Monday, December 12, 2011

Nouvea Riche on a Monday Night

After a relatively uneventful Premiership weekend, Sky in their infinite wisdom have chosen to move the biggest game of the round to Monday night.

One suspects it is a bigger game for Chelsea than it is for Manchester City and the onus will certainly be on them to win the game in front of their home fans. Whether they are capable of doing so however is far from certain.

City's form in the league this season has been irresistible whilst Chelsea's has simply been erratic or possibly even just plain poor. City will go into this match full of confidence knowing they have the attacking tools to dismantle most sides in Europe. The likes of Aguero and David Silva are players of the very highest calibre whom could both step into the Barca side and the supporting cast is not bad either. If Mancini decides to be positive - he isn't always in away fixtures - then Chelsea could have serious problems on their hands.

AVB is enduring a tough start to his reign with a team that is neither here nor there. The established old guard isn't quite what it was and the new arrivals are seemingly not ready to take their place either. Despite a seeming resurgence in his form during previous months, AVB has lost faith with Torres and with David Luiz having hand grenades strapped to his ankles (not literally Jamie Redknapp) there are many selection dilemmas for the Portuguese to ponder.

Terry and Cole will certainly start but Frank Lampard it appears is being eased out gradually so there can be no surety of his presence. Drogba that reliable battering ram who is also so much more seems be the player currently in favour up front and one would expect him to start. Chelsea will want a forward with whom the ball will stick as they could face large spells of possession from City's midfield.

Despite their contrasting fortunes in the Champions League, one would expect City to have the edge in confidence going into the game and for that reason they have to be favourites for the match. Stamford Bridge is far from the fortress it used to be and one suspects that AVB would take a point ahead of the match, the writer of this blog certainly would - No Nonsense.

No end in sight to the reign in Spain

Another El Classico and yet another victory for this imperious Barcelona side for whom another European and League double this season would back up the calls for their crowning as the greatest club side ever.

For Barca, it was business as usual despite falling behind to an astonishingly quick Karim Benzema goal. Composed and confident they simply went about their usual domination of possession and carved out three goals in response.

These games are also marked for comparison between Messi and Ronaldo and yet again there was little to compare as Messi again produced magic and Ronaldo remained a largely peripheral figure, it is a constant theme in these matches.

There were always whispers during his time at ManYoo that Ronaldo was simply a flat track bully, too quick, strong and powerful against lesser mortals but rendered more impotent against top class players. Certainly his goal scoring record when playing against Ashley Cole (CR9 being employed as a right winger back then) would back up those stats. Since joining Real he has incredibly nearly averaged a goal a game but against Barcelona that number drops to around one in five. Against the best, you need your best players to stand up and be counted, last night instead Ronaldo was again profligate. If there is a weakness to this Barca side it is defensively and Ronaldo has done nothing to exploit it.

Messi enjoys similar goal scoring stats to Ronaldo and whilst that may be the case, the thing that is setting him apart currently rather than the aesthetics is his performances in the big games. Right now there should be no debate as to whom the best player in the world is.

For Mourinho, the next couple of months will be key. He appears to have hit a brick wall against Pep Guardiola since overcoming him during Internazionale's Champions League winning heroics. It appears a similar situation to the one he endured at Chelsea with Rafa Betinez who seemed to have a way of second guessing the supposed tactical master. It may just be that Barcelona are simply too good for anyone right now but there does seem to be a psychological problem currently with playing the Catalans.

What Mourinho must cling on to is that to win La Liga he doesn't necessarily need to beat Barca. Even after this defeat, victory in their game in hand would see Madrid go three points clear at the top. They still have to visit the Nou Camp where it would appear they should expect to be beaten, but even then the Spanish league is short on quality and Real have the team to beat everyone else in that league comfortably.

Guardiola will continue to do what he is doing and let his players and their football do the talking. They have had the odd wobble this season but their home form has been astonishing and they will certainly drop few points for the remainder of this season. It will probably be a fight all the way to the finishing line but Guardiola will be sweating little by the time he gets there we suspect - No Nonsense.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's Grim Up North

So the saying goes and so it was with a double Mancunian disaster in the Champions League last night as the Premiership's top two crashed out in the group stages.

For City, it is not an unmitigated disaster as their priority this year is almost certainly securing the Premiership title for the first time since the wheel was invented. The biggest annoyance for them will be falling into the Europa League and the Thursday nights followed by Sunday fixtures that it brings which is less than ideal when chasing the title. They will however draw comfort from the fact that the red half of the city will be enduring Thursdays in Bucharest also.

For United however it is a huge blow. They are a club that associate themselves (overly so we would add) hugely with the Champions League and there has always been the suspicion that this is done so to paper over their inferior record in the competition to the true legends such as Real, Milan and Liverpool.

Writing off Manchester United under Ferguson has always been an entirely silly thing to do and there will surely be a response from the players. The question however with Manchester United at the moment is regarding the true quality of their personnel.

After their chastening defeat to Barca in last year's final, Ferguson embarked on a summer spending spree and there is no doubt that the squad has been enhanced and looks far fresher. The reality is however that not one of the players purchased in the Summer would get into the Barcelona first team and in that respect they are no closer to them.

Ferguson has proved a master of ushering out one great team and bringing in another, he for instance would not have allowed the likes of Terry, Lampard, Drogba and Ashley Cole to all grow old together without first class replacements being weaned in to the team gradually. He has however failed to replace the central midfield axis of Scholes and Keane in any remotely adequate way and it is the lack of quality in the centre of the park that is the problem for United.

The reality of the focus for ManYoo this season has in any case been stopping City's apparent march to the domestic title. Ferguson would hate to see his reign come to an end with either City or Liverpool on top of the pile and there is a very real possibility of that happening in Citys' case as they have the financial muscle to dominate almost at will if they so wish - financial fair play aside.

Another huge problem for United earlier this season had been their defence with De Gea coming in for all sorts of bombardments without an adequate defensive shield in front of him. The superb Nemanda Vidic had done much to remedy that since his return to the side. His injury last night looks to be a serious one and if so could have serious ramifications for his team's title challenge.

Going out of the CL is a major blow to United and not least in financial terms as there are huge monetary benefits in remaining in the competition until the latter stages. Whatever Mancini and Ferguson might both have to say about the Europa League, the reality is either manager would be happy to get knocked out at the first possible opportunity. Suddenly the FA Cup third round tie has taken on new meaning and importance - No Nonsense.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Premiership Axe Has Swung

December is upon us and so is the traditional start of the culling of Premiership managers. As the ownership structure has changed so has the short termism of thinking throughout football as a whole with few managers on average lasting more than two seasons.

One has gone and two other Premiership managers in particular have reason to feel threatened in Steve Kean and Andre Villas Boas with probably only Sir Alex, Kenny Dalglish, Harry Redknapp, Arsene Wenger, David Moyes and Tony Pulis feeling genuinely secure. The likes of Owen Coyle and Martin Jol will also be feeling a distinct lack of seasonal cheer unless results improve.

For Steve Bruce, his position had become untenable as the fans had turned badly against him with Saturday's latest debacle against Wigan (who he ironically left in the lurch) a bridge too far. Whilst chairman all too easily turn to pressing the eject button, it cannot really be said that Bruce hasn't had the support in either terms of time nor money and the way he has handled the bizarre situation with Asamoah Gyan left much to be desired.

One major issue that has perennially vexed this blog about Bruce is his obsession with fawning to Sir Alex Ferguson in the lead up to matches against ManYoo. Other ex ManYoo players such as Keane or Hughes have been respectful without doing a disservice to their own clubs. In the lead up to any ManYoo fixture it is the norm to hear Bruce foaming at the mouth about Fergie's greatness and putting your mortgage on ManYoo to win the fixture is a no brainer. He has also been ready to pick up their cast offs such as O'Shea and Wes Orange. It's almost as if he felt that by assimilating himself with Ferguson he could gain similar stature.

Whilst it is never nice to see someone lose their job, it seems that few will shed a tear for Bruce's leaving and especially not the faithful on Wearside.

Steve Kean has it seemed been a dead man walking since he first got the job. Venkys made a gross error sacking Sam Allardyce and they have compounded it with little investment and seemingly learning nothing about running a football club. Kean has been the vessel for the fans' ire and with Blackburn rooted in the relegation mire it seems simply a matter of time.

Chelsea face yet another quandary of their own making. The premature sacking of Ancelotti was followed up with a huge compensation payment for the initially very successful but very young Andre Villas Boas.

Several months on and Chelsea are struggling and the knives are already out for AVB in the press. It is hard to pin down what the true problem is at Chelsea and the truth is that there are many issues that need to be resolved.

Chelsea do not possess either a first team nor a squad to truly compete with the two Manchester clubs. That being said they should be good enough to comfortably finish third. Looking at their form and the table it is far from clear that they will do so.

AVB has inherited a powerful dressing room that is physically in decline. Terry, Drogba and Lampard are way past their best and Cech has never been the same since his dreadful head injury. All four are sucking huge wages from Chelsea however and hampering the finances team building for the future whilst at the same time contributing less and less to the cause on the pitch.

AVB has also inherited two expensive purchases in David Luiz and Fernando Torres who were both bought in January. Both are hugely talented players yet AVB seems neither to trust them nor know how to obtain the best from either player.

The likes of Mikel, Malouda, Bosingwa, Alex and Kalou are simply not good enough for a club aspiring to win Championships and Champions Leagues and whilst the likes of Mata and Sturridge have made excellent fresh contributions, there is not enough consistent support from those around them.

