Then Saturday Comes… the half decent football blog


Champion’s League (and the League of the champions)
April 30, 2009, 7:33 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog

1. Champions League: a waste of time?

Pep Guardiola reacts to the latest sham of football in the sports self-proclaimed greatest competition

Carolos Puyol reacts to the latest sham of football in the sport's self-proclaimed greatest competition


Apologies for the vulgar nature of this picture, but it sums up my opinion on the Champion’s League.

To the first legs of the Champion’s League are over, and to nobody’s surprise, they served to show once again how poor a competition it really is.

I know it’s common decency to love the Champion’s League and crow about how it’s the greatest stage of all etc.  But, to an objective viewer, the Champion’s League is an abomination of a competition.

The matches follow a very obvious pattern due to one huge problem that makes a mockery of the competition: the shackels of the ‘away goal rule’.

The logic of the ‘away goal’ is confusing, as surely the purpose of a two-legged tie is to remove the variable of home advantage.  Still, UEFA swear by it, presumeably because they fear penalties so much (which is strange, seeing how bad English teams are at them!).

The ‘away goal abomination’ makes for inevitably cagey or erratic games that reward nonsense rather than actual intelligent footballing tactics.  Matches follow one of two patterns, simply defined by whether the stronger team is drawn at home or away for the first leg.  Check out these diagrams what I done made to done illustrate this point;


champsleg1

1. Better team at home in first leg

This is the most boring route.  The home team either grinds out a routine win at home, or it ends 0-0.  The stronger team then goes away, scores an away goal and the tie is over.

See; Manchester United vs Arsenal, Manchester United vs Porto, Chelsea vs Juventus, Arsenal vs Roma,


chmplg21

The second scenario is undoubtedly more exciting, but also not really football.  In this circumstance, the worse team is drawn at home.  The first leg either sees a turgid 0-0 draw where the worse team tries not to concede an away goal and then get destroyed in the 2nd leg (see Internazionale vs Manchester United, Villarael vs Arsenal), or the better team winning despite being away.  In this eventuality, the media profess the tie to be ‘over’ and the better team just try not to concede… they inevitably do and then panic as ‘drunk football’ takes over (see: Liverpool vs Chelsea, Lyon vs Barcelona).

The solution to this is quite obvious; do away with the stifling away goal rule.  Matches follow my above theory at such an alarming rate that it’s not even worth watching Champion’s League; the only time there is a good match is when a technically poor team becomes desperate before going out away and goes all out to chase an away win.  Which is obviously the essence of cup football and the way it should be from the beginning.

The solutions to the away goal is obviously the penalty shoot-out immediately after the second leg if it’s a draw on aggregate.  Goals do not count double no matter where they are scored.  Just let the teams play football twice and see which team is better.  It’s a stupid rule that ruins the spectacle for neutrals.

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2. NEW CASTLE, SAME OLD PROBLEMS

"Rest in peace, like"

"Rest in peace, like"

Newcastle United could only muster a limp draw in their first of their “7 points or we’re doomed” home games against Portsmouth, Boro and Fulham.  Although that doesn’t mean the gig is up (especially with Hull’s terrible form), it does make the task look increasingly difficult.

I still think they will stay up.  They will condemn the lacklustre Boro to relegation when they beat them, which will put them on even points with Hull.  Regardless of the naysayers, Hull will probably end the season fairly strongly, with matches against teams with little left to play for (Villa, Everton) and teams who will probably not be interested when they play them (an almost safe Bolton and champions-elect Manchester Untied).  They have got lucky with the fixture list.

My brave prediction is that joining West Brom, Boro (and Leicester) in the Championship will be Sunderland.

They have a similar run-in (Villa and Bolton) to Hull, but they have the problem of prematurely celebrating staying-up after they beat Hull last week.  I’ve seen that before with Leicester, after celebrating beating fellow strugglers Barnsley we thought we were safe.  The foot came off the pedal because we thought we’d done enough to stay up, but we forgot that Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday could (and would) catch us.

Sunderland will find themselves one point above Newcastle when the Mags beat Middlesborough.  That’s when it really becomes squeaky bum time, and as much as the bleating Newcastle fans bemoan him I’d rather have Michael Owen in a pressure game than Djibril ‘wifebeater’ Cisse.

