Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Premise For Hiring and Firing a Football Manager

There are 92 Football Association registered Clubs in England , comprising Four playing divisions , and if i told you no less than 38 of those  Clubs Sacked their Manager between August 2011 and June 2012,  I am curious as to what your reaction would be....  While that is still being digested , Would you have conceived the thought over  43% of clubs across the Four playing divisions have had their football  manager for less than a year !  And about 46%  have had their manager for between 1 -3 years only ;  and no more than 7% have had their manager for between 4 - 10 years .

This reason for this State of affairs is straight forward to decipher ,  and cut through.  Chairmen and Club owners simply embark on a fatuous mode when hiring and firing managers . It is apposite to add that the elites who run Clubs in England tend to have a faulty definition of "direction" to begin with ;  or do a bad job of separating "ambition" from "direction". If an educated opinion is that the superstructure is built on the base , then it's transparent why the volatility in the football managers' office. If a Manager is hired on the premise of taking the Club in a "new direction", the question is what has informed that opinion ; and are the co-related structures also in Place to serve this transition ; or the supposition is that the new man in charge is the Silver Bullet ;  Or  Football's version of Albert Einstein? how wrong !

PERVERSE PREMISE :-  Aston Villa , Liverpool , and Spurs - three high profile Clubs to have changed their managers this summer . When you dig deep into the premise for firing the previous incumbent , and the reasons for hiring the current one , you get embarrassed at how short term gain is decimating Football.  Under Martin O'Neill ( Manager 2006 - 2010 ) Aston Villa finished 6th in 3 out of 4 seasons.  For whatever reason, he left , and to the chagrin of most observers, and no less Aston Villa Fans, Alex Mcleish was appointed to replace Gerrard Houlier ( O'Neil's successor ) who had to depart abruptly due to ill health , despite the fact Birmingham had just been relegated on his watch. Alex Mcleish succeeded in transplanting the relegation fever across town - Aston Villa, behold,  finished 16th last season, one place above  relegation. He got sacked in May.
Chief Executive of Aston Villa Football Club made an interesting statement to the media when they officially secured the services of their latest Manager Paul Lambert :

" When we were able to meet Paul , it was clear he was the right man for Aston Villa .
  We were very clear from the start the type of manager we wanted. We wanted somebody
   young to bring the vibrancy back to the club ".

When the Chief Executive of a Big Club makes comments as that above , it gives an indication as to why this endemic problem is fast accelerating.  And what did the new Aston Villa Manager have to say:

"We have to get the fans excited.  We will need them to stay with us , and  i am sure they will. We will try to get results  as quickly and as best as we can .We have to play in the right way .

We have to give them ( the fans ) something.......... i think they will come in their thousands to watch us and it is up to us to give them something back " .

That's what i call soporific stuff. If Aston Villa play like Paul Lambert sounds,  those thousands of fans will sooner fall asleep at matches

Let's look into the Liverpool version of a similar event.  After Sacking Legend Kenny Dalglish in May, FSG,  Liverpool owners set-off on this elaborate, confusing , and sometimes comical attempt at a replacement. One of the short listed candidates for the job Roberto Martinez was interviewed in Miami, and it appears he turned down the job. There was so much conflicting reports , till finally Brendan Rodgers was announced as the man for the Anfield hot seat.  Liverpool Chairman Tom Werner had this to say at the press conference to unveil Brendan Rodgers

" The style of football Brendan is associated with is exactly what we want to see at Anfield , aggressive  attacking play. Swansea were a revelation last season with their brand of entertaining football " .

Brendan Rodgers had this to say :

" I'll fight for my life , and for the people in this City. If you can have success , hopefully you can be here for many years . We might not be ready for the title, but the process starts today.

One element that characterizes statements from the Plutocrats who run Aston Villa and Liverpool is it's sweeping nature. It's almost as if they are talking about the latest machine , or state of the art gadget they just bought when  referring to their new manager . Can some one remind them that the power they wield does not necessarily translate to  making proper choices , or defining  the premise for a wise choice in footballing terms .  Further more , if there was any iota of validity to the hocus-pocus pronouncements made at these press conferences , we would not be here in the first place.  FSG's first appointment to manage Liverpool in May 2010 was non other than current England Manager Roy Hodgeson ,  Errrrrr....... who was dismissed just after  six months in charge ; His successor Kenny Dalglish lasted a year and half.  Where is their credibility ? There are legitimate reasons to see Club owners as part of the problem , because of the illogical positions they take in the first place.

INSIDE OUT :- It is irrefutable Clubs need building inside out , and not out side in. It is baffling that most clubs take the anachronistic approach of building outside in. Investing  expensively on a coach / manager who is flavour of the month is usually throwing money down the drain.  Such extrapolating in Football seldom works.  They rarely reproduce similarly in a different environment.  A Club should  expand and invest in it's own identity and heritage ; building internal structures to propagate it's ethos. To this end , retaining the services of ex-players who symbolize it's traditions , represents one of the best ways of keeping stability. Having a clutch of ex - players around the Club, in influential capacities is just as important to the fans ; enhancing their potential to manage the Club amounts to a smarter investment .   It's nothing short of scandalous when a manager is recruited from another Club on reputation. It's condescending and misleading , and creates an unreasonable level of expectancy , and in the end,  an invalid  premise to fire him. The Club suffers more than anything else.  Have you ever wondered why new managers have to bring in their own dietician , psychologist , goal keeping coach , fitness coach , assistant coaches , a particular player(s) from his ex- Club and the like. When he eventually gets fired , the Club is left paying for  these accessories the next manager wants discarded .  So , why buy into the preposterous idea of having them in the first place ? One of the reasons transplanting "success" is hardly enduring in football .

