All posts by Ntokozo1

Before Messi was king (Video)

Although Barcelona are now synonymous with their little Argentine striker, a few years previous saw him regularly used as a substitute out on the right wing. He was still a long haired teenager at the time and just finding his way in a star filled squad of world famous players. At the time there was another player who received all the accolades and love from the fans, completely different in both character and footballing style, but at his peak just as good as Messi.

 

Samuel Eto’o was the main man up front, closely supported by an attacking trio of Deco, Giuly and Ronaldinho. Although the Cameroon striker was a lethal finisher and greatly admired around the world, the Brazilian was undoubtedly the most famous name in football at the time and one of only a handful of players to have been applauded off the pitch at the Santiago Bernabeu, home of Barca’s fiercest rivals, Real Madrid.

Flash, quick, skilful, great eye for a pass, comfortable with both feet, and able to take a decent free kick, there wasn’t much that the No 10 couldn’t do. He won La Liga titles and a Champions League whilst in Spain and always played with a beaming smile on his face. Perhaps he knew that things would be left in very capable hands once he left the Camp Nou?

The end of goal line incidents (Video)

We will finally see the introduction of goal line technology in the Premiership from next season, with Hawkeye being chosen as the preferred company to determine incidents where the ball may or may not have crossed the line. For those of us who watch tennis events such as Wimbledon, we are already familiar with the instant replay generated via computer images which tells us whether a shot is in or out. The system is effective and quick and rarely disrupts the flow of a game. Can the same be said for football?

Referees will know within a second of the incident whether a goal has been scored or not, according to the men from Hawkeye. The system will finally put an end to controversial decisions where the human eye has been unable to correctly determine the position of the ball in the goalmouth. Now we will be able to utilise a machine that can accurately calculate such incidents at every attempt. Whilst there are fears that this is only the beginning of a gradual mechanisation of the game, it is worth pointing out that whilst fouls and other decisions are subjectively based, a ball crossing a line is a simple matter of fact, which shouldn’t be left to opinion. I, for one, am completely in agreement with its introduction. What do you think of this technology?

Bale must leave (Video)

After winning both the PFA player of the year and young player of the year awards this season and contributing 19 goals in the Premiership to help Tottenham fight for a Champions League place, surely Gareth Bale can finally claim to be one of the world’s finest players at this moment in time. Although still only 23 years old he will be well aware that he is being mentioned in the same breath as Messi and Ronaldo and no doubt keen to start winning some trophies to go with the individual awards that he has picked up so far.

Whilst Andre Villas Boas has managed to get the best out of him this season by often giving him the freedom to play just behind a lone striker, it seems highly unlikely that Spurs can realistically challenge for league or European honours. Is now the right time for him to move elsewhere?

If Bale is to stay in England then it will require a huge bid for Tottenham to consider selling to a direct rival. Manchester City and Chelsea would seem like the only candidates to sign him, as Manchester United very rarely spend anything like the reported £50m plus that he would cost. If a move abroad is a possibility then perhaps Spain could be the preferred destination. The Welshman has admirers in both Barcelona and Madrid and it would be very interesting to see him line up in the colours of either giant club. Whatever his decision, it would seem best for his trophy aspirations to look away from White Hart Lane and assess where he has the best chance of success.

It is déjà vu for Wigan Athletic as they try to secure their Premier League status

The end of the season is upon us and once again Wigan Athletic are battling to stay in the division. This situation seems to occur every season now and it is starting to bear some resemblance to Groundhog Day. The Latics struggle throughout the campaign only to finally start winning matches at the very last moment and save themselves from relegation. They are now into their eighth consecutive season in the top flight of English football and whilst at times they are able to beat even the finest teams in the division, they are too inconsistent to pull themselves into a mid-table position. Can they pull off yet another miracle?

 

Roberto Martinez maintains the calm presence of a manager confident in his ability to mastermind an escape from the bottom three. He has been there before, done the job and certainly got the t-shirt to prove it. It is a fantastic achievement that for a side that has an average attendance of about 19,000 and limited financial resources that they have maintained their standing for such a long period. This season has once again been a battle and with four games to go they sit in 18th place in the table. They need all the points they can get if they want to remain the only side never to have been relegated from the Premier League.

Forest push for promotion

Since Billy Davies returned as manager of Nottingham Forest earlier in the season it seems like everything he touches turns to gold. This upturn in form is in stark contrast with the moment when he took charge in February. Shortly before he returned for his second stint at the midlands club, the side was languishing in mid table and Alex McLeish had just exited the City Ground after only seven games in charge. Disagreements with the owners about transfer policy and the deemed interference with which the ex-Birmingham manager believed had taken place was enough for him to call it quits.

 

The failed signing of striker George Boyd was perhaps the key moment, as the player had passed a medical examination but apparently showed signs of an eye problem. The Al Hasawi family vetoed the purchase on these grounds, something that McLeish was unable to comprehend. Ironically, Boyd would later score against Forest during his time on loan at Hull, leaving many journalists to quip that there was nothing wrong with his eyesight that day!

 

As one Scotsman left, another one arrived, although this one had past history and unfinished business with the club that he took into the playoffs two seasons running in 2010 and 2011. There was an immediate improvement following an initial draw with Bolton at the City Ground. Six straight victories catapulted the side into the playoff places and although they have faltered slightly during the last month, they are still in with a chance of sixth place going into the final game of the season. They have to beat Leicester City at home and hope that Crystal Palace or Bolton slip up in order to stand any chance of aiming for a Wembley date.

Players at the club have attributed the change in fortunes on the confidence that Davies has instilled in his squad, with every member of the first eleven, as well as substitutes, feeling like an important cog in the machine. An obsessive eye for detail and hours spent analysing training sessions and match performance has also paid dividends; the manager knows every strength and weakness of the men at his disposal and tailors his approach to each game based upon these factors. If they do manage a return to the highest level then there is no doubt that the manager has had a very large part to play.

