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Tag Archive: football


How the mighty have fallen

Scroll crest worn from 1990–1994

Scroll crest worn from 1990–1994 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scottish football has been  caught between a rock and a hard place right this summer. The league football started this weekend and who could have guessed that one half of the Old Firm would be playing their League football this weekend, instead of a next Saturday when the rest of the Scottish Premier League starts.

Glasgow Rangers went into administration last season and were bought by Charles  Green’s Sevco consortium which then created a new company after failing to prevent the old one being liquidated. Scottish Premier League clubs voted against accepting the new club into the top flight and the Scottish Football League clubs voted them into Division Three instead of the First Division. Charles Green has accused some of the SPL clubs of jealousy, pettiness and bigotry after they denied the new Rangers into the SPL. He may be right. Or could also be wrong. We are not here to judge.  The Scottish FA  having taken cognisance of the massive impact the implosion (caused by the Rangers meltdown) would have preferred Rangers to play in the First Division. They attempted to restructure Scottish football and offer incentives to the lower division teams. This alternative was however, unsuccessful as the other teams saw this as a chance to punish the League giants for their misdemeanors. Rangers played Brechin in the League Challenge Cup this weekend and came out winners after extra time by 2-1! A fixture the Rangers of  the past would not even have contemplated during the off-season (unless it was a pre-season friendly or testimonial match).
This refrain shall be heard down in the lower echelons of Scottish League football next few seasons:

Hullo, Hullo
We are the Rangers Boys
Hullo, Hullo
You’ll know us by our noise
We’re down to our knees to see our team
At Ibrox or away
For we are
The Glasgow Rangers Boys

Rangers FC  is definitely down to its knees. Scottish Football too may also be down to its knees as result. As a result of the meltdown at Rangers, the majority of their first teamers have left. The Manager Ally McCoist reckons over 20 players have left. A few have crossed the border to join the likes of Everton FC, Norwich and other Premier League and Championship teams. Rangers deserved to be penalised for the misdeeds of the previous owners/executives. Moreover, tax avoidance is abhorrent. However, penalizing the ‘newco’ so excessively will be to the detriment of Scottish football. How many people outside Scotland will be looking forward to the SPL games on television? Many of the SPL teams are going to suffer financially as a result of the chasm created by the absence of Rangers football club. Clubs like Inverness Caley Thistle and St Mirren (just to mention two) have all ready voiced their concerns. The financial plight that faces Scottish football, in the backdrop of revenues that have not significantly increased for years may take some clubs to the wall. It will be a sad day indeed if any one of the SPL clubs faces bankruptcy or liquidation. Moreover, the absence of the ‘Old Firm’ games will remove the only ‘glamour’ Scottish league game from our screens. Many people from across the globe have always followed the ‘Old Firm’ matches – frenetic, sectarian, absorbing, tribal rivalry very exciting all the time. There will be no one standing in the way of Celtic for the next few years, and if that does not make a League boring! Celtic are a great club, and the rest of the SPL are not anywhere near Celtic in terms of quality or financial power so it is going to be quite interesting to see how things pan out.

Rangers like the phoenix will rise again. They are wounded, and certainly hurt. However, the club with the backing of the thousands of its supporters will get back to the top of league football again. In the meantime the team’s presence in the lower reaches will be good for the 3rd Division teams financially. Juventus suffered the ignominy of relegation to the Serie C in 2006 following one of the worst scandals in Italian football. The Old Lady of Turin only won the Italian Serie A again  last season. We wait to see how Rangers will fight back. We are certain they will come back stronger. Scottish football though may yet suffer more heartache in the meantime.

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Football is England’s most popular sport. Throughout the UK, football is the most popular sport too. The whole of the United Kingdom are looking forward to watching the best football talents from across the globe at the Olympics. Hoping too that the Great Britain team gets to the Finals. And be victorious!

The Euro2012 kicks-started the football off-season. It was proved  one tournament too big for the likes for Roy Hodgson’s  England. One glaring statistic throughout the tournament was that England had the least possession of all the teams that managed to get to the quarter-finals. According to the BBC, England averaged a measly 39% possession throughout the tournament. That was only better than the two great footballing nations, Ireland and Greece, who both failed to get to the quarter-finals. According to the venerable BBC Only Ukraine (2.3), Ireland (2.3) and Greece (2.0) averaged fewer shots on target per game at Euro 2012 than England. The travails of the English players were exposed in the quarter-finals against Italy. England struggled, and according to the statistics, Joe Hart had more touches (85) in that game. More than any other player. Showing how difficult the tournament proved.  England were good,but were not good enough.

