Mails: ‘Communist’ Klopp will oust Sturridge…

Date published: Monday 25th April 2016 3:29

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Fourth and FA Cup? Not enough…
If Arsenal continue to screw it up as they specialize in doing and somehow United scrap through a few more wins, at the end of the season we could end up with a Champions League place and a FA Cup trophy ! (neither of these things are close to being a surety, mind). My question to fellow United fans is, will this scenario count as a successful season and should it earn Van Gaal the right to continue on for his final season?

Well for me, no. Sure, five years down the line when someone just sees the statistics and the final positions it might sound acceptable, even good. But the reality is, we have sucked balls through out the season barring a few games which I can probably count on my fingers.

First, the league. Sure we might finish fourth which might sound acceptable now. But what is so damning is that we were never in the title race. Arsenal and City, for all their screw-ups and mismanaging, atleast gave a good fight for 3/4th of the season. And that is the minimum that should be expected from Manchester United. I don’t expect to win the title every season. There are other really good teams and sometimes they will just be slightly better. But a club of our stature should atleast give them a fight! Especially after investing a quarter of a billion pounds on the squad.

Then there’s the Champions League. The performance was just unacceptable. A lot of people now don’t consider that when evaluating Van Gaal because it has been so damn long since we were knocked out that everyone’s probably forgotten about it. We couldn’t have asked for a better group and somehow managed to balls it up so spectacularly. And the performance in the Europa League gives me no indication we will be any better next season even if we do make it.

Finally, the style of play. While Van Gaal might have his ‘philosophy’, I just don’t see it on the pitch. There is rarely any cohesion in the attacking play, even rarer that all 11 players look like they have all been in the same team for an year. There have been so many matches which have been dire, boring and just frustrating to watch. Say what you will about Barcelona, Madrid or Bayern, they (fans and the board) expect their managers to play football that entertains the fans. It’s almost like entertaining is the ultimate point of football. And when managers are given almost a free hand in buying the players of their choice, it’s not really an unreasonable expectation is it? Not that Van Gaal has the excuse of winning trophies while being dire like Mourinho but still the point still stands.

Anyway, I feel Van Gaal just has to go. He has been given two whole seasons to justify his being retained and he has failed in almost all fronts apart from maybe bringing in youth players. And the most damning thing is, limping to fourth place and a FA Cup is something that satisfies Arsenal fans, have we really fallen that far? What do other people think?
Apoorv (MUFC, New Delhi)

Hoping Man United lose? Sacrilege
After reading the entry by JM (Red Devil) Singapore in this morning’s mailbox, as a fellow Manchester United supporter I could not help but pen a reply.

I do understand the desire of fans of teams no longer capable of winning the title wanting to see Leicester make it over the line, and finish something that will rightly be regarded as a Roy of the Rovers/stuff that dreams are made of, moment in the history of football. It would be an incredible achievement and a satisfying tonic in this highly monetised era of the game.

But at the expense of us achieving top four? Emphatically, NO. I vehemently will not be rooting for them during the 90 minutes of football next Sunday at Old Trafford. Despite the fact that top four is still a real possibility for us given that City and Arsenal have yet to play their game, and one beating the other would leave the door wide open for us, I simply can’t fathom how you could go to a football match at your home ground but secretly hope that your opposition turns you over. The rationale you provided was just anathema to me as a match-going supporter.

Perhaps this is how you can hold a different viewpoint to me in this regard (assuming you don’t get to attend (m)any games)? Last week, I overheard a couple of Reds with a similar outlook and reasoning to you, saying how they wouldn’t mind us losing to Everton if it helped push LVG out of the door. Gobsmacked. This is the FA Cup, Wembley, a trophy we’ve not won for a very long time, and one which I’d like to see Rooney and Carrick, in particular, have winners medals for. The sheer joy I experienced at the end of the match on Saturday was something I’ve not had for a long time following United. The whole occasion, a penalty save, a last-minute winner, it was absolutely brilliant and exactly why you go to the football. I’m still buzzing about it now. Just imagine not wanting to experience that because it might help get rid of LVG?! In those 90 minutes I couldn’t care less who was managing the club. And why does it have to be mutually exclusive? Why can’t we win the cup, get top four, Leicester win the title, and we still part ways with Van Gaal?
Ady (So yes, it would absolutely be sacrilegious), Manchester


Rooney is United’s last great
Monty MUFC suggested that David De Gea should become the captain once Wayne Rooney leaves – whilst I am not against this notion, I can’t help but think that ‘Wazza’ will remain with United until he retires (voluntarily or pushed to it by injury). Unfortunately, by the time this happens, Dave will be playing for Real Madrid.

