Obscure Footballer of the Week returns. TFN Editor Hugo Greenhalgh profiles Irish footballer Ronnie O’Brien…
How could a nominee for Time’s Person of the Century fade into obscurity? A man whose name at one point, sat alongside Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi? Irish footballer Ronnie O’Brien was an overnight cult celebrity and one of the first true “Year 2k” internet sensations. While the fad wore off quickly and his career was largely forgotten, he merits discussion as more than just a novelty figure but as one of the first European footballers to make their mark in America, in the pre-David Beckham MLS era.
Born in Bray in 1979, O’Brien was a member of the prodigious Ireland youth side that included Robbie Keane, Richard Dunne and Stephen McPhail, and won the U-18 European Championship in 1998. At the time he was a Middlesbrough player but failed to break into the first team and was released in 1999. This was when O’Brien’s career took a bizarre twist. Typically a Boro cast-off of his ilk might expect a move to somewhere like Hartlepool or perhaps back to the Irish league; what O’Brien did not expect was a call from Italian giants Juventus. Continue reading
TFN’s Hugo Greenhalgh believes that Islam Slimani and Yacine Brahimi can provide the basis for further Algerian success…
After producing one of the great World Cup surprises, two of Algeria’s international stars had a week to remember in the Champions League. Islam Slimani and Yacine Brahimi, now playing for Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon and Porto respectively, have continued to shine after enjoying impressive showings in Brazil. Slimani was on the scoresheet at both ends in Sporting’s 4-2 win against Schalke, while Brahimi scored one and assisted another in Porto’s 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao.
Both players were instrumental for Algeria as they qualified for the knockout rounds of the World Cup for the first time in their history. Slimani scored against Russia and South Korea, and was immense in their last 16 game against Germany in which he was unfortunate to have a goal ruled out for offside. There were plenty of offers for him after the World Cup and Slimani pushed for a move. However, Sporting held firm and the striker has since apologised for his behaviour. Continue reading
TFN Editor Hugo Greenhalgh believes Manchester City’s squad needs freshening up…
Somewhat unusually, The Sunday Times ran a front page on the day of the Manchester Derby claiming that City were to fight Liverpool for the signature of Steven Gerrard’s next contract. While there may be little truth to this rumour, it would fit in with City’s recent trend of signing experienced players well beyond their peak years. The main reason for this policy is Financial Fair Play; they are a club continually at odds with the homegrown rule that requires a minimum of five “homegrown” players in their Champions League squad, while any free transfers are a bonus.
It will come as little surprise that Manchester City possess the oldest average squad age in the Premier League at 28. This is not necessarily a bad thing. They are, after all, the champions and that age brings experience. Key players such as Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabeleta and Fernandinho are all 28 or over. The concern is that time and time again, City have failed to integrate younger players into their squad. Indeed, there are very few who appear to be challenging for places. Continue reading
Hugo Greenhalgh returns to examine Lukas Podolski’s impact as a substitute and the subsequent fear of typecasting…
He miscontrolled it. He lost possession. He clattered into his opponent, in what should have definitely have been a foul. Ten seconds later Lukas Podolski had scored the crucial last minute goal to give Arsenal victory in Brussels on Wednesday night.
This cameo (he was only on the pitch for 6 minutes) did a lot to reinforce what we already know about Podolski: give him the ball at his feet and there a few more clinical finishers in world football. However, this skill is offset by a number disadvantages that make a place in Arsenal’s starting XI ever more unlikely. He is clumsy, prone to error and lacklustre defensively in a side that is often left worryingly exposed on the counter.
Cast your mind back to Arsenal’s last 16 second leg against Bayern last season. Podolski was on the scoresheet but again the goal illustrated his flaws as much as his attributes. He barged Philipp Lahm off the ball, in what should have quite obviously been a foul, before bursting into the box and scoring. This lethal ability has been part of his game since he was a teenager, one of the young stars of the 2006 World Cup but he has done very little since to improve as a player. Continue reading
Hugo Greenhalgh looks at the Europa League matches worth watching this week…
Due to the size of its fixture list, and the obscure nature of the teams involved, the Europa League holds a strange sort of voyeuristic appeal for non-involved fans to enjoy from afar. Sometimes derided by English fans, it can offer a wonderful and rare glimpse into the less-travelled ecosystems of European football, especially with regards to the continents’ more obscure smaller sides.
Such is the scale of this leviathan, season-long tournament, and the format of its qualifying phase, 137 teams have already taken part in this year’s competition. This number will be whittled down to 48 after the Play-Off Round that begins this Thursday.
To help you find your footing and make sense of it all, we present the four picks of the latest round of qualifiers…
- (Photo courtesy of Mike Urban)
I heard a rumour, Erhun Oztumer, He came Turkey, To bring us joy
He’s 5 foot 2, He’s pink and blue, Please don’t take, My Erhun away
It is with some sadness that I write of the departure of Erhun Oztumer from Dulwich Hamlet to Peterborough United this summer. For the past two seasons, Oztumer has been the lynchpin of Gavin Rose’s slick Dulwich side who have garnered something of a reputation for attractive, attacking football. No player illustrates this better than Oztumer; his first touch is sublime, his vision is excellent and he is equally adept at beating his man as he is at finding a killer through-ball. He helped Dulwich win the Ryman Division One South in 2013 and last season scored 33 goals as Dulwich chased successive promotions, only to miss out on the final day.
But Oztumer isn’t the sort of player you need to scramble for the stats book for (if you did, you’d see he’s also provided 18 assists last season). He is simply a very pure and talented footballer who knows how to use his skills effectively. For two years, he has been the star attraction at Champion Hill and he will be dearly missed. Continue reading
Ahead of Portugal’s opener against Germany, Hugo Greenhalgh looks at one player who didn’t make the cut…
Ever since the appointment of Jose Mourinho as Chelsea manager, there has been an obvious and sustained Portuguese imprint that lasted at the club for around a decade. The easily forgettable Filipe Oliveira predated his arrival, but he quickly brought in his able lieutenants from Porto, Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira, while Tiago Mendes joined from Benfica. In 2006, Hilario was added as a back-up goalkeeper and two seasons later, after Mourinho had left, Jose Bosingwa and Deco were signed.
During that 2008/9 season, another Portuguese also joined the ranks on loan in the January window. A one-time prodigy, Ricardo Quaresma had been playing for Inter, incidentally under Mourinho, but his time in Italy had not been particularly happy. Very much a ‘style over substance’ player, Quaresma was criticised for his lack of effort and suffered the indignity of winning the Bidone d’Oro award for the worst footballer in Serie A for 2008. Continue reading