Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Football League seem determined to 'get' Leeds United

It seems that the Football League is determined to 'get' Leeds United.

Their banning of Massimo Cellino as owner of the football club makes little sense, especially as the ban lasts only until mid-March. Apparently he failed the "fit and proper owner" test of the Football League.

But how can this be?

In his time at Leeds United, Cellino has:

  • erased the debt of the club
  • brought in new players to bring a new leas of life to the club
  • brought the club to the brink of being able to buy back Elland Road
  • brought more stability to the club than many previous owners had managed in a dozen years or so.
The action of the Football League will likely:
  • bring doubt and confusion over ownership for at least three and a half months
  • have a de-stabilising affect on the club
  • put into doubt players' long-term futures
  • put back the possibility of buying the ground back
The Football League seem determined to 'get' Leeds United, just when the club (having beaten Championship leaders Derby County 2-0 on Saturday) seemed to be getting back on track.

WHO exactly is failing the club in these circumstances?

Friday, 14 November 2014

FIFA report into corruption is exposed as corrupt!

FIFA is a joke.

The report about alleged corruption in the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups has been exposed as not being wholly representative of the investigations! So, basically the report of the investigation of corruption is corrupt!

And to add farce into the bargain, FIFA didn't miss the chance to have a pop at England saying that England's bid for the 2018 World Cup flouted bidding rules.

FIFA hates England.

So FIFA will reject, deny and go contrary to anything that England does. The chance of England hosting a World Cup in the next 50 years is zero.

But let's ignore the allegations of corruption for a moment. The fact is that the choice of Qatar as the host for the 2022 World Cup is just plain wrong. The tournament cannot be played in the month of July, as it normally id, causing fixture disruption around the world. And Qatar has never qualified for any World Cup final tournament - ever.

As for Russia - it doesn't have a great record on human rights, and the conflict with Ukraine continues to simmer. CSKA Moscow has just been punished for its fans' racist abuse - again. Why does FIFA reward countries like this?

Go figure.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Warnock wonders whether his players are "too honest"

The BBC reports ( Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock as saying that his side is "too honest" and therefore not getting the decisions in their favour.

"I think we're too nice at the moment. We are too honest," he said.

It's certainly easy to sympathise that his team didn't get a penalty in the first few seconds of last night's 3-1 defeat by Sunderland. It was a clear penalty, but referee Phil Dowd ignored it. Whether that's because Fraizer Campbell didn't roll over a few times, I'm doubtful. It's more likely that Dowd didn't give it because it was too early in the game and he wasn't quite on the ball. Easier to give that decision after 30 minutes!

Whatever the reason, it is a shame that Warnock feels his players need to be less honest than they are the moment, but evidence is all around us. Players who are not entirely honest regularly reap the benefit of their actions.

It is a tough sport for referees to get their decisions right all the time, and none of us should blame them for getting decisions wrong from time to time.

We should blame all managers who have gone before Warnock and encouraged their players to be less honest - or as we should say, to cheat.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Rough ride for Leeds United fans

You support a team from when you are young and most people stick with that team throughout their lives. More often than not, you'll pick a local team.

For me, in Guildford in Surrey, the choice of top division teams was lacking. Way back before they had ever won anything I chose to support Leeds United (I thought L-E-E-D-S was easy to spell).

My oh my, what a club to pick. Without dwelling on any successes in the many years since then, or indeed, on the many failures, I can come bang up to date and wonder what the hell is going on at the club.

Darko Milanic became the third manager to be sacked by owner Massimo Cellino since late May. Firstly, Brian McDermott, and then since the start of this season (six games each), Dave Hockaday and now Darko Milanic, have both been sacked. In between times academy boss Neil Redfearn had a successful spell as caretaker manager, and now might get the job on a "permanent" basis. "Permanent" might only mean half a dozen more games if Redfearn can't turn the team into a winning one. Milanic won no games of his six in charge.

After yet another defeat (1-2 at home to Wolves) on Saturday, you wonder where it's all going next. There seem to be some decent players at the club (mostly on loan!), but no consistency or a seeming steady improvement.

Johnny Giles has called for Cellino to go himself, but the owner has settled the finances at the club, brought in many new players and has talked about buying Elland Road back. Good things, surely? Of course, the Football League are still hoping they can prove him to be not a fit or proper owner, despite those good things.

It's a rough ride for all Leeds United fans, but you can't change your team, can you?

Monday, 13 October 2014

England must punish lesser teams more convincingly

I suppose we need to give them a chance because they're young, but the England performance in the two games against San Marino (5-0) and Estonia (1-0) were as uninspiring as they have been over the last few years.

It was definitely time to move on from the so-called "golden generation" who never delivered, and the likes of Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Raheem Sterling may turn into good international players.

But how England failed to see off Estonia yesterday with more than one goal yesterday was a bit worrying. England were by far the better team in possession and it was good to see how quickly and hard they worked to recover the ball. But they need to do more to score goals!

Surely, they need to get wide, they need an injection of pace, they need to shoot...

Surely what we don't need is sideways passes among the back four with a midfielder occasionally dropping in to join them with more lateral passes.

