‘Slight Return’ Pato’s lost weekend in Brazil

As former Brazilian wonderkid Alexandre Pato prepares for his highly anticipated return to European football with Chelsea, Tim Stillman looks back at his wilderness years in his homeland…

After a dizzying succession of injuries and a controversial relationship with Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter, Alexandre Pato returned to Brazil in January 2013. He signed with São Paulo club Corinthians with the intention of rebuilding a career that had once promised so much. The short term aim would have been to rediscover his touch and his fitness with Corinthians and attract European suitors.

This would very much have been in Corinthians’ financial planning when they sanctioned the purchase of the Pato Branco born forward. Whilst ‘Pato’ is indeed Portuguese for ‘duck’, his nomenclature derives from his city of birth. His actual name, Alexandre Rodrigues da Silva, is a string of very popular and widely used Brazilian names, so ‘Pato’ is used to identify him in the same way that Ronaldinho is called ‘Ronaldinho Gaucho’ and the two famous Juninho’s are known as Juninho Paulista (of Middlesbrough fame) and Juninho Pernambucano (who played for Lyon). Continue reading

Nenê – a forgotten artefact of Allardyce’s West Ham dynasty

Charles Pulling profiles Nenê, West Ham’s already forgotten Brazilian from the 2014-15 season…

In 2011, workmen expanding a road in eastern China discovered the mummified remains of a woman dating back 700 years. It was, in terms of the quality of the find and its location one of the most stunning Ming-era discoveries in recent times, a perfectly preserved echo of a long fallen dynasty.

Also in 2011, another altogether less lauded dynasty began in east London. The Allardyce-era at West Ham United may not have stretched over centuries, but for many of the Upton Park faithful the all-too-often turgid, grinding performances may have felt something close to a lifetime in length. And so, with the ominous boos reverberating around Upton Park, ‘Big Sam’ was afforded no reward for securing West Ham’s Premier League status for a third season running and the sun came down on the Allardyce dynasty.

Now, with optimism, a new manager, an impending move to a fancy new stadium and Europa League sojourns West Ham seems a happier, more contented place, despite a ball barely being kicked in anger. But what of the relics of the past four years? What do they tell us?

One of the more rarer finds whilst sifting through the wreckage is the name Nenê, a name that stands out in contrast to the more ‘meat and potato’ Allardyce players such as Nolan or Downing. The name is barely a footnote. Understandable considering the man from São Paulo spent little over three months parking his car at the ‘Academy of Football.’ Continue reading

The Premier Election: the General Election Re-imagined

General-Election-2015

Jonny Singer reimagines the 2015 General Election in footballing parlance…

Football and elections go together like lamb and mustard. It’s not really how things are meant to be, but occasionally someone decides the two should be combined.

Who can forget that Arsenal, never relegated from the top flight, have also never been promoted, but were in fact elected to the Premier League (loads of people, actually, but not, it transpires, Spurs fans)? Who can forget that Tony Blair basically won his general elections because he pretended to like football (again, lots of people, because it’s not really true, but you know, it’s a nice thought)?

Anyway, it seems that now is one of those times where football and elections should, once again, cross paths. In just a week we’ll have a new government, almost certainly a Premier League winner, and two FA Cup finalists. If that doesn’t represent an opportunity for tenuous, disarmingly accurate and occasionally witty connections between sport and politics, what does?

So, here are the parties for the Premier Election (the best politics in the world™):

SNP – Celtic: 

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Popular in Scotland, but ignored in England, despite occasional interest when first team minister Nicola ‘Deila’ Sturgeon tries something different. Obsessed with staying in Europe but have very little control over that. With no real rivals north of the border they try and get involved down south, but it’s not going to happen.

Continue reading

Premier League Gameweek 31: 5 things that (may or may not have) happened

Joe Devine returns with his weekly look at things that may or may not have happened in the Premier League…

John Carver Wins ‘Biggest Fan’ Competition

It’s been a great week for Newcastle manager John Carver. Not only did he get to wake up as Newcastle manager every day, but on Sunday, he won a competition held by the club to discover the world’s biggest Toon fan. First prize was lunch with Mike Ashley, which Carver was reportedly thrilled about, as he’d been trying to get a meeting with Ashley since taking the job. This is the second competition John Carver has won this year, the first being the one he entered to become Newcastle manager. 

