Saturday, January 31, 2009

Leeds falls flat agains Walsall

Riding high with a three match winning streak, the Leeds bandwagon was filling to the brim as the club made its way to face the Saddlers Saturday morning. With hopes and dreams flourishing the hearty Leeds followers vision of a return to glory was snapped back to a painful reality as they fell 1-0 to Walsall.

Going straight to the chase, the match was "decided" with a simple header from a soaring Troy Deeney who headed in Sofiene Zaaboub behind Casper Ankergren to the delight of the home fans. Leeds mustered little offensive threat through the balance of the half as Walsall was comfortably in control. Ten minutes after the break, Simon Grayson searched for attacking inspiration and called upon Robert Snodgrass and Luciano Becchio with Jonny Howson to follow with twenty minutes remaining. However there was little to note other than a last gasp header by the Argentine maestro and the match concluded with a 1-0 defeat.

To call this result a "surprise" would be misleading as like the predictability of the Leeds tactical approach is mind numbing. While Simon Grayson has made some short-term loans to shore up the defending aspect of play, they perplexing given the length of the loans and are diametrically opposed to the overall talent of the squad. While the club visited briefly with a more attacking approach under Gary McAllister, it was a briefest of stops and in-truth it didn't "embody" attacking play and needed a few crucial adjustments.

Ultimately the "deciding" factor of this match and virtually all others Leeds has fallen in, is that they play with little pace, slow decision making, a commitment to attack and are more concerned with losing. There is a uncomfortable spot in writing of a teams play somewhere between review and condemnation but simply put this is not a team with a spirit of a winner.

Unfortunately this as been implicitly been supported by management through tactical decisions and continues to this day. Leeds has in the past been troubled in the defending aspect because they have allowed clubs to push forward. Almost an obvious comment but their lack of aggression has allowed clubs to be at ease and after curtailing Leeds attacking plan of pushing forward in the channel to the outside the box, where the attack then slows for the ultimate crossing bash into the box, they can go forward. Leeds opposition can virtually, no actually predict the play and once understanding how to play them, it really isn't too difficult. In other terms, the "book is out" on Leeds and while there isn't another club in League One with the talent, a well laid out plan can defeat them.

How Leeds ability to change the course isn't such a difficult hurdle to cross. They need to go on the attack, push pace, ball distribution and movement without the ball. All have been sorely lacking from the start of the year including their early Carling Cup victories but if they don't adjust, book your dates for League One action next year.

Unfortunately with the present plan of attack it is very clear the club is experiencing a classic case of managers wanting to make their mark on the club. Simon Grayson's choices in the transfer market and tactical play reflect a lack of understanding the existing talent and imparting his style on the club. While that approach is only natural prior to the start of a campaign to do so mid-year raises a red flag if promotion is the true goal or more of a power struggle of who leads the team.

As noted previously, the impact of this is far-reaching and unlike any other clubs in League One. Leeds is packed with young talent but as the club becomes firmly rooted in the third division, young talent is unlikely to stay on and look for brighter pastures. Leeds must take a new found approach and realize they must fight for promotion as if they are fighting for survival. This cannot be done with a mindset of "not losing" but a vicious assault of attack, attack, attack.

PSG continues winning ways with 2-0 defeat of Caen

PSG's championship hopes took a step forwards as they climb to third place in Ligue 1 table following a 2-0 victory over Caen today at Parc des Princes. It however was far from a easy victory as our western neighbours put forth a strong effort and held the Parisians scoreless before the break. Although PSG controlled the overall run of play they needed the handiwork of Mickaël Landreau to hold back Benjamin Nivet's effort eight minutes in. PSG continued to launch attacking efforts with Péguy Luyindula and Guillaume Hoarau each missing the finishing touch before the break.

The deadlock was broken after the restart with two goals within ten minues. Four minutes after the case, Guillaume Hoarau continued his case for Les Bleus as he gave PSG the lead when he capitalized on a rebound. As Jérémy Sorbon's clearance attempt was controlled by Jérémy Clément and subsequently lashed to the goal, the Caen's 'keeper Vincent Planté insufficient parry feel to the young striker who made no mistake and sent it into the net. Two minutes before the hour a similar theme was repeated as Péguy Luyindula made it 2-0 when Stéphane Sessegnon's provision to Guillaume Hoarau resulted in a drive to Vincent Planté but once again the rebound was preyed upon and poached in. With lead, Paul Le Guen was comfortable at locking down attacking play and sought the services of Clément Chantôme and Serbian maestro Mateja Kežman to help kill the match off. While Caen came close to finding the goal to get back within one, it was not to be and the hearty PSG faithful celebrated the triumph.

PSG returns to action this Wednesday against Bordeaux in the Coupe de la Ligue.

John Fleck leads Rangers to 2-0 victory over Dundee United

John Fleck returned to the Rangers starting grid and the seventeen year old did not disappoint as he scored his first goal for the Gers, in route to 2-0 victory over Dundee United today.

The match started with a flourish as the Rangers came out with attacking intent in front of the Ibrox faithful. However both sides show a stubborn defending force that limits the final third and legitimate scoring opportunities are few and far between. Rangers hopes fell as four minutes before the break Nacho Novo pulled up lame with an hamsting injury, forcing Kenny Miller quickly into the match but with nary an effort, the match goes to the break scoreless. With sixteen minutes remaining Walter Smith calls upon Kyle Lafferty for Kris Boyd in an effort to find the much needed goal to pull the Rangers in front. However the hero of the day is reserved for young Mr. Fleck, as after being pulled down in the area by Mihael Kovacevic and the spot being pointed-to, he picked the ball up and insisted upon taking the attempt himself. With calm the teen drove the ball into the net to give the Gers the 1-0 lead. However the visitors came storming back and came within a whisper of leveling a few minutes later off a set piece. Deep into added time Kyle Lafferty opportunistic play was rewarded as he got on the end of a poor clearance of Lukasz Zaluska and promptly dispatches the ball into the back of the net.

Following the match, Walter Smith said of the teens performance and the Rangers success:

"The first thing is you realise is that Kris Boyd wasn't on the pitch. But John has taken penalties all through his time and he was dead keen to do so.

"It shows that he has the confidence and it was great for him to get that goal.

"We had to work very hard for our win. Both the clubs having games in midweek had an effect, especially for Dundee United who went to penalties and the emotional part of that.

"We never really got started in the game. We only gained an impetus after we scored. From then on we played well.

"The way United set up their team made them difficult to break down. That has been the cornerstone of what has been a successful period for them.

"They have a very solid base and they spring forward from there so they are not an easy time to play against.

"You need to have care when you play against them and make sure you don't play into their hands. They are always dangerous at set plays and we had to handle that.

"We had one or two nervous moments from long throws and free kicks but we achieved a clean sheet and it was a good win in the end."

Köln holds Wolfsburg to draw with defensive brilliance

Make no mistake about it, Christoph Daum will have his Köln side prepared to play to the best of their ability. While the overall pedigree might not be there yet, tactically the club will go from week to week with a tactical masterpiece and consistently exceed the expectations of many. This afternoon was perfect example as while many clatter of whether they will survive relegation and with Wolfsburg focused upon a European bid, they locked down the flourishing attack of Felix Magath's side and came within a whisper of winning the match in route to a 1-1 draw.

Without really a scoring opportunity to note for Wolfsburg before the break, the home side took the lead eleven minutes before the break when former Rapid Bucureşti man Sergiu Radu, on-loan from die Wölfe was the recipient of a long ball from Kevin Pezzoni and carefully chipping it over an on-rushing Diego Benaglio. At the break Peter Pekarík who just came over from MŠK Žilina was introduced and the youngster did not disappoint with pace and intent. Just before the hour Bosnian Edin Džeko was robbed by Köln's veteran 'keeper Faryd Mondragón but fifteen minutes later Grafite's drive from twenty-two minutes found the back of the net to draw the match level. Yoshito Okubo, who had entered for Christian Gentner with twenty-four minutes remaining was a consistent threat and rang the post with ten minutes remaining but it was to no avail and the match concluded with a draw.

Wolfsburg returns to Bundesliga action next Saturday against VfL Bochum, sitting eighth in the table.

Stoke teaches Man City a lesson of heart with 1-0 win

A hearty crowd of over 27,000 at Britannia witnessed Stoke City provide the Citizens a brilliant lesson of playing with heart in route to a 1-0 victory. With the Potters faithful sang out Delilah with gusto it was obvious through grit and determination the club with all the odds stacked against it wasn't about to take relegation easy and fought off Manchester City with a curmudgeonly defensive stance.

Mark Hughes side opened the match with more than a morsel of resolve and controlled ball possession. Whether the Citizens lacked the inspiration or creativity to break through Stoke's defending wall is a point of debate yet there is no questioning the heart of Tony Pulis' side. The back four of Abdoulaye Faye, Danny Pugh, Andy Wilkinson and Ryan Shawcross drew the line that City dare not cross and young Mr. Shawcross proved once again why many see a bright future for him.

That being said, Man City had its opportunities and quite obviously with the scoreline wasted each. Just shy of the twenty minute mark an electrifying counter-act saw Wales international draw the ball to Robinho but the resulting strike from the top of the box was a woeful schoolyard mess as it dribbled to Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen.

That encounter seemed to wake the hosts up and as their confidence grew they began to launch a series of menacing challenges towards the City goalmouth. However eight minutes before the half the match took a decided turn and oddly seemed to hinder the Citizens effort as it spurred a siege mentality by Stoke. Following a series of dangerous challenges, first by Shaun Wright-Phillips and a retaliation by Rory Delap, the Stoke man was shown an immediate red-card by referee Martin Atkinson. While the card was just unfortunately an additional lash Shaun Wright-Phillips, deserving of expulsion was missed and Stoke were forced to play a man down.

