Clear the mess up City

Published: Monday, 22 May 2023

This time next week….my team might be millionaires Rodney! Equally, they could be licking their wounds having come up short in the C’ship play-off final v Luton.

It’s a kind of win - half win for me. Of course I’d love to see Coventry back in the big time, but I’ve already said that if we weren’t to make it I’d like it if Luton did.

Both clubs have had a torrid time in recent years. Five years ago both were promoted from League 2. If Coventry get up they’ll be the first team relegated from the PL to have dropped to the bottom of the pyramid and claw their way back. Luton would be the first team to make it from non-league. Both have got an incredible story of survival to tell and be proud of. 

Sadly I won’t be at Wembley. I’ve got to stay in Qatar for the final day of the PL season. The travel just won’t work. But good luck to both teams and a big ‘thank you’ to Mark Robins and our magnificent fans for never giving up on the Super Sky Blues.

Just a couple of times I’ve allowed myself to think about how we’d get on in the top league. We’d struggle. We’d be ‘struggling’ Coventry. We’d be lucky to survive. I don’t think Luton would. It’s such a massive step up now.

For only the fourth time in history all three promoted clubs have survived their first season back in the PL. That’s quite an achievement in itself. All three had different a different formula - Fulham had Mitrovic.

Bournemouth dogged determination and Gary O’Neil. Forest had Steve Cooper, who had to work it out as he went. There was certainly no template to refer to for the madness he was dealt. 

Cooper deserves a medal. How on earth did he do it? Somehow he had to integrate 30 new signings on top of the regular problems that come with promotion from the C’ship. No wonder he looked to the heavens when the final whistle went v Arsenal.

I said they’d struggle. They did. I said they’d struggle to win 10 games. They’ve won nine. I said their home form might just be what kept them up  It was. And I said Lingard would’ve been better off at West Ham. I was right about that too. I’ll bet Cooper would drive him there if he got the chance to off-load him. My guess is Lingard won’t be at the City Ground next season.

I’ve said this before as well - if Forest fans would like to apologise for their season-long abuse I’ll accept it in good grace. You were out of order guys. The personal stuff was a disgrace. You let your club down with that.

City fans were all over me as well this past weekend. Look - enjoy your latest title win. Once again you’ve been the best team in the league. The table doesn’t lie. And your season might get a whole lot better yet. But don’t tell me you’re not fed up with hearing ‘Ah yes, but how have they done it….?’  I would be. If the same smell was hanging about Anfield, Old Trafford or the Emirates, I’m sure Liverpool, United and Arsenal fans would feel the same. 

Whilst there are 115 unanswered PL charges surrounding financial irregularities at City we’ll all be saying it. And it isn’t my fault so don’t have a go at me. It’s your own clubs’ fault. Demand answers from them.

It’s City’s gift to clear the mess up. What have they got to hide? If they’re innocent - open up now and prove it. Don’t drag the whole saga on for the next few years employing highly paid lawyers, whose job it will be to find weasel ways out of the trouble they’re in.

Until there’s a resolution of the issue every trophy City win will be tainted. That’s not fair on those doing the winning nor those doing the watching.

We’re in for a dramatic last day. If Leicester get done at Newcastle tonight (Monday) realistically they’re down. That leaves Leeds and Everton.

Despite crumbling at West Ham I fancy Leeds to beat a pathetic Tottenham, but even if they do it won’t be enough. I can’t see how Everton don’t beat Bournemouth, so it’s Leeds. Or are we in for one final twist?

Everton’s win at Brighton was the result that saved them. That was the one that turned the survival battle on its head. There’s always one game like it in any run-in. It’s rare that there’s two - but who knows?

 And finally - a message to La Liga President Javier Tebas, who insists that ‘Neither Spain nor La Liga are racist’. This after the disgraceful treatment Vinicius Jnr received in Valencia last night. I’m sorry - but both are Mr Tabas. Too many supporters from teams that play in your league are racists - so are huge chunks of Spain. You’re not alone though - that applies right across Europe and neither UEFA nor FIFA do anything about it. And nothing will change whilst fools like you keep your heads firmly stuck in sand. 

Now go and win the big one City

Published: Monday, 15 May 2023

It’s done. Arsenal’s race is run. City are champions again. They deserve to be. So big congrats - it’s quite something to have won four of the last five. We should remember that in two of those seasons they resisted an almighty challenge from Liverpool. City truly are one of the great PL teams.

This one was a lot more simple than sole recent campaigns. It wasn’t a classic, but it still needs to be won, so I don’t want to suggest it was easy. But (there’s always a but 😂) Liverpool fell away early. So did Chelsea, whilst Spurs did what they always do - promised a lot and delivered nothing. As crowds remind them a lot these days, Spurs were the team that managed to come third in a two-horse race when Leicester won it. And the manager that master-minded that collapse is on his way to Chelsea. 🤷‍♂️.

City are worthy champions again, but I do wish there could be an outcome to the more than 100 charges of financial irregularities that they’ve been hit with by the PL. The whole time this case remains unresolved there will always be an air of suspicion around everything they achieve.

Anyway, let’s hope they beat Madrid this week and take another step towards landing the big one - the one that Guardiola was hired to win and the one that Haaland was bought to win. They’ve got to. It’s long overdue and City know that they can’t be considered one of Europe’s top teams until they’ve won it.

I was disappointed in the manner that Arteta reacted to Arsenal’s defeat by Brighton. Here’s a man that’s spent most of his season celebrating but he couldn’t find the dignity to accept that Brighton were simply better than his team and embrace their excitement.

Arsenal have made enormous progress this season. My belief is that they get Declan Rice this summer and push on again, so why couldn’t Arteta have congratulated Brighton and then thanked his team for a terrific season-long effort?

He sounded like ten Hag whining and moaning about ‘unprofessionalism’ and an ‘unacceptable performance’. Get off. Smile for goodness sake. Aesenal’s was never a realistic challenge but they gave it a go. Give the guys a break. They’ve far exceed expectations.

I have to say I was also very disappointed to see those Arsenal fans streaming out of the stadium before the end. Poor guys. Really poor. Stay and see it to a conclusion.

