Posted on December 3, 2013
Picture the scene: it’s 6 May 2012 and over 38,000 fans pack a sold out Hillsborough stadium for a League One clash between Sheffield Wednesday and Wycombe Wanderers. The Owls beat The Chairboys 2-0 to secure a return to English football’s second tier and pip their city rivals United to automatic promotion. Wednesday boss Dave Jones is lauded for the unbeaten run he has overseen since being appointed thirteen games ago and an air of optimism fills the ground. The chants of delighted fans ring around Hillsborough in the direction of Owls owner and, saviour from almost certain administration, Milan Mandaric. The optimism continues into the summer with Mandaric fuelling talk of promotion and comparisons involving Norwich and Southampton are encouraged by chairman and manager alike.
Now just 19 months later, the picture is rather different. After a run of 1 win in 16 games, Jones has been relieved of his duties. Despite Mandaric’s reputation for having a short fuse when it comes to manager performance, he has given Dave Jones more than enough rope to hang himself and after successive defeats to Derby, Huddersfield and Blackpool, hang himself he has.
So where do Wednesday go from here? With little success to speak of since their relegation from the Premier League in the late 90s, Owls fans have suffered through boardroom uncertainty and more managers than one cares to remember. High points in the form of promotions from League One to the Championship in 2005 and 2012 respectively, have been tempered by the reality that there has been little to no consistency within the club that suggests a Championship status is anything other than precarious at best.
Sitting 6 points from safety and in the midst of a tough run of fixtures, the remainder of the 2013-14 campaign will prove a tough challenge for whoever is next in the Hillsborough hot seat. But can we really expect anything other than a battle against relegation this season and, if lucky enough to survive, each season beyond? Whilst Owls fans should be forever grateful to Mandaric for saving the club from almost certain extinction, the rumblings of takeover have led more than a few fans to question the Serbian businessman’s motives. The facts are that the club continues to lose money on an annual basis and, with stopgap loan moves the modus operandi at present, there seems little opportunity for the club to re-establish the dressing room spirit that helped propel Wednesday to promotion two seasons ago. The sooner a long term buyer is found for the club, the better.
Dave Jones can be considered as one in a long line of Hillsborough managers who could point to the boardroom to explain away their failings. The money has never been plentiful but has the Liverpudlian really made the most of the resources at his disposal? Jones has certainly had some successes in the transfer market – plucking ex-England international Chris Kirkland out of obscurity being one of a few highlights. But too often Jones’ wheeling and dealing has had the air of ‘Arry on Transfer Deadline Day – disorganised, short-term and with a mantra of ‘I’ll have anyone I can get my hands on.’ Out of contract players, usually in their mid-30s, train with the club before being offered pay-as-you-play short term deals – Seyi Olifinjana and Stephen McPhail are the latest examples of this policy. Such short-term deals represent two things:
- the club has no real funds to recruit better, and
- of those we can recruit, we trust them to deliver for the following thirty days and no longer.
What little money there is has been spent on players who then struggle to get a consistent run in the side – Rhys McCabe (Rangers ‘wonder-kid’) and Chris Maguire (signed for a hefty sum from Derby) – are yet to see prolonged game time (Maguire has been loaned out to Coventry this month at a time when the club are down to two fit senior strikers). All this whilst out-of-form players like Michail Antonio and Jeremy Helan have been allowed to try and play through their poor performances when going for a different option may have yielded more positive results. As Wednesday stumble into December as the only club in the football league yet to keep a clean sheet, Jones’ status was that of a condemned man.
