Five players to look out for in France..

As everyone is aware, the Euros or indeed any major tournament offers the chance for up and coming young talent to really announce their talent to a huge audience. You hear stories about these players every tournament – just take a look at the World Cup in Brazil. A young James Rodriguez wowed crowds and earned a huge move to Real Madrid and elevated his career to new heights on the basis of a single tournament. Who could be this years stand out youngsters? Here are five potential candidates I see having the potential to really break onto the big time, along with a rating showing the likelihood of this happening.

Breel Embolo – Switzerland

For FIFA lovers, this name may not come as a huge surprise to you. Rated highly in the virtual world at least, the frontman really does appear to have a great deal of potential in his game. Any striker that can combine both pace and power to good effect usually manage to cause a number of issues for the defenders paid to eliminate this threat. Embolo appears to have these traits already at a young age – with his ability already having attracted the attention of top clubs like Wolfsburg, who bid 27 million Euros for the youngster in January. The only potential drawback is his side Switzerland who may not reach the latter stages of the tournament.


Renato Sanches – Portugal

The man who’s already raised a number of eye brows this year following his high profile move to German giants Bayern Munich. Sanches is a very versatile midfield and can be deployed in a range of roles across the midfield – combining attacking flair with energy and work-rate to match. This synergy of abilities has led to Sanches emerging as one of the hottest young talents across Europe. Portugal are however a squad undergoing somewhat of a transition, meaning it may be one tournament too early for Sanches to prove his worth. He’ll be a big threat though, that is for sure.


Harry Kane – England 

Although most people already have heard of the Spurs frontman – the Euros may well be the tournament that really lifts Harry Kane to the next level. Having already proved a number of doubters wrong by not falling foul of ‘second season syndrome’ Kane is one of the best upcoming forwards in the world game in my eyes. English fans always love an old fashioned number 9 up top and Kane already appears to be the next one to fit that bill if his performances for club and country so far are to be believed. With a strong Spurs contingent behind him, you already feel this tournament could well be made for Kane to make himself an English legend already at such a tender age.


Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku has really made a name for himself already in the English game. His performances this year in a stuttering Everton side have been nothing short of exceptional at times. Having watched him in the game against Bournemouth, it’s very rare for such a young player to have the intelligence and confidence that the big man possesses. Belgium undoubtably dissapointed at the World Cup in Brazil so when you combine the desire to right a few wrongs with the experience and development in Lukaku’s game, I feel this could be a massive tournament for the big Belgian. I’m aware he’s 23, but I feel this is the tournament where he really could prove he deserves the big move he’s been linked with this campaign.


Anthony Martial 

Having already proved a selection of doubters (including myself) wrong following his big money move to the red side of Manchester last year – Martial could well hit the next level on home soil in the Euros. With Karim Benzema ruled out not through injury but through a series of legal misdemeanors – the stage may well be set for Martial to be the main man for the host nation. Under the assumption Mourinho will have huge funds to improve his new United squad, Martial will no doubt be keen to prove his worth to the Special One.




England Squad Reaction

Earlier today, Roy Hodgson finally announced his final selection of players who’ll represent the country in the forthcoming Euros. A lot of opinion has been circulating across social media and if the reaction is to be believed, it’s the worst ever decision in the history of human civilisation, managing to overtake the decision of the German people to elect a new chancellor in 1933. Has Roy lost the plot? Has he made the right decision? For me, it is the latter. Here is why.

The first selection issue that has aggravated a selection of supporters is the exclusion of Danny Drinkwater. The main argument for his inclusion for most people is his exceptional season for the Champions Leicester. Jack Wilshere has been included and Drinkwater has been dropped, and for me that is the right decision for a selection of reasons. Firstly, natural talent. Jack Wilshere does apparently have knees made of soggy Weetabix and ankles made of glass but on his day you’d have to go a long way to find a more naturally talented central midfielder than him. I voiced my opposition to the suggestion of his inclusion whilst he was unfit. However he seems to have got over the injuries that have plagued him this year. He’s been more consistent in the warm up games and has looked like his old self. An interesting point I saw earlier on Twitter is this: can you see Robert Huth being included in the German squad over Mats Hummels because of one exceptional season? When you take this into consideration, his inclusion does seem a lot more reasonable. In fact if anyone deserved to be dropped for Drinkwater I’d cast my vote for either Lallana or Henderson. Each of whom have hardly set the squad alight in the last couple of games (incidentally neither has Drinkwater.)

