Tuesday, 28 June 2011

My Dislikable XI - Number 8 (Lee Doane)

As I mentioned last time, it has been great receiving submissions from football fans as well as seasoned bloggers. Today's submission is from lifelong Blade (you can tell by his twitter name) Lee Doane. You can follow him on twitter as @8LAD35 . When I asked Lee what coloured shirts his XI should be displayed in, I assumed it would be blue and white stripes - but I was wrong! "Let's go for all red, the colour of the glory hunter since the 70s." So here is Lee's Dislikable XI.....

Anything can trigger a lingering dislike of a footballer. It doesn’t have to be because they are a dirty player because let’s face it a dirty player in your own team will usually become a folk hero. I have wished ill on players for many a year for reasons varying from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Goalkeeper David Seaman
I spent a long time thinking of a keeper that I actually disliked. In the end I opted for David Seaman. He was, undoubtedly a top-drawer keeper but prone to dropping howlers when it mattered in the big games. Remember Nayim’s lob from the halfway line, in the Cup-winners’ Cup final in 1994, which had Seaman flailing desperately to get back to his goal, to no avail. The sight of him sat on his arse in the back of the net, chewing his cud is still vivid in my mind today.

Then there was the World Cup in 2002, when Ronaldinho caught him fast asleep. And let’s not forget that pony tail! No, what really caused my dislike was his unbelievable save in the 2003 FA Cup semi-final, denying Paul Peschisolido’s late flicked header from point-blank range. I was on my knees in front of the TV for what seemed like 10 minutes wondering how the hell he managed to adjust his body and produce his Jedi save. The one time we needed him to throw one in and he pulled of a worldy – the git.
Right Back Keith Newton
I was born in 1970, when Keith appeared for England in the World Cup, so he is a bit before my time. I collected Topps Footballer bubble-gum cards in the 1970s and one of the cards I had was Keith Newton of Burnley. I don’t know if it was a bad photograph or the result of a bad pre-photo shoot meal but he had a bit of a grimace – a snarl even. His image disturbed my 5 year old mind so much that I couldn’t bear to look at the card and eventually tore it up.
Left Back Ashley Cole
This is a no-brainer really. After reading that Ashley Cole was physically sick when hearing Arsenal were only offering him £40K a week in a new deal, I was also physically sick. Numerous stories about his personal life make him seem like such a nice chap, don’t you think?
Centre Back Phil Thompson
I am in agreement with Unitedite on this one. I remember Phil winding down his career at Bramall Lane with the other Dad’s Army signings at the time – Peter Withe & Ken McNaught. We also had Dennis Mortimer at the time on loan for a while, so we had 4 European Cup winners at one time. We didn’t play much like European Champions with this influence though.

My abiding memory of Phil Thompson in a Blades shirt was an away game at Notts County. It was late on and the score was 0-0. Thompson trotted back to his penalty area and beckoned the keeper to roll the ball out to him. He received the ball, looked up and tapped it back to the keeper (pre back-pass rule kids.) We’d paid good money to watch a seasoned pro show us such class that wins trophies year after year. He also had a hideous perm in the 70s, like most of his team-mates. Today, I revel in Liverpool FC floundering, as I know how much it hurts “Shnozz.”
Centre  Back Steve Bruce
By the time Steve Bruce became manager of Sheff United, I’d warmed to him a little bit. Nothing he did on the pitch bothered me much. It was probably a picture of him in Match magazine, with Dave Watson, celebrating Norwich City’s League Cup win and the sight of his already gruesome face contorted in ecstasy. Some players you look at and think – “No don’t like yer.”
Right Wing Mark Ward
The ex- West Ham, Everton and Manchester City player was one of those players who always seemed to score against the Blades and to make matters worse, slagged off United’s style of play in the press. When I read in 2005 that he had been banged up for possession of Cocaine with intent to supply I was mortified – honest!
Centre Midfield Carlton Palmer
This XI had to have at least one player from the dark side – Sheffield W*******y and Carlton Palmer fits the bill as much as anyone. Carlton started off his Owls career well with a red card at Bramall Lane in a friendly. He always seemed to have a high opinion of himself, yet was a regular in probably the worst era of the England team, along with a few of his Wendy team-mates – "Flapper" Woods, Sinton, Hirst. Carlton’s England performances even caused Graham Taylor to go berserk in the “Impossible Job” documentary, “Carlton! Carlton! Fucking Hell!” Carlton sealed his place in anti-folklore with a move to Leeds United.
Centre Midfield Nigel Quashie
I had no beef with Nigel until a home game against Portsmouth in 2001/2. United ended up winning 4-3 with a last minute penalty. It was a decent game, despite a strong wind, and I remember a few tetchy incidents. Keith Curle wound up Peter Crouch to almost boiling point and Shaun Derry was sent off in injury-time. As he walked off, he hurled a divot in the direction of the Kop – from the centre spot. I also remember Robert Prosinecki on the left wing who gave our young right-back Ben Doane a football lesson.

So what about Quashie? Well, before the game turned ugly, he headed Portsmouth in front at the kop end and then ran around the pitch giving the shushing gesture to the home fans. WE hadn’t been particularly noisy or hostile towards Portsmouth up to this point, so I couldn’t understand his actions. At the end of the game, 3 points in the bag I was on the Kop screaming “Quashie! Hey Quashie! You’re not shushing now are you, you f*cker eh?” He will, of course, have not heard a word of this but I felt a hell of a lot better for it.
Left Wing Scott Sellars
I was a ball-boy for a Sheffield United v Leeds game in the 80s. Leeds had a corner and as the ball was being rolled over to Scott Sellars to take it, I stuck out a boot and deflected it away from him. A volley of abuse followed. Happily, Sheff United won 2-1 with two Mel Eves crackers and Leeds smashed up the Bramall Lane end.

