We almost made it. Domestic football is nearly here. Keep your mails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org
A strong defence of Henderson
I have to write in and defend Jordan Henderson who seems to get an awful lot of stick for basically not being Steven Gerrard.
I’m a Leicester fan and I would have Henderson starting alongside Dier in my starting XI all day long (still love you Danny, you’re just better suited to LCFC’s system). So much of football opinion seems to be defined by moments – a shot, a cross or a dribble that opened up a game and often the rest of the 90 minutes is forgotten. Henderson isn’t Gerrard, he’s not even close ability wise, and he’s not someone who will give you amazing assist or shot stats. But what he will give you (alongside the very physical Dier) is serious legs and hard work, and will no doubt make the rest of the XI work so much better. We’ve always struggled for possession – we’ve not got the players to fix that by playing tiki taka, but these teo will win you the ball back and pass to a better player all day long.
One of the reasons we looked pretty decent against Germany was that in Henderson and Dier we had such a physical and athletic base that the front four could basically go wherever they wanted (and did). Against Holland we had Milner who no longer has the physical intensity to do this, and Drinkwater who was reasonably static and disciplined. The front four not only had to take on much more responsibility defensively but also didn’t drift anywhere near as much as they’d have liked.
For me getting the base of that midfield right will make the job of both the defence and the attack so much easier if we get it right – get that right and England will play well. In Dier and Henderson we have players who are unlikely to score or create many chances but they will facilitate the team and ensure Alli/Barkley/Kane/Rooney have a base from which to do damage. Football is not about the best XI players it’s about a team, and so often the deciding factor to a game is how well a team performs in the c50% of the time they don’t have the ball. We need our runners, we’ve lacked them in the past, and if we want to have Alli/Barkley/Rooney wandering around doing damage we need someone else to do the work.
Talk of moving Alli or Barkley backwards to me is lunacy. We’ve got some really top level, in-form attacking talent, you get to pick 4 Roy, that should be plenty.
Dan, Greenwich (the enablers chat was quickly forgotten)
Henderson and Milner, sitting in a tree
Start off at boyhood club – Check
Big move early 20’s – Check
Played in 5 + positions – Check
(RWB, RB, RW, CM, CDM & CAM for Henderson / Milner = everywhere)
Lots of England U21 caps – Check
(Henderson joint 9th / Milner = 1st (SHOCK!)
Both somehow manage to be in every England squad – Check
Both like marmite – Check
What, no Ashley Young in the ladder?
I know the ladder is supposed to be an attempt at deciphering what and how Roy Hodgson is thinking, which is not an easy job considering the top Google search for him is ‘Roy Hodgson owl’ (all it needs is the words ‘wise’ and ‘old’ to complete the cliche)
However, I fail to understand the uproar at the lack of inclusion of Ashley Young in the top 50. England may not need their tin opener anymore but versatility is crucial in a squad for a tournament. In Ashley Young you have a player who can play at both wings and both full back positions. He can be pushed back from the wing to full back during a game as well if the team is chasing.
Granted that he is one of those 7/10 players but he really is consistently good. Ashley Young’s crosses and deliveries are under rated, if England does want to go route one at the end of the game, he can really provide the service for one of the many strikers to get at the end of.
There are not many players in the top 23 who are better at crossing the ball than Young. Even if England does not want to play like that anymore, it is a good option to have on the bench.
Young also provides the defensive winger position that gives the team balance. He is a more reliable option on the wing than Sterling and Walcott, his decision making is better than both.
He kept Angel Di Maria out of the team for a while. A lot of it can be blamed on Di Maria’s form and Van Gaal but Young was also producing performances week in and week out.
He is a 7/10 player, who can be a 9/10 player on his day but rarely have I seen him be a 3/10 player, which somebody like Rooney tend to do ever so often. Surely he is a better option on the plane than Milner.
Consistent performances? Check. Plays for Manchester United? Check. (If Lingard is in due to the big game bias then this is a fair point to make) Big game experience? Check.
I really don’t see how he is so far from the international scene considering players like Townsend still have an outside chance of making it.
Shehzad Ghias, mufc
The famous Euro 2016 ladder – for Wales!
So here it is the highly anticipated Wales Euro 2016 ladder:
1. Gareth Bale – Wrap him up in cotton wool, with an extra layer of bubble wrap
2. Ashley Williams – A rock at the back as Wales conceded only 3 goals from open play in qualifying
3. Aaron Ramsey – Not his best season for Arsenal, but so important for Wales
4. Joe Allen – Ironic that the real Joe Allen will finally appear at the Euros after the Spanish and Italian Joe Allen’s both retire.
