Monday, 28 February 2011

Top 5 golden oldies!

I wonder what the talk of the office was this morning? Rooney's elbow? Ashley Cole playing with guns (as you do)....It was of course Birmingham's League Cup victory over The Gunners. It was a game full of passion, pride and a final that neither team gave an inch. A Classic cup final.

But for one Birmingham player in particular it must of been even sweeter! Captain Steve Carr. SC first won this trophy back in 1999 with Spurs, After what seemed a life time with his boyhood team, Carr moved North to Newcastle for £2 million. After a few season with the Magpies and @ the age of 32 Carr decided to call time on his modest career. In the february of the following year Carr had the chance to link up with the Birmingham team on a one month contract. During this time Carr put in the kind of performances that got him noticed back in his Spurs days and was given the chance to stay @ the Blues until the end of the season. The rest is history as they say. Birmingham got promoted, Carr was given a 2 year contract and made Captain. Fast forward to yesterday and Carr @ the age of 34 got to lead out his team for a final @ Wembley.
 Which the Blues went on to cause a major cup upset and beat the gooners 2-1! 

This got us thinking! We stuck the kettle on and had a debate about who would make the top 5 modern day golden oldies in british football? Players that had been cast aside, past their prime according to certain managers, critics & in some cases even themselves!

5. Straight in @ number 5 is Steven Carr. One of the greatest right-backs the premier league has ever seen. long may his career continue. 

4. Leading on and @ number 4 is an inclusion for Dean Windass. A local boy done well, played for more than a handful of clubs including Aberdeen, Bradford, Middlesbrough & Oxford. In 2007 & @ the age of 38 Windass returned to Hull. In the May of the following year, Windass scored his 201st Goal in English football against Bristol City during that seasons playoff final. Giving a Hull a 1-0 win and their first ever taste of top flight football, also giving Windass Legendary status amongst Hull City fans. 

3. In @ number three, is 'Physco'....... Stuart Pearce. A forest legend spending over 12 years with the club. Pearce took over as Caretaker manager of Forest in the later part of 96. By March 97 Pearce was relieved of his duties, by the summer of that year Pearce moved to Newcastle and after a few seasons with the Magpies Pearce moved to West Ham, During one memorable game for the Hammers,  Pearce broke his leg half way through the first half, but he still continued playing, only coming off after the medical staff would not allow him to return to the pitch for the start of the second half. In 2001 Pearce signed for Manchester City. The hard tackling no nonsense defender carried on playing at the highest level past the age of 39. 

2. In @ number 2. Gary McAllister, Signed for Liverpool on a free in the summer of 2000. @ the age of 35 and with what many thought his best years long behind him, McAllisters arrival @ Anfield didn't go down well @ first with the fans. Had Houllier lost his mind? With the likes of Gerrard, Barmby & Hamann already @ the club, would McAllister even make the bench? Well that season Liverpool went on to win The F.A Cup, League Cup & UEFA Cup. McAllister was described by the fans & his manager as inspirational signing. McAllister's performances during the F.A cup & UEFA cup finals are what most fans will remember him for. Coming on during the F.A cup final, its been documented that his  determination and creativity turned the tie in favor of the Merseysiders. McAllister was given a starting roll in the UEFA Cup final, and played a blinder, as well as scoring he also had a hand in 3 of the 5 goals Liverpool scored in that famous 5-4 win. 

That leads us on to our number 1 golden Oldie! We could have done a top 20, as players such as Ray Wilkins, Strachan, McGrath, Mabbutt & Gary Speed all played on until they needed a zimmer frame! In fairness & in some cases some played on with the zimmer frame! 

In @ number 1. Oh Teddy, Teddy, Teddy, Teddy, Teddy, Teddy Sheringham. After winning the lot @ United, and @ the age of 35 Sheringham found himself surplus to requirements with the red devils. A fans favorite @ the lane, Teddy returned to Spurs just in time for the start of the 2001 season. He was made Captain on his return, and spent the next 2 years playing for the north London team, Also appearing @ the 2002 world cup finals for England. Spurs decided against offering Teddy a contract extension and Harry signed him up for Pompey. *Sheringham holds the record as the oldest Premier League Player to score a hat-trick. After a single season with Pompey he was on the move again. This time back to London with West Ham. The Hammers found themselves in the Championship and wanted to get back to the big time sooner rather than later! Sheringham played a vital part in helping the Hammers back into the top flight. Scoring 20 goals that season and becoming the Championships player of the season. Back in the big time and @ the age of 40 Sheringham re-rote history becoming the oldest outfield player to play in the Premiership aged 40 years & 270 days. In the summer of 2007 Teddy left the Hammers & joined Colchester United for which would be the last club this footballing great would represent. 

A Legend to so many!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

We're on our way to Wembley.....

So after today's dramatic Carling Cup Final which saw Birmingham City book their place in Europe we thought we'd take a breather and look back at some of the great games played at the national stadium.
So to follow then are my top five games, that I've witnessed (be it live on the TV or by actually being there) at Wembley Stadium the home of English football.
My first game at Wembley was back in 1982! England against Holland and I think England won two nil, it was the last game for them before the Spain World Cup and too be honest I can't remember much more about it! Although I do know that I couldn't see a lot.......but anyway we're starting with those same two teams.

