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The Geordie Homecoming?

17 Jul

Since Brendan Rodgers joined Liverpool last month, everyone knew that their footballing style will change to the more possession-dominated style he had emulated at Swansea. The truth is, the current crop of Liverpool players probably aren’t the complete article with respect to ‘tika-taka’ football, but it’s a work in progress. However one man sticks out like a sore thumb – Andy Carroll.

It was a tough day for Newcastle United fans (myself included) when Carroll left the North East to join Kenny Dalglish’s supposed revolution at the Kop. A number 9 is much heralded in these parts, even more so when the holder of the shirt is a Geordie born and bred, and to see him leave under suspicious circumstances hurt even more. To delve into whether he was pushed or not is a story for another day – and probably will never be clarified.

Andy Carroll – back in black and white?

Now, 18 months on rumours are rife that Carroll is set to leave Anfield after Rodgers decided he was not the ideal frontman in his newfound footballing ways – instead opting for new signing Borini. It was always going to be unlikely that Rodgers would prefer lampooning the ball towards the head of Carroll and play direct football, but what isn’t mentioned is he’s not a bad player with his feet, he just hasn’t been given the opportunity to show it. All in all, Andy Carroll has been allowed to leave, with his former club Newcastle United being front-runners in the race to sign him.

Now, if this does come through and Andy Carroll returns home, it would provide a masterstroke for Mike Ashley and co. having taken £35 million from John Henry and friends, a return to St James Park for a minimized fee would see the Anfield club take a massive financial hit. But the Liverpool board may want to cut their losses right now – possibly an indication to their faith in Rodgers regardless of this seasons performances.

As a fan, I’m pretty impartial to the so-called ‘homecoming’ of Andy Carroll. Regardless of what happened in January 2011, he could have refused a contract at Liverpool and opted to stay despite the supposed pushing of the Newcastle board. On the other hand, I will always support anyone who wears the black and white shirt, whether it be Titus Bramble or Yohan Cabaye – and Andy Carroll at the top of his game is an extremely attractive proposition for us, particular with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse in the ranks.

So, could this be a big welcome home for ‘Wor’ Andy Carroll? Possibly – but either way, it’s never dull on Tyneside.

Comments welcome.

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Van Persie’s Final Goodbye

7 Jul

Cast your mind back to 10th December 2011. The scene was a chilly winter’s night at the Emirates Stadium, North London. Despite the sub-zero temperatures, a furnace brew commemorating Arsenal’s 125th year of existence. A raking cross-field pass from Alex Song found Robin Van Persie skirting the 18-yard line and the result being almost predictable. With the likes of Thierry Henry in the stands, and Van Persie in white-hot form, greats of Arsenal new and old were in a jubilous mood as the Gunner’s took home 3 points.

Van Persie – On his way out of North London

Six months on, Arsenal fans are crestfallen.

As we know, Robin Van Persie this week stated that he would not be renewing his contract at Arsenal effectively calling time on his Arsenal career. Eight years have passed since Wenger shed £2.75 million for him yielding 96 goals in 194 games.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the last 18 months proved to the world that when fit, Van Persie is one of the most feared strikers on the planet. However, the sparsity of his appearance have led many Gunners riling his decision. This last season was the only one in the last 8 years he managed to play in over 30 league games. Perennial injury records coupled to playing second fiddle to the likes of Thierry Henry and Emmanuel Adebayor have led many to believe he owes a lot more to the club before leaving. But the question is, does he?

Sure the appearance statistics do not lie in favour of the Dutchman, but a sheer lack of success in recent years may have pushed the boat out too far. Turning 29 in August, Van Persie has no more than three to four years of top class football remaining in him, so understandably he’d want to move to fulfil his ambitions. And with greatest respect to Arsenal, I personally cannot see a massive influx of trophies at the Emirates.

If however, this latest twist in the tale is a ploy to engineer a pay-day elsewhere, then not only will Arsenal fans be gritting their teeth, but most neutral fans will be too. Far too many players sell their dignity for an extra few zero’s at the end of their already saturated bank statements. Take Christopher Samba as an example – remember him? Remember the hype and media exposure into his contract disputes? Well he now plies his trade in Anzhi, Russia. Earning £100,000 per week. Ahem.

A lot of rumours are claiming that Manchester City are indeed tapping up Van Persie, but that can, and probably won’t ever be proven. Whether Van Persie would agree to a move, knowing that he’d lose all respect of the fans that loved and adored him previously is another question. To delve further and question the motive – whether finance or ambition is something only he will know; that’s you Samir Nasri.