I can't believe Roy Hodgson tells them to do this. It's all very professional and keep-ball, but perhaps they need reminding from time to time that the objective of the game is to score goals. Why wait a half (or an hour, or 80 minutes) before any urgency bubbles through?

Get lively early on. Let's punish these lesser teams more convincingly.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Games on foreign fields will see the death of English football

The emetic idea of playing Premier League games abroad has reared its ugly head again, I see.

Those who raise this idea have no regard for English football whatsoever. All they are concerned about is making money - plain and simple.

But what is left of English football?

The owners are foreign.
The managers are foreign.
The coaching staff are foreign.
The players are foreign.
"They" want to play the game on foreign fields.
"They" would no doubt use foreign officials.
Many fans are foreign - that's why "they" want to play games abroad - to cash in.

All that would be left would be English club names.

This revived idea is not for a "39th game" as before, but for shipping an existing round of matches to somewhere in the Far East.

The idea makes me sick and I spit on it.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore says the clubs still want a game abroad. Of course they do - to fill their coffers. It is up to him to say no!

But it seems he doesn't care.

It is a slow painful death for English football

Monday, 29 September 2014

The tension will be palpable as Newcastle United take on Stoke City

Alan Pardew's job appears to be on the line in tonight's game for Newcastle United at Stoke City. It makes an otherwise dull-looking encounter appear quite interesting.

Yet even if Newcastle United successfully take three points at the Britannia Stadium this evening, you can't help but feel that unless Pardew puts together a run of half-a-dozen unbeaten games and takes Newcastle firmly into the top half, then he will remain a dead man walking.

No manager resigns these days - the pay-offs for being sacked are too lucrative - otherwise, Pardew might have decided himself that enough was enough after owner Mike Ashley's "joke" comments about sacking Pardew to a reporter recently.

A manager of any club these days is only ever three-successive defeats away from a potential P45, but some jobs are tougher than others. Ashley's loyalty to his managers doesn't seem to steeped in longevity, so, let's face it, Pardew's days are numbered.

As for the game tonight, Stoke City haven't won a league game at home yet this season (two 0-1 defeats), and Newcastle United haven't won a league game away since 1 March. Stoke City themselves only have two more points than the Geordies, and Mark Hughes might be a little more nervous than usual tonight.

It actually sounds like a recipe for a 0-0 draw, but the tension will be palpable.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Will you care about England as long as your club is doing well?

As Germany celebrate the deserved World Cup victory, it seems so long ago that England were eliminated from the tournament. It was actually 20th June (when Costa Rica beat Italy 1-0), the competition having started on the 12th. England lasted barely a week. The players went on holiday and will no doubt start pre-season training a little later than their non-international colleagues.

It will no doubt be just over a week before England fans forget about the ignominious World Cup showing and get down to the real business of supporting their own Premier League team.

And that's the problem.

If you want your team to compete at the top of the Premier League, you'll want it to buy the best players - and that probably means foreign players. At that point you don't care about the England team, only that your club is performing well in the Premier League.

I'm not sure we can have it both ways. Some might claim that Germany have managed it. But have they? They've won the World Cup as a nation, but are all their clubs' supporters happy with their club's showing? I don't know.

I do know that there's no quick fix for England's poor national team's performance. Greg Dyke might not have the perfect solution, but we should certainly give him credit for trying.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Gotze's volley gives Germany its deserved reward

Thank goodness for Mario Gotze's superb volley seven minutes before the end of extra time in the World Cup final last night. It saved us from the depressing spectacle of a penalty shoot-out which would have been an awful way to end an otherwise very good World Cup tournament.

There could be little denying that Germany deserved to win the trophy, although there was never any chance that they were going to put Argentina to the sword as they has done with Brazil four days earlier. Argentina put up a much stiffer test, although their inability to get a single shot on target - even with eventual Balon D'Or winner Lionel Messi in their line-up - suggests that they struggled to make any inroads into the German defence. However, that hides the reality of misses by Higuain, Messi and Palacio, as well as the dominating presence of Manuel Neuer in the German goal.

Gotze's chest control and volley on the turn were worthy of a World Cup final winning goal. It was just a pity a goal didn't come early to potentially spark the final into life. It never quite lived up to its billing.

Germany now join Italy on four World Cup wins and with this young team, there's no doubt at all that they will be challenging again in Russia in four years time. They also become the first country, apart from Brazil, to win the World Cup away from their home continent. Full credit should go to Joachim Low, but also to Germany as a whole for the rebuilding plan they put in place after the failure at the 2004 European Championships.