The second major story is the inclusion of both Sturridge and Rashford. Again, I’d agree with this decision from Roy. I’ve explained in previous posts why I think Rashford is worth the risk ( and again for me Sturridge fully fit is a huge threat going forward. Fitness is always an issue, but you just have to look at the goal Sturridge managed to bag in the Europa League final. Not many people in English football could have not only the audacity but also skill to score a goal of that calibre. A lot of people have argued that Michail Antonio could have been taken instead of one of these players. I agree Antonio has had a truly exceptional season. But unfortunately for him Hodgson doesn’t play a wide formation normally, and thus selecting Antonio may have been a bit of a waste of a space. Certainly I can see Antonio being in Hodgson’s plans after the Euros, but you can’t really change your tactics to accomondate a single player so for me – good call Roy.

The last question really is the midfield. Although no inclusions aside from the one in the first paragraph have been raised you do have to wonder how we will line up in the centre of the park. For me you do have to have Wayne Rooney in the middle of the park. His experience and quality is obvious to me and anyone who believes he’s not a threat any more for me is incorrect. I think Eric Dier has to be in there to provide the steel protecting the somewhat questionable back four. I’d then have Jack Wilshere (fitness dependent) alongside Rooney in the centre of the park – and then Dele Alli in the number 10. Alli for me provides a freedom and creativity we haven’t had at such a tender age for a fair number of years. Not to mention Alli has already established a fantastic link with Harry Kane, who I’d hope will be our main man in France.

That’s all from me today – expect a lot more posts in the coming weeks ahead of the big kick off. COME ON ENGLAND!



Is it all doom and gloom?

Arguably, we’re currently undergoing one of the most unstable transitions in recent memory. Stability and optimism seems to be an all too distant thing of the past. Take one look at the #readingfc hashtag on twitter and if you don’t feel like having a stiff drink by the time you’ve read 20 tweets then you’re a stronger person than me. Just in case there haven’t been enough people commenting on the current state of the club, I’m going to give it a go.

Where else to start than Brian McDermott. It’s a tough one with Brian, if you take a step back you can understand both perspectives from supporters. Some believe it’s a result business and Brian hadn’t delivered and other (like me) felt we should have given him more time. If you’re going to bring in a manager in December when realistically we were already losing our grip on the play-off places and expect him to be able to motivate a team mostly made up of loan players – you’re asking too much in my opinion. I am of the opinion that we should have given him until around November. If we’d given him a transfer window to make the squad his own and he’d still not achieved the results then yeah, fair play, he deserved to be out of the job. We’ve been blessed at this club in recent years with success (for a club of our size) and unsurprisingly it has gone hand in hand with a stable setup. Continually chopping and changing hoping for an upturn in fortunes rarely works.

I do appreciate however the logic behind the decision. Bringing a new man in now gives a new approach ahead of the season. If we had persevered unsuccessfully with Brian and been in a situation in November where we were facing another meaningless end to a season – not many people will have been happy. However, Brian wasn’t given the resources to turn things around in the small amount of time he was given. Why bring someone to the club half way through a campaign, not give him any money in January, and then get rid of him at the end of the campaign? Why even appoint him in the first place if this was the plan? Whether it was a mistake or not – hindsight is a wonderful thing. It certainly did more harm than good that’s one thing we can all see now.

