Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The end of an era

Its that time of year again when players get released from their clubs. Fans favourites are let go, that prospect who looked so good 6 months ago has not quite improved and doesn't make the grade. Its a tough time for the players, after all this is their livelihood we are talking about.

These aren't Premier League players we are talking about, most of the average ones are on £30-40k a week plus bonuses. These are players earning on average £30k a YEAR. These are players that when they retire they don't end up with newspaper columns or on Match of the Day most of them will never play above League 2. Yet every week 95% of them work hard and make the most of the talent they have.

At every club there is that player, that 5% who don't quite put the effort in, we've all seen them down the years, a flash of brilliance then nothing for 6 months. They frustrate us, polarise fans opinion, we wonder how they can waste the talent they were born with, for them I have no sympathy when contract renewal time comes around and they don't get the renewal. They only have themselves to blame.

Then there's my club who this week have released 5 of our first team regulars. Our captain Mark Arber, a veteran of over 650 league games and has been at the Daggers since Christmas of our first league campaign. He played for most of the season with an injury, and played his part in keeping us up. Peter Gain, our battling midfielder who unfortunately spent moist of this year injured. When hes fit he is the lynch pin of our side and we missed him massively this year when he was injured.

Damien McCory who replaced the popular Scott Griffiths and the shambolic Jamie Day. He has battled for a regular spot this season with fans favourite Femi. On his day hes excellent, unfortunately he hasn't had that many this season as his form has been sporadic. Phil Walsh has been a bit part player who always tried his best but unfortunately it wasn't to be.

Finally we have the ever versatile Jon Nurse, our Wembley hero, the man who made me cry with joy as he shanked in the winner, the Chuckle Brothers faces fell to the floor and we were in raptures as we entered the promised land of League 1. He has played in so many positions for us and has been an excellent player and loyal servant.

Two years ago we were playing at Wembley, since then we have sold Paul Benson, Danny Green, Romain Vincelot, Tony Roberts retired and now we have the contracts ending of Mark Arber, Damien McCory, Jon Nurse, Peter Gain and Phil Walsh. In the Premier League you don't lose that amount of players but in League 2 you do. Some move on to higher wages and bigger clubs. Others don't.

We had to use some of this coming seasons budget on getting players in to help us survive last year when we had all the injuries and the knock on effect of that has been there is no money to renew the players who's contracts have expired. Some of our fans think that some of them are too old now and the time is right for them to move on.

Me? I think if we have another injury crisis like we did last year we really are going to be in trouble, but I'm a realist and this is the price of a club that gets 1500 average home gates. Its always sad when a player leaves your club, football is such a short career as it is anyway, the only constant is us the fans.

However that is not to take away from the service the players have given and I wish them well. It does appear though that there may be a chance they could stay if we can get some funds in by selling a few, for now though they face an uncertain future, a footballers life is not all glory, LA partying lifestyle that is often portrayed in the press especialy in the lower leagues. Its about men paying mortgages and keeping their heads afloat just like you and me and that why I support the club I do.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Hodgson's choice, let the name calling begin.

The squad has been announced and the moaning has started already. 'How did he get picked?',' Why isn't he in the squad?' 'The manager doesn't know what hes doing!' and so it begins. It doesn't matter whether its Roy Hodgson or Ron Greenwood ever since I can remember there has been people doubting the managers choice of squad at a major tournament.

Well how about this little gem, WE AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH. There take a deep breath and say it out loud, trust me you will feel so much better for doing so. We haven't been good enough to win a tournament for nearly 20 years now, and that one was played at home, all games at Wembley and we still didn't get past the Semi-Finals.

All this best league in the world nonsense is also the problem. How many of the current England squad play regularly for the top 4 sides in the Premier League? When you name the centre forward at Arsenal who do you think of? When you think of the main goal threat at Man City or Chelsea who do you name? Who is the play maker at Spurs? Who is the goalkeeper at Man Utd? There is your answer.