If only England would do something similar.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Referees are failing to apply the laws of the game

According to the BBC:

'Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce says referees have not been told to be lenient at the 2014 World Cup.
Some officials have been criticised for opting not to caution players during matches, with the average number of yellow cards per game just below three.
Boyce says: "I think the refereeing has been superb and it has not happened by chance.
"The referees have been told to only send a player off if they were 100% certain it was a red card, but nothing has ever been said about being lenient." '
The refereeing has emphatically NOT been superb at this World Cup and sadly, it is the delusion of FIFA that means that we have to suffer this poor refereeing on and on.
Quite simply, the referees do not apply the laws of the game. This leads to players taking small advantages, which become the norm, then the players try to take bigger advantages until they expect them to become the norm too.
A prime example is the ball in the corner quadrant. A few years ago this was changed so that the ball only had to overhang the quadrant line. This was as a direct result of players putting the ball outside the line. FIFA caved in and went with the players.
Here are some examples of laws which referees have ignored at this World Cup:
  1. Gain of yardage at throw-ins. About 15 yards seems to be the expected gain.
  2. Gain of yardage at free-kicks. Players stand where the offence took place and chuck the ball about fifteen yards forward (with minimal back spin).
  3. Not booking players for waving imaginary yellow cards. This was expressly stated by FIFA, yet has not happened in any single case.
  4. Encroachment of walls and players at free-kicks. Yes, we've all seen the magic spray, but the referees only ever draw it IN FRONT of the defenders. Why? Just walk the ten yards, draw the line and order the defenders to get behind the line. Oh yes, and BEHIND the line, not on it as some players have done.
  5. Diving and simulation. It goes on. We all know it goes on. Yet not one culprit has been punished.
  6. Time keeping (1). The added-on time is supposed to be a minimum, yet referees at this World Cup (indeed, all non-English matches), the time shown on the board is a MAXIMUM, with referees often blowing up before the time is up.
  7. Time keeping (2). Substitutions, as one example, are supposed to result in an extra thirty seconds being added on. Yet, if a player is substituted during added on time,we never get the extra thirty seconds.
  8. Time keeping (3). There has been a trend in this World Cup for goal celebrations to take up to two minutes. This is deliberate time wasting by the scoring team, and we never get this time back.
  9. Not putting the ball on the penalty spot. Based on the "overhang at corner quadrant" rule change, players now seem to think they can put the ball near the penalty spot, just so long as it overhangs the spot.
  10. Not booking players for foul play. There have been many examples. The Brazil v Colombia game was a farce.
  11. Not allowing corner kicks to be taken! Yes, the old "Ryan Giggs" corner kick has been disallowed twice in this World Cup - once by Howard Webb. WHY?
Some may argue that of these points are trivial. "Oh, it doesn't matter if he gains five yards from a free-kick," they may claim. To which I would say, "If it doesn't matter, don't do it!"

Referees do not allow free-kicks to be taken with a moving ball (quite rightly), yet they are happy to let fifteen yards be gained. WHY?

Not applying the rules leads to players taking advantage, which then leads to cheating. Rugby referees apply the rules in their sport. Why don't football referees?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Argentina v The Netherlands - an inevitable damp squib

I suppose it was inevitable that the second semi-final would be a damp squib compared with the first. Nothing could match the dramatic happenings of Brazil v Germany on Tuesday.

It is nevertheless disappointing to see another 0-0 draw after penalties and the cop-out of a penalty shoot-out. This time there was no Tim Krul to save the Netherlands and Argentina progressed to their fifth World Cup final, and the third offering of a Germany v Argentina final.

I suppose it will be fitting to see one of the World's top players - Lionel Messi - gracing the occasion, but let us hope that Germany's brand of football prevails.

More importantly, let us hope we don't have to rely on penalty kicks to conclude proceedings. Nothing was as dreadful as the 0-0 final between Brazil and Italy in 1994, eventually ending with a Brazil shoot-out victory.

Argentina have some great players - Messi, Aguero, Mascherano, Di Maria - but their team has not quite come together during this tournament. Despite that, they have managed five wins and a penalty shoot-out victory - and that's a recipe for success.

Onward to Sunday's final, and we want better than this semi-final gave us.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Brazil's implosion is their "Kennedy moment"

Brazil 1, Germany 7.
Read it again. Astonishing.

Brazil's implosion in last night's World Cup semi-final will be a "Kennedy moment" for many people. They will always remember where they were when this happened. If you watched it , you will always remember where you were. For the poor Brazilians, both in the ground and watching on TVs around the country, they will never be able to forget it.

This was a Sunday morning park scoreline - in a World Cup semi-final (WCSF). Not since 1930 has a team scored six in a WCSF (both Uruguay and Argentina managed it their in 6-1 wins). Not since 1958 has a team scored five in a WCSF (Brazil 5, France 2). No team has ever scored seven in a WCSF.

Between 11 and 29 minutes Germany rattled in five goals against a Brazilian defence with about as much cover as a Copacabana bikini for an eponymous wax. It all got a bit embarrassing, unless you were German. The BBC commentators were amazed that Germany didn't sit on their 1-0, then their 2-0, then their 3-0 ... lead. Why go and score more goals? Good for Germany, I say. Attack, attack, attack. Let's hope this catches on. In the second half Germany added to their tally, making it 7-0 before Oscar scored what commentator Guy Mowbray scored "the most pointless goal in World Cup history" to make it 7-1.

Germany's tally now makes them the top scorers in World Cup tournament matches (223 in 105 matches to Brazil's 221 in 103). Germany might not win the World Cup (surely a stiffer test will meet them in the final), but they will always be remembered as the team that smashed Brazil.

Brazil were utterly humiliated. The nation must be in shock. Apparently there were some arson attacks in the aftermath, and maybe they'll get a bit angry tonight when it begins to sink in. I hope not.

