December 31, 2012
Mark Robson became the third manager to suffer the humiliation of being fired over the busy festive period last week when the Barnet board finally decided to relive him of his duties.
Robson joins Championship managers, Sean O’Driscoll and Henning Berg, on the managerial rubbish heap that is usually only added to over the ‘silly season’ in October.
In fact, it is quite surprising yet another manager was sacked in late December, a predicament highlighting just how desperate chairmen are becoming to keep their clubs afloat in respective leagues. Keith Hill of Barnsley became the fourth casualty a day after Robson.
The Barnet post has been a contentious issue this season, for, after Robson failed to win any of his first 11 games as the new boss, the club brought in high-profile player-manager, Edgar Davids, to share the burden. Since Davids’ arrival the club faired better yet still sat just three points above League Two relegation when Robson was dismissed.
What has shocked many fans is not the actual sacking, for, like O’Driscoll, Berg and Hill, the writing had been on the wall after a series of bad results. No, it was that the club got rid of their manager in the middle of the busiest fixture pile-up the football season offers.
December is a vital month for the fortunes of teams’ seasons and there must be solidarity in the fight.
Even more surprising is the fact Barnet won their last two games before Robson was axed, on 21 and 26 December, yet had not won a single match earlier that month. Why did the club not sack Robson after their defeat at Cheltenham on 24 November, or at Dagenham two weeks later?
It is bewildering how a club decides to cast aside the most important past of its set-up at exactly the wrong time. Solidarity is vital to surviving December and Davids has been left with a major task on his hands as we look towards the spring, with Robson another man cast aside in the challenge for success.
December 31, 2012
Aberdeen manager, Craig Brown, may be forced to dip into the January transfer market after defender, Andrew Considine, broke his leg during the Dons’ 3-1 victory over Dundee in late December.
Considine, who has 22 appearances for Aberdeen this season, has been an ever-present force in the heart of the Dons’ defence and a key factor in their bid for a European place in the Scottish Premier League. However, just 31 minutes into the Dundee clash at Dens Park, he stayed on the ground after a challenge and had to be stretchered off.
“He was captain of the team today and it’s tragic when any player breaks his leg – but when your captain does it – it’s a major disappointment, a real agony for Andy and his family,” said Brown.
“He’s been extremely fit this season; he was player of the year at Aberdeen Football Club last year and playing exceptionally well this year.”
Indeed, Considine is bitterly unlucky to have suffered such an injury after only recently recovering from an illness in which he lost half a stone in weight. The defender was given the captain’s armband in place of the absent Russell Anderson and this break is a serious loss to Brown’s team.
For Brown now only has two competent centre halves at his disposal and may be tempted to loan in a defender as cover this winter. Both Anderson and Mark Reynolds are solid defenders but without Considine providing a third option there is real concern among the pundits on Betfair Football that the Dons’ back line could start conceding as players begin to tire.
Brown needs to be shrewd in this transfer window and cover the long-term absence of one of his main men. Luckily, Aberdeen do have players coming back from injury but a loan deal in January could earn the club a few valuable points in this competitive SPL season.
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December 9, 2012
Ian Walker’s career has spanned many years at the top flight of international football. Predominantly, his tenure in the Premier League, with teams such as Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City had spanned some 468 professional games. At an international level, Ian was capped for England 4 times. After completing a three year tenure at Bolton Wanderers, Ian decided to move onto a managerial career with Bishop Stortford in the Conference North.
Today, Ian is the goalkeeping coach at Chinese Super League powerhouse Shanghai Shenhua, where he joined former Bolton Wanderers team mate Nicolas Anelka, helping to develop the first team goalkeepers.
In this exclusive interview, we walk through Ian’s career and discuss his views of goalkeeping development in the massive footballing growth market of Asia.
December 5, 2012
West Bromwich Albion boss, Steve Clarke, insists that striker, Shane Long, will not be leaving the club in January following speculation linking him with a move to Liverpool.
The Baggies have been one of the surprise packages of the Premier League season so far and, despite losing their last two matches against Swansea and Stoke, they are currently riding high in fifth.
Much of their success has been down to the form of Long, who has already scored eight goals this term but perhaps more importantly, has led the line expertly on his own, allowing his rookie manager to flood his midfield and dominate their opponents.
The Irishman’s performances have not gone unnoticed either and a number of sources have recently linked him with a move to Liverpool.
With Fabio Borini out injured and Andy Carroll on loan at West Ham, the Reds have struggled for goals throughout the campaign and have once again been forced to heavily rely on the prolific Luis Suarez.
Boss, Brendan Rodgers, has already stated his desire to sign a new striker, after regularly bemoaning the dearth of attacking options currently at Anfield with many pundits believing that he must invest in a new forward if his side are to have any chance of success this term.
However, Clarke insists 25-year-old is happy at the Hawthorns and definitely will not be leaving once the January transfer window opens.
“Liverpool need a striker; Shane is playing well, so a lazy journalist puts it together and makes a story out of it,” Clarke told the Birmingham Mail.
“Shane is not for sale. And I’d be very surprised if Brendan Rodgers wanted to take Shane anyway. People are merely looking at connections and making stories out of it.”
November 22, 2012
Newcastle United’s growing injury list is starting to take its toll on the team after the Magpies battled to a 1-1 draw with Maritimo in midweek, a performance that suggested boss, Alan Pardew, may have to dip into the transfer kitty this January.
Pardew played a strong team on Thursday night and we looked to be in control as Sylvain Marveaux slotted through the Maritimo goalkeeper to hand us a first-half lead.
