Monday, November 29, 2010

2018 and 2022 World Cup Race: Every Bidding Nation and Vote Analysis

The FIFA Exco will meet over the next three days to decide the destination of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Here we look at each bidding nation and the 23 men whose vote will decide the winners.
The 2018 World Cup will go to Europe as Holland/Belgium, Spain/Portugal, England and Russia address the FIFA Exco with their final submissions on December 2. One day before the five bidding nations for 2022 will get their chance to state their case.
Each submission can only last a maximum of 30 minutes and is the final chance the bidding nations have to sway the vote.
So far, the Iberian bid claims to have eight votes guaranteed for 2018 while Qatar seems quietly confident for 2022.
To win the World Cup 13 votes must be won, with the process eliminating a bidding nation until that total can be reached.
Here we look at each bidding nation, their strengths and weaknesses and the 23 Exco members and where they may or may not vote.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Are FC Barcelona Even Playing the Same Sport as Other Teams?

Having worshipped at many alters in my time, I took the chance to visit one of the greatest churches of all two weeks ago; the Camp Nou.

There, I saw Barcelona play Villarreal in one of the most entertaining encounters I have ever witnessed, and it left me begging the question: Are Barca even playing the same sport as other teams?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Have Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid Shamed Football?

During Tuesday night's Champions League game between Real Madrid and Ajax, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos appeared to get themselves sent off on purpose. Dutch broadcaster NOS showed footage of Jose Mourinho apparently issuing instructions to Alonso moments before the midfielder received his marching orders.

UEFA have now decided to investigate both sendings-off.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Manchester United Begin the Hunt for Sir Alex Ferguson's Successor

We always knew this day would come. Manchester United, like any major other organisation would, is preparing for the day that Sir Alex Ferguson retires by putting together a short list of candidates to succeed the great man.

It is no great secret that Sir Alex Ferguson will retire in the not too distant future.

After a career that has, thus far, spanned 53 years the sands of time are running out on the Scot's footballing lifetime. Now in his 36th year as a manager Ferguson is moving towards the last days of his life on the touchline with David Gill and Manchester United determined not to be caught out by the obvious void that will be left and they have begun to eke together a short list of potential contenders for the Old Trafford hot seat.

The Hunt for a New Red Devil:

David Gill is fully aware of just how big United are as a club. They are an institution and are under pressure like never before. With their debt growing under the ownership of the Glazer family, Gill knows that on-field success has to be maintained.

Speaking to Sirius XM, one of the world's largest internet radio stations, the Red Devils Chief Executive spoke about how the club are already looking at alternatives to Ferguson.
"What happens on the pitch is crucial to all our off the field aspirations and we have to understand that. So someone coming in to take over United will have to have pedigree, will have to have that logical success and achievement as it's such a big club. 
"But I think the other key asset, or key requirement for someone coming in, is to understand the history and heritage of the club. They need to understand how we work commercially, what we aim to achieve to get the right balance there and make sure we can continue as seamlessly as possible as we have under Sir Alex. 
"Those are the things, but identifying that person is not easy."
United's recent transfer strategy suggests that the club want the new manager to walk into an almost fully formed squad and that Ferguson is readying the troops for that fateful day. Five of United's last six signings are all under 25 years of age with Michael Owen as the obvious exception. That strategy would seem to fit into the next manager being left a good nucleus of players to work with.
Gill added; "Obviously at some stage, Sir Alex will retire. 
"What we're doing with him, with his coaches and scouts, is getting a great squad with the right age profile so a new manager coming in - yes he will probably want to change one or two players - but won't need wholesale changes. 
"There will be a sensible transition to a new manager. So that's where we're at."
Who Will Replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United?

Given Gill's comments about Ferguson's successor it would seem that a number of Ferguson's old boys were considered but have now been rejected in favour of a manager of higher standing.

Roy Keane has done very little at Ipswich to be considered by any Premiership team let alone United.Steve Bruce has done well wherever he has worked but will need to break the top four and win some cups with Sunderland if he is to be considered a viable choice. While Mark Hughes has the baggage of being an ex-Manchester City manager and would also seem to have been ruled out
Ole Gunnar-Solksjaer has probably left his move to Molde too late to be considered a successor to Ferguson but is an ideal candidate for the Assistant Manager job when it arises. It remains to be seen if his ambitions lie in that direction though.

The Premiership managers that stand out as contenders are David MoyesHarry RedknappCarlo Ancellotti and Martin O'Neill.

Moyes has done sterling work at Everton over the past eight years but he has never tasted cup success and would probably be seen as something of a gamble by the United board despite Ferguson's recommendation.

