Pat yourselves on the back, cos we made it. The next Mailbox will contain reaction to actual domestic football. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Pardew: The pressure is on
I’m writing this before Big Weekend has been published, but few people will be feeling the pressure like Alan Pardew. Crystal Palace are away to West Ham United this weekend, an opponent who, whatever the result, will only serve to show everyone where Palace were and what might have been were it not for the Pardew slump ™.
True to form, Pardew mentioned that his team had “shored up defensively in the past few games”. What’s he’s not telling you is that Riyad Mahrez tore Pape Soare a new bumhole and he had to make a change at half time, and that in 2016 Palace have the worst defensive record of any Premier League side. There is also the fact that he severely restricted his most creative players against Leicester – he forced Yannick Bolasie and Wilf Zaha to stay wide and simply put crosses in, a tactic which also nullified the influence of Yohan Cabaye. I’m not saying I have the answer but a better manager would have found a way back in to the game that used the best aspects of his star players.
On the plus side, Connor Wickham has suggested on social media he may be back this week, and also it’s been two whole weeks since we last lost a game. The Croydon Advertiser ran an article last week suggesting that sacking Pardew was not the answer. I’m inclined to agree, because of the timing as much as anything. However, the fact that the possibility of dismissing him is even being mentioned has to be a cause for concern.
Pardew has said many times he isn’t feeling any pressure, but it just comes across as complacency. I’ve speculated before that with the American investors possibly looking to be more hands-on, and bringing a television crew over to film, they might have their own ideas as to who they want managing the club, and Chunky is just waiting to be paid to leave. If only someone had written recently about what happens when managers try to mess with Crystal Palace chairmen.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
Time to boycott Qatar 2022?
I wonder if I could invite anyone else from F365’s esteemed readership (seriously, smartest crowd on the Internet) to join me in saying now that in 2022, we’ll boycott the World Cup. That’s right – come summer you’ll do what your moral compass tells you, you should.
This is after the latest update by Amnesty International on what it’s like to be a guy building a Qatari stadium. In short – it’s about taking out a loan back in Nepal or Bangladesh for the privilege of getting over there, discovering when you do (pretty much across the board) they lied about how much you’d be paid, having passports confiscated and pay withheld for a few months to increase your desperation and ‘willingness’ to work, given the loan repayments you have – and this is before you even get to the conditions in which you’re living and working. Some Nepali guys had no idea whether their families had died in the earthquake or not, because they weren’t allowed to find out.
For reasons we all know, the Qatar world cup has been a rotten thing since the first five minutes of its conception. And I’m prepared to overlook pretty much everything, when it comes to the general insularity of Premier league footballers, as most of us seem to be. But there has to be a line somewhere. It can’t always be, yeah but it’s football so what can you do, gotta watch it. That attitude is why FIFA has become what it has – because they feel we’ll accept anything in the name of football. And they’ve basically been right.
So you actually have to do it. That summer, no football. And believe me – missing out on a lot of stage-managed nonsense in tepid shiny stadiums in the middle of nowhere with no history, no atmosphere, no football fabric to speak of, all the time knowing what built these stadiums – it won’t be the hardest thing to miss.
There does have to be a line, otherwise you’re a football slave, not a fan.
Norwich vs Newcastle thoughts
Really looking forward to the game of the weekend, Norwich City-Newcastle. Some thoughts:
If both teams play the way they did most of the season, it’s a double case of resistible force against movable object. But there’s a difference in both teams now. Alex Neil has finally managed to get his back line in order, with January signing Timm Klose influential in the middle and Martin Olsson looking solid at left back. Meanwhile Rafa Benitez has improved his side’s overall effort, and although they have yet to put in a winning performance, you feel it’s not far away.
