Honest Mark Hasley

Published: Monday, 05 September 2016

He was Jose Mourinho's favourite ref. The two became close friends and remain in touch to this day, although not quite on the same regular basis. 

Asked why Mark Halsey was his favourite, Mourinho replied 'because he's honest'. I could stop writing now. What else is there to say? Well, quite a lot actually. 

Mark has been a friend of mine now for more than 10 years. I too have found him to be nothing but honest and honourable. 

Why is this important? Let me quote from Andy Dunn's excellent column in the Sunday Mirror today 'And his (Halsey's) allegations - if true - render the Professional Game Match Officials Limited unfit for purpose'. 

Of course I'm referring here to the furore surrounding Sergio Aguero's ban for throwing an elbow at Winston Reid. Those who follow me on Twitter will know I broke the story that Aguero would be charged at 9.30 on Tuesday morning. My sources told me that ref Andre Marriner had told the FA that he handn't seen the incident. We have to take him at his word, but why didn't he see it? He was 10 yards away. He MUST have seen the incident surely - if not, what is he doing taking charge of such important high profile football matches? 

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Things will only get better

Published: Monday, 29 August 2016

Things will only get better. Admittedly, not bad if you're a Chelsea, United or City fan but I can't think of too many other clubs' supporters that will be too happy about what they've seen from their team so far this season. It's been an ordinary start hasn't it? But it will get better. I think the international break has come at a nice time. 

Actually, Hull City fans have got to be pleased with what Mike Phelan has done - but I can't imagine anyone on Humberside is expecting anything other than a long hard season. How good were they against United? I'm delighted for Mike. I really do hope that he gets the job full time - and a realistic chance of some kind of success to go with it. Success this season would be staying up. 

I tweeted Saturday that I thought we'd seen a 'title winning result' from United. How typical of days gone by was that - a Fergie time winner? United look strong. The 'fear factor' is returning. I don't think they played particularly well, but that's what made the outcome - and the manner of it - all the more impressive. Taking three points away from a game like that is what champions do. They wouldn't have done last season. In fact, I think they would probably have been beaten. They're my tip to win it and I'm more confident about that after the first thee games. 

City were 'smooth' for 45 minutes weren't they? Their football was a delight and West Ham could've been buried before half time, but credit the Hammers with a really good second half. They dusted themselves down and gave it a go and let's not forget how short of their 'big guns' they were. They'll only get better.

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Is possession 9/10ths of the law?

Published: Monday, 22 August 2016

Now I may have got this completely wrong - but ever since I first went to watch Coventry aged 4 - I've been under the impression that the purpose of playing football is to win. Right? We all agree on that?

How? Simple. Put the ball in the opponents net more times than they do yours. Yes?

If you can do that with a panache and excitement that gets supporters on the edge of their seats - job done. That's how United always did it under Fergie. It was breathless stuff. Of course, there were times when it didn't all come together, but no one ever left Old Trafford early, just in case. 

Now not every manager is as fortunate to have the tools at their disposal that Fergie did, so not everybody can play like that, but the purpose of the game remains the same - find a way to put the ball in your opponents net. 

Let me quote Pep Guardiola again - his own words from his autobiography 'I hate possession for the sake of it. There is no purpose to it. Barca didn't do tiki-taka'. No. They didn't. They hunted the ball down. The pinched it back early. They'd overload on one side before moving the ball quickly to the other and exposing defensive weaknesses. And they had three geniuses - Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, that made winning matches a whole lot easier. 

So this brings me onto the headline below. 

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United will win it...

Published: Friday, 12 August 2016

The problem with pre-season predictions is that they can very easily make you look a mug. Well - Leicester can - spectacularly! 

 I had them down for relegation last season. My only consolation is that I wasn't the only one!

 Nobody, literally nobody, could foresee what happened. I'm not sure even now that Leicester fans can quite understand or believe how their season worked out. How did they win the P Lge?

 There were many reasons, but let's be clear about this, they won it because they deserved to. They earned it.

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Here we go

Published: Saturday, 06 August 2016

A week from today (Saturday) I'll have been back at work for 48 hours - embarking on my 4th season at BeIN Sports. I really can't believe it. Time has flown. 

 It's been enormously enjoyable. At my time of life I'm done with ploughing. up and down motorways and all the hassle that goes with getting around Britain. I was reminded of that on my first day back in the country this summer. I drove to Leeds, to host a dinner with Andy. It took me five hours to make a journey that should take two and a half. I came back the same evening, joining the M1 at junction 40. It was shut at 39.

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What now?

Published: Tuesday, 28 June 2016

I had decided to give you - and myself - a break from these posts during The Euro's. My thinking was that so much can change so quickly during tournaments that snap judgements probably weren't a good idea. Sorry, I couldn't resist after last night's shambles.

