Mails: Ethan Ampadu and a plea for fairness…

Date published: Thursday 19th April 2018 1:53 - Ian Watson

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Ethan Ampadu, trials and tribunals
This boy is a bit special. Too much of my life has been wasted on the freezing slabs of Exeter City’s Big Bank watching holidaying has-beens and enthusiastic youngsters of limited ability. When a nugget of skill comes up through their outstanding academy system, they are soon shipped off. Ollie Watkins left for Brentford and David Wheeler joined QPR last season to help fund this fan-owned club that is forced to function on financial fumes. But watching Ethan Ampadu’s 15-year-old frame with a 30-year old’s mind outclass thirty year old cloggers with a fifteen year old’s mind made the frozen fingers (almost) worth it.

Born in Exeter, another academy product, there was simply something special about him. Even as an (even younger) teenager walking around the pitch perimeter as part of the first team fringe, there was an understated confidence about the way he carried himself. Even before I saw him play, old boys on the Big Bank (“the largest terracing stand in English football” as the passionate volunteer guides tell anyone who will listen) nudged each other knowingly on the ringletted one’s arrival. He made his debut as a fifteen year old against Brentford, played the whole two hours of the extended EFL Cup game and picked up the Man of the Match award. The youngest player ever to wear the red and white, breaking an eighty seven year record and he still had to pack his school bag for Wednesday morning.

Ampadu’s fledgling career has been marshalled astutely by the soon to be English football’s longest serving manager (a rather Marmite figure with some of the Grecian diehards, but a man overseeing non league budgets to the verge of League One).Paul Tisdale called the FA over Ampadu’s eligibility for England the first time he saw him play. Well done to the FA: he played for Wales a few months later. ‘Tisdale told The Mirror that as a fourteen year old:

“… he was able to read the game and make decisions in an instant. He played like a professional player.”

Frightening…but how did such a rare gem turn up on South East Devon’s sandy shores? Ethan’s Dad Kwame spent half a decade with The Grecians and notched up over one hundred and fifty appearances, before spending four years as City’s Under 18 coach. Ironically for a man whose son just signed for Chelsea, he has since coached at Arsenal at the Youth and Under 18 level. He is widely praised for giving Ethan a stable and focussed background to support his football development, but there is one thing that grates with some fans. Ethan, pursued by every top team going, did not sign a full professional contract with City when he came of age. If he had, the huge investment in time and care could have been rewarded by a fee that, for a club like Exeter, would change their destiny. They sold land in the stadium footprint to the University of Exeter to develop an away end annually voted the worst in English football (essentially half a dozen unroofed steps fringed in corrugated iron) and to finally replace one of English football’s last wooden grandstands. That £3 million and the Watkins/ Wheeler money (figures always “undisclosed” when City sell players to the frustration of their fans) covered the development because, as a Trust, there is no Thai Sugar Daddy or Russian Oligarch to search behind the sofa for a stray few million. Three thousand fans offer small monthly payments to keep the club functioning and the local council (which owns the stadium) has been a supportive partner. So, it is not unreasonable to suggest, an injection of three, four or even five million pounds for a prodigy who has now made his Chelsea debut and played twice for Wales represents a bargain for the Blues and a destiny changer for the Reds. More importantly, what problems would it have caused Ampadu to sign on the red and white dotted line? Tisdale had already made it clear that he totally supported the courtship of football’s behemoths as he shared with The Mirror:

“It was obvious he was going to go to a top club, every top club in the country was interested in signing him. We released him to go and speak to them all.”

It is mind bending to recount that he only actually played six times for City. He would have played far more if, I kid you not, he didn’t have to do his homework. Exeter could have mined more of him if Tisdale had decided to cash in on this geyser of gushing raw talent but, immense credit to him, he even left him out for last season’s playoff final at Wembley as it clashed with his GCSE exam season. The match against Blackpool cried out for Ampadu’s grace and guile during a desperate second half when City blew a tactical gasket after David Wheeler’s stylish first half equaliser and a chance to progress up the league ladder was lamely relinquished in a mindless fog of hoof and run.

So what do Tisdale and Exeter get for their patient care over the years for a sixteen year old the Welsh Captain eulogized to The Sun?

“I wasn’t going to retire until I saw Ethan Ampadu in Portugal. He’s something else.
“We play a back three and he plays the same position as me. I was watching him at the other end and I thought, ‘This kid is unbelievable’.

