Monday, 6 December 2010

Hughton's Sacking Reconfirms The Obvious

The Ultimate Football Blog

For those reading, if there are any, you may have noticed this website took a sudden and unexpected break since early November. And that is solely down to me. It was my decision to discontinue the posts and I had made no plans as to when The Promised Land would resume.

My reasoning for this was personal. While still head-over-heels with my one and only Manchester United, I have fallen out of love with football. The game is stale. And it’s full of cunts. While I couldn’t say that it’s been boring recently, it lacks a certain ‘oomph’, killing itself of any real passion and spark it once had.

That’s why I’ve stepped back for a little while, over a month now I believe, and tried to rediscover my own passion for the game and, indeed, for writing about the game. And I’ve got nothing. However, something happened on Monday that angered me so much and compounded my own belief of how much of a disgrace football has turned itself into that I felt compelled to say a few words, as ironic as that may seem.

I’ve made no attempt to ever hide my absolute contempt for Newcastle United Football Club. Since the club has been under the ownership of Mike Ashley, it’s been a complete basket-case. A circus. A football club unworthy of its place in the football league. But following the shambles of sacking Sam Allardyce (the source of their downfall), the beautiful but disastrous romance of Keegan, the craziness of Kinnear and the sheer stupidity of Shearer, it seemed like the club had come full circle and, more importantly, come to sense. It may have been forced upon them, it may just have been their great fortune but when Newcastle were deservedly relegated in 2009 and nobody in the football world wanted to take charge of what was less of a sinking ship and more of a burning wreckage, Chris Hughton stepped up to the plate.

In the background for many years, Hughton either saw this as his chance to be a leading man, or just doing the bosses a favour and ‘caretaking’ before somebody else was found. Whatever his reasons it either showed he was short on brain cells, or had a lot of balls. Probably both. But it worked. Hughton and Newcastle just worked. He was exactly what the Car-toon Army needed at the time.

When Newcastle started to struggle in the 08/09 season after a series of shambolic decisions and some grotesque demands and expectations from their deluded supporters, I suggested that relegation would prove to be just what the club needed. That, once a great club, Newcastle desperately needed to get out of the limelight and spend a year in the rehab of the Championship. Things at St. James’ Park were spiralling out of control at the time. Every day provided a fresh punch-line to what was becoming the longest running joke in English football. Their managers were either having nervous break-downs, or heart attacks. Or were being plucked from the telly. Their owner was more interested in downing pints in ten seconds flat and Dennis Wise was even a Director of Football there. Dennis Wise! A Director of Football! FFS!

Things were bad, and then they got worse. Newcastle were relegated, but that proved to be a blessing in disguise. And Chris Hughton became their unlikely Messiah. He steered them through a difficult and relatively incident-free campaign in the Championship, ultimately winning the league. After just one season he had brought Newcastle back to the big time. Many seemed surprised at his success, especially given the tattered state of the club when he took over. But you must remember, although this was his first job in the manager’s chair, Hughton has been involved in football coaching for quite some time. Since 1993, in fact. As assistant to Martin Jol, Spurs twice finished fifth in the Premier League in 2006 and 2007, an achievement at the time. And with Newcastle struggling nearing the end of the 08/09 season but not quite realistic relegation candidates, it wasn’t until Alan Shearer came in and replaced Hughton with Iain Dowie that the club started to plummet.

But how exactly did this seemingly serene situation all fall apart? Ah, I forgot this is Newcastle United we’re talking about. The club that specialises in needless drama and soap opera plots to rival Coronation Street.

Yes, the team is winless in their last five league games. So what? This is a newly promoted club sitting 11th going into the half-way point of the season. What about the 6-0 thrashing of Aston Villa? The 1-0 defeat of Arsenal? The 1-1 draw with Champions Chelsea? Let’s not forget the absolute arse-handing humiliation of their most hated rivals, Sunderland? Do these results count for nothing? No win in five should not be a major concern for a mid-table club. With the right principles and coaching in place, and under Hughton it was, results would have turned in their favour sooner than later.

Mike Ashley is a clown, and Chris Hughton deserves better. He is a great football man. It may be a cliché, but it’s the truth. He’s may not spit out classic one-liners like Mourinho but a man like Hughton is pure gold in today’s game. Passionate, dignified, respectful and highly intelligent is how I’d like to describe Chris Hughton. This is Newcastle’s loss and should he want it, there’s a job not too far away for him. Let’s hope he’s back before long so when the theatrics of the rest of the football world get too much to take we’ll have a proper and honest man within this shambles of a game to turn to.

Hughton’s sacking left me fuming as it was always expected and it was always going to be undeserved. It has simply reconfirmed my belief that this game is full of cunts who are ruining it from the top down. Men like Hughton are used and are not given a proper chance with the powers-that-be opting instead for names and reputations. Thankfully, with the fantastic job Chris Hughton did at St James’ he’s now made a fine name for himself.

Here’s to hoping Newcastle United get another healthy dose of reality at the end of this season. And here’s to hoping I can figure out why I let days like last Monday, and football as a whole, turn me into a cynical bastard who can’t stop hating the game I can’t live without.

R.C

Monday, 8 November 2010

For Those Who Know Some Heroes Are Un-Sung...

The Ultimate Football Blog

Guest Editorial

Every week I love to pick him out. “He’s fucking useless!!” “Take him off!!” these are only two of the things I’d regularly shout whilst watching my beloved United. But when I sit back and think about what he’s done, the important goals and assists he’s given to United and the tireless, body on the line effort he puts in every time he pulls on the United shirt, Park ji Sung shows that you don’t need all the skill and style to be the valuable player he is.

He signed for United in 2005 after a hugely successful spell for PSV, and was snapped up for £4 million. His first season at United was nothing spectacular, but he always did the job needed. After his first season he was almost forgotten about, with those who did remember him questioning the talent he showed in Holland. Season two was more of the same for Park but it was after this where he really started to show his worth.

He was never spectacular, and never will be. He doesn’t have the skill of Nani or Berbatov, but he’s got twice the heart. He’s not a prolific scorer, but my god has he scored some important goals. He loves to score against Arsenal, but has also found the net against the top teams like Chelsea and Liverpool, when goals were badly needed. Last March he netted a vital goal against Liverpool to seal a 2-1 win for United and in the Champions League semi-final two years ago he started the 3-1 rout of Arsenal in the Emirates. They’re hugely important goals for United but has the lad scored a more important goal than the one he got with seconds to go last week?

It was 92:56 on the clock, that left 1 minute and 4 seconds (approx.) left for United to salvage themselves from yet another embarrassing draw at home this season. Not only that but if Chelsea had gone to Anfield the following day knowing that they could go 8 points clear, we might have seen a different result. Park picked the ball up on the right, took it inside passed three Wolves players and placed the ball in near post leaving Marcus Hahnemann glued to the spot. It was a piece of brilliance that if Ronaldo had done would have been lauded as a great goal, but because it was Park, it was just a good goal. But does that bother Park? Not a chance. He once again came out for United and wore his heart on his sleeve, and what more can we ask?

So the next time United have a bad day, which is happening too much recently, I hope the Park haters realise that this man deserves nothing but praise, because he is a true United great and ambassador, whether the opinion polls say it or not.

“Park, Park, wherever you may be.... “

TO'D
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I read in the papers on Sunday that CITEH were "finally" considering replacing Roberto Mancini with José Mourinho. Now while the story itself will go nowhere, it shows that joke the CITEH project is. Mancini is a cunt, I hate him and his scarf and to be honest I don't rate him. But he's been there less than a year, no manager can turn a disgrace of a club like CITEH around in that time especially when saddled with egos and players who only care about their wage packets.
 
 Now Mancini saved himself this weekend, but a loss in the derby on Wednesday would surely end him. I won't be sad to see him go, but whomever is stupid enough to replace him, remember when you're "finally" sacked in about six months, you'll only have yourself to blame.
 
DO'L
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On Saturday the 6th of November, Gerard, Ross and myself went to Old Trafford for the United game, it was a hell of a trip. What follows is pretty much the shit we got upto as well as the match. Its a bit long but I think its a good read so for anyone reading, it's upto you whether you want to read or not (and there is more football opinion after it if you can't be bothered and do the auld skippy skippy), but I hope you do. Cheers, David.
 
To the Theatre of Dreams...
 