Tim Sherwood Maintains 100% Record Against Man United

After Saturday’s game at Old Trafford, Tim Sherwood told reporters that he was pleased to have maintained his 100% record against Manchester United, despite having lost the game. When puzzled members of the press quizzed the Aston Villa manager, Sherwood explained that the record he referred to related to a “battle of the managers” – “We might have lost on the pitch, and that’s fine, but off the pitch, between me and Louis, I won that battle. You see? I know we lost the game but in our mind battle I actually won. My tactics were correct, it’s just that it didn’t work out, BUT I am the cleverer manager, is what I’m saying. I won. Just not where you can see, but I did win. 100%. They’ll forget that though, won’t they, when the people all say I’m useless, that I’ve got a 100% record against Manchester United, they’ll forget that. My ratios are sky high. Higher than the sky. I’m 100%.” Continue reading

The Race for the Champions League: A Re-imagining

TFN debutant Will Magee re-imagines the top four and the race for the Champions League…

Do you like football? Any football at all? Then the chances are you’ve read several astoundingly reprocessed ‘top-four race’ pieces in the last few weeks. These articles are the reanimated undead of the Premier League season, the phantoms that plague the minds of hungover sport writers, the ghosts at the top-flight feast; they appear every year at exactly the same time to remind us that our lives are, essentially, hauntingly repetitive – and that Arsenal will most likely finish fourth.

The prediction for this year goes like this: Chelsea in first, Manchester City in second, two of Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool in the lesser Champions League spots. It’s really no more complicated than that. A maverick journalist will throw Tottenham into the mix every once in a while in an attempt to break the cycle, but do so with the poignant knowledge that this is totally, utterly futile – a puny act of rebellion in an uncaring existential void. Likewise, somebody will always root for a rank outsider, the last hope of escaping his or her recurring top-four nightmare. This never comes off, and said somebody is quickly institutionalised.

Still, at the risk of my own mental wellbeing, I fancy making an attempt at exorcising the eerie persistence of the ‘top-four race’ article and re-imagine the entire thing. Despite our numbing collective awareness that it will never be so, what clubs would we actually like to see finish in those coveted Premier League places? And in what precise order? Let’s settle down, hold onto our minds, disregard those creepy voices telling us to do terrible violence against the ones we love – and bloody well find out. Continue reading

Premier League Gameweek 29: 5 things that (may or may not have) happened

Joe Devine’s 5 things in the Premier League this weekend include Gus Poyet’s lucrative new contract and an uncharacteristic slip of the tongue from Nice Guy Nigel Pearson…

Gus Poyet Handed Long Term Contract

After a fabulous season at the helm of big Premier League giants Sunderland, boss-man and all round good guy Gus Poyet has been awarded a new long term contract, with a greatly improved salary. The contract was announced whilst Poyet was live on BBC television, and the delighted Uruguayan basked in the glory of success. Apparently the contract is for 18 years, and included was a hand-written card, signed by all the board members, thanking Poyet personally for his amazing job this year.

Van Gaal Goes Mad for Rats

Manchester United manager, Louis Van Gaal, spent the week telling anyone who would listen that they were in “a rat race”. The Dutchman apparently discovered the 2001 Jerry Zucker film “Rat Race” in which Cuba Gooding Jr, Whoopi Goldberg and Rowan Atkinson rush through a troublesome and boring race for the money (the film was about racing too). Upon seeing the film, Van Gaal quickly adopted the “you’re in a rat race” catchphrase, and has since been unable to stop saying it. Luckily, Wayne Rooney delivered a powerful, emotive speech to his team mates, who subsequently decided to stop pissing around and play a good game of football. Continue reading

The State of the Game: West Brom and the EPPP

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