However, in one final parting shot at Newcastle I am surprised how quickly their fans are throwing in the towel.  They always claim to be the best in the world, but seem to be missing now that the team actually needs them.  Though he is shocking recently, surely these ‘supporters’ should actually support Michael Owen, rather than constantly pining for a scapegoat.

Alan Shearer has retired.  You can’t always have 30+ goal scorers.  Get over it and support his replacements.

The real problem in the Newcastle team is the complete lack of drive from midfield.  Cloggers like Nicky Butt, Alan Smith, Kevin Nolan, Danny Guthrie and Joey Barton make for a very one dimensional team.  Damien Duff and Jonas The Spiderman seem to be Albert Luque’s twin brothers.

Still, I think they’ve got enough to pick up six or seven more points by hook or by crook.  That will be more than enough in this turgid league.

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3. The real Champion’s League… The championship

Weeeeeeeee are the Chaaaaampions of the wooooooorld (aka League One)

Weeeeeeeee are the Chaaaaampions of the wooooooorld (aka League One)

Anyway, that’s a spectacularly boring nonsense we had to get through to reach the main event: Leicester City’s celebration of moving into the league Newcastle dread, and winning the competition that generates real champions… League One.

Yup, since the last update Leicester ‘The Brave Foxes’ City wrapped up a great first (and hopefully last) season in football’s third tier.  We did it with a 2-0 win away at Southend, just days after Derby fans were posting on this board that we will be caught by Millwall and Peterborough.

It has been a great season in League One, and should any Norwich, Charlton or Southampton fan come onto this board, I echo Geoff Stelling’s advice he gave me when we went down: “Don’t worry, it’s much better than you think it is.”  And not even in a patronising way, it’s been good watching teams actually playing football.  Comparing how Scunthorpe played against us last week to how they played when we were both in the Championship shows what I’ve been saying all year, that League One is a far more entertaining league.

Please regard this video for your viewing pleasure.  Indeed, to paraphrase one Scunthorpe fan, ‘what a Walkers’!

Next stop is the Championship, and much work needs to be done.  Word has it that we will add six players to our squad.  The most obvious areas that need solving are goalkeeper and right-back (where we have no players).  Hopefully loan superstars Dave Stockdale and Kerrea Gilbert will sign up full-time.  Next we need a midfield hard man to partner Andy ‘The King’ King, whose delicate feet will be a great treat to Championship crowds next year.

The final big change needed is the controversial one: strikers.  Matty Fryatt and Steve Howard have both been lauded for their exploits in League One, but fickle fans forget they were similarly hated this time last year for their pathetic displays in old Division One.  There is no pace and no finesse in that strike force, and with the ageing Barry Hayles and Paul Dickov as back-up new blood is needed.

For my money, it’s time to cash in on Fryatt.  Outside of his (admittedly impressive) 28-goal haul this year he has offered nothing to others in the team. More alarmingly, after scoring 21 goals by Christmas, he has scored 7 since (including a couple of pens and a handball).  He’s also got the touch of a bad cliche and is fat and one-dimensional.  Yet for some reason the media have fabricated him into being a great prospect (even coming in the top 5 of Four Four Two’s top 50 players outside the Premiership!).  The icing on the cake was winning the League One Player of the Year.  This is a nonsense.

If we can get £3m+ we should cash in as quick as possible.  The best thing about being down in this division is that you can see future quality players, and there are tonnes of great prospects in League One.  It’s not inconceivable that a club could be foolish enough to part with £5m for Fryatt, even though that figure is insane to anyone who has watched him play (ever).  If we can raise that kind of money we could feasibly replace him with Simon Cox (£2m), Gary Hooper (£2m) and Chris Taylor (£1m).  All three are much better footballers and it would be obvious business sense.

There are a bunch of players I’d love to see us steal from the descending Championship teams.  There will be a scramble for Andrew Surman, Charlton’s Darren Ambrose and Norwich’s Carl Cort… ok maybe not him.  But most importantly, it is a nice summer to be going into because we have a manager who can actually navigate the transfer market.  After sitting through Peter Taylor, Martin Allen and Ian Holloway’s ‘shooting for fish in a barrel’ approach, it’s great to finally have a boss who rarely gets it wrong in the transfer market.

