Soccer AM/MW - the home of lively and humorous discussion from the Football and Non Leagues

Monday, November 30, 2009

Talking Points - November

All the issues discussed during November:

Seagulls send Slade Far Far Away
Nobes on Brighton's dismissal of Russell Slade - and why he probably won't be without a club for long.

Up for the Cup?
As the FA Cup kicks off at the weekend, the lads discuss their own personal memories and thoughts about the world's oldest cup competition.

ITV's FA Cup upset
Nobes looks at ITV's coverage of the FA Cup as Non League Paulton hosted Norwich in search of an upset.

Taking a Shot on Number Twos
As Aldershot appoint former Reading assistant Kevin Dillon as their new boss, Nobes looks at other Number Twos who have tried their hand at management.

Football's Sugar Daddies
The lads talk money men in football after successive promotions aren't enough to prevent big-spending Peterborough parting company with manager Darren Ferguson.

Making the Step up
Can managers make big steps up in divisions and still achieve success? Nobes investigates as Peterborough take a gamble on Non Leaguer Mark Cooper.

Big Match Review - Kettering 1 Leeds 1

FA Cup
Kettering Town 1-1 Leeds United
Sunday November 29, Rockingham Road, (Att: 4,837)

Jermaine Beckford's goal 13 minutes from time rescued profligate Leeds from a giant killing at the hands of Kettering in the FA Cup second round.

A second half goal from Ian Roper had threatened to cause an upset but the two sides will now be forced to meet again at Elland Road for the right to meet Manchester United in the next round.

Leeds will feel they should have already had the job done though. After dominating proceedings early on at Rockingham Road they were unfortunate not to go ahead when John Dempster blocked Richard Snodgrass's header on the line.

Then it was the turn of the woodwork to deny the Whites with Jermaine Beckford's strike coming back off the crossbar and Snodgrass hitting the outside of the post with the rebound.

Kettering, under the player-management of goalkeeper Lee Harper, were struggling to really cause any problems up front themselves and had to rely again on Dempster to block a stinging shot from Mike Grella to keep things level.

The visitors began the second half where they left off in the first and only more heroic defending, this time from Sol Davies, stopped United taking the lead through a Snodgrass effort.

However, it was the Kettles who took the lead against the run of play. Just after the hour mark an inswinging free-kick found Roper who beat Leeds keeper Casper Ankergren to the ball to head into an unguarded net.

Simon Grayson's men responded and were twice denied by reflex saves from Harper in the Town goal to thwart first Jason Crowe and then Michael Doyle.

However, the manager was eventually beaten when neat play found Snodgrass in space and his low centre driven across goal was flicked in by Beckford.

And Leeds could have won it late on when captain Jonny Howson's mazy run ended with him poking a shot narrowly wide of the Kettering upright as both sides were forced into a replay in West Yorkshire.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Prediction League Week 17

It was another good weekend for Nobes and Turls who registered four points apiece to keep the latter on top of the Prediction League. Lakes, with two points, dropped to the bottom of the table.

That's because, although him and Nobes are level on points and the number of spot-on predictions, more of Lakes's points have come from his own team's scores than Nobes's.

Moving onto this weekend's fixtures and Boston and Forest both have home games, while Preston wait until Monday to play in their Lancashire derby.

Nottingham Forest vs. Doncaster Rovers

Lakes: Forest 2-1 Doncaster Rovers
Forest 2-0 Doncaster Rovers
Forest 2-0 Doncaster Rovers

Boston United vs. Burscough

Lakes: Skyrockets 1-0 Burscough
Skyrockets 2-1 Burscough
Skyrockets 2-0 Burscough

Blackpool vs. Preston North End

Blackpool 0-1 PNE
Blackpool 2-1 PNE
Blackpool 1-1 PNE

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Editorial 3

It's that time again for another installment from inside your favourite irreverent non-Premier League football blog. Your favourite and, indeed, only.

Just as production by the elves goes into hyper-drive, we're busy gearing up for the Festive season here at Soccer AM/MW, including 12 special features for 12 days of Christmas - geddit?

That includes a lot of nostalgic memories from the lads, a review of the prediction league, and a special football trivia showdown between Lakes and Turls. Literally minutes of preparation are being put in, I can assure you of that.

We may even reveal the tale of how John Barnes did actually save my life. We are indeed the gift which just keeps on giving.

Speaking of the prediction league, I've long thought that someone was going to run away with it, but I'm now convinced that it's going to be nip and tuck right up to the wire.

I have to admit, I didn't fancy my chances a few weeks ago, but having rediscovered a bit of form it's now all up in the air again. Also, look out for when we put our prediction skills head to head against BBC's maestro Lawro and Lakes's football video game. Yes, you read that correctly.

Elsewhere, we've had some great feedback about some of our talking points on the blog where we've debated everything from sugar daddies to the FA Cup. It's always great to hear from readers, so leave a comment or email us at soccerammw@gmail.com.

Would also be good to hear from you if you've got any pictures of advertising hoardings with our names on it. We're self-obsessed like that, you see. And if you'd like to take part in our Fan Files also get in touch.

Contrary to what it may appear, you don't have to support a club who have a circular badge to take part.

Thanks for reading. Happy shopping.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Big Match Preview

FA Cup
Kettering Town vs. Leeds United
Sunday November 29, 13:45, Rockingham Road

Runaway League One leaders Leeds make the trip to Conference club Kettering Town hoping to avoid an FA Cup exit to a Non League side for the second successive seasons.

