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Thanks for the memories Rafa but let’s leave them just as that
The Rafatollah is like childbirth. By that I mean (or at least I am told) your body is very clever in convincing you after the event that the pain was not as murderously strong as it was. Which is the only reason any woman would even countenance the idea of bearing anymore children or letting their partner anywhere near them to run the risk. I make this odd analogy as it can be the only explanation for the fervour that the Rafa acolytes have for the man and their strength of feeling that the Rafatollah should return in favour of Der KloppMeister.
Now, by no means am I denigrating his achievements for us and I fully appreciate the difficult circumstances he was faced with. Thanks to the two snake oil salesmen who owned us he had to sell to buy better (without meaning to reopen the old ‘net spend’ can of worms) and he made us much more competitive in Europe than we had any right to be. Remember those regular-almost-to-the-point- of-boredom heavyweight match-ups against Chelsea. What a time to be alive. As I’ve mentioned before I happened to get to a couple of matches in 2009 and was extremely fortunate to be at OT as we annihilated them 4-1. In fact the only other away I was at was the Fulham game where Yossi popped up with a late winner after we’d hit the woodwork (no hyperbole) about a million times! The attacking play at this time was mesmeric and the triangles between Gerrard, Alonso and Torres would leave you dizzy just watching. I am not attempting to portray myself as a home and away regular. I just got lucky but I could see how special this team was and the attacking verve was as good as any in the land or Europe. The Putney end on that day simply erupted and I came close but just managed to avoid joining in with my fellow fans as they belted out “We’re gonna win the league”. We stayed in the away end for ages that day. It was quite euphoric and we genuniely felt we might do it. Singing and clapping, hugging strangers. We were playing teams such as Real and United off the park. Absolutely battering them. And slotting 5 past Villa, 4 past Blackburn (remember the furore over the hand gesture from Rafa when Fergie and his ‘gimme3pts’ mate Fat Sam ganged up on Rafa?) 3 past Hull, Newcastle and West Ham in successive matches. Heady times, heady football.
But we were always playing catch up, I felt. And ultimately just fell short of the ultimate prize. My feeling is we fell short due to furstrating draws earlier in the season. Games were Rafa would rest the match-winners in advance of a European match-up. My recollection could be wrong but that’s my take. In fact his entire reign seemed to be slighlty tainted For Me, Jeff, with frustrating home draws against lower table clubs or limp away defeats against the very same. You could rely on Rafa’s team to turn up against the big boys and turn them over but at home to Stoke, Fulham, West Ham or Hull pre-Xmas in the 2008/09 season then forget it. And that was my frustration. The 4-4 against Arsenal the very same season would not have mattered as much perhaps had we not drawn against Stoke and Wigan in successive aways in Jan. Ulimtately I feel if he had let the handbrake off more often we might have prevailed in the league and had he not clearly prioitised the European Cup then again maybe things might have turned out different.
I genuinely have a great deal of respect for him and the measure of the man is that not just did he donate £96,000 to The Hillsborough Family Support Group he donated fairly regularly and without craving column inches each time. A humble man. A man who made us punch above our weight. But ultimately a man who forced us to endure more turgid shite than was necessary due to his pragmatic stance and craving for continental recognition (using us a way of auditioning for the Real gig is my honest view and fair enough if so). If only he had played with the handbrake off more often or even with his thumb on the button then things might have been different. Of course the problem with the current guy is he plays everything in 7th gear and the pedal buried in the carpet but I am much more entertained and enjoy it more. Which is sort of one of the main points of an escapist entertainment such a football? No, Rafa?
Thanks for the memories Rafa but let’s leave them just as that shall we? Mostly fond memories but a longing for what could have been…
Gregory Whitehead, LFC
Would just like to add that, in response to Phil Neville’s very wide and general price evaluation of Marcus Rashford, that I am a £0 – £50,000,000 player.
Andrew M, AFC, Australia
Musonda looks a player
I was a bit surprised not to see any morning mails about Chelsea’s fairly routine win over Forest last night.
For Chelsea fans, the sight of Musonda finally making his debut was obviously the most exciting. He’s 20 but looks 12, and far from being roughed up by the Forest defence, he won fouls and generally showboated his way around the park before scoring his goal (something that appeared to move him to tears).
We have been much criticised for our academy (wrongly, in my opinion) but he’s a gem. So too is Andreas Christensen, who is remarkably assured for his age. Of course, it’s easy to get carried away against lower league opposition, but these two really won’t look out of place starting in big games. Indeed, it looks as though Christensen will be taking Luiz’s role for the Stoke and Man City games.
Honourable mentions also to Rudiger, Sterling (played immaculately in his brief cameo, brilliant feet for a defender), Bakayoko and Kenedy.
Finally, I’ll add a question to the mailbox – have any other teams got a load of new fanboy twitter accounts springing up? If you don’t know what I’m on about, look up ‘Carefreedaily’ or ‘King Bakayoko’ on twitter. They are the dictionary definition of the plastic, awful soullessness of modern football.
Harry CFC (Bristol Gooner – Ancelotti’s Chelsea team would be my only addition to that list, double winners, most goals scored ever, +71 goal difference).
We love you Rafa
In response to Peter from Glasgow’s comments on your “Broken Crayons” article.
It’s laughable that Rafa can’t be given credit because he has spent £100m in the last two summers. One thing that people fail to mention is Newcastle have made £110m from players sale in that same period. Overhauling a squad in one summer ready for a promotion battle is no easy task.
