Football wasn't coming home

Published: Monday, 16 July 2018

What a wonderful World Cup. Congratulations to everybody involved in both the organisation and delivery.

I was in Moscow in January. What an impressive City it is. I’m so pleased that so many more people have seen it now. It was described to me as ‘Europe’s hidden secret’. Not so ‘hidden’ now. If you ever get the chance - go.

This World Cup was always going to be a success, despite all the doom-mongers predicting otherwise and the demands of those ‘politicking’ hoping to get the tournament moved. Russia delivered - and now all roads lead to #Qatar2022. Trust me - this tournament will blow you away. I’m privileged to have seen the plans. I’ve been watching the county prepare these last five years. #Qatar2022 will deliver on its promise ‘Amazing’ and when it’s all over - just as we have Russia - people will have fallen in love with a country now very close to my heart. Why? How? Forget it. It’s all systems go for a World Cup, the likes of which we will never have  previously seen.

Anyway, as I said, Russia was a triumph of organisation. Do I agree that it was the ‘best ever’ on the pitch? No. I don’t.

I don’t think it ever reached the heights of previous competitions. Ask yourself - do you remember six really good games from the 64 we watched? You don’t do you? It was ok, but little more.

The view in England was probably excitedly different because Gareth Southgate’s team exceeded all expectations. It was great to see people enjoying watching their national team again. It’s good for football in England in general.

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Oh what a night - 1981 and all that

Published: Friday, 25 May 2018

Oh what a night that....May 27 1981. My work should’ve been done as Liverpool kicked off against Real Madrid in Paris.

I was Radio City’s ‘scout’ in the build-up. Our Sports Editor Clive Tyldesley (still the best football radio commentator I’ve ever heard) had sent me ahead of the pack to make sure things worked smoothly for Liverpool’s commercial radio station come the big week.

To be honest, I hadn’t travelled outside the U.K. much in those days and being sent to Paris to ensure the biggest night of our season went well was quite a daunting task. On a previous visit I was entrusted with finding a hotel, making sure we could park our monstrous outside broadcast truck - for nothing - in the middle of the French capital, oh, and making a half hour documentary on what Liverpool fans should expect when they got there. I had 48 hours to do it all.

Where on earth do you start with a task like that?  I did what we all did in those days - asked Liverpool’s club Secretary, Peter Robinson, if he could help. In a typically terse telephone conversation he gave me the number of a friend of his - I’ll never forget him - Dr Pierre Huth - a dentist! ‘Whatever you need’, he said ‘he’ll fix it’. As he always did, - Peter hung up before I could say ‘thank you’ or ‘goodbye’.

A dentist? What the fuck? What use was he going to be? Anyway, armed with just his number - off I went.

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Be careful what you wish for...

Published: Thursday, 17 May 2018

How many times have we been here? And here we go again. Doesn’t anybody ever learn from the lessons of history?

It was after Charlton parted company with Alan Curbishley that I heard myself muttering ‘be careful what you wish for....’. Do you remember? After three 10th places finishes in the PL, with a club that Curbs had dragged back into the big time, the hierarchy at The Valley decided it was time to ‘go in another direction’. In fairness, they did. But it didn’t quite work out as planned and the PL has seen nothing of Charlton since.

What a pity the decision makers at Arsenal have been brow-beaten by high profile celebrities that should know better - and the bully boys on the social media - into change that simply doesn’t feel right. I watched the Chief Exec, Ivan Gazidis, wax lyrical about Arsene Wenger on the day it was announced that the manager would be leaving Arsenal. If Wenger was watching he could only have thought the same as me ‘hold on, if I’m this good why are they kicking him/me out?’ 

It just doesn’t feel right to me. At different times I’ve wondered whether change was necessary at Arsenal and every time I’ve come back to the belief that it wasn’t. Wenger is a class act. You can’t buy the sort of experience he’s got. And I believe he’s right when he says his team is maybe only 2/3 players short of a title challenge.  

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Who's next ?

Published: Friday, 20 April 2018

So now we know. Arsene Wenger will leave his job at the end of the season and nothing will ever be the same again at Arsenal.

I’m sorry that he’s decided to go, but I understand totally why the decision has been made. I phrased that carefully as well, because I don’t believe he made it. He’s been nudged, make no mistake about that.

Wenger is a decent, honest man and that makes him something of a rarity in football.

He’s also an Arsenal man to the core, as he proved so many times when turning down every big job in football to honour contracts and remain at The Emirates. He’s been offered them all and said ‘no’. That’s why I’m disappointed in the manner that he’s leaving now. He deserved better than to be pilloried by large sections of the Arsenal crowd and - worse - by high profile people in the media who claim to support the club and should know better. Stirring up the hatred - and at times it’s been that - was totally wrong.

