Another talented writer makes his début on gibfootballshow. Euan Marshall originally from Glasgow and now a resident in South America uses his new found love of Latin football to tell Blackburn Rovers fans all about their new signing Mauro Formica.

Under ambitious new ownership and with some decent form under their belt, Blackburn Rovers have all the makings of a football club on the rise. To go along with the shrewd loan signings of Schalke 04′s Jermaine Jones and the returning Roque Santa Cruz, Blackburn have decided to go out and buy a South American attacking midfielder. They did not end up with Ronaldinho Gaúcho, but they have managed to sign an extremely exciting and promising young Argentine, Mauro Formica.

Formica’s recent form for Newell’s Old Boys in his native Argentina has generated a lot of buzz and interest throughout the football world. His 16 appearances and 2 goals in the 2010 Torneo Apertura attracted suitors from all over Europe, with Rubin Kazan, Galatasaray, Genoa, Blackburn Rovers and Monaco all looking to facilitate his move across the Atlantic. He looked certain to sign for Les Rouge et Blanc in France, but as Newell’s tried to squeeze more money out of the principality club, the move stalled. That was when Blackburn jumped in and made an improved offer which was swiftly accepted by Newell’s. Finally, “El Gato” (“the Cat”) agreed a contract with Rovers which will see him in Lancashire for the next three years.

A Newell’s boy born and bred, Mauro signed his first professional contract with la Lepra in 2006 when he was 18 years old. He has always been highly coveted at Newell’s, and after three years he broke into a regular first team place in the 2009/2010 season, managing 38 appearances and 8 goals in all competitions. However it was not until this season’s Apertura where 22 year-old Mauro really blossomed, becoming a key player in the Newell’s squad.

Formica hails from a nation notorious for hyping up their young talents, with several youngsters tipped to be reincarnations of national football heroes like Diego Maradona or Ariel Ortega. Unsurprisingly, Mauro has not been able to escape this, with several pundits dubbing him (inexplicably) the “new Batistuta”; however the more accurate comparison comes from Argentina’s neighbours Brazil, in the shape of Real Madrid’s Kaká.

Not only does he bear a truly startling physical resemblance to Kaká (everything except the 80s style mullet), Formica also has several similarities to the Brazilian in his playing style. Watching the way he drives at defences, with the ball appearing to stick to his boots, you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching a young Kaká. He skips past defenders in the same way that Kaká does, naturally and with pace.

However Formica isn’t just a dribbler, he has technique and flair in abundance, making him a fantastic player to watch. He has a tremendous passing range, a great first touch, he hits a great shot from distance, and he is able to pull off deft flicks, back-heels and nutmegs when the situation calls for it. Without trying to over-hype the 22-year old, he really does possess the skill set of a truly world class attacking midfielder.

Mauro Formica belongs to a generation of very talented Argentine footballers, and unfortunately for him this could seriously affect his chances of featuring for the national team in later years. Formica is a number 10, an attacking midfielder, what the Argentines refer to as an enganche, and he’s going to have some serious competition on the international scene. Already Ángel di María has made a name for himself at Real Madrid and has appeared several times at international level, furthermore two of the game’s most promising players will be desperate to fill the number 10 role; Javier Pastore of Palermo, and Erik Lamela of River Plate.

As I have mentioned earlier, Formica is a proper South American number 10. At Newell’s he played either behind two centre-forwards or as the left sided attacking midfielder in a 4-3-2-1. He serves as an excellent link between the midfield and attack, and is able to intuitively move into the right areas to receive the ball and then produce the killer pass. He has all the wonderful passing attributes of a great playmaker, and his equally wonderful dribbling skills mean he can go it alone if necessary and provide a different threat to opposing defences.

Certainly the main question regarding Formica’s move to Blackburn is whether he will be able to adapt and thrive in the Premier League. English football is certainly a very different game from what Formica is used to back home, the pace is much higher, with creative players not allowed much time on the ball, and overall the game is a much more physical affair. It is expected that Formica will need some time to adapt, and he may find it hard to make much of an impact between now and the end of the season.

Formica will be hoping to slot into a position similar to his number 10 role at Newell’s. He will have players like Morten Gamst Pedersen and Junior Hoilett to link up with in midfield, and two good forwards to aim at, fellow South American Roque Santa Cruz, and the Croatian Nikola Kalinić. A main part of his success at Newell’s was his excellent ability to link with players around him, so Formica will be hoping to develop the same rapport with his new Ewood Park team-mates.

With all of these qualities and obvious potential, Blackburn will be hoping that the introduction of Formica will bring some real South American class to their midfield to help their push for European qualification. How much of an immediate impact he will make is impossible to know, but with Formica’s style and talent we can be sure of plenty breathtaking moments from el Gato for years to come.

To read more of Euan’s work please have a look at his wonderful website “I like football me” and also catch him on twitter for all the goings on in Brazil and South America. Also soon to join the gibfootballshow podcast ;)


Blackpool fan Norman Ralph takes a look at Blackpool’s season so far and what they have up their sleeve for the second half of this already exciting season back in the top flight.

