Saturday, 30 June 2012

Guess what , Spain has reached it's Plateau

Oh yes !  The all conquering European and World Cup Champions , Spain have reached the limits of their historic Prowess , and the first sign of confirmation they have hit the ceiling shall come in the Final of the 2012 Euro Championship  on the 1st of July , at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev .

This Side have thrilled and confounded alike in the last 4 years with their brand of football centered around possession and asphyxiation . With  Superiority in midfield  as their major plank for success. They have rendered many a team dizzy and deprived of the ball. Yes , they have suffered a few defeats in games , and  that shock 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in the South Africa 2010 Mundial a major blot on their tournament copy book . Still , Spain have been at the summit of world football by merit .

International Football tends to create this cycle of very good , and successful teams  - The Hungarians in the 1950's with the great PUSKAS in their ranks ;   Like Brazil in the  60's featuring the legendary PELE , and culminating in their epic 1970 world Cup triumph in Mexico . The Germans were head and shoulders above everyone else in the early- to - mid 70's . The names Beckenbauer  and Gerd Muller come to mind ; and more recently , France held sway in the late 90's into the early part of this millennium :  we remember the cast of Zidane , Henry ,  Viera  and company. The point being : there tends to be epoch defining teams , and each one comes with a unique, and stand-out playing style to it's rivals, and  players that bring in special qualities to create a spell-biding team . Such is what we have right now with Spain - it's dazzling mid-field force of  Xavi , Iniesta , Busquets , and Xabi Alonso ; and a reliable defense anchored by Pique and Ramos . Spain have been a breath of fresh air , and given International Football  some needed innovation and spice . As usual of teams reaching such lofty preeminence , the domestic conveyor belt of talent tends to go into over-drive concurrently with Success  . The Spanish line-up is like a talent show case , replete with truly special players for club and country , and a bulk of medals at club level to underline their  dual dominance . Carlos Machena , Puyol , David Villa , and one of the best players at Euro 2008  Marcos Senna were comfortably replaced in the team this term . It is a reflection of the depth of talent Spain has produced in the last four years .

Apart from pulverizing Ireland in their penultimate group game , Spain have lacked in creativity and penetration in the last third of the pitch at the Euros . Vicente Del Bosque's four defenders and six midfielders policy   has often meant they overdose on possession , but i have my doubts that tactic has borne sufficient fruits . One would have expected  a higher ratio of chance per game , and an impressive conversion rate  to be sold on it. I wait to hear the official statistics in those two areas , but i am sure it will be down on the previous two tournaments .  Italy , Croatia , and Portugal have largely shown the way to nullify Spain.  It is essentially to attack the heart of their defense ,  playing through midfield rapidly . Like Portugal did: if a team disrupts their rhythm in midfield , and plays with  discipline , and ambitions of it's own , Spain's much vaunted ball possession not only becomes fractious, it is evident they are vulnerable . The fact that those three teams dared , and were relatively successful , signals a shift in thinking for teams . In other words , Spain have Plateaued , from my perspective. Their rate of advancement has slowed , and the next phase is that they become beatable . Once this watershed moment arrives ( as is about to )  Spain becomes diminished as a force , even worse if their conveyor-belt of talent flames-out ; they rejoin the queue of mere mortals . I believe the stage is set for the beginning in the process of decline , Specifically with their dethronement as European Champions on sunday   july 1st in Kiev by Italy

I must add that much as i herald the slow down , and consequent  down fall of Spain from Grace ,  they have surely made the last two European championships , and the 2010 world cup fantastic affairs from the playing- style perspective . Smooth , Pleasing on the eye , Sparkling in technique, with confidence and a swagger to match ,  they have deservedly been top billing . Duration of stay is always the glass jaw for Champions ;   Maybe they'll prove me wrong , but if they do , they'll have to have conducted a tremendous degree of transformation , such that would have defied, and redefined the limits hitherto known of  paradigms associated with Sporting champions .

Viva Espana  !!!!!

Thursday, 21 June 2012


Walking home from the train station on monday evening ,  for the first time, i casted my mind to which team amongst the lot we have left is capable of going all the way to the finals , and lifting the trophy .
The first step in the process of determining who the European Champions shall be ,  from my point of view , would be looking back at the level of performance from all the teams i saw in action in the group stages , and then concluding which ones have the potential look of Champions .

It's been amazing to note that the best teams i have witnessed in the competition , bar one , incidentally come from group C - comprising Champions Spain , Italy , and Croatia  ( minus Ireland) and   Germany make up the best 4 .  Okay , Croatia are out unfortunately , but they are  a cracking  side ; and would have advanced  from any other group .

