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Category: Football

Cruyff, The Player: A Tribute

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“In a way I’m probably immortal.” – Johan Cruyff (1947-2016)

Today is a sad day, today we lost one of the true legends of our beautiful game, Hendrik Johannes Cruyff. Now I’m no football journalist, I write this unapologetically as a fan and Cruyff was archetypal in transforming football into the game it is today, and the game I fell in love with as a young kid. I have decided to split this piece into two parts, one focusing on Cruyff as a genius player, another on Cruyff’s mercurial managerial career. It is not an overstatement to say that in terms of influence on football, no one will ever again match Cruyff. The ideas and beliefs he introduced to the sport, the philosophy he made possible as a player, then perfected as a manager, “Total Football” is the foundation of some of the greatest sides of history, his followers include the greatest managers of our time, Guardiola, Wenger and his influence has spread to every corner of the world. Any team that plays a possession based, fluid, interchangeable system, is a disciple of Cruyff. Far more than a great player, he was the closest this sport has to a prophet, a role he didn’t shy away from as demonstrated by some of his philosophical musings:

“Playing football is very simple but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is”

“If I wanted you to understand, I would have explained it better”

“The most difficult thing about an easy match is to make a weak opponent play bad football”

“Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1000 times. Anyone can do that by practising. Then you can work in the circus. Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right foot of your team mate”

“Football is a game of mistakes. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes wins.”

“Every trainer talks about movement, about running a lot. I say don’t run so much. Football is a game you play with your brain. You have to be in the right place at the right moment, not too early, not too late.”

“Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring”

“It’s better to go down with your own vision than with someone else’s”

Cruyff began his career at Ajax, before Cruyff a relatively unknown club in Amsterdam. After Cruyff one of Europe’s greatest ever clubs. Cruyff did that. Cruyff became a regular for Ajax in 1965 under Rinus Michels, a revolutionary manager who pioneered an idea that was later to be known as Total Football, the idea was that rather than every player play a very fixed, rigid position as was commonplace at the time, he believed that the team should be fluid, they should switch and interchange, if the right back bombed forward, someone should fill his place etc. In Cruyff, Michels had the perfect player to orchestrate his ideas, while Michels preached Total Football in the dressing room, it was Cruyff that would literally conduct the players on the field, blessed with a football brain and intellect that was second to none, his vision was such that he could almost see moves before they happened, he was truly remarkable. With Cruyff on the field, and Michels in the dugout, Ajax became dominant at home, winning 4 out of 5 Eredivisies between 1965 and 1970, then in 1971 Total Football won Ajax the ultimate prize in club football, the European Cup, easing past Panathinaikos 2-0 at Wembley. After taking Ajax to the very pinnacle, Michels moved on to Barca. Cruyff was to stay for a bit longer.

It was early that very same 70-71 season that Cruyff would first wear his famed no 14 shirt, on the 30th October 1970, Cruyff lent his teammate his no 9 shirt and pulled a no 14 out of the spare shirt bucket. Ajax beat PSV 1-0, and superstitious Cruyff insisted on the side keeping the same numbers next game, much to the dismay of the Dutch FA, who had previously stipulated starting 11s must wear 1-11. Cruyff got his way however and the affair was symptomatic of Cruyff’s turbulent relationship with authority. He was an arrogant egotist, but he was also more often than not right, and a genius to boot. Cruyff was a innovator destined to smash the established order to smithereens. He was before his time. A trailblazer. It is no surprise he would go on to boss things. His influence on the game was taking shape.

Stefan Kovacs took over from Michels at Ajax and continued his Total Football philosophy retaining the European Cup, in what was interpreted as a highly symbolic victory over Inter Milan. Journalists said Cruyff (now a Ballon D’Or winner) had single handedly ripped apart Inter in addition to scoring both goals and that Total Football had killed off Italy’s defensive catenaccio system. Ironically apart from the early 90s Milan side featuring Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard, Total Football never took hold in Italy as it did in other nations. This match however was a changing of the guard. Inter represented the past with their rigid, defensive, structured system. Cruyff with his long flowing locks and Ajax was the future with their attacking panache and fluid system. In 1973, Ajax made history by becoming only the second side in history (after Real Madrid) to win 3 consecutive European Cups (beating Juventus and young Dino Zoff in the final) sealing their place in history, as one of the greatest club sides ever. Early in 73-74 season Cruyff would take the next step in his career, Barcelona.

When Cruyff arrived in Barca, they were not the all conquering European behemoth they are today, as it was his later managerial tenure that would help build them into that behemoth. They were instead a team that hadn’t won a league title in 13 years. The move saw Cruyff reunited with Michels and the two set about bringing Total Football to Spain. Cruyff moved to Barca when Spain was still ruled by General Franco, and the Catalunyan people in particular had suffered greatly at his hands. Signing the best player on the planet was considered a major coup for Barca, and a great lift for the Catalunyan people, they fell in love with Cruyff, not only for his skill on the ball, but his role as a figurehead for a resurgent Barcelona. He made Catalunyans feel pride in their side and their identity. No more so can this be demonstrated than in Barca’s comprehensive 5-0 drubbing of Real Madrid (Franco’s favoured team) at the Bernabeu. It was iconic. Cruyff had humilated Barca’s greatest enemy, and perhaps in the process humilated Franco and to this day, it is a match that has never been forgotten, one journalist said Cruyff had done more for the Catalunyan people’s spirit in 90 mins than politicians had done in 90 years. It was in this that Cruyff would score his most famous goal, “The Impossible Goal”, an extraordinary backwards overhead kick against Atletico Madrid. Barca went on to win their first title since 1960. Cruyff practically became an honorary Catalan, he gave his son a Catalunyan name, Jordi, and developed a great mutual affection with the Barca fans one that would only grow with his return in the dugout the next decade.

1974 was the year of Cruyff’s 3rd Ballon D’Or, and also the year of the pinnacle of his playing career the 1974 World Cup. Before the tournament once again demonstrated his rebellious, innovative side while every player wore the 3 stripes of Adidas, the kit manufacturer of the national side, Cruyff had a special shirt with 2, he had personal endorsement deal with Puma, you could say he invented player power. The tournament where the world first witnessed Total Football in full flow. Michels left Barca at the end of the season to become the Netherlands head coach and moulded a team that marvelled the world. Widely considered to be one of the most attractive, beautiful teams that have ever graced the World Cup, Netherlands were a side that everyone wanted to watch, they played differently, they astonished and bamboozled. It was a revelation and Cruyff with his sumptuous style and casual flair was the epitomy of that. Ghosting past defenders like they weren’t there with deceptive pace, and incredible close control. His impeccable passing, always knowing where his teammates would be as he and his teams became masters of space ie. controlling the space, to control the game and increase the likelihood of winning. In the 2nd game of the group stage Cruyff would produce a moment of genius that would become the moment of the tournament, and something that would be remembered, and attempted for generations to come. First Cruyff picked the ball out of the air with one touch, incredible control in itself, then was immediately faced by Swedish defender Jan Olsson, Cruyff turned his back on him and shaped to pass or cross, so Olsson went for the block tackle, rather than pass however Cruyff dragged the ball behind his planted foot with the inside of his other foot, turned through 180 degrees, and accelerated away, to the point that Olsson ended up tackling thin air and staring into an empty space where Cruyff formerly was, Cruyff had left Olsson for dead. He then put the cross in unhindered by the mortal full back. It wowed the world then and still does now. It became known as the “Cruyff Turn” and one was one of Cruyff’s great contributions to the game. It was symptomatic of the Dutch side’s ingenuity and creativity but even more remarkable, was that unlike the great tricksters of today, Cruyff who did not believe in showboating, had not practised the move beforehand, he saw an opportunity to get past his man and he invented it in that split second. Very few players have such ability. It was truly incredible. Often forgotten is that the Netherlands didn’t actually win the game, it ended 0-0 but no one cared Total Football had captured the world. From then on it was not about who would win, it was about what other marvels could the Dutch side produce on their way to winning.

