Friday 8 February 2008

Robinho Returns to Real Life

by Rossa McDermott

Late into the night Brazilian goal scorer Robinho arrived back to the team hotel near Maynooth after a deserved victory over the Republic of Ireland at Croke Park. With a flight back to Madrid completed on Thursday morning with the two other Brazilians at Real Madrid, Baptista and Marcelo, all arrived back from Dublin in time for the afternoon training session.

They all completed some recuperation exercises along with the other ten players who had returned from international duty.

For Robinho though it was progress down the bumpy road of football having arrived in 2006 to Europe from Brazil heralded as the next “great thing” with comparisons made to other Brazilians – Romario, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. With the burden of expectation weighing him down in his first season in Real Madrid he is slowly fulfilling that promise that attracted so much attention when he was at Pele’s old club, Santos.

That 67 minute goal at Croke Park that beat Shay Given clearly showed the ability and potential of the 24 year old Brazilian winger.

Meanwhile back from Holland duties unscathed were Ruud van Nistelrooy, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder who were 3-0 winner’s away win to Croatia. It was a performance that attracted much praise from their manager Marco van Basten afterwards, who had surprisingly recalled former Real Madrid midfielder Clarence Seedorf for the week.

For the 2006 World Cup winning captain, Fabio Cannavaro, there was a happy homecoming too after Italy had a convincing 3-1 win over Portugal in Zurich.

The two Spanish internationals Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas were part of a 1-0 victory in Malaga over a Raymond Domenech French selection and returned injury free. Liverpool striker Fernando Torres though will be out for ten days having picked up a knock and will miss the weekend tie against Chelsea.

For all now the focus will be on Real Madrid’s chase for the League and defending an unbeaten home record that has lasted for over a year. On Sunday they take on Valladolid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Before the break last week the club dropped their first three points in an eight game run by losing 2-0 to Almeria.

Barcelona on the other hand face Sevilla away and are without Zambrotta who returned from Italy duty with an injury that rules him out of the weekend game. Although Ronaldinho is back in training it is not clear whether he will play and Lionel Messi returned from the United States, where Argentina played an international friendly, fit and healthy

Former Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze was out of action for Argentina as he too was recovering from injury in Madrid

Cristoph Metzelder had little joy and there was little celebration of Germany's 3-0 victory over EURO 2008 hosts in Vienna as his prolonged foot injury may now require an operation and he spent the week with the Real Madrid medical team.

For Robinho though Sunday the news remains good as he will get another chance to do what Brazilian forwards love to do - torment defenders.

Saturday 2 February 2008

Steve Coppell for Ireland

In the five years he has been at Reading Football Club Steve Coppell has won a clutch of "Manager of the Month" awards culminating in 2006 with the Coca Cola Football League Championship Manager of the Year and the League Manager Association (LMA) Manager of the Year award. All the personal recognition was the result of achieving promotion to the Barclays Premiership in the same year with the unfashionable Berkshire club.

The longest period Steve Coppell worked at one club since joining Reading was at Crystal Palace where he started out in 1984 after his playing career was ended prematurely through injury.

During that time he was learning his trade and won no honours but the experience laid the foundation of an apprenticeship that was to serve him well in his current role - and also throw his name in the frame for the vacant Republic of Ireland job.

Born in Liverpool in 1995 Steve Coppell played football at school and in his later years attracted the attention of a few clubs as he was proving a speedy and tricky winger. But Coppell was focussed on his education and chose Tranmere Rovers in order to allow him pursue an Economics degree at the University Of Liverpool.

After two years with the club he had become a regular in the first team by 1975 and was offered a chance to join second division side Manchester United who were offering to double his wages. Given that Manchester was not too far from home he agreed to join on the basis that he could continue to complete his degree at Liverpool. Within a month of joining he made his debut against Cardiff City.

In the same season United returned to the top flight under manager Tommy Docherty who was building the framework of a side that was to be an exciting and dynamic addition to the First Division.
Tommy Docherty recalled the scene on the journeys to and from away matches: 'Some players whiled away the time by reading newspapers or books, others gathered around one table for Lou Macari's card school. More often than not the other table would be occupied by Coppell and Martin Buchan, on which they would spread their college books.'
In the next two seasons Coppell reached two FA Cup finals losing the first to Southampton in 1976, even though they were favourites; then winning the next year against Liverpool, who were chasing the treble at the time.

The success at Old Trafford brought him England recognition and his first cap was playing Italy in the 1978 Argentina World Cup campaign under Ron Greenwood.

In 1980 he was in Italy with England again for the European Championship Finals and was a vital part of squad in the 1982 World Cup qualification campaign. However during in a match against Hungary he was suffered a serious knee injury and one that ultimately required various operations in the months to follow.

Although it was his throw-in in Bilbao that led to Bryan Robson’s record 27 second goal against France in their opening group match of the 1982 World Cup he was still not fully recovered for that competition. Like England’s campaign that summer Coppell also struggled and along with Ron Greenwood he ended his international career that July in Madrid

Facing another operation later that year Steve Coppell went onto play intermittently that season and eventually his knee worsened preventing him from playing for Manchester United in the 1983 FA Cup Final against Brighton & Hove Albion, which United won 4-0 in the replay.

Coppell announced his retirement from the game in October 1983 at the age of 28 after 373 appearances and 70 goals for Manchester United and with a haul from his time with England career of 42 caps and seven goals.

In 1984 he became the youngest manager in the football league when he took over at second division Crystal Palace and after five years he had gained them promotion as well as reaching 1990 FA Cup final, where they were beaten 1-0 in a replay by his former club Manchester United.

Coppell led Palace to their highest ever league finish of third place in Division One before the club suffered a turnaround in fortunes and he resigned after their relegation in 1993.

For the next ten years though the normal quiet, thoughtful and pensive Steve Coppell held a variety of positions until he joined Reading in 2003.

It started with a return to Crystal Palace two years after he had left the club becoming Director of Football in 1995. After a year he had left the club again. The next position was a thirty three day stint at Manchester City in 1996 before he returned to Crystal Palace a year later where he stayed until 2000.

The next two years were spent with a spells at Brentford and on the south coast of England with Brighton & Hove Albion, with a spell as Assistant Manager with Swindon Town between these two positions. When Alan Pardew moved to West Ham Coppell got the call from Reading and in the past five years has built a team that earned promotion to the Premier League in 2006.

Currently though Reading lie fourth from the bottom of the Premier League table and their next game is against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday.