Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Football Will Never Stop

So, to business. Kicking off this extravaganza is the news that QPR are considering loaning Joey Barton out to a Football League club to speed up his twelve-game ban. As loopholes go, that's a bit of a gaping one, and one that the FA should close. If this attempt is followed through, QPR would morally have a lot to answer for. Such blatant bending of the rules to benefit a player that could not control his temper on the field does not set the best precedent. To many neutrals this will leave a sour taste.

Two transfer sagas that could do with being put to sleep are that of Robin Van Persie and Luka Modric. While Man United's bid for RVP was slightly unexpected (although probably not as much as the fact that Fergie publicised it) the fact remains that he is a top player who has handled his desire to leave with a degree of dignity. Probably no longer worth top dollar, as age begins to politely cough in his ear, and his knee is always a question mark. Nonetheless he deserves the chance to really challenge for the top honours. Like most people who leave Arsenal, I'd say money is only about 20% of the reason to leave. Buy low and sell high is the name of the game at the Emirates – and while that strategy is admirable, and good for the future of the game, it runs the risk of an empty trophy cabinet year after year.

Luka Modric, to my mind, deserves much less sympathy. After an unsuccessful attempt to moan his way out of White Hart Lane last summer he is kicking things up a notch this time around – missing training and Tottenham's pre-season training camp. If I was Andre Villas Boas, I would transfer list the player, get the highest price possible (which should be a tasty figure) and get him on the first bus out of there. If AVB has any hope, he needs a happy dressing room – one that will buy into his methods. It is not inconceivable to imagine Modric flourishing in the young coach's attacking system. But personal respect for your manager, your team-mates, and your fans is more important. Modric possesses little of any of that. Joao Moutinho could yet prove an ideal replacement, should events transpire that way.

To round off – I suspect quite a few cunning managers and scouts will be along the North Coast of Northern Ireland for the Milk Cup this week. If you are in the area, keep an eye out...

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Transfer Window Debate For The Whole Family To Enjoy

Now that we are reaching the mid-point of July, we can finally whisper to ourselves that yes, the new season is approaching.

The rumour mill is well into full swing, as Andy Carroll gets whored out to anyone who will listen. The £35m Liverpool misfit is inevitably set to leave Anfield in some shape or form, with Newcastle already ruling themselves out, and ‘big man’ fetishist Sam Allardyce understood to be hovering over his club’s chequebook licking his lips.

Sorry about that last sentence. Anyway, is it really wise to let Carroll go? As every sensible football enthusiast knows, it is wise to keep a variety of options open. While Brendan Rodgers’ commitment to Barca-esque football is admirable, what about those last ten minutes when all you need is to throw balls into the box? You turn to Carroll of course. (I should probably note at this point that I rate the striker a lot more highly than that, and feel he can play a competent role in an eye-catching unit). While it is very nice of him to not want to reduce Carroll to a bench-warming role, the new boss maybe needs a bit more selfishness. But then I only write about the football (and my Football Manager record needs some severe brushing up..)

Keeping things Northern Irish, Linfield and Portadown continued their unstoppable march to Wembley with Champions League victories this week.

Speaking of unrealistic expectations, Andre Villas-Boas is settling into life at White Hart Lane, as he tries to build his side’s (and perhaps his own) self-confidence ahead of the new season. He has his sights set squarely on title success, which let’s not forget didn’t seem out of the question to Spurs around six months ago. However, this was after three years of incredible consistency under Harry Redknapp. He had Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Kyle Walker, among others, playing the best football of their careers. While this bubble of course burst and carried Redknapp in its wake, that side had a very distinct style. AVB also has a very distinct style. He appears to be planning for life without Modric, and has earmarked his old midfield maestro Joao Moutinho as a replacement. Jan Vertonghen has also been confirmed as a signing from Ajax to boost the previously glass-like central defence of Dawson and King. While this recruitment drive will surely continue, I hope AVB isn’t expecting immediate results with his title challenge. Most sane Spurs fans will surely bite his beard off for a return to the Champions League.

In a move that is surely a coincidence, Man United have responded to the sale of Ji Sung Park to QPR with a move for 23-year-old Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund. Gotta keep those Asian shirt sales ticking over…

On a more politically correct note, Steve Cotterill has been sacked by Nottingham Forest’s new Kuwait-based owners. I hear Sven-Goran Eriksson is out of work. Watch this space.

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I leave you with a nugget from everyone’s favourite FIFA sound-tracking retirement-taking Englishmen. That’s Chumbawamba to you and me. Cheerio.