Monday 22 June 2009

Samba sounds drown out critics of Real Madrid

Rossa McDermott

It is not unusual for Real Madrid football club to break records as the clubs history is full of either legendary football achievements or the achievements of footballing legends

The legacy of those five consecutive European Cup wins in the late 1950’s set the club on a path of dominance in Spain that has only recently been matched by their arch rivals, Futbol Club Barcelona on the European stage. So the signing of Kaka this summer was just another one of those historical landmarks that once again puts the club on a path of expectation following the return of former Club President, Florentino Perez, who fondly named the squad he gathered after his 2000 presidential victory, as “The Galacticos”.

His last term ended in 2006 and during those six years he brought Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Julio Baptista and Robinho to the Santiago Bernabeu. All the signings were attack minded players which meant that the team was not strong defensively, which towards the end of his regime took its toll on the team’s results and on his Presidency. Particularly when he stubbornly transferred Claude Makelele to Chelsea over improved salary demands, leaving defensive frailties in the “Galacticos” more visible than before.

For Perez though it was all about attacking flair and scoring goals was the team’s main purpose.

In this new era the financial imprudence of his last stay in office looks to be outdone as he has set aside €300M for some new box office names. Having already broken the box office for Brazilian Kaka he also added the capture of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United for €96M. Currently the club remains in the chase for Valencia’s’ David Villa and Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich. With a new manager also just in place recently hired from Villa Real, Manuel Pellegrini, Real Madrid now need to deliver another Champions League at least.

Seeing their Catalan rivals win the treble – the Copa Del Rey, La Liga and the Champions League – with Josep "Pep" Guardiola in his first season in charge undoubtedly was an incentive for the “Casa Blanca” club to start achieving more. To do so the new stars needed to come to help secure silverware domestically and failure will mean they will follow in the shadow of the Dutch Colony that was in situ in Madrid, that included Robben, Van de Vaart, Van Nistelrooy, Sneijder, Drenthe and Huntelaar, none of whom really performed to their best last season. In fact they all peaked at EURO 2008 history would suggest.

On the managerial side the current Spanish manager is a distant memory for Perez, as he dispensed with the services of Vicente del Bosque back in 2003. There followed then a period in which eight managers passed through the club in six years, the latest signing being Pellegrini. Amongst those names who did not survive are included Fabio Cappello, Carlos Queiroz, Jose Antonio Camacho, Juande Ramos, Bernd Schuster and Wanderly Luxemburgo.

The quick succession of managers clearly reflecting the pressure on delivering La Liga titles and Champions League trophies. Ironically it was Del Bosque who brought 2 Champions League wins in 2001 and 2003, along with 2 la Liga titles 2000 and 2002. Even when Fabio Capello won La Liga in 2007 and Schuster in 2008, it was not enough to keep them in a job,

Like many former playing who have come back to manage the club, names such as Amancio, Di Stefano, Molowny and Schuster, Del Bosque was no different and in the end a fall out with President Perez ended his tenure – followed closely by Fernando Hierro, Steve McManaman and Fernando Morientes. Now a decade later Florentino Perez returns once again to rebuild the Real Madrid project to his liking.

In place as Sporting Director once more is former Real Madrid striker and 1986 Argentinean World Cup Champion Jorge Valdano, who implemented the blueprint for the Galacticos the last time Perez was at the helm. The plan is for him to do so again in this second coming along with the help of Zidane, who has been appointed as a special Adviser to the Perez, so it is hoped that the Days of Camelot return again to Real Madrid.

The voices of criticism though have not been slow in coming forward either and unsurprisingly the loudest of them reaching from the Catalan Capital, Barcelona, with some club directors for Barcelona “baffled” as to where Real Madrid are getting all the money from, all the more inappropriate they say in these times of economic recession and high unemployment in Spain

Magda Oranich, Director of the Institutional Area for Barcelona spoke to Catalunya Radio recently and was very critical and adopting concern for the national economic interest it would appear.

“I hope the new signings are a failure.” Oranich said ”The truth is that we don’t where they are getting so much cash, but what Florentino Perez is doing is clearly interfering with the market and that will adversely affect all of us.”

On the national level the Governor of the Bank of Spain only last week told the Spanish government there was no room for deficit spending beyond the plans already announced to try to revive the economy. In one of the sternest policy warnings since the start of the economic crisis, Miguel Angel Fernández Ordóñez, said Spain's budget deficit could reach 10 per cent of gross domestic product next year, while government debt could exceed 60 per cent of GDP, up from less than 40 per cent at the end of 2008. Spain also now has more than 4m unemployed which is a rate of 17.4%.

Not unlike the national economy, Real Madrid has significant debt, estimated to be about €500m and the club must raise money by offloading their Dutch players this summer. But the Real Madrid President sees the opportunity differently and has been clear in his insistence that players such as Ronaldo and Kaka are not expensive because of the income that they generate; "normal" players who only perform on the pitch are a different matter.

"There are players who generate a lot of money and others who are only protagonists in a sporting sense," Sporting Director Jorge Valdano said. "Ronaldo could turn out to be cheap while others are extremely expensive."