Analysis and  tournament post-mortem have all concurred that the English players lacked the technical nous. A nous that is so evidently exuded by the continental players. England could not control the flow of play and were not even able to keep possession of the ball. Normally tactics could get around that.  However,  tactics may have a limited lifespan, until you are ultimately found out. One would argue surely English players, playing in the self-proclaimed ‘best league in the World’ should be able to adapt. The truth though is that not many ‘English’ players are playing in the top teams in the Premier League. The reality is that most of the top teams in the Premier League chose to buy players from abroad. There is a dearth of English at the top. Moreover, English clubs tend to over value unproven local talent and that is perhaps driving Premier League clubs chairmen to go abroad, buy cheaply and thus guarantee longevity in the Premier League. Newcastle’s performances are a case in point.They bought African and French stars,who had already proven themselves in Europe. Whereas, Liverpool attempted to Anglicise by buying over-priced local players, whom, in the glare of scrutiny found the going  too tough.

The Problem is a big success. There in lies the rub .If the price for success was not that high, the Premier League teams could invest in the youth, nurture the youth and be patient for them to succeed. There are several football academies in the country, but at the advent of any crisis, the clubs, instead of promoting from the junior ranks, would rather buy someone who is all ready playing in one of the competitive leagues. That is an international player. It makes economic sense to invest in a player all ready playing at the standard expected of the top clubs. A rookie may take a while to get used to the frenetic pace, playing  with the ‘bigger players’ , understanding tactics, and may also lack the ‘psychological strength’ that is needed when playing in front of thousands of baying supporters.

This summer, like all other summers is used by the football clubs to replenish their stock. All the major teams have been linked with either Italian, Brazilian, African, German or Spanish players. Even Canadian and Icelandic players. None of the top ten teams have been linked to any potential moves for English players plying their trade ,say in the Premiership. Or even in the Championship, apart from Newcastle’s reported interest in Andy Carroll. Currently a Liverpool player.

The current top players in the England team are either nearing their thirties or into their thirties. Players can still play at the top-level in their thirties. Italy and clubs like AC Milan have proved that. However, with stellar players like  Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Scott Parker, Ashley Cole and Gareth Barry, just to mention a few, all in their thirties it means the national team will need serious re-jigging very soon. The World Cup is only 2 years away! Admittedly there are good younger players like the  Jack Wilsheres,Wayne Rooneys, Martin Kellys, Daniel Sturridges, Adam Johnsons etc. Of these younger players, Adam Johnson barely gets a sniff at  Manchester City, Daniel Sturridge flits in and out at Chelsea, Martin Kelly is a substitute. Which highlights the enormity of the task the FA and Roy Hodgson face in reviving the national team There is an  ever-dwindling pool of English players playing in the top Premiership clubs.

Th FA are heralding the new training centre at St. Georges Park as the beginning of the revival of the game in England. Of course it should be, after all the huge financial outlays. However, success, if any will depend on whether the Premier League teams, even Championships teams are ready to even risk playing these young players from their academies in the first teams. Spain, the winners of the Euro2012 title have a wide array of players to choose from. They can pick from the cream at Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Valencia, Malaga, Atletico Madrid – They can pick Spanish talent from not just Spain’s La Liga, but they can also pick from the the top Leagues in Europe. That too can be said of  the French, the Portuguese,  the Germans…. Countries who are at the top in European football. Roy Hodgson, on the other hand is limited to choosing players from Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham Spurs and one or two from the Championship (Jack Butland plays for Birmingham City). Marvelous. The Chelsea team that won the Champions League (2011) had 3 English players! The pool is so small, and it is going to be even smaller because all the top teams now have ‘international’ academy teams.

England will hopefully do very well one day. That day is not soon. The long-suffering fans deserve some payback. The FA should use all its political  guile and power to get the big teams to support the development of English talent, if they genuinely want England

English: Steven Gerrard, Liverpool F.C. footballer

English: Steven Gerrard, Liverpool F.C. footballer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

to do well internationally. The Premier League is a big success commercially and entertainingly. May this continue for years tome. But it should not be at the expense of the England football team.

English: The Bird's nest, Beijing, during the ...

English: The Bird’s nest, Beijing, during the closing ceremony of the 2008 olympic games, august 24th Français : Le nid d’oiseau, Pékin, durant la cérémonie de cloture des Jeux Olympiques 2008, le 24 août (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It could be sheer coincidence or perhaps  fate that the current Olympics will be held in the backdrop of austere economic conditions. The last  Olympics in London in 1948 were called the ‘austerity Olympics‘ due to the dire post-war economic and social conditions. Times are hard again.Could Nostradumus have foreseen this as well?

