Monday, 20 June 2011

The Judas Factor

With Aston Villa's managerial position now filled controversially (to say the least) by one Alex Mcleish the question of loyalty and rivalry between football clubs has once again raised it's ugly head. Every football supporter knows about rivalry, local or nationwide we have our teams which historically are seen as "The Enemy" and the golden rule is you can never sell to or sign a player or manager from that team. But club chairman it would seem have their own rulebook and it's happened time and time again. We can talk till we're blue (sorry Villa fans) in the face about "loyalty in the modern game", but I for one don't think it's a new thing, it's just more widespread and the simple reason is money. We can address the argument of loyalty another time. Let's instead have a look at some previous cases where players or managers have gone over to the dark side.

 Luis Figo - From Barcelona to Real Madrid
Maybe they should have seen the signs - after being banned for two years from any transfer dealings with Italian clubs after "signing" for both Parma and Juventus, Luis Figo finally decided on a move to Spain with Barcelona paying £2.25 million for him in 1995. He became Bara's driving force, winning La Liga & the Copa del Rey twice, the Cup Winner's Cup plus the Super Cup during his time. But after 172 league games and scoring 30 goals for the Spanish giants he was to go from hero to zero in the eyes of the Barca faithful.
With Presidential elections taking place at Real Madrid, the incoming candidate's major promise was the have Figo playing in Madrid's all white kit the following season. There were reports that Figo would face a massive fine if he backed out of any deal, so on 24th July 2000 he was unveiled as a Real Madrid player costing a then World record fee of £37.2 million pounds.
When Figo returned as a Madrid player against Barca he was subjected to the obvious booing and jeering but was also a moving target for objects thrown at him including bottles, coins, golf balls and even a pig's head .

Mo Johnston signs for Rangers
Mo Johnston - Nantes to Rangers via Celtic (briefly)
If Alex Mcleish has angered anyone, it pales in comparison to effect the signing of Mo Johnston had on Scottish Football.
Johnston had enjoyed spells with Partick Thistle and Watford before signing for Celtic in 1985, he was an instant hit becoming a hero to the Parkhead crowd, in over 97 league appearances he scored 52 goals and was a Scottish International. In 1987 in the prime of his career Johnston was one of the many players who fancied trying their luck abroad, he signed for the French side Nantes and was fairly successful playing two seasons in France.
But it was his next move that would cause a storm of controversy, at a press conference at Celtic's ground Johnston declared he was returning to Scottish football and "the only British club he could play for was Celtic" a £1.2 million pound deal had been agreed. This wasn't the end of the matter though and things were thrown confusion after it emerged that Celtic had allegedly not made the tax payments on the deal. Johnston's agent added to chaos by adding that he "owned" the player and Celtic had agreed a deal with the French club and not with him as they should have.
With all this going on rival boss Greame Souness who was plotting a revolution at Ibrox pounced, spoke to Johnston's agent and agreed a deal. He was unveiled at Rangers to shocked journalists who were expecting a different player to appear!
Souness's policy of  "if they're good enough we'll sign them" had ignored previous religious policies at Ibrox and Mo Johnston became only the second Catholic to play for Rangers. It seemed that this one signing had managed to unite the Glasgow fans, with both sets angered by the move, Celtic fans betrayed by their one time idol and Rangers fans furious at a Catholic and ex-Celtic player joining their club.