The reality of the situation is that Wayne Rooney is the last ‘great’ related to Manchester United Football Club. On and off the pitch he represents the club from the glory years of the past 10+ years. He sells shirts, he is the face of MUFC. Without him, who do we have? Memphis? Lingard? Fellaini? Perhaps Rashford might be the next but if we got rid of the man who has played with Ronaldo, Tevez, Berbatov, Ferdinand, Vidic, Scholes, Giggs, Evra, Carrick, Van Nistelrooy, Van Der Saar, Roy Keane et al who are legends of the club and the sport then we are essentially ‘one of the rest’.

He is the last man standing. He has seen it all and won it all. Once he’s gone, it’s over. Getting rid of Wayne before he hangs his boots up would be United tearing out their soul.

Sir Alex leaving perhaps set the wheels in motion of Manchester United of today but losing England’s best player who has seen the good and the bad (and ugly) of Manchester United in recent times would quite simply add the tombstone to the club that prides itself in being a major force in the world of football.

What I am trying to say is that due to the state of the club today which quite frankly is at crossroads, perhaps Wayne is bigger than the club.


Luis Suarez: The very best
He is the best football player on the planet right now. No ifs, buts or maybes.

All Liverpool fans knew what we were losing and most of our rivals did too.

Luke, Red in Sussex


Spanish league not bad, you know
Woo woo woo there Jae, hold your horses.

Whilst is it true that an inspired Suarez scored eight goals in two games (which inspired an F365 Suarez article which made me think I accidentally clicked on the bookmark in my Sport favorites) the Spanish league is actually pretty exciting!

Admittedly not as balls-out backflipping crazy as this years Premier League…but exciting nonetheless. Barcelona and Atletico top the table at 82 points.. with Real Madrid only one point behind. On top of that Barcelona’s and Real Madrid’s goal difference is +73 and +72.

With three games left it’s bound to go down the wire.
Stijn (In similar news; Ajax and PSV level on points with two games to go in the Dutch league) Amsterdam

We need to talk about Mesut
Let me start by saying I really enjoy watching Mesut Ozil play. I think his game has evolved since he joined Arsenal, although it hasn’t necessarily gotten any better. When I say evolved, I mean that he has added a bit more bulk to his frame and now he is actually able to hold onto the ball in tight spaces to better effect, while he has also upped his workrate from his time at Real Madrid.

However, the fact that he was nominated for Player of the Year is farcical, as are the claims that he should be in the Team of the Year ahead of Dele Alli or Ngolo Kante. Everyone talks about the number of assists he has provided for his teammates this year, but that is really masking his overall performances. I think he genuinely struggles to influence a game when there is significant pressure placed on him by the opposition and he seems to go missing in many of the big games. I know someone will reel off a stat about the amount of assists or his passing accuracy or something along those lines when he has played against teams in the top six this season, but that is the definition of hiding behind figures and not using your eyes.

Honestly, compare him to Dele Alli who plays in the same position. Alli does so much more than just score and assist goals. He is extremely efficient at closing down defenders, links well with the rest of his attackers and his off-the-ball movement is far superior to that of the German’s. I know this sounds like a bit of a ludicrous statement and somewhat contradictory, but literally all that Ozil does is assist goals and apart from that he doesn’t do much else. Take similar players such as Kevin De Bruyne, Christian Eriksen and Alli, and their stats for things such as assists and chances created are quite comparative to those of Ozil’s.

It really irked me last week when some contributors wrote in bemoaning the fact that Ozil would be left out of the TOTY. For me personally, I think the aforementioned trio have all been superior performers to the Arsenal man.

