Richard Keys Blog

Getting Hammered

on Wednesday, 08 November 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

If the faithful at West Ham don’t get behind David Moyes their team is sunk. Why is Moyes getting hammered in the manner that he is?

He’s a good man. He’s an honest man, so that makes him something of a rarity in football, and he’s a smart man. He’s also a man that’s been badly abused and more than a little bit used since leaving Everton, where he’d done an outstanding job on buttons.

He made mistakes at United. He’s said so himself. To many of us, it was quite obvious early that his appointment there wasn’t going to work out - not because he couldn’t do the job, but because he wasn’t getting the backing he NEEDED to do the job. When the end came it was a relief for everybody.

I think he was badly advised over taking a job in Spain and the decision to follow Sam at Sunderland was plain madness - especially when he had so many other offers. Paulo DI Canio and his cronies messed that club up big time. Sunderland are still paying off debt racked up at that time. I heard last season that they were paying for 27 players no longer at the club! What chance have you got in those circumstances? There simply was NO money to make the team better.

Now Moyes has rolled the dice again and decided he can restore his battered reputation at West Ham. Everyone connected with that club had better hope that he does.

I have no doubts that he can, but come January The Hammers need to spend - and let Moyes do the spending. Everyone previously connected with transfers needs to step away. Everyone.

The owners at West Ham had also better start being more realistic about their ambitions. Who on earth convinced them that moving to an athletics stadium would be the key to CL football? Oh, and on the back of a spend around £40m or so in each season since.

Look. West Ham is a fine football club. Bobby Moore was my first footballing hero. I loved the guy.  Geoff Hurst won England the World Cup! Billy Bonds was a warrior and a leader any team would’ve wanted. There was Devonshire, Lampard, Brooking and the brilliant Cottee and McAvennie, who fired John Lyall’s team to the club’s best ever finish. Lyall, of course, also won the FA Cup twice. There was also that Cup Winners’ Cup success in ‘65.

These were the days of ‘The Academy’, when West Ham did things the ‘West Ham’ way - days that have long since past. Long since past.

Big Sam would often refer to ‘winning’ football when he was at Upton Park. Quite right too.

As I grew up the Hammers seemed to spend more time in the old second division than they did the top league. Brooking was in charge when they slipped back again. Sam took over when it happened again, after a close squeak under Alan Curbishley. And we all know what happened when Sheffield United cried ‘foul’ that season.

Yes, West Ham are a fine club, rich in tradition, but stuck in a time warp. CL football is not achievable on a £40m/year spend. And look closely at what they buy - ageing mercenaries, on average at £12m each, whose contracts are never renewed. That kind of policy will work for a while but eventually it’ll bite you.

There is nothing more certain in the East End right than the club’s current owners are wanting to sell up, for huge profit, and get out of town. I don’t blame them. The UK is a capitalist society and profit shouldn’t be a dirty word. How you achieve that aim can be though.

If West Ham’s loyal fans want to vent their anger - do it at the Boardroom, not David Moyes. If you don’t rally behind your new manager, I repeat, you’re sunk. These are critical times for West Ham. Get behind the manager, get yourselves safe, get hammered in celebration and you’ll know who to blame if it doesn’t work out. It won’t be David Moyes.

Player-power.

on Wednesday, 01 November 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

There is something very wrong at Chelsea again. Well, I say ‘again’, but there’s no need really is there? There’s been something very wrong at that club for the last decade.

That Chelsea dressing room dominates everything at the club. Time and again ‘it’ has seen off one coach after another. The personnel might change in there, but attitudes don’t. If they don’t like you - you’re out.

Somehow Chelsea fly in the face of the generally accepted formula that any club looking for success must have stability in the managers’ office. Arsenal have got that and yet stutter from an occasional FA Cup win to the next. On the other hand, Chelsea have won as many trophies as they’ve had coaches in the last decade! How? It defies logic.

What did I read after the CL defeat Tuesday? ‘Roma Ruins’ was the most popular headline. Conte told us there was ‘no fight’ in his players.  Chelsea are nine points behind City in the PL. This season has been littered with red cards and surprise defeats. All of a sudden Conte’s ‘unplayable’ 3-5-2 looks very suspect. Jose Mourinho must be laughing his United red socks off right now. So too AVB, and a whole lot more X-Chelsea coaches. Have the boys at The Bridge ‘downed tools’ again?

We hear stories about them not enjoying training anymore. That Conte is too hard on them. That there’s no recovery time between sessions games and sessions. That some have phoned Steve Holland, last season’s No. 2, to express their frustration. Chelsea deny this. ‘Ask Holland’ they say - he’ll deny this too. What’s the old phrase? Oh yes ‘well he would wouldn’t he?’

Look back through these blogs and you’ll find a piece I wrote when Conte took over. I warned then that the relief the guys felt about ‘outing’ Mourinho and getting Conte the job would be short lived. I said the that Conte would prove to be worse in his demands of players - that there would be no hiding place and certainly no rest. I said Conte was an obsessive - that he’d be up all hours and text training schedules while players slept, always wanting to keep the guys on their toes. I suggested they’d soon get fed up of his antics. Well?

That’s the problem when an owner gives into player-power. Do it once and there’s never going to be an end to it. I offer you Leicester as another example. One headline leapt out at me following Claude Puel’s appointment. The players were ‘surprised’ by it. I’ll bet they were! In fairness we all were, but it’s only in that dressing room that Puel’s tenure will he decided.

On that subject, the owners at Leicester said Puel’s vision for the club matched their own. That got me thinking. What vision would that be? They’ll never win the title again. They won’t finish in the top 6. They might finish top half and have the occasional decent cup run, but staying in the PL has to be the main ‘vision’ at the start of every season. So how did Craig Shakespeare’s ‘vision’ for the club differ to Puel’s, or the owners? What a load of nonsense.

Look, player-power isn’t a new phenomenon. Ask anybody that was in the Arsenal dressing room when a player poll was organised to see if the lads wanted Bruce Rioch out. We all know what the vote was.  Ask Roberto Mancini. City’s dressing room tossed off an FA Cup final to be sure they were rid of him.

It’s happened at many other clubs too, but I repeat, it’s a very dangerous path to embark on. Done once, players’ expectation is that they can force an owners hand every time they’re unhappy. At Chelsea they seem to continue to believe that. Does anybody really think Conte will survive very much longer? He certainly won’t be there to start another season.

Miseryside

on Monday, 23 October 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

First an admission. I stole the title of this piece from the Mail today! Well done boys, nice one. London 9 Miseryside 3 - it kind of sums Sunday up doesn’t it?

Everton were woeful against Arsenal. Koeman had to go. I’d heard that the club wanted to limp to the international break and make a decision about the Dutchman’s future then, but they had to act after Sunday. The Toffees were awful.

Koeman was convinced he could fix it. He couldn’t. He divided the club every which way. He’s old school in his approach - ‘my way or the highway’. He was high-handed, dismissive and arrogant. I don’t think he ever understood Everton and what makes it such a special club.

