Monthly Archives: February 2013
Adam Le Fondre, Rickie Lambert, Grant Holt, Glenn Murray… What have all these hit men got in common? Well, they have all had fantastic seasons so far, all have led their clubs front lines with distinction, all have banged in the goals and most surprisingly of all, they have each represented at one time or another Rochdale AFC.
My knowledge on Rochdale could easily be wrote on the back of a postage stamp in Times New Roman font 40 but I find it remarkable at one time or another four of England’s hottest marksmen have played for the League 2 side. Rochdale is somewhere around Manchester according to Wikipedia. It is also the place where televisions school based drama Waterloo Road is set, that’s it really.
So on the face of it Rochdale is a pretty unremarkable town one that won’t feature highly on my must visit places, sorry Rochdale. What is remarkable is the players I have mentioned have had spells at Spotland.
Let’s start off with the best known of the four Grant Holt. The lardy Norwich forward, a man who earlier in the season we dismissed as overweight and out of sorts. He has really redeemed himself and despite carrying more extra timber than a lumber jack who has gone mental with an axe in the Amazon he’s had a decent season. Once again the shouts for Holt to gain an England call up have been all over the media and with England’s limited striking options, Uncle Roy getting on the blower to Grant is a real possibility. Whilst this season, due to personal issues hasn’t been as explosive as last, his 5 goals this term in a poor Norwich side where he has often been overlooked has been a commendable return.
The next former Rochdale man to have taken to the Premier League like a bored professional footballer takes to gambling and genuinely behaving like a moron is Rickie Lambert. Rickie’s a mystery to me not because his name is spelt like his Mum is a dyslexic whack job but because it’s taken til now for Premier League snobs to realise this man is a goal machine.
Rickie sprung to my consciousness in a slightly bizarre way, as a 15-year-old I was trying to have a cheeky post match pint without drawing attention to myself when I ended up getting into a chat with some Bristol Rovers fans on their last away game ‘fancy dress party’. Three men dressed as chickens proceeded to burn my ear off about Lambert, good way not to draw attention to yourself Aido.
It was after this comedy scene that I really began to take notice of Lambert and his extraordinary talent for bagging goals. His time at Bristol saw him snatch 51 goals he then carried this form to Southampton where he managed to again be amongst the goals, 100 in 185 appearances and rising. Like Holt, Lambert is now backed for an England call up and like Holt the step up to the big time of the Premier League hasn’t bothered him one bit.
Adam Le Fondre like Holt and Lambert hasn’t struggled to adapt to the Premier League. Whilst only playing a limited amount of minutes for Reading he is doing an excellent job of playing a passable tribute act to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Le Fondre has managed to chalk up 10 goals, a player of the month and be the League’s minute for minute deadliest striker. Great statistics for a player costing just £350,000. Adam like Grant and Rickie has been linked with a call up for England who could do worse than having this man coming off the bench, that’s if he doesn’t pick France of course.
The final player of the four former players to pass through Spotland at one time or another is Glenn Murray. Whilst most bang on about Manchester United’s new signing Wilfred Zaha, Glenn has arguably been Palace’s real star. Glenn Murray currently finds himself just behind Lionel Messi but ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in Europe’s goalscoring charts. I’d put serious money on Glenn being able to do the exact same thing he’s done at Palace this season at the higher level aka the Premier League.
What all four men illustrate for me is that if you can ripple the net at one level you can do it at any level – goal getting is really a transferable skill. Shame Rochdale couldn’t keep hold of them, if they did I might have a scooby about the place!
Aidan Fulham (@AidanFulham)
Generation 87 was the title given to French Internationals Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri, Hatem Ben Arfa and Jeremy Menez. The French class of 87 also won the U17’s European Championship in 2004, beating a Spanish side consisting of Barcelona’s duo Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique. All four players were included in Laurent Blanc’s Euro 2012 squad in Poland/Ukraine but failed in guiding France to their first trophy since their Euro 2000 triumph, just under 13 years ago.