So at whose door can we lay the blame for the latest Hillsborough crisis? Whilst Mandaric continues to fund the club in the short-term, without significant investment in younger players who may actually see the hallowed Hillsborough turf, we can expect little progress to be made. Dave Jones’ mistakes outweighed his successes and on such a tight budget, that combination will never work. So whether it is Ian Holloway, Steve Evans, Stuart Pearce, or even Neil Warnock, who fills the Owls vacancy, it seems that without a resolution to the long-term future of the club the new manager will encounter the same problems the old ones have – a lack of money resulting in the need for a successful temporary solution. Perhaps as Blade and ex-Sheffield United manager Warnock throws his name in the ring as being willing to do the job for the remainder of the season, Wednesday fans may do well to swallow their pride and accept that for a club that currently needs a stop-gap solution, Warnock may just be the best option there is. The more pressing question could be when will the club stop looking for short-term solutions? The big picture looks very murky at present.
Written by Neil Piper
Posted on November 18, 2013
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery seems to be Hull City chairman Assem Allam’s maxim as he strives to outdo Cardiff owner Vincent Tan in stripping their respective clubs of tradition and history. Allam has a way to go yet to beat Tan who has not only changed the nickname and colour Cardiff play in, but is rumoured to want to change the name as well. Allam has only revealed plans to change the name of the club – so far.
Seemingly confused on what the name of the club actually is, Allam has stated that it is known as Hull City Tigers and merely wants to shorten the name to Hull Tigers as his research has shown that companies with shorter names perform better on the global stock markets. It is hard to know where to begin in pulling apart Allam’s arguments but telling him that Hull’s football club name doesn’t actually include the word ‘Tigers’ (as opposed to the holding company) seems to be a good place to start. It’s certainly what a supporters group called City Til We Die have done. Allam has decided against the friendly PR road however, by refusing to be told how to run his businesses by “a few hundred people”.
The main thrust behind the name change initially seems to be that Hull Tigers sounds more impressive and catchy to the global market compared to the boring old ‘Hull City’. Forgetting about the years of tradition that football fans generally like to cling onto, Allam is also plainly delusional about Hull’s standing in the ‘global market’. Although they are now in the Premiership, giving them exposure to a world audience generally interested in only top flight football, there is obviously no guarantee that they will survive in the league. It is also a bit of a stretch to believe that fans of English football in the various corners of the globe would latch onto Hull as the team to follow. Changing the name to Tigers surely wouldn’t make any difference to that?
There are reports of Allam’s main problem being with the council and that that is actually the main reason he wants nothing to do with the word ‘City’. If this is true then it shows the man’s spitefulness transcends his lack of knowledge of the game.
Hull fans are hoping that rules concerning name changes will fall in their favour as any plans have to be ratified by the FA after consultation with supporters. But if Cardiff are anything to go by, the FA care little for tradition and supporter reservations when it comes to multi millionaire owners intent on ripping the soul out of their new playthings. I’m afraid it doesn’t look to good for Hull City AFC.
Dan Roberts – @LasVegasWI
Posted on November 9, 2013
Today, BT Sport announced they’ve won the rights to Champions League games from 2015-18. £897m, for all 350 games – ending ITV’s long-running stint, and snatching Sky’s most recent jewel in their footballing crown.
This shit just got real.
The Football TV rights landscape has seen many pretenders come and go but Sky have always held firm.
Setanta and ESPN have come and gone. Largely in the same fashion – stretched to the limit of their finances and with a woeful lack of subscribers they crumbled. There was no real forward planning. They were nowhere near big enough to survive. Like a newly promoted Premier League team just happy to be on a higher stage, this was the sort of venture where failure was inevitable.
But then came BT Sport.
Even last year, in press rooms around the country that I was lucky enough to go to I’d hear from journalists and press officers that they would just be the same. Not all of them admittedly, but many didn’t have a clue what BT would add. They saw them as another Setanta and ESPN.
For me the facts were clear as soon as BT paid £246m per season for a package that included around half of the Premier League’s top picks.
They were serious. This wasn’t a toe in the water. They were knee deep. It wasn’t WBA vs Liverpool at 5:45. It was first picks at premium times.
When you start looking deeper you see BT are reinventing their whole business. This isn’t merely an add on. This is going to be core business. TV and Sport. With internet and phone businesses becoming increasingly ubiquitous, TV and Sport is BT’s new aim.
