Recent blog posts

Posted by on

I didn't expect quite the reaction to the little idea I was discussing with Brendan Rodgers this weekend on beIN Sports. It's been interesting reading your comments.

A lot of you wanted a fuller explanation of what I was suggesting - so here we are.

I can't think of a more contentious subject in the game today than 'time added on'. LVG made a quite reasonable point about the final whistle at Stamford Bridge. Time was 'added on to time added on' to allow Chelsea to take a corner, but Michael Oliver's whistle went immediately that Utd cleared the ball - and were breaking. Cue another row. Roberto Martinez was furious, on the same ground recently, with that late 'off-side' JT goal v Everton, in time 'added on to time added on'!

In the interests of balance its worth pointing out that the first half this weekend should've ended with a penalty to Chelsea. That was a stick on. Oliver can't see it. If he does - he has to give it. Oh, one other little piece of info that came to my attention re Oliver. Wayne Rooney has asked him to ref his testimonial later this year. Now I'm certain that Oliver wasn't looking after Utd when he ruled that Blind hadn't handled, but it leaves him open to the allegation. I don't think current refs should be doing jobs like Wazza's testimonial. It creates suspicion.

Anyway - time added on. It's abused all the time by managers and coaches. My idea is simple - don't allow substitutions to be made after 90 mins. There's no need for it.

I've heard all the arguments for making them - most popular of course being 'what if there's an injury'? Well, there rarely if ever is. The only changes coaches make are designed to waste time and confuse officials.

Rodgers had the good grace to admit this. He even went so far as to tell us that any player he was thinking of taking off would be told to get to the far side of the pitch so as to make the walk off - and it's always walk - longer! It's a nonsense. Stop it. There's no need.

IF a team were to pick up an injury - hard luck. I think the benefits of such an insignificant change would far outweigh the down side.

And what were the other ideas I talked of on beIN Sports, but we didn't get time to discuss?

Simple. Any player fouled in the box should be made to get up and take the penalty. If a ball is handled you can continue to designate a chosen 'taker'. I think this would keep a lot more players on their feet

I first thought of the idea at Coventry one night when Newcastle's Warren Barton went storming into the box and swallow-dived. He was never going to score, so over he went. Alan Shearer stepped up and thumped the ball home!

I reminded Barton of the incident when I worked with him in America in 2010. I asked him 'if you had to take the pen, would you have gone over?'. I got the answer I expected 'no chance'.

The reason for this is that most players hate taking penalties. My mate, Andy Gray, was a centre forward, but only ever took three in his life. Kenny Dalglish wouldn't take them. He did, one or two (there was a famous Old Firm pen) but he'd leave them to Terry Mac or Phil Neal at Anfield.

Again, I know the argument against such a small change 'Ah, but what if a player got injured?'. Well they don't do they? Rarely, if ever, anyway. If somebody is stretchered off and leaves the game, fine, let your nominated 'taker' have a go. But that would be the end of the game for the guy on the stretcher. It wouldn't solve the problem of players diving, but it might make them think twice, so why not?

And my third little change - penalty shoot outs. I love them. They're real drama, but why are pens only taken one end? We've got four officials on the pitch, more in C Lge games, so why can't they be taken at both ends?

More often than not there is a distinct advantage for the 'home' team because they're taking them in front of their own fans. That's likely to continue to be the case in a lot of domestic cup ties, but not in big finals where stadiums are mostly split evenly - with supporters of both teams at different ends. So, take them in front of your own fans - sharing the nervous leg wobbling evenly. For a professional it's a testing enough event anyway, so why the imbalance?

Apart from anything else, why should supporters, who've all paid good money to get in, be denied the excitement of the shoot out just because they're at the wrong end of the ground?

I know Birmingham fans, feel to this day that they were stitched up in Cardiff v Liverpool in the

2001 League Cup final. Trevor Francis, their manager then, definitely does. I've discussed it with him. The penalties were sucked in by Liverpool fans their end, whilst Birmingham,naturally, faced a hostile job. It was unfair.

