The First of The UnMagnificent Seven Ride away -Paulinho moves on – a Dan Raywood post

Over the next two weeks the sport headlines will be dominated by tennis, giving football a two week break amid rumours and confirmations of transfers.

Today (29th June) saw a couple of significant announcements and while the focus will be on Cech to Arsenal, in my view there is a much more significant transfer being reported. Some may not understand why Paulinho to Guangzhou Evergrande in China from Spurs for £9.8M (apart from the fee) is significant, but it is because this is the first of the seven signings to leave White Hart Lane.

Those seven signings, funded mostly by the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid in 2013, have had varying degrees of success. Mostly from the satisfactory (Eriksen) to promising (Lamela) to surprising (Chadli), while the other three (Chiriches, Soldado, Capoue) will likely join Paulinho on the way out.

So much was made of the signings and the best analogy I heard was that we sold an iPhone and bought a calculator, compass, alarm clock etc. The signings promised so much as we needed strength at the back and bought an international Centre back, we needed a strong striker and bought one of the best from La Liga, and we got promising young players from Ajax and Roma. Sadly none were the next Modric or Bale, and the suspicion is that some of the signings were done by Franco Baldini, another man likely on his way this summer.

It’s not the end of an era, just the memorable end to a summer where Spurs spent and spent some more, and for a while we looked like the team we could become but ended up a shadow of what we were.

I predict that three will be permitted to stay and will be revaluated in 12 months time, while others will be permitted to leave this summer too.

Lastly it’s not Paulinho’s fault, it’s just that he arrived after a successful Confederations Cup tournament and had the tag of a Brazilian Frank Lampard. He got some starts but never consistently delivered and the option was to stay and fight for a place against emerging youth talent in Bentaleb and Mason, or move on, and I hope that this move to reunite him with his former Brazil manager Luis Felipe Scolari is the right one.


Football Fixtures Release Day – How was it for your team? – Premier League

At 9am the English league football fixtures were released allowing fans to get excited or to release a collective sigh. Fans of newly promoted AFC Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich City all waited with excitement to see how their respective sides would be welcomed into top flight football. Watford and Norwich City fans had already experienced the wait for the Premier League fixtures, but for AFC Bournemouth this was the first time. Like a small club waiting for a giantkilling in the FA Cup, fans would wonder who they might host or where they might head to.

Fans of the Cherries found that they would play host on the opening day of the season to FA Cup runners up Aston Villa. Watford travel to Everton and Norwich City play at home to Crystal Palace. For Bournemouth their trickiest tie in the opening few games, is a trip to Anfield. They then don’t play another of the big guns till 17th October when they travel to Manchester City. For Watford, their trip to the title challengers Man City, comes a little earlier in August.Norwich follow up their Palace opener with games against Sunderland, Stoke and Sunderland.

So what beckons for our new boys over the Christmas period, where the games can sometimes have a little glimpse of the outcomes of clubs end of season hopes. For Bournemouth Christmas doesn’t seem too bad, on Boxing Day, they host Crystal Palace, two days later a trip to London and a visit to the Emirates, whilst the new year opens up with a trip to Leicester City. For Norwich City, they travel to London and a visit to Tottenham on Boxing Day, a visit to the Midlands on the 28th and kick off the new year with hosting the Saints on the second.

How does the run in look for our newly promoted teams? Will they be battling for Premier League survival, will they be securing mid table or could they even pull off a top ten spot, who knows. What we do know is that the fixtures in April and May will be crucial to their destiny. For Norwich City, April could be a bad month to play in. Home games against Newcastle,Sunderland and Watford, are combined with  two visits to London including Selhurst Park and the Emirates. City fans might need to start praying for miracles in May. With the season brough forward, it means the season finishes two weeks into May. Unfortunately for Norwich they face Man Utd and Everton. Saying that though, we all know what kind of inconsistent form Utd and Everton can have.

The fixtures computer doesnt appear to have given much help to AFC Bournemouth for their run in. For a club that could be fighting for its Premier League survival, they host Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool with trips to Villa and Everton. May holds no help as they host West Brom before a final day game at Old Trafford. The computer doesn’t seem to helpful to Watford either. Four of the last seven games are trips away from home including visits to the Emirates and Anfield along with other promoted side Norwich. If any of these newly promoted sides are going to survive, they best hope for extremely good starts to the season.

