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Found 52 results

  1. Bainbridge NCFC

    Kyle Bainbridge: UEFA Nations League is pointless

    UEFA decided that in 2018 their would be a new competition launched as the UEFA Nations League where teams would be split into 4 separate leagues. A, B, C and D. Based on World Rankings. Then split further down into groups of 3 teams per group, with some groups having 4 teams in the mix. After playing each team twice, teams will then be promoted or relegated from their leagues. The competition is well and truly underway with a couple of games already been played. Many are still to be convinced. Every even numbered year, the matches will be played from September to November. Which would be the group stages. For every odd numbered year, the matches will be played in June for the Finals of League A where a Nations League champion will be crowned. Does the UEFA Nations League have a valid reason for being a part of the footballing calendar or is the whole tournament as pointless as many believe it to be? The main factor behind the creation of this newly found competition was to eliminate what many believed to be meaningless and pointless international friendlies. Fans were always vocal in their opinions against international friendlies with many suggesting that it disrupts club football. Whereas fans enjoy to watch major tournaments such as the World Cup due to this being played every 4 years during the summer time after the club season has finished. Managers are also known to show frustrations with the international break due to key players being called up to play in 'nothing' games only to be injured while out on international duty which could affect their club teams. Even with the reason being made clear that the whole point of the competition being created to prevent pointless and meaningless friendlies being played, we are still seeing international friendlies being played during the club season inbetween Qualifiers and the Nations League. Could just be due to this being a newly introduced competition but if that is the reason for it being created it will need addressing. Despite all the negativity surrounding the Nations League, some have found a positive to take from this competition. The positive being that teams who don't qualify for the Euro's in qualifiers may be given the chance to qualify for the tournament through the Nations League. Which would make for a lower ranked team being able to compete in a major tournament where before they wouldn't of thought possible. Also partly due to the Euro's increasing the number of teams that will be competing at the tournament. Many still argue against this one and only positive about the Nations League by stating that 'weaker' teams should not be allowed to qualify for major tournaments if they don't make it through the usual route of the qualifiers. After all, that is the whole reason for having qualifiers for teams to compete for a place in a major tournament. Rather than eliminating 'meaningless' international friendlies, have UEFA added more 'pointless' matches by introducing the Nations League during the footballing calendar which already seems to be mounting up and disrupting club seasons? If 'weaker' teams are being allowed a route to major tournaments through this newly formed tournament, maybe it just needs reformatting as a qualifier itself making higher ranked teams play each other for the right to be in tournaments? Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  2. Since Jose Mourinho arrived on the scene at Porto, many people were full of praise. More so when he joined the likes of Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid where he achieved success wherever he went. But has the Mourinho that everyone wanted to be the manager of their club disappeared? Has the Special One lost his touch? Just 3 games into the new Premier League season, Manchester United look far from convincing challengers. They have at times looked mediocre under Mourinho. Last season, they finished second behind city rivals Manchester City, by a margin of 19 points. Mourinho has earned critics over the years but often silenced them by guiding his teams to major success. In December 2015, months after winning the Premier League with Chelsea, Mourinho was sacked with 9 losses from his first 16 league games. Was this the turning point from the ruthless Mourinho of old we saw when he first entered the Premier League in 2004? When he arrived in 2004, he took the league by storm leading his Chelsea team to 2 consecutive Premier League titles. He also became Chelsea's most successful manager winning 6 trophies in 3 years in his first spell at the club as well as boasting an undefeated Stamford Bridge record, which would ultimately be ended by Sunderland in his second spell in charge of the club. Having won trophies at Porto, Chelsea & Inter Milan, Mourinho didn't enjoy his time with Real Madrid despite winning the Copa Del Rey and La Liga while in charge of the Galacticos. It was after the defeat to local rivals, Atletico Madrid, in the 2013 Copa Del Rey Final when Mourinho and Real Madrid decided to part company. Was Real Madrid a step to far for the "Special One"? He certainly didn't look comfortable there as he once did while in charge of his previous three clubs. When Mourinho arrived at Manchester United, which was the worst kept secret in football, fans were in belief that the glory days of one of football's biggest clubs would be heading back their way. Which they hadn't seen since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson. It certainly looked set to be as in his first season he won the Europa League & EFL Cup. But nothing ever materialised after that with fans calling for Mourinho to change his style of play and disappointed in seeing Mourinho's tactic of "Parking the Bus" which was made famous for his style of play for Chelsea. Following on from Manchester United's defeat to Brighton, their were reports of a rift between him and Ed Woodward, which he later denied. He appears to have lost the dressing room with players such as Paul Pogba coming out after the game suggesting "they weren't in the right mind to play". Surely the Mourinho of old would have whipped his players for these comments? He has also failed to address the Riola - Scholes situation and Pogba - Barcelona situation. Which in previous years he would have been first to step in. Manchester United have now lost 2 games from their opening 3 games a feet they haven't seen since their title winning season in 1992/93. With Zinedine Zidane lurking, open to taking charge, could we be seeing the end of Jose Mourinho at Manchester United? It certainly appears to be looking more likely given his recent post-match interviews suggesting he "deserves respect" and having short interviews uncharacteristically. Pundits have also started to suggest Mourinho has been putting on a front, suggesting he's not the same "Special One" he once was. Has the "Special One" Disappeared? Will we see Zidane succeed Mourinho? What next for Mourinho? Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  3. Bainbridge NCFC

    Kyle Bainbridge's England All-Star XI

    England have had some great players appear for the National Team over the years. 1966 World Cup Winning Goalkeeper Gordon Banks, record goalscorer Wayne Rooney amongst others like Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, Alan Shearer, David Seaman, Paul Scholes. We can even include the class of 2018 in this category who reached the Semi-Finals of the 2018 World Cup. But What is England’s Greatest 11? Here is my take on the greatest 11 to ever appear for England. Goalkeeper - Peter Shilton, England’s record appearance holder with 125 caps. He was the man in goal that conceded Maradonas "hand of god" that ultimately knocked England out of World Cup 1986 against Argentina. 4 years later, he was in the England squad that finished 4th in World Cup 1990 having lost to Germany on penalties in the Semi-Finals. Right Back - Gary Neville, appearing 85 times for his Nation, he was a hard man to displace from the team having been a successful player during Manchester United's dominance in English football. When it comes to Right Backs, he is right up there as one of the best for England. Centre Back - Bobby Moore, with 108 caps to his name, he is the only man to captain England to a World Cup trophy back in 1966. Solid at the back with a calm head, it was his pass that set up England’s fourth in the 4-2 win over West Germany in the final. He also held the record for being England’s youngest ever captain when he was selected in 1963 at the age of 22. Centre Back - Terry Butcher, with 77 caps to his name, he was part of the 1990 World Cup squad who reached the Semi-Finals of a World Cup only to be knocked out on penalties v Germany. But who could forget the famous blood bath he experienced while playing for England v Sweden in 1989 an historic image that shows pride and passion to play for his nation. Left Back - Stuart Pearce, 78 caps, a man that oozes passion for his country. Having being one of the players who missed a penalty in the Semi-Final penalty shootout defeat against Germany in 1990, it was clear to see the devastation in his eyes. But 6 years later at Euro 96, he redeemed himself scoring in the penalty shootout against Spain, which England went on to win, with the famous roar after putting away his penalty. Right Midfield - David Beckham, a man that needs no introduction, the ultimate English footballing icon. Having played 115 times for his country, he played with passion every time he wore the Three Lions shirt. Although, he did get sent off against Argentina in 1998 for lashing out and kicking Diego Simeone, he went on to captain England in 2001 when Sven Goran-Eriksson took charge. He was Captain for England in there most famous win, behind the 4-2 win in 1966 which saw them win the World Cup, by beating Germany 5-1 in a World Cup Qualifier in September 2001. Centre Midfield - Paul Gascoigne, 57 caps for his nation, he often made headlines for his off the field antics but on the field he was a master class in midfield with mesmorising dribbling abilities who could forget his most famous goal against Scotland in Euro 96. He was booked in the 1990 Semi-Final, which meant he would miss the Final had England reached it. Thus came the infamous Gazza Tears. Centre Midfield - Bobby Charlton, 106 caps and 49 goals, he was England’s all time leading goal scorer for 45 years until Wayne Rooney took the record away from him in 2015 against Switzerland. He was also a member of the 1966 World Cup winning team, having made his full debut in 1958, 2 months after he survived the Munich Air Disaster. Left Midfield - John Barnes, the Jamaican born midfielder moved to England at the age of 12 and chose to represent England at international level making 79 appearances. Silky skills and often referred to as a Brazilian like player, he was part of the 1990 England squad who made the Semi-Finals of the World Cup. Centre Forward - Sir Geoff Hurst, the only man to ever score a Hat-Trick in a World Cup Final against West Germany in 1966. He made just 49 caps for his country scoring 24 goals. He didn't make his England debut until February 1966, a few months before the World Cup. Centre Forward - Gary Lineker, Golden Boot winner in 1986 and Semi-Finalist with England in the following World Cup in 1990. He was the ultimate goal poacher scoring 48 times in 80 caps. Manager - Sir Bobby Robson, 1 of 3 managers to take England to a World Cup Semi-Final, alongside Gareth Southgate & Sir Alf Ramsey. His credentials in both Club & National management speak volumes. Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  4. Manchester City's instrumental midfielder Kevin De Bruyne suffered what is thought to be knee ligament damage during training on Wednesday. He has been seen wearing a leg brace while having the use of crutches and is due to undergo more tests to reveal the severity of the injury which is expected to rule the midfielder out for at least 2 months meaning he would miss Manchester City's opening Champions League games and potentially a clash with Liverpool in October. In January 2016, De Bruyne injured the same knee against Everton in a Premier League fixture resulting in the Belgian being sidelined for 9 weeks. During this time, Manchester City played 12 matches winning just 4 of them and losing 5. Since arriving to Manchester City in 2015, De Bruyne has become a huge hit amongst many City supporters and footballing fans around the world. He was a key part of Pep Guardiola's team last season, helping the club win both the Premier League and Carabao Cup. Manchester City scored a record breaking 106 goals last season with De Bruyne contributing to 24 of them, 8 goals and 16 assists. Many Fantasy Football Fans selected De Bruyne in their teams last season and many selected him as captain. They were not to be disappointed as game after game he put in fantastic performances lighting up the Premier League. During the summer, Kevin De Bruyne helped Belgium secure 3rd Place in the World Cup. The "Golden Generation" of Belgium was out to prove a point with the likes of Hazard, Lukaku and Co. joining De Bruyne. In the last 16, with the scores at 2-2 in the 90th minute, Japan had a corner only for Courtois to claim the ball and roll it out to De Bruyne who drove into Japan's half and contribute to Belgium’s claiming a winner and help them qualify to the Quarter-Finals. It was in the Quarter-Finals where Belgium beat Brazil 2-1 and De Bruyne scoring the winning goal, in which was one of the goals of the tournament. But how well adapt are Manchester City to cope with the loss of one of their key players of last season? Do they have enough depth in his position? Riyad Mahrez would be the obvious choice to cover the injured Belgian, who in turn was replaced by De Bruyne in Manchester City’s season opening 2-0 win over Arsenal. Bernardo Silva is another candidate to replace him, having scored on opening day. David Silva, despite his age, still has something to offer the team and Pep Guardiola looks keen on keeping him in the squad rotation which was used for much of last season. Pep Guardiola is also keen on giving England youngster Phil Foden a chance in the squad, could this be the perfect opportunity for Pep to introduce Foden into the squad or even give Foden the chance to prove himself worthy of becoming a regular at Manchester City? Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  5. We all have our own opinions on the amount of money involved within football, whether it be the price of match tickets or the amount of money players earn. But has spending gone too far in the beautiful game and have players got too much power over clubs? We've witnessed over the years transfer windows in England alone reaching over £1bn, in ONE window. Kepa Arrizabalaga became the worlds most expensive goalkeeper recently when he was signed by Chelsea for £71.6m, beating the previous record set by Liverpool weeks before when they signed Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker from AS Roma for £67m. But should they have both spent such money on these two goalkeepers? In 2001, arguably the greatest goalkeeper in the world Gianluigi Buffon was signed by Juventus for, a world record fee at the time for a goalkeeper, £33m. An astonishing, £34m-£38.6m difference. In 2017, Neymar became the world's most expensive footballer signing for PSG from Barcelona for £200m, a transfer fee we'd never have imagined for a single player. That transfer fee alone would have signed Zinedine Zidane 4 times over, when he was signed by Real Madrid for £50m in 2001, a world record at the time. Luis Figo, Paul Scholes, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo Lima. If these players were still playing, in today's market it's unbelievable to think how much they'd sell for given many players today have buyout clauses reaching almost £1bn. From the days of managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson, Brian Clough and Alf Ramsey putting players in their place and not allowing them to dictate the goings on at clubs, we hear multiple stories of players having more power than management in today's game. Most recently we've heard a rumour of Paul Pogba demanding Manchester United for an extra £200k a week to keep him at the club amid interest from Barcelona. Also, in 2017 Lionel Messi reportedly 'demanded' that the Barcelona board sack Luis Enrique or he will leave the club for China. Thibaut Courtois managed to force a move away from Chelsea to Real Madrid earlier this month by refusing to report in for training having previously stated his desire to move. When he was unveiled as a Real Madrid player, he was pictured kissing the badge, even though he had previously played for rivals Atletico Madrid. But this isn't the first time a player failed to report in for training to force a move to the Spanish giants, as in 2013 Gareth Bale was allegedly ordered by Tottenham Hotspur to report for training only for the Welshman to decline. Having previously rejected bids, Tottenham had no choice but to succumb to the demands and sell Bale. Even though both players forced a move away they still had the audacity to state that they were "thankful" for the clubs. In 2011, Carlos Tevez made headline after headline for the wrong reasons. Failure to turn up to training, opting to return to his native Argentina. Roberto Mancini stated "he wanted him out of the club" after he refused to come off the bench in a Champions League match against Bayern Munich. He was then suspended for two weeks and was guilty of five breaches of contract then given a fine of four weeks wages only for the PFA to reduce it to just two weeks. Raheem Sterling also requested to sit out of England's 1-0 win over Estonia in the 2016 Euro Qualifier due to 'tiredness' even though he has trained his entire life to make it as a professional footballer and raking in thousands a week. Are footballers being pandered too much? Have players got too much control over clubs? Does Financial Fair Play come in to effect to certain clubs? It's only a matter of time before we see a big money move for a player reaching nearly £1bn and see them on weekly wages of £1m. Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  6. The FA have stated that they will be considering a bid to host the 2030 World Cup. They have previously failed in their attempts to host the World Cup in both 2006 to Germany and in 2018 to Russia. England, known as the home of football, have only ever hosted One World Cup back in 1966, which they were victorious to win their one and only World Cup to date. They also hosted Euro 96, in which they were semi-finalists. There are many things to take into consideration when it comes to the bidding process of hosting the World Cup and many would agree that England tick majority of them boxes and are perfect candidates to host major international tournaments. There has been no shortage of controversy when it comes to the voting system in FIFA when it comes to bidding on the World Cup. Qatar won the rights to host the 2022 World Cup, which Sepp Blatter stepped down from FIFA with reports of bribes, corruption and scandals allowing Qatar to host the World Cup. Many fans have expressed disbelief in this being the location for the next World Cup. With temperatures soaring in the summer, it has forced the tournament to become the first Winter World Cup lasting just 28 days, shortest since 1978, causing much disruption to many European leagues. Just like Brazil in 2014, there have been reports of deaths of construction workers building these stadiums in time ready for the World Cup. Other host nations have been plausible due to the fact they have stadiums ready for the tournament with a few alterations but Qatar will have to build a whole new city to host the final. Unlike Qatar, England have all the preparations ready from stadiums right the way down to travel. The obvious choice would be to host the final at Wembley Stadium, with a capacity of 90,000, the national stadium of English football hosts a whole range of games from The FA Cup Final to The EFL Play-Off finals. It is also used by England to play in both World Cup & Euro qualifiers. It would even be possible to host games at different stadiums and not re-use the same stadiums, which was the case in Russia a stadium hosting more then one game. Compared to many other countries, the travel wouldn't be trouble for the teams with stadiums and cities in close distance from each other. There would be no need for long distance travelling as you could host Groups A & B in London with enough stadiums to cover all 12 games. Other group games could be hosted up and down the country, with most regions boasting extensive football pedigree. All locations, teams and stadiums capable of supporting and hosting games. Tournaments over the years have been hosted in major stadiums known for their teams playing at the top level of their respective leagues. But with England their are teams outside the top-flight who are more than capable of hosting World Cup games. Leeds United and Aston Villa, both in the EFL Championship, have hosted England games in the past. There are even teams in Leagues One and Two with the capacity and facilities able to cope with the demands of these games. This could benefit the EFL & english football greatly. For a Nation branded as 'Home of Football' they have been overlooked for tournaments in favor of Nations with lesser capabilities to host a tournament of this stature. With the rotational system in place for FIFA to choose a different host nation from each continent, when it comes round for Europe maybe England should be first choice. From preparations to organisation, it would not take much doing for England to host the World Cup. Everything seems to be ready, it's just the case of will England host the World Cup again? Share your thoughts about this feature on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  7. The World Cup has now drawn to a close. Defending Champions Germany were eliminated at the group stages. Other favourites Argentina, Spain & Portugal all fell early eliminated in the round of 16. And with minimal expectations, falling short in previous tournaments England bagged themselves a joint best finish on foreign soil with a 4th place finish breaking records, inspiring a generation and uniting a country to regain pride back into the national team along the way. England started the tournament with a 2-1 win against Tunisia, Harry Kane bagging 2 goals in the game including a last minute winner to get England off to a winning start. The Three Lions then recorded a record breaking 6-1 win against Panama in their second game, making it England’s highest ever win in a World Cup match. Harry Kane helping himself to a Hat-Trick, John Stones with 2 and Lingard scoring a belter from outside the box. As many people expected England faced Belgium in a match that would determine who would finish as group winners and who would finish runners-up to have the "easier route" to the final. With passage already secured for the last-16, both Belgium & England made multiple changes to their teams in a game that was seen as "Belgium B v England B" with Belgium running out 1-0 winners meaning England would have the "easier route" to the Final. England faced Colombia in the Round of 16. Harry Kane opened the scoring from