What would Fergie have done? Changed the kit.

Published: Monday, 15 August 2022

How many times have you heard the question being asked this weekend? I’d like to claim credit for the answer, but I can’t. It was a mate of mine - a United fan - who gave it to me. Of course Fergie would’ve changed the kit at half-time.

Why? Because it would’ve made a difference? No. Simply because we’d all have been talking about what he’d done rather than what we’d seen.

What we saw was as bad as it gets. I’ve nothing more to say on the matter. My last blog last covered everything And explained the reasons.

Oh. One thing I do want to add is this. Is David de Gea a bad keeper because the first one rolled in? Not at all. He‘s still world class - and United’s only hope of delivering a platform from which ten Months might be able to deliver. Right. That’s it.

Well done Forest. We also predicted that the City Ground would perhaps be the reason that they stay up. It was great to see them back in the PL on the 30th anniversary of the first ever televised match in the competition. Having said that - they’ll never get another afternoon when literally everything goes their way.

I believe the West Ham goal should’ve stood - but I can also see why it didn’t. What was Antonio supposed to do? It was nothing more than traffic. Poor decision by VAR in my opinion.

Scott McKenna should’ve been sent off. That was a denial and he knew exactly what he was doing. It doesn’t matter that the keeper was behind him. The law is very straightforward on this. If a player ‘denies a goal scoring opportunity - or a goal’ it’s red. I’ve checked this with two former FIFA refs.

Then West Ham hand the ball to Rice. As they did I found myself shouting ‘noooooo….’ Why give the ball to a player who has publicly stated that he’s not good at pens and does’t like taking them?  I’m really surprised Moyes made that call. I’ll bet Rice doesn’t take another one for them.

Forest rode their luck as the bar was struck twice and another was kicked off the line - and it was a good match to watch. Very enjoyable.

Now. Mike Dean. When he hung up his whistle he told us he’d always tried to be an entertainer. I made the point that no ref should take charge of a game with that attitude. It’s not for the ref to entertain. He’s there to apply the laws fairly. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Well it seems that hapless Mike has taken this attitude into the VAR bunker. His decision-making at The Bridge would’ve had us all laughing if it wasn’t so serious. Not that Antony Taylor was much better on the field.

The challenge on Havertz? Foul. A clear a foul as you’ll ever see. It was from behind, reckless and born of frustration after Bentencur had lost out in a challenge seconds earlier. Would we be discussing this had Taylor given the free-kick? No.

Richarlison is clearly off-side as Hojbjerg scores. Of course he’s affecting the keepers line of vision. He’s active for goodness sake. No goal.

Before Kane scores the second there’s an act of violent conduct as Romero pulls Cucerella to the ground by grabbing his hair. Since when was this acceptable on a football field? It’s clear. It’s obvious. It’s violent conduct so VAR can intervene. It’s a red card. The outcome should’ve been free kick to Chelsea because the ball was in play - and Romero has got to go off. For an incident of that kind - had the corner not been taken - Taylor should stopped it from being taken - sent Romero off - and then started again with the corner.  Either way - Romero has to go off.

It’s only in the PL that these things happen. No wonder we’re the only European country without a VAR representative at the WC.

Sept 18, 2018 Ronaldo is sent off after 29 mins of his CL debut for Juventus. His offence? Pulling the hair of Jeison Murillo. I rest my case.

I can see why Tuchel and his Chelsea players don’t want to see much of Taylor going forward. It’ll be interesting to see how Dean explains all this away. ‘Entertainment’ I guess? Except it’s not funny Mike. These aren’t things that require VAR coaching. They’re matters of law.

We know Everton have got huge problems, but it was interesting to see Gerrard restore Tyrone Mings to his defence. He had to. Villa had to win that game. Mings 1 Gerrard 0. What happens next will be interesting.

What a good game Nick Pope had for Newcastle. Eddie Howe obviously agrees with me that Martin Dubravka isn’t good enough. Pope is. Either he will be in goal for England’s WC opener or Ramsdale will. Pickford won’t.

And so the 30th anniversary of that first televised match at Forest passed. 30 years? Incredible isn’t it? It’s been a privilege to have been part of it - and still be a part of it. Here’s to the next 30. 🍾 👍🏼😂.

Stevie G - why go looking for trouble?

Published: Monday, 08 August 2022

Rule 1 in management. Don’t go looking for trouble - it will find you. I’m afraid Stevie G appears to have blundered into trouble all of his own making at Villa.

Few of the weekends’ results surprised me. The exceptions were Liverpool’s anaemic performance at Fulham and Villa’s defeat at Bournemouth.

Then the Gerrard/Neville meme started doing the rounds. It doesn’t make good reading for either of them.

Coaching has done with Neville so it doesn’t really matter from his perspective - but it’s damaging for Steven.

So what’s wrong at Villa? Last season was a free hit. Gerrard had plenty of time to work out what he wanted and Villa spent big on his plans in the summer. That’s why I expected to see them hit the ground running.

Pre-match at Bournemouth he told us that they’d had a trouble free pre-season and were ready to go. Well they weren’t. And they didn’t have a trouble-free pre-season. Gerrard walked into trouble all of his own making. He stripped Tyrone Mings of the captaincy - and dropped him at Bournemouth. Big mistake. He’s divided his dressing room right down the middle.

Mings will have his supporters. And they’ll make their feelings known. Some won’t care - but in the other corner will be a group that are delighted to see the x-captain brought down a peg or two. The unrest will spread to the canteen. Players will sit in their chosen groups - muttering and whispering. It’ll be the same on the coach. Negativity will spread like a virus. Little things become big problems.

Dean Smith dropped Mings once - during his last few months at Villa. I’m told Mings didn’t react well. He was an instant problem with his attitude. Why didn’t Gerrard know this? Perhaps he did?

The reason I ask is that if he did surely the time to tell Mings the bad news was last May? Why didn’t he call him in at the end of last season and have a grown up conversation?

He could’ve told Mings that he wasn’t in his plans. He could’ve invited Mings to find another club - while at the same time suggesting if he wanted to knuckle down and prove his manager wrong he’d be happy to accommodate that. But no - Gerrard left his bad news until 10 days before the season started. Big error.

Come on Steven - you’ve been a player too recently to make that mistake. I guess you wanted to be seen as a tough-guy? But you know how that re-bounds. It did on Benitez when he wanted Alonso out at a Liverpool. It did when Benitez hooked you in a Merseyside derby saying he ‘couldn’t trust you’ because you got too carried away in those games.

This is a massive season for Mings. There’s a WC around the corner and he’ll want to be part of it. He won’t want to spend the first two months on the bench and he’ll stink the place out if that happens.

It’s Everton next at home. If Villa lose that one their fans will rear up and take sides. They’ll be on Mings side as well. Trouble Steven - and it didn’t have to be like this. Btw - that system looks too rigid to me and doesn’t suit the players you’ve got. Just my view - that’s all.