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Redknapp would be an ideal candidate if United were looking for someone now, but the Spurs boss has already indicated that Spurs will be his last job in club football and he is highly tipped by many to succeed Fabio Capello as England manager. Leaving the door open for Spurs to approach Moyes...

Carlo Ancellotti is not as cemented in Chelsea's heart as many would believe or with Roman Abrahmovich for that matter. Despite winning the double in his first season as manager the club cancelled recent contract negotiations after the Blues lost three of their last four league matches.

The Italian was deeply unhappy with how Abrahmovich's ruthless sacking of Ray Wilkins and would jump at the chance of managing one of the jewels of world football.

Martin O'Neill has done great work wherever he has gone and his teams are always more than the sum of their parts. However, his recent argument over transfer funding, ending with his resignation from Aston Villa will have been noticed amongst many boardrooms.

Outside England the list of potential candidates is not as large as one would have hoped. Pep Guardiola is an obvious choice but Barcelona has already given their manager 100 percent control of the club in a major show of faith.

He was unhappy at La Blaugrana's insistence that he sign a new contract last year and is head-strong enough to resign if he feels he is not being treated properly by the board so he will always remain an outside bet to succeed Ferguson.

The other candidate from Spain is Jose Mourinho.

The Real Madrid manager has already intimated that a big job in England is waiting for him in two years and it is something of an open secret that he wants the United job. He would undoubtedly be the boards choice, as Revie was in 1969, but it is not so clear whether Ferguson would endorse him or not.

Last year, while at Inter Milan, Mourinho approached Darren Ferguson, Sir Alex's son, to offer him a coaching role at the Italian club. Fergie Jr. turned it down but there are obvious links between Ferguson and Mourinho.

After that you are left looking at outside bets like Louis van GaalCarlos QuirozFabio Capello,Guus Hiddink, and Laurent Blanc.

Most are very long shots indeed but nothing surprises like football.

After he Retires: Sir Alex as Director of Football? No Thanks...

Around the same time that Sir Alex Ferguson's career as a manager was just beginning the last great dynasty at Manchester United was coming to an end when Sir Matt Busby's 24 year career with the Red Devils came to an end.

One year after United's famous triumph in the 13th European Cup Final over Benfica at Wembley, Sir Matt Busby decided to call it a day. He moved upstairs into a Director of Football type role and handed the reigns to Wilf McGuinness who had been promoted from within.

When Busby announced that he was going to retire in January 1969 the footballing world shook and speculation immediately arose as to who was going to replace him. Names like Don RevieJock SteinJimmy Adamson, and Dave Sexton were all mentioned as potential candidates.

Busby immediately ruled out Revie, feeling that the Leeds United manager was the complete opposite to everything he stood for in the game. The United manager then inquired about Sexton at Chelsea but the Pensioners boss turned him down as his young family had just settled in London and he did not want to move again so quickly.

Faced with going for a manager he did not know, Busby decided to look inwards and briefly considered Johnny CareyNoel Cantwell and Paddy Crerard but decided that their lack of coaching experience went against them so he promoted Wilf McGuinness to first team affairs.

McGuinness, a player of some repute before his career was ended at just 22-years of age, was an outstanding youth coach, was Manchester United through and through and had progressed steadily through the coaching ranks of the club. The Busby Babes had been nurtured by McGuinness before Busby ever got his hands on them and so it was that the lad from Collyhurst became first team manager.

However, while McGuinness was perfectly suited to being a coach, being a manager was something else entirely. McGuinness was a straight shooter and lacked the cunning and guile needed to be a manager. He wasn't interested in the political minefield of the dressing room as a coach and never tried to understand it. But as a manager he now had to control it.

Behind the scenes though a different story soon emerged as McGuinness soon that he was only theChief Coach with Busby attending board meetings in his place and negotiating contracts with his staff and potential signings behind his back.

Add that to Busby vetoing moves for players like Malcolm McDonaldMick Mills, and Colin Todd and all of sudden McGuinness began to feel the world at Old Trafford moving against him. All the responsibility was his, but all the power rested with the Director of Football.

McGuinness failed because he couldn't stand up to Busby, he was just too powerful and figure and still made the room tremble when he entered it. To no surprise he was sacked one year into his three-year-deal with Busby taking over as manager until the end of the season while a shocked McGuinness stayed on until June before leaving football in England.

Within days of being removed as United's manager, Bolton Wanderers approached McGuinness about taking over as Chief Coach with Nat Lofthouse as his Director of Football. Needless to say Wilf turned it down.
The following manager, Frank O'Farrell found a United team in serious disarray and tried to rebuild it in his image but found his requests turned down by the board more often that not.