I’ve always believed it’s one of those clubs where you’ve got to have had a ‘touch of the ball’ as I call it - if you’re going to manage there - ala Kendall, Harvey, Royle. I wish Peter Reid had been given a chance as well. He’d have been terrific for them. Having said that, David Moyes got it. He arrived calling Everton ‘the people’s club’, much to the annoyance of those across Stanley Park! The longer he was there the more he understood it.

Koeman, like his predecessor, Roberto Martinez, made it too much about himself.

I watched those players Sunday and saw nothing to suggest they wanted to play for him. He lost them. It was time to go.

This. as I’m constantly reminded, was a season I genuinely thought was going to be rewarding for Everton. I had them down for a top 4 finish. Mind you, I had Leicester down for relegation the year they won the title! Still, you can’t get them all right!

I did add that I thought Everton could finish above Liverpool so I’ve got something to cling onto there. The Reds leave the weekend in 9th. I’ll repeat that. 9th. It’s extra-ordinary.

Jurgen Klopp came into the season telling anyone that would listen how happy he was with his squad. Reds fans believed that this was finally going to be their year - that the title was possible. Now Klopp is saying he’s not sure his team will Male the top 4. What? He can’t be serious. That’s a minimum requirement - with a trophy. He’s GOT to deliver a trophy this season. Anything less is a failure.

But right now they look miles away. They’ve won just one of their last six. They’ve conceded 16 goals from nine games - making this their worst start in the goals against column since 1964. I saw Klopp quoting our beINSPORTS stat quite widely, so he’s aware of it.

I know the best way to stir up a day of ‘trolling’ is to pass any kind of negative comment on Liverpool - or West Ham (wait for it, I’ll get round to them) but the facts tell their own story right now. What’s happening at Anfield just isn’t good enough. Tell me, where are they better than when Brendan Rodgers was in charge? How has Klopp improved them? He hasn’t has he? They’re worse - and they’re certainly further away from the title than they were. I’m not lauding Rodgers, but after a spend the best part of £180m Liverpool’s loyal following deserve better. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors going on at Anfield and surely somebody other than me is going to start asking questions if it doesn’t get better? I’ll repeat it again - Liverpool are 9th.

West Ham fans constantly told me that they’d be going ‘in a different direction’ after Big Sam. You know my feelings, despite having a huge amount of time for Slaven Bilic, I was never convinced. How wrong I was! They actually are going in a different direction, but not the one they’d predicted. The Champions League looks an awful way off right now.

I don’t blame Bilic for one minute. He’s done everything he could bearing in mind the cards he’s been dealt from the Boardroom and the Chief Exec’s office. The over-clever owners at West Ham can’t stop meddling. They are the problem. Bilic will likely get sacked way before the end of the season if things don’t improve and I’ll remind Hammers fans that every club Big Sam has left has eventually been relegated.

It doesn’t look too good at Stoke either. What’s going on there? Again, I’m a huge fan of Mark Hughes - and his coaching staff - but players and staff alike all look a bit fed up with each other now. Sparky has been here before of course, and got Stoke moving, but I’m beginning to think it’s maybe time for Stoke, and Hughes, to  get themselves a new challenge. Wait a minute, didn’t Hughes play for Everton? Just a thought on a shocking weekend for Miseryside. No. Hughes won’t get it - I really hope Sean Dyche does.

Dyche deserves a crack at a bigger club than Burnley. He inspires men. He improves players. He’s done an unbelievable job at Burnley and should be trusted to take the next step now. He’s British as well and what’s wrong with that? After a succession of foreign failures - with more to come - let’s give our boys a chance again.

 

Paris in springtime is beautiful Jose

on Monday, 16 October 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

I can’t have been the only one absolutely stunned by Jose Mourinho’s comments Sunday about PSG. ‘In Paris at the moment there is something special’ he said. Adding ‘magic, quality, youth, it’s fantastic’. 

He told us that his son, who lives in London, recently went to Paris to watch a PSG match instead of Manchester, for all of the reasons above. Well - after witnessing what we did from his dad’s team at the weekend, who could blame him? 

Ramon Calderon, the former President of Real Madrid once called Mou (as they address him in Spain) ‘an enemy of football’. I saw that phrase used again this weekend. I saw words like ‘turgid’ and ‘tedious’ used to describe United’s performance at Anfield. I wouldn’t argue with those descriptions but - Mourinho is a serial title winner and had every right to set his team up as he did. He had every right to play as he did. He knows he could easily have won the game. Lukaku spurned a golden chance to do just that. If United win the title this season no-one will remember Anfield. No United fan will care about how dull their team were at Anfield. They know better than most that a title win is pieced together in a series of building blocks. Saturday they laid another block. 

Let’s not pretend that Fergie’s teams ALWAYS swept the opposition away. They didn’t. I can remember many many miserable afternoons at Old Trafford watching ordinary 1-0 wins. I can remember many wonderful afternoons as well, but it’s churlish to suppose a team can perform well every week. 

I was as disappointed as anybody that the game this weekend fell way short of what we hoped for. But we in the media have a lot to answer for in that respect. The ridiculous hype that went into the week preceding the game was way over the top. No match anywhere in the world could’ve lived up to it. 

So for me Mourinho didn’t do a great deal wrong. His priority is to win the title for United this season any which way he can. And let’s not forget the 21 goals United had scored coming into the game. Only City have got more! Entertain when you can - not every week, perhaps ultimately to your cost. Ask Kevin Keegan about that. 

There was another reason for the savagery. City were beautiful to watch again this weekend. They’re playing ‘pure’ football. It’s a dream to watch right now. They’re a joy, but they’ll hit the buffers soon. They’re bound to. I repeat, you simply can’t play well EVERY week. 

Somebody who should be pleased with the way Mourinho set his stall out is Jurgen Klopp. The fact that United took a pasting from the Press masked Liverpool’s inadequacies. Right now they’re simply not good enough. It’s just one win in eight and not at any point in the game on Saturday did they look as if they had enough - or knew how to break United down. They’re way off. 

I thought the criticism Lukaku took in some quarters was way out of line. I’m always surprised when x-pro’s turn so violently on the generation that’s followed them. They should know better. They’ve played. And believe me, I’ve seen many of them play some very ordinary football themselves down the years. They’ve all become world beaters since they retired. 

Lukaku is a class act. He’s had a far bigger impact on United already than his mate Pogba. He is NOT a flat track bully. Ask Evertonians if their team is missing him. 

Lukaku had one big chance on Saturday. He knows he should’ve done better with it. Let’s say he had. Let’s say he’d scored the games only goal. Would that have made him the best player in the pitch? Of course not. The fact he didn’t score doesn’t make him the worst on the pitch either.  

I understand why people say there’s another level for him to go to - and that he doesn’t score enough in the big games. I’ve argued before that up until now he hasn’t played in teams that you’d expect him to get chances in against the big sides. I think he’s terrific. He’ll get plenty of goals in a United jersey going forward and be sure he’ll also settle big matches. Why only criticise him after what we saw? Why not Firmino? I wouldn’t do that either. Neither keeper had a save to make in the second half because chances weren’t created by either side. If you’re not making chances you are definitely not going to score goals. That’s blindingly obvious surely? 

Another word on City - fantastic. They’re a really good watch right now. 

