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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Talking Points - June

Here's everything the lads had to say for themselves during June.

Season Review
As the campaign draws to a close, Nobes looks back at the 2009/10 season - looking at the winners, the losers, and the big talking points.

The Soccer AM/MW Awards
The lads review the season in their own inimitable style with their own awards.

Football League at World Cup 2010
As the World Cup takes place in South Africa, the lads cover the progress and performances of the Football League players taking part.

Short Back, and Fides
As former players Craig Short is appointed Notts County boss, Nobes looks at why clubs appoint ex-players as managers.

Football's Breeding Ground
Nobes on why returning Gillingham boss Andy Hessenthaler should be better off for working in Non League football.

False Dawns
As the new season's fixtures are released, Nobes considers why fans are wrong to place too much emphasis on their team's first game.

Shrewsbury's Re-Turner
Nobes looks at Graham Turner's decision to go back as manager of Shrewsbury Town - 25 years after he first took on the job.

After the Hurly - Burley
Crystal Palace's appointment of George Burley as their new boss is examined by Nobes.

Walking Wounded
After Simon Davey walks out on Darlington to join Hereford, Nobes looks at managers who were made to pay for their disloyalty.

Reid In and Weep
Nobes on why Peter Reid's appointment at Plymouth is a step backwards for the club.

Nobes' World Cup Trivia Question

With the FIFA World Cup taking place in South Africa, Soccer AM/MW's Nobes has a special trivia question based on football's greatest showpiece.

Can you work out the solution to this devilishly difficult poser?

Including this year's tournament, which country has appeared in every World Cup finals except for 1930, 1958, 1994, and 2006?

Think you know the answer?

Nobes will have the solution for you on July 9 - the day before the weekend of the 19th FIFA World Cup final.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reid In and Weep

With Plymouth Argyle appointing Peter Reid as their new boss, Nobes expresses his dismay with the appointment.

Reid has been working as assistant manager to Tony Pulis at Stoke City

Peter Reid probably can't believe his luck. A forgotten man in the managerial world, when the talk is of England and World Cups, the former Sunderland boss is never short of a comment.

As a player, he featured in England's loss to Argentina in 1986 - Diego Maradona's Hand of God et al. No wonder his name suddenly popped into the minds of the directors of League One Plymouth then.

The appointment of the 54-year-old is a disappointing one on so many fronts. Despite a plethora of promising young managers in the game, Plymouth have gone for an old head.

Despite managers with experience in the lower divisions, who have proven their worth, who have shown they can work with a budget, who merit a crack at a bigger club, they have gone for a name.

Despite the desperate need for a club who had ambitions to reach the top flight and need to return to the Championship at the first time of asking, they have appointed someone with no experience of the lower leagues.

Indeed, the more you look at it, the more baffling Reid's appointment looks.

Not only has he never managed outside the top two divisions in England, he only ever made one lower league appearance - for basement division Bury - in his playing career.

This is someone who played at the highest level for his country and, despite never being the most technically gifted, was once voted the fourth best player in the World.

While he was in the company of the likes of Maradona and Michel Platini on that particular list, it will be lower division, and far less gifted, players he will be working with on the training ground at Argyle.

Apart from spells as Thailand coach and assistant boss at Stoke - he has also been out of the domestic managerial game for too long.

Not since a poor spell in charge at Coventry in 2005 has Reid actually managed in England. In fact, he has been sacked from every managerial job he has had at an English club in his career.

How much longer will failed managers - continually sacked from job after job - continue to be able to get off and on the managerial merry-go-round? How many more clubs will give them the opportunity to fail to prove their worth?

The bare fact is Reid has not enjoyed any success in the game since 2001 - when Plymouth were in the basement division. Just what has he done, therefore, to justify being given another chance to manage?

Not only are his days of success in the past, his methods are also from a past age. Rather than a progressive approach to playing the game the right way, his physical, direct style is the kind that drives fans away.

Plymouth were relegated from the Championship after a dismal season

The simple truth is Reid's time as a manager has come and gone.

Instead of pushing the boat out and looking for talented younger managers, Plymouth - a club whose managerial policy was key in their relegation last season - have opted for the same old tried, tested, and failed.

