Mails: Defending Moyes, Rodgers and Wilshere…

Date published: Friday 10th November 2017 2:05

Fancy a Saturday Mailbox? Of course you do –

Defending Dave
There has been a lot of criticism towards Moyes in the last few days since he took over at West Ham and a lot of it has been deserved. It is an uninspiring appointment and his last three jobs have been a disaster and he has been rightfully criticised for those failings. But one thing that struck me is people discounting the job he did at Everton. I have heard some journalists and pundits even being critical of his time there and I for one take umbrage with that assessment.

The notion that he took over a “big” club and Everton should be in the Premier League is laughable. They were in a relegation battle when Moyes took over with an underperforming squad and a general malaise around the club. The first great thing he did was steer them clear of relegation and set about building the structure and the platform at which the club operates at today. Everton could easily have been another Leeds, Sunderland, Newcastle Forrest or Southampton but he managed to consolidate Everton’s position and had the club looking upward rather than fearing relegation and eventual top four finishes and CL qualification ensued.

He also achieved this with little to no money to spend. He managed to put together a very strong squad on a very tight budget. He did this by scouring the championship and lesser leagues for talent and he showed a great eye for talent at bargain prices. The likes of Howard, Jagielka, Distin, Coleman, Baines, Arteta, Cahill and Pienaar were all bought for little to no money and have all been great performers fir the club in the PL for 5-10 years (some longer!). Others like Yakubu, Fellaini were great signings and he brought through the likes of Barkley and Rooney. He even made Jermaine Beckford into somewhat of a serviceable striker in the PL! If you look at the current Everton defence Baines, Coleman and Jagielka still play pivotal roles and were all brought in by Moyes even though he left the club nearly five seasons ago.

As a United fan, I hated the appointment of Moyes. He was out of his depth and simply not up to the job. Sociedad was a mistake as too was Sunderland. But to take away the job he did at Everton is unfair. He did an admirable job considering the constraints at the club. Any other opinion on his time there, to my mind, is cheap, ill-informed drivel.
Oisin, NZ (Moyes, if he is to succeed, needs to go back to what made him a good PL manager in the first place. Discipline, that steely stare, and trust his ability in assessing talent)


Most unusual places to have played or watched football
UnBoliviable Jeff!

In response to Russell, Birmingham (no, not that one) and his great suggestion to while away the International break with tales of unusual locations, I thought I’d send in my own.

4,000m above sea level on the Bolivian Altiplano, on my way to visit the gob-smacking Salar de Uyuni salt flats, the small group I was with stopped in a tiny little red-dust village for some snacks.
The landscape was out of this world, it looked like Mars, volcanic cones all around, flamingos in the colourful yet toxic lake nearby and geothermal hot pools for outdoor, minus 10 degree steamy bathing. Crucially, the air was so thin you’d be catching your breath after a brisk stroll.

As soon as we’d got out of the 4×4’s, a small group of kids ran up and challenged us to a 5-a side game on a dusty patch of land.
The victors’ reward? A 2-litre bottle of a popular big-brand cola beverage (no, not that one) from the tuck shop, to be purchased by the losers.
“We’ll obviously destroy them” we collectively assumed and set about having our asses handed to us on a plate 3-5.
Our late-20s bodies were barely functioning after a minute of charging around in an atmosphere that practically had no oxygen in it.
At one point, I was in goal, clutching onto the goal post to help me stay upright after only about 2 minutes. I had such little control of my legs that with the ball rolling towards me slowly, I contrived to score an own goal just trying to kick it the hell away from me, and then collapsed in a heap gasping for breath.

Something told us these wily nippers had seen their fair share of gung-ho Gringos rock up, and trounced them all. Fair play lads; we bought them 2 bottles.
Bodge, Cardiff


…Thanks to Russell for an interesting topic to distract from the tedium of International friendlies.

For me, the ‘strangest place’ I have played football probably isn’t strange as such, more the timing and setting of it.

Back in 2005 I spent the summer travelling the Pacific North West and Alaska. Whilst staying in a campsite in Whitehorse, Yukon I noticed a game of footy going on akin to one you’d find down the local park, lots of people, uneven sides, jumpers for goalposts and lots of chaos.

