Why the January transfer window should be shut.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Ah, the January transfer window; the time of year when clubs start panic buying in the hope of signing the player(s) that can give them an extra push towards the finish line of the end of the season.

However, not everyone likes the transfer window, because not only is it a time when clubs panic buy, it is also a time when transfer fees soar with being players bought for copious amounts of money when in a couple of months time they turn out to be a white elephant. Two classic examples that spring to my mind are Robinho and Dimitar Berbatov.

Last week Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn came out and criticised the transfer window saying that the only beneficiary is the agents."Put it this way, if I was a football agent and I got all the other agents together and said: 'How can we get more money out of these clubs?' we would invent a transfer window system," was what Quinn told the club's official website.

Now, I am not a fan of the transfer window myself because I don’t think it really has any purpose, why stop clubs from buying players from September till January? I personally think that the window should either be abolished totally or extended and is opened up from June right up until the 31st of December. It makes more logical sense, at the half way point of the season your team is either doing the business in the league or not.

Today is the 22nd of January and so far there have been no big marquee signings that you could write home about. Economic crisis are two words which have become clich├ęs in the past year or so but it is only now football is starting to feel the pinch. Football has been swimming is a sea of money for a long, long time now, and it is soon in danger of drowning.

Wolves chief Steve Morgan said recently that this “live now, pay later” attitude in football has got to stop. He went on to say: “You can’t keep hocking your future. It’s like pawning your family silver.”

Liverpool are in debt, as are Manchester United, Portsmouth, Everton, and Hull. Chelsea have been lucky in finding Russian owner Roman Abramovich, who recently cleared all their debts. And Manchester City despite the great losses that were reported recently are being bankrolled by their Sheiks. But overall football in England is about £3billion in debt.

Too many clubs over the years have gambled on future earnings, which subsequently backfired on them, the classic example is Leeds, who were the masterminds of their own demise, but currently West Ham have done, so have Portsmouth, and even Manchester United.

Perhaps, in these recessionary times there should be a call for pragmatism. Football should go back to its grass roots. Players who have played in the 60s and 70s must be sick at the thought of what players are earning these days, compared to what they earned. I definitely think that the transfer window needs to change, not only that, the football clubs must change also.

Huge debts can no longer be acceptable, and something will have to be done to pay them off. A possibility is enforcing transfer embargos on clubs who are in an unacceptable level of debt, which at the moment would possibly be every Premier League club. Also, who is going to tell Sir Alex Ferguson he can’t buy any players?

We are struggling to answer the questions of how much debt each club is in, which is why a comprehensive report needs to be on every club. New owners of clubs should be vetted. But, the big question without an answer is - when will we actually see any forward thinking in football? Do we have to have another big club to do a Leeds?

I’m worried for the future of football, because we never know what is around the corner, but, certainly what I can see foresee is a big club crashing in the not so distant future, albeit I don’t want to it happen, however, it is only a matter of time.


Arsenal is where Sergio Canales should go.

Friday, 22 January 2010

A player that has been making all the headlines in Spain over the last couple of weeks is not Ronaldo in his pants, not Messi banging in a hat-trick, but Sergio Canales after scoring some wonderful goals in La Liga [Links posted at the end]. Sergio who? You may say. Sergio Canales, Racing Santander’s eighteen year old wonder kid.

In making all the headlines, he has generated quite a lot of interest from the usual suspects of Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and of course Manchester City.

This week his father, Gelo Canales has been in the UK meeting up with the various English clubs who are interested in signing his son. However there will not be any move going through according to Santander’s president Francisco Pernia unless the club that is buying him agrees to loan the teenager back to the club.

"It is a condition that they have made [Canales and his father] without which the deal cannot happen because everyone would think he should remain here," Pernia is quoted as saying in AS.

Canales, who has yet to play a full game for Santander would certainly benefit from a move to Arsenal, not Chelsea or Manchester City or Manchester United or even Real Madrid.

Why Arsenal? Well, I see Arsenal as the club for moulding talent, when you look at Chelsea they have a plethora or strikers: Anelka, Drogba, Kalou and Sturridge in reserve. Manchester City has Tevez, Robinho and Bellamy, while Real Madrid also has a sea of talent. If Canales were to go to any of those clubs I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up warming the bench.

The eighteen year old, needs to go to a club where he will most likely be playing week in week out, and I see Arsenal as being the perfect suitors for that. While he may have to be loaned back to Santander, that will give him a chance to develop. Arsene Wenger’s youth policy at Arsenal also makes them the best club for Canales to sign for, just look at the players who have been bought and developed there: Merida, Ramsey, Walcott and Fabregas.

On the Daily Mail’s website site today the headline goes – “Manchester City try to scupper Sergio Canales’ Real Madrid move by offering teen star £25,000 a week”

Of course City’s solution to everything is throw money at the situation and it will work itself out, but I don’t see Canales being motivated by money. He will want to go to a club that he can slot into the team and play.

