Category Archives: Football

RIP Liverpool

Respect is a thing hard to gain and easy to lose. Liverpool proved that today with their statement.

Sounding like a bunch of bitter children, they slated the FA, slated Evra, and defended Suarez, who we can now remember has been found as a racist. There is no class, it is no different to eleven footballers surrounding the referee even though it was a clear penalty.

It doesn’t matter about the length of the ban, or if it was just. The reaction of Liverpool Football Club and their fans has been simply appalling. It’s all the FA’s fault, they were always going to do this, they’re a bunch of corrupt idiots in charge, you know.

Well done Liverpool, from the clubs management to their fans, you’ve made me a rather depressed football fan today. Good going.

Living With No Hope

Africa, Asia, North America and Oceania all make their weaker opposition face a number of preliminary rounds before they are even allowed to come and think about playing the big boys. You never see Cambodia play Australia in an Asian qualifier for the World Cup, likewise São Tomé and Príncipe playing Ivory Coast, or even the Turks and Caicos Islands facing off against the USA.

Yet Europe thinks differently, countries with a population smaller than Wembley Stadium are forced to play off against the biggest and best teams on the continent. Recently, the Netherlands, the runner-up in the 2010 World Cup, went out and tanked San Marino 11-0. And its a common theme for the Sammarinese, Finland and Hungary have beat them 8-0 and Sweden 6-0. All in all, their eight games have seen them concede 44 goals, an average of 5.5 a game.

And they aren’t the only ones struggling, Malta and Andorra have 0 points, Luxembourg and Iceland have 1. Although the Malta and Iceland situation is potentially misguided because of them being in a five team group.

Why should this be allowed? At what should be the highest competitive level of football, teams are being forced to play weaker opposition, which doesn’t help anybody. The bigger teams walk over them and a couple of players get a nice boost to their national team goals tally, the smaller teams except to be walked over and don’t gain any decent experience from it.

There’s only one real solution for this, and its to follow a similar route used by the CAF, AFC, CONCACAF and OFC and use some preliminary rounds. For the record I will be using the seeding which determined the qualifying draw for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The big teams, and when I say big, I’m even including Pot 3 nations like Ireland, Belarus and Hungary. So I’m saying there are 27 countries capable of realistically qualifying for say, the 2014 World Cup. That leaves a further 26 who I think are unable to do it. Half and half.

Those 26 will then be placed into several preliminary stages which will help whittle down the number. And it doesn’t have to be anything complex, group stages which are used in North America and Asia don’t have to apply. It’s simple, a knockout stage draw, top 13 in the World Rankings in one pot, bottom 13 in the other. Even Scotland should be able to see off the likes of Malta. And if Malta do go on and beat Scotland, well they have gone out and proved they have deserved to be in contention to qualify.

From this there will be 40 nations left, which leaves for a nice round number, 8 groups of 5. Less matches for everyone, which keeps the clubs happy, and no difficult situations for some, when there are groups of 6 and 5, which means more games and more pressure for those in the bigger groups. The clubs will be fortunate and mean their players will have less international games for them to get injured in.

So the group winners qualify and then the five best runners up as well, and then everyone will have their 13 nations off to Brazil, without any hassle of having to play in front of a man and a dog in Andorra. Everyone wins.

The Way Fixing Works…

Turkey is in a situation far worse to Italy circa 2006. Italy saw its biggest clubs, AC Milan, Fiorentina and the biggest of them all, Juventus, all hit hard. Juventus worst of all, relegated down a division with a hefty points deduction and the humiliation of being stripped of their previous two Scudetto’s, all for match fixing. Turkey has seen a grand total of 16 clubs implicated in the most recent match fixing scandal.

The biggest of these is without a doubt Fenerbahçe, 18 time winners of the Süper Lig and fairly regular Champions League competitors. Fenerbahçe won the 2010-11 season on the final day of the season, beating Sivasspor 4-3, allowing them to finish above Trabzonspor on goal difference. All of this sounds thrilling, exciting, but the season is marred by dodgy and suspicious results in a variety of fixtures, and Fenerbahçe appear in a lot of them.

But as already mentioned, they aren’t the only clubs involved, 15 others come in at a smaller scale to this. These include Trabzonspor and the Turkish Cup finalists Beşiktaş and Istanbul. But like with the Italian case, they will be hunted down and they will be given severe punishments.