I don’t think Everton’s scrambled draw at Brighton hides their problems. They look scared. Their is something deeply wrong at Goodison at the moment. On reflection perhaps they were never going to be good enough for the top 4, but they should be challenging for the top 6. Where they are simply isn’t good enough. 

Well done Spurs and very well done Palace. I was chuffed to bits for Roy Hodgson. He’s a good football man and didn’t deserve the mauling he got as England manager. I’ll stick my neck out again and say Palace stay up! 

To finish as we started - if Mourinho is indeed an ‘enemy of football’ - if I’m a PSG fan I would propose that we talk to the enemy as soon as possible. Paris in springtime is beautiful Jose! 

Food for thought

on Tuesday, 03 October 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

I love reading newspapers. It’ll be a sad day when a combination of rising costs, new media and a fading interest in traditional methods of delivering news eventually brings about the collapse of this medium.

Let’s not get into how much of what I read I actually believe! That’s another issue entirely, but every now and again a little nugget leaps out.

That happened at the back end of last season. I saw a line in The Telegraph that a PL club in the north of England was exploring the possibility of moving their training HQ south. Seriously. I checked the date - no - it wasn’t April 1st.  I genuinely couldn’t believe what I was reading - but no surprise there eh? No, sorry, I’ve already said I’m not going down that route!

It was something we discussed on beINSPORTS the following weekend. Colleagues thought I’d gone completely mad, but I’d made a few enquiries and sure enough it was true. It wasn’t easy putting a name to the club and I don’t want to compromise good sources by naming it. I never tweet or write something I haven’t checked although I would admit to getting a few predictions wrong! For example, I can’t see Everton finishing in the top 4 this season now! 

But why would this club - (no longer in the PL, that’s all I can say!) want to move their HQ south?

I was told the thinking was that they believed the nearer they were to London the better quality player they could attract. Mad or not?  They had no plans to abandon their city, nor their stadium - and crucially not their supporters - but by taking such a decision would they actually be doing just that?

I can understand the thinking. Of course there are exceptions - the two Manchester clubs do all right - but by and large a lot of the best foreign players want to live near London if they can. It gives the capital city’s clubs a huge advantage.

The subject came up again on Sunday when we came off air. A couple of glasses had been consumed so as you can imagine, the conversation got lively!

Is it a good idea or not? My Evertonian mate was outraged at the thought. But why? How does it adversely affect supporters if the first team ‘group’ work elsewhere? As long as they turn up at the weekend where they’re supposed to be so what? Most of them live way outside the towns or cities they represent anyway. And if the quality of player improves as a result isn’t that a good thing? I’ve got a feeling that it won’t be too long before we’re hearing more on this subject.

Speaking of Everton - you’re making me look a right mug Ronald Koeman! I wish Evertonians would stop  complaining about the tough start they’ve had. They didn’t lay a glove on Burnley at the weekend. Burnley - who’ve beaten Chelsea and drawn with Spurs and Liverpool on the road - before winning at Goodison. It doesn’t get much tougher than that.

No. Right now Koeman and Everton look clueless. After a big summer spend I really thought they’d go well this season. It’s still possible, but it doesn’t look very probable. There’s some good players on the books at Everton, but if they trained nearer London might they have attracted better? Now there’s food for thought......!!

PL loans distort the competition

on Wednesday, 27 September 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

Just a few quick words here because I always feel guilty if I'm not writing at least once a week.

I hate saying 'I was right', but those of us from the media that engage with the social media get such a pasting at times that when the opportunity makes itself available - we have to!

Right about what? Right about Premier League loans - to each other -  distorting the competition. I mentioned this early season and the usual torrent of abuse followed, but I can't think of a better example of what I'm saying than we saw this past weekend.

Stoke had a horrendous injury list that left them unable to pick a first choice centre-back v Chelsea. Well, a horrendous injury list and a centre back that they couldn't play because of the loan regulations. Kurt Zouma - although fit - had to sit and watch as Alvaro Morata ripped Stoke to shreds.

I don't want to take anything away from either Morata's performance - or Chelsea's - let's face it, winning

4-0 at Stoke is a rarity for any team and it makes a real statement. No, what I'm saying is how different might the result have been had Zouma been allowed to play? The man he would've been designated to keep an eye on got a hat-trick! Look, I appreciate that he might have done anyway, but, I happen to think not.

Why? Because Zouma has been awesome for Stoke this season - never better than in their 1-0 defeat of Arsenal. Yes - Arsenal. He can play against Chelsea's title rivals, but not his own club. It's madness. It gets worse as well - Chelsea have five players out on loan in the Premier League (2 at Brighton) so on at least eight occasions this season they'll be playing against opposition that can't name their first choice 11. That can't be right.

There are two solutions - let the loanees play against their parent club - or simply stop the arrangement altogether. I'd do the latter.

I can hear the chorus of howls, groans and objections now. But think about it. I'm not suggesting we stop players going out on loan - fine, if they're going to a Championship club, or lower. Fine if they're going abroad - but I can't see any good reason why the super rich clubs of the Premier League should be borrowing players from each other. It's a nonsense.

West Ham haven't broken any rules taking Joe Hart on loan, in fact they've done a great piece of business, but it's still wrong that Hart can have the effect on the title race that he will keeping goal for The Hammers against all the challengers - except City.

If you think I'm wrong - fine - and perhaps I am, but why allow a system that leads to the question to be asked. Actually I'm not wrong - I'm right!!!

Beauty v Beast

on Tuesday, 19 September 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

It's game on at last between Guardiola and Mourinho and it's going to be fascinating.

For the first time in recent memory we've genuinely got two teams 'joint top'. There's nothing between City and United. Nothing - and were the league to end today we'd have a play-off for the title. Can you imagine that? Wow. What a game that would be. Let's hope both can stay the course and that others can get involved.

From what we've seen so far Chelsea will be around. I still have a sneaky feeling that Arsenal will do better than most people think, but I don't see too many more challenging - certainly not Everton! My goodness, what a start they've made. My pre-season prediction that they'd go well is looking as good as my call that Leicester would go down the season they won the title!!!

So let's concentrate on the top two for a while. What exactly is it that wins titles? The P Lge has to be harder to win than any other league in the world, so you need staying power for a start. You need to be able to dig in and nick results when the wind is blowing hard on a wet, miserable night at Stoke!

For sure, a giant share of luck is required. You need big decisions to go your way at the right time - but that's generally a given for the big teams. 

You need to keep players fit, so this is where the 'sports science' dept comes in. I also think that you've got to know what you're priority is - and target it. If that means dropping out of the domestic cup competitions, then so be it. For Mourinho they served their purpose last season and I can't see United going after them again this time.

It's a given that top players are required - with a mentality to get over the line. This is where it gets interesting for me.

City have been fantastic so far. I've really enjoyed watching them. Aguero is on fire. So is his mate Jesus. At last, Guardiola seems to have found what he's been looking for. And I think he's realised he's got to respect our league a whole lot more than he did last season. He came expecting to win it at the first attempt and got a nasty surprise. Now though, City are a delight. They look slick. Everybody is happy on the ball. And there's no changing the belief that they can 'play' the best off the park.

