Arsene Wenger - Flawed man or comical genius?

Monday, 31 August 2009

Once again Arsenal is making the headlines this weekend for all the wrong reasons, and at the forefront of those headlines is manager Arsene Wenger. In a week that has seen Eduardo in Wenger's words 'witch-hunted'; he found himself at the centre of controversy this weekend.

The Frenchman was sensationally sent-off in the 95th minute of Arsenal's clash with Manchester United, after kicking a bottle down the touchline in reaction to Robin Van Persie's disallowed goal. Speaking after the game Wenger said:

'I kicked a bottle through disappointment when Van Persie's goal was cancelled. The fourth official saw that and called the referee over. There were only 30 seconds to go and I didn't know what to say or where to go in the stand when I was sent off.'

Wenger was left stranded, and with only a matter of seconds remaining in the game it took away from the action on the pitch. In somewhat comical circumstances Wenger retreated to the stands, but with no-where to sit he went and stood among the Manchester United supporters who jeered him. It was a cross between Jesus Christ, John Cleese and Mr. Bean all rolled into one.
Maybe Wenger will remember next time that the law stipulates the manager must leave the technical area and the vicinity of the field of play. Yet again the LMA, and referee Mike Dean have come under-fire for making a balls up of the whole situation. Should Wenger have been sent off? No. Should he have kicked the water bottle? Yes, why not, he was clearly frustrated, while at the same time, it may have been a different story if it hit someone, but in this case it didn't.
Wenger looks sent to recieve an apology from referees boss Keith Hackett regarding his sending off, which really he should take with a pinch of salt. One thing is for sure, the Gunners boss will have to explain his comments following the game, after he calling the refereeing 'Old Traffordish'.
In my eyes Arsene Wenger is a flawed man, he made comments over two years ago calling for players who dive to be banned, yet with in the space of two games, two of his players (Eduardo and Emmanuel Eboue) quite clearly make Cristiano Ronaldo an amateur with their diving antics. While a manager is there to defend his players, the evidence of their diving is clear from TV replays so Wenger can't disagree with that.
He has opened a fresh can of worms, and renewed old rivalries with the Old Trafford faithful, now he must defend himself from the criticism and prove he's no comical genius.


Brits Abroad - Darius Vassell

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Having recieved a hero's welcome of 3,000 fans when he joined Turkish side Ankaragücü, Darius Vassell seems to be establishing himself in the Turkcell Super League. The former Aston Villa, and Manchester City striker has been rolling back the years, scoring 2 goals in 4 starts for the Turkish side. Great start to the season for him. And I'm sure we'll be seeing more from him soon.


Derby della Madonnina - Milan vs Inter

After only one weekend of action in the Serie A the very first Derby della Madonnina of the season is already upon us, one of the most followed football derbies in the football world. Having collected their fourth consecutive title last season, their first under manager Jose Mourinho, it seems the Nerazzurri are once again favourites to win the Scudetto for the fifth season in a row. While the Rossoneri go into this season having not won the Scudetto since 2004, when Inter began their dominance of Serie A.

During the close season Inter have lost last seasons capocannoniere Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as the Swede was finally granted his dream move to Spanish giants Barcelona. Inter did however get £45million in an exchange for Ibrahimovich, which saw Cameroon international Samuel Eto’o moving the other way from the Spanish champions. A very smart move if you ask me, one goalscoring sensation replaced with another, but ultimately Eto’o’s record speaks for itself, two goals in two Champions League finals. He will be cited as the man to end Inter’s 44 years of pain in Europe.

City rivals Milan have also suffered a loss of their own during the summer break, with Kaka moving to Real Madrid for a record-breaking £56millon, a record which in turn was broken again when Cristiano Ronaldo joined Madrid for £80million. In recent seasons Milan has struggled in the Serie A, and now with the loss of Kaka they will be weakened yet again.

The Ancelotti era is over, Maldini has retired, and Beckham has returned back to Galaxy. And so a new era begins for the Rossoneri with former Milan legend Leonardo(left) taking charge. Having not won a major title in 5 years, it will be sink or swim for Leonardo in this his first season in charge. The supporters will no longer settle playing second fiddle to their city rivals. Yet, it doesn’t bode well for the Brazilian after a dismal pre-season Milan look like a legend in decline.

This season Inter will be finally able to implement the 4-3-3 formation Mourinho had in mind last summer, now he’s assembled the squad that should challenge for domestic and European glory. Along with Eto’o joining Inter, the former Chelsea manager has also secured the signatures of Lucio from Bayern Munich, Diego Milito and Thiago Motta. Wesley Sneijder has also joined up from Real Madrid in recent days.

Milan’s newly built squad will be centred on Ronaldinho. The Brazilian will be the focal point of the team in his role of lying behind the two main strikers, in Milan’s 4-3-1-2 formation. Having gained £56million from the sale of Kaka, Milan has failed to invest the money in fresh blood.
They have however secured the arrival of Dutchman Klass Jan Huntelaar, who evokes memories of Marco Van Basten in the minds of the Rossoneri support.
They have also signed Oguchi Onyewu and Thiago Silva. Not marquee signings by any means, also no commendable replacements to fill Kaka’s boots. Huntelaar looks set to make his debut tomorrow night, after missing last weekends win over Siena through suspension.

Defending champions Inter will be looking to clinch their first win after dropping two points last week against newly-promoted Bari. Inter fans will be in the minority in this derby as they are officially the away team. Unlike city rivals Inter, the Rossoneri enjoyed a fine start to the campaign with two goals from Alexandre Pato firing them to a 2-1 win at Siena.

The derby will most likely set the tone for the coming weeks and with Inter already on the back foot having lost 2 important points in the opening fixture, the pressure lies on the Italian champions to deliver a positive result. A defeat, however, could see the gap grow to a possible five points only two games into the new campaign.

Will Mourinho still be the Special One in the Italian capital, or will Leonardo and Ronaldinho give Inter a Brazilian? Time will tell it’s too early in the season to be talking about the title but Milan is in decline, while Inter are flying high.
The Nezurri have the squad capable of winning their fifth Scudetto in a row while also challenging in Europe, sadly, Milan don’t. It’s the Milanese derby, so it will be unpredictable, but one thing is for certain, there will be fireworks, and that will just be Jose Mourinho’s pre-match press conference.

Touchline Views says - Milan 1 - 3 Inter


Champions League Group Stage Draw - Preview

Friday, 28 August 2009

The road to Madrid starts here as the Champions League gets under way for another year. A year in which the final will take place on a Saturday night instead of the usual Wednesday night. Yesterday’s group stage draw has provided us with some tasty clashes, while giving English clubs favourable draws. Manchester United avoided Real Madrid, while Chelsea avoided Inter Milan, both of which would have been fantastic group stage ties had they been draw together.

Instead, United have been handed possibly the trickiest of the English four. First up for them in Group B is Besiktas away on September 15th, three days after a trip to current league leaders Tottenham and just before a clash with rival Manchester City at Old Trafford. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson won’t favour trips to Moscow and Turkey, as well as a trip to Germany to Bundesliga Champions Wolfsburg. His side has never met any of the three sides they’ve been drawn against. United will have to guard against complacency, after being dominant in Europe over the last two years. United should go through, along with Wolfsburg.

Perhaps the English team that has been given the easiest group is Arsenal, which is why their odds of winning the Champions League have been dropped from 12/1 to 9/1. The Gunners have been paired with Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, Olympiakos, whom former Blackburn player Matt Derbyshire now plays for, and Standard Liege. A couple of nice games for Arsenal in that group with Olympiakos and Alkmaar causing the biggest threat, they’ll still qualify. Olympiakos to go through also.

Five time winners Liverpool have somewhat of a smorgasbord of teams to face, one from France, one from Italy and one from Hungary. Those teams are Lyon, Fiorentina, and Debrecen, the first Hungarian team to qualify for the Champions League in 14 years. It looks to me to be another three way tie for the top two spots. Fiorentina have a shaky record having gone out at this stage last year, while Lyon have been knocked off their top spot in France, but have spent well bringing in Lisandro Lopez from Porto a fantastic goalscorer in their qualifying round, scoring a hat-trick. Liverpool have not had the best starts to the season, and already look to be missing Xabi Alonso, however, the Champions League is their forte. I’m tipping Liverpool and Lyon to progress.

