The State of the Game: Andy Kellett & the Under 21 Premier League

In the first part of a new series, Hugo Greenhalgh reveals why the Andy Kellett move is a damning indictment of player development in English football…

Anecdotally, it’s a brilliant story. Local boy gets shock move to European giants. It is little wonder Andy Kellett thought Manchester United’s move for him was a ‘wind up’. Theories did the rounds that Jim White had misread ‘Sheffield’ as ‘Manchester’ on Sky Sports News. The whole matter seems totally implausible, yet beneath the surface Kellett’s loan actually serves as a damning indictment of youth football in this country.

The January window saw seven young United players head out on loan to clubs in the Football League. This is where the emphasis now lies with youth policy for the big clubs; the U-21 Premier League offers little in the way of a challenge as the players are simply competing within their age group. Conversely, the Football League allows them a test outside their comfort zone, both mentally and physically. They get the chance to work with more experienced players than their contemporaries in the youth team and compete against tougher, stronger opponents. Continue reading

The Other Júlio César: from the Bernabeu to Bolton

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Chris Manning of Lion of Vienna Suite profiles the third and final Brazilian to have played in the Premier League for Bolton: Júlio César…

Júlio César’s early career is defined by his work in Spain, where as a youngster he was signed by Real Madrid and made 21 appearances in a two year spell, playing alongside giants of the game such as Hierro and Raul, as well as future Bolton Wanderers colleague Ivan Campo. Julio Cesar spent early 2000 being loaned to Italian side AC Milan.

Cesar’s nomadic existence then saw him move to Benfica and Austria Vienna before being sold to Bolton in July 2004. He made his debut in the first home game of the season – a sunny August day which saw two Jay-Jay Okocha goals help Cesar’s new side to a 4-1 victory over Charlton Athletic. However, the arrival of fellow defender Radhi Jaidi from Tunisian side Esperance saw his playing time limited to minor Cup games, including the two games against Yeovil Town where a reserve Bolton Wanderers side struggled to progress. It was against Yeovil Town where Julio Cesar scored his only goal in English football. It is difficult to assess his Bolton Wanderers career as it contains few notable moments, other than the absence of such events. Continue reading

Emerson Thome – The Brazilian Journeyman

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Amassing 152 top flight appearances for four different clubs, Emerson Thome can be described as the first Brazilian journeyman on these shores. In a bumper edition of ‘The Samba Series’, we pay tribute…

Sheffield Wednesday

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Steve Beastie from Owls Alive recounts Thome’s arrival in England at Sheffield Wednesday…

When your club is building what you truly believe is a League winning side and you get wind that you’re signing a Brazilian player, any doubts you may have had turn to childish giddiness. Your mind races with thoughts of fancy footwork and legs like bees wings moving faster than the speed of sound, so a few days later when you find out the nickname for your new super smooth play maker is ‘The Wall’ those doubts resurface…

As wonderful as all their players over the decades have been, you struggle to think of an earth shattering defender, especially centre half and ‘The Wall’ quickly erases any thoughts of dancing feet.

When you finally see your ‘Brazilian Master’ and see that he’s 18 feet tall and 6 foot across the shoulders you instantly get the nickname. 18 feet tall maybe, but tanned, goateed and gorgeous he was and the ladies of Sheffield soon took an instant liking to him. For the blokes it was gonna take more than rugged good looks to persuade them… Show us what you’ve got! Continue reading

Mario Jardel – from European Golden Shoe to Bolton Mediocrity

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Chris Manning from Lion of Vienna Suite profiles the first Brazilian at Bolton – the once prolific, Mario Jardel…

In Mario Jardel, Bolton Wanderers had signed a striker with a phenomenal goalscoring record in European football. At the time it was a slightly unreal situation seeing a fee of just £1.8m had secured the services of a forward who was feared across the continent. At Porto he had scored 166 goals in just 169 appearances, he moved then to Galatasaray in Turkey and scored 34 goals in 43 appearances before returning to Portugal with Sporting CP where he again broke records scoring 67 goals in 62 appearances. It was here that Jardel won the European Golden Shoe, in the 2001-2 season during which he scored 42 goals in 30 league games. Continue reading

The Championship is back: the greatest league in the land!

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Leicester City fan Chris Francis extols the virtues of the English second tier…

Bloody hell am I excited. The football season is here already, but this isn’t the beginning of any old league. This weekend we get to watch the start of the most unpredictable league in the land: The Championship.

Over the past few weeks we’ve heard fans from pretty much every team talk about how they think they could reach the play-offs this year, and as ever no one has any real idea as to who will do well and who will fail and fade away.

The Championship is the best league in England because of this unknown quantity. Leicester, Forest, Blackburn, Bolton, and Middlesbrough were ‘the teams to watch’ last year, and it was a pretty poor show from the lot of them, as they finished 6th, 8th, 17th, 7th, and 16th respectively.

Instead, we had Cardiff winning the thing with a rather ugly, if efficient, brand of football, Hull in second and Palace winning at Wembley. In their place we have three teams joining the madhouse who should all fit in pretty nicely. Continue reading

Reebok Effect Fails To Rub Off on Benik Afobe

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Hugo Greenhalgh asks where it went wrong for Benik Afobe at Bolton and looks ahead to his new club, Millwall…

He was the boy who at the age of 16 was wanted by Barcelona. Three years on, Benik Afobe is about to embark on a make or break loan spell at Millwall. This follows a highly disappointing half a season with Bolton Wanderers where the young English striker hit the mark just three times in 23 appearances. Not so long ago, the Reebok was the go-to destination for promising youngsters; indeed, two of the Premier League’s brightest stars in recent weeks cut their teeth in the North West – Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge. So what went wrong with Afobe’s time at ‘finishing school’? Continue reading

The Mid-Season Managerial Merry-Go-Round Strikes Again

Bolton’s gain, Crystal Palace’s loss.

Another series of managerial movements in the Football League has prompted False Nine editor James Dutton to suggest some changes…

It’s that time of year again. The clocks have gone back and the nights are drawing in, the dust has settled from Halloween, the night sky is adorned by fireworks and the high street stores are gearing their sales towards the biggest consumerist event known to mankind. In  the football world media discourse is again dominated by sub-standard refereeing and a ludicrous obsession with diving. It is also that time of the year when the managerial landscape of the Football League is once again metamorphosing before our eyes. Continue reading