Mourinho has said that winning the title his year would be his greatest achievement to date. He's due. He always wins the title - whatever country he's in - second season! He's built a typically Mourinho team - big, powerful and able to dig in to get a result. I mentioned, at the weekend, that nine of their 16 goals have come in the last 10 minutes. That says their prepared to 'win' the game - individual battles too - before cutting loose.

So, what 'philosophy' will ultimately prove to be the right one? In Spain, Guardiola's Barca generally swept everybody aside - until Mourinho turned up in Madrid! In his second season it was 'power' that got Real over the line.

It was 'power' that delivered Mancini's first title at City. It was 'power' that lay at the heart of all Fergie's great sides, although they could be thoroughly entertaining when the time was right. 

It's always been 'power' at Chelsea. And Wenger's title winning teams had that above anything else - Vieira and Petit - Adams, Bould, Keown.

Dalglish's Blackburn blew teams away and so did Leicester when they won it.

The only team I can remember trying to win the P Lge title with a 'softer' approach were Keegan's 'entertainers'. Oh how I wish Kevin's wonderful brand of football had been rewarded with a title, but the year they led by 12 pts, they were eventually blown away by United.

It would appear we've got the same fascinating showdown in beliefs again. What ultimately wins a title - beauty or the beast? I think we're going to find out this season. I also believe it's going to be quite a ride.

What a mis-judged storm

on Monday, 11 September 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

What a load of fuss over something that was so obvious. Sadio Mane had to go off. And let me say straight away - that is not an 'anti-Liverpool' verdict. It's a simple fact and Jon Moss should be applauded for the decision he made - and the calm manner in which he made it. I've said it already a couple of times and I will again, I think our officials are having a really good season so far, although I'm sure Mike Jones' guv'nors will want a quiet word, because Matt Ritchie should also have seen red!

A couple of things on the Mane sending off which my beINSPORTS colleague Andy Gray mentioned on Saturday. Mane definitely knows Ederson is coming for that ball - that's why his foot is so high, and why he's trying to nick it over him. And here's a thought, what if the situation had been the other way round and Ederson had flattened Mane? Exactly. There would've been calls for the keeper to have been arrested for assault!

Very simply, Mane's challenge met all the criteria for red. The law states clearly that a tackle or a challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent, or uses excessive force or brutality, must be sanctioned as serious foul play. I've really no idea how anybody can argue that Mane was unlucky.  One last word on the incident - if Liverpool were convinced they'd been hard done by they would've appealed. They haven't because they would lose.

But it's what happened after the sending off that stunned me. Liverpool fell apart. They were better than Arsenal at Anfield a fortnight ago, but only just. They went onto concede four goals in a total capitulation, yet there was no screaming from the rooftops his week about their attitude. Some of the criticism that followed that Arsenal performance was a disgrace. Look - it was poor and I said so myself, but when it gets as personal as it did - because Arsene Wenger is an easy target and not a 'pundits' favourite, it's totally wrong.

As good as Liverpool were on that day - and I said in my last blog that it was difficult to judge them in some ways because Arsenal were so poor, the same can be said of City this week. They ripped Liverpool apart with some scintillating football - as good as I've seen under Guardiola - but they were certainly helped by a totally inept opposition. Incidentally, Liverpool can't hide behind the sending off. As my old mate Jan Fjortoft correctly pointed out on Twitter, Freiburg got a man sent off after 29 minutes against Dortmund at the weekend, but still got a goalless draw. And how many times have we seen 10 men win a game like that?

As I write I notice that Frank de Boer has lost his job at Palace - no surprise there, but is their miserable start all down to de Boer? No, of course it's not. I like Steve Parrish a lot, but the Palace owner has got to take his share of the blame. He wanted to take his team in a different direction and that's why Palace went for de Boer. He was only doing what had been asked of him - trying to 'soften' them, but he had no chance. He needed time to achieve that and as we know, there isn't much of that in the modern game. De Boer also needed a whole set of different players and patience from a Palace crowd that like their football raw. None of it was possible and Parrish must've known that when he made the appointment. The bottom line is this - wrong man at the wrong club.

Slaven Bilic is likely to be next - but I'm not convinced he'll be too bothered. He's recently sounded like a man trying to get the sack. You don't ever take owners on and expect to win that battle. As Parrish has just shown, the power lies in the Boardroom. A manager is simply a hired hand.

The Toon got a well deserved result at Swansea. What a terrific captains performance that was from Jamaal Lascelles. What I liked most about it was the way he celebrated on the whistle showing just pure joy and pride. It's not often we see that on a football pitch these days. 

I'll close with a few words about Sean Dyche. What a terrific and hugely underrated guy this is. He's worked miracles at Burnley and is a rare beneficiary of a commodity I've already mentioned doesn't exist much - time.

It would've been easy Burnley to sack him after their first unsuccessful season in the P Lge, but they knew the quality of the guy they'd employed and backed him. Dyche got Burnley back again, settled and now, as they showed at Chelsea on the opening day, they can compete with the best.

Dyche keeps it simple. He knows what he's got and gets the best out of it. He made a profit in the last transfer window whilst making his team stronger. Burnley have got themselves a terrific new training ground and a future as a result of careful planning and knowing what they're good at. Mr Parrish take note!

I love big Sean. He's a cracking guy and deserves a whole lot more recognition than he gets. Could he do it elsewhere - at a bigger club? Sadly he'll probably never get the chance, but of course he could. It's a myth that continental coaches have a secret manual that our guys have never seen and that's why they get all the top jobs. Sadly I don't see things changing any time soon, but the more guys like Dyche make an impact the more helpful it is for British coaches. Keep making a storm big man!

It's time to back Wenger

on Monday, 28 August 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

It was nearly everything and more that every pundit and headline writer was screaming at us this weekend. Arsenal were awful at Anfield. Best headline incidentally - my vote goes to the Daily Mail - 'Kop 4 Keystone Kops 0'. Brilliant!

So now a lot of the immediate hysterical reaction has subsided what are we to make of arguably the most inept performance I've seen from a top 6 side in PL history? There's no hiding from it - it was rank. I watched wondering whether those in Arsenal shirts had downed tools and were beginning the process of playing Wenger out of office. We've seen many examples of it in recent seasons - and there's precedent at Arsenal when the players at the time saw off Bruce Rioch.

Let's not pretend, Arsenal have a massive problem and it's all of their own making, but I don't want to be too critical. Here's why. In an era when we criticise almost everybody involved in the game for a lack of loyalty and respect, Arsene Wenger is unique. He loves Arsenal. It was put to me at the weekend, from a very respectable Arsenal source, that the Frenchman is 'caught up in a love affair' with the club. Well I don't have a problem with that. Good on him, but isn't it often the case that many of us lose sight of reality in that situation?

Wenger changed Arsenal. I'd go so far as to say he did the same across the English game. He's a gentleman and fascinating to listen to, but was he right to stay on last summer?

I never had a doubt that he would. I don't accept the theory that there's 'ten million reasons a year' why he would. Wenger is rich beyond his wildest expectation and had he walked away he'd probably be earning more somewhere else. No. He simply loves Arsenal.

The bigger question is 'should he have been given the chance to stay?' That's another matter altogether. But who was going to tell him it was time to go? And was it?

Football is not a perfect science. There are so many factors that can bite you just when everything seems to be going so well.

