My 3 for the drop

Published: Tuesday, 07 August 2018

I hate talking about who’ll struggle because as we start again everybody is full of hope and full of expectation. Why spoil it?

The first thing the three promoted clubs will have to get used to is NOT winning every weekend. As all three swept through the Championship winning became a habit. It won’t be like that now. If they win 10 games they’ll have done really well and that should guarantee survival. It seems strange, but that’s exactly what Nuno Espiroto Santo, Neil Warnock and Slavisa Jokanovic will be thinking. Getting those wins won’t be simple.

You need fixtures to fall for you. Don’t panic if it doesn’t fall into place early on - the key is not to get isolated. If teams are in touch come March/April it’s entirely possible to get out of trouble with a run of games against opposition that don’t have anything left to play for. So much movement happens in those last few weeks.

Amongst the strugglers will be Huddersfield. David Wagner produced a miracle keeping them up last season. He’ll have to do it again. I’m a little surprised he stayed, but delighted he did and his loyalty deserves to be rewarded.

Cardiff will be down there. I’d love to see Neil Warnock have a successful season. The King of Promotions has earned the right, but I can’t see it. They’ll be up against it from day one.

I think Fulham will be ok. They’ve got a goalscorer in Mitrovic and that’s so important. If you can’t get goals you’ve got no chance.

Wolves should be fine as well. The Premier League have cleared their unusual way of doing business so it’s full steam ahead. If they need a ‘survival’ injection in January they’ll get it. That’s if the owners and Jorge Mendes wish to continue the project - or will they cash in and concentrate on Villa, where similar things are happening?

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It's Liverpool's.

Published: Monday, 06 August 2018

If Liverpool don’t win the title with this squad they’ll never win it again. Jurgen Klopp now has all the tools he requires to end ‘the long wait’.

I like what he’s been doing. In January and again this summer he addressed areas that Liverpool were desperately short in - centre back and goalkeeper. I said after their CL surrender that unless he got himself a good keeper he’d never win anything.

I don’t mind at all that he’s been spending. You’ve got to spend, now more than ever before - and you can go all the way back to Sunderland’s ‘Bank of England’ team to find clubs that have ‘bought the title’. You have to. They all do.

I can hear United fans screaming now ‘but we didn't’. Yes you did. There isn’t a team in PL history that’s spent more. Add it all up from the moment Fergie took charge.

I know Klopp arrived claiming that he’d do it differently. He was playing the party line. Those in charge of the money at Anfield weren’t going to be throwing it about until they were convinced by him.  There have been times they must’ve wondered - but now I believe they’re right behind him.

So Klopp has GOT to deliver. It’s some achievement to have taken teams to a total of six finals - but he can’t afford to lose another one - not that a cup final will be the priority this season. The league HAS to be. He’s got to show he can be a winner again.

They were closer to City last year than any other side. As we saw - on their day they could be better. Now they’ve got to find the consistency to do it every weekend. And it’s got to be EVERY weekend.

Of course City will be most people’s favourites, but I believe their priority will be CL. Guardiola has spent a fortune piecing together this team and they blitzed the title last season. They were an absolute joy to watch, but he’s got to take it on. Winning another title wouldn’t do that. He’s got to win the CL, something that he has failed miserably to do since leaving Barcelona and critically - something he hasn’t done without Messi.

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Football wasn't coming home

Published: Monday, 16 July 2018

What a wonderful World Cup. Congratulations to everybody involved in both the organisation and delivery.

I was in Moscow in January. What an impressive City it is. I’m so pleased that so many more people have seen it now. It was described to me as ‘Europe’s hidden secret’. Not so ‘hidden’ now. If you ever get the chance - go.

This World Cup was always going to be a success, despite all the doom-mongers predicting otherwise and the demands of those ‘politicking’ hoping to get the tournament moved. Russia delivered - and now all roads lead to #Qatar2022. Trust me - this tournament will blow you away. I’m privileged to have seen the plans. I’ve been watching the county prepare these last five years. #Qatar2022 will deliver on its promise ‘Amazing’ and when it’s all over - just as we have Russia - people will have fallen in love with a country now very close to my heart. Why? How? Forget it. It’s all systems go for a World Cup, the likes of which we will never have  previously seen.

Anyway, as I said, Russia was a triumph of organisation. Do I agree that it was the ‘best ever’ on the pitch? No. I don’t.

I don’t think it ever reached the heights of previous competitions. Ask yourself - do you remember six really good games from the 64 we watched? You don’t do you? It was ok, but little more.

The view in England was probably excitedly different because Gareth Southgate’s team exceeded all expectations. It was great to see people enjoying watching their national team again. It’s good for football in England in general.

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Oh what a night - 1981 and all that

Published: Friday, 25 May 2018

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.

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Be careful what you wish for...

Published: Thursday, 17 May 2018

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.  

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Who's next ?

Published: Friday, 20 April 2018

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? 

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We're back !

Published: Wednesday, 21 March 2018

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. 

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Got it Yet?

Published: Friday, 09 February 2018

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!  

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Kane was offside

Published: Tuesday, 06 February 2018

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.

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Manic Monday

Published: Monday, 15 January 2018

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.

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