SPAIN : Very easy to see why they are European and world champions . The team is a metaphor of fluidity . Vicente Del Bosque has built one of the best sides world football has ever seen . Like a python  squeezes life out of it's prey , so do Spain strangle opponents with their ability to dominate possession , and dictate play , moving the ball about at will , and making passing angles that can be psychologically demeaning to the opposition .  They have conceptualized breaking teams mind , body  and soul .  Not since the great french team of the mid eighties inspired by that midfield quartet of PLATINI , TIGANA , GIRESE , AND LUIS FERNANADEZ  , have we seen anything like what  Busquets , Xavi , Xabi Alonso and Iniesta offer Spain in midfield . Every thing about the brilliance to Spain can be decoded from the mesmeric play of  those four in midfield .
However , despite how stupendous Spain are , their games against Italy and Croatia were very tight affairs , any form of superiority they might have had was marginal . Spain's  fallibility emanates from their defensive negligence . Since their midfield is designed to dictate play in an advanced geography of the pitch ,  it implies when the opposition win the ball , and break forward Spain seem vulnerable . Croatia proved that a tactically astute team that attacks the back four  of Spain , stand a chance of winning .

GERMANY : Maximum points from the group stages . The team is a very balanced  one,  built  on a very healthy playing philosophy. They try to play football from back to front . The units of the team are quite nicely fused - Neur in goal behind a pretty reliable back four , comprising of two excellent  attacking full backs -Lamn and Boateng. The midfield has all the right ingredients - Schweinsteiger,  Khadira ; Ozil does the creative play , with Podolski , and Mario Gomez , or Klose capable goal scorers. It's a smooth 4-3-3 formation . Their football is less intricate than the Spanish , but it' just as neat , sparkling , and productive . If you ask me , I'd say Germany won't emerge victorious not for any glaring inadequacy , but because there is another team better than they are....

ITALY : are the team to win  the European Championship . Italy tend to get very negative press. They are labelled as boring , ultra defensive  e.t.c  , but you cannot take away their know how , nor underestimate their winning mentality , and the spirit that unites the players when the chips are down. Perhaps they are temperamentally suited to dealing with adversity than most other teams . I have watched all their games at the Euros , and the while i never gave their chances much of a thought then , an analyses now of their players , and the characteristics they are made of , sway my opinion .  Buffon in goal is a warrior . Look in his eyes , you see unbridled passion and desire to win. This man has lifted the world cup , but looking at him in this tournament , you'd think he was only starting out - such is the fire in his eyes . 
Then there is the rugged and uncompromising Chielinni . An Italian defender through and through.... Ever capable of dousing the flames . Overall , they defend in composed fashion.  The midfield is  intriguing , dynamic , and capable of the required resilience and solidity . Thiago Motta , and De Rossi provide  the fire fighting elements ; while that sexy footballer Andrea Pirlo operates with sublime craft , invention , and majestic with his passing . Their midfield unit constitute variance and balance that is difficult to nullify.  
Upfront , Cassano floats about deftly in the last third , difficult to pick-up , and always looking to make something happen for the striker - be it the ever moving and cunning Di Natale , or the mercurial Balotelli .  Italy play with that disguise and wit associated with latin teams  . 
The manager Cesare Prandelli like his illustrious predecessors ,  has moulded the Azzurri in the fashion reminiscent  of the world cup winning teams of 1982 and 2006 . Tactically variable in players and formation - he deployed the 3-5-2 formation to deal with Spain's superiority in ball retention , but what i also noticed is the Italians, although playing on the counter in that game , did so with intent and intensity . 
To me , the best attacking display i have seen in the tournament so far,  also came from Italy in the first half against Croatia. For the Ireland game , Prandelli went 4-4-2  . Italy have shown they possess  players that are adaptable  in a technical sense . I have seen enough to know that this team has a lot more to show , the desire and character  to win as well.

The best thing for Italy is that they are a brilliant disguise. Everyone is fixated on Spain and Germany . Back home , there is the perennial inquiry into match fixing allegations , corruption, and the like...but the Azzurri  have a way of forming even greater cohesion to such a backdrop. Prandelli's team , to me , appear immune to  any antidote because they are more difficult to figure out than Spain or Germany . It's an interlocking group , not glamorous , but pack a devastating  punch . Significantly, it can be delivered in a way opponents least expect.   Italy , champions of Europe in waiting !

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A misguided chairman and a disloyal manager

The Sacking of Harry Redknapp as Spurs' Manager has the hallmarks of a gangster Movie. Conflict of loyalties , Self interests , double dealing , double crossing , ruthlessness , and ultimately self destruction. One of those types where the end is bloody and Senseless. It leaves you with the conclusion that this came about as a consequence of inherent weaknesses in the characters involved , and everyone probably got what they deserved .

So , Harry got by fired by Chairman Daniel Levy in cold blood on the orders of  the big , bad reclusive boss, as pay back for his : call it disloyalty . One thing i notice typical of such sackings is that the exercise is such a charade , and they are never half explained , perhaps because it makes not much logic.  The man whose face you hardly see , a pistol in a dark-gloved hand , the victim is walked to a dark alley for a quiet chat , he has that look half assured ( thinking :  " No , Jack won't do that to me " ) but also half uncertain because he knows Jack can be a Cold Ba***** . What you see next is smoke from his pistol. Job done .

