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.

1 – OTHER OPTIONS

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.

 

 

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Ballon D’Or Reaction

So Cristiano Ronaldo has won the most prestigious award in the footballing world. Congratulations to Ronaldo, thoroughly deserved. I don’t think many people will see this award as a surprise but some of the awards ceremony raised some eyebrows. Some of the omissions into the team of the year are utterly bewildering to say the least, I’m going to go through a couple of these.. You lucky lucky people.

Firstly, the defence. Now obviously FIFA are the governing body of world football and as such have fantastic judgement on the best players in the world. BUT DAVID LUIZ?! Excuse me. David Luiz? This man is an incredibly unpredictable centre back and at times arguably is erratic. He did have one particularly good moment, a wonder free kick at an incredibly important time of Brazil’s World Cup campaign. This however was equaled out by a less than convincing performance to say the least against the Germans in the World Cup semi final (which is being incredibly kind.) Silva’s inclusion in the squad is a little less questionable but other player’s could have more than easily gotten a place over Silva (Godin and Hummels to name two of these.)

In the midfield, Angel Di Maria joins Toni Kroos and Andres Iniesta. Kroos has had a fantastic year and his inclusion hasn’t raised a huge number of alarm bells. Di Maria was instrumental in the second half of Real Madrid’s campaign last year, and Iniesta has been a man who has always shown class and skill in his game. Di Maria has however not had the best of starts to his Manchester United career. He hasn’t been poor by any stretch of the imagination, but it may not have been what United fans expected for £65 million and one of the world’s 3 best midfielder (supposedly.) Only 3 goals and no major honours for Iniesta makes you somewhat question his inclusion. Who could have been more suited to these positions? Well, I think Hazard may have been a deserved inclusion based on his performances, and Paul Pogba also enjoyed a fantastic 2014. These two could have got in.

The three forwards include the two best players in the world without a question in Ronaldo and Messi. Arjen Robben is certainly up there with the world’s best and I think his inclusion didn’t raise that many arguments considering his contribution to his club and national sides. He could have been replaced however by Aguero, Bale or even Ibrahimovic without huge controversy. All could make a case for a deserved inclusion.

Two particularly interesting things that have come out of the awards ceremony are the worrying signs around our national team manager and also the alarming exclusion of any Athletico Madrid players/management. Madrid did fantastically to break the domination of the other side from the capital and the Catalonians. Simeone could have easily won the coach of the year award for that alone. No players from this successful side made it into the team of the year and only Courtois, a now Chelsea player, made it into the reserve team of the year. This is a shambolic response from FIFA to Athletico’s wonderful year. Hodgson also voted for his world player of the year as Javier Mascherano. I’ll leave you all to to make you’re own opinions on this matter, but it’s safe to say I think it’s an absolute farce of an opinion. Each to their own and all that.

This seasons most underrated stars.

Hello everyone! I hope you’re well. This is my first post for a few days because, unless you’ve been living under a rock, there was a certain day that fell a couple of days ago which you’ll be fully aware of. I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas and are continuing to enjoy the festive period as much as I am.

Soppiness aside, let’s talk about this blog. Following the boxing day football, I noticed a number of players really haven’t been getting the recognition they deserve this year. Therefore, I felt a blog post was in order on this topic. Here is my top 5 unsung heroes of the season so far in the Premiership in no particular order.

Nemanja Matic

In a Chelsea side who appear to be blowing away all in their path so far this season, it is very hard to pick out one individual star. Hazard and Costa appear to claim most of the plaudits and for good reason, they’ve been absolutely outstanding all year. However one man who I don’t feel has got the recognition of some of his peers is Nemanja Matic. I think Matic has been one of the stand out players for the club this year, and is so much more than a player who breaks up play. He has a fantastic engine in him, his tackling is up there with the best in the league and he sure can place a pass or two. He may not be in the most glamorous positions on the pitch but my oh my, Mourinho’s team are a much better side with the Serbian on the pitch.

Jose Fonte

Everyone has been surprised by two teams this year, and one of them are Southampton. Given how little were expected of the Saints in comparison to how they are now performing, you could make a case for a host of Saints players to be included in this list. One man who I think deserves his place more than anyone arguably is Jose Fonte. At the heart of a defence who have been rather consistent throughout the year Jose Fonte has proved himself as a more than effective centre back in the whole which was left by Dejan Lovren. Fonte has demonstrated great athleticism, tackling, leadership and agility in the heart of the defence throughout the year and that’s why I’ve included him in this list.