This story is not over yet, and it is certainly is one that will probably run and run for a while, but one thing is for sure: a star has been born and that star is Sergio Canales.

Canales first & second goal vs. Sevilla.


Sullivan & Gold come to the rescure of the Hammers

Thursday, 21 January 2010

During the week Premier League side West Ham United became yet another club in the top flight to be taken over this season, but for once it was not by foreign investors. The takeover comes from David Sullivan and David Gold former owners of Birmingham City, who only a couple of months ago sold the midlands outfit to Carson Yeung.

Sullivan and Gold have bought 50% of the Hammers for £105million, with the option of buying the other half in the future from the bank Straumer, anytime within the next four years. The pair have previous at Upton Park having owned a 27% stake of the club 22 years ago.

Their move back to the club is certainly one that should please the fans, especially when you look at their realistic plans for the future, both short term and long term. "We have a seven-year plan to get them into the Champions League and turn them into a big club and over the seven-year period we do plan to spend a lot of money," were the words of David Sullivan at their takeover press conference mid-week.

The deal to takeover the club has been done in Sullivan’s name, but both he and Gold will be joint-chairmen. Further changes in the boardroom means the Scott Duxbury has stood down as chief executive, and Karren Brady who has worked with the pair at Birmingham City as Managing Director, will take up the position of vice-chairman.

One thing that I admire about the new owners is that they were completely honest about the debts and troubles the club is in, running very close to the abyss. Portsmouth should certainly take a leaf out of their book, then again, who owns the South Coast club these days?

The previous Icelandic owners of the Hammers left the club in debts of about £80million plus, but it doesn’t stop there as Sullivan stated in the press conference: “There's £50m owed to banks, there's £40m owed to other clubs. There's not a penny to come in, they (the previous owners) have borrowed against the next two years of season-ticket money. The sponsors have paid 70 per cent of their three-years up front.”

The London outfit also needs to raise £20million in the next two transfer windows to keep the club afloat – that is £8million in January and £12million in the summer.

Once again, it is a case of simple mismanagement, and wage imbalance at the club. In research, I read that the Hammers were paying former player Lucas Neill £60,000 a week, that is Champions League wages for a club who finished 9th last season, outside the European places.

The fans and players alike will also be happy to see that Gianfranco Zola will remain on as manager, and now with a bit of financial backing he maybe be able to get in a player or two before the transfer window closes because the Hammers have been very unlucky with the timing of injuries to players this season. Although, for now, the main aim of the manager and the team will be to stay in the Premier League and finish as high up the table as possible.

Champions League football? No doubt a few eyebrows were raised when Sullivan and Gold mentioned this, eyes may have even be rolled among fans, thinking here we go again, Manchester City all over again. However, seven years is a long time in football, which is why if the pair run the club properly then I don’t see why West Ham can’t be playing with Europe’s finest in the next couple of years.


Tevez comes back to haunt Fergie

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Manchester derbies are always exciting, but when a trophy is on offer; in the form of the Carling Cup then that excitement turns into euphoria. The two Manchester’s have been talked about almost as much as Liverpool and Portsmouth this season but it’s the blue of City who are beating their red neighbours in grabbing all the plaudits and headlines, and last night they once again were basking in that glory after beating United 2-1 at the City of Manchester Stadium.

As a Manchester United fan I have always said Fergie would regret his decision to not sign up Carlos Tevez at the end of last season, and last night the Argentine showed United exactly what they missed out on.

Going into the game Tevez had scored 11 goals in 10 appearances but with two goals he now ups that tally to 13 goals in 11 appearances; this is why I have always been an admirer of Tevez since he came to the Premier League because he is a grafter; pure and simple, not only that, he scores when you need it.

I fully backed him when he signed for City and still do. He made a big decision to go to our neighbours but he is proving to be a big hit with the fans there because when he goes out on the field he always gives one hundred percent; certainly the polar opposite of a certain Brazilian.

It was Manchester United who took the lead after 17 minutes with Ryan Giggs scoring his first goal against City since 1996. An Antonia Valencia cross was knocked against the City goalkeeper Shay Given by Wayne Rooney, before the Welshman lined
subsequent rebound and knocked it in the back of the net.

The equaliser City came in somewhat controversial circumstances, after United defender Rafael da Silva began pulling Craig Bellamy’s jersey as he ran into the penalty area he maintained this grip until Bellamy tumbled to the ground inside the box. It very similar to the penalty City conceded against Everton on Saturday, as they say, revenge is sweet.

