Posts Tagged ‘Aston Villa’

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Newcastle United v Portsmouth - St James' Park

For years we have been told that the Premier League is the greatest league in the world by the marketing force of Sky, with the best fans to go along with it.

Nothing is quite the same as the group of fans who have had football thrust upon them since the day they were born, with generations of ‘bleeding’ the colours of their kit imprinted on their DNA in the same manner as an heart disease or hairline deficiency will one day catch up with them.

“There is no atmosphere in football like in England,” we are told. “Can (insert foreign player here) adapt to having a stadium of grown men tunelessly warble simple ditties, or insult referees? It’s not quite like home,” they tell us, as though tuneless ditties do not exist anywhere else in the world.

I, among many others have had experience of football in foreign pastures. The Nou Camp is a fairly quiet place, watched in an almost theatrical sense, with food being passed out around the ground during the action and any noise being a murmur that grows into a crescendo the closer the ball gets to the opposition’s goal.

Both Spain and Italy have this reputation for having a small contingent of ‘ultras’ who do the singing and chanting, while the rest of the crowd simply sit back and enjoy what unfolds before them.

Germany has recently garnered a reputation for having a lively in-match atmosphere to finally rival England, with their low ticket prices making the game easily accessible for people of all working classes to go and enjoy the experience.

Camp Nou

The Camp Nou is a different experience to watching football in England

For despite all the talk about how great English football is for atmosphere, the persistent inflation of ticket prices has in fact damaged it heavily, and there appears to be a real lack of identity to the fan-base within the grounds.

The working classes will now find it harder and harder to afford to make top flight games in particular and quite frankly we as a nation have become somewhat more placid of late, our interest mainly on being entertained by what we have paid through the nose to see, rather than be part of the show ourselves.

The worst part about the English football for what I have noticed however, is that we actually seem to revel more in the misery of others, rather enjoy our own victories and accomplishments. That tribal aspect of completing a hunt is diminishing by the day, as we instead taunt the carcass of our prey, instead of feasting on the flesh that was the goal in the first place.

Take Monday night’s fixture between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa for example. Now as a Spurs fan, I can testify that White Hart Lane has definitely lost some of the atmosphere it became renowned for over the past few years.

This is most likely a consequence of Spurs becoming a better side and therefore being expected to win most of their matches on home soil, with it surely no coincidence that the best sounding atmospheres of last season were the home victories over Chelsea and Arsenal; two games which were far more intense and had no real guarantee of a win (if there ever is such a thing with Spurs?).

With an early goal helping settle a contest against the weakest side in the division currently, there was little for the travelling Villa fans to get their teeth into, or extract any hope, while any Spurs nerves were put to bed and they relaxed into what was now expected to be a comfortable victory.

Kane & Lamela

Kane & Lamela celebrate the final goal in Spurs’ victory over Villa on Monday

This in turn saw the noise levels among the home fans drop significantly early on. With now ample opportunity to inflict their own decibels into the night sky as the numbers game decreased, we should have expected a number of pro-Villa songs from the away end, urging their side to overcome the odds stacked against them and mount a comeback.

Instead, they took solace in the fact that they were the only ones singing, with the majority of their chants referencing the quiet around them. “Is this a library?” “We forgot that you were here.” That sort of tired rubbish. Instead of attempting to play a part (no matter how small) in a Villa comeback, they simply bragged that they were willing to make more noise than their counterparts, despite being greatly outnumbered.

Now this is no sleight at either Villa or Spurs, but an example of the norm these days. Home fans will largely only have a small pocket of fans who believe chanting is part of their matchday experience. Away fans will be expected to attempt to make a greater noise to mask their numerical disadvantage and will revel in doing so. Especially if their team is losing and they need to attain some form of one-upmanship.

This is by no means restricted to the money-orientated Premier League either, with little Bournemouth hardly adding much noise following their promotion. Last season I spent plenty of time down at Griffin Park watching Brentford and found little to differentiate between the strange atmospheres generated at the top.

Both sides would often claim to “sing on our own,” leading me to feel there must be some acoustical problems within the ground, as people from either end would often do this in tandem, again failing to bother singing about their own side and/or players.

Goals are rarely so much celebrated among the group, but met with rude hand gestures towards the opposition fans, goading them in their disappointment. The initial songs following a goal are not to triumph that success and will their side on further, but to revel in the misery of their counterparts, questioning, “who are ya?” reminding them that they are no longer signing, or informing them that they could potentially be relegated on the back of this potential result.

Vardy v Leicester

This Vardy strike appeared to provoke an angry reaction from one West Brom fan

Beyond simply singing mocking and/or offensive songs there is also the truth that outside of South America, Great Britain is the only place on earth you appear to see grown men careering down the turnstiles to ‘get at’ an opposition player who has just netted.

On Saturday, one such example arose as pictures just caught the image of a West Brom fan seeming to be being restrained by a steward, as Jamie Vardy celebrated near the crowd after scoring Leicester’s third goal in their victory over the Baggies.

