All posts by Phil Kimonge

Mancini plans to spend big this summer

  

After the apparent debacle that was Manchester City’s summer shopping last pre-season, it would appear Roberto Mancini has learnt his lesson and is putting his orders in early this time.

Reports that he has identified Shakhtar Donetsk Fernandinho to kick start his spending spree. The Brazilian international is 27 and would cost around £20million.

The Italian manager has found it hard to hide his disdain for the work of Marwood et al and will take to his grave the wrong he feels for them not signing Robin van Persie.

The fact that Van Persie had no desire at all to move to the Etihad regardless of how many inducements or pound notes were thrown at him, (he was after all busy “listening to the little boy screaming inside him”) seems to have escaped Mancini.

Like any good manager, or male for that matter he has chosen to ignore the other side of the argument that doesn’t automatically support his case.

Yes I get that Scott Sinclair hasn’t been a roaring success, and it could have gone a bit better for Maicon, and that Javi Garcia perhaps hasn’t looked worth nearly £18million quid.

However Matija Nastasic has been an excellent purchase and having just turned 20 is only going to get better and Jack Rodwell when fit has looked decent, in the best traditions of being a male I’m going to ignore the fact that he’s been fit for eight games.

Mancini needs to forget moaning about the ones that got away and instead remember what an advantage he has in the transfer market over 99.9% of all other managers.  

Allen Whyte

 

Premier League strugglers may be forced to sell star asset, but not without a fight

 Aston Villa are determined to hold on to star striker Christian Benteke and will apparently turn their back on offers of £30million.

Whether this means they will take £31million is unclear but the gist of the story in the Sun is that the resolve is there to hang on to the young Belgian.

The headline is ‘We won’t Teke £30m’ I’m presuming that this is the papers play on words and not what Paul Lambert actually said.

The story is quite clear and there are plenty of strong words attributed to Randy Lerner like, adamant and vow and resisting temptation, no quotes obviously but plenty of strong words.

The general perception has been that Villa would pretty much take any offer for anyone to enable Lerner to recoup as much of his outlay as possible from when he was interested in football, Milner, Young, Barry and Downing have all departed in recent years.  

The more cynical amongst you may feel that this is simply a tactic to further drive up the price that is already following his hat trick against Sunderland, rapidly approaching Bale country.

Some of the usual suspects, Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City are said to be circling along with some clubs on the continent.

Lambert deserves credit, he stuck to his guns despite widespread criticism when he dropped Darren Bent and replaced him with Benteke.

If worse comes to worst for Villa fans,(that’s Benteke going and getting relegated) at least they’ll be safe in the knowledge that they have a manager who has the courage of his convictions and who can also spot a player, obviously the player will then be sold but at least he can spot them.

Allen Whyte

Chelsea enter race for Lewandowski

  

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho…sorry, rumoured Chelsea manager in waiting Jose Mourinho appears to be already laying the foundations for his squad next season.

The Mirror reports that just 24 hours after being beaten 4-1 by Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League semi final 1st leg, he made overtures to capture their star player Robert Lewandowski.

The story originates from Bayern Munich vice president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, stay with me, he claims he received a phone call from the strikers agent, Maik Barthel.

Barthel told Rummenigge that Mourinho had called him to urge his player to join Chelsea instead of Bayern Munich; this is according to reports in Spain’s La Informacion.

Now, Jose has said that he is hated by the sections of the Spanish media but would La Informacion make this up? Well possibly but the Rummenigge angle seems pretty clear cut.

It’s clearly not particularly ethical to try to convince a player to join your future employers whilst you’re still working for your current ones, but I’m not sure he’s broken any regulations, it is football after all.

Barthel has previously confirmed that the Pole will be leaving the Westfalenstadion in the summer. Depending on which paper you read the only real question has been which variation of red shirt he’d be wearing, Munich’s or Manchester’s.

Having only been back in Premier League management one day… sorry, having only just given his strongest hints yet that he will be returning to Premier League management, Mourinho is already entertaining us with his antics, whether they are factual or not.

Allen Whyte

Mourinho to risk wrath of Chelsea fans as he plans move for former Liverpool midfielder

 If Jose Mourinho does, as now seems increasingly likely, return to Chelsea, it appears he will come bearing a gift.

The Independent reports that Real midfielder Xabi Alonso could be following his manager and swapping Madrid for West London.

The paper cites Alonso as one Mourinho’s few allies in a predominantly hostile dressing room. It claims the Spaniard is awaiting confirmation that Mourinho stays in charge before committing to an extension of his contract at the Bernabeu.

Whilst fans of most clubs wouldn’t be averse to the smooth passing, strategist joining their ranks, I fear the reception he’d receive at Stamford Bridge would be less than welcoming.