After losing at Villa, Spurs can’t make the top four, but did we ever really believe that they would? Here’s one to think about - if there’s anything in the rumours that Mourinho is going to Paris - which would be a terrific appointment - what chance Harry Kane joins him?

If Kane has got any ambition or pride he’s got to get out of Spurs this summer. I know there’s a temptation to stay and hoover up a small fortune if he waits another year, but would Tottenham fans ever forgive him if he did that?

I remember Steve McManaman leaving Liverpool that way - letting his contract run down so that he could trouser millions when he moved to Madrid. Liverpool fans were furious and have never forgotten.

If Kane wants to be remembered affectionately as ‘one of their own’, he should make sure Spurs get a few quid out of any deal when he leaves. He’s got more money now than he could ever spend. Do the right thing Harry. Paris? I wonder.

Ahead of Howard Webb’s tv debut let me say he’s got an awful lot of explaining to do. This weekend was another shocker for his referees and VAR. My bet is the new shows are scripted and carefully produced - with audio inserts from previous uncontentious matches. I hope I’m wrong.

Souey-gate got an interesting response - not least from the man himself, who hasn’t denied my theory.

I’m told that my revelation didn’t go down well with the decision-makers at Gillette Corner. Good.

I’m sure that we’ve all read that another round of job-cuts is underway at Sky. The same thing is happening at BT. I understand how these things work. We all do - businesses have to be run for profit, but the more I’ve heard about the processes that are underway, the angrier I get about the way staff are being treated.

I know it’s legal - but it’s not moral to be asking people to apply for jobs that they’ve done brilliantly for - I don’t know - 10-15-20 years or so.

From a distance the jobs these people do look glamorous, but believe me they’re not. If you’re a reporter, it’s damned hard work ploughing up and down Britain’s motorways, in all sorts of stinking weather conditions, for little or no reward.

You’re likely to be greeted at your destination by obstreperous club PR staff and moody footballers/managers, who try everything to block or straight bat your enquiries - forgetting that you’re there representing the fans that don’t get to ask them questions, but would love to. When you get back to base you get little more than a bollocking because there’s always a smart arse who thinks they could’ve done better. It can be soul destroying.

When it comes to cuts - why is it that it’s always these guys/girls - staff from the shop floor - that get shafted? Why is it that senior management never have to apply for their jobs? I’m telling you - not many of the male, pale and stale faces behind the scenes would survive if that was an honest process.

There isn’t much diversity behind the screen at these companies.

And how is it that someone like Anna Kessell (that’s her Graeme) can be appointed to a senior job - that was never advertised - and have such an influence on output and people while her husband Leon Mann (who runs the agency Refresh) represents so many staff at Sky Sports News? Isn’t that a conflict of interest?

Kessell has a fine reputation and Mann has done a lot for diversity in sports media, but there’s something not quite right about how they operate at Sky.

Back to my general point - It’s wrong that people’s lives should be put on hold while the sword of Damocles hovers. I’m told children are being taken out of schools, houses put up for sale and holidays cancelled.

When people have done a damned good job, treat them with respect. It’s demeaning to ask them to apply for their own job - in any profession. If you want rid of them - do it properly - pay them what they’ve earned - what they deserve. Don’t get them turning on each other and scrambling about desperately hoping to steal a march on a colleague.

And decision-makers should remember this - it’s a small village that we operate in. You’ll meet the same people that you’ve shafted again some day - and the next time they’ll be waiting for you.

Ten Hag has taken Utd precisely…..nowhere.

Published: Monday, 08 May 2023

All I hear when people talk about Manchester United is ‘they’re in a much better place now’. Really? Much better place than when?

I never thought I’d say this - but better than when Solskjaer finished 2nd? Better than when van Gaal won the FA Cup? Not for me. And I admit that I had some pretty harsh things to say about both men during their time in charge.

Are they better than the team Mourinho won two trophies with and took to a 2nd place finish? No. No - they’re not.

Ten Hag spent a record £220m last summer - more than United have ever spent in one window - to take them precisely…..nowhere.

And he’s run out of excuses. There’s only so many times you can blame players for being ‘unprofessional’, or for not ‘sticking to the game plan’. That talk all wears a bit thin in a dressing room after a while.

I got sent this text - on the whistle after the West Ham game - from a mate, who’s an ardent United fan.

Knew it straight from kick off. Anthony = Fraud. Casimeiro = MIA for weeks. Erikson =not same since injury. Rashford = not getting the service. Rest of them, the shirt is to heavy for em. Won't get top 4. Them scousers will. Mark my words. 😡😡😡😡

It had been forwarded quite a few times, so I can only imagine a fair few United fans had sent it to mates as well. Is this how they really feel?

Ten Hag MUST deliver CL football. Nothing else will do. If he does - ok - he buys himself another season. If he doesn’t - a League Cup win won’t be enough from this campaign. There was a time when United fans were embarrassed to win that trophy. How times have changed.

Yep - there’s still an FA Cup final to play - but does anybody fancy them to beat City? Here’s the follow up text I got yesterday.

Dreading Wembley

Sweet Jesus Take Pity on Us....

Ten Hag has got it all on after Liverpool’s recent run. Oh - and Nout Workhorse isn’t the answer. Why does he persist in underlining that error of judgement? It really isn’t funny anymore.

Credit to Arsenal for that performance at Newcastle. I thought they were terrific. From the time the penalty was overturned they bossed that game. I went so far as to say on beINSPORTS that it might just be their best performance of the season.

A lot of things were against them. Recent form has been poor. Not many teams go to St James’ and win. It’s a difficult place to visit again now, but their game management was really good. I hope the defeat doesn’t cost Newcastle a CL place because they deserve that after a fantastic campaign - but I’m glad Arsenal won. We need a few more anxious games yet in the title race.

So we can all look forward to a new show where referees explain decisions taken by VAR? Expect ground-breaking tv we’re told. Anything that takes us nearer real time audio at the monitor being shared by fans is a step in the right direction, but I’m not getting too excited. Unless we get to that stage where we can listen to the ref and Stockley Park ‘live’ then not a lot will change - especially when VAR operators can’t spot a handball offence. Lindelof at West Ham? Nailed on. He might as well have caught the ball. The matchday centres excuses to us were embarrassing.