2008 runners-up Chelsea have been given an interesting group of Porto, Atletico Madrid and Apoel FC from Cyprus. Chelsea is the most consistent side in Europe after reaching five semi finals, and still has not won it. With Carlo Ancelotti, a man with Champions League pedigree, having won it as a player and a manager with AC Milan. His aim will be to win it first time round with Chelsea. Porto won’t be pushovers in this group by any means, and neither will Atletico Madrid. So, it could be a tie for second place, but I think Atletico could squeeze it and Chelsea as group winners.

Scottish Champions Rangers haven’t fared too bad in their draw, having been drawn against Sevilla, Stuttgart and Russia side Unirea, however Rangers Champions League record is pretty dismal whatever way you look at it, so I don’t see much hope for them. They should be happy to settle for 3rd place and a route into the Europa League. The main battle will be between Sevilla and Stuttgart for first and second, while Unirea should enjoy their very first Champions League experience.

So now you know all the English sides, and who their facing it’s time to move on to the mouth-watering ties this year’s draw has throw up. Real Madrid and AC Milan have been drawn in group C along with FC Zurich and Marseille. Madrid and Milan facing off will see Kaka make a return to his old stomping ground of the San Siro, and also it will be a chance to see what Madrid’s galacticos are really made of. I fancy Madrid and Milan to progress here, whatever way you look at it.

As always in the Champions League, there is the dreaded group of death, and this year it’s group A. The so-called group of death contains Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bordeaux, and Maccabi Haifa. In recent times Bayern have been a poor side in Europe having taken a beating by Barcelona last year, they’ve also made a bad start to the Bundesliga, so I don’t see them going through. Former Manchester United defender Laurent Blanc has done a tremendous job at Bordeaux, leading them to their first league title in 10 years knocking Lyon of their perch. They could be one to watch, so I think they should qualify along with Juventus, who could also be a dark horse in this year’s competition as they begin to re-establish themselves among Europe’s finest.

It’s that tie that many would expect to be a Champions League final in itself, Inter Milan vs. Barcelona, but that's a game we have to look forward to in the group stages this year, as they’ve been paired with Dynamo Kiev and Rubin Kazan. After lifting the trophy last May, Barcelona will once again be favourites for this year’s competition. The main battle will be to see who scoring Barcelona or Inter’s goals having swapped strikers during the summer, with Eto’o moving to Italy and Ibrahimovich going the other way, both will be looking for revenge against their former clubs. It’s a no brainer as to who’ll be going through here, Inter and Barcelona.

And as they say when the draw is over that concludes our draw, it also concludes my preview. In red are the teams I'm tipping to progress. Closer to the start of the competition I will also be doing a team by team break down so look out for that.

I’ll leave you with the draw in full:

Group A: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bordeaux , Maccabi Haifa

Group B: Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Besiktas, Wolfsburg

Group C: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Marseille, FC Zurich

Group D: Chelsea, Porto, Atletico Madrid, Apoel FC

Group E: Liverpool, Lyon, Fiorentina, Debreceni

Group F: Barcelona, Internazionale, Dynamo Kiev, FC Rubin Kazan

Group G: Sevilla, Rangers, VfB Stuttgart, Unirea Uriziceni

Group H: Arsenal, AZ Alkmaar, Olympiakos, Standard Liege


Eduardo is a cheat.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

When Ronaldo made his summer move to Real Madrid I thought we had seen the last of this:

Sadly we haven't - As last nights Champions League tie between Arsenal and Celtic was marred by a very controversial penalty. Eduardo quiet clearly dived in the box, making it look like he was fouled by goalkeeper Artur Boruc. In turn the referee awarded Arsenal a penalty which Eduardo converted.

Once again the questions are directed at the referee. Why did he give a penalty? Because he was in the perfect position to see it was a dive, did it from his angle look like Boruc made contact? Most likely, but will anything be done about it? No. What's done is done, it's just yet another footballing issue that will be brushed under the carpet.

Take a look for yourself, and let me know what you think.


Campbell's Gamble - Sol joins Sven at Meadow Lane

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Having already lured Kasper Schmeichel, and former West Brom striker Lee Hughes to League Two, Sven has gone an done it again. This time he has persuaded former England international Sol Campbell to join the revolution at Notts County.
The 34 year-0ld who had been out of contract since his summer departure at Portsmouth, joins the Magpies on a free transfer. The former Arsenal and Tottenham centre-back has signed a five-year contract - worth around £40,000 a week, which in turn will see him earn up to £10million over the next five years. It remains to be seen whether Campbell will keep playing for five years, reports suggest he will play on for three more years, and then remain on in a coaching role.
Campbell turned his back on another chance with a club in the Premier League in favour for a club three divisions below. Why did he do that? Well, he wants to be part of this 'future ambition' just like Sven he is here for the challenge.
'I am here for the future,' he stated at yesterdays press conference.
'They've got great ambition and I want to be part of it.'
'I am delighted to sign with Notts County and I am genuinely excited by what the club is trying to achieve.'
Campbell who has been capped by England 73 times move to County is another part of the jigsaw for manager Ian McParland's team, with Sven taking the ultimate credit for his capture. Come May next year if and when the Magpies gain promotion to League One the forgotten man will be McParland with Sven recieving all the plaudits.
Speaking at yesterday's unveiling McParland said - 'Sol's got 73 England caps - I won't hold that against him - and I hope he will intimidate people coming here. I expect him to sort them out, not the other way round.
Last week against Chesterfield they wanted our scalps. It's going to be tough for us. But there were clubs in our league that spent more than we have this year. As for Sol, Sven asked me whether I'd take him. I'd have been an idiot to say no.'
Just like Eriksson's move to League Two, Campbell's move has also raised eyebrows. His former manager at Arsenal Arsene Wenger has reservations about the move saying 'time will tell' along with former Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp, now at Tottenham. Redknapp said he would have taken Campbell had he been manager at any other club than Tottenham, the club Campbell left in 2001 to join London rivals Arsenal.
The Magpies have now sealed two top class players in Schmichel and Campbell. Schmichel who arrived at Meadow Lane two weeks ago and made his debut at the weekend, in a 3-0 win over Dagenham & Redbridge. That leaves County top of League two after four game with nine points gained.
I think it's great what the club are trying to achieve under new investors Munto Finance Ltd, and with Sven's influence as Director of Football, they can now attract players that they could once only dream of signing. The future is bright for Notts County, we now know Sven is serious about this project. This certainly isn't the last we have heard from them this season.
Watch this space.


Will he stay or will he go?

One of my first posts here on Touchline Views was on Keane’s gets set to plough up the Championship, where I talked about Roy Keane’s promotion quest with Ipswich. Little did I know a few weeks later I would be writing about the Tractor Boys again, but at the wrong end of the Championship table.

Cast your mind back to April of this year when the Irishman was unveiled as Ipswich manager. He has this to say:
I am convinced the players will enjoy working with me. I have simple demands, be on time for training and give 100% then you will be fine. If they don’t, it will be a very brief relationship.’

Fast forward a couple of months to August Keane is certainly true to his word.

‘One or two players who played at the weekend will not play for me
again. I have told them that.’

Having only taken 1 point from 4 games, the Tractor Boys lay one place off bottom of the Championship table. Promotion dreams dashed, and replaced with a harsh dose of reality. With only six days remaining before the close of the transfer window Keane will be expecting a change of fortune in the coming weeks if the Suffolk side are to live up to their expectations of promotion.

Speaking after this weekend’s 2-0 defeat to West Brom Keane confessed: ‘It’s going to be a very, very tough few weeks in front of us’.

‘We aren’t going to be challenging the top two teams in the division that for sure.

‘But our target remains pretty much the same – which means keeping a close watch on the 5th and 6th places in the table with the play-off’s in mind’

The players in question that look set to fall victim of Keane’s early-season cull are Owen Garvan, £400,000 signing, Alan Quinn, along with club captain Gareth McAuley. Garvan, 21, has worked his way through the ranks was replaced at half-time in the weekend defeat to West Brom. He was along with Quinn was left out of last night’s 2-1 defeat to Peterborough in the Carling Cup, with McAuley being left on the bench again.

Republic of Ireland international Alex Bruce looks set to be named as the new Ipswich captain, after he was given the captain’s armband in favour of dropped McAuley. Ipswich have already lost promising goalkeeper Shane Supple, who last week retired citing that he had fallen out of love with the game.