When I wrote a post on my own blog about Blackpool winning the English Championship play-off final with the title “Blackpool for the Champions League”, I was writing somewhat tongue in cheek, I could not have imagined that they would actually go out and perform the way they have done. The English Premier League season is nearly half way through and Blackpool lie in 12th place on 19 points. They are not going to qualify for a Champions League spot from here, but it is highly likely they will avoid relegation which is a major feat in itself as they were by some margin the bookie’s favourite to go down at the start of the season (average price around 2/7).

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When Samir Nasri moved from Marseille to Arsenal people knowing that I had a penchant for Ligue 1 and all things French came to me asking how good he was, obviously following his time at Marseille I had only good things to say about Samir.

His partnership with Ribery was fantastic, he wasn’t a goal scorer and he didn’t really get many direct assists but anyone that had watched Marseille for the three years he was in the team could see that Nasri was a quality player.

His first season at the Emirates went relatively well six goals a couple of assists the people that I had given my guarantee of quality were pretty pleased with the Frenchman, the difficult second season followed, five assists but only two goals and it seemed questions were being asked.

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*All stats are correct as of Friday 19th November

Many questions were raised when Jay Bothroyd received a call up to England’s National team for the friendly against France. Isn’t there someone else playing in the Premier League that would be more worthy of a call-up? Is a player playing in the second tier good enough for an International team as highly ranked as England?

There are many blogs that have gone into the positives and negatives of Bothroyd’s call up, that is not the question I wanted to look at. Fabio Capello has himself questioned the number of English players playing at the highest level, limiting the pool of players he can pick his squad from. Does Capello have a point? If not who are the strikers playing in the Premier League that Capello could call on and are other countries suffering the same fate?

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You’ve read BBC, consulted TeamTalk listened to the Journalists on twitter, but of course it’s the opinion of me “gibfootballshow” that you’ve been waiting for, Yeah I know this is the 107th Premier League preview you’ve read however where would I be as a blogger if I didn’t recognise one of the biggest leagues in the world starting it’s season, going to try and do it a little different so you don’t lose interest quickly, but I can’t promise miracles.

Instead of just picking the winners, I will list all 20 Premier League clubs and little reasons why as we go on, also at the end there will be 5 players to watch out for this season. So without further ado here we go English Premier League 2010/11 starts now.

2.Manchester United
3.Manchester City


I have picked Chelsea as my eventual winners of the league, good manager a very strong squad, if Essien stays fit he is like a new signing for them, Ramires for me is a pivotal move, very strong energetic midfielder, loves to go box to box, great technique, workhorse engine, I think will take to the Premier League like a duck to water, Lampard and Drogba will score 20 goals each as always, Daniel Sturridge will have a good year, I don’t think any of the other teams in the league are as strong or have as much depth.

Manchester United will be strong, Hernandez looks like being the steal of the year, need to see whether he can play with Rooney first, Scholes, Giggs and Van der Sar are another year older, lots of expectation on Nani and Valencia, Sir Alex will need to summon all his managerial expertise to overcome Chelsea this season, not far behind them will be Manchester City, some excellent signings geared more towards building a team than just buying big name players, Kolarov will come to be a very important move, great left back, desire to get forward, cultured left foot, there is also not lots of pressure on him to perform, David Silva and Mario Balotelli are two fantastic signings “Super Mario” is the most exciting signing this summer for me, one of the best young players in the World, £24 million may sound like too much money however in two years he will be worth double, the move to the Premier League gets him away from the pressure of the Italian media that highlight everything he does simply because he is a black Italian man, in this country the things that he does are no different to any footballer, Bellamy, Cole and Terry make him look like an alter boy. Mancini will have a hard job keeping the 25 players picked for the squad happy; this could be City’s downfall.

Year after year we say “Arsenal need a goalkeeper, a centre back and a central midfielder” Well they signed a centre back, but he lacks experience I have no doubt Koscielny will be one of the top defenders in 3 or 4 years, but not this season, with an experienced goalkeeper behind a young defence they would concede fewer goals and have a chance at the title, the first team are Championship material, and on their day capable of beating any team in the league, however once the injuries and suspensions kick in, the players replacing them will struggle, I’m sure Bookies have suspended betting on a van Persie injury occurring at some point.

8.Aston Villa
9.Birmingham City

Anfield is buzzing again, Roy Hodgson has got some smiles back on the faces of Liverpool fans already, mostly because he has “convinced” Gerrard and Torres to stay at the Merseyside club, Joe Cole is a decent signing maybe not for £6 million signing on fee and £90,000 a week but that will all be forgotten once he scores the winner against a big club, Problems still exist however, the defence is not watertight, Carragher is aging and cracks are starting to appear, whether you can count on Agger and Skrtel together worries me, Glen Johnson proves times after time he can’t defend, and Fabio Aurelio is Liverpool’s best left back, the midfield is strong Christian Poulsen will be a success at Anfield, either along side Lucas or Gerrard with Jovanovic and Cole supporting, I can see Liverpool playing better football than last year but in the end coming up short.