Yet that did not stop the hearty lot as four minutes into added time Matthew Etherington sent a perfect cross that Micah Richards seemed not worthy of defending across, to a soaring James Beattie with the Sheffield United nodding to the near post. Britannia erupted and it was very clear the tactical play that Tony Pulis would use at the restart.

Playing well behind the ball the Potters held strong with impenetrable defending. While Robinho made a number of noble attempts, finishing and shot selection was dreadful. On a number of occasions he sent some perfectly weighted balls but the play-making vision of his teammates was lacking and the match concluded with Stoke winning 1-0.

Naturally a loss is difficult but as the squad builds, these are valuable lessons. Through matches as these it is obvious the pedigree of Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong is of the highest quality and even in woeful match Craig Bellamy and Robinho showed tempo and intent. However what precisely happened to Micah Richards is another matter as it performance was terribly sub-par and needed to be substituted sometime after the first photos. While unconfirmed I question the match fitness of Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips and suspect City is up to their old tricks of throwing players on the pitch who are best left in rehab. With that in mind as City readies to spend £50m this weekend, it needs to allocate funds towards professional services within medical personnel

Porto v Belenenses match preview

The Dragões visit Belenenses on Sunday in a busy day of in the Liga. Back on top of the table, Jesualdo Ferreira's side know that they must continue their winning ways with both Sporting and Benfica only a point behind.

Following mid-week success in the Taça de Portugal against Leixões, Aly Cissokho, Fernando, Helton and former Rapid Bucureşti man Cristian Săpunaru will return to the lineup. Lisandro López has shaken off his injury and will return to the lineup as well.

The Azuis e brancos will need to be careful of their opposition as Jesualdo Ferreira warned. Jaime Pacheco's side is particularly difficult in their Lisbon home and will not concede many goals.

Sporting @ Trofense
Rio Ave @ Benfica

Estrela Amadora @ Académica de Coimbra
Naval 1º Maio @ Maritimo
Leixoes @ Nacional de Madeira
Paços de Ferreira @ Braga

Porto 15 9 4 2 26 11 31
Sporting Lisbon 15 9 3 3 19 8 30
Benfica 15 8 6 1 25 12 30
Leixões 15 7 6 2 17 12 27
Nacional da Madeira 15 7 4 4 23 19 25
Braga 15 6 5 4 14 8 23
Marítimo 15 6 5 4 17 14 23
Vitória de Guimarães 16 5 6 5 17 17 21
Naval 1º Maio 15 5 4 6 14 15 19
Estrela Amadora 15 5 4 6 12 18 19
Académica de Coimbra 15 4 5 6 10 14 17
Paços de Ferreira 15 4 3 8 20 26 15
Belenenses 15 3 5 7 12 22 14
Trofense 15 3 3 9 13 21 12
Vitória de Setúbal 16 3 3 10 9 22 12
Rio Ave 15 2 4 9 10 19 10

PSG v Caen match preview

Riding a three match winning streak after the foul loss to Bordeaux, PSG welcomes Caen to Parc des Princes Saturday evening. With the Parisians nestled sixth in the Ligue 1 table, one point behind Toulouse and Stade Rennais, who meet Saturday evening, a victory is critical in their efforts to a European bid.

Caen is meandering through a peculiar campaign that started with promise but has seen them without a victory since the third week of November and a pithy three points over the last six matches. However to consider them less than a formidable opponent would be foolish as they possess top quality players and are capable of being in the top third of the table. Last weeks match against Monaco was a perfect example of the potential as down by two with twenty minutes remaining Les Bleaus capped Steve Savidan scored with seventeen minutes remaining before Anthony Deroin provided Benjamin Nivet the leveler two minutes into added time. For Saturdays match they will be without the services of Sebastien Mazure,Remi Gomis and Gregory Proment.

Paul Le Guen recognizes the quality of the opposition and in recognition of their loss to Boulogne in the Coupe de France, he believes they will be brimming with motivation. The Parisians enter the match without any new injuries although they will miss Jérôme Rothen who is suspended. Claude Makélélé returns to play and following improved play in the reserves, just turned nineteen year old midfielder Tripy Makonda is included in the squad list. A member of the academy since he was eleven, lets hope Tripy gets a chance.

Genoa v Palermo match preview

Following Wednesday's draw against AC Milan, Genoa finds itself solidified in fourth place of the Serie A table on the avails of a nine match unbeaten streak. However as Palermo visits Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Sunday they will equally be dealing with a side in the midst of a upswing as they won their opening three matches in January before falling to Roma on Wednesday.

Under Davide Ballardini, the Rosanero have continuously showed inspired play but that should not be a surprise given the tactical genius he showed whilst leading Cagliari last season. There attacking trident of Australian international Mark Bresciano and São Paulo product Fábio Simplício, service Edison Cavani into one the more intriguing units. This could change considerably as they might move from their preferred to 4-3-2-1 formation into more defensive positioning. One option that lays in their managers bag of tricks is use of a counter attack laden 3-5-2 that he has used in the past and rumoured to be considering but that remains to be seen.

For the match Gian Piero Gasperini welcomes back key defender Matteo Ferrari from the sin-bin but will miss Thiago Motta, Andrea Gasbarroni, Matteo Paro, Alessio Scarpi and Alessandro Potenza to injury. With the continued solid play of its attacking group Grifone will go forward with Giuseppe Sculli, Diego Milito and former Crvena zvezda man Boško Janković up top.

Finally, in what might be the biggest clue of the match, Genoa has yet to lose a match at home this year whilst Palermo has only won once away from their beautiful Sicilian home. Given that Roma is playing troubled Reggina and the same time and only one point behind Genoa, a victory is an absolute must if they are to maintain their position in the table.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Everton visits Old Trafford

After the heart-breaking conclusion against Arsenal, David Moyes leads the Toffees to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. With Man Utd, stomping forward and looking very much in control of the trophy race, Everton has quietly crept to sixth in the table.

With a wishful eye towards a Europa bid, the Toffees need to continue to squeeze up points in the most difficult of conditions. Enter Old Trafford because if you're looking for "difficult", it might be the definition of it for their opposition as they have yet to lose once in their home and fell to a draw once. Hence, Old Trafford is "difficult."

Sir Alex Ferguson's highly complimentary words of our David Moyes in Inside United magazine as he singled him out for his work with limited resources will be tested again as Everton, already weighed down with injuries might without both Timmy Cahill and Marouane Fellaini for the match. Both will have late match fitness tests to decide if they can go.

David Moyes said of the concern:

"He’s (Cahill) a doubt for tomorrow - I won’t take any risks with him.

"He’s been for an x-ray and his foot is badly bruised so we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see if he’s okay.

"But Fellaini is a doubt as well. He’s had a stud through his shin so we are going to have to assess him tomorrow.

"The sign of a good player is if they can perform in the big games. Tim Cahill performs in the big games. He scores important goals and that’s why he’s important to us.

"Defenders do cope but the timing in the box is instinct and there’s no point in me going out there and teaching him what run to make."

Obviously these issues will have a "major" impact on the lineup and the youth core of Jack Rodwell, Dan Gosling, Lukas Jutkiewicz could be deputized in the most difficult of matches. However, I am confident they will provide tremendous service as always because This is Everton.

VfB needs to rebound

After the blowout against Bayern in the Pokal, VfB is in dire need of a "statement" of power. Arriving just in time is bottom of the table Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Prior to match Markus Babbel sounded the charge:

"Tomorrow we hope to be able to show a reaction to the poor display against Bayern. We most certainly don't want to experience another such performance or we will have a problem against Gladbach too.

"We can't afford to bury our heads in the sand now, we need to recall the good performances we put on before the winter break.

"We will need to play aggressively but also orderly. We need to permanently occupy our opponents until they realise that there is nothing to be won here."

"I won't announce my team just yet but it's not about who plays, rather about how we approach the game. I like to play with two men up front. I intend to play with Bastürk there again because I have high hopes of the effectiveness of that alternative - we just never got the ball into the right areas.

"In the second half of the season, Gladbach have the chance to pull away from the drop zone and they will do all in their power to achieve that goal. It's certainly not a foregone conclusion. Borussia have made some very good new signings."

VfB will be without Sebastian Rudy, Timo Gebhart, Cacau and Arthur Boka.

Die Roten !

The Bundesliga starts back with die Roten challenging Königsblau for a place in the top half of the table. The disappointment of the first part of the year is behind us and now Dieter Hecking must hunt for a victory over the defensive minded Schalke 04. Yet it will not be an easy test as both clubs felt great disappointment with the first half of the year and Fred Rutten, Schalke 04's, manager is feeling pressure.

96 coach Dieter Hecking will do without Jan Schlaudraff, Chavdar Yankov, Vinícius and the long-term absence Valérien Ismaël. Schalke 04 will also miss Orlando Engelaar and Jermaine Jones to injury along with Christian Pander who is injured.

The big news is that Robert Enke will take his rightful place between the goalposts and lead die Roten on. His leadership and guidance will have untold benefits and will effectively make this the story of two seasons. Attacking wingers Szabolcs Huszti and Jan Rosenthal will work with strikers Jiří Štajner and Mike Hanke.

1899 Hoffenheim heads to championship

A sold-out Rhein-Neckar-Arena will greet 1899 Hoffenheim as they head forward in the second half of the season with hopes of winning the championship. The season restarts against Energie Cottbus, who sits in the the drop zone.

Ralf Rangnick will hand the goalkeeping responsibilities to Timo Hildebrand, who has shown he is healthy and ready to lead. With only two practices with the club Boubacar Sanogo may be held back but the manager has reserved that decision for later.