Obviously I don’t think Ozil is ‘nicking a living’ or that he was a waste of money, but I honestly feel he receives too much praise at times. On the other hand, some of the tabloid idiots unfairly criticise him on other occasions. This mail probably sounds like one long attack on Ozil, honestly it wasn’t meant to be, I’m just trying to register a sense of perspective.

Would love to hear from Arsenal fans on the matter, although I’m sure they’re going to be busy crucifying Wenger/Giroud/Walcott/Kroenke for the next few days.
Paddy (please do an icon piece on either Okocha or Tugay) Ireland


The issues around Arsenal and Wenger
I’ve tried not to lament too much on the overall situation (tough as it is for a Gooner right now), and tried to list down the key points without rambling too much. I have a lot of respect for Wenger and its possible to want him to leave without directing any anger or vitriol toward him.

It’s time, this summer, for Wenger to leave. It’s taken a long time for me to come around to this view since I had hope/belief that we could win the title this season. But if he cannot win this season, then the chances of him doing so ever again are very very low.

The two FA Cups were joyful and worthy of celebration, should not be ignored, and it was a great building block to really challenge for the title this season.

The players have changed over the past 10 years (as has the assistant manager, for those who blamed Pat Rice for not fixing our defensive issues), the only constant is Wenger. Same or similar issues remain unresolved.

Fitness/injury record, either starting the season well but not ending it well or vice versa, defensive organisation, signing only diminutive midfielders…the list goes on.

Arsenal squads are not able to handle the pressure of a title challenge, but able to handle the pressure for fourth place race quite well.

Till last summer, Arsenal achieved to their economic potential – i.e. no under or over achievement, given that we were the fourth richest club. So that means Wenger achieved the goals set out by the Board.

But if you look at Spurs from 2010-12 (their league table gap to Arsenal was not reflective of the financial gap – their wage bill was 90m in 2012 vs 143m for Arsenal with a one-point gap in the final league table), and this season with Leicester and Spurs, it proves that money is not always the only factor in a league finish. In the past 10 seasons, Wenger could not over achieve even once.

If Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund can challenge richer clubs in their leagues consistently and progress in Europe at the same time, it could have been done by Wenger as well.

Atletico have beaten Barca twice in the past three seasons in the CL, with an annual revenue of EUR 137M vs EUR 436M for Arsenal. Dortmund’s annual revenue is EUR 281M and they have reached a CL final.

The constant references by Wenger about richer clubs has put Arsenal in a more inferior mind set, rather than a Klopp-like mentality of ‘So what if a club has more money?’

The way the club is run does not fill me with confidence. I do not trust this Board to either tell Wenger to leave early, or find a suitable/competent replacement for him when he eventually leaves. So when Wenger leaves next summer, this club will most probably go backwards.

My feeling is one of indifference or apathy. I was not angry when we drew against Sunderland, or West Ham or Crystal Palace. In past seasons, I have been angry and upset with similar results.

I’m not sure if this feeling is shared by other Gooners. Tickets going on general sale for the first time may be reflective of this.

Not sure what the future holds for this club, but I do not hold an optimistic view.


When I was a kid, a fat kid two grades above me, who was a self-proclaimed football trivia God told me that Arsene Wenger built Arsenal from scratch and named the team after him. I believed this theory until late in 1999.

Later on, when I grew a few years older and a few months wiser, I realized it was in fact the opposite. Arsenal had signed Arsene Wenger simply because his name had Arsene in it. It seemed logical.

Almost 17 years later, I am glad to see my theory was spot on.
Stig, MUFC (Slowly shifting loyalties towards Atletico Madrid)


Sturridge out? Oh do shush…
Please can I just say that Amith LFC does not speak for any sane LFC fan in wanting rid of Sturridge.

Dear me…
Matt L


Reining in the Liverpool expectation…
You’ll be happy to know I read nearly every Mailbox. One of the prevailing opinions in recent weeks is that under the leadership of Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool will almost certainly be in the mix for the title shake-up next season. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this is that even many non-Liverpool fans seem to agree. I haven’t seem many (any?) challenges to this opinion, so I’m going to offer one.