Chelsea's squad has been allowed to decline because of the short term merry-go-round (no manager has been around long enough to focus on re-building due to the short term need for results). Manchester City would have paid nigh on 40M for John Terry three seasons ago and there have been several opportunities to sell Drogba.

This blog is not suggesting that either has been anything but a magnificent servant to the club but over 50M in transfer fees received and probably another 10-20M in wages saved would have allowed significant rebuilding and possibly allowed Chelsea to compete for the likes of Ashley Young and Phil Jones. To do that a manager needs to be in place for several years and for that reason AVB should be persevered with - Chelsea's problems are of the board's doing and not his, it is time to plan for the future and not for the now.

Only one team can win the league, only three more can reach the holy ground of the Champions League and of the remaining sixteen sides, only a lucky thirteen can stay up. It is mathematically impossible for all the clubs to achieve their minimum targets for a season especially given the unrealistic ambitions of many chairmen. The likes of Bolton and Blackburn are nowadays small clubs, clubs such as Sunderland are big only in their own mind and Chelsea have been the architects of their own downfall - No Nonsense.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mancini's Priorities.

Manchester City suffered a possibly terminal reverse in Naples last night meaning that their Champions League progress is now out of their hands even if they were to beat Bayern at home next month.

Much is being made of the negative approach that Mancini took again whilst travelling in Europe as he had in Munchen. City have swept all before them in the Premiership this season by playing a brand of attacking football that has been fantastic to watch. Against Napoli last night, much as against Bayern they were defensive and ponderous.

One must initally again question Mancini's tactics and selection again last night. For a team looking to play on the counter attack, the sight of the pacey Aguero, Nasri and even Adam Johnson sitting on the bench looks odd to say the least. Dzeko and Balotelli so far has been a fairly untried partnership, it seemed a strange occasion to try it out for size.

What one must question however is how motivated Mancini is to to progress in the CL. No one is suggesting he wants to be knocked out but one gets the sense that his priority is the Premiership without question, especially as that would directly supplant their neighbours. It is also a far more realistic prospect.

Focusing on the Champions League is usually foolhardy, Chelsea have endured a (false) obsession with the CL which in apart from possibly a couple of seasons where they were decent outside bets they simply weren't good enough to win it. That focus had been removed from the league where they have won only one Premiership of the last five. In the previous decade, Arsenal competed in the CL every year and Chelsea in nearly all yet neither of them won it once, the league remains the bread and butter.

Mancini knows the strength of the CL this season having seen Bayern up close and knowing that the likes of Real and Barca remain in wait. A huge dose of luck is required to win it whereas the consistency they are showing in the Premiership could already be enough to clinch the trophy they so desire.

Juggling Europe and domestic matches is a tough ask. The likes of Ferguson at ManYoo have becomes masters of it other than the occasional blip. Mancini knows that his players in many instances lack that know how yet of raising themselves twice a week and it is for that reason that the likes of Aguero were on the bench last night. Spurs suffered to a degree last season with their CL participation and at their own level, Stoke are having a tough time balancing the Premiership and the Europa League.

It is often both a cliche and a lie that teams are happy to go out of cup competitions and often it can cause a loss of momentum in the league. This blog is quite sure that Mancini would love a quarter final against Real Madrid next March but nevertheless it is not his priority, it is simply nice if it comes along. Should City win the league this season, no one will remember this night in Naples, the Champions League can wait for a season or two but the Premiership cannot - No Nonsense.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Premiership Strikes Back

There's nothing like a week of International friendlies to make fans truly appreciate their domestic leagues and this week was no different.

Normal service is resumed on Saturday lunchtime when Arsenal are the visitors to Carrow Road in a potentially entertaining fixture that will do much to tell us how real the Gunners' recent revival is.

Everton and Wolves should play out a fairly mundane fixture at Goodison whilst Manchester City will attempt to extend their unbeaten run against the even bigger upstarts from St James Park. Stoke and QPR both occupy slots in mid table but both will covet a win that would move them away from the lower end of the table.

The next three fixtures are all potential relegation 'six pointers' with Sunderland and their visitors Fulham enjoying less than auspicious starts to the season. West Brom host a rejuvenated Bolton whilst the grim reaper will almost certainly be attending DW Stadium where the Latics host chicken mad Blackburn.

The late kick off sees the champions travelling to Wales to take on newly promoted Swansea in a fixture which undoubtedly crowns their return to the big time. ManYoo will be keen not to lose further ground to their increasingly noisy neighbours and Wayne Rooney should be raring to go after his week in the international sin bin.

The game of the weekend sees two sides with lofty ambitions who are both under mounting pressure. AVB's silent revolution at Chelsea has come off the rails in recent week and the lack of discipline within the camp must be addressed. The team will hope that the encouraging signs from Fernando Torres in the past month will not prove to be a false dawn especially now that Didier Drogba is now in turn suspended.

Since the arrival of first Abramovich's cheque book and then Mourinho, Chelsea have always been associated with steel and a miserly defence. That steel has turned into combustible magnesium of late and the displays have instead been simply miserable.

For Liverpool, Dalglish has proved a master of the media so far and whilst Arsenal so far this season have been put through the ringer by the media, it is worth noting they have the same amount of points as Liverpool and both trail Spurs in the all or nothing chase for fourth place - we do not class Newcastle as anything more than a passing fad.

The problem with Dalglish's side is that other than the excellent Suarez and the potential of a fit Gerrard they look a fairly ordinary team. Stewart Downing has plied his trade at Middlesborough and Aston Villa previously for good reason - he is not good enough. The money spent on Jordan Henderson also looks increasingly suspect and something must be done to get Andy Carroll fully fit because he looks entirely lumbering and predictable upfront so far this season.

Spurs will again fancy their chances at home on Monday night against an Aston Villa side that again  hardly fires the imagination. Spurs look genuine contenders for fourth place and another home win could see them move into third place if results go their way. For Villa who currently occupy eighth place that is more or less where they will end the season, if ever there was a club it is pointless to support it is them.

This blog will stick its' head up and predict home wins for Everton, City, Stoke, West Brom, Chelsea and Spurs. Arsenal will enjoy an away victory at Norwich and ManYoo will win at Swansea. This just leaves the Sunderland versus Fulham and Wigan versus Blackburn fixtures, both of which will be draws that suit nobody.

Some early team news is that Rio Ferdinand will not be available for ManYoo due to being too busy on Twitter ranting about Sepp Blatter - No Nonsense.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Suffistikation of the Modern Day Soccer Media

There is little doubt that Sky Sports has revolutionised football coverage from top to bottom. What was once a thirty minutes a week highlight reel is now a 24 hour wall to wall media blast with glitzy presentation with graphics and cameras and microphones that pick up everything apart from John Terry's on pitch soundbites.

Despite all this and despite much attempts to the contrary, there is still one part of football and in particular the coverage that refuses to update itself and join the media revolution that is the 21st Century. That is the players who are interviewed and the plethora of ex players and failed managers forging careers as pundits that litter the global coverage to saturation point.

Cliche has almost always been exclusively owned by the professional footballing world. From the heady days of Ron Atkinson's weekly reference to it as 'being a game of two halves' (thanks for pointing that out Ron) to Frank Lampard's seemingly constant 'holding up of his hands' (is he a French soldier in disguise we ask?) and his constant awards of 'fair play' to the opposition for 'setting their stall out', it is ingrained in the psyche of all footballing men it seems.

The BBC was the first to attempt to update matters with first of all the ever slick and debonair Des Lynam who would try and coax intelligent utterances from the mouths of the punditry. The baton was then passed on to Gary Lineker who despite an initially smug outlook, forged a decent back line partnership with Alan Hansen who has attempted to cross the border to the thinking man's point of view. Most of this was unfortunately offset by Mark Lawrensen's camp and high pitched screeching. As for Garth Crooks, well there is little to say as he's already said it twenty times over.

The likes of Ruud Gullit were added to the mix and talk of sexy football set the news wires buzzing, could pundits actually be clever and cool? Further continental and cultured guests such as Clarence Seedorf were added for the last world cup, the BBC has always at least tried.

It is regrettable however for the BBC that with the exception of the World Cup they have declined to actually show any live football and so we have predominantly been left with what is served up by Sky Sports. The writer of this blog has not resided in the UK for nearly ten years now so we apologise for any 'historical' references.

One of the most popular shows that Sky Sports put out was Soccer Saturday which in broad terms revolved around the excellent Jeff Stelling (now of Countdown fame no less) coaxing grunts out of the likes of George Best, Charlie Nicholas, Phil Thompson and Rodney Marsh. It was to put it mildly 'cliche heaven' and when the likes of Paul Merson were invited on to the team it simply got worse. It remained however strangely compelling viewing.

It would however be 'offside' to suggest that football suffers exclusively from dullness or repetition in its' programming. Rugby coverage as an example suffers from many ex players working as pundits that you could mistake for robotic orangutans whose batteries have run down, it is tough viewing indeed. Martin Brundle's constant references to 'new boots' in Formula 1 is an example of great tedium at work from an otherwise excellent broadcaster.

Cricket however offers an example of how commentary and opinion can be delivered in a modern, well paced and intelligent manner. It may be that the relative pedestrian pace of a cricket match forces the commentators to do their jobs in an entertaining manner and it is no coincidence that going back to the days of Jonners on BBC4's Test Match Special that many of the most memorable commentating moments have come from this one sport.

The epitome of the modern day pundit would have to be Jamie Redknapp. Relatively young, good looking, likeable and inoffensive to both sexes. Young Jamie however has become the subject of the 'literally' campaign so championed by the excellent journalists at Guardian Football.

