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Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

Our Friends In The Media

In Football on December 31, 2010 at 11:36 am

There’s more to being a successful manager than being a motivator, a tactical genius and a wheeler-dealer. You can lack all three of those seemingly essential traits and still land plum jobs that end with settlement payouts after a few months of failure just so long as you have friends in the media. Someone willing to endlessly crow about your virtues safe in the knowledge that if its spread over enough column inches the proles masses will eventually start to repeat it rote-fashion and it will eventually become “common knowledge” even if it is almost entirely false.

 


If ti sounds far-fetched a look at this weekend’s holiday season action should dispel any notions of it as fanciful or ridiculous. The pundits on Football Focus on were certainly unabashed about wearing their hearts on their sleeves when it came to their predictions, in particular that of Blackburn Rovers under the newly appointed, potentially short-term manager Steve Kean.Steve Claridge wasted no time in saying that the decision to fire Sam Allardyce was “ridiculous” and that the club were in freefall. This after Kean had only taken charge for one game, a dull and disappointing display against the masters of anti-football, Stoke.

 
He confidently predicted that they would lose their game and then felt comfortable talking about how the new owners knew nothing about football, that if they did they would have treated Sam Allardyce better. They overlooked statistics that suggested the team had problems long before Kean was in charge and stated that Allardyce was guaranteed premier league safety, without really explaining the grim realities of what that meant for any football club with such low aspirations.
Within two minutes Blackburn had taken the lead. “What’s going on?” They said if it was some sort of huge upset in the making. By the time West Bromwich Albion had equalised they were back to sticking the boot in to the hapless manager, stating it was now almost a certainty that they would go on to win against the away team. Blackburn managed to triumph 3-1 in the end, despite being reduced to ten men, the first time they had won by a two goal margin or greater away from home in a year. No room in the day’s summary for that statistic and no credit afforded to Kean at all. By the end of the day “Big Sam” was being linked to a job at Burnley.

 
Later that evening Birmingham managed to steal a draw in dubious circumstances against the side many see as title favourites, Manchester United. While the goal was certainly dubious on the grounds that there was a use of the arm, so much was made of the incident that it was suddenly deemed worthy of being front page news. “Manchester United draw 1-1 with Birmingham but are controversially denied victory” read the BBC website headline. Can you think of any other set of circumstances where that detail would be relevant enough to sneak onto the front page? Me either – if not getting decisions awarded in your favour was big news Wolves and West Ham would never be out of the public eye.

 
But this is Manchester United and everything the BBC publishes about the mighty reds is now simply one long apology letter to Sir Alex Ferguson for their documentary detailing the club’s clear favouritism when it came to using his own son’s agency to sign players. Indeed, even though Ferguson was supposedly on his last warning eighteen months ago to not criticise a referee in public again, he felt comfortable giving both barrels to Lee Mason. Despite his insistence on not talking to the BBC, again something that lesser manager would be hauled over the coals for given that it is a contractual obligation, Auntie felt quite comfortable in not only reporting on his rantings, but giving them credence in their description of the events that lead up to the equaliser.

 
Twenty Four hours passed and Liverpool were beaten at home by bottom of the table Wolves in what was proclaimed by all who witnessed it to be one of the worst Liverpool displays of all time. Still, in the media there was a huge reluctance to lay any blame on the new manager, Roy Hodgson, for that. His friends in the media had been instrumental in setting him up for the job and hyping his arrival as a good mvoe for the club and a just reward for years of great service. Indeed, it seemed to go unmentioned that the bandwagon declaring that Hodgson was manager of the year – for a low mid-table finish and defeat in a European cup final – were likely the same people calling for Mclaren to be sacked when he achieved a similar feat with Middlesbrough.

 
Still, Hodgson knows the importance of having friends in the right places and even though the players clearly have no faith in his vision, the fans would rather have the one man wrecking machine of Benitez back (as banners unfurled during the game proclaimed) and he has now lashed out at the fans saying they need to get behind the team, making him something akin to a 63 year old Wayne Rooney, there hasn’t been one dissenting voice in the media yet. They like Roy, he always gives them quotes, interviews, exlcusives and speaks candidly and politely at all times. It’d be a real shame if he want…

 
So that is the reason you will read nonsense such as “Hodgson was a logical choice by Liverpool’s board to succeed Rafael Benitez. Mature and experienced – not to mention manager of the year after taking Fulham to the Europa League final – he looked the perfect fit to oversee what would inevitably be a transitional period on and off the pitch” (thanks Phil McNulty) qhile trying to keep your breakfast down in the face of it. Nothing to do with the facts, that Hodgson was a largely unsuccessful journeyman, or how he represented a radical departure from the usual managerial recruitment methods for Liverpool, or how there were much better options on the market.

