Premier League – European Nights Proving too much?

It feels like it’s been a lot longer than 4 years since Chelsea lifted the Europa League, an English sides’ last triumph in any European competition. Whilst Man Utd have a reasonable opportunity to win the same competition this season, not many could have predicted such a sharp decline in the performance of the teams from the richest league in the world under the floodlights across the continent.

Allow me to explain…

Since the 1999-2000 season there have been 64 finalists spread over The Champions League & Europa League, the top representatives by country of origin: –

  • Spain – 23
  • Portugal – 7
  • England – 14
  • Italy – 6
  • Germany – 8

Are we accepting that a little over 20% of finalists being from the “money machine” that is the Barclays Premier league is acceptable?

Of the 14 English clubs who have made it to the various finals, only 4 have prevailed, Sevilla alone have won on 5 occasions and they would not usually be mentioned in the same breath.

It is also worth remembering that even the much maligned Scottish Premiership has provided 2 finalists within the same period (Celtic 2003 & Rangers 2008).

Tottenham-vs-Gent-Image

The afore mentioned Man Utd could break the recent trend this season and lift the Europa League, however loses to Feyenoord and Fenerbache accompanied by drab draws against FC Rostov and Anderlecht would hardly see them as worthy winners.

In fact, this season has seen English Premier League sides (Spurs & Man Utd) face opposition from Belgian First Division A (KAA Gent & Anderlecht) over four legs and only produce a solitary England win…A 2-1 extra time win.

Other such failings in recent seasons have included:-

  • FA Cup winners Wigan prop up their Europa League group
  • Hull City defeated by Lokeren in the qualifying rounds
  • Everton take 5 from Dynamo Kiev
  • Southampton 1-2 Midtylland
  • Liverpool losing out to Basel in 2014-15
  • Man Utd slipping to 3rd in a group of Wolfburg, PSV & CSKA
  • And who can ignore Arsenal’s recent meetings with Bayern…

Football is football and that’s why we love the game and yes the odd surprise defeat can occur, however these are over 2 legs, or in group stages containing multiple games, EPL sides should NOT be crashing out under these circumstances.

Are Stoke better than Schalke, could Bournemouth batter Bordeaux or would we see Everton ease past Espanyol?

I think the honest answer has to be a resounding no to all of the above.

The self-proclaimed “best league in the world” is being outshone by sides from divisions on which they look down on as being not worthy of sharing their pitches.

The EPL and its member clubs need to raise the bar to a whole new level to re-assert itself as a provider of dominant club sides when competing in European competitions or risk falling further behind.

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Tottenham vs Gent image sourced from; www.fourfourtwo.com
Champion’s League group stage image sourced from; www.goal.com

Ranieri – Proof that Success Means Little

Cast your minds back to May 7th 2016, A Saturday evening under the glare of the lights at a wet and windy King Power Stadium. Everton were the visitors but in all truth, they were only there to make up the numbers.

It was the conclusion of arguably one of Britain’s greatest ever sporting stories, Leicester City were presented with the Barclays Premier League Trophy. The well documented 5000/1 shots had literally defied all of the odds.

Fast forward 9 months to February 2017 and just over 2 weeks after a statement was released by the board announcing their “unwavering support” they decided to tell Mr Ranieri that his time in charge was over.

A disappointing and cut throat act from the Thai owners? Undoubtedly yes. A surprise given the football world we live in? Sadly not.

Leicester City’s title defence has been a horrific one. Currently hovering around the drop zone, bang out of form (Liverpool result aside) and The SkyBet Championship starting to look like a distinct possibility for next season.

Champions League nights and trips to Seville could be replaced with 46 matches of pure fight. One saving grace is that they have been there, done that and have the winners t-shirts already.

Of course they deserved to bask in their glory but this title party has felt never ending. Trips all over the world, magazine deals, new cars and bumper new contracts have 100% drawn focus from the bread and butter of playing football!

The Italian was of course not without blame in this season dismal title defence. Ranieri was given the nickname “Tinkerman” from his Chelsea days due to the amount of changes he’d make from game to game, this season was different from those past Stamford Bridge days.

He stuck and kept faith, perhaps blindly with the same players that had delivered the unlikeliest of successes last May. Had he taken a step back from all of the commotion, locked himself in a dark room and thought about nothing other than football he may have made difficult yet necessary decisions.

