Mails on tired punditry, Tom Davies and more…

Date published: Monday 27th March 2017 3:15

We’re all bored of Glenn Hoddle and his nonsense, right. Mail us at


Summing up Twaddle
I didn’t see this mentioned in the morning mailbox or Johnny Nic’s excellent article, but there was one moment from the commentary on Sunday that to my mind perfectly summed up Glenn Hoddle’s complete lack of suitability to be involved in football in any professional capacity.

Clive Tyldesley asked Hoddle (paraphrasing somewhat as I don’t remember the exact words), “Glenn, what does Southgate do here to break Lithuania down? Does he move to two forwards or does he stick at it and continue developing the current formation?” Glenn’s response was as concise as it was baffling (again paraphrasing) “Well Clive, the most important thing is the result today, win the game first and the tactics will just take care of themselves”.

Lest we forget, this is the former manager of England, and the man who some parts of the media were pushing to get the job again recently ahead of Southgate. Tyldesley at least had the decency to remain politely silent in response before moving on to describe the next passage of play – but surely as a professional commentator, he ought to be able to expect the ex-pro pundit alongside him to be able to offer a meaningful answer to an interesting tactical question?

Lucky for all of us, Southgate not only had an answer to the question, the answer yielded a second goal. The FA may not often be congratulated, and we’ll never know if it ever really was a toss-up between Southgate and Hoddle in the aftermath of pint-of-wine-gate, but on this evidence I am delighted that they avoided the media favourite.
Terry Hall, Switzerland


So, so vacuous
Great article from John Nic which not only dissected the not-kind-of-player bollocks (just who is that kind of player, by the way, because no one seems to know one? And why exactly is it that just because someone is a good lad in the dressing room and has a nice family that they can’t be a dangerous c**t on the football pitch) but also perfectly nails the problem with virtually all football coverage. With the exception of a few (Nev, Carra and Troy Deeney is always refreshingly insightful) most of them can barely string a sentence together. Sky Saturday seems to revel in the panel’s lack of articulacy. Surely, the only point in their presence is to bring an insider’s insight? The clubby feel to it also grates enormously. Just look at how Ben is talked down to my the ex-pros on Goals on Sunday. I, for one, would love to see Daniel Taylor (or even Daniel Storey) on Match of the Day but won’t hold my breath.
Adriano, Dublin (Monday rant over)


Not that kind of player: A defence
Far be it for me to disagree with the magisterial John Nicholson or Danny Taylor – the best football newspaper reporter by far at present, but I’d like to defend the “he’s not that sort of player” defence.

If you are a professional footballer, you know that serious injury – like the one suffered by Seamus Coleman – can happen at any minute of any match. It can happen because of a bad foul, which may be malicious, incompetent, over-enthusiastic or whatever but it doesn’t make the outcome any less bad, or more frequently just plain dumb luck. Everyone knows this is at the back of everyone else’s mind.

Equally, there can’t be that many players that haven’t planted one on another player like Neil Taylor did. Occasionally, it may be that the player is a thug. Sometimes, it’s the red mist. But more often it’s a combination of tiredness, poor technique, timing or just trying to do the best for the team, the fans, the manager, whomever, and crossing a line.

Usually the other player gets out of the way or gets up. Injuries like Coleman’s are rare. A red card may be given, but maybe the referee will miss the incident and play continues. Whatever, the player will know what they did, will regret it and will lie awake at night reliving what could have been. There but for the Grace of God.

So “he’s not that sort of player” is really “I’m not – or I wasn’t – that sort of player”. What they are saying is that over the course of 500 professional matches, tackles were made that they’re not proud of. That doesn’t mean that that player went out to hurt people, they just got it wrong for any of the reasons mentioned above, just like Taylor’s terrible tackle was borne of mixture of everything listed except thuggery. They are just relieved that their name is not besmirched like Neil Taylor – one red card at the age of 28 before Friday night. They would compare Taylor’s fate with that of Kolo Toure and his Arsenal trial – if you’ve not heard the story, Google is your friend. The reason the Toure story is funny is because everyone accepted just how desperate Kolo was to impress – and how much Arsenal could benefit from a player with that sort of attitude in 2017.