My deductions is that :  Fans' Favourite , Suave  and charismatic Harry Redknapp is paying the price for that whirlwind of events between december and february - Spurs were on a crest wave third position on the table..... Starry-Eyed Fans were in rapture and the owners of the Club were nodding and winking ( wallowing in self serving financial prognosis ) . Then the drama of Harry's court case for tax evasion looked like would cause a loss of traction to Spurs' season due to it's high profile and negative nature . Some how , With all of that going on , the Club remained on course for a champions league place .  Harry was acquitted on the very same day Fabio Capello resigned as England Boss . It seemed all so simple : Install Harry right away as England Manager . The messiah's path to the job football fans and gullible England players craved was fortuitously clear for him. What we never realized is that all this indulgence in Harry Mania was trampling on the speculations and calculations of the big bad boss, sunning himself on the deck of his yacht in warm climes . In the cacophony and adulation of Harry's band wagon , Spurs were starting to lose traction.  Results were getting really dire ,  Arsenal wiped out their 10 point advantage , and took over 3rd place . The FA, in my opinion cleverly didn't buy into the Harry business , appointed Roy Hodgson as England Manager . Spurs finished 4th , and the last 10 games were pretty painful as the team were evidently in struggling. Chelsea finished 6th but won the champions league , the consequence of which means Spurs miss out on the cash loaded gravy train - champions league . The big bad boss was really mad !!!!!!

A key detail that must not be left out , and possibly was the deciding factor for getting rid of Harry Redknapp is that he was offered a new contract when the ovation was loudest in february or there about.... perhaps in order to enhance his angle to the England job , did not rush to sign . As Spurs doubled-down on results , Daniel Levy cleared the paper work  off his desk . That's a mitigating factor in the owners brutality towards Harry Redknapp.  The spin-off in all of this is the  prevailing predilection for the money folks who run these clubs in the premier league to seek the services of younger managers.  This is a dangerous fad . Brendan Rogers , Roberto Martinez , Paul Lambert ,  Andrea Villas Boas and this sound bite of : "we want a younger manager to take us in a new direction".  It's a moral hazard to make these young in-experienced managers guinea pigs for your grand ambitions.  Maybe you need a sorcerer . The de facto owners of Spurs sacked Harry Redknapp , I strongly assert , because they see him as responsible for the evaporation of their champions league dreams ; and that they interpret was down to Harry's dalliance with the England job . Behind closed doors, they call him a double dealing , double crossing , disloyal traitor . But holding Harry in contempt and spite  is the exact  antithesis to the project they are nursing. They have spilled Harry's blood , and they shall regret it .

For Harry Redknapp , folks , it's not exactly a moral argument. He will get another job almost wherever he desires . However, the fact remains that as respected and charismatic as he is , as a character there are evidently issues surrounding his sense of loyalty . A few years back , he almost caused a civil war on the south coast between Portsmouth and Southampton supporters . Theses are neighbouring clubs , and you can imagine the rivalry . He left Portsmouth for southampton , and southampton back to portsmouth.  You have pushed your luck too far this time Harry..... Spurs would hardly be able to immediately get a better manager though....  Some of his achievements shall go down in Spurs' folklore - champions league qualification 2 seasons ago ; knocking out mighty AC Milan in the second round; the transformation from basement team to 8th place finish in his first season come to mind. His record in charge : managed 144 times winning 77 and 37 draws is Superb . I suppose , Daniel Levy and co ought to look at where the club was under Martin Jol and Juande Ramos  to really appreciate Harry Redknapp got them to new horizons. This was more about taking out a "traitor - at any cost , you hear me"!!!!!! The phone gets dropped in the cradle to a loud thud.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Familiarity Breeds success For 3 Lions

Indeed , I urged Roy Hodgson and his England  team to show a method to the madness , and Good Old  Roy and the Boys responded by Unfurling English Football's Vintage emblem - a beanpole Number 9 in Andy Carroll , some quick wing play , and nostalgic crossing . Discredited but devastating the tactic turned-out to be  against  Sweden in this  Group D contest in Kiev. For large spells in the second half particularly , the game aped a tussle between two mediocre premiership sides ,  on a dreary autumn saturday.
It is incontrovertible that England felt freer , and played to their traditional strengths due to the opposition . The Swedes are so  England's  type , and having no fewer than six players in their starting XI with past or present premiership connections , you can understand  the connotations .  Even the 3-2 score line had a familiar echo to it . Let's toast to the Lions and their manager . He has enjoyed  general goodwill , and 3 wins from 4 games is as good a start as you would want . Spare a thought for Sweden, yes, an average side , but any balanced analysis would reveal they did not deserve to lose this game , and we said that after their game against Ukraine previously . Scant consolation .

