Category Archives: The Coin Toss

10 of the best reserve keepers

 

Liverpool’s 3-2 win at Ewood Park saw a number of unusual occurrences. Firstly, Liverpool won. Secondly, Andy Carroll actually put the ball in that net thing he seems so scared of. And finally, after Pepe Reina’s suspension, we saw a rare outing for not one of Liverpool’s reserve goalkeepers, but TWO. After Alexander Doni, making just his second Premiership appearance, was sent off for a challenge on Junior Hoilett, Brad Jones replaced him to make his Premier League debut, despite signing for the club in 2010.Doni and Jones are good examples of keepers who sit there, collecting their pay packet, whilst not over-stretching themselves. Occasionally they have to bend over and pull the splinters out of their backsides, but life isn’t altogether too taxing. Anyone fancy a bit of first team football anywhere else? Don’t all coming rushing at once… Here’s the Top 10 Back-Up (And Lazy) Goalkeepers:

Steve Harper – Steve Harper has been at Newcastle United 16 years and is currently the club’s longest serving player. So why has he only made 150 appearances for the club? Well, 12 years of that was spent as backup to Shay Given and another two as Tim Krul’s reserve. Harper came perilously close to breaking into the Newcastle first team on a couple of occasions, once in 1999 when Ruud Gullit bizarrely preferred him to Shay Given and picked him for the FA Cup Final (maybe why Gullit lost his job that summer), and then when Given left to join Manchester City. Unfortunately after winning the Championship with Steve in goal, everyone at St James’s Park realised Harper was never that good after all and Alan Pardewinstalled Tim Krul as his new number one on arrival at the club. Back to the bench then Steve.

Carlo Cudicini – The case of Carlo Cudicini is rather bizarre. When he first moved to England, he was one of the best stoppers in the division, catching the eye for the best part of four seasons at Stamford Bridge. However, Jose Mourinhodecided to bring Petr Cech to the club and the rest as they say, is history. Inexplicably though, rather than find a new club, which Cudicini was perfectly capable of, he chose to stay and admire Cech’s skills between the posts as his teammates racked up a number of trophies. Finally in 2009, Carlo decided to improve his ambitions and try playing more than two games a season. The club he chose? Tottenham, where Heurelho Gomes was firmly installed as first choice… There’s a reason why the Daily Telegraph named him the ‘world’s most un-ambitious footballer’ in 2008.

Stuart Taylor –Taylor began his career as a promising young shot stopper at Arsenal, where he was tipped for big things by the coaching staff. However, he only made 18 league appearances for the Gunners between 1997 and 2005 and left to join Aston Villa to further his career. Unfortunately, they only saw him as a number two as well, meaning Taylor got to sit on a bench to watch a different side, but one with less quality. Bored of sitting on the bench at Villa, he moved to be left out of the squad completely at Manchester City. Just to put things in perspective, here are a list of the goalkeepers that Taylor hassat behind during his career: David Seaman, Alex Manninger, Richard Wright, Jens Lehmann, Manuel Almunia, ThomasSorensen, Scott Carson, Brad Friedel, Brad Guzan, Tom Heaton, Shay Given, Joe Hart and Costel Pantilimon. That’s some impressive numbers.

Tony Warner – Warner has a special place on this list, because he isn’t just the goalkeeper who sits on his own club’s bench, but the goalkeeper who is loaned out to sit on other club’s benches when they suffer an injury crisis between the posts. Starting his career at Liverpool, he never made an appearance there but did join three other clubs on loan. He managed 200 career appearances for Millwall, but the life of Warner the goalkeeping nomad began when he joined Fulham. After that move, Tony has seen action at nine different clubs, some on loan, some on a temporary contract, but barely any at Fulham. Wonder if he can fit in the rest of the Football League before he retires.

Tomasz Kuszczak – No one can quite believe the Pole has been at Manchester United since 2006, initially joining on loanfrom West Brom after impressing Sir Alex Ferguson. During this time, Kuszczak has won three Premiership titles, receiving ‘special dispensation’ for all of them, given that he didn’t make the required ten appearances in a season for a medal. That would be because he’s only played 26 league games for United, struggling to dispose of Edwin Van Der Sar between the posts. The penny finally dropped for Tomasz this year, when Fergie brought in David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard to replace the retired Dutch legend. He has subsequently joined Watford on loan and will be released at the end of the season.

Mike Pollitt – Any Wigan supporters (apparently they exist?), might remember a certain Mike Pollitt playing between the posts during their first season in the Premier League. 23 appearances during that debut year was a decent return for a man who spent his entire career outside the highest division. It wasn’t to last though, indeed Pollitt has played just 13 more games for the Latics in the six years that have followed. Now 40, he still gives Ali Al-Habsi encouraging support from the touchline and in fact is probably the only person in the ground who sits and watches every game.

Jerzy Dudek – Dudek was a Liverpool stalwart for a number of years and made himself a hero in Istanbul after that penalty shootout. However, there was no room for sentiment from manager Rafa Benitez, who signed Pepe Reina and made Dudeksit on the bench at Anfield for two years. He decided to move on, but unfortunately Dudek resigned to himself to a career of putting out the warm up cones after signing for Real Madrid. Behind Iker Casillas, the world’s best goalkeeper. Two appearances followed, but at least Dudek could say he’d played at the Bernabeu.

