Tackling the dying art!

Tackling the dying art!

Final part of my Birmingham Mail column Weds Nov 14th 2018

Is tackling a dying art? That is a question I find myself asking after watching most games. I witness lots of perfectly timed tackles that win the ball but are being punished by referees for over aggressiveness?

One of the better things about the modern game is that defenders are not allowed to tackle from behind and that has been a massive plus point when it comes to entertaining attacking play. Also the “over the top” tackle has virtually disappeared from the game and when they do happen culprits are rightly banned either by red card or post-match by video evidence.

However it appears that almost ever strong challenge is deemed a foul. When a player is tackled at the pace the game is played at in all likelihood he will end up on the floor but that does not mean he has been fouled. And of course you can get hurt by a fair tackle and referees surely have to understand that and not be too quick to penalise and or get out a card. Accidents do happen in any contact sport especially those that are played at such great pace.

It is quite easy to spot a challenge that is a deliberate attempt to injure an opponent and they should be punished severely by the referees and subsequently by the FA. However let us not have a non-contact sport. Sure strikers would be delighted however a lot of defenders would be out of work and replaced by tippy tappy step over drag back footballers. Give defenders a break and stop going on about”his studs were showing” as that does not mean a foul has been committed unless it is well off the floor

In my opinion a game without tough but fair tackles is boring. We do see plenty of them as teams concern themselves with possession of the ball than anything else. Also defenders are scared to make a challenge these days for fear of conceding a penalty or a free kick in a dangerous position.

Most forwards are tricky and quick so a defender can try to make an honest fair tackle but ends up tripping the forward because he is quicker than the defender. So defenders end up being punished because the forward is a better player?

Lots of defenders try to stop a cross with their hands behind their backs for fear of conceding a penalty for hand ball. What’s that all about? Surely they cannot jump or react to anything standing like that?

Most managers/head coaches talk about needing a player that can “win the ball back” well how the hell he is going to do that without tackling.

Rant over! that’s what happens with no league football to look forward to. You turn into a football Victor Meldrew moaning about everything.



Yet another international Break

Yet another international Break

From my Birmingham Mail Column Weds Nov 14th 2018

Here we are in the middle of yet another international break and I make no bones about it I hate it. I miss the Saturday fix of club football including the build-up and post-match debate and discussions with my pals and on social media. And as worthy as England internationals are it’s just not the same for me and is best described as like kissing your sister.

Without doubt when it’s the Euro’s or the World Cup it’s different and they can often be very exciting games but these Nations Cup games otherwise better known as friendlies just don’t have the same impact for me. I would much rather be watching a championship game.

Clubs continually moan about the number of games they have to play especially in the Premier League where for years they have been talking about reducing it to 18 clubs.

Yet they buy into the international break when the reality is that it is not a break for most of the players who are involved in “international friendlies” which of course that can also mean travelling thousands of miles very often making you unavailable for the first game after the international break.

Cancel all midweek Premier League and Championship games and play the International friendlies then. Players fly out to join their international squad on Sunday   

This is the people’s game it’s not a business. Going to games on a Saturday is tradition and part of our upbringing and culture. I don’t care how much money you makes from International friendlies through the turnstile or via TV. Please don’t inflict international breaks on us for meaningless games when what we love to do and want to do is watch our team play.

The other side of Sir Doug Ellis

The other side of Sir Doug Ellis


Part of my Birmingham Mail Column on Weds Nov 14th 2018

I was very privileged and honoured to be invited to Sir Doug Ellis’s funeral last Friday. The service was touching and hit just the right note with those making tributes. Former Arsenal chairman David Dein, BBC newsreader Nick Owen and Tony Hales reflecting on Doug’s amazing life and career in football and in particular his love affair with Aston Villa.

The highlight was to hear his granddaughter Elenya singing the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah it was truly emotional.

Over the years Doug has had his detractors and I have had a few run in’s with him. Many will talk about his ego and how he liked to be photographed with the famous and yes he certainly did.

However over the last few years I have been an ambassador for the South and City College where Doug was also an ambassador and President of their “InBusiness” network.  It was there that I first say how generous Doug was and how he impacted on so many youngsters lives.  

So it would be wrong of me not to take this opportunity to show the other side of Doug Ellis A side that was not in the media and believe me he did not ask for or want publicity.

He was a warm and generous benefactor to the South and City College where he donated over a quarter of a million pounds so that hundreds of young Birmingham students from all walks of life and all sorts of backgrounds could have a practical and invaluable start to their work career that otherwise would have been denied to them.

This improved their employability opportunities through real life workshops, and real life work experience placements. That allowed the apprenticeship scheme to develop and as a consequence provide the youngsters with fantastic opportunities to gain apprenticeships in businesses throughout the West Midlands. Without Doug’s amazing generosity this would not have been possible.

It was the same with Childline, now part of the NSPCC, where he donated two million pounds so they could keep their overnight counselling centre alive when it was due to be axed. This allowed thousands of youngsters who were the victims of abuse, bullying, or wanted to talk about anything that was worrying them to call at the time they probably felt most vulnerable and that was at night.

This wonderful donation by Doug has without argument saved the lives of many children and prevented others from abuse.