I was allowed to join in and as like when you are a kid playing football, the hours disappeared. The difference is I joined in the game around 11pm and hours later when everyone finally gave up, it was still somewhat light. Of course in the summer that far north, the sun only sets for a few hours each day, so even though it was 3am, it may as well have been 3pm on an overcast day. I think we eventually did ‘next goal wins’ about 5am.

It was pretty surreal and to boot I think I was the token European playing, so a few deft Bergkamp style flicks and drag backs here and there were admired, except for one where true to personal form I slipped over.

A beautiful area of the world and great to play football there too. Have a great weekend all.
Chris, AFC


In response to Russell’s entry on the strangest place I’ve watched football….

For me it was England vs Slovenia in the 2010 world cup in South Africa. I’m pretty sure it was an early kick-off, as I’d been allowed to leave work early in order to watch the game, however I’d only made it as far as the South Shields ferry terminal by kick-off.

I boarded the ferry expecting to miss the start of the game (Ferry takes 20 minutes to travel roughly 500m, similar top speed to Gareth Barry against Germany), however, to my delight the crew had set up a 15″ portable, black and white TV on top of an old desk in a section of the vessel.

Joining the 20 other spectators around the TV we collectively played a game of ‘who do you think that is losing control of the ball?’, whilst swaying side to side and bobbing up and down.
Ratt Mitchie NUFC (I’ve been rocking back and forth at every England tournament game since)


Why not Wilshere?
Mark Jones, LFC, Liverpool is dead right on Wilshere’s lack of minutes costing him his place in Southgate’s plans so far. Playing consistently in the Premier League has to be the starting point for Wilshere, and anyone else wanting to play for England.

However, to say he had one good game as a teenager is not only wrong, it’s stupid. For a time, alongside Fabregas and Song, Wilshere looked brilliant. For his country, he went six or seven games in a row as MOM (although because Rooney was missing chances he wasn’t attributed any assists, a stick that was used to beat him with). By all accounts, his year at Bournemouth was disappointing, although I’d put a lot of that down to playing with lesser players, largely.

His fitness is the problem. Anyone’s who has actually watched his minutes this season will still see a player with a working brain, who rotates his head for a fuller picture before receiving a pass, and who will always move intelligently (an underrated skill) after playing the ball. Walcott, Giroud and our other Europa League team players are not brilliant, but he already looks better alongside them this year than he did last season on the coast.

Another big concern for Wilshere is that Southgate just doesn’t seem to fancy him. Like I say, I agree with the above about Prem minutes being key, but when you’re being rejected by Danny Drinkwater and still don’t want to turn to Jack, I’d suggest that Southgate’s mind is then made up. The tale about Ray Parlour giving him ‘big nose’ “banter” shortly after taking the Boro jobs sticks in my mind – Southgate is a stubborn bloke who likes his players to know who’s boss. In this instance, it was a case of “I’ve not picked Wilshere for this reason, and it doesn’t matter how many players drop out, he won’t be picked.”

Ultimately I think Wilshere’s only hope is to start our next 25 league games and be excellent, and cause a situation where Southgate can’t not pick him for Russia. Seeing as that’s pretty unlikely, it’s probably a moot point.

I guess what I’m saying is – it’s ok to appreciate he was good without using his injuries or off-pitch stuff to criticise him still. Hopefully, he can reach those levels again, not just for Arsenal, but because English football’s alternatives appear to be Livermore and Drinkwater.

As an aside, I tweeted about Wilshere this morning – the first three replies were from Spurs fans. I love that he sticks in everyone’s craw so much, even if Spurs are far better than we are right now.
Joe, AFC, East Sussex


Female managers
Seriously, who gives a sh*t what nationality their team manager is? If they’re good at their job, I couldn’t care if my teams manager crawled out of the ocean and had gills!

On a side note – My Dads wife and I were discussing the lack of female managers in football. I felt as though it would be difficult (not impossible) for a female to get control and have authority over a group of 25+ year old men, and even if she did, when things went bad I felt a woman would lose control of the dressing room even quicker as she’d be under more pressure from her male players. My Dads wife thoroughly disagreed. It should be noted she was a senior manager in the probation service.