In the 2nd group stage Netherlands faced Brazil in what was effectively a semi final. Brazil were the reigning champions after the magnificent 1970 sides victory but were a declining force after those heady days, gone was Pele and in Netherlands, they faced a side that equalled them in technical, individual skill, but exceeded them in teamwork. Total Football isn’t just about flair as Brazillian football traditionally was, it was about the unit, interchangeability, defending as a unit, attacking as a unit, you did not have 5 defenders and 6 attackers, you had 11 attackers and 11 defenders, games were not won by individual brilliance but by greater mastery of the ball and of the space. Netherlands won 2-0 in a victory even more symbolic than Ajax’s over Inter. Netherlands had outplayed the nation that made the game beautiful, it was a game that would arguably kill off Brazil’s free-flowing unrestricted style. In Brazil they soul-searched eventually concluding that it was required to introduce the discipline of Total Football (while also sacrificing flair whereas Total Football harnesses it) into their own game and their 1994 World Cup winning side was the result of this, rigid, defensive, organised, yet dull. Rather than embrace Total Football, Brazil regressed to the European style that existed before Total Football, and while it brought them success, it is sad that we shall perhaps never see a Brazil side play with the freedom and recklessness of the ’70 side. Total Football was beautiful but it had victims.

The final was against West Germany, the Netherlands greatest rivals not solely because they are neighbours but because of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during WW2. A great deal of fans had lived through the war and the wounds were still deep etched in the national conciousness, this was a chance to regain pride on a sporting scale. Nobody doubted the Netherlands would win, it was a foregone conclusion, they were perhaps the greatest side ever to grace the competition, another result wasn’t possible and right to script within 2 minutes Netherlands were ahead, Cruyff picked the ball up in midfield, ran thru the German defence like they weren’t there and was brought down in the box. Penalty, which Neeskens duly dispatched. It was exactly what was supposed to happen. Except the Dutch stopped. They did not want to simply beat West Germany, this was a derby, this was the biggest stage in football. They wanted to humiliate them. So they played with the Germans, toyed with them, playing keep ball, but not causing any further damage, never threatening a 2nd goal, they had become arrogant, they had taken the foot off the gas. The other problem was that Germany hadn’t read the script this was their World Cup, their showcase, their fans, their stadium, they didn’t believe the hype, they believed in themselves, their side included Beckenbauer, the greatest centre back ever, Muller one of the greatest goalscorers in history, they were no mugs and sure enough they punished the Netherlands, they equalised with a penalty of their own half way through the first half, before adding a second before the half-time whistle through the dangerous Muller. The Netherlands were in shell shock. They tried to turn it on again in the 2nd half but it was too late once the intensity dips it’s almost impossible to regain. The Germans were typically German, stout and resolute. Impenetrable. Cruyff and the Netherlands had lost. Forever to be remembered as the greatest side to never win the World Cup. This was to be Cruyff’s only World Cup but his mark on the competition is eternal. The defeat would stay with him for ever. It taught him it was not enough to simply play beautifully, you also had to win or it means nothing.

Cruyff won the Golden Ball for his majestic World Cup performances. Back at Barca Cruyff won a Copa Del Rey in 1978 before moving to the ill-fated North American Soccer League as all the greats did in the 70s. He retired from the national team after helping them qualifying for the ’78 World Cup in Argentina, Cruyff refused to play in a country ruled by a military junta, his principles were more important to him than sport. In 1981 he returned “home” to Ajax after his American escapades and a brief spell in Spain’s Second Division with Levante. He won 2 more league titles and famously passed a penalty, which current Barca stars, Messi and Suarez, recently honoured, but Cruyff as with so many things, did it best. After the 82-83 season, Cruyff was refused a new Ajax contract because at 36 he was deemed too old. Cruyff disagreed, signed for Ajax’s rivals Feyenoord, and in a deep-lying playmaker role helped them win the double, even scoring against Ajax in the process, celebrating emphatically, Cruyff had produced one last miracle in his playing career. He went out on top with a 5th Dutch Footballer of the Year, and in typical Cruyff fashion, he went out proving a point. Influential, outspoken and brilliant. A genius in every sense. He was an artist whose brush was his boot, and his canvas was the pitch. If Cruyff had done nothing else after his last game he would never of been forgotten. However he did do something else he signed a contract to be Ajax manager in 1985.

405gls in 711 club games

369gls in 661 club games

33gls in 48 games for the Netherlands

The Netherlands never lost a game when Cruyff scored

3 Ballon D’Ors

3 European Cups

9 Eredivisie Titles

1 La Liga

Simply the most influential man in the history of football.

My All Time Euros XI

17aa0cb9078ac63f08ebb00c827b88c6Unless you’ve been living under a rock or perhaps aren’t into football (if the latter is true I advise you to stop reading), you’ll be aware the Euros are imminent. Once again Europe’s best plus Northern Ireland will take part in a month long festival of football culminating and the incredible Stade de France in Saint-Denis. As part of their build up UEFA have come up with a 50-man shortlist of the Euros greatest players and have invited us fans to pick our greatest XIs. Here’s mine.