They need to be realistic and take stock. This is a poor Brazilian team, which lost its two best players (Neymar and Thiago Silva) for the semi-final. Without them, they were a shambles. But having them in the other matches only disguised the truth.

In 2001 England beat Germany in a World Cup qualifier 5-1. The Germans had to beat Ukraine in a qualifying match to get to the 2002 World Cup. They did so and reached the final, losing 2-0 to Brazil in the countries' only other World Cup encounter. But they also went back to the drawing board to rectify problems with the national team. Spectacularly, they have achieved this.

Brazil now need to do the same.

As a footnote, so do England (but we all know that won't happen - reference 1-4 defeat to Germany in 2010 World Cup).

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

South America has the edge in semi-finals

And so we come to the Word Cup semi-finals.

South America v Europe in each case. As the competition is based in South America and no European team has ever won there, it would surely be foolish to call an all-European final. But are the South American teams good enough to beat their European opposition?

The truth is that no team has glowed consistently brightly throughout the tournament.

Brazil's results have been 3-1, 0-0, 4-1, 1-1 (won on penalties), 2-1.
Germany: 4-0, 2-2, 1-0, 2-1, 1-0.
Argentina: 2-1, 1-0, 3-2, 1-0, 1-0.
Holland: 5-1, 3-2, 2-0, 2-1, 0-0 (won on penalties).

No team has lost a game (which sometimes happens. Spain, for example, lost their first game in 2010, yet went on to win the trophy). But only Argentina have won all their five games. Sometimes late in the game!

Germany and Holland both started the competition with big wins, but have not been quite as impressive of late.

Argentina and Brazil have shown, shall we say, typical South American resilience, and buoyed by huge and loud local support, I'm going to go with them to make the final.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Lenient refereeing backs Brazil's niggling style

I'm not entirely comfortable with the way Brazil have progressed to the semi-final in this World Cup. This is certainly not the 'samba-style', free-flowing football Brazil of old. This team has no qualms about fouling, breaking up the game, niggling, and relying on support from the crowd, and, sadly, help from referees.

In my last point, I don't mean that the referees are 'crooked' in any way, but with 60,000+ supporters roaring at you, you can't help but be a little bit swayed - however much you try. The last Brazil game (v. Colombia) was, however, appallingly refereed by Carlos Velasco Carballo of Spain. He was so lenient that the game became almost a free-for-all, with Brazil being the worst culprits. Fernandinho's treatment of James Rodriguez was scandalous, yet the Brazilian - who should have been sent off - didn't even get a yellow card. To add ironic insult to injury, the referee did book Rodriguez for a contactless tackle.

Brazil were able to complain afterwards about how Zuniga caused the injury to their Number Ten Neymar, but the referee did play an advantage in Brazil's favour and to book Zuniga would have been contrary to his handling of the game.

Incredibly, the referee did book Brazil's Thiago Silva for preventing the the Colombian goalkeeper from clearing the ball and kicking into the Colombian net. Considering the number and type of fouls going on in the rest of this game, that decision was laughable. But it had the very serious effect of banning Silva from the semi-final.

I have no doubt in my mind that FIFA have told referees to book as few players as possible to try and ensure that the 'big players' remain available for the later rounds. Carballo will be in trouble for getting Silva banned.

For the good of football, however, it would be better if referees clamped down on fouling and got the dirty players removed from matches.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Uruguay should realise that Suarez has a problem and deal with it

I have been rather annoyed by Luis Suarez's and the Uruguayans' reaction to the punishment given to the player by FIFA after the biting incident last week.

Prior to that, after Uruguay had beaten England thanks to the brilliance of the striker, he claimed that he was driven by the disrespect shown to him in England. This is quite ridiculous. Firstly, he was signed by Liverpool when suspended by Ajax for biting - not a good start. Then there was the racist incident with Patrice Evra. Then there was the biting of Branislav Ivanovic. Surely enough to try the patience of any Liverpool fan, let alone fans of opposition or any media! AND YET, even after all that we were appreciative enough of Suarez's undoubted footballing abilities to vote him Football of the Year - twice! Once by the PFA and once by the PRESS! If that's not respect, I don't know what is.

After the World Cup biting incident Uruguay tried to point the finger at the English media for trying to get the longest ban possible for Suarez. I doubt they did that, but I do expect there were calls for the punishment to fit the crime. And, as we have seen, this was his THIRD biting incident.

Uruguay also claimed that FIFA had been influenced by the English media in giving Suarez a nine-game international ban and an all-football ban for four months. That's probably the most laughable accusation of all. The idea that FIFA would listen to anything the English media say is hilarious - they never listened when it came to choosing venues for future World Cups, for example.

Suarez now claims the 'bite' was some sort of accident, that he 'lost his balance and fell onto his opponent'. Just watch the clip back, Mr Suarez, to realise how embarrassing that claim is.

This was a deliberate and unprovoked bite of Italy's Giorgio Chiellini.

Uruguay as a country appears to be fully supporting Suarez. Methinks it's more to do with them being so reliant on his goals, than belief in his character. Remember 1998 when David Beckham kicked out at an Argentinian, was sent off and England lost the game on penalties? Beckham was Public Enemy No. 1 and vilified for years by the English press and football fans until he redeemed himself by showing good character over the next few years.