It is something we see fairly consistently, and a fairly mild-mannered friend of mine has admitted to doing so at a Cambridge United match previously. Lord knows what would actually happen if they were allowed to get there; most likely they would baulk at the confrontation if it were allowed to happen. Fortunately this isn’t South America.

It just seems weird that we in England cling to this ‘best fans in the world’ idea of ourselves. It may well come from the fact that we are no longer a major force on the international scene and once again need to establish some form of dominance somewhere.

But the truth is we are not. We are bound somewhere in the purgatory that exists between pacifism and outright violence, seemingly unable to find any form of solace being between the two extremes.

For we as a people and as a fan-base are drawn purely to misery, more so than any accomplishments. And the only way we can find true happiness anymore is by finding people more miserable than us, in one way or another.



Some people are just born leaders. They exude that aura around them that really makes others take notice and feel compelled to follow them.

Other people simply believe they should be leaders, talking the talk in the hope that somebody, anybody, will buy into the message and follow them down a road that has yet to be decided as yet.

People like Sir Alex Ferguson fit into the former, a man who just commanded respect from his peers and peons alike. Some may have questioned some of his decision making in the latter part of his career, but there was never any question as to whether people would follow him to the end of the earth, such was his character.

For the latter, read Tim Sherwood. A man who has managed to carve out a career in management based on little else than bluster, constantly talking up his own ability without ever doing anything to back up his credentials.

Sherwood is not a man who dropped down the divisions to hone his skills as a leader like so many before him, instead believing that his ‘experience’ working with the youth teams at Tottenham Hotspur made him ready to take the top job.

His self-confidence got him a crack at the top job at Spurs, taking over from Andre Villas-Boas and spending six months as a caretaker before being informed he had not done an adequate enough job to be given any longer.

Sherwood’s record at White Hart Lane was not bad, as he will constantly inform you, with talk about win percentages. But this was a Spurs side that, while shorn of the talents of Gareth Bale, was still packed with talent and should have been a match for any side in the division.

Sherwood will point to victories that continued to be narrow over the lesser lights of the Premier League, but when it came to pitting himself against the best sides in the division, the sides Spurs were trying to catch, his record was pitiful; losing games against top three Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea by an accumulated scoreline of 13-1.

Adebayor salutes Sherwood

Getting performances out of Adebayor has been Sherwood’s biggest success as a manager

He will claim to have resurrected Emmanuel Adebayor from the recycling bin at Spurs, but in truth, Sherwood is potentially as much to blame for the failings of many of Spurs’ ‘Magnificent Seven’ signed in the wake of Bale’s world record transfer to Real Madrid.

Eril Lamela was cast off with an injury that was never described as anything more than a ‘back injury’ for six months, whilst Nacer Chadli was another player made an outcast, with his performances the following season making a mockery of Sherwood’s treatment of him.

Paulinho, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches and Roberto Soldado have all now left the club and they fared little better under Sherwood, whose love of honest, hard-working English players can only have belittled their confidence further, with Soldado’s failure to emerge as a success the biggest craw in the throat of any Spurs fan.

With talk claiming Spurs players had given their verdict on Sherwood to Levy, the Spurs chairman offered no continuation to Sherwood in his current role and offered him another back in the backroom staff in North London, which was never to be of interest to man who had developed such a high opinion of himself like the former Blackburn captain.

Not only that, but the offer of taking the West Bromwich Albion job also proved of little interest to Sherwood, with Sherwood feeling that was too much of a step down for a man already eyeing the England job in the back of his own mind.

So nine months went by before Sherwood was convinced to end a sabbatical that lasted longer than his time in the game, with Aston Villa finally losing patience with the turgid ‘entertainment’ Paul Lambert was offering and giving Mr Personality an opportunity to cache those cheques his mouth was writing.

Sherwood Villa

It seems a long time ago that it all started so positively for Sherwood at Villa

There can be no doubt Sherwood had an initial revitalising tonic effect on a Villa side that were struggling to so much as score goals or launch meaningful attacks under the previous manager, but the wheels had already appeared to be coming off at the back end of last season.

Having secured survival, Villa went on a run of defeats to ensure they finished in 17th come the conclusion of proceedings, before being soundly thrashed by Arsenal in the FA Cup final, with the Midlands side barely posing even the faintest threat to the Gunners.

A summer in which we watched to see how Sherwood would handle his first proper transfer window (he was technically in charge throughout one at Spurs) was of great intrigue, and one that left us on the outside a little puzzled.

Sherwood called for Premier League ‘experience’, something he confused with has-been footballers, and doubled that up with a host of untested players mainly plying their trade in France, with few really exciting the imaginations of the fans.

With Swansea snatching up Andre Ayew on a free transfer, Villa opted to sign his less-talented younger brother Jordan for a figure reportedly close to the £10million mark, while people much more learned than me in regards to Ligue Un affairs were somewhat puzzled that either Idrissa Gueye or Jordan Veretout had attracted the attentions of the Villains.

