Archive for the ‘Birmingham City’ Category

Loan signings are cheating.  I mean how can Emmanuel Adebayor transform Tottenham Hotspur’s season and perhaps in the long run cost his parent club Manchester City the Premier League title?

For all of the praise the Premier League receives for being the best league in the world, it is fundamentally flawed in that it allows loan deals internally within the same league.

Jamie O’Hara last season joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan from Spurs and was a major influence in keeping Wolves in the Premier League. When the tenacious centre midfielder joined Mick McCarthy’s side were languishing in 19th position and eventually avoided relegation by one place and one point. Although you can’t say single handedly that the Englishman pulled Wolves from the brink but you could definitely argue that would have David Edwards and Karl Henry impacted as much in the middle of the park as O’Hara did?

Birmingham City were the team to take the unwanted final place back in the Championship but not because Wolves squad was better than theirs it was because Tottenham Hotspur’s reserves were. How can Spurs influence both ends of the table?

If you can’t loan out players between one Premiership team and another, then league’s such as the Championship are the next best option. The benefits of sending the likes of Adebayor, Jamie O’Hara and Yossi Benayoun out on loan to the lower leagues of English football are huge. Players of clubs such as Cardiff, Bristol City and Watford would learn and gain so much from having players who have Champions League, Premier League and World Cup experience within their team.

At a time where the gulf between Premier League and the Championship is currently criticised as being too big of a step up, surely an influx of experienced international footballer’s within the lesser ranks of English football will help bridge that ever increasing gap?

If we ban in the Premier League surely you’d have to prevent loan deals to teams with the same tournaments too? Adebayor couldn’t join Real Madrid, Quaresma couldn’t join Chelsea and Tevez couldn’t join AC Milan on loan (If the rumours are true). However we would expect Andy Carroll to score for Liverpool before we see a swift decision made by the footballing bodies.

The conflict of interests between loan deals is massive and yet in an era that has seen Serie A basically closed down due to match fixing, the most obvious form of ‘influencing’ games is a legitimate rule within football.

Overall if the rules were to change and internal loans were banned, the team that would benefit the most is Sunderland…as they’d get to send Nicklas Bendtner back.

Aston Villa’s attempts to find a new manager after Gerard Houiller’s resignation have been about as successful as Titus Bramble attempts’ to be a consistent defender. The media circus has speculated the likes of Mark Hughes and Rafael Benitez were in the running for the Villa Park hot seat, however in recent days Alex McLeish has become favourite with the bookies after his surprising resignation from Birmingham. Is McLeish the right man to get Villa dreaming of European nights again though?

I will start with the ‘elephant in the room’. McLeish has managed arch rivals Birmingham City for four years, and as a football fan, I would be livid if my team hired a former manager of a local rival no matter how successful. It was reported Steve McClaren wasn’t interviewed for the current post due to a fan backlash so the Villa board cancelled their meeting with the former Wolfsburg boss, this was all due to McClaren’s unsuccessful spell with England but since then he has proven himself to be a successful manager, well more successful than McLeish so surely a fan backlash will be even greater if the former Birmingham man is appointed?

McLeish did lead Birmingham to Carling Cup success this season, which in turn brings European football to St Andrew’s next season, but his side appeared to suffer from a Cup Final hangover and went on a terrible run of results which culminated in their relegation. McLeish has taken Birmingham down twice now (admittedly the first time he was only in charge for six months) but the point is Villa had an out of character relegation threatened season under Houiller this season, and will be looking to finish in the top six again next year, so appointing a man whose only taste of Premier League football is relegation is hardly the correct move.

Martin O’Neill’s time at Villa Park had the Villa faithful dreaming of Champions League football. O’Neill was a manager who always pushed the boundaries, wanted Villa to achieve more and more and it is no coincedence since the former Leicester City boss has left Aston Villa they’re in a decline. Randy Lerner should look to appoint a young visionary of a manager, who can reshape the club from top to bottom and McLeish is most certainly not that man. Despite all his success in Scotland, McLeish has earnt a reputation as a stern and strict manager, and as the saying goes ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’.