Instead of looking down the road to Exeter's highly rated Paul Tisdale, or Andy Scott at Brentford, or Paul Trollope of Bristol Rovers, they have chosen a man with no track record of success.

There is no guarantee that Plymouth will bounce back to the Championship at the first attempt, either. Much bigger clubs than Plymouth - the likes of Leeds and Nottingham Forest - have struggled to get out of League One following relegation.

Their six years spent outside the bottom two tiers haven't given the Pilgrims any reason to believe they are suddenly too big to be in League One. Both the football on show and attendances at Home Park last term were of League One level.

They are also entering a third tier full of very competitive clubs with more money to spend than the Devon club.

Southampton, under Alan Pardew, are hotly tipped for promotion. Sheffield Wednesday, relegated with Plymouth, will hope to bounce back instantly.

As will the third relegated team, Peterborough, who have recent experience of this level in their squad and a manager in Gary Johnson proven in League One.

Play-off losers Swindon and Huddersfield are both well backed financially. Charlton will once again be competitive, and the likes of Bristol Rovers, Walsall, and Brighton will hope to improve on mid-table campaigns last term.

A place in the top six, based simply on the success of the three clubs demoted in 2009, cannot be taken as a given therefore.

The right managerial appointment may have made it more likely though.
For Plymouth, the writing is on the wall - for all to Reid.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Football League at World Cup 2010: Update 4

We're into the knockout stage of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

All tournament we're following the fortunes of the Football League players on show at the highest stage of the game.

The group stages left us with two players - Watford's Jay DeMerit and Kevin Prince-Boateng from Portsmouth. Ironically, their countries - USA and Ghana - met in Rustenburg at the weekend.

The United States were Group C winners ahead of England, while Ghana were the sole African side to make the last 16 after finishing runners-up to Germany in Group D.

For one of our players, their South African odyssey was going to come to an end. For the other, a place in the last eight was beckoning. Who would emerge triumphant though?


USA v Ghana
Saturday June 26, 20:30, Rustenburg

The States went into the game buoyed by their last gasp winner against Algeria which, not only saved them from an early flight home, but guaranteed them top spot in Group C.

Ghana, however, suffered their first loss of their World Cup against Germany, which saw them usurped at the top of their group - pitting them against the Americans rather than England.

However, despite the contrasting nature of the two side's previous games, it was the Ghanaians who started the brighter and took the lead after just five minutes.

Sloppy play from Ricardo Clark in midfield saw the Africans seize possession and Kevin Prince-Boateng surged forward from the half way line before firing the ball low past Tim Howard at his near post.

The USA defence, and in particular Jay DeMerit, would have been disappointed with backing off too far and allowing Boateng room to shoot.

It was the Pompey man's first goal of the tournament and the goal helped Ghana grow in confidence as the first period progressed.

Prince-Boateng got Ghana off to the perfect start against the United States

The States struggled to get their game going and Ghana had chances to extend their advantage. DeMerit again at fault as a long ball forward allowed Kwadwo Asamoah to get a shot in at Howard.

The Everton 'keeper was also forced to parry away a fizzing free kick from Asamoah Gyan as the African side - backed by the majority of the crowd - pushed for a second.

However, the US were a changed team after the interval and began to take charge of affairs. Substitute Benny Feilhaber's pace was a constant nuisance for the Ghana defence.

He forced Richard Kingson into a smart stop when through on goal to preserve the African team's advantage. However, just after the hour mark the American's were back on level terms.

Clint Dempsey was brought down in the box by Jonathan Mensah, and Landon Donovan stepped up to fire home the penalty off the post.

Landon Donovan was the USA's hero again with his second half penalty

On the backfoot, Ghana suffered another blow when Prince-Boateng appeared to pull a hamstring and had to be replaced by Stephen Appiah with twelve minutes remaining.

The USA were now firmly in the ascendancy and could have taken the lead through Jozy Altidore, but the former Hull man could only steer his shot narrowly wide of the upright.

However, the game was forced into extra time, and the Ghanaians once again got off to the perfect start after just three minutes. A long ball forward saw Gyan outpace and out muscle DeMerit and fire the ball high over Howard and into the net.