Poor Jamie whilst wishing to appear articulate and cultured is actually belying a complete incomprehension for the English language as shown up by the 'Jamie Literally Watch' that has emerged. Some brief but excellent samples are shown here.

'These balls now - they literally explode of your feet'.

'He's literally left Ben Haim for dead there'.

'David Silva literally floats around the pitch'.

In the first two instances we would ask if anyone either saw an ambulance or a police car and in the case of David Silva, did anyone call NASA?

Now whilst it's a shame to pick on Redknapp Jr for these harmless gaffes, it is unfortunately a fantastic example of the stereotype that is the British footballer and especially one that is trying to appear in the broadest of terms 'not fick'.

To say that there are no decent pundits would be unfair, the likes of Graeme Souness, Graeme Le Saux and Ruud Gullit mentioned earlier speak eloquently and with purpose. Some of the shows on Radio Five Live with the likes of the excellent Pat Nevin show thoughtful purpose and provide excellent considered comment.

For every Pat Nevin however there are a multiple of the likes that we are treated to here in Asia. There is a phrase in the financial markets which is called 'filth' which stands for 'Failed in London, try Hong Kong'. Whilst not wishing to disparage this region (not the point at all) it does seem that anyone who cannot get a gig on Sky Sports uses Asia's unquenchable thirst for all things Premiership to set themselves up with pundits' jobs in Asia. We truly get the dregs out here.

The likes of John Beresford, John Burridge, the entirely dreadful Carlton Palmer (he's as bad a pundit as he was a player) and the likes of the likeable but awful Bryan Robson and Lee Sharpe are prime examples of pundits with a cliche dictionary stuck on loop.

There is almost nothing intelligent that can be derived from their commentary. The likes of Burridge and Palmer attempt to set themselves up as some kind of football punditry 'shock jocks' when the reality is they merely appear as idiots as they spew forth cliche after cliche in loud suits with shoulder pads. It is like 80's soap Dynasty being re-set in the Isle of Man with megaphones.

Football coverage will no doubt continue to go from strength to strength with the new HD format, 3D being introduced, multiple angle views and super slo mo. It is oft said that human beings do not like change however, especially those of a certain age. Fortunately for those of that ilk, the professional footballer who has evolved so quickly physically is resisting all evolution mentally and some things in football programming will always remain the same - No Nonsense.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Banged to Rights

Sport in general and cricket in particular was given a shot in the arm yesterday when Mr Justice Cook handed down custodial sentences to the three cricketers and the agent (we use the term loosely) involved in the no ball betting scandal that has done so much to taint the name of cricket even further.

Pakistan it seems has so often been at the centre of these controversies but it would be churlish to suggest that it is restricted only to this one nation. South Africa had its' own crisis years ago with the Hanse Cronje affair and there have also been incidents including Herschelle Gibbs. Even the mighty Australian duo of Mark Waugh and Shane Warne becoming embroiled in scandal over information they supposedly passed to an Indian bookmaker.

As with most matters such as this - whether it be doping or any other form of systemic cheating - what we see is the tip of the iceberg and one sadly has to assume that the practise is much more ingrained than we would like to believe. Only a select few in cricket earn large sums of money which leaves a lot of extremely vulnerable sporstmen for the fixers to prey on.

What is refreshing this time - whilst not suggesting we take pleasure at the imprisonment of others - is that instead of simply handing down sporting bans, the full force of the law has been used. It is fraud pure and simple and the culprits must go to jail.

The press has done much to trumpet the need for 'white collar criminals' to go to jail for various heinous offences committed ranging from insider trading to sub prime mortgage selling. The fall out from the 2008 financial crisis has been huge and crimes that have a financial impact rather than say physical theft or violence now have a very high profile.

The impact of the actions of these four is no different. Huge sums of money are bet on cricket and by pre fixing the results you are defrauding those participants as well as those paying to watch the game live or those who have paid for Sports Channel subscriptions.

The write of this blog used to be an avid watcher of the Tour De France but no longer bothers as the credibility of the results cannot remotely be trusted. Every time now a freak cricket result occurs be it a batting collapse or simply a few too many wides, eyebrows will be raised and questions will be asked.

Sport is no longer just that, it is in many cases a mutli million dollar international business and therefore those that commit fraud must be subject to the same criminal sanctions that the rest of the world is subject to - No Nonsense.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Terry's Chocolate Ordeal

John Terry's career has in general been an excellent one captaining Chelsea through the most successful period in the their history as well as leading his country. He does however have a highly effective self destruct button which he is prone to pushing on occasion. This week has been a prime example.

Whether the truth about what was or wasn't said at Loftus Road will ever come out and whether the FA has the nerve to go after the England captain in a situation that is both a social and moral hand grenade remains to be seen. What we do know however is that Terry ultimately ended up on his backside on Saturday and in doing so condemned all his teammates to the same fate.

For Chelsea it was another dreadful capitulation as AVB attempts to instill a vastly different philosophy to the more pragmatic coaches that have gone before him. They are clearly a team in transition with an old guard slowly being eased out and new players that do not yet have the required level of consistency.

Ferguson has been the master of managing these transitions but the same cannot be expected at the Bridge as the revolving door policy on managers has rendered any kind of continuity impossible. Chelsea are not going to win anything this year and one must hope that in bringing in such a young manager they fully intend to give him the time that is required.

In order to combat what is going to come in particular from Manchester City in the coming years, substantial funds will also be required as Chelsea's squad no longer compares to the very best.

With regard to their vanquishers, no one should be fooled that Arsenal are better placed than earlier this season. They are horrendously open and short of quality at the back and they cannot expect to regularly concede three goals against the top sides and still win. They are overly (Robin) reliant on Van Persie also who is in the form of his life but remains highly injury prone.

The league is as most have already suggested going to be a straight fight between the Manchester clubs. ManYoo have found Goodison an awkward venue in the past but a solid win was exactly what they required. City continue their steamroller and have only dropped two points all season, impressive stuff.

Whilst Arsenal have re-ignited their quest for fourth place, Spurs again picked up three points and appear to have some good momentum as well as potent attacking verve. Liverpool also won much to the chagrin of Roy Hodgson no doubt.

At the bottom, it appears there is truth to the phrase that 'it is grim up North' as three Lancashire clubs occupy the bottom three places. Wigan and Bolton it must be said look doomed and the only thing any of those three can look pleased about is that Wolves appear to be equally as bad - No Nonsense.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Secret Truth at Stamford Bridge

Andre Villas Boas' arrival at Chelsea was much heralded as a coup and certainly in terms of Chelsea's recent hiring and firing patterns, a very forward thinking appointment. It was possibly a little bit risky but a bold statement of intent for long term planning rather than the anticipated hiring of Guus Hiddink who would have been the safe option.

AVB had it all seemingly, a short but fantastic CV, youthful zest and dashing good looks, where could it possibly go wrong? But then the rumours started and whilst no one was willing to utter that dreadful word (especially after nightfall), whispers were emerging that a (less than) dark secret was emerging.

As the beard has become fuller and the wave of blind optimism has passed, it has become very apparent that something was not as it should be. The late afternoon Winter sunshine in West London on Sunday confirmed what previously no one would dare mention, AVB is a ginger.

What this will mean for Chelsea and their young manager in the long run, no one can really tell but everyone at this blog wishes AVB nothing but the best in his personal battle against this terrible affliction - No Nonsense.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Madchester - Rave On

The late 80s saw Manchester synonymous with the rise of acid house that would lead to the wider rave and house music phenomenon that would so define British dance music for over a decade.

Yesterday, football fans over all the world must have wondered if someone had dropped an LSD tab in their beer yesterday when seeing the scoreline from Old Trafford. The Theatre of Dreams served up a very real nightmare for all the season ticket holders that had made the long journey North from Surrey.

Sir Alex Ferguson looked aghast in the post match interviews and his face would have surely been ashen were it not for all the vin rouge he has consumed throughout his long years. Indeed, he described it as the worst day in his entire football career. It had been a true horror show, they were beaten by only one goal less than they had beaten Arsenal at the same ground a few weeks ago.

That all being said, no one should be overly carried away or talking too much of power shifts, it is only three points after all - or is it? Ferguson has received hidings at several points in his career. There was a 4-0 hammering in the Nou Camp back in the early nineties that prompted him to change his approach to European football.

The writer of this blog was fortunate enough to witness Chelsea beat ManYoo 5-0 at Stamford Bridge over a decade ago which was simply a bad day at the office for his side. Most recently at Wembley, they were played off the park by Barcelona, again prompting Ferguson to make huge changes to his team.

None of these three examples however came at Old Trafford and none were against their noisy neighbours who have just turned the volume up by several decibels. What is important now is how both managers galvanise their teams and harness the result.

Ferguson remains the motivator supreme and he will surely be able to use this result - as bad as it is - to his advantage by being able to serve out one almighty kick up the backside. Hindsight is always 20:20 but a defeat to a good side was coming, so open has their play been.

Against Chelsea, ManYoo were 3-0 up at half time yet should have been pegged back to 3-2 in the second half with most pundits agreeing the scoreline could have been anything. Even Ferguson described it as like watching basketball. A mediocre Basle team managed to put three past them also in a game they were coasting in, the signals have been there.

There are huge questions about the United defence, Jonny Evans is receiving the cat calls today for his sending off and general level of mediocrity with Ferguson being chastised for not selecting Phil Jones. More interestingly is why the fit club captain, Nemanda Vidic was not even in the squad for such a huge game, he was available for selection.

There have been huge plaudits this season for the likes of Jones and Smalling but for all the cavalier swashbuckling runs, there needs to be solid defence. A wider problem for ManYoo is a central midfield that is simply not offering enough cover in front of the back four. David De Gea has made an extraordinary amount of saves statistically this season and there is a reason for that, the back four is simply too exposed.

