Archive for March, 2012

Stupidity, frustration, luddites, corruption.

March 14th, 2012 No comments

At Stamford Bridge Stoke had weathered the early storm.  We were looking increasingly comfortable and, at times, even had possession in the attacking third of the pitch!  When the home supporters were audibly restless it was a fantastic sound.  If we could stay solid and focussed we could collect our first point at Chelsea since promotion.  As we know now, Ricardo Fuller’s foolish violent stamp put paid to any hopes we had of avoiding defeat.  Fuller’s brutal attack on Ivanovic is particularly sickening when bearing in mind our team is known for being physical.  His response on being needled was to commit an act of vicious thuggery.  In short, using school playground terminology, we could be seen as a team that gives it out but can’t take it.  Drogba took his chance well, quick feet skipping through to snatch the points. Unfortunately we’ll always wonder how we would have fared with eleven players.  That is down to the stupidity of one man.  In recent years Fuller has been instrumental in our rise to the Premier league, and achieving stability thereafter.  It could prove a sad way for him to bow out of the Brit.

On Sunday, we have an FA Cup quarter final at Anfield.  Liverpool go into the tie as overwhelming favourites.  Victory would signal a return to Wembley and one step from another cup final. They will know that to match the Manchester clubs, and a few of the London ones, there is a huge ongoing rebuilding programme.  Despite what Kenny Dalglish may say in public he must know that the signings of Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson, quite simply, haven’t worked out yet. This combined with  the total mismanagement of the Suarez – racism affair have led to a patchy season.  In August their priority was a trophy.  They achieved that in the League Cup.  Disposing of Manchester City and Chelsea (and Stoke!) on the way is impressive  but deep down inside many will be fully aware that in the final they required a penalty shootout to beat a Championship club.   The trophy is the same but it does lack the frisson of a winning goal.  The victory over Everton has undoubtedly raised spirits but they know that much of their season hangs on Sundays game.    It’s a tough ask for Stoke but it’s crucial to remember that Liverpool are not unbeatable.    A parked bus will achieve nothing.   Matty Etherington is essential to any ambitions we have.  To carry the ball forward with pace will be a relief to our deep players.  This could also be an opportunity for Jermaine Pennant to re-establish himself.  If they provide the ammunition for Peter Crouch to knock his old team out the FA Cup we’ll be on our way back to Wembley!!

The only word to describe Brisbane Roar’s 1-1 draw with Adelaide United is ‘frustrating’. Another chance to reach the top of the table was wasted. Falling behind to an early goal on the break, the remainder of the game saw the Adelaide half of the field covered in orange.  Clawing back to parity on 70 minutes Roar couldn’t find a winning goal.  Thomas Broich squandered several excellent chances and we all had to settle for a point. Watching table toppers Central Coast lose at Perth only exacerbated the disappointment.  Three points would have put Brisbane at the summit with only two games left of the regular season to go.  Deeply deeply frustrating.

With Clint Hill’s ‘goal’ for QPR at Bolton, hot on the heels of Sulley Muntari’s effort for Milan against Juventus, the debate about goal line technology resurfaces.  Surely if it’s available it’s  foolish not to use it.  It’s unlike many topics of debate that arise surrounding refereeing decisions in a game of football.  For example, at the start of February Robert Huth was sent off against Sunderland..  It was my opinion that the red card was harsh and a yellow would suffice.  However, friends I spoke with, and reading assorted internet message boards, many felt it was a good decision by the ref and the sending off was fully justified.  There are varying opinions and that is part of the soul of football.  The difference between a situation like that and whether a ball crosses the line or not is that whether the ball crosses the line isn’t a subject of debate, it’s a matter of fact, and also the key factor in a match…. scoring a goal. Or not as the case may be.  In these days where lost points can lose a club millions, and to implement the change would be relatively straight forward, isn’t it prehistoric to refuse to accept it?   Mr Blatter would be OK, he should think of the favours it could generate from the companies who want to get the contracts to put the equipment in place!   The bods at FIFA have stated they are keen to see it introduced in time for the next World Cup.  That’s fine but more details would be welcome.   What form will it take?  Will it be experimented with initially?   We need a feasible schedule.  Over to you Blatter.

Ricardo Texeira’s departure from the top table of Brazilian football is being widely regarded as a boost for their World Cup preparations.  He ran the CBF for 22 years and his reign was peppered with allegations of corruption and constant calls for his resignation.  President Dilma Rousseff has regarded his exit as a token of personal achievement and has arranged to meet Sepp Blatter at the weekend to discuss World Cup preparations.  She’d be wise to ensure the bill passes through parliament which ensures the infrastructure funding is available.

Texeira’s successor is Jose Maria Marin. For the sake of football, and 2014 in particular, we have to hope his rule is more transparent than that of his predecessor. Anything that compromises the integrity of the game should be publicised and addressed.  Here is Jose Maria Marin at a medal ceremony. This is transparency…. the whole world can see what he’s doing!