ON ENGLAND'S TACTICS :  4-4-2  was back in vogue - The manager played Andy Carroll alongside Danny Wellbeck in a clear indication crosses were going to be applied . The back line was same as against France , only less effective. Ashley Cole was probably the most productive ; While Terry did some good defending too . In Midfield - James Milner adapted to the  pseudo winger format adequately ; Parker and Gerrard looked like  ducks in a pond - freer , normal ,  as typical a saturday performance as  you'd see from them in the League season . This  state of affairs reveals a monolithic preponderance of the two central midfielders .
Certainly Hodgson's tactics freed-up  England  in attitude , but scarce little in quality .  The  ploy was in part to keep the ball , achieve penetration and crosses via the flanks . Andy Carroll may not be my cup of tea , but his header for England's opener was text book . Give it up for Steven Gerrard , and the cross. Sweden had the lion's share of possession , and the more cohesive  side . England were effective in Sweden's box, but oh dear ! this lot are not even qualified to tutor eight year olds on ball distribution. Their general play was asymmetrical and haphazard time too many. Walcott came on for Millner  only to enhance the paradox with a lucky goal (out of nothing) to bring scores to 2-2. The Arsenal Man was the perfect outlet with his speed , and after some nice combination play down the right , crossed low for Wellbeck to skillfully turn-in  England's winner in sublime fashion . Once you have won a game , any tactics or non tactics the Coach(s ) employs is fair game. Kudos , Roy !!!

UNLUCKY SWEDEN :  Fortune dealt Sweden a cruel hand. Out of Euro 2012 after two narrow defeats , and both somewhat unfair. They must hold an inquest into their appalling inability to deal with crosses. Nearly all the goals they have conceded in the tournament have come courtesy of a flighted ball into / across their box.  Intrinsically , they had the better make-up , and approach play against England. They even looked the more comfortable and confident on the ball. They kept it as a team , especially in midfield with Kallstrom and Svensson in tandem with Ibrahimovic , who  probed  for the right openings in the last third.  Their full backs Martin Olsson and  Granqvist gave decent support to their attacks. You could not fault their application as such, and perhaps if star man Ibrahimovich could give another 25% of effort and skill , with reduced Self-absorption ,  just maybe they would have won with day light to spare. Having deservedly led the game at 2-1 for a spell , only to lose it 3-2 , the players know they let it slip away.

TYPICAL: While England celebrate this exciting win , it's imperative , in addition , that caution is evoked in this narrative.  There are many facets to the truth  sometimes , and when you dissect the game,  or re-watch it ,  you might learn to extricate reality from euphoria . It's great to have won this one , but i shudder at the depth of due diligence  needed to take our game to the next level . Remember we had to roll back the years to eek out a method on how to beat a modest side..... retrogression or progression ? food for thought .

Thanks ever so much for you readership .  Next-up , you can can read my blog on the shock dismissal of Fans' Favourite Harry Redknapp from Spurs. That's posted at 10am , British Summer Time,  Sunday, June 17th . Stay Close .

Thursday, 14 June 2012

A Method to the Madness , Please....

The Euro 2012 championship comes alive in Kiev , the Capital  city of  Co-hosts Ukraine , as England face Sweden in the Olympic Stadium on Friday, june 15th . It is imperative for the ambitions of these two countries  to win this football match . A draw is of not much use to either side , particularly because, I sense there would be a winner from the other game in the group between Ukraine and France .  England, France , and Sweden are on a hiding to nothing ,  they have to go all out for 3 points in their respective games .
From an England Perspective , it represents the chance to lay down another plank in the rebuilding process , just that on this occasion , they have to show their true colours ;  If they do not win this game ,  you bet , Roy Hodgson and his troops shall be facing familiar demons .

FAMILIARITY OR SIMILARITY :  The Swedes have a history of Stone - walling England . This is in part due to their familiarity of English Soccer and Culture .  Scores of Swedish footballers have done well at clubs in the premier league  over the years , and their  high success  levels  is no  coincidence . Swedish players tend to be of the same genre as the  English ones , loosely speaking - efficient , gutsy , and unspectacular .  It means they hardly walk into games against England with an inferiority complex . England  on the other hand feel pretty comfortable with that likeness, as they don't with  technically more sophisticated adversaries . Not surprising why  quite a lot of the games between the two end in draws .