There was only one man to take the penalty and that was the former Red Devil, Tevez, who blasted the ball into the top of Edwin Van der Sar’s net. The Argentine was also on hand to score the second goal in the 65th. Bellamy's corner was crossed to the box before being heading down by Pablo Zabaleta who headed it on to Vincent Kompany lobbed the ball forward for Tevez to nod it into the back of the net.

Is a shift in power coming in Manchester? Not just yet. City are beginning to get the results to back up the money that has been spent, but still have a long way to go to be as successful as United. However, United are pale shadow of the team that has won three consecutive Premier League titles.

City’s drought of 34 years without a trophy could be soon about to end because going to Old Trafford they are taking with them a 2-1 lead, albeit United have an away goal. Are City a small club with a small mentality now Sir Alex? The answer is no.


Ashley Cole - Goal of the season?

Sunday, 17 January 2010

I know this clip will most likely be taken down off YouTube but I wanted to flag it to anyone who may not have seen MoTD or Chelsea vs. Sunderland yesterday.

Now, I am not a huge fan of Ashley Cole for many reasons, but that it another blog post for another day. Despite that, I do recognise skill when I see it and this goal in my opinion is in a different league.

John Terry showed great vision to pick out Cole running into the box who was on the right side of the defender; he rounded another and slotted the ball into the back of the net.

Albeit Sunderland were very poor in this game even Petr Cech could have scored, Chelsea's performance was simply that of champions in waiting. The title is theirs for the taking now. We all said the African Cup of Nations and losing those players could have an adverse effect, but that is not the case based on this performance.


African Cup of Nations: Ivory Coast 3-1 Ghana

Friday, 15 January 2010

“With a great generation comes great expectation, and that brings pressure and the awful spectre of failure.” those were the words of Guardian journalist Jonathan Wilson today; which really pinpoint the position of the Ivory Coast going into tonight’s game against Ghana.

The early tournament favorites needed a win to guarantee progress to the quarter-finals after drawing 0-0 with Burkina Faso in their opening game of the tournament, and that they did by beating the Black Stars comprehensively.

It was the Elephants who made the brighter of starts as they mounted a couple of attacking chances, but they did not look to threaten Ghana’s defence. Ghana also had their chances in the opening few minutes; however, the Elephants were a far stronger side at the back; but they also looked the more likely to break the deadlock.

And that they did in the 23rd minute of the game. A great attacking run down the right wing from Salomon Kalou who in turn cut through The Black Stars defence before passing to Gervinho who slotted the ball into the back of the net. From here until half-time the Ivory Coast sat back a little on their lead, that allowed Ghana to break forward as they kept applying the pressure and looked like they were playing for something now.

As the second half got underway Ghana made a change in midfield bringing on Michael Essien who they were keeping in reserve as he recovers from his recent injury, Chelsea will be pleased that he has now made a return to football, but won’t be happy if he returns home injured.

Ivory Coast were reduced to ten men in the 55th minute after Emmanuel Eboue launched a shocking two-footed tackle on Opoku Agyemang in the oppositions half of the field; it was no surprise when the referee showed the Arsenal man a red card.

As we entered the final 30 minutes of the game it looked to be all to play for now that The Elephants were down a man but they soon stuck a fatal blow to the hearts of Ghana as they went 2-0 in front. This time through a fantastic free-kick from Siaka Tiene, who struck the ball from 32metres out, which flew into the top left hand corner of the goal; it looked to be game over for Ghana.

After that both sides had the odd chance, Ghana despite having an extra man looked to be totally on the back foot. Michael Essien had a pop at a free-kick from a decent position but it flew over the bar. Essien was also the centre of attention moments later as he was challenged by team-mate Didier Drogba, not to worry the Black Stars captain returned to the field moments later; as Chelsea and Drogba breathed a sigh of relief.

It wasn’t game over just yet as there were two late goals from both sides. A Kader Keita cross managed to find Didier Drogba in the penalty area who headed the ball home making it 3-0. But the Ivory Coast's Soulemane Bamba brought down Asamoah Gyan in the box who slotted home the resulting penalty a mere consolation for the Black Stars

A job well done from the Ivory Coast, they pulled the win out of the bag just when they needed it and are now the first side to progress to the quarter-finals of this year’s African Cup of Nations.

Ghana have one final fixture on Tuesday when they take on Burkina Faso, a win will also secure them a spot in the quarter finals. One could say on tonight’s performance that the Black Stars had already got one eye on that game on Tuesday, but as we know in this tournament you have to expect the unexpected.

Despite a slow start I still think the Ivory Coast will reach the final, but after their defeat against Gabon on Wednesday I think my second choice for the final Cameroon won’t make it there. If I have learned anything this week it’s that Egypt are the most consistent team in the competition, you would have to be mad to bet against them retaining their title even at this early stage.


Kwaitoball: African Cup of Nations Diary

A couple of days ago just before the start of the African Cup of Nations I did a preview here, well, Chris over on Kwaitoball has been doing a diary of each day.

