Monthly Archives: October 2012

Who’s Going Down? #AidansFootyShouts

So with a quarter of the 2012/13 campaign now concluded its come to the point of the year when league tables ARE relevant, so with that in mind I thought I would attempt to predict who will drop out of the ‘Best League In The World’ come May.

So as my hashtag states, here are #AidansFootyShouts

Southampton

The team I predict that come May will be propping up the Premier League is unfortunately Southampton. Southampton have been a team I have kept an eye on for the last couple of seasons and have achieved a remarkable double promotion under the guidance of Nigel Atkins (a man who had the greatest chant in football attributed to him during his time at Scunthorpe “Who needs Mourhino we’ve got our physio”). Southampton blitzed the Championship in a fashion similar to their success in League One but for me there have always been question marks regarding their defence and this season they have been painfully exposed. The reason Southampton will be relegated is simple, the defence that I deemed not good enough for the Championship has largely been left untouched, despite a spending spree in the summer the 8th heftiest in Europe, which included the signing of world star Gastón Ramírez for a club record £12million. Going forward with Ramirez, Lalana and Rickie Lambert the Saints looks a tidy outfit, their defence unfortunately is not good enough as shown already this season with an average of 3 goals conceded every game, the usage of numerous goalkeepers already and just one win in 9. Added to defensive problems there are also reports of unrest in the camp and rumours rife of an impending managerial change at Saint Mary’s.

Reading

Champions of the championship last year, destined for the drop this year!
The reason I feel Reading will be relegated is due mainly to a lack of any quality, yes they won the championship but this was mainly due to being the best championship team, this doesn’t always correlate to being any good in the Premier League. Reading are a side packed with fight spirit and many other good qualities but for me on the evidence of the first 9 games, a lack of quality will cost the Royals. Looking through their squad its hard to spot any players that would be in desperate demand should relegation occur, names like Roberts, Le Fondre and Tabb do not scream out Premier League quality nor does the Russian statue Pogrebnyak convince me that over the course of a season he will be the man to fire the Royals to safety.

Norwich

The third side I anticipate completing the drop zone will not be, as many are predicting, QPR who I believe will survive comfortably once Harry Rednapp takes over the hot seat at Loftus Road.
So why have I gone for Norwich? Well for me much like Southampton and Reading they are a team trading on a very much lower league standard of player. This tight knit squad was extremely successful under Paul Lambert,who had been gaffer at Carrow Road for three seasons seeing a rise from League One and the cultivation of a fantastic team spirit. But Paul Lambert is no longer the Canaries chief and they miss the familiar face of their gaffer leading them in the notoriously tricky second season. Despite the clever Hoolahan and the tricky Snodgrass on the wing I don’t feel Norwich have the quality to unlock teams or are a great team, particularly with Grant Holt over weight and out of sorts. With one win so far this season, the third worst goal difference and by the far the worst team I’ve seen at Craven Cottage thus far it looks like a long hard season for Houghton’s army.

Aidan Fulham (@AidanFulham)

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Friend Or Foe?

I’ve noticed that for the second consecutive year Kevin Durant has joined forces with LeBron James at his  pre-season training camp in his hometown of Akron, Ohio in preparation for the 2012-13 NBA season which tips off tomorrow. A partnership that was bred during the 2011 lock out period. The two superstars partook a testing series of workouts in which they dubbed “Hell Week”. This training regime obviously paid off as both players led their teams to the Playoff Finals where they faced off with LBJ and his Miami Heat ultimately winning the ring.

But is KD & LBJ training together a good idea?

On ESPN’s First Take, analyst Skip Bayless said Kevin Durant is being “owned” by LeBron by taking up the offer of training again but Steven A. Smith disagreed. Kevin Durant responded via his Twitter account to rubbish these claims saying he’s “brainwashing” people but I may be inclined to agree with Skip on this one. Although, KD may have a right to be upset about the often controversial anchorman’s views he is a fan of the sport which is most important.

As a fan of both of these two stars myself I’d rather not see them training together either. At the height of their careers, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird didn’t, neither did Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas. Kevin Durant would call it a friendly rivalry but I would prefer that they both stick to going hard in the paint. Skip Bayless made points that in training together it gives Lebron an insight into Durant’s game plan which he used to his advantage in the Finals. In KD’s defence Stephen A. Smith argued that Durant has never been that sort of aggressive player.