For the moment though the samba drums will beat louder and drown out the critics with the return of the Florentino Perez Galacticos set play to full houses for many months ahead.

Monday 8 June 2009

David Wallace selected for third Lions match!

By Rossa McDermott

British & Irish Lions Tour Manager, Gerald Davies, and Head Coach Ian McGeechan, today announced the Lions team for the fourth match of the 2009 tour of South Africa. The selected team will play the Sharks in Durban on Wednesday and will be led by Captain Paul O'Connell.

Davies said, "We are now halfway through the provincial matches prior to the First Test and the important factor is that the Lions are unbeaten. The next challenge is the Sharks in Durban. The selected team will want to ensure that the one hundred percent playing record is maintained with a victory at ABSA Stadium which is also the venue of the First Test. "

Commenting on the team selection Head Coach Ian McGeechan said, "I am delighted that as we head into the fourth match we only have one player who is unavailable for selection. The players and the medical staff have managed the injuries that have been sustained in a very professional manner. This is crucial as we enter matches against two of South Africa's strongest provinces in the Sharks and Western Province in the space of four days."

"This is reflected by the fact that four starting players from the Cheetahs match will back up against the Sharks, while five players are starting their third match of the tour. Those players are captain Paul O'Connell, Lee Byrne, Shane Williams, Jamie Roberts and David Wallace. Paul will start with his third different second row partner in Alun-Wyn Jones, while we also have new starting partnerships in the back three, the halfbacks and in the front row."

"The next two matches are obviously critical in the development of the Test side. While we have these new starting partnerships for the Sharks match we also have a centre pairing in Jamie Roberts and Brian O'Driscoll, and a backrow of Jamie Heaslip, David Wallace and Tom Croft that have played together on tour in the Golden Lions match," added McGeechan.

Sharks v British & Irish Lions on 10th June 2009 will kick off 19:10 [Local] at the ABSA Stadium

15. Lee Byrne (Ospreys/Wales)
14. Shane Williams (Ospreys/Wales)
13. Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster/Ireland)
12. Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
11. Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster/Ireland)
10. Ronan O'Gara (Munster/Ireland)
9. Mike Phillips (Ospreys/Wales)
8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland)
7. David Wallace (Munster/Ireland)
6. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England)
5. Paul O'Connell (Munster/Ireland) captain
4. Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales)
3. Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales)
2. Lee Mears (Bath/England)
1. Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues/Wales)

16. Matthew Rees (Scarlets/Wales)
17. Phil Vickery (London Wasps/England)
18. Simon Shaw (London Wasps/England)
19. Joe Worsley (London Wasps/England)
20. Mike Blair (Edinburgh/Scotland)
21. Riki Flutey (London Wasps/England)
22. Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues/Wales)

Trent Johnston strikes early for Ireland

By Rossa McDermott

Ireland’s O’Brien brothers today carried their country past Bangladesh to the Super Eights stage of the ICC World Twenty20.

Kevin and Niall hit 79 runs between them at Trent Bridge as Ireland passed 137 for eight, with 10 balls and six wickets to spare, inflicting Bangladesh’s second defeat in three days and sending the Tigers out of the tournament.

For Ireland, it was famous confirmation of the superiority they demonstrated over these same Test-playing opponents in a 74-run win at the World Cup in the Caribbean two years ago.

They have since come up short in a three-match one-day international series in Dhaka - but with eight of the class of 2007 still staffing today’s team, there could be no argument that Ireland had again deserved their victory on the big stage.

Will Porterfield’s men restricted Bangladesh’s strokemakers thanks largely to the efforts of his predecessor as captain Trent Johnston, who took three top-order wickets for 20 runs after Ireland had chosen to bowl first on a cloudy afternoon.

Set a target which always looked feasible, Ireland were not always on course with the bat.
But the impetus provided by O’Brien the elder at number three, and then reignited by brother Kevin - from a tricky situation at 89 for four in the 15th over - got them home with unexpected comfort.

The early loss of Jeremy Bray, caught at point off a leading edge at Mashrafe Mortaza, brought Northamptonshire wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien to the crease.
He had injured himself trying to stop a single in Bangladesh’s innings and soon needed a runner. But his timing and power were unhindered as he kick-started an Ireland reply which had stuttered to only nine for one after three overs.

O’Brien dominated a 55-run second-wicket stand with his captain, hitting three leg-side sixes from five balls of one Mortaza over.

It was a significant blow therefore when O’Brien holed out at long-off from the left-arm spin of Shakib al Hasan - and after Porterfield had poked a catch back to Abdur Razzak and Gary Wilson was caught at extra-cover, the Ireland chase looked in trouble.

Trent Johnston wheels away in delight at taking a wicket during his impressive spell of 3-20 that put Ireland on top

A second O’Brien made a mockery of that suggestion, though, with some wonderfully clean striking which brought him four fours and two sixes from only 17 balls.
It was a fitting culmination too that, on the ground where the 25-year-old all-rounder has been on trial for Nottinghamshire this summer, he should conclude the match in style - by hitting Rubel Hossain clear over mid-off for the winning boundary.

