Friday, 28 October 2011

Goals Goals Goals....

As you may or may not know I have now started writing for football betting website 'That's A Goal' ( Here is my latest article for them, looking at tips for games in which both teams will score this weekend. Have a browse and have a flutter:

Goal Rush, Goals Galore or Goals Goals Goals. Call it what you want, but you need both teams to be hitting the back of the net. Here’s our tip for both teams to score this weekend. 

Preston vs Bournemouth

Preston were tipped for a goal last weekend which they provided. They played out a 3-3 draw with Oldham midweek and they are looking good for goals on Saturday as well. They have four wins at home, sitting just outside the playoffs with a game in hand on those above them. More importantly (and more impressively) they have scored 16 at home whilst conceding a massive 15. They’ve conceded more home goals than any team in the league, shipping 11 in their last four at Deepdale.

Bournemouth are currently sitting in top position. Top position in the relegation zone that is. Their form this season has been rather indifferent but they are better on their travels than they are at home.  They have 10 goals scored and 12 conceded away from Dean Court. As well as this both teams have scored in each of their last four matches. 10 goals away from home is definitely a good record for their league position and they’ll be looking to worsen Preston’s already awful home defensive record.

Carlisle vs Oldham

Carlisle are one place above Preston but their home form is somewhat indifferent. They’ve won three and lost three whilst scoring 10 and conceding 13. This is a decent amount scored but it is nearly an average of two goals conceded every home match. On Tuesday they played out a 3-2 win against Sheffield Wednesday and Saturday’s outing could be a similar goal fest.

Oldham are much like their opponents, indifferent form plus plenty of goals scored and conceded. They’re hovering in mid-table currently but are only four points off the playoffs, they’ll be looking for the win here at Brunton Park. 11 goals scored and 15 conceded on their travels, including a 3-3 draw away at Preston on Tuesday. These two will attack each other and we should get goals from both as a result.

Morecambe vs Gillingham

Morecambe are defensively tight away from home, the same cannot be said for their at the Globe Arena though. They are pushing for automatic promotion but this has mainly been aided by their away performances. They’ve lost more than they have won at home but haven’t been shy of hitting the back of net, they’ve scored 15 and conceded 10. Morecambe have come in for goals galore in each of their last four games and this one should be no different.

Gillingham have been hugely unpredictable this season. No team has a better home defensive record than the Gills. However compare this with the fact that only one team has conceded more than them away from home.  They’re no pushovers on their travels though, they’ve actually scored a fantastic 16 goals in eight games away from Priestfield. Gills defender Matt Lawrence has come out this week and admitted their league position is not good enough so they’ll be looking to improve on that on Saturday.

Torquay vs Hereford

Torquay’s matches are always prime candidates for goals. 18 scored and 16 conceded with wins, draws and losses. Their results are quite unpredictable but the propensity and likelihood of goals is not. In their last three matches they have scored or conceded at least four goals. They are currently lying in mid-table but after a 4-0 win against AFC Wimbledon during the week and manager Martin Ling is urging them to go on a winning run.

Hereford are languishing dangerously close to the relegation zone but they will be a buoyed by an away win at Northampton on Tuesday. They have scored an average of over one goal every away game and will fancy themselves against Torquay’s extremely shaky defensive record. Their win against the Cobblers was actually their third on the trot so they will be going into this one with confidence. That in turn will hopefully lead to a hatful of goals.

Dunfermline vs Dundee United

Dunfermline comfortably won Division One north of the border last season but they have struggled in the SPL so far. They have scored a decent seven in six games but conceded a whopping 15.  They have no wins at home yet but Dundee United are only one place and one point above them. They’ll see this as an early relegation six-pointer but also a fantastic chance to register their first home victory. They scored plenty of goals last season and they’ll be trying to recreate that form come Saturday afternoon.

Dundee United haven’t had the greatest of starts either but they have scored plenty of goals away from home. With nine scored and 14 conceded in just five games they are certainly a decent tip for both teams scoring when they are on their travels. Their last four away league games have come in on this type of bet and much like Dunfermline they will see this as an early six-pointer. Neither of these teams will want to be left behind near the relegation zone and will both be looking for the win here.

A £5 bet with William Hill returns £60.42.

Friday, 21 October 2011

A City Divided: United vs ‘Citeh’

For the last three seasons the Manchester derby has been billed as the biggest of its kind in years. This one though, actually is. We’re eight games into this season’s Premier League and both teams sit unbeaten in the top two positions. Manchester City are genuine title contenders now, there is no doubting that. This is a little too early for a title decider but this match is the first meeting of the two powerhouses that are favourite to lift the Premier League trophy next May. So yeah, it’s pretty big.