Arguably two of the best players in the league right now, I just wonder what effect “Hell Week 2” will have on the Playoff Finals this year.

Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)

David Stern Retires As NBA Commissioner



After spending nearly three decades assisting in expanding the professional basketball world into a globally renowned brand, David Stern announced that he will be retiring from the sport he turned into a $5 billion a year industry. Confident that the NBA is in good shape and certain that his successor can keep improving it, Stern announced that he will be ending his career. As far as General Managers, Directors and Commissioners go David Stern’s has to be one of the most successful and impactful careers in sports history.

Stern became the NBA General Counsel in 1978 and helped the league negotiate a salary cap and a drug-testing program with the NBA Players’ Association. The league has added seven teams since Stern became Commissioner and established an international footprint, considered a vital move for marketing the NBA. Also the NBA Development League and the WNBA were birthed under Stern’s leadership.

The real explosion came in 1992, when global NBA stars such as Michael Jordan headed the Dream Team that led the U.S. to the Olympic basketball gold medal while winning more fans around the world. The NBA has gone on to play games in 17 countries, staging 114 international games.

The NBA battled through four lockouts during Stern’s tenure, the most recent was last year, which saw the regular-season season delayed nearly two months but ended with a collective bargaining agreement covering 10 years.

Stern will take his final bow as Commissioner on 1 February 2014, 30 years to the day that he took charge of the league and he will be replaced by his Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. Silver, 50, has been with the NBA for 16 years. He has been the league’s Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer since July 2006.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter could take a few pointers as Blatter himself approaches his 15th year on the job.

Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)

Lazy Pundits

For the first time in a long time I tuned into MOTD, I watched the condensed 5-10 minute extracts of each match, for obvious reasons some extracts were shorter than others. The first game on show was Chelsea vs Norwich. This game to many seemed to be a foregone conclusion given Chelsea’s recent good run of form and more noticeably coming off of two impressive wins, one in the Champions League and the other being a well worked victory against London rivals Arsenal, both away from home. From the highlights Chelsea looked unstoppable, after conceding early courtesy of a well taken goal from Grant Holt.

The trio of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar in the attacking midfield positions looked pleasing on the eye, each player given license to roam by Di Matteo, supporting Fernando Torres who was the lone striker. Not only that but you had the more defensive minded Lampard and Mikel anchoring the midfield, with the former making his typical forward runs, again supporting Torres when need be. As said earlier they were unstoppable for most parts of the game and showed their gulf in class, they were definitely an attractive side to watch. So then to the interviews and the usual banter of observing Roberto Di Matteo’s Pete Sampras like eyebrows, sorry I could not resist. Chris Hughton in a humble manner conceded that the better side Chelsea did indeed win, the players had a word or two to say and then to Gary Linekar and the boys in the studio.

Now whilst Martin Keown spoke of defensive frailties at the back for Norwich, Shearer took it upon himself to make the most overused claim in modern day football. Although the exact words can’t be replicated, his claim in a nutshell had something to do with likening Chelsea’s style of football so far the season to Barcelona. I’m sure the same words were uttered last season towards Manchester City or Swansea City and they were definitely uttered in reference to Arsenal’s attacking displays.

The claim was lazy, fairly inaccurate and on Shearer’s part forced. The ultimate trophy to any side playing football is likening them to Barcelona. Barcelona is easily the most attractive side in the world, what separates them from the rest of the world is their fluidity, their intricate football, their high pressing, surging full backs and most importantly superstar names generated by the footballing academy of La Masia. Their style has been adopted because the majority of their players are Barcelona tutored players, each player learns their role like it’s a GCSE exam. Chelsea on the other hand has a long way to go, they have young flair players which have aided them in their enjoyable start to the season and that is it, in the simplest of terms.