This season however “Generation 87” has ultimately struggled. Nasri has become a victim of second season syndrome at Manchester City, Benzema has found consistency hard to come by at Real Madrid, Ben Arfa’s injury problems have disrupted his season and Menez has struggled to cement a first team place at PSG given their greater attacking options within their squad.
In the midst of Generation 87’s struggles a new generation of French youngsters, most notably defenders have crept under the radar.
Kurt Zouma of Saint Etienne has often been described as a man child because of his incredible physique at just the age of 18. Lucas Digne, 19, of Lille could be identified as the only real bright spark in a rather dull season for the 2010-2011 Ligue 1 Champions and Samuel Umtiti also 19 has recently come under the spotlight following his breathtaking strike at White Hart Lane for Lyon.
Yet whilst these young defenders have been performing admirably in Ligue 1 another French teenage sensation has been producing miracles at Real Madrid. Raphael Varane.
I remember hearing about a young teenager coming from RC Lens, playing well beyond his years in a bid to assert his side’s Ligue 1 status and captaining his side at the age of just 17. Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger embarked on another transfer battle to sign young Raphael Varane, with Wenger giving up hope in his attempts to sign the at the time long haired, shy defender when hearing of a third party interest.
Zinedine Zidane, Chief Scout and Director of Football at Real Madrid informed Los Blancos management of Varane’s availability and later that summer Varane was signed for a relatively cheap fee of just £7million.
His transfer to Real Madrid was a deal for the future. With Sergio Ramos, Ricardo Cavarlho, Raul Albiol and Pepe all ahead of Varane in the pecking order it did appear that the French starlet would be used sparingly in his opening season at the Santiago Bernabeau. However that didn’t faze Varane, who took his opportunity whenever it arose.
This season it has become apparent that Varane has already moved up in the pecking order, overtaking Raul Albiol, Ricardo Carvalho and possibly Pepe. But it was his first ever El Classico that earned the young Frenchman his first rave review.
Playing with the ageing legs of Carvalho, Varane showcased his qualities and in return scored his first goal of the season from a Mesut Ozil corner. He repeated the same feat in the second leg of the Copa Del Ray El Classico as Real Madrid decimated their arch rivals.
His composure and athleticism in both games were there for all to see, the defender described by Jose Mourinho as Laurent Blanc with pace finally established himself on the world stage. In Gerry Armstrong’s words “Varane could very well be one of the world’s best defenders even at the age of just 19”.
Only time will tell if Varane can reach the colossal levels vastly expected of him, then again a boy that can keep Lionel Messi at bay for two games straight at this stage of their career is surely destined for greatness.
Reece Ravalier (@ReeceRav)
Link Up TV presents The Solid Legacy documenting So Solid Crew’s legendary status in the UK music scene.
‘@WorldSnooker1: Ronnie O’Sullivan has stated his intention to play in 2013 World Champs. We are awaiting his formal entry, required by Feb 28th.’
The news that every snooker fan has been eagerly waiting for, defending world champion Rocket Ronnie O’Sullivan will be defending his crown in Sheffield this April/May. The last time the Essex cue man graced the baize was way back in September being beaten by snooker minnow Simon Bedford in a Players Tour Championship. Ronnie will now return as number one seed for the big one which is great news for the sport as a whole.
There were three possible routes it was believed Ronnie the four time world champion could have taken; returning, retiring or taking to the less pressure filled Snooker legends circuit. The great news is though he will be back.
Ronnie’s return from his snooker sabbatical is huge news, he will be the player everyone wants to beat at the Crucible. As snookers box office name and stand out star he will have the support of the vast majority of those in Sheffield who will be hoping that snookers most naturally talented player can find the impressive form of last year and be a real contender for snookers biggest prize.
Welcome back Rocket.