A little bit of remorse from Uruguay and an apology from Suarez would be a good start. Then perhaps Uruguay should give the player some assistance in getting over his biting problems. Instead, they are apparently appealing against the ban. FIFA should double it for wasting their time.

To try and place any blame at England's door for this is a farce. Suarez is the problem. Deal with it.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Time for the World Cup to catch fire

So we're through the Groups and into the knock-out rounds.

England, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Russia have all gone home with heads bowed, leaving the likes of Greece, Ivory Coast, USA and Algeria to battle it out for a place in the quarter-finals.

We've had 48 games (two-thirds of the total) with 136 goals at an average of 2.833 goals per game. There have been some good games, but some duffers too. It's not quite the mesmeric World Cup the TV pundits would like us to believe.

The next round has thrown up some interesting games, and some not so interesting.

Brazil v Chile will be fascinating as Chile have caught people's imagination. Colombia v Uruguay will set up and all-South American quarter final. Uruguay, feeling sorry for themselves after the Suarez affair, are unlikely to spring a surprise.

France and Germany both face African opposition (Nigeria and Algeria respectively) and will hope to set up a European quarter final. Algeria - who beat West Germany 2-1 in 1982 - will be hoping for revenge after they were knocked out in that tournament thanks to a cooked-up 1-0 win for West Germany over Austria which put them both through at Algeria's expense.

Belgium haven't quite hit their sweet spot, but three wins from three have given them a match against USA, followed by Argentina or Switzerland.

Let's hope the blue touch paper catches and we're not left with a round of nil-nil draws and penalty shoot-outs.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

England have sunk and the outlook is bleak

The English team have returned home, landing even before the group phase of the World Cup has finished in Brazil.

On the face of it, it was a dismal showing. One point, two goals, two defeats, bottom of the group. We have also now won only one of our last eight games at World Cup finals:

Costa Rica D 0-0
Uruguay L 1-2
Italy L 1-2

Germany L 1-4
Slovenia W 1-0
Algeria D 0-0
USA D 1-1

Portugal D 0-0 (lost on penalties)

It's a terrible record. I remember that after the 4-1 thrashing by Germany at the 2010 World Cup everyone said, "Ah, things will change now, they have to."

Well, nothing has changed. In fact, things have got worse. Our showing at World Cup 2014 was worse than 2010. We have fewer players playing in the Premier League now than then.

And there are no signs that it will get any better. The pundits talk about players and their abilities and coaches and youngsters being told they must win, etc.

The fact is that there are not enough England players to choose from. But with the Premier League clubs managed by mostly foreign managers and owned by foreign owners, there is no interest in making the England national team any stronger.

The future is bleak. We're already worse than Costa Rica. How long before we're fearing Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia and San Marino (along with Switzerland, the rest of out Euro 2016 qualifying group).

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

FIFA must not be toothless on Suarez affair

It's absolutely indefensible, but some are trying to defend Luis Suarez's bite on Giorgio Chiellini. "Apologists", I think they are being called. They range from the Uruguayan press to Liverpool fans.

FIFA must make an example of Suarez, who, by the way, I think is a magnificent footballer and, for that, I respect him immensely. But Suarez has bitten opponents, not once before, but TWICE before, making this his third biting offence.

Simply unbelievable.

Some are saying he needs help, and I would agree, and I think he should be given time for such help away from a football field. This is a great shame for Liverpool, but noises are that Suarez would have been on the move anyway (maybe not now).

So what will FIFA do? They must ban Suarez from all football, but for how long? How long would feel to short? How long would feel too long?

Six matches? Too short.
A year? Too long?
Three months? Getting nearer.
Six months? Getting nearer.

FIFA must act forcefully and must not (forgive he pun) be seen to be toothless.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

World Cup looking good for South and Central Americans

In the end Brazil cruised through their final group game, beating Cameroon 4-1 to win Group A. It wasn't always easy and Cameroon put on their best showing at this year's tournament. Brazil, inspired by Neymar once again, won the day to set up a meeting with Group B runners-up, Chile.

Chile fell 0-2 at the hands of Holland. Having dominated the first half, the South Americans could not sustain their forceful play and Holland picked them off to win Group B. The biggest disappointment in the game was to see Alexis Sanchez (Chile) waving an imaginary card to try and get a Dutch player booked. Apparently FIFA have told referees that such an action should be punished by a caution, but the referee, Bakary Gassama of Gambia, did nothing. He should be sent home for not following instructions. (As for referees not applying the laws of the game, that's a whole other article.)

Holland will play Group A runners-up Mexico, who saw off Croatia in their final group game yesterday. This will not be easy for Holland, who have shown great potential so far, but there are signs that this World Cup is beginning to favour Central and South American teams.

Friday, 20 June 2014

No surprise at England's failure

The only thing I'm surprised about is that there is any surprise.

Surely we had all lowered our expectations about England in this World Cup?

I thought we had, but then in the week leading up the finals (after our dismal 0-0 draw with Honduras) I noticed people saying things like "quarter-finals at least", and "we'll get through the group and see what happens", and "we'll beat Italy 3-1..."

