Category Archives: Swansea City

Sod Newcastle, a real football team needs saving

So we’ve been hearing all week about football’s crisis club. An ongoing story of failure and disaster, which now appears to have reached breaking point, caused by continued mismanagement and a desire for quick success being allowed to override the need for long-term foundations to be laid.

Well actually, no, we haven’t. Instead the column inches have been clogged up with the latest renewal of the pantomime called Newcastle United. So lets quickly recap what everyone, interested in football or otherwise, now knows: A staggeringly rich football club, and its latest in a long line of staggeringly rich owners, keeps failing to use their staggeringly vast resources sensibly enough even to bring just enough decent football to keep the fans quiet. Oh how my heart bleeds for their plight.

Or to put it another way, who gives a toss? More importantly, who gives a toss when there is a case out there more deserving of our sympathy? A case for whom the kind of press coverage Newcastle have received this week could mean the difference between footballing life and death.

For Luton Town, the game is nearly up. Already in administration, a situation which has cost them ten points that currently make the difference between a place in the relegation zone, and being within shouting distance of the play-offs, Luton yesterday lost their manager. Yes, they lost their manager. You don’t hear it put like that very often do you?

For Kevin Blackwell, his job had become impossible. In making his final preparations for Luton’s home game against league one leaders Swansea on friday, Blackwell discovered that five of his players had been sold by the administrators. Having already endured the administration and points deduction, along with FA enquiries into the dodgy dealings of the club’s previous owners, and not having been paid for two weeks, you can begin to understand how Blackwell reached the end of his tether.

Yet, despite all this misery, the team has continued to show the most incredible spirit in it’s performances on the pitch. Luton’s home record has been one of the most consistent in the country this season. Promotion, not relegation, would be uppermost in their mind without the ten point penalty, and even since it was imposed, Luton have shown enough good form to suggest that survival would not have been a problem. In fact, before yesterday, Luton had lost only once in 13 games, an extraordinary performance by players who, of course, are also not being paid right now.

In addition to this, they knocked Nottingham Forest out of the FA Cup in the second round, before trumping that by earning a magnificent and improbable draw against Liverpool (should that be crisis club Liverpool?) in the third. The latter result has earned Luton a potentially life-saving replay at Anfield, but unless a new owner can be found for the club with some speed, this could prove to be a short reprieve.

Salvation for Luton is currently forming in the shape of a consortium led by (former) TV celebrity Nick Owen, a lifelong fan. Everyone in football should be hoping that Owen succeeds. Firstly, he is exactly the type of owner that a football club like Luton should have; a genuine fan, someone who would perform every action with the best interests of the club in mind, someone who would genuinely be in touch, and have sympathy, with the thoughts of the supporters, and someone who would leave the running of team affairs to the manager and his staff.

More importantly though, clubs like Luton simply must not be allowed to just disappear out of the league. They are part of football’s history, were a trophy winning club in the recent past, and are a hugely important institution in their local community. For clubs of Luton’s stature to suddenly cease to exist has massive implications for football, threatening even to the Premiership royalty that so sadly, and with blinkers firmly fitted, ignores their situation.

Lest we forget, Luton currently find themselves in such dire straits largely thanks to the allegedly illegal transfer activity of the clubs former owners – activity which was brought to the attention of the FA, The Football League and the national media by their then manager Mike Newell. Newell was admonished by virtually everyone in football, he lost his job, and has not worked since. The courage he showed in speaking out, with no support whatsoever from within the game, has been rejected and forgotten. This tale tells us everything we need to know about the way football is being run.

If the takeover goes through at Luton, and stability can be restored, Blackwell might be persuaded to change his mind about leaving (he’s decided to keep working with the players until February). Considering the job he has done with the team in such trying circumstances, this must be regarded as a necessity for Luton.

Although even if they hang on to Blackwell, the depleted squad is going to find it tough going for the remainder of the season, and bringing in new players is a fast-disappearing possibility with the days of January ticking by. Another example of how the smaller clubs are punished by the ridiculous transfer window rules, which were of course imposed in an attempt to curb the spending power of the super-rich.

The owner, directors, caretaker manager, players, and fans of Newcastle United should open up a newspaper today, wade through the ten pages of headlines about their own club, and seek out the small print. Hidden in there, they might find a football story that will make them sit up, take stock, and put their ‘problems’ into perspective.

Lets look at the facts: They will have no problem finding a manager, that manager will have millions of pounds to spend, they will continue to get 50,000+ gates for every league game regardless of how the team play, and they have no chance, repeat no chance, of getting relegated.

Could be worse couldn’t it? Newcastle, if you’re listening, you can’t continue to enjoy the luxury you do without the help of clubs like Luton Town. I suggest that the very least you could do is stop whining for five minutes, and wish them luck in their bid for survival.

