Monday, 30 January 2017

Red Rose Football Blog Number 15

Number 15                                                                                         January 30 2017

Marco van Basten – radical thinking or just plain ridiculous

The off-side law is certainly a massive bone of contention, probably causing most disputes at amateur level. We have all ranted and screamed at club linesmen who rarely give a correct off side decision because of bias, a lack of understanding of the law and not being up with play; a referee’s worst nightmare. At professional level at least, the assistant referees are none of the above but with the current law as it is, they make mistakes. Technology could check off-side decisions but games need to flow, not be more stop start than a rush hour traffic queue or American football. It would help if the law was simplified because as it currently stands, it is easier to explain cricket’s LBW rule to a Frenchman. But what would happen if the law was scrapped and there was no off-side? It would be a completely different game and potentially the physiology of the defenders would change. They would stay in and around the penalty area so bulk and heading ability would replace stamina and pace as the chief requirements of a centre back. Interestingly last week, one of the most talented strikers of all time suggested just that. All of us of a certain age will remember one of the greatest goals ever scored. European Championships 1988 and with the volley of all volleys, Marco van Basten ensured that Holland would be champions. The Dutchman, who became a legend in Milan and has since managed the Dutch national side, is now a Technical Director at FIFA. In an effort to improve the quality of the game, he is advocating a worldwide discussion on a series of radical changes, some of which are eminently sensible. Unfortunately, stuck somewhere in the middle of them all is the abolition of the off-side law. To be fair to him, he hopes to improve the flow, eradicate the midfield log jams which the offside law causes and encourage forward rather than sideways/ backwards passing. I think this is a ridiculous suggestion but I do see where he is coming from. The current offside law surely can be improved upon so what about a line perhaps 25 yards out with offside only applying goal side of it. More midfield space would be created and athleticism from all players would still be required; surely one of the game’s attractions. Football and its offside law needs to change but it does not require its rule book to be ripped apart with a chain saw as MvB is suggesting. A touch of evolution not revolution please.

LIVERPOOL FC: Their finest hour

From 1976 to 1985, Liverpool was the best club side in the world. They dominated the domestic league and with 4 European Cup wins out of 5 finals plus a UEFA Cup victory, they were unstoppable. Without the Heysel tragedy and the subsequent banning of English clubs from Europe, Dalglish’s double winning side would have brought back further silverware. Such was their mastery that success was taken as read, so for their finest hour, I am choosing a night which no-one saw coming. In June 2004, the club appointed Rafa Benitez as their new manager, the first Spaniard to manage in the Premier League. He arrived to find that the top players were threatening to jump ship. He could not prevent Owen going to Real Madrid but persuaded Gerrard to ignore the overtures from Chelsea, appointing him captain. He wielded the cheque book, buying Djibril Cisse, Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso. The domestic season was disappointing, a 5th place finish and a 1-0 defeat at Burnley in Round 3 of the FA Cup. Milan Baros was leading goal scorer with a paltry 9 goals but they reached the League Cup Final, losing 3-2 to Chelsea after extra time. The Champions’ League form was initially no better. They scraped through the group stage, beating Olympiacos in their final game to pip the Greeks for second place and suddenly it was a different story. Bayer Leverkusen was beaten home and away, they beat Juventus 2-1 at Anfield and clung on for a goalless draw in the second leg in Turin to meet Chelsea in the semi-final. Only 1 goal was scored in two controversial matches, Luis Garcia’s goal proving decisive. Half of Liverpool was now hell bent on booking tickets for Istanbul where the mighty AC Milan awaited. The Italian superstars totally dominated and led 3-0 with goals from Maldini and a Crespo brace. Sunderland fans would have walked out at half time and watching in my lounge in Great Harwood, it really did feel all over. But cometh the hour, cometh Steven Gerrard and for 15 minutes he played like a man possessed. He headed home Riise’s cross and immediately afterwards, Smicer scored from long range. “Stevie” was then upended in the box. Alonso took the penalty, Dida saved, the Spaniard rammed home the rebound and the scores were level. For the subsequent 30 minutes and a further half hour of extra time, Milano pressurised the Liverpool goal but the much maligned Jerzy Dudek stopped everything thrown at him before becoming the hero of the penalty shoot-out. He made 2 wonderful saves, using his “spaghetti legs” routine to distract Shevchenko as he took the final penalty of the game. Liverpool, with converted penalties from Hamann, Cisse and Smicer, had won their 5th European title and Istanbul became a sea of red in what was Liverpool’s finest hour.

                                                                 Jerzy Dudek holds the trophy.

