The ‘John Carver experiment’ continues to lurch from the ugly to the ridiculous. Sometimes I think these reality TV programmes where an average Joe is put in charge are getting a bit silly. There must at least be some essence of believability or nobody will watch.
“I said to the two lads: ‘Come and see me afterwards and I’ll explain what I’m trying to do,'” said Carver of his spat with home supporters during the 3-2 home defeat to Swansea last weekend. “One of the lads said: ‘Are you threatening me’? I said: ‘No.’ But he obviously thought I was. There was no way in the world I was doing that.”
Good to hear, John. Nothing to see here. You wouldn’t do something like that. You’re a good guy and a calm character.
“I did that once before [as Alan Pardew’s assistant at Southampton earlier this season] and I said then I’d not get involved in something like that again and I ain’t.”
“I think if they sat with me and understood where I was coming from they’d understand. But when they’re blaring at you for 45 minutes it’s very difficult. They expect me to put the ball in the net, stop the headers going in, stop the opposition from scoring. I can’t get on the end of the corner and head the ball clear which would have kept us one up at half-time.”
We’re not sure we should be having to explain this to a Premier League manager, but Newcastle supporters aren’t expecting that at all, John. They’re expecting you to manage the team to do and not do those things – there’s a crucial difference. In fact, that’s precisely the job of a football manager.
On February 28, Newcastle were 11th in the table, as close to the top four as they were the bottom three. By 5pm on Saturday they could be two points ahead of Sunderland in 18th having played a game more. They’re accelerating up s**t creek, with a paddle that nobody knows how to use.
“We sit in fifth place, having reached two cup semi-finals, which is probably on par with where we are at,” said Brendan Rodgers last weekend.
Okay, but what about seventh, Brendan? It’s not outside the realms of possibility, given that Liverpool are level on points with Tottenham and one ahead of Southampton. That’s the same position as Liverpool finished in Rodgers’ first season.
It’s also one place below where they finished in the Roy Hodgson/Kenny Dalglish 2010/11 season, and one place above their eighth place in Dalglish’s last full season. They also won a trophy that year.
Rodgers really needs a strong finish. If the board are to accept that he is the right man to bring in new signings, they must be sure that he has the backing of the club’s existing players.
Extending a miserable run of four points in five matches therefore isn’t advisable. Rodgers insists the club will fight to the end and that players are “working for their futures”, but evidence points to the contrary.
“This year was an opportunity, next year will be an even greater opportunity to kick on and keep improving,” said Rodgers on Sunday. Even given the usual standards of his PR schtick, that might be the greatest Rodgers quote of all time. Crucially, he can use it every season.
Never has an away point at Stoke City looked so bad. In the space of four days Sunderland dropped from 16th to 18th, wins for Leicester and Hull consigning Sunderland to the bottom three for the first time since the Poyet ‘miracle’ of last season. Lightning needs to strike twice at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland fans will understandably disagree, but I can’t help thinking that Dick Advocaat’s side deserves relegation. Since the beginning of 2012/13 they have taken 107 points from 109 league games, scoring 108 goals. They are a club in inertia, sleep-walking to a point somewhere between mediocrity and tedium.
Sunderland have also spent close to £80m on players in that time, every new manager given the chance to make the squad his. All are soon afflicted with Sunderlanditis, a debilitating condition which saps all noticeable creativity and end product.
If Advocaat saves Sunderland, is there any reason to think that we will not be here again in 12 months’ time, another crop of disappointing new signings promising that they will “fight for their lives”? Hunger and desire are apparently only optional before the final month of the season.
This season may be when Sunderland finally pay the price. Their remaining five opponents are Southampton (h), Everton (a), Arsenal (a), Leicester (h), Chelsea (a). They must keep the gap to Leicester to two points or fewer before facing them on May 16. Even then, Leicester have QPR at home on the final day to make amends.
Not a good two weeks for Aston Villa in the Premier League. Since they last collected a point, Hull and Leicester have gained six each, whilst Sunderland and QPR have each picked up one. A gap of six points to the bottom three has become two; Sunderland still have a game in hand.
The Sherwood effect has been pronounced at Villa Park, but the club’s Premier League place remains insecure. Villa may have thrashed Sunderland and beaten the manager’s former employers at White Hart Lane, but they have only taken ten points from nine league matches.
The odds are still stacked in Sherwood’s favour, however. Three of the club’s four remaining games are at home, against Everton, West Ham and Burnley. It would be nice to get safety confirmed soonish so Tim can get back to designing the first ever sleeveless suit jacket for Wembley.
Pretty obvious one, this. Three more points needed to win the title. It will be Jose Mourinho’s eighth in 13 seasons, and Chelsea’s fourth in the Premier League era.
Victory would also force Liverpool to give them a guard of honour at Stamford Bridge next weekend. Just imagine Mourinho’s grin.
Pearson may be a “top notch guy away from the cameras”, as wronged journalist Ian Baker claimed, but that doesn’t change the fact that he seems a bit of an arse in front of them. A complete arse, actually.
Pearson has now verbally attacked Baker, called another journalist a pr**k, grabbed James McArthur round the throat and told a Leicester supporter to “f**k off and die”. How to lose friends and alienate people.
The sad conclusion is that Pearson’s behaviour instantly makes Leicester more difficult to like. Lose at home to Newcastle on Saturday and there will be few apologising for their wry smiles.
Defoe’s goal to win the Wear-Tyne derby may have reduced the striker to tears, but the survival battle is not won in March. Sunderland need more from their January loan signing if he’s not going to become a spectacular Championship white elephant.
Defoe’s volley may well be named Goal of the Season, but it exists as a moment of splendour amidst general mediocrity. The striker has three goals in his 1,195 Sunderland minutes.
“I feel a bit for Rickie because there’s been a lot of talk about that and it’s as though he’s here because it’s a great romantic story. But he’s here because he’s a great player. I’ve really been impressed with him for years in the Premier League. I watched him at lower level and he’s always had talent, but he’s narrowed his focus the last few years. He’s a Kopite, he’s got the tattoo and he’s a real passionate Scouse guy, but he’s here because he’s a fantastic footballer.”
Those were the words of Brendan Rodgers when signing Rickie Lambert in July. Amidst the accusations that this was nothing more than a nod to sugary sentimentality, Rodgers refuted such claims vehemently.
Which begs the question as to why Lambert has started just five league games this season? His performances have been almost entirely underwhelming, but what else do you expect when 14 of his 21 league appearances have constituted 20 minutes or fewer?
Furthermore, all but one of Lambert’s starts have seen him picked as a lone striker, so obviously not his preferred role. He scored in the only game when he was picked alongside a strike partner.
Ignoring Lambert is low down on the reasons for Liverpool’s slump this season, but his treatment is symbolic of Rodgers’ struggle to accommodate and acclimatise his new signings. Lambert, Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana, Javier Manquillo and Emre Can – all have been played out of position to fit Rodgers’ preferred shape.
Given that Liverpool’s season is now over, what about trying to play with players in their correct positions? Right-backs at right-back, central midfielders in central midfield, No. 10s not farmed out wide and strikers given partners rather than isolated and helpless. Just a thought…
Nine goals in eight games for Aston Villa’s born again Christian. Score the winner against Everton and the resurrection will be complete.