There will not be much between Spurs, Everton and Villa, with O’Neill gone and Milner surely to follow Villa will struggle, there are still quality players there, Ashley Young and Agbonlahor are cornerstones to build the team around, if the new manager spends the Milner money wisely (if he gets any at all) then they could push for top six, Tottenham will need to find a way to balance the league matches with the Champions League, favourites to qualify over Young Boys, Arry Redknapp needs to strengthen his squad to have any chance of competing on two fronts, defensively there are problems, King and Woodgate will not play 20 games between them, Dawson needs a stable partner to be able to excel, Keane, Defoe, Crouch and Pavlyuchenko are all good players but lack that extra little touch of quality all the big teams have.

David Moyes has been quite quiet so far, Jermaine Beckford arrives with high hopes, able to score in League One for fun, questions over whether he can make the big step up, Pre-season form in promising, Bilyaletdinov, Cahill and Saha are important pieces of the Goodison Park jigsaw, Jagielka and Heitinga are the safety net keeping it all together, all the pieces there for a good season, depth could be an issue. Nikola Zigic and Ben Foster no doubtly make Birmingham a better team, I worry on how Zigic will adapt to the EPL style and the laws of averages would say it would take a miracle for the performances seen at St.Andrews to be repeated, there is time still left for Alex McLeish to strengthen the squad, does the club have that extra ambition though.

10. Wigan
11. West Ham
12. Fulham
13. Sunderland
14.Stoke City
16.Blackburn Rovers

7 teams that could all either finish top half of the table or near the relegation battle, worse case scenario they could end up with both, the league is tight enough that a victory either way could mean 9th or 16th, which I suppose is the appeal of the EPL. Wigan and Martinez need to adapt and play a passing but defensively tough strategy, Boselli is an exciting signing, added to Rodallega, N’Zogbia, McCarthy and Alcaraz they are a young exciting team, with an equally exciting manager. West Ham have a chance to redeem themselves from an awful season last year, good signings in Winston Reid and Pablo Barrea, dealt a blow with Hitzlsperger’s injury, they have the tools to finish safely away from relegation.

Fulham are a bit of an unknown force with Mark Hughes in charge, not quite sure how they will line up, If they complete the deal for Moussa Dembele he will be an excellent recruit, as of right now I think the team is weak in parts, with Schwarzer, Hangeland, Murphy and Zamora it is a strong spine. I worry for Sunderland at times, they sign good players Riveros, Mensah and Wellbeck, but they suffer from players not being able to settle or injuries the North-East is a place where the fans are always expectant and this pressure sometimes becomes too much for players, they rely heavily on Bent’s goals and I’m not sure they have the players to be creative for him.

Stoke and Wolves are two similar teams, both now have a big money striker, Fletcher and Jones, both play a strong physical game, and both in their first season in the Premier punched way above their weight, this year will be another tough year, the worst thing a team can do is think they are “established” and rest on their laurels, which is why both teams have went out and spent money on making the team better, I’d prefer Tony Pulis to Mick McCarthy as a manager, not the prettiest football to watch but it produces results, another team under the same ilk are “Big” Same Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers, only one signing so far in Mame-Biram Diouf on loan from Manchester United, not the worst team but they are not going to strike much fear in the other teams, could get drawn into a relegation battle, but should have enough to survive.

17. Newcastle United
18.Bolton Wanderers
19.West Brom

So on to the bottom of the Premier League, I think everyone has Blackpool going down, it would be a massive shock if they stayed up, a bit like Arles of Ligue 1 in their story and their signings, lots of journeymen onboard, a good manager, but it will be a long old season for the seasiders. I see West Brom joining them in the drop zone, I like Roberto Di Matteo as a manager has done a great job however they just don’t have a strong enough team to stay up, another yo-yo year for the Baggies. The big battle for me will be the last relegation place, which will be between Newcastle United and Bolton, no offence to Owen Coyle but his team I think will struggle, Elmander has just not turned up in the EPL yet, Klasnic is good, the loss of Weiss and Wilshere will effect them, Petrov isn’t getting any younger, and they could lose some good players in January at the latest, Chris Houghton is probably the most inexperience manager in the league and with Newcastle not splashing the cash they could find it tough on their return to the top flight, Collocini and Gutierrez, Nolan and Steve Harper are of Premier League quality, and could be the little bit of class that keeps them up……just.


#1 – RAMIRES – Chelsea

Just signed today for Ancelotti’s team, I have like the player since I first saw him in last years Confederations Cup, he started next to Kaka in midfield and was breathtaking to watch, Brazil played with a fast counter attacking style and Ramires was the catalyst being the pace and the power, a player that never stops running, will defend and attack all game, good on the ball, does the simple things well, just an all round good player and a very exciting signing for Chelsea fans to watch.

#2 – WINSTON REID – West Ham United

Signed from FC Midtyjland this New Zealand international was one of the brightest prospects in Scandinavian football, after a great World Cup for the only undefeated team at the tournament he looked very good, Strong, good in the air, seem to have a good positional sense, has pace to stay with the speed merchants, I think he will add an extra layer of protection in front of Robert Green, and could become the leader of the Upton Park backline.


A free signing for David Moyes, everyone is questioning whether he can make the step up in class, there is no doubt Jermaine has the ability, his mentality might be under question, failed to turn up at times when Leeds needed him most, this could be the best situation for the striker, no pressure to score loads of goals, Everton don’t have a World Class forward in the squad so there could be plenty of chance for Beckford to step in, as a player he knows where the goal is, has pace to trouble defences, a true predator.