This season will be remembered for the emergence of Jack Wilshere, Gareth Bale and Javier Hernandez and quite rightly so, all three players were in inspired form the whole season and became pivotal to their respective teams achievements. However you can be forgiven for thinking these three players were the only three to play well last season, such was the media frenzy surrounding them. There were several players who finally proved their worth after a couple of poor seasons or finally lived up to their price tag or billing.

Here are my Top TEN most improved players

Rafael (Manchester United)

When Gary Neville announced his retirement there wasn’t a worrying look on United fans’ faces like there is now after Paul Scholes announced his retirement, and that is all due to the improved performances of Rafael. The Brazilian was always renowned for his energetic runs up and down the right hand side flank but his defending left a lot to be desired, but this season saw Rafael become a stronger tackler of the ball and just an all round more composed defender.

Joey Barton (Newcastle United)

Love him or hate him, there is no denying that the former Manchester City player has been instrumental in Newcastle’s successful first season back in the Premier League. The Englishman’s range of passing has been his one stand out improvement, with Barton displaying the ability to find that defence splitting pass either from the centre of midfield or on the right flank.

Ben Foster (Birmingham City)

We all (quite rightly) wrote Foster off after Paul Robinson’s goal kick goal against him in 2007, but the former Manchester United keeper has come back fighting. Foster has been named man of the match on several occasions this season, most notably the Carling Cup final, where he made several world class saves to help Birmingham win the trophy. With the burden of being Edwin Van Der Sar’s under study off his back, the Englishman looks to finally be the goalkeeper we were all promised back in 2005.

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Leighton Baines (Everton)

How Fabio Capello must be regretting the decision to take Stephen Warnock instead of Baines to South Africa last summer, after the Englishman’s inspired season for Everton. The former Wigan defended strongly and looked composed on the ball, however it is his attacking exploits that have caught the eye of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City with the Englishman helping his team’s cause with 11 assists this season.

Samir Nasri (Arsenal)

Major transfer activity is expected at the Emirates this summer but maintaining Nasri’s services should be Wenger’s priority after the season the Frenchman has just had. Outshining captain Cesc Fabregas and making Arsenal fans realise there is life after the Spaniard, Nasri’s goals’, trickery and all round work ethic have made him a joy to behold this season, a different player from the previous two rather mundane and uneventful campaigns.

Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United)

Two years of criticism, abuse and ridcule from the Red Devils faithful, the former Spurs front man has come up with the ‘goods’ without really altering his playing style. Leading the Premier League goal scoring charts for the majority of the season is no easy feat, especially when you rarely start games, but the Bulgarian managed it and despite this is still rumoured to be on the move (how’s that for gratitude).

Johan Elmander (Bolton Wanderers)

The £8.2 million spent by Bolton to acquire the Swede’s services looked better served being spent on Michael Ricketts after a rather bleak start to Elmander’s career. However the beginning of this season saw the former Toulouse striker in free scoring form, including a contender for goal of the season. The goals dried up in the second half of the season but Elmander’s influence continued with his fantastic work rate, as well as forming a successful understanding with striking partners Kevin Davies and Daniel Sturridge.

Matthew Etherington (Stoke City)

The former West Ham United player looked a broken man after admitting to a gambling addiction but Tony Pulis showed faith in the winger and is reaping the rewards this season. Etherington’s crosses were almost as valuable as Rory Delap’s throw ins, with his continual supply of pin point crosses to Stoke’s several aerial threats.

Lucas Leiva (Liverpool)

Funny old game football, the Brazilian was deemed useless and a laughing stock at the end of the 2010 season but 38 Premier League games later Lucas is now the midfield lynchpin. With Steven Gerrard out for a fair bit of the season, someone needed to step into the middle and fill the hole the Englishman left and Lucas duly obliged. With consistent and hard working performances throughout this campaign the former Gremio player has shown former manager Rafael Benitez why he was wrong to play him out of position for a large portion of his tenure.

Stewart Downing (Aston Villa)

The former Middlesbrough player looked to be drowning under the expectations that fans’ and pundits’ alike had for him after a poor debut season. However this season the England international has turned his game around, contributing the level of assists’ and goals’ an attacking winger should, as well as forming a fantastic partnership with fellow Englishmen Ashley Young and Darren Bent in the process.

