In part four of our State of the Game Series, Joshua Faulkner looks at how West Brom have been the victims of the Elite Player Performance Programme…
The future: ‘a period of time following the moment of speaking or writing, a time that is regarded as still to come’. In football the future ostensibly relies on youth prospects: who will be the next Maradona, Pele or George Best? As such, youth development becomes of particular interest for many football fans. The initial meteoric rise of Saido Berainho from promising youth prospect to West Bromwich Albion’s survival saviour fuelled an interest in the club’s youth development and often praised academy. However, it has also revealed the rather contradictory nature of youth development in English football due to the Elite Player Performance Programme, an issue that can voiced in a rather Marxist tone reflecting on corporate capitalism: “the rich simply get richer”.
So what is the EPPP? The Elite Player Performance Programme was a Premier League initiative introduced in 2011 in response to the perceived lack of top player being developed in England. It harboured similar ideological views shared by the DFB for a system of quality assurance, implemented to ensure an increase in elite home-grown talent. The EPPP focussed strongly on education, coaching and facilities. The above was executed through the adoption of a category structure from Category 1 to 4 with Category 1 status being considered the most elite and thus eligible for more funding from both the Premier League and FA. Continue reading
TFN debutant and Newcastle fan Andy Booth remembers Patrick Kluivert’s season on Tyneside…
Patrick Kluivert’s arrival on Tyneside in July 2004 was met with cautious optimism from the Newcastle United supporters. Manager Bobby Robson had compared the capture to that of the revered Alan Shearer in 1996, such was the reputation of the Dutch striker.
He had left Barcelona earlier that summer as the fourth top La Liga goalscorer in the club’s history and was top of the chart for the Netherlands with 40 goals in 79 internationals. Yet he had been released on a free transfer after failing to fit into Frank Rijkaard’s side for the second half of the previous season and had not played a single minute in Euro 2004, in which the Oranje had reached the Semi-Finals. Having just turned 28, he was, theoretically, still in his prime and after a disappointing 5th-place finish the year before, Kluivert was recruited to return Champions League football to St James’ Park.
However it certainly did not work out like that. His one season on Tyneside ended in a 14th place finish and there were few tears shed when he returned to Spain the following summer. But should we be surprised that the move did not work out as the club had hoped (rather than expected)? Even at the time the signing always felt slightly nostalgic. A former star, past his peak, plying his trade in a place he’d rather not be and probably wishing it was 1995. So what went wrong?
Well from a purely tactical sense you have to question whether his style of play fitted with the dynamics of the squad. At Ajax and Barcelona he had excelled playing as a classic number 9. Good with his feet, exceptional in the air, always eager to shoot, he was your stereotypical penalty box striker; a role already filled by the talismanic local hero Shearer. Even at 34 Shearer expected to start every game, and failure to fulfil these demands risked a backlash from the Toon Army, as Ruud Gullit had found out five years earlier. Continue reading
TFN debutant and Blackburn Rovers fan Felix Reed assesses the career of Phil Jones…
Phil Jones has recently found himself on the wrong end of some negative publicity because he’s taken a few corners and pulls a face that launched a thousand Sportbible-worthy memes. However, given that Jones turns 23 next month and that his current contract has less than 18 months to run, it might be time to have a more serious appraisal of where his career is heading. He still has some way to go if he is to fulfil Sir Alex Ferguson’s prediction that he could be the greatest player in Manchester United’s history.
Even as a fan watching Jones make his Blackburn debut as a fresh faced 18-year-old, his talent was apparent. Coming up against the 2010 version of Didier Drogba and Chelsea, his positional awareness, speed and tenacity were remarkable. One tackle he made on Frank Lampard will live long in the memory. When locally-born, 18-year-old academy graduates are making their league debut and absolutely smashing through established England internationals it does tend to stick in the memory. Continue reading
Making his TFN debut, Will Lawrence reflects on a prank gone wrong at Stoke City…
Back in spring 2013, The Beast was simply the childish nightmare of some stranded boys in the classic novel Lord of the Flies. Premier league footballers, too caught up in the making of daisy chains and the arranging of cones into flower patterns, were blissfully unaware of the sinister secret that lay within their sport.
