Play Up Sky Blues

Going to take a little break from blogging about Cricket tonight to have a moan about something else close to my heart, Coventry City football club.

Last night’s 2-1 defeat away at Blackpool was the second time this season that the team I support has managed to lose an away game after leading 1-0 going into the final 3-4 minutes, the other game was against Crystal Palace early on in the season.

When you are leading a game going into the last 5 minutes, the worst case scenario you can imagine is drawing the game, so to end up losing it must be a real kick in the teeth.

I believe last night’s defeat could be far more significant though, we already looked doomed to go down to Division 1 for next season, but what happened last night could just about have sealed our relegation.

If the team had hung on for all 3 points we would have been off the bottom, we would have had an away win to go with the recent 3 home victories, all of a sudden we could have looked back at our recent results and taken heart from them and maybe believed that we had a good chance of staying up.

That’s why I think this defeat could be so significant. How does a young inexperienced team come back from that again? 

To most Coventry City fans these days what goes on on the pitch is almost secondary to what is happening off it. There is the constant fear of administration, even liquidation has been mentioned in some quarters, as the clubs owners SISU continue to cut costs down to the bone.

I can totally understand cutting costs as to keep losing money is unsustainable, but SISU’s current position at the club is also unsustainable.

There is no way in the current climate that the club can become profitable, to do that SISU would need to own the ground. There is no way that is going to happen, as the grounds owners – the City council and the Alan Edward Higgs Charity – will not even entertain the thought of selling an asset of the whole of the City of Coventry to a group of faceless venture capitalists.

In reality, I believe that it is checkmate against SISU at the moment, they would appear to have no where to go, so why they are hanging in there I don’t know. There is a group of would be investors fronted by City fan Gary Hoffman, who has contacts in the world of finance after spending 30 years in the business which at one time seen him as chairman of Barclaycard.

I am in no doubt that Hoffman has the finances, he also is rumoured to already have a deal struck with the council to buy half of the Ricoh arena, paramount if the club is to be run as a profitable going concern.

So at the moment, all I can see that SISU are doing is holding out for a better deal. But the club is worthless, they have no home, a threadbare playing squad and are heading for relegation. Hoffman is also a businessman and is all too aware that the club has no value, so it would appear that a game of Poker is currently taking place – while the team slides toward Division 1.

If a deal is to be struck in the next couple of weeks, we could have a chance as I would presume that manager Andy Thorn would be given the funds to go out and strengthen his squad with loan signings – hopefully much needed experienced ones.

But as it stands we have our squad if willing kids, who are currently giving their all. This coming Saturday sees Coventry at home to Ipswich, this could really be the defining game of the season. If we can show character and bounce back, we have a chance. If Tuesday’s result really has knocked the stuffing out of us and we lose again, I think we are all but condemned to Division 1.

"Worst result in my history"

That was how Sir Alex Ferguson described yesterday’s 6-1 thrashing by Manchester City. It was City’s best victory at Old Trafford in 85 years and Ferguson’s largest defeat there as a manager – truly remarkable statistics.

But the thing that caught my attention the most was Ferguson’s public condemnation of his own players. The way he singled out Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra and accused them of lacking common sense was astonishing, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ferguson criticise his players in public like that before.

If that doesn’t send a message to his players, then what will? Personally, although I didn’t see 6-1 coming, I did see trouble ahead for United such has been their defensive performances over the past 3 to 4 weeks.

When I thought back to the recent dodgy defensive displays against Basel and Norwich in particular, and even Liverpool last week, I did think a United clean sheet seemed highly unlikely (unless Mancini went Italian and parked the bus).

Ferguson is the master of deflecting attention, we all know he usually blames the referees when something goes wrong. Yesterday he didn’t have that option as Jonny Evans’ red card was as blatant as you will ever get (although it did clearly influence the game).

That’s why I have a slightly cynical view that blaming Ferdinand and Evra was Ferguson’s attempt to deflect the attention away from the fact that he made a huge mistake by leaving the outstanding (so far this season) Phil Jones sitting on the bench, while the inadequate Jonny Evans played.

Too early to judge Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres

I can’t believe all the hype and rubbish that’s been written and said about Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres over the last few weeks.

Yes, both were over priced, but to say things like Carroll is an over priced flop and Torres is finished – just a couple of examples of what I’ve heard lately – is ridiculous.

Andy Carroll has all the attributes that we have been crying out for in a centre forward in this country for years now. He is big, strong, can hold the ball up, good in the air, decent left foot, etc. Liverpool have bought him as a long term investment, so to judge him now is just stupid.

