Richard Keys Blog

Oh what a night - 1981 and all that.....

on Friday, 25 May 2018. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

Oh what a night that....May 27 1981. My work should’ve been done as Liverpool kicked off against Real Madrid in Paris.

I was Radio City’s ‘scout’ in the build-up. Our Sports Editor Clive Tyldesley (still the best football radio commentator I’ve ever heard) had sent me ahead of the pack to make sure things worked smoothly for Liverpool’s commercial radio station come the big week.

To be honest, I hadn’t travelled outside the U.K. much in those days and being sent to Paris to ensure the biggest night of our season went well was quite a daunting task. On a previous visit I was entrusted with finding a hotel, making sure we could park our monstrous outside broadcast truck - for nothing - in the middle of the French capital, oh, and making a half hour documentary on what Liverpool fans should expect when they got there. I had 48 hours to do it all.

Where on earth do you start with a task like that?  I did what we all did in those days - asked Liverpool’s club Secretary, Peter Robinson, if he could help. In a typically terse telephone conversation he gave me the number of a friend of his - I’ll never forget him - Dr Pierre Huth - a dentist! ‘Whatever you need’, he said ‘he’ll fix it’. As he always did, - Peter hung up before I could say ‘thank you’ or ‘goodbye’.

A dentist? What the fuck? What use was he going to be? Anyway, armed with just his number - off I went.

Peter was right, Pierre was the best connected man in Paris, or so it seemed. Everything I needed was sorted - even an exclusive interview with his mate - the legendary crooner Charles Aznavour - a PSG fan. The final was being played at their place. What a coup that was. I was so nervous I dried after 60 seconds and had no more than my first two questions. It was a good 60 seconds though! It would run on a flagship news programme and was heavily trailed but it wasn’t quite what I’d promised! Actually, thinking about it, it was shit!!

But, with Pierre’s help I’d fixed everything, including ‘parking the bus’, hotel rooms, documentary, broadcast positions at the stadium, all of it - all done. I was extremely grateful to Dr Pierre Huth and didn’t expect to ever see him again. How wrong I was.  I was later to find out once again that there is no such thing as a ‘free lunch’.

So, at last - the big night. My work was done. I could relax. Although Clive and I often shared the commentary duties during the season , quite rightly he always took the big games. As I said earlier, he was brilliant on the radio (and damned good when he made the transition to TV). Because I wasn’t behind then mic I hadn’t done had done any homework. I knew Laurie Cunningham was in their team - and that was it!  All I had to do was get the best post match interviews possible. Er - wrong again.

We couldn’t make contact with Liverpool. I won’t bore you with the details, but Clive had to abandon our commentary position for a seat in the Press Box, where he was able to borrow a phone and that’s how he covered the first half. There were no mobiles in those days, of course. 

I was left in the comms box where eventually we established contact with Radio City. That was significant because as half time approached I was told ‘fill until Clive joins you....’.

Easy. Except this is where we encountered another problem. The phone Clive was using needed to be ‘live’ with it’s owner at half-time. I forget who that was now, but words needed to be filed on the opening 45 minutes to his newspaper. I later found out Clive slammed the phone down on the whistle and waited for the 2nd half to start!

‘Fill’ they said to me. Two minutes became five - then 10 - ‘where is he?’ I kept thinking. ‘Where the hell is he?’ Ten became 15 and then - to my horror - the 2nd half started. Damn - now I doing commentary - on a match I hadn’t prepared a note for. Liverpool saw an awful lot of the ball for 10 minutes! Clive is a good mate but I’d never been so happy to see him as I was when he came into our comms box, sweating and out of breath. As he picked up his phone for the 2nd half he was told ‘Our line works. Get yourself back to the comms position’. He clambered 20 rows or more - over the top of the BBC’s Barry Davies, and onto us. I cued him as soon as I saw him. But - he couldn’t talk!  He could hardly breath. Carry on’, he gestured! ‘This isn’t getting any better’ I thought. Liverpool still dominated play. I think Cunningham saw the ball twice!

Eventually we swapped roles - I watched and he created his usual mix of poetry and magic.

Alan Kennedy scored. The stadium - as usual it was dominated by Reds - erupted. I set off for the dressing rooms to get the post match interviews.

The next thing I knew I had a rifle tip up my nose. The local Police weren’t prepared for an intruder in the dressing room area armed with a tape recorder. He was going to win any showdown that was going to occur!

Before I knew it the whistle had gone and I was dragged into Liverpool’s dressing room by Ray Clemence. There I sat - bewitched by what I was absorbing. ‘We’ had won the European Cup. I say ‘we’ because I was part of it all. I’d never been as close to anything like it - before or since. I got some top stuff. But what was wrong with Clem? He was so subdued. As it turned out he’d played his last game for Liverpool and I spent most of that summer trying to help organise him a move. That’s a story for another day.

My interviews were sent back to Liverpool. That was it - I had a post match celebration dinner to attend - the official LFC dinner. And now for another surprise.