Equally, they see it from Seamus Coleman’s point of view. In order to go out on the pitch and play at maximum commitment, any player has to make themselves believe that no-one is trying to deliberately disable them. Things happen, but nobody is acting malevolently. The sort of players they play against aren’t those sort of players – or the player himself won’t be the player he is.

I think this is understandable and it is why this mantra is repeated, even if it is equally understandably called out by those who haven’t. But there are worse things footballers do or ex-players say. Maybe they don’t say it with massive eloquence and fall back on cliché, but as has been said many times, nobody has criticised Stephen Fry for being rubbish at football.
Mark Meadowcroft


Three things from an old favourite
1) When a pundit says, “he’s not that sort of player” the presenter should ask him who is. Would an ex-pro be capable of naming a former colleague as a reyt dirty bastard? If Roy Keane was a pundit and a fellow pundit speaking about a horror tackle said, “he’s not that kind of player, I mean, he’s hardly a Joey Barton or a Roy Keane type of player…” I would be impressed.

2) You can’t be too harsh on ex-players dismissing the attitudes of those who have never played the game. We (and John Gregory) are often quick to dismiss any struggles players may experience that we erroneously assume an obscene weekly wage should overcome: If I were on his money…Can we really blame them for putting up barriers to form a them and us culture when we, unwittingly or not, put a few up ourselves? We don’t want to hear about footballers with real problems: You’ve got all that money! What do you mean you’re worried about your unemployed younger brother who has started smoking crack and hanging out with crooks and crims? For what you earn, you better score on Saturday, that’s all I can say.

3) The idea that there are no ads on the BBC, as stated in another John Nicholson piece, is risible. I gave up watching Match of the Day years ago because I got fed up with watching in-program ads showing me what was still coming up and ads for Formula 1 or golf, darts, women’s football, SPotY, or whatever else the BBC were trying to push at the time. They don’t even have the decency to do it only between shows. Just because they only advertise themselves does not magically make the ads something else: Advertisements are advertisements and the BBC is riddled with them.

Many thanks,
Mort Snort (Saints)


Mother’s Day and perspective
Like any good son I did a 300 mile round trip to give my mother some supermarket flowers this weekend. While back in my ancestral home (Essex) I took the opportunity to watch my 13-year-old nephew play football.

We arrived just before kick-off and the players were linked arm-in-arm and clearly observing a minute’s silence. My dad explained that one of the lads had lost his mum earlier in the year and they had made him captain for the day on Mothers’ Day. That really stopped me in my tracks. I gave my mum an extra hug before I left on Sunday afternoon.

Rio Ferdinand has a documentary on tomorrow night on BBC One called Being Mum and Dad. He might come across as a bit of a buffoon but I would have thought we will see a very different side of him.

We all like to pile in on people and accuse them of all sorts of motives when something happens on a football pitch. Sometimes it might be a nice idea to step back a little and wonder what is going on for that person. Sometimes cutting each other a little bit of slack would be good to see.
Micki Attridge


Southgate is channelling Eddie Jones
Just a quick observation regarding Southgate’s tendency towards bringing left-of-field players into the England fold, it has several effects. First, by selecting on form he encourages every English player to train harder, focus more and ultimately, to play better. They know that they actually have a chance and it won’t just be the same tired old names on the teamsheet. Second, this also puts the boot up the backside of the “established” players. Obviously they are probably still the best players by-and-large and I’ll still expect to see most of the same names in there come Summer 2018.

He is also trying to get as many players capped as he can. To see how they handle the pressure and also to get the press used to a rotating door on the England squad. One name dropped used to be huge news. This time around, Theo Walcott’s exclusion barely registered a raised eyebrow, it is already working. Eddie Jones used his first few months as England Rugby coach to blood a lot of players who weren’t considered up to scratch by some. Now England Rugby share a world record for consecutive wins and are considered to have one of the best squads in the world, particularly with regards to their strength off the bench. Importantly, Eddie Jones didn’t stop doing this after the first few months though he did tone it down a little. Gareth must do the same or risk slipping back into the “same old same old” that we were used to when it came time to announce the squad. It could be genuinely exciting when he announces his squad and we could be guessing at 4-5 names rather than 1-2.