Those who believe in 'loyalty' should back Wenger's stance on Sanchez. I don't. I'd sell. The truth is Sanchez left Arsenal three months ago. He's a distraction in the dressing room in exactly the same way as the uncertainty surrounding Wenger was last season. Get rid of Sanchez. Take Aguero in exchange if you can - if not, take City's money. I still believe they will, but this should've been done so much earlier in the summer.

What chance Wenger will re-think and walk? For me, none. Not only is he a proud man, a man in love, he's also a stubborn man. So Arsenal fans and their Board got to back him. What choice is there? Exactly. None.

Liverpool were ruthless, but as John Barnes said on beINSports, it's really hard to judge a performance like that when the opposition were so poor. He went on to say 'let's judge them against West Brom'. I know what he means - teams that sit in and make life really difficult. Even so, I thought Licerpool were terrific and the win allowed Jurgen Klopp to escape further scrutiny as to why he left Simon Mignolet out. Did he rest him? No chance. I hear Simon was a naughty boy and stayed up late  Saturday night for some reason!

I've been very complimentary about our officials so far this season. I think they've done really well. Of course, they're never going to get everything right but there hasn't been too many howlers - until the weekend. Mike Dean - why didn't you just blow your whistle once you'd gone beyond the allotted five minutes that you'd added at Bournemouth? All the trouble that followed was Dean's fault. He looked intimidated by Pep Guardiola on the touchline and he definitely was by City on the pitch in those dying minutes. As for Asmir Begovic calling for an inquiry into why the big teams always get the big decisions - forget it Asmir. It's an historical thing and it won't change now. But was it a foul by Lys Mousset on Otamendi on the half way line? Was it hell. The winning goal came from it. Bournemouth were hard done by. But once again City did what was asked of them.

A special mention for Tony Pulis. Here's a guy that's been beaten as black and blue as the Baggies kit down the years! What a start Tony. Fantastic. I was equally pleased for Mark Hughes and his 'Tafia'. Hughes has also been the target of much unwarranted criticism this season.

I predicted a struggle for Palace. In fact, regulars will know I had them down as one of my bottom 3 before a ball was kicked. This is no reflection on Frank de Boer, quite obviously a talented coach, but he and Palace are not a fit. I believe the Palace hierarchy are beginning to think the same.

Well done The Toon. It was a much needed win v West Ham. I said on Twitter Saturday afternoon I thought West Ham were 'unlucky'. Let me explain with more than 140 characters. Not 'unlucky' because they got beaten, but having correctly seen Arnautovic sent off last week they had good reason to complain that Mitrovic should've gone for his challenge on Lanzini. Judge for yourselves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCABepAxMpU&feature=youtu.be

Naughty. And the difference between that and what Arnautovic did? The score was 2-0 when Mitrovic scored a goal he shouldn't have been on the pitch to get and I'm not suggesting him being sent off would've affected the outcome, but we want consistency.

So the window 'slams shut' Thursday! Why does it always 'slam' shut? Why can't it just close? I expect hundreds of millions to change hands yet. Will all the deals get done that we were told might? No, they won't, but it doesn't mean to say they haven't been discussed. Had Real Madrid got Mbappe then United would've got Bale. They still might, but it's less and less likely.

Do Barca get Coutinho? Well if they don't now, chances are they will going forward. They got Suarez didn't they?  Do City get Sanchez? Watch this space. In the meantime, it's time for Arsenal fans to lick their wounds and stand by their man. It's time to back Wenger, whatever he decides to do. Read that last line carefully.

Watch this space....

on Monday, 21 August 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

Business as usual then - at Chelsea, Arsenal Manchester United, Liverpool - and Spurs - at Wembley.

The crisis at Chelsea certainly didn't last long. Conte made his point last week - dressed in his tracksuit as though he was simply 'the boy' on the touchline. This week it was collar and tie again, almost as though somebody had whispered quietly in his ear about not taking the mickey out of the owner. Conte's team were terrific - they went to Wembley with a plan and executed it brilliantly.

They were a totally different team to the one that Burnley took apart on the opening day.

So two games in Spurs have a better away record than they do home - just as we predicted! Of course it's far too early to draw any kind of conclusion from that statistic, only that it highlights what we said was likely to be the case - and that is that teams will love going to play them at Wembley. Conte said as much after Chelsea's win. Having said that, I thought Spurs played well and as Ray WIlkins would say 'were a tad unlucky'!

United were awesome. They are as good as I've seen wearing United red since Fergie retired. They're big - remember what I told you about Mourinho believing you've got to have at least five players over 6'2" if you're going to win the league? Well he has now - but they're not just lumps, they can play. They dug in, did a job on Swansea and when it felt right, put their foot on the gas and took them apart. Here's a little stat to keep an eye on - United have hit four goals eight times under Mourinho but have yet to manage five. Chelsea scored four 11 times under Mourinho before they finally managed five. Thank you Bill Edgar.

Before the season started we posed the question here 'how long before Arsenal fans start calling for Wenger to go'? Unless something dramatically changes - and I mean dramatically - it won't be long now. That performance at Stoke could've come from any of the last ten seasons. Would Sanchez have made much of a difference? Yes, I believe he would, but what kind of Sanchez are Arsenal going to be playing if he doesn't get his move to City? Like Coutinho, who Liverpool will insist they won't sell, they'll have the player in a physical sense, but not mentally. My view is the deal with City eventually gets done. If they come back with £70-£75m for a player in the last year of his contract The Gunners would be mad not to take it. A here's a thought - it was fairly obvious at the back end of last season that Guardiola doesn't really fancy Aguero, so why don't Arsenal suggest a swap? That way everybody is happy surely?

Liverpool laboured against Palace didn't they? Would Coutinho have made much of a difference? Look, top players always do, but I've seen many performances from Klopp's team just like that when the Brazilian has played. I don't believe Liverpool are strong enough to challenge for the title and having only added Mohamed Salah in the summer, they're way short. This is not an 'anti' Liverpool view, it's simply an honest view.

It was back down to earth for Burnley. Say what you like, Tony Pulis is an operator. I was delighted for Mark Hughes as well. I was listening to Stoke get a terrible hammering on the radio last week, unfairly I thought, so I was delighted to see Hughes team play as well as they did, especially Jese. What can they lose by taking him on loan? There's a whole lot more to gain that's for sure.

Everybody in and around Huddersfield must be feeling a little dizzy right now! It's been a great start - but a word of warning - Hull came out of the traps just like this last season and we all know what happened to them. 

Have you looked at the top of the championship? If not, please do. I loved this quote from the Ipswich Town boss this weekend, referring to himself and Neil Warnock 'two old farts that know fuck all about the game hey? I'll have to get my iPad out now."  Brilliant Mick and remember next time someone calls you a dinosaur, those creatures ruled the planet for 300 million years!

Finally, to address an issue I keep getting asked about - Bale to United. Transfers aren't a perfect science - but whilst the window remains open that deal has still got a chance and so have the others that there's been so much speculation about. I believe we're going to see some really big money spent before the end of August, but exactly where is difficult to be certain about. Just watch this space.....

