Footballrumours’s Blog

Mindgames Backfire on Ferguson
April 20, 2009, 3:05 pm
Filed under: FA Cup | Tags: , , , , ,

Alec Ferguson was left enraged again yesterday after his team were defeated on penalties by Everton in the FA Cup semi-final. The Manchester United manager has a long running history of troubles with referees with the Football Association repeatedly pursuing the manager about is conduct with regard to refereeing decisions against his team. Ferguson has also been in the press recently criticising Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez for an alleged disparaging taunt during a recent match when Liverpool defeated Blackburn Rovers easily. Ferguson seems quite happy to put up his deputies for post-match TV interviews but decides to appear in person when the agenda suits him.

Of course Ferguson is himself no stranger to using press interviews to play mind games with future opponents. Recently we noted his part in a run-in with Harry Redknapp prior to an earlier FA Cup game against Spurs when Redknapp was suggesting who he might put up to play against Ferguson’s team given his injury worries and poor league position. In the end Spurs lost the game and Manchester United went on to the semi-final stage while Spurs have gone on to recover their Premier League position and are even chasing a European competition place for next season. meanwhile Liverpool and Manchester United are almost locked to gether at the top of the league with six and seven games remaining respectively.

Prior to the semi-final Everton’s manager David Moyes made a comment about the match referee Mike Riley being a united fan. In the past Riley has been accused of making decisions biased towards United. Perhaps he should never have been selected to referee the game but he was and found himself in the hot seat when United had a strong claim for a penalty. When the penalty was not awarded Ferguson could be seen jumping around in rage on the side of the pitch and after the game accused the referee of being fearful of awarding it given the pre-match accusations. Had Moyes planted that seed in the ref’s mind?

Benitez has been known to heap praise on Chelsea in the past, saying he thinks it’s a fantastic club and he likes their style, so we may be set for some further rallies between the two managers in the run up to the FA Cup final in May.

Oh and Ferguson was also moaning about the state of the pitch at Wembley this weekend. I think that sums up his state of mind at the moment.


Football Funding under Spotlight
February 19, 2009, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Barclays Premiership, European Football, FA Cup | Tags: , ,

The recent revelations about cricket’s involvement with questionable sources of sponsorship and funding should serve as a warning to football’s governing bodies.  It is obvious that they should be extremely diligent in ensuring similar situations do not develop in their sport.

Of course the financial aspects of top level football are well documented and the levels of money involved are very high, even in comparison to cricket, but how much scrutiny are football’s backers placed under when they enter the sport? Many of the UK’s top clubs are now fully or part owned by foreign investors and with such high finance, the need for high levels of examination and regulation become par for the course. But have the UK’s footballing bodies stepped up their game to match the stakes?

I’m expecting to see a whole round of press announcements from football’s official bodies, informing the community at large that the sport is totally under control from a financial standpoint. Given the amount of pressure Giles Clarke, the current chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, is facing, I would expect the equivalent heads of UK’s football to be immediately checking their own vulnerability should a similar situation emerge in footballing circles.

Redknapp courts Hipocrisy
January 26, 2009, 10:33 am
Filed under: FA Cup | Tags: , ,

After watching the FA Cup between Manchester United and Spurs on Saturday I was left with one thought – how Harry Redknapp had changed his spots. After commenting mid-week that he was placing the game down his priority list and would be fielding a below strength team ( and receiving plenty of criticism for those remarks) he turned up with a strong team and went all guns blazing for the win. Had it not been for an unfortunate two minute spell in the first half, Redknapp could well have got that win. In his comments after the game he even admitted that he thought his team was effectively always in contention right up to the end and could easily have earned a reply – but Harry didn’t want that replay did he? Alex Ferguson played no such shenanigans and fielded a very strong looking team – O’Shea, Vidic, Carrick, Scholes, Ronaldo, Berbatov and Tevez is a formidable line-up.

Manchester United have their own injury worries though with Rooney, Evra, Anderson, Evans, Rafael and now Welbeck and Fabio all injured. But such is their strength in depth that even this high number of casualties should not hamper them.

All these remarks about busy seasons and priorities have at least forced the FA to reconsider their rules for the FA Cup and I expect some radical changes to be brought in by next season. With both Liverpool and Everton now facing an unwanted replay, the FA must consider how to ensure ties in the latter stages of the competition ( when more premiership teams are likely to be involved) can be settled in just one game. Maybe even the semi-finals and final too – I’ve always found an FA Cup Final replay to be a bit of an anti-climax compared to the real deal.  Before long I certainly expect earlier FA Cup rounds to be using a short period of extra time, followed by penalties if required.

All this will limit the revenue-earning opportunities that some lower league clubs thrive on when presented with the chance of a replay (some would say that these clubs may even play for a replay at times ) but let’s be honest, the FA Cup is not about those one or two non-league clubs earning a lucky financial break. It’s about exciting competition with the big-name clubs providing thrilling and committed performances. If over-booked schedules and the worry of injuries and replays serve to prevent that, then the format needs to be resolved quickly.

The Darker side of Player Loans
January 23, 2009, 9:50 am
Filed under: Barclays Premiership, FA Cup | Tags: , , ,

The issue of player loans is not one that makes many headlines but recently there appears to have been more interest in the activity. West Brom manager Tony Mowbray has one person speaking openly and frequently about loan players, especially as his club appears to be in a precarious League position with huge squad injury worries to contend with.

The typical player’s ( and most likely public ) view of player loans is articulated by Gavin Strachan in his BBC blog and is seen as a means to give players without regular first team spots the chance to play competitive games with another club in the meantime.But is there more to this than meets the eye.

In one article Tony Mowbray mentions the willingness of higher ranked clubs to offer loan players to teams lower down their Leagues as a potential means of taking points away from their main competitors. By loaning a decent player to a club who subsequently achieves a draw against key opposition, the top teams can steal vital points away from their rivals.

That started to raise my suspicions of possible darker implications and I think the area needs closer scrutiny and monitoring by the FA Cup and League bodies. Perhaps an investigative journalist with an interest in the matter could undertake some thorough research into the area.

Consider Team A loaning a key player to Team J lower down the league. Team J then scrambles a draw against Team C, a key rival of Team A. Team J are glad of the extra point and Team A steal a two point march on Team B. Not the real objective of player loans but an expected consequence none the less. But what happens when Teams A and J play each other? Are there some conflicts of interest at play now.? No-one would expect Team J to put up much of a fight in normal circumstances anyway, but would the team managers concerned see further opportunities for co-operation?  Perhaps manager A would be allowed to field an under-strength squad, saving his top players, safe in the knowledge that Team J is not going to make his life too difficult. Makes you wonder doesn’t it. What we need is someone with time on their hands to go back over the results of previous seasons and drag together some statistics. It may make interesting reading.

Terry back for FA Cup
January 21, 2009, 4:23 pm
Filed under: FA Cup | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Just a week on from ending the run of Southend’s FA Cup run Chelsea are putting their final preparations together before hosting Ipswich Town at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Ipswich, currently 11th in the Championship, come to the The Bridge full of confidence after their 4-1 victory away at Crystal Palace. Chelsea’s captain, John Terry, was missing from training yesterday, apparently still receiving treatment for the back injury he picked up during the warm-upprior to last Saturday’s game at Stoke, but with Joe Cole out for the season, the return of Terry for the game on Saturday will be crucial. The winner of the game will discover their opponents in next round when the draw for the Fifth Round of the FA Cup is made at 6:15pm on Sunday evening following the big Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton.