All posts by Sam Jewell

Just exactly who is Mauricio Pochettino?

Many football fans were shocked to see Nigel Adkins sacked by Southampton, but that was only the first surprise at the South Coast club.

Replacing him in the St Mary’s hot-seat is Mauricio Pochettino, a man whose name is far from familiar on these shores.  In fact, one of the only times English fans may have seen the Argentinean is at the 2002 World Cup, where he was adjudged to have fouled Three Lions striker Michael Owen in the box during a group game between England and La Albiceleste.  The resulting spot-kick was converted by David Beckham, ultimately proving to be the deciding factor as England won 1-0.

Despite that, however, Pochettino is virtually unknown to most of the Premier League.  Having never played in the country he now finds himself managing in, his first interview after taking the reins was conducted in Spanish.  As well as being his mother tongue, the language has been used throughout the majority of his career. 

A defender, Pochettino started with Newell’s Old Boys in his homeland before making the move to Europe to play for RCD Espanyol.  He was a key player for the side in his six and-a-half seasons stay, helping the club to win the 2000 Copa del Rey before leaving to join Paris Saint-Germain.  After moving south for a brief stint with Bordeaux, he returned for a second spell with Espanyol, seeing out his playing career with a second Copa del Rey victory at the Catalan club.

Pochettino became manager of Espanyol in January 2009, leading his former side to a comfortable league position in May of that year before finishing just below the European places the next campaign after his first full season in charge.  In 2011/12 the Argentinean coach was unable to match his previous successes, as the team eventually ended up 14th in La Liga.  Relieved of his duties in November, he now has to win over Saints fans after Southampton chairman Nicola Cortese appointed him as the man to replace the popular Nigel Adkins.

Whilst that may be a similar task to that of Rafael Benitez at Chelsea, he faces a completely different challenge to the Spaniard in trying to keep Southampton in the Premier League.

Could Gary Hooper score goals in the Premier League? (Video)

Having just turned down a bid of around £5 million, Celtic will be hoping to keep hold of their goal machine Gary Hooper.

The offer came from Norwich City, who are looking to bolster their attack after being left short with injuries to Grant Holt and Steven Morison.  The Canaries have done well to avoid the relegation dog-fight again so far this season, but manager Chris Hughton is aware that losing either of their main strikers for a period of time could leave them in trouble.

With 50 goals in 95 appearances for Scunthorpe United, Hooper boasted an incredible goal-scoring record of better than a goal every other game.  This earned the former non-league striker a move to Scottish giants Celtic, where he has gone on to find the net even more than during his time in North Lincolnshire. 

Top goal-scorer at his respective club every year since 2009, last season saw Hooper win the Scottish Premier League Golden Boot.  He was also named in the SPFA SPL Team of the Year for the second year in a row.

He may have proven himself in the Championship and Scotland’s top flight, but does Gary Hooper have what it takes to shine in the world’s most intense league?

Loic Remy to fire QPR to safety (Video)

A man who has been linked with almost every Premier League team over the last few years, Loic Remy has finally made his way to English shores.

Originally destined for Newcastle United, a bizarre series of events saw Remy eventually agree to sign for the Premier League’s bottom side QPR.  The motives of the player have been called into question by several disgruntled fans and pundits, but the fact of the matter is that the shirt he will wear has hoops and not stripes.

After coming through Lyon’s academy, Remy played little more than a handful of games for their senior side before leaving for approximately €8 million.  Despite not scoring a goal for the club, Lyon won the Ligue 1 title in both of his seasons with the first team.

With almost identical goal-scoring records in the league with both Nice and Marseille, the striker found the net every two and a half games during his time in the south of France.  Such great personal success in his homeland saw Remy attract the attention of several European clubs, with his name often linked with any club in search of a goal-scorer.

Tony Fernandes and Harry Redknapp have made their first move in QPR’s fight for Premier League survival. Will Loic Remy prove to be the man that keeps them up?

Is £62 too much to pay for a ticket to football?

With Manchester City returning 912 unsold tickets to the Emirates Stadium, just how much are football fans willing to pay to watch their club?

Over the years, the influence of money in the beautiful game has continued to grow, with top players now transferred between teams for prices beyond £50 million and earning weekly salaries of over £200,000.  Such increases in cost for clubs have had a huge effect on the people who personify football: the fans.  Whilst huge offers of cash attract the best players and help leagues produce the most entertaining games, ultimately it is the supporters who provide the funds that make this possible.

The power of money in the game can be seen in the extreme case of Wimbledon Football Club.  After enjoying the heights of the Premier League, the club was relegated after spending 14 consecutive years in the top flight, eventually falling to the third division of English football.  It was here that Wimbledon would eventually meet their unsavoury end, as the intention to relocate the team to Milton Keynes saw the formation of a new club by supporters against the move.  That club was AFC Wimbledon, and the original Wimbledon’s subsequent lack of support saw them enter administration, before finishing bottom of the league in their first season playing in Milton Keynes.  It could be said that Wimbledon never exited administration, as they were only brought out when a Pete Winkleman-led consortium bought the club, rebranding the team as Milton Keynes Dons.  Winkleman remains chairman of MK Dons, who recently met AFC Wimbledon for the very first time in a match, something which many people say should never have happened.

Whilst Wimbledon fans ultimately lost their club to money, teams such as Portsmouth and Rangers have also faced uncertainty surrounding their futures.  Both clubs have previously entered administration and suffered relegation because of it.  A slightly more bizarre loss due to money involved Cardiff City, whose famous blue kit was changed to red when the club was bought by Malaysian owners.  This prompted fury from large sections of Cardiff’s support yet, similarly to Wimbledon’s takeover, they were powerless to do anything about it.

