Posts Tagged ‘the fa’
The appointment of Roy Hodgson as England’s new manager has attracted plenty of negative reaction.
Some of the disappointment is simply from those who wanted – indeed, expected – Harry Redknapp to be appointed to the role but even amongst those who aren’t particular fans of Redknapp, there’s been a distinct lack of enthusiasm at seeing a man appointed England manager without having ever won a major trophy in English football.
Before even looking at whether or not Roy Hodgson was right to be considered for the role, it’s important to look at the team he’s actually going to manage.
Since winning the World Cup on home soil in 1966, the record of the England national team at major finals has been largely unimpressive.
Semi final losses at Italia 90 and Euro 96 represent the closest that England have come to lifting a second piece of major silverware despite the efforts by some of England’s most popular managers to change that, as well as leading names brought in from overseas.
Glenn Hoddle reached the second round of his one and only tournament in charge of England while his popular successor, Kevin Keegan, failed to lead England out of the group stage of Euro 2000 and a win over an equally poor German side was scant consolation for a thoroughly disappointing campaign in Holland and Belgium.
Sven Goran Eriksson, the first man from overseas to take charge of England, brought with him a wave of optimism following some impressive results during the early stages of his five years in charge. The fact that such results – including the 5-1 win in Germany – were achieved by playing good football only led to increased expectations, although that all fizzled out as tournament after tournament ended in quarter-final elimination.
At least the team had qualified for finals under Eriksson. Steve McClaren’s disastrous spell in charge of England’s involved nothing more than an unsuccessful bid to reach Euro 2008.
McClaren had been one of two or three English managers considered for the job before being appointed on the back of solid year at Middlesbrough and after bringing his 18-month tenure to a sudden end, the FA were quick to replace a relatively inexperienced English manager with a multiple title-winning Italian in their attempts to revive the nation’s footballing fortunes.
That didn’t work too well, either.
For all of the wins in qualifying or friendly matches, Fabio Capello’s sole tournament during his four years in the job saw England struggle to get out of a group containing Slovenia, USA and Algeria. A 1-0 win over Slovenia in the final group game was enough to ensure that England would leapfrog their fellow Europeans into second place and scrape through to the second round – where they were subsequently thumped 4-1 by Germany and put out of their World Cup misery.
So, whilst many sections of the country may find it difficult to get overly excited at seeing Roy Hodgson leading England, it’s fair to say that each person to have had the job before him have failed to get the most out of the highly talented group of players available for selection.
Hodgson doesn’t have quite the luxury of so many top class players, and some of the experienced players still involved are unlikely to be playing international football for too much longer.
However, one thing which should go in his favour is that the outgoing West Brom manager does have the benefit of experience coaching at international level.
In 1992, Switzerland went into the qualifying campaign for the 1994 World Cup as one of the fourth group of seeds, ranked alongside Wales and Northern Ireland. But Hodgson’s team finished runners-up to Italy in the qualifying group and at the expense of both Portugal and Scotland, the Swiss went on to qualify for the finals in America, a tournament which England had failed to reach.
USA ’94 was Switzerland’s first major tournament qualification since 1966, and marked only the second time that Switzerland had progress beyond the first round – the only precedent being a quarter-final appearance in the 1954 Swiss hosted World Cup.
Within 18 months, Switzerland’s World Cup appearance was followed up with a successful qualification for Euro 96 during which Hodgson’s side easily topped a group containing Turkey and 1994 World Cup semi-finalists Sweden.
It was to be the first time in ten attempts that Switzerland’s had reached the finals of the European Championships but Hodgson resigned as soon as the qualification campaign ended in order to manage Inter Milan.
His other international experience came with a spell in charge of Finland who he almost took to the finals of Euro 2008. Despite being amongst the fifth seeds in a group of seven, only three points separated Finland from their first ever appearance at the finals of any major competition.
Roy Hodgson might not have the charm of someone like Harry Redknapp, nor a collection of silverware to rival that of Fabio Cappello. But despite some of the lower moments in his career which many English fans focus on, there have been too many successes in Hodgson’s career to ignore and for which he deserves respect.
Much of the success has been by over-achieving with clubs and national teams who have only modest expectations but with the expectation of the English national team seemingly at its lowest point since the early 1990′s, Hodgson could yet win over many of the doubters.
Men who have been more popular and more decorated have failed to deliver. Now it’s Hodgson’s turn, and every fan in the country should give him the chance he deserves.
A dramatic injury time winner from Andy Carroll gave Liverpool a first league win since their 3-0 victory over Everton in early March.
