Monday, 29 October 2012

Technology in football - “Football has become too large and important to accept constant, incorrect decisions.”

Modern technology; what a wonderful progression it has been to all of us, countless advances that have improved our everyday life. It even has ventured into sport, cricket, tennis and rugby just to name a few, improving the quality of decisions made to ensure a more even playing field for all involved.  Rugby, tennis and cricket fans love the fact that they can 99% of the time be sure that the correct decision has been made in their sport; of course if the correct decision wasn't made that would be unjust, unfair and unwarranted, wouldn't it? Sports fans should just expect that the game is officiated to a correct standard, is that too much to ask? Surely we should just assume that much? Clearly not. Football has been plagued over recent years by poor, inadequate refereeing decisions that have changed the course of a vast number of matches. In an age where an iPhone can tell you whether or not you should take an umbrella out with you and a train network in China can work just through magnetic forces there’s no wonder footballs fans’ eyebrows have been raised so frequently over comparatively simple technology that is already being used to great effect in many top sports worldwide.
                How much longer do we as football fans have to wait for technology to be implemented into the game? There are countless examples that merely with technology the correct decision would have been made and the correct team would have won. Too many times referees and their assistants have made huge errors costing teams vital results. You don’t have to look further than Chelsea against Manchester United last weekend; the game was anything but boring. 5 goals, 2 red cards, a host of poor refereeing decisions and a racism accusation on the games’ referee highlighted football’s increasingly poor reputation. Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez scored the winning goal from what looked like, in real-time, an onside position. Replays have since proven that Hernandez scored the winning goal from a run that started in an offside position. Had technology been in place the goal correctly wouldn't have stood, instead Manchester United claimed all 3 points somewhat unfairly. Not only was the final goal controversial but also Fernando Torres’ sending off, the referee gave Torres a second yellow for simulation but replays have shown that Jonny Evans tackled had indeed made contact with Fernando Torres.  Evans admitted contact but claimed that Torres could have stayed up and carried on. This is one of the main issues with technology, how far do you go with it? Do you implement it into every single corner and angle of the pitch or do you leave it at just off-sides and goal-lines. Another issue is that the definition of diving is somewhat loose. Is diving going down without receiving any touch or is diving also making the most out of little contact. I think that diving is purely going down without feeling a touch as that is blatantly cheating, when there is contact I feel that players should carry on but due to the increasing number of players that do go down too easily it is no longer advantageous for players to be honest. It’s a sad time for the game but it’s become all too common, a small touch may not be enough for a grown man to go down but it may well be enough for them to win a penalty and potentially win the game. That’s the reality of the situation. Torres did get a fair amount of contact and at the speed he was running I don’t think it was unreasonable for him to go down. At first sight I thought Evans could have been walking off rather than Torres. Don’t get me wrong, I do not like diving one bit but I think that now we have to accept that some contact is enough contact for a foul to be given.
                I also don’t blame referees for this huge controversy. I think their job is becoming increasingly difficult with the sheer number of controversial incidents that they have to officiate. After all they are only humans, they can’t see through players in the way and they can’t review the decision from 5, 6 or even 7 different angles. They have to judge the issue on their first sight, their first instinct which can often be wrong. I admit, I thought Hernandez looked onside; it was only after the second replay that I was proven wrong. The blame, in my opinion, shouldn't be placed on officials; the blame entirely rests with footballs governing body – FIFA. They have the power to bring in technology that would help referees with their impossible task, the power to stop wrong decisions and to keep football as fair as possible. So much rests on modern football that one decision can stop a club making Champions League football or staying in the Premier League, which can have huge consequences for the clubs’ finances. Football has become too large and important to accept constant, incorrect decisions.
                Some say that football’s flow and natural appeal would be ruined if technology were to come into play. Technology would take just a couple of minutes a game and considering the amount of fouls, injuries and time-wasting it would have little to no affect on the current flow of the game. Think how many times teams waste countless seconds when they are winning at every opportunity, think how many times players waste minutes and minutes rolling around faking an injury, then think how long it would take for a referee to refer to an official review board to make the correct decision. In context, the small stoppage is, for me, definitely a worthwhile stoppage. Part of me understands why football fans wouldn't want technology, some of the appeal of football is debates but surely you’d rather be debating tactics or the performances of teams rather than how they were unfairly cheated out of a win or a draw. Being on the end of a wrong decision is hard to take, especially when you've put in a 90 minute shift worthy of winning the game, why would football fans want to talk about a wrong decision, like I said I’d rather debate performances and potential than inaccurate decisions.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Fickle Fans - Wouldn’t football be better without them?

After all, they are the one’s who moan and groan the minute things go wrong and the one’s who think their club is the best in the world when results are going well.

Pressure on the managers’ and teams are at an all-time high with instant on-field success vital. I can’t stress the word instant enough. 3 games into a season and already teams are being booed off for poor performances. 3 games! All football fans know that teams go through patches of form, whether it is good or bad. It happens; that’s football. Any team can perform poorly in three consecutive games; Barcelona, Arsenal and Chelsea have all done it. It’s the ability to go through equally as good patches and consistency that determines the quality of a side. Consistency is such a key word; often teams who do have consistency, both on the field and off the field, are more successful in the long-term. You only have to look at David Moyes and Alex Ferguson as prime examples. In the time Alex Ferguson has managed Manchester United for 1000 games, Bristol Rovers have had 20 managers. New jerk reactions get you nowhere in the long-term. So why, after just three games of football, are some fans moronically booing players off the pitch.