First, let’s get the positive things out of the way. Yes, Klopp appears to have instilled some fight and team spirit in a previously spineless team, he’s got them scoring again, and we’ve seen some serious improvement in some players. It’s possible that he’ll bring in some proven quality, and Leicester have shown us all that this can be done without spending silly money. Klopp will have a pre-season with his players. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, first and foremost, Liverpool could conceivably have a first-choice defence that features Mignolet, Sakho and Moreno. That’s a big, big problem. Sakho has turned in some incredible performances in recent weeks, but I still see him as a player who gives you 4/10 or 9/10. You may get away with this further up the pitch, but it’s not what you want from your centre-back. Mignolet and Moreno have been covered before, so let’s not go into it. However, suffice to say that title success is almost always built upon a sound defence, and there is much work to do in that area for Liverpool.

Meanwhile, there are problems at the other end of the pitch. Origi has been excellent in the second half of the season, and I see Danny Ings as a player that Klopp will love. I’m not convinced of Sturridge’s long-term Liverpool prospects. Klopp has an almost communist style of management – the centre-forward and the left-back and the kit man are all of equal worth, I suspect. What’s more, he requires his players to buy into this ethos. Sturridge stands out like a sore thumb against that backdrop. However, if he is moved on, where is the 20-goal a season player coming from? It’s not impossible to win the league without one, but it’s pretty tough.

Midfield is equally intriguing. I still struggle to see where Coutinho and Firmino fit into the same team every week. On top of that, Lallana has been excellent for the last two months, but I think something has to give. The three of them are too similar, and it leaves the full backs isolated in possession at times. Ultimately, it comes down to this: Is a first-choice midfield of Can, Henderson, Lallana, Coutinho and Firmino good enough to win the league? If not, who makes way, and for whom? There is an argument that a ‘traditional’ wide player is needed to add variety. Markovic comes back in, and perhaps Ibe or Ojo make the leap, but all three are unproven.

Tough choices for Klopp all over the pitch then. He’s already bringing two players in, and all the evidence points to the fact that he’s not going to make wholesale changes. So, some of the existing problems will remain. To my mind, Mignolet and Moreno are two players whose presence fundamentally undermine the prospect of a title challenge. I can’t speak highly enough of Lovren since he came back into the team, but that just shows how long it can take for a player to bed into a team.

Personally, I’d take fourth now, and I think that despite what Leicester have done this season, a title push next season is too much to ask for Liverpool.
Andy, London


Newcastle would choose relegation and Rafa…
I did a little survey on my Twitter feed other week before the City game asking my fellow Toon fans what they would rather have at that stage of the season:

40 points with McClaren?
28 points with Benitez?

55% came in with Rafa and likely relegation, rather then Mac and Safety.

Now, I caught the tail end of ‘Natural Born Winners’ last night and some Samurai Master (yea that’s right) came out with an old Japanese proverb along the lines of ‘You can win the game, but you can lose the game’ he basically was saying to ex-400m runner Iwan Thomas (yea that’s right) that he ‘won the battle, but lost the war’.

The point to this mail is this; IF Newcastle do go down at the end of this season and IF Rafa Benitez does decide to stay on and literally build a team from scratch. Then the mackems can have Big Sham and Jermaine Defoe plying another year in the PL all they like, but Newcastle Utd in getting rid of McClaren and having Rafa would definitely win the war.

Now that’s if we go down…imagine if we stay up…?!
ToonBano (Speaking of my Twitter. Check out my pinned tweet from January on my profile @ToonBano. I haven’t been smug about it or anything…honest)

A bird’s eye view view
After watching the FA Cup semi between Palace and Watford there was one thing that stuck with me…what is the point of the ‘birdseye view’ camera?

Its solitary purpose appears to be floating over players while they are on the floor with an injury to capture their painful expressions. Who asked for this and why did they get their way?!
Jamie, Reading (How long until Sky introduce a ‘drone-cam’ for each and every individual player?)


Palace the new Hull?
Here’s one for Crystal Palace fans: Hull finished 16th in the league and reached the FA Cup Final in 2014, under an English manager regularly touted for one of the ‘bigger’ jobs. They were relegated the next season.