His loyalty to Vardy, Mahrez and Morgan in particular has proved to be detrimental in his demise.

jamie-vardy-image

The side from the East Midlands made a similar error in judgement to past champions, they didn’t strengthen adequately for what was sure to be a different season, when your champions the only way to go is down. Ranieri should have been beating down the door of the CEO’s office demanding quality additions to provide squad depth.

They were all linked with moves…Arsenal’s and Barcelona’s were mentioned but ultimately they lost the one player they simply couldn’t afford to lose. N’Golo Kante should have been given the freedom of the city in an attempt to get the French international to stick around for another year or two.

He’s gone to Chelsea and just look at them now, we also believe that Kante will sweep the boards at this season’s end of campaign awards.

The sacking has been confirmed and the players, club and the fans will now start the moving on process.

Whatever happens over the next few weeks – be it relegation or survival, the memories and emotions of the past 12 months will outweigh anything that most football fans will ever feel…Claudio Ranieri you leave Leicester City as a champion!

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Jamie Vardy image sourced from; www.skysports.com
Claudio Ranieri image sourced from; www.dailyexpress.co.uk

Here we Go! The EFL Cup Final

Southampton and Man Utd fans will walk up Wembley Way this Sunday to battle it out for the 1st trophy on offer in the English season. Both sides will obviously be desperate to lift the cup but for varying reasons…

We will start on the south coast with the impressively run Southampton. Claude Puel makes a cup final within months of taking over from Ronald Koeman and with The Saints not having lifted a major honour since 1971, can immediately write his name into St Mary’s folklore.

The occasion feels like a culmination of years of re-building and re-structuring of a club who found themselves in League One just 7 years ago. Season after season the fans have seen their players sold or managers poached leaving them to worry about slipping back down the leagues. Worry they will not as they arrive in London with the hope of leaving with the EFL Cup in their possession.

Head a few hundred miles north and you will arrive at the global giant that is Manchester United, now managed by serial trophy collector Jose Mourinho. A victory this weekend buys the special one breathing space whilst he attempts to steady a ship that has been in choppy waters since Sir Alex vacated his throne.

With league position seemingly stuck at 6th for the time being, he’ll want to add to LVG’s FA Cup from last term. A win would leave The Reds holding both domestic knockout competition titles and firing a warning shot that they are still a force despite lack of serious league challenge.

Zlatan and Pogba would want that winners’ medal draped around their necks to assist in justifying their existence as well as going a little way to repaying the significant outlays the club made to secure their signatures. All-time record scorer Wayne Rooney can also add to his deserved legendary status by adding an extra number to the honours column before any departure in the seemingly near future.

So who is going to win on the day?

After what is sure to be a hard fought contest, we are opting for a Man Utd victory! Southampton will miss their leader and chief defensive organiser Virgil Van Dijk too much at the back, asking stand in centre halves to deal with a free scoring Ibrahimovic is something Puel will no doubt be having sleepless nights over.

The Saints however will trouble a rocky Old Trafford defence with the various attacking threats they possess right throughout their squad. The tricky Tadic, to the menace of Shane Long (perhaps off the bench) will keep Smalling and his troops on their toes.

As usual, in these monumental games, the 1st goal will be crucial but we feel Man Utd will win the key battles all over the pitch and emerge victorious.

Prediction – Southampton 1-2 Man Utd

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EFL Cup image sourced from; cup.efl.com

Oldham Athletic – Free entry? Sadly not

Tuesday 24th January – Oldham Athletic vs Peterborough United, a game that would usually only appeal to the die-hard fans of each League One club, however this fixture was different.

The home club had decided to reach out and offer free admission to this re-arranged fixture.

It was close enough to warrant a visit – so off we went in the hope of providing positive feedback to the football community that would drive similar initiatives across the country.

The club quite rightly gained positive publicity for their gesture, appearing on Sky Sports and BBC stations as well as various social media boosts. The coverage clearly proved powerful judging by the vast numbers who arrived expecting to see a football match on a cold midweek January evening. Sadly at around 19:40 an announcement was made stating that no further entry was to be allowed.

The footfall arrived early as requested, they were encouraged to purchase programmes and make donations to the chosen charity of the night.

The official attendance was 7,224 (a whopping 6,276 short of capacity) so why were people turned away?

We at Time Added On applauded the idea of enticing new fans to Oldham Athletic but like so many others were left disappointed. Money spent on travel, parking and merchandise was ultimately for nothing on a night that promised so much due to a fantastic notion that put fans first.

