The problem with England, is it all the manager’s fault?

I was fortunate enough to have missed England’s depressing 1-0 Wembley defeat to Germany, which followed a 2-0 loss to Chile just days earlier. However, on my way home that night I found myself listening to Talksport and to what was a fairly heated debate about the shortcomings of England. Adrian Durham, a man known for his bold and often frankly ridiculous opinions stated that the problem with England over the years has been poor managers, writing off the likes of Sven Goran Eriksson, Steve McClaren(fair point), Fabio Capello(won everything there is to win in the game) and Roy Hodgson.


This statement really ticked me off as he went on to say that Bobby Robson and Terry Venables were the only decent managers we have had. Fair enough, they were the only two that lead us to tournament semi finals, but they were competing against teams with 1 or 2 world class players, not today’s mega powers who have a squad full of them. The standard of international teams as a whole is unquestionably higher than ever, but his opinion seemed to sidestep the fact that during this time England as a team have got progressively worse. We have struggled to match the quality of football played by the likes of Spain and Germany, but it comes down to more than simple tactical ineptness.

You only have to look at the England squad to see where the problems lie. In years gone by, we’ve always had one problem position(usually left midfield), but at the minute we have a whole host of problems. In goal, our number one for many years Joe Hart has seemingly lost the plot, losing his starting place at Man City following a series of catastrophic errors. The only thing certain about poor Joe is that he has dandruff free hair. It has meant the focus has switched to his England backups and they are few and far between. The leading contender is Fraser Forster, a regular for Celtic in a league which barely provides a challenge following the demise of Rangers. He’s clearly a talented keeper but you have to question why he never made it at Newcastle if he was genuinely top class. Other contenders include John Ruddy at Norwich, again unproven at the highest level and U21 keeper Jack Butland who can’t get near a game at Stoke.


In defence, we seemed blessed with attacking full backs, but question marks remain over their defensive abilities. Glen Johnson in particular is a threat going forward but seems prone to a lapse in concentration when it comes to defending. his alternative Kyle Walker even gets abuse from his own Spurs fans for the exact same reason. Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill appear to be the preferred defensive partnership, but you can imagine the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi licking their lips at the prospect of playing against the pair. Again reinforcements don’t fill you with confidence, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have yet to cement their place in the Manchester United team as centre backs yet they’re England’s backups, worrying. The one bonus is they can play a variety of positions which may prove an advantage if injuries strike during the tournament. There have been calls for John Terry to be recalled. But does that really provide a solution that can take us forward and can he be trusted around other players wives!?!?

England’s defensive worries are more concerning when unlike pretty much every other major nation, we lack a genuine defensive midfielder. Some will argue that Michael Carrick can do the job, yet I don’t see him being that destructive force and defensive shield that is so popular with teams today. Spain have Busquets/Martinez, Italy have De Rossi, Germany have Khedira, the list is endless. Sure Carrick can play a nice sideways pass and can slow a game down, but can he protect two centre backs who are likely to be exposed by the best players in the world?

Stevie Gerrard is playing a more withdrawn role these days and it’s clear that his attacking powers are waning. Alongside him in midfield, you only have to read our Twitter timeline to see the constant abuse levelled at players like Tom Cleverley, Jordan Henderson and even Jack Wilshere. The latter needs to step up and realise his potential as he is probably the only man who can provide the creative spark so desperately missing.

In attacking areas it seems we are going to go with Danny Welbeck and Andros Townsend. Again, neither is likely to strike fear into the heart of quality opposition and they will probably spend more time defending than attacking. To be fair, Townsend and Welbeck have had a few good moments in an England shirt this year, but can they do it consistently? Beyond Rooney and Sturridge, we again lack depth with Defoe, Lambert and Jay Rodriguez our current options. We desperately lack an out an out goalscorer in the mould of a Lineker or Shearer and the signs so far are that the Sturridge/Rooney partnership needs plenty of work. Their backups are a long way from international quality in my opinion and the callup of Jay Rodriguez took me by surprise, but they are quite frankly the best we have.