Who cares? What a day…
What a bloody day that was. It started with having to drink warm Desperados opened by the teeth of a stranger as The Globe on Baker Street became a tourist attraction for the passing London tour buses. It felt like it was Palace’s day, walking up Wembley Way brought back fond memories of the Play-Off Final and as it was on that day, the majority of the fans were wearing red and blue. I’ve didn’t have any doubt that we would win here and the game for me had an air of inevitability about it. There is a good reason for this that I will explain later.

What a sight and feeling it is to see half of Wembley full of your fellow supporters and the whole lot enjoying themselves, singing, up on their feet. As silly as it is, it actually made me quite emotional. We’ve had our fair share of downs so it is only right we celebrate and treasure the ups. I wasn’t the only one either, quite a few grown men had something in their eye at about 6pm yesterday and reaching the FA Cup Final for us is absolutely massive. There have been many seasons where this looks more than a long way off. Someone in the mailbox asked whether we have had a good season. Well, an FA Cup Final is quite realistically a once in a generation thing at our football club so yes, this season has shaped up rather well. But even without it, 17th for me is still the aim, we are Palace after all and surviving in the Premier League still seems like a great achievement.

Zaha had a great game, I can think of few better sights I’ve seen as a Palace fan than Wilf opening his legs up and going at an opposition defence. The poor fella he was up against yesterday didn’t even get a rest going forward as Wilf has spent a long time now working on his tracking back and defensive work. Wickham displayed his goalscoring positioning and followed it up with the timing to finish the chance, something that suffers a little when he isn’t fully fit. The rest of the team put in great performances and it is great to see McArthur back for the run-in. He is one of the main reasons we have dropped points this year, when he plays he very rarely loses the ball and is a willing runner beyond Cabaye as well as having great defensive positioning. I sort of wanted Speroni in for Hennessey as I feel like he is the better ‘occasion’ goalkeeper but Watford didn’t actually end up testing us too much so hopefully Hennessey’s confidence will keep improving.

So, now let me explain why us reaching the final seemed inevitable. Over a year ago I got engaged. Over a year ago I agreed and booked a date for the wedding. That date was 21st May, a date I later learned would be FA Cup Final day. Oh well I thought, I’m 31, last time we were there I was more concerned with the Thundercats and whether the one Liono sword we had in the house belonged to my Liono figure or my brothers. As long as we don’t get an easy draw we will more than likely drop out of the cup, we usually do without a great deal of fuss. But then we beat Southampton away, this was starting to look a little dangerous. Stoke came and went. Watching the draw for the next round and we were drawn against the form team, the league’s consistent performers, Tottenham. Of course we beat them, we hadn’t won for two months in the league, but the cup, no problem. Then we got Reading and I knew. I knew we’d beat Reading, I knew we’d get drawn against Watford out of the other three that were left and I knew we’d be in the Final against Man Utd, it had to be didn’t it. I obviously mitigated my risk by betting on these outcomes each time, but that doesn’t make much difference now. I made my peace with it before the semi-final. I went, I gave it my all, got a sore throat and now a sore head. This morning I am so so pleased that we are there, the club deserves it but football can be a cruel game sometimes can’t it?

Please someone tell me that we will get European football next year now, I have a free pass for any number of European excursions!


Some Watford musings
So that’s pretty much the end of our season, a few league games to go with safety already in the bag. The last couple of weeks have brought talk in the national media (seemingly fed from the club) that Flores position is under review after a difficult second half to the season. The widespread opinion – from the media and fans – seems to be that this is ridiculous as he’s comfortably kept us away from trouble and guided us to an FA Cup semi-final so deserves to carry on next season. But let’s have a thorough look at our season so far:

Premier League – pretty much safe by Christmas after playing a style nobody was familiar with and being underestimated by teams in the bottom half of the league. Since Spurs played three at the back against us all teams have known that if you keep Deeney and Ighalo away from the goal we’re completely impotent. Our wins this season have come against teams 15th, 19th, 10th, 6th, 20th, 18th, 17th, 7th, 16th and 14th.