The match-fixing isn’t being done my gangs, threatening and offering players who a susceptible. No, this is being done by those at the top, the Presidents, the directors, even some of the players. The former Newcastle midfielder Emre Belözoğlu has been questioned by the police in his role, being later released. Overall, twelve members of staff for Fenerbahçe have been arrested, and all of the trouble has seen them kicked out of the Champions League group stages by the Turkish FA.

Ultimately, UEFA opted to go for the second best option to replace them, even with talk of Arsenal, FC Copenhagen and even Liverpool, the most logical choice is to remain in the country, therefore allowing Trabzonspor their first Champions League appearance.

Logical, if Trabzonspor weren’t also one of the sixteen involved in match fixing.

I am aware it isn’t to the same scale of Fenerbahçe, but they are still involved and should be suitably punished. They caused a certain amount of games to go a certain way, changing the outcome of the match away from the natural progression of it all. They shouldn’t be given the privilege of competing in the biggest European club competition.

Logically then, it should be given to Bursaspor, a team not involved in the match fixing scandal, and a team who finished third in the Super Lig.

Once again it shows total ineptness when it comes to serious issues from the governing body. The fact that a number of clubs were banded around saying they had every right to be involved and replace Fenerbahçe shows that no one really knows what is going on in terms of the rules and regulations. Nothing makes sense anymore. And not even the right decision was made, and it is hardly the first time that has happened.

To FIFA And UEFA

Roberto Carlos had a banana thrown at him in the match between his team Anzhi Makhachkala and Krylya Sovetov today in the Russian Premier League.

In response Carlos did a dignified response, simply throwing the banana off the pitch and walking off down the tunnel. This despite the fact his team had used all three of the substitutions.

And lets not forget that Russia, in 2018, will be hosting the World Cup, the biggest event in football.

How can this be allowed? Fans who subject a racial abuse are going to be allowed a World Cup? One off incident, maybe I’d accept the fact that there is one idiotic fan in the whole country, who can’t keep his thoughts and views to himself, and ruins the reputation of a normally good, well behaved fan group in the nation. But no, this isn’t even the first time it has happened to Roberto Carlos. Earlier this season Zenit St. Petersburg fans waved a banana in the face of the Brazilian as he walked down the tunnel.

Then there is current West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie, who, after leaving Lokomotiv Moscow, had his former fans unveil a banner saying ‘Thanks West Brom’, with a drawing of a banana in the middle. And he has also spoken out since about the racial abuse he had while in Russia.

The same Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup.

Have Russia so far done anything to solve the problem? No, nothing substantial enough which is having any effect. As far back as 2004 the issue had been noted, especially among Zenit St. Petersburg’s refusal to sign black players, and nothing has been done by the RFU, UEFA or FIFA about any single incident. Nothing. Sure, a little slap on the wrist, if you do it again it’ll be a tiny bit harder. But nothing substantial, nothing at all. Just put a massive blanket over it every single time its seen to the whole world. After all, they are getting the World Cup, how lovely and thoughtful by FIFA. Who cares about the racial abuse that the fans chant, I mean, they are going to have big stadiums and host big matches which people will watch. FIFA have to do something about this, the act is disgraceful and every single time they put a clean sheet on it gets dirty.

And we can’t just blame FIFA for being blinded by money and forgetting all morals in choosing who to host a major international event. That is right UEFA, as you plan on sending 14 teams to Poland and Ukraine, you appear to have massively forgot about the hooliganism in the two countries especially Poland.

Poland has been described as having hooliganism worse than England in the 1980s. Fans have been killed, this years Polish Cup final ended in a fight between Legia Warsaw and the Police. It’s a disgrace, and once again, the major international players that should be looking after and solving these issues aren’t there. They are cowering in the corner frightened to alienate the Polish FA, after all, they did allow them to host Euro 2012.

How can FIFA and UEFA allow two nations, each with different moral issues, the right to host major international events? It doesn’t comprehend or make any sense for me. It allows for weak FA’s who refuse to take action on things the ability to get away with it, hey, the might get a World Cup out of it. England cleaned up its act, now (most of the time) the fans are civilised. Sure there is the odd chant which is suspect, but it doesn’t happen every week and it doesn’t happen all the time. Racial abuse and hooliganism doesn’t happen in rugby, cricket or tennis. Or any other sport for that fact, why should football be the example? Just because the sport reaches a far bigger fan base doesn’t give it any sort of excuse that racial abuse and hooliganism should be allowed. The fans who do this are not real fans, they are cowards. It is more than a sport but it ultimately should be played for the enjoyment of the fans and players. That can not possibly be achieved with the attitudes of the football authorities, especially in Eastern Europe. Both FIFA and UEFA should get out from behind the sofa, and make a stand. Forget all the bribery allegations that FIFA are in at the moments, they should also be taking a serious look at the events in Russia and Poland, and take a serious look in threatening the right to remove the host duties from them if they don’t get up and stop the racism and the hooliganism.

