Thursday, 30 December 2010

Hodgson's a dead man walking at Liverpool

Hodgson: holding on but for how long?
I'm sorry to say this about a good man, but Roy Hodgson's reign as Liverpool boss will be a short one.

Hodgson, who steered modest Fulham to the Europa League Final and a mid-table finish last season, simply can't steer the Anfield Titanic round the iceberg.

But home defeat to relegation-haunted Wolves, without a single away win since March and a first victory at Anfield in 27 years, must be close to being the last straw for Hodgson. It's an eighth defeat of the season and their third in four games.

Unfortunately, the damage began in Rafa Benitez' last campaign. Liverpool dipped from Premier League runners-up to seventh place - so failing to qualify for their usual Champions League spot.
The hallmarks of Shankly's Liverpool are all but gone.

And a change of ownership's not yet galvanized anything resembling a recovery.

John W. Henry's adopting a watching brief in his first months as owner - and will be troubled with what's on offer. This is easily the worst Reds team since Bill Shankly shook the club to its foundations and built modern Liverpool.

Not even the era of Graeme Souness was as bad as this. The abolition of the Boot Room was a symbolic low point, akin to the ravens leaving the Tower. 

But even then, as the Reds lost their grip on an annual title assault plus cup shocks at home to lowly Bolton and Bristol City, there was still an FA Cup victory and just the thought that the right manager could restore the trophy culture.

And it duly came to pass; even though the title hasn't returned to Anfield since, Liverpool have won trophies galore in the last twenty years including the very biggest one, the Champions League.

But this time, Liverpool's decline is spectacular. They are fast-becoming instititional also-rans. As the Reds slide down the table and lose their glister and status, Tottenham and Manchester City are fast-replacing them in ways that make them uncatchable. London and Manchester hold more excitement to young men with dreams of the Champions League than Liverpool, with less to offer all-round.

The summer will surely test the loyalty of Steven Gerrard and the commitment of Fernando Torres. Will both be considering life after Liverpool?

Hodgson admits the support has never been there from the Kop, but neither have the results. He cites the popularity of Kenny Dalglish, who he beat for the job, as the reason. Good results would have made life easier though.

But the key fact is, Roy Hodgson is not Henry's man. The ex-Inter and Switzerland boss had a clause added to his contract about severance should ownership change. As sure as eggs is eggs, Henry will trigger it - and soon.

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Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Time for Moyes to leave Everton?

David Moyes: class act
Everton's victory on Monday night not only extinguished Manchester City's dreams of topping the league at Christmas for the first time since 1929. It also confirmed the hallmarks of David Moyes' Everton: fighting qualities and a determination to battle their way out of a troubled start to the season.

It seems Moyes and Everton were made for each other. Liverpool's Blues are a grand old club with a fine tradition: think School of Science (as Stuart Hall might say), and original Football League members, who played at Anfield before Liverpool even existed.

But where exactly is the 47-year-old Scot going at Goodison? Under him, the Toffees pipped their Red neighbours to qualify for the Champions League in 2005 then reached the Cup Final four years later, only to lose to Chelsea.
Fergie makes time for Rafa's Latin welcome!
Everton follow a similar pattern each season. They struggle with form, injuries and fitness up until November - and then go on a run which sees them qualifty for Europe, more often than not.

Wouldn't Moyes benefit from bigger and better resources? After lifting the club from perennial struggle, should Moyes be thinking of managing with more to play with? 

He's produced a hardy group of hard-to-beat professionals, who've become deserved stars of the Premier League. Tim Cahill, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Tim Howard and Marouanne Fellaini to name but five.
Special Chin: Jose Mourinho

In the days of panic after Martin O'Neill quit Aston Villa, Moyes was linked with a move to Villa Park. It turned out to be just paper talk. If O'Neill had quit over a lack of funds, why on earth would Moyes go from the frying pan into the fire?
 
Sir Alex Ferguson would be a massive act to follow at Old Trafford, but you could well imagine Moyes having enough presence and character to build his own United. Risky one though, as Rafa Benitez's sacking after just six months at Inter showed. Champions League-victor, Rafa followed the treble-winning Special One. I have nothing but respect and admiration for both Moyes and Everton - but unless Bill Kenwright can produce game changing funds for Moyes to take the club on, he's got to be thinking about a future away from Goodison.