Liverpool we’re strangely quiet at Fulham, but that might have had a lot to do with Fulham. We sometimes forget that. That’s why I wanted to concentrate on what Brighton had achieved at OT on BeINSPORTS before we spoke about United.

Brighton we’re terrific. They had a plan. They believed in it - and it’s very evident they believe in their coach as well. They played through - and all round United.  And let’s not forget they sold their two best players for £100m in the summer.

So why couldn’t Ralph ten Hag’s United have done better? They were hopeless. Nothing has changed since Rangnick picked his last team. Nothing. No - I’m sorry. They’ve got a 5’8” centre-back that’s likely to have the arse ripped out of him most weeks now that proper No9’s are back in fashion. Who’s idea was that for goodness sake? 

Ten Hag has talked a good game since his appointment. He delivered nothing on Sunday.

I saw Henry Winter argue in The Times that United have got the right coach - but the wrong squad and owners. Really? Have Brighton got a better squad? I don’t think so - but their coach got them playing. Ralph ten Hag looked lost on that touch line.

VAR was also hopeless I’m sorry to say. McTominay should’ve gone off. Brighton should’ve had a pen - and United’s goal should’ve been disallowed. If it wasn’t handball - McGuire was off-side - and of course he was ‘active’. He forced the own goal.

So why was Mike Dean not explaining why VAR got all this so badly wrong in The Mail today? Mike Riley got him to column so that he could.  Might it be that there’s no defence so Dean didn’t write his piece?

Haaland was terrific at West Ham. What a start. There’s one word I associate with him - ‘timing’. His runs were devastating. Perfect. And what about his pen? I’m always worried when a taker leaves the ball on the spot for too long. Haaland waited for the whistle BEFORE he put the ball down - and then quickly took his kick. He had no time to think about missing - and gave the keeper no time to think about saving it. Timing. 👍🏼 

I was sorry to see some coach’s taking the piss out of the new 5-subs rule - but it was inevitable.

Chelsea made 5 changes late on at Goodison in order to interrupt Everton’s momentum (when they got some). The ball was in play only 47 minutes at Everton. Newcastle made 5 to disturb Forest. Liverpool made 4 as they hung on at Fulham. Fans at Tottenham had to watch 10 changes in all.

I’m not a fan. It wasn’t a necessary change. There’s talk of playing a minimum of 60 minutes before games end - but we’ve added this change and it allows coaches to slow games - kill games when they want with endless changes. Far from ‘’saving’ the game as Klopp argues - it’s another change that is more likely to ‘kill’ it.

It’s not City for me…

Published: Thursday, 04 August 2022

  I wanted desperately to be wrong. I     know. You don’t believe me. But I did. I really wanted it to work out for Ronaldo and United part II. Ronaldo will forever be the greatest player of his generation for me. Arguably the GOAT. But what was going to unfold at United was all too predictable. It was never going to work. 

I said at the time that it was a romantic signing. A bad signing. That he would score 20 goals, but contribute nothing to the ‘team’. Well?  
I’d happily drive him to his next destination if I was ten Hag. He blew the dressing room up last season and he’ll do it again this time round if they don’t get rid of him. 

At 36 and with his best years behind him, he can’t expect to be anything more than a cameo sub these days. But he won’t have that. For some strange reason he believes that United should be building a team around him.

Really? He can’t play wide anymore. He definitely can’t play up top - so where does he fit in? The answer is - he doesn’t.

Sadly his stand-off with United has also exposed how little there is they ten Hag can do about it. I read he’s told Ronaldo his behaviour last week was ‘unacceptable’. Ouch. The sulking superstar must be stung by they eh? No. He doesn’t care - and he’s exposed an immediate weakness of ten Hag’s. He can talk tough - but he can’t see it through with senior pro’s. 

Am I surprised to see United toiling in the transfer market and pre-season? No. Nothing has changed really. And it could get worse before it gets better. Big players don’t want to sign for United right now. 

It’s a real shame that they didn’t make more of an effort to buy Lewandowski. What a difference he would’ve made. No9’s are back in fashion - and he’s got a year or two left in him. Remember the job van Persie did at about the same age? Almost single handedly he won them a title. There was a time Lewandowski would’ve crawled to Manchester to sign for United. 

I’ve always said that we need a strong United and Ten Hag might eventually get it right, but it won’t be this season.

My feeling is that he likes working with young players. He’s intimidated by senior pro’s. If I’m right - it’ll be a while before United are a force again. I don’t see much better than top 6. 

Ibrahimovic reckons Guardiola is the same - which is why he lost control of Messi and there are always changes close-season - wherever he works. He too wants youth. The only time City didn’t make wholesale changes they lost the title to Liverpool.

Haaland is a class act - no question about that. But how much time will he need to adapt to a new league? Forget adapting to a new country. He knows England well enough.

Will he hit the ground running - or will he be new Sancho? They’re still making excuses for him at United. My feeling is that Sancho simply isnt good enough. It was all too easy for him in Germany. 

You couldn’t say that about Haaland. But I’m not totally convinced. There’s something about Nunez I like more. This won’t sit well with City fans, but I reckon Liverpool have done better business. We’ll see. It’s all conjecture but it gives us something to talk about doesn’t it?

I’ve never tipped City to win it. I don’t know why - and I’m not going to now! Make no mistake - they should. They really should. They probably will - but Liverpool are due one and I don’t care what they say publicly - Guardiola, Mansour and co are desperate to win the CL. Without question that’s the one they MUST win.

So it’s Liverpool and City one and two for me. The other two top four places are a roll of the dice. I’ll go Spurs and Chelsea again - but Arsenal will be better this time and Jesus is a terrific signing.

I expect the Hammers to go well, but I don’t see them in a CL place. I reckon Moyes would take a trophy - any trophy. And so he should. If he delivers silverware it will have been a great season.

Wolves surprised me last time round. I had them down to struggle. They’re certainly not stronger than they were which is why I think they’ll be at the wrong end this time. The way they finished last season should worry their fans.

Leicester? Again I’d be worried if I were a fan. It’s been an awful close season and there isn’t much time left to change that. Brighton? Safe. No more - no less. And that should satisfy everyone at The Amex. Never ever forget what you are. Strive for progress, but realise your station. Charlton forgot what they were and look what happened.

Eddie Howe knows he’s got to make an impression. I’ve been taken by how careful Newcastle have been in their spending so far. It’s evolution not revolution and Geordie fans can look forward to a season in a way that they haven’t since Sir Bob was in charge. The debate about ownership is over. It’ll be good to see a fine football club rattle a few cages.

Palace will do what Palace do - get 40ish points. Brentford would settle
for that, but they’re in for a battle. Eriksen turned their season on its head. They were going down until he signed. He’s still a top player and he’ll make a massive difference at United. That really is a good piece of business. But Brentford will miss him
- massively. And second season syndrome will be a factor.

Villa have got to make a statement. It’s them and Newcastle that should be shaking up the natural order of things. They spent big again in the summer and Gerrard will have failed if they’re not challenging for a place in the top six.