Better Than the Best It’s Going to Get

The year is 2024. And to put it bluntly, I am one level short of being God. Everybody loves me. I am a genius. I’ve looked over legends; Gareth Bale, Danny Wilson, Carlos Tevez, Marcus Fenton. I have taken Tottenham Hotspur to seven Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Champions Leagues, and a host of other pointless trophies. I’m so brilliant, they even named a stadium after me (There’s also slight failures managing England and Spain, but who counts them anyway?).

I’ve made some brilliant transfers, £500k for the then 16 year old Marcus Fenton from Huddersfield, who started playing full time three years later, and has had the team structured around him by the age of 25. Casemiro for £5.75m, a sturdy Tom Huddlestone-esque midfielder capable of holding the ball up. £2.2m for Paul Casey, now one of the regular three center-backs at the club.

Of course there have been failures, £37.5m for Leonadro Rosales, who I didn’t really need. £35m for Juan Manuel Mata, who was a transfer deadline day panic buy after, for some reason, I thought I needed a new left midfielder (I didn’t).

But they don’t matter. I have taken Tottenham to new heights, I have eclipsed the greats. I am the greatest manager of all time, even ahead of Roberto Mancini. Oh I hate that man, taking charge of Manchester City and Arsenal (twice). How dare he. But at least I know with Andre Villas-Boas, manager of the plucky Aston Villa team who went to the 2023 Champions League final, that he will side by me and we’ll get along just in the League just fine.

I’ve seen great games and great goals. Beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 6-4 after being 5-1 up was dramatic and tense. The 2015 FA Cup Final against Blackburn Rovers, 3-2 AET, it was back and forth, my favourite game as manager. Goals from Miguel Angel Perez Garcia (which was not a fluke):

 

I look down the leagues. I’ve played against Rotherham in the Premier League, Swansea in League 1, only a few years since they graced the Europa League.

But now it is time to prepare myself for our next league game at the Reebok Stadium, the 11th February 2024, against Bolton Wanderers. Under Landon Donovan they reached the Champions League, now they are managed by former Liverpool man Markus Babbel, once again competing for Europe.

I’m down two men, key Brazilian centre-back Fabio, as well as the ruthless, likes-a-tackle, Adam Pitman. Two players who have been crucial this season. I change to 4-4-2. Andreas Hinz in goal, compatriot Sokol Sadiku as left back. Across the defence is Paul Casey, captain Danny Wilson and Bradley Baker. In front of them are the centre midfielders of Marcus Fenton and Sylvian Jezequel, on the wings the third German Murat Akman and Steve Burton. Up front is Charlie Harding, and the scoring-f0r-fun Iban Erkizia.

In the dressing room I tell them to do it for the fans, then I send them out the tunnel to play Bolton.

14 minutes. Raphael Calvet hacks down Steve Burton inside the box. Marcus Fenton steps up, smashes it down the right. 0-1.

24 minutes. Charlie Harding through on goal, composed, placed it into the net. Poor all season, showed up today. 0-2.

36 minutes. Corner. Fenton swings the ball in, headed by Casey, off the post, across the goal, hits Ryan Bennett off his head, own goal. 0-3.

It remains the same until full time, another win. 6 points ahead of Arsenal in 2nd, eleven games left to play, 5th Premier League title in a row is on the cards, best team Tottenham have ever had, along, of course, with the best ever manager.

And then I look up, off my computer screen, realise that it isn’t real life. Marcus Fenton doesn’t exist, just a man generated by the beautiful game which is Football Manager (shame, because he would be a perfect replacement for Luka Modric).

It’s taken six months to get to 2024, easily the longest I’ve had a single game on any Football Manager (second longest was 2022 on a Football Manager Handheld game, in which I won every single League Cup with whichever team I was at). Of course I’ve stopped playing at times because I sometimes actually have a life, but Football Manager is something I just go to play and waste far too many hours on. The addictiveness rating on the game itself says ‘Nothing to see here. Move along…’, my hall of fame though still isn’t anywhere near Jose Mourinho who is miles ahead of me.

