Andy & I haven’t signed new contracts. And well done Martin Tyler - simply the best.

Published: Saturday, 17 June 2023

I awoke this morning to a flurry of messages - all congratulating me. It made a very pleasant change - but I wondered what I’d done.

I’ll get back to this, but I first want to pay tribute to Martin Tyler - the greatest football commentator of all time. Yep. I’ll say it again - the greatest football commentator of all time.

I read today (Saturday) that Martin is stepping back from his role at Sky. I say ‘I read’ because I haven’t checked with him and I know I can’t believe much, if anything, that is published these days - especially when it comes to me.

David Coleman - my favourite. I grew up listening to him. Brilliant broadcaster. Brian Moore - a shouter in his early career, but he evolved to become a very good anchor and smooth commentator. Barry Davies - there’s always a place for someone ‘different’. For Davies read Jon Champion now. Excellent. Motty - Cup Final Motty - if he told you something you knew it to be true. These guys were a staple diet for my generation - they were giants.

But Martin stands head and shoulders above them all. Why? Because he did it in a far more demanding era and was ‘live’ as he used to love to shout before the pre kick-off break. He stumbled across its use one day when he was being hurried along - and stuck with it. It was good. He liked it. So did his bosses - not that that mattered. He’d have carried on saying it if he wanted to. 😂

Martin grew up with the guys I’ve mentioned above - always using his elbows to try and make space for himself. I’ve seen him do that on a football pitch a few times as well. I used to partner him up front - with Jim Rosenthal the other side. Tyler was Nout Workhorse to my more cultured Teddy Sheringham. 😂. To be fair - he got a few more goals than Workhorse, but many of them thanks to my silky contributions.

Eventually he got his chance to be No1 with us at Sky. He was brilliant. A true pro. He would always find the right words at the right time - ‘Bould - through to Adams (goal) that sums it all up’. What an Arsenal season that was. Arsenal - his favourites.

He never stopped - game after game after game. There was a time that we tried to stop him - for his own good - because he was doing too much. But we couldn’t. And no-one will now he’s stepping away from Sky.

It’s because he did it all ‘live’ that makes him the best for me. All the other guys got a chance to wildtrack - do the voice again when they’d made errors - Moore in the ‘80 Cup Final when he failed to notice that it was Trevor Brooking that had scored. That’s just one example - but they were always at it - every week.

Martin didn’t get that luxury - although for years he sat next to Andy Gray - the greatest co-commentator of all time - and Andy would pick up the odd mis-call. Tyler/Gray has never been matched, let alone bettered.

Martin will never stop commentating. I’d expect to see him to be behind a mic at his own funeral!

You were the best Voice. By a mile. Oh - we called him Voice because he definitely didn’t have a face for tv.

Now - quickly back to a story in The Mail today they Andy and I have signed new deals to stay at beINSPORTS. No we haven’t. Nothing has changed. When we get back on air with another PL season in August it’ll be on exactly the same terms - on the same deal - that we’ve been working on for the past decade or so.

Where do these stories come from? Why doesn’t anybody bother to check? Check just once - let alone check again when you’ve done that - as I’m always telling the guys.

I’m immensely proud to still be working - working for and with people I care for deeply. The ‘with’ - a group of highly talented people at beINSPORTS - the The ‘for’ - my Qatari bosses.

I’ve loved every minute of working and living in Qatar. It’s a gorgeous little country to whom I owe a great debt. My Qatari bosses have always been there for me - one in particular, who I now count as a close friend. Qatar is home - and I was proud to have been a defender of its right to take a place at football’s top table last December.

I’m proud to still be working at my age - although if Martin is the benchmark there’s plenty of time yet! But it’s not on a ‘new’ deal. It’s on the same deal.

Oh - and I’ll keep filing - but only on an occasional basis during the summer. Only when I see or hear something they really annoys me. Hold on…..that would mean writing something every day! Back to plan A

It was City’s best performance of the season. - so far.

Published: Monday, 05 June 2023

Sensational. City’s first goal - not the performance apparently. We’ll get round to that. Let’s deal with the goal.