Performances of the last week

Sheffield United 0 Fleetwood Town 2 (EFL Division1)

Each away trip is becoming a joyful pilgrimage for the Cod Army as they have once more travelled home victorious, buoyed by goals from Conor McLaughlin and Devante Cole. The Sheffield club has a long history but it was the “Johnny come latelies” who triumphed at Bramall Lane, long time home of the current league leaders. Bolton stands in the way of automatic promotion but a 12 game unbeaten run can become the foundation for success.

Crystal Palace 0 Manchester City 3 (FA Cup Round 4)

Gabriel de Jesus has arrived, exquisitely setting up Sterling’s goal. Leroy Sane scored his third in 3 so are we seeing signs of a new Pep side? Kompany was another who completed 90 minutes and we soon may see the long awaited first choice centre back pairing when John Stones returns to the fray. Palace were poor so this is not necessarily an indicator of a Sky Blue revival, but at least the success starved fans have something to shout about.
                                           Vincent Kompany; a career riddled with injuries

The pick of the non-league results

Barrow performed magnificently on Tuesday to record a 3-0 victory over leaders and 2017 giant killers supreme, Lincoln City. The Seagulls crept into the play-off places with this victory but unfortunately crept out again on Saturday when losing 3-2 at home to Forest Green Rovers, the National League’s 2nd best side. In the National League North, Salford moved into 4th position by winning 3-0 at near neighbours FC United of Manchester whilst Curzon Ashton continued their fine run by replicating Salford’s score at Darlington.

Warrington Town came from behind to draw 3-3 at 3rd placed Buxton in the Northern Premier and in Division 1 North, Trafford slipped up, only drawing 2-2 at home to Clitheroe. In the same league, Colne keep on climbing following a 3-0 win at Ramsbottom United.

Rain wiped out most of the North West Counties League programme but both Chadderton at Eccleshall and Widnes at home to AFC Blackpool knocked in 7 goals in Division 1.

Wythenshawe Amateurs beat Springhead 1-0 at the top of the Manchester Premier League.

Games to look forward to this week

Watford v Burnley (Premier League) Saturday February 4, 15.00

We have waited half a season for Rooney to break Sir Bobby’s Old Trafford record but the wait for Burnley’s first away win goes on and on. A quite unexpected goalless draw at Old Trafford is their solitary return on their travels, but giving credit where credit is due; their season so far has exceeded all expectations. Watford is a punter’s nightmare because of their unpredictability but they represent a golden opportunity for Dyche’s men to break their duck at a club where their “gaffer” has previously been captain and manager.

Milton Keynes Dons v Bolton Wanderers (EFL Division 1) Saturday February 4, 15.00

As the good people of Bolton were singing Auld Lang Syne, the Wanderers were sitting pretty at the top of the league having just beaten leaders Scunthorpe United. A month later following 3 defeats and 2 draws; they are now engaged in a promotion dog fight. MK Dons are down in 15th place and eminently beatable, but it is the sort of away fixture that they have to start winning if an immediate return to the Championship is to happen.  
                               David Wheater; ex Middlesbrough and now Bolton centre back

Accrington Stanley v Notts County (EFL Division 2) Saturday February 4, 15.00

While Stanley were bravely going down 1-0 on Saturday to a Stuart Downing individual goal at Middlesbrough, both Notts County and Newport County were winning, causing the bottom 5 in League 2 to concertina together. Stanley is neither a poor side nor a desperate side, but they are in 20th place with 26 points whereas Leyton Orient in 23rd position has just 1 point less. John Coleman has been here before and is sufficiently experienced to find an escape route but these are worrying times for the Stanley faithful.

Lancaster City v Farsley Celtic (Northern Premier League 1 North) Saturday Feb 4, 15.00

It is arguably the Red Rose County’s match of the day. Lancaster top the table and Farsley are 5 points behind, but the Yorkshiremen have 2 games in hand. Whoever can win on Saturday will certainly feel the benefit at the end of the season. Can Phil Brown’s city slickers grab the points and move into their comfort zone?

Quiz of the Week (Answers at the foot of the Blog)

All of the answers have Red Rose County connections

1                    Who was the official club captain of Liverpool FC from 2002 – 2005, preceding Steven Gerrard in that role?

2                    Who is the only current Premier League manager other than Mark Hughes to have scored a goal in the semi-final of the FA Cup?

                                                An extremely young Mark Hughes

3                    Which Everton player has made 615 appearances in the Premier League, second only to Ryan Giggs?

4                    Which current Manchester United player made his England debut in 2001 as a substitute for David Beckham, two years prior to Rooney’s 1st cap?

5                    Which Manchester City goalkeeper holds the record for most club appearances?

6                    Andy Cole and which other striker scored the Blackburn Rovers goals in their 2-1 triumph over Tottenham Hotspur in the 2002 League Cup Final?