Nearly safe, the approach at the Bridge, costly indiscipline, Harry’s challenges,

March 7th, 2012 No comments

Two consecutive home wins have lifted much of the  the gloom and Stoke City are now in a strong position to reach the magical 40 points mark and confirm a fifth consecutive season the Premier League.  Against Norwich on Saturday we retained possession with more confidence than previous matches and Etherington’s masterful strike broke the visitors stubborn resistance.  Having displayed  characteristic tenacity to get ahead we never looked like losing the lead in the closing minutes.  Throughout the game we were on top all over the pitch.  We still aren’t creative enough, but few can deny we deserved the points.  With that in mind, Norwich manager Paul Lambert’s claim that the whole game hinged on the throw in that led to Matty’s winner is lame to say the least.  We were indeed lucky to get the throw but Lambert would be better off addressing  the slack defending that allowed Jerome to flick the throw on and Matty the time and space to pick his spot!  My grapes taste sweet Mr Lambert, how about yours?

Our next game is away to Chelsea.  There will be intense media scrutiny on how our opponents respond to the departure of Andre Villa Boas.  Much of our focus will be on how we approach the game.  Too often we have gone to away games overly consumed with the strengths of our opponent.  While fully aware that every team you face will cause problems, we must remember the problems we can cause them!  Chelsea are not the team they were and  lack confidence.  If we can unsettle them doubts will creep in and maybe we can squeeze mistakes and take advantage. Most importantly, we mustn’t accept defeat before a ball is kicked.

It’s hard to work out who the ideal candidate for the manager’s job at Stamford Bridge would be.  To remove Ancelotti and replace him with AVB was a costly time absorbing exercise.  Had they used the same energy and resources to support their managers they may well be in a stronger position.  In all this it could still be AVB who gets the last laugh.  He’s only 34 years old and still has the potential to become one of European football’s big hitters.  In five years time he may be in a position to reflect on his 257 days managing Chelsea as a learning curve…. and he won’t even be 40.

Discipline is a vital element in any successful football team.  Players must be able and prepared to stay on task and fulfill responsibilities to their club and it’s supporters.  In the last minute of Brisbane Roar’s game against Melbourne Heart at the weekend, a high price was paid for the previous weeks indiscipline.  With the score at 1-1 Brisbane spent the final ten minutes laying siege to the Heart goal.  For all of Brisbane’s possession, Heart defended with admirable composure and rugged tenacity.  Just as it seemed Heart had weathered the orange storm, Brisbane were awarded a penalty.  A precious opportunity to reach the top of the table with three games of the regular season remaining.  Mohamed Adnan, the Roar’s Bahraini centre back, stepped forward to seal a priceless victory.  Heart keeper Clint Bolton saved the spot kick.  While not wanting to belittle Bolton’s save, the point has to be made that Adnan’s penalty wasn’t the best.  It was ideal height for the keeper who gratefully palmed the ball away.  That Adnan was taking the penalty at all was due to the regular taker,  Henrique, serving a suspension.  In the previous game in Perth, when Roar were 3-0 ahead and cruising to victory, Henrique inexplicably slapped an opponent and saw red.  I don’t doubt that had Henrique played he’d have scored the penalty with ruthless precision.  That he was unavailable is due to foolish indiscipline which has proved to be costly.  Players need to be aware of the full implications of their actions.

The appointment of Harry Redknapp as England manager  is seemingly inevitable.   The excellent job he’s done at Spurs combined with a clamour for an Englishman at the helm appears to have secured him the role.  Not that anything will be confirmed yet.  The FA have acknowledged that the new manager may not be  announced until the end of the domestic season.   Whether Harry is suited to the job is hard to tell.  There is no doubt he communicates well with players.  One point that has to be raised however is that  his achievements at Spurs are the result of working closely  day to day with players and having the time to spend with them individually and collectively.  Managing England can be thankless task with many hours of isolation involved.   Also, Redknapp’s biggest strength is working the transfer market and that facility is unavailable at international level.  But, whatever happens, don’t call him a “Wheeler dealer”!!   *Warning, contains bad language*

In December when the draw for the European Championship was made it was surprising that much of the media regarded England’s qualification for the quarter finals of Euro 2012 as a mere formality. Every side you face in a tournament will cause you problems. The opening game against a resurgent France will shape the group. If France’s impressive win in Germany is a pointer it will be a tough challenge for the England team… whoever the manager is.

Looking ahead to 2014 FIFA secretary Jerome Valcke has publicly criticised Brazil’s World Cup organising committee for their 2014 preparations.  This led to the Brazilian Sports Minister, Aldo Rebelo, demanding Valcke be replaced as the FIFA representative they have to predominantly deal with.  As a nation looking to establish itself as an economic superpower a smooth World Cup is crucial to Brazil’s credibility.  For the sake of their own integrity, instead of lashing out at Valcke, they would be better advised to take the steps to ensure that they will be ready in June 2014.