As an ambassador and trustee for the Birmingham Charity Help Harry Help Others I was hosting a dinner where Doug Ellis was a guest. Harry’s mom Georgie Moseley was making a speech about Harry Moseley and the impact he had on so many people before and since his passing at the tender age of 11. She spoke of her incredible journey helping hundreds of local causes where people have been touched by cancer.

When she returned to her seat Doug said he had been touched by what she had said promptly handed her a substantial cheque for the charity.

There are many other examples of his wonderful generosity that went unnoticed.

Villa Park is a testament to him while his love for the club was unconditional and without doubt had he still been in charge the club would not have been facing any FFP problems and would probably not been relegated from the Premier League.

More live TV matches is a threat to the game

More live TV matches is a threat to the game

From my Birmingham Mail Column Weds Ovt 24th 2018

Watching a live game on TV is, in my opinion, the last resort as there is nothing like being at a live game. TV never really captures the atmosphere you get when at the ground or the smells of hot dogs, beef burgers and Bovril that scream football as the waft from food vans inside and outside the grounds drifts around you as you make your way into the ground. Plus of course there is that special feeling you get when watching a game under floodlights which only adds to the atmosphere.

I see that accusations have been levelled at the EFL for allowing every midweek game to be shown live on SKYs red button claiming that they are affecting attendances in the Championship. I am not so sure how accurate these accusations are but it gives much food for thought.

I understand that showing every game in midweek is a great service for those fans whose team are playing away from home and because of work commitments or finance have difficulty getting to the game.

I also fully understand the cost implications for home supporters as it is expensive for a family to go to a game especially when they are faced with two home games back to back.

However football sold its soul to TV who to be honest can do whatever they want and to hell with how much it inconveniences the supporters. They, I am sure, are more than happy to have all midweek games shown live because that allows them to maximise revenue from advertisers.

The clubs have no one to blame but themselves because they would have had to sign up and agree with any TV deal.

Perish the thought that the EFL would ever agree to do the same for Saturday games that kick off at 3pm. At the moment there is a blackout with no games allowed to be televised. However I wonder just how long they will hold out before the love of money supersedes what is good for the game.

Most kids are computer savvy and can usually find a live stream of any Premier League game and perhaps football should be finding ways to stop that and encouraging people to turn up at games to support their team.

Without any fear of argument its supporters who make the game in fact they are the game without them in the grounds/stadiums there is no game. Without them there is no 13 million pounds of TV rights money. Without them there are no big wages for managers, players and agents. Without them there would be no sponsors pumping in millions to clubs. 

So Clubs should start tempting them to ignore the red button and get to the live games and start with reducing prices to a more affordable level. And doing deals such as “kids for a quid”. But not just on games where clubs are concerned about attendance levels, which, by the way, are usually midweek when school nights make it difficult for parents. Make offers such as “kids for a quid” on Saturdays and I am sure that will persuade parents to bring their children and begin the football indoctrination we all went through

Once people get into the habit of not going to games it will be difficult to get them back into the habit of going. Of course the sad and realistic consequence of all this is that you risk losing a new generation of supporters. I long for the day when those in authority at the Premier League, The EFL and the clubs make decisions based on what is best for the game and its fans rather than what makes them the most money.  

I have though for years that TV would put our great game in mortal danger and I haven’t changed my mind. There are far too many games live end of story.

From next season over half of all Premier League games will be live with more Championship games also available.

Another side effect is that with the so called bigger clubs getting the Lion’s share of live games it only makes them stronger and the rest weaker. Money is not the root of all football evil-it’s the love of money that is the real root of football evil. That makes for greedy clubs, managers and players.






Ups and downs but no reason why our teams wont be in the promotion/playoff mix come May

Ups and downs but no reason why our teams wont be in the promotion/playoff mix come May

From my Birmingham Mail column Weds Oct 24th 2018

Could this be the season our clubs have a right good go at promotion from the Championship to the Premier League? As it stands at time of writing this column (Tue23rd) West Brom were in third place just one point away from top spot. Villa were 13th 3 points away from 5th place while Blues were 4 points away from 5th place. With 33 games to go and 99 points to play for who’s to say they won’t all be in the promotion mix come May.

And all will make their attempt in different ways. The Baggies have a potent strike force who score lots of goals and that will definitely be crucial in who finishes in the automatic places. Having said that they will have to tighten up defensively having conceded more goals than any other team in the top half of the table.

Blues have the 4th best defensive record in the division behind Middlesbrough, Swansea and Leeds United conceding just 16 goals in their 13 games. However they have drawn 8 games, more than any other team in the championship. They will have to convert more chances along with the same mean defence to have a realistic chance of competing for the playoffs.

Of course on the back burner at the moment is the EFL disciplinary hearing they have to attend to answer charges re profit and sustainability having made more losses than the permitted 39 million pounds over three years. Rather than strikers, defenders, injuries or referees it will probably be the EFL who will possibly have the biggest say in whether Blues are in the playoff mix or not.

Villa with new man Dean Smith at the helm and the potential and wealth to make some quality signings in January are always a threat attacking wise but definitely need to tighten up defensively if they are to be serious contenders.

They have great quality in attack but need the same quality in the defence. All three have managers/Head Coaches who know the game and more importantly will know exactly what they need or need to do to keep alive their hopes aims and ambitions.

There is no reason why all three local teams cannot be in the top six places come when the season ends but I suspect every team from 1st to 18th is saying the same thing in this most competitive of leagues.