What does the future hold for Mark Hughes?

On January 5, 2009 by

Without a doubt the storyline of the FA Cup 3rd round came at Eastlands over this past weekend as ‘moneybags’ Manchester City got dumped out of the cup on home soil to a Nottingham Forest side who are fighting for survival in the Championship.

On the day when the club spent a reported £10-12m on Wayne Bridge from Chelsea, even more question marks around Mark Hughes’ future were thrown up. Hughes was the incumbent when the new owners came in and it has been speculated since day one that he’d be on his bike sooner rather than later.

However he is still with the club and chief executive David Cook is sure that he is the right man. Speaking to The Sun he said:

‘Once we get through the first window, when Mark’s impact will be able to advance the future of the football club, things will start to settle down.

‘Mark’s plans and the way he is running the team are going to build and change and the confidence will start to build.

‘We will bring people here who want to see the club move forward and the fans will ideally take to them because they’re committed to the club.’

Hughes’ will no doubt of noticed that the crowd turned on him and his player big style at the final whistle on Saturday and you really can’t blame them. It was a limp display and says everything about this Manchester City side, brilliant one week and painfully abysmal the next.

I think that surely his future with the club is at best uncertain. They paid a lot of money for the club and are willing to pump in untold millions in the transfer window and beyond. For this they are expecting just a little bit more than a relegation dogfight and losing at home to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup, not just losing, being humiliated by.

Will Sparky be there come August? I highly doubt it.

Defoe & Downing Spurs’ bound?

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As regular readers of the blog will know I am a Portsmouth fan. Still hurt and betrayed by Harry Redknapp, I have carried on with my love of the club whilst having a look over at what our former manager is doing.

One thing he does seem to be up to is unsettling other players. At Portsmouth Jermain Defoe has been unsettled enough to want to leave and join his former gaffer at WHL and now Stewart Downing looks set to hand in a transfer request to do just that as well according to the PA.

Redknapp has spoken about his pursuit of Defoe publicly and even went as far to say that he understood Portsmouth to have a ‘massive massive’ offer for the determinative front man. This was denied by Pompey and one has to ask oneself how he knew of this if he wasn’t true and was it said just to unsettle the player?

Up at the Riverside Stewart Downing has long been linked with a move away from the club. However in recent weeks the speculation has reached fever pitch with a new story being in the press seemingly daily linking him with a move to White Hart Lane. Now where do the journalists get these stories from?

The cynical part of my brain (which in all fairness is a good portion of it) believes that it comes from Spurs themselves in a bid to unsettle a player. This seems a bit two-faced considering what they thought when Manchester United were in hot pursuit of Dimitar Berbatov in the last transfer window.

So will Defoe and Downing both end up WHL when all is said and done by February? I suspect they might very well do so…

Managerial Security

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It is not great surprise to learn that Blackburn have sacked Paul Ince. The self styled guv’nor has been given the boot after only 17 league games in charge, during which time he has won 3, drawn 4 and lost 10.

It all seems so sad after the jubilation of June when much was made of him being an exciting young appointment to the job. He had served his apprenticeship in the lower leagues with Macclesfield and MK Dons and done a good job too, reviving a lifeless Macclesfield who were seven points adrift at the bottom of the league when he took over and saving them from relegation. And at MK Dons, he gained promotion and the Football league trophy in only one season at the club.

And now he is without a job. I hope, and don’t think, that he will have difficulty in getting a new job, although it may not be in the top league any time soon. He seems to have the respect of the players (even at Blackburn they were still fighting for him) and the confidence and self belief to be a success. He is a good manager and i am sure with the right luck can be a great manager.

But the sacking of Paul Ince brings forth the eternal question. Should Blackburn have given him more time? It is a position that I would hate to be in if i were a football club director. The problem is that clubs in the Premier league are so worried about being relegated, and the subsequent loss of revenue that will suffer, that they feel they must sack the manager if things are not going right.

The premier league system has put so much financial pressure on clubs that they cannot afford to be patient. For a club of Blackburn’s size, who have been in the premier league for a number of years and probably have a substantial wage bill, the fear of relegation is that they will end up in a position in a few years where we now see Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Charlton, Southampton, Norwich, Derby, Watford. Leicester and Bradford, all clubs who were in the top league but have since dropped down and suffered horrendous financial problems.

The solution? As always, its about the money. Clubs are spending too much chasing the dream and not thinking of the bigger picture and the longer term.

By the bigger picture, I refer to the whole football community, from the top to the bottom of the football pyramid. Not enough money is spread around the lower leagues. The premier league gives relegated clubs ‘parachute payments’ so help them survive but these last only 2 years.