Wenger only knows one thing - football. He’s an expert on the subject and he’s fascinating to listen to. At beINSPORTS we’ve been lucky enough to sit with him once a month for the past few years and listen to him talk on every subject you care to mention. Any individual that’s played the game. He’s an encyclopaedia. He knows more about our game than anyone I’ve met. Arsenal are going to miss that, but they’ll miss his steady hand a whole lot more. I wonder when we’ll start hearing Gunners’ fans lamenting and regretting what they wished for? 

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We're back !

Published: Wednesday, 21 March 2018

We’re back! I can’t believe that so many of you have been in touch asking about these occasional ramblings. I’m flattered. So here goes....

A lot has happened since we last spent time together, some of it very predictable, but a lot of it has come as a surprise. 

I didn’t see Spurs exiting the Champions League after such a great effort in the first leg against Juventus. That was really disappointing.  Chelsea’s defeat by Barca was in the ‘expected’ category. Their miserable season is as well. I can’t see anything other than Conte leaving at the end of the season. Whether his grievances are justified or not is for others with better knowledge of the club to judge, but to keep airing them in the way he does - well, eventually the negativity spreads and creating that winning siege mentality that they had last season just dissipates. 

I was stunned by United’s exit. Four shots at goal over two legs, against an average Spanish team (and they are no more than that) simply isn't good enough.  

What about Mourinho’s rant on the back of it? Do you know what, a lot of what he said made sense, but really it wasn’t much more than his usual deflection. Whilst we were talking about the ‘rant’ - we were supposed to forget how bad his team had been in the week preceding it. 

Mourinho was right to point out that he won two ‘titles’ (it’s what foreign coaches call cup successes) last season and that his team had returned to the Champions League, something that LvG had failed to deliver, but - something is very wrong again at United again. 

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Got it Yet?

Published: Friday, 09 February 2018

What are the ingredients involved in the making of a sporting legend? Think about it. I mean, what is it that elevates the best - to one of the very best. 

Let’s try and keep this simple. More often than not our choices are based on romance - a love of a football club and it’s barnstorming No.9 perhaps? 

As I grew up I wanted to be George Hudson. Don’t laugh! Hudson led the line at Coventry in the early days of Jimmy Hill’s revolution. I’m certain there aren’t many Coventry fans left that remember Hudson - but he’s a ‘legend’ in my book. 

If we stay with my club Coventry - George Curtis is revered. What a boy by the way! Our Cup Winners of ‘87 are all legends. I’ve got to be honest - I’m struggling to think of anymore! Oh, John Sillett of course. And the late, great Jimmy Hill. Now that really is it. 

All the guys I’ve mentioned take a special place in Coventry’s Hall of Fame. Their deeds elevated them into special company. They’re rightly recognised for what they did by the club. And they’re loved by supporters. 

But let’s move on from romance and stay with ‘achievements’ as the route into a Hall of Fame. 

How about this? Should this qualify the individual who’s impressive cv reads as follows? 

In 1973 this guy signed for Dundee United. He was voted Player of the Year in the two seasons that he was there. Before he signed for Villa there was a Scottish Cup Final appearance. Got it yet? Well done if you have!  

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Kane was offside

Published: Tuesday, 06 February 2018

Harry Kane was offside. That’s the bottom line. In any other league in the world he would’ve been given offside and no-one would’ve tried to justify the decision that Jon Moss made.

Ultimately justice was done when Kane had his pen saved, but he shouldn’t have been taking it. He was offside. He was offside from the moment Dele Alli tried to slip that ball through to him.

Let me also say this - I thought Jon Moss and his assistant Eddie Smart got everything else right. They both had a very good day - except for standing in front of the tv cameras debating the decision. I’ll get back to that.

The PGMOL issued a statement saying Dejan Lovren played Kane onside when he slashed at the ball, got a touch, but allowed it to run onto the centre-forwaard. Wrong. If it is indeed the case that by making a move to the ball to stop it finding its target then Wijnaldum was the player that first. We at beINSPORTS pointed that out on Sunday. Sadly, no-one back home did and therefore the PGMOL issued their incorrect statement.

What everyone also missed was that Lovren makes an attempt to play the ball because he can see Kane - therefore the forward had to be impacting on Lovren, therefore he’s OFFSIDE.

Why do the PGMOL always try to justify decisions that are incorrect? Is it because it affects their statistics about getting things right come the end of the season?