Why do I do it? I’m sure on paper it sounds like a boring, strategy game. In fact, describing it to a friend the other day he seemed shocked that anyone would find this interesting. But it is, famously ‘I’ll play one more game’, turns into another four hours of playing before you fall asleep on the computer, usually after you accepted a stupidly low price for one of your best players. I find myself keep on playing because it is so in-depth, so technical, so good for getting your attacking midfielder as a trequartista or wondering if its pointless for anywhere but Italy.

One better, that is what I want to do, always do one better than the year before. Of course I can never do that. My ultimate aim is to win seven trophies in one season, but considering my previous best is just four, I’ll find that a bit hard.

But you know what, I don’t care. Through the medium of technology, I’ve proved that we can do better than Harry Redknapp, and the best that its going to get isn’t 5th place and European games in Kazakhstan.

There is still a lingering feeling you know it isn’t real, after all, Arsenal have won several trophies and Lionel Messi is a member of the backroom staff. But still, when Redknapp pops off across London to take charge of England, I have a pretty good feeling that Daniel Levy will know who I am and think I’m a worthwhile candidate for the Spurs job. If I’m mates with Messi in game, can’t be that hard to get him in real life.

The Biased View

Am I really going to be a partial observer to anything Arsenal ever do? No, of course not. That would be ludicrous. I mean, I could give it a good shot.

Arsenal are… are…

Okay, so that isn’t going to work. But does it stop this little writer commenting on every last bit of detail, no, of course not.

Lets look at the news, oh, Arsenal are after Jens Lehmann? This is the part where I’m expected to laugh uncontrollably, point at all my Arsenal supporter friends and say, ‘At least our keeper doesn’t have a pension’.

But, I won’t, I’ll be impartial, because if I state that now, you wouldn’t believe me based on the rest of this text. Because whichever way you look at this story, it is quite possibly one of the most ridiculous and stupidest things Arsene Wenger has even thought about doing. See, totally not biased at all.

Background check, Jens Lehmann, 41, from Germany, signed first for Arsenal back in 2003 to replace David Seaman. What followed was five years of a wide range of things stretching from sheer brilliance to absolute insanity. He eventually plodded back to Germany in 2008 to sign for VfB Stuttgart, before retiring two years later.

Meanwhile Arsenal struggled to find a capable and consistent goalkeeper, first there was Manuel Almunia, then Lukasz Fabianski and finally Wojciech Szczęsny, a name I had to copy from Wikipedia for this to work. Here could be the point I would list the amount of howlers from all three of those keepers, but I plan on this post being finished before Christmas.

So, the solution when Szczesny gets injured? Lehmann. A 41 year old retired goalkeeper. A man who is unlikely to have touched a ball in anger for over six months. This idea is br… oh, that will be biased, I mean, this idea is dreadful.

First things first, yes, I know goalkeepers are supposed to peak in their 30s, and several goalkeepers are still playing in their 40s. Stand up Edwin van der Sar and David James. However, can you say they are playing well? Van der Sar has made several high profile errors this season, and David James has shipped in 49 goals and Bristol City are 18th in the Championship, a league they were expected to be promotion contenders in.

Arsenal have appeared to forget about the one obvious form to bring in a new signing, emergency loan. Ah, remember that Spurs fans, our old mate Martin Fulop committing several stunning saves in that Champions League ‘play-off’ against Manchester City at the end of last season. And hey, they got him despite having about twelve fit keepers in the reserves. That is about eleven more than Arsenal appear to have.

Who to get, there are some brilliant keepers who are stuck on the bench. Tim Krul, who I maintain is the best young keeper in England right now. His performances in the UEFA Cup against Palermo several seasons ago (back when Newcastle United were in Europe, yeah, that was only 2006) were staggeringly impressive. And then think about others, Fulham with Schwarzer or Stockdale (whichever happens to be the reserve).

The point is Arsenal don’t need to resort to Lehmann, just because he is a free agent and one of their old players should mean nothing. Get in quality, reliability, not just a known face.

Although, if they want to get him, it would be fantastic…. oh, sorry, I just couldn’t help that one.

The Second French Revolution

I’d like you to go to that part of the brain you have padlocked shut, hidden the key to the door somewhere you have forgot about and basically have a ten mile exclusion zone around it. Inside contains all those things you have decided to forget about, all those things you don’t want to remember, they are just too awful.

Come on then, I’ll give you time to find that key, its time to go in. Just be careful, I only want you to go to the bit which stores the 2010 World Cup.

There? Good, just be careful, some bad memories will come flooding back to you. Oooh, the 4-1 is there, the Rob Green howler, you can remember that again. Can’t you? I’m sorry.

