Monthly Archives: June 2014

Where it has gone wrong yet again for England

Tonight England played their final game in the World Cup having already been eliminated after two games. Despite picking up a point tonight, the change in personal still showed the same good and bad points as the first two games.  Every fan up and down the country has given their views on where it has gone wrong and what we should have done. Here is my take ….

Our Defence

Our four starting defenders, Johnson, Cahill, Jakielka and Baines, have all come in for a lot of critism over their performances and the manner of which we have conceeded our four goals. The harsh facts are just all four of them are either not good enough and/or lack the experience at this level.

The huge debate over who went and started out of Cole/Baines/Shaw at Left Back dominated the squad announcement and maybe with hindsight Roy got it wrong. While Baines has been good at left back this season, he has nearly no international or champions league experience when the pressure is at its highest against the best players in the world.  While going forward he is great he has was exposed in both games he played.

On the other side Glen Johnson has been perhaps the most criticized of all the England players and despite his club experience, for his country he looks out of his depth. Like Baines he is very good going forward as he showed with his assist last Thursday, but his positional play defensively is woeful. Unfortunately for England they was no obvious cover at right back in the squad and Jones who played their tonight, struggled.

Cahill and Jagielka were the obvious choice in the centre of defence, but despite Cahill’s experience with Chelsea at the top of the European game, both were unable to cope with Suarez/Cavani in two of the worlds best players and a horrible piece of defending, ultimately saw Suarez grab the winner when we met Uruguay.

While all of the four starting defenders in their own right are able to compete in top level Premier League games, all looked out of their depth and capable of making an error of judgement at any time. We have been fortunate in the last ten years to have, Cole, Ferdinand, Terry and Neville who rarely let us down, but this is the area now of most concern for Roy and England as we look to the future.

 

Gerrard

Steven Gerrard has had a glittering career with England and Liverpool in which he has been a fabulous player and I will acknowledge that as much as anyone, however maybe his time on the international stage is up.

A poor performance against Italy was somewhat covered up by all the media/fan blame being put on Rooney and Johnson, however on Thursday he was more in the spotlight. He had an unfortunate hand in both of Suarez goals and his late attempt to rescue the game mirrored the Liverpool v Chelsea game this season when he started having long range desperation shots.

Along with Rooney, Gerrard is our genuine world class player who has that bit of extra quality that the side need. However he is not the rampaging midfielder he once was, the alternatives in his position are limited though which may lead to him sticking around till the next European Championships.

Wayne Rooney

For all the stick Rooney has received during the tournament, he still remains our best player and our most likely scorer. Despite the results, I was glad to see him get on the score sheet to finally get the World Cup duck off his back. I thought he had a good game against Uruguay, one of our better performers, however the difference between the two sides was shown on his display. Rooney is a very good footballer and has had the potential to be one of the best in the world, but he has never been able to live up to this and join the world’s elite, messi, ronaldo, ibrah, SUAREZ. Suarez and Rooney both had three decent sights of goal in the game, the Liverpool striker scored two goals Wayne scored one.  Despite his improved performances Rooney will be disappointed that he didn’t come away with more than his tap in to show from the World Cup.

In a team which will inevitably evolve towards the younger players coming through, Rooney still has a role to play at 28. Rooney will continue to have his critics and is the obvious target when England fail, which is down to him being our one outstanding talent that we expect to produce consistently for us, but the fact remains he is is still a very good if not world class player.

Expectations on the youngsters

While the emergence of the bright young English talent is very promising it shows how much of a position we were in, in the first place having to rely on these youngsters. All the talk, including myself, was about Sterling and Sturridge after the Italy game and how they had the quality to tear Uruguay’s struggling defence apart. However the pressure on these young players, Sterling, Sturridge, Henderson, Lallana, Barkley , Wellbeck, Oxlaide- Chamberlain has been incredible as they have been the ones expected to pull England out of the hole we have been in for recent times.

Other countries have a handful of youngsters to support their established stars without having the expectation of a nation on their shoulders (unless your Neymar!)

Hopefully the world cup will not prove a scar on these young players shoulders who will carry our international team forward over the next period of time.