5. Neil Taylor – Crucial component of Wales wingback system
6. Wayne Hennessey – Prone to a few errors for Palace this season, but was inspired for Wales during qualifying
7. Ben Davies – Will start as a left sided centre back at the Euros, brings valuable composure at the back
8. Joe Ledley – Not the most gifted Welsh midfielder but brings some grit to the MF along with his impressive beard and dancing.
9. Chris Gunter – As 26, Gunter has more caps for Wales than Ryan ‘can’t be bothered to play for Wales, ‘ll pretend i’m injured’ Giggs, and fully deserved.
10. Hal Robson-Kanu – Cult Hero
11. James Collins – In the form of his life for West Ham, has had differences with Coleman in the past though
12. James Chester – Likely to lose his starting place due to Tony Pulis fetish for CB
13. Andy King – King 1 Gerrard 0 perhaps?
14. Sam Vokes – Wales plan B
15. Jonny Williams – Tricky player, nack of winning free kicks could be invaluable with Bale on the pitch
16. Emyr Huws – superb performance in Kiev wins the Huddersfield MF a place on the plane
17. Danny Ward – A solid loan spell at Aberdeen makes him no 2 GK
18. George Williams – Injuries have hampered Williams, has impressed off the bench preciously
19. David Cotterill – David George Best Cotterill, solid championship player, solid Welsh bench sitter
20. Simon Church – 3 goals in 35 Welsh caps over a 7 year period, hanging on with Walsall’s Tom Bradshaw in fine form
21. Tom Lawrence – Struggled in recent matches. However former Man Utd forward brings a spark as seen against Holland last Autumn
22. Paul Dummett – Going by default
23. Owain Fon-Williams – See above
24. David Vaughan
25. Dave Edwards
26. Tom Bradshaw
27. Adam Henley
28. Shaun McDonald
29. Lloyd Isgrove
30. Regan Poole
31. David Crofts
Neville: You don’t have to pbe perfect to have an opinion
I don’t get all the fuss around Gary Neville and his credibility as a pundit.
Firstly I didn’t realise you had to be perfect in your job with a 100% success rate in order to qualify to have an opinion and/or provide insightful comment without the risk of being labelled “not credible”.
Secondly. I suspect his spell at Valencia will actually make him a better pundit as he now has some real life experience to couple with his thoughtful and articulate views on the game.
And finally – has their ever been a pundit ex-manager or ex-player that hasn’t been sacked, sold or dropped from a team for poor performance?
Success and failure are all part of the experience of being invoiced in the game. So please can we drop the ridiculous view that a single and failed management job somehow negates any validity or credibility on his views of the game.
I for one will be even more interested in his opinions now.
A World Cup question
So something has just occurred to me… I went to the link from this mornings mailbox about North Korea playing a striker as a Goalkeeper and whilst reading the article the section about NK facing Portugal, Brazil and Ivory Coast in their group struck a cord in me…
I don’t know if it’s been around since the start or if it’s a recent thing, happy for anyone to check for me, but why do we have Countries from each continent in different groups at the World Cup?
T, CFC, London
(MC – Presumably the answer is just variety)
On Miller and Neville (not a growing bromance)
*Nick Miller is entirely justified in highlighting the double standards used by Leicester City when it comes to disciplining – or not – their players. In the summer three players were exposed by the media for a racially abusing women in a hotel room; one player racially abused a man in a casino, while another player assaulted his girlfriend. The main difference between these players is that Jamie Vardy and Danny Simpson were first-team regulars, while Tom Hopper, James Pearson and Adam Smith were not. This is why it is at least open to interpretation that being sufficiently good at football is enough to forgive certain crimes – to paraphrase Chris Rock commenting on the OJ Simpson trial, “this is about fame – if they’re not famous, they would be ‘racist Jamie’ and ‘Danny the wifebeater’”.
*Gary Neville’s failure as Valencia manager could arguably augment his punditry, as he will have an additional insight into how difficult management actually is. He’s clearly an intelligent man, and will simply add it to the acumen and experience he can call upon when working the giant iPad.
His time in Spain largely came about through his Salford City connections, and he was parachuted into an extremely volatile environment. Not many rookie managers would have thrived in such a role. His coaching aptitudes and ideas have made waves at the FA and had him fast-tracked into the England setup – just ask Sol Campbell – so I would be surprised if he is completely finished with management. I expect he’ll stay a bit closer to home next time though, and go into a role where the club are willing to be patient with him (Cloud Cuckoo Land FC it is then) while he builds something.
An objective look at Rooney’s charge sheet
Charge A: dire for most of the season. Defence: but United have been rubbish, so how can you blame poor Wayne?
Well, for starters, he’s as much a cause as a symptom. Plenty of strikers have shone in poor teams: Berahino scored 20 goals last season playing for the Footballing anti-Christ Tony Pulis, for crying out loud. Rooney scored 14 so, to use your logic that a striker can only be a reflection of how many chances his team creates, West Brom must have done better in that regard than Man Utd last season. An upturn shortly after Christmas doesn’t mask the previously dire eighteen months. And they have been unquestionably dire.
