Author Archives: onestepovertoomany

About onestepovertoomany

Currently write for www.footballpubcast.co.uk about Football in general, and for www.redflagflyinghigh.com about Manchester United. Whilst I'm a United supporter I try and keep my blogs as impartial as possible and I hope that most people who know me on Twitter would testify to that (you can follow me @elhaydo). Have been playing and loving football for about 20 years now, haven't ever been very good. Have been compared to Darren Fletcher and Park Ji Sung in terms of lack of ability but plenty of effort. Also enjoy plenty of other sports as well as talking about the usual things that make people tick, food, drink, films, music and the one thing we will never truly understand - the fairer sex.

Paul Ince in a tale of the Pot calling the Kettle “Shit”

“Hiding your inadequacy behind a genuine problem just undermines the genuine problem.” – Hayden Shaw 25/09/2011

Today on Goals on Sunday the guests were Sol Campbell and Paul Ince, and whilst Sol clearly had a bet with mates about how much of the Hokey Cokey he could get into the show, “That’s what it’s all about” his only audible contribution, it was left to Paul Ince to take a just cause and thoroughly undermine it by applying it his own circumstances.

Racism is wrong. No questions asked. There is no room for discriminating against somebody because of the colour of their skin in this country, or any other country. Likewise there is no place for discrimination in Football. Equality is one of the most important concepts imaginable.

However, whilst everyone should be born equal, we all have different talents. In Paul Ince’s case he was a brilliant blood and thunder midfielder at his peak. He made a fine playing career out of this. He was more talented than a huge number of players both black and white and as a result of this he made it in the game, he was the first Black player to captain England, amongst other accolades and I genuinely can’t think of any playing opportunities that he missed out on as a result of his skin colour. Whilst he was a fan favourite because of his combative style he was hardly robbed of a Ballon d’Or because Gabriel Hanot is a closet Republican with a sofa on his front lawn and a deep routed attraction to his cousin.

I haven’t ever been the victim of racism, and so I cannot comment on how it feels, and I’m sure Ince will be able to point to examples of racist abuse received at grounds during his career, something that has thankfully been stamped out in this country and should be dealt with far more harshly in others in my opinion. Yes YOU Spain, Italy and Russia.

But the fact that Ince is aware of it, and must know how awful a thing it is makes it all the more unfathomable that he can so shamelessly play the race card to give reasons for himself and of all fucking people JOHN BARNES not having top jobs in football management. Paul Ince and John Barnes not having great managerial careers because of racism is like me not having a MOBO award because I’m white. I don’t have a MOBO award because I can’t sing, can only clap along to really, really simple tunes and don’t play any instruments.

Because of how sensitive a subject racism is, it feels like very dodgy ground to even be going here, but I feel genuinely angry that Paul Ince is undermining a genuine issue, because he is. The fact that we are able to say “no mate, you haven’t got a job because you’re shit, that’s not racism” means that we are already subconsciously dismissing the possibility that there is racism at the route of less opportunities for managers. Surely a coach or a player who has felt unable to progress would be a better man to speak up against this issue? Considering the anti-racism sentiment in this country and the fact that every media source and outlet would gladly cover any interview providing even a snippet of controversy and righteous indignation, it doesn’t need to be somebody as recognisable as Ince to carry the story forward, it would be picked up and the media would milk it for everything that they could.

This is a link to a piece by A.D. Winn or @adwinn if you’re on twitter http://thelump.net/2008/12/21/tu04/ and it was written at the time of Paul Ince’s sacking from Blackburn. It’s worth a read and covers his career up until that point; I’m going to poach a couple of snippets from it just to give you an idea about the opportunities that Ince has received…

“Ince’s managerial career only started in late October 2006, as he took over a Macclesfield side bereft of ideas, luck, hope, and more importantly, points. After ensuring their league safety the following May, he left, and joined MK Dons a month later, guiding them to a promotion, a League title and League Trophy in his first season. As his 1 year anniversary approached, he left to take over the vacancy at Blackburn, despite many thinking he just wasn’t ready.”

Paul Ince stopped playing professional football in 2006, completed his coaching badges with Swindon and immediately walked into a job with Macclesfield. He did pretty well; he kept them up, which was the job description at the time. He then had a good first full season with MK Dons and won himself a trophy, at this point Ince didn’t feel it necessary to continue with further coaching qualifications, UEFA Pro Licences etc. Then he went straight into a job in the Premier League.

With ONE season of experience Paul Ince became a Premier League manager. There are managers who have been operating in the lower leagues for more than a decade without getting that opportunity. Now it’s possible that Blackburn Rovers did a telephone interview with Paul Ince and employed him without actually realising he was black, in much the same was as Jack Leslie was called up to the England squad in the 1920’s (Leslie had been informed by his manager Bob Jack that he had been selected to play for England.  He later received communication cancelling his call up to the England team stating that they didn’t realise he was ‘a man of colour’.) and then realising their error decided to force him out of the club. However I doubt that’s what happened. In fact I’m more inclined to believe that despite giving Ince £10m to spend when finances were far from free flowing, Blackburn gave him every chance to try and make a success of himself, after all his success would be their success, but after 3 wins in 17 games had very little choice but to break things off with Ince and do what they should have done in the first place and appoint a manager with some experience.

Ince returned to MK Dons, left with a less than awful 23 wins from 56 games, and then went to Notts County where he lost 9 games in a row and left by a very generous mutual consent (I’d have sacked him myself).

So, for me, race has absolutely nothing to do with Paul Ince’s failings. But to further the point, why not have a very, very brief look at the other manager that he chose to mention – JOHN FUCKING BARNES! To summarise he utterly fucked up the Celtic job (getting one of the top two jobs in an entire country when you’ve got no experience is pretty generous on the part of Celtic’s board), helping the Sun’s headline writers to their finest hour with “Super Caley go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious”, and then made a total fist of the Tranmere job – winning 2 out of 11 league games.

Racism still exists in the World, of that there can be no denial, but it hasn’t prevented Paul Ince from being a good manager, and unless he realises that very soon, faces up to his own shortcomings and starts doing something about them, he’s never going to be a good manager. The more he blames other people, the more bitter he’s going to become, with the irony being that plenty of people have already given Ince chances to win them over, and he has, over the course of his managerial career failed to do that. Ince could be a fantastic ambassador for the Kick Racism Out of Football campaign, he really could, just as Christiano Ronaldo could use his fame and his standing in the game to combat Worldwide poverty and slavery, but to apply these problems to themselves simply belittles the issues and makes them both look rather silly.


“I’ve worn that one before” – Mancini, midfielders and dresses

I’ve just got back from holiday, it was lovely – thanks for asking, but before I went, my girlfriend and I had to go shopping to get some more dresses for her to wear whilst we were there. The reason being that she didn’t have any. I didn’t really understand that because since we’ve been courting (If anyone has a problem with me speaking like it’s the 19th century then I shall duel them at sunrise) we have been out to dinner on numerous occasions and I had always seen her in a different dress. My initial concern was that there had been a robbery at her house and she hadn’t mentioned it to me because she knows I’ve watched too many action films involving Steven Seagal and vigilante action and that I’m of the belief that if a fat old man can take down a crime syndicate/corrupt faction of the CIA then I could probably annihilate a burglar. She told me that this wasn’t the case. “Have you given all your old dresses to charity?” was my next question – my girlfriend is an incredibly loving, generous and charitable person (“she’s going out with you” – I hear you cry) so it wouldn’t have surprised me if she had given away her clothes to those more needy. Again, this wasn’t the case. Apparently dresses become obsolete once they have been worn once. Now all of this convoluted nonsense about dresses does actually lead on to a football related point….

