Monday, 13 March 2017

                    Number 21                                                                           March 13 2017

Would this be the Red Rose County’s Representative XI?

If football was like cricket and it had a County Championship, then we could pick the best XI from the current list of Red Rose County players. I believe that all of the squad would be picked from Premier League clubs and as we are told that it is now an 18 aside game, here is my selected squad. Shout, laugh, applaud or gesticulate if you wish but it would be nice to hear your views, particularly if you regularly watch the Premier League live.

David De Gea,

Seamus Coleman, John Stones, Michael Keane, Marcos Rojo,

Sadio Mane, David Silva, Adam Lallana, Leroy Sane,

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Romelu Lukaku,

Substitutes Heaton, Williams, Clyne, Coutinho, Pogba, Sterling, Aguero,

Captain, Zlatan Ibrahimovic          Manager, Ronald Koeman

Colour code Burnley, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United,

Out of interest (and coincidentally) there are 4 Englishmen in the starting XI (36%), which is a similar percentage to the number starting in the Premier League each week. 

Team Representation

Starting XI
Manchester City
Manchester United

Rochdale FC; Their finest hour

Rochdale is famous for the Co-operative movement founded there in 1844 and its magnificent “Gothic Revival” Town Hall. Gracie Fields, who pre-dated Vera Lynn as Britain’s first ever female pop star and the 80s/90s pop icon Lisa Stansfield both brought fame to the town, but no-one talks about their Liberal M.P. Cyril Smith any more. And by the way…. it has a football team. The club was a founding member of the Football League 3rd Division North in 1921 but it has never played at a higher level; sharing this unwanted record with Hartlepool United. Football League status has been continuous although there have been a number of near-misses which have sent panic waves around the town. Another unwanted record is a 36 year occupation of what is now Division 2 (Tier 4), described unkindly at the time as the “Rochdale division”. But the town can be proud of one magnificent season. The Football League Cup was in its infancy in 1962. Several of the top clubs refrained from entering and there was no Wembley Final. The “Dale” side had been put together on a shoe-string. To quote the old joke, “most of them were not even household names in their own houses”. Bizarrely I had vague links with two of them. Ray Aspden the centre half lived in the next terraced street to me in Darwen at the time, in fact his sister was in the year above me at school and inside forward Ronnie Cairns married the daughter of the butcher at the bottom of our street. Rochdale finished 12th in Division 4 that year with full backs Stan Milburn, the uncle of the Charlton brothers and Doug Winton, signed from Division 1 Burnley, their best known players. Wins over Southampton and Charlton Athletic saw them paired with Blackburn Rovers in the semi-final. Norwich City v Blackpool was the other tie and the experts were predicting an all Lancashire final. The form book however meant nothing as Rochdale won 3-1 at Spotlands and then heroically hung on at Ewood, only losing 2-1. Second Division Norwich also scraped through to make it an underwhelming final but Rochdale sadly froze in the home tie. They crashed to a 3-0 defeat and the East Anglians strolled to a 1-0 victory in an anti-climactic second leg. But the cotton town had etched its name in the record books in its finest hour; the first Tier 4 club to reach a major final.

Rochdale FC; the boys of 62

Performances of the last week

Plymouth Argyll 0 Blackpool 3 (EFL Division 2)

The Tangerines totally dominated the second placed Devonians last Tuesday to climb the league and bring the play-off places into view. Goals from Mark Cullen, Brad Potts and Jordan Flores lit up the wet and windy night and a further point at Wycombe on Saturday means that Gary Bowyer’s underachievers may salvage something from this season after all.

Everton 3 West Brom 0 (Premier League)

The Toffees were a class above their Midland opponents, showing the panache previously associated with great Everton sides of the past. Romelu Lukaku, at the centre of everything, scored yet again and Ross Barclay was a close contender for Man of the Match. With a team above them certain to clinch a European place through the FA Cup and Man United already there as League Cup winners, the blues are favourites to be in the Europa League next year.

Preston North End 3 Reading 0 (EFL Championship)

This was a big win for PNE against Jaap Stam’s Reading side with promotion on their mind. Two goals from Tom Barkhuizen and a third from Daryl Hogan, both recent acquisitions, have reignited the push for promotion with a stumbling Sheffield Wednesday in their sights. Fulham however in 7th place may be less easy to overtake considering their recent form.

