Category Archives: The Panenka

Whatever happened to James Beattie? (Video)

The last the football world heard of James Beattie, he was available on a free transfer after being released by Sheffield United following a second spell at Bramall Lane that failed to yield any goals. Beattie’s goalless 2011-12 season added to a similarly miserly previous season with Rangers and Blackpool, meaning that the last time the now 34-year-old found the net was on the 31st of October 2009 for Stoke City in a 2-2 home draw with Wolves.

Many point to Beattie’s confrontation with Stoke manager Tony Pulis in December 2009 as the beginning of his downward spiral into football anonymity. After the Welshman deemed his players’ performance in a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal to be worthy of the punishment of extra training the following day, Beattie, having organised a team Christmas party in London that night, took offence to Pulis’ decision and the heated confrontation that following effectively ended his career at the Britannia.

In hindsight, Beattie may think that at the age of 31 and with time clearly running down on his career at the top level, he may have been better placed simply saying nothing despite whatever indignation he may have felt. Indeed, it was a sad way for Beattie’s relationship with Stoke to come to an end, particularly after his seven league goals from only 16 appearances after arriving in January the previous season had saved the club from relegation.

However, it is fair to say that Beattie enjoyed a highly productive career. Indeed, his five England caps that he received in 2003 were testimony to his performances at the time for Southampton, which as the video below shows, were simply outstanding at the time. Beattie’s ability to not only score tap ins but spectacular efforts seemed to mark him out as England’s ready-made replacement for Alan Shearer. However, his performances for his country were often timid and his international career, much like his club one, slowly petered out.

However, Beattie will almost certainly look back on his life at the top with much pride and particularly the 2002-03 season, where he came third in the Premier League top scorers charts with 23 goals, beaten only by Thierry Henry and Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

Adam Mazrani

Luis Boa Morte – a Fulham legend (Video)

The news that Luis Boa Morte had agreed a short term deal at League Two side Chesterfield was not simply it was a shock because it reminded everyone that Boa Morte was indeed still playing, but simply because of the level that one time Portugal international had dropped down to.

By his latter days at West Ham, Boa Morte had become somewhat of a laughing stock. One of Alan Curbishley’s first big signings in the free-spending days under Eggert Magnusson at Upton Park, the £5 million transfer fee seemed a huge rung around the player’s neck and he would probably be the first to admit that he hardly set the world alight in a West Ham shirt and by the time of his release at the end of the 2010-11 season that ended in relegation for the East London club, West Ham fans were more happy than disappointed at his departure.

The problem was that Boa Morte had made the move to Upton Park at just the wrong time. He may have gotten himself a fantastic deal, but at the age of 29 and after 10 years in the game at Arsenal and then as a definite starter at Fulham, Boa Morte was just past his best by the time he arrived at West Ham.

It’s easy to forget however that at Fulham, Boa Morte was a real fans’ favourite and his departure was heavily mourned at the time by the Craven Cottage faithful. In six and a half seasons in West London, Boa Morte led Fulham out of what was then known as Division One and then entrenched them in the top half of the Premier League.

It wasn’t just the 54 goals he scored, goals that brought him 27 caps for his country and a place in the 2006 World Cup squad, where Portugal finished in fourth place. Boa Morte epitomised everything that was good about Fulham at the time – not the greatest of players perhaps, but one that maximised every last drop of ability he had and boy, did he have some fine results.

Adam Mazrani

The Top 10 England goalscorers

With England preparing to take on San Marino as they continue their road to Brazil 2014, Roy Hodgson’s strikers will be licking their lips at the prospect of adding to their tallies against according to the Fifa World Rankings, the worst team in the world.

So with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe and Danny Welbeck sure to have ample goalscoring opportunities, we look back at the Top 10 England scorers.

10.) Steve Bloomer – 28 goals

Scorer of 28 goals in 23 appearances between 1895 and 1907, goals which made England winners of the British Home Nations Championship eight times. At club level, is revered at Derby County for two goal-laden spells that saw him net 332 times for the club, a remarkable figure that remains standing to this day.

9.) Wayne Rooney – 29 goals

The Manchester United forward is odds on to rise in this list after Friday’s clash with San Marino but many will still be surprised to see Rooney so high up in this list. Public perception of Rooney in an England shirt is either the half-fit striker who got himself sent off in the 2006 World Cup quarter finals, or the anaemic performances in South Africa 2010 or the listless performances in the recent Euro 2012. Indeed, since he exploded onto the scene at Euro 2004, Rooney has only scored one more goal in a major tournament.