“Alright lads?” the words of one Mick McCarthy as he passed a bunch of four Irish football fans decked out in their Manchester United gear who were staring at him with mouths like the Premiership title race, wide open. It was one of many incidents in a surreal weekend of football for the Promised Land. Three of the four writers (and Keith!) taking a trip to Old Trafford for the mammoth clash of Manchester United vs. Wolves and here we were across from an Ireland legend, loved by some, despised by others. What followed was great replies to the Premiership manager of “How’re ya getting on?’ and “Well”. Not the most imaginative bunch but when the Wolves squad preceded to follow him around the corner it was all a bit much for us and we were dumbstruck.
 
It’s a different thing to be a Premiership football fan from abroad. While The residents of Manchester, Liverpool, London, Blackpool and all the other footballing cities of the top league may been a bit more accustomed and taken the chance to get a quick chant in or get an autograph signed, for the four of us this was something we’d never seen before.

This was only my second trip to Old Trafford for a match; two years ago I watched a thriller when United beat Hull 4-3. In previous years, Ross, the editor of this fine site has been to dozens of games even moving to Manchester (temporarily) for our beloved Red Devils, but in general it’s not something we get to do often. Getting there is one thing, but it’s the price that kills us. While some fans give out about forty pounds being too much, I paid €80 to ensure I had a seat at the game, add in flights, accommodation and everything else and it all adds up to a serious deprivation of live football.

That’s why every trip needs to be lived to its fullest and there’s no doubt in my mind that we did that this time. On the flight over from Ireland, in the world’s smallest plane, I passed over Liverpool where I saw something explode and go up in smoke, it wasn’t just Liverpool FC’s season but Guy Fawkes night fireworks and it set the tone for an explosive weekend.

After a night out in Manchester’s finest clubs and casinos it was up first thing in the morning for the stroll with Mick McCarthy and the boys, into town to Gregg’s for some pastry’s and off to Old Trafford after two of the lads were forced to pay ten pounds for a leaflet for the Old Trafford tour by a supposed homeless man! But on the streets to Old Trafford however something had changed; two years ago it had been a few cans and into the match but that was gone now. No more public drinking and considering a good dozen cans had been brought and had to be thrown away, our spirits may have been dampened, but they fucking worth.

No, this was the trip to the Motherland, to the Holy Grail, the site of Old Trafford was amazing to see and a few cans down the drain weren’t going to hurt us. Into the nearby supporters bar, queues out the door of course, our thirst was soon quenched and we were ready for the big match.

People often complain about foreign fans, or tourists, attending matches. This isn’t a show, not an opera, this is a place to get behind your team and not just a day out to pass the time, but seeing the mix of fans heading to the stadium was brilliant. Two Aussies and some Asians dragged us into photos as they wanted to get some locals, we laughed considering we like them had come from aborad but to be honest whether you were born in Salford or Singapore I think no criticism can be made, if you love the club you deserve to attend, no plastic fans, no glory hunters, but fans with true belief in the histories.

 I don’t blame local Mancunians who may sometimes take it for granted, but for someone who went 735 days between Old Trafford visits, there’s nothing like that torture and nothing like the euphoria of being their again. I know I’m not from there, but I know how much I love the club and I know how real of a supporter I am, and of course the other three gowls with me.

Lets be honest, the match itself was pretty dire. Manchester United were stuck with injuries and viruses and the team that went out would have been fine for the Carling Cup, but from the midfield onwards it was not good enough. I mean John O’Shea was in midfield for fucks sake!! On top of that, the sheer joy of hearing Owen Hargreave’s was starting was soon followed by the despair of a man who looked broken, limping off with less than five minutes gone. Many are giving up on Owen, I won’t, and I hope some match soon we will say the curly haired maestro running the midfield again.

Apart from that brief cameo, the worst performance unfortunately fell to Bébé. The kid was building up a good head of steam recently, silencing critics but now the ammo has been restored. He was terrible, but I don’t blame him, he’s been here such a short time and I don’t think he could have expected to come on so early. Lets hope Fergie and some of the senior players throw and arm around his shoulder and make sure he knows one bad game does not a bad career make.