Rudy Gestede was signed by Sherwood as ‘the best header of the ball’ in the league, but then either sat on the bench or played in a system that included no wingers, showing him up for the limited striker he is, able to dovetail well with Jordan Rhodes at Blackburn, but ineffective as a lone striker, especially when lacking any service.

Only £10m left-back Jordan Amavi could potentially be described as a success from the summer acquisitions, but Sherwood even found room to drop him to the bench, with Kieran Richardson once again shoe-horned into a defensive role, with the emphasis taken away from being defensively resolute, but needing an extra attacker.

Jordan Amavi

Amavi has probably been the only success of Sherwood’s first proper transfer window

One can sympathise that Sherwood was shorn of the spine of the Villa side over the summer, with Christian Benteke, Fabian Delph and Ron Vlaar all leaving the club, but just one success from the raft of players he did coax into joining is a pitiful response to losing your three top talents.

In addition to that, the final part of that spine Brad Guzan appears to have lost an awful lot of confidence since the arrival of Sherwood, having once been one of the finest goalkeepers outside of the elite six in the division.

But having won their opener in perhaps fortunate circumstances against newly promoted Bournemouth, Villa have picked up just one point since, a home draw against an equally hapless Sunderland side, losing eight fixtures, including a home derby defeat to West Brom.

Sherwood always spoke voraciously about his belief in himself to turn things around, but this was so frequently contradicted by other statements, such as being bored by his side, seemingly ignoring that it was his duty as manager to make his side entertaining to watch, if not to actually win games of football.

And so the axe has fallen on Sherwood, with the club languishing at the bottom of the table, with just one victory and four points on the board, with little sign of life within a luck-lustre squad.

His initial effect to keep Villa up last season has quickly dwindled, and it was perhaps telling that the statement from the club on releasing the news to the media only thanked him for his efforts last season, not quite as willing to offer any gratitude for his start to yet another torrid start to the season at Villa Park.

For a man so enamoured with win percentages after his dismissal from Tottenham, it would be remiss not to bring up a 26% win rate during his time with Villa, emerging victorious in just six of the 23 Premier League games he took charge of.

Sherwood Villa Stats

Sherwood’s stats with Villa don’t make for pretty reading

So what next for Sherwood? Rumours have linked him with the vacant managerial post at Swindon Town, and that might actually be a wise move for him, giving him a chance to actually hone his abilities as a manager away from the spotlight of the Premier League and build his way back up.

His reputation among the elite his damaged and now is the time for Sherwood to develop some humility and earn his credentials, instead of relying on the worry over a lack of British managers among the press to force him into the reckoning of any top flight job, knowing his gift of the gab may well talk himself into another high-profile failure.

Sherwood’s management career so far has focused on being all heart and very little head. It’s now time for him to take some time away from the high-pressured world of the Premier League and actually learn the skill of management before he makes any sort of return.

Chelsea Champions

Chelsea emerged champions last season. Will they do it again?

The football season is back! Rejoice! The tedium that is the close season and the rubbish that fills our newspapers and websites desperate to fill column inches is finally at an end, and we can focus on the football itself. Well, nearly. I’m looking at you Daily Mail.

The Premier League has opted to kick-off at the same time as the other divisions in England this season due to a major tournament appearing next summer and it looks set to be potentially the most interesting season in a while, with a number of teams well equipped to mount a title challenge and nobody looking quite weak enough to be dead certs for the drop.

Thus I have compiled a quick preview of every side in the division, rated and/or slated their summer transfer activity and attempted the fools’ game of predicting where they will end up. Enjoy and feel free to add your own comments at the bottom!

Here’s part one, taking us from Arsenal to Crystal Palace:

Arsene Wenger

Can Wenger finally deliver another league title?


Last Season: 3rd

Transfers In: Petr Cech (Chelsea)

Transfers Out: Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray), Ryo Miyaichi (St Pauli), Abou Diaby (Marseille), Yaya Sanogo (Ajax, Loan), Wojciech Szczesny (Roma, Loan), Carl Jenkinson (West Ham, Loan), Chuba Akpom (Hull, Loan)

Every pre-season we are forced to talk about Arsenal as title contenders due to the quality of players they possess, before eventually placing our bets elsewhere because….well it’s Arsenal isn’t it? Sure there’s plenty of quality there, but mental factors will eventually play against them and/or injuries will hit, proving a very shallow depth of quality. That would be the norm.

This year feels very different. The strength in depth that the Gunners have is incredible and one would be comfortable claiming that they potentially possess the best bench in the Premier League now. This might be the first year for a while in which it has seemed Arsenal have all their ducks in a row, with no real glaring weaknesses in the squad.

Olivier Giroud is made out to be a far worse player than he actually is, and when you have such a multitude of goal-scoring talent around you, he is hardly required to net 20-odd goals to ensure success. The likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla provide some of the best attacking back-up in England currently, so there is no shortage of goals, especially when you throw the likes of Aaron Ramsey into the equation too.