Indeed, it appeared as though we were on the way to a comfortable victory but Hatim Ben Arfa’s injury just before the break suddenly turned a fun evening into a sour one.
The news is not good. Ben Arfa has damaged his hamstring and is unlikely to appear against Southampton on Sunday, while Papiss Cisse was also taken off as a precaution.
Yohan Cabaye only recently had surgery on his groin while Ryan Taylor and Dan Gosling are out with long-term problems. We suddenly look very weak.
It is frustrating that these injuries have come at such a bad time for Newcastle, what with the busy Christmas period just around the corner, but fans betting Premier League should be relieved they have not occurred two weeks down the line.
The Magpies face a tough Christmas with Manchester City, Manchester United, and Arsenal all lined up in December; had Cisse and Ben Arfa been injured, say, in two weeks’ time against Wigan, they would have struggled to maintain their fitness throughout December.
Therefore, despite his thin squad, Pardew may be tempted to withdraw both players from Sunday’s game no matter how fit they may feel.
It is not worth aggravating injuries so close to Christmas and if Pardew can keep his best players fit until January, he will have enough breathing space before bolstering the squad in the transfer market.
November 2, 2012
Out of-favour striker, Darren Bent, has suggested to the news sport this week that he and Christian Benteke could work well together in a striking partnership, as long as he could feed off the presence of his Belgian team-mate.
Bent, who has netted just three goals this season, has had to watch from the substitutes bench in recent games as Benteke finds his form in the Premier League. Villa’s new signing already has four goals to his name and three strikes in the last two have pushed Bent down the pecking order.
Yet Bent has assured fans they have not seen the last of the Englishman, and instead of fighting mano-a-mano for a place in the side, a forward partnership may be the best option.
“I can feed off him, so I don’t see any reason why we can’t play together,” Bent told The Birmingham Mail. “He’s a big target man. I haven’t played with a target man for some time now – the last one was probably Emile Heskey.”
It is interesting Bent has succeeded his place so willingly to Benteke and now seems happy to play with off the Belgian rather than challenge for the lead striker role himself. When Benteke joined Villa in August, Bent will no doubt have still felt like Martin O’Neil’s go-to guy.
Yet four substitute appearances in the last five games suggest the balance of power has changed in Villa’s front order. Benteke seems to be working well with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Bent’s place in the side is now under severe threat.
In admitting he can feed off the Belgian, Bent is suggesting that he does not see himself as the main striker any more and his new challenge is to beat Agbonlahor to a starting place – not Benteke.
All this competition is nice to see but Bent must be careful that he does not resign himself to second-best for the rest of the season, or it will be a very long Barclays Premier League campaign indeed.
October 31, 2012
October 24, 2012
October 9, 2012
Chelsea playmaker, Juan Mata, believes that he will only get better after his impressive start to the Premier League season.
The Spaniard has been in fine form so far this campaign and has truly come into his own after being excluded from his country’s squad for the recent batch of international fixtures.
Many sport betting pundits believed that the snub may have knocked the star’s confidence, but Mata says that he still has plenty left in the tank and is always looking to improve.
“I want to improve. I feel I can still do better,” he said. “I’m feeling very well but I want to feel better and improve as well.”
The 24-year-old’s signing last August marked a significant change in the Chelsea transfer policy, with him being the first of a number of young, attack-minded players to arrive at Stamford Bridge, as owner Roman Abramovich continues to try and build a team capable of winning in style.
The former Valencia man’s first season was undoubtedly a triumph, playing a key role as the Blues defied the betting line to win both the FA Cup and the Champions League.
The success prompted Abramovich to splash out on more young talent in the summer, with both Eden Hazard and Oscar arriving at the club, and Mata says he is enjoying combining with the pair.
“It is a lot of fun to play in this shape, to play with players who like to play with the ball, quality players,” he said.
“Last year, we won the Champions League and FA Cup, playing as we played. Now I think we can do it better, playing even better with Oscar, Hazard or whoever. All we can do is try to play our best but that is what we are doing.”
October 5, 2012
Russia’s plans to splash out 600bn roubles (£12bn; $19bn) on preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup will see the nation host one of the most extravagant and expensive events on the planet.
However, unlike many other super-expensive sporting competitions, the plans involve a regeneration of Russian society on a scale never seen before. Rural populations will be connected to major cities as the Russian government plan to spend 60 per cent of their budget on transport and infrastructure.
Their budget dwarfs the previous World Cup record, set by South Africa two years ago, and which made a severe loss. The South African government ran up costs of £3bn and recouped just a tenth of that expenditure: £200m less than expected.
Yet athletic events are where nations spend big to make their mark on the world. In 2010, the Indian government put aside 300bn rupees (£4.2bn) for the Delhi Commonwealth Games; an event that attracted very few spectators, a disinterested TV audience, and repelled some of the top athletes due to reports of appalling conditions inside and outside the stadium complex.
Athens’ 2004 Olympic Games was expected to cost just £1bn but ended up rising ten-fold and the government has been blamed for creating a site of white elephants: unused stadia with dilapidated facilities.
The only nation that seems to have benefitted from splashing the cash is China, after their extravagant 2008 Olympic Games ran up a whopping £28bn bill. The expenditure hardly seems to have dented the nation and China continues its growth even amidst the global financial crisis.
It appears Russia are hoping to spend their way to success, using China’s precedent and the World Cup as the perfect vehicle to invest in future development.
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