Mails: Tony Adams and other old donkeys

Date published: Friday 24th February 2017 8:30

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Defenders who started off terrible…
Interesting mail from Simon CFC. I like that he uses senior appearances rather than age to assess a player’s development and expected ability. I was planning to compare the fledging careers, at the 150 app point, of England greatest defenders of recent years; Terry, Rio, Sol (often overlooked/under appreciated), and throw in Carra for good measure, who while not on the same level as the previous three, has had a similar path to Stones’, beginning his career in Merseyside and often deployed at RB in the early days, but life’s too short. Instead I will skip to Simon CFC’s question ‘Can anyone name a highly rated central defender who was this error prone, this early on, but who actually turned out to be a world beater?’

A versatile, ball playing centre half, error-prone, with doubts of him ever fulfilling his potential, commanded huge transfer fees, now at the heart of a potential title winning defence? I give you, your very own floppy haired Brazilian. That’s right, John Stones = English David Luiz, mind = blown.

He could equally be the next Phil Jones or Titus Bramble, all the gear, no idea (where gear is defined as defensive attributes.)
Nik (NUFC) Liverpool


…You want a defender who was as bad as John Stones early on but got better? Step forward Tony Adams. It’s easy to forget how poor Tony could be at the beginning of his Arsenal career and he didn’t get that donkey moniker from rival fans because he liked carrots. Tony endured a truly awful 1988 Euros which resulted in him disappearing from the international scene for a while. He would captain Arsenal to the 1989 league title but would be absent from the squad that travelled to Italia 90 just a year later.

Tony got better and would go on to captain his country.

I honestly think the reason why Tony excelled is he was backed 100% by Arsenal fans – we always loved him and resented anyone mocking one of our own. My advice to City is have patience with Stones and for the City fans not to get on his back and you’ll reap the rewards in coming years.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


…I completely agree with Simon CFC’s email regarding John Stones (As a defender alone I think he’s amongst the worst CBs in the league).

However I’ll give you a few who were error prone and came good:

Rio – I can remember numerous mistakes at West Ham, and some big ones at Leeds before he became world class at Man Utd. The difference in Rio’s case is that the mistakes I remember were more from over playing rather than rank ‘poor defending’. Fergie, Keano and Schmeichel can probably take the credit for ‘encouraging’ him to keeps things simple.

Pique – I remember the odd mistake at United before he went on to be a top CB at Barcelona. It could be argued these were down to in-experience and/or a lack of regular matches.

Ramos – An absolute liability at times in his youth with his wild tackling. With a career total of 21 red cards he still looks an accident waiting to happen however there are games when he can absolutely dominate the best strikers in world football. The kicking he gave Lewandoski a few years ago in a Champs League 2nd leg vs Dortmund was brutal.

Koscielny – Maybe harsh but he was in and out of the team to start with and I remember numerous pundits questioning his signing. I’d say he’s amongst the best centre backs in the world now.
Danny, Preston (Blackpool’s Centre-Backs tend to become error prone partly because they play on a bog)


…Simon CFC, there’s probably loads more examples but off the top of my head…At 22 Laurent Koscielny had played c.41 games for Guingamp. Now, fair dos, he didn’t cost 50m but like you said, that’s not Stones’s fault. The real problem is that at 22 Koscielny wasn’t expected to marshal a defence of a team with aspirations of being top five in Europe.

I take it that for the price tag Simon thinks he should turn into the sort of player that John Terry, Gerard Pique or Tony Adams did (picking three players that were faced with similar responsibilities at a similar age), but it should be remembered that they were playing alongside Marcel Desailly, Carlos Puyol and the best back four in England, respectively. Stones is playing alongside an average at best set of defenders so perhaps his inexperience is more visible than the previously mentioned legends. Give the boy time, I don’t know if he’s any good – if anything I agree with you that he’s looked ‘ropey as f**k’ every time I’ve seen him play – but a whole load of people more qualified than me do, so that’s probably good enough.
Matt, AFC


You can’t stop City defending without talking Barry/De Jong
Daniel Storey – you sir are a terrific football writer, but Ye Gods you’ve stunk the place out with your piece on Stones and Otamendi.