Fleetwood Town 2 Bolton Wanderers 4 (EFL Division 1)

Take Fleetwood with the 2nd best defensive record in the league against Bolton with the second worst scoring record amongst the top 8 and what do you get? The old adage that all good things come to an end is  the answer as the Wanderers rolled over the Town with Adam LeFondre netting a couple. The Cod Army’s 18 game unbeaten run is now in tatters and the second automatic promotion spot is up for grabs again.

Exeter City 0 Accrington Stanley 2 (EFL Division 2)

John Coleman is once again living up to his reputation as the Houdini of Division 2 as his Stanley side travelled a long, long way to claim 3 points at promotion chasing Exeter.

On the Non-League scene, wins for AFC Fylde, Salford City and Chorley have kept up their promotion hopes in the National League North. Marine’s win over the inconsistent Ashton United has given them a touch of breathing space in the Northern Premier League where Warrington Town’s 6th win in 7 offers hope of a play-off place. In Division 1, Lancaster City have relinquished their top spot following a second consecutive defeat but 4 goals for Oliver Wood as Colne thrashed Burscough 8-0 keep them on track. Finally defeats for Atherton Collieries at rivals Runcorn Town and Litherland REMYCA to Charnock Richard have caused tremors at the top of the North West Counties Premier League and Division 1 respectively.

Games to look forward to this week

Monaco v Manchester City (Champions’ League Round of 16) Wednesday March 15, 19.45

It is a fascinating fixture and many clubs would park the bus and defend a 5-3 lead. But we are talking about two sides with sparkling attacking skills and defensive frailties. Literally any score is possible in this second leg and this is not a tie on which to place a bet. Barcelona showed last week that there is no such thing as a mission impossible so unless you are a staunch City fan, just sit back French style, sip a glass of wine and prepare to be entertained.

David Silva; City will need some Spanish magic on the French Riviera

 Manchester United v FC Rostov (Europa League Round of 16) Thursday March 16) 20.05

There was no banana skin lurking on Rostov’s threadbare pitch in the first leg and United will have been happy with the 1-1 draw “back in the USSR”. It seems inconceivable that they can lose from this position against limited opposition, but Mourinho will play a strong XI because he knows that it will be easier to win this competition than finishing in the Top 4 of the Premier League; therefore guaranteeing Champions’ League status next season.   

Blackburn Rovers v, Preston North End (EFL Championship) Saturday March 18, 13.00

There will be a decent crowd on Ewood Park come Saturday for this derby game. North End will not have given up on a play-off place now that the gap is reduced to 6 points. Tony Mowbray has shown that safety is possible for the Rovers but it was a shock to drop back into the bottom 3 following a well-deserved draw at Norwich. They have only 3 home games as opposed to 5 away after this fixture, so this game is so important to both clubs.

Millwall v Bury (EFL Division 1) Saturday March 18, 15.00

It has been a thrilling season at the New Den but the 6-0 thrashing at Spurs may have dented the confidence gained from a late league run which could yet be rewarded with automatic promotion. Bury’s year has also witnessed a long run……..of defeats.  New Manager Lee Clark however has steadied the ship and anything is possible with James Vaughan leading the attack, but I suspect the Shakers will be happy with a point.

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

It is a similar format to last week except the answer is the leading goal scorer in League Games amongst the current squad at the listed club. Clues are provided.

1                    No clues necessary here for the man with 180 Premier League goals for Manchester United.

2                    This Argentinian bought from Atletico Madrid has notched 118 times for Manchester City.

3                    He rarely makes the starting XI at the moment but this Liverpool striker has 45 league goals to his credit during his time at Anfield.

4                    This old fashioned centre forward is on fire this season and has 61 goals so far whilst playing with Everton.

5                    This number 9 has scored 8 International goals and been on target 44 times in league games for Burnley.

6                    More of a mid-fielder these days, this 33 year old has scored 20 times during 4 spells of playing for Preston North End.

7                    This rugged striker has netted on 18 occasions in 14 months at Blackburn Rovers.

8                    An attacking mid-field player who was signed from Carlisle United in 2015, he has scored 16 goals during his time at Blackpool.

