QPR: Why Harry Redknapp is pretty much begging for the sack


Jon Wilmore of The Intangiballs argues that Harry Redknapp is looking to be pushed before he has to jump…

For a man who so vehemently declares he is neither a wheeler nor dealer, Harry Redknapp certainly seems keen on doing a lot of both in his alleged mission to get QPR back to the Premier League. His message is clear: let me buy who I want or hire someone else.

I’ve written before about how Harry’s disastrous Rangers reign has been given the sort of free ride the press would only grant their favourite son, so it is hardly surprising to see his latest declaration be treated as an act of defiance – a ‘clear message‘ to those damn tinkering owners just to leave him alone.

I’m not seeking to defend Tony Fernandes. He is, by all accounts, a bit of a clown. But his already numerous failings as the London club’s chairman would be dwarfed by the mistake that letting Harry off the leash in the transfer market would be. As a ‘football person,’ he claims, he and his fellow ‘football people’ should be allowed to pull the purse strings – the same kind of people having already played a part in Portsmouth’s financial nose dive not long ago. Continue reading

Jose Mourinho, Chelsea and the Cult of Brian Clough

Mourinho Chelsea

As the press go wild for Jose Mourinho’s reinstatement as Chelsea manager, Greg Johnson ponders the source of England’s love affair with the Special One and the interrupted quest for domestic domination he will look to now reassume…

The all-encompassing British football manager is perhaps the most revered piece of dogma in this island’s footballing belief system. Arguably no one has typified this ceremonial role of idol, patriarch and high priest as much as Brian Clough, who continues to influence popular tastes on the sort of perfect, omnipotent higher-being fans should desire to run their football club to this day.

It is this cult of the archetype head coach that led the English media to first be seduced and later fall in love with Jose Mourinho: their messianic, romantic saviour. But back to Brian Clough.

“Old big head”, he was called: the most arrogant, quotable and brilliant manager of his age, and Clough’s achievements remain legendary. Continue reading

Manchester City to be Refreshed by the Sparkling Taste of San Pellegrini

San Pellegrini Manchester City

TFN’s resident Manuel Pellegrini enthusiast Greg Johnson believes that the Chilean would be a major upgrade on Roberto Mancini. Here’s why Manchester City fans should drink in and savour the prospect of him taking charge at Eastlands…

Zest has been severely lacking from Manchester City this season. Just over 12 months on from Sergio Aguero’s larynx shredding title-winner and the taste of sky blue triumph has been replaced by sour disappointment. Their Premier League winning manager has been sacked, with a surprise FA Cup final defeat to Wigan Athletic and a 2-3 home loss to Norwich City adding a bitter finish to their year.

While Roberto Mancini laid the blame on the club’s failure to add Robin van Persie to their squad, the Dutchman’s absence felt more like a smokescreen than a valid excuse given the attacking talent already at his disposal. In reality, standards have slipped while the team’s enthusiasm has waned. Having accomplished their mission of winning the league, City have regressed.

The abilities of Mancini as a coach and tactician have been exposed as wanting, with his tactical plans unraveling into impotency without the title-winning form of individuals to smooth over the structural cracks. Continue reading

Hypothetical XI #17: The Best of Wigan Athletic in the Premier League

Wigan Team

So long Wigan Athletic, and thanks for all the fish end of season memories. As Roberto Martinez’s men slip into the Championship, with an unlikely FA Cup under their arm for their efforts, Simon Smith salutes their greatest hits with a hypothetical squad list of players who have excelled at the DW over the last eight years…

After eight years in the Premier League that nobody could have predicted back in 2005, Wigan Athletic will depart the glitz and glamour of the top flight leaving us with the memories of so many exciting but fundamentally flawed teams. I’m not sure which is harder, choosing the creative players to omit or the defenders to include… Nonetheless, here’s an ultimate Wigan XI from the last eight years that reflects the nature of the team: a controversial and uncompromising 3-2-5 to have the purist salivating and the Italian fan crying with rage, sheer rage at the audacity to play so open! Continue reading

Wembley overkill: finding a venue for Arsenal and Chelsea’s third place play-off


With the real possibility of a 3rd place play-off looming over the final day of the Premier League season, David Wild compares the potential venues beyond the FA’s grey, white arched elephant…

The sun rises, glinting in the sky like a ball of chipped topaz as the shadows cast by two twin towers gently sprawl across the fresh cut grass. A nation’s anticipation builds to a crescendo as football’s answer to Christmas morning caresses the masses into a frenzy of excitement. Cup final day at Wembley.