 

As a team we just weren’t good enough

As much as individual players can be picked out for our failures the overall answer as to why we are out of the world cup is our team as a whole is not good enough at this time. While the draw was tough, we were a long way short of challenging for the ultimate prize in football.

At one  end of the pitch mistakes were made while at the other we looked good, but all too often indecisive and un clinical.

 

The Future

When it is looked back on for England, the 2014 World Cup will be remembered as the first time for a generation of fans that we crashed out in the group stages.

Being the eternal football optimist however I look it is as the start of something new. By the time the Euro’s comes round in two years these youngsters will hopefully have two more years top level football under their belt.
Best start planning that trip to France in two years!

 

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5 reasons for England fans to remain positive

Despite England losing out to Italy last night, 2-1, in their first game of the 2014 World Cup, they are many positives to be taken from the performance. While some will look to Rooney’s struggles or our defensive errors, here’s my reasons as to why we should all remain positive towards our chances this summer.

  • Sterling

Raheem Sterling was thrown into the starting line as England’s surprise package and he took it with both hands. Despite the end product not always being there, he had a great game and played a role in our goal.

  •  Sturridge

Daniel Sturridge was able to get off the mark in the World Cup finals at the first attempt with a neat finish from Wayne Rooney’s cross. The goal will no doubt give him confidence and he has the quality to score 4/5 in the tournament.

  • Hodgson

While most rightfully label Hodgson as a defensive manager, he showed last night he is prepared to gamble and give the youngsters the nation is calling out for a go. By starting with Sterling and bringing Barkley and Lallana off the bench he told the world he was prepared to give them a chance which should serve England well for the rest of the competition.

  • Uruguay and Costa Rica

Uruguay’s defeat to Costa Rica showed their frailties at the back and England should not fear either of these sides. Even with the return of Luis Suarez, he is unlikely to be fully fit and England have the ability to hurt a vulnerable defence. Costa Rica despite the win are not anything special and I expect us to gain the two victories needed to progress into the last sixteen.

 

  • Chances Created

While we only able to convert one chance last night we created multiple more and could have easily scored three or four against a good Italian side.  Compared to the Euro’s two years ago when we struggled to created many chances in our four games, last night we had eighteen attempts on goal.

 

It’s Finally Here! World Cup Brazil 2014

So tomorrow the World Cup gets underway as Brazil host Croatia with the world watching.

Below I’ve given a quick group by group guide to who I feel will progress

Group A

Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

The hosts should be able to claim top spot in the group, but all their opponents could provide tough tests. The tournament favourites will see anything other than their sixth world cup title as disappointment and they should make a deep run, at least to the semi finals.

Croatia and Mexico meet in the final game which will likely decide who will clinch second spot. Both have notable players who can trouble any opposition, but I fancy Croatia to sneak into second place.

As for Cameroon the tournament looks likely to be a struggle, however no one fancied them in 1990 when they nearly made the Semi Finals.

Going through – Brazil, Croatia

Group B

Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia

Holders Spain have one of the toughest group in the tournament, including a rematch of the 2010 final against the Netherlands. Spain having won the previous three major tournaments they have competed in and will be hoping to become the first European side to win a World Cup in the America’s.

The Netherlands will be hoping to go one step further than last time, but will have to do so without Rafael Van Der Vaart who is out of the tournament with injury.

Chile are an improving side and are my tip to sneak a surprise place in the last sixteen  at the expense of the Netherlands.

Australia like Cameroon in group A, look like lambs to the slaughter and despite having numerous capable players of their own, the draw has effectively ended their chance of progressing from the group.

Going through – Spain, Chile

Group C

Colombia, Ivory Coast, Greece, Japan

C is one of the toughest groups to call, with no outstanding or weak teams in in. Seeded Colombia will be expected to progress even without talisman Falcao and the South American side will be suited to the conditions.

Ivory Coast have a squad filled with players who have experience at the highest level, including the Toure brothers, Gervinho, Kalou and Drogba. They will hopefully of progressing out of the group stages for the first time in their history.

Japan have been tipped by many to get out of the group and are are by far the most likely to do so out of the Asian sides.  AC Milan’s Honda is their star man and will have to be on top form for them to progress.