Number 5 - England 4  Holland 1 Euro 1996

Now some people will say that I should have picked England v Scotland, which is true it was a great game for an England supporter with Gazza's goal long remembered. But I remember this game with more of a sense of anticipation, not that I thought we would easily beat Scotland but because Holland were one of the great footballing sides and there was a bit of edge after they had put us out of World Cup qualifying under Graham Taylor. We'd started Euro '96 shakily with Shearer having not scored in the 12 games prior netting against Switzerland, but that opening game felt something of an anti climax once they had equalised. We were on a high following the game against the Auld Enemy but still knew that the Dutch would be a tough match. It's the third goal of course that did it for me, good build up play with Gazza, Shearer & Sheringham all linking up well. I feel after this result we did really start to believe that Football was coming home.

Number 4 - Manchester Utd 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 2 1983

The script for this one would be rewritten and used a few years later as Manchester United took on Crystal Palace, but more of that later. Brighton had already been relegated from the First Division and were poised to be the only team to be relegated & win the FA Cup in the same season if they were victorious, Manchester Utd had on the other hand finished third and were strong favourites. Steve Foster (pictured) was missing for the final and many thought his presence in the heart of Brighton's defence would spell disaster for the south coast club. But against the odds they took the lead early on and were still leading into the second half until Frank Stapleton equalised. Again two teams looked the equal of each other in a final and even though they then went down two one to a curling Ray Wilkins effort they came back again to take the game to a replay. In fact in the dying minutes they could have won the game with Gordon Smith through on Man U 'keeper Gary Bailey only for the Scot to lose his composure and let the chance slip by. The replay with Foster back in the Brighton side was a comprehensive four nil win for Manchester United, but for a moment the Mighty Manchester team were rocked.

Number 3 - Tottenham Hotspur 2  Notts Forest 1 FA Cup 1991

We're well into FA Cup Final territory now and our next entry takes us to the beginning of the Nineties and for me the last of the great FA Cup Finals. For me many of the recent finals have been one sided predictable affairs with only the one goal settling it, I want goals, drama & the occasional upset in my FA Cup finals. Well this one definitely had the drama, could Forest manager Brian Clough win the one trophy that that alluded him his entire career or would Spurs FA Cup veterans, win again for a then record eighth time? Since his tears in Turin at Italia '90 Gazza had become a footballing superstar and he arguably got Tottenham to the final single handedly. Following on from his wondrous free kick in the first ever FA Cup Semi Final to be played in front of the twin towers he was certainly up for the final. But as we all know now he was just too psyched up and a reckless challenge early in the game on Gary Charles saw him stretchered off injured, many would say that this saved the ref his job of getting the red card out instead. So as half time came any Spurs fan would be thinking, what else can go wrong? Your star player is off the pitch injured, you're one nil down as a result, you've had a goal disallowed for off side and to make matters worse you've seen only the second penalty to be saved in an FA cup final as the usually cool as a courgette Gary Lineker had missed the chance to draw the teams level.
But fate and maybe a bit of karma were on hand that day, as following an equaliser from Paul Stewart which took the game into extra time, Gary Mabbutt came up for a corner, his last appearance in a final saw him score a freakish own goal and his presence behind Des Walker saw the Forest defender head the ball into his teammate Mark Crossley's net giving Spurs the victory.

Number 2 - Manchester United  Crystal Palace FA Cup Final 1990
More drama and stories now, going back the year previous, 1990.Crystal Palace had performed miracles in the Semi Final knocking out Liverpool to set up a clash with Manchester Utd. It would be Palace's first final while United were looking for their seventh win.I think as a neutral when it comes to these sort of games, you pick your side and cheer them on and nine times out of ten we'll go for the underdog. Palace weren't given a hope, their main man Ian Wright had just come back from a broken leg and would start on the bench. But as is the way for these things the Londoners showed grit and determination,they were too physical for Manchester United and went a goal up. But with the scores reversed by United leading two one it looked like Palace were dead and buried. Roy of the Rovers stuff was to follow as Wright came off the bench and scored with his first touch with twenty minutes to go, having got the equaliser that took the game to extra time he scored again to put his team ahead. It wasn't enough of course as Mark Hughes scored his second of the game to take it to a replay which United eventually won by one goal to nil, but for a while it was heart in the mouth stuff.

Number 1 - Coventry  Tottenham Hotspur FA Cup Final 1987

So at number one I've gone for a great underdog story, Coventry City versus Tottenham Hotspur. Maybe not David v Goliath territory but still up there at least with some of the better giant slayings. Spurs had had a great season, David Pleat before his rather hasty exit as manager following some "car trouble" had got the best out of Tottenham's skillful players, packing a five man midfield that supplied the ammunition for Clive Allen who had scored for fun and eventually broke the Spurs goal tally record that season as they finished third in the League. Coventry on the other hand didn't have the flair so much or the big name players, although they did boast Cyrille Regis amongst their ranks. Spurs were expected to walk it, well things don't always go to plan as this season's Carling Cup shows. Coventry went for Spurs from the off and the game was an unrelenting spectacle, proper end to end stuff. Spurs lead at half time and there had been three goals already, more was to follow of course with Keith Houchen's flying, diving header taking the game into extra time. It was one of those games you didn't want to end but thanks to a desperate attempt at a block from Gary Mabbutt resulting in the Spurs skipper putting through his own net, Coventry finally land the knock out blow that saw them lift the trophy.

So there we are my top five, you won't agree of course but that's what it's all about! I could have come up with many more but we like these little bite sized nuggets for you to savour.
Let me know your views below.......

Friday, 25 February 2011

He has reflexes like a 'cat'

It's that Friday feeling, the weekend is upon us, a cheeky cup of tea sits waiting to be drunk. 

Today we count down our top five premier league goalkeepers of all time.

