All posts by chrisplant

Why ‘Arry Must Ditch Gomes And Get A New Keeper

One of the great things about being a football fan is being able to laugh at opposition players mistakes. No matter how good or crap that player may be, whether he’s playing for AFC Sudbury in the Ryman League or Bolton in the Premiership, fans always enjoy laughing at the misfortune of other players.

This season in the Premiership, there’s been one player who it seems this year has just got worse, who has made more hilarious mistakes and gaffe’s than well anyone else in the last couple of years. 

The player in question that I am talking about here is none other than Heurehlo Gomes, the man who is fast becoming Tottenham’s most calamitous goalkeeper since Ian Walker.

I am not a Spurs fan nor am I somebody who hates Spurs with a passion (that would be my brother) but I do enjoy hearing and seeing Gomes make mistake after mistake.

It has puzzled me how Harry Redknapp up until the final couple of games of the season continued to pick Gomes week after week as any other manager by now would have dropped the butterfingers-like Brazilian for good months ago.

Mind you with Spurs’ goal keeping options not being that much better, perhaps sticking with the Brazilian was the most sensible of the choices. Carlo Cudicini, despite once being a top goalkeeper at 37 isn’t getting any younger and with his recent injury problems perhaps cannot be trusted to play a tough schedule in the Premiership.

After that there’s the Croatian Stipe Pletikosa who chose to swap being the second choice keeper at Spartak Moscow to being the third choice keeper at Spurs. It’s been fair to say that Pletikosa has been pretty much unheard of since the move and his only game for Spurs was in the Carling Cup earlier this year when they lost 4-1 at home to Arsenal. 

I do feel a tad sorry for Pletikosa as it’s since come out that he was promised by Redknapp that he’d get a chance to get a run in the team. Whilst it’s somewhat harsh on him that he hasn’t got a chance to appear more, it is worth noting that even when he signed for the club it did look highly unlikely at the time that he would play more. That’s just football I guess.

Anyway at least he’s been able to wallow in pity alongside fellow Croat Nico Krancjar this season in barley challenging to get even on the bench. It’s not like the two are lonely at the club when their fellow countrymen Luka Modric and Vedran Corluka are also at the club too.

If Spurs are to make a lasting challenge for a place in the Champions League next season, Redknapp has to get in a new goalkeeper. However many times he comes out in the press talking about the great saves Gomes may have made, ‘Arry must realise that enough is enough. 

To dropping the ball allowing Nani to score controversially at Old Trafford to his gaffe that led to the linesman awarding Frank Lamaprd a goal at Stamford Bridge this month, Gomes has made some clangers this season.  

You almost had to feel sorry for him during his final appearance for Spurs this year, when after saving Charlie Adam’s penalty for Blackpool, moments later he gave away a penalty after fouling Gary Taylor-Fletcher in an attempt to get the ball clear.

So who should Spurs go and get to be their goalkeeper next season?

‘Arry has four options in my opinion. First up there’s Rob Green who would be available to buy from West Ham. Despite his mistake last weekend that enabled Wigan’s Charles N’Zogbia to seal West Ham’s relegation, Green’s had a good season and would be a good choice.

Shay Given would be a tremendous signing as despite the Irishman barley figuring for Manchester City this year, he has the experience and leadership that a top goalkeeper needs.  There could be a stumbling block as whether City would let him go to a rival club, but then again they’ve already made him surplus to requirements this year on the bench so what’s the difference really.

Wolfsburg’s Swiss international Diego Benaglio would be a great choice in my opinion. He’s been one of the top goalies in the Bundesliga for a couple of years now and would defiantly be in Spurs price-range. With Wolfsburg not having European football next season he’d probably be open for a move too – although Arsenal are rumoured to be interested in his services as well.

Lastly of course there’s Ben Foster who has come of a good season at Birmingham despite the Midlands club’s relegation. For me he ticks all the right boxes for Redknapp in that he’s young, has got plenty of experience, is a good organiser of a defence and is one of the best shot-stoppers in the league.

With Birmingham dropping down to the Championship, a price range of £10 Million would probably be enough to get the England international who would easily slot in at Spurs.  Whether their rumoured interest comes to any fruition, its vital Spurs get a new goalie.

