Russia 2018 – The Final Showdown

32 nations arrived in Russia last month to contest the 2018 World Cup, we’ve seen some surprises amongst the shocks and now we’re left with just two nations, both desperate to get their hands on the Jules Rimet trophy.

Sunday in Moscow will see 1998 winners France, take 1998 3rd placed Croatia, in what has turned out to be an all European final. Somewhat hammering home the recent dominance to those in South America.

Image result for france vs croatia

France under Didier Deschamps appear to have put the disappointment Euro 2016 behind them by making a 2nd successive major final (just as they did back in 98 & 00) and will start the game as favourites given their navigated route and the players at their disposal. A magnificent 5th final in 20 years is something special, just like this French team.

Deschamps himself has the chance to add his name to an exclusive list – by winning the World Cup as both player and manager, only 2 others have achieved this magnificent feat before. All this, after calls for him to go during the qualification stage after a home draw with Luxembourg.

Other than a drab draw with Denmark in the last group game, Les Bleus have been impressive and deserve their final berth given the level of opposition that they’ve seen off. The successes over Belgium, Uruguay and Argentina in the knockout stages have been impressive.

With Lloris, Varane, Kante and Griezmann the spin of the side is remarkably strong and they’ll be looking to rid themselves of a disappointing extra time defeat to Portugal in the Euros.

Croatia have made the final by whatever means possible, all 3 knockout games have required settling out with the originally scheduled 90mins. Penalty defeats of Denmark and Russia were followed by a Mandzukic winner deep into extra time vs England.

Appearing in their 1st final it will be up to the likes Modric and Rakitic to impose themselves in the midfield to give the Croats any chance.

Coach Zlatko Dalic only took the post last October following the sacking of Ante Cacic, upon arriving, Dalic announced that he would only remain head coach if Croatia qualified for the tournament. Safe to say he could potentially have a job for life should Sunday’s game swing in their favour.

Past meetings

  • July 8, 1998 FRANCE WON 2-1 (1998 World Cup)
  • November 13, 1999 FRANCE WON 3-0 (International Friendly)
  • May 28, 2000 FRANCE WON 2-0 (International Friendly)
  • June 17, 2004 DRAW 2-2 (Euro 2004)
  • March 29, 2011 DRAW 0-0 (International Friendly)

History will point to a straight forward victory and a 2nd title for France and we don’t disagree with what the stats show.

We are predicting a comfortable 3-1 win for the French in a game that will prove a step too far for Croatia.

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All the best to both nations, let’s hope for a fitting final for what has been a great tournament.

France v Croatia Image Sourced From; www.thetelegraph.co.uk/world-cup
Russia 2018 Trophy Image Sourced From; www.theweek.co.uk

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Russia 2018 – The World is Waiting

The wait is almost over, in just a few days World Cup 2018 will kick off with host nation Russia entertaining Saudi Arabia with the eyes of the other 30 competing countries watching on awaiting their chance to lay down an early marker in the competition.

We’ve looked through the squads, the stats and can provide our tips for the tournament.

Winners

For us it’s proving very difficult to look past Brazil, the 5 time winners boast Neymar, Firmino and Coutinho among their attacking threat. A favourable group draw and their tournament experience will stand them in good stead in Russia.

A tricky qualification was navigated with ease, Tite’s men finished 10, 13 and 14 points ahead of nearest challengers Uruguay, Argentina and Columbia respectively.

Despite them being prone to a big stage wobble in recent times (defeats to France, Holland and the famous 7-1 against Germany) we are backing the South Americans to wrestle back a trophy last won by them in 2002 and end the recent European dominance.

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Dark Horses

It seems like an obvious choice and maybe not even a dark horse shout but the Belgians look in terrifying shape.

A starting XI with a spine of Courtouis, Vertonghen, De Bruyne, Hazard and Lukaku will make any opposition re-evaluate their tactics.

Unbeaten in qualification with 28 points from 30, a record only bettered by current World Champions Germany and scoring a tasty 43 goals over the 10 games proves they are in great form.