But the reason for this rather strange and possibly pointless exercise is that I want to talk about France. And you thought England had a bad World Cup, it seems good, in fact I’m pretty sure that 4-1 against Germany still looks good against France. Hey, we won a game at least.

France got one point. In that drab and horribly dull game against Uruguay on the opening day. And then the capitulations against Mexico and South Africa.

It wasn’t the performances though that made the headlines. The spectacular internal implosion got everyone talking, from Anelka to the fitness coach chucking away his pass in front of, well, the whole of the international press and their cameras.

And the man who ended up with full responsibility was Raymond Domenech. The astrological lover who only four years early took his nation to the final of the World Cup.

How times change. And it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. They did set precedent by finishing last of their (albeit difficult) group in the 2008 European Championships (behind the Netherlands, Italy and er, Romania). And then only got into the finals themselves because of the hand of Henry.

Out went Domenech, fair to say no one was really saddened by this decision.

In came Laurent Blanc, the ex-Barcelona, Internazional and Manchester United (to name a few) defender. He brought to the table three years of managerial experience in the French top flight, Ligue 1, with Bordeaux. He was the first manager since 2001 to break the Lyon stranglehold on the league, winning the Ligue 1 Manager of the Year in the process.

Not bad for a young manager.

His first job for France was to punish all 23 members of the World Cup squad. None of them would be present in his first international match, a friendly against Norway. They lost 2-1 but a precedent was set by Blanc, he was boss.

And its shown well in his spell so far, which has included wins against England (2-1 at Wembley) and Brazil (1-0 at Stade de France). France are getting back to their successful selves, like the team Blanc won the World Cup with back in 1998.

Of course it would be silly to suggest the European Championships in 2012 are nailed on certainties for France. There are still a lot of good teams in Europe, Spain will still have many of the top class players which won them the last Euros in 2008 and of course the World Cup, Germany have talented youngsters which served them well in South Africa and the Netherlands should never be discredited, even if their tactics these days aren’t as good as they used to be.

But Blanc has tried to make improvements, shift the dead wood, actually care about the national team and prove himself to be a capable manager who can take care of the players and manage them suitably.

To compare the changes, below I’ve listed the last game in charge for Domenech (South Africa at the World Cup) and the latest game for Blanc (Brazil in a friendly on Wednesday).

v South Africa (22/06/10) v Brazil (09/02/11)
Lloris (GK) Lloris (GK)
Sagna Sagna
Gallas Mexes
Squillaci Rami
Clichy Abidal
Diarra Malouda
Diaby M’Vila
Gignac Diarra
Gourcuff Benzema
Ribery Menez
Cisse Gourcuff

Only four members have remained. The talented keeper in Hugo Lloris (who was about the only player not to disgrace himself at the World Cup), as well as Bacary Sagna, Alou Diarra and Yoann Gourcuff. And its worked, Brazil’s team consisted the likes of David Luiz, Robinho and Alexandre Pato, all players who are world class. Even if it is only a friendly, the signs are promising.

I watched the France v Brazil match on ESPN instead of watching England, and despite me regretting the decision because for once it seemed the England match was a better spectacle, I could see France were getting much better. The goal consisted of a superb run from Jeremy Menez, who crossed the ball in for a Karim Benzema tap in.

Those two players show the quality France has available, from the reliable Lloris to the skilful Gourcuff, it has its talent. And I do believe Blanc is the right man to guide them forward, back up the rankings, back to the best they can do.

It’s too early to say for certain is Laurent Blanc is the genius I’m making him out to be, but why not? Top of their qualification group, Euro 2012 on the cards.

And no more Domenech.

Let It Be Said, The Romance Is Dead

Ahh, the FA Cup. Every year it brings up the great cup stories, the great upsets, the great goals, the great moments always associated to the finest domestic cup competition. And everyone loves to see the underdog have its day, Hereford beating Newcastle, Sutton beating Coventry, Leeds beating Manchester United.

But come the fifth round of this years FA Cup, that won’t be happening.

It was  pretty inevitable after games against Derby County and Torquay United, Crawley Town would be getting the big name draw for the fifth round. And that is just what happened, out came ball number seven, Manchester United, followed by ball number one, Crawley Town.

Premier League v Blue Square Premier. Surely the tie of the round, the one all TV stations will be fighting each other for, the tickets snapped up straight away, the chance of the greatest cup upset of all time. My God why isn’t it the next round already, we are missing so much for waiting. Scrap the rest of the Premier League season, no one cares about that until the best cup tie of all time.