This will also be the stick to beat him with if the tournament goes wrong though.

He is developing a squad, not a team. That is why the injured players were still invited to the training camp, to ensure that no player in his thinking feels forgotten or an outsider with the group. It is impressive man-management.

Now all he needs to develop is that elusive “will to win” that Eddie Jones has found.
Thom, Bristol-based Spur


Tom Davies v Harry Winks
So, reading the Famous World Cup Ladder, I generally nodded along in agreement (especially the bit about Sturridge), however, I was surprised that Winks is higher than Tom Davies. I also think there seems to be a general consensus that Winks is more developed than Davies (could be wrong – Spurs fans seem more prominent in the Mailbox, although living in the North West I personally know more Evertonians), but I just don’t see it.

Now I don’t want this to be seen as an attack on Winks – he looks a promising young player, and getting relatively regular minutes in a very good side. He also has the advantage of being managed by Pochettino, who I believe to be the best manager in the league (as an aside, think his idea of keeping good young players in the squad rather than loaning them out is an excellent idea, and just confirms what a good egg he is).

However, comparing them this season makes me think Davies is a better player. For a start, Davies has played more, starting nine league games, vs. two for Winks (although Winks has appeared in more games, the majority have been off the bench), which has resulted in him playing more minutes (866 vs. 433 – although that Spurs midfield is probably harder to get into than Everton’s). Both have progressed through the youth ranks with England, so neither holds an advantage there. Davies (I know he will generally play higher up the pitch) has also contributed directly to four goals (1 goal and 3 assists) vs. 2 for Winks (1 and 1). Winks certainly has a better passing accuracy, although again this is likely a reflection of their respective position/role in the team, so, much like goals, need to be adjusted to how we want England to play. However, whoscored give Davies a 6.85 for the season, whereas Winks has a much more modest 6.35 (league games only – I know Winks has played in the Champions League).

The original point of this mail was that Davies is a better player already than Winks (my initial assumption based on watching them) but the stats don’t actually back me up, at least not as much as I would have liked. Being a busy man, I only have time to build one up to unrealistic heights, before sending them hurtful tweets next summer when they inevitably fall short, so who should I focus on? Joking aside, I’m curious if anyone else feels this way, but is able to actually articulate why?
Jack (Can’t watch Winks play without getting reminded of Cleverly – Davies doesn’t do that to me) Manchester


The final stretch…
The final international break is slowly rapping up so here are the top 10 things I’m interested in across the major leagues

1) Will Feyernood finally win a title? Been part of the Dutch football aristocracy no league titles (last 1999) this century can they finally do it.

2) Who wins the race for top four in the EPL: The title is done and dusted but top four has more subplots, twist and turns than a WWE wrestling match. Is this the year Arsenal don’t make top four, will there finally be a reverse St Totteringham day, can Everton sneak in at the death watch this space.

3) Can Monaco finally end PSG’s dominance: Last year PSG won the treble and got to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and everyone sniggered about a weak league. There is a distinct possibility that Monaco could surpass PSG in all four competitions starting with a weekend final in the French League Cup maybe then people will snigger about a two team league.

4) Are RB Leipzig gonna choke : For A long time Leipzig looked like they were going to topple Bayern however losing five of their last nine games has put their Top four hopes at risk they need to reverse their fortunes to make this a memorable season.

5) Can Basaksehir hold on? The Turkish equivalent of Crystal Palace are still seven points ahead of third and just two behind the front runners…qualifying from this position would be insane.

6) Will Real Madrid finally win the title? Still shocks me that Ronaldo and co have won the Champions League more than the league in the last six years. Probably won’t have a better chance to change that.

