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.

Transfer window-closed or not?

Transfer window-closed or not?

Birmingham Mail column Weds Aug 7th 2018

The whole transfer window situation is confusing to say the least. The Premier League and English Football Leagues windows close at 5pm on August 9th.

However all other countries transfer windows do not close until August 31st so while English clubs cannot buy a player they can still sell them to any club where the transfer window has not closed.

Having said that, the Championship window closes on August 9th but clubs can still loan a player up until August 31st with a ring fenced agreement to make it a permanent deal when the window re-opens in January. Now I might appear thick but does that not mean the window in reality does not close on August 9th but closes on August 31st?

EFL clubs voted for the window to close on August 9th because they and I quote CEO Shaun Harvey who said "This new approach will give Clubs and managers the stability they crave earlier in the season whilst also providing the flexibility to add to their squads after the traditional deadline until the end of month if required."??

Of course the Championship clubs can loan a player without any agreement to make it permanent deal up until August 31st.


The new season- and expectations

The new season- and expectations

My Birmingham Mail column-Weds Aug 7th 2018

Starting the season with high hopes, dreams and wishes are the staple pre-season diet of most football fans and rightly so. After reviewing and dissecting the season that has just finished the close season long drawn out weeks, days and hours are spent looking forward to the new season.

I know that within a couple of weeks of the season ending I start missing the games, the weekly emotional roller coaster ride and all the drama that goes with being a local football supporter almost to the point of masochism.

The wait for the fixture list to come out, checking the dates of the local ding dong derby games and the daily check to see who our team has bought in the summer transfer window is all part of the multi-colour tapestry of being a fan.

The conversation in the pubs, clubs, offices and factories usually revolves around who our team needs to buy and where they will finish in the league in the forth-coming season. Sometimes, sadly, it’s also about how long the manager will have before he is sacked.

I would love our three teams to win promotion and compete with the best teams and get the profile the Premier League offers, I am fed up with this are being a football wasteland. Having said that the championship is a fantastic competition with half the teams at least fancying their chances of winning automatic promotion with 75% of the teams in the division believing that the playoffs are a realistic goal. First step is for all our teams to be competitive this season and be in the mix come May.

However what can be in short supply is realism when it comes to expectations for the new season.

There is no problem with wanting, hoping and wishing your team will win a game a cup or promotion is what we all do and rightly so. However expecting it can lead to disappointment and as a consequence of that anger can take over as the over-riding emotion.

The reaction to the opening games of the new season from some fans beggars belief. If you lose it you are not certs for relegation if you win you are not guaranteed promotion. It’s the same as publishing the Championship league table after one, two, three or four games; absolute nonsense that will have no bearing on the way it will look on the final day of the season.

Over the 46 games there will be highs and lows and ups and downs for all our teams and that is part of being a supporter. The secret is not to get to carried away by the highs and not to get to down with the lows

Thankfully most supporters around these parts are wise enough to set realistic expectations.

If you take away hopes, dreams and wishes what do you have left? Oh yes I know, the Premier League.


The World Cup-No hype this time-Sterling

The World Cup-No hype this time-Sterling


My last Birmingham Mail column of the season on June 6th

It is a sign that a major tournament is close when our national newspapers start printing negative stories about players who will represent England. It really is a truism that we “build them up only to enjoy knocking them down again”. On the end of it this time is Raheem Sterling who has been heavily criticised for having a tattoo of a firearm on his leg. To be honest I don’t like the prevalence of tattoos on footballers anyway and probably one of a gun is not the smartest thing to do.

However when you hear why he had it done it is easier to understand he said “"When I was 2 my father died from being gunned down to death I made a promise to myself I would never touch a gun in my life time, I shoot with my right foot so it has a deeper meaning and is still unfinished,". That explanation, if he needed to give one, should be enough but oh no! The holier than thou brigade are demanding he be dropped from England World Cup squad if he doesn’t have it removed etc.

Now had he been caught with a real gun in his possession I would also be shouting for him to be dropped from Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad? But for having what is described as “body art” no way- it’s time for some people to get a grip and give the boy a break.

It is his body and if he wants to cover it with lots of tattoos then that is his choice and as long as they are not homophobic or racist then we really should leave the young man alone.

I would much rather see him criticised for his pathetic dive that earned him a yellow card during England’s friendly with Nigeria. I found that more reprehensible than a tattoo of a gun. Talented as he so obviously is Sterling has a history of diving and it is probably part of his footballing mind-set to cheat the opposition and referee whenever he can to win a penalty.

However Video Assistant Referee replays in the World Cup will mean he has to change that mentality and change it quickly or he could find himself banned for crucial England games.

While talking about the World Cup I see a lot of criticism of the England Head Coach Gareth Southgate because he did not appear to be excited about the tournament during his press conferences. From that I assume they mean he is not banging the drum about how well they are going to do etc.

He is spot on to not feed the media with headlines as we have had all that pre-tournament hype and ballyhoo far too many times and yet subsequently failed to deliver when the action got underway. He came across to me as cautiously optimistic that they would give a good account of themselves. It is his job to prepare the players to perform as best as they can and not to be a World Cup marketing executive for the media.

Personally and like most supporters I can see them qualifying from the group stages and, to be honest, so they should along with Belgium, however I am not quite so optimistic from thereon in. I believe reaching the quarter finals is the best we can hope for but would not be surprised to see them go out in the round of sixteen.

I really hope I am wrong and that the team surprises me and everyone else who will be rooting for them in front of TV sets all over the country.  

The amount of players coming into the Premier League from, what would have been in the past been called lesser footballing nations, have in fact ended up strengthening those national teams which is why in my opinion there are so few easy games internationally. Just look at how well Iceland did in Euro 2016!

Most of their best players are playing in the best/toughest league in the world The Premier League while others are in the German Bundesliga, Spain’s La Liga or France’s Ligue 1.

This has not only strengthened their national teams but in my opinion has contributed to weakening the England team.

If as expected England get through the group then they will face either Columbia, Japan, Poland or Senegal. On the face of it Japan look the weakest but even they have players playing in England, Germany, Spain and France.

You don’t have to be a genius to see that the strongest teams are Brazil, France, Germany and Spain. In my opinion the winner will be one of these four and I am going for Brazil and if not them then France.

If picking a winner was only this easy sadly it isn’t and as we know only too well in football anything can happen and usually does. Good luck to Gareth Southgate and the England squad. As one who watched England win the World Cup in 1966 (On the telly) I can say without any fear of argument it’s been far too long sadly I fear the wait will continue for some time yet especially while the love of money continues to dominate every decision made in the game in this country.