Early Merry Christmas

It’s an early Happy Christmas as at Match of The Doy, it’s an early and long break. I head to Australia for three weeks so won’t have an opportunity for blogging whilst enjoying what there is to enjoy down under. It’s a second time in almost two years for my visit to the land of gold and green.

It will of course be difficult and nervy keeping an eye on all things football back in the UK. Will Man City still be unbeaten, will Liverpool be unbeaten, can Man Utd muster up a performance worthy of enjoying and will Mourinho still be finding excuses.

There is a lot that will be happening over the next three weeks. I remember trying to keep on top of things last time which wasn’t exactly fun given the time difference.

So I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah and if you are not religious, I wish you a healthy happy time with friends and family and see you in 2019

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World Cup 2022 – An Expansion mess waiting to happen?

When Qatar was announced as the host of World Cup 2022, there were plenty of eyebrows raised and puzzled faces. There were plenty of nations that were better suited to hosting the greatest prize in international football and to most football fans, the Middle Eastern nation was not on any list, but obviously for FIFA it was.

There were plenty of reasons why this nation were never suited to hosting the World Cup and the first one being the temperature. As we all know, Qatar is in a rather hot part of the World. Temperatures in Doha in June, the usual month for World Cup football, saw highs of 45 Celsius. This to be honest is not tolerable to walk around in, let alone play 90 minutes of football. July barely cools either. Who on earth would have thought this was a good idea. It shouldn’t have mattered about money or it being the first Middle Eastern nation to host the World Cup,

Then of course you have the situation with the stadia. There will need to be new ones built to enable the competition to be completed. Most of the stadia have a maximum capacity of 12,000. Only three stadiums have plus 20,000 capacity. These are the Khalifa International Stadium which has 48000, the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium with 44,740 and the Thani bin Jasmin Stadium also known as the Al Gharrafa Stadium has a capacity of 21, 175. This has meant a number of stadiums to be built with 40,000 plus capacity

This though leads to another situation as Qatar league games are not exactly Stadium fillers. Ive tried to look for Qatari League attendance stats, but they are not easy to come by. From the limited information I could find, the highest league attendance is around 7000. It doesn’t bode well for post World Cup football especially with attendances at AFC Fylde and Sutton United in the National league likely to attract bigger attendances than some of the Qatari league games.

It is surely not too late to change things and give the tournament a new host, where football will be enjoyed by the host nations fans and the fans from other nations.

Expanding a tournament that is already looking like being a mess is not going to do FIFA any favours. This is one decision that doesn’t need to happen and should be reversed.  Any right minded football supporter would agree that Qatar or any other middle eastern nation should host a World Cup tournament.

 

Tynecastle Tops but how long for? – Scottish Premiership

So if I said to you back in the summer that the top two spots in the Scottish Premiership would be take up by Hearts and Hibs, you would have laughed and mocked me and rightly so. Eight games in and no ones laughing, although Hearts fans may want too forget their trip to Ibrox that saw them lose 3-1 to Rangers, having been 3-0 down at half time.  Craig Levein’s team are still top albeit by two points as  their local rivals Hibernian are hot on the tail and with a far superior goal difference. Their goal difference was improved as they thrashed Hamilton 6-0 well as a four game unbeaten run. For Steven Gerrrard’s Rangers, they took three crucial points that kept them within 3 points of Hibs and 2 of rivals Celtic.

Defending champions Celtic thumped St Johnstone 6-0 to make it two wins in a row after going winless two games running. The large win that saw a 5-0 half time lead,  enabled Celtic to move third on goal difference ahead of Kilmarnock, who themselves are currently enjoying an unbeaten run that included a win against the Hoops.

When Premiership football returns it seems a big game as Celtic host Hibernian. Third place Celtic know a win will put them back on track and even top if Heart fail to win. A win for Hibs on the other hand will keep them in second place at least.

Leaders Hearts host Aberdeen,  who started the season well but took 4 points out of 12 in September. It’s going to be an interesting contest as a Hearts victory will see them cement top spot but a Dons victory will see them close the gap and possibly see  the hosts drop to third if other results went against them. Hearts will hope to avoid a repeat of the defeat handed to them previously.

Kilmarnock travel to St Mirren knowing victory will keep them hot on the heels of the top two. They are only fourth behind Celtic on goal difference. Kilmarnock have a three game unbeaten run including a win over Celtic. In fact the only teams to hav beaten Killie are Hearts and Hibernian. The West coast club have beaten Aberdeen and drawn with Rangers in their other big games.

