Sunday 31 July 2016


The Barclays Premier League starts in a fortnight. I dare say the fans in Manchester are perhaps the most hopeful. The Red side has done loads of good business and is in the process of ‘nuking’ the world record transfer fee by buying the first £100m player.

The Blue half is not too far behind. I dare say they are likely to be the favorite team of most neutrals because they expect Man City’s manager to hold his own against The Motormouth. Also they are aware that the owners of the club can outspend their nearest neighbor. Although to be fair, the Red Team is not really a resident of Manchester, more a local of a satellite location on the outskirts of Manchester. It’s a bit like someone leaving outside TFL Zone 6, claiming they reside in London. I digress.

Man U fans are delirious. It looks like the rot starting with the Moyes years is about to end. They have a manager who has a reputation for winning things although he does come with a lot of baggage and was sacked in all his previous 3 jobs.

Man City fans are quietly confident. They have Pep who is arguably the most successful manager in the modern era. He is making all the reasonable noises asking fans to be patient, letting them know that it will take time to assemble the team he wants and reminding people of the super competitive nature of the Premier League.

On a lighter note, it appears to me as if the Man U fans with their ‘Winning is in our DNA’ attitude are somewhat morphing into a version of their brash manager, while the City fans although reflecting the somewhat understated nature of their Manager are perhaps apprehensive because this is Pep’s first foray into the EPL and they wonder if his style and philosophy will work in the self styled most competitive league in the World. They also aware that critics have claimed Pep can only be successful in a 1 or 2 horse race league like Spain & Germany. We will see.

What about the fans of other clubs? In no particular order, I will start with ‘Boro’. I imagine the fans of Middlesborough are over the moon. Delighted to be back in the Premier League after 9 years. They have done lots of brilliant business in the transfer market. The sense I get is that the fans will be delighted with any type of staying up. However given the rising star of their Manager and the team they appear to be assembling, a top half finish is not out of the question especially if we witness a repeat of last season’s conditions where everybody bar Leicester showed themselves to be up for it.

I am guessing fans of Burnley & Hull will probably be demanding more of their clubsides considering the fact that their squad is peopled by many with recent Premier League experience. Minimum expectation should be survival but the fans might want more to get them super excited.

Fans of Swansea, Bournemouth, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Watford will be very worried. They toyed with relegation last season and were lucky to escape the trap door. You might start to see lots of agitation from Palace & West Brom fans especially if the season doesn’t start well. I think the fans of West Brom are close to losing their rag because of the somewhat one-dimensional play of their manager. In the case of Pardew’s Palace, nobody has been able to dimension the unexplainable dip in form.

The managerial changes in Sunderland & Watford are potential red flags for the fans at both clubs. The former because some might believe that their manager’s reputation is shot after 2 back to back unsuccessful stint at Manchester & Spain. The latter because of the achievements of Quiqe Sanchez Flores.  

I find it difficult to place the aspirations of the fans of Stoke & Southampton. I believe their fans have implicit trusts in the club ownership and management and buy – in to the latter’s aspirations to finish as high as possible. Southampton appears to have mastered their succession planning despite the expectation of many pundits that things will fall apart after every managerial departure and player sales. It is fair to say that the club has progressed and it will be interesting to see if Claude Puel continues the upward trajectory of the club.

What about fans of the reigning champions Leicester? I think the euphoria of the league win means Ranieri has a lot of goodwill in the bank. I suspect the fans will be ok with anything bar a disastrous sequence of games. They will be okay with their boys showing the same type of fight and spirit they displayed last season even if the odd results goes against them. However if they were to end the season empty handed and without impressive performance and a long run in cup competitions, the modern day fan with his entitlement mentality will be demanding a public execution of Ranieri.

