Posts Tagged ‘charlieadam’

Halfway to 40, Brisbane’s burnout, JFT96, making the difference, Sepp’s stupidity

December 23rd, 2013 No comments

Stoke City’s hard earned 2-1 victory over Aston Villa was very welcome indeed.  Stoke have now lost only once in eight games.   Too many of those games have been draws so Saturday’s win gave us some points in the bank… with away games to come at Newcastle and Spurs those points were  a much needed deposit!   Mark Hughes’ introduction of Charlie Adam paid off almost immediately when he gave us the lead.  While the build up to the goal looked simple and traditionally Stokesque it was actually a very well crafted goal.  Adam  received the headed flick from Crouch and the way he used his chest to steer the ball away from the defender and create his own space was good thinking and guile we rarely show in the opponents penalty box.  Having battled so hard to gain the advantage we were aghast at how cheaply  Villa were allowed to equalise.  Erik Pieters must have been the most relieved man in Stoke-on-Trent when Peter Crouch slammed the winner in.  A matter of seconds before his inexplicable error Pieters was involved in an incident on the touchline during which he squared up to an opponent.  It could be he’d momentarily lost his concentration.  The lesson to be learnt for all players is instead  of willfully getting embroiled in unnecessary petty confrontations just concentrate on playing the game.  It’s to  Pieters’ credit he soon put his error behind him and was solid when we had to defend our lead late in the game.  We are now halfway to the 40 points mark and are gradually improving.  During most games we see small signs of improvement which, if not spectacular, is quietly satisfying.  We all knew 2013/14 would be not revolution but evolution.

Brisbane Roar’s recent impressive form came to an abrupt end with the bleak 0-2 defeat at home to Newcastle Jets.  Many Roar fans have been aware all season about fine results accompanied by patchy performances.  There has been a feeling if a team with rigorous discipline faced Brisbane it could provide an upset… and so it proved.  Mike Mulvey and his players now need to develop methods of breaking down well drilled defences and ways of breaking those defences down despite being outnumbered.  It might not be an easy task but it is Mulvey’s  job to work on these issues.  Poor as Friday’s showing was from Brisbane there is no need for despondency.  There’s no reason the top of the A-League can’t remain orange.

Manchester City’s recent victory over Bayern Munich was impressive.  Coming back from two goals down and win any game is a substantial feat, to do so at the home of the European Champions is a huge achievement… even if both sides had already confirmed their place in the last 16.  Their glory was tarnished somewhat when Pellegrini admitted he hadn’t done his maths and didn’t realise an extra goal would ensure his team finish top of the group.  Every side in the tournament at this stage will cause problems but to prefer to face Bayer Leverkusen or Olympiacos over  Barcelona is common sense.  Manchester City could pay a heavy price for Pellegrini’s miscalculation.  Sometimes the key is in the details.

Anne Williams tireless work for the Hillsborough justice campaign was honoured at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.  Williams’ 15 years old son Kevin was killed in the Hillsborough disaster in April 1989.  In September 2012, 23 years after the disaster, the verdicts were quashed.  On 31 March 2014 a new inquiry will open.  During the inquiry the 25th anniversary of the disaster will pass.  For so many people the whole situation is one of the most heartbreaking tragic and unjust ordeals imaginable.  The unflagging resolve of Anne Williams  testament to the resilience of all those associated with the Hillsborough Justice campaign.  Justice for the 96.

Sepp Blatter has gone to court to try and ban publication of a book in which he is the subject of  satirical cartoons.  Predictably, his legal action has served only to draw attention to it.  Blatter’s lawyers have explained he “has a good reputation and if the cartoons were published he would never be able to repair the damage.”  Blatter is seemingly oblivious to the clamour for change at the big  Swiss ivory tower.  One of the problems is he is taken seriously….  but, as a sport administrator, should the situation be as serious as it’s become?  The lack of transparency and ongoing allegations of impropriety have led to an air of distrust across the planet.   If his organisation is to regain any credibility at all he needs to assert governance and strip Qatar of hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup and re-open the bidding process…..  before resigning.