However, when Rooney has found form for England the goals have come in quick succession, particularly in a spell under Fabio Capello in 2008-09. With 76 caps already under his belt at the age of only 26, Rooney could be the man to break not only Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record, but Peter Shilton’s appearance record.

8.) Vivian Woodward – 29 goals

Played in a similar era to Bloomer and his goals not only contributed to Home Nations Championship triumphs but also, victories in the 1908 and 1912 Olympic Games, in which the Tottenham and Chelsea striker captained the Great Britain side. The outbreak of World War One in 1914 ended Woodward’s professional career and after being wounded in battle, had to give up the game altogether.

7.) Alan Shearer – 30 goals

The classic English goalscorer from the 90s, Alan Shearer was for a period, after Romario and before Ronaldo, the most feared striker on the planet. His goalscoring exploits with club sides Blackburn and Newcastle are legendary, where he spectacularly brought the Premier League title to Ewood Park before going onto become Newcastle’s record goalscorer. Regularly delivered at major tournaments for England, top-scoring on home soil at Euro 96 where he almost led England to the final before captaining at both France 98 and Euro 2000, scoring twice in each. Arguably retired from international football far too early.

6.) Nat Lofthouse – 30 goals

One of the finest one-club men in British football history, Lofthouse only passed away as recently as January 2011, leaving behind a quite wonderful strike rate, not just for Bolton Wanderers who he led to an FA Cup triumph in 1958, but also for England where he netted 30 from just 33 appearances.

5.) Tom Finney – 30 goals

Another one club man, this time with Preston North End and had a more conventional strike rate for his country, with his 30 goals coming from 76 appearances. Finney currently lives on and those old enough to have seen him in his prime for North End continue to tell stories of the little man’s striking prowess.

4.) Michael Owen – 40 goals

At one point, Owen looked absolutely certain to become England’s record goalscorer and indeed extend the record to a near unassailable level such was his prowess. After taking the world by storm at France 98 when he ran away from Argentina in such breathtaking fashion, Owen established himself as a regular starter and scorer for Glenn Hoddle, Kevin Keegan and most notably, Sven Goran-Eriksson, where the ex-Liverpool man famously hit a hat-trick in England’s 5-1 win over Germany in Munich.

However, a cruciate ligament injury suffered in the 2006 World Cup effectively ended Owen’s England career and once Fabio Capello arrived to take charge in 2008, Owen’s international career was suddenly over. A move to Manchester United failed to reignite his England career and in truth, the chance for him to break Bobby Charlton’s record, one that seemed such an open goal just a few years ago, now appears to have been spurned.

3.) Jimmy Greaves – 44 goals

Simply put, one of the greatest strikers in English football history. Greaves enjoyed goal-laden spells at both Chelsea and Tottenham, with a short but prolific spell in Italy with AC Milan sandwiched in-between. Indeed, the now 72-year-old is still adored at White Hart Lane, where he remains Spurs’ record goalscorer.

His strike rate at international level was similarly superb, with 44 goals coming from 57 appearances but will always be remembered as the forgotten man of England’s World Cup triumph in 1996. Greaves had began the tournament as Alf Ramsey’s first-choice striker but after suffering a shin injury, was replaced by eventual hat-trick scorer in the final Geoff Hurst, even though Greaves had by then returned to fitness. The World Cup final omission remains arguably the most disappointing moment of Greaves’ career.

2.) Gary Lineker – 48 goals

Yet another who looked destined to become England’s record goalscorer and winning the Golden Boot by scoring six times in the 1986 World Cup, Lineker cemented himself as one of the best marksmen in Europe, a tag that earned him a move to Barcelona.

Thus, by the time of Lineker’s last tournament as an England player at Euro 1992 had come around, the stage was set for him to overtake Charlton’s record. However, he remarkably botched a pre-tournament friendly against Brazil that would have drawn him level with the record after a Panenka-styled chip failed to deceive the keeper before going goalless in England’s three group games of a miserable campaign.

The die was cast when manager Graham Taylor substituted Lineker in the final match vs Sweden as he searched for a winner that would take England through to the next round. That winner never came and Lineker retired after the tournament agonisingly one goal short.