He reviews are certainly worth a read if you haven't been watching the football on the field but been keeping an eye on it all the same.

You can currently check out:

Day 1 & Day 2

Day 3 & Day 4

Tonight I shall be covering Ivory Coast vs. Ghana so there will be a match report up here afterwards if you would like to check here at about 9pm.


The next decade: How should football move forward?

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Once again David James has written a very thought provoking piece in his Observer column this week under the title: “Poor old Pompey made to pay dear in the age of imprudence”, speaking about how other clubs could learn a big lesson from Portsmouth’s fall from grace.

While James goes on to talk about the current situation down on the south coast, and how winning the FA Cup and making an appearance in Europe has led to the club being £60million in the red; it is the 39 year-olds’ thoughts for the game over the next decade that has interested me.

Now, as we all know that money and TV rights is what makes the game tick, but is it going to be sustainable over the next decade? Because if this money crashes then it will result in huge problems for everyone involved, especially the football clubs. The money being paid for TV rights has escalated over the past 20 years, which is why the BBC or ITV have not broadcast live football from the Premier League since 1988. Ever since then Sky have ruled the roost in terms of showing big games on their exclusive pay-TV channels.

The Pompey shot stopper states: “I think TV money could dictate what happens to the game, and if that means shaking up the format and changing the rules that may happen. Look at darts, and now snooker. Those are sports that struggled and then became TV-savvy to jumpstart a revival.”

We’ve already seen Setanta go bust because they tried to play the money game with Sky and lost. Without football Sky would lose up to 50% of its subscribers, which is staggering. And who is to say current Premier League broadcasters ESPN or Sky won’t go the same way as the Irish broadcaster?

As James goes on to say: “This may sound completely wacko – and it may not be for another 20 years – but I can imagine things like the substitutes rule changing.”

I don’t think James’ idea sounds wacko at all; he is on the money as far as changing the substitutes rule. “We could bring David Beckham on to take free-kicks, aged 40, and then take him off again as play restarts. Or someone like Jamie Ashdown, our reserve goalkeeper who is a fantastic penalty stopper, could be brought on for the crucial moments”

On the surface it sounds like a fantastic idea, because at the moment I think the game needs to find a way of appealing to a wider audience. And while it may not please everyone it would certainly be a way forward, because right now football is living in the past. In snooker you have the Super 6 tournament, which was set up to make the game quicker and more exciting.

Arsene Wenger recently had what many people thought was a ridiculous idea of abandoning throw ins, but I see that as another way of moving the game forward, it would certainly up the tempo of the game and make it punchier.

These changes would have to take time and obviously trialled in possibly lower league games, but if the FA or FIFA were to get professionals onside then I don’t see why football can’t move forward with the times.

As ever the calls for goal-line technology will grow ever louder over the next ten years but I like James think that it will be implemented by the end of the decade. There have been too many incidences over the past couple of years the most notable Thierry Henry’s hand-ball against Ireland.

I definitely believe that change is a good thing and that there are always benefits from change. The emphasis on money in football needs to become less, and the game needs to go back to its grassroots thinking in order to move forwards with the time.


Manchester United: Champions in decline?

Monday, 11 January 2010

It is fair to say that at this moment in time Manchester United are between a rock and a hard place, but these so-called claims of their demise are very much exaggerated. I like any other football supporter defend my team, but I do not defend indefensible incidents like Sir Alex or Arsene Wenger who don’t like to admit they are wrong; which is why right now I can say Manchester United are not in decline, but they are however lacking the fluency that has won them the Premier League three seasons on the trot.

We are already at the half-way point of the season and United have already lost to Burnley, Liverpool, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Fulham in the league. A stat that has been thrown around a lot lately is that no side who has lost five of their opening 18 games has gone on to win the title and for a side looking to create history and win the title four seasons in a row it does not look promising.

Last Sunday’s defeat to Leeds United in the Third Round of the FA Cup really showed up all the fatal flaws in the Manchester United team. For one, Leeds had more bite; they played their socks off, came to Old Trafford looking to cause an upset and did. It was the first time Manchester United had been eliminated from the FA Cup in the Third Round in the Ferguson era.

Now, Sir Alex Ferguson is a flawed man, we all know this, but his record at Old Trafford speaks for itself, yet sometimes he comes out and defends the indefensible, for example in his post match press conference against Leeds. While he did admit his side lacked the desire to win the match he started banging on about how enough time was not added on AGAIN calling it “an insult to the game”. I personally think had 15 minutes been added on United would still never have scored.

The problem currently with the Red Devils is that they are not a cohesive unit. On Saturday against Birmingham Ferguson changed the team for the 100th consecutive time, having not named the same team since 2008 when United beat Barcelona 1-0 at home in the Champions League and days later against West Ham in the Premier League. You compare this to their opponents as Alex McLeish named a unchanged side for the ninth league game in a row, a new record.

