Thursday, 29 December 2011

....and the Award goes to.

We've reached that time of year, when people (the media & public alike) look back on the year and dish out their annual awards...Man of the Year, Award for the Best Award know the sort of thing. Well we've already unveiled our team of the year (to rapturous silence) so we thought why not go the whole hog, clamber unsteadily up onto the bandwagon and give out some awards of our own, starting with......

Cult Hero of the Year

To me the term "Cult Hero" means one of those players that maybe doesn't stand out for his footballing ability, they provoke as much hate (if not more) as they do love from the terraces, there is a rapport though with the supporters and his off the field antics are followed just as closely as his on the pitch movement. There have been a few to chose from this year, players that unite the fans even of rival teams. Honorary mentions should go to David Luiz @ Chelsea maybe not up to the defensive duties all the time, but with hair like that kid out of Outnumbered and his  CFTV appearances he has brought a smile to fans faces since arriving from Brazil, Joey Barton divides opinion but taking to Twitter to vent his spleen against the 'Cockney Mafia' @ St James Park and in the process sticking up for the fans proved the way forward for all aspiring members of football's Twitterati.
But the winner is Mario Balotelli, sure he has scored a few goals (one with an arrogant shoulder) but it's his larger than life persona and eccentric behaviour off the pitch that have engaged the fans & media alike, whether it's driving into a woman's prison 'just to have a look round' or handing wads of cash out to tramps one things for sure we could do with a lot more like him...and all three have that magic ingredient that's lacking in some.........a personality.

Signing of the Year

A decent signing should do what he's been bought in to do, make an impact, fill a gap and ultimately improve the squad. There's many a risk involved, agents hounding managers trying to get him to buy his star player that he's only ever seen on YouTube, trying to get that skin flint Chairman to stump up the cash, only 'a couple more players away from a Championship winning team' and every fan knowing exactly what's needed to make the team better!
Luiz Suarez, Scott Parker, Sergio Augero have all been banded about as the most deserving winner, but for me it's Demba Ba. Signed initially @ West Ham on a pay as play deal his first steps into the Premiership were not ideal with the team ending the season on the way to The Championship, he managed seven goals in twelve though, not bad for a team hanging on for most of the season and once The Hammers fell through the Premiership trap door his release clause was triggered and in stepped Newcastle Utd!
There was interest from other parties and Alan Pardew (for the money paid) for me has the signing of the season, what a coup selling Andy Carroll for £30-odd million and replacing him successfully with someone on a freebie. With two hat-tricks already this season The Toon will miss Ba while he's @ The African Nations Cup and when he gets back how long will they be able to keep hold of him once the bigger boys come calling?

Rising Star

With more and more foreigners in the Premiership young players coming through the ranks at your club are in danger of becoming as rare as rocking horse shit! Obviously lack of money @ some teams means they rely on rising stars that much more. The usual route to stardom used to revolve around polishing boots & cleaning toilets as life as an apprentice, but nowadays it's any number of loan moves to the lower leagues to get that valuable experience. With the promise of money and fame ever more present in the game today some of these young upstarts get too big for their boots though, with agents whispering in their ears and the chance to make a quick buck for all parties, they're off........not always to better things.
Young players that have made it through have finally come to fruition this year with the likes of Scott Sinclair, Kyle Walker & Daniel Sturridge all going out on lower league loans before being deemed worthy or finding a club that will play them.
But for rising star I'm going for Phil Jones who after impressing @ Blackburn has gone on to bigger things at Old Trafford and has a bright future as one of England's new Young Lions with his versatility making him a cert for the Euro 2012 squad.

Those are my awards then, I'm sure we could have come up with other categories, maybe you can? What's you opinion? Let us know by commenting below or have your say on our Facebook page....

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Through the (January Transfer) Window...

So with the festive season over and that quick fumble with the secretary in the stationery cupboard at the office Christmas party now just a far off slightly moist memory most football fans will be looking forward to the upcoming January Transfer Window....

It's a handy chance for most clubs to inject some much needed new blood into their squad, replace that injured striker or to get some of the dead wood off the payroll either for good or on a loan deal. But it could also be a risk, that supposed missing piece of the jigsaw might unbalance a team that had been doing well. It's a case of stick or twist for some this January with Managers playing everything close to their chests...

We could though see a few deals that stalled in August reignited and finally put to bed....

For a team like Manchester City, there options are endless but do they need to bring anyone else in? It's likely we'll see more departures than arrivals @ The Etihad with Mr Tevez home sickness possibly cured with a move to Italy......obviously! In my opinion the only reason Mancini would sign anyone now is....well......just because he can and it'd stop anyone else from having them!

On the red side of Manchester I think there'll be a minimum of movement with SAF already saying he has no plans to spend and they do seem to be doing pretty well on it, even though the Champions League exit was reported as the first sign of the Armageddon by the naysayers the Premiership Holders are still joint top of the League. A few recent outings for Berbatov could also suggest that the languid Bulgarian is staying (for this season at least)

Over @ Spurs 'arry (don't call me a wheeler n' dealer) Redknapp will be looking to shuffle his cards again and though he had a quiet January this year with Redknapp there's always going to be speculation of a surprise up the sleeve, he has said himself that he'd like to get a BIG name in and after being linked with Kaka on a regular basis maybe Chairman Daniel Levy might just play his trump card, but realistically I think we're more likely to see some of his youngsters who performed admirably in Europe this term shipped out for a bit more experience and although Gomes looks a certainty to leave, speculation over Dos Santos and Pavlyuchenko's future could still remain unresolved.

That man Modric has been very quite since the summer (off the pitch anyway) when he was told he wouldn't be making a move across London to Stamford Bridge, it'll be interesting to see if Chelsea come a knocking again with an improved bid this time round. With an aging squad and AVB getting a rough ride with fans & media alike will Ruskie Rom dig into his deep pockets yet again? Gary Cahill, linked with just about every other Premiership club apart from his own could well be on the shopping list to help out the leaky creaky defence...

Skinflint Arsene Wenger another manager under pressure from his own fans has been criticised for not opening his wallet on numerous occasions, I wouldn't expect any big signings and it'll be more of a case of not losing Robin Van Persie than trying to get anyone in.

The love-in @ Liverpool still continues and King Kenny can really do no wrong, Andy Carroll one of the big moves last January Window is still to find his scoring boots and other signings such as Downing & Henderson still need to prove their worth, I can't see The Reds splashing too much cash this time out but Cheik Tiote has been linked recently. With Suarez facing a lengthy ban maybe a short term signing up front could be in the offing?

Other possible transfer targets this Window would be for me, a couple of very good 'keepers that have been on a few clubs radars; Voom @ Swansea & Krul with Newcastle, Alex @ Chelsea has been given his marching orders will a Premiership side (maybe Spurs) pick him up for a bit of defensive cover? Still with Chelsea will Drogba & Lampard still be feeling Blue come the end of January? Martin O'Neil @ Sunderland will no doubt be given money to spend and he'll be looking for a few players up for a fight at the bottom, no big names but maybe more experienced old campaigners?

I'll stick my neck out and predict a fairly quiet Window with most clubs choosing to stick with the hand they were dealt in August, before a lot of movement come the end of the season. But whatever happens we'll be keeping you up to date and in the know, how do you think your club with get on this January?

Monday, 12 December 2011

Coming Up - The Lower League Round Up

So as winter draws on it's coming up to the half way mark for those teams battling it out in the Lower Leagues of England and while The Premiership is in danger of turning into a two horse race for Manchester the runners and riders in the fight to come up have been harder to separate than the thighs of a Mormon preacher's daughter......
We may have been neglecting them lately, so let's see how things have been getting on in the lower rungs of the footballing ladder.