It’s very hard to have faith in somebody who keeps making mistakes. When a goalkeeper admits just as Gomes did after his clanger against Ronaldo this season, that ‘that mistake won’t be my last’ you have to very swiftly move on.

It’s not that what Gomes was saying wasn’t true, as all goalies no matter how good they are will make mistakes, but when you actually admit that it just comes of as looking stupid and does not do any good for the team. 

Confidence is an important thing in football and once defenders lose confidence in their goalkeeper, you might as well be playing with nobody in goal as it’s vital at the back you play as a unit and believe in each other.

It should be very interesting to see just who Redknapp does decide to bring in to be his new first choice goalkeeper. After going those options above, my favourite would have to be Foster although I do admit that I would like to see Benaglio play in the Premier League.

Neur Say Never As United Overcome Schalke’s Hero

Tense is usually the word that sums up Champions League knockout games, especially semi-final ties where so much is riding on the line for the winning team. The same word also applies to the atmosphere at games and how fans feel when watching their team in such an important game.

After all, these games are often close-fought tense affairs that more often than not have a defensive undertone to them. Manchester United’s game in Germany against Schalke 04 on Tuesday was one of the exceptions to this so-called rule, as the game was so open it was almost at times scarcely believable.

Perhaps it was Schalke being underwhelmed on the night, perhaps after their marvellous and shocking win over Inter Milan in the previous round it all became abit too much for their players. On paper, it just appeared that United right from the first minute stamped their authority on the game and didn’t let their foot of the gas once.

That’s not a criticism of Ralf Rangnick’s team, but the facts are that the current Schalke team – despite their wins over Inter and Valencia previously in the knockout rounds – is far from a great one. It’s very easy to forget that only 3 days before the United game, Schalke lost 1-0 at home to mid-table Kaiserslautern so facing the current Premiership leaders was always going to be too much for them.

Having adopted the Gelsenkirchen club as my ‘German Team’ back in 2006, I know that they have had far better teams down the years than the current crop. In truth losing Kevin Kuranyi in the summer hurt the club, as he would have been a great partner to play alongside Raul. And as nice a guy as Klas-Jan Huntelaar is, he just isn’t good enough compared to the strength and power that Kuranyi had.

Raul to his credit has been brilliant and is on to get 20 goals for the club in all competitions which even giving his sensational career is some achievement, when this time last year he was barley playing for Madrid.

It was quite sad in a way that he barely got a kick in the game or even a chance to have a shot on goal, as Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand barley had to break sweat during the 90 minutes so comfortable was United’s performance.

The one obvious bright spark for Schalke though was Manuel Neur, who is almost 90% certain of joining Bayern Munich in the summer. He will be a fantastic signing for Bayern, who have had to make do with ‘stop-gap’ keepers since the retirement of the legendary Oliver Kahn in 2008.

Neur kept the score respectable for Schalke and confirmed his legacy as the best young goalkeeper in Europe. It’s very easy to see why he’s highly rated as along with making good saves, he has the right build and temperament to succeed and will only get better – which is a scary thing to consider.

It looks to be a shame for the likes of Arsene Wenger and Ferguson – who both despartley need a new first-choice keeper – that Neur looks likely to join Bayern, as he’d be a fantastic buy for either manager.

As a Manchester United fan, it appears that we’re likely to end up having David De Gea as our new number 1 goalkeeper next season. Although there’s no doubting De Gea’s ability, I do worry about his age as being only 20 he will have alot of pressure on his shoulders.

Then again De Gea to his credit did make his debut for Atlético Madrid at 18 and has dealt with the pressure of being their first choice goalie for the best part of 18 months, so perhaps he is ‘mentally’ up to it, so to speak.

Getting back to Tuesday’s game itself, United played very well and it was good to see Ji-Sung Park and Antonio Valenica shine down their flanks. Both are important members of our squad and both appear to be ‘big-game’ players who thrive on their role in such a big game.

One thing that caught my eye in particular was the spooky similarity between Ryan Gigg’s goal that finally beat Neur and the one that Giggsy scored to clinch the Premiership back in 2008 away to Wigan. Both came from brilliant reverse-passes from Wayne Rooney that complety caught out the opposition.