It wasn’t from City’s tippy-tappy playbook. It was as a result of a monster punt downfield by Ortega, a flick from Haaland, seconds from de Bruyne and the most glorious of strikes by Gundogan. I’m certain it would’ve got a ‘what a hit son, what a hit’ from my mate. Perhaps ‘tek a boo’

It was pure. Absolutely pure. So good that Gundogan didn’t break stride after he’d hit it. He wheeled away celebrating before it had hit the net. He knew where it was going the moment he hit it. Glorious. It reminded me of Rooney’s v Newcastle at the Stretford End. I’m salivating just writing about it. It was a fitting way to set a new record for the fastest goal in the Cup Final.

But what a betrayal of ‘the right way to play football’ though! The purists must have been furious. Gundogan even had the temerity to hit the ball from outside the box. 😂.

City’s performance was nowhere near their ‘best’. That’s what I kept reading post match. How do we define that I wonder? Is a good performance measured by hitting a frightened opposition for six? Or it is measured on getting the job done at the business end of the season in the middle of a tumultuous spell? For me it is. I thought it was a really impressive performance. They’re best of the season - so far. And now comes the big one.

City just have to win the CL - or this whole season will have been for nothing again. It’s the one Guardiola was employed to win. It’s the one they’ve spent a couple of billion buying players to win. It’s the one that will take them to the next level. A domestic double is something to be proud of, but if they get beaten next weekend the season will feel empty. Oh - I should add, prizes accompanied by an asterisk. I’m sorry, but until the financial irregularity charges are answered, that will always be the case.

Inter are more than capable of winning. They’re horrible if they want to be. They can squeeze the life out of teams but they’ve got a threat. They should not be taken lightly. I hope City don’t underestimate them. I have to say, reading Nathan Ake in The Mirror today saying ‘now City’s players are talking about winning the treble’ worried me. No. Don’t. Forget about what’s been achieved. Concentrate of the job ahead now.

I’ve also read a lot about how poor United were. It’s as though people are surprised. Why? I’ve been saying this all season. They’re miles away. I said a couple of weeks ago that ten Hag hasn’t taken them anywhere. Why would Harry Kane consider joining them? He might as well stay at Spurs, where he’s loved and where he and his family enjoy a fabulous life-style off the pitch. Why swap all that for the occasional League Cup win? Real Madrid? Now that’s a very different proposition.

A quick word on the United pen. Of course it was a ridiculous award. Absolute nonsense, but I’m afraid that’s where we are with the handball law. Nobody knows how to fairly and accurately enforce the interpretations of what was once a very simple law. David Elleray and his mates at IFAB are to blame. It’s got to be looked at again. How about ‘was it intentional or not?’ Wait a minute - isn’t that how we used to make decisions?

I’ll guarantee you Anthony Taylor’s decision not to give Roma a pen v Sevilla is what sent Mourinho over the edge the other night. I’m not excusing his post-match behaviour, but he was enraged because that’s a pen in Italy. It’s a pen if European officials are in charge - but it isn’t a pen if PL officials are.

‘Ah,’ I can hear you say ‘but what about the one at Wembley?’ That’s fair. They’re all subjective. It’s a nonsense. During his time in charge at IFAB, Elleray gave us 179 different law changes. 179 ffs - including the ‘innovative’ new kick-off - straight from the hockey rule-book. Elleray was a hockey teacher. He should’ve stuck to his profession.

It’s time football people started making football decisions again - starting with the handball shambles. VAR is irrelevant whilst those watching have no idea what they’re looking for.

Good luck to West Ham this week. I’d love to see David Moyes win a trophy at last. He’s a good man, who was deeply affected by the treachery that saw him shafted at United and he did well to recover from it. I often wonder what might have happened had he been given the time he was promised when he took charge. United would certainly be a lot further forward than they are now.

And good luck to City. All these big games are live with us on beINSPORTS. I’ll see you next weekend.

Sent from my iPhone

For 23 mins Everton were a C’ship team

Published: Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Apologies if you were waiting around yesterday (Monday) for the blog, but a combination of travel and the bank holiday delayed me 24 hours.

Anyway. Here we are. It’s a shame the last day of the PL season was such a damp squib, but it wasn’t anything I didn’t expect. Well - no, that’s not true. I didn’t expect to see Leeds rolled over so easily by Spurs, but I always felt they’d go down because Everton would get the result they needed.