We haven't developed a group of World class players in decades, oh the odd one might sneak through but where is the Messi?, Xavi?, Alonso?, Puyol?, Modric? nowhere to be seen. The last attacking left winger we had was John Barnes and that was 30 years ago. So why on earth do people expect us to win major tournaments?

France won the World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000 with home grown players. Spain won the World Cup in 2010 and Euro 2008 by having home grown players. Germany are one of the most successful teams of all times and they do it with home grown players. Look at their leagues, they are full of talented young players from THOSE country's. The ones that aren't there are playing OVER HERE.

Yes its brilliant for the Premier League but not good enough for the national team. The basis of the influx of players from abroad was sold to us on the basis that it would encourage a new breed of skillful kids to progress through the game. That was 30 years ago when Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villia arrived fresh from winning the World Cup and what has happened since? Nothing.

It needs to be a cultural change, a change from all supporters that accepts until they are willing to embrace young English talent and give it a chance, that their teams may not be as successful as they currently are, then England will NEVER win another tournament. In fact they may even struggle to qualify in the next 10 years. That's a shame, but at the end of the day you reap what you sow.

Hodgson has an impossible job, I don't envy him, my expectations are we get out of the group and then who knows? My heart says a Semi Final is possible, my head says we will be lucky not to get slaughtered. We may have given the game to the World but the World is showing how it doesnt need us anymore to progress is and we are standing by the side of the road like the fat kid who's dropped his ice cream.

Lower your expectations or accept the enevitable, when they are giving out the trophy's we will be the ones looking through the glass, stuck at home boasting about the Best League In The World with none of our players even playing in it.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

No morals? Great lets win the League

After what was one of the best final days to a Premier League season that many of us can remember we should be talking about that, but once again we aren't. When are clubs and more importantly fans going to tell the likes of Joey Barton and Carlos Tevez that their behaviour is unacceptable and unwanted? How much longer will fans of those clubs accept these players and continue to put their names on the back of their shirts?

The way Barton conducts himself on and off the pitch is a disgrace. He was given a talent that most people would give their right arm for yet he portrays himself quite happily as a 'Hardman'. He then continues to spout shite on twitter using the band the Smiths as his main mode of conversation. The man shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a football pitch.

For all his bravado and convictions the thing that annoys me the most is the way he is wasting his time being an idiot when he should be concentrating on playing football. On Sunday his team needed a point to survive yet he decided he was going to take on half the Man City team!. His cowardly knee into the back of Aguero, his face contorted in anger sums him up completely. He will face a massive ban at the start of next season as well, don't be surprised to see him transfer listed shortly after.

Tevez decided that he didn't want to play for Man City earlier this season so he went on strike for 6 months and went home to Argentina. Mancini said he would never play for the club again yet when it appeared the title was beginning to slip away there was Tevez back into the squad and then into the team. He then has the audacity to hold aloft a sign saying RIP Fergie on it. It is laughed off by most of the Man City fans as high jinks. No it wasn't, it was offencive and coming from someone who didn't even want to play for the club at one stage it beggars belief.

These are just two examples why I don't follow a Premiership team. As a fan of these clubs you will accept any player, no matter how badly they behave, as long as they help you win trophies. You will defend the indefensible time and time again, you will put their names on the back of your expensive shirts, then moan about players at other clubs doing exactly what your own team and club have done.

The money that has seeped into the game at the highest level has corrupted normal rational thinking people into accepting any type of behaviour from the people who represent their club. I have one small glimmer of hope left and its this. When these players finally retire with their millions in the bank, they will not be remembered as great players by 99% of the country, they may be remembered by some of the fans at their clubs but they wont be the names the dads pass onto the sons.

Eventually they will fade from our minds and all they will have left is their money. Believe me that will hurt them more than anything else because no one will care about them anymore. All footballers want to be remembered by the fans that saw them play, these two wont even be remembered by the fans of the clubs they played for and rightly so.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

England: Where Now?