A cohesive team is built on a rock solid defence, and that is something United have been struggling to do this season. Last season their back four consisted of Edwin Van Der Sar John O’Shea, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, and Patrice Evra, all of which have been succumbing to too many injuries this season, Evra being the only consistent starter this term. Another of my interesting statistics that I read is United with Vidic have played 79 games over the past three seasons losing just nine times, while without him they’ve lost five times in 17 games.

Three defeats at the Theatre of Dreams this season also raises further questions, because it is the highest number of defeats at this stage of the season since the 2001-02 season where they lost four games. They’ve also fell behind in all their home ties in the champions league this term to Wolfsburg, CSKA Moscow and Besiktas, that is certainly not the mark of a side who won the competition only two years ago and who appeared in last season’s finale.

While Ferguson and some of the United players have come out and said they don’t miss Ronaldo this is far from true, the Portuguese international was replaced in the summer by Wigan’s Antonio Valencia who don’t get me wrong is a good player in his own right, but he will never match the quality Ronaldo had. United also lack leadership especially in midfield, Liverpool have got Steven Gerrard, Chelsea with Frank Lampard and Arsenal and Cesc Fabregas. But who have United got? Darren Fletcher? Michael Carrick? Credible players, but they lack the touch of class that Gerrard, Lampard and Fabregas have.

Then there is also the issue of strikers, there is no doubt in my mind or anyone else that supports Manchester United, or does not support them that Wayne Rooney is world class even at 24, but I think the best has yet to come from him. He is by far the best player at Manchester United, and will be for many a day to come.

However it’s whoever partners him up front is what worries me. Dimitar Berbatov was bought for £30 odd million, but as a club we’ve yet to see a return from him, another is Michael Owen who has not started a game since that hat-trick against Wolfsburg. Of course Berbatov was always going to get the nod ahead of Owen because of the money spent, but I don’t think Owen has been given a fair chance; will he make the World Cup squad for June? The answer to that is no. Apart from the cameo against Wolfsburg he hasn’t shown anything.

I honestly do not believe United are in decline, but they are certainly going through a rough patch at the moment; as always though, they will weather the storm and get back on track. Fergie hasn't been managing the club all these years for nothing, there have been many rough patches in his time and they've pulled through and once again that is what will happen again.


Owen Coyle: The Bolton legend has come home.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

After days of negotiations, Owen Coyle was finally named manager of Bolton Wanderers on Friday evening. Now, this is certainly an appointment that has puzzled many in football as many view Coyle’s move from Burnley’s Turf Moor to Bolton’s Reebok Stadium as a step in the wrong direction.

The move is certainly a kick in the teeth for Scottish football after Coyle turned down a summer move to Celtic in favour for staying on as manager of Burnley, to which he signed a contract extension to stay at the club until the end of the 2012-2013 season. Yet six months later he has left Turf Moor in favour for rivals Bolton.

That contract extension was vital to this move because it included a clause that meant he could talk to any rival club that was prepared to pay more than £3million in compensation for his services; albeit I believe the two clubs came to an agreement of £1.5million in compensation in return for Coyle’s services.

It also emerged this week that Coyle had indeed applied for the Wanderers vacancy created by Sammy Lee's sacking in October 2007, so it was no surprise that when Gary Megson was sacked two weeks ago his hat was once again thrown in the ring, only this was his time to move.

The Scot was immediately considered for the position, because of his track record having steered Burnley to promotion to the top flight for the first time in 33 years in his first full season in charge.

He is the man who solely put Burnley back on the map; beating Arsenal, Chelsea and Fulham in the Carling Cup last season, and clubs like Manchester United and Everton this season working on very small means.

At Burnley the weekly wage ceiling is £15,000, by far the lowest in the Premier League. At Bolton, he will be able to pay his players more, while also attracting a higher calibre of players.

He made no qualms about saying that he was "privileged to be building something special" at Burnley. But, as we know all good things must come to end.

The 43 year-old has signed a three year contract at the Reebok, and it being hailed as a 'Bolton Wanderers legend' despite the fact that he only played 54 times for the club.

Speaking after his appointment Coyle said "I'm absolutely delighted to be back at Bolton, and I look forward to bringing the good times back."

But, there are many questions to be raised by Coyle’s decision and some that will remain unanswered. Now we will never know if he would have kept Burnley in the top division for more than a single season, but one thing is for sure, he must keep Bolton in the Premier League, relegation is not an option for the Trotters.

Bolton are in their ninth successive Premier League season having came up with Fulham and Blackburn in 2001 season, remarkably the trio, despite their brushes with relegation have stuck around since.

His first match in charge is now scheduled to be the televised Premier League fixture at home to Arsenal next Sunday.