New-boys aside - that leaves us with Saints, Everton and Leeds. Saints will struggle again. Hassenhuttl was lucky to survive the back room clear out. Those things rarely work unless you get rid of the lot - manager included. I don’t think he’ll be there in November.

Frank Lampard has got it all on. He’s already called it. He knows it’s going to be a long season. Everton simply aren’t good enough. I fear for them.

Leeds are interesting. I quite liked Jesse Marsch when he arrived, but I’m not hearing good things. Like Everton - they’re another club where there’s too much going on behind the scenes for it to be healthy. Verdict? Another struggle.

Of the new-boys I think Forest are best equipped to survive. The City Ground will be a hard place to visit, but they’ll still struggle to win 10 games. I reckon they’ll have enough - just about enough - if they can win a few at home.

Fulham? Down. Bournemouth? Down. If you pushed me I’d go with Southampton to make up the relegated three. If you’re looking for a surprise struggler - its got to be Leicester. And for the record - I’ve had two of the bottom three correct in each of the last two seasons. So be worried if you support those teams. 😂. 

On a general note - why are the PL waiting to allow us to hear conversations between Stockley Park and the refs? I notice that Ch Exec Richard Masters has said that they’re ‘working towards’ releasing audio post match. Why post match? What have they got to hide? Do it now. It’s our game - not yours Richard. Nor is it Mike Riley’s.

I know why they won’t. It’s because Riley still wants to make all the big calls from his bunker. Refs visited a monitor more than 60 times last season and were told what decision to make to make as they approached it. Not once - not once - did a ref stand by his original decision. I’m pretty certain they’re waiting for Howard Webb to change things when he replaces Riley. To be honest - I’d have taken the comedian Rob Webb as long as someone replaced Riley. If I’m wrong Mike - prove it. But you know I’m not.

We haven’t got one VAR official at the WC this year. Proof that the rest of the world knows we don’t use it as it was intended. I hope Mike Dean can help make a difference - but will he? On retiring he called himself an ‘entertainer’ with a whistle. An entertainer? That’s not a refs job Mike. We don’t want to be entertained by the ref - we simply want him to get things right.

And I fail to see how Dean can’t be compromised by his new role as a ‘pundit’ for the Daily Mail. That’s utter madness. It shouldn’t be allowed. Dean argues that PL clubs have asked for more openness - and that he can provide it with his new column. No. He can’t. The Mail are paying him. It’s a conflict of interests. Of course we want openness - so let us listen to the conversations at the monitor - and make yourself available to everybody Mike - not just The Mail. I hope the other papers really kick off about it. 

And so we start our 30th PL season. I’ll have a few more words on that subject on Monday - but yes - Andy and I were both there - although you wouldn’t know it reading some of the previews. 

Final word. What don’t these people get? Of course girls should be allowed to play football at school. I didn’t realise that they still can’t. I was coaching 4/5/6 year olds at school when my daughter was at that age. It caused a bit of a stir back then - but I didn’t care. She wanted to play. So I organised games. I had no idea football for girls still wasn’t on the curriculum. Change that - and now. 

Lionesses - you’ve changed everything.

Published: Tuesday, 02 August 2022

‘Dream makers. Record breakers. Game changers’.  Not my words, but those of Robyn Cowen, who provided the commentary on a blockbuster Women’s Euros final Sunday evening. Brilliant. And perfect for the occasion.  

Commentators spend careers hoping for moments like that. Saturday night Robyn must’ve dreamt of delivering those words on the final whistle - and she must’ve loved it.  

It’s what I call the ‘Wolstenholme’ moment. No-one will ever better ‘there are some people on the pitch - they think it’s all over’ As Geoff Hurst thrashed his third - England’s fourth - into Germany’s net in the 1966 WC final, with perfect timing commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme added ‘it is now’. Genius. The best ever. 

A lot of things had to go his way. Those people needed to be on the pitch. Bobby Moore had to deliver an immaculate ball downfield to Hurst. And he had to score. Tick. Tick. And tick. 

Clive Tyldesley gave us ‘Manchester United will score. They always score’ in CL stoppage time 1999. Sheringham did. He went on to complete a majestical final few minutes. He was brilliant that night. 

Martin Tyler will simply have ‘Ageroooooooo’ on his grave stone. We’ll know who lies beneath it. 

Some commentators will have three different paragraphs written to cover three different results in a football match. You can tell who they are - but it’s the special moments - that you can’t rehearse - that are always remembered. 

I’ve got the feeling Robyn was ready - but she delivered the line with class, style and - like I’ve said - it was perfect. Trust me Robyn - it won’t ever get any better than that! 

There’s only ever one ‘first’. 

I was thrilled to bits for the Lionesses. Ian Wright best summed it up on Twitter when he made the point about how significant the win will prove to be - in all sorts of different ways. 

i was quiet on this subject during the tournament because of all the usual nonsense that surrounds anything I have to say. Tell me guys - how many of you both received and sent on the memes? Fun was it? There isn’t a guy who hasn’t or didn’t - yet they still come after me. Some were genuinely funny and may we always have the ability to laugh - and my goodness I’ve unintentionally provided a few down the years - but here’s the thing….we need to be careful how and when we do this. We never want to cause offence. If it’s offensive it’s wrong. 

Although my best intentions were genuine when I said - on air - ‘let’s wish Sian Massey all the best today. She’s from my manor. In fact - I may even have gone to school with her dad’ - no-one remembers that. What they do remember is the carefully edited phone recording that was lifted from our studio ahead of the Wolves v Liverpool game as the guys went through our pre-match routine. We always laughed. It eased the tension - especially for guests. 

It was Sian that introduced me to the word ‘banter’. She used it in the conversation I had with her on the Sunday when I called to apologise for what was said in the hack. But she shouldn’t have done. What she should have told me was ‘not funny Richard. It doesn’t help’. It was some time before I realised that. 

Ironically, I think the incident did help in many ways - but that was a lucky by-product. I think a lot of people look back on it now as a turning point in how seriously men were prepared to take women’s football. Most of us have realised things had to change. 

There was a time you could be sexist/racist - and a whole lot of other ‘ists’ without realising. And those who were would start a conversation with the words ‘I’m not a racist, but….’ You still hear it now. ‘I’m not sexist, but….’ 

There were so many other things happening around what sparked the now infamous incident on that weekend in Wolverhampton that I lost sight of the fact that it was all too easy to dismiss what had happened. No. That was wrong. 

Some time later I felt that I needed to put something other than just ‘me’ into the women’s game. I’d attended PoY dinners for years. I’d presented games - but I needed to do more. 

I took a call from a club called Coventry Sphinx - in my manor! The manager of the girls teams asked me if I’d sponsor the club - both the match day and training kits. He said ‘we’ll put your name on the front of the jerseys. That will shut a few people up’. Good intention, but wrong. I bought the kits for a few years - until they stopped asking - but I didn’t want my name on the shirts. We agreed that the local children’s hospice - Zoe’s Place - would have their name on the kit instead. I had one other stipulation - nobody needed to know. That way I felt like I was genuinely doing some good and I couldn’t be accused of buying good faith. It wasn’t much - but it was a little that made me feel a whole lot better. 