Capello's resignation was a little bit of a suprise but not a great one if Im honest. After his comments at the weekend with regards to John Terry it was going to lead to some sort of showdown with the FA. They had to be seen to act and he was a man of principal, personally I think they both saw it as a chance to part ways. They had clearly had enough of each other.

Capello isn't a bad manager, his record in club football is second to none, he also has the best win percentage of any England Manager at 67% (Ramsey is 2nd on 61%). That however hides the truer fact that in his one and only tournament he was a total disaster. Like so many before him he wasn't able to bridge the gap between club and international management. Add to that the problem he didn't speak English and you have to ask yourselves what exactly the FA were thinking when they hired him in the first place!. Yes we had just had the wally with the brolly (Steve Maclaren) but I think we went for a name instead of the manager that was suitable for the job.

We now have fans and media clamouring for Harry Redknapp to take the job. A good candidate of that there is no doubt but changing the manager isn't the problem. The last truly world class England side we had was 1990. Euro 96 doesn't count really because:-

1. We had an easy group, Switzerland, Scotland and a totally disorganised Holland squad (sound familiar)
2. We were extremely lucky against Spain who had 2 goals disallowed before we won on penalties
3. We played all our games at Wembley and all the support that went with it.

Don't get me wrong it was a brilliant time to support England, following on from the failure of USA 94 and Graham Taylor but once again we didn't build on it as Terry Venables left at the end of the tournament facing a court case (sound familiar?).

The last manager who the fans went mental for was Kevin Keegan, the peoples choice, a good club manager but severely found out at International level and a disaster at Euro 2000. Winning 2-0 against Portugal we lost 3-2, beat Germany 1-0 in an awful game and lost 3-2 to Romania and came home. What did we do? We went foreign and Sven arrived.

Harry Redknapp is nailed on for the job but should he take it? No he shouldn't. He is onto a great thing at Spurs and has built a good side that plays attacking football. Why would he want to give that up for England and the thankless job that will be?. The minute he loses the press will be on his back giving him grief and he will never get back to where he was at Spurs. The moment would have passed.

Our main problem is the men behind the team, the men that make decisions on the future of the game in this country. Im not getting into the whole Sky debate but I will say this. When your Elite Football Director is a man who failed at club management, step forward Gareth Southgate and a man who managed a Premier League side to relegation, stand up Trevor Brooking then we have real issues.

We need technically gifted players to work behind the scenes, to set the training schedules and coach the kids. To set training standards for the whole country and a plan for the next 15 years. What we don't need is the two we have at the moment. Nice blokes certainly but no good for the future of the game in this country. We need the Beckhams, Scholes, Neville's, Shearers, Adams, and the Seamans players who were the best in their positions and who are technically gifted and can help coach the kids of the future.

We need then too allow the kids to come through and accept that until they do we are not going to win a thing and drop the whole 1966 and how great we are because we aren't its that simple. We are an average team with players who cannot live with the best in the World and perhaps don't want the pressure of playing for their country knowing they will get slaughtered the minute they lose.

Personally I would offer it to Wenger he would be brilliant at it. He is coming to the end of his time at Arsenal and he would transform the training and coaching system as he did when he first went to Arsenal. Allow him time to change things and build a new team around the kids that are coming through.

Make sure that the best English coaching talent is rising to the Premier League and they get the experience needed to run the national team. It isn't an over night fix, we have tried them for the past 46 years and they haven't worked. So this time lets make sure we plan properly for the future and that we have something to be proud of for the next generation instead of making the same mistakes again and again.

Redknapp will take the job though because he is that type of old school manager who sees managing their country as the pinnacle of their career and I wish him all the luck in the world for it, he is really going to need it. I hope though that he doesn't regret it when it all goes pear shaped in 6 months time.