James McClean played no part in Wigan’s 1-0 win over Yeovil Town on Sunday. No explanation had been given prior to kick off and rumours exploded that the Irish winger had been dropped and sent home due to his refusal to wear a poppy on his club jersey for the game.
Following the game, Wigan boss Owen Coyle denied the reports that absence was to avoid the issue over refusing to wear the Remembrance Sunday poppy on his shirt just as he did last season. “He took a knock and has a dead leg,” Coyle said. “He wasn’t fit enough to play, it’s as simple as that.”
Twelve months ago, irate fans of his then-club Sunderland as well as most other clubs were furious with the Derry-born McClean for refusing to wear a poppy on his jersey. “They have their beliefs and I have mine,” he said. “I don’t regret it and come next year I’m going to do the same thing”. Needless to say there was more angry fans taking to Twitter yesterday afternoon.
My own view is that those who wear the poppy, regardless of nationality, should be respected. So should those that don’t. McClean – or indeed anybody – should be allowed to excercise their right to wear a poppy or not without fear of being punished.
It’s a debate that appears to really divide football fans. But it’s not a football debate.
McClean travels to Dublin today in preparation for Ireland’s two friendlies against Latvia and Poland.
What’s your take on “poppygate”? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
Quick word, dear readers: this blog is now all grown-up and celebrating it’s third birthday this week. Thanks for your continued support and the feedback I receive from each post. You are all legends. Normal service resumes tomorrow.
PS – also celebrating his birthday today is Guus Hiddink. I’d like to think he’ll be celebrating it in style like this.
The fourth fixtures of the Champions League group stage is complete. Let’s look back at the previous 48 hours of footballing action:
In Group A, there was no goals in San Sebastian for Man United as they faced Real Sociedad. Dominating the headlines immediately after the final whistle of that fixture was that of Ashley Young’s theatrics and Marouane Fellaini’s sending off the final minute. “A missed opportunity” was how manager David Moyes described the game. The draw was enough to keep United on top of the group as there was another goalless encounter in the Donbass Arena between Shakhtar Donestsk and Bayer Leverkusen.
European giants Juventus and Real Madrid played out a 2-2 draw in Turin which still sees Juve bottom of Group B. Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti was pleased by his side’s second half performance, in which Ronaldo and Bale both scored. Juve must go for it now for their remaining fixtures if they wish to progress. In the group’s other game, Copenhagen earned a surprise 1-0 victory against Turkish giants Galatasaray. The win sees both sides locked on four points each with the Turks ahead on goal difference.
In Group C, Anderlecht earned their first point of the group with a 1-1 draw against league leaders PSG in Paris. The Belgians took the lead on 68 minutes with an equalizer almost immediately from, you guessed it, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Meanwhile Olimpiacos beat Benfica 1-0 in Piraeus which boosts them up into 2nd place in the group.
Bayern Munich could only manage a 1-0 win against Group D minnows Viktoria Plzeň thanks to a Mario Mandžukić 25 minutes before the end. The win still places the cup holders on top of Group D with Man City in 2nd place following their impressive 5-2 win against CSKA Moscow at the Etihad Stadium.
A Samuel Eto’o double and a Djemba Ba strike earned Chelsea a 3-0 win against 2nd placed Schalke to keep the London side top of Group E. Giovanni Sio’s injury time equalizer was enough to secure a point for FC Basel following Steaua Buchareșt‘s early lead. The Romanian side are still cruelly in 4th place on just two points.
In Group F, Arsenal‘s season seems to be improving and improving – as does midfielder Aaron Ramsey’s. The Welshman’s 62nd minute goal was enough to earn the Gunners a difficult victory against Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund side in the fortress of yellow and black that is the Signal Iduna Park. Elsewhere Gonzalo Higuaín double helped Napoli defeat Marseille at the Stadio San Paolo to keep the Italians on 9 points along with Arsenal who lead on goal difference.
Atlético Madrid made it look easy in the Calderón following their 4-0 victory against Austria Vienna to keep them on top of Group G with 12 points. Zenit St Petersburg 1-1 draw against FC Porto in the Petrovsky Stadium keeps them in the group’s 2nd position with the Portugese outfit just a point behind and with one eye on that precious 2nd place.
Finally in Group H, Barcelona entertained AC Milan at the Camp Nou. Superstar Leo Messi had been a few games without a goal and was out to prove himself and did just that with two goals in the Catalans’ 3-1 victory against the Italian giants. Meanwhile in Amsterdam, trouble with fans and police before kick-off will dominate some headlines as Neil Lennon’s Celtic team will be disappointed to go back to Glasgow following a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Ajax which keeps them bottom of the group. Barcelona top the group on 10 points, while Milan are in 2nd place on 5 points. A victory for Celtic, currently on 3 points, in their next fixture could see them go right up to second place.
