Archive for the ‘Blackpool’ Category

Reports have suggested that this week Liverpool will open up negotiations with Blackpool over their midfield talisman Charlie Adam, who enjoyed a remarkable season in the Premier League, attracting many potential suitors. Liverpool are widely expected to continue their January transfer market approach by spending big, but is the former Rangers man actually needed on Merseyside?

Well, why wouldn’t a big side want Adam’s 12 goals and 9 assists? Imagine the statistics the Blackpool man could achieve next season with the likes of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard around him. But perhaps the reason the Scot has done so well is because he was one of, if not the, main attacking outlet at Blackpool; on Merseyside he would be in amongst several world class players in the final third. Would Adam thrive or get lost in amongst some of football’s biggest names?

Tactically Adam is an ideal signing for any manager to have, centre midfield, attacking midfielder or even a deep lying striker, but who would he replace? Kenny Dalglish appears to already be onto a winning formation, so too much transfer activity could hinder his rebuilding process. If Adam were to join though, I simply cannot see who he would replace. Lucas’ performances have improved greatly this season, and he is the only defensive minded midfielder in the starting line up, so sacrificing the Brazilian would be foolish. Steven Gerrard is obviously the first name on the team sheet (even if his influence has dropped in the last couple of seasons) and then you have Raul Meireles and the returning Alberto Aquilani to consider. The main issue I would have in signing Adam is the impact it would have on Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Spearing, both youngsters who have enjoyed breakthrough seasons and are key in what ‘King Kenny’ is trying to achieve at Liverpool, but signing another centre midfielder would no doubt force the two Englishman out on loan or reduce them to merely a few league cup appearances. Oh, and there is of course a certain Jordan Henderson to consider.

The one thing Adam would add to Liverpool’s play is his ability from set pieces. Liverpool have always relied on Steven Gerrard for his free kicks, but when the Englishman isn’t available Liverpool lack that threat from free kicks and corners. Fabio Aurelio clearly demonstrates superb technique from short free kicks too, but since Liverpool are pursuing a new left back and with the Brazilian, now in the twilight of his career, already fighting for a place at full back with the ever-improving Martin Kelly and England international Glen Johnson, he will presumably have to settle for a place on the bench for much of next season. The Scotland international has a delightful left foot, that delivered some of the best corners last season as well as scoring a couple of contenders for Goal of the Season from set pieces.

Adam’s sweet left foot surely isn’t worth £10 million though? Because in this writer’s humble opinion, that’s the only attribute Liverpool will be gaining in signing the guy who didn’t even get Blackpool’s player of the season award for the 2010/11 campaign.

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 majority of plaudits from White Hart Lane this season have gone to Gareth Bale and Rafael Van Der Vaart and there is no denying both players deserve all the praise they get. However for me, it is Spurs’ Luka Modric that has been the ‘heartbeat’ of everything positive the Lilywhites have done this season, with his determination, range of passing and the odd goal scored, the diminutive Croatian has been a star performer this Premier League season. It is such attributes that have caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson, who is looking to replace the now retired Paul Scholes and the Manchester United boss is reportedly readying a £25 million bid for the former Dinamo Zagreb player. If Modric were to leave North London, are there any natural replacements for the influential midfielder?

Charlie Adam

The Blackpool man was subject to a failed deadline day bid by Tottenham in January and Harry Redknapp is supposedly still keen to bring the former Rangers man to White Hart Lane, especially if Modric does seek pastures new. Adam has a more attacking presence to his play than Modric, with Adam’s twelve Premier League goals for Blackpool last season being one of the main things preventing them from being relegated sooner. The Blackpool man was the driving force behind the Tangerine’s play, much like Modric is for Tottenham, and cold easily slot into the Spurs team (with a slight formation adjustment). Tottenham play a 4-4-2 but Adam’s style of play is more suited to a diamond formation, with the Scot playing just behind the forwards, which would mean Sandro playing as an out and out defensive midfielder (much like he does already).

Scott Parker

It seems weird to say but this has been Scott Parker’s ‘coming of age’ season, despite being 30 years old; he has received the international recognition he deserves as well as being named FWA Footballer of the year. The former Charlton midfielder has been praised throughout this season, not just from West Ham fans, for his tenacious style of play and unbelievable work ethic. The midfielder would add a much needed bite to the Tottenham midfielder, something that Jenas, Sandro and Huddlestone don’t bring in abundance, or if any at all. The former Chelsea man is a leader, a fighter and could influence games in the same manner that Modric does.