The Formation: Now usually with such online dream XIs the formation is fixed. Normally a rigid 442 or more recently a 433. UEFA however provided a wide selection. After viewing the defender choice I was more than happy to go with a 433, especially as there was no real width in the midfield selection.

The XI:
Schmeichel DEN
Lahm GER Puyol SPA Beckenbauer GER (C) Maldini ITA
Zidane FRA Iniesta SPA Gullit NED
Henry FRA Muller GER Van Basten NED

GK: Peter Schmeichel (Denmark) – Undoubtedly one of the greatest goalkeepers ever. In my opinion the greatest. While most associate him with the all conquering United side of the 90s. It’s often forgotten that he was pivotal in Denmark’s remarkable 1992 triumph. He made crucial saves and was key to the well organized, rigid Danish system with the Danish back 4 often passing back to him so he could waste time (one of the reasons for the backpass rule being introduced swiftly after). Many great keepers have played in the Euros but Peter was the number one.

RB: Philip Lahm (Germany) Although I’m more used to him playing Left back or a holding role in the current Bayern side. Lahm is of course famously versatile and also right footed so in this side he’ll play right back and would do a typically exemplar job. Lahm is one of the greatest fullbacks of his era and dragged a very mediocre Germany side to the Euro 2008 where they came up against stellar Spain and still were fairly resolute. It seems almost unfair that someone who performed so exceptionally at every Euros he’s attended has ended their career without a winners medal. Luckily Lahm has a World Cup medal to console him. Solid, dependable, attacking but functional. Everything great about the new German football was symbolised in Lahm.

CB: Carles Puyol (Spain) – Captain of the greatest club side that ever graced a football pitch. Puyol brought that leadership to a Spanish defence which while hardly discussed was impenetrable. Puyol had it all as a centre back. Bravery, timing, reading of the game and of course as a student of La Masia he could pass. The archetypal ball playing defender but with the ability to get stuck in with the best of them. Not as easy on the eye or languid as Pique but more complete. Also he’s won 2 European Championships. Impossible to leave out.

CB: Franz Beckenbauer (Germany) – The man they called the Kaiser. Probably the greatest centre back to play the game. He had it all. Beckenbauer invented the sweeper position and played it better than anyone since. Also one of the most versatile players thats ever lived. Being able to play in midfield and being a genuine goal threat whatever position he played. Captaining West Germany to victory in Euro 72 before lifting the World Cup on home turf. Der Kaiser is an automatic selection and captain of this side.

LB: Paolo Maldini (Italy) – The greatest left back of the last 20 years? Maybe. Cafu and Lahm would be certainly be in the debate. Luckily Lahms already here and Cafu bizarrely made no Euro appearances oh wait, Brazilian. Lol. So the mercurial Maldini is free to take his well deserved place as the left back in this XI. Famed for his longevity playing at the very highest level for 20 plus years. Maldini was a class fullback who almost always won his duels against wingers before converting into an equally world class centre-back in later years. A major international title unfortunately eluded Maldini, but his star turn in Italy’s Euro 2000 run ensures him his place in this list.

CM: Zinedine Zidane (France) – The finest footballer of his generation and one of the greatest players of all time. Zidane is another automatic selection. Zidane had it all and did it all during his career. Goals, passing, vision, strength, creativity, skills, dribbling there was nothing he could not do on a football field. One of my earliest Euro memories was Zidane almost single handedly putting England to the sword in Euro 2004. But it is perhaps more Euro 2000 where his majesty and poise in the French midfield set the tournament alight. As he helped France follow up they World Cup win with a 2nd European triumph. Following in the footsteps of earlier mercurial French talent, Michel Platini in 1984.

CM: Andres Iniesta (Spain) – One half of the greatest midfield partnership that ever played the game. You can’t mention Iniesta without mentioning Xavi but I think Iniesta’s just that little bit better. Not just a playmaker. Iniesta controls games and always has the potential to be a matchwinner, scoring some wondrous goals across his career. At Euro 2008 and Euro 2012. Iniesta effectively had to play the Messi role in Spains tika-taka Cruyffian system. He and Xavi provided the magic that turned simple possession into devastating attacking moves in split seconds. His brilliance helped Spain win 2 consecutive titles and he was the best in both sides. Particularly  in Euro 2012 when Spain’s strikerless system allowed Iniesta to showcase his incredible dribbling ability. Although his best days are behind him. Expect him to still be phenomenal come June alongside Spain’s new generation, the old master will still shine. The best player in the best side in European Championship history.