INSANE  it is to play high stakes with a Club's fortunes , staking everything on the manager's performance. It takes more than that to be successful. There are few exceptional managers in European Football. The rest are much of a muchness. Some , fate serves a curved ball ! and some tend to be in the right place at the right time. There is nothing esoteric about the knowledge they possess. Sometimes it's all about a suave agent overstating the capabilities of his Client , or the right set of players exist at a Club at that time - time and chance.  I actually would go for a lobotomized model of a manager . One who does not play Saviour to the Club. A Club's image must always exceed that of it's manager.  Pandering to a manager's reputation is cheap.  Clubs need to stop making guinea pigs out of manager , and prostituting itself in the process.  If  a Club is built inside out ,  managers need not bear all the brunt for failure , nor indulge in the hyperbole that comes with winning. Reality lies in-between.  Alex Fergusson  and Arsene Wenger  are not models,  rather , rare off-shoots , or mutations.  You cannot recreate such , and it is foolish giving so much to a manager in hope or expectation he has  the potential to be a replica version of these iconic Managers.  Rather as i indicated earlier , a reduction in the manager's powers and activity , and the Internal Mechanisms of the Club absorbing a bit more responsibility , actually puts the right perspective to matters ; the manager can work without an albatross hanging around his neck.  The Concept a manager lives or dies by results,  or has to grovel in the lime light , or receives a public lynching when results are bad is down right primitive .

Football must remember it is a team sport in every sense of the word. The manager is not the entire reason for short comings. A code of collective responsibility needs to be enshrined in football. If the right structures are built internally , the Club will be in good health , make better decisions , and above all,  it's success potentially would  intertwine countless  cycles. It's a given " success " and "ambition " are relative . Clubs need to get the optics right . Football  evokes gullibility and irrationality , perhaps that's the genesis of it's problems.

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Tuesday, 24 July 2012


Pre-season  has begun in earnest , starry-eyed fans are salivating over the likely new signings their team would make . The Consensus is that  we need to sign better players - like A , B , and C , and we should be winning trophies . After all Clubs X, Y, Z did so last season , and look where they are now .

The trouble is football is an industry that has largely deluded followers, and the dynamics in this field tends to throw conventional economic theories up-side-down . Tell me in what industry will a company buy Capital Asset to the tune of £35 Million, and  asking buyers to have it for £ 20 Million in a year and six months  time. That's what Liverpool want to do with Andy Carroll. Football has managed this idiosyncratic, artificial bubble lately , due to distortions to the market by Clubs like Manchester City , Chelsea , Paris Saint Germain , and a host of Russian Clubs , backed by mega Wealthy Owners . The Bosman ruling has further advanced the bargaining position of players nearing the end of their contracts . Take the imminent departure of Arsenal's Robin Persie as another example. Brought to Arsenal eight years ago for the cost of £2.5 Million , has only played the last two seasons injury free , has a year left on his contract , would not renew it , has his destiny in his hands by being legally entitled to listen to offers from January 2013 , Arsenal are willing to do business if an impetuous sum of £30 Million is offered ; either way Van Persie stands to double his wages due to the circumstances .  

If Football fans think what's happening with Glasgow Rangers , a Club in financial ruin at the moment , is some crazy and far fetched occurrence , they are mistaken. I remember Italian Club Lazio , bankrolled by Sergio Cragnotti , and his Tinned Food conglomerate , CIRIO , in the late 1990's , buying the best players in  Italy and beyond , and winning titles too , till it all went belly-up in 2002. Lazio were in debt to the tune of €110 million , with liabilities exceeding assets . Entrepreneur Claudio Lotito took over the Club , and  managed a deal with the banks , for a 23 year repayment of the loans the Club is saddled with , and a quick fire sale of the it's star players. They now have to produce their own players through the youth system, and would be lucky if they win the Italian Championship in another 30 years.

The prevalent dire economic climate  many European countries are facing brings into focus what Arsene Wenger of Arsenal has been practicing  in the last few years. The Self-Sustaining model should now be highly recommended . We should not be fooled by the aberration of the likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain , who have created a false bubble by consequence of the vast amounts they have to spend on players and related wages . That is a synergy of good and bad . Good in the sense that Clubs with talented players can rake in a fortune from sales to these Clubs that defy economic gravity ,  through direct or indirect means , and the cascading effect creates transfer activity and money  for  Clubs . Bad in the sense that rich clubs trigger inflationary pressure on transfer purchases and wages. Fans need to wise-up . It is not a level playing field for everyone.  The teams run on a modest budget will most likely win nothing , and the best they can hope for is that their team is run on the right model which should be about sustainability - expenditure should not exceed returns by more than two or three per cent at worst. 

The trouble is , Clubs seem to shy away from telling fans how it all stacks-up.  Rather, Fans get sucked into more personal debt paying for season ticket , and Club merchandize in the false hope this is the year the holy grail arrives. Arsenal fans have seen the arrival of two new strikers - Luckas Podolski and Olivier Giroud for a combined fee of £23 Million . Arsene Wenger is busy telling the world of his intention to keep Van Persie till his contract runs out , and if he has to sell him , £30 Million would be the price. Come on fans , Arsenal know Van Persie would leave before August 31st , and the base price will be around  £22 Million . That's amount for the 2 strikers they bought recouped. Why the secrecy ? Arsenal are not trying to keep Van Persie , they need to sell him , and making a huge profit is part of their thinking . Why not ? but just make it clear to the fans early enough . The issue is Clubs do too little to explain the plans to the fans , and that's awful and dumb. The fans frustration is abated if issues are transparent , and their concerns are factored in .