Roberto Mancini, manager of a club that has spent in excess of £300m on players in 3 years doesn’t think that he has enough midfielders after injuries to Nigel De Jong and James Milner.

Ignoring for a moment the fact that one of the players that Mancini is having to do without is a talent vacuum and the other is a thug who is only 10% pass completion better than employing one of Abramovic’s bodyguards to assault people it still sounds absolutely pathetic when you consider the resources available to Mancini. Against Fulham City went with a 4-4-2 featuring a midfield of David Silva, Samir Nasri, Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure. Vincent Kompany was also on the pitch and has previously had a decent stint as a defensive midfielder. Pablo Zabaletta was on the bench along with Adam Johnson who could quite easily have started on the wing allowing Mancini to field either Nasri or Silva more centrally, or giving him the option to bring them from the bench if he was concerned about resting either of them.

Football very rarely these days seems to have any sense of perspective or, in some cases of irony. Jose Mourinho complaining about Levante’s ability to utilize the dark arts would be satirical brilliance that Chris Norris could only dream of, if he hadn’t actually meant it. Occasionally you do get exceptions to this, with Tony Pulis giving a quite magnificent response when questioned whether the traveling had affected his team – if you haven’t seen it yet then I suggest you get onto youtube. With a sport so wonderfully up it’s own arse as football, where Christiano Ronaldo can compare his multi-million £ a year deal at Manchester United (where he won stuff) as modern day slavery, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that people are spouting ridiculous tripe.

However just because it’s unsurprising doesn’t mean it shouldn’t get knocked for six. Fulham manager Martin Jol is currently overseeing a team that started it’s season sometime in the late 1990′s and if Danny Murphy gets injured then he may have to play Hugh Grant as his deep lying playmaker, although he may get booked for bad acting if the referee spots it, however do you hear him bitching that he doesn’t have enough players? NO! Because he’s high as a kite and has probably just ordered six gangland executions, but that’s not the point. The point is that Mancini decided to take off by far his best player whilst 2-1 up in a game that they had been leading 2-0. It then went tits up because Fulham had some belief, had a go and because City bottled it.

To even hint that lack of resources had a modicum of influence on the result was rather pathetic, because just as my girlfriend has plenty of dresses, City have plenty of players. Of course they may not like the dresses that they have, they may think that they’ve over paid on a couple of English dresses when they could have gotten beautiful, silky, designer dresses from abroad for the same price, maybe even cheaper, they may even think a couple of them make them look fat – but that is another matter.

Of course Mancini isn’t the only one to use misdirection and hints of something else to hide his team’s shortcomings, Sir Alex does it all the time and this weekend King Kenny managed to completely avoid discussing the clusterfuck that was his tactical reaction to the sending off of Charlie Adam. When you go down to 10 men against a team that can move the ball the way Spurs do on a good day, and they were having a very good day, then sticking Andy Carroll on the left wing is a bit like playing Karl Henry as a False 9. Add that to the fact that Skrtel was offered no protection against a rampaging Gareth Bale, who is neither awful or the best player in the World, the polar opposites that most people would have you believe him to be. Would a quick substitution along the lines of Carroll for Kuyt and a little reshuffle of Kuyt right, Downing left and Suarez up top with Henderson and Lucas in midfield have won Liverpool the game, or even salvaged a point? Who knows, Liverpool were second best even with XI men but my God it couldn’t have been worse than the performance that they got out of the changes implemented. You’d hope Kenny will be wise enough to attribute a share of the blame to himself and learn from it, because whilst his players were poor, I’d say he was easily as culpable on this occasion. That’s not to say that he’s a bad manager and improvement has clearly been made, but as with Mancini, it would be nice to see managers hold their hands up and say they’ve had an absolute shitter.

 

 


Cry like you mean it

Lately I’ve been finding that my diddumometer (patent pending, just in case you’re thinking of manufacturing one and taking it onto Dragon’s Den) has been struggling to register even a flicker of sympathy as highly paid star after highly paid star bitches and moans via his agent, his intermediary or whatever microphone is nearby, that he simply cannot continue to play at his current club and under his current conditions. There is more than a whiff of Ashley Cole swerving his ludicrously expensive car at the disgusting £55k a week treatment that he received at the hands of former club Arsenal.

Now if your twitter feed and TV look anything like mine then you’ll undoubtedly be aware that Dammit Nasri wants to win some trophies (try scoring another goal or two against Birmingham at Wembley then perhaps?), Luka Modric wants to leave the club that has nurtured what was considered too feeble a body for English football, so that he can move to a club who weren’t prepared to take a chance on him until he’d proven himself in the Champions League and their midfield was starting to age, or in the case of the unfortunate Michael Essien falling apart.

Nasri and Modric are rather different cases in some ways because Arsenal have allowed Nasri’s contract to run into its final year whereas Spurs secured a deal with Modric to keep him at the club until 2016. Now surely when he was signing this new contract he was aware that it was with Tottenham Hotspur? Surely his agent was aware that there are such things as release clauses if he was that bothered about leaving? Frankly, it’s all giving me the shits.

Well if UEFA and Michel Platini have any sense of humour then they’ll introduce a far better version of the Bosman – I like to call it the Tear Clause – whereby if a player is willing to go onto national television and cry like a little bitch then he can be sold for either the current bid on the table + 25% or some sort of multiple of the value of the remainder of the contract. This way it will encourage clubs to secure a player before their contract starts to run out and it means that if a player does decide that they want to force a transfer then the World gets to see them for the pathetic, whiney little shits that they are.

Positives of the clause:

- watching grown men cry over who gets to pay them millions of pounds a year to do something they love would be pretty funny

- It would add a new dimension to transfer reporting and also the way managers handle it…

…..allow me to set the scene…..

Samir Nasri has just been seen crying his little heart out on Sky Sports News saying “but, but, but, but, I dont want to get to 26 and not, not, not, not, win anyyyything! Somebody please just take me away from here. I want to play in Maaaaanchester”

Sky Sports would have the opportunity to make the pun “he wants to leave? He might as well TEAR up his contract”
Medicals would include complex psychological profiling.
Oh and we would have some fantastic press conferences….

Arsene Wenger: “My player was not crying to hand in a transfer request, he cares so much about Arsenal and was so passionate that he started to sweat from his eyeballs.”

Rafa Benitez: “Sir Alex bribed airline staff to play The Notebook as our in flight movie during a Champions League trip. This was a shameless attempt to unsettle our squad. Not only that but he’s even resorted to filling the entire away dressing room at Old Trafford with onions. These are facts.”

Of course the manager who tells Jack Wilshere that Father Christmas isn’t real will also face the wrath of Wenger and you can imagine Ferguson insisting that it’s not a proper transfer request unless his player cries so hard that little snot bubbles come out of their noses.

The last effect would be neither a pro or a con but you can guarantee that with this clause Serbian players would see their transfer values shoot up based on their inability to show any emotion other than anger and brutal indifference.

