THEY NEVER MADE IT

Fabian Delph, Andros Townsend and Danny Drinkwater were given the all clear to enjoy a football free summer on Tuesday by England manager Roy Hodgson. Apparently Townsend and Drinkwater took the news like proper men (Delph knew his fate earlier due to injury) wished the rest of the team well, said there were no hard feelings with the manager, respected his decision blah, blah, blah went home and kicked the cat, if they have one. Reminded me of the dignified exit of one Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne when the godbotherer Glen Hoddle dropped him from England’s world cup squad of 1998. The aforementioned ‘Gazza’, who according to reports, i.e. Phil Neville who was also axed by Hoddle, had been on the sauce since ‘early doors’ (not because he knew it was bad news but just because it was a Tuesday and he was thirsty) and proceeded to smash a bedside lamp and threatened Hoddle in the Spanish equivalent of the Premier inn that England used as their pre-tournament training camp. If only we had mobile phone footage and the soon to be invented YouTube in those days, who knows how many hundreds of people would have logged on to watch that episode.

There were a few notable headline names left out of other squads during the week. The Germans appear to be so confident of winning Euro 2016 that the services of Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus will not be required. Joachim Low has decided that lucky mascot Mario Götze instead. I’ve played more football than him since he scored the winner in the 2014 world cup final and I’m 73.

On a more serious note Spain left out Diego Costa (the Brazilian), Juan Mata and Ander Herrera. Could this be a hint that the Spanish don’t really rate the Premier league like we do? Surely not….another Spanish striker, who really is Spanish, Fernando Torres was also omitted from the squad. Although he is back with Atletico Madrid, his boyhood team, mainly because nobody else would have him, he also had the beast years of his career in the Premier league. Sorry, did I say years there? I meant year. Mata’s case hasn’t been helped by Louis Van Gaal playing him as winger for two years, usually while playing a winger in the number ten position, and Herrera has also struggled under Van Gaal given that LVG’s favourite position for him was mostly beside him on the bench. Surprisingly Chelsea’s Pedro survived the Spanish Premier League cull along with his West London team mates Fabregas and Azpilicueta. Even more surprisingly he was Spain’s captain in a friendly the other evening. Given that he has been largely awful since he arrived at Chelsea it seems strange that he survived.

Finally one who did make it when he wasn’t expected to. Joe Ledley, the Welsh midfield wizard, surely he’s got to be a wizard with a beard like that. Apparently the Hogwarts graduate broke his leg last month but it looks like he popped into his old school and someone cast a spell and attached a cast and before you can say “hocus pocus” it’s as good as new. Congratulations to all at Hogwarts for this miracle, or more likely the best medical care that the Premier League can buy. Anyway Joe is back in the squad although I suspect this has more to do with Wales not having any other professional footballers than Joe’s miracle cure.

Over and Out,
Cheeky PUNT

ENGLAND EURO 2016 PREPARATION

“SYSTEMS DON’T WIN GAMES, PLAYERS DO”

The title of this article is a direct quote from England manager Roy Hodgson in the build up to England’s last pre-Euro 16 friendly against Portugal at Wembley last Thursday evening.

 

Under normal circumstances I would have agreed with him, and twenty years ago he would have been pretty much spot on, but as much as we may not like to admit it international football in 2016 is very much about systems. Ever since Greece won Euro 2004 with a team that the majority of us would struggle to name more than one or two players, defeated Portugal in the final, it has mostly been about getting a system that works and allows the better players to flourish.

What England have are some very good players, possibly over-hyped in the premier league gold fish bowl, who need to have a defined system where most of them are in their natural position and everyone, including the substitutes, knows their role. What they don’t need is a manager dithering around with players and systems in their final friendly before the first game in Marseille against Russia.

If I were an England supporter with cash invested in England to win the competition with my local turf accountant I would be very worried. Fortunately I’m not and don’t, I’m a Scotsman and if I wasn’t so miserable with my cash I would invest a healthy sum on Belgium (available at 12/1 on Betfair but that’s for another blog).