The Premier League is arguably the greatest the league in the world of football, attracting the world’s biggest footballing names, usually producing four teams in the latter stages of the Champions League and showcasing some of the best free flowing attacking football. Like all beautiful things, there is usually a flip side, and this Premier League season, in amongst unbeaten runs and unbelievable ‘tekkers’ there has been sending off’s, dodgy decisions and the odd unnoticed elbow.

Weak FA– This season more than most, has been surrounded in off the ball incidents, goals that should have been and goals that shouldn’t have been, but the main disappointment for me, a lover of the beautiful game, has been the FA’s inconsistency and lack of punishment in dealing with incidents. Wayne Rooney’s WWE style elbow on James McCarthy, whether or not Mark Clattenberg saw the incident or reported the incident, is all irrelevant; an obvious and callous attack on a fellow professional should’ve been punished. Also this season has seen the emergence of Twitter being used by footballers, it is a fantastic way for fans to feel closer to their ‘heroes’. However this season has seen a footballers, regularly being reprimanded for things they have said on Twitter. Ryan Babel, Danny Gabbidon and Carlton Cole are just some of the players who have been fined and warned by the FA this season but there have also been cases this season where the FA haven’t punished footballers for outspoken comments on the website. Jack Wilshere avoided being reprimanded for these comments “Inconsistent refereeing needs to stop, its killing the game.” How will the FA’s respect for referees campaign ever be a success if such things go unpunished?

The standard has dropped– The Premier League is always classed as the greatest league on earth and don;t get me wrong, that is still the case after this season. However many are praising the improvement of the teams outside the top four for taking more points off the ‘big boys’. Being the cynic I am, I just can’t help but think this is because the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea have just dropped in standard. After making a blistering start to the season, Chelsea struggled to eventually claim second, Arsenal failed to hold on to a 4-0 lead at Newcastle, Manchester United drew 11 games and Liverpool still didn’t reclaim their Champions League status. Not exactly attributes of football’s elite.

The Title race didn’t go to the last day– It seemed at one point that neither Arsenal, Manchester United or Chelsea wanted to the win the Premiership. All the teams dropped points in the title run in and it looked all set up for a final day rollercoaster. Sadly for us fans of the beautiful game, Arsenal collapsed, Chelsea left it too late and Manchester United did what they do best and claimed their nineteenth league title in the penultimate fixture.

Premiership fixtures on day of FA Cup– This season has well and truly killed off the FA Cup, the cup that represents the spirit of football, where everyone loves the underdog. Last Saturday the Premier League held their fixtures at 12:30pm with the FA Cup kicking off later that afternoon. The FA Cup used to be a special occasion, a sole fixture, that rolled every footballing emotion into one 90 minutes. With fans travelling back from their lunch time kick off’s, the FA Cup was lost in delayed trains and post match pints.

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In true Premier League style, the winners were only decided on the penultimate fixture and we enter the final group of fixtures with only one team relegated. It is safe to say this has been an amazing Premier League this season, with all of the ‘big teams’ dropping points week in week out, other teams finding themselves close to relegation and then a week later on the verge of a top eight finish and, naturally, the odd controversial decision. This year’s campaign has given us many reasons to laugh, smile and sometimes cry, but this has only made our love for the beautiful game grow stronger. Here are my positives from yet another Premiership campaign.

Top Four Party Crashed yet again- Last season it was Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham who broke the top four ‘cartel’ at the expense of Liverpool and this season it is Manchester City’s turn to steal the limelight. Roberto Mancini said his main aim was a top four finish and his City side duly obliged in giving their manager just that. However, it wasn’t plan sailing; at one point it looked like neither Tottenham or Manchester City wanted to qualify for the Champions League, with both teams slipping up, Spurs especially struggling against the ‘lesser’ teams, so much so that it looked like Liverpool could be in with a shout for fourth spot, an achievement that seemed impossible after their start to the season. The constant ‘swings and roundabouts’ for the prestigious final Champions League berth has been a credit to the league and the improvement of the chasing pack.

Classic Games- Us football fans have been treated to some fantastic footballing spectacles this season. Who can forget Newcastle’s heroic comeback against Arsenal to earn a point after being 4-0 down at half time? Or Manchester United’s 7-1 demolition of Blackburn Rovers, in which Berbatov claimed five and even the recent game between Blackpool and Bolton, yet more fantastic entertainment.