Surely we've seen this demise coming?

But then, after the thrashing by Germany in the last World Cup (1-4 in the first knock-out round), there were sage noddings of heads to suggest that "it would all change now".

We're blind to our failures, and just because we're England we think we have some sort of right to be good. We don't and we're not.

FA Chairman Greg Dyke has come up with some sort of blueprint for England's future, but the nub of it is to give Premier League Clubs more presence in the Football League ('B' teams). It is doomed to failure.

The ONLY solution is to reduce the number of foreign players in the Premier League. Poor Roy Hodgson has about 60 English players in the Premier League to pick from. It's not enough.

But this solution will never happen because, as I've said before, the Premier League has foreign players, foreign managers, foreign coaches and foreign owners.

Iet used to England failure. It's here to stay.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Spain sent crashing - the end of an era?

Spain were sent crashing out of the World Cup yesterday after a 2-0 defeat by Chile. Spain looked tired and ragged and devoid of ideas up front. It's a far cry from the all-conquering team of the last six years. Maybe it's the end of their era.

But it shows that nothing - no great team - lasts forever.

Chile, however, looked good; defensively strong with some quick, skilful players up front. But surely winning the tournament will be beyond them.

It may be the earliest a World Cup holder has gone out of the tournament - although, of course, Spain still have to complete their group games, with a "wooden spoon" match against Australia.

Australia also went out of the competition yesterday, but they can hold their heads up high after giving it a go against Holland and giving the latter a bit of a scare.

Finally, Cameroon also crashed out yesterday, with a feeble 4-0 defeat against a revitalised Croatia, who now look a good bet to progress with Brazil from Group A.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Chiles rightly rants against play-acting - and is mocked by Vieira

I didn't see the pundits' discussion at half-time in the Germany v Portugal game the other day, but on the advice of a friend, I caught up with it last night.

Basically it consisted of ITV's Adrian Chiles complaining about Thomas Muller's (Germany) play-acting which eventually led to the sending-off of Portugal's Pepe. It was, he said, cheating to get a member of the opposition sent-off.

Yet Patrick Vieira seemed to defend Muller's actions, saying that it was all part of the professional game (attempting to belittle Chiles's complaints).

Fellow pundit Lee Dixon seemed to agree with Chiles, saying that such actions do happen, but questioning if and why they had to.

Neither Chiles nor Dixon made any attempt to defend Pepe's eventual head movement towards Muller that did result in his sending off (and, incidentally, had the effect of making Muller leap to his feet!).

Chiles added that such play-acting was putting off a potential US audience from whom he had heard many queries about the amount of play-acting in "soccer".

I watched this clip at half-time in the Brazil v Mexico, the first half of which had been blighted by ridiculous rolling around.

No, Patrick Vieira, you are wrong. We do not want this play-acting in our game. We do not want cheating of any sort. Let's all get on and play the game fairly, eh?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Germany show the way to do it

The Germans don't mess around, do they?

They may not always win the World Cup, but they don't muck up their first round games. Four-nil (against Portugal yesterday) and an opponent sent off to make it easier. That's the way to do it!

No stress about reaching the second round, and they'll probably win the group in their second game, thereby enabling themselves to rest players in the third group game (against USA). Relaxed, they can approach the knock-out stage fresh and confident.

This is why they always do well at World (and European) Cups.

Contrast this with England who are usually left clutching at a last-ditch third match victory in the group to ensure progress. Thus, the players are stressed and tired and - inevitably - fall just short (usually on penalties).

And that is what is happening again. A 1-2 loss to Italy leaves us desperate to beat Uruguay on Thursday. And with Luis Suarez back in their line-up (as he is bound to be), that will not be easy.

Monday, 16 June 2014

A good start to the World Cup

The World Cup is going pretty well!

Thirty-seven goals in 11 games has given us an average of 3.4 goals per game so far.
Goal-line technology worked - although BBC commentator Jonathan Pearce seemed to be confused by it!

The disappearing spray to mark ten yards has also been a success, although why the referee allowed Ecuador to put the ball outside the area marked for the ball was a mystery - and almost inevitably led to a goal. I still wonder what will happen when a player or two step over that line. I suspect - rather like warnings against holding at corners which are actually a green light for holding when the corner is finally taken - nothing. Nevertheless it is a good step forward (no pun intended).

I am less happy that it means that each free kick now takes at least a minute - time which we never retrieve.

I was also disappointed when one referee allowed a substitution during four minutes of added time, and then blew up at precisely ninety-four minutes. Time wasting substitutions should not be allowed to deny us the football we deserve.

Overall, though, a good start.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Poor refereeing decisions give Brazil a flying start

Oh dear, just what we didn't want - controversial decisions and a dubious refereeing performance. Mr Yuichi Nishimura got two key decisions wrong - the penalty gift to Brazil and Croatia's disallowed goal - which made it 2-1 to Brazil when it might have been 2-1 to Croatia. I'm not convinced Neymar's swinging arm was worth a red card, but got the yellow it deserved.

Of course, in a few days' time - when most teams have played and the tournament has other talking points - these decisions in the opening game will be largely forgotten. Croatia will probably qualify from Group A - they looked more than capable of doing so - and things will quieten down.