Dr Pierre Huth turned up. ‘We’ll go when you and the guys are ready’ he said. ‘Go?’ What was he talking about? ‘Go where?’. It was payback time.

Pierre had promised the world famous Folies Bergere nightclub that Liverpool - and the trophy - would be attending after the match. There was a table for 30 or more waiting. All I had to do was persuade the lads to go - and take the trophy! Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Another problem was that Bob Paisley had fallen out with Radio City and wasn’t speaking to either me or Clive as a result. How the hell was I going to pull this off? 

Oh well - in a went. I approached Bob tentatively and explained my problem. Bob was a man of few words - but especially at this time in our relationship. ‘Ask the Chairman’, he said. That was it!  So I did.

The Chairman, of course, was John Smith, later Sir John. Can you imagine - all I wanted was the majority of the squad, their wives and girlfriends, AND the trophy - and the official after dinner party would be decimated.

‘Go and round up whoever you can’, he said. ‘I’ll come as well, and bring the Cup’. I couldn’t believe it.

Within half an hour the majority of the squad were walking into the theatre with the trophy, which the Chairman wouldn’t let hold of! It quite literally was a show-stopper. The audience stood and applauded. The artists on stage applauded - as we marched to the front of the theatre and sat down. It was an unbelievable high. To this day I have no idea how I did that. As for Pierre - I don’t know what he got out of it but fortunately our paths were never to cross again!

It’s different now. The school of 2018 won’t have a night like that - whatever happens in Kiev. But I do wish them all the best. I’d love to see them beat Madrid again. And I’d say the same thing if it was any other English club in the final, but working in Liverpool as I did for four years, gave me some wonderful experiences. And I’ll always have a soft spot for all three clubs in that part of the world - Tranmere included. Oh what a night we can expect on Saturday. Come on you Reds.....

Be careful what you wish for....

on Thursday, 17 May 2018. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

How many times have we been here? And here we go again. Doesn’t anybody ever learn from the lessons of history?

It was after Charlton parted company with Alan Curbishley that I heard myself muttering ‘be careful what you wish for....’. Do you remember? After three 10th places finishes in the PL, with a club that Curbs had dragged back into the big time, the hierarchy at The Valley decided it was time to ‘go in another direction’. In fairness, they did. But it didn’t quite work out as planned and the PL has seen nothing of Charlton since.

What a pity the decision makers at Arsenal have been brow-beaten by high profile celebrities that should know better - and the bully boys on the social media - into change that simply doesn’t feel right. I watched the Chief Exec, Ivan Gazidis, wax lyrical about Arsene Wenger on the day it was announced that the manager would be leaving Arsenal. If Wenger was watching he could only have thought the same as me ‘hold on, if I’m this good why are they kicking him/me out?’ 

It just doesn’t feel right to me. At different times I’ve wondered whether change was necessary at Arsenal and every time I’ve come back to the belief that it wasn’t. Wenger is a class act. You can’t buy the sort of experience he’s got. And I believe he’s right when he says his team is maybe only 2/3 players short of a title challenge.  

Panic set in when the empty seats started appearing and those who had their own agendas were able to persuade Stan Kroenke that it was time Wenger went. I watched Kroenke very closely as Wenger said ‘goodbye’ at the Emirates. You could see he had major reservations about what has happened.

So the man to right all the wrongs is apparently Mikel Arteta. I wish him all the luck in the world. He’s going to need it.  He’s stepping into massive shoes. Question - ‘what’s the one thing Arsenal have been consistently poor at?’ Correct - defending. A second question ‘what’s the one thing that Manchester City have never done well under Guardiola?’  Correct - defend properly. So why do Arsenal believe Arteta has the answers in that area? There was no evidence of that being the case as he sat and watched City get caught time and again. And look at the money they spent trying to solve the problem.

Three FA Cup wins in four years would’ve been enough to satisfy most club owners, but not Arsenal’s. Wenger’s record is remarkable and it will be put further into perspective by Spurs in the coming seasons. If somebody there, or a collection of different coaches, delivers 18 consecutive seasons of CL football - and a seemless move into the new stadium, they’ll have worked a miracle. Wenger did that, whilst selling the family silverware to keep the club afloat.

I’m hearing that Spurs have crashed through the billion pound barrier whilst building the new arena. If that’s correct - the selling will start as early as this summer. What happens after that will be fascinating. Pochettino certainly won’t stick around to be part of it.

Marco Silva at Everton. Really? Again, I wish him well. Everton is a club that should also be chasing CL places. I genuinely thought they would be this season, but what a shambles it turned out to be. How? Why? Look around the Boardroom for the answers. If you don’t have unity there you’re asking for trouble.

Silva’a first challenge (if he gets the job) is to finish higher than Allardyce.

We’ll see. I’m not convinced. Not at all convinced. I refer you to previous blogs.