What a start.....

on Monday, 14 August 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

What a start. What a cracking weekend. The next 37 rounds probably won't be as good, but let's celebrate as good an opening weekend as I can remember.

We're very lucky in our part of the world because we see ALL the games 'live' ALL the time on beINSports.  Before I talk about the games let me compliment our officials. To a man I thought they were terrific. Craig Pawson had a really good day at Stamford Bridge, although I did think the second yellow for Fabragas should've been red. It was a shocking challenge. But Craig made big calls all day.

Antony Taylor and his team got all the big calls correct at Watford. What a good decision they made on the pen - no panic, Taylor waited, gave himself thinking time, obviously spoke with his assistant, they were spot on. Bearing in mind the direction that the ball travelled after Gomes' challenge it would've been easy to get that one wrong. So who needs VAR? Oh, there was another cock up with the system - this time in Belgium. Please, let's think long and hard before we rush headlong into this.

https://twitter.com/HLNinEngeland/status/896977847151206400

So to the football. I thought United were terrific. Of all the contenders they looked the most likely, although City did a really professional job at Brighton. They weren't 'pretty' but they were effective and there's nothing wrong with that.

At Old Trafford Lukaku looked worth every penny of his fee - but how good was Matic? I saw a line Monday that he was worth 6 points - 3 at Old Trafford and the 3 that Chelsea lost at The Bridge. I agree. What were Chelsea thinking when they sold him to United?

I was disappointed in the Hammers. I said in my last blog that I liked their summer transfer business and I still do - so give Bilic a bit of time eh before we jump all over him? That he's favourite, with Conte, to get the sack first astounds me.

What was his game at The Bridge? I don't care what he says - Conte's team selection was designed to make a point. And I thought the way he dressed was too. By wearing that tracksuit I think he was saying to the hierarchy 'Ok. I'm just the boy in charge of the team. I'll dress like it and behave like it'. I smiled when I saw Mourinho in a shirt and tie - he doesn't miss the chance to make a point either does he?!? Burnley, by the way, were fantastic at Chelsea.

I was delighted for Wayne Rooney. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan. The guy has been phenomenal these past 13 years and as I've said before - I believe there's plenty left in the tank. It wasn't a 'fluid' Everton performance, but, like City, they too were effective. They'll get better.

Eighteen times Liverpool have now conceded from corners during Jurgen Klopp's time in charge at Anfield - the latest two examples came at Watford. Andy Gray has always said - and he did again on beINSports this weekend - he believes Liverpool are always dangerous with the ball - but too easy to punish when they haven't got it. It's a recurring problem and they won't win anything whilst it is. One big plus - the new kit. I love the 'Shankly' red.

I've no idea how they've managed to get into such a mess over Coutinho. They can't possibly not have known that he was on Barcelona's shopping list - so why the public surprise now? The bottom line is they've 'lost' him. If they stick to the stubborn line that he's not going anywhere they keep the individual - but not the player. He'll switch off and the chances are he'll stink the place out. He wants to leave and might never get another chance to join the Catalans. If they don't get him now they'll look elsewhere for Neymar's replacement and Coutinho's chance will have gone. He knows that. If I was Klopp I'd drive him to the airport myself and bank the money. Never mind the tough talk - it's all posturing anyway.

Spurs looked good - but I expect that on the road. It'll be interesting to watch them first time out at Wembley.

I wasn't overly keen on the Friday night start to the season - but what a game. I wonder how many Arsenal fans had got their 'Wenger out' banners unfurled when Leicester were 3-2 up? It was a huge win for the Arsenal manager.

Huddersfield were terrific - but in truth had nothing to beat. Palace were awful. They've gambled on a change of style and Frank de Boer has been charged with delivering it. I still think it's a huge gamble and the Selhurst faithful won't have it if they're continually as bad as they were Saturday.

Brighton knew they had a job and a half on before they lost to City. They made two individual errors and were punished. You can't do that at P Lge level.

We got 31 goals in total and some confident officiating. As a neutral I really enjoyed it. What a start......

We're off.....

on Tuesday, 08 August 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

It was 1992, about September time, and I was following Ron Atkinson out of a studio. We'd just been recording another edition of the Footballers' Football Show. He was bubbling about the new Premier League era and still excited about football in general.

I say 'still' because as we walked I looked at him and thought 'Wow - even after all these years he's revved up by it all'. I went on to think 'will I retain an enthusiasm like that?' 

I'd known Ron since my time in Manchester. He's a great guy - deeply loyal, great fun and simply football mad. What he isn't, by the way, is a racist.

The reason I was having all those thoughts was because we'd just landed the Premier League contract at Sky and although I too was hugely excited by everything that was happening around me, I was wondering how long I'd retain an appetite for it all. I've got the answer now - so far, 26 years!

As we start again, what should we expect? Well, as Leicester proved, predicting is a mugs game. The year they won the title I had them down for relegation! Maybe it's time to get my own back - they will definitely NOT win the title this year and I'm 100 per cent certain of that!

So who will? With time yet for all the contenders to spend again, it's hard at this stage to make either bold or accurate predictions, but I'll share with you the way I'm thinking right now.

With Gareth Bale United win the title. Without him they are strong contenders, who could muscle their way back to the top, but they're not nailed on. It's a shame to be talking about a United team 'muscling' their way to success, but that's what they are now - big and strong. Mourinho once said you can't win a title with less than five players over 6'2" because you're always vulnerable at set-pieces. Well he's fixed that little problem hasn't he?

I fancied them strongly last season but the decay was worse than even I had been telling United punters - not that any of them ever listened. I repeat, Fergie got out at exactly the right time - and he knew it. He won the title in his last season, but the rot had already started. I said they needed eight to be competitive the following season and they've since spent £587m - I rest my case. Oh, David Moyes is with us on beINSports this weekend - I'll try and persuade him to tell us what his United would've looked like had they landed all his targets - it's fascinating.

So it's United for me - with Bale. If not, Guardiola just HAS to win it or he will have failed in English football. Never mind that he argues City are 10 years behind their rivals - that's nonsense. If it's not, they'll never catch up because the 'rivals' will always keep pulling away.

Last season was a shambles at City. I'm sure Guardiola arrived expecting to walk it, especially after the way they started, but it was never going to happen. He didn't have Xavi, Iniesta or Messi nor the fairly simple task of finishing above Madrid to win a title. He didn't have Robben, Lewandowski or Muller nor the relatively simple task of finishing above Dortmund to win in Germany. England isn't like that Pep. Having spent what he has this summer Guardiola HAS to win it. He just HAS to, but I'm not sure he will.

I might be alone in this, but I fancy Arsenal to go well. How long will it be though before we're all asking 'was Wenger right to stay?'  If he loses his opener the answer is '90 minutes'! I'm not sure there's a title bid in them, but top 4 is realistic.

My 4th placed finishers will surprise you - I'm going for Everton - not with a lot of conviction, but hope. I like Ronald Koeman and I think Everton's business this summer has been fantastic. If they get Sigurdsson they'll be a match for anyone. There's plenty left in Rooney's tank and they're a nice mixture of young and old.

Which means I've got Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs outside the Champions League places! Before you start abusing me on Twitter, let me explain.