We may never see a player of Ethan’s calibre in our lifetime down here in English football’s sleepy backwater. So, discovering a talent that is nurtured with care, given time to grow outside the spotlight of massive clubs and their related pressures and handing him over willingly and with trust that the club will be rewarded seems to be the wrong approach. Multiple millions would represent one less yacht for Abramovich, but would enhance Chelsea’s relationship with a club famed for its outstanding academy system and help create a fertile pipeline for future talent. City Chairman Julian Tagg described the “massive disparity” between the clubs in their valuation of Ampadu. Those that think the pending tribunal will stand up to Chelsea and reward Exeter please form an orderly queue to pick up your straight jackets.
Matt Riley


Stats: use them with caution
Working with numbers for a living I have a particular pet hate of selective statistics being used to prove a point. Something usually reserved for politicians.

This email was prompted by this morning email stating Tottenham struggling towards the end of the season, I presume based on the 2 games spurs lost to the champions and a draw with a team fighting for premiership life.

I was also confused by the recent comment that spurs should have won one of the recent titles where they would have had to win at least 3 more games in order in any of the seasons to do so, with special mention for the person praising klopps record against the top 6, whilst ignoring half their games.

Therefore I thought I come up with some conclusion using some selective statistics

Obvious ones first:
Man City having a bad season losing 3 out of last 4 games. Ignoring any context or that they won the league in that period
Spurs top of form guide over last 16 games, should be champions. Or even better if we also ignore Man City games.

Less obvious
Burnley and Newcastle have won last 4 games, so they both should be given champions league places.
Watford have the worst 16-30min goals/for against record so should be relegated
Southampton have the 13th best away record despite only 2 wins so should stay up.
Lastly my favourite, Southampton are my tip for the fa cup as they have not lost a cup tie since August.

In summary don’t be a politician and use statistics responsibly.
Ron (60% of the time, works every time)


Spending power
I loved your latest article on spending power but wondered if there’s a better measure of investment and its impact. What really differentiates wealthy, successful teams is their ability to buy at the very top. Not to spend average amounts on a number of players but to spunk a load of cash on the very best.

There is a big difference between buying 2 players for £150mil and 10 at £15mil each. Only teams with sustained buying power and success can afford the former but this, I believe, is a prerequisite for success.

Liverpool are currently looking like a good case in point. After many years of floundering and buying a number of mid-price players they have had a period of success in the market, built a good foundation in the squad and are now able to buy selectively at higher prices. As a result they’ve improved their squad massively with Salah, Van Dijk, the Ox and the incoming Kieta. It will be interesting to see how they progress over the next few years.

As a follow-on from said article it would be fascinating to see a similar comparison based on the top spend on one or two players. I may be wrong but United seemed to break the transfer record every year through their period of dominance in the late nineties and naughties as they built on an already excellent squad.


United > anyone other than City
Kirk in this morning’s mailbox asks, “Will anybody really believe that this current Utd are better than Liverpool even if they do finish second?” Whoa there nelly. I wouldn’t dispute that Liverpool have played better attacking football this season than United (reflected by the higher number of goals) but we currently have more wins, more points and less goals conceded (reflected by the higher league position). We also took 4 points off them this season as well.

Liverpool could well end up above us in the league, and if they do fair play, but I’d prefer to take the league table as a measure of how good a team is in any given season. Otherwise what’s the point? Why bother with a league at all? Why don’t we just put up a poll on F365 and vote for who we think deserves to win the league on the basis of being subjectively adjudged to be the better team? Be warned though, 1% will definitely say Frank Lampard.

I get that there’s a misguided perception that this United team are awful, and it would be difficult to argue that our performances have been sparkling, but our league results (if not performances) say differently. Compared to the other teams below us we’re efficient, effective and, up to this point, better at accumulating points. Performances will have to improve next season if we are to catch City, and there is scope for us to improve, but who’s to say we definitely will or won’t? Time will tell, but for now we’re currently the second best team in the league.

Mind you, I did have Utd bed covers as a kid.
Garey Vance, MUFC


Spending and success
I found the big spending PL run down slightly odd. I am reminded of the Morecambe and Wise sketch in which Morecambe sits down to play the piano for André Previn’s orchestra. After a minute of discordant bashing of keys, Previn informs Morecambe that he is playing “all the wrong notes”. Morecambe pulls Previn towards him and says that he is “playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order”.

What the article clearly shows that spending the most money, particularly in the last decade, does pretty much guarantee success. From 2003/04 to 2017/18 (13 seasons), Man City or Chelsea have spent the most money. In that time they have won 6 PL titles – I’d argue a 50% win ratio is a pretty good hit rate. That’s without taking into account the fact that over the same time period one of those teams has come second a further 6 times.

