Tag Archives: Sport Witness

All I Want For Christmas Is The Destruction and Annihilation of International Friendlies…

Originally posted on Sport Witness.

It’s been a long time coming has this post. It’s been brewing for a long, long time, and like a rather good gassy blow-out, it’s about to appear and make you all run like hell.

I’m going to talk international football.

For those of you still with me, thankyou. I know how dull it is, and that’s my point really. International football used to be the highlight of every footballer’s career, and the dream of every young boy up and down the land. Now it’s just an excuse for the mad nutters called ‘football fans’ to come and cause havoc, whilst the players don’t sing the national anthem and have a bit of time off from their club. There’s no dignity in internationals anymore.

And that’s why I’d like to see friendlies scrapped.

As a football fan, as I expect you are, I’m a firm believer in continuity. I like seeing my team play week in, week out – preferably on a Saturday afternoon, and midweek football is even better. I don’t like seeing us play one week, then not the next as Capello has decided to request a three-month friendly break with the whole of West Africa. It just seems pointless.

Calling it a ‘friendly’ is already the kiss of death – an excuse for the players to have a bit of a jolly on the pitch, and gain another cap for their brand-new ‘cap museum’ they’ve just built onto the back of their £46m 928-bedroom house. There’s no passion anymore, because it’s all too predictable.

I’m sure the majority of us could pick a typical England squad that Capello would choose on a regular basis. He supposedly rewards form and raw potential, but I’m yet to see a genuine choice in his squads that would pleasantly surprise me. And that annoys me a bit, to be honest with you.

We don’t need friendlies clogging up the footballing calendar. This season, we’ve already seen five England internationals played, causing three breaks to a regular league season. They’ll be a break at the end of February next year for another friendly, and I’ll be damned if we don’t see another one before Euro 2012, too.

International football as a whole is a bit of a joke, currently. Never mind FIFA and their ludicrous and lethargic manner, we’ve got our own problems closer to home. Players who have such big egos that playing for their country is just a chore. A manager who has already said he doesn’t wish to manage beyond next summer. A stadium riddled with debt that we need as many games there as possible. Club academies that develop world-class potential, and clubs that aren’t willing to use them enough. A lack of funding in grassroots football that is beginning to affect not just the short-term future of our football, but the long-term too.

We need to be encouraging healthy competition, and a drive and hunger instilled in every single player that represents their country. We shouldn’t be taking short, constant international breaks for friendlies. We should be calling for two fortnight breaks, one in the winter and one in the spring, for the three or four games each country plays during the season.

We should also be calling for a bi-annual tournament, between the years of the European Championships and the World Cup. That way, we’ll be looking at a competition every season, and specific rules should be installed in order to ensure players are given an opportunity at every level.

Until that point, however, we’ll just be stuck with this drab, dull, lifeless thing we call international football…

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? Follow me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309 – or find me on my own blog!

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F1 2016: Bigger, Slower, and Hated

Originally posted on Sport Witness.

In five years’ time, we will see a very different Formula 1 to the one we witness now. If the constant reports and speculation are to be believed, anyway.

Good ol’ Bernie is trying his very best to make F1 the sport of the globe – reaching out to every corner of our world in order to make the global audience as big as physically possible. It’s a very, very clever business model – one that has never been seen in this modern era of sport before. And a lot of sports around the world are following suit now, and tapping in to the ‘New World’, and more importantly, Asia.

F1, certainly in the UK, has grown nearly three-fold since the big re-brand and re-shuffle onto the BBC back in 2009. It’s an interesting concept to watch, as other countries around the world have also seen bigger audiences tuning in to watch the races, and the whole racing weekend. The leaps have been in Europe and western Asia, and this has been backed up by the increase in races and commercial ventures within these areas.

Nobody is really quite sure why, though. The introduction of KERS and the DRS system has allowed for an increase in overtaking, and the new tracks and races that have been brought in, with circuits designed by Hermann Tilke, have made Formula One racing much more exciting. I’m a recent convert myself to all this – and love every minute of the races. It’s so unpredictable.

Unless Vettel is leading from the front. Again.

But where will Formula One be in a few years’ time? Well, if you believe everything you read, we could have 30 cars on the grid, with 25 races on the calendar, with much smaller TV audiences. And it’s all for cash, too.

