Deep Backward Point.

Well, if it worked for Chelsea…
June 12, 2012, 4:17 pm
Filed under: Football | Tags: , , ,

Good to see an organised, defensive England team that didn’t embarrass itself last night. Granted there were no real creative fireworks from anyone in a white shirt, but frankly anybody who expected there to be is deluded.

That most of the England team were in the penalty box when Samir Nasri fizzed his shot past Joe Hart is annoying. But overall it was a disciplined performance and we’ve got a point on the board, which many fans would have done terrible things for before kick off.

While nobody should get carried away, the pall of gloom hanging over the team from South Africa has lifted a little. Danny Welbeck impressed, albeit it feeding off scraps chucked at him from the midfield; the back four were tight for the main part; and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was mature for the most part, although his decision-making when in possession needs to sharply improve.

I’m not sure what game Jamie Carragher was watching when he claimed France were there for the taking, but there’s nothing to suggest that taking the same discipline to Donetsk on Friday against Sweden couldn’t produce three points. Particularly given their woeful defending against Ukraine.

That said, it was meant to be an even surer thing that we’d beat Algeria. So let’s not get carried away just yet.

A decent payoff
May 31, 2012, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Football | Tags: , , , , , ,

Rodgers will be hoping to lift trophies at Anfield shortly. Strabane/Flickr

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.

Only the Best will do
May 23, 2012, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Cricket | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Nice to see the West Indies press the big red button. I for one am delighted that Tino la Bertram Best is returning to these shores, and really hope a three-year hiatus from Test cricket hasn’t dampened his temper and theatrics.

He’s performed well in Caribbean domestic cricket, which led to his call-up so fair play to him. But with 28 Test wickets at an average of more than 48, I don’t think Strauss and co will be too worried. Fair enough he’s taken 13 English wickets, but the greater prospect, for the fans and the bowlers, will be Best’s batting. Having seen his attitude towards Ashley Giles in 2004, I reckon Graeme Swann will be licking his lips at the prospect of Best trying to hit him out of the park.

If you’re not going to win then at least put on a show. Oh, and as always, mind the windows Tino.

Worthy of another year
May 21, 2012, 4:52 pm
Filed under: Football | Tags: , , , ,

credit Janblahnik/Wikimedia Commons

For all the speculation, Roman Abramovich’s decision must be an easy one. The Chelsea players dared to interrupt the oligarch with spontaneous chants during his post-match dressing room debrief to make it known they want Roberto Di Matteo to stay. Considering he just led them to the one trophy a London club has never won in all its previous incarnations, the argument – well, raucous singing – is compelling.

Let’s not forget that exactly two weeks before Drogba slotted home what might be his last kick of a ball for Chelsea past Neuer to seal the Champions League, Di Matteo also saw Chelsea bring home the FA Cup for the fourth time in six seasons. The only others to win a double in the Abramovich era are Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti, who were both given a good run afterwards to see if they could do it again.

Surely the same courtesy must be extended to Di Matteo? Chelsea’ languid performance in the Premier League seems an aberration of Andre Villas-Boas’ making. Di Matteo has won 13 of the 21 games he has managed Chelsea, revealing a staggering 62% win record. Manchester City just won the league win a 47% win record under another Roberto, suggesting Di Matteo more than has the credentials to mount a serious challenge next season.

And what of the summer transfer window? Di Matteo has guaranteed that Chelsea will be fighting among the top clubs in Europe for the attentions of the hottest prospects. Indeed, I just read today on Guardian Sport that Eden Hazard is now tempted towards London instead of Manchester.

Put a well-liked, talented and proven manager out of his misery Roman.

Pompey flush from Saudi takeover, but is it too late to post bail?
October 6, 2009, 3:50 pm
Filed under: Football | Tags: , , ,

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.

Could there be a return to former glory? Photo: eNil/Flickr

Could there be a return to former glory? Photo: eNil/Flickr

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:

‘There will be money to spend in January to make sure we do not lose our coveted place in the top flight.’

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.

Normal service resumes
October 6, 2009, 12:27 pm
Filed under: Cricket, Football, Rugby, Tennis | Tags:

Sorry for the prolonged absence, unfortunately the blog was on hiatus as my journalism thesis took over for some months.I am now some way further to understanding why British Asian footballers are so shockingly underrepresented in professional football. My findings will make their way to these pages shortly, but not before they have exited the academic process.

Having completed that, DBP is back. Let’s get on with it then.

Photo: SpreePiX - Berlin/Flickr

Photo: SpreePiX - Berlin/Flickr

The Ashes, 2nd Test Report: Strauss and Flintoff show leadership qualities for historic Lords victory

Andrew Flintoff takes out Peter Siddles middle stump. Photo: 6tee-zeven/Flickr

Andrew Flintoff takes out Peter Siddle's middle stump. Photo: 6tee-zeven/Flickr

Another fantastic Test match, but strangely for England fans, it took place at Lords. Andrew Strauss’ men finally lifted the 75-year hoodoo, beating Australia at the home of cricket by 115 runs. The best part of it all: England were undoubtedly the better side and fully deserved their victory.