We congratulate the team on the much needed 3 points and the initial idea of the free entry, however this was terribly executed.

The Latics have potentially missed out on new fans and perhaps more importantly, put people off returning to a club on the outskirts of a City including two major footballing superpowers.

Oldham Athletic have declined to comment so far.

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Jan 17 Transfer Window – Who needs what?…SPFL edition

The transfer window is fully OPEN!

Scotland is one of the most oddly run football associations in Europe and this is shown in the split between the top division and the rest. Whilst Hibs & Dundee United were contesting a top of the table clash in the extremely competitive Championship, the Ladbrokes Premiership sides have just returned from sunning themselves on a winter break.

This means that any significant transfer activity is in full swing now those planes have landed back at Glasgow or Edinburgh airport over the past few days.

Before the phones start ringing and agents start taking their barely-earned commission cuts we thought we’d run through the leagues and advise who needs what.

The Ladbrokes Premiership is all but over, Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic are currently 19 points clear of the chasing pack but that won’t stop the former Liverpool gaffer spending. The Glasgow giants will bring in a couple of new faces and don’t be surprised to see a relatively big name arrive on loan.

Rumours of Everton’s James McCarthy could prove true however we see a squad being built for a further assault on next seasons Champions League.

The best of the rest include Rangers, Aberdeen and Ian Cathro’s Hearts. The latter has promised a squad overhaul and with his contacts in Spain and the North East, you wouldn’t bet against some known names arriving. Aaron Hughes has already arrived at Tynecastle to add experience and stability to their backline.

The biggest internal transfer could see Niall McGinn move from Aberdeen to Hearts on a pre-contract agreement. A strange one in our opinion, as surely the Northern Irishman will have offers from English Championship clubs as well as abroad.

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Rangers need miracles to close the gap on their nearest and dearest across the City. In a previous article we stated that Mark Warburton is not the man for Ibrox and our thoughts haven’t changed. He will not pinpoint nor attract the correct players for the job, in Scotland 2nd is nowhere…3rd or 4th is unforgivable!

Down at the bottom is where we’ll see the season defining signings with just 6 points separating 6 teams.

Lee Clark has raided his old stomping ground at Newcastle for some loans. ICT will need to either stick or twist with Ritchie Foran in the hope he can find a striker to fire them to safety and Hamilton need to hang onto Ali Crawford to have any chance of remaining in the top tier.

Dundee have enough talent to keep their heads above water, as do Motherwell. However with Sam Allardyce lining up a £500K bid for 12 goal Moult, the Fir Park men will need to reinvest some capital in a key area.

Dropping down a division brings us to the hotly contested Championship. Hibs have already played their cards bringing in Kris Commons and former PNE winger Chris Humphrey, truth be told – they are both too good for this level and give Lennon’s men a significant advantage. Dundee United will need to respond to the business done in Edinburgh and respond quickly they have by recruiting Danish hitman Thomas Mikkelsen, further bodies are required to keep up with the Scottish Cup holders however.

The chasing quartet include an improving Morton and an in-form Dunfermline who will look to build on solid seasons and cement a place in the end of season play offs. A goal scorer to cover for the injured Quitongo in Greenock and a midfield engine, to add to the impressive Callum Morris capture at East End Park are on the respective wish lists.

Over at Peter Houston’s Falkirk they will be keen to hold onto Craig Sibbald whilst bringing in a loan from the top division to add squad depth.

At the foot of the table Jack Ross’ St Mirren are 7 adrift and no amount of incomings are likely to bridge the current gap.

Into Scottish League One and it’s defenders that are required all over! Every club has conceded more goals than games they have played. Livingston will look to capitalise on their current 9 point lead by holding onto top scorer Liam Buchanan, a potential sale of youngster Matthew Knox to Man Utd could provide some much needed investment if they’re to step up a level next season.

Similar to the Premiership, the chasing pack are all closely bunched. Alloa were our pre-season tips for promotion, so we’ll stick with them to challenge. Spence and Kirkpatrick are scoring the goals but they need to keep them out at the back to maintain a push. Mark Wilson could well be calling in some favours from former club Celtic to bring some young talent to aid an Airdrieonians promotion tilt.

Stenhousemuir sit 2nd bottom and are deep in relegation trouble (just as we predicted back in August) they will need to recruit to have any chance of survival.