What about the Chelsea, the defending champions will be looking to retain the title, but they are going to have a not so easy start. After a home time against Swansea City, the blues find themselves on the road for two weeks running with trips to the Etihad and to the Hawthorns. The September sandwich sees the Blues as the hosts in a meaty tie against rivals Arsenal. Either side of the all London game are visits to Everton and Newcastle.

Christmas and New Year period sees a post Boxing Day clash away to Man United. The victors of this match will feel like they have got an extra Christmas present. Their run in to possibly defending their title wont be easy although May might just prove handy with Leicester and Sunderland, their final two opponents.

Liverpool fans as well as Brendan Rodgers will not be looking too closely at the away fixtures in a hurry. The reds travel to Stoke City in a repeat fixture of the final game of the season. The following away fixtures see Man Utd, Everton, Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City. Im just glad there are home games mixed as it would be enough to send many red over the edge. I cant imagine Brendan Rodgers will be enjoy the first few months unless the squad is majorly strengthened. The Christmas period seems to be kind to Liverpool and with the seemingly traditional mid Christmas clash with Newcastle gone, it is replaced with a trip to their neighbours Sunderland. Boxing Day sees a home time against Leicester City and the new year sees Liverpool travel to Upton Park. The end of season run in where ever Liverpool may be challenging, sees more home games which could help the Merseysiders. Tottenham Stoke, Newcastle and Watford all have to go to Anfield in the month of April and May. If Rodgers is to survive past Christmas then he knows that his time have no excuses with the run in.

FA Cup winners Arsenal will be hoping to end their Premier League title drought this year. The season sees Wenger’s men start with two games in London and two trips up north. West Ham are the visitors to Arsenal whilst the Gunners visit the south east and Crystal Palace. Arsenal host Liverpool then face a trip to the North East and Newcastle United. Mid September to mid October provides a stern test for the Arsenal consistency. Mid September sees Arsenal travelling to Chelsea and Leicester with Man Utd, Watford, Everton and Swansea completing the line up for October.

November and December is usually when we see Arsenal start to pick it up in the League. November opens up with the North London derby with Spurs visiting the Emirates and then Arsenal pay visits to West Brom and Norwich. The fixtures computer seemed to be full North London joy as Manchester City provide the only toughest test of the month. Should Arsenal be on the title hunt, they will be having a mostly Southern based April. Apart from Sunderland, the Gunners face ties at home to Watford Palace and Norwich with a visit to Upton Park thrown in. The penultimate game for Arsenal is a tricky trip to the Etihad and depending on all that has happened, it could very well have a hand in where the title goes.

Manchester United who find themselves back at a chance of Champions League glory, kick off their season with a visit from Tottenham. Van Gaal will be hoping that his team can have a repeat scoreline of last seasons Old Trafford tie when they beat Spurs 3-0. They will though be hoping to avoid a repeat of the start of last season which is one that the red half of Manchester would be keen to avoid. September and October will provide some stern tests for United. Ties against Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal and Everton may not be quite an easy ride. The Christmas period looks good for Manchester United although a boxing day trip to Stoke followed by a home game against Chelsea, might leave United feeling like the Christmas turkey. The should be no complaints from Louis Van Gaal for the final few fixtures. Games against Spurs and Everton are likely to be the toughtest. Saying that though a home tie against Leicester City might have the United fans having uncomfortable flashbacks.  The final two games for United are both the newly promoted Norwich and Championship winners Bournemouth. By then there might not be much to play for, but then again?

Football Flashback – 15th June

With Summer not playing ball as it should be (any wonder why it’s really called ‘Flaming June’), lets take a look back to possibly sunnier summers and June 15th in years gone by and see what delights were brought to the world. These will of course be all the ones I can remember starting with World Cup 86 in Mexico.

The World Cup was lucky to be held in Mexico as not long before, the nation had suffered an earthquake. Despite that, the competition went ahead. It started towards the end of May, believe it or not. Would never happen now, but by mid June, the finals were at the knock out stage. Mexico 86 was a good tournament all round and there were plenty of goals and Belgium ensured they weren’t going to miss out. They faced the Soviet Union who had netted 9 in the group stage. Belgium themselves had netted 5. I guess with two nations with a taste for goals it would hardly be of much a surprise that there were seven goals in a game that went to extra time. Having gone 1-0 and then 2-1 up, the Soviet’s might have been thinking of progression but a goal in each period of extra time from the Belgians meant that the only joy that the Soviet’s saw was Belanov bagging a hat trick.

