Three Caribbean stand-outs at 2015 Gold Cup

Nathan Carr of Caribbean Football looks back at three of the standout Caribbean performers from the recent Gold Cup…

Duckens Nazon – Haiti – 21 – Striker

Haiti scored two goals in the tournament and Duckens Nazon got both of them. The 21-year-old, who was born in Paris but has Haitian roots, came off the bench against Panama in Group A’s opener and made an instant impact: latching onto a long pass, turning his marker inside out and finishing with aplomb. It was a lovely individual goal and made people sit up and take notice. Six days later Nazon was given a starting spot against Honduras and he rewarded manager Marc Collat with another goal, a less clean strike this time but just as important. Les Grenadiers subsequently advanced to the last eight, albeit they lost to eventual finalists Jamaica 1-0. Nazon’s achievements at the Gold Cup are doubly impressive considering he was on the verge of quitting football altogether a year ago, when he was playing at amateur level in France. Receiving a call-up to the Haitian U-21s gave him hope and then in March 2014, he made his senior international bow in a 0-0 draw with Kosovo. Nazon has developed at a rapid rate ever since. At the moment he is contracted to Stade Laval having only recently put pen to paper with the Ligue 2 club. Speaking on securing a place in the Laval first team, Nazon explained: “These two goals [at the Gold Cup] are a bonus for me.” It will be interesting to see if he can maintain his Gold Cup form for the World Cup qualifiers, which begin in early September. Continue reading

The Luxury Fan’s Ryman Premier Prospects

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Will Magee returns to TFN with a look at the brightest young prospects in the Ryman Premier…

Young people. What are most of them up to these days? Going to the cinema, learning to drive, being educated, discovering the true meaning of heartbreak, drinking litre bottles of cider in the park; all of these things rank high on the average young person’s list of pastimes. Then there are those special young people, those who are really quite good at playing football. Many of them occupy themselves not by indulging in ordinary activities, but instead by playing in the seventh tier of the English footballing pyramid – the Ryman Premier League. Some of them are doing an exceptionally good job of it, and deserve a bit of recognition. Who the ruddy hell are these bright young things? Well, let’s find out.

Nathan McDonald, goalkeeper, Enfield Town

24-year-old Town keeper Nathan McDonald was superb this campaign. A vital part of the side’s ill-starred push to the play offs, he played in all forty-six league fixtures and kept eighteen clean sheets in the process. He received five club ‘Man of the Match’ awards, plus a luxury accolade from me for his valiant performance in Enfield’s one-nil home loss to Dulwich Hamlet. Rumours that manager Bradley Quinton has taken to calling him ‘Doctor Octohands’ are as yet unconfirmed. Continue reading

Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley and a very English problem

Joshua Faulkner wonders if footballing talent equates to excellence or mediocre versatility…

Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley were considered two of the most prodigal talents in the country, sculpted and crafted to lead England’s assault to International acclaim. Well, that was at least the idea. Both individuals however, continue to struggle with the idea of honing and mastering a set position.

Wilshere has failed to create an identity midfield; is he a tenacious ball-winning midfielder or the more appropriately tuned English Andrea Pirlo (Jack Colback aside) that is able to tactically control the tempo of a game and spray precision passes across the field? Barkley meanwhile had claimed in the past he would be best played as a central striker, whilst his managers at both club and International level have utilized him in central midfield, the no 10. role and, on the odd occasion, out wide. Continue reading

What’s the point of Champions League Qualification?

With clubs putting as much importance into qualifying for the next season’s Champions League as performing well in the current, Simon Smith asks what the point of the competition is…

Much has been made in recent weeks of the apparent unwillingness of Premier League clubs to participate in the dreaded Thursday football squad exhauster that is the Europa League. The earlier season push for Europe reached its absolute peak with victories over Arsenal for Southampton’s on New Year’s Day and Tottenham’s in the north London derby keeping the victors in the Champions League places on both occasions. But, with predictable familiarity, the enthusiasm for European football seems to have left both squads once the top prize became out of reach. Spurs and Saints have joined Liverpool on the list of suitors seeking to avoid the booby trap fifth place that consigns a team to the Europa League.

The size of the competition, endless travel to far off destinations in Turkey and Ukraine, and distraction of continually playing on Thursdays and Sundays are often touted as legitimate reasons for the Europa League being a poisoned chalice. One need only look at what Liverpool achieved – well, almost achieved – in their season bereft of midweek continentalism to see the damage it can cause, and so on. This is well covered ground.

