Murray’s Return

Glenn Murray scored 31 goals last term, he got us promoted. Wilf scared teams, Muzza scored goals.

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We are lucky as a club to now see ourselves above some ‘Staying-Up Stalwarts’ in WBA, Fulham and Sunderland. We owe that largely to Mr Pulis and his sheer determination to keep his record of never having been relegated alive and well.

However, I am of the opinion that the greatest event of this season so far; better than any signing, goal, cross or even change in management, is the return of the one and only Glenn Murray.

He will add even more passion to the fan’s chanting, home and away. He will scare defenders when they realise this is the man that scored 31 goals in one season. He is the man that can score with his head, left and right. He will fight for the club with blood sweat and tears.

I look at the club in 2010 at Hillsborough. Every player would’ve given their lives for the club then.

Now, im not so sure. Perhaps that is Premier League football, or maybe the standard of player Warnock wanted? Or both.

Hill, Derry, Ambrose, Paddy, Jules, Scannell, Butterfield. All loved the club and you could tell.

Now, I would only say; Jules, Delaney, Murray are in the same category.

We need that passion, we need to dig in, we need some luck. We need 14 points.

We need Murray.

Premiership? You can stick it.

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Arsenal have been knocked out of the FA Cup, Wenger is again seen as an idiot, despite building foundations of a major-lasting legacy.

Chelsea fansseem to hate Benitez, subjecting him to huge abuse every game. See my other blog.

Manchester City almost seem to demand trophies, based on money spent.

Well, I support Crystal Palace, a team with well-documented ups and downs over the past five.. No ten.. No twenty… years.

I have enjoyed the ups and downs, the promotion to the Premier League, the relegation scraps, the moments from being closed down. Since 2005 we have been in the Championship, and it has all been exciting. Especially this season with Holloway coming in, losing Freedman long-term will turn out to be a great move.

Don’t get me wrongI would love to sneak second place from under Hull’s nose this season, or win the play-offs and go up to the Premier League. Yes.

However, Arsenal fans are slaughtering Wenger. Chelsea fans are publicly abusing Benitez. Manchester City fans seem to just expect a trophy due to their capital.

It is at time like these when I am quite glad that I support what would probably be classed as obscurely (due to it not being a club in the top-four) a Championship team.

I have gotten to the stage where I want Stoke, West Brom and Everton – and the teams that have to skilfully work their way up the Premier League, on a shoe-string budget to win every week. Just to add some competitive edge into the league.

Keep up the good work Football League, the real fans love you for it.

Burkina Faso. Critics F*ck Off.

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Last year, Zambia, a country with approximately 14million people won the Africa Cup of Nations. It was a huge shock.

This year, Burkina Faso has shown their passion, ability to grind out results and ridden their luck at times, but have made their way to the final none the less.

They have only conceded two goals during the competition. Whilst they are still unbeaten.

This is a country with approximately 15million people.

Yet still people associate African football with; Ivory Coast, Ghana and South Africa. Where are they?

The Burkina-babes haven’t made it past the first round in the tournament since 1998, and have never made the final.

The star of the tournament for Burkina Faso has to be Jonathan Pitroipa. Unfortunately denied a penalty in extra-time, and instead sent off. He will now miss the final. A shocking decision.

Yes, I have a vested interest as I did put a 33/1 each-way bet on the Stallions to win the tournament, which I will at least take a place prize.

But, in all honesty, I think the tournament (except for refereeing performances) has shown what a great footballing continent Africa really are.

I cannot hear the critics now!

Well done Africa!
Well done Burkina Faso.
Well done Jonathan Pitrioipa. I hope you get an appeal granted.

Matt Jansen. Michael Owen. Miles apart.

imageAs part as my ‘Miles Apart’ series, I am comparing footballers of similar ages, and how they’re careers can start so similar, yet take decisions (sometimes beyond their control) in entirely different directions.

This blog is comparing ex-Blackburn and Crystal Palace striker Matt Jansen, 35, once widely tipped to become England’s next great striker. With current Stoke City striker and ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid striker, Michael Owen, 33.

My first memories of Michael Owen are; watching Liverpool v Derby County on Sky, and seeing Owen personally destroy the Derby defence, beating them a resounding 4-0 in the process.
I also , as any England fan should, remember Owen’s World Cup goal against the Argentinian team (the one with Simeone and Batistuta).

In all honesty, I only remember Matt Jansen because of a computer game I had. UEFA Manager 2000 (the Football Manager of it’s day. Matt Jansen was the (Divison1/Championship’s) best striker, for Blackburn. He was rated a good 80. Only Dele Adebola and Andy Johnson were rated similar. Ironically, all three would go on to play for Crystal Palace in their careers.

