An awful lot of cash has been thrown in Southampton's direction for a collection of players with itchy feet who took them into mid-table. This is not a crisis; it's excellent business...
A varied Mailbox has thoughts on transfer targets, youth development, the obsession over 3-5-2, some innovative Blackpool suggestions and why Real bought Kroos...
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Six Reasons Not To Mind Everton
Reading your article about Everton being serious contenders for fourth it occurs to me that I don't mind Everton. Thinking about it, here's why:
1) The manager. Maybe the number 1 factor for neutral admiration. Is he likable? If he's a bit of a cock the team stands no chance of making my 'I don't mind them' list. Mourinho, Rodgers and Sherwood spring to mind. Or maybe he's just not very good; Allardyce, Meulensteen and Sherwood for example. Martinez though seems a thoroughly good egg. Fair play to him. I hope he does well.
2) The players. Almost as important as the manager. Are there any out-and-out cocks? Do they have a Suarez, Barton, Ferdinand or Terry? Chances are, if the manager is a bit of a cock they will but if he's alright they will not. Everton, to my knowledge, do not appear to have cocks. Fair play to them. I hope they do well.
3) The stand-out player. Do they have a player you admire, for whatever reasons? Someone you wouldn't mind being if you had to swap places for a day (not a matchday). For me, Everton have that in Leighton Baines. Decent enough player and seems a decent enough bloke, doesn't court the media, cool haircut, 'snubbed' Man U, played the corner ball for Rickie Lambert to score with his first touch on his England debut. Top lad. Fair play to him. I hope he does well.*
4) They have never courted our prized assets. The Wallace boys, Shearer, Le Tiss and more recently Walcott, the Ox and Bale. Even now they are not linked with any of our players. This is made all the more admirable when you consider that during our last Premier League sojourn we were a selling club, playing in one of the smallest (some seasons the smallest) stadiums in the Premier League, always desperate to raise a few quid by selling players. I cannot think of a single occasion when Everton were stirring up agitation at Le Dell or St Mary's in a classless pursuit of one of our finest. Fair play to them.
I hope they do well.
5) They gave us £6m for the Beatmiester whose, it was roundly agreed at the time, work at Southampton was done. I actually felt a bit sorry for them when Beats failed to lift his game from the dross he was turning in for us in his last season. Even when they signed Barry Horne it was all amicable. Transfers happen in football, as sure as managers get sacked. Nice to do deals with a friendly club with no hint of bitterness from either party. Fair play to them. I hope they do well.
6) They're no real threat to anyone. They rarely, if ever, win anything, their fans are never in your face, they quietly go about their business while they city neighbours continually and get all worked up - and let us all know - over nothing. Fair play to them. I hope they do well.
Mort Snort, Saints
* I am aware that Baines' decision to turn down Man U means that Man U have diverted their attentions to Luke Shaw but they have no chance of signing Shaw so I'm happy to overlook this.
Specialist Central Midfielder?
So bored of the Moyes/United guff now, can we discuss some other subjects please? How about, should England take a 'specialist' holding midfielder (or two) to the World Cup?
I've discussed this for some time with my mates; whilst Gerrard has been adequate in this position over the qualifying campaign, let's be honest we've not really played a country from the top echelon of world football, and for all Gerrard's undoubted ability, shielding the back four isn't his natural game. Can't help feeling a top team would expose his weaknesses in this role. He isn't a natural holding midfielder, someone to break up the oppositions play, (although I concede on his day his distribution can be excellent). He's played as deep-lying midfielder with some success, but not against the better teams. This is even before we've considered his recent drop in club form.
Against the best teams (and probably any half-decent teams) experience tells us England will inevitably struggle for possession. That being the case don't we really need someone in midfield to break up the opposition's play and get the ball back to our more dangerous offensive players? I'm aware we lack a real world-class holding midfielder, but surely we should be looking to take someone who plays that position week in week out? Delph? Huddlestone? Noble? (My mate claims Bentaleb to be the answer).
Personally, as dull as it might be, I'd like to see England line up like Chelsea against City/Arsenal etc, two deep midfielders, say Delph alongside Wilshere/Gerrard/Huddlestone, and the front four free to roam forward as they please...Rooney, Lalllana, Sturridge + A.Another (one of Walcott, Ox-Chamberlain, Townsend, Rodrigues, Lambert, Sterling etc etc)
Just Take Half The Saints Side
With the World Cup coming up soon, I thought I would put out a suggestion for an England team that could WIN it, rather than simply turn up and 'do us proud'. I want to remove as much of the baggage of previous campaigns as possible.
Hart - sadly, none of the pretenders for his crown have emerged.
Baines - undroppable. Unless Shaw starts scoring bagfuls of goals/assists.
Cahill - Immense.