#4 – GIOVANNI DOS SANTOS – Tottenham Hotspur

Now by the time the transfer window closes, dos Santos could have left Spurs, I really hope he stays, he seems to have grown up a little, maybe even matured, after a fantastic World Cup where from the first minute he looked in the mood to terrorise defences, he was one of the reasons Mexico drew plaudits and made it through their group stage, I watched Spurs play in pre-season and again he looked in the mood, a lovely back heel to Bale for the only goal against Benfica, he seems to have played his way in Redknapp’s squad, I would love to see him given a chance at White Hart Lane, this could be the year he fulfils his potential.

#5 – STUART HOLDEN – Bolton Wanderers

If Coyle’s men are to stay up they will need to exciting play of the only Scotsman to play at the World Cup, born in Aberdeen, Stuart has been a star of the MLS and is due to break into the US Men’s National Team very soon, had his season disrupted by injury during a friendly in the Netherlands with the National Team, Bolton fans were just starting to appreciate his talents, a tricky winger who can play in a fantastic cross, he will be a star for his country leading up to the 2014 World Cup, and I expect him to be a star for the Lancashire club this season.

There we go, predictions done, teams put into order and players to watch, now tomorrow of course they will all either not play, get injured or lose.


As someone put it today on Twitter, I am starting my own football revolution, first their was this website, then I brought you my Podcasts, so what’s next I hear you ask, well…….


Yes that’s right I have launched a sister site to this, a forum where people can go and make their own points, start conversations, teach each other about players and teams we might not be aware of.

There used to be a group of us on a Pro Evo forum that had indepth conversations about football the in’s and out’s of the beautiful game so I wanted to create a place where this could happen again, so please go to the forum, sign up and start the conversation.

I hope to see a few of you there.


So I have to admit when Germany beat England 4-1 I think happy would be the tamed down version of how I was feeling, and as a Scotsman I’m sure you can forgive me of that, we don’t like to hear the media blab on about how good the Premier League is which means England will win the World Cup so when they get knocked out, I think the other Home Nations and Ireland have a mini celebration of their own, now I get a little grief for the “England Bashing” but it’s how I was brought up so it’s not going to change, I live in England, I work in England, the girl I’m marrying is English, it’s just the media really, good to see them knocked down a peg or two.

The one great thing that has come out of the English defeat was the self defecation of the English football system, youngsters not getting a chance, too many foreigners, and the way kids get taught etc. Everything that is needed to create a successful football legacy was deemed to be sub par in the English game, surely though the other Home Nations can be put into the same bracket, we all have the same set-up and if England are being criticised for not bringing through youth, then what can be said for the rest of the teams on the two Islands, Once upon a time top English teams were littered with Scottish, Welsh and Irish players, nowadays they are found at the bottom edge of the Premier League and in the Championship which is no shame as they are good leagues, not quite the same as when Dalglish, Souness, Strachan, McAllister even Charlie Nicholas graced the best teams in the league, right now in the teams that finished in the Champions League places you can find, Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs, Jonny Evans, Darron Gibson, Gareth Bale and Robbie Keane who of course graced us with his presence in the SPL for half of this season, so out of the top 4 teams, only two of them had players from the other home nations and Ireland, and the list isn’t very long, what has gone wrong with British football.

The complaints also start “It’s those foreigners coming here for big money ruining our game…” Now there is part of this that’s true, the amount of foreigners that have come in has increased year after year and this has taken places away from British players, I have no problem with players the likes of Didier Drogba, Cesc Fabergas, Cristiano Ronaldo and the like, these players are at the top of their game and enhance the league in so many ways, the same as Brian Laudrup and Henrik Larsson did for the Scottish League, however I have a problem with teams bringing in mediocre European or South American players and they sit on the bench get a few minutes here or there and earn good money for the minutes they get, there are a few reasons why this happens.

# 1.Foreign players cost less.

 Look at West Ham this January brought in Benny McCarthy, Mido and Ilan all signed up to score goals.

Benny McCarthy – 5 games – 0 goals

Mido – 9 games – 0 goals

Ilan – 11 games – 4 goals

So 25 games between the 3 and only 4 goals scored, and luckily for West Ham they stayed up, Mido was on loan, Ilan was on a free, and McCarthy cost around £2.25 million, so they got 3 players for just over £2m and they got them 4 goals, around £500,000 not actually that bad a business deal without taking wages into account.

# 2. British Players cost too much

Steven Fletcher – 8 goals in 35 games for Burnley, personally think he had a great season, really stepped up from his days at Hibs and performed at a great level, but he only got 8 goals, and he has just moved to Wolves for £7 million, that’s a lot of money for someone had has a worse goals per game record than Ilan.

Ched Evans – 4 goals in 33 games for Sheffield United, there was great promise for this guy when he was at Manchester City, The Blades paid 3 million pound for Ched a big sum for an unproven player and not exactly the return you would hope.

