Mediawatch: Dean Saunders on Halifax Town matching Barcelona…

Date published: Tuesday 7th May 2019 11:02

Lionel Messi Barcelona

Shimmy Dean
When ‘dean saunders’ is trending you know that a) Mediawatch is going to get a gift and b) people that listen to talkSPORT don’t know how capital letters work. Which is unsurprising when you look at the name of the radio station.

Anyway, for your delectation, here is a conversation between host Max Rushden, Dean Saunders (in the studio) and Danny Higginbotham (on the phone):

MR: “Do you think then, Danny, that if there wasn’t a massive overhaul but Solskjaer had the pre-season that he wanted, that…”

But of course Danny Higginbotham does not get to answer the question that Max Rushden does not get to finish.

DS: “Do you think that Yose Mourinho…do you think Jose Mourinho can’t get a group of players fit?”

MR: “Well he didn’t get this lot fit…”

DS: “It’s the biggest insult ever to a manager.”

MR: “But he didn’t though.”

DS: “Are you saying they’re not fit? That’s the first thing you do as a coach. He can’t get the players fit?”

MR: “Well he didn’t.”

DS: “It drives me mad when people say that…”

DH: “Well that’s the way I see it, Dean, that if you’re playing counter-attacking football, you’re conserving energy constantly…”

DS: “But what are you doing in training, Dan? In training every day…you train…we all…most teams train near or enough the same. You’re a professional footballer? Not fit?”

MR: “But…the point is…if there are 20 teams, there will by definition be a fittest team and a least-fit team, and a team that runs the most and one that runs the least.”

DH: “Dean, when you watch Manchester City and you watch Liverpool, would you say that Manchester United are at the same fitness levels as those two teams because I wouldn’t….”

DS: “No…I would say that Pep Guardiola’s secret to his management is that he’s able to control 27 world-class players and make them work hard. They all work hard. You don’t see Sane moaning when he’s not playing, you don’t see Jesus showing a bad attitude when he’s not playing…they all work hard. They know if they don’t work hard, they’re out. And that’s the difference between Man City and Man United. Man United have got good players…they don’t work hard enough. It’s not because they’re not fit.”

DH: “I honestly don’t…I feel…so for example, if Klopp or Guardiola was to take over at Man United tomorrow, right, could the style, straight away, overnight, could the style that Manchester City or Liverpool are playing be implemented on Manchester United the first game that they’re in charge?

MR: “No, they couldn’t.”

DS: “Well you’d have to ask the players then…”

MR: “No, they’re not fit enough to do that.”

DS: “Course they are, Max. You can’t say Mourinho can’t get a group of players fit.”

DH: “No, I’m…”

DS: “It’s not in ’em. Martial don’t want to do it. Pogba don’t want to do it. Lukaku don’t want to do it. They just don’t want to do it. It’s not in ’em.”

DH: “I’m not saying they weren’t fit, but in order to play the way that Solskjaer wants to play, you have to be on another level of fitness, you have to be on the City and Liverpool fitness side of things because if you look at City and Liverpool, we talk about how good they are on the ball, but if you look at their pressing off the ball it’s absolutely incredible. That’s as good as what they do on the ball…”

DS: “Dan…Dan…right, Barcelona were the best pressing team in the world, the best pressing team in the world, and all it takes is organisation from the manager and effort from the players, so when you call them in and say ‘we’re going to be the best pressing team in the world, tactically I’ll sort the traps out as the coach and you put the effort in’…”

MR: “But then you’re saying Dean, that any professional football team can press like Barcelona, because they are all fit enough to do it? I don’t think that’s true, I think I agree with Dan…”

DS: “No, Max…Max.”

MR: “If I understand you correctly, Danny…”

DS: “No, don’t understand Danny for a minute because I’ve managed six teams.”

DH: *simultaneously laughs/sighs*

DS: “Listen to what I’m telling you…”

MR: “Did they press like Barcelona?”

DS: “No. Halifax – no disrespect to them – or Stoke, Danny’s team, were fitter than Barcelona. He’s just told you. Danny’s told you. Danny’s told you that they were fitter than Barcelona, they were fitter than every team in the league. The difference between Barcelona’s pressing is that they’ve got anticipation beyond every player, they know what’s going to happen next, so if when you’re passing the ball across the back, they intercept it, they see it coming, they’re clever. So you’ve got a group of really clever players who are fit and can press. That’s why…. Everybody presses, but Barcelona do it better because they’re a bit more intelligent.”

