When Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink took the manager’s chair at Burton Albion, he increased the number of black managers amongst the top 92 clubs in English football by 50%. The Dutchman became the third member of the group, joining Huddersfield’s Chris Powell and of Keith Curle at Carlisle. Hasselbaink however is no fan of the Rooney Rule, a device to ensure more ethnic minority applicants for top jobs within the game at least get to interview stage. Whilst some would argue that it’s easier to adopt such a stance once you’re on the inside, the former Leeds United and Chelsea striker refutes such a view. Appointed from over 60 other applicants for the position at the Pirelli Stadium, he simply declares that “I wanted the job because I am the right person for it and got it because the chairman thinks I am.” Continue reading →
A couple of years ago, Christian Benteke had burst onto the Premier League scene. Here was a player relatively unknown on these shores captured by Aston Villa for the princely sum of some £7million or so from Genk in Belgium. Muscular, blessed with pace and an apparent eye for a goal he seemed an identi-kit profile of a striker specifically designed to succeed in the English game.
In the 2013-13 season, the Belgian netted a striking 23 goals for the Birmingham club and in the July of 2013, he handed in a transfer request. Perhaps influenced by the siren whispers of agents, his head seemed to have been turned in search of richer pastures. It was a move the club were quick to rebuff and despite rumours of big money bids ranging up to the £30million mark at the time, manager Paul Lambert apparently convinced the player to stay in Birmingham and sign a new deal with the club. At the time many people, the writer included, thought it was a shrewd move by the truculent Scot. A mere eighteen months later, with injuries and long rehabilitation periods taking their toll, it’s interesting to speculate how many Villa fans think the club should have taken the money on offer. Continue reading →
If you’ve heard of the film “United Passions”, you’re probably one of a fairly select few. If you’ve seen it, you’ll be part of an even smaller group. Launched at the prestigious Cannes film festival in May, it’s film with football as its central theme. Well, more or less. Actually, in fairness, a lot less.
The film was commissioned by Fifa, with an apparent desire to document “the story of Fifa’s foundation and subsequent globalisation of football” detailing the organisation’s birth and progress up until the present day. Outside of a little self-aggrandisement, it’s not easy to see what the target of the enterprise was. Safe to say, ‘Birth of a Nation’ it is not. Continue reading →
Jose Mourinho appears to have won his battle of wills with Spain’s national team manager Vicente del Bosque over the fitness of Chelsea striker Diego Costa. The Rojas squad, announced last week for the European qualifier against Belarus and the prestigious friendly against World Champions Germany, noticeably excluded Brazilian-born Costa, and doubtless brought a smile to the Blues’ manager’s face. A long term hamstring problem, dating back to the tail end of last term’s La Liga season was hardly helped on the way to recovery by Spain’s albeit truncated participation in the World Cup. Add that to the physical rigours of the Premier League and Mourinho’s argument that a fortnight’s rest for the player, rather than playing a further two games, will be more beneficial for both club and country in bringing Costa to peak fitness, seems to gain a little credence. “I’m pleased about Diego [Costa], but I did nothing to make this happen,” Mourinho said at a press conference before the weekend. The decision however did not extend to Mourinho resting the striker against Liverpool, and when he netted the winner, it seemed that the Chelsea boss had won from every angle. Continue reading →
Back in March 2012, Stiliyan Petrov made a call to his agents. In these days of commercial opportunities it was the sort of thing professional footballers do all the time. This time however the content was very different. When Base Soccer Agency took the call from their client, it was to receive a plain truth. Petrov simply said: “I have got leukaemia.” It was the very phlegmatic way in which the popular Bulgarian captain of Aston Villa decided he had to deal with the illness.
