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.