CM: Ruud Gullit (Netherlands): The 3rd midfield berth was one of my toughest choices and I’m still contemplating switching to 442 to accommodate the master that is Pirlo. Gullit edged Pirlo because he has a winners medal. Not just any either. Gullit was a key part of what was until Spain in 08, the greatest side to win the Euros. The Netherlands in 88 were a joy to behold. Finally getting Total Football the trophy it had deserved since the days of Cruyff. With Rijkaard, Gullit and Van Basten, the Netherlands had one of the all time great triumvirates and they were devastatingly good. They didn’t just win, they won beautifully. Their football was sumptuous. Those lucky enough to see them in the flesh were blessed. The rest of us must settle for YouTube. But it is for these reasons, for lighting up the Euros. Gullit is in.

FW: Thierry Henry (France) – One of my all time favourite footballers, the 2nd best striker I’ve seen play the game after Ronaldo (Messi and CR7 are forwards not strikers). Henry was electric. Pace, pace, pace, touch, control, dribbling and glorious finishing. Has there anyone more clinical from a one on one than Henry. When he opened he body up everyone knew what was coming up. An ingenious footballer. Scoring some of the most creative goals ever seen. Quality. In French side blessed with great strikers: Trezeguet, Wiltord. Henry shone as he helped France lift Euro 2000. France’s greatest striker alongside Just Fontaine.

FW: Gerd Muller (Germany) – One of the greatest goal scorers ever. Muller knew one thing scoring goals. More famous for his World Cup scoring exploits. Muller won the Euro Golden Boot with West Germany as they lifted the title in 72. And it is this winning pedigree that gets him in the team ahead of Pirlo in midfield.

FW: Marco Van Basten (Netherlands) – If you don’t believe in magic. You Tube Van Basten’s volley in the Euro 88 final against the USSR. The greatest Euro goal by one of it’s greatest players. Van Basten is another automatic selection. As that volley demonstrated. Van Basten was capable of scoring goals no one else could score. He was special. When Arrigo Sachi set about building the great Milan side of the early 90s it was Van Basten that was the key. Rijkaard and Gullit weren’t enough you needed the sprinkling of magic Van Basten provided. Unfortunately his career was cut short by horrific injuries but his performance in Euro 88 alone ensures he walks into this side.

Substitutes:
Lev Yashin (USSR), Frank Rijkaard (Netherlands), Lilian Thuram (France), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Michel Platini (France), Xavi Hernandez (Spain), David Villa (Spain)

The Manager: So that’s the team so who to manage such a motley crew. Well no manager has won 2 Euros so this honour goes to one of the game’s greatest ever managers, Rinus Michels, one of Total Football’s architects. Who managed the great Ajax side of the early 70s with Cruyff. The great Netherlands side of the 70s again featuring Cruyff and on his return to the national team he went one better than the 74 side always remembered for losing beautifully by winning beautifully in 88 with a side perhaps equally as talented. A true pioneer whose footballing philosophy influenced so many great sides of today. There was only one choice for such a team.

Steven Gerrard: My Tribute

Gerrards announced he’s leaving Liverpool after 25 years so nows as good a time as any to pay a short tribute. A couple of weeks ago I picked my all time prem xi and put Gerrard on my bench, that was purely because of my admiration for Le Tiss’s lackadaisical easy style at an unfashionable club. But in a 433 formation, Gerrard makes it no question. Gerrard though is not just a prem legend he’s a football legend. In my years watching football there’s been 3 world class English central midfielders, Gerrard, Scholes and Lampard. What sets him apart from the others is he was surrounded by mediocrity and and dragged Liverpool singlehandedly to the 2005 Champs league (his performance v olympiakos and in instanbul magic) and 2006 Fa cup (coming back from cramp to rescue Liverpool). This is something scholes or lamps couldn’t of done, inspire a club singlehandedly to greatness. This is what makes him great, certainly Liverpools greatest (maybe joint with Dalglish). He’s a big game player, and he always performs.