Wither West Ham fans. I believe West Ham had a chance to disrupt the Top 4 hegemony alongside Leicester and Tut Tut tenham last season and they blew it. Injuries, key players not turning up at some game, basking in the fame of beating the traditional top 4 / top 6 away from home was perhaps responsible. A season that promised a lot ended up delivering Europa League with a competitive start in late July. Going by the protests in the Big Sam years, it appears West Ham fans are content with the fact that the team is playing beautiful football ‘the West Ham’ way. They have loads of cult players that the big clubs covet. Slaven, Lanzini, Reece - Oxford & Payet will no longer be surprise elements. I m aware the club has showed ambitions in the transfer market, they have bided unsuccessfully for some well known & highly priced players. I suspect the fans will be satisfied with the finishing in the same ballpark this season and doing very well in the club competitions.

The Merseyside clubs are at different stages of their development. The manager of the Red half now has his often quoted 3 transfer seasons to reshape the club. He sounds about ready but the fans don’t appear enthused. I suspect this is down to the Dream Team the Motormouth appears to be putting together on the other side of the M62. It appears the only thing that will appease / enthuse Liverpool fans this season is a Top 4 place. Barring a top 4 place, perhaps winning the EUROPA will do. I guess the Liverpool Reds will be hoping they don’t meet Sevilla in the final again. Deep down and going by his understated comments, my hunch is that Klopp will surprise everybody this season. I know Liverpool fans might find the next sentence disrespectful but I think they are quite capable of doing a Leicester.

Everton fans will have high aspiration for the coming season. The 29th richest man in the United Kingdom is now the controlling shareholder of the club. He appears to be willing to spend money to underline his ambitions for the club. With recruitment of a new EPL experienced manager and the transfer market moves, I believe Everton fans expect their club to be competitive and to at least challenge the traditional top 4 teams.

Difficult to place Chelsea fans considering their spectacular fall from grace last season. Under normal circumstances, you will imagine that a top 4 finish will be very welcome by their fans. However knowing their owner, I wont be surprised that the manager has been tasked to win the league in this first season. I’m not sure the addition of Kante alone will do the magic. The fixation with Terry appears illogical to me. Terry is not Bonucci, Chiellini or Barzagli. I am of the opinion the fans will bond with Conte, as he appears to be in the Mourinho mold.

Spuds fans will be praying they don’t come 2nd this coming season. If they do come second, you don’t need a crystal ball to tell you their near neighbors have won the league. Spuds fans will be hoping to win the ‘We beat Arsenal’ cup and any other cup competitions that the big clubs don’t take seriously. I am yet to encounter any Spuds fans that think their club will win the league. They will fancy their chance of a top 4 place going by their performance last season and will be bitterly disappointed if they don’t. However with respect to Top 4 aspirations, at least 3 of Guardiola, Wenger, Klopp, Motormouth, Conte, Ranieri & Pochettino will be disappointed next season.

Finally, Arsenal fans. Not sure you can say with a straight face what Arsenal fans want as the club’s fan base appears to be like the Middle East (Shite versus Sunnis, Iran vs. Iraq, Israel vs. Palestine, Kurds vs. Turks, Kurds vs. Iraqis) the divisions are deadly. I have witnessed virtual and real life fights. I have seen fans publishing each other’s personal, work and family information on Twitter. You think Brexit was divisive; you haven’t witnessed Arsenal fans squabbling.

I dare say there are 2 broad groups of fans; the most vocal ones are The WOBs. If Wenger morphs into Sir Alex Ferguson, the WOBs will not accept him. Simple.

Then you have the AKBs. I wear this badge proudly and I suspect there are many like me who do so because they believe the current manager might still deliver one more glory season, are broadly supportive of the club and understand there is a need to balance our passion as fans with the reality of ownership by Kroenke et al and stewardship by Gazidis, Wenger et al.  Deep down I think AKB is a label deliberately used to tar us reasonable fans by demented and fringe elements of the WOBs. Other labels they use are ‘lack of ambition’, ‘deluded’ and other unprintable ones.

I think there are other groups too. There are those who don’t want to be tarred by any of the labels, they are independent minded and might or might not believe in a change of guard.  So it is very difficult to decipher what Arsenal fans want.

