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.............