Sunday, 31 March 2013

Sunderland were right to sack O'Neill

Sunderland were right to sack Martin O'Neill. I can't understand why people would say otherwise. He isn't delivering results or performances and Sunderland are in a desperate situation and, argubly, in freefall.

First of all, Sunderland are on a nightmare run of results. They've won none of their last 8 matches, getting 3 points in the process. But it's not just a blip, they've won 7 games all season after spending £30 million on new players. They bought poorly- Steven Fletcher for £15 million is a joke, O'Neill, supposedly renowned for 'getting the best out of his players' has failed to do so big time with Fletcher and especially Adam Johnson. He also never really gave Louis Saha a chance, a proven goalscorer in the Premier League. And what has been Sunderland's main problem this season again? Oh yeah, scoring goals.

I think a team spending £30 million on players in a season should be well away from the relegation zone and I don't see what valid excuse Martin O'Neill could have for this.

The other major aspect with O'Neill's Sunderland is their performances have been so consistently dire. They're one of the worst teams to watch, entertainment- wise, in the league. They don't create many chances, they don't play any good football and they score very few goals. The results aren't there and the performances aren't there, and neither is a good style of football. Plus, it's not even like he's made Sunderland a really solid team and hard to break down, they concede a fair amount and don't seem to keep many clean sheets. They conceded 3 at QPR, 2 at home to Fulham and I haven't seen Arsenal create so many chances at Sunderland as they did a few weeks ago before,we ran riot and even created a few with 10 men on the pitch. Sunderland only looked dangerous in that game after we went down to 10 men when Carl Jenkinson got sent off.

So if I list what Martin O'Neill brings to Sunderland, it is evident that he had to go:

  • Poor results consistently
  • Very few wins
  • Poor standard of football- ugly to watch
  • Poor performances
  • Lack of solidity
  • Lack of value for money in signings
  • Failure to solve vast under- performing of players (when he's supposedly good at this). Adam Johnson, McClean and Sessegnon are great examples
  • Plays players out of position a lot
So the question is: what exactly is Martin O'Neill bringing to Sunderland that's positive? That's worthy of him being in the job?

Why wouldn't you want to replace him now? I can imagine a lot of people saying that they've sacked him at a silly time, with only 7 games left but why would you leave him in charge? Is he more likely to save them than another manager coming in? Probably not given how they've looked over recent weeks and months, they don't look like turning it around under him. They could do with a fresh approach, fresh ideas and tactics, the fact is that O'Neill isn't doing anything that suggests he is the right man for the job. The only thing that benefits him is his reputation of having done good jobs at Aston Villa and Leicester in the past, but is his good reputation going to help Sunderland avoid relegation? No. Good management is going to help Sunderland and Martin O'Neill isn't delivering that and hasn't been for a long time so why should Sunderland stick with him?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Myth of Steven Gerrard

I've just been listening to a debate about Tom Cleverly and it got me thinking about the lack of good options England actually have in centre midfield. Jack Wilshere is quality but then who else is there? Just a load of over- rated and/ or past it players.

Frank Lampard is one, Michael Carrick is another and then there's Steven Gerrard. Now, I think Steven Gerrard used to be a great midfielder, a very effective box to box midfielder who defended well, had an excellent passing range, a good long shot and an ability to score goals. He's still a good midfielder but he isn't top class anymore. Nowhere near.

He's had injury problems which have probably affected him and he's getting on a bit now so it's understandable. But can we, as a nation, please stop hailing him as some sort of super midfielder of world class ability? Everyone seems to follow this myth that Gerrard is still the player he was. I used to love watching him a few years ago but nowadays he isn't the same player. It's time to move on. Stop living in the past and look at the present and to the future.

I hear people in the media; journalists, pundits and presenters talk about him like he's God and up there with the best in the world. They just blindly rate him as a great midfielder, in denial that he has declined as a player with age and injury problems. Just accept it. And I beg of fans to make your own mind up, please don't just think that because pundits and papers say Gerrard is still the bees knees that it's the truth and you have to have the same opinion. I think far too many fans in this country haven't got the indepedance to have their own opinion. Perhaps its a lack of confidence in their football knowledge, perhaps they actually think the likes of Alan Hansen are 'experts'. But just watch Steven Gerrard next time you see him, and the time after that and analyse him, see if you would class what he plays like now as world class ability or the ability he showed 5 or so years ago.

He's a good player, yes. But my point is don't form your opinion on him based on his past glories and nationality. I think a big part of the myth that he's still top notch is the fact that he's from England. If he was from Croatia or something perhaps more people would recognise the truth rather than taking part in this stubborn, lazy consensus that Steven Gerrard is still a top quality player and a potential England national team saviour or hero. In addition to this, when has he ever played well for England? Has he ever had a good tournament? No. He's always disappointed and never really played to his potential, like Frank Lampard. Players like those two have to take a big chunk of responsibility for the embarassment that was failing to qualify for Euro 2008.

I've seen him play quite a lot this season and not once have I seen him have a great game where I think 'blimey, Gerrard's dominating the midfield' or 'Gerrard's looking unstoppable'. Him and the rest of the Liverpool midfield were torn apart by Arsenal's midfield back in August, and he was at fault for our first goal. He was just decent at Everton and every other time I've seen him he's been hovering around the 'playing decent' marker.

In conclusion I am of the opinion that too many people in this country blindly rate Gerrard as the player he once was but isn't anymore still. I also think too many people rate him on his past qualities and nationality.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

University Exploits

Well, as you may know, I'm a student at Leeds Metropolitan University studying the often mind- numbingly dull English Literature. I have to say I'm more of an English Language man than literature. But I didn't have the choice unfortunately, unless I'd been willing to move across the country. But that's another story.