Graeme Souness’s ‘retirement’ from Sky didn’t feel right to me - especially when I read his Daily Mail column suggesting he was still ‘open for business’.

A conversation relayed to me from a Sky ‘insider’ this week tells me I was right - he was sacked. Well - it was decided his race was run. Same thing really.

I have to say immediately that I wouldn’t trust the individual who reported the info as far as I could throw him - but he’s made a career of man-marking senior management figures in order to protect himself so this time I believe him. His sources will be good.

It turns out it was decided to dispense with Graeme’s services the moment he referred to football being a ‘man’s game’. Remember? He used that phrase after Chelsea’s 2-2 draw v Spurs in August.

His comments caused a bit of a stir. He was clumsy in his phraseology. He didn’t mean harm, but you can’t say that anymore. Football is simply a game - enjoyed by everyone. And we should celebrate that.

I think most people felt that Graeme had been clumsy and he’s a much loved character, so they were happy to give him the benefit of the doubt - but senior management at Sky certainly weren’t. They decided that was it. He’d be out at the first opportunity.

Two things will happen now. Sky will deny this and the mole will be making frantic calls trying to cover his tracks - but I will be proved right because Graeme is by no means finished. He will turn up somewhere - ITV perhaps - because he’s a classy operator and remains box office.

Having revealed the truth now if I was Martin Tyler I’d be looking over my shoulder after what were described as his ‘racist comments’ about Son Heung-min recently. Again - I’d say Martin was simply clumsy, but you can be sure the incident is on file somewhere at Gillette Corner. And I think I know who the Guardian of that file will be - the same person that did for Graeme.

Hammer Klopp - for what he did - not what he said

Published: Monday, 01 May 2023

So Jurgen Klopp lied? Is that what we’re saying? He must’ve done if we’re to believe the PGMOL’s statement today. (Monday May 1) 

Tue statement is in response to what Klopp said an about the ref after the game v Spurs ‘what he (Tierney) said to me when he gave me the yellow card. That’s not possible. But it’s not ok as well’.   

The meat of the PGMOL’s statement reads ‘ 'PGMOL is aware of the comments made by Jurgen Klopp after his side's fixture with Tottenham Hotspur. Match officials in the Premier League are recorded in all games via a communications system and having fully reviewed the audio of referee Paul Tierney from today's fixture, we can confirm he acted in a professional manner throughout, including when issuing the caution to the Liverpool manager so, therefore, we strongly refute any suggestion that Tierney's actions were improper.'

So Klopp lied? If we believe the PGMOL he must’ve done. The simple way to sort this out is for the PGMOL to release the audio. Let us hear the conversation between Klopp and Tierney. Why not? 

I read today (Monday) that the FA are likely to charge Klopp for what he said about Tierney to the host broadcaster after the game. Unless it’s proven he lied I’m not so bothered about that - but I am about the way he behaved after Liverpool’s winner. The manner in which he approached the 4th official John Brooks was a disgrace. He’s got form form that kind of thing as well - never mind that he pulled a hamstring in doing so and he argues that retribution was swift - it wasn’t. The FA should throw the book at him for his appalling, aggressive antics.

Please - don’t talk to me about ‘passion’ and ‘wanting to win’.  Every coach wants to win. Every coach has ‘passion’ - they just don’t behave like a drunken parent, on the touchline, watching their son/daughter in a Sunday League match. How many times have I mentioned Arteta’s behaviour this season? Guardiola can be as bad. Where are we heading with these touchline tantrums? Do you ever see Carlo Ancelotti behave like these guys do? Of course not. Do we think that he doesn’t ‘want to win‘ games? That he doesn’t have ‘passion’? There’s no excuse for it.  

Has Klopp learned nothing from his brushes with the law down the years? Doesn’t he realise millions are watching when he kicks off like that and it’s the worst of all examples he could set? 

He was wrong to behave as he did. Wrong to say what he did - if the PGMOL are to be believed - and wrong to criticise Tierney in general. I’m happy to do that. Tierney should’ve sent him to the stands. And he should’ve sent Diogo Jota off when he all but decapitated Oliver Skipp. The matchday centre told us the challenge was ‘reckless’. Agreed. And it was dangerous - and it clearly endangered the well being of an opponent. If Jota had gone then obviously he wouldn’t have been able to score the winner - so Tierney didn’t ‘punish’ Liverpool - he actually let them off lightly. Klopp should’ve thanked him.  

I don’t dislike Klopp. And I have nothing but admiration for Liverpool as a club. I’ve said that often enough, but recent events at Anfield need addressing. Andy Robertson was caught up in a similar storm v City. His allegations were proven to be unfounded - thank goodness. They could easily have cost a decent guy (Constantine Hatzidakis) his job. And let’s not forget two FA charges for failing to control players. Arsenal and Man City have paid hefty fines for similar offences - hold on - there’s a theme here.  

It’s got to stop - and the coaches have got to do better. As I’ve said - I hope the FA throw the book at Klopp - not for what he said, but for how he behaved. And touchline bans don’t work - stadium bans do.  

Brilliant again Newcastle. Eddie Howe won’t win MOY - but he should. The job he’s done is nothing short of incredible. I wasn’t sure about his appointment - but he’s proved me wrong - and I’m delighted to admit it.  

And I’m really pleased Bournemouth are safe  I like Gary O’Neil. He’s another one who’s quietly got on with his job and deserves his success. It’s a different success to Howe’s, but it’s every bit as important.  

Have you seen the top of the Championship? It’s scary - but don’t worry - I’m not celebrating anything just yet. But what a day at the CBS Arena. What a crowd. Being a Coventry fan hasn’t been easy for a decade, so fill your boots guys. Like Howe and O’Neil, Mark Robins is another understated, calm presence on the touchline. All three men have ‘passion’. All three ‘want to win’. Are you watching Jurgen Klopp? 

It’s always Levy’s fault - but why?