I wondered what the mailbox thought. Am I being a chauvanist? Is my Dad’s wife mistaken, thinking because females make successful managers in office life, that it translates to sports?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts?
SmokeyJoeLeeds (Legalise It)


Attack, attack, attack
Just happened upon a Wikipedia shot of the England squad for this weekends match.

21 players.

Think I’m right in saying that 15 of them have played in defence for club or country in the last 18 months.

Gung Ho!
Thom, Newport.


Football is a lie
Z, quoting Barry Glendenning, described Brendan Rodgers as a “snake oil merchant,” as though that’s a criticism. ALL managers are snake oil merchants. Rodgers managed to hoodwink Jon Flanagan into thinking he was Cafu, he managed to hoodwink Sturridge and Suarez into getting on, and he managed to trick Mrtn Skrtl into thinking he was an acceptable central defender. As Rafa Benitez says, “football is a lie,” and the successful manager is an accomplished dissembler.

This is not to over-defend Brendan. He was much better with other managers’ signings than his own, he over-committed to philosophy over outcome, and, frankly, it’s difficult to praise him because he’d get in there with more fulsome self-praise before you.

But the idea that the ability to pull a confidence trick is a FAILING in a football manager is frankly absurd.
Dara O’Reilly, London


Coach Xavi
Xavi is getting his coaching badges? That will be something to see. Can you imagine the clamber to get him as manager?
Micki ‘Giggsy though isn’t it, mmm?’ Attridge


Provoked by the morning Mailbox
Couple of things set me off in this morning’s mailbox and I feel I need to address them.

The revisionism around Rodgers, Paul? Come on. He got a team of talented players playing really well, almost getting the title. People can say it was the players but Suarez name-checks Rodgers for his development into a very top player at that time and Rodgers was the one who got them playing such entertaining, devastating football. Did it all go wrong in the last full season? Yes. But that doesn’t mean he had no part in 13/14 and we should all re-write history.

Brendan is currently doing very well in Scotland and fair fucks to him. We agree that the Scottish League isn’t the best but you have to beat what’s in front of you and he has consistently. You skirt past this so quickly as if it doesn’t matter. If it’s so easy, why hasn’t anyone else done it before? Why is he breaking records that have stood practically forever? Could it be that he is a good coach who had a bad final season at Liverpool? Probably, yeah.

Ben the Baggie has a distaste for Liverpool fans because of how we feel about Hodgson? Good. I have a distaste for Hodgson and anyone who likes him, including you, Ben the Baggie. Hodgson is a nasty piece of work, plain and simple. His distaste (if we’re going to carry on this theme) for the people of Liverpool was apparent every time he spoke about us. It was all our fault he was sh*t and his pals in the London media were all too quick to take his side.

Roy Hodgson is the very definition of a coward and a chancer in football. Just listen to how he phrases everything, even in his recent run at Palace. He puts the players out there and “it’s all up to them”, abdicating all responsibility after the whistle blows. The man has limited talents but somehow failed upwards to his biggest job, Liverpool (not England, you morons with an island mentality) and was duly sent crashing back to his level.
Kris, LFC, Wirral


…First time mailer, long time reader. Writing concerning our man north of the border, Brendan.

As is the case with all things football, opinions on a managers ability swing wildly from one extreme to the other. Current managers can go from Rinus Michels and Bill Shankly’s love child to a clown-like root vegetable in a matter of months. Currently Poch is enjoying Kloppianesque praise amongst the learn’d members of the football opinionate. And fair enough I say, he’s spent no significant money, while still doing some shrewd business at the same time, and has turned a group of young raw talented players into one of the best allround teams in Europe. However if he doesn’t win anything this year or next, he will get beaten with the he’s a failure/what has he won stick, into the shape of whatever root vegetable is the flavor of the month at the time. Klopp got this kind of praise based on credit, due to his previous record at Dortmund and the fact he was as interesting a character as we had seen in the Prem since the special one turned up. And now that Liverpool have made no significant progress (in terms of trophies won, league position and win percentage, not arguing about aesthetics or philosophy), he is now the one who is about to be beaten by the failure stick.