My Ultimate Premier League XI

Tonight the Soccer Saturday team will pick their Ultimate Premier League XI. So here’s mine assuming the criteria is any player that’s played in the Premier League

Peter Schmeichel

Gary Neville Tony Adams Rio Ferdinand Ashley Cole

Cristiano Ronaldo Paul Scholes Matt Le Tissier Ryan Giggs

Eric Cantona Thierry Henry

Subs: Petr Cech, Jamie Carragher, Nemanja Vidic, Steven Gerrard, Gareth Bale, Alan Shearer, Dennis Bergkamp

Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson

Schmeichel – No contest. Greatest GK in prem history arguably, the greatest ever. Colossus and key to Man U’s early Premier League dominance.

Cole – Divisive figure but in his day the best LB on the planet, played for two of the greatest Premier League sides, the Arsenal invincibles and Mourinho’s Chelsea

Adams – Don’t know much about CBs but he was one of the best.

Ferdinand – See Adams

Neville – Not everyone’s cup of tea but a mighty fine RB.

Ronaldo – Currently the best player on the planet. Literally ripped the Premier League to shreds. I have painful memories of a goal he scored against my team Fulham.

Scholes – Scholes scores goals. And spectacular ones at that. Criminally underutilized for England.

Le Tissier – Probably the most controversial selection but anyone screaming Keane, Gerrard, Lampard etc. 1st I’d say YouTube LeTiss then I’d say remember he played for Southampton a mid-table side his ENTIRE career and still became a Prem great, that’s pretty extraordinary. He had it a lot tougher than the rest of this side.

Giggs – He is Mr Premier League.

Cantona – This spot was extremely close between Bergkamp and Eric, in the end I went with Cantona because he was the talisman of Man U’s 90s glory years.

Henry – Just a magical player. Absolutely unbelievable. Gls, Assists, Pace, Pace, Pace, Pace, Dribbling he had it all, but it wasn’t necessarily god given, he worked and worked to become the finest striker ever to play in this country. And let’s not forget if he’d played in the Prem his entire career like Shearer, he’d be the Prem record goalscorer probably forever.

The Ched Evans Debate: My Thoughts

I’ll be honest when he was convicted I signed the petition that he should be banned from football. 2 and a half years on, I realise that would never happen and nor should it happen, if he’s served his time he should be allowed to continue his career in whatever field he works in. My opinion now however is that Sheffield United have an opportunity to send a profound message to the community of football here and I think it’s incredibly important that they make the right choice. Football fans are often a fickle bunch, if a guy scores 20 goals a season for your team, it wouldn’t matter if he’s a serial killer, that’s the reality, fans see footballers as being above human and therefore are ironically held to a lower standard than ordinary people because of their performances on the pitch. Luis Suarez was guilty of racist abuse, Liverpool fans backed him, it’s the way of football, the biggest crime a player can commit in the eyes of the fans is to leave. So to the board of Sheffield United I say this send the football community the message that you as a club believe rape is a serious crime, rape is wrong and violence against women is wrong and don’t take back Evans. I have no doubt another club would take him on but the spotlight would be gone by then, it’s Sheffield United’s reputation that’s on the line, if they take him back they will alienate 50% of potential fans, yes women watch football too. To the fans that would welcome him back with open arms I say this, a woman was raped, her life was ruined, she did not ask for it, the rapist was Ched Evans, imagine if that was your mother, daughter, wife or sister, would you still cheer him from the terraces.  I’ve heard people compare this story to Mike Tyson, who was convicted of rape in 1991 and served 4 years, they are not the same thing, boxers don’t work for anyone they are effectively self-employed, I suppose boxers could refuse to fight them but in the case of Tyson that would never of happened, and just like the football authorities would have no grounds to ban Evans from football, the boxing authorities would have no grounds to ban him from the sport. However had Tyson been employed by a sports club my message would’ve been the same, do the right thing, send a message to the rest of your sport. There are some things in life that are bigger than football, I think in a sport that has almost no morals or ethics, it’d be nice if a club stood up for an issue bigger than their end of season profits, but maybe I’m a fantasist.

This is Malky Mackay.

He is a racist, sexist homophobe. Anyone that has seen the disgraceful, disgusting and actually quite disturbing texts he sent I’m sure would agree that it was not “banter” in any way, shape or form. I hope he never gets another job in football but unfortunately the game I love is fickle, ignorant and stuck in the dark ages so I suspect he’ll be at a club in a few months I’m sad to say.