1.) Sir Bobby Charlton – 49 goals

Considered not just one of England’s greatest ever players but one of the world’s best ever. A man who led his country to World Cup victory on home soil in 1966, the same  year he collected the European Footballer of the Year award and a full eight years after Charlton survived the tragedy of the Munich Air disaster when the majority of his Manchester United team mates perished in a plane crash. A man who remains United’s highest ever goalscorer with 249 strikes, as well as his country’s with 49 from 106 appearances.

There simply are not enough words to do justice to Sir Bobby Charlton and it is fitting that the honour of being England’s record goalscorer has remained his to this day.

Adam Mazrani

Can Michael Carrick be an option for England in central-defence? (Video)

When it was first mooted by Roy Hodgson it was at first more or less ignored and those who heard it, will not have had the most welcoming of receptions to the idea. However, if you look beyond the face-value, could Michael Carrick actually be a realistic option in central-defence as England adapts to life after John Terry?

Firstly, let us discount Carrick’s displays in the position for Manchester United. While not the complete disaster that has been reported, Carrick did at times struggle, particularly against the aerial might of Everton’s Marouane Fellaini for example earlier this season.

However, without delving into cliche, the style of defending needed in the Premier League is vastly different to that at international level. Yes of course, a Fellaini still exists on the international stage but the way he is used by Belgium contrasts with the way Everton, as attractive as they have been this season, use his presence. Similarly, an Andy Carroll in theory is not quite as commanding for England as he is at a Sam Allardyce-managed West Ham.

So thus, the first charge levelled against Carrick, that of his physical or aerial deficiencies loses relevance. Of course at times, he may struggle with the aerial ball but one would hope Hodgson would pair Carrick with an aerial presence, such as a Phil Jagielka or Gary Cahill.

Additionally, how many times do we sit down to watch England games only to see opponents simply sit deep, allowing their defence to have the ball, where their passing ability and use of the ball simply fails to penetrate the mass ranks ahead of them. What follows is then usually in England’s case, the lump forward to the frontman.

That was particularly the problem in Euro 2012 when Hodgson’s men were defeated by Italy. The Italians sensed the England backline’s inadequacies on the ball and thus John Terry and Joleon Lescott were often allowed time and space, only for them to struggle and look long, gifting possession away time and time again.

With Carrick at the back, England would have a player able to bring the ball out, pass it progressively with pace and purpose and importantly, will rarely look long if the opportune ball does not present itself. Although the 31-year-old has been much maligned at times in his career, no one has ever doubted Carrick’s composure on the ball and ability to retain possession. With England this ability could prove invaluable.

Indeed, it has been a tactic employed most notably by Germany in the past when their midfield lacked “technical” expertise, with Lothar Matthaus, Franz Beckbenbauer and Matthias Sammer all passing midfielders who dictated matches from the back.

Clearly, employing Carrick in defence is hardly going to make England favourites to win the World Cup but on the international stage, particularly in matches where England are overwhelming favourites to win, his abilities could well provide a superb option from a slightly deeper role.

Adam Mazrani

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One for the future – Nathan Redmond? (Video)

The desperate form of Birmingham City in the Championship so far this season under Lee Clark has perhaps ensured that one of the brightest young talents in England has slipped under the radar somewhat. While everyone is raving about the undoubted potential of Wilfred Zaha at Crystal Palace, Nathan Redmond continues to be one of the few bright sparks in what is shaping to be a dismal season at St Andrews.

As shown in the video below, Redmond is a true orthodox winger. He can receive the ball on either wing and his first thought is taking players on and getting past them, whether it be through his blistering pace or through the tricks and flicks the 18-year-old also has in his armoury.

The England Under-19 international only made his league debut for the club last season where he shone with 5 goals in 24 appearances as the Blues were defeated by Blackpool in the Championship play-offs. Redmond also shone on the European stage, scoring one of the club’s goals of the season in their Europa League tie with Portuguese side Nacional.

Following last season’s play-off disappointment and the department of Chris Hughton to Norwich, this campaign is proving to be a difficult one in the Midlands. New manager Lee Clark has seen his ageing squad stripped of its assets while being restricted financially in his attempts to pursue replacements.

However, Redmond, though goalless so far has at least offered Blues fans some imagination when he gets the ball at his feet. Indeed, in their last outing, a demoralising defeat at home to Huddersfield, Redmond looked the one player capable of rescuing a point for the home side and went close to doing so on several occasions.