Their financials back it up too. Huge reserves and £18.3bn revenue vs BSkyB’s £7.2bn last year have given BT the financial clout to finally test the dominance that Sky have wielded since they first won the rights to the Premier League.
But BT still have a long way to go. Getting rid of David James and Steve McMannaman would be a start. As would adding some more slickness to their show. But for year one I think they’ve so far done a fantastic job. They didn’t even exist 6 months ago. And they have some fantastic people behind the scenes, especially in their digital and social departments – not to mention a great tie up with Opta too.
What does it hold for the future? Who knows. One thing is for sure, the Premier League rights bidding just got even more competitive. I imagine we’ll see the record broken for TV rights again. And if Sky don’t win them… Well, what do they have left?
Written by @RKTweets
Posted on October 11, 2013
When David Weir was appointed back in June, fans were broadly very optimistic – unusually so given disagreement on previous appointments. After a number of candidates had distanced themselves in what felt like the longest managerial search in the club’s history, it appeared like the club had come across a diamond in the rough.
On paper, we had a man that was keen to make his mark in football, had worked for the likes of David Moyes and Walter Smith, and who had been preparing for several years for the right time to enter management. He had apparently narrowly lost out to Roberto Martinez for the Everton job, and was all of a sudden unveiled in a fresh-looking managerial team – alongside assistants Lee Carsley (‘technical’) and Adam Owen (‘performance’).
A flurry of early signings followed. Some reliable performers in the league (Watford’s Stephen McGinn and Walsall’s Febian Brandy), while others were gambles that seemed like they might payoff, like 24-goal Lyle Taylor from Falkirk. Few came in that were experienced – this was to be a team that was younger, fresher, more attacking.
The performance on the opening evening of the season was one of the most positive I’ve seen from a new manager in years. Attack-minded full-backs that were so absent from Danny Wilson’s side last season; a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation; pace on the break that quickly disposed of memories of Barry Robson struggling to move last year. And the chances we created were intelligently created, albeit still in need of finishing. But keep playing like that and we were looking at a cracking season.
Then Kevin McDonald was sold to Wolves – the focal point to Weir’s new style. Whether it was naivety to model a team around a player with a fairly low sell-out clause, or just plain stupidity, Weir was simply unable to recapture the level of performance thereafter. And as the chances dried up, the defence that had looked so solid last year seemed incapable of a clean sheet – bizarre given Weir & Carsley’s defensive qualities as players.
As the slide started, the fans’ expectations were at the same time raised by the emergence of Prince Abdullah as a new co-owner of the football club. Further signings were made – good signings. Jose Baxter, Florent Cuvelier, Marlon King – all players that should be more than capable at League 1. And yet, the performances, save 45 minutes at Wolves, continued to be woeful.
The loss on Tuesday to League 2 Hartlepool marked his 7th defeat in all competitions – his only wins being on the first day, and a 0-0 draw that was won on penalties in the JPT against League 2 Scunthorpe. The interview he gave was just horrible to watch – a broken man. This wasn’t what he had spent years preparing for. Fan anger turned to fan pity – but in the end the general feeling had shifted to wanting him out.
You never like to see a change of this speed. But we’ve seen managers through Bramall Lane before that have inherited a good team, been able to bring in decent players, and yet hurtle down the table at alarming pace. The diabolical Bryan Robson era lasted until February – another man that had ‘learnt from the best’, who wanted to play a more passing style, and whose reign can be summed up by the fact he had ambitions of converting Nick Montgomery into ‘an attacking midfielder’. The difference then was that the fans knew Robson was doomed to fail – Weir’s inadequacies have come as a huge shock to the system.
The club is in trouble. The players’ confidence appears shot, their attitude appears to have been one of the key factors. Weir tried to impose a style on players that were either unwilling or unable to work in his system – with Weir himself refusing to budge on his approach mid-game, between games, or in the face of evidence week-on-week that it wasn’t working. Would it have improved in time? There was very little evidence to suggest this. What was a managerial career with promise 4 months ago appears in tatters. I wanted it to work, the fans wanted it to work, all signs were that it would work. It has been a disaster.