A golden generation expected to impress and justify their world ranking of 3.

The only downside for us is the manager. It’s hard to imagine a footballing world where Roberto Martinez can add a Jules Rimet trophy win to his CV.

Belguim-Team

1st Plane Home

Now whilst they may not necessarily need a plane Russia is such a vast country that a lot of players may be taking long trips home after just the 1st week of their own competition.

Injuries mean that CSKA defender Viktor Vasin and key man Zenit St Petersburg’s Aleksandr Kokorin miss out. A late call up for a 39 year old Ignashevich indicate their struggles.

You’d fancy Uruguay to top Group A leaving 2nd place to be fought out by the hosts, an unknown Saudi side and a Salah inspired Egypt. The latter being our picks to sneak into the knockout rounds.

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Surprise Package

Any team that comes through South American qualifying cannot be underestimated. Add into this a victory over the French back in March and you have a side that could surprise and go a long way in this World Cup.

Columbia are the side we are talking about.

Their recently announced squad are littered with players from Munich, Milan and Barca.

James and Falcao will lead Los Cafeteros but will have the likes of Carlos Bacca, Davinson Sanchez and Juan Cuadrado backing them up, not to mention their wild fanbase!

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Top Goalscorer

We feel England could be coming home with a trophy this time around, Harry Kane is in with a great chance of returning with the golden boot to make up for losing his PL crown to Mo Salah.

England should progress through the group with a game to spare and you wouldn’t bet against Kane being on the scoresheet against both Panama and Tunisia.

Goals against the lesser opposition should rid the three lions of any nerves and lead them into the last 16 with a striker bang in form.

Captain Kane could notch 5-7 with relative ease over in Russia.

England v Turkey - International Friendly

Players Destined for the Post Tournament Move

We’ve picked out three to watch throughout the duration of the competition that appear destined for bigger things within the game.

Timo Werner – Germany

The young striker is currently starring for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.

In the Germany squad and whilst he may not feature prominently he’ll provide a good option from the bench. A potential replacement for Lewandowski should he leave Bayern as expected.

Leander Dendoncker – Belgium

One of the lesser mentioned Belgian galacticos is the Anderlecht defensive midfielder. Just the 4 caps to his name currently but making the cut ahead of the likes of Nainggolan shows a lot of faith.

Don’t be surprised to see top 10 PL side make a bid in August.

Kahraba – Egypt

Despite the reports Egypt are more than a one man team.

Kahraba is the nickname of 23-year-old winger Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim, who is currently on loan at Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad from Egyptian giants Zamalek. In Arabic, Kahraba means electricity. He is a pacey direct winger and with the groups his nation find themselves in he could prove a vital part in navigating the Egyptians through to the knockout rounds.

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The stadiums are built, the friendlies are over and the stage is well and truly set.

We’re all hoping for a footballing summer to remember from Eastern Europe.

The world is waiting, World Cup 2018, let’s see what you’ve got!

The Brazil 2018 team image is sourced from; www.sportsbible.co.uk/football
The Belguim 2018 team image is sourced from; www.vivaonnews.com
The Russia flag image is sourced from; www.depositphotos.com
The Columbia fans image is sourced from; www.panamericaneworld.com
Harry Kane image is sourced from; www.metro.co.uk
Timo Werner image is sourced from; www.bundesliga.com

York City – The Demise of the Minstermen

On a chilly Tuesday North West evening, a near 400 strong York City diehards made the journey along the M62 to Manchester in the hope of seeing their side grab a vital 3 points in their search for a Play Off place in National League North.

What they got was an abject performance and a 1-0 defeat at the hands of FC United virtually confining them to another season in English football’s 6th tier.

This, just days after the 1-0 defeat to 10 man Gainsborough Trinity, a result which has been described as the worst in the clubs recent history.

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The Minstermen had returned to the football league in 2012 after an eight year absence however back-to-back relegations have left them with league football being nothing other than a distant memory.

When departing League Two in the 2015/16 season they were under the charge of former Partick Thistle and Dundee United Manager Jackie McNamara. Prior to his dismissal at Tannadice, he had led the SPL club to back-to-back Cup Finals so appeared a solid choice.

After the drop and a record showing just 8 wins from 48 games, it was announced that the former Scotland right back would leave his position. However he would continue in a caretaker capacity until a successor was found. Interesting we hear you say, well just hold that thought….

Once former Manager Gary Mills was re-appointed, McNamara didn’t leave the club as originally planned. He moved upstairs and took on the role of Chief Executive.

How? Why? What?

Martin Gray is now the man in the dugout and will be tasked with leading York into next season despite the poor end to this one. The club’s Chairman Jason Mcgill and the afore mentioned McNamara have recently left the club with immediate effect leaving a new board room set up in place.

The new regime have a “challenging” campaign and “mammoth task” ahead of them according to York’s Financial Management Consultant Peter Rookes. The most recent accounts have revealed a £500k loss. Gray has added that he is happy to see an end to “open cheque book” recruitment and is urging the board to pay salaries more in line with sixth tier standards.

With ex-league players such as Aiden Connolly, Josh Low, Michael Rankine and big Jon Parkin in their ranks, York do have all the ingredients to start the painful climb back up the pyramid. They only have themselves to blame for currently mixing it with the likes of Brackley and Curzon Ashton.

On a brighter note, work has started on their new home. An 8,000 all seater community stadium at Monks Cross will see football and rugby league combine to strut their stuff at the start of the 2019/20 season. Surely the club will be determined to depart Bootham Cresent on a high and head into their new home in a higher division?

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The club is up for sale with interested parties having only a few days left to declare an interest. Hopefully better times ahead for those 400+ that made the long journey home after trudging away from FC United last week.

York City Players Image Sourced From; www.yorkpress.co.uk/sport
York City Monks Cross Image Sourced From; www.thenonleaguefootballpaper.com

Managers – Are the casualties being looked after?

The latest high profile manager to go, Alan Pardew has lost his job as manager at West Brom. He leaves the baggies a country mile from safety having guided them to just one solitary victory under his charge.

Rumours are that Pardew is departing with a £500k golden handshake for his “efforts” and this is not the 1st time that he, like many others, will have received a huge pay out for a performance deemed underwhelming by a board of directors.

This of course, is at the highest level and with a guaranteed opportunity at another job in a few months’ time. But what about lower down the chain?

Last week we saw the devastating news announced about former Crawley Town Manager Dermot Drummy’s death back in November 17.

An inquest has concluded that the former Chelsea youth coach had taken his own life.

Drummy, 56 had been seeking counselling for his “low mood” after parting company with the League Two side just a few months prior.

Now let’s be honest being dismissed at this level is totally different to the riches of the PL or the top end of the Championship for that matter.

Guys like Drummy have been hard working coaches, craving a shot at being a number one and just because it doesn’t work out doesn’t make them poor managers. They are dealing with a totally different set of circumstances that a lot with similar job specs will never understand.

Take a look at this extract from a local journalist following the sacking:-

“The appointment of Drummy, whose background was as a vastly experienced development coach, was an interesting one, not least in terms of the style of football he had pledged to instil.

“The early signs were promising, with the club reaching fifth place by mid-October and fans clearly appreciative of the brand of football on offer.”

A glowing reference for a man just weeks into a role and this story got us thinking, what becomes of some of the under the radar sackings lower down the divisions and what becomes of some of the managers. Just how are they looked after? As this clearly shows that Drummy slipped through the net.

A staggering 45 managers in the professional leagues in England have lost their jobs this season. A near 50% sack rate and we’re yet to reach the business end where key promotions, relegations and ultimately fates are decided.

The LMA is supposed to play a key role in looking after its members, now they do have a “Mental Health” awareness section… Let’s just inform you that it is situated in the 4th category and the 7th subject down on their list. They do however provide a managerial performance table right there on the homepage. A proper own goal from where we’re sitting!