7                    In 2007, which Preston North End player became the first to win an England cap since Sir Tom Finney, scoring a goal v Andorra?

                               Tom Finney; the famous “splash” picture at Stamford Bridge

8                    Who did Blackpool sign from Wycombe Wanderers in 2010 for £350,000 and sold to Queen’s Park Rangers for £5million in 2013?

9                    Which Red Rose County club striker scored England’s only goal in their 2014 Brazil World Cup opening game v Italy?

10                Who is the only English international to have scored in 3 separate World Cup Tournaments?

Post Weekend Musings

Shane Long’s last minute winner at Anfield in the League Cup semi-final robbed us of a second consecutive Red Rose County final in this competition. It has also presented Manchester United with a golden opportunity to pull level with Liverpool as the most successful English club of all time. If they can master Southampton at Wembley, it will be 41-41 in terms of European and domestic successes. Arsenal is way back in 3rd place with 29 titles.

Sadly, Atherton Collieries exited the FA Vase to Cleethorpes Town on Saturday. The Wigan side had led 2-0 with goals from Mark Battersby and Gareth Peet but succumbed in the final minute of the tie. This ends all North West interest in the competition for this season.

Ever since he arrived in England in 2004, I have found it difficult to like Jose Mourinho. I respect his successes and he has to be on anyone’s top ten list of all-time great managers. His “work in progress” at Old Trafford is almost complete, but why does he have to behave so poorly in front of the press. To call his performance after the Hull City game childlike is an insult to all Primary school pupils. I could accept his rationale for suggesting a change in the score if he would do the same when United are beneficiaries of a poor refereeing decision but that will never happen. He may be a nice guy in private but in public, his attitude stinks.

It is the last throw of the dice on Saturday for the Red Rose County with regard to non-league national competitions. Barrow entertains Kidderminster Harriers in the last 16 of the FA Trophy. The Worcestershire club, with allegedly the best pies in the country, has been in the Football League recently. Last season they dropped into the National League North, although they are currently holding the runner’s up spot. Barrow will be favourites……just.

Four Red Rose County clubs in the last 16 of the FA Cup is par for the course and it ought to be 3 in the quarter finals of what is a bonanza of a draw for Premier League clubs. City will have to be careful at a much improved Huddersfield Town but will be favourites. Burnley at Turf Moor can beat anyone so Lincoln’s magical mystery tour will reach the terminus. The only all North West tie is in Blackburn but the struggling Rovers have little chance against Manchester United, the Premier League’s second most consistent side at the moment.
           Elliott Bennett scoring a screamer against Blackpool at Ewood Park in the last round

The transfer window closes this week, late on Tuesday evening and there may of course be an explosion of transfers as the clock ticks down. So far there have only been 3 transactions of note in the Premier League regarding Red Rose County clubs. Manchester United has sold Morgan Schneiderlin to Everton for over £20million and Memphis Depay to Lyon for £16million. Both have been flops at Old Trafford with Mourinho playing neither of them for much of the season. Everton has also paid Charlton Athletic £11million for the promising youngster Ademola Lookman. The majority of transfers below Tier 1 have been either loans or for undisclosed (usually low) fees but it will all happen on Tuesday.

News coming out of Morecambe FC at the end of last week has indicated that a new Board of Directors will be in place next week and that wages will be paid. We have heard it all before of course and the new Italian-American owner is still to pass the league’s “fit and proper person’s” test.  This club desperately needs a good and decent person at the helm.

Tier 10 Club of the Week

Chadderton FC; breeding ground for Pop Stars?

Chadderton is a small town between Rochdale, Oldham and Manchester. It is now in the Borough of Oldham and was once renowned for its red brick cotton mills. The football club was founded in 1946 and it followed a familiar route from local league to Manchester Premier League, Lancashire Combination and North West Counties League. The club play at The Broadway Stadium in the town and have a healthy average attendance of 121 this season. They have played in Tier 9 for a total of 5 seasons but since relegation in 1998 for failing the ground criteria, they have completed 19 years in Division 1 with a 4th place high  finish in 2010. They reached Round 4 of the FA Vase in 2015 and Mark Howard’s side are currently mid table this season. Famous ex-players? Allegedly Mark Smith of “Take That”.
                         Snow stopped play at The Broadway Stadium, home of Chadderton FC

Quiz Answers

1        Sami Hyypia, 2 Sean Dyche, 3 Gareth Barry, 4 Michael Carrick,, 5 Joe Corrigan, 

6    Matt Jansen, 7 David Nugent, 8 Matt Phillips, 9 Daniel Sturridge, 10 David Beckham,

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