Mark Davies was the best player at the Walkers Stadium since Muzzy Izzet.  He has somehow persuaded Tasho Tunchev (30+ Bulgaria caps) to come to League One.  Michael ‘Mark’ Morrison was plucked from non-league football to start 37 games this year.

So it’s an exciting time going into the summer.  Hopefully old Nige will bring in some more diamonds from the rough…



ENGLISH TRIO IN CHAMPS LEAGUE SEMIS
April 15, 2009, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog

Oh my isn’t football getting exciting at the business end of the season!  Indeed, it would make even the most stoic of characters break out into a little jig.


wengerdance

However, this blog will not pay homage to Arsenal’s dominant win, Manchester United’s professional smothering of Porto or even Liverpool and Chelsea’s fantabulous multi-goal thriller.  Instead, I have been dragged down to the underbelly of the beautiful game by the very organisation that is supposed to mother it.

Yup, I’ll be looking at UEFA/FIFA’s campaign to cut down on foreigners because… well, because English teams seem to be the best at using them.  And as we all know, English teams are still scum because of hooliganism (despite the recent deaths in Italy and Turkey etc).


Sepp Batter

Sepp Batter


SEPP CRIES INTO THE NIGHT

Unsurprisingly, the European Champions League semi-finals will include three English teams.  The worries of Michele Platini and Sepp Blatter (left) have been confirmed: we are still dominating European football.

Yup, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea have all sauntered through to the Semis, and anyone who saw FC Porto or Villarreal will agree that the standard of opposition seems so poor that English club dominance will carry on for years.  In all honesty, only Barcelona stand in their way.  Villarrael and Porto looked about as much of a threat as Bolton and Wigan.

Looking into my crystal ball, I can see the usual problems rearing their head, i.e. the “oh it doesn’t count they’re all foreigners innit” argument.  Not only is this idea firmly outside of the anti-racist employment laws overturned by common decency throughout the 20th century, but it is also being fervently pursued by one of the biggest two-faces in the sport.

Yup, welcome to a campaign that has shamelessly been championed by UEFA kingpin Michele Platini… yes the same Michele Platini who, despite being French, spent the most dominant period of his career helping to establish Juventus as European champs.

The same Juventus that went from European also-rans to;

  • Champions League winners (1985) and runners-up (1983)
  • UEFA Cup Winners Cup winners (1984)
  • UEFA Cup winners (1989)


As if Platini spearheading Juventus’ 1980s dominance isn’t enough evidence that this has been going on well before England and the Premiership, let’s have a look through the dominant periods of football, shall we?  Oh and lets throw in the best few players as well, for a bit of bante… or sorry I forgot this is a high brow blog.  For a bit of retrospective recogniscence.


Early 2000s: Real Madrid (key players Zidane, Roberto Carlos, Figo)

VERDICT: FOREIGNERS


Mid 1990s: Ajax (key players Frank de Boer, Davids, Kluivert)

VERDICT: HOME GROWN


Early 1990s: Barcelona (key players Koeman, Stoichkov, Laudrup)

VERDICT: FOREIGNERS


Late 1980s: AC Milan (key players van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard)

VERDICT: FOREIGNERS


Therefore my conclusion is obvious: UEFA don’t so much have a problem with teams not using home-grown players, they just don’t like English teams not using home-grown players.  Of course, the situation has escalated since the whole 3 foreigners thing was thrown out of the window (damn that pesky non racially repressive employment law!), but the fact remains: the dominant teams have always been made up of expensive foreign imports.

Case in point, the first European Champions League was won by a Real Madrid team led by Alfredo di Stefano, an Argentinian.

So that argument of ‘foreign players not being a part of the club’s tradition’ has been debunked.  Another argument put forward by foreigners jealous of English clubs’ success is that ‘it ruins your national team’.

Admittedly, that argument has more legs.  England did fail to qualify for the 2008 European Championships… but one has to ask whether that had more to do with a grinning clown being in charge or all the foreigners earning a living in England.  After all, we did fail to qualify for the World Cup 1994 (but of course that was while we still had the ‘English Disease’ of hooliganism, so  FIFA didn’t really riverdance/give a damn).

