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.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The BIG map of news!!

There's a lot going on in the world of football, almost too much to keep up with it. So, every Wednesday, I will be rounding up the biggest stories and results outside Britain in a map of news, and it's big.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


This is a short slideshow that I have been asked to make and include on my blog as part of my course.

It illustrates the walk from Avenham Park to the Foster Building, of UCLan, in Preston.

I will hopefully be able to post more foootball related slideshows and videos soon.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Catch 22 for Benitez

After yesterday's shock win at Anfield, for Barnsley, a lot of criticism has been leveled at Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, mostly surrounding his deicision not to pick striker Fernando Torres.

However, aside from the fact that the side Benitez fielded should have been good enough to win the game anyway (both Kuyt and Crouch are internationals costing £10 million and £7 million respectively), Benitez was positioned in a 'no-win' situaton when it came to deciding whether or not to pick Torres.

The facts are that Torres lasted little more than 20 minutes in Spain's international friendly, last Wednesday, after pulling up with a hamstring injury. Given that Liverpool play a highly important game against Inter in the Champions' League, playing Torres against Barnsley would have been a huge risk, especially after picking up an injury like a strained hamstring.

If Benitez had picked Torres and Liverpool won 5-0 but featured Torres pulling up with a recurrance of his hamstring injury, putting him out of the Inter game and possibly a lot longer, then Benitez would have been slammed for risking Torres in a game that Liverpool should have won with the other strikers available to them.

However, Benitez decided not to risk his top goalscorer and Liverpool lost. The result? A mass media assault on Benitez's decision not to pick the Spanish number nine. If Liverpool had won then nothing would have been made of it.

The fact is they didn't win and credit must go to Barnsley, especially their debutant 'keeper Luke Steele, who withstood a barrage of Liverpool shots before snatching a win.

However, while Benitez is criticised left, right and centre for not picking Torres, if Manchester United lost 4-0 to Arsenal yesterday, would Ferguson be criticised for not picking Ronaldo and Tevez? I very much doubt it.

Like so many other managers hounded by the press in the past, like Martin Jol, no matter what decisions Benitez makes he cannot win. Benitez is in catch 22.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

2 Heads Aren’t Always Better Than 1… Or Are They?

It has often been an unwritten, and frequently recited, rule in football that joint managers never have, and never will, work.

There have been examples of joint managers, over the past decade or so, that either didn’t last or didn’t work.

Probably the most famous case of all being the joint stewardship of Liverpool, by Roy Evans and Gerard Houllier. This particular partnership lasted only four months of the 1998/99.

Critics of a joint management regime frequently point towards this example as an argument against having joint managers and, to be fair, they have a point. That season Liverpool failed to qualify for a European competition.

To further back up this point of view there hasn’t been a semi-successful spell for a club under joint management since Alan Curbishley and Steve Gritt, laying the foundations for Alan Curbishley’s successful sole reign, at Charlton in the early 90’s.

Attempts at join management since then have either been low-key, short affairs or disastrous… until now.

Step forward Darren Sheridan and Dave Bayliss of Blue Square North team Barrow A.F.C.

Former Barnsley midfielder Sheridan and, ex-Rochdale defender, Bayliss took joint charge of Barrow, along with club captain Paul Jones, as caretakers in November 2007.

Their first three games in charge saw the team beat, local rivals, Workington in the Setanta Shield, hammer high flying A.F.C. Telford 4-0 and narrowly miss out on producing one of the biggest FA Cup shocks of the season, narrowly losing 3-2 to a goal in the last minute of extra time, at Bournemouth, in a 1st round replay.

In December Sheridan and Bayliss were appointed on a permanent basis, on a verbal agreement. Since then the Bluebirds have moved from a relegation battle to, recently, having an outside chance of making the play-offs, playing attractive, attacking football in the process. Something that was regularly lacking under the previous, sole, manager Phil Wilson. In fact Barrow recently went on a run of scoring four goals in four consecutive home games.

The duo are now about to be offered a formal contract, three months ahead of schedule.

In an interview with the North-West Evening Mail, Barrow director Tony Keen said: “We originally agreed to review the situation at the end of the season but the directors are more than happy the way things have been going under Darren and Dave.

"It has been play-offs and promotion form and in a way they have written their own future.”

The success of these two joint-managers may be a one off, but maybe, just maybe, it is an example that, if done correctly, a joint management team can work.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The End of El Fenomeno?

As one Ronaldo’s career goes from strength to strength, the career of the original Ronaldo, once the World’s brightest talent since Maradona, is in danger of fizzling out altogether.

Once a lean, fast, energetic goalscorer, the three times FIFA World Player of the year, is now a shadow of his former self.

A considerable gain in weight and an run of injuries, that has almost made him eligible to claim ‘squatter’s rights’ on the San Siro treatment table, has led to Ronaldo becoming a laughing stock in the world of football.

With the spectacular introduction of, 18 year-old wonderkid, Alexandre Pato and the emergence of Alberto Paloschi, a product of the Milan youth set-up, the two time World Cup winner’s future at Milan has become increasingly precarious.

Now reports from Brazil suggest that after years of troubles, Ronaldo is now set to hang up his boots after his contract at AC Milan expires in the summer. Although many people still believe he will choose to play on next season, with Brazilian side Flamengo, before eventually retiring. In fact, many Milan fans would probably offer to carry him to Brazil, on their backs, themselves.

If Ronaldo was to end his career at the end of such a disappointing season it would no doubt be a somewhat very sad end for a player with such amazing natural talent, a strike rate of just under a goal a game for club and country and possibly one of the greatest footballers ever to walk the earth.


Monday, February 11, 2008


Imagine being sat in your living room, watching 'Soccer Saturday', when Jeff Stelling suddenly cries: "There's been a goal in the game between Middlesbrough and Fulham! Let's find out which way it's gone! Over to Chris Kamara at the Al Shaab Stadium in Baghdad."

Anyone would be forgiven for thinking they have had one to many bottles of beer, but as improbable as it seems, this scenario could actually happen.

Well, ok, Iraq maybe pushing it a bit, but a recent proposal by the Premier League has shown that this could be closer to the truth than it would initially seem.

On the February 8th, in a move straight from the NFL playbook, the Premier League revealed that the 20 clubs, that make up the league, have agreed to discuss the possibility of introducing a 39th fixture for all clubs... to be played abroad.

There has been a somewhat mixed reaction to the news with a selection of people backing the idea. Birmingham City co-owner, David Gold, has described the plans as "amazingly exciting". A number of people, such as Wigan boss, Steve Bruce, and Sunderland chairman, Niall Quinn have said that they are open to the idea.

However, there has been an overwhelmingly negative response from the fans, criticising the plans as a way to make yet more money from the cash cow that is the Premier League. A petition against the plans has already been set up at

If they get the go ahead, these plans would be the biggest revolution since BSkyB helped spawn the Premiership in 1992.

Who knows? In the near future you could be boarding the supporters coach with a Tesco bag containing your sandwiches, a can or two, a rolled up copy of the Mirror, your passport and a set of inoculations for various tropical diseases.