Almost as soon as Giggs scored againgst Schalke, I turned around to my dad and brother and told them of the similarity, which in my opinion is quite uncanny.

Take a look for yourself if you don’t believe me by looking at the 2 goals and look at the runs by both Giggs and Rooney that lead up to the goals.

It’s a credit to Giggs that at 37, that despite losing his lightning pace that he had the best part of 15 years ago, that he’s still churning out match-winning performances in the twilight of his career. No matter who United bring in to replace him, the club’s record apperance maker is irreplacable.

Fans will always remember great players like Giggs and getting back to Neur, I know that he is leaving Schalke with the uptmost respect of the fans as having been at the club since being 5, he has been a great player. Hopefully for his and Schalke’s sake he can end his time at the club with a winner’s medal in the German Cup final against second-division side Duisburg and go out in style.

Assou-Ekotto: One Of The Premiership’s Best Left Backs

Always it seems nearing the end of a season, fans and the media alike will talk about players who have vastly improved this season.

Whilst eye-catching guys like Nani, Jack Wilshere and Joey Barton (Yes even him!) have stood out this year for their performances, a left back playing in North London has this season come on leaps and bounds.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto may be known more for being ‘that guy’ when it comes to his creative hairstyles, but this season his performances for Spurs have been right on the money.

In the past Assou-Ekotto – like the whole of the Spurs defence – was routinely criticised for his lack of concentration and poor positioning, which time and time again often led to goals being conceded.

During the thrilling North London derby last night, it was clear to see right from the first whistle that there were going to be quite a few goals scored due to the shaky defences on either side.

Time and time again last night, both teams gave the ball away too easily and seemed more keen at times in trying to walk the ball out of the penalty area than hoof it away, like any sane defender would of course.

Assou-Ekotto last night wasn’t one of those defenders who looked shaky and if anything his play and intensity seemed to revel in playing in a game of last night’s magnitude. Staying as tight to Theo Walcott as possible, the Cameroon international shone for Spurs last night.

His swash-buckling way of defending was one of the reasons why his team were able to level the scores in the second half. Some of his interceptions to keep out Walcott were exceptional.

There was one astonishing bit of play in the first half when he not only trapped the ball but skilfully cut back inside Arsenal’s number 14 before sending out a sensational 45 yard crossfield pass which brilliantly found Rafael Van der Vaart out on the right.

Speaking of sensational passes, Assou-Ekotto’s ball to Aaron Lennon that helped Spurs win their penalty last night was out of this world and completely cut open Arsenal’s rather vulnerable defence.

To be fair with Aaron Lennon’s pace most ‘bad’ passes can be made into good ones, should the pacey winger catch up to the ball. But with Assou-Ekotto’s last night, it was just a brilliant pass timed to perfection.

Back towards the end of 2008, Assou-Ekotto wanted out of White Hart Lane after growing frustrated about his lack of playing time at the start of Harry Redknapp’s reign. However the left back has since won over Redknapp and the Spurs fans and has added real maturity to his game.

I seem to recall in the 2009 Carling Cup final he handled himself pretty well coming up against Cristiano Ronaldo, and not too many left backs aside from Ashley Cole have done that in the past.

Assou-Ekotto’s whole game has improved and his partnership with Gareth Bale is working brilliantly. One of the reasons why Bale, the PFA player of the year, has arguably done so much going forward and played with so much freedom is the fact that Assou-Ekotto is defending better and making sure he covers back for him.

So here’s to the Spurs number 32, who at least in my eyes and regular watchers of Spurs has been probably the most improved left-back in the Premiership this season. Now let’s just hope for his sake he can continue this form next season and not go back to making those silly errors of the past, because the way he’s played this year he would not derserve that.

Adam Dennehey – http://twitter.com/ADennehey87

Why I’m Writing Off Forest’s Promotion Chances

One of the disappointing aspects of the football season over the last two months for me has been the slump that Nottingham Forest have been going through. The slump which has seen them win only once in their last 12 games has really put the brakes on their promotion-push this season.

Yes I know there are still five games left to play before the playoff positions are still decided and Forest could still yet grab that vital sixth position. But the way that things have gone recently, as much as it hurts me to say it as a Forest fan, I think that our chances of promotion this season are over.

