Thursday, July 27, 2006

Al-Qaeda to Buy Villa?

Apparently a group of Arabs are involved in a fourth bid to take over the club. The People's Republic speculates it could be the Saudi king, the only person in the world who could improve Ellis' amazing record at the club. He's sacked more managers. And contrary to some stories, Cleveland Brown's Randy owner is still interested in buying the club - he just isn't interested in dealing with Ellis.

Is he a former Villa manager?

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!

Phew! The World Cup series of posts took longer than expected (and I was actually planning to have a round-up of the groups and the progress of each participant which I have now shelved). This is mainly because of a mini-heatwave that is affecting Birmingham (and my computer) at the moment, making it among the hottest places in the country just a week ago. Among the news I have failed to comment on are the sale of Emile Heskey and Jermaine Pennant at Blues, the fact that they are favourites for the Championship in the fortcoming season with Albion second, and an exclusive from West Brom: I have from a reliable source that Mr Robson will have 10 games to turn the fortunes of the club round when the new season starts, otherwise he will be shown the door.

Meanwhile at Villa there are enough rumours going on for an entire article to be devoted to it. In summary, some newspaper reports suggested that Villa players were unhappy at the cost-cutting going on at the club (apparently a physio was not allowed to claim back the price of a cup of airport coffee from the company's expenses, the Villa players had to personally pay a masseuse after the club stopped funding them and a new training facility was scrapped). This story transmogrified into one player egged-on by Mr O'Leary. This led to an investigation and a "parting of company with the club on amicable terms". While the search for a new manager goes on three interested parties are attempting to buy the club: an American called Randy who owns the MBNA brand of credit cards, local Solihull business man Mr Neville, and Sven Goran Eriksson's agent. Maybe we will see Beckham in Brum after all...

Elsewhere in the city the Dubliner pub was burnt down in an apparent arson attack a couple of nights ago. Worldwide, Israel has gone over the top in attacking everything that moves in Lebanon as the result of a couple of soldiers being kidnapped, and as usual America and Britain haven't got the leadership to tell them to stop. Question marks over the Metropolitan Police have resurfaced - ridiculously, no-one will be charge over the Jean Charles de Menezes incident, although the Met will be charge under Health and Safety Legislation (because they shot the wrong man) and a BBC documentary claims a senior policeman involved in the initial investigation of the Stephen Lawrence murder was bribed by a relative of one of the suspects. And we thought the serious crime squad was bent.

Anyway hopefully normal service will soon be resumed.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Strikers

Here is where we lost the world cup. We only took four - two who were crocked and one who had never played a Premiership game.

9 Wayne Rooney - Sven had to take him for the unpredictability factor (and as it turned out he was not badly injured anyway). A mistake to play him up front on his own, as he was isolated and his frustration led to him being sent off.

10 Michael Owen - a confidence player who a brave manager would not have been taken - so Sven definitely had him in the squad.

21 Peter Crouch - what is going on with this player - he simply isn't international class. Presumably in the team because he plays for Liverpool, but that in itself is a mystery, particularly as Djibril Cisse, a far superior player, has just be loaned out by the same club. How can you take a striker who failed to score in the first fourteen games for his new club, and then missed a penalty?

23 Theo Walcott - again what is going on? How can you take a player who you have never seen and has never played a Premiership game? Sven clearly panicked after Rooney's injury - but then never had the guts to play him. His inclusion is comparable to Ronaldo in 1994 - the difference being he could remain on the bench for the experience because they had a fit, in form strike force that won the World Cup.

You have got to feel sorry for Darren Bent. Top English scorer in the season and does not get a look in. Jermaine Defoe did not become a bad player in one season. Andy Johnson made a big mistake staying with a Championship club - he certainly is international class but needs the Premiership experience, which he will get this year with Everton

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Midfielders

There are far to many of these:

4. Steven Gerrard. Nothing wrong with this one. Should fit the other players around him.

7. David Beckham. Never a wide-right player, and should not be in the team let alone captain. A case of Sven picking the best players rather than the best team

8. Frank Lampard. A poor world cup. 24 shots (more than anyone else), none hit the back of the net. Cannot play alongside Gerrard (except with a holding midfield player if these two bomb forward, which they didn't).