The three nominees to win the Ballon d’Or have been announced.  The winner will be either Franck Ribery Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.  An axiom of greatness is the ability and poise to make the difference at crucial moments.  With this in mind this years award surely has to go to Cristiano Ronaldo.  When his Portugal team was under pressure to qualify for the World Cup he stood up, was counted, and demonstrated the magnitude of his brilliance by almost single handedly leading his team to Brazil.  It was a performance which also emphasises why international football remains the clearest way for  players to seal their place in history. Ronaldo was under pressure, out of his comfort zone and playing with players he rarely works with.  On every level he delivered.  If  Ronaldo doesn’t win the award this time he could sue the voters.

Another player to benefit from the principle of moments was Inter’s Rodrigo Palacio.  On Sunday the Milan derby had been an intense struggle.  As the game rolled towards a 0-0 draw Palacio seized the moment and with a moment of opportunism secured his place in Milanese folklore with an exquisite backheel to seal three points.   Watch it here, then watch it again and again.

We received  sad news at the weekend with the announcement ex BBC sports broadcaster David Coleman has died.  It’s hard to comprehend now but there was a time when a football match televised live was a novelty.  Only the very biggest games were shown live and for many years those  games were played to a backdrop of David Coleman’s commentary.  Coleman had the knack of making grand pronouncements at dramatic moments.  My own favourite came when Liverpool took the lead in the 1974 FA Cup Final.  “Goals pay the rent and Keegan does his shift” A gloriously poetic way to describe the moment!   Marvellous memories from one of football’s greatest voices.

TCUP and an overhaul, tiresome cheating, Messi, Roy

November 12th, 2013 No comments

Saturday’s results led to Stoke City sliding into the relegation zone.  In Sunday at Swansea we saw why we our league position is so precarious.  Our inability to win games from the most promising positions continues.  Even when we raced into a 2-0 lead  we looked unlikely to see the job through and emerge victorious. The key to  improvement is  TCUP…. Thinking Correctly Under Pressure.  We make far too many errors when a game is running against us.  From needlessly giving away free kicks to being caught in possession, the most fundamental tasks become insurmountable.   While Swansea’s fight back showed resilience on their part, we shouldn’t have allowed them into the game.  It was only good fortune which allowed us to scramble a draw and see us crawl guiltily out of the bottom three.  Charlie Adam’s penalty was a fortuitous award which was ruthlessly executed.  We next face Sunderland in a crucial game which will go some way to determining how the next six months will develop for both clubs.  Our need for victory is clear for all to see while three points for Sunderland will bring their season, and Poyet’s reign, to life.  matches like this can be delicately balanced.  We need to make sure we are on the right side of what could be a very fine line.  If we are to retain our status big changes are required.  Too often the lack of depth in our squad is exposed.  Some of the squad seem to be a spent force.  Matty Etherington has been fantastic for us at times.  His great run of form was pivotal in us reaching the FA Cup Final back in 2011 and we’ll always remember his role in our evolution.  For all that, He’s clearly lost so much pace he contributes very little to the team effort.  Is the Shawcross and Huth defensive partnership drawing to a close?  Huth gets too many yellow cards these days and conceding so many simple goals suggests it’s time for an overhaul.  In the 1994/95 season Manchester United emerged trophyless.  Alex Ferguson realised his team had reached the end and major surgery was required.  In a blitz Ferguson controversially got rid of several of the old guard… one of whom was Mark Hughes.  Hughes will do well to remember his ex manager’s ruthlessness.  Admittedly it was easier to move on players of that calibre but things have to change at Stoke City… and it won’t be a painless exercise.