Anyway, it’s clearly just a silly idea that myself and @ReviewFootball idled upon but hopefully it gave one or two of you a chuckle.


Michael Owen and the Tweet of Doom

I decided that after an evening of cluttering people’s timelines (on twitter) with my pro-Owen (would prOwen have been a good play on words? I decided not to risk it) comments it was time to put them into a more structured rant. Plus it’s been far too long since I’ve made time to blog. So, here goes: I think Michael Owen not only made the right decision in taking Manchester United’s offer of a contract extension, I also think United made the right decision in offering him it.

I’ll cover the second point first because it’s my blog and I feel like it…Michael Owen has barely played this year, is getting advanced in years and is a little bit on the injury prone side. However, whilst he doesn’t have the same pace that he used to, he does still posses a fine footballing brain (if only we could give it to Bebe) and given a chance one on one with the keeper there aren’t many players I’d rather have in that position. Sir Alex has pointed out that the form of Hernandez this season has made him nearly impossible to drop whilst Rooney has been un-dropable since Ronaldo left. Next season however it would be surprising if Hernandez is able to hit quite the same highs, even though I’d love it if he could. It’ll be important to protect the young Mexican, something Ferguson is notoriously good at. Owen, if he can stay fit, could be a useful player. The other reason I think Owen will be useful for United is the experience that he can pass on to younger players in the squad. His predatory movement is sensational and although it looks like he’s out of a game for long periods, often he’s just finding that chink. Oh and if, as rumoured he’s still on a deal based largely around goal and appearance bonuses then for United they really lose very little by keeping him on.

Now, with that part covered I’d like to defend Michael Owen’s part in this decision. Owen tweeted, and I believe his wording was slightly ill advised (there have been far worse twitter slip ups), “Just to answer some of your tweets. Prefer playing less often in a top team than every game in a poor team. Been there a didn’t enjoy it”. Plenty of people have jumped in and translated that as him being either a mercenary, lacking in ambition or just plain lazy and happy to collect an easy pay day whilst showing no desire to play more for the love of the game.

So far not a single club that I’m aware of has come in and made an offer for Owen’s services despite him being available on a Bosman. But let’s just imagine for a second that a mid-table or relegation battling team came in and offered Owen a contract. He’d be expected to play far more games and for the sake of the team would need to. He would most likely get injured. Rushed back too quickly, injured again. He’d be considered a flop and fans would be on his back. That’s the most likely scenario anyway. Owen is still a class finisher but he doesn’t exactly run the line the way he used to and doesn’t bully defenders the way a centre forward is often expected to at a struggling club. When used as an impact sub for United that isn’t a problem. The service will be there for him, he’ll just be expected to stay fit and score goals.

In terms of lacking ambition, is it better for him to bugger off to a small side and make more appearances or to stay at United, try and stay clear of injury and try and earn himself another league medal, because as he freely admits he wasn’t the most deserving this time round. Surely that’s admirable? Sir Alex Ferguson had that Sweedish God Henrik at the club for the shortest of loan spells but he had a massive impact on United’s season in a very short time, clearly Owen feels he can do the same and believes in himself at this level. For me, a lack of ambition would be going to Qatar or Saudi Arabia and collecting a huge cheque, or payment in thoroughbread horses for playing 20 games a season against old pros and novice players.

As for the mercenary accusation, any player is open to that allegation because of the astronomical wages that they earn, but what I find interesting is the fact that a player dis-respecting his club and manager by complaining about rotation, moaning that they should be playing all the time, that type of player is called un-professional and rightly so. But when a player is content with their role in the team, and as @ZonalMarking put it “aware of their limitations” then they are considered to be a mercenary.

During a brief chat about this a couple of points on this were raised that it seems to be more of an issue in England where there is a stigma of giving your absolute all for the team involving playing a record number of games. Surely being there to support the team when you are needed, even if you aren’t a “star player” is giving a great service to the team as well? People often talk about unsung heroes, and given his lack of appearances last season I’m not even going to try and call Michael Owen that, but why can’t it be commendable to play a supporting role at the best club in the country and the second best in Europe this season? Would John O’Shea be better having 500 appearances for a smaller club and no medals or all his medals and 255 league appearances for United? To me, that’s not lacking ambition, that’s having the temperament to accept your place in the team and the lack of ego to constantly try hard in training even if you know you may not be rewarded with a place in the team. Because Sir Alex wouldn’t tolerate slackers. Rest assured there is no way that contract extension would be offered if Owen wasn’t working in training, taking it easy and chatting about that mornings Racing Post.

A fine example of a player who’s made a remarkably similar decision and been greeted with a totally different response is Clarence Seedorf. Playing mostly from the bench last season, Seedorf has helped Milan to the Scudetto. He’s opted to stay on again this season for more of the same. Could he be playing 30 games at a far lower standard? Of course. But he wants a chance to continue at Milan, challenging for trophies and contributing where he can. I see nothing wrong with this in a player, especially when they reach a certain age. Owen, like Seedorf will continue to train hard, and work to make sure that when called upon they perform to their maximum, that’s the type of players that they are, I just hope Owen gets a few more chances to prove what he can do, even if it is only to provide respite to more lauded colleagues.

Oh and finally, I do think it was a little disrespectful to call Newcastle a poor team. Ill-advised comment perhaps, but certainly not an ill-advised contract.


XI One Club Men vs All Star Journeymen XI

After a quite probably unsucessful stint as manager of World Mullet XI, who would almost certainly get beaten by the folically challenged might of World Bald XI (http://bit.ly/gSLTnj) I decided to get straight back into the Novelty XI management game.

The latest contest came about after a discussion between myself and Mohamed Moallim, or @jouracule as you may know him on twitter. Mohamed is going to be my opposing number for this particular event and is one of the nicest guys around, especially if you want to chat about the beautiful elements of the game, past, present and future.

So the rules for my team are very simple, I can only select players who have played for one club, and one club only. In the case of present players they must have played at least 10 years for the club.

Without further ado, I present to you:

XI One Club Men

My team will be playing a 4-2-3-1 that merges into 4-5-1 without the ball and depending on where the space appears. Given the midfield genius at my disposal I’m going to give them some flexibility on this.