BBC World Cup Pundits: My Thoughts

And now to run the rule over the BBC team in Brazil:

Gary Lineker: World Cup golden boot winner of course. BBC’s main football presenter, he has it all charm, charisma, humour but he’s also asks very good questions, getting the best answers from the pundits.

Alan Shearer: Former England captain, MOTD regular, knows what he’s doing.

Rio Ferdinand: Another former England captain, never seen him as a pundit before this World Cup but he’s really impressed me, he’s very knowledgeable about the game, first hand experience of playing against or with most of the stars at this world cup, makes insightful comments, and very engaging when he talks you listen.

Thierry Henry: World Cup winner with France, one of the greatest strikers of all time, I’m sure he’s very popular with the female viewers. Thierry is very cool and calm but he’s also a very good pundit I think both him and Rio have a future in TV after they retire.

Clarence Seedorf: Clarence has done  a few major tournaments with the Beeb and he always seems very intelligent and has interesting pts, there’s usually some good banter when Clarence is on as well.

Juninho: Brazillian, pretty famous over here for his time with Middlesbro he often provides Brazillian or S American perspective much Gus Poyet on ITV.

Neil Lennon: Why on earth the former Celtic manager is on the team I have no clue. I’m not interested in anything he has to say, never played or managed in the World Cup and NI are not at the World Cup.

Mark Lawrenson: BBC regular, tends to be a co-commentator for live games, deadpan and sarcastic would be the only way to describe his delivery but I like it.

Phil Neville: Apparently the Beeb recieved over 400 complaints about his commentary of the England game, maybe the Beeb should’ve given him his debut for a less important match but in the studio he’s fine, he’s done a couple of spots on MOTD before.

Robbie Savage: This man should not even be employed by the BBC, he’s stupid, his hair his stupid, he was a horrendous player and even worse pundit and him and Thierry arguing about the Pogba -Palacios kicking incident was really annoying cos as Thierry pointed out Savage used to do that all the time.

Gabby Logan: If I’m not mistaken the only woman on the TV coverage, but it seems a token gesture to me. Don’t get me wrong Gabby Logan is hugely experienced in live football coverage but that’s just my point in the past she’s been the anchor for ITV world Cup coverage, and she presented Final Score for a few years, but she left to become the anchor of BBC Athletics coverage, at this World Cup she does the interviews just seems a little bit beneath her.

Mark Chapman: Similar role to Gabby, interviews at the moment, but I think he may anchor the BBC3 games next week.

ITV World Cup Pundits: My Thoughts

Ok so were into day 6 of the World Cup so I thought I’d run the rule over the World Cup pundits, first up ITV:

Adrien Chiles- ITV’s main football presenter, proud Brummie, lots of people seem to not like him but I personally do, I think he’s irreverent humour is quite good at times, sometimes it does miss the mark, and yesterday he was way to emotional about the Muller- Pepe incident.

Patrick Viera – World Cup winner with France of course, seems a decent pundit, very calm, a member of ITV’s A-Team.

Fabio Cannavaro – World Cup winning captain with Italy. During the first game I didn’t think his English was good enough to be a pundit as he didn’t really answer any of Adrian’s questions but seems to have come into his own. It terms of his actual punditry it’s a bit hit and miss sometimes he comes out with gems particularly on defending but other times  he makes strange statements like that he thinks it’ll be a Germany- Portugal final.

Lee Dixon – The English representative within the A-team. Often the butt of jokes due to his smaller stature as a player to the World Cup winners on his left, he’s by far the best of the pundits doing the most in depth tactical analysis.

Glenn Hoddle – Played and managed at the World Cup but seems to be on ITV’s B team, he’s a little bit old school, for example he was disappointed that Brazil have a more European style at this World Cup but that’s been the case since 2006 really, but as a manager his tactical analysis is probably only second to Lee on the ITV team.

Ian “Wrighty” Wright – Who doesn’t love Ian Wright. He just loves football and just enjoys everything about it. In terms of punditing he usually says what a fan would say but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, his constant switching between Japan and Ivory Coast in their game was hilarious as was, his singing with the Argentina fans at the Maracana. Was a little bit weird though in the opening game when he was on the Cocacabana beach interviewing a German surfer wearing pink shorts but hey that’s Wrighty. Also insists on calling Hoddle “gaffer”. Several yrs after his playing career ended.