But one day in May, The Beast was summoned to what became one of the darkest and most desperate places on earth: the Stoke City dressing room. The culprit was reportedly Glen Whelan, known previously as an average midfield player, but since exposed as the ruler of a savage, otherworldly kingdom which exists somewhere near the M6.
Having not been satisfied with the egging of Michael Owen’s Mercedes, The Beast demanded the sacrifice of Kenwyne Jones’ dignity. “We are going to have fun on this island. Understand?”. Whelan and friends duly delivered. The Trinidad born striker found a bloody, severed pig’s head hidden in his locker. Jones is a Rastafarian and so does not eat pork. He was understandably furious, going on to hit the target with a well-aimed brick smashed through Whelan’s windscreen. Continue reading
Billy Macfarlane returns to TFN with his take on the use of statistics in football…
Football is a sport with no place for statistics. It is a sport which is organised chaos. Moments which decide results are so few and far between that there is little use in trying to predict them. The emotional legacy of results on fans is the most important aspect of football to understand. From this point we can begin to qualitatively argue about the best players and sides but no conclusive answer can ever be reached.
Football is a sport inherently based on statistics. Quantitative measures of the number of times each side makes the ball legally cross the goal line result in teams receiving either 0, 1 or 3 points or progressing in a cup competition. From this point we can begin to quantify, analyse and predict the impacts of players on the causation of goals and securing victory. These measurements can be produced objectively regardless of who compiles them.
This, of course, is a false dichotomy. Those favouring qualitative appreciation of football do not view goals and points as irrelevant to making judgements. Likewise few of those who argue in favour for the importance of statistics would actually argue that there is no room for subjectivity and that you can form your judgements based purely on graphs and numbers. Continue reading
TFN’s Alastair Nasmyth returns with a special report from his trip to Cerezo Osaka…
Coming out of Tsurugaoka station you could hear the chanting already. It was an hour before kickoff, but the Cerezo Osaka Ultras were already whipping up the crowd. It was so loud I started worrying the game had started and I’d got my times wrong in my hungover state induced by all you can drink Karaoke (yeah that’s as dangerous as it sounds) the night before.
Cerezo Osaka are one of two teams in Osaka, Japan’s second largest city, the other being Gamba Osaka. This season they have had massively contrasting experiences similar to those previously seen in Manchester before the sheikhs turned up. Gamba have already won one piece of silverware this year (the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup, one of their two domestic cup competitions) and can secure a league and cup double with wins in their last two games of the season. Cerezo on the other hand are staring relegation in the face with two wins needed in their last two games to have a chance of staying up. In fact they are only being saved from the bottom spot by Tokushima Vortis’ Derby County circa 2008 performance and prop up the 17 teams above them with 13 points from 32 games. Continue reading
Raj Bains explains why it’s time to stop deriding or ignoring the Africa Cup of Nations…
A lot of people have been falling out of love with football this week. In the absence of top tier league matches, the international break has been sadly overshadowed by the hateful trifecta of Ched Evans, Dave Whelan and Malky Mackay, who have all done their level best to embody all of what is wrong with society in the most unwelcome trio since Take That announced Jason Orange had left. That said, we football fans are understandably in need of a reminder as to why exactly we love this game as much as we do. Look away now Whelan and Mackay, because I’m about to say some very complimentary things about the upcoming Coupe d’Afrique des Nations – for shame!
In truth, it’s incredibly easy to knock CAN if one were that way inclined. While most flirt with grossly patronising an entire continent when they talk of the quality of the football played, the CAN is regularly one of the finest footballing spectacles of the season every time it roles around. Lazily rehashed stereotypes are usually commonplace in discussions regarding Africa’s show-piece tournament, so you’ll invariably be told about how poor the goalkeeping will be, and how the lack of skill will be offset by lots of incredible athletes. While that’s all just a slight sidestep away from accusing black players of being unable to perform in the cold, it’s also entirely false. Continue reading