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Last but not least we move to the lower reaches of the Scottish football pyramid, League Two.

Pre-season favourites Forfar are leading the way as expected and Gary Bollan will be satisfied with his squad, we cannot foresee any additions at Station Park.

Elgin will need to ensure that they hold onto Shane Sutherland to ensure a play-off spot come May and the rest of the league is open to change every single week. Currently the bottom 4 teams are separated by just a single win, money is null so it’s going to be make do with what you have and hope you do enough to survive from Stirling to Berwick.

Niall McGinn image is sourced from; Aberdeenjournals
Alloa and Airdrie image is sourced from; www.dailyrecord.co.uk

FA Cup 3rd Round – A missed opportunity

The 1st full weekend in January should be an occasion to mark on the football calendar, the FA cup 3rd round weekend. A weekend filled with promise, hope and expectation. Who would be this season’s giant killers or the fairy tale story?

We have just seen the last of this weekend’s ties and we can’t help but feel let down by what we have witnessed over the 32 games.

We’ll start with the TV coverage. The BBC have rammed the message of “The Magic Of The FA Cup” down our throats showing the usual clips from bygone days then they serve us up the all Premier League clash of West Ham vs Man City followed by Spurs vs Villa (an all premier league tie for the last 25 years until the start of this season.)

BT Sport added a little more imagination with their ties but all included either Man Utd, Arsenal or Liverpool. The Anfield game being the only legitimate case for a televised spectacle.

Where were the live broadcasts from Barrow, Sutton Utd or Wycombe Wanderers? All containing not only lower league sides but also non-league ones. All, who we are sure, would be more welcoming of the cash than the much changed high flyers.

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Neil Warnock, an uber-experienced British born and bred manager whose previous clubs have depended on the FA Cup for much needed income said of his Cardiff tie with Fulham “I struggled to get out of bed and I must admit I wasn’t really excited at the prospect of playing the side I got to play in the FA Cup.”  Do his sentiments echo that of most within the game?

Next to catch our eye was a significant number of empty seats up and down the country, a shocking 307,639 chairs went unused during the 3rd round.

Pass marks go to Sutton Utd & Barrow who perhaps unsurprisingly sold out. Liverpool, WBA, PNE, Chelsea and Man Utd also came close to capacity so escape our gaze. All full breakdown can be found below, we have highlighted all games that had over 15,000 or more empty spaces:-

Game Attendance Capacity Difference
West Ham v Man City 56,975 60,000 3,025
Man Utd v Reading 74,396 75,653 1,257
Accrington v Luton 1,717 5,057 3,340
Barrow v Rochdale 4,414 4,414 0
Birmingham v Newcastle 13,171 30,106 16,935
Blackpool v Barnsley 4,875 17,338 12,463
Bolton v C Palace 11,683 28,723 17,040
Brentford v Eastleigh 7,537 12,763 5,226
Brighton v MK Dons 11,091 30,750 19,659
Bristol City v Fleetwood 10,301 27,000 16,699
Everton v Leicester 35,493 39,571 4,078
Huddersfield v P Vale 11,715 24,500 12,785
Hull v Swansea 6,608 25,586 18,978
Ipswich v Lincoln 16,027 30,311 14,284
Millwall v Bournemouth 9,471 20,146 10,675
Norwich v Southampton 12,479 27,224 14,745
QPR V Blackburn 7,482 18,489 11,007
Rotherham v Oxford 5,618 12,021 6,403
Stoke v Wolves 21,479 27,740 6,261
Sunderland v Burnley 17,632 48,707 31,075
Sutton v AFC Wimbledon 5,013 5,013 0
Watford v Burton Albion 13,270 21,500 8,230
WBA V Derby 25,288 26,850 1,562
Wigan v Notts Forest 5,163 25,023 19,860
Wycombe v Stourbridge 6,312 10,300 3,988
PNE v Arsenal 22,185 23,408 1,223
Cardiff v Fulham 5,199 33,280 28,081
Liverpool v Plymouth 52,692 54,074 1,382
Chelsea v Peterborough 41,003 41,798 795
Middlesbrough v Sheff Wed 23,661 34,988 11,327
Spurs v Villa 31,182 36,284 5,102
Cambridge v Leeds 7,973 8,127 154

cardiff-city-v-fulham-fa-cup

The 3rd round should always be viewed as an opportunity, not just by the clubs involved but by the FA as a whole. We continuously hear about grass roots football and how we need to attract new coaches, home grown players etc. How about making sure all stadiums are full to the brim for this special weekend? Work with the clubs to utilise the millions of pounds available, make the day cheaper and tempt those who don’t go to the game. Entice literally 100’s of 1000’s of new supporters to our beautiful game!