Come the latter stages of the Champions League, the likes of Madrid and Barcelona will rip them apart unless someone is going to provide that cover. Turning Phil Jones into a true defensive midfielder may just be the answer.

For Mancini, he has the task of ensuring that the team grows in confidence from being five points ahead and having handed out a monumental hiding to their neighbours and biggest rivals but at the same time keeping their feat on the ground. He was keen to play down the significance after the final whistle other than in terms of the three points and that is as it should be.

Mancini tweaked his tactics yesterday with the selection of Milner ahead of Nasri. It proved to be an excellent choice as Milner played a good match and Silva looked to have more room without Nasri in proximity to him. Balotelli ahead of Dzeko was a bold selection, but again neither Italian disappointed yesterday with both sharing centre stage in one of the finest days of both their careers.

The other big winners yesterday should have been Chelsea but they imploded at Loftus Road losing 1-0 whilst going down to nine men in the first half.

AVB was scathing of the referee and whilst in some respects he was correct, in others he was entirely wrong. David Luiz is a rough diamond and needs to learn the art of defending. His barge for the penalty was a challenge that simply did not need to be made. Drogba's challenge was two footed and by the letter of the law you must go.

Bosingwa however was involved in a 50/50 situation that would have been given his way every alternate time. By sending off two players early in the match, the referee sets a tone that he must then continue with and Chelsea should unquestionably have had a penalty in the second half.

Whilst Chelsea's spirit must be commended in the second half, a lack of professionalism has cost them dearly yesterday. You cannot afford to slip up when your rivals are playing each other if you wish to win the league and again whilst it is only three points that were lost, it is a signal that this team isn't quite at the same level of the two clubs from Manchester this season - No Nonsense.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Mancunian Candidate

For the blue half of Manchester, this Saturday presents the ultimate opportunity to steal a march finally on their historically dominant neighbours, victory at Old Trafford would signal that the title challenge from City is very real.

Looking at the relative squads, there is little to choose in terms of size and quality with both boasting a huge amount of options, especially in attack. The conundrum for Mancini as ever in tough away games is how he sets his side up. It is interesting to note that City did not win away against any of the top seven last year, they were also well beaten recently in Munchen, it will be hard for the Italian to break free of his naturally defensive shackles given that record but to beat ManYoo, that is what he must do.

Although Chelsea were beaten at Old Trafford, they showed that ManYoo have a soft centre and as was widely reported, the scoreline could have been anything that day. Ferguson chose an odd and understrength team against Liverpool - possibly to let Dalglish and the rest of Anfield know that he doesn't particularly see them as a threat - but it is for sure that he sees City as real rivals for silverware this season.

For that reason we can expect the big guns from the red half of Manchester on show this weekend. City do not have the players defensively to sit back against that kind of onslaught and so they must attempt to have the bulk of the play and the possession.

Neither side looks particularly convincing defensively and both have fairly workmanlike central midfields, it is the potent attacking options of both sides that will decide the match.

Should Mancini go with what has been successful this season, it will be four from Nasri, Silva, Aguero, Balotelli and Dzeko with Johnson only having an outside squeak of a start. Should only three of these start then we will know that Mancini has gone with a defensive mindset.

Ferguson's choices are less clear depending on which formation he goes with but in Young, Rooney, Nani, Hernandez and the seemingly ageless Giggs he has forward players of real flair whilst retaining the slightly more workmanlike options of Park and Valencia. It will be hard for Mancini to second guess what team and shape that Ferguson will go with.

For all City's Championship pretensions, Sunday represents the acid test and in truth it is hard to see them winning at Old Trafford. A draw would be an excellent result for them whilst for Ferguson, this is an opportunity to fire a well aimed broadside at the upstarts from Eastlands. We expect a fiery affair which should be edged (just) by the home team - No Nonsense.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wayne Rooney

This blog preaches 'no nonsense' so when there is nonsense afoot we have to react quickly to stop it.

Wayne Rooney yesterday received a three match ban for violent conduct/assaulting another player for his petulant and malicious kick at a Montenegrin player in England's final Euro qualifier. Members of the media and assorted ex England players have all cried 'foul' but not for the right reasons.

One ex ManYoo and England player tweeted that Rooney was being singled out for special treatment, that there was an anti England agenda from UEFA. This is hypocrisy and stupidity of the highest level.

The rules within football for violent conduct are a three match ban as a minimum plain and simple. Two weeks ago Fernando Torres received (quite rightly) a straight red and a three match ban for a horrible two footed lunge. Did any of these people cry out begging for clemency for Torres? Of course they didn't because he is not Wayne Rooney.

It is THEY who are calling for and trying to hand out special treatment for Rooney, not UEFA. Wayne Rooney has acted with a huge amount of abandon in both his personal and private lives. He has been indulged to a ridiculous degree by the fans, his football club and even his wife because he provides greatly for the most part for all of them.

The fans forgave him for his sending off in the World Cup in 2006 which effectively ended all English hopes. He has now jeopardised England's slim chances at Euro 2012 due to his childishness but it has been dressed up as the fault of UEFA.

For ManYoo, despite much brilliance for much of his career, he endured a torrid twelve months before and after the last World Cup which he rounded off by handing in a transfer request. His reward for this was a record breaking new contract and little of the media lambasting that Carlos Tevez received, cue Johnny Foreigner/Carlos Kickaball thank you Sir Alan Sugar.

On the home front whilst not wishing to sully his long suffering wife's name any further by dwelling on his misdemeanours, he has had paying episodes with Grandmothers and enjoyed himself to the fullest with other company whilst his wife was heavily pregnant. Not many men known to this blog would still be enjoying marital bliss after those escapades.

Wayne Rooney is a fabulous footballer, the best that England currently has but he and those around him need to learn quickly that he is subject to the same laws and censure that we all are. It is easy to refer to it as 'fire in the belly', 'artistic brilliance spilling over', insert your own euphemism in much the same way that players like Eric Cantona walked on the edge.

Rooney however is pushing the boundaries by having his behaviour impact a Nation's chances at not one but two major championships - and most players don't get many more bites at the cherry than that. Rooney will be twenty six in two weeks time and with the amount of first team and international experience that he has he should be unquestionably classed as one of the senior players. Only last week he was talking of becoming the ManYoo and England captain.

It is something that could and probably will happen given the track record of managers indulging him so blatantly. No one is suggesting that Rooney be dropped or sold but only that his behaviour be treated in the same manner that it would be for other mere mortals.

Missing the group stages next Summer should be punishment enough but the message will not be driven home if those around him convince him that it is an unjust sentence. It is however not in the least bit unjust or unfair. Rooney should merely ask any of his fellow professionals what sentences they received for violent conduct, three matches end of story - No Nonsense.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Back to Domestic Chores

This weekend sees the return of domestic football after the 'high drama and nail biting don't miss' last round of Euro qualifiers. Kicking off the Premiership is no less than Liverpool versus ManYoo.

For such an intense rivalry it's been an amazingly lopsided one over the past thirty or forty years. First came a period of Liverpool dominance with United left trailing far in their wake only for the converse to occur since the beginning of the nineties. Despite this mismatch the ferocity of the rivalry is as extreme as anywhere on the globe with the highest of stakes for both teams.

For Liverpool, a promising start has threatened to be derailed in recent weeks and a further home defeat would further widen the gap to those they wish to emulate above them. The return of captain and talisman Steven Gerrard will add further impetus to a team that will need little motivating.

Domestically, United have been irresistible sweeping all before them in true swashbuckling style. There is however a suspicion (amongst the press at least) that they are more open than last season and vulnerable defensively against quality teams. Certainly few have been able to test that theory out but had Torres been less wasteful (cows backsides and banjos spring to mind) then the result at Old Trafford could have been very different.

Dalglish has been attempting to make Liverpool much harder to beat and to a degree has achieved that aim. There is still however a quality gap to the likes of United and how they rise to the occasion may dictate whether they can achieve the victory that the Kop so craves.

Aston Villa's unbeaten start will be put hard to the test at Eastlands and QPR will be hoping to push relegation fears to one side by dispatching Steven Kean's Blackburn at home.

Fulham so impressive against the Rs last time out have a tough fixture at Stoke whilst Wigan versus Bolton will surely be attended by the grim reaper of relegation.

Chelsea will be hoping for a straightforward home win against an Everton side feeling so wronged by events in the Merseyside derby. Newly promoted Norwich and Swansea will play out what could be an entertaining fixture at Carrow Road.

West Brom and Wolves play out an interesting fixture on Sunday with the Baggies desperate to pick up some points. Early season mid table predictions have been confounded by an early run of tough fixtures and for Wolves, the optimism of the first few games has evaporated with a run of defeats that has left them bereft of confidence.

Arsenal badly need to get their season back on track with a home win against Sunderland who in turn have their manager Steve Bruce under huge pressure. A convincing home win would do much possibly to clarify matters for both managers.

The weekend's final fixture is definitely one of the most intriguing. Newcastle have had a sensational start to their season after much predictions (including here) of doom and gloom for their season ahead. After seven matches they occupy the lofty heights of fourth place, the exact position that Spurs so covet.

For both sides it is an opportunity to demonstrate that they are the real deal this season. Spurs have recovered since their absolute hiding from City at White Hart Lane and they must be seen as serious contenders for fourth place if they can win fixtures such as this - No Nonsense.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Tartan Army will holiday elsewhere again next Summer

Supporting Scotland has always been a labour of love with a history of glorious failure. The difference in yesteryear however was that we at least got to go for the first two weeks of a tournament before being sent packing by the might of Costa Rica, Peru or Morocco.