Andre Villas Boas’ Spurs side was one of them. Granted they’ve started poorly, but they’ve only been beaten by a strong Newcastle side. They are still adapting to a new manager, a new style of play and multiple comings and goings. Spurs management and players know they have to improve but with the quality they have, it’s only a matter of time. I think Spurs need to forget his time at Chelsea because it didn’t go well there. But he is young and learning from his mistakes, he knows it can’t end like it did at Chelsea or his managerial career in England is all but over. I remember a certain Mr Ferguson was very nearly sacked but Manchester United held faith with him and the rest, as they say, is history.

                                Under Pressure just three games into his three year contract

                Another example is much closer to my heart; Bristol Rovers. Those who read my posts and tweets regularly will know this. But like Spurs, after just 3 games we were booed off after, I must say, a poor performance against Morecambe with just one point from nine so far. The reaction of ‘so called’ fans was a disgrace to the club. As I said previously, anyone can play poorly for three games. We were poor in the second half against Morecambe but we were very unlucky not to get the 3 points at Wycombe for obvious reasons and by all accounts we should have beaten Barnet. However, regardless of this, fans are supposed to ‘support’ the club and stick with them through the tough times; I wouldn’t even describe these as tough times. That’s how fickle some of the Rovers’ supporters have been. Just one week ago the Rovers’ fans were saying that we needed to use the Wycombe injustice to boost our season and that they’d never seen a Rovers’ fan base so united. One loss later and the mood amongst fans couldn’t be more different. There is a split in the supporters’ mentality; there are the fans that moan as soon as things go ever so slightly wrong, then you have the more tolerant fans that are willing, as they should be, to give McGhee much more time. Mangers can go from being a messiah to brainless in just three games.  A quote from one Rovers forum I read last night sums up my point, ‘We have a defence that cannot a defend ,A midfield that cannot create chances and A strikeforce that cannot score goals’. We named an unchanged lineup from the Wycombe game in which some fans branded us as brilliant and that we tore through Wycombe, yet one game later supposedly the players are all useless.

            I will also never understand why fans would boo after three matches. I just can’t see the reasoning behind it. I know that everyone’s entitled to their opinion but when we all support the club and therefore want the best for our team surely they know it doesn’t benefit the side. So why don’t they keep it to themselves? The argument that fans just want to let the players know that they aren’t happy is also ludicrous; the players aren’t disillusioned. Irrelevant of what club you are, the players are never going to be happy with a 3-0 loss. They know they’ve performed poorly just as much as we do. When fans go onto forum and post derogative statements, stating how we can win ‘for sure’ and ‘why doesn’t the manager do this’, it’s almost as if they’ve suddenly become mini-Mourinho’s. Do this, do that, that’s how we win. When in reality, they have as much clue about tactics as Ian Dowie’s little toe. The fact that fans chanted ‘'you don't know what you're doing' to Mark McGhee, a man who was managed over 600 games, tells you all you need to know.

            When fans start abusing players I despair. What makes you feel the need to verbally abuse one of your own players? They are trying their best to get the maximum results for your club, sometimes it isn’t possible. You wouldn’t want someone coming into your work swearing and shouting at you when you know full well that you’ve done all that you can and fallen short. Players are humans, like us, they want to succeed; they have feelings and they can hear the foul language aimed at them. How does that help boost the players’ performance? It only pushes their confidence lower and lower making good performances all the more unlikely. It’s just a way of some small minded thuggish supporters releasing their frustration onto players rather than dealing with it themselves in a professional manner.

I hope this may change any readers’, who have ever booed without reason, view on booing. I will leave you with one final quote from a respected Rovers fan which sums up some of the more tolerant section of the fans ‘Some Rovers fans really are poisonous, impatient, nit-picking morons. I used to be proud of our supporters, can't say I am anymore.’

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Bristol Rovers 0-3 Morecambe - A Game of two halves

                Bristol Rovers were heavily beaten 3-0 by Morecambe adding to their disappointing start to the League campaign. A period of just 10 minutes saw Rovers concede 3 goals, and with it, the 3 points on offer.

As they say ‘it’s a game of two halves’. Today’s game was one of those. During my pre-match meal the message from Ian Holtby was that Rovers would ‘start like lightening’. Had Holtby toned down his statement and said it after 15 minutes he would have been correct. Morecambe started the brighter of the two sides, keeping possession well without troubling the Rovers backline too much. That was until the 15th minute when Morecambe’s Wright wriggled past two Rovers players before smacking the post, leaving Sam Walker well beaten. That was the wake-up call that Bristol Rovers so desperately needed, instantly shocking the home team into life. Rovers asserted large amounts of pressure with Morecambe struggling to fully clear their lines. The home side had numerous attempts blocked during a 25 minute passage of play where Morecambe looked much the weaker side. Just before half time Rovers’ Eliot Richards attempted a life foot drive after cutting in from the right but the strike lacked enough power and placement to beat the keeper. Bristol Rovers were by far the stronger side but lacked the tempo and creativity to penetrate a stubborn Morecambe defence, who were constantly looking to knick a goal on the break.