And the two Merseyside rivals face each other on Saturday, this time with an FA Cup final place up for grabs.
Even throughout a miserable run of league results during the first quarter of the calendar year, Liverpool have been impressive in cup competitions. Man City, who were runaway league leaders at the time, were dumped from the Carling Cup, before Man United lost at Anfield in the FA Cup – one of only two away defeats to a Premier League team that they have suffered so far this season.
Things have been different for Liverpool in the league however. At 5.00pm on January 21, Everton’s draw with Blackburn had left them nine points behind Liverpool having played a game more.
Liverpool had the possibility of extending that lead to 12 points with a win against bottom-of-the-table Bolton in the day’s evening fixture, but a comfortable win for Bolton was the first of eight defeats that Liverpool have suffered in their 14 Premier League matches since the turn of the year.
In contrast, Everton have enjoyed a consistent run of results that has seen them not only catch their local rivals, but move ahead. Only Arsenal, Newcastle and the two Manchester clubs have gained more league points in 2012 than David Moyes’ men.
Everton don’t score many – their 4-0 win against Sunderland was their first win by more than two goals for exactly a year and the first time they’d scored three in a home match in any competition since mid-September – but they don’t concede many either, and only Chelsea and Liverpool have managed to score more than two goals in a game against Everton during the Blues’ last 56 competitive matches.
Rightly or wrongly Liverpool will be favourites in Saturday’s Wembley showdown, and it’s likely that everyone involved with Everton will be happy for most of the pressure to be on Kenny Dalglish and his team. The blue half of the city know that they’re capable of reaching the final, and don’t have to go far back to recall the last time they won a semi final despite being considered underdogs – in 2009 versus Manchester United.
Liverpool’s losing run may have ended, but Everton should still go to Wembley confident that they can not only finish above Liverpool in the league but also secure a win in the biggest Merseyside derby for more than 20 years.
Continuing from my earlier post concerning yesterday’s Premier League game between Newcastle United and Liverpool, the most unsavory aspect of the afternoon other than Liverpool’s performance was James Perch’s involvement in the sending off of Pepe Reina.
Watching the incident as it happened, it looked like a gentle headbutt by Reina and a massive overreaction by Perch. Even so, I expected Reina to be dismissed because regardless of how much contact may actually have been made, there was clearly some violent intent and the laws of the game demand that a red card be issued for such an action.
But the replays also confirmed the exaggerated role played by Perch, with one angle even appearing to show the possibility that there wasn’t even any contact at all between the players.
Whether the reaction by Perch – instantly throwing himself to the ground and rolling around as if punched by a heavyweight boxer – had any bearing on the referee’s decision or not will be known only to the official himself.
There have, however, been similar instances when players have touched heads and only a yellow card given – one example being Liverpool’s league fixture at Fulham earlier in the season when Clint Dempsey reacted aggressively to what had actually been an entirely fair challenge by Bellamy. Dempsey clearly aimed a headbutt at Bellamy during a heated exchange between the pair but was only cautioned, perhaps because Bellamy had stayed on his feet.
So could Reina have escaped with only a caution yesterday had Perch not feigned injury in a manner which unfairly did a fellow professional no favours? Again, only Martin Atkinson could answer that question.
But given there was no need to go to ground holding his face, there should also be measures in place to issue retrospective punishment to players such as Perch who can clearly be proven to have reacted dishonestly. Had he stayed on his feet and Reina not been dismissed, there would have been ample opportunity for the FA to review the decision after the match and issue a suspension if it was felt that one was warranted.
On the whole, the FA have done well in their aims of stamping out dangerous two-footed challenges and elbowing and have recently stepped up their anti-racism campaign, but playacting is an area which the FA have never properly addressed. Too many players know that if they can get away with it at the time then there’ll be no further repercussions.
It’s one of the last forms of cheating that is simply accepted by the nation’s football authorities, and a change in approach to dealing with the problem by those at the FA and the Premier League is long overdue.
How many footballers would roll around pretending to be injured despite not having been touched whilst watching on as an opponent is sent off, if they knew that that their own actions would be scutinised and could themselves lead to a lengthy ban?
Perhaps it’s time to find out.
The issue of England captaincy has been something of a pantomime over the past few years.
Six years ago following England’s World Cup exit in Germany, there was the question of who would replace David Beckham. John Terry was eventually given the armband by then manager Steve McClaren, ahead of Steve Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand.
But after the national team’s failure to qualify for the 2008 European Championships, a change in manager looked set to be followed by a change in captain.
Fabio Capello opted to rotate his choice of leader, selecting a different player for each of his first few games, though finally settled on John Terry in the summer of 2008 after his rotation policy attracted increased criticism.