Jagielka - consistent.
Johnson - who else?
Barkley - Marrauding menance, reminds me of when Rooney was consistently good.
Cork - Go on then. Which box-to-box, clean tackling, midfielder with a better passing accuracy deserves to be ahead of him. Gerrard? Do me a favour. A great England servant, but time for us to find players who arent carrying the baggage of past failure. Cleverly? Carrick? HAHAHA!
Lallana - Best all-round attacking midfielder in country. The lad has it all. And is now banging in goals.
Lambert - Saints fans will tell you that he was a midfielder before he was striker. Creates chances and scores.
Rodriguez - decisive, quick, full of confidence.
Sturridge - best target man on current form. Yes he is wasteful. But at least he is putting himself into goalscoring positions. Won't be taking any penalties during normal play.
Let Rooney and Gerrard sit and fester on the bench. So when they do come on, they actually deliver world-class performances, rather than the soporific performances they have in the past. Likewise, The Ox and Towsend would make better impact subs.
This team also has huge amounts of stamina and running in them. We aren't going to become a neat passing team like Spain between now at the WC. Our best chance is to play like Saints. High press. Hard and fast counter-attacks. Possession. Hence, lets give the Saints lads a chance! Yes they are only ninth in the PL, but the teams above Saints are predominently filled with foreign players or Cleverly and Carrick.
Neil. Lifelong Saints fan (in case that wasn't obvious)
The WhoScored Squad
We've seen a couple of people select their England squads based on various fantasy league websites in the last few days - but given that it only rewards goals, assists and clean sheet - ignoring things such passing, tackling, interceptions etc - wouldn't it make more sense to pick a squad on WhoScored.com average ratings? To save you the trouble, I've done it myself, the results are as follows (three sidenotes - 1. people seem to be forgetting that teams generally take three keepers to tournaments, not two, 2. I've had to tailor it so all positions are covered, it's not just the 23 best players full stop, and 3. I've ignored Walcott since he'll be injured):
(Unless I missed one, only two English keepers actually appeared in the list. You'd have to go with Foster third though)
What's not to like about a potential England team featuring Joel Ward, Curtis Davies, Mark Noble and Peter Crouch? I won't lie though - Wilshere, Lampard, and Welbeck probably have a better chance of getting in...
Olly Cole, THFC (wait a minute...no...this squad would be f**king awful wouldn't it??)
In answer to Andy Craig (may or may not still do this in my head when playing), LFC's question - Ginola's bit of magic for Newcastle against Ferencvaros back in the day.
The day after that game everyone in school was trying to recreate that beauty. No one succeeded. And no one had such lovely hair of course...
Ben Smith, Gooner in Wimbledon
...Great post by Andy Craig. For me and my mates it was Kevin Sheedy's left foot pile driver from the edge of the box into the bottom corner against England at Italia 90. We were 10 years old at the time and Ireland was gripped by World Cup fever. For added authenticity, whoever was playing in goals had to punt in long (well as long as our garden allowed) while doing the Bonner teeth clench!
I just found this video of Italia 90 - gives me goose bumps. This is what football is about!
An awesome weekend to one and all.
Hans (Irish Gooner in Cape Town)
...To answer Andy Craig's question...For me I always tried to re-create Gary Lineker's goal vs. West Germany at Italia 90.
Used to get my mate to play a long ball into the box from the right, then try to use my right thigh to move the ball away from the defender then left foot blast into the net...lovely stuff!!
Attempts: 103 Goals scored: 0...Sad face.
...The goal we tried (I'm 26 and we still try actually) to replicate most was Mendieta's volley from a corner.
We called it a Mendieta and anytime someone was vaguely near the corner with the ball you would just yell "Give me a Mendieta!" and they serve up a cross for you to shank.
Honorable mentions to David Platt vs. Belgium in 1990 and Bergkamp vs. Argentina in 1998. Long passes and volleys are where it's at.
Paul, US and A
...Following on from Andy Craig's mail, the one goal I repeatedly tried, and failed to recreate was Roberto Carlos' bender (oooh er) against France in Le Tournoi in 1997.
Indeed, far from being able to wrap my foot around the ball and watch it swing gloriously between the trees where my mate Darragh was stationned, all I managed to do was boot the ball 300 yards down the road and have to chase after it.
...Glorious nostalgia invoked by Andy Craig this morning.
Presumably unusual at the time, there was a kid in my primary school class in Trafford who was a Chelsea fan. In the summer of 1994, aged nine, I spent morning, noon and night winding him up about United's 4-0 FA Cup Final victory, and I recall one occasion, recreating all four goals round the side of the school shouting my own delirious commentary for what would now be called epic bants.