                The second half was a complete reversal from the first. Morecambe came out much the stronger side retaining possession well and causing the Rovers defence much more trouble than they did in the first half. It took just 7 minutes into the second half for Morecambe to break down Rovers, a well weighted knock down found McDonald who calmly slotted his shot past an outstretched Sam Walker. Morecambe’s goal allowed them to stamp their authority on the game with Rovers struggling to keep hold of the ball; repeatedly losing. Morecambe had another chance to double their lead when Eliot Richards was out-muscled forcing a great save from Rovers’ goalkeeper Walker. 5 minutes later Morecambe did in fact double their lead when Rovers’ Lee Brown missed his attempted clearance gifting Fenton Morecambe’s second goal of the afternoon. Kevin Ellison rounded up a horrific 10 minutes for the Pirates when Wayne Brown lost possession sloppily in the middle of the pitch allowing Ellison to run at the defence and capitalise on Rovers’ second mistake in just 5 minutes. The final 30 minutes completely fizzled out with the Rovers side looking shock of all confidence and fight allowing Morecambe to gain all 3 points with ease.  You know it’s been a bad game when the highlight was when Adam Virgo tripped over Alessandra sparking calls from the Blackthorn end calling for the sending off of our own player.

A very poor second half showing overshadowed a decent first half performance from Rovers; during a nightmare second half ten minutes in which three goals were conceded.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Belgium desperately need their players to adapt to International football.

It’s that time of the year again; the summer transfer window. When players are rumoured to be signing for 4 different clubs at the same time. Every year there’s one club that’ll overspend, or find the next big thing. However it’s very rare to see such a drastic move of one nationality of players within one transfer window. A total of 5 Belgian players have either transferred to/or within the Premiership this window, joining 9 other Belgian players already playing their trade in the top English league. So why is there such demand for Belgian players at the moment? It’s not hard to see why when classy players such as Hazard, Mirallas and Vertonghen were playing very well in seemingly ‘weaker’ leagues, they grabbed the attention of larger clubs and since have moved on. There is no doubt the Premiership will be a much tougher test for these new Belgian players but there is no question in my mind that they will be a success not only in the long term but also the short term.

So why is Belgium ranked just 53rd in the world? This current Belgian team have real quality throughout the pitch; it’s a mystery as to why they aren’t performing well internationally. They haven’t qualified for the past five major tournaments, most recently Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Belgium have a very strong defence including Vermaelen, Kompany and Vertonghen, three of the best defenders in not just the Premier League but world football. In central midfield they have Witsel, Defour, Fellaini and Dembele who all like to be on the ball and are very talented passers. Fellaini and Witsel prefer to hold in midfield intercepting opposition attacks whilst Dembele likes to play a more advanced role in behind the strikers, Dembele was a real creative force for Fulham last year and earned himself a 15million pound move to Tottenham. Despite Dembele being an attacking central midfielder last season of all the players- in every position, not just central midfield, only Yohan Cabaye (116 tackles) attempted more tackles than Dembele (113 tackles). Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Dembele, with 86 successful tackles, won more tackles than any other player in the Premier League last season. As you can see, these four midfielders complement each other very well and are a well-balanced quartet.
                     Kompany - One of the best players in the Premiership last season

Belgium have some incredible attacking widemen such as Hazard, Mertens and Mirallas. All three are brilliant dribblers of the ball and are dangerous players. Hazard has started impeccably for Chelsea, making 6 assists and scoring once in his first three games for Chelsea. One highlight of Hazard’s play is his agility; he can turn with the flick of a switch causing real problems for defenders, who more often than not are much slower than Hazard. Last year for Lille Hazard scored 20 goals in 38 games and assisted 15 times. A record 90% of out and out strikers would envy. Mirallas and Mertens also possess similar qualities, pace and trickery being main features in both of their games.

Belgium have Lukaku to turn on in the striker position. Lukaku is strong, fast and great in the air; he is a handful for any defender purely because of his immense strength. The only question mark over Lukaku is his pedigree and experience, especially when Belgium don’t have a wealth of forwards to fall back upon.
Not only is Belgium’s first eleven strong but they also have strength in depth, with De Bruyne, Mertens, and Courtois gaining an avergage of just 5.6 caps each.

                Is the future bright for Belgium? One would assume so. The majority of Belgium’s players are young, or coming into the peak of their careers. The average age of their last squad was just 24.58 years old which is a good mix of experience and youth. Their key players are even younger than the average age with Mirallas (24) Fellaini (24) Lukaku (19) Hazard (21) Witsel (23) and Mignolet (24). All six players still are a long way from being the finished article with lots of room for growth, which must excite Belgian fans massively. Belgium also have Vermaelen (26) and Kompany (26) coming into the prime years of their career where they'll be performing at their best. You have to say in 3 or 4 years time Belgium should really be inside the top 25 teams in the world when they have such quality players to call upon.

A potential Belgium line-up. Surely better than 53rdin the world?