To put that performance in context only three other teams have won the league in that time: Arsenal in 2003/04 (remember them?), Leicester (once in a generation success) and Man Utd (who have the pull of history and, more importantly, had Alex Ferguson – who consistently outperformed high spending at the start of the PL era as well).

More interestingly, the impact of big spending does not have an immediate impact. In 2010/11 City bought Touré, Silva, Kolarov, Balotelli, Milner and Dzeko – all of whom were key in delivering the title in 2011/12 and (more heartbreakingly for me personally) in 2013/14. More relevantly, can’t we essentially predict the PL table each year based on wage bills?

A great manager, a statistical quirk of a great generation of academy talent (or both in United’s case) can subvert the power of money, however it would appear that this is getting harder to do as financial disparity between clubs with sovereign wealth/oligarch wealth and clubs run as businesses widens. In essence whilst a huge glut of spending may initially result in disharmony and confusion, paying for the best musicians to put into the same orchestra will, with time and practice, generally result in the right notes being played in the right order to a better standard than an orchestra without those resources. It is the same with football.
Matt (this was essentially an excuse to rewatch that M&W sketch at work) LFC


Guess work
When it comes to football, Football365 is my voice of reason and well-informed opinion in a see of gut reactions and intellectual pygmyism that characterises a lot of football commentary and punditry. Great job guys.

The antithesis of this (as mediawatch regularly points out) is the click bait news headlines for player transfers. The reason these articles work is that whilst you KNOW an agent/journalist has just pulled a rumour out of the air, it still feels good to see a good player linked with you club/terrible to see them linked with a rival.

One of my favourite items is the F365 Predictions at the start of the year that acts as a welcome reminder that no one really knows what’s going despite their great journalistic output. As we seem to be in suggestion corner this week, can I suggest that F365 comes up with a similar series of predictions for transfers (highest value, most controversial, longest saga, greatest value, most/least likely and, of course, player swaps). The F365 contributors can then share their predictions with the F365 community and we can hopefully get some sanity/understanding of the transfer market (and if we don’t, we can have some fun looking back at the start of the season).

To be honest, I just want to see if there is something that Sarah Winterburn can’t predict with 100% accuracy.
Matt (breaks my heart seeing Jorginho to United) LFC


More fun facts on Man Utd
Ok just a few more…
* Chris Smalling isn’t considered of much use as a defender… he has as many Premier League goals this year as Morata and Sanchez

* This will be the first year since Fergie left that Arsenal will finish behind Utd… Were still waiting on City though who are now the only team left.

* Utd have been generally acknowledged to be inconsistent this year… They are one of only two teams that will finish this season having beaten everyone at least once.

*Our youth system has produced in the last 3 years Rashford, Lingard, McTominay, Borthwick-Jackson and Harrop… and our under-23 team has just been relegated to league 2

*Of our massive spend since the end of the Golden age (2013) over 80m is doing OK in France, 12 is semi retired in the US, over a 115m comprises the amount spent on Jose’s two generals, 89m dyes it’s hair different colours and can be either brilliant or abysmal depending on the day, 32m was spent on a lovely blogger, over 30m on our personal prickly bastard , 27m on a guy media watch wishes it was as fat as, close to 58m on a guy who doesn’t smile much, 80m on three defenders we don’t use, about 27m on maintaining Fellini’s Afro, and the amount we spent on Darmian could have been used for something more useful. Still, Zlatan was free


Burnley mystery
Hello, I’d like to talk to you about Jesus.

No! Wait! I’m kidding – it’s Burnley really. I want to talk to you about Burnley. It seems to me that for most clubs in the division it’s easy to make a comparison between squad strength and performance. The difference between the 2 then becomes a crude, but valid, assessment of the manager. Palace had a perfectly acceptable Premier League squad that was underperforming, and good manager Roy Hodgson has them about right now. Newcastle aren’t very good and Benitez is working miracles.

The thing about Burnley though, is I have no idea if they are any good because I’ve not seen them play. I assume they have been on Sky a few times this season, and I just missed them. And all of last season, except maybe one FA cup game when I got distracted by friend of F365, Joey Barton and didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the team. I’d take input from the Burnley fans here in the mailbox/comments, but there are none.