So despite all the repetitive nonsense - and the mindless inaccurate allegations about my stance on the women’s game - that’s why I was so pleased about the result Sunday. 

Off the field the event was fun. The men’s game isn’t much fun anymore. Families loved it. The men’s game doesn’t attract too many families. That‘s  why I think the Lionesses should keep a distance between themselves and the boys. It’s that point of difference that’s so marketable. 

Before the game - early Sunday afternoon I found myself playing football with a 5-year-old girl on the beach. She was good btw - too good for this old man. 😂. That’s another of the by-products that the past month has achieved. Let’s hope she grows up to make her mark in the game. 

The women’s game has changed dramatically down the years. A decade has made a massive difference. Imagine what 10 more years will do. 

And so our attention turns to the men’s game. 😂. I’ve no idea why I do it, but every year I make my predictions. I’m not going to do that here - but rest assured before a PL ball is kicked Friday I will have done. And the blog is back. Join me every Monday for my weekend thoughts. 

A disgrace - of UEFA’s making.

Published: Monday, 30 May 2022

‘It’s a miracle no-one died. A fucking miracle’. Not me. Not my words, but those of my mate Jason McAteer, who was witness to the shambles that shamed UEFA in Paris.A night that ended for the McAteer family with his wife being mugged for and his son getting beaten up by a gang of feral local youths.

I was 3500 miles away in Qatar - watching pictures on BeINSPORTS. My best source of ‘true’ info was from people on the ground, who were sending me text messages. There tweets as well - from well respected reporters. These people were watching a potential disaster unfold. Jason was amongst them.

I knew instinctively what was happening. I called it on-air. As UEFA’s mealy-mouthed excuses for it all were arriving by official channels, I knew it had nothing to do with late arrivals or forged tickets. It was an organisational issue. This one was down to UEFA. I didn’t have anything to go on - other than those texts and tweets - and instinct. Racing through my mind were the dreadful stories that I’d heard about Hillsborough. I’ve heard first-hand - not read or had stories told to me. And the 97 who died. As I’ve always said -  the Hillsborough ‘victims’ were those who survived to suffer the pain.

I’m thinking ‘here we go again’. And I also knew the first people to get blamed would be Liverpool fans. After what Margaret Thatcher’s govt. (and Bernard Ingham) had done to them, they were an easy and obvious target for neutrals.

McAteer had a birds eye view of it all in Paris. I’ll get round to the scandalous attack on his wife and son shortly.

McAteer was broadcasting for LfcTV outside the stadium - on a raised platform between the two security rings. I mention that it was ‘raised’ because he was close enough to hear appeals from people caught up in the crush. Close enough to feel as though he was in that crush.

The first security ring was to check for forgeries and stop the holders of those tickets from gaining access to the second perimeter. It’s standard practice - and works well if organised properly, but that requires enough staff to do the job. From what I’ve been told there simply weren’t enough staff on duty - stewards or Police.

Liverpool fans DID NOT turn up late. Nor were they drunk. That tired narrative was used by South Yorks Police and was later proven to be false. They were at that first perimeter ring in good time. McAteer saw them - in their thousands - as he went on air two hours before the scheduled kick-off.

His view is that there were too many fans for the authorities to control - so the authorities gave up. They closed the initial ring and allowed everyone to walk to the gates at the second ring. Noooooo. We’ve heard that story before as well. And inevitably the same thing happened.

McAteer was watching - there were too many people in one place, being tunnelled into smaller spaces. They were screaming at him to do something. But what could he do?  To be in that crush must’ve been frightening. I guarantee there wasn’t one Liverpool fan who wasn’t thinking about Hillsborough. Do you know - I’m getting angry as I write.

McAteer and his colleagues came off-air - largely because they couldn’t broadcast with those scenes unfolding behind them. As people tried to climb barriers to escape the crush - others climbed into the tv compound where it was safe. Cue the usual accusation - ‘Liverpool hooligans break into tv compound’. Of course they did. It was safer there. But out came the pepper spray and tear gas. What on earth were the French Police thinking? 

At BeIN we were getting news of a delayed kick-off and the inevitable reason given was ‘late Liverpool arrivals and forged ticket carriers’. Nonsense. I said so on the night. I knew a few of my colleagues were uneasy about my conclusions but I just knew it.

McAteer was whisked into the stadium with his colleagues through a tunnel for broadcasters. He was on the phone to his wife to make sure she and his eldest son Harry were ok. At this stage they were. They were shaken by what they’d seen and been on the fringes of, but they were ok.

‘Excuse’ No.1 was quickly withdrawn by UEFA. Our information now was that they weren’t now blaming late arrivals - and they’d re-opened gate ‘Y’ to allow people with genuine tickets into the arena. McAteer believes other gates may also have been opened but he can’t be sure. My question is ‘why were they ever closed?’ It really is a miracle no-body died. He’s right there.

Post-match it got worse for the McAteer family. And I’m certain they weren’t alone. Liverpool fans were left to run the gauntlet of marauding gangs, who were waiting for them outside the arena. Gone was any sign of the Police or stewards.

Lucy and Harry were making their way back to the official LFC ‘friends and family’ coaches when they bumped into the woman who’d organised the trip. She told them the arranged meeting place had changed because the coach for their party had been bricked, so it had been moved to a safer place.

At this point a gang of five burly feral youths emerged from the dark. They ripped Lucy’s blouse open and then off - leaving her standing in her bra. They pulled her screaming into the middle of them - inflicting some of the bruising pictured. This was no ‘alleged’ attack.

image 2image 2image 3image 4

Serious injuries inflicted on Lucy McAteer as she feared she was about to be raped.

Harry waded in. Lucy said she felt her arms being twisted and burned. I guess like an old fashioned Chinese burn that we’d inflict on each other as children.

Fortunately they eventually let Lucy go and ran off. Harry noticed her watch had gone and chased after them. Daft I know, but again - instinct takes over.

Because he was on his own he inevitably took a savage beating when he caught up with them and was only saved by a group of Madrid fans, who saw a lad in a Liverpool jersey taking a beating and stepped in to stop it.

McAteer was by now taking calls from his wife - who was naturally in bits. Then Harry called - totally lost. He had no idea where the coaches were. Fortunately he’d held onto his phone in the scuffle. He pinned his dad his location and the two met up.

Heading of the attack it reminded me so much of the gauntlet Liverpool fans had to run after their triumph in Rome in 1984 - the birthplace of Heysel in my view. I’m not excusing ‘85 but, in my opinion, Liverpool fans went prepared after what had happened 12 months earlier. The Heysel disaster wasn’t planned - and there are no excuses for it - but it festered after Rome and was a year in the making. Just my view - that’s all. 