I enjoyed watching Spurs last season more than any other team, but without any significant signings they've gone backwards. You can't stand still. There's still time, but Ross Barkley wouldn't be a significant signing for me. I don't know what he does, but I do know that he doesn't score enough goals, doesn't break play up, doesn't win tackles and he gives the ball away too often and too easily.

The other big problem Spurs have is trying to win a title at Wembley. I just can't see it. A bit like West Ham found at their new home last season, every team going to Wembley will love it. They'll all raise their game and frustrate Spurs, who might just be more successful on the road, but it's 'home' form, or a lack of it, that will cost them for me.

Chelsea are short in numbers and they haven't got the luxury of just playing league games this time around. Conte knows it as well. I wouldn't be surprised to see him concentrate on the Champions League because the continentals still see that as a more prestigious competition than winning a domestic title. I don't think they've got enough to go well in both competitions.

Jurgen Klopp has simply GOT to win a trophy. Nothing else will do, but it won't be the title. I can't validate it, but I'm told his agent, Mark Kosicke, didn't want to send players to Anfield this summer. If not, why not? What does he know that we don't? I'm afraid if Klopp doesn't deliver this season he should be on his way at the end of it. Having spent £112m he's had both money and time.

As for the strugglers, I'm afraid the season will prove to be too tough for both Huddersfield and Brighton. Neither should worry about that. Both should use Burnley as the benchmark - up, relegated, up again and settle. Don't bankrupt your club going on a mad spending spree.

My third strugglers are Palace - IF de Boer softens them too much. Pardew tried that and look what happened. Palace haven't looked better in this league than they did under Pulis and Allardyce - big and strong and getting the ball forward quickly. It's a style of play in their DNA - remember Wright and Bright beating defenders up in Steve Coppell's teams? Oh - Steve will be with us week two on beINSports. He's great fun.

I repeat what I said when I started these few words - predicting isn't an exact science or I'd put a lot of money on the above and become very rich. I know I'll have upset s few of you - but they're just a few thoughts to throw around in the pub. Let me know what you think - but whatever else you do - enjoy your season. We're off......

PL loans distort the competition

on Wednesday, 26 July 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

Having burst back into life yesterday I didn't intend to be making my fingers sore again today - but sometimes 140 characters on Twitter just aren't enough.

I've made mention previously how I believe that PL clubs distort the competition when they loan players to each other. Right now, Chelsea have five out and the chances are there'll be more before we kick off again. It's wrong. And here's why.....

Each and every one of those players can play for the team they're with AGAINST Chelsea's title rivals - but they can't play against Chelsea. It remains to be seen if they have any effect on the race by scoring big goals - stopping them - or indeed bossing games that frustrate a point or two from the other contenders. They might - they equally might not - but they're going to have more of an impact against them than they would sitting in Chelsea's bench.

Of course I know the value of sending players out on loan - but it doesn't have to be to the PL. The truth is that too many clubs nowadays run squads that are top heavy and ways of keeping the guys happy - or furthering their education - don't exist like they once did.

Let me give you another example of what I'm saying. We know Mourinho doesn't fancy Anthony Martial. He's not going to be in Utd's starting line up very often this season. There are two options - sell - but the chances are Utd won't make back the ridiculous money they paid for him - or loan him out.

We also know how Mourinho's mind works. Let's say he does a deal to send him to Newcastle. What a sensation he'd be there playing in front of those fans. I'd back him to get 20 goals plus for the Toon. How many of those might be against Arsenal, City, Chelsea.....you get my drift. He's going to have more of an impact against Mourinho's closest rivals in somebody else's jersey than he will sitting watching at Old Trafford. You can argue it's an unlikely example - but it's not. What about City - where do they send Nasri? Arsenal - Walcott let's say? Wilshere was out on loan last season. Liverpool have got capacity to let one or two out. It's just wrong.

If you've got a top heavy squad - sell some. Back your judgement. No PL club needs to be borrowing players. They can all afford to commit.

While we're at it - I DO NOT follow any PL team. I don't either like or dislike Utd - but I do admire them. I worked in that City for two great years and got to know both clubs well. The same goes for Liverpool, where I had four very happy years. I worked all round London and made many friends. I'm a football fan - I pass comment on what I see because you guys ask me to. Occasionally I can share what I hear and I don't make things up. I'm a Coventry City (I know!) so be sure that I have no allegiance to one PL team or another. I'm lucky that I've been as close to football and football people for as long as I have and I still enjoy what I do.

Why do I mention that? Well, it's a forlorn hope I know, but how about we drop all the personal insults going forward? If you follow on Twitter I imagine it's because you don't want to miss anything - if it's simply to behave like an errant third form brat - go elsewhere. I'm not interested in your nonsense.

Oh, for the record, the five Chelsea players on loan are Izzy Brown at Brighton - a striker. Zouma at Stoke - defender. Abraham at Swansea - a striker. Palmer at Huddersfield - creative m/f & occasional front man.  Loftus-Cheek at Palace - he too gets goals from m/f. Get my point now?

Just sayin'

on Tuesday, 25 July 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

So much has happened since we last shared a few words together. I thought we'd best catch up with some of it or my next blog is going to have to be a monster!

I noticed a line that the Premier League is 25 years old. 25! It's incredible. It's formation brought about a sizemic change the likes of which football had never previously seen - a real revolution. It's largely been evolution ever since - mostly under the brilliant leadership of Richard Scudamore. If there has ever been a brighter, smarter sports administrator than Richard I can't think of him/her.

Every TV deal that's agreed the doom mongers tell us 'that's it, the bubble will burst soon'. No sign of it though is there?

So the spending goes on and there's no sign of it relenting either. So far, City have spent £133m on three full-backs alone! Is it sustainable? According to Scudamore it is 'The most important thing is player costs as a percentage of turnover,' he says. Adding 'We're down in the early 60 per cents and we were much higher 10 years ago. Sixty per cent of turnover spent of player costs is actually very manageable.' Fair point. Interesting as well. So the truth is the transfer market hasn't 'gone mad' at all.

I repeat, there's a lot more spending to come before the window 'slams shut' (Why does the window always 'slam shut' Jim? Why can't it just close?) but who's done the best business so far? Let's use the old boxing adage 'pound for pound' as our barometer. So forget the big money spent - let's have a look round for the bargains.

Here's my top 4, in reverse order.

 

  1. Chicharito. He's a proven goal scorer and at just 29 there's plenty yet to come from him. He's just what West Ham have needed for a good while now. If he delivers as I expect he'll become as popular in the East End as the likes of McAvennie, Robson and even Cottee. He's a class act.

 

  1. Andy Robertson. Having said the Hammers have needed someone like Chicharito for a good time, Liverpool have been desperate for a left back since Brendan Rodgers tried to sign Ryan Bertrand. The then 'transfer committee' at Anfield killed the deal because Bertrand didn't fit their 'profile'. Rodgers ended up with Moreno, who he didn't want because he couldn't defend. That's why Rodgers always played a 3 at the back. Milner did brilliantly as a left-back last season, but what a difference it's going to make to Liverpool now having a naturally left footed player in that position - who can also defend. A 23-year-old current international for £8m - its real value for money.

