Friday, October 25, 2013

Crystal Palace - A Football Club in Crisis? Betting News on the next Palace Manager

Have the wheels well and truly come off at Selhurst Park or are current events part of a bizarre plan to give the other 19 teams in the Premier League a head start before 'The Eagles' go on a six month unbeaten run and challenge the big boys at the top of the league!

Sadly I and almost every Palace fan knows this season was almost over before it began. From the euphoria of a play-off final win at Wembley on 27th May, a chaotic summer took its toll on the South London club as they huffed and puffed, wheeled and dealed and ultimately failed to build a solid foundation for this forthcoming season.

Palace brought in players in abundance but mostly very average players and tried to knit a rather complicated pattern and following promotion to the 'top flight' in its current guise prove the critics wrong and stay there for more than a token one season for the first time in the Club's history.

To add into the equation the 25 man squad rule (youngsters aside) some somewhat mystifying questions were left unanswered and disharmony began to set in among the players. The squad that basically got us to the Premier League was to a certain degree broken up! The likes of Ramage, Garvan and Dobbie, instrumental in our promotion were left out, Moritz just left and Zaha is now bench warming at Old Trafford. Palace hitman Glenn Murray is still a long way off first-team action following knee surgery in May and no target man of his stature was brought in to replace him. Club captain Paddy McCarthy was included in the squad although he hasn't kicked a ball in anger for around 18 months. In addition no defensive coach was appointed.

As a result what palace fans feared has become reality. Eight games in and three points from a possible 24 has left the club second from bottom of the league table. A squad that has been chopped and changed far too regularly has mustered a paltry two goals conceded 13 in a run of five straight defeats, culminating in Monday's 4-1 home defeat by Fulham.

Desire, total commitment and enthusiasm are what you always get from Ian Holloway and he did a great job in leading Palace up in his first season but was he really up to the job?

After the opening day defeat to Spurs care of a dubious penalty decision, Holloway nearly blew a gasket and was ultimately fined and given a touchline ban for his reaction. I expected Holloway to galvanise the troops following the Spurs game, and that he and the players would come out with all guns blazing as they visited Stoke in the league and then Bristol City in the League Cup.
However a rather uncharacteristic spineless and soulless couple of performances (bar the first 45mins at the Britannia Stadium) were the tip of the iceberg as Palace stumbled like a naive bunch of newborns to adapt to the league and each other. Sure the guns were blazing but heads were all over the place and Palace were firing blanks! Also the usual effervescence wasn't there from the 'gaffer.' Perhaps it was all getting too much for the Bristolian. He looked like a man who'd worked himself to the bone all summer, was mentally fatigued, stressed and fresh out of new ideas.

The outcome was somewhat inevitable although it has left opinions divided amongst the fans. Holloway and Palace parted company this week and now Crystal Palace face league leaders Arsenal tomorrow lunchtime, both managerless and rudderless.

So who are the available targets to take up the managerial role, which to be fair is by any standards one of epic proportions! Palace need a man with experience, who commands respect, who can take charge of a dressing room that already seems fractured, who can get the best out of some pretty average players, play a system that suits the squad, someone that will help shore up the defence and be creative going forward, even if it is not pretty to watch and ultimately grind out results.
Crystal Palace FC at the moment is not a place for the feint hearted, so I suggest the new gaffer is mentally strong, someone who is prepared to role up his sleeves, be proactive and who can motivate a group of players who currently come across as disillusioned and lost in the headlights and he needs to do it easy job by any means with Palace already 1/10 shots to be relegated!

According to the bookmakers the front running candidates are as follows:

Tony Pulis:
The 55 year-old Welshman took his first steps into management at Bournemouth in 1992, where he was a player/coach and then Harry Redknapp's assistant. He then took control when Redknapp left the club. He then went on to Gillingham before leaving in 1999 after a dispute with chairman Paul Scally. Pulis then had unsuccessful spells at Bristol City and Portsmouth before being appointed manager of Stoke City in 2002. He was sacked by Stoke in 2005 only to return a year later. His left Stoke in May 2013 following a falling out with chairman Peter Coates.

