Spurs - 'the nearly' men

Published: Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Now this admission might make me unique. Some might think the sun has finally got to me - but I really quite like Daniel Levy! And I think he's done a terrific job at Spurs - but....!  

He's been a constant and 'steady' figure at White Hart Lane now since 2001. Well, when I say steady, perhaps not quite as steady as some would've liked, but he's never shirked a decision. He hasn't always been right - but he hasn't wasted much time in correcting things once he's realised a mistake. 

He's not a man that seeks publicity. He's very private, which is why I felt privileged to have spent an afternoon in his company a few years back. The owner, Joe Lewis was also there. It was around the time both had realised good old 'Arry had to go before he inflicted much more damage on the club. 

We talked about that and a whole lot more - including Levy's plans for the new stadium that they're finally building. He's astute. And clever. He gets things done. Incidentally, how right was he about the Olympic Stadium? He wanted to knock it down and start again. He knew it was the only sensible solution to all the problems that West Ham have created for themselves by trying to do things on the cheap. 

Anyway, through much tumult he's put Spurs back in amongst the big boys. Now here's the 'but' I referred to earlier - having done that unless Spurs push on again they won't just be standing still - they'll be going backwards and wasting a wonderful chance to be C Lge regulars - maybe even regular title contenders - perhaps even regular title winners. 

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Gareth Southgate? I'm not holding my breath.

Published: Monday, 21 November 2016

Apologies that I've been so quiet lately and thank you for inspiring me to get going again. I had no idea how popular these musings had become! I'm flattered.

So Gareth Southgate passes the interview process to become England manager.  He was one of one in the running. I wish him well, but was there really nobody else? If not, why not? What a farce. Greg Clark, Dan Ashworth, Martin 'I'm not a football man' Glenn, Howard Wilkinson and Graeme Le Saux really had their work cut out didn't they?

I can hear them now 'Right gentlemen, let's get down to business. First item on the agenda is the new England manager. Let's make this an exhaustive and thorough process. We've got to get it right this time. How many candidates do we have?'  'Er, just the one Mr Chairman'. Honestly, if it wasn't so serious it would be funny.

I like Gareth, but he wouldn't be my choice. I'd have done everything in my power to persuade Glenn Hoddle to take it. At the very least, he should've been considered - interviewed maybe? Now there's a thought!

Southgate is a nice guy, and that's going to be his problem. He's 'mini' Hodgson, he'll play to the gallery too much. Roy didn't start like that, but he sure as hell finished like it, making decisions that the Press boys were screaming for.

Southgate dropped Rooney for his second game in charge v Slovenia, after he'd just skippered England to a 2-0 win v Malta. Why? Worse, he paraded him in front of a baying media to explain the decision. Why? He had him apologise for having a few drinks last weekend - with other England staff - whilst 12 players went on the missing list. Why? I'll tell you, because he was playing to the crowd. For me, it showed weakness, not strength. Back your man Gareth. What happens now we know that Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana were in a strip club in Bournemouth?

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Death by a thousand cuts

Published: Monday, 31 October 2016

It was Niall Quinn that said it - 'its like watching a death by a thousand cuts'. You could feel his pain. Quinny is one of the good guys. He's a Sunderland man through and through. Not only was he a fantastic - and as it turned out, irreplaceable centre-forward for the club - he went on to both buy it and then run it.

He came as close as anybody to restoring a grand old club to its rightful place in amongst the big boys. Well, when I say he did, both he and Steve Bruce did. They delivered Sunderland's only top ten finish since Peter Reid kept finishing seventh. That was quite a useful habit!

Quinny's managerial career wasn't quite as successful. His one game in charge ended in embarrassment when the Super Sky Blues tanned their arses at High field Road - ironically managed by Peter Reid! I'm half joking - it wasn't a s bad as I'm making out - but it was a defeat - and a rare enjoyable win for us!

Bruce filled the Stadium of Light and delivered for Quinn, by now Chairman, like no one else has done since.

And so back to the slow death that Quinny described after watching Sunderland being taken apart by Arsenal. It's sad to see them in such a mess. It's been a dreadful start for David Moyes, who now has the unenviable record of having delivered the worst ever P Lge start to any club's season. Cast your minds back a season and Sunderland won their tenth game of that campaign, beating Newcastle. That result gave them six points from their opening ten games and Big Sam went on to do what Big Sam does - he got performances from a team well beyond their capabilities. And, of course, he kept them up. Now Sunderland have just two points. They're going down. And not before time.

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Age is no limit

Published: Wednesday, 26 October 2016

What a wonderfully unpredictable season we've got on our hands - so far anyway! And my title tip - Mourinho and Man Utd - are doing their best to make me look as much of a mug as I did last season after predicting Leicester would go down! 

How bad were they at Chelsea? Awful is the answer. And despite the fact that they got out of Anfield with a point last Monday, they weren't much better there. 

I read a piece by Mourinho this weekend where he was arguing that all he's got to do to win over United's fanatical support was 'win'. Wrong Jose. Yes, that's part of the formula, but managing Manchester Utd comes with a responsibility to understand the club and 'entertain' whilst winning. Nothing else will do. 