Aidan Fulham (@AidanFulham)
Well, we’ve made it through Deadline Day (21 February) for this NBA season’s trades and one trade that was the biggest deal of all was with Los Angeles Lakers big man Dwight Howard. It would have made very little sense to me but with growing pressure on this new-look Lakers team, and Dwight in particular, he was on the brink of doing a similar U-turn to Ramon Sessions’ last season.
Dwight Howard’s trade to the Lakers wasn’t as high-profile as LeBron James’ move to Miami but being in a bigger market brought around a similar level of critiquing that Dwight obviously wasn’t ready for. One of the most vocal critics about the Lakers’ newest acquisition was Jeff Van Gundy – possibly due to an ill end to the relationship between the All-Star centre and his former coach, Jeff’s older brother, Stan Van Gundy.
In his most recent rant, Jeff touched on the topic of Pau Gasol’s disappointment at being utilised as a rotation player and he likens this situation to Manu Ginobili being able to do it but there is a difference in age and skillset. Pau’s situation is more comparable to New York Knicks star forward Amar’e Stoudemire who has had to adjust his game to meet coach Mike Woodson’s requirements. In doing so, Amar’e has shown a versatility in his game which I was previously unaware of.
For all that has gone wrong for the Lakers thus far, in a season which begun with head coach Mike Brown being fired, Dwight has been the teams scapegoat.
Kobe Bryant recently added to it by suggesting that Dwight Howard needed to play through the pain of his shoulder, and Howard fired back by suggesting that Bryant is no doctor and need not be concerned with how he handles his injury. The last thing Lakers Nation need right now would be for their best players to be dragged in to an all-out media slugfest.
At this point in the season every game is crucial. It’s currently a case of the Lake Show completely collapsing or a stunning renaissance every game. To make it to postseason it must be the latter. If they aren’t playing in the Playoffs, the backlash of franchise’s demanding Los Angeles fans will be enormous.
With that being said, Dwight’s choice should be simple. He can re-sign with this legendary franchise and play alongside one of the greatest competitors the game of basketball has ever known in Kobe Bryant. Or, he can seek refuge somewhere a bit less demanding.
At the moment though, I agree with Dwight’s scrutiny of the Lakers’ organisation. Phil Jackson did also. Under the influence of Jim Buss, the son of late owner Dr. Jerry Buss who passed away this week, the Lakers have looked a little disorientated. I was bewildered when they decided to hire Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson but now Mike’s further complicating this season’s dysfunction by playing an offensive system that doesn’t fully utilise the strengths of two 7-foot big men like Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol the way Zen Master Phil Jackson’s Triangle would.
With the right direction (Phil Jackson) we know how good Kobe can be alongside a quality centre from his glory days with Shaquille O’Neal but it’s just not clicking for Kobe and Dwight the same way it did with Shaq.
The priority of Lakers’ fans right now is winning a championship as always but is the big, loveable goofball that is Dwight Howard (and his injured shoulder) quite up to that testing challenge?
Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)
Lil’ Wayne’s been in the headlines a lot recently from his distasteful rap lyrics to his poor skateboarding skills to his legal woes but now it’s down to his issues with the NBA, more specifically the Miami Heat. He was escorted from the Los Angeles Lakers / Miami Heat game in Miami’s American Airlines Arena and he aired it all out at his All-Star Weekend party in Houston.
In his rant he screamed “F**k LeBron, She-Wade & Chris Bosh… I’m not 2Pac, I’m the new Pac” but most importantly out of all of this was that he said he “F**ked Chris Bosh wife”. In his interview on Miami’s 99 Jamz with Felisha Monet Wayne retracts his statement of “F*ck LeBron James” but doesn’t apologise for anything else.
He also shares the origin of his grievances with the Heat and Dwyane Wade. He even goes as far as to say he pays $1.5 Million on his tickets in a season so I’m guessing he feels as though he deserve a lot more respect from the team and its players than he’s currently getting.
Even Killa Cam had to lend his two cents on this issue and stated that his man had Chris Bosh’s wife Adrienne Williams “under his wing” from way back.
Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)
I remember when Dave Chappelle used to do his segment ‘When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong’ on his show and it always had me crying. I remember numerous hilarious sketches but I can’t remember any being as funny as what happened to MMG rapper Wale at a recent game between Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards.
For anyone that knows Wale it’s well documented that he’s very sensitive and reacts to almost anything anyone says about him but it’s been a long while since we have seen this side of him show itself. Commentators at the game made some sly digs at Wale which he was unhappy about and made it his business to address, although they thought the were gonna receive some freebies “I think he’s bring you a disc”.
I’m still not sure what they meant by “he’s not Drake that’s for sure!” but it’s all too much to bare and I’m pretty sure “Wall-A” felt the same as he went to approach the commentators. The commentators even went as far as to brush him off and say “we’ll talk to him after the third quarter”. I’m not sure what’s going on with rappers egos at the moment – as we saw Lil’ Wayne catching feelings recently over the Miami Heat – but it sure isn’t making them any more respected in the public eye.
Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)
So here’s your day, your up at 5am to make a trip to London for a Saturday 12pm kick off (because sky have decided you’re the lucky victim of their fixture policy) You’ve paid 60 pound for your match ticket and about the same for a train ticket. There will be no drinking on this train as football fans simply can not be trusted to behave like human beings.
To get to the ground, you wade through seemingly millions of identical football touts (always look the same hunched backed, smoking a roll up, farmer hats ‘Buying or selling’ you know the geezers) and somehow manage to avoid buying a half and half souvenir scarf instead getting your self a ‘matchday magazine’ (programme) usually £3.50, always chocka block with advertising, with no real exclusive content. At the turnstiles you are greeted by a full body tap down like you are entering a night club ready to push more work than El Chapo. You wish you were pushing work when you get a stern telling off for trying to bring in a bottle cap for your bottle of Lilt, a telling off that completely befits the crime, hell you could have killed someone with that tiny bottle top you lunatic.
Up you go to find your seat, the match starts and you are already being told to sit down by power-hungry bullied at school steward types who think that wearing a hi-vis jacket gives them the authority of DCI Gene Hunt. The stewards have also confiscated your banner which is deemed a fire risk. You give up trying to start any form of atmosphere vocally and sit down, this is, due to being berated and threatened by the stewards and the day trippers ‘supporting the team’ for making too much noise or obstructing the view of some weapon behind you attempting to record every single throw in to upload to YouTube later. You look around you for some kindred soul, football’s about being part of something supporting your club, being with mates being boisterous letting your hair down. Instead of that there are two blokes next to you banging on about rugby for the entire game and a group of people tucking into what appears to be a picnic in front of you.
With your spirit almost wrecked from the modern football experience of the first half you look for solace in a half-time pint. If you’re at the Emirates this half time pint is very much like having a pint in an underground car park with pictures of Ian Wright to keep you company. Often the pint will set you back £4 and will be warm and flat. Want something to wash that pint down? How about a pie? £3.95 down Fulham, a steal for a soft soggy pastry filled with 1000 degree unrecognisable mush, mmmmm yummy.
Up you go for the second half the home team score you are either treated to a deafening PA droning out ‘Blur Song Two’ or some absolute prat shouting the players first name and the fans all screaming back his surname, so cringey. Waiting for a witty song about the player who scored? Unless you find Sloop John B the funniest thing since Del Boy falling through the bar in Fools and Horses you will be disappointed, every fucking song is Sloop John B. Also If the player scoring even played 25 minutes on loan at your club in 1997 you will be treated to them not celebrating, dignified.
If your lucky you may be at a game with choreographed crowd action, I love it, nothing says support like Chelsea waving little free flags or us boosting atmosphere with clappers, unorganic support is ace.
The games now finished and you leave as quickly as you entered now for the long trip home. You tune into talksport to hear some whopper who was clearly not at the game talk about something he saw on a stream, you log onto Twitter to voice your opinion and get abused by some super fan who’s been giving a running commentary of the game all afternoon long but knows just as much about said game and your season despite watching every game in his dressing gown on an Arab sports channel.