Sadly the competition is in need of a boost, it is not taken seriously by most until the latter stages and managers seem grateful to go out giving them fortnight breaks later in the season. Are the likes of Bournemouth, Stoke and Liverpool fans telling us that they don’t want the memories that a day out at Wembley brings or is it all simply about finishing 17th or above?

The FA need to take drastic action to revamp a competition that is on life support. They recently signed a vastly improved sponsorship deal for £820m spread over 6 seasons, the prize fund from qualifying rounds to eventual winners is just £25m…we think it’s time we saw a breakdown of the remaining yearly total of £111m.

Terrible attitudes have outshone the world’s oldest association football competition and it’s just not right.

Wycombe vs Stourbridge image is sourced from; www.latetacklemagazine.com
Empty seats at FA Cup image is sourced from; www.walesonline.co.uk

Gary Rowett – A Shocking Sacking!

We all know that in modern football the shelf life of a manager is a short one, a couple of bad results and you’re pleading for your job but when you do a tremendous one, you do not expect to be lining up down the Job Centre.

This is exactly what has happened to Gary Rowett at Birmingham City in the past week.

His services were deemed surplus to requirements on Wednesday and he was immediately replaced with former Chelsea man, Gianfranco Zola.

The news broke shortly after lunchtime and was met with disbelief by most, The Blues are outside of the Championship Play-Off places on goal difference and had just beaten Ipswich 2-1 the previous evening.

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Sadly Rowett’s dismissal is everything that is wrong with the game today. A club financed by foreign money, in this case Chinese backing, has decided that they want to be able to market the club.

They clearly didn’t see the Bromsgrove man as “celebrity enough”, who cares how good he actually is or has been though right!? I mean he is no lovable Italian with 35 international caps is he. Zola, however – has managerial failures on his CV, the former defender has nothing but glowing success.

Birmingham had just been beaten 8-0 by Bournemouth in 2014 when Rowett was appointed to a club 2nd bottom of The Championship, in just over 2 years and having spent just an estimated £4m he has turned them into top half challengers. Let’s remember this season has “big clubs” Newcastle and Villa for the league’s mainstays to contend with.

Rowett’s Record:-

Played – 106

Win’s – 32          Draws – 32          Losses – 32          Win % – 39.6

He leaves the club in a far more stable position in the table whilst attracting the fans that Carson Yeung reign had driven away. The fans are understandably upset by the way in which their new board has behaved but the “supporting your club regardless” mentality will take over and they will get right behind their new man Zola.

There is no doubt that Rowett will be back in the game soon and he appears to have all the right attributes to manage at the highest level, let’s hope his next club treat him with the respect he deserves. It also needs to be said that the 42 year old turned down advances from other clubs whilst in the job at St Andrews, this is where loyalty gets you, terrible.

The FA and LMA should all be stepping in and distancing themselves from assisting Birmingham City in any future endeavours whilst under the current ownership. Fit and proper owners who know, football people…definitely not!

Sorry Birmingham City fans but any football purists now want to see you lose and your new owners to be taught an expensive lesson.

Wayne Rooney – Time for Fan Reflection

Poor old Wayne Rooney, he appears to be taking the brunt of everyone’s frustrations and anger at the moment:-

  • Man Utd’s stuttering start to the season = Wayne Rooney
  • Paul Pogba’s poor form = Wayne Rooney
  • England failing at the Euros = Wayne Rooney
  • Current England failings = Wayne Rooney
  • Global Warming = Wayne Rooney

Obviously we kid with the last one but we’re sure “Wazza” wouldn’t be surprised to be questioned about it in an upcoming press conference if they needed someone to blame.

The fact of the matter is simple…Wayne Rooney is currently out of form and quite rightly has been taken out of the starting 11 by responsible managers for club and country. This is something which can and does happen to most players throughout their careers, but most other footballers do not have the numbers to back up their careers like the England captain.