Some other cases include that of Martin Ling and Neil Lennon both of whom have admitted to having their own personal battles, It also looks like we’ll never know just what triggered Gary Speed’s decision on that terrible day.

With all the money in the game we love, every available penny should go towards protecting the people that actually make the game what it is.

They should be rewarded for their services and utilised accordingly even if that is providing local level coaching to grass roots and their salaries are covered by governing bodies.

We don’t want to be reading more stories like the tragic one of Dermot Drummy.

RIP

Dermot-Drummy-Image

Dermot Drummy Image Sourced From; www.crawleynews24.co.uk

 

Steve Clarke – A Job Well Done!

He’s spent years being a sought-after number 2 and decided to take a gamble in stepping into the dugout up at Kilmarnock FC.

The former Scotland defender has had stints as an Assistant at clubs such as Chelsea (Under Mourinho), Newcastle (Under Gullit) and Liverpool (Under Dalglish) before embarking on managerial positions at the blue and white of both West Brom and Reading.

During his managerial reigns he guided The Baggies to their highest-ever finish of 8th in the EPL, setting club records for wins (14) and points (48) in a top flight season.

He also took Reading to their first FA Cup Semi-Final for 88 years.

After a year out of football, Clarke replaced Lee McCulloch back in October 2017 and with the club lying bottom of the table, avoiding relegation was the clear objective.

The recent 1-0 victory at Ibrox has guaranteed the Ayrshire side a place in the Scottish Premiership’s top 6 heading into the much maligned split in a couple of weeks.

As most will have limited knowledge of the Scottish game, his record against the Old Firm this season will provide an indication of just how well he’s done:-

Vs Celtic – Played 2 – Won 1 – Drawn 1

Vs Rangers – Played 3 – Won 2 – Drawn 1

Undefeated in 5 games whilst winning 3, virtually unheard of given the gulf involved.

His overall record stands as played 24, won 12 and lost just 3. An amazing turnaround in Killie’s season.

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Clarke has succeeded in turning things around at Rugby Park by instilling some basics. He’s ensured that they are fitter, focused and has added quality whilst playing to his existing squad’s strengths.

On six occasions in the 19 league games under Clarke’s management, they have come from behind to earn points. That’s 10 points from losing positions. It seems Clarke has instilled a ‘play the full 90 minutes’ attitude.

They’ve also scored in every game bar two under Clarke. The last time they did not net was in November against Dundee.

Kris Boyd only had two league goals under the previous regime, 12 have been added to his league tally earning him a contract extension. He’s aided in the quest to hit the net by the increasingly impressive Jordan Jones.

Clarke’s reputation, has allowed him to make unlikely acquisitions. Youssouf Mulumbu is the standout and Aston Villa loanee, Aaron Tshibola, is also beginning to contribute.

Brendan Rodgers will quite rightly receive the majority of plaudits for what looks certain to be another domestic sweep of the 3 trophies, however it is Clarke, for us that has done the best job in Scotland’s top league this season.

Graeme Murty is currently at the helm of Rangers until the summer but it is difficult to see him carrying on at the club in his current capacity, he just isn’t a long-term solution for a club of that size.

Do not be surprised to see the Ibrox hierarchy attempt to lure Steve Clarke to be the next man to claw back Celtic’s city dominance.

Steve Clark Image Sourced From; www.kilmarnockfc.co.uk

West Ham United – The Bubbles are Bursting!

They stayed in the Premier League when it was most important to, they had the new stadium on the horizon and they even had Payet….Then it all started to go horribly wrong for those once happy hammers.

Now we are left to pour over the ridiculous images that Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Burnley.

Club captain Mark Noble tackling a supporter to the ground, another invading the pitch in an attempt to impale a cleverly gained corner flag into the centre circle and all this whilst various fans decided to knock lumps out of each other.

As Chris Wood notched his late double, crowds gathered to vent their anger towards the Director’s box, objects were thrown forcing Messer’s Gold & Sullivan to head for cover. One of the photos of the weekend saw a lonely Sir Trevor Brooking seemingly facing the reality in which he was surrounded by. You just know that he felt their pain and wouldn’t have dreamt of walking away.

