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Pre-Season Obviously Isn't Meaningless
I don't want to be too presumptuous about this, but if many people are having a bit of a giggle at Orts, MUFC's rather exuberant email, I'd say that's perhaps a little unfair.
As someone who's been fortunate enough to witness Andriy Voronin and Milan Jovanovic look like superstars during pre-season only to be reduced to gibbering, cloven-hoofed idiots as soon as there are three points at stake, I know only too well the foibles of getting carried away and drawing early conclusions about the capabilities of players, and the long-term outlook of a team cobbled together from kids, newbies and an assortment of players returning from international duty, playing against teams for whom even I might get the occasional run-out (I have got a sweet left foot, mind).
But here's the thing - having written off pre-season games as meaningless for years (the fact that Liverpool were getting shite results was, of course, mere coincidence), last season was different. We won a lot of games, played well and, crucially, we hit the ground running in the league. Confidence was high, and there was a togetherness about the squad that meant that whilst we weren't at the top of our game, we had enough about us to pull through and get crucial points on the board. Whilst City had the strength in depth to recover from early-season wobbles to go on two remarkable winning runs, that early season form was, in many ways, crucial to our title challenge. I really don't think we'd have been able to put our January - April hot-streak together without having that strong platform to build on; I don't know whether, if we were well off the pace by January, there'd have been any incentive to.
So here's the question: whilst I think we can all agree that individual performances in one-off games aren't much to get too excited about, is a good winning run during pre-season crucial to starting the season well - or are those games totally meaningless?
Nick Glover, Scouser in Brum
...Actually, friendlies DO have value beyond commercial and fitness.
They help a team get used to a new formation or position in a game more competitive than a training ground 11v11. They help build confidence and form ahead of the first competitive games. Big wins or big losses demonstrate something working or not. They show a manager's thinking.
Last year, our abysmal tour demonstrated what the rest of the season ended up proving. The manager didn't have what it took to set up these players in a winning way, and the players lacked motivation under him. This year, they are fighting for their futures and learning a new ethic and way of playing, and took to it like ducks.
Does that result mean we'll steamroller the league? Course not. Is it meaningless that he instantly found a way to gel some key players, and could see where we need more recruits? Also not.
Guy S (I just hope that wasn't our Holland vs Spain).
Against Modern Life
I remember when the only way to check a friendly result was to wait for Ceefax to be updated (sometimes even the next day). And that's if you remembered.
They're still the same matches, played for the same reasons. Fitness. Oh and money.
But because of this bats**t mental world we live in today, people seem to think they actually carry any importance. They don't. You're being taken for some kind of obscene, money grabbing ride.
I blame Tim Berners-Lee. And Thatcher.
A Pre-Season League Table
Here is a league table from last season's pre season friendlies. Teams are ranked on average points per game to control for differing numbers of fixtures. Results taken from the Premier League website.
If this doesn't tell you how meaningless they are, nothing will.
1. Swansea 3.00
2. Cardiff 2.60
3=. Liverpool 2.57
3=. WBA 2.57
5. Chelsea 2.50
6. Crystal Palace 2.40
7. West Ham 2.33
8. Arsenal 2.29
9. Southampton 2.17
10. Aston Villa 2.11
11=. Stoke 2.00
11=. Sunderland 2.00
13. Hull 1.89
14. Newcastle 1.71
15. Everton 1.67
16. Fulham 1.33
17. Man City 1.29
18. Norwich 1.29
19. Man Utd 1.14
20. Tottenham 1.00
James, Reading FC, Leeds (yeah, I attached a spreadsheet)
Reading today's quite excellent piece on Blackpool, there were two things I kept wondering.
Firstly, where did all the money go? They received significant income following their stint in the PL, but make their players wash their own kit? It just doesn't add up.
And secondly, at what point do the Football League or the FA step in?
Is there any sort of mechanism that allows those that are entrusted with running the glorious enterprise of football in this country to step in when a club is so apparently heading for disaster? If Blackpool get to the 9 August with only 9 registered players (and maybe no manager or permanent coaching staff) then it can't be good for the league whether competitively or commercially.
The whole 'fit and proper persons' issue has been done a bit to death over the years, but it strikes me that the test is just used at the outset of the club ownership process. If a previously 'fit and proper person' then begins to manage a club horrendously and risk running it into ruin and the FA or Football League can't do anything other than sit and watch, what's the point of the test in the first place?
It concerns me that this can happen to a club of Blackpool's stature, and also that there seems to be a worrying lack of coverage in the broader press (I have been actively looking around the Football League's own website and couldn't find anything about the Blackpool situation). Most of my information of the matter has come from a couple of F365 articles and a fine letter in the mailbox from a Blackpool fan a while ago.
That being said, they'll still probably beat us next season.
Chris, CAFC (Has next season become this season yet?) London
How Far Do You Go To Watch Your Club?
As a massive fan of my local team, Dundalk FC, in the League of Ireland, I love being able to go all the home games through-out the season for the staggeringly low price of €200 a year. That's about 8.97 of your English Pounds when converted. Plus with Ireland being quite a compact Nation with a decent infrastructure I can also get to a few away games and they are only about €15.00 for admission.
However I also follow Liverpool FC, and going to a "home game" takes more planning than building a shopping complex. After weeks of searching for tickets and finding them, we then have two main options here in Ireland when we want to see our teams play in the Premier League. The first is the Ryanair/cheap hotel room option for usually around 250 quid. That's more than my Dundalk FC season ticket!
The second is the dreaded Day Trip, this usually involves waking at un-godly hour (or not even going to bed-I'm talking 3:30am here) and getting onto a mini bus built in 1957 with a healthy liquid breakfast of cans of whatever was on sale, travelling for an hour or so to get to the Dublin Port to catch the 6:00am ferry to Holyhead.
We then drove another 2 and a half hours to Liverpool which usually got us in at around 1ish, then we'd take in some sightseeing (pints) and then collect the tickets for the kick off at 3:00pm.
After the game we'd jump straight back on the minibus, usually missing two lads who would maintain that they would "be grand getting back tomorrow" and head for Holyhead once more to catch the 11:00pm ferry back to Ireland, now the 11pm ferry was probably the most horrifying experience all season, this included a season when Djimi Traore was the CB cover for us.
The ferry was slow in usually very choppy water, not exactly what a stomach full of larger and chip van grub needs. We would eventually dock back in Dublin and usually get home around 6:00am, more than 24hours after we left.
It was a great experience though, getting to see my team play and enjoying a few drinks with my mates, apart from the time Derby beat us 2-1 at home and we got delayed until the 5:00am ferry.
I'm sure there are plenty of football fans looking at their team's fixtures now trying to organise a trip to Anfield, Old Trafford and so on for the upcoming season. I was just wondering if any fans in England go to such lengths to see their team play at home?? I did meet a lovely couple from Hong Kong outside The Kop once who had flown in the night before for the game and to stay the weekend in Liverpool.
Where Are The World Class Central Defenders?
There were some interesting views in today's mailbox about the spending of Barca and Real on attacking players, and the subsequent formation struggles of their managers.
Which got me wondering why they haven't invested in more world class defenders, especially centre backs. Then I realised I couldn't name many. Ummm Thiago Silva, Hummels, Kompany... Varane has potential... Koscielny's ok I guess.
Who am I missing?
Graeme (unbelievable tekkers in La Liga this year) Glasgow
"La Liga is the best because everyone's coming here"
"Real Madrid could win a sextuple this season"
I would really love it if Bale would shut his hole now.
The Last Word On Jordan Ibe And The Promise Of Youth
Nicklas Bendtner was Birmingham's best player when he spent a year there.