Just have a look at his record:-

Club Season Apps Goals
Everton 2002 – 03 37 8
  2003 – 04 40 9
Man Utd 2004 – 05 43 17
  2005 – 06 48 19
  2006 -07 55 23
  2007 – 08 43 18
  2008 – 09 49 20
  2009 – 10 44 34
  2010 – 11 40 16
  2011 – 12 43 34
  2012 – 13 37 16
  2013 – 14 40 19
  2014 – 15 37 14
  2015 – 16 41 15
England 2003 – Present 118 53
Total 715 315

14 trophies lifted and multiple “Player of the Year” awards to also add to his medal collection.

Rooney doesn’t complete the team sheet at Old Trafford or Wembley, the Manager does. Not just one manager either. A total of 11 of managers (4 at club level, with Moyes x 2 and 7 at International) have been quick enough to write his name down and hand it to the officials on hundreds of occasions. Rooney goes out on the pitch as instructed to, just as he has sat on the bench in recent weeks like the model pro he has matured into.

He is about to turn 31 but he has plenty left to offer both on and off the pitch, yes there is work to do on his part. A young man who has been in the spotlight ever since bending a beauty past David Seaman way back in 2002 deserves to be cut a bit of slack.

A man who has won everything at club level as well as becoming  England’s most capped outfield player and top goal-scorer, Wayne Rooney is a player that England and Man Utd fans may never see again in their lifetimes.

It’s time to support the man who you have depended on for so many years, acknowledging just how good he has been along the way.

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Wayne Rooney image sourced from; www.dailyexpress.co.uk

Liverpool FC – Title Contenders?

They came agonisingly close a couple of seasons ago but by allowing mistakes in their remaining games they opened the door for Man City to sneak in and steal what look to be deservedly theirs.

Gerrard’s now infamous slip and 10 unbelievable minutes at Selhurst Park ultimately cost the Merseyside club their 1st league triumph since 89-90. It’s been far too long for a club the stature of Liverpool to go without winning the highest domestic honour but this season they look capable of ending decades of hurt.

The start they have made has been impressive…16 points from 21. Away wins at Arsenal and Chelsea make statements throughout a season but to achieve both so early lays down an impressive marker. Throw in a hammering of Champions Leicester, a reasonable point at Spurs and it almost makes you forget about the early Burnley ambush at Turf Moor. Whilst most sides will drop unexpected points, it is these “Burnley-type” results that Klopp will be keen to eradicate, something which looked to be lesson learnt at Swansea recently.

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Last Saturday the animated German Manager celebrated his 1st year at Anfield, he can look back on a part-season that included appearances in the Capital One and Europa League Finals after inheriting a side from Brendan Rodgers and can claim he overachieved. Now with a summer transfer window under his belt it is clear that he has identified players and strengthened from back to front…

Loris Karius is over his early injury and is challenging Mignolet for the No1 jersey with 39 year old Manninger providing the experienced back up.

The shrewd acquisitions of Matip and Klavan have added depth and steel to the heart of the defence, you have to say that they are desperate for an out and out left back though. Milner has more than proved his worth by filing in, but a naturally left footed player would add additional balance to the starting XI. Hull City and Scotland’s Andy Robertson (recently linked) could be the answer for a reasonable price.

Midfield has seen the arrival of Gigi Wijnaldum from Newcastle for an inflated fee but he seems to be more at home on Merseyside than he did further north where he suffered relegation. The emergence of Kevin Stewart is a pleasing sight and the Kop are finally seeing the best of Lallana. Jordan Henderson is taking the captaincy role for both club and country, just like his idolised predecessor.

Mane, Coutinho and Firmino are a frightening trio for any defence to deal with and the fact that they are currently keeping a fit Daniel Sturridge out of the team is the highest praise they can be given.

An overall transfer spend of £62m was offset by recouping around £75m with the departures of Benteke, Ibe, Allen and perhaps most importantly Mario Balotelli. The fees and the times were right for these players to move on.

Just like the squad the Main Stand has been addressed. A new 3rd tier increases the capacity and takes the ground to a new level.  More supporters = more noise (hopefully positive). Just like Parkhead it is something special hearing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” bellowing out just before kick-off.

No European football provides a massive advantage, no long midweek journeys leading to disrupted weekend kick off times. The Champions League is where club belongS, however they should be using the dramatically reduced schedule of games to steal a march on the rest of the Premier League.

