Recent blog posts

Posted by on

For the neutrals - and that includes me - it was a terrific Manchester derby. After a weekend of fairly poor offerings right through the P Lge we needed it as well.

I thought United were top class. Full of energy. They moved the ball quickly. They weren't afraid to 'pass' long! They had width and we're always a threat. And a threat from many different areas. 

Van Gaal has talked all season about players and supporters alike getting used to his philosophy. But what is that? Well, at different times this season it's been a back 3. It's been a diamond. It's all been about possession - sideways and backwards if necessary. It's been about him. 

For some time now his senior professionals - and others with 'United' in their DNA - have been trying to persuade him differently.

After the weekend maybe he'll start listening.

Sometimes in football you get lucky. To be successful you HAVE to be lucky as well as good. 

Whose philosophy was on show at Old Trafford this weekend? I'll tell you - Busby's. Docherty's. Atkinson's. Fergie's. United were a throw back. All through the years they've played with wingers. They've played with pace and a threat. They've moved the ball quickly. And they've played with a back 4!! 

More through luck than judgement Van Gaal has got a team that United fans recognise.

Rooney looks happy. Young and Valencia provide width. Carrick has brought stability again. I admit I've never been a huge fan, but nor have a couple of England managers. He doesn't do enough for me. He doesn't get enough goals, but right now he's playing really well and doing all that's been asked of him.

I don't fancy Jones or Smalling long term. I'm certain it's an area United will strengthen in the summer, but it's ok to finish the season with. Herrera looks settled (a deal Moyes had set up by the way!) and Blind (Van Gaal's only signing in the team right now) is a better full back than he is central midfield player. So here's hoping Van Gaal's ego will allow him to accept what's best for United, not him, and we see more of what we did in the derby. My son would love that!

Van Persie, by the way, is finished at United. He'll go this summer. So will Falcao. Di Maria might just be surplus to requirements as well. In fact, I expect the 'exit' door to be swinging quite a lot.

What more is there to say about City that I haven't already? Only this. I'm told that if Pellegrini makes the C Lge he'll be safe. The catch is that he'll have to finish in the top 3. Top 4 might not be good enough. So what then?

City are convinced they can get Guardiola the season after next. If Pellegrini goes, who gets the job?  Well it's not beyond the realms of possibility that Vieira might be asked to fill in - despite the fact that he doesn't have the correct coaching qualifications. He's currently working to get his badges on a Welsh FA course.

Either way City will be treading water for me. And it's a huge gamble. Who'll be buying and selling? 

Day by day the folly of sacking Mancini becomes more obvious. I haven't changed my view on this subject since he left, but I notice others are beginning to change theirs. I'm told there was quite a lively conversation on the subject on Sky's Sunday Supplement. Most round the table are now agreeing with me.  And here's something else I've said since Mancini's left - that dressing room sure knows how to get a manager the sack. 

If you want a good sports book to read try 'Men in White Suits', written by Simon Hughes. There's an extract in The Telegraph today - John Scales talking openly about how the 'Spice Boys' sent Liverpool into decline. It's not much different to the things he told me and Andy about that era when he was kind enough to join us on our TalkSPORT show. The irony for me is that the ring leader of that group now has so much to say about 'everything', as Graeme Souness would say!

Delighted for Tim Sherwood and Villa. Great result. And I called it! In fact I had a pretty good weekend on that front. Check out our column in Sport360. 

But what of Spurs? They're now two points worse off than they were at this very same stage last season. Progress? Not for me. There's never been any really at Spurs during the entire P Lge years. Who do we blame for that - Daniel Levy or Alan Sugar? 

I'm also really pleased to see Leicester making a go of it at the bottom. I like Nigel Pearson and his assistant Steve Walsh (Mickey's brother, not the X-centre half). They're honest guys and they might just get out of trouble.

I'm really concerned about Hull now. They've got a tough finish and they've hit the wall at the wrong time. 

Sunderland are back in trouble. The derby win was timely, and maybe persuaded too many that it was going be ok after all. Wrong. They're in a real battle. The bottom line, of course, is that they're at the bottom because they're not very good and the 'Little General' doesn't have a quick fix. 

What's happened to WBA? It's four defeats in their last five now. They won't go down, but Tony Pulis knows there's work to do - especially at the back.

QPR look doomed. I was gutted for Chris Ramsey. His team had done so well against Chelsea and they deserved better. But, Chelsea did what champions do. They'll win it now I'm sure. In fact, if they win their next three that will do. But I don't think they will. They play Arsenal and Man Utd in that sequence. They don't HAVE to win those games. Mourinho knows he CAN'T lose them, so he'll set up to make sure he doesn't. A lesson Brendan Rodgers would do well to learn in case he finds himself in the situation he was in last season again. He didn't HAVE to beat Chelsea. A point would've done. 