With the purchase of Petr Cech they have addressed the biggest flaw in their squad from last season, and with the emerging Francis Coquelin now marshalling that previously-flimsy midfield role in front of a more than capable back four, it’s hard to not see them as genuine favourites, especially when they have real quality to call upon when the annual injury event strikes once again.

Prediction: Champions

Tim Sherwood

A first full season as a manger for Sherwood. Presuming he lasts that long

Aston Villa

Last Season: 17th

Transfers In: Jordan Ayew (Lorient), Jordan Amavi (Nice), Idrissa Gueye (Lille), Scott Sinclair, Micah Richards (Manchester City), Jose Angel Crespo (Cordoba), Mark Bunn (Norwich), Jordan Veretout (Nantes), Rudy Gestede (Blackburn)

Transfers Out: Christian Benteke (Liverpool), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Andres Weimann, Darren Bent (Derby), Yacouba Sylla (Rennes), Matthew Lowton (Burnley), Antonio Luna (Eibar), Shay Given (Stoke), Ron Vlaar, Chris Herd (Released)

When you finish just one place outside of the drop zone, quite frankly you don’t want things to get much worse. Yet that is exactly what has happened at Aston Villa, who have had the entire spine of the side ripped out, with Vlaar, Delph and Benteke all departing the club this summer.

Couple that with a rookie manager experiencing his first transfer window in charge of a club and you have a seriously unpredictable scenario in which one of two things could happen: A) Villa could be the surprise package of the season and achieve a top half finish, or B) they implode in farcical fashion and earn their first relegation since the advent of the Premier League.

If we take the examples of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool though, when you lose your best player(s) and then spend wildly on a number of players with little to no Premier League experience, it doesn’t often go too well and that’s unfortunately what I see happening with Villa now.

I haven’t watched enough of Ligue Un football to really cast judgement on the players that have so far been drafted in from France, but more learned people than me have already casted doubt on the ability of these players to be much of a success in the Premier League. Protracted moves for Emmanuel Adebayor and Dimitar Berbatov are yet to yield any fruit and Villa are running out of time to put together a side that will not have a serious battle on their hands to remain in the division.

Prediction: Relegation

Eddie Howe

Eddie Howe can finally test himself among the best


Last Season: 1st (Championship)

Transfers In: Artur Boruc (Southampton), Adam Federici (Reading), Joshua King (Blackburn), Christian Atsu (Chelsea, Loan), Tyrone Mings (Ipswich), Sylvain Distin (Everton), Filippo Costa (Chievo), Max Gradel (St Etienne), Lee Tomlin (Middlesbrough)

Transfers Out: Ian Harte, Miles Addison (Released), Ryan Fraser (Ipswich, Loan) Brett Pitman (Ipswich)

It’s always a difficult thing to judge just how well a club coming up from the Championship will fare in their first season and with this being Bournemouth’s first return to the top flight since the advent of the Premier League, it is even harder to judge.

Coming up as champions suggests they should be the strongest of the promoted trio, yet I fear for them in their attempts to retain their position in the top flight. They seem to have recruited well, with a good mix of experience and raw hunger, yet I still feel they will be lacking in the quality to achieve survival come the season’s end.

Eddie Howe always demands that his side play an attractive brand of football and that could just prove their undoing in the end. You feel whatever happens, Howe will still have his managerial reputation intact, but I just feel he is raising this Bournemouth side to just be too nice to handle the fight in the end.

Prediction: Relegation

Jose Mourinho

Never a dull a moment with this man around


Last Season: 1st

Transfers In: Nathan (Atletico Paranaense), Asmir Begovic (Stoke), Radamel Falcao (Monaco, Loan), Danilo Pantic (Partizan Belgrade)

Transfers In: Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Christian Atsu (Bournemouth, Loan), Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact), Petr Cech (Arsenal), Marco van Ginkel (Stoke), Patrick Bamford (Crystal Palace)

After finally bringing the Premier League trophy back to Stamford Bridge, now comes the hard part for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho (I am contractually obliged to make him sound as important as the club itself).

Many people feel that retaining the title is harder than winning it in the first place and Chelsea will not be able to be so reliant on the failings of their rivals to wrap up consecutive first place finishes, with the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United having strengthened heavily over the summer months and addressed their glaring flaws.

There is an air of Chelsea that is akin to Manchester City of a year ago, in that they have stood practically still over the summer months. Not that they had any big weaknesses to address, but sometimes a bit of fresh competition can just be healthy, rotating around some of the squad players.

Changing the back-up ‘keeper doesn’t necessarily do much for that, whilst they have only otherwise seen Radamel Falcao come in for another crack at the Premier League following his disastrous spell at Manchester United last season, in place of the departing Drogba.

The expected arrival of Baba Rahman from Augsburg will freshen up the battle on the left-hand side of defence, but one feels that an injury or two to their defensive line could actually leave them a bit short handed at the back, which is a worry.

