Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The PRoblem with Liverpool FC

Warm & cuddly on the outside. Hot & clammy within.
If Liverpool played as poorly on the pitch as they do off it they'd be relegated. They've learned nothing from the first Suarez Crisis, have badly mishandled the second and been left chasing the game.

Kenny Dalglish set the bar high with when he joined the players in wearing a tee-shirt supporting the Uruguayan following the racial fracas with Patrice Evra.

And King Kenny took it up a notch when he firstly failed to make sure Suarez shook hands with Evra at a subsequent game against Manchester United and then gave a churlish and childish post match-interview in which he claimed he had seen nothing.

Perhaps Dalglish would have given the benefit of the doubt but most of his interviews, pre- and post-match, were cut of a similar cloth.

Let us be clear about it. Dalglish won the League Cup and reached an FA Cup final. He was not fired because he was a poor manager; he went because he had no idea how to handle modern management and was a public relations liability.
Churlish, Childish, Dalglish
So Liverpool swept out the old regime, including their long standing press officer, and brought in a more forward facing (I believe that is the phrase) team.

Fat lot of good that did.

Before the club had a chance to bask in the rays of openness following the transmission of Channel 5's “Being Liverpool” they were turfed out of the deckchair when their new communications director threatened a blogger. Jen Chang, an American, lasted less than seven months before he was shown the door.

So far so idiotic.

Chang’s successor is Susan Black. Her appointment was announced on April 18th. Three days later Suarez bit Branislav Ivanovic.

The initial apology with quotes from Suarez, managing director Ian Ayre and Brendan Rodgers was a textbook response but as the Crisis unfolded Liverpool and Black have been caught out of position again and again.

They have made the same mistake they did last time of treating Suarez as special case. Everybody knows that if a fringe player had behaved in the same way Liverpool would have dismissed him instantly but, blinded by the short termism of protecting their investment, they mollycoddle the star and excuse his behaviour.

Brendan Rodgers comparing the Suarez bite to a tennis player smashing a racket was ludicrous. If Susan Black coached him or prompted him to say that she should be next out of the door.

Then Suarez, having been banned for ten matches, issues a statement with the mealy-mouthed whiff of victimization.

“.......whilst ten games is clearly greater than those bans given in the past where players have actually been seriously injured.....’” 

Ayre makes it a hat-trick of own goals, again presumably with Black’s input, by making it known that the club fine imposed on Suarez would be donated to the Hillsborough Family Support Group.

How crass. If in doubt let’s invoke the memory of Hillsborough as everybody sympathizes with us. Everybody that is, except the relatives of the victims of Heysel.


Monday, 29 April 2013

Luis Suarez: a Liverpool fan's view

Follow +jonnygould on twitter

Sam Ellard's a young Liverpool fan, who amid the brou-haha of Luis Suarez's latest biting drama wants proper perspective on the striker - and why he's so valuable to Liverpool.

Luis Suarez is once again in the spotlight for the wrong reasons after another moment of madness. Liverpool's Uruguayan striker was involved in a tussle with Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in the second half of the reds 2-2 draw with Chelsea. Suarez grabbed hold of the defender's arm and sank his teeth into the Serb — the second time in his career he has been caught trying to take a chunk out of an opponent.

That called for a lot of Liverpool’s fans to call for Suarez to leave the club at the end of the season. This is now the second time he has put the club in the headlines for the wrong reasons globally.

But anyone who wants the little magician out of the club are bonkers! Liverpool’s aim is to get back amongst the elite by qualifying for the Champions League and Liverpool need players like Suarez, who was set to end the season with the Golden Boot until his ban which now rules him out for 10 games. Liverpool fans have to believe that Suarez won’t repeat his stupidity again, because we all know when he’s on the pitch doing what he does best, playing football, he’s a joy to watch.

What's more frustrating is the fact that with all of Suarez’s antics and FA’s inconsistencies, Suarez has missed some 20 games just through bans. But whether you look at it through red-tinted glasses or not, what Suarez did has no place on the football field and he was rightly punished; the length of it a bit harsh, but a deserving ban nonetheless.

Suarez is a loon, but hes our loon! We have to keep backing him like we’ve done on plenty of occasions already.

We just can’t get enough, or in Suarez’s case, he just can’t eat enough!

As Liverpool fans we should embrace having such a talented player at our club.
Iconic figure at Liverpool

He's often a joy to watch, he has quick feet, goes round players like they’re not there and of course, he's the second highest scorer in the Premier League!

His Personality:

Suarez is famous for his on-pitch tantrums. Justified or not, the referee is guaranteed a mouthful from the Uruguayan whenever he's in earshot. Suarez, like another former Red great, Dirk Kuyt has a commendable never-say-die attitude that makes him beloved to Liverpool and Uruguay fans alike. His attitude also helps on the pitch; defenders become lackadaisical, allow Suarez to nip in and create chances.

