The easy way to stop Raheem Sterling? Just boo him…

Date published: Thursday 14th November 2019 2:32

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Booing works
Having seen some, in my opinion unwarranted criticism of Liverpool fans treatment of Raheem Sterling, I felt it necessary to offer some thoughts.

I don’t actually agree with booing players just because they chose to leave your club. As a Liverpool fan I thought we got a good deal when he left, turns out City also got a good deal, but as we’ve gone on to greater things as a club since, no hard feelings from me.

However, when Sterling returns to Anfield, I have booed him. And the reason why is because it clearly negatively affects his game. Sunday wasn’t his worst game for Man City at Anfield but he was hardly his usual brilliant self. In previous years he’s been anonymous. It’s been clear that, in part, that’s been down to his every touch being booed.

So it’s gained an advantage for my team. Something crowds are hoping and often expected to do.

I’ll boo him again next time and hope he has a bad game. It’ll stop when his performance rises above it.
Rick, Liverpool

 

Sterling365
I wanted to wait a few days after Gomez/Sterling to write in as I was interested to see what the general reaction would be to the incident itself as well as the reaction to the initial reaction – both on F365 and in general.

I agree with the general sentiment that came through in the mailbox – that Southgate did need to act to a) show that this sort of behaviour would not be tolerated and b) make sure the current England set up didn’t suffer from club lines being drawn the way the Golden Generation did. He did so quickly and the punishment fit the crime – the end result being that Sterling is still in the camp and will most likely play in the second game. There were of course a few outliers, from those saying Southgate shouldn’t have done anything ranging to Sterling should never play for England again – but that is to be expected.

What I have found disappointing is the relatively mute reaction from F365 itself regarding this matter. Look, Sterling screwed up – I don’t think that is really up for debate. This was not a heat of the moment reaction – it is clearly something that was festering with him well into the next day, and reached a point where he showed poor emotional and professional maturity and reacted poorly. Now I’m not saying I’m perfect – no one is. But by essentially ignoring this incident, F365 is showing the same sort of bias it (rightly) lambasts the general media for showing with Sterling, albeit in the other direction. Silence itself is statement enough, and you lose credibility (particularly when it comes to your backing of Sterling) when you refuse to comment at all on what happened. I have to think that had this been Gomez squaring up to Sterling, it would have at least warranted an article and in all likelihood, a commentary that would have been front page news.

There have been nods in other areas to the fact that F365 is firmly with ‘Team Sterling’ – F365 presented an article where Danny Rose attributes some of the blame on Liverpool fans, and in that article Sterling’s message is generously described as an ‘apology’, although I can’t see where at any point he has actually apologised for his behaviour or to Gomez if I’m honest (as an aside I’m not really sure where Rose is coming from – Sterling is hardly the first player to be booed by fans of a club he used to play for).

Then there was Mediawatch’s analysis of the article on a Liverpool website describing Sterling as a ‘monster’. Now, monster may not be the best adjective to use, but it is hardly damaging nor does it have any inflammatory connotations as Mediawatch seemed to be hinting towards.

In addition to this, Mediawatch’s summary completely ignores the fact that, as anyone who watched the game could see, Sterling was very tightly wound and was getting more and more wound up as the match went on. If you go back and watch, Sterling’s reactions to not getting calls from the referee was very out of character for him – he was literally jumping up and down, screaming at the ref. Then there is the tread on VVD (which curiously doesn’t get a mention from Mediawatch despite being in the Liverpool article – presumably because it doesn’t suit the narrative Mediawatch is trying to formulate), the ongoing verbal jarring with Alexander-Arnold throughout the match and then finally squaring up to Gomez. Now that may not be “monstrous” but does it sound like someone in control? And even if you don’t agree with the particular adjective that was used, it all becomes moot because he was still so angry he acted irrationally the next day – so the sentiment of the article was for all intents and purposes, accurate.

This is all to say I am generally in favour of F365 being in Sterling’s corner, particularly when it offsets a lot of garbage printed in the national rags about him. I think you are right the highlight the virtues of a player who has been unfairly targeted by the national media.