Following a game against Arsenal a few days before, Petrov had complained of feeling feverish. Fearing a virus was to blame, the club swiftly took blood tests, and then a bone marrow scan, which led to the startling diagnosis. For anyone, in any walk of life, the dread ‘C’ word delivers a harsh realisation. For someone like Petrov, living out the dream of millions with a comfortable lifestyle and financial security, it would have been easy to lash out at the perceived injustice. Petrov was not like that however. This time, cancer had picked on the wrong man. Continue reading →
Jose Mourinho’s rampant Chelsea squad top the Premier League with a number of opposition managers already apparently prepared to write off the title race with less than a dozen games played. Whether that’s more than a mite premature is something that will be revealed over time. For Blues’ fans however, it seems the ‘Special One’ can do no wrong. The summer transfer market saw the arrival of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, already two stellar names in the club’s performance to date, plus the redoubtable tyro goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Brazilian Felipe Luis who is already offering genuine competition to Cesar Azpilicueta on the left flank of Chelsea’s defence. Add this to big money sales of David Luiz and Romelu Lukaku that balanced the books with an eye to FFP, and it’s bordering on genius dealings. Back in January however, Mourinho countenanced the sale of player who, current statistics reveal, is at the top of the creativity stakes in European football.
Everyone can be wise after the event of course, but back In January, accepting a £18million bid from Bundesliga outfit Wolfsburg for Belgian wide player Kevin de Bruyne appeared eminently sound business. The player had after all cost a mere £7million when Chelsea secured is services from Genk. Although now distant from the blandishments and promptings of Mourinho, de Bruyne has however had an exceptional start to the season, and currently is the main reason why unfancied Wolfsburg are tucked nicely into second place in the Bundesliga, behind perennial champions Bayern Munich. Continue reading →
Sir Alex Ferguson was always fond of saying that whenever anyone leaves Manchester United, inevitably it was a step down, regardless of whichever club they went to. Real Madrid, among a couple of others may dispute such an assertion, especially of late, but for David Moyes, taking a step back to reignite his managerial career after his traumatic time in the Old Trafford hot seat was probably inevitable. That he has landed at the Estadio Anoeta to take charge of Real Sociedad, a club often compared in stature to Moyes’ previous employer at Goodison Park, at least shows that the Scot retains a hunger to prove himself in the managerial game.
Just over a year ago, Moyes, together with his then Manchester United charges returned from San Sebastien following a fairly satisfying 0-0 draw against his new employers in a Champions League encounter and could hardly have envisaged the turmoil and dismissal that was to follow. With an 18 month contract now is place with the Basque club however, he faces the task of rebuilding both a career and a reputation seriously damaged by the doomed attempt to take over the driving seat at Old Trafford from Sir Alex Ferguson. Continue reading →
Football has a particular habit of throwing up matches that can highlight an otherwise forgotten situation, or player. Such a game occurred early afternoon on Saturday when Wolverhampton Wanderers entertained Birmingham City in a SkyBet Championship match. It was of course a Midlands derby, bur for one particular player, the significance wet much further than that.
Forgotten centre-back Roger Johnson has played for both clubs and statistically has almost mirrored records for them. He turned out 76 times for the St Andrews club and 69 times for Wolves, netting twice for each club. That however is where the similarity ends. Wherein Johnson’s time with the Blues saw a highlight of his career to date, ironically wearing gold and black has very much been a case of the blues as his prospects have nosedived to the point where it’s difficult to see where his next first team game will be. Continue reading →
English football always seems to be on the look-out for the next bright, young thing amongst English football coaches. A decade or so ago for example, the name of Steve Cotterill was being trumpeted as the coming man when he was appointed along with Howard Wilkinson, as a ‘super team’ of ‘super coaches’ taking charge at Sunderland. All of the FA and Uefa certificates in the world however were of little help when they were dismissed after a mere 27 games – and a paltry two victories.
Stuart Pearce has come and gone again, although he now offers promise once more as he seeks to guide Nottingham Forest back to the big time. A similar tale can be told of Gareth Southgate, now rebuilding a reputation with the England U21 team after being sacked as a club manager. Whisper it so softly however, but down on the south coast, a new reputation is being built in an unassuming corner of Dorset as 36 year-old Eddie Howe pilots Bournemouth towards the Premier League. Continue reading →
Last season saw Liverpool come as close to a realistic title challenge as they have for a number of years. Luis Suarez had become the most potent force in the Premier League and Steven Gerrard had performed exceptionally in his ‘quarter-back’ role, spraying around the passes to feed a voracious front line. Add in the pace of Sturridge and the emerging force of Jordan Henderson in midfield, and there was little reason to question the credentials of Brendan Rodgers’ squad as a growing power in English football. That was certainly the headline theory anyway. Some however, had doubts. Continue reading →