Feed the Horse and he feeds others!

Feed the Horse and he feeds others!

From my Birmingham Mail column Weds 29th Aug 2018

 

I and others have often been quite scathing about modern day footballers and how they can accept cheating as part of the game with apparently no conscience and are out of touch with their fans and the local community. Well two things have impressed me this week and I am sure there are many other similar stories from all our local clubs.

Firstly was Blues boss Garry Monk highlighting that his players have asked the club to organise more community visits to hospitals etc. for them to do. This is so refreshing when I have seen in the past some players reluctantly doing these sort of community based things and making it clear that they would rather be at home. Some of the things Garry and the players have done restores your faith in the game. Having said that they have to be selective because they cannot possibly make an appearance at every request.

Secondly I continue to be impressed with the time, money and effort former Baggies and Blues striker Geoff Horsfield puts into helping the homeless people in Birmingham and the West Midlands through his Geoff Horsfield Foundation. Geoff started this because he wanted to put something back into the area that had made him so welcome.

I have been staggered at the amount of energy Geoff puts into helping the vulnerable and homeless from offering them somewhere safe for them to stay - to helping feed them-to providing clothes and other essentials for them that the rest of us take for granted.

If you have anything including, clothes, bedding, toiletries that could help go to his website and find out how to get them to him. And he and his team of helpers organise some fantastic fund-raisers again his website or his social media pages will have all the information you need. The latest event is on October the 5th in West Bromwich and is a Q and A with former Baggies Paul Robinson, Andy Johnson, Jonathan Greening and Geoff and is called “The Great Escape” reunion. The stories will be amazing and hilarious and not to be missed and of course all proceeds go to the Geoff Horsfield Foundation. See you there.

 

 

VAR

VAR

This weeks Birmingham Mail column 29th Aug

Why do the Premier League and consequently the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) appear so reluctant to use Video Assistant Referee (VAR) when it can surely only improve the game?  It would have been in use this season but the Premier League clubs voted against using it this season and instead insisted on a further season of it being trialled.

The cynic in me thinks the longer it is not used the longer clubs have for their players to dive and cheat their way through games under the banner of “professionalism” which in honest language means they will do anything fair or not to win a game.

True VAR will not get every single incident correct as it will still be down to the referee to make the final decision upon viewing the incident on the VAR screen. However I am willing to bet that it would get most of the decisions right. In addition if a referee looks at VAR and still gets it wrong despite VAR proving the incident was a foul then he should be disciplined by the PGMOL. Also if a referee decides not to use VAR on the advice from the VAR team and it was proven to be a major game changing incident then he should be retrospectively punished.

However it has to be 100% clear cut and if not then the referee has to be strong enough to say no despite pressure from players and manage We saw in the World Cup players and managers embarrassingly trying to persuade officials to use VAR for just about every tackle in the penalty area.

It has to be the referee’s decision to decide if he wants to use VAR or not during a game however I am certain that most referees would want help in getting the major game influencing decisions correct and that is where his VAR team can help.  

VAR will only be used in four game-changing incidents: goals, penalties, red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

The referee can ask the VAR team to review an incident or a decision he has made. The VAR team would also be allowed to recommend a review of an incident or decision but only if in the opinion of the VAR team that a clear mistake has been made and then they can notify the referee to review.

The referee then has three options: they can immediately overturn the call based on the VAR's advice, review the incident themselves on a monitor on the touchline or stick with their initial decision.

 

 

And I am sure most would agree that is the only way to use VAR to stop the game being interrupted every few minutes. In other words it is used for decisions where a penalty kick would be the outcome or where a goal has been scored from an offside position. Other than that it should be used for violent conduct incidents such as stamping that the referee has missed and of course where the wrong player has been carded.

Why on earth we need to keep trialing it is baffling to say the least. If it gets 95% of decisions correct then use it now and not only in the Premier League but also in the Championship which has the biggest financial reward for promotion than any league in the world.

One suggestion that may have merit is that each team be allowed say a maximum of 3 VAR calls although I am not in favour of that in my opinion leave it to the VAR team and the referee. However before discussing VAR and its benefits you have to start from the point of knowing that players and managers have a different idea to the rest of us about what is cheating and what isn’t.