THE OPTICS ON ENGLAND ;  It's a paradox for Roy Hodgson , I bet he would have never envisaged Sweden , a country where he had a lot of Success at Club football management to be the opposition on the day his nascent England career reaches perhaps , tipping point . The honeymoon he has enjoyed since his appointment in May would be transcended if a victory happens .  England would need to play a lot better to win this game ; i doubt an iffy showing would suffice .  The defense was alright against France  who did not play with a striker of the calibre of  Zlatan Ibrahimovic . This time around , it faces potentially a tougher test from Sweden's Mercurial  number 10 .  Conversely,  I  expect  Gerrard , Parker , and Milner to be more comfortable on the ball  in Midfield , given that Sweden would lean towards territorial concession ,  and retreat into a counter-attacking shape,  not necessarily closing England down higher up the pitch, rather a deep laying-in- wait version .
The question is with more of the ball in midfield as i hypothesize , what would be the method of conveyance Mr. Hodgson adopts . I reckon Jermain Defoe would be apposite in a tight game like this - his mobility  and natural penalty box instincts is a prerequisite on such a setting . It would make sense to pair him with Danny wellbeck . If Oxlade Chamberlain , Steven Gerrard , and the aforementioned Wellbeck do business at the supply end , and England find the gears to  force the issue methodically , certainly the potential for a triumph in Kiev is real .

THE SWEDISH VERSION : Underestimate them at your peril..... Not When they have Zlatan Ibrahimovic who is a match-winner , and often the difference  between any two teams . If he is in the mood and in his element , he can make and score goals  incredibly . He is a striker of vast all-round talent.  I believe they were slightly unlucky to lose to Ukraine in their first game after taking the lead . Sweden are a competent team . Olof Mellberg is key in central defense ;  Sebastian Larrson is a handful -  invigorating , and bristling with appetite on the right of midifield ; and Johan Elmander has a good knowledge of England's Players , as well as Jonas Olson who played under the England manager at West Brom . The other big advantage they have is that they are hardly under pressure when they face England .  This gives them so much of an incentive to perform .

A CLOSE CALL :  I am almost certain these two sides would not possess sufficient attacking dynamism to lift this contest beyond the fringes of another turgid spectacle . It is that inherent pathological disposition that sways me strongly towards anticipating another draw .  The beauty of the game is that it's not science , and i may just be left eating my words graciously in the end . Can this blog be posted in both sets of dressing rooms . Ah ! now that could be a stimulus....

This Blog is not complete without a big thank you to all it's readers out there.  You make the difference!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Bore , snooze , Draw...

Do you know that feeling of waiting for paint to dry ? As exciting as football  can be , it does produce such moments too.  The Sight of a tubby French supporter asleep in the stadium during the England - France game is worth a thousand words . These two Power Houses of world football served us cold steak and chips in their group  D encounter in Donetsk .  The respective managers were not helped by  their teams being at embryonic stages of development , with quite a lot of players on both sides lacking big tournament experience .  Anyone who watched a re-broadcast of the match ought to be forgiven the thought that the video of the game was  on "slow-speed ".  Not to worry , your agony was not due to some technical malfunction .

SNAP SHOT OF ENGLAND : Manager Roy Hodgson was perhaps as daring as could be with his team selection , especially in attack by picking 18 year old Alex Oxlade Chamberlain , and Danny Welbeck in a 4-3-3 formation . I give the manager full marks for that .  Joe Hart had a good display in goal , the defense individually and collectively competent  was England's strongest department .  The midfield  was the weakest :  Gerrard was the best of the three , he played with more imagination , but lacking in ability at this level to initiate proceedings in a methodical manner . Parker failed to disprove my theory he can be more than just cannon fodder in midfield ; while james Milner remains an enigma  with a performance that straddles hopelessness at invention,   but with a required tactical defensive balance to midfield. The three upfront  can be summed-up as the good , the bad and the ugly . Ashley Young had no influence and penetration ;  Oxlade-Chamberlain  is learning the difference between wanting to take the game by storm , and actually achieving that .  He was rather impetuous , and needs to do the simple things first , and the lethal ones further down the opponents half. Danny Wellbeck gave an encouraging exhibition . The first time  in a long while i have seen an England centre-forward with skill , grace , and technique .  As a team , England were adequate . Or  you'd say they were like an orchestra without music , nor a conductor .  Solid enough , never looked like disintegrating , improvement is needed in ball possession , distribution , offensive positional play , and passing angles in synchronization .

SNAP SHOT OF FRANCE : Laurent Blanc has built a new side after the shambles  of the South Africa 2010 world cup . Defense looks to be their weakest department. Strange how Philip Mexes can be their top central defender . A player in his thirties ,  just gained regular foot-ball at international level having been in the squad for so long says it all. He looks uncertain , and uncomfortable . England did not cause them too many problems as there was never sustained pressure to deal with. All the same , easy to detect it's the weakest sector of the team.  France deployed the 4-3-3 formation - Alou Diarra kept it together in midfield , flanked by Yohan Cabaye and Malouda - they generated fluidity and useful passing angles , but once the mid-field gets the ball  up to the forward  3 - Benzema , Nasri , and Ribery , as a trio , they scarcely  worked out the spark or cleverness to puncture England . They were slow, monotonous, and lacking in conviction to break England down . If England were an orchestra without music and a conductor  , France were an orchestra with music , ready to play but no conductor.
As a team ,  the fundamentals  are being  correctly placed - they build attacks from back to front , but my critique will state they cannot trouble too many teams at this pedestrian pace. They lack a proper fantasy player too , and please do not tell me  Nasri is - I bed to differ....