Last season, Diego Costa’s dodgy hamstrings aside, Chelsea got rather lucky with injuries and they will have to hope that they can achieve the same again this year, as a bit of digging beyond the impressive surface sees John Obi Mikel as back-up to Nemanja Matic and nobody to cover for a crippled Fabregas. Chelsea simply have not reacted to the strengthening of their rivals and could pay for their dalliances.

Prediction: Runners-Up

Pardew & Cabaye

Pardew and Cabaye reunited again in one of the shock transfers of the summer

Crystal Palace

Last Season: 10th

Transfers In: Yohan Cabaye (Paris St Germain), Patrick Bamford (Chelsea, Loan), Alex McCarthy (QPR), Connor Wickham (Sunderland), Bakary Sako (Wolves)

Transfers Out: Shola Ameobi, Owen Garvan, Jerome Thomas (Released), Stephen Dobbie (Bolton)

I think everyone is curious to see how Crystal Palace will fare this season. The signing of Cabaye has made everybody sit up and take notice of Palace and their intention not to dwell on an impressive top half finish from last season, with Pardew claiming he wants to take Palace into Europe.

And why the hell not? With Cabaye pulling the strings in midfield and an endless supply of pace in Jason Puncheon, Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha in front of him to utilise, now ably backed up with the arrival of Sako on a free transfer, Palace have the attacking credentials to really push the likes of Southampton and Swansea.

Yet the questions still remain over their defensive attributes. Re-signing Brede Hangeland for a further season is the only thing they have done for the back-four so far, with only an optimistic chase to prise Ashley Williams from Swansea the only other news to emerge on fixing an area of the pitch that needs some work if these lofty ambitions are to come true.

Palace could improve on their 10th place finish of last season, and yet as we have seen with Pardew so many times before, it could also yo-yo from season to season and last season’s impressive run-in could have already been the upward motion they required. Either way it should be an interesting season at Selhurst Park that has definitely piqued my interest.

Prediction: 9th

Hull Fans Relegated

With just the FA Cup Final to come, the football season is almost behind us following an exhilarating Premier League campaign that saw Chelsea emerge triumphant, Manchester United return to the Champions League and Hull City, Burnley and QPR all sink back into the Championship.

In truth the season proved something of an anti-climax in the end as the majority of issues were solved before the final day, but it was still a campaign that provided plenty of talking points.

I have plumped weighed up the nine month tournament and compiled a list of winners and losers for the 2014/15 season: Now it’s time to look at the losers of this campaign, seeing who has fallen short of expectations and who has disappointed the unwashed masses.

Brendan Rodgers

Rodgers is under big pressure after Liverpool’s decline

Brendan Rodgers

Whilst I gave the credit for Chelsea’s success to the whole of their transfer committee in the winners section, it feels that so much of Liverpool’s decline falls upon the shoulders of manager Brendan Rodgers.

While Chelsea were efficient in their pursuit of players to take them from challengers to champions, Liverpool’s scattergun approach to their summer transfer dealings was reminiscent and perhaps even eclipsed that of Spurs the previous year, an approach Rodgers himself had been heavily critical of.

One could have expected a slight dip through the loss of a player like Luis Suarez and injuries to Daniel Sturridge have certainly not helped, Liverpool’s decline from almost landing their first Premier League trophy to being well out of the race for a Champions League place is worrying, especially when barely any of his summer signings impressed in the slightest.

Only Emre Can could be said to have impressed on any form of regular basis, while Adam Lallana and Alberto Moreno have had the odd fleeting moments. Otherwise Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert can go down as complete failures, though Lambert was always set to be out of his depth.

As for Mario Balotelli, some big Liverpool fans around me could not understand the signing of a player who was never going to fit into their system of play and could never come close to replicating the feats of Suarez up front. With an attitude problem widely publicised as well, it was the most curious of signings.

While the blame for those signings must go down as a group effort, the persistent decision to change formation and play players out of position has to see the finger pointed at the manager. Losing a player like Suarez is a big thing and we could have perhaps expected standards to drop slightly, but the manner in which it has been done will peeve even the most ardent Reds fan.

An excellent season that exceeded expectations last year allows Rodgers some leeway, he must move quickly to address the issues blighting the club, otherwise he will not last long into the next campaign. And stop calling wretched performances “outstanding.” It’s getting a little embarrassing for everyone.

Raheem Sterling

Sterling may be a wanted man, but has he proven up to it?

Raheem Sterling

Sticking with Liverpool and we have one of the bigger losers on an individual scale, despite talk of a big money move to bigger fish than the Merseyside club.

Shorn of Suarez and Sturridge, the other members of the famed SASAS of last season, the burden of responsibility has fallen upon the youngster and he has fallen somewhat short.