They scream for a yellow or red card after any sort of tough but fair challenge on their players yet seem quite happy for their players to go to ground at the slightest touch in the penalty area in order to win a penalty kick and possibly get their opponent sent off as a bonus in their eyes.  

There has been some suggestion on social media this week that PGMOL are happy for their referees to ignore the laws of the game regarding handball and whether or not it was intentional. Surely that is a throwback to the days when all laws had the rider “if in the referees opinion” attached to them.

However there has been no official comment from the PGMOL on that suggestion however it is quite simple for me and I suspect every single football fan. If it hits your hand and is directed away from or towards goal then it is a foul end of story. It might be tough but it has to be irrelevant if you meant to handle the ball or not. If you didn’t mean to handle it but it results in a goal or denying the opposition a goal then it is a foul.

Stop messing about and get VAR installed at every single Premier and championship ground now. If they are awaiting for the system to be 100% accurate they will be waiting forever because at the end of the day it will still be the referee who decides even when he is looking at a VAR screen. However if they get the majority of the game influencing decisions correct then the game will be better for it despite the protestations of the managers and players. It will go a long way towards us having a fairer and more honest game. Although to be truly honest the players and coaches will have to play their part but don’t hold your breath.

The Championship

The Championship

Part of my latest Birmingham Mail column

So what have we learned so far about the championship that we didn’t already know? Nothing as far as I am concerned. We already knew that without argument it is the toughest league on the planet, maybe not in terms of quality but certainly in terms of relentlessly tough games week in and week out. The £100’000’000 plus prize money for promotion makes it a dog eat dog league with no quarter asked expected or given.

 It will be a long hard season for all our teams in the Championship yet with just 3/4 games played some supporters are getting angry and judgemental about the whole season when the teams have not settled and in some case have not finished bringing in new players. That is in my opinion like looking at the league table pretty much a waste of time.

Pre-season big spenders like Stoke and fancied teams like Derby are struggling to get going but will more than likely be there or there abouts’ come May.

I believe it’s important to us as fans not to get too carried away with a win and not to get to down with a defeat. Of course enjoy any win and be unhappy with any defeat however, to forecast the season ahead based on the one win or loss will only increase your stress levels and as if they are not high enough anyway.

However the life of a football fans seems to be permanently stressful be they winning and chasing promotion or losing and fighting the drop.

Nobody knows who will win promotion although we all have opinions on who will do it. The only thing certain is that at 20 of the 24 teams have been in the Premier League and will fancy their chances of getting there again. That is why every game is tough and why the league is the toughest.

No one will run away with the league in my opinion. It could just be the closest run season yet with many teams being in the automatic and playoff places and changing frequently right down to the wire.

It is going to be exciting, emotional and yes stressful for us all.

Contracts are not always two way affairs

Contracts are not always two way affairs

Birmingham Mail Column -part 2

Are you as fed up with the antics of overpaid football prima donnas as I am? Being under contract is of no consequence for the top Premier League players because they can and do force a move to another club if they or their agent wants to irrespective of how long they have remaining on their contract or how much the fans love them.

We have just heard Paul Pogba say he is not happy at Manchester United and added rather divisively that “if he were to speak out he would be fined!” Do me a favour Paul with the money you earn you have the wherewithal to tell the truth and take the fine on the chin?

If you genuinely believe you have been badly treated in anyway then have the guts to speak out and I am sure your union the Professional Players Association would back you to the hilt. 

However methinks it’s just him not having everything his own way and he probably realises how stupid and childish he would look if he did speak out. By the way I wonder if he is still sore about missing out on that proposed move to Barcelona.

Then we had the farcical situation of Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois playing up to get a move to Real Madrid. He went AWOL, not turning up for training etc. forcing Chelsea to sell him to Real Madrid for 38 million pounds. He claimed it was because he was missing his kids who lived in Madrid. I respect any man who wants to spend more time with his children and I wonder what he had done if they had lived in a town without a massive club paying huge wages? Would he have acted the same way? But it’s the way he has handled it that makes me angry.  He has a right to ask for a move but if the club he signed a contract with say no then that should be the end of the matter.