The Self Sustaining model is undoubtedly the way forward , and a reflection of our economic times . Fans ought to know there shall be a lot of tears with the departure of star players to the  Clubs who can pay to get them . Staying afloat is the name of the game , we need the price distorting nuisance of rich clubs . We need the Bosman free transfers ( which is beneficial to clubs and players alike )  It's the reality we face , the onus is on the Clubs to communicate their financial health to the fans in a more efficient and transparent way. Fans would tend to persevere and stay loyal. It's better for them than being in the dark about events. Fans ought to have an idea what the transfer budget of their Club is for the season , and if potential additional revenue is derived from the sale of player x or y , what percentage of that sum shall be put into the existing transfer budget for player purchase / wages . For too long , fans have lived in false hopes about what they are buying into , yet they matter the most . 

There are two worlds out there..... one for the " rich " Clubs , and the other one for regular Clubs . The fans must not confuse the  two , and the Clubs with regular means need to stop paying lip service to the hopes and dreams of the ordinary supporter. They need to tell it like it is .

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Friday, 20 July 2012


Friday , July 13th , Westminister Magistrate's court , Chelsea's Captain , and defender John Terry was acquitted of racially aggravated public disorder during a league match between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea in November 2011 .

THE JUDGEMENT : Weighing all the evidence , i think it is highly unlikely that Mr. Ferdinand accused Mr. Terry on the pitch of calling him a black c*** . However , I accept that it is possible Mr. Terry believed at the time , and believes now that such an accusation was made . The prosecution evidence as to what was said by Mr. Ferdinand is not strong. Mr. Cole gives corroborating ( although far from compelling corroborating ) evidence on this point . It is therefore possible that what he said was not intended as an insult but rather as a challenge to what he believed had been said to him.

In those circumstances , there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can record is one of not guilty.


Before you start to wonder if i am delirious , may i hastily interject that the paragraph you just read was that of Judge Howard Riddle summing up .

REWIND SCENE : A premiership football encounter last November , Chelsea's Captain John Terry got into an altercation with Anton ferdinand , disgusting insults evidently were traded ; sadly , Terry added race to the metaphor of insults , which got picked-up by an off-duty police officer in the crowd , and made a complaint to the police. The Police and Crown prosecution services decided to take Terry to court. A chain reaction was set-off which led to the Foot Ball Association stripping John Terry of the England Captaincy ; Fabio Capello resigned because he was diametrically opposed to the FA's decision to punish Terry before the Law courts reached their own verdict on the matter.
John Terry always denied the prohibited portion in his insults to Ferdinand was done proactively , but rather as a repetition , in question to Ferdinand's assertion. To be honest , The Great Shakespeare would have marveled at the story line , and the uncanny quirkiness of evidence ( or lack of it ) central to the controversy , prosecution, and consequently the Judge's ruling . That's because Ferdinand cannot vouch to have heard Terry breach the law , and no one else for that matter on the pitch could ; So low was Terry's tone , it took someone even farther than those around him to note, and seek action. The cameras recorded what appears to be an offensive word mouthed by Terry in the direction of Ferdinand .

THE LAW : The crown prosecution service defines RACIALLY AGGRAVATED OFFENCES as where

the offender shows or is driven by a racial hostility. They are offences where

*at the time of committing the offense , or immediately before, or after doing so,the offender demonstrates hostility towards the victim's membership ( or presumed membership ) of a racial group

*or the the offence is motivated ( wholly or partly )by hostility towards members of a racial group based on their membership of that group

This covers assaults , criminal damage , Harassment , and public order offences
( crime and disorder act 1998 )

ROLE PLAY : as it relates to the law and the Terry - Ferdinand court case , it is instructive to note that as quirky and weird as the circumstances surrounding the case are , i have put myself in the judge's shoes on this , it would be overreaching to hand a conviction given the evidence on display. I am not sold on Terry's reason for his utterances , but looking at the law , and the context of the incident , i would rather err on the side of NOT handing a punishment .

LESSONS : Please , Moms and Dad's , do not not grow your children to think soccer players are role models . They are not. They are mere human beings like you and i - with their faults, weaknesses , and demons . Seeing them as examples is like saying Face-book is the elixir to all the social ills on earth because it reaches everyone. Soccer stars do good communal and charity work undoubtedly , but so too ordinary folks. What we have is a passion for the sport that goes into over drive , and we propel the characters involved to the highest figments of our imagination . Reading what Ferdinand and Terry were saying to each other on that day, is what you would expect from people of their original social background. The millions they have earned has not necessarily wiped that out.

The biggest winners from this case is our society , our laws on race , and the tremendous awareness most ordinary folk now have of the law. The dichotomies on the issue of Club loyalty would remain , or probably get worse in relation to QPR and Chelsea. However, it is my believe , and more importantly , that human relations in society actually gets improved by all of this . What counts most is respect for the law.
We have also witnessed that our laws on race are robust and and dynamic. Perhaps in other countries , the "offence" Terry was prosecuted for would have been called acceptable. If that is normal , Good luck to them . It has been suggested that the whole thing was blown out of proportion , and should have never come to court. I beg to differ. Laws should not be dormant .
What better medium to show case our laws on race ! For a class that Walllow in self-publicity , it's fair game they unwittingly become pawns for the good of wider society , and not directly for their own ends. If ordinary Peter had been prosecuted for racially aggravated public disorder , who would have heard ? nobody .

JOHN TERRY : Must be wondering if in the end it was fair to loose the England captaincy when he has been cleared of any offence . It is a point . ANTON FERDINAND must be wondering why he had to suffer all the emotional turmoil for a mater he did not really bring-up. I hear you. Capello would be thinking - i Knew the FA acted hastily in sacking Terry as captain . Going back to those issues only serves to tear-out hairs .
We go forward with better wisdom , and enhanced by the Principles , Values , and laws that underpin our society . For once , it's not about Football and it's personalities self-serving ; or fans fawning over them. This time they are for a change serving the interest of the ordinary folk by making him better informed through this issue More for it.

