Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I've been a strong advocate for building the skills of youth players, while protecting them form the harsh lime light of the football media. I'm hoping at some point there will be a Canadian kid who has the skills that will light up the world and propel the national team to the World Cup. Until then we have to satisfy ourselves with young talent over seas.

Like this kid! His name is Noah Shawn and he's a youth player at Bayern Munich's academy in Germany. As the video shows he has amazing skill and control of the ball. The absolutely scary thing is....he's just 7. I'm a person who has to give credit where credit is due because he's simply amazing for his age. What I hope not to do or to happen is that this kid gets his head turned by the scum of the football world, and let's face it those kind of people are out there in the game trying to make a quick buck.

All I ask is that you take the video for what it is, a gifted boy doing his thing.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gary Neville: Know when to fold em'

This is probably going to be the most uncomfortable post I've written so far, as most of you know I am an unapologetic Manchester United supporter and have been since I was a kid. I'm 27 now which means I followed the club through the beginning of the Premier League era which means I watched Fergie's golden generation win title after title, cup after cup.

A major part of those title winning teams was a strong back four to cover up for the aggressive attacking style the club played, and a major lynch pin to that back four was right back Gary Neville. During the 1990's and early 2000's Neville was the unquestioned right back not only for United but for England as well. A fiesty and well positioned back he was one of the best at shutting down opposing teams attacks from the wings. He also had a habit of running his mouth about the strength of the club, which made him public enemy #1 with other clubs supporters and made us laugh as United supporters. Outside of the pitch he carried himself with class when it came to representing the values of Manchester United, which to his credit he still does.

However the same can not be said about his play on the pitch.

During the middle part of the last decade Neville could not catch a break with injuries, especially to his knees which is the key joint for a footballer. Gary would be in and out of the squad for almost 4 seasons as his various comebacks would be hampered by other nagging injuries and re-occurrences of the knee tear. As anyone who has a major knee injury will tell you your mobility can never quite get back to what it was no matter who much rehab you put yourself through. Neville was never the fastest right back, but he was quick enough and agile to hang in with some of the best wingers and left midfielders in the world.

As he started to come back from those injuries and begin to play again you started to see little mistakes happen that just didn't occur before. Badly missed tackles, poor positioning, lack of pace etc... Of course no one stays on top forever, but as Sir Alex continued to pick him for matches it became clear that Gary Neville's best days were behind him.

Over the past year this has become glaringly obvious, with Sunday's game being the ultimate tipping point for me. Gary was poor for the entire 45 minutes he was on the pitch at Stoke. Matthew Etherington ate him alive down the wing as he knew he could beat him at anytime. He gave away the ball countless times from the back which lead to chances for the Potters, and although his yellow card was a bad call from the ref he should have been sent off after a shockingly poor tackle on Etherington after he clearly ran by him. To cap it all off he was embarrassed at the beginning of the second half.  It looked like he'd start the half and then he was immediately taken off by Sir Alex for Wes Brown. He has to endure the walk of shame back down to the dressing room, and came back to the pitch in his jeans.

While on the bench Gary cut a figure who might have finally realized his time in the game just might be up, and to be frank I really hope this is the case. I am not questioning his heart or passion for the club, but there's a time in every athlete's career where they must make a tough decision. Can I still put in a worthy performance? Can I still do this without either hurting the club? Or making a fool of myself? These are questions only Gary can ask and answer, but from the looks of it the answers are no across the board. The worst thing as a sports fan is watching a washed up player hanging on to past glory when they know their time has long past.

I do not wish this for Gary Neville. As a greedy fan...and I know I'm acting like one now, I want to see him remembered as one of the great Manchester United defenders of all time. I do not want the lasting memory of Neville be one in which he is being clowned by a Messi, Ozil or Matthew Etherington. At 35 and with 600 club appearances he will have a job with the club for life, at this point he would be of more use to the club by stepping aside as a player, and move into a coaching role. He could focus on helping the young Da Silva brothers become better full backs and Chris Smalling into a better overall defender.

