The Premier League title race is shaping up to climax in quite remarkable style. That is, unless Chelsea and Manchester City stuff things up this weekend. Please don't...
Mignolet's bad kicking is the reason for Liverpool's success, whilst one man keep notes on F365 mails. Plus England excitement, Arteta and a bad Walsall experience...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Make Clubs Play Their Kids
There's been a lot of talk recently of the lack of homegrown players being produced by England. One of the problems seems to be that the young players are not given a chance, and fail to gain vital experience during the crucial years between 18-21.
Part of the problem is the extreme pressures for results in modern top-flight football which means managers are reluctant to take risks. A classic example is Pogba, who ran down his contract after growing frustrated with the lack of opportunities at Man United, who along with Chelsea, are guilty of monopolising the country's finest prospects and stagnating their progress due to a lack of trust. In converse Arsenal and Southampton have enjoyed relative success over the years through putting faith in their youth.
I propose that 'development players' have a clause in their contracts that states that they can leave for free unless they are given sufficient opportunities to play competitively, for example at least 20 competitive appearances in a season (10 starts). This would force big teams to give youngsters real opportunity rather than flogging them out on loan, which would make for an exciting league.
This would act as an alternative to pro reserve teams as seen in Spain where teams like Real Madrid and Barcleona have development sides in the lower leagues, and also to Joint ownership employed in Italy, where young players might be allowed to develop at a lesser Serie A club until the larger club decides to take full ownership.
The development release clause would have the added benefit of financial fair play since smaller clubs could take young players for free, develop them and then sell them on to bigger clubs. Which is'lt dissimilar to the drafting system used in NFL to keep the league competitive.
I could go on but I don't want to bore readers too much on a Friday.
Nik (Please forward to the FA) NUFC, Liverpool
Re Mediawatch today. Yes the hype probably is getting a bit much and we'd rather become amazing by stealth rather than everyone pointing it out and stealing our players. However one of the main reasons our U21 side hasn't had a good year is because our best players in that age group (Shaw, Ward-Prowse, Chambers) have been too busy playing in the first team.
Angry Of Exeter Writes...
To pick up on Mediawatch's point about Southampton's U-21s being knocked out of the Premier League Cup by Exeter - I know the point being made is that Exeter are a two-bit League Two operation, and ho-ho look at the mighty Saints coming unstuck against us, but it does Exeter a big deservice. Due to various financial 'mismanagement' over the years we don't have any money, and as a result a fair whack of our team comes from the yoot, and a large proportion of the rest of the team is funded from success stories from our academy who we've flogged to the bigger boys (there's one in the Prem right now). So what I'm saying is we've got a pretty good academy, through necessity, so don't take the p*ss.
Ravel Is Our Freak
England's 'freak talent': step forward Ravel Morrison.
Not pretending, for a moment, that Morrison is anywhere near the level of Ronaldo, Ibra, or Totti yet, but he's probably the only English player with the talent to get there. There's clearly a confidence, bordering on irrationality and arrogance, psychologically hardwired into players like this. Even good CL level footballers don't shoot from 30 yards out regularly. The odds are so bad no footballer with a brain would take the chance, when they could run further towards goal or pass. But Ronaldo and Ibra routinely shoot from ridiculous distances, and score (some of Zlatan's long-distance goals are ridiculous). Similarly, one needs simply ridiculous levels of talent to have the confidence to chip the ball over an advancing 'keeper, and then volley it into the goal. And of England's players playing in the PL, Morrison is the only player with the talent and technical ability to do this, and the arrogance to try and do so.
His performances for United's youth and reserve teams were incredible, and he seems to be translating this to professional level football. He's the only English player with the technique (much better than Wazza's), confidence, footballing instinct, and fundamental talent, to reach the same level as Ronaldo, Ibra, Messi et al.
And if United didn't insert a buy-back clause, they're bigger tools than I'd realised.
PS. Ronaldo is now so good that Portugese players started celebrating as soon he was clear on goal against Sweden (and my God those through balls were good).
You guys have it in for Tom Cleverley so much that you have completely forgot about him in 'Big Weekend'!
Kev The Clarke, MUFC (Wouldn't it be funny if Moyes played Rooney in midfield!) Skem
Hughes The Man?
I saw a picture of rumoured Liverpool target Will Hughes for the first time today. I wanted to put the following question to the Mailbox: Is he real?
Jay (does the pitch match the crossbar...or something), MUFC
The History Boys
Al, Nottingham's excellent posting in the mailbox this morning regarding how it's easy to forget Stanley Matthews et al highlights something that has been in my thoughts for some time now.
