Stoke, Liverpool, Nigeria, England, Montengro
Excuse the title of this post…. I fancy a job working for The Sun! Like before, the international break comes at the right time for Stoke City, except this time it’s very different reasons. What a difference a month makes! Four unbeaten games and we are a quarter of the way to the magical 40 points mark. On Saturday against Blackburn we played well, and unlike at Newcastle, we attacked them from the start. It’s great that Walters got off the mark. In the first half he really looked like a man who had recently joined a Premier league club but had been hit and miss….. and the pressure of the situation seemed to be showing. Snatching at passes and being over eager to make an impression. That goal will lift a huge weight from his shoulders and now the monkey is off his back he can relax and go onto better things with us. I, like many other Stokies, would be perfectly happy with him if he scores the winner in every game he plays! A pleasing aspect of the Blackburn game is that it was physical and combative but there was nothingmalicious involved and the players didn’t act and roll around. Pennant clearly isn’t match fit but in bursts his pace and, most pleasingly, the quality of his crosses were great and could prove to be a very productive asset. All in all a good day for Stoke City. We finally got the clean sheet we’ve needed and we rarely looked like conceding at all. We are up to seventh now which is thrilling. We may not stay this high for long so let’s enjoy it while we can!! Great work Stoke! More of the same please.
At Anfield on Sunday something strange happened. Amid the talk of financial incompetence and lawyers accountants and consortiums a football match broke out! And in the game itself something stranger happened. Roy Hodgson’s players look totally demoralised. I can’t believe Torres isn’t preparing to leave in January. The brand name Liverpool FC should be enough to stave off the threat of administration and in that instance their history must be a relief….. unlike the burden it appears to be on the current players. In administration Liverpool FC would cease to be an FC and would become merely a company in administration. The sale of Torres and Gerrard would surely be ordered and a huge slice of their football dream would leave with them. There is much melodrama on viewing their current plight. The biggest cliche being that the current owners have ‘ripped the soul’ of of Liverpool. That might be an appropriate expression of withering self pity but in reality the soul of Liverpool departed on February 22nd 1991. Having wrestled with his sanity for the previous two years and in the wake of one of the greatest FA Cup ties ever played, Kenny Dalglish rersigned. Their greatest player, having gone on to be a successful manager, leading the club and it’s fans with dignity through the tramatic aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, decided he was no longer able to deal with the stresses the job brought. Liverpool ceased to be the dominant force in English football on that day. It can’t help that Man Utd gleefully took over their reign. When Alex Ferguson said his greatest achivement was “Knocking Liverpool off their fu^*ing perch” it was a reflection on 26 years of frustration. Now it’s Liverpool’s turn to feel envy, and if the Blackpool game is any pointer it may get much worse before it gets better.
FIFA have suspended Nigeria because of government interference in the game there. Now, they are following their own rules in taking this action but some questions have to be asked. Has this action been taken now that Africa’s World Cup is over and any response will be less of a hot issue with the potential to backfire? Is it right to deprive the people of Nigeria the chance to support their national team because of administrative meddling? If the Brazilian German or English FA had a similar problem would Sepp and the old boys club be prepared to take on the might of a football nation with that power and, more importantly, capacity to generate income? If FIFA are capable of taking such strong action will they take it to address the issue of racism which is still depressingly prominent in some areas of the world…. or will they continue to pay empty lip service to the subject?
Kevin Davies finally got picked for an England squad! For several years his name has been mentioned regarding an England call up and it’s finally come to fruition. It’s pleasing to see a solid professional who has quietly gone about his job and played the game with the minimum of fuss down the years get some recognition. Unlikely though it is that he’ll get his first cap it’s still a memory he can treasure from a long career. Montenegro will be no pushovers. They are yet to concede and have won both of their games so far. As is often the case the main problem with England will be defending as a unit. Too often one clever ball leaves the defence flat footed and this causes problems. Against solid underrated opposition like Montenegro our back four need to stay awake.
I haven’t seen Gary Lineker’s documentary about whether England can win the next World Cup but he could have saved the effort of making the programme by asking me and I’ll tell him now…. no we can’t. Brazil will be favourites obviously but will they handle the pressure? Many South American football rivalries are borne of historical moments and Brazil are still haunted by 1950. Imagine if Argentina met Brazil in the knockout stages and knocked them out. The rest of the tournament wouldn’t matter. As far as they would be concerned they will have won their own World Cup. The European team with the mentality to go to Brazil and win it will be Germany. They will also have their exciting youngsters all matured by then too. The whole mindset of the English game needs to change to win a World Cup. And there is little chance of that happening. Unlike many, I wouldn’t object to a winter break in principle. But the players wouldn’t be restingon a beach….they would be whisked across the globe for money spinning friendlies so it wouldn’t actually be a break at all. While the clubs stubbornly refuse to take action for the greater good of the game this is how it shall be.