Baggies can't win the raffle unless they buy a ticket!

Baggies can't win the raffle unless they buy a ticket!

Most West Bromwich Albion fans have no idea how Tony Pulis instructs his players or sets up his team to play. Neither do I or anyone else in the media, All any of us has is an opinion based on what we see on the pitch.

And what the Baggies faithful have seen leaves them believing the team is too defensive minded and not playing with any sort of convincing attacking intent. They believe it comes from the philosophy of the Head Coach and to be fair it’s hard to argue any different.

From the outside it looks like a team that is more worried about not losing than it is winning. If the team were sitting mid-table that philosophy and mind-set speaks and argues for itself, however when you are just one point above the relegation zone then it’s a different situation. With everyone from the board-room to the terraces asking questions, such is the fear surrounding relegation from the Royal Bank of Football affectionately known as the Premier League.

Make no mistake about it the fear is losing 100 million pounds guaranteed income every year and not about having to play in the Championship. I accept that for most supporters it is different as they want to see their team compete against the best teams in the top league.

For Albion if Tony Pulis’s philosophy is set up not to lose them it patently isn’t working with 5 defeats from their 11 games. However It is worth pointing out in the interests of fairness that teams with a more attacking attitude are below Albion in the table notably West Ham.

I am not a stats person, however what does help you to understand the Baggies fans feelings and frustrations is the official Premier League shots on target figures. Albion have had 30 shots on target so far this season; that is one every 33 minutes.

Jay Rodriguez is top with 8 shots on target then come Hegazi, Phillips and Rondon with 3 each, Chadli, Barry, McClean, Morrison and Robson-Kanu have 2 apiece. While Evans, Gibbs and Krychowiak make up the 30 with one each.

Does that tell its own story? I will leave that to the Albion supporters to discuss and debate that one. However, to use an old cliché, what I do know for certain is that if you don’t buy a ticket you definitely won’t win the raffle and the more tickets you buy the greater the chance of winning.

I will say that it’s so easy sitting here at a keyboard to be a great coach or manager or player and to have all the answers but I am sure it’s a lot different when you have the job for real as Tony Pulis does. One way to get the supporters back on his side is, to quote another old saying, to “have a right good go” in games.

 

Why we fans are down the pecking order of importance

Why we fans are down the pecking order of importance

 

At one time football fans were vitally important, they were the life blood of the game, they were the reason for the games existence and they were definitely the reason it was so popular. That was until the formation of the Premier League when businessmen saw the game mainly as a revenue stream with great potential to earn millions of pounds nationally and internationally and be socially accepted in boardrooms up and down the country. The reality is that greed was the foundation upon which the Premier League was built and still is to this day. It is sadly the working man’s game no longer.

Today the fans are still vitally important in League One and League Two and just about important in the Championship.

At one time falling attendances would set of the alarm bells in most boardrooms but in the current money mad Premier League as long as the team stays up they will happily cope with it. Gate revenue is a very small part of a Premier League clubs overall income. No longer do the fans pay the players wages. The reality is that the fans are no more than extra’s in a big TV production.

However for the supporters it is and always will be about tradition and family history-that is what drags us down to a ground when it’s freezing cold and the team is not in great form and you can add into that mix very expensive ticket prices. Clubs, understandably in this money mad game, play on our affinity to the club.

Premier League clubs will argue and tell you in no uncertain terms that the fans are important! However they will kick off at any time to suit the TV schedulers irrespective of how inconvenient it is to the supporters. Don’t just blame the TV companies because the Premier League and Championship clubs have to agree to the TV deal and, in my opinion, were blinded by the love of money and it is that love of money that is the root of all footballs evils.  

Foreign TV rights bring in multi-millions of pounds to the Premier League and this has now resulted in an Orwellian type situation where the six so called bigger clubs want more of the money in a financially elitist stance that beggars belief. In English it means the other 14 clubs can take what they are given and be grateful. Foreign TV audiences want to see certain clubs on their screens which relegates most Premier League clubs to being bit part players, no more than just extras. So it’s easy to arrive at the conclusion that the fans are no longer as important to clubs as they once were despite the lip service paid to them.

What gets managers the sack in the Premier League is not results per se but the risk of dropping out of the cash rich Premier League as a consequence of those bad results. Most owners would not sack a manager if could guarantee staying in the top flight and therefore keep the annual minimum of 100’000 million pounds rolling into the clubs bank account.