the spot equalling Gary Linekers record of 6 goals in a single World Cup in 1986. England were pegged back in the last minute following a fantastic save from Jordan Pickford. After 120, the scores were level at 1-1 and the match would end up going to the dreaded penalty shootout, which England in 3 previous attempts had never won. England would end the curse securing a 4-3 shootout win, making it their First Ever World Cup Penalty Shootout Win & a First Knockout Victory since 2006. Following their first ever World Cup penalty shootout win, England met Sweden in the Quarter-Final coming out as comfortable 2-0 winners with goals from Harry Maguire & Dele Alli. Jordan Pickford standing out as a key performer in this game, making crucial saves to keep his clean sheet in tact. It would mean that for the First time in 28 years, England would be playing in a World Cup Semi-Final. Gareth Southgate in his First ever major tournament as England manager joined Sir Alf Ramsey & Sir Bobby Robson as the only managers ever to guide an England team to a World Cup Semi-Final. The nation was hooked, venues were packed in thousands to witness England v Croatia for a place in the World Cup Final. Kieran Trippier opened the scoring for England with a sublime Free-Kick inside 5 minutes, making it England’s 12th goal of the tournament breaking the previous record of 11 goals set by the 1966 winners for most goals in a single tournament, it was England’s game to lose. But following a strong first half which could of seen England 3-0 up, they took their foot off the pedal allowing Croatia to get level in the second half. Mario Mandzukic scored a second half extra time winner to break all England hearts losing 2-1. After the heart break of the Semi-Final, England would have to battle it out with Group rivals Belgium for the consolation prize of 3rd place, a possible best ever finish for England on foreign soil. Belgium ran out 2-0 winners and England would record a Joint Best finish of 4th place in a World Cup on foreign soil matching the accomplishment from them in 1990. Following the disappointment of previous tournaments, Euro 2016 eliminated by Iceland. World Cup 2014 failure to win a single group game. There was no expectations on this young inexperienced team, criticised before a ball was kicked. Southgate was mocked for his selection but he had faith in this team. They certainly done us proud, from being a laughing stock and criticised before the ball was even kicked to a team who got fans feeling optimistic and dreaming of ridding those years of hurt. In previous tournaments, never would you imagine seeing venues all over the country packed out in thousands cheering England on. Even though it ended in heartbreak we can surely look forward to the future and regain the pride of our national team. Share your thoughts about this opinion piece on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  8. England kick started their World Cup campaign with a 2-1 victory over Tunisia. It was not going to be an easy game for Gareth Southgate’s men as Tunisian coach Nabil Maaloul set his team out to sit back, park the bus and settle for a draw by letting England come at them and attack hoping to catch them on the counter. We were almost given the perfect start when Jesse Lingard saw his effort saved superbly by the Tunisian goalkeeper in the 3rd minute with many of us expecting that ball to end up in the back of the net. It wasn’t until the 10th minute that England’s constant pressure was rewarded when John Stones goalbound headed effort from a corner was saved brilliantly once more by the Tunisian goalkeeper only for Harry Kane to use his poacher's instinct to capitalise on the parried effort to score his first World Cup goal. Raheem Sterling had the easiest chance of the game when Lingard squared the ball to him rather than opting to go with his favored right foot he decided to go with his left making a real hash of it and sending his shot wide. Lingard again found himself round the back managing to knock the ball round the goalkeeper only for his effort to hit the post and go wide. The pressure seemed too much for the Tunisians who when pressed by the England players found it uncomfortable on the ball losing the possession on many occasions with passes going astray. But in the 35th minute England were made to pay for their missed chances when Kyle Walker was adjudged to have elbowed the opposing attacker in the box giving away a penalty which Jordan Pickford was unlucky not to keep out having managed to get only fingertips to the effort. It was a controversial decision made by the referee as he opted not to go to VAR to investigate the incident further which we was told this is what VAR was for to make sure of Penalty decisions. If the referee was sure that Walker used his arm in the face of the opposition then surely it was a red card incident, which fortunately for us he only received a yellow. When VAR was introduced we were on the understanding that it was to help referees with incidents that they may not have been aware of. But we were left frustrated when the referee refused to use VAR when Kane was rugby tackled to ground by the Tunisian defence in the box not once but twice. Both occasions the referee did not use VAR. Surely those in the VAR control room spotted these incidents and should have explained to the referee he should review the evidence. Not only was the lack of VAR used by the referee frustrating for England but the referee failed to act professionally when a Tunisian player went down after being struck by a football in the stomach, unless there is a head injury the referee should not have bought the game to a halt. Approaching the closing stages of the game, England were awarded a free kick which a Tunisian player was blocking the ball preventing it being taken which the referee failed to act on only telling the player to move away but the player did not move 10 yards which the England players were furious about only for the referee to still fail to act. Had that been an England player would we have seen a card being brandished? My thoughts are we would have. But even all these decisions going against us, even with the Tunisians trying to slow the game down and time waste, in the 91st minute, Kane snuck in at the back post from Harry Maguire’s flick to head home the winner and secure a well deserved 2-1 victory and 3 points in the bag. We could say that when the final whistle was blown justice was served. We go again on Sunday against Panama, as long as we stick to the same game plan and attack the opposition we should managed to claim all 3 points which will effectively see us through to the knockout stages. We need to take our chances more clinically and we should be there. A few changes might be needed in my opinion, first of those would be Danny Rose in for Ashley Young and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in for Dele Alli. We should also try and get Jamie Vardy involved who can get in behind those defenders. Another thing to look at would be Kane shouldn’t be playing so deep, as a front man he should be up there poaching and doing what he does best - score goals. Share your thoughts about this opinion piece on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  9. In the summer, EFL clubs will be asked to vote on whether they would like to scrap match day programmes. Some clubs feel that programmes are not generating a decent income due to social media allowing fans to see line-ups, previews of the match & other aspects which you would regularly find in a match day programme. But would scrapping match day programmes be a popular vote? Are we losing the last thing that represented the beautiful game? Match day programmes have been around since the 1880s but rather than it being a booklet full of information, it was simply a scorecard with team line-ups. It wasn't until the 1960s that match day programmes became popular with many people collecting these as a souvenir. Today, you can see programmes from as far back as the 1920s being sold for thousands. However, due to paper shortages post war, programmes from this era are very rare to find. For some fans though buying these match day programmes is about remembering that day rather than buying them in the hopes that they can sell them on for a profit. Some fans even store them away then either pass them down through the generations or show them off to family members. Whereas Social Media can give you all the information that you can find in a match day programme for free, to some it isn't the same as getting out that booklet, looking back at it and remembering that day you entered that football stadium, home or away. Programmes can be stored away for years to come but having those memories online can be wiped away at any point meaning that you won't get to reminisce that day. With match day programmes potentially being on the verge of ceasing to exist, could ticket prices be hiked up to accommodate that extra income to replace the programme sales? Ticket prices have caused anger and frustration all over England with many fans feeling they are not getting value for money and experiencing trouble finding the funds to pay. In League Two, the lowest tier of the EFL, fans are expected to pay as little as £13 for a single adult. Even for a season ticket, they are expected to pay hundreds and in some cases of the top tier season tickets can even cost thousands. This has led to the many clubs giving in to customer demands and capping prices, even freezing ticket prices. In recent years, we have seen many clubs overtaken by millionaires and billionaires much to the dislike of many fans. Many believe that these ownerships give teams a great advantage by outspending teams that rely heavily on their income. In 2003, Roman Abramovich, a Russian Billionaire, Bought Chelsea FC and with his investment spending millions on bringing in players of the highest level, they went from being a mid-table side to title challengers winning multiple trophies. Another fine example of investment changing teams fortunes would be Sheikh Mansour who bought Manchester City in 2008, the Citizens were a team that regularly finished mid-table experiencing relegation on several occasions during the Premier League era. Since Mansour took over, like Chelsea they spent heavily on talented players which also led to them gaining success, most recently winning the Premier League. Wolverhampton Wanderers have most recently won promotion to the Premier League, taken over in 2016 by Fosun International and it soon became clear that they had the finances to out-do the rest of the league by bringing in some players from teams playing in Europe’s elite, most notably Reuben Neves. Football, The Beautiful Game. Have we lost the game we all love? It seems that rather than being a sport that is loved by millions, it is slowly turning into a business. Share your thoughts about this opinion feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  10. We all know the history. World champions in 1966. The 'Robson Revival' of the 1980's. Euro 96, when 'Football came home'. The 'Golden Generation' which came and went. Expectation turns to hope, hope becomes disappointment, disappointment turns to desperation, until finally we crash out of Euro 2016, humiliated by a country which boasts a population of just 320,000. As we approach the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the expectation for most fans would be to just do us proud. Even the most die-hard England fan would struggle to dream of World Cup glory whilst another humiliating tournament would almost certainly spell disaster. As for myself, I have always watched and supported England and I will always continue to do so. Whether it’s