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All Things Footie | Monday, January 30 | Jordan

Recklessness

If a Premiership or Football League club goes into administration, the punishment is a deduction of 10 points. No ifs, no buts, just ten points. But why? It seems on the surface a little harsh to punish a club that’s clearly already struggling with a points deduction as well, but there’s a very good reason for the punishment. In the words of Javed Khan:

‘The idea [behind the 10 point deduction] was to focus the minds of those that run the clubs and say: “You have to manage you financial affairs prudently not recklessly, because if you do not you will suffer the consequences”.’

The question I have is why limit it to clubs who go into administration? Surely there are financial markers that are just as valid a representation of reckless management as an application for administration? How about posting a £140m loss?

When the plan to deduct points was originally discussed, it was as much a moral motivation as a technical one. Following Leicester’s promotion in 2002/2003 season, even though they wrote off £50m worth of debt:

“Nottingham Forest decide to do the moral thing and pay off all their debts and not rest until they’ve done that, and they’ve narrowly lost out on promotion to Leicester. Who’s done the right thing, the decent thing?”

Which is the essence of the whole argument. Clubs who post huge losses, who file for banruptcy, who pay no mind to the balance sheet and continue to sign player after player after player for extortionate amounts of money simply because they can—should be punished. Why? The Football League’s head of communication, John Nagle, said it much better than me:

‘The sporting sanction itself is not intended as a punishment but rather as an attempt to balance the competitive advantage clubs receive by ridding themselves of debt.’

Balance. Something the Premier League should be seeking as Chelsea once again stroll to the title not because they’ve got the best 11 players in the country, or even the best team, but because when a major player gets injured, they have another one just as good playing in their reserves. ‘Well, that just means they’ve a good squad!’ I hear you say, ‘There’s nothing wrong with that’. Yes there is. The problem is that it’s impossible for anyone to compete with their squad—not because their manager is the shrewdest, or the best long-term thinker, but because they have a limitless pot of money, and because they can lose £140m in ONE YEAR almost solely on player purchases.

It’s an utter disgrace, it’s reckless and there’s no reason for Peter Kenyon to look so smug, he must have the worst CV ever. How he gets a job is beyond me.

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All Things Footie | Tuesday, January 24 | Jordan

Oh dear, Sven

You’ve really screwed it up this time.

I saw something on a website a week ago, some kind of petition bertaing the News of the World for unsettling ‘our’ England manager before a World Cup, and criticising the whole ‘Fake Sheikh’ sting. I don’t know exactly how stupid you have to be to fall for the Fake Sheikh scam—maybe there are loads of Sheikhs roaming London offering tantalising jobs in football and I just don’t know it—but there’s no doubt in my mind that, on the ‘Bush scale’ of stupidity, Sven’s always been a high scorer. Emile Heskey’s 43 England Caps are evidence enough of this. Actually, the fact that he said he’d consider quitting the cushiest job in football to work under Doug Ellis makes his lack of brain power almost indisputable.

I love the way that because he wears rimless glasses and is quiet as a church mouse, he’s always been portrayed as a ‘thinker’, an intelligent manager in the mould of Arsène Wenger and Fabio Capello. Which is of course, utter nonsense. He’s quiet because he’s got nothing to say, he wears glasses presumably because someone once told him they were magic glasses that would enable him to see potential in even the most incompetent of footballers (see Owen Hargreaves, Danny Mills, Darius Vassell, Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch, David James). I’m increasingly of the opinion that Alastair McGowan and Ronnie Ancona’s portral of Sven and Nancy is less comedy invention and more faithful satire; odd as it sounds, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was the ‘brains’ behind it all.

There’s no doubt that Sven will be off at the World Cup, but his departure can’t come too soon in my opinion. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he was to leave his post before the end of this week.

I was amused this morning to see Jermaine Pennant warning Theo Walcott about joining Arsenal. Apparently, you have to suffer the ‘hell’ of:

“you start thinking ‘what have I done here? why am I not playing? what’s happening?’”