FOWARD LOOKING :  France and England need to up the tempo and intent in their next game to build on the gains of the 1 point they both share in the group . Ukraine may not be that easy when they they come up against France - One thing the Co- hosts do not lack is vigor and motivation . They attacked with pace against Sweden , and would certainly concern the French.   Laurent Blanc's men will have to up their game considerably .
For England , Playing Sweden is what the Doctor ordered . The sort of opposition they can handle , and are familiar with . Terry against Ibrahimovic ; Larson against Ashley Cole; Wellbeck against Melberg , and an England manager who has worked extensively in Sweden . My only suggestion would be to swap Defoe for Young . I believe Defoe is cleverer , more nimble , explosive , and a secret weapon England could use. In tandem with Welbeck , England would keep the ball better in the last third of the pitch , and possess an augmented potential to score goals .
The moment of truth beckons in Group D.... we are in the throes of an end game here  ,  let's see how it unwraps.

To everyone who reads my blogs ,  i say a big thank you for your readership . Stay Close .

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Purpose , Performance , and Pride

England go into another tournament wondering whether this would be the year it relaunches itself back into the big time . For a premier footballing nation like this not to have won any major tournament in international football , not even the  age grade versions , since 1966 is a pretty pathetic state of affairs.
On the eve of EURO 2012 , we are left wondering still : is this England team  good enough to break that jinx;  has there been any empirical evidence this current team is any better than what we had at the world cup in South Africa in 2010 ? almost certainly no . A new manager in Roy Hodgson after Fabio Capello only succeeded in treading water in his three and a half year tenure . It is fair to  say we are right back to square one . It won't be reasonable to expect , or demand a tournament victory from a manager and group of players who have only been together for under a month ; with injuries , and a significant suspension to Wayne Rooney. That is the setting for this tournament as far as England is concerned - not a great deal of optimism 

OVERVIEW :  Grouped with France , Sweden , and co-hosts Ukraine , you won't  call that an onerous group , but England's destiny in the group stage will be linked to the game against the French , on june11th in Donetsk . A defeat must be avoided , a win shall almost certainly see England taking more points from the Sweden and Ukraine games to get into the knock out stages . I reckon this shall be an open group -one where teams potentially could beat one another . Ultimately my money is on two out of  England , France , and Sweden to progress. If England fail to make it through the group stages,  that will represent an embarrassment for everyone connected with English Foot ball . I believe we'll be spared such a scenario though......

APPROACH :  This is the crux of the matter ! What sort of approach would England have ? what's the mentality and mind set Roy Hodgson has infused ?  the answer to these issues can be decoded from the tactical approach the Manager adopts .  I expect he would make England structured , and stable . That alone gets you no where.... There has to be a synergy of  a tactical approach and a performance of high standard that underlines purpose . If  players are drilled with a mentality to win , they transform tactics into success . That we shall decipher from the game against france . If  England  go into that game lacking in confidence , they probably would lose . The French will sniff it , and go for the kill . It is vital we do not have ponderous players lacking in know how. England must be dynamic against France . Win or lose , the performance will have more of a bearing on the future .

KEY :  as said , England will be structured - i saw that from the last friendly against Belgium .  My fear is  the mid-field where i really do not rate most of the personnel that operate . I expect the manager to go for the quartet of  WALCOTT and Downning on the Flanks , then Gerrard and Parker in the middle.  Against France , ball retention , and distribution is key - allied with structure and shape. Can the players be technically proficient to execute that task ? In addition , the delivery system , as well as midfielders being able to breach the French back line with unexpected runs would be telling . France would have an expectation of how England will perform - England have to surprise them . Gerrard's ability to be measured and impose himself in midfield to keep England ticking is key. Parker is sterile , and redundant in possession .That implies the England captain has his work cut-out in mid-field where the French will be very good . Ashley Young has to be creative  and  skillful.  . Solidity and creativity must interlocked .

PROGNOSIS :  My fear is England rarely mix it well enough in tournaments , hence the patchy record . Performances tend  to be disjointed  and lacking in character and conviction . Too often , we rely on individuals to make up for the lack of a coherent team play approach .  I have not seen a better England tournament performance since the loss to Germany in the semi-finals of Italia 90 .  By rational or subjective disposition , i cannot  feel it's going to be the UREKA tournament for England !!! . If it is going to be , the approach must be outstanding. I am waiting to be pleasantly surprised . The first step to it will be the look in the eyes of the players when they take the field..... would it be burning with the desire of purpose , a performance , and  show of pride ? it's been a long wait since 1966 .