Those with a keen memory will recall that none of the goals were emphatic, but after the two Cantona penalties and Hughes' calm finish after a defender's mistake, I was championing Choccy's three yard tap-in in the same way, years later, I would of van Nistelrooy's mazy dribble against Fulham and Rooney's thunderb**tard volley against Newcastle.
Chris, SAF Stand
...Any lover of football over the age of 50 will rememeber the Ernie Hunt/Willie Carr goal for Coventry in 1970. Carr took a free kick by holding the ball between his feet and scooping it up behind him so that Hunt could volley home.
Every free kick in St Patricks junior school in Middlesbrough for months after was taken this way.
James Clarke, (One job on Teesside) Dundalk, Ireland
...Nuno Gomes v Spain in Euro 2004, many cries of "NUNO GOMESSSSSSSSSS" to that one down my local park.
Not sure why, wasn't THAT good a goal.
Silvio (Vidic, you were my rock) Dante
...In response to Andy Craig (may or may not still do this in my head when playing). I was one of those kids who would do anything to be like the legends on Match of the Day. The good and the ridiculous. I put a bandage on my wrist for a few weeks, a la Eric Cantona. I tried the nose plasters, a la Robbie Fowler. I had the David Beckham haircut. All in all, I was a little tw*t and I'm embarrassed. But I was 12, give me a break.
I cannot remember who scored the particular goal in question, but it was particularly Letchkov-esque, and I was intent on replicating it. I remember telling my wingers, prior to kick off the following Sunday morning, that they were only to drill waist-high crosses into the box throughout the match so I would have the opportunity to score a perfect diving header.
Midway through the second half, a chance presented itself, I threw myself forward like a salmon battling upstream (or a drunk tripping over a curb) and was, rather predictably, booted in the face by an opposition defender. I ended up in A&E (remember trips to the hospital on a Sunday morning? So many kids in football kits) having head x-rays to ensure my skull was intact.
At least I got a week off school with concussion or as I called it Mega Drive-athon.
Jim (It was all made worth it when I scored an absolute pearler of a bicycle kick, trying to be like Paul Ince. Possibly the only time anyone has ever wanted to be like Paul Ince) Bali
...Glorious Friday topic. On 12 June 2009, 21 years to the day, I organised a drunken recreation of Ray Houghton's goal against England at Euro88 while on a stag do in Bournemouth. Represented were Sansom, Shilton, Galvin, Aldridge etc. with yours truly as Ray. It took a few rehearsals but I finally buried the looping header and wheeled off in delight making sure Aldridge fist pumped wildly behind...ooh er.
As a child it was always Vasily Rats from Mexico 86. Thunderb**tard supreme
...David Platt vs Belgium - over-the-shoulder volley/
Marcelo Salas (Chile) vs England - over-shoulder control on knee and volley past keeper
I tried a James McFadden effort (probably best goal I've ever seen) but the second touch of backspin whilst remaining in the air always ended up over next door's fence.
Fat man scouse, EFC, London
...Excellent stuff from Andy Craig.
The Trevor Sinclair goal led to many stupid attempts at bicycle kicks (including one in an indoor sports hall once - not recommended, though I did hit the bar!). However, the one which everyone was trying in 1997 was Roberto Carlos' free kick against France in Le Tournoi. Corner flags everywhere were trembling in fear!
...Maybe you could publish this...maybe not...sure we'll see...
In response to Andy Craig's 'Vicarious Football' comment - when I was younger, I tried doing Matt Le Tissier's art of goalscoring with this..needless to say I had one shot on target (that was saved brilliantly/fluke) out of numerous attempts. That save brought a tear to my eye - so sweet a shot that it wasn't to be.
...Andy Craig (may or may not still do this in my head when playing), LFC asks a great question about re-enacting childhood goals (cannot believe I've just complimented a Liverpool fan, the football gods will never forgive me). I always tried the Poborsky lob from Euro '96. It was so good it got him a move to United. I still try it now in nearly every game. In six-a-side goals. I'll pull it off one day.
CB, Cheltenham (FORZA ROMA! & thanks for the memories Vida)
...Andy Craig - so many to pick! Any excuse to wax nostalgic really. As a child, any long-range shot was met with a 'SHEEARRREEERR!'. Any bit of dribbling skill was a tribute to Gianfranco Zola, while three players or more beaten was worthy of a Kinkladze. Anybody who pulled off a Yeboah (in off the bar), a Di Canio (in our case, a very inelegant scissor volley), or a bicycle kick was rewarded with hugs, cheers and backslaps. I can still remember a somewhat porky child pulling off one of the best bicycle kicks I've ever seen on the paved playground, off a first time cross of a tennis ball. Only Zlatan has since come close to this sort of excellence.
