Footy diary

Happy birthday to…us!

The blog celebrates its 5th birthday this month. We’ve brought you football news, rumours, guides to cities and profiles on young upcoming players such as Neymar, Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata (to name but a few) long before they reached the heights they are all at now.

More of the same shall continue.

We’ll celebrate our birthday by looking at this video of Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup against Brazil. This, dear readers, is how football should be played.

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Five talking points from Saturday’s football action

Saturday witnessed some interesting football across Europe with some interesting results to boot. Here’s five talking points from the day’s action.

  1. Leicester City are top of the Premier League. Really. And all the talk is about about striker Jamie Vardy, who scored in his 10th consecutive match. “I also had Gabriel Batistuta at Fiorentina score in 11 consecutive matches,” said boss Claudio Ranieri. “I hope Jamie can achieve this”.
  2. Luis Suarez and Neymar are a lethal combination. Barcelona used to perform differently when Messi was missing. Not so much anymore. They proved that they have absolutely lethal players when the Argentine genius isn’t starting following the 0-4 win in el Clásico. Surely they will be unstoppable when Messi is back to full fitness
  3. Sixteen years old, 6’5 and starting for Milan. Hailed by the Italian press as Gianluigi Buffon’s successor in Italian football, Gianluigi Donnarumma seems to be cementing his place as AC Milan’s starting goalkeeper – at just 16 years old. Despite losing to Juventus 1-0 last night, the Milan faithful are confident that Donnarumma is indeed the future.
  4. Is Jurgen Klopp doing what all Liverpool fans hoped for? Man City were expected to beat Liverpool at home. If Brendan Rodgers was still in charge, most pundits and fans would predict a City win. But the Northern Irishman isn’t in charge anymore. Jurgen Klopp is. And City were thrashed 1-4 by the Reds. Things are changing at Anfield under “the normal one
  5. Keep your eye on Wolfsburg. Bayern are already running away with the Bundesliga. They are unbeaten and eight points clear of second placed Dortmund. But keep your eye on Wolfsburg. They boast a serious plethora of young talent such as Draxler, Kruse, and Ricardo Rodriguez – one of the best left-backs in Europe in my opinion. Wolfsburg, I reckon, would be the team that can upset the presumption that Bayern will win yet another Bundesliga title.

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Republic of Ireland

Ireland on the edge of Euro 2016 after foggy draw

In the thick Bosnian fog, Ireland were oh so close to recording a huge away competitive win. Robbie Brady opened the scoring for the Boys In Green with eight minutes to go. It was a lead that lasted three minutes.

Plagued by injuries and suspensions, Ireland showed great spirit. As for Bosnia, despite the great talents of goalscorer Edin Dzeko and the world-class Miralem Pjanić, they seemed unremarkable and lacked hunger.


We go into the second leg the happier team. The away goal could make all the difference. Monday night in the Aviva should be busy with a full house expected. But it’s far from over. There’s a lot more to be done in the second leg.

I would expect to see more from Bosnia on Monday night. Make no mistake, they are more than capable of causing an upset. But with Irish players returning from suspension (more from injury hopefully), I also expect to see more from the Boys In Green too.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


End of the line for David Moyes’ reign in Spain

The Chosen One. That is what Manchester United fans called David Moyes as he was unveiled as the Red Devils’ manager back in July 2013. Fast forward almost a year-and-a-half, and the Scot is on the verge of getting the bullet from his second club in such time, Real Sociedad.

It has been argued that Moyes wasn’t given enough time at United, having been sacked in April 2014. And it’s probably fair enough. His performance as United manager wasn’t anywhere near the high standards of his predecessor, Alex Ferguson. He lost 15 times in 51 games. Not terrible, but pressure from the fans and upstairs following back-to back losses at Old Trafford, poor performances and questionable selections isn’t going to cut it. He became manager of Sociedad in summer 2014.


Since taking over, the former Everton boss has been in charge for the San Sebastian side for 38 games. During that time they have picked up 46 points, with 11 wins, 13 draws and 13 defeats. Last season they finished 12th in La Liga, 11 points above the relegation zone. Now following a 2-0 defeat at second-bottom Las Palmas, only goal difference seperates Sociedad from the bottom three.

What went wrong for Moyes? At Everton, he was hailed by all his peers and fans. At United, he had the impossible task, but didn’t disgrace himself. At Sociedad, his sacking is all but confirmed (at the time of writing), following poor, poor performances and poorer results.

Well, there was a language problem. Crucial if you want to get your message – indeed any message – across. When Pep Guardiola was unveiled as Bayern Munich manager, he impressed the assembled media with a strong command of German. Moyes has only ever said three words publicly in Spain in their language – “two, three, four“.