Beyond Vedad Ibišević who is out for the year, Chinedu Obasi will miss to injury und Carlos Eduardo is suspended.

Energy Cottbus, who lost to Leverkusen on Wednesday in the Pokal, are likely without Dimitar Rangelov who was injured late in the match. He will undergo a late match fitness test to decide if he can play but they are also without Polish international Mariusz Kukiełka.

Werkself moving forward

Following the strong showing in the DFB Pokal against Energie Cottbus on Wednesday, the open the second half of the season with a short drive north to Dortmund. Bruno Labbadia is optimistic moving forward but knows that BVB is lurking only three points behind and are one of the best defending units in the league. Evaluating their loss to Werder in the Pokal he said:

"Dortmund played at a high tempo and they play in a particular way. As in the Cottbus game, it will be important to find the gaps as we obviously want to bring back three points from Dortmund."

Of Lukas Sinkiewicz who will start in favour of Henrique, he said:

"It was important for Lukas to play in a competitive game after such a long lay-off. He put in an excellent performance."

BVB's Jürgen Klopp will be without two of their best attacking players; Polish international Jakub Blaszczykowksi and playmaker Tamás Hajnal although Mohamed Zidan is starting to assert himself in the Black and Yellow. The are also without Sebastian Kehl, Mats Hummels and long term absence Dedê.

Bruno Labbadia is unlikely to make any notable changes to the lineup that served Werkself so well in the Pokal. With only Vratislav Gresko and Bernd Schneider out, Patrick Helmes and Stefan Kießling will pair in the hunt for goals with Renato Augusto, Arturo Vidal and Tranquillo Barnetta going forward.

Köln plays with pride

Köln's break was filled with the news of Lukas Podolski returning home however his arrival will need to wait till the summer as per the terms of the deal. While some have talked that survival is the main goal, Christoph Daum knows Geißböcke are capable of much more and zeroed in on climbing up the table, starting with Saturdays visit of Wolfsburg.

Upstart Wolfsburg is an unusual club and seem to be missing the intangible "team" factor before they can be in the top four of the league. The are powerful at home but still without a victory when traveling. Their lineup features Bosnian duo Edin Džeko and Zvjezdan Misimović in the attack along with Grafite that while one of the leagues most exciting have an unnerving habit of going to ground very quickly.

Christoph Daum will hand Sergiu Radu the striker role as the Milivoje Novakovič is suspended. Along with Pedro Geromel who is suspended and Pierre Wome out with an injury, Geißböcke defending will be challenged to the limit. In a strongly worded voice of support, Christoph Daum made it clear that eighteen year-old Taner Yalcin will be in the starting eleven.

Discipline and shape are key to defeating Wolfsburg and with a hard tackling led charge, points can be ours.

Monterrey v Chivas match preview

Of the many matches in the year, Chivas' visit of the Tecnológico is one of the highlights in the Primera División de México. The great Guadalajara based side, led by Efraín Flores, is in the midst of a resurgence of sorts, where talented returns "home" after playing abroad. While only the tip of the iceberg of what is to come this summer,Aarón Galindo formerly of German Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt will debut for Chivas today and will have an immediate impact.

Under Víctor Manuel Vucetich the Rayados, started off with a thunderous victory over Puebla before grinding to a draw against Indios de Ciudad Juárez. While their once counter attacking flourish has been muted, they now exude confident defending in a 4-4-1-1. For today's match they will be without Felipe Baloy, David Stringel and Ernesto Serrato.

Chivas feature an assortment of weapons including Carlos Ochoa and Jared Borgetti, ready to provide La Adicción a reminder of their abilities. They will be without the services of Jonny Magallón and Omar Arellano for the match.

Gladbach run to safety begins

There is only one way for Gladbach to go and with the season starting against VfB it is time to start climbing the table.

Manager Hans Meyer said before the match:

"We encountered perfect conditions during the first few days of training in the New Year, as we did in Spain and back in Mönchengladbach. So we'll have no excuses if the Bundesliga restart doesn't go well.

"We still need to get better at pressing the ball when not in possession, but we have created a better foundation for our attacking players. The loss of Dante and Filip Daems to injury has been the only dampener on what have otherwise been good mid-season preparations.

"Unfortunately Dante was restricted to just 55 minutes against Paderborn. Filip, however, won't take long to settle into the team after his lay-off.

Thomas Kleine, Dante and Jean Sébastien Jaurès are all out with injury and will not dress along with Frederic Löhe, Moses Lamidi, Sebastian Schachten, Tony Jantschke and Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker.

VfB will be eager to impress their fans after being butchered by the Bavarians in the Pokal this week, so Gladbach will need to firm up midfield. Schwaben's will miss
Timo Gebhardt and Sebastian Rudy.

I am done with this preview.

It is time now;


Verse 1
Samstags mittags geht es los, ins Stadion zum Bökelberg.
Im Auto ist die Stimmung groß und alle singen looooos!

Ja wir schwören Stein und Bein,
auf die Elf vom Niederrhein,
Borussia unser Dream-Team,
denn Du bist unser Verein!

Verse 2
Die Mannschaft die wird vorgestellt, die Stimmung die ist riesengroß.
Schwappt La-Ola durch das Rund, singt der Block schon los.
Singen wir dann unsere Lieder, dann ist das voll der Hit - Hit - Hit,
und wenn die Stimmung um sich greift, macht auch die Tribüne mit!


Verse 3
Spielt Ihr wie zu Netzers Zeiten und fällt dann endlich mal ein Tor.
Sind wir Fans nicht mehr zu halten und schon ertönt der Chor.

Refrain -

Verse 4
Und geht das Spiel auch mal verlor'n, dann macht uns das gar nichts aus,
denn dann fahren wir zum Auswärtsspiel und machen einen drauf!

Refrain -

time to play tough negotiating

I've noted it on a number of occasions but City has made a mess of negotiating. They've "played their cards" and every club expects them to pay a premium. While Man City has stated that they won't chase prices, they need to make sure it is known through action. This is an uncomfortable position for many and I will keep the majority of my comments outside of a Football blog, this is a business, pure and simple.

While Mark Hughes is desperate to sign Roque Santa Cruz, let the bid die as it already has went above market and there will be better options in the summer when the deepening hole of the financial markets makes many more receptive to sales. Again I will keep that brief but as a number of club grapple with financial misfortune, coupled with unyielding positions of financiers, opportunities will present themselves.

Per the present transfer situation, Mark Hughes commented via the clubs official web-site:

"Yesterday afternoon we put an improved bid in for Roque Santa Cruz that was rejected.”

“We have to make a decision on that and the window is open until the second so we’ve got time if we decide to do that.

“The situation with Newcastle is that obviously we’ve put in a bid for Shay Given and we haven’t had an update on that.

"I’ve said I’m looking to bring in an experienced keeper and he ticks the box in that respect. Whether or not the deal happens we’ll have to wait and see.

"Apart from that, that’s where we are. We’re linked with lots of players and until we make bids then I won’t discuss any other speculation.

"There may be opportunities to get players out on loan. We’re just trying to finalise the players that we are going to acquire.

"I’ve always said I prefer to get the players in first before we let anyone out because I don’t want to weaken the team before we can strengthen. That’s been my attitude to the window.

"I’m sure there’ll be interest in the players, there’s been tentative interest in a number of the players, really just loan situations rather than purchases.

"We’ll look at every individual case and the clubs involved. If those situations involve younger players then we look at the value of the interest from the clubs involved and whether or not the player himself will get the amount of games that we feel a loan deal has to benefit the player.

"There’s no point sending young players out if they are going to sit on the bench. We’d rather they stay around this environment, get the good work here and sit on my bench to be perfectly honest.

"Well you plan for the window; it’s there in the football calendar and you negotiate the window as well as you can.

"Right up to the last minute of the last day deals can be struck and I’ve done deals in the last minute and deals that have been really good ones in the long term at my previous club.

"You are always open to a situation and you look at it and if you think it will benefit the team and the Club, even if it’s the last minute of the window, then you have to pursue it.

"Maybe given the deals that we’ve been able to do, which I’m very happy with, I think everybody’s seen the benefit of the new players that we’ve acquired and the impact they’ve had already.

"We’re pleased with the window as we stand and obviously we’ve got a couple of irons in the fire that we hope will be positive for us before the window closes. We are always open to opportunities that present themselves."

Eintracht Frankfurt look to start the new year right

Eintracht Frankfurt look to start the new year right as they travel to Berlin to face Hertha BSC. Friedhelm Funkel's die Adler were weighed-down in the first half of the year with a series of difficult injuries and have set firm goals through the end of the year.

In the first meeting of the year, the Berliners easily defeated Frankfurt 2-0, who already were dealing with numerous injuries. Through the break, injuries are clearing up slowly with Alexander Meier ready to go, although it is still too early for Zlatan Bajramović. The Bosnia and Herzegovina international toe injury flared up again and unfortunately he will miss Saturdays match.

The Berliners report full absences and through the transfer season struck perfectly with the addition of two defenders, Croatian international Marko Babić and Leandro Cufré of Monaco.

BVB v Bayer Leverkusen match preview

After a difficult loss to Werder in the DFB Pokal, Bayer Leverkusen visits Westfalenstadion as BVB looks to start the second half of the Bundesliga season with a victory. With Die Schwarzgelben only three points behind Leverkusen, manager Jürgen Klopp will press to control the oppositions attacking fervor.

New signing Kevin-Prince Boateng has immediately fit into the lineup and with Jakub Błaszczykowski out injured, Alexander Frei will pair with Egyptian international Mohamed Zidan. Leverkusen looked powerful against Energie Cottbus midweek and is reporting no significant injuries.