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The game isn't played on paper

Owners should stick to buying oil rather than corrupting our heritage-filled football clubs

Sheikh Mansour. A man worth around £17billion. The name may not be familiar to many, but very familiar to all Manchester City fans, having provided around £300million for club transfers in the period 2008-2012, with the record signing standing at £47million. However Bristol Rovers’ record transfer fee paid in their 129 history is just £375,000 and transfer totals in the period 2008-2012 equating to just £250,000. Bristol Rovers are lingering in basement of league football whilst Manchester City is top of the premier league.  

The difference between these two sides? Money… Money creates an uneven playing field in football that wasn’t there just 20 years ago.

How can lower league teams compete with top clubs? Especially when top-flight clubs have 100x the spending power. Quite simply – they can’t. With money you can attract the world’s best players and pay top wages. Obviously money can’t guarantee success instantly… but over time it does. Before the huge investment Manchester City hadn’t won a trophy since 1976 but now have recently won the FA Cup and are currently challenging for the premier league title.

Before 2005 Chelsea had just one trophy since the 1970’s but since the takeover of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich they have won 10 trophies in the last decade. Money is now fuelling the success of these modern clubs. What’s happened to the days when almost anyone could win a league each season? Are these examples enough to show you how money has ruined the game?

Why do we accept some foreign money-loaded oil tycoon taking charge of our beloved football clubs? Most owners don’t even care about the club, many won’t even attend games and I’m sure if you asked 80% of foreign owners they wouldn’t be able to tell you their past few results. Owners buy our clubs just as money ventures, to waste of bit of their mind-blowing levels of riches on, take up an afternoon one day a week, running it as a business or an investment rather than a football club. These owners are stripping the club’s heart out and charging fans extortionate prices. To avid supporters our clubs are engraved in our blood, we live day in day out just for the weekend to see the players run out on a Saturday afternoon. For money-eyed owners it’s become a gamble with their cash, to see how much they can make and I for one have had enough of them toying with our football club’s heritage and future.    

Fulham’s season tickets rose a massive 32.98% in comparison to last season, they haven’t been promoted and they haven’t won any trophies. Why should loyal fans accept such a drastic rise in prices? How can the club justify the rise? Devoted supporters are being ripped off out of their hard earned cash just so that the club can drain more riches for their ‘more money than sense’ owners.

Since 1985, average top division wages have risen from £25,000 to £1,100,000, a growth of 440%; with players potentially earning as much as £200,000 a week. This wage is by no means equal to the level of work that they do. Footballers may run out in front of 40,000 fans every week and are often very talented at what they do but when you compare footballer’s earnings to firemen, you can see how absurd their salary is. Footballers don’t deserve their earnings. Footballers are grown men and all they do is kick an air-filled ball around a grass field. How do they deserve double the yearly earnings of a fireman in a week? Top-flight footballers don’t put their body on the lines, they aren’t risking their life, they aren’t even providing a vital service. I know for a fact that everyone footballer couldn’t come off the pitch saying they’d given it their all in every game that they’ve played, that’s if they even make it onto the pitch. Carlos Tevez rejected the chance to play for Manchester City in the champions league; instead he sat on the bench claiming he wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Right frame of mind? Unbelievable! Tevez is playing on the world stage, getting paid mind-blowing amounts of money and he doesn’t think he can kick the ball around for 40minutes. I certainly know I could. Imagine if a fireman walked up to a blazing house and decided that he couldn’t be bothered to put the fire out. Footballers should see what soldiers and emergency services are put through to earn a fraction of what their wages. Then footballers would know what earning money really means.

Cheating, deception and diving. Three words not always associated with football but words that are now on the tip of many fans mouths after watching games. With the influx of foreign players in the last decade, the game has changed forever; mainly for the worse. With the introduction of new players, they brought with them some extremely irritating habits which undoubtedly have ruined our beautiful game: diving and simulation. Why are players attempting to con the referee in order to gain an advantage? They throw their bodies onto the floor in a theatrical manner. It seems as if modern footballers have lost their pride; shouting and throwing their arms into the air in pain, who could blame them? After all they had just been brushed on the shoulder.

Nowadays players fall down when they get touched; some of them should swap sports and do it off a springboard. It’s embarrassing to watch. Viewers could be forgiven for believing that a player had just been shot by a sniper, high in the stands. Footballers need a reality check. As honest players watch others dive and gain an advantage, trustworthy players are left wondering why they wouldn’t do similar things. And many have started too, more and more players have resorted to falling over to try and cheat their way to victory.

Foreign players have massively reduced the growth of young English talent. Instead of a young local footballer getting his first start, the English youth been left waiting and waiting as clubs have bought more experienced players, thus pushing local footballers further and further down the leagues. In the premier league 64% of all players are foreign, in contrast to the English League Two where just 23.5% of players are foreign, showing how drastic the effect of foreigners has been on stunting English football players’ ability growth. Our nation’s youths have been forced further down the leagues to get match experience in lower leagues rather than making the breakthrough in top divisions.

Arsenal symbolise the mass arrival of foreign players. In the 1989-90 seasons Arsenal had just two players born abroad, whereas in 2009-10 season they had 23 born abroad. We should be aiding our nation’s young English talent, not leaving them to ‘rot’ on the bench, especially as the players taking their places can barely speak even the basics of our language. There is enough talent in our own country if top-flight managers would just open their eyes, wake-up and give youths a chance. Why should our nation allow foreign players the potential to improve over our own? The basics have to change or England will be left behind in the international game.