What he forgot to say was that it was also not a good idea to turn up to training pissed, get banned from the road for drink driving, then wrap your car around a lamp-post (drunk) and claim to be Ashley Cole to the police. If there was ever an embodiment of the deep-rooted malaise in English football, Pennant is it. his advice for Theo:

”’just be patient, train hard and make sure your attitude is right’”

Just like you, eh Jermaine?

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All Things Footie | Friday, January 6 | Jordan

30 Days is a Long Time

And one of my few new years resolutions is to get back to updating ATF more often than I’ve managed in 2006. I was going to start with a review of 2006, but that’s a cheap way of filling space given that I’ve made most of my feelings clear over the course of the season. I could also do the customary ‘half time’ report, but seeing as we all know what’s going to happen in the Premiership this season, and that short of a miracle, no English team will win the Champions League, that’d be quite a dull piece too.

So instead I’m going to discuss something more controversial than it should be, that I’m sure will encourage a great deal of debate … to say the least: Soccer AM’s latest DVD.

The concept of the ‘ten greatest players of the last ten years’ is a great one, and would give the most agreeable of fans something to argue about—but like the bewildering ‘Soccer AM top ten goals of all time’ DVD, I just can’t see where Lovejoy and the gang are coming from. Here’s their selection:

While some are simple inarguable—Zidane, Ronaldo and Thierry Henry—some are just plain unbelievable. Paul Gascoigne? His last moment of greatness was in 1996, and that was nearly 9 years ago. He has not, by any stretch of the imagination, by any measure or reasoning, been one of the ten greatest players of the last ten years. Full stop. I’m having no arguing on that one, it’s a fact.

Wayne Rooney has only been doing anything really special over the last 2 years at best, and while he’s beyond doubt a class act (on the pitch anyway), over the last ten years there are players who’ve won more than him and played just as well.

Alan Shearer is a tricky one, as he’s the most prolific striker the Premiership has ever seen. That said, he’s not been at his very best for a large part of the last ten years, and in that time he’s won nothing at all for club or country. I should make it clear at this point that I’m not an advocate of the ‘he’s good because he’s won a lot’ or he’s ‘not good because he hasn’t won anything’, I just think that Alan Shearer hasn’t been pushed enough as a player to be able to stand up there as one of the greats. In the same way that Matt le Tissier’s loyalty will go on to let his legacy down, Shearer’s determination to win something with an otherwise poor team will mean that he’ll never be an all time great. Last ten years is more subjective, but when there are strikers around who’ve scored as many—if not more—goals and who’ve won a bucketload of trophies too, he’s got to take a back seat.

So wihtout further ado, here are my top ten players of the last ten years, in alphabetical order:

Cafu: maybe the fittest player of all time (and no, not that kind of ‘fit’, kids), the first footballer to play in three World Cup finals (winning two), over 130 caps for his country, two Copa America’s, two Scudettos, two Copa Libertadores and a Brazillian league. The best in his position in Europe consistently for the last ten years, without a doubt. He’d still get into nearly all teams in the World, and five years ago there would have been no question. A fabulous footballer and a great, dedicated professional.

Marcel Desailly was a giant of a player, with over 100 International caps, a World Cup, European Championship, two European Cups, two Scudettos and an FA Cup Winners Medal, he was an integral part of every team he played for; and for good reason. Versatile, strong and a monster of a man, he was intimidating but clever and subtle on the ball. There have been few better or more accomplished at Desailly’s job.

Thierry Henry. Consistently brilliant and brilliantly consistent. He’s a scorer of great goals as well as being a great scorer of goals. Cosecutive Golden Boots, consecutive player of the year awards in the Premiership, a World Cup winners medal and a European Championship winners medal, a pair of Premierships and a hat-trick of FA Cups; he’s nothing short of a phenomenon. If you put together a compilation of Henry’s best goals in any given season it would outshine career highlights from all of his contemporaries. A no-brainer inclusion.