The Championship

It was a case of big money, big names and big expectations @ the start of the campaign and a tale of two England Managers falling at the first hurdle, Leicester with their Thai money were trying to curry favour amongst their support with Sven @ the helm and the promise of star signings, while Forest under McClaren were hoping to bring the glory days of Cloughie back. It just shows how far some teams will go thanks to the lure of the Premiership millions.
With a couple of early favourites dispatched to the knackers yard, West Ham under new management and still finding their feet are showing some pedigree and now look to be in for the long run. Southampton maybe not on everyone's race card were the early pace setters and are still neck and neck at the top @ the moment with The Happy Hammers.
If there are any distractions for the hopeful teams it's the prospect the of BIG games they will have to play, both on and off the pitch West Ham taking on the likes of Millwall, Leeds Utd and Cardiff don't come with much more atmosphere or rivalry, there's also Derbies galore with Yorkshire, The Midlands and London all coming face to face for over the season.

League One

Charlton were outsiders for this one @ the start of the season and definitely one of the dark horses after a few seasons of mid table mediocrity Chris Powell has turned these old nags into League One thoroughbreds with no small help from Bradley Wright-Philips & one time Spur Johnnie Jackson. Thankfully one of my predictions Huddersfield Town are still in the hunt but it's no surprise with the team flirting with promotion a few times already in the past and with young Jordan Rhodes banging in the goals it's no wonder The Premiership teams are sniffing around. Another outsider MK Dons have continued to compete even after losing star striker Sam Baldock to West Ham and one man full of experience in the Midfield Luke Chadwick could be about to emerge from the 'where are they now' files....

League Two

Or the Paolo Di Canio show as we like the call it! It was inevitable really that the former Sheffield Wednesday & West Ham showman would garner most headlines in this league and he hasn't disappointed, but for all the drama the risk of his appointment has so far paid off with Swindon Town in the play off positions and threatening to go higher. Elsewhere Crawley Town have continued in their momentum upwards from the Blue Square with an equally flambouyant manager of their own. The ever reliable Shrewsbury are keeping up their promise of the play-offs yet again but will be hoping to finally take that extra step, while the AFC Wimbledon fairytale may have to wait a season or two before finding a happy ending.

Of course there will still be many a twist & turn no doubt and we will be back later in the Season to have another look at how it's all going. And if there are any Lower League fans out there who fancy a guest blog do drop us a line!

Bring on the Play-Offs.............

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Team of the year

With the year almost over, we thought we would get in early doors, with our team of 2011! With cries of 'you don't know what ya doing' ringing around the it's a football thing office we decided to sit round the big table and throw some names into the hat, the formation of course 4-4-2.
After much bickering, bribing and sulking we finally got to our best eleven.......

So lets start between the sticks,

Joe Hart:  England's number one came out on top amongst inter Office voting for his consistency in the Man City goal since ousting Shay Given from the team, an excellent all round 'keeper, kept City in a number of games last season and has come on even more this term. Let's hope he also has a long international career ahead of him.......

Next up it's the case for the defence......

Starting from left to right, This guy has all the style of a classic 70's rock n rolla! His left peg has crossed many a sweet ball into the path of his attacking team mates! He can bend it, shake it and smack it! Loves to get stuck in, and if in doubt, he don't mind whacking it out! Calm under pressure you can rely on him from the spot! Our Left back of the year is Everton's Leighton Baines

In the middle we have Phil Jones, shining out like a big bright shiny thing @ the heart of the Blackburn defence that canny devil Sir Alex saw the potential early on and he has literally come on leaps and bounds without looking back! Versatile in the extreme, this fella could probably play in goal and for England he will be one to follow for years to come...

Partnering him we have a man full of big hair! After a shocking start to life @ Newcastle, this player has shown that he can hack it in the top flight. After singing for a massive £10.3 million, many blamed him for the clubs relegation a few season back, with remarks of my dead nan could of made that tackle along with F**k off back to Argentina you c**t! But after a few nights out with a bottle or two of Newcastle brown, Coloccini soon found his feet in Newcastle! some last ditch defending  along with the odd vital goal has turned this zero into a cult hero! 2011 has been a great year for Fabricio Coloccini

On the right we have Kyle Walker, was a bit of a loan ranger after joining Spurs from Sheffield United, going out to QPR and Villa before being welcomed back with open arms after serving his apprenticeship by that old wily sorcerer Harry Redknapp! Fighting for his place in the team he soon outed Corluka for the cumbersome slow work horse he was, Kyle on the other hand is lightning quick, linking up the attack on the right flank he has also progressed to the England big boys, where with some defensive tweaking he'll certainly be giving Glenn Johnson a run for his money....

So onwards and upwards, midfielding our way through the pack, we come up to our next City slicker! Some prefer gold, but there was only ever gonna be one winner in this team! This pint sized wonder can only handle a few down the pub, but on the pitch he can ping a ball 50 odd yards with out even trying! Stand up David Silva

In to midfield then with Scott Parker, who's come a long way from playing keepy uppy on a Maccy D's advert, sure he's been around the block and he hardly plays in the most attractive of positions - basically mopping up any balls in the midfield and laying it off......but he does that so well and offers much more than that too, leadership qualities, grit and determination. He could well have still been with West Ham in the Premiership if only his team mates had shown as much fight, but now in the heart of the Spurs midfield he has added new spunk. Not only that but he looks so much like an old school footballer and we like that a lot here @ 442!

An unsung hero is about to gate crash the team of the year! Another player that came in for some hardcore stick from his own fans, This Brazilian looked more like a Scottish international than a samba boy. After keeping his head down, this hard tackling defensive midfielder slowly but surely adapted to his surroundings on Merseyside. With the return of Kenny, Lucas has transformed himself , turning in man of the match performances almost every week! Lucas is now considered a vital part of the Liverpool jigsaw!

Our final midfield maestro is Clint Dempsey, consistently consistent in a Fulham team that has had it's ups and downs, a goal scoring midfielder who can also play just behind the front two. It just shows how much the American game has come on over the years that he could even make it into our team, this Yank is playing football with the right shaped ball and showing us limeys a thing or two in the process.

Up top we start with a player, who has had to bide his time @ Chelsea, loaned out @ the start of the year to Bolton, Sturridge has now cemented himself in AVB's starting 11! It was during his time with The Trotters that Sturridge finally showed us what he can do with the goal in sight! With the arrival of Torres, Sturridge was shipped out to Bolton, Many thought this was the end of his career with the blues, but after reaching double figures with the Trotters, Sturridge was quickly recalled for the start of the 2011/12 season!

And finally we have Wayne Rooney, this young fella has a lot of potential we've heard very little of him ourselves but we're hearing big things, apparently a bit of temperament problem but provided he can keep that in check he could go far.............
He finished last season strongly and started this one in much the same fashion, will there be many people's teams of the year without this firebrand Scouser?

So after a pack of hob nobs and pot and half of tea between the team, we finally came to an outcome for our team of 2011, The Midweeker stormed out half way through, after finding out we had no intention of including Gomes between the sticks! His shout of Andy Carroll up top also fell on deaf ears! as for the Weekender he came out with so many stats that by the end of his argument he ended up disagreeing with himself!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

pub mates!

It's Wednesday night, which means one thing! Pub talk! Last week the Weekender and the Midweeker finally got to share some 'man time' in front of some classic pub grub and a few cheeky pints of best! This week the pair of them are @ it again, They've got more variety than a bag of pick n mix! From Beckham to 'Arry, From Rio to Blatter, if it's involved a round shaped object otherwise known as a football the pair of them just can't keep away from it.

The Weekender: So what shall we drunkenly ramble on about tonight? The Dictatorship that is FIFA? Beckham winning some two bob trophy in a country that plays football with the wrong shaped ball? Or anything else on the agenda?

The Midweeker: Lets start with Beckham, rumour has it that he rang Sir Alex before kick off, waking the OAP up @ silly o'clock to ask him what colour boots he should wear! What ever Sir Alex said to him, it seemed to do the trick! With another title in the bag, and his contract about to run out, Will we see this Iconic player back in the top flight of the English league? or would the Blue Square premiership be more his pace?

WE: Well if you hadn't been neglecting your duties this week, you'd have seen Becks rule out a return to England, he's off for a French fancy, by the sounds of it. Him and the whole England debate is a joke, he's like an ex-girlfriend who won't take no for an answer!