GKMarcos Roberto Silveira Reis – Palmeiras

Marcos to his friends plays for Palmeiras and has done for the last 19 years. For Palmeiras he has won two Brazilian Serie A titles as well as ten other trophies, including the Libertadores Cup.  During a 6 year spell playing for Brazil he earnt 29 caps and World Cup winners medal and a Copa America. But it’s not just his achievements and his ability that earn him a place in this team, this is the Marcos who famously had a trial for Arsenal before vanishing and then appearing back at Palmeiras stating that he would rather play in Serie B for Palmeiras than in Europe for the money. Those kind of values are what this team is all about.

http://youtu.be/kmMJlAnOlC8 (not the greatest video in the World, but not many to choose from for a Goalkeeper who’s spent entire career in Brazil)

RB – Gary Neville – Manchester United

Gary Neville is one of the most divisive players in the history of the game. But I’m a Manchester United fan so to be honest, I couldn’t give a monkey’s if everyone else hates him, for me that’s part of the reason I love him. The key thing for me with Neville is that every single fan of every single club would love it if all their players were half as passionate as Neville. Sure, he takes it too far sometimes, but he was a brilliant right back for about 16 of his 19 years service. This season he retired himself when he realised that injury had taken too much of a tole and he could no longer contribute at the level that he expects of himself. He could have just sat on the sidelines collecting his paycheques, but to his credit he realised he was his own harshest critic. Neville maximised every single bit of talent that he had, and created a career far more sucessful than many more naturally talented players. In all honesty it doesn’t really matter what I say about Gary Neville, you’ll either love him or hate him anyway, and I kind of like that every now and again in a player.

http://youtu.be/xLS0VRDzUew

 

LB – Paulo Maldini – AC Milan

Il Capitano, the ultimate, ultimate leader and defender. Maldini played for AC Milan with distinction for 25 years. During that time he won the European Cup 5 times, appearing in 8 finals. He also won Serie A 7 times and has more caps for Italy than any other player. The number 3 shirt at Milan has been retired in his honor and will only be reinstated if one of his sons go on to play for Milan. Speaking of sons, Paulo and his father Cesare are the only father and son combination to win the European Cup, Paulo lifting it 40 years after his father achieved it.647 appearances for Milan is quite simply incredible and watching Maldini play on Channel 4′s Football Italia during the 90s was an absolute delight, especially for a full back who loved to make sliding tackles. Maldini made defending easy and was part of some incredible teams, including the 91/92 who went unbeaten the entire Serie A season, wining the title along the way. In 1993/94 Maldini and Milan then won the European Cup without conceding a goal, including the 4-0 demolition of Barcelona in the final, one of the most complete team performances that I have ever seen. That Maldini had retired by the time Italy hit upon success always seemed a bit of a travesty, but even with only runners up medals to show for his incredible international career the Maldini household must need a bloody big trophy room.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ekBGD_k0KQ&feature=fvwrel

 

and just in case you wondered whether Daniel Maldini has any chance of following in his father’s footsteps

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXpPD3FpxIg

 

CB – Franco Baresi – AC Milan

Imagine a player who makes Maldini’s appearance total for Milan look a little lazy? In the space of 20 years Franco Baresi racked up 719 appearances for Milan, was voted their player of the century, won the Scudetto 6 times, the European Cup 3 times as well as numerous Cup trophies. Oh and he also won the big one. The World Cup. Baresi was a part of the same legendary sides as Maldini during the early 90s and the two of them, along with Costacurta and Tassotti was part of arguably the greatest back 4 of all time. Baresi was the ultimate class act sweeper, a defender who could, and frequently would mark a striker out of the game. As Romario put it after the 1994 World Cup Final “The most ruthless monitoring of my entire career”. Just looking at a back 4 with Baresi and Maldini is enough to inspire any team to go forward and attack with extreme prejudice because you’ve got an absolute brick wall behind you, nothing is getting through.

Around the 4 minute mark on this clip Romario think he’s timed his run to perfection, made a yard to shoot, Baresi thinks otherwise. Quietly brilliant defending.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrL0uErzK0o

 

CB – Tony Adams – Arsenal

They say that great players rarely make great managers and if anyone could prove this it’s Tony Adams. Because despite being bobbins as a manager he was one of the truly great defenders of his time. Another fantastic leader for this team and one of the greatest players Arsenal have ever had, captaining the side at the age of 21 and continuing to do so for another 14 years. Adams had his vices, which to his credit he has faced down and made no secret of, launching the Sporting Chance Clinic to help others who have suffered with addiction. Adams won the title 4 times, including 2 league and FA Cup Doubles. It’s fair to say that many Arsenal fans wish their current defenders were even half as good as Adams who could defend any way he wanted, elegantly nicking the ball away when the situation required or putting his face into harms way to clear the ball. Oh and as being English goes Adams is awesome, born in 1966 and winning 66 caps.

http://youtu.be/aHbGD1X_D9Y


CM – Paul Scholes – Manchester United

Rather than summarise Paul Scholes, I’m going to let other people do it for me:

Glenn Hoddle : “There isn’t a player of his mould anywhere else in the world.”

Terry Venables : “He’s the best one- or two-touch passer in the country. He sees the game unlike any other player.”

Alan Shearer : “If you ask footballers to pick out the player they most admire, so many of them will pick Paul Scholes. He can tackle, and his passing and shooting is of the highest level. He’s the most consistent and naturally gifted player we’ve had for a long, long time.”

Eidur Gudjohnsen : “I’m more an admirer of Paul Scholes than I am of Ronaldo. Ronaldo is a fantastic player, but he has 10 other great players around him every week…Scholes is one of the most complete footballers I’ve ever seen. His one-touch play is phenomenal. Whenever I have played against him, I never felt I could get close to him.”

Edgar Davids : “”Every one of us (midfielders) is just trying to become as good as him. Everyone can learn from Paul Scholes.”

Edgar Davids : “I’m not the best, Paul Scholes is.”

Tony Adams : “I really rate Paul Scholes, because he hasn’t got the high profile of many of the Manchester United players, he doesn’t get too much attention, but he is one very good player. He is an intelligent player, he works hard and he scores some great goals. He is not flamboyant and is a quiet lad off the pitch but he is a tremendous asset to Manchester United and to England. He has already got my vote as player of the year.”

Cesc Fabregas : “He is the one whose level I aspire to. He is the best player in the Premier League.”

Patrick Vieira : “The player in the Premiership I admire most? Easy – Scholes.”

Thierry Henry : “I can’t understand why Scholes has never won the player of the year award. He should have won it long ago. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t seek the limelight like some of the other ‘stars’.”

Zinedine Zidane : “My toughest opponent? Scholes of Manchester. He is the complete midfielder.”

Zinedine Zidane : “Scholes is undoubtedly the best midfielder of his generation.”

Sam Allardyce : “There is not a better midfield player in the world.”

Kevin Keegan : “What United have got that Chelsea haven’t is Paul Scholes. I think he is different to anything else in English football.”

Marcello Lippi : “Paul Scholes would have been one of my first choices for putting together a great team – that goes to show how highly I have always rated him. Scholes is a player I have always liked, because he combines great talent and technical ability with mobility, determination and a superb shot. He is an all-round midfielder who possesses character and quality in abundance. In my opinion, he’s been one of the most important players for United under Sir Alex.”

Ray Wilkins : “I’m saddened because I think we as spectators, not only in this country but right through out Europe and the rest of the World, will be missing one hell of a footballer.”

Gordon Strachan : “Paul Scholes has been the best England midfield player for 30-odd years. You’d probably have to go back to Bobby Charlton to find someone who could do as much as Scholes. When the ball arrives at his feet he could tell you where every player on that pitch is at that moment. His awareness is superb.”

Veron while at Chelsea being asked in an interview who’s the best english player : “Paul Scholes.”

Peter Schmeichel : “People say he is a great player, but you have to define what a great player is, For me, it is a player who has a bottom level that means his worst performance is not noticed.If he is having a bad game, a team-mate might feel Paul Scholes is not quite on his game, but a spectator wouldn’t notice. Scholes, of all the players I have played with, has the highest bottom level. His reading of the game is unsurpassed.He has an eye for a pass, for what the play or the game needs at that precise moment, that I have never seen anyone else have. He controls and distributes the play and the game better than anyone I have ever seen.”

