Filed under: Football | Tags: Bredn, Brendan Rodgers, money, Norwich City, promotion, Swansea City, Watford
It might seem an odd and insensitive thing to say, but Swansea City fans should consider themselves lucky. Possibly not the word a Swans fan would use after having lost a superb manager who got them to an astonishing 11th place in their debut Premier League season.
Ok that’s unfortunate, I accept. What I’m talking about, though, is the fact that Brendan Rodgers made the effort to leave Swansea with a healthy bank account before he moved, which is more than he’s managed in the past. And speaking as a Watford fan, I’m well versed in the Rodgers way of negotiating a new job.
It started much the same way. Amid early speculation that Liverpool were interested, Rodgers said he wasn’t, supposedly conscious that it would be disrespectful to Swansea if he were courting Fenway Sports Group. Pretty similar to May 2009, when as Watford manager he said he was “concentrating fully” on the job.
Three weeks later he was the manager of Reading, and we got somewhere in the region of a measly £500,000 compensation. He thanked the club for being “a part of my story”. Excellent, as a Watford fan I’m delighted that we’re a collective footnote in his managerial memoir.
In a similar time frame he went from uninterested manager head honcho at Liverpool. I’d be a fool to blame Rodgers for going. It’s an excellent opportunity, and I’m sure you’ve realised by now that this is something of a bitter rant because I’d like to have seen Rodgers develop his exciting brand of seamless passing football at Vicarage Road.
The manoeuvre with Swansea echoes his departure from Watford, but it was quite as brutal. Signing a new deal in January was an astute move, to the tune of £5 million compensation for the Swans.Watford were clearly never going to get anywhere near that, but at least Rodgers didn’t make the same promises to the Swans knowing he was bound to break them.
Happily, though, Watford aren’t the only club to receive the treatment. Just as Rodgers looks to be cleaning up his act, step forward Paul Lambert, formerly of Norwich City.
May 23: “I am delighted I am at Norwich if that is what you are asking me. I have never said I wanted away, and people jump to conclusions.”
May 31: Lambert resigns and is in talks to join Aston Villa.
History really does repeat itself.
If Paul Hart’s fortunes were equated to a Monopoly board, he’s just picked himself a Get Out of Jail Free card from an Arab Community Chest.
Ali Al-Faraj’s money has brought a much-needed ray of sunshine bursting through the apocalyptic clouds surrounding Fratton Park. Every football fan who has seen a sports page or breathed in the last few weeks knows Pompey have been in crisis. But they picked up their first win of the season last weekend and finally paid their players. Perhaps this is the turning point.
Unfortunately, signing the likes of Tommy Smith and Mike Williams – though talented footballers – isn’t going to keep you in the Premier League. Luckily, Al-Faraj is ready to pull his cheque book out:
Peter Storrie, Portsmouth chief executive, is saying the right things to encourage hopeful fans. But will there actually be a Premier League place to save come January? The facts suggest not. No team has lost their opening seven matches for 79 years, so the battle is already harder than it ever has been in recent football history.
In addition, which player that is capable of keeping Pompey in the top-flight will come to such a struggling club? Money talks in football, undoubtedly, but it’s a tall order for even the hardiest of mercenaries. Still, I’m sure Lucas Neill will keep an eye on it.
Filed under: Football | Tags: arsenal, chelsea, first team, manchester city, mark hughes, money, perez, real madrid
One month ago, it was Florentino Perez and Real Madrid grabbing the back-page headlines with exhorbitant spending in the football transfer window. Now, it’s all eyes on Manchester City as Sheikh Mansour continues to flex his financial muscle.
Rumours of lavish gifts notwithstanding, the Dubai owner is looking to take his spending at City over the £200m mark. Seeing as Perez spent nearly £150m on two players alone, City seem modest by comparison. Yet it is the sheer gall of Mark Hughes’ movements this summer that has brought activities at Eastlands into sharp relief.
Pinching Gareth Barry from under the auspices of Liverpool outlined City’s intent. A total of £55m so far this summer has seen Roque Santa Cruz and Carlos Tevez also switch their honours to sky blue. But the best could be yet to come, with Emmanuel Adebayor in deep discussions and bids tabled for John Terry and Joleon Lescott.
Garry Cook, City’s executive chairman, makes no bones about what is required for City to challenge for a Champions League spot:
‘The investments that we’re making currently will define the football club for the next 10 years. I think when you do that to compete with the top four in the Premier League, you have to invest to reach those new levels. It stops when Mark feels that he’s got the right quality of players in the squad.’