5. Lets get the ball rolling. This man has had more hair styles than hot dinners, Played over 500 games in the top flight of English football, has kept goal for teams such as Liverpool, Villa, City, The Hammers & more recently Pompey. He has had some fantastic match winning moments through out his career and the odd heart in mouth moments too. The odd miss-kick here and there, and the odd flapping @ crosses in his early days, couldn't stop him becoming a cult hero for the teams he played for. This man has kept more clean sheets in the top flight than any other keeper. Made the hard look easy and the easy hard. Under Harry he managed to gain the consistency needed to be a top drawer keeper. Capped by his Country over 50 times.
@ number 5 is David James

4. This young man first caught the eye of the watching world back in 2001 - 2002 when he kept goal for his former team Sparta Prague. Sparta went over 928 minutes unbeaten in all competitions with him between the sticks. After a short stint with Rennes, he caught the eye of then Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri. After a quick chat between the pair aboard a massive boat, It was agreed that Chelsea would need to part with £7 million to get their man. He currently holds the record for being the quickest keeper to reach 100 clean sheets, it took him only 180 games to do so. 
@ number 4 is Petr Cech.

3.USA! USA! USA! Are the chants that ring round Villa Park. Things didn't go to plan when this keeper first arrived on our shores. In 97 Liverpool paid £1.7 to sign the big man, work permit issues delayed his debut until Feb 98. Things went from bad to worse after that, he was unable to hold down a starting place, and in 3 years with the club managed just over 30 odd games. In 2000 and on a free he moved to Blackburn to act as cover for their number one. In a short space of time he made the number one jersey his own. A man of the match performance against Spurs in the Carling Cup final of 2002, made him a life long hero to the fans of Blackburn. Gordon Strachan once liken him to Superman. In 2004 he scored his first and only goal of his career. Played over 300 games for Blackburn before he moved to Villa in 2008. Since then he has played for the Villains over 100 times, leading them back up the table and into europe. 
@ number 3 is Brad Friedel. 

2. A cult hero for his former club Newcastle United, (who would have thought this back in 1996? while playing for Blackburn Rovers the young keeper was loaned out to Sunderland.) Kenny Dalglish was the Blackburn manger during this time, and took a keen interest in the development of this young Irish keeper. In 97 King Kenny left Blackburn @ took over the Hot seat @ Newcastle, one of the first things he did was sign his former keeper for a fee of £1.5 million. He went on to make over 450 appearances for the Toon Army during a 12 year stint with the club. On Feb 1st 2009 He left Newcastle for the riches of Manchester. City paid just under £6 million for the players services. 
@ number 2 in our list is Shay Given. 

That brings us to our number 1 in the list, We have been blessed with some great goalkeepers playing their trade over here. The likes of Seaman, Van der Sar, Jaaskelainen & Barthez to name a few, but they couldn't even make it in the top five! 

In @ number 1 & our all time favorite premier league goalkeeper is the man who liked to wear XXXL goalkeeping shirts, and liked to score the odd goal here and there. Its of course Peter Schmeichel. Known for standing tall, Schmeichel won medal after medal @ Old Trafford during a nine year stint. He made goal keeping look easy..... mind you he could have done with one of them snoods, he always had a red nose!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

One cap wonders.

We can all be heroes, even just for one day. 
Spare a thought for England's One cap wonders. Some great players over the years have had the chance to pull on the famous 3 lions jersey. Players such as Danny Mills, Carlton Cole, Zat Knight, David Hirst, Michael Gray & Wes Brown have had the chance to win more than the odd cap. But which players only managed to gain a single cap? We're gonna count down our top five favorite One Cap wonders! 

5. Lets get the ball rolling, In @ Number 5. We need you to cast your mind back to 2003, England had been crying out for the next 'Fox in the Box'. A young lad by the name of Francis Jeffers had been talked of as becoming 'the next big thing! A big money move to Arsenal, followed by a slightly delayed call up to the England squad. This young gun had the future @ his feet. A nothing friendly game against the wizard of O'z what could go wrong? Well England lost 3-1. It was a shambles but the one light from the game was  young Jeffers. Had he done enough to feature in future internationals? In a word No. Things went from bad to worse for the lad after that. Following spells @ Rangers, Blackburn, Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle, *Newcastle Jets that is. Jeffers is now playing for Motherwell. @ the age of 30 he still could add to his one cap, stranger things have happened, just ask Heskey.

4. This ones for the old guards, Now there was a time not so long ago, where you could only make the odd substitution. Players were made of harder stuff! During the 60's & 70's England were blest with goalkeeping talent. This may explain why our next entry only played once for his country. In @ number 4 is Manchester United Legend Alex Stepney. Stepney can count a League title, a European title and One England cap as his achievements. Ironically two of these achievements took place in the same week, A first England cap followed by a European title, Its a funny old game. 

3. In third place. He was best known for being one half of the famous SAS during Blackburn Rovers title winning season in the 90's. Fantastic header of the ball and great feet, scoring over 150 career goals. 
Step forward Chris Sutton. A fall out with then England manager Glenn Hoddle didn't help his cause. 

2. A legend for his club, playing over 800 times for his boy-hood team. The Footballers Writers Association Footballer of the Year in 1982,  A collection of winners medals including the F.A Cup, League Cup & The UEFA Cup. The player in question had to wait until he was in his 30's and the 70th minute of England's game against Iceland In 1982 to make his International debut. Only just kept off of the top spot, in @ number 2 is Steve Perryman. 

So who could be number one in this count down? Remember we are looking @ the best top 5 one cap wonders, so straight away that rules out the likes of Michael Ricketts, Seth Jonhson, David Unsworth & Neil Ruddock. 