So the current crop contains many areas of concern and our younger level squads have not provided much reason to look forward to the future. A lack of English players in the Premier League is killing our national team and as a result our managers are having to pick from a limited group of players. If you look down the lower leagues, more foreign players can be found than ever before, preventing our best young talent from playing regular football. The recent furore about the FA trying to persuade Adnan Januzaj to play for England is a clear indication of where things are heading. The fact is we don’t have enough quality players playing regularly at the highest level and those that are doing seem to shrink in stature when they pull on the England shirt. Maybe it’s because they don’t have to fight for their place in the squad, maybe they just don’t give as much of a shit as some other nationalities do. Watch the passion of the Italian and Brazilian players during their national anthem, then watch ours, a group of nervous schoolboys embarrassed to sing in front of an audience. One thing is for sure, England’s problems run a lot deeper than simply being the manager’s fault.



5 Things International Football Could Learn From WWE

How shit are friendlies? They come along, they take away the football we actually care about and they usually end up injuring players that could’ve been doing better things with their time. The battle to get international friendlies scrapped altogether seems to be a futile one, so instead we’ve decided to come up with some ways to spice things up a bit… By borrowing some of the best things about wrestling, such as…

    Stipulation Matches

In wrestling, stipulation matches are used to guarantee some excitement in a match that might need a bit of livening up and there’s nothing that needs livening up as much as international friendlies do.

Sure, we probably can’t have matches decided by someone being put through a table (although the thought of Per Mertesacker chokeslamming Suarez through one is quite appealing…), but we could stick a steel cage around the pitch and have no throw ins or corners, or triple threat matches, where the pitch is divided triangularly and we have three teams playing at once instead, or even something with Elimination Chamber styled timed entrances, so the match starts of 1vs1 before other players are introduced every few minutes in random order. Sure, it might end up that you’ve got a 4vs1 situation at some point, but at least that’d give everyone a half decent excuse the next time England get outplayed by Chile.

    Entrance Music

National anthems are rubbish, there’s no two ways about it. Who wants to hear some antiquated falsification of ‘national pride’ when the teams could come out to something that could really get the blood pumping and the stadium rocking? Germany could come out to Rammstein, Norway to Kvelertak and England to… erm… Craig David?

We could go the whole way and even have them play live. The NFL has live music whenever there’s a big event (even if it was only Tinie Tempah when it came to Wembley earlier this year) and it makes everything just that little bit more special on the night, it won’t solve the pointlessness of the matches, but it would make you feel like you’re getting a good bit more for your money.


“Ibrahimovic gets past Jagielka, he’s one on one with Joe Hart! OH MY G- WHO’S THIS?! SOL CAMPBELL WITH A SLIDE TACKLE FROM OUTTA NOWHERE!!!” It’d be brilliant (and yes, we would bring Jim Ross in for commentary duties), imagine being in the pub watching the game and something like this happened, the place would explode!

There’s always big names at most matches anyway, why not give them something to do?

    Returning Legends

Okay, so Sol Campbell coming back to save the day kind of touches on this already, but you could also have more planned occurrences. No one in their right mind could bring themselves to care about a Italy vs France friendly these days, but if you bill it as ‘MARCO MATERAZZI. ZINIDINE ZIDANE. ONE. LAST. TIME.’ we would all watch the shit out of it.

Of course, this might not be a massive help to England since they’ve not really got any legends who could make a real impact (Neither Gazza nor the team of ’66 are in the best shape right now), but it’s not like the idea of a showdown between the likes of Ronaldinho and Luis Figo wouldn’t be worth watching for the neutral.

    Special Guest Referees

Imagine it: Maradona guest refereeing England vs Argentina, Thierry Henry reffing France vs Ireland. Legends of the game with one last chance for redemption against teams they’ve wronged… Or, of course, they could rub salt in the wound and go the other way, but it’d at least make these games mean something and anyway, it’s not like their bias or influence would really matter, because they’re stupid pissing friendlies that no one cares about!

Ryan De Freitas.


Interesting read

No Standing

A lot has been written recently about Football Hipsters and Hipster Teams. You know, the “cooler-than-thou” football fans who purport to support a foreign side you’ve never heard of (because you’re not cool and hip enough!), and the cool clubs themselves the hipsters follow. Whilst bringing them to the common football fan’s attention no longer makes the teams referred to elitist and exclusive, these hipster writers and bloggers need to maintain their cool quotient by constantly telling people just how cool they are, so they’re in a bind. However, they probably don’t follow that particular teams referred to any more anyway, as it’s “you know, SO last season”, and they’ve moved on to someone far more obscure “that you just wouldn’t have heard of…”.