Jürgen Klopp said of the match and the defeat in the Pokal:

"There were a lot of positives but also negatives." But nothing that would be considered a "serious problem."

Reviewing the loss he suggested:

"That we need to be more ruthless and maintain concentration better. Then we will always have a chance."

Noting the oppositions assaults he added:

"Leverkusen can really play, if you let them. But we aren´t going to let them."

"we won´t be able to block every path" however BVB will can "do some damage with swift counter attacks."

Of the pairing of Alexander Frei and Mohamed Zidan, he said:

"That was outstanding," and "and I´m looking forward to this game. It will be played at a high standard!"

Rangers v Dundee United match preview

Following last Sundays tough scoreless draw to Aberdeen, the Rangers are in dire need of a victory against Dundee United at Ibrox. The costly draw dropped the 'Gers four points below Celtic and know that Craig Levein's side will put up a hard fight as they are targeting a spot in the Europa League.

For the match, Walter Smith has no new injuries to report but based upon mid week success in the Scottish League Cup, it should be expected that Kris Boyd will return as striker.

Noteworthy to mention, the Rangers will honour the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns prior to the match with a series of special events and of-course serve haggis pies.

Leeds v Walsall match preview

Riding a three match winning streak, Leeds visits Walsall Saturday as they continue their race towards promotion. Seventh in the table Simon Grayson's side rests three points behind closest rivals Oldham Athletic and a further two behind, Peterborough United, Scunthorpe United and Millwall all locked with fifty points.

For the match Walsall welcomes back Rhys Weston, Stephen Roberts and Michael Ricketts but are likely without Stephen Hughes who is questionable. Leeds appears fully fit with only long term absences Frazer Richardson and Paul Huntington unavailable.

Given the Leeds manager Simon Grayson stonewalls information on possible lineups, we can assume he'll continue to pair Lee Trundle with Jermaine Beckford and continue to use Bradley Johnson given his solid play.

Manchester City v Stoke City match preview

Following Wednesday's 2-1 victory over Newcastle, Mark Hughes have quietly strung a four match unbeaten streak and are poised at ninth in the table. While criticism rains down on Eastlands from many, the Citizens have made solid moves this transfer season with the additions of Craig Bellamy and Nigel de Jong to their lineup.

Tony Pulis' Stoke City are in the fight of their Premier League lives, tied for the bottom of the table with twenty-one points but have consistently put forth a good effort in front of their supporters at Britannia.

Prior to the match, Mark Hughes commented on the need for more consistency and better play away from Eastlands:

“Our away form is not as good as our home form which you can reasonably expect, but we should have picked up more points on our travels given the games we have played.

“We have to look to be positive against Stoke, it’s going to be difficult because they have a real, physical presence. Maybe that was evident on Wednesday night, when at times we struggled when we did not have a big presence up front.

“But we can cause problems in different ways with our movement and technical ability so we’re hopeful we can cause Stoke problems, and get on the track of winning away games in the league.”

“We’ve lost Dunnie’s presence as well, but ahead of the back four we are a little lacking in height – maybe not so great going into a game against Stoke! But we are playing well at the moment, and we need to impose our game on them rather than the other way around.”

For the match, Man City is anticipating both Shaun Wright-Phillips and Pablo Zabaleta to be available after suffering injuries in the prior match while while Stoke will go forward missing Andy Wilkinson and Abdoulaye Faye.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ukrainian clubs build at foundation

Ukrainian international Serhiy Kravchenko new arrival put it best when discussing playing chances with Yuri Semin's great club:

"Young and experienced alike have equal chances of making the starting XI. The atmosphere is really creative (with Dynamo Kyiv) and competition for places in the lineup is tough."

While Dynamo hold a commanding six point lead, Metalist Kharkiv have added Andriy Berezovchuk from Metalurh Donetsk, welcome back Ukraine U21 Denis Oleynik from Arsenal Kyiv and signed Walter Aníbal Acevedo in addition to building a strong core with the academy.

However Shakhtar Donetsk is ready for the challenge as Nery Castillo and Ruslan Fomin have returned from loan with something to prove. While the transfer season has seen a departure of Brandão to Olympique de Marseille they have been very encouraged by the play of Castillo and the development of academy product Yaroslav Rakitsky.

Unirea Urziceni coach Dan Petrescu on tough finances

Although only one point behind Dinamo Bucureşti in first place, Dan Petrescu is not optimistic of Unirea Urziceni's chances to win the championship due to financial restrictions. The club has suggest to Bogdan Mara and Jacob Burns that although they are welcomed back, to search out offers. Following an impressive scoreless draw against Ukraine powerhouse Shakhtar Donetsk he said:

"It was important to see we can hold our own against the big teams. The result gives us hope but it would be a miracle if we were to qualify for the UEFA Cup again. To achieve it we'll need hard work, discipline and players who want to achieve in life."

Of player moves Dinamo Bucureşti have added Claudiu Niculescu, who returns from being on-loan, Senegalese international Ousmane N'Doye from SC Vaslui and finalizing a deal to Cosmin Moţi from Sienna of Seria A. However both Bucureşti rivals have cut payrolls with Steaua Bucureşti losing captain Mirel Rădoi and Rapid Bucureşti emptied with Dănuţ Coman, Pierre Boya, Ionuţ Stancu, Daniel Paulista and Júlio César all leaving. The biggest addition to date is CFR 1907 Cluj signing of Serbian U21 striker Rade Veljović from FK Voždovac.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Saturn Moscows Leonid Kovel

Leonid Kovel of Saturn Moscow is one Footballs intriguing young talents. A talented young striker with an eye towards the goal but always exuding a "team first" approach, he is ready to break through in Russia after joining last year from Karpaty Lviv of the Ukrainian Premier League. The Belarus international spoke of the upcoming season via the clubs official website:

In the opening friendly the twenty-two year old sharpshooter, started on the back-line because of clubs needs. Of his defending experience he said:

"Yes, I played at the defence because we lacked players due to injuries. It must be admitted that it was quite difficult. At beginning I didn't know how I had to play. I think I had to get accustomed with the lapse of time. So I can play as defender if it is necessary."

With Jürgen Röber now in charge of the Aliens, fitness is integral part of their plans. The experienced leader takes a hands on approach to which Leonid added:

"Of course, we improve our physical condition. We work well. But it is impossible to reach the peak of shape for such short period. Jürgen Röber even said that according to results of our tests of the running we recover quite hard. It's nothing, I think second training camp will be easier for us. We must work hard now to reap the fruits afterwards."

With the season quickly approaching, Saturn Moscow supporters can expect their side ready to perform with a high work-rate and an emerging young striker in Leonid Kovel.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Indios de Ciudad Juárez holds Monterrey to 1-1 draw

After a surprising 4-0 victory over Puebla in the first week of the Clausura season, Monterrey met a tough Indios de Ciudad Juárez side who fought to a 1-1 draw. The Rayados under Víctor Manuel Vucetich are without a doubt a more defensive based unit and scoring opportunities were rare on both ends of the pitch. While there were a few chances before the break, they were modest at best. Finally in a strange two minute burst with sixteen minutes remaining Monterrey took the lead when Walter Ayovi's cross from the left edge of the box swung into a surging Darío Carreño who headed into the the back of the net from the six. Only two minutes later, in a rare attacking mode Juárez leveled the match with Javier Saavedra's extraordinary cross to Ricardo Esqueda who soared high to head the ball in. Without further attack the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mateja Kežman leads PSG to victory in Coupe de France

Mateja Kežman lead PSG to a 3-0 victory against Ajaccio GFCO in the Coupe de France. With the back drop of petite Stade Ange Casanova, the home side put forth a brilliant effort and held pack the Ligue 1 side for much of the match. The fourth-division side were broke through at the twenty-fourth minute Guillaume Hoarau and Clément Chantôme provide Mateja the opportunity and the Serbian international quickly gave the Parisians the lead. With strong home support behind them, Ajaccio held strong before the hour mark when Ludovic Giuly sets up Mateja for his second mark on the score-sheet. Only seven minutes later Sammy Traoré and Stéphane Sessegnon link up with the veteran defender making it 3-0. The match concludes without incident and the match concludes with PSG heading home with a fine victory.

PSG returns to Lique 1 action next week against Caen.

Catania holds Genoa tough with 1-1 draw

Sicily's Catania frustrated Genoa again with a tactically sound plan on the way to a 1-1 draw at Stadio Luigi Ferraris. The Rossoblu, normally strong at home, were stymied by Walter Zenga's Catania side who controlled much of the run of the play, displaying patience and discipline. Gian Piero Gasperini called upon Diego Milito to return from injury up-front with Giuseppe Sculli and Serbian international Boško Janković but it was clear that Il Principe was a morsel off with inactivity. To no-ones surprise Catania's early chances came off set-pieces with Giuseppe Mascara coming within a whisper of scoring. Before the break Genoa came close with Salvatore Bocchetti nodding Giandomenico Mesto's cross against the woodwork and half concluded at a nil draw. Just past the hour mark the Grifone's chances were drawn back as Matteo Ferrari was excused with his second yellow, albeit a very questionable booking. Catania did not waste the man advantage as six minutes later Uruguayan international Jorge Andrés Martínez headed Davide Baiocco cross to the back of the net. Pressing to level the match, fortune fell Genoa's way as Marco Rossi's cross managed to make its way to Diego Milito, to which he quickly dispatched into the net. While the Rossoblu hunted for the winner, it could not be found and the match ended as a 1-1 draw.

