Sterling is more Wright-Phillips than Ronaldo or Messi…

Date published: Friday 13th September 2019 9:07 - Ian Watson

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Doubting Sterling
The recent praise for Raheem Sterling has caught me out somewhat, and especially when fans and pundits alike make claims that he could be amongst the greatest. I certainly hope he becomes that but, as someone who watches him week in week out, I’m not convinced. On Wednesday night and during His Majesty Captain Kompany’s testimonial, I finally realised why I have a niggling doubt.

In the starting line up on the ‘City Legends’ side was the much-loved Sean Wright-Phillips. Late in the first half he collects the ball outside the box, bursts inside and completely fluffs his shot. Instantly, I’m taken back to Palace v City in 2000. Sweep picks up the ball deep in the City half and goes on this incredible length-of-the-pitch run around God knows how many Palace players. We’re on our toes when he’s in the box and one on one with the goalie. Then, at THE vital moment, he does his absolute best impression of a 3-year-old kicking a beach ball in the back garden. There’s a pregnant pause after our groans have all died away and then, in true football fan style, one wag starts a chant of “I was there, I was there, I was there when Seany scored…” which is then taken up, with great laughter, by the rest of the City fans.

SWP could be breath taking to watch and he had, arguably, everything except the minor matter of a sometimes-shocking final touch. Especially so if he had time to think. Remind you of anyone? Sterling’s a marvellous player who has improved hugely under Pep and we’re blessed to have him although I do wonder what his strike rate would be if he was playing for, say, Bournemouth?. I know this may sound incredibly harsh and overly-simplistic but I’m genuinely struggling to shake the feeling that he’s more Sweep 2.0 than one of the World’s best.
Mark (I feel dirty now) MCFC.


Van Dijk versus the legends
Just a quick take on this Van Dijk ‘controversy’.  These stats don’t tell the whole story, but lets look anyway. In his career so far VVD scores about 1 in 10, assists 1 in 20, red cards (straight or cumulative) 1 in 69, and yellows about 1 in 10. Vidic’ numbers are 1 in 13, 75, 37.5, and 4.5. Ferdinand is 1 in 52, 61, 675 (honestly shocked he only had 1 red ever), and 13. John Terry is 1 in 11, 25, 93, and 7.

So VVD scores and assists more frequently than these other 3 greats, he is cautioned less frequently than two of them, and is offensively a lot more productive than Rio who has the best caution record. He is also arguably faster than all of them (thanks UEFA stats) for what that’s worth.

Also if we only look at him since 2018 since he joined LFC (with a smattering of Southampton games), he has scored 9 goals, 5 assists, had 6 yellows and zero reds in 92 games.

He also hasn’t been sent off in 3 straight games against United…
Jacques, Oxford


…So from I what I can gather this VVD is or isn’t the best the Premier League has seen ‘debate’ was spawned by a nonsense Sky Sports loaded vote/competition (they know their audience i’ll give them that) and the fact that a former world class centre back expressed an opinion on the same topic?

Well all I can say is VVD’s current standard of performance is levels above any other LFC centre-half i’ve ever seen at length – Carragher, Hyypia, Agger. Wouldn’t like to compare to Hansen as can only really remember full games from his twilight seasons. Regarding Rio Ferdinand my best offering would be, a few years back, when asking about him and playfully suggesting he might be some sort of fancy Dan, I was given the opinion, by a season ticket holding old school Mancunian acquaintance of mine, that ‘he’s an absolute wall’.

That was good enough for me.

Tosin might have saved himself sometime by just saying, ‘I support United and I don’t want to hear about good LFC players right now’. He concludes by offering VVD his respect and suggesting ‘we all’ should relax. This at the end of a contribution where in too many words he let us know that there have been other very good centre-backs in the past (not to mention ones who spent huge chunks of their careers in other positions) and utilising, in this sort of debate, the tired and weak ‘more medals’ argument. And yes Tosin, best defensive records in Europe should not go unnoticed, though perhaps, and I wouldn’t blame you as a United fan, last season did.

The reason people are the opposite of relaxed regards VVD and talking him about him so much is he’s doing it right now. Pretty logical really. Also when debating who was the best, the concepts of longevity at the highest level of the game or highest level of individual performance reached, will always butt heads and no one will ever prove one a better indicator than the other.

