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Posts Tagged ‘Premiership’

When we started this blog we wanted it to be a sports blog covering lots of different sports, so far we have covered football, tennis, snooker and cricket, there are other sports we intend to write about to keep this as varied as possible. We were also very careful to make sure this does not become a blog about Liverpool FC, there are plenty of LFC blogs out there and even we don’t want to have another one, however myself and George are both fans of Liverpool so it is inevitable that we are sometimes going to write about the club that we love (even our one guest post was by a Liverpool fan about Liverpool FC).

But at least this is a positive post as opposed to my last article about the Liverpool management which was posted on December 30. I wrote it in the aftermath of a 1-0 home loss to Wolves and begged for Roy Hodgson to either resign or be fired, Liverpool were languishing in 12th place and a relegation battle was a very real possibly, the league table tells it’s own story…

Then on 8th January every LFC fan got their wish, Roy Hodgson was sacked, to make the news even sweeter Kenny Dalglish was handed the task of turning this dismal season around. His first game in charge was the small matter of Manchester United at old Trafford in The F.A Cup, we lost 1-0 but the signs were encouraging. Then it was a trip to Blackpool who had turned us over at Anfield 2-1, a great start by LFC was rewarded with a brilliant Torres goal after 2 minutes, things were looking good for about another 5 minutes before the inevitable happened, LFC couldn’t take the game to the opposition and Blackpool capitalised, scoring twice before half time and holding on for their second 2-1 victory over Liverpool this season.

Were things changing though? Was Kenny’s influence starting to show? Were Liverpool beyond help? All good questions and you felt some would be answered at Anfield on Sunday 16th January (my 32nd birthday incidentally) when we faced Everton.

Only 10 minutes in I knew I was watching a different team, aesthetically they were the same as before but you could feel something different, it was like they had a new focus, a new enthusiasm, a new mentality, Kenny’s presence was starting to be a factor. Liverpool took the lead mid-way through the first half with a great strike by Meireles, his first LFC goal. It looked as though a victory was a formality but 1 minute into the 2nd half Distin scored from a corner, 6 minutes later Beckford scored (which was Ben Thornley’s fault!) and that gave Everton the lead, fortunately we were awarded a penalty from which Kuyt made it 2-2 and that is how it stayed. I said after the game that I would still have been happy even if Liverpool had lost as it was just so nice to see them playing well again.

Now what Kenny needed was a win and that was delivered only 6 days later with a very comfortable victory over Wolves at Molineux, it was a fantastic performance with one of the goals of the season from the ever improving Meireles. The game was overshadowed somewhat by the controversy surrounding the female assistant referee, Sian Massey and the comments made by Sky Sports presenter and commentator, Richard Keys and Andy Gray, I am not commenting on it,  just making reference to the fact it was at that game where the incident occurred.

Suddenly the table started to make better reading…

 

Obviously 10th is unacceptable, but it was unthinkable 3 weeks earlier.

Next game was home to Fulham, it wasn’t a great performance but enough was done to secure a 1-0 win, back to back victories and back to back clean sheets, the Steve Clarke effect was being felt as much as the Kenny Dalglish effect.

In between the Fulham match and the upcoming Stoke match was the end of the transfer window, I have already posted about it before so won’t go into it again, highlights were…Torres went to Chelsea, we got Carroll and Suarez, I am happy with it as are plenty of LFC fans.

Back to Stoke, we had been fundamently outplayed by Stoke in November and needed to keep this run going to banish the memories of that defeat, another goal from Meireles and a debut goal from Suarez coming off the bench meant a 2-0 win for LFC and another clean sheet.

This brings us to our last game before this post was written, Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the hype surrounding Torres was crazy, will he play? Won’t he play? Will he score? Will Carragher try to break his legs? In the end only one of these things happened, he played, well…sort of, 65 minutes of anonymity and he was substituted. Meireles was the hero once again as he pounced on a Cech error to score and Liverpool held on for a fantastic 1-0 win.

