Thursday, 10 August 2017

Red Rose Football Blog (Number 42)

                                                 Number 42                                          August 9th 2017

And we are off and running (Part 2)

In France they call it “Le grand depart” when 180 or so bicycle riders begin their 3000 mile odyssey around the country each year, hundreds and hundreds of photographers capturing the first push of the pedals. English football has no such single magic moment in this TV dominated age; “le grand kick off” being scheduled sporadically as captains shake hands at different times, on different days and even on different weekends. Incidentally they have the same situation in French football. Ligue 1 kicked off last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, thankfully with Neymar missing. However, it is the turn of the Premier League, the Northern Premier League and the North West Counties League to jump into action this coming weekend, along with the Manchester Premier, the West Cheshire and the Cheshire Premier Leagues. There will be fanfares aplenty on the likes of Sky TV, Radio 5Live and Talk Sport as well as in the tabloids, all looking to grab their share of the viewers, listeners and readers as the referees’ whistles blow at 10 grounds across the country, heralding 9 months of (we hope) action packed football in the “greatest league in the world”. Last season was uncomfortable for the Red Rose County as London dominated the Premier League, leaving the 2 Manchester and the 2 Liverpool clubs in their wake. Rumours emanating from the “Bridge” and the “Lane” (sorry, Spurs are playing at Wembley this season) suggest some disharmony so I am extremely confident that the Premier League pennant will be fluttering over the grey skies of Manchester in 9 months’ time. The transfer window remains open for another 3 weeks or so and there is still time for both Guardiola and Mourinho to unveil other superstars, making predictions even more difficult at this stage. I plumbed for Manchester City last time out and although it proved to be an unwise choice, my spare change is going in the same direction once again. The “Sky Blues” have worked hard to stiffen their defence, bringing in Ederson, a goalkeeper with great potential from Benfica. Let us hope that he knows how to stop shots! The manager has off-loaded 4 ageing full-backs and replaced them with Kyle Walker from Tottenham, Benjamin Mendy from AS Monaco and Danilo from Real Madrid. All three are known for their attacking prowess but they will need to defend also when, on cold and rainy afternoons at the Hawthorns, Turf Moor or Selhurst Park, the opposition is playing Route 1 football. Bernardo Silva has also arrived from Monaco to add even more craft to the midfield and it will be interesting to see if Aguero and Jesus can hit it off as a pairing or if the manager will start with one up front. The attacking potential from full back will also give them even more of a cutting edge and when on song, they can murder any opposition. Manchester United will not make it easy for them. By previous standards, United were quite moderate last season with 2 trophies plastering over a variety of cracks. The boss has largely kept his powder dry so far, spending big on Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic, both with proven Premier League pedigree from Everton and Chelsea respectively. The Belgian centre forward would be first choice in most clubs in world football and Matic will provide a defensive wall in midfield, a vital signing as Michael Carrick grows ever older. I am certain there will be more marquee signings before September 2nd to make the Old Trafford side extremely competitive on all fronts. Liverpool worry me. Coutinho seems more and more likely to depart, Lallana is out for 2 months and Sturridge is never fully fit. These are the crème de la crème at Anfield and although Dominic Solanke has obvious potential, Andrew Robertson is a proper full back and the ex-Chelsea (via Roma) winger Mohamed Salah will offer pace wide, the Red’s loyal supporters deserve better. The recruitment at Anfield has been poor in recent years. Klopp needs to move quickly if his team is going to compete. I suspect that they will struggle to make the top 4 this time around. Everton, working on a smaller budget, have been busy, making sensible buys to fill the gaps which have been apparent for years. Jordan Pickford has enormous potential in goal, Davy Klassen is yet another off the Ajax production line; a midfielder who can do everything and Michael Keane could well be the signing of the summer. Wayne Rooney’s experience will surely help the development of the talented youngsters coming out of Goodison and Koeman is not afraid to blood them, but with Lukaku having left and Barkley seemingly certain to follow, one wonders who will provide the goals. It would not surprise me however if the Toffees won the battle of Merseyside this season. Heavens knows it has only happened three times in 25 years of Premier League history, 2011-12 and 2012-13 being the last 2 occasions. Having banked £30 million for the sale of Michael Keane, Burnley have so far bought 4 players. Jonathan Walters, Jack Cork and Phil Bardsley are all hardened professionals who know their way round this League, but none are young men. It has worked for Sean Dyche before, particularly when he signed Joey Barton but one cannot help but think that it will be a long and arduous battle to retain Tier 1 status for another year. One consolation is that if you had to choose a manager to save your club, you would pick Dyche, particularly now that Sam Allardyce is out of the picture. It is always difficult to pick potential winners of leagues down the pyramid, but the ever improving Warrington Town have an infrastructure capable of sustaining a long promotion campaign in the Northern Premier League. In Division 1 North, Trafford, once ensconced in the league above, showed consistency last season and they may be the Red Rose County’s best bet for promotion. City of Liverpool, the new club which is drawing in the fans, may make it 2 promotions on the bounce from the North West Counties Premier League whilst in NWC Division 1; their close neighbours Litherland REMYCA seem favourites to clinch the title.  