The McAteer family drama wasn’t over yet in Paris. As they boarded an official coach - not theirs but the nearest one - it had been invaded by two ‘street lads’. They were quickly identified and kicked-off. How was this happening? Where are the Police? McAteer tells me there simply weren’t any.

The drama ended at 5.00 the following morning. He’d been advised to report the attack on his wife and son - and the theft of the watch - a substantial piece. Yea - with hindsight it’s obvious. Don’t wear it to the game. But if you’re with the official party you don’t expect the events that took place.

McAteer was sent to three Police stations. The first one was shut. He gave a statement at the second - and was then sent to a third. Why? Who knows? But as any Brit who has holidayed in France knows - it does. I know - but it does.🤷‍♂️

I’m pretty sure Jason’s story won’t be an isolated incident, that others will be heard in the coming days and weeks. I’m not suggesting for a minute that everybody in red was impeccably behaved in Paris. All football fans are a handful and Liverpool’s can be especially ‘creative’. No-one would deny that. But it’s both lazy and wrong to point the finger at the majority for what happened.

There were many more Liverpool fans in Paris than had tickets. A week earlier Rangers fans had swamped Seville. They travelled despite being asked not to. Their crime was the same. They wanted to see their team play - but they weren’t allowed to. Being close was the next best thing. Liverpool were allocated less than 20,000 tickets for a stadium that held 82,000. Rangers got 9500 of 43,000 available. This is nonsense.

In Paris they had a fan park catering for 50,000. Seriously! There’s your clue UEFA. Ticket allocations for finalists are scandalously small. This has got to change. And so has the pricing strategy, which means proper fans can’t afford to buy them. The game dies without supporters. Covid taught us that surely? It’s my greatest fear for the WC In Qatar - that not enough real fans will be there.

Liverpool FC are right. There must be an independent review of what happened in Paris. Anything less will result in the decades long cover-up initiated by the Thatcher govt over Hillsborough. The last thing UEFA will want is to be found culpable. Its too easy - and wrong in my view - to point the finger at Liverpool supporters.

I’m encouraged reading the big hitters in today’s U.K. press - who all appear to have drawn the same conclusions as me. This one was down to UEFA and the French. And it must never happen again. But how many times have we said that?

I can’t end without congratulating Forest. Steve Cooper’s team will be a welcome addition to the PL. What a job Cooper has done at The City Ground. Cloughie would be proud.

Well done City - but boy that was close.

Published: Monday, 23 May 2022

What a day. I don’t think we’ve seen anything like it. I’m not just talking about the title - but the race for 4th/6th and relegation. Eight of the 10 final day games had something riding on them and we showed all 10 on beINSPORTS - including unique split screen coverage as the drama unfolded at City and Liverpool. It was quite something.

It was also the 28th season that Andy and I had seen to a conclusion. We had an enforced two year absence of course - but I wouldn’t have missed that time at TalkSPORT for the world.

Congrats to City. The table doesn’t lie - unless VAR f***s up and doesn’t award Everton a pen that Mike Riley later issued an official apology for getting wrong! If Everton score - City come up two points short.

But we shouldn’t concentrate on that. It would’ve been a travesty if City had finished without a trophy. At times their football has been mesmeric. De Bruyne has been sensational week after week. So I’m glad they won it - but my goodness - Guardiola did his best to ‘overthink’ it again.

He started with the wrong team. What on earth was going through his mind when he named Fernandinho at centre-back and Stones at right-back? Fernandinho was responsible for Villa’s first goal - going far too deep because he was concerned about his lack of pace. He could also have gone for his foul on Watkins. I promise you - at the other end Mings goes for a challenge like that on Jesus.

Guardiola changed it at half time - bringing Zinchenko on - sending Cancelo to right back and restoring Stones on the middle. Was he brave to change it - or badly wrong to start as he did?

Putting Gundogan wasn’t ‘one of the great PL substitutions’. By the 70th minute Guardiola was desperate and had to throw everything at it. He didn’t have a choice. But it worked and it gave us some wonderful drama.

In 24 previous PL seasons Liverpool’s total would’ve been enough to win it. That gives you some idea of how good City have had to be. But - I guarantee you they’d swap places with Liverpool if they could. The one they want - they really really want - is the CL.

Domestic success for City (spend £1b under Guardiola) Bayern, Real or Barca, and until this season Juve, is taken as a given. It’s no longer enough. The real success for all the big teams is in Europe. That’s what a coach is ultimately judged on. Bayern have won 10 successive domestic titles, but as Nagelsmann found out this season - that’s not enough. That’s expected.

City will have to wait another year and maybe Haaland will be the difference, although it does concern me that Guardiola is already saying that he’ll need time to settle. Why? He was born in England. He speaks perfect English. He knows the culture. He’ll be surrounded by good players. It didn’t take Luis Diaz any time at all to settle at Anfield. 🤷‍♂️

I guess Guardiola is readying us just in case - with Jack Grealish no doubt on his mind. If I were Grealish I wouldn’t be making a fool of myself leading City’s celebrations. I’d have a glass or two and then start asking myself why I contributed so little so far.

Grealish doesn’t get into City’s best team. He didn’t get on the pitch Sunday. He started only 22 PL games this season - scoring three goals and making three assists. The goals came against Norwich, Leeds in a 7-0 thrashing and West Ham. For £100m it’s not very good is it? At any other club serious questions would’ve been asked by now of the coach - the money spent - and the player.

What a job Conte did at Spurs. Daniel Levy doesn’t get it right all the time (often!) but he got this one spot on. I hope Conte stays - but he doesn’t seem too sure. Perhaps it’s another stand-off in order to get what he wants again? The problem is Spurs have little or nothing to spend. It’s all going on the stadium.  

I can’t pretend I wasn’t gutted for David Moyes. He knows his team threw away a Europe League place at Brighton. Watching the final this past week must’ve hurt everyone at West Ham, because they know they should’ve been in it. I thought it might be a motivator for them, but sadly the opposite was true.

What unwanted stat did United achieve on the last day? They were the only team, along with Norwich, not to score. Ten Haag’s face at Palace told me he didn’t realise how bad it actually is.

I was pleased Leeds made it. It was too soon to lose them again. I’m certain they’d have gone had Bielsa been left in charge so the change was both smart and needed. Bielsa had run that squad ragged. They were shot.

I’m looking forward to finding out a lot more about Jesse Marsch. Now we’ll get to see what he’s really made of. Is he Ted Lasso or is he about to blaze a trail for other American coaches?

I got two of the bottom three correct in my pre-season predictions - but it wasn’t hard. Norwich and Watford were relegated before a ball was kicked. Unless either comeback with more ambition than just making up the numbers I hope we don’t see them back any time soon. It’s someone else’s turn.

Burnley are the architects of their own downfall. Sean Dyche called it. They didn’t invest last summer and now they’ve paid the heaviest price of all. With the takeover terms as they are Burnley are in big trouble. I can’t see Vinny Kompany wanting it now.