Money has the crippled the game. It has turned it from an honest leisure activity to high stakes, high earning prima donna’s conning the referee into making bad decisions.

Clubs should be restored to their former glory days when 80% of a team line-up would be home-grown, a day when clubs made their success – not bought it. The days when players would be tackled 4 or 5 times in a row yet still carry on defiantly and when money wasn’t the motivation for players but instead the love of the game.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The RVP Situation

I have many viewpoints on the situation regarding RVP.

Robin Van Persie managed to score 30 league goals for Arsenal last season and won Player of the season.  At the age of 29 Van Persie has just one year on his contract, and a situation which is becoming increasingly common nowadays has once again occurred where the club has to decide whether to cash in on the player or hold onto him and run his contract down.

Many people have criticised RVP but if you take into account the fact that Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for over 7 years now and the pedigree of Van Persie it’s easy to see why he’d want to leave. Any human would get fed up with having to ‘carry’ the team; and when others don’t perform you have to start questioning the direction of the club. And this is exactly what Van Persie has done.

If Van Persie truly wants to go and his play-acting isn’t to get a new contract then I firmly agree with his decision to not sign a new contract. At the age of 29, having won no trophies with Arsenal, and therefore having very few trophies in his locker room he doesn’t have long left to start getting winners medals. It’s one thing for a player who is a middle of the road type of build, RVP however is not. RVP is a genuine world class player who deserves world class service and worldwide winners medals. It would be wrong of him to not attempt to move to a club who could well win something in the near future. I don’t think Arsenal fit into this category. They have too many ‘middle of the road’ players and not enough class amongst their ranks. If RVP stays at Arsenal he would basically be saying that he lacks ambition and drive, which is not the characteristics that allowed him to rise to stardom. Staying at Arsenal would more than likely lead to champions league qualification at best. I cant see how in the next 2/3 Arsenal are going to win trophies, especially when teams such as Man City, United and Chelsea are all buying quality signings to boost their squads.

If and probably when RVP leaves few could blame him for his decision.

Now theres a flipside to the situation; if RVP is claiming he isn’t signing a new contract purely to get a pay rise then I cannot defend him. If this is the case then he should be ashamed of himself, footballers these days think they are bigger than the club. One good season in 7 and he’s effectively holding the club at ransom. To come out and completely lie in order to get more money is absolutely disgusting. Players forget when they sign their contracts that the club is entitled to keep them to the end of it, often if this happens the player ‘sulks’ like a 12 year old girl.

However, I don’t think this will be the case and I firmly believe Robin will get his move. Few can complain about the move if his intentions are right and he moves to a club where he can win trophies. He is clearly a classy player when fit and deserves to be part of a trophy winning side.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Mustapha-stay or go?

I genuinely feel let down by Muzzy in the way he has dealt with the transfer rumours. When a player such as Muzzy comes along that gets you off your seat, shouting and cheering with excitement he is often a fan’s favourite, and this was the case had it not been for a small sulky tweet that made Rovers fans think twice as to whether Carayol really is a classy players, both on and off the pitch. It’s the attitude of such players, maybe even the general modern player that really irritates me. When Muzzy tweeted ‘Being held against your will is probably the worst thing in the world especially when promises are broken!!..well I guess u live n u learn!!’ I don’t think many people would argue the tweet wasn’t football orientated, and it’s this small 8 worded tweet that may have permanently changed Rovers’ views on him, especially if Carayol has played his final minutes for the gas. It’s the pure lack of loyalty that modern footballers show to their employees that disgusts me. Just little more than 12 months ago Muzzy was staring into Non-League oblivion when his Lincoln side got relegated to the conference, Rovers opted to give him his chance, is he repaying us? Not one bit. It’s not even like Muzzy has proved himself to be a consistently quality player at this level. Sure he tore apart poor Accrington and Burton sides in the closing stages of the season but just how good were they? At the end of the day, both sides had nothing to play for. Before January and Buckle’s dismissal Carayol was more inconsistent than David James’ haircut, he just couldn’t repeat rare high performances. Maybe that’s a sign of the type of player Muzzy is; good when times are going well but non-existent during the tough times when the true personality of a player comes through, is that really the sort of footballer we want wearing the blue and white quarters?

I also question how Muzzy can claim he is so called ‘being held against his will’ when we all know that he will get his move no matter how much the club wants to keep him, once a player decides they want to leave there is very little you can do to stop them moving on. We’ve seen it before with Kuffour and many others at various levels of the game. After all, Muzzy WAS the one who signed a 2 year contract with the club from a non-league side, he put pen to paper; not us. Now just one year into his contract he decides he wants to leave. Players have way too much power, and the famous cliché ‘no player is bigger than the club’ is oh so applicable here. If and more likely when Carayol moves on I’m sure the vast majority of Rovers fans will be disappointed but as we have done before, the club will move on. The sight of Carayol’s unhappy face sat on a championship side bench may well be a sweet taste in the mouth of us Rovers’ fans come the end of next season when hopefully we will be celebrating promotion!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Bristol Rovers 2011/12 Season Review

