Pitchside Issue Nine

In this week’s show we discuss the recent sackings at WBA and Spurs, plus the usual chit-chat! 🙂

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Mystic Mawky – Week Seven

Manchester City 1-1 Arsenal: An exciting game at the Etihad which will end in a draw as two strong teams show signs of weariness after tough away trips in the Champions League during midweek.

Can Koscielny stop the in-form Sergio Aguero?

Cardiff 1-2 West Brom: Two sides sat side by side in the table meet in Cardiff and I can just see the baggies coming away from this one with an away win. Shane Long will get one of the goals and this is the sort of match where I can see an own goal being scored.

Chelsea 4-0 Crystal Palace: Tony Pulis’s reign at Palace has started well but Chelsea are near invincible at StamfordBridge and should turn them over fairly easily.

Everton 2-1 Fulham: Everton come into this game on the back of taking four points away to Manchester United and Arsenal and should do the same here, Fulham are rubbish away from home and Everton should win fairly comfortably.

Newcastle 1-1 Southampton: Both teams have been in good form this season and they should play out an entertaining game at St James’s park, Southampton’s style of pressing high up the pitch should secure them a point at least.

West Ham 1-0 Sunderland: Two sides struggling near the bottom of the table will play out a dull game at Upton Park with only one goal which will most likely be scored from a set piece, seen as West Ham seem to think they’re Spain at the moment and don’t play with anyone up front.

Hull 1-0 Stoke: Home advantage will be the key in this one with Hull just sneaking all three points against Stoke, who will be one of the poorest sides in the league this season but will just manage to stay up.

Aston Villa 1-1 Manchester United: United will put a halt to their losing run, only just though with a stagnant performance at Villa Park. United really need to buck their ideas up or they won’t even make Europe this season.

Norwich 2-2 Swansea: Norwich and Swansea will give the fans a treat at Carrow Road with a four goal thriller, a game that will prove that it’s not just the top teams in the Premier League who can create a classic.

Tottenham 1-1 Liverpool: Liverpool go to White Hart Lane to face a Spurs side who have been struggling lately, having said that I can’t see Spurs losing this game and think that they will grind out a draw.

Calling Time on Ex-Footballers Turning To Crime

98% of 16-18 year old that sign scholarships are either released or dropped out of the game by the age of 21.

Set up by Michael Kinsella who hails from Liverpool, OnSIDE Academy is the United Kingdom’s first football based academy of its kind. It was established to assist released academy players, ex-footballers and disadvantaged young adults to receive adult education, along with the opportunity to return to the world of work. OnSIDE take a pragmatic approach, helping these young men reintegrate into society through apprenticeships courses such as plumbing, electricians and carpentry.

‘‘Onside is a training company in education, and supporting young people’s search for employment after falling into hard times when left behind by football. It’s based at Hope University in Liverpool. It has been running for one year, though in my head for six behind bars’’, said Michael. While OnSIDE began as solely based on helping ex-footballers it has recently began spreading its hand of help to the boxing community too. ‘‘We have boxing going in the city also giving young boxers apprenticeships and a course to get on.

Once a promising talent, Michael Kinsella, like thousands of other young men once dreamed of playing football for his beloved Everton. Sadly, things didn’t turn out like he had once dreamed. Michael’s career led him through the lower leagues and beyond to the semi-professional game for clubs such as Bury, Tranmere and Stranraer. ‘‘What I realised was that I had no real life skills to gain proper employment. I missed an opportunity to get an apprenticeship because that passes you by when you’re trying to get a career in football.

While Michael’s career faded away into obscurity like so many others before – and indeed after him, one thing remained: the need to survive. Lacking formal education finding employment served a thankless task, options were scarce. Nevertheless while Michael may have been lacking the certificates to find proper employment, he certainly knew about one way to make money – drugs. ‘‘I had to survive; I ended up turning to drugs because I knew people from that world growing up in a council estate.

Since Michael’s release from prison earlier this year his schedule has been hectic. Various partnerships have been set up with league clubs across the country, including Blackburn Rovers and even Premier League giants Liverpool. While OnSIDE is finally an established organisation with connections to many clubs its beginnings stem from humbling stories of broken dreams for many young men. ‘‘Seeing lads and families destroyed by the belief they were going to be a professional footballer and didn’t know what else to do in life, falling into crime, and then seeing my brother fail through injuries and depression”, Michael said with a brutal honesty.

Currently there are 135 ex-professional footballers in English prisons. A subject rarely covered in the media, football’s glamour tag disguises the game’s true colours hiding behind the fame in which we are all engrossed. The road to crime and prison is one well-travelled by Michael, in his relatively short life he’s found himself in prison all too often, by his own account. ‘‘I’ve done four prison sentences, one in Spain, one in Holland, and two small stints in England.

OnSIDE has been in the pipeline for some time, although Michael is only out of prison since the beginning of this year he has been working on the project while still in prison. ‘‘It (OnSIDE Academy) has been running for 1 year but in my head for 6 behind bars.

When a friend of mine first spoke to Michael in May as part of a radio documentary we were conducting, Michael said by September they planned to have 25 people signed up to OnSIDE Academy, though it seems things have since escalated quicker than expected. ‘‘There are 50 kids (signed up to OnSIDE) at present – also we currently have 5 full time staff. By year three we plan to have 10 sites set up across the country, because the issue is massive. The help provided by clubs is nominal, they might get them a sports course which considering the overcrowded industry is madness really.

Since Michael’s release from prison, the work with OnSIDE has been hectic: there have been interviews with various national newspapers and even a special feature for the BBC on the Saturday morning football show – Football Focus. Michael has been campaigning for football clubs to set up better ways to prevent so many young men fall through the net into a life of crime. ‘‘For now we’re doing our best to act as a safety net for these players.

OnSIDE has received much support recently, notably from now ex-Liverpool player and current Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. Carragher, who grew up in Bootle, Liverpool, knows too well that many who don’t make it in football find themselves in a life of crime. ‘‘I was one of the fortunate ones. But the statistics will show you that it doesn’t always happen.’’ Carragher said it was hard for senior player to offer advice to youngsters about considering their options without hurting their feelings. ‘‘It’s difficult talking about that type of thing because you don’t want them to think that you think they’re not going to make it.”

Michael’s problems with crime after football are not alone to him, but a family issue too. Michael’s brother, Gerard, 21, started to go down the wrong path when he was released by Everton, though with the help of OnSIDE he is rebuilding his life at Fleetwood Town.

Based in Liverpool Hope University OnSIDE have received support from the Player Football Association (PFA). OnSIDE aims to help young ex-footballers re-enter education and/or employment while retaining their love the game.

Kevin Kelly

How to Concede Goals for Dummies // Tottenham F.C. – November

Tromso 0-2 Tottenham:

November ended with a Europa League game to try and avoid a City hangover, with a game in the Arctic Circle in Norway against Tromso. Spurs knew they’d topped the group by half-time as Anzhi had drawn 1-1 with Sheriff. Despite that Spurs still managed to notch their third and fourth goals of November in the second half. An own goal and a good finish from Dembele gave Tottenham the points.

Performance Rating Grade B; the trademark Europa League performance  Tottenham  have come to know under Andre Villas-Boas, despite the lack of a Jermain Defoe goal. It was nice to top the group with a game to spare and come through unscathed in freezing Norway on an artificial pitch.

Manchester City 6-0 Tottenham:

The worst defeat I can remember supporting Tottenham Hotspur. Diabolical, literally from start to finish, with the first goal coming after just 13 seconds after an awful mistake from Hugo Lloris. Spurs were 3-0 down before half-time; City’s partnership of Aguero and Negredo taking full effect and cutting our “Best defence in Europe” apart. It only got worse in the second half, City looked like scoring whenever they went forward, and the introduction of Adebayor, taking us to a 4-4-2, made us capitulate. It was a complete non-performance from pretty much every single player in an admittedly beautiful navy blue shirt.

Performance Rating Grade U; where do I start? Spurs looked scared from the first minute to even have a go at City. No shape, no rhythm, no service, no chances, no goals, no anything to actually remember in a positive fashion for us. Without a doubt the most shocking performance of any team this season.

AVB’s lowest point at Spurs; could it get any worse?

Tottenham 0-1 Newcastle:

The 10th of November shall forever be Tim Krul day at White Hart Lane. The amount of saves he made in this game was ridiculous. Although Tottenham made it easy for him at times, 14 saves is an achievement in itself. Loic Remy settled the game with a neat finish past Brad Friedel (in for the “recovering” Lloris), and fans begin to grow restless against AVB and the new squad.

Performance Rating Grade E; it was just awful from start to finish. No real cutting edge, despite the amount of saves Krul made, and another labouring, dull performance that kept the atmosphere near-silent.

