The sad tale of Marco Branca, Boro’s all-too-brief striking hero and the legal battles that followed.
In 1998-9 season, Middlesbrough were a second-tier club. Relegation had cost them the services of such international luminaries as Ravenelli and Juninho, but the efforts of manager Bryan Robson, aided and abetted by the financial backing of Steve Gibson, would mean their absence from the Premier League was only brief. The season saw the arrival of the likes of Paul Gascoigne from Rangers, and Paul Merson moved to the North-East from North London. Also, among the arrivals, was an Italian striker whose early games with the club promised so much, before the relationship fell into discord and recrimination. Continue reading →
Aged just 35, to say Adam Crozier was a surprise choice to step into the role of Chief Executive at the FA would be understating the case more than a little. The former Saatchi & Saatchi executive was, however, the new broom, the fresh face, the untarnished non-old school tie appointment that the organisation needed. It was 2000, and going into the new millennium, dusty old corridors were well overdue a spring clean. In two years, Crozier shook up the Football Association in a way it hadn’t experienced throughout a history dating back to 1863 – or, for that matter, since.
The organisation’s headquarters were moved from Lancaster Gate to more modern facilities at Soho Square. The average age of staff was reduced from over 55 to just 32, the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium was progressed and the FA Council, nominally its controlling body, was reduced from 91 members, to a much more manageable 12. Without doubt though, the most revolutionary of Crozier’s achievements was to appoint the first foreign manager to head up England’s national team. In January 2001, Swedish manager Sven-Göran Eriksson was invited by Crozier to step into the hottest of managerial hot seats. The Swede accepted and the Walls of Jericho came a-tumbling down. Continue reading →
Probably much to the annoyance of SkySports Jim White, and despite many claims that there were “lots of things happening” transfer deadline was more dead duck than dead exciting. For Tottenham’s Togolese striker, Emmanuel Adebayor however, it must have been more frustrating than for even the hyped-up, yellow-tied, Mr White. Continue reading →
Recently, 37 year-old Frank Lampard appeared to be leading the rebellion against Old Father Time when he netted four times in less than a week for Manchester City while serving out a loan period ahead of his move to America and New York City. One full game and two substitute appearances for the ex-Chelsea legend, including a goal against his old club, seemed to be striking a blow for the ‘more mature’ player. When AS Roma rocked up at the Etihad for a Champions League game in midweek however, a different member of the ‘older generation’ eclipsed Lampard with a commanding performance, neatly topped off with elegantly chipped goal to earn his team a draw against the Premier League Champions. With the goal, Francesco Totti became the oldest player ever to score in the competition.
Louis van Gaal’s 3-5-2: How the knee of a Roma midfielder shaped Manchester United’s formation for the new season.
Following Holland’s progress in the World Cup deploying the system, it was always likely that Louis van Gaal would consider bringing the 3-5-2 formation to his new club, Manchester United. That the Dutchman is a coach of world-renown, with a trail of trophies and titles behind him in countries across Europe is of course widely accepted. What may be less well appreciated however is that his adoption of the formation was less part of a strategic plan, and more a reaction to the knee injury sustained by a key player.
It may feel like a flippant, knee-jerk reaction way to talk of a player who won’t be 24 until August, but the career of Bojan Krkic, onetime wonder-kid of the Camp Nou, is now resembling one of those ‘what could have been’ stories redolent of a bright spring that turned into a damp, disappointing and dispiriting summer. Recent reports have even suggested that next season he could be plying his trade with Stoke City. No offence to the Potteries’ club, but Bojan burst onto the season, that wasn’t on the menu.
Born to a Serbian father and a Catalan mother in the small town of Linyola, ironically about a 90 minute drive from the Camp Nou, Bojan joined the Blaugrana at nine and had all the makings of a La Masia graduate destined for greatness; blessed with consummate skill, elegant balance and an unerring eye for goal. In the next seven years he accumulated more 850 goals for the club’s junior teams. It’s a mind-blowing total. If one works on an eight-month season over the period, it equates to almost 3.50 goals per week – every week; not for the team, just for Bojan himself. When he was 15 he played for Spain in the U17 European Championships, and although officially a year too young, still ended up as the competition’s joint top scorer. He returned to the same tournament the following year and notched the winning goal for Spain in the final. Here was a player set to rank alongside Cruyff, Messi and Maradona as an all-time great at the Catalan club – and a born Catalan to boot. The football world lay at his feet. Or so it seemed. Continue reading →