Monday, May 26, 2008

Taken for Grant-ed

As Chelsea start the search for their next ex-manager, Avram Grant must be wondering what he had to do to keep the job.

The Israeli took Chelsea to within three points of piping Manchester United to the Premier League title, despite having looked out of it months earlier. He would have also beat the Reds to the club's first European Cup, had it not been for John Terry's slip and his games to wins ratio was as good as any top manager. Yet this was obviously not good enough for Roman Abramovich.

At any other club this would have been judged as a 'decent to good' season. However, Chelsea is not 'any other club'. Claudio Ranieri was Mr Abramovich's first victim, despite taking his side, from perennial chasers of fourth place, to second place in the Premier League and a Champions' League Semi-Final, beating Arsenal en-route. This wasn't good enough, and he was sacked.

His replacement, a certain Mr Jose Mourinho, brought the League Cup (twice), the Premier League title (twice) an F.A. Cup and an appearance in two Champions' League Semi Finals, losing one on penalties, in his three and a bit years at the Stamford Bridge club. Despite Mourinho's success he was criticised for his unattractive style of play. He was dumped, for Avram Grant.

Had Terry not slipped, would Grant have still been in a job? Was Grant, despite the four year contract, only ever meant to be a stop-gap for a bigger name? All that is debatable. What is clear, though, is that whoever is next in Mr Abramovich's firing line will have to win everything to have a chance of making his stay at Stamford Bridge anything other than a short one.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Just a short one to update on the progress on Barrow AFC. As mentioned in a couple of my previous posts, Barrow AFC were on an incredible unbeaten run and were trying to reach the play-offs, months after being in the relegation zone.

I am pleased to say that Barrow took their unbeaten run to 20 games and the the end of the season, reaching, and winning, the play-off final, 1-0, against Stalybridge Celtic. (Coincidentally the last team to beat the Bluebirds.)

This means that they have ended their 10 year exile from the top division of non-league football and will be travelling to the likes of Oxford, Wrexham and Torquay next season.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Barrow AFC's Unbeaten Run - The Results

To accompany the two previous articles on Barrow AFC, here is a map detailing the results and locations of Barrow AFC's 16 game unbeaten run.

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Barrow on the Up (and Up?)

At the beginning of the season Barrow AFC, of the Blue Square North, were being tipped to be embroiled in a relegation battle, but a season is a long time in football.

Back in November, Barrow were in the bottom three and looked destined to be scrapping it out with the fellow stragglers in a bid to stay in the league. However, they are now on the verge of coming out of the league at the right end.

The Bluebirds are now in fourth place in the Blue Square North and are in the thick of a three way tug-of-war to make it into the play-offs.

Ex-manager, Phil Wilson, and Barrow parted company in last November, after only one league win. In his place, player managers, Darren Sheridan and Dave Bayliss were appointed. Since then the Bluebirds have only lost twice.

“When we were not playing well (at the start of the season), I think, deep down, everybody knew the managment team had to turn it around or face being sacked. We were too inconsistent to be aiming for a play off place and, in turn, that knocked players confidence and we were on a downhill struggle.” explained, goalkeeper, Tim Deasy.

“Once we started winning at home and drawing away things got better and better and now we have an amazing chance of reaching the play offs.”

36 year-old Barrow fan, Mark McClinchey, thinks that the change in management and the change in fortunes were no coincidence.

“It’s unbelievable that the same players, who played under Wilson, have lifted their game under the new lads, and are playing brilliantly.

“Sheridan and Bayliss have got the lads playing for them. The team are clicking with them and have all bonded extremely well. I think that them being part of the squad before hand has helped a lot.”

This is a view echoed by, Bluebirds’ stopper, Deasy.

“As Bayls and Shez were part of our squad anyway, we knew they were one of us, and they knew how good a squad we really are.

“They’ve allowed us to play how we felt right, i.e defend where we felt comfortable, play football and go for more goals instead of wasting time n trying to hold on to a one goal advantage.”

Deasy also believes that changes in the way the team train under the new managers have contributed towards the incredible progress the side has made.

“Training is more game related and certain players have been given more freedom to play and express themselves. Its not a case of pretty football all the time though, we have beaten some tough sides, under the new managers, through playing ugly football and staying strong.”

Flookburgh born, striker Jason Walker has been one of the main beneficiaries of the appointment of Bayliss and Sheridan.

Walker was on the fringes of the squad under Wilson and very rarely got any game time. However, under the new management, the diminutive forward has forged a very good partnership with fellow forward, Nick Rogan.

Rogan has been great up front with Walker. A decent strike partnership is something we have missed over the last four years or so.” says Mark

Other players that have impressed have been Deasy and, former Liverpool reserve centre back, Steve McNulty. The latter Mr McClinchey singled out for special praise.