But in this particular case there seems to have been a concerted effort on these pages to deflect blame and establish red herrings as to who else could be responsible, and in general there appears to be a blind spot when it comes to Sterling. The bottom line is when you deliberately ignore what was at best a pretty glaring and very public error in judgement, you lose credibility as his defender. I hate to tell you guys this, but I’ll repeat; he screwed up – and unfortunately so have you.
Ben, Oz

 

Here we go again
I wanted to expand on a couple of comments made in the bear pit/comments section below Sarah’s article on Sancho this morning.

Sancho made a few ripples among a minority of football fans who were paying attention when he moved to Dortmund (the Hipster’s wet dream club) from Man City but he really caught the attention of the majority following his establishment in the Dortmund first team and his slew of excellent match-winning contributions. England recognition soon followed and as a teenaged Englishman playing well in a high profile foreign league he naturally caught the eye of one or two clubs over here. There were the usual articles and opinions, including on F365, talking about Sancho as The Next Big Thing, comparisons with Sterling and lists talking about him favourably amongst the best young footballers in the world. In short, building him up.

At some point, somebody somewhere mentioned a valuation of £100m and the media ran with it. It’s important to note that the regurgitation of gossip linking Sancho with a huge money move to ManU serves absolutely no purpose other than to sell papers and generate clicks. Gossip based on hearsay doesn’t educate or inform readers and it obviously doesn’t help Sancho; quite the opposite, it has heaped more pressure on the guy to perform knowing the eyes of the media in two countries as well as the millstone of a 9-figure valuation are on him.

Then Sancho, being a talented but inexperienced 19 year old winger, does what every talented but inexperienced 19 year old winger in the history of the game has done, which is to have a few games where he’s been largely ineffective. It is worth pausing to wonder whether his form might have been affected by the media-generated hype regarding his valuation but in any event what then followed is an article on here which judges his recent performances using his media-confected valuation as both a barometer to measure his performance against as well as a stick to beat him with. In short, knocking him down.

This is an absolute classic of the English media genre. I think it’s important to recognise here that the “build ‘em, knock ‘em down” culture in our media is systemic and largely unthinking rather than calculated and deliberate. I have no doubt that Sarah is, like most of us, a perfectly decent, honest person calling it as she sees it, rather than deliberately and cynically plotting the downfall of a young footballer. However it is remarkable to see a website which is so open in its condemnation of others who resort to this kind of stuff publish an opinion piece that is so nakedly exploitative and ultimately self-serving. By all means judge a player on his performances and if it’s fair, call him out if he’s poor (though surely the lad deserves a bit more of a chance, he’s only been “poor” for a few games?!) but don’t bring hype and valuation into it because that has nothing to do with Sancho and everything to do with the media and it’s own self-interest.
Sal

 

Not that he needs it, but thought it might be worth sending a defense of Jadon Sanco in for people to consider, whilst we’re in the midst of his ‘dip in form’ and questions of ‘worth’.

First things first: This kid is NINETEEN. I was still working in New Look and getting blotto at Freshers’ parties when I was 19. This kid has made a decision to leave the most well funded club in our league, moved to a new country and is thriving. This ‘dip’ is perfectly natural for a player of his age – let’s be honest, his numbers were probably fairly unsustainable. Speaking of those, let’s take a look at them by comparing against, say – Marcus Rashford.

Sancho: 115 Career apps, 42 goals, 42 assists. Minutes per goal: 195 (19 year old)
Rashford: 201 Career apps, 59 goals, 29 assists. Minutes per goal: 213. (22 years old)

Not too long ago, there was a piece demonstrating how Rashford’s contribution and trajectory was better than Kane’s and Ronaldo’s at the same age. Sancho is not far off at all surpassing Rashford’s tallies – he only needs 17 goals in 86 appearances to overtake Rashford, and already has more assists. This is also with Rashford playing as a central striker for short bursts.

Coupled with the fact that Sancho is getting CL experience compared to Rashford’s EL experience at least for this year (although it’s hard to see that changing any time soon – sorry UTD fans), and Sancho is destined to be an absolute gem. This isn’t to denigrate Rashford, although I do personally think he ‘blows hot and cold’ more than Sancho does.

Is he worth 100 mil? Probably, in the current market. Should Liverpool sign him? Probably not, but in all honesty I can see one of Mane, Firmino or Salah possibly getting their head turned by Madrid next year or the year after, so if that happens Sancho would be my number 1 target.