This blog has already written about the failings of Scottish football both at international and at European club level and the shortcomings are well known. Scots will lament wistfully over successful qualifications in '74,'78, '82, 86, '90, '98 and many famous names such as Strachan, Jordan, Dalglish and Souness, players of genuine quality. Scotish football has fallen on hard times indeed.

What frustrates about this latest failure is that it could have potentially been avoided. Scotland are clearly no world beaters but this was a poor group in truth and the fact that no one was going to take points from Spain making it a straight shoot out for second place.

Craig Levein points to the penalty awarded to the Czechs at the end of the match at Hampden and whilst he is right to feel aggrieved it is not the cause for the failure to qualify. The real reasons lie at the start of the campaign where a poor 0-0 draw away to Lithuania was backed up by a loss in Prague where Scotland didn't even attempt to win the game with their now infamous 4-6-0 formation.

Now whilst there was probably no disgrace in losing in Prague on the face of it, the lack of ambition shown and the overdose of respect given to the Czechs belied Levein's inexperience at this level and the lack of faith in his squad - possibly due to a lack of familiarity - after the draw in Lithuania.

It's doubtful how much any new international manager would know about the Czechs but presumably someone over a certain age associates the team with the likes of Poborsky, Nedved, Berger, Koller and Smicer. This current team is not even close to their like and Levein made a crucial error in judgement by overestimating his opponents.

It is always could haves and should haves in these instances but as ever it is the fractions that make the difference. There is genuine cause for optimism with the current Scottish team with some real quality in midfield and the emerging talent of Barry Bannan (who could do without the Xavi and Iniesta comparisons it must be said).

Upfront at 24, Steven Fletcher could have an excellent International career ahead of him. Levein needs to do whatever is needed to bring him back to the fold as Scotland have lacked a good centre forward of International calibre for many years now. Scotland had the same situation with Duncan Ferguson and it is to the benefit of no one.

The qualifying group for the World Cup will be tough but it will always be so, especially as Scotland are so far down the seedings rankings, it is however a group where all the teams can take points of each other and a runners up spot is not out of the question which would at least secure a play off position.

There can be cause for genuine hope (rather than just the false variety) of emerging from this group as all the sides are beatable at Hampden, as opposed to when Scotland were placed in a group with Italy, France and Ukraine for the qualification stages for South Africa.

Much will depend on how much Levein has learned from his first campaign in charge and whether he can back up his soundbites with some real tactical victories against teams that whilst being better than Scotland, remain beatable, that is where the manager makes the difference and that will decide whether any flights to Rio are required - No Nonsense.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Rugby World Cup starts in earnest.

Despite some nonsensical calls to make the tournament even longer, one of the reasons that the rugby version of the World Cup suffers from a lack of global interest (in exactly the same way that the cricket version does) is aside from the lack of depth of competition and meaningless games, it simply lasts for far too long. For that reason the harsh reality of the knockout phase that took place on the weekend provided welcome respite.

Saturday saw the Northern Hemisphere take centre stage with the battle of the two remaining Celtic nations first up. Wales produced a solid performance to beat a fine but ultimately underachieving 'golden generation' of Ireland players, some for whom it was their World Cup swansong. For Wales who were unlucky not to beat the Springboks in their opening match, the irony has been that failing to do so has opened up the draw fabulously for them and they will hold great hope of making it to the final for the first time in their history.

Standing in their way will be a schizophrenic France side who dispatched a wholly uninspiring England. No one knows which France will turn up this weekend but the reality is that even playing well, this is not a vintage French team and it should be an evenly matched contest against a Welsh side with their tails up.

It is hard (even for a Scot) to dislike Martin Johnson, he comes across as an extremely principled man who has always excelled in rugby and held himself with dignity. Something however is not working for him with the England team.

It may be his pragmatic common sense approach to management, allowing the players to have their boisterous nights out, assuming they will and trusting them to have the same level of professionalism that he did. It could be he suffers like football managers such as Graeme Souness, Glenn Hoddle and Roy Keane who seemingly cannot identify with players who cannot perform to the phenomenal levels that they did themselves.

Whatever the reasons are, England do not look to be progressing as they should under Johnson. That being said however, he is an in-experienced coach growing in the job and should be given time to work things out, it is after all four years until the next one.

Sunday saw the Southern Hemisphere showdown between the Springboks and an emerging Australia team. The Wallabies are certainly far from the best of their previous teams but they have in David Pocock a player to rival Richie McCaw and a solid goal kicker in the young James O'Connor.

For the reigning champions, it was a disappointing end to the tournament and it was a game that they will certainly feel they should have won, ultimately a very poor first half cost them the match much as it did England twenty fours earlier.

The Kiwis endured a nervy hour and the scoreline flattered them somewhat it must be said against the hard working Pumas. Of the four remaining sides, New Zealand are the best team and have the advantage of playing at home. What is not clear however is how much the burden of expectation is weighing them down as they laboured for much of Sunday's match and Australia now loom large.

For Australia, the sight of an All Black shirt in a World Cup Semi Final and on their own patch will provide all the motivation they require. It will however take an excellent performance from Australia to beat the Kiwis who will be favourites for the match. Much may depend on an improved performance from Quade Cooper who was out of sorts against South Africa. The New Zealand loose forwards will be unforgiving and another big performance from Pocock will be required to neutralise that and give his half backs the time and space to play.

On a wider note, the IRB has to wake up to the fact that the 'closed shop' of International rugby is counterproductive to the growing of the sport. Fixture congestion and the sheer number of them in the International calendar is clearly a huge issue. The reality is that the major associations simply wish to keep playing each other in tests to fill stadia to in turn fill the coffers. The sport would benefit far more in the long term - financially too - from doing everything it can to increase the depth of competitive nations.

The bringing of Argentina into an extended Tri Nations is a huge step forward as they currently play around a third of the number of tests that the other leading nations play. Argentina have become a true force in rugby and this increased international exposure will do much to help them further.

Italy whilst not pulling up any trees are competitive within the Six Nations and have been a welcome addition. Much has to be done to help the next level of countries such as Romania, Georgia, Tonga and most certainly Japan for whom the potential is in particular huge. Had it not been for cronyism and a carving up of future competitions, this World Cup would have been held in Japan opening up a vast new audience and with matches at a more suitable time for global viewing.

If rugby wishes to switch away from it's current round robin of half a dozen or so of real contenders then it must be prepared to do away with the narrow minded politics and open its' doors to the World - No Nonsense.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A North London Power Shift?

Arsene Wenger has achieved great things at Arsenal and for that reason alone it is far too soon to write an epitaph for he and his much maligned current team. Injuries to key players such as Jack Wilshire and Tomas Vermaelen have hindered them this season and Barcary Sagna was added to the injury list yesterday with a broken leg.Yesterday's game was however significant for several reasons.

Since George Graham arrived at Arsenal so many years ago, the Gooners have had the upper hand in North London with only brief and occasional respite for Spurs. It is symptomatic of how few games they have won during that period that that semi final of Gascgoine and Lineker is so oft remembered and replayed. Spurs may have won matches against Arsenal but no one at any point felt that they had the better team - until now.

During this period of Arsenal dominance, Spurs have been nothing more than an occasional 'cup team' with a smattering of truly quality players such as Klinsmann, Berbatov and Modric and it is a period that has seen them have their share of (brief) relegation scares.

The relative success of the last couple of seasons has been greeted with much glee at White Hart Lane yet the reality is they have only finished at best fourth and had (and have) no realistic chance of winning the league - and they still did not finish above Arsenal. The change in dynamic this season has come solely from Arsenal's fall from grace.

Having watched Arsenal against Liverpool, ManYoo and Spurs this season, the lack of quality in this current Arsenal team is incredible. Even in recent seasons in regular defeat against the likes of Chelsea, there was always ability throughout the team, it was just a question of character and balance.

Spurs yesterday fielded a team more akin to a side you would associate with Arsenal. Their midfield quartet of Bale, Modric, Parker and Van Der Vaart would compare with most in the world in terms of quality. With three very attack minded players however it also smacked of a midfield that Wenger would covet himself as it was so wholly unbalanced.

Had Spurs fielded that midfield and with two strikers as they did yesterday against Chelsea, City or ManYoo they would have been ripped apart. With Wenger's Arsenal there was always an assumption that they would have huge periods of possession, again that Spurs midfield would not be equipped to deal with that. It seems however that Redknapp looked at Arsenal's options yesterday and came to the basic conclusion that they could and would outplay Arsenal.

It would be folly to write Arsenal off completely but with the injury list that they have and with the brittleness of their defence, their ability to compete for fourth place this season must be hugely under question. Both Spurs and Liverpool will see this season as a golden opportunity to reclaim the hallowed ground that is Champions League participation.

Yesterday's match was significant, not because of the result but because of the manner of it. Spurs in the past have had to cope with the likes of Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira, Overmars et all. They had to field sides to frustrate, defend against and simply cope with the superior firepower of their neighbours. Yesterday they were able to name a side to simply outgun them and they achieved just that - No Nonsense.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson

Fergie has never been shy about having a dig at the assembled media and has bullied nearly all and sundry in his time as ManYoo manager. Most of it is with a purpose which is to further the cause of Manchester United and his players, some is for personal and family reasons and some is out of sheer bloody minded vindictiveness. This week's latest comments on the power of television was however born out of sheer hypocrisy.

Ferguson spoke of football having sold its' soul to the devil and of TV having too much power and yet whilst not directly responsible for Old Trafford policy, Ferguson works for one of the elite of the elite European clubs that has gained far more than most from the huge influx of television money.