But Newcastle have two huge problems this weekend: 1) keeper Rob Elliot, their player of the year, got injured on international duty and is out for the rest of the season; and 2) through injuries and suspensions, the side has no left backs. Given that a draw would be a passable result and a loss would be disastrous, Benitez may play it tight, possibly with Cheick Tiote in midfield, maybe even with three central defenders. That would lead to a counterattacking approach, with Jonjo Shelvey sending passes to Moussa Sissoko, Andros Townsend, and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Norwich, on the other hand, should go for the kill. That means Wes Hoolahan, who has been on the bench the past two games, has to start. He’s faded a bit in the second half of the season, but the attack doesn’t function very well without him. When he plays, Norwich’s shots on target vs. opponents’ shots on target is 12th in the league; when he doesn’t, they’re last.
The key matchup should be striker Dieumerci Mbokani against the Newcastle centre-halves. Last time out Mbokani outmuscled and outfought Tony Pulis’ best defenders, and so should feel he can do the same vs. Chancel Mbemba and Jamal Lascelles. Mbemba is weak against target men, and although Lascelles is physically stronger and better in the air, he’s inexperienced at this level. If Mbokani dominates, he can hold the ball up and bring Hoolahan, Robbie Brady, and probably Patrick Bamford into play. If not, Norwich will have trouble scoring.
Final note: Norwich undoubtedly remember how they got carved up on the counter in the 2-6 loss at St. James’ Park, so they should play both Gary O’Neil and Jonny Howson in front of the back four, with Howson getting forward where possible.
I’ll take a wild guess and go for a 1-1 draw. Any thoughts from Canaries and Magpies fans?
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
An Ireland Ladder
(1) Jon Walters- Our talisman, inspiration & leader. Recently voted Republic of Ireland’s player of the year, no dispute. We need him fit and at his best to compete this summer.
(2) Darren Randolph- The post Shay Given era got so grim we resorted to putting Shay Given in Goal. Darren’s no.1 and thank god for that.
(3) Robbie Brady- Not the most complete defender you will ever see. Offers attacking intent and quality that is sadly lacking. Set pieces can be hot and cold. Similar to Walters, we need him to be in the mood this summer.
(4) James McCarthy- Underwhelming in some peoples eyes. Key man for this side, the pretenders floundered in his absence against the Swiss (Stephen Quinn). Capable of running a midfield on his day. Vital cog
(5) Seamus Coleman- Maybe surprising to see the Donegal man isn’t higher on this list. Our only true world class talent, absolute mainstay since being criminally overlooked in 2012. Like brady only better defensively, offers less threat in terms of the tangibles i.e assists & goals.
(6) Shane Long- Remarkably only started 2 games in qualifying. He’s 29 now and seems to finally be shaking that Robbie Keane sized monkey from his back. Starting to fire (see Poland & Germany) and was the standout performer in the last 2 friendly’s. Lets pray his extended run with Southampton doesn’t burn him out.
(7) John O’Shea- The captain and defensive leader of what has become a formidable back line. Age is catching up on him but barring injury he will be at heart of our defense with the captain armband. Few will have issues with that.
(8) Wesley Hoolhan- Ireland’s maverick and perpetual bright spark. Has the ability to unlock defenses and provide inspiration where we often lack (see Germany away). Doesn’t have the legs for 3 full group games, proper utilization of the Norwich man will be required.
(9) Ciaran Clark- The Villa man is one who does not inspire any sort of confidence at club level, this is reflected in his limited appearances for a woeful Villa side. Has grown into the international scene and I fully expect him to start in France. His goal against the Swiss and all round polished performance should convince his doubters he’s ready to step up and be counted.
(10) Glenn Whelan- Like James Milner except slower and less influential. Can pass the ball and likes to keep it simple. Guaranteed starter if fit. *shudders*
(11) Jeff Hendrick- The Derby man has class and in my eyes should be in ahead of Whelan. Has a tendency to drift through games with minimal impact. His assist to unlock Georgia in Dublin was glorious. More of that please in France Jeff.
(12) Richard Keogh- Honest lad will give 100%. Unfortunately his 100% is below the required standard. That said should he step in or indeed start, he won’t let us down from lack of effort.
