Owen speaks out over boardroom turmoil

On December 9, 2008 by

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?

Iker Casillas turns down record breaking City offer

On December 3, 2008 by

Stories are circling today that really makes me fearful. Reports from reputable sources are indicating that Manchester City were ready to completely obliterate the transfer record for a player and to make him the highest paid footballer the world has ever seen.

Now whilst this might be good news for Manchester City fans it isn’t for everyone else. The only good part of the story is that the Spanish captain rejected the overtures of the club out of hand as he has no wish to leave Real Madrid, but there will be players who are happy to leave the Champions League for a year or two and pick up quite staggering wages.

One man who should be a bit nervous by this story is young City keeper Joe Hart. The 21 year-old has made his full international debut and is widely regarded as one of the best young talents between the sticks in this country along with Ben Foster. If the new Manchester City owners are seriously approaching world stars then the manager has a very difficult job.

Had Casillas joined or if another top goalkeeper does then big clubs will go after Joe Hart hard. If the new owners want to become the new Real Madrid they have to remember that Real Madrid weren’t great when they went down the Los Galaticos route and they should remember this.

Whilst it would be great on one hand to see all these great players playing in the Premiership, it must be said that having a team like this would really harm the league. I know they would still have to persuade these players to come to City ahead of going to Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal but money does talk and City have one of the best youth set-ups in the country and it would all go to waste.

I certainly think that Eastlands is where all TV camera crews should be camped out throughout January as it might get rather busy and some very famous faces might be going through the frame.

When in need – call for a Swede

On December 2, 2008 by

It seems as though the moment any top flight football manager has an injury crisis up top then the first port of call is a veteran Swede.

With Yakubu having ruptured his achilles and being out for the season joining Louis Saha (hamstring) on the sideline, they need fire-power up front. So who are they being linked with this morning? None other than King Henrik Larsson.

The former Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United star might be 37 but he is still held in extremely high regard around the Premier League. With the Swedish league on hiatus until the spring, there is a possibility that he could join Everton on loan until April once the transfer window opens on January 1.

He did this two years ago when he went to Old Trafford for a short term loan spell that allowed him to pick up a Premiership winners medal after his was given a special dispensation as he hadn’t played the required number of games.

Larsson would surely be a nice pick up for Everton. They are a good Premiership side who can offer him the chance to play at the top level once again and keep his fitness up for the Swedish season. Oh and it would swell his bank account a little bit more as well!

We knew who Arsenal were but who are Chelsea?

On December 1, 2008 by

Arsenal oh Arsenal – what are you like? You go and lose at Stoke and at home to Hull but yet you beat Manchester United at home and go on the road and beat Chelsea at the Bridge – what are we to think?

I have to admit that I fancied Arsenal going into yesterday’s game. Chelsea just don’t convince me in the big games and Arsenal always up their games when they have their backs against the walls and people are writing them off.

What we saw was Robin van Persie showing us all just how good he is. The Dutchman has been at the centre of the William Gallas row with some newspapers stating that he is the troublemaker in the camp. If he is then it sure didn’t show as the players mobbed him after both his goals and everyone seemed very much part of a united team – well except that Gallas bloke anyway.

On their day Arsenal are one of the best team in the land and you could easily say Europe as well. They keep the ball so well and they pass and move like the Liverpool teams of old. They play possession football and if they have RvP and Adebayor fit and raring to go then they have a potent duo up top who can put the ball in the net.

What we learnt yesterday was not anything about Arsenal. We knew they were a Jekyll and Hyde side but what we found out is that this Chelsea team is not the same as Jose Mourinho’s team. They always found a way, they were fighters. If they were behind with ten minutes to go you still knew they would score one or two – it is what they did. This year they’ve had three ‘Big Four’ games and all at home and they’ve only acquired one point.

Chelsea may be more pleasing on the eye when everything is going right but when it isn’t – they do not have that grit and resiliency that they had back then. I am starting to believe that it may not be Chelsea’s year and after the start they had – I had them nailed on to win it all.

It just helps show what a fantastic season we are having this time around in the Premier League.

Will (iam) Gallas ever return?

On November 26, 2008 by

This blog was written before last nights Champions League game where Gallas played.

When was the last time you saw a truly seasoned pro grace the hallowed turf of the Emirates Stadium? A true professional with years of experience, someone who has been there, done that, and played at some of the finest stadiums across the world?

I personally remember it like it was yesterday – it was the 30th of May 2008 when Bruce Springsteen played at the Emirates with his legendary E Street Band.

This is perhaps a sad indictment of the situation at Arsenal at the moment. There is some real quality flowing through the team at Arsenal but the team is a young one with no real talisman figure able to lead and encourage the youngsters when times are tough. This, inevitably, leads me to the case of William Gallas and his astonishing outburst at his fellow team mates.

Perhaps I am in the minority when I say I feel a little sorry for the guy. The job of a captain is to rally the troops, to have a good old shout if necessary at anyone who is not pulling their weight, and occasionally ruffle a few feathers for the good of the team. The difference with Gallas is that he chose to do this in an interview with a magazine rather than in the dressing room.

It has been rumoured that he is not a particularly respected figure amongst his colleagues. Think back to your school days. I’m sure you all had a teacher who tried to maintain some sense of order but just couldn’t quite get the balance right. I can think of a prime example of one of my old teachers.