There are many reasons 'not' to make changes in the game. I'm very much against the invasion of video technology, but I know it's coming. My belief is that TV should 'cover' the game -  not dictate the 'outcome' of a match. With a ref giving a decision, only to have trucks full of 'experts' offering different 'opinions' on incidents, I think we're heading for total confusion.

But my little ideas wouldn't make 'defining' changes to a match. I think they'd help it along. Let me know what you think.

I've got to mention Leicester again before I finish, but what else is there to say other than I really hope they win it now?  They deserve to. I had them down for a win at City and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they did it again at Arsenal. It's a wonderful story. I noticed Glenn Hoddle admitted, like me, he got it badly wrong with his prediction for Leicester this season! But then who didn't? No- one expected this. It's brilliant.

I've got one or two thoughts on Guardiola and City that I'll share with you later in the week. I'm sure you'll find them interesting. A bit more research is needed yet though. 

Posted by on

So it turns out that Pep Guardiola IS joining Manchester City, despite all the denials.

I'm delighted, for many different reasons, primary amongst them, that it'll be fantastic to have the Spaniard working in the P Lge.

There is, of course, the small matter of being right! I don't care, after the bruising I've had on this subject, I was always going to enjoy the news when it was finally made official. The only thing that makes me different to the self congratulatory headlines I've been reading in every English daily newspaper - all of them screaming 'we told you first' is that I and my colleagues at beIN Sports actually did tell you first. 9th May 2015 - https://twitter.com/richardajkeys/status/597053575496269826

It's been fascinating tracking the story since then - from the dismissive abuse, to the growing feeling that there might be something in it, to the January announcement that Guardiola was leaving Bayern and finally to the realisation that we at beIN Sports were right all along. It's funny isn't it? I've always said 'success has many fathers - only failure is a bast**d'.

Anyway, it'll be great to have Guardiola working in our league. For those of you back in the UK it'll be your first close up look at the guy. If you're a beIN Sports viewer, you'll have got used to watching him at close quarters, both in Spain and Germany. We cover both leagues on a weekly basis. Guardiola is also no stranger to Qatar, where he's regularly brought his team's during winter breaks in both countries.

So what do City get? Undoubtedly a top class operator. His record speaks for itself. They also finally nail down the shift in the balance of power in Manchester. They are undoubtedly No 1 in that city. If you don't believe me ask any of the 'reds', whose sons are enrolled in City's academy who they believe is top dog!

I read a stat today that Guardiola has lost only 19 of the 239 league games that he's taken charge of - he's won 187 of them. Forgive me for borrowing a quote from a famous scandal in British history 'well, he would, wouldn't he?'. Of course he would, he's been in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich!

I don't wish to diminish the size of his achievements, but you've got a right to win a few trophies if you're in charge of those two clubs. Credit where it's due, he's twice been the youngest coach  to win the C Lge, but so far, he's failed to win it at Bayern.

Now there's nothing to say that he won't do that this season, but I've said before, and I'll repeat the suggestion here, if he doesn't, there's an argument that he failed in Germany.

Let me expand on that. With the players at his disposal it was a certainty that he would win both Cup and League. That was a minimum requirement. But he came up well short in both C Lge campaigns with Bayern. And remember, he took over a team that had won a hugely impressive treble under Jupp Heynkes - including the big one.

It's for that reason that I believe his biggest test is yet to come. The P Lge is like no other. It's unforgiving. It's competitive in a way that neither La Liga nor the Bundesliga is. On any given weekend top can beat bottom - that rarely, if ever, happens in the two other aforementioned leagues. We've even got a situation this season where the team that were bottom this time last year, are now top! Yep - Guardiola is about to embark on his something very different. He won't get things all his own way in England.  

He inherits an infamous dressing room. I've talked about this before - many times. It'll be interesting to see how City's players react now the news is out in the open - not that it will have come as a surprise to any of them.

There'll be new players. I expect Paul Pogba to sign, as I've said previously, but Messi won't. He and Guardiola don't get on. The rift was one of the reasons that Guardiola walked away from Barca. The little man runs the club. Guardiola won't want to get into another power struggle with Messi.

There are exciting times ahead for City fans, that's for sure. But please don't 'expect' trophies or success. It doesn't happen like that.