On Thursday night England played the ‘Diamond’ formation with Rooney at the tip and Kane and Vardy as a pair upfront, supposedly. I suspect we wont be seeing this again any time in the near future, at least not with this personnel. It was awful. Most of the time it looked like a 4-3-3- system with Rooney higher up the pitch through the middle and Kane and Vardy on the wings, mostly tracking back to cover full backs because Roy has decided to have a squad with virtually no width. This was blatantly an attempt to see if he could squeeze Kane, Vardy and Rooney into the same line-up. This is fine for a pre-tournament friendly, that’s the time to experiment, but so close to the start of a major tournament this should be about fine details, maybe one or two tweaks, from this display I would struggle to name five definite starters against Russia next Saturday. That’s just not right.

England won the game last night to complete a hat-trick of warm-up friendlies. After the game the manager said the sending off disrupted his plans, of course it did but he did not change the shape, or the system, to take advantage of Bruno Alves’s slightly high challenge on our ‘arry. It was crying out for width and overlapping full-backs, unfortunately Sterling was on the bench and Townsend is probably in a Jacuzzi in Dubai after getting dumped on Tuesday.

I was watching this game on TV and if I had joined it after thirty minutes and wasn’t aware that Portugal were down to ten men I would never had noticed. Portugal, without their Number 7, played with two banks of four and one man up front after the sending off, well I say man up front but I really mean Nani, surely one of the most frustrating footballers I’ve ever watched in my whole life.

Eventually I gave up, turned the sound off and flicked through my iPad for something more interesting to look at. It was only at full-time that I realised that the increasingly erratic Chris Smalling had scored a winner, from a cross from a substitute winger who was supposed to be playing at the tip of the diamond, comedy gold, you couldn’t write this stuff.

Anyway next week’s media coverage will be interesting as we build up to the big kick-off look out for further blogs on Premier Punt throughout the championships.

Over and out,

Cheeky PUNT

GAMEWEEK 5 PREVIEW

Well thank goodness the international week is over and we can get back to the bread and butter of the premier league. Mind you after my awful performance in gameweek 4, maybe I’d be better to sticking to international football. However, anyone can have a bad week and it’s how you respond that counts and I expect to return with a bang.

First a quick review of gameweek 4’s poor effort, twenty points my selections earned on premierpunt.com needless to say I wasn’t winning anyone’s cash. No clean sheets for defenders, some players not playing and after making such a big fuss of squeezing both Aguro and Costa into the team neither of them got on the scoresheet…useless.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. For gameweek 5 I’m sticking to a 3-4-3 formation with my budget spread more evenly throughout the team. I’m looking at Arsenal for clean sheets at the back this week, they are at home to Stoke City who have had a slow start to the season. I’m picking Petr Cech in goal with full-backs Bellarin and Monreal who also do a fair bit of attacking at the Emirates and can get a goal or an assist. Along with these two I’m taking Robert Huth from Leicester City who are entertaining Aston Villa this weekend. As I’ve said previously, Villa are poor.

My four in midfield consist of Lanzini and Moses of West Ham alongside Marouane Fellani and Jonjo Shelvey of Manchester United and Swansea City respectively. Lanzini looks like a quality player and is good value on premierpunt.com at £7.8M and Victor Moses joined the Hammers on loan from Chelsea on deadline day and has plenty to prove, I’m taking a risk by sticking him straight in but I’m confident he’ll start. West Ham are at home to Newcastle United on Monday night football, they have had a strange start to the season winning both away games at Arsenal and Liverpool while losing both their home games at Upton Park. On this form I’m backing them to win the league next season….think about it.

I can see Van Gaal bringing Fellani into the Manchester United team for his extra height and strength against Liverpool at Old Trafford on Saturday and Shelvey at Swansea has been excellent this season resulting in him being capped by England this week. I can see him feeding Gomis at Watford, more of which later.

My front three this week are Memphis, Sterling and Gomis. Memphis is still excellent value at £7.5 M on premierpunt.com and I’m sticking with him for one last week in the hope he can rise to the occasion against Liverpool, he now has the world’s most expensive teenager in Anthony Martial breathing down his neck, it’s time for him to produce. Sterling scored his first goal for Manchester City in gameweek 4 and I think he will repeat that away to Crystal Place this week. Even if he does not find the net he is always good for an assist. Completing my line up this week is Gomis of Swansea City. He’s been excellent this season and I can see him benefitting from Shelvey’s new found confidence this week away to Watford. I think he will terrorise their defence as he did against Daley Blind last time out.

Gomis will be my captain this week, I expect good double points return from him. My vice-captain will be Sterling.

Get onto premierpunt.com – there are £500 in guaranteed prize pots as well as an abundance of other weekly, daily and single games available. Next week brings the addition of the Champion’s League to premierpunt.com.