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Friday, 13 July 2012


DELIGHT AND DISAPPOINTMENT : The Netherlands qualified for the 1990 world cup in Italy largely with the team that won the European Championship in 1988.  On this occasion , unfortunately , the Dutch enigma reared it's ugly head again . A 1-1 draw with Egypt ;   followed by 0-0 draw with England ; and another tie - 1-1 with Ireland   meant they scraped through to the second round.  They got beaten 2-1 by old foes Germany in the second round to exit the tournament. The ugly sight of Frank Rikyaard and Germany striker Rudi Voller in confrontation , spitting at each other , and both red-carded, remains one of the most dishonourable and undignified scenes in Football , and the abiding memory of a poor world cup showing by the oranje . 

Euro 92 : was a somewhat better affair. Dennis Berkamp joined forces with Brian Roy and Marco van Basten ; Gullit dropped into midfield to pair with Witchge and Wouters  in a 4-3-3 formation. A semi final exit in the hands of Denmark on penalties would be the last we saw of The Great RINUS  MICHELS , and European Footballer of the year  Marco Van Basten due to injury. 

The 1994 world cup in America witnessed a crop of new players introduced by new coach DICK ADVOCAAT , who had fallen-out with Ruud Gullit over tactical matters , and Gullit consequently opting out of the Dutch squad to the world cup. In came Inter Millan's Wim Jonk ; Lazio's Aaron Winter ;  The De boer brothers ; Marc Overmars....  again they flattered to deceive.... after beating Argentina 2-1 in the second round , they then lost 3-2 to Brazil in a comprehensive quarter final defeat. The key to that elusive world cup triumph still being searched for.  

In 1991 ,  Louis Van Gaal became manager of Ajax , and galvanized Ajax forward with an updated brand of Total Football. Ajax won the UEFA Cup in 1992 ,  and that familiar theme played-out again - the success of a big club becomes the lightning rod for a sudden explosion of very good players , and a new energy is discovered . Under Van Gaal , Ajax were rejuvenated , and another Dutch  Club became the focal point in European Football . The team played a style high in keep ball , and shifted about in zig-zag patterns which confused and disorientated the opposition . A style associated with Barcelona  , and Spain today and underlines how the Dutch legacy has truly been a standard bearer. Ajax went on to win the '96 Champions league , beating Mighty AC Millan 2-0 in the final .

Euro 96 was the next tournament for the Netherlands National team. The quality of players available was if anything augmented from the 1994 world cup because Ajax were riding a crest wave , and a lot more talent was emerging even faster for the new National coach GUUS HIDINK . After a 0-0 draw to scotland in their opening game ; they beat Switzerland 2-0 ; and before they played England the proverbial Dutch Curse struck. Edgar Davids was sent home from the Dutch camp for making sarcastic comments about Guus Hiddink during a radio interview . The Netherlands crashed out in the quarterfinals on penalties to France.
The 1998 world cup was more of a return to form. Coach Guus Hiddink had potentially the best Dutch squad if talent was the only matrix . 12 of the 22 players in the squad played for clubs overseas. 10 of the remaining 10 in the squad who played for clubs in the eredivisie ( the Dutch premier division ) went on to play overseas , or had done so before. I personally thought this had to be their year to at last win the World Cup. After beating Argentina in the quarter finals , Brazil proved the stumbling block , and they lost out on penalties , ending the tournament in 4th place , and the dreams died once again .

Personally , the 90's represents a testament to the Netherlands phenomenal predilection to produce amazing talent . The Ajax youth Academy has an enduring status for pulling , and producing gifted players . It was also a big money spinner for Dutch Clubs , and the economy as so many of their players were sought after by foreign clubs generating massive transfer fees. In this decade: Van Tiggelen ; Johnny Bosman ; Marco Van Basten , Ruud Gullit ; Ronald De Boer , Edwin Van Da Sar ; Michael Reizeger ; Winston Borgade ; Frank De Boer ; Clarence Seedorf ; Vim Jonk ; Edgar Davids ; Dennis Bergkamp ; Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink ; Patrick Kluivert ; Pierre Van Hojidonk ; Bolo Zenden , Philip Cocu ; Ronald Koeman ;Giovanni Van Bronkhorst ; Jaap Stam ; Roy makaay e.t.c ; played for the best clubs , in the best leagues winning domestic championships and cups , as no other nation produced this aggregate of quality players in diaspora, in the same generation, in Europe . I challenge anyone to better this theory .

In 2000 , The Netherlands Co-hosted the Euro championship with Belgium. One of their finest ex-players was at the helm of affairs as coach - FRANK RIKYAARD . He did not posses great coaching experience , but the KNVB believed in him , and he had a good squad. In the group stages , they played with all the characteristic Dutch fluidity , Van Vossen and Overmars were on fire down the flanks . They swept past Czech Republic, Denmark , and France to top the group on 9 points ; thrashed Yugoslavia 6-1 in the quarterfinals , before imploding in the semi-finals to Italy - missing 2 penalties in normal time to 10 man Italy , in a 0-0 stalemate . The penalty shoot-out was lost , and so too the opportunity to be Champions of Europe. The recriminations after the defeat were damaging.... Rikyaard had resigned immediately after the game , and Berkamp retired from the oranje

Louis Van Gaal took over , but of all people , failed to qualify the oranje to the 2002 world cup finals in JAPAN & SOUTH KOREA . Dick Advocaat returned to manage the oranje after 8 years , and took them to Euro 2004 . Ruud Van Nistelrooy was their star player , and goal scoring machine for manchester united . Not the most colourful of tournaments , but a respectable semifinal place was earned , before hosts portugal edged them out 2-1.