Tottenham 2-1 FC Sheriff:

Back to the Europa League, sponsored by Jermain Defoe, with another solid victory against Sheriff guaranteeing a place in the Europa League knockout stages. Erik Lamela played his best performance in a Spurs shirt so far, intricate little play from the Argentinian getting him a goal and winning a penalty. The spot-kick was subsequently converted by Defoe, who now becomes Tottenham’s all-time leading goal scorer in Europe.

Performance Rating Grade B; it was good to see Lamela hitting some form. Bit of a disappointment to concede our first European goal of the season however. A decent enough performance against a side better than some may believe.

Everton 0-0 Tottenham:

November began with the same theme as October, a trip to GoodisonPark providing few chances for either side. Everton in particular struggled to break the defence down, but that was not to say Spurs had anything at the other end. The talking point from this game became the Hugo Lloris issue after he collided with Romelu Lukaku. Personally, I feel the referee should have sent him off once he started going against medical advice. He did pull off a smart save near the end of the game, though.

Performance Rating Grade C; while a draw away to a rejuvenated Everton side is never a bad result, the sluggish play and lack of service to Soldado really left me and other Spurs fans wanting here.

Overall rating: Grade D; overall not good enough from us, four goals over an entire calendar month is poor beyond belief. Any month that ends with speculation over the manager’s job can never be considered a success, a vast improvement in league form is needed immediately for the pressure to be lifted off of AVB and some of the new signings.

George Pacitto 

Steady Suarez and Co. // Liverpool F.C. – November

An unusual aura of belief surrounded Anfield at the end of October. Going into November, Liverpool supporters strongly felt that their team had enough quality to finish in the top-four. Talk about Liverpool’s title credentials were picking up pace and Liverpool looked set to prove to the footballing world that they were back to their best…

Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool:

Liverpool’s first opponents were Arsenal, at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners had been outstanding thus far in the league but many people were questioning Arsenal’s capability of beating the “stronger” sides in the league. Having just come off the back of a loss against Chelsea in the League Cup, people were left pondering as to whether Arsenal were equipped to beat the mighty Reds.

I for one was worried about Arsenal and their midfield. Liverpool had looked lack-lustre in the middle, and the presence of Lucas and Gerrard continued to stress me out. The problem for me was the lack of energy in the midfield. Without Jordan Henderson in there, I believe Liverpool’s team wouldn’t have functioned the way it had so far. Ozil, Ramsey, Cazorla, scared me and this was with good reason too.

Liverpool began the game well and were pressing high up the pitch; it all fell down on 19 minutes when Santi Cazorla found the net to put the Gunners 1-0 up. Ramsey doubled their advantage on 59 minutes and Liverpool never looked like getting back in it from there. This left Liverpool sitting third in the table which was still a very healthy position for The Reds.

Performance rating: Grade C-; poor result against a very good Arsenal side, wasn’t unexpected if I’m honest, still sitting third in the table.

Liverpool 4-0 Fulham:

Fulham paid a visit to Anfield next, and I’m sure they wished they hadn’t once it was finished. Pressure was mounting on Fulham boss Martin Jol, and Fulham fans had very little optimism leading up to this game. They knew Liverpool’s tails would be up after losing to the Gunners the previous week. I was very pleased with Daniel Agger, Philippe Coutinho and Glen Johnson returning to the starting line-up.

In truth, Fulham didn’t have a prayer in my view. When Fernando Amorebieta put the ball in his own net, I knew it was going to be a rout! It was 2-0 just three minutes later when Martin Skrtel scored a header off his 50p shaped head. From here I could see nothing going wrong for Liverpool. Then it was 3-0 when Luis Suarez scored his seventh of the season after a clever pass from Jordan Henderson.

Further punishment was to be felt by Fulham as Suarez doubled his tally for the night and scored what was to be the last goal of a very one-sided game. After such domination, I felt like a top-four spot really was achievable this year. Liverpool used to have a tendency to only perform in big games but not against lesser sides and this looked to be changing.

Performance rating: Grade A*; excellent win, excellent performance. Delighted to bounce back and dominate like we did.

Daniel Sturridge was the saviour for Liverpool at Goodison...

Daniel Sturridge was the saviour for Liverpool at Goodison…

Everton 3-3 Liverpool:

Going into an international break is made easier when your team performs the way they did against Fulham. Everton were up next and as every Red fan knows, going to Goodison and getting three points is usually easier said than done. Everton themselves were in a rich vein of form and since their shaky start to the season, have really kicked on and were only a few points behind Liverpool. Lukaku was on fire and Liverpool fans know too well what he is capable of in front of goal. Despite this, I felt we would beat Everton and needless to say I was gutted about not picking up three points.