IS TIM SHERWOOD A BIT OF A KNOB?

Unless you’ve spent the last couple of years smoking crack and chasing penguins on Tristan da Cunhayou’ve probably asked yourself whether Tim Sherwood is a bit of a knob.

With an inexplicable affection for body warmers and a soft spot for volleying water bottles, it’s the kind of behaviour that should put the Aston Villa gaffer at the peak of the Gonad Graph …

… and that’s before we mention his fondness for spouting complete and utter bollocks.

It was during Sherwood’s six-month reign at White Hart Lane that this ostensible haughtiness reared its ugly head, with rumours circulating that he’d regularly snatch Gareth Bale’s crotch and whisper sinister threats of garrotting the Welsh midfielder with his girly headband.

Add in the fact that nothing was ever his fault – from the squad of chumps he inherited from AVB to the respect he so obviously failed to command from certain players – and the 46-year-old began to look like an angry supply teacher who’d knocked back one too many drinks at lunchtime.

But should a blunt manner really relegate Sherwood to the lower leagues of perpetual knobbery?

MOVING AWAY FROM PREDICTABILITY

For any football fan with a sense of humour, Sherwood should be applauded rather than censured, as he’s so often the comedy cure to the same brand of predictable poison the majority of managers spit out week after week.

While Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce drone on and on about a game of two halves and the incompetence of the officials, Sherwood frequently has the media on tenterhooks, waxing lyrical about his dislike of Benfica boss Jorge Jesus or casually chatting about his latest prostate exam.

Aside from being commended for his honesty in the public eye, those who’ve witnessed Sherwood hold court in private say he makes Nigel Farage look like the shy and retiring type, with his barbed opinions about the egos of the modern day footballer often at the top of his list of gripes.

Admittedly, the former Spurs gaffer’s managerial style may not be for everyone, but his knack for turning around the fortunes of underperforming players – Christian Benteke, we’re looking at you, son – and his unparalleled self-belief puts him head and shoulders above the rest.

So … is Tim Sherwood a bit of a knob? Almost certainly, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

‘til next time …

3 SHOCKING SECRETS MANUEL PELLEGRINI DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW

Manuel Pellegrini is a bloodsucking vampire.

When he’s not flapping around the Carrington Training Centre, he’s busy feeding on the life essence of living creatures, doing his best to avoid a stake through the heart and James Milner’s overly garlicky breath.

Life is tough for old Manuel.

After all, being the only vampire gaffer in the country is a lonely existence. While most managers are at home sipping a beer, Pellegrini forlornly irons his cape and wishes for the day when the undead are welcomed into the EPL with open arms.

But Pellegrini’s stint in England’s top tier could be coming to an unfortunate end.

His side’s recent reversal at the hands of van Gaal’s United left the Chilean spitting blood, with the 4-2 defeat a real knockout blow for City’s Champions League hopes, subsequently hammering another nail in Manuel’s coffin.

Putting Pellegrini’s penchant for parasitical pastimes and derby defeats aside for just a minute, however, here are three more things you definitely didn’t know about the beleaguered 61-year-old Manchester City gaffer  …

1. He Won a Chilean Talent Content

It’s hard to believe given his grouchiness in the dugout, but Pellegrini was actually one of his native country’s hottest music stars in the 80s. His life as a singer began on the Chilean talent contest, estrella Del Pop, where he scooped the top prize – and the hearts of pensioners around the country – with his version of Conway Twitty’s I Can See the Want to in Your Eyes.

2. He’s In The Guinness Book of Records

While Pellegrini’s broken a few club records in his long career, it’s his entry in the Guinness Book of Records he’s most proud of. The achievement? World’s Longest Nose Hair. This whopper of a hair came in at a staggering two metres and was proudly plucked by Pellegrini to be made in to a jacket for 12 homeless children in South America.

3. He Spent His Entire Playing Career at One Club

As a player, Pellegrini spent his entire career as a centre back with Universidad de Chile, appearing for the team in over 400 matches in 13 years. While this may seem impressive, rumour has it Manuel was reluctant to leave as the local blood bank was situated opposite the stadium.

While some, none or all of the above may or may not be true, it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of Manchester City’s under fire boss in the days and weeks to come – but whatever happens, Pellegrini’s bloodsucking tendencies will almost certainly rise again.

‘til next time …