A few years later, I worked with an old school friend of Scott Sellars, who told me that, if other kids were a bit rough with him in school sports, his mother would have a go at them, “Do you have to bowl body-line at him?” Made my day hearing that.
Striker John Fashanu
I have always found his, “trust me, I am a well-spoken Barnardo’s boy”, butter wouldn’t melt persona a bit hard to swallow. In 1983, in a FA Cup replay, playing for Lincoln, Fash had a 90 minute set-to with United’s Mick Henderson. Sadly he also received some of the worst racial abuse I’ve ever heard. In 1991 away at Wimbledon, Fash blatantly punched away a Vinnie Jones long throw and Sheff United won a penalty. 2 minutes later he did exactly the same. What was that all about?
Striker Lee Hughes
The “Balti Kid” endeared himself to all Blades with a performance at The Hawthorns, when he ran 50 yards to beg the ref to send off Rob Ullathorne. To rub salt in he scored the winner later. He will unfortunately be best remembered for serving three years of a six year sentence for killing a father-of-four in a car crash, although it would only be right for me to keep my dislike of him down to football reasons alone. I would hate it if we signed him.
Manager Ferguson
Sorry, you won’t get any matey, Sir Alex, Alec, Fergie nonsense from me, He’ll always be Ferguson. It’s the stopwatch, the constant chewing of cud, the spitting, the bellyaching at refs, the boycott of the BBC, his Rab C Nesbitt drawl, his mardiness when Preston sacked his son, his team playing in flip flops and trunks against West Ham in 2007, his crappy goal celebrations.

I don’t care how many trophies he wins, in my eyes he will never be able to match the charisma and likability of Clough and Shankly – the 2 managers I place on the highest pedestal.

Previous Dislikable XIs:

No. 3 - 9-Men
No. 4 - William Abbs
No. 5 - Goaltastic
No. 6 - Football Charlie
No. 7 - Phil Lupton

Up next:

No. 9 Gib Football Show

Thursday, 23 June 2011

My Dislikable XI - Number 7 (Phil Lupton)

When I started this series I immediately got a good response from fellow bloggers. What was just as pleasing was the response from your everyday matchday suporter, just wanting to vent their spleen.

For Dislikable XI number 7, I welcome Phil Lupton who has 40 plus years supporting Oxford United to draw upon. He has seen them play up and down the leagues (from Old Trafford and Wembley down to Ebbsfleet, Grays and Histon and he hopes to seem them back up again). Unsurprisingly his XI appear in the kit of Swindon Town.

Goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar
A circus clown who insisted on, hilariously, walking on his hands to celebrate victories. Quick to blame all and sundry for goals scored against him, nothing was ever his fault.

Right Back John Devine
I watched him live week-after-week at Highbury and never saw him make a single tackle. Truly the all-around modern full-back.

Left-Back Frank Clark
Where do I start? His dour exterior? The only man managed by Brian Clough never to have been capped by his country (well almost)? An ordinary guy carried by the rest of his team-mates to un-earned team glory. Proved to be an equally dour manager.

Centre-Back Gary Ablett 
A leading nominee for the least talented player to win a League and Cup double - oh and the squarest shoulders!

Centre-Back Richard Dunne 
He scores own-goals for fun. He has the turning-circle of an arctic truck, the speed of a tortoise and the body-shape of a shot-putter.

Inexplicably loved by his own fans no matter how many mistakes and how many "unlucky" own-goals he racks up for club and adopted country.

Midfield Gareth Barry
Surely the slowest midfielder ever to play in the World Cup. The reason he is that modern curse - a holding midfielder - is that he isn't quick enough to get up and down the field, as ruthlessly exposed in South Africa.

Add to that his Judas-like contempt for the Villa fans when he wanted to leave for loads more money and he has done enough to bag his place in my team.

Midfield Graham Rix.
A poor-man's Liam Brady for Arsenal, and a poor-man's Glenn Hoddle for England and North London generally. Missed penalty in penalty shoot-out, never bothered to run to the byline to get a cross-in, extreme haircuts, ineffective England efforts and rubbish manager career - yet still inexplicably fondly remembered

Midfield Don Rodgers
Surely the most overweight winger ever to pull on a professional soccer shirt, or a Swindon one anyway.

Striker Rodney Marsh
He was blessed with skill, he just never thought to use any of it on behalf of any of the team he played for be it QPR, Man City or England. Shouted like a girl and tumbled to the turf at the first sign of physical attention from defenders. Loved posing both on and off the pitch.

Striker Kevin Davies
He routinely commits more fouls than anyone else in the League, and that includes the defenders. More prized for the use of his backside than his feet. How did he win an England cap?

Striker Nicolas Anelka
Spoilt-brat striker who played for plenty of good teams - but never played for the team. Always looking for a reason to sulk or strike (by withdrawing his labour and not shooting at goal!)

Manager Kevin Keegan
Tactics - what tactics? Wears his heart on his sleeve, but not a clue how to transfer that passion to any of his charges, and clueless on tactics or team-play. Walks away at the first sign of trouble.....

Previous Dislikable XIs:

No. 3 - 9-Men
No. 4 - William Abbs
No. 5 - Goaltastic
No. 6 - Football Charlie

Up next:

No. 8 - Lee Doane

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

My Dislikable XI - Number 6 (Football Charlie)

The sixth of our Dislikable XIs comes courtesy of Charlie Johnson aka @FootballCharlie . Owner of the From the Depths site, guest blogger for many others and Sky Sports FanZone blogger on Huddersfield Town, several on field nemeses of the Terriers make it into his team.