What I want to know is, why don’t we see the same sort of thing in the Champions League? I mean what has the top level of elite European Club football ever done for the Premier League clubs? Besides the televisual and marketing exposure, commercial opportunities, additional revenue and pulling power when attracting players in the transfer market, is there an actual footballing reason for being in the competition? Continue reading

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: A battle with insignificance

Making his TFN debut, Harry Wallace looks at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s struggle for the limelight at Arsenal…

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s career has been oddly inconsequential. He was uncapped when he was called up to the England squad for a major tournament. But this was Euro 2012, when Roy Hodgson had been hurriedly planted in the manager job. Everyone around the country, press and fans alike, swiftly agreed that this tournament was a free hit. There hadn’t been enough time to amass a plan, let alone a squad to fit it.

In the Euros Oxlade-Chamberlain would start the first game against France and make two late substitute appearances in the other group games, before being an unused sub against Italy. On his debut he was lively the few times he had the ball, as many young fresh-faced players are. However he was restrained by one of Hodgson’s now stigmatized formations against France, looking to protect in only his third game in charge. It was also partially due to Rooney’s suspension, and Oxlade-Chamberlain could count himself unlucky not to feature ahead of a slumping Ashley Young in later matches. But the whole tournament lacked the pressure or scrutiny that has formed such a bemoaned companion for England. Certainly it was no comparison to Wayne Rooney’s dazzling Euro 2004, or even Raheem Sterling repeatedly scaring Italian defenders in Manaus. The Ox’s official arrival on the international scene was barely even a sideshow.

A year later, England traveled to the hallowed Maracana to face Brazil. Following a characteristically tepid England first-half performance, Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Glen Johnson. He then scored a goal that was a god send to narrative-seeking writers covering the game, a stunning drive in the same stadium that his Father had played in 29 years prior. It was a magnificent moment, or at least as great as it possibly could have been. After all, it was merely an exhibition game that not many would quickly recall now. Continue reading

CFU Club Championship 2015: Group Stage Review

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Nathan Carr, editor of The Home of Caribbean Football, looks back at the group stage of the CFU Club Championship…

This year’s CFU Club Championship is the 17th edition since its inception in the late 1990s. Widely regarded as the Caribbean’s premier club competition, it pits the crème of the crop against each other to determine the region’s three representatives at the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). The Championship has a couple of entry requirements: it is open to all 31 CFU member associations’ league champions and runners-up, as long as their respective seasons finished by the end of last year. Each club must pay a fee by a set deadline, which in this year’s case was 7 January. For 2015, a total of 15 teams from nine member associations entered and were placed in four groups. Here’s how the action panned out…

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Group 1:

From the outset this group had only three participants because of the uneven number of total teams. It was expected that Guyanese champions Alpha United, a team that featured in last year’s CCL, would battle with Central FC of Trinidad & Tobago for the number one spot, but it was actually the latter that came out on top and secured progress through to the semi-finals. Founded just three years ago by former Soca Warriors defender Brent Sancho, now the country’s Minister of Sport, Central boast a strong squad and are coached by Englishman Terry Fenwick. They play good football and have several stand-outs who have experience playing with the national team, like Willis Plaza, Ataullah Guerra and veteran goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams. Plaza was the star of the show against Surinamese champions Inter Moengotapoe, scoring two second half goals within the space of four minutes. The Sharks had to follow that win up with another when they faced Alpha, who had also beaten Inter two days previously. Continue reading

Daniel Sturridge: Liverpool’s main attraction or supporting act?

Hari Sethi looks into a difficult season for Daniel Sturridge, and asks whether he can be relied upon to be Liverpool’s main man next season…

Wheeling away to celebrate scoring the winner against Southampton on the opening day of the season, Daniel Sturridge could’ve been forgiven for allowing himself to daydream of the year that lay ahead.

Though Anfield still bore the emotional wounds of last season’s ultimately futile title charge and the departure of the club’s talismanic number seven, for the other half of Liverpool’s prolific ‘SAS’, this was to be a season of opportunity, a season as the main man.  Yet with just seven games of their Premier League campaign left and with a top four finish seeming increasingly improbable, Sturridge has made just 11 appearances for the Reds, scoring four goals in the process.

For a player who signed a five year, £150k a week contract in October and the only recognized striker who possesses the physical traits to excel within Rodgers’ desired style of play, things haven’t gone well. This has been a disastrous season for Sturridge and one that casts doubt over his role in the side going forward. Continue reading