Category: Latest

Pep’s New Tune Takes Bayern to the Top

When Pep Guardiola was announced as the replacement to Jupp Heynkes as head coach of Bayern Munich,  in January 2013, the former Barcelona man could not have fathomed that he’d have so much to live up to after last season’s treble. But as the second half of the season gets underway this weekend, Bayern look set for even more trophies. As the Bayern players went to celebrate with their fans at the Camp Nou, Barcelona in May, last year, after having thrashed the Catalan side 7-0 over two legs in the Champions League semi-final, it would have been tempting to question the wisdom of the appointment of their new coach, Pep Guardiola, a few months hence. After all, the former Barca coach was one of the architects of the Tiki-taka style of play that had, up until that moment, dominated the hearts, minds and trophies of the European game for so long. But since Bayern had found a way of counteracting Barcelona, this surely meant that Guardiola’s method was now redundant and the last thing Bayern should do is employ a coach who might set back the Bavarians, tactically. Guardiola was not in charge of the Catalans the night that they were humbled by Bayern but his legacy remains. Barca played to Pep’s tune while Bayern’s style of play, under Jupp Heynkes last season was based on pace, fast transition and closing down the...

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Nicolas Anelka, The Quenelle, Gestures & Words

It was a tense and nervy evening at The Hawthorns tonight, as West Bromwich Albion and Everton played out a one-all draw that did neither too many favours in this year’s Premier League. Everton missed out on the chance to leapfrog back over Tottenham Hotspur and into fifth place in the table, whilst West Bromwich Albion rose to thirteenth place in the table but remain just four points above the relegation places in what has become an extremely congested bottom half of the league table. Tonight, though, the match being played was only part of a wider issue facing...

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Maidstone & The Conference: Time To Change Tack On 3G Pitches

It’s tight at the top of the Ryman League Premier Division. With a little less than half of the season left to play, just seven points seperate the top six clubs in the table and it remains, for now at least, anybody’s guess who from Kingstonian, Maidstone United, Wealdstone, Dulwich Hamlet, Bognor Regis Town or AFC Hornchurch will be taking a place in the Conference South. Indeed, one of these clubs will not even make the division’s play-offs come the end of the season. Out of that six, though, there is one club that will be furrowing the brows of people at the Football Association and the Football Conference more than their competitors at the moment, because at the moment one of those clubs could yet earn promotion on the pitch, only to be subsequently denied it at a committee meeting. The club at risk of missing out is Maidstone United, and the reason for it is the 3G artificial pitch that the club has fitted at The Gallagher Stadium, the new ground into which it moved in the summer of 2012. The game’s authorities, however, have not yet granted permission for 3G pitches to be used above Level Six – the level at which Maidstone United currently play – of the English National League System. As the rules stand today, the club would be refused promotion should it...

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Port Vale: Norman’s Conquest

After Port Vale’s FA Cup third round replay triumph over Plymouth Argyle, Mark Murphy thought it would be opportune to revisit the two clubs’ financial fortunes since they emerged from administration and ownership crises. And what a tangled web they both have woven. Next up… Plymouth’s hotly-disputed role in the business machinations of James Brent, the high-profile local “entrepreneur” who took the Pilgrims out of administration in October 2011. First, though, the Valiants… Port Vale fans can be forgiven for their transparent battle-fatigue. After the well-documented tribulations under the “Valiants 2001” regime which (mis)managed the club from… er… 2003, (see 200% in passim) they had to endure the falsest of dawns when Lancashire businessman Keith Ryder’s plans to take the Valiants out of administration dissolved in a vat of broken promises at the start of last season. So it is that current owner Norman Smurthwaite can make all sorts of mistakes in his running of Vale AND resemble Ken Bates in a fright wig, without quite being scrutinised and criticised as if one of the rogues gallery of previous Vale directors had done likewise. In October 2012, two months after the Ryder fiasco, Yorkshire-born venture capitalist Paul Wildes emerged as preferred bidder, the straight man of, yet dominant partner in, a double act with Smurthwaite, a 52-year-old retired “finance expert” from Leicestershire (despite the stereotypically northern name). Wildes made...

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Coventry City, A New Ground, The Charity & The Hedge Fund

A new year has brought little respite for the increasingly beleagured supporters of Coventry City Football Club. On the pitch, the team has gone five games unbeaten since its last defeat at Swindon Town on the Saturday before Christmas, including a win against Championship opposition in the form of Barnsley in the Third Round of the FA Cup, but away from it the prospects of the club returning to the city of Coventry from its self-imposed exile in Northampton now seem to have shrunk to being a mere pin-prick on the horizon. January started with the club’s supporters trust, the Sky Blues Trust, publishing the results of Freedom of Information requests to try and establish the whereabouts of the sites that the club has been claiming that it has identified to build the new stadium that it has long promised. In an interview shortly before Christmas, Mark Labovitch – a non-executive director of the club – claimed that it was in the final stages of securing land for a new stadium and details were likely to be revealed in February, which followed confirmation from Councillor Anne Lucas, the leader of Coventry City Council, that it was time for them to “move on” from negotiations with the club’s owner over the future of The Ricoh Arena. The Sky Blues Trust issued its FoI requests to eight local councils on the...

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