The ex-Leicester boss suffered the same fate as his predecessor. Except this time there was a major blood letting at the club with a number of coaches and even George Best being told to pack their bags when all the while Busby was pulling the strings on the board.

Speaking to Eamon Dunphy who was writing A Strange Kind of Glory, O'Farrell said;
"I thought if Matt Busby and Manchester United are the good guys, what are the bad guys like?"
Just like McGuinness, O'Farrell was put off professional football after his poor relationship with Busby.
There are enough lessons to be learnt from McGuinness' and O'Farrell's succession to Busby as manager. The club should know all about the pit-falls of a legend taking over as Director of Football and his new manager to avoid the same avenue again.

Ferguson should also recognise the dangers of taking on such a role and if he is to take on such a task then some years should be put between his retirement and return to allow the new manager time to settle and run things his way.

Whoever gets the task of replacing Ferguson will be in the toughest job in football. They will not only have to be mentally strong enough to handle a club like Manchester United and everything that goes with it but they will have to deal with the fact that they are replacing the greatest manager in English football history.

In short; Ferguson’s replacement will have to be a “special one.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur: Lucky Number 69 As Spurs Come Back from the Dead

Spurs won away to Arsenal for the first time in 17 years as Harry Redknapp's flamboyant side fought back from 2-0 down at halftime to win 3-2. It was also the first time in 69 games that Tottenham won away from home against one of the top four teams.
Once again Rafael van der Vaart was the main instigator and scored from the penalty spot after Cesc Fabregas committed one of the worst errors of his career by handling the Dutchman's goal-bound free kick. Van der Vaart had earlier set up the on-form Gareth Bale to reduce the score line to 2-1, and with just five minutes to go his beautifully flighted free-kick was headed home by Younes Kaboul for the winning goal.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cristiano Ronaldo Was Denied a Career Defining Moment in Portugal's 4-0 win over Spain

Cristiano Ronaldo scored one of the greatest goals of all time in the remarkable 4-0 victory for Portugal over Spain. However, the Real Madrid wing wizard was anything but happy after the goal was disallowed…

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Liverpool Fans Should Be Careful of What They Wish For Because It May Come True

As Liverpool slumped to yet another defeat, in this, the most wretched of seasons, their fans chanted the name of the man they want to replace Roy Hodgson. None other than Kenny Dalglish. However, the very fans chanting that name should be careful of what they wish for.
There is no denying; Liverpool FC has endured a brutal start to the season. 16 points after 13 games with a goal difference of -4 is not something that is generally equated with the once great club. Anfield has enjoyed nights where league campaigns were won and lost, it has seen some of the greatest European football nights of all time and has had some of the games greatest managers pound it's touchlines as they screamed orders to sides brought up on trophies and professionalism of the highest order.
To see their side struggling so must be painful. It is hard to bear but it is the price the club must pay for 20 years of bad management at the highest level of the club.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bribery and Tackling Aren't The Biggest Diseases In Football, Foot In Mouth Is

Rarely will a week goes by where we don't get some manager, player or chief executive spouting off to the press about some vapid footballing issue or another.
This week we were treated to Ian Holloway and Alex Ferguson raging about whatever matter of contention was vexing them at that particular moment while Arsene Wenger criticizes opponents for their tackling while his own team sit on top of the red card table in the EPL!
Every time you open a newspaper or flick on the news there is usually a manager looking to impart some wisdom on the world...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

FC Luzern vs. FC Basel: Tennis Ball Protest in the Swiss Super League

The biggest match of the season in the Swiss Super League took place at the weekend amidst massive protests by irate fans.
With Luzern and Basel battling it on top of the table many felt that this particular match should have taken pride of place and be broadcast live across the country in a prime time slot.
The match was switched to 12:45 on Sunday morning as Swiss TV decided that the first round ATP Basel Tournament between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic was more important.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Owen Hargreaves Lasts Just Five Minutes as Fergie's Gamble Backfires

Owen Hargreaves cut a lonely figure as he left the field of battle at Old Trafford after just five minutes in Manchester United's 2-1 victory over Mick McCarthy's Wolves side.
The injury-plagued midfielder, making his first start in over two years, was disconsolate as he made his way down the tunnel to receive treatment. The hush of the crowd was telling with more than one United fan wondering if this was the last time they would ever see the England international wear red again.

Liverpool FC: NESV's Plan for the Future

Barely two weeks since John Henry and the New England Sports Venture took over Liverpool FC, they have begun to put their stamp on the club.
Not only has Damien Comolli been placed between the Directors at the club and Roy Hodgson, but co-owner Tom Werner has also made it known how NESV will try to exploit the club going forward.