Emergence of genuine English talent- Every season there is always a fresh batch of talent that is dubbed as the next set of stars to lead England to international glory. Year after year us loyal fans are let down with the likes of Francis Jeffers, Seth Johnson and Michael Ricketts, but this year the Three Lions appear to be on to some real gems with Andy Carroll, Jack Rodwell and Jack Wilshere; no doubt all three will go on to be stars for club and country.

Blackpool- Regardless of what league the Tangerines will be plying their trade in next season, this one belongs to them. Ian Holloway has well and truly found a place in the hearts of all football fans this term with his honest, down-to-earth and, at times, downright hilarious attitude. Blackpool’s ‘attack at all costs because that’s the only way we know how to play’ style of football may very well be the cause of their downfall come next Saturday, but what entertainment they have served up doing it; Holloway’s team has scored 53 goals so far this season, more than most of the sides in the bottom half.

Roll on next season.

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Would you rather see England lift the World Cup or your team with the league title? For many of you modern day fans it would be the latter, but I wonder what the likes of Sir Stanley Matthews and Bobby Moore would say in response to this. The younger generation of today still revels in the accomplishments of 1966 and yet, despite this, club football is ruling the roost in the world of football.

The Premier League was set up in 1992 amidst claims that it would help bolster the England team, but nearly twenty years later it is ironically crippling the Three Lions. The Premier League has created ‘super managers’, the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger being the main culprits, which has tilted the balance in favour of the clubs whose managers are able to withdraw their players or, at the very least, lay down strict guidelines.

The clubs do have valid reasoning for withdrawing their players, other than the obvious ‘burn-out’ argument; why should the FA have the final say? Are they not just a big corporation interested in their brand and product rather than interested in football and England as a real class act that gave the beautiful game to the world?

There are numerous examples over the years of players sacrificing their national team for the good of their club career; Dimitar Berbatov, Alan Shearer and Paul Scholes to name just a few, but who can blame them. The club pays their wages with many endorsement payments on top and we must remember being a footballer, like in any job, people want to make as much money as possible. Playing for England brings no financial benefits, just pride, but even that sense of pride seems to be dwindling with every redundant friendly that passes; despite international managers arguing that friendlies are vital for allowing new talent and tactics to be tested.

It always seems to boil down to European football’s obsession with the top half a dozen from each league, especially when you read that five players released from England duty this week all play for a team in the top five. Not only does this demonstrate the FA’s general feeling of indifference towards the fixture against the Black Stars, but it is this direct lack of respect for the rest of the teams competing in the league that makes the power of the top six so strong; allowing them to call the shots in relation to the club versus country dispute.

I wouldn’t say passion and desire for England is totally lost, as come every major tournament when England ultimately promise so much but always fall, there is a genuine disappointment and anger from young and old alike. This may just be because the season is over so football fans need something to keep them occupied, but I believe it’s more than that; I feel it is frustration at ruining another chance to recreate ‘our’ own iconic photograph of Bobby Moore being lifted by his fellow countrymen, only this time with Wayne Rooney in Moore’s place. Furthermore, Jack Wilshere, whose inclusion in the U21 squad started the latest struggle between club and country, has declared he would love to play for the U21’s this summer and if you look at players such as Darren Bent and Matt Jarvis, players who are very unlikely to play in the Champions League, they would view England as an honour and a chance to showcase their talents on one of the World’s biggest stages.

All is not lost for the national team just yet. I believe it’s the fans that hold the key to England’s games becoming more than just an inconvenience. Until the fans decide they want to follow and support England for more than two months every two years then the FA have to make them want to; but I’m afraid, for now, club will always be the victor.

The Premier League has given us Cantona, Ginola and Beckham who ultimately we all love no matter who they kicked in World Cup ’98. It has also thrown up the likes of Kevin Davies, Duncan Ferguson and Vinnie Jones, not loathed as much as the ones who made my ‘Dirty XI’ but would certainly make another football fans.

I have ignored the ones with silly haircuts, poor fashion sense or the ones who wouldn’t look out of place in a boy band. What’s left is the not very good, the bad and the ugly.