During the 1980s, ManYoo operated on a similar budget to the other clubs in the league and suffered in comparison to the likes of Everton, Aston Villa and of course to their fierce rivals Liverpool. With the arrival of Sky Sports in the 90s ManYoo were the first to exploit the new global opportunities and this jump start that the club took propelled it to the forefront of the game.

Whilst it would be churlish to suggest that Ferguson has not been a huge factor in their fantastic recent history, he was the benefactor of an extraordinary crop of youngsters and from the beginning of the Premiership he has been the recipient of an annual transfer budget that was the envy of all until Abramovich came along.

Year after year transfer records were smashed. Roy Keane, Andy Cole, Jaap Stam, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastien Veron, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney as well as indulging Ferugson on other players such as Ronaldo (a fantastic investment it must be said), Dwight Yorke, Fabian Barthez, Nani, Antonio Valencia, Anderson and this Summer's latest spending spree.

Television has allowed United to exploit their global marketing phenomenon and in turn to hand Ferguson the money to build the great sides that he has presided over. Indeed they were one of the first to have their own in house television station of which Sky Television incidentally owns one third.

Now just because Ferguson uses all these tools and the money that comes with it doesn't of course mean he has to like it. It is however hypocritical to complain about it such a childish and spoilt manner. Future generations of Fergusons probably will not need to work due to the riches he has amassed from the television bank rolled football industry that provides his employ, there was no mention of how much wealth he has garnered from the arrangement nor complaint about that.

Ferguson complains that television makes too much money from football and that the clubs do not achieve a large enough slice of the pie. This is yet more nonsense and rank hypocrisy from a man that earns more than 99.99% of the population from the arrangement.

Media plcs exist like any other company, to maximise revenues for their shareholders, not to pass on profits to those who would not be able to make them without them. If the football clubs don't like it they can do it themselves if they so wish, the reality however is they cannot.

The media is not responsible for the gross mismanagement that goes on in most clubs and is certainly not in any way at fault for the greatest leak of wealth from the clubs, the movie star salaries that are paid out without any thought to both players and agents. It is the clubs that have chosen to pass on the bulk of their revenues to the players, not the television companies.

Lunchtime kick offs might be an 'inconvenience' to someone such as Ferguson but there are millions of people in Asia who pay vast amount of money through television subscriptions for whom they provide entertainment at a peak viewing time. Indeed, were it not for these early kick offs, many children (young Premiership fans to be) would never see any games due to the time difference and would not become those fans in later years to further line the club's pockets.

Good ol' Harry Redknapp suggested he'd rather be somewhere else during a pre season tour and it is this lack of respect and good grace to overseas fans that sums up the parochial attitudes on display. Clubs that wish to maintain their 'local identity' whilst at the same time greedily accepting cheques from abroad in any currency that they can find, it is the thin end of the wedge.

If Ferguson really finds the influence of television so impossible to deal with, we are quite sure that he could return to his managerial roots at St Mirren who rarely have their games moved for television. One suspects however that he would still prefer to be writing cheques for the likes of Ashley Young and Phil Jones - No Nonsense.

Carlos Tevez

There are many football fans who wish to see Manchester City's project fall flat on its' face. For that reason many will regard last nights' events with an unabashed glee.That being said, no fan of any club should be happy at the sight of a highly paid player disrespecting a club in such a flagrant and public manner because the reality is it could happen to any club nowadays. The players have far far too much power.

City in many ways have made a rod for their own back. It was clear early during last season that Tevez despite being made captain was agitating for a move. No one knows the real truth, whether it is money orientated, whether he has actual regard for his family situation or whether it is just that he feels City are not Barcelona, Real or even the team from across the city that he had just left.

Regardless of his unrest, City simply attempted to buy him off by increasing his already hugely inflated wage packet. During the Summer Tevez's situation became untenable after his public courting of any suitor that he could find. The reality however was that other than a left field bid from Corinthians of Brazil, no club came forward in a meaningful way to attempt to buy the player and this was in no way City's fault.

Tevez was accepted back in to the fold after the Copa America but was duly stripped of the captaincy and has been dropped to the bench which is the least that should have happened to him. Tevez would have to earn the renewed respect of his manager, his teammates and the fans after his Summer antics. The early form of Sergio Aguero coupled with the emergence of Edin Dzeko only served to hamper his cause of winning his place back.

It is clear that Mancini has problems within the camp. Dzeko's reaction to his substitution last night was extremely poor and Balotelli has had several public spats with his manager. Anyone can see that Mancini is a confrontational manager, indeed it is possible to believe he revels in it - after all he re-signed Balotelli from Inter. That being said it is imperative the club backs the manager and does so without reservation.

The manager whomever he is cannot ever have his authority challenged or it is the beginning of the end. Ferguson, no stranger to confrontation himself has had a string of powerful characters in his dressing room but all have worked on his behalf. The instant that they became disruptive or in any way undermined him, they were sold at the first opportunity. Beckham, Stam, Van Nistelrooy and even the fans' favourite Roy Keane were all jettisoned when the situation demanded it.

Chelsea as an example enjoyed the strongest of characters leading their club in manager Jose Mourinho. He formed an axis of Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba in the same way that Ferguson had Neville, Keane, Giggs and Scholes that would walk through concrete walls for him. Once Mourinho left the players simply did not want to play for Grant or Scolari and they made it publicly known.

It is no coincidence that Chelsea won nothing in that two year period apart from the FA Cup. Indeed Chelsea can probably never really move on until that quartet is broken up. Mourinho did a smiliar thing on arrival at Real with the sale of both Raul and Guti, he knew the dressing room must belong to the manager and he alone.

Football clubs do not generally have the option to sack players given the huge writing off of a valuable asset that is trasferred for free to a rival. City have the resources however to make Tevez sit and rot away the best years of his career should they so wish. Whilst this might sound harsh, the lack of respect shown to the club last night beggars belief and he should be punished severely. For Tevez to be taken back there would have to be a full and public apology to all concerned and even then it should only be temporary until a bid is found that is acceptable to City.

Tevez was quick to take huge signing on bonuses, astronomical wages, the captaincy and all the acclaim that came with it. In return he has treated Manchester City in a truly disgraceful way and one that no football fan of any persuasion should find amusing. City must take the harshest of stances with regard to the player and let him and the others in their squad know that the authority of the manager and respect towards the club are sacrosanct - No Nonsense

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Champions League - Round Two

The group stages of the Champions League can prove a somewhat sterile affair but there are some attractive ties this week starting with Manchester City's visit to Bayern. It is a clash of the established European footballing aristocracy against the 'crass' new money from the Etihad Stadium. It is much the same in the rest of life where old money oft looks down on the new in the misguided belief that their little pieces of paper are worth more than those of the new kids in town.

For City it is the acid test having started with a slightly disappointing home draw with Napoli. Bayern are the type of club who will positively bristle at the arrival of City in their playground and Ribery and the like will be no doubt sent out there to hammer a message home.

For Mancini who has been so bold this season, it will be interesting to see which tactics he employs faced with such a potentially daunting tie. He has spoken about winning in Munchen and if he is to do so then he has to consider that City's success so far this season has come from attacking fluency and not from the ponderous defence minded performances of last year, his conundrum at least is clear.

Internazionale travel to Moscow to meet CSKA in a tie that they really need to win after their shock home defeat in the opening round to Trabzonspor. With a double header against French Champions Lille to come, they are much in need of three points and some respite for their beleaguered team.

ManYoo face what should be a straightforward home tie to Basel as they continue their progress through the easiest of the League groups. Two of the most famous names in European football meet at the Bernabaeu where Real Madrid host Ajax although the reality nowadays is that there should be only winner.

The tie of the round on Wednesday sees Chelsea face a very tricky away tie with at the always hostile Mestalla stadium. For Juan Mata it is a swift homecoming and Fernando Torres will also be wishing to put in a vibrant performance back on Spanish soil. A point however would be seen as a good result having already secured all three against Leverkeusen.

Arsenal will hope to make the most of Marseille and Dortmund taking points off each other by dispatching Olympiakos at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger could at the same time no doubt offer a cheap loan to the visitors to alleviate their debt issues as he clearly doesn't like to spend any of Arsenal's money himself.

In Group H, AC Milan and Barcelona will both be hoping to secure wins as they battle to finish first in a group that may come down to goal difference to separate the two, the possibility of Barcelona finishing second in the group would really set the cat amongst the pigeons despite UEFA's best laid seeding plans - No Nonsense.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Formula One - The Season So Far

Last night's race in Singapore was like so many others this season and was indeed a microcosm of the entire year. Vettel disappeared off into the night whilst Webber, Alonso and Button tried to cling on for dear life. Further back Hamilton and Schumacher scrapped and ultimately clashed with the cars they were racing against, thus it has been all season.

For Vettel, this has been his season plain and simple, he has dominated it in a way that no other has done since Schumacher was in his pomp, the similarity of the almost robotic Teutonic domination seems on the surface almost uncanny but there are certainly differences in the two drivers.

There can however be no questioning of the quality of Vettel's season. Mark Webber is after all in the same machinery and he has been left trailing in his wake. The Red Bull is clearly the class of the field as Adrian Newey once again proves himself to be the master of all things aerodynamic.

In the same way that Vettel has dominated Webber, Fernando Alonso has proven himself to be beyond the reach of Felipe Massa who is now no more than a good number two. Alonso has never given up this season trying to milk as much as possible from what is clearly not a very fast Ferrari. It has been a season to forget for the Scuderia.