Genoa returns to play this Wednesday against AC Milan.

rumours swirling on Shay Given and Diego

A litany of media sources are reporting two major moves by Manchester City that while formally unsubstantiated by the club have been independently validated as factual. While there are still a number of players linked to a move to the Citizens, it is expected that the club will proceed with a £25m offer for Diego from Bundesliga side Werder Bremen and £12m plus bid for Newcastle's extraordinary 'keeper Shay Given.

With regards to Diego, the stylish Brazilian play-maker has been linked to a move to a number of clubs including Juventus and Real Madrid but most clubs have hesitated with his heavy price-tag. While there is no doubting his ability with the finest of clubs as an ex-teammate of Robinho's at Santos and a good friend, it offers further benefits of pulling the club together.

As it relates to Shay Given, this is more than a morsel of opportunistic bargaining and City is dangling a cash lifeline to the Balance Sheet troubled Newcastle. It's a blood letting on this one because as a number of clubs in the Premier League, Newcastle isn't merely fighting for points to avoid relegation but dealing with a very troubling financial position. While they begrudge the thought of bidding farewell to the Republic of Ireland who has been with the club for twelve years, his sale could possibly allow them to make some late moves and hold the line against relegation. This is a slippery slope for City because if they are to garner his services, they will likely need to offer cash, possibly a replacement for the 'keeper as his backup Steve Harper is the subject of a great deal of attention and sufficient time for Newcastle to orchestrate their own deals. The key to this deal might be effectively a more complex deal with much needed cash and a series of players on-loan.

Expect this and other deals to be turned up to high on the burner this week.

Feyenoord stop losing slide with last gasp draw to Willem II

Leon Vlemmings earned his first point as Feyenoord manager but it did not come easy as Andwélé Slory added time goal secured a 1-1 draw to Willem II. However the match was not without controversy as the faithful at De Kuip will make rightfully make claim referee Roelof Luinge made a mess of the match with a series of errors.

Feyenoord came out with creative intent with Giovanni van Bronckhorst providing Roy Makaay, Luigi Bruins, Theo Lucius and Diego Biseswar ample opportunity to finding the score-sheet but finishing falling short each time. Feyenoord should have had the lead at the break when André Bahia's header off a corner had crossed the line, before being put back into play but inexplicably the referee waived play on.

Six minutes after the re-start Willem II took the lead with a rare assaulting effort as Jens Janse headed the ball in off a set piece and De Kuip was getting very restless. With fourteen minutes remaining Leon Vlemmings called upon Andwélé Slory for Karim El Ahmadi and it would prove to be the satifying piece to the puzzle as four minutes into injury time as Diego Biseswar played the ball into Slory, who finished perfectly to earn the draw.

Heerenveen continues streak with 2-0 victory over Roda JC

Following victories over Feyenoord this week in Eredivisie action and in the KNVB Cup, Heerenveen continued on its winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Roda JC. However the victory was far from easy as the visiting side from Kerkrade put forth a strong effort.

Trond Sollied's side nearly brought Abe Lenstra Stadion to its feet early as Danijel Pranjić and Arnór Smárason came close to linking up for the first score in the first minute. However following the early inspiration the match settled down and just when it appeared to be going to the break without a score, Eric Addo, who just came over to Roda JC from PSV, gave up the ball to Danijel Pranjić at the fortieth minute. The Croatian international set the wheel in motion with Christian Grindheim eventually providing Roy Beerens the chance to close out the first goal of the match.

After the restart the visitors continued their impressive form as they hunted for the equalizer however at the fifty-third minute Edwin Linssen brought down Roy Beerens in the area and the spot was pointed to. Veteran Danijel Pranjić calmly sent the ball into the netting to give Heerenveen the two goal margin. For the balance fo the match as much as Roda JC tried to break Brian Vandenbussche's goal-line the new found Friesland defending could not be breached.

Porto climbs back on top with victory over Braga

In conjunction with their 2-0 victory over Braga and both Benfica and Sporting playing to a draw, the Dragões climb back on top of the Portuguese Liga.

Twenty minutes into the match Cristian Rodríguez displayed brilliant control before volleying in the ball from close range to give the azuis e brancos the 1-0 lead. Only eleven minutes later Albicelestes capped Lisandro López increased the lead as he collected Hulk's remarkably well weighted long provision before professionally dispatching the ball into the net.

Porto returns to action next Sunday against Belenenses.

PSV continues to disappoint with draw to NAC Breda

Eredivisie champions PSV continued on their disappointing run, playing to a 2-2 draw against NAC Breda. With the draw, PSV stands in fifth place, a massive fifteen points behind top of the table AZ.

PSV took the lead fourteen minutes in when Balázs Dzsudzsák's cross was re-directed in by Mexican international Carlos Salcido. Unfortunately for the former Chivas man, just before the break he was the victim of an own goal as he sent Nordin Boukhari's effort in. Although PSV possessed a number of notable scoring opportunities after the break, it was the Breda side that took the lead when Joonas Kolkka scored with sixteen minutes remaining. Down by one, PSV managed to find the draw with Ibrahim Afelley scoring two minutes later from inside the box. While the match was far from pleasing to the eye, it did mark the debut of Swedish international Ola Toivonen for PSV and while he wasn't able to find himself onto the score-sheet today, he possess bales of talent.

PSV returns to action next Sunday against De Graafschap.

Aberdeen holds Rangers to scoreless draw

The showdown at Pittodrie did not disappoint as a crowd of over twenty-thousand witnessed their Dons hold off the Rangers efforts in route to a scoreless draw. The draw was costly for the Gers as with Celtic's 3 - 1 victory over Hibernian, they fall four points behind the race for first place.

Following last weeks strong display against Falkirk, John Fleck was once again in Walter Smith's opening grid and they seventeen year-old protege did not wasting anytime as three minutes in, he collected Saša Papac provision and drove the ball just a whisper over the bar. Five minutes later Allan McGregor was forced to nudge Charlie Mulgrew's free kick over lest the home side would have taken the lead. Young Mr. Fleck continues to stamp his name on the match to the half as his deliveries from the corner provide Aberdeen a multitude of problems. Five minutes after the re-start Kenny Miller and Jamie Langfield collide, resulting in the Aberdeen 'keeper being unable to continue and replaced by Bertrand Bossu. Both sides attempts were primarily from distance before Barry Ferguson's cross to Kris Boyd with nineteen minutes, narrowly misses the advancing striker. The Gers continue to search for the illusive goal continues first with Nacho Novo's drive clanging off the post at the eighty-fourth minute and then with four minutes remaining Kris Boyd's header from a Saša Papac cross is held back by Scott Severin. The hosts nearly find the winner with only a few minutes remaining Charlie Mulgrew's cross was teasingly headed wide by Darren Mackie and the match ultimately winds down without a score.

Following the match Walter Smith expressed his disappointment with the draw:

"I felt we deserved to win the game. We had most of the play and the best of the chances and only the most die-hard Aberdonian would disagree. It was a missed opportunity.

"Aberdeen were always dangerous at set plays which we had to look out for but we dominated the first half. Aberdeen made a change in the second half and it took us 15 minutes or so to adjust but one we did we were on top again.

"We put them under a lot of pressure in the last 25 minutes and created a lot of opportunities in that time - our best ones in fact - but didn't take them.

"So it's disappointing that we didn't win a game that was there for the winning."

Jermaine Beckford's brace pushes Leeds forward over Peterborough

Jermaine Beckford came off the bench to provide Leeds two late goals in route to a 3-1 victory over Peterborough at Elland Road. With the victory Leeds jumps to seventh position but stand five full points behind Millwall, Scunthorpe and Peterborough all tied with forty-seven points.

The match started with both clubs unwilling to risk going forward early, Peterborough's 'keeper Joe Lewis why he has seen international duty for the Three Lions U21 with a series of top shelf saves to keep Leeds off the score sheet. Following a scoreless half, attacking intent was clearly on both clubs mind with Aaron Mclean and George Boyd coming close in the first ten minutes of the re-start. However the deadlock was broken at the sixty-second minute when Jermaine Beckford, who had entered four minutes earlier for Luciano Becchio poached a rebound from a Bradley Johnson free-kick into the net. Nine minutes later a well weighted through ball by Lee Trundle found Jermaine Beckford, with last years League One player of the year dispatching the ball into the net. Celebrations of a victory were premature as with ten minutes remaining when the Peterborough came within one as Craig Mackail-Smith latched onto a close range rebound and sent it past Casper Ankergren. Finally in the third minute of added-time, Robert Snodgrass provided Jonny Howson, with the hometown hero making no mistake to bring the match to a 3-1 conclusion.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Eintracht Frankfurt signs Nikola Petković

Eintracht Frankfurt's defending has just made a great addition with the signing of Nikola Petković from legendary Belgrade side Crvena zvezda to a contract through to June 2012. He is a tough, sturdy defender who will work into Friedhelm Funkel's system perfectly and had been coveted by many clubs throughout Europe. Capped seven times as a Serbia U-21, he has been assigned number 3 in the roster and will play his first match this Saturday against SpVgg Greuther Fürth.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Citizens proves their commitment with Nigel de Jong purchase

It simply astounds me how the mainstream media has spiraled down and relies upon “feeds” for documents without ever considering the content but overjoyed to stack a sensationalist title to it. What is now called “journalism” is a pale shadow of its former shelf as larger outlets in a lustful desire for “fresh content” forget fact checking, maintaining appropriate decorum or lack the ability to see beyond the needs of their advertisers. Quite naturally, some groups are betters that others and while I personally feel confident of the quality that the BBC maintains, other groups fall far short.