For the record that is now four wins from four, two home and two away, with no goals conceded, the instant impact that Dalglish is having is in such contrast to the negative, boring football employed by Hodgson, I like Hodgson the man, but he was the wrong man for this job and proved it so.

So exactly one month after Daglish was appointed and was asked “Do you think you can get Liverpool out of this relegation battle they are heading for?” he now gets asked the question “Do you think you can make the Champions league places?” Here is the current league table that proves the impact Kenny has had…

More enjoyable though than moving up the table and keeping clean sheets is the way LFC are playing, I have spent a long, long time watching Liverpool matches on TV and thinking ‘this is awful, I want to change the channel’ I never do and just endure the boredom. Not now though, now watching Liverpool is fun again, you can see how much the players are enjoying it, how much the Anfield faithful are enjoying it, you can even see how much Kenny Dalglish is enjoying it, and all of this has happened in just…. one month.

Roy Hodgson said during one of the darker times of his tenure that you need “plenty of time to get a new managers methods across”

No you don’t, you need to understand the club, understand how to handle the players, be tactically astute against other clubs, know how to speak to the media, know how to buy a player that will enhance the squad (that is not a dig at Konchesky, he always tried his best, its just his best wasn’t enough) but most importantly, you need to know you are manager of Liverpool Football Club…

…and that is something Kenny Dalglish definitely understands.

Marcus J Mitchell.

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I think my favourite January transfer window cliché is…

It’s silly season

…It is said because clubs will only sell players for crazy amounts of money, but it never actually happens, as Sky Sports News have repeatedly said, last year’s total for the entire window was just over £29m.

However, there must have been something in the water at this year’s LMA Xmas do because it has gone….well…silly.

This is what was so silly…

January 7th – Manchester City sign Edin Dzeko for £27m, this wasn’t a crazy price considering he was one of the most sought after strikers in Europe but his transfer fee almost covered the entire expenditure of last years window.

 

January 19th – Aston Villa pay massively over the odds for Darren Bent completing the transfer for an astonishing £24m.

Not a lot happened until January 30th, when Spurs put in a number of bids for a series of unobtainable Spain based players, making offers for Aguero, Negredo, Rossi and Llorente, none of these bids were accepted and Spurs finished up with nobody. But the rumour mill involving Fernando Torres started up and media reports suggested Chelsea had put a bid of around £35m in which was rejected out of hand by Liverpool. However some journalists suggested that Torres was keen for this transfer to happen.

So we move onto January 31st, transfer deadline day, It started with Newcastle claiming they had rejected a £30m bid from an unnamed club, although ‘Sky Sources’ suggested it was Liverpool, seemingly getting ready for life without Torres. Liverpool also were just awaiting the formalities to seal the deal to sign Luis Suarez.

A lot of faffing around was followed by this amazing series of events…

…Liverpool confirmed the signing of Suarez for £23m, breaking their transfer record (Torres’ transfer was £20m)…

 

…Then also confirmed the new British record transfer of Andy Carroll for £35m, a staggering amount of money for a player who has only scored 34 goals in his professional career, this also meant that Liverpool had broken their own transfer record for the second time in 2 hours, oh and it is the 7th largest transfer in the history of football…

 

…Carroll’s transfer would have been the 6th highest transfer in world football but just 3 minutes later, Chelsea confirmed the signing of Fernando Torres for £50m, the highest fee ever paid in British football and the 4th highest fee in the world behind Ronaldo (£80m), Ibrahimovic (£60m) and Kaka (£56m)…

 

…the total spent is just over £215m, that is nearly ten times what was spent 12 months ago.

Now there are a lot of “experts” saying that the money spent is simply ludicrous, I have a different opinion on this, if a club offers a certain amount of money for a player and the other club accept this offer then the player can move between the clubs, why should the value be any issue of yours or mine, I won’t be poorer because Liverpool have spent £35m on Carroll, I think Carroll is an excellent player and I am truly excited by the prospect of him and Suarez linking up, so the cost is irrelevant, they needed players to replace Torres and Babel and have bought them.

