VAR-yes or no?

VAR-yes or no?

The subject of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) has split the world of football into those in favour and those against. I am definitely in favour of using the technology available to ensure the correct game influencing decisions are made.

A lot has been made of the length of time it can take for the officials to arrive at the decision using VAR something I find amusing to say the least and probably even laughable.

The people who complain about the time wasted by the referee are the same people who are happy for their defenders and goalkeeper to pass it to each other without any opposition in sight.

The same people who are happy for their team to waste as much time as they can when their team is winning 1-0.

The same people who are happy for their players to take the ball into the corner to “run the clock down”.

The same people who are happy for their players to go down and get the physio/doctor on for a few minutes to “take the sting out of the game” when they are under pressure.

The same people who instead of taking a quick thrown in deep inside the oppositions half will wait ages for the full back to trot up to take it.

Another complaint about VAR taking too long from a Premier League manager was that players could get hamstring injuries standing around waiting for the referee to come to the right decision. So what happens at half time?

However I do agree it needs to be quick and efficient and if the referee cannot quickly come to a decision then get on with the game.

I also believe as do most people that the fans need to be kept up to date with what is happening on the big screen and/or by audio from referee’s microphone.

Another idea that has merit is for each team to be given three opportunities to use VAR within each game.

Perhaps only the officials should be able to use VAR at their own discretion. I also believe only the referee should look at the TV screen without anyone trying to influence him.

Lots of clubs will complain about the costs involved of having a big screen well surely we have enough money coming into the game from TV so just use a fraction of those billions for the good of the game. However I am certain the lower leagues will once again be left out of the equation.

I am bemused by all the criticism and complaints bearing in mind it is only being trialled and I am sure it will be much quicker and effective when all the minor problems are ironed out. But they must not rush it into use. The FA must be absolutely certain that it is fit for purpose before introducing it into the game.

Anything that ensures the big game influencing decisions are made correctly and that sorts out the cheats, divers and cowards can only be good for the game.

I would rather players and managers be honest but that boat has long sailed so it’s time to embrace VAR. Maybe the anti VAR stance is because the last thing many in the game want is for the correct decisions to me made especially when it comes to diving to win penalty kicks. Many managers see players who dive as clever and not as the rest of us do as cheats.

Let’s give VAR a chance and it’s worth remembering that nothing is 100% perfect but if it means 95% of incidents end up being called correctly then that can only be good for the game.

 

West Brom - are you a believer

West Brom - are you a believer

West Bromwich Albion’s owner Mr Guochuan Lai yesterday sacked the club Chairman John Williams and CEO Martin Goodman and replaced them with former director Mark Jenkins as CEO. The sackings are simply the penalty for failure and after changing the manager and players I suppose changing the top level management was the last throw of the survival dice in what has been a miserable Premier League season so far for the club and its loyal supporters.

You can’t help but think that as far as Premier League survival hopes go- then the Albion’s are looking very bleak with them bottom of the table and 7 points away from safety with just eleven games to go.

However such is the mentality of the football fan of any club you immediately start picking out the games you believe you can, should, might or must win. Futile really because predicting results is not an exact science and to quote a well-worn cliché “anything can happen on any given day with any team capable of beating any other”. Well that’s what they say.

You can add into that mix games they should have won, could have won and deserved to win  and you can end up painting a fantasy picture that will only end up leaving you more miserable than when you started.

Look at the Baggies remaining fixtures and it does little to improve the belief that another “Great Escape” is on the cards and in fact is certain to only increase the stress and nerves among the Hawthorns faithful.

I was doing BRMB Radio commentaries with Tony “Bomber” Brown on that wonderful and emotional Baggies Great Escape at the end of the 2004-2005 season. Not until the after the last kick of the last game against Portsmouth was safety assure when at one time they looked dead and buried but from the last eleven games they took 16 points. The same return from the remaining games this season might just be enough.

That “great escape” saw a derby win over Blues, a massive 4-1 win away at Charlton, draws away at Spurs, and Manchester United, and a 1-1 draw at Villa when Paul Robinson headed home the equaliser with just seconds remaining of stoppage time. Those are the sort of results you have to make happen to achieve your goal.

In 2005 with eleven games to go Albion had scored 23 goals and added 13 in those final eleven matches. Not a lot different to this seasons tally with 11 games to go Baggies are on 21 goals.

I am not saying that another similar “great escape” will happen but my point is that you have to keep believing until the fat lady sings and even though she may be gargling at the moment Baggies fans it aint over till it’s over and that means when its mathematically done and dusted.

We want more local teams in the Premier League not less so good luck to West Brom in these final vital eleven games. Defensively they are better than some and no worse than others near the bottom of the table. However goals are the problem taking the chances they create, especially at crucial times, or not will have a major bearing on their battle against the drop. Whatever the outcome do not surrender your Premier League place that you worked so hard to get without one hell of a fight.

 

Well Done West Bromwich Albion.

Well Done West Bromwich Albion.

In the modern game it is so easy to criticise and accuse football clubs for being out of touch with their fans and only concerned with revenue streams and all things cash related. However I have to say a massive well done to West Bromwich Albion’s media team, led by Martin Swain, for their sensitive handling and classy organisation of the Cyrille Regis service and the emotional and fitting tribute paid to him prior to the home game against Southampton. It simply could not have been bettered.