There is talk of Honda, BMW, and Toyota all making a comeback to the sport in the near future. The introduction of the slightly smaller, 1.6L turbo-charged V6 engines in 2014, with new technology and innovations to boot, could entice the three big engine manufacturers back to the sport. This would be great news – allowing for teams steeped in history to return to the grid, and race alongside the new, cost-effective teams, and making racing a little bit more interesting. But 30 cars setting off with the wave of the black-and-white flag could be absolute chaos.

The only conceivable way I can see it happening is to move towards a four-session qualifying. Six cars go out in the first session, and are not allowed to race in the weekend’s GP. A slight take on the 107% rule, re-introduced this season, but with a motive in order to get on that grid. None of this ‘steward’s discretion’ malarkey – what a waste of time that is.

This would still leave 24 cars racing in Sunday’s finale to the weekend, yet would still add a different dimension to the way the sport is run. However, we would still lose the same cars every single weekend if we’re not careful. As we’ve seen since the introduction of the new teams at the start of 2010, the six cars from these teams are always the first cars to be leaving qualifying. It gets a little tedious.

Bernie’s global conquest will continue, too. In 2012, we see the United States GP return, in Austin, Texas, and in 2013, there will be a second race, titled ‘Circuit of the Americas’, in New Jersey. 2014 will see the introduction of the Russian GP, in Sochi, near the Winter Olympics site, and there are whispers that we may see a South African GP, a Croatian GP, or even the Vietnamese GP. If all these races are submitted, without any leaving the calendar, the season would be 25 races long. That would make it the longest ever seen. And a very good one, as well.

There’s also all sorts of TV deals and media rights that are up for renewal. We saw earlier this year that Sky and the BBC have entered a joint venture, until 2018, to broadcast the races together. Sky will broadcast all three practices, qualifying and the race, whilst the BBC will have the rights to broadcast 10 of the season’s races, with highlights for the remainder. This has been seen as the way of making F1 even more commercially viable than it is currently, but has jeopardised the fans’ perception of how they view Formula One.

The movement to pay-per-view will save the BBC around £25m – a contributing factor to the £640m savings they will be making by 2016. However, the chemistry seen between Jake Humphrey, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard, alongside the commentary of Martin Brundle, is second-to-none. It is no wonder four or five of the major nations who broadcast F1 use the BBC’s coverage and commentary. The changes will streamline the sport’s audience, and will suddenly make it quite elitist. And if this is the trend across Europe, and the rest of the world, then money will suddenly dry up very quickly…

We’ll have to see what happens, but it will be very different come 2016. Very different indeed.

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? Follow me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309 – or find me on my own blog!

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Who Will Replace The Irreplaceable?

Originally posted on Sport Witness.

Since 2002, very little has been spoken of who will fill the biggest shoes in club football. The occasional name has popped up, and the odd piece or two written about where the club will go. Until this month, when suddenly every media outlet in the world wanted to see if they could get Mystic Meg on board in order to predict the future. But the question is still there.

Just who will replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United?

Luckily, we have a few years to consider it. Fergie has said he reckons he has three or four more years left before hanging up his coat, and walking away from the Manger’s Office at Old Trafford for the final time. And until that day, nothing will be known of who will become the first new manager of Manchester United in nearly 30 years.

Many have said that Jose Mourinho will be the preferred choice of the board and the fans to take over the tenure. He himself has said that he would like a return to England ‘one day’, and it is believed there may be some form of release clause in his contract at Real Madrid. His tactical awareness and continued success across Europe has led to him becoming the front-runner in order to fill Fergie’s shoes, and Sir Alex’s admiration for the ‘Special One’ alone makes him a worthy candidate. However, his tendencies to stay at a club for a relatively short period of time, and also his outspoken nature and criticism of how the game is run could be factors in a decision not to appoint him.

Another name constantly mentioned is that of David Moyes. Fergie is reportedly a big fan of the Scot, who has managed both Preston, and currently Everton. He is the third longest-serving manager in the Premier League, after Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. His success on a shoestring budget has led to him becoming a prominent candidate, and reports last year said that Fergie himself had endorsed Moyes as the future United boss. Again though, his lack of a big club on his CV could prove a problem, alongside the fact he has never had money at his disposal – which could lead to failed buys and adverse effects in the transfer market.

