Norwich City: Ricky van Wolfswinkel ain’t afraid of no ghosts

Ghostbuster Winkel

Elko Born takes a closer look at Norwich’s record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Where did he come from, and will he make it in the Premier League?

It must be difficult to be one of the Eredivisie’s top goalscorers. Especially if you’re dreaming of a move to the Premier League. Imagine this: You go to bed, stare at the ceiling, you think about the cheering crowds and getting goal of the month on Match Of The Day. Then, after finally falling asleep, you suddenly wake up, shocked and drenched in sweat. After a minute of pure confusion, you discern a greyish, translucent figure hovering over you.

It’s the ghost of Afonso Alves. He’s coming to haunt your dreams.

‘What have you ever accomplished?’ he shouts, as the hapless front man tries to hide under the duvet and think about Ruud van Nistelrooy. ‘The Eredivisie is ridiculously bad. It’s easy to score goals there!’

Yet despite all this, a move to the Premier League is everything most young, Dutch footballers want –  strikers especially – because England is close by, the language barrier is easy to overcome, but first and foremost because, according to myth, goals scored in England are the best goals there are.

In England, the crowds cheer louder when the ball hits the net, young Dutch boys think. And besides that, a goal scored in England is by definition spectacular. In England, strikers score insane backwards headers and 40 yard belters. They don’t have to drop back to midfield and pass all too often, the defenders will just hoof the ball to you wherever you are. Continue reading

Is this the worst group of newly promoted teams ever in the Premier League?


Chris Francis assesses the fortunes of the Premier League’s three newly arrived teams and asks whether this is the worst promoted trio the league has ever seen…

The identity of the Premier League’s worst ever team is in no doubt.

Derby County were promoted to the Premier League in 2007 and then relegated in March 2008 – the fastest demotion since the restructuring of the English league structure. They ended the season on a paltry 11 points having mustered up one solitary win (at home to Newcastle 1-0 since you ask), and picking up just 8 draws. The fact that they lost 29 games in a season indicated that Billy Davies’ team were way out of their depth, although Davies himself had predicted as much. Having guided Derby to the promised land he demanded the board back him or watch as the club was humiliated and sent back down in flame. Warnings unheeded, Davies was sacked after his team’s inevitable meltdown with the appointment of Paul Jewell as successor having little, if any, effect besides destroying his reputation – a set back his career is yet to recover from.

Since Derby’s demise, in recent years we’ve become accustomed to seeing promoted sides making a name for themselves rather than reverting to playing the role of whipping boys to the more established sides. The gap between the Championship and the Premier League is a massive chasm to bridge, but with good management, a collective spirit and the right players a club can establish itself as a serious fixture in the league, quickly. Last year, Southampton and West Ham played with similar squads to those that got them promoted in the first place and were, on the whole, rather comfortable rubbing shoulders with the mid-table regulars. Norwich and Swansea did the same the season before, with the latter achieving a 9th place finish as well as winning the League Cup last year. Stoke, West Brom, and Newcastle have also each shown that promotion can be more than just a “one year tourist visa”, a remark made by Danny Baker over the weekend as he watched Crystal Palace versus Spurs.

While he was wrong to say that promotion has been nothing more than a short-stay stamp in a club’s shiny new passport, he may well have a point this season. Continue reading

Parker confirms Fulham as this season’s most exciting relegation flirts


Greg Johnson thinks Scott Parker could be the Robert De Niro to Berbatov’s Al Pacino this season as Fulham ramp up the entertainment factor in the absence of trophies or a top half finish…

It’s a shame that Mohammed Al-Fayed no longer reigns over West London. The tenuous, cliched connection between Fulham Football Club and Harrods, brought about by the Egyptian businessman’s former ownership of both has never felt more tantalisingly apt.

Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz, Adel Taarabt, Alexander Kacaniklic, Darren Bent: as fine a collection of esoteric luxuries and tacky rich man’s playthings as you could find across the multiple stories of the Knightsbridge department store. These are the gold encrusted Kashmir underpants, sub-prime bothering super truffles and absurd monster trucks for the under fours of the football world.