Moyes will be welcomed back into the Premier League. If he can find a team that will suit him that is. I’m not sure if he suited to managing a club with a different culture and a different language.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Footy thoughts

Is it only a matter of time for José Mourinho?

All is not well at Stamford Bridge. José Mourinho is a much-loved figure among the Chelsea faithful, but things have not been going well for the Portuguese coach of late. Poor performances, poorer results, alleged infighting and the whole Eva Carneiro thing are all taking it’s toll.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has sacked managers for less. Just ask the likes of Carlo Ancelotti who’s 61% win ratio and trophies won wasn’t good enough for the Russian. Or Roberto di Matteo, the only manager to win the Champions League for the Blues.


José Mourinho has only won three games out of ten and currently lie in 15th in the Premier League. Fifteenth! Under normal circumstances that would mean a P45 in the post. But these aren’t normal circumstances. This is Mourinho – the most loved figure among Chelsea fans. He would right up there with John Terry or Frank Lampard for devotees of the Blues.

How much more can the fans endure? More importantly, how much more can Abramovich endure? Mourinho has a lot of work to do to turn things around. Newspapers are already speculating about his successor as well as rumours of players soon to be departing such as Fabregas and Hazard. A sinking ship? There’s certainly a hole in the boat and it needs fixing. Mourinho has quite a task ahead of him. Roman Abramovich is watching!

Hold onto your hats. Things are getting interesting around the Bridge.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Republic of Ireland

Boys in Green face tough challenge for 2016

The Boys In Green were earlier today confirmed to face Bosnia-Herzegovina in the play-off for Euro 2016. The first fixture will take place in Zenica on Friday 13th November – bad news for those who are superstitious. The return leg will take place at the Aviva Stadium the following Monday.

It will be a tough test as Ireland will be without the suspended John O’Shea and Jon Walters. As for fans, it is not an easy journey. Bosnia’s stadium in Zenica, 70 km away from the capital of Sarajevo, holds 15,600 and visiting supporters are likely to receive only around 750 tickets. Also the fact of no direct flights will be problematic to some.


The play-offs draw in full:

  • Ukraine v Slovenia
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina v Republic of Ireland
  • Sweden v Denmark
  • Hungary v Norway


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Republic of Ireland

Who can Ireland face in our crucial play-off for Euro 2016

Tonight’s results brought a few surprises. The Netherlands were battered by the Czech Republic is the night’s biggest shock. Turkey were grateful for Kazakhstan beating Latvia to finish fifth in Group A, otherwise Hungary would have qualified. So what does that mean for us? Well here is the ranking from the best third-placed teams:

Group A: Turkey 16pts – qualified automatically
Group F: Hungary 15pts – play-offs
Group C: Ukraine 13pts – play-offs
Group H: Norway 13pts  – play-offs
Group I: Denmark 12pts – play-offs
Group G: Sweden 12pts – play-offs
Group D: Republic of Ireland 12pts – play-offs
Group B: Bosnia and Herzegovina 11pts – play-offs
Group E: Slovenia 10pts – play-offs

• Four sides will be seeded and drawn against the four non-seeds. The teams will be seeded for the play-off draw according to the UEFA national team coefficient rankings updated after the completion of the group stage. The four top-ranked teams will be seeded and be paired with unseeded teams. The seedings will be confirmed on Wednesday.
• After the draw is made on Sunday, ties will be allocated to be played on either 12 & 15 November, 13 & 16 November or 14 & 17 November, with at least one game on each night.

The seeded teams are:

  •  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  •  Ukraine
  •  Sweden
  •  Hungary

while we are unseeded alongside:

  •  Denmark
  •  Republic of Ireland
  •  Norway
  •  Slovenia

My preference at this moment in time is Hungary. But there’s no real easy match when there’s this much pressure on. Keep your eye on the draw on Sunday.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)



Irish fans did not like Lewandowski’s diving one bit

He did seem to go to ground very easily, didn’t he? Irish fans took to Twitter to discuss Lewandowski‘s theatrics (myself included). Here are some of them:

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Republic of Ireland

Martin O’Neill’s men now must do it the hard way

We went into the game in Warsaw with the knowledge that we would be guaranteed at least a play-off spot. However, the best team won in the Polish capital tonight, and they weren’t wearing green shirts. Ireland simply couldn’t create the chances. Martin O’Neill’s men started with a hint of nervousness and ended up being frustrated. The result was fair. But we’re not out. Not yet.