And the clever owners at West Ham are at it again. I really feel for Hammers’ fans. They’ve been sold a pup with that stadium and the promises made about a ‘world class team’ to play in it have been made to look laughable. They’re nowhere near that. And nor will they be. We’ve discussed this before as well - whilst the penny pinching goes on and the transfer policy stays the same, it doesn’t matter who manages West Ham - the outcome will always be the same - failure.

What a season City had. They were a joy to watch, but Guardiola is seven years now without a CL win. The first one he wins without Messi will be his best - if he wins one without Messi.

I was delighted for Sean Dyche and Burnley. There’s a reward for backing your man.

And David Wagner deserves a special mention. Keeping Huddersfield up was better than getting them up.

And top marks for the old campaigner Roy Hodgson. Remember, Palace had no goals and no points after seven games - the mess Steve Parrish left himself with after trying to ‘move Palace on’. I don’t think he’ll be making the same mistake again.

The three that went surprised me, but they all had a couple of things in common - complacency and a lack of investment.

Well done Rafa. It turns out Mike Ashely was right after all. After spending £102m on 18 players the previous season Ashley always believed Benitez had enough to make Newcastle comfortable. He did. Now comes Rafa’s big test. I’m tired of reading about his threats to leave if he doesn’t get his own way. He won’t get his own way. I’ve no idea where Benitez will find a better job - because he certainly wouldn’t enjoy working at West Ham.

We’re in for some big changes in the dug outs this summer - more changes than we’ve ever seen. As owners go searching for men with a magic wand here’s something to think about. It remains the case - and always will - that the teams with the best players are going to be successful. Be careful what you wish for.....

Who’s next?

on Friday, 20 April 2018. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

So now we know. Arsene Wenger will leave his job at the end of the season and nothing will ever be the same again at Arsenal.

I’m sorry that he’s decided to go, but I understand totally why the decision has been made. I phrased that carefully as well, because I don’t believe he made it. He’s been nudged, make no mistake about that.

Wenger is a decent, honest man and that makes him something of a rarity in football.

He’s also an Arsenal man to the core, as he proved so many times when turning down every big job in football to honour contracts and remain at The Emirates. He’s been offered them all and said ‘no’. That’s why I’m disappointed in the manner that he’s leaving now. He deserved better than to be pilloried by large sections of the Arsenal crowd and - worse - by high profile people in the media who claim to support the club and should know better. Stirring up the hatred - and at times it’s been that - was totally wrong.

Wenger only knows one thing - football. He’s an expert on the subject and he’s fascinating to listen to. At beINSPORTS we’ve been lucky enough to sit with him once a month for the past few years and listen to him talk on every subject you care to mention. Any individual that’s played the game. He’s an encyclopaedia. He knows more about our game than anyone I’ve met. Arsenal are going to miss that, but they’ll miss his steady hand a whole lot more. I wonder when we’ll start hearing Gunners’ fans lamenting and regretting what they wished for? 

Nothing is forever, I’m very much aware of that, and I wouldn’t dispute that Arsenal aren’t the force they once were, but this is going to be a major turning point in the club’s history and they can’t get the appointment of his successor wrong.

With Wenger resigning Friday it got me wondering - how many of the top 6 will start next season with the same man in charge? Let’s speculate a little. Conte is a dead man walking. Mourinho could easily leave his post. Would that create an opportunity for Pochettino? United would love to get their hands on him. So it might yet be that Arsenal, Chelsea, United and Spurs are all looking for a new man before August. It’s an interesting thought isn’t it - and not beyond the realms of possibility.

In the meantime - thank you Arsene for what you did for our game. You were more influential in changing us than anyone else that’s worked in our league. You weren’t the best - Fergie was - but my goodness you take an honourable second place. I hope it’s not the end. I hope it’s the start of a new beginning. There’s a football club somewhere that’s going to get very lucky. Good luck to you.

We’re back!

on Wednesday, 21 March 2018. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

We’re back! I can’t believe that so many of you have been in touch asking about these occasional ramblings. I’m flattered. So here goes....

A lot has happened since we last spent time together, some of it very predictable, but a lot of it has come as a surprise.

I didn’t see Spurs exiting the Champions League after such a great effort in the first leg against Juventus. That was really disappointing.  Chelsea’s defeat by Barca was in the ‘expected’ category. Their miserable season is as well. I can’t see anything other than Conte leaving at the end of the season. Whether his grievances are justified or not is for others with better knowledge of the club to judge, but to keep airing them in the way he does - well, eventually the negativity spreads and creating that winning siege mentality that they had last season just dissipates.

I was stunned by United’s exit. Four shots at goal over two legs, against an average Spanish team (and they are no more than that) simply isn't good enough.  

What about Mourinho’s rant on the back of it? Do you know what, a lot of what he said made sense, but really it wasn’t much more than his usual deflection. Whilst we were talking about the ‘rant’ - we were supposed to forget how bad his team had been in the week preceding it.

Mourinho was right to point out that he won two ‘titles’ (it’s what foreign coaches call cup successes) last season and that his team had returned to the Champions League, something that LvG had failed to deliver, but - something is very wrong again at United again.