In conclusion - it’s been fun again. Our guys at beIN were sensational Sunday. I was proud of them - and proud also to have fronted another ground breaking programme. To our many many millions of viewers in MENA thanks for watching us. Andy and I will see you next Saturday for the CL final - and then it’s WC season when we’re back in August. That’s what we all came for. We can touch it now. It’s going to be a blast. I can’t wait. 

Give it a go Emma.

Published: Monday, 16 May 2022

So we’re in the final week and we still don’t know where the title is going - nor who’s going down with Norwich (good) and Watford (good).

West Ham were terrific against City - posing a whole set of problems that Guardiola’s team don’t like. They didn’t stand off. They weren’t scared. They competed from the first whistle - got in their faces and put the ball exactly where City didn’t want to see it - over the top of their high line and into danger areas. Brilliant. It’s not rocket science. It’s really simple, but you’ve got to have the courage to do it. West Ham were roared on by that fantastic crowd, in an arena it looks as though they come to enjoy. Well done Moysey. There’s life in the dinosaurs yet!

What a job Moyes has done at West Ham. How the Hammers must now regret the ‘Pellegrini years’. There must be a reason Moyes was fired to make way for Pellegrini - who went on to spend all that money. I can’t for a minute think what it might have been.  

Still - they had the courage to invite Moyes back when the money had all gone (somewhere) and they were still on their arses. Moyes has reminded everybody what a good coach he is. His buying has been fantastic. Bowen was a steal. And I’ve said all of this before so I’m not some kind of Johnny come lately.  As for the stadium - winning is the biggest reason their fans are comfortable in it. Winning solves an awful lot of problems.

But fair play to City, who were a different proposition second-half. For players like the majestic de Bruyne I hope they go on and win the title. It would be a travesty if they ended the season with nothing. Liverpool have still got a CL final to win!

Just one thing - what didn’t Antony a Taylor see when Dawson brought Jesus down? Jesus - he was looking at it - but it was left to VAR to make the call.

Because he’s from Greater Manchester was he thinking ‘I can’t give this’. Maybe. Probably not. But it was another appointment by the PGMOL that had huge risk attached. I don’t know why they do it. Well - I do. We all do. Because arrogance emanates from the top in that organisation.

What didn’t Michael Oliver see when Richarlison almost had his shirt ripped off his back before Brentford broke and Branthwaite ended up getting himself sent off? That was a pen. Lampard was right. But it wasn’t given because VAR didn’t believe it was. How long am I going to have to make this point before someone else joins in and we can change the protocol? VAR now referees games - not the match official. Why wasn’t Oliver invited to have a look himself and make up his own mind? Again - I’ll tell you why - because VAR plainly thought he hadn’t made a ‘clear and obvious’ error. It’s the wrong way round. VAR should be assisting - and letting the ref make the final decision, but it isn’t. It’s making all the big calls. It’s wrong.

The pen at Spurs is another example. I’m sorry - that’s not a pen. As Mike Jackson rightly pointed out - you can’t take an incident like that in isolation. Football will never be ‘black and white’. There are grey areas. There always will be grey areas - despite the insistence of some that technology can change that. No it can’t. It never will. Have we stopped arguing about decisions since VAR was adopted? No. We spend more time discussing decisions these days.

Barnes was nudged before he re-balanced and his arm came out as a result. Kevin Friend was looking at it. Like Taylor at West Ham - his view was clean. He must’ve taken penalty box buffeting into account - but was told by VAR to give it. Yes - in isolation the ball brushes Barnes’ arm - but decisions should never be made from freeze frames. Friend was obviously happy with his decision. He could ‘feel’ the game - but he was then told to alter it. I repeat what I’ve said all season - we have a right to hear this conversations at the monitors.

That call at Spurs was cruel on Burnley - who deserved better. Livelihoods are at stake when these decisions are made.

Oh. Anyone at Old Trafford yet realised that they dropped an almighty bollock by not appointing Conte?

Back to Goodison,  where my guess is Michael Oliver felt he owed Everton a pen when he pointed to the spot on half time. That was never a pen. Richarlison conned him going to the ground screaming. Oliver couldn’t have seen the offence - so he guessed. If he’d been invited to look at the view we all had - from behind the goal - he’d have changed his mind. But he wasn’t asked to check his decision. Surely that’s what the technology is for - to assist?

I really enjoyed the Cup Final - largely because VAR was like Victorian children - seen but not heard. We didn’t have an intervention and the game was better for it. Well done Liverpool - that’s two Cup final wins now - without scoring a goal. 🤷‍♂️😂

Whatever happens at Leeds is not Jesse Marsh’s fault. If Bielsa had been left in charge Leeds would’ve been relegated weeks ago. Bielsa left a team brutalised by his regime - absolutely shot - running on empty.

Marsh has done brilliantly to have Leeds in with a chance of survival. I’d save all three clubs if I had my way. It’s going to be tough losing one this week.

I get the frustration at Watford - but don’t blame Roy Hodgson. Blame the owner. Good luck to Rob Edwards - whose appointment should’ve been handled a lot better.

Jamie Vardy again underlined what Leicester have been missing. He had a much better day than his wife has had in the High Court since the Wagatha Christie trial started. What on earth is that all about? Who on earth has been advising Mrs Vardy? She mis-understood one of my tweets once and couldn’t resist having a pop. Whoever wins - my guess is she’ll be a lot quieter on social media going forward.

And congrats to Emma Hayes and her Chelsea team, who completed a domestic double Sunday. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Hayes. I’d like to think that she’ll be tempted to turn trail-blazer and take a job in the men’s game next. She should. What else can she achieve where she is? Give it a go Emma.

Man City meltdown that ended in the playground.

Published: Monday, 09 May 2022

Anyone that didn’t know how badly Guardiola took last week’s CL defeat only had to watch his post match interview Sunday. What on earth was that all about?

Look. I get it. I’ve seen enough of them. Post-match managers can be a little irritable and occasionally one daft question (or to be more accurate its usually a series of statements) too many sends them over the edge.

Klopp let himself down Saturday when he had a dig at how Spurs had set up. In fairness he recovered it a little when he admitted coaches have every right to make life as difficult as they can for the opposition - but he couldn’t ever send a team out like that.

That’s fine. But it isn’t the job of the opposition to set up so that Liverpool and City can play through them and score five or six. It’s why Guardiola loves Potter/Howe/Arteta and co. All the coaches that make life easy for his teams.

Anyway - back to the original point. I understand that frustration and disappointment can overwhelm a coach post-match. It’s a fractious time if things haven’t gone well. Klopp was disappointed and probably found himself saying something he didn’t really want to. That’s why he rowed back.

But listening to Guardiola took me back to the playground. ‘Miss - he doesn’t like me. Tell him. It’s not fair’. My goodness. Really? What? The Press don’t like City? And the country loves Liverpool? Come on. I can’t remember a time when Liverpool have ever been the neutrals darlings.

