August 29, 2007
Throughout the history of football, there have been many innovative ideas. Deciding to disallow the use of the conventional backpass to the goalkeeper, putting numbers on shirts, even the intense physical conditioning that a lot of the top level managers use have all contributed to make the sport the spectacle it is today. In the past few years, one of the things in football that has caused the most amount of debate is take-overs by “foreigners”. Whether it’s Thaksin Shinawatra at Manchester City, Malcolm Glazer at Manchester United or Roman Abromovich at Chelsea, most businessmen that have taken over clubs in the recent past have courted controversy at one point or another. In the past, most football clubs were owned by fans of the club itself- no it seems that more and more businessman looking to make a quick buck or for a real time version of popular computer game Football Manager. Now, it seems like ordinary fans will be able to actually have a say in the running of a club. MyFootballClub, a website set up by former football journalist Will Brooks claims that common football fans will finally be able to effect decisions of a club- be it who to sign in the transfer market, selecting which players will feature in the first team or the amount of money put into the youth fund for the coming season.
The site charges a fee of £35 for all those wanting to take part (£7.5 for administration of the MyFootballClub Trust while £27.5 goes into club expenditure) and members get to vote on which club they would like to see taken over. Currently leading the list is League One club Leeds United, with Nottingham Forest and Cambridge United in second and third place respectively. Although the website is keeping the number of people that have signed up a secret so that clubs they were negotiating with would not know the extent of their wealth, 53,051 members had signed up as of July 31st- making the total value of the company worth £1.46 million at the very least. Now that all the facts have been sorted out, this writer will give his view on whether he feels that the idea is a good one or not.
While the idea of “the people” running a football club may be a sound one in principle, a look at nearly any football forum on the Internet will tell you that most of “the people” are lacking a few brain cells. The very fact that a club like Leeds United, a team that was given a fifteen point penalty for financial issues leads the list of clubs to purchase speaks for itself- as do the listings of Arsenal and Manchester United (two clubs that would cost over £1 billion to purchase) at 9th and 11th place respectively shows that voting even in large numbers can sometimes produce futile results. Also, while the MyFootballClub scenario allows your vote to be counted, it is unlikely that a solitary vote in 50,000 people will make a large dent in the decisions you want to affect. There are official fan forums of teams that ask you to contribute ideas as to how the team can be improved and they are often free to join- what difference does MyFootballClub offer you, apart from charging you £35 to voice your opinion?
Although a fee of £35 seems a fairly cheap price to join the service, which as MyFootballClub says is “less than most Premiership tickets” as well as the price of a “football manager computer game”, what benefit does joining the service give you? Whereas football manager computer games can be played for hours on end, and going to a football match allows you to see your favourite team in the flesh, how does joining what is effectively a glorified fan forum create any more ‘fun’ that a free online message board would do? As MyFootballClub have not even selected the team they are going to purchase yet, those fans that have already paid up could be hugely disappointed if their dream to control the decisions of Leeds United turned into a reality of controlling the decisions of non-league side Cambridge United. Since football is a very passionate sport, it is nearly impossible for those that have a true interest in it to generate support for another team. Why then, should fans of the club that MyFootballClub will purchase waste money on a team they were never interested by in the first place?
Even though it must have seemed a good idea when Will Brooks concocted the MyFootballClub scenario, in reality there are just too many problems and too many drawbacks for it to work smoothly. While fans would get to ‘own’ a football club for probably the first time in their lives, there are many ways they could satisfy their passion for the sport, and spending £35 on MyFootballClub is certainly something that will bring them a great deal of satisfaction.
August 25, 2007
Every single year, Newcastle fans start the season off with raised expectations of how their team will do. Despite the failures of the year prior, fans dubbed one of the most passionate in England feel that the coming year may be different, before inevitably viewing a year of losing to mediocre teams, a horrible team and a distinct lack of silverware. This year however, it may be different- and here I write to tell you why.
While ex-owner of the club Freddy Shepherd regularly courted both controversy and embarrassment by his outbursts in the press, new owner Mike Ashley has quietly stayed in the background while offering new manager Sam Allardyce funds to spend. Although Newcastle have had a series of bad managers in the past, Allardyce seems a step in the right direction after his strong spell at Bolton Wanderers, leading a club in the bottom half of the England’s second tier to become a respectable mid-table team in the Premier League. The highlight of Allardyce’s time at Bolton has to be taking the club into the UEFA Cup for the first time in the club’s history. Bolton Wanderers were known as a tight defensive unit- something that Newcastle were the complete opposite of.
Immediately after arriving at Newcastle, Allardyce cleared out much of the “dead wood”- players such as Titus Bramble and Oguchi Onyewu. These players had not been up to the task they were supposed to do- defend, and it clearly shown in the goals conceded column of the Premier League table. Some of Newcastle’s transfer dealings during this window have been very astute, and here I will look at the new players that will be playing in black and white for season 2007/08.