Anyway now to something more fun and less divisive, a bit of nostalgia. I’d just like to add to Ian’s memories……karma caught up with Schumacher of course when he got nowhere near a cross and let Jose Luis Brown head into an empty net in the final of EURO ’88. And the funny thing with Cafu was after that famous free-kick many he just blasted into the stands, for Real Madrid. Bobby Moore after THAT tackle on Pele, was in THAT iconic photo swapping shirts with Jairzinho, and then his fellow great England centre back Terry Butcher inspired a similarly bandaged but less bloodied Paul Ince to lead England to another World Cup Finals against Sweden eight years later.

And poor Ireland, after Josimar helped eliminate them at the group stage in 1986 they had to look on as their Northern neighbours reached the knock out stages of the next two World Cups. Who can forget Pat Jennings save in the shoot-out v Romania?!
Cheers, Bobby.


Not feeling England
Chris calls me out on my e-mail about the 96 team and says of the current team ” man for man (and as a team/squad) they are so far ahead of any England team in my life”! In particular he scoffed at two players, if he had read my post correctly, he will have seen that I did suggest TAA as a wing back instead of Anderton and as for Steve McManaman, he was good enough to win two Champions League Finals with Real Madrid (scoring in one), so I think that underlines his quality.

I wasn’t being grumpy, just supporting Tom Reed’s view, as for 94, we didn’t qualify but were stuffed by Graham Taylor (and some dodgy refereeing) choosing Dorigo, Palmer, Woods, Batty, Alan Shearer played once in 1993! 1998 is the year of Beckham and an exit on penalties and what might have been.

But, if the mailboxers think I’m wrong, please tell me.

Seaman or Pickford, is it really a contest?

Southgate or Keane,
Adams or £80m Maguire
Pearce or Chilwell, now you’re having a laugh

Anderton or TAA, well you’ve got one in
Gascoigne or Barkley
McManaman or Sancho/Mount
Ince or Rice, even WHam fans would pick Ince
Platt or Henderson

Shearer (best premier League striker ever) or Kane
Sheringham or Sterling, depends on formation

I repeat, nothing would please me more than to see this team develop into World beaters but at the moment, like Tom Reed, I’m just not feeling it.
Howard (98, £2 Romania 2-1 England, Moldovan 1st goal, 100/1!!!) Jones


Making agents work for their money
Big fan of this site and this section but first time writing in. There are some savages on here so really thought long and hard about whether or not to do this.

Not that this would ever happen because as far as I can tell, modern footballers are in the hands of people who are only trying to squeeze them for as much as they can, while they can. A stock broker would be embarresed at the shamelesness.

What if agents were moved to heavier performance related bonuses rather than fixed percentages of weekly wages and percentages of transfer fees. By doing this, it would ensure that their goals are aligned with that of the club – which is to have a player performing at their peak potential. Which is great for them, considering the work they have put in and sacrifices they have made to become a professional.

For Example, if Pogba’s agent – Minotaur – was getting paid based on Man united’s wins and Pogba’s goals and assists or whether they make the champions league. He would be doing everything in his power to make sure this guy is in top shape mentally, physically and emotionally at all times. Right now these agents are limiting the ability of these players to perform which is a shame because there is a great player in there somewhere, when he is only thinking about football.

Anyway just a passing thought – since we seem to see this every year with some of the premier talents in the game. As the money at stake becomes bigger and bigger, this problem will only get worse. Jordan belfort would be proud of this lot.

Anandaman T, Chelsea FC (With Frank, I dare to dream), New Delhi


Here’s what Hendo does
Can we stop with the “What does Jordan Henderson do?” nonsense by now? Perhaps actually pay attention to what he is doing in any given match, particularly in comparison with other options?

He moves the ball. Quickly. He is one of very few players around the England squad who do that. When you compare him to Ross Barkley or (lord help us) Eric Dier, the speed with which he gets his head up and gets the play moving when he receives the ball is incomparable. Where Barkley inevitably takes four or five touches, or Dier simply kicks the ball whichever way he’s facing because of his ferry-like turning circle, Henderson has taken a touch looked up, and whipped the ball onward. This is a fundamental part of what made Liverpool European champions and a gnat’s bollock from the Premier League last season. He is and will be important on the counter against better teams at the euros.