How you can compare City’s defending now with how they did in 2012 without mentioning Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong is frankly mind-bending.

Let’s get a few things straight: I think Vincent Kompany is still, when fit, by some distance City’s best centre half. I also think the idea that Mancini was a defensive coach is total bobbins – the day we won 6-1 at United we really parked the bus.

But Roberto did make sure the back door was firmly double-locked and bolted. Pep leaves it on the latch and asks the neighbours to keep an eye on the place. Mancini always played one of Barry or De Jong – and frequently both. Attacking wasn’t formally discouraged but both men knew their principal role, both did it with distinction and are very fondly remembered for what they did.

That made central defending a massively easier task for Kompany and Lescott (as an aside Savic and Nastasic were both raw but sold too soon) than for whomever benefits from the fearsome defensive screen of Yaya, De Bruyne and Silva.

Whether this is going to help City win titles or not is another debate – and this could be the reason why Mancini retains a luxuriant head of hair and Guardiola does not – but the statistical comparison made is completely spurious.
Mark Meadowcroft – MCFC


Pep isn’t asking Aguero to defend
There are two types of defending, active and passive. Mourinho mostly deploys a passive defending tactic with his ‘attacking’ players, where they are instructed to track back to provide a solid block across the pitch to eliminate the ability of the opposing teams to perform easy passing triangles or diamonds and to isolate players to create an overlap. It provides a very solid base for a team and Mourinho is often mistakenly called boring for deploying this but if you are solid in defence and don’t concede at all, then a single goal wins you the game as an example.

Pep’s tactics deploy an active defending tactic, his ‘attacking’ players are instructed to actively seek the ball, to reclaim it to ‘counter a counter attack’. If the ball is won high up the pitch, the likelihood of their being a huge number of opposition players between you and the goal as well as being in defending positions is very low. For example, there was a time at Barcelona where Messi had the highest foul count of anyone in the team because he was being instructed to win the ball high up the pitch.

There are three phases of possession, when you have the ball, when the other team has the ball and the transition between to two. Both Mourinho and Pep have a focus on the transition between the two other phases. Neither one is better than the other, both have been RIDICULOUSLY successful with almost polar opposite tactics.
Jon Andrews


Stop crying about Man City money…
Aahh, one day. We managed one whole day before someone had to start crying about money. Lo and behold, it was a Liverpool fan. Adam, LFC, London (or could just be sour grapes). I always wonder if they would cry as much if Mansour had bought them?

Our current owner and last owner both looked at Liverpool and for whatever reason didn’t buy them, I bet you give thanks for that every day. No probably not. Whenever I read fans of other clubs crying about money, especially one of the old guard who aren’t exactly poor themselves. The words always translate to “BOO HOO HOO why didn’t they buy my club!”

The whole money and ethics thing is very idealistic. Wouldn’t it be nice if us minions could make sure all the money was “clean” money. We could change the world! Yeah not gonna happen, so I’m not really gonna worry too much about it. Much in the same way I can do f**k all about Trump or Brexit or Ebola or World Poverty. All wind me up but I can’t effect them in any way.

Of course my club is the only club to spend £50 million on players. I mean Real Madrid don’t or Man Utd don’t do they. But they are the old guard so is that ok? Liverpool spent £35 million on a donkey, so £50 million for some actual footballers surely isn’t too bad.

Not really worried about advertising as everyone has to do it or get left behind. Thankfully for City, our main sponsor wasn’t fined £300 million for being involved in a Iranian money laundering scandal. Or whored our manager out to tell people the odds on the first goal scored. When you think about it, if money is the be all and end all. City haven’t killed football, it was already dead.

