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
With the race for Champions League places at its tightest in history, James Dutton takes a closer look…
Another chastening week for English football in the Champions League and Europa League. Much like many knock-out round evenings in the last five years, a lack of quality, adaptability and in-game intelligence, a naivety that has once again exposed the flaws of the best sides in the rough-and-tumble Barclay’s Premier League on the European stage. All the money, facilities and resources but barely a hint of nous between them; English teams obsess over qualifying for the continental competitions yet have little idea what to do when they get there.
Qualification for the Champions League is that pot of gold at the end of a 38-game-long rainbow; as equally exalted as silverware now is the opportunity to be knocked out by a side from a second-rate European league in the knock-out stage. Priorities may be skewed but when the financial reward for a top four finish is so grandiose it becomes, as Tim Sherwood would say, a no-brainer.
As money has proliferated in the Premier League so the Race for the Champions League™ has become ever increasingly hard-fought. This is where it has been heading since Jesper Gronkjaer sank Liverpool in 2003 and scored the biggest goal in the history of Chelsea Football Club. TV deals have increased manifold since, and with that prize money and the desperation to gatecrash the party. Continue reading
TFN debutant and Blackburn Rovers fan Felix Reed assesses the career of Phil Jones…
Phil Jones has recently found himself on the wrong end of some negative publicity because he’s taken a few corners and pulls a face that launched a thousand Sportbible-worthy memes. However, given that Jones turns 23 next month and that his current contract has less than 18 months to run, it might be time to have a more serious appraisal of where his career is heading. He still has some way to go if he is to fulfil Sir Alex Ferguson’s prediction that he could be the greatest player in Manchester United’s history.
Even as a fan watching Jones make his Blackburn debut as a fresh faced 18-year-old, his talent was apparent. Coming up against the 2010 version of Didier Drogba and Chelsea, his positional awareness, speed and tenacity were remarkable. One tackle he made on Frank Lampard will live long in the memory. When locally-born, 18-year-old academy graduates are making their league debut and absolutely smashing through established England internationals it does tend to stick in the memory. Continue reading
Making his TFN debut, Will Lawrence reflects on a prank gone wrong at Stoke City…
Back in spring 2013, The Beast was simply the childish nightmare of some stranded boys in the classic novel Lord of the Flies. Premier league footballers, too caught up in the making of daisy chains and the arranging of cones into flower patterns, were blissfully unaware of the sinister secret that lay within their sport.
But one day in May, The Beast was summoned to what became one of the darkest and most desperate places on earth: the Stoke City dressing room. The culprit was reportedly Glen Whelan, known previously as an average midfield player, but since exposed as the ruler of a savage, otherworldly kingdom which exists somewhere near the M6.
Having not been satisfied with the egging of Michael Owen’s Mercedes, The Beast demanded the sacrifice of Kenwyne Jones’ dignity. “We are going to have fun on this island. Understand?”. Whelan and friends duly delivered. The Trinidad born striker found a bloody, severed pig’s head hidden in his locker. Jones is a Rastafarian and so does not eat pork. He was understandably furious, going on to hit the target with a well-aimed brick smashed through Whelan’s windscreen. Continue reading
TFN’s Alex Stewart returns with a column on football’s dreaded “narrative”…
Football is confusing, isn’t it? I mean, take Arsenal. Arsenal are shit, aren’t they? We all know that. They’ve a porous defence, weak full-backs who can’t head the ball, injury problems galore, and Arsene Wenger is so confused about who to buy he’s actually taking suggestions by text. Sure, they’re probably top six this season, but only because everyone else is so woeful. And Manchester City are fantastic, right? They’ve qualified for the next round of the Champions League at long last, they’ve got the best striker in the Premier League and they’ve just bought another really, really good one. Vincent Kompany is more than a footballer, he’s a heroic saviour of all that is good and decent in this world, as well as being an elegant, handsome man to boot.
And then Arsenal go and beat City at home and suddenly, aren’t City shit? The Vincent Kompany rare error is becoming the Pepe Reina rare error, according to someone on Twitter. Forget the strikers: City are a one-man team who always lose when Yaya is away on duty with his national side. They have no plan B and no way of rousing themselves from their indolent, slightly apathetic superiority complex and when pushed, often fall over. And aren’t Arsenal amazing? I mean, Alexis Sanchez is the best player in the league, and Wenger was absolutely right to stick with Francis Coquelin and Olivier Giroud and bring in David Ospina; the man is a genius. And Santi’s Cazorla’s not lazy; he’s just been saving himself for the big occasions. Continue reading
James Dutton looks at why it has taken so long for Manchester City and Chelsea to dominate the Premier League, before drawing some links to the Dark Knight Trilogy…
I was asked a question on a recent uMAXit podcast episode by Raj Bains which momentarily threw me a little bit. Written down the question reads:
“Can you see other teams growing to become a larger part of the conversation next season? Or is our title now just a competition between Sheikh and oligarch?”
This threw me in the sense that the answer was, pretty obviously, an unequivocal yes to the latter part. Which led me to wonder why, in 2015, has this only just become the case, where it’s very difficult to argue a case for the next Premier League champions to not be owned by a sheikh or an oligarch?
Why has it taken the best part of seven years for it to be the case that the two richest clubs in the league are unequivocally significantly better-equipped and now destined to carve up the next five league titles between themselves? It says as much about the sheer force of will of Sir Alex Ferguson to sustain Manchester United up until his retirement, and the freak of nature that was Liverpool’s 2013-14 season, as it does the failure of the two super-clubs to stamp down their muscle. Continue reading
Joe Devine returns to look at 5 things that may or may not have happened over the recent Premier League game week…
1. Liverpool Regain Identity
In the midsts of the celebrations after Liverpool’s jubilant 0-2 win over Aston Villa on Saturday, Brendan Rogers revealed that the club have finally “regained” their identity”. Liverpool fans will be pleased to hear that control of the club has returned to the right hands, though some might be confused as to why they knew nothing of the fraud in the first place. Few details have been revealed as to who may have stolen the Merseyside club’s identity, though early reports are suggesting that North Korea might be involved. Life-long Steven Gerrard fan Kim Jong-Un was rumoured to have offered the Liverpool captain a lucrative offer to coach Pyongyang F.C. The offer was declined and some tabloid journalists have speculated that the recent identity theft might be an act of furious revenge. The broadsheets pooh-pooh this theory, however, and according to The Guardian “£117m worth of average players collected over the summer clearly suggests that this identity theft might well have been going on for longer than most initially imagined”.
2. Wenger Disgusted With Lack of Possession
Despite leaving the Etihad on Sunday with 3 points after their 0-2 victory over Champions Manchester City, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger privately bemoaned his players’ lack of possession and attacking flair. In a dressing room speech in which the Frenchman told his players he’d rather “be a dead donkey than kick a dead donkey”, Arsene Wenger allegedly beat Santi Carzorla furiously around the back of the head before storming out chanting Kant’s Principles of Aesthetic Excellence. The False Nine newsroom is reliably informed that “heads will roll” should Arsenal defy their aesthetic responsibilities in the name of winning ever again. Continue reading