Mails on Smalling, West Ham and icons

Date published: Wednesday 13th January 2016 3:27

If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at If you want to change the mailbox, mail in with actual opinions.


Enough about Man United…
Why don’t you just change the sites name to MU 365. Jesus wept. One article on United failing to beat Newcastle, but being a bit more entertaining (good read to be fair), another on Scholes and Rio waxing lyrical about fat Wayne’s return to form, despite the fact that Newcastle are essentially a Championship side, a further article rounding up the media’s group orgasm over Roo’s triumphant return, in a match that United didn’t win (isn’t that Mediawatch’s job?), then as if that wasn’t enough 10 of the 14 mails in this morning’s mailbox were about United. Overkill, much?

To put it bluntly, please write about and publish something else. United have been solid gold sh*t for 2.5 years. It’s neither new or interesting. Even as a City fan I’m bored by it. Surely a team currently scraping the top six with no real prospects of silverware does not merit this many column inches, or whatever the online equivalent is.

I understand that F365 survives on people visiting the site and that no doubt Man U fans drive a lot of traffic. However the amount of United centric material currently borders on click bait IMO. You’re not as brazen as the Metro but it’s a slippery slope.

No doubt there will be a pithy editorial comment at the bottom of this mail (like it’ll even be published) stating that you only publish what you receive, however I find that hard to believe, especially after Villa finally won and Payet’s sumptuous free-kick against Bournemouth. It went in off the bar and everything.

The top four are playing tonight, perhaps we could have some articles about the good sides in the league, and dare I dream? A Man United free mailbox.

Go on, I dare you.
James MCFC (I do love the site though)

(We really can only publish what we receive. And we received a lot of United mails. We always do. Tomorrow will be pretty much free of Man United; that’s what Liverpool v Arsenal will do… – Ed)


An appeal to mailboxers
The Wednesday AM mailbox was the worst ever. Paragraph upon paragraph of Man Utd bile. Someone even pitched in with 16 conclusions! I basically scrolled through the whole thing hoping to get to something good. It never happened and I ended up getting back to the day job earlier than planned, I’m not havin’ it, Jeff.

This is an appeal to all avid mailbox fans. Write in with something, anything about football. Together we can be the change and make the mailbox a better place.
Nilesh (suspiciously high productivity levels today), Harrow

(Then why didn’t you write in about something, anything about football? You’re sitting silently in the corner of a pub and then moaning about the atmosphere – Ed)


Fellaini the sweeper?
Watching United last night has left us all confused. It was a great game but there remains a lingering sense of disappointment that United are still awful. There were positives (three goals!!) but they looked brittle and weak at the back which may explain the boring ball retention since Van Gaal has taken over.

For me, the main reason United were dominated in the second half was that Steve noticed the odd way in which United were using Felliani. He was almost playing like a sweeper to counter the height disparity between Mitrovic and Blind. This left Schneiderlin completely overrun in midfield and the team disjointed. This could have been solved by taking Fellaini off for Borthwick-Jackson, putting Blind into midfield and moving Darmian to centre-back. It would be easier solved if Van Gaal would finally buy a brand new centre-back. Preferably one who has never even heard of left-back.

For a manager who has talked of ‘balance’ so often his team selections and tactics leave United looking completely out of shape. With a proper two-man midfield and another tall strong, powerful defender, I believe United could have came through that game strongly. Time to practice what you preach, Louis.
David, MUFC


Stop the Smalling nonsense
Can we all stop this talk of Smalling actually being any good please. Last night he was exposed for exactly what he is – a very average/poor defender.

When a team plays as defensive as Manchester Utd have this season it is a lot easier to play well as a centre-back. A fine example of this was John Terry the season Jose parked his bus all the way to the title, there was even talk of an England recall!!!

In the case of Smalling, if you sit back all game with full-backs tucked in and two defensive midfielders in front of you I assure you it is easier to play well.

Anyway, more footy tonight lads and lasses.
Jimmy (What does LVG ask for when he gets his haircut?) Spain


…If I’m not mistaken, last night’s result played firmly into Van Gaal’s hands (and hopefully ours as fans). Basically, what it showed was that if we attack, we can do so with relative aplomb with the players available (even Rooney!), but that doing so exposes a frankly not good enough defence.

Of course, that’s what happens when the only player in their natural position is an underwhelming Smalling (involved in two of the goals conceded, and many others over the course of this season). We need to seriously bolster there, and invest in a top-class centre-back to partner Smalling or Jones. Money no object.

At the other end, the curious case of Lingard troubles me. He really isn’t very good at this shooting lark, and has cost us a few other important results with his manic profligacy, but maybe he can be taught the simple art of not leaning back? Or just to stop shooting? Last time a player received such a look from Van Gaal was (to my memory) Hernandez, and he was shipped soon after, but hopefully the same fate won’t befall him as he’s looked exciting.