Management Style: Pulis has a reputation within the game for achieving solid results on small budgets and also maintains the proud record of never being relegated as a manager. Throughout his managerial career Pulis has used the long ball style of play.

Betting News: Pulis can be backed at 10/11 with Bet365 and most firms but 11/10 with Coral to be the next Palace boss.

Avram Grant:
Grant has spent the majority of his career coaching and managing in Israel, and also managing the Israeli national team for four years.
Grant moved to England in 2006 to become Technical Director of Portsmouth before being appointed Director of football at Chelsea in July 2007. Two months later, in September 2007, following the departure of José Mourinho, Grant was appointed manager of Chelsea. Despite steering the team into the Champions League final, the League Cup final and contesting the Premier League title to the last day, his contract was terminated at the end of the season. Grant returned to Portsmouth as Director of football in October 2009, and was made manager the following month. After the club's relegation to the Championship Grant resigned and, on 3rd June 2010, was appointed as manager of West Ham United, a role he held up until 15th May 2011, when he was sacked after the club was relegated to the Football League Championship. On 13th January 2012, Avram Grant was named the new manager of Partizan Belgrade. After guiding Partizan to their fifth consecutive Serbian championship, Grant resigned on 14th May 2012.

Management Style: Grant is known in Israel for giving a chance to young players in almost every club he coached. Grant is considered one of the most successful Israeli coaches. He has a reputation of a lucky winner in Israel, which caused the invention of the frequently used humorous term 'Hatachat shel Avram'. This means 'Avram's Ass,' a reference to the allegedly large amount of luck Grant enjoyed during the 2006 World Cup campaign

Betting News: William Hill go 4/1 for Grant to become the next Palace manager. Bet365 are as big as 10/1 on 'Avarm's Ass' to be next in the Palace hot seat!

Gianfranco Zola:
The 47 year-old Italian had a decorated playing career both in Italy and in England with Chelsea. He also won 35 caps for the Italian national team. He began his managerial career with the Italian U-21s before taking over at West Ham United in the Premier League in September 2008. On 11th May 2010, two days after the end of the 2009–10 season, West Ham announced the termination of Zola's contract with immediate effect. Avram Grant was announced as his successor on 3rd June 2010. He has been in charge of Watford since July 2012. In his first season, Zola led Watford to 3rd place and a play-off position, which then saw them progress to the final at Wembley. There, they lost 1-0 ironically to Crystal Palace.

Management Style: Zola likes his sides to play with a flair and has also received praise for integrating more youth products when manager of West Ham's first team.

Betting News: Zola is 9/1 with Paddy Power to take over at Selhurst Park, although Betfred go 25/1 on the same outcome.

Martin O'Neill:
The 61 year-old Northern Irishman began his managerial career in 1987 with Grantham Town. He went onto manage Wycombe Wanderers, Norwich City, Leicester City, Celtic, Aston Villa and Sunderland. He guided Leicester City to the Football League Cup final three times, in which he was twice victorious, in 1997 and 2000. In his time as Celtic manager between 2000 and 2005, he led the club to three Scottish Premier League titles and the 2003 UEFA Cup Final in Seville. O'Neill was sacked by Sunderland on 30th March 2013 after an eight-game run of five losses and three draws, leaving the team one point above the Premier League relegation zone with seven games left to play in the season. Overall Martin O'Neill has a 51% win ratio over his whole managerial career.

Management Style: O’Neill’s public image, though, is that of a nice guy and his management style has been built on inspiring his players, especially in the early days when, with his energy and enthusiasm. He worked wonders, often with decidedly ordinary individuals and teams. He is not one to doubt his own abilities.

Betting News: O'Neill is as short as 2/1 with Coral and as big as 4/1 with Boylesports to become Palace's next manager.

Chris Coleman, Neil Warnock, Alan Curbishly and Tony Popovic are also fancied candidates for the vacancy.

# Prices correct at time of going to press.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Where are they now? - England's Under-17 Euro Winning Squad of 2010

We are currently in the middle of a break in the world of top flight club football as the senior England international team try to cement a place in the World Cup Finals being held in Brazil next Summer.

