Drogba returns to save the day for Chelsea

On December 11, 2008 by

On Tuesday, Chelsea reached the last 16 of the Champions League following a nervy win over CFR Cluj at Stamford Bridge. The Blues took an early lead thanks to a goal from Salomon Kalou but Cluj managed to equalise much to the dismay of Chelsea fans.

Manager of the club, Luiz Felipe Scolari, made the decision to bring on Dider Drogba, who has been absent from the Chelsea side for large parts of this season as a result of injuries and suspensions. His impact was notable, since he scored the winning goal and showed a true touch of class in doing so.

The fans were ecstatic with his return but, oddly, one man who was not so thrilled was the manager of the club. Scolari refused to publicly praise his star striker, who became accustomed to vocal commendation whilst Jose Mourinho was in charge.

Instead, the manager was keen to praise Anelka, who has scored fifteen goals for the Blues this season. He announced that “we arrived in this position, and second in the Premier League, because our scorer is Anelka”. He continued to state that whilst Drogba is undoubtedly a top striker, “one of the best in the world”, Anelka is equally important.

There is no doubt that Anelka has been a revelation since joining Chelsea. Many doubted the impact he would have but he has been extremely important, particularly in Drogba’s absence this season. However, Drogba’s talent and natural goalscoring touch provides, in the words of captain, John Terry, “a great dimension” to the team.

Scolari might be wise to pander to the ego of the striker a little more, in order to ensure that he does not look elsewhere in the near future.

Rooney yet again shows he is a hot head

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Last night, Manchester United secured their position at the top of their Champions League group, despite drawing against Aalborg in a match which should have resulted in a routine win.

Some players were left with a bad taste in their mouth after the final whistle, with accusations of foul play ringing around Old Trafford. These claims were primarily fired in the direction of Wayne Rooney, who was involved in a rather fierce tackle with Kasper Risgard. At the time, Rooney escaped action from the referee but retrospective action could yet be taken.

Kasper Risgard believes that Rooney jumped on his chest, an action which, according to the Aalborg player, may have resulted from the England player’s mounting frustration. According to Risgard, the United player apologised after the game but stated, in no uncertain terms, that his opponent should expect such treatment during games of football.

This apology has obviously not done much to ease the anger of Risgard, who has apparently been left with large red marks on his chest. Furthermore, the player revealed his belief that the tackle would have resulted in a red card if the match was not being played at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson dismissed the incident and instead chose to question the physical side of Aalborg’s game. He stated that their players “got stuck in” and a tackle on striker, Carlos Tevez, was “a blatant attack”. Aalborg have not launched an official complaint yet but, if retrospective action is taken, Rooney could miss part of the next stage of the tournament next February.

Argentina to use a free kick spray

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Next year, an innovative, albeit slightly odd, technique will be introduced in first division football matches in Argentina. One of the most frustrating moments during many football games occurs when defenders creep forwards when the attacking team is preparing to take a free-kick.

This often leads to the free-kick being retaken, sometimes several times, as well as unnecessary bookings. Such activity interrupts the flow of the game and some pundits believe it to be unsporting.

Officials working for the Argentine Football Association now think that they have found a cunning solution. They are going to introduce an aerosol spray, which will hopefully stop defenders creeping forwards towards the ball during free-kick situations.

The spray will be used by referees to mark an obvious white line on the ground, ten yards away from the ball. Defenders will not be allowed to cross this line, which will disappear approximately thirty seconds after the initial spray.

The spray is the invention of Pablo Silva, who became frustrated by defenders continually preventing goal scoring opportunities from free-kicks during amateur matches.

Silva explained how his team was recently presented with a good opportunity to level an amateur match in the closing minutes of the game. The free-kick was positioned on the edge of the penalty area but defenders crept forwards and interfered with play. However, the defenders went unpunished by the referee and Silva’s team lost the game.

Whether or not the spray has any lasting impact upon the game in Argentina, it is nice to see footballing officials taking decisive action to help solve one of the frustrating issues inherent in the game.

Paul Ince on the brink

On December 10, 2008 by

A few months ago one of the writers here at TalkFootball.co.uk wrote about the possibility that Paul Ince was a bad hire for Blackburn Rovers.

Now nearly six months on and Ince is being strapped into the guillotine and the blade is being lifted above his neck. Whether this is fair or not is up for debate but his future really might not last into next week.

I don’t like it when you see reports that certain games are ‘must win’ but it is a pretty apt description of how Saturday’s game at Wigan is for the gaffer. He is up against his old Manchester United colleague in Steve Bruce but he can’t expect any favours.

Last week they were beaten at home by Chelsea but the week before only a controversial refereeing decision by my boy Mark Halsey kept them from probably winning at Portsmouth. When you are down there things tend not to go your way and you are down on your luck.

Ince, maybe unsurprisingly bemoaned the decision after the match.

"It was a poor decision from the referee (to disallow our third goal).

"He gave the foul on James but you see on the replay that he hasn’t touched him and it should have been 3-2.