Sure, he has been one of those players who has fallen foul of Rodgers’ constant tinkering and found himself at wing-back at stages of the season, but when the pressure was on for Liverpool to make a decent fist of fighting for Champions’ League qualification and all other forwards having proven unworthy, Sterling was nowhere to be found in their slump back to sixth.

It then seems somewhat strange that he should be pushing for a move to a ‘bigger club’ when he has hardly dragged Liverpool forward himself to prove himself worthy of a grander stage. This suddenly raises questions about his attitude and while ambition is never something to be knocked, his failure to kick on from last season to prove himself as a world-class force when all others were taken away from him suggests he has ideas above his station.

Currently, he is not worth the figures being spoken about in the press and Liverpool have no requirement to sell. His popularity with the Liverpool fans has plummeted in recent weeks, so he could be in for a rocky next 12 months.

Steve Bruce Hull

Bruce has led a decent looking Hull side to relegation

Hull City

The line being repeated from Hull following their relegation was that ‘they never saw it coming’. And yet Steve Bruce has come out of it smelling of roses in the media, with it somehow having been out of his power to prevent all this.

Over the past two seasons, Bruce has spent over £60million on transfers, far more than any other club outside of the top seven, while at least Southampton had the incoming fees to offset their outlay. Given what Mark Hughes and Garry Monk have achieved on minimal transfer budgets, Hull really should have been looking at potentially breaking the top half.

Players like Tom Huddlestone, Michael Dawson, Mohamed Elmohamady and Nikica Jelavic, among others, are all more than good enough to play in the top flight, so you wonder exactly what has gone wrong at Hull to warrant them facing a year in the Championship next year.

Sure they have had the odd bit of bad luck with injuries and the late suspension of Jake Livermore due to a failed drugs test hardly helped matters, but to have failed to so much as score in 17 of their 38 league games is well worthy of relegation.

One suspects that their squad is good enough to bounce back quickly as it stands, but who knows how many of them will remain come the start of next season? Too many players have been coasting along at Hull and something needs changing if they are to make their return to the second tier a temporary visit.

John Carver

Fan-turned-manager John Carver has been just one miserable aspect of Newcastle’s season

Newcastle United

I covered Newcastle’s problems more in depth a week ago, but while they managed to secure survival eventually, one suspects more luck than judgement was involved.

Since Alan Pardew left the club for Crystal Palace, the Magpies have been in free-fall, with a comfortable position in the top half of the table quickly turning into a last day scrape to secure their top flight status, all led by John Carver, a man who just looked so out of his depth.

If I had been writing this in March, I probably would have ignored Newcastle in both sections of this piece, as it would simply have just been another year of treading water, too far away from either end of the table to really warrant a mention.

Yet a run of nine defeats in ten games ensured they had to battle for survival, with a combination of poor ownership, poor management and lack-lustre playing staff ensuring that this is a club in real need of a cleanse if things are to get any better in the near future.

Roberto Martinez

Martinez’ failure to improve his squad has seen Everton slide down the table


A really disappointing season of decline for Merseyside’s second club, with Everton going from knocking on the door of Champions League qualification, to a bottom half finish.

The ill-effects of the Europa League could be to blame, but more of the focus must shift to the fact that Everton failed to really improve their squad to consolidate their European places, with most of their business over the summer merely being to secure loan players on permanent deals.

The main one of course being Romelu Lukaku who Everton smashed their club record to bring in, though it took far too long into the summer to seal the deal to bring him back into the fold.

Lukaku hasn’t had as bad of a second season as some would have you believe, but with the Toffees spending nearly their entire budget on the Belgian forward, they had nothing left to add any supporting cast to aid a squad that did seem light on numbers.

Standing still will always ensure that you cannot move forward, and with so many clubs having improved their options, it should have come as little surprise that Everton have slipped back in the league standing.

Vincent Kompany

Vincent Kompany has been a disappointment in City’s failed title bid

Vincent Kompany

There has been plenty of criticism levelled at Manchester City as their title defence proved somewhat limp, with the decline of a number of players over the course of 12 months having been somewhat startling.

Yaya Toure has not matched his outstanding form of last year, but given he was still significantly better than many in his position and had to contend with the death of a younger brother, we’ll cut him some slack.

Vincent Kompany on the other hand has no excuse, so it is a real puzzle that he has gone from the league’s undoubted finest centre-back to a complete liability at the back. He was the complete defender last season, yet this season you have watched City matches and just expected mistakes to happen from the captain.

With the only real alternatives being the hapless expensive mistake that is Eliaquim Mangala, Kompany has largely kept his place, but he is now behind Martin Demichelis as City’s most reliable central defender – a fact that shows how far his standards have fallen.

Radamel Falcao

The rare sight of Falcao celebrating a goal

Radamel Falcao

What the hell happened here then? One of the world’s most formidable strikers finally made the move to the Premier League, but instead of ‘El Tigre’, we got a tame house cat, incapable of matching wits with the Premier League defenders.