There is so much rich history in the game both here and abroad that the average armchair fan simply does not have any knowledge of and will get lost in the mists of time.
I'll give you one example - I'm an Arsenal fan and it annoys me that any discussion of the greatest team/manager of all time will always involve Leeds/Revie, Liverpool/Paisley and Utd/Fergie etc but the Arsenal side of the early 1930s under Herbert Chapman rarely gets a mention as there is hardly anyone left alive today who saw them in the flesh. Read up about them however and you realise that this was a team that has a genuine claim not just as the best club side ever in England, but in the world
OK I'm a bit biased there, but my point is this. Please, please can we begin a major campaign as footie fans on these pages and elsewhere to get a TV series made about football history that tells these stories and show the younger fans the game that existed prior to 1992, or prior to colour TV, or prior even to the invention of TV itself.
To be honest I think this is something that can only be done properly by the BBC, Simon Schama-style, but you could also get the likes of Lineker involved. I have a scene in my head of Shearer dressed in 1920s kit attempting to hit a 25-yard free-kick in hobnailed boots using the massively heavy ball from those days just to show how bl**dy hard it must have been even to kick the damn thing
Off the top of my head here are some other stories I'd love to know more about...
- Dixie Dean's 60-goal season for Everton back in the late 1920's.
- Bill 'Fatty' Foulkes - Sheffield Utd's legendary 20 stone lunatic keeper from the late Victorian era.
- The first World Cup in Uruguay 1930.
- Arsenal's promotion to top-flight football after WW1, allegedly achieved by extremely dubious non-football means at the expense of the Spuds among others.
- Just how good the young Pele was and how he revolutionised all our ideas about what a great player should be.
- John Charles' pioneering stint playing in Italy.
Those are just my first thoughts, surely you other readers out there can come up with other brilliant tales that need telling before it's too late. There is so much footie history out there that such a series could run and run for years and barely even scratch the surface.
What do you say folks? Shall we try and get this show on the road?
Rob, Bristol Gooner
PS. Alex James for best British player of all time? Perhaps not quite, he was Scottish after all - but he ought to get a mention.
PPS. Not the bassist from Blur you ignorant peasants. Google 'Wembley Wizards'.
In Defence Of Johnny
I've been a contributor to the mailbox on a few occasions, the last of which was a few years ago when I took the effort to write in. I finally feel compelled to write in again after four or five barren years in defence of Mr Johnny Nicholson. First up, yes I am biased, my favourite articles every week come from Johnny and Degsy, but I've noticed over the past few months, if not years, that Mr Nicholson receives endless negative comments in that silly comments section underneath his posts that now accompany every article on the net.
I'm an Irish expat in Oz, and I have to say that Johnny's articles always make me sit up and take notice for the sole reason that, in my opinion, they challenge the norm, make people think about why they make decisions in footballing terms and basically just f*** with people's heads. Brilliant!
What always amazes me is the amount of negative comments that sit in the section below his well structured articles. It seems like there are a certain amount of trolls that just wait for every article of his to appear so that they can have a go at a guy with whose views they don't agree. The most common view seems to be that he's a boring old-fashioned fuddy-duddy that hasn't got any grasp on reality. What? How could anyone think that? The guy is an honest, Boro-supporting rocker, who wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to writing, and that is to be revered.
One last point (and the Ed may wish to censor this) but a few years ago there was a T-shirt competition running on here. I really wanted a Kenny Dalglish T-shirt and so I wrote Johnny an email saying, 'Hey man, I really want to win the comp, did I get a T-shirt yet?' He replied and said I was too late, that the comp was finished and all T-shirts had been sent out, but after a few humorous tos and fros the guy sent me a T-shirt, free of charge, and that's why I know that he's a true embodiment of the rock 'n' roll culture. He didn't give a f*** about profit, he just liked the cut of my jib and sent me the f***ing T-shirt that I wanted.
I'm in Australia, it's late and I've had way too much Irish whiskey, so if this doesn't make the mailbox, cool, but at least pass on my best wishes to Mr Johnny Nicholson. Tell him the 'Irish Chancer' says hello and he'll know who I am.
Rory Collins (Sydney via Cork)
Nothing Of Any Value To Contribute...
But it's Friday so I hardly think that matters.
Am I the only one who hopes that the 'Z' in 'Z Stack, Ireland' stands for 'Zak' (or a non-douchey spelling if you insist).
I think somebody mentioned a Lego Millenium Falcon (got) on here so I'm going to share a boast that my missus has a Skype interview so we've got to get back early. I'm going to be drinking gin and building my Super Star Destroyer from 16:30. Balls to Football.
Jim (I'm 40 but I don't care, it's four feet long!!!)