Is this the end of Spanish dominance?

As soon as the final whistle went at the Allianz Arena and Bayern Munich began celebrating their emphatic 4-0 win over Barcelona, the knives were already being sharpened and journalists were declaring that we were witnessing the end of an era. Spanish football, both at national and international level, has been leading the way over the last five years and ‘tiki taka’ had become a recognised style of play idolised by the rest of the football world. Could one game change all the believers into thinking that German football was now number one?

 

Quite simply, no, although it was a wakeup call to those that thought Barca were on another level to the rest of European elite. Torn apart with frequency by bursting runs forward from the potent attacking threat of Robben, Ribery, Muller and Schweinsteiger, the makeshift defence had no answers for the problems that they were confronted with. Despite several dubious goals, including an offside effort by Mario Gomez and a blatant foul on Jordi Alba just seconds before Arjen Robben scored, there was no question that the Germans deserved the win.

The following day saw the second semi-final between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to address the thumping taken by Spanish football the night before. However, Jose Mourinho and the rest of the world were in for a shock as Robert Lewandowski bagged four goals and Jurgen Klopp’s team ran out 4-1 winners. Two days, two wins for German football, with eight goals scored and only one conceded. 

Whilst Spain’s big two were left to lick their wounds as they headed back home, a sudden realisation that the Bundesliga has been on the rise over the past few seasons seemed to come into clear focus. It is still only half time in the Champions League semi-finals and it is certainly possible that both teams can turn around their deficits. Although Barcelona have a more difficult task than Madrid, due to their inability to score an away goal, Messi and company were deeply affected by the result and are proud of their reputation. They will be doing everything in their power to make sure that the world knows that Spain is still at the top of the game.

Can Newcastle avoid the drop?

After Liverpool scored their sixth goal at St James Park in their clash with the Magpies, a large number of fans had already left the stadium. Many were disgusted at the pitiful performance on show, whilst others just consigned themselves to the fact that perhaps they are about to suffer for the final month of the campaign and will have to fight to stay in the division.

 

Alan Pardew cut a frustrated and unbelieving figure on the side of the pitch, no doubt furious with what, at times, could only be described as amateur defending from his team. On more than several occasions Daniel Sturridge and other Liverpool attackers were free to wander in acres of space in the attacking third of the pitch, unchallenged and free to pick their passes. The attempted offside line that was employed failed after only a few minutes when Daniel Agger headed in a cross into the box. However, the defence didn’t seem to learn from their mistakes and were left rushing back towards their own goal time after time.

 

An excellent move resulted in Jordan Henderson tapping into an open goal and the reds took a 2-0 lead into half time. Everyone was expecting a response from Newcastle in the second half but they capitulated in spectacular fashion. Not only did Brendan Rodgers’ players up their game and score four goals, but Mathieu Debuchy was sent off for the home side and they failed to improve at all.

 

A glance at the Premiership table now sees how perilously close they are to the danger zone; if Aston Villa and Wigan manage to pick up points from their game in hand then it could well come down to a final day decider between up to six teams. Not only do points matter in terms of staying up, but goal difference can also be crucial. Newcastle’s has now taken a battering and their confidence is likely to be at rock bottom after this display. There is a lot of work to be done if they don’t wish to return to the Championship, as they did not so long ago, and memories of Champions League qualification seem like a lifetime ago.

Suited and booted – How do you like your manager dressed?

Not only do managers have to endure criticism from fans and pundits about their team selections, substitutions, transfer activity, and training methods, but they are also judged on their attire on a weekly basis. Suit or tracksuit, boots or shoes, scarf or hat; these are some of the fashion dilemmas facing today’s managers. Some dress to impress, whilst others still believe they are eligible for selection and continue to wear shorts and boots. Who then is the most stylish, and who should really look at changing their wardrobe?

Ever since the introduction of multiple cameras at matches, the public gaze has been cast over not only action on the pitch but also what goes on at the sidelines. The team bench can provide many clues as to the state of mind of players not selected in the first eleven, or individuals that have been substituted and are not in agreement with the manager’s decision.

Due to this ‘all seeing eye’ capturing everything that takes place from the moment the team bus arrives at the stadium, to it leaving many hours later, pressure has been placed upon teams to not only behave impeccably throughout but to also look the part of top professionals. Most clubs have a dress code for players, with identical suits being the preferred option for the majority. However, although the expectation is there for the manager to dress accordingly, it is not a written rule and he has the freedom to choose his outfit.

There is quite a difference between managers, even at the highest level. Tony Pulis is very rarely seen without his cap and tracksuit on, and Roberto Mancini is never without his favourite scarf. Owen Coyle likes to get in touch with his players by wearing full kit, including shorts and socks pulled up, although he does have the sense to wear a jumper to prevent him getting cold at the side of the pitch. Another man who certainly doesn’t like to feel the cold, and has in fact become a one man walking advertisement for the ‘sleeping bag coat’, or as it is also affectionately termed, ‘the caterpillar’, is Arsene Wenger; perhaps he had forgotten his glasses the day that he first put this on and thought that it looked good? Bearing in mind that he also tried to defend the use of snoods, as he considered them a preventative measure for players getting neck injuries, then it is easy to see that the Frenchman is more concerned about practicality than style! 


The key seems to be that managers should wear whatever they are comfortable in, but that they should try to look either smart or professional in their appearance. They have enough to worry about before, during and after the match and don’t want to be thinking about whether they look good or not. The job description never said anything about clothing, and the most important aspect is the team and how it plays, so let us not be too harsh and critical of the manager’s wardrobe and you never know, caterpillar coats could be the new trend next season…