 

  1. Joe Hart. IF the real Joe Hart turns up West Ham have got a steal. Hart is prone to mistakes, especially on his left side, but what keeper doesn't make mistakes? In my book he's still better than anything, and I mean anything, that City have tried to replace him with. I mentioned before that it wasn't just his ability that Guardiola was judging when he threw him out, he thought Hart was too big a character in the City dressing room. West Ham can use that to their advantage.

Before I mention my best value for money - so far - just one thing about West Ham's business this summer. For the first time since Big Sam brought in Nolan and Carroll, the manager seems to have been making the decisions about how to spend the money.

One of the 'evolutions' in the P Lge these past 25 years had been the 'transfer committee' - the Director of Football - the Sporting Director - the 'busy' owner who wants to buy players and then decide who plays. West Ham have been in the latter category for a long time now. I've never understood their transfer policy. With the occasional exception, they've continually signed 28-year-old duds for £8-£12m on 3-year-deals, which have always been allowed to run down, leaving the player to walk away for nothing. Ok, the initial outlay wasn't much, but it is when there's no sell on value. Bilic appears to have changed that philosophy this summer. Good on him.

 

  1. Wayne Rooney. Brilliant Everton. Brilliant. I like a whole lot Everton's business so far - and I know they're not done yet. I smiled when I saw Jamie Carragher (or whoever it is that operates his Twitter account) trolling Everton fans to this effect 'quite a day when Everton sign 5 players and not one of them would get in Liverpool's first team'. What? The keeper would walk in. So would Michael Keane. So would Rooney (so too would Gylfi Sigurdsson, who I believe they'll eventually land).

Rooney is a terrific leader. He's determined to prove he hasn't gone back to Goodison to retire. He's only 31. He hasn't played for 12 months so there's plenty left in the tank. I wouldn't be surprised to see him back in an England squad at some stage this season. Nor would I be surprised to see Everton finish in a Champions League place.

In closing - just one last thing. On the day Rooney re-signed I read that it was the most exciting day at Goodison since Gary Lineker signed back in the 80's. That got me thinking - because in my view the two most influential signings Everton ever made were Peter Reid and Andy Gray - Evertonians know the rest of the history.

In '85 Everton won the title with Gray, Sharp and Heath scoring 41 league goals between them. Gray left at the end of that season.

In '86 Lineker scored 30 league goals - and 10 more in other competitions. Everton won nothing. Lineker went to Barcelona.

In '87 Everton won the title again with Sharp, Heath, Sheedy and Steven scoring 48 goals between them.

As the great man Links might put it 'just sayin'.

It's a funny old game....

on Monday, 29 May 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

It was Jimmy Greaves who coined the phrase 'it's a funny old game'. A bit like a few other football cliches - 'sick as a parrot' - which Phil Thompson is to blame for - it's over worked and had its time. But, every now and again it best sums up certain situations.

So, after a miserable season, ruined by the uncertainty over Arsene Wenger's future, this dignified man wins the FA Cup for a record 7th time. His team didn't just win it, they won it with all the qualities that have so often been missing from their game - oh, and a huge slice of luck, which every successful team needs.

Let's deal with the luck. Alexis Sanchez handled that ball. Fact. There is no other conclusion to come to. Quite simply Anthony Taylor didn't see it. If he had - he would've given Chelsea a free-kick. Here's what Gary Cahill had to say about the incident. 'It was incredible. I spoke to him (the ref) at half time and he was adamant he kneed the ball through'. Case close. Taylor didn't see it.

And Ramsey HAS to be offside as Sanchez scores. Thibaut Courtois this time 'Ramsey is clearly bothering me. If he's not there I can run out and get the ball before Alexis does. But because he's standing there, I stop, thinking he's going to collect it and shoot. As does the defence. He clearly interrupts the game for me and is taking part in active play'. Correct. It Ramsey continues to leave the box as he was initially doing, he's fine, but the moment he turns to try and play the ball he's offside because he becomes active. He's affecting the play. Case closed.

Having said that, the last word on that incident has to go to Cahill. 'To be honest, Arsenal were better than us. We can't hide behind the first goal'. I love the big guy. He was my player of the season. He was awesome all year long and this isn't the first time I've found myself complimenting his honesty. He's a natural and fine successor to John Terry as Chelsea's leader.

How sickening was it to hear Antonio Conte trying to defend Victor Moses though? No Antonio, he wasn't 'tired'. He cheated and rightly got what he deserved. On this one - well done Antony Taylor. I've had this argument with Ruud Gullit many times - where is the boundary between 'good play' and 'cheating'. In Italy - as Ruud would say 'the land of theatre, opera and drama' what Moses tried to get away with is seen as 'good play'. They don't understand our dislike of incidents like that. More than anything, that explains Conte's reticence to criticise Moses, but the more he works in our league the more ridiculous he'll realise his post match reaction was. Gullit, by the way, deplores what Moses tried and I like to think it's because he's been around English football a lot longer than Conte. Having said that, had the ref given a pen and Chelsea had scored, how many of their supporters would've been condemning Moses? For them it would've been in the 'good play' category! We're all the same.

Oh, I'm in complete agreement with Tony Cascarino this morning. Never mind man of the match, Per Mertesacker should be named as a Arsenal's player of the year. He was awesome. If the win transformed Arsenal's season - and it did - then Mertesacker had more influence on that season in that 90 minutes than anybody else. Case closed.

For Wenger I was absolutely delighted. He's unique for many reasons, but largely because he's been transformed down the years from somebody that didn't see anything into the most articulate and honest manager working in England. Ask him a question - he'll answer it. You might not agree, or like the answer, but he'll tell you what he thinks. He's so refreshing to listen to, not hiding behind a different language and talking absolute bollocks like so many more of them do. No, like all of them do. I'm tired of post match interviews with foreign coaches because they offer nothing, tell you nothing, arrogantly look down their noses at reporters with a sniffy air of contempt or laugh inanely. Must do better guys, or don't bother.

So what next for Wenger? My mate John Cross has never wavered from the view that he stays. I conducted a less than scientific Twitter poll Monday that was entirely inconclusive!  My feeling is that Arsenal fans have turned their anger away from Wenger towards 'Silent' Stan and I understand why. The scrap behind the scenes that cost Arsenal David Dein's clever countenance, won't go away. Kroenke won't sell his majority shareholding - ok - but why not try and work WITH Alisher Usmanov instead of against him? Can you imagine what a force Arsenal would be then?

I still think Sanchez is Man City bound this summer and that will be a blow. Arsenal will need big money to replace him. They need big money to be one of the top 4 again and they need to do that before they can mount a title challenge again. It's back to the future guys.  

Two last things - I don't buy into this ridiculous theory that Chelsea were tired. They played less games than any other side in the top 6 this season. Tired? How come?

And I'm sure you're all still scratching your heads wondering why I blamed Thommo for that daft cliche 'sick as a parrot'. Ask him. He'll tell you they were words he muttered after that European Cup defeat inflicted by Forest - 2-0 at the City Ground and the 0-0 at Anfield. I stopped him in the tunnel for an interview afterwards - he was in bits and it was just about all he said. 'Sick as a parrot'? I didn't get it then and I still don't - but ask him - I'm sure he'll remember! It's a funny old game......

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