I've come up with the idea of blogging about my exploits at university and about things that amuse me there. One of the things I thought of today is how I've never been able to walk around the building with the library in it, the one I use most often, without various other students offering me an endless supply of leaflets and advertising cards. I used to sometimes take one but I'd never do anything with it so stopped taking them, most of them weren't of much interest to me. It's got to the point where I try to avoid them by sneaking around the person in front of me who they've roped in or by looking completely vacant. I don't even listen to what they're saying anymore. I just cut them off mid- sentence. For all I know they're actually saying 'would you like a free season ticket at Arsenal and a weekly lap dance by a supermodel?' And I'm there saying 'no ta mate'.

Another thing is how most of the people behind desks there are so reluctant to be in any way helpful. Some of them are very nice and actually useful, but a lot are shocking. It makes me wonder how they got that job in the first place. The other day I went looking for a lost folder at the library reception and saw two dour- looking blokes sat there behind the counter (counter- is that the right word in this case? Screw it, I'm going with counter) and scowled at me as I glanced at the words 'library help desk' on the wall above them, as if I was doing something disgracefully out of the norm. And surprise, surprise, they couldn't help. It was probably one of them who's nicked it, the sour old gits. Who nicks a purple cardboard folder anyway? Because that's what seems to have happened, I've looked everywhere it could be at university and at home, it's not even got much in it (fortunately for me- of all my folders to lose, that is the best one). There's some weirdos about.

Here's another weirdo: exactly two weeks ago I was on a bus home in the evening and there was a gorgeous blonde girl sat on the side- facing seat in front of me on the bus. She was literally the best looking girl I've seen in a while. Thankfully there was a hell of a lot of traffic on the way home so I had plenty of time to figure out whether to make a move or not and what that move would be. I decided to leave it until towards the end of the journey so if she rejected me the awkwardness wouldn't last long. The bus was full so we had loads of people sat around us, including her friend (yes, another obstacle). Her friend had moved in front of her but prior to that she had glanced at me quite a lot and I suspected she was interested in me. So the moment finally came where I showed some balls and asked her friend if I could talk to her, she said yes and I introduced myself to her, she introduced herself back- Shannon- as the rest of the back end of the bus eaves dropped on us. I did my thing and she gave me her number. I then skipped home with delight after getting off the bus. I was excited about showing this hot girl, who seemed to genuinely like me and seemed interested in me, a good time and so called her the next day. She didn't answer but rang back shortly after however sounded quite odd on the phone- shy and distant. I was concerned and even more concerned when she told me she was busy working for the next 4 days and would text me at a later date to tell me when she's available. I received no such text so left it until last Friday to leave a message on her phone to tell her it's fine if she doesn't want to go out with me, as long as she told me but haven't had a response. So I'm pretty pissed off. What would make a girl treat me like that? Seem interested, string me along and then just ignore me despite me being nothing but friendly, respectful and understanding. Why ignore me when she was interested and gave me her number and said she'd like to go out on a date with me? I just can't understand it. So anyone who can shed any light on this perhaps from a similar experience, leave a comment because I'm stumped.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

All hopes dashed in 4 minutes

Yesterday's cup game between Everton v Wigan was one of the strangest games I've been to in my life. The expectations were high, the excitement was high and yet 4 first half minutes just completely and suddenly diminished all those hopes, expectations and excitement.

It was weird because we expected Everton to win, the game started off even but then Wigan began to look the better team; they hit the post and had a couple of other good chances. So the atmopshere grew nervous but it was still 0-0. And then all our hopes and dreams of Wembley, a cup semi- final, a weekend in London and the prospect of going twice were just dashed in about 4 minutes.

It was enough of a blow when Maynor Figueroa headed in a free header at the back post (Everton's main, frankly appauling weakness- defending set- pieces and hardly ever winning the header despite bringing everyone back) to put Wigan 1-0 up but then Phil Neville's suicidal pass setting up McManaman to make it 2-0 was gutting. My head was in my hands after he ran in on goal and doubled Wigan's lead. Anyone would've thought Bale had just put Tottenham 2-0 up in the North London derby.

And then about a minute or so later Wigan came on the attack again and slid in a 3rd from the edge of the area, again from sloppy defending, allowing the pull back so easily and no closing down of the shot. I couldn't believe it, in fact the whole ground was in total disbelief. When do you see any team score 3 in 4 minutes? And a team like Wigan as well in a tough away game. It was unbelievable. All hopes dashed in a matter of minutes. All of a sudden from 0-0 to 3-0 and the game being all but over. It was hard to take.

It was mentally shattering, all these hopes and excitement about Wembley were just ended in such a frustrating way. The closer you get to something you want, the more it hurts when you don't get it. It was like being starving hungry and somebody waving a plate of steak and chips in front of you before just pouring it in the bin as your stomach rumbles.

I'm still suffering from utter disappointment, regret and frustration now and will be on and off for a while. It does hurt that we've missed out on Wembley and a trip down for it when we were expecting it so much. Especially after the excitement of it last year, the great night in Sunderland to set up a Wembley date with Liverpool of all teams and being manically giddy about that for the next couple of weeks and doing things like booking train tickets, a hotel and organising where we were going to sit in the ground- it was all part of it and to miss out on that and knowing we could be going through that again now just hurts. Who'd have thought Everton could frustrate and disappoint me so much when I'm not even an Everton fan? It actually hurts more than last Sunday's North London derby defeat.

So overall it was just extremely frustrating and strange that our hopes were smashed to bits within a matter of minutes, and not even to a good team. It was hard to digest and I'm really disappointed. Wembley will have to wait for at least another year now. And what's more, we'd have probably been able to go twice this year as they would have drawn Millwall or Blackburn in the semi- final.