Published: Monday, 24 April 2023

One thing we can all agree on - even the most ardent Tottenham fan - Spurs were awful at Newcastle. No - woeful. That performance was right up there as one of the most irresponsible and inept I’ve ever witnessed. Shocking.

A lot of noisy, inaccurate comment followed - and, as usual, the target for most of the anger was Daniel Levy.

Levy is always to blame - whether it’s for a performance like we saw at St James’ - defeat in a CL final - the north London weather - even Arsenal’s title bid.

I’m not suggesting that he hasn’t got it wrong at times. Firing Mourinho in the week of a cup final was ridiculous. Appointing Nuno as manager equally so - although he quickly rectified that mistake. But come on - which of us hasn’t occasionally dropped a bollock?

No. Levy was not to blame for that pathetic Spurs performance. Nor was Cristian Stellini. Although he was miles from it - skulking about somewhere in Italy - Antonio Conte was.

Conte was the one who walked out on Tottenham after deciding he’d had enough of everyone and everything at the club. His retreat after those damaging press conferences was pathetic - all the more so because he was the one calling for more ‘fight’ from his team when he flipped and walked away. And make no mistake - it was his team.

Conte spent £235.8m while he was in charge at Spurs. £235.8m. Astounding isn’t it? On what? I’m sure Levy has asked himself that question many times since the pint-pot former dictator walked out. Conte is responsible for the mess that we see at Spurs right now.

‘Ah,’ Spurs fans will say ‘but the rot goes much deeper and look at what we’ve achieved during Levy’s time in charge’. Yea. One trophy. Agreed. Not enough - but how many times has Levy picked the team since that solitary League Cup win in 2008?

Did he shit it in 2016 at Chelsea - allowing Leicester to go on and win the title? No. That expert in failure Pochettino did. Pochettino lost the CL final in 2019 - eventually leaving the club with nothing - having signed 27 players for a total of £350m. Did Levy pick the reserve team that lost in the FA Cup at Sheffield United this season? No. Of course he didn’t. Conte did - letting another wonderful chance of a cup run slip away.

Every manager you can name has been backed by Levy. Who wouldn’t have appointed Mourinho or Conte when they were available? Levy has tried everything to find the right man - whilst delivering a magnificent stadium and a world class training complex. Do Spurs fans believe Levy wilfully tries to stop Tottenham from winning trophies?

One or two ‘experts’ were screaming at him again this past weekend - demanding that he appoints a new manager ‘now’. Why? Why would he do that if the one he really wants is currently employed - De Zerbi for instance? Or Frank? No - it’s better to wait. And please - don’t anybody think that ‘Arry is the short term answer. Having had his fingers burnt once by that wheeler and dealer (I’m being nice - other descriptions were available) there is no way in the world that Levy would be daft enough to volunteer for ‘Arry’s circus again.

I understand why the Tottenham faithful get frustrated - but they target the wrong man. As football fans we all believe that owners have got it wrong - and that we could do better. Except that ‘we’ aren’t prepared to commit anything like the means required to own a club. I’m as guilty (but thank goodness SISU are gone at Coventry!).

Think about it. Utd fans want the Glazers gone. Liverpool fans want FSG out. Spurs fans want Levy and Joe Lewis gone. I’m sure Chelsea fans would welcome Abramovich back in place of Todd Boehly. Arsenal fans will want rid of Kroenke again when they miss out of the title this season - suffocated by their own over-zealous emotion. Where are we going to find the replacements from? It’s an impossible scenario.

Spurs haven’t won a title since 1961. In recent seasons they’ve been nearer than any Tottenham team in any previous era - they were eventually third in 2016 (of course they should’ve won it) and second in 2017.

Daniel Levy keeps his counsel - but believe me - he’s more frustrated than other Spurs fan that they haven’t won more. He’s the one spending the money.

It was good to see that United stuck to the ‘game plan’ at Wembley. What was it I wonder - be second best again and bore the arse off us for 120 minutes before nicking a win on pens? Genius.

They won’t beat City playing like that. If Guardiola doesn’t win the lot now there will be questions. It’s all falling into his lap.

I’m pleased for David Moyes. West Ham aren’t going down. I don’t believe Leicester are either. For me it’s Southampton - and two from Everton, (struggling) Forest, Leeds and Bournemouth. And it’s going to be fascinating. See you next week.

Luton in the PL? That would be a miracle to eclipse Leicester’s title win.

Published: Monday, 17 April 2023

If my beloved Super Sky Blues don’t make it back to the PL - I have only one wish for this season - that Luton Town do.

I’m dreaming - just a little bit. It’s not beyond possible, more improbable I have to admit. But, we’re in the mix. For a couple of hours on Saturday we were actually in the play-off places.

I won’t bore you with too much detail because you’ll switch off, but what a job Mark Robins has done at Coventry. When we dropped into League Two in 2017 (the lowest point of a decade of mis-management by previous owners SISU) I honestly felt we were heading out of the League altogether. I couldn’t see any other outcome. They were desperate times. Mark Robins came to the rescue. We will forever be in his debt. He deserves a crack at the PL.

But - to return to a story that I’ve written about previously. Imagine being a Luton fan at the start of the 2008/09 season. Before that campaign the FA hit them with a 10-point deduction and a £50,000 fine for irregularities in the club’s transfer dealings - which wasn’t the fault of the consortium that was trying to buy the club at that time.

They were docked a further 20-points for failing to exit administration properly and crashed out of the league at the end of that season - despite winning 56 points in the campaign.

I know a lot of this because my old TV-am mate Nick Owen is a big Luton fan. We’ve talked often about the injustices of what happened to Luton and I blogged on this same subject back in March 2022 before Luton’s failed Championship play-off bid.

Owen was appointed chairman by the LTFC2020 consortium that took his club over during the turbulence and he did a magnificent job, not just helping keep it alive, but steering it better times again, before he quit the role in 2017.

Three times Luton made the play-offs whilst in the Conference/National League. Three times they failed to make it back into the FL.

John Still eventually got them up in 2013. The recently maligned Nathan Jones (his troubles at Soton were of his own making) picked up the mantle and got them out of League Two.