Manchester United started the season in formidable form, dispatching the likes of Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea in free scoring entertaining style. They made successful summer signings and were offering a very fluid and youthful approach.

In the last few weeks though United haven’t looked quite as unbeatable. Draws against Stoke and Liverpool sandwiched an unconvincing win against Norwich. Their Champions League results have been more concerning with the Red Devils needing two penalties against Romanian minnows Oțelul Galați just to make it one win in three games.

Defensive injuries are not an issue for United anymore but a lack of creativity has been. They were quite negative at Anfield last weekend but do not expect to see that on Sunday. United can be a starkly different force at home than they are away. 16 goals in just four home games will testify to that. The red side of Manchester will attack their rivals at Old Trafford, whoever they may indeed be.

Then there is the question of their talisman – Wayne Rooney. Somewhat of a wounded animal at the moment. ‘Wazza’ started the season with a much improved hairline and absolutely bags of goals. However due to an overgenerous father and overaggressive ‘tackle’ in Montenegro all eyes will be on Rooney for the next few weeks. It says something about his state of mind that he only made the bench against Liverpool. He did score two goals in Romania albeit penalties and much good that United produce goes through Rooney. This is a huge game and it will be interesting to see if Rooney can provide the quality and enigmatic leadership that we know he can.

What about the ‘noisy neighbours’? Well they are neighbours and they are kind of noisy but City have grown beyond this nickname given to them by SAF. They have now joined United in the Champions League and like their rivals they haven’t had the greatest of starts in Europe. They are though, unlike United, rookies at Europe's top table. 

The same cannot be said for the league though. City top the Premier League having failed to win only one of their first eight games. They haven’t exactly been grinding results out too much but they haven’t needed to. The blue side have scored at least two goals in each of their games as well showing they are dangerous all over the pitch, be it home or away.    

The behaviour of Carlos Tevez has allowed other players to shine and likes of Aguero, Dzeko and Silva have been blindingly dazzling. He allowed them to shine, get it? City have basically been unstoppable particularly when going forward. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? It is going to be fantastic to find out.

The outcome of this match will give a key indicator to how primed City are for a real title push this season. Lots of talk from both teams has gone on but talk is cheap. Seems silly claiming something related to United or City is cheap. The talk will not matter on Sunday though when we are hopefully treated to a footballing feast.

Sir Alex Ferguson stated today that he welcomes the City challenge. He has seen many teams and managers come to town and he has always seen off their challenge to United’s dominance. Dalglish, Wenger, Houllier, Mourinho, Benitez, Ancelotti etc etc. They all threatened Ferguson and United’s control of the Premier League and were successful at times but this success was temporary and not sustained. As Ferguson acts in the twilight of his career then surely Mancini and Manchester City will provide his last main threat. It should be thrilling to see who can come out on top tomorrow and in the battle for dominance in Manchester and England.

52 goals in 16 games from these two suggests that there should at least be one thing tomorrow. Goals! Too often though matches of these types are overhyped and they do not live up to their billing. So this writer for now will put the proverbial sock in it. But who are kidding, it will be fantastic. Feel free to blame me if it isn't.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Search For England’s Next Victim (Manager)

Apologies for my lack of posting recently, I have been sunning myself in a country far better at football than ours – España. Now I am back and much like Spain we are all qualified and signed up for Euro 2012. Considering we didn’t make Euro 2008 we should definitely be thankful for this, even if it came in unspectacular fashion.

We know Fabio Capello is leaving after next summer’s tournament. He’s said it and the FA have said it. I don’t think anyone is dying for him to stay either. In fact, if it wasn't going to cost the FA the earth then they may even have got rid of him before next year’s Euros.

Along with Sir Alex and perhaps one or two others, Fabio Capello came to England as one of Europe’s greatest managers. Foreign yes but no English manager could have come close to his managerial achievements. He leant a solid amount of English in a very short amount of time and promised to usher in a new period of English football. A period of discipline where players would be picked on form and not reputation. Players would have to fight for their places, everyone of them.

A stellar qualification campaign followed and all was good. Then there was the shambles that was the 2010 World Cup. Player selections, tactics on and off the pitch. It was an embarrassment and things haven’t exactly improved since then.

Too often were players picked because of their name. Frank Lampard has poorly performed for England for an age but was only recently dropped. Too often was Capello inconsistent in disciplining his players. To strip John Terry of the captaincy to give back to him a year later just sends out the completely wrong message. Too often has Capello been stubborn in team selection. Ignoring pleas of fans and pundits alike he has stuck with an ageing team often playing his better players out of position.