It’s been quite strange how things have gone recently, as it’s less than two months ago since the team put on a fantastic performance to draw 1-1 with QPR at Loftus Road. It was quite an effort from the team to get out of London with a point, especially after the early sending-off of Radosław Majewski seemingly put the game out of reach against the league favourites.

Sadly though, aside from a win against fellow play-off contenders Cardiff City at the City Ground, points have been hard to come by for Billy Davies’ men. Yes the team have had to battle with injuries lately, the loss of form of some players and they’ve had to play some good teams of late – but for quite a lot of Forest fans, this bad form was something that was easily predictable.

With a squad still in some quarters out of depth and inexperienced, there was a feeling that the team would hit a bad patch, but this of course has been a dreadful run. Obviously the defeats to Swansea, Leeds and Reading yesterday haven’t helped matters, but one game for me stands out as a sign that things were not going to be going Forest’s way over the last couple of months.

That game in question was the 2-2 home draw against bottom-placed Preston at the City Ground. Coming of the back of the win over Cardiff only days earlier, Forest were cruelly denied a win when Billy Jones headed Preston an equaliser six minutes into injury time.

The team have not recovered from that game and it looks as if Preston’s late-show knocked Forest for six after they themselves had gone ahead in the 92nd minute when Chris Cohen’s cross into the box found its way into the net.

Over the course of a season, it’s expected that you will both score and concede late goals, but the manner of that late blow by Preston hit the team hard. Draws at Millwall and Middlesbrough were then followed by the club’s proud 36-match unbeaten home run – lasting an astonishing 18 months – falling to Nigel Pearson’s improving Hull City.

Since the defeat to the Tigers, only a solitary point has been picked up by Davies’ men and that came as a result of a dire goalless draw against lowly Doncaster at home. Recent results have just shown that the team are just not ready for the Premiership and that the best thing for the team would be to improve on the squad and start stronger next season.

With a good core group of players, Forest will be better of next season. However Davies and the fans will be praying that the talented young players at the club like Majewski, Paul Anderson, Guy Moussi and the outstanding Lewis McGugan are still at the club next season.

After all, as good as those players are should they move on to play at a higher level, it will be very hard to bring in players of a similar level who will be able to hit the ground running right from the off.

As for my prediction as to who will win the play-offs, Reading – Forest’s victors over the weekend – are probably the form-team in the division at the moment, having won their last 7 games.

Momentum is often very important at this stage of the season and with only one difficult game away to Leeds coming up before the season ends, they’re my pick to win the play-offs or at least be the losing finalists come the 30th May.

Adam Dennehey – http://twitter.com/#!/ADennehey87

Why Michael Carrick Deserves Credit

As pleased I was with Manchester United’s win over Chelsea on Wednesday night, there was one player’s performance in the game that shone out that as a United fan satisfied me the most.

Michael Carrick may not be the most gifted or popular player at United, but his performance in the heart of the United midfield was nothing short of exceptional. Carrick never has or never will be blessed with pace, but he used his reading of the game well last Wednesday and made sure that he was always in the right place at the right time for United.

It wouldn’t be wrong of me to say that Carrick is not the most popular or gifted player at the club. Over the last 2 seasons or so, his performances have not always been brilliant and often when United don’t play well, he usually is one of the first players that our fans blame for our misfortune.

It’s just one of those things that happen to players, just like for how Emmanuel Eboue was blamed by Arsenal fans seemingly week in and week out when Arsenal were going through a bad patch 2 seasons ago.

Eboue famously of course was able to win over the Arsenal fans and while it looks likely that he’ll move on from the Emirates in the summer, he can look back on that dark time in his career and say that he’s got over it.

Of course Carrick hasn’t quite been criticised by United’s fans to the extent that Eboue suffered, if barley at all. However when it was announced last month that the England midfielder had signed a contract extension to stay at the club until the end of the 2013/2014 season, there were a lot of United fans puzzled by the news.

With Carrick being 29 and looking seemingly unlikely to get better as a player or at least get back to the form of his first 2 seasons at the club, it seemed like there were better options in the centre of midfield for United. As funny as football is, it looks as if Carrick’s confidence has shot up since getting that contract extension and finally he looks like he’s getting back to the form that saw him a regular in the United midfield.