And in what is probably the most important decision of the club in my lifetime, the owners need to avert a further one.
Written by @josephclift
Posted on August 30, 2013
A tuesday night League Cup early-round tie between two Championship sides who’d probably rather have been resting their players ahead of the weekend’s fixtures. Hardly the natural backdrop for the talking point of the round – and yet it was Huish Park that played host to the latest scene in the painfully slow pantomime that is the death of sportsmanship in football.
For those that missed it, controversy struck late in the tie. Birmingham were minutes away from winning the tie when the keeper kicked the ball out so that team-mate Dan Burn, apparently injured, could be treated. Rather than return the ball, cheeky scamp Byron Webster spotted the chance to turn this match that barely anyone was concerned about into something special – deftly lobbing the ball over keeper Doyle to take the tie into extra time as Birmingham players switched off.
With Lee Clark retaining his habitual dullness and containing his mood, Yeovil boss Gary Johnson had two options: view the incident as an unsporting act that had to be quickly remedied, or view it as a just punishment for a team trying to wind down the clock with gamesmanship. The former would have seen most in the game praise Johnson’s honesty; the latter, his conviction.
In the event, he took a third option – acting neither swiftly nor decisively. Content with the situation that gave his team a late equaliser to force extra-time, Johnson instead waited 20 minutes until his side had taken the lead before any hint of guilt manifested itself. It was only then that Lee Novak was allowed to walk in a goal with all players remaining stationary. All bar Chris Burke, who escorted Novak up the pitch in either a vain hope Novak would square it at the last minute, or out of lack of trust that Wayne Hennessey wouldn’t try a last-minute Byron manoeuvre and save the ball on the line.
The gesture appeared wholly tokenistic and seemed designed to save face for Johnson, rather than be born from a sense of sportsmanship. Had the scores remained level and Yeovil not taken the lead, would Johnson have gifted Birmingham a goal to start the 2nd half of extra time? Would he have instructed a player to sky a ball over to hand Birmingham an instant advantage in the shootout? One assumes James McAllister was not under instruction when he hit his woeful penalty over the bar…
This was similarly the case when I was at Highbury in 1999 for Sheffield United’s FA Cup tie in which the ball had been kicked out so that Lee Morris, whose legs throughout his career had the durability of a pair of breadsticks, could be treated. Kanu (“unfamiliar with our customs”) latched onto a throw-in meant for keeper Alan Kelly, before crossing for Marc Overmars (very familiar with our customs) to tap home. At the time, Arsenal had been on the back foot in the game – Marcelo had just equalised for the Blades and looked set for a home replay. History will recall that Arsene Wenger “graciously offered a replay”. A replay at Highbury. When key players he had rested, such as Tony Adams and the in-form Nicolas Anelka, could be restored to the line-up. Such generosity.
Johnson himself is no stranger to these situations. It was in another League Cup tie back in 2004 against Plymouth in which Yeovil took the lead, albeit unintended, when his son Lee overhit returning the ball to the Pilgrims keeper. This was perhaps far more clear-cut a situation, but given the speed at which Johnson acted to restore panity, you have to wonder why it took so long for him to reconsider in this week’s game. Taking immediate action would have handed Birmingham the tie and save them from a gruelling 30 minutes of extra time. Should Birmingham tire and lose their game this weekend, Clark will be justifiably pointing to events this week as a contributing factor.
The sad truth is that you can understand Johnson’s reasons for thinking ‘to hell with sportsmanship’, because he’s been on the receiving end lately where players seemingly feign injury to waste time. This isn’t new – it’s been creeping into the game for years. So while you can understand Johnson’s frustrations, it can’t justify the act of ignoring the game’s customs.
