Sunday, December 28, 2008

Magpies off the Market!

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has shocked the English Footballing world this morning by announcing that the North East club are no longer up for sale. After nearly being quite literally chased out of town by angry Magpies supporters following his well publiscised spat with fans favorite Kevin Keegan back in September, the billionaire sportswear tycoon has suddenly claimed he is now fully committed to the long term future of Newcastle United. However, as the more cynical football writers amongst us may doubtlessly point out, perhaps a more likely reason Ashley is set to stay at the helm is that no one actually wanted to buy a football club that in spite of its massive support are still threatened by the realistic possibility of relegation from England's top flight this season. A particular worry for any potential investor is that star striker Michael Owen may well be set to leave in the summer for free regardless of the outcome of Newcastle's flagging season, having rejected the offer of a new contract earlier this month. So what do the Newcastle fans make of all this? No doubt there will be a great deal of banter in the pubs around St James' Park in the run up to todays high profile fixture with Premier League leaders Liverpool. Have your say on the Ashley affair here!

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Feast of Festive Football Awaits!

Fans of the English game relish the packed fixture list of the festive period, with the boxing day fixtures having a long tradition of drawing some of the biggest crowds of the season for football clubs across the country. This year is of course no exception, with some mouth watering fixtures to fill you with festive cheer. For me, the pick of this year's boxing day action has to be Arsenal's trip to Villa Park set to kick off at 5:15 this afternoon. Arsene Wenger's side have been under ongoing scrutiny this season and with the recent long term loss of captain Fabregas to injury it seems as though there may be more rocky roads ahead for the Gunners. Aston Villa meanwhile have been on an absolute high of late, enjoying their best start to the season for some time and unquestionably boasting some young and exciting English talent in players such as Young, Milner and Agbonlahor. Villa manager Martin O' Neill will no doubt see todays game as a chance to prove to the wider footballing world that his side now truely have the potential to displace England's "big four" and qualify for next season's champions league. Wenger however will perhaps feel the greater pressure following a season of uncertainty.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Young Shines in Villa Triumph

Sunday's clash between Everton and Villa was surely pick of the Premier League action this weekend, with the Villains snatching a late victory in a five goal thriller just seconds after Everton's injury time leveller. Everton's England hopeful defender Julian Lescott - incidentally a lifelong Villa fan - had barely caught his breath after bagging a spectacular acrobatic volley to put the Toffees on level terms in the 91st minute, only to see Villa winger Ashley Young burst beyond him to coolly slot home his second of the game less than a minute later. Young's brace gave Villa the points in a clash that may go some way to determining which of these two big city clubs will play European football next season, and another superb individual display by Ashley Young can surely not have gone unnoticed by Mr Capello. The former Watford man has devastating pace to frighten any full back, and a more regular run in the national side must surely now beckon.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pressures of Management Prove too much for Keane

It is clear that only subject has dominated the headlines across the English footballing press this week: Roy Keane's abrupt departure from Sunderland. Last night, the Irishman walked out on his 2 year tenure at The Stadium of Light under a cloud of uncertainty on his future in football management. Keane was unquestionably an unwavering, defiant and bullish character as a player. Both on and off the field his aggressive and often controversial leadership qualities have never been in doubt and these have to the outside world at least, been personality traits that he has transferred directly into his management style. However, it is clear that all is not right with the great Irishman's mental state at this moment in time. Keane is and always has been a winner and is therefore used to winning, but the current run of successive defeats suffered by the Black Cats has clearly put Keane in an unfamiliar and discomforting mental position. Even his former mentor Sir Alex Ferguson has come forward this week to question whether his former captain at Manchester United will ever return to the day-to-day pressures associated with top flight football management. However, if anyone can recover from such a setback and come back stronger than ever - it is surely Roy Keane.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Liverpool Frustrated by Defiant Hammers

Monday night's English Football action saw The Hammers visit fortress Anfield for a Premiership fixture that would see The Reds pull away from title rivals Chelsea at the Premier league summit if they could claim victory against Zola's East Londoners. After Chelsea's defeat at the hands of Arsenal the day before, Rafa's Reds must have been fancying their chances against a West Ham side in a poor run of league form. However, the East Enders were boosted by the return of key players from injury. After a frankly dire 90 minutes of football, and for the third time this season, Gerrard and co found it hard to break down a visiting side that had arrived at Anfield setting their stall out to simply defend and stem the flow of the red tide. After a dismal 0 - 0 draw against Stoke earlier in the season, the reds once again found that £20 million striker Robbie Keane struggled against a stalwart Hammers defensive display. Indeed, the latest football banter coming from Anfield suggests that Rafa may already be seeking a replacement in the January transfer window for the misfiring Irishman, with Wigan's Emile Heskey and Newcastle's Michael Owen supposedly in the frame. So what do you think? Is Benitez set to strengthen in January? Is Robbie Keen feeling the inevitable weight of expectation associated with playing for a big four club? Please share your thoughts on the latest football banter here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Blues Beatable at the Bridge!?!