But haven’t we seen this before? Going into the 2008-2009 season Chelsea helped themselves to a few new signings as they do, a more significant signing was Deco, who changed the way Chelsea played football under the guidance of Felipe Scolari. They were brushing sides away and looking in good form during Scolari’s early days as Chelsea boss. The pundit’s verdict? Simple Barcelona were not as yet identified as the pinnacle of footballing beauty in comparison to this very day, since the English media were unaware of the changes made to Barcelona’s football under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola in his new role as manager at the Catalonian Club. So they compared Chelsea’s style of play to Brazil. Again lazy, inaccurate, forced and premature and if I am not mistaken Shearer was yet again the protagonist behind these subjective claims. So what happened next for Scolari’s men? A couple of uncharacteristic home losses to Liverpool and Arsenal and the Brazilian was dismissed as Chelsea manager, whilst United and Liverpool made a battle of it for the Premier League crown that season. Maybe the MOTD pundits need to notify themselves of this in order to resist themselves from lauding another side and forcing them into that Barcelona category.

Reece Ravalier (@ReeceRav)

Prelude To El Clasico

The greatest football match in club football on the calendar year returns again. SkySports pundits may suggest that to being the Manchester United and Liverpool game. Italian experts and pundits maybe encouraged to believe that the Milan Derby is the greatest football match in club football. But without a shadow of a doubt the greatest spectacle in world football is witnessing Barcelona vs Real Madrid go neck and neck in the El Clasico. The match will see 22 of the world’s best take centre stage, with an added 14 players of quality take their place on the bench eager to participate. The showdown on Sunday will be the first League meeting between Tito Villanova and Jose Mourinho. Barcelona boast of a perfect league record going into the match and Jose Mourinho will lead his men into the match at the back of already pipping Villanova to the first honours available to both sides, the Spanish Super Cup. The match yet again provide us with the ultimate battle in terms of player rivalries, Messi vs Ronaldo, both of whom have already reached double figures for the season, despite at times being below their absolute best given their incredibly high standards.

Whoever you believe is the better footballer you can guarantee that at least one of these players will be on the scoresheet. Within the last El Classico’s in which both men have featured for their sides, which equals up to 15, only twice have neither men scored in this very fixture, indicating the importance of both players to their side’s chances. The match which takes place at the home of Barcelona, the Camp Nou would have one assume that Barcelona should come out on top, however given the tactical adjustments of Mourinho and his backroom staff in recent El Clasico’s played at the Camp Nou we could see either a draw or maybe, just maybe Real Madrid sneaking in a closely fought victory. I personally will be swaying more towards a 3-1 Barcelona victory, but either way this spectacle as always will be something of a classic.

Reece Ravalier (@ReeceRav)

Is It Gary Hooper’s Time?

After his historic strike in Celtics 3-2 win away to Spartak Moscow, the Bhoys first away win in Europe in 19 games, Hoops hot shot Gary Hooper has been the man on everyone’s lips, does Hooper deserve a England call up? That is the question many are asking.

In short for me yes…

As a keen follower of Celtic I believe the goal scoring record of Gary Hooper illustrates perfectly why Hooper is deserving of recognition at international level. Hooper is definitely one thing; a natural goal scorer. Here’s his stats, 24 goals to help Scunthorpe gain promotion to the championship. This was followed by 19 in the league, the following season in a Scunthorpe side that narrowly avoided relegation from England’s second tier, finishing third in the division top scorer list ahead of 35million pound man Andy Carroll. Its at Celtic where the former Gray’s goal getters knack for scoring has become even more impressive, helping himself to 46 in 69 in the SPL and a credible 6 in 13 in a Celtic side who often struggle in Europe.

With stats like that he should be an England regular, right? WRONG! Gary Hooper has never represented the Three Lions, at any youth level and there is speculation he may opt to represent Scotland should a call not be forthcoming.

The reason I and many feel Gary has been over looked is the fact his career has taken a less glamorous trajectory than the regular England player. Gary has worked his way through the league pyramid, before opting to sign for Celtic, despite reported offers from QPR, then Championship title contenders.

Hooper took the opportunity to represent one of the world’s biggest clubs, a choice that has led him to become a hero for hundreds of thousands of Hoops worldwide, but left him almost forgotten in his own country. This is a fate that until Roy Hodgson’s squad announcement yesterday also blighted Fraser Forster, who is the first Hoop to gain a call up since Sven gave Alan Thompson a call for a friendly against Sweden 2004. Forster is fully deserving of his call up, he is I believe behind Ben Foster and of course Joe Hart is England’s best glove-man but has been largely ignored, mainly because of his choice to play in the unglamorous much maligned SPL rather than gain experience in the championship on loan from his parent club Newcastle.