If Blues fans have found it hard to forgive and forget Rafa’s heinous quotes about their football club then…actually what were Rafa’s quotes that got such a normally calm and tolerant breed all het up?

“It’s the passion of the fans that helps win matches – not flags.”

“To me, Arsenal played much better football two or three years ago.”

“If Chelsea are naive and pure then I’m Little Red Riding Hood.”

I mean there surely must be a Benitez shaped hole in a prison somewhere for him to still be walking the streets!

I don’t get it, is it just me?  it’s not like he started throwing out “Your mum” slurs.

In light of Rafa’s reception I feel Alonso’s own comments may not immediately ingratiate him to the Shed-enders. “I am still a Liverpool fan and will be forever, absolutely.

“The things that I have lived and the experiences I had during those five years are deep in my heart and the passion and respect I had for the club and its supporters are still the same.

“Hopefully I can transmit to my son what Liverpool Football Club means and how special it is, as he was born in the city and he will visit it in the future.”

Now I’m no Russell Grant but I foresee those remarks could possibly be frowned upon down the Kings Road.

Allen Whyte

The beauty of growing your own players

 An incredible thing happened in the world of football last week. No I’m not talking about United’s latest demonstration of dominance of the English game nor German football’s apparent takeover of Europe. I’m not even talking about the toothy goings on at Anfield, I’m sure we’ve all had our fill of that particular tasteless episode.

No, I’m referring to what took place on Saturday afternoon at the Alexandra Stadium. Crewe became the first senior English club to name a starting eleven consisting solely of players who have come through their academy.

It was a remarkable achievement by the League One side managed by Steve Davis, made even more memorable by the fact that they ran out 2 – 0 winners against Walsall.

The club have long been associated with progressing young player’s careers, mainly under the tutelage of Dario Gradi and last summer a further two, Ashley Westwood and Nick Powell left the conveyor belt and signed for Aston Villa and Manchester United respectively.

In the wake of Roy Hodgson’s recent complaint about the lack of opportunity for young Englishmen (Ironic given the fact that his last West Brom selection contained two Englishmen, one of them happening to be Billy Jones from the Crewe Academy) it got me wondering if this achievement could be achieved further up the food chain.

The closest any Premier League club has come to such a feat was the Middlesbrough side fielded by Steve McClaren against Fulham in May 2006. The team was the youngest in Premier League history with an average age of 20. Of the 16 man squad 15 were born within 30 miles of the Riverside Stadium.

That team contained the likes of James Morrison, Adam Johnson, Lee Cattermole, Danny Graham, David Wheater, Andrew Taylor, Ross Turnbull and Matthew Bates. Others at the club but not featuring in this game included Stewart Downing, Tony McMahon and Stuart Parnaby.

I accept that this may not quite have been a title winning outfit but it’s one that even now would have a good chance of holding its own in the top flight. They certainly couldn’t have done any worse than the collection of imports that ended up getting relegated in 2009.

Celtic of course provided the blueprint of how this idealistic vision could work. Their Lisbon Lions that captured the European Cup in 1967 were all famously born within 10 miles of Celtic Park.

Arsenal under George Graham and United under Ferguson have both initiated success based on a core of young players that have come through the ranks. Manchester City with the backing of Sheikh Mansour are making all the right noises about developing their own but in truth how many of them will be local to the area? How many will be players that the fans can truly identify with?

In Europe, Ajax’s famed youth program was previously seen as a forerunner in the field, their pinnacle being the 1995 Champions League success with a largely self made squad.

The accolades that accompanied Dortmund’s demolition of Madrid were warranted but it should be remembered that only three of that side came through the youth team and one of those, Marco Reus was released, only to be re-signed last year for 17.1million Euros.

Spain can now rightfully claim to be the leaders in the field. The three clubs in Europe with the most home grown players in their squads are Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona and Real Sociedad.

Everyone is by now aware of Barcelona and the success of La Masia, their academy that continues to produce a gifted supply line right through to the first team. The two Basque clubs however, despite neither being quite as stringent as they once were in terms of enforcing their Basque only policies, have both remained true to their region and local talent.

To return to my original point, could this happen in England. I think it could but it would need finance, scouting and an ideology to align. If West Ham fifteen years ago a rich Russian had flown over the ground and liked what he saw, if the said Russian then had the will to build a side based on the local catchment area, then a team could have evolved featuring not only Joe Cole, Lampard, Carrick, Johnson, Ferdinand, but also Defoe, Sol Campbell, John Terry, Ledley King and Ashley Cole, not a bad starting point for any squad and something to keep hope alive for romantics like me.

Should Gareth Bale stay at Tottenham? Does loyalty really pay off?