If United sign Sancho i’ll be very jealous. Although having just signed James for that position, I can’t see it happening. Perhaps Chelsea may be his next destination. Not sure Pulisic would be too happy, mind.
Lee (Sancho fanboy), LFC

 

Space, the final frontier
One of the things that the responses to the AWB article miss out on is that while football is a constantly evolving discipline, with different positions becoming more and less important, one of the constants in this evolution is that systems have become more important than players. While the term systems can be looked at in a sterile Brentish way, it really means the way the total of all of your team interact with each other and the pitch in order to increase the likelihood and quality of chances while reducing them for the opposition. I get that just sounds like football, but there is far more emphasise on the team being a whole, where at any point or action a manager would be able to explain where each of his players should be and (depending on the manager) what their body shape should be and where they are looking.

The problem, and relevance, this creates is that defensive players by their nature are limited in fluid systems. If you have a team where each player is able to move into the zone next to them, the assumption is that they must posses at least a decent amount of that position’s skill. So, for example, the false 9 is a midfielder that steps into a quasi-striker role, Sterling has often played up front, Rashford on the wing, centre backs are expected to ‘step out’ into the DM role. When City have huge amounts of pressure and territory Fernandinho steps up to play metronomic passing in an advanced midfield role, Jorginho similar. DMs also stepping back into defence (or if you’re City’s ridiculous defence starting there). In terms of strikers playing out wide it is often seen as a rite of passage or training, you learn different aspects on the wing than up front, and they are useful when returned to the centre. One of the system’s prime aims is to ‘create space’, an almost reverential term in football, but one that means giving a player some area without opposition in so that they have time and a lack of pressure to perform their task. This is often done by creating overlaps and overloads, which by definition requires players playing outside of their nominal position requiring them to have additional abilities in that area. To have an overload on the wing there must be at least the winger and another player. Having more players than the opposition in an area means there is less pressure from markers creating space.

Creating space by overlapping or overloading is more useful if the team is able to do it across the pitch, with overloads appearing on either side throughout the game. This means that the defensive team is tested along their defence, but also means the threat will require constant defensive attentions. So, if a defending team is aware that the attacking team has fullbacks that can join in the attack and provide useful end products (which can be crosses etc. but also dummy runs) the defence will feel constantly under more pressure. The problem when a team has a fullback that isn’t capable of moving into the zone in front of him due to a lack of attacking abilities is that the defending team is able to escape out of this side. It allows the pressure to release like steam.

And as per the comment that maybe AWB will be so defensively proficient that he will lead to teams simply giving up attacking down his side it really shows the high bar that a purely defensive player needs to jump. I always thought that in a more progressive side Kante would go through the same issues, which certainly did happen under Sarri. In remains to be seen how he fits in Frank’s team, but he maybe very grateful to Sarri for pushing him to improve his attacking abilities. Lastly, Pep did use Walker to tuck inside to the midfield in more conservative moments, but he also did it with Zabaleta, a no-nonsense defensive RB and it did not work, like really did not work.
DBM (May still be better than having a defensive system that can’t defend as a whole OR individually like ours) MCFC

 

Gareth for Spurs? 
‘Waiting to the end of the season would widen [Daniel] Levy’s options and give him a more realistic chance of appointing Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe, RB Leipzig’s Julian Nagelsmann, or even England manager Gareth Southgate.’

Please God No
TGWolf(Pleeeeeeeeaaaaase)THFC

 

Painful punditry
I’ll take the opportunity to jump on this morning’s mailbox bandwagon of “how bad is football media”…

Just before going to bed last night I switched on (and quickly off again) everyone’s favour sport news channel. In the 45 seconds or so of viewing I was unfortunate enough to hear both Robbie Fowler and Glen Johnson share their collective insights on the ongoing Raheem Sterling/Joe Gomez saga. Robbie Fowler the football sage commented … “It’s the wrong decision, he wouldn’t be dropped for tomorrow’s game if it was the world cup semi-final would he?”. Well no Robbie probably not, but it isn’t is it? It’s pretty much a dead-rubber of a qualifier. It does however seem like an excellent opportunity to rest Sterling, and for Southgate to show the squad that team morale and discipline is important, irrespective of how senior you are. Don’t you think it sets a great precedence for future squads, showing individual behavior is important when representing your country Robbie? Robbie? Then we have exhibit #2: Glen Johnson. A man who actually started the interview with … “Obviously I don’t have insight into what is happening in the camp…” … right there … right there is where the interviewer or the editor should have stopped it.