Great Red Rose Midfield Players

Our clubs have produced quality mid-field players by the bucket full since the 2nd World War, a fact which is reflected in the list below. From the young Duncan Edwards in the 50s to Steven Gerrard half a century later, top quality English players have shone through in England shirts. Manchester United have produced 3 magnificent mid-field players to captain England, Charlton, Robson and Beckham, but there have been outstanding foreign imports to the Red Rose county also; Alonso, Silva, Souness and Jimmy McIlroy to name just four. Once again for inclusion, I have looked at those having played in 150 league games for the club and to have been awarded a minimum of 10 international caps in that period of time. I have tended to list modern day wide mid-field players as wingers, so they will appear in a future blog. The listed caps include international appearances with other clubs also.

Blackburn Rovers: Ronnie Clayton (England 35 caps), Tugay Kerimoglu (Turkey 94 caps).  

Blackpool: Allan Brown (Scotland 14 caps), Alan Ball (England 72 caps). James Quinn (Northern Ireland 50 caps)

Alan Ball and Nobby Stiles; 2 of the most tenacious players of their day

Bolton Wanderers: Per Frandsen (Denmark 23 caps), Lee Chung-yong (South Korea 76 caps).

Burnley: Jimmy McIlroy (Northern Ireland 55 caps)) Brian Flynn (Wales 66 caps) Scott Arfield (Canada 11 caps).

Everton: Peter Farrell (Republic of Ireland 35 caps), Alan Ball (England 72 caps), Peter Reid (England 13 caps), Kevin Sheedy (Republic of Ireland 46 caps), Trevor Steven (England 36 caps), Thomas Gravesen (Denmark 66 caps), Lee Carsley (Republic of Ireland 40 caps), Tim Cahill (Australia 100 caps), Steven Pienaar (South Africa 61 caps), Ross Barkley (England 22 caps)

Liverpool: Gordon Milne (England 14 caps), Terry McDermott (England 25 caps), Ray Kennedy (England 17 caps), Sammy Lee (England 14 caps), Graeme Souness (Scotland 54 caps), Ronnie Whelan (Republic of Ireland 53 caps), Jan Molby (Denmark 33 caps), Steve McMahon (England 17 caps), Ray Houghton (Republic of Ireland 73 caps), Steve McManaman (England 37 caps), Jamie Rednapp (England 17 caps), Steven Gerrard (England 114 caps), Xabi Alonso (Spain 114 caps), Dietmar Hamann (Germany 59 caps), Lucas Leiva (Brazil 24 caps), Jordan Henderson (England 32 caps),

Manchester City: Colin Bell (England 48 caps), Asa Hartford (Scotland 50 caps), David Silva (Spain 113 caps), Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast 100 caps),

Manchester United; Henry Cockburn (England 13 caps), Duncan Edwards (England 18 caps), Bobby Charlton (England 106 caps), Nobby Stiles (England 28 caps), Pat Crerand (Scotland 16 caps), Sammy McIlroy (Northern Ireland 88 caps), Ray Wilkins (England 84 caps), Bryan Robson (England 90 caps), Gordon Strachan 50 caps), Brian McClair (Scotland 30 caps), Paul Ince (England 53 caps), David Beckham (England 115 caps), Nicky Butt (England 39 caps), Roy Keane (Republic of Ireland 67 caps), Paul Scholes (England 66 caps), Darren Fletcher (Scotland 78 caps), Michael Carrick (England 34 caps),  