What I’m trying to prove here is that even though everyone wants teams to play more English/British players it’s not always easy or cost effective, it’s easier to sign a foreigner pay less upfront and get a decent return, why shell out more money for a similar return just to help out the game.

It reminds me of the transfer of Roberto Rios from Real Betis to Athletic Bilbao, Rios was a decent defender but not brilliant, a few teams had shown an interest and were quoted about £4million, then Athletic Bilbao came in for Rios, Rios born in Bilbao interested the Bilbao side with their Basque only policy, Betis uses this to their advantage and charged Bilbao £9 million, a big jump from £4mil, however Betis took advantage of knowing Bilbao had a weakness with their policy.

I can see the same thing happening in England with this new 25 man squad quota with 8 home-grown players, either teams will buy foreign but earlier like Fabergas and bring them through, or the big clubs will get taken to the cleaners and charged extra for any English players they show an interest in, because the smaller teams know they need to buy English, It’s a vicious circle, and I’m not sure how you break it.

Poor Coaching

I think what the Premier League are trying to do with this rule is encourage teams to bring through their own players, develop them and therefore not need to buy expensive foreigners unless of course they are at the top of their game. All in all this is a good idea, however there needs to be a lot of changes to the way British football is run before we will see any effects, there have been many stats thrown about with the number of UEFA trained coaches in this country compared to the other top nations, it’s a disgrace that there are not more properly trained coaches, there is a great chapter in the book “The Italian Job” by Gabriel Marcotti and Gianluca Vialli about the famous Italian training centre, the name escapes me just now, but all coaches are made to go their for a 2 year course to learn the intricacies of the game and make sure they are fully prepared for life as a football manager, there needs to be something put in place like that in this country, don’t just give people like Gareth Southgate a job because he was a player, he should have been made to go away learn his trade and build his way up, and now he’s a pundit for ITV, not a successful career in management.

A few years ago I looked into doing a UEFA badge as a means of maybe getting a job a some level of football club, the price I found was £2000 compared the level 2 Basketball Coaches licesne I am soon to go for which costs £160 and will give me the ability to coach any Basketball team in Europe, just a little bit of a difference, so I don’t blame people for not jumping onto these course, so what are the other countries doing right that people are jumping on them, it’s not like the credit crunch only effected the United Kingdom, something is wrong somewhere.

When I was a kid playing football, training consisted of running, conditioning work more running and maybe at the end if you were good you got to play with the ball, I was picked at a Centre Half because I was fat, surely putting me against usually the best and fastest players upfront is not a good idea, I was actually better on the right as I had a decent right foot, once came on as a sub, set up two goals, next game I was back in the centre of defence.

The one thing I was told when playing at centre half was “if the ball comes to you, just hit it as hard as you can up the field!” what a genius my manager was.

Of course that was over 10 years ago and I really hope the standard and method of coaching has improved, from what I hear from Kids, Dads and some research etc for all the good coahces there are out there that are trying to play the game the right way, there are still a large majority that play the old fashioned way, pump the ball forward and chase after it

Basketball Priciples

Now I’m 28 so it’s been a while since my football days, however I have the honour right now of learning to be a Basketball Coach for Leeds Carnegie, been going for a year now, and It’s such a different mindset, we pride ourselves on player development, not on the results we get, we had an Boys U13, U14 and U15’s team and a U14 girls team, and out of the 4 teams we probably lost more games than we won, however we had 25 players go on to play for Yorkshire, which is a vindication of how we go about setting up our teams, they may not be the best teams but as individuals they are fundamentally sound and when they grow up to be 18/19 or older and hopefully go on to bigger and better things, they will be able to learn all the team principles they needs because they will have the fundamentals locked down.

From what I can see this is not what is taught in football, players will skill and individual talent are known as “greedy” “selfish” players and they need to be more team oriented, and the skill and expression is drilled out of them from the ages of 12/13 onwards then when they get to a higher level they all play the same way have the same British mentality, and yeah they might go on to be good footballers, however we will never see a player of the likes of Iniesta/Messi come through that system.

I am not saying the Basketball system is perfect as lots of teams don’t have the same principles that we do at Leeds, and most have a very “British” mentality, small players are bad, big and strong players are could, and they very quickly type cast players before they even develop, looking at the Dutch performance last night in the World Cup final looking at Van Bronckhorst got me thinking of his adaptability, started off if I’m right at Feyenoord and could play Right-Midfield, moved to Rangers, played more centrally, then onto Arsenal, became more of a fullback, then last night he started the World Cup Final at Left Back as the captain of his country, how many British players could have adapted like that, I like to think it’s the Dutch mentality of “Total Football” and interchanging positions that gave him the ability to adapt and continue his career, it seems players like James Milner that can play more than one position baffle the football hierarchy the ability to perform and multiple positions seems to hinder his chances at playing, a ridiculous notion a very British notion.

Size isn’t everything

While looking at the England Basketball website a few months ago I saw an advertisement for players interested in playing for England, the advert said something like, “If you are over 6’ 4’’ and would like to try out for the English team please register your interest here” Now I find that all wrong, you can have all the height in the world but no matter how tall you are, if you’ve not got it, you’ve not got it, what about the 6 foot 2 kid sat at home that reads that, wants to have a try, but because of his height no one will even look at him, what an awful thing to do, yes height is important, it is not the be all and end all, we have a kid who is 5 foot 8 and can touch the rim, and we have a 6 foot 3 kid that can reach the same height, the smaller kid is much the better basketball player and I have high hopes for him, he will need to grow though, however at 14 he’s got plenty of time.