If Wenger delivers the League next season. The WOBs will bask in the glory of the win but will still insist Wenger leaves. Speaking as an individual, I am a bit more realistic in thinking that we can’t or we don’t want to compete with the firepower of Chelsea and the Manchester clubs. For me, a strong performance week - in week - out with the boys standing up to their opponents and not showing signs of the weaknesses we have come to associate with Arsenal, will do well for me thank you. If that wins us the league, I will be delirious, if it doesn’t, I will rue the fact we have missed out again but will be pleased with the strong performance throughout the season.

I am also not ruling out Arsenal doing a Leicester. I am hoping Pep & The Mouthy one focus on each other that they don’t see Arsenal in their rear view mirror nicking the EPL.

Sunday 24 July 2016


Stepping away from football and focusing on security & terrorism. The recent events in Nice and Munich are fresh in the mind and I do not intend to repeat the details of those events. I however wish to focus on some of my 'take aways' from these two events.  

I now believe these type of events should be treated as the new norm. They should be perceived in the same way we look at armed robbery incidents leading to multiple loss of lives; fatal knife crimes; and fatal gang warfare.

I believe the security agencies are now clear that there is no security arrangement or intelligence gathering that can prevent a lone ranger from taking multiple lives if that individual is so determined. There is no tool yet developed for reading minds nor any functional crystal ball in existence that can tell you what a murdering lunatic will do next.

This is sad and somewhat fatalistic but I don’t think there is an alternative way or a solution to the problem. However there are several steps the government, the security establishment and politicians can take to help the public appreciate this stance. I will explain this at the end.  

If I had to design a the set up to combat terrorism this is what I will do.

The security establishment needs to embed armed men and women into the general populace. What if that waitress serving you coffee is armed with a disguised and licensed automatic weapon? What if that customer service assistant is actually a professionally trained sniper working for the government to protect its citizen? Hopefully this will allow the bastards who plan to mass murder innocent people think twice.

Yes many might say that these terrorism / security incidences happen too infrequently and in scattered location to justify the cost of implementing the solution I am recommending. But I think the loss of lives, the cost of the economic activities lost to these vile and deranged people outweighs whatever cost the government will incur in deploying my proposed solution.

In addition, I think the security agencies need to up their game. The 9/11 bombers in the US were known to government agencies, the 7/7 bombers in the UK were known to the authorities, the mass murderers in Paris were known to both the authorities in France and Belgium. The mentally deranged truck driver in Nice was known to local police officers as a scum thief and serial abuser of women while the Orlando self-hater was also known to local police.

If the security establishment were a bit ahead of the game, none of these idiots would probably have executed their murderous plans. They would either be in prison somewhere, dead or deported to a more welcoming country where they can practice their beliefs / convictions to their hearts content. The security agencies should stop hiding under liberty laws. You suspect someone of terrorism sympathies, lock him up please. The laws of the Magna Carta are not suitable for this day and age – 900 years after they were agreed.

We live in a different world today where one individual can kill almost a 100 people with truck or a group of 10 individuals can paralyze the strongest / mightiest country in the world as we saw during 9/11.

All these hiding behind freedom of speech, freedom of association and assumption of innocence must stop. A man claiming he subscribes to a murderous conviction should be enough to deny that individual his rights to freedom. Nations must be able to revoke the citizenship of people who do not wish to live by the collective values of that country. All the laws standing in the way of these suggestions including Article 15 of the UN Charter should be repealed and new and 22nd Century friendlier laws put in place.

Even within the existing laws, the Nice outrage could have been prevented on that day, if the French Police had moved that bastard on after a few hours. Officers noticed him earlier in the day, he told them a cock and bull story about delivering ice cream and nobody followed up later to find out if the ice cream he was delivering had all melted. If only a police officer had moved him on.

Gun laws also need to be looked at. I assume the USA is doomed on this score, as I don’t see them ever tackling the issue on a national scale. However in states where it is possible, and in other countries so inclined, gun laws need to be tightened. Members of the general public should never have access to semi automatic or automatic weapons or concealable weapons of any kind. The psychological profiling should be such that if there is any doubt, you shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun. Visits to the psychiatrist should be mandated on a regular basis if you own a gun. Paid for by the gun owner.