He’s by no means the finished article and still has plenty to learn and work on within his game, but the raw ingredients are there for a top player in another year or two.

Thankfully in Kenny Dalglish he has a manager that won’t panic because the media are on the players back. Kenny will protect him and give him all the time and help he needs to settle into the Liverpool way of doing things.

As for Fernando Torres, although his miss last Sunday at Old Trafford was something else, his overall performance was very good in my opinion. On another day he would easily have had a hat-trick and the one goal he did score the strike of a top class player.

If he can get over that spectacular miss – and I believe he will – then I can see him going from strength to strength. He looked like he was turning the corner and putting his bad run of form behind him last Sunday.

He has a proven track record and hasn’t just suddenly become a bad player. Chelsea have made a big investment in him and any manager worth his salt will set the team up to play to Torres’ strengths, something I believe Andres Villas Boas has already started doing.

As I’ve already said both were overpriced, but with the exception of Ronaldo or Messi, who isn’t over priced these days? In the long run though, I believe that both these players will prove to be good business for their respective clubs.

Transfer Deadline Day Nonsense

All the nonsense is over, transfer deadline day had come and gone and Sky Sports News can calm down for the foreseeable future, well until late January 2012, when they can get carried away with mass hysteria again.

It was unbelievable though, some of the people waiting outside the grounds of their clubs at 11 O’Clock at night and onwards for news of signings must surely need their heads examining. Anyway, here is my views on some of the major deals that went through and some of the players who didn’t get their moves…….

I can’t help but feel sorry for Scott Dann. He was linked with Liverpool and Arsenal, but has ended up at Blackburn and goes straight into another relegation battle. Although from Blackburn’s point of view, it is great business and it does give them a fighting chance of survival with a strong centre back partnership of Dann and Christopher Samba.
I think that Alan Hutton to Aston Villa is a deal that makes plenty of sense. Harry Redknapp has never fancied him, while Hutton has played his best football under Alex McLeish at international level when he was in charge of Scotland.
Stoke have made some good signings, in particular Peter Crouch who I think will be a good fit for the club. No relegation fears again at the Britannia this season.

Scott Parker looks good business for West Ham, £5M for a bloke of his age and no sell on potential represents good value for money. With Tom Huddlestone already at Spurs, is he really what they needed?

Arsene Wenger also went down this unusual route as well with the £10M signing of Mikel Arteta, Arteta is 29 now and will almost certainly have no sell on value. The sort of player that should suit Arsenal, but an amazing signing given Wenger’s recent track record.

A few weeks back I’d have given QPR no chance of staying up, but with signings like Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Anton Ferdinand they have given themselves vital premier league experience and a more than fighting chance of survival.

Everton signed an Argentinian forward by the name of Denis Stracqualurs, South Americans have a track record of not hitting the ground running in England. So in letting Yakubu and Beckford go, is David Moyes taking a big risk in the striking department?

Although Everton lost Arteta, on a positive note they managed to keep Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Jack Rodwell. They should be comfortable this season, but will other big names start to wonder just where their careers are going (or not going) at the club soon? 

Loan moves for Nicklas Bendtner to Sunderland and David Bentley to West Ham, my, how the mighty egos have fallen. Where next for these two? The scrapheap I suggest if they don’t pull their fingers out – especially Bentley.

It could be a bit of a master stroke for Sunderland though, Steve Bruce knows Bendtner from their time together at Birmingham and he strikes me as the sort of bloke who will do a decent job if he plays every week, as opposed to his time at Arsenal, where he was in and out of the side every week.

As for Bentley, I wonder if the penny is ever going to drop for this bloke. He seems happy to make a living out of football while doing nothing. He has been in England squads previously, but doesn’t seem remotely interested these days from what I can see.

Of the transfers that didn’t happen and I can’t believe Spurs turned down £40M for Luka Modric, he isn’t worth anything near that and will probably cut an unhappy figure at White Hart Lane, before moving for far less next summer, or maybe even in January.
Gary Cahill, didn’t go anywhere and will probably make Bolton pay for not cashing in on him. I can’t see him being worth much more than £3-4M in January and unless he gets an unbelievable offer in the January window, he might as well stay put and leave on a free next summer.

If ever there was a player that fitted the Arsenal profile, it was surely Cahill. Technically gifted, comfortable on the ball, surely he has all the attributes that Arsene Wenger looks for in his signings. Maybe Wenger will go back in for him in January and offer £500,000 and a couple of jelly beans.