I was also a little surprised at how bad Leeds actually are. If Sam Allardyce could be honest I’m sure he’d say the same. They’re awful. There’s nothing there. If they had a chance of beating Spurs it had to be because of that outstanding crowd, but when they turned it was all over. And I don’t blame the Elland Road faithful either. Going one down, so quickly and easily, was disgraceful. I’ve read today that Sam says there isn’t enough goals in the side. There’s no bollocks either. Its sad. How the hell can Leeds get relegated again?

Everton were a C’ship side for 23 minutes when Leicester scored v West Ham. That was the only drama - a little anxiety until Doucoure smashed the Toffees winner in v Bournemouth. But that was it.

Leicester shouldn’t be going down either. How on earth has that happened? Does Dean Smith get the chance to take them back up? Does Sam at Leeds? Why not? I’d let them both have a go.

Why is it that nobody is talking about Brendan Rodgers as a candidate for the vacancy at Spurs? Is it because he’s getting the blame for what’s happened at Leicester? That’s nonsense if it is. He was warning about what was going to happen long before it did.

Rodgers is perfect for Spurs. He’s managed big clubs - he was unlucky not to win the title at Liverpool. Had he chosen not to join Leicester when he did he would’ve completed a treble-treble at Celtic. He won the FA Cup at Leicester. He knows how to win and he’s always had teams that ‘play the right way’. Isn’t that what Spurs want? Good football and trophies? Then Rodgers has to be the man. If you need his number Daniel - give me a call.

What on earth is happening at OT. Why is the takeover not done yet? I tweeted on the subject last week. I can assure you that I’m nowhere near the details. All I know is what I read, but what a saga. What on earth can the delay be? If there are genuinely two bids on the table - chose one and get it done. The only things stopping that happening has to be a disingenuous American bank handling the deal and/or Glazer greed. There can’t be any other reasons.

I read that Qatari Sheikh Jassim’s most recent bid was a ‘take it or leave it’ offer. I understand totally the desire to own one of the biggest brands in the world - and United doesn’t come up for sale that often - but there comes a time when you’ve got to walk away.

If the Sheikh wants only United - ok. But if he wants a PL club there are others. Leeds might have been an option - but not now of course - and I’ve always thought Villa was a good club to own, but if you want a bargain there’s really good value at West Ham.

£500m wound get it. It’s in London, which is a really big plus for modern players and the infrastructure isn’t at all bad. Ok - the stadium would need work - perhaps even knocking down because it will never be a football stadium, but that wouldn’t be a problem. Even if it cost £1b to re-build you’d still be on the plus side considering that the Glazers want £6b.

Of course I was gutted for the Super Sky Blues and the thousands that made the trip to Wembley from Coventry and beyond, but I’ve no complaints. To be fair Luton were better than us and had it not been for VAR they could easily have won it by 3 or 4. Luton remind me of Wimbledon. They’ll surprise a few in the PL next season.

It’ll take Coventry a while to recover.

Just because they made the play-offs this season doesn’t mean they’ll be challenging again next time. I hope they are. I hope this season was part of a process that sees them rewarded with promotion next time, but there are no guarantees and Mark Robins will know that. There are some big clubs and good teams (there’s a difference) in the Championship next season.

Good luck to both in the Cup Final this weekend - and then it’s the big one for City. Guardiola has got to win the CL. He knows he’s got to win it. He knows it’s the reason that City employed him and after a £2b spend across seven years - it’s time.

He also knows that whatever City continue to win there will be an asterisk alongside any success. What was he talking about last week when he said that he wants the PL to hurry to a conclusion on the charges of financial wrong-doing? It’s not their gift. As I said in my last blog - it’s up to City to expedite the process. If they’ve nothing to hide they can clear things up quite easily. It won’t work trying to blame the PL for laying the charges.

Clear the mess up City

Published: Monday, 22 May 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now go and win the big one City

Published: Monday, 15 May 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten Hag has taken Utd precisely…..nowhere.

Published: Monday, 08 May 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dreading Wembley

Sweet Jesus Take Pity on Us....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published: Monday, 01 May 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s always Levy’s fault - but why?

Published: Monday, 24 April 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published: Monday, 17 April 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not so much Ted Lasso - more Dumb and Dumber Jesse

Published: Monday, 10 April 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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