It looks to be a two-horse race for the manager’s post, but until that fateful day we have no idea what is going on. Other names have been linked, such as Mark Hughes, Martin O’Neill, and most notably, Pep Guardiola, but the latter looks likely to stay at Barcelona for as long as they are successful. We could also consider ex-United players under Ferguson as candidates, such as the aforementioned Hughes, Roy Keane, and Steve Bruce, or even Laurent Blanc, manager of the French national team.

I really don’t know who the United board, alongside Sir Alex, will choose, but I know who I want in my heart. And it would involve a dream team involving a certain Eric Cantona…..

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? Follow me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309 – or find me on my own blog!

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25 Years of Sir Alex, and 18 Years of Me

Originally posted on Sport Witness.

To begin with, I apologise profusely – this is going to be quite a personal, thought-felt post, that I hope can help become part of a much bigger story.

As an 18 year-old Man United fan, I’ve never know any different than the current sign on the manager’s door – Alex Ferguson has been, and currently is, the only United boss I’ve ever known. The only difference has been the addition of a ‘Sir’ on the front of his name.

This weekend sees him celebrate 25 years at the helm of the United team. His guidance, genius and his ability to change games with shrewd tactics and manoeuvres has led to him winning near-on everything, and becoming the longest-serving manager in British football.

37 trophies in those 25 years – a truly incredible fact, especially considering his United career has outlived over 1,000 managers in English football. He has won 836 of the 1,409 games since November 1986, won the Champions League twice in exceptional circumstances, led the club to an unprecedented Treble, and won the Premier League 12 times out of 19 instances. The man is a genius.

There are some who will completely disagree with me, and that’s fine by me, but I genuinely believe Sir Alex Ferguson is the greatest manager of all time. Yes, there is the likes of Bill Shankly, Sir Matt Busby, Bob Paisley and Brian Clough to consider, but Fergie trumps them all. He really does.

All these managers have been in different situations, but I don’t believe any of them have done what Sir Alex has. We are currently in the midst of his sixth regeneration of a squad still capable of winning countless trophies, and his combination of skill and experience with youth, energy and pace is lethal to even the best of teams. The sheer destruction these teams have unleashed on their opposition is down to his fiery Scottish personality, and he builds a team around a core of players, as opposed to just the one great player.

His 1992 Premier League winning squad. His 1996 Golden Generation Double-winning team. The 1999 Treble-winning squad. The 2003 comeback squad. His 2008 Champions League winning team. And now this, the Class of 2011-12, that Fergie himself believes could define his career.

Sir Alex has always remained a firm believer that no-one is bigger than the club itself. His short fuse and ‘hairdryer’ treatment tends to lead to big impact from the players, and his management techniques are acclaimed the world over – even his biggest critics now rate him as one of the best ever.

His squad awareness is completely unique in the modern game. We see the likes of Man City and Chelsea spending millions upon millions of pounds in order to buy the best players available. Fergie doesn’t do that – he adds to the squad where he feels United need strength, and encourages the youth being brought through the academy and the reserves in order to keep building upon the continued success bestowed to the club.

There are countless quotes and honours written and spoken about Sir Alex, but some completely stand out. Eric Cantona, arguably Fergie’s best signing at the club, at just £1.2m from Leeds in 1992, said that he ‘…found the perfect manager and the perfect club. He’s one of the greatest managers in the world.’ When the recognition you receive is from your fellow professionals, you know the job you are doing is certainly a good one.

I remember back in 2002, when Sir Alex was going to retire, that I didn’t really want that to happen. I had just turned nine at the time, and was besotted with football. Ruud van Nistelrooy was my new favourite United player, and Diego Forlan had long blonde hair – something I hadn’t seen on a man before. I remember crying after hearing about the semi-final loss to Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, and I also remember that first time I felt that terrible pain of forfeiting a trophy to a rival – the Premier League title. Even back then, you recognise the power a manager has on a team, and quite how legendary he has become. Fergie couldn’t go down beaten, and decided to turn his back on retirement, and ensure United were left in good stead. And here we are today, in the same position we were – with Sir Alex at the top of the game, and still winning trophies.

To say Sir Alex is talented is a massive, massive understatement. Football fans across the globe recognise his achievements, and even rivalries are tucked into a corner in order to admit the man’s legendary status. It’s a beautiful thing.

Saturday’s pre-match presentation was truly quite brilliant. It showed Fergie in the light we don’t get to see very often. A guard of honour, followed by the dedication of the North Stand, which is now known as the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand. A statue to be erected for the start of next season. And not to mention the countless former players spotted in the crowd, all there to honour the great man.