The Unexplainable FIFA Rankings

The latest batch of FIFA rankings were released today and if they are to be believed, Netherlands are now the best football team in the world and England are the fourth, even better than Brazil.

I’ve never had total confidence in these rankings (they almost make ICC’s rankings look like an exact science), but they have usually provided a general guideline to the order in which the world’s top teams have performed, but that surely can’t be the case any more.

I heard a story a few weeks back in which a boffin who understands how these things work apparently pointed out to FIFA that Faroe Islands ranking was wrong and that they were too low down the order.
On reviewing this FIFA agreed with the boffin and moved Faroe Islands up the ranking to a lofty position above Wales.
Now anyone who knows anything about football, in fact anyone who could write their footballing knowledge on the back of the theoretical stamp, knows that with all the best will in the world – and say what you want about how bad Wales are – that in no way are Faroes better than Wales.
At the moment the Welsh sit in 117th place and Faroes in 111th place.
Is anyone really going to tell me that Netherlands are better than the current World and European champions, Spain? And that there is currently only 3 teams in the world who are better than England?
Come on! There must be a 1 missing in there somewhere, 13 teams better than England would be more accurate.
I don’t want to be too critical of something I don’t really understand. But the point is that FIFA use these rankings for seeding at draws for World cups and other major championships.
There is obviously a system which has to be followed to produce this listing, and I’m not suggesting this system is not being followed correctly.
So I can only conclude that if it is being correctly followed, then surely the whole system is wrong.

Was Ray Ranson right to sack Aidy Boothroyd?

Slight change in sport, but as a fan of Coventry City I feel the need to write my views on the club sacking Aidy Boothroyd today.

I wasn’t overly impressed with Boothroyd’s appointment at the time, I’m not a footballing snob that expects to see every team play the Barcelona way , but I’m also not a fan of the total long ball game, which is a Boothroyd staple.

A bit of variety yes, with route one used at times, but not 70 yards punts up field into the mixer from your goalkeeper for the whole 90 minutes.

The stats look awful for Coventry City, 10 managers in 10 years or something along those lines. It has been pointed out today in the local press and on the local radio phone-in that this kind of hiring and firing is no recipe for success. I think that goes without saying.

Where I disagree with most Coventry fans though, is on this view that this is a chairman panicking and pulling the trigger. Ray Ranson played football at the top level, he knows sacking a manager every 12 months won’t bring you success.

That’s why I have sympathy with Ranson and believe he was in between a rock and a hard place on this one.

There are constant rumours that the club is up for sale, also that they will go into administration. SISU – a hedge fund who own the football club – are rumoured to have lost interest, the only money they are (apparently) currently putting into the club, is the weekly deficit to keep the club afloat.

For all we, the fans know, Ranson might be fighting a battle behind the scenes to persuade SISU just to continue to back the club.

What chance SISU remaining on board if Coventry go down to Division 1? Add to that the fact that the TV deal in Division 1 is supposed to be £100,000, compared to the current £4M in the Championship.

If this is true and CCFC are struggling to survive as it is, then what chance does the club have if they get relegated? Suddenly the spectre of administration becomes more realisitc.

In some cases it isn’t just as simple as a manger getting fired because he isn’t living up to unrealistic expectations, I believe this to be one of those decisions, one based on other eventualities, rather than just results.

I know this might sound extreme, but Ray Ranson might have taken a decision today that could even affect the future existence of the football club. In getting rid of Boothroyd he might have saved the club from relegation and convinced SISU that the club is worth sticking with.

The decision might also condemn us to relegation, who knows. In a way though, I’d sooner have a chairman who acts, rather than one that sits on his hands and waits for the inevitable.

But even if I was to base the decision on footballing reasons, I think I would still agree with the sacking. 1 win in 16 games, apparently he had lost the dressing room. What choice did Ranson have?

When a manager loses the dressing room he is doomed, if Boothroyd had, then Ranson would be incompetent as a chairman if he had not sacked him.

On the 10 managers in 10 years stat, I believe where CCFC really let themselves down was in the reckless way they went through managers in the 2001-2006/7 period.

They started off sacking managers because they failed to make the play-offs, this is really coming back to haunt them now.

Because of this every time they now sack a manager, even if the manager had, or deserved to go, it just looks like another over reaction and the stat backs that theory up.

Anyway, just to cheer me up I noticed a story about an hour ago that Arsenal are trying to bring back 41-year-old nut job Jens Lehmann on loan until the end of the season, just when Arsenal fans thought things couldn’t get any worse.

