The latest Editor’s Column from James Dutton tackles the implications of two late goals in the Premier League and next weekend’s top-of-the-table clash…
Is there a top-flight derby in England with lower quality and technical ability than Sunderland v Newcastle?
A central defensive pairing of Mike Williamson and Paul Dummett, a midfield battle between Cheick Tiote and Lee Cattermole and the continued pointlessness of Adam Johnson.
Before Fabio Borini’s stunning late winner for the hosts, it was a derby meandering toward nothingness. Suddenly the Black Cats are reinvigorated, and Newcastle fans are staring at another year wondering what on earth is going on.
Will it be the turning point of Sunderland’s season? Victory against your local rivals can create a cathartic, transformative effect around a club, and given their meek surrender at Swansea last week it no doubt removes some of the gloom that has gripped the Mackems.
But this one result against an alarmingly average Newcastle side doesn’t show that they have the necessary tools to avoid relegation. It doesn’t change the fact that Sunderland have, Crystal Palace aside, the weakest squad in the league. Continue reading
James Dutton looks back at England’s World Cup qualifying campaign and how Roy Hodgson will approach the tournament next summer…
After a painstaking 13-month journey through dire stalemates, comprehensive beatings of European minnows and the overriding sense of ‘perpetual crisis’ England have reached the World Cup finals. A World Cup in Brazil without England would have been unthinkable, for Hodgson now this is his self-annointed ‘Utopia'; this has been the driving-force of his nomadic 38-year career, just reward for sheer persistence. What relief to have narrowly sidestepped the screaming vortex that has humiliated his predecessors, among them Graham Taylor, Kevin Keegan and Steve McClaren.
Should two positive results and emphatic performances in the space of a week excuse what came before? Should the previous recriminations be forgotten now that England have handsomely defeated two international sides that they would be disappointed not to beat? After all, England traditionally struggle against the so-called ‘mid-table’ international stratum.
As early as November last year Hodgson had already set his sights on the play-offs, despite a group that was so eminently winnable from the outset. Thus only from the lowering of expectations (a classic Hodgson manoeuvre and one that David Moyes is replicating at Manchester United this season) has this arduous qualifying campaign been quantified as a success. Continue reading
This week’s Editor’s Column from James Dutton looks at the state of play in the Premier League, Dulwich Hamlet in the Ryman Isthmian League and the top five smoking footballers…
Seven games into the Premier League season and with the second international break upon us, the table is beginning to take shape.
At this stage of the 2012-13 season Chelsea sat above the two Manchester clubs at the summit, with Everton, Spurs, West Brom and Arsenal clinging on to their coat tails.
At the bottom sat Queens Park Rangers, whilst Norwich, Reading, Southampton, Aston Villa, Wigan and Liverpool perched precariously above them; all with less points than games played.
This year only Crystal Palace and Sunderland have less points than games played; Norwich have seven off seven and yet occupy the remaining slot in the relegation places – a year ago they’d have sat in 13th.
What does this tell us? Continue reading
The False Nine editor James Dutton begins his new weekly column, focusing on some of the talking points of the weekend’s football action…
So David Moyes has made the worst start of any Manchester United manager for the past 850 years. Or something like that.
A return of seven points from the opening five fixtures was below-par, but by no means a disaster. The way those points were won though, was hardly a sign of encouragement for the season. United were by no means rampant in their opening-day win at Swansea, merely clinical in the opposition’s penalty area and solid in their own.
In the middle third there was little that was excellent though, a shortcoming that Ferguson was able to paper over for years but which Moyes is struggling with so far. The insipid 0-0 with Chelsea lacked the typical Ferguson tour-de-force, and the performance in defeat at Anfield was little better.
Their dispatchment of Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League was impressive, but has been followed up by three performances which have straddled between lacklustre, indifferent and diabolical. Continue reading