Eventually, our injury depleted travel weary warriors emerged from Carrow Road with another point. We attacked early on in the game but, as is the current way, rarely threatened to open the scoring. Our enterprising start soon fizzled away as Norwich settled and pressed us back. Lacking the quick feet to operate in tight areas, we too often squandered precious possession by hopelessly hitting long balls. Jonesy can win a ball in the air but if he’s isolated it merely gives the ball back to the opposition. For much of the first half Kenwyne received little support. It was tortuous for Stokies to watch at times. Pennant’s substitution after half an hour only increased our despondecy… in all fairness to Danny Pugh, seeing him replace Pennant hardly boosted confidence. When De Laet scored with a classy header it looked bleak. Half time was a miserable place. To our relief the second half saw an improvement. Shorter more precise balls led to us building attacks gradually. As a result, our midfield could support the front two. Tony Pulis was right when he stated in his post match comments that we had posed a threat before the red card was given. It was nevertheless infuriating that we couldn’t capitalise on an outrageous piece of luck. Barnett tussled with Walters outside the box and it’s even questionable whether it was a foul let alone a penalty. The red card was fortuitous to say the least. Failing to take advantage of the penalty award was frustrating. Ruddy’s save wasn’t particularly impressive, Walters penalty was dreadful. We continued to toil away but for all but the last two minutes of stoppage time it seemed Walters miss would prove costly. Ryan Shotton’s introduction gave our play a much needed new dimension. His ability to overlap on the right and put quality crosses into the box was crucial to the late pressure that culminated in our equaliser. Jonesy’s late header finally dragged us a point from what, at times, looked a desperate situation.
The performance of Ryan Shotton was a huge positive to take from the game. There’s no real reason why he shouldn’t start at right back at WBA. If you’re good enough you’re old enough. Not that age should be a problem. Shotton is 22. By the age of 22 Ryan Giggs had won two Premier League winners medals and an FA Cup. Huth is a colossus in the centre and will be certain to start. Of course this means that Shawcross or Woodgate would have to warm the bench. That’s a difficult decision for the manager but it’s his job to make those decisions. The main thought we take from the game is a simple one, one so glaringly obvious it’s almost an embarrassment to say it…. we really need to buy some new players.
Liverpool’s victory at the Emirates was just reward for a complete performance. They bossed the game and used their extra man to good advantage following Frimpong’s dismissal. Three points well earned. Some sections of the media have fancifully suggested that this could be the year Liverpool finally get the monkey off their back and win the league. Kenny Dalglish will be aware of the dangers of such misplaced optimism. To build a structure which provides a title winning platform will take several seasons. A huge step for that structure would be provided by winning a cup or two. Liverpool’s cup tie at Exeter this week takes extra significance. The days are gone when they can regard this competition as a hindrance and send out a half baked team. Liverpool need to start winning trophies again….. that would be a meaningful step towards the big one.
While the English Premier League is underway the Spanish League has been stalled by a players strike. The issue at stake is unpaid wages. In the lower leagues 200 players are owed in the region of 50m Euros. A mind boggling statistic. Before starting the season the players are demanding assurances that the outstanding wages will be paid in full. It’s understandable that the supporters are keen to see their teams in action again. The point has to be made though that it’s refreshing to see footballers making a stand to support their poorer brethren. And, contrary to popular belief, not all footballers are multi millionaires.
The saga is over. Harry Kewell has finally joined Melbourne Victory. It’s a big football story here and when the A-League season starts in October the hype surrounding Kewell will be huge. It’s sure to guarantee increased crowds and generate interest in the league. However, as a Brisbane Roar enthusiast, I can’t say I envy Melbourne Victory their new acquisition. The finance involved will be astronomical for an Australian club and if, for whatever reason, the signing is a flop it’d mean a lot of money has been thrown away. It would also discourage other overseas based Australian players from returning to play. It’s much more substantial for Brisbane (Whose spending needs to be frugal) to invest money in building the football club. Long term stability is crucial to a club of Brisbane’s limited resources. The luxurious distraction of a hyperbolic juggernaut can roll on elsewhere!
After the recent pandemonium over the machinations of FIFA we could be forgiven for believing that the games governing body spends it’s time carrying money around in carrier bags. But they also organise the Word Cup, it couldn’t possibly take place without them. Recently they carried out the draw for the qualifying stages on the 2014 World Cup. Australia were drawn against Saudi Arabia, Oman and Thailand. Sections of the Australian media analysed the possibilities and the Socceroos’s chances of reaching the next stage. Surely the aforementioned analysis was carried out to be polite to forthcoming opponents. Does anyone seriously believe Australia won’t get through? With all respect to everyone involved they should ease through with the minimum of fuss. On a completely different note it was surprising that so much English media seem to believe England’s passage to Brazil will be straight forward. Poland Montenegro and Ukraine are good sides who can cause significant problems. Hopefully the England manager (whoever it is at that point) won’t be as dismissive of opponents as the press have been.
It was announced last week that Brazilian great Socrates is in intensive care in a Sao Paolo hospital. Socrates was part of the magical Brazil team of 1982. They played football from the Gods. He initiated moves whilst surrounded by colourful brilliance. Opposition sides were mesmerised by breathtaking skill and kaleidoscopic movement. Poor defending led to their elimination by Italy, losing 3-2 in one of the most gripping encounters in football history. I don’t doubt that had Brazil gone on to lift the trophy in 1982, that side would be as revered as their predecessors from twelve years before. Socrates was something of a football bohemian. He refused to play for the national team until the age of 25 so he could complete his studies to be a doctor. Since finishing playing in 1989 he has become a doctor of philosophy. Get well soon Socrates.