His Dedication to the Club:
Loved by the Reds faithful. Reviled by opposition
Suarez has gone through hell on earth with Liverpool with harsh treatment from the FA. The eight-match ban slapped down almost a year ago, as well a constant jeers on every away trip may irritate Suarez and his fans, but he has become closer to the club as a result of the support. Suarez gives everything to the club, day in, day out. After each game, Suarez uses a genuine Twitter account to update, inform and, most importantly, thank fans. This alone proves that Suarez does not take the support given to him for granted. If he wanted, he could walk into any club in the world and earn even more than he does already.

But he’s still at the club, and I predict he will be for a long time come.

The Goals He Scores:

As mentioned, Suarez faces deserved criticism by consistent chance-squandering. That being said, when he does score, they're so often spectacular crowd-pleasers. It’s safe to say that he has an eye for the seemingly impossible. His 40-yard goal against Norwich, his free kick against Manchester City and the strike against Newcastle were all top-class and whether you support the Reds or not, you can't help but admire some of the things he can do with a football.

The Complete Package:

Winner with Uruguay
Even with Steven Gerrard as captain, I believe Suarez is Liverpool's best player and will be for a long time. Liverpool fans have become accustomed to the brilliance of our number 7, and through reciprocation of fan support, his unpredictablity and his entertainment value to watch, Suarez is, at least to Liverpool fans, fantastic.

Love him or loathe him, you can't ignore him!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Ten-match ban for Suarez: fair or foul?

The biting truth
Liverpool will NOT appeal the Football Association's ten-match ban on Luis Suarez for biting Branislav Ivanovic.

A charge of violent conduct usually carries with it a suspension of three games, but the FA decided to pile on an additional seven matches. The decision was made with such haste that Liverpool must've considered appealing.

But in the end, the risk in an appeal going wrong might've had the FA slapping more matches on the ban. He’ll now miss the last four games of this season and the first six of next.

So is a ten match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic fair? Should Luis Suarez have received different treatment? There’s two ways to look at this.

Few beyond the confines of Anfield and their supporter-base back Suarez. He’s been in scrapes before and when he got banned for eight matches for racial abuse, he was warned as to his future conduct.

He’s even been banned for biting before when as an Ajax player, he bit a PSV player. He never played for them again.

But there's another way to interpret this:

The FA have been hoisted by their own disciplinary petard. Having slapped an eight-match ban on him before, they’ve got to be seen to be inflating that number. It makes the process look ever so slightly arbitrary. The bigger the number, the more random the punishment.

The FA stood by and did nothing as Callum McManaman tackled Massadio Haidara so recklessly and when Sergio Aguero nobbled David Luiz in the Wembley semi.

So Suarez is a convenient fall guy.

I think the FA acted in haste, under pressure from the potent cocktail of media scrutiny and public opinion but circumstances have worked in their favour.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Open letter to the FA: get a grip on discipline

Bad tackle or just pure violence?
Luis Suarez's appalling lack of self-discipline handed the FA a golden opportunity to show they have teeth after all. 
The Liverpool striker has been given a ten-match for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic at Anfield.
Before the Uruguayan made a meal of Ivanovic's close attentions, football's governing body were looking distinctly soft on crime, soft on the causes of crime.

It seems the FA, under the departing David Bernstein have washed their hands of anything ugly on the field, devolving all powers to the fallibility or otherwise of the referee and his assistants.

That's got to change.

Here's my open letter to Greg Dyke, soon to be incoming FA boss about how his new administration can make an impression on the game.

SOCCERMONGERY TOWERS, soccermongery@jonnygould.com and www.twitter.com/jonnygould

Dear Greg,

I am sure you have a million and one things to do when you take over as Independent Chairman of the Football Association.

Liverpool fan: he's a nutcase - but he's our nutcase
The one thing you should do is address the perception of the FA as weak and worthless. A big job I know but there is one simple, effective and much-needed way to start.

Punish bad tackles.

As you know there have been two recent examples of reckless and dangerous challenges going unpunished because the FA prefers the taste of sand to taking action.

It is no way to govern the game.
Sergio Aguero’s two footed stamp on David Luiz in the FA Cup semi final at Wembley last Sunday was petulant and a red card all day, every day. It happened right in front of an assistant and referee Chris Foy awarded a free kick so the match officials were therefore deemed to have seen the incident and the FA, using the excuse of not wanting to re- referee incidents, declined to do anything.

Mind you Greg, they had little wriggle room after the scandal of allowing Wigan’s Callum McManaman to avoid punishment for what can only be described as an assault on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara.

Okay, so McManaman was making his first Premier League start but Haidara was lucky to emerge with no more than severe bruising. I suspect you shared the widespread disbelief when the FA claimed the match officials had seen the incident.

Funny though how neither Aguero or McManaman were booked. Not funny actually; downright outrageous and both Foy and Mark Halsey, the ref at Wembley, should be embarrassed by their errors.
You will know, of course, FA rules permit retrospective action if they are exceptional circumstances but this is the organization that refused to invoke that clause when, in November 2008, Sheffield United’s Chris Morgan fractured Barnsley striker Iain Hume’s skull. Hume was put into a high dependency unit, needed emergency surgery and spent nine months out of the game.

It was a brutal and cowardly assault and the negligent FA did nothing, absolutely nothing to punish Morgan’s thuggery. Not exceptional apparently.