By the way, would VAR have helped get the decision correct? Having pointed out what I have and what was missed - no, it wouldn’t.

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Manic Monday

Published: Monday, 15 January 2018

Well that really was quite a Monday. As pleased as I am that Paul Lambert is back in work - I’m puzzled as to how Ryan Giggs landed the Wales job and desperately sad that we’ve lost Cyrille Regis.

Let’s start there. What a guy. I can’t pretend to have known him well, but I have the upmost respect for what he achieved as a man - and secondly, a footballer.

Cyrille was loved equally by fans at Coventry and West Brom. I’m proud that it was our club that helped him fulfil his life-long ambition to win an FA Cup medal. How on earth was it that West Brom allowed him to leave The Hawthorns for Coventry in the first place? When he signed for us I remember Bobby Gould, our then manager, saying ‘this is the one that will propel Coventry into the big time’. It was. He did.

Cyrille, along with his mates Brendan Batson and the hugely talented Laurie Cunningham, were trail blazers for black footballers. We should also include Viv Anderson in that group.

At one time they were the only four black players in the old Division One. I remember writing a article for Shoot Magazine at the time in which they all articulated their desire to see more follow in their footsteps. My goodness, look at what they helped to achieve. It’s not an exaggeration to say I loved the big man for what he did for us at Coventry - and he’ll never be forgotten, either by us, or The Baggies. RIP Cyrille. And thanks.

I wasn’t in much of a mood to get too interested in anything else after I’d heard about Cyrille’s untimely death, but as ever it was impossible not to sit up later in the day and take notice of what was happening.

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The Brit pack.

Published: Tuesday, 19 December 2017

For some time now I’ve been banging the drum for British coaching. Despite the usual hysterical reactions, mostly from people who half read what I write and immediately jump on their keyboards, I have no intention of stopping. Let me say it again - in my view British coaches are every bit as good as their foreign counter-parts.

Now let’s qualify that statement. Nothing about it is ‘anti’ foreign. Nothing at all. Where would we have been without the entertainment Mourinho has given us down the years? Granted, more off the pitch than on!

It’s an absolute pleasure to watch Guardiola’s City. After a difficult first season when he completely under-estimated the PL, Guardiola has produced something very special for all the neutrals to enjoy. He’s had a few quid to do it with mind you!

Klopp has given us the ‘Fab 4’ and believes in entertainment. Wenger wants his teams to ‘play’. Pochettino went close over the past two seasons and his Spurs were a terrific to watch as well.  And a small army of foreign coaches have delivered a steady flow of trophies at Chelsea.

Of course I get it that foreign owners want what they perceive to be the best that European coaching has to offer. Football is business these days and the ‘Super Coaches’ are instantly recognisable around the world. They are very ‘saleable’.  Everything has to be now.

The guys are good, but there’s a common denominator - they all get the very best to work with and they  get shed loads of money to buy the very best players - again, thank goodness they do because we want the best in our league.

So I get it that the ‘showbusiness’ that comes with the ‘Super Coaches’ is both welcome and understandable. Thank goodness these guys have gravitated to the PL. They’re needed if we’re to remain the best league in the world.

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Get the handbrake off Jose

Published: Monday, 11 December 2017

Well that was quite a weekend - arguably the best that we’ve had so far this season.

Oh, a quick word about my absence. I’ve had another heavyweight writing project on my plate these past few weeks, which is why I’ve been so quiet.

So where do we start? I know, just as the weekend did. What a fantastic result for David Moyes and the Hammers eh? They were terrific  against Chelsea. What a triumph for British coaching and organisation! It’s actually a result that I think was born at Manchester City the weekend before. West Ham were good there as well but got nothing for their hard work. I thought the outcome was rough on them - and City actually got out of jail - again. I’ll come back to that.

There was a piece in The Times today  headlined ‘How David Moyes saved West Ham’. That’s premature. He hasn’t done anything of the sort just yet, but as you know I’ve always believed he would. Moyes is a good man - also a good football man - and yes, there is a difference.

Moyes got unlucky trying to pick up the pieces of a failing empire from Fergie, but who wouldn’t have taken the job? And don’t tell me he destroyed the Champions - just look at what United have spent since. Fergie got out with impeccable timing - as I’ve always said.

Moyes should never have gone to Spain and the decision to take Sunderland was baffling. He was warned about what he was getting into by the guy leaving the job!

Anyway, relax you Hammers. You’ll be fine now - but there’s plenty of hard work to come. Just remember this - you’re all in it together. Give Moyes your total backing.

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