Mark Hughes – Southampton Struggles

Blackburn Rovers, Man City, Fulham, QPR, Stoke City and now Southampton.

All of the mentioned clubs have taken the decision to employ Mark Hughes as their manager throughout the last fifteen years, it now appears that his time is up at his current club just like it has been at the previous five.

Last weekend’s 3-2 defeat to fellow strugglers Fulham – in what was dubbed and early season six pointer – did not go the way of the team from the south coast had hoped.

Now it looks an absolute certainty that the Welshman will be leaving St Mary’s before completing a calendar year.

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Appointed in March 2018 “Sparky” has overseen twenty-five matches winning just five, and perhaps more importantly losing twelve, a near 50% loss record. Not exactly that new manager bounce in form which most teams benefit from.

Just the solitary league win this season way back in September is bad enough, but the lack of goals is a problem that just isn’t being addressed. Ten goals in thirteen league games combined with a run of five league games without a goal shortly after their victory over Palace.

Last season Southampton escaped relegation by three points with one of the relegated sides being Stoke City, managed by Hughes for the majority of that 2017/18 season. The Saints got lucky and for some reason rewarded Hughes and his long trusted assistants Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki with long term contracts after initially appointing them until the end of that season.

As we enter December it is a month that really could decide whether they will give themselves a chance of safety or they end up in a total relegation dogfight.

Spurs, Arsenal, Man City and Man Utd are games you can’t see any points being collected despite the current form of those from Old Trafford.

Cardiff, Huddersfield and West Ham – now for us, this has to being a gain of nine precious points given their predicament.

It’s also worth saying that none of these games should be under the stewardship of their former striker, his time is simply up.

The decision making in previous seasons may be coming back to haunt the club this season as they simply couldn’t continue to assume that selling their top talent year after year was going to sustain a place in the top division, but that is a whole other story than that of Hughes and his failings.

Fantastic player no doubt, but a questionable manager who has more than enough chances and shouldn’t be seen in the top division again. It genuinely is time that we seem others given a chance rather than this usual “Premier League experience” appointment should a vacancy arise.

Mark Hughes image is sourced from; www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football

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Monaco – Jardim to Henry

Only a few months ago Leonardo Jardim was one of the most sought after coaches in Europe, now he has been replaced in his Monaco post by a managerial rookie in the shape of Thierry Henry.

Monaco were guilty of projecting this as a 2nd coming of a club legend but it is undoubtedly a gamble with the team currently sitting in the bottom three of Ligue 1, having amassed a measly 10 points from 14 games.

The French legend is finding life in the dugout a struggle, with just one domestic victory and having watched his side blown away in the Champions League group stages.

Jardim-Henry-Image

But to us it’s hardly fair to sack a man when you’ve effectively tied his hands and cashed in on the success without replacing what he has had taken from him.

Since Jardim’s appointment in 2014 he guided a resurgent Monaco to successive 3rd place finishes, before guiding the club to its 1st national championship in nearly two decades at the end of the 16/17 season. Since that title win in May of 2017 Jardim has seen the high profile sales of:-

  • Bernardo Silva & Benjamin Mendy – Man City
  • Tiemoue Bakayoko – Chelsea
  • Fabinho – Liverpool
  • Joao Moutinho – Wolves
  • Thomas Lemar – Atletico Madrid
  • Kylian Mbappe – PSG

How does a coach replace this £400m hole in a title winning squad? (Nacer Chadli wasn’t the answer).

Perhaps the dismissed 44yr old Venezuelan had merely lost his way and was scrambling to replace the outgoing quality.

27 players have walked through the entrance door since that title win, squads need strengthening immediately after any triumph but nearly 30 new players coupled with those departures?!

They are no stranger to highs and lows though it has to be said – Champions League Semi Finalists the season before last and now a certain relegation battle. Also a Champions League Final appearance in 2004 followed by subsequent relegation to Ligue 2 just seven years later.

Back to the present day and ahead of the game against fellow strugglers Caen, French Legend Henry has been quoted saying that he “assumes all responsibilities” for the current run of form. However, he has maybe stumbled upon a turning point thanks to Radamel Falcao’s winner at the weekend provided a welcome relief from draws or defeats.

The French League is undergoing a certain resurgence with strong sides coming from Marseille, Lyon, Lille and of course the powerhouse that is PSG.

Monaco will not want to be left behind and the managerial looks to be no more than a misjudged publicity stunt.

Whereas Henry will scuttle back to the Sky studios if this is not a success, could we see Jardim’s next destination be the PL? Even one day being scrutinised by his severely under qualified replacement!

Jardim and Henry image sourced from; www.marca.com

Julen Lopetegui – From World Cup to Nothing…

First of all let us just rewind the clock to June this year…

A feast of summer football is about to begin in Russia, the World Cup 2018 is upon us and the usual suspects are fancied to contest the latter stages of the biggest tournament in the game.

Spain, quite rightly – are tipped by many – due to their talent pool and their unbeaten run in qualification which saw them win all but one game, topping a group also containing Italy.

Having arrived in Russia for the tournament, it was announced that Lopetegui would take over as the Head Coach of Real Madrid on a three-year contract after the conclusion of Spain’s involvement at the World Cup.

The following day, he was dismissed from his job with the national team after the SFF stated it was unaware of the talks between one of its countries biggest clubs and Lopetegui.

Surprisingly Spain were eliminated by the host nation in the last 16, but this just left unanswered questions for the former Porto gaffer and a spotlight that turned out to be too bright in the dugout of the Santiago Bernabeu.

Fast forward just a matter of weeks and before the festive period is upon us – Julen Lopetegui has been dismissed as Manager of Real Madrid after a less than impressive, unacceptable start to life in the Spanish capital.

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Fair to say that the board didn’t hold back in their statement either “there is great disproportion between the quality of staff of Real Madrid”

Played 14 – Won 6 – Drawn 2 – Lost 6

To have lost as many as you have won whilst in charge of one of the world’s biggest clubs is cause for concern enough. However it is the manner of loss and against whom that has forced Florentino Perez to act accordingly.

UEFA Super Cup defeat to City rival Atletico followed by a stalemate against the same opponent in La Liga. A resounding 3-0 loss to Sevilla, back to back humiliations against Alaves and Levante with an unthinkable CSKA disaster in the UCL. Most recently, a 5-1 demolition at the hands of a Barcelona minus Messi was an embarrassment too far.

The 52-year-old will be “provisionally replaced” by ex-player Santiago Solari, coach of B team Castilla. But there is a twist that will need untangled and quickly…

Under Spanish regulations, an interim coach can be at the helm for a fortnight – but must be appointed officially after 15 days, or not at all.

Longer term, Former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is widely expected to replace the former goalkeeper and become Real’s 3rd manager this calendar year.

Following the surprise resignation of treble Champions League winner Zidane was always going to be a tough ask, but to replace him without a certain Cristiano Ronaldo in your side is even harder.

Lopetegui’s overriding error was that he did not make moves to replace the talisman nor seek assurances around his future before accepting the position. You’d have to suggest that Zizou knew what was on the horizon.

With his reputation damaged by his recent decisions both on and off the pitch, it will take a sensational recovery if Lopetegui has aspirations to remain a high level coach.

A shocking 2018 can’t end soon enough for the Spaniard, what a miserable few months he’s had.

Julen Lopetegui image sourced from www.standard.co.uk

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

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.

Brazil-Team.png

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.

Russia-Flag-Image

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!

Columbia-Fans-Image

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.

Timo-Werner-Image

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.

York-City-Players-Image

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?

York-Monks-Street-Stadium-Image

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.

Steve-Clark-Kilmarnock-Manager

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