In my view Coyle is making a mistake, and if I was in the position he was in I would have stayed on at Burnley till at least the end of the season and then go from there. People that have been reading any of my recent articles will know that I have been banging on about my pre-season predictions, but if I was to consult them right now I would see that I predicted Burnley would stay up and I still believe they will, for the record I also think that Bolton will remain in the top flight.

My question to you is if Coyle was indeed building something special at Burnley why didn’t he stay there to finish the job?


When the dream turns into a nightmare....

Saturday, 9 January 2010

“We lived the dream” those were the words of former Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale in 2003 on his resignation from the club having run them into the ground, and with the way matters are down on the south coast, it looks likely that Portsmouth are in danger of going the same way as Leeds after chasing the dream.

No secret has been made of Portsmouth’s recent financial trouble, having once again this week failed to pay their players wages on time, further raising questions about Ali al-Faraj's ownership of the club. Portsmouth seem to have picked the wrong Saudi’s to run a club, because they are possibly the only ones who have no money.

The club's chief executive Peter Storrie told Sky Sports News this week "The owners are trying everything they can and have found (this money) in the last couple of days"

This is not the first time Portsmouth has failed to pay its players on time. Portsmouth failed to pay September's wages, when Sulaiman al-Fahim was the owner. They have since missed the deadline for two more monthly payments, and also this week missed the two deadlines that they had set for the payment of December’s wages.

Nick Cusack, the senior executive of the Professional Footballers' Association also said this week: "After three months of payments being late, I think the players are entitled to ask the kind of questions everybody in football is asking."

And those questions were asked by an anonymous senior player at the club who blasted the owners for their “mismanagement” of the Premier League side.

The player speaking in the press said "The perception is that every footballer earns millions of pounds but they're not all making that kind of money. You've also got the reserve-team players and the youth team who haven't been paid, so it crosses the whole spectrum.”

As far as I am concerned that has really hit the nail of the head, and shows that it’s everyone at the club that is suffering, not just the first team players. The club is also currently under a transfer embargo, and has been served with a winding up order in recent times, but the problems do not stop there. Pompey are currently up against history have been bottom of the Premier League table at Christmas; only West Brom have survived relegation in the Premier League era after being bottom over Christmas.

Since May 2008, when Portsmouth reached the dream by winning the FA Cup 18 players have and over £80 million has been received in transfer fees, but Pompey have also brought in 13 new players, albeit many for small fees, and on loan deals. The club have debts of up £60million much of which is owed to other Premier League clubs from transfers.

They say change is a good thing, but in the case of Portsmouth it’s not; Avram Grant is the third manager to take charge at the club since Harry Redknapp left, and in that time Pompey have also had more owners than a battered second hand car.

In a world of doom and gloom and overspending Portsmouth is just like everywhere else at the moment, with the exception of credible owners. Certainly there is a case of too many cooks spoil the broth. Many people, me included predicted that Portsmouth would go down this season, and even at the half way point of the season this is very likely to happen.

Leeds, Newcastle, and come May Portsmouth will be another club who have lived the dream but failed to stay in touch with reality.

In summing up the situation on the south coast I quote former chairman and owner Milan Mandaric who in 2004 said “It’s not my club, it’s the fans’ club. I’m just here as the maintenance man.”

But, right now Portsmouth are lacking a maintenance man that they need to get them out of this mess.


African Cup of Nations: Preview - Part 2

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

First up, I see Group A being wide open for the taking; the weakest team of the pack by far would have to be Malawi who have only qualified once before back in 1984.

Mali are certainly a dark horse with their crop of talented players like: Momo Sissoko, Seydou Keita, Lassine Diarra, Mahamadou Diarra, and Fredi Kanoute.

Now, Algeria have been in decline since the glory days of the 1980s, when they qualified for successive World Cups and won the 1990 Cup of Nations on home soil. After having qualified for the World Cup in the summer, it could suggest they are back on track.

Finally, the hosts Angola; had they not been hosting the tournament they would not have qualified, that does not give them much hope in my opinion.

Touchline Views Prediction: 1. Algeria; 2. Mali.

Group B is a very clear two horse race in the form of the Ivory Coast and Ghana. The Ivory Coast were finalists in 2006, and semi-finalists in 2008, but lost on both occasions to Egypt.

At the moment the country is a conveyor belt producing talents such as: Kolo & Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba Emmanuel Eboue, and Solomon Kalou. These are the greatest group of players any African nation has produced at any one time. If there is any justice for this talent then the Ivory Coast will win the competition this time.

Ghana will be the Ivory Coast’s strongest contenders for first place in the group. They have a strong midfield in the form of Michael Essien et al and they certainly have the chance to go further than they did in 2008.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful but are Togo not just Emmanuel Adebayor plus ten others? Because he is the only player playing regularly at a top class club, unlike his team mates; either way I don’t see them progressing.