Fellaini on the other hand needs to hang up his boots and find a new career. He could easily have been sent off (yet again) and missed another great chance when supplied an almost perfect way to use his only obvious skill.

However, it just goes to show what we can do if we do play to our strengths, and maybe that the manager can actually set up to attack. But any team can only succeed with a strong backline, and my God that isn’t one.
Guy S


It takes two to tango…
Just two quick things from last night’s game. Firstly Man United finally played against a team that also tried to win and look what happened – a great game! I know Man United have been boring this season but nobody’s willing to look at how boring most teams and games are now in the Premier League. Most games now comprise of one team wanting to win and the other team trying to stop them. Hence why on a Saturday we have around six-seven 3 o clock games usually all 0-0 at half-time. It’s like watching a game of snooker where one player’s trying to pot balls and the other player just keeps trying to snooker him. On the rare occasions where both teams are set up to attack and win the match we get a good game. It doesn’t happen often.

Secondly for those that question what Schweinsteiger does for Man Utd. I’ll just leave you with this….

Amount of league games started by him this season: 13
Number of goals conceded in these matches: 9

Amount of league games not started by him this season: 7
Number of goals conceded in these matches: 11

I think that’s pretty conclusive.
Bradley Kirrage
So Louis…that philosophy?
Well, that as unexpected. What a great game. Afterwards, I had one thought – will Louis follow his own philosophy? Recently he has talked about giving the players more responsibility, having them own the issues within the team. Some may see this as passing the buck, but I understand and, in some ways, applaud it.

The question is, will he actually do this?

It comes down to trust. If he trusts the attackers to do their job better next time, and the defenders to do their job better next time, there is no reason to resort to safety-first football. If we play like that, I think more often than not we will win the game. Small improvements at both ends and that would have been three points and, whisper it, fun.

However, if he decides that the defensive lapses are reason enough to resort to passive passing and a lack of risk-taking, he will have shown a lack of trust in his players and in his own philosophy.
Andreas (I think we all know how, sadly, this will turn out) Hunter, St Albans


Hiddink’s Chelsea: The future’s bright
As an aside from the deluge of LVG-related mails, I thought I’d share my thoughts on Chelsea’s prospects under Hiddink.

He seems to have restored an air of calm to the club after a remarkably fractious first half of the season. The win at Palace was comfortably our strongest performance of the season, and the underperforming key trio of Costa, Oscar and Azpilicueta (yes, he’s been poor) have started to play at their true level again. With the quality of the league this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if an unlikely challenge for the top four is mounted. If he can do this whilst integrating the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek into the first team, then this season could yet turn into a positive one for the Blues.

Whilst he looks to have steadied the ship, the true test of his managerial abilities will come in the Champions League, where a more flexible tactical approach may be needed. On that note, our recent European record under interim managers stands at: one Champions League victory, one Champions League final defeat on penalties, and one Europa League victory. Perhaps Arsenal could think about putting Wenger on gardening leave for six months and getting someone in?
JT (the recent Degsy articles have been top notch) CFC
What a time to be alive…and a Hammer
I am feeling something that feels totally foreign to me, at first I was unsure what it was, being a West Ham fan we never seem to experience anything like this. But I have researched long and hard and the only thing it can be is ‘optimism’.

In my 32 years of supporting the team, this season seems like a defining moment in what could be a very interesting few years at the club. We are actually playing decent football and I actually look forward to watching us now instead of the turgid predictable stuff we had been producing.

Even having the majority of our attacking players ripped from the side in November and December we still ground out the draws and made ourselves tough to beat. Now with Payet back, we have that same zip and creativity in the side at the beginning of the season, which we were missing around the Xmas period. It scares me to think how many of those draws we could have turned into wins with Dimi and Lanzini pulling the strings. I am almost hoping France continue to ignore him so we have him back fresh for the next season.

It is also baffling to me how Aaron Cresswell hasn’t even been selected for an England squad when we consistently see players who don’t even play regularly for their teams getting selected over him. In light of Luke Shaw’s injury he should have been a natural replacement in the squad as there has been nobody as consistent as him in that position.

Bilic has come into the club and totally revamped the way we play and even when we lose or have a slightly disappointing performance you kind of know the next time we play we will rectify those mistakes. When we go 1-0 down now in games, I dont get the same sense of dread as I used to. I dont know what Bilic does in those half-time team talks but we always seem to show a bit extra when he gets the message across. Which is massive credit to him as well as the players.

Our move to the Olympic stadium will increase the profile of the club and ultimately the fan base and hopefully bring increased investment. A solid top 6/7 finish would make us a very attractive prospect for potential signings in the summer.

