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.

The Latest — Tom Ross's Goalzone

The Latest — Tom Ross's Goalzone

Can you remember a time when football supporters showed such indifference or apathy towards an England? Especially one that had just qualified for the World Cup finals? Gareth Southgate’s men were unbeaten in their group with 8 wins and two draws.

Why is the big question? Have fans fallen out of love with international football because they think the players are overpaid prima donnas and completely out of touch with supporters. I think there is an element of that but I think it is more to do with the fact that it is just not exciting watching England play anymore. The game has always been about winning be it in Leagues or qualifying for international tournaments; England have done both. However football fans also want excitement in terms of attacking play, goals, goalmouth action with goal-line clearances, hitting the woodwork, controversy, tackles, and the odd inspirational character who makes you want to watch. It is all those things combined that attracts us to the game. We are soccer-addicts looking for a regular football fix that will lift us out of our seats and leave us breathless with excitement.

England appear to play a possession based game rather than a passing with a purpose game. But in my opinion it is more than just that.

I saw some interesting stuff on social media a few days ago that made what I thought was a valid point. The cash rich English premier league attracts the best players from around the world and as a consequence our national team suffers. So called smaller countries best players play in the premier league and as a consequence their national teams benefit. It makes most international games tougher for England against opposition that in years gone by might have been considered an easy game.

However lack of goals has been an issue for England supporters borne out of the way they play. The three lions scored eighteen goals in qualifying from their group. Other group winners were far more effective in front of goal with Germany scoring 43, Belgium 43, Spain 36, Portugal 32, and Poland 28.

Many second placed teams scored more than England including Sweden,  Denmark, and Italy with even some third placed teams scoring more goals.

From a management perspective Gareth Southgate would be within his rights to point out that many of those high scoring second and third placed teams will be sat at home watching the world cup finals on TV while England will be competing in Russia and that would be a very valid point. However it is only valid if England could possibly, but more importantly, have the mind-set to change the way they play in the finals. I hope they do but am not sure that we will see too much difference in the way England approach games in Russia. Although Gareth Southgate has made it clear he wants to play with three central defenders and that should mean two out and out strikers.

On the positive side England had the best defensive record in qualifying along with Spain only conceding 3 goals. That is a massive plus especially in tournament football and when you struggle to score goals. However against the better more free scoring sides in the world it just might not be enough.

I am a big fan of Gareth Southgate and I hope he proves us all wrong out in Russia but based on what I have seen so far reaching the “round of sixteen”  would In my opinion be the most England fans can hope for although having said that I really hope I am wrong. Like all football fans I would love England to win it and give the country a massive lift. However England fans are ever-hopeful yet ever-disappointed so much hype surrounding previous qualifications and yet this time the Head Coach has effectively played it down and virtually made it clear they cannot win the world cup. That may be clever of him and help to lower expectations and pressure on team especially from the media.

A few nights ago I was watching an amazing TV documentary about the legend that is Sir Bobby Charlton and to be reminded of the joy and euphoria that came with winning the World Cup in 1966 made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The whole country was caught up in the celebrations and to this day I am sure we all still get emotional watching Bobby Moore picking up the Jules Rimet Trophy, or watching diminutive Nobby Styles dancing a jig of abandoned joy with the world cup in his hands or hearing the wonderful Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous fourteen words “Some people are on the pitch-they think it’s all over- it is now”.

Let’s hope that in Russia it’s not over before it’s really begun. Gareth Southgate has a handful of friendlies to convince and reassure us that it isn’t. Yet when the first game kicks off we will all be rooting for England and rooting for them to do a 1966. It’s a funny old game as Jimmy Greaves famously said.

 

Players must also be accountable

Players must also be accountable

Like many football fans I am always disappointed when my team loses but usually get over it quite quickly and move onto the next game. Losing rarely makes me angry unless I feel the supporters have been short changed by the players in terms of desire, effort and commitment. With all respect to Hull they are not a great team but on Saturday as former skipper Kevan Broadhurst said “they didn’t have to work hard for their goals”

Any team can lose any game so losing at Hull was not really the big issue for me. What makes me angry is the manner of the defeat. I did not see any desire or passion or inner frustration and anger from the players. Hardly a tackle of note and not one yellow card and that is not mean feat in this era where they are dished out by referees for most tough challenges.

I don’t mean hard work, or flicks and tricks step-overs or drag-backs but real honest desire when you make a ball yours in a situation where it is 60/40 in favour of your opponent. It’s an over my dead body attitude. Or being so angry and embarrassed that you might take a yellow card for a more than enthusiastic tackle borne from that inner frustration and anger.

Without that desire, passion and enthusiasm Blues would never have won the Carling Cup or even got promoted to the Premier League.

I remember seeing Blues come from 3-1 down to West Ham in the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final to win. I saw them all square going into the second leg of the playoff semi-final at Millwall and get through. Seeing Olivier Tebily tackling like a man possessed without his boot on-that is desire.

Of course you have to have ability but without desire it’s a waste of time. Desire is why we see teams with better players losing to so called lesser teams- because desire should never be underestimated.

I really hope it was a one off, a bad day at the office, and that they will bounce back in style against Cardiff.

I am also a huge admirer of Lee Carsley as a coach but I certainly did not agree with him taking all the blame for the performance/defeat at Hull. I get that he wants to protect his players and not risk losing the dressing room but I hope he said different things to the players than he did to us in the media.