The acquisitions of Podolski and Giroud should soften the blow for Arsenal fans, but they should be all too used this. Henry, Vieira, Cole and Fabregas all left for pastures anew in recent times, yielding successful careers since. The club have been labelled a ‘selling club’ – but Arsenal haven’t necessarily collapsed without them.

One player doesn’t make a team – Arsene Wenger knows that all too well. And just as the motto emblazoned on the base of the club’s unique 125th year emblem states – the club will continue to move ‘forward’, with or without their talisman.

Comments very much welcome.

Stalling Contracts

28 Apr

Delaying contract talks – why do players do this? I know it’s supposedly a long, drawn out process in which the club and player (with/without the agent) negotiate a salary, add-ones, clauses and the length etc. But surely it’s not something that takes the best part of a year to agree upon. Some players openly come out and proclaim that ‘there will be discussions at the end of the season,’ essentially putting themselves in the shop window.

Van Persie - Crunch talks.

One high-profile contract saga currently in the open is with regards to Arsenal hitman Robin Van Persie. The Football of the Year has been in irresistible form this season, with his most productive outlay in his Gunners career. This seasons form has led some to feel that he is probably the best centre forward in the world today, with supposed moves to Barcelona in the pipe-line in the summer. But his contract situation is such that discussions will take place in the four days between the final game of the season and him joining the Netherlands camp for the Euro’s. Four days. Surely he could have found four days or so during the last year to have talks about renewing his deal before, instead of leaving Arsenal in the precarious position they are now.

However, Robin Van Persie has been pitching in at Arsenal for 8 years now, when he was supplementing the likes of Thierry Henry and Emmanuel Adebayor in some formidable Arsenal attacks. Yet interestingly, the flying Dutchman has never managed a 20-league-goal season, with his best season yielding only 18 last season.

Some may say that he has had a perennial injury record that may yet come back to scare him, and Arsenal, at anytime. It can also be argued that by not being deployed as the main centre-forward as he is now, he couldn’t get the goals, i.e. being played in a withdrawn position supplementing the likes of Adebayor.

But Arsenal have never been so reliant on him as they are now. So if he feels that any contract Arsenal are offering is coming up short – he seriously needs to think about the club that paid his wages whilst he lay on the injury table for many months at a time. Too many seasons have been curtailed early for Van Persie, and Arsenal fans would be gutted to see another one of their superstars leave after a sustained period of form. This could be related to Samir Nasri, who jumped for the money, and to some extent Cesc Fabregas – both departures that had led some amongst the footballing echelons to believe Arsenal were coming more of a ‘selling club’. If Robin Van Persie leaves, then serious doubts about whether Arsenal will ever challenge again will resurface.

Without doubt he is the player of the season, and his goal return this season has gone someway to repay the club that has stuck by him. However one swallow doesn’t make a summer. If his form continues next season, then he should have the negotiating power, but for now – it would be a real kick in the teeth if he were to pack his bags and leave the ones who stuck by him.

Comments welcome.

Redknapp’s Ramblings

18 Apr

Here we go again. Harry’s under pressure, so he initiates talking about players that don’t belong to him. News? Not really, just ‘Arry up to his old tricks again.

Harry Redknapp - gloomy times.

Rolling back the clock to January time, Newcastle’s number 19 Demba Ba was basking in the glory of putting in goals with ease. His stock had risen like a star this season, with his name being linked to prestigious moves away due to his goal scoring exploits.

Enter Harry Redknapp. Good old Harry decided that it was in his best interest to stir up some trouble at a press conference. His comments in a nutshell, were that ‘Ba has a £7million release clause’. Till this day, that clause hasn’t been proven, nor refuted, but just goes to show the extent to which Redknapp will go to de-rail derail any promise shown from rival clubs. Yet the FA do nothing for this ‘tapping-up’, no surprise there, but we will come back to this later.

The second case of Redknapp talking about other players was just last week. But this time, it’s not Demba Ba in form. Its Stephane Sessegnon of Sunderland and Hatem Ben Arfa, our fleet-footed winger. Redknapp claimed that ‘he could have signed them before they went elsewhere’ are only going to unsettle the players. And comparing them to his very own squad publicly? Well, that just goes to show the professionalism of Mr. Redknapp.

What old dogface seems to have forgotten after all the court proceedings is there was a similar incident regarding Luka Modric in the summer; except the tables were turned. Modric was linked heavily with moves away – predominantly Chelsea. But Redknapp’s overrated ‘play-maker’ was forced to stay after Chelsea were accused of ‘tapping-up’, with even the FA and footballing bodies pouncing to get involved. But when the coins flipped and it is Redknapp doing the talking, well we can all turn a blind to eye to it, can’t we? After all, its ‘Arry of course.