Goalkeeper Paddy Kenny

Now this is perhaps an unfounded one, but I struggled to think of a goalkeeper I don’t like. However, now I think of it, I’ve never liked Kenny, and it was based purely on looks alone, an ugly looking bloke who just seemed unpleasant.

In addition, after Sheffield United stood by him during his drugs ban, he buggered off to QPR, and left them with a long line of fairly bad keepers. I don’t know the ins and outs of the deal but I think he owed United more loyalty. 

Right Back Bradley Orr

Hard not to go for Gary Neville here, but I just think he’s amusing really, and I’m trying not to be too obvious.

Now this goes back to his time at Bristol City, where he got into an altercation during a match with Huddersfield with star striker Pawel Abbott, my memory is hazy but I think he tried to head butt him, and I can’t remember a more snarling, nasty player off the opposition in many years.
Orr also ended up in jail for affray.

Centre Back John Terry

I’m sorry, I know it’s obvious but I just cannot ignore him. He always reminds me of the vile bloke down the pub who interrupts your conversation to tell a joke that nobody finds funny, before sticking around to ruin the night, whilst everyone else just hopes they go away.

Never as good as people claim, a whinging little sulk merchant when he doesn’t get his own way, as demonstrated at the World Cup, and the fact that his performance levels dropped when he’s not captain.

Centre Back Keith Curle

Now here is a surprise for you all, but I found Keith Curle to be one of the dirtiest players of the game I’ve ever witnessed. During a Huddersfield vs. Barnsley game, John Thorrington, a nippy winger of little repute, was chasing down a ball and Curle was never going to catch him, however when he did reach him, Curle jabbed a finger straight in Thorrington’s eye.

He was also a cocky, unpleasant manager, who was far too confident, and beating his Mansfield team in the play off final over a year after the eye poke was an extra bonus to a great day.

Left Back Kevin Sharp

One of the worst players I’ve ever seen play football, and when you consider he was brought in to replace the awful Gareth Evans in Huddersfield’s defence then that says something.

Now signing a player who was instrumental in getting a club relegated is never a good sign and so it proved. He was hopeless, and was part of the worst Huddersfield Town side I’ve ever witnessed, and that is saying something.

Hopeless, cocky, and with dyed blonde hair, need I go on?

Left Midfield Jay Tabb

Let it never be said that I don’t hold a grudge, but some years ago Huddersfield played Brentford in one of the most exciting games of football that I have ever witnessed.

At 2-1 down with a matter of minutes remaining Tabb hit the deck in suspicious looking circumstances, on rushed the physio who took the injured Tabb to the sidelines in front of the Huddersfield fans. The usual chants of “cheat” cheat” echoed round the stands to which Brentford’s aggressive physio and Tabb took umbrage to. They started shouting back and Tabb showed the 2-1 score line in his fingers to the crowd. This riled the Town faithful and a mystery object flew out of the crowd and hit Tabb, who hit the deck as if blitzed by a Heavyweight boxer’s uppercut. 

Tabb heroically made it back up to his feet, and walked off round the pitch having been substituted, and was showing his torso to the Huddersfield fans, whilst reminding them of the score. With seconds remaining in the game, Town equalised and then moments later grabbed a winner, in a pulsating match. And the object that hit Tabb, well it was that most dangerous of weapons, a smarties lid thrown by a child.

Right Midfield Peter Beagrie

Now he is an absolutely woeful pundit, dull and arguable less insightful than the wheels on Andy Townsend’s tactics truck, but as a player he was even more annoying.

His Leeds and Bradford connections were never going to make him particularly popular with Huddersfield fans, but the fact that when ever we played Scunthorpe he would play an absolute blinder, despite the fact he was close to 40, and always cap of performance with a goal and that bloody somersault celebration. I was so delighted when he finally retired, and could no longer haunt us anymore.  

Central Midfield Richie Wellens

Now Richie Wellens is a very good player at lower league level, but he is an absolute pain in the backside. Screaming, pointing, getting the face of the referee and basically annoying the fans of the opposition team. The fact that he’s pretty useful just makes all this far more annoying and him all the more dislikable.

Striker Keigan Parker

No player could ever be as good as Parker thought he was, and that just made him intensely dislikeable. He was a cocky little poser, with a daft haircut beard combo and one good season in his career.

Some ability and decent pace couldn’t make up for his clear deficiencies as a man and his attitude was pretty awful. Now where he deserves to be, well you could argue that they haven’t done enough wrong to deserve him, plying his trade in non league Fleetwood Town.

Striker Paul Hayes

Now Hayes was a "Big-time Charlie", who had ability but was incredibly lazy with it. As part of the Barnsley side which beat Huddersfield in the play off semi final in the 05-06 season, it was the way Hayes took the penalty that restored parity on that most agonising of nights that made him so dislikable. Now blast a penalty, or put it deep in the corner is fine, but to calmly side foot it as if you were Maradona really rubs salt into the wound. Full marks to him for being so lackadaisical about a vital moment in a football match but it just made me despise him. 

Striker Lee Trundle

Another show boater and a pain in the backside with it, Trundle was always a thorn in the side of Huddersfield defences, and with his various flicks and tricks he made himself hugely unpopular at the Galpharm Stadium.

The shoulder roll he performed was a great bit of skill but it wound up Peter Jackson so much that I thought they’d come to blows. Again he was a match winner, and a lower league player who acted as if he was a world cup winner, even designing his own clothing line.  