I have to admit I never really expected Rovers to be up near the top challenging for the title or even promotion, however like many other fans I did let part of myself imagine that maybe we could bounce straight back up. The situation was clear; we'd lost almost all of our squad and had no manager during the post season and to expect an instant rebound was very, very ambitious. There was a huge air of uncertainty hanging over the club.
     That was until Paul Buckle was announced as the new permanent manager. Buckle's CV boasted an impressive record with Torquay, who'm were undoubtedly a much smaller club with a smaller budget too. The prospects for Rovers looked bright, if Buckle had nearly got Torquay promoted, what could he do with Rovers? New players followed the manager into the club, including ex and current Torquay players; Scott Bevan, Mustapha Carayol and Craig Stanley and alongside new stadium plans suddenly the excitement around the clubs' future was restored. Pre-season friendlies only raised expectations with a 2-1 victory over Burnley and a 2-2 draw against a strong Iverness Caledonian Thistle side. When the first day of the season came all fans were hopeful the side could add weight their potential promotion favourite tags, and the result didn't disappoint. Having been in California for two weeks, my father and I travelled back just in time for a 10 minute pit stop at home and straight off to the game without any sleep. An exciting 3-2 victory over Football League newboys AFC Wimbledon showed that Buckle's playing style could quickly win over the crowd. But as soon as the hope and confidence around the club had come, it had gone. With just 6 points from 33 and Rovers lurking dangerously close to the relegation zone Paul Buckle was fired leaving Rovers with a critical appointment to make, one that could make or break the club. The FA Cup run had been the only spark in a dull season so far, the thought of Aston Villa in the third round at home was both mouth-watering and worrying. With caretaker manager Sean North in charge it seemed the impossible was made even more impossible and having lost 4 on the bounce letting in 14 goals in the prcoess it was concerning what premiership opposition may do to us. Even though we only lost 3-1 the performance showed a complete lack of desire to win the game, and didn't reflect the absolute dominance that Villa had during the match. Despite all this, Shaun North successfully steered the club to 4 points from a potential 6 giving Rovers a slight margin of safety from relegation.
     Given that Rovers had been in a similar position just 12 months ago it was understandable that the appointment needed to be correct. Experienced manager Mark McGhee joined the club as the permanent manager in January and seemed like a perfect appointment for Rovers. He had mounds of experience and had that professional touch about himself. Instantly the side responded with a further 4 wins from 5 games reducing fears that the Mem would be home to a conference side. McGhee never failed to impress me with the way he conducted himself and his ability to get the most out of the side. The final third of the season saw Rovers build on their renewed confidence safetly steering themselves away from relegation and into the safe positon of mid-table, the highlights being a 1-0 win against promotion chasing Southend and ending Swindon's run of 18 straight home wins with a 0-0 draw.
     The final two home games proved however to be, for me, the highlights of the season. The 7-1 thumping over Burton Albion in the penultimate home match saw Eliot Richards gain his first career hat-rick and very nearly broke the club record for the largest victory. It was a truely outstanding match to be at, the second half performance absolutely tore Burton's defence to shreds and by no means did the result flatter us. The 5-1 win over Accrington Stanley in Rovers' final home match was equal to, if not better than the win over Burton. Despite the score difference being less than the previous match, it was the manner in which Rovers' bossed proceedings. Each goal was either from a quality move or a lethal finish.
     If at the start of the season I was offered the chance to take a 13th position finish I honestly think I would have taken it. Taking into consideration the fact that in the post-season we had lost 17 players and had no manager a mid-table position was likely to be on the cards. I genuinely believe that with a few key additions to the squad and by retaining a large part of the team we can be at least challenging for a playoff place.
     I'd like to thank anyone who took their time to read any of my match reports and hopefully next season I'll be summarising a promotion winning season,


Sunday, 29 April 2012

5-1 (H) Accrington Stanley - Another rampant display

A lethal and polished home performance from Bristol Rovers saw them end their home campaign on a high