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Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Wikipedia: panic buying defined as Villa signing Darren Bent!

Oh no! Someone's been at the whisky, I mean wiki cabinet again.

Panic buying is defined on Wikipedia is an imprecise term for acquiring an unusually large amount or paying multiples of value for goods or services in response to a crisis.

It appears Aston Villa's purchase of Darren Bent is the latest example of panic buying, according to the world's leading Internet encyclopedia!

Let's hope it's removed from their pages as mere poppycock and folly before midnight.
Darren Bent: a panic buy? shurely shome mishtake!
 

Monday, 20 December 2010

Comparing Aston Villa to Leeds United

A friend of mine, a born and bred Londoner is a Leeds United fan. He remembers their golden era, on a trip to Elland Road he made in December 2010.

Original and best: the Championship trophy

To be honest, I read his piece and while he's stoic and full of memories, it's a sad chronicle of anticlimax. We really can be prisoners to all we hold dear, can't we? For Leeds are acclimatizing to life in their new division, having only just got promoted from the third tier.

My friend says Leeds fans chant "Champions of Europe" before each game to this day - but they never were. They blew it in typical Leeds fashion. So I'm glad a) I don't support Leeds United b) I support my home team and c) mine is a glorious club with a wonderful tradition. We actually did win the European Cup!

In my lifetime, I've seen Aston Villa win football's greatest prizes. Our astonishing rise to glory in winning the league in 1981 followed by Victory in Europe a year later, affords me consolation and inner peace whenever we lose today.

And that we won it all, slap bang in the middle of Liverpool's title and European pomp makes those achievements still greater. The Mighty Reds held both titles directly before and after us. For me, Villa remain the club of miracles.

Villa European Champions
There are many echoes and parallels with Villa and Leeds; a rise and rise all the way to a European Cup Final where our opponents were also Bayern Munich, and a sudden decline shortly afterwards.

But we beat Bayern in our one and only shot in the 1982 final. Leeds, demoralised and beaten long before the final whistle, lost 2-nil in Paris.

Villa fans also sing "Champions of Europe" at anyone who needs reminding. Think Arsenal and Chelsea for starters. Now that is fun!

“Dirty” Leeds however, were punished at the final hurdle in 1975 and coupled with disgraceful post-match violence in Paris, they began a downward spiral. When relegated in the early 80′s they took nine seasons to make a return to the top flight.
  
Clough and Taylor: Football giants
Villa were also relegated - just five years after being crowned European Champions, but unlike Leeds, bounced back at the first attempt.

Leeds United FC was scarred with racism throughout its period of domination on the field. In Paul Reaney, they had a black player but they didn't even acknowledge he was was black! When history recalls Viv Anderson as England's first black international in the late-seventies (ironically a Nottingham Forest player under Brian Clough who Leeds sacked after 44 days), they forget Reaney played for England a decade earlier. Shameful.

Don Revie's Leeds was seemingly built on fear. But Villa weren’t scared of race, it was the most integrated of all clubs both on the terraces and the field – and our grand old marque found poetic association with the sport’s biggest prize as it ascended in harmony.

As background to our major silverware, Birmingham at the time was churning out reggae and 2-Tone hits with bands like UB40 and The Selector. I’m proud of my city and Villa; founded 1874 (a generation earlier than Leeds), co-founders of the Football League with William McGregor, our chairman as the league’s inventor.

Clough: my hero
Somehow all that Villa stood for in that golden two years came together like ghosts from the club's glorious past. Five generations deep, they came out out to play in claret and blue with the class of  '82.

And I’ll always be a Cloughite too. His “win, but win better” approach was foreign to Revie’s Leeds and his style was totally and absolutely vindicated by two European trophies at Forest. Leeds stared on, potless and bottom of the table as Clough and Taylor swept Europe aside. Still, I admire my mate's stoic approach to Leeds. It's a football fans lot to be brokenhearted - and ultimately, it's the hope that kills you. 

But secretly, he must be gutted he picked Leeds United as a child. I hear Spurs are in the Champions League and Arsenal play the Beautiful Game! You're a Londoner mate, go and buy one of their scarves. Leeds stand for nothing good. Then or now.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Pardew hits jackpot thanks to Mad Mike Ashley

Every neutral's favourite Pardew moment!
Not content with one cock-eyed decision, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley's scored a rather unique double!