Gylfi Sigurdsson 

There has been a fair bit of discussion about the Icelandic midfielder but I think even despite this he hasn’t got the credit he deserves. Okay, so he is the star man of the team admittedly. But you cannot take away what Gylfi brings to the Welsh side. Linking up brilliantly with Bony up top contributing with nearly double figures in terms of assists. He also brings a real shooting prowess to the team, demonstrating but some of his sumptuous free kicks which have contributed to his handful of goals this year. You just have to look where Swansea finished and how they were performing last year, you can see just how much Gyfli gives to the Swansea starting eleven.

Aaron Cresswell

It is never easy to make the step up from the Championship to the Premiership but a man who has made this transition almost seamlessly is West Ham full back Aaron Cresswell. Much has been said about West Ham’s brilliant start to the season and a man who I think sums it up is Cresswell. Perhaps not the most glamorous of players in one of the least glamorous  positions on the pitch who has been quietly and efficiently going about his work in an effective manner. Solid at the back and a real alternative option going forward, Cresswell should be very pleased at how he has performed at the start of his top flight career.

Michael Carrick

Last on my list is Michael Carrick. It cannot be considered a coincidence that Carrick has returned from injury just over a month ago and the Red Devils have won 7 out of there last 8 goals looking considerably better at the back despite the lack of experience in the defensive areas. Carrick has been a quietly calming influence and has continued the form that has surrounded him for most of his career. Never one to set the world alight and claim all the headlines, Carrick has been hugely impressive wherever he has been asked to play. One stat that really sums up this is Carrick has a passing completion ratio of over 90% despite playing in a whole host of different positions.

TOP 5 – Premiership’s best ever defenders.

Good evening all. This post will be a bit smaller than previous ones in this set of posts, I’m on a pretty tight schedule today so I still want to get one out there for everyone. Introduction done. Relax.

I’ve previously done a top 5 of strikers and midfielders in the history of the Premiership, why not add to it with the top 5 defenders to grace the top tier of English football. As always, longevity and loyalty is taken into account when compiling this lists. An example of an ommission from this list is Vincent Kompany. A fantastic player, but one who hasn’t played long enough in the top tier to be considered for the top 5. Here are my top 5.

5) Jamie Carragher

Number 5 in my list and one of the finest examples of a 1 club man to exist in the Premiership era. Scouse born and bred Jamie Carragher may not have ever won a League title, but his contribution to the Liverpool side he played in cannot be understated. 737 appearances in the red shirt, 150 of which in Europe, Carragher’s love for the club was epitomized in his rugged and passionate play on the pitch. When you ask a football fan what they want most in their team are players who give everything for the shirt. Carragher never gave anything less than 110% and although his technical ability wasn’t the highest, this was more than made up for with his love for the jersey he represented. Grace and flair Carragher lacked, but good old fashion passion (rolls right off the tongue) Carra had in abundance.

4) Tony Adams

An Arsenal legend for the 22 years of service he gave to the North London club and was well renowned and adored by the Arsenal supporters for the determined nature of his leadership. Adams was in integral part of four Premiership titles, three FA Cups and two League cups not to mention a European title in the Cup Winners Cup. Although his record during his time at Arsenal was impecable, much of his success came before the formation of the Premiership as we know it today. He doesn’t get higher in my list for that reason, nevertheless Adam’s is a man who will always be held in the highest regard from all Arsenal supporters.

3) Rio Ferdinand

Coming in at number 3 on the list is the man who broke the British transfer record and who’s service to Manchester United proved he was worth every penny. A man who has won everything there is to win in English and indeed European football, this athletic giant of a man was stalwart in the United team throughout the noughties.  Between him and Nemanja Vidic United had arguably the best defensive pairing in the history of the league which led in no small part to their hugely successful period together at the club. A man who has matured into a like able figure on and off the pitch will always be looked upon with fondness from the United supporters and a well deserved 3rd position in my list.