Matt Jansen’s career had taken off, he was scoring profusely for Carlisle United, and was soon snapped up for £1m by then Premier League side Crystal Palace (turning down a move to Manchester United in the process).
After doing similar at Palace, he then moved to Blackburn for £4.1m, (once more turning Manchester United down), where he quickly became a club legend. His goal scoring record harking back to Blackburn’s SAS days, with Sutton and Shearer.

If you have read my Gazza blog, you will recall

for someone to take that away from him. Waking up one morning and realising his skills, pace and control was leaving him. Making him and older footballer, compared to the Beckham’s, Owen’s and Fowler’s that were starting to make big names for themselves. Gazza couldn’t understand that this was it

This was also a similar case for Matt Jansen, a man who turned down Sir Alex Ferguson more than once, and looked set to place himself in the England side for a long time.

In the summer of 2002 Jansen had a motorcycle accident in Rome, resulting in a short coma, and loss in all footballing attributes, meaning that his glittering early career would be difficult to rekindle.

As you probably know, Matt Jansen never rekindled his career, and has since journeyed around a number of clubs, attempting to bring back his glory days. He is currently with old Blackburn team-mate Garry Flitcroft at Northern Premier League side Chorley, where he has scored 11goals in 23games, whilst also coaching.

Yet, this is not just the end of Matt Jansen’s fall from success. He has had time with psychologists to cure his depression and illness. No one should mock this. I would agree, as would any football-loving lad, that for a successful football career to be taken away at such a young age, would destroy the strongest of minds.

Perhaps one day we will see Jansen back in the big time, maybe managing Blackburn?

I personally believe he is owed another chance. I here you say ‘but he’s a footballer he’ll have tonnes of money’. I say to you; footballers have a very short career, Jansen had an even shorter one. Yes he was Blackburn’s star striker, but that was before the £80,000 a week wages.

Jansen deserves a chance. I look forward to the day he returns.

Beckham. Gascoigne. A mile apart.

imagePaul Gascoigne is 45 years-old and is currently in rehab in America, for what seems like the fiftieth time. Affectionately called ‘Gazza’ by adoring Newcastle and England fans, he is considered one of the greatest English footballers of his generation, unfortunately I was too young to see him in his peak. Due to my age, my only knowledge of ‘Gazza’ seems to have been watching his decline and struggle with alcoholism on the news. Apart from the occasional playback of his deft-touch, skinning Scotland’s Colin Hendry, and leaving him for dead.

David Beckham is just eight years younger and is 37 years-old. He has just signed for his fourth permanent team; Paris Saint Germain. Donating his entire £3m wage to local children’s charities in Paris. I have been fortunate enough to have seen Beckham in his prime. From his half-way line goal against Wimbledon, when was very young. To his wonder-strike free-kick against Greece, that every England fan must remember.

What I am trying to get at is; despite only eight years difference, they are light years apart in their lives. Yet they have both enjoyed being fantastic footballers. The only difference is that Gascoigne unfortunately suffered from a weakness to alcohol. Meaning their entire careers have diverted in completely different directions.

I have always been a staunch believer that alcoholics have nobody to blame but themselves. Itis their weakness that leads to the addiction.

However, with Gazza, my opinion is weakened.

This is largely because of the fact that Gazza suffered with his footballing career coming to an end. He ate, drank and breathed football. Only, at the age of 31 for someone to take that away from him. Waking up one morning and realising his skills, pace and control was leaving him. Making him and older footballer, compared to the Beckham’s, Owen’s and Fowler’s that were starting to make big names for themselves. Gazza couldn’t understand that this was it.

His weakness to the bottle got worse and worse, and we all know the rest.

I here you say ‘but Brian Clough got injured at a similar age, and knew he would never play again, yet he made himself a legendary manager why should we feel sympathy for Gazza’.

You should.

People have different feelings, different emotions and different weaknesses.

He has once again submitted himself, voluntarily into rehab. You can see he wants change.

We need to support one of England’s most skilful players ever. A legend.

I bloody love deadline day.

Transfer Deadline Day.

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For some clubs’ fans it will be a day of celebration at signing a player that could turn your season around, or give you a stable push towards success.

For others it is another day of disappointment; signing nobody, selling nobody.

Ian Holloway is constantly critical of it, calling it a “farce” and such like.

But what I want to know, is do you the fans of these clubs actually support the decision to have windows in football, and not have transfers all year long. Or would you prefer a free open season, allowing teams to buy players whenever possible.

Personally, deadline day is a day where my twitter feed goes mad, and I love it. Or, at least I have more recently since Crystal Palace have had some money and aspirations. Unlike a couple of years ago, when Deadline day was just a constant worry that another key player would leave, making the seemingly never-ending relegation scrap even harder.

I bloody love deadline day. Click the link below to vote.
 

Transfer Windows, Yes or No?

Mario Balotelli? Long live Paul Scholes.