With this in mind I was alerted of a report by the so-called journalists at ESPN that Manchester City “could have signed Mr. De Jong for £2.3m” and further questioned how such a misleading piece could make it past an editor. Presuming of-course groups would build their content of such news feeds have editors, it is both highly misleading and journalistic drivel. I apologize for my venomous tone but after many decades in this sport it would be nice to see the words “truth” and “journalism” meet more often.

Returning to the facts of the subject in question, Manchester City concluded the purchase for Nigel de Jong from Hamburger SV for a rumoured price of €19.5m. Where a bit of creative journalism stepped-in was the reporting that they “over-payed” for him of upwards of €17m+ as his contract included an escape clause of £2.3m in four months. While it is true to an extent that they paid a premium for his services, they failed to mention that their was absolutely no guarantee that he would have signed with the Citizens in four months and you can assume their would have been a hefty premium on his contract at that time.

What City did and supporters should understand this clearly, was make a strategic decision to secure the services of superb young player and put his name on a contract that see him through to 2013. I personally think management paid a hefty price for his contract but such is the market for a player of his caliber in the January market. If they had waited to the summer when his escape clause could be enacted, they would not only have to fight off considerable competition but equally not have his services now.

As City goes out looking for the top-shelf talent, rest assured their management is committed to the success of the club.

“help our team move to the next level”

The matter of Robinho’s absence from training camp has been blown far out of proportion by the media and although it has been discussed in-length by all parties, Mr. Robson de Souza has once again expressed his commitment to the club with the following statement on his official web-site:

“I like living in Manchester and I have made many friends at the club and at the city, since I arrived last year. I admire the Manchester City fans, who are truly lovers of football and loyal to the club players. I am looking forward to delivering as many goals as possible to help our team move to the next level”.

“I have a good relationship with coach Mark Hughes and have always respected his decisions. He is the boss!”

While I suspect this isn’t the end of this story publicly and it will be dealt with internally properly by Mark Hughes, City fans need to show some support for their star player. Commitment to the club is reciprocal and locally the support for him has been less than forthcoming. City is, whether the status quo can handle it or not, is building a club of the future. While power-brokers lobby UEFA to limit transfer pricing in order to stave off a well positioned club such as City, the shot across the bow is to maintain the status quo. More on this matter later, but City supporters, stand up and be counted for the young player or you’ll find your silence the reason why others won’t wear the sky-blue.

Mark Hughes sets the record straight

With firm control of the situation, Mark Hughes calmed reports, albeit misguided ones, of the clubs relationship with Robinho unwinding stating via the Citizens web-site:

“Robbie left without permission, he felt that he had personal things that he needed to attend to. He made the decision to leave the camp, and go back to Brazil. That was not with my permission, and the situation at the moment is not really practical to get him back here with time differences and length of flights, so he will be back at the weekend ready to train when we are back in Manchester at the first available opportunity.

“Once he is back, I will sit down with him and explain my feelings, and decisions will be made after that. He has rung me, and he understands that we need to address this - and we will. Then we will move on.

“He obviously felt that there were certain things that he needed to address back home, and so, wrongly, he made that decision to go back to Brazil. But he will be back at the weekend, then we will make sure that he knows my feelings and I am sure we will get a more detailed explanation from Robbie.”

Of the matter that some linked the end of the Kaká deal with his departure, the manager said:

“He has already said that himself, and he was on a plane back to Brazil when the Kaka deal was dead and buried. People trying to link the two are trying to cause a little bit of mischief.”

Mark Hughes opinion of the Kaká situation

While the events surrounding the unwinding of Kaká situation keep been derailed in the media as certain parties try to “spin” what really happened with a player and AC Milan into moral decision, the truth of the matter was that it was purely a business move that was derailed by those with a hidden agenda. This should not be a surprise given the underlying related businesses involved particularly as the groundswell of his next move is being orchestrated, although there still are no comments of his astonishingly low sponsorship revenue.

However turning away from the business aspects of the deal, Mark Hughes commented of the matter as well as new acquisitions Nigel de Jong and Craig Bellamy:

“There’s are a lot of negativity around what we do - or so it seems. I think that people have lost sight of what we were trying to do, which was to bring one of the best players in the world to Manchester City. We should be given a little bit of credit for that.

“We were not able to conclude the deal, but we got very, very close. There were a lot of things to be worked through and it was always going to be a long process, but it fell down and there was always a danger of that. From a footballing point of view, it would have been ideal to work with a player of that quality but it is not going to happen and we move on.

“The Kaka situation was one we had to move for. When you have the opportunity to go for one of the best players in the world, timing issues go out of the window. When you get the indication that a player of that quality could be available, you have to move quickly.

“We will use the negativity that has been used by others as a strength. We will build slowly, build correctly and make sure we are stronger in the future.

“We have a plan with what we want to do, and I am delighted with the signings we have made. Craig will open up space behind defences with his blistering pace, Nigel is a really strong individual with character and a good approach. Those are the kind of players we will continue to bring in and those kind of players who will make us strong.”

“He’s a great man”

Of the many very surprising events of this campaign is the development of Stephen Ireland. Not only has his play showed extraordinary growth and the young man, once so troubled off the pitch has matured, dare I say, into a leader. His maturation under the Mark Hughes is nothing short of stunning and one of the best stories of the year to date. In an interview on the club web-site Stephen Ireland lauded Mark Hughes for his remarkable work with the club. While not a surprise to those familiar the work of the former Wales leader, Stephen Ireland commented on the manager:

“I remember the first day we met him and in his first meeting at Carrington he said;‘You might not like the way I do things, but I guarantee that I’ll make you better players at the end of it,’ and he has.

“You look at Elano, he’s running more now – I’m not saying that he was lazy before – I just mean that he’s turned from this number 10 type player, into one that can go box-to-box.

“Some people might not notice that he’s doing the hard work, but maybe he’s just not doing it cleverly enough. If I go box-to-box and make sure I win the ball then people say; ‘Oh Stephen’s everywhere.’ If Elano does that and doesn’t retain the ball it’s not that he’s not working hard – you’ve just got to be clever with your closing down.

“If you look back over the teams we’ve had since I’ve been involved and you know yourself, under Stuart Pearce we didn’t have players like that and the tactics were totally different, the game’s changing as the seasons go on.”

“This season we have a good team, we’re hungry, we know what we want to achieve and we’ve got a great Manager and great staff here.

“It’s just the consistency from us and we need to be stronger, mentally, especially when you go away and you’re up against it.”

“When we’re at home, it’s all great, we’ve got the fans behind us and playing lovely football but the question is why can’t we do it when we’re away from home?

“What should be the difference? It’s one football pitch, 11 players versus 11, so why can’t we do it? We just need to get that into our game but the gaffer’s working on it.

“He’s a great man and I think is doing great things for the Club. If any manager came in they wouldn’t do half the things he’s doing.

“He’s involved in every area of the training ground, the Club and developing it. I think if some other manager came in they wouldn’t do things like expanding the medical area or making a gym like the one we have, they wouldn’t really care, but he cares a lot about the game, his job and his players.

“I think it’s really important he stays there and I think he’ll get it right – I really do. I’ve watched us and I know he’ll get it right.

“I enjoy playing under him and he’s been great for me. All the other players are really happy at the moment, you can tell that in training, there are always smiles and training is great. We just need to get on a winning streak.”

“I’d like to stamp my authority on the team more because I want to be a leader as much as I can to everyone and really drive the team.

“I want to take as much responsibility as I can, especially away from home when things are against us. I have good enough energy to inspire other players as well, if I make a good tackle, or want to get the players up for the game because sometimes you just don’t get off the coach.

“Even against Blackburn, it was going into the last 20 minutes before we woke up, but you could see that we have the mentality and how much it meant to us and the staff as well. We’re just like one big family.”

Kieran Trippier and Andrew Tutte honoured

With all the talk of transfers and massive acquisitions, the backbone of Manchester City, its Academy is often forgotten in the media. And although the club will grow and expand, the development of youth in the region pays rich dividends not merely for the club or the sport but true citizenry as well.

Supporters of the Citizens can take great pride in the selection of Kieran Trippier and Andrew Tutte for the Three Lions U19 squad friendly against Spain on February 10. Both players have been instrumental in the success of the Academy’s campaign and honoured with the selection to Brian Eastick’s squad.

Please let me know if others are interested in the backbone of Manchester City.

expect Jermaine Beckford and Robert Snodgrass back!

Simon Grayson’s choices for this Saturday’s match against Peterborough United at Elland Road clash with Peterborough United as improved as both Jermaine Beckford and Robert Snodgrass will be available. The manager said of the matter:

“Jermaine has trained with us now for a week and, all being well, he will be in contention on Saturday.

“He is our leading goalscorer and if it hadn’t have been for the little problems he’s had with his hamstring he would probably be the leading goalscorer in this league.

“Hopefully now he can kick on from here and do what we know he does best.”

There is no word on potential lineups or further commentary as per the practice of the new manager.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Garry Cook on transfer matters

Gary Cook, in speaking of the clubs attempts in the transfer market commented on a number of business points:

“Contrary to many opinions it is harder for us to do business. That’s because the expectations are so high and people look at the finances resources as the ticket to success.

“That’s truly not the case – the ticket to success is being able to give football fans a return on the money that they invest in this Club.

“That’s going to involve putting great players out on the football pitch and giving them a great experience when they come to the games.

“We’ve also said it’s not just about getting great players here, obviously that’s a part of it, but it’s also about the Academy.

“I was at Portsmouth last week watching us in the FA Youth Cup and they put on a great performance. We’ve got some great lads in there and that’s nice.

“When you work that with sitting down trying to bring Kaka to the Club that’s a balance we’d like to see.”