2) John Terry

Love him or loath him, there is no way even the most oppositional football supporter can question the talents of JT. Personally I see him as the finest English centre back I have seen in my lifetime with qualities that bode well for any English defender. Terry is a man who has never given less than everything for the cause, a hugely proud and passionate man who’s drive and determination to succeed is matched by sheer skill. A real rock at the back who’s leadership has not only served Chelsea well over the years but has also helped bring through some of the younger players and matured them, most notably Gary Cahill. A controversial man who’s position on this list is far from controversial, a well deserved second for JT.. As much as it pains me to say it.

1) Nemanja Vidic 

Top of my list is the man mountain himself, Nemanja Vidic. 8 hugely successful years for the big man led to United supporters dedicating a rather fitting tribute in the form of a song.

Nemanja woooah, Nemanja woooah, he comes from Serbia, he’ll f***ing murder ya!

The song is a fitting tribute to Vidic who was often praised for his old fashioned style of play. He put his body on the line every time he crossed that white line for United and rarely put a foot wrong in the heart of the United back line. At £7 million it is hard to believe such a legend was formed from such a small price tag but Vidic developed into almost the perfect centre back. Strong, fast, tactically brilliant, positionally always spot on, hard and all in all a man no centre back enjoyed playing against. He won countless trophies with United and deserves all the plaudits offered to him. Well done Nemanja.

See more..

Top 5 strikers and midfielders

TOP 5 – Premiership’s best ever midfielders.

After I complied a list of the top 5 strikers in the Premiership era yesterday, I thought it apt to continue this trend with midfielders today. This list counts down the 5 best midfielders in the history of the league, it should be noted that some omissions may be surprising. I feel it important to take into account consistency and longevity at the highest level, therefore I’ve picked the following players.

5 – Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard has quite simply given his life to Liverpool football club. He is a red through and through and since his debut in 1998 has made a staggering 488 appearances for the Merseyside outfit scoring 114 goals in the process. Not only should the loyalty of this man be applauded, Gerrard has almost single handedly at points guided Liverpool to winning games through his passion, drive and will to win for the club he loves best. Okay, one trophy has particularly eluded him, the Premier league title. This will be a source undoubtedly of great frustration for Stevie G who looks doubtful at the moment to ever have the chance to win the league. His career shouldn’t be determined by this however. Whether it is the thunderbolt against West Ham to keep Liverpool in the FA Cup final or his header in Istanbul to drive Liverpool onto their fifth European title, this one club man has given everything for his beloved Reds and has done so with a typical determination. A legend of the Premiership and a legend of the Kop.

4 – Roy Keane

Roy Keane is a man who still divides opinion throughout the footballing community. During his career he was famed for dressing room bust-up’s, over enthusiastic tackling and a spat with a certain Patrick Vieira. Controversy aside however, in their was a fantastic footballer. Keane was a man who’s play was exemplified through the manner in which he wore his heart upon his sleeve which led to a unique style of leadership. Between him barking orders on the field and the risk of a Fergie hairdryer, United players never had anywhere to hide during his time as skipper. This played a vital part in the success Keane enjoyed, 7 league titles, 4 FA cups and a Champions League. Roy Keane is much like Marmite, love him or hate him, you can’t argue with the achievements the Irishman enjoyed.

3 – Patrick Vieira

One of the most elegant midfielders that the Premiership has ever seen and one of the most skilled and indeed successful. A powerful midfielder with a fantastic array of passing complimented by strong leadership and a steely determination epitomized with fantastic tackling abilities. Vieira led Arsenal to an array of silverware, most notably leading the famous Invincibles to their league title in the 2003-2004 season. Hardly prolific in the goal scoring regard, however with the teammates that he had alongside him he simply did not need to be. A fine career for club and country and a man who Arsenal fans would dream of having in their current team.

2 – Frank Lampard

Just missing out on the top spot in this list is the Romford born Frank Lampard, who is still performing in a way which has been so well recognizable throughout his career. Lampard enjoyed 13 years of success with Chelsea, leading to the current skipper John Terry describing Lampard as Chelsea’s ‘finest ever player.’ A man who’s attacking talents led him to regularly notching 2o goals plus a season. 175 goals (the same as Arsenal legend Thierry Henry) later and counting, Lampard has established himself in the hearts of most English footballing supporters, aside from those with allegiances to West Ham. I believe it was a mistake for Lampard to have been released in the summer by Chelsea especially considering the form he has started his Manchester City career in. One of the finest of his generation.