DH: “If I took Guardiola or Klopp tomorrow and said right, you’re taking Manchester United’s next game, play the pressing game that you play at Liverpool and Manchester City, United cannot do that…that’s not the way that they have played.”

DS: “But Dan…Dan…Martial’s a fit lad, right. Rashford’s fit. Lingard’s fit. What happens when one or two others aren’t pressing…they give up.”

And then, after Danny Higginbotham has left the conversation, presumably to boil his own head…

MR: “Cheesebag just says…did Dean Saunders just say that Halifax are fitter than Barcelona….”

DS: “What do you mean? Halifax? I said Halifax…no, Danny said his football team at Stoke were the fittest team in the league, obviously not as talented as Barcelona…”

MR: “But not Halifax?”

DS: “There’s only one thing stopping you pressing like Barcelona, right…you’ve got a heart, you’ve got legs, you’ve got lungs, I’ll organise it, so you set traps for teams and we press at the right times and not the wrong times…then you’ve got the intelligence of the players. That’s why Barcelona press better than Stoke.”

Mediawatch simply cannot fathom why Dean Saunders won only five of 20 games he managed at Wolves. Presumably it just wasn’t in ’em.


Mediawatch was nodding along with Stan Collymore in the Daily Mirror as he writes that Arsenal need players with ‘bottle and character’ this summer, though we do find the ‘Arsenal are flakey’ trope a very dull one. But still, we can all agree that the Gunners lack a little fight. Until this:

‘What you want ideally is a mix of both (talent and character), and Emery will get that only if he can find a couple of players with the tenacity of a Roy Keane or a Vinnie Jones.’

That’s really not how you spell ‘Patrick Vieira’.


Never mind the bollocks
Now we know that some section of the media are desperate to paint Maurizio Sarri has some kind of weirdo loner, but a story on the back page of The Sun – and also in the Daily Telegraph – has taken this to another level.

Andrew Dillon (a West Ham fan) is claiming an exclusive on this Sun story:

‘MAURIZIO SARRI has taken his Sarri-ball tactics to a new level – by scratching his crown jewels to avoid bad luck.

‘And it seems the bizarre superstition is working for Chelsea’s ‘goldenballs’ as the team qualified for next season’s Champions League.’

Or, alternatively, Chelsea have qualified for next season’s Champions League because they have claimed more points than all but two of the 20 clubs in the Premier League, and their recent form has been better than rivals Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United. That’s a rather more likely explanation than the Italian touching his balls in a press conference.

‘Boss Sarri, 60, was spotted performing his unusual ritual after Sunday’s 3-0 win over Watford.’

Now, the dictionary definition of ‘ritual’ is  ‘a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order’. Is that really the same as touching your balls once?

‘When asked by a journalist about cementing a top-four place, eccentric Sarri dropped his left hand under the desk to make contact with his most private parts.’

Translation: He touched his balls.

‘And it worked, as an hour after Sarri felt his prized assets in the Stamford Bridge press room, Brighton equalised against Arsenal.’

Ah, so he made Arsenal a bit shit by touching his balls? And there we were thinking that Arsenal’s owners had made Arsenal a bit shit with years of under-investment in this squad.

Now, we don’t expect much better of the The Sun than claiming a news story from the fact that a man touched his balls – which may or may not have been superstitious, they don’t know, we don’t know – but the Telegraph? This may be a new low for Matt Law, who has betrayed his tabloid roots with this nonsense:

‘Eagle-eyed Italian football fans noticed that superstitious Sarri left nothing to chance after Chelsea’s success on Sunday, which put them on the brink of Champions League qualification, ahead of Arsenal’s match against Brighton.

‘Sarri was asked in the Watford post-match press conference whether, with Champions League qualification virtually secured, his team could treat the Europa League as a luxury.

‘Before answering the question, Sarri was seen to reach down under the desk before returning his hand to the table and telling reporters that he wanted Chelsea to qualify for the Champions League through the Premier League.

‘In much the same way as people touch wood to avoid bad luck, it is commonplace for superstitious Italians to touch their own nether regions in order to bring them luck.

‘Sarri is famed for being incredibly superstitious and it appears a brush of his Golden Balls may have helped Chelsea over the line as, just a couple of hours later, Arsenal surprisingly failed to beat Brighton and the Blues’ Champions League qualification was guaranteed.’

Yep. That’s definitely it. Mediawatch just can’t understand why all of the managers are not touching their balls all of the time if it really is that easy. Time to start juggling, Jurgen…


Recommended reading of the day
David Squires on the Premier League and that

Wright Thompson on Liverpool and ‘This Means More’


More Related Articles