Our man north of the border, Brendan, has already been through this to an extent. But even at peak Brendan-Liverpool-Philosophy Inc. , when his team were playing other sides off the park with Man Cityesque style, the fact he had good players was used as a caveat to beat him. I would like to point out as a Man United fan for many years, I have never seen a team win the league, or finish second that didn’t have a number of very good players in it. Rodgers managed a group of talented players, with one world class star, to second in one of the best leagues in the world playing some of the best football I’ve seen. Does that mean he was Rinus Michels and Bill Shankly’s love child? No. Liverpool obviously went down hill from there, due to numerous factors, Rodgers flaws as a manager being one of them. But does that mean he should be written off as a potato headed clown never to be trusted with a top club again, based on fact that he was only successful cos he managed some good players really rather well? Again I would suggest No.
Dean (I would even go as far to say that Rodgers got less praise when things were going well and has got more stick since the tables turned. But the fact he sounds like David Brent is what clearly accounts for this and it’s a handicap he’ll have to deal with for the rest of his days) Gibraltar.


…Regarding revisionism about Brendan from Paul.

You don’t like him, that’s a given, but try and do a bit of research, otherwise you may as well write for the tabloids, rather than boring everyone with your shouty bloke down the pub routine.

He spent about £32k per season in charge – (but £291k spending sounds so much more impressive).
He signed Sturridge, Lallana, Can, Firmino, Clyne, Milner, Ings, Gomez, Moreno, Mignolet and Lovren – you may not like some of them but Jurgen does. Oh, and there was some fella from Inter Milan for £8.5 million, called Coutinho.
He can’t take all the credit, but he was the manager when they were signed.

This manager almost won the title, but that was all down to luck apparently, despite scoring 101 Premier League goals.
The lucky manager also gained praise from Suarez at how he developed his career, who was also impressed initially that Brendan spoke Spanish.

He had his faults and ran out of steam, but if you can’t credit the entertaining football at Liverpool, the unbeaten run in Celtic, then you must want the World on a stick.

Good luck with that, and continuing revisionism!
Peter, Wokingham


…Just a point to Paul from this morning. He states that Rodgers spent £291m. This is not a fact. Rodgers was in charge when this money was spent, but Liverpool has their transfer committee at this time. He never wanted Balotelli, Aspas amongst others.


Voting corruption
If you really want us to vote for you in the Football Supporters Federation rewards can you please point out to Matt Stead in his Frozen Out piece published yesterday that Irishman Paul O’Gazzinga actually started for Spurs on Saturday and won man of the match.

Jamie, Kilkenny (Sorry for being grumpy, love ye loads really, should have just let it go)

Great question – in my dreams I was the midfield engine like Patrick Vieira, driving the team forward with an expertly placed pass or a crunching tackle breaking up play.

But to be honest – I was Martin Keown – chasing people down, obstructing people on the sly and getting in people’s faces a la the Rudd Van Nistelrooy incident at Old Trafford.

Interestingly though these guys were my two favourite players of the Invincibles era – though my favourite player of all time was David Rocky Rocastle, who I couldn’t even emulate in my dreams.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Which player are you?
Excellent question from Peter G. In my head, I am a master of the perfect through ball. A creative midfielder, with pin point passing and completion stats to make the tika-taka crowd swoon. I am so blissfully talented that grunt work like running and tackling and heading are beneath me. I am Jan Molby, circa 1988.
Jeremy Aves


…I am Duncan Ferguson

Good hold up play and good with the head. Lazy, always injured, and then when forced to play, punches someone so that he is suspended instead.

I also have a hatred for Steffen Freund
Fat Man Scouse


Goalless and glorious
For anyone proposing to punish teams in a 0-0 game, go back and watch Germany v. Italy in the 2006 WC Semi. A truly compelling game from start to finish. Footballing icons at their very best.

Any other cracking 0-0 games from the mailboxers?
Doug, Glasgow


Breaking down your team
In response to Friday’s work challenge from Tom, Saints.

Being a Liverpool fan it’s pretty obvious how our team fits into this game.