Yes, he came off the back of a major knee ligament injury, with a £10m loan fee, plus his massive wages constitutes a major mistake on the part of Manchester United, with Falcao contributing just four goal to their league total and often barely looking so much as a shadow of his former self.

That four goals in 26 appearances equalled the total managed by Jermain Defoe, a man who only signed for Sunderland from the MLS in January. To hammer home the point, here are a number of other players who either equalled or bettered Falcao’s goal tally for the season:

Jack Colback (4), Daniel Sturridge (4 in 12 appearances), Branislav Ivanovic ( 4 from right-back), Dwight Gayle (5), Theo Walcott (5 in 14 appearances), Andy Carroll (5 in 14 appearances), Esteban Cambiasso (5), Steven Naismith (6), Ki Sung-Yueng (8), Papiss Cisse (11 in 22 appearances).

Juan Cuadrado

Cuadrado may just be questioning his decision to move to Chelsea

Juan Cuadrado

Another Colombian, another sad story, though not really of his doing. Cuadrado was linked with a number of clubs throughout Europe, but was eventually persuaded to make the switch to Chelsea and join Jose Mourinho’s impressive side, galavanting towards the title.

In return for ditching the hero status he had at Fiorentina, Cuadrado make a string of substitute appearances, playing just 331 minutes over the course of 12 games in the league.

With Mohamed Salah having gone the other way as part of the deal having made the exact some decision a year previously, Cuadrado should really have known what he was letting himself in for. He will have every avaialble finger crossed that he was merely being granted a ‘bedding in period’.

Emmanuel Adebayor

Adebayor looks set to find another new club after falling out of favour at Spurs

Emmanuel Adebayor

Another player who has really fallen from grace, with Adebayor’s supposed resurrection under Tim Sherwood at Spurs proving a short-lived affair.

Having rediscovered his scoring touch last season and joy of playing, he started again brightly this year with a goal against QPR, but they soon dried up, with his performances proving frustrating to the Tottenham faithful.

A misguided shot at the fans, constant leaves of absence on ‘compassionate grounds’ and complaints of a voodoo curse have hardly endeared him to football fans across the country, let alone in North London and it would appear that his time at White Hart Lane is at an end.

Whether anybody else will be willing to take a risk on him now at the wages he commands, is a whole other story.

Paul Lambert

Lambert has been the biggest managerial loser of the 2014/15 season

Paul Lambert

Has any manager seen their stock fall as much as Paul Lambert over the course of this season? Aston Villa seemed bereft of any fight and looking set for a first season outside of the top flight since the Premier League came into being until Lambert was finally ousted from the management seat.

The Villains repeatedly went on runs of games without scoring, let alone winning, and the football they played was some of the most turgid seen in this era of highly televised football.

When Sherwood took over, Villa looked a completely different side, playing exciting attacking football, scoring plenty of goals and reaching an FA Cup final. Their final position of 17th hardly shouts improvement too loudly in terms of results, but at least fans of the club could at least begin to care whether they were relegated or not anymore. And the rest of the country actually acknowledged Villa as a Premier League side again.

But given the failure of Lambert to command an able group of players and shape them into a footballing side, it will take an awful lot of work for the Scotsman to manage in the Premier League again in the near future.

Harry Redknapp

Will anybody else take a chance on Redknapp after his QPR tenure?

Harry Redknapp

Whilst I was with Squawka, I wrote a piece on the signing of Mauricio Isla, claiming he was a rash signing on the back of a decent World Cup with Chile, feeling that was typical of Redknapp and receiving the inevitable backlash from QPR fans, assured he was the messiah after scraping through the play-offs despite having the best squad in the Championship on paper. It wasn’t my best piece ever, but not worth the vitriol received.

Come the end of the season, Isla is being painted as one of QPR’s ‘bad eggs’ in the press and Redknapp is nowhere to be found, having left the Super Hoops in the lurch in peculiar circumstances.

It was merely hours after the January transfer window closed that Redknapp announced his retirement due to supposed concerns with his knees, leaving Chris Ramsey unable to improve a squad high on ego and low on effort.

Redknapp has a tendency to let players get complacent after his initial motivational impact, so it came as little surprise that so many mercenary players on large wages did little to help QPR fight for their top flight place.

Redknapp claims he is not done with football management just yet, but with this debacle behind him (having tried to play the ageing Rio Ferdinand and Richard Dunne as part of a back three) and his refusal to work anywhere above the Watford gap, it feels unlikely that any club with turn to the out-of-date Redknapp for the big job again.


It’s a story that seems as long and repetitive as time itself: Young player makes an impact, English media fights among each other to see who can create the most hyperbole about him.

Often it seems irrelevant as to his nationality – a youngster from abroad who excels immediately in the Premier League is greeted with a chorus of media complaining as to why the godfather of football cannot produce talent as exceptional as the young protege from sunny Spain/Germany/South America.

However, when the new kid on the block holds British roots, the reaction from those in the fourth estate’s sporting alumni becomes all the more ridiculous, with predictions of greatness cast upon them from the word go, one or two promising performances seemingly being enough to judge the way a player’s career is set to turn.