Now I for one am not a big fan of Keane because of his attitude to the game. When the going gets tough he just walks away. And looking back on previous events with Ireland (Saipan), Manchester United and Sunderland my point is proven.

Speaking in Monday’s Irish Sun former Irish international Tony Cascarino has been critical of his former team mate:

‘A team should be a reflection of their manager and right now, Ipswich are not a reflection of Keane.’

It will be interesting to see how they do next week against Prestion because this is a new experience for Keane. It is the next stage for him as a manager, as up to now he has been used to success.’

Further proving my point Cascarino hits the nail on head: ‘Keane has never done failure, and if Ipswich are fighting a relegation battle this season I would not be surprised to see him walk away.’

Then again Keane may prove us all wrong, when he took charge of Sunderland in August 2006, they lay second from bottom in the Championship. Keane made an instant impact guiding them straight to the top, and winning the Championship title, so maybe he is just keeping us in suspense.

All should become clear in the next six games which see the Tractor Boys face Preston, Middlesbrough, Notts Forest, Doncaster and Newcastle. If they don’t start racking up some wins, along with points soon they could end up in danger of missing out on promotion.

While it’s too early to be talking about promotion and relegation after 4 games, it looks clear who the front runners are: Newcastle, Middlesbrough, West Brom and Cardiff.

This promises to be a tight season in the Championship, and unfortunately it looks like Keane’s side haven’t got what it takes to cut it, despite what I may have said in my previous post on the Tractor Boys.

Keane will be gone by October if things don’t change, he couldn’t hack it as a player, and he won’t hack it as a manager either, not in the Premier League anyway.

Perhaps his should stick to walking his dog?


Robbie Fowler is a ninja.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Following on from Fowlerwatch on twofootedtackle, Mr Fowler has been involved in a bit of controversy last week, which has become a youtube phenonemon. Take a look.

That warrented just a yellow card. Keep up the good work Robbie, in the A-League, of Australia.


Jobsite or Gobshite?

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Pretty in pink? It was a return of Calamity James last night, as he conceded a late penalty, as Portsmouth lost again, with Birmingham beating them 1-0.
Rumours suggest James will be the latest departure out of Fratton Park, as a move to Tottenham awaits him, and a chance to link up with Harry Redknapp who is keen to sign him after Heurelho Gomes suffered an injury at Hull last night.
Can't see 'Arry making him wear pink?


Steaua Bucharest vs St. Pat's - Preview

St. Patrick's Athletic lie 180 minutes away from making history, as they look to become the first League of Ireland side to reach the lucrative group stages of a continental competition, in their case the Europa League.

Tonight they face one of Romania's most successful teams, Steaua Bucharest, behind closed doors in the Romania capital. UEFA imposed an a blanket ban on all supporters attending the game after crowd trouble in Steaua's Europa League qualifier against Ujpest, on July 16.

An empty stadium could mean the tie going in Pat's favour, with them not having to endure the taunts fellow Irish club Shelbourne did back in 2005, when Joseph Ndo and Curtis Fleming were subject to racist abuse. The Romanian side were later fined, and ordered to play 250km away from Bucharest.

Steaua are no strangers to European competitions having won the European Cup back in 1986 beating Barcelona on penalties. Their last succesful European venture saw them reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2006, where they were beaten by Middlesbrough. In 2007/8 they managed to reach the group stages of the Champions League, but have since slipped in the Romania Liga finishing sixth last season, narrowly making it into the Europa League via the play-off.

St. Pat's go into tonights game full of confidence. Manager Jeff Kenna had this to say ahead of the tie: 'I'm very confident, very confident. I've watched them four times and in the two games against Motherwell, and checking out their team line-ups, they haven't really changed personnel'

'By no means will we underestimate them, but we came up with a plan to get past the Russians and I would certainly like to think that we can do the same again'

All eyes will be on their goalscoring machine tonight, Declan 'Fabio' O'Brien. O'Brien has proven a relevation, scoring four goals and playing a major role in the club's European success, becoming the first player to have scored in all of their ties in Europe this season, an Irish record.

Surely Pat's can't win again? They've been unpredicatable, and fought back from the brink before, why can't they do it again because at this stage the script has already been wripped up. It would be a fantastic achievement for a League of Ireland club, and would certainly raise the profile of Irish soccer which is looking to stand up and be counted in Europe.


Has Becks career finally hit the decks?

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

David Beckham’s career at Los Angeles Galaxy continues to grow sour as he was sent-off in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat by Seattle Sounders FC. Beckham was given a straight red card for a tackle on Sounders midfielder Peter Vagenas, in the 17th minute of the game. The former England skipper interestingly claimed Vagenas, a former Galaxy player, was one of his best mates in a post match interview.

‘Pete is one of my best friends,’ he said. ‘I think it’s a hard tackle but not with means for a red card. I’ve never gone in one tackle wanting to hurt someone. The referee saw it differently.’

While he may not have intended the force of the tackle, the foul clearly deserved a red card. Please feel free to agree or disagree with me on that, but I think when you go in with your two feet like Beckham did, it’s a straight red. Simple as.

However, this is not the first time Beckham has been in the spotlight recently, and I don’t mean wife, Victoria appearing on American Idol. Since returning from his loan spell with Milan relations have been frosty with Galaxy fans, who have had enough of Beckham’s half arsed commitment to them.

He has been involved in confrontations with fans during his first three games back in a Galaxy shirt. At his first home game for Galaxy Beckham had to be restrained after the midfielder attempted to jump over the barrier to a section of the crowd that had been jeering him.

Afterwards he told the press what had happened: "One of the guys was saying things that really weren’t very nice. It was stepping over the line. I said 'You need to calm down and come shake my hand' and he jumped over.

Fans have also come bearing banners stating: ‘Go home fraud!’ and ‘Hey Becks, here before you here after you, here despite you.’ His return has also been punctuated by booing from his own supporters every time he gets the ball also, but what more can you expect, they’ve simply had enough of him.

The MLS did not need Beckham, he needed the MLS. After starting his career in England with Manchester United playing with them for 10 years. Back in 2003 he left to sign for Spanish side Real Madrid. So after conquering Europe it was time for him to do something different and going where Pele failed before him, America, joining LA Galaxy.

When Beckham came to play in the MLS in 2007, he had this to say: I'm coming there not to be a superstar. I'm coming there to be part of the team, to work hard and to hopefully win things. With me, it's about football. I'm coming there to make a difference. I'm coming there to play football... I'm not saying me coming over to the States is going to make soccer the biggest sport in America. That would be difficult to achieve. Baseball, basketball, American football, they've been around. But I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I could make a difference.

And make a difference he has. Perhaps not as much on the pitch as he would have like but he has certainly attracted new supporters for Galaxy, which celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Eva Longoria, Simon Fuller and chef Gordon Ramsey have been coming along to see Beckham in action for Galaxy, as well as worldwide media attention.

Yet despite all the fanfare of his arrival in 2007, Beckham is still to help Los Angeles Galaxy reach the end-of-season play-offs.

Recently it has been made very clear that not only the fans have had enough of him, his team-mates have also. In Grant Wahl’s book ‘The Beckham Experiment’ team-mate Landon Donovan made comments that the Englishman was not dedicated enough to Galaxy. It’s a bit rich coming from Donovan who was desperate to earn a place at Bayern Munich, but thats footballers for you, ever the hypocrites.

But after his actions this weekend, and the occasions before, it certainly looks like the former England skipper’s days in America could be numbered.

It is reported that the 34-year-old who has been linked to a move back to the UK, is likely to seek another loan deal to Milan from January to May, in the MLS close season as he aims for a place in Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad next summer.
Beckham always expected this treatment from the Galaxy fans but: 'This doesn't change anything for me. I intend to stay until the end of my contract and maybe futher (doubtful, and most likely not playing football) - I've always said that. I'm committed to Galaxy and to the MLS and that hasn't changed.'
Evidently the feeling is not mutual. I have always admired Beckham, but I think sadly the American Dream has come to an abrupt end. When you've lost the fans, there's no more you can do and with that proposed loan spell to Milan again, they won't be coming back on his side just yet.
It would be nice to see him back in the Premiership, but, just not at Manchester United. Possibly with Ancelotti, at Chelsea who I hear was a big admirer of him when he was on loan at Milan. Beckham to Chelsea? Stranger things have happened I suppose. You only have to look at Michael Owen at Manchester United to see that, or maybe he'll return to where it all began, at United? Who knows?
One thing is for certain, the American Dream is fading away.