Jamie.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Alan Shearer, Barclays Premier League, Comment, English Premier League, FA, FA Cup, Football, Football League, Liverpool FC, Luton Town, Next Newcastle Utd Manager, Nottingham Forest, Sam Allardyce, Soccer, Sport, Swansea City

Here to save us all – The FA Cup.

Here we are once again in the first week of the new year, a very appropriate time for football’s annual shot at redemption: The FA Cup, to begin in earnest with its third round.

These are dark days for football. Greed is a necessity for success; rampant violence, criminality and generally vulgar behaviour amongst players are tolerated by the biggest clubs; the rich/poor gap is wider than ever, and trophy winning is reserved for a priveleged few. In addition, satellite TV continues to saturate the airwaves with an insane number of matches, and erode the atmosphere at grounds by bamboozling the already over-fed supporters with its bizarre range of kick-off times.

It’s all a far cry from the days that this particular weekend in the football calendar always reminds us of. Yet it is surely the FA Cup that provides the rest of the footballing nation with its one chance to get their own back; to redress the balance; to turn back the clock and yet dream of a brighter future, even if only for a day.

This is of course because anything’s possible when the Premiership megacelebs and the part-time cloggers get thrown into the mix together. In truth, giant-killings, which in the past were almost inevitable, are now very few and far between, due to the increased professionalism of the bigger clubs (at least on the pitch). But there’s always a chance, and my goodness how football needs someone to prove that to us this weekend.

Nowadays, that chance tends to present itself as the big clubs increasingly treat the early rounds of the cup as an annoyance, and large amounts of first-teamers get dropped. Whether you call it arrogance, or a panicked desire to wrap players in cotton-wool with that we-dare-not-miss-out-on-all-that-cash Champions League fixture on the horizon, it still provides David with the chance of a lifetime to slay Goliath.

Some may argue that it rather takes the shine off a giant-killing when the famous team appears to have announced with its team selection that it doesn’t care. I disagree. Firstly, you can still bet your life that the favourites don’t want to lose, and secondly it makes no difference to how good the score sounds in the classified check.

Manchester United‘s adoption of this risky strategy has seen them involved in a couple of spectacular near-misses in recent years. They could surely have fielded a 5th team that could beat Exeter City in 2005, and yet back to Devon they all went after a 0-0 draw. Having failed to learn from that mistake, United promptly made it again 12 months later at Burton Albion, where they once more escaped humiliation in a replay.

Another such near miss brings us nicely onto this years fixtures. Two years ago, when Luton Town were 3-1 up and playing Liverpool off the park, live on the BBC, the classic cup upset appeared to be on the cards. Liverpool spoiled everyone’s fun by storming back to win the game 5-3. The two clubs meet again on Sunday, with Luton now in a far worse position; threatened with relegation to League Two, and finances in a mess. Yet their impressive home record this season demands respect, and with Liverpool‘s manager appearing to think that the aim of his job is to get his best players on the pitch as rarely as possible, who knows what set of misfits The Hatters might come up against?

Let’s look at where else we can pin our hopes for a dose of footballing equality:

The other three members of football’s royal family all have fascinating draws. It says a lot about the state of football today that if Aston Villa, currently plumbing the depths of 7th in the Premiership, were to turn Manchester United over at home, it would be regarded as a major giant-killing. It would probably come as an almighty shock to Villa fans as well, given their team’s abysmal recent record against the champions. Nevertheless, it’s by far the best chance we have of seeing one of the big four sent packing early.

You can bet that Burnley is one of the last places Arsenal would fancy spending a sunday afternoon. Yet however intimidating an atmosphere the Turf Moor fans create, it’s difficult to see the Premiership leaders slipping up here. The new Burnley manager Owen Coyle once famously helped a second division Bolton dump Arsenal out in a replay at Highbury, but is yet to get his side going in the short time he’s been in charge, despite being dubbed ‘the new Bill Shankly’ by his chairman.

No game this weekend quite encapsulates football’s plight like Chelsea v QPR. This one is fascinating for all the wrong reasons, as it brings together football’s two richest clubs. Chelsea, the cup holders, have earned their status thanks entirely to the riches of Roman Abramovich. Poor west London relations QPR are now making an attempt to catch up with the Joneses; not content with the billions of Formula 1’s hierarchy, Rangers have recently brought on board an Asian businessman with even deeper pockets. They are however yet to spend any of this loot, meaning their chances of winning this local derby are still extremely remote, but their surging league form of late suggests the players may be playing with a greater incentive (I wonder what that could be?). Couple this with Chelsea‘s injury crisis, and maybe it’s not so clearcut.

The remaining non-league sides Chasetown and Havant & Waterlooville have seemingly impossible tasks against in-form welsh outfits Cardiff and Swansea respectively. In fact you could say they Havant a prayer. Sorry.