a qualification game against San Marino or a nail biting knockout tie against Germany, I will always support my country. However, I would be lying if I thought we were going to achieve great things this summer. I still believe we have some great attacking players that can light up the World Cup in Russia. Harry Kane has had yet another great season. If it wasn’t for Mohamed Salah, he would have won a third consecutive Golden Boot. Raheem Sterling has just had his greatest season so far, scoring 18 and assisting 17 with title winners Manchester City. Leicester City's Jamie Vardy scored 20 goals in the Premier League, whilst also proving he can consistently score against top opponents. Jesse Lingard has developed into a key player at Manchester United, who has often kept France international Anthony Martial out of the side. And although Marcus Rashford hasn’t had the best season with United, he will go to Russia with no fear, possessing blistering pace to trouble opponents. Although we have plenty of talent going forward, I still believe we lack real quality in one area, which will ultimately be our downfall when coming up against top opponents. The problem? Our defence. In the past we have always produced great defenders. Bobby Moore, the 1966 winning captain, is arguably our best ever. Aside from his leadership qualities, his ability to read the game along with his composure made him world class. The iconic tackle against Jairzinho in the 1970 World Cup is a perfect example of this. Terry Butcher, another great centre back, proved in one blood-soaked image that he would give everything to play for his country and refused to be told otherwise. Tony Adams was a supreme defender. Whether it was his mental and physical resilience on the pitch, his reading of the game or just his sheer desire, he became a rock at the back of the England team. Further down the line, England's 'Golden Generation' produced an array of talent at the back. Two full backs, Gary Neville and Ashley Cole, made the right back and left back position their own for years. Although Neville wasn’t the most attacking player going forward, his defensive qualities along with his brilliant work rate made him one of the best. Cole was more of a threat going forward, but never sacrificed his defensive duties as a result of this. His pace, positioning and overall ability meant that he was once labelled as the best left back in the world. Our two best centre backs during this period, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, were some of the greatest defenders our country has produced. Terry was a rock at the back, and the Chelsea legend's strong and commanding leadership meant he became an outstanding defender, often being including in England's best ever XI. Ferdinand was a different player to Terry. Whereas JT was often perceived as a no-nonsense English-style central defender, Ferdinand was viewed as a more modern type sweeper, who had the ability to bring the ball out of defence with his feet and who could start off attacks with neat passes to team mates. He was also world class at defending, making it look effortless at times. He would defend with his brain before his body. Since then, England has been lacking real quality in defence. When Iceland knocked us out of Euro 2016, England's defence consisted of Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Danny Rose. These could hardly be called 'world class' and although Walker and Rose can be great going forward at times, there defensive capabilities can often be second best. As we approach the World Cup, I feel our defence hasn’t improved enough to keep out the best opponents. John Stones, who has plenty of potential to be a future great, has struggled to get into the Man City side on many occasions this season. This has also been the case for Cahill, who has been left out of the Chelsea side on more than one occasion. In fact, none of the defenders picked for the summer have the right mix of quality, form, experience and overall fitness needed to keep the best out. In my opinion, the best solution to this problem is playing with 3 at the back. It looks as if England manager Gareth Southgate is prepared for this. He has experimented with 3 at the back at times, allowing extra cover from the two wing backs. It has allowed England to be more solid at the back, whilst also providing the width needed from the wing backs to provide a threat going forward. Including players like Leicester City defender Harry Maguire allows England to lift their heads and play out with the ball. It has put a bit of optimism back into the England supporters. Although England have been reasonably solid in defence as of late in qualifying and recent friendlies, I still believe we will fail against top opponents once the real football begins. I truly hope this isn't the case and they can prove myself and all the doubters wrong. I hope they can learn from previous experiences and become a solid team, instead of relying on certain individuals. I will continue to support England no matter what and I will be watching eagerly once the tournament begins, hoping for a surprise or two. But from our recent tournaments, it will be a big ask. Share your thoughts about this opinion article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  11. In recent years, England managers have often chosen players based on playing for big clubs and reputation of the player rather than picking them based on recent form. We as fans have often mentioned names that should be called up because they are in great form but they get overlooked because they are not playing for a 'big club'. Tournament after tournament we have seen our 'World Class' players let us down time and time again. With Gareth Southgate naming his provisional squad for this summer's World Cup this week, Here is a list of players that could deserve a look in. Jonjo Shelvey Consistent performances this season has many fans talking of Shelvey for England. His contribution to Newcastle United has been something many fans doubted in recent years which has seen his attitude rapidly change and becoming a regular performer for his club with excellent work rate and great passing ability. Could be a suitable replacement for the injured Oxlade-Chamberlain. Jamaal Lascelles Newcastle United's skipper guided them to a comfortable mid table finish with solid and consistent performances this season, while being solid at the back he can also cause problems at the other end with his aerial presence. These performances have also seen him being linked with a move away to some of England's big names. Nick Pope With 11 Clean Sheets this season, Pope has filled in Tom Heaton's gloves really well which has helped Burnley gain European Qualification for the first time in over 50 years. James Tarkowski While offensively Burnley haven't been the most prolific, there defensive record has been a key into their European Qualification campaign which has been contributed greatly by the Tarkowski who has been a regular in that back line. These performances seen him gain a call up against Italy earlier this year which an excellent performance was dampened by a controversial penalty given away by Tarkowski late on in the game which ended 1-1. Ryan Sessegnon At the tender age of 17, he has shown that age is nothing but a number by showing maturity on the pitch with great performances which contributed to Fulham almost gaining Automatic Promotion to the Premier League, which was lost on the final day of the season. Amongst many other awards, Sessegnon has picked up both EFL and EFL Young Player of the Year. While still being young, might be useful to keep as an understudy in case of injuries and or tiredness. Trent Alexander-Arnold Another young English Defender making headlines, since coming into the fold at Liverpool he has enjoyed a successful season as a regular starter in which he has helped his club make it into the Champions League Final. Pundits and Fans alike have all suggested a bright future for this defender, who could still be too young for a major tournament, could also be used as a backup in case of injury. Ruben Loftus-Cheek Had a bright debut for England in the games against Brazil and Germany late last year proving critics wrong about his surprise inclusion in the squad by winning Man of the Match in the game vs Germany. Injury after them games dented his chances of a further call up but back at Crystal Palace he has once again proven that he could be set for another call up for his nation. Jack Wilshere Though recent years Wilshere has been subject to many injuries which often makes him unreliable for tournaments, there is no denying that he as the drive and ability to work in Midfield. Given that he his fully fit come the summer, he could a useful asset to the England Midfield. Tammy Abraham Another young talent who made his debut v Germany, he almost capped off that debut with a goal against the reigning World Champions. Having made a great name for himself netting 26 goals in 48 games for Bristol City, this season hasn't been too great for him being at relegated Swansea. With his pace and strength he could be useful to have come the last 20 or so minutes of a game. Lewis Cook Captained the England U20s to a World Cup win in 2017. Confident on the ball, enjoyed a great season at Bournemouth which has been noticed by Gareth Southgate which resulted in him gaining a call up for the game against Italy, even though playing only in the last quarter of that game he looked fitting in that midfield looking comfortable on the ball and having the vision and ability to see and make a pass. Dominic Solanke Another England U20s World Cup winner, Solanke has slowly crept into the Liverpool fold while being alongside the likes of Salah and Firmino. Just like Abraham, he could be utilised as an impact player to come on to bring in fresh legs in the last minutes of the game. Should we remove some of the old guard who have seemingly become complacent?Is it time we introduced young and hungry players to bring back the glory days? We've seen it in the 80s and 90s where our youth has come through the ranks, gave it their all and progress well in major tournaments. Hopefully Southgate will pick a team based on performances and avoid picking the regular big names based on who they are and who they play for. Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  12. The 28th April 2018 was a sad day for most Nottingham Forest fans as one of their most loved players of recent years announced his retirement from playing at only 31 years old. Chris Cohen has been at the City Ground for 11 years, which in this day and age makes him a rare breed of footballer. He was blighted by injuries over the last 4 seasons but he still went on to play over 300 games for us as well as being captain. Cohen even earned high praise from the legendary Stuart Pearce, who said "he was not only a leader on the pitch but in the dressing room and he was one of the best players he ever had the pleasure of working with." Anyone who gets praise like that from a legend like Psycho also deserves legend status and Cohen certainly deserves that title. In Saturday's 0-0 draw with Bristol City, he came on in the 89th minute to a very fitting standing ovation as the chant of "One Chrissy Cohen, there's only one Chrissy Cohen" bellowed out of 23,000 Reds mouths around the City Ground for one last time. Since the turn of the year, Cohen has been working as a coach with the Under-23s, a role I hope he gets to retain and, who knows, one day he might be back in the Forest dugout as a manager. To summarise Cohen's Forest career, he was signed from Yeovil Town along with Aaron Davies (it was actually Davies that Forest wanted more at the time). Davies went on to be a bit of flop whereas Cohen grew from strength to strength, in his time at the club he only scored 18 goals but he did score some crucial ones. Such example include the goal against Blackpool in the playoff semi final, the 3rd goal in the victory over Ipswich Town last season which kept Forest up and, to gain legend status at the club you need to score against the sheep and cohen did that too. He won the Player of the Season award twice, putting him alongside players such Nigel Clough, Des Walker and Pearce to have the won the award more than once. Cohen was a player who would always give you 110% always gave his all and for any football fan that's what you expect from a player. Share your thoughts about this feature on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  13. In the last week, football fans in England were outraged at the prospect of Wembley Stadium being sold to Fulham FC & Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan for a cost of £600m up front rising to over £1bn. Khan is thought to have had this bid lined up for months and has stated he expects the deal to be completed in the next six weeks. Swansea City boss Carlos Carvalhal was quoted in saying that Wembley is as much of a monument in England as Big Ben and the thought of it being sold off is something he disagrees with. But where does this leave English Football? Since the news emerged of the bid, the FA have made a statement aiming to justify the sale of our national stadium suggesting that £600m from this sale would be pumped into grassroots football which would allow up to 1,500 new pitches being created, and new drainage systems and floodlights to be introduced. For years, people have been demonstrating the need for money to be given to grassroots football to help our young footballers improve. In 2015, the Premier League was given TV rights of up to £5.14bn until 2019, then from the 2019-20 season are given £4.464bn with more game coverage. Considering this amount of money being pumped into the top level of English football, grassroots are yet to see any of that money so it's not hard to understand why there are skeptical fans out there wondering if the money from Wembley being sold would actually be pumped into our Grassroots system which is in desperate need of new funding. The old Wembley was demolished between the 2002-03 season with the new Wembley being opened in 2007. During these four years with no national stadium, playoffs and cup finals were played at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. The England national team, meanwhile, played their friendlies and qualifiers at grounds all over the country from Villa Park to Old Trafford. Ticket prices and travel to Wembley have left some fans unable to attend matches feeling that England should re-travel the country. Travelling the country would allow more fans to attend matches locally without having to pay excessive travel fees and in some cases accommodation costs which may be needed especially if a match was to be played on a weeknight, as most matches during qualifiers are. England could experiment with the idea of playing away from Wembley with the introduction of the UEFA Nations League as well as having friendlies across England while keeping qualifying games at Wembley. During the first couple of years after Wembley was re-opened, many people were quick to criticise the playing surface as unsuitable due to concerts and NFL games being played on the ground. Considering the potential buyer owns an NFL team in the shape of the Jacksonville Jaguars, could eventually, over the coming years, transform this into an NFL arena? Indeed, would playoffs and cup finals remain at Wembley? And will grassroots football see any of that money if it was sold? Do you as a football fan agree with this decision? Share your thoughts about this opinion article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  14. The footballing world was taken by storm on Friday following the announcement that Arsene Wenger would be stepping down as Arsenal manager after nearly 22 years in charge of the North London club. In October 1996, Wenger was announced as Gunners manager. Since taking charge, he revolutionised the English game by introducing his players to strict training regimes including a specific dieting routine. He has gone on to win 10 major trophies including 3 Premier League titles and 7 FA Cup titles. In his second season in charge, he won the Premier League and FA Cup double which was matched in the 2001/02 season. From his appointment to the early 2000s, he seemed the only manager able to prevent Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson completely dominating the English game, giving us the epic rivalry between the two clubs & managers. He remains to this present day the only manager in the Premier League era to go an entire season undefeated. The only other team to accomplish such a feat was Preston North End in 1889, although that was only a 22 game season. His Arsenal team would then go on to make it 49 domestic league games unbeaten before losing to Manchester United the following season. This set a new top tier unbeaten run eclipsing Nottingham Forest's longstanding record of 42 games without defeat from 1977-78. However, following the Invincible season, just one more major trophy would await Arsenal - the 2005 FA Cup - before a nine-year drought which would be ended with the 2014 FA Cup. The Gunners would claim two more of these cups, in 2015 and 2017, but the league title has eluded them since. During these 9 years of waiting for a trophy, there were questions being asked of Wenger whether he was still fit for the job. It's hard to disagree with the fans asking these questions considering what he achieved in his first 8 years in charge transforming Arsenal into serious title challengers. Up until the 2016/17 season, Arsenal under Wenger had never finished outside the top 4 and were regulars in the UEFA Champions League, making 14 consecutive appearances in the knockout phase of the competition starting from the 03/04 season most notably making the Champions League Final in 2006 which they ended up losing 2-1 to Barcelona despite having taken the lead through a Sol Campbell goal. The only other time under Wenger that Arsenal had failed to qualify for the Champions League was in the 1997/98 season despite finishing 3rd in his first season. In the 1999/00 season, his team was eliminated from the Champions League & relegated to the UEFA Cup in which they finished runners up to Galatasaray losing 4-1 on penalties following a 0-0 draw. During his 22 year spell at Arsenal, he has had a successful career but he will certainly be devasted not to win the League Cup, Champions League and UEFA Cup, competitions in which he has finished as runner-up. However, with this being his last season in charge could he be about to win a major European trophy in the form of the Europa League? Having made the semi-finals, it could be written in the stars to give this legend a great send-off. Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  15. Since the award was established in the 1993/94 season, the Premier League Manager of the Season award has been dominated by the manager whose team has won the title. In fact, only four managers have won the award without winning the Premier League trophy in the same season. This season, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is arguably the top contender for winning the award. Although Manchester City were one of the favourites to win the EPL at the beginning of the season, the Spaniard has done this playing his brand of football which was previously seen at former clubs Barcelona and Bayern Munich. His exciting and attractive style of football has lit up the Premier League, whilst proving critics wrong who suggested his style could not work in England. City were crowned champions last week with five games still to play. This had led to many critics believing Pep deserves the award. But does City’s sheer dominance of the league automatically mean Pep should be awarded it, or is somebody else more worthy? One of the biggest surprises this season has been Burnley FC. Their manager, Sean Dyche, is in his fifth year with the club. During that time Dyche won promotion to the Premier League after a four-year absence. Burnley’s spell in the top flight would initially only last one season as the club were later relegated. However, to Burnley’s credit, the club would keep their faith in their manager as Dyche would later sign a contract extension. This decision would later be rewarded as Dyche guided Burnley to the top flight for a second time in the 2015/16 season. This time Burnley would finish in 16th place and survive the drop. At the beginning of this season, the realistic expectation of most Burnley fans would have been of staying in the Premier League for another season. Whilst most of the big clubs invested handsomely in the summer - Manchester City in particular having a NET spend of around 138 million, Burnley’s was a much more modest 15 million. However, with both clever investment and Dyche learning from previous experiences, Burnley have been one of the Premier League’s surprise packages this season who are now on the brink of European qualification. They currently sit in 7th position with 53 points. Only a late collapse would see Burnley miss out on playing in Europe next season. In addition to this, Dyche has improved the form of many of his players, giving them the platform to shine at Turf Moor. This has even led to players being called up to play for their respective nations – Nick Pope and James Tarkowski for example being called up to the England squad. In an era where the sacking of a football manager is part of the modern game, Burnley have proved that sticking with their manager can lead to amazing results. In doing so, Dyche has defied expectations and critics alike. Should Dyche be awarded the Manager of the Season award, or should the overall dominance from Manchester City mean that Guardiola deserves this award instead? Or maybe another manager deserves this award even more? Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  16. Ah, Football, 'the beautiful game'. The thrills and spills ignite us, the passion fuels us and the hard grit and determination makes us who we are. But when it comes to the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), I think of dark cold nights, train delays and international breaks. All of which we try to avoid but they always come back to haunt us. It's the most controversial footballing topic on the planet at this moment in time. We all have our opinions, some stronger than others. Some love it and some hate it, it's like Marmite, there's no in-between. But above all, do we really need it? For me, I certainly know what side I'm on. I hate it. As football fans, we complain constantly about referees. 