Bangladesh’s innings had never established the required momentum.

Their coach Jamie Siddons had warned after their opening 25-run defeat against India here on Saturday night that it was time to stop making “silly” mistakes.

There were several in evidence, though - starting when Junaid Siddique got underneath an attempted hit to leg for a skier which was very well held in the ring behind square by Bray.

Mohammad Ashraful had already been dropped at slip off Johnston when he steered an action replay straight to O’Brien in the same position - and there was no escape this time.

Shakib failed to clear the shorter leg-side boundary, and opener Tamim Iqbal was fourth out to a comedy run-out.

Niall O’Brien produced an alert piece of wicket keeping to stump Mahmud Ullah, who lifted his foot after missing an attempted front-foot pull at Alex Cusack.

It would have been 70 for six had either Boyd Rankin, on the fence, or Johnston, running back, caught another skier to see off Mushfiqur Rahim.
But it did not look as if anyone was going to take control of the situation for Bangladesh until Mortaza clubbed medium-pacer Cusack for two off-side sixes among 20 runs in the final over of the innings.

By then, O’Brien had injured himself. But neither that setback nor Mashrafe’s late hitting was enough to stop Ireland.

Friday 5 June 2009

Steve Coppell leaves again?

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.

Bonjour Monsieur Tigana

Despite winning the Turkish Cup last year managing Besiktas, Frenchmen Jean Tigana left the club before the end of the season. His two years or so at Besiktas had seen him win 2 Fortis Turkish Cups in three seasons but the club lost out to the Champions League to their rivals Fenerbahce.

Perhaps more familiar for his time managing Fulham, a club he joined in 2000, and his brand of football was a breath of fresh air in the Championship and with a strong run of results the club returned to the top league. Despite that his tenure though lasted only three years and his departure in April 2003 lead to a series of legal issues between the club and the Frenchman. In the end it was Tigana who won his case for wrongful dismissal which had followed on Fulham dropping their original charges against their former manager.

Curiously his name was floated for the Republic of Ireland job and attracted betting with his odds shortening considerably at one point.

As a player he came into the game relatively late as well only joining Toulon in 1975 at the age of 20 after years holding down a variety of jobs.

On the field of play Jean Tigana always looked like he was too small to play professional soccer with his jersey always hanging off him. But once he got into motion his skill, agility and deftness was nothing short of impressive and his litheness allowed him swerve and skip out of the fiercest of tackles. In an era of French football that may never be repeated Tigana played his part alongside Michel Platini, Luis Fernandez, Alain Giresse, Marius Tresor; Bernard Genghini, Gerard Janvion, Patrick Battiston and Dominique Rocheteau.

During his eight years on the national ream France reached the semi-finals of the 1982 World Cup in Spain; won the EURO 1984 in Paris against Spain and took third place in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where they knocked out Brazil in the quarter finals in Guadalajara. Indeed on a warm summer afternoon in the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Billy Bingham's XI got a taste of the French wizards as well as they made light work of Norman Whiteside and company winning by four goals to one.

Rocheteau that day was alive and the woodwork stopped a deserved hat trick with poor Pat Jennings having little chance with any of the goals. As Northern Ireland set out for home after the 1982 adventure France went on to play the semi finals in Sevilla against West Germany – as they were known at the time. That semi final became an epic and memorable one for a variety of reasons.

Amidst the playmakers that night the little Mali born Frenchman proved to be the engine of a relentless French onslaught that probably deserved a victory against the Teutonic neighbours on effort alone. The momentum though of the match turned when German goalkeeper Harald "Toni" Schumacher violently crashed into Patrick Battiston after about fifty minutes leaving the Frenchman sprawled out on the edge of the penalty box. With Battiston stretchered off and momentum swinging away from them the match ran on to penalties leaving Tigana and company walking off the pitch empty handed.

His club playing career continued until 1991 until Tigana decided to prepare for management and coaching Olympique Lyonnais was his first experience as trainer during 1993/94 season. In his second season he took charge of the club and reached second place in the League Championship. At the club Tigana nurtured young talent some of whom have become household names now such as Florian Maurice and Ludovic Giuly. That year Olympique Lyonnais also reached the final in the League Cup making it the best season in the club’s history at that time.

In 1995/96 Tigana took over AS Monaco and his first months were disastrous as Monaco lost in the first round of the UEFA Cup to Leeds United, the team then were knocked out of the French Cup in the third round and in the quarterfinals of the League Cup. Nevertheless Tigana’s ideas eventually take hold and in the last 19 games of the season they lose only once. With the next season seeing the arrival of some new faces including John Collins the club climbs to first place in the French league early on and stay there until the end of the season. In the UEFA Cup, Monaco reached the semi-finals only to fall to mighty Inter Milan.

By then the names on the Monaco team included Emmanuel Petit, Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet, Viktor Ikpeba, and Fabien Barthez.

Bonjour Monsieur Tigana!