Also, has nobody actually noticed that Capello’s English has never really improved? He learnt a commendable amount to start with and then doesn’t really appear to have learnt anymore since. The man is being paid nearly £6 million a year to manage a team about 8 times a year. He should be completely fluent now surely? This may not seem like a huge issue but it affects his communication with his team and just smacks of a lack of commitment.

It is no surprise that the masses will not be sad to see Capello leave our shores after Euro 2012. Who though will replace him? Who is the next man to take up the seemingly mammoth task of turning our national team into something we can be proud of?

The consensus is that our next man should be English. He should understand the English way of life, the expectations on the national team. Step forward Harry Redknapp.

Harry never represented the national team as a player. His reputation as a manager though is second to no Englishman. Having built his reputation with long spells at Bournemouth and then West Ham, Harry then transformed Portsmouth from Championship dwellers into Premiership mainstays and FA Cup winners. This then lead him to current club Tottenham where he took them to the Champions League proper, something that hadn’t been managed by a team outside the traditional ‘Big Four’ for just under a decade. On top of this he has spoken in glowing terms about the England job itself, the man actually wants the job.

Redknapp likes to his teams to play attacking football and he has a good record of blooding in young, talented players. It appears he also doesn’t mind speaking his mind, something I think would be refreshing and beneficial for an England manager. The fact remains though that he hasn’t really ever challenged for the league title or faced the kind of pressure that the England job carries. Spurs’ showings in the Champions League last season suggests though that pressure is something Harry could enjoy.

Whether he could command the players respect, a point where Capello has somewhat failed, would remain to be seen. As far as home-grown managers go though, Harry is the best option.

What if the manager was not English but British? David Moyes would be an option but a Scotsman in charge of England probably isn’t going to happen. What then about Martin O’Neill? O’Neill interviewed for the post five years ago when the FA overlooked him for er...Steve McClaren. Is it possible for us to get a new FA as well?

O’Neill has done a quality job wherever he has gone and if he had of been better financially backed at Villa then perhaps they too would of reached the Champions League. He is known for his motivational skills and getting the best out of his players. I think we could all agree that a lack of motivation has too long been a problem for England’s big stars. O’Neill is no yes man either and would not be daunted by punishing players who do not obey his rules.

If O’Neill is appointed next year he will have been out of management for two years. He will be a gamble and the FA aren’t exactly the most daring of people. I think though it is a challenge that he would relish.

Something that the FA hasn't quite grasped is that managing a national team is starkly different to managing a club team. Tactics, team selection, man-management, it’s all different. So why not go for someone with international experience, someone who knows how it works.

Roy Hodgson would be the main English choice on this front. Whilst a fine manager I think the FA will look for a bigger name. His spell at Liverpool doesn’t help his cause. Guus Hiddink certainly fits this bill. Speaks good English and bags of international experience. It seems pretty apparent though that we will not see another foreigner managing the Three Lions for a while.

Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson blogged a few weeks ago putting forth another candidate, see Not an Englishman but someone who knows the English game throughout and has been very successful in the Premier League. A certain Arsene Wenger.

Wenger has always shown more of a liking for bringing in younger players than gambling in the transfer market. This is what managing the national team is all about. He also likes to play very attractive football, the likes of which we see from our Spanish friends.

The Frenchman though will not be taking up this role. He has shown he is not one who reacts well to criticism so why would he put himself in a position where criticism will be one of his only friends? Wenger will also be astutely aware that the current England crop will not have the talents and technique that is required to play his kind of football. The job would be a losing battle for Arsene and he will be all too aware of this.

Is the manager to blame? Should we not be finding a new squad? The amount of money and status that some players have at their clubs suggests that the international scene means little to them. It is just not as important. It has been argued that some players see a major tournament as a free holiday and that they care little about their country’s fortunes. But surely the likes of Spain and Germany have similar players who have massive statuses at their own clubs YET still love performing for their country. It will be up to the new manager to change this viewpoint of some of the players or actually change the players themselves.

Whoever gets the nod from the FA has an arduous task to say the least. They will need to be thick-skinned but also flexible and willing to listen to others around them. They need to motivate and turn our national team into a hard-working one, a side we can actually be proud of from time to time. It’s an extremely tough prospect there is just no denying it. At least the new man though won’t be intimidated by the triumphs (or lack of) made by their successors. Unless Fabio surprises us all next summer. I won't hold my breath though.