And least surprising admission his weekend? Turns out good old 'Arry didn't leave QPR because of bad knees after all. How do we know this? In case you missed it, he told the BBC in an interview for Football Focus.

He left, he now says, because QPR were a 'circus of a club'. Really? Who was the ringleader of the circus if that was true? Yes - you 'Arry.  Whatever little credibility 'Arry had left is shot to pieces after this. Surely even his most ardent supporters can see that now? And surely he'd be best going quietly into retirement where he can't inflict damage on anymore clubs.

Posted by on

Every now and again there's what I call a 'wow' moment in our P Lge. They are few and far between. You know what I mean - that moment that gets you out of your seat with pure joy, because you know you've witnessed something really special.

I'll give you a few of mine. Matt Le Tissier against Newcastle. His first of two that afternoon. It's still my favourite P Lge goal of all time. So much happened in such a short space - control - a flick with his heel, up and over Barry Venison, and then a slight mis hit with his side foot past Mike Hooper. I was behind it and came out of my seat in stages - applauding all the way. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Le Tiss, of course, made special his ordinary.

There was Rooney's thunderous volley, ironically against Newcastle! Wonderful - arguing with the ref one moment - cracking the ball past Shay Given the next.

It wasn't a P Lge goal, but Beckham's free kick against Greece, into the same goal, was another. What timing. What drama. What unbelievable execution.

There's Fowler's 3 minute hat-trick against Arsenal. Shearer's powerful finish for Blackburn against United, as he ran away from Gary Pallister, and then hit a screamer past Schmeichel - with his left foot!

As I'm writing I'm remembering others. How about Giggs v Arsenal in the semi-final? I know - it was a Cup game, but it was another that got me out of my seat in stages!

Of course there are more, but not many, across the 22 years we've all been enjoying the P Lge. And my list is special to 'me' because I was there to witness them.

So to this weekend. We got four, which is just pure greedy! What a weekend. I was quickly onto Twitter to ask those who follow me to put them into some kind of order as Defoe crashed his volley in (many publications followed) and I was fascinated by the replies.

We had a very long debate with Craig Bellamy and Clive Allen on BeIN Sports, two guys who know plenty about finishing.

Taking into account intent, guile, execution, rarity, moment and importance Clive put Defoe's top! Both the guys had Adam's 4th on their list!

I wondered about that one at The Bridge. The celebration with Mark Bowen sparked my interest. And a fleeting reference from Mourinho. The Chelsea boss seemed to suggest he'd warned Courtois about that happening to him

Bowen told me that Charlie is always trying 'ridiculous' things like that in training. Bellamy added that Charlie used to do it all the time in matches at Liverpool. He said it used to drive him mad! But here's how attention to detail can really pay off, Bowen told Charlie if ever he was going to succeed with an effort like that it might be against Courtois because he 'stands high' during a game. Bingo!! And therefore the muted but knowing celebration between the two. 

I loved Zamora's finish. That little look - the ball to him helped because the spin took it onto his best foot - but even so, to execute it as he did - stunning.

We've got used to Rooney doing what he did. There's one of those in him every season. That's not to diminish what he did - it was stunning, especially the moment that he realised his first touch had set it up to be hit.

Sunderland fans have been calling for a return to the Quinn/Phillips era of late. Well they got a wonder goal in the derby right from that famous 'pairs' manual! Remember Kevin's volley at the same end v Chelsea? That one was brute force. Defoe's was better - it had to be guided because it was on his weaker side. The timing couldn't have been better, right on half time, nor the importance bigger. Fantastic.

It was a moment to celebrate, not carp on about whether Tim Krul should've left the field discussing it with Defoe. I thought that was a wonderful moment of sportsmanship, as they went doen the tunnel together. Imagine how Krul felt, having just been beaten like that, but still having the good grace to acknowledge it as special?

There's too many people on tv nowadays looking to say something silly for dramatic effort. Too many trying to make a headline. And too many anchors unprepared to challenge them.

Should Robbie Folwer not have admitted his 'clash' with Seaman wasn't a pen? (He should've put it in the North Bank, but that's another argument!)  Should Di Canio not have caught the ball at Goodison? Should Messi not have been applauding Joe Hart DURING and AFTER a stunning performance in the C Lge this season? Should Liverpool fans (arguably the most knowledgeable) not applaud opposition goalkeepers and good play? Come on. What a sad world we could end up in. It was a terrific sporting moment. Well done Tim.

Anyway - I'm sure after all this you're bursting to know my 1-4 this weekend? Thought so.....

Here we go 1. Adam. 1. Zamora.    1. Defoe. 1. Rooney. Sorry. Can't separate them!  Let's just remember a very special weekend.......

Posted by on

This isn't going to play well with Liverpool fans, but Raheem Sterling is well within his rights.