Realistically, we will probably have to settle for slightly smaller potatoes, in the shape of mid-table Premiership sides slipping up. Here are the third round fixtures I think have the best chance of producing a surprise result:

Bristol City v Middlesbrough – This is a repeat of a fourth round tie from last season, when Boro needed penalties to see off the league one version of City after twice narrowly escaping with a 2-2 draw. Since then, City have been promoted and are finding the Championship a breeze, where as beleaguered Boro edge nearer to the Premiership trap-door. Southgate is a sitting duck.

Huddersfield v Birmingham – Huddersfield are yet again failing to meet expectations in League One, languishing in mid-table. Which leaves them in a perfect position to put all their energies into this. With no promotion on the horizon, The Terriers’ large following, in their excellent stadium, will be desperate to make the most of the big occasion. Alex McLeish‘s side, with a must-win relegation battle in the league to fight, will not appreciate this distraction.

Ipswich v Portsmouth – A tie in which something has to give. Ipswich unbeatable at home, Pompey saving all their best for the road. If it goes to a replay, we’ll be no nearer sorting it out, given Harry Redknapp‘s side inability to find the net at home, and the Tractor Boys still searching for a first away win. The Premiership quality should be the difference, but anything can happen here.

Stoke v Newcastle This is the ‘you-wouldn’t-want-to-be-in-his-shoes’ game of the weekend. Sam Allardyce needs this game at the moment like he needs, say, his best central midfielder to get banged up for a fortnight. Surely it’s too soon for Joey the jailbird to make an appearance here – if he does he will be a brave man, because the Britannia Stadium, both its players and spectators, will be merciless. If Newcastle escape with a draw they’ll be absolutely delighted.

Jamie.

Leave a comment

Filed under 746, Arsenal FC, Aston Villa, Barclays Premier League, BBC, Betting, Birmingham City, Bristol City, Cardiff City, Chasetown, Comment, English Premier League, FA, FA Cup, Football, Football League, Havant and Waterlooville, Huddersfield Town, Ipswich Town, Liverpool FC, Luton Town, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Opinion, Portsmouth FC, Sky, Soccer, Sport, Stoke City, Swansea City, Television

The Week in Wagers: 5th-11th January

Every week, we will try and (remember to) bring you a couple of possible earners that have caught our eye on Betfair. In case you’ve never used Betfair before or use other betting websites, it couldn’t be simpler. Simply register, and if you want to back for a win, you BACK, and put in your stake.

However, this is where Betfair is a little different, because YOU can also become a BOOKMAKER by backing for a negative result – by LAYING. However, you have to watch out here as if the result goes against you, you have to pay out the winnings. I haven’t ventured towards that end due to fear of being on the end of a shocker, but if you’re more steely than I am, maybe you’ll make yourself a bit of money.

Best of all, it offers the best odds around, meaning you’re daft to go anywhere else. I got 70/1 for Padraig Harrington to win the Open on the final day, while the others were offering just over half that. Anyway, do have a look – odds at time of posting will be in Betfair terms (which are slightly different) and in the normal 5/4 etc form. Of course, these can obviously change from the time of posting.

So, this week. Since we’re in FA Cup territory, we’ve had a look at potential shocks as well as the odds for the winner. There are definitely some enticing opportunities available.

Chasetown v Cardiff City is definitely the most romantic of the ties, with the British Gas League Midland Division Chasetown at 11.5 back (10-11/1) to knock out Cardiff, so it’s definitely for the ones whose heart rules over their head (me included…). However, if you’re of a more rational composition, you can 12.5 lay (11-12/1) – just watch out, mind. A replay is 5.2 back (4/1) which is also attractive, considering Chasetown are at home against an out-of-form Cardiff side.

Swansea City v Havant and Waterlooville is yet another potential shocker, and has fantastic odds, too, with Havant being at 17.5 back (16-17/1) to win and at 22 lay (21/1). I’d say this lay is a lot safer than the Chasetown opportunity, but it is the FA Cup…

Fulham v Bristol Rovers is also worth a look, with the Rovers at 9 back (8/1) to beat Hodgson’s new but struggling Fulham.

Meanwhile, Stoke City v Newcastle United, while not as attractive odds-wise as the above three, is perhaps your most likely source of a shock this weekend. Come to think of it, the odds are rather strange, with Stoke at 3.4 back (12/5) to Newcastle‘s 2.7 back (11/8) – very close indeed. Still worth a punt, mind you.

Finally, are the odds for the winner, which are currently ridiculously high for some sides who have a realistic chance of going all the way. Aston Villa, while facing Manchester United this weekend, are at 42 back (41/1), so maybe now is the time to put a couple of quid on just in case; while Manchester City are at 38 back (37/1).

If you have any more suggestions, feel free to comment.

David.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Aston Villa, Betfair, Betting, Cardiff City, Chasetown, FA Cup, Football, Havant and Waterlooville, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Soccer, Sport, Stoke City, Swansea City