I wish Steve Cotterill the best of luck and I was impressed with what he said at his unveiling media conference. His first thing is to play a way that will suit and get the best out of the players he has. He is one of the few managers that understand that motivation is a mainly a personal thing-not a group one. He will find out what gets each player at it and create the environment whereby they are motivated to achieve.   

What I also liked was that he talked about improving the players by coaching and that is refreshing in this crazy football world where the answer to all ills is to spend. Hard Work will be one of the pillars on which he will strive for success. That reminds me of a famous quote “The only time you find success before work is in the dictionary”.

However Chief Executive Xuandong Ren said that the owners would be ready to help financially in the January window if the manager needed it suggesting there would not be massive spending.

It is quite apparent that Trillion Trophy Asia have an overwhelming desire to get into the Premier League and I am sure reading between the lines and after, listening to Dong on Monday, that if the team have put themselves in a challenging position then they would be prepared to help the manager get the team over the line by providing some money in the January window. This would then give SC a real chance in the final three months of the season. 

What shone through while interviewing Steve Cotterill is that he is undoubtedly extremely proud to be the club’s manager? I think he understands the culture of Birmingham City- in other words he gets it!

However like all managers he is not a magician and will only be as good as the players he has in his squad and the results he achieves. In just under a year the club have gone from Stability to foreign-to charismatic-to stability in terms of the four managers employed and that is too many and not healthy when it comes to achieving promotion or any sort of success.

There is no short term instant fix to success so the owners must allow SC time to assess the squad, to improve fitness, to implement his ideas, to improve players individually and to formulate and instil a winning mentality. Some of the players have had different coaching and methods from various managers, they need stability as much as the supporters and directors only time will give them and the manager the platform needed. Practice does not only make perfect it makes permanent.

Gareth Barry-a class act

Gareth Barry-a class act

Over the years working for BRMB, Xtra AM, Capital Gold, Free Radio and latterly talkSPORT I have got to know and have interviewed hundreds of players from all our local clubs. Most have been great to deal with and some not so good but thankfully there are just a few in the latter category. With many players the working relationship develops into a friendship that last’s for years long after they have retired or moved on.

Gareth Barry is one of those players who was always friendly and always prepared to do interviews when he was at Aston Villa. However under that nice quiet exterior image is a man with a winning mentality aligned with desire, hard work and commitment. So it’s no surprise he has broken Ryan Gigg’s record of 632 premier league games. I would imagine he is a manager’s dream to work with and some of his team mates I have spoken to tell me he was the first name they wanted to see on the team sheet on a Friday afternoon.

I have had the opportunity to be in his company outside of the game and let me tell you that competitive streak also stretches to playing pool. Both he and his dad are pool hustlers as I found out in Spain. Seriously though when in his company away from football you can see that his nice guy image is not an act for the world of football. He is exactly the same and I am sure his parents had a lot to do with that bringing him up in an environment where respect and politeness were key. Like all of us he is not a Saint and it would be wrong to portray him as such but he has not had the sort of headlines that have tarnished some player’s careers and has not caused any of his managers a minute’s problem.

So Congratulations to Gareth on reaching that 633 game milestone. How long will he go on for? He will be the first to know when it’s time to call it a day as he continues to do for  West Bromwich Albion what he has done for Aston Villa, Everton, Manchester City and England and that is quietly going about his job, driving the team on and being competitive while rarely giving the ball away. Without doubt a role model for any young player with a genuine desire to reach the top.

Lee Carsley and the Blues managers job!

Lee Carsley and the Blues managers job!

             

As Birmingham City look for yet another manager with all sorts of names supposedly in the frame according to the bookmakers I wonder if the time is right to appoint from within. I don’t pay too much attention to the bookies odds because it is in their interest to get people waging money on those who have no chance of getting the job.

However caretaker boss Lee Carsley keeps on impressing everyone who hears him speak about the game and the club. He is a Blues fans as are all his family but he insists he does not want the job as the time is not right for him.

He won’t thank me for writing this but I wonder if you can ever pick the right time surely sometimes you have to grab the opportunity if it arises. Now let’s be very clear no one at the club has said Lee is the man the board want to appoint. However I wonder what difference a few good results and fan power would do. We saw at derby what the supporters think of him as they witnessed a spirited display. The chant was “he’s one of our own”. That just may buy him more time to sort things out if he were to be offered and take the job.

Lee has a clear career path mapped out in his mind and understandably does not want any blots on his CV. His career has been distinguished both as a player and coach having played 472 league games many in the Premier League.

His coaching roles have been varied and have included Manchester City, England, Coventry, Brentford and now Birmingham City where he is Head coach of U23s development team.

He was caretaker at Coventry but it was at Brentford that he shone as head coach winning October Manager of the Month in the Championship. During his time as head coach at Griffin Park he had a 50% win ratio.

As I said Lee won’t thank me for saying it but in my opinion now looks the right time for him and for Blues. However it is unlikely due to Lee’s stance and it looks like the board are deep into interviewing applicants with unconfirmed names such as Aitor Karanka, Steve Cotterill, Quique Flores,  Alan Pardew Nigel Adkins, Billy Davies, Aidy Boothroyd and Gus Poyet among the bookies favourites depending, of course, on which bookies list you look at.

Whoever the directors name as the new boss it will be the most important appointment for years because without any doubt whatsoever the club cannot afford another managerial mistake. The Championship looks certain to get tougher and tougher to get out of and into the Premier League due to the amount of money relegated clubs will have. Time is not a luxury blues can afford and that also applies to Villa and Wolves.