Jenson Button was meant to be shown up when he arrived at McLaren, outpaced and outgunned by the burgeoning talent of Lewis Hamilton. There is a suspicion that the triumvirate of Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso are a class apart from the rest. Given a good car however, Button has proven beyond all doubt that the Prost like smoothness that he displays coupled with no shortage of speed means that he is a master of getting cars consistently on to the podium, indeed he is the only driver left with a mathematical chance of catching Vettel.

For Hamilton there is clearly work to be done. He is as quick as anyone and his rumbustious and aggressive driving style make him a huge hit with the F1 fans conjuring images of Nigel Mansell's swashbuckling drives in the 80s and 90s. Mansell however only won one World Championship (granted he was competing against Senna, Prost and Piquet to name but a few) and there was always the feeling that he could have won more had he spent more time looking after his cars.

Senna and Schumacher are probably the greatest examples of winners who drove in an exciting, rapier quick and entirely uncompromising manner. Hamilton has the potential to win multiple World Championships but he has to find the right balance. Invariably when you strike another car in F1, you do as much damage to your own car as you do to theirs and you cannot win races if you are back in the pits.

This second incarnation of Schumacher had an a-typical race, jostling behind the front runners before crashing into another car whilst racing for position. Drivers used to simply give way to the Schumacher of old but he does not carry the same aura or hold the same respect on the track now and he is in danger of becoming a dangerous mobile chicane with a tainted legacy. It is time for him to retire with good grace.

His team mate Nico Rosberg continues to etch out good performances from the Mercedes and there must be a chance of a seat in a Prancing Horse should Ferrari decide to release Massa at some stage. Of the rest, Paul Di Resta drove an excellent race in the Force India to finish sixth with his team mate Sutil finished a credible eighth.

Next it is on to Suzuka, a real driver's circuit after the heat, dust and concrete barriers of Singapore. Vettel's repeat coronation should only be held up until then - No Nonsense.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Premiership Saturday

The Premiership table is beginning to take familiar shape with five of the top six now from the anticipated front runners. Only Newcastle United currently exceeding all expectations and dispatching Blackburn Rovers yesterday are bucking the trend with Arsenal currently finding themselves in mid table after their September horriblus.

Stoke City continued their excellent early season work with a hard earned point at home to the Champions who proved a little toothless without the so far superlative Wayne Rooney. Tony Pulis backed by his board is moulding his Stoke side into far more than a kick and rush side, they should achieve a strong finish in the Premiership this season.

Arsenal enjoyed a comfortable win against a Bolton team that must now be having some serious concern about their Premiership well being. Bolton had an excellent season last year but since their hammering in the FA Cup semi final by Stoke results have been on the slide and they find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table. Whilst it is still relatively early days, they need to start winning some points very soon and next week they host Chelsea.

Chelsea themselves earned a comfortable 4-1 home win against Premiership novices Swansea. It was a day marked again for the ups and downs of the headline printing Fernando Torres who scored a well taken goal before being shown a red card for an awful lunge at Mark Gower. Torres is however continuing to look sharper and another goal will help his cause and confidence.

AVB must grasp this as an opportunity to employ some forced rotation and with Drogba fit again it may work out to his advantage. Torres will certainly start in Valencia this week but he has proven throughout his career that regularly playing two games a week is beyond him.

In the battle below the top three, Liverpool got their season back on track with a home win against Wolves and Spurs doomed Wigan to yet another home defeat to increase the pressure on the highly likeable Roberto Martinez.

Fulham and West Brom earned a point each which didn't really suit either of them and Manchester City beat hard working Everton with Balotelli getting on the score sheet again. Bayern Munich await them this week in the Champions League and the test however will next weekend to see how they follow that tie.

The headlines currently seemed to be reserved for criticism for Torres and the man who replaced him, Andy Carroll. It is to the chagrin of both their respective managers and whilst the two do appear to be improving, it is only goals that will provide the antidote to those headlines. After all, strikers are bought to score goals, with the exception of Emile Heskey of course - No Nonsense.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kenny Dalglish - The Scorecard So Far

This blog was fairly scathing with regard to King Kenny's appointment mid way through last season but it is clear that Liverpool have made progress since his arrival. What is arbitrary however is how Roy Hodgson would have fared given the same backing from the new owners but it is possibly a non sequitur in any respect as it would never have happened.

The suggestion that Hodgson could have done a comparable job will have the Kop faithful apoplectic and it does look on the surface at least as if Dalglish has done a decent job since his return to Liverpool. Hodgson was doomed from the outset as he was never accepted by the fans, indeed he never really understood the size of the undertaking in managing Liverpool, that no matter how bad the situation was or how poor the squad was by comparison, that finishing 2nd - never mind 5th or 6th - to Manchester United was entirely unacceptable for a club that had been Britain's and at one point Europe's finest by some distance.

It is clear that since his return to the club in a managerial capacity, Dalglish has been a master of the media and of PR with regard to the fans. Dalglish has at every opportunity talked of 'respect of the club', played up players who have an understanding of 'the club'.

Even last night after the Carling Cup match he spoke of the players performance being 'a great credit to the football club'. Lets be clear, he was talking about a win over Brighton in a meaningless cup competition yet he never misses a chance to rally the fans around 'the club'.

Dalglish is also more than happy to bristle with subdued anger when the press question his version of events, he is fostering a siege mentality, all centred around 'the club'. He refuses to talk about referees' decisions that hurt 'the club' but at the same time sows the seeds of henious injustice against 'the club' that he knows will be lapped up by the loyal fans as they close rank against outsiders with him.

In doing so, Dalglish has done two things, firstly he has given Liverpool fans back their self respect and returned the identity of Liverpool FC to the Merseyside faithful. Liverpool are still owned by an American sports tycoon but they no longer feel like an offshoot of a baseball or a hockey team, they are themselves again and for that Dalglish should be much praised.

The second thing he has achieved is to buy himself time by having the fans so firmly onside. For all his public proclamations about ambition and the desire for success, Dalglish privately will know that this Liverpool team are years from challenging for the title, indeed with the resources available to the teams above them it may be a harsh reality that Liverpool cannot challenge for the title again until something changes regardless of the progress they make.

The relative affluence of ManYoo, City and Chelsea are outside of Dalglish's control and indeed  that of John Henry the owner. The measure of Dalglish's success as manager can only be done so by the progress of his team and on that we can deliver a verdict so far.

In terms of League position, Liverpool have improved for certain and that is the bottom line. Matches that were drawn or even lost previously are now being won. Their record against their peers and sides above them is a mixed bag with excellent wins against ManYoo last season and away to Arsenal this. This is offset with a tendency to receive hidings from Spurs - who rarely it must be said hand those out to top six sides.

In the transfer market, things are less positive it would seem for Dalglish. Whilst probably Comoli's fault rather than his, Liverpool missed out on the apparently excellent Phil Jones. Dalglish did not wish to to sell Torres (which would have been another mistake) and then invested the money in 35M Andy Carroll who has not fired since his arrival. Luis Suarez has been excellent so far but again he does not look like someone who will score a huge amount of goals despite his undoubted ability and overall contribution. Downing is a solid enough signing but does not spark the imagination and Jordan Henderson is a leap of faith at best with Charlie Adam only slightly better off than that.

With the exception of Suarez, Dalglish has mainly 'bought British' again conjuring images for the fans of former glories and the many home nation greats that Dalglish played amongst such as Souness, Hansen, Rush, Whelan and others that he brought to the club such as Barnes and Bearsdsley. It is a policy that has served Liverpool well in the past but the reality is the game has changed.

That is not to say that British players are necessarily sub standard but there can be no doubt that there is a technical deficiency at large within British football. If you are buying the very best, the likes of Rooney, Gerrard and Ashley Cole then you are buying real world class players but comparing the relative abilities of the players he has bought versus the competition he wishes to emulate the picture looks bleak.

For Carroll you can compare Edin Dzeko or Didier Drogba, for Henderson try Michael Essien or Anderson, for Downing you could suggest Nani or Valencia and for Adam there is Juan Mata, Luca Modric or David Silva - it is not pretty reading. It is also worth nothing that Carroll is far and away the most expensive player on that list, Downing cost more than Nani and Henderson only 6M less than Michael Essien.

What Dalglish has achieved is to return Liverpool's backbone in terms of mentality, but on the pitch the manner in which they were brushed aside at both Stoke and Spurs suggests that a 'British mentality' and 'understanding and pride and in the club' will not be enough to return Liverpool to the summit of the British game. It has been a reasonable start for Dalglish but more is needed than simply a dry wit and Kop friendly soundbites - No Nonsense.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Queens Park Rangers and Tony Fernandes

QPR might not seem like the most obvious subject for a blog but there have been a couple of requests for one and the club is potentially at a highly exciting juncture in its' current evolution with the arrival of Tony Fernandes as owner of the club. He has a proven track record of business success as well as being a football man.

This blog's first memories of the club were with Phil Parkes in the 1970s and whilst not professing to have a detailed knowledge of the 80s, images are conjured of Terry Venables, promotions and plastic pitches and the FA Cup final replay against Spurs.

The 90s saw the arrival of Gerry Francis as manager. QPR had several quality players in the ageing pass master Ray Wilkins, the likes of England internationals Trevor Sinclair and Andy Sinton and of course the mighty (Sir) Les Ferdinand. In addition to all this, Andy Impey had a fabulous right hook for those with a memory for the more pugilist side of the game.

With the sale of Ferdinand in 1995 so QPR's fortunes waned and relegation followed soon after. QPR dropped down the divisions and well over a decade in the wilderness would follow suffering all manner of financial mismanagement and woes for a club that had been a top tier stalwart for so long.