Right now there's a lot of re-building to be done, so I accept that it's a process, but on recent evidence Mourinho looks miles away from achieving either. 

They're missing Rooney for sure. Before you jump all over me, undertake this exercise for yourselves - look at the results with him his season - and compare them to the results without him. He's a leader. He's the captain. He makes things happen. 

And tell me this - what is Ibrahimovic doing to justify his selection that Rooney wasn't? Or Pogba? Or the dreadful, ponderous Fellaini? There's three major problems right there, but Ibra comes with a reputation, Pogba with a huge price tag, so I can understand Mourinho persisting with them, but Fellaini? United really should be charged with bringing the game into disrepute every time they play this lumbering, laborious neanderthal. He is hopeless. Embarrassing. He can't run and he can't pass a ball forward. He can't open up defences and he often can't keep his elbows to himself. He is NOT a Man Utd player, yet he gets in ahead of Rooney? I know Wayne was injured on Sunday, but he hasn't been. 

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Back in business.

Published: Thursday, 13 October 2016

Is it only me, or do we all feel the same about these international breaks?  I hate them. I shut down. The only thing I'm thinking about, from the moment the last P Lge ball is kicked and we stop, is 'when do we get going again?'

I know it shouldn't, but international football is starting to leave me stone cold. I'm not sure that players themselves aren't beginning to feel that way too. I've mentioned it before - playing for England now isn't fun. The Scots have had a kicking this past fortnight as well - and Wales. What is it about our Press boys? Why is there always so much negativity?

Answer me this - how much better were England without Wayne Rooney? The guys bullied Gareth Southgate into leaving him out - to what end? I was disappointed that Southgate buckled so easily under media pressure. At least Roy Hodgson took a couple of years before he started dancing to Fleet Streets' tune. Southgate wants to please everybody I know, but I thought he made the wrong call on Rooney.

Oh, and when the new England boss says 'I inherited a mess' who is he blaming? Big Sam, who only had 67 days to create that mess, or the previous regime, which Southgate was very much a part of? 

Briefly on the skipper - Rooney remains the only player England have that frightens the opposition. United blitzed Leicester without him - scoring four in 20 first half minutes - three from set pieces, which I suspect they would've done with Rooney on the pitch, but what happened v Stoke? I didn't read anything from the people who'd castigated him following the Leicester game admitting that he's not United's problem. I'll make a little prediction here - I'll bet Mourinho plays him against Liverpool on Monday night.

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You were Super - Spurs

Published: Monday, 03 October 2016

The air of invincibility around Pep Guardiola and his City team was blown away by Tottenham's tornado. What a game. I enjoyed it more than anything else I've seen this season.

Spurs were terrific and had Eric Lamela scored with that penalty  3-0 wouldn't have flattered them.

Double training sessions you see - that's the way forward! Wait until they lose one though - then double training sessions will be to blame again!

So what of City? Have they been found out, not just by Spurs, but also Celtic? Well, not exactly. I thought Guardiola was both magnanimous and relaxed after the game. He's right - City are a work in progress and all those who thought they title race was over because of the way they'd started now need to re-assess. It wasn't over before the Spurs game - and it isn't now. City hadn't won it - and they haven't lost it. I was pleased to see Guardiola smiling in his post match interview as well. Early on in the season I thought he was surly and rude when facing reporters post match. It's not an easy that - for either the manager or the reporter. The guys in the tunnel do a really good job - none more so than Geoff Shreeves and I'm pleased to see how well Des Kelly has taken to it at BT.

What point was Mourinho trying to make when he said the performance against Stoke was 'United's best of the season'?

Is he saying that what's been served up prior to the weekend wasn't very good? Was he trying to protect those that this week toiled without their skipper Wayne Rooney? Funny isn't it, after a really good 20 mins last week, when they got four goals against Leicester, three of them from set-pieces, the media buried Rooney. And this week when he wasn't on the pitch and Utd struggled - was that Rooney's fault as well? I come back to what I said last week, they're a much better side without Fellaini, but like City, they're a work in progress. As for Jose's claims? As he said - we're all allowed our opinions!

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Much ado about something

Published: Friday, 30 September 2016

I've waited all week, mainly because we've been promised fireworks all week. As it turns out The Telegraphs' explosive expose of the wrong doings in English football has turned out - so far - to be like a wet Guy Fawkes night. 

In fairness they certainly stirred things up early in the week reporting the 'sting' that cost Sam Allardyce his job. I said on the day that I was both disappointed with Sam and for him too. With him? Well, as he realised very quickly he really shouldn't have put himself in the position that he did - and not said many of the things that he did. I'm sorry for him because in trying to do a life long friend a favour he cost himself his dream job. By the way, why is it that in every report I've read in The Telegraph so far, Scott McGarvey's name keeps coming up. Why was he at every meeting that The Telegraph set up, both him and the Italian agent Pino Pagliara?