Goalkeeper: Mid-table
Really Mignolet isn’t that terrible, he just isn’t a top 6 keeper. Need vast improvement in this area, but I still can’t see us buying anyone anytime soon. Karius will get better, but now I’d throw him in the same category as Fabianski/Foster/Eliot

Defence: Top 6
Now most people won’t agree with this but let me explain. Firstly Moreno seems to have transformed over the summer, fair play to him – he’s gone from my least-liked LFC player to an adequate LB for now. Matip I think has the capability to be an incredible CB and could fit comfortably into any defence in the prem, barring Spurs. Lovren is struggling yes, but I think this is due more to the way we play. Our only real “holding” player is Henderson, and he couldn’t hold a conversation. When Moreno turns into Bale and Clyne/Gomez/Trent forget to run back, this leaves Lovren exposed. I genuinely think you could put Alessandro Nesta in that defence and we’d still struggle, it’s just the way Klopp plays. Clyne I’ve never rated, but Gomez is one for the future and I’d be happy for him to continue for the remainder of the season.

Midfield: Top 6
Henderson stops this midfield becoming top 4/prem contenders. I cannot fathom why he’s still anywhere near the squad, and I’m hoping when Keita joins that will signal the end of our captains starting berth. Can I like but will bugger off next summer. So a midfield three of Coutinho, Lallana/Wij, Henderson is top 6 quality. Coutinho, Lallana/Wij, Keita however is a different kettle of fish.

Attack: Prem contenders/world class
Mane, Firmino/DStudge/ Salah will, and have, terrified any defence in the league.

Manager: World class

It’s not all bad at Liverpool and we’ll be there or there abouts come the end of the season, I’m quietly optimistic.

Bless up


…Decided to have a go at the Friday ‘work’ challenge for Everton and rate the level of different parts of the team (current form non-withstanding).

GK – Relegation Battle

Pickford might yet turn into a fine goalkeeper, but he’s got a long way to go. One can’t begrudge him not being able to carry the leaden weight of ’16-17 Sunderland on his back, but during last season’s relegation fight it’s far to say that he didn’t have the impact that, for instance, a young Shay Given had on terrible Newcastle sides of yesteryear. I’m happy for Pickford to grow into the role at Everton, but he’s not exactly been a revelation so far.

DF – Mid-Table

In Baines and Coleman we theoretically have one of the finest wingback pairings in Europe. In practice, Baines is getting on, and both players have suffered a string of serious injuries. Meanwhile, our CBs either look a bit average (Funes Mori and Keane) or smart but age-ravaged (Jagielka and Williams). That said, it always takes defenders an especially long time to gel together. A good manager and a settled lineup could see our defending improve rather dramatically.

MF – Top Four

Despite our struggles, this is is by far the strongest area of our squad, and we’ve actually got one of the deepest midfield talent pools in the premier league. That Koeman wasn’t able to get something out of this (rather varied) lot is utterly criminal. Think about it: We’ve got the solid base and positional nous of Schneiderlin and McCarthy, the furious tackling of Gueye, the all-action stylings of Davies (who I think will turn out to be really rather good), the sheer pace of Bolasie, the dead-ball wizardry of Sigurdsson, the goal-plundering of Klaassen (he’s got it in him), the creativity of Barkley, and… …and Mirallas, Lennon, and Basic are probably good for 20 minutes here and there, I guess.

I’ll admit that at the minute these parts seem rather disparate and unconvincing, but that’s precisely how failing teams always *seem* until a good manager gets them working cohesively as a unit. If a manager with a solid plan and some good motivational skills comes in, then this side will look completely unrecognisable. The talent is there! I’d personally take this midfield over anyone else’s barring that of City, Chelsea, or Tottenham (to be clear, I’m not counting any of Liverpool’s front-quartet as midfielders).

ROONEY – Relegation Battle

Like many Everton fans, I was dismayed that we agreed to be part of Wayne Rooney’s retirement plan. Rooney *might* still be good enough for sides with no more aspirations than clinging, barnacle-like, to the premier league’s lower reaches, but Wayne has simply lost the requisite pace, touch, and energy for anyone with greater aspirations. Whenever he’s picked, the rest of side has to accommodate his multi-faceted awkwardness, which drags everyone else down to his (ever-declining) level. I’d happily pay off his full contract right now just to ensure he never plays for us again.