Oh football, how we've missed you.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The questions are endless; will Manchester City break the Top 4? Can Manchester United win four Premier League titles in a row? Will Liverpool knock Manchester United off their perch, and win their first title in two decades? Or can Ancelotti bring the Holy Grail to Stamford Bridge? Well no doubt over the next 8 months these questions will be answered.

83 days, numerous transfers, managerial changes, and spending even the WAG’s would be proud of, it could only mean the return of one event. The kick-off to the new Premier League season. With the Championship, League 1, League 2, and Blue Square Premier League all in full swing, it was time for some top flight action. After the usual hype and build up off the field, the action didn’t disappoint on the field.

New-boys Burnley, Birmingham, and Wolves, all failed to make a winning start, suffering defeats at the hands of Stoke, Manchester United and West Ham respectively. Despite losing, all of the debutants made encouraging starts in what promises to be a closely run campaign.

From new teams, to new managers, Chelsea’s Carlo Ancelotti, Wigan’s Roberto Martinez, and Sunderland’s new boss Steve Bruce, all made their league debut in charge of their respective clubs, all of which resulted in wins.

Chelsea came from behind against Hull, giving Carlo Ancelotti his first Premier League win. Hull came very close to causing an upset on the opening day, with Chelsea hate figure Stephen Hunt giving Hull the lead, only to be cancelled out by a Didier Drogba free kick before half time. Drogba was the hero, needing only one of the six additional minutes to secure all 3 points for the London side.

A wonder goal from Hugo Rodallega, and a quality finish from Jason Koumas sealed a shock victory for Wigan over Aston Villa. Here's Rodallega's goal, cracking right footed volley:
Their first ever win on the opening day of the season. It was a Brucie bonus for Sunderland manager Steve Bruce, as his summer buy Darren Bent netted the game’s only goal after 5mins, giving the Black Cats a much deserved win.

Carrying on the trend of London sides winning, Fulham, Arsenal and Spurs all sealed victories in their opening fixtures. A Bobby Zamora deflection was enough for Fulham to secure a 1-0 win over anticipated strugglers Portsmouth. The Gunners showed that they should not be written out of the top 4 just yet, with a 6-1 drubbing of Everton. High quality football, leaving the Toffee’s stuck to the foot of the table. Tottenham also took a much deserved victory against Liverpool, beating them 2-1. Liverpool left White Hart Lane battered and bruised, with their title hopes already in doubt.

That just leaves us with the two sides of Manchester. Big-spenders City didn’t slip up on the pitch, but manager Mark Hughes managed to do so off the pitch.
That aside, goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Stephen Ireland gave City the win. They now have half the number of away wins as last season. That investment is paying off already. Finally, Manchester United played out a very ordinary and somewhat boring 1-0 win over promoted Birmingham. , Wayne Rooney on the scoresheet with his 99th goal for the club. The game also saw Michael Owen making his league debut, and missing a golden opportunity to score after coming on as a second-half substitute.

And there we have it. One week over. 37 more to go. Quick couple of points to note from this weekend’s game. 22 goals scored. 6 away wins. 4 home wins. 0 draws. All promoted clubs lost, and all London side won. Does that mean anything? Not really. They’re just pointless stats.

I would say let’s do it all again next weekend, but, we’ve got mid-week fixtures to look forward to. How exciting. Ah. It’s good to have football back.


Premier League Preview - Part 2

Friday, 14 August 2009

Here we go with Part 2 of my Premier League Preview ahead of the return of the beautiful game tomorrow. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

Desperation. That’s what Liverpool fans are feeling ahead of the new season. For the most decorated club in English footballing history it’s almost beyond belief that Liverpool will start this season not having been crowned domestic champions in 20years.

The league title is what the fans crave, and with Manchester United equalling their record of 18 domestic titles it’s now more important than ever for the Kop to end the draught.

It’s hard to believe that Rafa Benitez’s side only lost 2 games last season, scoring a league high of 77 goals and beating eventual champions Manchester United both at Anfield and Old Trafford, and still come away empty handed.

However it does show that they might be on the brink of their first title in two decades. The main aim will be keeping Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres fit. If those two are kept in tip top shape then Liverpool will be lifting the PL trophy come May.

Liverpool knew how to beat the big sides last season, but the struggled against weaker opposition. They clocked up a staggering 11 draws and even got beaten 2-0 by relegated Middlesboro. To win the title they will have to avoid a repeat of this.

Failure won’t be an option this season, and with Kenny Daglish, the man who led them to their last title in 1989 back at the club as Head of the Youth Academy. Who knows, it might be a good omen?

Ended up empty handed last season, it will be different this time round, the title beckons.

Touchline Views: Winners

Manchester City

Is this the year City sheikh up the Top 4? No. But they will certainly give it a go. City have now established themselves as the first major threat of the top 4 dominance in the best part of a decade. They will without a doubt be looking for an improvement of last season’s 10th place finish.

Among fans expectations will be high and after spending £200million in 12 months, they along with the clubs Arab owners will want to see a return.

City however are still all fur coat and no knickers. They have too many strikers, and have a defence about as solid as David Beckham’s career in the MLS, having conceded 50 goals last season.

With Hughes failing to prise John Terry away from Chelsea, and Everton intent on holding on to Joleon Lescott it will be hard for City to crack the top 4 just yet. They should be setting their sights on a place in Europe next year, not in the Champions League, but the Europa League.

Something that may work in City’s favour this season is they have no distraction of European football. So they can begin to lay the foundations for future success.

Touchline Views Prediction: 6th

Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson kicks off his 36th season in management and is faced with a remodelled Manchester United side following the departure of Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo.

After winning three Premier League titles in a row, the Red Devils now enter unchartered territory, with no team ever winning the league title 4 seasons in a row. United will also look to overtake Liverpool and set as new record of 19 top-flight titles.

One of the biggest shocks this summer was Sir Alex Ferguson securing bargain buy of the year, Michael Owen on a free transfer.

In Owen they have a proven but injury prone striker. It will be interesting to see how his partnership with fellow England striker Wayne Rooney develops. Expect them to shine this season.

Life after Ronaldo? You bet there is, but not just yet. It’s going to be a struggle this season with Liverpool and Chelsea both having strong squads, United could feel themselves on the outside.
Then again Fergie is master of pulling rabbits out of the hat.

Touchline Views Prediction: 3rd


A year after winning the FA Cup Portsmouth has lost their manager and most of their key players. The endless departures from Fratton Park have left Pompey severely weakened.

To date manager Paul Hart has been given no money to spend despite gaining significant fees from the sales of Glen Johnson and Peter Crouch. This could well be the season Portsmouth end their 6 year stay in the top-flight, unless the new owners come to their rescue, but it doesn’t look likely at the moment.

The players brawling on their pre-season tour shows that there is quite clearly unrest at the club. Who can blame them?

Portsmouth did enough to stay up last season despite shipping 57 goals, and having strikers who couldn’t score. Peter Crouch is the most significant lost having been their top scorer last term with 11 goals, and without a replacement in sight, I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

It may have been minus 10 in Southampton while the sun has been shining brightly in Portsmouth, however it looks like it’s going to be a role reversal this season.

Stormy times lie ahead at Fratton Park, and there is only one way Portsmouth are going, and that is down.

Touchline View Prediction: 20th

Stoke City

Stoke did the impossible last season by staying up, having been written off by everyone. Not only they managed to stay up, they stayed up by quite a margin, finishing 12th place.

Like Reading who have gone before them, they exceeded expectations in their first season only to be sucked straight back down the following year.

They only lost four times at home in 2008-09, but are a changed side away from home picking up only just 10 points from a possible 54, winning only 2 games.

As a manager Tony Pulis boasts a proud record of never having been relegated, despite managing strugglers like Bournemouth, Gillingham, Bristol City, Portsmouth and Plymouth, this is why I think Stoke will stay up again. If anyone can pull it out if the hat he can.

Rory Delap will need to keep firing in those long throws, having been responsible for almost a quarter of Stoke’s goals last season. They will also need to find the right partnership up front, after only scoring 38 goals last season.

Certainly Stoke are a team with more quality than Hull, so I think they’ll remain in the top-flight.

Touchline Views Prediction: 15th


Steve Bruce’s appointment as manager of Sunderland offers hope to a club who have been underperforming for years. Bruce is a man in demand after managing 11 years, after bringing success to Wigan and Birmingham. He will now need to work his magic in the North East.

