Friday, 27 August 2010

Spurs can do a Leeds in the Champions League

Hava Nagila, ve-nismecha!
Harry Redknapp's charges have sent out a message to the rest of Europe with Wednesday night's emphatic win over the Wengerboys: Tottenham's not just there to make up the numbers in this season's Champions League.

Unlike Everton, who fell at the first qualifying hurdle in their one and only shot at the big time, Tottenham's composure at three-nil down in scoring twice in the first leg, followed by their White Hart Lane swagger in the return, means they need fear no one. At least before kickoff!

Who remembers Leeds in the Champions League? David O'Leary steered his young boys all the way to the semi-finals before succumbing to Valencia. He did it with a sizeable squad of top young players including Robbie Keane and Paul Robinson.
We all remember what happened to Leeds after that. A salutary lesson in how not to manage football finances in the modern game. Something they're still recovering from having only just won promotion from the third tier of the English game.

Could've modelled for LS Lowry.
Spurs are different. A bigger, more prosperous fanbase and a committed, future-orientated board with big plans, means the Champions League offers a building block rather than a one-off cup run.

But hold on a sec. The draw's very tough. Inter are defending champions having replaced their Champions League winning architect, Jose Mourinho with another in Rafa Benitez. Losing home and away to Inter mightn't be a disgrace.

No, the opportunities for qualification come against FC Twente and Werder Bremen. Spurs could do a double over the Dutch, while Werder are a decent team but Tottenham have more squad choices to force a result against them.

And there's a strong belief that wheeler dealing Harry hasn't finished trading in the transfer market before the window shuts next week. Luis Fabiano (cup-tied though) or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar would look good in a Spurs kit.

Redknapp's got Tottenham playing really well. He's stepped upto the plate and delivered some of the club's unfulfilled potential with their first appearance in the European Cup since 1962.

He still divides opinion among fans. Some love him for what he's done; some don't because of his dodgy image. I've a feeling that with his concentration on the Tottenham project, any lingering dissention from the terraces will diminish. Spurs are equipped to make a splash in their Champions League bow.

Good luck Tottenham Hotspur. Audere est, well you know what I mean.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Goal line technology won't happen till Bellend retires

If like me, you've racked your brains over why video evidence still isn't used in football as it is in tennis or cricket, perhaps this fantasy scenario might make sense of it.

Imagine the World Cup and the football you watch is often subject to betting syndicates. Results are dictated by the flow of money from big gambling rackets in Russia and The Far East.

Imagine the money is so vast, it's influence is bigger than anything visible like federations, leagues, managers, television and sponsorship.

Imagine that four of the twenty-two players are bunged to effect the game's outcome. But also imagine that the referee is the most important person to get at.
Sue me, you discredited, cheating, bent bellend
Imagine football's powers-that-be accepting "tributes" from the syndicates.

FIFA boss Sepp Blatter claims football should be subject to human error and played on exactly the same basis at Soccer City in Johannesburg as it is on Hackney Marshes. There's no video replays there and so none should be used in a World Cup tie either.

It's easy to imagine therefore, that video would take significant control away from the referee and severely curtail the syndicates control over the game.

And it's easier still to imagine that while goal line technology will one day be a part of football, it could only ever happen after Blatter steps down.

Now imagine the stories of corruption in football that would surface once Blatter does go.

Sometimes fact is stranger than fantasy?

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Villa View: Martin O'Neill's now tainted.

Asher and Jonny at Wembley for Villa 0
Do you remember Villa 0 Valencia 0? It was a pre-season bore-draw live on the telly. No, I wouldn't have done either, but for the fact that our manager quit afterwards - just five days to the start of the season. Every Villa fan was furious and I was no different. Here's my piece at the time: 

I thought I'd now be less angry with Martin O'Neill after his sudden resignation at Aston Villa but to walk out five days before the start of a new season marks him out as nothing more than a saloon bar firebrand.

When the story emerges as to why he's quit, it'd better not be about lack of available funds. He's spent a mindnumbing £120million at Villa Park over four years!

His decision shows scant regard for anyone else but himself. What about his backroom team? the players he nurtured, the fans, the board, the owner? Honestly, if we knew back then how his tenure would end, would we have bothered with him in the first place?

At the news conference when he arrived, he talked on a grandiose scale, even dreaming of European glory. We thought we had a strategist, a clear thinker, someone who would use guile and experience to build from bottom up. With John Robertson at his side, even a sprinkling of the Clough and Taylor magic.

Saloon bar firebrand makes McEnroe look measured
What a huge disappointment he's turned out then.

It's the end of his orchestrated attempt to leave Villa Park because he knew full well he didn't have it in him to keep up with the rest. That he chooses to leave five days before the start of a new season seems designed to cause the club maximum damage.

In this interview I did with him at pre-season exactly a year ago, he knew about the club's finances even then.

Set to one aside the volatile behaviour of a man with the capacity to walk out of a multi-million pound a year job and the responsibility that goes with it: who will come in as replacement with five days to go?

Let's face it; part of a football manager's multi million pound salary is paid on the basis that every job threatens to ruin his reputation and career. Capello must have thought about the eight-figure compensation he'd have received in the uncertain days after England returned home from South Africa.  

But O'Neill, with less funds than the Big Four, must roll with the punches, manage within his means - and keep his malcontentedness strictly in house. If this is really about selling James Milner and Ashley Young, okay it's very frustrating. But so are three successive sixth placed finishes when Villa looked on course for the Champions League each Christmas.

He started destabilising the club last season with public talk of a lack of funds, which precipitated dressing room disquiet, so building a queue of clubs to turn the heads of our best players.

It's entirely O'Neill's fault that Milner and Young are transfer targets. If he'd shown a modicum of personal stability, we'd be the team to watch this season.

Chairmen of other clubs beware: if you really have a long-term plan to put in place, don't choose O'Neill to manage your football club.