Disagree with me? Follow me on Twitter and tell me who would make your ‘Most hated eleven’

Craig Bellamy

Dubbed ‘The Nutter with the Putter’ by the media, after allegedly beating up, then, Liverpool team-mate John Arne Riise with a golf club, is one of many reasons for Craig Bellamy being on the list. The Welsh international lack of popularity in the game stems from his confrontational style of play, which may be the reason that Bellamy finds himself at his 8th club in the last decade.

Jens Lehmann

Reminds me of that kid in the playground trying to be cool and ‘hard’;when you’re 6 years old it is cute but when your German, old and slightly eccentric its not. Lehmann had a comical run in with Didier Drogba that wouldn’t have looked out of place with the Benny Hill theme tune playing in the background. Lehmann always seemed to take offence to anyone who felt they could be in ‘his’ box and for that reason he just generally antagonised anyone that was brave enough to enter.

John Terry

Doesn’t he know the guy code? ‘Bro’s before Ho’s.’ Cheating on your wife with your friend’s ex girlfriend doesn’t exactly do a lot for team moral. Ignoring Terry’s off the field issues, don’t you just think the guy is *enter any word you feel appropriate.*

Emmanuel Adebayor

Enjoyed a successful beginning with the Arsenal faithful, with many believing the Togolese international was heir to Thierry Henry’s throne. However following pay-rise demands, ‘hit and miss performances’ and then joining ‘top four’ rivals Manchester City, it is safe to say that Arsenal fans now despise Adebayor but this wasn’t enough for the striker. To guarantee he wouldn’t receive a Christmas card from his former employers, the Togo captain stamped on Robin Van Persie and ran the entire length of the Eastlands pitch to celebrate his goal for new club Manchester City, in front of the Arsenal away fans. I think they call that excessive banter.

Gary Neville

Spent his entire career at Manchester United, a club fans love to hate and seeing as Neville captained the Red Devils it doesn’t help him stay out of lists like this, but his arrogance and strong opinions combined with running 40 yards across the Old Trafford pitch to celebrate a Manchester United winner against Liverpool right in front of the visiting fans probably has a lot to do with his appearance.

El Haji Diouf

El Hadji Diouf feeds off his reputation as the villain of the Premier League. Diouf constantly seems to rile up opposition fans for his own amusement. The Senegalese forward does have one absolutely disgusting habit that warrants his place on this list in its own right, sending phlegm bombs at whomever he sees fit, most notably Celtic fans.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The 2008 World and European Footballer of the Year but that doesn’t stop him being total ‘winker.’ Unanimously hated by the English faithful for his part in Rooney’s sending off in the 2006 World Cup. I feel however the reason he warrants such a high place on the list is because of his tendency for going to ground like a ‘fairy’ and his sarcastic clapping of referees when decisions don’t go his way, such behaviour easily warrants three yellow cards of Graham Poll.

Joey Barton

Cannot escape controversy no matter what team he moves to. A one-man controversy magnet who finds enemies in team-mates, opposition and fans alike. Barton’s style of play numerously over steps the mark, resulting in countless disciplinary issues but Barton’s standout discrepancy has to be the moment of pure madness when he lit a cigar in the eye of Manchester City youth player Jamie Tandy.

Lee Bowyer

The man who holds the title of most Premier League bookings was always going to be here but just in case Bowyer was worried he would miss out, he decided to fight a team-mate during a game. Ok Mr Bowyer your wish is granted, Number 3. Happy?

Robbie Savage

You all knew he would be here; you just kept waiting to see how high. No explanation needed.

Ashley Cole

Moved to Chelsea from Arsenal surrounded by a huge ‘tapping up’ scandal and although the England international doubled his bank account, his reputation took a battering. Cole didn’t help matters though was a now infamous excerpt from his autobiography, in which he admits he “almost crashed [his] car” after being told Arsenal would only be paying him £55,000 per week. This line of pure greed earnt Cole the nickname ‘Cashley.’ The man is a walking PR disaster and after cheating on the ‘national treasure’ that is Cheryl Tweedy, Cole well an truly deserves his place on the list.

Substitutes: Martin Keown (one of those faces), Roy Keane (the list is endless), Didier Drogba (has an A level in moaning), Dennis Wise (dirty little…) and William Gallas (cry baby)