The tournament in Mexico saw all but Wales reach the finals and only England progress out of the group stage. We of course all know what happened in the Quarter Final against Argentina.

In 1988, World Cup finalists, West Germany hosted the European Championships. Back then it was just two groups of 4 nations with the top two taking part in the semi finals. The finals competition that featured West Germany,Italy, Spain, Netherlands and England amongst the front runners,  did not see a single sending off, a 0-0 draw or any of the knock out games go into extra time or penalties. Quite an achievement not to see the likes of West Germany and Netherlands battle it out with no sendings off, although the game will be remembered for the spitting incident.

For England it was a tournament to forget. Having been drawn alongside the USSR, Netherlands and Republic of Ireland, the work was certainly cut out. Having previously lost to Ireland in the opener, it was not a game against the Dutch. A game that would look ok after Robson levelled for England, the Dutch magician Marco Van Basten would have other ideas and would bag himself a hat trick. The Oranjemen would find themselves winning the only major tournament in their history to date an no doubt enjoyably in their ‘enemies’ back yard.

Italia 90 saw the World Cup that saw few goals but quite a number of red cards. Come the 15th June 1990, it was still group stage and the only action in this day was to see some the group where the number of goals bucked the trend. West Germany in their final tournament before unification netted 5 against the unfortunate United Arab Emirates. The West Germany scorers list showed something more akin to a whose who of footballing great. Rudi Voller bagged two, along with a certain Jurgen Klinsmann and Lothar Matthaus. Later in the tournament West Germany would face England and the start of the inevitable penalty shoot out defeats would begin. It would also be remembered for Gazza’s tears in the semi final.

Scotland would find the 15th June a date to forget as they were up against World Cup winners West Germany. The Scots could have really upset the applecart in this group. The went into the final game only requiring a point to make the next round. A simple task for most nations…except if you are Scotland and having to play West Germany to progress. The Scots lost 2-0 and went home. England failed to progress under what was Turnip Taylor’s first and only competitions finals. England having drawn 0-0 against Denmark (included due to the international situation with Yugoslavia) and against France, had to get a result against Sweden. England who had been robbed of various players through injury before the tournament, lost against the hosts in a game that was to be Gary Lineker’s last international game and replaced by Alan Smith.

The World Cup in 1994 wouldnt kick off until 17th June, although some might wish it never kicked off at all. Brazil won on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

Ah yes Euro 96 was next, now that was a Summer of football sun and nerves. Not only that but the cult hit Three Lions was echoing around the stadiums. The competition was in England and had seen a bit of controversy involving the England squad and Paul Gascoigne….surely not. Anyway 15th June 1996 saw England face Scotland, the auld enemy and what a game to be had. The sun was out, Wembley was full the fans hopeful. After a goalless first half, Alan Shearer broke the deadlock in the first ten minutes of the second half. The game seemed to edge ever closer towards a single goal win and then Seaman committed a foul and gave away a penalty. The then Arsenal goalkeeper made amends by saving the penalty from Gary McAllister. Moments later and England are on the attack and Gazza receives the ball chips it over Colin Hendry and bang, ball in the back of the net 2-0 game over. England would win the group with a 4-1 pasting of the Netherlands in the final game. The single goal from the Netherlands would prove crucial as it would deny Scotland progressing into the knock out stages.

So to France 98 and another release of three lions reworked for the World Cup. England and Scotland made the short trip across to France. A warm sunny day in Marseille saw England kick their campaign off. A relatively easy group for England. Only Tunisia, Columbia and Romania…ahem to deal. England opened with a win against Tunisia with Paul Scholes finishing the scoring with a goal one minute from the end. This World Cup would be the tournament that saw England make its damned hardest to actually not progress.

Not much happened in Euro 2000. It was wet miserable awful and that was just the England performances. We did however beat Germany 1-0. France won the tournament with a golden goal win against Italy. What they should have called it was the anti climax goal.