Diving is a very real blight on modern football.   We rarely get a weekend go by without some huge dive related controversy.  One problem is few people in the game are prepared to give anything away for the good of the game.  Ramires dived on Saturday to get Chelsea a penalty and  a last gasp point.  Jose Mourinho  inexplicably claimed the referee was right to award it.  While understanding Mourinho’s need to be seen to support his player, Surely there has to come a time where authority figures in the game are prepared to address the issue.  It was Mourinho himself who recently claimed he didn’t want his players to dive and would reprimand them for doing so.  Can we not see posthumous suspensions introduced as they are for violent conduct? Neymar Suarez and Ronaldo.  Three players who could illuminate any era of football, yet their names generate much more derision than admiration.  Three players who are so gloriously talented we should never have to consider their devious side but too often the conning outweighs the brilliance.  It betrays fellow professionals and football as a whole.  Our game is worth much more than that.

Thankfully, the greatest player of the current era, Lionel Messi, isn’t prone to habitual cheating.  In recent months however he has become prone to injuries.  The timing is very unfortunate for Messi who, in Brazil next year, has the chance to seal his status as the greatest player ever.  Despite what some of UEFA’s  sponsors and marketing executives would like us to believe, the World Cup remains the pinnacle of world football.  At a World Cup players are often out of their comfort zone and face a series of different challenges to the norm.  Hopefully, by June, Messi will have a clean bill of health and we’ll be treated to a masterclass from a true great.

Martin O’Neill is the new manager of Ireland.  However, most attention was focused on the appointment of Roy Keane as assistant.  Keane won a sackful of medals as a Manchester United player and led from the front.  Internationally his career was blighted by the Saipan incident which resulted in Keane storming out of the 2002 World Cup squad.  As a man who demands total focus and bloody minded resilience he’ll need his thick skin in the new job.  He’ll have to get used to Saipan being thrown in his face each time something goes wrong.

Cancellation of the Soccerex convention in Rio brought further embarrassment to organisers of next year’s World Cup.  Fear of civil unrest led to the Rio state secretary calling the event off.  The convention required public funding which would have served to exacerbate public discord towards monies for corporate and sporting events at the expense of services to the populace.  While it doesn’t jeopardise the tournament itself it hardly inspires confidence things will go smoothly in June.


Relief, chaotic preparation, drama and dignity,

November 15th, 2012 No comments

The overriding feeling after Stoke City’s victory over Queens Park Rangers was relief.  Nobody can pretend we saw a scintillating performance from The Potters but the most important thing was to halt our slide towards the relegation zone.  Stoke spent much of the first half vainly trying to get a foothold on the game.  QPR made attempts to put us under sustained pressure, fortunately for us their passing was as poor as ours!  For large spells watching the first half of the game was akin to watching two drunks arguing about control of a steering wheel.  We started the second half in a much more assertive manner. We quickly got the perfect reward when Charlie Adam took advantage of hesitant QPR defending to give us the lead.  It was a ruthless finish from Charlie… his first for Stoke…  hopefully the first of many.   The goal lifted our anxiety but the comfort was transient, to secure the precious win meant we had onto hold on to the lead for 38 long minutes.  In those minutes were generally in control.  Asmir Begovic  was called into action to make two excellent saves but  we were marginally on top and we held the lead with characteristic tenacity.  The match itself wasn’t a classic but three points and a clean sheet were exactly what was required.  Now we are re-gaining a foothold on the season it’d help if we can try to add more variation to the attacking play.  In our squad we now have ball players capable of unlocking defences with craft as well as force.  These qualities need to be applied.  Too often we are too predictable.  We need to evolve.

Arsenal have made their worst ever start under Arsene Wenger.  At the moment The Gunners are in eighth place with Everton handily placed in fourth.  Despite being trophyless since 2005, Arsenal have reached the Champions League every year and the club’s status and credibility hinges on a top four finish.  Should they fail to do so this season it could mark the end of Wenger’s reign.  Eighteen months  ago it was Wenger who stated his belief that second was good enough.  It’s hard to believe  an American entrepreneur who  spent millions acquiring a football club agreeing that second is good enough.  If no trophy arrives and they fail to secure a top four position Stan Kroenke could make a ruthless statement of intent.