However only 18 months later, tabloid revelations over John Terry’s affair with the ex-girlfriend of an England and ex-Chelsea teammate sparked new controversy and ultimately resulted in Terry being stripped of the responsibility.
Capello received widespread praise for his swift handling of the decision, and the feeling amongst those who knew the England manager best was that Terry had blown his chance and would never be reinstated.
Rio Ferdinand took over the role, but injury limited his ability to participate for England and it was in fact Steven Gerrard who captained the team at the 2010 World Cup Finals.
Ferdinand’s continued problems with injury along with question marks over his form caused another rethink, and after little more than a year since originally losing the captaincy, John Terry was reinstated on a permanent basis by Fabio Capello.
But just 11 months on, the matter has yet again resurfaced with Terry set to stand trial after being charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.
The issue has sparked strong debate from both sides, with some claiming that Terry should be considered innocent of all charges until proven guilty in court and that he should therefore be allowed to continue.
The other side of the argument is whether someone facing such a serious charge should be in the position of leading out his country at a major football competition, especially in light of the Football Association’s tough stance on racism.
If Terry is stripped once more of the captaincy, as is expected to be the case, it will remove him from a high-profile position which is inevitably going to attract plenty of negative attention.
Taking him out of the firing line will help to turn attention on the team towards footballing matters rather than a constant wave of questions surrounding the charge which Terry faces.
It will be the correct move for the FA to make.
But we shouldn’t for one moment think that this will be the only time that the captaincy debate surfaces this year.
With a high chance that Fabio Capello will not continue as England manager beyond the conclusion of the European Championships in the summer, a new manager may wish to make his own choice of skipper.
So for the moment, the England captaincy merry-go-round shows no sign of slowing down.
In punishing Luis Suarez for what were ultimately judged to be racist remarks which he made to Patrice Evra, the FA have made clear their zero tolerance of racism in football.
Rather than put an end to the issue however, the decision looks to have created a bitter dispute between the FA and Liverpool, which may rumble on for some time. Liverpool’s response was a total lack of acceptance of the FA’s verdict and the club are likely to appeal against the ban.
Whilst the club’s own response has hardly been welcomed warmly throughout the football world – something which few at Liverpool are likely to be concerned by – there are plenty of reasons why they are to feel as though Suarez been unfairly treated.
The widely documented cultural differences have been cited. Suarez has never denied using the words in which Evra found to be offensive, and that is to his credit in a dispute which is entirely one person’s word against another person’s; He could easily have denied saying anything to Evra at all, which would have made it impossible for the FA to issue a guilty verdict.
Having confirmed that he used the particular word(s) which the investigation centred around, Suarez’s argument was that the way in which it was used was not intended to offend.
Many journalists have already dismissed this idea, claiming that the Uruguayan’s four years spent in Holland should have left him in no doubt as to what is and isn’t acceptable in European culture. But being part of the same continent doesn’t automatically ensure that the culture is going to be exactly the same in two separate nations. Suarez cannot be assumed guilty based on that fact that having lived Holland for so long, he should be fully aware of what is acceptable in Britain.
The comments between both players were said to have taken place in Spanish. Therefore, the words cannot simply be translated into English and then a British meaning applied to the conversation. It’s not as straight-forwards as that and if it was, then Liverpool have a valid argument that Evra’s initial comment in which he is alleged to have said “Don’t touch me, you South American” could also be considered to have had a racist tone to it.
Yet the FA have shown no intention of charging the Man United player and in contrast, Suarez has often been portrayed as a guilty man long before the verdict was issued, and tasked with proving his innocence.
Also, in such a highly complex and difficult case, with no witnesses other than the two players involved, and which has taken so long for a verdict to arrive, the FA may have taken a big gamble in giving Suarez such a lengthy ban.
The case has been ongoing for over two months and it is more than five weeks since an initial charge was made against Suarez. If the evidence was clear enough for a charge to be issued in mid-November, why was there so long before a verdict could be reached? And if there remained doubts regarding the context, how could such a severe punishment be handed out with enough certainty that it was the right decision to make?
There is obviously pressure to demonstrate a commitment to the fight against racism by the FA and that should be supported. However it shouldn’t mean looking for the earliest possible opportunity to make an example of a high-profile player in order to prove such a commitment, especially in a case as complicated as that of Suarez and Evra.
Sending out a signal that offensive comments involving racist language will not be tolerated is something that the FA should be applauded for, though as unacceptable a crime as it is, it shouldn’t be punished so much more severely than, for example, a violent off-the-ball incident such as headbutting or stamping on an opponent, both of which would only carry a standard three match ban for an offence of violent conduct.