Peter Schmeichel : “Still the best player in that United midfield.”

Laurent Blanc : “Scholes is the best English player. Intelligence, technique, strength… all the attributes are there. At Manchester United I saw what he could do on the training field. Phew!”

Michael Carrick : “Paul Scholes is just fantastic. When you play alongside him, you realise what a special talent he is.”

Michael Carrick : “He is a legend and he’s going to be remembered for a long time. Just to play alongside him and learn from him has been an absolute pleasure. I think he is a footballer’s footballer; he has been at this level for so long. As long as he is part of us we always feel we have a chance. We appreciate the way he goes about his business. I have never met a character like Scholesy; certainly not someone who is that good.”

Park Ji Sung when asked by the club’s official home page which United player he would like to see in the red shirt of the Taeguk Warriors : “It has to be Paul Scholes.”

David Beckham said that, among his teammates at Real Madrid, which included Zinedine Zidane, Raúl, Ronaldo, Luís Figo and Roberto Carlos, Scholes was the most admired opponent : “He’s always one of those people others talk about. Even playing at Real Madrid, the players always say to me ‘what’s he like’? They respect him as a footballer, and to have that respect from some of those players is great.”

Brian Kidd : “Paul Scholes had the best football brain I’d ever seen in a kid. Let’s face it. Paul Scholes is in a class of its own.”

Rio Ferdinand : “I can honestly say Paul is the best player in the England squad. For me he is the complete player.”

Rio Ferdinand : “For me, it’s Paul Scholes. He’ll do ridiculous things in training like say, “You see that tree over there?” – it’ll be 40 yards away – “I’m going to hit it”. And he’ll do it. Everyone at the club considers him the best.”

Phil Neville : “Paul, for me, is the best player in the England team. It worries teams. Speak to any other international team and they will single Paul out as England’s key player. For me, he doesn’t get the full credit that he deserves. He is a world-class player and deserves to be up there with the likes of Zidane and Figo.”

Gary Neville : “I wouldn’t swap Paul Scholes for anybody. He is quite simply the most complete footballer I have ever played with. He is the best.”

Gary Neville : “Paul Scholes is the best player I’ve ever played with. There’s talent in every part of his game.”

Steve Bruce : “He’s the best player in Britain in my opinion and he has to get himself fit just before we are due to play at Old Trafford. I cannot pay Paul a bigger compliment than to say that he’s the most complete footballer in the country. The best bar none.”

Roy Keane : “An amazingly gifted player who remained an unaffected human being.”

George Best : “To be honest I think England have lost their best player. Certainly he’s the most consistent and naturally gifted player we’ve had for a long, long time.”

Sir Bobby Charlton : “I am sorry for England because they don’t have any player like him. You can talk about others but there is no one else like him. He is the best technical player England has without any question. He could have had a lot more caps if he had carried on. And if I was the manager he would have ended up with more than I did – easy”

Sir Bobby Charlton : “He’s always so in control and pinpoint accurate with his passing – a beautiful player to watch.”

Sir Bobby Charlton : “Paul Scholes is my favourite player. He epitomises the spirit of Manchester United and everything that is good about football.”

Sir Alex Ferguson : “Very few players can do that, but Scholes is one of them – and I knew he was one of them. That’s why, without question, I think Paul Scholes is the best player in England. He’s got the best skills, the best brain. No one can match him.”

Sir Alex Ferguson : “He has an awareness of what’s happening around him on the edge of the box which is better than most players. As a kid he always had a knack of arriving in the penalty area just at the right time, but he’s proving just as effective from outside the box because he’s using his experience in the right way. It doesn’t matter who I am thinking about bringing into my midfield, Paul Scholes will be included, as he would in any side in the world.”

Sir Alex Ferguson : Sir Alex Ferguson gave evidence in court on behalf of one of his former trainees and listened to the prosecution barrister’s list of United’s top players.

“You’ve missed Paul Scholes – and he’s my best player,” Ferguson chided her.

Xavi: “In the last 15 to 20 years the best central midfielder that I have seen — the most complete — is Scholes. I have spoken with Xabi Alonso about this many times. Scholes is a spectacular player who has everything.”

“He can play the final pass, he can score, he is strong, he never gets knocked off the ball and he doesn’t give possession away. If he had been Spanish then maybe he would have been valued more.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKFuBWky3xU&feature=related

CM – Xavi Hernandez – Barcelona

I won’t lie, the reason this Novelty XI appealed to me in the first place was the idea that I could have a midfield of Scholes and Xavi. When you put those two together in the centre of midfield then the only way the other team is going to get the ball back is when they take centre. Xavi is the heartbeat of the Barcelona team that everyone is purring over as one of the greatest of all time and the best of our generation. He’s also the heartbeat of the World and European Champions – Spain. Xavi has already won everything that there is to win, and in the case of the European Cup he has won it twice. League titles – five times. Right now he’s chasing a Treble. That’s to go with the one that he won in 2008 for Barcelona along with the European Championships with Spain. Every child who wants to be a footballer should watch Xavi before they go to bed. Whenever they aren’t playing football or practicing they should be thinking “What would Xavi do?” – he really is that good.

http://youtu.be/ZkWl_YRHdJ4

RW – Lars Ricken - Borussia Dortmund

Ricken’s career has been hampered by injury, and that is really the only reason he has been limited to 301 appearances for Dortmund in the 15 years that he was there. Ricken is a player that I will always remember because when I was 12 years old he made the biggest of impacts on a game that a young player could ever hope to make. The youngest scorer, and scorer of the fastest goal in a Champions League Final (on as a substitute for a mere 16 seconds) as Dortmund sealed a win over Juventus. Ricken came on, sprinted onto a through ball and at the tender age of 20 decided to lob the keeper from something approaching 30 yards. Spectacular.

http://youtu.be/Wq33EX3Vz-A

LW – Ryan Giggs – Manchester United

“Giggs, Giggs will tear you apart again” goes the chant and for so many defenders, and so many clubs that must be exactly what it feels like to have to play Giggs. The fact that he is still playing 21 years after making his debut, that he holds Manchester United’s all time appearance record having overtaken Sir Bobby Charlton whilst playing in the Champions League final in Moscow exactly 50 years after the Munich air crash and the fact that he slotted home the winning penalty that night tells you just a few of the things you need to know about Ryan Giggs. But it doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story. Giggs has scored in every single season since the Premiership (and Football) began, he’s also won it 11 times which when added to his 4 FA Cups, 4 League Cups and 2 European Cups is quite simply incredible. The man is an absolute legend at his club and when his own brand of anti-aging cream stops working, when he finally hangs up his boots there won’t be a dry eye in the house at Old Trafford. Or to put it another way, George Best is the old Ryan Giggs. He’s that good.

http://youtu.be/tgEA95Ut2z8

Trequartista - Francesco Totti – Roma

Some people will hate Totti, but for the red half of Rome he is a God. Il Gladitore as the Italian media have dubbed him is one of the best second strikers I have ever seen. Playing in the hole behind the forwards Totti is both a wonderful goalscorer (204 league goals for Roma in 469 appearances) and a brilliant provider as well (top assist provider in the 2006 World Cup).  Totti only has the one Scudetto to his name, but the fact that it was with his beloved Roma will mean more to him than 50 trophies with another club. A true one club legend Totti was also part of the Italian World Cup team, operating behind Luca Toni in the role that suits him best. Totti has had his moments of controversy, in fact, he’s had his moments where it’s hard not to call him every name under the sun, in particular spitting at an opponent. But whilst I can’t condone those actions, I just have to have him in my team.