The London Olympics Games could  be that  elixir the country needs to come out of the current downbeat mood. The Olympic Torch has been welcomed by millions countrywide. Millions who have braved the weather’s intemperance. Millions of school children shall be able to tell later generations of that day they witnessed The Torch. Surely that should mark the genesis of a few weeks of joy. Joy perhaps rivalling  or even surpassing the Golden Jubilee weekend, just gone.

London and the Environment

A lot of the masses are moaning. Maybe not the majority, but a very vocal proportion. Aided and abetted by some sections of the Press who behave like ravenous vultures. One can  understand Londoners‘s gripe over say, the Olympic lanes. Londoners will have to put up with some disruption to their lives because most of the games will be in London. Londoners have suffered for years with traffic congestion and the new Olympic lanes may make it even harder to crawl through the streets of London. But surely a few weeks of the pain inflicted by these changes must be worth it when the honour of hosting such global event is bestowed upon you. Apart from that, the new Olympic Lanes maybe the trigger that could get thousands of  Londoners to switch to  public transport. Public transport is actually not that bad. With perhaps some benefit to the environment. Other environmentally friendly methods of  travelling such as cycling could also be a viable alternative too.

Financial Costs

Hosting the Olympics has cost the national coffers quite a significant amount of money. Games of this size will always cost billions. I am not privy to the information on the costs of the games. However, some public records suggest that it could be as much as £11 billion. That is a lot of money, which otherwise could have been invested elsewhere. Most public projects always go over the projected budget. As for the argument the money could have been better utilised elsewhere, one can only argue that the investments made will at least leave some legacy. It is not like billions of pounds poured down the drain like the National NHS IT project. And many other public projects over the years. The  benefits  accrued from hosting the Olympics are immense. Some will accrue over time. Of immediate impact would be the income earned from the hundreds of thousands of visitors to London and other Olympic sites throughout the country. People coming to the Games are going to visit other parts of the UK too,  not just London. The health of the nation will also be given a fillip. More people are taking to sport, and even more will, because of the Games.The country will surely benefit if a significant number of the populace regularly partake in sport. The Government has tried to encourage sport participation with limited success. The excitement generated by  hosting the Olympics Games  may actually turn out to be  the fuel that ignites increased  participating in some sport or exercise. Which will be good for the health of the nation as a whole.

Glory

Whats more spectacular than watching your local athletes competing against the best the world has got to offer, in your own backyard? Think about the local boy/girl, the short-putter. Or any other sportsman/woman. Because of the simple reason that  he/she does not play football or tennis, no one really knows or cares about him/her. This is his/her chance to grab World attention for all their hard work. A chance to get countrymen/women to finally recognize and appreciate him/her as their own Olympian. Several less popular sports never grab the limelight yet these boys and girls are toiling daily to be the best in their sport. This is their best chance to do that now with the Olympic Games in London. Friends and family who have supported them throughout will be basking in the Olympic glory too. The spotlight finally showing. There are many benefits to the local sportsmen/women taking part. There is the quite remote likelihood United Kingdom  may finally top the medals chart! Well, optimism aint a crime! But just think, with all the vocal local/national support behind these athletes, who knows, they may find themeselves pushing  that little harder to win; before their fellow countrymen/women. There is also perhaps a better chance too for the football team to finally get a medal.Who would have anticipated watching one national football team for the United Kingdom. Stuart Pearce‘s team is the one time the four countries play as one.It could also be the one occasion when  the four countries may get a medal at football. Because as individual states, none of the 4 has ever come anywhere within spitting distance of a tournament trophy for decades. We should not forget the female football team too. What a wonderful opportunity!

Families can watch the Games

The last time the Olympic Games were held in the United Kingdom was 1948.Ever since  then anyone who wanted to watch had to fork out a small fortune in funding an expedition abroad to watch the games. Now that they are being held in this country, everyone has had a chance to get to see the games. Some have chosen not too. Or perhaps, the costs involved are still onerous. Or maybe there were not enough tickets. Be that as it may, this is the best and most economical opportunity for the majority of people to actually watch the Olympic Games without having to spend a fortune. The organisers have been a little generous as well, throwing in some Free  London travel too . Children and the youths who get a chance to watch these games  will have such magnificent memories. Adults too will be able to say I was at the London Olympics and be witness to some moments that one will cherish forever. And those not able to watch the games in the stadia will possibly be watching on telly. Or listening to commentary on radios. The whole nation will surely be watching the Games.