Greece managed to beat all the odds ten years ago to win the European Championships, however they will struggle this time around.

Going through Colombia, Ivory Coast

Group D

Uruguay, Italy, England, Costa Rica

With my English head on I fancy themto make it out the group. Like Group B it is a tough group with three very capable sides in it.

England and Italy are both very similar currently with exciting young players breaking into the established first teams and I predict both will go through.

Uruguay have the South American advantage, however past their front three of Suarez, Cavani and Forlan they are not the strongest side and with Suarez a major doubt they may not live up to the expectations as seeds.

For Costa Rica they have drawn a tough group and I can’t see them winning a game.

Going through – England and Italy

Group E

Switzerland, France, Ecuador, Honduras

France hit the jackpot in drawing arguable the weakest seeded side and have on paper an easy route to the Quarter Finals, however as we have seen before they have it within them to implode. With Nasri left at home, Benzema is the stand out name and he will be hopeful of carrying his form from club to country.

Switzerland sneaked into the seedings places and may surprise people. With two weaker sides in the section the Switz may be able to progress.

Whilst Ecuador and Honduras were both able to pick up draws in their warm up games with England, neither were that impressive. Ecuador looked good going forward, but the defence was very open while Honduras lack the quality needed at either end of the pitch.

Going through – France, Switzerland

 

Group F

Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina , Iran, Nigeria

 

Argentina are my pick to win the tournament with the attacking options they have being ridiculous, Higuian, Aguero,Di Maria along with one of the greatest players we will see in our lifetimes, Lionel Messi. They could score a bag full in any of their games and like France have a favourable route to the latter stages.

While Bosnia are the least fancied of the European nations, they have a good chance of progressing to the last sixteen and with Edin Dzeko they have a proven goal scorer.

Nigeria won the African Nations Cup and along with Ivory Coast are the African side who could potentially make a big impact on the tournament.

Iran are unfancied by most, but with only one fancied side in their group you never know.
Going through, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

Group G

Germany, Portugal, USA, Ghana

Possible the hardest group to call. Germany are one of the favourites to lift the trophy following the success of their domestic teams in recent years. They should have enough about them to make the later rounds, however they may be hampered by the lack of options up front with Klose the only recognised out and out striker.

Portugal have Ronaldo at their disposal and he is capable of winning games for them on his own, this may be enough early in the tournament, but they may struggle as a unit once they come up against better opposition.

USA have improved drastically in the last ten years or so and will think themselves unlucky to be drawn in such a tough group. They do have enough about them though that they maybe could sneak into the last sixteen.

2010 Quarter Finalists Ghana knocked USA out in the second round last time, but will struggle to match their performance from four years ago.

Going through –  Germany, Portugal

 

Group H

Belgium, Russia, South Korea, Algeria

 

Everyman and their dog seem to fancy Belgium to do well and you can’t deny their quality of players. Courtois, Kompany, Vertonghen , Hazard, Lukaku etc. They should prove easily stronger then the rest of the opposition in their group, but is unclear how far this side can actually go.

Russia will fancy their chances of gaining second spot, but the conditions will prove difficult for a squad entirely based in the Russian league.

South Korea and Algeria are both relative unknowns this time around, but with Russia lacking a lot of quality, either side could sneak out of the groups

Going through – Belgium, Russia

 

World Cup 2014 – Group A

Brazil, Tournament Odds – 3/1(Fav), Group Winners(2/9)

Neymar

Neymar

Hosts Brazil go into the tournament as favourites on their own patch and will be looking to regain the trophy they last won in 2002. The most decorated country in World Cup history have lifted the trophy five times and have a great chance this summer. Wrote off a few years ago, a turn around in the last two years which included victory in the confederation cup has seen them rocket to favourites.

Old timers Ronaldinho, Kaka and Robinho all missed a place in the squad, however they have a new star man in Neymar. Despite struggling at times this season following his big money move to Barcelona, he has become the face of the World Cup and will be expected to deliver on the biggest stage. Recently departed from the Premier League David Luiz joins former Chelsea team mates, Ramirez and Oscar in the squad, along with Tottenham’s Paulinho.