1 – Paul Scholes

Top of the list is the little magician himself, Paul Scholes. Despite being a man who never really was one to steal the headlines, and never really knowing how to go about a slide tackle, this man had it all. The best technically gifted midfielder that the Premiership has ever seen I believe. Effortless in his passing, industrious in his attitude and frightening in his shooting, especially from range. Scholesy has been described by Xavi as the finest of his generation, a huge compliment from a man who’s admitted to styling his play on the ginger magician. 11 Premiership medals, 2 Champions League’s and three FA Cups is a fantastic return for anyone, with Scholes being an integral part of the club throughout the massively successful period in the Red Devil’s history. The quiet master.

My top 5 Premier League strikers can be seen here.

TOP 5 – Premiership’s best ever strikers.

Following the unsurprising retirement of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry today, the footballing community has begun to look back at the wonderful career the Frenchman has enjoyed. Where does he stand on the list of the best Premiership strikers since it’s formation? The top 5 can be seen below. I must point out these players may not be as technically gifted as some omissions, such as Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero for example. Consistency, longevity and loyalty has been taken into account more than a couple of incredible seasons.

5 – Wayne Rooney

This man may raise a few eyebrows to get into the top 5 strikers in Premiership history. Wazza has been a man who has never been far away from the headlines for incidents on and off the pitch and for good and bad reasons. If you take into account however the goals Rooney has scored and the medals that he has won, I believe that he deserves his place. Rooney has already notched 161 goals in 313 games and has won a massive 5 league titles, as well as two league cups and a Champions league medal. Does he warrant a top 5 place? Yes. Not only for his goals, but the work that he has put in over the years for his teammates is truly admirable, as is the amount of times he has got United out of sticky situations. It is worth remembering also that Rooney has achieved all of this by the age of 29 and by the end of his career he may be higher up a similar list.

4 – Didier Drogba

A players loyalty can often be measured by the reception he gets from his own supporters. It is hard to overstate the regard in which Didier Drogba is held by the Stamford Bridge faithful. A recent poll with supporters revealed that the Ivorian is considered the clubs finest ever player, and he won almost everything possible with a club. Three league titles, four FA cups in which he got Chelsea’s winner in 3 finals and two league cups are a fantastic achievement for any player and indeed any club. Not only this, but the big man has already managed over a century of goals and counting. Drogba ensured a place in the hearts of all Blues supporters forever following the winning penalty in Munich in 2012 winning the club their first Champions League. A consistently high level of performance from the big man who bleeds blue warrants him a place in the top 5.

3 – Dennis Bergkamp

One of the most elegant forwards to ever grace the top flight of English football. Despite the fact the non-flying Dutchman only scored 87 goals in his time at Arsenal, the skill in which he went about his work was something truly staggering and a joy to watch. Dennis had fantastic grace and poise and was hugely unpredictable for defenders to try and deal with. He formed a somewhat unstoppable partnership with Thierry Henry and was a pivotal member of the Invicibles of 2003-04. He was also vital in both of Arsenal’s double winning campaigns and the performance of Bergkamp was effortlessly consistent for over a decade. A well deserved bronze medal for the highly regarded striker.

2 – Thierry Henry

Well, the man who inspired this article gets a silver medal. The compliments for this man would almost make a blog post all in itself, but Henry had everything during his time at Arsenal. A fantastic leader from the front, the Frenchman had a jaw-dropping array of skills. A man with rapid pace and close control up there with any of his predecessors and opponents, Henry could flick a switch and win games for Arsenal. He scored all sorts of goals, long distance thunderbolts, skillful tight finishes, solo goals, deadly one on one successes.. The list goes on. If you look at all of the silverware that was in no doubt down to due to the magnifique man himself. Club and country honours a-plenty, and a well deserved second place in my list. Enjoy your retirement, King Henry.

1 – Alan Shearer

For the number one spot, I believe it has to go to the man who sits at the top of the all time Premiership top scorers list with a staggering 260 goals. Despite perhaps the worst celebration in the history of the beautiful game, Shearer is the striker who I respect the most in the history of our great league. I respect him because the love he had for his boyhood club Newcastle United meant he picked them over the might of Manchester United. A fan become player is always a fairy tale but in this case, it really worked. Almost a 1 in 2 record for a club like Newcastle who with due respect weren’t really title contenders for long periods of Shearer’s spell with the Toon is remarkable. 112 in 138 games for Blackburn shouldn’t be forgotten either, nor should his fierce partnership with Chris Sutton which almost single-handedly fired Blackburn to the league title. A man who lived his dreams and performed exceptionally for the first 14 years of the Premiership gives him the deserved number one spot.