Quick point on John Stones, He is 22, which means he still has years before he reaches peak age for a centre back. He is at a new team, playing a system not only new to him but the whole defence. It’s going to take time. The hardest partnership to establish in a team is the centre backs. He may never get better and be a £50 million bag of sh*t. But lets at least have a little patience. Especially as he had Roberto (I could make Maldini sh*t) Martinez as a manager.

Finally Franklin asked why Europa League on a Wednesday? It was as French Police don’t like Saint-Étienne and Lyon playing at home on the same day. They are quite close to each other 62.7 km according to Google. So the United game was moved to stop any possible trouble.
DANNY B – MCR – MCFC (Sometimes you just have to bite)


Get your facts right on Belgium and Man City
Adam, LFC, from this morning’s mailbox is a man who by virtue of his club affiliation should know all about net spend.

Adam asserts that Man City have a net spend over the last few years equivalent to Belgium’s GDP. Intrigued, I headed to Google and found the following nuggets of information:

Man City net spend five years: £565 million
Belgium GDP 2013 (most recent year available): £420 billion

Next time Adam, spend at least five minutes looking up pointless facts like this humble correspondent before using them in your otherwise excellent musings.

Best wishes,
Tom Neill


Various mailbox thoughts from Ed
I have a few thoughts to throw in to various mails from Thursday morning:

* While I would facetiously say that I’m sure the world will cope without a “next Oasis”, Fat Man Scouse’s use of music as a parallel had its merits, albeit not quite how he was using it. Live music is still hanging in there, and there are plenty of venues in most cities and towns where live music can be experienced. You could even argue that the reason arts funding isn’t given to popular music is because a lot of venues are able to be self-sufficient or profitable, whereas more niche interests are not.

The main issue as to why there will never be another Oasis, Stone Roses, the Beatles or Led Zeppelin is that most bands only play small venues in their locality, and by the time they have gained enough traction to go to another city, or gained radio exposure, or released an album, they are too big (or too popular) for the smaller venues. I saw the Arctic Monkeys at the Bodega Social in Nottingham in 2005, in one of their last gigs before they hit the big time. Every time they’ve been back to Nottingham since, they’ve played the Nottingham Arena, where tickets are £50+ instead of the £5 I paid back then. Even lesser lights like Hard-Fi – the tour for their second album saw them play the Arena, because they had been snapped up by a large promoter and put on the biggest stages.

This is where football comes in – the biggest clubs snap up all the promising youngsters and put them on football’s biggest stages straight away, whether or not they are ready for it. There is little progression up the divisions, the way bands work their way up through different sizes of venue, and so players are less exposed to different environments (and different audiences).

* Dave Hill (LUFC) suggests we ignore a particular tabloid, largely because it’s so heinous. It’s a fair point, but not necessarily one I agree with. The trouble is, it’s all well and good the likes of us ignoring it, because we know where we can get good quality writing about football (F365), but plenty of people read those awful newspapers. Sometimes a stand needs to be taken, and media conglomerates who ought to know better need to be called out on their morally, ethically or factually dubious behaviour.

* Adam Halliday wrote in about ‘Mr Enthusiasm Ryan Giggs’. As an aside, John Nicholson’s description of Giggs as ‘a man who can say the word “excited” in the least exciting way’ (in his review of Euro 2016) was a poetic masterpiece. Giggs is, as Mediawatch may have pointed out, the last person who should be allowed to comment on British applicants for managerial positions being overlooked for foreigns. Or, if he will insist on such utterances, he should, for balance, be required to disclose how many vacancies below Premier League level he has genuinely applied for.

* Bold prediction time: no player who won the Premier League while managed by Sir Alex Ferguson will ever win the Premier League. This does not mean they are all failures, especially not Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce, I just think that as a group they do not have it in them to guide either a mid-table side to play substantially above themselves, or to show enough nous to convince one of the biggest clubs they are capable of motivating elite level players to win English football’s most prestigious prize.
Ed Quoththeraven


Vamos Valencia
Lovely article on Valencia, the fallen giants.