A fantastic weekend of Premiership fixtures climaxed with the much anticipated clash between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon with a largely unexpected result. With the visitors supposedly in complete meltdown following the well documented spat of former captain Gallas, it was one of the players that the Frenchman had widely villified - Robin Van Persie - whos double strike sent the Gunners into dreamland. Arsenal fought back well against the run of play having previously fallen behind to a first half own goal, and even the most die hard of north Londoners could surely not have predicted a result that would see Chelsea collapse into a third home defeat of the season under the management of Big Phil Scolari. The once impenetrable fortress of Stamford Bridge is now being burned to the ground, having already suffered more home defeats this year than in the previous 3 seasons under the guidance of The Special One and Avram Grant. While Chelsea remain top of the league and hot favourites to regain the Premiership title, this victory will surely instill greater belief into visiting sides that they can indeed beat the blues at the bridge.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pompey Handed Defoe Fitness Boost

Breaking news suggests that Portsmouth striker Jermaine Defoe has been handed a big fitness boost ahead of the weekends Premiership fixtures. The England star was injured during international duty in last weeks friendly against Germany and recent reports had suggested he may have faced surgery on the niggling calf injury - which would have seen him sidelined for around a month. However, after consulting a specialist the injury appears to be less extensive than initially feared, and Defoe may even be passed fit to partner giant striker Peter Crouch in Saturday's Premier League clash against struggling Blackburn. Portsmouth manager Tony Adams will no doubt be delighted with the news that his leading scorer will soon be back in action, having already seen Defoe notch up 7 goals this season.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cesc to Get the Armband at the Emirates?

The latest football banter echoing around the terraces of England this weekend surrounds the apparent crisis setting in at the Emirates stadium. The well documented outburst by now former Gunners captain William Gallas is just the latest in a long line of public and non public showing of disharmony emanating from deep within the heart of the North London Giants. Even the experience and patience of the Great Arsene Wenger has now been seemingly stretched to the full, after Gallas publicly criticised his team in a recent autobiography and in the English football media. The latest football banter spreading across the capital would seem to suggest that the fallen Frenchman will be replaced by the 21 year old star of Arsenals midfield: Cesc Fabregas. Gallas' loss of the captaincy may be the final straw of his turbulent Arsenal career, following heavy public criticism of his leadership and off field demeanor. Certainly, his recent appearance on the front pages of the English tabloids leaving a nightclub with a cigarette in his mouth could certainly have not strengthened Gallas' claim as a suitable figure head of one of the world's best known football clubs. If the Arsenal are to become famous for more than playing attractive football and actually go on to break there long running duck of trophyless seasons, it is going to take a great shift in attitude and spirit amongst the squad - but if anyone can implment that change, it surely is Arsene Wenger.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sousa Lands QPR Coaching Role

The latest football banter circling the internet at the moment seem to be that surrounding the appointment of the new first team coach at Queens Park Rangers. Former Portugal international Paulo Sousa becomes the next big foreign name to arrive into England, joining manager Flavio Briatore, who replaced the hapless Iain Dowie at the wealthy London based Championship side in October. Sousa shone as a player, appearing 51 times for his country in a glittering career. His CV also proudly boasts successful spells at some of the worlds top clubs including Juventus and Inter in Italy, as well as German giants Borussia Dortmund. While there is little doubt of Sousa's ability as a player, the question mark surely remains over whether the Portuguese's' favoured continental footballing style can be effectively transfered into the competitive bustling style of the football league Championship. However, one thing can surely now be certain, in there is seem to be little doubt of the burning Premier League ambitions of Briatore and QPR, and the addition of Paulo Sousa will no doubt bring valuable experience to aid the club's push for the top flight.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Club Vs Country - Which Would You Choose?