Brad Guzan – Aston Villa signed the talented American for £2million from Chivas USA back in 2008 to compete with fellow compatriot Brad Friedel for the number one jersey. Unfortunately, this was a battle Guzan was never likely to win; indeedFriedel is one of the Premiership’s all time greats. So onto the bench he goes for four years, making just eight appearances for the Villa, watching on as Friedel and then Shay Given this year, attempt to repair the damage caused by Villa’s often woeful defence. To make matters worse, Guzan is also number two for his country, behind Everton’s Tim Howard in the pecking order for the USA.

Manuel Almunia – Despite enjoying a run of three years as the Gunners’ number one, the Spaniard finds himself in a familiar position this season. Watching someone else play in goal. Having joined the club in 2004 from Celta Vigo, Almuniastruggled to fight his way past Jens Lehmann, both on and off the field as the pair struggled to get along. After finally displacing the German, Almunia has then produced a series of blunderous performances that had Arsene Wenger tearing his hair out and the emergence of Wojciech Szczesny has, once again, relegated Almunia to the bench.

Carl Ikeme – Ikeme progressed through the Wolves academy and first found himself on the bench when the side reached the promised land in the 2003/04 season, providing backup to regular Matt Murray. Ikeme must have enjoyed that bench at Molineux, as he’s spent a fair bit of time on it, behind Murray and then Wayne Hennessey. Eight spells out on loan has only brought him 57 appearances and he has only played 13 times for Wolves themselves. The arrival of another sub-keeper, Dorus De Vries, has meant Ikeme has been farmed out to Doncaster this year as his beloved spot on the bench is taken for the time being. 

@The_CoinToss

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The 10 most bizarre injuries seen in football

Manchester City are quickly dropping out of the title race and matters haven’t been helped by the enforced absence of star striker Sergio Aguero. The Argentinean forward is missing through injury, but the club won’t disclose the cause of the problem, merely describing it as ‘stupid,’ though Roberto Mancini has admitted a pain-killing spray just made it worse. The Mirror suggested Aguero suffered the injury riding his three-year-old’s motorbike, while other sources reported he fell off the team coach. The mystery continues, so send in your best answers on a postcard. In the meantime though, here are the Top 10 most bizarre injuries:

Dave Beasant  Beasant had an illustrious career, making 774 professional appearances, during which he became the first man to save a penalty during Wimbledon’s 1989 FA Cup final over Liverpool. However, Dave suffered an unusual foot injury during the 1993 season. Normally known for his safe hands between the posts, Beasant was ruled out when a jar of salad cream landed on his foot…after he dropped it.

Perry Groves –Groves was a pacy winger who turned out for Arsenal between 1986 and 1992. Groves was often used as a substitute during his time at the club though, a painful experience in more than one way for him. One time Arsenal scored an equalising goal, Groves went up so enthusiastically, he smashed his head on the roof of the dugout, knocking himself out in the process. If only he was so good heading the ball…

Darius Vassell  Vassell was a decent forward in his time, scoring six goals for England in 22 appearances, though fans will always remember him for missing a penalty in the Euro 2004 quarter final shoot-out against Portugal. During his spell with Aston Villa in 2003, Vassell discovered a large blood-blister under his big toenail. Instead of asking the club doctor to sort it out, Vassell embarked on a bit of medical D.I.Y, using a power drill to bore through the nail and pop the said blister. Although this is an acceptable practice in the medical world and Vassell did in fact remove the blister successfully, he also suffered a nasty infection that ruled him out of Villa’s next game.

Shaun Goater – ‘Feed the Goat and he will score’ was the chant that reverberated round Maine Road during Goater’s legendary spell at Manchester City. More often than not, this proved to be the case as well, indeed the Bermudian target man bagged 101 goals in 184 games for the Blues. However, in 2003, it was celebrating someone else’s goal that got Goater into a spot of bother. During a crucial game with Birmingham, Nicholas Anelka scored a goal and went off to celebrate. Goater joined him, rather too excitedly, and kicked an advertising board on the side of the pitch. He was promptly substituted, not for his aggressive behaviour, but because he’d hurt his foot so badly.

Alan Wright – The pint-sized left back enjoyed a career at the top level of the game without ever really achieving any serious honours. However, this career was enough to line Wright’s pockets, enough anyway to ensure he could afford a new Ferrari. However, in one of life’s cruel ironies, Wright ruled himself out for a couple of weeks after straining his knee. Reaching for the accelerator in his new flashy motor. Try a Mini for size next time Alan.