After yet another tournament drought , Who better to quench the thirst than Former Ajax and AC Millan great Marco Van Basten . They were ruthless in the qualifiers for the 2006 world cup in Germany ; i did not believe this was a collection of great talent , and Marco Van Basten looked past Ruud Van Nistelrooy , another in the series of feuding between a manager of the oranje , and a star player . The Dutch team to the world cup was fairly young , but particularly inexperienced . The campaign ended in the second round ( last 16 ) with defeat to Portugal - a nasty game , 2 oranje players sent off ( Boularouz and Van Bronkhorst ) and a 1-0 defeat . Next-up : 2008, and another excellent qualifying procession to the 2008 Euro championships . They started the championship in swashbuckling style , playing football that had tongues wagging . Van Nistelrooy had made his peace with manager Van Basten , a clutch of attacking talent was at the manager's disposal - Robben ; Van da Vaart ; Sneijder ; Kuyt ; Van Persie. Nigel De Jong had emerged as a dependable defensive midfielder. Wins - Italy 3-0 ; France 4-1 ; Romania 2-0 in the group stages shot-up expectations, till Russia shattered them in a 3-1 extra time loss for the oranje.

After the summer of 2008 , the era of Bert Van Marwiijk was ushsered in . The new manager did not have an aristocratic footballing background as most most of his predecessors. His claim to fame was leading Feynoord to UEFA cup success in 2002. Oranje swept their way to the world cup in South Africa. They appeared to somewhat buck the trend in this tournament . They played the archetypal 4-2-3-1 of Dutch teams from yesteryear ; Robben was not fit for the group stages , and his place went to Van dar Vaart . Even without being brilliant they won games , yet the critics were stinging because the coach Van Marwiijk had introduced a physical edge to the Oranje. Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong appeared to have license to foul , and i mean incessantly. That was an alien concept to the oranje. It seemed to have paid-off with group game wins : 2-1 against Denmark ; 1-0 against Japan ; 2-1 versus Cameroun ; into the second round : 2-1 against Slovakia. Into the quarter final , they got rid of the Brazil nemesis 2-1 ; and in the semifinals , they beat Uruguay 3-2. It seemed like Van Marwiijk was going to do it the maverick's way despite all the criticisms of their style , for what appeared an abdication of the Dutch heritage. In the end , the old failings resurfaced , they froze to Spain in the world cup final , and approached the game with a smash and grab attitude , and that is putting it nicely . They incurred the wrath of the neutrals with ugly and cynical fouls in order to stop Spain. It was the proverbial princes playing the pauper , and when Iniesta smashed home the winner to give Spain the World cup , justice was served , and oranje learnt a scorching lesson .
Dutch Legend , and custodian to the Total Football concepts in an interview to Spanish Newspaper El Periodico referred to the oranje methods at the world cup as such :

.... sadly , we played very dirty . This vulgar , hard , hermetic , hardly eye-catching foot ball style"....

The KNVB for some reason rewarded Van Marwiijk with a contract extension , and that unraveled when in the recently concluded Euro 2012 , Netherlands lost all 3 group games, and he wisely resigned . Louis Van Gaal stages a return to the helm , and we all wonder if he will break the voodoo spell on the oranje .

WHAT EGO ? : Observers always point to players ego , and intra-squad tensions and rivalries as the main cause for the Netherlands' inability to win the world cup as they so badly crave , and so richly deserve . I believe that is a simplistic and lazy argument. It is empirical that any football team would always have egos ; if anything egos in a squad is fuel for success. For me a player's ego should be juxtaposed with his ability . If ability surpasses ego , then his ego becomes a necessary devil. If there has been a lot of egos in the Dutch squad over the years , it's a consequence of the level of talent they have , and the desire and believe amongst them of their historic obligation to excel and win competitions . Their ego is the manifestation of their heritage.


* History has maybe dealt Netherlands a cruel hand . As pioneers of a puristic footballing culture , be it total football , or this obligation to play and adhere to the romantic values of the game ; or the legends of Cryuff , Neeskens , krol , Resembrink , and their footballing gods , their rich history shall always be a major influence to their optics of the game. The Dutch by history have been inventors and creators . It has also acted as a burden to live up to .

* Dutch Luminary Johan Cryuff said in 2010 :

..... "I thought my country wouldn't dare to , and would never renounce their style... without having great players of the past the team has it's own style" .

What the great man meant was tradition and identity. The Dutch have always been true to their concepts , and deviation amounts to apostasy . The Dutch play to a theme , play pro-actively. This is easy to legislate for by oponents... it makes them easy to shoot-down. Cowardice and bravery can be ironic terms in football .

* Victims of their own success . The Dutch like Brazil go into every tournament with the "favorites" tag hanging like an albatross. The level of expectation surrounding the oranje is tremendously high ! Sometimes it seems like tempting fate endlessly by saying this is their year . It all needs to come naturally . Football does not validate the idea of right to succeed or own anything.

* The Dutch theory to soccer has always been forward thinking. Attack is better than defense. Against this back drop , they have unwittingly under-developed the defense side of their game . Examine the ratio of excellent Dutch forwarders to defenders , and you'll see how negatively skewed it is against defenders . I suppose they could ape the current Spanish team who have a sound back fOUR.

* As much as the Nation has produced top quality players , they need characters the team can coalesce with ; to generate an even better environment for success. Sometimes , it takes just one or two players in the team to be the rallying point for all . Netherlands need that sort of player who would symbolize their history , but with sufficient charisma to mobilize the team for the cause on and off the pitch.

Prospects : Sooner than later , justice shall be served , and the Dutch shall get the hurt and frustrations out of their system . They have constantly produced good players , and as long as that continues to happen , and they stick to their footballing principles , the victory they crave is nearer than ever.