All is though good because you have the chance to witness plenty more football in a weekend. It’s not just your clubs fixtures that has been moved with scant regard for your routine this weekend. Nope you have Saturday Night Football, ‘Super Sunday’ and ‘Monday Night Football’. All of which are Sky marketing bollocks formulated to perpetuate the myth that the Premier League is all that matters and that football only began in 1992. But Sky’s great you now have so many brilliant nail-biting things to look forward to; Transfer Deadline Day, Survival Sunday, The Race For 4th and of course the ‘Richest game in Football’ the play offs.
Viva Modern Football.
Seriously though if you’re sick of modern football and feel we need to make some serious changes to stop the dilution of match day experience, the gentrification of our sport it really is time to make a stand. We are in danger of losing our national game to corporation, football isn’t a business it’s a passion and a beautiful sport, we must make sure football is sustainable and available to future generations not just on television. I feel Football has been diluted too much already, it is possible to have a passionate popular, thriving, safe product, just look at Germany.
To make a stand against Modern Football please visit
Click here to visit Stand Against Modern Football’s Website
Aidan Fulham (@AidanFulham)
Everyone has their own pre-match assumption in regards to the game dubbed as the “Perfect Match”. The Champions League match between Real Madrid and Manchester United at the Santiago Bernabeau is expected to be an absolute spectacle, showcasing some of football’s finest talents.
The friendly rivalry between Ferguson and Mourinho will be rekindled once again, before Mourinho’s impending return to the Premier League and more importantly Cristiano Ronaldo’s first game against his former club since departing in 2009. The sub-plots in this game are endless but in the end only one team can qualify for the quarter finals of Europe’s most prestigious club cup competition.
Robin Van Persie will be expected to continue his fine form this season and lead United’s attacking line with a supporting act boasting of one of the world’s best forwards in Wayne Rooney. Rooney has been in rich vein of goal scoring form of late and relishes big game matches more than most and I believe will be key to United’s chances over the two legs.
It will be a night to remember for two of United’s younger stars in Rafael and Phil Jones who will have the near impossible task of keeping Ronaldo quiet. But then again I don’t think he will be the decider for Real Madrid. As a United supporter my fears lie with the talent of Mesut Ozil.
Call me controversial but I am of the belief that Mesut Ozil is the best playmaker in world football at the moment. He is everything you want in an ideal no.8/no.10. Give him space or better yet give him an ounce of time on the ball and he will create a goal scoring opportunity. And with a prolific talent like Ronaldo to play the ball into, you can guarantee that David De Gea will be tested on his return to Madrid.
Michael Carrick’s job will not be to man mark the German International, the job is simpler in that respect, don’t give the lad any space. Ozil along with Di Maria and Benzema create bounds of space for Ronaldo to run into through their movement.
All four main attacking threats for Real play less conventionally in their respective roles. Benzema is not your ideal number 9, similar to Rooney he is a 9 and a half. Di Maria is not your ideal winger, he is everywhere both defensively and offensively and Ronaldo is not your ideal number 7 he is a false number 7, if that makes any sense. And although Ozil remains the playmaker in chief for Real Madrid, don’t be surprised to see him operating from the right in key moments of the game.
Plain and simply I am truly undecided about United’s chances. Tactically both managers know how to alternate and make key changes to their sides depending on proceedings during the game. Two teams who enjoy playing similar counter attacking styles of football may lead you to believe that the game will be end to end; personally I believe we will be more inclined to expect more of a game of chess. Jose will play his first moves and then Ferguson will proceed to do the same as the game grows on.
My plea to Fergie is to attack, Real Madrid observant of their form this season hate when teams put them on the back foot. But attack and press too much and Jose’s men will pounce. It’s a very tough call but the game will undoubtedly be decided over two legs. A close 2-1 or 1-0 is my shout in favour of Real Madrid in the first leg.
Reece Ravalier (@ReeceRav)