Let me say this, as a Liverpool fan I have never been so excited watching transfer deadline day unfold, I’m devastated Torres has left but that chapter is over and a new one is about to begin.

But it has been a bit silly though.

Marcus J Mitchell.

P.s. I feel like an idiot for forgetting to mention Apostolos Vellios, Evertons ‘nominal fee’ signing, so here he is (thanks to KevCeeJay for the reminder)…

…This is also the only time Everton fans will see him for the next three years before he is farmed out on loan to Swindon before being released.

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As Ryan Babel is preparing himself for his move to Hoffenheim in Germany, I find myself asking the question…

What went wrong?

At the tender age of 20 he signed for Liverpool for a fee in the region of £12m (varying reports suggest somewhere between £11m and £13m) which is a lot of money to put on such young shoulders. But seeing the performances that he had been putting in for Ajax Amsterdam and the Dutch national side it seemed he would hit the ground running and be an excellent acquisition for LFC.

Added to that he joined the club only 10 days after a certain Fernando Torres had signed, so the pressure was very much on the Spaniard to succeed taking the focus off Babel.

Before Babel joined Liverpool he was linked heavily with Arsenal as the long term replacement for Thierry Henry and you can see why, he is a player very much in the same mould, lightning quick, powerful, can take a man on and score goals, but Liverpool beat Arsenal to the punch and signed the Dutchman up.

If we had a machine that could create an alternative reality I would love to see what would have happened to Babel had he been bought by Arsenal instead, if he had been under the wing of Arsene Wenger, who is so revered for his nurturing of young talent.

I may be ridiculed for this opinion but I think that if Babel had signed for Arsenal, or indeed Chelsea with Mourinho or Manchester Utd with Ferguson, he might very well be one of the top players in the Premiership now, dare I say even the world. To go back to my description before, he has lightning pace, ask any defender in the world what he is scared of most, I guarantee he will say pace. He is physically strong yet surprisingly agile and can trick his way past players with ease. He can shoot from just about anywhere with terrific power, I can recall a couple of Champions League goals in particular that were outstanding strikes. Put all of this together and you will find yourself with one hell of a player, yet somehow his amazing lack of consistency meant he only made 90 appearances in over 3 and a half years and most of them were from the bench.

This is not a criticism of Rafa Benitez, far from it, I was a big fan of Rafa and thought he brought some players on really well, Alonso, Torres and Reina all became world class footballers under the tutelage of Rafa. The problem is, that for every success with Benitez there was a failure to go with it, and sadly for Babel he has to put in the failure column.

So off to Germany he goes for a fresh start, at still only 24 he has plenty of time to rediscover his talent and I’m certain that this will be a stepping stone to bigger and better things, I’m just disappointed that he couldn’t make it at Liverpool, because in today’s market getting a world class player for £12m would seem very good business, instead they take a £6m loss and wonder what could have been if only that amazing talent had been realised.

Good luck Ryan.

Marcus J Mitchell.

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In the last few weeks I have been to three Wrexham FC league games and have loved every minute of it, first up was Bath City on January 3rd at home (The Racecourse Ground), I actually wrote an article about this match, or more precisely about Mathias Pogba, Wrexham overcame good opposition to win 2-0 and start a mini charge up the league.

Next up on the following Saturday was another home game, this time it was Grimsby Town who were the visitors, Grimsby came into this game having scored no less than 16 goals in their previous 3 matches so would provide some serious opposition. Wrexham continued with the enigmatic Pogba up front and Mark Creighton making his first start at centre back after signing permanently for the dragons, he had previously been on loan from Oxford Utd but fancied the move north.