MW:That's a knock out blow! I'm on the ropes! Yeah i think he should give it another season, Maybe cash in on more big contract for someone like the Cosmos? Fair play to him though, his done a lot for the sport, unlike that mother f*****g knobhead Blatter, The only way anyone is gonna shift that bloke out of the game is by shooting him in the head from point blank range! How would you tackle someone like Blatter? two footed?

WE: The last time we had a bloke holding such a sway over Europe it ended in a war! I'd stick a Toblerone where the sun don't shine and pull it out slowly! How can someone so out of touch with the game be in charge of running it?? Maybe we should boycott FIFA competitions till it all gets sorted?

MW: Boycotting would get my vote, but every country would have to do it! And there could be repercussions with UEFA with the Europa & Champions League, speaking of the Champions League, City need to up their game if they want to reach the knockouts, it's like watching chalk and cheese!

WE: Their running away with the Premiership but have they got what it takes in Europe? They'll drop down to the Europa League and win that though instead, you mark my words......
If we're talking European aspirations how about Spurs having another go in the Champions League next season...

MW: If 'Arry can keep fit then they may even grab the title! Their rivals are on the up again, but that is mainly down to RVP, If he goes then they are in big, big trouble, with rumours that Wenger is wanted @ Real to replace the special one, The Gooners could be in danger of becoming a mid-table team!

WE: Mourinho to take over from Fergie after he finally hangs up the hair dryer? Then Professor Wenger in at the Bernabéu? Maybe 'arry will arrive @ The Emirates???
Changing the subject, there was also talk of trimming the Premiership down to sixteen teams? That'd get rid of the also-ran none entity teams, I mean what's the point of Blackburn or Wigan, without being harsh it's a wonder anyone bother's to support them!

MW:Yeah, or the idea of maybe capping how much the top teams can spend or how many signings one team can make during a window? I miss the days of players, playing @ one club for longer than the odd season! I think Wigan will drop out of the league this season.

WE: I remember when Burnley were in the top division, but I'm showing my age there. Maybe we're too old for this modern football malarkey??

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Playing for Keeps?

When the latest England Squad was announced for the recent Friendlies @ Wembley which players would have been first on your team sheet?
John Terry? Not everyone's cup of tea but he is the team captain & has leadership qualities. Wayne Rooney? Nine goals in six League games he's a must surely?? But with his imminent ban maybe not this time....
How about Joe Hart? England's Number One? Playing for a top team in The Premiership and now Europe, he's another dead cert - isn't he?.

But what if he were injured? Who comes in then?
Over recent years it seemed that England's problem position was on the left side of Midfield with such luminaries as Steve Guppy, Alan Thompson and Jason Wilcox given the task to balance up the side. Eventually that puzzle was solved - by maybe jamming some square pegs in round holes but resolved none the less. For me now, our problem position is that of Goalkeeper and I can't see it getting any better.

Not taking anything away from Joe Hart but when was the last time we had an England goalie that really stood out and claimed the number one spot as his own or had to fight off rivals for the right to wear the jersey?

Hart is a fine 'keeper - starting out @ Shrewsbury Town before impressing Manchester City enough for them to sign him for an initial £600,000, a fee that would rise if he were to represent his country, after a few games in the City first team it was decided by then manager Mark Hughes to loan Joe out to Birmingham City where he first started to catch the eye picking up a few accolades along the way before debuting in the England U21 side, he certainly must be fairly decent having returned to Eastlands and seeing off the challenge of another great 'keeper Shay Given to take the number one job @ City full time.

It would appear that Joe Hart has very few rivals now, David (Calamity) James moving to Bristol City seemed to announce his International retirement even if nothing of the sort had been stated, Robert Green who himself has had his dodgy moments is currently injured, but both Paul Robinson @ Blackburn Rovers & Ben Foster now at West Brom have both asked not to be considered for England again. Scott Carson another one time number one now plys his trade in Turkey (maybe his time abroad may improve his game?) but other than that and if previous squads are anything to go by our only other hope comes from reserve or lower league 'keepers. The defeatist attitude of Ben Foster who had a decent season @ St Andrews last term is astounding, if he doesn't want to be selected only to sit on the bench then why doesn't he try to impress that bit harder in games and England training??

There simply aren't enough decent English born goalies around. In fact of the twenty teams in the English Premiership only Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers, Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion have a homegrown player between the sticks.
From a one time apparent wealth of English goalkeeping talent we now seem to have hit a barren patch, going back to Ron Greenwood's tenure as England manager he was so spoilt for choice that he couldn't make up his mind between Shilton & Clemence so instead alternated them in games, Peter playing one game then Ray the next!

In a blog of this sort after identifying a problem it should be my responsibility to now come up with a solution, but I can't see one! There is talent coming through, but would you pick a player either failing to make any first team appearances or not playing in the highest division week in week out?
Once again the dreaded influx of the foreign footballer must take some of the blame, with top clubs preferring to buy a proven foreign International stopper than taking a risk or nurturing young talent, one minor plus point is that goal keepers have a longer shelf life than outfield players and as Hart matures he will get even better, our major problem could be then finding England's number two!

Pub Talk - The Midweeker & Weekender meet up for a pint...

Usually they pass like ships in the night, in & out of the office on their quest for the footballing Holy Grail, but this week saw our two pundits meet over a pint of Best......

The Midweeker: Back in my day International friendlies meant something! Now every Tom, Dick n' Barry are getting a cap, what have we learnt?

The Weekender: Not much really, at the end of the day we can only take a squad of 23 players and Don Fabio should by now know his best team, so the remaining number are just along for the ride

Who's in and who's out? Will anyone make a late bid for selection? Kyle Walker ahead of Glen Johnson? Norwich's John Ruddy a late replacement as England's number one? Of course not, every England manager or any manager has their favourites, the only place up for grabs is Wayne Rooney's.

MW:Well we gotta look at the case for defence, John Terry's head ain't in the right place, the blokes a mess! Needs to pull his head from the clouds and let his feet do the talking! And don't get me started on Cahill... how many goals have Bolton shipped already this season?

WE: I actually agree with you on that one! An England player has got to be playing @ the top end of the League and in Europe against top players, but Rio's on his way out too, so who else could come in? Newcastle have been tight at the back? To be honest I think we'll fail @ Euro 2012 and the age old problem of too many foreigners in the English game will rear it's ugly head........

MW: Steven Taylor @ the Toon could be a shout, as could Danny Simpson? Spot on with the Johnny foreigner debate! If I'm honest Fab should be kicked into touch and replaced by an old school English Manager.....

WE: When will we learn though! Same excuse every time, Southgate & Brooking need to sort this out, we won't see England as European or World Champions in our lifetime, mark my words!

MW: One things for sure next summer the Irish will be having a party. Guided at the helm by a passionate Italian (unlike the English)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

John Burridge - Unsung Hero

Football journeymen, not so many around nowadays. Big wage packets and shorter careers, player's falling 'out of love' with football or getting into it for the wrong reasons in the first place?
A journeyman football went where the work was, for the love of the game not the glamour.

John Burridge was one such player, he signed for well over twenty clubs, over seven hundred and seventy appearances. He didn't play for every team he signed for but was always available as cover or for a spot of coaching, as long as football was involved he was there.

Born in Cumberland, helping out down the mines, baths limited to every two weeks, having your Dad throw buckets of piss out the window just as prospective football managers came to visit, it couldn't have been an easy upbringing. When he eventually signed for his local club Wokingham he had his nose broken in his debut, in his second game? Just a broken rib for his troubles.......

He made his highest number of appearances for Blackpool - his second club, where years later he would be inducted into the Hall of Fame. A long way from playing for them at Manchester United where he queued before the game to get the autographs of Best & Charlton before taking his place in goal against them.

Fast forward through a few clubs and it was during his time @ Crystal Palace that "Budgie" as he was nicknamed first wheeled out the somersaults and hand stands long before Nani or Grobbelaar, in fact it became part of his warm up on the pitch - something that had never been seen before at an English football ground, during one game he even sat on his own crossbar for a better view of the action up the other end. His rapport with the crowd pre-empted many of today's modern goal keepers or daft as a brush jokers who enjoyed banter with the supporters.
He was also the first 'keeper in this country to wear gloves (of the goalkeeping kind), imported from Germany Jennings & Shilton would soon be on the blower asking where they could get their hands on a pair...