Time to have a look at everyone’s favourite people at the moment – the owners. Cynicism and Reading Football Club go hand in hand. I wonder if our fans were so unbearably depressing and cynical back in the late 19th century? I can almost envisage the first ever game at Elm Park being criticised for one reason or another. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the Thais, but I do feel some of the stick they’ve received doesn’t actually make much sense. The first of which is where is the investment? Well, last year, look at the calibre of players we brought in on loan. Who pays those big wages? Hmm, I wonder. I don’t recall them receiving any criticism when John, Piazon and Vydra were all signed in a small space of time. Funny that. Vydra was a huge disappointment agreed – but how can that be the owners fault? They had the ambition to fork out £2.5m to bring him in on loan – a slightly odd decision, but not one you can use to talk about the lack of investment they’ve put in. They certainly aren’t perfect, but criticising the signings made under their reign seems bizarre considering how happy we all were to see some of the names we had brought in before last year.

My last slight qualm I have with some of our supporters is complaining that we’re already NAILED ON FOR RELEGATION OH MY GOD WE HAVE SUCH A TERRIBLE SQUAD. Take a step back and look at our side. They ALL underperformed last year without doubt, perhaps with the exception of Ali Al-Habsi. But I do genuinely believe we have a basis of a very good side. Quinn, Mcshane, Williams, Obita, Gunter, Al Habsi, McCleary are just some of the players who I think would make it into a lot of squads in this league. Under the right management with a few more smart additions, especially up top, we don’t actually have the worst squad the world has ever seen, contrary to common opinion amongst some of our supporters.

This summer is definitely one of massive transition, and it is slightly worrying seeing the mass exodus of staff especially. I do think if we all just take a deep breath though, and not be drawn into the mass hysteria on social media (that I’ve definitely been guilty of as times) we might just be okay next year.

Why Rashford *MAY* be worth the risk.

With the European Championships fast approaching, speculation is beginning to grow about who is going to fill those spaces on the short flight to France. One name that seems to be popping up more and more is that of youngster Marcus Rashford. Should he really be taken to the Euros at such a tender age however? Well – the jury seems out on that issue, however if he manages to get a couple more in the remaining games – here are 3 reasons why I’d CONSIDER taking him.


You’d of thought that at the moment, most people would have three forwards already in their minds for who they’d select for the Tournament. Vardy and Kane seem certainties, and Daniel Sturridge seems to have overcome persistent injury issues for the moment and appears to be playing much like his old self. The last place on the plane is one of debate. The main player who seems to dividing opinion is all-time record goalscorer Wayne Rooney. Would I take Wayne? Well, it’s all dependent for me on how he finishes the season. You cannot criticize his record for the national side, or for United for that matter – but is “reputation” enough to go by? For me, it has to be combined with current form and how he’d fit into the squad. Rooney wouldn’t be the sort of player you’d want to come off the bench to make an impact – he simply isn’t that sort of player. Rashford’s energy and style of play would suit being an ‘impact’ player more effectively. As for Danny Welbeck – I’m sorry, but he hasn’t done enough this campaign for one reason or another to take. I know his record for England is very respectable, but you can’t take him based on that alone.

2 – “Bursting” onto the scene

When you look at some of England’s most successful strikers in the last 15-20 years, two of those really made their name at a tender age in a big international tournament. Michael Owen terrorised defences in the 1998 World Cup, and only an unfortunate injury stopped Wayne Rooney in his tracks at the Euros 12 years ago. Rashford has that opportunity this year. He doesn’t seem intimidated by the big stage, he has similar confidence levels to the aforementioned players – and given he’d probably be fourth choice striker, pressure on him wouldn’t be too overbearing. He’s definitely a player for the future, should he keep up the form he’s shown so far in his United career, but why not give him a go to demonstrate his potential? He’d certainly play with a lot more freedom than Rooney for example, who’s performances at major tournaments is always scrutinized beyond belief. Rashford could give it his best shot, knowing full well the expectation will be on others to get the goals for the side.

3 – Quality

Contrary to the more cynical footballing supporters, I genuinely believe Marcus Rashford does have a natural ability and eye for goal that could well be developed with good management to make him a top class player. His strike against West Ham in the FA Cup showed not only his self belief to attempt it in the first place, but also genuine striking ability to finish with such class. One or two goals can be seen as a flash in a pan, but the consistent high level of goals he’s scored so far could well be rewarded with an England call up. One thing is for certain, if his call up for the Euros isn’t – and that is his ability to be in the right place at the right time, his ability to run and finish and a run of form he’s shown since his first call up – is no accident. I’m not trying to say he’s the best thing since.. Well, Harry Kane? But I do believe he’s shown excellent ability so far – and I can’t see how you’d call up Welbeck or Rooney over him BASED ON CURRENT FORM.