You can have your personal opinions on Sir Alex, but you cannot doubt his wisdom, his genius and his talent. Manchester band Elbow have a song on their third album, titled ‘My Very Best’, and it contains a line that perfectly sums up every United fan’s feelings for Sir Alex.

‘You’ve gone and made a beautiful hole in my heart.’

A big, purple-nosed, Scottish-blooded, Sir Alex hole. A hole that can never, and will never be filled. And long may it continue.

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? Follow me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309 – or find me on my own blog!

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WARNING: Cheating is STRICTLY Prohibited.

Originally posted on Sport Witness.

The events of the Pakistani cricketers, found guilty of spot fixing, have been unravelled in public and in the media, to the point where even more allegations have been made today during the sentencing. It is a disgraceful story – cheating sportsmen at the top of their game who put a quick buck ahead of an illustrious career. What they’ll get now is a loss of job and a jail term. Lovely stuff, boys….

But it does make you wonder about other sports too. The ICC have caught these cheats with the help of the News of the World and the British media, which is great. Buyt what do we do about other suspected cheats in other sports?

Channel 4 and Dispatches uncovered the ring of Thai businessmen, including former England international Bryan Robson, that allowed for rich foreign investors to buy different Football League clubs. This was, and still is, illegal within British sport, and the FA should be enforcing this. Why not?

What about the racist allegations made against John Terry last week? These have been picked up the the Metropolitan Police, and the FA will then conduct their own investigation, but what happens if he is found guilty? Racism and disturbing the peace is a criminal offence, and therefore should be treated as one – not a slap on the wrists because he’s the England captain on £200,000 a week. Sod that – he is still a human being insulting a human being. If proven guilty, obviously.

We’ve seen it in rugby, too. Back in 2009, ‘Bloodgate’ occurred, with Harlequins winger Tom Richards using fake blood capsules in order to gain a stop in play to get an extra man back on the field. He was banned for twelve months, later reduced to four, and Harlequins were fined £259,000 for the incident. They were punished, but this is still a form of cheating, and should be met by harder actions.

There was the Renault incident in F1 as well, back in 2008. Nelson Piquet Jr. was instructed to crash out the race in order to help team-mate Fernando Alonso win the race, as a safety car was deployed. It led to bans for team boss Flavio Briatore, yet no action against Piquet Jr., as he ‘fully co-operated in uncovering’ the story. Does this mean he should have got away scot free, despite having his own mind and the ability to still say ‘no’?

Cheating should not be condoned in any sport. It should be met with lifetime bans, massive fines, and criminal action if needs be. If we don’t, there is a risk that the future sportsmen and sportswomen of this world will consider cheating okay, and that sporting competition is corrupt, and that’s normal. We need to stamp out the cheats before it’s far, far too late.

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? Follow me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309 – or find me on my own blog!

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Dark Days For English Football May Very Well Return…

Originally posted on Sport Witness.

Yes, before you all ask, it still hurts. My chest aches and I can’t bear to look at the papers. City have really hurt me. I am very tempted to use some rather foul language, but hey, this is a family blog. Supposedly…

Well what a week it’s been for the Premier League! Shocks galore, big wins, small wins – not to mention a few naughty words used on a pitch somewhere in West London. A club suspend a player, whilst another player threatens to sue the manager. Carlos Tevez anyone?

So yeah, it’s been a little wild, and it’s been difficult to try and keep up with it all. The prima donnas we all adore so much are rebelling and becoming rebellious teenagers all over again, believing their actions won’t get them in trouble. As proven over the last week, it really can.

I don’t want to sit and write about John Terry’s supposed racist comments, as these are yet to be proven, and it could just be a big media frenzy for nothing. What’s new, I hear you ask… Instead, I want to talk about this situation it has left us in.

Back in 1993, the ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out Of Football’ campaign was launched, and was sent very mainstream in 1997. The campaign really picked up, all 92 league clubs got behind it, and it was introduced at grassroots level in order to maintain this level of equality that was being emitted both on and off the pitch.

Then these accused events happen this weekend, the print and online media pick it up, it goes viral, and suddenly we have a big racism case on our hands. Involving the England captain – supposedly the model footballer of all young English kids up and down the country, and the man every English player wants to be. Proving we really do still have a big problem with race and colour in this country.