http://youtu.be/t7tgRsZfrqk

CF – Nat Lofthouse – Bolton Wanderers

The only player in my team who retired before my time, Lofthouse is a true ‘old school’ pro. Nicknamed the Lion of Vienna after a game in which he rode numerous tackles (assualts would be a better term) to score his second goal in a 3-2 win over Austria. In 14 years for Bolton he scored an amazing 255 goals in 452 games as well as smashing his way to 30 goals in 33 games for England. A goalscoring record that defies belief. Lofthouse only won the one trophy, the FA Cup in 1958, scoring both goals against the Busby Babes of Manchester United. At the time a wave of sympathy for the survivors of the Munich air crash meant that Bolton’s win was an unpopular one, but looking back on it now, with all the success that those players recovered to achieve, and that the club as a whole have had, I think it would be very, very tough to begrudge a man as great as Nat Lofthouse an FA Cup victory. Sadly Nat Lofthouse passed away in January, and his loss was mourned by anyone who has ever come accross him. A brilliant player and a brilliant man.

Mohamed has set himself some rules to follow for the selection of his team and they are quite simply that his players must have played for at least 3 different clubs in different countries. Oh and so that “I have a chance” he’s only selecting currently active players. Playing a 4-3-3 I present to you, the wonderful JOURNEYMEN XI

Edwin van der Sar (Ajax, Juventus, Fulham and Manchester United)

One of the modern great keepers, despite a torrid time in Italy he’s excelled at his three
other clubs. A product of the fabled Ajax academy, Van der Sar was educated like his
predecessor Stanly Menzo, to keep goal the Ajax way – meaning being a sweeper. No
long balls instead start attacks from the back with decisive passing. Johan Cruijff even
quipped that he was the best attacker at the club. Success came naturally like it has done at
Manchester United and with him entering the final games of his long and wonderful career;
football will be a lesser place without him.

http://youtu.be/7wkBAsJLoz4

Maicon (Cruzeiro, Monaco and Internazionale)

Despite his recent coming together with a certain Gareth Bale, this is the premier right-back
in world football. Unless you say Dani Alves. Still he’s one of the best; his inability against
Spurs was more down to the tactics deployed by his coach, who was clearly not Mourinho.
At full force, he’s a beast of a player an incredible force and few could live with him.

http://youtu.be/8uwDVA87zQA

Lúcio (Internacional, Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and Internazionale)

Maicon’s international and club team mate, one of the more stellar centre-backs around, a
commanding presence at the back and his quality leadership has no doubt bought success
wherever he’s been. The sight of him rampaging through midfield, leaving more attack-
minded teammates in his wake is one to behold. There are few central defenders in world
soccer so adept at bringing the ball out from the back.

http://youtu.be/d31XdvKAt64

Nemanja Vidić (Red Star Belgrade, Spartak Moscow and Manchester United)

A colossus figure at the heart of the defence one that many forwards don’t relish meeting.
And who can blame them given the form he’s been in of late. The last few years has seen
his leadership qualities come to the fore to go with his great reading of the game. One of
the very best in his position unquestionably.

http://youtu.be/Cml8fF-8kUg

Patrice Evra (Marsala, Monza, Nice, Monaco, Manchester United)

One of the very best in his position if not the best. Evra is a tough customer who is reliable
defensively and outstanding going forward as he regularly overlaps the midfielder before
either crossing or passing the ball inside to a team-mate.

http://youtu.be/BmxGPxI8kSw

Yaya Touré (Beveren, Metalurh, Olympiacos, Monaco, Barcelona and Manchester City)

He’s been everywhere as you can see, 5 different nations as well growing up in his native
Ivory Coast. One of the more versatile members of the team, he’s capacity to play in
defence, midfield and attack makes him valuable. But it’s his drive from a deep midfield
position that earns him his spot. A truly beast of a player.

http://youtu.be/cGR0bEOQIO0

Rafael van der Vaart (Ajax, Hamburg, Real Madrid and Tottenham)

Finesse doesn’t begin to describe this remarkable player. He oozes quality, especially so
far this season, whether as a deep-lying playmaker for the national team or as a second-
striker/false no9 call it what you want for Spurs. Either way he’s got skill and excellence in
abundance.

http://youtu.be/wgZod9t8RV4

Wesley Sneijder (Ajax, Real Madrid and Inter Milan)

Arguably the best player of the last year, he would have won the Ballon d’Or if they had
kept their old system. Still putting that to one side, one of the finest midfield playmakers
around, ambidextrous, have yet to see a player capable of taking a corner/free-kick with
either feet and make it look naturally. No surprise as he’s yet another graduate of the Ajax
academy. Also he loves to chip in with a goal to two, most of the time really special.

http://youtu.be/le_f6e4LNVk

Cristiano Ronaldo (Sporting Portugal, Manchester United and Real Madrid)

He’s the best in the world or the second best, either way he’s a destructive force, capable of
doing just about anything – on the football pitch that is. Whether scoring from corners via
his brilliant heading, or his trademark ‘punt’ freekicks, to his blistering pace and the ability to
change direction at a flick of a switch, his two-footedness means full-backs struggle at the
best of times.

http://youtu.be/hJXcGbncsiA (just for the ludicrously Savage Garden sounding song)

Carlos Tévez (Boca Juniors, Corinthians, West Ham, Manchester United and Manchester
City)

An industrious goal scorer, that’s how I would describe this Argentine. His travels have seen
him play in his native homeland to the hustle and bustle of the English premier league via a
spell in Brazil with Corinthians. Despite the controversy that has followed him; he’s always
shown a degree of loyalty to the team he’s playing for, well most of the time.

http://youtu.be/TpzgPnL8ORs

Arjen Robben (PSV, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich)

When he’s not in the medical room, he’s one of the finer left-wingers around and that was
evident for all when he played his part in getting Bayern Munich to the 2010 Champions
League final. Also a league winner in four different leagues, not many can say that.

http://youtu.be/vQrtK5rHrOU

So, there you have the two teams, please take the time to let us know your thoughts, who you think we could/should have included and even who you think would win.


Love and Hate – defining emotions of a football fan

 Today marks the 22nd anniversary of one of the most tragic days in Sporting history. 96 sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, fathers, uncles and cousins, not to mention friends and soul mates were killed trying to do what they loved: attend a football match. On a day when we are paying our respects to those who lost somebody in that tragedy I couldn’t help but think that moments like that can, and should be able to unite everyone. But somehow, and as a Manchester United fan I’m ashamed to say that some of my “kind” have been guilty of this, events like this are used as part of sick jokes and chants.

Needless to say Manchester United fans aren’t the only ones, and they will point to the chants of “Munich” and the sick plane crash jokes visited upon them because of the tragic part of the club’s history. The intention of this article isn’t to try and single out one group of supporters, or start a row over “who started it” because frankly that would be almost as pathetic as the chants themselves. Nor am I looking to say that because some supporters of a club do it, then they all do. That’s clearly not the case. Every club has idiot supporters. Every single club. For me the difficulty comes in understanding where all that hatred comes from. Because you’d have to imagine that only a bitter, bitter hatred would drive people to behave the way that they often do.