10. Joe Cole. Excellent World Cup but not a wide-left player. Should have tried him in the Rooney role. Perhaps try in centre in future.

16. Owen Hargreaves. Jury out. Had a good tournament, but even Nicky Butt looked good in the holding midfield role four years ago. Useful in squad due to versatility - and at least he can score a penalty.

17. Jermaine Jenas. Why was he in the squad? He was never going to play, and we should have had a fifth striker instead.

18. Michael Carrick. My choice for the holding midfield role - he can certainly pass the ball.

19. Aaron Lennon. One for the future. Should have taken Beckham's place on merit.

20. Stewart Downing. Should have picked Kieran Richardson in my opinion

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Defenders

Usually the strength of the England team, the defence looked unusually suspect against Sweden particularly on set pieces. However, they didn't concede a goal in the other games so generally it was a case of job done.

2. Gary Neville - not a lot of competition for his right-back role but the United player showed his age missing a couple of games through injury. Certainly justified for selection, and much better than Luke Young who for me, regardless of what the London press say has never done it in an England shirt.

3. Ashley Cole - again undoubtedly first choice, but defensively still suspect.

5. Rio Ferdinand - had an good tournament and cannot question his inclusion

6. John Terry - future captain, and a rock we should build the team around

12. Sol Campbell - some people would have preferred to see Dawson after question marks over the old war-horses mentality, but I would let Eriksson off on the fact that experience is useful in the squad.

14. Wayne Bridge - a case of picking the name rather than the player in form. If I'm correct had an injury hit average season, and Paul Konchesky should have been named ahead of him.

15. Jamie Carragher - definitely one for the squad and arguably a first teamer. Perhaps could fit him in at right-back but has never really performed as well as centre back in that role for his club. Definitely not a holding midfielder.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Goalkeepers

The People's Republic doesn't have a football team, so unfortunately we are stuck with supporting England. A country which once produced the likes of Banks and Shilton between the sticks it appears that we are going through a rather barren spell with the following three stooges.

1. Paul Robinson - before the world cup mine and probably most people's number one choice to wear the gloves. Unfortunately he seems to be training too much with David James, flapping at crosses and generally making bad decisions. Given the dearth of top quality keepers at the moment a good tournament could have given him the goalkeeping jersey for the next ten years. With other managers he may not have lasted the tournament, but luckily his competition was not that fierce.

13. David James - never has been and never will be international class. An excellent shot stopper, but then most keepers are. It is decision making which separates the men from the boys. Probably needed in the squad because of his experience, but that alone is due to the loyalty of the bespectacled one. Surely time to train up another.

22. Robert Green. Had a shocking season with Norwich in the Championship, but unfortunately (for him) was injured before the tournament and replaced with 20-year-old Scott Carson, who doesn't have enough experience. If Chris Kirkland can keep himself fit, he has a great chance of getting into this setup.

But it is a big if.

23 Reasons Why England Failed

The strange thing about Sven is that as an international manager he seems to have got worse. Quarter-Finals against the eventual winners four years ago when we nearly didn't qualify was acceptable. Losing two years ago to the hosts at the same stage was also excusable - but the cracks were beginning to show. Picking the best players not the best team; keeping faith with underperforming big names; going one goal up and trying to hold the match; the wrong substitutions at the wrong time. So it came as quite a surprise when he announced his 23 man squad which from the start looked strange. Over the next few days I will look at his selection and record where he went wrong for posterity.

In any case the mistakes are too numerous for one post.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Azzurri Give Les Bleus the Blues

Congratulations to Italy on their fourth World Cup win - nice to know at least one nation can learn to take penalties. I can now resume blogging again. Watch out for reviews of the tournament in the week ahead and then we can all get ready for the new season.

No rest for the wicked.