To suggest that the Press don’t want City to win trophies is laughable. No coach in the history of English football has ever been feted by a grovelling English Press the way Guardiola has. There have been times since he joined City that I’ve nearly been convinced that Guardiola invented football. It’s all ‘Pep this or Pep that’. Klopp is the one that has got a right to complain about bias if he wanted to go that route.

It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. It had obviously been simmering for days since City’s latest meltdown. He knew what was likely to follow their defeat in Madrid. He doesn’t like criticism. He doesn’t like inquisitors having the temerity to question him about football. His sarcasm if he hears something he doesn’t like is also childish.

The bottom line is he’s come up short again. He knows it. It seems he can’t win it - despite the billions. One job in Munich - failed. But the coach working either side of his tenure did win it. One job in Manchester - failed.

Tuchel won it in six months with somebody else’s team. Di Matteo also.

I’ve heard the jibe ‘ah, but look how long it took Fergie’. Yea. But let’s not forget that he had to pick United up from the floor - create a scouting system, a training facility, a stadium - the lot.

Guardiola walked into all that. Done. And then spent a billion. They even changed the laws of the game to suit him so that he could stand players in the box at goal kicks. What more do you need?

Both myself and Andy have always believed that not having a centre forward would eventually bite him. It did. As Andy said on BeINSPORTS - if he’d had Harry Kane at the club he’d have won the first leg by four or five. Kane wouldn’t have missed all those chances. The tie would’ve been beyond Madrid.

But more crucially perhaps - he hasn’t got any warriors. He’s got lovely footballers. Beautifully gifted footballers. They are capable of weaving mystical patterns - but which of them can ‘dig’ a result out?

We haven’t seen the pictures because the host broadcaster was concentrating on replays of the first Madrid goal - but how in earth can you concede a second 50 seconds after the first - and you’re in possession with a re-start? It was scandalous how City capitulated. You’ve got the ball ffs. Keep it. Put it in row Z. Whatever else - don’t give it back to the opposition. Two in 50 seconds? You’d think it impossible.

But even then you’ve got £500m worth of talent on the pitch for another 30 minutes. They didn’t raise so much as a whimper.

It was Guardiola’s fault. He’d have taken the credit - so he has to accept the blame. It wasn’t anything to do with the Press wanting Liverpool to win it - or the rest of the country. Never mind - this time next year Rodney.

Here’s one to keep an eye on. What I’m about to say will be met with the usual rebuttals - big how many times have we been proved right in this blog?

I keep hearing Chelsea want to go again - and build an English spine through their team. The new owners will want to make a statement and this might just be it.

They need a centre-back. Harry Maguire? What would he cost? £40/50 million? I’m pretty sure he’d jump at the chance of a new start.

The obvious one in mid-field would be Rice. Kante has all but run himself to a stand still. Rice would be a perfect replacement. Would West Ham sell? Of course they will if the money is right. I’d give you £150m for him all day long. If Rice pushes hard it might not take that much.

So who do they go for up front? Tuchel wants rid of Lukaku - that’s pretty obvious. But to where? Who’s got the most out of him during his career? Correct - the guy at Tottenham. So if Conti can be persuaded to stay - and he fancied working with Lukaku again - what could Spurs do to get him? They wouldn’t want to pay anything like Chelsea did for him. So - what about a player exchange? Two players worth £50m a-piece?

An English spine at Chelsea I said. So Son or Kulusevski wouldn’t interest them at The Bridge. That leaves one option. Yep. England’s No 9. Let’s see. A modern transfer is difficult enough - but three of that size in one summer would be incredible. I keep hearing it though - which is why I’ve shared it with you.

What a hit Mollie - what a hit.

Published: Monday, 02 May 2022

There’s been some great escapes conjured up by Coventry down the years - but nothing - nothing like Coventry United’s.

Remember David Beckham’s iconic fk v Greece at Old Trafford? You probably haven’t heard of Mollie Green - but check out her goal for Coventry United at Watford. It was every bit as good as Beckham’s. Every bit as dramatic.

Here are the circumstances. She’s over the ball 35 yards from goal. The game is in the 7th minute of stoppage time. If she scores, Coventry stay in the Women’s Championship - and relegate their opponents. Hit the pause button on that.

Coventry’s season has been full of drama anyway. In January the club were eight minutes from being liquidated. Two days before Christmas everyone was told that they’d be losing their jobs and they there was no money to pay for the work they’d done in December.

The situation couldn’t been any bleaker. But then along came Lewis Taylor, chief executive of a Midlands-based energy company - Energy Angels. Talk about heaven-sent timing. He mounted a take-over bid.

Oh. Did I mention that the club were also docked ten points for going into administration? That left them on minus-four - 10 behind Watford.

Back to Watford, where Green is standing five/six paces behind the ball in the knowledge that her kick is likely to be the last time anyone on the pitch touches the ball. Just like Beckham at OT. But she didn’t bend it like Beckham - she crashed it into the top left hand corner - keepers right. To borrow a phrase from my mate - ‘what a hit Mollie. What a hit’. 😂😂. Check it out. It’s a stunning strike.

Brilliant. What a story. Very much in keeping with the traditions of my home City. Nobody in Coventry ever knows when they’re beaten.

I’m proud of the boys as well. Ok, so Mark Robins’ Super Sky Blues came up short - but what an effort. It’s been a great season. I’ll say again - Robins is one of the brightest and best coaches outside the PL. He’s done an extra-ordinary job cleaning up a wasted decade inflicted by SISU. He’s also correct to point out that just because we went so well this season there are no guarantees about the next. I believe there is hope now that we might make it back to the big time - something I never thought I’d see happen when we crashed into League Two. But we’ve got to keep hold of Robins. I hope he has ambition to complete the fairy-tale.

While we’re on the subject of comparisons - what about Jordan Pickford’s stop v Chelsea? For those of us old enough to remember - Gordon Banks v Pele at the 1970 Mexico WC? I can still hear the legendary David Coleman scream ‘Pele…..’ as the most famous player of all-time rose to head Jairzinho’s cross into the bottom corner. It was all the more dramatic because these were the days when overseas commentary sounded like it was being delivered into a tin can down a piece of string - and back to base. Wonderful. You always knew something special was happening when the commentary accompanying a match was like that.

Anyway - I’m sure you’ve seen it? Pele believes he’s scored. ‘No….’ as Coleman would say. ‘What a save….’ Somehow Banks had got back across his goal and clawed the ball away for a corner.  Legend has it that Bobby Moore, England’s skipper, told Banks he should’ve held it! 😂.

For me - Pickford’s save from Azpilicuta was every bit as good. As Coleman would’ve said ‘what a save…’. It looked impossible at first - but somehow - having missed the first shot - Pickford got back to his second post and blocked the follow-up. He didn’t just save vital points on the day - he might just have saved Everton’s season.

Regulars will know he’s not my favourite. He frightens me to death. He always looks a bag of nerves, but he worked that mania to his and Everton’s benefit on Sunday. Well played. Fantastic stop - and three massive points.