Speaking of domestic opponents…Next up are old rivals Manchester United on Monday night, a win would take them 6 points clear of Mourinho’s men. A game which needs no introduction and often meets expectations, if Klopp’s XI can shake off the rustiness of the international break then they should be aiming to make a further statement of intent in front of the watching World.

The Manager is in place, the squad is well-balanced, the books are showing positive numbers and the ground has finally gone under some re-development. It’s an exciting time if you’re a Liverpool fan, a time where it must be difficult to stop envisaging another prolonged period of success on the horizon.

The joint top scorers in the division still have work to do but from what they have shown already this season there is no reason why they can’t hold aloft that much sought after and long overdue trophy come May, football needs a serially competitive Liverpool side and it looks like we may just have one again.

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Liverpool vs Chelsea image sourced from www.football365.com
Liverpool fans image sourced from www.skysports.com

Mark Warburton – A Job too Big

The honeymoon is over for Mark Warburton at Rangers FC. The job is bigger than most people and it is becoming increasingly clear that the 54 year old Englishman is out of his depth in the hot seat of one of the most high profile clubs in Europe.

When he and Davie Weir were recruited after their questionable departure from Brentford it was seen as somewhat of a coup, a Managerial team who had led The Bees to their highest ever finish of 5th in The SkyBet Championship.

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Warburton comes across as a confident and slightly arrogant man, but he is now finding out why so many of his Old Firm predecessors have failed…The Glasgow goldfish bowl is a pressure cooker!

Yes he has the Scottish Championship title and Petrofac Cup to his name from his full season in charge, however – these were the least the club expected from the 2015/16 season given the failure to retake their place in the SPL at the 1st time of asking in the previous year.

7 games into his 1st season managing in a top flight league and he is finding the going tough. A mere 9 points from 21 is not something which you associate with a domestic superpower like the Ibrox side. Currently they sit in 7th place, 7 points behind Celtic – who also have a game in hand against the current basement side Partick Thistle.

Draws against Hamilton, Ross County and a 10 man Kilmarnock are bad enough, but throw in defeats against Aberdeen and a 5-1 hammering from Celtic, without Griffiths and you have some serious questions to answer north of the border. Over the course of a season these results raise questions, but in September it should leave his position untenable.

In fact, he is currently 3 points worse off than Paul Le Guen’s side in the 06-07 season. The Frenchman was the club’s shortest serving manager lasting just 8 months.

Pre-season recruitment has brought Warburton’s scouting into the spotlight. The wages being spent on the additions of Barton, Kranjcar, Hill, Senderos and Gilks could be put to better use. Whilst the near £3m spend on Garner, Dodoo and the under-used Jordan Rossiter are not proving value for money. You’d have thought that given recent sanctions the Rangers Board many have learned lessons in frittering away money, perhaps not.

Joey Barton has been paid £80,000 during a 4 weeks suspension and left him with plenty of time to promote his new book, further calling into question Warburton’s role as chief. A manager cannot be undermined by someone such as Barton and anything other than the tearing up of Joey’s 2 year deal will further weaken his position. Kenny Miller is fresh from an overnight stay in the slammer which doesn’t help his cause either.

Perhaps more importantly Mark Warburton just does NOT UNDERSTAND the Old Firm and what it means. Quotes such as “no major gulf, ”nobody died” and his amazement at the negativity at the result will not bode well with the diehard fans. He certainly shouldn’t have looked to the English top 4 loving TalkSport for inspiration as he did after the Killie draw. Note to all fans outside of the EPL… TalkSport, talk repeated nonsense.

There is also no sympathy from any neutral in Scotland that John Beaton awarded a decision against The ‘Gers at the weekend. Sorry Mark but your over reaction raises nothing but smiles and sniggers, god knows every other team has had it against them 10 times worse and in much bigger games.

Celtic are certainties to make it 6 titles on the spin this season and you’d struggle to make a plausible argument against them equalling the record of 9 in a row. That could quite easily become 10, 15 or 20 given how far away Rangers are. The likes of Hearts and Aberdeen are getting closer and they are now Celtic’s main rivals for domestic honours, not their city neighbours.

His “magic hat” has slipped, his team are in the bottom half of the SPL and the inevitable discontent from the terraces has begun…

Mark Warburton your time should be coming to an end because the job is just too big for you!

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First Mark Warburton image sourced from; www.skysports.com
Second Mark Warburton image sourced from; www.dailyrecord.co.uk