After hitting Burton Albion for seven last time at the Mem, Rovers fans were hoping for a repeat performance in a mid-table end of season clash, with both sides having nothing to play for apart from 3 points and pride.
     The blustery conditions made for a surprisingly cold end of season affair, with an action packed first half. In recent games Rovers' Mustapha Carayol has been the stand out player, and his fine form continued; within just a few minutes Carayol drove past the fullback and hit a low cross on two occassions, but it was Accrington Stanley who very nearly took the lead against the run of play when a deep cross rocked the cross bar in the 8th minute. Carayol opted on his third run of the afternoon for an early cross, finding Matt Harrold who dispatched a thumping header to make it 1-0 inside 11 minutes. Once again Carayol's runs caused all sorts of problems for the Stanley defence, this time beating two men before being bundled to the ground by an Accrington Stanley defender. Matt Harrold stepped up, and as he did in the 7-1 demolition of Burton, dispatched the penatly with confidence. This time however opting for placement over power; the spot kick narrowly passing the keepers outstretched arms. Few could be forgiven for thinking of another 7 goal thumping. Matt Harrold was the focul point of all Bristol Rovers attacks, linking cleverly with Eliot Richards and Mustapha Carayol on numerous occassions. Harrold turned provider for the third by chipping in a weighted cross which was met by Andy Dorman's weak foot giving Rovers a first half 3 goal lead. Stanley looked like a team well into their summer holiday, barely touching the ball as Rovers dominated proccedings. The Accrington's fans' costumes were more exciting and interesting to watch than the first team squad, and Rovers nearly made it four when Carayol's corner was headed powerfully by Aaron Downes only to be tipped expertly onto the crossbar by the Stanley goalkeeper. The only way Accrington looked like scoring was from a moment of magic or a Rovers' mistake, and it was the latter that denied Rovers the clean sheet when a Stanley corner wasn't dealt with by Scott Bevan, ending up in the far corner of his net. The goal swung the games' momentum in Accrington's favour, Amond almost giving Accrington a way back into the match when he took it past Rovers' keeper Bevan only to see his tame effort cleared of the line by Aaaron Downes.
     Stanley started the second half in the way they ended the first, on the offensive. A counter attack from Accrington stretched the opposition backline; Rovers' had Bevan to thank as he saved a strong point blank header from Accrington's Padraig Amond. Accrington later would rue the missed chances when a tricky run from Mustapha Carayol resutled in Matthew Lund's first Rovers goal coming from a tap in off Carayol's cross. The cherry on the cake was added when Wayne Brown seemed to have been clossed down well, yet somehow manaed to cross the ball into the edge of the area, via a dummy from Matt Harrold, Lund finished comfortably collecting his second goal of the game and Rovers' fifth of the afternoon.
     Rovers' showed precision and a touch of class on numerous occassions this afternoon and gave hope that next season a promotion push will be on the cards, ending the home campaign with 12 goals from the final two home games.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

7-1 Burton Albion (H) - Absolute Annihilation

Bristol Rovers ended a run of 5 games without a win by emphatically beating Burton Albion 7-1.

The game started brightly with both teams having large spells of possession, the first chance coming when a through ball to Richards was only cleared to Matt Harrold who, on the bounce, hit his bouncing shot narrowly past the post after 23 minutes. At times Burton were allowed too much time on the ball in advanced attacking positions, but it was from a long goal kick that Burton’s first goal scoring chance came. Rovers’ Cian Bolger allowed the ball to bounce through to keeper Scott Bevan but Burton’s Jimmy Phillips intercepted the ball, taking it past the keeper, and with the goal gaping somehow only managed to fire straight against the woodwork sparing the blushes of the Rovers centre back. Minutes before half time a quick free kick to Mustapha Carayol enabled the Gambian winger to power an effort from 30 yards out which looked like a routine save but for the swerve of the ball causing all sorts of problems for Ross Atkins who fumbled the ball into the net gifting Bristol Rovers a narrow lead heading into the break.
          The game sparked to life after half time, within seconds a missed clearance from Burton allowed Eliot Richards a chance on goal withstanding a strong challenge and coolly finishing past the onrushing Atkins. Just 8 minutes later a weak header from Tom Parkes was headed straight back leaving Parkes out of position and Zola one on one, Zola fired the ball in the roof of the net giving Burton a way back into the match or so it seemed. Eliot Richards again caused trouble for the Burton defence, latching onto a through ball and was clumsily brought down, resulting in a Rovers penalty. Matt Harrold stepped up and as so often this season powered his penalty home providing a two goal cushion for the pirates. The third goal gave Rovers renewed confidence and now looked comfortable in possession and started to dictate proceedings. Rovers’ Mustapha Carayol looked dangerous all afternoon, the crowd rising in anticipation whenever the winger was in possession of the ball, and it was Carayol who made the fourth goal; beating two men before crossing into Jim Patterson, recording his first goal for the club putting the ball into the back of the net with finesse. Burton crumbled after the fourth goal, knowing defeat was inevitable, they rolled over and allowed Rovers to punish them. Richards used his pace to pull away from the Burton midfield before switching play to Matt Harrold through a Wayne Brown dummy, Harrold picked up his second goal of the game with a rasping effort into the far corner. Straight from kick-off Rovers won back possession and sent Richards on another run, causing keeper Atkins and centre half to collide giving Richards an empty net to collect his second of the match. The rout wasn’t over yet for Rovers or Eliot Richards, his first ever hat-rick coming from a fine strike outside the area 10 minutes from time putting Bristol Rovers into seventh heaven. 
       Rovers absolutely dominated the second half and turned over a feeble Burton Albion side through some lethal finishing and class play from Eliot Richards and Mustapha Carayol.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

1-0 (H) Southend - Disciplined Display

A disciplined defensive performance saw Rovers gain a slim 1-0 victory over promotion chasing Southend United.