The hero of the day was of course Park Ji Sung. I can’t add a lot more than what my colleague Tom wrote above, but I will say I’ve loved Park fanatically since he joined from PSV. I don’t know why, but I did. And it was great to see him prove the doubters wrong. The supposed ‘fan’ to my right in the stands summed it all up when moments before Park’s first goal, the Korean had the ball and all I heard was “he’s only gonna fucking give it away”. And of course, literally just before Park scored the winner, when he smaller player failed to keep a ball in that would have been too high for Vidic he was “a stupid mongo”. That man was a cunt and he doesn’t deserve to take the happiness that a player he berated (one of many) all game for no reason will have brought him.


He wasn’t the only negative fan though. Our seats were in the Stretford end, last time I had been in the North Stand watching jealously at those who were sitting in the centre of all the chanting, all the atmosphere but today it was a bit of a letdown. The crowd was subdued and while chants broke out left and right it was often a select few left shouting them to the end.

What always disappoints me occurred again, when I watched thousands stream out before the half time and final whistles, I didn’t miss a second of the match and I could never dream of leaving early especially when United are so well known as late goal specialists, we chanted, shouted and supported the team for 94 minutes and when the match was over we stayed, taking it all in till the stewards came to clear out the final stragglers. On top of the cunt behind me, the support for players like O’Shea, Bebe and Park was abysmal. I may criticize before a game and after but during the match you get behind the men playing for that shirt and for that badge. Bebe played awfully but I still clapped him off.

All things considered though, United won and that’s all that fucking matters. To be there in the Stretford end and see a last minute winner, the adrenaline, the rush, everything made up for anything else that happened. It was an amazing moment and seeing Park carried off the field was the icing on the cake. It’s a moment I will remember for the rest of my life, just like the Hull game and with every Old Trafford game I add to my experiences, I know that United will provide me with hundreds more of these almost indescribable feelings.


With the match over it was into town, for the worst meal I’ve ever had (Hard Rock Café can go fuck itself) and another night in the town, this time in some basement called 5th Avenue. Followed of course with one of the lads ,a man with a chronic gambling addiction, may still be in the casino. And the Manchester weekend drew to a close in the wee hours of Sunday morning and next thing you know, you’re on a flight home the next day.

 All the shit we did in Manchester was amazing, but quite simply despite all that, it was United that made the trip and its United that we’ll crave for every minute until we get back there again, hopefully a hell of a lot sooner this time. The travel, the money, the effort all for just 90 minutes? Who’d be a football fan from abroad eh? I know I fucking will.

DO'L
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Andy Caroll eh? You couldn't make this shit up. The guy, who looks like an absolute retard and yet seems to play like a proper centre forward should is of course in the papers again. This weekend he scored the winner to take the Geordies to sixth beating none other than the Arsenal, but its not that people will focus on. A judge, in some sort of ridculous fit of madness after watching too many sitcoms, decreed that as part of Carroll's bail conditions he must live with club captain Kevin Nolan who'll keep an eye on him. The original odd couple maybe, but Nolan will keep him on the straight and narrow so the logic is kind of there.
 
Well it hasn't turned out like that as the story broke that while Nolan's wife was away the two had a massive party, Carroll fucked a couple of slappers/prostitutes while yelling "Ride me, ride me" and the place was covered in cocaine, which for the sake of their careers the two boys better not have touched all part of a fourteen hour binge. You couldn't make this stuff up. Now of course, this hasn't been confirmed but papers generally don't print this kind of thing without some decent backup because if they did a lawsuit would hit him harder than Carroll hits his girlfriends.
 
 Ths young man has all the footballing talent in the world, but he's on the wrong path and he needs to sort shit out NOW. England are interested Andy, get your act together.
 
DO'L
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As the terrible commentary in football games reminds me constantly, form is temporary but class is permanent. An old cliché but never truer than when Fernando Torres tore apart the league champions with two great goals to get a shock win for Liverpool. A few weeks ago I said that Torres would be one of my top choices to replace Wayne Rooney if he goes and I stick by that. The player is amazing and though he's had a lot of criticism, when he's able he is possibly the best pure striker in the world.
 
This is a stepping stone for Torres now, and though I think he'll leave Liverpool before next season, I do think he may save their season before that and drag them, at least, to more Thursday night European football next year. being honest, if he doesn't, no one else will.
 