The other side of that particular coin is Jack Grealish-It’s no secret that the Villa midfielder was a little disappointed that his big money move to Spurs did not happen before the transfer window closed. However he put that disappointment aside and got on with the job of playing to the best of his ability just days later against Wigan where he was the best player on the pitch.

Fans adore these footballers and expect them to be loyal to their club. Apart from a few exceptions the only loyalty at any club is on the terraces.

The ones mentioned are not the first and won’t be the last, Dwight Yorke, Robbie Savage spring to mind while West Brom have had a few since relegation last May who have been manoeuvring to get a move despite being under contract.

I have long believed that most players do not really care what the fans think. Playing football is just their job and will do whatever is needed to get the move they want especially in the Premier League.

Players have the power in the game and as we know “absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

 

 

 

The myth about possession stats.

The myth about possession stats.

 

Latest Birmingham Mail Column

I don’t find myself agreeing with Sam Alladyce very often however he was spot on about teams playing out from the back something that has been driving me barmy for some time. Now I am not against teams playing out from the back if there is a purpose and end product to their play. But all too often playing out from the back in reality means passing sideways and backwards between the defenders and goalkeeper with it invariably ending somewhat ironically with the goalkeeper smashing the ball down the pitch anyway.

I was reporting on the Blues v Norwich game for talkSPORT and was bemused and bored watching the Canaries two central defenders passing the ball to each other and also involving the two fullbacks and the goalkeeper. It resulted in them having 70% possession which delighted their manager Daniel Farke. However the other stats tell the real story. Total shots 16 by Blues and 17 for Norwich while each had 7 shots on target with both having 4 corners.

At Villa Park Wigan has the most possession against Villa but Villa had more shots on and off target?

All possession in my opinion must have an end product! Passing for passing’s’ sake is surely just a waste of time especially at the back where it is standard practice to pass to each other even when not put under pressure by the opposition.

I am not advocating just launching the ball up front and hoping for the best, but playing the game in the opponents half where the possession football played especially in the final third.

If you are a defender I am certain you would be delighted to see the opposition’s defenders passing it between themselves.

One manager famously said it did not matter about long balls or short balls only good or bad ones.

In winning the title Leicester made great use of Jamie Vardy’s pace by playing plenty of balls in behind defences.

I was speaking to Graeme Souness last year and he said that when he played for Liverpool they were told in possession “the first thought should be passing it forward and if nothing on that sideways”.

Lots of modern coaches would say that possession means you are in control and that the opposition cannot hurt you when you have control of the football. However just check how many teams with most possession end up losing the game. I am sure it’s different for Manchester City but not every team has their quality of player.

However Raheem Sterling has rightly received lots of praise for his goal on Sunday against Arsenal and yes it was a fantastic strike. But come on not one Gunners defender laid a glove on him as he came across the face of goal to shoot, nor did they get close enough to him. But they did look good playing out from the back? If they looked as good defending they did playing out from the back they just might have got something out of the game.

Just watch what happens when a team is losing going into the last minutes of the game- they get the ball into the danger zone as quickly as possible. I once asked a manager why- he said because it is the quickest way to get a goal to which my reply was “then why don’t you do it from the start”. Interview over.

I might be naive but what is wrong in playing to the strengths of the players at your disposal rather than asking them to play the way you want which just might not be suitable for them and might restrict them from being effective for the team.

Fans are always more excited and always talk about what happened when the ball is in the final third of the pitch at either end and especially when it’s in the penalty area.

I cannot remember anyone saying what a game we had so much of the ball in the middle of the park. It’s always about missed chances, shots, goals, crosses penalty appeals etc.

I refuse to be brainwashed by coaches who all want their team to play like Barcelona but without Messi, Iniesta etc. Having said that Brentford to play out from the back but with a forward attitude.

Playing out from the back is fine as long as it has a purpose and end product and is not just a private game of keep ball between defenders and keeper in my opinion.