“Steve McNulty has been extremely solid in defence. He’s a different class. Probably the best centre back I’ve seen up here for many years.”

Many of the Barrow fans are optimistic for the future of the club under the guidance of the two player managers and are hoping that the current good form is a sign of things to come. Mark is no different.

“They need to just keep playing as they are, winning every game and don’t rely on results elsewhere.

“An extra striker would do us no harm. Bigger crowds would be great too, but if we go up, I am sure they will increase.”

With Barrow’s last two home games, against Kettering Town and Tamworth, attracting crowds of 2086 and 1499, respectively, and another bumper crowd expected for the final game of the season, at home to Worcester next Saturday, Mark’s hopes are turning to reality and many believe that, under Sheridan and Bayliss, things are set to get even better.

Sixteen Not Out

Barrow AFC’s 2-0 win over Tamworth, on Saturday, saw the Blue Square North side extend their unbeaten run to 16 games, prolonging a remarkable run of form.

Their superb run stretches back to the start of February, and has seen Barrow, who play at Holker Street, take 40 points from a possible 48. This means that they are currently the most in-form team in the country.

The North West side’s last defeat came on the 26th of January, in a 3-1 defeat at home to Stalybridge Celtic. Since then they have disposed of 12 teams and drawn with four including, the newly crowned Blue Square North champions, Kettering Town.

Their 22 year-old goalkeeper, Tim Deasy says that the good run is down to the togetherness of the squad.

“I think the main reason (behind the run) is the confidence and belief in each other, we are a small, but very close, squad on and off the field.

“The passion to win in the squad is unbelievable and second to none and only the best is now good enough.

“Everybody’s standards have been set so high now that nothing less is expected by the players, the club and the fans.”

Deasy also believes that the support of the Holker Street faithful has been a key component in putting together this outstanding run of form.

“This club has an amazing fan base. To take hundreds of fans to away games, at times, is staggering in this league. The fans deserve their club to be in the highest league possible.”

Deasy’s role in the team’s recent success has not gone unnoticed by the fans. The young custodian has produced a series of delightful performances, pulling off a string of outstanding saves.

The Salford born keeper, who has also developed a reputation for being a penalty specialist, has quickly become a crowd favourite in his first season with the Bluebirds.

“I love to please the fans with good performances and can only ask to be stood by when things occasionally go wrong.

“My main attribute is shot stopping and I enjoy the psychological side of penalties as I like to think I can make a player put the ball where I want it.

“I hope the fans can see the passion i have to win for this club and that may be a reason why they have taken to me.”

Barrow now lie in 4th, in contention for a play-off place and, the forever confident and ambitious, Deasy reckons the team can build on this form for next season.

“If, unfortunately, we do not go up this year, a top 3 finish is all that can be expected for next year as we have shown that this is not a slice of luck.

“We are in this position for one reason; we are good enough to be playing in a higher league.

“If we do get into the conference next season, I think the club needs to establish themselves in that league, not just staying up by the skin of their teeth.

“A mid table finish would be good and anything higher would be excellent. If we get into the football league then it will be a season to remember!”

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Big Map of News

Here's the occasional round-up of the week's footballing news, in the form of a big map...

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A Toffee's Sticky Situation

Today I will be taking a slightly different approach to the story that I have done in previous posts. Instead of simply writing the story, I will be comparing how other news outlets have reported the same story.

As you may have guessed, from the title, the story in question is the 'Tim Cahill celebration'.

First of all, a bit of background. After Cahill scored, against Portsmouth, on Sunday, he proceeded to cross his wrists, as if they were handcuffed together. This was done as a show of support for his recently imprisoned brother.

While the BBC and Sky gave a reasonably straight forward account of the incident, giving the bare facts and not showing any obvious views against or in support of Cahill, The Daily Mail, on the other hand, took a far more obvious stance.

Starting off with the headline; "Fury over Everton footballer Tim Cahill's on-pitch gesture of solidarity with thug brother who left a man blinded" it was obvious that the Mail was firmly against the Australian's celebration.

The paper goes on to give a detailed account of crime his brother was found guilty of committing and is littered with adjectives such as 'vicious' and 'cowardly'. This seems to be done in order to make the reader take the same stance of the Mail and gives the impression that what Cahill has done was way out of line.

In a continuation of the seemingly one sided reporting, the paper includes quotes from the victim's mother and the policeman investigating Cahill's brothers case. However there is no quote in defence of Cahill, only a short press release at the end, which is given very little importance. There are also no quotes from people involved with football in order to give an extra dimension to the article, something that was done on the Guardian website.

One blog that I found gave a very interesting, and satirical, insight on the Mail's use of the word 'fury' in the headline, despite nobody, apart fro the Mail themselves, expressing any emotion close to fury in the article. To read this blog, and I recommend it, click here.