                                       Ray Wilkins; the passing maestro of Old Trafford

Wigan Athletic: Lee McCulloch (Scotland 18 caps),

Oldham Athletic: Gunnar Halle (Norway 56 caps),

Performances of the last week

The Championship stole the headlines, Preston North End making it an opening day to remember with a 1-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday. PNE were dominant, winning it from the penalty spot when Daniel Johnson converted after Jordan Hugill had been fouled in front of an impressive 18,267 spectators. Sadly Bolton Wanderers could not repeat the performance. They twice scored home goals against Leeds United through Madine and Le Fondre but conceded 3, thus starting the season in the relegation zone. Seven Red Rose clubs will bring excitement to League 1 this season but Saturday brought 4 defeats and 3 wins. Worryingly Blackburn Rovers lost 2-1 at Southend United and Oldham Athletic 2-0 at home to Oxford United. Both Blackpool and Rochdale had difficult away fixtures, unsurprisingly going down to Bradford City (2-1) and Portsmouth (2-0) respectively. On the credit side, Wigan Athletic won 1-0 at Milton Keynes Dons; a 10 aside game for the last half hour and Lee Clarke will be delighted following Bury’s 1-0 win over Walsall where the Shakers missed 2 penalties but the much travelled Jason Beckford scored the winner. The most notable display came from Fleetwood Town, easing to a 2-0 win over the relegated Rotherham United. Star striker David Ball, sold to Rotherham during the summer, lined up against them, but it was replacement Conor McAleny, recently arrived at Highbury on a free transfer from Everton, who received the plaudits with a double salvo which has given Uwe Rosler’s side the perfect start.  Accrington Stanley started the new League 2 season with a comfortable 3-1 win over Colchester United. The newly signed striker Kayden Jackson was on the score sheet early before old hands Billy Kee and Omar Beckles put the Reds out of sight, Colchester grabbing a late consolation goal. It was the ideal start, Stanley carrying on from where they left off last spring. AFC Fylde’s debut in the National League was rescued for the 1641 spectators at Moss Farm by Jonny Smith, on loan from Bristol City, who smashed in a thunderbolt to earn them a 2-2 draw against Borehamwood.  The result of the day in the National League 1 North was at Curzon Ashton where Max Leonard, a close season signing from Glossop, put them 2 up within 10 minutes against the relegated North Ferriby, two second half goals seeing them to a 4-0 victory. There were a number of excellent performances in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round. North West Counties League 1 Litherland REMYCA scored twice in the second half without reply to defeat NWC Premier League neighbours AFC Liverpool with 312 spectators watching live plus many more who viewed the game on a live stream from the BBC Sports web site. Other sides to progress were West Didsbury & Chorlton, 5-0 winners at Athersley Recreation (Tom Bailey netting twice), Burscough, 3-0 winners at AFC Emley, Barnoldswick Town, Abbey Hey, City of Liverpool (2-1 winners at Padiham), Maine Road and Ashton Athletic, 4-0 winners at Squires Gate with Joel Brownhill notching a hat-trick. The West Lancs League opened with newly promoted Haslingden St Mary’s making an encouraging start, thumping Garstang 3-0 via a John Ollett double.

                                      Conor McAleny; the perfect start at Fleetwood Town

Games to look forward to this week

The attention of the whole world switches to the Premier League at weekend and 4 of our Red Rose clubs will be in action on Saturday. Manchester City, my tip for the top honours this coming season, travel to the Brighton in the game of the day at 17.30. They should surely win this fixture but newly promoted clubs have a habit of making fast starts, even though the initial velocity generally dissipates after two or three games. City will therefore have to tread cautiously to enable the new defenders to gel in this, their first competitive outing, before finally taking hold of the game and returning north with 3 points. Top billing in the Championship goes to Preston North End who cross the Pennines to take on Leeds United. Both clubs made winning starts last Saturday, the White Rose side winning at Bolton Wanderers, whereas Preston won their Battle of the Roses, defeating Sheffield Wednesday at Deepdale. North End performed well at home last season but were somewhat indifferent on their travels, hence a mid-table finish. Can new manager Alex Neil give them the confidence to stride out in the fiery furnace which is Elland Road and take control of the game? It seems too early in the season for a local derby but two of our in form League 1 sides clash at the DW Stadium. Wigan Athletic won at MK Dons and Bury had too much for Walsall last weekend. Both clubs were active in the transfer market in the close season, each one signing up a completely new eleven and more. It is early days yet of course but a win for either of our sides on Sunday afternoon will probably propel them to the top of the league. Morecambe cross the country from west to east to play Lincoln City on Saturday, buoyed with the 3 points gained in their opening fixture against Cheltenham Town. The Imps captured everyone’s attention last winter with a run to the 6th Round of the FA Cup, in spite of being a non-league club. With a National League Championship now under their belt, they could prove tough opposition for the Shrimps in this League 2 game. Barrow competed well against promotion favourites Dagenham and Redbridge last weekend before being edged out 2-1 and they have the opportunity to put points on the board when Woking travel north for a National League encounter on Saturday. Chorley made a magnificent start to the season, winning at the former Football League club Kidderminster Harriers. On Saturday they host Curzon Ashton, fresh from thrashing North Ferriby 4-0 in a National League North encounter. The Lancastrians will have promotional ambitions this season, but for Curzon, it is an opportunity to show that last weekend’s star performance was not a flash in the pan. The Northern Premier League kicks off on Saturday and newly promoted Lancaster City have an intriguing game against a well-established Buxton side; a game which will tell us much about the Dolly Blues’ chances of consolidating their position in this league. With only two promotion places from Division 1 each season, Lancaster will not want to waste all of last season’s blood, sweat and tears by being thrown into a relegation battle from the beginning of this new campaign. In Division 1 North, relegated Skelmersdale United have a tough away fixture against Brighouse Town. The West Yorkshire outfit performed well last season and Skem need a strong start to prevent a repeat of last year’s sorry debacle when relegation was confirmed well before the end of the season. In the North West Counties Premier League, Padiham welcome one-time non-league giants Northwich Victoria. The Vics have regularly been relegated for off the field indiscretions in recent years and it will be interesting to see how they cope against a competent Tier 9 opponent such as the Storks. Finally in Division 1, Prestwich Heys, who performed well in their first season back at this level, are at home to the relegated Cammel Laird, The Wirral side looked to be in good shape in the FA Cup last week, battering South Yorkshire’s Maltby Main 4-1 and they could be difficult opposition on Saturday. 