Unfortunately for their opponents, life has not been fab. Having beaten Dundee in their opening game, they only added a solitary point in September when they drew at home to Celtic. Having only bagged four goals in their 8 games, something tells me that they wont be getting 3 points this weekend.

Dundee go into their game away to Livingstone on the back of sacking manager Neil McCann. They have only bagged 3 goals whilst conceding 16 goals and this doesn’t bode well against a team whose only defeat came against Celtic in the season opener. Livingstone have themselves taken 7 points off of  Hibs ( W 1-0 Rangers) Hibs (W2-1) Hearts (0-0). It would take some divine intervention for the bottom placed club to upset

More than just a game – Thanet United Ladies raising money for MIND

This Sunday afternoon,  Thanet United Ladies FC take on Dartford at home. The league leaders though aren’t just looking to maintain their unbeaten run but are also  raising money for the mental health charity MIND. With a £2 entry fee and a bucket going round, the ladies hope to raise a few quid as one of their players Emerald Scanell plays her final game before heading down under.

Post game they will returning to the Elephant & Castle in Ramsgate to hold a pub quiz which will no doubt be a lot of fun.

Many of us have suffered or could suffer with mental health issues in the future, so raising money for MIND is a great idea and one worth supporting.

The game kicks off at 2pm at Manston Sports and Social Club. For more information about the team check them out at http://www.thanetunitedladies.uk or on their Facebook page Thanet United Ladies

The ladies are raising money for South East and Central Essex MIND, but if you are in the UK and either need support or wish to support the Mind charity, you can get in touch with them.

Southeast and Central Essex Mind https://www.seandcessexmind.org.uk

MIND https://www.mind.org.uk/

If you are suffering with mental health and don’t know what to do, talk to someone don’t be afraid as there are people who can help. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Football rule changes for 2018-19

The national transfer window is closed and we are just hours away from the return of Premier League football.  As Leicester City take on Manchester United in what will no doubt see a line of Jose Mourinho excuses ready if the Old Trafford team don’t win, but there will be a few changes in the coming season across the leagues and competitions.

Managers this season will see themselves on the end of a ban if they go too far, in the way of poor behaviour. Four  warnings from the ref and it’s a single one match ban. If the manager or coaching staff are pushing the enraged button even more and accrue another four taking the warnings to eight then it’s a two game ban. If they go on the crazy train of anger, and get twelve warnings it’s a three game ban and 16 it’s an FA misconduct charge and no doubt a whole lot of unhappiness.

We might expect to see technology being used in the technical area in the form of handheld devices, although for some managers later in the season, they might just be checking the news sites to check if they have been sacked before the end of the game. Rules had to be changed and those who choose to use unauthorised equipment will get removed from the touch line and anyone attempting to use it to show officials replays of poor decisions will be shown zero tolerance. It was seen as a way as players and officials would communicate and would be no real way of stopping it.

Suspensions see changes as players will who get yellow cards will only count towards the competition they are in. A yellow card in the FA Cup would not affect Premier League discipline. Sadly though for those receiving a red card  will though see their suspension affect all competitions.  The brighter or not so brighter news is that suspensions could be increased or decreased.

Bans will take place after five yellow cards, with a 19 game cut off, ten yellow cards  with a 32 game cut off and for fifteen by the end of the season, although that might be the least of their worries if they have reached fifteen yellow cards.

So the Carabao Cup (Why on earth are Carabao still sponsoring this competition) sees changes too. All games that are level at 90 minutes will go straight to penalties. There will be no more extra time, so maybe that will see clubs play to win if they don’t quite fancy it, There will be no more ABBA, don’t panic the greatest Swedish musical export is still around, but the ABBA format for penalty shootouts is dead and buried. It’s back to normal for the penalty shootout.

VAR will not be used in the Premier League, but will be used in the FA Cup and League Cup games at Premier League stadiums. Last season saw 19 games feature VAR, whilst this season will be increased to 60 games. I imagine many fans will hope that VAR in the domestic cup competitions will be slightly better than it was during the World Cup.

It looks certain to be an interesting  season ahead and as teams look to keep the reins on Man City’s title defence.