Admittedly I only got into football around Euro 96, that was my first competition I remember and being a fresh-faced 10 year old who let England FC weave it’s way to my heart, I was heartbroken when Gareth missed that penalty, pretty sure I can recall crying for days…

Anyway, it’s around this time my interest in football piqued, whilst people around me were supporting Arsenal, Man U, Liverpool etc I chose Chelsea, blue is the color and all that. I’m from London by the way, so had to choose a London team and definitely knew enough not to support Spurs.

Anyway, it’s another team in white which caught my attention when European football opened up to me and that was Valencia, I think they won La Liga the season after and I like to believe I was a part of that success (I wasn’t) but anyway my logic was the same, whilst everyone was supporting Real Madrid, I chose Valencia, a team that was always there or there abouts.

It’s sad to see the state of affairs they are in at the moment and falling from the mountain they were once on top of. The article hits the nail on the head where they have been used as someone else’s pawn in a game designed to make only them rich and not allow Valencia CF to get back to the great team it once was. The Mestalla has always been one of the greater stadiums in Spain and I hope they get back to the lofty heights they once held, as a supporter of theirs, I want to see them back sooner rather than later and that CL season of 2003 was on of my favourites, whilst Chelsea wouldn’t compete yet, they gave me a joy you could only imagine if you lived through it as a school kid at that age.

I still follow them from time to time and Zaza’s goal last night and the win for Valencia was so heartwarming it made me feel like I was back in school again with all my innocence in tact, felt like nothing had changed and we were back in a time that was simpler because that’s what Valencia CF are to me, is a memory of my childhood and some of the most enjoyable times of my life, I just want to be a kid again and live in those times.

Long live Valencia CF and its fans…
T, CFC, London


Hating the plastics
Lovely mail from Tom S, Wolves this morning explaining that he resented the people who missed 0-4 Wolves drubbings only to rock up when Chelsea were in town. I live in Dorset and there are already a number of Bournemouth fans openly missing the days of League Two when anyone could get a ticket.

I used to work with a hardcore Bournemouth fan for whom the trip to Wembley for the 1998 Auto Windshields Trophy was particularly awful. 62,432 turned up including 30,000 from Bournemouth. Obviously Bournemouth only have a ground that holds 12,000 now. Back then the ground was even smaller and the average attendance under 5,000. For six times that to go to Wembley was too much to take for him. I only met him in 2009 but he was still moaning about it.

I say don’t go to the cinema to watch La La Land if you didn’t sit through the remake of Ben Hur. Don’t book a table at the Ivy if you haven’t eaten in a Little Chef. And don’t make a pass at Michelle in Accounts if you haven’t siddled up to Samantha from the post room first.
Micki (I watched the film of Gone Girl and I hadn’t even read the book!) Attridge
Class war
Oh dear Fat Man Scouse! ‘Tiny army of middle class snobs can somehow enrich their boring lives’ is exactly the Us vs. Them attitude which acts as a breeding ground for prejudice. I am fully aware that museums have an appalling stereotype to those that rarely visit them, but in the last 20 years or so there has been a real focus on community engagement and a redefining of the role of museums. This is mirrored in the funding, where the government, for example, expects museums to engage in inclusive, not exclusive, practices to the extent that they dictate what a museum should or shouldn’t do/be. Some museums have attempted to remedy social exclusion, social injustice, and unemployment which run parallel to political agendas. Yes, there’s a still long way to go, but Google ‘Dementia toolkit for museums’ and tell me museums are some middle-class indulgence.