Confronting this idea that the Top 4 teams stifle English talent, consider the best English team that could be selected by this year’s qualifiers alone…


Ben Foster

Wes Brown – John Terry – Rio Ferdinand – Ashley Cole

Steven Gerrard – Frank Lampard – Michael Carrick – Joe Cole

Wayne Rooney – Theo Walcott


That’s a team that would challenge any other in the world (…and I’ve been kind and not even including on-loan League One superstars Jack Hobbs, Kerrea Gilbert, Tom Cleverly or David Martin!).  Therefore it is clearly nonsense to say ‘all these foreigners are holding English players back’ – they are all clearly improving by playing with the best players in the world.

The final argument is that the super strength of the top four ruins the rest of the Premiership.  Again, nonsense.

Of the English ‘Big Four’, they have recently dropped points at Fulham (Man U), Middlesbrough (Liverpool) and even Spurs (Chelsea).  Arsenal lost to anyone they played at the beginning of the season!  As so many teams can do more damage to the ‘big four’, one can summise that the ‘also rans’ of the English league are actually as good as many league winners abroad.

I am all too aware that this argument has been rather long and rambling, which may be because I am tired or it may be because I was bored to tears by Manchester United vs FC Porto tonight.  In case I didn’t make sense, here’s a summary of my criticisms of UEFA/FIFA’s constant moaning about English teams’ deserved success in Europe.

  • 1. If Michele Platini sees it as a disease, he was one of the trendsetters in ‘playingabroad-itis’.  He should therefore give back all the medals he won at Juventus if he hates people playing abroad so much.
  • 2. All the dominant teams had a foreign core (apart from Ajax ’95)… why was there not such a clamour for the ‘Dutch’ AC Milan team?)
  • 3. The problem it has on the English national team, despite almost our entire first XI still having starting positions in the Champions League teams.
  • 4. The dominance over the Premiership, which nobody who follows the league would agree is actually as present as people looking at teamsheets might suggest (case in point Middlesbrough and Fulham’s 2-0 wins over Liverpool and Manchester United).

I have now rather clinically repeated these arguments in an abridged format, very poor writing style I’m sure you agree.  Still, I think it rather neatly summises why I am right and would be more than happy to do so again and again and again until you all agree with me and hold the same disdain I do for UEFA/FIFA and their tired old arguments.

English club football is just run very well – get over it, Seppo and Plattziniiii.

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LEICESTER CITY 1 – 0 LEEDS

I’m sure you’re bored reading about Leicester City, so just look at this awesome picture of the awesome Max-Alain Gradel.  It says more than I ever could about how good supporting Leicester City is, with particular relevance to our 1-0 win over Leeds.  Dare I say it… promotion is all said and done now.

Fingers crossed we finish the job, before Scunthorpe and MK Dons join us in a promotion wonderland.

max-gradel-0011



A LEICESTER CITY vs LEEDS UNTITED SPECIAL
April 12, 2009, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog
LONELY: Ken Bates in his old age

LONELY: Ken Bates in his old age

A TALE INVOLVING ONE BATES AND TWO GATES

Ah yes, the biggest Leicester City home match of the season is upon us: LCFC vs Leeds United.

Quite rightly, Sky have stepped in to broadcast what is one of the few games that has been played in four progressively less prominent competitions throughout the 21st century.  Starting off in the heady days of the Premiership, through to the League Cup, followed by Championship and now here in lowly League One.

Keep an eye out for 2010-11 in League Two.

There should really be a camaraderie between the two teams, both floundering at lower levels than their spoilt fans are used to due to inept management off the field.  We have a shared history of foolish managers and overexcited chairmen.  We both dropped out of the Premiership having to still pay huge wages just as the ITV Digital deal went bust, and have fantastically struggled financially just like teams like Southampton, Coventry and Ipswich.

Just look at this lovely image I have pain-staking created for you showing our collective demise.  As much as neutrals (hopefully) remember this fixture best for the 4-0 thrashing in 2003, let’s not overlook the 0-6 mauling Leeds gave us in 2001.  A fine defence of our proud League Cup tradition, I hope you agree!

lcfc-ld

And now we both find ourselves in League One, unaccustomed to being seen as ‘glamour games’.  However, rather than embracing our similarities as a pair of down and outs trying to get back on our feet, two repetitive and boring arguments have dragged on.