Brazil’s ongoing struggle to prepare for 2014 World Cup received a timely boost last week when FIFA confirmed the 2013 Confederations Cup would go ahead as planned.  Organisers didn’t have any time to enjoy the announcement as concerns remain over stadium construction and infrastructure requirements.  Another obstacle has arrived in the shape of a new tax law regarding oil revenue.  A bill passed by Congress would share out oil income  among Brazil’s 27 states, with Rio, which has been experiencing a boom stimulated largely by oil, standing to miss out on an estimated $2 billion.  State governor Sergio Cabral has suggested both the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics could be under threat if the bill is passed.  Cabral’s words may be a form of emotional blackmail but stadium delays and inadequate public transport have cast doubts over Brazil’s suitability to host the tournament. To compound the organisational malaise, the cost of staging the tournament has been raised by a staggering $1.7billion.  Brazil’s national Audit court recently announced that airport upgrades and stadium construction are proving much more costly than first anticipated.  For all the worries and political wrangling, Brazil remain highly unlikely to be stripped of the hosting rights.  It’s hard to imagine any authority in Brazil surviving a football related humiliation on that scale, and all the administrative bodies, political and sporting, will be fully aware of that. By hook or by crook, they all know that to retain their status Brazil must be ready.

Modern football can get weighed down with talk of balance sheets, manipulative agents and administrators steeped in self interest.  Amid the skullduggery it’s important to remember the thing we are besotted with is that actual football itself!  Our game can provide drama intensity rarely experienced elsewhere in life.  Celtic’s victory over Barcelona was one such occasion.   It was one of the season’s real shocks and a night that will live forever in the hearts and minds of Celtic supporters throughout the world.  An endearing aspect of the game was the dignity with which Barcelona accepted the defeat.  Xavi even took to Twitter to congratulate the victors and stated how fantastic the atmosphere at Parkhead had been.  It was a huge  relief to hear a club respond so graciously.

Fighting back from 0-2 down to dig out a draw against Ajax wasn’t enough for Manchester City.  Roberto Mancini’s charge across the pitch at the end combined with  berating a cameraman left him with the air of a man not waving but drowning.  All is not lost.  They remain the only unbeaten team in the Premier League and are still handily placed to have a tilt at retaining their title.  For all that there is still a feeling that something in the camp isn’t quite right.  Mancini’s credibility has hardly been helped by  the appointment of Txiki Begiristain as director of football and Ferran Soriano as Chief Executive… both were instrumental in revolutionising Barcelona. While Pep Guardiola remains out of work Mancini could be forgiven for thinking his days are numbered.

A deserved point,a deserved call up, fan power and finance v ethics

October 9th, 2012 No comments

At Anfield on Sunday we defended with characteristic tenacity and our resilience earned us a point.  Stoke started the game brightly and took the game to the hosts. Charlie Adam squandered a great chance when  he hit the ball at Reina.  Goalscoring opportunities at places like Anfield are precious, we really can’t afford to waste them. Liverpool then came into the game and pegged us back.  At this stage we entered a phase of the game which casts a dark stain.  while we are a physical team that needn’t equate to being a violent team.  For a spell in the first half our play became reckless.  For a while our game was of a litany of fouls and excessive force.  It simply results in free kicks conceded, pressure for our defence to handle and yellow cards.  We are an arduous physical side but that side of our game must be kept in check.  Thankfully in the second half we settled down and our defensive work was positional disciplined and focused.   There were close shaves and near misses but we secured the point in relative comfort.  In fact in the final ten minutes we pressed forward and could have stolen victory ourselves.  All in all a deserved point.  Liverpool will rue some wasted chances but so will we.