They will have been pleased with the draw, although all the opposition in the group could be dangerous, they however will be looking ahead to a second round clash with a team  from Group B which is likely to be Spain or the Netherlands.

While they have a squad to match any in the tournament , the one area which could prove their weakness is up front. Despite having Hulk and Neymar at their disposal, they lack a world clash out and out striker, it will probably be between Jo and Fred to decide who leads the line.

Prediction – Semi Finalists

 

Croatia – Tournament Odds – 175/1 Group Winners 9/1

Modric

Modric

Croatia will hope to spring a surprise on hosts Brazil in their opening match as they aim to qualify from the group stage for the first time since 1998. That year in France David Suker lead their charge as they stunned Germany on their way to a third place finish, that may be a step too far for this side, however they have enough quality in their squad to get out the groups.

Luka Modric is the star of this Croatia side after a good season in Real Madrid’s run to Champions league glory. The former Tottenham star can unlock the best of defences and he will need to be at his best in Brazil. One former Spurs star who will not feature is Nico Kranjcar. Kranjcar was in the squad however he has been ruled out with a leg injury picked up in the Championship Playoffs for QPR.

Mario Mandzukic is the other big name to watch, however he will miss the opening game against Brazil following a red card in Croatia’s playoff tie with Iceland. Mandzukic is on the verge of leaving club side Bayern Munich with the arrival of Robert Lowandowski, but they will be numbers of clubs looking to pick up his signing, having helped his club side rise to the top of the European club game in the last couple  of years.

Prediction – second round

 

Mexico – Tournament Odds – 150/1 Group Winners 8/1

Hernandez

Hernandez

Like Croatia, Mexico only made the World Cup finals via the playoffs and it appears the two will go head to head for second spot. Mexico struggled in qualifying and only finished fourth in the final qualifying group behind Honduras, Costa Rica and USA.  However they were able to comfortably win their playoff against New Zealand  9-3(Agg).

Mexico have a great tradition in the World Cup, however they have not progressed to the quarter final stage since hosting the competition in 1986. They did  though earn the Gold Medal in the London Olympics ,seeing off Brazil in the final.

Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez will hope to star and poach his sides way into the knockout rounds.  Giovani Dos Santos also can provide a threat from midfield and these two will be the ones to watch out for.  Oribe Peralta was the sides top scorer during the qualifying campaign, however it is unclear if he will be in the starting lineup come the opening games.

The other known name in world football is Rafa Marquez, who will captain his side into a World Cup for the fourth time. The former Barcelona defender is in the squad despite being 35 years old and even though he lacks pace he will bring much needed experience to the Mexican side.

 

Prediction – Group Stage

 

Cameroon –  Tournament Odds – 750/1 Group Winners 20/1

Eto'o

Eto’o

The odds for Cameroon tell the story. Cameroon are capable of causing an upset, but they are the huge outsiders on paper.  They overcame Tunisia in the final stage of African qualifying, winning 4-1 over two legs, but it will take a lot for them to progress further than the group stage in Brazil.

Cameroon’s best World Cup so far was reaching the quarter finals in 1990 when they lost in extra time to England.

Their stand out players will be known by all, but after they they have limited options available. Samuel Eto’o still captains the side despite a  major dispute with management and team members last year.

Alex Song also has a key role to play in midfield alongside Schalke’s Joel Matip who is one for the future.

 

Prediction – Group Stage

To summarise it’s a good group for hosts Brazil, but one which should provide a test. The final game between Croatia and Mexico should decide second place, with the tournament being a struggle for Cameroon.

1.Brazil

2. Croatia

3. Mexico

4. Cameroon

 

 

The World Cup is nearly here!!

With Darlington out of action for a couple of months I am turning my attention towards the biggest sporting event in the world, The World Cup

The tournament is now just over a week away and many questions await to be answered.

Can host’s Brazil live up tournament expectations?

Can a European side win outside of Europe?

How far can England’s youngsters go?

Will Spain’s stranglehold on Major football tournaments be broken?

 

Along with hundreds and hundreds of other questions, every team has their own unique story to tell.

Over the next few days I’l be doing a run down of the groups and the teams before the action gets underway on June 12th, when Brazil meet Croatia.