Well it seems that footballs international week is once again upon us and with the latest bout of mid-season friendly fixtures there comes the inevitable reopening of the ongoing club vs country debate that has long been a cause of great debate by football fans in pubs across the length and breadth of England. There's nothing quite like the English national team for stimulating football banter and this week has been no exception, as fans across the country debate on whether their international stars should or shouldn't be involved in what many perceive to be meaningless fixtures that can only cause disruption to the weekend fixture preparations of their respective club sides. The club vs country debate has been reignited in particular this week by the withdrawal from the England squad of several notable names including Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand. The football banter on the lips of the more cynical fans in England at this moment seems to centre around the fact that should Wednesday's friendly at Wembley against Germany have been the World Cup final, would these multi-millionaire players have withdrawn from the fixture with their apparent "injuries." that may be a somewhat critical view, although it has to be said it may certainly be no coincidence that England's latest list of absentees all play for clubs challenging for the Premier League title. Now I may be stoking the flames even more through these comments, but I certainly wouldn't bet against these premier league superstars miraculously recovering from their respective ailments just in time to turn out for their clubs next fixtures. You may argue that it is the clubs who pay these players vast sums of money for their services and should therefore not have to risk them picking up injuries in friendly fixture, but I personally would give my right arm to play for my country in any fixture, in any time, in any place. The debate will no doubt continue as to the commitment of England's international players, especially considering the national teams continued failures in recent years. what do you think? Join in with the football banter and share your thoughts on this blog today!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Drogba May Face Police Charge After Coin Incident

Latest news reports suggest that controversial Chelsea and Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba may be soon facing up to separate investigations by both the police and Football Association following an incident which occurred during Wednesday nights League cup fourth round defeat at the hands of Burnley. The striker was apparently hit by a coin by one of the travelling supporters during his goal celebrations after giving Chelsea the lead at Stamford bridge, and promptly returned the favour by tossing the offending item back into the away enclosure. There were no Burnley fans reported injured following the incident, and Drogba has subsequently made a full public apology for his actions, but the consequences of them are yet to be fully determined. Drogba received a booking from the match referee Mr Keith Stroud for his part in the incident but may now face a more lengthly FA ban or even the possibility of a police charge, pending the results of the enquiry. Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher was once sent off at Highbury during an FA cup tie with Premier League rivals Arsenal for a similar incident in which he threw a coin which had been directed at him back into the terraces. For me there is little doubt that such acts from so called football supporters go far beyond the realms of what can be deemed acceptable football banter, but the actions of the player concerned are also certainly not what should be expected of an experienced international star, who has never remained far from the tabloid headlines for his conduct. It remains to be seen whether Chelsea are to lose their star forward through suspension having already missed him for much of the season through injury, but the incident last night certainly marred what was otherwise a fantastic English cup tie.

Big Boys Crash Out Of League Cup

Last night saw a fantastic night of giant killing in the league cup, with 2 of the so called English "big 4" clubs crashing out of the competition. A second string Liverpool side were unceremoniously dumped out of the cup by an in form Tottenham side at Anfield, with some shocking goalkeeping from both sides resulting in a high scoring 4 - 2 win in favor of the visiting North Londoners. However, the major shock of the evening occurred at Stamford Bridge, where a strong eleven featuring international superstars Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba put out by the Premier League favorites Chelsea were knocked out by Championship side Burnley on penalties after a 1 - 1 draw. Both these sides suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of Barnsley in last seasons FA cup and must now face up to the prospect of an early exit from another major domestic cup competition. such results may now open the door for Arsenal and Manchester United's young guns to show their experienced managers that they have the ability to break into their regular first choice 11.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blades In The Dock Over Hume?

Sheffield United may face another legal battle following their clash with Championship rivals Barnsley at Oakwell on Saturday. The Blades are already locked in a long term legal battle with West Ham concerning the now infamous Carlos Tevez affair which they argue had a huge influence on their eventual relegation from the Premier League last season. Now the furious Tykes say they are taking legal advice following a clash between Sheffield United captain Chris Morgan and Barnsley striker Iain Hume, which left the Canadian striker in hospital recovering from major surgery. The Barnsley hitman suffered a fracture to the skull and internal bleeding following the challenge from former Oakwell favourite Morgan. He is now recovering in hospital and Tykes manager Simon Davey faces the prospect of several matches without their recent £1.2 million pound acquisition, who signed from Leicester during the close season. Davey told the local Yorkshire radio station following the incident "The club may be seeking legal advice on the matter...We've ended up with a life-threatening injury and a player in a hospital bed."
While Sheffield United have released an official club statement wishing Hume a full and speedy recovery, the possibility of another trip to the courts cannot be one that Blades fans are looking forward to. Do you as a fan believe that Barnsley are right to consider taking such action in order to recoup some of their significant investment, or do you believe that such injuries - however serious - are all part and parcel of the risks involved with professional football. Please share your views here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Boothroyd Out At Vicarage Road

Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd has become the Football League's latest managerial casualty after a less than inspiring start to the championship season at Vicarage road, which has seen Watford claim only 15 points from their opening 15 championship fixtures. The man who led the unfancied Hornets to the heady heights of the Premier League in 2006 has reportedly left the club by mutual consent following a string of poor results which has left last seasons Championship play off semi finalists hovering just one place above the Championship relegation zone. Only goal difference separates Watford from fellow former premier league strugglers Charlton Athletic, whose defeat at the weekend to an in form Barnsley side has led many fans and pundits to speculate that Alan Pardew, once hailed as a hero amongst the Addicks faithful may be the next high profile championship gaffer out of the job.
After such an impressive start to last season's championship campaign, Boothroyd's men fell apart in the final games of last season, with a dismal run of form seeing his side ultimately fall from the automatic promotion places to a crushing defeat to eventual playoff winners Hull City. This poor run of form has extended into the new season, and Watford fans have had to endure seeing players such as the magnificent Ashley Young leave for Premier league pastures new. Watfords demise and Boothroyds exit have arguably typified the lack of patience shown by football league chairman in recent years, and an apparent attitude that sees little long term faith shown in managers who have taken clubs to reasonable success less than a season ago, only to be shown the door after a string of bad results in 2008 (just ask Juande Ramos). Pardew must now be looking over his shoulder waiting for the bad news and will have to dig deep to save his own managerial skin at The Valley.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Harry Redknapp: Once Forgiven, Twice Forgotten...

...Or so the hastily made banner of one young disgruntled fan read at Fratton Park a few cold English autumn evenings ago. They often say that a week is a long time in politics - but it certainly isn't in football - as another whirlwind week in the life of the charismatic but controversial managerial career of Mr Redknapp unfurled. 'Arry has never been the shy retiring type and has arguably never been one to avoid the media spotlight in his now 25 colourful years in professional football management, but even the most cynical of Pompey fans surely cannot have foreseen the abrupt nature of his departure to North London. Ironically, he was honoured the freedom of the city of Portsmouth just days after quitting the Hampshire club, and reportedly received a very mixed reaction from the local population upon receiving this prestigious award. Having achieved the unlikely if not impossible task of guiding the unfashionable premier league club to its first FA cup triumph for nearly 70 years just a few short months ago thanks to Kanu's goal at Wembley, members of the gathering crowd reportedly booed their former hero, with some reportedly shouting "Judas" as he graced the stage.
I personally was disappointed by this reaction, with Redknapp having achieved great things on the south coast by establishing Portsmouth firmly in the premier league and attracting an array of young, exciting and talented players - such as Jermaine Defoe to the club. Harry would probably say he had taken Pompey as far as he could and left them in a much better position than when he joined (and rejoined) as manager. Other would however argue that there is no loyalty in football these days and that Redknapp has simply left for a more wealthy, glamorous club in Spurs. I'll leave you to make up your own mind, but in any case, there is little doubt of the immediate impact Harry has had on the multi-million pound squad assembled at Tottenham, having taken 4 points from his first 2 games in charge - including last nights stunning 4 - 4 derby match with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Only time will tell if his decision is the right one, but if he can turn around Tottenham's awful start to the season he will surely be hailed as a success story once again.

Welcome To Football Banter!

Welcome one and all to my brand new blog: English Football Banter. Over the coming months (and hopefully years) I'll be blogging about all the latest chat, banter, rumours and news from the beautiful game here in England. I'm keen to here the views of football fans of all Englsih clubs whether its one of the English Premiership's so called "big four" or a semi pro level club. I am as you would expect a football nutter and love to share my (often badly formed) views on the odd ball world of football here in the UK. Over the coming months as the blog develops I will massively welcome and look forward in great anticipation to all your comments, football banter and general debate - particularly if your posts are relevant and informed (no spamming please!) Please also keep your comments reasonably friendly - this is not a place for all out war between rival clubs (that means you Liverpool and United lads :-P) and also definitely not the place for sectarianism or racism so please use your intellegence and common sense when posting. I hope you enjoy reading my blog!