Roy Keane: a straight up choice between Keane and Vieira, and it was as tight as any decision can be. Keane has a European Cup winners medal, and has been unnaturally consistent over the last ten years; Vieira has World Cup and European Championship winners medals, but on the domestic front, he’s just not been as influential as Keane. They’re both two of the best midfielders that the English game has ever seen, but Keane just edges it.

Paolo Maldini, for consistency, brilliance, leadership and loyalty. A Rossonieri since 1985 and Italy’s most capped player of all time, he’s been one of the truly outstanding players, worldwide, for nearly twenty years, never mind ten. In the last decade alone he’s won three Scudettos (four more before then) and the Champions League (three more before then). With only International honours out of reach, Maldini has pretty much done it all, and with style. Easy decision to include him, and I can’t believe he wasn’t in the Soccer AM list, I really can’t.

Raúl González is never given the credit he deserves as one of Europe’s greatest strikers. He may have spent his whole career at one of the most hideously corrupt and vile clubs in the World, but you just can’t argue with his record over the last decade: four La Liga trophies, three Champions League winners medals, top goalscorer for his club, country and the Champions League. He’s a goal machine if ever there was one—he’s Shearer but with a boat-load of trophies.

Ronaldo; Oh! The ecstasy and the agony of Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima. I remember watching him for the first time and thinking that he was easily head and shoulders above any player I’d ever seen, the greatest of all time surely—if he kept it up. Then came the injuries, and the debacle at the 1998 World Cup, and it all spiralled downhill from there. He’s picked himself up a little since then, but he’s not the player he once was. World Player of the Year thrice, two World Cups and a golden boot, two Copa Americas, a UEFA Cup and (surprisingly) only one club leage honour—with Real Madrid in 2003. This boy could have been the best, if only the vile hands of marketing and advertising hadn’t ruined him. The story of Ronaldo’s rise and fall is the very epitome of everything that was wrong with the football ‘boom’ of 1996-2002. All that said, even now he’s one of the best forwards in the World.

Peter Schmeichel, the best goalkeeper of all time. There’s inevitably going to be a little English football bias in this list, I am English after all, but of all the truly special players I’ve seen, Schmeichel is up there—albeit having a different impact to someone like Ronaldo. Three Premierships (plus two earlier) and two FA Cups (one more earlier) along with the ever elusive Champions League mean that his trophy cabinet bulged as much as any goalkeeper; but add on to the fact that he didn’t just keep goal for a team that wasn’t ever challenged, but for a team in the most competitive and fast paced league in the world, and his actual performances as much as his achievements make him a certain choice for me. A great shot-stopper, a great leader, and with a fantastic technical side to his game in positioning and distribution; he simply has no rival. The last decade has been blessed to see both Schmeichel and Seaman on top of their games, and this would normally be a choice between them, but Schmeichel’s acheivements edge him ahead.

Andriy Shevchenko. To be a consistent goalscorer in Serie A, you have to be deadly, and Shevchenko is most certainly that. He’s only got a handful of trophies (relative to the other players here anyway, he has one Scudetto and one Champions League, oh, and five Ukranian League titles), but if you can find me a manager anywhere in Europe that wouldn’t take him at the drop of a hat, I’ll show you a man in denial. He’s probably the most deadly striker I’ve ever seen, with an immense physical presence and a thunderous shot. There’s not really much to say about Shevchenko, he’s not a subtle player, he doesn’t have hidden faucets to his game, he’s just a goal machine.

Zinedine Zidane—even the alphabet respects Zidane, ensuring that the best is left until last. The greatest player of the last ten years without a doubt, he’s won just about everything and dazzled the World along the way. He’s prolific (for a midfielder) but a big team player; he’s strong and physical, but breathtakingly subtle and quick with his feet. I’ve never seen any player have the ball under a spell as Zidane does, as if there’s an unbreakable string of elastic between his instep and the ball, it’s quite mesmerising. He’s had some of his best games in big games too; the World Cup Final, the European Cup Final (v Beyer Leverkusen, where he scored the best goal I’ve ever seen in a European Cup Final). He’s peerless, a true legend.

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