The question on everyone’s lips is whether Roy Hodgson will indeed pick a player based on form or on proven ability. If it was form, Rashford should be in the squad. However, given the fact Hodgson has hinted his hope that Jack Wilshere will be fit for the tournament, I’d expect it to be on reputation. If he doesn’t get the call up, a follow up of this run of form next season may well build up his reputation so even Roy can’t ignore him for Welbeck.



Football’s Greatest Mavericks.

Football has had a fair share of mavericks in its long and illustrious past. Players who excite and frustrate in equal measure, players who never reach their full potential for one reason or another, and players who are simply unmanageable. Whether their performances aren’t worth making the back pages, sometimes their lives are worthy of the front pages. Who are football’s best “mavericks” however? Here’s some of the best, in no particular order. Enjoy.
George Best
Where else to start? George Best was a man who was a new breed of footballer back in the 60s. He had everything, and boy did he like to celebrate it. Blessed with charm, wit and good looks combined with a love of entertaining and incredible natural ability, Best was a character always destined to catch the eye of anyone lucky enough to have seen the genius at work. Unfortunately his demons took control eventually, leading to his premature death at the age of 59. However, George Best invented the footballing maverick. You’d do well to find anyone who’d of preferred him any other way.
Diego Maradona
Alright, so the bloke was a cheat. Lets just get that out the way for starters. His handball against the mighty English in the World Cup was possibly the most unjust event in the history of human civilization, but hey.. I’m not bitter. You do just have to take one glance at the goal Maradona scored four minutes after the famous “Hand of God” goal to see why he’s so well regarded. Incredible close control, speed, flair and technique combined with confidence in his incredible natural ability. Off the field issues, most notably his enjoyment of a certain powder, led to the gradual deterioration of the master’s career, however on his day I’d argue only two players have ever reached and surpassed his level. Fair play Diego, you weren’t half bad really. Even if you cheated.
Paul Gascoigne 
One of English football’s most popular players, Gazza had everything you’d expect someone who’ve found their way onto this list to have. A hugely loved players amongst supporters for his passionate displays whilst he donned the Three Lions jersey (none more so than his reaction to a booking in the semi final in 1990.) His love of the nightlife throughout his career did see him appear on numerous front pages during his time at the top. Unfortunately, it appears Gazza is still struggling with alcoholism in 2016, with more stories beginning to circulate documenting his struggles on the rocky road to recovery. I’m sure football fans not just in England but around the world will be hoping he returns to full health as soon as possible.
Mario Balotelli
Well, it seems we’ve already ran out of popular mavericks in this list. Mario Balotelli is a player with undoubtable quality, as he has demonstrated at points throughout his career. Despite this, Mario’s career is definitely at risk of crumbling should he not improve his attitude. The last two years for example, his maiden season at Liverpool and loan spell at AC Milan have been.. Well, how can I put this? Shite. That’ll do. A man who’s previously thrown darts at youth players, donated £100s to homeless people, gatecrashed a female prison, lit a firework in his bathroom or struggled to put a bib on definitely needs to get back on the straight and narrow should he wish to get his career back on track.
Rene Higuita
This bloke was, no matter how you look at it, a proper bloody lunatic. When a players most notable footballing memory is a completely unexpected scorpion kick at Wembley, you know you’ve left an odd imprint on the footballing world. Still, you think that was strange. Higuita spent time in prison in 1993 for his involvement in a kidnapping, and was involved in cocaine trafficking alongside notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar. The chap was mad sober on the pitch, imagine if he’d had a line or two before getting between the sticks?! Scary, scary prospect.
Len Shackleton 
One of the earliest “entertainers” of football, Len Shackleton certainly had a personality about him. He wasn’t a poor player however, he netted six times on his debut for Newcastle. However his antics whilst he was playing were what he was well remembered for. Some of his most notable actions include combing his hair mid game, playing a series of one-twos with the corner flag and sitting on the ball during the game. His approach to football, slightly unprofessional shall we say, did restrict his national appearances to just six.
Vinnie Jones
Perhaps not one of the most memorable of “mavericks”, and no where near in the same bracket as some of the players on this list, but his love for hurting opponents as much as possible was truly admirable to lovers of violent football. Whether it was having a cheeky touch of Gazza, or this tackle..
And what a tackle that was. No booking, either.
Jose Luis Chilavert
To be fair, I think my favorite aspect about this chap is how strangely satisfying his name is to say. Try it. Anyway, the Paraguayan keeper graced the South American football scene for around 20 years, finally retiring in 2004. Although not much of those two sentences have provided much insight into why he’s made this list, admittedly. Well, Jose managed to find the net 58 times in the space of his club career, as well as 8 times for his country. Not bad, to be fair.
Apologies if I have missed anyone out – I’m sure I probably have. Hey ho.