The Ultimate Judas?
 Crossing the North/South divide
One of the most heated rivalries in English football is that between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. Ever since The Gunners upped sticks from Woolwich in South London to take up residency across the Thames in Tottenham's manor there has been no love lost, this of course wasn't helped either by Arsenal gaining promotion to the top tier ahead of Spurs although the Lillywhites were higher in the league. It's not only geography but history that create rivalries and the bitterness began before most of us were even born.
Of course a player or manager moving between these two clubs is bound to create a stir (to say the least) but it has happened on several occasions.
It's a little known fact that Herbert Chapman, legendary Arsenal manager who started them on the road to success, once played for Tottenham. While Pat Jennings is possibly the only player to play for both teams and to be considered a legend by Spurs & Gunners fans.
Two of the most controversial moves were also two of the more recent. George Graham had had a successful career at Arsenal as both player and even more so as manager, winning the league twice, the FA Cup and the Cup Winners Cup, while Spurs had an indifferent few seasons punctuated by an FA Cup triumph in 1991 which saw them beat their North London rival in the first FA Cup Semi Final ever to be player at Wembley.
Graham's managerial career hit the skids when he was sacked from Arsenal and banned from football for a year after being caught up in a bung scandal.
On his return he took over at Leeds, Spurs meanwhile had a new owner in Alan Sugar and had been going through managers like a dose of salts! Not being much of a footballing man, Sugar took advice from those around him and although the name Martin O'Neil was murmured, George Graham's name was put forward as the best possible option when once again Sugar had wielded his axe.
The appointment caused obvious outcry, the usual threats of burning season tickets and non attendance of games were banded about by fans, but  even though Graham did bring Spurs their first trophy in eight season with victory over Leciester City in the League Cup Final the Tottenham faithful never took him to their heart and even refused to chant his name, instead calling him "the man in the mac"
But worse was to come for Spurs, this time with a player going in the other direction. Sol Campbell had been one of Spurs future starlets, coming through the ranks initially as a striker he made his debut under manager Glenn Hoddle coming on as a sub and scoring against Chelsea. Eventually he moved to central defence and became not only a first team regular but also captain and an England International.
With Campbell's contract coming to an end after nearly nine years and the advent of the Bosman Ruling, Spurs were keen for him to pledge his future to the club. The negotiations were long winded, but Campbell assured fans that he intended to stay and had previously stated in the club magazine that he "could never play for Arsenal", however the then England Manager Sven Goran Erikson had urged Campbell to seek Champions League football in a bid to improve him as a player.
With several top European clubs interested, Campbell instead signed for Arsenal for the start of the 2001 season.
Spurs supporters have never forgiven him for the way in which he left after so many assurances that he was going nowhere, this was bad enough but to then sign for their bitterest rivals really was the final nail in the coffin. For years to come the hatred remained even after Campbell left Arsenal to play for Portsmouth.

Well that's my round up! I could have picked a few more, maybe Harry Redknapp for his trip to Southampton? Or Carlos Tevez going from Red to Blue?
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Friday, 3 June 2011

Who goes where..............?

With the dust settled on another season the prospect of any football action is now few and far between. What we do have however - apart from warm beer & cricket in rain soaked beer gardens is the inevitable transfer rumours which face us every morning on the back pages of our favoured tabloid read.
Our beloved team will be linked with every player under the sun, but there is also the feel of dread as our star player has his name banded about by the top teams and no amount of  "not for sale" statements from the manager & chairman can make them go away. So here then we give our low down on some of this Summer's potential movers & shakers....

Bloody Foreigners
Of course foreign players are not a new thing in the Premiership, ever since Jurgen the German brought his VW Beetle to these shores and dived straight in the deep end of the footballing action by scoring on his debut for Spurs against Sheffield Wednesday them Carlos Kickaballs have been coming over here taking all our jobs & stealing all the women with varying degrees of success.
Names to look out for this year include Leandro from Internacional in Brazil - a team that have links with Tottenham Hotspur (they signed Sandro from them last season). At only twenty one, Leandro in his first full season has scored 22 goals in 24 appearances and with Spurs in the market for a striker this could be one deal we'd have down as done.
But Spurs, along with rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City have been linked with just about any top striker plying his trade abroad.
Romelu Lukaku, plays for Belgium club Anderlecht and is known for his strength and aerial ability, still only eighteen if we are to believe that Didier Drogba is on his way out of Stamford Bridge the chances are Lukaku could be on his way to take his place.
Of course the reason that teams are sometimes linked to these players is the inevitable departure of a former terrace darling, lured by either higher wages or the prospect of European football (or even both), who can really blame them for wanting to better themselves?
Eden Hazard is another player on Spurs radar and with Sir Alex sniffing round Luka Modric, the Belgium attacking midfielder would be the ideal replacement, two footed, hard to knock off the ball, with blistering pace & finishing to match (something little Luka lacks at the moment), could Spurs keep Modric and also bring Hazard in? We'll wait & see on that one.
Other top strikers mentioned on a daily basis by the red tops include Edinson Canvani at Napoli - looking somewhat like a James Bond baddie henchman but nicknamed "El Matador" for his commanding presence on the pitch. He has signed a new contract with the Italian team but as we know these mean very little in football anymore, so there is still a chance that the Uruguayan striker could join his compatriot Luis Suarez in the Premiership if not next season then maybe the season after.
Also in the scouting reports around the continent I'd include Athletico Bilbao's  Llorente and Pablo Osvaldo at Espanyol.