It wasn’t just this isolated incident, though. Anyone who is on any form of social networking site, in particular Twitter, will have seen the vulgar comments being directed at black footballers and commentators from fans and people alike. This wasn’t just a few words on a pitch, this was a thousand words online too.

It’s a very sad situation – we’ve come a long way as a nation to ensure this kind of incident doesn’t happen, and a lot of investment within the Kick It Out scheme has led to plenty of positives coming out of games where racist abuse has been heard.

At the end oft eh day, nothing has been proven as yet. But we could be returning to the very dark days of English football if we’re not careful.

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? Follow me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309 – or find me on my own blog!

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Would NFL Europe Succeed This Time Around?

Originally posted on Sport Witness.

This weekend, we see the pomp and circumstance that is the NFL return to London to play another game at Wembley, this time between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears. And with it comes the hope from the NFL franchise owners that a big pay day in Europe will become an even more regular thing.

The NFL began to bring one regular-season game to the UK back in 2007, and has done for the last five years. This Sunday’s game is the first time the match has not sold out – the NFL citing the poor ticket sales being down to the fact the match was only confirmed last month, after the player lock-out during the summer.

In reality, all 32 of the NFL franchises are scrambling for the golden ticket to Wembley each year. They know it’s an opportunity to gain more fans, and thus more money, from a trip to Europe. The Buccaneers were here in 2007, and have come back this year, this time bringing their own home game, showing quite how big a game this can be.

But it’s very reminiscent of the MLS – a sport that attempted to move elsewhere to a massive potential market, failed miserably, and had to start again, leading to what the MLS looks like today. A big dip in popularity in 2002 led to the league facing imminent closure, but a sudden growth and interest in football after the 2002 World Cup led to bigger crowds, new teams, and David Beckham, obviously. A change in rules, allowing for bigger international stars to play for the teams, more media output, and the agreements between the US and Mexico introducing the likes of the SuperLiga gave a bigger audience an opportunity to watch football, and get interested. The imminent expansion to the 20th team looks to take football to a bigger area within the States, and interest from another 10 different cities to take an MLS license could even lead to a second division being created.

So why am I giving you a history lesson in Major League Soccer? Well, as many of you may remember, the NFL did used to have an arm here in Europe – called, very imaginatively, NFL Europe. Originally known as the World League, it included 10 teams from the US, Canada, the UK, Germany and Spain, and over the 50 games during the season, pulled in over a million people in attendance. Relatively expensive tickets and a lack of big TV coverage scuppered that plan, but the NFL launched NFL Europe in 1995.

A steady decline led to the league being cancelled in 2007, however, since then, another resurgence in the sport here in the UK has started again, bringing viewing figures back to the 1980’s heyday. A re-launch on Sky, and the BBC picking up some rights, and showing the SuperBowl, has brought American Football back to the homes of millions, reigniting the passion of many, and inspiring many younger and new fans of the sport – myself included.

So would a relaunch of NFL Europe now succeed, and become part of everyday life? My view is yes – it’ll work. Sell franchise licenses at small prices to increase interest, and limit the licenses to two or three per country. Allow it to start small, with small stadia to ensure sell-outs, and get a big TV deal across the continent to ensure maximum fan bases. Sow the seeds and allow it to grow – very similar to the MLS.

The world’s biggest sport comes to London this weekend. Possibly, soon enough, the world’s biggest sport will come to London every weekend.

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? Follow me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309 – or find me on my own blog!

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Sebastian Vettel: The Best and Worst News for Formula One?

Originally posted on Sport Witness.

Today, I’m going to write about my second sporting passion – Formula One. And how Sebastian Vettel has not only completed the sport, but is also well on the way to potentially dominating, and ruining it too.

That will probably come as quite a big shock to the majority of you – slagging off a man at the very top of his sport isn’t something done very often. But what’s happening to F1 is going to affect the sport for the next decade, and will certainly destroy some fans’ belief and devotion.

We’re now fifteen races into the 2011 season, with four to go between now and the end of November. With the World Championship all wrapped up, and Red Bull only needing two wins in the next two races to win the Constructor’s Championship too, their dominance for a second successive season has led to some of the teams beginning to settle for second place.

As a Business Studies student, it reminds me very much of the cola market. With Coca-Cola having a near-dominance of the market, Pepsi have decided that their corporate objective is to ‘remain as the second biggest brand in the cola market’. Hardly high aspirations for such a large company, but with the strength of the competition, there’s nothing they can possibly do about it. And Formula One is moving in exactly the same direction.