 
No, Hodgson, like a select few, will be protected and supported no matter what happens. It is only the discerning football fan that knows you certainly can’t believe everything you read.

Benitez Exposed… Bad Voodoo From A Spanish Charlatan

In Football on December 23, 2010 at 8:41 am

After what seemed like an eternity of unjust support form Scousers that could remember one night in Istanbul above all else, Benitez was finally removed from Liverpool office, impeached and shamed worse than Richard Nixon. History will not remember him as fondly it seems, his woeful legacy still there at Anfield in the form of the worst Liverpool team in living memory, a side so wretched in its ability that it has aged the already far from fresh faced Roy Hodgson years in the few months he has had to try and work with it.

 


Of course, the truth is that team that somehow triumphed in Istanbul that night were hardly a collection of world beaters. If ever you need a strong argument for trophies not equating to talent you need look no further than Djimi Traore sporting a Champions League medal. Yet that was the kind of voodoo that Benitez was famous for, that a side that could falter against lowly minnows on the weekend could defeat the cream of Europe come midweek with the same eleven out there on the field. It baffled almost everyone, perhaps most tellingly Benitez himself, but in the end the Liverpool fans could forgive near misses domestically in exchange for the European glory on which they had been raised.

 
Then came the decline… Fans winced as their manager spent millions to consistently lower the quality in the squad, while world class players such as Xabi Alonso were marginalised and made to feel unwelcome. But there was that night in Istanbul, he had to know what he was doing, right? There was a master plan at work, something so complex and intricate that only a football genius could see it. Forget that he’d spent in excess of £200 million, only taking back just over a third of that in sales, yet would waste no time in decrying how unfair it was that teams such as Chelsea and Man City could simply spend at will. No, it couldn’t be that he had simply gone mad, could it?

 
Now Benitez is at Inter Milan, the current European Champions and a team that had won five consecutive scudettos, and suddenly the side is floundering. After just seven months he looks already out the door. Public arguments with an Italian chairman rarely end in the favour of the coach and ultimately it is the fans that will largely dictate your fate. He may well have had an impossible act to follow in the form of “the special one” but Benitez has failed spectacularly and it exposes what many in the industry had known for some time – that his ego had eclipsed his sensibilities.

 
Any run of the mill coach could have inherited that side and simply “challenged” for the title, finishing within the top four and putting it down to “aging players” or the need for reinvigoration. It takes ineptitude of a special calibre to guide that team to seventh in the table and have them thirteen points adrift from the title at this stage in the season. Evidence of his delusions of grandeur are clear at almost every press conference. Who else but a foaming lunatic would come out after beating TP Mazembe, a side from the Congo, a paltry 3-0 in the World Club Cup final and then demanding full backing from the board as if the trophy meant anything at all?
Yet it was clear he was somewhere other than this reality after his string of bizarre ramblings made in public that made Cantona’s philosophies seem like the most profound haikus. If anyone can make sense of the claim regarding Roy Hodgson that “some people cannot see a priest on a mountain of sugar.” This is not a cultural reference – even the Spanish press were baffled at what was happening to a coach that was at one time held in the highest regard domestically. Now, he seemed more like a national embarrassment. Hodgson’s provocation for this outburst had simply been to criticise his transfer record. How anyone could defend it would make them as crazy as Benitez.

 
It was only a short time before that he had also babbled about “white liquid in a bottle has to be milk” and “white liquid in a bottle. If I see John the milkman in the Wirral, where I was living, with this bottle, I’d say, ‘It’s milk, sure” when speaking of the situation at Liverpool, before putting the blame for the club’s decline squarely on the shoulders of the board, the new director of football and indeed anyone else but him. It was a classless act of cryptic gibberish, an attempt to rewrite history that would have shamed Josef Stalin and it might just have worked had Inter gone on to be even vaguely successful under his brief tenure.

 
Benitez will almost certainly be putting more than milk in his morning coffee today with the wheels clearly in motion to remove him from his position at Inter. It may cost the club millions to do it, especially if their legal team somehow fail to prove he is unfit for tenure, but if there is one thing history has shown us it is that the Italians will not lose face in public under any circumstances. With this in mind Benitez needs to find some more of that voodoo he used to convince a nation that he was one of the most gifted coaches in the game. The juju bag seems to be empty, however with such dark forces you can never be sure.

 
Of course, it could simply be that Benitez was little more than a charlatan, another journeyman manager who lucked out and then could never repeat the miracle. If that is the case, which it almost certainly is, it is his seemingly doomed spell at Inter that will prove it, rather than the state of disrepair he left Liverpool in as he walked out the door, weighed down with the ill gotten gains of a con artist.