As England’s wait for major international honours grows longer and longer with every passing year, it has seen the media jump on any signs of potential from the up-and-coming in the country, clutching at the hope that they will turn into the next Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson or Paul Gascoigne.

We have already seen this happen once this season with Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, with the promising form of the striker leading him to being dubbed the ‘saviour’ of English football.

Hary Kane

Harry Kane is another to have felt the pressure of media expectation

Any person with a cooler head and no requirement to sell papers will tell you that they are already awaiting next season to see as to whether Kane can follow up his feats for this campaign or whether he will turn out to be another one-season wonder, but given the Spurs striker had the audacity to go a couple of games without a goal, the media men and women have already started sourcing their next silver lining.

Tim Sherwood’s new look Aston Villa have caught the eye for the fact that they are not the dullest team to have ever played football anymore, and given the media-savvy manager’s penchant for giving younger players an opportunity, Jack Grealish has been granted a chance to impress.

Grealish did well in his first Premier League start as Villa drew 3-3 with QPR and again caught the eye as Sherwood secured victory on his return to White Hart Lane, but it is his performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final that has got the media drooling.

Grealish was very impressive as Villa defied the odds to make it through to the final, with the attacking midfielder heavily involved in both goals as the Midlands outfit triumphed over Brendan Rodgers’ side, indicating at a bright future.

However, the reaction has been excessive once again, with even the usually level-headed Daily Telegraph’s sport page (the BBC did likewise) led with the headline ‘Tug of War Over Grealish’, with there apparently set to be a major tussle between both England and Republic of Ireland for his services on the international scene.

And we are talking senior football here. Not for an under-21 call-up, with Grealish already representing the Irish at that level, as he has done for every age group, but with Grealish somehow warranting a place among established senior players.

Not let’s get one thing straight here: Grealish only made his first start for Aston Villa in January as he lined up in the third round victory over Blackpool and failed to start a single Premier League game until he was selected against QPR on April 7th. Or 2 weeks ago, at the time of writing.

QPR have been largely easy to impress against as an attacking player this season and Spurs were already in holiday mode by the time Villa beat them, so these were ideal opponents for a youngster to be thrown in and be able to make an impact, leaving just Liverpool as a performance to really purr about.

So one impressive performance on a big stage and there is already a ‘tug-of-war’ to ensure that England secure the services of Grealish for the future, again completely overlooking how he might develop over the next few years (and completely ignoring the performance of Fabian Delph, who was fantastic and already in the England squad).

Grealish Ireland

Grealish has represented Republic of Ireland at youth level

One can perhaps understand as to why Republic of Ireland want to assure themselves of his services, despite having nurtured him through the international system thus far: Grealish is by all accounts English. Aston Villa is his hometown club having been born in the Birmingham area.

Bur Ireland have repeatedly been forced to think outside of the box when recruiting players as their pool to choose from is quite slim, often seeking out parents or grandparents of players ignored in the England set-up. Now having been responsible for his international progress so far and having sounded him out about a senior call-up before, it seems only right that they would ask the question.

However, for England to suddenly be looking to convert him to play for them after not doing enough to get him to play for the youth levels of the country of his birth, based on a handful of decent performances seems excessive. There has been minor interest before, but not enough done to bring him into the England set-up.

That the media would start baying for him to be included in the next available squad just to prevent the possibility of him representing the Irish shows absolutely no forward thinking whatsoever.

Thrusting a young player into the senior squad this early can have detrimental effects to his progress and potentially his attitude. If he believes that he has achieved all he needs already and stops working on his game, then he will never develop into the next big thing and will join the ranks of average players with international caps.

Also there is the case of the player himself. If he doesn’t progress as some are expecting, or injury strikes and he is unable to replicate his early form, he will forever be saddled with an international career that merely equates to a ten minute substitute appearance, with the odds being that he might still be able to play regularly in the smaller talent pool that the Irish select from.

While it may be prudent on England’s behalf to perhaps to pull him aside and tell the player they are monitoring his progress and that maintaining his level of performance could result in a call-up sometime in the future; but a call-up and a cameo appearance just to stop him representing another nation is petty at best and detrimental to the player’s career at worst.

For the sake of both England and Ireland, it would be wise to just let the player be for a while. He has literally only just broken into the Aston Villa side and will firstly need to focus on keeping his place there before any promotions occur.

England has only recently seen how promoting a player too quickly can have a negative impact, with Ross Barkley having endured a difficult second season for Everton, frequently losing his place in Roberto Martinez’ side and looking less and less the heir to Gascoigne with every passing match.

Keep an eye on him and speak to the player by all means. But the media hysteria that surrounds a player merely stringing a couple of good performances together benefits nobody and needs to be dialled back if English football is ever truly to progress. Grealish is just 19 and at the very beginning of his Premier League career.

Leave him alone to enjoy that and develop first before getting into any international debates.