Club legend Mick Harford got them promoted from League One after Jones had left for an unsuccessful spell at Stoke. Jones eventually returned and built the basis of the squad that Rob Edwards now has sitting third.

The reason for the history lesson is so that I could give the above heroes credit for what they achieved - including Jones, who despite his troubles at Soton, is clearly a good coach and will return somewhere soon.

Now Luton are again on the cusp of a taking a place in a PL that they voted for in 1992 but never got to play in because they were relegated before it was formed - another reason that I hope they get up if we don’t. I know. I know - it’s a long shot for Coventry. 🤞

It’s something of an irony that Edwards is in the position that he is as well. Remember he started the season as boss of Luton’s arch-rivals Watford - but was sacked after just 10 games. The mad owners of that club are once again on a third manager of their season and sit 12th - two places lower than they were when they sacked Edwards. Kama. Lovely.

I read that the PL want to install four new cameras next season to help the accuracy of off-side decisions. Why? What’s wrong with the AI technology successfully used at the WC in Qatar and now in Serie A?

Do you know what - you could add 100 cameras and Stockley Park would still find a way to fuck things up. It’s not cameras we need - but operators in that bunker that can actually do their job properly.

One blunder after another has followed this season. Ask Brighton and Wolves. And Newcastle. And West Ham - in fact, all of the clubs.

How on earth did Spurs’ equaliser against Bournemouth stand? Kane was clearly off-side and interfering with the keepers view. I guarantee you that goal doesn’t get given at the other end. I was so pleased Bournemouth went on to win the game. They deserved to.

And why didn’t Forest get a pen v United? Maguire clearly handles in the box. We asked the matchday centre why a pen wasn’t given - ‘because there was traffic that impeded Maguire’s arm movement’ they said. Yea - there were two other United players around him. What nonsense. It should’ve be been a pen. It might then have been a very different game.

I’m genuinely sorry to see Steve Cooper struggling. He’s a good guy working in a madhouse atmosphere created by another self-absorbed owner. Sorry - but it was oh so predictable. I know I upset Forest fans by pointing this out at the start of the season and I got hammered - but….? 🤷‍♂️.

It’s to be hoped that the signings that were made have clauses in contracts that allow for relegation. If not - part 2 of my prediction will come true and the club will be in administration in the Championship. Evangelos Marinakis - and his chaos - will be a distant but expensive memory.

Not so many pictures coming out of the Arsenal dressing room now is there? The celebration police could very well be right after all.

I promised Liverpool I would point out an inaccuracy in the blog last week. They haven’t yet been fined for failing to control their players following the 4-1 defeat to Man City and they were only hit with a fine of £25,000 for the same offence v Everton - £15,000 less than the Toffees.

And finally - I’m delighted that assistant Constantine Hatzidakis was cleared of any wrong doing following the altercation with Andy Robertson. I think Liverpool missed a trick here. They should’ve got Robertson to issue a statement asking for the matter to be laid to rest before it was investigated. They would’ve won a lot of friends by doing so.

Not so much Ted Lasso - more Dumb and Dumber Jesse

Published: Monday, 10 April 2023

I must be missing something. Jesse Marsch is obviously a much better coach than I’ve given him credit for. And I’ve been a keen supporter of his. 

He deserved great credit for keeping Leeds in the PL last season - and I said as much then. I still believe they’d have gone down if Bielsa had stayed in charge. 

Marsch made many friends at Elland Road. I’m told the players thought he was a really nice guy - but, in the end, they just couldn’t work out what he wanted from them. 

Marsch overcame the language barrier! He talked of ‘football’ not ‘soccer’. Of ‘away games’ not ‘road trips’. So no stick to beat him with there. 

But. I’d love it if someone would explain to me how it is that a man, recently sacked by a club battling for their PL lives, has the temerity to turn down two offers to stay in England and continue to work in the PL? Marsch must really rate himself. 

Ok. Southampton - a great club by the way and a gorgeous area to live and work in - apparently only wanted to employ Marsch until the end of the season. So nothing permanent. Maybe Marsch felt that was too much of a gamble, but if he’s as good as he clearly thinks he is, he’d have kept them up wouldn’t he? 

No sooner had he said ‘no’ - Leicester came along. Leicester - recent FA Cup winners and former PL champions. Another great club, with a training centre second to none. 

We’re told terms were all but agreed on a 3-year deal, but then Marsch watched the defeat by Bournemouth - and after a ‘long consultation’ with his coaches he decided to back away - and I’m quoting from what I’ve read - Marsch didn’t want to work in the C’ship next season. 

What? Again - surely this modern day super coach would’ve kept them up? And if he hadn’t - what’s wrong with working in the C’ship? If Burnley can piss it (no disrespect intended Vinny) then surely Leicester would? Marsch would’ve won more games than he ever has in a season - had fun doing it - and made himself a hero.  It would’ve been a blast. 

Who does he think he is? Maybe he’s had a call from that lunatic Boehly telling him to hold off because he’s in line to replace Lampard? Boehly, we read, is now taking advice from James Corden. Well - it makes sense doesn’t it? Perhaps Fred Karno was engaged when he tried to call him? 

Seriously. What is Marsch waiting for? I don’t see him getting another offer to work in the PL. 

What a game at Anfield. I know Arteta wasn’t celebrating at the end (😂) but I firmly believe it was a good point for his team. 

We’ll maybe never know exactly what happened at half-time when Robertson and assistant Hatzidakis clashed. The pictures aren’t good for the lino, but I hope he escapes censure - just as Bruno Fernandes did on that very same ground. 

I said then that Fernandes should’ve been charged. The FA rightly threw the book at Mitrovic, but a week or two before that incident at OT they let Fernandes off after he laid hands on an assistant. See. These things come back to bite you. 

As Robertson approached Hatzikakis perhaps the assistant was concerned about his safety? He’d have every right to be. What an irony that Liverpool last week paid the FA another £75,000 for failing to control their players during the recent game against City. That was after a combined £60,000 with Everton following the derby. In total PL clubs have been fined £1.3m for ref abuse this season - Arsenal have contributed £185,000. 