1. Flag-Gate

2. My dad’s bigger than your dad-Gate


1. Flag-Gate

The first issue is the reason why Leeds United fans despise Leicester so much, and is not actually that well known to fans of the Foxes.  After two Leeds fans were murdered in Istanbul, one of their next games was at Filbert Street.  At home games, a handful of Leicester fans carried Turkey flags to pay homage to club legend Muzzy Izzet.  Similar to how you see Jamaica flags at Stoke games for Ricardo Fuller, it was just a little gesture to spur on our best player.

However, quite understandably Leeds fans thought the fans were taunting them with the flag, seemingly celebrating the murders of their fans.  A big no-no, as you can imagine.  Now with hindsight those fans should have thought about carrying such flags to the ground, but it’s not quite as obvious as not bringing a Nazi flag to an Israel game is it?

Anyway, since that day, Leeds have seen Leicester as almost the British representatives of those Turkish murderers, and it sometimes gets a little messy.  It probably will tomorrow, when apparently Leeds fans are planning to ‘get their vengeance’ during a minute’s silence for a Leicester fan who died in the stands last week.

As if this doesn’t make both our teams look foolish enough, it’s all being broadcast live on television.  What a lovely treat for all the watching Christians on Easter Monday!   If you’re watching with your family tomorrow keep an eye out for me, I’ll be the one pottering around confused as Leeds fans strangle chizzits with Union Jacks.


2. MY DAD’S BIGGER THAN YOUR DAD

The second argument is undoubtedly the most boring topic of conversation in football: massive club syndrome.

Essentially, every club outside the top 4 suffer from this malaise.  Every team seems to think they are currently playing below their station; that their peak was the rightful place of both teams.  Of course there are some teams better known for this phenomenon (Wolves, Manchester City, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hostpur in particular).  However, Easter Monday’s match sees two of the most pathetic ‘big clubbers’ locking horns.

All through the season the debate has raged among knuckle-draggers: who is the ‘biggest side’ in League One.  Despite the fact the phrase means nothing, it seems to be a title thousands battle it out for.  Leicester fans bark that we’re bigger because we won two major cups since Leeds last won anything, while their supporters holler back that they have won the league and have a bigger ground etc.

The fact is that both of these claims are absolutely redundant.  Would you see Ted Heath and Michael Portillo arguing who is the ‘bigger politician’?  How likely is it that a Dutch person and a Spaniard would fall out over who had the ‘bigger Empire’?  The chances are no to both, because the majority of sane people realise that ‘big’ness is a temporary thing that is constantly changing.

Gary Lineker wades in to win the argument contested between fools

STAR CAUSE: Gary wades in to win the argument contested between fools

And a lot of the time arguments surround on people who forged their careers decades before the fan was even born: who is better – Jonny Giles or Arthur Rowley?  Lineker or Lorimer?  Bremner or Birchenall?

And the truth is, if you support a club because they are better than another one decades ago, you are a glory hunter and therefore not a real football fan.  I don’t even like talking about such things, and would far sooner debate who is better; Fryatt or Beckford, King or Delph.

(… and Kingeh is obviously better than Delph)
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And finally, lets not forget that if Leicester win tomorrow and MK Dons lose, the brave foxes will be guaranteed promotion.  Of course it won’t happen, and it will go to the wire, but it’s just a nice thing to type.



AN EASTER PARABLE AND OTHER JUICY GAMBETS
April 10, 2009, 4:50 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog

relegation1

MASSIVE WEEKEND IN THE RACE TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP

While Leicester City, Peterborough, Millwall , Scunthorpe, Leeds and MK Dons are in a six-way scramble to get into old division two, there is an even more manic battle from teams trying keep away from that league.

This weekend sees every team in the relegation mix-up playing each other, apart from Sunderland who are hosting Premier League whipping boys Manchester United.  If ever there was a chance to pick up points, it’s over this (second) most holiest of weekends.


Middlesbrough vs Hull City

Pompey vs West Brom

Sunderland vs Manchester United

Stoke vs Newcastle


My prediction is that Portsmouth and Stoke will win their home games, essentially making them all-but safe from the drop.  Boro will draw, which won’t do them or opponents Hull any favours.  Sunderland will emphatically lose to Manchester United, in what will probably be Ricky Sbragia’s last game in charge.

The other two losing teams, Newcastle and West Brom, have very different chances of survival.  To tie it into a religious context, they are very much analogous to Jesus vs Barabbas.