Can’t say fairer than that. Mark Hughes will be delighted by these supportive words. Yet, the question looming large in the football forums must be prominent in the Welshman’s mind: who makes the starting line-up?
It will be incredibly difficult as it is to accommodate Santa Cruz, Adebayor, Robinho and Tevez in the same team. Santa Cruz must play as the target man. Will Adebayor be deployed in an unorthodox wide right position? Will Tevez play on the left? Will Robinho float?
These issues aside, where does Craig Bellamy factor; a £14m investment? Not to mention Felipe Caicedo, or Valeri Bojinov? The same problems resonate in the midfield. Does Barry play at the £17m expense of Nigel De Jong? If they play together, then surely there’s not enough room for Stephen Ireland or Shaun Wright-Phillips, which is at odds with City’s proud ethos of playing academy graduates.
Reading though these permutations will no doubt have anyone’s head spinning. It’s up to Mark Hughes to make these decisions for real. With the promise of Champions League football and huge wages, it will be interesting to see which players bristle at a spot of bench-warming.
Filed under: Football | Tags: alex ferguson, capello, england, first team, injury, manchester united, michael owen, money, real madrid, ronaldo
Losing one of the world’s most prolific scorers to your footballing nemesis must be a sobering experience. But trust Alex Ferguson to get straight on with it, by signing Michael Owen with such alacrity the Road Runner would doff his cap.
While Stoke City and Hull City were supposedly having a tug of war over the Scouser’s signature, Fergie has pushed the secret button to the trapdoor and snatched Owen before anyone could blink. Oh, and did I mention he’s done it on a free transfer? On a performance based pay scheme?
People will scoff for two reasons: Owen’s recent goal scoring exploits and his relentless injuries. His 32-page brochure hasn’t allayed any fears in this respect, as Martin Samuel aptly explains. Yet, having lost Ronaldo, who wouldn’t sign a free proven goalscorer in his stead?
You simply cannot ignore 157 goals in 271 La Liga and Premier League starts. Of those, 26 have come in 52 league starts wearing a Newcastle United shirt. And lest we forget, this statistic is among his least impressive when it comes to goalscoring.
The more worrying question is injury. Staying fit could well be an issue, but Ferguson has anticipated this. I dread to think what a ‘rigorous’ medical assessment at Old Trafford entails, and should Owen not play enough matches, he will be paid accordingly. Simply brilliant.
Owen will have neither a greater chance nor incentive to reclaim his number ten shirt in Fabio Capello’s England team. If he stays fit, there’s no reason he won’t score 20 Premier League goals next season, with the service he’ll receive from the Manchester United midfield. Reunited with Wayne Rooney, looking to get his career back on track, to disprove the doubters who simply threw his brochure in the bin.
The stage is set. And Fergie will be smiling to himself.
Filed under: Football | Tags: kaka, manchester united, money, perez, real madrid, ronaldo
Hush. Listen. Can you hear that? No? Try harder. Now? Yep, you’ve got it. That’s the sound of no broken mugs dropped in shock, no cars crashed by astonished drivers, and a whole continent of unbatted eyelids. It’s the sound of the footballing world reacting to Cristiano Ronaldo’s long anticipated transfer to Real Madrid.
Of course, it would be foolish to suggest there is no reaction at all, just one completely lacking in surprise. A plethora of Manchester United fans all over England will be lamenting the loss of their talismanic superstar, and dare I say many other fans too. Because this is a loss for English football, not just Lancashire.
Despite it being a matter of when, not if, it is still sad to have one of the world’s brightest football talents leave these shores. Spain already has Messi, Kaka’s been drafted in, and with rumours circulating about Franck Ribery, David Villa and Karim Benzema, you almost wish UEFA would step in and stop Florentino Perez poaching these stars.
Still, Manchester United now have £80m at their disposal, the only aspect of this story that retains a hint of shock value. Where has Perez sourced this money from in these difficult economic times, having already dropped £59m on Kaka?
The number bods will be scratching their heads, but football fans will be hoping Sir Alex Ferguson can secure someone to emulate the dazzling football Ronaldo had provided over the last six years.
Filed under: Football | Tags: blogging, British press, exeter, guardian, money, promotion
With Southampton’s demise highlighting the growing financial gloom haunting the Football League, a heart-warming success story is needed like never before. Cue Exeter City, who are on the verge of promotion to League One, potentially a remarkable achievement for a club that in 2003 was relegated to the then Conference and facing grave financial turmoil.