Up front, Mark Viduka and Alan Smith have been added to the ranks. These are excellent additions to a striking lineup that already included the likes of Michael Owen and Obafemi Martins, and is surely guaranteed to score goals. Mark Viduka is a proven Premier League player, having scored goals for the likes of Middlesbrough and Leeds United before joining the Geordies. Alan Smith will provide able backup should injuries occur, and has an added bonus of being able to play in central midfield- something that will benefit Newcastle with their well known about injury problems. Although Michael Owen is injured at the moment, Viduka and Martins should form a powerful partnership that Premiership defenses will find hard to cope with.
In midfield, ex-Real Madrid player Geremi and ex-Manchester City hothead Joey Barton join the club. Geremi is a versatile player that can fill in at defense if need be, while Barton will add some passion to a side that looked lifeless at times last season. Coupled with the likes of Emre, Nicky Butt and N’Zogbia, there are quite a few players in that Newcastle midfield that could cause problems for even the best teams in the game.
Lastly, it is defense that needed the most strengthening and this has been done. With Rozenthal, Enrique and Cacapa having already joined the club, Newcastle are also rumoured to be in talks with Leighton Baines and/or Nicky Shorey. The Toon have also done well to keep hold of goalkeeper Shay Given- a player who saves them at least 5-10 points per season. With all these dealings in the transfer market, Newcastle fans will be ecstatic to know that after so many seasons of defensive woe, they finally have a manager that looks at bolstering the defence.
So, why exactly should Newcastle be optimistic about the upcoming season? With a few more additions to the talented squad they already have, there is no reason why they will not be in the reckoning for European places come May 2008. With an attacking line-up almost guaranteed to get goals and a solid midfield, if Allardyce makes the defence anywhere near as strong as Bolton’s defence was, Newcastle will be right up there with Tottenham, Everton and Manchester City battling out for that fifth place slot (and UEFA Cup football). Although I think it is too early for them to qualify for the Champions League, with a couple of successful seasons who knows what could happen. The start they have had thus far will only help increased the sense of optimism- a strong preseason, where they beat the likes of Juventus and Celtic followed up with a thrashing of Bolton and a draw against Aston Villa in the Premiership. While Newcastle will definitely not be in contention for the Premiership title, fans should expect a strong push in the domestic cups- and maybe even some silverware if the club gets a few lucky breaks in the FA and Carling Cup.
August 25, 2007
The Brazilian team at the 2006 World Cup was a shadow of the one that had competed in the last two- stopovers, pirouettes and nutmegs replaced by a sluggish passing game while the sexy, flowing football we had seen before replaced by a team that did not know where its players were on the pitch. After Brazil was eliminated by a strong France team in the quarterfinals, rumors came out in the press that the Brazilian players had been drinking not just after games, but before them as well.
This shocking story emerged little more than a week ago, with CBF president Ricardo Teixeira telling reporters that a few players “arrived between 4 and 6 in the morning, drunk”. Although this has since been denied by Brazil’s assistant coach Mario Zagallo, could there be some truth in the claims? Throughout the World Cup, Brazil was hyped up as the golden team- most saw them as a shoe-in for the trophy.
After they were dumped out, they were criticized of a lot of things- the president of the country slamming Ronaldo after it emerged he weighed 98kg at the start of the tournament. However, not a single person hinted at this sort of unruly behavior- until now, that is. This will be looked at in great detail over the next few weeks, as drinking is hardly the best preparation for the biggest international football competition in the world- no matter how many stars your team possesses.
August 25, 2007
A collection of able, but not brilliant players, boardroom disharmony and extravagant spending in the transfer market has long since been a feature of Tottenham Hotspur as a football club. The debate about whether they could break into the top four has been going on for a long time- perhaps originating after they led an injury-hit Arsenal side for large parts of the 2005/06 season before succumbing on the last day to finish fifth. Since then, they have never really looked like taking away that coveted fourth place from their hated rivals. While most expected them to push on last season, again challenging heavily for a top four finish, Spurs fell off the pace, finishing eight points behind their north London rivals Arsenal compared to just a single point difference the year prior.
Despite spending more than £40 million pounds this time round in the transfer market, Tottenham have still not looked any closer than last year to breaking into the top four with their shaky start to the Premiership season. After conceding a last minute winner to a Sunderland side that had just come up from the Championship, Martin Jol’s team then went on to be comprehensively thrashed by an Everton side at White Hart Lane. In fact, reports in the media hinted that the win over Derby County was the only thing that had kept Martin Jol his job with Tottenham. Although some would think that the recent win could be the start of a change in fortunes, it appears that the Tottenham board think differently. After publicly announcing that Jol would be staying at the club, they were left with egg on their faces after Juande Ramos revealed they had approached him with “a dizzying offer”. Hardly the best news if you’re Martin Jol, considering you were lied to and then the board went behind your back looking for replacements.