Much like our Lord and saviour, West Brom have been very decent sports this season.  They have constantly turned the other cheek and accepted defeats left, right and centre.  Their style of football is pleasing on the eye, and Tony Mowbray is a well known proponent of the ethos of forgiveness (how else could Abdoulaye Meite keep his place every week?).  Essentially though, they seem doomed.

On the other hand, Newcastle United represent the same position as Barabbas.  A consistent criminal who has been on the gallows before but is forever saved from execution due to a partisan and unexplicable home support.  He probably deserves to be sent to his death the most, but eventually will be spared while better men take his place.  Newcastle, like Barabbas, will survive, with Geordies everywhere bellowing “Let his blood be upon us and upon our children”.

Is it blasphemous to make a footballing analogy on Easter weekend?  I hope not, but I don’t think I’ve said anything offensive anyway so hopefully I won’t be getting a Papal Edict in the post.


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Adriano is a very hungry and well-rounded footballer

Adriano is a very hungry and well-rounded footballer


A FAT MAN IN LAZY SHOCKER!

In a move that will surprise nobody who has seen him play in the Champion’ League this year, Big Fat Adriano has announced he has lost his love for football and is planning an unpaid break from the game.

And good for him.

Yes, all the boreish hacks will, like my headline, jump down the cliched route of “oh dear another lazy footballer, what half the world wouldn’t give to be in his position.”  Of course, these are the same people that criticise infamously unambitious WBs Winston Bogarde and Wayne Bridge for sitting on fat cheques and not making the effort to improve.

Adriano purportedly has mental health problems, which is an issue that confuses many of these rent-an-opinion journalists.  The brain is a physical organ, and having a mental problem should be no less accepted than breaking a rib or a leg.

A sabbatical is completely accepted in other creative pursuits.  Musicians, authors and actors all take breaks to recharge their batteries when they are worn out.  Even superhuman Arnie Schwarzenneger is on a sabbatical at the moment, most recently chilling out in some office job in California.  So what problems are really brought up by Fatty Adj having a bit of fishing for a few months before coming back next season?

Jose Mourinho, often criticised for his spartan managerial approaches, is actually one of the few genuine intellects in football.  His quote on the matter says more concisely what I have tried to get accross in a half-dozen paragraphs: “If he’s happy like this, if you lose the player but the man is happy, perfect”.

Can you imagine what Harry Redknapp would say in a similar situation?

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michael-essienMICHAEL ESSIEN: THE BEST FOOTBALLER OF ALL TIME?

While the whole fotoballing world rubs Guus Hiddink’s admittedly amiable cheeks, there is one other variable that has co-incided with Chelsea’s return to form: Michael Essien.

Unlike Avram Grant, Hiddink has wisely noticed that Essien is the best central midfielder in England, if not the world.  While Grant perplexingly placed Essien at right back (presumeably to appease the combustable tempers of Lampard, Ballack and Mikel), Hiddink has put him back into the centre of things.  The excellent 3-1 win at Anfield on Wednesday was testament to Essien being so good it’s a crime not to build the team around him.

For the past four seasons the Ghanaian has lit up Stamford Bridge with his energetic displays that allow Fat Frank to not bother tracking back and Michael Ballack hide his noticeable descent into average-ness.  Yet Mickey E never gets the credit he deserves.

True, he doesn’t score that many goals (11 in 96 appearances), but what he brings to that team is far far more than that.  Thierry Henry said this week that “you can talk tactics and systems all you want, but at the end of the day football is all about running.”  Essien is the most energetic footballer I think I have ever seen (with the possible exception of Patrick Vieira), and the amount of ground he covers in a match is scary.

He may never win Player of the Year (or even get in the Team of the Year), but Chelsea would be morons not to build their team around Essien next season.  What a fella.



LCFC: filling the ‘drawing expert’ role left void by Tony Hart and Mark Speight (RIP x2)
April 6, 2009, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Mat Reville's Football Blog

Hello there cherished reader.  Sincere apologies for my lack of posts recently.  I just got back from making some cheese with Flo-Rider over in A-Town.  You know my pedigree.

A once great journey hits an unexpected bump

This GIF is not working, but trust me it's really good


LCFC ON THE SLOOP JOHN B

Oh good.