Or so it once was. Wembley was once the preserve of FA cup finals, the venue for heady, intoxicating European trophy deciders and a treasured haven for the national team. Now it plays host to such illustrious games as Wigan V Millwall in the FA cup semi final and could soon see a third place Champions League playoff between Arsenal and Chelsea.

To pay off the massive £798m behemoth the FA entered into a devil’s pact. We would see an increased number of games played in the reincarnation of one of football’s biggest stadiums to recoup its cost. The price of this is that we here at The False Nine now feel that there is something of an over saturation of Wembley football. Continue reading

In defence of Stoke City: an asset to the Premier League


The problem with Stoke City is complacency not brutality argues Greg Johnson

Next season Tony Pulis will be the second longest serving manager in the Premier League after Arsene Wenger, but in that time, what has he achieved with Stoke City?

Compared to the standards most other clubs measure themselves by, not a lot. Silverware has been non-existant and plaudits scarce, with the only stability being the certainty of an annual clamour for 40 points each season.

While provincial clubs to struggling to keep their head above water in the top-flight is nothing new, since their promotion in 2008, Stoke have spent £80M, and currently rank as the third highest net spend in the division.

Rather than trophies, popularity or sustainability, Pulis’ greatest accomplishment is the fear factor generated by his team of brutish giants and jilted cast-offs.

Stoke are the scourge of the Premier League, and they revel in their reputation. In fact, the league itself revels in their infamy, with the Potters now an unlikely asset to the branded tapestry of the English game. Continue reading

Stoke City: Stoking the Fire in Nobody’s Hearts

Stoke throw

A result against Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland on Monday would see Stoke City all but confirm their Premier League status for yet another year, but would anyone really miss Tony Pulis’ team if they were to slip out of the top-flight? Simon Smith explores the source of Stoke’s infamy…

There was a brief moment when Stoke City looked to be on the verge of a surprise relegation to the Championship, much to the nation’s delight. That moment has now ended and we are stuck with the Potters for another season of the long ball game, Pulis’ seemingly limitless supply of baseball caps, cold wet Wednesday nights at the Brittania, and a swinging low of a certain sweet chariot. To make matters worse, it seems the third team to go down might be nice sexy Wigan Athletic, who we for some reason love out of a combination of the hilarity of a village remaining in the Premier League while big city clubs like Birmingham slog it a league below, and the luscious Martinez’s continental ideas like passing, playing three at the back, and calling Franco di Santo a striker.

This season is shaping up to be their worst since promotion, with survival only really secured by beating an absolutely abject QPR side. At no point were the hipsters gushing over Delap’s throwing range but there was something of an acceptance and appreciation during their first few seasons that has since completely deserted them. Have they hit their ceramic-pottery ceiling or is there scope to kick on? In short: where did it all go wrong for Stoke?

Well, in lots of places. The transfers have been touted as a big cause of both Stoke’s decline and their increasing unpopularity, as big spending without any perceivable reason so often is. Kenwyne Jones, Cameron Jerome, Tuncay Şanlı, Peter Crouch; I appreciate there is a need for a squad of players but surely the endless replacement for replacement’s sake has done nothing for the quality of play. Would one world class striker not be better than these four? OK, the chances of Stoke city luring Edinson Cavani are slim to nil, but signings should really be made only if there is a problem to be fixed or a chance to improve the squad. These have achieved neither. Perhaps most damning of all is that Walters is a starting eleven stalwart even now: as a player I hugely admire everything about his determination, commitment and even some aspects of his ability in terms of what he adds to the attack. Still, the fact that a multitude of attackers has been bought without any finding a way to displace him is baffling.  Continue reading