It was back in last year's first round when defeat in Cambridgeshire to village side Histon helped to bring Gary McAllister's reign as United boss to an end.

His replacement, former Blackpool manager Simon Grayson, has overseen a remarkable run of results since returning to his native West Yorkshire though.

The Elland Road club are six points clear at the top of their division with a game in hand, having suffered just a single defeat in 17 league matches. Leeds will therefore be heading into Sunday's game at Rockingham Road with great confidence.

Preventing Leeds's top scorer Jermaine Beckford, with 13 goals to his name already, will be a difficult prospect for Kettering's defence.

However with the likes of Robert Snodgrass, Jonny Howson, and Bradley Johnson scoring goals from midfield too, the Whites are no one-man-team going forwards.

Grayson's men also have the best defence in League One, leaking just eight goals to date with keeper Shane Higgs in fine form since his summer move from Cheltenham.

Leeds striker Beckford knows where the back of the net is

It's a steep task facing the Kettles and their new boss Lee Harper therefore. Harper, a former QPR and Walsall keeper, stepped up to take over the hotseat after Mark Cooper's move to Peterborough.

And it's been a baptism of fire for the rookie with the Northamptonshire club suffering back-to-back home defeats to Hayes & Yeading and Kidderminster in their last two matches.

Town raised their game in the last round to dispose of Leeds's League One colleagues Hartlepool in a tight contest at Victoria Park though, and will be hoping for a repeat in front of the live ITV cameras.

Their cause hasn't been helped this week with the loss of imposing centre half Exodus Geohaghon who's linked up with his former boss Cooper at London Road.

The defender was a key part of the side who ran Premier League Fulham close in the fourth round of last season's competition.

However, at the other end the new boss will look to the promising strike partnership of Moses Ashikodi and former Leeds man Anthony Elding to pierce the visitors' backline.

It'll be a difficult test though. Leeds are full of confidence and looking ruthless at both ends of the pitch. Kettering will give it a go, but they won't have enough to upset their illustrious opponents.

Nobes' Prediction: Kettering Town 0 Leeds United 2

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Big Match Review - Boro 1 Forest 1

Middlesbrough 1-1 Nottingham Forest
Saturday November 21, Riverside (Att: 22,710)

Rob Earnshaw bagged a second half equaliser to deny Gordon Strachan his first win as Boro boss and keep Forest's unbeaten away record this season intact.

The home side got off to a flying start and had taken the lead within the first five minutes. After a strong run down the left, Adam Johnson pulled the ball across for Julio Acra to shoot.

Forest keeper Lee Camp could only parry the shot and Leroy Lita, who had had a half chance minutes earlier, was on hand to turn in the rebound for the club's first goal under their new manager.

Billy Davies's side responded and Boro keeper Brad Jones was called into action to save from Guy Moussi and then one-on-one with David McGoldrick as the away side pushed their opponents back.

In the second half Jones had to be at at full stretch again as he turned away Joe Garner's low drive wide of the post for a corner.

However, the Australian could do nothing about Forest's equaliser with less than twenty minutes remaining. Substitute Rob Earnshaw curling a 22-yard free kick up and around the Boro wall and into the net.

Forest pressed for a winner but both play-off chasers were forced to settle for a point as Strachan got off the mark on Teesside and the visitors returned home nine games unbeaten on the road.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kettles Watch

Sometimes in football, little events change the course of history forever. Matches won and lost, managers sacked, relegation avoided, all can turn on a twist of fate.

Another example is that of the history of Kettering Town.

Plucked out of a velvet bag to play the Skyrockets in a televised Setanta Shield match in 2007, little did the Northamptonshire outfit realise things were about to change.

In an act of gross ignorance - and clearly designed to rile Nobes - the cry of "Come on you Kettles" could be heard emanating from the other side of the Soccer AM/MW studio. And it stuck.

After all, if Wolverhampton's team are called the Wolves and Shrewsbury's the Shrews, surely Kettering would be the Kettles? Far more appropriate, or simplistic, than their original nickname of the Poppies.

And so the Kettles were born. Since those early days of scurrilous attempts to infuse this name into the English Football lexicon through editing the club's Wikipedia entry to include it, the Kettles has now really taken off.

Despite attempts to take it off Wikipedia by Town fans, it's now made its way onto the Wikipedia list of official nicknames with its more than sound reasoning.

Ahead of their FA Cup tie this weekend, a Leeds fan even advertised the game as being "v the kettles" on a fans' forum.

Matchday at Rockingham Road - 'Home of the Kettles'

Another messageboard, this time for Lincoln supporters, used the Kettles as his example for a football club nickname beginning with 'K.'

Yahoo Answers even rated a response stating Kettering to be known as the Kettles to be the best answer to a question on a football club nickname.

Now it's even stretched as far as Gambia where, on this website, they even make the point that the Kettles is indeed another name used for the Rockingham Road club.

At Soccer AM/MW we're delighted to see this movement increase its momentum. If you see any other 'Kettles' references on the web, drop us an email at soccerammw@gmail.com.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Prediction League Week 16

Three points for Nobes and Turls saw things in the Prediction League tighten up as the half way mark of the season approaches. Both correctly forecasted Boston's 2-1 win, a result which saw Turls move to the top of the table.

After the international break, Preston and Forest come back into the fold alongside the Skyrockets, both are in action against North East opposition with PNE not playing until Monday evening.