What would be fairer? There has to be a better way of reducing the scope for this rule to be abused. Part of it could be avoided by the players themselves just kicking the ball out of play as far away from their goal as possible – rather than like last night tapping it out about 40 yards from the goal. There are two obvious improvements:
- leave it up to the ref to decide how play should restart and ensure that this is communicated to both teams when necessary
- stop the clock that is visible for all fans, as happens in rugby, for stoppages so that it’s clear that attempts to waste time are eliminated
Football is in a sorry state when players and managers can no longer be trusted to correct these freak occurrences. Sadly, the time has now come for this responsibility to be taken away from those directly involved. Rather than continue to witness the slow death these customs of sportsmanship have been enduring, let’s put the whole thing out of its misery.
Written by @josephclift
Posted on August 27, 2013
A big trend in the transfer windows of the last few years has been the ‘saga’.
This summer we have Bale, Suarez and Rooney, Lamela, Willian and the list goes on… In years gone by the names Fabregas, Van Persie, Ashley Cole and Modric have all been the main characters. But while the names and clubs may change the story remains the same.
With clubs ever more desperate for success higher and with fans begging clubs to spend the TV money to achieve it, the ‘saga’ is worse than ever.
As strange as it may sound, transfers in football are rarely simple and rarely actually planned.
Opportunism is a key driver, unless you have a director of football and manager working together to a single vision. Indeed, it’s not a coincidence that Spurs and Manchester City, who operate under this kind of structure, have already done business this summer in a manner which seems more planned – something that certainly wasn’t always the case for either club.
The role the media plays in transfers is both overplayed and underplayed. I know of cases where media stories have informed clubs about contracts and availability.
While some players have briefed newspapers themselves Bale and Rooney have all done their talking via others. Suarez has in fact done both, ironically using the very industry he cited (Has Uruguayan radio ever had a hotter summer in the UK?) as his reason to leave Liverpool as the tool to engineer his move.
But who is the puppet master of the saga? Is it the media? The agent, player or the clubs? Each though it pulling on the strings.
The media certainly has an interest in keeping the narrative going, which means clicks to their websites (no one buys newspapers anymore, do they?) which means more cash for them from advertisers.
The agent and player, if they let a saga roll on, can provoke a move and a cash payment or a new contract. Or sometimes just enjoy the benefits of a newly boosted media profile.
And lastly the clubs. While the selling club generally don’t want to be part of the saga, unless they are acting the damsel in distress, the buying clubs need it to continue because every backpage headline unsettles the selling club making it tougher for them to play hardball (see Real Madrid for case examples every year…)
One thing is for sure, the saga is here to stay. It’s not going to get prettier, it’s not going to get shorter, but it is going to get a hell of a lot more tedious.
- Tottenham Hotspur: Bale on brink as he misses Spurs training (clubcall.com)
Posted on August 21, 2013
Last year I wrote about the potential of Southampton’s youthful team, and their ambitions for the Premier League. After Nigel Adkins was sacked, I also described the canniness of the Chairman, Nicola Cortese.
Now, at the start of the 2013 season, Southampton FC are ready to explode into the Premier League.
And what a contrast – seven year’s ago, Southampton under the charge of Chairman Rupert Lowe, were plundering towards Premier League relegation for the first time in 20 years. Lowe then masterfully led them to League One and into administration, while selling off some of their popular young stars – Walcott and Bale – along the way. Southampton woke up in 2009 in League One with -10 points. Dark days for the club.
But from the depths of despair came a new Saint – Markus Liebherr, a Swiss millionaire, whose wealth manager, Nicola Cortese, found him Southampton FC. Marcus agreed the purchase only if Cortese took charge as chairman. Liebherr sadly passed away a year later, but with his daughter’s continued financial backing, two years later in 2012, Southampton charged back to the Premier League.
Now a year on, Southampton have had a week that sends a warning shot to the rest of the league.
Wednesday 14 August, on a train ride from London to Southampton
You could sense the excitement in the air (twitter air that is, not on the train – Southampton folk aren’t the most flamboyant).