If intent on truly cleaning up the game, the FA need to be careful not to lose perspective when dealing with sensitive cases with a great deal of public interest.
It will be interesting to note the result of a Liverpool appeal, but the one certainty is that this case is one which is not going to go away quietly.
England’s international friendly match against Sweden on Tuesday was witnessed by Wembley’s lowest attendance since 1998, with only 48,836 fans turning up to watch the game.
Not since the Czech Republic were the opponents for Glenn Hoddle’s men thirteen years today have there been so many empty seats for a full international played on home soil.
Although the low attendance has been widely mentioned in the press reports following the game, it’s fair to note that few other nations manage to attract 50,000 for a friendly.
But England games have always been incredibly well attended, and even friendly games against less glamorous nations have often seen a good turnout, although the general pattern is that throughout the five-year reign of Fabio Capello, gate numbers have been consistently falling.
In 2007, the first year at the new Wembley, an average of almost 87,000 spectators attended England games. This year, that number has shrunk to 75,551.
Has the price of tickets put fans off, as the effects of a recession continue to be felt throughout the country?
Are more fans choosing to invest their time and money watching club football at the expense of internationals?
Or, with an unsettled and constantly changing team, a manager who everyone knows will be leaving the job next summer, and a series of recent performances which are unlikely to encourage fans to go to the trouble of attending a midweek game that they could stay at home and watch, are England games simply not worth bothering with anymore?
Kenny Dalglish may disagree, but the FA are right to be taking their time over their investigation into the race rows involving Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez, and Anton Ferdinand and John Terry.
Both cases are being treated seriously and should either player be found guilty of racism, it will be fascinating to see how strongly they will be punished. If the ‘Kick It Out’ campaign is to be respected, any punishments which are handed out should go far beyond the standard three match ban imposed for most serious offences.
However to fully get to the bottom of both cases, the issue of whether any player at the centre of the controversy is also guilty of dishonesty may need to be addressed.
Should no evidence be found to support Patrice Evra’s claims that TV cameras would clearly show Luis Suarez repeatedly making alleged racist comments to him during Manchester United’s league game at Anfield, then the FA need to consider how to deal with Evra.
The United full back has been at the centre of previous allegations of racism, none of which have been proved. The player should also be well aware that any allegation which takes place during the match needs to be reported to the match officials, something he failed to do despite clearly feeling upset by what he alleges Suarez to have said.
In the case John Terry, post match comments stated that his alleged remark to Anton Ferdinand was taken out of context and that the matter was no longer an issue, having been sorted out following a discussion between the two players after the game.
If Ferdinand’s statement to the FA fails to support Terry, then the Chelsea and England captain is at the very least guilty of lying, and deliberately attempting to mislead any potential FA investigation from the outset.
Neither Suarez nor Terry have been found guilty of any offence as yet. But for the FA to conduct their investigation thoroughly, the allegations of racist comments may not be the only thing they need to look into.
It’s FA Cup final weekend. Not that it feels like it.
I’m not old enough to recall classic finals of past years, played out in black and white. But I do remember the hours spent in front of BBC’s coverage of FA Cup final day back in the early 90′s, and it was always something special.
The famous ‘magic’ of the cup.
The Road to Wembley. The clips involving a member of each team introducing their team-mates. The coverage from around the stadium as fans started to arrive. The footage of each of the finalists leaving their hotel and arriving at Wembley.
It was a special occasion in the football calendar, and it felt like a special occasion.
How things have changed.
First there were sponsors added and it could no simply longer be called the FA Cup. Then there was the non participation of Man United in 2000, and an ever increasing number of reserve players on display, as clubs focus purely on the league. The final has been scheduled ahead of the league season’s conclusion, and this year will be played as part of a full weekend of Premier League fixtures. It is yet another blow to the reputation of a competition which was once so well respected.
As ITV and Sky Sports broadcast the build up to the match tomorrow, fans of eight Premier League clubs will be tuned into matches involving their own sides. Man United fans may be more concerned with too busy celebrating a title win than tuning in to see if their local rivals go yet another season without a major trophy.
The two finalists play their game in hand next week.
What would have been wrong with the Premier League insisting on having a full midweek league programme, leaving cup final weekend free for, well, the fup final?
Neither Man City nor Stoke fans will be too bothered. For many of them, it will be the most enjoyable footballing day out of their lives.
For many of us neutrals however, the FA Cup Final just feels a lot less magical than it once did.