Gyan's goal in extra time created history for Ghana

The Americans were stunned and, but for some balls pumped into the Ghana box, struggled to respond to falling behind. One last chance fell to DeMerit who could only loft a shot over the bar from the edge of the area after Kingson's punch had fallen kindly to him.

For the US, who had come from behind in all three of their group games, this was to prove a step too far. Ghana progress to the last eight of the World Cup for the first time in their history - and only the third African side ever to reach that stage.

They now face Uruguay in Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium for a place in the last four of the 2010 World Cup.

Final score: USA 1 Ghana 2 AET

Despite Boateng's injury - which could force him to miss that game - we will follow Ghana's progress as the Black Stars look to make African footballing history.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Football League at World Cup 2010: Update 3

The 19th FIFA World Cup is taking place in South Africa during June and July - and we're covering the event in our own unique fashion.

In total, there are 11 Football League players from seven countries featuring in the tournament - and we're keeping tabs on how they're getting on.

Our third update looks at the final round of group fixtures - did any Football League player make it into the last 16?

In Group A, hosts South Africa, with one Football League representative, faced France - knowing they needed a win and then the right result from the game between Mexico and Uruguay to go their way in order to qualify.

Aaron Mokoena

The hosts secured only their second ever win at a World Cup as they defeated former Champions France.

However, it wasn't enough to see South Africa qualify for the knockout stage, as they lost out on goal difference to Mexico.

The victory over a dispirited, yet talented, French side was a fitting end to their campaign. Captain Mokoena was a solid presence at the back - limiting France's attacking threat.

They were opened up in the second half as Flourent Malouda got France back into the game, but first half goals from Bongani Khumalo and Katlego Mphela ensured the hosts took all three points.

Final score:
France 1 South Africa 2

In Group B, Nigeria, with two Football League players, were attempting to make World Cup history by making the last 16 despite losing two of their group games. That could be achieved by beating South Korea and Greece losing to Argentina.

Nwankwo Kanu

The Super Eagles played one of their Football League stars - captain Kanu making his first appearance in the tournament.

Showing the kind of skill and composure on the ball that has been his trademark, Kanu was an important presence up front as Nigeria led in the first half through Kalu Uche.

However, Korean goals from free kicks either side of the break from Lee Jung-Soo and Park Chu-Young put the Asian side ahead.

Kanu was substituted before the hour mark as he began to tire and, despite his replacement Obafemi Martins converting a penalty, Nigeria's 2-2 draw was not enough to save them from exiting the tournament.

After playing in his third World Cup for his country, Kanu announced his retirement from international football.

Final score: Nigeria 2 South Korea 2

In Group C, the two sides with a player from the Football League amongst their 23-man squads - the USA and Algeria - met. Both had hopes of making the last 16 ahead of rivals Slovenia and England.

Jay DeMerit

The USA secured top spot in Group C and a place in the last 16 with a last gasp goal against Algeria.

DeMerit's side controlled the game for large spells - forcing their African opponents back as they searched for the goal they required to progress.

However, that was only after the Americans had a huge let off early on. DeMerit himself missed a long ball and Rafik Djebbour's volley hit the bar.

With time running out, it appeared as though the USA would be going home, but Landon Donovan's 92nd minute strike from close range sealed a dramatic win.

Nadir Belhadj

Algeria's World Cup campaign ended in disappointment as they crashed out of the tournament without even scoring.

They were also denied only their second ever World Cup clean sheet, as well as a second point in 2010, with the USA's injury time winner.

Belhadj's natural attacking instincts were largely curtailed as he found himself part of an Algerian defence resisting wave after wave of American attacks.

He can reflect upon a tournament where he was one of his country's better performers in a World Cup where, despite suffering an early exit, they didn't disgrace themselves.

Final score: USA 1 Algeria 0

Ghana, in Group D, were hoping - with the help of their Football League player - to make it to the second round. They faced Germany in their final game.

If either slipped up, then another country featuring a Football League man - Australia - could have taken advantage with victory over Serbia.

Kevin Prince-Boateng

Ghana became the first African side to qualify for the knock out phase despite losing to Germany.