Don’t get me wrong, without Vettel, F1 would become very dull. He puts in the fastest laps of all twenty-four drivers, and still strives to beat his own time. He starts on pole, and is disappointed with anything but a first place finish. He is always looking to beat not only the best, but his best too, and that has led to his success. His nine wins already this season, of which eight came from pole position, have proven he can, and probably will be teh greatest driver the sport has ever seen. Forget Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Villeneuve, Fangio, Lauda, or even the great Sir Jackie Stewart – Vettel is soon to become leading man. At the age of just 24, he is already a Double World Champion – and doesn’t show any sign of stopping.

But is that dominance just going to prove far, far too much? Here in the UK we’ve seen a resurgence of the sport thanks to the rather excellent coverage presented by the BBC – over six million people are regularly tuning in to the race on a Sunday afternoon, which hasn’t been seen for over twenty years. This will, of course, all change next year with the BBC-Sky partnership, but the point still stands – will this resurgence continue if one man dominates the sport, or is it the competitive nature of the sport that has brought new fans to their TV screens?

Here in the UK, viewing figures of the sport dropped considerably when Schumacher dominated the sport, and the main Sunday race was struggling to even gain 3m viewers on ITV. Now, thanks to the introduction of KERS and DRS in encourage overtaking, the more competition in the field, and the depth and strength of the drivers available to the teams, six million fans watch, and well over 9m people have watched the final race of the season for the previous four seasons, on both ITV and the BBC.

Will it change again? Yes, I believe it will – the fans want to see competition. I know full well that if I could predict a race winner week in, week out, I would never have started watching the sport. It will become dull, repetitive, and all those news fans of the sport, allowing for Bernie Ecclestone to expand into new territory, will begin to drop off.

Next year, we see the new track in the US join the schedule, alongside the rescheduled Bahrain GP. In 2014, Russia joins the party, and there’s talk of Qatar, South Africa and Croatia joining over the next few years. The sport continues to grow, and more and more people are taking note. A fan base in new countries is growing, and the last thing we need at this moment in time is a complete dominance from one driver, and one team.

I just hope and pray that I am totally and utterly wrong.

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? Follow me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309 – or find me on my own blog!

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How To Become Winners In Five Easy (Maybe) Steps

Originally posted on Sport Witness.

Now, before you start reading this, put Carlos Tevez completely out of your mind. Send him out the door in your brain. Done? Good.

As a Man United fan, this post could potentially come across as biased propaganda designed for you to hate the blue side of Manchester. But, it won’t – in fact, I want to praise them. Strange, I know, but sometimes you’ve just gotta recognise achievement.

Back in the summer of 2007, Manchester City were bought by Thaksin Shinawatra, former Prime Minister of Thailand, and a vision was put in place to ‘restore the glory’ of the club. Former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson came in to replace Stuart Pearce, and £30m was spent during the summer in order to strengthen the squad and try and return them to winning ways.

It didn’t. Ninth in the Premier League just wasn’t good enough for Shinawatra, and Sven was shown the door, and in walked Mark Hughes – United legend, and now City boss. But what happened next, nobody expected.

A few signings during the summer to continue building up the squad was what Hughes expected to be doing, and bringing in his own coaching team and backroom staff meant he could do everything he wanted to. But then Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of royalty from Abu Dhabi, appeared, and brought his billions of pounds with him.

And 12 hours later, Robinho was a Man City player. Talk about showing intent – £32.5m for the Brazilian, so just petty cash for Sheikh Mansour. The team continued to play well, finishing 10th in the Premier League, and reaching the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup. The new owner was a very happy man, but ready to continue spending his millions.

In comes the likes of Carlos Tevez, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gareth Barry, and Joleon Lescott, and suddenly every City fan had their tongue wagging at the prospect of world-class football at the City of Manchester Stadium. Things didn’t start off too well, and Hughes was sacked from the club in December, but in came high-profile Roberto Mancini, and he brought a wealth of experience and discipline. A 5th place finish in the Premier League kept Sheikh Mansour sweet.

And then the story of last season. Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko, David Silva, James Milner – players who would turn City into a force, not just a team. The club came together as one, and actually began to play some beautiful football. 3rd in the Premier League, and winners of the FA Cup, bringing their 35 year silverware drought to an end.