Players and managers have often turned their back on the greatest cup competition on the planet, the FA Cup, as their money addled brains convinces them it will advantageous in their fight to stay in the Premier League. It also happens even more so in the League Cup and the Europa League.

Every championship club is striving to get into the Premier League but not for glory but to feed at the breast of the cash cow even if it is only for one season. However it is different for the championship clubs supporters who want to reach the Premier League to compete against the very best teams and see better players playing for their clubs.

However, when I say TV I don’t necessarily mean SKY or BT because the digital revolution could see on line companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon or Netflix buy their way into football and stream games online for a fee. In fact SKY have already lost the ATP Tennis to Amazon who were reported to have paid over 50 million pounds to get it.

The Premier League are using the courts to end illegal free streaming of their games in a bid to make themselves more attractive to their TV partners and potential partners. It is always about money. So the rights are set to increase in value and if SKY and BT waver then online companies will pounce. So the obsession with money is set to get worse.

So next time you feel like making a stand, making a protest by staying away or letting them know how unhappy you are at any given situation don’t bother because we are well down the Premier League pecking order of importance behind TV money, League sponsors and club Sponsors.

Yet week in and week out you will be there wearing your scarf, buying your programme and pie because you are addicted to your club, it is a love affair that cannot be broken, It is your religion, the ground is your church where you turn up in all weathers to worship and there is nothing you can do about it because it’s in your blood and don’t the clubs know it.

 

New Youth Football FA proposed rules

New Youth Football FA proposed rules

I have seen the new FA proposed rule changes for youth football (up to U13s). It has caused lots of argument and debate among junior clubs coaches.

I find it difficult to understand the rationale behind the proposals that are being tested in Manchester.

Just a few of the changes they want to implement!

No slide tackling

Coaches cannot shout instructions

When goalkeeper has ball all opponents must go back to halfway line

All squad members must be given game time playing in all positions including goalkeeper.

No A or B teams allowed all teams must be of even ability.

If a team is losing by 4 goals they can bring on an extra player-however when the deficit is reduced to 3 goals he or she has to leave the field.

Like most of us I played football all my life through school and non-league and realise that it was character building. To be left out of the team made you want to improve to get in it. When you were in the reserves you worked hard to get in the first team? Again it made you determined, gave you a target, and inspired you to work hard at improving.

When you were losing heavily you worked harder and got stuck in because your pride was hurt and wanted to make the game as close as you could. It would have been embarrassing to be given an extra player and that would have hurt my self-esteem and I am sure that of my team mates too. However if you did lose heavily it made the team regroup and want to put it right in the next game.

It taught me discipline and the importance of team work and relying on my team mates to achieve an end result.

If a coach doesn’t shout instructions and correct you after you have made a mistake surely you will continue to make the same mistakes. The new law says the coach can ask questions during the game? e.g. he might ask a  player “do you think you did the right thing?” of course the player will say yes but more than likely he will be confused-I would think just telling him what he should be doing would be more helpful.

The law where opponents are forced back to the half way line is because they want defenders to play out from the back. I can see that but the minute they play over 14s football and the keeper gives them the ball they will be put under pressure from the opposing strikers and won’t know how to deal with it!

Some of the proposed new changes I like. Especially the one where parents can only applaud both teams but cannot should or call out.

It appears that they are sanitizing the game with a one size fits all attitude. Whether its school or junior football there is nothing like winning. Winning is a natural drug-once you have experienced it you want to experience it again. Losing brings you down and with the right team spirit and attitude it can serve to inspire you to do better next time you play.

In life there are players better than you and players worse than you that is life- The better ones play in the first team and the rest are in the second with an incentive to improve and get in the first team.

From the outside it looks like they want everything to be equal and fair with technical skill being the barometer. Talking to a number of former professionals who coach youngsters they believe that when youngsters move out of this age group (up to U13s) they would virtually have to start again teaching them the game from scratch.

Skill is not enough and only becomes relevant when sitting alongside hard work, desire, enthusiasm and an appreciation of teamwork.