As with all young English players who shine at this level, Redmond’s future is hardly dependent on his club’s fortunes. As long as his performances continue to shine then the big clubs will come calling and already at times last season, moves to Manchester City were mooted. At this early stage in his career, a big move would be disastrous. Redmond is in the perfect place to continue his development and judging by what we have seen so far, it could be a quite sensational one.

Adam Mazrani

For more Football Blogs and opinion from football fans around the world

It’s time for Christian Eriksen to produce on the big stage (Video)

Christian Eriksen is undoubtedly a fantastic talent. You would not be scoring eight goals and producing 21 assists in a title-winning side, even in the Dutch league, without being a superb technician. Indeed, his form, which is shown in the video below, has rightly captured the attention of Europe’s biggest clubs, most notably it seems Manchester United in their search for a creative midfield spark that isn’t Paul Scholes.

So why is Eriksen still at Ajax? At the age of 20 and with only two seasons of football, albeit superb ones, under his belt, one could say he is perhaps making the right decision staying at in Holland. However, is it actually that for all his ability, Eriksen has yet to shine on the biggest stage for club or country.

It seems harsh to criticise an 18 year old for not performing in a World Cup for a struggling side but the hype around Eriksen was such that exhilarating performances were expected from him. Additionally, let us not forget that being 18 did not stop the likes of Pele, Ronaldo or even Michael Owen from performing to their potential on the world stage. However, Eriksen, much like his team were slow, cumbersome and at times dull.

Give him the benefit of the doubt we were told, he’d only made his Denmark debut in February that year. Fast forward two years however and after his stunning season at club level, Eriksen was expected to be one of the stars of Euro 2012 but despite his Denmark side impressing overall, Eriksen once again was rather quiet and timid by his standards. The accusation was suddenly there: was the big occasion simply too much for Eriksen, who visibly appeared to shrink in that Denmark shirt. And so, rather than plying his trade at Old Trafford or the Etihad this season, Eriksen remained at the Amsterdam Arena.

However, his side’s Champions League draw has certainly offered the young Dane an opportunity to slam the critics away and position himself in the range of the European superpowers as Ajax face up to Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City. Ajax’s opening defeat at Dortmund may have been a spirited one but yet again, Eriksen toiled somewhat. Graceful and tidy he may have been, but where was the drive, the flash of inspiration? Amidst the constant pressure of the Dortmund midfield, Eriksen remained rather peripheral and in truth, lightweight.

However, tonight he has the opportunity to rectify that. Ajax face Real Madrid at the Amsterdam Arena. Eriksen will be the fulcrum of the Dutch side and will be given both space and time against a Madrid team that has struggled at times this season. This is Eriksen’s big chance to show the world that he can produce on the big stage and potentially, earn himself the move away that his talent deserves.

Adam Mazrani

Who are Chelsea’s brightest hopes coming through their youth system?

It’s fair to say that Chelsea’s youth system has taken a bit of a battering in recent years. After the likes of Gael Kakuta, Jeffrey Bruma and Josh McEachran failed to make an impression under Carlo Ancelotti when the Italian was ordered by Roman Abramovich to blood youth at the expense of the old guard, new boss Roberto Di Matteo appears to have finally embarked on his owner’s younger total football vision but importantly, has been backed with the cheque book that Ancelotti wasn’t. Thus, the likes of Oscar, Eden Hazard, Cesar Azpilicueta, Kevin De Bruyne, Thorgen Hazard, Thibault Courtois and Victor Moses have all been purchased from abroad and importantly, are all under the age of 23, sounding a possible death knell to any young academy prospects at the club.

Undoubtedly, it will be difficult for any young player coming through at Chelsea but if one is going to make it, just who will it be?

NATHAN AKE – A Dutch central defender cum midfielder who is said to be very highly rated at the club. Moved him up from the academy to reserve level last season despite only being 17. Ake appears to have a bright future at international level with his presence in a Holland side who competed in both the Under-17 World and European Championships and with John Terry’s career winding down, could be given an opportunity to stake his claim in the coming years.

GEORGE SAVILLE – An older member of the youth group at 19 years of age and appears to be at the point where he must turn his successful youth career, that included Youth Cup and Reserve League victories into senior success in either a left-back and central-defensive role in the Terry mould. Vitally, Saville travelled with Roberto Di Matteo’s first team squad for their pre-season tour of the USA and looks to very much be in the Italian’s plans for the future.