Middlesbrough vs. Nottingham Forest

Middlesbrough 2-1 Forest
Middlesbrough 1-1 Forest
Middlesbrough 1-1 Forest

Ossett Town vs. Boston United

Lakes: Ossett Town 0-1 Skyrockets
Ossett Town 0-2 Skyrockets
Ossett Town 0-2 Skyrockets

Preston North End vs. Newcastle United

Lakes: PNE 1-2 Newcastle United
PNE 1-1 Newcastle United
PNE 1-1 Newcastle United

Nobes' Trivia Question 8

Nobes is back with another poser to wile away those cold winter nights.

For his latest trivia question there's a common theme for the answers to three questions. Once you work out one, the rest fall into place...

Southampton have one to Huddersfield's two. Morecambe's pair are the same whereas Barnet's are different. What?

What do Morecambe, Bristol City, and Grimsby each have one of, but none of them alike?

And what links Doncaster, Southend, Brentford, and Charlton?

And the answers will be revealed on December 4.

Nobes' Trivia Question 7 solution

Nobes was on his travels, he's been around, a couple a weeks ago, but did you work out where he was from the clues as we played...


This ground I'm at is the sixth different ground the club who play here have resided at. It was the first all seater stadium built after the Taylor Report when it was opened in 1993.

It's been used in TV shows such as Primeval and The Bill, and has played host to the Women's FA Cup final in the past. The road that this ground is on also shares its name with the club's mascot.

Did you work it out. He was at Millwall's New Den.

The club moved to the ground after 83 years at their former Den ground. Prior to that they'd played at four different grounds on the Isle of Dogs since their formation.

The new stadium was indeed used for the 2006 Women's Cup final, it was won 5-0 by Arsenal against Leeds. And the name of the club's lion mascot, Zampa, is the same as Zampa Road, which the ground is located on.

Congratulations if you worked out the answer. Nobes will be back on his travels soon, and we'll another trivia question for you shortly.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fan Files: Torquay United

The latest in our series of interviews with lower league fans takes a look at Torquay United.

The Devon club were promoted back into the Football League in May after spending two years in the Conference.

Gulls fan Shaun Murphy has been following his team for 11 years. Unsurprisingly, he considers demotion to Non League as his worst moment supporting Torquay.

Conversely, last May's play-off final win over Cambridge at Wembley which secured their place back in the Football League ranks as his favourite memory.

So then, Torquay are back in the Football League. You must be delighted?

It's good to be back where, in my opinion, we belong. Going to places like Barrow had a certain amount of charm but it was all about getting back into the Football League as soon as possible.

How's the season going so far then? You're towards the bottom of the table - has it been a tough transition back?

You could say that. Initially we started the season OK, but it wasn't long before some established League Two clubs taught us a lesson.

We've gone back to basics in recent weeks though and, although it hasn't been pretty with more draws than wins, it's been effective enough.

What were those two years like in Non League for the club? Can it be a pleasant change or was it just a nightmare?

Bit of a mixed bag. For me, the biggest adjustment was being seen as a big scalp in that division, which is something the club, or indeed myself, wasn't at all used to.

We had to deal with it pretty quickly and, as we're seeing with the likes of Wrexham and Luton, it's not an easy adjustment to make.

In a way it was refreshing though - we won more games than we lost, and the coverage we received on Setanta was favourable. And did I mention the two trips to Wembley?

Having said all that, I won't miss the rubbish away followings, or the scandalous officiating.

Torquay were Conference play-off winners in May

Having seen the top level of Non League and the bottom of the Football League, what would you say are the differences between the two levels? Is there that big a gap?

It's an interesting one. You look at Exeter, who went up from the Conference to League One with pretty much the same crop of players, and you'd have to say no. Looking at ourselves, you'd say there is.

For me, it all depends on the manager and the players and, at Exeter, they were always geared up to do well once they got out of Non-League. Personally, I think we're only a couple of players from being a competitive side at this level.

It was only fair we gave the current crop of players the chance to prove themselves after 12 games or so, and then see where we're at, but it's clear we need more quality and perhaps a bit more league experience in the squad.

What about the gaffer, Paul Buckle? A promotion, two Wembley appearances, good FA Cup runs, and a former player to boot. He must be pretty popular with the fans?

You'd think so. Quite frankly, the club was on it's knees when he took over - the less said about those days the better - with only five players on the books.

We had to adjust to life in Non-League pretty quickly, and in Buckle, we had a man capable of helping us do that. He built a new squad from scratch, and had us competing at the top end of the table in his first season in charge.

Sure, it took him two seasons to get us back up, and people will bemoan his man-management style, but people have short memories, and forget the good job he's done for us. He doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves.

Buckle is in his first managerial job at the Gulls

What's the quality like in League Two this term then? Any sides who have impressed or surprised you?

Despite us beating them on the opening day - I really liked the look of Chesterfield.

They look strong all over the park - with Ian Breckin's leadership at the back, David Perkins's class in the middle, and Jack Lester will always get goals. If they can sort their away form out they'll be promotion contenders.

Surprise packages? You have to say John Still's done it again at Dagenham, hasn't he? He's uncovered another couple of Non-League gems, and once again they're punching well above their weight. I'd be surprised to see them last the pace, though.

Where do you see the future of Torquay being? You spent a season in League One a few years ago, can you get back and this time stay there?

I don't see why not. Our last tenure in League One ultimately ended in disappointment, but that was partially down to a lack of ambition from the previous owners.

The new regime has come in, invested heavily, and has bigger plans than merely surviving in the Football League. Good luck to them.