End of an Era at Liverpool

Today’s sacking of Roy Hodgson was the final act in Liverpool’s transition from a club of strong traditions and morals, to being just as greedy and commercially ruthless as the rest of the Premier League.

When I grew up as a kid, the Liverpool way was the route everyone else wanted to follow. They backed their team, backed their managers, stood shoulder to shoulder with fellow Merseysiders and respected the opposition and good football.

All this looks a distant memory now. Long gone are the traditions of standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow Merseysiders, something I had long admired.

Also gone is the crowd’s unwavering support for their players and managers. There was a time when if a team came to Anfield and played well and got a result, they got appaulded off the pitch.

Now a home defeat is met with jeers and abuse for the home side. The way the fans have abused the likes of Lucas and Paul Koncheskey is disgraceful.

Koncheskey is guilty off nothing more than being a player Roy Hodgson found to be dependable, and was all that Liverpool could afford at the time. To turn on him the way the fans have is out of order. It shows an ignorance of footballing knowledge.

The way the fans have acted towards Roy Hodgson is also unlike the so-called Liverpool way, in days gone by the fans had a tradition of backing their managers, where has this now gone? Roy has had no support from day 1. He was right when he said this and I wish he had stood by this remark.

Writing abuse outside the training ground, what’s that all about? An absolute joke.

There seems to be a new generation of supporters who simply aren’t interested in upholding the traditions of the club. This was eleuded too by Anfield legend Phil Thompson with his remarks about the “unprecedented” way the fans have turned on Roy Hodgson.

The final act of transition has come from the boardroom. When did Liverpool last sack a manager after 6 months? Before anyone says ‘it was mutual consent,’ let me stop you. That is corporate bullshit for being sacked, it means they have reached agreement on Hodgson’s severance payment.

Lets be honest, boardroom integrity was already a distant memory at Liverpool. All this latest action shows is that the new owners are just the same as everyone else in football.

Liverpool are now officially no different to anyone else. Traditions washed away and no morals left.

It reminds me of the time Newcastle sacked Sam Allardyce, the fans put pressure on the board and they crumbled. The fans knew better, that Kevin Keegan was the man. Hodgson’s sacking has plenty of similarities, the Liverpool fans apparently know that Kenny Dalglish is the best way forward.

Good luck with that one! Deluded, is the word that springs to mind.

Can England get the 2018 World Cup?

Well according to the bookmakers, England are now remarkably the favourites in the betting again. We were out to 3rd favourite on Monday after the now infamous Panorama programme, but are now back at around even money (with Bet365) favourites.

I think that the positive publicity created by the appearance of David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham seems to have sparked a new wave of optimism, resulting in a surge of punters wishing to back England to win the right to host the 2018 World Cup (probably our best chance of qualifying for it as well).

I must admit it did give me a bit more optimism when I seen the clip of the three of them sitting around the table, surely no other bidding nation could roll out a more prestigious line up than this (Cameron excepted). It also makes a change to see Prince William, President of the FA finally get involved, I had wondered what he did to justify his role before this week.

Good on the Prince though, I’m sure he could have found an excuse to get out of it, had he wished too. Also fair play to David Cameron, not my favourite person, but he has put in a decent shift. While if David Beckham can help pull this one off, to add to his help in getting the 2012 Olympics, then surely he must be in with a chance of getting a Knighthood in the new years honours list. Personally, I wouldn’t have a problem with that.

As always with FIFA though, there is a nasty smell in the air around the way in which they conduct themselves in these situations. The whole process seems a bit suspicious, as does the way in which they act in general. How many of the English bid party are really comfortable with having to kowtow to what appears to be a less than scrupulous group of people?

I certainly wouldn’t find it easy to have to try and charm some of these characters in the way we are expecting our future King too.

I also won’t be too bothered if we don’t get the World Cup as a result of the Sunday Times investigation, or Pamorama. If FIFA don’t like being exposed as a bunch of crooks, then tough. If they want too take their ball home as a result of this, then they can piss off and do so – and stick their World Cup.

A couple of weeks in Spain and Portugal in 2018 probably won’t go amiss. I also wouldn’t be too disappointed at going to see Red Square either, although you won’t get me flying there with Aeroflot Airlines.

The real dodgy scenario result for FIFA would be if Spain and Portugal get 2018 and Qatar 2022, after the alledged vote fixing controversy that would really make FIFA look bad. Would they let this happen? Surprise me!