DO'L


English Premier League: Player of the Week


WEEK 11

Arnold Furious

1. Fernando Torres ( Liverpool ). Its hard for me to vote a Liverpool player top. I’m sick of hearing about Liverpool this season. The takeover, the on the field problems, Torres’ fitness, etc, etc. But make no mistake about it this wasn’t just the most important performance of the week. It was the most important performance of the season so far. Torres’ double not only signals a return to form for him but also for the club as a whole. It seems they’ve finally managed to embrace Roy Hodgson’s tactics and mentality. Not only that they beat Chelski, which means the league is opened right up. Before the weekend I was still convinced Chelski were going to walk the title but after seeing their failure against Liverpool the questions I had at the start of the season are coming back. Where is the strength in depth? What happens if Plan A fails? Can Chelski actually break an organised defence down? Against Liverpool they were found wanting while Torres was found to be at his precocious best. And the most worrying thing for everyone else; he still isn’t fit.

2. Kevin Davies ( Bolton ). With all eyes on Gareth Bale you’d be confused as to why the papers ended up hailing an opposition player whose qualities have been known, and largely ignored, for years. Davies always gives 100%, which would account for him committing a ridiculous number of fouls. But sometimes his effort is rewarded by his team-mates. Against Spurs we saw a Bolton team that’s been in hibernation for some time. One that’s interested in not only pressing the ball but also playing some football. As for Davies there’s perhaps no better point man in the game. He scored twice before his deft header set up Petrov for Bolton ’s decisive 4th. Sensational stuff.

3. Morten Gamst Pederson ( Blackburn ). Scored a frankly ludicrous goal against Wigan and showcased his world-class left foot in the process. Pederson isn’t a player who does it week in, week out, which has seen him spend most of his career with a weak Blackburn side but when he does have a good game you can see why he was connected with bigger clubs earlier in his career.

4. Andy Carroll ( Newcastle )

5. Asamoah Gyan ( Sunderland )

Tom O'Dowd

1. Fernando Torres: El Nino is most definitely back. He was written off, like Rooney, by many people and it was said he's not a top player, but he's most definitely class. He destroyed a Chelsea defence that’s leaked so little to date, and now it's time for him, and Liverpool to kick on. Form was temporary for Torres, but his class is permanent.
2. Park ji Sung: A player who's been rubbished by so many, very similar to Dirk Kuyt, but the little Korean(who actually looks like a girl with the perm) is a pivotal part of Manchester United. He might not have the skill of Nani or Berbatov, but he shows more passion than those two have put together. Two great goals from him proved he's a lot better than most think.

3. Kevin Davies: Another top performance from the Bolton big man. Two goals and an assist against a Spurs team flying high. He's Mr.Bolton and without him they'd have possibly been relegated a few years before now. May not be the most gifted, but he's the warrior every team needs.

4. Asamoah Gyan

5. Andy Carroll

David O'Loughlin

1. Fernando Torres: There's been a lot of bad things written about the Spaniard in recent times but when he's on form he can tear apart anyone. I still think his time at Liverpool is coming to a close either at Christmas or in the summer but if he can keep up the form he showed in this game, he may even save Liverpool's season before he goes (as much as can be saved)

2. Kevin Davies: While once seen as a limited player, Davies' is now seen as one of the best target men in the Premiership. Scored two and assisted one in a win against a top four team. His assist for Petrov's goal was phenomenal and he had to impress the watching Capello.

3. Park Ji Sung: Criminally underrated, he basically dragged United through the weekends match by himself and then got the 93rd minute winner. Deserves to start against CITEH.

4. Asamoah Gyan

5. Andy Carroll

So let’s see what our Final Five is for the week. Perhaps no surprises at the sharp end. Torres takes the Player of the Week award having been voted first by everyone. All the top four players scored twice and Andy Carroll’s goal sank Arsenal. You have to do good to crack the Final Five.

Players of the Week:
1. Fernando Torres 15
2. Kevin Davies 11
3. Park Ji Sung 7
4. Asamoah Gyan 5
5. Andy Carroll 4

And the overall chart reveals very little in the way of changes. Carroll’s point this week helps him solidify 2nd place overall. Torres debuted at #13 and has finally given Liverpool some points on the board. Incidentally I worked out how the league would look if it was based on points accumulated from these POTW scores and Man Utd are 9 points clear. Darren Bent remains on course to Player of the Year.