There have long been arguments that the game should be given back to the fans, with many supporters expressing their dissatisfaction with modern football.  Unfortunately though, that doesn’t look likely to happen any time soon.  Situated in the heart of London, Chelsea offer season tickets which boldly exceed the £1,000 mark, whilst North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal push the boundaries further at almost £2,000.  Any reductions in price are usually minimal and not very long-lasting.

Moving away from the capital, there are the two Manchester clubs who displayed an intense battle in the race for last season’s Premier League title.  To watch either of those teams in action could cost beyond £50 for a single match.  Manchester United have enjoyed great success over the past two decades, whilst Manchester City have come into prominence after heavy investment during the last few years.  It could be argued, then, that, as the leading forces in English football, the clubs have the right to charge premium prices.

Time will tell if the sport is ever to acknowledge its roots and return to the people who made it famous.  In the meantime, only one thing is certain: football without fans is nothing.

Will City slip up again at the Emirates?

It’s Easter Sunday 2012 – As families across the country sit down to relax after a traditional roast dinner, Mikel Arteta’s 87th minute strike condemns Manchester City to a 1-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium.

A result that left Roberto Mancini’s men eight points adrift of leaders Manchester United, City fans were in no mood for celebrating and the club’s misery was compounded when Mario Balotelli was sent off as his team desperately chased the game, with the Italian striker condemned by his compatriot manager. Despite being given his second yellow card of the match, Balotelli could easily have been given a straight red for his first challenge on Alex Song, which was a potential leg-breaker.

City’s title chances were written-off at this point, and it wasn’t until the most dramatic final day a Premier League season has ever seen that they could proudly stand tall above their neighbours. Arsenal meanwhile, who at times had looked like they might miss out on a Champions League place for the first time in 15 years, used the three points to push on and steal third place from under the noses of North London rivals Tottenham. As a result of Chelsea winning the European Cup in Munich, this ended up being the lowest league position granting entry to the competition, with Spurs disappointed to find themselves in the Europa League.

The Gunners got the better of Roberto Mancini’s side that day, and Arsene Wenger will be hoping they can do the same again.

A match that is long forgotten given City’s incredible comeback in the title race, can the reigning Premier League champions get a result this time around?

Is Danny Graham a victim of Michu’s success? (Video)

With the success of “bargain of the season” Michu, can Danny Graham force his way back into Swansea’s starting lineup?

After starting the season alongside each other in the Swans’ attack, Graham has found his opportunities somewhat limited since October, with manager Michael Laudrup preferring the Spaniard to lead the line on his own. Michu began his Premier League career in sensational form by bagging a brace in Swansea’s 5-0 win at QPR, and he has gone on to score 13 goals in just 20 league appearances for the club, and whilst the £2 million signing from Rayo Vallecano has missed only one game due to injury, Graham has struggled to retain his place in the side.

Recently, though, the former Watford striker has emphatically proven that he is a quality goal-scorer.  After opening the scoring in Swansea’s 2-1 win at Fulham, Graham bagged dramatic late equalisers at home to both Aston Villa and Arsenal, as well completing an incredible 2-0 victory in injury time of their Capital One Cup semi-final first leg at Chelsea.  That night he replaced his Spanish team-mate at Stamford Bridge, who had given the Swans a half-time lead.

Now on four goals in four consecutive games, Danny Graham is the form striker at the Welsh club. With other Premier League teams rumoured to be circling, will Swansea be tempted to sell him?

Thomas Hitzlsperger sticks with Toffees (Video)

Having just signed a contract that will see him stay at Goodison Park until the end of the season, Everton fans will be hoping that Thomas Hitzlsperger can help them push on in their quest for a Champions League spot.

The former Germany international originally joined the club on a short term deal, but David Moyes said he felt it was important to extend his stay beyond January and In doing so, the Everton manager was allowed to send young midfielder Ross Barkley on loan to Leeds United in order to gain more experience.

Known for his powerful left-foot shot, Hitzlsperger earned the nickname Der Hammer after coming through the Aston Villa youth team. He became a fan favourite during his time with the Villains before returning to his homeland, where he enjoyed great success with Stuttgart as well as the national team.

Despite an impressive long-range strike that hit the bar during the Boxing Day match at home to Wigan, Everton supporters are yet to witness one of Hitzlsperger’s famous pile drivers find the net.

With almost half the season still to play, it would be unwise to bet against Der Hammer scoring his first goal in a blue shirt.

Are Liverpool due a win at Old Trafford? (Video)

With several of the last encounters between the sides surrounded by controversy, can Manchester United and Liverpool put on a show that reminds the world why they are the two most successful football clubs in English history?

As it stands, United are on course for a record 20th league title, whilst Liverpool are looking to bounce back from their poor start to the season. The Red Devils prevailed at Anfield in September, securing a 2-1 win with a late penalty from Robin van Persie with the home side having to see out more than half of the game with only 10 men after Jonjo Shelvey was given a red card for a challenge on Jonny Evans. Despite the disadvantage, Steven Gerrard fired them into a second-half lead, but ultimately it was Sir Alex Ferguson’s men who came away with the points.

Liverpool have only got a result at Old Trafford once since 2004, but what a result it was.  An incredible 4-1 win for the Reds was completed by Italian defender Andrea Dossena, whose stylish finish drifted over Edwin van der Sar and into the United net, however, apart from that March day in 2009, it has been a long time since Liverpool supporters have had anything to shout about after playing at the home of their arch rivals. Each painful defeat brings back the desire to topple the Red Devils like they did four years ago, which was also the last time they seriously challenged for the title, and although the victory was sweet, Rafael Benitez’s side ultimately ended that season as runners up to a tenacious Manchester United.

They may be a long way from that sort of finish, but Liverpool would love nothing more than to help prevent United claiming the Premier League trophy once again.