Tonight Chelsea open their Premier League campaign with a very tricky away game to newly promoted Burnley. For those who have never experienced it, Turf Moor is not an away day for the faint of heart. The ground has gone through some huge redevelopments in the past decade or so, with two new stands, but it is still the away end that gives visitors a feeling of what the ground was late three decades ago. Seats are of the cold, wooden variety, and leg room, should you try and sit down, is designed for people under five foot tall.
The David Fishwick stand was recently hammered by Championship supporters in a poll of the worst away ends by the Trinity Mirror newsgroup. Not only were its poor facilities criticised, but supporters were hardly complimentary about the surrounding area either. However, could the lack of luxury on offer to visitors work in Burnley’s favour this season?
I’ve always enjoyed my trips to Turf Moor – although have been lucky to go there when the weather has been pleasant. My one experience of being an away fan at Burnley was on a Tuesday night ten years ago when West Ham won thank’s to a late Harewood goal. Great, passionate fans who will not make Turf Moor an easy place to visit.
Burnley boss Sean Dyche admitted this week that the transfer market was proving tricky to navigate as he desperately tries to add a bit more quality to his squad. His struggles in attracting new talent mean his options are limited and he will doubtless be relying on the team’s home form to give them a chance of avoiding relegation.
Last season the Lancashire club had the second best home record in the Championship, just behind Leicester, winning 15 out of 23 games and losing just twice on their own patch. The Clarets also had the best defensive record in the division last term and look set to stick with the same backline that served them so well.
The stats suggest that going to Turf Moor this season will not only be an unpleasant experience for the fans but for the opposition as well. While they shouldn’t cause Chelsea too many problems on the opening weekend, Burnley can be expected to ruin a few people’s football accas over the course of the year.
At home will be where the fight for survival is won and lost for Dyche and co. Last time in the top flight they recorded all seven of the victories they managed at Turf Moor and they will be counting on recording a few more to make sure it is Premier League fans dreading coming back in 12 months time.
Last year marked the twentieth anniversary of the death of Bobby Moore. The date was marked with numerous events and presentation across the footballing landscape, especially in the East End. I never saw Bobby play in the flesh, but I have heard enough stories of his playing career from my Dad and brother to know that he was a special player. It is all too often in life that we only really remember the contribution of someone to our lives when they are taken from us.
Bobby Moore epitomised the image of West Ham during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Few footballers back then lived their life on the front pages of the newspapers like today, and the standard of behaviour (George Best aside) was that of a group of people who saw playing football as a privilege rather than a right. Moore made 544 appearances for the Hammers before he moved onto Fulham. He became the first man at the club to ever lift a trophy, when West Ham won the 1964 FA Cup final, and then just a year later leading the Hammers to a famous European Cup Winners Cup victory at Wembley. Of course, he was also responsible for winning the World Cup twelve months later.
Despite playing a further 150 games in his career he remained a Hammer. Few will know that he actually ended his career playing in Denmark, for Herning Fremand before he ventured into an unsuccessful career in management at Oxford City and Southend United. Continue reading
The Premiership in England has long been considered one of the best, and richest, leagues and attracts world-class players from around the world. Recent signings such as Manchester City’s £30 million for midfielder Fernandinho, Liverpool’s capture of Luis Alberto and the potential transfer of Napoli striker Edinson Cavani to the Premiership, mean footie fans are in for a treat in the upcoming 2013-14 season. But could this be a vintage season due more in part to the continuing carousel of changing managers?
Both Manchester teams now sport new managers with arguably the toughest test of taking over a new club falling to David Moyes at champions United. Manuel Pellegrini succeeded Roberto Mancini at Manchester City, with the former Malaga boss hoping to improve City’s challenge on the title. FA Cup winning Roberto Martinez may have also seen his club Wigan relegated but his move to Everton promises much. And the ever entertaining Ian Holloway is now back in the league with promoted Crystal Palace.
However all eyes will be on the ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho, after his move from Real Madrid back to Chelsea. This was a move that was a slow train coming, with the departure of Rafa Benitez as interim manager a foregone conclusion. The Chelsea faithful have clamoured for the return of Mourinho almost as soon as he was sacked in 2007 and his at times controversial remarks and actions mean there will never be a dull moment. With an enviable track record, he could bring the title back to London from Manchester. Indeed, given the history between former Manchester United icon Sir Alex Ferguson and Mourinho, it will be interesting to see how United and Chelsea square up to each other. No-one would envy David Moyes given the huge shoes he has to fill.
Mourinho has the arguably easier start to the campaign with a home game against newly promoted Hull while United face Michael Laudrup’s skillful Swansea away. The new Chelsea manager must fancy his chances as United adjust to their first new manager in 27 years. The change of managers mean that of the top six teams of last season, only Arsene Wenger of Arsenal and Tottenham’s Andre-Villas Boas, himself a former Chelsea manager, remain in post. Tottenham’s boss admitted Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge will be a challenge to other clubs hoping to land the title.