The snobbery towards the perceived lack of quality in the SPL has led to decent players being ignored and Hooper’s feats have been belittled due to the standard being seen as so poor. But lets have a look; two former SPL goal scorers have set the premier league alight in the last year Jelavic at Everton and Fletcher at Wolves / Sunderland. Jelavic many wrote off saying ‘he can do it in the SPL, he won’t be able to in the premiership’, it took Jelavic no time to hit the ground running smashing in 9 in 13 games last season after joining in the January transfer window. Steven Fletcher another from the SPL has been more than good enough to do it in the Premier League. Both Jelavic and Fletcher have records in the SPL comparable to Hooper’s and if English would arguably have been recognised by England.

A positive for Gary Hooper is, though he may be playing in an unglamorous league, national coach Roy is still watching. The evidence is Forster’s call up and Roy also seems willing to choose players from unglamorous clubs for the national side (Ryan Shawcross Stoke City). So should Gary Hooper get a long over due crack at the EPL he wouldn’t have to like in the past fear being over looked simply because he didn’t play for the top 4 like in previous regimes.

I think it’s definitely the time for Gary Hooper to get a call up to the squad, even if it’s just for Roy to have a look. England aren’t exactly blessed with strikers as for me beyond Rooney and the on fire Defoe the rest of the options Bent, Welbeck, Carroll, Lambert, Zamora are all terrifically average. Hooper should at least be given a chance to give Roy another option.

Aidan Fulham (@AidanFulham)

My Thoughts On Why I Believe Lewis Hamilton Left McLaren

Thursday morning saw a historic announcement from Lewis Hamilton, he announced the end of his 14 year relationship with McLaren, a decision that breaks up the British ‘Dream team’ to join Team Mercedes.

Lewis’s decision is one that many F1 fans have been predicting throughout a season full of contract arguments that have made Hamilton and his team’s relations become incredibly stretched. The Stevenage born driver’s decision to leave was becoming inevitable.

Many of the more cynical fans and F1 journalists have criticised Hamilton for showing a lack of loyalty and condemned his move as being purely financially driven. Whilst I agree money played a massive role in Lewis’s decision to turn down McLaren who were still willing to make Hamilton F1’s highest paid star with an annual 15million salary. It wasn’t the salary that caused the issues it was the image rights clauses in the contract.

Lewis Hamilton is one of the most marketable men in sport and has a massive earning potential from endorsements and sponsorship. This earning potential was extremely limited thanks to McLaren who only permitted one private endorsement for the star where as he will be offered greater freedom at Mercedes.

Whilst the freedom to gain private endorsement played a huge part in Lewis leaving I do not feel money drives Lewis’s passion. After all this is a man who every fortnight or so risks his life at breakneck speeds driving with one of the most risky and competitive styles F1 has ever seen. Being competitive and having fun is what drives Lewis to success.

If an interview with Mercedes supremo Niki Lauda is to be believed money was not at the forefront for Lewis it was the desire for a new challenge, which after all most can argue Lewis was becoming stale and moody at McLaren?

Hamilton made the change in my opinion to gain a new challenge, learn from new people, particularly F1’s Jose Mourinho, Ross Brawn. After 6 years on the grid he definitely deserves the chance to have a crack at something new, if he’s earning more money doing so, who cares? I respect that!

Reece Ravalier (@ReeceRav)

Evergreen Giggs

There comes a time when you realise that enough is enough and something needs to change. You take a look at your sky+ remote control and receive warnings suggesting that your battery is scheduled to die out within the next 10 minutes. This surprises you as the battery used for your sky+ remote has lasted for just over a year. To continue, the message is repeated for just less than two weeks before you realise that your battery has finally died on you, however despite the repetitive warnings for a change of battery you are left in a position where you have not planned for this moment and therefore are forced into a panic buy, long and behold your accessing SkySports News from the comfort of your own home again, without any concerns. Ok a long scenario and well exaggerated but this scenario has a direct correlation to Ryan Giggs’ involvement in Manchester United’s first team.