I used to sit there feeling quite sorry for her as she tried shouting and it didn’t work, she tried the arm around the shoulder and that didn’t work, she tried sweets as a reward for good behaviour…and that didn’t work either. Basically, anything the poor woman tried wouldn’t work because a bunch of kids failed to respect the authority of someone older and more experienced (ironically this teacher was French too.)

I can appreciate what William was trying to do but I think he became carried away and what was intended as a gee-up for his team turned into a personal attack on some of his team mates. William Gallas is a highly successful footballer both at club and international level.

He has done an awful lot more in his career than some of his current team mates thus far and I guess he felt he wasn’t getting the respect he deserved. Equally, he didn’t know how to go about getting this respect.

William Gallas’ tenure as Arsenal captain has been under question ever since his childish strop which was thrown after Arsenal conceded a penalty in the closing minutes of their match against Birmingham City last season.

What was going through his head at that moment still remains a mystery but ever since that game, many a pundit and fan has wondered out loud whether William has the right temperament to lead a team.

Perhaps Arsene Wenger should have offered the captaincy to another member of his squad at the beginning of the year when the eyes of the world weren’t on him and his team but then this leads to another question – who should get it?

The excellent Piers Morgan made a brilliant point in his column in the Mail on Sunday this week. Look back to Arsenal’s glory years, when they were double winners, European Cup finalists, and expected to be in all the major finals each season. The team had real winners in it, players who had played together for years and who had substantial experience in the game.

Lee Dixon, Ray Parlour, Patrick Vieira, and Dennis Bergkamp were all players who had been there and done that and they formed an Arsenal team which the opposition were simply scared to play against. Conversely, the Arsenal side of today is a very young team.

As a member of the 30+ club, Gallas is in the minority when set against the rest of the squad. A lot has been made about the lack of big money signings at Arsenal. Much has also been made of the fact that this is not through lack of funds and Arsene Wenger is rumoured to have a good £30 million to spend.

So, if Arsenal are reluctant to fork out on a couple of real stars who have achieved a little more in the game, then the fans of the Gunners are going to have to be patient in their search for success. It will take a good few years for the current crop of players to build up their experience and challenge for honours. The loss of Gilberto and Lehmann took the average age of the squad down by quite a few years and this kind of experience has just not been replaced.

So, what now for William Gallas? He will stay…for now. I would imagine that he will leave at the end of the season, possibly even in the January transfer window. For him to be banished to the reserves right now and made an Arsenal outcast would just focus the world’s gaze even more firmly on Arsenal and Arsene Wenger is far more clever than that.

For Gallas’ own good as well as the rest of the team, he has been relieved of his duties as captain. He has been allowed to resume training with the first team and has even been recalled to the squad to play Dynamo Kiev. However, no matter how much effort is now made between Gallas and his team mates, the damage has been done. Rather than clear the air, Gallas has kicked up a mound of dirt which has muddied the air even further.

Only the players know what really goes on behind the scenes but this outburst has been damaging for Arsenal’s season and team spirit and it is with great curiosity that I wait to see how the fans react to Gallas when he returns to the line up.

Once the furore has died down and the season has come to an end, I think a club, most likely one located on the continent, will come in for Gallas and the waves and applause he offers to the Arsenal fans on the lap of honour after their last game of the season against Stoke will also serve as a means of saying goodbye.

Stand Up Sit Down – Let us stand!

On November 24, 2008 by

TalkFootball is proud to announce that we are fully backing the StandUpSitDown campaign.

As a supporter who has been to hundreds of football games in my time I have to say that standing up in the best way forward. I have been known to stand up at games and well, let’s be honest, in my area of the Fratton End in Portsmouth it was an unofficial standing area and there was no problems. People knew if you bought a ticket in this area then you had to stand.

Even on away trips I can’t remember too many games where we sat down throughout the match. The only games I remember are the Wembley Cup games last season and I was just never comfortable sitting through them. The fact that I had a stinking cold and probably had my balance impaired at the semi-final should be ignored.

I remember a cup game at Portman Road a few years back where we were in the front row so had to sit and it just wasn’t the same. The away stand at Ipswich isn’t behind a goal so that is another part of the season that game wasn’t too great.

Standing behind a goal is how I like watching football matches. It does help with an atmosphere as well as keeping warm. Also if you are standing for the whole game then isn’t that safer than just standing at moments of excitement which is deemed as acceptable by the police?

Since moving to Aldershot I have wandered down the Rec to see the local side on a few occasions. I enjoyed standing on the East Bank and watching a game. The only problems with standing areas are if there are too many people in them but if you had a standing area and only a certain amount had access to these areas then surely they would be safe?

Last weekend at Fratton Park the club had brought in the police who used police cameras to film the Fratton End with respect to catching out those who were standing. Whilst the health & safety rules of the ground stating that it is illegal to stand during games, they are well in their rights to ban anyone who constantly flouts these rules. However morally they are now starting to walk a fine line as treating people who like to stand up at football grounds as criminals is taking things a bit too far in my opinion.

If the government listen to the people then they will realise that this is actually an issue of some significance. Yes Hillsborough is still fresh in everyone’s minds but it wasn’t the fact that it wasn’t all seater that caused that tragedy.

Safe standing areas would help bring football back to the common man who enjoys standing at a football game. Is it too much to ask to stand at a football game and not have the police after you? If it is then I really question societies priorities.