It’s got to stop. Robertson had no right to confront the assistant at half-time. I don’t agree with Roy Keane often, but he was right when he said Robertson behaved ‘like a baby’. Mind you - let’s not forget that Keane, Neville and co invented ref abuse. Just ask Andy D’Urso. 

Who knew this? Have a look at the diagram below. 

It’s from the IFAB laws of the game web site and it clearly shows that they’ve changed the interpretation of the handball law again. Why did no-one tell us? Is that why Mitoma’a goal at Spurs was disallowed? 

What a mess David Elleray and his colleagues at IFAB have made of the handball law. 

I wonder if you can guess who said this ‘I absolutely do not understand the law and something must be done in this area’. 

I’ll tell you - Alexander Cerefin - President of UEFA. He was talking to the Slovenian newspaper Ekipa just two weeks ago. He went on to say ‘nothing is clear to anyone any more’. Correct. Sort it out guys. Oh - and let us know what you decide. 

Ten excuses for Nout Workhorse - quit Sharpy - and is Mourinho going home?

Published: Monday, 03 April 2023

Oh I do like Monday’s. What’s not to like - sitting here in glorious Qatari sun with a cup of tea, writing this blog?

I enjoy it. It’s fun. And I’m pleased to say that it seems you do as well. Thank you for your feedback. It’s nice to get back to my roots and script a few words. I knew early in my career that I was never going to be the greatest wordsmith - I left that to others that I worked with at the London-based sports agency Hayters - the likes of Mssrs Calvin (whose new book The Survivor is terrific) Winter, Samuel and the late Alan Lee and Tony Roche. They were all better than me. I liked the spoken word and chose to pursue work in radio and tv.

Forgive the daydreaming. Let’s get down to it.

What a weekend. Arsenal continue to look like the real deal. There’s absolutely no reason why they can’t win this title. There’s certainly nothing to fear when they go to Anfield at the weekend. I think they’ll win.

I’m also pleased to see Newcastle finding their rhythm again. I’d love to see them finish in the top 4.

All of a sudden United have got to be a little uneasy about their chances. Well - I say all of a sudden - it isn’t really. Have you noticed their last six league results? They’ve won only two of them - against Leeds and Leicester - a sequence that includes a goalless draw v Southampton and that 7-0 hiding at Anfield. I’m sorry - but they’re nowhere near as good as they’ve been hyped. The talk of a quadruple after the Carabao Cup win was nonsense.

I agree that they’ve made progress - but this isn’t a title winning side. They’ll never win a title with Nout Workhorse in the side. Seriously - why do they play him? His supporters tell me he’s doing something right because he’s starting games. Really? What is it then? And don’t tell me he’s a ‘pressing monster’ or that he ‘starts the backwards press’ whatever that means. Ten Hag justified his plans to sign him permanently by telling us that last week - and went on to add that Workhorse ‘creates space for players’. I’ll tell you what - he’d create more space if he wasn’t on the pitch. 

The bottom line is that he’s a bang ordinary centre-forward who doesn’t score goals and isn’t good enough to play for United. Ten Hag sounds like a desperate man trying to justify a mistake every time he talks about him. 

And when is ten Hag going to accept that his team don’t lack ‘passion, desire, hunger and attitude’ every time they get beaten? Or that ‘they didn’t stick to the game plan’.

Sometimes you lose a game simply because the opposition were better. Newcastle were. They too had a game plan and it was better than ten Hag’s. Game plans are all very well in freeze-frames on laptops - they rarely go wrong then - but football is played by humans and therefore there is no perfect ‘game-plan’.

A couple of other things from that match - Fernandes remains the most irritating player in the PL. Never mind applauding the travelling support - cut the play-acting, stay on your feet and try to affect games that way. I’m pleased to see that officials have got the measure of him now. They know that if he goes over in the box he’s trying to con them.

And wasn’t it good to see Marcus Rashford fully recovered from the injury that kept him out of the recent England games? His speedy return to fitness must have had something to do with the air on the plane as he flew to New York? Or perhaps he got treatment there?

What a shambles the govt appointed owner of Chelsea, Todd Boehly, has created at The Bridge. Potter’s sacking was inevitable and overdue. Sacking him isn’t a mistake - sacking Tuchel was.

I really wanted Potter to succeed, but it’s been evident for weeks that he was out of his depth. This morning he’s got to be as relieved as he is rich. What other business rewards failure like football does? It’s madness.

Potter will come again - perhaps somewhere like Leicester? Or maybe Southampton - as I suggested a couple of weeks ago.

It would appear that Chelsea want to  take their time finding a new coach. Is

 that because they’re prepared to        wait for Mourinho? If they don’t  appoint until the end of the season  don’t rule it out. There’s no way he  would walk out on Roma now but he  might if he delivers a CL place and a  trophy. Chelsea is his home.

 It’s great to see Roy Hodgson back in  business. What an impact! It was a big  call by Steve  Parish to invite him back  to Palace, but going forward why not  Alan Pardew?  Why does Pardew  never got a  mention when jobs become available? He’s a proven PL manager and would do a very good job for someone.

I’ll finish with a word about Everton. What a shame they’re in the mess that’s engulfing the club. It’s getting on for two years now that I revealed that the de-facto owner Farad Moshiri was looking for someone to buy the club. Moshiri offered Everton to a friend of mine here in the Middle East for £500m + another £500m to complete the new stadium with. The answer was ‘no deal’.  Everton denied my story - but I was right.

Who would anyone buy it now? If there is interest surely a prospective buyer would wait for the club to go into administration? Believe me - depending on how the season pans out - that’s a real possibility.

I’m desperately sad that Graeme Sharp feels - along with the rest of the board - that he can’t attend games. Graeme is a great guy and an Everton legend, but unfortunately he’s put himself at odds with fans that used to idolise him by both joining the board and backing the unpopular owner - whoever that really is.

Graeme compounded matters by telling supporters that Chief Exec Denise Barrett-Baxendale shouldn’t be a target of abuse because she ‘works hard’. Really Graeme? Abuse? No. But trying to convince hard working fans, many of whom can barely afford to go to games now, that Barrett-Baxendale works hard wasn’t a good idea. That’s a minimum requirement for someone in her position.