Darren Barnard – Barnard was a club stalwart at Barnsley, making 201 appearances during his time at the club. However, it could have been even more than that had it not been for a five month spell on the sidelines after Barnard suffered knee ligament damage. The cause of such pain? Barnard slipped in a puddle of his untrained puppy’s urine on the kitchen floor. Rumours are unconfirmed that his manager said afterwards: ‘You’re taking the piss’…

Richard Wright – Although Wright competes with Francis Jeffers for the title of Arsene Wenger’s worst ever signing, he still managed to win two England caps. However, we’re more impressed that he manages not one appearance on this list, but TWO. Not content with missing a couple of weeks after falling out of his loft in 2002, Wright missed an FA Cup clash with Chelsea in 2005 after twisting his ankle in the warm up. Sympathy is limited though, given that Wright suffered the injury after tripping over a sign in the goalmouth warning players not to warm up in that area. Signs are there for a reason Richard…

Kirk Broadfoot – The Scottish international may not be having the best of times with Rangers currently, but the right back has enjoyed plenty of success during his career at Ibrox. However, he wasn’t so lucky in 2009 when he was rushed to hospital after badly scalding his cheek. Broadfoot was poaching an egg in the microwave when it exploded as he opened the door, burning his face with hot yolk. I think it’s fair to say he was left with egg on his face…

Svein Grondalen – Never heard of him? Fair enough. The Norwegian isn’t exactly your David Beckham type of global superstar, but mention bizarre injuries, and Grondalen suddenly becomes the Lionel Messi of football. The player had to withdraw from the Norwegian international squad in 1977 after an unfortunate collision during a routine jog. With a moose.

David Batty – The tough-tackling central midfielder was a real battle-axe of a player, always refusing to be beaten on the pitch. Batty never let injuries get the better of him, but he suffered ankle ligament damage after being run over once. This was no hit-and-run incident though; indeed Batty was pole-axed by his three-year-old daughter on her tricycle. Pity she didn’t do it before that penalty shootout with Argentina…

@The_CoinToss

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The 10 worst badges in Football

An often overlooked, yet important part of any club’s identity. Here is a run down of the 10 worst badges in football.

1. Hamburger SV

Hamburg’s badge is without a doubt the worst in world football.  A team’s badge should be evocative and by its very nature be emblematic of the club. The sight of your team’s badge should stir up feelings of pride and passion, but HSV’s badge looks like one of the fake badges from PES teams which Konami didn’t have the licensing rights for and I had to actually see a HSV shirt to believe that a club could put such a lamentably drab badge on their shirt.

2. Columbus Crew

Columbus Crew’s badge is the worst US contribution to football other than the Yanks’ insistence upon calling the game soccer. Admittedly, part of my hatred (and trust me, it is a hatred) of Columbus’ badge is a love of traditional football crests, but I would be willing to overlook that if The Crew had opted for an NFL-style logo or simply a stylised form of the team name. Instead, Columbus Crew decided to stick with a crest template but with an exceptionally drab colour combination and a picture of three blue-collar workers in place of anything vaguely tasteful or football-related. Whilst I appreciate the sentiment of representing the strong work ethic of the local community, surely this is better achieved by creating a side which is renowned for its work rate and not with a badge which is quite simply tragic.

3. The New Saints F.C.

The Welsh team formerly known as Total Network Solutions had the opportunity to create a new team badge after TNS’ sponsorship expired in 2006 but made a complete and utter hash of it. Having decided to use the Welsh dragon and a lion to represent the two merged clubs that created The New Saints, the club had a solid base for creating at the very least a respectable emblem. Despite this, the Saints decided to go and ruin it with the top section of the badge, which is seemingly copied from a cash-stricken Sunday league side. To add insult to injury, the powers that be decided that it would be a great idea to dot the “I” of Saints with a football. It is the football equivalent of dotting an “I” with a heart and is heinously tacky; what on earth were they thinking?

4. Coleraine F.C.

The red chevron saves Coleraine’s badge from being a monochromatic nightmare, but it isn’t even enough to be considered a saving grace. A fish should not, under any circumstances, be featured on a team’s badge and the wheat sheaves, whilst more socially acceptable, are unrecognisable – in fact they look more like dandelion seeds. Moreover, the badge simply fails to inspire; if an animal features on a badge it should be a powerful predatory animal, hence the prevalence of lions, tigers and bears on logos throughout sport. Though salmon is a predator in technical terms, it’s hardly in the same league as a wildcat or bird of prey, and certainly won’t be striking fear into the opposition. If nothing else, Coleraine’s badge is further that taking inspiration from the key industries of the club’s locality is not necessarily a winning formula.

5. F.C. Paços de Ferreira

The Portuguese side’s badge looks incredibly budget and you could be forgiven for thinking it had been drawn in Paint. All the colours on the badge look dull, which is probably a major contributing factor in how underwhelming the crest is. Why these shades were chosen is beyond me – surely you would want bold, vibrant colours on your team’s crest? Since ancient times, colour has been used as a status symbol and Paços’ choices seem to be a tacit acknowledgement of their lowly status. The club’s motto translates into English as “effort and victory for Paços”, sadly it doesn’t look like much effort was put into their badge.

6. Airbus UK Broughton F.C.

Having started life as the football team of the local Airbus factory, it is understandable that the Planemakers would want to pay tribute to their heritage, and their sponsor, on their badge. The problem is, an aeroplane is never going to be part of any iconic football crest no matter how subtly it is incorporated, so superimposing an overly detailed depiction of an A380 over a crudely drawn football is unlikely to result in an even vaguely acceptable badge.

7. Figueirense

Figueirense’s badge looks like a zebra crossing with a child’s drawing of a tree over the top of it. It looks cheap and that’s probably because it was, which is all the more galling because Florianópolis – the city where Figueirense are based – is said to have the highest standards of living in Brazil. My biggest problem with Figueirense’s badge though is that it is so generic that it could be a crest for almost anything and consequently it is instantly forgettable.