Wrexham controlled the match but couldn’t find the breakthrough until the 70th minute when the brilliant Jay Harris struck a powerful shot from 20 yards into the bottom corner.  I am not a scout nor a manager and there are reasons both those things are true, but in the last few games Harris has stood head and shoulders above his team-mates and should be alerting managers from the league above with his displays.  I am sure nobody from Wrexham nor their fans would like to see him go, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see him move up the leagues.

Andy Morrell sealed the win with a neat finish 6 minutes later and that made it two wins from two, I spoke to Neil Woods (Grimsby Manager) after the game and he simply said..

Dean’s (Saunders) system was better than mine and no matter how we changed it, we couldn’t create a chance.

It was bitterly cold at the ground that day but still over 3,000 turned up to watch the game, the Racecourse can hold around 11 – 12,000 so there were plenty of empty seats, clubs like Wrexham need these seats filled in order to create the revenue which is vital to survive.

This was no more apparent than the last match of my trilogy, away at Southport on Tuesday 18th January. It was another freezing night and in the bar before the game I hardly saw any home fans at all, we got into the stadium at the away end and took our places, looking across the ground the home support was almost non-existent, the attendance was officially 1,500 of which I’m certain two thirds was from Wrexham, it genuinely felt like a home game.

The game itself wasn’t the classiest of affairs, Wrexham were the better side and deservedly took the lead after 24 minutes when Andy Morrell knocked the rebound from an Andy Mangan shot and held on for the remainder of the match, one thing of note is the food situation at Southport, we went for a half-time pie and they had run out of everything except Hot-Dogs, the stadium wasn’t exactly overflowing but they still hadn’t prepared for how many turned up.

My point to all of this is that if you, like me, are a football fan but aren’t able or cannot afford to go to Anfield, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge or the Emirates, then make your way down to The Racecourse Ground, Haig Avenue, Aggborough or Church Road, I have found the atmosphere to be just as electric as the big grounds, the standard of football might not be as good but the commitment remains the same. The worst thing is that none of these teams have billionaire Sheikhs, Yanks or Russians funding them, they have you and me, so if you can’t go and watch the Barclays Premier League then try the Blue Square Premier League instead, for a fraction of the price you will have just as much fun.

Marcus J Mitchell.

P.S. You can always Sky+ Match of the Day anyway!

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Kenny Dalglish, the player and manager who won every trophy available, numerous times, has returned to Liverpool Football Club after a 20 year sabbatical. The air of optimism has returned to a club beset by negativity, player power, boardroom bust-ups, crippling debt and even worse results. Two managers sacked in six months, unheard of at Liverpool. Relative quiet on the Kop. The game has changed, tactics have changed, the pace of game, the fitness of players, the press are more intrusive and, by the standards set by the previous incumbent Roy Hodgson, the time you have is limited. But can King Kenny bring back success, or in the short-term, stability to the most successful club in English footballing history?

If Robbie Fowler is God, then Kenny Dalglish is Darwin. One requires a certain degree of faith, a look past the failure and frailties. You’re required to ignore the inconsistencies and irrationality. The other is the leading light. The best of his generation. A true genius. A natural. He did things no one else could do. He brought out a beauty in things you didn’t see before. He was right.

Listening to a radio debate yesterday about Liverpool’s new caretaker manager I was intrigued to hear the ‘News’ of the World’s Andy Dunn claiming that Dalglish felt he never gets the recognition he deserved for his achievements as a manager. So what did he achieve? Four league titles (3 at Liverpool and 1 at Blackburn), two F.A. Cups (at Liverpool), one F.A. Cup final appearance with Newcastle, and perhaps often overlooked, a runners-up spot in the Premiership with the Toon. No mean feat at that club. He also failed at Celtic, finishing second which is basically the same as relegation in the SPL (although he was only manager for 18 games). The difference, in relative terms, is second place just isn’t good enough for Dalglish. He won’t want recognition for a F.A. Cup final appearance, or two runners-up spots in the Premiership. That kind of recognition doesn’t appeal to winners. He won four league titles in eleven seasons in the top division (36% of the time). His teams have finished runner-up five times (45%). So, with three different clubs, he finished in the top two 81% of the time. Not bad. In percentage terms, I’d suggest he’s up there with the very best of all-time? He is also the only manager in the last 30 years to win the league with two different clubs. Again, not too shabby.