NATHANIEL CHALOBAH – Possibly the most gifted of Chelsea’s home-grown academy prospects and the most likely to make the break through. Has been compared to Rio Ferdinand in the past and regularly captained both Chelsea reserve and youth teams despite his tender years. The Chelsea website reports that Chalobah made his debut for the England U-17 team at just 14 years of age and is now captaining the U-19 team. Originally born in Sierra Leone, Chalobah was also one of the travelling party to Munich for Chelsea’s historic Champions League victory. The fact that he has gone on loan to Watford for the season is perhaps testament of the big things that are expected from Chalobah when he returns next summer.

LUCAS PIAZON – It’s questionable whether we should really count Piazon into this discussion. Although technically an academy player at the age of just 18, Piazon arrived in January 2012 for a fee that reportedly could reach up to £10 million. However, Piazon remains the only academy talent to make an appearance in the first team this season having started the Blues’ 6-0 League Cup victory over Wolves in September. After arriving last season, the Brazilian immediately made an impression in the club’s youth and reserve sides with a clutch of goals and some eye-catching displays while he has also starred for his country at various youth levels. Appears to be the one certainty to make the progression into senior action.

ADAM PHILLIP – Time is certainly running out for the man from Carshalton, Surrey. Born in 1991, Phillip is one of the older players in Chelsea’s academy and has suffered two cruciate ligament injuries in the past couple of seasons that has undoubtedly stunted his progress. However, the young striker is fit again and has already shown in Under-21 games this season that he retains the pace and eye for goal that originally excited the Chelsea staff. With only Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge to choose from in the forward positions, Phillip might well find himself being called upon as the season goes on.

VERDICT: In truth, Chelsea’s ability and understandable desire to use the transfer market makes it difficult to predict if any of the mentioned above will make the grade. Phillip for example may have his eye on a first-team spot now but who’s to say that Di Matteo will not go out and purchase Radamel Falcao in the January transfer window, thus rendering Phillip negated. John Terry may be slowing down but who’s to say that Abramovich will not go out and spend big money on another centre-back, rather than give an opportunity to Ake and Chalobah?

Piazon looks certain to be given a chance but of course he is one of those big money purchases. Chelsea also have the likes of Thorgen Hazard and De Bruyne coming back from loan spells at the end of this season, so where does that leave even the likes of Josh McEachran, who was being dubbed the answer to both Chelsea’s and England’s midfield problems not so long ago but is now on loan at Middlesbrough? Therein lies the crux of the difficulties Chelsea’s academy prospects face when trying to forge a career at Stamford Bridge.

Adam Mazrani

Robin Van Persie is the signing of the season (Video)

How stupid must everyone who doubted Robin Van Persie’s ability to make his move to Manchester United a success must look now. Yes, the Dutchman may be 29, yes he may have only truly delivered for one full season for Arsenal and yes he may have had his injury problems in the past, but seven goals in his first eight appearances for the Red Devils tells its own story.

Put simply, Van Persie has been simply sensational and has already carried his team to  six points in the league against Southampton and Liverpool as well as last night’s crucial victory in the Champions League away at Cluj. The video below demonstrates Van Persie’s supreme goalscoring ability in all its glory.

The first goal may be seen to be lucky with the goes in off his shoulder rather than his head, but great strikers will make their own luck. The second goal is classic Van Persie. Latching onto an admittedly glorious inswinging pass from Wayne Rooney, the Dutchman anticipates the onrushing goalkeeper and scores the only way he possibly could from that position, showing a deftness of touch that we have come to associate from the Dutchman that caresses the ball into the corner of the net to give United the points from a game that they were previously struggling with.

It might seem incredulous to say so but scarily for the rest of the league and Europe, United still have not quite understood Van Persie. His goalscoring has been sublime but as he has often said, there is more to his game than simply goalscoring. United fans have not yet seen the creative side of their number 20’s game, the ability to almost control a match from his deep-lying centre forward position. Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams have often play in a style that supplies their forwards from wider areas and while Van Persie may be able to plunder numerous goals from such tactics, it is the style that United showed against Cluj that brings out the best in him – that of the narrow midfield that prioritises passing and the keeping of possession a’la Arsenal.

However, at the moment, there is simply no stopping Van Persie and if his partnership with Rooney begins to click consistently, then who knows what United could do this season, defensive problems or not.

Adam Mazrani