I am sitting here looking at twitter and BBC Sport looking to see if Crystal Palace spend some of the Zaha money, in order to secure the battle for promotion to the Premier League.

Upon looking at twitter, I see Mario Balotelli has left the Premier League champions to join AC Milan.

Balotelli has proven to English football fans, that he is a newspaper editor’s dream, just like Jose Mourinho was/is. However, Balotelli crossed the borders to become a bad example to the schoolchildren, that idolise footballers and repeat their behaviour on the school pitch or the local park. Jose Mourinho didn’t/did.

From setting fireworks off in his bathroom, to throwing darts at a youth team player. He even drove into a women’s prison in Italy in order to “have a look around”.

This example of a footballer is a far-cry from the likes of Paul Scholes. A man long-ignored by the British media. A man whom 99% of the English public would not be able to recognise his wife. And a man who has been called the “greatest midfielder ever” by Barcelona legend Xavi.

This is the type of footballer that schoolchildren should look up to, should replicate and should aspire to be. Not arrogant, overpaid and immature men. That, if it wasn’t for football, and the furore that comes hand in hand with the role, would possibly be in prison, or on a route towards it.

In my opinion, Mario Balotelli leaving the Premier league is the best thing that can happen for the 4-16 year olds of this country. Long live Paul Scholes.

The magic is rekindled for the cup.

My earliest memory of the FA Cup is when I was nine years-old. Wycombe Wanderers under the young, supposed ‘up and coming’ manager Lawrie Sanchez had a memorable 2-1 victory against Leicester City at Filbert Street with Sanchez watching his side’s last gasp winner on a portable tv in the changing rooms, as he had been sent off earlier in the match.

The magic and instant admiration of the ‘underdog’ was born inside me. I had only recently began to watch football properly , and no longer bore my Dad by asking him to put Cartoon Network on instead of the Super Sunday.

This team whom I was watching were unbelievable, the stalwart goalkeeper especially, a thirty-five year old Martin Taylor, (who would a year later move to my local side Burton Albion) was saving everything, and his passion was screaming out of his body.

I believe it was this game that got me hooked on football.

Throughout the next ten years of my life I cannot remember an FA Cup game that has attracted my attention as much as that famous day. Each year there would be the occasional upset, but no long run. No major giant-killing. No underdog that attracts every neutral’s attention.

However, is 2013 different?

In the League Cup this year we have Bradford City, now in League Two, the bottom division of English football, against Premiership opposition Swansea. Having beaten; Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa in the process already.

The FA Cup this season seems to have also had more upsets for along time.

Brentford being six minutes away from a famous 2-1 victory over Chelsea, had it not been for Torres’ equaliser so late in the game, to take it to a money earning replay for the bees.

Oldham Athletic, struggling in League One face an in form Liverpool side, and beat them 3-2.

Luton a non-league team beat Norwich City at Carrow Road 0-1 and progress to the fifth round.

I feel for the first time in a very long time, that the magic, so long associated with the FA Cup, has resurfaced and can now let a whole new generation of children watching football with their Dad’s, enjoying that bond that is unlike any other. Can now support the underdog, like I grew up loving.

2013 has brought the FA Cup back to life.

A refreshing taste of football.

I have watched quite little of the African Nations Cup this year, due to a combination of early kick offs and work scheduling.

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A far cry from the days of the 2010 World Cup which coincided with revision for my A-Levels. Memories of sitting at my dining room table revising about African American Civil Rights, whilst watching almost every game of the tournament.

However, I do have a vested interest in a team, quite outsiders this year, Burkina Faso. Until last week they had failed to win an AFCON match away from home soil, since 1988. They eradicated that curse with a 4-0 thrashing of Ethiopia. I have an each-way bet on them to win the competition this year, at odds of 33/1.
Therefore I have been making sure I keep upto date with match reports and looking at BBC Sport daily as soon as I finish work.

The point of my first post in this new sparkling blog is to point out the huge differences from our own English game to that of the African game.

Our supposed ‘greatest league in the world’ is consistently dogged by; accusations of diving, managers criticising referees in post-match interviews and more recently racist abuse.

However, similar to the 2010 World Cup this tournament seems more about the football, than it’s players. More about the game, than it’s makers. More about the fans, than it’s rules.

From the Roger Milla dance in Italia ’90 to 2013, African football seems to have come a long way.

Perhaps it is time that our governing body the FA look at our game, and attempt to make it once more about the football, as opposed to the people related to it.

This, some would some say, can only be allowed to happen if the media let it happen. In my opinion, this has gone too far now, and will never be reversed. Big football stories sell papers, and make money.

So, a European country that came a highly regarded 17th on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2012, could learn a metaphorical ‘footballing lesson’ from a continent, that politically is phenomenally unstable, corrupt, economically unable to compare.

Football; it’s a funny old game (cringe from use of the cliche).