“But he’s outdated, and has been out of the game too long”

That has been said, including a hint of it here by the author and journalist Jonathan Wilson. Although Paul Tomkins here, with slightly more detail and analysis, outlines

It’s easy to paint Dalglish as someone who has been out of the game for too long (and back in the summer I shared some of those concerns), but since then, having spoken to those closest to him, I’ve come to see things differently. I appreciate that his work at the Academy since 2009 has acted as a refresher course (as were his discussions with Rafa Benítez), and if you have a great footballing mind, you can adapt. Dalglish was always a thinker. And with his son, Paul (who has managed in Major League Soccer), a big fan of the fast-pressing game of Pep Guardiola, the family is very much in touch with the modern game.

The article goes on to analyse his record at Blackburn and during his first spell as player/manager with Liverpool. It’s well worth the time to read the whole thing.

He hasn’t got the funds he had previously. He hasn’t got the players according to the majority of the footballing press. The squad is poor, and the club is heading for disaster by appointing a man based on romance and history. But Dalglish demands more, and taking his record into account, usually gets his own way.

Liverpool FC were on the verge of administration only three months ago. The team was playing long ball. They couldn’t scrape together consecutive victories with any regularity, they couldn’t even score when they played away from home. Humiliating cup defeats, sulking players, no new stadium, strange new owners, alien new directors of football (common, popular and effective everywhere else in the world, just ask Pep Guardiola), but, and this is the fundamental point, the crowds started to drop. The fans couldn’t take anymore. They had no belief, no hope, no vision and no future. Until the return of Dalglish?

He might not bring about miracles, but he has brought unity. Something Liverpool have not had since Hicks and Gillett started arguing. Since they started undermining the manager at the time (Rafa Benitez) by approaching Jurgen Klinsmann. The list continues until Hodgson was sacked. He was brought in by the old regime, the results were the worst since 29BC or BF(owler) or 1956. He was the wrong man, with the wrong tactics, at the wrong club, at the wrong time. A bad mix.

Now the club has a fresh start; new owners with a new long-term vision (read ‘Moneyball’ by Micheal Lewis for a rundown on their methods), a ‘new’ manager who understands the club, and a new assistant in Steve Clarke. Clarke worked under Mourinho, he’s ambitious, will know the ‘modern game’ and has had success in the Premier League. Is he being groomed to takeover and work under Commoli in a couple of years? He’s worked around another up and coming manager (now Porto manager) at Chelsea in Andre Villas-Boas (Jose M’s chief scout) and like this article suggests, certainly wants a crack at management. Remember who took over from a legend, with no managerial experience, and went on to lift trophies at a rate comparable with Ferguson, Wenger and Paisley, oh yes… King Kenny. I’m not sure about Clarke as future manager, but that has to be the mould. Young, talented and with a vision. Ferguson had a vision, to restore United to former glories. Wenger had a vision, to play attractive football, live within a viable financial structure and promote young players from within. If Dalglish, Clarke and J. W. Henry can create a mix of the two visions above, then nevermind a Darwin, God or the King, he will have done something no manager has ever achieved. Remove Alex Ferguson from that ‘fucking perch’. The impossible. Just ask God (or Dalglish with Blackburn) how hard that is.

(There may have been a little bias in this article)

George Allwell

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The emotional and long awaited return of Kenny Dalglish (an L before the G as well as after!) is something that I am very happy about, his first game in charge was a throwback to the late 80’s battles with a match against the old enemy – Manchester Utd.

However several incidents during the match caused Ryan Babel to do something that is completely and utterly unacceptable…have a laugh. He posted a photoshopped picture of referee Howard Webb in a Man Utd kit.