As you’d expect of such an impractical array of goods, it’s difficult to know where the bog standard essentials will come from; the daily (artisan) bread if you will. There appears to be little in the way of industry or work rate in amongst the Fulham ranks. In fact, ever since the sale of Mousa Dembele to Spurs last summer, Martin Jol’s team have felt rather gutted of their most vital keystone component. Continue reading

The Curious Case of Darren Bent


Despite his limitations, TFN’s David Wild reckons Darren Bent is well deserving of a second chance…

“There are not many young English players who have the pedigree and finishing class that Darren has shown over a number of years in the Premier League. In the League, only Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba have scored more goals in the last five years than his 81 goals.” – Gerard Houllier,

The story of Darren Bent is one that mirrors the changes in the fabric of the English game. Gerard Houlliers description of him here came in 2011 when Bent was 27, at the peak of his powers.

Such a goal scoring record, in line with the main front men at the two clubs competing for the Premier League title, should surely have made the striker a commodity hungered after by all of the top clubs in England, if not Europe. Instead at the time he was being transferred from Sunderland in 6th to Aston Villa in 17th in the Premier League Continue reading

The False Nine take on the BBC Premier League predictor


The Premier League kicks off tomorrow, and in preparation for the new season the TFN crew have taken to the BBC Premier League predictor to try guesstimate how the league table will look come May 2014…

With each entry completed by a different writer, with different methods and bias galore, we’re hoping the wisdom of the crowds will help us out to divine a more balanced final conclusion, even if our sample size is against us.

After reading through the tables and reasoning (or apologies) of each writer, scroll down to the end of the piece for a meta-table created using the average points collected by each club based on our individual predictions.

Our results may not be entirely accurate, or even intentional in some cases, but we at least hope they’re entertaining, and if you fancy having a go on the BBC predictor, feel free to send over your table to to help inform our final results!

Without further ado, let the anomalies and prediction catastrophes commence…  Continue reading

Football on TV: How will you be following your club on the box this season?


Following the launch of BT Sport, this season supporters have more choice than ever before when it comes to watching football on TV. Kelvin Goodson of broadband comparison website looks at the options available.

Unless you’ve been in a self-induced coma since May so the close season would pass more quickly, the chances are you’ve heard of BT Sport. The launch of this new group of sports channels means there is now more choice when it comes to watching football on TV in the UK than ever before.

However, with great choice comes great complexity – some of the options now are available about as straightforward as a Garth Crook monologue, so read on to get the skinny on all the different ways you can watch football on TV this season… Continue reading

AVFC: Lambert’s faith in youth set for big pay off

Lambert villa

After overcoming a tough first year at Villa Park, Greg Johnson reckons great things are just around the corner for Paul Lambert’s young squad…

Football management is a profession beset by cautious conservatism. In the constant race for results a coach must be ruthless in their methods in order to secure their long-term future and continued employment. Well-meaning plans and nice ideas carry little weight under the financial stakes and pressure of the professional game where dropping out of your sub-tier within a division can be almost as damaging as relegation itself.

Arsenal’s string of consistent top four finishes are often mocked for their faux-trophy status yet for clubs who fall out of that select group, regaining entry can cost as much as effort and money as a fully invested title challenge. This reality has dawned slowly on Liverpool’s initially naïve owners and their vast array of sentimentally optimistic supporters. Similarly, Aston Villa’s slump from the top six has seen the club struggle to stand still as the slope leading back up the table grew ever more slippery thanks to the resurgence of Tottenham Hotspur and the bump down effect of Manchester City’s extremely well funded Champions League insurgency.

Last season Paul Lambert injected the decisive radicalism Villa needed to not only stop the rot that had crumbled their Europe bothering foundations, but to build a platform to recapture those heady heights once more. Continue reading