Serbia's defeat ensured Prince-Boateng and his colleagues equalled Nigeria's record of making the World Cup knock out phase twice.

In a difficult game for the Ghanaians, Boateng was a solid presence in midfield as his side worked hard to restrict their opponents to few chances.

A long range beauty in the second half from Mesut Ozil eventually broke the deadlock - and the Germans held onto their advantage with relative ease.

He completed his first full match at the tournament and can hopefully look forward to doing more offensive play in Ghana's game in the last-16.

Final score: Ghana 0 Germany 1

Richard Garcia

Australia recorded their first win of the World Cup, but it wasn't enough for them to progress past the group stage.

A second half header from Tim Cahill followed swiftly by Brett Holman's long range drive gave them a 2-0 advantage.

After 82 minutes, Garcia was brought on a substitute for Luke Wilkshire as the Socceroos sought fresh legs to help preserve their advantage.

However, Marko Pantelic pulled back a goal with six minutes remaining, and the Aussies had to withstand late pressure.

With help from the linesman's flag, they held on to register their first ever World Cup victory over a European side. Some comfort as they board an early flight home from South Africa.

Final score:
Australia 2 Serbia 1

Rank outsiders in Group F, New Zealand, have three players from the Football League in their squad. They were battling to escape from a group including World Champions Italy, Slovakia, and their last group game opponents - Paraguay.

Tommy Smith

Smith helped his country to their first ever clean sheet in a World Cup game as they held group winners Paraguay.

In a game of few chances, the Kiwis were under greater pressure against their South American opponents.

However, Smith and his fellow centre halves helped protect keeper Mark Paston's goal, restricting Paraguay to few opportunities.

Despite their exit in the group stage, Smith's impressive performance will improve his hopes of a more regular place in the Ipswich team in the Championship next term.

Chris Killen

As with their two previous games, underdogs New Zealand found themselves largely under the cosh against Paraguay.

That restricted striker Killen to very little service as Rickie Hebert's men looked to sit back and soak up any pressure from their opponents.

It took them until the second half to register a shot on target - their only one of the entire game.

Killen was replaced by Jeremy Brockie with around ten minutes remaining as New Zealand fell at the first hurdle.

Rory Fallon

Fallon will look back on New Zealand's first World Cup for 28 years as personally frustrating, despite his country's good showing.

With three draws from three games - the All Whites returned home unbeaten in their South African adventure.

Their defensive approach limited striker Fallon to just a single shot on target in those three matches, though. He was often found defending and closing down space in his own area.

With little creativity on offer, Fallon will be disappointed he wasn't given more opportunities to score an historic goal at the World Cup finals. He was substituted for Chris Wood midway through the second period.

Final score:
Paraguay 0 New Zealand 0

With the group stage over, we move onto the knock out phase. Of the seven countries
competing which had Football League players, only two have survived.

They are the USA and Ghana who, in a twist of fate, will face one another in Rustenburg tomorrow for a place in the quarter finals.

For the African country, a place in the last eight in only their second ever tournament would represent an historic achievement. The States will be looking to equal their best performance of reaching the quarter finals in 2002.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Walking Wounded

As Simon Davey swaps managerial chairs at Darlington for Hereford United, Nobes looks at other managers who have walked out on clubs - only to regret it later.

Simon Davey was in charge at Darlington for just three months

The natives are restless. Just three months into his role as the man to turn around Darlington's fortunes, Simon Davey's decision to resign for "personal reasons" only to pop up at Hereford has angered Quakers fans.

Darlo were a sinking ship when the former Barnsley boss assumed the reins. Although he was unable to save them from relegation to the Conference, the side had showed enough promise to suggest they would be a force next season.

Summer recruitments were already brought in by the Welshman as he set about constructing a team capable of restoring Football League status at the first attempt.

Now, after his resignation, that mantle will fall to long-term assistant Ryan Kidd. Davey, however, has made an even quicker return to League Two with the Hereford job.

It's fair to say many Darlington supporters will wish him absolutely no success whatsoever. His departure has left a bitter taste in the mouth, one they hope will be partially helped if Davey's time at Hereford is an unsuccessful and short one.