Ireland’s fate for next summer’s Euros will be decided in a month from now with the first legs being played from 12-14 November and second legs on 15-17 November.

Going to France next summer, aside from the host nation, will be Wales, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Iceland, Czech Republic, England, Austria, Germany, Poland, Portugal and Armenia.

Eight third-placed teams in the qualifying groups will contest four places in the finals. The best four ranked teams will be seeded. The other four will not. As it stands, we fall into the latter category. But let’s see how it develops.

Our heroics last Thursday against Germany helped to get us in this position and, let’s face it, we would have taken a play-off six months ago.

Today was very disappointing, but hey, we’re not out yet.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Footy thoughts, Mavericks

Jurgen Klopp is just what the doctor ordered at Anfield

One slip and it could have been all so different. But despite nearly winning the Premier League, Brendan Rodgers’ departure from Anfield is not exactly unexpected. Since the club’s near miss in 2014, the Liverpool team we have seen have been somewhat average. And it looks like just the right man is set to head to Anfield to turn things around.

Jürgen Klopp’s reputation as a manager is colossal. As a player, he was a one-club-man with Mainz, who he also went on to managed between 2001 for seven years. In 2008, he was unveiled as Borussia Dortmund manager where he won back-to-back Bundesliga wins in 2011 and 2012, as well as the DFB-Pokal in 2012, the DFL-Supercup in 2008, 2013 and 2014, as well as narrowly missing out on the 2013 Champions League title (to rivals Bayern Munich).

It is widely agreed among pundits and fans that the 48-year-old is just perfect fit to revitalize Liverpool.


I’d have to agree. The two big names that were floating about for the Anfield job was Carlo Ancelotti and Jürgen Klopp. The German, for me, is by far the better fit. He’s more used to working with limitations. Liverpool, as historic and beloved worldwide as they are, have something of a mediocre squad at the moment. Especially with Steven Gerrard now departed for Stateside and Luis Suarez’s enormous talent has not – possibly cannot – be replaced.

Klopp has the charisma and title-winning pedigree to attract some of the world’s best to Anfield. Liverpool’s record of Champions League qualification in recent years plays a major part as to why the likes of Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan chose other clubs ahead of the Reds (the latter chose Klopp coincidentally). The German would appeal to many players ahead of Rodgers – no disrespect to the man who almost led Liverpool to their first league title since 1989.

Some say Liverpool are a poisoned chalice. And that regardless who the next manager is, unless Liverpool win the Premier League, it will be considered a failure. I disagree. Look at Klopp’s record. As I said earlier, he is used to working with limitations. Not to mention his knack of nurturing of upcoming talent like, for example, Mario Götze – now a World Cup-winning goalscorer.

This is a man, don’t forget, who brought in a little-known player to Dortmund called Robert Lewandowski for €4.5 million from Lech Poznan. He was sublime for Klopp and today, he is considered one of, if not the, most lethal strikers in Europe. Also see Sven Bender, Mats Hummels, Marco Reus etc.

For the average football fan, it will be great to see this man in the Premier League. He is absolute box office. Both he and Mourinho head-to-head should make entertaining television. Think Ferguson v Wenger, only better.

Interesting times ahead  – possibly great times ahead – at Anfield.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Footy thoughts, Internationals

Just another night in the life of Sepp Blatter

It’s Friday night. Some people are out painting the town red, some are working, some are at the Dublin derby between Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers. For Sepp Blatter of FIFA, he’s having a different Friday night. I’ll let these tweets tell the story:

and of course

but then


This could be the night Sepp Blatter resigns from FIFA. Or the night he insists he will stay on for 10 more years after a change of heart.

More on this as it develops.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Republic of Ireland

We’re no longer part of Jack’s army

On Monday, Aston Villa’s hot prospect Jack Grealish announced that he will give his allegiance to England, should he be called up to their senior squad.

In a short statement, he announced that “It was not an easy decision to make as Ireland has a special place to me through my family. However, I have decided to represent the country of my birth.”

The news will come as a disappointment to Ireland fans, as he represented the Boys In Green on almost 20 occasions from under-17 to under-21 level. He is also known to tweet the more-than-occasional shamrock emoji as well as the popular #COYBIG hashtag. That very well may change now.


Grealish now joins the likes of Wayne Rooney, Martin Keown and Paul Gascoigne, and will don the white shirt of England instead of the green of Ireland. Good luck to him.

Ireland have benefited plenty of times in the past with English born players via the so-called “granny rule”. Names like Aldridge, Kilbane, Cascarino, McCarthy, Lawrenson, Sheedy, Hughton have all played a massive part over the years. Even in our squad now, Scottish born-and-bred players like McGeady and McCarthy would be considered star players for the Tartan Army had they not have pledged to the sacred green shirt.