8. Napoli

It is easy to overlook the breathtakingly lazy approach to club crest design adopted by Napoli considering the master class in anti-aestheticism demonstrated by Hamburg’s logo. Clearly creativity was at a premium when Napoli created their badge, for I can think of no other reason for such a despicably boring badge. It’s as if the designers literally couldn’t be bothered and just selected one of the most basic geometric shapes, put the first letter of the team name in the middle and added the team colours; in fact, I am convinced that that’s what happened. It certainly isn’t the most visually offensive badge out there, but it fully warrants its place among the worst badges due to the inescapable fact that it looks more like a “contains nuts” symbol from a restaurant menu than the badge of a prestigious football team.

9. Legia Warsaw

I actually quite like the green, white and red stripes on Legia’s badge, but there needs to be more to a crest than just that. Legia Warsaw clearly agreed with me on this point but for some inconceivable reason thought it could be solved with an “L” in a circle to represent Legia. Even if stylised, an “L” in a circle can only do so much to make an impact on a badge, but Legia chose the most boring option available to them. This is an unacceptable oversight, especially considering that the city of Warsaw has a fairly interesting coat of arms – a mermaid wielding a golden sword and shield, despite the fact that Warsaw is 500 miles inland.

10. Cercle Brugge

Club Brugge’s lesser-known rivals may only be three places behind their famous rivals at the tie of writing, but they are light-years behind in club crest stakes. Cercle’s badge fails to do what badges are designed to – that is to be distinctive. What’s more, the fact that it is rectangular, rather than being incorporated into any number of traditional crest designs, makes it look far worse than it otherwise would be. In fact, there is another form of the club’s badge which is used for pin-on badges which looks far better; if only Cercle would use the latter incarnation…

 

Tom Mordey @The_CoinToss

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The return of Jose seems the only option

On June 22 this summer, Roman Abramovich set a new precedent for expenditure in football, choosing not to throw his money at top players, but instead at a top manager. Chelsea paid Porto £13.3 million in compensation for Andre Villas Boas, a record deal that also saw them pay former boss Carlo Ancelotti and his backroom staff another £15 million on top to remove them from their positions, making a grand total of £28.3 million just to change their manager.

Bear in mind the Blues finished second in the Premier League and reached the Champions League quarter finals, a season that most supporters would gladly accept given their current plight. However the Russian owner decided that the likeable Ancelotti would have to pay the price for a trophyless season, despite his double winning exploits the previous year. He turned to a man who was being lauded in all quarters, the next ‘Special One’ so to speak. Villas Boas had just completed a superb season with Porto, winning the domestic division and the Europa League, making him hot property for Europe’s top clubs. His face fit the bill, Chelsea had raided Porto to great effect before and AVB himself had already worked at Stamford Bridge under Mourinho, as a match scout.

All seemed well at the start of the year, as Chelsea started the season in decent fashion, winning four games in a row before coming undone at Old Trafford, no great surprise given the start Fergie’s side had also made to the season, demolishing Arsenal 8-2. There were sneaking suspicions though that Chelsea’s squad looked weaker on paper than some of their rivals. City spent wisely, adding quality through Sergio Aguero and United added youthful vigour to their squad, with Phil Jones catching everyone’s eye. Liverpool’s summer spending was also well documented, as the likes of Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Craig Bellamy had many pundits suggesting a return to the Champions League could be on the cards. In South London however, only Juan Mata really stood out amongst the new arrivals. Oriol Romeu, Romelu Lukaku and Thibault Courtois also joined, but all three were seen as works in progress who wouldn’t contribute much to the current starting eleven.

The problem of Fernando Torres still loomed large for Villas Boas, just as it had haunted his predecessor and the Spaniard’s horror miss against Manchester United only compounded those fears. Their other expensive January signing, David Luiz, also turned himself into a comedy of errors roadshow, causing Gary Neville to compare his performances to a 10-year-old playing on Fifa. Indeed, had it not been for the debacle across the big city at the Emirates where Arsene Wenger had been vilified for his summer dealings, a few more eyebrows may well have been raised at the quality of Chelsea’s squad.

However, Villas Boas’s main problem was undoubtedly the player power he faced upon his arrival at the Bridge. He spoke of the revolution that needed to happen; with the squad he inherited having a rather sizeable average age. Such changes were not viewed too kindly within the ranks at the club either, indeed he first clashed with Frank Lampard early in the season, dropping the club stalwart for a number of crucial matches, thus feeling the full force of Frank’s displeasure later in the year when the player admitted his relationship with the manager wasn’t exactly close.

 

His treatment of Didier Drogba also caused friction, as AVB tried to accommodate Torres into the line-up despite his obvious loss of confidence. More recently though, Villas Boas went one step further, relegating Ashley Cole to the substitute’s bench for the clash with Napoli, a decision that did not go down well within the club. Cole’s form has been consistent year in, year out and his axing looked like one step of authority too far. Rumours of player unrest grew, not to mention a training ground bust-up in front of Abramovich himself. Villas Boas’s position seemed to be growing untenable merely on account of his relationship with the players.