Back on the 30th May 2010 England (below) were victorious in the European Under-17 Championships in Liechtenstein. This eight team tournament included some European powerhouses including the likes of France, Portugal, Czech Republic and Spain, who England defeated 2-1 in the final. That sought-after Euro Championship title win was England's first age-group title since 1993.

                         England celebrate winning the Under-17s Euro Championships in 2010

That 1993 triumph, at the European Under-18 Championship hosted in England, was earned by a team that included Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Robbie Fowler and Sol Campbell who all went on to play for the senior team.

Three years after becoming the '2010 Young Kings of Europe,' only one of England's brilliant Under-17 team, Everton's Ross Barkley, is playing regularly in the English Premier League. So, where did it all go wrong for the golden generation?

The pressure for success at the top level of English club football is part of the problem. Managers may want to give younger players a chance but fear the consequences of failure.

There is a lot to play for in the Premier League. The clubs think about what happens when young players make mistakes. But if you instill confidence into players, they can show their abilities.

The influx of foreign players is something we have to look at but with some young players maybe things have become quite easy for them financially. They should leave the money aside and just concentrate on getting into the first team. All the rest will come.

Years ago, young players used to get more opportunities and statistics show the number of English players plying their trade for their respective clubs first team is sadly dropping. A lot are still in the academies when they should have been pushed on by now.

On the subject of ability Ray Wilkins who made his Chelsea debut at 17 and became club captain a year later said: "Technically, some of the young men in the academies are as good as it gets. But something goes slightly wrong when they get to a certain age. Is it that burning desire? Or is that situation where they feel they're not getting a chance so they don't work as hard? If you're not getting a chance, work doubly hard."

England Under-17 2010 Euro Winning squad:

GK:  Jack Butland 20 years-old, plays for Barnsley, on loan from Stoke City.

GK:  Sam Johnstone 20, plays for Yeovil Town on loan from Manchester United.

DF:  Bruno Pilatos 20, former Middlesborough player, now plays for Darlington in the Evo-Stik First Division North.

DF:  Luke Garbutt 20, plays for Colchester United, on loan from Everton.

DF:  Nathaniel Chalobah 18, plays for Nottingham Forest on loan from Chelsea.

DF:  Andre Wisdom 20, eighteen league and cup appearances for Liverpool's first team since Sept 2012.

DF:  Ben Gibson 20, made his first Middlesborough start on 6th Aug 2013. Previous loan spells at Plymouth, York and Tranmere.

DF:  Tom Thorpe 20, plys his trade in the Manchester United reserve team.

MF:  Conor Coady 20, plays for Sheffield United, on loan from Liverpool.

MF:  William Keane 20, One first-team appearance for Manchester Utd since 31st Dec 2011.

MF:  Joshua McEachran 20, plays for Watford, on loan from Chelsea.

MF:  Ross Barkley 19, Establishing himself as a first-team regular at Everton and made his England senior debut on 6th Sept 2013.

MF:  George Thorne 20, signed professional contract with West Brom in Jan 2010. Currently recovering from a serious knee injury following loan spells at Peterborough and Portsmouth.

MF:  Luke Williams 20, made his Middlesborough debut at just 16 back in Dec 2009. Has made a total of 22 starts for the North-East club.

FW:  Benik Afobe 20, signed a pro contract with Arsenal in Feb 2010. Yet to make a first team appearance for the Gunners. Suffered a serious knee injury last March following loan spells at Huddersfield, Reading, Bolton and Millwall.

FW:  Connor Wickham 20, After impressing at Ipswich Wickham at just 18 made a big money move to Sunderland in June 2011. Joined Sheff Wed on loan in Feb 2013 but now back with 'The Black Cats.'

FW:  Robert Hall 19, plays for Bolton Wanderers. Previous loan spells at Oxford Utd, MK Dons, Birmingham and Bolton, before finally signing for Bolton on a permanent basis on 1st July 2013.

FW:  Saido Berahino 20, Born in Burundi (East Africa) Berahino plays for West Brom. Previous loan spells at Northampton, Brentford and Peterborough.