Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Red Rose Football Blog (Number 11)

Number 11                                                                                         January 3rd 2017

The magic of the FA Cup

It is FA Cup weekend, the round of the last 64. At one time they called it the “1st Round proper” because no sides were exempt. The Red Rose County has a fine tradition in what is the oldest football competition in the world, emerging as winners on 47 occasions. This is the 137th staging of an event which started in 1871-72 and Arsenal and Manchester United share top billing with 12 wins apiece. Other winners from this area are Liverpool 8, Blackburn Rovers 6, Everton and Manchester City 5, Bolton Wanderers 4, Preston North End and Bury 2, Burnley, Blackpool and Wigan Athletic 1. There is a strong representation this weekend also, 14 clubs being in the draw. Manchester United who defeated Crystal Palace in extra time last year will be attempting their first double and at the other end of the scale is Barrow from Tier 5. The Bluebirds have reached this stage on 12 occasions but have yet to win a 3rd Round game.

The ties concerning our clubs are West Ham v Manchester City, Manchester United v Reading (h), Accrington Stanley v Luton Town (h), Barrow v Rochdale, Blackpool v Barnsley, Bolton Wanderers v Crystal Palace, Bristol City v Fleetwood Town, Everton v Leicester City, Queen’s Park Rangers v Blackburn Rovers, Sunderland v Burnley, Wigan Athletic v Nottingham Forest, Preston North End v Arsenal, Liverpool v Plymouth Argyle

Do we need to change the rules of football?

I have always believed that Football is much superior game to Rugby Union, but I have to confess that we can learn a great deal from the disciplinary codes of both the 13 and 15 a side games. Over the last couple of years, I have had this feeling that the result of too many matches has been decided by the referee and his team. They are not; repeat not corrupt or biased and I know from personal experience (if only at schools’ level) that it is a most difficult job, no matter how honest one tries to be. But we used to say that the best referees were the ones we never noticed. Not any longer; they have become centre stage. The rule book ought to be friendlier to the man in the middle and this is where football needs to copy the rugby protocol. Without ado, the legislators need to ensure that the referee can only be spoken to by the captains and that there is an exclusion zone around him. Secondly, the introduction of technology at the start of next season for all professional games is a must. These are quick fixes which need no further discussion. They also need to look more carefully at dismissals. The eleven v ten scenario is one of football’s major problems. A 15/20 minute spell in the sin bin will add another layer of excitement, the crowd counting down to when the player can return. It will mitigate to some extent against Mike Dean’s sending offs which ruin the contests that spectators have paid to see. And what about rugby’s penalty try? For shots being handled on the line or deliberate fouls when it is massively odds on that an opponent will score, just give the goal with no dismissal required. Finally, the rule makers have to “get tough” with persistent offenders. The Five bookings prior to a one game suspension is too lenient. It is two in the World Cup finals so why not three at the most in the league. Add to that an obligatory fine of one week’s wages for a one match ban, written into all contracts worldwide and we would see the end of the deliberate trips and obstructions (the “taking one for the team”) which blight the game. I know it is asking far too much of the National and International bodies whose inactions make the fiddling Emperor Nero seem decisive, but we would have a much cleaner and fairer game; one played almost all of the time by eleven players on each side. Will it happen? No chance!  

Mike Dean; 5 red cards already this season

Top performances from the New Year games

Liverpool 1 Manchester City 0 (Premier League)

We were promised champagne and canapés but they served beer and a packet of crisps; not that the red half of Liverpool was complaining. It was dull, lacking in action but Georginio Wijnaldum became the toast of the city when he headed home an Adam Lallana cross and even with the draw at Sunderland, second spot is momentarily secure. Pep Guardiola could soon be watering down his New Year wish list, but will simply having Manchester’s bragging rights (no longer a given) satiate the appetites of the owners from Dubai?  

Blackburn Rovers 1 Newcastle United 0 (EFL Championship)

Charlie Mulgrew, possibly the Rovers’ best signing of the Venky’s reign, scored the winner against Newcastle for the second time in 6 weeks as the Rovers completed a most unexpected double. And they silenced the 7000 visiting supporters in the process.