I wonder if the same happens with Bale this summer. Mind you, England probably beckons for Harry. And as for Spurs? Well, years of financial instability await, particularly if the club fail to get Champions League. And the best part of it all? Newcastle are level on points with Spurs this season.

Have some of that Harry.

Comments welcome.

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The Real Football Manager

9 Apr

I was 12 years old starting secondary school when my old form tutor introduced me to Championship Manager. By luck or by persistence, I somehow came across the demo-version given free in packets of Frosties. My life has never been the same.

But I’m not writing about how I took Gateshead to the Premier League in the revised ‘Football Manager’ series, or how Newcastle United were the biggest team on the continent. No. That would be too easy, and those stories are saved for my grandchildren. Instead, I want to put out my views on how this game should be implemented into the real world.

For those who don’t know, Football Manager is a game in which you take the role, well, of a Football Manager. I’m open to admit that I’m addicted to the point where I compromise sleep; eating, even to a point I was late to an A-Level exam. The game focuses on an intricacy and attention to detail that probably surpasses the workings of football in reality. Players are rated out of 20 in a variety of attributes from work-rate to aggression. There are millions of players on the database, all evaluated with attached details of contract status and footballing history. There is so much more to the game that it would take days to explain.

Football Manager 2012

But my main point is why real managers don’t use the game. The player database shows an accurate depiction of every player in the world. So, if Alan Pardew was interested in a young French super-star in the making – see what the FM scouts say. See what the attributes say. See how much he is getting paid. See what languages he speaks, or if he has any transfer clauses, or if his physical side will advantage him. I could go on. All of this, plus much more without picking up a phone. Simply, installing and running this ‘game’, or more precisely ‘scouting tool’.

As far as I’m aware, it hasn’t been embraced in the modern game. Maybe an egotistical point that experience is far more knowledgeable than a piece of software. But the sooner the better in my opinion. There were mootings that Arsene Wenger signed some of his players via consulting the scouting guru that is Football Manager – it evidently worked for him.

This leads me to think, what’s the point of a director of football or a scouting team? Why not employ someone who has an experience of football manager? I’m sure I can do a better job than the likes of Damien Comolli or Dennis Wise.

I’ll be sending my CV in soon.

Comments welcome.

Money Men

7 Apr

You probably know where this going. I’m writing this probably with some reflection of the game last weekend where the result need not be repeated. But at St. James’ Park on a fine Sunday afternoon, the fans were in for a treat. To see two of our former players, be embarrassed by a club supposedly inferior to them was a sight to see. This isn’t an article of sour grapes, pointing out the failings of ex-players, more to the issue that an increasing number of players see their names in headlights and leave their club in search of glory.

As we all know on January 31st 2010, a £35million bid was accepted for Newcastle talisman Andy Carroll from Liverpool. Much was made at the time of the price of the player, the timing of the incident, as well as whether he walked the plank or was he pushed. Whatever happened, its fair to say that his career has seemingly taken a plummet, and will take some real graft to get the recognition he had before. He could have written himself into the same lines of the likes of Alan Shearer and Jackie Milburn. Instead he seems destined to share the embarrassment that is akin to Sean Dundee and Robbie Keane – the players that the scouse will remember with a sigh and a shake of the head.

Andy Carroll - Right choice?

Away from Andy Carroll, there is a long list of players that thought leaving for a supposed ‘bigger club’ with an injection into their own bank accounts would suit for the best. Well maybe, in terms of the number of zero’s at the end of their bank statements. But what happens on the pitch is the players’ bread and butter. Note, this isn’t a gripe to all those who have left my club, this is a genuine article looking at those who leave a club in search of personal ambitions.

Step forward Fernando Torres. Three years ago, he was supposedly one of the most feared strikers in the world, rifling goals in a team challenging for the title. Now he is one of the world’s most expensive flops. Again, another case of the ‘bigger club’ syndrome. Torres has looked a shadow of his former self, with the list seemingly endless of those who left for ‘a club with more ambition’.

Now I’m not here raving that the players mentioned above left purely for cold hard cash. There was probably an incentive of moving onto bigger and better things (probably being the key word). But this perfectly alludes to the point that one of the most valuable things in football is the adulation and idolisation of the fans. After all, despite all the money and goals, the fans tend to stick with the players that have stuck with them. That is why I have the utmost respect for the likes of Alan Shearer and Steven Gerrard (despite him being a first class plank). Footballers who declined moves to more successful clubs to stay with their club, their fans, their people. Money isn’t everything in football.

Andy Carroll and Jose Enrique can join the likes of Charles N’Zogbia, Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton, Habib Beye, Damien Duff and Obafemi Martins. Look where they are now.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side…

Comments welcome.

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