Yes, Guardiola has a track record to be proud of, but not everyone he's worked with is a fan. This was Zlatan after Barca had been beaten by Mourinho's Inter in 2010 ''I yelled 'you haven't got any balls! You can go to hell'. I completely lost it, and you might have expected Guardiola to say a few words in response, but he's a spineless coward''. Interesting eh?

I feel for Pellegrini. He's an honourable man, but he too came up short, not least in the disastrous campaign that could've seen City top their C Lge group with just one more goal when winning in Bayern. Remember?

He's decided not to take up the 'option' of one more year at the club. I told you at the time all that nonsense about a new deal was purely to dampen the Guardiola speculation. Stay with me - I'll keep you straight! 

Posted by on

Was it really only two weeks ago that Guus Hiddink told us that he would be recommending to the Chelsea Board that they offer John Terry a year's contract extension?

Yesterday Terry announced that no such offer had been, nor would be made, and that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season. So what happened?

Well the manner in which Terry made his statement tells me something is very badly wrong.  The timing was wrong. The manner in which Terry made the announcement was wrong. But are we surprised? After all, this is Chelsea. If there's a more classless club operating in world football I've yet to discover it.

I can't argue that Chelsea 'owe' Terry anything. He's been richly rewarded for the time and effort he's put in at the club. He owes them nothing either. How many times have you heard me say 'if you want loyalty, buy a dog'.

But what I think Terry was due was a whole lot more respect than Chelsea have shown. Now I know there's also an argument to the contrary. We know he would be joined City if a deal could've been done. We know that he's twice been stripped of the England captaincy for misdemeanours. He's rarely been far from trouble. But my goodness, what a character. What a leader. The perfect man to have on your side in a battle. And Terry has fought his fair share of those for Chelsea.

The time to leave comes to all of us. If this is Terry's time what a shame Chelsea couldn't have handled this properly. How about a press conference with all the heavyweights turning out? The fact that news dripped out in the way it has tells me Terry is hugely unimpressed.

Then my mind turned to wondering why the apparent change of heart in such a short space of time? Now this is purely conjecture on my part, (but with a little knowledge stirred in!).

I think it's likely Chelsea know who their next manager is now. And I think it's more than likely whoever it is has told them to 'clear the decks'.

We all know that Villas-Boas was given that job when he was appointed - get rid of Terry, Lampard Cole and The Drog.  AVB's problem was that the owner failed to switch his phone off during the elongated blood bath. The players had a direct line to him and it was eventually AVB that left - not them.

Mourinho didn't take the Real Madrid job last summer because they hadn't completed a similar job. Cassias did leave, Ramos was supposed to, but once he didn't, all bets were off. Mourinho would've tolerated working with Ronaldo for one more season - but no more.

That Chelsea dressing room was a powerful place - for good and bad. The guys I've mentioned were all top pro's, so inevitably they were strong characters. You either had to work with them - or with them! They'd get you if they didn't like you. Ask Rafa. But they were also responsible for the most glorious period in Chelsea's history. You can't have everything. Personally, I'd rather have the trophies.

What this decision on Terry also tells me is that Hiddink will be leaving at the end of the season. I can't imagine him staying on after such a public humiliation as this.

I know I'm in a minority amongst the neutrals, but I like Terry. He deserved better, but how many times have we said that about Chelsea?

Cup weekend proved to be a big disappointment, but top marks to Shrewsbury for their win over Wednesday.

Liverpool survive, but if I'm honest I hope West Ham turf them out in the replay. At least Slaven Bilic and his team look as though they want to win the tie. And I like the way Bilic talks so emotionally about the competition.

In a way I suppose I shouldn't be too critical of Klopp. All the top teams made changes again, not quite so many as him, but they all survived. That tells you how much stronger the P Lge is now than the rest.

It's back to P Lge business this week. I'm really looking forward to spending time with Brendan Rodgers on beIN Sports. We've much to discuss. One thing I will want to know is 'why did you let Steven Gerrard go? Didn't he deserve better after all he'd done for the club?' Hold on - isn't that where we started?