I know Sir Alex stays loyal to his players, especially the Giggs, Scholes, Neville era of players, but even Fergie has to be recognizing that he just doesn't have it anymore. At some point Fergie is going to or has had the talk with Gary, I hope Gary takes this advice at has a serious think at the end of the season...

Because it's time to hang em up.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Ronaldinho back in the mix with the Seleção?

When the final rosters were announced for the 2010 World Cup squads, one name what was ominous by its absence was that of Brazilian super star Ronaldinho. After being frozen out by then manager Dunga it seemed Ronny's time on the international stage was over. At 30 and struggling for a glint of the form that made him the best player in the world at one point, the questions surrounding him were more about his suspected party life then about his football.

Welcome back

Coming into the new Serie A season there were a lot of questions as to how Ronaldinho would handle the national team rejection and if he could maintain the good form he showed near the end of last season with Milan. The answer to both after 8 rounds is .......very well. By no means is he back to the 2003-2007 form which saw him become the most electrifying player in the world (and I had ever seen) but there are flashes of the pace and ball skills that in any other situation than Dunga being manager would make him a automatic selection for a national team.

Though his goal output is lower than his amazing stint at Barcelona, he is starting to mesh with midfield partners Andrea Pirlo and the ageless Clarence Seedorf at A.C Milan and is a major reason to Milan's excellent start to their season. The club currently sit second in the league are looking good to make the second round of the Champions league. Ronaldinho's contribution has not just been noticed in Italy, but also by new Brazil manager Mano Menezes who is looking to return Brazil to is free flowing attacking football. Menezes said in a press conference last Tuesday that he was excited to bring Gaúcho back to the Brazil fold.

"I think I will call Ronaldinho. I have seen him play well and he is adapting to his new role," the coach told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Although it is doubtful that he'll be in the Seleção fold by 2014 for their home World Cup, he could still make an impact in the next Copa America in 2011 to help Brazil retain it's South American title. More than anything it will be an opportunity for Ronny to prove one more time that he is deserving to be mentioned in the discussion of greatest footballer of all time. Currently I would say that he's still a ways off from being in that level of player but I do not believe he's not that far off the list.

The question for fans of the Brazilian machine, the question will be where does he play? He now started to play in a more withdrawn and deeper role at Milan, and is no longer the up front dynamo he was, though like I mentioned earlier he still has flashes of it. I would imagine Menezes would prefer to have him supporting the attacking the mid or be the attacking mid in a short substitute role. Either way it was clear in the World Cup this squad still needs a player like Ronaldinho even if it`s off the bench for 20-25 minutes.

The question now is can he re-discover that made him the best player in the world, or will he squander the chance yet again?


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Is there a point to a Scottish Premier league?

A few weeks back I got into a heated conversation with a Scotland supporter after their loss to the Czech Republic in which Scotland boss Craig Levein decided to play what was in a sense a 4-6-0 formation. After watching that the supporter openly questioned the quality and importance of the Scottish Premier League. I responded to him by saying that Scotland needs to continue to have it's top league in order to push through young talent to the national side.
His answer to this shocked me, he answered by saying that if the SPL folded into the English football league, save Rangers (Who he supported) and Celtic who would enter the English Premier League, Scottish football would progress much faster then if they stayed in Scotland.

I asked him how he could think this? How did he think that joining the football league would improve Scottish football? Most importantly how would Scottish football keep it's traditions and identity if it joined up with England?

Again his answers gave me a moment to think. The reckoning was that the level of competition in England would be of a higher quality then if the same teams kept playing each other at a lower level of skill. Spreading the clubs out between the Championship, League one and League 2, would open them to higher skill levels and different ways of approaching the game. This in turn would force the clubs to improve in order to keep up. As for the two clear front runners in Scottish football, Rangers and Celtic, making the long rumored move to the Premier league would also expose them to a higher level of competition that would shake off the complacency of only thinking about competing with one another. Also there would be a financial incentive to Rangers and Celtic, the EPL move would net them T.V revenue that would allow them to further improve their internal payment development.