LEGACY : Footballing Legacies should not only be defined by cup success . The Dutch have an enduring legacy in football . A narrative still unfolding . Their template has been a reference point. Reading this blog, and my research covered 40 years of a nation's triumphs and tribulations in football terms , you'll find the Dutch template is refreshing , romantic , daring , and a fairy tale millions believe in . They have taught the world of football so much that still rings true , and attractive . Their Players have played in different leagues in the world , and remain in demand . They have provided world class stars and coaches , and still continue to do so... The Dutch have a legacy few can parallel . For a small country , they have impacted greatly in tangible and intangible syndrome bar none . Long live the Legacy !!!!!!!

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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

DUTCH LEGACY ( part one )

The Netherlands , commonly referred to as Holland , a Country of over 16 million people , has given the world  famous painters like Rembrandt,  and Van Gogh ; renowned for it's Cheese, Tulips ,  Clogs ( wooden shoe )  Pottery , Red-light district , and Cafes where soft drugs can be purchased and used.  This Nation is also synonymous with it's footballing excellence , particularly it's use of  the tactical formation known as " total football ".  It's over  four decades of  churning-out  ultra-talented Footballers , Football coaches , and home to Footballing institutions like AJAX AMSTERDAM ; PSV EINDHOVEN ;  and FEYNOORD . The Dutch National team have graced many international soccer tournaments with their signature Orange coloured Shirts , and their ever resplendent fans largely in shiny Orange costumes. It's been a thrill, and a beauty to witness this sight  in many stadia over the years .

TOTAL FOOTBALL :  History tells us this much revered and successful tactical formation has it's origins in Hungary,  and perhaps to an extent in Argentina;  but there is certainly no doubt it gained prominence from it's use by the AJAX team in the early 1970's  under that master tactician RINUS MICHELS as they  claimed three consecutive European Cups , and domestic dominance. MICHELS also employed this tactical concept in his time in charge of the oranje ( the Netherlands national team ) If  Total Foot ball flourished , one man whom it could be argued is the embodiment of  this ideology is Netherlands greatest player JOHAN CRYUFF .  The Ajax and Dutch National team revolved around the genius of this player .  Total Football was a phrase for  fluidity of play attained through interchangeability of  positions and functions of all 10 outfield players. The effect being space is always  created through constant movement. If you thought how Barcelona Play , and  Spain did with their tactical approach in Euro 2012 is new,  perhaps it  is not quite a novelty. The style of play associated with Barcelona currently is an off-shoot of Total Football . Pep Guardiola was a protege of the Dutch Maestro Johan Cryuff .
The 1970's was defined by the Dutch revolution to football ; it's successes at International and Club football especially in the early parts of the decade remains an important part of the Dutch soccer Legacy to date . From 1970 - 1973 . The European Cup ( now champions league ) found residence in the Netherlands . Johan Cruyff was European Footballer of the year 71 , 73 and 74 . 
In the 1973 / 74 season , Barcelona paid then a world record of approximately £950.000.000 to Ajax for the services of Johan Cruyff , to rejoin his mentor Rinus Michels who had left in the same direction 3 years earlier . Together they  interpolated the Total Football concept to the character of  Barcelona , which still exists today .  It is pertinent to add that Barcelona won the Spanish Championship that year. Johan Cruyff also managed the catalan Club from 1988 to 1996 , and won the European Cup Winners' Cup ;  The European Champions League ; in addition to 4 straight LA LIGA Tittles  91. 92 . 93 , 94 .
In 1999 , the Senior Dutch Master RINUS MICHELS  was voted by FIFA as Coach of the Century . 
Rinus Michels , Johan Cruyff , and Total Football  have left a phenomenal Legacy and foot print in the story line of Foot ball forever  Total Football is an exceptional innovation , and would remain a precursor to modern and future playing styles for ages to come. 

DUTCH DELIGHT AND DISAPPOINTMENTS :  Clubs from the Netherlands ruled Europe at the height of Total Football  in the early 70's.  But it was the 1974 World Cup that the Netherlands introduced itself to the World Stage . Rinus Michels had just taken over the Oranje  a few months before the world Cup , and took the tournament by storm playing some of the best football the tournament witnessed. In the second round group stage , the Netherlands destroyed Argentina 4-0 , and overpowered defending champions Brazil 2 - 0  . Cryuff , Neeskens , krol , all playing wonderfully . In the epic 1974 World Cup Final against West Germany , Total Football probably had it's outstanding one minute of passage  play..... Without West Germany touching the ball after kick off , the Dutch strung together a sequence of passes leading up to Cryuff making a stab at the German defense , and subsequently brought down for  a penalty , converted by Neeskens . The Germans went on win 2-1  and become world Champions . Yet , The Netherlands had left an impact on that tournament that  reverberates to this day . It's remained the standards to which they still get judged .
In many ways , the loss to West Germany in the 74 world cup final  marked the start of their decline ,  after a spectacular rise in stock . In '78 , they ran into Argentina in the world cup final , and after some breath taking football from both sides, the hosts Argentina won  3-1 . Cryuff had refused to partake in that World cup for personal reasons . It went pretty quiet for a decade by their standards , till yet again , the other Dutch Master , now retired as a player , took over the helm at Ajax in 1985 , and another wave of talent was unleashed featuring  Marco Van Basten , Frank Rikyaard , Dennis Bergkamp . Ajax won the European Cup Winners' cup  in 1887 , and that sparked the Dutch renaissance. 
1n 1988 ,  PSV EINDHOVEN  under another visionary coach called  GUUS HIDDINK  won the European Cup beating BENFICA on penalties . With Ajax back in the groove , and PSV EINDHOVEN emerging as a team to be feared across Europe , the heartbeat had returned to Dutch Soccer . Later in 1988 ,  with Rinus Michels back in charge , the Netherlands gained their revenge  for their 1974 world cup final loss , by beating West Germany 2-1 in the Euro championship semifinals. Van Basten scoring a late winner. They went on to beat the USSR in the final 2-0 to become European Champions , and win their first major International tournament.  The team did not play to the Total Football concept in Euro '88 ,  but it executed a perfect balance of pace , penetration , solidity , and had the goal scoring brilliance of Marco Van Basten , the tournament's top scorer. You could argue the players in this team might not have been as talented as their predecessors in the 70's.  It was a 4-4-2 set-up , and probably had the best back four of any Dutch National side i have seen :  Ronald Koeman and Frank Rikyaard were solid in the middle of defense , so too were the full backs Van Tiggelen and Van Aerle ; the midfield had two grafters in the middle Muhren and Wouters ;  the wide men Erwin Koeman and Vanenburg  were quick , but always attached to the central midfielders ; and upfront , Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gulllit needed no introduction . Van Breuklen  was a top keeper too. 