Of negotiations, he stated emphatically that:

“We are not anybody’s fool.

“We are finding it very difficult because the expectation that is set by the public space of who we are and what we represent is not truly who we are or what we represent. So we have to get to a point where we understand which players are required and we then have discussions.

“I’ve been in discussions that are completely ludicrous [during the transfer window] and I actually flew to another country to have a meeting which lasted seven minutes.

“And that seven minute meeting was because the demands were so ridiculously high, I just packed up my bags and walked out because he clearly was not coming to our football club for the right reasons.”

Of future plans, he added:

“We’ve got some great players here and we’re on a bit of a run with seven points from the last three league games so we want to continue that and adding strength to the squad is only going to enhance us.

“We had very clear plans going into it. We’re ticking the boxes as we say.

“We’ve not been successful on all fronts and we’ve rejected an awful lot because the negotiating process again became ridiculous.”

Returning to the to Kaká situation he noted:

“They are extremely pragmatic and they know that truth is your ally.

“We said nothing about the Kaka interaction with Milan while it was going on and they chose a very different plan. It affected their ability to negotiate.

“We didn’t want to be in a public space, having a public discussion about this, they chose a different way to do it. We’re going to stay true to what we believe and the owners are learning that not everybody has the same integrity and honesty that they do.

“We forget that our owners have been here for 16 weeks and we keep talking about a 10-year dynasty. This Club’s been here for over a hundred years and it will be here for a hundred plus more.

“On that journey we know what we’re looking at. Over the next four windows we have got a clear list of players that we’d like to see at this football club. So where the public space, that we choose not to get in to allows itself to be speculative, we clearly know what we’re doing and I think that the fans are going to be excited.”

Nigel de Jong DEAL DONE!

The deal to bring Nigel de Jong to Manchester City from Hamburger SV has been finalized with a rumoured fee of €19.5m.

The 24-year-old Netherlands international signed a four year agreement with the club and is leaving for Tenerife training camp shortly. He said via the club web-site:

“I feel very good and for me it is the next step in my own career after three years in Germany and I hope to be successful here at Manchester City.

“The ideas and the planning behind this Club are very hopeful and it’s a new adventure so I’m delighted to be here right now.”

“The Stadium looks great and I think it can only be better when it’s full of people.

“I’m looking forward to playing here and everybody knows that the Premier League is maybe the biggest competition in the world.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How the Kaká deal fell apart

As the Football world quickly moves away from the events leading up to Kaká staying at AC Milan and not moving as most believed to Manchester City, a number of interesting twists in the tale have come to light.

From the start of this deal to its very end it involved not only the respective clubs and player but the powerful forces of Adidas, Nike as well as Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN TV network stated intent of purchasing the rights to English Premier League matches live. From the broadcasting vantage in many ways the potential move of Kaká to Manchester City represented a near perfect situation for Disney's expansion into Football and the Citizens global branding with one of the sports best examples on and off the pitch. A great athlete not only none for his on-pitch splendor but of irrefutable character and quite possibly the perfect figurehead for the sports emergence within the American market. However not to be outdone, the targeting of Kaká, one of the most recognizable names in Adidas and subsequently the German based company would fight off any assault with whatever they could muster.

While in the shadows of this entire deal with City headed up by chief ex-Nike man Gary Cook as chief exectutive it is not by chance that their attempts were directed towards one of the rivals most well-known athletes. Along with his Nike's £285 acquisition of Umbro and sponsorship involvement of England's national academy, this was a point in the massive financial battle of worlds Football market as City moves slowly under the Nike umbrella.

However what remains to be seen is the "how and why" Man City executives were "played" in this situation. While in the past the executive team of the Citizens have made a series of negotiation blunders, this time they were letter perfect and came with a brilliant plan. Knowing full well that Mr. Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite aka Kaká is a man of the highest moral character and it would take more than just a sizable contract to lure him to Manchester, they were ready to table a proposition that would fulfill some of his personal goals and build a charitable foundation of extraordinary proportion. If true be told, City's management which has stumbled on many occasions outdid itself in a not only a brilliant tactical move but one to bring it to the forefront of sports management and leadership. However these plans went stray and after acknowledging Kaká represents the values as the ambassador of the sport, Mr. Cook noted that they were never able to meet with him and all "his representatives wanted to talk about how much we were going to pay him."

After vetting AC Milan's interest in negotiating a deal and being assured "in which Milan made it quite clear Kaka was for sale", Mr Cook told the BBC, he along with a board member from Abu Dhabi and one other senior executive to finalize the deal. However the intent of Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and owner of AC Milan changed as per Mr. Cook:

“We were confined to a room, with no food or drink, and we asked some questions of the football club and more importantly we asked some questions of the representatives of the player and they simple could not answer the questions."

So what happened to the deal, possibly the greatest hint is the breadcrumbs left by Kaká's teammate David Beckham, less than forty-eight hours of the deal collapsing when informed Spanish media source "AS" that the he is likely to move to Real Madrid, where he can continue wearing the three stripes this summer.

Robinho has not walked out on Man City

While media rag The Daily Mail broke news that Robinho had sent Manchester City into a “crisis” situation and had runaway from the club they failed to check their facts. Unfortunately young Mr. Robson de Souza was an easy target for the blood-thirsty media looking to “break” a story and the situation was not only blown out of proportion.

Robinho did not walk of camp in a mutinous situation per my inside reports. He, as he has done in the past returned home to Brazil to be with his family. While it is true that he was upset with how the deal to bring Kaká from AC Milan fell through and would like the club to sign a number of other Brazilian players, he is not a “runaway” as the rag reported.

It is his twenty-fifth birthday on Saturday and while he felt he communicated the matter with the club and was under the belief he had approval to go home to be with friends and family.

Further to this news, BBC Sport in an effort to clear up the situation contacted Robinho and inquired about his absence. In response to the situation he said:

“I had made Manchester City aware that I needed to return to Brazil because of a family matter. I will return to the club and hope to sort out this matter as soon as possible.”

While there is definitely a problem related to his absence, much of has to do with poor communication channels within the club from players and administration. As the club grows and looks to bring in talent from around the world, all with varying levels of being able speak English, it needs appropriate administration to monitor contacts.

However with this situation, all reports both documented in the media and internally suggest this situation is easily dealt with and unfortunately embellished by the poor journalistic practices and common fact-checking is performed.

Robinho is “committed to helping Manchester City”

As noted previously that Robinho had not walked out on Manchester City and all reports suggesting that were pure fabrication, the soon to-be birthday boy stated via his official web-site:

“I would like to make it clear to the fans what the situation is, so that they can understand my decision to fly home to Brasil.”

“Earlier in the month I made Manchester City aware that I needed to return to Brasil, because of a family matter. The club agreed and I was grateful to them for this.”

“Up until yesterday it was my understanding that the club had no problem with my plans.”

“I feel it is important to underline that I did not return to Brasil because of the Kaka deal. He is one of my good friends and it would have been great to see him at Manchester City - but it had nothing to do with his decision to stay in Milan.”

“I will return to the club and hope to sort out this matter as soon as possible. I am committed to helping Manchester City become the force the owners assured me they will become.”

Garry Cook’s view of the events

As the deal to bring Kaká from AC Milan to Manchester City came apart in the oddest of circumstances, a number of cold hard facts were left off the plate. While they will be speculated for quite some time, £100m plus deal do not evaporate without reason.

Man City executive chairman Garry Cook said via the club web-site:

“I think the intention from AC Milan was clearly to sell their player and Manchester City’s intention was clearly to bring him to the football club.

“I think there was some political pressure and definitely media space that they engaged in. To be honest, I think they bottled it, simple as that.”

“They live in a different space than we do as a football club and it’s been interesting to watch their behaviour.

“We never met the player, we only met the representatives, we never actually made him an offer on personal terms.

“So it’s very difficult to turn down something that you’ve not been offered.

“We’ve heard everything and there’s been a bit of mudslinging, but we’re going to choose not to get into that, our objective is that we’re building a football club for the long term.

“It would have been great to have had Kaka at this football club, the Premier League would have benefitted, football would have benefitted and we were willing to make that investment on rational terms. Unfortunately, the behaviour that they showed was not what we had expected nor had we anticipated.

“We’ve been to Milan four times and the delegation yesterday involved three lawyers that represent the legal counsel for Manchester City football club.

“It also involved a board member who had flown half way around the world from Abu Dhabi, myself and one other senior executive.

“We were confined to a room, with no food or drink, and we asked some questions of the football club and more importantly we asked some questions of the representatives of the player and they simple could not answer the questions.

“What they wanted to talk about was; ‘how much are you going to pay him?’We chose not to get into that and we didn’t make an offer to the player.

“Is he a great footballer? Yes. Does he represent all the values you would want to have as an ambassador of the sport global and were we looking for the opportunity to joint venture in areas that would take this club on to a different platform? Yes, but unfortunately the landscape changed and his representatives wanted to talk about how much we were going to pay him.

“Money was certainly the motive yesterday.”

Robinho’s official statement

While tabloids that are best only used for bird-cage liners embellish stories so they can sell a few more copies, Robinho has issued an official statement regarding his absence at training camp:

“I’m happy at Manchester City”

“I would like to make it clear to the fans what the situation is, so that they can understand my decision to fly home to Brazil.”

“Earlier in the month I made Manchester City aware that I needed to return to Brazil, because of a family matter. The club agreed and I was grateful to them for this.”

“Up until yesterday it was my understanding that the club had no problem with my plans.”

“I feel it is important to underline that I did not return to Brazil because of the Kaka deal. He is one of my good friends and it would have been great to see him at Manchester City - but it had nothing to do with his decision to stay in Milan.”