As for the identity of Scottish football he did concede that a move could lead to more foreign players being introduced to the squads which could defeat the purpose, but overall he though that it could actually bolster Scotland as having a healthy weekly competition with English clubs would reinforce pride in Scottish football.

This gentleman made some good points and it clearly a true supporter of Scotland and Scottish football, but here's why I do not agree with him and why it's vitally important that the SPL continue.

As some who writes from a country that suffers from not having a domestic league to call its own, I am in a unique position to know that it becomes extremely difficult to grow interest in the national side and develop players without one. To break it down even further it is still difficult to build those two things mentioned above while you have teams playing in another domestic league. The objective of any domestic league is to develop its own talent to feed into the national side. This leaves the league with no obligation to help foreign teams succeed. This is not to say that the English Football League would show not interest in Scottish sides, but it's priority is English players for the England squads.

Although the building of England v Scotland club rivalries may reinforce Scottish pride, you would think that over time they may lose their identity as they blend into English culture. For evidence of this take a look at the Welsh clubs that compete in the Football League. Neither Cardiff or Swansea have been promoted to the Premier League, nor has the Welsh national side improved any of their results.

As for the front runner clubs, they need to stay in the SPL. Leagues need these type of dominate clubs in order to set some kind of yard stick for other clubs to aim at. Yes...either Rangers or Celtic always win the league, but this does not mean that the league is completely un-competitive. It just means that other clubs need to step up the search for financing in order to compete.

I'll leave you with this, if there was no SPL would you have a Sir Alex Ferguson?  Kenny Miller? Mo Johnston?


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Well...I feel used!

So three days of uncertainty, speculation, anger and hurt feelings have led to this...

I can't say I'm not happy that Rooney has changed his mind about leaving United and signing a new 5 year deal, however this last week has left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth for the player and the business of modern football. The posturing by Wazza and his agent Paul Stretford was clearly a ploy for more money, this had very little to do about ambition or a change of scenery. I don't know how much of this was orchestrated by the player though I believe this was on the advice of Stretford. Whatever the case my be I don't know how much respect Rooney will be able to win back not only with the supporters, but with his own team mates who he called out in his statement as simply not good enough to win anything. Some of his team mates came out saying more or less they were not happy with the star.

I personally have never been a huge fan of Wayne Rooney the man, I respect the skills he has on the pitch but his decision making outside of it is questionable at best. I know that it is hard to judge a man who lives his life in the media fish bowl of English tabloid press, but Sir Alex has made it a point to root out those who live their personal lives in a way that is unacceptable. I really am dying to know what the vets like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville thought of all this.

As for the modern day business of football, I can only show disdain for the way players, owners and governing bodies are sullying the game with money. I'm not saying that a club has no right to spend money on players, but the astronomical amounts being spent are starting to become a bigger issue than the results on the pitch. UFEA's financial fair play rule will be the first small step in curbing this problem, but there has to be a concentrated effort to help bring this runaway train under control.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wayne Rooney is leaving Man what?

Guessing on where Rooney is going has gripped the English press
 So I've been off the grid for a while but I'm back and a bit perplexed by some of the events of the past few weeks in the world of Football. From the unexpected purchase of Liverpool by NESV (New England Sports Ventures) owners of baseballs Boston Red Sox, and the subsequent legal battle. To Wayne Rooney's demand to leave Manchester United, there is no shortage of taking points, though for now I'll stick to the ongoing Rooney saga.

Someone today asked me the three most burning questions every Man United supporter (which I am one) Why does he want to leave?  where will he go? and how does this effect United going forward?

The second question is the easiest and most straight forward to answer so I'll start there. In my opinion and as far as I've seen most football pundits agree there are only 4 solid  and maybe 5 clubs in the world that would have the money to buy him and pay his salary demands, which most experts are saying is close to the 200,000 pounds a week level. Those clubs are Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Barcelona, the 5th club could be Inter Milan but I'll explain why there are a distance 5th in a moment.