So to World Cup 2002 in Japan and South Korea. A tournament to be enjoyed…unless you were French, Argentinian, Portuguese. These three nations failed to get to the knock out stages. The 15th June was proving to be a good day for England. This time round it was the first knock out stage and a tie against the Danes. The Danes had topped their group whilst England had laboured to second after a second group draw, this time against Nigeria. There would be no slacking in the knock out round. The Danes who had looked like being a threat to England, found themselves turfed out with a 3-0 defeat. England of course would go out in the next round after Brazil beat England 2-1 with Seaman being lobbed on the line (Stop it you filthy lot).

Now if there was a competition for nations making it completely difficult for themselves, England would be record holders. It was Euro 2004 this time and England who thankfully avoided the playing on the 15th, stole defeat from the jaws of victory. England had taken the lead against France in the first half, but with the matter of a few minutes remaining saw France bag two goals in the 90th minute including a penalty. England managed to progress only to lose to Portugal on yes you know what. Having lost Rooney through an injury in normal time, the game saw extra time and then penalties. Mr Reliable David Beckham took England’s first and when he slipped and missed, it kind of summed things up.

World Cup 2006 saw England make it easier on themselves in the group stage and even recorded a win on the 15th, but alas could still not beat Sweden as they were held to a 2-2 draw. Like Euro 2004, England faced Portugal. Like last time Rooney was involved, this time he was sent off and England lost the penalty shoot out….You expected something else?

Euro 2008, no England, no real shocks. France disappointed and Spain started their international domination beating Germany in the final.

World Cup 2010 saw Fabio Cappello guiding England down in South Africa. The 15th June saw New Zealand open their group with a 1-1 draw against Slovakia whilst disappointment would reign supreme for Italy who picked up a solitary point. Controversy would come in the England match in the knock out. Lampard seeing his shot cross the line only for the referee to miss it entirely. Apart from that it was a cracking world cup which saw a fantastic game between the Netherlands and Uruguay.  The winners would be Spain after beating the Dutch by a single goal in the final.

Euro 2012 saw England feature in the finals again. Another joint held tournament saw goals a plenty England win on the 15th AND beat Sweden in a finals tournament. Who would have expected that. Surprises were to be had in the tournament. The Dutch who had looked like world beaters in the World Cup, finished bottom of their group without a win. France who had previously struggled saw themselves finish second behind England. A 2-0 defeat in the final group game costing them top spot.

Of course where you get the surprise, you also get the quelle surprise. England faced Italy in the knockout round. It finished goalless although Italy could have won in normal time. It went to penalties. Having seemed like things might change when England went 2-1 up, that’s as far as it went as Young and Cole both missed their penalties.

So there we have it June 15th is reasonably good for England and the home nations to be honest…Hang on what about World Cup 2014? Well some things are best left forgotten.

And so that brings the end to the Football Flashback, keep an eye out for another one coming soon.

Time For Genuine Change – FIFA needs more than just Blatter gone

Despite the election then resignation intent of Sepp Blatter, it is going to require much more than just his resignation to get the organisation back to where it should be. In theory FIFA as we know it, should be shut down and a new organisation set up with fair impartial elections a brand new committee to drive the organisation forward in a positive manner. Ultimately it would see the removal of Russia and Qatar as the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively.

The removal of Russia and Qatar as hosts of the World Cups they were selected for, may to some seem unfair. In reality though it is the only thing to be done. Whilst Russia could have claimed  legitimate reasons for hosting the World Cup, their stances on certain aspects, would make it difficult for an enjoyable competition. 

In the case of Qatar, there is no justification for the country to be hosting the prestigious tournament. There is no football heritage, there is no proper football history or decent football set up. How can a nation whose summers are far too hot, no World Cup history, socially backwards, even be genuinely hosting a World Cup. There was talk that the competition could be moved to the winter to enable reasonable conditions. No bloody chance. UEFA with a backbone would kick up a fuss.

With the investigations picking up, word would appear that there were allegations that both Russia and Qatar bought votes, the possibilities of FIFA stripping the current 2018 and 2022 hosts of their award are becoming ever more realistic. The rightful thing would either be to have a new process or award it it to one of the nations that had missed out before. The 2018 World Cup could come to England and the 2022 World Cup could go to Australia.

Until Blatter has departed and the many of the remaining officials removed, we may not get to see what the fans truly deserve, the beautiful game being enjoyed for the on field delights and not the off field nightmares.