A hugely overrated player though, who fully appeared to believe the hype, which to me made him pretty dislikable.

Manager Martin Allen

Horrible football, tedious man, never seen a team so wound up and dirty as his Brentford side, he is the archetypal lower league manager.

Charlie asked for his team to be put in a West Ham kit, he didn't like the colour combination, but admitted that could equally apply to Aston Villa or Scunthorpe. Unfortunately, this is the best that I could do.......

Previous Dislikable XIs:

No. 3 - 9-Men
No. 4 - William Abbs
No. 5 - Goaltastic
Up next: Phil Lupton

Monday, 20 June 2011

Love and Haiti - Lescinel Jean-Francois

It was announced this morning that Danny Wilson had made his first signing as Sheffield United manager. Recent rumours were now confirmed, as Haitian international defender Lescinel Jean-Francois signed a two year deal with an option of a third. 

Defensive recruitment had to be a priority for Wilson; with no fit left backs at the club and central defence decidedly light, with Chris Morgan and Johnnie Ertl missing the start of the season - leaving the haphazard Neil Collins and youthful promise in Matt Lowton and Harry Maguire. Given the youthful look of the back four towards the end of the season, perhaps a more experienced signing might have been expected, and that may still happen, but for now it appears that United have continued their recent strategy of signing relatively young players who have shown promise.

As a fellow Blade (David Cooper) said to me on twitter this morning, "This is the pond we need to be fishing in. Young with potential to improve. We've spent too much on players who are not going to get any better". A sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with. So who have we signed? Are our assumptions correct? Ron - editor of Swindon Town site "The Wash Bag"  told me a bit more about our new signing.

"When Lescinel Jean-Francois (LJF) joined the club back in January 2009 it was expected that his short term deal would be only that. Danny Wilson was impressed enough, particularly with Lescinel’s performance in his second start at Peterborough on the final day, to offer him a new contract."

"2009/2010 saw LJF play more than a supporting role in our near promotion campaign. A regular starter at first, including a magnificent match at left back against Southampton in the August, he eventually lost out to Alan Sheehan (The ex-Leeds player has recently signed for Notts County)."

What worries me slightly is Ron's next comment. We've had enough scary moments this season, with Nyron Nosworthy and Neil Collins providing a near-weekly horror story, and maybe this suggests that he will be utilised at left back rather than centre back, particularly until Andy Taylor returns from injury.

"Thrust into the middle, a position he’s more than familiar with, hasn’t always worked out for the best. Whilst LJF is very competent on the ball, distributes well and isn’t bad at whipping in a cross from the wing, in the middle at the back there’s no space to hide from your mistakes. His concentration goes, however he does often have a knack for chasing back onto the striker and pulling off an excellent recovery."
"He’s often been unfairly singled out by some Town fans as contributing to our relegation, despite making only 18 appearances this season, however that just isn’t the case as I pointed out in a recent blog."

The blog is well worth a read as Ron looks at the impact on results and defensive performances with/without LJF.

Ron describes him as "A player that will ultimately divide opinion, however you just can’t fault his professionalism and attitude." We have known a few players like that at Bramall Lane over the years and the Blades support will always recognise a hard working committed player, despite their technical limitations. The danger is that his mistakes, particularly if costly, outweigh the positives.

"Nothing more demonstrates this than the tragedy that shook his home nation of Haiti in 2010 and playing for months knowing his sister was missing, somewhere in the rubble left by the earthquake. LJF only found out that her body had been recovered just before the second leg of the play-off semi-final and he was adamant he’d play the game. After returning home for the week before the Wembley final he played the whole ninety minutes and gave it his all in the toughest circumstances."

A situation that few ,if any, of us can imagine dealing with, yet he demonstrated a maturity and mental fortitude that suggests he is capable of dealing with the minor tribulations that football can bring.

So with a new contract in the offing at the County Ground, LJF has chosen to remain in League One with the Blades. But will he be missed by Town fans?

"For me, Swindon should’ve done everything to have kept LJF at Swindon, however I can think of no better place than Sheffield United and linking up with Wilson again to allow him to fulfil his real potential." Let's hope so!

So who next for the Blades, as Wilson continues to re-shape his squad? More Swindon Town links will inevitably be made. Last week the papers made great play of a move for John Paul McGovern, a winger Blades fans know a lot about from his loan spell 8 years ago. This was played down by local radio and I for one am relieved. Although width has been something the Blades have lacked for a couple of seasons and is a requirement acknowledged by Wilson, I would like to see pace in the wide positions, something JP cannot provide.

Further links with Billy Paynter (currently at Leeds) have emerged and I can see this as a real possibility, particularly with the potential loss of a combination (or all) of Henderson, Bogdanovic and Evans. A player to lead the line and have width and pace playing off him. He has scored goals in League One (including under Wilson in Swindon's play off season) and I can see how he would potentially fit in with our plans.

The one player, with a Swindon connection, that I would like to see the Blades move for is Danny Ward of Bolton Wanderers. Signed on loan in the Play Off final season, he contributed 9 goals in 31 games and, to me, looked equally comfortable out wide or down the middle. However, Ron tells me that down the middle was definitely his best position. Injury curtailed a loan at Coventry early last season and he finished the season on loan at Huddersfield where he scored 3 in 9 appearances, including a great finish against Bournemouth in the second leg of the Play Off semi-final. Still 20 and with great pace, he could give us something we have only sporadically had with the injury prone Jamie Ward.

Time will tell, who we next move for, but I cannot help feeling I might be asking for Ron's opinions again before pre-season is out. Until then I thank him for his help and here's hoping LJF makes as positive impact on Blades fans as he did on Ron.  