1. A Legend of our  Game. A one club man, A title winner in 51, He was part of the Durham Light Infantry during the second world war, training up the new recruits. It was during this time he learnt the man management skills he would need later on in life, He was the first manager to lead his team to the 'double' back in 61, the first manager to lead a British club to glory in Europe. @ number 1 on our list is Bill Nicholson. 1 cap 1 goal.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

How did he get a game for England?

Ever been left scratching your head? Wondering why & how a certain player has managed to sneak his way into the England side? Well we have and over the years there has been a fair few who we feel should never have been given that right!

We count down our top 5 worst England players!

5. In @ number five, Is Keith Curle.
Who? I may hear a few of you shout. This one time Manchester City defender managed to fool then England manager Graham Taylor to hand him over 3 caps. Then again Graham Taylor was never the brightest of sparks!

4. David White another City player, and another player to feature during G.T's tender as England Manager.  Got his big chance against Spain.... got his last chance against Spain.

3. Goalkeeper Richard Wright. Caught the eye @ Ipswich, Went to Arsenal for a lot of money, talked of as becoming the next David Seaman. Played for England Twice, didn't manage that many more games for Arsenal.

2. Just kept off of the top spot is Carlton Palmer. Famous for being berated by Mr Taylor for his inability to 'knock it'

Hold on there's a theme going on here... and it involves Graham Taylor. No wonder why he is voted the worst England Manager ever! Palmer made the beautiful game look ugly, his long legs, lack of control, and just lack of skill. He mugged some other poor sod out of 18 Caps! But hey @ least we know there's hope for all of us when it comes to playing for our country! If palmer can then we can!

1. In @ number one. Yet again another player to feature under that popular manager Graham Taylor. There could only be one winner. Scored the first ever goal in the Premier League. played over 200 games in the premier league, played for good club teams such as Leeds United, West Ham & Sheffield United.... Who can it be........ Brian Deane! 3 caps no goals!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Pie & Mash and a top four finish?

Monday nights snap shot:

As the kettle boils for the last time today & the season enters the final few months, the league has started to open up. 6 teams are looking @ fitting into the top 4 while @ the other end, any team up to 11th can count themselves in trouble.

In recent weeks the likes of City & Chelsea have had a bit of a wobble, Even Torres can't believe that he hasn't won yet in a Chelsea Shirt! Liverpool are still dropping points, but since the return of the Icon (King Kenny) they still have plenty to play for this season.

Harry is still producing mouth watering quotes, the latest regarding a Mr Beckham and a pie & mash shop in The Abbey. Will Spurs finish the season in the top four, or will it end up like a plate full of cold mushy peas, left forgotten on the side, like so many of Spurs seasons during the 90's & early 2000's?

The Gooners are going strong, Van the man has hit form, and for once Arsenal look like they may have found the answer to solve their goal keeping problems. With the first bit of silverware up for grabs next week will it be a happy day for the red side of North London or for the Blue side of the Midlands??

Under Sir Alex United just keep getting stronger & stronger, Rooney has hit form @ just the right time. As the championship already been won? Will Sir Alex add another medal to the oversized trophy room @ his home? rumor has it that his trophy room is bigger than the rest of the house put together.

So i leave you with this thought....... Is it all about 2nd place for the rest?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Your having a laugh ref!

The it's a football things top 5 quotes from managers, when they feel the ref has had a shocker! 

5. You either love him or hate him, Neil Warnock has provided us with some classic moments in the past, @ number 5 in our list is the goal that never was! Step forward Ref Rob Shoebridge 

"We can put a man on the moon, time serves of 100 miles per hour at Wimbledon, yet we cannot place a couple of sensors in a net to show when a goal has been scored. I feel sorry for the referee because he didn't get any help. But how can I mark him after the game when he spoils a match with a mistake of that importance?"
The match in question Bristol City V Crystal Palace 15/08/2009

4. In @ number 4 is one of the greatest mangers of all time, step forward Sir Alex Ferguson! Sir Alex had a bit too much to say about Ref Alan Wiley 

"The pace of the game demanded a referee who was fit. It is an indictment of our game. You see referees abroad who are as fit as butcher’s dogs. We have some who are fit. He wasn’t fit. He was taking 30 seconds to book a player. He was needing a rest. It was ridiculous."

3. Harry's rant @ Clattenburg after the ref got in a right old muddle over a free-kick which ended up with United increasing their lead! 

"It was laughable and he knows it himself.
"Clattenburg is responsible for one of the worst refereeing decisions ever. He's had a nightmare.
"I know he has told people he should have blown his whistle and given a free kick against Nani for handball. Even now I can't get my head around it.

"I wonder whether Clattenburg would have blown if a Spurs player had done what Nani did at Old Trafford? There's no doubt he has made a right cock-up.
"One thing you can be certain of is that the referees will stick together on this. But it's not right. They know a real mess was made of the situation."
2. In @ Number 2 is Arsene Wenger, After some debatable decisions during his sides Champions League tie @ Porto, ref Martin Hansson get an earful. Wenger decided to have a pop @ Uefa too! 
“I believe that he is incompetent or dishonest,” 
“I prefer to believe that he is incompetent
“A lot of things have to be clarified at Uefa,” Wenger said. “First, how they nominate referees for games. They need to be more open how they rate the referees. No one knows how and why they name them. Where is the ranking of referees? Too much has gone on in the history of refereeing in Europe in the past 30 years [that] is not very good for football. A lot of things have to be done.”
1. A character on and off the field, in @ number 1 is Jose Mourinho's rant towards Mike Riley  during a sunny sunday afternoon F.A cup match V Spurs. Now it's not the longest of rants but it cut's straight to the bone.
'filho da puta' (son of a whore)
"I didn't want to be offensive, but this is a word I use to criticise. I say these kind of words every day."
Some of the above may be deserved, but god you have to be thick skinned to be a ref!