9                    He scored in the FA Youth Cup Final for Manchester City in 2008 and since joining Fleetwood Town, he has scored on 39 occasions.

10                Now player-coach at Bury, he recently re-joined from Crewe Alexandra and has already found the net. In total he has scored 65 goals for the Shakers.

Post Weekend Musings

There is a massive National League North game on Saturday at Mill Farm near Kirkham where league leaders AFC Fylde welcome their closest rivals Kidderminster Harriers. If the home side can take the 3 points, the champagne may well be on ice.

There was speculation earlier in the season amongst the sporting media that the FA Cup was heading for second class status. The exploits of Sutton and Lincoln restored much of the sparkle but interestingly the semi-final will comprise of 4 of our top clubs. This will be the highest ranked line up since 2009 when 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th in the shape of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton reached the last four. Hopefully the harbingers of doom will be less inclined to write off this wonderful old competition next year.

I don’t like the current obsession with statistics because more and more, they refer to the Premier League only. I have 3 objections to this worrying trend. For one, it gives the impression that there was no life in football prior to 1992, secondly it is disrespectful to the multitude of greats who plied their trade in the past and thirdly it is lazy journalism; it being far more difficult to research back into the previous millennium. Gareth Barry however is worth a mention when it comes to current stats. The erstwhile Aston Villa defender reinvented himself as an extremely effective artisan in the engine room at Manchester City and now Everton. He already holds one record and is moving inexorably towards another. With 619 Premier League appearances, he is only 13 behind Ryan Giggs’ total, a record just beyond his grasp this season. His nearest rival amongst current players is John Terry on 488. He is a clear leader however in the “yellow card league”. With 116 bookings to his name, he is out of sight of all opposition and 17 clear of the retired Kevin Davies and Lee Bowyer.

Ryan Giggs; still the all-time Premier League appearance record holder

It may be comforting for Burnley fans to know that they are not alone in amassing a mere 2 points from away games in a season. Darwen also managed just 2 away draws in 1891-92 when they were relegated to the old 2nd Division. But on a serious note, the Claret’s appalling record on their travels is threatening to draw them into a relegation battle. Breaking their duck with a win at Sunderland on Saturday would be most welcome.

Red Rose County Player of the Week

“Like a streak of lightning flashing cross the sky” is a line from the 50s hit “Champion the Wonder Horse” but it perfectly describes the arrival of Tom Barkhuizen at Deepdale. PNE took over the contract of the 23 year old from Morecambe FC in January as his parent club could not afford his wages. He had previously been released on “a free” by Blackpool and was on the bench for his first 5 games at Preston. Since starting the last 3 matches he has scored 4 goals including 2 plus an assist against Reading last Saturday. He is definitely “Player of the Week” but is he going to be the champion of the late developers?

Tier 10 Club of the Week

Holker Old Boys; founded in the shadow of Barrow FC

It was founded back in 1936 as a Junior Team for ex-pupils of Holker Street Secondary Modern School, an establishment on the same street as  Barrow FC’s ground where the ex-Football League team still plays. The Old Boys played in local leagues, graduating to senior football and eventually joined the West Lancs League in 1967. They moved to their current ground in Rakesmoor Lane in 1971 and as they became more successful, they developed the ground to North West Counties standard. The move to Tier 10 football came in 1991 and promotion followed three years later. They sustained their position in Tier 9 for 5 seasons with a highest placed finish of 11th but following relegation in 1999, they have rarely looked like repeating a promotion run. The club has gone from strength to strength off the field (the ground having a panoramic view of the Lake District) and on the field where they now send out 7 teams each weekend. Being in a geographical backwater, travel to away games is an expensive business and although they are once again in the bottom half of the table this season, the club continues to support grass roots football in South Cumbria..

Rakesmoor Lane; home of Holker Old Boys in Barrow

Quiz Answers 

1 Wayne Rooney, 2 Sergio Aguero, 3 Daniel Sturridge, 4 Romelu Lukaku, 5 Sam Vokes,

6 Paul Gallagher, 7 Danny Graham, 8 Brad Potts, 9 David Ball, 10 Ryan Lowe.

1 comment:

  1. 5 out if 10 for the quiz this week. Looking forward to Man city v Monaco tomorrow