Celebration

Moaning has become a national pastime. Maybe the advent of blogs and micro-blogs like Twitter have made is easier for mass moaning. It is understandable in some situations. However, the Olympic Games should be a period of celebration. A period when we all acknowledge the hard work and courage of the athletes, wherever they come from. We have got thousands of visitors, why not start highlighting and celebrate the positives and the marvelous achievements so the whole world can see what this great nation is capable of. We  should be supporting our athletes, they will need all the support they can muster as they attempt to prove they are world-class too. We could start by postponing moaning for now and support the Olympics. There is plenty of time and opportunity after the Games!

Security

One can not talk about the Olympics without mentioning the security farce. The G4S fiasco is an acute national embarrassment. Surely the Army has got much more important work to  do than be used as security guards. Especially with resources so stretched due to the war in Afghanistan. Good thing the Cold War is over, otherwise we would be worried about who was to defend us if some intrepid communist General were to  decide we were ripe for some war games. Thrusting as many as 15000 soldiers on the nation’s daily consciousness as they patrol the streets in East London is, at the very most a sure sign that the organisers and the Government were very inept indeed. But is it time for mud-slinging? The mind boggles as to why G4S Senior management being summoned to Parliament at the 11th hour of the Games? Surely they should have been busy trying to salvage a really messy situation instead of attending Parliament. It smacks of cheap political point-scoring by the MPs!  If the Government were doing their job properly surely we could never be in this mess anyway. The problems encountered are of the Government’s own making. Police numbers have been slashed nationwide;  privatisation of once were public services, elevation of commercial enterprises like G4S into national institutions……I could go on and on. However, this blog is about celebrating the Olympics Games. Time for evaluations, Parliamentary appearances and lessons learned shall surely come well after the Games.

Looking forward to the Games

We should all be looking forward to a successful Games. May all the athletes and supporters have a great Games. Just imagine someone like Rebecca Adlington, or Jessica Ennis, Tom Daley, Phillips Idowu, Hanna England, Rajiv Ouseph,Dai Greene, Mark Cavendish, Perri Shakes-Drayton…or any one of the British athletes, imagine them standing at the podium with the National Anthem playing, medals dangling from their necks! Taking part is more important I know. However,  it would be great to see all these athletes receive worldwide recognition for their endeavours. It will be greater still for all of us to be there supporting them.

England were knocked out by Italy. Outplayed for most of the match apart from the first 20 minutes of the first half (normal time). Possession statistics are quite damning. The facts speak for themselves. Pirlo was in total control of the match and England seemed to think defence was the best policy.

Does the type of football typified by England really work in modern tournament football? I suppose looking at the way Chelsea FC’s victory in lifting the Champions League this type of football has got its merits. The belief that the end justifies the means comes to mind. However,the main disadvantage is that neutral supporters get turned off easily. Moreover, ‘parking the bus’ as this style of football is euphemistically called makes a mockery of the  sobriquet ‘the Beautiful game’. There is no beauty in the display. The only ‘beauty’ I suppose is seeing  the not-so-appealing team winning and their supporters screaming in utter jubilation. The end does justify the means.

England will need to go back to the drawing board and find a way of improving on the performances displayed at the EUROs. Players will have to be more technically adept, and they above all else will need to have total belief in their own abilities. Theat belief seemed to be lacking. Psychological support may be needed here. There are some excellent players in the Prem League. Admittedly a significant number of the exceptionally good ones are not English. However, the likes of Ste Gerrard, Lampard, Terry, Ashley Cole, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joe Hart, Glenn Johnson, just to name a few are good enough to grace any national team. And win the major trophies.  There will be some tricky matches on the way to the World Cup and these players will need to make sure that these choppy waters are overcome. The Coach has wide-ranging experience plus an expert knowledge of different systems, so therefore the future should be rosy.

One area though I feel the FA & the clubs need to address is how the young boys are taught to play football. Technical skills must be made the be-all and end-all. There is no place for hoofing the ball upwards, in the hope someone will head it in. Players must be made to understand importance of possession football, defending as a unit and above all be able to beat the opponent  with easy. It has taken Spain a few years to get to where they are now.the Germans keep working on improving their systems, and the other European countries are becoming technically more proficient. Croatia were quite impressive, even Russia and Poland. The future is here and we have to make sure our fast-paced football can cope with the  tiki takas of this world.

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