"They are the things that happen when you are down there. That is the sort of stuff we have to contend with at this moment in time, but we’ll keep marching."

He says that there is a Press Vendetta against him and his young English managerial colleagues and that is just total rubbish. People don’t want him to fail, certainly not the media who he keeps attacking. The facts are that his team has only won three games so far this season and that quite simply isn’t good enough.

Now whilst I agree with him that he needs time and shouldn’t be under pressure, he needs to learn not to be so aggressive with the media, it doesn’t help his cause. He should look at his former England colleague down at Portsmouth. Tony Adams has been very open with the media and seems to be quite relaxed with them and takes both the positive and the negative comments on board with a smile on his face.

In a way the fact that the game isn’t on live TV this weekend is of some help to Ince. Had his team bombed into of a national audience then you know that he’d be gone. All he can do is get his players to show that they have some fight for him and and try to grind out a result at the JJB.

Whatever happens Paul Ince will have a weight lifted off his shoulders one way or the other come Saturday evening.

Ramos appointed coach of Real

On December 9, 2008 by

Juande Ramos, the ex-coach of Tottenham, has been appointed manager of Real Madrid after the Spanish giants sacked Bernd Schuster.

Ramos, who had a tough time at Tottenham towards the end of his reign in north London, may have been hoping for a gentle welcome to Spanish football.

However, sadly for the fifty-four year old, this hope has been denied in spectacular style. His first game in charge of Real Madrid will come in the Champions League against Zenit St Petersburg. As if this wasn’t tough enough, the first domestic game will come on Saturday, against Barcelona.

Barcelona are currently nine points ahead of Real Madrid, who are in fifth position in the Spanish League. This was one reason why Schuster had to be replaced. Other reasons include the club’s shocking defeat in the Copa del Rey.

The defeat against Real Union knocked them out of the competition and the German coach later admitted that he believed the team stood no chance of winning against Barcelona. A loss against Sevilla last weekend simply compounded the situation.

Despite the obvious challenges facing Ramos in the near future, the coach seems confident and excited about the move to Spain. He has signed a contract for six months at the club and revealed that it is every manager’s dream to manage Real Madrid at some point in their career.

The director of sport at the club, Pedja Mijatovic, announced that the difficulties seen at Real Madrid recently culminated in the decision to sack Schuster, who, overall, “did an excellent job last season to win the title and the Spanish Supercopa”.

Owen speaks out over boardroom turmoil

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Michael Owen has spoken out about the “turmoil” currently affecting the boardroom at Newcastle United. According to the striker, the issues which have surrounded the upper echelons of the club since Kevin Keegan sensationally quit the club earlier this year and Mike Ashley, the owner, put it up for sale, have prevented talks over a new contract from progressing successfully.

His current deal runs out at the end of the season, meaning that he could leave Newcastle for nothing next summer.

Although he has been plagued by injuries since joining the Magpies, Owen has been a vital player for the club, and he scored twice to hand the team a vital draw against Stoke City at the weekend.

Other players who have yet to resolve their own contract issues include other important team members such as Nicky Butt and Steven Harper. Talks between Owen and the club over a new contract had been “going fine”, in the words of the striker, prior to Keegan’s departure but, since then, the club have had “bigger things to fry than sorting out” contracts.

Despite focusing upon the turmoil at the club, Owen was also keen to praise the efforts of Joe Kinnear, who stepped in to replace Keegan after his shocking exit.

He believes that Kinnear has brought some kind of stability to the team at a crucial time and also thinks that Newcastle have become hard to beat during recent weeks. However, the team seems to have developed a habit of drawing matches and the striker is keen to break this pattern.

Strachan furious over Sunderland link

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Gordon Strachan, the current manager of Celtic, has stormed out of a press conference after journalists asked him about the possibility of him filling the vacant managerial post at Sunderland. Roy Keane quit the club during the latter stages of last week and speculation has been rife ever since concerning who should take over.

Strachan was one of the names mentioned straight away but journalists at the press conference apparently broke a previous agreement not to bring up the issue. This caused the Celtic manager to bring an untimely end to the media conference as he stormed out in an angry fashion.

It is not surprising that Strachan has been linked with the job. After all, he has led Celtic to three SPL titles in a row and the club has enjoyed impressive form recently.

Furthermore, he has experience of managing teams in English football, since he spent seasons at Southampton and Coventry. Despite Strachan’s obvious credentials, he has rejected all talk of joining Sunderland. The Celtic manager believes that the Scottish team is “fantastic” and has spoken warmly of the “great bunch of lads”.

Many sports pundits have speculated that Strachan may decide to accept the challenge on offer at Sunderland, since he has nothing left to achieve in Scotland. However, the manager has rejected such rumours, insisting that the players in the Celtic team are continually striving to improve and he also believes that he is getting better as a manager.

He thinks that he is becoming more comfortable in the managerial position, which provides its own unique challenges. Strachan says he has had “tests” throughout his time in management but these have combined to make him a stronger individual and he is keen to continue this process at Celtic.

Portsmouth Football Club – Business as usual or Crisis Club?