Friday, 17 June 2011

My Dislikable XI - Number 5 (Isaac Ashe - Goaltastic)

Welcome to Isaac Ashe of Goaltastic who proffers the 5th Dislikable XI for your delectation. With some succinct and irrational reasoning and a little Lion abuse, but not the kind that would get Zoo Check visiting. 

Picking an all time favourite XI - piece of cake.

Picking a most hated - actually quite hard.

It’s no fun dredging up all that negative emotion, remembering being annoyed and agitated and frustrated and let down by players - as a result you may notice a strong England theme to my picks...

Goalkeeper Rob Green
This was probably the hardest position to pick  - I feel pity, not hate, for keepers. They’re like bass players in bands, they’re fall guys. But I went for Rob Green because he definitely lost England the World Cup. All on his own. And he didn’t even look bothered.

Left Back Ashley Cole
Despite being told to steer clear of obvious targets, I cannot avoid the inclusion of the continuously moaning, spoilt little prat that is Ashley Cole. Sorry.

Central Defender Rio Ferdinand 
#get #off #twitter #for #a #bit #and #concentrate #on #your #rapidly #declining #football #career

Central Defender John Terry 
Despite being a pretty decent - if slow - defender, there’s no way that Terry should be an automatic starter at Chelsea with the likes of Luiz, Alex and Ivanovic as competition, let alone as England’s captain, as he seems to think is his divine right.

Right Back Dani Alves
Another clearly talented player with attacking skills to match most forwards - but dives on contact, rolls like he’s been shot and then moans like a spoilt four-year-old for a yellow card. It’s embarrassing to watch.

Right Wing Arjen Robben
How has one-footed Robben reached the lofty peaks he has in the world game? If any defenders are reading this, he’s going to cut inside and shoot. Every time.

Central Midfield Doriva
Middlesbrough have signed a Brazilian midfielder? Really, that’s exciting. Can’t wait to see him play. Oh.

Central Midfield Gareth Barry
The most boring that someone who could be described as a mercenary could ever be.

Left Wing Theo Walcott
The English Djibril Cisse, an expert in running in straight lines and then thumping the ball. Sadly for Walcott he has to do this on the wing, so is not immediately in front of goal when the thumping occurs. And he’s about 12 years old so we’re going to have to endure this for years to come.

Striker Emile Heskey
The most frustrating forward to watch ever. Can’t score, can’t hold the ball up, can barely stand up for any length of time. There are half a dozen goalkeepers with a better goals-to-games ratio than sorry Emile.

Striker David Villa 
Is a striker for the best club side and best national side in the game, yet manages not to be a prolific goalscorer - what gives? Plus he has that stupid bit of fluff on his chin.

Manager Pep Guardiola
Has a record to match any manager out there - not surprising, as he’s only ever managed ruddy Barcelona. I reckon even I could have won a few trophies starting out a managerial career there. Please someone send him to Partick Thistle or somewhere for a season or two.

Previous Dislikable XIs:

No. 3 - 9-Men
No. 4 - William Abbs

Up next:
No. 6 - Football Charlie

No. 5 - Goaltastic (Isaac Ashe)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

My Dislikable XI - Number 4 (William Abbs)

The fourth Dislikable XI arrives courtesy of the football writer, blogger and Manchester United supporter William Abbs. Having seen his contributions to The Two Unfortunates, Two Hundred Percent and In Bed with Maradona, it is a pleasure to welcome him to A United View. To read more of William's musings head over to his blog Saha From The Madding Crowd .

Goalkeeper: Andy Goram
Scottish football belonged to Rangers in the mid-90s. Such was their success that even Celtic went six years without a trophy, which, given the current Old Firm duopoly, sounds simply astonishing now. Goram was Rangers’ goalkeeper from 1991 to 1998, during which time the club equalled their neighbours’ record of nine league titles in a row.

My dislike of the player, though, I should make perfectly clear, has no political motive. It’s just that he made goalkeeping look like such hard work. Capable of breaking into a sweat merely by taking a goal kick, well-proportioned Goram also put in two nervous displays for my side – *cough* Manchester United – in 2001 during the nomadic end to his career.

Right back: Abel Xavier
Xavier, or Old Father Time as I liked to call him because of his white hair and fierce demeanour, arrived in the Premier League in 1999 when he joined Everton from PSV. He later moved to Liverpool, and then had two years with Middlesbrough after spells in Turkey, Germany, and Italy. To British viewers he’s probably still best known for his wild protests at conceding a penalty for handball in Portugal’s Euro 2000 semi-final against France. For his angry confrontation with referee Günter Benkö, Xavier was eventually banned from international football for six months.

Centre back: Tony Adams
As a Manchester United fan with painful memories of the 1998 title run-in, when Arsenal put on the after-burners and romped to their first Premier League crown under Arsène Wenger, one of my abiding memories from that period is Adams’ goal against Everton. He scored the last in a 4-0 win that saw Arsenal wrap up the league. I’d never had much time for Adams as an England player either, reserving my admiration for United’s pairing of Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister, but that famous strike (and the Martin Tyler commentary that accompanied it) made matters personal.

Centre back: Alpay Özalan
For a couple of years during the qualifying games for Euro 2004, England and Turkey experienced a brief but heated international rivalry. After finishing third at the World Cup in Japan & South Korea, Turkey were England’s main opponents in Group 7 and the countries played out two bad-tempered matches in Sunderland and Istanbul. Alpay was Turkey’s (and arguably one of the world’s) best defenders at the time. A very public disagreement with Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor, however, had seen him disappear from first team action during the 2002/03 season.