BUT, these poor decisions have given Brazil lift-off. Imagine if they had only managed to claw back to salvage a 2-2 draw. Imagine if Neymar had been sent off - and banned from the next game. That would have put a whole different complexion on proceedings.

We have had a whole lot of punter reaction to the decisions, but what do FIFA say? Nothing. Their website has a quote from Brazil boss Felipe Scolari and their 'match report' contains only facts and figures.

We don't want a tournament ruined by poor refereeing.

I did like the shaving foam sprayed down for ten yards at free kicks, though!

Monday, 2 June 2014

England's win did nothing to raise expectations

England beat Peru 3-0 in their last warm-up game on home soil before the World Cup. Frankly the scoreline flattered England.

The highlight was undoubtedly Daniel Sturridge's left-foot beauty to open the scoring. A touch of class in an otherwise low-quality encounter. Sturridge got the man of the match award for his goal, but apart from that he was unimpressive.

England's insipid display was typical of their thrustless, sideways, stumbling performances. Without a Townsend, a Walcott or an Oxlade-Chamberlain, there is no one who is willing to carry the ball forward 20 or 30 yards and make the opposition start to worry. When Raheem Sterling came on in the second half, he DID show some of that forward thinking that is required. Passing it around the back four, the goalkeeper and the two holding midfielders will not worry the opposition. Neither will chipping the ball forward to tightly-marked attackers.

There were also troubling signs of defensive problems with several unforced errors. A weak Peru team was unable to punish them, but don't expect the same profligacy from Italy, Uruguay or even Costa Rica.

The only good thing about England's performance was that it will do nothing to raise expectations!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

How the World Cup groups compare

With the Brazil 2014 World Cup just over two weeks away, it is time to assess the groups by FIFA rankings.

By adding up the ranking positions, the group with the lowest total would seem to be the toughest, etc, all the way down to the group with the highest points total being apparently the easiest.

Group G scores the lowest points and would therefore seem to be the hardest. With Germany (ranking 2) and Portugal (3), it is incredible that one group has two of the top three ranked teams in the world. (FIFA seedings committee - how can this happen?). USA (14) and Ghana (38) make this the Group of Death (total score 57).

Inevitably, England are in a group not far behind (we're never in the easiest group, are we?). Uruguay (6), Italy (9) are ahead of England (11), with Costa Rica at 34 in Group D. Total score 60.

Group E (total score 82) is headed by Switzerland (8) (yes, really), with France (16), South Americans Ecuador (28) and Honduras (30).

That group just pips Group C (total score 83), headed by Colombia (5), Greece (10) (how did they get there?), Ivory Coast (21) and Japan (47).

Spain (1) lead Group B, with the lowest ranked team, Australia (59), weighing it down. Otherwise, it looks tough, with Chile (13) and Holland (15). Total group score 88.

Group A is the sixth hardest, headed by hosts Brazil (4), followed by Mexico (19), Croatia (20) and Cameroon (50). The hosts should make easy progress from this group with a total score of 93.

The second easiest group is H, with the lowest ranked best team of any group - Belgium (12), leading Russia (18), with Algeria (25) and South Korea (55) making the four and a group score of 110.

The apparent weakest Group is F, where Argentina (7) will be favourites to progress, with Bosnia-Herzegovina (25), Iran (37) and Nigeria (44) fighting to join them.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Hodgson springs few surprises

It is hard to argue with Roy Hodgson's England World Cup Squad. I guess the most contentious decisions are to omit Ashley Cole and to include Frank Lampard. 

Cole has served England well, but there are now two better options in Baines and Shaw, so that decision is correct.

I'm not sure about Frank Lampard. I think he, too, might have reached the end of the road, but obviously not for Hodgson. Michael Carrick's considered passing game might have been better to suited to the difficult climatic conditions that are likely in Brazil, but Lampard certainly presents a greater goal threat.

But let's be realistic. England are going to come nowhere near winning this World Cup. If we get out of the group, we will have done well. 

Good luck to all the chosen squad members.

Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion)
Fraser Forster (Celtic)
Leighton Baines (Everton)
Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Phil Jagielka (Everton)
Glen Johnson (Liverpool)
Phil Jones (Man Utd)
Luke Shaw (Southampton)
Chris Smalling (Man Utd)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) - captain
Ross Barkley (Everton)
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Adam Lallana (Southampton)
Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
James Milner (Manchester City)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Rickie Lambert (Southampton)
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Danny Welbeck (Manchester United)

Michael Carrick (Manchester United)
Andy Carroll (West Ham United)
Tom Cleverley (Manchester United)
Jermain Defoe (Toronto FC)
Jon Flanagan (Liverpool)
John Ruddy (Norwich City)
John Stones (Everton)

Monday, 28 April 2014

Stifling the life out of football

If we go on like this, we'll have the life strangled out of football.

Chelsea stifled every attempt by Liverpool to bring beauty to the game at Anfield yesterday, but the superbly organised defence of the visitors left no room for manoeuvre. It was a shame that Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard - such an influence on the club - made the mistake that led to the first goal. The second goal - deep into stoppage time - was an irrelevance, as Liverpool pushed forward to try and get the equaliser.