7 Will Atlanta get European qualification? Spot the odd one out Juventus, Roma, Napoli, Lazio, Inter, Atalanta, Milan. Yep Atalanta look like the underdogs in the scrap to qualify for Europe from Italy nexy year. Can they beat the two Milan teams to the last European spot?


The Daley solution
To slowly ease ourselves out of the international break and back into club football, I’ll tackle the alarming issue of United’s midfield options, or lack thereof, for West Brom. Lets take a look at the mini crisis that is unfolding before a month that United play 9 (nine) games.

Pogba – Injured
Herrera – Suspended
Fellaini – Injured
Schweinsteiger – Inexplicably released

You know you are stuck when you are hoping Fellaini is fit to play deep. Personally, I think this is the time to finally give Daley Blind a start in midfield. It’s been said so much that it’s become annoying but he did win Ajax player of the year playing as a deep midfield creator. His passing, game reading and interceptions make him perfect for this role. Yes, his lack of pace and strength is an issue but this is exposed a lot more when playing fullback. In the centre, Blind’s positioning and intelligence will allow him to work through his physical deficiencies.

Blind will have no problem winning the ball back as reading the game is so easy to him interceptions come naturally. Going forward, his passes to feet are ditto to Carrick and his long balls will benefit a quick striker like Rashford. It’s baffling that he hasn’t had more opportunities in this position as, for me, this is his natural role. He was so comfortable at centre back under Van Gaal as it required the skills of a deep-lying playmaker more than that of an all action centre-back due to his possession heavy style of play.

My main concern would be how timid a midfield duo of both Carrick and Blind would be. Perhaps United could trial Fosu-Mensah with them in a 4-3-3? I’ll leave that issue to Jose.
Dave (Its going to be Rooney isn’t it?) Ireland


Explaining FFP
In response to DL in Geneva, the short answer is that FFP doesn’t help close the gap, the clubs who benefit most are those who have been at the top for a number of years.

As a longer answer, FFP comes into full effect next year and my understanding (which is not very deep) is that there are two main requirements:

1 – That a club must be solvent (assets greater than or equal to liabilities). This is not particularly contentious and makes a lot of sense. The idea is that a club should be able to meet its payments as they fall due and be in a position to continue trading, probably motivated by wanting to protect club staff and ensure they get paid rather than a club spending their wages on new players etc.

2 – That a club’s average loss over three years must be no greater than c. £5m (it might be €5m or some other figure but it’s around this level). Crucially, there are restrictions on owners pumping money into the club in order to meet this commitment as had been the case previously (for example, Abramovich wrote of tens of millions in debt Chelsea owed him by converting it into shares. This meant that Chelsea had no obligation to pay this money back to him and instead pay dividends if they make profit).

Rule 2 is the reason FFP doesn’t close the gap. I think this was motivated by Platini, who was worried that clubs like Real Madrid would keep spunking stupid money on players to the point where they collapsed and was trying to make them sustainable (since big clubs pay a lot to UEFA). But most football clubs make no sense from a business perspective (they make next to no money and are in a market with customer behaviours that are very strange) and Platini ignored the fact that very few clubs actually fail. Since the UK brought in the option of Administration rather than Liquidation, plenty of clubs have entered Administration but very few have gone out of existence completely. And it’s never big clubs that fail either (ie Real Madrid don’t need protection). That’s why Portsmouth were such a surprise – up until that point it had never happened to a top division club in the UK.

Rule 2 also has the effect that a smaller club (in terms of revenue) cant use a Sugar Daddy to break the chokehold their larger competitors have on the top of the table and it’s very hard to drive up the revenue of a club materially compared to the other clubs around it without this type of investment. I think the idea that Liverpool were closing the gap is misguided although I don’t have figures to back this up. Much as net spend is maligned as a measure, it’s actually one of the best ways to bridge this gap (see the Lyon side F365 recently did a piece on who successfully beat the transfer market on their way to winning 7 consecutive titles).

By the way, there’s at least one exception the bad business rule. I’ll let you guess…
Dave, MUFC, Manchester


Mesut Ozil is “comfortable” at Arsenal.

How to summarise a club in one word.
Chris MUFC

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