And finally, what's the best thing about being a Torquay United supporter?

The fact we don't do mid-table mediocrity. The last five seasons have seen two relegations, two trips to Wembley, and a promotion for good measure. It's not boring, that's for sure!

Shaun, thanks for speaking to Soccer AM/MW.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Big Match Preview

Middlesbrough vs. Nottingham Forest
Saturday November 21, 15:00, Riverside

Two Championship promotion contenders face one another in the North East this weeekend as Nottingham Forest take the division's sole unbeaten away record to Gordon Strachan's Middlesbrough.

For former Celtic boss Strachan this is just his third game in charge of the Teessiders after he replaced the sacked Gareth Southgate. Both his previous matches have ended in 1-0 defeats - to Plymouth and Crystal Palace - which have seen Boro drop down to 10th.

He'll be keen then to get a first win on the board and improve upon a home record which has seen them suffer four defeats and score just seven goals at the Riverside this term.

Strachan has tried to bolster his forward options this week with the signing of Stoke striker Dave Kitson on loan, and he'll be
linking up with former strike partner at Reading, Leroy Lita.

The new manager will also be hoping Kitson can help lift some of the weight off midfield maestro Adam Johnson.

The talented winger has been in impressive form for Boro and is the team's top scorer with nine goals, eight of them coming in the Championship. It's form which has seen the youngster linked with moves to Premier League clubs in January.

Midfielder Gary O'Neil has contributed goals from midfield and much of Boro's hopes are built on the central defensive partnership of Sean St Ledger and David Wheater.

They'll be in for a tough examination come Saturday as Billy Davies and a Forest side unbeaten in eight games come to Teeside. After a slow start, the wily Scot has got Forest challenging for the play-offs and they currently lie a point and two places above their opponents.

Tartan Army: Scots Strachan and Davies meet at the Riverside

Part of their success has come from that unbeaten away record which has seen them secure two wins and six draws from their eight trips on the road. Just six away goals conceded is only bettered by Swansea in the division too.

After a summer spending spree, Davies has one of the strongest squads in the division at his disposal, with an array of attacking options.

Forward Dexter Blackstock is top scorer with six, but the likes of Robert Earnshaw, Dele Adebola, Nathan Tyson, and Radoslaw Majewski have all chipped in with goals this season.

However, it's arguably the performances of winger Paul Anderson which have really been catching fans' attentions at the City Ground. The former Liverpool man has been in blistering form as Forest have recovered after a slow start to the season.

Forest will be confident therefore of returning to the East Midlands on Saturday evening with something to show for their efforts. Davies's side are bang in form and face a Boro team who are going through a transition under their new boss.

However, the international break may have come at the wrong time for Forest, and they may have to settle for a fourth successive Championship draw.

Nobes' Prediction: Middlesbrough 1 Nottingham Forest 1

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Making the Step Up

Mark Cooper's move from Kettering to Peterborough has largely been met with a mixture of disbelief and worry from Posh supporters.

Plunging a 40-year-old who has no experience of Football League management into the Championship is a dangerous game.

How have previous managers fared when they've chosen to make similar step-ups of two divisions or more though? Nobes takes a look.

Peterborough's search for a new manager to replace Darren Ferguson seemed to involve knocking on the door of every young manager in the lower leagues before one finally said yes.

Bournemouth's Eddie Howe turned down their advances, and Oxford boss Chris Wilder seemed to have no interest in the post at all. However, Mark Cooper found the chance to swap Kettering for Posh a no-brainer. Was it though?

Cooper is making the step-up three divisions, but does it work? The most obvious comparison must be Nigel Clough, who as recently as January made the move from Burton to Derby, the same size leap up the pyramid.

Having managed to keep the Rams away from the drop zone, Clough's side find themselves in a similarly precarious position this term - just three points above the bottom three. Progression?

Perhaps it's too early to judge Clough, but he would be the first to admit he's on a steep learning curve - and with a club with greater resources than Cooper will have to work with at London Road.

He can draw heart from the impact Mark Robins has had at Championship rivals Barnsley though. Having cut his teeth in League Two with Rotherham, he has immediately turned around fortunes at Oakwell since September.

Again, it's early days, but the signs are that he is getting the best out of a group of players that had been underachieving in the last couple of years.

Perhaps two divisions is the maximum jump you can take without being found out? Paul Ince's basement division success with MK Dons, as well as his playing career, earned him a shot in the big time with Blackburn.

A few months later, and with Rovers struggling towards the bottom of the Premier League, he was out on his ears and had to return to the Dons during the summer. Now he's rebuilding a reputation damaged by a jump too far, too soon.

Stepping up to the Mark: Cooper won the Conference North with Kettering in 2008

He's not alone. Paul Sturrock swapped League One Plymouth for Southampton in the Premier League and found his methods being shunned by top flight players.

He lasted a similarly short time as Ince but has since enjoyed promotions with Swindon and Sheffield Wednesday in the lower divisions. However, he's unlikely to ever get the opportunity of managing in the top flight again, so do you have to take the chance when you get it?

In 2004, Barnet were challenging for promotion to the Football League when manager Martin Allen was offered the job at struggling Brentford. He took the gamble, saved the League One club from relegation, and in the next two seasons took the Bees to successive play-off finishes.

Lee Sinnott was probably hoping for something similar when he left Conference Farsley for Port Vale. He was unable to save the Potteries club from dropping into the basement division and a slow start cost him the following campaign.