Saturday, 9 June 2012


Wednesday ,  May 1st  2012 .  Roy Hodgson ,  the new England Manager's maiden press conference  said :

" I'll have to get in touch with John and Rio to speak  with them , hopefully
   face to face , and find out where they are in this situation . Until such time
   as i've spoken to them and found out where they stand in relation to the
   situation , it would be wrong of me to comment . And not just those two ,
   I'll have to  speak to as many senior players as i can"..........

WEDNESDAY, MAY 16TH 2012 : The England  squad for Euro 2012 is announced , and Rio Ferdinand is not chosen for " Football reasons " . Hodgson added : "a man is innocent till proven guilty" ,  obviously referring to John Terry's inclusion, despite his impending court case for racially aggravated public disorder .  The England manager in the build up to making a point on his controversial selection said : "I was given a free hand"........  obviously  an attempt  to ward off accusations in The FA's direction for interference in his selection ; or more to the point ,  as an influence in leaving out Rio Ferdinand .

Roy Hodgson wittingly or unwittingly has played the character of Basil Fawlty in the 80's sitcom Fawlty Towers,  in this running narrative . He has made a sensitive issue become not just worse , but nasty . This blogger had stated in february that the allegations at John Terry shall polarize the soccer community in a bitter way ( read my blog DIVIDED WE STAND ) .  I take no joy in saying , it is proving to be a self fulfilling prophesy. Suddenly , players and managers in Britain, and from other nations at the EUROS have to be asked their thoughts on Rio Ferdinand's exclusion from the England Team for the Tournament . Yes ,  Mr. Hodgson said in his press conference to announce the England squad , his omission of Rio Ferdinand would " raise eye brows " . I  shall add ,  it may turn-out to be his nemesis .

It is a devastating indictment on the Football Association and Roy Hodgson this matter has dragged out so disgustingly in the people's court . You could say it's now in the global forum .  I'll tell it like it is..... If on May 1st  Roy Hodgson was insinuating holding discussions with John Terry and Rio Ferdinand , then i am free to interpret that as implicit of his ( initial  ) intentions to play , or at least call -up both players . If Rio Ferdinand played to the end of the season unscathed , then why is he not even put on stand-by when  the squad was announced may 16th . There is a trail of circumstantial evidence to suggest  that there are insidious forces at work shaping the sub-plot in the issue involving The Ferdinands and John Terry.  In an attempt to do damage limitation , or call it conflict management , The FA , especially have overreacted like the proverbial Bull in the China shop . Roy Hodgson's strenuous  explanation of objectivity in the omission of Rio Ferdinand in that may 16th press conference  ( see 3rd paragraph of this blog for sound bites ) arouses curiosity .

The Foot Ball Association have tried to micro-manage the affair , first by stripping Terry of the captaincy , and in my view taken it further by working to forestall any potential discord with the unstated policy of : one or the other,  regarding the pair ( Ferdinand and Terry )  .  Roy Hodgson buys into  the FA's  line of thought by picking John Terry , whom he would have regarded as fitter of the two. The denouement to this sub-plot would prove the FA's actions of instigating one or the other,  to the Terry - Ferdinand "dilemma " ,  and the manager's acquiescence,   was preposterous .

Gary Cahill's injury , and subsequent withdrawal from the squad was a twist in the tale - a cross roads situation , and perhaps , the Climatic moment in this narrative . Climb down , and pick Rio Ferdinand , or go for the stand-by player , and novice Martin Kelly . Hodgson stuck to the script,  ignoring Rio Ferdinand . In doing that , he handed ammunition to his detractors like me to blast  holes into his  "football reasons " subterfuge . It does not add-up : Rio Ferdinand - 81 England caps - winner of premiership titles,  FACups ,  Champions League , and participant of at least 2 world cups .  Martin Kelly - not even 20 premiership appearances for Liverpool . Let's not even bother to mention his age.... The Vast Majority of choosers would have gone for Rio Ferdinand even if he was in poor form .

Maybe The Wise King Solomon would have Counseled The FA and Roy Hodgson along these lines : Do not get the new manager in a difficult situation ; pick Ferdinand and Terry in the squad ;  do not bother huddling together with both of them to sort out any differences - no one could sort this out ; just tell them to make sure you man England's defense to the standards of big players both of you are ; crack the whip in presence of all 23 players : informing them any trouble makers shall be thrown-out instantly,  and banned from future England squads . Play with the required intensity , win the tournament , and shove-off back to your respective Clubs with your personal baggage or concerns .

Roy Hodgson , a widely acclaimed man of deep soccer knowledge has made an unsustainable , weak , and intellectually flawed Call .  The wisest move would have been to stay out of the issues involving The Ferdinands and Terry  directly and indirectly , by going for the the tactical response of if fit : The 2-in , or The 2-out. Let's face it , they are England's best 2 centre-backs . At least people would have respected the principles underpinning his position . I scratch my head , and say ehhhh !.... you did'nt do so Mr. Hodgson....... hmmmm ! like you said , you are going to have to "live " with the cosequences .