Friday, 18 February 2011

When Pundits Played....

Since the sacking of Andy Gray whether right or wrong much has been said of the humble football pundit. Who would/should replace him? Was he any good in the first place? Do we need pundits in football anyway?
   Well love them or hate them they are here to stay and have been part of the televised game since the sixties. Either in the studio or up on a windy gantry ex-pros and managers have been putting in their two penny worth in since Jack Wilshire was in short trousers.
The question that usually comes up is "What do they know about football" so in this blog I've tried to answer that very same question about a few of them.

At the good old Beeb, possibly bearing in mind that we, the Great British public pay their wages have always, well, tried not to upset anyone. Most pundits you see on MOTD these days have an opinion, but, it's just it's nearly always the same one! Alan Hansen was a breath of fresh air when he first came aboard, insightful, knowledgeable and he didn't mind telling it like it is, maybe got a little big for his boots at times but arguably the best they have. With the addition of Mark Lawrenson there was a danger of it falling into an old pals act, but a bit of banter (provided it's on camera and everyone knows it's being recorded) never hurt anyone. Personally, the adage that says just because you were a good footballer or servant to the game doesn't make you any good as a pundit could be levelled at Alan Shearer, maybe it's the voice or apparent lack of personality but he just doesn't do it for me.
There used to be a chant "If Lee Dixon can play for England so can I" and it's interesting that at the BBC they have more defenders as pundits than any other position. So do defenders then have a better understanding of the game?
On honours alone, Hansen would come out top of all the channels with 8 League Titles, 2 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, 6 Charity Shields......oh and 3 European Cups.

It would appear that the BBC had first dibbs when it came to picking pundits, just like at school when the teams were being selected for a kick about in the playground, Aunty Beeb with Hansen, Lawro & Shearer stood behind them with a dismissive wave of the hand said "And you can have the rest".
But the independent channel were the first to show a live game, as far back as 1960, so you'd think they'd have this football broadcasting malarkey well and truly sorted by now. With the heady days of in studio guests such as Brian Clough and the like, as well as god forbid, Saint "n" Greavsey well and truly over. It's a shame that for all their slick presentation and graphics that they couldn't find pundits to match. Andy Townsend, yes he could play a bit and did for Norwich ,Chelsea & Rep of Ireland amongst others. But does he have the qualifications? I'm saying not and it's a shame that ITV can't find someone decent, someone with a bit of sparkle, wit, knowledge maybe? Who could lift their programmes to a higher than bland level. Where ITV come off a bit better is the "for hire" maverick pundits who will come on spout a bit of knowledge and then take their pay check. But in my opinion they need to sort their coverage and punditry out.

The not so distant cousin of ITV, ESPN have also had to play second fiddle to a bigger better noisier neighbour. If we ignore their gambit of thinking "Hey let's get a Scottish pundit in, it worked for Sky!" (step forward Craig Burley??) they have managed to get a nice mixture of pundits, picking up the scraps that were discarded by rivals they have Chris Waddle, Robbie Savage & Kevin Keegan. Going on honours Keegan would be the pick of the bunch, maybe not managerial wise though but you can't argue of his time at Liverpool, Hamburg, Southampton & Newcastle. Maybe too  soft spoken to a get a word in with the pros at Sky he seems quiet happy to meander along into retirement all misty eyed and nostalgic. Robbie Savage of course would be ESPN's Andy Gray figure, a by his own admission (check out his profile pic on Twitter) Marmite character, love him or hate him he does seem to me to have come into his own as a pundit and where as a player he was maybe not the greatest and maybe remembered for some unsavory acting in the League Cup Final against Tottenham, he has the character and self deprecating humour that is lacking elsewhere in punditum. The jury's still out for me on Waddle, he needs to relax a bit, he always was a laid back player, maybe with time he'll show off some silky linguistic skills in the commentary box as he once did footballing wise on the pitch.

The big boys, when they first started I'm sure I wasn't the only one to say "Andy Gray! What's he doing on there!" but little did we know then that he would become the pundit that all future pundits would be measured against. He had the experience as a player, the honours at Aston Villa, Wolves, Everton & Rangers a kind of "I'll have a bit of each please" selection of 2 League Cups, 1 FA Cup, a Cup Winners Cup and an English & Scottish League Title just for good measure. He became more than a pundit though, one half of a double act and an equal to the commentator. Gray also introduced the gadgets, the magic markers, tactic board, touch screen video replayer thingamajig and I guess with the money Sky had paid for the football they decided to squeeze every last little drop out of it!
Since Gray's departure Redknapp junior has been pushed more to the front and has started to become more respected in the studio from his fellow ex-pros who would often be seen giving him a withering glance whenever he opened his mouth.Maybe it's the family based adverts we see him on,the references to his Dad or the fact that the other half doesn't mind the football being on whenever his pretty boy features (so I've been told) are blazed across the screen, but is he anymore than a Sky Sports poster boy?
If anything the loss of their first choice pundit has allowed some of the bit part players take more of a centre stage now, with Souness and Hoddle both stepping into the breach when needs most. With Souness in particular for me, being a steadying level headed (maybe not so on the pitch if you've witnessed some of his tackles!) voice with the experience in the game to go with the straight talking opinions that matter when it counts.