Gordon Strachan – An ITV regular, haven’t seen much of him at this World Cup.

Andy Townsend – ITV’s usual co-commentator, extremely annoying always seems to say stupid things.

Clarke Carlisle – He may be Britain’s brainiest footballer but I’m not a big fan of his voice having said that his analysis is decent.

Matt Smith – The other presenter, has good banter with Wrighty.

 

England 1 Italy 2: My Thoughts

Well I’m sure all other England fans would agree with me, that we played really well, but unfortunately the result didn’t quite match the performance. It started well, I was ecstatic that Roy started Sterling, cos I think he’s a class act, but I felt it should’ve been ahead of Wellbeck rather than Lallana. I’m not a Wellbeck fan at all although he did have a few flashes in the first half. I was uneasy about Rooney on the left as well cos although I know Sterling’s played really well in the no 10 role a couple of times for Liverpool, it seemed for the majority of the match Rooney was isolated out there, and as our only world class player he should be a focal point of attacks, I mean the cross for the goal was his only significant contribution. As I think Rooney as no 10, Sterling on the right and Lallana on the left should be the way to go for the Uruguay game. I also think we played a lot better in the 1st half than the 2nd, we played free flowing attacking football which is what we all wanted Sturridge and particularly Sterling looked lively, and everytime Sterling ran at Italy they looked in big trouble. In the second half however it seemed that we’d lost a bit of shape with Wellbeck and Sturridge coming off and we seemed to become overreliant on Sterling who had an incredible game but his performance wasn’t matched by others in the 2nd half, he put several crosses in, but no one was in the box. Now a word on the Italians, we knew exactly how they were gonna play, lots of possession, the ageless Pirlo pulling the strings, yet we were powerless to stop it, all their moves came down our left but we never really solved the problem, but at the end of the day Italy had the better quality than us and they know how to win (let’s not forget they were Euro 2012 finalists), we couldn’t stop Pirlo because we’re not good enough yet, and in Balotelli they have a world class centre forward, whereas our world class centre forward was on the left. I’m certain though if we play how we played against Italy particularly the first half, we’ll beat Uruguay comfortably, Uruguay are weak in defence and midfield, they rely completely on that front 3 of Suarez, Cavani and Forlan, and 2 out of that 3 misfired seriously against Costa Rica, whereas Suarez won’t be 100%, it’s the Costa Rica game I’m worried about because they are a complete unknown.

Spain 1 Netherlands 5: My Thoughts

Well this match was a football earthquake, pure and simple. Before the match I reckoned it would be tight similar to the 2010 final, with Spain just edging 1-0. Boy was I wrong, even after the 1st half which 1-1 I thought both teams had played pretty well, Costa looked lively (although not really a fan), and RVP scored the greatest header I have ever seen, I mean that dive would get a 10 at the Olympics, superb but the game was pretty even. Then the 2nd half started and the world changed, RVP, Robben, Danny Blind and Co ripped Spain, from 2008-2012 the greatest international side since Brazil 1970,  to shreds literally it was like men against boys when the Netherlands wanted to hurt Spain they could, it ended 1-5 but in truth it could of been 6, 7, 8 I was just watched in shock and amazement. How did this happen, well there are a number of reasons,  a poor defensive performance by Casillas, Ramos and Pique maybe or the sounding out of Tika Taka maybe, but I for one don’t agree with this 2nd reason, I think Spain should stick with Tika-Taka, that is their system it suits their strengths just as Van Gaal has the Netherlands playing a free flowing attacking brand of football which plays to the strengths of players like Robben. But I think Spain should play pure Tika-Taka, by which I mean with a false 9 like Fabregas or Villa rather than a genuine centre forward like Costa. Spain got pillared for playing this system in Euro 2012, but guess what they won, with the greatest performance I have ever seen in an international final and you know what if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Yes they were demolished by Brazil in the Confed Cup final but I think that was a bad day at the office, but Friday was a lot more serious. Xavi and Iniesta, still the midfield linchpins of Spain, seemed uneasy and reluctant to play the long balls to Costa and I don’t blame them that isn’t there way of doing things and it was telling that Spain’s brightest moment besides the penalty was an inspired 25 yard pass from Iniesta to Silva along the deck,  that’s there style. I hope Spain play a false nine against Chile and Australia, a draw and a 2 gl win over Australia and they could still go far in this tournament, don’t right them off just yet.