The good, the bad and the ugly. 15/2

Hello one and all, it’s that time of the week again. The good, the bad and the ugly of the week. Last week’s installment went down well so fingers crossed you all enjoy this weeks. Without further ado.. here we are!


Bayern Munich

Guess what. That little old team from Germany had a good game again. What is special about I hear you ask? Well, by anyone’s standards, an 8-0 victory is pretty damn impressive. Bayern managed to dismantle Hamburg without even breaking into a sweat. The result certainly will strike fear into their counterparts at the top of the Bundesliga and the whole of European football (especially with the Champions League resuming this coming week.) Bayern are now 8 points clear at the top of the table and it’d take a brave man to suggest they won’t be there at the end of the year.

West Brom

West Brom vs West Ham. It wasn’t perhaps the draw for the fifth round that either of the sides desired, but both would have genuinely believed that they had a chance of progressing into the last 8 of the tournament. Fortunately for the Baggies, their opponents didn’t particularly fancy turning up for this tie and the Midland side progressed into the quarters of the competition without any real problems. The West Ham owners later apologised for their sides dismal showing at the Hawthorns, but take nothing away from the hosts, they were absolutely fantastic is taking the visitors to the cleaners. One defeat in eight now for the Baggies who go from strength to strength under their new boss.

Bas Dost

Firstly.. This chap is a man I’ve not heard a huge amount about but you know he has to be a good player based on his name alone. The Wolfsburg forward notched 4 goals in his sides 5-4 win over Bayer Leverkusen. Not only was the game a fantastic encounter, it was always destined for a dramatic finale. Bas Dost appeared destined to write the headlines and did exactly that with a last minute winner to add to his already impressive hat trick and gave the home side the win. The Bundesliga has received an awful lot of nice press recently and games/individual performances like this only added to the reputation.


John Joe O’Toole

Okay, I get it, you may be wondering slightly why a League 2 player is top of this list. One of my favourite stories of the week, however not one that any of the participants would be too happy about shall we say. More than 1000 visiting supporters game to support their side and for some reason decided to don outfits in tribute to John Joe O’Toole. Perhaps O’Toole thought that the costumes were not complimentary so he decided to get himself sent off before half time after lashing out at Mansfield’s Ritchie Sutton. Strange one this for many reasons.


Ahh PSG. Who doesn’t love a club who have really come to the forefront of European football because of money contributed from wealthy foreign investors? Don’t answer that. 2-0 at home in the 87th minute to comparative minnows Caen, the person who runs the PSG Twitter account decided to take a little jab at a certain Premiership manager. This went fantastically, as the visitors somehow managed to pull two goals out the bag and came away from the capital with a point. Good job. (See tweets below.)

Stephen Warnock

What do you really want to do when you make your debut for a new club? Hmm, probably the last on that list is a red card. Well former Leeds United man Stephen Warnock managed to get himself sent off before the half time interval in his sides FA Cup clash with Reading, who went on to win the tie and progress into the last eight of the competition.


Stoke fans

Okay so your side is 4-1 down at lower league opposition in the last sixteen of the FA Cup. So what do you do? Well, reports from the game suggest that the Stoke City fans weren’t amused at their teams performance so decided to take out their frustration by trying to beat each other up. Wise idea? No. Not really, 5 arrests were made and thousands of Stoke City supporters may not ever want to see Ewood Park again.