Just when it looked like Leicester City were cruising towards our first top-two third finish since 2002, we’ve decided to sneak out a bit of relegation form and see how things turn out.

This season wasn’t supposed to be like that.  We were supposed to slide on like the boy in the graphic, jumping over ladders and having a great time.  However, excessive celebrations have took our mind off the target and we have come screeching to a worrying hault.

With six games to go, only the most delusional Chizzit would complain about the state of play with six games to go.  Top of the league by two points and seven off third, it looks pretty lovely to a neutral.  However, it’s not quite so good when you consider we were 12 points clear no more than four games ago, and we have drawn six of the last seven at home.

milanmand

Milan extends his best wishes for the run-in to Big Nige

The numbers that have taken over this blog are systematic of worried fans at the ‘business end of the season’ (copyright Mark Lawrenson).  And to be honest, if I supported any of the other teams in League One I’d think Leicester fans are being doooouchebaaags.  We should still be OK, and if we’re not and collapse further still, we frankly do not deserve to get promoted to a division that would subsequently murder us.

But after so many years of watching Leicester choke when any form of challenge comes up, it’s hopefully understandable why people are starting to get a little squeak in their bum.  And with promotion being expected since being top of the table since October, this feels more like we are battling against relegation rather than to be champions.

Our run-in is definitely tough; home games against Leeds and Scunny and away to form side Southend.  But there are winnable games against Crewe and Hereford.  To make things sure we need to win at least two of those games, probably three.

This Saturday’s trip to Hereford is therefore massive.  Oh how ironic that such a huge game is staged at Edgar Street, the same destination that we played the part of ‘Goliath’ in an FA Cup tie a decade ago.

Still, maybe that means we’ll be playing Barca in ten years time…

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"Um, um well, y-y-y-you d-d-d-don't have to t-t-t-tell her, Miss Ratched."

"Um, um well, y-y-y-you d-d-d-don't have to t-t-t-tell her, Miss Ratched."

Shearer joins the Geordie-go-round

Big news in the Danny Murphy household… Big Al’s left the BBC.

Of course, with Big Al out of the MOTD2 studio there was a gap on the sofa for an uncharismatic and cliche-spouting footballer.  Good news for Danny Murphy, bad news for the Sunday soccerball viewer.

The footnote of all this nonsense is that Newcastle United have bagged themselves a new manager.  Old big elbows himself has finally taken to the dug-out, and the Geordie spirits have risen…

Well, in reality Shearer’s appointment is not really a new manager, he will more than likely turn out to be exactly the same as other ex-skippers who have returned to ‘messiah’ the club out of stagnation (going right back to you, Osvaldo).  So although it’s a new body, in reality it’s the same symbolism of Geordie ideology that takes over in between shambolic appointments.

Let me take you on a history lesson.  I am a Bachelor in that Art, after all.

1992: Geordie old boy Kev Keegan
1997: Worrying outsider Kenny Dalglish
1998: Worrying outsider Ruud Gullit
1999: Geordie old boy Bobby Robson
2004: Worrying outsider Graeme Souness
2006: Geordie old boy Glenn Roeder
2007: Worrying outsider Sam Allardyce
2008: Geordie old boy Kev Keegan
2008: Worrying outsider Joe Kinnear
2009: Geordie old boy Alan Shearer

However, that’s not to say I’m opposed to the tactic.  I think Newcastle chairmen Mike Ashley and Freddie Shephard are more erudite than people give them credit for.

They can essentially bring about their own ‘things can only get better’ New Labour ’97 moment every couple of years.  The scapegoats are thrown away (Dalglish/Souness/Allardyce/Kinnear), and then the ‘returning hero’ (Robson/Roeder/Keegan/Shearer) steps in to joyous fanfare from the unemployed masses.

A Mat Reville prediction

A Mat Reville prediction

And it is always just about enough.  Like Roeder, Keegan and Robson, Big Al will steady the ship and save them from the drop. Don’t believe me?  Ch…ch…ch…check out the screengrab of my ‘BBC predictor’ thing!

The home games against Fulham, Boro and Portsmouth will bring either 7 or 9 points.  Either will probably be enough to stay up in this dire Premiership.  However, once safety an already pretty likely safety is assured the ‘Circle of Geordie Delusions’ kicks in.