At the age of forty three he still remains the oldest player to play in The Premiership, but he just couldn't keep away from the game, moving to Oman and into coaching he discovered Wigan 'keeper Ali Al Habsi and turned down the chance to take over the Iraq national team after Saddam Hussein's son offered him the job.

Recently having recovered from both a traffic accident and depression (something with the help of Kevin Keegan he'd battled and beaten once before) he was once again amongst the footballing world, this time as a pundit on Dubai television.

Wherever he played he influenced - be it on or off the pitch. Maybe if he had stayed at one club long enough or at a different time he might have played for England, but he certainly left a legacy that would be still felt today........

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Fergie Time.........

This weekend saw the 25th Anniversary of Sir Alex Ferguson's arrival @ Old Trafford, the tributes obviously have been pouring in, with pundits far and wide offering their own personal take on the man that some see as footballing royalty.
Now we don't like to be accused of bias here @ It's a Football Thing, but it would only be fitting if we in some way gave our own little contribution.....

Back in '86 with The Premiership just a twinkle in the eye of money hungry football chairmen, Everton would eventually win the First Division Title - although Wimbledon had led the way early doors. Elsewhere another Scot George Graham had taken over @ Arsenal where he had begun to turn their fortunes around, Aston Villa were up to their old tricks of trying out nearly every manager in the game to see who'd fit and Manchester City were relegated.......

With Manchester United languishing in the bottom three Big Ron was off, his replacement was suggested by Bobby Charlton, the man from Govan who'd been doing rather well @ Aberdeen. But Manchester United weren't the first club to head North and come rapping on Ferguson's door, in fact Wolves, Arsenal, Luton Town & Spurs had been knocked back previously, but to Old Trafford he went and the rest as they say is history.

First game defeat to Oxford Utd, on the verge of being sacked after three unsuccessful seasons, win against Forest in the FA Cup saved his job....etc, etc, etc.....we've all heard the story.

Love him or hate him (and there are plenty in both camps) for all his FA baiting, referee hating, manipulating and mind games, modern football as we know it today would be a whole different kettle of fish and a lot duller to boot.

Fergie's aim @ the start of his reign was the knock Liverpool off their perch - low and behold look what happened, while Liverpool became complacent by not swapping their aging stars with quality successors, that was exactly what SAF did season after season, but not before he rejuvenated the club from top to bottom first.

He has arguably nurtured some of the greatest talent this country has ever seen, whether they have come through the ranks or from the cheque book. He can also handle players, he's in charge and what he says goes, any potential troublemakers were rooted out and got rid of, if you got ideas above your station you were off too. Players like, Beckham, Ince, Keane & Cantona have been and gone but the titles have kept on coming.

This was the man who while @ Aberdeen fined a player for overtaking him in his car!

Ego's came and went but Fergie survived.

Without him, they'd be no squeaky bum time, hairdryer treatment, Fergie's Fledglings, noisy neighbours or a title for this very article!

And we here @ It's a Football Thing will have a wee dram in his honour!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Midweekers midweek specials

Only one place to start this tuesday morning and it's @ last nights game. Stoke suffered a fright last night when Ba came back to haunt them! You know what they say.... never trust a medic! I bet the doc's @ The Britannia feel sick after seeing the Newcastle player bag a hat-trick against them in a 3-1 away win! Could Ba end up the leagues top scorer come the end of the season & could Newcastle end up in the Champions League? Not bad considering the Midweeker tipped them to go down this season! 

The Midweeker sneaked into the office this morning still wearing his halloween costume from last night, the evil pub crawling monster brought with him a sack of sweets! Some poor little kid must of gone with out! So with some big games in The Champions League this week & not forgetting The Europa League, The Midweeker has published this weeks round of predictions. 

Friday, 28 October 2011

4-4-2 it's a football thing

It's that friday feeling, the start of the weekend is almost upon us! For a change it's like the good old days in regards to the fixture list this weekend, with no less than 16 top flight teams playing on a saturday! We take a look @ a few of the fixtures that have caught the eye. The headliner early kick off is between two of the modern day 'big four' as Chelsea entertain Arsenal @ the Bridge. 

Chelsea have been in and out the news this week, as the battle of the pitch invaders looks like it's gonna be going on for a while as the group known as The Chelsea Pitch Owners refuse to sell back their shares to the Chelsea board. The fans want the club to explore every avenue in extending the capacity @ the Bridge before they except any offer for their shares. This could get messy! 

Next up for high flying Norwich are struggling Blackburn! @ the start of the season this would of been one of them games that you would of expected Rovers to win.... how the tables have turned. Paul Lambert's lads will  be looking to land the killer blow, resulting in the ever so popular Steve Kean losing his job!  With only a hand full of wins in over 30 odd games it's not rocket science to see that his time is almost up! 

Up @ the DWG stadium Wigan entertain an inconsistent Fulham team. Martin Jol hasn't really got the best out of his team upto now! A 6-0 hammering of local rivals QPR is the only bit of joy the Fulham fans have had so far this season, After last weekends disappointment of losing 3-1 @ home to the Toffee's, Jol will be looking for the Whites to show some spirit, along with Zamora showing some composure in front of goal. 
As for Wigan, they need 3 points and fast, this winless run is sucking out all of the confidence of the team, this one could go either way! 

United will look to put last weeks drumming behind them as they travel to Everton, The Toffee's have a good record @ home against United, Will Rooney keep calm as he returns to his boyhood team or will the fans get the better of him? One things for sure if Sir Alex's team crumble like last week.... it will be more than the odd boot going flying in the dressing room come full time! 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The term 'LEGEND'

The term 'legend' gets used all to often in the modern world of football, 'oh did ya see that goal by Walcott? he is a legend' or 'That sliding tackle by Terry was legendary.' It's got to the point now where people are calling Rory Delap's thow-ins 'Legendary'

Years ago players would only be classed as 'Legends' once their playing career had finished, The likes of Bobby Moore, George Best, Pele & Ruud Gullit. Players that offered more to the game than just the odd flash of brilliance. 

I get fed up with the Sky sports commentators  in particular Alan Smith, always banging on how such and such a player is a legend! It's as if the guy's worried about calling someone average! Grow some balls mate! 

Pundits go on about how the games changed, and how the likes of Pele and co may not have been so successful if they were playing today! How on earth do they work that out? The ball is lighter, half of the old-skool tackles have been outlawed, Players get away with diving and on top of all that the pitches are now like cricket lawns! Bloody hell Pele & Best would of had a field day!

After hearing City fans @ the weekend claim that the likes of Mario Balotelli, James Milner & David Silva are  now 'Legends' i couldn't help but wonder what if...... 

(Lets get things in perspective City won the F.A Cup last season, their first bit of silverware in so many years but they couldn't get the consistency in the league.) 

@ The end of the day they played United off the pitch, scored 6 goals and looked a good attacking team.... But no matter how many goals a team scores they can only get 3 points for a win! There is no point beating United away if you end up losing to QPR @ home! 

So if City finish 2nd or 3rd this season will the likes of Balotelli, Milner & Silva still be classed as Legends? 

Personally i feel that pundits and commentators should back up their claims when they call a player a 'legend'
Could you imagine Jeff Stelling turning around to Iain Dowie and ask him to elaborate on why Leighton Baines is a 'legend'  

Maybe this is why modern day players walk around like super heroes? they need to be pegged back a notch or two! 

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Unsung Heroes - Martin Peters

Think 1966, think the World Cup, think England, Wembley, Germany 4-2, Hurst, Moore, Charlton, Nobby dancing.

An unsung hero for me though, Martin Peters, only twenty two, the Final only his eighth cap, he was called up just before the World Cup and was hailed by Sir Alf Ramsey as a player "ten years ahead of his time".