Players of the Season:

1. Darren Bent 20
2. Andy Carroll 15
3. Didier Drogba 12
4. Carlos Tevez 12
5. Dimitar Berbatov 12
6. Rafael van der Vaart 11
7. Joe Hart 10
8. Hugo Rodallega 10
9. Cesc Fabregas 10
10. Charles N’Zogbia 10

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

For Those Who Know Change Is Needed...And Those Who Hope Nothing Ever Does...


The Ultimate Football Blog

Editorial

At the beginning of this season I stated loud and clear that I believed Real Madrid, now under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, would beat everything that stood in front of them, and take home any silverware that’s on offer.

Some people told me I was naïve. Some told me that, like his predecessors, Mourinho would find the Madrid job ‘impossible’. Some told me that Barcelona were still the one’s to beat in both Spanish and European football.

Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

Mourinho, like I’ve said before, will make Real winners again. From a United view point I’m not that thrilled about it but, such is my admiration for and fascination of Jose Mourinho, I’m enjoying it. I will admit that I’m surprised as to just how attacking and entertaining they’ve been. After a sluggish enough start, Real now can’t stop scoring (until they went to Murcia last night, of course). They’re top of the scoring charts in La Liga, with 22 in eight games, 16 in the last three alone. They also boast the best defensive record, conceding just four. They’re obviously top of the league, and while there’s many miles yet to travel this season, Mourinho teams don’t tend to relinquish top spot once they’ve established themselves there. After just eight games, Real’s name on the trophy looks certain.

Mourinho has led the club to their best start to a season in 19 years. He’s the first manager in their history to remain unbeaten in his first 10 competitive games (which now stands at 12). Madrid have won three out of three in the Champions League, the trophy that the club covet the most, and have yet to concede. For Real, going out of the Champions League at the Last 16 stage is now a thing of the past. Winning it outright looks a much safer bet.

Real Madrid supporters are notoriously difficult to please. They demand entertainment. They demand the world’s best players. They demand goals and they demand trophies. They have little time for managers, it’s players they idolise. But if you want any proof of just how quickly Mourinho has been adopted at Madrid, and how well loved he has become, listen to the fans sing his name at Santiago Bernabeu. Yet another first in Los Merengues history.

Mourinho has been making waves all through his career. Even long before Porto and Chelsea. It’s what he does. He changes things. He upsets the status quo. He charges his way to the top wherever he is, and makes no apologies for doing so. He is simply remarkable, a football managerial genius. To put things into context, since Mourinho won his first major league title with Porto in 2003, (and I’m not including the 2007/08 season here) only once has he not been a domestic league champion. That was 06/07 when Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United put an end to his shenanigans at Chelsea.

I said that when Real landed Mourinho the rest of the football world better start worrying, because now at one of the world’s biggest and most powerful clubs, the man will be unstoppable. I’ve seen nothing so far that’s changed my mind.

Having said that, Mourinho’s first major test still lies ahead of him. Barcelona have beaten Real on the last four successive occasions. Mourinho NEEDS to end that run. His return to Camp Nou and his first involvement in El Classico on the Madrid side of the fence comes on the 28th of November. I won’t be missing it, make sure you don’t.

Enjoy

R.C
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Many men can lay claim to changing football forever. Jules Rimet, Bill Shankly, Sir Matt Busby, Maradona, Cruyff, Pele, all the way through the ages great men changed the game for better, and some for worse. But the man who may have had the biggest change on football wasn’t a great manager, he had nothing to do with FIFA and he wasn’t a great footballer, from reports on his career, he was quite average. His name is extremely well known, even if he isn’t. I’m talking of, of course, Jean-Marc Bosman.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what Bosman did for the game, but 15 years later its still being debated. This week Ian Holloway weighed in, in a way only he can. If you haven’t seen the rant on YouTube, I’d definitely recommend it, but the question is, despite his hilarious accent, is Holloway right?

The Bosman transfer sounds like a great idea. When a contract is up, it’s up and a player is free to move how they like. Perfect, right? However when the contract is up is not the only time the Bosman has influence. Last week, he-who-I-will-not-name almost brought one of the biggest clubs in the world to it’s knees because he ONLY had one and a half years left on his contract! Player power is here to stay but the Bosman rule takes it too fucking far. You spend £30 million to buy a player, you spend £5 million a year for his wages and just over half way through his contract the value of the player plummets meaning you either increase his wages, sell him early (probably having to splash out even more to replace him) or risk losing millions. There is absolutely no protection for the clubs who are spending hundreds of millions a year to pay these 20 year old millionaires, who earn more in a week then you ever will in a year.