Coming up?
Of course another option for a Premiership boss is bringing someone in from the lower leagues, this sometimes works - in the case of Tim Cahill standing head & shoulders above anyone else in the league when he was at Millwall, but other times......hello Gregorz Rasiak at Spurs (briefly) not so well.
But for the teams in the lower reaches of the elite league a player from the Championship or League One provide a (fairly) cheap option and are often worth a punt.
Craig Mackail-Smith is set to leave Championship new boys Peterborough Utd and with his 35 goals last season making him the most prolific goalscorer in all English divisions he's the type of player that Everton, Fulham or newly promoted Norwich might risk a few quid on.
There's always the chance that the teams that missed on promotion last term - Cardiff, Leeds, Reading or Notts Forest may see their players keen to move on. Names such as, Camp at Forest, Becchio at Leeds, or Reading's Hunt could feature in the Premiership one way or another next time.
The main man in the Championship last season Adel Taarabt now has another chance to show he can cut it at the top level now that QPR have come up, but will he be there or at another Premiership team eager to stake his claim?

Staying Up?
Relegation from the Premiership spells disaster for both the club and fans on so many levels and trying to keep hold of their best players is only one of the many problems they face as the try to bounce straight back up. 
Like vultures hovering over a weak and feeble animal in the desert heat the clubs remaining in the Premiership look to the relegated teams for fresh blood. It can be difficult trying to persuade players to stay in the lower division, especially if this means them sacrificing the chance of an International call up.
One player virtually guaranteed a stay of execution is West Ham's Scott Parker with that team Spurs again in the frame to sign him, but don't rule out Aston Villa or Arsenal, he could keep up his record of gaining each new England cap playing for a different team.
Another player of course - one who was the subject to a last minute bid in January from Tottenham was Charlie Adam, he can now be expected to leave, but will Spurs (Redknapp didn't seem to know much about the deal) continue their pursuit of him or maybe he could be Anfield bound?
Scott Dann (left) was on my watch list this season, he and Roger Johnson (who may also be off) had formed a good understanding at the back for Birmingham and at home their defensive record was second to none, however an injury in the Carling Cup Semi Final ended Dann's season. The young English central defender has now been linked to a move to his boyhood team of Liverpool and he's sure to be one to keep an eye on in the future.

Free to do what I want any old time
The bargain basement of the transfer market is those out of contract with their club and available on a free transfer. With only maybe a signing on fee and wages to deal with this can work out a real steal for some lucky teams. But of course some players are out of contract for good reason! You could find yourselves buying an injury prone player that's going to be no good to anybody!
We can expect to see Jay Bothroyd in the Premiership next season, his contract expired and he made his intentions clear that he wasn't signing another one at Cardiff and would try his luck elsewhere. In my opinion expect a team from the mid table to make him an offer.
Someone is bound to take a chance on Owen Hargreaves, released by Man Utd after an injury ravaged few seasons he now has the chance to rebuild his career elsewhere, there is also the possibility of him returning home to Germany.
Speaking of Ze Germans expect the big freebie this summer to be Miroslav Klose, out of contract with Bayern, the German International will be a tempting addition to numerous Premiership squads, although slightly past his prime, he'll weigh in with his fair share of goals and has done so at both domestic & international level. Maybe again Everton or Blackburn with new owners favourites to sign him up.
With goalkeeper's reaching their peak later than out field players Brad Freidel is bound to be a wanted man as either first choice or back up he's always proved himself dependable wherever he's been.

Well, that's my little round up! If I get any predictions right I'll be pleased as punch, with so many players and teams out there the permutations are endless and there's bound to be plenty of twists and turns and drama before it all kicks off again come August!
Let me know what you think, are you "in the know" what is going to be the deal of the Summer??
Whatever it is you can be sure that we'll have all the latest news & rumours on our Facebook & Twitter pages......

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Cult Heroes

“He was poor. But he's the only one who looked like scoring.” 

We continue with our cult heroes! Next up is a hero of the Red side of North London. A 90's classic and an all-round 'top bloke' Paul Merson! Since hanging up his boots Merson can be found on the box most weekends on Soccer Saturday with other cult members such as Chris Kamara & Jeff Stelling! 

“In fairness to him the lad can play. He's got pace and he can score goals but he needs to concentrate on his game rather than falling over every time he's touched.”