WSL – Tasty Big clash opener

A92033F7-291D-4991-9532-BFA0036A0022The slightly revamped Women’s Super League fixtures have been released and fans of the women’s game are going to be in for a treat as champions Chelsea host Manchester City. It’s not the only big game in the opening weekend as the Arsenal and Liverpool women’s teams kick their league programme off at Boreham Wood. The other fixtures in the opening weekend see Birmingham host Everton, Reading against Yeovil Town. WSL 2 winners Doncaster Rover Belles didn’t move into the WSL, but  Brighton Women’s team who finished second, will make their appearance in WSL and host Bristol City. The other new team sees West Ham join the top league after their successful application.

The WSL kicks off on the weekend of 8th and 9th September, sees for the first time a fully professional Women’s League features 11 clubs so, each week one team will sit out a fixture.

The WSL 2 is now renamed as the FA Women’s Championship and also features 11 clubs. Taking part in the renamed league are the Aston Villa Ladies, Charlton Athletic  Women’s team alongside Leicester City, Lewis, London Bees, Millwall, Spurs and the newly formed Man Utd and Sheffield United women’s teams. Managing the Man Utd women’s team will be a legend of the women’s game, Casey Stoney. Stoney takes on the clubs charge into women’s football management having graced the women’s teams of Arsenal (2) Chelsea and Liverpool, together with Lincoln. Not only that 130 women’s caps and 4 appearances for the GB women’s team. Stoney was player manager for Chelsea back in 2009.

The opening weekend fixtures for the women’s championship sees Aston Villa hosting Man Utd, Crystal Palace whilst Millwall Lionesses take on Lewes. Sheffield United take on Durham whilst it’s an all London affair as Tottenham take on London Bees.

It looks like being another exciting season with the changes made to the Women’s Super League.

Liverpool coming together

Having run so close last season in the Champions League and 25 points behind runaway champions Man City, Jurgen Klopp wasted no time in adding to the already Liverpool bound Naby Keita. Within days of  the Champions League defeat, Brazilian midfielder Fabinho was arriving at Liverpool. Nabil Fakir was next on the radar but issues arose and despite him appearing to have a number and give an interview in for Liverpool, the deal didn’t complete. Talk goes on regarding whether he will still come to Anfield before the transfer window ends.

The Champions League blunders by Lorius Karius were still in the minds of the Liverpool fans but it seemed that Klopp was still backing the young German. It turned out that he had suffered concussion after a collision with Ramos during the final against Real Madrid. This saw a split between many fans. Some believing it and some claiming it was a cover up. This of course would be a cover up that included the legendary  Franz Beckenbauer, who had got in touch with Jurgen Klopp to inform him of the news.

There  was no talk of a new keeper coming in and and Klopp was  going along the line that the young German was  going into the season as number one. That was until a pre season friendly blunder gave Tranmere Rovers a goal. Whether he was bluffing who knows, but all of sudden Liverpool were doing business with Roma again and in for Allison Becker. The Brazilian cost just shy of £70 million. It probably didn’t help in cost because of the bargain price of Mo Salah, whose price rocketed no end. Some fans baulked at the price but these days you just have to spend money to get quality.

Karius looks certain to be demoted to number two, which will only signal the end of The signing will no doubt see the end of Simon Mignolet’s time at Anfield. Allison’s arrival has already seen the end of Danny Ward who has joined Leicester City for £12.5 million.

The Welsh goalkeeper looked certain to have a chance of breaking into the first team on a regular basis, having performed well on loan at Huddersfield and with Karius’ blunders, but rather than be relegated to fighting for a spot, Leicester City came in with a £12.5 million bid and Ward was on his way.

Liverpool probably need to get another centre back, that is if they intend to use Gomez at right back.  This being the fact that Lovren can be all over the place and Matip seems to be a bit injury prone of recent. I guess we will have to wait and see.

As he enters his final year of his current deal, Daniel Sturridge looks certain to get one final opportunity to resurrect his career Anfield career. He had spent the second half of last season on loan to West Brom but had picked up an injury after managing just 6 games for the Baggies. A good pre season though has seemingly boosted the former Man City and Chelsea player. Klopp of course will need as many attacking options especially after the Champions League final that saw the early departure of Salah, replaced by a not so fully fit Adam Lallana. One player acquired in that attacking role is Xherdan Shaqiri from Stoke City, who were relegated last season.

So as the start of the season gets closer along with the end of the transfer window, Liverpool fans can have a genuine amount of enthusiasm for the coming season. A trophy is a must for the Reds this season, every fan wants the league ahead of anything else and this season will certainly not see a repeat of City’s impressive run and points haul.