If a player wants out of a club, it’s usually very easy to force a move, so basically they, and more importantly their agents, hold all the cards. What makes it even worse is that 99% of football agents are cunts, scum of the earth, who only give a shit about their commission. If they ruin a club, or help destroy a career it doesn’t matter as long as they get paid. Andy Cole talked about his former agent Paul Stretford this week who was his best friend when Cole was earning him money, but when times got tough for the goal machine he was basically told to go fuck off. Stretford, unsurprisingly, has no contact now with a man who helped make him a millionaire.

It’s time to look at the system. If Manchester United, Chelsea, CITEH, Real Madrid or whoever else are willing to offer the player equal wages at the end of his contract then some sort of fee should be a requirement. Base it on how much the original transfer was, or how much wages the player has received, or the length of his contract. I don’t care but something needs to be done. After three years of a five year contract, no player and his agent should be able to bend their club over the table like so many have recently. Be it Rooney, Sol Campbell, Steve McManaman, Cambiasso or any one of the dozens of players who have used this rule to force hundreds of thousands of pounds out of their club each year.

Now I know it’s not FIFA who decided this rule and EU law that has to be dealt with and worked around, but surely there must be a better way.

Ian Holloway is a good manager and a great sound-bite, and this time he’s really onto something. The repercussions of a nobody like Jean-Marc Bosman has echoed through football for years and it’s about time the system was looked at again to try and balance the scales, because the way it stands now the clubs are pretty much fucked.

D.O’L
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The game I have been dreading for weeks, even more so than facing Chelsea, was Manchester CITEH away. CITEH in recent weeks began to show why they had spent the astronomical figures in the transfer market by playing like a TEAM with Premiership title potential. Arsenal, on the other hand, while dissecting and destroying teams in Europe, were slightly stuttering in the Premiership, losing two out of the last three.

In a game that should have been decided within the first five minutes when Boyata - by far the most misguided and worst decision maker I have seen in a long time - got sent off and rightly so, it was far from being a given for Arsenal. Extremely poor passing, an exhibition in how to get yourself booked and an extremely tired looking Arsenal made playing against a 10 man team look like the most difficult I have seen in a long time. This is not to take credit from CITEH who came out attacking from the start and never let their heads sink. They gave the game to Arsenal but eventually fell victim to clinical finishing from Samir Nasri (who at just 23 looks to be on his way to greatness), Alex Song (who has been proving many critics, including myself, wrong) and a returning Nicklas Bendtner (who doesn’t need me to talk him up, he does it well enough himself).

Out of all the negatives I could point out about Arsenal's approach to this game, they still emerged 3-0 winners and that can’t be taken away from the players and the manager. That said, the real plus for Arsenal is that they had the strongest bench I've seen since the start of the season, and with Thomas Vermaelen, Abou Diaby and Robin van Persie set to return, they’re looking very strong. I wouldn't be surprised that when others look at that team, they'll think twice about writing this Arsenal side off. I might stand corrected at the season’s end, but I see that trophy cabinet looking a small bit fuller by next May.