Sunderland have a squad capable of making the top 10, and backed by new American owner Ellis Short, Bruce has been busy putting his own stamp on the squad.

He’s brought in two quality strikers, who are proven goal scorers, Darren Bent and Fraizer Campbell. If they can form a partnership that can score more goals than last season’s abysmal return of 34 goals, Sunderland have a big chance of making mid-table.

After nearly £70million of investment on players over the last 2 years, both the owners and fans will want to avoid a relegation struggle. The Black Cats only managed to survive by 2points last season, finishing 16th.

The investment on new players has been made, now it’s time to see a return. An improvement on last season will be what the club is looking for. The talent that’s at Bruce’s disposal is unquestionable, and if they click it could be a more positive season, but don’t expect miracles.

Touchline Views Prediction: 14th


With just two points on the board in late October, Harry Redknapp swooped in and heroically steered the club through troubled waters and led them to 8th place, narrowly missing out on a Europa League spot.

This season, Redknapp’s first full term in charge, he will be expected to come close to the club’s first top-four finish since the 1989-90 season.

Having not won away at Anfield, Old Trafford, Arsenal, or Stamford Bridge since way back in 1993, it looks like they won’t be challenging the top-four just yet. Redknapp’s history is also against him, as he has never led a side to a top-four finish.

Last term, Spurs had one of the best defensive home records, conceding only 10 goals during the whole season. They will need to keep that record up again this season, as well as being more attacking at White Hart Lane, where they scored only 21 goals in 19 games.

Redknapp has got three proven goalscorers at his disposal, Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane and new signing Peter Crouch, who will be yet again reunited with Redknapp, and Defoe. Spurs have got a formidable strike force, and if they can find form in front of goal, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

It’s too tight at the top, but ‘Arry has flashed the cash, wheeled and dealed, ducked and dived, Europe beckons this season.

Touchline Views Prediction: 7th

West Ham

2 years ago West Ham finished 10th place in the Premier League, but who knew a year later they would go one better and finish 9th, under rookie manager Gianfranco Zola.

He has proved many of his doubters wrong, and on limited funds he has managed to put together a team of strong British talent.

West Ham boasts a very impressive English spine, and goalkeeper Rob Green will be looking to impress this season if he’s to become England’s Number 1 for next year’s World Cup.

However, things won’t be as bright for Zola this season as West Ham no longer has the big financial backing that they once had, and will struggle to make mid-table this time round.
Their squad is relatively thin, and will be prone to injury during a long season.

Zola is West Ham’s saviour, and he will once again work his magic this season. His big success last season was helping Carlton Cole develop into an England international.

The Hammers have been quiet on the transfer market with the loan signing of Luis Jimenez from Inter Milan, who is nicknamed the ‘wizard’ for his trickery; he could well be one to watch this season.

Not enough movement in the transfer market could see Zola struggle this season, as the Premier League gets more competitive. The honeymoon period is over and mid-team looks to be a safe bet.

Touchline Views Prediction: 13th


Roberto Martinez arrives at Wigan with a reputation as one of the most promising and innovative young managers in the game, after his stunning success with Championship side Swansea. But for now he is unproven at Premier League level.

The likable Spaniard will win plenty of friends this season with his charm, but maybe not enough games. Wigan is very much a rugby league town, so the Lactics could be in for a big scrum this season, after losing Amir Zaki, Mido, Antonio Valencia, and Emile Heskey.

That does not mean there should be a sense of gloom in this corner of Lancashire, after Martinez’s dealings in the transfer market.

He has wasted no time putting together is own squad signing promising striker Jason Scotland from former club Swansea, with fellow countryman Jordi Gomez following suit, after spending last season on loan with Martinez at Swansea.

Perhaps the most interesting of the signings is that of Irish hot prospect James McCarthy. The 18-year-old is certainly set for great things in the future, and will benefit greatly from Martinez’s guidance.

I think Wigan will have a competitive edge this season and will play some exciting football. They will need to start hitting the back of the net more, after missing a whopping 92% of their shots last term.
We can expect more of the same from the Latics, but with Martinez’s vision, they could surprise us all.

Touchline Views Prediction: 11th


Wolves roar into the Premier League after an impressive Championship campaign last season, with 27 wins, scoring 80 goals. Unfortunately Mick McCarthy’s record in the Premier League reveals a horrifying 31 defeats from 37 games while he was in charge at Sunderland.

After their romantic appearance in the top-flight back in 2003, Wolves will be looking to avoid the trap this time round. Manager McCarthy has smashed the transfer record for former Reading striker Kevin Doyle, playing £6.5million for the Irishman shows their ambition to be a success this time round.

A bit like Aston Villa in the Premier League, Wolves nearly derailed their promotion chase after Christmas, with a dismal run of games which saw them win only once in 11. If this happens this season they will end up back where they started.

Wolves already have a fantastic advantage of possessing two prolific goalscorers in Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, and Chris Iwelumo. Between them the pair scored 41 goals last season, and if you add Kevin Doyle to that, goals should not be a problem.

However, goals will not be all that’s needed to survive. Something tells me Wolves will start off well, only to end up in relegation battle come the end of the season.

Touchline Views Prediction: 18th


Premier League Preview - Part 1

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Very sorry that there hasn't been much posting on here over the last week, but I have been busy working on my preview for the season ahead. Today I will take a look at the first 10 teams, from Arsenal to Hull. Enjoy.


It’s not how you start, its how you finish, that maybe something you hear Noel Edmonds say daily on Deal or No Deal, but it was very much true to Arsenal last season. After a poor start to last year’s campaign the Gunners managed to go on a 21 game unbeaten run, which saw them climb their way up the table to their usual 4th place, along with reaching FA Cup and Champions League Semi-Finals. Only to be beaten in both cases. Meaning another trophyless season for the Londoners.

This summer has seen another two key players leave Arsenal, with Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor to moneybags Manchester City. They have received £40million in fees from those transfers, but have only brought in one new player, defender Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax.

Despite losing Toure and Adebayor, Arsenal still have a squad that contains Andrey Arshavin and Cesc Fabregas and with youth players like Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsay shining in pre-season, means Wenger’s young squad could be a dark horse.

The fans are now frustrated with Wenger’s dealings in the transfer market, considering that all the players from the 2003-04 ‘Invincibles’ era have gone on to pastures new. There was a stage last season when the fans even called for Wenger’s head. They will want a trophy this season, having not won anything since the FA Cup in 2005, failure to do so could mean Wenger the Gunner, could become Wenger the Gonner.

Their best hope is a good cup run, certainly not strong enough to win the League.

Touchline Views Prediction: 4th

Aston Villa

He may have been passed over for the England job, but that didn’t matter to Martin O’Neill having now built his very only squad of home-grown talent at Villa Park.

The Irishman who has led Villa to two sixth place finishes in the last two seasons, but after losing key players this summer can he manage to do it for a third time?

Having lost, (or said good riddance) to Gareth Barry, O’Neill replaced him with the Stewart Downing from relegated Middleborough, but will be without the midfielder until Christmas due to injury. He has also added promising teen Fabien Delph, taking his total of players who can play for England to 14.

This season Villa will be looking avoid a repeat performance of the mid-season slump that they encountered in the absence of Martin Laursen who has since retired. The current squad still looks to be a bit threadbare, and is something that will have to be addressed. Villa used just 21 players last season, the joint-lowest in the Premier League, and is a key reason why the failed in their challenge of a Champions League spot.

With the Manchester City juggernaut in their rear-view mirror, this could be the first time Villa disimproves under O’Neill.

Touchline Views Prediction: 8th

Birmingham City

After one season away, Birmingham City are back and raring to go under manager Alex McLeish. Since 2002 they’ve won three promotions to the Premier League and twice been relegated. Their main aim for this season will be securing their Premier League status.

McLeish has spent almost £20million on new players for the season ahead, breaking the club transfer record for Columbian striker Christian Benitez, at £7.7million. Mixed with experienced players who have Premier League pedigree such as Lee Bowyer, James McFadden, Lee Carsley and Stephen Carr, City certainly seem to have the winning formula to stay up.

Two key issues that will need to be addressed is scoring at one end of the field, and keeping them out at the other. Relegated Norwich scored more goals in the Championship than Birmingham. Also when they last appeared in the Premier League 2 years ago they only managed 2 clean sheets out of 38 games.