Furthermore, the way we deal with mentally ill people is also an area where we can make improvements. Yes I am aware that the psychiatric side of medicine is not an exact science but where there is doubt, the medical professional needs to exercise their professional discretion for the benefit of the general public and not hand - wring about ‘difficult choices’ / ‘respecting the individual’ who is likely incapacitated but the medical tools are not definitive enough to make such a pronouncement.  As far as I am concerned, a medically ill person on lock down or on 24-hour supervision will not be able to cause mayhem or mass murder.

Finally, members of the general public play a part. If we know any idiot who fantasize about killing other people for some perceived wrong or the other and we do nothing because we assume they will never carry out their threats. I believe we are just as guilty as that one if they then go on to commit some outrage. I wouldn’t want to find out that I could have prevented the death of 100 people and said nothing to the authorities. We need to speak out and the authorities need to listen and take action.

Back to our politicians. They need to bear the larger part of the responsibility.  They should trust the public a little more. We know they can never put a stop to armed robbery, knife and gun crimes etc. And it is looking like they have nothing in their armory to stop / combat terrorism. So please level with the public. Tell it as it is. And let the public be aware of alternatives that might the current situation such as the restriction of liberties earlier outlined. When Great Britain and its allies fought WW2, lots of liberties were temporarily suspended.   We are in the middle of another war and we appear to be fighting this war with both hands tied behind our backs. If the public is uncomfortable with the loss of some liberties, then we need to live with the consequences of our decisions and accept the occurrence of terrorism as the new normal.

Sunday 17 July 2016


Jose Mourinho is off to a flying start at United. He has won his first pre – season game against Wigan. Woo hoo.

He has recruited 3 of his key targets and he is ready to break the bank to recruit the 4th with possibly more to come. I think Manchester United are to be commended in doing those 3 deals early. They have been ballsy and money has been no object. Are the signed players world class players who can make a difference? The jury is definitely out and all observers will start to see how the new recruits adapt to the self - styled most competitive league in the world.

As part of his first press conference, The ‘Mouthy One’ showed that he’s learnt nothing from his last bruising at Chelsea. Apart from self-styling himself as The ‘Mouthy One’, he laid claim to every footballing success going. The man is a winner, many of his supporters and admirers say. I think they are right. If there was a competition in delusional lying Jose will win it hands down. Clearly his record on youth is a touchy subject as this article suggests.

Also his feeble attempt at defending his youth record clearly shows that criticism of that record has rattled him enough to come up with a fictional list of 49 youth players he has helped developed. Read this article for an assessment of the players Jose might have been referring to and make up your mind about what I believe is fiction. He is a chequebook manager in my honest opinion.

 Not surprisingly Jose didn’t hand over his own list, as it was fictitious. According to this article, after the event, United then handed over a list with 55 names that included Arjen Effing Robben. God in heavens. I’m still searching for a picture of Arjen Robben in the Chelsea academy. 

Not only has the number of players increased from 49 to 55 it included Arjen Robben FFS. I am wondering whether the United Press Officer has added the names of Rashford, Fosu - Mensah, Lingard, Borthwick – Jackson, Martial & Varela to the list. Can't put these things pass Jose you know.
For me and as per a previous article I wrote in September 2015, the man is simply a cowardHe didn’t even have the courage to show the list of names he prepared and brought to a press conference. Some winner, lacking in bottle and conviction.

I noticed that Sir Alex Ferguson is aiming to keep him on a short leash. A bit like when the local police officer let’s the newly arrived troublemaker know that “MY EYES ARE ON YOU”.  

Sir Alex has said the following to him “WE BELIEVE IN YOUTH HERE AT MANCHESTER UNITED” Please check this link for a report on Sir Alex's comments. 

I am so looking forward to the dust up between Sir Alex & Jose especially when the latter’s token gesture towards youth isn’t delivering the promised ‘winning mentality’.  Mr. Jose will then proceed to ‘do anything’ to win. And that 'anything' as we have seen in numerous examples over the years includes briefing against Sir Alex and the hierarchy at Manchester United.