The key to clinching the deal would be if we can get the Jack Warner endorsement, apparently worth 3 votes. Would an invite to the royal wedding be enough to get Jack on side? Just think, Warner could then sell his invite on the black market in the same way as he is alledged to have done so with his world cup ticket allocation.

Everyone’s a winner!

Poor old Sepp

Poor old Sepp Blatter was bemoaning the entrapment tactics of the British press at FIFA HQ on Friday. He still seems to think that FIFA members are the victims of a nasty sting by those naughty boys at the Sunday Times.

Blatter said, “But I cannot say that it is very fair when you open traps to entrap people. But if the objective is to have a clean sheet in football then I can understand it. These decisions may not have found total support of all the members of the executive committee, it would be exaggerated to pretend that.”

The point is Sepp, if your members are stupid and greedy enough to fall into the traps then they get what they deserve – although in not getting life bans, that is debatable.

He also says that these bans don’t have the total support of all the members. Why dosen’t that surprise me.

It seems that FIFA have got very offended that someone has had the audacity to try and expose their cushy little club. But why? There has been allegations of corruption for years, surely anyone with half a brain would have been expecting this.

Maybe they were expecting the sting to come in the form of a bloke wearing Arab robes and carrying a copy of the News of the World under his arm.

Somehow listening to Blatter’s comments, I can’t really see anything changing at FIFA, they still appear to be in denial.

With regard to his claim that the sting won’t affect England’s chances of hosting the 2018 world cup, I’m not convinced by that either. But if not buying into FIFA’s way of doing business costs England, then surely it’s a price worth paying.

Football Betting Round-Up

Strange week in the world of football. This brinkmanship game seems to be catching, first it was Alex Ferguson and Wayne Rooney and then over the weekend Portsmouth started playing the media card in an attempt to force the sale of the club to go through.

Alexandre Gaydamak was portrayed as the villain of the piece on this occasion. His refusal to sell the club at a rock bottom price was apparently the sticking point. In the end it looks like Gaydamak accepted next to nothing, as opposed to nothing at all.

With regard to Rooney, I think – along with his agent, Paul Stretford – he has made himself look like a greedy mercenary. I am in no doubt that he was happy to go to Manchester City for his wheelbarrow full of cash.

In the end I believe he backed down as he was losing the PR battle hands down. He must have been shocked and surprised by the media and public backlash against him.

After all, it dosen’t come as any surprise that a Premier League footballer is stupid and arrogant enough to think that he could just walk away from his club without so much as a whiff of controversy. All this coming from the man who has recently slagged off England fans and has alledgedly been caught cheating on his wife with hookers again.

No public perception of how to conduct himself whatsoever, clearly his so-called friend and agent has no bother in letting him drag his image even lower. As long as the money keeps on rolling in, then who cares!

Do I believe that Paul Stretford had already told United what his client would be expecting to earn from his new contract? Yes, I do. So in that case United would have been well aware what they had to pay to keep him.

I can only assume that United’s offer would have been somewhere in the region of what Rooney was expecting, but as he knew he could get £100.000 or more per a week across the road, Rooney wouldn’t sign.

His excuse that United didn’t give him the guarantees that ‘they were as ambitious as he is,’ dosen’t wash. It was a pathetic attempt by his agent at fighting back against Alex Ferguson in the PR battle and it clearly wasn’t the words of Rooney we were listening too.

All-in-all, a totally embarrassing episode and one which makes me wonder why I bother with football.

My Weekends Betting

Not a great weekends trading on Betfair, so far I’m about £10 down. Not going to list all the bets I’ve done as there is far too many.

Trading correct scores and over/under 3.5 goals I lost on Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Barcelona, Man Utd and Arsenal. Could have got out of the Chelsea, Barca and Arsenal games with a small profit, but I decided to be greedy and go for the big win. Won a few quid back on Real Madrid, Valencia, Seville and believe it or not Liverpool.

On my league winner bet, I’m still opposing Chelsea who are still heavy odds on at 1.65 on Betfair, so no real change there. Still think it is way too short.

Maybe Man Utd have now clicked into gear. That win at Stoke today could be the start of a good run. Hopefully Arsenal (7.2), United (6.0) and Man City (11.5) will start to really put Chelsea under some pressure now.

Real Madrid looked good again on Saturday. They now really look the part, can’t wait too see them take on Barcelona at the end of November in the Nou Camp. Madrid are favourites for the league at a shade under Evens (1.94), Barca are 2.12. Should be a great battle between the two this season, at the moment Madrid look the stronger side but that could change yet.