I think you get the idea.

This will be billed as the greatest game in Crawley Town’s history, and to some extent, it is. The next game they face is Kettering Town, which has hardly the same appeal as a team unbeaten in the Premier League. Which non-league club wouldn’t love the chance to play Manchester United? Everyone from AFC Wimbledon to Billingham Synthonia would die to have that one opportunity, the once in a lifetime moment, or more realistically, once in many lifetimes. But Crawley, you have that doubt, they don’t need it do they?

Oh, I let it slip didn’t I? How silly. Yes, Crawley Town are far from popular, far from popular by being the most disliked non-league teams in every division that exists from the Blue Square Premier down.

They are the Manchester City of the non-league world, filled with cash from outside investors (in fairness to Crawley, the two owners are both fans of the club, paid off the debts, brought that level of stability rare to non-league clubs these days), they find themselves in 2nd place in the BSP, two points behind leaders AFC Wimbledon with just the four games in hand. Comparing the money spent on players in the FA Cup fourth round game between Torquay and Crawley, the other Red Devils had spent over £500,000 on players, which for a non-league club, is probably the equivalent of having water in your village when every village around you just has mud.

But as you may say, some people still find Manchester City as that cute little club you are allowed to like, no matter how much money is spent by them. But this is by far not the worst thing about the club. Not by far. steveevans

To the right of this text is Steve Evans.  Normally at this point I’d say the positives about the guy before I’d launch into the negatives. But, there is no positives. None. You can dislike Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Harry Redknapp and so on, but this could be one of the worst managers in football, not in terms of ability, you don’t get to be so high in the league if you don’t have that, but in terms of attitude, personality and style.

Lets start of with the small things, because they all add up in the end don’t they? He often refuses to shake hands with opposition managers, gets himself sent off from the dugout, sends tirades towards the referees and officials. Then, as I learned from ‘Two Footed Tackle’ often ‘forgets’ he does such things and claims to be a nice and lovely individual. Oh, don’t you just love that sort of person?

But, that is only the small things, because despite other managers displaying some of those characteristics on occasion, none of them has ever been convicted of fraud.

You didn’t see that coming did you?

Remember Boston United, the club Soccer AM used to take the mick of because they had the same name as a well known place over in the USA? Steve Evans was manager of this club, his first foray into management. But it was he who ultimately destroyed the club, sent them tumbling down the pyramid and into obscurity.

From one of the few twitter accounts I have actually seen mentioning this fact about Evans (the others being the Non-League Show and Two Footed Tackle), Two Hundred Percent linked to a Telegraph article back in 2002.

This is a link to the article. Read it. Take as long as you want, but read it, it’ll explain everything so much better than I ever will.

Done? Excellent.

They key bit comes in the final paragraph:

"The sad thing about this whole story," Bean said, "is that at the greatest moment in Boston’s history, one man did so much to damage the club’s reputation. In everything that went wrong at the club, Steve Evans was the common denominator."

This man destroyed Boston. They are now playing in the Conference North after a brief trip down to the Northern Premier. They were on the brink of financial ruin, it is a miracle they haven’t went the same fate as Chester City, Ilkeston Town, down and out. No longer existing.

Steve Evans was fined £8,000 and banned from football for 20 months. He was also given a one year suspended sentence after a criminal investigation into fraud. The likes of Dagenham and Redbridge, a team who had been pipped out on promotion missed out on the glory land of league football, instead given to a team who were managed by a crook.

There is no beating about the bat here, a clear crook. A man who does not even deserve to be given a third chance (Evans was actually rehired by Boston United, would you believe) is seeing his team in the big time, in the limelight, and if there is one manager who doesn’t deserve it, it is him.

The large amounts of money being placed into Crawley is no bad thing, its obvious someone wants to see a team do well, be successful, much like Manchester City. But given Steve Evans record, you do wonder is he is the man you want to trust it with.

Look at the major outlets. BBC, ITV, ESPN, all the newspapers, how many will mention all of what has been said? None, they’ll go on about how fantastic it is that a small team from Crawley have drawn Manchester United. How they are the first non-league team since 1994 to reach the fifth round.

It’s good for the fans, the players, it isn’t their fault. Good for them, they deserve it.

But Evans doesn’t.

And for once, I will be cheering on Manchester United. Most of non-league, will be cheering on Manchester United. You don’t have a reason not to be cheering on Manchester United.