For some people it seems, being a fan of one club means that you have to hate another. You have to hate that club, its players, what it stands for, its history, its managers and especially that club’s fans. My Great Uncle is fromGlasgowand supports Rangers. He once told me that my Great Aunt wasn’t his first love. In fact his first love had been a holiday romance that ended the second his father found out that her father was a Celtic supporter. As this story was told to me by my Great Uncle I just find it intriguing how much one person can dislike another football club. Had it been my Great Grandfather telling me I’d be asking all sorts of existential questions like “If my Great, Great Grandfather wasn’t so anti-Celtic would I have been born?”, and considering I was seven at the time I heard this story I’d have preferred to be contemplating which stick would float faster under a bridge.

Personally I don’t think hate is a particularly healthy emotion, especially not based on a fan’s colours. There are exceptions of course, if you are a Roman General and a corrupt Emperor tries to have you killed, but you escape and hope to have your revenge, be it in this life, or the next, then hate will help you to achieve this. But that hate may also drive you to your own death, so be careful.

So, for me, with hate not a viable option, we’re left with another, far more fun, far more healthy option: Rivalry.

Friendly Rivalry is one of the truly great things about sport. Before banter was bastardised first by Robbie Savage and then by Richard Keys it’s the word I would use to describe the playful digs, the mocking of poor results, worse signings and underachievement of your rivals.Derbymatches (as in local derbies, notDerbyCountymatches) mean that much more because of the stick you could get at work. Personally I look out for the results of my friend’s teams, not just because their results could affect the league position of my club, but because I want to be able to give them stick if they lose. But never at any point do I find myself hoping that they crash and burn, that they get relegated or go into administration, that their best players get injured.

So where does healthy rivalry stop, and hate begin? Where is the line in all of this? Are you less of a fan if you want a rival to win a particular game, not because it benefits your team, but because theirs deserves to win? They’re questions that people will have differing opinions on, but for me, being a football fan is about wanting the best for my team, whilst enjoying watching, talking about and joking about the game. IfChelseaare pushing Manchester United close for the title, I’ll want them to lose. Not because I hate their fans or their club, but because it means Manchester United will be closer to winning. IfChelseaare playing Liverpool and aLiverpoolwin would mean that United get closer to the title, then by Thor I want Luis Suarez to pull John Terry’s pants down. But if the reverse was true I’d want Frank Lampard to start scoring for fun again. That’s the case even though historically Manchester United has a far, far greater rivalry withLiverpool. It’s one of those rivalries that in so many cases really does go past the line and into hatred, except I knew for certain that I don’t go past that line in 2005 when Liverpool played AC Milan inIstanbul.

As a Manchester United fan I was fairly amused with the first half. AC Milan 3 – 0Liverpool. It looked like being one of the great spankings of football history. Considering I had tolerated days of gloating about the number of European Cups Liverpool had won and would go onto win it felt pretty good to know that I’d be able to pay back that gloating with some smug looks of my own. I wouldn’t actually say anything, that would be harsh, I’d just look, and they’d know from that look that I knew that they knew that I knew. That would be enough. But thenLiverpoolbrought on a midfielder with some positional sense, giving Gerrard licence to do what he had been doing anyway and run about doing what he wanted. Except with Hamann on it wasn’t costing his team the game, in fact it seemed to be helping them get back into it. Alonso was at his majestic best and from 3-0 it became 3-1 and suddenly, the underdog lover in me somehow did the unthinkable and started cheeringLiverpool. By the time the equaliser threw in I was high fiving theLiverpoolfan next to me. By the time penalties came along I knewLiverpoolwere going to win. A team with Igor Biscan was going to win the European Cup in a comeback that would eclipse that famous night inBarcelona. At that point my emotions became a little mixed. Would AC Milan winning on penalties count as a counter comeback? Tough to say, but somehow my desire for aLiverpoolwin held and so did their nerve. They won and I genuinely was delighted for their fans. But instantly I reminded myself “it’s a hell of a comeback, but it’s no Treble”. I’m lucky that at the tender age of 14 I saw my idols do the unthinkable and go from losing to winning in the space of a minute. The final minute at that. Had it not been for that game, who knows if I would have felt so magnanimous aboutLiverpool’s triumph?

Those are my thoughts on rivalry and on a very famous night for one of my club’s most bitter rivals. As my thoughts are often as trustworthy as a married footballer in a whorehouse I decided to ask an assortment of football fans how they felt about some of the most glorious moments in their rival’s recent history and their responses are listed below.

Lewis, – aka @beathelastman on Twitter is a blogger of the highest quality and if you don’t already follow him, you should, even if he knows nothing about Batistuta and I refuse to let that go.

 

I admire Man Utd. I really do. I was raised in a scouse household (Liverpool Dad, Evertonian Mum) But in SAF they have an incredible manager who, whilst he can irritate at times has the right to act (in my opinion) bigger than the club. The 99 final was an incredible game and an incredible adrenaline high. I was only 10 and that was the first season I’d really paid attention to Football and memories of watching Utd win everything was all I knew growing up. Did it annoy me that Utd were winning, yes. Is that the reason I ‘hate’ Utd, no. The rivalry is there because…well because we’re two proud historic clubs – I don’t think it’s more complicated than that.

 

 

For me success is neither here nor there as a reason to like or dislike a club or me. It comes down to small fickle things – personnel (I dislike Utd more for G Nev than anything else), playing style, disrespectful comments that sort of thing.  

 

Simon Pilkington – editor of www.talkingsports.co.uk and @simonpilkington on Twitter

 

My thoughts on the CL final in 99′. if you need something more in depth then let me know:

 

My everlasting memories of the 1999 Champions League final were completely bittersweet – at 17 years old I was lucky enough to have seen an English side blast their way through the competition and win in dramatic circumstances to beat, of all teams, the Germans in the beautiful footballing arena that is Camp Nou. However the fact it was Manchester Utd, just securing the treble, and with it, bragging rights over all domestic fans along the way, left a very bitter taste.

 

As a Liverpool fan too young to remember any of the 4 European Cups that we’d already won and the 2005 victory still 6 years away, it wasn’t hard to realise that what Utd had achieved was special. In fact, despite watching numerous replays of our previous victories, it wasn’t until 2005 and the sheer utter ecstatic joy that I felt, that I realised how Utd fans must have felt. If you take away the rivalry, you can’t begrudge any football fan that feeling.

 

At the time though it was tough to take. I was half wishing the ref would blow his whistle, then when Sheringham scored, I was hoping for leg-sapping extra time but bizarrely when Solskjaer scored the winner there was apart of me that was happy for them. Maybe it was the fact that Solskjaer was one of those rare ocurrences – a Utd player I actually liked and respected – or maybe it was that it fit the Utd stereotype of scoring late, late injury-time winners. Most likely it was that is was an excellent game of football with a phenomenal climax that epitomised everything I love about this sport.

 

I’m not bitter, not bitter at all, we can elave that for the Everton fans; however, it was no Istanbul, was it?!