So that's my little take on pundits, let us know your opinion as always comment below or on our page.
And as a bonus, he's not a pundit as such but almost falls into the category and I just wanted an excuse to show this again!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The ultimate eleven

We all have our own take on what makes a legend, be it internationally or for a Club.

Over the years we've been blessed with watching players such as George Best, Jimmy Greaves, Pele and of course Sir Booby Moore. You tube and archived footage have made it possible for the younger generation to appreciate the skills of past greats, With clips of Bank's world class save, the Cruyff turn, Beckenbauer's (Der Kaiser) tactical insights, Eusebio's performances during Portugal's 1966 World cup run. And not to forget Sir Geoff's Hat-trick against The Germans in the 66 final.

Over the last 20 years football has taken control of the T.V. Live games are now on almost every day of the week, from the Blue Square premier to the Champions League, there is always a game on to get your daily football fix. Football has become a way of life, Every season the player 'brand' grows.

But who in the modern game could be classed as a legend?

The word Legend gets branded about all to easy. Modern day players do one bit of magic and they get put in the same bracket as George Best.

Sky in one way can be blamed for this over hype of modern day players. for example the over use of replays and technology to slow down every bit of skill, tackle & goal and over elaborate on just how good it was. There's a reason that if you google some of the past greats you only see the best bits of skill, tackles, saves, goals. This is because week in week out they would do the impossible and no one would expect different, it was second nature, you had to do something really really special in order for it to be given the wow factor and to be worthy of a replay.

So followers what i want to know is which player over the past 10 years do you class as a Legend and Why?

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Culture & Football

There is a lot of talk @ the moment about how the English develop their kids through football. Each culture & country bring up their youth through football in different ways. The Dutch have total football, the Brazilians have their skillful samba style, The Germans are like a well oiled machine, Spain are the pass-masters. Yet people @ the F.A can't seem to work out why or what style we have. If we go back into the archives and to the 60's in particular when our club teams & National team were up there with the best. Sir Alf would play the 'English' way Solid @ the back, The central defender leading the team into battle, playing from the back out, skillful quick wingers and strikers that only needed a single sight of goal to punish the opposition the good old 4-4-2 formation.

Through the decades teams evolve, If we look @ club football in the UK, In the 60's Spurs & Burnley were the teams to beat, 70's & 80's you had Arsenal & Liverpool, 90's & 2000's It's been United & Chelsea.

The same can be said about international football in the early 60's & 70's England & Brazil were the most glamours teams to watch, late 70's early 80's it was Argentina & Holland, in the late 80's early 90's we had the Germans & Italy, then in the late 90's early 2000's we all wanted to play the French way. Now days we all want to jump on the Spanish wagon.

NB: *Through out these periods in club football United have won trophies and had memorable games through each of the decades. 

*Brazil have also done this internationally throughout the decades. 

proving that the theory 'You learn from your History, play the way you are brought up' works.

Brazil have never changed the way they develop their kids through the different ages of football. Look what happened when Dunga tried to make Brazil play defensive football @ the last world cup. Brazilians were outraged. players past & present were calling for him to step down. And as we witnessed Brazil went out of the world cup way too early.

Germany tore through the heart of the English back line, After that game we all thought they would go on and win the 2010 world cup, how wrong we all were.

Football and culture go hand in hand. If the F.A want to develop our kids into future world cup winners they need to go through the archives and find the file's dated from the late 50's to the early 70's. And start playing the english way again! Forget Spain, Forget Holland Lets play the ENGLISH way!

Sir Bobby knew this and if it wasn't for a penalty shootout, who knows what would of happened?

Monday, 14 February 2011

Rooney is Red, Chelsea are Blue....

So the plaudits were heaped upon one particular goal this weekend and we saw it again and again and again, don't get me wrong it was a great goal, but if it'd been a different player playing for a different team would it be plastered over every free space on the TV or newspapers? I certainly don't remember my fold out poster for Trevor Sinclair's spectacular effort for QPR??
But the most important thing  for the red half of Manchester was that they had got one over their blue rivals yet again and United had made up for last weekend's stumble at Wolves the best way they knew how.

Meanwhile Arsenal kept up their pursuit of the title with a two nil win at home against the team that had done them a favour the week before at Molineux, two goals from Van Persie made it nine in five games and Wilshire fresh from his first England start continued to shine.
Elsewhere Spurs now without their talisman Bale as well as Van Der Vaart and Modric pulled off a result that maybe a few seasons ago may have seen them lucky to come away with a point. Redknapp may have been regretting loaning so many midfielders out last month ,but with also Crouch and Lennon rested to the bench with Tuesday's Milan game in mind Tottenham plugged away and got the result that in the end they deserved. A second goal in the same number of weeks from another player who could have left in January Niko Kranjcar, saw the Lillywhites head back down south with another three points.

Thanks to the win at the Stadium of Light the North London club leap frogged Chelsea, who played out a frustrating, disjointed draw with West London neighbours Fulham.The Cottagers could have won the game in the last few minutes after new signing for Chelsea Luiz gave away a penalty that thankfully for the Brazilian defender, who'd had a good game up until then was saved by Petr Cech. The £50 million man Torres continued his barren spell in a blue shirt after squandering a couple of good chances that maybe a match sharp striker would have put away, as Drogba looked on from the bench the Spaniard was substituted to chants of "What a waste of money" from the rival fans.