With six across the back and a deep midfield three in front of them, Chelsea - with exceptionally strong players, and superbly organised - were always going to be difficult to break down, and so it proved.

But it is a bit rich for Jose Mourinho to play like this when earlier in the season he accused West Ham (who defended solidly at Stamford Bridge for a 0-0 draw) of 'playing 19th century football', and when Chelsea have virtually unlimited resources from the pockets of Roman Abramovich. I might understand a team with little chance of winning to play by parking the proverbial bus, but when it's a team who has won so many things, with two potential starting elevens better than most teams in the Premier League, it makes me fear for the future of football.

But of course, this was the way Chelsea won the Champions League two years ago. Heaven help us if they manage to do so again this year.

A couple of months ago Everton boss Roberto Martinez accused Chelsea of employing every trick in the book to win games - and they do. So we had the usual time wasting, tiptoeing forward at free-kicks, haranguing of the referee, and similar for the fourth official. Again - from a club with millions? Come on.

Mourinho says that Chelsea deserve respect. Sorry, but actually they do far too many things that deserve loss of respect..

Let's hope they don't continue to win by stifling the life out of football.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Real grassroots clubs underpin football in this country - and get nothing

There’s a load of baloney spoken about “grassroots” in football.

People in the Premier League (if they think about it all, which is doubtful) and pundits on TV think grassroots is just below the Football League, i.e. the Conference.

The FA (who really should know better) think that grassroots football is played by women or males under 18.

Yet, what of real grassroots football – played by tens of thousands of players for thousands of teams in hundreds of leagues up and down the country – played by adult male footballers.

My club Weysiders FC (I am the chairman) have been playing near the lowest level of football since our first entry into a league in 1974. (We did have some success along the way.)

In all that time we have to play on Council pitches. In all that time (40 years), the changing rooms where we play (Shalford Park, Guildford) have never been upgraded (they may have had a coat of paint, but nothing more). The pitches (unfortunately suffering from not being flat due to the natural lie of the land) did improve under good maintenance in 1980s and 1990s, but recently have been left almost untended. They probably get cut twice a year. They are never rolled. The result is that the surface is hardly conducive to playing football. Last week, the Council had not even bothered to re-mark the pitches (which they usually do, every Thursday).

Long grass, no lines. What real grassroots football has to put up with.

The cost of a pitch is £72.40 (going up to £76 next season). In these days of austerity, this is no more or less than a tax on the use of sports fields. So much for the fight against obesity; so much for any sporting legacy from the 2012 Olympics; and so much for football at a higher level – they just don’t care.

Yet players, clubs, referees, people who run those clubs (yes, volunteers who have been there long before purple and red uniforms made volunteering cool) underpin the fabric of football in this country. The fewer players there are at all levels, the fewer good players there will be at top level. It is obvious and it is evident. The fewer opportunities there are for people to play sport, the more prevalent will be the obesity problem.

But clubs at our level get no help at all and, as I said, are charged outrageously for poor facilities. And yes, I realise ‘this is Surrey’ and I’m sure many other counties and towns have even worse facilities.

Sport England have cut £1.6m of funding to the FA. People outside football will laugh and say, “quite right, with all the money ‘they’ are being paid, they don’t need funding.” I read (Lancashire Telegraph) that “The FA has been hit with a reduction in funding after failing to meet their participation targets, with Sport England instead opting to use the money to create a grassroots ‘City of Football’.

We are the real grassroots of football – we have never had any funding, so where the FA money has gone to reach its ‘participation targets’ I have no idea.

FA General Secretary Alex Horne said that he “understands Sport England’s decision but does not believe it will impact on grassroots football.” He’s right: grassroots football has never received any funding anyway!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Mourinho will never change

What pathetic petulance.

Jose Mourinho excelled himself at the weekend with his 'four-point' press conference at which he allowed no questions, but merely made four points of 'congratulations' after Chelsea's home defeat by Sunderland on Saturday evening.

He congratulated:

  1. His players.
  2. Sunderland on their win.
  3. Referee Mike Dean on his 'unbelievable', 'fantastic' performance.
  4. Referee supervisor Mike Riley for 'the way the championship is going.
At least 3 and 4 were obviously sarcastic, but, I suppose, if asked, he could easily deny that and say, 'Listen to what I said...'

Talk about an ungracious, sore loser. It was claimed that Mourinho, on his return to English football this season, had changed. Could we expect a more magnanimous, more gracious Mourinho?

Well, it appears, no, not a bit of it.

Losing your 77-game unbeaten home league record must be annoying, but trying to blame the referee, and - of all things - the referees' supervisor, for Chelsea's home defeat, is verging on embarrassing.

Mind you, we assume he's making some implied reference to Dean's award of a penalty for the foul by Azpilicueta or Jozy Altidore. Maybe not: maybe he's annoyed at Dean's failure to penalise Chelsea's Ramires for a blatant elbow on Sebastian Larsson, only a couple of yards in front of Dean; or the failure of the officials to deal with Chelsea assistant coach Rui Faria in a more comprehensive and timely fashion when he had to be held back from attacking Dean.

It's all rather tiresome.