His performance at Stamford Bridge was great to see. His pass to Ryan Giggs that helped set up Wayne Rooney’s 24th minute strike was nothing but sensational. It was the kind of pass that was reminiscent of the Carrick that played at Spurs, when often he would produce passes that would have Aaron Lennon, Jermaine Defoe and Robbie Keane licking their lips in similar scenarios.

To a degree had Paul Scholes produced that pass, probably more and more football fans worldwide would be raving about the pass and adoring it over and over again on YouTube. Sadly because it’s Michael Carrick, the pass won’t be getting the major recognition that it deserves at least on the continent. But that’s football for you.

Should Carrick’s good form continue it will be good news for United who with Paul Scholes looking likely to retire at the end of the year will need the Wallsend-born boy to produce more alongside the likes of Darren Fletcher, Darren Gibson and Anderson.

With the likelihood that a big-name midfielder such as Wesley Sneijder or Daniele Di Rossi will be joining the club next season, it’s vital those already at the club help make it easier for that new signing to bed in.  It’s all about getting the right ‘balance’ in midfield, and Carrick according to his club captain Nemanja Vidic’s praise certainly has plenty of that.

Adam Dennehey – http://twitter.com/#!/ADennehey87

Loud Or Dignified – How Should Fans Behave?

A key issue that’s been bugging me and several other Football tweeps over the past couple of months is would people at clubs rather have loud rowdy fans or quiet dignified one’s that barley make an atmosphere at games.

Should fans be more dignified when it comes to their chants and choice of words and chant about their own team and not slate the officials and opposition players or should they just attend the game quietly barley making a noise at all?

It’s an issue that I can relate to when it comes to games at the Oakside, home of course to my beloved Redbridge and our tenants Barkingside, who I also love, but not quite in the same way.

One of the key problems that both clubs have rather sadly, is a lack of support that at times gets me really wound up. Whereas other clubs in Redbridge’s division for example, such as Enfield Town, Harlow Town and Needham Market have a great bunch of supporters who make their presence felt at matches.

Redbridge sadly don’t have a large group of fans – or even a small group of 10-15 people who will do the odd chant here or there, which at times especially when there is a large group of away supporters at our games does make it slightly embarrassing for me to a degree, as often, the only noise you’re hear during a game is from them which can be quite soul-destroying at times.

It’s something that annoys me, as those clubs in question do clearly have that ’12th man’ so to speak and when clubs have that, it makes the hard-working people behind the scenes know that their work is really worthwhile and that their club does ‘mean’ something to these fans. In short having a good fanbase for clubs is vital not just in the short-term but in the long-term as well and clearly clubs who have a good support group are clearly doing something right.

Our manager Jody Brown touched upon this subject in his programme notes before our 2-1 win over Potters Bar on Tuesday Night, claiming that vocal fans ‘drive players on as well as effecting refereeing decisions.’ Looking at both of those points in detail, they are both true.

 Players’ performances whether they like to admit it or not, are at times effected by the supporters around them. Players from sides who have supporters will more than likely stick around at a club if the overall club is going somewhere and if you’ve got supporters it makes those players feel appreciated to a degree.

Officials certainly get influenced by supporters, whether they too like to admit it or not and you can see them ‘evening’ out decisions in games to at times please those vocal fans so they can ‘lay’ off on the abuse for abit and carry on with the game.

So getting back on track, how should fans best behave at games? Should they be loud, chanting non stop through the game or should they respect those around them and watch the game quietly. As you would imagine this isn’t a straight forward topic to answer, as fans after all as we’ve established are different and whilst attending games act differently.

Some like to chant and make a noise, others like to talk amongst themselves, some may just want to sit quietly, some may be bringing their children or partner to the game and may want to just enjoy a game without hearing the swearing from the chants. That’s their choice and all those fans know that as long as they behave sensibly and don’t cross the line then it’s all fair and they have to respect fans who behave differently at games, than them.

All clubs will get the odd rowdy bunch of supporters, and it’s something that the more successful you are as a club the more of these supporters you’re get.

Of course at the same time as long as they behave, well that’s only a good thing as it’s more people knowing about the club and coming down to games and spreading the word about the club. Yes fans should if they’re chanting, direct chants that relate to their team and not insult opposition players and officials.