Chelsea’s form also left a lot to be desired, winning just two in nine during October and November, while they are currently on a run of three wins in twelve, a spell that has left them languishing outside the Top Four. Not qualifying for the Champions League would be an unmitigated disaster for the Blues, as they would therefore struggle to attract top quality players to the club in the summer. They also face a crucial Champions League clash with Napoli soon, already behind on aggregate 3-1. Birmingham are next on Tuesday though, in an FA Cup replay that represents their only serious chance of a trophy. The statement on the club’s website admitted that things just weren’t acceptable, stating “Unfortunately the results and performances of the team have not been good enough and were showing no signs of improving at a key time in the season.”

Where next for Chelsea then? Its obvious Abramovich made a terrible decision in the summer, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Villas Boas never really took to England and at 34, lacked the authority to command some of his older troops. Expectations of him being next Mourinho also fell disappointingly short, not just in performance, but personality as well. While Jose charmed the pants off English football, with his outrageous mannerisms and ‘Special One’ mantra, AVB looked more like Fabio Capello, whining at every opportunity in the press conferences and looking generally like he’d rather be anywhere else in the world.

Chelsea have now spent £64 million on managerial merry-go-rounds in the last four years and Abramovich’s next decision could be his most crucial. We know who the Chelsea fans want, they sung it to the rafters at the Hawthorns on Saturday and that man is apparently available in the summer. It could be the only man to guide Chelsea away from the Mourinho era is Mourinho himself! There are no obvious candidates otherwise, apart from Guus Hiddink, who has only signed a short-term contract with Anzhi till the end of the season. Still, more important issues come first; Roberto Di Matteo has been appointed till the end of the season and the fans need to put their Mourinho fever behind them till the summer and get behind Roberto to fire the side into the Top Four.

Tom Mordey @The_CoinToss

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Mr. Liverpool is overlooked yet again for Spurs hero

Roll back to the end of last season. West Ham had just been relegated and despite his superb displays that season, Scott Parker was facing a year in the Championship. His club’s reluctance to let him move on and the unwillingness of a top side to take a punt on the central midfielder meant Parker featured in the first four games after the Hammers’ relegation. However, Harry Redknapp and Spurs came calling and Parker walked out at Wembley on Wednesday night as the leader of his country.

It’s been a remarkable rise for the London-born lad, who started his career with Charlton, impressing all involved with the game under the reign of Alan Curbishley. It was then he made his England debut, replacing Wayne Rooney in a friendly against Denmark back in 2003. However, the next eight years were not exactly rewarding for Parker, he won just a further two caps and seemed destined to spend his career in the shadow of Gerrard and Lampard, despite every man and his dog realising England’s star duo were not compatible in the same team.

A move to Chelsea didn’t exactly pay off either, indeed Parker failed to live up to his £10 million transfer fee and became a minor figure in the Stamford Bridge revolution. After just 15 appearances, Parker was on his way, heading north to Newcastle United, where a run decent form saw him recalled to the England squad. West Ham decided that Scotty would fit the bill at Upton Park, bringing the player back to London for £7 million and Parker capture the imagination of the fans, becoming a firm favourite during his 110 appearances at the club. His final season proved his best, despite West Ham’s miserable form, as Parker produced the form of his life, winning the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year. The subsequent move to Spurs for a bargain £5 million followed and Parker has impressed everyone at White Hart Lane, establishing himself as a key cog in a side that looks Champions League bound. Certainly, there must be a few managers who wished they’d taken that punt last summer (mentioning no names Mr Wenger).

His return to the England side came on the back of public clamour, Parker was far and away the best English midfielder in the division last year and he was voted England’s best player in 2011 thanks to some sensational performances in the holding role that the Three Lions have never successfully filled. No-one saw the next chapter in Parker’s career coming though. As the John Terry saga rumbled on, Fabio Capello lost his job and England needed a new captain and a coach. Step forward Psycho. Despite being the temporary man in charge, Stuart Pearce decided to stamp his mark on the England setup, handing Parker the captaincy in a move reminiscent to Peter Taylor giving David Beckham the armband back in 2000 for his only game in charge against Italy. As it happens, that move turned out quite well.

Is it the right decision though? Parker is obviously England’s man in form and is guaranteed a starting position. His commitment to the cause can not be denied either; indeed Parker has shown more blood and thunder in his 11 caps than most of the rest of the squad put together. He made a couple of blocks on Wednesday night that showed a worrying disregard for his own health and as always, offered a robust display, breaking up attacks from his role in the middle. Parker offers a type of leadership that England fans love to see, the patriotic, warrior-like figure leading from the front. All he needs is a bandaged head with blood dripping from an open wound.

This is all fine, until you consider one name. Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool man must be wondering what he’s done wrong again, after suffering yet another snub for the armband. It’s remarkable to think he’s been overlooked again; indeed Gerrard was the only bright spark in England’s dismal World Cup showing, although his leadership was wasted on the other muppets in white. Stevie G has single-handedly inspired Liverpool to victory on many occasions and was surely the obvious choice for skipper. Parker doesn’t even captain Spurs! Any talk of age is ridiculous, Parker is just five months younger than his midfield partner and is therefore just as likely to retire after the European Championships as has been rumoured with Gerrard. It’s a risky move by Pearce. By giving Parker the lead role, he has essentially undermined one of England’s few world class talents. He may have been injured for the best part of two years and be knocking on the door of old age, but if England are to triumph this summer, Mr Gerrard will be a crucial part of everything they do. You just have to pray this doesn’t disrupt team harmony once again.