Due to the global nature of the Premiership, sponsorship for the league is in fine form with campaigns such as cider company Strongbow’s Earn It providing competitions with added excitement and buzz. This Strongbow football challenge dares fans to win a chance to step up and shoot a penalty against a top goalkeeper, a task which seemingly appears infinitely easier when watching a game. However, given the woeful performance of past England penalty takers, this competition would rightly provide bragging rights to anyone skillful enough to score. Fans who reckon they can do better than hapless duo Gareth Southgate or Chris Waddle are encouraged to enter.
Academies in England have produced some great talent over the years. Players of international calibre, often valued at tens of millions of pounds, have emerged from some of the country’s most high-profile footballing institutions. While glittering careers in the Premier League and beyond await the cream of the home-grown crop, there are many others that fall by the wayside, which academies need to do something about.
The PFA have calculated that, of the sixteen-year-olds lucky enough to achieve academy scholarships, only around 40% will be offered a contract two years later. Even more worryingly, they estimate that, by the age of twenty-one, just 20% of these former scholars will be playing at a professional level, and this is a result of a number of factors.
Some stop because they fall out of love with the game. Dr Andrew Hill has conducted considerable research into burnout in youth footballers, arguing that many become disillusioned with the game due to the high levels of pressure and subsequently lose interest. Others are quite simply not good enough; with the huge amounts of money going into the top academies, clubs only accept the absolute elite. Continue reading
When cattle creep,
When I’m asleep,
To lands of hope I stray.
Then at daybreak,
When I awake,
My bluebird flutters away.
Happiness new seemed so near me,
Happiness come forth and heal me
The oft forgotten second verse of Bubbles
One of the most frustrating aspects of supporting a Premier League team is the simple lack of ambition 75% of clubs now have these days. Unfortunately, the league is so awash with money that real ambition has disappeared. Gone are the days when clubs would take domestic cups really seriously (there are a few exceptions such as Swansea City’s glorious season this year), deciding nowadays that the Premier League cash is more important. This leads to clubs simply being satisfied at reaching the “magical” 40 point mark, knowing that they will be on the gravy train for another season. The rich will continue to get richer, especially with the new TV deal kicking in next season. And what do we have to look forward to? A lame cup exit versus a lower division team, whilst the manager talks about “concentrating on the league”, when in reality all they care about is finishing in 17th place.
To demonstrate the massive gulf that exists within the same league, Manchester United came into this game with some fans suggesting this season hadn’t been as successful as it could have been. I’m sure the home defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League hurt, as too did the FA Cup defeat to Chelsea, but surely winning the Premier League at a canter from their nearest rivals was the number one objective of the season? Whilst West Ham’s fans would boo and jeer every touch United would have, who wouldn’t want even a small slice of the success they have had.
I’m sure many will have believed the rhetoric in the past few weeks from the owners of West Ham regarding what will happen when we move to the Olympic Stadium in terms of being able to compete with the best, but is it going to be a couple of years too late? There are simply already too many clubs with richer owners with deeper pockets in the Premier League today. There are at most 7 European spots up for grabs, including the two cups and its fair to say that five of those are now all but sewn up on a yearly basis. Add in a Liverpool team who have the cash but just keep spending it poorly and there isn’t a lot of room for anyone else. Continue reading
You may have missed the little nugget in the media over the past week that West Ham United are going to be moving to the Olympic Stadium in 2016. It seems the world and his wife have an opinion on this subject, whether they be fans of the Hammers, of the Olympic Park or just concerned tax payers. I have written about my opposition to the move on numerous occasions but decided to reflect back on those reasons over the weekend. I can now see the good and the bad in the plan to move the club 2 1/2 miles north(ish) to the newest stadium in Great Britain. So I thought I would try to write a “balanced view statement” as my daughter’s English teacher is so fond of saying, focusing on why I think it is a good deal for all parties, and why it is a bad deal for all parties.
This was hard. I tend to write very opinionated pieces, focusing on one side to a story. But I genuinely can see both sides. Even my mother-in-law sent me a text, asking my opinion and I simply don’t know. The obvious winner in all of this is undoubtedly West Ham United Football Club. Nobody can deny that the FOOTBALL CLUB will benefit massively from this move. But who or what exactly constitutes the Football Club? The team? The employees of the club? The fans? The owners? Or a combination of all or some of the above? Let’s see…
So my idea is to present five clear arguments for and against the decision of the club to move to Stratford. There, of course, is no right or wrong answer. In ten years time with West Ham dominating the Premier League and having won successive Champions League titles, playing in front of 54,000 local’s with families and local good causes well represented and contributing to the local economy, the doom mongers will have to hold their hands up and say they were wrong. But if the stadium sits half full whilst West Ham play hoof ball against Carlisle United in the lower leagues (no disrespect to Carlisle United btw), whilst local businesses employ their Saturday 1pm curfew then we know something will have gone very wrong indeed.
Some people will agree with my views, others wont. Nobody knows what the future will bring. We can see the success that Manchester City have experienced since moving to the old Commonwealth Games stadium (although that’s not the reason why), Capital Cup winners Swansea City have enjoyed since moving to the Liberty Stadium or even Wigan Athletic have seen since Dave Whelan built the DW/JJB. But we all remember the tales of desperation that haunted Darlington after moving to their new stadium, or the pain that Coventry City are currently going through at the Ricoh Arena. So where, without further fanfare…. Continue reading