All posts by adamdennehey

Things could have been so different…

 This season has been poor. Supporters everywhere look forward to seasons that are full of “oooh” and “ahhh” moments. It’s fair to say that everybody loves a good shock now and then from a team that inexplicably punches above their weight, and survives the resulting blows.

The fight for relegation is always exciting to see, as teams will wear their heart on their sleeves to save their fate, whereas some are just laughable.

The title race is always something of a hot topic. The season starts with everyone as equals. Arsenal and their youthful squad claiming this will be the year they mature as a team and stamp their authority on the league.

Manchester United and Chelsea look to lock horns and pinch the title from under the others noses.

And don’t forget Manchester City and all their millions, supposedly the moment for this cash injection to pay dividends is now.

This season looked to be full of just that. Blackpool, a team with literally nothing in the bank, surviving mainly on the faith and passion of their supporters looked almost certain to repeat the dismal heights of Derby a few years back. Everyone was looking at Blackpool as the easiest six points their team would pick up all year.

Up until Christmas, they were wrong. Blackpool came out fighting, robbing points off everyone that stepped foot on bloomfield road.

Relegation?  Blackpool were laughing in the face of any doubters.

And what of the title race? Arsenal looked really promising. They put in a good run of games to really cement the idea of being victorious come may. Chelsea and Manchester United looked vulnerable. Chelsea not at their blistering best and United dropping points for fun, leaving City with a real shout at the title race at the expense of Roy Hodgson’s Liverpool demise.

Yes. Come Christmas, this season was shaping up to be rather interesting. No longer was this a simple two horse race for the title, and the impressive Blackpool leaving much to think about as the New Year approached.

Fast forward to today, and the season seems to have fallen into a sense of normality.

Arsenal’s impressive form has faded dramatically; dropping invaluable points in games where they have dominated has left them with slim hopes of their first trophy in years.

Liverpool’s resurgence under the second coming of King Kenny has seem them slot right back in within breathing space of the top four.

Manchester City have a firm grip on the fourth spot, and look certain to venture into the Champions League next year.

Manchester United, who at one stage held an impressive fifteen point lead at the top of the table over Cheslea, now look a team clinging onto hope,. They looked like sure fire winners in the race for the title, yet they face a Chelsea team who have begun to pick up points when it matters the most.

And of course Blackpool. The team that looked to shock everyone, now hang dangerously close to the drop zone.

Yes. This season has been poor. Now drawing to close, fans and managers alike will look over their shoulders at what could have been, a fascinating end to it all, instead they see a familiar picture.

 

Dale Benton

 

 

Will the real Wayne Rooney please stand up?

It’s been an indifferent year for Wayne Rooney and Manchester United fans alike. Last season Rooney was in the greatest form of his career, scoring at pretty much every opportunity that came for him. The Manchester United fans were left speechless at how Rooney appeared to take over the mantle, the huge void that was left behind when Ronaldo set sights for greater things, all by himself. Rooney had well and truly justified his promotion from being the number 8, to a clinical and efficient marksman, a true number 10 striker.  A fairly injury free season had everyone believing there was never to be an end to this fantastic form and with the world cup just around the corner, fans everywhere were licking their lips at the thought of what he could do on the world stage.

Then came the inevitable, in the Carling Cup final against Aston Villa Rooney had aggravated his knee, the first knock he’d taken all season. Never the less he played through it and scored a delightful header to seal the trophy for Manchester United, however the warning signs were there.

What came next would be pivotal, an ankle injury.  Rooney picked it up against Bayern Munich in their Champions League meeting. It looked to have brought Rooney crashing down from what must have felt an untouchable feeling, an end to his fantastic form looked imminent. Countless fitness tests later, Rooney played again in the return fixture, and again, he aggravated the same injury. Manchester United fans and England fans alike, felt devastated.

Rooney had been an unstoppable force throughout the season, now; he was struggling to be fit again.

The World Cup came along, and Rooney was declared fit. Were we to see the same potent striker who powered his way to 30+ goals for his club all season?

As the final whistle blew in England’s second fixture, Rooney, who had been a shadow of his former self throughout the tournament, turned his frustration to the camera, and the millions watching. The temperament that he’d been punished for before, and seemingly had moved on from, was taking over.

As the season began, there were huge expectations on Rooney; would he reach the same heights that he did the previous year?

A slow start to the season saw United somehow manage to scrape precious points that were undeservedly theirs. Rooney wasn’t the same player we were expecting to see.

He picked up an injury that saw him ruled out until the new year, his only memorable moment a goal from a penalty against struggling West Ham.

Then came a moment that no United fan is going to forget, Rooney came out to the public, and told them he wished to leave United. The team that built his career, that made him the star who is he is, he wished to leave them behind because he felt the team wasn’t strong enough.

Undermining both his United counterparts, and the authoritative figure of Sir Alex Ferguson it seemed he was almost definitely departing, with Ferguson even admitting his disappointment.

Fast forward a few months and here we are. Rooney stayed at Manchester United, with a somewhat increased wage package, and we have seen but glimpses of the form that had him soaring so high last season. Yet, for every piece of brilliance on the pitch, there is inevitably something that mars that off the pitch.