Rickie Lambert, who epitomises everything that’s great about the squad – under-estimated skill, humility, hard work, had just been called up for the England squad for the first time, to play Scotland. That evening, subbed on for Wayne Rooney, with 30 minutes remaining and both teams level, he scored a powerhouse header to win the game for England. First call up, first cap, first touch of the ball.
Rickie’s story says a lot about Southampton. He credits the club for changing his mentality from an over reliance on natural ability, but without care for fitness, to the serious athlete he is now. Even in League One, Southampton were raising ambitions.
Something about Rickie scoring on his England debut inspired the nation. The Olympic spirit never seemed to translate to football – Wayne Rooney or Frank Lambert’s cagey drones don’t capture the same excitement as Mo Farah or Jess Ennis. But Lambert, bursting with enthusiasm at a post match interview: “I was trying to act cool all week, but inside I wanted to scream” brought the goosebumps back. Now the English know how it feels to be a Saints fan.
Thursday 15 August, reading the press stories about Southampton transfer activity.
Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, Italian international, was as you would expect, rejecting a move to Saints. Spurs were ready to pounce. Saints vs Spurs. vs London. Kaos vs Mahiki. 14th finishers vs Europa league qualifiers. No contest.
Saturday 16 August, first day of the Premier League 2013-14.
Southampton v West Brom. 3 debuts.
Cortese spent the summer filling in the gaps in the squad, not by looking for bargains in the leagues of journey men, or fading Premier League stars. When Don Cortese says he wants to play in Europe he means it. The hard negotiator snapped up two of the young Champions League stars from 2012 – Victor Wanyama, midfield powerhouse, who scored for Celtic against Barcelona last season. And Dejan Lovren, Lyon central defender who impressed so many against Tottenham last year.
The final debut was for Calum Chambers, 18, right back, product of Southampton’s famous youth academy. He wasn’t the only 18 year old on the pitch – with midfielder James Ward-Prowse, and left back Luke Shaw having established themselves last year. One of The Don’s ambitions for Southampton is to emulate Barcelona’s youth success with 50% of the first team taken from the academy. With four academy players in the starting line up (the fourth being 25 year old Adam Lallana) that isn’t looking too far off.
Not long ago, our youth were enticed by the bright lights of Arsenal or Tottenham, now they want to stay. Not long ago, we were bullied by the big boys for our talent – if Bale’s ￡100 million transfer goes ahead we will receive no benefit as Lowe sold the sell on clause to Tottenham. Now The Don out-wits them. Arsene Wenger only brings Oxlade-Chamberlain on 72 minutes or more into the game as The Don has a clause in his contract for a ￡10k payment every 20 minutes he plays (although as Wenger didn’t factor injury time into his calculations, we’re still demanding the cash).
The West Brom game ended with hero Lambert finishing off his amazing week with a penalty to win the game. Lovren, Wanyama, and Chambers all dominated on their debuts.
Sunday 18 August – train back to London, following breaking news updates
The media, reporting on the unliklihood of Osvaldo joining Saints, didn’t factor in the tenaciousness of The Don, or Southampton manager, former Argentinean international, Mauricio Pochettino.
Pochettino joined the club in January 2013, bringing a new explosive style. Inspired by Argentinean coach Marcelo Bielsa, he became a disciple of the high pressing, aggressive attacking style at his previous club Espanyol. He also brought with him a level of international respect that Adkins could never compete with.
Osvaldo once a player at Espanyol and managed by Pochettino, was quoted at the time: “He makes you work like a dog. Sometimes you feel like killing him, but it works.”
And here the dots start joining, and Osvaldo after numerous calls with his former boss, signed up for the lowly Saints ahead of Europe-fighting Spurs. Southampton fans were euphoric (although they hid it well on the train) – a rock and roll football star; a long way from the days of Jonathon Forte.
Watching Chelsea tear apart Hull, its clear there’s still some way to go to turn Southampton FC into a ruthless winning machine. But the promise and money is there, the set up is strong, team spirit is thriving, and that makes for a pretty exhilarating ride for Southampton supporters. 2009 seems a distant memory.