'They're useless' and 'come on referee, get a grip' and similar things are said by many fans at games. Among thousands of fans each game, there will also be critics of refs who spoil a game by slowing it down. So, why does the Football Association find it appropriate to give referees even more time to decide on the outcome? This week, the head of UEFA came out publicly to confirm that VAR will be not used in the Champions League next season. He says it causes: (1) "a lot of confusion" and "If we, or I, can do something to make sure that the World Cup is not decided by a referee's mistakes, then I think it's our duty to do it." Doesn't that hamper VAR's chances of making it into every competitive competition? Well, one can only hope so! VAR is specifically used for goals, penalties, straight red cards, and mistaken identity. All of which are very important calls by any referee already, surely, we shouldn’t need another 'video assistant referee' to make the decision for another referee. (2) Report shows technology has been 98.9% accurate in decision-making. If that's the case, then what's the point in having a referee in the first place? The way technology is going in today's modern football, we'll end up with a robot as a referee. Ridiculous right? But I wouldn’t put it past the big boys at the top, throwing money left, right and centre at our beautiful game. Step forward a few months and the World Cup will be in full swing. Step back a few days (17th February) and remind yourselves of the horrors of VAR once again. Fans across the country were left bemused by a remarkably tight decision, when Manchester United midfielder and Spain international Juan Mata was deemed to be 'just' offside against Huddersfield Town which meant the decision could not be changed due to an 'unclear error' which can only be overturned if the decision was 'clear'. VAR caused outrage across social media, when the lines looked wonky, with some calling it a farce. Personally, I think it looks like it has been drawn on by a three-year-old. Maybe it was. All the money in modern football and they can't even afford a ruler! It's not just fans who have to deal with this peculiar system, it's lower league football, which should be a number one priority in English Football after the Premier League, so instead of the FA putting all their pennies into a project that isn't necessarily working (and never will!) why don’t they put their time into something worthy. I mean don’t get me wrong, we all love the beauties that the Premier League offers but when it comes to technology, it just ruins it. The outcome of VAR hangs in the balance. It's new to our game but something tells me this technology craze is only having a damaging effect on the future of the Premier League's reputation. In other countries, VAR has been tried and tested but when I think of technology, I think - can't we just go back to the good old days? The thrills and spills ignite us, the passion fuels us and 'our' team makes us who we are but when it comes to VAR, I Just hope it doesn’t catch on. But after all, at least we still have our 'beautiful game'. Share your thoughts about this opinion feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  17. There is no denying Pep Guardiola was a fantastic midfielder back in his playing days, being often lauded as one of the most talented players to ever come through the Barcelona youth team. But how does this midfield maestro rank in terms of a manager? Does he deserve to be known as Fraudiola or is he generally a world class coach? His trophy cabinet certainly speaks volumes, winning 22 trophies at three different clubs and looking set to add a Premier League title with runaway leaders Manchester City to bring his total to 23 trophies since his managerial career began in 2008. He was also known as the youngest ever manager to win the UEFA Champions League in his first season as Barcelona manager. In 2008, he succeeded Frank Rijkaard as manager of Barcelona spending 4 seasons at the Catalan Giants most notably winning 3 consecutive La Liga Titles in his first 3 seasons as manager. He also went on to win the Champions League, Copa Del Rey, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup twice. He was also a three-time winner of the Supercopa de Espana. However, he failed to deliver a fourth consecutive La Liga title in his final season as Barcelona manager and was also knocked out of the Champions League in the semi-final to eventual winners Chelsea. Following a year out of management he was unveiled as manager of Bayern Munich, who had just won the Champions League the season before and would go on to manage them for 3 seasons winning seven trophies during his time in Germany including three successive Bundesliga titles and two domestic doubles with the DFP-Pokal and the Bundesliga. However, he never won the Champions League with the German Giants ending their run of making it to the Champions League Final which they did the previous two seasons before being appointed as manager. In 2016, Pep Guardiola decided that it was time for a change of scenery and also a new challenge which he took in the form of Manchester City. His first season didn't go as he would have planned, failing to win a single trophy for the first time ever in his career, and also finishing third in the league, also a first in his career - failing to finish in the top two. His second season, on the other hand, seems to be going just a little bit better than his first having already won the EFL Cup and seemingly running away with the Premier League. During the middle of the season people were expecting Pep and City to deliver, they looked set to complete this and win the Quadruple. However, this was ended firstly by League One Wigan Athletic in a shock 1-0 defeat during their FA Cup tie but they still remained on course to complete a Treble until they were eliminated 5-1 on aggregate to Liverpool in the Champions League quarter final. In my opinion, he has had success handed to him taken over at already successful clubs in Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Now, at Manchester City, especially after the first season, he has found that he has a challenge on his hands to gain success nothing in which he has experienced as a manager of Barca and Bayern who are both dominant forces in the league respectively. Brian Clough, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho all experienced challenges but transformed those clubs from mediocre league team on to competing at the highest level within Europe’s elite. Mourinho with Porto, UEFA Cup & Champions League in successive seasons. Chelsea, successive Premier League titles with a record breaking 95 points in his first season. Fergie with Manchester United, breaking Liverpool’s most top-flight titles record by dominating the Premier League era. And Cloughie transforming Nottingham Forest from a Second Division outfit to Back to Back European Champions in 4 seasons. Can Pep Guardiola be mentioned alongside these World Class Managers or is the name "Fraudiola" justified? Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  18. Liverpool will be looking to win Europe's top prize for the sixth time having made it into the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in 10 years. Having come through the playoffs to the group stage of the competition, they are yet to lose in the competition and, with 33 goals, are the leading goalscorers in this year's competition. Winning 7-0 on two separate occasions against Spartak Moscow and Maribor in the group stage and a 5-0 win against Porto in the first leg of their round of 16 tie might not have got people convinced that Liverpool could be genuine contenders. However, having beaten Pep Guardiola's runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City 5-1 over the course of two quarter-final legs might have got people thinking that maybe they could be a force to be reckoned with. Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona, two of the main contenders, have already been eliminated,which has left the competition up for grabs. However, Roma, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich will also be looking at claiming Europe's top prize. Real Madrid - even after almost throwing away a 3-0 first leg lead at home against Juventus still have a chance to claim their third consecutive Champions League trophy, which would make it 13 overall, thanks to a disputed last minute Cristiano Ronaldo penalty. Bayern Munich - Five-times champions of Europe, making their sixth semi final appearance in seven years in which they have been involved in two finals, winning one and losing one. Roma - looking to win their first ever Champions League. Just like Liverpool they weren't seen as contenders but eyebrows were raised when they came back from a 4-1 first leg deficit to beat Barcelona on away goals. Could Liverpool bring Europe's top prize back to England for the first time since Chelsea in 2011-12? Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  19. We're down to the last four teams in this season's FA Cup, with Manchester United up against Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea to face Southampton in the semi-finals. Ever since the Red Devils decided to withdraw from the 1999-2000 competition to focus on the inaugural FIFA Club World Championship in South America - a shocking decision that was supported by the FA to try and curry favour with FIFA when it came to their World Cup 2006 hosting bid - there has been much discussion with regards to how much the World's Oldest Cup Competition (TM) truly means to big teams any more. There was a time when the FA Cup truly was English football's showstopper, the curtain closer, but things such as the Man United withdrawal, or playing the final before the end of the Premier League season, like Wigan Athletic did in 2013, have all led to people despairing at how the competition seems to have fallen by the wayside. But this season, each of the four teams are certain to take the competition seriously. Southampton, as a team not traditionally expected to challenge for the title and seldom in Europe, will want to turn their superb cup run into something more and seek to clinch major silverware for the first time since 1976, not to mention giving their fans something to smile about amid the relegation gloom. Mark Hughes did well in his first match to get past a tricky side in Wigan Athletic and will propel himself to glory sharpish should the Saints dispatch of Chelsea and then win in the final, going a step further than the 2002-03 side, now to mention the EFL Cup final defeat last term. As for Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and the Blues, this season's FA Cup doesn't represent merely a booster trophy to other silverware; it represents each of these clubs' only chance of winning silverware. Let's face it, Manchester City have won the Premier League. We've pretty much known this since the turn of the year, and now it's more a matter of when rather than if. Will it be before the derby, leaving United possibly having to do a guard of honour, or during the derby, or can the Red Devils avoid either of those ignominies and keep the champagne on ice for a little longer? United were expected to be challenging for the league alongside City but they've been a distant second for much of the season and are now facing a battle for second, with Liverpool and Spurs - and possibly Chelsea - hoping to finish as high as they can. In addition, all three managed to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League but all three fell at the last-16 stage as Sevilla, Juventus and Barcelona all ran out relatively comfortable winners. Jose Mourinho has found himself under pressure in the last few weeks and his 12-minute monologue the other week seemed less "inspirational speech" and more "under-stress individual about to crack", so he will be hoping to get his hands on the FA Cup - it'll be more of a consolation prize, but failure to claim it will mean the ignominy of a "trophyless season". If Mourinho is on thin ice, Antonio Conte is very much struggling to tread water having fallen through a crack in the ice. Chelsea's woeful defence of their Premier League title and five-point gap between themselves and the top four is bad enough, but his constant spats and digs at the board during his press conferences aren't exactly going to endear him to Roman Abramovich - an owner with a history of sacking managers for less than what Conte has been doing/not doing. And then there's Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham, a