I was absolutely convinced that Mourinho was the right man for United when he got the job.  I actually thought he’d deliver the title in his first season, but those who thought it was a bad fit, might just be right. Should we have expected the chaos and the style of play? Yes. I suppose we should.  After all, Mourinho is LvG’s most high profile student. Sack the teacher - employ the student = the very same outcome. I had hoped for more though.  

How many more players can Mourinho upset? If he’s doing it to get rid of them, I understand. If not, what is his agenda? He also says ‘everything’ needs to change at United. I’d like to know what he means by that. I think he’s got one more season - another one like this and he’ll be gone.

What can I say about City? Brilliant. Irrepressible. Enjoyable. Wonderful. Exciting. All apply. There’s no question that Guardiola hugely under-estimated English football in his first season, but he learned and subsequently delivered. His team are a joy.

I’m disappointed though that they’ve drawn Liverpool at the next stage of the CL. I’d have loved to have seen them both in the Final, but now we’re going to lose one - and I really couldn’t tell you which one - I hope that whichever team wins the tie then goes on to lift the trophy.

The Baggies are down aren’t they? That’s in the ‘surprise’ file. Few saw that coming. It’s nip and tuck then all the way up to Brighton, who need one more win. I believe 36/37 points will be enough.

I still believe Huddersfield will go but I’ve no idea who the third team will be. I genuinely hope it’s not West Ham, but the regulars will know I’ve feared for the future there for a long time. Hammers fans have been duped. The Stadium move is far from ‘the most successful stadium migration in history’ as Karen Brady called it. It’s simply a mess - but worse, there’s no going back.

Before the Hammers faithful rear up - I’m on your side. I always have been. All I’ve ever done is ty to point out what was going to happen there. What about the nonsense that David Gold spoke of ‘the CL in five years’? Really? With the Venkys and the £5m of investment they thought would take Blackburn there I suppose? We’ve discussed the transfer policy previously - picking up half decent 28-year-old Frenchmen for £12m a time and letting their contracts run out. That’s not going to bring success.

What’s it all been for? To produce a profit of £8m did I read recently? That’s what they paid for Jordan Hugill on deadline day. Was he supposed to fire them into the CL?

The arguments continue with the Lord Mayor of London and won’t end anytime soon. We had Paul Fletcher on beINSPORTS Keys&Gray recently.  Fletcher is the former Burnley striker turned Stadiumologist. He delivered Wembley, Bolton and Coventry. He knows his stuff. His verdict - ‘knock it down at start again’. He added ‘it’ll never be a football stadium’.

It sounds radical, but what else can be done? The move was a disaster waiting to happen. It was motivated by greed and has backfired spectacularly. West Ham are a fine club, with ‘proper’ fans - as Graeme Souness might say. He loves the word ‘proper’. What if the Hammers do get relegated? Can you imagine a half empty athletics stadium hosting Championship football. Back to the drawing board Karen.

Got it yet?

on Friday, 09 February 2018. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

What are the ingredients involved in the making of a sporting legend? Think about it. I mean, what is it that elevates the best - to one of the very best.

Let’s try and keep this simple. More often than not our choices are based on romance - a love of a football club and it’s barnstorming No.9 perhaps?

As I grew up I wanted to be George Hudson. Don’t laugh! Hudson led the line at Coventry in the early days of Jimmy Hill’s revolution. I’m certain there aren’t many Coventry fans left that remember Hudson - but he’s a ‘legend’ in my book.

If we stay with my club Coventry - George Curtis is revered. What a boy by the way! Our Cup Winners of ‘87 are all legends. I’ve got to be honest - I’m struggling to think of anymore! Oh, John Sillett of course. And the late, great Jimmy Hill. Now that really is it.

All the guys I’ve mentioned take a special place in Coventry’s Hall of Fame. Their deeds elevated them into special company. They’re rightly recognised for what they did by the club. And they’re loved by supporters.

But let’s move on from romance and stay with ‘achievements’ as the route into a Hall of Fame.

How about this? Should this qualify the individual who’s impressive cv reads as follows?

In 1973 this guy signed for Dundee United. He was voted Player of the Year in the two seasons that he was there. Before he signed for Villa there was a Scottish Cup Final appearance. Got it yet? Well done if you have!  

In 1976 he won the League Cup with Villa, was Player of the Year at Villa Park and was the top divisions leading goal scorer. That same year he became the first player to win the PFA Player and Young Player of the Year awards in the same season. It’s worth pointing out that only two others have gone onto to do the same thing - Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. Got it yet? Let me give you another clue - he’s one of only three Scots to win the PFA Player of the Year award.

In 1979 he broke the British transfer record when he joined Wolves from Villa.

A year later he was repaying the fee scoring the winning goal in the League Cup Final against Brian Clough’s Forest. Got it yet?

In 1983 he signed for Everton where he went onto score in the FA Cup Final against Watford, win the League title and score in the Cup Winners’ Cup Final. Got it yet? You must have. Stay with me - there’s a very good purpose to all this.