When you take a look at the Spurs team, it is hard to see how they can finish ahead of the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal. While Tottenham’s first choice backline looks stable on paper, their replacements are not up to scratch- shown in some of the shambolic defending we have witnessed this season. Quite a few fans have doubts about goalkeeper Paul Robinson, while players such as Ricardo Rocha, Anthony Gardner and Assou-Ekotto have repeatedly shown they cannot defend. In midfield, even though they have solid defensive players with Zokora as first choice and Huddlestone as backup, they have problems in both the attacking midfield slot and on the wings. Aaron Lennon is the only player they have that can play well out wide, and with the rest only capable of sporadic good performances. As for attacking central midfielders, Jermaine Jenas and Danny Murphy have been inconsistent at best, while promising players like Taarabt and Boateng will take some time to get used to top flight football. Up front is the only area of the pitch where Tottenham fans will agree they have players just as good as the top four, but is it a case of having too much wealth? Berbatov showed his anger when he was subbed off against Sunderland, and one wonders how Jol is going to keep four strikers that would start at most clubs content.
While only deluded fans of the club itself could believe that Tottenham Hotspur Football Club will be able to break into the top four, I feel the most probable way for them is down rather than up- with the likes of Manchester City, Everton and Newcastle all playing better than the north London side.
August 1, 2007
After the departure of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry to Barcelona, fans across the globe were both shocked and excited. Who was Arsene Wenger lining up to replace the French genius? Names thrown into the hat included those of the likes of Huntelaar, Owen, Torres and even that of Samuel Eto’o. A week later, the striker that came to Arsenal was not one of those ‘big names’, but a relative nobody compared to those players. Eduardo da Silva, nicknamed ‘Dudu’ joined Arsenal on July 3rd, 2007 and here I try to inform Arsenal fans about what a player we have on our hands.
Most Arsenal fans would have had a vague recollection of the name when he signed with us, remembering that he featured against the Gunners in a two legged Champions League qualifier last year. Although he shone, is he the man capable of filling the giant-shaped hole in Arsenal’s squad left by Henry? Even though most would say no, judging from his past experiences there is nothing that says he will not be able to do so. Brazilian-born but a player for the Croatian national team, da Silva has starred for Dinamo Zagreb in the Croatian league. His tally of 73 goals in just a 104 appearances speaks for itself, as does the numerous accolades he has won while with them. Voted Croatian player of the year in 2004 and 2006, as well as being the league’s top scorer in 2006 and 2007, Eduardo’s performances and goals have been instrumental in Dinamo’s march to two Croatian league titles as well as two Croatian Cup triumphs. His 34 goals in just 32 appearances last season was a new Croatian league record, breaking the 29 goals scored by ex-Dinamo striker Goran Vlaović.
While da Silva is nothing short of brilliant on the domestic stage, he is a star player for the Croatian national team as well. His stellar performances on the international stage have been one of the main reasons for Croatia rising to the top of Group E in the European 2008 qualifiers, a group containing the likes of England, Russia and Israel. With a record of 8 goals in 14 appearances, his goals per game ratio is up there with the best and surely will only improve. He already knows how to score against the big names, the highlights of his time with Croatia including a looping header to beat England goalkeeper Paul Robinson on the way to a 2-0 win for Croatia as well as a hattrick against Israel to wrap up a 4-3 win away from home. His partnership with Luka Modric has blossomed both at club and international level, and as reports linking Modric to Arsenal grow stronger and stronger, we may be seeing both of them linking up in the red and white very soon.
Surely the biggest question about how da Silva will cope is whether he can make the step up from the weaker Croatian league to the unforgiving Premiership- if he does, Arsenal will have a terrifying player on their hands. The weather should not be a problem, as anyone that can play football in the freezing climate of Croatia should have no problem with the relatively pleasant weather of England. Whereas other players like ex-Liverpool striker Morientes and ex-Arsenal player Jose Reyes could not adapt to the physical side of the Premiership because of its extreme difference from La Liga, the Croatian league is hardly light, with a lack of skill made up for with bone-crunching tackles. Whether he will set the Premiership alight or not is a question yet to be answered of course, as we can never be fully sure when the likes of Baptista, a player who seemed perfect for the English game have failed. Dudu, however seems to have the abilities to succeed and the attitude to replace Henry’s place in the team as well.
Where will Eduardo play? His best position is up front, although he is capable of playing on the wing as well. With him and Van Persie as our strikers, we would have two players that are left footed- an unusual strike partnership to say the least. If he were to be played out wide, his left foot could offer us something different as none of our other wide players are left footed. Although he is a decent player, the bonus about this Wenger signing is that he is not good enough to be guaranteed a place in the starting eleven- meaning he will have to fight for his place and thus, hopefully put in good performances week in, week out. Even the fans that had never heard of Dudu must have been gripped with excitement when they saw this player sign for us, because with players and signings, the phrase “Wenger knows” has rarely been proven wrong.