Bolton Wanderers 2 Scunthorpe United 1 (EFL League 1)

Beating and changing places with the league leaders is not a bad way to bring in the New Year and this is what the Wanderers achieved on the last day of December. Scunthorpe has been the surprise package in Division 1 this season and over 17,000 supporters witnessed a stuttering performance from the home side, but an injury-time winner from substitute James Henry adding to Josh Vela’s first half volley was sufficient to clinch a fortunate victory.  

Josh Vela, Bolton Wanderers’ goal scorer

Runcorn Town 1 Squires Gate 1 (North West Counties Premier League)

Twice in a fortnight, Squires Gate have travelled to a quality side and upset the apple cart. Table toppers Runcorn Town must have expected 3 points from the visit of their 15th placed opponents, but a last minute equaliser from Brett Dawson gave the Blackpool side a point, opening the gate for Bootle and Atherton to catch the league leaders from Cheshire.

Trafford 2 Radcliffe Borough 1 (Northern Premier league Division 1)

Trafford came from a goal behind and made themselves a touch more comfortable in the play-off spots in this Greater Manchester derby with goals from Ashley Woods and an o.g.

Games to look forward to next weekend

West Ham United v Manchester City (FA Cup 3rd Round) January 6, 19.45

One of only 3 all Premier League ties, this is yet another banana skin for the Sky Blues. If Andy Carroll is fit for the Hammers, there could be carnage a plenty on set pieces around Claudio Rayna’s goal. Whichever combination of defenders is selected, they will not be able to combat an aerial bombardment. West Ham have improved recently so could there be a Friday night upset brewing in the new East End? But please Mr Referee, no sending-offs.

Bolton Wanderers v Crystal Palace (FA Cup 3rd Round) January 7, 15.00

Sam Allardyce took no prisoners as a rugged centre half for the Wanderers in the seventies, he steered them to several top ten Premier League finishes as manager 20 years on and now brings his latest club to Bolton. It will be one of the stories of the round and Sam returning south, tail between his legs is not an implausible scenario. Bolton are flying in Division 1, Allardyce will no doubt save Palace from relegation, but this tie may have come just too soon for his new club who of course almost won last year’s final at Wembley.

Preston North End v Arsenal (FA Cup 3rd Round) January 7, 17.30

“When I was younger so much younger than today” (apologies to Lennon and McCartney), this would have been the day’s top match. With Finney at his peak, PNE would probably have mastered the aristocrats of English football but have been absent from the Top Tier of English football since relegation in 1961. The “Gooners” have continued their “blue blooded” lineage and will be favourites. Wenger however sometimes experiments with his cup line-ups and there is something tiger like in this Simon Grayson side, so who knows?

Glossop North End v Lancaster City (Northern Premier League 1 North) January 7, 15.00

This ultra-competitive league continues to throw up fascinating fixtures and City visit the lower slopes of the Peak District to protect their first place against the third in the Division. Glossop has lost just once at home this season with Lancaster losing only three times on their travels. Manager Paul Brown has orchestrated the “Dolly Blue’s” first serious attempt to return to their former glories so weather permitting, this will be an encounter to savour.

Shildon v Atherton Collieries (FA Vase 4th Round) January 7, 15.00

Wembley is on the horizon, but still 4 more dragons to be slain. The “Collieries” could not have picked tougher opposition than the reigning Northern League champions. This league has dominated the competition in recent years, unbelievably carrying away the trophy on 7 of the previous 8 occasions. The last North West Counties winner was Kirkham & Wesham (now AFC Fylde) in 2008, but the league has had a dreadful 2016-17 with Atherton the only club to reach this stage of the competition. Can it at least carry the flag for one more round?

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

Each question has a Red Rose County connection

1             Andy Cole won European, Premier League and FA Cup winning medals whilst at Old Trafford but with whom did he win a Football League Cup winners medal?

Andy Cole; one of English football’s most prolific scorer at the Millennium’s end

2             In the summer of 2014, Liverpool bought two internationals from Southampton, Adam Lallana and which other player?

Adam Lallana; bought by Brendan Rogers after the Rio World Cup

3             Which current Burnley player was born, raised and started his professional career in Scotland but represents Canada at full international level?

4             Which Red Rose County club was managed by ex-Scotland boss Craig Brown, Alan Irvine and Darren Ferguson (son of Alex) between 2002 and 2010?

5             Steven Davies with 10 league and cup goals is the leading scorer this season for which Red Rose County League 1 club?