The Boy Who Cried Gulf

Ever since December 4th 2010, everything about the 2022 World Cup has been made up on the spot. Nothing about it has seemingly been thought out before the bidding was made, a winter World Cup is on the cards, messing around with the European leagues and adding to the overall pain of it all Michel Platini has once again had to get involved.

The President of UEFA has called for not a Qatar World Cup, but instead, a World Cup which incorporates the whole of the Gulf. You know, Bahrain, UAE, that’s all involved in this idea from Platini.

The one positive to take from this is that some of the FIFA committee have realised Qatar alone can not hold a World Cup, that it isn’t feasible, that it isn’t possible.

Just a big shame that this realisation has come a month and a half too late. None of this was ever mentioned in the bid by Qatar in the build up to the big vote. No mention of moving it to the winter, no mention of it not being fully in Qatar at all.

Why should a bid change just because FIFA told them so? To me, this isn’t FIFA’s problem until at least 2020, when they see if the building is on schedule and that everything is on time. This is now down to the organisers of the bid, they said nothing about a winter World Cup, so it should be held in the summer (even if logistically it is a nightmare) and it should be in Qatar, no where else (even if logistically it is a nightmare).

Spreading the World Cup around the Gulf will be a nightmare, all the building plans for the new stadiums being built might as well be chucked out the window. Remember that nice thought where they would transfer the stadiums to the third world countries, forget it, might as well not happen.

And Qatar are not the finest nation (up to 105 in the world at least), but a few more of them? UAE are slightly better (102nd), Bahrain are flying in 93rd. Then there is Oman in 104th and Yemen in a toasty 127th. We want the best teams in the world playing in the best international competition in the world. Not some pretty average teams who will struggle in the group stages, lose some teams who will be competitive, no other Asian teams might as well bother trying to qualify.

Anyway, does Michel Platini have any right to go on and say what the Qatar World Cup should be like? He is the President of UEFA, no interest what so ever on Asian football. He should care more about Russia and 2018, and just that.

In theory it seems sensible, spread it around. But it is too late, you can’t promise one thing and then change it completely, it undermines the entire bidding process. USA, Australia, Korea and Japan might of well not have bothered, or maybe they should have promised unreasonable things, but get to change them after wards. It is what FIFA are doing to Qatar, and I can’t imagine Qatar are too happy about it.

In the Firing Line

It might as well be the 17th Century. A crowd is gathering in the village centre. In the middle, a wooden stage with four men, smartly dressed, trying to get a peek through the window in the shop to see the latest offerings on sale. But they know their time is up, one more  bad performance, and they are out, down, hanged for all to see.

Roy Hodgson, Avram Grant, Gerard Houiller and Carlo Ancelotti. Step forward, your times are nearly up.

It is fair to say that for Roy Hodgson, his dream finish to his career, his one last chance at a big job, has gone horribly wrong. As ever with Liverpool, expectations are high, for the players they have, too high. A once great team over two seasons have fallen greatly. The two Champions League final appearances, they weren’t decades ago, they happened four and six years ago. But ultimately the last trophy was the FA Cup in 2006 (one of the best of all time, drawing 3-3 with West Ham and winning on penalties), which is at least better than Arsenal.

But, despite the lack of silverware at Arsenal, they are consistently putting in top four finishes. Liverpool last season were a disappointing seventh, this year they are twelfth, four points off a relegation place.

There is some blame to be had at Hodgson. No doubt about it, some of his signings have been questionable, his reluctance to change tactics during the game has also notably been the downfall of the man. But is he a bad manager? No, of course not. He got an average Fulham team to the Europa League final, thrashing Juventus along the way. He’s also managed to manage Inter Milan, and wasn’t too shabby there.

Hodgson could barely spend this summer, the ever popular duo of Hicks and Gillett didn’t give him the money. What use is it improving on the squad when you don’t get the cash to do it in the first place? Sure Konchesky, Poulson, Jovanivic and the like have been unimpressive, and the duo of Steven Gerrard and Jose Reina keeping Liverpool in a slightly more respectable position.

And, thanks to those brilliant Liverpool fans, the thought that the most wanted man back at Liverpool is Rafa Benitez is brilliant. Now, I’m not quite sure if they saw the dire, unimpressive performances last season under his control. Or, the lack of him doing anything as impressive since the Champions League win in 2005. His signings have been brilliant compared to Roy Hodgson’s haven’t they. The farce surrounding Alberto Aquilani only goes to prove the point.

Earlier today, Lawrie Sanchez said on 5Live that Liverpool were not a big club anymore. He is right. A big club plays in the Champions League, competes for titles. That isn’t Liverpool anymore, they are just a big name. A name the fans around the world will have heard of, will appreciate their history, but when they can only attract Milan Jovanivic, Paul Konchesky, you aren’t a big club anymore. They don’t go together.