The pressure will be on former Rangers boss McLeish, having come under fire many times last season from managing director Karren Brady, and with a trip to Manchester United first up, no wonder the Scot is one of the favourites to be first sacked this season.

I wouldn’t be surprised if McLeish is not in charge come the end of the season, depending on if the results don’t go his way. If he secures their safety then he can look forward to another season in the top-flight.

Touchline Views Prediction: 16th


Since arriving back in the Premier League back in 2001, Blackburn has been a rollercoaster team providing more ups and downs than Jordan and Peter Andre’s relationship. From the highs of 6th place, right down to the lows of last season’s 15th Blackburn could be now back on the up under Big Sam Allardyce.

After poor results under rookie manager Paul Ince, Blackburn were lying in 19th place, and were in danger of becoming embroiled in a relegation battle. Enter Sam Allardyce. Ince was sacked before Christmas, and Big Sam in his place and in his 26 games in charge Blackburn managed not to lose in 18 of those games.

During the close season they may have lost the highly talented Roque Santa Cruz, but they have gained £17.5million from his sale, which Allardyce has spent wisely.

Having failed to score in 15 of their 38 Premier League games last term, Rovers have brought in two new strikers, Franco Di Santo on loan from Chelsea, and Nikola Kalinic from Hajduk Split.
Blackburn are a very similar side to Bolton, Allardyce’s former club, where he managed to keep them above the top 10 for 4 seasons, along with leading them to the UEFA Cup for the first time in their history. I can see him replicating that success with Rovers.

First up for them is Manchester City, who have former Blackburn legend Mark Hughes at the helm, this will be a crucial game for Rovers. If they start as they mean to go on, October might not look so bad where they face 3 of the top 4. A bad start and they might just be back to where they started last season. However I don’t think that will happen.

A top 10 finish is what they should be aiming for.

Touchline Views Prediction: 10th

Bolton Wanderers

Quite clearly Gary Megson is not Sam Allardyce, and the fans made that known on numerous occasions last season. Bolton enjoyed a great deal of success under Allardyce, but since he has left they have battled with mid-table mediocrity and relegation.

Last season Bolton had a squad that was thin on the ground, like Villa, using only 21 first team players. They have been busy in the transfer market bringing in Zat Knight, Sam Ricketts, Sean Davis and Paul Robinson, all experienced players in their own right.

Finishing below last season’s 13th, could mark the end of Megson’s reign at the Reebok. He managed to keep Bolton up last season, despite his rocky relations with the fans. When he took over in 2007, the Trotters were a sinking ship, and were on their way back to the Championship, surely saving them has changed their opinion? Obviously not.

He will still have to justify his acquisition of record signing Johan Elmander, who only managed to score 5 of Bolton’s dismal 41 goals last term.

No return to European football just yet, but an improvement on last season.

Touchline Views Prediction: 12th


After 33 years away, Burnley are back becoming the 43rd team to play in the Premier League. However there are fears that they may surpass Derby’s record-breakingly bad season of 2007-08.

They hail from the smallest town to feature in the Premier League, (8,500pop.), had the smallest average home attendance, (13,000), and had the smallest group of players in the Championship (23).

Despite those grim statistics Burnley have got experience against Premier League opposition. Last season saw them reach the League Cup Semi-Final’s, as well as the 5th Round of the FA Cup. In those fantastic cup runs, they saw off Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, Fulham and West Brom, which is no mean feat.

Many people wrote off Hull’s chances last season, so Burnley could well be a surprise package for the year ahead. But there is a bit of a romantic air about their Premier League appearance.

Perhaps the Claret’s biggest gain in the close season is keeping manager Owen Coyle. Celtic were interested in the man whose previously managed in Scotland at Falkirk and St. Johnstone, however he opted to sign a new contract at Turf Moor instead.

I am hopeful about Burnley, they could become involved in a relegation battle, but they should do enough to stay up. Last season’s cup run will have given them the much needed experience for the year ahead.

Touchline Views Prediction: 17th


Another season, another new manager takes charge at Stamford Bridge. Carlo Ancelotti becomes Chelsea’s sixth manager since owner Roman Abramovich took control of the London side in 2003.

Ancelotti is certainly a man accustomed to success, having won 3 Serie A titles, and 2 European Cup’s as a player and 1 title and 2 Champions League’s as a manager.

Chelsea has appointed a Champions League winning manager before, and look what he did. Back-to-back Premier League titles, and while they have been successful at home, it’s been a failure in Europe. 2008 saw them reach the Champions League final only to lose on penalties, while last season saw them beaten by eventual winners Barcelona in that highly controversial semi-final.

They will be looking to Ancelotti to finally bring home the Holy Grail to Stamford Bridge.

Liverpool have lost Alonso, United have lost Ronaldo, and Arsenal, Adebayor, but Chelsea are unique, they’ve lost nobody, if anything they have gained.

Mr. Chelsea, John Terry who was subject to a cheeky bid from Man City, only to flirt outrageously with them before deciding his loyalty lies at Stamford Bridge. They’ve brought in Yuri Zhirkov from CSKA Moscow to add to their already powerful midfield.

How will Ancelotti cope coaching outside Italy for the first time? Very well I think, he’s got a strong squad, they might be ageing but they’ve still got the hunger and desire. First blood has gone to Chelsea, having already won the Community Shield last weekend, beating Manchester United on penalties.

Chelsea will challenge on all fronts this season, but failure to win the Premier League and Champions League and we could be saying arrivederci to Ancelotti. They will just have to settle for second best this season.

Touchline Views Prediction: Runners-up


Here is an interesting stat, since the 2004-05 season no team has broken into the top 4 of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United. The team last to do so was Everton.

Since then they have come tantalisingly close, finishing 5th in successive seasons, along with an FA Cup Final appearance last term.

What Everton lack is a capable and proven goalscorer, with no striker scoring more than 20 league goals in 23 years at the club. In contrast their defence has proved to be impenetrable, racking up a new club record of 17 clean sheets last season.

David Moyes has been at the helm for eight years now, and has established both himself and Everton as a major force in the Premier League. His name has been thrown into the ring as a successor to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

He has turned Everton from relegation strugglers, into a top 6 club during his reign, and he has done it on a limited budget. Moyes gets the best out of his players, but they lack the pedigree needed to crack the top 4.

Another consistent season from the Toffees, but they will have to watch out; Manchester City will be hot on their tail.

Touchline Views Prediction: 5th


What a difference a year makes. 2 years ago Fulham pulled off the great escape, and a year later finish 7th place taking a well earned place in the inaugural Europa League.

Their success story is down to one man, Roy Hodgson. After managing in six different countries Hodgson comes back to England saves Fulham from relegation and leads them to their best ever finish in the Premier League.

Hodgson has crafted a defensive nucleus worth of a Top 4 side, only conceding 34 goals, held together by Aussie Number 1 Mark Schwarzer, who saved 80% of all shots on target last season, and the towering 6ft 4in Brede Hangerland in central defence.

The future looks bright for the season ahead, however they will need to discover some consistency in front of goal, scoring only 39 goals in 38 games, less than relegated Newcastle.
They may not have found consistency in front of the net, but what Hodgson has done is built a team with limited funds, and minimum fuss. He certainly found the right formula, fielding the same starting XI 20 times last season.

Fulham have showed they are no pushovers having beat Manchester United and Arsenal last season, and drawing against Liverpool.

If they find form and start bagging goals, they might just grab a second European place, but I think they could be just a one trick pony.

Touchline Views Prediction: 9th

Hull City

Everybody wrote off Hull City’s chances of survival last season, and when after 9 games they had taken 20 points out of 27 it looked like we were all wrong. But instead of going forward, Hull went three steps back, taking only 15points from their last 29 games, finishing the season on 35 points. Avoid relegation on the last day of the season.

The statistic that perma-tanned Phil Brown will be clinging to is only 4 teams since the Premier League began in 1992 have gone down in their second season.

Unfortunately for Hull, they look set to become the fifth. Their Premier League form is woeful, failing to win any of their last 10 games, conceding 64 goals in the season, and finishing on a goal difference of minus 25.

The idea of Phil Brown singing on the pitch at the end of the season is enough motivation for Hull to do better this time round. It’s also why Brown is a decent bet to be the first manager sacked this season.

While most people see him as a bit of a joker, he has down some really good deals in the transfer market. Brown has signed American international Jozy Altidore on loan from Villarreal and Stephen Hunt from Reading to name but a few.