FA Cup – first three rounds we rested players, prioritising the league and got three scrappy 1-0 wins against lower-league opposition and Newcastle. All three goals were individual errors from the opposition. Then beat Arsenal in QF while they were on a horror run of form. Didn’t show up at all in a winnable semi-final.

Playing style and tactics – what playing style? What tactics? 4-4-2 for every occasion except for the occasional 4-6-0 that was seen against City and Spurs away. Four centre midfielders in midfield, Deeney and Ighalo up front. Knock it up to them, let them battle with opposition defence and hope the occasional bounce goes your way and you can nick a game by the odd goal. No midfielder ever makes a break beyond the strikers, Frank Lampard would struggle to get a goal for this team. If this doesn’t work then game over. We haven’t won a single game from going behind all season. Like-for-like substitutions only. Any player who offers anything other than what we’ve already got is ostracised and doesn’t play. We signed Obbi Oulare, a 20-year-old Benteke-style striker for £6m in the summer who has played five minutes of league football. We signed Steven Berghuis for £4.5m in the summer, a tricky winger who has played 120 minutes of league football. We brought in rapid winger Victor Ibarbo on loan in the summer and he got bit-part roles at the end of games before being let go. Ikechi Anya, for all his flaws, offers us something different to all our other players and has been frozen out.

Team selection – 15 or so players have played all season.

GK – Gomes (Pantillimon for cup games)
LB – alternate between Ake and Holebas on a weekly basis, no clear first choice.
CB – two from Cathcart, Prodl and Britos for every match
RB – usually Nyom, occasionally Paredes who wasn’t really good enough for the Championship.
Midfield – take your pick from Watson, Capoue, Behrami, Suarez, Abdi, Jurado and Guedioura. No natural wide players there but apparently not important. These have three goals and three assists between them in the league this season
Forwards – Ighalo and Deeney. Occasionally Amrabat for last 10 mins or a cup game.

Transfers – difficult to know who’s ultimately responsible for transfers at the club, but the official line has always been that the club’s scouting network deals with that side of things and it’s the head coach’s job to coach the players brought in. Flores was given more weight here than any other manager has been, bringing in Jurado who’d he’d worked with at Atletico straight away and playing him for 90 minutes every week. The corner for the equaliser at Wembley yesterday was his first assist all season and he’s yet to score a goal. Mario Suarez was signed in January have worked with Flores before and may yet prove to be a good player, but is really no different to the five or so central midfielders we’ve already got. The squad needs about eight new players and the Pozzos will be worrying about how Flores manages some of their investments.

Overall, of course we should be happy with our season. But looking forward I don’t think Flores is the man to take us forward. Like most of our players I think he’s very limited and doesn’t have what it takes to take us to the next level (Saints, West Ham, Leicester) which is what the owners are looking for. There’s talk of Bielsa being targeted who would at least make us enjoyable to watch again.
Adam, WFC


Stoke fans still behind Hughes
In response to Ed’s raven, what’s gone wrong for Stoke is Jack Butland getting injured allied with our most injury-ravaged season for many a year, mainly affecting our defenders. Butland’s injury has had the greater effect though. For the last couple of season’s we’ve had Butland as back-up to Begovic; this season Butland’s back-up has been quartogenarian Shay Given (who missed 6 months with a knee injury suffered in October whilst on international duty, like Butland), and a young, raw Danish keeper in Haugaard who deserves time and patience but has looked very shaky so far.

Add to that the fact that the four-goal hammerings have come away to Liverpool and Man City and home to Tottenham (arguably the three best attacking teams of the season when on song) and you won’t find anyone in Stoke adding Sparky’s name to a list of managers who might be out of a job any time soon. It’s been a disappointing few weeks, no doubt, but those are the mitigating factors. I think I speak for the vast majority of Stoke fans when I say we’re still fully behind Hughes and there’s hope that next season could yet be our greatest for decades!
Hulmy, Stoke


The right way? Nonsense
Great article by John Nicholson on ‘playing the right way’
. As a way to applaud football that is supposedly entertaining to fans, it makes little sense when (as he says) no one way is universally entertaining, and furthermore, fans are unlikely to be pleased or entertained by this style if it isn’t working (Stones and Martinez being the obvious names to use here). I also think there’s another dimension, in particular with defenders. A team or player that ‘plays the right way’ are given leeway because there’s a suggestion that they can improve.