But having a go at opposition players and officials is something that happens and is something that those players and officials know is going to happen from time to time. We’ve all seen it happen and heard about how for some opposition players that motivates them to perform better and that in many cases they enjoy the banter, it’s part of what makes football a great sport to see live.

I know I’d rather have loud fans chanting and creating an atmosphere at my club (without going over the line just for the sake of it) than having no atmosphere at games, which sadly sometimes is what I have to put up with sitting in my ‘home committee’ section at our games.

Reluctantly it’s often me who may have a go at the ref from time to time, just for the sake of it as nobody else does it due to our small support and at times it can be ‘enjoyable’ in a way having a go at a ref when a bad decision has been made and venting your anger on a game.

In conclusion as long as those chanting fans represent the club well and don’t get the club’s name in a bad light, which sadly does happen from time to time that’s all that matters.

 A fan may make more of a presence at games that may make them seem more ‘important’, but no fan is bigger than another one and at the end of the days clubs have to maintain and improve on the support that they have and hopefully make them passionate to be about the place.  After all the great thing about football is that it brings people together and that’s something that not alot of things in this world are able to do.

Why United Now Have The Perfect Nani

Nani or to give him his full name Luis Carlos Almedia da Cunha has probably over the past year been one of the best players in the Premiership. In my opinion he’s been the best player in the league second to only Gareth Bale.

After becoming somewhat of an outcast for Manchester United after what had been a promising first season at the club, it’s only really in the last year that Nani has become a regular for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

Of course last season, there were rumours that Ferguson had had enough of the Portuguese winger who begun his third season at United being consistently below par seemingly barley incapable of putting even a simple cross into the box. 

Just when it looked as if the club were going to cash in on him during the transfer window, Nani surprisingly came to the fore and begun to put in match winning performances every week.

There was no performance greater for Nani last year than his performance at the Emirates when due to his dazzling display United strolled to a 3-1 win over Arsenal.  After putting United ahead thanks to a moment of brilliance, that outwitted Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Arsenal’s keeper Manuel Almunia, Nani helped set up Wayne Rooney for United’s second to seal the game before half time.

It was the kind of performance that every United fan had been hoping Nani would produce and since that day the winger has grown fully in confidence to become a real key member of the side.  So, A Portuguese winger that scores and creates goals, creating nightmares for Premiership defenders on a regular basis. Haven’t we heard this before?

Getting serious though, Nani as a physical specimen cannot be compared to Cristiano Ronaldo who is taller and stronger than United’s current wing hero.  After all despite being wingers, they differ in style and that perhaps is where Nani up until last season, went wrong at United.

By trying to be like his world-class compatriot Nani perhaps tried to be something he’s not and by trying too hard in games to be like Ronaldo, he let the ‘basics’ go out of his game. The ‘basics’ for any winger are of course to put balls into the box, where forwards and attacking-midfielders can take advantage of and to be a creative influence in the team.

Before this time last year, Nani more often than not seemed incapable of putting in a ball into a box and more often than not after beating 1-2 players would try to beat a third and would often lose possession of the ball. Nowadays of course Nani is able to put a ball into the box and works the percentages more as a winger.

Not only that but he’s getting forward more and he is in more goal scoring opportunities for United than ever. His dribbling skills have also improved probably as a result of his overall confidence and fans now take note when he has the ball as they expect him now to produce.

With United’s defence this season looking abit rusty, it’s even more important for them that their attacking players perform to their best and take their chances. With Javier Hernandez on fire along with Dimitar Berbatov this season and with Wayne Rooney improving as well, Nani has more responsibility than ever to do the business for United.

Responsibility is something that he’s dealt with the pass as he’s regularly produced it for Portugal and of course scored a penalty that he had to score in the Champions League Final, which of course United won. That’s something worth remembering because if Nani had not scored his penalty, then John Terry famously wouldn’t have needed to take his, which he famously missed of course.

At 24 he is improving game by game and is on his way to becoming one of the top 10-15 players in the World, which was a view that my brother ironically had at the start of this season.  If he keeps on improving for United, he may go on to do much more than that. 

Adam Dennehey – http://twitter.com/ADennehey87