The answer is for more of the premier league pot to filter down the leagues to make the difference between leagues a lot less than it is now. This is especially relevant between the premiership and the championship where championship team get about £1 million a year from TV and Premier League clubs get about £22 million a year. This is a huge amount.

And the longer term? Clubs are not concerned about their financial viability, they spend all their income on player wages, milk the fans dry and hope that the TV revenue will keep going up. Well as property bubble bursts, we now know that not everything always goes up.

Clubs need to learn how to say no to players and to walk away from deals if it does not suit them. I have no idea how regulations could be imposed to control this but it can’t be beyond the minds of the great and good to come up with a system to solve this problem.

I also think that there should be more security for manager. For example in Spain, managers are not allowed to manage more than one club (in Spain) in a season. This is part of the reason why Juande Ramos got the Real Madrid job as he wasn’t tied in. There has even been talk of a managerial transfer window, which i think would not work.

But then again, the managerial merry go round is part of the fabric of football and keeps the scribes in business! But at a time when we want to encourage young British managers, the system seems to be in place to keep them down.

United and Real clash once more over Ronaldo

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Manchester United have been doing all they can recently to draw attention to their actions on the pitch. They have been victorious in the Club World Cup final, defeating Liga de Quito thanks to an impressive performance from Wayne Rooney, and have also kept their Premier League bid firmly on course.

However, as interesting as this on-pitch action may be, the eyes of the global media have been firmly set on matters unfolding away from the pitch. Unsurprisingly, these matters have recently been revolving around Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid.

Pedro Trapote, the director of the Spanish club, apparently revealed that the two clubs had reached an agreement over the player, with Ronaldo set to move to Spain in the near future.

This claim angered the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, to such an extent that he branded the officials at Real Madrid a “mob” and even resorted to some comical blasphemy when he exclaimed: “Jesus Christ! I wouldn’t sell them a virus”.

Ronaldo has tried to play down this recent speculation by stating that he is very happy at the club but rumours remain that the talented footballer is set for an imminent move to Spain.

Manchester United believe that Gabriel Heinze, who previously played for the club but decided to make the move to Real Madrid, has been vocal in his support for the potential move.

Heinze and Ronaldo are close friends but Ferguson believes that the club just has to “ignore” the situation and stop worrying about what may or may not happen. He finished by stating that the club is aware of “their game" and it will not affect them.

Nigel Clough to follow in his father’s footsteps

On January 1, 2009 by

His dad was a legend who did nearly everything there is to do in club football. After ten years plying his trade at Burton Albion and taking them to the brink of promotion to the Football League, Nigel Clough made the decision to jump up and become a manager of a league club.

He was unveiled as manager of Derby County earlier this week and is probably the most noted name to ever step up from non-league management. He was long tipped to be a managerial star and most would say that he has served an extensive apprenticeship in the non-leagues and he has left Burton Albion in a fantastic position 13 points clear in the Conference and odds-on to win promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history.

Clough though whilst surely still glancing an eye at their results now has a very different challenge to relish. Derby County are lying 18th in the Championship and have been a club that hasn’t exactly had many good days since Derby won the play-off 18 months ago.

Billy Davies got sacked and Paul Jewell came in but he was unable to turn things around as the club finished bottom of the Premiership with a record low of just 11 points. They only won once in the league and that victory came under former manager Davies.

After a weak start to the season Paul Jewell seemed to turn things around but a bad run of results in December led to the former Wigan manager stating that he had taken the club as far as he could and offered his resignation. This led to the vacancy that Clough is stepping into.

Going to Derby was a big decision as 37 years ago he dad led the club to the old first division title. His mum always told his dad to ‘never go back’ and that was in his thoughts when this position arose. However he said himself that in the end the offer was ‘too good to turn down’ and he joined The Rams.

He has taken up the reins this morning following Derby’s shocking win over Manchester United in the first leg of their Carling Cup Semi-Final on Wednesday night. Derby completed outplayed their top flight counterparts and could’ve won by more than the one goal if truth be told.

If they continue to play that well then the play-offs are still well within reach. Of course the FA Cup 4th round match with his the club that made his dad famous and the club he himself played for Nottingham Forest is mouth-watering. I am disappointed that it is in the very unglamorous Friday night time-slot for live Setanta Sports coverage as it for me in by far the appetising tie of the round.

Former Forest legend Clough up against former Derby manager Billy Davies and a proper East Midlands Derby. The FA Cup doesn’t get much better than that but the prime time slots are filled up by Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur (ITV1 – 5:15 Saturday) and the 4PM Sunday slot is the Merseyside Derby between Liverpool and Everton, which you can’t argue too much with.

I’ll be following his career closely and I do hope that he is a success as the Clough name is one of the most famous in football. We at TalkFootball wish him all the best for the rest of the season and beyond.

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”.