On December 8, 2008 by

Portsmouth Football Club are up for sale – I’m so shocked. The club made it official on Sunday that should the right bid come in then the owner is ready to walk away from the club. What in reality does this mean?

The media have been speculating for a while that Portsmouth were a club in genuine financial trouble. A free-for-all sale would ensue in January and chaos would erupt on the South Coast. The problem with all this information though it is isn’t based on fact but just mere rumour. The club aren’t in turmoil just yet and they do not have to sell anyone in January just to make ends meet.

Yes there might be big name departures from the squad but only if the gaffer decides that it is a good deal. Lassana Diarra has been linked seemingly day in, day out to a £18million move to the City of Manchester Stadium to join up with Mark Hughes and the big spenders. It is known that it would mean a £13million profit for Pompey but also you have to look at whether the player would want to go.

Would he make a shed load more dosh if he moved to City? Yes he would but is money everything when all is said and done? He has played for Chelsea and Arsenal in his time in England and until he moved to Portsmouth he hadn’t become a regular. At this stage of his career a regular starting spot (when fit) is of up most importance. If City splash the cash then he might not be a regular in the side and would he want to risk that?

Other names have been linked with a move to join up with former Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp at White Hart Lane. These names include when you take all newspapers, David James, Glen Johnson, Sylvain Distan, Lassana Diarra, Niko Krancjar, Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch. Not a bad collection of players you’d have to admit but with Spurs not having a lot to spend and the way that Redknapp left the club then you can’t expect too much (if any) business to be done between the two clubs with regards to playing staff in January.

Glen Johnson is the name on everyone’s lips as he is in the form of his life (his glaring miss @ WBA yesterday not withstanding). He is right up there with Jose Bosingwa as the best right-back currently plying their trade in the Premier League. He is the player that I would be keeping the closest eye on outside of Diarra going out of Fratton Park this January.

As for incoming players there are one or two on the radar. Portsmouth are an attractive proposition to buy and aren’t able to curl up and die as a club. A new stadium proposal is all sown up and the money for that doesn’t have to come from the wallet of any new owner. It is being paid for by selling the land on Fratton Park to a large supermarket chain and any new owner would come in and get a club with a brand new stadium and potential to expand its match day revenues exponentially.

So if you are a Portsmouth fan or just a football fan in general. Don’t expect too much goings on at Fratton Park come January as the club are neither loaded or up some sort of famous creek without a paddle.

So is it Reid or Big Sam for the Stadium of Light?

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Following on from the Roy Keane piece earlier. The next question is who will end up taking over the Stadium of Light. Well one of the early surprise names that has come up is former Mackem manager Peter Reid.

52 year-old Reid is currently in charge of Thailand and has a long-term plan to get the nation to their first World Cup in 2014. However just three months after penning a contract with the Thailand FA, Reid is touting himself for a return to the club where it could be argued that he had his greatest success, taking Sunderland to back-to-back seventh place finishes in the Premiership.

After Keane’s departure last week, Big Sam Allardyce was very quickly installed as favourite. Despite his short-lived Newcastle links he would fit in to the club seamlessly. He is known to do well on a budget and get the best out of players who many think are slightly awkward. He isn’t currently employed so there would be no big buy-out and he could start work quickly.

None of the other names the bookies have listed seem to be credible in any way. If there was a job that was just nailed on for someone then this is it and Big Sam is that man. Sunderland is a bigger club than Bolton and he would have more money, it would certainly be a step up for him and Newcastle isn’t that much bigger than Sunderland when all is said and done – are they?

Roy Keane not living up to his name

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So it has been a few days since Roy Keane walked out on Sunderland. The former Manchester United star had a few bad results in a row and the going got bad then he walked out just like he did in Japan in the 2002 World Cup

It was no shock that I awoke to the news last Thursday that he had quit. It had been coming for a few weeks and I don’t think anyone with any knowledge of football was surprised. He hadn’t signed a new contract and had a bit of pressure on him. Pressure and Roy Keane are not a good mix when he doesn’t know what to do about it.

As a player he could handle pressure as well as anyone, he knew what to do to influence the game but as a manager he has been unable to find how to deal with those pressures. He had spent a lot of money and a vast percentage of it was on players at overinflated prices and who didn’t really have the quality needed to take Sunderland forward.

The Stadium of Light should be one of the best home advantages in the league. All the way up in the North East, playing in front of rabid passionate fans, on a beautiful lawn of a pitch, it all adds up to one of the best home advantages around.

However it wasn’t the case. Home defeats to the likes of Portsmouth, West Ham and a mauling at the hands of Bolton just wasn’t good enough. He had the devoted support of his chairman so his job wasn’t in jeopardy but Keane couldn’t deal with not being a winner. If he couldn’t be a winner then he didn’t want to play the game.

He’ll get another job in management should he wants it as they’ll always be a chairman who’ll love him for what he did on the pitch and will believe that they can get the best out of him. I suspect though that Roy Keane may disappear into the background for the foreseeable future and possibly even longer. He doesn’t need the money and if he isn’t up for the challenge then what point is there?

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