 Tom Mordey @The_CoinToss

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Gunners crisis may have a positive outcome

When Spring approaches, there are always a few certainties in life. Easter Sunday will take place, it will rain a lot and nature will restart its circle of life. Oh and Arsenal will be out of contention in all competitions.

Once again, the Gunners have stuck to their yearly routine, though they disappointed earlier than usual in the Premiership this season, indeed some say their chances were over as early as losing 8-2 to United. Certainly by the time they were turned over by Fulham, Swansea and then by Fergie and his boys again in the league, they waved goodbye to the title once more.

Not content with mere Premiership capitulation, the Gunners imploded completely last week, losing the first leg of their Champions League clash to AC Milan 4-0, before crashing out of the FA Cup thanks to a 2-0 defeat to Sunderland. The defeat to Milan, shameful though it was, is more understandable, the Italian side’s frontline clicked in a way us neutral viewers in England have never seen before. Tormentors in chief were Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho and believe it or not, former Spurs reject Kevin Prince Boateng. And they had Pato on the bench. That team is enough to give anyone a hiding, but unfortunately for Wenger and his boys, it was them on the receiving end. The defeat to Sunderland was just miserable though, Martin O’Neill’s side completely outplayed Arsenal and they will be kicking themselves with City and United both out of the competition and Chelsea and Spurs facing replays.

So where now for Arsenal? Mr Wenger is in his 16th year at the club, and he faces his seventh successive season without a trophy. Let’s be honest, at any other club (bar maybe Manchester United), the Frenchman would find himself out of a job. This is now a significant period without success and they haven’t even come close to a Premier League title. OK, there was the occasion in 2008 when Gallas’s one-man pitch protest ruined team morale, but that was in March, a whole two months before the end of the season. There was the League Cup final defeat to Birmingham last year and the one to Chelsea in 2007, but who counts the League Cup anyway? And of course, the Champions League Final in 2006. As unlucky as they were in Paris that night, that’s still six years ago.

That just isn’t good enough for a side who regularly finishes in the Top Four, indeed if it wasn’t for their consistency in finishing in the Champions League places, you feel changes may already have been made. There is a realistic possibility they may miss out this year, although they currently lie fourth, they face an almighty challenge to hang onto that spot from Chelsea and to a lesser extent Liverpool and Newcastle. There’s no two ways about it, no Champions League football would ruin the club. Arsenal cannot afford to compete with City or Chelsea anyway, never mind without the revenue taken from the competition. Player exits will undoubtedly follow, the obvious one being Robin Van Persie who is already making serious noises about jumping ship in the summer. Alex Song has also been linked with PSG.

The man in question is Wenger himself. Arsenal fans have managed to defend their loved one in previous years by praising the way their club is run. His youth policy is admirable, his ability to decide when to sell a player just past their peak is second-to-none and he has an eye for foreign talent. You get the impression this has changed recently. This summer’s transfer activities were nothing short of miserable, they lost Fabregas to Barca (who certainly wasn’t past his peak), Nasri to City (couldn’t afford his wages) and Clichy also to City (never replaced.) Bringing players in was left till the last minute, hence why the defensive issue was never solved; indeed Per Mertesacker has proved disastrous. Only Mikel Arteta could really be judged to have had a positive impact at the Emirates since his move, although Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is starting to come to the fore. There have been recent signs the Arsenal faithful are starting to lose patience with Wenger; take note of the minority booing the decision to replace Oxlade-Chamberlain with Arshavin during the defeat to Manchester United. A minority it was, but it was still audible.

Changes need to be made. The wage budget has to be radically altered, it is clear the policy of promoting talented youngsters is failing and big names need to be attracted to the Emirates. The likes of Mario Gotze and Eden Hazard have been mentioned, but neither of those two will sign for Arsenal if the wages aren’t there. The players currently at the club need an incentive to stay. They should throw the chequebook at Robin Van Persie, he is irreplaceable and therefore the club needs to do whatever it takes to keep him in London. The defence has to be sorted out as well, the likes of Mertesacker, Djourou and Squillaci just aren’t good enough, so why on earth wasn’t Gary Cahill bought in the summer? And the final issue revolves round the manager. Has Wenger lost his touch? There is talk of moving the man into the boardroom and taking on a fresh approach, but in all honesty, who could do a better job? Only Mourinho and Guardiola come to mind and it would take some negotiating to bring one of them to the Emirates.

This summer is important for the Gunners. There is no doubt the squad has a decent backbone, there are some talented youngsters there. The deadwood needs shifting on though, there are a number of players stealing a living off the football club (mentioning no names Mr Arshavin). However, the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey, Szczesny and Oxlade Chamberlain can form the basis of the squad for the future. Others like Walcott, Song, Vermaelen and Koscielny are also quality players, so therefore only a couple of new signings would have to be brought in to the club to fit around the talent already there. Wenger needs to be given a chance, given financial backing and most importantly, hold onto Van the Man. There is still hope for the Gunners, indeed most other clubs in England would snap your hand off to face the ‘crisis’ evolving at Arsenal. But things need to change. And quickly. 