In 2007 an eclectic mix of Flavio Briatore, Bernie Eccelstone and then laterally metals mogul Lakshmi Mital purchased the club. This led to much fostering of hope for QPR that significant and much needed investment would come in but despite the personal wealth of the protagonists, very little real investment was made and little was done within the context of their global influence to raise the profile of the club. Some owners buy teams because they love football and the club and because they believe they can make a difference. Some do it possibly to move money out of reach of the Kremlin, some to systematically bankrupt them (step forward Peter Risdale) and others to turn a fast buck. With the above combination of movers and shakers and the evidence on offer we must presume the latter.

Moving on to current affairs, QPR won the Championship last year in fine style under the guiding hand of the controversial but highly effective (in the Championship at least) Neil Warnock. Much to the chagrin of QPR fans, little or no essential investment in the squad was made during the Summer (adding to the suspicion that the club was bought to merely be sold on) whilst ticket prices were hiked.

On the 18th of August and after a heavy opening day defeat came the news that Malaysian tycoon Tony Fernandes had bought the club. It was news that was welcomed by all associated by QPR and whilst Fernandes will have long term plans for the club, in the short term the key factor was the takeover was completed before the close of the transfer window.

Given the context of QPR's tenuous position in the Premiership, their transfer dealings in the final few days of August were possibly the best in the country. Barton on a free would have been a steal for nearly any team in the league. Wright Phillips although often mocked is a quality Premiership winger and the likes of Armand Traore and Anton Ferdinand whilst not the best individually will add experience and know how at this level.

QPR as demonstrated by their fine win at Moulineux should be good enough to stay up this year but for Fernandes, the hard work starts here. Judging by his recent interview with Mark Chapman of BBC Five Live he has a firm grasp of what is needed. It was incidentally an incredibly well polished interview and whilst clearly a master of soundbites and PR, there is clear evidence that there is ample substance behind the more obvious style.

Fernandes has proven business acumen honed by early exposure to Richard Branson. He has enjoyed fabulous success with Air Asia (tackling the Malaysian Government and the dominance of Malaysian Airlines is no mean feat) and has gained sporting experience by his involvement with Lotus and Formula One.

It is hard to imagine QPR ever being a 'big club', their proximity to the already highly established Chelsea and to a lesser extent Fulham and the restrictions of Loftus Road mean they will always have to punch above their weight. To do that it is essential that the people running the club are of the highest possible calibre.

The issue of Neil Warnock as a long term appointment in the Premiership may be a thorny one as his record at the top level is patchy at best. There are many examples of fine Championship managers who fall short in the top division, Steve Coppell, Dave Jones, Kevin Keegan and Bryan Robson are all examples and like the last two, Warnock is a great motivator but lacks the subtlety and tactical nous at the top of the game.

Regardless of this and with what looks to be the right, dynamic man at the helm of the club and with secure finances going forward, there is much hope for QPR's fortunes in the medium term and West Ham's loss may well be QPR's gain - No Nonsense.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fernando Torres and Frank Lampard

Both of the above Chelsea players are much maligned and certainly in the case of Torres' contribution since his transfer it is to a large degree well justified, there is however a case for the defence of both.

Torres' return of two goals since his 50M move from Liverpool is abject to say the least. Last season the malaise that had affected him during the World Cup had not departed and whether the reasons were psychological or physical or both, it was clear that Chelsea had not signed the same player that Liverpool had done so from Atletico Madrid.

With a relatively restful Summer, the hope was that a rejuvenated Torres would re-emerge for the new season and in part he has, the problem is the goals are still not flowing. That being said the performances have been improving no doubt and that is more than just wishful thinking on the part of Chelsea supporters. The problem is that it was almost impossible to play any worse.

Against ManYoo on Sunday, Torres scored one, should have absolutely scored two and could have had four missing two other good chances in either half aside from his howler at the end. That miss will ensure much mirth amongst the press and opposition fans but the key for Torres is to focus on so much that was good in his game on Sunday in much the same way that Rooney will have already forgotten about that penalty.

Chelsea have indulged Torres and spent a huge amount of minutes on the pitch trying to get the Spaniard firing again. Physically he looked excellent against ManYoo and having come this far AVB now needs to persevere with him and tinker with the tactics to suit him. The 4-2-3-1 in the second half seemed to suit Torres far more than Chelsea's usual 4-3-3 and that may well be the key along with the arrival of Juan Mata to add some creative urgency to the side. So far it has been 50M atrociously spent but there might just be light at the end of the tunnel.

Frank Lampard has for some reason never been a particularly popular character. He was disliked intensely at West Ham in some misplaced belief about favouritism due to his father which he then compounded by crossing London to Chelsea (netting West Ham 11M in the process). Whilst generally adored at Stamford Bridge he has never been popular with the England support either despite being a steady if not spectacular performer and a generally likeable person both on and off the pitch.

Despite all this, no one ever really had questioned his contribution - until now. Season after season he has provided Chelsea with match winning performances with a regular goal tally that would be the envy of most strikers. Until the last couple of years he was almost entirely injury free, playing game after game without a rest prompting Sir Alex Ferguson to once call him a 'freak' and more recently to call him 'exceptional'. One would argue that Ferguson knows a thing or two about fine midfield players.

There is no question that at 33, Lampard's legs will be starting to fail and as a player that has made his name as a box to box midfielder he is in a position that will expose that to the utmost. The key for Lampard now is like so many great players before him to reinvent himself now that his physical attributes are on the wane. There are countless examples of players before him that have done so.

Roy Keane is his most obvious peer and example. Keane once a swashbuckling, marauding box to box midfielder had suffered way too many injuries to his knees and more seriously to his hip. Keane reinvented himself as a fine holding midfielder and was oft mooted by Ferguson as a potentially great central defender.

Alan Shearer after his second serious injury went through an incredibly tough period when he found he could no longer bulldoze through defenders with pace and power as he once had. Instead he turned himself into one of the finest back to goal strikers of his generation in the mould of Mark Hughes.

John Barnes went from one of the finest wingers England has ever produced, if not the finest to a central midfielder both for Liverpool and then Newcastle and played successfully for many years. More recently, Giggs and Scholes bereft of their legs have turned themselves respectively into a cultured central midfielder and a fine deep lying playmaker.

For Lampard, it is clear that he has to realise his new limitations and has to start adapting his game accordingly. One huge service that Lampard could do for himself is to retire from International duty as the likes of Scholes and Shearer have proved that the extra rest at that age is hugely beneficial.

As mentioned before Lampard has a tendency to attract the brickbats but these people are doing a huge dis-service to a player that has been nothing other than the consummate footballing professional playing with a decade long level of consistency that few in the game have ever achieved. This is not the end of Frank Lampard, just the beginning of a slightly tweaked one - No Nonense.

Steve Kean

Steve Kean on Saturday endured a match day protest from the restless natives of Blackburn. Typical North Lancashire weather meant that the pre game march was reduced to a few hundred die hard fans, nevertheless it is troubling for the manager in the question. The issue however is whether the fans are directing their ire at the correct target.

Blackburn as everyone knows were taken over by the chicken loving Venkys' Group from Pune in India last year. The Premiership has grown used to its' burgeoning group of foreign owners, everyone from Russian Oligarchs to dodgy disposed ex Thai Prime Ministers, Saudi Oil Barons, highly leveraged Americans and slightly unhinged Egyptian shop owners, we will take anyone it appears.

There is however a world of difference in the effect that it has on a club. For Chelsea and Manchester City, they have been instantly propelled from years of looking upwards to the forefront of European football. Tony Fernandes it appears has made an instant and positive impact at QPR. Fans of these clubs are generally delighted with the result despite the grumblings of some who hark back to the 'good old days' of crap football, crap facilities and most importantly crap pies.

Other clubs such as Portsmouth in particular, Liverpool under the previous regime and even Manchester United who despite being consistently successful still rankle hugely at the American ownership have seen their fans revolt against the perceived selling down the river of their club and communitys' heritage. Foreign ownership is clearly a two edged sword and the direction of that blade is decided in most cases by how much money these new owners have.

In the case of Venkys, there is little to suggest that have any intention to invest in any material way in Blackburn Rovers. Blackburn in any case was a strange club to have purchased. It is a town with a population of around 100,000 and with huge competition for a fan base from the twin clubs in both Liverpool and Manchester. That being the case one must question Venkys' motivation for buying the club other than to try and flip a fast buck.

Since the purchase, little or nothing has been done in terms of investment in the team despite nonsensical talk of buying Ronaldinho at the outset. The biggest error by far however was to sack the proven Sam Allardyce and replace him with the inexperienced Steve Kean.

And here lies the rub, it is not Steve Kean's fault that the team is in the predicament that it is, it is the owners' fault pure and simple. Steve Kean was offered an opportunity that anyone with an ounce of ambition would have grabbed with both hands, he is simply trying to do the best job he can under the circumstances. It is Venkys' fault for hiring the wrong guy in the first place.

This blog is not attempting to say that Kean is the right man for the job or is of the calibre required to manage a relegation threatened team in the Premiership, he does however appear to be a decent and honest chap who is trying his hardest to do his job well. Regardless of the result he conducts himself in an honest and dignified manner.

The fans of Blackburn should realise that even a few halcyon years in the early Nineties cannot disguise the fact that they are in no way a big club and that the lower half of the Premiership is on a consistent basis probably the best they can hope for. If they wished for better then Venkys should have probably not sacked Sam Allardyce so randomly and for that reason they are whom the match day protesters should be aiming their anger at, not Mr Steve Kean - No Nonsense.