However, I don’t see much hope for Hull, and they most definitely will suffer second season syndrome.

Touchline Views Prediction: 19th

PART 2 - Liverpool - Wolves - TOMORROW.


Going, Going, Gun - Back Page Football

Friday, 7 August 2009

My very first article has been published over at the newly launched Back Page Football.

Check out my article - Going Going Gun which looks at Arsenal's fall since their 'invincibles' era.

This should be a weekly thing, so make sure you keep checking back here for news on my next post over there.


Fab Decs the Russians, as the Saints go marching on

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Jeff Kenna's (above) side St Patrick’s Athletic tonight have pulled off one of the biggest wins in their clubs history after beating Russian side Krylya Sovietov on away goals in the Europa League third qualifying round.

This now means that the Saints are guaranteed another €90,000 for tonight’s win, and now sees them move within one round of reaching the group stages, where those bonuses will become even more lucrative.

While their league form hasn’t been much to boast about this season, Pat’s European form has been a joy to behold. Last year they reached the First Round proper of the old UEFA Cup, where they were beaten 2-0 by German side Heartha Berlin.

The Saints went into tonight’s game leading 1-0 from the first leg, but were written off by the bookies who were tipping them at 9/1 to win the game. It looked like the bookmakers were right, when with 57minutes gone Sovietov were leading 3-0, and 3-1 on aggregate through goals from Anton Bober and brace from Yevgeni Savin.

It looked like the Saints dream was over, but they showed spirit and determination, battling hard they regained two goals, one from Stuart Byrne and the other from European goalscoring machine, Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien, securing one of the biggest wins in the clubs history on a score line of 3-3 over the two legs, with Pat’s winning on the away goals rule.

O’Brien who is on loan to Pat’s from Dundalk has proved to be a fantastic coup for the club, having scored in all of their ties in Europe this season, which is an Irish record.

Speaking after last week’s 1-0 win at Richmond Park, manager Jeff Kenna said – ‘It’s by far the biggest result I’ve had as a manager’

Somehow I think tonight’s results eclipses that even further. It is one of the finest achievements for the League of Ireland side, not only that it also raises the profile of domestic soccer in Ireland something which has been in decline recently.

It was Samaras who provided the glory for Celtic last night, and tonight it’s Samara where The Saints celebrate their glorious achievement.

St. Pat’s will now be entered into tomorrow’s final qualifying round draw to be held in Geneva. They will be faced with the possibility of meeting sides such as Everton, Aston Villa, Villarreal, Valencia, Ajax and Lazio.

Maybe if Pat’s draw a big side tomorrow we might actually be able to see some Irish footballing action on our screens. So far this season we have not seen any TV coverage of the Irish clubs who have ventured into Europe, which is sad, because it is an achievement in itself for Irish clubs to be in Europe, let alone be one step away from the main competition.

It’s about time we showed more passion for the game, and to fight for our place at Europe’s top table, but how can we do that when all we have to watch is the Natural World?

Wake up RTE, your country needs you.


From Russia with Love – Celtic Dream

Tony Mowbray has overcome his first hurdle as Celtic manager, as his side clinched an all important European victory, beating Dynamo Moscow 2-0 last night. It was the first time in Celtic’s history that they’ve overturned a first leg home defeat in Europe, but it was a thoroughly deserved victory, even if it was against all the odds.

The sides last European win away from home was on August 13, 2003, against Hungarian outfit MTK. The 4-0 success came courtesy of goals from Henrik Larsson, Didier Agathe, Stilliyan Petrov and Chris Sutton. They also faced a Dynamo who have never recorded a home win over a Scottish club. In their only home clash against Scottish opposition, they were trashed 4-1 by Rangers in 2001. One of those records had to give, and luckily for Celtic it went in their favour.
Goals from Scott McDonald, and Georgios Samaras secured the vital victory. Speaking after the game Samaras told the supporters – ‘Don’t call me a hero’

"I think we got what we deserved in the end," said the Celtic manager Tony Mowbray. "Over the two 90 minutes, the better team came through the tie. I said all along they're a very good side, a very organised side, but they at times lacked the individual quality that I thought we had and that's shown tonight. We controlled the game for long, long spells and got our rewards in the end."

Dynamo Moscow played poorly throughout the game, and Celtic capitalised on this, much to the delight of their fans and manager.

"I always believed we'd score," added Mowbray. "Nobody's getting carried away. We've got a lot of hard work ahead of us and we've got to keep going."

Celtic now enter tomorrows Champions League play-off draw unseeded, where teams such as Arsenal, Lyon and Atletico Madrid await. Last nights victory now guaranttes them another two leg tie, but the Scottish side are now safe in the knowledge that if they fail in the play-off round, they will be entered into the group stages of the new Europa league.


Claudio Lopez vs David Beckham

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Claudio Lopez's amazing goal vs LA Galaxy.

This fixture seems to have a reputation for producing stunning goals after David Beckham did this last year.

For me Lopez's goal wins hands down, it took great vision from the Argentine to spot the keeper was off his line, and then to try his luck at a shot from 70 yards. Beckham had an open net with the keeper quickly backtracking, on a normal day his goal would without doubt win, but Lopez's goal was a joy to behold.

What do you think?


Not too Xabi – Alonso finally joins the Real

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

After weeks and months of speculation, Liverpool has finally reached an agreement with Real Madrid for the sale of midfielder Xabi Alonso.

A statement posted on Real Madrid’s website read: ‘Real Madrid C.F and Liverpool FC have agreed to the transfer of Xabi Alonso. The player will arrive in Madrid tomorrow to undergo the required medical.’

The two sides have agreed to keep the details of the deal confidential and undisclosed. The 27 year old who joined Liverpool from Real Sociedad in August 2004 is reported to be joining the Spanish giants for a believed fee of £30million.

Alonso will become the second Liverpool player to join Real this summer after Alvaro Arbeloa made the switch to the Bernabeu last week for £3.5million.

Assuming all goes well and the deal goes through, Alonso will take Real’s spending over the £200million barrier. Cristiano Ronaldo joined for a world record £80m, Kaka arrived at a cost of £56m, along with Karim Benzema costing £30m, as well as, Raul Albiol from Valencia.

In five seasons at Liverpool Alonso made 199 appearances, scoring 19 goals, winning the Champions League in his first season. He went on to win the FA Cup and Community Shield the season after. He was also part of Liverpool’s Premier League Runner-Up squad last season.

However relations started to get frosty between Alonso and Liverpool last year when it emerged the club were looking into buying Gareth Barry as a replacement for Alonso, but as the season began neither Barry or Alonso had left their respective club.

When Barry moved onto Manchester City at the start of the summer transfer window it looked like Alonso was set to stay on Merseyside, that was until Florentino Perez decided to keep his chequebook open and continue spending to build his dream-team.

With £30million at his disposal, and with the start of the season just a week away manager Rafael Benitez will need to up his game if Liverpool look to better last season’s second placed finish. The Reds now look set to up their pursuit of Roma’s highly rated Alberto Aquilani as Alonso’s replacement.


Jack Wilshere - One to watch

Remember the name, Jack Wilshere. This young man has certainly given his manager Arsene Wenger food for thought ahead of the new season after making a coming of age performance against Rangers in the Emirates Cup at the weekend.

The 17 year old was rewarded with 90minutes of football against the Scottish Champions, after he made a man of the match showing against Atletico Madrid, coming on as a second half substitute.

With England coach Fabio Capello watching in the stands, Wilshere’s performance came at the right time, scoring two of Arsenal’s three winning goals, and picking up man of the match again.

There has already been talk of Wilshere possibly featuring in England’s World Cup squad next summer, but he will need to be a regular starter at Arsenal before even being considered by Capello. For now it looks likely he will be promoted to Stuart Pearce’s Under 21 squad, due to be named tomorrow in preparation for their match against Holland next Tuesday.

Speaking after the game Wenger said – ‘At 16 years of age I gave him a chance to practise every day with the first-team players. He has benefited a lot from special treatment, an acceleration of his education.

He also added – ‘There is a problem in England. Knowing the impatience of English people it will be difficult to keep the right pace of progress. The World Cup is still a year away. Let’s first see how he improves and if he stays consistent.

Wilshere, who’s being compared to a young Paul Gascoigne, has been with the Gunners since October 2001, having joined the London club as a nine year old boy.