Although a rejuvenated Liverpool suffering a minor hiccup against Wigan at home, they alongside Bolton & Sunderland look to be in with a shout for a European place. Dalglish now seems to be getting the best out of players that Roy Hodgson struggled to in his failed tenure.

 We had our finger's crossed for a dramatic weekend as we had a week ago and although we didn't get the goals we did get another second half fight back a' la Newcastle. This time it was the turn of relegation threatened West Ham who it's believed with the help of a Churchillian half time rallying call from Captain Scott Parker came back from 3-0 down to grab a well deserved point with the help of a brace from new boy Ba.

The bottom of the table is now almost as congested as the teams grouped just under and around the fifth spot at the other end, with Blackpool now down amongst the strugglers and any one of Aston Villa, Birmingham and maybe even Everton threatening to be sucked down there with them.

With European football on the agenda this week and the FA Cup returning at the weekend, some teams will get a bit of a breather before they continue the battles to see who triumphs and who survives this in Premiership season.

And of course we at 442 will be there reporting for you every step of the way!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Cult Moments.

Here at 442 we've recently started up a new collection of pic which we like to call Cult Moments, those infamous, memorable, iconic moments that happen during the game we love so much.
So I thought to help launch the series off I'd present in video form my top 5 cult moments.

Number 5 - Manchester Utd v Bayern Munich - Champions League Final 1999
Nowadays we're no strangers to great comebacks, but this one has to be the starting place. In the Champions League Final one nil down to the German table toppers, Manchester United chasing the Treble seemed to be on the verge of defeat. They hadn't had many clear cut chances & Bayern rattled the woodwork twice, with Keane and Scholes missing they were losing the midfield battles. But then into injury time, substitutes Sheringham & Solskjær won the game for United, this was no "Fergie Time" it was a hard fought and deserved victory.

Number 4 - Real Zargoza v Arsenal - Cup Winners Cup Final 1995
Last minute goals are always up there when it comes to Cult Moments and you won't find one much better than this. The scores were level with the game in the last seconds of extra time when the ball fell to Nayim just inside the Arsenal half, Seaman was off his line with his mind perhaps on penalties as Nayim sent to ball lobbing over his head and into the net. The most spectacular goal ever scored in a European final? Possibly.

Number 3 - France V Italy - World Cup Final  2006
Of course it's not all about scoring goals, sometimes it's the action of the player without the ball that grabs the attention. And while we would never condone such situations, this ugly side of football does add to the drama of The Beautiful Game. It was Zidane's last World Cup, he announced his retirement from football before the tournament, he'd also been awarded the Golden Ball as the best player at the Finals but one moment of madness saw it all end in disaster. Some choice words alleged to be about his Sister from Italian Materazzi saw the Frenchman headbutt him in the chest, a deserved red card followed and the glittering career of one of the world's greatest players came to a downbeat end.


Number 2 - Arsenal v Liverpool - 26th May 1989
Another last minute winner, this time in the last minutes of the last game of the season. Arsenal needed to win by two goals to pip Liverpool to the title. The Reds had already won an emotional FA Cup Final against neighbours Everton in the same campaign that had seen Merseyside devastated by the Hillsborough Tragedy and it was due to a logical postponement of the originally scheduled game that saw this match being played on a Friday night. Like many moments in football the drama was added to by some nicely timed commentary, on this occasion by Brain Moore.

Number 1 - Crystal Palace v Man Utd 1995
Arguably the most infamous moment in Football at number one. The majority of football fans could tell you where they were when this happened but what about the score or the scorers? No the match will always be remembered for a kick, and a few punches. Eric Cantona had had a colourful career even before his shock move for the bargain price of £1 million pounds from then rivals Leeds Utd. But Alex Ferguson was the man who would tame him of course and he had or so it seemed. But an initial sending off for a kick at an opponent started a chain of events that would end in possibly the most infamous football quote "When the seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea"


So there's my top five, don't forget the check out our image gallery for these and many more that we'll be adding to all the time. 
As with all best of's I expect there to be disagreements and debate, so don't forget if you want to give us your view, comment below!'

Friday, 11 February 2011

Jumpers for goal posts!

So the weekend is only a few cup's of tea away! 

It's time for our daily round up

Big Roy Hodgson hasn't had to wait long for another crack in the top flight. Confirmed as the new West Brom boss on a contract until 2012. Although history is against WBA in terms of being a so called 'yo-yo club' We still feel that Roberto Di Matteo was dismissed too hastily * two of the promoted teams that beat Arsenal @ The Emirates this season have then gone on to sack their mangers! Thats a crazy fact! 

It goes from bad to worse @ West Ham. New Hammer Robbie Keane who scored on his debut, and whom the Upton Park fans talked about of becoming a future Cult hero, has been struck off work for 6 weeks! The reported £65k a week the players earns must be a bitter pill for the owners, who were hopping that Keane would show his class and worth in the remaining 12 games of the season.

Meanwhile elsewhere in London, Chelsea's Ivanovic has signed a contract extension that should keep him @ Stamford Bridge until 2016, I use the term 'should' as we all know what contracts are worth in the modern game....... 

The big news today is the out come of the Olympic stadium debate, I've never seen two sets of fans look so horrified about moving into a new stadium! Again Sky have over hyped the event, Reporters @ the Olympic stadium for some unknown reason.... maybe it's to have a chat with a few of the many builders that are constructing the stadium! Or maybe we have forgotten what the stadium looks like?  

We've seen former England international David James play into his 40's and now another golden oldie, Villas Brad Friedel has reviled that there are countless offers for his services for the next season. The 39 year old has no intention of hanging up his gloves @ the end of the season and the ideal situation for the Former USA international would be for Villa to extend his contract.