Tom Mordey @The_CoinToss

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The A to Z of commentator clich├ęs

The men who broadcast our football through the TV are almost as famous as the players themselves these days. Think John Motson, Clive Tyldesley or more controversially, Andy Gray and Richard Keys. But you always get the impression you’ve heard everything they say before. Well, that’s because you probably have. The commentator is the king of the cliché, using the same phrases to sum up most situations! Here is the A to Z of Commentators Clichés:

A- “All to Play for” – The phrase always issued after a dramatic goal is scored to get the losing team back in the match. I’m fairly sure there was all to play for before, it’s just they hadn’t managed to score then.

B- “Beckham Territory” – Anytime a team that old Goldenballs played for won a free kick in the opposition half, out came the familiar phrase. The ball inevitably hit the wall.

C- “Mark of True Champions” – Manchester United play dreadfully, they fail to break down Wigan all game long, defend like a bunch of strangers, yet sneak a late goal to pick up a vital win. Lucky? No that’s the mark of true champions.

D- “Schoolboy Defending” – Alan Hansen’s favourite saying on Match of the Day. Said defender makes first mistake of the season, yet needs to return to his youth to relearn the art of tackling.

E- “End to End stuff” – Normally used to describe a frantic game. Very overused, the action usually isn’t literally end to end, more like a few shots in a short space of time. Always heard whenever the Big Four play each other.

F- “Best Form of Defence is Attack” – Is it? Counter-attacking may be OK, but ask Ian Holloway and Blackpool how many goals they conceded when they tried abandoning defending altogether. I’d say the best form of defence is defending properly. (Sorry MrWenger)

G- “Game of Two Halves” – Whenever any side takes a big lead in the first half, the commentator has to keep the viewing public interested by reminding them anyone can mount a comeback. Well, in reality, this never happens and we get conned into watching 45 more minutes of one-sidedness. Unless it’s Istanbul 2005.

H- “He had to go” – Shocking challenge, red card given. Commentator shakes his head disappointedly, judging the naughty red carded player, “he had to go.” Well yes, that’s generally what a red card means.

I- “I’ve seen them given” – Another one for the pundit. A penalty gets turned down. It’s controversial. Knowledgeable pundit announces he’s seen them given. Well congratulations. You’re a pundit because you’ve meant to have seen everything in football anyway! 

J- “Just enough to put him off” – Used just after the lumbering centre-back clatters into the striker with a desperate challenge after being beaten all ends up.

K- “Killer Ball” – Normally heard when the team’s playmaker plays a majestic pass. Sounds painful…

L- “Lost the Dressing Room” – That was careless. Where on earth did you put it?

M- “Magic of the FA Cup” – Lower league team beats bigger league team. Why? Not because bigger team put out reserves due to fixture congestion. Nope, it’s definitely the magic of the cup.

N- “Needs a Goal” –Most games do need a goal, yes. I cant ever remember enjoying a 0-0 draw.

O- “On Paper” – Yes we all know Manchester United have a stronger squad on paper than Torquay United. Thanks for bringing that to our attention.

P- “Park the Bus” – One of Jose Mourinho’s favourites after a Spurs side went all defensive at Stamford Bridge. The commentator recognises the negative attitude (usually from the away side) and out comes the big double decker of a cliché.

Q- “Can’t Question his Commitment” – Means said player is terrible and the only thing he can do is run around like a headless chicken.

R- “Rub of the Green” – Having watched one team miss two open nets, have three penalty appeals turned down and see a goal chalked off for offside, the commentator usually ruefully decides the other team had all the luck.

S- “Six Pointer” – Big clashes between teams (usually at the bottom of the division) are referred to as six pointers. Which is rather ‘pointless’ as they still only carry the standard three.

T- “Too Good to go Down” – The pundits always know best. They always predict whose squad isn’t good enough to keep them in the division and who’s got the quality to stay in the league. Errmm, think again. Ask Leeds fans in 2004,Newcastle fans in 2009 or West Ham fans last year if they were “too good to go down.” Didn’t think so…

U- “Unbelievable Jeff!” – Enough said.

V- “Virtually Unmarked” – I wouldn’t say he was virtually unmarked. More like literally unmarked. Hence why he scored.

W- “Worked his Socks off” – Always used to describe a player with an exceptional work rate. Every time Park Ji Sung plays for Manchester United or Dirk Kuyt turns out for Liverpool, you can guarantee hearing this phrase at least once during the game. Can’t say I’ve ever actually seen those workhorses without said sock though.

X- “X-Rated Challenge” – Alright, it was a fairly bad two footed tackle. But that’s what the fans come for right?

Y- “Yard of Pace” – When a player gets old, according to our friends with the microphones, they always lose that yard of pace. I’d still back any said player in a foot race against Per Mertesacker though.

Z- “Row Z” – The words a commentator reserves specifically for Emile Heskey. Even though most grounds don’t have a Row Z.