I think everybody including Manchester United fans agree the signing of Jose will end in tears. It has always ended in tears wherever Jose goes and it will not be different this time around. What they are hoping for and paying good money for is that euphoric pleasure between the ‘boy meets girl’ stage and the ‘you lied to me’ phase. I suspect United might get the big trophies they crave in the next 2 season (although this is not my wish) but in season 3 it will fall apart and while some will be pleased at the big trophies he delivered in the intervening years and will be determined to justify the gain while Jose takes a wrecking ball to what is left of the fabric of Manchester United. Fans of this once great club should pray that Jose takes Ed Woodward down with him as Eddy Boy of Essex is the biggest problem the club faces. He is a bit like Georgy Boy of Bullingdon thrashing the fabric of a once Great Britain while some praise his audacious management. 

Can’t wait for the season to start

Sunday 3 July 2016


“England are Out” is a 50 year old phrase that is yet to lose its relevance and is unlikely to lose it in the years to come.

Like most fans, I was distraught at England’s 3 Lions loss to Iceland. I wasn’t distraught because England lost to what was considered a lesser side it was because they failed to turn up. They failed to put up a fight. They went out meekly like puppies instead of Lions.

They went out for many reasons, Coaching, lack of willpower and determination by the players and the desire of their opponents not to play dead.

The determination displayed by Iceland is one reason why most people love football. The unpredictable nature of the game: Greece winning the Euros; Leicester winning the Premier League; Tottenham ‘almost’ winning it; Arsenal remarkably overtaking Tottenham to come 2nd on the final day of the season.

We also love football when the players show their abilities and talent, be it pace, power and that unerring habit of putting the ball in the back of the net that is synonymous with a Jamie Vardy or the trickery of pin point passes that is Mesut Ozil’s claim to fame or those sweet dead balls from Dmitri Payet. There is always something to admire about football.

There was however nothing to admire about England in the Euros. I am not an expert but I felt Roy Hodgson’s decision to shift Rooney into midfield, changing everything he had done in qualifying to accommodate Rooney in that role slowed the team down.

I get the fact that Rooney is perhaps the finest player of his generation for England, a player at par with the best the world had to offer in Rooney’s prime, but he is not that player any more. He is not the player to build any aspirational team around. If a West Brom or Hull decided to make that type of decision or a national team like Malta or something did the same, you wouldn’t question them. But to build the England Team around Rooney in 2016 was a massive mistake by the England manager and he has rightly paid for it.

I am of the opinion that this Rooney decision did not allow the England team play to its strength. Players were passing sideways to Rooney, slowing down England’s play and transitions. I can also imagine the impact on the psyche of the players once they realized the team set up was modified to accommodate Rooney. We all know the players all have above average ability but they clearly didn’t have the togetherness to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Many blame the manager. I wouldn’t disagree especially given the decision on Rooney. Before the FA appointed Roy, I preferred Harry Redknapp. Not because Harry was tactically astute, but because his previous teams had flair and were largely exciting. His achievements in English football also towers above Roy’s.  When Roy was appointed, I understood the reasons especially the FA wanting an establishment person and all the legal issues Harry had to deal with at that time.

In his time as England manager, Roy has had his detractors even when he was blowing out teams in qualifiers. He was subjected to insults in the media, some of these, I believe bothered on ageism and good old snobbery. I changed channels frequently  and refused to read articles that appear to have a jaundiced view of what Roy was doing,. I was a silent supporter of Roy and a great believer that England could go far in the Euros.

However once Roy made the decision to rebuild the team around Rooney, he lost my support and I am not surprised England not only underperformed in their Group, they crashed out at the first knock out stage.

So wither England? The crop of players wont change although I strongly believe Rooney should be told in no uncertain terms that England is done with him. I think England should look for a young English manager like Eddie Howe (if he wants it), task him with building a team of players minus the prima donnas, give the new manager a free hand and let the whole nation know there is no expectation except that we want to see England players play as a team, play to their strength and be seen to be playing to the best of their abilities.

At the end of the day, football matches can be won and lost by the littlest of margins and referee errors, but by taking care of the things in your control – psyche, physical and mental strengths, conditioning, logistics, team selection etc. you put yourself in a position to benefit from those little margins.