Darlo Squad Updates

With rumours and transfers flying all over the place, I thought I would post about which players I think should/could be leaving our current squad as we prepare for our promotion push starting in August. I havent included the young players who are on the fringe, Cocks, D.Mitchell etc. 

Goalkeepers

Mark Bell, Pete Jameson

As far as I am concerned I am very happy with the keepers we have at our disposal.

If the two players are wanting to stick with the club this is an area we can leave as it is. Since coming into our squad Mark Bell has for the large part been reliable which is all you can ask for, he also came out and said during the season that we would be his last club.

Pete Jameson when he played looked a promising young keeper and there is no reason for him to be removed as the backup, can’t imagine he is on much money as well.

Defenders

Walker, Tait, Brown, White, Hunter, Galbraith,

In terms of our defence rumours have already circulated regarding Walker, but mainly Joe Tait.

At one point this week it seemed nailed on that Joe Tait had signed for rivals Spennymoor Town with an office job to boot. However nothing official has come out from either clubs or player, but if it goes through Tait will no doubt be a miss to the club.

Alan White is tied down for another year and i expect will be used as cover next season, if needed Whitey has shown in this campaign he can be solid at the back despite his discipline issues. However, if Tait didn’t leave and we tried to lower the budget I would maybe plump for him to move on.

Gary Brown will stay as club captain, no chance or reason for him to leave,  I just hope Gray stops playing him in midfield!

Chris Hunter was in my opinion the player of the season for us, yes he didn’t have the headline making impact Thommo had, but he was fantastic. Hopefully we can keep a hold of him and have him +1 at CB for the next campaign.

Tez Galbraith, minus the playoff game, had another good season and like Hunter could easily be snapped up by a team higher up the pyramid.

Walker is the one i’m unsure about, not sure hes any better then Harrison or Pilatos who also played at right back in this campaign, if we could go out and bring someone in I would, but it’s not the first priority. I believe he has a year contact with the club, but in all honesty I’m not sure how much that means at this level, as players come and go from teams, contract or not.

Midfielders

Robinson, Scott, Thompson, Hopson, Portas, Davis

Our midfield is the area pinpointed by most in need of improvement and for me is the area which if improved will take us to the next level and gain promotion.

While rumours on his future have gone quiet lately, Stephen Thompson is the one player which we need to keep a hold of. At any time a club in the conference or around that level could come in  and put an offer that couldn’t be turned down. He is undoubtedly one no fan wants to let go and hopefully he will still be with the club when the new season kicks off.

Despite the injury in the playoff game, Leon Scott should be going nowhere. He could be picked up by a club at a higher level, however with the injury I can’t see anyone taking a chance on him over the summer. Hopefully he won’t be out too long as he is the one central midfielder we had last season who i rated.

Like Scott, Jonny Davis finished the season on the injury table.  I expect Gray will keep him, but my opinion is he had a poor season overall and wasn’t as effective as in the Northern League. I wouldn’t be  too concerned to see him leave, however he is a natural CM and with our struggles there last season he could stay as cover.

As for Jordan Robinson, I  know many fans rate him and thought he did a good job in a defensive midfield role, but for me he didn’t ever quite cut it. Signed as a CB who made too many mistakes I didn’t think he was good enough on the ball to keep things ticking over even if he could break up opposition play.

Dale Hopson is like Nathan Fisher for me, clearly has enough quality to play at this level, but sometimes not the confidence needed. I think Gray will let him go, but personally I would keep him as an option to bring on when Thommo is struggling.

I like most of us Darlo fans know little of Portas, but people in the know seem to rate him and the CM position is the one we needed most improvement, hopefully he can make the difference.

 

Forwards

Dowson, Purewal, Ward, Fisher, Armstrong, Hatch

Up front is the area all Darlo fans expect to see players let go and it is inevitable. Currently we have six strikers on our books and Thommo can also play there if needed.

Both new signings Armstrong and Hatch should be able to have huge impacts for us at this level and both look like good signings. Four strikers is what I expect us to start the season with, which leaves two from the other four leaving.

David Dowson, for me Dows is the one of the four who will 100% be staying, his work effort, link up with Thommo and goal scoring all bring a lot to the table.