In 1988 he joined Rangers, where he won the League title and picked up a Cup Final runners-up medal.

Not a bad career is it? It’s also worth mentioning that he represented Scotland at schoolboy, juvenile, U21, U23, and more than 20 times at senior level. I’ve added that because it’s important when it comes to the point I’m about to make.

Of course, you worked out some time ago that I was describing the playing career of my mate Andy Gray.  It’s also worth remembering the job he did for televised football after retiring. Something his country should be proud of. He quite simply re-wrote the rule book when it comes to analysis, blazing a trail for the modern day pundit.

His PFA trophies take pride of place in the Scottish Football Museum, but there’s no mention of his other achievements and apparently he doesn’t qualify for Scotland’s Hall of Fame. Why not?

It’s a question we at beINSPORTS put to the museum. The answer went something like this ‘it was a busy year when Andy was nominated and there was some strong competition’. What a load of nonsense. Even if that were true I can think of many other years in which Andy could’ve been nominated. How about this one?

Forget my first notion of what elevates a sportsperson to greatness - bromance! My argument on this occasion is based purely on facts. In my view it’s to Scottish football’s eternal shame that Andy isn’t in their Hall of Fame. If it requires nominations for that to be the case, take this as mine. And if enough of you feel the same way, please let Scotland’s National Museum know how you feel. We need to correct this oversight.

Kane was offside

on Tuesday, 06 February 2018. Posted in Richard Keys Blog, Typography

Harry Kane was offside. That’s the bottom line. In any other league in the world he would’ve been given offside and no-one would’ve tried to justify the decision that Jon Moss made.

Ultimately justice was done when Kane had his pen saved, but he shouldn’t have been taking it. He was offside. He was offside from the moment Dele Alli tried to slip that ball through to him.

Let me also say this - I thought Jon Moss and his assistant Eddie Smart got everything else right. They both had a very good day - except for standing in front of the tv cameras debating the decision. I’ll get back to that.

The PGMOL issued a statement saying Dejan Lovren played Kane onside when he slashed at the ball, got a touch, but allowed it to run onto the centre-forwaard. Wrong. If it is indeed the case that by making a move to the ball to stop it finding its target then Wijnaldum was the player that first. We at beINSPORTS pointed that out on Sunday. Sadly, no-one back home did and therefore the PGMOL issued their incorrect statement.

What everyone also missed was that Lovren makes an attempt to play the ball because he can see Kane - therefore the forward had to be impacting on Lovren, therefore he’s OFFSIDE.

Why do the PGMOL always try to justify decisions that are incorrect? Is it because it affects their statistics about getting things right come the end of the season?

By the way, would VAR have helped get the decision correct? Having pointed out what I have and what was missed - no, it wouldn’t.

 Would VAR have been useful in deciding whether Kane had dived? Work it out for yourself, but my view is - no - it wouldn’t. We’ve all looked at the incident 100 times and there’s no consensus. You see, ‘matters of fact’ very often dilute quickly into ‘matters of opinion’.  For what it’s worth I thought it was a pen. Yes, Kane ‘made it’ a pen, but there was contact and he had every right to go over. There was certainly more contact than there was on Deulofeu Monday night, yet no-one made a fuss about that one. The only difference between the two is that there was NO contact on Deulofeu! Why isn’t he on a ‘deception’ charge?

Was it a pen when Van Dijk kicked Lamella? For me, yes. Would VAR have decided differently. How could it? Again, we’d be talking about a further ‘opinion’. What VAR would certainly have done was kill one of the best finishes to a game that I’ve ever witnessed. We’d all have been sitting around waiting for decisions, getting bored and cold. So would the players.

One other thing. If the PGMOL want us to believe that their interpretation of events leading up to the first pen are correct - then what about the second?

I’ll explain. Before van Dijk kicks Lamela he tried to head the ball away. It brushes his face, so presumably when it gets to Lamela that action has played the Spurs forward onside? See what a nonsense it all is?

I repeat. I thought Moss and his assistant got it mostly right and Smart particularly was brave to call the second pen so late in the game. He could easily have left it and no-one would’ve complained.

But it was a mistake to hold their ‘conference’ so close to the tv cameras. Yes, it was fascinating to listen in, but they both should’ve been smarter. They turned players away - they should’ve sent the cameraman away as well.  In not doing so we heard Moss ask of if television had seen anything. Cue uproar! Come on. Let’s get real. TV has often been involved in these decisions - ever since Zinadine Zidane was sent off in the 2006 World Cup Final. No-one saw him headbutt Marco Materazzi, but tv did and when the pictures were seen by the 4th official - off he went.

Moss wasn’t ‘mis-guided’ in asking. He was ‘mis-guided’ in being overheard asking.

And before we go, a quick word about Mike Dean’s performance at Watford. Poor old Mike had another very bad day in the office. There’s no way Bakayoko should’ve been sent off by a ref whose sent more players off in his career than anyone else - 89 now. The second highest total is 64. Don’t tell me Mike seems to get more ‘rough house’ games than anybody else.