Does anyone know if Sean Dyche is doing an amazing job with bang average players, or if actually Sam Vokes was world class all along? If Ashley Barnes leaves Burnley is he going to Arsenal, or Stoke? Or Leeds? Is the Dean Marney in the squad the Spurs/Champ manager 2002 one? Really?? Were F365 right to mock the signing of Robbie Brady, or is he brilliant? What is Ben Mee?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but Burnley are on telly tonight against Chelsea and I’m looking forward to finding out. I’ll report back tomorrow (I almost certainly won’t).
Jeremy (I mean, it’s probably the Dyche is brilliant thing, but are you sure?) Aves


United misery
So with the FA Cup Semi final coming up, it reminds me of the Semi final we had with Everton back in 2016, when the club actually had faith in Martial and played him upfront, not on the left. Honestly if I were him, I would try and join club like Arsenal or Dortmund, where he can express himself in a much more attractive manner, he is definitely a player going to waste at United. However this time around, I am not looking forward to this semi final as much and not even excited for this match because I just not know what to expect from United anymore. Maybe its because I find football less interesting as before, or maybe its because I know the club are slowly losing its identity slowly but surely. Is Jose the right man for the job? Is Ed Woodward capable of financially handling the club? Will Fellaini ever leave?

The club need to regain there core values of developing the players in a more efficient manner and spend money MUCH smarter than they ever over the last 5 years. The net spending should not go over 100 Million this summer, it is embarrassing if it does. I realise the market is ridiculous now in terms of transfer fees and that agents are the main reason for this, but with City & Liverpool playing such good attacking football, the club have to improve in terms of entertainment. I remember the good old days when United would beat teams 3 or 4-0 without getting into second gear. It is as if we would win the game in the tunnel beforehand due to the fear factor we had. The thing is, I just cannot imagine Mourinho giving a passionate speech or team talk with a hint of excitement in the dressing room. In terms of mind games and cleverness, Jose is the very best. However tactically he has become very average, Montella with Sevilla outdid him, Rafa with Newcastle did it earlier in the season, and so did Wagner with Huddersfield. I do think some of the players have let him down this season, but United just need to sell first then buy and I am sure a positive change will come within a year or two.

I genuinely wish a quota on transfer fee and wages spent on players in the European leagues could be introduced though, it would just make football better. United have become like headless chickens and are the worst when it comes to overspending money, you would think a club like United knew how to negotiate with some dignity and respect. I genuinely believe that the next 5 years could be as big a struggle as the last 5 years in terms of League & Champions League success. However, it all depends on the decision making of both the board and Jose, it definitely has to improve and fast.
Rami, London


Next season…
Utter b#ll*cks from Kirk in the morning mailbox.

Highly paid footballers not motivated to play football is not a justification or excuse.

Consistency wins you the league.

Liverpool had one of their best results in over a decade and still got out of bed and beat Bournemouth.

Face it United are bang average and will struggle to keep up with Liverpool and City next year and will be fighting with the Londoners for one of the remaining 2 CL spots.
H (£73 for an away ticket is a joke. UEFA needs to have a serious think about how to stop this behaviour)


Call me paranoid but anytime I see a list from anyone about assorted British people, I always get a funny feeling that at least one Irish person is going to be listed, despite obviously not being British.

I got the same feeling when reading Joe, Midlands’ email about favourite British players abroad. Lo and behold, my suspicion was correct as I saw Ian Harte squirrelled away at the bottom of the list. Because of course, the guy born in Drogheda and who made 64 appearances for the Irish national team MUST be British, right? All of this info was on the same Wikipedia page you got his Levante stats from, Joe.

Ireland has been independent for almost a century now. To still be claiming Irish people as British in this day and age shows not only a lack of understanding of basic geography and political borders, but also an inherent disrespect to a people that, according to successive British and Irish governments, are supposed to be your equals.

John-Paul, Armagh


Fat friends
Is it really fat shaming to question a sportsman’s fitness for the job he is presumably handsomely paid for?

Does Mediawatch consider it thug shaming to question Joey Barton’s suitability for the Fleetwood job also?
Andrew (A 47 year old Office Worker, who is as fat as Luke Shaw and is seemingly trying to do more about it than him!)


…Well done to Mediawatch for highlighting the awful “journalism” of John Cross, who considers Luke Shaw to be “fat”.

Is John Cross aware of the fact that athletes (all human beings in fact) belong to a Somatotype (natural body definition)?

You could be an Ectomoroph (Peter Crouch), a Mesomorph (Cristiano Ronaldo) or an Endomorph (Luke Shaw).

Is John Cross aware that Brazilian Ronaldo, and Diego Maradona are Endomorphs?
Naz, Gooner.


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