We have got very lucky in the past 2 weeks a kid who is 15 his started coming to our team, he played in Sheffield last year, and stands at a huge 6 feet 8 inches tall, a coaches dream, has some knee problems but he can play, now the problem is at Sheffield he’s only been taught how to be a big man, moves under basket etc, Yes he is the biggest players in our team, however he won’t always be, at 18 he could be playing with two 7 foot giants and no longer able to play the big man, he’ll need to show what else he has, that’s why we teach all the kids the fundamentals of every position, we have a kid called Roshan, he’s that small when he wears the shorts it looks like he’s wearing trousers, however if you give him the ball under the basket he has the moves to outwit the biggest of defenders, now if this kid stretches to near 7 foot, he has the skill set to play any position he wants.

Now lets relate this back to football, look at the World Champions, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Navas not the biggest players in the World, and I can guarantee if they had been British not a chance in hell they would have been allowed to play in the centre of midfield, they would have been classed as wingers, too small for midfield too small to be a striker, and they’re skill and artistry would have been lost to the game, and what a travesty that would have been, the same has happened with Joe Cole, great on the ball, lovely passer, where do England play him, Left midfield, personally I’d give him a role similar to Pedro for Spain let him come inside create things and you’d get the best of him, don’t confide him to the wings, the same principles apply to Cristiano Ronaldo an out and out winger, I remember when he scored a header at Euro 2004 the shock in the commentators voice, a winger won a header, surely not, overlooking the fact he’s 6 foot 1 and good in the air, the mindset of he’s a winger what’s he doing heading the ball.

Bright Future?

Lots of things have to change in this country, the coaching, the academies, the influx of foreign players, however before all that changes the one thing we need to change is the backward thinking that does and always will exist in this country, if nations like Uruguay and Slovenia both with tiny populations can achieve success on the greatest football stage, there is absolutely no reason that with the right structure England, Scotland even Wales and the Irish teams can’t achieve similar results.


So with only 2 games left in this year’s Premier League title race, I thought it would be an appropriate time to pick my 11 players for the Team of the Year, I already know it’s going to cause some discussion, which of course can only be a good thing.


Joe Hart

In-between the posts there can only be 1 man, played an outstanding role in his teams excellent and surprising season, on loan from Manchester City JOE HART has had a fantastic season, leading to most England fans to call for him to be the #1 in England’s World Cup campaign, Joe has been superb all season, excellent shot-stopping, reflex saves, very rarely showing any weakness, it will be a very interesting summer, Birmingham may have lost their chance to have him next season by not letting him return to City after Given’s injury.

Honourable Mentions: Shay Given, Heruelho Gomes, Brad Freidel, and Thomas Sorensen.

Left Back

Ashley Cole

This was a very tough choice, two players fighting for the title, one had a fantastic start of the season the other has made superb towards the end of the campaign, Ashley Cole and Patrice Evra have been fantastic for their clubs this year, Cole seeming to find his attacking instincts again charging forward but also showing a defensive presence also, Evra has recently been praised from Sir Alex himself applauding the Frenchman’s quality, very consistent this season but has excelled in recent games, the place in this team could easily go to either player however only one can be picked and I am going to choose Chelsea’s man ASHLEY COLE only an ankle injury has stopped his progress this season, I think Chelsea would be Champions already had he been fit.

Centre Backs

Thomas Vermaelen

So many players to choose from in this category, luckily I get to pick 2 from a long list. My first choice is THOMAS VERMAELEN the relatively unknown Belgian came to England with lots of question marks over the price-tag, his size, experience, this was all dismissed within the first few weeks of the season scoring goals, superb defending, after 2 months you wondered how Arsenal had ever competed without this man, his season has been slowed with Injuries however his performances have been enough to earn this spot.

Richard Dunne

Alongside him I have went for a experience player who swapped one Champions League chasing team for another, when he was pretty much made surplus to requirements at Eastland’s and snapped up by Martin O’Neill, RICHARD DUNNE has shown the Man City were wrong to let him go, and Aston Villa have been reaping the benefits, creating a strong partnership with James Collins they been the basis of Villas excellent season, unlucky not to be going to the World Cup, Dunne is maybe not as fast as he used to be, however still shows he is one of the better Centre Backs playing in this country.

Honourable Mentions: Roger Johnson, Scott Danns, Michael Dawson

Left Midfield

Florent Malouda

One player has stood out recently in this position and it has really made me happy, as a follower of French football FLORENT MALOUDA was a player I had seen do great things for Lyon in Ligue 1 and when he signed for Chelsea, I was bigging him up about his ability then unfortunately his first couple of seasons can only be described as Average at best, this season however he has finally shown the ability I knew he had, scoring and supply goals he has been a mainstay in Ancelotti’s team, terrorising defences for most of the season, I am very happy to see Florent perform well.