Having served Sam up on a silver platter were we told that eight P Lge managers - either working or 'resting' - would be exposed for taking bungs. So far - nothing. All we've had is two sacrificial asst managers, one - Eric Black - a really good guy, who was also trying to do McGarvey a favour. I don't know anything about Tommy Wright. Oh, and Jimmy Ffloyd, who as far as I can see, was looking to negotiate a fee for public speaking in the Far East. Don't we all want to get paid for the work we do? 

Now, The Telegraph might yet reveal something far juicier, but in the meantime, why all the hysteria? Gary Lineker wants the Police called in to investigate. Perhaps that's not a bad idea, but how far back do we go? Do we investigate everything from the early 80's when all our top talent was going to play in Spain and Italy? Those guys invented the brown envelope. Are we to believe all those deals were clean? 

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West Ham and Rooney get Hammered

Published: Monday, 26 September 2016

After six games last season West Ham were in the top 3 - and my  suggestion that their fans 'should be careful what they wish for' wasn't looking too accurate. Many a Hammer would regularly, and quite rightly, point out how well Slaven Bilic had taken to life as a coach in the P Lge and that my fears weere considerably wide of the mark.

After six games this season West Ham are in the bottom three and my warnings don't look quite so daft do they?

Look, I have no desire to open up old wounds with West Ham fans and I genuinely don't like to see the club struggle - it's a fine club that's contributed hugely to the English game down the years, especially for those of us of a certain vintage - Moore, Peters and Hurst were all heroes of mine.

What always disappointed me about the modern West Ham fan was how ungrateful he/she was to Big Sam. Hands up - Sam is a mate so of course I'll defend him wherever and whenever I feel I have to. I first got close to him back in 2008 when I worked in Qatar for the first time and he was hugely supportive of me and Andy when we were tucked up by Sky. Aren't you supposed to be loyal to good friends? I thought that was unwritten law in the East End - perhaps more so than anywhere else in London?

Sam didn't just save West Ham at the most needy point in their history, he first settled and then built the club back into a P Lge outfit. Bilic has never been shy of making that point. Sam made last season possible.

In warning that Hammers fans 'should be careful what they wish for' I was making the point that the old fashioned belief that their team should always play the 'West Ham' way was outdated and dangerous. You simply can't play 'nice' football in our league anymore.

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Don't panic Mr Mourinho

Published: Monday, 19 September 2016

It certainly hasn't been the best week of Jose Mourinho's career. All of a sudden all kinds of damning statistics are flying about.

Here's a couple - losing at Watford meant United had been beaten for a third successive match, in the Portuguese's worst run of results for 15 years, since he was in charge of Porto in 2002. I can think of a few coaches that would love a record like that!

It's now 15 defeats in his last 33 matches - described as 'an utterly damning statistic for a manager in charge of two high end clubs' in The Mirror today. How many of those were due to the unprofessional manner in which his players at Chelsea 'downed tools' to get rid of him at Stamford Bridge? My maths tells me 12, so the stat isn't quite as 'damning' as it reads.

Another headline screamed 'Just not special anymore' referring to both Mourinho and Rooney. Rubbish!  They both are.

Granted, after a very good start to the season, the last seven days haven't been great and because Mourinho makes himself such an easy target for the media when things go wrong, he's always going to get a kicking, but I have no doubt that he'll sort things out.

I do hear worrying stories of a little unrest amongst a few players and I understand that Antony Martial is not his biggest fan - nor Mourinho Martial's. That's certainly something to keep an eye on. Martial wouldn't be the first wide man that Mourinho has fallen out with would he? He's got some serious 'previous' with some very high profile names on that front.

Having said that, who hasn't got unhappy players at a club? No-one. It's generally those who aren't playing that make the most fuss.

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Special 1 Pep 2

Published: Monday, 12 September 2016

With both apologies and thanks to the sub editor at the Sunday Mirror that came up with the best headline of the weekend. It was so good that I had to nick it! 

So was the game. I really enjoyed it. Often those big matches get surrounded by so much expectation that they fail to live up to the billing. Not this one. It was a terrific game. 

Full marks to Guardiola. I wasn't convinced that he'd be able to take his style of football to Old Trafford and dominate for virtually the whole game. But he did - and City thoroughly deserved their win. For me, they were the better team. But - and it's a big but - United should've had a penalty and Bravo was a lucky boy not to be sent off. There's no guarantees that United would've scored with the pen, but the keepers reckless lunge at Rooney met all the criteria for dangerous play. He should've gone and I'm really surprised that Mark Clattenburg, who I believe is our best ref now, thought differently. Mind you, so did my mate Andy Gray, but he was wrong as well! 

I said Saturday on Twitter that I thought Mourinho had picked the wrong team. I'm pleased he's been big enough to come out and admit it. Not not only did he pick the wrong team, I felt that United were far too passive. They sat off for virtually the whole of the first half and invited City to run rings round them. And so they did. 

I still can't understand why. I really fancied United because I thought they would be more 'powerful' - typically Mourinho - but I also thought that playing at home they'd get on the front foot, like United teams of old, and steamroller City. 

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