Venn diagram of hipster team coolness

Anyway, at the risk of simultaneously trying to sound cool and immediately blowing it by telling you about it, here’s…

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Red Bull: A Premier League Opportunity?

In the world of sport, many corporate companies and businesses have fluttered an interest in the money making possibilities in owning a Sports team or brand. Splattered everywhere is eye-catching adverts from the world’s most popular brands, whether on the back of a motor car, on an athlete’s attire or on a sideboard in a stadium, you cannot escape the capitalism.
Red Bull are arguably the biggest players in the game when it comes to sport advertising. Organising their own unique events (Stock Car Racing and Cliff Diving the particular highlights) began the trend of Red Bull being the backbone money funder of “unique” sports.
No longer just an energy drink that cannot be good for you in the long run, they are now speeding around Formula 1 tracks with the best driver and car in the sport (proven with their fourth title victory on the trot this past weekend) and most importantly in this context, since 2008 have been the owners of the New York Red Bulls (who play at the Red Bull Arena) in Major League Soccer in the US and own other teams in Ghana, Brazil and Salzburg in Austria.

A recent rumour, picked up by The Mirror (which can be read here) was thrown about within the media that the Austrian Business were looking into buying a Premier League club and develop them into a Champions League team. Now as with all media, we shall take this with a pinch of salt until proven otherwise, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little ponder.
Hypothetically speaking, who would be the perfect fit for Red Bulls plans? Here’s a look at some of the most likely candidates.:

Aston Villa Randy Lerner (Majority Shareholder)
Lerner has put substantial money into the club (over 100 million since 2006) and was hit by the banking crisis. Apart from the buy of Christian Benteke, no other true positive has been brought into Villa, perhaps a good choice for Red Bull, a legendary top league club that can perhaps return to past glories?

Everton Bill Kenright (Majority Shareholder)
A team already spending the future money available to them from TV revenue, Everton, although succeeding further than many expected, are leaving it down to the players they’ve managed to attain cheaply (a young Leighton Baines back in the mid-noughties, Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea and Ross Barkley from the academy keeping them afloat this season). Everton are stretching themselves further and further, and with no new stadium or training facilities and a transfer budget coming from loans from the bank, cannot evolve into the European team they actually could be. The board of directors could be difficult to shift, especially Bill Kenright (chairman since the late 80s) but to see the team succeed beyond their dreams could be a tempting proposition for the Mersey Side Blues.

Sunderland Ellis Short (Majority Shareholder)
Another club owned by an American Sports tycoon, Sunderland are at tenterhooks, not just with remaining in the Premier League, but if relegated, being up for the sale. Financially speaking Ellis Short cannot afford the damage relegation will cause his team, and with Sunderland scrambling at what is a tight fight at the bottom of the table, we may see Short cut his losses and sell to an enthusiastic company.

This is all hypothetically speaking, there’s a lot that would need to happen for Red Bull to even consider the purchase of a team that would have an illustrious history within the Premier League, and may even look into the lower leagues to build and develop if the right team isn’t available at the top tier.

Ross Jones

Milestone in a Club’s History – FC Basel

Football is a great game, that we all agree about. It can create some of the most special friendships in your life. Some of these people will be your friends forever, even if you can’t stand each others club. The Beautiful Game brought me to a passionate supporter. A man who would give his heart and soul for his club: FC Basel.

I knew Basel are a Swiss side who play in blue and red. But the curious football fan inside me wanted to know more about this club. So I started looking for the history behind a club who will soon celebrate their 120th anniversary. On the 12th November 1893. Basel. The Basler National Newspaper publishes an advert under the title of ‘Football Game’. According to this advert, friends of the game are invited on the next Wednesday to discuss the founding of a new football club.
Eleven men answer the advert and meet each other on Wednesday. It sounds like a coincidence to have eleven men showing up, but the number also is symbolic. Eleven men are needed to form a football team. It is on 15 November 1893 that these men found the club.

Some of them have little experience with football, though these men want to start a football club. They mainly are looking for a sport which can be combined with rowing. Others are open-minded academics. They hope to use football as a way to escape from a narrow minded way of thinking.
One of the eleven men is Ferdinand Isler. He’s a professor at the Cantonal School in Fraudenfeld. As a great supporter of the game, Isler makes a brochure of this new sport, he translates the rules from English into German and becomes one of the first sports journalists in Swiss media.