The same propensity to move the ball is why he gets played (out of position) at DM against weaker opposition. His energy linking defense to midfield is important to keep the tempo up and not allow a team defending deep against us to settle and take too many breathers. He is a very good player who is frequently asked to perform sub-optimal roles for the sake of balance in a team. He is not the empty shirt so many people seem to think he is. He’s just not Steven Gerrard. Not even Steven Gerrard was Steven Gerrard towards the end of his career. Give him a break.

(Coincidentally you could pretty much substitute Henderson for Gini Wijnaldum and the Netherlands and it would still make sense).
Pierre (have a proper look back at how England played at Euro 96 and ask yourself if we were genuinely any good apart from 20 minutes in the Holland game), Bristol


Where’s Alan
Just watched the clip of Adebayor’s celebration on its 10th anniversary. Still amazing.

My main question from watching it is – what’s Alan Hansen upto now?

The guy retired and then disappeared. Can anyone shed any light?
Adam (Will England win anything with the kids?), Midlands.


‘Allo ‘allo, Rene
After reading a few Nostalgia XIs in the mailbox and finding Higuita in a couple of them, I must admit that I always find it odd that he seems to be virtually universally adored for that scorpion kick. Mention his name to any football fan and they’ll say “He’s the scorpion kick guy!”. That solitary event overshadows – and for many, eclipses – everything else he accomplished as a player:

68 Colombian caps

41 Club goals and 3 National team goals

A Copa Libertadores win

Two 3rd place finishes at the Copa America

Two CONMEBOL Team of the Year appearances

That got me thinking about a couple of things:

1) As I watched that England – Colombia friendly as a 14-year-old, I was just as amazed as everyone else was, but pretty quickly, the scorpion kick adoration really had me scratching my head. It just doesn’t make any sense to do as a goalkeeper. It’s a lower percentage saving and distribution technique, two of a GKs core duties. Redknapp’s “cross” would have been the simplest of catches. Higuita’s kick didn’t help his team in any way. When the scorpion kick has been used by others (Mkhitaryan, Giroud, Ibra, et. al.) it was as a last-ditch effort to get a shot on target.

Is there someone else in footballing history that is remembered so fondly for doing something that detrimental just to show off?

Remember the guy that rounded the goalie, dribbled to the goal line and then headed the ball in while on his hands and knees? Or Kerlon, the “seal dribble” kid that ran with the ball balanced on his head? They’re definitely not Higuita-famous for those things.

2) Next, consider famous moments like the Maradona Hand of God goal. The Roberto Carlos France free kick. The Banks save vs. Pele. The Hurst hat-trick goal. The Aguero last gasp title winner. The Van Basten volley. The Beckham halfway line goal. They’ll all be remembered for plenty of other reasons as well. Even players with infamous moments like Cantona’s karate kick, Zidane’s “header” vs. Materazzi or Keane’s Haaland “tackle”. They’ll be remembered for other things.

Are there any other names that are affiliated with a single moment so closely? After wracking my brain, I came up with two more that might fit the bill: Antonin Panenka (it’s bloody named after him, so obviously) and Carlos Alberto. Anyone else?
Dickon (LFC – Ottawa)


…Ohhh, Nostalgia XI, can I play? Hopefully not too late…

GK: Michelle Preud’homme – The name and the hair maketh the man. Also he played for Benfica
RB: Cafu – The freight train
LB: Roberto Carlos – Basically the first LB that comes to my head when I think of one. Loved his free kicks with about 4km run up before he actually kicked the ball
CB:Paolo Maldini – The most elegant defender I’ve ever seen
CB: Alessandro Nesta – I guess I have a thing for italian centre backs
LM: Ryan Giggs – World class for such a long period of time
RM: Simao Sabrosa – I support Benfica and don’t care that for most of his career he was a LM. He played for us at our sh*ttest period and was almost a 1 man team at the time. “Eu sou fodido”
DMC: Claude Makelele – The man who defined the DMC role at 2 clubs
AMC: Rui Costa – Again, Benfica fan. This man was mercurial on his day and probably my all time favourite player
CF: Dennis Bergkamp – Elegance in simplicity. So easy to watch and so graceful on the ball
CF: Pippo Inzaghi – Born offside. Celebrated scoring with his hip like it was the greatest goal he’d ever scored. If ever there was a player who played well beyond his natural ability, Pippo was that man.


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