Monday, 15 May 2017

The Red Rose Football Blog (Number 30)

                                   Number 30                                                                   May 15 2017

The rumpus of the week as David takes on Goliath

We need to raise our hats to Andy Holt, the Accrington Stanley owner who took a massive side swipe at the Premier League last week. Talk about punching above his weight; in Biblical terms this was David against Goliath. Likening League 2 clubs to “starving peasants waiting for scraps from the rich man’s table”, he accused the super-rich “Prem” of handing out just £431,000 to each of the League 2 minnows whilst donating parachute payments to relegated clubs such as Sunderland to the tune of somewhere in the region of £100million. Some would argue that the money belongs to and is earned by Premier League clubs and therefore Stanley should be grateful for whatever is given to them. The Premier League certainly took umbrage at the criticism but it came following the revelation that Paul Pogba’s agent (a certain Mino Raiola) earned over £40million from the Frenchman’s sale to Manchester United last summer. This led Mr Holt to question the direction that football is taking, reminding the football fraternity that the game needs a multi-layered base if it is to survive into the future and that the flood of cash coming into the game should not be the preserve of the already wealthy few. His outburst generally seemed to strike a chord with many around football, particularly his view that although some owners are ruining their clubs, it is the Premier League which could ruin the game. The man who has worked so hard to keep the Stanley afloat perhaps ought to have phrased his words more diplomatically and chosen a more appropriate medium than to bombard us all Trump like with tweets, but there is no doubt that his passion for the game resonated through every word. The governing body must take a long look at what they oversee, because as long as the money is there, the Ibrahimovic’s will continue to grab their £350,000 a week and £143,000 per goal.

The gulf between the clubs in terms of attendance

Average attendance for 2016-17 season
Manchester United
Premier League
Wigan Athletic
League 1
Accrington Stanley
League 2

Red Rose County Footballing Legends (Number 3)

Alan Shearer

Several of us were discussing the best post-war Blackburn Rovers’ players the other day. Everyone had Shearer at the top of their list, usually alongside Bryan Douglas. Some would argue that with a mere 4 years and 138 league games at a club, you cannot attain legendary status, but at the Rovers, the young man they bought from Southampton and sold to Newcastle United could…….and did. Born in Newcastle, Shearer chose to sign for the “Saints” as a boy and he immediately made the headlines there, scoring a hat-trick on his full debut against Arsenal at the age of 17; the youngest player ever to do so. Southampton were in Tier 1 although it was pre-Premier League and he was in the 1st team for over 3 seasons which included being capped by England where he inevitably scored on his debut v France. All the top teams tried to sign him but it was the Jack Walker/Kenny Dalglish combination that broke the English transfer record with a bid of £3.6million which lured him to Ewood Park to join a Blackburn side which had only recently been promoted to Tier 1. Once he settled in Lancashire, he was simply a sensation. He was certainly England’s finest player and he may have been the world’s best striker during this time. He initially linked up with Mike Newell, but when Chris Sutton arrived from Norwich, the SAS partnership tore Premier League defences to shreds. In 4 seasons, he scored 112 league goals in 138 appearances as the club finished 4th, 2nd, 1st and 7th, an out of this world performance from a small town club. He topped the scoring charts in 2005 and 2006, then proceeded to repeat the feat at Newcastle the following year. He is 5th in the all-time list of goal scorers in top flight English football with only Jimmy Greaves of post-war players ahead of him. Ultimately the Rovers had to sell him and his home town club paid £15million for his services, money well spent as he then scored another 148 league goals for the “Toon”. He was a throwback as a player, a traditional number 9 who led the line with pace, strength, a rocket right-foot shot and magnificent heading ability. He would have scored goals in any era but he was also a team-player, always prepared to give the ball to a better placed team mate. He is still talked about in Blackburn in reverential tones; a legend for all time.
                                    Another Alan Shearer goal celebrated in typical fashion

Performances of the last week

Manchester United scrambled into the final of the Europa League, a nerve-jangling 1-1 draw at Old Trafford against La Liga mid table side Celta Vigo adding to their 1-0 away victory the previous Thursday. United started confidently and Rashford crossed for Fellaini to head home. As the game progressed however, the Spanish side pressed hard and with 6 minutes remaining; Rocaglio neatly headed the ball past Romero in the United goal. The final minutes were chaotic as both Eric Bailly and Rocaglio were dismissed following a massive brawl and with literally a few seconds remaining, the ex- City striker John Guidetti missed an open goal which would have eliminated the Reds. Thus the Old Trafford side qualified for their 7th European final, against Ajax of Amsterdam in Stockholm. On the Sunday, a somewhat weaker United eleven played Tottenham Hotspur in the final game ever to be played at White Hart Lane. Fittingly Wayne Rooney scored the last goal, but Spurs had already notched a couple to win 2-1.