Blackpool’s pitch

So Blackpool have had an absolute nightmare of a season. This is as well documented as Katie Price’s love life. If a pitch could sum up their season it would be the one in which an epic encounter between Pool and Forest which ended 4-4 was played on. Okay, so the game was absolutely fantastic, but the pitch most certainly was not. Check below.

Borussia Moenchengladbach’ fans.

Incredibly strange on this. Pitch invaders came onto the pitch after setting of flares in their enclosure and all in all caused bedlam in the fixture on the weekend. I’ll let you check out the images here, but they really won’t be what you expect. Enjoy:

Check last week’s selection out here.

My midweek tips. 10/2

Where is the best value if you’re fancying a midweek flutter? Below I’ve posted my three tips for tonight. A ‘banker’ which I believe has a real chance of winning, a ‘longshot’ which is self explanatory and a both teams to score accumulator.


Blackpool vs Middlesbrough – AWAY WIN

Boro have won 5 in a row and are unbeaten in their last 9, a run which has seen a fair few impressive scalps along the way.. Manchester City to name just one. Blackpool have lost three of their last four and the turmoil off the pitch doesn’t seem to be lifting. I can see Boro picking up all three points at a canter.

Bristol City vs Port Vale – HOME WIN

Bristol City’s good form has seen them rise to the top of the table with a game in hand over the nearest challengers Swindon. They come up against a Port Vale side who managed a late draw against Sheffield United on the weekend. I can’t see Port Vale being good enough to trouble the table-toppers.

Burton vs AFC Wimbedon – HOME WIN

The league’s top side come up against AFC Wimbledon tonight and both teams realistically have vastly different aspirations for the remainder of the season. Both sides are weaker due to injury, but you can never look to bet against the top team at home.

Luton vs York – HOME WIN

York supporters were not shy on the weekend to voice their displeasure at the performance of their struggling side, and the side they face tonight could keep the pressure up on the top three. Luton currently sit four points away from the top three with a game in hand. Massive game.

Southend vs Cheltenham HOME WIN

The Essex side come into the fixture tonight sitting 17 places above the side they host tonight, with a goal difference that is 20 better than tonights opponents. At this stage of the season, momentum and consistency are all important, and Southend need to keep this pressure up on the top sides with a win.

£10 returns £150 / £25 returns £375


Bournemouth vs Derby YES

Both high flyers will look to get at eachother in search for a positive result, as such you can’t see this being a cagey affair based on the styles of play of both sides.

Brentford vs Watford – YES

As above, both sides will fancy their chances in this fierce clash. The atmosphere is sure to be rocking and positive, attacking football has been the mantra of both the sides all season.

Reading vs Leeds – NO

Historically, this game has been won either by the odd goal or the spoils shared without any. It’s not normally a hugely attacking affair, and with Reading’s recent resurgence and Leeds stuttering inconsistency, the away side may set up for a draw as opposed to trying to win the game. The Royals have been tight at the back of late also.

Cardiff vs Brighton – NO

Both sides share identical records and have lost four of their last five, Cardiff drew the other whereas Brighton won the other. I think the fear of slipping down the table may be all to real for both sides, despite both having aspirations to be pushing for a promotion chasing finish. I can’t see either wanting to lose, which I believe will lead to a cagey affair.

Luton vs York – NO

York’s awful form, and Luton’s positive form I believe will result in a very one-sided affair. York’s player and fan confidence is at a very low point, and the long trip down south won’t be too appealing for many. I simply can’t see this York side making any sort of implementation on the game.

 £10 returns £165


  • Birmingham vs Millwall HOME WIN
  • Charlton vs Norwich AWAY WIN
  • Reading vs Leeds HOME WIN
  • Sheffield United vs Colchester HOME WIN
  • Wycombe vs Plymouth HOME WIN
  • Carlisle vs Shrewsbury AWAY WIN
  • Newport vs Tranmere HOME WIN

£5 returns £400