It was a dream start for Liverpool and it was 1-0 after five minutes. Kevin Mirallas scored just three minutes later to draw the game level, and I was so frustrated to concede from a set-piece. When Suarez got us back in front on 19 minutes, I felt that we would kick on but Everton continued to pose a threat. Joe Allen missed an absolute sitter from only a few yards out and this turned the game in my opinion.

It was then that Everton kicked on; McCarthy and Barry in particular impressed me in midfield as did, young Ross Barkley. It wasn’t long after this that Romelu Lukaku scored to level the game. This was the second set piece of the game that Liverpool had failed to deal with, which resulted in a goal. Then in the 82nd minute, Lukaku found the net again with a powerful heading from a corner. Our lack of ability to defend against set-pieces worries, and annoys me. Teams challenging for a top-four spot, cannot keep conceding goals in that fashion. Sturridge came off the bench and got Liverpool a point by scoring in the 89th minute. Overall, a disappointing result in my opinion.

Performance rating: Grade C; okay point, tough opponents, sad to throw away two leads, happy to score late on to equalise.

Overall Rating: Grade B+; the month of November was relatively successful for the Reds. Everton and Arsenal proved to be stern tests and we were unfortunate not to pick up three points at Goodison Park. I believe Liverpool’s strong start to the season will continue and I know that with the quality we have, we should definitely continue pushing for a top four finish.

Jamie Connor

Not So “Jol-lly” for Jol (and the rest of us!) // Fulham F.C. – November

At the time of writing this, as I’m sure you’re all aware, Martin Jol has been given the chop at Fulham. Shahid Khan and his quite excellent moustache had seen enough, and his replacement, Rene Meulensteen who originally had come in to work alongside his fellow Dutchman has now been the main man for all of five days, (losing his first game in-charge to Spurs).

So let’s recap, (do I have to?) on what was another miserable month for all those concerned with Fulham Football Club, and, as much as I hate to slate managers’ off, the last of Martin Jol’s all-to-easy excuses…

Fulham 1-3 Manchester United:

After a somewhat thrilling, (for the neutrals anyway) Capital One Cup exit at the hands of Leicester City, you would have thought that the lads would’ve have given it a right good go against the Red Devils. No. No they did not.

Three goals in the first twenty minutes after yet more calamitous defending saw Fulham give United the whole of the Craven Cottage pitch, while the back-four went off somewhere to upload their CV’s for the January window or something…

Alex Kacaniklic scored a consolation, with a deflected effort off of Wayne Rooney, in what was to be fair, an improved second-half performance.

Performance Rating: Grade D-; Martin Jol said in his post-match interview that “we won the second-half”. Well that’s good Martin but last time I checked we had to win just the both half’s.

Liverpool 4-0 Fulham:

For the second season in a row we turned up at Anfield, to one walk out the tunnel and two let Martin Skrtel get his seasonal goal.

For the first 20 minutes we were looking decent, but then Fernando Amorebieta thought he’d give Liverpool a helping hand by nodding into his own net after pressure from Luis Suarez, probably gnawing away at his elbow. I’d had high hopes for the Venezuelan coming into the season and thought he’d tighten us up, when it came to set pieces – sadly I was wrong.

Consecutive 4-0 losses in the past two seasons to the always irritating Red-half of Merseyside is never nice due to the “ever-optimistic” shall we say, fans. When the first went in the floodgates just opened and we again crumbled before the ever-sinking eyes of Martin Jol.

Performance Rating: Grade E-; after such a solid opening 20, we reverted to type and conceded two sloppy set-piece goals in the space of three minutes which really killed us. We never really showed up after that and had Man of the Match, Maarten Stekelenburg to thank for stopping it from being a cricket score.

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02751/Martin_Jol_2751571b.jpg

“Yes Martin, every Fulham fans’ face looked like that after the West Ham game!”

Fulham 1-2 Swansea:

A vastly improved performance saw the Whites go down somewhat unfortunately, to yet another defeat at the hands of the visiting Swans.

Fulham had the better of the first-half and should have been going into the break 2-0 up after Darren Bent had missed two glaring chances. The first came after Scott Parker, newly-made Captain, had floated a sumptuous ball onto the head of the on-loan striker, who somehow headed wide. The second chance was a lot more unlucky to not see it ripple the back of the net; after a long ball had been directed into his path by Swansea defender, Chico Flores, Bent struck a half-volley true as like which agonisingly rattled the post.