Noble-West-Ham-vs-Burnley

Earlier this season saw a decision made to replace an initially popular Bilic with an immediately unpopular David Moyes. His post-Everton work leaves a lot to be desired and with an initial 6 month deal on the table, it was “make or break” for both the Scot and the board of the London Stadium.

Did we also mention that the Manager has three Assistants? Alan Irive, Billy McKinlay and Stuart Pearce.

So now let’s just have a look over some of their financial dealings…

A measly £2.5m in rent for a brand new 60,000 seater stadium – however there are add on’s if they win the Champions League, FA Cup or finish in the top 5 of the division. So to sum up, a grand total of £2.5m will be paid per year! Unless they suffer relegation then it will be halved to £1.25m. Seriously, flats in the same city are sold for more!

The Hammers do not have to pay for a range of things including policing, stewarding, goalposts, corner flags, cleaners and turnstile operators. Heating and lighting costs will also be covered by the stadium Managers.

Moving onto transfers since the demolition on the good old Boleyn ground or Upton Park if you prefer and you’ll see a good level of frugality:-

Notable Players In Reported Fee Notable Players Out Reported Fee
Andre Ayew £20m James Tomkins £10m
Arthur Masuaku £6m Dimitri Payet £25m
Jose Fonte £8m Darren Randolph £5m
Robert Snodgrass £10m Ashley Fletcher £6m
Marko Arnautovic £20m Sofiane Feghouli £4m
Javier Hernandez £16m Diafra Sakho £8m
Jordan Hugill £9m Andre Ayew £20m

A net spend of just £11m?! An unacceptable figure I think most PL fans would agree, especially when you take into account the non-existent layout for the purpose built Olympic venue they now call home.

Premier League - Watford vs West Ham United

As the new terrace chant goes “so f**k off Gold & Sully, where’s our f*****g money, it’s all lies, lies, lies.”

The start of 2018 has seen a them struggle past League One Shrewsbury in the FA Cup before being dumped out by similar opposition in the form of Wigan.

League-wise, 4 defeats from the last 5 coupled with the afore mentioned Burnley defeat leave them looking over their shoulder from their current Premiership position of 16th and leaves them hovering precariously just above the dotted line.

March has been a disaster thus far and was always going to be a make or break month with 6 pointer after 6 pointer. 3 homes and just the solitary away with 90min battles against the likes of Southampton will ultimately decide their 2017/18 fate.

The recent arrival of an ageing Patrice Evra will hardly send the fans into hysteria. If the disgraced former Marseille man and Man City recruit Pablo Zabaleta start a game together, the combined age of the full backs will be 69! The likes of Salah, Sanchez and Sane will destroy them down the lines.

Can they avoid the drop? Will Moyes still be in place for the new season? Will they get the fans back on side?

So many questions and the 3 owners need to look at changing their entire philosophy or Baroness Brady may just be hearing some words to which she is all too familiar with – in the shape of “you’re fired!”

Mark Noble image is sourced from; www.talksport.com
West Ham board image is sourced from; www.indianexpress.com

Scotland Manager – A Nation Awaits, A Nation Expects

Russia 2018 was supposed to be “This Time.” A slogan that the Scottish Football Association decided was suitable for the most recent qualifying campaign, they failed. So who knows what the PR team will come up with for Euro 2020? “Please god! This time, c’mon now it’s our turn” maybe?

Less than a week after the usual high expectation and coming up heartbreakingly short ,the SFA have decide to part company with Gordon Strachan.

There were no excuses because he didn’t have any left to give. Despite the supporting words of other fellow managers in the recent days, Strachan had used up all his lives and had to go.

The 2-2 draw in Slovenia saw the nation miss out on a World Cup playoff place by virtue of goal difference to Slovakia. Of course, the damage was not done in Ljubljana, but earlier in a campaign that had started so poorly.

His departure on the back of a phenomenal 2017 will at least see the Scots climb the world rankings to a respectable position of 29th.