His goading of David Beckham, after the England captain missed a penalty during the particularly nasty goalless draw in Turkey in October 2003, damaged Alpay’s reputation in England further. Villa terminated his contract a few months later and he moved to Incheon United in South Korea. (Sadly, Martin Keown didn’t receive the same punishment for his reaction to Ruud van Nistelrooy’s miss earlier the same season.)

Left back: Paul Robinson
Perhaps it’s unfair to criticise a player for enjoying a more successful career than he might have expected, but Robinson’s consistent status as a Premier League player has long baffled me. Having figured for Watford, West Brom, and now Bolton, Robinson has amassed 190 Premier League appearances spread across six seasons since 1999. He’s also been booked on 42 occasions during that time. If you’re a left back by trade, picking up a yellow card every now and then is an occupational hazard. Robinson’s tally, however, suggests that top level football, like the wide men who hurdle his tackles, is leaving players like him behind.

Defensive midfielder: Terry Hurlock
Some players give you nightmares by virtue of a poor performance; some just give you nightmares. Terry Hurlock’s head shot in the 1994 Panini album was so harrowing that turning to Southampton’s page in order to affix another sticker was always done with much trepidation, lest one look turn you to stone. A Millwall club legend who gained three England B caps, Hurlock’s long curly hair and – how shall I put it? – difficult facial features earned him the nickname Warlock from Lions fans. True beauty comes from within, of course, and it might seem pretty rotten of me to include a player based on criteria out of his control, but the player who Neil Ruddock – never likely to have troubled the catwalks of Paris or Milan himself either – called his favourite animal takes his place in this side nonetheless.

Central midfielder: Paul Gascoigne
I have a problem with Gazza. Although Italia 90 is the first World Cup I can remember watching on television, I recall bits of the quarter-final against Cameroon but nothing of the epochal match against Germany that followed. Indeed, the passage of play that introduced me to Gascoigne was not the lunging challenge on Thomas Berthold but that on Gary Charles in the FA Cup final the following year. Gazza was, to my rather unsympathetic 7-year-old self, the silly man who injured himself tackling an opponent.

After he moved to Italy, the infrequency with which I saw him play meant I never got past the ridiculous haircuts he sported each time he was called up to the England squad. During his renaissance at Rangers, I always felt that the quality of Scottish football undermined his success. Truthfully, I never admired Gazza as a player, even after that goal at Euro 96, because to me he always embodied colossal wasted talent. Psychological explanations for his erratic behaviour – harmful both to himself and others – continue to emerge, but the sadness of Gazza’s tale still fails to make me warm to him.

Central midfielder: Costinha
The moment still haunts me now. A late Porto free-kick flies towards the top-right corner of Tim Howard’s goal. United’s keeper, now one of the finest in the Premier League but then just 25 and having a shaky first season in England, can only palm the ball down to the edge of the six-yard box. Wes Brown isn’t going to reach it; Costinha will. He scores, Porto go through, and José Mourinho embarks on the most famous sprint ever undertaken by a man wearing a fashionable raincoat. Mourinho would no doubt have had a successful career had he not benefited from a poor piece of handling by Tim Howard, but that split second set in motion an incredible sequence of events. Porto won the Champions League, Mourinho moved to Chelsea, and he (or, at least, his personality) has dominated European (not to mention English) football ever since.

Attacking midfielder: Joe Cole
Is there any figure more tiresome in playground football than the hogger? You know the one: the player who’s near impossible to dispossess, and delights in proving it as he proceeds to dribble aimlessly towards the dinner hall – trailing one or two persistent opponents in his wake like some footballing Pied Piper. Eventually he trips over a stray schoolbag and loses the ball, and the game can continue.

Joe Cole has always struck me as such a player, and it hasn’t surprised me in the slightest that his career has panned out the way it has. Hailed as the future of English football as a 16-year-old at West Ham, the buzz around Cole had already waned somewhat by the time he joined Chelsea in 2003. In fairness, Cole had been playing the most productive football of his career before being felled by a cruciate ligament injury in January 2009, but, although he eventually overcame that setback, a move to Liverpool last summer has only seen his fortunes suffer further.

Striker: Oliver Neuville
English fans hold German football (its international and club games) in such high regard that the 4-1 humiliation meted out at the World Cup drew as much praise for Löw’s team as it did criticism of England from most level-headed fans, such were our modest expectations before the game anyway. Germany’s national side has been lauded for its positive approach and youthful joie de vivre – or should that be lebensfreude? – ever since a disastrous Euro 2004 brought about a sea change in the country’s style of play, first under Jürgen Klinsmann and now Joachim Löw.

Sandwiched in between Germany’s group stage exits in Portugal and at Euro 2000, however, was an improbable run to the final of the 2002 World Cup. Neuville’s 88th-minute strike against Paraguay in the round of 16 was his only goal of the tournament but it set Germany on their way to an eventual meeting with Brazil. For me, the man with the shortest neck in football sums up the mediocrity that characterised that whole tournament.

Striker: Carlos Tévez
Manchester United rarely let a player go when it’s not of their choosing. David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo could be put forward as two exceptions, but in both cases the player’s time at the club was reaching its natural conclusion anyway. Just as importantly, Beckham was welcomed as a returning hero when United played Milan a year ago and I would imagine that Ronaldo would receive the same treatment too if Real Madrid visited Old Trafford with him in the side. Tévez, though, holds the record for the player who has gone from being adored to reviled by the red half of Manchester in the shortest amount of time. Over the years, United have plucked enough of their rivals’ players away to make it difficult for me to complain too much over the Argentine’s turncoat behaviour, but it rankles with me enormously nonetheless.

