Monday, 26 January 2015

Here Comes The Carvalry

First of all, apologies for the dreadful pun. The alternative was to imagine Newcastle's season as some kind of all you can eat carvery scenario. And that don't fit in no headline, luckily for my ten readers (I know, optimistic..)

Speaking of optimistic, I am fully confident Newcastle will ride the crest of any temporary sort-of Geordie honeymoon period now that Carver's sort-of appointment has been confirmed. The teamtalk however has already come from Steve Bruce, who has claimed the Toon need to be careful they don't slip into relegation danger... like him. All we need is Lee Clark to weigh in with his two cents and the Geordie triangle is complete. They can't get their own teams to win (or in Clark's case, not lose a half 7-0) so maybe it's written in the stars for them and their hometown clubs!

Now that my comedy routine is over, in all likelihood, Ashley's latest gamble will pay off, as long as the appointment of someone of high calibre is genuinely to be attempted. As questionable as Carver's credentials are, anyone with half an ounce of coaching ability can keep this squad in the division, particularly with an eight-point head start. Pardew would have done it and confidence in his reign wasn't exactly brimming. My own prediction is that there will be no comings or goings in the dying strains of the January window.

The problem is, the excuses that have plagued this sorry saga so far can easily come into play in the summer. Unless we have some kind of binding arrangement between ourselves and the preferred candidate, he could quite easily slip through the cracks and be snapped up by one of the numerous other more attractive ownerships to work for. Remi Garde is a likely candidate, Frank de Boer being of a far too proven ilk that would lower themselves to our level. While he would certainly whet any appetite, the danger is that anything other than an attractively-achieved top-half finish will not be enough for a fanbase that grows more and more disenchanted by the day. Even if the safety finishing line is limped over (there is no way it will be pretty, nowhere near the now fanciful top-half target), Ashley is testing already thin patience.

While we're at it, well done to Carver's predecessor, Alan Pardew. He took some well-deserved stick but is now cramming it down throats in a similar vein to when he was boss. Life is always a rollercoaster under him, but I'll wager Palace fans would have taken our ride over their's in recent years. Pardew has his fairytale end. Will Newcastle get one?

Friday, 9 January 2015

City Have Not Been Frank On Lampard Situation

For such a multi-national and slick operation as Manchester City, why has it taken until now for the confusion over Frank Lampard's move to be cleared up? The BBC headline, back in August reads as follows:

"Frank Lampard will join Manchester City on loan from New York City FC until January, the English club's manager Manuel Pellegrini has confirmed."

Surely this wording had not escaped City officials? Maybe they did not envisage the arrangement lasting as long as it has, and therefore not clashing with the MLS season, but in the interest of full transparency, would a simple statement clarifying that Lampard was a free agent not have been the prudent thing to do? Or were they as equally in the dark, given that they too referred to it as a loan deal on their website?

Fans Stateside of the co-owned New York City FC are now left feeling betrayed, and for the joint owners, Manchester City, and the New York Yankees, this can only go down as a damaging PR disaster before a ball has even been kicked. It all comes across as a rather grubby episode, particularly when taking into account the Financial Fair Play penalties that have been imposed on City by UEFA. They may not have breached any rules over this, but a contracted Frank Lampard would certainly not have been a free deal. Even a loan fee for a season, from any other club other than New York City FC, would have been quite substantial, given the tremendous worth he has brought, and will continue to bring, throughout this season. It is no over-estimation to claim that City would be trailing Chelsea on points without the 36-year-old's important performances and goals. For the Etihad giants not to be fully in control of their PR and media operations regarding this arrangement will surely not have gone unnoticed at UEFA and will have raised a chuckle or two.

Speaking of PR gaffes, PFA leader, Gordon Taylor, inexplicably found it appropriate to compare the plight of those involved in the Hillsbrough disaster to the post-conviction troubles of ex-hopeful-footballer Ched Evans. Had I been drinking anything at the time of seeing this news I would have spat it out all over my screen. Someone as experienced as as Taylor should know so much better than to pick such ill-judged lines. Again, this is not to take any specific sides in the debate as to whether Evans should play again, as there is merit to both arguments, but to so carelessly antagonise such a huge section of the sporting world, not to mention those who have suffered terrible hardships in more clear-cut rape cases, is surely a matter to consider resignation over. It is one of many statements from the footballing world in recent times that demonstrates an out-of-touch mindset.

He may have a responsibility to professional footballers seeking work, but Taylor also has a responsibility to guide footballers in the right way. Instead of going to such great lengths to defending Evans, he should have recommended a much quicker apology than the one that emerged after two clubs had also shelved offers of a contract. It would not undo the horrible actions that he committed, but it would show a clear willingness to learn from mistakes and paint himself in a more self-aware manner, one that might be more palatable to the general public, who have stood in the way of his continuing employment in professional football.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Various topical football ramblings!

So Newcastle, after four years of Alan Pardew's glorious leadership, are finally in that no-mans-land of caretaker-ship, with John Carver trying to emulate Garry Monk. In fairness, Monk seamlessly carried on from the good work of both Michael Laudrup and Brendan Rodgers, with Carver doing a pretty good Pardew impression himself so far. All is well!

Back in reality, Remi Garde and Christophe Galtier are among the managers on the Ashley hitlist, with Graham Carr's French fetish seemingly extending to managers. I keep saying managers, my bad - Head Coach. It can at least be applauded, the honesty. After seasons of speculation and Pardew working with tied hands, in a way this is a step forward. Any new incumbent knows exactly what they are in for. I've always thought that a decent coach would have done far better, and this is hopefully the time where that "wisdom" can be backed up.

In other French news, Arsene Wenger has finally buckled and signed a defensive midfielder. What's that you say, he's 17? Not to worry, he'll fit right in. One can only hope that Krystian Bielik is a titan beyond his tender years, as the Gunners sorely need some defensive steel. Or any kind of steel. At 6 ft 2, it's a good start, although the niggling feeling remains that this will be a signing for a future Arsenal manager to benefit from, either via a massive sell-on fee, or the maturing of a hopefully crucial piece of the title-challenging jigsaw.

The tearful Steven Gerrard eulogy is in full swing, with Scousers up and down the land spewing forth gushing words of the time where he walked on water, before turning this water into wine, drinking it, and beating up a man outside a nightclub on CCTV. In that order. It seems conveniently forgotten that, while he has contributed some useful goals this season, most of them were either from the penalty spot or the various free-kick spots (not to knock those spectacular occurances). Gerrard is worth remembering and appreciating, as he enters the Elvis stage of his career in LA, but Brendan Rodgers should see this as an opportunity to finally open up a key spot in a midfield that has been severely lacking in energy at times this season. If he even survives the season and summer.

As Ched Evans continues on his merry way around the various lower division clubs, cap in hand, Oldham are the latest club to tell him, yes, then 80% maybe, then no. Leaving aside the moral quagmire of whether he should be allowed to play football for a living again, surely Oldham in particular should have known what they were getting themselves into. That their board of directors/management thought their fanbase would be any more forgiving than that of Evans' former club was naive, to say the least. It is unforgivable that those board of directors, and one of their daughters, were threatened in quite explicit terms, but it should never have been brought to that stage. A word of advice to any club thinking of signing Evans - do it 100% behind closed doors, announce it, and live by the consequences. To invite public speculation into the matter will see the same sorry saga rumble on and on.