A bit more strengthening and replacing this summer led to Sergio Aguero, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri being some of the biggest transfers of the window. Their performances so far this season has led to a top of the table clash with United, and the title race is well and truly on. Performances in their debut season in the Champions League have been a little lacklustre, but they will pick up.

So what’s the point of all this? Well, just look how far they’ve come. That’s four seasons’ worth of progression – from lowly mid-table to European contenders, just by signing a few players, changing the backroom staff, and gaining an enthusiastic owner. Many are slagging off City, due to their infinite funds, but just because they have money doesn’t automatically equal success.

Mancini has done an absolutely sterling job in his 18 months in charge. He has refused to spend money stupidly, and bought players that will enhance the line-up, and bring his style of play to the now-renamed Etihad Stadium. Fergie is scared, put it that way. And nobody gets Fergie scared.

They have built a team of winners – players who want to play football to win trophies and be the best they can. Yes, I’m sure wages and agent fees have been a big factor – reports surfaced last week that Aguero only moved to Manchester to move to Real Madrid next summer – but that doesn’t mean that the players aren’t willing to play.

Okay, no pun intended there…

It would not surprise me to see Manchester City become one of the successful sides in both domestic and European football in the next five years. As much as that hurts to say, they truly have become a wonderful team to watch, and they are a determined bunch of players who want to do the best for their manager. Mancini won’t stand for any trouble – he controls the egos in that team brilliantly – and he will continue to do so with the backroom staff he has at his disposal.

There will inevitably be a few moves in January, but only those that will help add more depth to the squad, and make them world beaters. What they could do for English football, with the right amount of time and investment into grassroots football, is phenomenal.

I know every United fan hates City with a passion, just like in any football rivalry. But sometimes, you have to give credit where credit’s due. And the project City have is a very, very exciting one.

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? Follow me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309 – or find me on my own blog!

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The Player Power Spiral of Destruction

Originally posted on Sport Witness.

Plenty will be written for the next few weeks about the wonder that has become Carlos Tevez’s affair with Manchester City. We know full well that Mancini believes he refused to play last night in their Champions League tie with Bayern Munich, and Tevez believes he was ready to play, and there was just ‘confusion’ on the bench. Well, there wasn’t a lot else, so Carlos was right either way.

But it does make you wonder if player power has become all too much. If the last twelve months in the Premier League has taught us anything , it is to keep the power away from the player and his agent, and treat him how any respectable employer would treat their employees. You breach your contract, you’re penalised and you’re out the door, and that’s what is happening less and less in the Premier League in this modern age of multi-billionaire owners.

This Tevez fiasco has been spiralling on for the last five years. Well, at least five years – God knows how many years beforehand. Admittedly, he is blaming his erratic behaviour on homesickness, with his daughters still living with their mother in Argentina. But, if it was homesickness, why not buy himself out his own contract? Or resign from the club? Maybe the £250,000 a week he receives is a little hard to give up…

He has done this before, too. He announced to the media he wanted to leave West Ham, whilst still under contract with them. He did exactly the same at Man United, knowing full well the blue half of the city were interested too. It seems to be a common theme that he tries to engineer a move from a club every two years – whether this has anything to do with his agent and the fees is yet to be discovered. But either way, his contract is meaningless, in his mind…

Even the Wayne Rooney saga at the start of last season sparked mass hysteria. Having decided he wanted to leave Manchester United just before the start of the season, he continued to play, then announced he wished to leave via a Sir Alex Ferguson press conference. Within five days, he was on a contract worth £250,000 a week, with massive image rights payments, and security in his deal. And all from saying he wished to leave the club – turning down a team who have reached the Champions League final three times in the last six years, and saying there was no desire to win trophies.

Player power has arrived at a point of no return – at some point in the not-too-distant future, we will see clubs spiral into millions of pounds of debt, and fold, because one player believed he was bigger than the club itself. These players will be the death of what made our game so brilliant, because they wish to line their pockets in gold, buy large houses and knock them down just for fun, and have massive shipments of technology brought into the country for his brother’s wife’s best friend’s mother-in-law’s dog. Apparently.

Power has become far too much for the standard, slightly idiotic football player. What we need is a man and a club that will rip players apart if they get too much. Step in Neil Warnock and co….

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? Follow me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309 – or find me on my own blog!

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