Burkina Faso are making their first cup appearance since 2004 – before then they appeared in five in a row, finishing fourth in 1998. They should not pose a threat either.

Touchline Views Predictions: 1. Ivory Coast, 2. Ghana.

Group C contains current holders Egypt who are going for the coveted three in a row, having won the last two Cup of Nations. Despite winning the Cup of Nations two times in a row they’ve not been to a World Cup in 20 years. They should qualify without too much hassle.

Nigeria will be their main challengers in the group. Things may not be running smoothly for them at the moment though, with the nation refusing to accept the players are not a patch on those of the 90s. They have however qualified for the World Cup, should qualify as runners up to Egypt.

Mozambique were very impressive in qualification for the Cup of Nations, having kept five clean sheets and never conceded more than two goals in a game. It is the first time that they have reached this stage since 1998. Could be a dark horse if the bigger nations slip up; they drew with Ivory Coast and beat Nigeria 1-0 in qualification.

Benin until 2004 had never reached the Cup of Nation; since then they have missed only one of four. They managed to finish ahead of Mali in their Qualifying group, and could be a potential banana skin.

Touchline Views Prediction: 1. Egypt, 2. Nigeria

Group D:
Cameroon in four competitive games under Paul Le Guen have scored nine and conceded just one goal. They could possibly be returning to the days of their former glory when they won back to back Cup of Nation in 2000 and 2002. With the fit ready and raring to go Samuel Eto’o up front they have got to be favourites to go far.

Tunisia after having qualifying for three successive World Cups have failed to qualify for South Africa this year. This could leave them shaken, but what better way to get over this heartbreak than to go out there and give it their all.

Gabon were so close to getting to the World Cup, but they turned that disappointment around and had enough spirit to bounce back and beat Morocco to reach their fourth Cup of Nations.

Last but not least is Zambia who seem to have a curse of being drawn in tough groups, not much hope of them qualfying in my opinion.

Touchline Views Prediction: 1. Cameroon, 2. Tunisia

If I was to go out on a limb, and working out my predictions from the group stages to the quarter and semi finals then we will have Ivory Coast vs. Cameroon in the final. What a cracker that would be. Both sides are very, very strong at the moment and contain world class players playing at the highest level. So, I would not be surprised if these two did make the finals. If I was to give my pick to the win overall I would say the Ivory Coast; that’s not an easy decision though I think Cameroon are also very likely winners, but as they say: we’ll see how it goes.

I am not sure how many games I will be able to watch but I shall be keeping a very close eye on the tournament and there will be some articles up here, and possibly match reports. I do know that the BBC (other channels are available) is showing all the fixtures, so that will be your one stop shop if you want to catch all the action.

The African Cup of Nations kicks-off on Sunday 10th of January with Angola vs. Mali and runs until the final on Sunday January 31st.


African Cup of Nations: Preview - Part 1

Monday, 4 January 2010

It’s that time of year again, the time when European club managers begin moaning and groaning; and you know it can only mean one thing, no, not injuries, but the biennial tournament: The African Cup of Nations; where many of the big clubs key players jet off for the month of January to play for their respective nations.

Three quarters of Premier League teams have fielded at least one African this season, but they will now have to do without them for up to six weeks.

Hardest hit in the by the tournament will be relegation strugglers Portsmouth who lose five players: Nadir Belhadj, Hassan Yebda, John Utaka, Nwankwo Kanu, and Aruna Dindane.

League leaders Chelsea will be without four of their key players such as: Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, and John Obi Mikel. During their time away the players of Chelsea will miss 4 Premier league fixtures and 2 FA Cup ties. Although, luckily for the league leaders the fixture list has been kind to them – (Hull, Sunderland, Birmingham and Burnley)

However, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester United will not lose any players.

This year’s African Cup of Nations is taking place in Angola; as we draw even closer to the main event of the World Cup in South Africa in June. It is the 27th edition of the competition and it will run from the 10th January – 31st January.

First held in 1957 the tournament has been held every two years since 1968, and with talks of reform looming it might no longer be held during the European playing season, which would certainly please a lot of managers.

Egypt are the reigning champions having beaten Cameroon 1-0 in the 2008 Final; along with being the most successful team winning the competition on six occasions, they will also be aiming to make history by winning the competition for the third time in a row – a feat never been achieved before, it should certainly ease the pain of their failure to qualify for the World Cup.

The sixteen teams that have qualified for this year’s tournament which will be split into four groups, each team will play each other once, with the top two teams of the groups progressing to the quarter finals.