Ten years ahead? Maybe more, we never saw another midfielder like him for England again arguably until Bryan Robson, it's a cliche but for England's "wingless wonders" he covered every inch of grass - he had to - with everything coming through the middle. Not that that mattered, for his domestic club West Ham he had played (at one time or another) in every outfield position.

For England he scored a goal every three games and his career spanned eight years, playing for only four clubs in total. At West Ham he was "The Ghost" timing his runs into the box to perfection and appearing as if from nowhere. We all know the claim that "West Ham won the World Cup" and it's true (to a certain extent) with Peters playing no small part, it was his goal from a half volley that put the hosts ahead to settle the nerves. The understanding at domestic level between Hurst, Peters & Moore transferred well from club to country and also helped to provide some much needed backbone.

His move from West Ham (where he had graduated through the Academy) to local neighbours Tottenham Hotspur for a then record transfer fee probably didn't help relations with one of their fiercest rivals, in fact I know of at least one Hammers fan who held it against Spurs for the rest of his life saying that "Spurs had got a World Cup winner, while they had ended up with an alcoholic has been" - a bit harsh perhaps (we all know he liked a tipple) but Jimmy Greaves who did move the other way as part of the deal still had a few goals left in him.....

Peters who had already won a European Trophy (with West Ham) and a World Cup had continued success at Spurs. His pace, stamina, distribution and discipline that had marked him out as one for the future was still there even though the game had got quicker and players more skillful, he captained both club & country finding a new band of admirers amongst the Tottenham faithful.

By the time he hit thirty, inevitability perhaps for one starting out and hitting such heights so young his time at the highest level began to slip away, he still played another five years after to moving to Norwich City helping them to promotion and consolidating their place in the then First Division.
But this was no 'has been' seeing out his days, in fact he was voting Player of the Season twice @ Carrow Road and was also inducted into the Norwich City Hall of Fame.

His influence can still be seen today, @ West Ham Frank Lampard Jr would have been no stranger to tales of this magnificent box to box midfielder years ahead of his time and it's quite something that Martin Peters is loved by so many fans from two rival London clubs and is regularly welcomed back with open arms - something which can't be said by many others.......

This is the first of which I hope will be a series, what's your view? Who would be your unsung hero in the world of football? Feel free to comment and keep up to date with us on Facebook & Twitter!

The midweekers midweek cuppa

As we sit down for a cheeky cup of tea and a few hob nobs, The Midweeker reflects on the past week. 'well i aint gonna bang on about the Manchester derby, it was a great game, you only get 3 points for a win, regardless how many you stick in the back of the net' After the first swig of tea, The MW points to an image of Sven, 'The man should knock it on the head' From the glory days of Benfica & Lazio, to the cold wet nights stuck up in Leicester, the last 10 years haven't gone to plan for the ex-England boss. Big name signings haven't delivered and it was only gonna be a matter of time before Sven was thrown to the Wolves.

Next to feel the wrath of the MW was England captain John Terry! 'Regardless if he said this or that, the lad's form has been suspect of late, needs to take a cold shower and get his head down' How could Chelsea show such a lack of discipline against QPR? The only saving grace from that game was the score line, to lose only 1-0 with 9 men was a feat in itself.

On the red side of North London, The Big German lad, Mertesacker has got the rest of the footballing world laughing! The German has been quoted as saying that they will finish in the top 4! 'I'm very confident and I think we'll do this.'

Meanwhile on all things England Stevie G has given his backing for 'Arry to take over the hot seat when FAB calls it a day after the Euro's! 'Harry Redknapp's name crops up a lot and he's done an unbelievable job. I don't think he gets the credit he deserves for what he's done at Tottenham'

With some eye catching performances over the weekend, the MW is quick to point out that Newcastle's Cabaye looks a right touch! That was a great bit of business from the Newcastle board over the Summer!

So as the last drop of tea hits the spot, the MW is up and off to catch the early train to Aldershot for their Carling cup game against United.

Cult Heroes

Next up in our Cult Hero series sees 'hard man' David Batty enter the hall of fame. Born back in 1968 in West Yorkshire, Batty first made his name @ his local club Leeds United. Going on to make over 200 appearances as well as winning the old first division championship back in 91, 92.

Batty fact: During his early days @ Leeds, Billy Bremner thought Batty was a bit of a lightweight, and needed to man up. So every morning Bremner would call the sheepish Batty into his office, and give him a cheeky glass of Sherry, topped off with a raw egg! 

During the autumn of 93, Then leeds boss Howard Wilkinson decided it was a good idea to sell the defensive midfielder to Blackburn! During Rovers title winning campaign, a dodgy foot restricted Batty to just a handful of appearances. Although being offered a winners medal, Batty declined the offer. 

In 96 Batty was on the move again, this time further up north to Newcastle, it was @ this time that Newcastle were right up there trying to win the title. After a few seasons with The Geordies, Batty moved back to Leeds in a deal for around £4.4 Million. 

Although Batty played 42 odd games for England, he will be best remembered for his miss in the penalty shoot-out against The Argies back in 98! 

Friday, 23 September 2011

Scout and about - Shaun Wright Phillips

When our resident Scout comes into the office on a Monday morning, he usually brings with him tales of young, new, little known players he has seen on his weekends away.  Royston Drenthe @ Everton, Rubén Rochina with Blackburn or Paul Pogba @ Old Trafford amongst others have all had him salivating into his first hot cuppa and cheeky Hob Nob of the day.
So this week when the name Shaun Wright-Phillips was on every one's lips we thought we'd heard it all before. But with his early season form and promise of regular first team football, SWP could about to be a player revitalised.

Arriving @ Loftus Road as the transfer window had started to creak to a close, Shaun faced an on the spot interview from the Sky Sports Reporter who had taken up squatting rights there that particular evening and it was clear for all to see that he really didn't want to leave Manchester, but with the only other option that of getting splinters on his bum from warming the City bench, he decided the time was right to leave the club he loved and played for twice for a new life in West London.

Now 29 years of age it's fair to say that he wasn't helped in his first few seasons at Maine Road by lack of stability at the club, going through managers like a dose of salts and the added bonus of relegation probably didn't help.
But after breaking into the side under Kevin Keegan he became a fans favourite winning the 'Young Player of the Year' award on four successive occasions. It was then that he first appeared in an England shirt and attracted the attention of Chelsea, who paid £21m for his services.

Once again managerial turmoil at a club hindered his career, add to that this time the owners need for instant success and SWP was once again on the periphery of things. During his time he did however continue to appear and score for his country.
Inevitably really after one managerial shake up too many he fell out of favour completely and was granted a return to the Sky Blues.

Without taking anything away from QPR something SWP is more likely to get now is first team football and of course if a player is playing week in week out their confidence and form improves. This could lead to a return to the England set up where his bustling, energetic approach has earned him praise on International Duty in the past.
England have had their fair share of wingers trying to stake a claim for a regular spot in the team, but even if the early season form of Ashley Young has made him a first choice, there is still a place on the other flank there for the taking.
Let's hope for Shaun's sake that the recent  takeover @ The Hoops doesn't mean a case of history repeating and that this new start isn't another false dawn.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Twits, twats and transfers.....

Since the advent of the Transfer Windows back in 2002, much has been debated on it's merits, once upon a time when life was simpler clubs could buy and sell throughout the season right up until the final week. Nowadays teams have roughly two months at the start of the season and a month mid season to get their squads straight.

With Sir Alex Ferguson safely tucked up in bed with a wee dram and a copy of The Racing Post, every other manager was tearing their hair out on what has become for some, one of the most dreaded time's of the season.

With Manchester United getting their business done early, you can't help wondering why other clubs couldn't follow suit? Along with Liverpool new players were coming in almost as soon the Red Devils lifted the Premiership trophy and it does also make me wonder how those deals were done so fast, I'm not suggesting tapping up but maybe players' agents are more accommodating when it comes to helping their clients move to The Champions......
You can't help thinking that Sky Sports had some say in the window's invention - maybe that's one for the conspiracy theorists, but they certainly do try and get their moneys worth out of the clubs involved.