 I'll give you an example - Wayne Rooney. I was one of one arguing before the tournament that he had to go - not just go, but start. And start every game. So I understood Roy Hodgson, who was Rooney's biggest fan, raising an eye brow when my colleagues in the English press were outraged that he was left out of the game against Slovakia!

 Having said that, I was never convinced that Hodgson wanted to start Rooney. I believe he felt it was a risk too far not to. But he took him off in the first game v Russia, as if to make a statement. Why? Rooney was our leader. Up to the point that he went off he was our best player. He was certainly our most experienced player. For me, once he'd left the field, the early signs of our inexperience were laid bare. Russia capitalised.

 You see, that's the problem with youth. There's a lot of energy. A lot of excitable belief, but absolutely NO experience. That's a commodity you can't buy. England were well short in that department. Well short - and I said it from the moment Hodgson was bullied down that path by the English press.

 I'm a big fan of Hodgson's - as most people know. I believe he's an honourable, decent man. I believed he had a backbone. That he was his own man. That he could make big decisions. I was wrong in nearly all of that. Decent and honourable he is, but I couldn't have been more disappointed that he started to play the 'populist' card to avoid criticism.

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It'll end in tears...

Published: Tuesday, 24 May 2016

It'll end in tears, but what a ride Manchester United fans are in for! In fact, what a time to be a football fan in Manchester now that, arguably, the best two coaches in the world are going head to head again. 

 Arguably? I've got to reserve room at the top for Carlo Ancelotti. He's a class operator. 

 Anyway, not before time, United have got it right. This is what they should've done when Fergie announced he was leaving. Mourinho's job application the night that Real tipped them out of the C Lge was wrongly ignored and they've paid a heavy price. Mind you, how many of us haven't f****d up somewhere along the line?!? 

 David Moyes was the right man - at the wrong time. I advocated change when it was blindingly obvious part way through that first post-Fergie season that it was going wrong. I stand by what I said, but....

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Safe standing? Really?

Published: Saturday, 14 May 2016

So we come to the end of the most extra-ordinary of seasons. I thought about waiting until Monday before writing - but with so little left to sort out, why wait?

So little? Not if you're a Manchester football fan. There's the engaging battle for 4th to be sorted out this weekend. Think about that - both Manchester clubs getting excited about the race for 4th place. Oh how the mighty have fallen. 

LVG was talking this week about how it's 'unrealistic' of United fans to think that his team might be title challengers! Really? Why? That's surely the sole reason why this fading Dutch genius was brought into the club - to deliver the title? And why not after getting on for a spend of £300m?

 United also announced record profits this last week. Do you know what - I'm beginning to think that we're entering a new era at Old Trafford, where simply qualifying for the C Lge is enough. United are 'new' Arsenal. 

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Get rid United

Published: Monday, 02 May 2016

It was a pretty good weekend. Not because I particularly enjoyed the football - more because I couldn't stop laughing when I was watching The Saturday Club on beIN Sports. They ripped into me for my pre-season prediction of impending doom at Leicester following the appointment of Claudio Ranieri! 

 It's something I've addressed a number of times, so there's not much point in re-visiting it. The only consolation is that I wasn't alone. The great and the good from our business were a unified voice about Ranieri. We were ALL wrong. When you are, the best policy is to hold your hands up and admit it. I admit it - again! 

 What makes being wrong all the more pleasurable is that Leicester haven't just survived - they've flourished under Ranieri. I repeat - for me their title success (at least I was one of the first to be convinced by them!!!) is the greatest football story of all time. 

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Sir Kenny Dalglish'?

Published: Wednesday, 27 April 2016

This isn't an easy one to write, for many reasons. If I'm honest, I've absolutely no idea where the next few hundred words are going to take me. I haven't thought about this piece or researched it very well, it's just going to be a whole lot of incoherent thoughts. So here goes. And stay with me, please. 

 I don't want to give the wrong impressions here. Hillsborough was never my fight, but I've always felt close to those battling for the long overdue result that they got yesterday (Monday). 

 Let me try and explain. I left Liverpool a couple of years before the disaster. The regular readers amongst you know I had four wonderful years in the City and made many good friends. My wife was born in Liverpool and grew up on The Wirral. We were with her parents the weekend after Hillsborough - I can't remember why - work, I think. Maybe it was just a family visit. 

 Obviously the mood, all over Merseyside, was sombre. You couldn't help be touched by it - nor the scenes of people snaking round Anfield, holding flowers which they were going to lay on the pitch, just wanting to be near their club and other like minded, stunned supporters. 

 Look. It's not my club so I had no right, but I was overcome by it all. I put on a suit, bought flowers myself and drove to Anfield. I wanted to do what everybody else was doing, but I felt somewhat of an interloper. I obviously knew people at the club, so when I slipped in a side gate and quietly worked my way onto The Kop no-one gave me a second glance. I put flowers down, drew breath, said a few words and cried. You couldn't help but cry. Everybody did.

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