Central Midfield

James Milner

2 player with contrasting season, the first one has had his break out season, everyone knew of his abilities however this season JAMES MILNER has been superb, playing in a number of positions, left and right, but his play through the middle has been fantastic, one of the reasons for Villa’s great season, calls for James to be part of England’s squad increase every week maybe only his versatility will stop him gaining a starting berth.

Frank Lampard

Beside him I have put one of the most consistent Central Midfielders in the game, I am not always blown away by his ability but you cannot argue with 20 Premier League goals FRANK LAMPARD again has made his way onto the scorer’s table and for a midfielder his goal scoring is 2nd to none, there are many Premier League strikers that would be happy to match his goal tally, although he doesn’t wear the armband, Frank is a captain for this team, and leads the charge for goals most games, I’m actually glad he can’t recreate this form for England.

Right Midfield

Antonio Valencia

When Ronaldo left Old Trafford everyone knew his boots would be really hard to fill however ANTONIO VALENCIA has in my opinion done a fantastic job in not filling his boots but stamping his own footprints on United’s team, fantastic pace and the ability to deliver a great ball into the box, Man U’s strikers and midfielders have capitalised on his strong points, people will look at his at times poor touch, or that he goes missing at times, however with Fergie as his coach Antonio will only improve, and if this seasons successes have anything to go by it is a scary prospect to think of an improved Valencia.

Honourable Mention: Aaron Lennon

Centre Forwards

Carlos Tevez

My Centre Forward pairing played together last year, and both of them I think would agree have had much better seasons apart, CARLOS TEVEZ has played out of his skin for Manchester City scoring so many important goals, and his work rate and passion for the game is infectious, although City paid an obscene amount for Carlos, I think he has been worth every penny for the club, big goals against Man United and Chelsea, and I think he can improve as well, maybe some big signings could complement Carlos very well.

WAYNE ROONEY will be in everyone’s team of the year, with Ronaldo gone, the boy wonder has stepped up and become a World Class player, he has always been very talented I always think he lacked consistency, now he is everything his team needs him to be, added a scoring touch with his head, more composure he has lead his team very well, a couple of niggling injuries will keep him out for the grandstand finish and maybe lose the Golden Boot, however Rooney definitely has had the Midas touch this year.

Manager of the Year

A Couple of names up for this award, Roy Hodgson was one, but most of his miracles have been in the Europa League, Martin O’Neill and Harry Redknapp for their pursuit of a Champions League place. And Alex McLeish for his wonderful season with Birmingham City

Carlo Ancelotti

However I am going to give this award to CARLO ANCELOTTI no one was quite sure what to expect from the Italian, no big signings like Mourinho and Scolari however he has guided Chelsea to top of the table, the most goals ever scored in the Premiership, brought the best out of Malouda and Anelka, had to deal with a lot on and off the field problems, an African Nations cup with some important players missing, and he has done this quite quietly, People may say he already has a strong team, however Grant and Scolari had the same team and couldn’t bring the best out in them, and I think Carlo has done a fantastic job.

Right Back

So you may have noticed that there is a position missing from the list, the Right Back, I just couldn’t decide who to pick, no one for me has excelled in this position, so I am going to leave it up to a vote. So please vote for who you think has been the best Right Back this year and I will add him to the team. (Poll can be found on the main page)

If you agree or more likely disagree with any of these choice, please let me know.


This morning I woke up with a smile on my face, for the first time in 7 years there are no English teams in the Champions League Semi-Finals, this means I don’t have to hear about how the Premier League is the greatest league in the world, far superior to any other league etc, Alex Ferguson blaming those “typical germans” for getting Rafael sent off, when it was Ribery a Frenchman and van Bommel a Dutchman who had approached the referee

Teams from Germany, Spain, Italy and France make up the 4 left in the competition, by English media standards surely this means now these 4 leagues are all better than the Premier League, of course it doesn’t, it is simply a great advert to how global the game of football has become. Personally I do enjoy the Premier League, but also in the same I Love La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, I just love football, and will watch any league available, of course in all these leagues, you will get games that bore you to death on the other hand games that will blow you away, there are people that I speak to on a regular basis who just decide that they don’t like a league and will never ever change their opinion of it, no matter what.

This type of opinion really gets to me, why be so narrow-minded, given the choice of watching Wigan v Burnley or Bayern Munich v Stuttgart, to me it would be the German match every time, and sometimes it could turn out to be a poor 1-1 draw or it could be a cracker, the same with every game you sit down to watch, I love watching top European football no matter what league or country it is from, this allows me to form opinions of players based over league, cup and international matches, not just 2 or 3 Champions League games against English opposition and then form a limited opinion.

The opinion that the Premier League is the greatest league in the world, is one that English people love to spout off about, 1 point I always make is, “What players at the peak of their game have moved to the Premier League?” and “How English is the Premier League?”

From last year’s Champions League semi-finals 3 of the teams were English but only 8 different English players started in both Legs, not a great amount from 3 of the top teams in England’s top Division.

9 French players played, 7 Spanish, 3 Brazilian, 3 Ivoirians and 2 Argentineans, in total 21 different nationalities were represented, and who was in charge of these so called “English teams” a Scotsman, a Frenchman and a Dutchman, and only Arsenal were owned by an English company.