The founding members pick Roland Geldner as their first Club President. Geldner is said to be a very sophisticated and an extraordinarily talented footballer. According to Jean Grieder, who takes notes of the meeting, Roland Geldner also is the club’s first ever sponsor: “The pitch and the footballs were made available by Roland Geldner and gratefully accepted. The pitch will be installed in the coming days in order to start play on November 26th.” The gentlemen are in a hurry. They didn’t meet in a smoke filled room on 15th November 1893 to talk. They wanted to find a way to play football as quickly as possible.

The first ever match in the history of FC Basel lasts two hours and it ends with a win for FCB on 20th November 1893. It is a match between the first team and the reserves. As historic as this match may be it could not be called ‘official’. The actual ‘official first’ match takes place two weeks later on December 10th 1893, FC Basel takes on Realschülerturnverein Basel and beat them 2:0.

Over a hundred years later In the autumn of 2003, Basel establish a new Swiss record by winning all of their first 13 games in the Swiss Super League. The previous record of 11 consecutive victories was held by Servette Geneva. FCB goes into the winter break with 52 points from 18 games, a lead of 14 points over the second placed Young Boys Berne. For the 2004/2005 season, Basel made five signings to strengthen the squad. They welcome César Andrés Carignano, Kléber, Mladen Petric, Mile Steriovski and Thomas Mandl. In addition, the transfer of the promising French youngster Djamel Mesbah is secured. In 2009, Basel were unable to win the Swiss Championship title. After ten years at the helm, the enormously sucsessful head coach Christian Gross will be replaced by former FC Bayern Munich player Thorsten Fink. After a difficult start to the season under new head coach Thorsten Fink, Basel make remarkable progress and climb up the Championship table. In the spring of 2011, FC Basel win the title by a one point lead over FC Zurich. This secured the 14th Championship in the club’s history. It was also the second in a row for Thorsten Fink and his staff.

Last season, Basel achieved to become the first ever Swiss club to reach the semi finals in the UEFA Europa League. In the quarter finals, they managed to beat Tottenham Hotspur on penalties. But it was Chelsea who ended their European campaign. This season Basel are once again sitting atop the Swiss Super League, could it be 5 in a row and the 17th league title in their history for Basel?


Looking Back At Last Weekend

Goalkeepers dominated last weekends reporting so we thought we would share with you our views from the weekend.

Joe Hart dropped.

The first talking point came in the buildup to Manchester Citys clash with Norwich City, when Manuel Pellegrini announced to the press that after a few weeks of speculation he was dropping Manchester City number 1 Joe Hart for Costel Pantilimon. Hart has made some high profile errors this season and the break was a good move from Pellegrini on two counts. The first way in which it was good management was for the simple fact Joe Hart needed a break, he has been City’s league number one for the last 4 seasons and the unchallenged situation may have bred complacency in Hart. The second part is the fact it sends a message to the entire squad that everyone is replaceable if they do not put in the performances that the Chilean demands. He also did well in keeping Hart out of the team for the CSKA match as Pantilimon didn’t have a lot to do in the Norwich game (one shot on target), so shouldn’t have lost his place. The ball is now in Harts court to step up his performance and regain his jersey.

Hugo Lloris.

Tottenhams French Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was involved in a horrible collision with Evertons Romelu Lukaku that was reminiscent of the clash that left Petr Cech crumbled on the turf at the Madejski Stadium back in 2006. First things first, there is no way Lukaku should have been booked for the clash as he altered the course of his run to try and avoid the Frenchman, unfortunately it was the momentum of the on rushing Lloris that caused him to keep sliding in to make contact with Lukaku’s knee. It wasn’t exactly the Belgians fault. After all if a man of Lukaku’s size decides to be malicious and leave his knee in, we wouldn’t be the only thing Sat In Row Z!  Tottenham have copped a lot of bullshit for allowing Lloris to play on as he did look sparked out on the turf but even with all the medical professionals on the field of play the only person who knew exactly how he felt was Lloris himself, he was looked at by the doctor and they weren’t exactly trying to get him off the pitch so they must have believed he wasn’t in that bad of a condition. If the player wants to carry on leave him on unless he starts showing serious signs of concussion. And Remember: Sport Hurts!

Let us know your thoughts below.