England’s uninspiring Euro 2016 draw could prove costly for FA


Patrick Fletcher shares some thoughts on the FA’s reaction to the recent Euro 2016 draw…

Maybe the Gods were looking down on Greg Dyke as he brought his finger across his throat to indicate his despair at England’s nightmare World Cup draw in December. Maybe they took pity on the hardships he faced that day, and maybe they contrived to right those wrongs on Sunday and give England what could hardly be a more straightforward qualifying group for Euro 2016.

Their work will be no more appreciated, though, and this time Dyke will be turning his throat-slitting gesture away from himself and towards the heavens. Indeed, the draw was seen as too straightforward by FA representatives in Nice, who sat stone-faced as images of empty Wembley seats set alarm bells ringing. Their fear is that the clashes thrown up, against the likes of San Marino and Estonia, will not be enticing enough to fill the £757m stadium, on which £277m is still owed. If the concern pre-draw had been ‘go easy on us this time’, the sentiment afterwards was no doubt: ‘not that easy’. Continue reading

Understanding Luis Suarez: The Racism Row in Retrospect


David Wild seeks to understand Luis Suarez…

“The case with (Patrice) Evra was all false. I was accused without proof. But that’s in the past. I was sad at that moment, but I’m happy today… All the other things were like a movie that people in England believed in.”Luis Suarez, February 13th 2014.

It’s difficult to escape one’s past. When you consider the shining media spotlight that is focussed on contemporary world football’s glittering stage it can seem completely impossible.

Since the events between Suarez and Evra on October 15th 2011 that saw allegations and admission on Suarez’ part of racial abuse the striker has been tarred with one of society’s most unacceptable monikers. That of the unapologetic racist. Continue reading

“Swiss Army Knives” – the Role of the Multifunctional Footballer


Joe Tweeds of Plains of Almeria examines the role of the multifunctional footballer…

Adroit footballers operating in several positions throughout their career is not a modern phenomenon. John Charles, arguably the finest dual-threat player ever, was both a world class centre forward and centre back; often during the same game. Likewise, players have historically operated across a back four, in midfield or attack in several defined roles. However, recent developments from both a technical and tactical perspective have seemingly taken this versatility one step further. Multifunctional players are determining European Cups and league titles and the trend looks set to continue.

Looking back at Claude Makélélé’s time with Chelsea provides the perfect juxtaposition to the modern holding midfielder. The man who is the only footballer to have an actual position named after him was the perfect defensive midfielder. Makélélé possessed a positional sense that few have ever matched, married with superlative defensive instincts. He was the battery in an expensive watch and naturally the ‘Makélélé Role’ was coined.

In a time where teams were still largely operating on a 4-4-2 basis Makélélé provided the platform for José Mourinho’s devastating counterattacking football. His role was simple and overlooked by those who ran Madrid. Their loss was undoubtedly Mourinho’s gain and Makélélé enabled Chelsea to dominate the Premier League for a two-year period. As the game evolved the requirements of the midfield anchor man deviated from those of a purely defensive failsafe. The birth of the regista (at least in the consciousness of mainstream football) gave prominence to artistic brilliance and the passing acumen of Andrea Pirlo. It even led to a domestic clamour for the conversion of David Beckham into a ‘quarterback’. Continue reading

Confessions of a Teenage Goalkeeper


Pete Sharland recounts his experience as a teenage goalkeeper…

“They say you have to be mental to be a goalkeeper.” Growing up that was what I heard all the time from my coaches and to be honest I never questioned who “they” were because it wasn’t something you did as a young player but now I’ve had time to reflect. For starters they must not have been goalkeepers themselves because I’m here to tell you that you do not need to be mental to be a goalkeeper. As I hope to demonstrate using stories from my past and opinions garnered from my experiences, the main prerequisite for being a goalkeeper is not being mental at all, but those who say this are just one word short. You need mental strength, being mental just seems to be a happy coincidence. Continue reading

Is Michael Laudrup a potential replacement for David Moyes?


Manchester United fan Joe Bookbinder makes the case for a quick return to management for Michael Laudrup…

Before I start, I should state that I believe David Moyes should be given more time before proper judgement can be passed. As a United fan I have far from enjoyed the majority of this season, and have largely tried to avoid thinking about the worrying situation.

Despite a considerable list of things that have gone wrong this season, despite the wry smiles, I firmly believe Moyes knows how to turn it around.  After all, if he’s good enough for Sir Alex and Sir Bobby, that’s more than enough for me.

Barring an unbelievable end to the season, 4th looks to be a bridge too far as does the impossibility of United winning the Champions League. Dumped out of the domestic competitions by bottom half sides, United’s season is effectively over in mid-February. In terms of Moyes’ future I’d like to see Woodward and the Glazers properly back their man. Moyes is a much better operator in the transfer market than is currently being portrayed – Fellaini could still come good (think of all the United players that had slow starts to life at Old Trafford) and in Mata he signed one of the most gifted players in the league. His record at Everton was impressive – Cahill, Arteta, Baines, Jagielka, Coleman to name a few. Just don’t mention Darron Gibson, in any context. Continue reading

Mesut Ozil and Wayne Rooney: the Opposite of Opposites?


In the fifth instalment of ‘Tacticle Your Fancy’, Simon Smith compares the style and roles of Mesut Ozil and Wayne Rooney…

The recent debate about what’s wrong with Mesut Ozil has really captured my imagination, perhaps almost as much as his unlikely summer transfer itself did. Everyone seems to agree that there’s something wrong with the way he is playing at the moment, and yet there seems to be so much inconsistency in the reports.  Sure, we can agree that he has a tendency to ghost in and out of games and perhaps it is fair to see he isn’t the most proactive player off the ball.  The jump I find hard to make is how we get from this very general observation to the very niche and specific problem of why he is out of form: surely this is how he plays always, when in form as well as out?

The excellent two minute debate about whether he should be left out of the starting XI to face Manchester United by Sky Sports News was simply thrilling, in that while the panel managed to point out some home truths about the player, they all seemed to miss the point somewhat.  It was a brilliant display of how big generalisations about players lead to a misinterpretation of specifics in games. Continue reading

The Truth About Wayne Rooney


TFN’s Rob Brown on the enigmatic Wayne Rooney…

There is a bizarre nostalgia that affects people when they discuss Wayne Rooney. The prevalent view seems to be that he had all the talent in the world, demonstrated it with carefree abandon during his teenage years and then got spoiled by necessary on-pitch self-sacrifice and voluntary off-pitch self-sabotage. Now he is seen merely as a good player – not a genuinely great one, and certainly not the one we thought he would be.

This sudden about-turn in public opinion does not really tally up with what has been written and said about him up until now. Throughout his Manchester United career his performances have received glowing write-ups in the press and when he has underperformed – and it has happened repeatedly, sometimes for months on end – his industry and work-rate have seen him bundle in goals and escape the harshest criticism.

Perhaps it is a British journalism thing – “build ‘em up to knock ‘em down” and all that – but the idea that Rooney has not fulfilled his potential is quite ridiculous. As a conclusion, it is simply unfair. Sure, he has never hit the heights expected of him and his contribution to football pales in comparison to those of era-defining freaks Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but the reality is that he was never going to match them.

The problem lies not with Rooney but with us, his viewers. It is not that he never made the most of himself but more that we overestimated his talent to begin with. Continue reading