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 →
TFN editorJames Dutton looks at how Jose Mourinho’s bitter experience at Real Madrid has defined his management back at Chelsea…
“The only friend I have in this dressing room is Granero… and I’m not even sure that I can trust him any more. You’ve left me all on my own. You’re the most treacherous squad I’ve had in my life. Nothing more than sons of bitches.”
Real Madrid changed Jose Mourinho. The bitter, twisted and paranoid Mourinho that has stalked the Stamford Bridge touchline since the turn of the year is not the one that departed Milan in 2010, a European champion for the second time and ready to be feted by the biggest club in world football.
Sure, Mourinho has never been a saint. At Porto and his first spell with Chelsea there was plenty of evidence of the dark, underhand tactics that so riled Graeme Souness on Wednesday night. But Madrid was a new experience for him, it challenged him in ways he had never come across before. The insubordination that he met at Real Madrid, the dressing room cliques that festered and chronically undermined his final season in the Spanish capital, have resonated with him more than anything he has ever encountered in his glittering managerial career.
He proclaimed himself “The Happy One” when he returned to West London in June 2013, but he has barely raised a smile since. Of course, he did not mean that he was literally happy – there are always undercurrents to Mourinho’s words. More it was relief that he had returned somewhere where he could command the instant respect that he had had to earn for himself at Madrid. Continue reading →
Ally Moncrieff looks at the importance of rivalries and knowing your enemies in the world of football…
You don’t need much to get a game of football started, a few willing participants, an open area and an object resembling a ball means you can partake in something that could be broadly recognised as the same sport played by Messi, Ronaldo et al. Its glorious simplicity is one of the things that makes football the greatest game in the world. Obviously once you start adding nets, kits, officials and so on that kickabout in the park becomes ever more like the real thing.
One thing is always going to be missing though, one little factor that takes football from great sport to great spectacle and that’s an enemy. Football without an enemy is just another hobby, another distraction from the mundanity of life. It needs the tribal ferocity that only true enemies can produce to elevate it to something grander, something more important.
All teams have a rival, a side they’d prefer to beat above all others irrespective of how it affects league position or cup progress. Not all though have an enemy. 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 →
Simon Smith looks at the narrative surrounding title chasers and the aura of invincibility which made Real Madrid and Chelsea more vulnerable…
After yet another episode of self-congratulation in the endless carousel that is the Ronaldo-Messi show, Ballon d’or finalists Leo and Cristiano returned to business as usual this week with headline dominating performances and five goals between them. Real Madrid have had to contend with another reshuffle of their squad this season following some classic Perez-ing in the summer; he may be the only club president in European Football the British public recognise. The narrative has been much the same as last season too; Ancelotti’s masterclass in ego management, tactical ingenuity and flexibility of approach that has allowed for a near seamless inclusion of James and Kroos into an already star studded side.
And yet this expertise, the ability to field a front six as ridiculous as Isco-Kroos-Bale-Ronaldo-James-Benzema as Real had the audacity to start with in the World Club Cup final, has become in recent weeks almost a stick to beat Madrid with. Questions of fatigue in the squad have cast a spotlight on the lack of rotation. As impressive as Real have been since their early season struggles, as unreal as the all competitions win streak became, the League is not only not beyond Barcelona yet, but likewise local rivals Atleti.
The thorn in Ancelotti’s side is not that Barcelona have failed to implode during a period of off-pitch crisis; it isn’t the way Messi-Suarez-Neymar has shown flickering signs of becoming a real and viable strategy in recent matches; it’s that all this has happened almost by accident. Barcelona have hardly been devoid of strategy this season, but the starting XI has yet to remain unchanged in consecutive league fixtures. The record of having 25 different starting lineups this season is staggering to the point where one wonders if you would stumble upon that if you actually tried to. Continue reading →
TFN debutant and La Liga expert, Muhammad aka MochineGun, goes all Nick Fury on us as he tries to put together a super-powered team to take down Cristiano Ronaldo this weekend…
Yesterday, the internet awoke to something pretty special. After a nefarious leak, Marvel decided to bless us with an early release of the full HD teaser trailer for next summer’s blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The trailer itself was pretty great, but there was something striking about the opening line from Ultron: “I’m gonna show you something beautiful. Everyone screaming, for mercy.” Musa Okwonga was the first to make the link.
“I’m going to show you something beautiful”, said Ronaldo, before last night’s game. “Everyone -screaming, for mercy.” #AgeofUltron
Yes! Those scenes of mass destruction at the hands of a super being: that was Anfield on Wednesday night. It was Cristiano Ronaldo who led the way in Real Madrid’s 3-0 decimation of Liverpool with a beautiful goal that, well, had the Kop screaming for mercy before they applauded him from the field.
Cristiano is ruthless right now, destroying opponent after opponent. In fact in many ways he is just like Ultron; angry at the world for not appreciating him enough, thus he’s out to remind them all how brutally brilliant he is. In the film, The Avengers will try and stop Ultron, but who can stop Cristiano Ronaldo here in real-life? What’s that, El Clasico is on Saturday? A star-studded showdown where Cristiano’s Real Madrid take on Barcelona; a team of superheroes that just a few years ago delighted and thrilled us much like The Avengers? Well there’s only one thing for this then: a Hypothetical Age Of Ultron XI! Continue reading →
Jonny McConnell looks at Diego Simeone’s options beyond Atlético Madrid…
It has been said over and over again, but even in management, Diego Simeone has retained the ferocity and sheer determination that made him such a formidable opponent in his playing days.
Often unpredictable on the pitch, he had enviable talent and he has impressively taken his playing qualities into his role as a manager. Since replacing Gregorio Manzano in December 2011, Simeone has showed his coaching ability to the world, helping the club escape from a period of mediocrity, moulding them into La Liga winners in the space of two and a half seasons. What next though? Can Simeone and the club improve on this, or have they finally reached their ceiling as a club. Continue reading →