The Edgar Street job is a tricky one - trying to please fans used to attractive football and punching above their weight under former boss, and new Shrewsbury manager, Graham Turner.

A season spent languishing in the bottom half saw Turner's successor John Trewick sacked - a sign of how, perhaps unrealistically, high expectations are at the West Midlands club.

Davey will have a tough task on his hands, therefore. He will also hope to avoid the same kind of ignominy that other managers have felt after walking out on a club in an attempt to better their career.

Here are some of the managers who probably wish they had stayed loyal to their clubs.

Phil Parkinson

Parkinson was one of the most promising young managers in the game in 2006. He had just led unfashionable Colchester United to promotion to the Championship for the first time in their history.

However, a month later he resigned his post at Layer Road and made the move to Hull City.

The Tigers, established in the second tier, would offer him greater resources and the impressive KC Stadium the stage for his development as a manager, he thought.

By Christmas, he had been sacked. A poor start to the season, which had seen the Yorkshire outfit struggling towards the foot of the division, saw him axed. Colchester went on to finish the season in 10th, 11 places above Hull.

Parkinson subsequently moved on to Charlton - where he suffered demotion to League One in 2009. He and the Addicks remain there next season.

Ian Holloway

The bubbly Bristolian acted like he had won the jackpot when he landed the manager's job at under performing Leicester City in 2007.

He had left Plymouth Argyle - where he had impressed on a budget - in acrimonious circumstances to make the move to the East Midlands. He shouldn't have bothered.

Despite spending good money, the Foxes slid to an agonising final day relegation to League One and Holloway was promptly fired. Plymouth finished in the top half.

It was to prove only a minor blip, however. Holloway returned to football and masterminded Blackpool's rise to the Premier League last season - as Plymouth slid out of the top two tiers.

Brendan Rodgers

For a long time, the Northern Irishman worked in the shadows - as a youth team coach at Reading and then under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.

However, he took on his first managerial job at struggling Watford in 2008 - playing an attractive style of football which led the Hornets to a comfortable mid-table finish in the Championship.

He turned his back on the club who had given him his break as a manager though, and left to join old club Reading. His reign with the Royals was short-lived and unsuccessful as they toiled towards the bottom.

He was sacked in December and has yet to find re-employment. Both Watford and Reading finished in mid-table in last term's Championship.

Steve Cotterill

Having worked his way up the pyramid as he performed miracles at Cheltenham Town, Cotterill was given his big break in management at Stoke City in 2002.

The Potters had been freshly elevated into the Championship and had a solid start to their campaign under Cotterill.

However, when the call came from new Sunderland boss Howard Wilkinson to join him as assistant in the top flight, Cotterill jumped ship and left Stoke in the lurch after just 13 games.

Wilkinson and Cotterill endured a miserable spell on Wearside though, and were sacked before the season's end. Stoke, under new boss Tony Pulis, survived in the second tier.

After subsequent spells at Burnley and Notts County, Cotterill now finds himself at Portsmouth in the Championship - below both top-flight Stoke and Pulis.

Iain Dowie

Crystal Palace's promotion to the top flight in 2005 had been the stuff of fairy tales. New boss Iain Dowie had turned around the club's fortunes in the space of a few months before leading them to play-off success.

He almost kept them in the Premier League, and then failed to take them back at the first attempt as they lost out in the play-offs. Dowie resigned - before controversially taking up the post at top flight club, and Palace's bitter rivals, Charlton.

It was a poor decision. The Addicks badly struggled under Dowie, who was soon fired. He has had short and unsuccessful subsequent spells at Coventry, QPR, Hull, and as assistant to Alan Shearer at Newcastle.

Still out of the game now, his mismanagement had a large part to play in Charlton's rapid fall down the ladder to where they
now find themselves in League One.

Paul Ince

The former England international began his managerial career at lowly League Two side Macclesfield before making the leap to fellow basement boys Milton Keynes Dons in 2007.

He led the Dons to League Two title and JPT success in his first season - earning him the call to take over the vacant manager's job at top flight club club Blackburn Rovers.

Without any regard to how briefly he had been a manager, Ince decided to make the step-up. A promising start gave way to a dreadful run which left the Lancashire club in a relegation battle.