 

Robert Marrs – author of the fantastic http://leftbackinthechangingroom.blogspot.com as well as being @MarrsioFootball on Twitter.

 

In 1999

 

 

At the time I was furious. As soon as United scored their first goal, I knew instantly that they would go on to win the game and do so in normal time. That United team always did – I’d seen it so often.

 

It seemed like an utter robbery because it was an utter robbery. Bayern Munchen had dominated the game but hadn’t killed it off. I was so furious I threw a cup of coffee at the wall.

 

As a youngster, at points, I probably hated United more than I liked Liverpool. Odd but that’s teenage football fandom for you.

 

In 2011

 

 

I don’t mind so much. United lucked out but the team, in hindsight, probably just about deserved a European Cup around that time. They were a far finer side than many winners that have followed.

 

Simon, Rob and Lewis are clearlyLiverpoolfans and they give a great example of why I couldn’t ever hate somebody just because of their club – these guys are great writers and if I were to ignore them purely because of their club then it would be my loss, not theirs.

Tome Obaro – otherwise known as @ACMilandrew is quite clearly a Milan fan, and he’s a funny one at that. Joe Jordan would have been more worried about him than he was about Gattuso

 

Personally I’ve always loathed Inter but without too much venom.I enjoyed when they lost with childish glee.I’d enjoyed Massimo Moratti buying a plethora of expensive forwards over the years and still failed to win  the league.Enjoyed getting Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo from them and sending over duds like Francesco Coco and Umit Davala.We were obviously more successful than our neighbours and it didnt seem like changing.Then Calciopoli happened.Milan Fiorentina Lazio and Juventus were all weakened by bans and points deductions.Inter automatically assumed a position of power.They got a title handed to them  thereby breaking their long league drought and they just took off from there.From being 4 Scudetti ahead they now had 1 more than we did.Was still able to wave our 07 CL victory in their faces but it just wasn’t the same.

 

 

 

Watched last year’s CL final.frankly didnt care what an Inter victory did for Italy European co efficents.Wanted them and their smug preening coach to be thumped into oblivion.Didnt happen off course and was gutted but hey an least thats one arena we’re miles ahead of them…for now.The fact a former Milan player and coach is now managing them has ratched up the rivalry a notch.Victory on Saturday would be an absolute delight but trumping them to this Scudetto would be so much sweeter.

 

 

I guess the conclusion for me would be that everyone is going to feel slightly differently, and as long as you aren’t resorting to the kinds of disgusting chants that we sometimes hear, then there’s no real problem, it’s just a personal thing. I guess for me, it doesn’t matter who the team is, if they put in a great performance, if they overcome adversity, then I’m a sucker for it.

If anyone has read this and wants to contribute to the blog by describing their feelings on it, be it a rival club’s successes, failures, or even if you just have some comments on the blog then please post away, it makes the blog look more popular.


The Spanish, the media and Scholes

 

Has the recognition of Paul Scholes’ brilliance in recent seasons been aided by the all-conquering, ball retaining magic of Xavi, Iniesta and the rest of the Spanish team who Internationally, and in the case of several of the players for – for Barcelona, got the World purring?

This may sound like a nonsense question. Many people will say that Paul Scholes has always been appreciated. Well for me, that doesn’t quite ring true. I remember Scholes being shifted out to the left of midfield for England to accommodate the Lampard and Gerrard ‘partnership’. I also remember all the calls for him to retire in 2005/2006 when he developed an eye problem that saw several games pass him by.

Fast forward 3 years and those who were complaining that he had lost his ability to move from box to box, that he no longer had the predatory instincts that saw him arrive late into the box to slam in a pile driver were praising the brilliance of his touch, the fact that he always seems to have time on the ball and the fact that his pass completion often shows a greater percentage of accuracy than DNA testing.

The players who were deemed superior to Scholes, the Gerrard’s and Lampards, are suddenly being criticised for not having the kind of vision or passing range that their Spanish contemporaries posses. It’s been noted that Scholes is the only player of his generation that can bear comparison with Xavi.

So has it taken Xavi’s brilliance, the ball retention of Barcelona and Spain to make people appreciate Scholes?

The appreciation of players by the media that makes the most noise – TV – seems to be driven by the flavour of the week, or at least the year. They go with what they deem to be the popular opinion and it takes overwhelming evidence of anything to the contrary to make them change their opinion. The fact that the deep lying playmaker is constantly referred to as “playing the Makelele role” in this country gives a fair indication of how far behind we can be.

In 2005 goals suddenly disappeared from Paul Scholes game. After scoring 20 in 2002/2003 and then 14 and 12 in the 2 years that followed he has yet to get into double figures since. With Gerrard and Lampard scoring for fun and other midfielders getting in on the action the ratings dropped for Scholes. He was past his best. He’d lost it. United needed a new, box to box midfielder with the legs to cover the distance.  Now however there seems to be more of an appreciation of the way that he makes United tick. The way he can help to retain the ball when others would give it away. People have started to see that having a midfielder who can charge an extra 2km over the course of the game isn’t much good if he has a pass completion of 70% and is consistently making the wrong choices. Goals are important, of course they are, and they win games. But if the team is scoring them and the team is winning, then does it matter if you have a central midfield dynamo scoring 20 a season? For me it doesn’t matter one little bit.

It doesn’t matter to Barcelona either. Or Spain. The player that makes both of those teams tick is Xavi Hernandez, a player with metronomic passing, the ultimate one-two machine. Xavi is a graduate of La Masia and grew up watching his current club manager, Pep Guardiola, when he was running the midfield for Cruyff’s great Barcelona side (Another example of the deep lying playmaker existing before Makelele).  Some of Xavi’s quotes in always articulate and insightful interviews show the admiration that he has for Scholes :

“In the last 15 to 20 years the best central midfielder that I have seen — the most complete — is Scholes. I have spoken with Xabi Alonso about this many times. Scholes is a spectacular player who has everything.”

“He can play the final pass, he can score, he is strong, he never gets knocked off the ball and he doesn’t give possession away. If he had been Spanish then maybe he would have been valued more.”

The final comment is the one that strikes me the most. Gerrard and Lampard are very good players, they really are, that they score 20 goals a season on such a frequent basis is fantastic. It’s just nice to see that with recognition of Spain’s undoubted brilliance is now coming recognition that there’s more to playing central midfield than being a cross country runner who can shoot. This recognition came too late for the international careers of Hoddle and Scholes, but thankfully just in time for Jack Wilshire.

If Paul Scholes actually cared about the compliments and the accolades he might thank Xavi and co for the recognition that he is now receiving by association. But as a student of the game he might go a bit further back, and thank Cruyff, the man who brought Total Football to Ajax and focussed all of his efforts on La Masia, on producing a huge chunk of the World and European Champions and almost all of the ‘Best Club side in the World’. But Scholes doesn’t really care about accolades and compliments, he’s quite happy just doing his thing. In fact, if you told him what Xavi had said, if you told him that he was still one of the best midfielders in the league, he’d shrug shyly and try to move the conversation away from him and onto anything else.

The fact that he’s so self deprecating just makes it all the better. Watching youtube videos of Scholes from a few years ago makes me go a little bit weak at the knees, but watching him effortlessly keep the ball now, I don’t even mind that the goals have gone; it’s just a pleasure to watch.


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