Gordon-Strachan-Image

After nearly 5 years at the helm, Strachan walks away with a win % of 47.5 from his 40 matches in charge. He has a decent record against what you would consider tournament nations, no defeats to the likes of Poland, ROI, Croatia and Denmark, however – like many before him, it was the disappointments of the Georgia’s and Lithuania’s that saw him come up short.

But who can become the first Scotland manager since Craig Brown to get the team over the line?

It is THE question that will preoccupy the minds of Alan McRae, Stuart Regan and other SFA board members, the supporters and the journalists but it’s fair to suggest that with the floundering reputations of those in high profile Hampden positions on the line, it will not be a quick appointment.

Going by the bookies it is a straight decision between David Moyes and recently appointed Interim Manager Malky MacKay for the Hampden hot seat. Most Scots will be dreading either of these men being given a chance. It doesn’t have to be a Scot, especially when the current choices are so poor. Allardyce has ruled himself out, Prandelli has thrown his hat into the ring and they are dreaming if they think they’ll be able to prise Michael O’Neill away from Northern Ireland.

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Scotland need to heed the word from their own national anthem. Flower of Scotland urges them to “be the nation again” and this is exactly what is required. All they have to do is look at other home nations and they’ll quickly realise they are somehow being left behind.

Northern Ireland have recently given international call-ups to players from clubs such as Linfield, Dunfermline, Shrewsbury, Doncaster Rovers and Wigan. In Slovenia, Scotland had the luxury of two Champions League players sitting on the bench.

Wales have a slightly more “premier league” XI than the others, and of course the talent of Gareth Bale to call upon. However a couple of injuries / suspensions and they too are scrambling for replacements.

Strachan’s last excuse was that of “genetics.”

Well Gordon, we’re sorry point this out but the Ireland’s are hardly picking from a freakish gene pool nor have they a single player of anything approaching world class…both O’Neill’s took their teams to the Euros and both have made the play-offs for Russia.

The wait for tens of thousands of Scots to board planes destined for a major tournament continues, 20 years without appearing in World Cups or European Championships is agonising to say the least. The next man has a reasonable squad capable, he just needs to find the right results at the right times.

Gordon Strachan image sourced from; www.thesun.co.uk/sports/football
David Moyles and Malkay Mackay image sourced from; www.thestandard.co.uk

The Old Firm – A Derby Like No Other

Saturday lunchtime in Glasgow’s west end, an eagerly anticipated, highly-charged football match is about to take place…Rangers vs Celtic!

This is box office, one of the fiercest rivalries across Europe and occasions like these are to be enjoyed despite any blood and thunder talking points that may arise.

Brendan Rodgers’ Hoops dominated last season as Rangers finished a staggering 39 points behind their rivals who could only manage third place in the Premiership. Even this early stage of the new season, a victory for Glasgow’s green and white would propel them to an 8 point advantage over their nearest and dearest.

Rangers will be keen for revenge after suffering double 5-1 league defeats and domestic cup semi-final disappointments last season.

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As always with games like this there are some key battles to be contested…

Ryan Jack vs Scott Brown will see a recent Ibrox recruit come up against the tried and tested Celtic Skipper. Brown is an underrated player and can run the game from start to finish with his unique “in your face” style. Jack will have to be at the very top of his game just to compete. No matter how the games pans out, this does have the makings of a battle.

Leigh Griffiths vs Alfredo Morelos will not be in direct competition until it comes to the scoresheets. Both have shown already this season that they know exactly where the net is. First goals in games like this often set the tone and prove crucial. Back one of these two men to provide their sides with the advantage as they test opposition defences for the remainder of the match. Morelos can score goals but his hold up play and movement also look exceptional. Griffiths has become Scotland’s talisman in recent months and with Moussa Dembele back to full fitness, he has even more reason make his mark in the big games.