side with arguably one of the best managers in the league but with a board that isn't particularly well liked by fans, due to the player wage ceiling which they believe leaves them open to poaching, not to mention the planned price of season tickets at the new stadium. Also, Spurs have been starved of silverware for a whole decade since they won the 2008 League Cup - and before then, the 1991 FA Cup - so a trophy would do wonders for securing the legacy of one of the most talented Spurs sides in recent memory. So how will the competition end this year? Will Mourinho do an Arsene Wenger and pick up a second FA Cup in a row as a consolation for a close-but-no-cigar Man United side? Could Conte suffer a similar fate to Louis van Gaal in winning the cup and being fired straight after? Will Pochettino finally guide his superb young side to cup glory? Or will Hughes upset the odds and guide Southampton to their first major trophy since the 1970s? Share your thoughts about this opinion feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  20. Now, first of all I need to make one point clear - I am not a Liverpool fan. I am not an "anyone but Man U" person. I am a neutral. Am I the only person who, despite being disgusted at his actions, feels sorry for Jamie Carragher and also feels genuine disdain for the idiot who goaded him just to get a reaction - while risking his family's safety by using a phone at the wheel - and then plastered the ill-obtained video all over the internet like he was the victim? So Carra left his place of work on Saturday and was verbally assaulted numerous times by a moronic Manchester United "fan", who as well as appearing a rather distasteful individual, was also more than happy to put his family at risk (I can't stress this point enough - that kind of behaviour costs and destroys lives) by using his phone while driving for the sake of recording a "bantz" video. I believe Carragher when he said he was goaded multiple times, because as much as certain people, particularly in the virtual reality of the internet, like to hold themselves and others to standards of patience that not even Mother Teresa could achieve, everyone has a breaking point. And for Carragher to spit from his car window - and consider he's been a top level footballer for years and years so probably knows more than anyone how best to channel pressure and stress in the face of opponents - he must have reached the end of his tether. Now, I don't condone the action. Spitting at another person is a horrible act and I didn't like seeing him lower himself to the level of an animal by lashing out via that action. And it's particularly horrible that a teenage girl was caught in the crossfire between these two man-children. That said, the way the press reported it, you would think Carragher had deliberately set out to spit at the girl. Not that the "man" was happy enough to goad Carragher despite his daughter being sat in the passenger seat, effectively a human shield. No sensible grown man, particularly one with children of his own as Carragher, would spit at a youngster purposefully. It's obvious. He said in an interview that she was leant back in her chair and didn't see her, which makes sense, albeit the whole incident still resulted in her being hit. And the fact that she was telling her dad not to be an idiot speaks volumes about his behaviour as much as Carra's. Now, Carra should have been wiser not to lower the window and not to lash out, but hindsight's a wonderful thing, shoulda woulda coulda and all that. He's shown genuine remorse, taking it upon himself to apologise and explain his actions (though he couldn't really - he admitted that he had lost his rag, and fair play to him for being man enough to admit it). Incidentally, on the same weekend that Carra got poked and prodded and then castigated for lashing out, another report emerged claiming that Scott Sinclair of Celtic was verbally assaulted by three men at Glasgow Airport while (much like Carragher) minding his own business in the BA lounge. This story barely made any headlines because Sinclair presumably didn't react, but funny how the three men weren't even named and certainly not shamed - nothing for these little people to lose, but everything for the media figures to lose. The oaf who prodded the hornet's nest and got stung will face no repercussions, while Carra's reputation has taken a battering much bigger than it should have (and given how nasty his action was, it deserved a pretty big battering). And we wonder why so many celebrities are standoffish when it comes to the general public. Share your thoughts about this opinion article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  21. I have come to the conclusion that Manchester City are boring. Shock statement, I know. They're miles ahead in the Premier League title race and look good value for progression in the Champions League, as well as being favourites in the EFL Cup - we won't mention the FA Cup though. It's the way they play. They are the football equivalent of Rafael Nadal. Kick the ball around just out of reach of the other team to make them chase it and tire them out. Watching Nadal play tennis, he'd hit the ball to the opposite side of the court as the opposing player, just to make him run really. Always playing the percentage ball. I am not denying its effectiveness but as a spectator sport I just find it dire. How many goals have City scored from cutbacks from the byline? One a game at least, I'd say. But they've come unstuck at times - and let's not look at the Wigan game, since that was more a case of City making mistakes than the opposition's quality. Liverpool, who remain the only team to beat them in the league this season, are good at pressing and playing with high energy and that worked for them. But other teams can't play like that because they don't have the quality or athleticism. They will sit deep and not be drawn into trying to close everyone down and conserve energy and only make the tackles they need to. That will work for some teams but doesn't really offer any attack strategy. You need an effective counterattack. Sitting deep and not being drawn into trying to chase the ball too much still requires concentration and organisation, which can't be maintained indefinitely. Arguably any team that can pass pretty well that can avoid losing it just after they win possession because City try to win it back quickly. They can play City at their own game then. Or you could set people to follow their main players and restrict their impact on the game. Let's cast our eyes back to last April, when Manchester United beat Chelsea, and Ander Herrera famously marked Eden Hazard out of the game - that could be done with Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva. I think Silva is the one who pulls the strings mostly though and not allowing him to receive the ball has been effective in the past. He's also prone to rash lunges to win back the ball which could be used to the opposition's advantage. Man City have won plenty of plaudits this season but as the defeats to Shakhtar Donetsk, Liverpool and Wigan have proved, they're not invincible and can be sussed out, which I can see more teams doing in future. Then it remains to be seen how Pep Guardiola can adapt accordingly. Share your thoughts about this opinion article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  22. The Premier League is currently plodding along as expected, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal occupying the top six spaces. Likewise, last season finished with those same teams in the top six, in a slightly different order. It's hard to fathom that, just two years ago, the entire country - and perhaps the world - was rooting for the success of a team that had absolutely no right being at the top table and, as it turned out, Leicester City miraculously finished top of the pile in arguably - in fact no, call it DEFINITELY - the greatest underdog history of all time. However, on this day one year ago, everyone's favourite underdog became everyone's most despised villain, when Claudio Ranieri - the man who had delivered miracles at the King Power Stadium - was sacked from his role. How appropriate that the city where Richard III is interred would yield a triumphant king who would go on to die - in a sporting sense - in battle and also provide a tale of treachery and tragedy which William Shakespeare would have been proud of. As an East Midlander myself who was absolutely delighted to see my region triumph against all odds, I was naturally heartbroken at the turn of events, and likewise, the entire sporting community that had hailed Leicester was now mourning collectively and willing the club, that had betrayed them as they had betrayed Ranieri, to suffer relegation. But as emotional as football is, the reality is one of pragmatism and logic. And the cold hard truth is that, for all of Ranieri's amazing work in 2015-16, Leicester were at real risk of having all that hard work undone with relegation, which would have tarnished their legacy - the first Premier League champions to be relegated the following season - and also compromise the club from a financial perspective. Ranieri's second season at Leicester saw him make three major errors. The first was in the transfer market, as his post-title signings ended up not delivering in the blue shirt. The second was his somewhat blind loyalty in the previous season's key players, who were underperforming in 2016-17 and should have really been dealt with more sternly, and the third was his refusal to change his 4-4-2 despite the rest of the division now knowing exactly how to counter it. Obviously N'Golo Kante's departure left a huge gap in midfield and Ranieri could do nothing about his exit, likewise with scout Steve Walsh's move to Everton while the added expectations and status as reigning champions probably gave the entire club a huge bout of stage fright. However, the reality is that Ranieri couldn't adapt appropriately and so the club's league status was at risk. Hence the board's unpopular but ultimately appropriate decision to commit regicide. The appointment of Craig Shakespeare only added to the narrative - the Brutus to Ranieri's Julius Caesar, the Claudius to Ranieri's King Hamlet, who usurped the throne after the predecessor's downfall. And then when the players suddenly began playing superbly again, it only added to the illusion that the players had downed tools under Ranieri. Going back to that old pragmatism, Shakespeare managed to keep the club in the top-flight, and this is where the owners, in my opinion, made their one big mistake in their tenure so far - giving him a three-year contract. And incidentally, this is probably the most "emotional" decision that the club made, looking at his results in the short term rather than lack of experience at the top level or indeed any kind of long-term vision for the club. As it turned out, Shakespeare was himself sacked just eight games into the 2017-18 season, with the team struggling once again, and the ensuing appointment of former Southampton manager Claude Puel appears to have finally yielded that the plan was all along for Leicester - a solid, efficient, stable top-ten Premier League side. Meanwhile, Ranieri is now at Nantes, who sit a very impressive fifth in the Ligue 1 table and are dreaming of "going on a European tour", while Shakespeare has linked up with Walsh at Everton, where he currently plies his trade in his natural position, that of coach. So, all's well that ends well basically. One year on from the biggest act of sporting regicide in history, it seems like things have worked out well for everyone. One last point to make - the Srivaddhanaprabha family has