FW – Bottom Half

We have an interesting enough melange of options that we should be able to figure out a selection that works. Calvert-Lewin and Lookman are promising prospects. Who knows if they will ever develop into players that will actually frighten Premier League defences, but they’re decent enough for now. Next, there is Sandro and Vlasic. On the one hand, they haven’t been given enough of a chance, on the other, they haven’t exactly set the world on fire in their cameos to date. Finally there is Niasse, bless him, who deserves a freaking medal for the way he has endured multiple -and completely pointless- humiliations, and yet continues to deliver the goods whenever called upon. He may not be the most technically-talented player in the division, but if you need a hard-working and instinctive striker, you could do much worse than have him leading the line. Frankly, I think we’d be in a much better position if we had started him every week.

So in summary I think that one area of our team is high-class, but the rest is rather mediocre.
Joseph Pearson (Chatham)


Reflections on NI v Switzerland
Well, what a game that wasn’t. 90 minutes of godawful football punctuated by some truly baffling decisions from the referee. Some thoughts on the matter from the Swiss side this morning (there are not 16 of them, I’m not crazy…)

– Lets start with the obvious – that was never a penalty in a million years. You can’t even argue that he did something to give the ref a decision to make – it was just an inexplicable decision.

– It wasn’t the only strange decision and even from the Swiss perspective, I got the feeling the decisions made tended to favour the visiting side. Schär was very lucky not to see red for a savage foul on Dallas to break up a promising counter attack, as well as a later clumsy challenge on the same player that could have drawn a second yellow but went unpunished. Watching that first tackle again in full time, I’m still astonished Schär stayed on the field.

– This is especially hard to reconcile with several niggly fouls given for challenges on Swiss players which were far less serious both in terms of intent and game context. No doubt in mind that the NI fans would (probably rightly) feel aggrieved at the lack of consistency from the officials.

– The Swiss commentator and pundits were all quick to make the same point but the key point made by expert pundit Alain Sutter was that after the goal went in, everyone expected that N.Ireland would finally come out and play and that would finally make a more open game. He was almost angry at O’Neill’s men for continuing to play with 10 men behind the ball, at home, a goal down, in a vital two-leg playoff to qualify for the World Cup. I get that the plan was to soak up pressure and make a quick counter, but everyone could see that simply wasn’t working on the night.

– Manuel Akanji deserves special mention, if only because I previously suggested he might be a weak link at the back. 22 years of age, only 23 top-flight league appearances, and only his 2nd international cap. His performance can be summarised in the following exchange with the friend with whom watched the match – “Who does he play for?” “Basel” “He’ll get a decent move soon then”

– Zakaria and Zuber were surprise selections (to me at least) but Zakaria in particular showed why he was chosen for this fixture. The eyes recorded a combative and dominating performance in the centre of the park, confident both going forward and tracking back. Pleasingly, the stats show he completed the most successful dribbles (3), won the most aerial duels (6), was dispossessed zero times and achieved joint top a 92% pass accuracy (excluding Admir Mehmedi’s 100% for one successful pass.)

– Returning to the NI strategy, it was notable that the high press began to fail as the game wore on and the players began to tire. On at least one occasions Lafferty cut a frustrated figure as he chased down the Swiss defence only to find that Magennis had failed to join him allowing a simple out ball to the flank. This was the point at which O’Neill could perhaps have considered moving to a plan B.

– Instead, the substitutions for N.Ireland were all like-for-like – the same plan delivered by fresher legs. All performed well and Ward in particular looked bright (as did Dallas before his early departure – likely forced by the above horror tackle by Schär).

– On the Swiss side, the substitutes all struggled to make any impact – Embolo once again showed a worrying lack of match fitness and was clearly not only off the pace of the wider game, he was also not in sync with his teammates, summed up by a number of one-two passes played to nobody and the lowest pass completion rate of anyone on the pitch at 43%, jointly with another Swiss substitute, Fabian Frei.

– After the game, interviews with the Swiss players and pundits were all in agreement that the game was ugly, but the important thing is the result, and ultimately a 1-0 win away from home sets up Switzerland well for the return leg on Sunday. N.Ireland will need to play a more positive, open game to get any kind of result – that should be good news not only for Switzerland’s intricate build up play which will benefit from more space between the lines, but also the viewing public who had to sit through that turgid mess last night.
Terry Hall, Switzerland (all stats courtesy of, all opinion courtesy of my one good eye)

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