Have a look again at the first booking. Dean allows play to go on - because he didn’t see the ‘foul’. Only when he heard the scream that always accompanies a foul these days did he react. How do I know? Because he didn’t wave play on. He just followed the ball. If he’d seen something and was going to allow an advantage he’d have held his arms out to signal that advantage. He didn’t. He didn’t see it. He ‘heard’ it.

As for VAR. I know it’s coming. It’s inevitable, but I remain of the opinion that we don’t need it. I noticed my good friend Jan Fjortoft confirm in a newspaper article at the weekend, what I’d been hearing - that the Germans don’t want it. They’re fed up with it.

They’re using it in Italy, where opinion is firmly divided. I’m hearing that the Premier League are having doubts about using it next season. Let’s hope so. It will ruin the drama and excitement of games like we saw at Anfield.

Manic Monday

on Monday, 15 January 2018. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

Well that really was quite a Monday. As pleased as I am that Paul Lambert is back in work - I’m puzzled as to how Ryan Giggs landed the Wales job and desperately sad that we’ve lost Cyrille Regis.

Let’s start there. What a guy. I can’t pretend to have known him well, but I have the upmost respect for what he achieved as a man - and secondly, a footballer.

Cyrille was loved equally by fans at Coventry and West Brom. I’m proud that it was our club that helped him fulfil his life-long ambition to win an FA Cup medal. How on earth was it that West Brom allowed him to leave The Hawthorns for Coventry in the first place? When he signed for us I remember Bobby Gould, our then manager, saying ‘this is the one that will propel Coventry into the big time’. It was. He did.

Cyrille, along with his mates Brendan Batson and the hugely talented Laurie Cunningham, were trail blazers for black footballers. We should also include Viv Anderson in that group.

At one time they were the only four black players in the old Division One. I remember writing a article for Shoot Magazine at the time in which they all articulated their desire to see more follow in their footsteps. My goodness, look at what they helped to achieve. It’s not an exaggeration to say I loved the big man for what he did for us at Coventry - and he’ll never be forgotten, either by us, or The Baggies. RIP Cyrille. And thanks.

I wasn’t in much of a mood to get too interested in anything else after I’d heard about Cyrille’s untimely death, but as ever it was impossible not to sit up later in the day and take notice of what was happening.

Stoke have got their man - and a good man too - in Paul Lambert. Paul is hugely experienced, very well connected and good at what he does. We’ve been delighted to have spent a lot of time with him at beINSPORTS while he’s been out of work. He knows the Premier League inside out. He knows all about relegation battles - having kept Villa up for three years on a £10m/year transfer budget. And he knows what he’s doing. Stoke have chosen well. On the face of it, I know it doesn’t look too exciting if you’re a Stoke fan. West Ham fans didn’t want David Moyes initially but I’ll bet they’re happy now. Roy Hodgson has got Palace moving and I’m hoping that Alan Pardew does the same thing at West Brom. British coaches eh? What do they know?

I must say, I was more than a little surprised when I saw that Wales had appointed Ryan Giggs. I’d heard that Craig Bellamy was a strong contender and when Mark Bowen entered the race I thought he’d win it. Bowen was by far the most experienced applicant and I thought perfect for the job. Giggs is a gamble. A huge gamble in my opinion. And I don’t think it’s a popular appointment in Wales. His first problem is one of credibility. How can someone that didn’t turn up for a friendly International for nine years persuade today’s generation that those games are important?

Anyway, a quick word about the weekend’s football. Well done Liverpool, who exploded the myth that City are unbeatable. You’ve done us all a great service Jurgen. It’s exactly what the league needed. It was a fantastic performance, but I was astounded nobody back home raised the issue of the crucial second goal. Firmino fouled Stones when he nicked that ball off him. The finish was sublime, but it was a foul. Why did no-one mention that?

Liverpool deserved their win. They were brilliant, but that goal was critical. Had it not stood it might have been a very different game.

For me, a City defeat has been coming. Wolves and Bristol City rattled them by having a go and nearly got their just reward. I wonder if Rafa and Mourinho were watching - or hiding in shame? Both should’ve taken City on, not run scared of them.

Another big story Monday was the news that Ronaldo is seriously fed up at Real Madrid. I’ll bet he’s wishing he’d bailed out last summer as planned. The story broke on beINSPORTS Sunday thanks to our solid contacts in Spain. Once I’d tweeted the follow up in ES on Monday everyone was all over it. Ronaldo is a very unhappy boy, but as to whether Mourinho will want to renew acquaintances with him - I’m not sure. Although they’re both managed by Jorge Mendes, neither enjoyed working with the other in Madrid. There’s a long way to go yet in this story.

I’m really looking forward to working with Paul Clement this coming weekend at beINSPORTS. If we can keep up our current record it won’t be long before he’s back in work. The following all were - between a day and a month of leaving us - Allardyce, Moyes, Coleman, Pardew and Hodgson! Leave it with us Paul....!!!