made several important and often unpopular decisions at Leicester. Not sacking Nigel Pearson when the team looked set for relegation was one. Sacking Pearson after the team was safe was another (although his son's sacking by the club following the Thai tour scandal probably played a big part). Then, the decision to appoint Ranieri was met with howls of laughter and derision, while his sacking was met with widespread condemnation and sadness. Then we moved on to Shakespeare and now Puel, with the club finally doing well. My point is, the owners have more often than not been vindicated in their crucial decisions, so massive credit to them for sticking to their guns and doing what's best for the club rather than what's best for the narrative. Share your thoughts about this opinion article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  23. As a 29-year-old fan of a lower-league football club, and thus a "neutral" in Premier League terms, it's pained me to see Newcastle United having a tough time in the top flight this season following years and years of stagnation and mediocrity, with the occasional relegation thrown in. My early memories of Newcastle, as a 1990s child and 2000s teenager/young adult, were of a swashbuckling, exciting outfit boasting superb footballers and cult heroes - basically, a team well worthy of its place in the upper echelons of English football. I was a bit of a latecomer to football, to be honest, and didn't really start following it week in, week out until after the 2002 World Cup. The 2002-03 season saw Newcastle in the Champions League, having finished fourth the previous term, and under the management of Bobby Robson, one of the best (and best-loved) managers to have ever come from England. And I remember their high-scoring games against Manchester United, crazy displays of football, not to mention the Champions League run which saw them playing the likes of Inter Milan, Juventus and Barcelona. Given that was the season in which I properly got into football, that's become a benchmark of sorts, and to me, Newcastle were always a "big" club. So the events of the following 15 years were difficult to fathom. Robson being fired early in the 2004-05 season, Graeme Souness's arrival and woeful management of the side, a 14th-placed finish, and it would only get worse, with Mike Ashley seizing control of the club from Freddie Shepherd. From then on, Newcastle would lurch from disappointment to disappointment, as one of the best-supported clubs in England would make relegation battles a regular occurrence, and to date, they've had two seasons in the Championship, although to their credit, they've managed to bounce straight back up each time. Now, with the club managed by Rafa Benitez, one of the finest managers in world football at the moment, and in the Premier League, it looks as though Ashley's time owning the club could potentially be coming to an end soon. I say "could", it all depends what happens with regards to Amanda Staveley's potential takeover of the club - the last round of negotiations didn't yield a deal, in fact it ended on a somewhat sour note as Ashley stated: “Attempts to reach a deal with A. Staveley & PCP have proved exhausting, frustrating and a complete waste of time.” Ouch. Now, a report in the Chronicle claims that Staveley has completed a business deal worth £142million with the Reuben Brothers to raise renewed hopes of a takeover. So this is a space that will most certainly need to be watched. One of the most damning indictments regarding the situation at the club came from former Magpies stalwart Rob Lee, who told BBC Sport: "There is no point in Newcastle getting into the Premier League then keeping the same players that got them there. "Sometimes you need better players. Bournemouth and Watford have both spent more than us. Newcastle is a huge club but it does not feel like that anymore, people don't want to play for them anymore. "We were challenging the top teams like Manchester United and Arsenal, had trips to Europe, but it all seems so far away now. It is a shame. The club has been in decline for such a long time. "Mike Ashley takes one step forward and then three giant steps backwards. It is time now for change, we need change, we need someone else to take the helm. "It has become a stalemate. It is complicated with Ashley wanting a certain amount but prospective buyers are only willing to pay a certain amount because of what they value the club." A takeover does not necessarily mean a guaranteed upturn in fortunes, it's more of a lottery at times - it could be anything on the scale from "Man City" to "Portsmouth". But with the last 11 years having yielded nothing but disappointment for Newcastle fans, who are arguably the most passionate in the country, it's a gamble worth taking, given the stagnation, poor results and sometimes farcical issues that have beset the club in recent years. Share your thoughts about this opinion article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  24. When as an Arsenal fan I watch Europa League games, my mind has lots of questions related to the competition which usually helps in passing time because frankly speaking almost every game (7 to be exact) has been boring so far. Let's discuss those questions related to Arsenal's Europa League campaign. The first major issue is - should Arsene Wenger now prioritise Europa League for the rest of the season? A one off season away from Champions League is okay but a club like Arsenal that is self sustaining cannot afford to make this a habit. Qualification money right now does not have the value it used to have few years back but major sponsorship deals can get affected if Arsenal do not qualify for Europe's premier club competition again. There are only 2 routes to achieve that - Premier League and Europa League. Chances of finishing in the top 4 appear to be very slim. The Gunners sit in 6th spot 8 points behind 4th placed Chelsea and with 11 games to go the gap looks big enough. Also worth considering the fact that Tottenham sit between Chelsea and Arsenal at 5th. That leaves Arsene Wenger with only one realistic option of making a comeback to the UEFA Champions League which is to win the Europa League. The knockout stages of the competition started well as Arsenal beat Östersunds 3-0 in Sweden thanks to goals from Nacho Monreal, Mesut Özil and an own goal from *this is why being a football writer is exciting* Sotirios Papagiannopoulos. Arsenal did not need a spectacular performance to beat them and return leg looks to be just a formality. The next issue is Alexandre Lacazette's knee injury. The French forward is expected to be out for four to six weeks which means he will miss the return leg of Round of 32 match and also potential Round of 16 games. With Olivier Giroud sold and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup tied for this competition, can Arsenal rely on Danny Welbeck who was not at all impressive last night/ In my opinion Arsenal will be hoping for another easier opponent for this stage. Another issue in my mind is constant changing of the side for Europa League games. Arsenal should be prioritising this competition and in order to have any hopes of winning this, a settled eleven is needed. Big players like Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan should become used to of playing with the squad that will be put out in Europa League games. There was also a change in centre-back pairing on Thursday as Calum Chambers partnered Shkodran Mustafi. Now will they pair up again for any other game this season? I don't know. By far the biggest issue is - can Arsenal beat the other strong contenders? On paper Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Marseille, Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Olympique Lyonnais and RB Leipzig are very strong teams that Arsenal will have to overcome in order to win the competition. Arsenal have a good enough squad but I have not seen any kind of special performance so far that convinces me but problem is Arsenal didn't need to do too much so far to win games. So Arsenal should really be making the Europa League their priority for the remainder of the season and play their best team to win the competition and re-enter the Champions League next season. Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  25. I don’t think there has been a time where a player is so heavily linked throughout the course of a transfer window like Virgil van Dijk was to Liverpool. He, alongside Naby Keita, were in the press the most and myself, I personally am delighted that we have now signed the big Dutchman. Van Dijk is not going to fix all the problems at once but he will certainly go a long way in the process of doing so. Liverpool being able to secure this signing was the real statement and one which will surely strengthen Liverpool’s title chances for the upcoming seasons. Van Dijk was a regular in the Saints backline until he was hit by injury which hampered his season. As the player is 26 this means that he is at the right age where he can improve and he has the invaluable experience of playing in the Premier League to offer and still has a number of years at top flight level. Van Dijk is a Dutch defender who is 6’4” in height and as he possesses great strength and stature he will be an asset to Liverpool in both boxes. He is very comfortable with the ball at his feet and does have a great eye for a pass even if he is playing centre back. His performances have been pretty good since he came and once he has a settled partner you will see his game taken on once again to the next level under Jurgen Klopp. Moving on to Philippe Coutinho, my initial feeling when he left was that Liverpool are losing one of the few world class players they have in the squad. It is with great sadness that he has chosen to depart Anfield but it is in the manner of which he chose to leave which was nothing short of disrespectful and the reason that many Liverpool fans now see him as just another player who has used the club for his own personal benefit. When Coutinho left Inter to join Liverpool we basically rescued his career and turned him into what he is today. Was Barcelona interested when he left Italy or when he was playing close by on loan at Espanyol? The answer is no the was not. He has treated the club with utter contempt and feigned injury to get his move and what I will say is things that go around come back around so hopefully Karma will come back and bite him on his backside at some point in the future. This current Liverpool squad has the capability to cope with his departure and I fully agree with the manager selling him now. People say but you don't sell your best players in January but why would you want an unhappy player sulking around with little interest in playing for you? He has showed his true colours and unless your 100% pulling in the same direction ass the rest of the squad then Jurgen will show you the door and rightly so. On a replacement, obviously Klopp wants Thomas Lemar and that is fine but I also would like to see a like for like player brought in such as Ever Banega, Mateo Kovacic or Adrian Rabiot brought in for their creativity and vision to replace what we are losing. The dream signing would be Marco Verratti from PSG but I don't expect that to be happening in the near future. I trust Jurgen to spend the money wisely and as shown previously he will wait if necessary to get his targets on board. In the mean time I suggest we all get behind the team and fully support the lads that want to be at the club with the best support possible. Share your thoughts about this opinion article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.

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