“I will return to the club and hope to sort out this matter as soon as possible. I am committed to helping Manchester City become the force the owners assured me they will become.”

This matter has been blown completely out of proportion by a media groups that are far from “investigative journalists.” While his departure at training camp is far from desirable, not only is the club at fault for some of this as it does not have sufficient administrative staffing, amongst other organizational issues, it equally should have planned better for this situation. I envision that the club will bang the drum loudly of his absence in the media and then back track behind closed doors. In the world of Football management this is a easily handled problem and if they cannot handle it, well then they shouldn’t be trying to attract the best players in the world.

stumbling blocks of Nigel de Jong deal

The deal between Manchester City and Hamburger SV to bring Nigel de Jong is seemingly complete with the transfer price rumoured to be £18m. The the only outstanding matter with the sticking point being the contract between player and club. Said Hamburg representative:

“We have had contact with Manchester City and have agreed to release the player if he can strike a deal with the English club. Now it is up to the player and his agent to agree on a contract with that team.”

However the “sticking point” of signing the young Netherlands international isn’t as easy as it first appeared. He said of the contract negotiations:

“I cannot say anything. Nothing is finished.”

Confusing? Well it should be. While the deal is far from dead and could be completed at any time, Nigel de Jong is wisely using the media is send a message that since the club has proven it has deep pockets he isn’t about to put his name to a contract until they ante up. As City becomes known for paying top-dollar and chasing the “bid”, players and clubs will rightfully learn how “play the game.” Considering Blackburn’s Sam Allardyce has boosted the price of Roque Santa Cruz to £40m after the Citizens offered £12m, some are learning.

How the Kaká deal fell apart

As the Football world quickly moves away from the events leading up to Kaká staying at AC Milan and not moving as most believed to Manchester City, a number of interesting twists in the tale have come to light.

From the start of this deal to its very end it involved not only the respective clubs and player but the powerful forces of Adidas, Nike as well as Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN TV network stated intent of purchasing the rights to English Premier League matches live. From the broadcasting vantage in many ways the potential move of Kaká to Manchester City represented a near perfect situation for Disney’s expansion into Football and the Citizens global branding with one of the sports best examples on and off the pitch. A great athlete not only known for his on-pitch splendor but of irrefutable character and quite possibly the perfect figurehead for the sports emergence within the American market. However not to be outdone, the targeting of Kaká, one of the most recognizable names in the Adidas stable, would result in the German based company fighting off any his move from the club with whatever they could muster.

While in the shadows of this entire deal, with City headed up by ex-Nike man Gary Cook as chief executive it is not by chance that their attempts were directed towards one of their rivals most well-known athletes in a cutting piece of corporate warring. Along with his Nike’s £285 acquisition of Umbro and sponsorship involvement of England’s national academy, this was a point in the massive financial battle of worlds Football market as City moves slowly affiliates itself with Nike.

However what remains to be seen is the “how and why” Man City executives were “played” in this situation. While in the past the executive team of the Citizens have made a series of negotiation blunders, this time they were letter perfect and came with a brilliant plan. Knowing full well that Mr. Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite aka Kaká is a man of the highest moral character and it would take more than just a sizable contract to lure him to Manchester, they were ready to table a proposition that would fulfill some of his personal goals, building a charitable foundation of extraordinary proportion. If true be told, City’s management which has stumbled on many occasions, outdid itself in a not only a brilliant tactical move but one to bring it to the forefront of sports management. However these plans went astray quickly and after acknowledging Kaká represents the values as the ambassador of the sport that Man City wishes to project, Mr. Cook noted that they were never able to meet with him and all “his representatives wanted to talk about how much we were going to pay him.”

After vetting AC Milan’s interest in negotiating a deal and being assured “Milan made it quite clear Kaka was for sale”, as Mr Cook told the BBC, he along with a board member from Abu Dhabi and one other senior executive flew to Milan to finalize the deal. However the intent of Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and owner of AC Milan changed as per Mr. Cook:

“We were confined to a room, with no food or drink, and we asked some questions of the football club and more importantly we asked some questions of the representatives of the player and they simple could not answer the questions.”

So what happened to the deal?

Well possibly the greatest hint of things to come in a highly intertwined deal is the breadcrumbs left by Kaká’s teammate David Beckham, as less than forty-eight hours of the deal collapsing when he informed Spanish media source “AS” that the he is likely to move to Real Madrid, where he can continue wearing the three stripes this summer.

So has the price of a deal already orchestrated been raised?

more to follow on what was once a game

Robinho is “committed to helping Manchester City”

As noted previously that Robinho had not walked out on Manchester City and all reports suggesting that were pure fabrication, the soon to-be birthday boy stated via his official web-site:

“I would like to make it clear to the fans what the situation is, so that they can understand my decision to fly home to Brasil.”

“Earlier in the month I made Manchester City aware that I needed to return to Brasil, because of a family matter. The club agreed and I was grateful to them for this.”

“Up until yesterday it was my understanding that the club had no problem with my plans.”

“I feel it is important to underline that I did not return to Brasil because of the Kaka deal. He is one of my good friends and it would have been great to see him at Manchester City - but it had nothing to do with his decision to stay in Milan.”

“I will return to the club and hope to sort out this matter as soon as possible. I am committed to helping Manchester City become the force the owners assured me they will become.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

Charles Villeneuve ousted

For quite some time I have questioned the validity of now former PSG President Charles Villeneuve comments that management were well-prepared to invest funds as needed. That should be taken neither as an endorsement of Monsieur Villeneuve’s intention to bring the club up to Champions League grade or commentary of ownerships financial commitment, it is simply a straight fact on financial realities.

Behind the scenes, the ownership group of Colony Capital and Morgan Stanley have made it known that Morgan was looking to divest and prior to a sale. While Morgan CEO John Mack wishes to divest of non-core investments, the market for a Football club is less than desirable at present and prior to any sale the clubs bottom-line must be watched tightly. Additionally given the present worlds financial markets and direct problems with hedge specialists, ownership was neither able or prepared to expand their investment without limitation.

With Monsieur Villeneuve’s stated intention for the club to, “invest in a project that can lift the club to the level of ambition that I have expressed my commitment to”, they have decided to move and oust the President. It is very clear that this entire situation revolves are Colony Capital SAS CEO Sébastien Bazin’s intent of a radically different financial operation.

PSG board members have responded with following statement by resigning have forced a vote to elect a new President:

“(The board) Can no longer serenely fulfill their duty alongside a president they can no longer trust.

“Under these conditions we have decided unanimously to resign from the company’s board in order to convene a general assembly as soon as possible.

Thn election will be held in two weeks in order to elect the Parisians next President.

Timmy Cahill saves the day again

The excitement of the Merseyside derby at Anfield did not disappoint as Timmy Cahill snatched Everton a draw with a stunning header in the dying minutes to bring the match to a 1-1 conclusion. The goal, like the entire season showed the intense commitment of Everton as they refused to back down to a challenge. Against all odds, troubled with a large assortment injuries and missing Marouane Fellaini for the match, Everton overcame through a team effort and the heroics of your favourite Aussie.

Everton was fast out of the gate with Victor Anichebe nearly finding the net in the first minute while Liverpool seemed content to take a more cautious stance. It was peculiar tactic for a club fighting for a championship and while they controlled ball possession, once they came into the final third Phil Jagielka and company dealt with matters harshly. Mid of the half Sami Hyypiä’s through ball sprung Fernando Torres free but finishing escaped the Spanish striker and the Toffees breathed a sigh of relief. Liverpool began building up steam and gradually were in control of much of the attacking impetus. Coming out at the break with the match still deadlocked, playing conditions steadily deteriorated with a wet snow building up and creating a few slippery situations. At the sixty-seventh minute Victor Anichebe charged into the left side of the box and after a stiff challenge by Martin Škrtel, Everton made claims of a penalty to no avail. However the Toffees concern took a turn for the worse as a minute later Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard accepted a pass from Albert Riera and drove a low dropping shot past Tim Howard. Down a goal, Everton’s chances were slowly starting to fade as Anfield took its cue to serenade visiting supporters. Yet quitting wasn’t in story for Everton as Mikel Arteta’s free-kick was flicked into the net by Tim Cahill with three minutes left to level the match. A stunning conclusion in many ways but in others expected by a club never backs down.

Is the pressure getting to Joe Kinnear?

Following Saturday’s painful 3-0 destruction at the hands of Sam Allardyce led Blackburn, Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear dropped his guard and lashed out at previous administrations:

“Our biggest problem is a lack of strength in depth. Why wasn’t it addressed by the previous two managers? I am carrying the can for it.”

With respects to new additions and the problems he is facing attracting fresh blood to Newcastle he noted:

“I want to be judged on what I bring in. The depth of the first-team squad is not right at the moment.

“We must look to stay up this season and have a big clear-out in the summer and address everything completely differently.”

Of the thought of relegation he added:

“I lie in bed and worry and dread this situation. I’m a proud fella and I don’t want to be relegated.”

Whether is it feeling the heat or just got caught in saying something he would have preferred to keep out of the press is one matter but it does little to blame other administrations. Newcastle is in the fight of its Premier League life to stay above the drop zone and must stay focused on the future. This is highly problematic as it relates to the transfer season as they do not need to be looking at long-term talent but veterans who can assist for a tough stretch drive. Its a difficult road to travel but one that you must do when in a relegation fight. However looming ahead are challenges related to loses during the transfer season. Newcastle is close to being picked clean of ‘keepers Shay Given and Steve Harper, along with Charles N’Zogbia desperately looking to leave and absolutely no interest from other clubs in their older talent. Simply stated, its January and Toon Army, the pressure has just started.