Be it football or anything else in life there are no short cuts to success. Check out the laws/rule proposals in full at http://www.respectleague.com/rules.html

 

Ding Dong Derby games are more than just a football match

Ding Dong Derby games are more than just a football match

 

 

All derby games are special to the fans of the clubs involved whatever level you are playing in however for me the all Brummie Ding Dong Derby has always been extra special since growing up as a kid in the predominately Villa area of Summer Lane. I went to St Chads RC School and it was virtually all Villa fans. It was tough at times with lots of banter but without any hate or violence.

It’s the raw passion and emotion of derby games that is all encompassing not only during the match but for weeks before and weeks afterwards. To be honest as a young man I loved away derby games where you were out-numbered but still tried to out-sing the home fans.

One thing is for certain promotion or reaching the playoffs will not be decided on the result of Sunday’s high noon shoot out. However, for the fans, everything else takes second place to holding the bragging rights with a win. Performance, flair, possession, shots on target, shots of target, corners, expected goals (whatever that is) is totally secondary to the result.

What fans expect and demand from players in all games but especially in a derby game is ninety minutes of hard work, desire, passion and commitment while a little rub of the green is always welcome. Players and fans will be hoping for a strong referee who understands what derby games are all about and referee’s accordingly. That doesn’t mean letting players kick and injure each other but calling the game correctly with an understanding that emotions run high in derby games.

For a week or so before the game the banter is flying around between neighbours, friends, work colleagues and school mates. Most fans will be positive but with a nervous twitchy feeling about the outcome irrespective of current form.

This week in the build up to the game the feelings and emotions are hotting up. I was at Villa Park last week covering the game against Fulham for talkSPORT. All anyone wanted to talk about was the derby game not Fulham, not promotion, just about how important it was to them personally that they win the derby. On the way out one woman was singing “we’re coming to get ya” at me and I have to say I love the banter.

Derby games are rarely classics as the occasion, atmosphere, tension and the importance of not losing can get to players. The biggest challenge of the managers is ensuring the players play the game and not the occasion although I am sure that no fan could ever do that if he were ever playing in a derby game.

It has always been a game where no quarter is asked, given or expected and that is exactly how it should be. They are games to savour as they take you on an emotional roller coaster ride and I am certain fans will experience every known emotion in some form or other during the ninety minutes. 

Days like Sunday are why we love this great sport. It will be nothing to do with money, nothing to do with how rich the owners are, nothing to do with how much players cost or where they are from. It is to do with generations of family history and tradition and. Most of us had no choice who we supported it was down to our Dads. Unlike players fans are not here for the length of a contract or for what they can get out of it. We don’t move onto another club because they are in a higher league or have better players. No sir! A fans contract is for life whatever league the club is in, whoever the manager is or owners are. You are born one and die one sticking with them through the good times and the bad times end of story.

This is the same for fans of any club anywhere in the country and I am sure the Baggies and Wolves fans see their derby as just as special as any other.

One or two idiots have in the past spoiled some of these great footballing occasions but 99.9% only want to enjoy the game while giving their team 100% passionately vocal support and then to go home safely.

For a week after the game whatever the result all the talk is about how good or bad the team or individual players were. All of us will be picking better teams than the managers did we will all know what he did right or wrong and how we would have chosen different tactics and or formation. That is how we fans are and rightly so as the game is all about opinions. As Mick McCarthy once said opinions are like backsides everybody has one and why not.

Fans of the winning team will be wearing their replica shirts or scarfs wherever they go be it pub social club or workplace while fans of the losing side will be keeping their heads down from their friends and neighbours who support the winning side. Don’t you just love it?

In my opinion (sorry Mick) Blues v Villa is as passionate as any derby in the country. Let’s hope Sunday highlights not only that but also how it is a very special footballing event that the City of Birmingham and the two clubs can be proud of. We are all Brummies so show the rest of the watching country that we football fans know how to behave with no trouble in or outside of the stadium whatever the result.

 

Shameful behaviour

Shameful behaviour

I have been a long-time admirer of Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter who’s ability and partnership with Andrew Surman contributed as much as anyone in Bournemouth’s climb from League One to the Premier League.  So I was not only disappointed but appalled and angry to witness the Republic of Ireland star waving an imaginary card at the referee during the World Cup qualifier against Wales trying to get a Welsh player sent off following a foul. This is another import from foreign leagues where it is appears to be commonplace. In my opinion there is no place in the game for this sort of shameful behaviour. I hope Martin O’Neil made that point to him.