In many respects, the 2011/12 season has been a decent one for Stoke City. It started as early as July when we faced Hadjuk Split in the Europa league. Over two legs we deservedly knocked out a side with a healthy European pedigree. Drawn in a tough group we made it through in relative comfort. There was no disgrace in going out to a side of Valencia’s undoubted class. In the FA cup we reached the quarter final again. For the first time in our long history we have reached the last eight three times in a row. Most importantly of all we were never in serious danger of relegation. For much of the campaign we’ve looked more likely to snatch an unlikely European spot than to go down. So overall another steady season. With those factors in mind the question has to be asked, why do so many of us feel so deflated? It isn’t because of our style of play. Neither is it because we have started to expect too much. The primary factor is a matter of chilling simplicity… our performances are too boring. Erring on the side of caution isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but to do so at the expense of almost everything else becomes tiresome. Our attacking play constantly lacks fluidity and we’ve rarely played well for an entire 90 minutes. Any team with a competent defence can handle our forward play. A series of balls hit long, usually to Peter Crouch, who may or may not flick a header onto a teammate. The teammate in question is double marked and stifled. Our midfield rarely pushes forward quickly enough to effectively support the attack so within seconds the ball comes straight back at us and we are under pressure again. We aren’t creative enough we aren’t positive enough. We’ll always be eternally grateful to Tony Pulis for taking us to the Premier League and keeping us here. In 2012/13 can we have a Stoke City with a precise cohesive attacking plan that approaching games with a fresh philosophy please? This road has become dark. A brighter route is required.
Kenny Dalglish is the greatest footballer I’ve ever seen in the flesh. For that matter There haven’t been that many better players on TV. He carried greatness on into management, continuing Liverpool’s dominance by building a side capable of playing enthralling winning football. While he was their manager, if I attended to a match at Anfield I’d try to get a ticket near to the dug out. For most of of the game I’d be awestruck watching Dalglish watching the game and barking instructions. In addition to his football prowess, the way in which he led his club through the traumatic aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster saw him grow in stature as a man. For all that, even I, as a Dalglish propagandist, have to say that his mismanagement of the Suarez/racism affair was so far wide of the mark he embarrassed himself. Seemingly oblivious to the scale of the issue at stake Dalglish looked isolated and desperate. The Suarez affair has cast a filthy shadow over Liverpool’s season. A series of self inflicted wounds that grew deeper with each botched public statement. It’s understandable that a manager needs to stand by his players but Dalglish’ blunt refusal to accept his players wrongdoings left him looking out of touch with modern football and the modern world. Even after Suarez returned to action following the eight game ban the manager dug himself deeper into the hole by claiming he shouldn’t have been suspended. This misplaced loyalty has left a huge stain on the perception of Liverpool Football Club. In the last twelve months Dalglish has started to undo his own legend.
If the successful candidate had to be English, Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager is the correct decision, albeit a surprising one. Harry Redknapp was the overwhelming favourite. On SKY’s Sunday Supplement show someone even referred to “When Harry takes over ” while Capello was in office! The point has to be made that Harry hardly helped his own career possibilities when he stood in court announced to the world that he’s thick.
Roy Hodgson has experience of taking teams to tournaments who are technically inferior. Anything England achieve in Polkraine, will be almost entirely based on a rigid formation. We can’t outplay them BUT we can outnumber them. Squeezing the opposition in the middle of the pitch, narrowing angles, stifling opposition creativity. Hodgson is known to spend much of his time on the training pitch working on shape. His players have to constantly repeat drills to ensure everyone is fully aware of what’s expected both as individuals and for the team collective. There will be little scope to make a tactical blunder. Good luck Roy.
After leading Brisbane Roar to two A-League championships in two full seasons, manager Ange Postecoglou has left to join Melbourne Victory. In the early seasons of the A-League I used to dream of 50,000 packed into Suncorp Stadium to watch a grand final. Ange fulfilled this dream twice. Postecoglou transformed Brisbane Roar into the most formidable force in the history of Australian sport. Playing quick crisp total football Brisbane swept aside all comers with an irresistible combination of incisive passing and an ability to create chances at will. Watching these dazzling displays of kaleidoscopic movement was an absolute privelige. It’s appropriate that Roar wear orange shirts! Thank you Ange. You were magnificent.