Pedro Caixnha vs Brendan Rodgers whilst a contest, for us isn’t a close one. Rodgers has taken Celtic to a whole new level and his counterpart thinks his club are on a whole new level. His baffling comments about having “the best squad in Scotland” and that young substitute (Ross McCrorie) from the recent game with Partick Thistle will go onto be “one of the best centre halves in history” show that he is out of his depth at a club the size of Rangers.

Expect fireworks all over the park if recent games are anything to go by, with these 3 battles only playing a supporting role in the spectacle that is the Old Firm derby. Goals, noise and red cards are generally guaranteed and this season’s 1st meeting is likely be no different.  Who or what will create the talking point? Who will be the new El Hadji Diouf or fly into the hardest tackle causing a mass brawl? Scotland’s top and often controversial whistler Craig Thompson will have to earn his money covering the Ibrox turf.

The days of Rangers 9 in a row domination are long in the past and their fans can only dream of seeing players of the calibre of Gascoigne, Laudrup, Albertz and Van Bronckhorst pull on those blue jerseys again. They need to quickly come to terms that they are very much in the shadow of the record chasing “invincibles” that they share a city with.

56 games unbeaten and what chance is there of this astonishing run being ended this coming weekend? Slim to none in our opinion, whilst Rangers have improved with their foreign imports unfortunately for them…Celtic are arguably an even stronger side than they were last year!

Lee-Griffiths

The TV audience will be primed and ready as the game is beamed around the world – hopefully providing a further boost for the Scottish game after a recent international resurgence.

Perhaps unsurprisingly both sides have been kept apart in Thursday evening’s Betfred Cup Semi Final draw and so a potential Hampden Final is on the horizon in just a few weeks’ time. Until then we’ll have to make do with the impending high noon showdown.

Celtic vs Rangers 5-1 score image sourced from; www.thescotsman.com
Leigh Griffiths image sourced from; www.thedailyrecord.co.uk

A Super Sunday… Finally!

We spend all Summer waiting for that 1st competitive game and longing for those Sunday’s that provide quality football viewing.

Finally this weekend, after having to endure some the painful watches of Huddersfiled v Newcastle and Burnley v Palace we finally have a Sunday worthy of its Sky given “Super” title. The TV cameras will be placed at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea v Arsenal and Old Trafford for Man Utd v Everton with each game, in our opinion having potentially damning outcomes for some.

We’ll start with the 13:30 kick off, a London Derby, the Champions vs a club divided. Chelsea take on Arsenal in a week that has seen one club return to the Champions League and another taste life without. Arsenal couldn’t have wished for a tougher fixture at this time. After an opening day blip Conte’s men have reminded us all why they cannot be counted out of defending their title.

The Blues have moved swiftly to replace the sulking Costa with a deadly Alvaro Morata and with Hazard coming back to fitness they are back to last season’s title winning best. Kante has picked up where he left off and despite some negative transfer window comments, we believe that Chelsea have bought well and are an ever improving team under Conte.

Head up to North London and you’ll find an Arsenal in more disarray than ever, “Wenger in” has beaten “Wenger out” for at least the next 2 seasons and the Emirates takeover of Koln fans midweek shows just how uninterested their fans are. This could be the Gunners 3rd defeat at a stadium where they have lost the last 5 games, conceding 15 and scoring just 2.

Wenger needs to start with Lacazette and put some faith in his major Summer purchase. The rest of the side will remain as it has been for the last few seasons…the same! Arsenal are capable of a performance on their day, but for us that will not be Sunday and a victory over Bournemouth merely papered over the cracks for a week after defeats by Liverpool and Stoke.

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Up in the North West at 16:00, big spending Everton need a performance at the Theatre of Dreams after back-to-back 3-0 defeats to Spurs at Atalanta. The results nor performances will sit well with a board who have backed Ronald Koeman like no other Goodison boss before him. One key area they lack is up top having cashed in on Romelu Lukaku.  Whilst he may miss the occasional chance, the big Belgian is on fire for his new club. Don’t bet against a comfortable Man Utd victory with Lukaku bagging a couple against a Toffees side who are still gelling, but make no mistake they need to gel quickly to avoid an unthinkable mid to lower table finish with 10’s of millions spent.