The common theme between them is that both took their chance when it arrived. Sinnott found employment again with Bradford Park Avenue before recently parting company with the West Yorkshire club.

Allen eventually left Griffin Park and has since turned up at MK Dons, Leicester, and Cheltenham. He may well have been managing in the League with Barnet, but his success at Brentford earned him a reputation and publicity that established him.

It can work the other way. Paul Simpson was one of the hottest young managerial prospects when he left Carlisle for Preston. Successive promotions had catapulted the Cumbrians into League One, but the prospect of bringing top flight football to Deepdale was too good to turn down.

A fine start soon gave way to a bad run that carried over into the next season and saw North End struggling towards the bottom. Simpson was given the push and had to return to League Two with Shrewsbury to start again.

He may well get another chance in the higher divisions, but sometimes a manager can do lasting damage to his reputation by making a move up too early.

Exeter boss Paul Tisdale has worked his way up the pyramid

Or perhaps it's not a case of the number of levels but simply the person involved. Take the League One boss who was coaching in the Southern Premier League in 2006. Paul Tisdale, manager of Exeter, began his managerial career with University side Team Bath.

Helping the club progress from the Western League Division One to eventually, after he left, the Conference South, Tisdale was given his opportunity at St James Park.

His first season ended in a play-off final heartache to Morecambe before going one better the following term. Last season the Grecians made it back-to-back promotions and now find themselves competing with the likes of Leeds and Norwich.

Was he even linked with the vacant seat in Cambridgeshire? No. Is he out of his depth in League One? No. Has he got one of the smallest clubs and smallest budgets and would keeping Exeter up represent one his best achievements? Yes.

The difference between him and every other manager? He worked his way up the divisions by winning promotion, learning about different divisions and leagues, and building up his experience.

Failure with Peterborough, and Cooper will be wishing he did the same.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Big Match Review - Norwich 2 Tranmere 0

League One
Norwich City 2-0 Tranmere Rovers
Saturday November 14, Carrow Road, (Att: 25,025)

Two second half goals were enough for in-form Norwich to continue their fine form and leave managerless and struggling Tranmere six points adrift of safety in League One.

In a fierce wind, both teams had trouble trying to adapt to the conditions, but the Wirral club's defence managed to restrict City to half chances from distance.

And Les Ross's visitors had a chance to take the lead when a breakaway ended with Chris Shuker's low shot being palmed away by Fraser Forster. Then Norwich were denied when Grant Holt's header from a corner was cleared off the line.

The home side finally made the break through after an hour, but only from the penalty spot. Full back Adam Drury's run forward ended in his shot striking John Welsh's arm.

Despite Rovers' protestations, referee Darren Deadman awarded the spot-kick which was dispatched past the dive of Luke Daniels and into the bottom corner by Wes Hoolahan.

And the Canaries wrapped up the spoils ten minutes from time after more poor defending from the away side. They failed to clear Simon Lappin's cross from the right, and when Hoolahan recovered the ball his low centre was turned in by Gary Doherty.

A third straight league win for Paul Lambert's men who remain fifth and in contention for an automatic return to the Championship, but Tranmere's woes continue.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Football's Sugar Daddies

After Peterborough's decision to dismiss manager Darren Ferguson after a disappointing start to the season, the lads discuss the controversial decision.

With Posh's success largely down to the huge investment of owner Darragh MacAnthony, they also reflect on big-spending clubs with so-called 'sugar-daddies' and their chances of success.

Darren 'back to back promotions' Ferguson getting the old heave ho? Ridiculous if you ask me, even if I do hate anything remotely connected to his whiney old father.

Turls: I think the Ferguson dismissal is typical of sugar daddies up and down the country. When Posh were romping Leagues One and Two, the board thought they had one of the brightest young managers in the land on their hands.

As soon as results start to take a turn for the worse, the manager is in danger. It has nothing to do with the fact that the club have leaped into a league where they can ill afford to play fast attacking football that thrilled the lower leagues.

It doesn't occur to the chairman that three consecutive promotions is asking a little too much of a club the size of Peterborough. Ferguson's job had to be to try and keep the club up.

Sure, he was struggling to do that but can you justify quickly getting rid of the man who has taken them from playing Rochdale away to Newcastle at home in the space of a couple of years?

Having said that - it is nice to see Whiskey Nose's son unemployed - but I can't see him staying like that for too long, unfortunately.

Nobes: Yeah, I have to admit, my first reaction was slightly of glee. Darren is a chip off the old block and could be equally obnoxious as his father in post match interviews. So for that reason, I was quite pleased to see him go.

However, that can't disguise from the fact it was a particularly harsh sacking. Are Peterborough really at the bottom of the Championship because of his managerial skills? I don't think so. So why sack him?

It's even more bizarre when you consider the chairman said last month that even if they went down they'd have Ferguson at the helm and he'd know how to get them straight back up. So much for that!

Posh achieved successive promotions under rookie boss Ferguson

Turls: As for where Peterborough go from here, who knows? I thought the chairman had a good system in place. Clearly intent on investing in youth players rather than buying journeymen who would do the job for them.

If he'd have kept faith in Ferguson then they would eventually have been established as a Championship outfit. The thing that no-one seems to realise is that this all takes time.

I think at some point they will need to invest on tried and trusted players just to drop an experienced head into the team - look at what Paul McKenna has done at Forest for proof that it does work.

Can they become a Premiership team? Yes, with money anything is possible - as long as it is invested wisely. And up until now, I think Peterborough have invested wisely, although getting Ferguson to sign a new four year contract and then sacking him months later isn't sound financial planning.