Manchester City were also far from convincing in beating Leicester City 2-1 at the Etihad. This win moved them up to 3rd in the Premier League, but the game will be best remembered for referee Robert Madley’s controversial but correct decision to disallow Mahrez’s late penalty which would have equalised the scores. The Algerian slipped in taking the shot and the ball brushed his other foot (2 touches) before it flew into the net in contravention of the rules. Silva and a de Jesus penalty were the City scorers. The outcome of the Everton v Watford game took second place to the intrigue surrounding Ross Barkley at Goodison Park. Given an ultimatum by manager Ronald Koeman to start contract negotiations or leave the club, the England mid-field player scored the only goal of the game to ensure that he continues to be the only item of discussion in the blue half of the city. Meanwhile Burnley lost yet another away game, 2-1 at Bournemouth with Sam Vokes on the scoresheet again. The performance of the weekend belonged to Liverpool. With both City and the Gunners winning, 3 points were vital against West Ham at the London Stadium. Klopp’s side were certainly up for it. Orchestrated by the magician that is Phillipe Coutinho, they stormed to a 4-0 victory, the Brazilian scoring twice and making a third for Sturridge.

It’s been a long while since Blackpool have had anything to shout about, but they certainly had on Sunday evening against Luton Town in the League 2 Play-Off semi-final. The Bedfordshire side led 2-1 at half time but the Tangerines, led from the front by the ex-Luton striker Mark Cullen dominated the second period to win 3-2 with Cullen scoring all three. It is all down to the second leg at Kenilworth Road on Thursday evening.

There was disappointment at the death for Chorley in the National League North Play-Off in front of 7,920 supporters at AFC Halifax Town. Adam Blakeman had produced an exquisite free kick to level the scores for the Magpies mid-way through the second half and the game went into extra-time. Chorley finally conceded but gave it everything in the final few minutes only to lose out 2-1, consigning themselves to another season at Tier 6.

Games to look forward to this week

With Manchester United failing to win any of their last 4 games after Jose Mourinho seemingly preferred to chase a Champions’ League place via the Europa Cup route, it is now a 3 horse race for the 2 remaining spots. Liverpool and Manchester City have resumed their rivalry, but Arsenal, who have made a typically last minute dash up the table, look to potentially deny one of our Red Rose County sides. City must be favourites, travelling to Watford for the final Premier League fixture, all games kicking off at 15.00 on Sunday. The Hornets are completely unpredictable but they will have nothing to play for whereas for the Sky Blues, there is the less than insignificant matter of £100million on the table for Champions’ League qualification. Liverpool meanwhile bring the curtain down on the 2016-17 season with what should be a routine home game against the already relegated Middlesbrough. If the Reds cannot take the 3 points against a side they have re-christened “Middlesbrough 0”, they do not deserve to play the likes of “Real”, “Barca” and “Juve” next season. Arsenal play hosts to Everton who could do their neighbours across Stanley Park a massive favour. The Toffees have run hot and cold in recent weeks, still lacking the consistency to take on the big boys but they will be no pushover for Arsene’s Arsenal. The Gunners are now dependant on other results so the odds are very much in favour of City and Liverpool joining Chelsea and Spurs in the draw in Switzerland.

Thursday sees the second-leg of the League 2 Play-Off between Luton Town and Blackpool at Kenilworth Road. The Tangerines put together a season’s best performance on Sunday to win 3-2 at Bloomfield Road and now travel south with a one goal advantage. The Hatters finished well clear of the chasers in 4th position after 46 games whereas Blackpool just scraped into the Play-Offs in 7th position. All of this is of course irrelevant on the night and hopefully the Lancashire side can make their advantage count, making it to Wembley where Carlisle United or Exeter City awaits.

Mark Cullen; Blackpool’s hat-trick hero.

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

                  Each question has a Red Rose County connection

1                     Two ex-Blackburn Rovers players share the distinction of a record 14 Premier League bookings in a season. Mark Hughes is one; guess the other who played from 2005-08?

2                     Bury have just signed Jermaine Beckford on a 2 year contract from which Red Rose club?

Jermaine Beckford; scored 72 league goals for Leeds United in 3 seasons

3                     Which club has won 9 Tier 1 (1st Division and/or Premier League) titles in their history?

4                     Liverpool raided Sunderland in 2011 for Jordan Henderson and then paid £9million to the same club for which player 2 years later?

                   Jordan Henderson; signed from Sunderland and now the Liverpool captain

5                     Which Red Rose club scored 104 goals in the 1957-58 season in the old 1st Division but conceded 100, finishing 5th behind the champions Wolverhampton Wanderers?

6                     Who in 1995 left his managerial role at Bolton Wanderers to become manager of Arsenal, Arsene Wenger’s immediate predecessor?

7                     Who was the ex-Burnley player who was the last manager to keep the club in Tier 1 prior to Sean Dyche, this being from 1973-1976?

8                     Signed from Telford in 2002, which Red Rose County manager has been associated with the same professional club as either a player or manager for the last 15 years?