The Brit pack.

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

For some time now I’ve been banging the drum for British coaching. Despite the usual hysterical reactions, mostly from people who half read what I write and immediately jump on their keyboards, I have no intention of stopping. Let me say it again - in my view British coaches are every bit as good as their foreign counter-parts.

Now let’s qualify that statement. Nothing about it is ‘anti’ foreign. Nothing at all. Where would we have been without the entertainment Mourinho has given us down the years? Granted, more off the pitch than on!

It’s an absolute pleasure to watch Guardiola’s City. After a difficult first season when he completely under-estimated the PL, Guardiola has produced something very special for all the neutrals to enjoy. He’s had a few quid to do it with mind you!

Klopp has given us the ‘Fab 4’ and believes in entertainment. Wenger wants his teams to ‘play’. Pochettino went close over the past two seasons and his Spurs were a terrific to watch as well.  And a small army of foreign coaches have delivered a steady flow of trophies at Chelsea.

Of course I get it that foreign owners want what they perceive to be the best that European coaching has to offer. Football is business these days and the ‘Super Coaches’ are instantly recognisable around the world. They are very ‘saleable’.  Everything has to be now.

The guys are good, but there’s a common denominator - they all get the very best to work with and they  get shed loads of money to buy the very best players - again, thank goodness they do because we want the best in our league.

So I get it that the ‘showbusiness’ that comes with the ‘Super Coaches’ is both welcome and understandable. Thank goodness these guys have gravitated to the PL. They’re needed if we’re to remain the best league in the world.

It’s when foreign coaches start filling jobs lower down the league that I have a problem. Why do Leicester and Southampton feel the need to go abroad for a coach? Why do Watford or Huddersfield?

Here’s an inconvenient truth - the three Brits who’ve taken charge at Palace, West Ham and Everton have lifted those clubs 16 places since taking over. Not bad eh? Moyes is fast becoming a hero at West Ham, Allardyce has got Everton moving and Hodgson has got Palace off the bottom and out of trouble.

By the way, if Allardyce can deliver Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January then its ‘lift-off’ at Goodison.

But I’ve often wondered how a ‘Super Coach’ would manage at the wrong end of our league - and it looks like I might be getting my answer. I’ve said before - great credit to Benitez for the job he did getting Newcastle up. It was every bit as good as the job Chris Hughton did the last time they got promoted from the Championship. To get the job done Benitez spent £102m and took 17 players to St James’ Park. Hughton didn’t.

Now the Toon languish in the bottom 3 - having taken just one point from 27. I’ll say that again - one point from 27.   Benitez wants more money to correct the problem.  Of course he does. I’m sure Alan Pardew does at West Brom. I’m sure Paul Clement does. I’m sure David Moyes, Eddie Howe and Roy Hodgson do. I sure Mark Hughes does. Will they get it? I don’t think so. No, I’m sorry Rafa, it’s a different game at the other end of the table isn’t it? The run Newcastle are on is NOTHING to do with Mike Ashley and EVERYTHING to do with what’s happening ON the pitch - or rather isn’t happening on the pitch. No Rafa, this one is down to you.

Sean Dyche hasn’t had anything like £102m to spend at Burnley. In fact, last summer he traded at a profit -again. The Brits are obviously doing something right.

Long may it be the case that we attract the best of the best to England - but let’s accept the notion that that might just include our own coaching talent. If not, as I said recently RIP British coaching - and what then would’ve been the point of St. George’s Park?

The argument that British coaches can only pick up the breadcrumbs and fight relegation battles is puerile. These are the only jobs they can get for the reasons I’ve stayed above.

Get the handbrake off Jose

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

Well that was quite a weekend - arguably the best that we’ve had so far this season.

Oh, a quick word about my absence. I’ve had another heavyweight writing project on my plate these past few weeks, which is why I’ve been so quiet.

So where do we start? I know, just as the weekend did. What a fantastic result for David Moyes and the Hammers eh? They were terrific  against Chelsea. What a triumph for British coaching and organisation! It’s actually a result that I think was born at Manchester City the weekend before. West Ham were good there as well but got nothing for their hard work. I thought the outcome was rough on them - and City actually got out of jail - again. I’ll come back to that.

There was a piece in The Times today  headlined ‘How David Moyes saved West Ham’. That’s premature. He hasn’t done anything of the sort just yet, but as you know I’ve always believed he would. Moyes is a good man - also a good football man - and yes, there is a difference.

Moyes got unlucky trying to pick up the pieces of a failing empire from Fergie, but who wouldn’t have taken the job? And don’t tell me he destroyed the Champions - just look at what United have spent since. Fergie got out with impeccable timing - as I’ve always said.

Moyes should never have gone to Spain and the decision to take Sunderland was baffling. He was warned about what he was getting into by the guy leaving the job!

Anyway, relax you Hammers. You’ll be fine now - but there’s plenty of hard work to come. Just remember this - you’re all in it together. Give Moyes your total backing.