(13) Robbie Keane- 67 international goals. The adage he’s still the man to get you a goal in a tight spot is losing it’s relevance. Don’t expect him to figure much in France. Good for a hat-trick against Gibraltar. Not so good against defenders who call football their day job.
(14) Daryl Murphy- He’s big and scores in the Championship i’ve heard. Will likely come on when Long & Walters tire, another honest sort. Will hold up the ball and can ultimately do a job.
(15) James McClean- Honest and frustrating sort. Will 100% be up for running the hard yards when asked and likes a tackle. Good option from the bench when energy levels dip. 100% on the plane.
(16) Shane Duffy- The heir apparent to John O’Shea based on the swiss performance. Big, calm and decent on the ball. Let’s hope he can stay fit, Irish fans will be seeing a lot of this guy in the near future.
(17) Eunan O’Kane- Has managed to do what Stephen Quinn, Alan Judge and Harry Arter have failed to do in an Irish jersey. Look like he can play football. Dark horse to make the plane.
(18) Marc Wilson- The illusion that he’s actually any good has well and truly disappeared. Can play left back, centre back and midfield. I hope he doesn’t but will more than likely make the plane.
(19) Shay Given- See Randoplh comments. Hopefully won’t be needed. Irish hero, let’s not tarnish his reputation any more than euro 2012 did.
(20) David Forde- Sub for Milwall. Sub for Ireland.
(21) David Meyler- Limited, brace & useful in that order. Hopefully won’t be required.
(22) Cyrus Christie- Back up for Coleman. One of the future, hopefully can adapt to playing left back in the future. No qualms from any irish fans if he’s called upon this summer.
(23) Stephen Ward- Very mediocre. League 1 standard at best, pray to all thats good in the world we don’t need him. If we do I fear the worst.
(50)Aidan McGeady- Infinitely better than Andros Townsend, won’t make the plane in my opinion and doesn’t deserve to. Could’ve had a long successful career in green, unfortunatley it’s all been a bit Andros Townsend, step over, step over boot the ball over the end line.
Above is the squad I feel would serve us best in the Euros, horrible group to contend with but with King JW 14 anything is possible.
Cimic (DC12), Dublin
The ladder: Convincing you that you were wrong
The last two England internationals have made me realise that Jamie Vardy is going to Euro 2016. Back in November I made a bet with a friend that Jamie Vardy wouldn’t go to Euro 2016. It was late in the day, an afternoon on the beer had led to some bold claims being made but I was absolutely certain that Vardy wouldn’t get in the squad.
My main reasonings being:
A. Sturridge and Welbeck would come back and scoring thus being selected alongside Kane and Rooney.
B. His goalscoring run was just a purple patch. Lots of average strikers go through them; Berahino, Lambert, Rooney.
C. I just don’t really like him
D. He played in the Conference against Cambridge. I’ve seen a lot of conference strikers and probably only about five looked good enough to play in League 1 let alone an international tournament.
Having read the England Euro Ladder I saw that you have come to the same conclusion. So I’m conceding defeat and now I can enjoy Mr Vardys goals leading England to glory and a golden boot for himself.
Rob, Cufc, Cambridge
Final ladder thoughts
Before we move on from England and start all hating each other again, I’ve just got one observation with reference to the ladder.
Accepted wisdom seems to be that you “don’t take two specialist right backs” and that this is somehow a position where you can make-do. I don’t think that’s necessarily so. With England’s now very narrow 4-3-3 formation presumed to be the default, there is a lot of emphasis on quick, mobile, attacking full backs. I’m not sure I see uncle Roy heading into a tournament potentially one injury away from having to field a specialist centre half in such a critical role and fundamentally impacting England’s style of play down one side of the pitch.
So if we take Walker, clyne, Shaw AND rose, who misses out? I’ve just got this sneaking suspicion that, with Eric dier in the squad as a perfectly capable, emergency deputy, it becomes possible to leave one of the four centre halves at home. Dier may well start in centre midfield, but in the unlikely event of both smalling and Cahill getting crocked or suspended, it doesn’t exactly weaken the side massively to throw Henderson, Drinkwater, Milner, Wilshire (if fit) into the very defensive midfield role and dier slots in at the back.
