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Which Premier League manager will get fired first

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Yawn Tennis

In the greatest feat of human endurance since Sir Robert Falcon Scott went to the Antarctic Mahut and Isner (who surely are really Cyborgs taking a break from the new Terminator movie are playing themselves to a standstill in a battle that seems to be taking longer than the Vietnam War. After 3 days, 5 sets and 138 games they have even managed to relegate the last minute wins of the reigning Wimbledon champion Roger Federer to a minor interest story as Isner finally wins.

Tennis is a strange sport in Britain where we manage to produce 1 world class player a decade who then seems to be constantly denied by the latest of the greatest. In the 80’s it was McEnroe, the 90’s Sampras & Hewitt and now Federer who seem to be intent on ensuring no British player ever wins a Grand Slam event again. The LTA are in bit of an invidious position as if they invest in grass-roots tennis and produce lots of good players one of them will win an event, will the nation will breathe a huge sigh of relief and then stop bothering to watch any Tennis.

The problem is that like Golf, Tennis is viewed as a rich man’s sport and as a result of that perception coupled with the cost of joining a Tennis club and getting good coaching there is no real working class presence in professional or amateur Tennis and until there is we will not have the number of successful players that the USA and Australia seem to produce (a position backed up by our Davis Cup position).

The world cup is proving fun at the moment as big names Italy and France have gone home with the possibility that Spain could join them

BRILLIANT

Unfortunately England have joined them. More on that rubbish set of performances later

Thursday, 17 June 2010

ARGY BARGY

When fame sustained me and arenas acclaimed me
I floated through life in a cloud
of love and insanity and pagan profanity
before a worshipping crowd
Now my status is ill-defined
As an icon I'm inclined
to be coming under friendly fire
shot in the fatal cause of rock-and-roll
but whatever dull or clever points they've scored
I have never, oh no never, been ignored


I would think the Argentina manager would feel a twinge of empathy with Frances Barber’s Billie Trix as she sings about how the lustre has faded from the legend while people seek to damn her with faint praise as he struggles with the pressure of being a the living legend who will take Argentina to glory as a player and manager and join ‘Der Kaiser’ Franz Beckenbauer who is currently the only person to do so.

1 week into the world cup and already Diego Maradona is on the warpath demanding Pele rejoin the dinosaurs at the museum and the referees send off anyone who is mean to little Lionel especially the South Koreans who if Maradona is believed are a bunch of dirty ninjas hell-bent on crippling any skilful players in his team, a belief built on the Mexico 86 tournament when the South Koreans had the nerve to not just roll-over for Argentina and actually scored although the game was beyond them by that point. Apparently the Koreans spoilt things by tackling Argentine players, defending and trying to score all of which Diego felt smacked of some higher conspiracy to stop him winning.

Spain keeper Iker Casillas got no comfort from his girlfriend when at a press conference after the Switzerland game she asked ‘How did you mess that up then’ to which the unusually uncliched honest answer of ‘I don’t know’ was given The sight of Carlos Perreira lambasting the referees performance for correctly sending off the South African keeper despite not actually seeing the incident and Cristiano Ronaldo’s when he was fouled and then booked for being fouled and a drop ball given (despite the ref booking the Ivorian concerned), was almost as funny as the look on a German journalists face when she asked Wayne Rooney if he wanted to meet Germany in the last 16 and he said ‘Yes, so we can beat them’

The Germans have claimed that if they play England they will just play for penalties in that match because they will win. Plenty of mind games there then.

This world cup has not been the best in terms of goals but given Maradona’s presence I think press conferences will become far more entertaining especially if Argentina win the tournament (given the tone of his outburst when they qualified we may be on another Keegan I’d just love it moment especially if they get Brazil along the way) and it could get even more pressurised given that Spain, France and Portugal could all be going home if they fail to win their next match. As Mr Tennant once said ‘Ring the bells, tell everyone, Revolution can be fun’

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Red Ngone

So I turn my head to the north,
swallow that pill
that they call pride
The old me is dead and gone,
the new me will be alright


Justin Timberlake has hit the nail on the head and so have the Liverpool board as they removed Rafa Benitez from his post at Liverpool this week.

Rafa has given his all to Liverpool over the last six years bringing home the Champions League trophy and FA Cup while leading them to a 2nd place finish last season so how has it all gone wrong for Rafa?

I would be inclined to think that it began with the now infamous FACT sheet and rant about at Sir Alex Ferguson but many feel that the cracks had started to show with his unsuccessful pursuit of Gareth Barry and subsequent loss of Xavi Alonso. Rafa's track record in the transfer market had always been a bit questionable but he signed players like Reina, Torres, Agger and Mascherano who were an unqualified success but his public courtship of Barry while openly touting Alonso to Juventus and his signing and then sale of Robbie Keane at a large loss started people questioning his judgement in that area although his spend this season was equal to money raised from sales.

On the whole he seemed to have blended together a really good team that was capable of playing highly attractive football but he seemed unable to throw the shackles off until it was almost too late. Victories including a 4-1 victory at Old Trafford, 2-0 home win over Chelsea and a 5-0 thrashing of Aston Villa were undermined by draws at Stoke and defeats by Bolton, Blackburn and Hull City. Despite this however Liverpool finished in 2nd place only 4 points behind Manchester United and were tipped by many to win the title this season.

So where did it all go wrong?

Liverpool started the 2009-10 season as favourites and finished it in 7th place only 2 points ahead of Everton. Yet you couldn't easily look at Rafa and say You Know Where You Went Wrong. The rot seemed to have started with his sale of Xavi Alonso who was replaced by Lucas as new signing Alberto Aquilani was injured yet Glenn Johnson and Sotirios Kyrgiakos were decent signings and his starting 11 of Reina, Johnson, Agger, Carragher, InsĂșa, Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt, Benayoun, Gerrard and Torres was one which should have been more than capable of mounting a strong challenge for the title but it was the supporting players that were to prove his downfall.

The season started and ended with poor results with Tottenham winning the curtain raiser and a draw at relegated Hull closing their campaign and while the supporting players live Rodriguez, Babel, Riera and Ngog were decent enough players some squad members started to complain not just about lack of chances but also about Benitez's man-management. His season seemed ultimately to be undone by a mixture of injuries, poor substitutions (often involving Torres being taken off), a run of 5 defeats in 11 at the start of the season and a Liverpool Club beachball providing one of the most controversial goals of the season.

Liverpool's record under Benitez actually compares quite favourably with others with Liverpool finishing in the top 5 every season bar this one and had an excellent relationship with the fans but ultimately he has been undone by his stubborn nature, poor relations with the board and the 3 league titles, Champions League Title and 2 League cups that Manchester United have won over the same period. His failure to adequately replace Alonso or purchase decent deputies for Torres and Gerrard has cost him dear in terms of his pursuit of the English League title.

Rafa's next destination could well be the San Siro but considering the last 2 managers there Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho won 5 league titles between them with Mourinho lifting the Champions League trophy the managers seat at Inter could well work out to be as equally poisoned a chalice as Liverpool.