With Darren Fletcher reported to have been granted a free transfer from Manchester United, Adam Bate looks back at his career at Old Trafford.
...is that the draw for the next round is pretty shocking. Blackburn v Stoke, anybody? We also have mails on LVG and ManUnited, who drew plenty under Fergie...
If you have anything to say on any subject, you know what to do - mail us at email@example.com
The Traditional Batty Friday Afternoon Idea
It's Friday afternoon, during the off-season, when better to get some crackpot ideas printed in the mailbox? Time and time again the 'best league in the world' debate comes up. I've come up with a solution that may have been influenced by a lunchtime pint. At the end of each season, the champion of each top league is put into a pot and drawn out to play in another country's league for the following season. Any UEFA co-efficient will count towards their home league, so no chance of Chelsea playing their under-18s in the Champions League to take a place away from Italy, but the foreign team would have a place in the domestic cups of their new league.
Imagine the possibilities! Bayern Munich having to play their game against 17 teams well versed in Catenaccio. Moneybags Manchester City playing in a league of teams with safe standing sections. PSG proving that they can mix it in La Liga. And, if Barcelona get drawn with the Premier League, we'll find out once and for all if Messi and Neymar can really do it on a wet Wednesday night in Stoke!
With continental travel being so quick these days - Southampton to Nice is only an hour more than Southampton to Newcastle - and the chance to see another league's superstars in the flesh, I'm sure that there are no reasons why this won't be a goer. English players would get some experience playing against different styles of football, without having to live abroad. Just imagine, Brackley Town drawn at home to Real Madrid in the FA Cup third round. What football fan wouldn't appreciate that? Certainly more than B teams in the Football League, anyway.
James Tong, GFC, Brighton (Even stuck to the 3 paragraph rule too!)
Give The Kids A Chance
After reading various people write into your mailbox demanding that Man Utd sign 3/4/5/6 new players because all the existing ones are 'toilet' it made me wonder if these are the same ones who write in whenever England fail miserably and demand that clubs give 'youth a chance'.
Whilst I might agree that Man Utd need to strengthen in certain areas, would it really be that bad if they promoted some youth team players into the first-team squad? Players like Michael Keane (a young English CB at a time when people were moaning about Jagielka and Cahill), Jesse Lingard (small, technical player who we always marvel at if they are German/French//Spanish) and James Wilson (possibly an outside shout to be included for Euro 16). These are players who need to be given a chance. Not a chance at a League 1 club or a relegation battler, a chance at one of the top teams in the country. I appreciate they aren't world beaters yet but how many players are the moment they make their debut? Does anyone think Xavi/Iniesta/Kroos/Mueller were as good then as they are now? I am not saying those three players will go on to be the best players in the world but if you don't give them a chance then you will never know.
It just winds me up to see countless mails about no youth but the next mailbox being 'sign Player X for £40m'.
Personally I think LVG is actually taking the time to assess each player before he goes and throws money at a Vidal/Hummels/Cavani and I applaud him for that.
Here's to hoping he is somewhere between Moyes and SAF!
Villa Season Ticket Not Renewed
I have never written in before, but with the sad state of affairs at my beloved Villa, I feel the need. Randy Lerner, the once thought as savior of our club has completely lost interest (he doesn't even seem that bothered about finding a buyer!), funds have been diverted away from transfers despite huge TV rights revenues, players have been sold for astronomical sums and not replaced adequately and to top it all off we are rightly amongst the favorites to be relegated. Our manager plays some of the worst football I have ever seen and for some unknown reason we have a number 2 who is even worse when it comes to tactical nous.
Now what's the point of this mail, there isn't one really, except an exercise in ranting. But, for the first time in many years I haven't renewed my season ticket. I cannot stand to watch the opposition show us how to play football, especially now we have calamity Senderos at the back. Only the sight of a marauding Benteke is worth watching at Villa Park these days and we know as soon as someone bids £25million, he'll be off too!
So, is anyone else not looking forward to the football season?
(Despite Chris' pessimism, Aston Villa are odds of 3/1 to get relegated; Paddy Power offer very short odds of 1/5 on their survival).
Love For Olof
Thought I'd write a quick note on Olof Mellberg retiring yesterday, seeing as nobody else has done it. First of all, Zlatan has written an enormous public thank you letter where he doesn't refer to himself in the third person once, so clearly this is a big deal in Sweden.
But speaking as a Villa fan, I'd like to wish Olof all the best. Aside from him keeping some truly hideous Villa sides in the Prem almost single-handedly (Graham Taylor mk II stands out in particular), and forming our best post-McGrath defence with Martin Laursen, my abiding memory will be him getting subbed off near the end of a Blues game and giving it the big un to the Holte End and Robbie Savage in one gesture. To say my heart goes all fuzzy when I remember that is an understatement.
Hopefully whenever we're on the box this year, Sky will wheel him into the studio to cry over the footballing 3-mile island our defence resembles currently. Olof, you are king of Villa, one of the few footballers who seems to act like a supporter, and you will be and are sorely missed.
Bolton: No Hoodoo Over Arsenal
Let me preface this by saying I have and had a genuine fondness for Allardyce's Bolton side.
Okocha was a player I loved to watch and the midfield triumverate of Speed, Okocha and Nolan was excellent.
Throw in players like Djorkaeff, Hierro Campo etc and I genuinely enjoyed watcing them play.
But can we please put to bed this idea that they had some sort of hoodoo over Arsenal?
During Allardyce's time in charge:
Arsenal played Bolton 17 times in all competitions Won 9, drew 5, lost 3.
Man Utd played them 13 times in all competitions Won 8, drew 2 lost 3.
Chelsea played them 12 times Won 7, drew 4, lost 1.
What I'm essentially saying is, that Bolton team was a genuinely good side, top eight regularly (top six at one point) who were perfectly capable of taking points off any of the so-called bigger sides - Arsenal included? Certainly. Arsenal specifically? Not really.
As Henry mentioned recently on the BBC - we managed.
Doug, AFC, Belfast
Blame It On Sam
Yeah the fact that Dougie Freeman is focusing on youth players has nothing to do with Sam Allardyce and his crazy spending antics while running the Bolton Retirement Home for European Football Mavericks. Nice irony that you mention the joys of beating Mr Prudent Wenger's Arsenal (I was in the Reebok supporting The Mighty Whites the day Gianna scored the winner) while it was ultimately such antics that cause the current malaise.
The importance of a particular player on shirt sales has always seemed overrated to me. If Rodriguez had not signed for Real would the majority of people buying shirts with his name on it not simply gone for someone else in the team? The only boost you're getting is from pure Rodriguez fans, who would have bought Bayern shirts had he signed for them, existing Real fans who are buying a new shirt through excitement at the signing and new Real fans who have decided to spend the cash at least partly because he joined.
More importantly do they still charge per letter for the name? I'm too old to wander about with someone else's name on a shirt but if so then you need to sign long-named high profile players for the people choosing their own shirts, but should always keep a short name on the roster for penny-pinching family members.
Which finally explains Bebe.
Neil (transferred this season) McKeown
Is That You Tim?
In response to AM's love letter to Tim Sherwood, the man/woman has raised a very significant question...
Is AM a satirical genius, a madman or actually Tim Sherwood?