Which means a nice long summer holiday for jags or, if Roy is feeling particularly conservative, john stones has all summer to find a club managed by someone with one iota of defensive know how.
Well, it’s a better idea than playing Rooney in midfield.
Chris Bridgeman, Kingston upon Thames
Last words on Vardy
I don’t mean to drag out the Vardy debate, especially in a Friday mailbox before the return of the real football, but I’d just like to weigh in on the recent Vardy discussion.
In yesterday’s afternoon mailbox, Stu states that he finds the reference to Vardy’s racism as boring. Although I find that view a little blunt, I think I can see the point he is trying to make. As long as I have read the mailbox, I’ve never read a mail that has condoned or defended such behaviour, certainly not of the “It’s just like if he called you a Brit” ilk that Ben, LCFC referred to in his excellent mail.
Perhaps I’m naive, but I genuinely think that the reason that Football365 receive responses like Stu’s is because, in my experience, it’s readers are decent, hate free people. Sometimes we call each other morons or ignorant, but I find this is in relation to footballing issues. I think that the vast majority of readers don’t feel the need to be constantly reminded about Vardy’s misdemeanour’s because they are already well aware and have probably condemned him. I also believe that it is possible to reference and even enjoy Vardy’s success this season without adding the aside because everyone here is self aware enough to view the situation appropriately.
I know that Football365 mean well in reminding us of Vardy’s racism, and that they (rightly) took serious issue with the media’s “Suarshank Redemption” narrative in 2014 but, unfortunately, we’re not the people who need to read it. I understand that writers will compose about topics on which they feel strongly, but I also see why, at times, some people here get a little rankled about articles like Nick’s too. Based on what I read twice a day in the mailbox, I think you guys should take pride in attracting a readership that wholly agrees with your stance on such topics, but should also afford some leeway to those who you perceive to be attacking you for such views. I mean, no matter how well he’s played, surely we can all picture Vardy strutting down the street, shoulders back, hood up, tracksuit bottoms tucked into his socks, just looking for an excuse to start a row or call somebody something unpleasant.
Or, you know, they could just be morons too. It;s just a thought. Now lets get excited about football again!
Morons you said, Conor? Not for us to say
I am incensed to the point where it is tough to type this, as a million thoughts are going through my head right now. Nick Miller’s piece on Leicester’s team and the poor actions of a few of their players is a dreadful piece of journalism.
I like to hold F365 slightly higher than the rest of the sh*te that is barfed out by most newspapers or websites. But this is barrel scraping at its worst.
Just like when a delighted child arrives home from school with an exam score of 90%, Nick is that over-bearing assh*le dad who demands to know where the other 10% disappeared! He seems to recognise this fact with some lame attempt at acknowledging that we shouldn’t hold these sports stars aloft, and just look at our favourite movies, music blah blah blah. Exactly Nick, if you make that point, then why bother writing the article.
You made the point yourself, what this team has achieved is bordering on lunacy. It is something Hollywood would even find hard to justify if they were to make some sort of classic underdog story. So you have taken a 23 man squad, their manager plus all the backroom staff, and p*ssed all over what they have achieved, as it is not quite perfect enough, because 3 guys did some dumb/ignorant stuff in their private lives a while ago!
I expect this from some low rate tabloid sh*thouse desperate for clicks, or through a clear lack of imagination, talent or creativity, but I am actually surprised to see such an article on F365. This is Football 365, not Private Lives of Premiership Footballers 365.
While unfortunate, I don’t give a toss about their misdeeds. They are paid to play football and entertain, and this team, including the three you have mentioned have delivered in bucket loads. IF they do go and win it, I can guarantee nobody will be thinking anything other than – Faaaaaaack me, they only went and did it! And when Nick pipes up and says “yeah, but did you hear about…..”, can someone in 365 Towers slowly pour a pint over his head!
(MC – Favourite word in this is ‘unfortunate’. We’ve all slipped, fell, done some racism)