With cameramen and reporters posted @ just about every football/training ground in the country it was left to an ever excitable (this time of year) Jim White to direct the proceedings.
Tottenham, Aresnal, QPR and Stoke City became the places to be if you were looking for an exclusive, and faithful (my definition = a little odd) fans had camped out all day for a glimpse of a new arrival like an expectant Dad waiting for their bundle of joy (obviously without getting too involved with all the messy stuff)
Arsenal had just come off the back of a drubbing by Manchester United and Arsene Wenger (he of deep pockets and short arms) was under pressure from the fans, directors, media and just about everyone really to get his cheque book out, the on/off Fabregas move was done and dusted (he was always going home wasn't he?) and Samir Nasri had bolted for the door at the first whiff of Manchester City's wonga - sorry I meant Champions League football.....
Spurs' last minute swoop for VDV that surprised everyone (even the manager) last August was the reason for the camera's outside their training ground as well as the other on/off transfer saga of the summer - that of Luka Modric.
QPR meanwhile newly taken over, had money to spend and following the arrival of rebel without a clause Joey Barton more was expected to follow. And Stoke City........erm well I'm not too sure about that one!

Maybe the evening wasn't the night of high drama we'd hoped for, but Sky did their best to build up the tension, nailed on transfers such as Scott Parker's move to Spurs suddenly were in jeopardy and rival teams were ready to pounce, the tried and tested story of a player in a helicopter ready to fly from one end of the country to the other was briefly mooted with a tug of war going on between Fulham & Newcastle Utd for Bryan Ruiz.
The big name signing for Arsenal was Michel Arteta, the fans cheered as if it were Fabregas back again and when Yossi Benyauon completed his loan move they cheered some more, it was almost like a Big Brother eviction show!
The only real surprise was that Owen Hargreaves was pictured leaving a hospital in Manchester not on crutches but because the unattached midfielder had just passed his medical for Manchester City.
The twists and turns weren't very twisty - or turny for that matter.....and when Harry Redknapp was stopped on is way out of the Spurs training ground on his way home, he was really going home, Kaka would have to wait until January.
The big failing of any of Sky's reporters was to ask the most important question of all "Why leave it so late??"

My own highlights of the evening were;

SWP having a microphone stuck into his face literally seconds after joining QPR and then having to hastily come up with a reason he was so pleased to be coming to the club (when obviously the real reason he came was because his old club didn't want him!)

Tom Huddlestone & Danny Rose @ Spurs using Twitter to add their own spin on their clubs transfer dealings - cue the start of the Kaka to Tottenham rumours that a Sky Sports reporter would later stoke up again during the evening.

Aresnal on the red side of London turning the air blue was a low point, but one cheeky fan almost made up for it with a timely response to Arteta being referred to as being a father figure by quipping "Yeah like my Dad!"

Stoke fans reaction to just about anything, even the arrival of Wilson Palacious!

Anyway that's my take on the window, how about yours? Leave us a comment below or let me know on the page as always we welcome your views..........

Monday, 22 August 2011

Scout and about - Ross Barkley

With this new season, we bring a new feature to our blog. Every week one of our scouts will be complying their dossier of one of footballs up and coming talents from all the divisions. They'll be travelling up and down the country using their encyclopedic footballing knowledge and contacts in the beautiful game to keep us up to date on all the latest players that you should be keeping your eye out for.
First up, we visit Goodison Park and a young scouser making an impressive first team debut. Sound familiar? No not Rooney this time, Ross Barkley - the seventeen year old Midfielder who would have made his debut at the same age as Rooney if it wasn't for a double leg break he suffered playing for England U19s. But one year later and he has already been compared to Steve Gerrard and of having the same impact that Rooney had in his first game back in 2002.

Starting out in his career Ross played in a more advanced striker's role and once scored a hat-trick for his school team in a final that saw him named Man of The Match with the award presented to him by Rafa Benitez. By this time he'd already signed with Everton and would go on to play for England U16s at the age of fourteen, before going on the captain the side.
The Stevie G comparisons come from his ability to arrive late in the box to latch onto the ball much like the Liverpool captain.
Coming back from his injury Ross featured predominately in Everton's pre-season friendlies and David Moyes had no hesitation throwing him into first team football.

Although on the losing side against QPR this weekend he was named Man of The Match (again) with his confident, intelligent play, having more shots on target than the rest of his more experienced teammates.
His fellow pros have also been quick to heap praise on the youngster, with Tim Cahill quoted as saying that "He is going to be a massive asset to Everton" as well as adding that "I have been lucky enough to have played with some great players in my career but I do not think I have ever seen a talent like Ross"
With Everton's recent financial problems now out in the open, Barkley could be saving David Moyes a pretty penny for years to come.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Britain, Britain, Britain.....

Tonight sees last season's Champions League surprise package Tottenham Hotspur start out on their Europa League campaign and of all the names pulled out of the hat for Spurs' two-legged qualifying tie it was Heart of Midlothian (to give them their full title) from The Premier League North of the Border that the North Londoners will face.

Arguably tie of the round for the simple reason - it pits England against Scotland, albeit in club form. The footballing rivalry between both countries goes back nearly as far as the day the builder's put their estimate in on Hadrian's Wall and after the usually "eventful" Home Internationals are now a thing of the past it gives both fans and players alike the chance to claim bragging rights across the North/South divide.
With Scotland's Premier League much maligned it's a chance for Hearts to get all William Wallace and show those weak lager drinking southern softies a thing or two about football in a country where men are so tough they wear skirts in broad daylight and no one dares laugh at them or call them a sissy.
While Spurs in the English corner (who aren't too shy about boasting that they invented the game) have the opportunity to remind their 'noisy neighbours' that although the divide isn't that great success wise their country are still higher in the FIFA rankings and the league they play in is often billed as the best in the world.
But although this hasn't been billed by many as a true 'Battle of Britain' it still offers a tantalising prospect and has some living up to do to compete with North V South meetings of the past.

Nowadays Anglo/Scottish clashes are limited (competitively) to European football, but back in 1870 with the FA as the only footballing governing body Queens Park from Glasgow entered the FA Cup, losing in the final twice to English opposition. Queen's Park also hold the honour of fielding the entire team for Scotland's first official international meeting with England, the country even went on to adopt the same colour strip that was worn that day by the clubs players.

With the advent of European competition, the rivalry to be the best of Britain increased as did the chances of clubs from both countries meeting.
On the way to becoming the first British team to lift a European Trophy in '62 Tottenham met Rangers, Jimmy Greaves was the star over both legs, scoring direct from a corner at White Hart Lane and contributing a dazzling individual goal beating three defenders before slotting past the 'keeper in front of 80,000 at Ibrox in the return.
Celtic would be the first British team to win the big prize and became European Cup winners in 1967, in this era of dominance they made it to the semi-final stage three years in a row, albeit in the Cup Winner's Cup in '66. Liverpool were the opponents and with both teams winning their home legs, Liverpool went through 2-1 on aggregate. The year after their triumph in Lisbon, Celtic met English opposition again in the Semi, this time the Champions of England Leeds Utd. A crowd of 130,000 saw the second leg at Hampden which the Hoops won after an early scare from Billy Bremner.

Probably the best remembered Anglo-Scottish clash of recent times was the 'Battle of Britain' of 1992/93.
Leeds Utd were champions in England a year before the start of the Premier League, while Rangers had won their respective Scottish League. This was also the first season of the newly revamped and renamed Champions League so there was much hype surrounding it.
Great Scott Gary McAllister put Leeds ahead, but in goal John Lukic dropped an almighty clanger by punching the ball into his own net (or fisting as Brian Moore puts it) from a corner to make it even at Ibrox before future Rangers Boss Ally McCoist made it two one to the Glasgow team.
Back at Elland Road it was McCoist again who wrapped things up after ex-England International Mark Hateley had scored a cracker from the edge of the area to put Rangers ahead on the night, Eric Cantona scored a consolation but it was too little too late in the end.