But as I said before, it will take time and I wouldn't be surprised if they did get relegated this term. If they do, the chairman needs to remain calm and not panic.

If they sell players, they will reap massive profits on most players, allowing them to bring in other players to take them up and be better prepared for the Championship.

Lakes: There's something to be said for a club's "natural level." Peterborough are trying to get beyond theirs, Notts County are definitely trying it on - but they're just clubs whose souls have been dragged from their limp corpses.

I hate Wigan and Blackburn in particular. Not just because they've had money thrown at their clubs, but because in cheating like that they've stolen fans from Preston in what is a very tight, overlapping catchment area.

How can we be fashionable when old soggy dickheads are pushing their hands in their pockets left, right and centre?

I doubt they'll ever make the Premier League to be honest. Wigan did it by spending huge amounts, and I don't think Posh have the equivalent funds. Wigan also had a brand-spanking new stadium too.

It's easy to sugar daddy a team like Fulham, as Al Fayed did, up the ladder. They had a history and good potential support. Peterborough will only ever be as big as their support allows them to be, and that makes them a League One club.

I'm going to be honest here in a way that perhaps I couldn't be when this show was on the radio: sugar daddies stink of urine. Actual urine.

I say take your sugar daddies and dissolve them in a big cup of steaming hot grassroots tea. Tell that wrinkled old man to get lost and mind his own business and get back to hoofball in front of a crowd of 50.

Wigan supremo Dave Whelan spent millions to get his club into the Premier League

Turls: Sugar daddies are bizarre really. If you don't have one you hate them. If you do most people love them. If the project is set up with footballing knowledge and financial planning, then once the sugar daddy leaves, the club can still do well.

The problem is this rarely happens. too many chairman come in, splash cash, get frustrated then bolt, leaving the club in a precarious situation.

I think if I was a fan of a lower league club, say, Kettering, then I would rather go at it in a slow and steady approach. But fans are easily swayed by the promise of exciting times ahead and barely look at the fine print that comes with a sugar daddy.

Fans are idiots. I'm sorry, but it's true. Wave promotion under the nose of a fan and most, if not all, would be willing to sell their soul for the cause. As soon as that money has gone and the fan turns to his chum in the stand and says that he was always against the idea of selling the soul of the club.

I have to say, I wouldn't want one full stop. I suppose it's because I've seen my club coming so near to the wall that I know no quick success and promotions are worth putting a club's existence on the line for.

I'd much rather remain in Non League with a stable future rather than spend big to reach League One and come crashing back down to earth. Rushden fans might disagree, but just having a football club is more important than having a successful one.

I often think: would I want a sugar daddy at Preston? The answer is yes and no.

Yes, because I think we need that kind of investment to push us to the next level, no because I think teams should do it on their own merit from their own resource base and not create some sort of artificial status.

What would be the point of, say, Notts County being in the Premier League if they only raised gates of 10,000? It's just not right.

I read an excellent article that mentioned that money is all we talk about when discussing football and I couldn't agree more.

I know money is a massive part of the game now but lets move away from the pound signs and talk about the quality of the striker, the turning circle of the defender, and the complete lack of control from the foaming-at-the-mouth centre midfielder.

Lets start talking about how Stuart Pearce was a million times the player that Nickey Shorey will ever be. Lets argue until our bones melt over whose club is better than whose. Forget money, let the corporate bigwigs and financial advisers spunk all that up the wall. Lets just talk football.

The problem is that money does play such an important part though, and it's also the best refuge for a manager. Sure, we can talk about the quality striker, but that quality striker costs money.

Football has become so high-pressure and the stakes are so massive that we've seen a ridiculous culture of hiring and firing managers on a whim. And the manager's best defence is surely the fact that he can't be expected to compete and get results if he hasn't got the same resources as others.

It's become less a sport and more a business now. The danger too is if you ignore the financial aspect then, as a fan of a rich club, the success starts to blind you from the reality of how dependent you are on the money.

Look at Truro City, they're just one of many Non League clubs with a rich backer financing their climb up the football ladder. All those cups and titles are only down to that money though. I would fear for that club's existence if they lose their wealthy owner.

Truro City's money has helped them progress up the football pyramid

Lakes: I hate it. You have the horrible situation of some old doddery guy bossing his club around, when he is perhaps one of the least qualified to do so.

"Buy Sol Campbell!" comes the order from the massive walking chequebook, and your hands are completely tied. Do it or get out. And then get out anyway.

So get lost, sugar daddies, and don't come back.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Prediction League Week 15

It was another poor showing from the lads on the Prediction League last weekend with just a single point apiece for correctly forecasting a Boston win.

With the international break on, just the Skyrockets are in league action on Saturday. As ever, three points are on offer for a correct scoreline and one for the right result.

Boston United vs. Marine

Skyrockets 1-2 Marine
Skyrockets 2-1 Marine
Skyrockets 2-1 Marine

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Big Match Preview

League One
Norwich City vs. Tranmere Rovers
Saturday November 14, 15:00, Carrow Road

Two sides in contrasing form clash in League One this weekend as high-flying Norwich host a Tranmere side without a permanent manager and entrenched in the relegation zone.

It's been a disastrous campaign for Rovers, who parted company with manager John Barnes last month after just two wins from their opening 11 league matches.

The former Liverpool and England star had only been appointed during the summer to replace Ronnie Moore, but now the Wirral club are under the caretaker managership of popular physio Les Ross.