So much changes in the space of one month. When I last saw the Gas I was stripped in a scarf and two warm fleeces. Today I, among many others, took the luxury of shorts and a Rovers shirt. On the field matters have changed too, with Rovers comfortably safe from the drop, the thought of a top ten finish all too realistic now, we can hopefully start enjoying our football.
     Both teams started brightly, having spells of possession but few chances. The first came inside 12 minutes when a missed defensive header left Zebroski one on one, with Harrold and Lund in the middle; Zebroski decided to selfishly go alone hitting a poor effort yards past the post. As the game pogressed Rovers came more into their own, controlling large spells of first half possession but failing to make the most of it. Zebroski's 21st minute skillful run caused all sorts of problems in the Southend backline, before squaring it to Matt Harrold who hit a tame effort into the body of the keeper.
     Half time came, as so often happens the second half opened up; with Southend starting to create dangerous chances. 16 minutes into the second half, a long ball up to Freddy Eastwood was held up effectively, allowing Michael Timlin to hit a rasping effort narrowly over the bar. The chance was followed up by another, a far post cross enabled Eastwood to release a strong header which was well saved at point bank range by Scott Bevan. Mustapha Carayol struggled to get into his game, not helped by the constant double marking upon recieving the ball, but found room 5 minutes from time to release a shot inside the penalty whilst being brought down by Southend's Michael Timlin. The result... a Rovers' penalty. Up stepped Matt Harrold, who dispatched the penalty with power and confidence, his 14th goal of the season. 1-0 Rovers.
     With just minutes remaining, Rovers dangerously sat back and invited pressure on to them. A late surge from Southend United left Rovers' supporters with their hearts in the mouths especially when a strong 93rd minute penalty appeal was turned down and instead given as an edge of the area freekick, but with little success; the shot was blasted straight at the Pirates' wall. Rovers held tight and managed their 6th win in 12 games as well as their 6th clean sheet since the permanent appointment of Mark McGhee.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

2-2 Torquay (A) So close, yet so far...

Saturday afternoon, Rovers away, Gasplayer on.

You see, I always find it harder listening online; just waiting for the commentator’s voice to rise in tempo, shout and put a rovers players’ name upon the goal. 

As the commentators voice grew louder and quicker I looked up, catching Rene Howe’s name in the process, and as I bowed my head in frustration my dad started cheering downstairs, I rose to hear Matty Harrold’s name placed on the goal, his 12th of the season; the goal machine had claimed another!
What an improvement from the first half at Northampton.
And as the game progressed it seemed as if we were holding our own; against a Torquay team who’ve been up there all year.
When Chris Zebroski bursted through the Torquay backline there was only one ending. Against any other team you’d expect him to blast it high and wide but not against his old club.
The finish was sweet. Undoubtedly the best way to answer your critics and to silence the boo’s from the home crowd. Unbelievable . We were 2-0 up against a Torquay team who had recently been on an 8 match winning run.
But no sooner had I finished celebrating the goal, had Torquay gone down the other end and got a instant reply. Why Rovers? Why oh why? Can’t I just relax for the last 20minutes.
Having not worried us all game we now found ourselves on the back of a potential 2-0 deficit overturn. The attacks were relentless, each one causing my heart rate to spiral, Bevan guarding his goal well, oohs and ahhs reverberating around the ground.
Who else but Rene Howe to equalise… The man who looked like he struggled to run 90 minutes for us last season. How did he manage to score? Robbed. We’d let a 2 goal lead slip in the last minute of time.
The full time whistle went. Had it not been for a 2 goal lead, I’d be delighted with a 2-2 draw away to Torquay. I guess it wasn’t to be, despite playing well all match we couldn’t quite hold on for all 3 points.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

0-0 Macclesfield - Disappointing day at the office

WITH the luxury of a pre-match coporate meal on offer the matchday started well for me. Despite the records stating that Rovers were yet to beat Macclesfield at home the gasheads were positive, especially after our recent upturn in fortune. The pitch's quality continued to worsen, with every game passing its looking more and more like a beach, and the gusty Bristol winds helped ensure a tough game against a physical Macclesfield side.
     Rovers started well, looking confident in possession but struggled repeatedly to break down two back lines of the Silkman's defence. The first chance came when Macclesfield's Ben Futcher found himself obstructing the ball in the penalty area allowing Lee Brown the chance of a shot, but could only manage to hit the oncoming defenders.
     As the game progressed it was clear what Macclesfield's game plan was, to contain and fustrate our forwards and attempt to break quickly on the counter. This was evident with the treatment of Matty Harrold who was constantly (as always) being pulled and pushed by the opposing defender, so much so that I started to wonder if he had something to tell us! Macclesfield bore little threat going forward, their closest chances coming off the back of repeated long throws into the Rovers' box, but to little avail.
     The second half started how the first half ended, with Rovers pulling the strings and dominating possession but struggling to penetrate through the Macclesfield backline. Mathew Lund saw his dipping volley narrowly pass the crossbar after the ball was poorly cleared by the Macclesfield defence from a Rovers corner. Even though Rovers were the dominant force it was one of those games where you could see Macclesfield unfairly taking all 3 points from the mem, and it was almost the case when George Donnelly dispossed Rovers' Cian Bolger only to narrowly rifle past the post.
    Rovers, clearly unhappy to let the game peter out, decided to change things up with a double substitution, Stanley and Zebroski entering the fray. Craig Stanley instantly had the chance to break the deadlock by slipping a ball through to Mustapha Carayol who made space for himself firing a hard shot straight into the body of goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell. Macclesfield were thoroughly irritating at times, wasting as much of the game as they could after every foul or dead ball situation, so much so that keeper O'Donnell recieved a deserved yellow card for time wasting.
    Despite the utter dominance of Rovers the Silkman came away with a well fought for point. We lacked the cutting edge to break through a stiff backline but can be pleased with our overall performance. It was a credit to Rovers and our recent form that Macclesfield tried in every way to waste the remaining minutes of the game.