Here is the picture in question…

…Oh and because I don’t have to be held to the same standard as Ryan here is another…

Thank god I’m not a professional footballer; otherwise I would be facing a massive fine and possibly a ban. I doubt it is possible but if anybody anywhere has a contact inside the F.A please, please show them this post to highlight how ridiculous it is to curtail free speech.

“Maybe I’ve been out of the game too long but let’s see if they can find a sense of humour”

And he joked:

“I don’t think he’s clever enough technically to have drawn that up himself.”

This surely shows that even Kenny himself doesn’t think of it as that bigger deal but the F.A have gone ahead and charged Babel anyway.

So can any pro footballers who might get to read this please, please, PLEASE use your right to free speech and say or post anything you wish, surely they won’t ban all of you.

Marcus J Mitchell.

P.s. Don’t blame me if you have got banned, if I told you to jump off a cliff would you do that?

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For those who didn’t know, I live in Llandudno, North Wales, so every now and again I make the journey to Wrexham to watch the mighty dragons, they currently reside in the Blue Square Premier League (formally the Conference) and are managed by former Liverpool and Wales legend, Dean Saunders.

Wrexham have had a shaky couple of years and to be honest are probably a league lower than they should be, but results and performances have not gone well and Saunders is consistently signing below par players.

So yesterday I popped along to The Racecourse Ground with a couple of friends and my fiancée’s mother (long story, not important) to check out the action. Now this piece was going to be a match report on the game, but I thought, as we write about The Premier League, The Ashes, World Cup etc, so why not something a little close to home, but after witnessing the birth of a new cult hero I thought I would scan over the game itself and then talk about him.

So let me introduce Mr. Mathias Pogba…

Now firstly you are thinking, ‘Pogba…that name rings a bell?’ well you would be right, Mathis’ younger brother Paul was the subject of a long dispute over his move to Manchester Utd from Le Harve, the dispute was settled and Utd have one of France’s top talents waiting to be introduced to the Premier League.

Back to Mathias, he started yesterday’s match Vs Bath City on the bench, he has made 6 appearances from the bench so far this season so that is where he is used to being. Wrexham started the game well with former Man City youngsters Curtis Obeng and Adrian Cieslewisz causing Bath all sorts of problems down the right flank with their pace, it was another run by Obeng into the box that earned Wrexham a penalty after he was bundled over by Mohamed.

Former Nott’m Forest striker Gareth Taylor dispatched the penalty to give Wrexham the lead at the break, after half-time Wrexham were by far the better team but couldn’t find that second goal, then on 69 minutes, Pogba was introduced. My friend I was sitting with, who is a real Wrexham fan gave his opinion on Pogba ‘He is shit’, fairly conclusive and he did his best to live up to that tag.

Tenacious work from Taylor left Pogba with a chance on goal, he tried about 8 stepovers and the defender easily took the ball from him, he seemed to make runs and find space like a good striker, but then he gets the ball and…It all kind of goes wrong.

Then his moment of glory came, on 86 minutes the excellent Jay Harris played a ball straight into Pogba’s path, he holds off the defender before calmly slotting the ball home for his first Wrexham goal making it 2-0 in the process, a great finish and a great celebration as he tries a Gyan like dance, not too shabby either.

However the real reason he became a hero came about 3 minutes later, he picked the ball up about 30 yards out, sidesteps the defender and goes for a pile driver on his left foot, only problem being he missed the ball completely, a fantastic air shot before falling flat on his face, a moment of pure genius.

If ever the phrase ‘sublime to the ridiculous’ was appropriate, then Mathias Pogba’s 3 minute cameo against Bath City surely demonstrated it.

Don’t take my words for it, here is what the Wrexham fans were singing at full time as we were leaving the stadium…

“Who needs Drogba…we’ve got Pogba”.

A star is born.

Marcus J Mitchell.

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