He's since gained a single win from his four league games, a 2-1 victory over fellow strugglers Brighton, just their second win at Prenton Park all season. Last weekend their FA Cup game with Leyton Orient ended 1-1.

Tranmere's problems have largely stemmed from defensive frailties, with their record of 33 goals leaked in 15 games the worst in League One. It's a statistic not helped by the fact three different goalkeepers have already played behind Rovers' defence.

Goals have largely come from Ian Thomas-Moore, the son of former boss Ronnie, who has four strikes to his name this term. Other notable names in the squad include experienced midfielder Paul McLaren and the much-travelled striker Bas Savage.

Reversing a record of six defeats from seven on the road will be a stern task at at Carrow Road though, with the home side on top form since new boss Paul Lambert took charge.

The former Colchester manager inflicted a 7-1 defeat on City on the opening day of the season before, in a strange twist of fate, taking over from the axed Bryan Gunn in East Anglia.

Since then it's been a rapid rise for the Canaries who have won six and only lost twice in the league under Lambert. They're also unbeaten on home soil since that opening day collapse, conceding just five goals in six matches.

Hot shot Holt: The Norwich striker's goals are propelling his team's promotion push

That run has helped propel them up to 5th and into the play-off positions ahead of Tranmere's visit. Their good form also emphasised by a 7-0 thrashing of Non League Paulton in the FA Cup last weekend.

A key figure in their promotion push is striker Grant Holt. The experienced frontman has
already bagged nine league goals and 14 in total this season. And youngster Chris Martin has also found the back of the net nine times too.

Winger Wes Hoolahan has been in impressive form too, and has experience of winning promotion from this level with Blackpool. A defence including Adam Drury and Michael Nelson is also improving with five clean sheets in their last seven games.

It all means Tranmere are in for a tough ask to take anything away from their trip to Norfolk. City are in strong form and have added some steel to their rich attacking options.

It might be obvious, but it's difficult to see past both side's form continuing as Norwich run-out comfortable winners.

Nobes' Prediction: Norwich City 3 Tranmere Rovers 0

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Taking a Shot on Number Twos

As former Reading assistant manager Kevin Dillon takes over as Aldershot Town's new boss, Nobes takes a look at previous examples of number twos stepping up to be in sole charge.

Should they remain in a coaching capacity or can some of them make the transition?

Aldershot's appointment of former Reading assistant Kevin Dillon as Gary Waddock's replacement is the latest in a long line of number twos stepping up to be managers.

Some have been more successful than others, finding the transition from coach to top dog a seamless one.

Others have struggled when the responsibility falls firmly on their shoulders and returned to just being the right hand man.

Years spent working with top English managers like Alan Pardew and Steve Coppell should serve 49-year-old Dillon well as he takes over at the Recreation Ground.

However, it's no guarantee for success, and keeping the Hampshire club punching above their weight will be no mean feat. This new Shot is one in the dark.

What about those who have been down Dillon's path in the past though? One of the most high profile number twos who tried his hand at management was Chris Hutchings.

Assistant to Paul Jewell at both Bradford and Wigan when the respective clubs won promotion to the Premier League, Hutchings took over from his mentor at both clubs when Jewell left.

However, on each occasion he struggled to replicate Jewell's success and found himself out of work within a few months of taking charge. Now he's in League One as boss of Walsall - and has done a reasonable job in the Black Country.

Another Premier League assistant who tried his hand at management was Peter Grant. Like Dillon, Grant assisted Alan Pardew, this time at West Ham and helped the club to promotion and the FA Cup final during his time at Upton Park.

However, when he dropped down to the Championship as manager of Norwich he struggled to get the Canaries competing anywhere near the top end of the division and was sacked after a year. He's now assistant to Tony Mowbray at Celtic.

Hutchings (left) was assistant to Jewell (right) but failed when replacing him

On the other hand, Preston fans only have good words about their former Premier League assistant who took a chance on being number one at Deepdale. Alan Irvine left Everton to save North End from the drop before taking them to the play-offs the following season.

He continues to get the best out of a side with limited resources, as well as playing some good football. Being assistant to another Lilywhites managerial legend in David Moyes did him no harm at all.

And he's not the only one whose made a success after making the step-up. Kenny Jackett was Graham Taylor's deputy when the Hornets achieved back-to-back promotions to the Premier League in 1999.

He was later assistant to Ian Holloway at QPR, helping the Hoops out of League One before being recommended to Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins by Holloway to fill the managerial vacancy in South Wales.

Jackett won promotion in his first season with the Swans and almost took them into the Championship the following year, only losing in the play-off final. Last season he fell at the same hurdle at new club Millwall, who he continues to have challenging for promotion.

Some question marks still surround others who have made the transition. Kevin Blackwell was the long-time sidekick to Neil Warnock before leaving for Leeds where he eventually took control.

There he saw the club lose the Championship play-off final and a few months later he was sacked. His spell at Luton was dogged by financial problems and at current club Sheffield United, like at Leeds, he lost in the Championship play-off final in May.

Does he have the capability to take a side to promotion and shed an image of being a long-ball merchant?

Another former assistant to Warnock, Stuart McCall, is taking his first steps in management at former club Bradford City. However, despite a substantial budget and the largest crowds in League Two, he has twice failed to take the club even into the top seven.

In the same division, John Trewick is attempting to step out of the shadow of Graham Turner at Hereford. After five years of being the assistant at Edgar Street, Trewick has taken over as manager but the Bulls are currently languishing towards the wrong end of the table.