Quiz of the Week (Answers at the foot of the Blog)
                                       Each question has a Red Rose County club connection

1                     The oldest player to appear in the Premier League was in May 1995 when goalkeeper John Burridge turned out for which Red Rose County club?

2                     How many Red Rose County clubs have actually competed in the Premier League since its inception in 1992?

3                     Which Red Rose County club became the first in 1979 to have a sponsor’s name on their shirts? The sponsor was Hitachi.

4                     Which manager did Manchester United sack, 2 days after winning the FA Cup in 2016?

5                     Which Premier League club has a badge with a centre feature of a “lock up” (prison cell) with the Latin inscription “Nil satis nisi optimum”?

6                     Liam Feeney, now starting his second permanent season at Ewood Park, has also made 78 appearances for which other Red Rose County club?

                                                  Lam Feeney; Pictured in the Blackburn Rovers kit

7                     In 2009, Wade Elliott scored the winning goal at Wembley in a Championship Play-Off final for which club?

8                     Since 1888, Notts County have played more Football league games than any other club. Which Red Rose County club is in second place?

9                     French international full back Pascal Chimbonda was selected in the 2005-06 PFA Team of the Season whilst playing for which Red Rose County club?

Pascal Chimbonda in his days at Tottenham Hotspur

10                 Which footballer has played for Newcastle United, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester United?

Post Weekend Musings

Further to last week’s chart concerning the number of "Players Provided" per club who have represented England, here is a different take on the statistics. This shows the number of "Caps gained" in total by players from each club. The results are somewhat different.

From when to when
Caps gained
Ranking by Players Provided
Manchester United
1905 – 2017
1897 – 2017
Tottenham Hotspur
1903 – 2017
1906 – 2017
1907 – 2017
1890 – 2016
Manchester City
1904 – 2017
West Ham United
1911 – 2017
Aston Villa
1888 – 2015
Blackburn Rovers
1880 – 2012

                              Other current Red Rose County clubs and their positions

1923 - 1966
Preston North End
1887 – 2007
Bolton Wanderers
1885 - 2011
1889 -2017
1899 - 1927
Wigan Athletic
2006 - 2008
Oldham Athletic
1911 - 1981

The early rounds of the League Cup always throw up surprising results, the unpredictability often caused by managers being reluctant to play their best elevens. I accept their argument that the League has to be their number 1 priority and that it gives opportunities to squad players currently not making the starting line-up. However, the opportunity for a club to mix in classier company is good for morale, it can also be financially beneficial and I have always believed that a couple of wins in whatever competition can improve confidence levels no end. Therefore wins on Tuesday for Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic, Rochdale and in particular Accrington Stanley, the latter claiming the scalp of Preston North End in front of close to an unheard of gate of 3,000, will have lifted the spirits of the fans and have the Financial Directors rubbing their hands with glee, even if the managers have to contemplate yet another game in an already congested fixture list.

Quiz Answers:  1 Manchester City, 2 Ten, 3 Liverpool, 4 Louis van Gaal, 5 Everton, 6 Bolton Wanderers, 7 Burnley, 8 Preston North End, 9 Wigan Athletic, 10 Michael Owen.

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