Another British coach is making quite an impact at Everton eh? I’ll bet Big Sam loved every second of Jurgen Klopp’s embarrassing post match tantrum. Klopp blamed everybody but himself for Liverpool’s implosion. What about his team selection? It was outrageous. What on earth possessed him to leave Countinho and Firmino out? What arrogance. ‘They were tired’ he argued. Tired? 16 games into a domestic season and 6 CL games and neither has played in them all. No, Klopp massively under-estimated Everton, their organisation and Sam. And it was a pen!

What Sam proved again is that there are two sides to the game. Yes, if you’ve got the tools and you can sweep people aside following a £500m spend, great. We all applaud that.  But if you’ve got a team that less than a month ago were in the bottom three and on their backsides you can’t do that. You do what Sam did. So why didn’t Klopp realise that? And then to compound the mistakes in your starting line-up you take your best player off when the game isn’t won? No wonder Klopp was annoyed, but it should’ve been with himself. There wasn’t much between the two clubs on the day was there? The second half of the season could be really interesting on Merseyside.

And what of Jose? Come on man - take the handbrake off. For goodness sake, why are you so scared? You’ve spent a fortune. You’re at home. You need to win. You’ve got players who CAN take a game to the very best - do it man. Do it.

Silva and Gold?

on Tuesday, 21 November 2017. Posted in Richard Keys Blog

It appears as though Everton have made their minds up. Well, let’s be more specific than that, it appears that Farhad Moshiri has made his mind up.

Everton’s major shareholder wants Marco Silva as the club’s next manager. How he gets his man is going to be very interesting.

As we all know Silva is contracted to Watford for the next two seasons. We’re told that they’ve already turned down two approaches from Everton for Silva, one of which included £10m compensation.

Silva’s head has been turned again. He wants to go to Goodison and he’ll do everything he can to get there. Will that include walking away though? If it does - how can he ever look a player in the face and demand loyalty? His credibility would be shot. The best option would still be that Everton can negotiate him out of Vicarage Road.

My only question really is ‘why’? Have you seen his record? He’s a mercenary. He had three years at Estoril where he delivered promotion back to Portugal’s top tier. He was named the 2nd division’s Manager of the Year in 2011. Over the next three years he delivered Europa League football and a fourth place top tier finish. He walked away from his job on May 12 2014.

He turned up at Sporting nine days later, where he signed a four year. He won the Cup in his first season,  but four days after winning the trophy he was sacked for ‘not wearing the club’s official suit’ in a match against F.C Vizela. How strange!

Happily, just four days after getting the bullet he turned up in Greece, where he took charge of Olympiakos. He did well there - the team broke the record of 11 consecutive league wins from the opening day - he won a CL game at Arsenal and the title with six games to go. It was somewhat surprising then when he walked away in the June stating ‘personal reasons’. I wonder what on earth they could have been?

Next he turned up at Hull in January 2017. He was handed funds to buy three players and he borrowed five more - so quite an injection of talent in a bid to stave off relegation. Sadly for Hull that didn’t happen. After winning just six of his 18 games in charge Hull went down. In the same month (May 25) Silva resigned. Again.

Two days later he was appointed as manager at Watford, where so far he’s won five, drawn three and lost four. Impressive? Not for me. Impressive enough to be handed one of the best jobs in English football? Not for me. In total he’s won just 11 PL games. Does that qualify him to manage Everton? Not for me.

He’s got talent, there is no question about that. He’s a man in a hurry though. He’s not a man for a ‘project’ or the long term. You can be sure if Everton get their man that he’ll see the move simply as a stepping stone to the next big one - and when he does Everton shouldn’t be crying ‘foul’. A leopard never changes its spots.

Two men who fit the bill better are Sam Allardyce and Sean Dyche. I’m sure Big Sam would’ve taken it had Everton committed to him. I just don't think he fancied another ‘rescue’ job.

As for Dyche- what more has he got to do to get a big job? Look where his team are - seventh on 22 points, the same as Liverpool and Arsenal - and just one behind United. Right now Burnley are the ‘best of the rest’.

Dyche has ‘built’ something at Turf Moor. He’s got them out of the Championship twice. It’s hard enough to do that once. He’s stabilised the club. He’s working out of a brand new training facility which he persuaded them to build and he’s one of very few to operate on a summer spending budget that’s seen him make a profit on ins and outs. He’s proven.

I’m afraid Silva’s only proven actions right now appear to be his itchy feet. All that Silva touches does not turn to gold. If Everton get their man I hope they’ve got it right. If they don’t get him now, I’m sure they eventually will, but does that formula include handing David Unsworth the job temporarily? If it does Moshiri is taking even more of a gamble. Moshiri shouldn’t be worrying about his grandiose plans for the future. He should be concentrating on what’s happening at Everton NOW. The truth is they’re in big trouble. And Moshiri might be about to make things a whole lot worse.

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.


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.


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......!!

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