Written by: Louise Kyme
Posted on August 18, 2013
The BBC’s flagship football programme has, in recent years, attracted a steady drip of criticism: too cosy, too cliquey, too complacent. A haven of hackneyed cliché, lazy punditry, and bar room banality.
These rumblings of dissent suddenly registered much higher on the Richter scale last season with the biggest earthquake in punditry since Andy Townsend’s tactics truck last parked at the back of a stadium: the arrival of Gary Neville as a Sky Sports pundit.
His impact, in the cosseted sofas of football guff was like the colossal Chiccxulub asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs. In one short season he laid waste to the ‘say what you see’ school of punditry, all through the revolutionary concept of providing actual analysis.
Against this backdrop, shell-shocked Match Of The Day producers have responded with what they no doubt consider heretical radicalism, but what to the rest of us looks like fiddling around at the edges.
Mark Lawrenson, whose sour, world weary jibes made him sound like a embittered spinster, has had his role on the programme “reduced“. A decision, that with delicious irony, he has taken in typical lemon-sucking, ill-temper.
In has come Danny Murphy another in the long line of ex-Liverpool players who enjoy a handsome, superannuated retirement on the programme. In place of Lawro’s dour drollery, Murphy gave us a furious, knitted brow concentration, like a commuter trying to focus on a Sudoku whilst failing to hide their irritation at the sound of the latest Rhianna album leaking from the headphones of the passenger next to him.
Unaccountably, Alan Shearer has been retained. Throughout his time on the programme he has specialised in a peculiar form of emphatic blandness, which is perhaps to be expected from a man who celebrated winning the Premier League by creosoting his fence.
Shearer was in doggedly flavourless form, sharing with us the wisdom accumulated through 313 career goals, that strikers need to have a desire to “get in the box”, illustrating the point with a series of clips of Danny Welbeck running in a straight line towards this footballing Shangri-La.
Murphy chipped in to attribute this new, snorting, ‘British Bulldog’ aspect to Welbeck’s game to Roy Hodgson. The England manager, Murphy informed us, does a lot of drills aimed at getting strikers into the box – raising the interesting question as to where, left to their own devices, untutored forwards would choose to run.
The other innovations saw Gary Lineker interviewing the new Everton manager Roberto Martinez via satellite link. A gimmick which offered almost as little as the twitter poll of controversial incidents and the inclusion of the back page headlines at the end of the programme.
On the basis of their 2013/14 season debut, were I to liken MOTD to a Premier League team it would be Arsenal. Myopically unaware of their own failings, and with no significant signings, the gradual decline looks set to continue. And like Arsene Wenger you have to wonder how much longer it’ll be before new management is brought in.
Written by James Albion
Posted on August 17, 2013
Hello One Foot In The Game readers, we’ve been wearing our clothes for awhile. So with the MOST EXCITING PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON EVER (SkySports trademark) we thought it best to give ourselves a spruce up.
First of all, you’ll notice our new font and blog design, we think it’s much more in keeping than what we were looking like before.
This season we’ll have a crack team of writers for hire giving a slightly different view on football from as many divisions as we can. We’ve got Ex-Everton, Preston and Spurs employee Roberto Kusabbi, Sheffield United fan and co-Editor Joseph Clift and lots more writers from the unknown to the secretive.
So bookmark us, follow us and make sure you get involved in the comments. The season just got real.
Posted on August 2, 2013
Pre-season comes to a welcome end this evening as the first Football League fixture opens up another 10 months of glorious action. And what a season it looks like on the face of it. The top of the Premiership hasn’t looked this unpredictable in years, which is mirrored in each of three divisions below.
Ever keen to stick our collective neck on the line, we’re hoping to accurately predict some of the stories for the season ahead. Last year we successfully predicted Andy Thorn to be the first boss to lose his job – while one of our bloggers bizarrely suggested it was going to be an awful year for Swansea….
1. The Champions question: who will win the Premiership, Championship, League 1 and League 2
@rktweets: Chelsea. Jose comes back with a more mellowed demeanor (for now) and brings the title back. City a close second if not pushing for top spot. So really I’m saying Chelsea or City. Or Spurs (not Spurs).