Two points lingering from the game were Robert Huth’s stamp on Luis Suarez and the Uruguayan’s outrageous dive.  The FA panel has seen video evidence and Huth won’t be charged by the FA. That is a huge relief but he’s fortunate.  It looked avoidable.  As masterful as our Berlin Wall is he does carry a risky tendency to err on the dangerous side of the game. Suarez’ dive was hard to actually fathom.  It was so blatant he may have even been performing some self mocking parody.  Why he chooses to treat fellow professionals with such disrespect is baffling. It has been suggested that it is a form of retribution for off the ball matters and fouls that aren’t given but that’s lame.  Lionel Messi also receives physical intimidation but he doesn’t habitually cheat. Suarez shouldn’t need to cheat.  In fact, the cheating overshadows the fact that he’s actually oozing with talent.

Whatever happened to the Premier League’s ‘marvellous’ 39th game idea?  It must filed in the great ideas draw alongside Blatter’s World Cup every two years and Havelange’s bigger goals.   A positive  result of this ludicrous idea is that the outrage of supporters  brought an  end to plans for this diabolical bastardisation of football.  A shining example of fans using their power as supporters and consumers (sorry for using that C  word) to ensure it never got off the ground.  Is unpopular change  inevitable?  If fans can realise their power and influence   it is far from inevitable.   It’s important to remember that amid talk of TV monies sponsors and billionaire oil oligarchs, supporters still have  influence that, if asserted en masse, can change decisions and rattle administrative cages. Anything which effects goings on at football clubs is BIG news. Ensure the way the vast majority of supporters feel… and what is at stake… is on appropriate agendas.   Write those letters send those emails ring those phone ins and make a noise…. and abuse of supporter loyalty  won’t be inevitable.

Much has been made of Joe Hart’s performance against Borussia Dortmund.  Impressive though  Hart’s heroics were they  masked a Manchester City performance that saw them out thought and subsequently outplayed.  It’d be reasonable to acknowledge that Man City are newcomers to that stage and this is all part of a learning curve…. if it wasn’t for the sheer cost of Mancini’s squad. Unlike many  clubs of greater stature, Mancini has had a bottomless pit of money to invest in the squad as he sees fit.  Despite the colossal budget, and a previous year of experience, Man City may struggle to reach the knockout stage of the competition.  Given the resources at the manager’s disposal an exit at any stage before the semi final is failure.

The players union in Brazil is intending to campaign against the 2014 World Cup schedule. Several matches are to kick off at 1pm which in some of the host cities will mean playing in intense heat and could compromise the health of the players.  While it’s hard to believe the plan hasn’t been to satisfy the demands of European television broadcasters, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke last week claimed  the schedule wasn’t based around financial considerations.  The prickly issue of World Cup scheduling has been a bone of contention for many years.  As far back as Mexico in 1970 it was clear TV had determined the itinerary.   When, before the 1986 World Cup, again in Mexico, Diego Maradona spoke publicly about the dangers of playing in midday heat, it  triggered his tempestuous relationship with FIFA.  Juggling commercial possibilities with sporting ethics remains a difficult balancing act.

Football fans love to reminisce about old games and players.  The BBC World Service last week aired an item about the Sporting Memories Network.  In short, it is a treatment for sports fans suffering dementia and alzheimer’s that encourages patients to talk about memories of their favourite sporting moments.  Often, despite the condition, precise details of sporting moments which occurred many years ago can be remembered with clarity.  This helps to keep the mind active which in itself is a form of therapy.  Odd to think that eventually all the useless information we store can actually be beneficial for our health!

Congratulations to Ryan Shawcross on his selection for the England team.  It is a deserved accolade for Ryan.  If he gets picked in the team he’ll be the first Stoke player to make an England debut since Mark Chamberlain in 1982.  In addition his call up is a huge compliment to all at Stoke City and symbolises our current status.  These really are great days and we should remember to enjoy them.