There’s also some players that could have been a huge benefit to our Northern Irish neighbours such as Wilson, McClean and Gibson until they declared themselves for the Republic. Hull City’s Alex Bruce did the opposite recently.

So, in short, Ireland fans can be disappointed. But we can’t complain. When it comes down to it, I’d much rather have a player who felt Irish and loves playing for Ireland rather than one who would much rather be wearing an England shirt. So perhaps it’s best Jack Grealish does play for the country of his birth if that’s where his heart lies. As a season ticket holder for the Republic of Ireland myself, I can only wish him well.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)



Champions League, Footy thoughts

Man United weren’t poor as much as Phillip Cocu was prepared.

It’s fair to assume that most Manchester United fans would have predicted the Red Devils to beat PSV. And comfortably. Louis van Gaal had a plethora of talent at his disposal for the Champions League tie on Tuesday night, but in the end the legendary manager was outclassed by his compatriot Phillip Cocu.

Cocu was appointed manager of PSV in 2013 (yours truly was at his first home game in charge) following a short stint as an assistant to the Dutch national team.

Cocu himself was a lovely footballer. He had two stints as a player with PSV, but he was truly incredible for Barcelona. He played more games for the Catalans than any other foreigner until Messi overtook him in 2011. He has shared dressing rooms with Van Gaal, Mourinho, Luis Enrique, De Boer and Pep Guardiola – all of whom have gone on to become successful top-flight managers.

PSV have had some absolute greats turn out for them before their prime. Names like Ronaldo, Romario, Van Nistelrooy, Van Bommel and Robben all instantly spring to mind. They don’t import big names much. They often look to their youth academy.

Phillip Cocu isn’t animated in the same way José Mourinho is. But there’s no doubt there’s a superb footballing brain. That’s pretty obvious to see. Manchester United weren’t so poor the other as so much as PSV were prepared. That’s all down to Cocu.

No doubt within the next few years he’ll be linked with some big jobs. Barcelona spring to mind. As do the Dutch national team. PSV probably aren’t going to win the Champions League (though they once did – in 1988), but no doubt you will see some of their players and manager making bigger headlines in years to come.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Footy thoughts, Republic of Ireland

Euro 2016 still within reach for Boys In Green

I was among the 27,000 in the Aviva stadium last night and, despite the positive result, a major effort is needed against the world champions Germany on October 8th.

Eyes will also be on events in Hampden Park on the same evening for if Scotland lose to Poland, Ireland will be guaranteed third place regardless of the outcome in the Aviva. Two wins in our final two games will see us move into second place – and automatic qualification.

It’s probably coming to the time now where Robbie Keane is dropped from our starting eleven. I know, I know. The LA Galaxy man simply doesn’t have the energy he had in previous years. Not to take anything away from him – he’s still our record goalscorer (by a long way) and one of the greatest players to ever wear the green jersey.

Also worth mentioning from my point of view is that the FAI should really reconsider their pricing scheme for home games. There was 27,000 last night. In a very, very important Euro 2016 qualifier. Unthinkable if the old Lansdowne Road was only just over 50% full for a qualifier a decade ago.


For last night’s match, while a child’s ticket was €10, tickets in the upper and lower tiers ranged from €35 to €50. If you were to sit in the premium section would set you back an astonishing €100. A hundred euros? The FAI need to rethink their prices. I, for one, am fed up of seeing thousands upon thousands of empty seats at our games.

Yes, we were uninspiring. Yes, Robbie is probably past it now. Yes, it’s too expensive to even go to these games for many. But all the negatives aside, a place in Euro 2016 is within reach. And that must be both players’ and fans’ mentality when we face the world champions next month.

Clear your calendar clear for 10th June until 10th July next summer. Just in case.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)





Footy thoughts, Republic of Ireland

Not Barça – it’s Bohs who are more than a club

Happy birthday to Bohemians, who tomorrow celebrate their 125th birthday. On the eve of the Gypsies’ birthday, fans took to the Ha’penny Bridge at 1.25am this morning to celebrate the anniversary in style with flares and a banner that read “Our Bohemian City”.

But Bohs have always been a club with a great awareness of wider social issues and also displayed a banner of support to those affected by the current refugee crisis this morning. It simply read “Refugees welcome”.

Hats off to the red and black half of the city.

It’s La Liga giants Barcelona who use the motto “Més que un club” – more than a club. But it’s Bohs who truly deserve to boast these words.

Happy birthday to the big club. 125 years old on Sunday. You don’t look a day over 100.



Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)