AFFIRMATION : The European Championship victory for the Dutch in 1988 was an affirmation of the pedigree to their football . It rubbed-off the theory Dutch football could never deliver on the big stage. For a  Nation , it healed the doubts and wounds to it's psyche , and exorcised the screaming demons from the 1974 world cup final defeat to West Germany .  Like everyone in football knows , confirmation of superiority is only measured by triumphs and trophies .  1988 was  a perfect sweet year for the Netherlands , and kicked-off another phase : The rise in demand for Dutch talent by major European Clubs .

Join me later in the week for final part of this Write-up , when i shine the light on other aspects of the Dutch Legacy .  Thanks for your readership . Stay Close .

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Sunday, 8 July 2012

ENGLAND : The Issues are Wider than the Penalty

Ashley Young's penalty crashing against the bar in the quarter final penalty shoot-out drama between England and Italy sounded like one of those goodnight tales Parents and Grandparents told kids. They hear it over and  over  again,  get used to all the details as they grow up , but it takes a while to realize such fables only serve the purpose of moral instruction , and not necessarily the order to everything in life.

One perhaps needs a reality check to decipher the reason England arrive at tournaments to a cascade of optimism , then exit on a whimper ( usually through penalties ) . The Nation wails in anguish , like the curse has struck again to claim the 50th born of every man and woman in the land. That misplaced masochism , the blind acceptance of a fate that befalls us , stoicism and stupidity intertwined . We lick our wounds , grovel in modesty , or blame an error by the referee  during the game . Then typically , the media gravitates to the theme  of technology being needed to prevent this and that ever happening again in tournaments of this magnitude. what a pathetic and pitiful bunch. We must find out the reasons we suffer from collective amnesia when it comes to The England National team . How we always fail to recognize the hazards associated with England and it's manager .

THE MEDIA : This is supposed to be the institution that shines the light on our National team ; serve us the nitty-gritty of facts on not just England , but it's rivals , so we can really know where we stand , and how we measure-up. The media is a dysfunctional super-structure when it concerns the coverage of England. Self-Possessed , and misleading to say the least .  From pundits at SkySports , BBC , and ITV, to the print media , week in - week out , average players putting in mediocre performances are aggrandized as " world Class " , " outstanding " and what not ! Take the case of Andy Carroll - a player who scored 4 goals in 35 league appearances  ( a host of them as substitute too ) with a total of 6 goals in 42 games for Liverpool last season. Yet ,  just because he managed a fair run in the last 6 weeks of the season , by some warped measurement , he had to regularly be mentioned in positive terms by the media. " He is a handful....."  " unplayable ". Excuse me ! why the hyperbole for a 6' 3 player who takes 10 seconds to kill a pass, and find a team mate . Worse still , this striker is left-footed,  and would most likely do a 100 meters  dash in 17 seconds . Why the media contrive an orgasm at the sight of him is a mystery to me. They practically put him on the plane to the Euros.  Jermaine Defoe had 11 goals in 25 league games ; 17 in 38 games in total for Spurs last season ; and for England : a statistic of 15 in 48 games ( 17 starts and 31 as substitutes ) An enviable record , hardly gets a mention in the media .  Do you want me to tell you about the media's other darling , Scot Parker. Our defensive midfielder who incidentally gets substituted so often..... and the media are accepting of the position : Dear Scot " must be tiring , he has put his body on the line for England". How much Churlish can they get ?  Do you want the media's role in misleading the nation Harry Redknapp is the "peoples" favorite for the England manager's job . How irresponsible to form this artificial amalgamation of opinions, subscribing to Harry as England's next  Manager after Capello quit in February, and attempt to rail-road the FA into appointing him to do the job. How disrespectful  , lacking in objectivity , and what gross abuse of power can that be !
The Media have constituted themselves to be part of the problem by acting as a pressure group , and lobbyists for certain individuals , and causes not necessarily in the best interest of the England Team. Are you still surprised England hardly get it right ?  this is a tip of the ice berg .