Ince was given his marching orders before Christmas and successor Sam Allardyce managed to keep the Ewood Park outfit up.

A humiliating return to Milton Keynes last summer was the next move for Ince but a disappointing season saw him hand in his resignation. He is currently without a job.

Martin Allen

The man known as 'Mad Dog' began his managerial reign at Barnet before enjoying a hugely profitable spell at Brentford.

On leaving Griffin Park he took on the challenge of helping MK Dons win promotion from League Two in 2006.

Despite having one of the largest budgets outside the Championship, Allen produced a team playing poor football that only managed to finish in the play-offs - where they lost out to Shrewsbury.

Surprisingly, he was then offered the chance to manage at second tier club Leicester. However, just four games into the new season, he departed after a breakdown in relations between himself and chairman Milan Mandaric.

He next turned up for a turbulent and unsuccessful stint at League One Cheltenham - where the Gloucestershire club suffered relegation under his management.

Sacked last season from Whaddon Road, he remains out of the managerial game. Milton Keynes, after enjoying success after his departure, have consolidated in League One.

Davey has been warned.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

After the Hurly - Burley

Nobes considers Crystal Palace's appointment of the experienced George Burley as their new manager.

New boss George Burley has an impressive track record at Championship level

It was a managerial appointment many Crystal Palace feared they'd never see. The London club so nearly went out of business, with only a last gasp takeover earlier this month from the CPFC 2010 Consortium saving the Eagles from extinction.

The buyout from the group, headed by fans Steven Parish and Martin Long, brought to a close a tumultuous few months for Palace. They entered administration in January - incurring a ten point penalty in the process.

That saw them drop from just outside the Championship play-off positions into a relegation fight. A few weeks later they lost the services of experienced manager Neil Warnock, who left the club to take over at QPR.

In the end, their relegation battle went to the final day where a dramatic 2-2 draw at Sheffield Wednesday ensured it was the Yorkshire team, and not them, who made the drop into League One.

Boss Paul Hart, who had managed to keep the club safe, immediately left after the game at Hillsborough. A further 29 other employees at the club followed him out of the door as costs were cut.

Now though, with their future secure, they can look forward to the future and a fight for promotion, not against extinction. These Eagles are daring to dream again.

The appointment of Burley is sure to encourage them even further - particularly with his appointment of club legend Dougie Freedman as his assistant.

Burley has been out of work since losing his position as manager of Scotland last year.

His failure to lead the Tartan Army even into the top two of their World Cup 2010 qualification group was deemed unsatisfactory by the Scottish Football Association.

Although things didn't work out for him at international level, his record in the Championship is the envy of most managers.

Hopes are high for better times ahead at Palace's Selhurst Park next term

He took Ipswich to four top six finishes - guiding them into the Premier League as play-off winners in 2000. There they finished 5th in their first season - qualifying for the UEFA Cup and earning Burley the Manager of the Season award.

He has also taken both of his other Championship teams into the play-offs. With Derby in 2005 he lost out in the semis to Preston and in 2007 his Southampton side were losers over two legs to, ironically, his former club Derby.

With a track record of getting his teams to compete at the right end, Palace fans will be optimistic that he can achieve the same kind of results at Selhurst Palace.

At both Pride Park and St Mary's he was used to working on a budget as former Premier League teams cut their cloth according to their new lower status in the football pyramid.

He will not be daunted, therefore, by the restrictions at a club determined to not get themselves in a similar financial mess as to the one they have just escaped from.

The 54-year-old is also an attractive choice because of his commitment to playing the game the right way. Burley has always got his teams playing attractive, attacking, passing football.

It is the kind of style which will encourage more supporters through the turnstiles - which can provide a financial boost to Palace.

It is also a style which, for all his cult hero status at the club, Warnock and his penchant for a more direct method of play, was never able to bring to South London.

The way he turned around a Derby side who had struggled towards the wrong end of the division before finishing 4th the next term will also encourage them that time need not be a barrier to success.

However, after the recent turmoil, achieving instant success will still be tough even for a man of Burley's experience and pedigree.

Successful or not, Palace fans will just be relieved they can focus on matters on the pitch once again.