Galvanised by Andrew Flintoff’s retirement from Test cricket, the tone was set by Strauss and Alistair Cook’s superb opening wicket stand of 196. Strauss deserves special credit for demonstrating that the task of captaincy has not affected his batting, posting an almost flawless 161 runs. Questions will be asked again of the middle order, who once again failed in the first innings – contributing just 78 runs from Ravi Bopara to Flintoff. The latter, however, would use the rest of the match to rectify his mistake.

Australia’s bowling was uneven. Mitchell Johnson once again kept his ‘secret weapon’ abilities very much under wraps, conceding more than six runs an over in the first innings but mystifyingly claiming three wickets. With none to his name in the second innings, Ricky Ponting must be wondering whether to persist with the out-of-form bowler; an eager Stuart Clarke is waiting in the wings.

Flintoff charging in at his unplayable best. Photo: RNLJ&C/Flickr

Flintoff charging in at his unplayable best. Photo: RNLJ&C/Flickr

England’s bowlers, on the other hand, attacked with venom and vigour, which was palpably missing in Cardiff. Jimmy Anderson moved the ball, Stuart Broad found a better rhythm, Graham Onions was unfazed by the occasion. They all contributed and Flintoff iced the cake with a second innings performance we have not seen since 2005.

Returning personal best figures at Lords – 5 for 92, only the third five-wicket haul of his Test career – Flintoff was imperious, rampaging down the wicket with ferocious pace and movement.  Strauss maintained a fine balance with his star bowler, who completed 39 overs at Lords compared to 35 overs in the second innings alone in Cardiff. This allowed him to function as the dangerous strike bowler England needed to achieve victory.

Looking ahead to Edgbaston, England find themselves in the rare position of leading into the third Test of an Ashes series. The scene of arguably the greatest Test match in history in 2005, England will be looking to emulate the result, and hopefully the drama for the spectators.

If Flintoff stays fit, and the middle order – as well as Bopara wallowing at three – get their act together, fans all over the country could well be celebrating another victory come August 3.

Big spending at Manchester City could leave Hughes with selection headache
July 17, 2009, 2:57 pm
Filed under: Football | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Mark Hughes has some decisions to make

Mark Hughes has tough decisions to make. Photo: kateboydell/Flickr

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?

Manchester City will have a very different team next season

This will be a very different team next season. Photo: zawtowers/Flickr

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.

The Ashes, 1st Test Report: Australian dominance thwarted by last-gasp English resistance

The Swalec Stadium in Cardiff honoured its historic debut as the 100th Test venue by producing a cricket match so gripping many will be suffering slight malnourishment after a two day diet exclusively of chewed fingernails.

Paul Collingwood taking the fight to Australia. Photo: johnniemojo/Flickr

Paul Collingwood taking the fight to Australia. Photo: johnniemojo/Flickr

Jimmy Anderson and Monty Panesar deserve the plaudits being heaped upon them, surviving 69 deliveries to seal the draw. Yet the real hero of England’s second innings is undoubtedly Paul Collingwood, whose valiant 344 minutes at the crease displayed the temperament and gritty determination needed to succeed in top-flight Test cricket.

Escaping defeat in Cardiff will be a greater psychological boost for England than victory would have been for Australia. But let’s not get carried away. Strauss certainly isn’t:

‘We’re not going to sit here and pretend we are happy with the way we performed this week. We were down on where we needed to be, and Australia showed us they are going to be a tough nut to crack, no doubt, and we need to get better.’

England were totally outplayed until the final day of this Test match. On a slow pitch made for easy runs, the two top orders illustrated the difference in standard. Over two innings, England’s top five managed 314 runs.  Australia’s scored 394 runs in one.

Perhaps this is a little misleading. After all, Strauss’ men were batting for a draw in their second innings; run scoring was not a priority. The order of the day was to bat out four sessions. Unfortunately, England’s batsmen are shown up once more; the top four managed just 119 minutes of defensive batting between them. On a dead pitch. Without facing Brett Lee.

A good point at which to turn to England’s bowlers. It was disconcerting to see the Australians exploit the difficult conditions far more effectively than England. Hilfenhaus found movement where Anderson couldn’t. Hauritz found more turn and bounce than either Panesar or Swann, who had his first poor bowling performance since returning to the squad.

Andrew Flintoff. Photo: cormac70/Flickr

Andrew Flintoff. Photo: cormac70/Flickr

Stuart Broad was ineffective and expensive, while Flintoff bowled 35 overs; far more than his remit as a short spell strike bowler should entail. Strauss seemed short of ideas, other than relying on Collingwood’s tame cutters to find a break through.

There was no inventiveness in his field settings, and when you’ve leaked 500 runs, why not throw the ball to Kevin Pietersen? Ricky Ponting turned to Simon Katich and Marcus North for something different. To no real avail, sure, but his willingness to try alternative measures is the important factor.

There’s a lot to do before Lords on Thursday, and don’t be surprised if Steve Harmison is recalled to lead the bowling attack.

Still, at least we got under Ponting’s skin again with some good old-fashioned timewasting. Now we just need Gary Pratt at extra cover.

Michael Owen coup another Fergie masterstroke
Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson

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 has scored 40 goals for England

Owen has scored 40 goals for England

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.