Here is how the groups look:

Group A:
- Mali
- Angola
- Malawi
- Algeria

Group B:
- Ivory Coast
- Burkina Faso
- Ghana
- Togo

Group C:
- Egypt
- Nigeria
- Mozambique
- Benin

Group D:
- Cameroon
- Gabon
- Zambia
- Tunisia

I’m not going to do an individual team by team preview because my knowledge of the African nations is not world class by any means. However, I am going to do a group by group preview and you can check back here for that tomorrow.


FA Cup: West Ham 1-2 Arsenal

Sunday, 3 January 2010

After a thrilling encounter at Old Trafford where League One table toppers Leeds United caused the biggest upset of the third round by beating Premier League holders Manchester United our attention then turned to Upton Park where a London derby was took place between West Ham United and Arsenal in the third game of ITV’s live weekend of FA Cup action.

Arsene Wenger who has not won a trophy in five years once again stuck to his policy of giving youth players a run in the cup with: Aaron Ramsey, Fran Merida, Jack Wilshere and Carlos Vela all starting for the Gunners.

Gianfranco Zola gave England Under 18 international Frank Nouble his first start for West Ham having made six previous appearances as a substitute. Swiss left-back Fabio Daprela also made his first appearance for the Hammers, deputising for the injured Herita Ilunga.

Neither side created any reputable chances inside the opening ten minutes, it was West Ham who had the better start especially with their defensive duties; they certainly managed to keep Arsenal on the back foot clearing anything the Gunners threw at them.

Arsenal won a free-kick inches to the left of the West Ham penalty area in the 22nd minute, but Eduardo’s shot was duly saved by England number one Rob Green. The Hammers were also given a free kick in a similar position at the other end just seconds later but it was curled high and wide by Junior Stanislas.

There was a lot of sloppy football from the Premier League sides, both giving away possession too much, which is why neither side managed to put a decent attack together going forward.

It was the home side who managed to break the deadlock bang on half-time. Alessandro Diamanti beat the Arsenal offside trap to latch on to a through ball from Radoslav Kovac. The Italian poked the ball past the onrushing Lukasz Fabianski who managed to get a hand to it as it baubled into the bottom right-hand corner.

The goal gave the Hammers a somewhat deserved lead at the break. Arsenal have had no fluency going forward and haven’t created a single clear cut chance, also their defence had questions written all over it as this goal proved.

West Ham were the ones came out all guns blazing at the start of the second half creating three chances in as many minutes in the opening stages. The best being a shot from Junior Stanislas outside the Arsenal penalty area to test Fabianski who made an excellent fingertip save.

It took 64 minutes before Arsene Wenger decided to shuffle the deck of cards as he brought on Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri in place of Fran Merida and Jack Wilshere. The second half was certainly a lot more entertaining than the first was and it was West Ham who looked more likely to add to their tally rather than Arsenal grabbing an equaliser.

As we entered the final quarter of an hour Arsenal managed to find the equaliser that they so needed. A flick on in the box from Carlos Vela landed at the feet of Aaron Ramsey who made no hesitation in slotting the ball emphatically into the back of the West Ham net.

The Gunners always looked to be the more dangerous side after this, so it was no surprise when completed their comeback in the 82nd minute with a beautifully headed goal from Eduardo. Carlos Vela was the supplier; he floated the ball in from the left wing and the Croatian managed to get his head on the end of the ball to knock it into the top corner of Rob Green’s net.

Five minutes were added on at the end of the game but it came to no avail for West Ham who were unable to find an equalised. Arsenal progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup; while there may have been a shock at Old Trafford sadly there was none at Upton Park. A valiant effort from the Hammers, but the Gunners showed their quality when they needed to.


2000-09. A decade in football. (ANSWERS)

Friday, 1 January 2010

Here are the answers from the quiz that I set the other day, thanks for Alex Smith for entering, and getting 8 and 1/2 questions right, two with the help of a minor faux pais from me. Finally, Happy New Year to all from Touchline Views, best wishes for the year ahead!

Who scored the fastest goal in FA Cup Final history? Louis Saha (Everton) 25 seconds

Who were the losing semi-finalists at Euro 2008? Turkey and Russia

Which three players were sent off in stoppage time at the end of the Carling Cup final between Chelsea and Arsenal? Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal) and John Mikel Obi (Chelsea)

Which club were stripped of the Italian Serie A title because of a match fixing scandal? Juventus

Who scored Liverpool’s equaliser as they came back from 3-0 down to AC Milan in the Champions League Final? Xabi Alonso

Who scored his 100th goal for Manchester United in a 4-3 win over Everton in February? Ruud Van Nistelrooy

Who became the youngest England international when he made his debut against Australia at Upton Park aged just 17 years and 111 days in February? Wayne Rooney

At the World Cup, who was called to Saipan as a replacement for Roy Keane following his dramatic departure? Colin Healy

Which club did Sven Goran Eriksson leave to become manager of England? Lazio

Who scored the last international goal at the old Wembley Stadium? Dietmar Hamann


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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