John Stones is forgiven his defensive errors because a) he’s young and b) if he fixed them, he’d be an all singing all dancing ball playing defender. Same with Arsenal – over the years they’ve contended with defensive fragility and an inability to convert chances, but they pass the ball so well, forgiveness was extended for the same reason (this has clearly waned over time). It comes down to the underlying belief that robust defending, long balls and direct play are easier, and thus are less deserving of praise, and of less concern if not present in a team – they’ll get there one day. Or worse, that they deliberately choose not to use them out of principle.

Hopefully the against all odds success of Leicester, and continued failings of Arsenal, along with Everton’s collapse, show that this ‘principle’ is misguided, and that in fact getting a team to play tough and well is actually rather difficult and worth celebrating. Leicester actually are rather like Pep’s Barcelona (hear me out!) in that they are able to maximise the strength of each player they have through their tactical system, while de-emphasizing their weaknesses. This is the real lesson, and it’d be sad if Leicester’s achievements were somehow overlooked out of some misguided idea that they have somehow taken ‘the easy route’ and played without spirit – nothing could be further from the truth.
Mark, Warwickshire


My missus says there is a ‘right way’…
After reading John’s column this morning I have to agree that there is no ‘right way’ to football, however I would like to defend those who use the term. I hear these words often spoken by my wife whenever I’m nominated to do a houseworky type job. Whether it’s hanging the washing up, doing the dishes, vacuuming the stairs, anything really, I’m always accused of not doing it the ‘right way’. This causes friction as I make sure to point out that ‘it’s not the right way dear, its your way’ to which the inevitably sharp reply comes ‘my way is the right way’.

So I would say the ‘right way’ to play football is actually ‘my way’, as in the way that pleases me the most, that fits with my understanding of the game. Many of our ex-players turned pundits seem to prefer the possession-based game, for me (as a United fan growing up in the 90’s) the ‘right way’ involves persistent high-paced attacks not too dissimilar from the Leicester team of this season. I see and understand the merits of different styles/tactics but nothing is as pleasing as seeing a team on the break and anything that facilitates this is therefore better. So rather than the ‘right way’ being some sort of snobbish excuse for negative results I believe it’s more an uncompromising expression of personal taste.
Dave, (I now purposely do things the ‘wrong way’ just so I can keep having the argument, is that good marriage skills?) Manchester


I’m Kieran Richardson’s hero…
The mention of Kieran Richardson in Mediawatch today reminded me of a story I haven’t thought about for some time…

He used to play in the same team as my brother at Samuel Montagu and one day my dad and I went to watch them play in an 11-a side tournament in the summer between them being u-10 and u-11. The u-10 season saw them have unparalleled success, winning the local Bexley league, Bexley cup and London Cup. They drafted in a couple of players that summer, surely with a view to retaining their crown(s).

The team contained Kieran himself, Tony Craig (who went on to have a decent career) and Peter Sweeney (similarly), and of course my brother, to name a few.

Anyway, their goalkeeper didn’t turn up for tournament or had to leave after a game (it was almost 20 years ago now so I forget the exact details). As a goalkeeper myself, two years younger than these players I was asked to step in. I did so with a great amount of trepidation. I played one of the league games, then the semi-final, which we won to set up a clash against arch rivals Kingfisher. I somehow managed to keep them at bay and take the game in to a penalty shoot-out. I saved the deciding penalty and everyone went bat-s**t crazy. The best team at that age group got me on their shoulders and I proceeded to cry my little heart out.

Every time I saw Kieran Richardson after that he would shout “my hero!!”. I haven’t seen him for about 15 years mind you so I’m not sure if I still am, or if he has found a more worthy person to idolise.
James, Kent (I still keep the winners medal on my windowsill to this day)


Dad could be a manager…
I watched the Utd-Everton cup semi with my girlfriend’s dad. He also predicted De Gea to save the pen. Maybe I should tell him to come out of retirement and start applying for manager jobs?Rob (today is not a fun time to be a Hull fan in) Leeds

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