Most recently, after a brilliant hat trick against west ham to bring United back from the dead and maintain top spot, he turned to the camera in a moment of petulance.

There is no doubt that he is an exceptional player on his day, but for United fans, and England fans, now is the time for the real Wayne Rooney to stand up and show his worth.

 

Dale Benton

Give him a chance…

Scott Parker stepped out for England last Saturday against Wales, as he left the field, he became subject to some rave reviews, and rightly so. Parker looked comfortable in an England shirt; he looked at home in the centre of the park, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he was a regular under Capello. His performance enhanced his reputation as a combative player who wears his heart on his sleeve, and furthermore offered proof that the likes of Lampard, and Barry should be looking over their shoulders at the likes of Parker.

The only problem that stands in Parker’s way is his age. At 30, starting an international career is no easy task, especially with the rapid emergence of Jack Wilshere, and Capello’s likening of Gareth Barry, a player who is enforced into a similar role but with much more experience under his belt.  

But Parker should not be pushed aside. It is true that he is inexperienced on the international stage, only making a handful of caps throughout his career, but no one has been as consistent as he has for his club over the last three years.

West Ham Utd are a team that has been flirting with relegation for a while now, it all started way back when Carlos Tevez was there to almost single handily rescue them from the drop in his final game. After that, Tevez was on his way to bigger and brighter things, West Ham Utd were left facing a stiffer test. Enter Scott Parker.

In the last three years, West Ham have looked odds on favourite to be relegated, come Christmas time, fans identify them as an easy three pointer due to what has often been a poor start to the season, often resulting in the loss of a manger. Think Gianfranco Zola, and the way he was replaced by Avram Grant.

Despite the somewhat overwhelming odds, and the constant pressure that is placed on the manger, West Ham somehow manage to pull themselves out of it, and remain a Premier League Club. At the end of it all though, one name stands out above the rest. Not the manager’s name no, more so that of Scott Parker.

The journalists must fear that they will one day run out of superlatives to describe the performances, “spirited” “inspirational” “ a true leader” to name a few. When the team has come under criticism for their effort and their motivation, dedication, it is Scott Parker that is called upon to take the team by the scruff of the neck and truly inspire them, sometimes even turning over a result almost on his own.  

Recently Parker was reported to have given the half time team talk during their fixture against West Brom, in which they found themselves 3-0 down at half time, only to pull it back to 3-3. His dedication on and off the field is unmatched; his importance to West Ham is unquestionable.  

His commitment to the team is also unquestionable, when the team has been at its lowest; he stood by and opted to fight for them instead of jump ship

At the end of every season in the last three years, Parker has been voted the fans player of the year, and deservedly so.

It is that spirit, that graft and effort, that dedication, that inspirational willingness to play and more importantly to win that makes Scott Parker stand out from the rest.

Give him a chance to show it for England, and inspire the next generation of English football.

 

Dale Benton

 

Hell of a wakeup call…

It was nice to see Aaron Ramsey again in an Arsenal shirt over the weekend, after recovering from that horrific injury he suffered at Stoke City last year. It reminds me of a similar injury which Eduardo suffered only a few seasons ago, at the time you’d be forgiven for thinking that Eduardo and Ramsey’s careers were over. And what of this weekend? Stuart Holden, the Bolton midfielder suffered a nasty injury, but as with Ramsey, the club will invest so much time into rehabilitating him, allowing a fast and steady recovery. These professional footballers have some of the worlds best at their side, aiding them and cutting down what should be career threatening injuries, into a few months at best on the sidelines.

For a young player, it is almost like a kick in the teeth. Injuries like these are often described as “freak” yet they happen on so many occasions, these kinds of injuries are simply part of the game. The problem with that, is what about the younger players? What about the Sunday league players? Those that grow up aspiring to be a professional dreaming of the day they can throw on the shirt of a legendary team such as Manchester United and be recognised on a global scale as a star.

Many, if not every single person who has played football, at any level, has had that same dream, that same aspiration of becoming a great. It’s obvious to see, the amount of boots that a player goes through, just to copy the greats. The replica shirts with star names emblazoned on the back, just to go to the park for a quick kick about.

It’s this amount of dedication that makes it all the more tragic if a player falls into the trap of being untouchable, only to be woken up from this dream in dramatic style – a horrific injury. There aren’t countless doctors and surgeons just a phone call away, and there is no doctor in the world who can cure the broken heart of a young footballer staring at the end of his career.

I have suffered from this same fate. Throughout my youth I played football at any opportunity. I represented local teams, even an Academy team at one point; I was floating on air it seemed. Then one day it all came crashing down. A fairly innocuous challenge, made as a desperate attempt to prevent an attack, left me in agony. My knee was literally destroyed, a torn Anterior Cruciate, a sprained Lateral. As I lay there, I knew it was over, I knew nothing would be the same.  

6 months of rehabilitation, 6 months of sitting out. For any footballer, 6 months is a long time to be out of it. My dream was over. Even though I had recovered, I’d forever be scarred by that incident. Contrast my story to that of Rio Ferdinand last year, almost identical injuries at similar times, yet only one of us is fulfilling their dream.

For some of us that’s all it ever will be, all it can be.

 

Dale Benton