Part of the problem is elite football seems to be a moral cesspit, if you are an elite footballer personal indiscretions should just be swept under the carpet apparently. (See: Suarez, Luis. Terry, John, and a million other examples). In fact, I’d bet my bottom dollar it was ignoring this kind of behavior for the last 30yrs that contributed to so many fractured and unsuccessful England squads. Football media (present company excluded), seem to have a sense that if an ex-pro says something it must be valid and insightful and thus worth reporting. Actually in 90% of cases the opposite is true, its absolute tripe. It blows my mind that professional reports can’t identify that. The only thing more frustrating than hearing ex-pros nonsense is the interviewers not pulling them up on it, or the editing allowing it to go to air. Surely it’s their job to root out this crap?

“Obviously I don’t have insight into what is happening in the camp…” is basically Glen admitting he has no fu*@ing clue what is going on, but of course he is going to be allowed to part his wisdom on us anyway. Imagine Laura Kuenssberg (according to Wiki she is the Chief Political editor at BBC) pulling in some former washed up local politician/mayor to interview on the political unrest in Hong Kong. Joe Average opens the interview with “Well I have no idea what’s going on there” … and then letting him continue to share his views on the importance of Chinese democracy with the nation. It wouldn’t even make it to air. In fact take politics out of it … even other sports quickly (for the most part) dispense of awful pundits and commentators. Again, it seems to be a football related problem. Maybe it’s a case of supply and demand, give the punters what they want … and that is even more concerning.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.
Dave Moore, (Don’t even get me started about Paul Ince on MOTD).

 

Justice for journos
Sorry Paul, but how about walking a mile in someone’s shoes before making blanket statements about sports journos?

They’ve got a bloody hard job in that the access can be taken away by clubs that don’t like their line of questioning and those exclusive they get is dependent on that very access, which explains why some go in for bland questions.

It’s made all the worse by fan channels regurgitating their news and piggybacking on proper journo’s work.

They’re not perfect but sports journos do essential work in a time in which any cretin can spout nonsense on YouTube in search of clicks.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London

 

Australian rivalries
On the topic of rivalries in our respective countries, as football in Australia is still in its infancy we don’t have many deep rivalries. Here are some of the few notable ones:

Western Sydney Wanderers vs Sydney FC
The Sydney derby is probably the biggest one with Sydney FC representing the more middle/upper class inner city bay area (think Harbour Bridge, Opera House and the surrounding suburbs) and Western Sydney being the club of the more working class suburbs deep in the metro area. This has grown into quite the rivalry with Western Sydney known for their boisterous ultras style supporters and Sydney FC known for their fluid football.

Melbourne Victory vs Melbourne City
Melbourne is our second biggest, fastest growing and far less famous city. The biggest club is by far and away Melbourne Victory who have the greatest share of supporters from all possible demographics. Melbourne City on the other hand is more of a fringe club which is owned by the City Football Group and is basically Manchester City’s Australian branch. No self-respecting Melbournian would support Melbourne City. These two sides have had some pretty tense matches over the years with infamous red cards and spectacular goals (including one belter from Tim Cahill for City which I can only just about forgive him for)

Melbourne Victory vs Sydney FC
With the cities of Melbourne and Sydney being engaged in an eternal pissing contest it was inevitable that these two sides would develop a rivalry. Melbourne has often claimed the “most liveable city in the world” prize which its inhabitants love to reference, sometimes ironically. Sydneysiders love to boast about their city being more scenic and having sunnier weather. Victory and Sydney FC are also the two most successful clubs in the A-League.