There is no real underlying reason for this message. After suffering several relegations and countless ‘West Ham-esque’ performance (the fans will know what I mean) I just wanted to break up the Man United moaning and give a shout out to the little guy who is slowly getting into the gym and showing that one day he could challenge some of the top boys who hog all the weights.

Or we could do a West Ham, but that is seeming less and less likely which in my eyes is progress.
Ross (I fancy us to beat Exeter in the fourth round) Jenkins


Payet it forward
Dimitri Payet cost £2million less than Jonjo Shelvey and Daniel Levy wants £14m for Andros Townsend…just saying.
Tom B-G (We’ve got Payet)


Aston Villa: The solution
It was nice to see the relief from Villa fans in the morning mailbox. I think I have a solution for Remi Garde. Since the beginning of the season, the best performers have Jordan Ayew, Jordan Veretout and Jordan Amavi (before his unfortunate injury). The hawk-eyed amongst you will have noticed that they are all named Jordan. So the solution is simple (-ish), just buy any half-decent player named Jordan and you’ll probably end up in the top ten.

As a serious side note, the Rui Costa article was really good. I grew up as an ardent Serie A and Milan fan so such Italian league legends are more special to me.
Greg Tric (intentionally failed to mention Carles Gil), Nairobi
On the great Rio Costa
Thanks Daniel Storey for that tribute to Rui Costa,

I used to watch Fiorentina just to see him an Batistuta play and believe they have completely shaped my vision of how football should be played.

Best of all Rui reminds me of one of my favourite stories. I was 16, going to a concert the following day with some of my friends and had been bumped up (obviously the hotel didn’t realise it was a group of kids) to the five star part of the hotel. England were playing Portugal in the Euros of 2004 and we were told we could watch the match in the residents’ PRIVATE CINEMA with FREE DRINKS.

Just before the match we saw a figure walk past us in the bar. One if the lads said “Is that George Best?” and sure enough the man himself was there, on his Nokia 3410. We were too scared to approach him and were hoping he would be in the cinema watching the game, he didn’t show.

At half-time, full of Dutch courage I got George’s autograph, went back in and proclaimed that with 15 mins to go Rui Costa would come on and rip the tiring England defence to bits. Then he did this in extra time

Full of booze, buzzing from meeting a bona fide footballing legend, Rui Costa had done me proud and made me look good in front of my mates.

We went to the concert, I met the band and Bill Oddie was at the bus stop in the morning. It was all going so well until I saw him.
Derek, Ireland (underage drinking is nothing to be proud of)
…Loved the article on Rui Costa!

I started following Serie A as a young lad through the brilliant Channel 4 Football Italia coverage. I started supporting AC Milan (I know, glory-supporting b**tard) in the mid 90’s and have always supported them ever since (not so glory supporting now). My favourite players Weah and Maldini blew my mind at the time, (Maldini won the Champions League five times for God’s sake!!) and football was a release from anything that brought me down. I even had a subscription to the monthly Football Italia monthly magazine in those pre-internet days.

The signing that made me more excited than any in those happy Milan days was Rui Costa, the thought of him in the red and black feeding Shevchenko the bullets was nearly too perfect to contemplate.

Ancelotti’s Milan team of Maldini, Nesta, Stam, Cafu, Pirlo, Gattuso, Seedorf, Kaka, Rui Costa, Shevchenko remains my favourite team I’ve ever seen play together. I was at the San Siro the day Milan clinched the league over second placed Roma on my 21st birthday, and that was a time when football brought me a lot of happiness.

Nice to see a nod to one of the most stylish and likeable players of his generation and while the icons series in general have been a great read, this one reminds me that played in the right way, football can be fun and can stir the passions.

Football seems to be more about closing and running now, which is fine. There are still moments in football that make us say wow and talk about it for weeks. But memories of players like Rui Costa shine through the darkness of this modern mess of Van Gaal/Mourinho drudgery, players with copy and paste tattoos and wives, twitter/Instagram/the lad bible etc; and stand miles above it all.

Keep the icon series coming, loving it thanks!
Eric, Donegal


…I know I’m not the only one to say this, but just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed the Portrait of an Icon series. Storey has a knack of picking players that are on the fringe of my knowledge, players that I know are very good, but don’t have the same ubiquity as Zidane, Messi etc. Often players from outside the Premier League, if I’m honest. I love how he focuses not just on the player’s ability, but what particularly made that player unique, and how they fit both into their club and football at the time – why they were great beyond numbers and results.