Recent history will favour Spurs tonight, although over the years if we were to judge these type of games as a series it's been a close run thing. Victories in the Eighties for Liverpool & Man Utd over Scottish opposition were followed by two meetings of Celtic & Liverpool that were closer run things, The Reds needed away goals in '97 - although to be fair one of those was a stunner from McManaman who scored after a mazy 70 yard run through defenders. The re-run in 2003 went in Celtic's favour after another draw at Parkhead John Hartson silenced The Kop to seal a two-nil win.

Since then it's been pretty much one way traffic for England, but with a hot Tynecastle reception on the cards for Tottenham can they carry on the recent traditions? Or will Hearts under new management yet again put all their upheavels to one side and put one over the Fancy Dan's of North London.

I predict Spurs taking it back down South with scores level and then seeing Hearts off with a home win.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

One To Watch

Next up in our one to watch series is Chelsea's young Midfielder Josh McEachran.
Still only eighteen Josh is a rare thing @ Chelsea these days, a product of the youth set up. Joining the club aged only seven he has risen through the ranks to make a few brief cameo appearances for the Blues over the last couple of seasons.

McEachran idolised Zinedine Zidane growing up and has been likened by ex-Chelsea Assistant Manager Ray Wilkins to Irish legend Liam Brady with his deft passing and movement, he's vision and ability for defence spitting passes received praise from England Under 21 Manager Stuart Pearce and he has already represented his country at that level.

Preferring a more Central/Attacking Midfield position he has been used in the past by Carlo Ancelotti more defensively and started training with the first team aged just fifteen.
New Boss Andre Villas-Boas is a fan and Chelsea obviously see him as part of future plans after recently offering the youngster a new five year deal. While he is still maturing psychically he has a footballing brain and an ability to read the game which is beyond his years.

If Abramovich can keep his itchy finger off of the trigger for a few seasons allowing the players to work under a settled Manager with a little patience it won't be long before McEachran is a first team regular.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Midweeker V The Weekender

The predictions are in! It's a football things pundit's have given us their views on the season ahead! So who's gonna claim the bragging rights come May next year?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

That sinking feeling!

I predict a riot! With the start of the season only a few days away its all kicking off! The amount of money spent has reached upwards of  £269,075,000!

With all this dosh being spent by 'The Big Boys' The other teams located up and down the country have been looting other clubs for any freebees they can get their hands on! Stoke snapping up former England international Jonathan Woodgate from Spurs, Sunderland have taken Westwood, Larsson & David Vaughan without even spending a penny! The QPR management team have also been @ it! Walking out of Upton Park with Welshman Danny Gabbidon & Kieron Dyer under their arms! While Neil Warnock was photographed taking Jay Bothroyd  for a spin in his new bright pink Bugatti Veyron, next thing you know Bothroyd's pictured in the QPR team photo!

So who's in danger of heading South come the end of the season? The usual so called know it all pundit's are going for the likes of The new boys, QPR, Norwich & Swansea to head straight back down, but where's the fun in that hey? With so many clubs just keeping their toes out of administration there's bound to be a couple of surprises this season, So grab a cup of tea as we go through the four four two it's a football thing's guide to who's heading down!

After a great start to last season, It all went a bit pear shaped up in Newcastle, After working wonders Chris Hughton was sent packing. In came have a go-hero Alan Pardew and after a mixture of good & bad results Newcastle lived to fight another season. The sale of Andy Carroll didn't go down to well the start of the year, add that to the fact that the board then decided to sell their player of the year Kevin Nolan for next to nothing & now it looks like another piece of the Newcastle puzzle is about to be lost in the shape of Joey Barton. Newcastle fans deserve better, they have a fantastic fan-base and have followed the team through thick 'n' thin! Although they have added a few 'Squad players' to their ranks, Alan Pardew's team look like they are heading back into The Championship after a short fling back in the big time. The best thing Ashley can do, apart from selling the club of course, is bring in some proven quality players. The likes of Defoe, Keane, Parker, Bridge, SWP have all been mentioned as possible targets but none of them have signed on the dotted line! It's the only way Newcastle are gonna beat the drop come May.

Aston Villa are another team that i feel will be around the bottom of the league come the end of the season. After getting rid of Gérard Houllier Villa fans were hoping for a big name, Not the chap that got their local rivals relegated! Alex McLeish managed to get Birmingham relegated twice from the top tier! Ok he won them the Carling Cup last season, which saw them beat the much fancied Arsenal side, but One game doesn't make a season! With their two wing men sold and their star right back returning to his parent club for the new season Villa are short on quality! Charles N'Zogbia is a cracking signing but he has a history of throwing his toys out the pram and one man can't keep the team up! Just ask Scott Parker!

Wolves left it late last season, after beating the likes of United, Chelsea, Man City & Liverpool many would be forgiven to think that they should of been miles away from danger! The problem with Mick McCarthy's team is that they can't string together a run of positive results! It's been that way for a few seasons now! The signing of Roger Johnson was a master stroke by Mick! A born leader and it wont be long before he leads out the 3 Lions @ Wembley! But the rest of the team is made up from players that are punching above their weight, Craddock, Hennessey, Hunt & Ebanks-Blake would be better suited in the Championship! I really fear for the Wolves this season! If they don't sign anymore players before the start of the season then they may as well just throw in the towel!

Everton need to sort out their cash flow problems sooner rather than later, on the brink of administration they could be faced with a massive point's Penalty! With the likes of Jagielka & Arteta being linked with moves away, Everton may have to sell to keep their head above water! It won't be down to poor results that will see The Toffees head down to the 2nd tier of The English league, it will be down to finances!

Add into the mix the likes of Wigan, Sunderland & Blackburn as well as the 3 that came up from The Championship it's gonna be an interesting battle @ the bottom!

One to Watch

One To Watch

In the third of our series of One's to Watch we have Swansea's Scott Sinclair

It may be his club's first season in the top flight since 1983 but winger Scott Sinclair will have had previous experience at a one time Premiership winning team under his belt.

There's always a surprise package of the teams coming up every year and this season it could be Swansea's turn, but a lot will be riding on the young Englishman's shoulders. Not many teams will fancy a trip to Wales on a murky night in December and The Swans will use that the their advantage.

Sinclair will start the season in a positive mood after his hat-trick @ Wembley helped secure the club victory against Reading in the Play-Off Finals. His tally of 27 goals in all competitions was no mean feat either especially for a winger and although he didn't feature much in England's ill fated U21 campaign in Denmark he was one of the bright spots when he was on the pitch.

Starting out at Bristol Rovers he moved to Chelsea in 2005 when The Special One was providing the magic touch at Stamford Bridge, it's a case of "what could have been" for Sinclair at The Pensioners.

Loaned out time and again by the West London club, Sinclair gained valuable experience helping Birmingham in their push for promotion from the Championship in 2009 as well as getting games for QPR, Charlton & Crystal Palace. The revolving door managerial policy of Roman Abramovich didn't help his cause and although he made a handful of first team appearances under various managers @ the Blues his last season at Chelsea was in fact spent on loan at Wigan.

After swapping Stamford Bridge for the Severn Bridge his first season in Wales saw him play roughly fifty games on Swansea's journey through the play-offs and on to the Premiership. That long, tough season will have stood him in good stead for what awaits him in the top flight with more of the same to be expected if The Swans are to stay up.

With the shoots of youth emerging through the ranks last season and the fresh arrival of young blood from the Continent adding to the mix this August, it looks like Chelsea are looking to replace some of their aging stars, the departure of Sinclair could be cause for regret at the club and certainly @ only £750,000 would have saved Mr Abramovich a few rubles with the new financial restraints coming in from UEFA.

But he has shown his commitment to his team (the first Welsh side to play in the Premiership) and with a good start in the Premierhip vital, we can expect to see him terrorising defences from the word go.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Welcome to The North?

With the start of the new Premiership season less than a week away, we thought it would be best to sit around the 4-4-2 table with a pot of tea & some cornish scones & take a look @ who we feel will be making the headlines come May next year.


