Monday, 22 February 2010

Dimitar Berbatov's brilliant moment

Saturday's game against Everton shown on Sky television produced a wonderful picture of Berbatov. It typifies what I imagine to be the man. He's a player of great skill that I admire. He also cost Man U more than 30 million pounds. However, he is not famous for running about a lot. He is just not a Wayne Rooney breasting through tides of opposition covering acres of ground.

Berbatov scored the first goal of the match and the only one scored by his team in their 3-1 defeat. (See my blog below, same date). It was a volley that came to him from the right to his position just outside the 5-yard box with players all around him. He touched it once with the top of his foot and then hit a rising volley into the top of the netting.  It was an elegant moment and a brilliant goal.

However, the wonderful picture of Berbatov that I referred to in the first sentence was not the vision of his goal, it was later, just before the kick-off, second half. There was some brief delay and the camera settled brilliantly on Berbatov. While waiting he was carefully smoothing his shorts where they were slightly rucked. There is a badge on these shorts just above the hem on the right leg and it means that they are not quite straight enough. For some players!

The Scots Succession?

At Goodison Park on Saturday Everton took on Manchester United As equals. Both teams went for the win from the start and Everton were the better team on the day. They won 3-1.

I remembered another match where I was watching in the heat of a Costa Blanca summer. It was the first Premier League match of the new season on August 15th, 2009, and Everton's visitors were Arsenal. The result looked like very bad news for Everton's season. They lost 1-6. Five different players scored for Arsenal, including their two central defenders, Gallas and Vermaelen.

Around the world, managers of Fantasy League teams made a mental note to remove the Everton players from their teams. I had Leighton Baines in my team - a regular full-back who took free-kicks and looked likely to score a reasonable number of points.  I  did - perhaps unwisely - remove him. Photo link

There was a background to Everton's early season results. At season's start Everton had an unsettled defender, Joleyon Lescott, who was wanted by Manchester City, a team whose owner had money to spend. Manager Moyes did not want to release Lescott but after this shattering start to the season he must have changed his mind. The uncertainty about Lescott dragged on through the transfer window until in fact it did happen.

David Moyes has managed Everton since the 2002-3 season when owner Bill Kenworthy, theatre entrepreneur, persuaded him to leave Preston where he had gone from player to manager at the end of an average career on the field as a centre half. Compared to the top teams he has had to choose carefully on a lower budget to bring in players to the less fashionable of the Liverpool teams, the ''Toffies'. He seems to have chosen  players who are adaptable, who can play in different positions. For example, Cahill, a midfielder is currently playing as a striker.  Fellaini, one of his most expensive signings, can play as a second striker or as playmaker in the centre of midfield, or even as a defender.
On Saturday his team were better trained than the temporary league leaders, now second, the great Manchester United - whom Everton also defeated in the FA Cup semi-final last season. (In the final, they lost to Chelsea)

Interviewed on Sky television after the match, David Moyes admitted to being on friendly terms with Sir Alex Ferguson, fellow-Scot from the Glasgow area. What are his chances as the successor to Sir Alex when the older manager finally retires. At 46-years old, he has proved that he can put the necessary metal into his men. Given the opportunity to bring in the calibre of players that have come to United since the Premier League began, he seems to have the qualities to succeed on the scale expected of the Manchester manager. He only lacks the opportunity. His weakness compared to foreign coaches who may be considered for the top football manager job in England, eg Mourinho, is that he does lack experience in the Champions League. Everton's performances in the UEFA league have not reached the heights so far. However, Moyes seems to have something more fundamental: an understanding of footballers and the capacity to train them to work for him, and much greater experience of playing and managing in England than any foreign import. That latter point is important: knowledge of other managers, the pitches, the nature of the crowds, the history and traditions that can inspire or intimidate players; this kind of national knowledge is already his.

The match referred to above also featured two young players, aged 20 and 18, Gosling and Rodwell, who were sent on as substitutes by David Moyes and promptly each one scored. See link below.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Over the top with Field Marshall Lord Kitchener

Screen grab from British TV show 'Football Foc...Image via Wikipedia
Over the top
In mid-week Nani went in over the top for Man U against Aston Villa and was sent off in the 28th minute. His manager said he was naive (rather than malicious) with a two-footed late tackle. Unfortunately I am now minus three points as I had just brought him in to my Fantasy League team.

Your country needs you!
Martin Keown on BBC Television´s Football Focus today commented on whether Wayne Bridge would play alongside John Terry in England's World Cup tournament this summer given recent personal causes of friction. Keown echoed the words of Lord Kitchener.                     
"His country needs him," declared Keown.

I think that M. Keown was being naive in using these words when calling on W. Rooney to put aside personal grievance with J. Terry and play for his country. The words he echoed were from Lord Kitchener on a poster with the Lord's likeness, his pointing finger, and the words: Your country needs you! The purpose was to stir men to face death and disfigurement by volunteering to join the army in the First World War. And if you survived you then faced unemployment on your return from the war.

I think Martin was over the top. A red card from me for going in with this phrase on this occasion.
(The photo is a screen grab from Football Focus, copyright owned by the BBC . I consider that it  is used here fairly  for identification and comment)  All that Wayne Bridge would sacrifice would be a summer holiday - in return for extra money, honour and the chance of greater fame if England won the World Cup.

Celebrity Soccer, the film?
I am looking forward to watching David Beckham  on Tuesday night when he will surely play in Milan against his former team Man Utd in a Champions League match. Wayne Rooney, the Man Utd striker, is reported elsewhere saying that another member of the Milan team is the best footballer he has ever played against. The man in question also appeared in video footage on BBC's Football Focus this morning. Who was he? He has won three Champions League medals, one with Real Madrid last century, the other two with Milan. He also played in that famous final in Turkey against Liverpool in 2005 when his team were beaten after leading 3-0. He returned to the final the following year to win his third medal. Against ............. Liverpool, of course!

The drama of the football game is hard to match in any soap opera or other fiction -  as is the career of this admirable Dutch player called Clarence.

You'll recall his surname and remember his achievements if you follow the link:

The Italian press are reporting that Clarence is going out with George Clooney's former girl-friend. I look forward to hearing that George will play the part of Clarence in an upcoming film.

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