We’re told that Sharp and his fellow directors have stayed away from games because of a threat to their safety. I don’t buy that.

No-one would condone violence of any kind but is the threat real? Merseyside Police say they have no credible evidence to suggest it is. And does anyone really think that Evertonians would wish harm of any kind on Sharp or his family? I don’t. Not for one nano-second. If I’m wrong - I’m sorry.

My advice to Sharp would be to stand down from his role - apologise to fans for taking the stance that he has and take a seat next to Reidy tonight (Monday) for the game v Spurs. Make yourself a hero again Graeme.

Troy - you’ve got to be kidding me. Souness could play in any era

Published: Monday, 27 March 2023

I got sent this the other day….


Where do I start? I guess with the author. It’s a cutting from last week’s column in The Sun (I’ve no idea why I‘ve just mentioned them - apologies) by Troy Deeney.

I don’t know Deeney. What I do know is that he comes across as a great guy and I would always have wanted him in my team. He’s a winner. A warrior. So he has that in common with Souness.

As Deeney himself would admit - that’s where the comparisons end. Souness was a Rolls-Royce. Deeney was more Herman Aubrey ‘Boycie’ Boyce from Only Fools and Horses. He certainly had me laughing - as Boycie used to - with what he said about Souness.

As ever - in the interests of transparency (as regulars know) - Graeme has been a long-time friend of mine. We go back to the time when he was dominating Liverpool’s mid-field in the 80’s. No - dominating big football matches all over Europe. He was magnificent. He’d have games won in the tunnel before he walked onto a pitch. He was both intimidating and regal. He could do both. (No pace btw).

I guess he had that in common with Roy Keane - another warrior, another leader, but Souness was ten times the player Keane was. Keane could inspire a team all right. The night he got United over the line in Turin, knowing that he’d miss the CL final that was to follow, he was awesome. But he was a thug as well. What he did to Alf-Inge Haland was a disgrace. It went way past the bounds of what’s acceptsble on a football pitch. Keane should’ve gone to jail for that assault. A similar attack in a street would’ve seen him sent down. Had he ever come up against Souness throwing his weight about the Scot would’ve had him on toast.

What on earth am I doing? I making comparisons, which isn’t what I set out to do, but I guess Deeney forced my hand here.

Would we describe Keane as a ‘modern day’ player? I think we would, but you could put any of today’s ‘monsters’ up against him and Souness would’ve had them in his pocket. I’ll get back to the idea that James Milner would ‘run all over prime Souness’ in a moment. That really is hilarious by the way.

Let me tell you this about Graeme. Yes - he could look after himself - and his team-mates. I remember when Arsenal’s Peter Nicholas fancied ‘running all over him’ in a League Cup semi-final. Nicholas got Ray Kennedy sent-off in the first leg at Highbury - effectively ending Kennedy’s Liverpool career. If memory serves me right he’d also been sent-off in the preceding league game so it was decided he was becoming a liability and Liverpool moved him on to Swansea.

Anyway - we all knew what was going to happen to Nicholas in the 2nd leg He didn’t get past the half hour mark. Having blasted Keane for his recklessness I should point out that there was a honest dishonesty about the challenge that saw Nicholas stretchered off.

These are the stories that people talk about a lot when Graeme’s name comes up. I guess Deeney has heard plenty of them? Deeney says of Souness’s challenges would be deemed illegal today. They were when he played Troy! The point is - I saw them. I saw Souness in his pomp and believe me, as I’ve said he loved a battle, but he was simply one of the best players I’ve ever had the privilege to watch play the game.

Souness would float across pitches (slowly - no pace) caressing passes this way and that - long and short - easy and difficult - with either foot. As he would say himself - he had ‘a habit it continually passing to the same coloured shirt’. 😂. But it’s true - he did. And there were many like Milner, who Deeney believes would’ve ‘run all over him’. Many tried. Souness would hear them coming and play round them.

Graeme laughs at the tales of his leaving bodies strewn around pitches. He’s really was a craftsman in that respect. When he finally settled an on-going dispute with Leeds’ Terry Yorath, who was at Coventry when this happened, Yorath was stretchered off applauding the challenge that got him! It was another one that was honestly dishonest.

I should also mention that Souness would get 10 goals a season - all before Christmas mind you. They tended to dry up after December when he’d be paying out Terry McDermott on their annual bet about who’d get the most goals in a season. McDermott always at least doubled Graeme’s total.

You’ll hear many say that we shouldn’t make comparisons between players of different era’s and that’s why I said what I did earlier. I don’t mind though. It sparks debate - but here’s the thing. What’s for certain is that the very best players would be able to play in any era. That’s why Deeney is wrong. No disrespect intended James - but you really can’t mention Milner’s name in the same sentence as Souness’s.

On the subject of comparisons - here’s one to discuss later in the pub. George Best was Messi long before we ever heard of Messi. I’d love to see Best playing now in the position that Messi does. Wow.

Before I leave the subject of Liverpool ‘greats’ - a quick word about Steven Gerrard.

If Gerrard still has ambitions to manage/coach in the PL I really think he should be swerving the legends games - the likes of which we saw at Anfield last weekend.

Gerrard needs to distance himself from Liverpool for a few years more yet. One of his biggest problems at Villa was that their fans largely saw him as Liverpool’s captain. It was ok to start with - Gerrard said all the right things, but as time progressed and things weren’t going so well, it was an easy stick to beat him with - even though he’d had those two years at Rangers as well.

Perhaps he’s given up believing that he’s got a coaching career, but if he hasn’t, I firmly believe he’s definitely got to give those games up. Either way - he shouldn’t be taunting Celtic fans as he did after scoring. I know it’s hard and I know they’d been on at him all through the game - but he’s a big boy and he knows it’s all part of the gig. Those fans had paid their money to charity (the players always get paid btw) and so they had a right to get involved in the occasion.

What did we tell you about Conte a week ago? Pretty obvious really wasn’t it?