Jose is having his 2nd season syndrome come to prominence again and you start to feel that Man Utd are becoming a force once again. Koeman’s 2nd season syndrome could end before May 2018 if he cannot find a winning formula with his purchases. A £45m purchase of Gylfi Sigurdsson will not fly under any football fans’ radar, build the team around the Icelandic international and show some signs of improvement or start flirting with European clubs before the P45 is delivered.

On a separate note…The Old Trafford return of Rooney will obviously be poignant. Love or loathe him, he deserves a rousing reception from the Stretford End for all that he did for them over the years.

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After Man City’s most recent demolition of a PL side, it’s over to their main title contenders to turn in equally impressive results.

Let’s hope that this particular “Super Sunday” can live up to our expectations, Happy viewing!

Morata and Lacazette image sourced from; www.skysports.com
Lukaku and Rooney image sourced from; www.skysports.com

Burnley vs. Palace – The end for De Boer?

You only have to look back to August 2016 to see that outgoing Ajax gaffer Frank De Boer was one of the most wanted men in Europe, look to the present day and immediately to Sunday 10th September 2017 and here he is staring the sack right in the face at Burnley’s Turf Moor.

Three defeats from his first three matches has seen him on the verge of being branded one of the Premier Leagues biggest managerial flops in living memory, certainly not the outcome he or Selhurst Chairman Steve Parish had in mind when he was announced just a few weeks ago.

Fresh from an ill-fated stint in charge during the recent re-branding of Inter Milan he was considered a coup for Palace, rightly so.

A glorious playing career covering some of Europe’s top clubs at the time including spells at Barca, Galatasary and Rangers (the Champions League years and not the league visits to Peterhead).

He was seemingly destined for management and was given the opportunity at his boyhood club Ajax, where 4 titles in 6 seasons propelled him into the gaze of the continent.

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It’s so bad in London that it would appear anything other than a win at Burnley this weekend will see the former defender searching for yet another job but with an even further tarnished reputation.

The players are struggling to adapt to his favoured 3-5-2 system and we can hardly be surprised. For us Palace have to be one of the strangest squads in the division. Players that on their day can be dazzling but most weeks can be frustrating…That’s right Wilfred Zaha and Jason Puncheon we’re talking about you!

Add into the starting XI a post-Newcastle Cabaye, Multi-million pound left footers of Schlupp and Van Aanholt with a backup striker of Connor Wickham and you have an expensively assembled squad of confused proportions.

The Summer transfer window reflects poorly for Palace also, a couple of centre halves and fringe loans recruited from Chelsea and Man Utd would have hardly inspired the dressing room or fans, never mind a new gaffer.

Upon his arrival he proclaimed “I have my own type of coaching and style of playing. We want to be dominant when we can, but also dominate when we don’t have the ball.” Sorry Frank but you’re at the wrong club for that so perhaps this is all just wrong place, wrong time.

Should he be given more time? For us the simple answer is yes, without a shadow of a doubt. Crystal Palace are a club that are desperate to retain their status year on year and if they wish to just simply do that then fine. Get on the blower to Big Sam and give him anything he wants to come back. If you wish to provide your fans with a bit of pride season on season then keep a flourishing manager of the calibre you currently have and look to ship out the players who look to be downing tools because they cannot adapt to a new way of thinking. Guess what lads? You are highly paid professionals and if the gaffer asks you to play wing back and keep the ball on the deck then do so or get yourself up to West Brom with Tony Pulis (maybe we’re being harsh on the baggies but you get the point.)

After Swansea beat his side 2-0, De Boer complained his players lacked courage. “We have to show some balls,” they’ll certainly have to do that at Burnley. As we are all aware Turf Moor is a challenging away ground and with a Sean Dyche team that have made a promising start to the season, it’s not high on the list of places to go for a “must win” and in front of the TV cameras will add extra pressure.

With him being the Eagles eighth manager and just seven years…Is it Crystal clear that the Dutchman will be going?

De Boer image sourced from www.goal.com