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.