Archive | March, 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson – Greatest of All Time?

30 Mar

I’ve followed my club – Newcastle, for the best part of 15 years. Like many other fans, I truly took note of Newcastle’s meteoric rise to near glory in ’96 and knew that this club would always have a place in my heart. As we all know, an end of season collapse plus a meticulous yet resilient Manchester United pipped us to the title that season.

Manchester United. Where do we start? One of the most glorified clubs in the world. They’ve bathed in success for the last 25 years, producing and utilising players of such an ilk, very few teams can compare. I’m talking of the likes of Cantona, Giggs, Scholes, Robson, Beckham, Keane and in recent times the Ronaldo and Rooney. The club has always maintained its domestic dominance, bar the odd blip, despite the comings and going’s of many players. But one thing has remained a constant – Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Love him or hate him, you can’t help but admire him. The way he has invigorating so many different united teams, even some very mediocre ones (Class of 2011 stand forward), and to drive them to domestic and some European glories is nothing short of remarkable. A man who came to ‘knock Liverpool of their perch’ in 1986, achieved this with their 19th title last season. And despite the trials and tribulations they’ve faced this season, they remain top of the league. He has never been a man to shy away from big decision, ask Keane and Becks that. He’s always had the psychological presence in other managers’ minds – ask Kevin Keegan. He’s always had an influence on the FA to suit his club’s needs – ask Howard Webb. And he’s built a dynasty from that. He’s turned a decent club, to a global brand. Ask a child in the villages of Somalia to name a football team. You catch my drift.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Although ‘Fergie’ may be seen as an immortal at the Stretford End, things didn’t start so rosy in the Manchester garden. A relatively poor start to his reign led to some sections of the crowd 25 years ago chanting for his head. Now they’re asking for a crown to be upon it. This could also be seen as a lesson for those teams who feel the trigger finger too often (Ahem Chelsea and Liverpool).

A banner in 1989 demanding the sacking of Ferguson - how times have changed.

Some may say that United have bought success, and relatively speaking they did. But then Newcastle attempted this in the 90′s, and failed. Chelsea tried this – yielding limited success. The latest club is Manchester City – only time will see how their financial clout will benefit them.

Just to clarify, I hate his guts, just like 95% of Premier league fans. But you cannot do anything but stand back and applaud the accolades and achievements he’s brought to Manchester United. The day he retires may be the end of the dominance of United, particularly with their noisy neighbours stepping on the devil’s toes this season.

So, let’s tilt our hats to one of the worlds greatest managers. Now p*ss off for the benefit of every other English club.

Comments welcome.

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Safe Standing

28 Mar

I was too young to have ever ‘stood on the terraces’. I’ve always known the football stadia I visit to have tiered seating. But with a lot more talk about mooting ‘safe standing’ areas, I’ve thought about how it might affect the atmosphere at games.

The thought of 52,000 Geordies roaring the Toon at St. James’ Park would be a sight to remember. Unfortunately I doubt it will ever come to fruition.

Most would argue that seated stadia were introduced for a reason – tragedy at Hillsborough and at Heysel, where 96 and 39 supporters respectively were killed due to a collapsed stand, or the mass stampede that ensued. Can the footballing authorities allow that possibility to ever arise again? I don’t think so. The other issue is that supporters pay a fortune to see their beloved team on the field, not the backside of an over-grown ape in front of them.

On the flip side, the atmosphere would improve vastly. Just imagine the entirety, or a large portion of a stadium, chanting in unison at their golden boys on the grass beneath them- a true footballing cauldron. The intimidation that the away players and fans must feel would be huge.

Heysel Disaster 1985 - Can this ever be risked again?

I’m bringing this up because I’ve gradually noticed the atmosphere at football games being severely diluted in recent years. This might be due a more family feel, which in itself has a positive affect, or that those supporters who do create much of the atmosphere are being segregated – the latter certainly being evident at St. James’ Park.

Furthermore, in many European leagues, particularly the Bundesliga, a lot of stadiums have safe-standing areas, coupled with a lot of safety features to prevent any disasters from occurring. How difficult can it be to reconstruct a stand to allow it to be terraces or safe standing, only taking into account the mass of the thousands of fans upon that stand? Understandably the health and safety of the supporter must be prioritized above all else.

I certainly would love to see standing at stadiums return – only if measures were effectively introduced to never repeat the tragedies of the Hillsborough and the like.

But will every fan see it that way?

Comments welcome.

Long Live The King ?

26 Mar

I’m not a Liverpool fan. I’m pretty impartial to them, but I don’t particularly like a large number of their fans. These fans are the type that believe Liverpool have a God-given right to be in the top 4; that believe Liverpool should always be continually challenging for major honours; that they are the best thing since sliced bread. And so on. Now I can acknowledge opinions should be respected. But the delusion a lot of Liverpool fans show, well, annoys me.

The latest flare up of this issue is the recent drop in form since the Carling Cup victory a few weeks back and the subsequent wanting of Dalglish’s head. I don’t like Queen Kenny, but a year is not enough time to judge someone’s managerial credentials, especially when that someone is probably the most talented individual ever to have any involvement with the club. A history doused in success – a lot is due to the work of Kenny Dalglish.

I do understand however where some form of discontent has arisen. Signings amassing near the £100 million mark should indicate a massive improvement in the league – but it hasn’t. Liverpool are languishing in 7th place, and a points per game of 1.4, only marginally better than under Roy Hodgson at 1.25, fans have a right to vent frustration.

Kenny Dalglish - Face of a lost man?