If he wants to leave Liverpool when his contract runs out - he will. If Liverpool want to keep him - they'll have to pay him what he wants.

I've read everything on this saga since the debate first surfaced. I've listened to everything that's been said and I haven't changed my mind - he'll go.

I can almost hear the howling on Merseyside from where I am now, 3500 miles away in Qatar. I'm expecting the usual abuse - 'Liverpool hater', 'tosser', 'don't know what you're talking about you biased prick'. I've heard it all before.

Let me remind those of you who've forgotten and tell those of you who don't know - I had four wonderful years on Merseyside watching Liverpool win 'everything', as Graeme Souness would say! I watched the team Souness captained, the best EVER to play the game in my opinion. I mean that, the best EVER. I married a Scouser, who loves her team, and I was desperate to see Liverpool win the title last season. It would've been a great event to cover and I thought their brand of football deserved it. There. So let's have a sensible discussion on this now.

Sterling owes Liverpool nothing. Loyalty is an outdated concept. Loyalty ends with the next pay packet, whoever you are and wherever you work. I don't care who you are, if you're offered better terms than those you're on, you'll take them - unless it suits YOU not to.

Jimmy Hill and the PFA fought tooth and nail to abolish maximum pay rules. Johnny Haynes was the first to benefit back in the 60's and became the first £100/week footballer. Derek Dougan and various successors fought just as hard for freedom of contract. It was another unlikely battle to win, but they did. Ever since footballers' have had the RIGHT to leave the employment of a club on the conclusion of a contract, if they so wish. And it appears Sterling so wishes!

Let's take some of the 'advice' he's been given and look at it.

1 Stay and learn your trade...... What? Who's to say staying at Liverpool will make Sterling a better player? I remember Wayne Rooney being told similar at Everton. A move to Old Trafford didn't do him any harm.

2 You're lucky to be here..... Sorry. No he's not. Sterling is the best young talent of his age - in the world - yes? So why is HE lucky to be at Liverpool. I think it's the other way round. Why would his education not be better surrounded by better players - say at Barca or Real Madrid? Or Chelsea? England fans might like to think about that.

3 Loyalty.....

No. We've covered this one. It doesn't exist anymore. Rooney is likely to be the last of a modern generation to get a testimonial. Players won't last 10 years at clubs anymore. Sterling has given good value for the time he's been at Liverpool. Very good value. They punched him from QPR for little or nothing. They weren't talking about letting him continuing his 'education' then either.

I noticed Paul Scholes offer advice. 'Stay and learn before you move to a big club'. Why hasn't that little gem been afforded more column inches? Scholes, X-Man Utd, suggesting Sterling can join a 'big club' when he leaves Anfield! And how does it play with Brendan Rodgers' assertions that Liverpool are a 'Super Power'. Sorry Brendan, you're not, as your C Lge  campaign underlined this year. And you're inability to sign a 'superstar' to replace Suarez.

Perhaps it's that that Sterling most worries about? He says he wants to win medals and needs to move to achieve his ambitions. What does that tell us about Rodgers and Liverpool's ambitions? And their ability to deliver?

P Lge clubs have just signed up for the biggest TV deal in history. Agents, or 'intermediaries' as we should now call them, aren't daft.  The new deal is a 70 per cent increase on the previous one. There you have it, wages will have to reflect that figure. Harsh, but a fact. Why do you think Sterling and his advisors waited a year for before discussing new terms? And it didn't hear too many clubs talking about 'greed' when that deal was signed off. The boot was quite literally on the other foot then.

A few words of warning. Jamie Carragher has hammered Sterling on Twitter. (Or has he? I hear Jamie doesn't actually run his account. His mate does. Careful Jamie, he's going to get you into trouble soon) and this has had the effect of turning the Anfield crowd on Sterling. How does that help? If it's me it just increases my resolve to go.

The bottom line is this - Liverpool are going to HAVE to pay Sterling what he wants. If they don't they lose him - and what does that tell us about their ambitions to re-join not just the domestic elite, but the European elite?

If they offer what Sterling wants yet he still wants to move that tells me there's another problem. Does he get on with Rodgers? Does he want to play for Rodgers? If the answers to those two questions is 'no' and Liverpool don't finish top 4 then it might not be Sterling leaving the club. It might just be the manager. That takes us into a very different area - player power. Regular readers will know my views on this - and how City let Mancini down. They're paying the price now.

Here's a thought - Sterling's intermediary, Aidy Ward, also looks after West Brom's Saido Berahino. He's expressed his desire to leave The Hawthorns. If Liverpool play this right they might make a nice profit from selling Sterling and buying Berahino. Would anyone at Anfield be screaming about 'loyalty' and then? I suspect not. And would Rodgers be talking about young players continuing their 'education' at the clubs they work for at a young age? No.

 Good luck to you Raheem......