Not even Deadly Doug Ellis could've boasted that with his managerial swingdoor at Villa Park.

Because in sacking Chris Hughton after leading Newcastle to the Championship at the first time of asking, Mad Mike's brought in Alan Pardew - on a five-and-a-half year contract!

Ashley declared Newcastle needed a coach of greater experience and pedigree: Martin Jol's instantaneous departure from Ajax suddenly seemed less than co-incidental and Martin O'Neill, though expensive, would've made Hughton's sacking look brutal, rather than stupid.

Instead, the silver-haired, silver-tongued Pardew got the nod after meeting Toon Chief Executive Derek Llambias in a casino which he manages!

Pardew's been a canny lad here, bartering a long-term contract in exchange for a comparatively small salary. £450,000 a year is much, much less than other Premier League bosses get.

Ashley takes advice from the bottom of a beer glass.

But all it does is incentivise Pardew to fail inside three seasons. The lawyer at the League Managers Association should diarise his appointments calendar for sometime in 2013.

As an outside observer of Newcastle since the heady days of Kevin Keegan, it appeared that in Chris Hughton, Mad Mike had finally landed the right guy.

A decent, well-liked man, with a lower-than-average profile and no ego.

Newcastle United were always the fall guy to a false Messiah or Big Name drafted in from a smaller, more successful club, whose reputation promised to end the silverware drought.

But not only had Hughton galvanised the Toon out of the total chaos of relegation, Alan Shearer and all, but also restored the Premier League to St James' Park in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Newcastle are now mid-table, providing England with their centre-forward, enjoying wins at Everton and Arsenal and thumping home victories over Aston Villa and local rivals, Sunderland.

Now Pardew, sitting on the contract of his life is set up, while the team around him are instantly unsettled by events. The tension is completely the wrong way around!

How not to run a successful Football Club.

Well, at least Ashley's wasting his own cash and no-one else's. But you can't play games with people's passions forever. And once again for no reason at all, the Toon Army have been ignored and made fools of.

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Thursday, 2 December 2010

Doomed England set up by FIFA's setup

Wills, The PM and D-Beck shown to be out their depth.
England have left Zurich in last place with just two votes, as Russia claim the prize of hosting the World Cup in 2018.

Independent observers may congratulate FIFA on awarding a football nation in need. Crumbling stadia and problems with racism in the fanbase can now be addressed.

Where we failed in naivety, we certainly made up in presentation. But good PR wasn't the currency FIFA dealt in.

Wheeling out the "Big Guns", Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham for the final push ahead of the vote sure looked great.

But as the dust settles on Russia's win and Qatar's for 2022, the white-teethed, blond good guys have been rather made to look like The Three Stooges.

England's bid team, made up of marketing executives and legal experts were from the professional class - and so totally lacked the experience and realpolitik associated with FIFA, the brotherhood of the unaccountable and corrupt, led by Sepp Blatter.

David Dein, who knows his way around football's political corridors and could've wrestled with the best of them, was brought in too late.

Now our bid team are looking for jobs, rather than knighthoods.

The BBC are said to be partly to blame for the Panorama show which outed corruption among FIFA members - but the problem was far deeper than that.

We were totally outclassed by the savvy Russians, who did what they had to do.

Sepp Bellend Blatter
As I sat with friends watching pictures from Switzerland, Ambrose Mendy suggested our bid should've been British. Bringing in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland would have softened the edges of the England bid, because frankly, we're disliked in the world.

I'm happy the BBC started the ball rolling on doing FIFA. Now the best of our British media will collude to begin the process of tearing Blatter's house down.

Even before the vote, David Mellor told Panorama that England's function was not to host the Finals - but in cleaning up the world game, starting with FIFA.

It appears we have that apparatus! Let's totally destroy them using the best investigative powers of our journalist class.

And let's use the sheer power of the English language to get the message across the world that Sepp Blatter needs to be sent into retirement in disgrace and totally stripped of his integrity.

Something good's got to come out of this. Perhaps football can be reclaimed by other stakeholders in and around the game.

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