I hope the FA see sense and simply warn Richarlison about his future behaviour. I said on beINSPORTS that I thought he was a lucky boy. He should really have been sent-off for throwing that flare back into the crowd. It’s deemed a ‘violent act’ - but I don’t believe it was. It was a stupid act for sure and he should be warned. I know ignorance is no defence but he wouldn’t have been aware of the laws covering things like that. What he certainly wasn’t doing was ‘throwing the flare out of the stadium’ as Everton have claimed. Perhaps he was thinking about buying a tractor like our Tory friend Neil Parish? That’s right up their with his excuse!

It would be unfair if the FA enforce a 3-game ban and he missed crucial games now.

Norwich have gone then? Good. That’s six times now - and four straight after a PL season. They are the best argument I can think of for getting rid of parachute payments. I hope Watford go as well and that neither makes it back. It’s someone else’s turn.

David Moyes was correct. It was handball by Holding in the build-up to Arsenal’s winner. And it was a mistake to book Bowen. What was he supposed to do when he saw Ramsdale flying at him? If Ramsdale catches him with what was a ‘reckless’ challenge - he halves him in two.

Ok. Ramsdale didn’t connect with either Bowen or the ball - but he intended to. I know ‘intent’ has been taken out of the game - but Ramsdale was the guilty party here. If Bowen doesn’t take what they call ‘evasive action’ he gets badly injured. I can’t believe Mike Dean didn’t realise that.

That’s probably why he hasn’t got one of the ‘jobs for the boys’ that Mike Riley has been handing out recently.

The job that the former Shrewsbury and Tranmere manager, Michael Jackson is doing at Burnley got me thinking. Who are the real ‘super coaches’? Are they the guys at the top who can spend a billion or two chasing success - or are the real heroes people like Jackson, who keep it simple and produce miracles on diddly squat? All of a sudden Burnley fans are in for a ‘thriller’ between now and the end of the season. Good luck to them. I haven’t forgiven Mike Pace for turfing Dyche out - but it might be that he was right! Good luck to Jackson and the boys.

Everton’s mess is their own - not helped by bad calls. And good luck Erik ten Months.

Published: Monday, 25 April 2022

Let’s get this clear. Everton’s mess is 99% of their own making. This proud club are staring into the abyss because the owners have made one bad decision after another. No-one has ever been able to explain to me why Alisher Usmanov and Farhad Moshiri bought the club in the first place. There must a reason - but I’ve no idea what it is. Well - no idea that I could expand on here.

Anyway. It is what it is. Right now they’re my favourites to join Norwich and Watford in the Championship. And that’s sad. I hate saying it.

But - what if they go by just a point? A single point - one that could’ve been taken from the game v Man City? Even Mike Riley had to apologise for the calamitous error his staff made in that game when they failed to award Everton a pen. Of course - an award means nothing unless you score and there are no guarantees about that - but the odds are generally in favour of the taker. Score - and it finishes 1-1. A big big point should've been Everton‘s - and Liverpool would be top of course - because City would be two points short on their current total. Also worth considering eh? And to think - when they crow-barred VAR into our game they told us that ‘never again would mistakes be made that might see clubs relegated. Or denied prizes rightfully earned’. Really? What if Liverpool come up one point short again?

The reason I’m mentioning this is because Everton were also denied a stone-wall pen at Anfield. Not the one first half - which would’ve been a pen had Gordon not gone into a swallow dive. There was a stray leg offered - he had every right to go over it - but he made it all too dramatic.

No. I’m talking about the one at the Anfield Road end. Again - let’s be clear - Liverpool deserved their win. They were the better team. Klopp made smart changes - but how different might it have been had Everton scored first? We’ll never know - but it was a pen and Frank Lampard had every right to be disappointed.

On beINSPORTS Andy didn’t blame Stuart Attwell. He made the very reasonable point that Attwell didn’t have the luxury of the angles that we saw and with the first-half incident in his mind - he guessed.

Why is he guessing? He shouldn’t have to. We were told VAR would operate as an ‘assistant’ to the ref - not as his boss - which is what’s happening now.

All season I’ve argued that it’s wrong for the big calls to be made in the VAR bunker. I’ve revealed that Mike Riley has told his staff that he wants VAR to have the final say. Wrong Wrong. Wrong. This policy is flawed.

The match day ref should have the final say on big decisions.  VAR should be offering help. What Darren England should’ve done (VAR operator Sunday) is told Attwell that he might want to see other angles of it. If he had done - Attwell gives it. He’s got to.

But Riley is obsessed with the bunker making the calls. England obviously didn’t feel strong enough to ask Attwell to look again, so justice wasn’t done. VAR failed again. It didn’t ‘assist’.

England was only going to tell Attwell to look at it if he himself was certain it was a pen. Refs only go to monitors when they’ve been told to change their minds on a call. Anyone yet seen a ref this season stay with his original decision? No. Nor me. It doesn’t happen.

You don’t have to believe me that it was a pen. PGMOL liaison were furious that I revealed what they told us about it. Their view was that had it been given they wouldn’t have argued.

I still don’t know why they got so upset. What have they got to hide? We need more transparency. Fans have a right to know these things. We should be able to hear every conversation at the monitor. Why are the PGMOL allowed to operate as a boys club keeping thoughts and decisions to themselves? It’s our game as well. We want to know why decisions are made. If there’s nothing to hide - let us listen. If not - I can only conclude that there must be something they don’t want us to hear. Why?

So now we know. Football’s worst kept secret is out. Erik ten Months is confirmed in the most uncomfortable hot-seat of all.

I genuinely wish him well. I hope he gets beyond the 10 months or so that United coaches are generally given - a pattern set after the sacking of David Moyes.

Ten Months might turn out to be a stroke of genius by football director John Murtough and Darren Fletcher - but I have to wonder - what was the rush to appoint him? Not one of the other big clubs in Europe was chasing him. Not one. So why did United dive in headlong now?

As I write Poch looks as though he’ll be on the market. I still don’t believe Conti is in for the long haul at Spurs. There are so many other options. But it’s done. Ten Months has got his work cut out and I fear he’ll go the same way as the others.

I read this at the weekend - from Willem Janssen. I know. Who? He plays for Utrecht. He once played for VVV-Venlo, Roda JC and Twente. ‘Erik certainly made me a better player’. He said in an article in The Guardian.

He went on ‘his first sessions at Utrecht took some getting used to. He immediately demanded an extra training pitch, which the youth department was not thrilled with. All kinds of extra lines were applied on the pitch. In fact, the entire pitch was divided into sections. Everyone thought: "What are we going to do now?" But this way Erik could make clear exactly where you should be in which situation. He constantly stopped the game, which was annoying at the beginning. You were enjoying the game and then the whistle was blown again and Erik would say you were positioned wrong. But he also explained why you had to stand elsewhere’.

Good luck with that at Carrington Erik. ‘Er - Ronnie. You’re standing in the wrong position. You too Bruno. And you Marcus’. I think not. As I said last week - big players at big clubs are different. They need handling differently. They’re not impressed by white boards and crayons.