Personality Flaws & The Real McCoy

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2010 at 11:28 am

Does the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year Award actually mean anything anymore? Is it there to celebrate the great achievements by British sporting individuals that have enriched all of our lives? Or is it just another waste of license payers money, a back slap awards ceremony where the who wins it actually means nothing and is barely heard over the invitees laughing as they quaff free champagne at your expense?

 


Well, maybe it’s neither of those things but as an award to recognise outstanding talent in competitive fields it certainly misses the mark further than a sober darts player playing on a cruise ship. Last nights winner confirmed the freefall had plummeted to a point where none of even the worst pessimists would have thought it could get to… Yes, if you thought Zara Philips winning it was the lowest ebb, then imagine my surprise when it was won by someone nobody had actually fucking heard of.

 
The winner, Tony something or other, too looked stunned even though it was likely he had been told prior to the event he had won just to ensure he bothered to turn up. Apparently he had something to do with horses, which was actually interesting because he did look a bit like one, albeit one with a body withered by polio. The runner-up wasn’t looking much healthier… Phil “The Power” Taylor doesn’t look much like he has any power at all these days, his diet leaving him with the look of a man who knows he only has a year or two left at best after being ravaged by a wasting disease.

 
Yes, even the most boring reformed darts player couldn’t win, kept off the podium by the world’s dullest man, which is ultimately what these awards have turned into. Whatshisface was supposedly over the moon though and brought out the most extreme adjectives when it came to expressing his joy at winning:

 
“This is an unbelievable feeling to win this award” he said, echoing sentiments uttered by anyone who has ever won anything they are completely indifferent about.

 
Perhaps the real question isn’t how thingy won the award but why was the field of contenders so poor that he was able to win it with almost 42% of the vote. Has there been an investigation into irregular betting patterns? If not there should be as I can’t believe for one moment that the general public decided to choose a jockey over the people that partake in real sports, no matter how mediocre they might be.

 

 

Of course having the word “personality” in the award name is a major stumbling block because none of the winners actually have any at all, or at least haven’t for years. Now they have that skin-crawling lack of charisma you associate with that person who the family call “uncle” but actually isn’t related to you at all. They simply stand there grinning like a paedophile mannequin unable to introduce any humour into the proceedings or come up with just one amusing anecdote. Indeed the last person to win it with any sort of personality was Paula Radcliffe, and I say that mainly because of the bobbing head thing and the fact I’ve seen her piss in the street like a common slag from Bolton.

 
And it’s unstandable why you’d want to shift the focus away from personality altogether as often it would be at complete loggerheads with professionalism. I mean, George Best, Alex Higgins, Paul Merson… They’ve got bags of personality but having them recognised for being cocaine using, gambling addicted wheezing alcoholics who were capable of moments of sporting brilliance even in their addled state probably sends out the wrong message to that all important commodity – the kids.

 
Yet at least the others, even including last year’s winner Ryan Giggs – a rare deserved winner in a fairly sketchy last six years – had stood out and achieved something spectacular in their field, a sport that people genuinely cared about and had international appeal. I’m not sure horse racing really has that going for it and how can winning a Grand National after fifteen attempts compare to a twenty year career at one of the best football clubs in the world, having won more trophies than any other British player still playing the game? Simply put, it doesn’t.

 
Is it right that… No it’s gone again, but is it right that he should be up there with the likes of Ian Botham, Daley Thompson, Nigel Mansell, Steve Davis, Nick Faldo, Paul Gascoigne and Linford Christie. World beaters and some of the best sportsmen that Britain has produced. Of course, to be a world beater you have to actually partake in a sport where people from all over the world actually compete in. Horse racing is an anachronism, an excuse for degenerates to throwaway their money and to be fleeced by inside betting scams. It also allows John McCririck to continue labouring under the delusion that he’s important. How is that a good thing?

 
Maybe the problem I have is with the sport and not the sportsman… Understandable really given the horses do most of the work. Whichever way you slice it though, this award needs to stop now. Unless of course the prize is a year long stint of humanitarian aid work involving trips to leper colonies and minefields. In that case, can we open the phonelines now? Things just got interesting.

 

Lack Of Ambition Does For Allardyce

In Football on December 16, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Rejoice Blackburn fans, for although you may not know it, the first tentative steps towards the big time have been taken by the removal of the self proclaimed “Big Sam”. While the decision to remove a manager who has managed to take the club to roughly where most expected them to be, the wrong side of mid-table, may have come as a shock it is a huge, positive statement of intent from a new board and is a complete contrast to the decision taken by the wretched Mike Ashley only close to a fortnight ago.