Every week I read it I learn, and get a new-found appreciation both for the player and a reminder of why I love the game. I particularly enjoyed the one on Zola, which nailed why he was one of my childhood heroes. Also there’s usually some pretty tasty youtube clips. So cheers Daniel Storey, and if you wanted to expand the series to a book, I’d probably go for it.
Mark, Warwickshire


…The portrait of an icon series always brings tears to my mind’s eye. It reminds me of when football was honest and faithful, romantic and poetic, beautiful and yet so intense. Nostalgically so.

Rui Costa was one of those elite players whose graceful, fluid and insouciant attitude on a football was matched by few and adored by too many others. The ability to make something so complex seem so easy and effortless…special mention goes to Dimitar Berbatov and Ronaldinho.

But what caught my eye the most about this episode was that Rui Costa was signed for a club record fee and yet took his third season to score his first Serie A goal!

Imagine that happening now, the media hype build and the subsequent dismantling, impatient fans obsessed with statistics and computer game footie analysis and instant gratification football with little thought for the rhythm and poetry that made us fall in love with the beautiful game in the first place.

Imagine an Eric Cantona in this generation with his League goal return of ‎58 goals in about 200 games. Honestly nothing we would rave about at the moment.

Then see the much *overhyped Dennis Bergkamp with the unimpressive goal return of 98 goals in 367 games for Arsenal and Internazionale. Both legends could be called flops with their massive transfer fees and statistical return by today’s football fans. If doesn’t show us how jaded we have turned out to be I don’t know what else will.

‎Thank you F365 for this particular series. For reminding us why and how we fell in love in the first place.
Pasy (*the over hyped jab at Bergkamp was a petty revenge for a mailboxer that called Cantona overhyped some days ago.) Nigeria


Loving the ‘Portrait of an Icon’ series. The piece on Rui Costa was outstanding. May I humbly suggest an article on my favourite player, Zvonimir Boban?
Andrew, Brazil
…Loving the portrait of an icon series, like a series of flashbacks to when I first got into football. That got me thinking, outside of the interminable Man Utd chatter, who would the mailbox like to see profiled. Considering George Hagi has already been done, I’d love to see the following and why:

Marco Van Basten – for that goal and the cruelty of his injury.
George Weah – For that goal where he ran the whole pitch.
Roger Mila – just to find out how old he really was.
Karol Poborsky – I remember his chip in Euro 96 like it was yesterday.
Bebeto – You were more likely to be able to sign him in Championship Manager than Romario so I have a soft spot for him.
Steve McManaman – As an Englishman who went abroad, he instantly becomes more interesting than your regular players.

Who would other mailboxers like to see and why?
John Matrix, AFC


Ooooh, here’s an XI
Inspired by Storey’s ever-brilliant Portrait of an Icon articles I thought I’d attempt a Ultimate style XI.

I already accept defeat in putting this together there are just to many to pick 11 but here goes:

Buffon; Cafu, Cannavaro, Nesta, Maldini; Zidane, Pirlo; Figo, Ronaldinho: Bergkamp, Batistuta.

A complete honorable mentions list would be too long but a few of my favorites I remember seeing play:

Van Der Sar
Ronaldo (Brazil)
Fabregas (Circa 2003-2011)
Pablo Aimar
Rosicky (Curveball, he’s an unappreciated talent that still playing, just)

Keep the Portaits coming!
Lawrence (London)


Loving Degs
Proper loving the weekly updates by Degsy of his weekly trials and tribulations in the betting markets, although I will always wish him the best of luck, we don’t want him sleeping in a bin do we now. I hope it’s going to be a regular feature. One, as it’s regularly funny in a way only Degsy can be (I have to agree with him as to the government guidelines or ‘lunch’ as he calls it, that would restrict the watching of matches to one a week, like that’s going to sodding happen). But Two, much like ‘He’ of the Aldi ‘bag for life’ wearing poncho it helps to know other people are on occasions ‘Doing their conkers’ at results. I can empathise. Bloody Dummett’s 90th-minute equaliser last night in the completely unfathomable United v Newcastle game done for me an additional £40.

I can’t believe I missed out because there were too many goals in a United game. TOO many goals. In a United game FFS! Conkers indeed. More of the same tonight let’s hope.
Chris ITFC (Loving certain 90th-minute winners, Pitman), Liverpool


Loving us…sometimes
I disagree with you sometimes, but I just keep running back…and this is an example of why:

‘There ain’t no party like a Wayne Rooney redemption party.’

This really had me laughing at my desk, the halting of which was not at all assisted by me imagining of Rooney dancing wildly in his lounge under a disco ball, later that night, in the exact pose he strikes in the photo, shuffling around from left to right, with his arms in the air and a scowl on his face, singing out loud, “There AINNNNTT NOOOO PARTY LIKE MY REDEMPTION PARTY!!”
Manc in SA (Occasionally he would scream out “Mes…what??” “Ron-whoooo??” rather aggressively, at the walls. Not dear Coleen.)

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