Monday, 31 July 2017

Red Rose Football Blog (Number 40)

                             Number 40                                                              July 28th 2017

Great Red Rose Full Backs

Way before becoming a star of television, Michael Parkinson was an extremely talented journalist and I remember in the late 60s and early 70s, waiting with anticipation for the Sunday Times each week to read his latest offering in the sports pages. He tended to parody football and cricket and no-one was left in any doubt about his south Yorkshire roots. One of his articles looked at the physiological differences between those who plied their trade as a forward and those whose role was to defend. He claimed that whereas centre forwards were the strong and handsome pin-up boys, the inside forwards had longer hair and gave off an intellectual air. The full backs were a different breed altogether; thick necked, short back and side haircuts and a capacity to kick the ball or the opposing winger as far as possible. My early recollection of such players was at Burnden Park, one time home of Bolton Wanderers. We occasionally travelled over the moors from the Blackburn area to watch in awe and astonishment as Roy Hartle and Tommy Banks literally put the fear of God into their opponents. They were hard men who played hard. “When you’ve finished with him Tom, kick him over to me”, Hartle is alleged to have shouted across the pitch. This last week, Manchester City have paid £45 million for Kyle Walker, a barn-storming attacking full back from Tottenham Hotspur who is already established as the number one first choice for England. He probably spends more time in the opposition half, somewhat different from the Bolton duo for whom it was a dereliction of duty to stray over the half way line. Things have changed over the years in the game and the way it is played, but what is certain is that the Red Rose county has produced a number of excellent full backs and hopefully Walker will be yet another. Using the criteria of 150 games and 10 caps whilst playing for their club, here are the best of the breed from the north-west since the 2nd World War.

Blackburn Rovers: Bill Eckersley (England 17 caps), Keith Newton (England 27 caps), Henning Berg (Norway 100 caps), Lucas Neill (Australia 96 caps).

Blackpool: Jimmy Armfield (43 caps).

Burnley: Alex Elder (Northern Ireland 40 caps)

Everton: Ray Wilson (England 63 caps), Tommy Wright (12 caps), Gary Stevens (England 43 caps), Leighton Baines (England 30 caps), Seamus Coleman (Republic of Ireland 43 caps).

            World Cup winner Ray Wilson of Everton;  technically perfect when in an England shirt

Liverpool: Phil Neal (England 50 caps), Steve Nicol (Scotland 27 caps), Stig Inge Bjornebye (Norway 76 caps), Jamie Carragher (England 38 caps), John Arne Riise (Norway 110 caps), Steve Finnan (Republic of Ireland 53 caps), Glen Johnson (England 54 caps).

Manchester City: Willie Donachie (Scotland 35 caps), Danny Tiatto (Australia 23 caps), Sun Jihai (China 80 caps), Micah Richards (England 13 caps), Pablo Zabaleta (Argentina 58 caps), Aleksander Kolarov (Serbia 68 caps), Gael Clichy (France 10 caps).

Manchester United: Johnny Carey (Republic of Ireland 38 caps), Johnny Aston (England 17 caps), Roger Byrne (England 33 caps), Shay Brennan (Republic of Ireland 19 caps), Tony Dunne (Republic of Ireland 33 caps), Arthur Albiston (Scotland 14 caps), Jimmy Nicholl (Northern Ireland 73 caps), Mike Duxbury (England 10 caps), Denis Irwin (Republic of Ireland 56 caps), Gary Neville (England 85 caps), Phil Neville (England 59 caps), Mikael Sylvestre (France 40 caps), Patrice Evra (France 81 caps), Antonio Valencia (Ecuador 89 caps),

Patrice Evra; one of a number of outstanding Manchester United left backs

Preston North End: Graham Alexander (Scotland 40 caps),

Wigan Athletic: Emmerson Boyce (Barbados 12 caps),

Fleetwood Town: Conor McLaughlan (Northern Ireland 25 caps)

