Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Ronaldo Van Persie

Evening all, it might not seem like a clever idea to preview a match a little more than an hour before it kicks off.  There is a good chance(probably better than 50:50) that anything I say might turn out to be drivel, but here goes anyway!

I am of course, blogging about tonights clash between Real Madrid and Manchester United in the Champions League.  Almost all the articles and TV previews I have seen bill the contest as a face off between Van Persie and Ronaldo. I don’t see it that way though.

The Van Persie/Ronaldo debate.  Ronaldo has been astonishing since he joined Madrid from United, he has averaged more than a goal a game, and was the catalyst for Madrid’s record breaking league season last year.  Van Persie on the other hand has been equally brilliant over the last couple of years for both Arsenal and United.  He has an uncanny ability to score with one touch and seems to generate great power and accuracy with little back-lift or time to think.  Crucially for him, he has stayed fit and benefited from playing every week and shaking off those niggling injuries that used to plague him as a younger player.  Both are extraordinary talents, there is no doubt about that.  I give the edge to Ronaldo, I feel that he is the more consistent player and has the frightening ability to tear lesser teams apart.

Having said that, I don’t think he will be the difference between the two sides over the upcoming games. In my view, if Ronaldo has one weakness, it might be that he can sometimes go missing for long periods of the very biggest games, and I’m not sure that Madrid can afford for that to happen over the two legs against United.  Although there is no doubt that Ronaldo is a star, I’m not sure they have the same team unity or will to win that the guys at United have.  With United, I get the feeling that if Van Persie doesn’t fire, then Rooney will, and if Rooney doesn’t, then someone else will step up.

It all comes from the fantastic winning mentality that Ferguson has created at United over the decades, his players are winners, even if some of them don’t have the same star quality that other teams possess.  This is something that Mourinho installed at Porto, Chelsea, and at Inter.  His players would have literally run through brick walls for him, and I’m not sure that the same attitude has been established at Madrid.  I’m not sure it can be, and I expect him to leave Madrid this summer, whether or not his quest for a third Champions League trophy is successful.

So cue a Ronaldo hat-trick probably, but I will go for United to win both games.

By the way, I hope it is a little warmer in Madrid than it is in England’s Northern lands.  Its brass monkeys here!

Brass monkey

*Pictures by The Telegraph and Nerdjackers

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I was desperately sad to see that Paul Gascoigne has once again become ill through his well documented drink problems.  Like many others, I wonder how things may have turned out if he had joined Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United when he left Newcastle in 1988 instead of moving to Terry Venables and Spurs.  Whether he would have been able to mould him not only into the wonderful footballer he was, but also help him to overcome his many personal problems, no-one can really know.  If anyone could have helped him during his career though, it would have been Ferguson.

To see Gazza lurch from one problem to the next is sad for so many people because he is such a likable character.  We would all love to have the chance to have a pint and share a chat with Gazza, he comes across as one of us. A man on the street who lived the dream, loved playing for England and at his peak was one of the worlds best players.  His peak was  much briefer than it should have been, mainy because of some serious injuries and a career cut short by off the field problems.  His 57 caps and 10 goals for England do not do his talent justice.

Some readers may not have had the privilege of watching Paul Gascoigne play.  The closest player i can compare him to in today’s game is Jack Wilshere.  This was in a day where such a player was so rare though.  He could pick up the ball and drive through midfield, jink through tackles, pick a pass, had remarkably quick feet, could score goals and loved a tackle himself.  The tackling could sometimes get the better of him in big games, flying into challenges he didn’t need to make saw him break his leg in the FA cup semi final of 1991 for example.

I was lucky enough to be there when he scored THAT goal against Scotland in Euro 96.  A run through the Scotland midfield, a deft touch over Colin Hendry’s head to make a fool of one of Europe’s finest Centre-Halfs followed by a crushing volley past the keeper for one of the best goals ever scored in an England jersey.

Sadly, for any great goal , inspirational game or audacious flick there is a story about drink, drugs, nightclubs or violence.  Gazza is the very definition of flawed genius.  Why is it that some of footballs very brightest talents seem particularly susceptible to addictions and mental illness it is difficult to say, but Maradona, Best, Ronaldo (the Brazilian variety) as well as Gascoigne himself have all suffered some similar problems.  Is it the pressure to perform at a young age, being thrust into the limelight when not suited to it or simply having the wrong people in their circles?  I’m not sure we can say.

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What I can say is that I wish all the best to one of my boyhood idols in his latest battle against addictions and personal problems.  I thing its fair to say that it will be much more difficult than football ever proved for the best instinctive player I ever saw play.

*Pictures from tumblr and The Mirror

While watching the Spurs Newcastle game yesterday lunchtime a couple of things struck me.  Firstly, what a pleasure it was to watch Gareth Bale play in such a rich vein of form.  He could easily have scored 4 and it will be so important for him to stay fit if Spurs are to fulfill their not inconsiderable potential this season and beyond.

Bale vs Newcastle

Bale scores second against Newcastle

I’ll wax lyrical some more about him shortly, I promise, but not before I’ve had a rant about the standard of punditry covering some of the games at the moment.  You see, this was the second thing (or, more accurately, the first thing, I suppose) that I noticed.  Yes, Mr Quinn, that means you!  It seems as though the sports channels are happy to give anyone who used to play a crack at punditry, the ability to coherently string a couple of sentences together seemingly a secondary consideration.  Perhaps not even a consideration at all, if we recall John Barnes’s efforts before he was shipped off to cover the Scottish leagues or Chris Waddles frankly embarrassing attempts to regurgitate as many football cliches as he possibly can.  Now, Niall Quinn actually strikes me as quite a bright bloke but the tiresome reminders of what the game was like in his day must result in mute buttons being pressed up and down the country.  I’m not against pundits per se; I was never a big fan of Gary Neville in his playing days but think he is doing a great job as a color commentator at Sky Sports and Jamie Redknapp always seems to talk sense, for example.  I just think there are too many washed up footballers with all the personality of a rich tea biscuit being sat down behind a microphone and subjecting anyone who will listen to their half-brained drivel.

Rant over.  Bale has been phenomenal over the past few months and is really getting the recognition he deserves. Last season I thought that defenders had figured him out a little bit, but it now seems like he has changed his game and adapted to do different things.  The result is that he now pops up all over the field, regularly switching with Aaron Lennon and also going through the middle.  I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that on current form there are not many sides in the world who wouldn’t find room for him.  If I were him, though, I would stay at Spurs: he is the main man there, and they will build a team around him. If he goes to Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester then he might just not get the same freedom as he does at the moment to do what he wants and move around on the field wherever he wants.  Money talks though, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move to one of those four clubs this summer. The good news for Spurs fans is that it will surely take a massive amount of money to prise him away from White Hart Lane.

*Picture from Zimbio