 
The myth that Allardyce is a highly skilled and upwardly mobile British manager is one that has persisted since the days of Bolton Wanderers. They were a side that punched well above their weight and their excursions into Europe brought about something that even the club’s most ardent fans never dreamed of. Of course, Colossal Sam was on hand to take all the plaudits even if most raised an eyebrow over the questionable style of football that the team played.


They had mastered the art of the long throw some time before Stoke made headlines with the same technique. They brought back the kick and chase game, which had been mostly absent from the league since the spectacular collapse of Wimbledon. They also appreciated the benefits of simply roughing up an opponent, a tactic Gargantuan Sam loved to promote, a throwback to his days as a crude centre-half.

 

 

Yet there was more than a glimmer of fortune around the success of Bolton. At a time when other leagues around Europe were having to slash wage budgets, even a premier league side with the stature of Bolton was willing to compete with the likes of the Serie A and La Liga elites. Huge Sam took full advantage, making a series of risky free transfer signings that mostly paid off and helped add some quality to the team.

 
Alas, since then his transfer market record has been less than sterling. Remember, this is the same player that brought an embarrassingly overweight Mario Jardel to the Premiership, his breasts on display through a tight, white Bolton top like something out of a girls gone wild DVD. Large Sam responded publicly by saying that he’d put his player on the Atkins diet. It was like something from Mike Bassett, the manger that most closely resembles Allardyce.

 
The same was true of his tenure at Newcastle. Signing players like Rozehnal, Cacapa, Beye and everyone’s favourite footballing criminal, Barton. He revolted the fans with his insistence on long ball tactics and was instrumental in the club eventually imploding and getting relegated. It was clear that whatever collection of circumstance had come about in order to allow bolton to successful, the magic wasn’t likely to repeat itself anytime soon. He appeared a manager out of his depths in the top flight, out of ideas and unable to spot a quality footballer if his job depended on it… Which, it did.

 
Then on to Blackburn where their inconsistency has been remarkable, which is more than can be said for his signings. Under new ambitious ownership it was only a matter of time before he was found out and all the press conferences proclaiming that you are good enough to manager the likes of Real Madrid won’t alter the facts that season after season of transfer mismanagements, married to poor technical football on the pitch, do not make Giant Sam a viable option for a serious club.

 
Just to underline just how out of touch this manager is with what the squad needs, upon signing Nikola Kalinic for £6million he declared that he would instrumental in firing the club into Europe. His four goals in 36 appearances tell a very different story. At the same time as making signings such as these he badly handled the talismanic Morten Gamst Pedersen and looked to offload him at one point following a contract row. It is incredible that he has managed to hold on to so many jobs in the Premiership and thanks to his friends in the media, including an apologetic BBC, as well as his well documented – well, mainly by Humongous Sam – association with Sir Alex Ferguson it’s likely he will soon be installed in another one. Let’s not forget, he was supposedly in the frame for the England job prior to Capello’s appointment, and what odds on him being touted again, his lack of transfer savvy being spun into a positive for international management.

 
Of course, Vast Sam said it was a disagreement over transfer policy. I think the disagreement lay with him wanting to make BAD signings and the board wanting to prevent this. Power to them. When a captain of a ship is clearly deranged it’s generally an idea to take his hand of the rudder and lock him in the brig. It was summed up succinctly by the chairwoman of the group that now owned the club, Anuradha Desai. She said:

 

 
“My father once told me that out of 10 decisions you must get at least seven right – you can get two or three wrong, we’re not gods. But to get nine or 10 wrong is not good and things have been going wrong with transfers, that’s a fact.”


That was before adding that it was in fact his negative attitude that was the real reason for his dismissal. A valid point – there aren’t many managers that continually talk about their side’s deficiencies, or how they need money to improve, especially before big games. It’s likely Gigantic Sam thinks this sort of “plain speaking” makes him seem endearing to Joe Public, without really considering the impact it has on his team. After all, a man of that size always likes to be the centre of attention.

 
The good news is that in his absence things can likely only get better for Blackburn. An ambitious board with a positive outlook, they have realised quickly that if they want to move in the right direction it is a change of management that is needed. Tellingly, they have no-one lined up… They just believe that anyone would be better than Allardyce. Well, almost anyone. Maradona has been sternly ruled out too. Still, as Sam bags another pay-out for his failings the fact that it’s the time of the year when those who can stave off relegation are highly sought after means that he will likely be given another shot at another desperate club. Have West Ham already been in touch?

 

 
There was probably a point where Allardyce could have walked the walk as well as his insistence on endlessly talking the talk. Since that brief flicker it has been a downward trajectory and it’s one that shows no signs of abating. Bad news for him, good news for a club that is now free from his influence. If only the size of his ambitions and his talents could match the descriptions of himself.