THE FA : It is Commendable they take a corporate structure , but this body most often forgets an intrinsic part of it's responsibility is football development . The National teams fall squarely in this premise. The FA have employed lots of talented managers to run England , Paying Millions for their Services. That to me is like paying a domestic cleaning company to tidy up the  aftermath of a flood to your house , when the pipe that has created the leak in the first place, has not been fixed. The FA shall continue to throw money down the drain till it understands it needs to set-up the way forward , this includes getting to grips with the reasons England do not produce many , truly special players ; establishing a proper functioning network of Synergy between the youth academy of Clubs , and the under 17 , 19 and 21 versions of the national side . This area needs life breath into it. The FA fail to take responsibility in creating the desired energy in this sector , if they did , they potentially could make it a vibrant aspect of our game, which snowballs into a gigantic conveyor belt of talent for Clubs and the national side. The point i am making is : this end of the spectrum is the goose that lays the golden eggs ; and the funny thing is that it's far less expensive than paying £ 6 million a year to a coach who cannot really come-up with what we need.
If the FA get a gathering of Ex- England coaches for feed back , before laying principles , definitions , and the required standards of tactical play to all England teams at international level , they would be seriously attacking the root causes of our problems at International Football . If you have a functioning youth system , with talent being produced in abundance , aiming to win international age grade tournaments , it spills over to the National team - that positive energy and vibration is created . If the FA is reading this : It is foolhardy to pay millions to the England manager , when  you could  have scores of talented players groomed for a fraction of that sum. Managers would  be drooling to work with a bunch of talented players immersed in the culture of playing in a certain way from the onset of their time in an England shirt at what ever level . The net effect is more potential England players are unravelled , and the Clubs reap the benefit too. Ever wondered why Andy Carroll cost £35 Million , or why young English players cost well above what should be their market value ? the answer is artificial scarcity .

These are just two reasons for the state of affairs. We need to stop crying over spilt milk each time England get knocked out of tournaments. Instead , focus on why it's become a perennial problem , and a self-fulfilling prophesy not to win tournaments . Paying tributes to Spain and Germany always, and admitting not being good enough.... wallowing in self-pity and mediocrity gets you no where . We need to get a grip , find solutions to the problems .  England have led the way with Stadia modernization ,  and  the commercial success of the premier league is the envy of many nations . It is time to pull resources together to invest in success at the international stage for our national teams . It is only when planning to win major competitions becomes a priority that success ensues. The right to be taken seriously has to be earned .
We are at a crossroads , and we must decide if to remain docile to this fate , or take the bull by the balls.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

LA ROJA turn-on the fury to Slay Italy , the Critics , the doubters, and I

Spain's National Soccer side  are referred to as :  LA FURIA ROJA  ( the red fury ) . Boy ! did they turn-on the fury and style in Sunday's Euro Championship Final . 

Spain Slaughtered Italy , and become the first team to win back to back Euro Championships. The Champions produced a bench mark attacking display of such ferocity , overpowering Italy , and any team or critic that dared harbour any mirage Spain had flat-lined .  To prospective adversaries: beware ! Spain's dominance is far from over ; if this blogger thought  Croatia and Portugal had shown the rest how to erode the Spanish threat , they turned the tables swiftly , and on this showing , the rest would not even see their coat tails . 

SPEED AND GHOST RUNNERS :  Going into Sunday's final , there was a lot of talk Spain were starting to get predictable , and boring with all that possession . In truth ,  it was becoming soporific . Critics like me simply aroused their anger , because they responded by serving the best last ,  Ushering a new Paradigm - What Spain did in Sunday's Final was not only to apply constriction to Italy ,  they opened-up another dimension  -  speed,  ghost movement , and out-manoeuvring of the opponent. Italy like the rest of us thought Spain would leave the heavy artillery right in front of their defense , and try to patiently wear them down ,  passing and probing. Spain were cleverer than that , throwing Italy's plans into disarray , by going for a quick killing - pinning the opponents down as usual , but their passing and skill was sometimes too quick for the eye and imagination , and with the opponent wondering where the red shirts were , Spain orchestrated play at velocity to set-up a deep-runner , usually anyone , who would be undetected arriving in the box to be on the end of these quick and subtle moves .  Once the efficacy of Spain's Venom took hold , Italy died in installments. Spain created chances in a way no one would have expected , or be able to counteract in match situation . You could only hope , as a manager your team hung-on  ; or luck saves you from conceding . Spain were unstoppable

ITALY IN SLOW MOTION :  My favourites to win the tournament have nothing to be ashamed of losing to such a side. Spain had landed their fangs all too fast..... they were reeling even before they conceded the first goal. They just could not get to grips with Spain. Pirlo was mobbed every time he had possession making it difficult to develop any ideas ; sadly too , his allies in midfield - De Rossi , Machisio , and Montelivio were fragmented and forlorn ; this lack of coalescence in the Italian midfield meant an absence of functionality of any kind in the Italian team . It  bordered on irresponsibility at times the way Spain operated unchallenged and unfettered in Italy's last third .  As an on-looker , i sensed they were either tired physically and mentally , or simply , Spain were playing to standards beyond their comprehension . Which ever , the question would always remain why they could not give a bit more...... Injuries to Chiellini and Motta were  a blow , but Spain were already dismembering the carcass long before.

SPAIN BY THEMSELVES : The rest of us look with trepidation as Spain have now shot into orbit with all their historic achievements ,  and perhaps just as important is the force behind their power . After Sunday , i get the vibes these guys have more to come. They conjure images of Muhammed Ali in his boxing prime. The way he despatched opponents ,  the impression he left, the dexterity he exhibited. Opponents then and now find these Legends overwhelming to contend with. I have not seen the current Argentina team ,  and even Brazil as hosts to the 2014 world Cup ,  i do not think have a team ready to trouble Spain yet.... Spain are therefore in a class by themselves going into the World cup.  Not since Brazil retained the  world cup in 1962 has any team managed such a feat . It is worth remembering Spain's triumph in 2010 was the first time a European team won the world cup outside of Europe. Spain have one more record to add : No European team has won the World Cup in South America  ; and the last European team to retain the World Cup was Italy in 1938.  The bulk of this squad should be together in 2014 , so how about back to back world cups ?  Spain in a League by themselves must be hankering uncharted territory . The Force is with LA ROJA