It is in unfortunate for Hodgson, nothing has gone for him. The fans have found the first scapegoat after Hicks and Gillett left, sadly for Hodgson, it happened to be him. Blame the players not performing, blame the previous regime. But Hodgson does not deserve to be sacked.

For Avram Grant though, it is totally his fault. He can’t blame anyone else. Even working under the gobby idiots Gold and Sullivan (and Brady to a certain extent), he can have no excuses to the season West Ham are currently having. Last nights performance against Newcastle United, a team who have been known to struggle against the teams lower down in the league, was nothing short than abysmal. The defence was missing, the attack was absent, the midfield, Scott Parker aside, lacked any commitment.

And none of this is helped by their manager, a man continually looking lost for the whole ninety minutes. He doesn’t inspire any of his players and it shows, the football is lacklustre, they are deserved relegation candidates. And as correctly suggested by the Newcastle fans at the time, “You’re getting sacked in the morning”, has simply got to happen.

Gerard Houllier is a tougher case to decipher. He came into a mess, Martin O’Neill left the club unexpectedly a week before the season started. Houllier was made to wait by his previous employers until Aston Villa could come up with a sensible package. The team had a poor set of results, most notably losing 6-0 to newly promoted Newcastle United. And have seen most of their best players leave, to Manchester City…

In fairness to Houllier and Aston Villa, I like what they are trying to do. Bring in young English players and focus everything around that. There are some good players in the making, Marc Albrighton making the biggest impact of the season, and then others like Fabian Delph and Nathan Delfouneso.

But are they good enough right now? Houllier saw he had a young squad, brought in Robert Pires who is past his best, but could give useful help to the young players experience and the like. The experiment is so far failing, sure it is a long term plan, but should any plan contain the thought of getting relegated to the Championship.

From one damning report (unknown on validity), it seems Houllier has been given a team not prepared to care what he says, or work under him in any form. If you have that after just a few months in charge, you are going to struggle to even improve. It is an unfortunate situation for the former Liverpool manager, but one I can’t see him improving.

And then there is Carlo Ancelotti. In a more competitive league, Chelsea see themselves within a tight top five (though soon enough Manchester United will break free soon enough), but find themselves in fifth. How times change. Remember when Chelsea were scoring for fun, beating West Brom and Wigan 6-0, Blackpool 4-0, top of the league, the pundits were saying Chelsea were going to run away with it. Carlo Ancelotti was even awarded Manager of the Month in September. The smart people though, said wait and see, and look who turned out to be right.

For the defending champions, fifth isn’t the best place to be in after twenty one games, but the way the Premier League is working this season, it is not the end of the world. One point off Spurs in fourth, it has been worse.

Well, not since Roman Abramovich has been in charge. Form wise, Ancelotti looks in trouble, ten points from a possible thirty-three. That includes defeats against a struggling Liverpool, a humiliating 3-0 home defeat to Sunderland and other losses against Birmingham, Arsenal and Wolves.

What has gone wrong? The change of fortunes has been dramatic, and often blamed upon the sacking of Ray Wilkins, which is of course total rubbish. There are numerous problems which were not sorted out. The lack of replacements in the transfer window, the players they currently have are out of form and they lack any depth in any positions.

Now, by fantastic chance it happens to be January, and transfer window month. These issues can be fixed in there, buying new players, players to fill the position. Sacking Ancelotti before February would be insane, but hey, I imagine that is what Abramovich is.

With the rate managers are going at this moment in time, eight managers have lost their job since the 29th December in the Football League. That is a rate of just under one a day. It isn’t winter anymore, it’s sacking season, and the chairmen are hungry.

Four managers in the Premier League are under threat. Roy Hodgson is sadly, almost certainly going to be out of a job after the FA Cup game against Manchester United. Who to replace him, Kenny Dalglish? Really? He hasn’t managed since 2000, times are different now. He won titles, yes, but returns have rarely failed to work. Kevin Keegan didn’t do well in his second stint at Newcastle United (Mike Ashley aside of course), that’s just one example. Hodgson should not go, but ultimately, the fans, the board, will no doubt not die until he is out of the Liverpool job.

Same with Ancelotti, sure he’s the least likely to get the sack, but he has got to be careful. There are others who would love his job.

As for Avram Grant and Gerard Houllier, I’d be surprised if both of them are in charge by February.

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