I like the look of Brighton and intrigued what their tikka takka manager will bring. But Wigan for the title… QPR may be down to the bare bones but they could challenge too
James Albion: Chelsea, Watford, Peterborough, Scunthorpe
@josephclift: Chelsea, Watford, Peterborough, Portsmouth
Dan Northcote-Smith (@dnsandnick): Man City, Wigan, Sheffield United, Fleetwood
Nick Moss (@dnsandnick): Chelsea, QPR, Peterborough (have to I’m afraid, place of birth), Fleetwood (heart over head this one but love the story)
2. The Ron Atkinson question: who will be the first manager to be sacked in the top four divisions?
@rktweets: Paul Ince (Blackpool)
James Albion: Harry Redknapp (QPR). Relegation rarely stops the rot and I’m not sure Harry’s got the energy to turn the club round. With Steve McClaren recently joining the QPR coaching team, Redknapp may find his successor has already been recruited.
@josephclift: Nigel Pearson (Leicester City). Pearson’s been on a steady decline since January and simply hasn’t delivered despite being backed with funding. Their lack of activity in the transfer market this summer does not bode well.
Dan Northcote-Smith (@dnsandnick): Gary Bowyer (Blackburn Rovers)
Nick Moss (@dnsandnick): Not sure why but I think that Paul Ince is a bit lively in the boardroom and could well walk/be pushed. Avoiding the customary Blackburn manager answer.
3. The Guy Whittingham question: who will be the top scorer out of the top four divisions?
@rktweets: The boy Rhodes, or if he stays Doyle at Wolves.
James Albion: I expect Matt Tubbs to return to prolific form now he’s been reunited with former manager Steve Evans at Rotherham.
@josephclift: Fresh from his cracking season at Easter Road, I can see Leigh Griffiths setting League 1 alight at Wolves.
Dan Northcote-Smith (@dnsandnick): Charlie Austin
Nick Moss (@dnsandnick): I’ll plump for Jordan Rhodes again. Honourable mention for big Grant Holt. Failing that, a sensational season for Gary Hooper would be a joy to see… Honest.
4. The Marco Boogers question: which new signing will completely flop?
@rktweets: Arsenal’s Higuain. Oh wait. Despite every media (especially goal) pretty much announcing he signed, he never did. Really, Vito Mannone at Sunderland, Helanius at Villa and maybe Van Wolfswinkle.
James Albion: Dave Kitson. Looked ready for the glue factory when I saw him for Sheffield United last season. Has continued his descent down the leagues by signing for League 2’s Oxford. I don’t expect many goals.
@josephclift: Charlie Austin. Had a quite brilliant season at Burnley, with no expectations, before picking up a bad injury. He failed a medical as a result that ended hopes of a move to Hull. He’s now expected to deliver what Hooper would have done at QPR, where they are expected to be promoted – I can’t see him reproducing the form he had at Turf Moor.
Dan Northcote-Smith (@dnsandnick): Danny Graham – could be another goalless season.
Nick Moss (@dnsandnick): I’m gonna bend the rules here and say that Arsenal’s signing of Absolutely No-one may not turn out to be the hard hitting presence on the field they hoped for.
5. The Titanic question: which club is going to have a nightmarish disaster of a season?
@rktweets: I don’t like the shape of Sheffield United. Wonder how Stoke will do and Norwich rode their luck at the end. I don’t see a QPR of slides though this season. Pompey are supposed to win the league…not sure about that.
James Albion: Assuming they even start the season, Coventry look doomed to another awful season courtesy of their ongoing off-field problems.
@josephclift: It’s already happening at Coventry sadly, but I reckon the wheels will ultimately come off the Di Canio roller-coaster at Sunderland.
Dan Northcote-Smith (@dnsandnick): Coventry – they are already.
Nick Moss (@dnsandnick): It’s just looking worse and worse for Coventry.