He is a living legend, an icon, the greatest servant the Premier League has ever seen and one of my all time favourite players. I mean winning numerous medals and doing so at such a high level is something that may never be replicated by another player in the EPL. However like everything in life, things change, referring back to my scenario with the sky+ remote, things tire. Ryan Giggs is not exempt from this; his game was renowned for his excellent ball control, dribbling and speed. However since 2007 Giggs has taken up a more central role and turned into a playmaker, furthermore Ferguson believes that given his experience, he can also apply his trade on the left hand side as an emergency option. For one I believe Giggs’ best days are way past him, which is fair to say, you cannot compare him to fine wine, a gone off milk comparison is far more accurate. Now when United are facing a team of the energy and athleticism of Tottenham Hotspur this will eventually shoot you in the foot and make Giggs look incredibly vulnerable, something that he has looked for years, which is what happened in the first half on Saturday.

Coming off impressive performances against Newcastle during the week both Anderson and Cleverley were left out of the starting line up this time around. However if you recall one of our more impressive victories last year was when their energy came to great effect against Spurs in the opening rounds of the Premier League last season. (And yes I am a United supporter) So why not use their legs to take on Spurs? Furthermore why not unleash the club talisman that is Wayne Rooney and have him rotate with Kagawa on that left hand side? After all he did make a huge difference in the second half and alongside Paul Scholes was central to most good things about United in that second half. My argument is simple leave Giggs to rest, utilise him rather as an impact sub or someone to close off the game, but do not rely on a near 40 year old to bolster your attacking strength from an isolated position for the duration of the game, or better yet against an opposition boasting of two dominant forces in Sandro and Dembele. It’s tactical suicide in my book.

Reece Ravalier (@ReeceRav)

Fulham vs Man City: The Review

In years gone by a Manchester City visit to the Cottage was a game Fulham fans could be hopeful of securing 3 points from, Saturday the same optimism was not present!  After all this was a different City, this City are no longer a sleeping giant they have definitely awoke thanks to the influx of money from their sugar daddies.

A sell out of almost 26,000 welcomed the reigning champions from Manchester to South West London. The biggest visitors of a young season, Fulham were eager to test themselves against arguably the countries best.

Fulham took the lead early through a Mladen Petric penalty won on the 10th minute albeit in slightly controversial fashion by left back John Arne Riise who was adjudged to have been fouled by Pablo Zabaleta. This was Fulham’s third penalty of the season, one from each of the opening three fixtures of the campaign, each converted by different players.

Fulham buoyed by their early goal had the momentum for the majority of the first half and should have made this period count by getting a second goal, this would have seen a different game. As it turned out City managed to grab ahold of the game and were rewarded for their pressure by Sergio Aguero who dispatched after a messy penalty box scramble to smash home at the Hammersmith end after 43 minutes.

Whilst the first half was an even enough affair the same cannot be said of the balance of play in the second period, the City that appeared were nothing short of breathtaking. Zabaleta and Silva gave Riise a torrid time, with Zabaleta constantly over lapping and Silva at his imperious best Fulham were pinned back. Apart from the occasional break especially from Duff, who is enjoying an Indian summer of his illustrious career, Fulham did not stand a chance with a City winner always likely.

The Citizens eventually got a reward for their constant pressure, when Edin Dzeko was introduced the script was set for the former Wolfsburg man who with his first real touch hit the back of the net in the 87th minute to send City’s travelling ranks into hysteria.

The match illustrated to me that City will be champion’s again, their second half performance was simply outstanding the statistics illustrate this dominance, 71% possession Barcelona-esc. 403 attacking passes to Fulhams 81 and a total of 726 attempted passes, total dominance. I also found the fact City had a plan B changing style with the introduction of Dzeko interesting as this versatility allowed City to change the game something that will stand City in good stead.

This isn’t to say Fulham’s performance was terrible, far from it. Martin Jol’s men must be satisfied to have held City so long and with a touch more luck could have snatched something from a side with the resources to bring on 100 million pounds worth of talent compared to Fulham who introduced talent which cost the club not a single penny. The gulf in resources is incredible but that’s what makes football so great that these two teams can produce such an entertaining spectacle.

Players Of Note – Men Of The Match:

Yaya Toure – a power house, looked like men against boys, he really made city tick and managed to run the midfield up against centre back, midfield cover Chris Baird and workman Steve Sidwell. Toure take a bow, incredible!

Silva & Zabaleta – excellent on the right wing carved Fulham up time and time again.

Damien Duff – in an attacking sense rolling back the years with a number of lung busting runs.

Aidan Fulham (@AidanFulham)