It’s similar to the accountability and politicisation of football in many ways, with the three links at the bottom of Steven’s article being exactly the kind of thing museums also look to address. Perhaps one main difference is that whilst many museums are influenced by and highly dependent on funding from local councils (and are explicitly non-profit), large clubs can be somewhat self-sufficient and more independent? Museum board members often acquiesce to government pressure – does a football club’s equivalent do the same? (This is why all that is going on between the FA and government – and the potential ramifications – is very interesting.)

Regardless, it’s a sorry situation where people are excluded from something they love. All I’m trying to say is don’t just start bashing museums because they don’t align with your narrative of what it is to feel/be working class. (After all, the Museumnacht at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam usually involves live music and alcohol). Many museums, in fact, are trying to help (hence the funding).


Not everybody likes Jimbo
Does anybody who reads this site not absolutely adore James Richardson?

I can understand the love-in to some extent. He’s clearly immensely knowledgeable, charming, and erudite, which is very rare in the desiccated landscape of English football punditry. Through this rarity he has come to represent the exact opposite of the spectrum occupied by Sutton, Merson, Savage and the rest of the pundit idiocracy. He speaks Italian (which he lets us know as often as possible), and looks and acts like he knows his espresso from his machiatto.

But there are elements of his personality that come through regularly which seem pretty unpleasant to me. He is more often than not snarky, sarcastic and dismissive. He once called Amy Lawrence ‘dear’ whilst disagreeing with her professional assessment on Football Weekly, which I thought was pretty poor. His sneering impressions of Benitez and Wenger demonstrate the vaguely-xenophobic attitude rightly reviled (and pounced on by Mediawatch) when spouted by the less metropolitan ex-footballer pundit class. Overall, he seems to give off an attitude of knowing and slightly smug superiority. I now listen to Football Weekly despite his grating presence, and then only because no self-respecting football hipster can hold his head up if he doesn’t get his weekly earful of the football equivalent of a Dalston-brewed craft ale.

Surely others feel the same? Please?
Joe Rice (doing an accent is not xenophobic. Doing a Carry On impression usually is)


On the pointlessness of Mediawatch
I see Dave Hill (LUFC)’s suggestion that we ignore the second worst publication in the world and I believe this has some merit, although I would go further.

I think we are all sensible enough to understand that, in the modern age, almost no form of publicity is bad publicity. I listened to a Piers Morgan interview the other week on Radio Four in which he described that he used to work for Michael Parkinson. Parky taught him that no matter what the story was, Parky had to be in the headline. The story was always how he had watched the match, or he had riled the opposing captain etc. Morgan has developed this over his career, when he was editor of Bizarre the story was always Piers meets X or Piers annoys Y…not about the celebrities themselves. He carried this on to his campaign around getting Kevin Pietersen back in the England cricket team- the story was more about Morgan than KP. Likewise with Wenger out. Morgan will get publicity out of someone else’s story no matter what. I saw a report the other day that JK Rowling had ‘won’ a twitter spat with Piers. No she didn’t. One – if you are in a twitter spat you are already an idiot. Two – once you are in twitter spat with Piers Morgan, Piers Morgan has won because he just wants to be the story.

And that brings us to the pie. This was Sutton Utd’s day. Reaching the last 16 of the FA Cup and playing one of the biggest teams in England is a massive day for them. Not anymore because it was hijacked for publicity. Same as sending (allegedly) racist tweets. Once you show it, they have got what they wanted. Same as getting adverts banned, once you report it they have earned their money. Mediawatch can write all the clever words it likes but every single word is just more free advertising. Unless, unless you change the name of the company involved.

So, I for one am appalled by Betfair’s novelty bet which caused the chubbster to eat a pie. I think Ladbrokes’ tweet about Pogba’s hair was borderline but probably in bad taste. I cannot believe that Coral made an advert in which footballers kick a dog. If you write six opinion pieces on how Betfair have caused a man to resign, how Betfair have ruined the day, how Betfair Betfair Betfair. Maybe, just maybe, that form of advertising won’t work so well.
Micki Attridge

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