Yet again, Fulham’s inability to defend set-pieces proved to be our downfall, as we switched off to give Swansea a very cheap opening goal. A quick free-kick was played to Alex Pozuelo who drilled in an uncomfortable cross which Aaron Hughes just couldn’t get out of the way of, with the ball bundling into the net.

Scott Parker equalised with a cross-shot after the Whites had rallied but it was to be in vein; after allowing Swansea to take control of the game, we let the most over-rated player the world has ever seen Jonjo Shelvey, waltz his way through and toey’ a shot into the top corner from 18 yards.

Performance Rating; Grade D; should have been three points. Let Swansea control the game, second-half, and just never really kicked on after Parker’s equaliser, conceding yet another late winner.

West Ham United 3-0 Fulham:

The worst Fulham performance this season, by a country mile. Made a very ordinary team look like world-beaters which consequently made us look even worse.

The only two players in a White shirt that looked like they even cared were as you’d expect, Captain Scott Parker, and player of the season so far, Pajtim Kasami.

Two players out of 11. Not a single shot on target. What a load of sh*te!

Performance Rating: Grade F-; never would I give my beloved team a “U” but this was bloody close! Five defeats on the trot spelt the end for Martin Jol, and it was written all over his face. Shahid Khan put the man out of his misery the following afternoon.

Overall Rating: Grade F; the writing had been on the wall for Martin Jol for some time, and the overall performances in the month of November were truly dismal, so much so I’m sure I wept after the West Ham game.

So did Martin probably, (with joy considering that pay-packet he stuck in his back pocket) when the following afternoon he was given the sack along with first-team coaches Michael Lindemann and the popular, Billy McKinley.

Unsurprisingly the man that was brought into work alongside the departed Jol, Rene Meulensteen was giving the top job with the title “Head Coach” not manager alla Steve Clarke of West Brom.

His first game in charge against Spurs was a hell of an improvement despite the result. If he can get us doing the basics right again, I have faith that we’ll be fine and push for lower-mid table. COYW!

The Only Way is Up (BAAAABY!)…

Tom Dorsett

Nearly But Not Quite // Manchester United F.C. – November

Fulham 1-3 Manchester United:

United recorded their most convincing win so far this season in the league by scoring three first-half goals in the space of 13 minutes to blow away a struggling Fulham side. It was the first time in the league this season that we have looked convincing and had the game won by half-time, meaning an indifferent second-half performance and the consolation goal scored by Kacaniklic was irrelevant.

Performance Rating: Grade B; a performance that especially in the first-half was reminiscent of United under Fergie, battering a struggling team and having the game won by half-time – made for a relaxed second half.

Real Sociedad 0-0 Manchester United:

An average performance and a forgettable result to match – The only thing this game will be remembered for is another of Ashley Young’s best Tom Daley impressions, to win a penalty that van Persie missed, says it all really!

Performance Rating: Grade D; despite it being an away European tie, Sociedad are one of the weakest teams in the Champions League this season and a team you would be expecting us to beat pretty comfortably.

Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal:

Super Sunday didn’t disappoint as United put in a solid performance to beat an Arsenal side that came into the match, several points clear at the top. The sort of game we had to win to stay in the title race and thankfully we did, due to van Persie making up for his midweek penalty miss by scoring a nice header from a corner.

There were to be no muted celebrations this time as RVP scored the winner against his old club.

There were to be no muted celebrations this time as RVP scored the winner against his old club.

Performance Rating: Grade A; a solid performance and the first time this season that we have beaten a team that is going to be up there, at the end of the season.

Cardiff 2-2 Manchester United:

South Wales is proving to be quite a tough place for the top teams this season, and it proved the same here as Cardiff fought back twice. Kim Bo-Kyung scored in injury time from a corner where Patrice Evra did his best impression of a plant pot. Rooney then missed a chance to win the game by trying to square the ball but his horrendous pass was seized on by the goalkeeper.

Performance Rating: Grade D; two points lost! Patrice Evra, I used to like you.

Bayer Leverkusen 0-5 Manchester United:

To beat a team like Bayer Leverkusen, by five goals away from home in Europe is a brilliant result. Qualification for the next round of the Champions League with a game to spare and by far Moyes’ best team performance as United manager to date.

Performance Rating: Grade A; Beating a team by five goals away from home in Europe, enough said!

Overall Rating: Grade B; some good results and performances from United, but we really need to kick on during December to ensure that we can at least compete for the title and secure a top four finish.

Michael Garvey