Above all the league really needs more clubs. There’s only 11 in the A-League with the prospect of more clubs being introduced. Things are made more challenging by the fact that football also competes with other forms of “football” for popularity in Australia, including Rugby League and “Australian Football” (don’t ask).
Vish, Melbourne

 

View from Nigeria
Following what my African brother, Tabonga Moyo suggested, let me do a quick rundown about rivalries in Nigeria.
I think there’s a bit of similarities between my country and yours in terms of the club rivalries. Manchester United are the best supported club but if I’m going to judge by what I’ve seen, I’m going to pick Chelsea as the number one. I say that because Chelsea matches are usually the best attended matches in every place (And I’m not exaggerating) I’ve visited and watched football in. Not all the watchers are Chelsea fans of course but almost all football fans seem to be interested in what’s going on with the club. Arsenal are the next best supported club followed by Liverpool. And like you said, Liverpool fans are usually of an older generation in my country as well. I know a few Man City fans and absolutely ZERO Spurs fans. In fact, I know one Aston Villa fan and one Bolton fan. They’re both brothers from the same family and they are definitely football hipsters.
I regard Arsenal fans as the most loyal set of fans I’ve ever seen and we Chelsea fans (seriously, I’m not included) are usually the noisiest. United fans are the entitled ones in this part of the world (sorry, Liverpool fans). The City fans don’t usually talk much because we always put them down with the ‘plastic fans’ phrase. All of them started supporting City only after Abu Dhabi bought them. To be fair, I started supporting Chelsea too after Abramovich but in my case, I’m only 23 and started watching football in 2006 or so. Those City fans are a whole lot older than I am and started watching football in the 90s so they have no excuse. Just kidding, of course. Or am I?
We have a rivalry with United and Arsenal but everything has died down a bit recently due to the underperformance of United and Arsenal. But trust me, We Chelsea fans are absolutely loving their struggles. It’s a pity though that we’ve lost both of our games against United this season.
Azeez (Thank you Lampard for the awesome, good, bad and terrible) Lagos, Nigeria.

 

Bored of Zlatan
Ibrahimovic’s media-based self-preservation strategy is becoming quite desperate. Although mostly harmless in his case, it’s akin to those right-wing figureheads for whom any press is good press.
Finlay x

 

Chelsea’s loan system
Ah Yash (MUFC), please just read yesterday afternoon’s superb mailbox on retorts to Joe of Liverpool’s similar gripes with our ‘loan army’. Love how since Tammy, Tomori, Mount and R James have been performing, Chelsea’s loan army system has come into question a few times – guess it’s easier having a classic supervillain illegal loan system to blame than great scouting, coaching and facilities. These kids have been at Chelsea since U8s! For God’s sake stop talking about the loan system – your own manager said he wished United’s kids had been on loan too.
Saaj (CFC)

 

Digne > Robertson
TX Bill, I’m sure Robertson will be crestfallen to find his “Best LB in Merseyside” medal has disappeared.

Just have to make do with the Champions League Winner’s medal ey?
Kris, LFC, Wirral

 

Northern Premier League
Dear Football365,

I haven’t written in about Crystal Palace this week but don’t worry, I still found a way of voicing my opinions.

Anyway, luckily for me, the tightest division at any of the top seven tiers of English football is the Northern Premier League. With roughly one third of the season played, South Shields sit top of the pile, a point clear of Lancaster City, two points clear of Basford United and four ahead of Warrington Town. However, the battle for the final playoff place is incredibly tight: there are ten teams who would consider themselves in genuine contention. FC United of Manchester are currently fifth, but only on goal difference; Hyde United, down in 14th, are just three points behind. In all, that’s 64% of teams in the league vying for promotion.

This weekend’s standout fixture looks to be FC United’s visit to one of the teams tied on points with them, Witton Albion. If they can’t be separated, the door opens to the winner of Stalybridge Celtic (tied on points with those two) and Matlock Town, a point behind.

At a time when a lot of leagues, for various reasons, become ever more predictable, there’s a chance this could be just the tonic. Virtually every game, regardless of its outcome, will have an effect on half the teams in the division. The sort of glorious unpredictability that football so often promises.
Ed Quoththeraven

 

Henderson on Suarez
Just read your piece on Jordan Henderson on Luis Suarez. One statement stood out: Henderson saying:

“At that time, I was a young player and there were one or two things Luis did in training that I didn’t like.

“It made me feel I wasn’t good enough to be in the same team in training.”

Well this is a bit awkward. Who’s going to tell poor JH then?

Oh okay then.

Jordan, mate, you weren’t good enough. Never will be. Don’t worry though, none of that shower Luis was surrounded by were good enough to lace Suarez’s boots, so you’re not alone.
The M Rod

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