The big kick-off gets closer and closer

As the clock ticks inexorably on and we have our usual moan about yet another miserable English summer, the attention of our Red Rose County football teams is on one date; the start of the forthcoming season. Arnold Palmer, the legendary American golfer, once said that if you don’t birdie the first hole, you cannot birdie them all. The same sentiment applies to our national game which is why an opening day victory is so important. For our Football League clubs (all 3 Divisions with the exception of Bolton Wanderers who kick off at home to Leeds United the following day), Saturday August 5th is the date that the managers will have circled on their calendars since the previous season ended. The same date sees the commencement of the National League and National League 1 North plus the FA Cup. The Extra Preliminary Round gives all of our North West Counties Premier League sides as well as Nelson and Litherland REMYCA from League 1 a chance to  dream, if only fleetingly, of Cup glory. It is the first competitive match of the season for our Tier 9 sides; that always strikes me as being a tad harsh. The remainder of Division 1 kicks-off in earnest on Saturday August 12th, as do all of the Northern Premier League games, both Premier and Division 1 North. The results and reports of these games however will be buried somewhere in tiny corners of the national newspapers because the big event of that weekend is the start of the Premier League season. There is an Arsenal game on the Friday evening then Liverpool open proceedings in the lunch time game at Watford on the Saturday, Burnley at Chelsea and Everton at home to Stoke City are the three o’clockers and Manchester City travel to Brighton for the tea-time fixture. Manchester United have the prime 4.00 TV spot on the Sunday when they entertain West Ham United. Typical TV dominated planning and there is no doubt that Sky and BT know which clubs draw the largest small screen revenues; fascinatingly Chelsea are not on the bill. The Tier 11 games kick off on different dates. The West Lancashire League is first into the fray with a full fixture list on August 5th.  The Cheshire League follows with midweek fixtures on August 8th and 9th. The Manchester Football League makes its seasonal debut on August 12th, a date favoured by the West Cheshire League apart from a couple of fixtures which kick-off the previous evening. The Liverpool County League has yet to make its fixtures known to the general public. Of course avid fans will have known their important first fixture for several weeks; Southend United at Roots Hall on August 5th for the Rovers.


                     Danny Graham; 5 goals in 6 pre-season friendlies, watch out Southend United

                             Red Rose County Footballing Legends (Number 13)

Steven Gerrard Liverpool FC

Steven Gerrard was on his way to legendary status from the half way point in his career. Born in Huyton on Merseyside, he was a Red from birth. He came through their academy, being almost tiny in his mid-teens but his skills brightened up any football pitch. I watched him on several occasions between 13 and 15, a youngster with everything except the required physique. I next saw him 3 years later and was shocked by his growth and muscular definition. By the age of 20 he was a permanent fixture in the Anfield mid-field and he made his England debut the same year. Sadly he never won a Premier League medal. He could have signed for Chelsea where he would have collected at least 3 but his loyalty to Liverpool FC was paramount. Nevertheless he twice won FA Cup medals, collected 3 Football League Cup winners’ medals and a UEFA cup medal in 2001; this being part of the trio won in the same season as Liverpool achieved the mini treble. The piece de resistance however came in 2005 when he contributed to the club’s most unlikely Champions League success in Istanbul against AC Milan. This victory on penalties after extra-time following a 3-3 draw was Gerrard inspired and he quite rightfully was voted UEFA Footballer of the Year. He made 504 league appearances in total, scoring 120 goals, an excellent return for the modern phenomenon; the box-to-box midfield player. He possessed the energy of a Grand National winner, he was certainly quick enough, sufficiently combative defensively to stick a foot in to win the ball and his long and short passing was always crisply accurate. His dynamite-laced boots enabled him to score regularly from distance, his dead ball delivery reliable and he regularly picked up the pieces in the opposition’s box, often arriving late to knock a goal. This was a player who ticked every box. Internationally there was a certain disappointment. He was capped 114 times (4th place on the all-time list behind Shilton, Rooney and Beckham), scoring 21 times. He was captain for 5 years, but even though he was part of the “Golden Generation”, he never came close to winning a medal at any of the 6 Championships in which he was involved. He was at the centre of the long ongoing media debate about playing alongside Lampard in midfield and there have been a few more technically gifted and creative players on the world stage, but this one club man was adored at Anfield, respected at Goodison and even begrudgingly so at Old Trafford. Many have aspired to that, but rarely has it been achieved; proof indeed of Steven Gerrard’s legendary status.

                                       Steven Gerrard; Istanbul 2005, surely his finest hour

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

                       Each question has a Red Rose County club connection

1                    Which former Burnley player captained Manchester United in the 1974-75 season?

2                    The Turkish international Tugay Kerimoglu was one of the best midfield players ever to play for Blackburn Rovers but from whom did they buy him in 2001?

3                    Craig Madden scored 153 goals between 1977 and 1986 to become the record goal scorer at which Red Rose county club?

                             Craig Madden in more recent times as coach at Fleetwood Town

4                    Who (not Ryan Giggs) played for Manchester United in the 2011 Champions’ League Final v Barcelona at the age of 40 years and 211 days?