E.O’L
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Every now and then we get things wrong. We say stupid things, make stupid mistakes or do something ridiculous. Everyone does it, because nobodys perfect. Roy Keane said Ronaldo and Rooney would never make it, Thierry Henry cheated his way to the World Cup and then you have Graham Poll brandishing three yellow cards to the one player in one match. Shit happens, but its how you recover from those mistakes  that shows you off to be the type of person you really are.
Three weeks ago I wrote a piece stating that I thought Sir Alex Fergusons wonderland at Old Trafford looked like coming to an awfully sad end. I said his decision making has become terrible and that he didnt have the same calibre of players he once had, blaming him because hes the boss, and that their performances have been nowhere near the Manchester United standard. I completely stand by my comments and since that piece United have actually been worse (aside from Stoke). But there is one massive error I made in writing that piece, questioning the power Sir Alex has over the football world.
Last week, as we all know, Wayne Rooney said he wanted out. He stated that he felt United were declining and could not meet his ambitions so hed have to look elsewhere. First of all, and lets be serious here, in my opinion Real Madrid are the only club in the world that are as big as United, and a number of ex-players (non-United) stated that also.
Secondly he stated he wanted to win trophies. Now Ill try to say this without laughing.... he was apparently going to sign for none other than Manchester CITEH (hahahahahahaha, apologies!). A club that hasnt won a trophy for 34 years? A club that got destroyed by Arsenal at home this weekend? A club that will win fuck all as usual? Come on! Who writes this shit?? The man was never going to go to CITEH, ever. It was all done to secure a better contract for himself, and fair play he more than deserves it, but I bet he regrets the way his CUNT of an agent handled it because he is now hated by a lot of people, and rightly so.
Wayne may regret this past week, but theres one man who just grabbed Manchester United by the balls, once again, and stated loud and clear I am Manchester United. Yes Sir Alex, you are. Not only did he get the owners to offer Wayne more money with some quite brilliant press conferences, but he now, apparently, has a £100 million transfer kitty to buy new ones and hold onto the superstars already at the club. If this is true then Manchester United are back, and Sir Alex Ferguson has done it again, and who better to build another team than the four- time team-building genius? I most definitely got that bit wrong, and I hope Sir Alex proves me completely wrong in all other aspects.
To Manchester CITEH:
Well keep the red flag flyin high, coz Man United will never die!

T.O’D
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Ger's Rant: The Knuckles View

After the soap opera in Manchester during the week which gave Coronation Street and Eastenders a run for their money,  there was the small matter of the Premier League match with Stoke on Sunday to concentrate on and, in particular, the 600th appearance for ‘one club man’ Gary Neville. He's the fifth United player to break into to the exclusive 600 club, along with Ryan Giggs, Bobby Charlton, Bill Foulkes and the ever-green Paul Scholes. And to be honest there isn't any other player at United who deserves this more than the talisman who wears his heart in his sleeve. Strangely enough the closest player to Neville in the appearance rankings still at the club is John O Shea on 371, so expect a piece when he gets to the 400 club!

But this is all about Neville. The record-breaking England right back who captained the United youth team to FA Youth Cup glory in his first season and made his senior debut in ‘92 against Torpedo Moscow in the Uefa Cup. In 2005 he was appointed club captain when Roy Keane left for Celtic and while he's not captain on the field anymore he is still club captain and remains a huge influence both on and off the field. So far Neville has won eight Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two European Cups, one Intercontinental Cup, one Club World Cup and one League Cup, along with five appearances in the PFA Team of the Year and being in the overall Team of the Decade for 10 Premier League season appearances between 92-02. But trophies aside there's one thing Neville is famous for, and that’s not being Phil's brother or his father name being Neville Neville, but his hatred for the Scouse bastards!

In 2006, he celebrated Rio Ferdinand's injury time winner against Liverpool with a celebration Adebayor could only dream of with the now infamous kissing (not Paul Scholes during the CITEH game) of the badge in front of the Liverpool fans. This led to Neville's celebration being blamed for disturbing fans after the game and him being charged by the FA with improper conduct. Neville contested this, asking if it was preferable for players to act like "robots" and show no emotions. He was fined but he's right as I love seeing players play with passion, something which will be gone when Neville leaves. He's had countless yellow and red cards to rival Paul Scholes and probably should have had both at Stoke on Sunday, but when he was substituted at half time he was probably the only person in the stadium that thought he was staying on! Funny enough, Wes Brown came on for his 350th appearance for United, so it was a week of history making at the club.

Call him what you like, there’s no denying Gary Neville has been and still is the best right back in the Premier League. Ok maybe not, but one thing’s for certain:

Gary Neville is a Red
Is a Red, is a Red,
Gary Neville is a Red,
He hates Scousers!

G.O'N
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For any Manchester United fans reading, don't forget to check out the best Man United blog on the internet, dedicated solely to the Red Devils and with top news and opinion every day.

http://therepublikofmancunia.com/ 
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This post is dedicated to the memory of a great friend, and Manchester United supporter, Niall Doyle.

Unfortunately he passed away Saturday night from an illness he's had all his life, scoliosis and other disfigured bodily parts. My greatest memory of him was celebrating the '99 Champions League together. He was the most loyal supporter I'd ever known and never had a bad word about anyone United. He was buried in his United shirt, scarf and clutching his Rooney doll. 

Rest in peace, Niall.

T.O’D

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