Lassana Diarra

The Real Madrid midfielder is reportedly available for transfer as Jose Mourinho looks to raise funds for his own transfer spree this summer. I know with the Arsenal and Chelsea connection, many will slate me in the comments below but for me Diarra would be a huge assest to the Spurs side, with his strong play and ability to break up the play. Many believe selling the Frenchman was one of Wenger’s biggest mistakes in recent years, after impressive seasons and performances for Portsmouth and Real Madrid. Diarra is hardly a ‘like for like’ replacement with his more defensive mentality but the former Pompey player can play higher up the field, however my argument for signing Diarra is the balance it would bring to Spurs formation. Last season ‘Arry played a ridiculously attacking formation, at a huge cost to defensive duties, with Diarra in the middle alongside Sandro and Jenas (still think he is useless), would allow Gareth Bale and Rafael Van Der Vaart more attacking freedom (not sure Bale needs anymore) but VDV carely demonstrated last year his unwillingness to track back, such a formation wouldn’t require him to as much.

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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.

As we approach the end of yet another entertaining Premier League season, the newspapers will need something to fill there back pages with over the summer months, so the talk of Lionel Messi’s move to Tranmere Rovers will really gain momentum. However in amongst the bogus transfer rumours will be a few stories that carry substance, with a few players finding themselves seeking out pastures new either due to loss of form, place or either retirement. But who are the top 10 that will need to make the biggest decisions.

Gareth Bale

PFA Footballer of the Year Gareth Bale, has been stealing the headlines throughout this season for his performances in the league and in Europe, with the Welshman’s devastating speed and acceleration and his eye for goal it was only a matter of time before Europe’s elite began snooping around White Hart Lane. It has been reported that the likes of Barcelona and Manchester United are keen on adding the former Southampton starlet to their squads and are willing to spend in excess of £30 million. Despite Harry Redknapp’s stand that Bale is not for sale, the Welshman’s head will have no doubt been turned and now must ask himself whether he is ready for the next step up the footballing ladder after one season or to stay with the Lilywhites to further his development.

Sebastien Bassong

After a successful stint with Newcastle United Bassong joined the Redknapp revolution at ‘The Lane’; 38 appearances in his first season suggested the Cameroonian international was a first team regular but since the arrival of William Gallas and the continual high level of consistency from Michael Dawson, Bassong has found chances limited and after admitting he doesn’t know where he fits in at Spurs, combined with Schalke’s supposed interest the defender has to make a decision.

Francesc Fabregas

Yawn! This story is so tedious now after several transfer windows worth of rumours but without a doubt Fabregas will yet again weigh up his options after Arsenal will more than likely finish a season empty handed that had promised so much. Despite mixed stories coming from the Nou Camp about whether they can still afford or want the Arsenal captain, Fabregas will still draw a lot of interest if he does decide to leave with Manchester City apparently readying an audacious bid for the Spaniard. Fabregas has to decide whether he wants to return ‘home’ and play second fiddle to Xavi and Iniesta like he does at international level or face the Gunners faithful backlash if he were to join ‘Top four’ rivals City.

David Bentley

The Englishman has never really lived up to his exciting reputation and currently finds himself out on loan at Birmingham City after failing to justify his large transfer fee while at Tottenham Hotspur; since playing for Alex McLeish’s side Bentley is beginning to recapturing the form that had everyone at Arsenal excited during his early days and has been again attracting interest from various clubs.  Should Bentley return to White Hart Lane and earn a starting place, continue enjoying his football at Birmingham or look for a fresh start all together, with the likes of Newcastle linked with the winger.

Paul Scholes

The midfielder has been instrumental in a golden era for Manchester United and is still putting in man of the match performances at the age of 36. Scholes contract however is drawing to a close and despite pleas from fellow players and Sir Alex Ferguson to stay on at Old Trafford, the former England international has spoken of his desire to play for Oldham Athletic, the club he supported as a boy. Will Scholes see out his final playing days at the highest level?

Ashley Young

This season really put Ashley Young on the footballing ‘map’, turning in sublime performances for club and country, has seen the former Watford man catching the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Kenny Dalglish. After a relegation threatened season despite many predicting the Villains to qualify for Europe Ashley Young must now be wanting to get a taste of Europe’s greatest club tournament, which the likes of Manchester United could offer the England man

Carlos Tevez

The driving force behind Manchester City’s season which has seen them gate crash the top four and reach an FA Cup final; however this has been overshadowed by constant speculation of the happiness of the Argentinean at the Manchester outfit, handing in a transfer request, which he later retracted but despite this the striker is linked with various of Europe’s elites and if stories are to believed Tevez and his ‘bulldog like approach’ could be jetting off to hotter climates.

Michael Owen

Since leaving Merseyside Owen’s career has been nothing but a crossroads. Behind Rooney, Berbatov, Hernandez in the pecking order and with Welbeck and Macheda returning from loan spells, Owen yet again will be considering his future.

Charlie Adam

A revelation in the Premier League this season, with several Premier League clubs considering making a move for the Scotsman; Adam has to decide whether he should leave a club whose fans worship him for a bigger challenge to a club where he will be one of many stars in a team.