The service at the Hawthorns on Tuesday 30th of January was extremely emotional and yes I am not ashamed to admit I shed a tear or two as the 5000 attendees burst into “there’s only one Cyrille Regis”. I was captivated as I listened to the wonderful tributes paid to the great man by his wife Julia, Brother Dave, Nephew Jason, son and daughter Robert and Michelle, John Homer, John Sillett, Brendan Batson and others.

It was a who’s who of the football world as players from all over paid came to pay their respects to a man who’s untimely death has left the world of football a much lesser place. It was an honour and privilege to be there to also pay my respects to a man who always made me and others feel as we were his best pal.

I was not at the Southampton game but watched and listened to what was happening and it came across as an emotional day-a day for the Baggies supporters to pay their respects at the side of the pitch he graced so magnificently.

Finally a special mention to the programme editor Dave Bowler who not only excelled himself with the Southampton match-day magazine which was full of tributes and pictures but also with the wonderful poignant words he wrote about Big Cyrille.

Take a bow West Bromwich Albion you showed great class in a game that so often doesn’t.

Ding Dong Derby Week

Ding Dong Derby Week

 

Its Ding Dong Derby week in Brum as Villa take on Blues in what might just be the last derby for a while if Steve Bruce’s side get promoted along with Wolves and the Baggies avoid relegation from the Premier League.

So the message is loud and clear for the supporters- enjoy it to the maximum – that’s before, during and after. Of course the “after” enjoyment very much depends on the result and performance.

One thing is certain and that is that emotions will be running at overload and for the sake of the good name of the City it is vital that those emotions are channelled into support for the team and not into any unsavoury and embarrassing behaviour in or out of the stadium.

It is a derby clash that neither team can really afford to lose with Villa right on track for an automatic promotion place and Blues battling to climb further away from the relegation zone. Defeat for either would harm those aims.

Villa are in superb form having won 6 on the spin while Blues have won 2 on the bounce so confidence should not be an issue. Dealing with the occasion is the biggest hurdle the players have to deal with. Honours were even in the reverse fixture at St Andrews although there were chances for both teams but none better that Jota who failed to score a “one on one” opportunity. Jonathan Kodjia came closest for Villa but his goal bound header was sensationally denied by Blues keeper Tomasz Kuszczak.

It is a football cliché but it’s a fact derby games are great levellers and form can and often does go straight out of the metaphorical window. Managers will often trot out that it’s just another game and they will be focused on just winning! However’ they don’t even believe it as they are saying the words.

This is more than just another league game with three points at stake. There is also the bragging rights for fans and believe me the winning players will also be walking taller the next day.

We all fully understand that for ninety minutes the players have to ignore the occasion and focus on the game plan and winning their own personal battles on the pitch. That is a tough ask in volatile red hot derby games and the players will have to show great mental strength to manage it.

Score a goal in a derby game and you are a hero forever with your fans however give away a needless penalty or score an own goal and you are the villain.

I really don’t care what the National media mafia say about the big North London, Liverpool and Manchester Derby matches, in my opinion the all Brummie derby whether it is at Villa Park or St Andrews is as good as any in England. To be honest derby games rarely showcase genuine quality because of the fear of losing. However in terms of atmosphere, excitement, tempo, physicality, during the ninety minute emotional roller coaster ride Villa v Blues is one to savour.

As the game is debated and dissected post-match in the pubs, clubs, offices and factories and over the garden wall every goal, tackle, chance, shot, foul or referee’s decision will be  magnified a hundred times in the eyes and minds of us fans because of the importance of the result.

The bookies make Villa odds on favourites to make it seven wins out of seven and looking at their recent league record and you can see why, but Blues have been much better recently with four wins and a draw from their last six league games. It promises to be a cracking game and if you are lucky enough to be there just enjoy the occasion, be loud and proud and most importantly stay safe.

Oh and please NO CLAPPERS.

Sturridge to ease Baggies relegation fears-if he stays fit!

Sturridge to ease Baggies relegation fears-if he stays fit!

West Brom’s loan signing of Brummie born striker Daniel Sturridge from Liverpool could be a master stroke by the club. I say could because he has been cursed with injuries over the last few years.

However when he does play he scores goals at a rate of around 1 in just over 2 games. In 86 games for the Merseysiders he scored 40 goals- but that was over five and a half seasons. That is not his fault though as he has been hampered by injury after injury.

Daniel is without doubt a prolific goal scorer with 21 goals in 29 games his best return and that was in 2013/14 season. He started off as a youngster in the Aston Villa academy where he spent four years before moving to Coventry and them on to Manchester City.

He has played in the Premier League for Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool and add to that he’s played at every level for England winning 26 full caps-that shows his pedigree.

He went out on loan once before when Chelsea let him move to Bolton who were in the Premier league at the time. He scored 8 goals in 12 appearances for the trotters. A similar strike rate for Albion would surely ease all fears of relegation. Let’s hope we see him doing his trademark jig goal dance celebration in from of the Brummie Road and Smethwick Ends plenty of times between how and May.

I just hope Alan Pardew plays him in his preferred position up front alongside Salomon Rondon in a two pronged attack rather than as a winger which happened a lot at Liverpool. Without doubt it is one of the most exciting signings at the Baggies for a long time and he does not come cheap commanding top wages and that shows the club can and will be competitive in the wages market for the best.