Manager: Otto Rehhagel
It’s a truth universally accepted (or it certainly should be) that European Championships make for better tournaments than World Cups. Euro 2000 boasted the finest array of talent ever assembled for a summer competition in my lifetime, the squads of France and Portugal being particularly impressive. It remains my favourite ever tournament, and some notable people (including Jonathan Wilson) are big fans of it too. It was the most attack-minded spectacle since Mexico 86. At Euro 2004, however, organisation prevailed over inspiration. Rehhagel’s Greece ground the holders (France), the tournament’s entertainers (the Czech Republic), and the hosts (Portugal) into submission to emerge as the unlikeliest of winners.

Previous Dislikable XIs:

No. 3 - 9-Men

Up next:

No. 5 - Goaltastic (Isaac Ashe)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

My Dislikable XI - Number 3 (9 Men)

Number 3 in our burgeoning series of Dislikable XIs comes from the Dagenham & Redbridge blog 9-Men, who you can also follow on twitter here.  With recent non-league exposure for the Daggers, we are introduced to some dislikable Conference characters as well as other more familiar names. The red shirts represent Aldershot, in case you are wondering. 

Goalkeeper: Paul Hyde
A posturing, bad-tempered jerk of a goalkeeper who played against us for Dover several times in our Conference days. Normally found strutting around his area without any hint of humour, it was surprising that he didn't take a mirror onto the pitch so he could make sex faces at himself.

He managed to infuriate our crowd further by deliberately treading on our striker's chest in one particular match at the Crabble. I say "striker", he was more of a telegraph pole with big ears.

Right Back: Dani Alves
Despite his lung-bursting forays up and down Barca's right flank, Alves ruins it all with the darker side to his game. He has perfected the "jump, roll and scream" when any opposition player dares attempt a challenge on him.

Left Back: Darren Barnard
The former Wales international will forever be remembered at Dagenham for the time he decided to blast a loose ball into the crowd, hitting one of our fans at point-blank range. Completely out of order.

Centre Back: Peter Clarke
Back in 2008 the Daggers visited Southend United in the FA Cup. Trailing going into the final minutes, our keeper Tony Roberts went up for a corner which was half-cleared. Clarke tried to hold Roberts back resulting in a square-up which saw the big defender collapse to the floor holding his face. Realising he was being mugged, Roberts also unconvincingly held his face, but it didn't help as the referee showed him the red-card.

Now playing for Huddersfield, Clarke could more recently be seen giving our striker John Akinde a couple of helpful shoves as he looked certain to score.

Centre Back: Kevin Muscat
The former Wolves defender hit the headlines in January for this so-called "worst tackle ever" whilst playing for Melbourne Victory, but this is merely the tip of the iceberg. He ended Matty Holmes' career, damaged Dugarry's knee ligaments with a brutal tackle from behind, and took a lump out of Craig Bellamy's knee which ruled the Welshman out for 4 months.

He should have been banned from the game a long, long time ago.

Central Midfield: Adam Miller
This is a guy that actually played for the Daggers, but he'd already earnt a black mark against his name from his years at Canvey Island, Grays, Stevenage and Aldershot. The main incident of note came in an Essex Senior Cup tie when he launched himself two-footed into Ashley Vickers - Vickers was sent off for his reaction and Miller escaped unpunished. His girly hair doesn't help his cause either.

Central Midfield: Jimmy Strouts
Pure unadulterated filth, and not in a good Jenna Jameson kind of way. His years patrolling Dover's midfield in the early 00s normally meant trouble for the legs of their opponents. Whilst it was rather intriguing watching his duels with our hard-as-nails Steve Heffer, you couldn't help but wince whenever Strouts moved in for the kill.

One such duel in 2001 saw Strouts scythe into Heffer before the favour was returned with interest minutes later. Strouts saw yellow, Heffer (predictably) saw red.

Central Midfield: Michael Brown
Brown is essentially a thug. He has made a career out of horrendous assaults on his opponents which mainly seem to escape the attention of referees. He got a deserved red card for this dreadful two-footer on Sean Davis, but stamps on Ashley Cole and this one on Giggs were not deemed worthy of such punishment.

Like most self-appointed hard men, he makes cowards' tackles and cries like a baby if somebody fouls him. Oh, and he's got an arrest to his name, for whipping his old-chap out in public.

Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo
Rat-faced little scrote. Very good at football, but still a rat-faced little scrote.

Forward: Aaron McLean
We've seen a lot of Aaron over the years at Dagenham, playing for Orient, Aldershot, Grays and Peterborough. It was with the Shots that he first came to prominence, his theatrics ensuring that Vickers was shown a red card in our 2004 clash. He's since proven himself to be a niggly, irritating git who loves nothing more than a sly push or tug on the shirt whilst also collapsing himself where possible.

Forward: Luis Suarez
Words cannot describe how much I dislike Suarez, but I'll try to come up with some. He spent much of the recent World Cup diving all over the place holding his ugly, sneering face and then topped it off with his goal-line "save" against Ghana. Unfortunately he is now play(act)ing in England.

Manager: Steve Evans
There is simply no other candidate to manage this bunch other than the man who cheated his way to the Conference title in 2002 with his criminal dealings. Quite simply a complete scumbag in my opinion.

Previous Dislikable XIs:

No. 1 - A United View
No. 2 - The Two Unfortunates (Lanterne Rouge)

Up next:

No.4 - Saha From the Madding Crowd (William Abbs)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

My Dislikable XI - Number 2 (Lanterne Rouge - The Two Unfortunates)

After my opening post in the series last week, which you can read here, it is my pleasure to welcome Rob Langham (Lanterne Rouge) from the football league website The Two Unfortunates to offer up his Dislikable XI.