And welcome back ‘Mr Roy’ - as the Italians always referred to him. As you know, I had Palace down for a struggle at the start of the season. Do they never learn at Selhurst Park? Every time they want to ‘soften’ the way they play it ends up as it did for Vieria. As I’ve said before - know what you are. Accept it. Palace are a steady PL team - in for the occasional relegation tussle and the odd Cup run. That’s it. No more - but they’ve got to earn the right to do simply that. Players are at Palace for a reason. They’d be elsewhere if they could really ‘play’.

Hodgson will keep them up.

The honeymoon is over Howard - get a grip

Published: Monday, 20 March 2023

I am a strong supporter of Howard Webb’s. His appointment as head of our referees - replacing the hapless Mike Riley - was the best decision that’s been made by anybody in football this season.

Webb is a class act. He was a top ref and from what I hear he’s a top bloke as well, which is why people want to work with and for him. But he’s got to get a grip on his refs and the matchday centre. Turfing Riley out of the door now would help. For some reason Riley is still hanging about the PGMOL and I don’t know why.

It will take time to repair Riley’s mess, which has been 10 years in the making, but Webb has got to make a start and get a grip.

Neil Swarbrick’s departure can only be a good thing. Swarbrick is the man who’s been in charge of VAR - not a great selling point when he applies for his next job.

It’s time Riley’s patsies Mssrs Gallacher, Foy & Walton were shown the door as well. They add nothing. In fact, they only confuse and muddy already dirty waters with their pathetic excuses and cover ups for bad decisions.  I’ve said all this before. By the way - I don’t expect to see Mike Dean back in the VAR bunker ever again.

Webb made a good start, returning power to the man in the middle on match days, but too many errors are now creeping in. Wolves have every right to feel aggrieved about the decisions that have been going against them. Of course they should’ve had a pen when they were only one-down to Leeds on Saturday. If they get the pen and score it’s a very different game. Junior Firpo caught Nelson Semedo in the box. Michael Salisbury didn’t think so and David Coote sat on his hands in the VAR bunker. Why? It was clear and obvious to everybody watching - except that pair.

I agree that refs should be allowed to make the final call on decisions - but help him out for goodness sake. Coote should’ve asked his mate to look at Firpo’s challenge again. If Salisbury had seen it on a monitor he would’ve given a pen.

That’s not the only call Wolves have been annoyed about recently.

The non-decision at Newcastle the previous week was the hardest for Lopitegui to swallow. How on earth did Nick Pope stay on when he clearly fouled Raul Jiminez in the box? It was a pen and a red card. We all saw it. It was clear and obvious - but not to Andy Madley.  An independent panel sat last week and admonished Madley - but somehow cleared Tony Harrington in VAR. How? If Madley was guilty of a bad decision so was Harrington, who was surrounded by technology and had no excuses.

Briefly - pen for Blackburn in the Cup for a handball no-one appealed for - yet nothing at Villa for an identical offence. Errors like these can’t keep being made.

Wolves have every right to feel aggrieved by their treatment. What a terrible shame it would be if these errors cost a club their place in the PL again. Yes - again. Have we forgotten Sheffield United scoring at Villa in a crucial relegation battle in 2020? A goal should’ve been given when Villa‘s ‘keeper Orjan Nyland fumbled Oliver Norwiod’s fk and the ball clearly went over the line. Riley blamed Hawk-eye because ref Michael Oliver’s watch didn’t signal ‘goal’. It was a scandal of monumental proportions. We didn’t need Hawk-eye. We all knew it was in. Everybody watching knew it was in. Everybody in the ground knew it was in. Riley claimed VAR couldn’t get involved because it contravened working practices. Bollocks. They all fucked up - Villa eventually stayed up and United went down.

Let’s not allow it to happen again. Get control Howard. We’re slipping backwards.

Having berated some - let’s give Chris Kavanagh credit for his handling of a shambles all of Fulham’s making at OT. What were they thinking? Never has a team been more guilty of tossing away a match. Ninety seconds of madness cost them. Kavanagh was terrific and got every call right - including denying Mitrovic a pen in the first half, the incident that sparked Marco Silva’s fury. Silva thought Kavanagh should’ve been asked to check his monitor when Mitrovic and the wee man clashed in the box. If Kavanagh had done he wouldn’t have changed his mind, but perhaps a look would’ve satisfied Silva?

Mitrovic should be banned for some time for his ridiculous attack on the ref. What was going through his mind? The way United were playing I’d have fancied Fulham to beat them with 10 anyway. Sending Willian off only evened things up. United only had 10 on. You can’t count Weghorst.

When he lost control Mitrovic cost Fulham any chance of winning the game.

It was an irony that Fernandes got a couple because he should be serving a ban. I still don’t know how he escaped an FA charge after he man-handled the assistant at Anfield. The FA were weak and should’ve charged him. My Mum used to tell me that ‘you reap what you sow’. The FA certainly did this weekend.

And the BBC certainly did last weekend. I don’t want to get into Lineker-gate again - the BBC and their army of striking sports staff deserve each other and I had my say on the subject last week - but I want to add a brief word. Well done Robbie Savage for making up the lost wages of back room colleagues who missed a days pay - through no fault of their own - during last weekend’s debacle. That was my major concern. Never mind the protests of the millionaire pundits who followed each other in their lemming-like protests - over something they should never have got involved with - it was the workers further down the food chain that I was bothered about. 

Savage made up the lost wages of people that should’ve been working on his show six-o-six. Well done Rob. I hope your gesture moves others to follow and do the same thing. They clearly don’t have minds of their own so let’s hope they follow the leader again.

And finally….. Would someone please put Antonio Conte out of his misery? How dare Spurs pay him £13m/year only to frustrate him as they do? It’s a disgrace. The poor guy has only spent close on £100m only to take their team - er……nowhere.

Was it Daniel Levy’s fault that Conte sent a weakened team to Sheffield United to get beaten? Come off it. They could’ve been playing in a 1/4-final yesterday but Conte tossed it off at Bramall Lane. The defeat was his fault - nobody else’s. Would we have fancied them to beat Blackburn? Of course we would.

So shut up Antonio. The last time I checked no-one was holding a gun to your head insisting you stay at Spurs. Perhaps United dodged a bullet after all?