Since those dreary days, fans have bought the club through the Exeter City FC Supporters’ Trust and helped balance the books through financial negotiations and fundraising. An FA Cup draw against Manchester United in 2005 that spanned two legs and a television appearance was also a contributing factor.
The club is now close to winning a second successive promotion, achieving Exeter City’s highest league status for 15 years. Denise Watts, chairman of both the club and trust, finds the situation a welcome positive in these turbulent times for football finance.
“It’s been a fantastic season for us. We are now at the point where we have a club that is owned by its fans on the brink of League One football. It’s just amazing,” she says. “We always said we could get out of the Conference, but we have had struggles as a club. Five years in the Conference is a long time, but it takes all that time to get out and now we are just very excited. We’ve exceeded all our expectations for the season.”
Currently third in League Two, City face stiff competition for automatic promotion from Bury, who are one point and one place behind them. City’s recent form is encouraging for the 2,754 trust members, the Grecians having taken 14 from a possible 18 points. However, Watts is careful not to start popping champagne corks just yet.
“I am cautiously optimistic about the weekend [Exeter play Morecambe, who beat them two years ago in the Conference play-off final to win promotion], but there’s nothing as strange as football results, as we all know. We have to continue playing at our best to win the last two games, but whatever happens we are in that great position whereby we are still in the play-offs. But there’s no need to start celebrating yet. As Paul Tisdale [the Exeter manager] and I believe, the job is not done yet. We have had a lot of heartache in the past.”
It is hard to believe a club which has not finished below seventh in the last five seasons would be burdened with hardship. Yet the efforts of the trust members, 75% of whom are volunteers, have helped bring rewards to Exeter City. Watts, as well as becoming English football’s only female football chairman three and a half years ago, is a full-time dental consultant and single mother.
“Most of us are volunteers,” she says, “which is why it is such a real victory for a fan-run club. We are expecting a completely packed house on Saturday, almost 9,000 people. We had 40,000 people [at the play-off final] at Wembley last year. This season we’ve had average attendances of 5,000 so where have the other 35,000 gone? I think there will be a lot of them hoping to get in on Saturday, but I say we have to look after those 5,000 first. If you want to be part of Exeter City Football Club, you need to join the trust.”
As much as the trust members have achieved, the players and manager also deserve their plaudits, something Watts is more than happy to acknowledge. “All credit to the players and Paul. He’s had a clever selection policy and a great attitude. Nothing but the best is good enough for him. Our dream this season was to be in the play-offs and we have almost bettered it. So the expectation has grown, which is a good thing, but, as I said, it’s not over yet.”
It’s not too difficult to imagine Grecian victory in the last two matches of the season being politely toasted outside Exeter. Everyone loves the plucky, courageous underdog in the script, and City’s football journey fits the bill nicely.
As Watts summarises: “We have faced financial ruin, we have been to the very lowest, and now we are so much higher because we have been through so much.”
Check out my blog post on the Guardian website by clicking here.
“These things just unsettle players. Spurs are after every player in the league.”
Ricky Sbragia’s statement is not, of course, shocking news. I reckon bets are still on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer strolling into White Hart Lane to add to Harry’s growing collection of strikers.
The Spurs shopping list is extensive as always, with the usual dollop of outlandishness; this season in the shape of Adriano. Harry apparently only went to watch a football match. In the transfer window. At Inter, who have a notoriously unsettled striker with shades of brilliance. Having made it clear he wants to sign a powerful centre forward.
Never mind that, then. Harry’s ruffled some feathers, but insists he isn’t doing anything wrong. Let’s look at his various responses:
Stewart Downing: ‘The club has made a big offer for him, but Middlesbrough are a good club and if the chairman [Steve Gibson] decides he doesn’t want to sell him, that’s his right to do that and that’s the end of that one.’
Robbie Keane: ‘I wouldn’t sit here and say that I wouldn’t like to have Robbie Keane at my football club, I’d be a liar, but he belongs to Liverpool so it’s not an option unfortunately. But as a player and a person, I’ve got a lot of time for Robbie Keane, I think he is fantastic.’
I think we can all agree he’s a sly talker. It’s very clever to seem astonished about turning players’ heads whilst simultaneously indicating your interest. He’s just on the right side of the law, which means all this is fine. I guess I doff my cap to you Harry.
Besides, how does anyone make a transfer these days without tapping someone up?