Without boring everyone with stats as far as I am aware, most other big leagues have a majority of home based players in their squads have home grown coaches and are owned by men or companies from their own country, this so call domination of the European game by “English” teams to me is very diluted, and there are very little English things remaining of these teams, except where they play.

I don’t want this post to seem like an attack of the English game, I watch the Premiership every week and there are some fantastic players playing for some great teams, however I could never limit myself to English or even British football, I’d be missing out on some fantastic players, La Liga with Messi, Xavi, Ronaldo, Higuain and David Villa, Bundesliga with Franck Ribery, Robben, Toni Kroos, Torsten Frings, Stefan Kiessling, Serie A with Sneijder, Milito, Pato, Ronaldinho, Totti, and Cavani, Ligue 1 with Gourcuff, Chamakh, Bastos, Lisandro, Gervinho, Jelen I could go on and on.

People often ask being Scottish why do I bother with the World Cup, and all the players mentioned above are why, I have long come to terms with the fact that Scotland don’t have the players to make it on the International or Club stage, that does not however make my want to watch football any less, because there are hundreds of wonderful players worldwide that make it a joy to watch the beautiful game.


With most teams having about 10 or 11 games left, every point is crucial in the next few weeks, the title race in the Premier League has come down to 3 teams; Reigning Champions Manchester United, the early favourites Chelsea and Arsene Wenger’s underdogs Arsenal. Everyone of these teams since September has shown Championship credentials, Arsenal were ruled out at the start of the season by pretty much every pundit worth listening to, even talked down for 4th place, they have proved all the doubters wrong, and this without main forward Robin van Persie out through injury.

Chelsea were most people’s early favourites some strong early showings away from home at Sunderland, Burnley and Fulham. Then without 4 of their players off playing in the African Cup of Nations in Angola, Chelsea managed to win all 9 points and score 12 goals in the process, not bad for a team meant to struggle without their main striker Didier Drogba.

Man United have had a very stop/start season, just when you think they have turned a corner and about to kick on, they lose or draw a game you don’t expect them too, would be interesting to see where in the league they’d be if Rooney wasn’t playing the best football of his life, a lot of defensive issues have also not helped their season.

Despite the ups and downs all 3 remain in the title chase and will be battling it out for the chance to lift the Premier League trophy. 10 games remain  for each team, let’s have a look at the run ins.


West Ham (Home), Blackburn (Away), Portsmouth (Away)
Aston Villa (Home), Man United (Away), Bolton (Home)
Tottenham (Away), Stoke (Home), Liverpool (Away)
Wigan (Home)


Burnley (Home), Hull City (Away), West Ham (Away)
Birmingham (Away), Wolves (Home), Tottenham (Away)
Wigan (Away), Man City (Home), Blackburn (Away)
Fulham (Home),


Wolves (Away), Fulham (Home), Liverpool (Home)
Bolton (Away), Chelsea (Home), Blackburn (Away)
Man City (Away), Tottenham (Home), Sunderland (Away)
Stoke (Home)

On paper Arsenal’s run in looks easier, only Man City and Spurs to play from the higher placed teams, but they do have to play 3 teams fighting for survival and at this time of year those games can be harder than against the top teams, 4 home games out of the 10 games and trips to West Ham Birmingham and Blackburn won’t be easy, add to that the Derby match against Tottenham, I would predict that worst case scenario would see Arsenal pick up 22 more points.

Chelsea and Man United have a tougher run-in, Chelsea have trips to Old Trafford and Anfield which could see no points gained, tough trips to Portsmouth and Blackburn could provide slip ups, and Villa coming to Stamford Bridge could be a trick tie, again worst case Chelsea for me could pick up 22 points. For United away trips to Bolton, Blackburn and Sunderland then the Derby match at Eastlands against Man City will prove tough, then Home stands against Fulham, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs the toughest of the run-in’s for me, I do think Man United are capable of amassing at least 21 points from the 10 games.

If that all went as I have predicted the final table would be as follows

1. Chelsea – 82 points
2. Man United – 82 points
3. Arsenal – 80 points

Of course one of the best things about the Premiership is that anything can happen, so I’m sure my point predictions will be different to what happens, I am convinced though that this title race will go down to the wire, as I said before Wayne Rooney is playing to football of his life so he will be spurring his team forward, Arsenal now are determined to win the league for Aarom Ramsey after his unfortunate leg-break and Chelsea will want to win take the title back to Stamford Bridge for the first time since Mourinho left Chelsea, another factor which could decide the fate of the title will be how the 3 teams do in the Champions League, Arsenal could easily go out to Porto, 2-1 down after the game in the Dragao, Chelsea also behind with the same score, Man United could face a tricky tie with Milan at Old Trafford, surely a reduced fixture list would help each team out, however the 3 teams will be fighting hard on both fronts, however could a Champions League run hamper the League success.

Arsenal could go on and win all the remaining games, and that would be enough to win the title, with Chelsea and Man United, the games against each other, and of course Liverpool will go a long way to deciding the location of the Premier League trophy.

No matter what happens, it’s going to be an exciting few months of football in England.