Villa are a prime example that money isn’t all that is required to get out of the Championship. They have spent in excess of £80m since they were relegated, & have so far competed in mid-table for the duration.
Rafa spent his money very wisely, and brought in the right kind of characters that would be equipped for a promotion battle in what is a tough and challenging league. Rafa has also brought in something that Newcastle have been lacking for as long as I can remember. Organisation. Not once this season have they been outplayed, or had to rely on their goalkeeper keeping them in a game. They have been organised, and very hard to break down. Granted we are only five games into the season, but other than a moment of madness from Shelvey, and a moment of magic from Mooy in a tepid, even game, then we could be sitting here undefeated.
Rafa deserves a huge amount of credit for turning a divided, disjointed club, into a united side with a team of hard working & dedicated players, which the city can be proud of once again.
We love Rafa here, & hope he is in it for the long haul.
I see you baby, Oumar Niasse
It was only a League Cup game against Sunderland, but the Oumar Niasse redemption tale remains on course to being one for the ages.
Signed for 14 million. Pretty average. Roundly criticised by media and new manager alike. Frozen out. Scored goals for the U23’s but never recalled. Loaned to Hull. Scored a few more goals including one in a win against Liverpool. Behaved impeccably and was a consummate professional throughout. Cult following among Everton fans began to grow.
Now Everton find themselves in desperate need of a goalscorer, Lukaku gone, Rooney past it and and Calvert-Lewin, despite two goals last night, not quite there yet. The team already 2-0 up, Niasse is thrown on with 20 minutes to play to rapturous applause for his first appearance under Koeman. He promptly takes a high ball down on his chest and nonchalantly flicks it into the top corner for his first goal for the club.
Not the hero Everton deserve, but the one they need right now.
Will (he’ll get a chance and just be shit, won’t he) Wymant, EFC
Can someone tell me my Debuchy isn’t playing in the secondary cup competitions?
The reason Giroud hasn’t been looking at his best recently is down to the poor supply from the flanks.
Bellerin’s rubbish at crossing the ball but Debuchy isn’t – so why isn’t he being played so Giroud can benefit from those crosses?
I don’t know how much we’re paying him but if you want someone to hang around the stadium in an Arsenal tracksuit, while being played thousands of pounds a week – can I volunteer for the role?
I’ll do it for half of what Debuchy’s on and I’ll bring my own sandwiches so I won’t need feeding.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Good, Better, Betis
Real Madrid lost to Real Betis at the Berna-bayo, and also failed to score for the first time in 73 games – quite remarkable, particularly the latter fact. In doing so, Madrid fell 7 points behind Barcelona. It was also the first time Zidane had rolled out his gala XI this season (Navas, Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Modric, Kroos, Casemiro, Isco; Ronaldo, Bale). A few thoughts from watching the game:
1. Real won La Liga last season effectively playing a second XI. The likes of Morata, Vazquez, Nacho, Isco (back then!) and James were critical. Real has lost 2 of those, and while Zidane has found Asensio to be a more than capable alternate, he does not yet have the consistency or regularity that one got with Morata and James.
2. Real looked lacking in motivation and were structurally poor. In terms of the structure, and credit to Quique Setien for this, the ease with which Betis repeatedly transitioned through Madrid’s centre and wide areas was embarrassing. It started to resemble the end of Benitez’s days at the Berna-bayo. While Real did create chances, and did indeed hit the post, Betis created more than their fair share of chances and fully deserved the win.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo will not take 12 shots without scoring again anytime soon. Relax, people.
4. Betis and Setien. Last season, the ‘maverick’ coach nearly pulled out another win at the Berna-bayo with tiny Las Palmas. They played Real off the park, took a 3-1 lead (despite conceding first) and only succumbed, first to their own fear of tempting fate, and ultimately a shattering Ronaldo brace to level the score. This Betis side, with more experienced players, and a wiser Setien, did not. The winner, carefully constructed, was as good a last minute winner you’ll see from any small club this season. As the ball comes across to Antonio Barragan (he of Middleborough, yes), he shoos Ryad Boudebouz away (thank God because he played like a knob after coming off the bench), surveys his option (Sanabria) and picked him out expertly. 1-0. Done and dusted. I should add that Betis had a goal disallowed 3 minutes before, following another expertly worked move.
Although many writers and commentators want to, it’s too early to write off Real Madrid, and much too early to think Zidane’s job is on the line – a back-to-back Champions League winner and club legend does not start to sweat it after 5 league games. However, a return to unity of purpose, in attack and defence, is needed to stem the rut.
Raymond, London (bigamist – MUFC and FCB)
I’ll play the role of Mediawatch for you
I’ve just read through your Winners and Losers of the League Cup and noticed an anomaly so I’ll play the role of Mediawatch for you.
When discussing Burnley, ”Just five teams made more changes to their starting line-up than Leeds and yet… overcome a Burnley side who have thwarted Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool so far this season” which makes it sound like Burnley didn’t make any changes of their own. In actual fact, Burnley made just one less change than Leeds.
Be honest in your deserved praise of Leeds. They did well. But don’t make it sound like Burnley played full strength and got beaten at home. You’re better than that.
If you fancy damning Burnley, then go and look at our form under Dyche in the cups. From memory alone it’s not good. Losing to non-league Lincoln at home on TV last season with a particularly strong line-up was particularly galling.
Nick P. Burnley FC.