Despite signing a one year contract just before the end of the season, Ian Ward is one I would let go. He seemed very hit and miss in the games and while in some he caused chaos some he couldn’t get into it. With Hatch and Armstrong both strikers of similar builds, I just can’t see him staying and like Walker I don’t think the contract will make any difference.

Of the other two strikers it’s a toss up purely between personal preference, but I can only see us keeping one of Amar Purewal and Nathan Fisher.  I do like Purewal, like others he is very hit and miss, his goal scoring record over the two seasons is second to none, but a lot of chances and 1v1’s always go begging. Fisher looks more like scoring when given chances, but his all round game brings less to the table.  In the back of my head though, he has that extra ability in his locker which can prove crucial in tight games.

5 winners and losers From the Premier League 2013/14 season

Winners

  1. Pellegrini

pellegrini

Manuel Pellegrini has come here and in his first season regained the title for Manchester City. While they have been far from perfect he has delivered the title among fresh challenges from Chelsea and Liverpool.

The progress made through the Champions League must also be noted and Pellegrini and City should be even  better in 14/15 after his first season in English football.

They have been able to play some fantastic football at times, particularly at the Etihad, and are deservedly the Premier League Champions.

 

  1. Liverpool

brendan and suarez

A huge year for both manager and star player,  despite falling at the final hurdle. Rodgers has transformed Liverpool and the future looks bright for the Anfield club. They will learn from their mistakes this term, by surely strengthening their defence over the summer to give them another shot next season.  At the start of the season Suarez was banned following his biting incident with Ivanovic, but this campaign he has been trouble free(relatively) and has had an incredible season on the pitch as he has scoped all the individual awards as he spearheaded Liverpool’s title challenge.

 

  1. England talent

young england

All the talk of England struggling to bring players through, has been challenged this year with the emergence of several up and coming stars which should bring a bright future for this summer and the major tournaments to come. Liverpool have contributed greatly to this with Sterling, Sturridge and Henderson all having great years. Ross Barkley, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana have all also stood out as well and i am quite optimistic about the world cup in Brazil.

The future is bright, the future is England.

  1. Tony Pulis

pulis

This one doesn’t need any more proof than a copy of the league table.  A remarkable turn around for a club that looked buried before Christmas ,as they survived in the Premier League for the first time. The fighting spirit and comeback against Liverpool in a game which had nothing riding on it for Palace shows everything about the club and Pulis.

  1. Gus Poyet

poyet

Like Pulis, the Uruguayan has performed a great escape of his own up in the north east. The final run in performances at Chelsea, City and Man United were all spectacular. Add in a cup final appearance when they unlucky to lose and it is a remarkable turn around from the dark days of Di Canio.

 

Losers

  1. Mike Ashley/Pardew

pardew ashley

Living in the North East I hear more of the Geordie gossip than most, however this has ran and ran this season. Ashley is enemy number one with Pardew not far behind. A new contract for Pards will surely see the fans on their back once again in 14/15 unless Newcastle come flying out the blocks.

  1. David Moyes

moyes

Which ever way you  look at it, David Moyes tenure as Manchester United manager will be seen as a disaster from start to finish. It would dent the confidence of any manager in the game and hopefully Moyes will come back whenever he decides to return.

3. Vincent Tan

vincent tan

The foreign businessman gone wrong. Malky Mackay had newly promoted Cardiff comfortable in the Premier League. Tan did not want Mackay to remain as manager, a break down in relations right in the public limelight ended with Mackay being sacked and replaced by Man United legend Ole Gunner Solskjaer. They finished bottom with a wimper and never really looked like staying up

  1. RVP

rvp

In 2012/13 the signing of Robin Van Persie was the difference between Man United and their title challenges as he helped them lift the Premier League Crown.  This season he was one of the main reasons on the pitch why David Moyes struggled, he did not help the cause.

  1. Greg Dyke/FA Commission

greg dyke

Technically not  in the Premier League, but still as a lower league fan I wanted to stick it in. Everyone  in the country knows the national team has underachieved, so what do we do, set up a high profile exclusive panel to come up with ideas, the outcome a proposed  extra division between League two and the conference so the elite teams can have B teams.  Good work chaps.