6             From 1980-1989 inclusive, one or both of the two Merseyside giants appeared in an FA or Football League Cup Final at Wembley every year, except which one?

7             The tough Red Rose County centre back Peter Clarke has won 8 Player of the Year awards at clubs such as Blackpool, Bury and Huddersfield. Where is he now?

8             Who is the only current Manchester United player who has previously been managed by Jose Mourinho at another club?

9             Which Lancashire club won the North West Counties Premier League last season to gain promotion to the Northern Premier League North Division?

10         Which current Everton player was a FA Cup winner with Manchester City in 2011?

Post Weekend Musings

Could a manager have signed two Shearers? Now that would have been really something, but Kenny Dalglish did….in 1992. There was immense pressure on the Scot to achieve promotion in his first season at Ewood Park. He had Jack Walker’s money to splash around so he bought Swindon Town’s goal-hungry Scottish striker Duncan Shearer in early 92 for £800,000. He had scored plenty of goals wherever he played but was only given 6 games (scoring once) at Ewood Park before being sold to Aberdeen for £500,000. Dalglish then used that money plus another £3 million to buy his namesake from Southampton in the summer; the rest as they say is history. Sadly the two never played together at Blackburn  

There is no Best Ever XI this week; it returns in Number 12. There were comments about Dave Price’s Bolton side, agreeing about the club’s difficulties in retaining star players since the Lofthouse era. Kevin Davies, John McGinley, Kevin Nolan, Gary Cahill, Nicholas Anelka and Alan Stubbs were all given a mention but no-one was really pushing any to the exclusion of a Dave selection. I wondered about Francis Lee and Freddie Hill from the 60s.

Twenty three points by year’s end; Burnley fans would have taken that in August. They have won their winnable home games, taking 22 out of the 23 at Turf Moor. There are questions about the club’s away form but this is a small town, low budget club so along with Eddie Howe, should Sean Dyche not be worth a mention in the race to be Manager of the Year?

Andre Gray; hat-trick hero v Sunderland at the weekend

“Win at home, draw away” has long been a mantra associated with successful clubs and managers. Even if you are at the wrong end of the table, away draws can be a vital ingredient in any safety package. So well done to those Red Rose strugglers who gained a point on their travels on Saturday, all against sides with promotion on their mind. I am referring to Blackburn at Huddersfield, Wigan at Derby County and Bury at Bradford City.

Devante Cole, a striker like his father Andy, scored Fleetwood’s winner at Shrewsbury; the Cod Army stretching its unbeaten run to 8 league games and seriously threatening the play-off spots. Glasses need to be lifted to toast Uwe Rosler’s over-performing side, a rationale based on their attendances which are the lowest in the league.

Notable non-league results.

National League: - Southport, bobbing in and out of the relegation zone like a cork at sea, defeated Wrexham 3-2 with goals from Nolan (2) and Brewster to bob back out again.
National League 1 North: - AFC Fylde gained revenge for a Boxing Day home defeat by Chorley with a 3-1 win at Victory Park; normal service resuming at the top of the table.
North West Counties Premier League: - AFC Darwen, fighting tooth and nail to avoid the bottom three, edged closer to safety when coming from behind to draw 2-2 at Maine Road.
North West Counties Division 1:- City of Liverpool smashed Stockport Town 10-0 away to stay right behind the leaders.

Tier 11 Club of the Week

Aigburth People’s Hall; top dogs in Merseyside

The undoubted top team in the Liverpool County Premier League over the last 4 years has been Aigburth People’s Hall. They have been members of the league since its inception in 2006, having previously played in the Liverpool County Combination. The club has won the title on 5 occasions, including the last 3 seasons. They play at the Liverpool Soccer Centre and are currently topping the league; two points clear of Lower Breck but with two games in hand. Lower Breck is the only team to have beaten them in this campaign. In fact over the last three and a half seasons, they have lost on just 10 occasions; a most impressive record.


Aigburth People’s Hall; double winners 2015-16

Quiz Answers

1 Blackburn Rovers, 2 Dejan Lovren, 3 Scott Arfield, 4 Preston North End, 5 Rochdale,                        6 1980, 7 Oldham Athletic, 8 Juan Mata, 9 Colne, 10 Gareth Barry,

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