9                     Wayne Rooney took over as club captain at Manchester United from which defender who left the club in 2014?

10                 Which Red Rose County club achieved their record Premier League win in 1993, beating Wimbledon 6-2 with Ian Olney netting a couple of goals?

Post Weekend Musings

Below is a quote from the City of Liverpool FC web site, a very progressive club which is making big waves in the area.

“League Championships, Cup wins, European trophies, ESFA wins, Sunday trophies; the list is endless. The Liverpool City region produces more professional footballers per head than any other British city, more child and youth soccer players, more amateur footballers and that is without mentioning the veritable army of volunteers that ensure that football is available and played in the city every day of the week”

This is so true, but why, why, why are there so few grounds. Two completely new clubs, AFC Liverpool and the above City of Liverpool FC have been formed very recently, but they have to play outside the city at Marine (in Crosby) and Bootle because of a total lack of quality facilities. There are many pitches, some up to date G3 and G4 but if any club wants to progress, it seems impossible within the City limits. It may be shortage of space, logistical or political, but surely a conurbation of this size must be able to do better than this. A love of football is inherent in their DNA and two of Europe’s finest clubs were born, raised and remain at Anfield and Goodison. Surely just 2 football grounds in the city is unacceptable.

It was all to play for in the final West Lancashire League fixture where fate had pitted reigning champions Blackpool Wren Rovers and Longridge Town, the two league leaders. It was an inevitably close run thing but Jamie McLoughlin grabbed the winner, giving Longridge their first title. The title destination in the Liverpool County Premier League was also finally confirmed, Aigburth People’s Hall winning their 4th consecutive league crown following a comprehensive 10-0 thrashing of Liverpool Nalgo.

The Litherland REMYCA v City of Liverpool North West Counties League 1 Play-Off final was expected to be too close to call, but after a first half stalemate, C of L wrapped it up within 10 minutes of the re-start with 2 goals from Jamie McDonald and a third from Matty Williams, leaving REMYCA to contemplate another season in League 1.

Pat Nevin (ex-Chelsea of course) was quoted as saying that we have only seen 50% of what Antonio Conte, the flavour of the month has to offer at Chelsea. The Italian has had a magnificent season but just how great is he and other continental coaches? It would be interesting to see what he would do at Burnley. Could he be an improvement on Sean Dyche? We will never know because it will not happen, but I have my doubts. So why are our top clubs not prepared to take a punt on Dyche, Sam Allardyce or Tony Pulis? The media love winners but surely those who battle in the trenches to keep up clubs with inferior playing staffs are also winners? David Moyes was briefly given the chance at Old Trafford but was offered just enough cash to buy Fellaini and then jettisoned after 8 months. His expensive replacements, van Gaal and Mourinho have been given war chests and it would appear far more time, but they have fared only slightly better than the Scot. Do foreign owners not fancy British coaches? It is an interesting question, but if true, it is a disgrace.

Red Rose County Player of the Week

Mark Cullen

Phillipe Coutinho was outstanding for Liverpool, but how often do you score three in a semi-final? As a result the Red Rose Player of the Week has to be the Blackpool striker who, just to rub salt in the wound, performed the feat against his old club, potentially denying them a trip down the M1 to Wembley.

A Review of the North West Counties League 1, 2016-17

The Red Rose County clubs have dominated the North West Counties League 1 this season, the only sad note being the probable relegation of Ashton Town to Tier 11. Up at the summit of the league, it was always going to be a close run thing with Whitchurch Alport making a significant challenge for much of the season. Litherland REMYCA and City of Liverpool also spent time at the top, but it was the late surge by Widnes that finally clinched the title. They won 13 straight games to sprint past all challengers and be crowned champions in only their 4th season at this level; congratulations to manager Joe Dunn and his team. The performance of runners-up Charnock Richard was even more remarkable, only just being edged out by the champions in their first season at Tier 10. City of Liverpool finally clinched promotion to Tier 9 after just 1 year as a club by defeating their local rivals Litherland REMYCA who had to settle for 4th spot in the play-off final. Prestwich Heys can also feel pleased at their 8th place after promotion from the Manchester League last season with Chadderton, experienced at this level, completing the top ten. The nomadic St Helens Town, without a permanent home all season, did well to finish 13th and Daisy Hill plodded along in 16th. Bacup Borough disappointed but were never in danger of relegation in spite of finishing 18th and the recently relegated AFC Blackpool were even more of a disappointment in 19th. Atherton LR are struggling at the moment but eventually avoided relegation at #20, but Wigan neighbours Ashton Town only won 5 games, finishing bottom of the league. They will be relegated, possibly to the Manchester League unless another club fails a late ground grading test.
                                                                    Quiz Answers

1 Robbie Savage, 2 Preston North End, 3 Everton, 4 Simon Mignolet, 5 Manchester City, 

6 Bruce Rioch, 7 Jimmy Adamson, 8 Jim Bentley, 9 Nemanja Vidic, 10 Oldham Athletic.

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