Stepping out of the shadow: Trewick is in sole charge of Hereford now

Lest we forget though that all the three Football League divisions are currently topped by teams managed by former number twos. Chris Hughton was only in temporary control at Newcastle before impressing enough to be given the job permanently.

Simon Grayson's Leeds are running away with League One, but he was only assistant to Colin Hendry at Blackpool before taking over from the Scot and going on to win promotion and establish the Seasiders in the second tier.

And Eddie Howe assisted both Kevin Bond and Jimmy Quinn at Bournemouth before being given the job himself. A miraculous escape last season and a promotion push this has proved his managerial credentials.

Dillon must prove he too can make the transition from coach to manager - this is his chance. He's been given his shot.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Advertising Space 2

After seeing Lakes being advertised at Wycombe last weekend, here's a slightly edited hoarding seen at Luton's match against Rochdale at Kenilworth Road in the FA Cup this weekend.

Apologies to Noble Solicitors, who we're sure provide an excellent service in the Bedfordshire area, but this is as close to 'Nobes' as we're ever likely to get.

ITV's FA Cup upset

ITV chose a song by indie band The Enemy for their theme to the FA Cup this season.

It seemed an appropriate choice, after all, the broadcaster has made a few of them over the years with their coverage.

As one of them, it was with a heavy heart and the feeling I was making a huge sacrifice - the game was on BBC 5 Live Sports Xtra too - that I decided to tune in for the entire coverage. What did ITV have to offer?

Their choice of the game pitting the lowest ranked side Paulton Rovers against League One highflyers Norwich always appeared flawed.

The former mining village is just down the road from a place called Midsomer Norton, which sounds like the kind of quaint place where half the population are wiped out by a vengeful maniac in one of ITV's flagship dramas.

There was no giant-killing for John Nettles to investigate here though. The chances of the Westcountry side, 119 places below their in-form opponents, always seemed less than remote.

Norwich's 7-0 routing of the Non-League nobodies make a mockery of presenter Matt Smith's claim that the cameras had come to see an upset. Still, I "lived the dream," as the Paulton mantra went, and sat down to see whether my scepticism of ITV and their choice of game could be proved wrong.

"It's their X Factor moment," roared Smith as Paulton's collection of kitchen fitters and mechanics introduced themselves to the camera.

Only the talent show's impressario Simon Cowell could have been pleased with the free plug considering the nausea-inducing parade of players telling us which position they'd be exposed in. Does anyone know the point of ITV doing these?

A couple of minutes later, and, relief - they were over, with Smith handing over to commentator and everyone's favourite closet-Manchester United fan, Clive Tyldesley. Well, perhaps 'relief' was the wrong word.

There's a well known game amongst football fans to observe just how long it takes our Clive to mention his beloved Red Devils despite them having no relevance in the commentary.

Perhaps he's begun to realise, although I couldn't help but smile at the image of him bursting to get out their name but desperately trying to restrain himself. (For the record, he finally cracked 10 seconds into the second half.)

Neverthless, it was standard Tyldesley fare - the comparisons about the side's next two games, and observing he was fortunate enough to be watching football in Rome and Lyon in midweek before his journey to the outskirts of Bristol.

The first half was horribly one sided. Norwich racing into a 3-0 lead by the break, with two goals from striker Grant Holt, roundly booed by the home support presumably for just being talented.

Shouts from the Paulton fans centred around his weight and birth circumstances, before they began tucking into their pasties and pies to console themselves that, for all their effort, their team were being comfortably outplayed by a side in top form under Paul Lambert.

Striker Rob Claridge with the home side's best chance when a mis-kick from Canaries keeper Declan Rudd presented him with an open goal. His wild blast over as way off as namesake Steve's punditry.

Half-time came and back to Smith and Andy Townsend whose pearls of wisdom included declaring, "This isn't cricket," and undermining the career of League One hitman Holt who he described as having "scored a lot of goals at this level."

Like the fat child who surrounds himself with even bigger children just to look slightly less plump, ITV wheeled out Norwich owner Delia Smith to cover Townsend's blushes.

Delia professed to having been "biting her nails" on the way down and described Paulton as having played "really well." It was either the most insincere interview in history or she had been on the sherry a bit earlier.

Her reluctance therefore, despite the coaxing of reporter Gabriel Clarke, to tuck into a slice of the club's complimentary coffee cake was probably ill-advised.

As the second half resumed,
Tyldesley was almost apologetic, knowing that the game was over as a spectacle.

Norwich striker Chris Martin celebrates yet another goal against Paulton

The home crowd, most of whom were attending their first ever game judging by the ignorance of their chants (at one stage "4-0 to the referee!" Really?) proudly displayed a 'Village Army' banner. The Village People would have offered greater resistance.

3-0 became 4, then 5, 6, and 7 as the East Anglians ran riot. Still, Tyldesley enjoyed regaling us with anecdotes about the Paulton players, including nippy winger and Argos sales-assistant Ben Lacey. "Give him your ticket and your goods come back in double time," he quipped. Presumably someone was amused.

The songs of "Paulton 'til I die" (or at least until the end of the game) soon gave way to the strains of the Norwich fans, looking forward to their long trip back to Norfolk after this Somerset stroll.

The biggest game in the home side's 128-year history had turned into a big defeat. For Rovers and ITV talk of an upset had, like the playing of bagpipes that greeted the players on their way onto the pitch, simply been a lot of hot air.