There were two goals I can remember attempting to recreate the most. First was Michael Owen vs Argentina, France 98. As a child it was almost impossible to wrap your foot around the ball and clip it in the way Owen does and generate any sort of power. I can remember myself and others attempting it many times and regularly stumbling over the ball, or slicing a roller into the keepers arms. If you had told us to hit it near post we wouldn't have understood the point.
The second is this stunner by Thierry Henry vs Manchester United in 00/01. My brother and I went out to the garden and spent many an hour taking turns passing the ball into the other's feet, watching the other attempting to flick it up, turn and volley it into the top corner of the fence in one fluid motion. It got to the point that we could basically do it on command, although without the grace, speed or power of Mr Henry, of course.
I'm not sure if that was interesting to anybody else, but thanks for the memories Andy!
...In response to Andy Craig, many hours were spent trying to recreate this Ronnie Whelan beauty against the U.S.S.R. in 1988.
I rarely succeeded by the way.
Fortycoats (and fifty pockets) LFC
...Recreated goals you say?
As a Spurs fan who was eight years old in 1991, there can be only one. Lay out the jumpers for goalposts, get your mate to be goalie, place the ball down some distance from goal, take your run-up and...
'Is Davies gonna have a crack? He is you know....OH I SAY! THAT IS SCHOOLBOY'S OWN STUFF.'
Rob Davies, THFC (For you youngsters, that's Gascoigne in the 1991 FA Cup Semi Final, Spurs v Arsenal 3-1. And yes, it's been pretty much downhill from there.)
...Andy Craig (may or may not still do this in my head when playing), LFC; we should go for a kickabout, mate!
Binstead recreation ground (the scene of most of my childhood kickabouts and, incidentally, a pitch so hideously misshapen and uneven, that the two goalkeepers were unable to see each other from inside their respective penalty areas) would frequently reverberate with the adolescent cries of "YEBOAH!!", though this was only ever possible when me and my mates were lucky enough to find that the goals were up. You can't score a "Yeboah" with jumpers for goalposts!
There was also a short-lived fondness for replicating the famous Karel Poborsky scooped lob from Euro 96. Though that quickly went out of fashion once he started playing for Manchester United and everyone realised he was actually a bit pony.
And any opportunity was taken for a needless towering, flying header, reminiscent of Tino Asprilla's from the night he single-handedly beat Barcelona.
Unfortunately, most of what we tried to do was met with shouts of "Noah Hickey!" from the other players. Google it.
Chris Bridgeman (nostalgia was so much better in the old days), Kingston upon Thames
...My friends and I didn't so much recreate specific goals as recreate an entire team's philosophy, and put it into practice by engaging in some creative persecution of older lads in school who, though bigger and harder, weren't as fast or good at football. Basically, in response to their domination of part of the schoolyard, we took it upon ourselves to repeatedly steal their tennis and footballs and then recreate the football of the Brazil 1970 team, passing and moving all across the yard and back again, before smashing the ball, Carlos Alberto style, underneath the Portakabin classrooms, from whose depths it would never be retrieved. Much to the older lads' annoyance, it seemed the PE teachers keeping an eye on matters enjoyed our displays of passing and movement, and didn't get involved. It got to the point that they didn't even play the part of the Italians and chase round hopelessly anymore - they merely succumbed to the inevitable loss and went inside for a sausage roll.
I'd like to think we were an altogether more cultured class of schoolyard hero/bully (delete as appropriate).
Phil/Rivellino, LFC, Liverpool
I loved the mail about goal recreation (Laurent Robert for us) but it reminded me of a time I saw what could only be described as a far stranger, 'battlefield' recreation in a Sunday league game.
My team played a game against Lovelane Boys U13s, a rather desperate team with a manager who often had to referee and constantly looked one game away from the sack and a goalkeeper who wore a school blazer as there was no money for a jumper in the team's coffers.
They were the whipping boys, bottom of the league but we were only 1-0 up in the second half in one of those random games where you just can't finish a team off. I was a bit worried, this would be in the papers, around school, there would be shame on my family if we failed to thrash them.
Then, on about 70 minutes, with Lovelane actually having a few chances, their captain stopped on the centre circle and pretended to pull a trumpet out of his sock, put it to his mouth and made a sort of triumphant trumpet noise and shouted 'CHARGE!' at which point the entire team ran forward, even the goalkeeper, in one long line toward our goal, all shouting like a scene from Braveheart in an attempt to win the ball.
It didn't really work and we just kicked it over them and ran on and scored, finishing 7-0 winners, but this must have been the most bizarre and perhaps optimistic tactic I have ever seen.
Lovelane folded just two years later and I never heard if this battlefield tactic was ever used again, but it does make me wonder if anyone else has every seen anything quite so strange on at a classic Sunday League encounter.
Ric Duncombe (Kampala, Uganda)