Since then Wilshere has worked his way up through the ranks from the under 16’s, under 18’s, Arsenal reserves and most recently the first team. Last season he was given a place in the first team squad, with manager Arsene Wenger giving him the number 19 shirt, formerly of Gilberto Silva.

He then went on to make his Premier League debut on the 13th September 2008, coming on as a substitute, in doing so he became Arsenal’s youngest ever league debutant at 16 years 256days, a record which was previously held by captain Cesc Fabregas.

Not only that, has he already made his bow in the Champions League for the Londoners, adding his name to a list of only four other 16 years olds that have played in the Champions League, at just 16 years 329days against Dynamo Kyiv.

A man that will be very proud of Wilshere’s progress and achievements is Arsenal legend, Liam Brady who currently resides as Head of Youth Development with the Gunners.

After Arsenal’s victory in the FA Youth Cup Final, in May, Brady reserved praise for the ‘special’ Wilshere. ‘What he does in pre-season will dictate whether the manager feels he is ready to be in his team from the start, but I think it won’t be long before he will be’

The Real Madrid’s and Barcelona’s won’t be popping up for the youngest just yet, as Wilshere has just signed a long term contract with the club, keeping him there for the foreseeable future.

He is without a doubt a shining light at the end of a very dark tunnel for Arsenal, and will have to be a considered as a consistent starter for this season. And who knows, with the World Cup a year away I don’t see why he can’t make the team if this season plays well for him.

He’s got the world at his feet, and he is about to become the next biggest thing in English football, forget the Wayne Rooney’s and Theo Walcott’s, Jack Wilshere is ready to stand up and be counted.


Tractor Boy Roy – Keane’s gets set to plough up the Championship

Monday, 3 August 2009

‘I am convinced the players will enjoy working with me. I have simple demands, be on time for training and give 100% then you will be fine. If they don’t, it will be a very brief relationship.’

Those were the words of the former Sunderland gaffer Roy Keane when he took over as manager of Ipswich Town at the end of last season. Keane, who had been out of football since leaving Sunderland last December, signed a two year contract with the Tractor Boys replacing former boss Jim Magilton who was sacked.

The Irishman took charge of Ipswich’s final two games at the end of last season, which both resulted in wins (3-0 vs. Cardiff, 2-1 vs. Coventry) as Ipswich managed to finished 9th in the Championship, well outside of the play-off places. The brief for the season ahead is very simple. Win promotion to the top tier of English football with The Blues, winners of the old First Divison in 1962, FA Cup winners in 1978 and UEFA Cup winners in 1981at the first attempt after an eight year absence.

If Ipswich’s form with managers is anything to go by, Keane could be in this job for the long run, as history shows the club not to be enthusiastic sackers. Bobby Robson spent 13 years in charge, Alf Ramsey 8 years, George Burley for 8 years also, and Magilton for nearly 3. Can Keane step up to the mark and etch his name into Ipswich’s history?

Just like at Sunderland, Keane has got the financial backing that he needs from reclusive owner Marcus Evans. Evans who has a 87.5% shareholding in the club, following his takeover in 2007 said ‘I believe he is the right man to take this club where we want it to be – the Premier League’ He has already shelled out £12million on players since taking over and has promised Keane all the funds he needs to complete the task at hand. Is this foolish to be giving Keane an open cheque book after his transfer dealings at Sunderland?

The former Manchester United skipper signed 36 players in his 27month spell at Sunderland a number of which were uninspiring. But, just how many of them will end up joining Keane at Ipswich? It looks like he has already missed out on a £5million deal, which would have saw Black Cats Dean Whitehead and Daryl Murphy join The Blues.

Keane has now turned his attention to defender Nyron Nosworthy, also of Sunderland to add to his squad. He has already signed Irish defender Damien Delaney from QPR, teenager Troy Brown from Fulham, and Lee Robert Martin from former club Manchester United. They have also added Colin Healy who hails from Keane’s native Cork.

When Keane took charge of Sunderland in August 2006, they lay second from bottom in the Championship. He made an instant impact guiding them straight to the top, and winning the Championship title. In terms of the Championship Keane has a proven track record, but still remains largely unproven in the Premiership. Is this what Ipswich need?

Keane will certainly feel the pressure more this time round after leaving Sunderland in the lurch – ‘There is no comparison between playing and management – nothing will ever come close to playing. Playing was a doddle.’

Pundit Andy Townsend has said that if Keane is to cut it, his attitude towards the game will have to change – ‘Brian Clough and Fergie had a huge influence on shaping Keane’s football philosophies, but the modern game has changed. He can’t rule the boardroom with an iron fist. The baseball bat approach won’t work’

Keane has already been putting his squad through their paces ahead of the new season, spending two days with the Colchester paratroopers to improve their fitness and endurance. The former Manchester United skipper has placed much emphasis on the importance of fitness at Ipswich, recruiting Antonio Gomez, the 32-year-old Spanish sports scientist with whom he worked at Sunderland, to help toughen up the regime.

Andy Townsend may have said the iron first approach won’t work, but it does show Keane is committed, and expects the best out of his players, in the quest for Promotion back to the top flight.

So as Keane prepares for season ahead that will bring many challenges, let’s hope he doesn’t walk out on yet another club. He’s still very much unproven as a manager, but that won’t stop Keane getting his hands dirty, in his pursuit to return the club to the Premiership. If a team like Burnley can do it, then why can’t Ipswich? They would certainly be my front runners for promotion.

Touchline Views – Championship Predictions
Champions – Middlesborough
Runners Up – Ipswich
Play-offs – Swansea, Newcastle, West Brom and Sheffield United.
(Image taken from - Footyblog)


Great Escape, Russian Roulette, and going down in Sofia. - A week in Irish football

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Cork City fans show their support.

It has been a rollercoaster week in Irish football, a week of spectacular highs and incredible lows. But yesterday Cork City FC lived up to their nickname of the ‘rebels’ by winning their battle against the Revenue Commission to avoid a winding up order, which would have relegated the club from the League of Ireland after a 25 year exsistance.

The final whistle had well and truely blown, but in extra-time the club managed to come up with the required amount of €220,000, half of the €439,658 that they owed to the Revenue Commission. The remaining €219,000 will be made before 4.30pm on Wednesday, therefore saving the club from extinction. Thus, Cork have now avoided becoming the first team to exit the league in mid-season since Dublin City in 2006.

If yesterday’s courtroom battle wasn’t enough, their was football to be played last night, at Turner’s Cross which saw Cork grab their second victory in the space of 5 hours, beating Bray Wanderers 1-0 in front of just over 3,000 loyal supporters.

Cork might not be out of the woods just yet as the staff and players who agreed to a deferral of their wages for a week have to be paid in full by Wednesday.

PFAI chief Stephen McGuinness warned trouble is still brewing – ‘If they aren't paid on Wednesday that will be a breach of the wage deferral they agreed this week," he said, "There's people 'high-fiving' on the stairs there but it's early yet."

All will become clear in the coming days, but for now it looks like the Leesiders have peformed the greatest escape since Charles Bronson and Steve McQueen.

At the opposite end of the spectrum St. Patrick’s Athletic, enjoyed victory in their Europa League third qualifying round game against Russian heavyweights Krylya Sovetov with Declan ‘Fabio’ O’Brien scoring the one and only goal of the game. O’Brien made it three goals in three European games becoming the first League of Ireland player to score in three consecqutive European ties.

Speaking after the game O’Brien said – ‘It’s a fabulous result for Irish soccer at a time when it’s all been doom and gloom’

Pat’s have already earned €90,000 by reaching this stage, which will stablise the club, and if the hold on in Russia it will see them reach the play-off round and guarantee them two more European nights, along with a further windfall.

Elsewhere, in Bulgaria, Derry City battled bravely but went down 1-0 to CSKA Sofia leaving them with an uphill battle in the return leg at the Brandywell. The Candystripes European faith is in their own hands, but they are certainly the ones with the more difficult task facing them on Thursday night. If they like St. Pat’s weather the storm they will also reach the play-off round, and a guranteed cash bonus.

As all three clubs prepare to ride the emotional rollercoaster for another week, it will be survival of the fittest, but one thing is for sure, no club will be going down without a fight. Passion and belief will be key.


Touchline Views

This is a football blog by Ian Walsh, covering all aspects of the game - from the Premier League and La Liga to the slightly mental football stories we all love.

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