As the purveyor of an avowedly non-partisan website, I’m not really allowed to truly dislike players so I found the brief provided to me by A United View on Football a difficult one to fulfil. Nor would I resort to the easy option of including Joey Barton or Lee Bowyer in my list – they’ll be amply covered by others no doubt - and including Chris Morgan might upset my genial host. So, although some of the XI below make it on to my list for traditional reasons, there is a strong political bent to my selections, for which I make no apology.

Goalkeeper: Jens Lehmann

Having said all that, the curly topped custodian does make it in for sheer odiousness. A 2007 visit to the Emirates allowed me to witness the full force of the man’s personal acidity, stationed as I was behind his goal. Selfish, arrogant and unapologetic that being in the team was more important to him than the club winning trophies – no wonder Manuel Almunia is a bit rubbish after years of this guy glowering at him?

Right Back: Phil Neal

I disliked Neal as a player for his possession of average talents despite his presence in one of European football’s greatest ever sides and the mediocrity of his England displays during a barren spell for the national team in the late seventies. But the respect I had for him due to his emergence from the un-footballing environs of Irchester, Northamptonshire, was extinguished after The Observer Sport Monthly exposed his wish to make financial gain for talking about the Heysel Stadium tragedy.

Left Back: Paul Robinson

Like many on this list, Robinson is a man who we would all secretly like on our team and, most of the time, he emerges from his fearsome tackles with the ball. But he isn’t dubbed the poisonous squirrel by accident. For it’s not so much the combine harvester limbs that make the Bolton full back scary; more the psychopathic gaze that precedes the act of ball winning itself.

Centre Back: Emlyn Hughes

Ironically castigated by Neal in his autobiography for being mean with money, Hughes was quite annoying enough before this revelation. A Seventies icon who seemed to embody the gruesome light entertainment of that age, Crazy Horse reached his apogee on A Question of Sport¸ famously turning into mush at any contact with Princess Anne -and he even cropped up hosting his own quiz show Box Clever, as well as making an appearance in the infamous It’s A Royal Knockout.

Centre Back: John Terry

The first name on the team sheet as always.

Central Midfield: Siniša Mihaijlović

A sumptuous talent at home in midfield or in defence, capable of fulfilling the old fashioned sweeper role and possessor of a mighty lash from free kicks, a man from Vukovar was never going to emerge with average opinions but growing up near the Serbo-Croat border does not excuse his alleged branding of Patrick Vieira as a “nero di merda”, nor does his admittance that he is plagued by dreams of being attacked by snakes. Now blazing a trail through various Italian hot seats, Jonathan Wilson has argued that his portrayal as a demon is grossly simplistic – doubtful.

Central Midfield: Paul Ince

“The Guv’nor” moniker has of course been roundly parodied and never appears without the preface “self-styled” – but it’s not so much the label, more the humourlessness that accompanies its usage that invites ridicule. I waver on Ince and admire him for his trailblazing role as a Black player and manager and his excellence in Manchester United’s return to prominence, but his snarling style never provoked admiration and nor does his decision to accept the gaffer’s role at MK Dons – twice.

Winger: Paolo Di Canio

Another man unlikely to be too bothered by the rise of the extreme right in Europe, Di Canio has admitted to being a fascist, but not a racist – well, that’s all right then isn’t it? Just as some feel that the likes of Franco and Mussolini can be excused because of their non-involvement in the Final Solution, others feel that Di Canio is a loveable rogue. Nor should we ignore various managers’ assertions that he always happened to be suspended over Christmas and nor, as a Reading fan am I surprised that he’s now talking to Swindon Town about their vacant manager’s job!

Winger: Arjen Robben

Like many on this list, an outrageously gifted human being, but in a two year stint of watching weekly Premier League football in 2006 and 2008, and against stiff competition including Cristiano Ronaldo and El Hadji Diouf (as well as my club’s own Stephen Hunt and Leroy Lita), Robben was comfortably the most ready to plunge to turf when challenged. Tom Daley would be proud of him and that’s without even mentioning the furrowed brow and abuse levelled towards team mates who dare not pass to him – most clearly exhibited during the 2010 World Cup.

Striker: Alan Shearer

A rumoured dressing room bully who presided over Newcastle United’s mindset like a footballing version of Finchy from The Office, it would be informative to wonder how the Toon might have fared if all hadn’t been about HIM during his spell in black and white. During that period, Didi Hamann was proffered a copy of Mein Kampf and Alessandro Pistone provided with a sheep’s heart as Christmas presents. His tactical meltdown as a manager has been topped only by his abysmal punditry.

Forward: Duncan Ferguson

Ex-Scunthorpe United striker Ian Botham almost made it in for his continued Little Englander pronouncements, but it’s a man who was also on that Newcastle United yuletide gift list who nabs the final spot. Never more than an average player, Ferguson once boasted of never losing an aerial battle, despite ample televisual evidence to the contrary, and his decision to abandon his national team displayed a petulance and self-regard entirely at odds with his meagre contributions on the pitch. Rarely can someone who averaged a goal every 4 games been afforded the kind of hero’s welcome provided by Everton fans recently. Four convictions for assault complete the picture.

Manager: Jose Mourinho

An obvious choice maybe, but this personification of the Machiavellian mindset has attracted by opprobrium ever since his questioning of the Royal Berkshire Ambulance Service. He is a wonderful managerial talent and a worthy successor to the likes of Helenio Herrera, but some grace would not go amiss. His touchline posturing and inability to take adversity on the chin would be bad enough but his antecedents in Salazar's Portugal confirm his shady malevolence.