Premiership sack race – Who will be the first to leave their post this season?

The managerial dugout can be a lonely place when things are going pear shaped. As the Premiership approaches the busy festive period, the season somewhat surprisingly has been without a single managerial casualty so far. This is a refreshing trend admittedly, however I cannot see this trend lasting a great deal of time longer. Below I’ll consider who I think is the most likely to go, in descending order.

5th – Roberto Martinez

A controversial addition into the list but I think Martinez will be having a far from comfortable time of it at Goodison Park at this moment. The Toffees find themselves down in 13th position at the moment, after a brilliant season last year finishing in 5th position last season. Admittedly this is a position where some Premiership supporters would dream of, however the Goodison faith will not be pleased with the first 3 months of the season. Everton have been rather disappointing defensively this year, conceding an alarming 23 goals already this season, the same as the club in 19th position Hull City. The likelihood of Martinez leaving his post is very small, given the great league position of last year and good European form, but Martinez will hope for an upturn of fortune in the coming weeks.

Odds – 40/1

4th – Steve Bruce

Hull are currently sat firmly in the relegation zone with only Leicester below them and The Tigers boss has a every right to worry for the future of his club and his job. Only 2 wins and 15 goals from 16 games is a poor return for last years FA Cup finalists. The dreaded curse of the ‘second season syndrome’ appears to be rearing it’s ugly head once more with the mood around the KC Stadium being one of severe concern. Steve Bruce knows he does not have the biggest budget in the division and the smaller nature of the club makes it hard to attract the best players, but improvement from the season before is always a manager’s target. Improvement I believe was made over the summer, but on the pitch the changes have not really gelled to the extent the club’s supporters would have liked. The club have picked up a lot of draws this year, and have only lost one more than the high flying Saints, so this should ensure Bruce stays in his job for the foreseeable future, but the sooner the club emerges from it’s current poor run of form would be the better for all concerned.

Odds – 12/1

3rd – Alan Irvine

Alan Irvine gets an unwanted bronze on this list. West Brom have had a rather inconsistent start to the season and Irvine has been questioned by many supporters who don’t believe he is taking the club forward. Star man Saido Berahino has also had contract talks halted by the club and rightly or wrongly Irvine will be held responsible for this by some of the Hawthorns faithful. It is very hard to understand the issues that are going on off the field but Irvine as a manager has a responsibility to get the talk focused upon on field success. A win against local rivals Aston Villa yesterday was a massive result and has lifted some of the pressure off Irvine’s shoulders but he is not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination.

Odds – 13/2

2nd – Brendan Rogers

Lots has been said throughout the footballing world of Liverpool’s disastrous start to the season, which has led to question marks hanging over the head of boss Brendan Rogers. A poor summer transfer window has been matched with questionable tactics and team selection all of which have contributed to the Merseyside men being a shadow of their former self from last season. The belief that Rogers is not the right man for the job is one that worryingly for the man himself is starting to grow throughout the club’s supporters and the broader footballing public. Defeat to arch rivals Manchester United made matters dramatically worse, with the team never really looking up to speed with the Red Devils. An exit from the League Cup to the hands of Bournemouth on Wednesday could be another nail in the hypothetical coffin for the Northern Irish manager, who knows his team needs to improve drastically to convince he is the right man to lead the club.

Odds – 5/2

1st – Nigel Pearson

This will be a decision that won’t be a hugely surprising one to many supporters. Leicester sit 5 points from safety at the bottom of the table having won only 2 games all season, one of which being at their own stadium. For promoted clubs, six pointers are something that are regularly mentioned. The Foxes have not won any of these and the failure to make their home a fortress is definitely an understatement. Not only are the team failing to perform to the standards that supporters crave, but when your manager tells a supporter to, in no uncertain terms, “F*** off and die” you know you are in a bad way. The simple fact of the matter is Leicester have not had a bright run of form since the start of the season and they are already written off by many as relegation certainties. Could the only way to change this be a change in the dugout? We will wait and see.

Odds – 5/4