 

The ongoing conjecture surrounding the future of a certain Welshman has led me to do some homework.

Spurs fans to a man will want Gareth Bale to remain at the club. They would do, they’re Spurs fans, they will want to keep their best player.

Neither they, nor the many journalists, pundits and ex players who have provided their unsolicited advice regarding what he should do, will have any influence on his eventual decision.

The player will make his choice, most likely with the advice of family and trusted friends. If his preference is to stay, great! We can all move on for another year. If he chooses to go then he will hope his chairman is more accommodating than he was when Luka Modric informed him of a similar request.

My point is that, we have no sway in this situation and every day as a different angle or ridiculous figure is concocted, it becomes increasingly tiresome. So I have sought to provide a different angle! I want to help Gareth by looking at a player who has had a similar choice to make.

In 2005, Steven Gerrard left Liverpool to join Chelsea. There’s no misprint, for all intents and purposes, he was gone, ritual shirt burnings and everything. Rick Parry, Liverpool’s chief executive at the time, admitted as much “we have done our best, but he has made it clear he wants to go.”

Before you run off to check Sky Sports or retrace exactly what you had to drink in 2005, I’ll put you out of your misery, he didn’t go, he nearly did but he didn’t.

It had been the culmination of two years of rumours and bids and counter rumours and changes of heart but finally the deal was set to happen, then Gerrard changed his mind.

He has since said that he was pleased that he decided to stay:”It would mean an awful lot more to be successful at Liverpool than it would at any other club.

“Don’t get me wrong, I might have won more medals somewhere else but if I was to win the league here, along with a few more cups, that would mean a lot more than winning seven or eight trophies somewhere else.”

That to me is the crux of the issue. Since 2005, Gerrard has won the FA Cup, League Cup, Super Cup and the Community Shield. Chelsea during the same time frame have won, the Champions League, Premier League twice, FA Cup four times, League Cup twice and one Community Shield.

Gerrard made the above statement in 2009 and only he will know how he truly feels about, what he might have won if he’d moved.

It’s unclear whether Bale has the same connection to Spurs that Gerrard has to Liverpool. It’s unlikely but I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to rule it out. He’s been at the club since he was 17, the club I support and worship only entered my life just prior to my fourteenth birthday.

Ultimately Spurs fans will be praying that Bale is from the Gerrard school of quality over quantity.

You win nothing as a television pundit – Why I demand more from our football ‘experts’

The more observant among you will notice the clever play on words of my title. The variation on the famed declaration ‘You win nothing with kids” is deliberate if slightly forced.

Now, I like a good pundit as much as the next man, well actually I like the new breed of pundit, well when I say the new breed, I mean Gary Neville, basically I like Gary Neville.

Monday Night Football is now an essential part of my football week due to the insight he provides. However, Red Nev aside I can generally take them or leave them.

Soccer Saturday is still an enjoyable watch with the proviso that it’s the first team, don’t go giving me McInally or Tony “and that” Cottee, I don’t want them.

I’m not going to discuss the terrestrial channels; I don’t consider them worthy of my time. Except to say that I’m all for equal opportunities but Garth Crooks still working, really?

The others, well they’re all ok, nothing special, Souness, Redknapp, Barnes, Burley, they do a job, if they were still players they’d be a Sammy Lee, or for you youngsters out there, maybe a James Milner, reliable, you know what you’re going to get.

My apathy towards the genre has accelerated as I’ve begun to notice the frequency of their erroneous assertions, I have many examples, I’ll provide two.

During the first part of this season, Darren Bent was left out of the Aston Villa side In favour of a relatively unknown and rather ungainly young Belgian, called Christian Benteke. The condemnation that came down upon Paul Lambert was heavy. Did any of these pundits look beyond the surface? No, not at all, they jumped on the bandwagon and leapt to easy short-sighted conclusions which in hindsight were wrong.

David Luiz is my other illustration, yes I accept that he didn’t cover himself in glory when he initially arrived in the Premier League but right up until a few months ago, established talking heads were claiming he couldn’t play at centre back, that if anything he was a midfielder, nonsense.

Anyone who watched Benfica play between 2007 – 2011 will be aware that Luiz is an excellent centre half. The fact that the criticism would appear to have subsided and that Luiz is now being touted as the next Chelsea captain, would further underline that point.

I want more from a pundit, I accept that they can’t always be right but it surely defeats their purpose if I feel my football knowledge exceeds theirs. I want them to have identified things that my untrained eye might not have, I want these experts to, well use their expertise and enrich my experience of the beautiful game.

Otherwise they are essentially just blokes talking about football and frankly I can get that down the pub with my mates, admittedly the medals on the table will have been replaced by pints of lager (who am I kidding, lager tops) but the analysis may not be any less astute.