1) Rise in ambition
The new manager brings a rise of the unattainable dreams which run through the minds of Newcastle fans and their returning manager hero.  Management, who due to being ‘good local boys’, therefore share the delusions of grandeur with his fans, and excitement starts for the upcoming campaign that will see the first silverware since that old man fan was a foetus.

2. Reality disgarded; conspiracy theories formed
Three months into the new season, and NUFC are not performing as well as their fans thought.  For the record, this could mean anywhere between 6th-20th.  The manager starts going crazy and blaming imaginary problems… how else could the glorious Magpies not be top?

3. Messiah resigns
The Geordie gaffer decides that the forces of evil that keep The Magpies from their coveted top spot is not worth battling against.  He jacks in the job, and Geordies take to the street burning their straight jackets etc.

4. An ‘opposite’ is appointed
Whoever is the opposite of the previous messiah is appointed.  Lovely Bobby is replaced by horrible Graeme.  Soft Glenn’s job goes to tough Sam.  Loveable Kev’s seat gets taken by foul-mouthed Joe.

5. Period of competency
Newcastle start to turn into a boring middle of the table team.  It is very stagnant and dull.  Fans start to get angry and call for a manager who knows how to manage a “club like Newcastle”

6. See Step 1 and repeat.

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nevilleandbenitez1

Has Red Nev punched Rafa out the title race? In a word, 'no'.

INSERT OBLIGATORY PREMIERSHIP TITLE CHAT BELOW

I feel like I have to talk about the top of the big division to retain relevance to some of y’all.  The battle for a position that doesn’t really bother 88 English teams this weekend all feels like media hokum after a national Party conference.  Nothing has really changed, but everyone seems to think the future is set in stone.

Before the weekend, people had picked out Man U’s games against Wigan (away) and Man City & Arsenal (home) as potential banana skins.  They would be the places the title was won or lost.

Against a recently turgid Aston Villa side, Man United looked the worst I have ever seen them play.  The admittedly makeshift defence still included four internationals (van der Sar, O’Shea, Evans and Evra) and one ex-England regular (Neville).  This was only ‘bare bones’ in the Harry Redknapp sense of things.

Despite still having internationals throughout the midfield (Ronaldo, Fletcher, Nani) and up front (Tevez), they looked very very ordinary for most of the match.

However, a 10 minute salvo and people are saying the title is wrapped up.  What a load of nonsense.  As you will see from my BBC preictor grab, if you take it game by game my head says that Man U will drop points at least three times this season, and this weekend’s performance makes it look like they could even ‘do a Leicester’ and drop a hell of a lot more.

A second Mat Reville classic prediction for you to laugh at in May

A second Mat Reville classic prediction for you to laugh at in May

Although my prediction on the right says Liverpool, in my heart I know Manchester United will still lift the trophy in May.  And they deserve to, as they’re definitely the best team in the Premiership this year.  But I don’t understand why such a polemic shift has been made after one scruffy home win against a doddering team.

The old ruse of ‘winning ugly’ has been banded about, but isn’t that exactly what Liverpool did at Fulham (aka the conquerers of the Rouge Devils).

Maybe it’s because of the birth of new footballing icon superstar and future king of soccer Federico ‘Kiko’ Macheda.  Obviously we’ve all made up our minds that he is better than any player to have previously graced the Premiership, but I think he needs a better webpage designer.  Check that out, yeah?

Gary Webster, earn your biscuits and sort this Macheda.com mess out.

Getting back to ‘the’ title race (obviously it should be ‘a’ title race, as ‘the’ title race is happening in League One).  Once again, the press seem to have made their minds up on this one.  But free from the shackles of media ownership I can say “hells no this badboy’s going to the wire”.  Yet more evidence that reading this blog is at least twenty times better than reading a newspaper.

(Unless it’s an article written by me, yakkidy yak).

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Finally my dear chums, I would like to break down the fourth wall and speak to you personally.

I implore you to check out the new cricket blog that is the sister to this fine blog.  It is written by a well known Peruvian chap known as Nigel ‘Big Nige’ Slater, aka ‘The Derby Dog’.

Sadly Nigel is a Derby County fan, but I am still supporting his rehab to rectify this problem.  One of the treatments is getting into other interests other than supporting scumbags so he has set up this cricket blog as a way to ween himself off the crack that is Derby County FC.

Please check it out, no sledging in the comment box though!