Charge B: never been effective for England. Defence: England’s top goalscorer ever ever!
He’s played in four major tournaments since then and scored two goals. TWO GOALS! And one of those tournaments came off the back of a 30-goal domestic season. Criminal underperformance; indefensibly even in a consistently underwhelming (to say the least) England team. And not sure which people you think look at Lampard and Gerrard fondly for being part of that underperforming team. I know I don’t.
Charge C: we don’t need him. Defence: erm…
Well, clearly we don’t. We could fit him in on the wing and not be any poorer, but I don’t think many people would even dream that he would be more effective than the effervescent Dele Alli behind a striker. So we don’t need him. I would probably have him in the squad (bench, even), but would equally not think it was a wrong decision not to.
Summary: Rooney is currently a thoroughly underwhelming player, and has been throughout most of his England career. He hasn’t managed to apply his undoubted talent to the England since 2004, a feat that was nowhere near impossible, even considering England’s underperformances. He would be worth a spot in the 23, but equally could not complain were he to be left behind. This is not an agenda, this is just what almost everyone except Guy sees.
Alex G, THFC (Wenger-esque levels of myopia)
Stop the Vardy crap…
I’m not normally one group myself in with the “quit being so PC” element of your readership but this Vardy thing is really f**king boring now.
Practically every mention of him is chased up or prefixed with your opinion of the man. Why? Why every time? Heck, do you say it out loud every time he’s mentioned? Do you do that every time you mention Suarez?
Negativity pervades nearly every piece on this site these days.
(MC – ‘This Vardy thing’ was him being racist. While he continues to be lauded – including a film made of him – we won’t stop pointing that out. (Not) Sorry)
...And a more reasoned response from a Leicester fan
Really interesting article from Nick Miller this morning on the unsavoury side to Leicester. As a Leicester fan my first reaction was ’Oh for f…, not this again’. I do think there is probably a slightly valid point in the fact we clearly wouldn’t be still reading about it now if we weren’t enjoying the success we are. I’m not fully convinced we are discussing it because it is a valid discussion (which it is), or whether it’s a case of finding a stick to beat us with – probably more a dig at the media in general rather than your lovely selves.
I thought I would also offer up a bit of balance in highlighting that we sacked the three players involved in the other pre-season racism mess. Easy to do when they aren’t you star player – fair. However all signs point to that decision also leading to the decision to sack Pearson – and I’d argue that at the time that was taking a much bigger stand than sacking Vardy would have been. Nobody expected Vardy to do so well this season (I actually doubted whether he would be first choice to start). Pearson on the other hand was seen as integral to our success. We almost ended up with Neil Lennon in charge for f**k sake! I think we deserve some credit for that. I also think the owners acknowledged the fact that Vardy publicly apologised and was happy to go on that cultural awareness course.
Anyway, once the initial reaction had passed and I thought about it, I actually completely agree with the article. I remember at the time of the Vardy incident I was saying that Vardy should be sacked. Extreme? Perhaps. Unprecedented? In the circumstances (football) maybe. I get so sick of the ‘leading the fight against racism’ narrative that football in general seem to push while simultaneously doing absolutely f**k all about it. Any other job would be different, any other job in the public spotlight even more so (you think someone at the BBC would have got away with that?), why should football go easy on it?
This is particularly pertinent given the ignorance that some football fans often show. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I semi-regularly frequent the LCFC forums, where the reaction to the Vardy incident was met with complete ignorance (‘It’s just like if he called you a Brit’). I think part of this was wilful ignorance, part of it was genuine ignorance – all it did was prove to me that a stronger example is needed and more drastic action to try and push the message through, because a lot of people interested in football clearly don’t get it.
Which leads on to the next point. Football teams might well be extensions of their fans or communities – but that, in general, is another group of people I’d prefer to distance myself with, given that a large chunk of football fans are clearly ignorant morons. In fact, by that measure I would argue that there is parity between a lot of the fans and some of football’s ‘villains’. I imagine there are a fair few football players that I really wouldn’t enjoy going out for a beer with, and a fair amount more of the fans. The sport in general (while beautiful) is one that I sometimes feel apologetic about being so in love with – and this extends beyond the individuals but the whole corporate big money culture of it sits so far from me ethically.
Does any of this make this season any less enjoyable? Not for me – I’ve never enjoyed anything in sport like I have this season. But I agree it’s important to keep in mind that the views and actions of some players, some fans, some owners might be wrong. Probably the best we can do as fans is to at least acknowledge that, rather than bury our heads in the sand and add to the collective ignorance. Or are you an ostrich?
Ben (Still threw away my Lost Prophets CDs though), LCFC