It's the time of the day for a cheeky cup of tea and a few cheeky hobnobs! 

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The weekenders tips!

So after a dull 2-1 win over Denmark, (You would of thought that FAB would have picked up a few more words by now, or @ least ITV could have run subtitles!)  

We turn our focus back to the domestic leagues and what's on offer this weekend in the Top flight of the English game. We will start with the live fixtures this weekend which see Sunderland @ home against a Tottenham Hotspur team hit by injuries. Not the most glamours of games, but over the past few seasons we've seen this game produce mouth watering goals, a shed load of pen's and some debatable decisions. Our verdict is that you can expect a high scoring draw. 

United V City, After going over half the season without losing, could United lose a second game on the bounce? Rooney is starting to look like the Wayne of old, Nani and Berbatov are having their best seasons in the red of United. Meanwhile down the road @ City, things are looking good, Hart put in a solid display for England while the likes of Milner & Barry look ever steady. Tevez will be out to prove a point and after the hat-trick last weekend he will be looking to add to an impressive goal tally already this season. Our verdict is a 3-2 win for United.

Bolton V Everton, Bolton have gone off the boil after a fantastic start to the season, The young lad Sturridge looks in fine form, and both him and Bolton will benefit from the loan agreement come the end of the season. Everton have hit form of late, the 5-3 win over Blackpool had left the toffee's on a high going into the international break. If Saha can add a touch more consistency to his game, Everton have one hell of a player @ there disposal. Our verdict is an away win. 

Fulham V Chelsea, Just as things started to look up again @ Stamford bridge Chelsea go and lose to Liverpool, The talk before the game was all about the £50 million pound man Torres, Now the media hype as died down, can Torres make a bigger impact in his second game for the club? Fulham have started to get going under Hughes, A great F.A cup win against Spurs, followed by a league win against Newcastle and a great away point @ Villa, With Zamora close to a return Fulham should start climbing that table. Our verdict is Fulham to cause a shock and win 2-1

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

No Place Like Home?

With all the Home Nations playing this week (we've included the Republic of Ireland in this just because we can!), we thought we'd have a look back at some of the memorable goals scored by our home grown players. The opinions expressed are mine, we've tried to pick from all nations and I expect a full debate to follow...

Joe Cole - England V Sweden 2006

We'll start with a player who showed so much potential at West Ham & Chelsea and was expected to go on to even better things with his Summer move to Liverpool. Joe Cole against Sweden, perhaps one day we'll see him again pulling on the an England jersey and scoring a beauty like this?

 Archie Gemmill - Scotland V Holland 1978

Now, I'm one of the older member's of the 442 staff so I remember watching this and Scotland's World Cup campaign on the telly back in the day. With England not qualifying I was cheering on the Tartan Army and although they won the game against the former finalists goal difference saw them go home early. But Archie Gemmill's goal was one recreated over and over again in the school playground!
Michael Owen England V Argentina 1998

What a way to announce yourself on the world stage, he look's about twelve in this clip! It was a game of "what if's?" to follow, Beckham's kick, Simone's reaction, a disallowed goal and two squandered penalties, but the goal by Owen lives longer in people's memories.

Gerry Armstrong Northern Ireland V Spain 1982

Another World Cup another Home Nation triumphant, maybe not the best goal that Gerry Armstrong has ever scored but arguably the most important. Northern Ireland were the underdogs against Spain but managed to hold on for an historic victory and passage through to the second round.

 Bobby Charlton England V Mexico 1966

 Next up, England's highest goalscorer. And how much as an England supporter, would you wish that we had a player now who could drive through the midfield before unleashing such an unstoppable, venomous shot into the back of the net?

David Narey - Scotland V Brazil 1982

To open the scoring for your country would be a dream for any international player, to do that and it to be such a well worked and taken goal you'd expect some plaudits, for it to be against Brazil in the World Cup Finals well you'd be on cloud nine! Oh and Jimmy Hill claimed it was a toe poke!

John Barnes - England V Brazil 1984

Ok, so it was a friendly but it was against Brazil at the Maracana Stadium and it is the first and only time that an England team have beaten Brazil in Brazil. Many people may say that this goal also guaranteed Barnes' place in England Squads for the rest of his career, but although not consistently, Barnes did show glimpses of brilliance again in the Three Lions shirt on several other occasions to follow.

Ronnie Whelan - Rep of Ireland V USSR 1988
Prior to any training ground bust up, the Republic of Ireland team, particularly under Jack Charlton showed alot of other International Teams how it should be done, how to play as a team with spirit, pride and a will to win. They were I guess the Crazy Gang of world football and some how they kept on upsetting the odds, no more so than in this game against the Soviet Union.

Paul Gascoigne - England V Scotland 1996

There's not much else that can be said about this goal that hasn't already been soliloquized, many a bar room pundit will pick this as their greatest ever England goal.

 Geoff Hurst - England V West Germany 1966

But for me, it's this one. In the 120th minute of the World Cup Final? Did he mean it? I think he did, still the only player to score a hat-trick in the Final of a World Cup Tournament. We can give them the dodgy "did it didn't it" goal and maybe karma paid us back in South Africa. But no one can take this moment away from any Englishman.

So there we have it, our pick of the Home Nations' goals. Yes we missed some out, I wanted to keep it to a nice round number and didn't want to be blogging all night! 
Feel free to tell us your views,we're hoping to do more features like this.What's your favourite goal? What would you like us to blog on? After all, football is all about opinion and we wouldn't be here without yours!