Tom Mordey @The_CoinToss

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Rejoice. Capello is gone

Rejoice. Capello is gone. Instead of some stubborn, sour-faced Italian sitting in the dugout who only knew the swearwords from the entire English dictionary, we can now have a smooth talking, charming Englishman providing a bit of gentlemanly conduct on the touchline. Oh wait. It’s gonna be ‘Arry. The happy-go-lucky, wheeler-dealer Cockney (on second thoughts, don’t call him that). Redknapp is the obvious choice to step into the hot seat, the players want him, the fans want him and clearly the FA want him (how else did he get off the court charges…Only joking). But is Harry the right man for the task?

The next manager has to be English, that has already been decided by everyone involved in football and the FA have admitted they will appoint an English successor to Capello. It has to be said that not many candidates stand out when considering the English category, but the one that does, fortunately wants the job. Redknapp is ‘flattered’ to be considered for the position and believes it is the ‘ultimate job for an Englishman.’ Although I’m not sure I agree with him on the last point, indeed the England role seems to be a poisoned chalice, it is good to see someone in charge showing a bit of passion and hopefully this will translate to the players.

Redknapp made a decent start to life as a manager during his first role at Bournemouth, where his team won promotion from the third division, not to mention famously beating Manchester United in a FA Cup clash. In 1994, he took the West Ham job and established the Hammers as a consistent force in the Premier League, eventually leading them into Europe, finishing fifth in the division. His departure took many by surprise, though his time in charge at Upton Park will be fondly remembered for helping develop the careers of so many talented young English players. Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick to name but a few, all got their breaks under Redknapp and have all become seasoned internationals since. He took charge at Portsmouth soon after and got them into the Premiership, not to mention keeping them up the year after in 2004. However, clashes with Chairman Milan Mandaric led to his resignation and he joined bitter rivals Southampton. He couldn’t save the club from relegation though and resigned in 2005 when the Saints couldn’t find the form needed for promotion.

A return to Portsmouth though saw Harry enjoy some of the best years of his career, getting the side into the top half of the Premier League, not to mention winning the only major trophy of Redknapp’s career so far, the FA Cup in 2008 after a 1-0 win over Cardiff at Wembley. Harry assembled a cracking squad at Portsmouth, attracting the likes of Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch and Lassana Diarra to the South Coast, something the fans could only previously dream of. With Portsmouth in dire financial straits though, Redknapp decided to take Juande Ramos’s job at Tottenham and was appointed manager in October 2008 with Spurs bottom of the league. Harry did a remarkable job in that first season, reaching the League Cup final and eventually finishing in a respectable eighth position. The 2009/10 season represented Redknapp’s best season in management, finishing fourth in the table to qualify for the Champions League, an achievement that won him Premier League manager of the season. He continued the good work the following year, as Spurs reached the quarter finals of the competition, producing some outrageously good performances on the way, with wins over both Inter and AC Milan. His side are still in Premier League contention this year, and lie third in the table.

It is clear that Redknapp has enjoyed a decent career at the top level. He has achieved moderate success, but the one real positive of having Harry in charge is the rapport he strikes up with players. White Hart Lane is currently full of some rather inflated egos, yet the boss seems to have gelled them together. Rafael Van Der Vaart had a reputation as a difficult player before his move to London, but he has turned out to be an inspired signing, while Emmanuel Adebayor is not exactly wonderful for dressing room morale. Harry even coped with Luka Modric’s attempts to manufacture a move away in the summer and it is to his credit that he has such the side playing so well. This is important for England, whose current squad has a few stars with what we will call ‘egotistical problems.’ A manager needs to have the respect of his players and Redknapp will be a happy medium to the strict disciplinarian approach of Capello or the ‘I get rugby tackled in training by my players’ role of Steve McLaren. His sarcastic nature and decent sense of humour will stand him in good stead when dealing with press conferences, indeed managing the journalists is one task any England manager always struggles with, Capello in particular, and Redknapp’s already-good relationship with the media sharks is important. Harry has been around the block a long time, he knows the English game and more importantly, the English players and therefore his credentials seem to match up to what is required.

A few questions still linger though. Redknapp is 64; he’s not exactly the new kid on the block. He has a history of heart problems and recently underwent surgery to try and resolve this. The pressures of taking the England job could be problematic from this point of view, but one hopes this is not the case. You also have to wonder why Redknapp hasn’t been considered before. He’s been at the top of the game for the best part of 30 years and England have had a few managers in their time. With Redknapp available, why did England appoint foreigners twice, and why, oh, why was Steve McLaren considered ahead of Harry in 2006. Well, Redknapp isn’t always the most savoury of characters, as the recent court case proves. He has been accused several times before of wrongdoing and this has kept the FA at bay before. He has also never really managed at the very top of the game. Tottenham are Redknapp’s biggest club and he turned them into title contenders. Last year was the first time he has managed in the Champions League and that lack of big game experience could mean Redknapp struggles with the demands of international football.

These questions have to put to one side though, Redknapp is clearly the best candidate and in terms of getting the best out of his players, he leads the rest of the pack by a country mile. The only sticking point to his appointment is Tottenham, will they let him go before the EUROS? Redknapp himself is keen to finish the job he has started there. A job share is the only possible solution and needs to be sorted soon so Old ‘Arry can get the Three Lions roaring again.

Tom Mordey @The_CoinToss

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