So when you take office in July you might want to bang a few heads together, just hard enough to make General Secretary Alex Horne’s chins wobble, and sort this mess out.

It would be a good start to your term in office and would send a message to fans and sponsors of your intent to make the FA’s disciplinary procedure fit for purpose again.

May all your goals as boss, be screamers.

Good luck!

Jonny Gould.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Football is so Real in Madrid.

Galatasary know how to party
Have a free £25 bet with William Hill  (T&C's apply)

O Lord, may I always feel the enthusiasm for a new footballing experience, however many games and grounds I go to.

I have been pre and post-Taylor in the Premier League and Division 1, seen iconic moments in a World Cup Final, Champions League and European Championship Finals, but my trip to the Bernabeu for the Champions League quarter-final between Real and Galatasaray shows me there is still more to experience.

Procuring a ticket from a hotel concierge the evening before (at near face value) is a lottery. Where would I end up in the ground? how many flights of stairs would I have to climb in this tower of power?

So imagine my pleasure when ´Fila 001´ meant ´Row 1´. Contra to my fears, I climbed downwards, not upwards - to the front row in the rather amusingly called ´Vomitorio´ seats.
Real fans at the other end. Loud and proud

I settled myself in front of the snappers and unsmiling stewards facing away pitchside and pondered, why on earth they´d want such a joyless job outnumbered by such passion?

And another thing: while Arsenal and Wembley and doubtless others proudly, corporately proclaim they´re non-smoking stadia, there´s none of that bullshit here. It´s outside.. so smoke! Even some of the stewards took a sly drag.

I actually own these images! Cool!
Arriving 45 minutes to kickoff, I was metres away from the huddle of Madrid superstars warming up, sprinting, stretching and taking shots at the keeper. Watching Cristiano Ronaldo sprint from a standing start is to watch an athlete with few peers.

To have a job where you´re required to be as agile as you can be, already bestowed with God given talents must be uplifting.

The game promised everything. Fatih Terim, the Galatasaray boss urged his players to leave the Bernabeu with at least a fighting chance of winning the tie at the famously hellish cauldron of Istanbul.

And why not show that ambition? For this was undoubtedly the highest quality, most international team ever to have emerged from Istanbul. Signing Sneijder was a coup, Drogba, a reigning and matchwinning European Champion leading the line with homegrown joint-topscorer Yilmaz. Gala could dare to dream.

But then there was Real. They may be about to relinquish the league title in a lacklustre domestic campaign infuriating Jose Mourinho, but in the Champions League, there´s little doubt they´re potential winners.

Cristiano is twice the player he was leaving Fergie´s tutelage at United. Watching him perform at this exceptionally high level week-in week-out is to marvel at his fitness, consistency and bravery.

But Real have an abundance of talent and don't need Ronaldo as the focal point in the final third. There's goals throughout the team and even on the bench.

Unfortunately for Gala, Real´s opener came too early to catch their breath. Ronaldo´s exquisite left-footed chip over the advancing keeper from Ozil´s pass put them ahead.

His muted "calm down" celebration says everything about his state of mind at 28. Watching Cristiano at the Bernabeu is to watch a man in control of himself. A mature leader and goalscorer.

The papers can talk all they want. He´s not leaving even if Jose is. His career at Real is slowly etching itself into the club´s illustrious Hall Of Fame. Winning the big one would certainly escalate him to Di Stefano, Puskas and Zidane sainthood.

2-0 Benzema must have been morale-crushing for the Turks. The cross was too high for Ronnie, but spare man Karim rustled it home at the far stick.

And any lingering hopes the tie could be salvaged back in Istanbul were extinguished by the third from sub Higuain from another routinely accurate free-kick by Xabi Alonso.

Alonso's setpieces are guided missiles: his free kicks win games. He's rested in lesser La Liga as a persistent groin injury blights the autumn of his career. No matter. He's exceptional.

And Essien may no longer be world-class since his layoff woes but venturing forward, reading the game and always looking for the probing pass still marks him out. He was Chelsea´s lynchpin in the Mourinho years and he´s still a top player.

Galatasaray can point to a terrible refereeing blunder which if the man in the middle had called it right, may have wrought them a priceless away goal.

Instead, Yilmaz ended in the book for diving when actually he´d been stamped on in the penalty area by Ramos. Harsh treatment indeed but few would argue with the result as Galatasaray lacked Madrid's mobility.

I was so moved by the professionalism and intensity of Madrid's play and Galatasaray's persistent attempt at shape despite adversity that the Champions League without English clubs now is a better competition for it.
Despite running away with the Premier League, Manchester United are at best the ninth team in Europe and in my opinion, Galatasaray would have had enough to beat them here.

We have a Little Englander view of Hispanics as prima donnas and cheats, but that's to ignore their inherent characteristics of togetherness, toughness, belligerence and style.

Drive down the road from the airport to the Bernabeu and know Real Madrid is a consequence of a city which is just as professional.

By royal patronage since the 1920´s and not for sale to any fit and proper person. More than any other, Real Madrid know who they are - and they wear the emperor´s clothes with panache.

listen to ‘#UCL anthem at the Bernabeu ’ on Audioboo