However a lot has been made of Liverpool signings. Obviously Kenny went for a British outlook, which I always support, simply due to it being a British league. It does annoy me somewhat to see an entire football club blessed with the finest European players – yet so few Englishman in the first-team. No wonder we’re not producing the number of youngsters as the likes of Spain etc. The signings themselves could yet turn out to be gems. The likes of Carroll and Henderson have shown flashes of quality at Liverpool and in the northeast – a quality that will be more obvious as they mature. Let’s not forget Gareth Bale didn’t have the best start at Spurs – now he’s considered one of the best players on the planet.

Further still, how many of these signings were sanctioned by Mr. Comolli? The ex-Spurs and St Étienne Director of Football currently oversees transfers at the Merseyside club, so many of these players underperforming should be correlated towards him. If anyone were to shoulder the blame of Liverpool’s shortcomings this season, it should be Damien Comolli.

The club is currently in transition, as are many top teams in the league. Would any other manager do any better than Dalglish? Maybe. Maybe not. Would Liverpool be able to allure a manager with the grandeur of Dalglish? Probably not.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. The king ISN’T dead – long live the king.

Comments welcome.

Financial Issues ?

24 Mar

As I’m sure all of you are full aware, the global financial crisis is affecting everyone from large international businesses to small households. But of recent times, we’ve seen a few football clubs flirt with the dreaded ‘A’ word – and some even being sucked into the downward spiral it brings.

The latest club to go into administration were Rangers a few weeks ago. This is the same Rangers Football Club that have battled with Glaswegian rivals Celtic for the mantlepiece of Scottish Football, whilst being a large European pull all round. Yet they seemingly ran out of cash.

I’m no economist, but how difficult can it be to spend within your means? Teams like Leeds United followed this route about ten years ago, and have suffered since. Pompey bit the bullet a few seasons back, by spending recklessly and paying wages to the average Joe (mainly down to Redknapp – he did the same at Southampton. Watch out Yiddo’s!). Surely to buy a football club you need to have some form of financial acumen, and it goes without saying there must be some intellect to have fathomed that sort of money in the first place! Yet, Rangers were on the brink of liquidation. That means no more Rangers. Ever.

Mike Ashley - Finally doing some good.

I’m bringing this up, because Newcastle United recently released their financial accounts for the previous year, and managed a healthy profit of £32.6 million post player-trading. Its unique in that a club can register a profit in any sense, but a significant one is even more commendable.

Now I don’t particularly take to Mike Ashley but he has my club on a firm financial footing. But surely if some of the teams continue to do as they please, the inevitable will occur? Take Liverpool for example – Large payments for supposed big name players. Yet, unless I’m missing something, this has yielded very little success (No, not the Carling Cup). Of course, I may be sitting here eating my words in 12 months, with Liverpool finishing in a healthy position coupled with European glory – but unless that does indeed happen, then the accounts sheet will always remain red. And that doesn’t bode well for the longevity of the club.

I know that the ‘Fair Play’ rules are to be implemented soon, which are supposed to even out the odds and ensure all clubs spend within their means. But what does this mean? If it is what it says on the tin, then the clubs who record an end of year financial loss, wouldn’t be able to add to the squad without selling, essentially spending their profits. That includes the likes of Man City, Man United and Chelsea. But what is stopping them from going out and spending £20 million on some random European centre forward, because no one will stop them, or they have enough deadwood in reserve that still will collect a bit of dosh. Further still, they will find loopholes in the fair-play rules, such as Man City using their sponsor Etihad Airways to inflate their input into the club. But a little research finds out that the owner of the middle-eastern airline company is the half-brother of the Man City owner. So in effect, Man City’s spending will always be in a league of its own. But the likes of West Bromwich Albion etc who record a profit on their own merit, would only be able to spend the little profit they may have gained plus any incomings from player departures. No Sheikh. No sugar-daddy. Just pure turnover.

Level playing ground? Quite frankly, no.

What are your views on the financial running of football clubs?

Euro 2012 : Hope And Despair?

23 Mar

So, to kick my first real post off, I’d like to talk about England’s Euro 2012 chances. First of all, I’m an avid Englishman as much as the next guy. That is, I get as excited in the pre-tournament buildup slogging down wagers for us to be relatively successful, but as soon as the first cockup occurs, I rain down on my side with a barrage of insults about how they’re overpaid granny-sleeping, adulterous racist maggots.

The truth is, I want England to do well. I want them to win, I expect them to do well. But I know they won’t. Which leads me to think – why is it such an English supporters trademark to be known as some of the best fans in the world, but at the same time gun them down at every oppurtunity?

The red-tops will shoot down the national side despite win, draw or loss, but is it us fans that have too much of an expectation? We all fully admit that we’re not blessed with the squads of Spain and Germany etc, but we still expect us to rank an achievement on par with them? Hell, we haven’t won a damn trophy since 1966, and bar the odd flirt with glory in the 90′s – nothing has come of fruition. Are we expecting too much?

Euro 2012

Whoever takes over (most likely old dog-face), they would need to invigorate a side that possesses the odd class player, and a team full of what I call ‘grafters’. The usual patter of getting Lamps and Gerrard to play together will come up, as with the defensive frailties. But probably most importantly, have we the goals to do well? Rooney idiotically has got himself ruled out for a few games – leaving the nations hopes to firmly rest upon Welbeck, Sturridge, Defoe and Bent. (Cue Heskey chants). And in all honesty, if Greece can win the damn thing, then so can we!

But in truth, on paper we haven’t a team that would reach the pinnacles of international football.

Football was never played on paper.

Come on you ENGLAND!!!

Comments welcome.

Welcome.

23 Mar

So, I’ve chosen to write a football blog. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, with the ‘encouragement’ of some friends – here it is. I intend to write purely about football, but during times of procastination, my mind may wonder.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a passionate Newcastle United fan.  Don’t ask me why – I don’t know myself sometimes. But I do have a general interest in football as whole, from playing and watching, to understanding the running and background of the beautiful game. So here it goes…

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