Readers , my next blog would be an analysis of England's team and Chances at Euro 2012 . That's posted at 23.55 sunday , june 10th . Thanks for your readership .

Sunday, 3 June 2012


Reading Roy Keane's column in a Sunday paper a week ago  was quite an experience . To put it in simple terms : I was shocked by the brashness ,  you could even you say contempt ,  he displayed in dealing with one of his subject matters . A certain premiership footballer who has become cannon fodder for many pundits , and commentators due to his recent brush with the law

Over the years , both as a player and his brief, unsuccessful stint as Football Club manager at Sunderland and Ipswich , many of us have learnt that Roy Keane's signature is his blunt , forthright attitude - in words and deeds . For those reading this blog , and wondering who on earth is Roy Keane ? He was Manchester United's captain , and midfield terrier for the better part of a decade . Sir Alex Ferguson' s trusted lieutenant   -  Barracking , snarling , and snapping at opponents , and team mates in equal measure . His grit , drive , and determination was the backbone for Manchester United Success for many years. Sometimes  a tinderbox , he however possessed a ruthlessness in his quest for success . To his credit : he has got a medal haul to impress even  Lionel Messi . In management , apart from returning  Sunderland to the premiership at  first attempt  , and retaining their premiership status,  the rest of the narrative can be termed as unspectacular and mediocre  -  He got sacked from both Clubs after tenuous spells .  He has since transformed himself into a TV pundit , and column writer . Is it not amazing how this genre has become fashionable for ex-managers .  A Class who have failed ,  but still earn a living lecturing us on stuff they claim to know so well , yet could not implement their lofty ideas on the stage where  it should have mattered most - The football Team !!!

Here is Roy Keane in his Column in a sunday tabloid talking about Joey Barton :

" I Never rated Joey Barton that highly as a player . I played against him when he was younger and he never stood out for me . Since then , i have never seen him dominate a game - or be the difference between two sides.......... it's not like the first time he has stepped out of line but there's no indication that he is willing or able to change "..............

At face value , not a lot seems wrong with Roy Keane's Opinions , nor the point he was trying to make when you read his entire column , except that for those of us who are contemporaries of Roy Keane , who watched him play , and remember his behaviour on and off the pitch , his outbursts  smacks so much of righteous indignation , and perhaps he should be the last person to offer a critique of Joey Barton.  The wider issue here is that too many ex- players and managers now working for the media,  sound so disingenuous with their comments and quite a lot of their opinions .  They are all so stereotypical , they'd  fit in perfectly  as a church choir group. How they forget these  sins they spend time pillorying players for : they first committed . These themes are recurrent  from generation to generation in football.  " Bad defending" ,  "Ball watching",  " not pressing" ,  and all the balderdash they constantly spew almost makes them sound like they were versions of  Beckenbauer , Cryuff , Pele, and Maradona . Some of us remember  you lot making  1001 sideways passes ;  or playing aimless long balls ;  or taking a good beating from the opposition forward , hearing you go on about today's players fills us with consternation,  for it's reminiscent of you self-possessed lot - when the shoe was on the other foot.

Roy Keane would have us believe because he won titles with Man Utd , it gives him the prerogative to say what he likes , and judge every other player by his supposedly high standards ; and furthermore , every negative action he took on  and off the pitch was justified in the end as long as a "trophy ' is won.  Keane in his Column tells us .......... " Alex Fergusson took the view that whatever i might have done , it is was still worth having me "...........  Mr. Roy Keane , your comments are scandalous , and i am not taking it out of context .   How could anyone at Old Trafford in April 2001 to watch the manchester derby forget Roy Keane's Brutal , Vile , Spiteful and Vindictive Challenge on Manchester City's Alf-Inge Haaland .  His comments afterwards in his Autobiography reflects the barbarism behind his actions.  Read :

" i'd waited long enough . i f****** hit him hard . The ball was there ( i think ) . Take that you C*** .......... Even in the dressing room afterwards , i had no remorse. My attitude was F*** him"..........

There we have it : Insane and  Warped !!!!  He got a total - 8 game ban for his tackle ( assault ) on Haaland , and those later comments in his book.  On  this Premise ,  i urge the media to pay a little more attention to the subject matter they let the columnists write  or talk about . Fans should not be served hypocrisy by the print and electronic media . Just because some of your personalities are high profile , does not entitle them to comments that do not hold-up to scrutiny .

Joey Barton is a  nasty piece of work - out for self Aggrandizement . Best he earned it by playing , not through notoriety . Folks must not fall for his hoodwink . But neither should they for big names on TV , radio or the print media .  Roy Keane has no business going into the subject matter of discipline of players .  We are  talking of a man who walked out on his international team mates on the eve of the world cup in 2002 , and called his manager  ( of Ireland ) Mick McCarthy a " crap " player and manager. Some of them Self-styled  pundits would not pass a fit for purpose test . Remember the pinch of salt adage ?