Andy Carroll enjoyed a successful season on loan at West Ham United. In 26 games Carroll scored seven goals, claimed six assists and was the figurehead of the Hammers’ attack, linking superbly with old Newcastle friend Kevin Nolan and playing a part in every attack going forward.
Under Sam Allardyce’s direct approach Carroll excelled. He played like he was free of the shackles a £35million transfer fee can put on a player and utilised his undoubted strengths both in the air and on the deck to take West Ham to a top-half finish in their first season back at Championship level. Continue reading →
The chants had just about ended. Some of the bold print “Rafa out” boards that had become almost a staple of Stamford Bridge in 2013 had been taken down. If you squinted, you could make out one or two A4 glitter-and-sparkle placards thanking “The Interim One” for the small task of winning a major European competition. There was a tranquillity around South London that almost threatened to boil over into mild tolerance.
And yet, when the Chelsea players, staff and families went on their traditional lap of honour to thank the fans, Rafa Benitez was not a part of it.
And why should he be? What, after all, did he have to thank those fans for? Continue reading →
Lap 30: “Lewis, the tyre is entering its window, look after it.” “I can’t drive any slower.”
Lap 33: “Sebastian, drive your own race”.
Lap 61: “We can’t afford to damage the tyres too much trying to get past Jenson.”
These three radio messages summed up today’s Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain. Won by Ferrari’s home favourite Fernando Alonso, with Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus and Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa rounding off the podium, the race was exactly the sort of procession the Barcelona track has become known for since it first hosted a race in 1991. Continue reading →
There seems to be a trail of thought amongst many Derby County fans that “effort” isn’t a necessary requirement of the modern-day professional footballer. If I had a pound for every time I heard the phrase “effort isn’t enough, I could put in a lot of effort on the football pitch” I could probably pay off my student overdraft (if this blog doesn’t do it first).
That phrase has been used in association with many Derby County players over the last decade or so but has become more pronounced during Nigel Clough’s tenure at Pride Park, primarily due to the type of squad Clough has built on a significantly reduced budget. To overly simplify, Clough has built a squad of “grafters”; a side who will run for 90 minutes and carry a determined attitude with them. Continue reading →
The annual “sack race” is more often than not a sprint to the very bottom of common courtesy and decency, if such characteristics exist in professional football today. Roberto Di Matteo was dismissed without a second thought in November, six months after bringing the Champions League trophy to Chelsea for the first time. Michael Appleton was the third Blackburn Rovers manager to be dismissed in the 2012/13 season after Messrs. Kean and Berg took their involuntary leave courtesy of the world’s worst “advisor”. Continue reading →
Remember Austria 2002? Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello drove one of the races of his career and led the final lap from his teammate, then four-time world champion Michael Schumacher. The Brazilian was on the last lap of the A-Ring and his teammate was closing in fast, but pundit and fan alike knew that Ferrari, despite their reputation, wouldn’t fix a race so haphazardly…
That was eleven years ago. Team orders were banned after Jean Todt ordered Barrichello to let Schumacher past on the finishing line in 2002 and reinstated following “faster-than-you-gate” in 2010. Three years later, as the sun sets in Malaysia, that same issue has a new buzzword and hashtag for the Twitter age: Multi-21. Continue reading →
By all accounts it’s been another season of mixed fortunes for Derby County. The permanent carrot dangling over Nigel Clough’s head is the lure of the playoff spots but whenever The Rams get a few points under their belt and look like to break into the top six, one or two poor mistakes from set pieces lead to one or two defeats and subsequently leave Derby just one or two points short of making a serious bid for promotion.
At present, Derby lie 10th in the Championship table with 42 points from 31 games. They are eight points away from Middlesbrough in 6th but, intriguingly, are the same number of points away from Barnsley in 22nd, emphasising just how tight the Championship has been this season. With that said, Derby have never looked like relegation candidates over the course of the 2012/13 season and have turned in the best performances of Nigel Clough’s reign this season…at home, at least. Continue reading →