With a massive £252,725,000 spent already on players, The likes of United & City have strengthened wisely. With the pair going head to head with each other in the race to sign 'The Dutchman' Wesley Sneijder, there's gonna be a lot of talented players playing their trade up in Manchester this season.

In North London it's a different story for Spurs & Arsenal, with the pair of them struggling to keep hold of their prized assets. Cesc Fabregas will be a massive loss to Arsenal and many believe that the likes of Van Persie & Samir Nasri will also follow Cesc out of the door. With Gervinho the only Notable Signing made, it could be the first time in a while that Arsenal fail to make The Champions League spots!

@ White Hart Lane it's a similar story, With Modric being tipped to move before the end of the window, the likes of Bale, Defoe & Sandro have also voiced concerns over the lack of money available for Harry to strengthen the team ahead of the new season.

Liverpool have been busy bringing back the British core to their team, Adams, Henderson & Downing all being added to the squad over the summer. It remains to be seen if they have enough quality to get back into Europe next season.

Chelsea meanwhile have gone about their business unsettling players like usual in trying to regain the tag of the biggest spenders! Talk of Kaka being the last piece of the jigsaw. With the new manager under pressure even before the first balls been kicked, it will be interesting to see how Chelsea and Torres cope this time around.

So who's gonna finish top?

Although The Midweeker would like QPR to finish top as he has stuck a pony on them! Realistically only 3 teams have a chance of lifting the title come May. With United, City & Chelsea being the most likely to do it! Out of the 3 Chelsea still look a fair bit short of the pace. With aging players, no real leadership, lack of discipline & spiraling costs Abramovich's pet project might not get the full attention needed.

A shift in the waters looks possible, but not the in the way many fans would of liked. The likes of Arsenal, Spurs & Liverpool are miles behind the big 3, in spending terms, in quality terms and in footballing terms. This gap will only get bigger & bigger over the next few years. With none of them being able to match wages or transfer prices that the big 3 can. Spurs for example had a fantastic chance last season of cementing their place in the top 4, but without being able to offer mega bucks the players in question went elsewhere. Arsenal looked like title contenders @ the start of the season...... they were lucky to finish 4th in the end! Liverpool have brought too many mediocre players over the last few years and disposing of them is proving tricky. Another season without a trophy while watching United win another could prove a step to far for some of their loyal fans.

So with each member of the team undecided who will finish top next season, all we can say is that it will be between United, City or if The Midweeker is lucky QPR.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

One to Watch

One to Watch

The second in our series of ones to watch next season in The Premiership is young Scottish midfielder Barry Bannon of Aston Villa.

With all the managerial controversy surrounding the club supporters haven't had much to smile about,  but one thing they have had to look forward to is the fresh crop of young talent emerging and any knowledgeable Villa fan has Bannon earmarked as a player with great potential.

While all eyes were on young Marc Albrighton @ Villa Park last season the young Scot slipped by almost unnoticed
Turning down a chance at boyhood team Celtic's Youth Academy Bannon instead opted for a trial at Villa. After impressing in a youth tournament he signed a two year contract with the club and was part of the successful Youth & Reserve teams where his talent shone through as one for the future.

He eventually made his first team debut in 2009 during Villa's UEFA Cup campaign and as with the majority of young players he served his apprenticeship in the lower Leagues before making his first team debut.

Although small in stature his intelligent play, movement and passing has brought praise from managers and teammates alike. Still only twenty-one this central midfielder who can also play on the wing has already been compared to that of  the now retired Paul Scholes and Barca's Xavi or Iniesta.

With a new season, new manager and some top players leaving Villa this August it could be Bannon's season to shine and just don't so I didn't tell you so when Sir Alex comes knocking!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Coming Up? - Lower League Preview

Coming Up - A Lower League Preview

Welcome along to our soon to be regular lower league feature, we've realised here @ 442 that we have a lot of fans following the lower leagues and while the main spotlight is on the Premiership the "Big Four" (or five?) with their "loadsamoney look at my wad" mentality have started to make each season a fairly predictable scenario.
A dip into the lower leagues will show some quality young players, goals and action that some people may be missing out on. The Premiership teams have always been sniffing around the lower Leagues looking to unearth a gem, Connor Wickham - snapped up by Sunderland was wanted by a host of clubs in the top tier before signing on the dotted line for Steve Bruce and Arsenal's pursuit of Oxlade-Chamberlain is well documented, the lower leagues are also used by the "Big Boys" to blood their own youngsters and get vital first team experience in a tough physical league.
It's not just just the players either with a fresh crop of young and more importantly (to me anyway) English managers starting out on their careers in the lower divisions,  when meanwhile on the top table you'd be hard pushed to find an Englishman.

The Championship

The hardest to get out of and the one offering the biggest prize, teams that have been relegated the season before will be looking to bounce straight back up, getting in some experienced players up for a dogfight or two and trying desperately to hold onto the stars they have.
West Ham will be early favourites to come back up and with Big Sam in charge they have arguably not only one of the most experienced managers for getting the best of out his players but in Kevin Nolan one of the signings of the season (in any division)
Elsewhere, a Thai revolution is taking over at Leicester City and some of the Premiership-style fortune has fluttered it's way down a league into Sven Goran Eriksson's pockets, who's been snapping up new players like a fat kid in a sweet shop. Whether those players can gel and also whether Sven can stay there long enough are two factors to be looked at though.
Elsewhere in the league there's the return of another England manager to club management "the wally with the brolly" (he must be sick of that!) Steve McClaren who's been practising his Nottingham accent, Chris Hughton (probably one of the nicest blokes in football) taking charge at Birmingham who have the odds staked against them financially but could still come straight back up, Ollie @ Blackpool no doubt still adopting a cavalier approach to the game and a wicked sound bite in a press conference and amongst overs Brighton - under Gus Poyet playing the sort of sexy football his one time boss Ruud Gullitt would be proud of.

Predictions: Champions - West Ham; Promoted - Leicester City & Notts Forest

League One

Moving on down to League One doesn't necessarily mean a drop in quality and with two former Premiership clubs in the shape of The Blades of United & Owls of Wednesday renewing their local rivalry it's a great time to come from Sheffield.
Other clubs worth looking out for include Huddersfield Town who narrowly missed out on promotion last term under Lee Clark with the help of Kevin Keegan's former number two Terry McDermott, League Two's runaway Champions Chesterfield who were packing them in @ their new stadium last season will be a welcome addition, Brentford with one time Man City striker Uwe Rosler taking over a team that's on the rise who'll be hoping for more heroics from their highly rated 'keeper Richard Lee, the MK Dons who's set up may not be everyone's cup of tea (and a cheeky hob nob) but young English manager Karl Robinson could be one to watch for the future and on a personal note two local teams we here @ 442 who will be looking out for Leyton Orient and Stevenage.

Predictions: Champions - Huddersfield Town; Promoted - Sheffield Wednesday & Leyton Orient

League Two

In League Two teams have the added threat of relegation out of the Football League entirely (and possibly in some cases, existence) to contend with as well as trying climb up and out at the top.
This season the two teams which came up will be on every lower league watchers radar, Crawley Town who after last seasons FA Cup exploits are one of the favourites to continue their ascent, while another chapter in the fairytale that is AFC Wimbledon will be written as the club aim to build on the hard work that has been put in by players and fans alike after the demise of the parent club from Plough Lane.
Other teams of note will include Swindon Town where former West Ham, Sheffield Wednesday & Celtic cult hero was a surprise appointment earlier this year, whether he'll be a success or not is anyone's guess but it's sure to be entertaining, Shrewsbury Town you have a great record of making the play-offs - can they go that extra step this season? And over @ Crewe Dario Gradi (who with 24 years in residence was the longest serving manager in English football) is well respected for finding and coaching young players that have gone on to bigger things including Neil Lennon, Danny Murphy & David Platt so his team could be one to watch for you the talent spotters out there.

Predictions: Champions - Crawley Town; Promoted - Torquay United, Accrington Stanley & Shrewsbury Town

So, that's my little bite-sized nugget of a preview, any lower league fans out there feel free to drop us a line or comment. It's going to be a regular feature so look out for the next installment.