the realpolitik of their club and its position. Of what people like Keegan and Shearer and others really want from the club they love and support.