5                    Ian Woan, Assistant Manager at Burnley made 218 appearances from 1990 to 2000 (many in the Premier League) and played in an FA Cup Final for which club?

6                    Manchester City have just paid £35 million for Ederson, a goalkeeper from which European club?

7                    Which Red Rose club reached the 4th Round of the FA Cup last season, losing 1-0 at Middlesbrough, their best ever FA Cup performance?

8                    Who captained Liverpool to their first European Cup Final victory in 1977?

9                    Which Everton player made the first of his 22 England appearances v Moldova in a World Cup qualifier in 2013?

10                Graham Alexander who made 354 appearances for Preston North End from 1999-2007 is now manager of which League 1 club?

                            Graham Alexander; the penalty king for PNE, Burnley and Scotland

Post Weekend Musings

It is always hard to believe that a big English club can be playing a serious European competitive game on July 27th, but that is what Everton have had to endure this week. MZK Ruzomberok from Slovakia is a new one on me but like so many European sides, they can defend and are difficult to beat. Ronald Koeman has lost Lukaku to Manchester United and Ross Barkley is “injured”. It was an opportunity to throw Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaassen, Sandro Ramirez, Michael Keane and Coco Martina into the fray and the “Toffees” produced enough quality to win (just) and keep a clean sheet. A Rooney goal would of course have thrilled everyone, but it was left to the experienced Leighton Baines to rifle in the only goal of the evening from distance. Everton will have to be on their mettle when they journey to Eastern Europe next Thursday because elimination at this stage would be nothing short of embarrassing. I suspect that the manager will have his best eleven out for that one.

It is interesting that Jose Mourinho should sound a warning to clubs about the cavalier attitude to spending money on transfers this close season. Following his world record purchase of Paul Pogba last summer, words such as “hypocrite” and a simile containing “pan, kettle and black” spring to mind. On this occasion however I agree with his every word. It is an “out of control transfer market” and it may well come crashing down sometime soon. The clubs allow Sky and other TV stations to control the fixtures because they are the de facto paymasters, but the Murdoch TV Empire is rumoured to be wobbling and if only one major player was left in the game, the money on offer would naturally fall. As PSG have shown in France however with the hullabaloo surrounding a possible Neymar transfer, the more than mega wealthy owner does not need to fuel his signings from the income generated from the Canal Plus TV Channel, currently paying £0.7 billion less than in England. Owners such as Onyx Qatari Sports Investments are richer than rich and a Neymar signing for around £190 million may just enable them to bring home the Champions’ League Cup to an extremely bare international section of their trophy cabinet. We have come a long way since Bolton Wanderers won the FA Cup in 1958 with an eleven which cost exactly £110; 11 times the signing on fee for a home grown player, something we will never see the likes of again.
                                                      Close season club movement

Each season, mainly because of the promotion and relegation throughout the top 11 Tiers of English football, there are changes to the complement of every one of the country’s 90 Leagues. As far as the Red Rose County is concerned, there are 15 relevant leagues and here in summary form are the changes that affect our 122 clubs.

Red = Promoted
Blue = Relegated
Green = New club
Red = Promotion
Blue = Relegation
Orange = Transfer
 Red Rose clubs in League
Premier League
EFL Championship
Bolton Wanderers
Blackburn Rovers
Wigan Athletic
Blackburn Rovers
Wigan Athletic Blackpool
Bolton Wanderers

National League
         AFC Fylde
National League 1 North
AFC Fylde
Northern Premier League
Lancaster City
Skelmersdale United
Northern Premier League 1 North
Skelmersdale United
Atherton Collieries
Lancaster City
North West Counties Premier League
Charnock Richard
City of Liverpool
Atherton Collieries
North West Counties League 1
Ashton Town
Charnock Richard
City of Liverpool
West Lancashire League
Burscough Richmond
Haslingden St Mary’s
Lostock St Gerard’s
Manchester Premier League
Bolton County
Prestwich Heys Reserves
Elton Vale
Liverpool County League
AFC Liverpool Reserves
Page Celtic
Cheshire League
Ashton Town
Warrington Town R
Garswood United
West Cheshire League


Quiz Answers 1 Willie Morgan, 2 Glasgow Rangers, 3 Bury, 4 Edwin van der Saar, 5 Notts Forest, 6 Benfica, 7 Accrington Stanley, 8 Emlyn Hughes, 9 Ross Barkley, 10 Scunthorpe United.

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