I assume you are all aware of the news, but for those who aren’t: Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane have been confirmed by the FAI as the Republic of Ireland’s new managerial team.
O’Neill had long been the favourite for the job, with Keane’s name mentioned often also. The fact that they have paired up to take over The Boys In Green has caused considerable excitement, and indeed debate, among the Irish public.
Of course the biggest debate comes from the fact that Roy Keane is involved – the Corkman continues to divide opinion in this country just as much as he did following the Saipan incident in 2002. While some are calling the managing duo “the dream team”, some are raising their eyebrows in fear that it will go pear shaped due to Keane’s explosive nature.
The new Ireland number 2, regardless of what you think of him, must be judged on his performance assisting Martin O’Neill and judged on that alone. As indeed Martin O’Neill must be too with his duties. The former Celtic and Aston Villa boss himself can be quite an explosive character when things aren’t exactly going to plan. The pair were panelists on last night’s ITV Champions League coverage and are excited about the role.
“Personally speaking I think he’ll (Keane) be great for me but more importantly he’ll be great for the Republic of Ireland,” O’Neill said on-air. “I think I’m the bad cop, and I think he’s the bad-bad cop, but I’m excited by it. I’m looking forward to it, really.”
Keane was equally as excited stating that he was “honoured” to be asked to be O’Neill’s assistant. “I’m looking forward to working with the players and trying to get to the Euros.”
I’ll be honest, I didn’t want Roy Keane as Ireland manager. I always felt his enormously high standards and character could have a negative and damaging effect on the squad. But as a number two under Martin O’Neill – well that’s a different story.
The appointment of the two, which in my opinion should be a big improvement from the way things were run under Giovanni Trapattoni, will create a buzz for the Irish fans. Some pundits are even predicting that next week’s friendly against Latvia will sell-out as a result (don’t hold your breath on that one, Mr Delaney). But one thing is for sure: it’s a highly interesting appointment at a time when confidence in the Irish camp is nowhere near as high as it should be.
Ireland play Latvia on Friday 15th November at the Aviva Stadium. Tickets from €20 available here.
What do you think of the appointment of Martin O’Neill with Roy Keane as his assistant? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
To add to the other categories of this blog such as “Football’s greatest rivalries”, “Ones to watch” and the never boring “Bloopers”, it is time to introduce a new category – Where Are They Now? I’ll be featuring some of football’s most prominent names (or at least they were at one time) that seemed to vanish into thin air. As this is the category’s big debut, I’ll start with three:
Remember Güiza? A few years back, it seemed the Spaniard could do no wrong. During his stint at Real Mallorca, Güiza finished the 2007/08 season as La Liga’s top scorer, scoring 27 goals in 37 matches, and not one of those goals came from the penalty spot.
Brought into the Spanish national side, he then claimed a winners medal at Euro 2008 and it wasn’t long before some of Europe’s biggest clubs were interested in him. But it was Istanbul that was his next destination, playing for Luis Aragones’ Fenerbahçe. Things in Turkey didn’t go so smoothly as the goals weren’t flowing as freely and Güiza, then 31 years old, went back to Spain to join Getafe.
Following a short loan spell in Malaysia last year, the 33-year old striker now plies his trade in Paraguay’s Primera División, having recently signed for Cerro Porteño
Mikaël Silvestre. You forgot about Silvestre’s very existence didn’t you? Admit it! He’s won numerous Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup and the Champions League and you forgot all about him. Yeah, me too. Remember back in the summer of 2008, the French defender made the move from Manchester United to Arsenal having devoted the previous nine years to the Red Devils? That caused a bit of controversy. Not as much as if he had joined United’s city rivals Manchester City, his original destination.
Mikaël Silvestre’s eleven years in Blighty is where he won all his silverware. Following his stint in North London, he made northern Germany his new home, joining Werder Bremen. But things in Germany didn’t go so smoothly and in February of this year, he went stateside, signing for Portland Timbers. Plagued by injuries, he’s only managed to turn out eight times for the Oregon side and he’s now at the age of 36. Is there one last push in the defender to go out as a winner?
Another 36-year-old Frenchman, David Trezeguet was at one time one of the most lethal strikers in Serie A. His €20 million move from AS Monaco to Juventus was met with great expectation and Trezeguet delivered. And continued to deliver. A decade later, and he was now ranked fourth among Juventus’ all-time top goalscorers, he was released by Juve and joined La Liga side Hercules. A year to the day later and he swapped Alicante for the Middle East – as you do. That lasted less than three months.
Without a club for the first time in his life, Trezeguet went back to Argentina where he indeed started his career (he grew up in Buenos Aires as his father is a French-Argentine former professional player). He joined giants River Plate, who has been relegated to the 2nd tier for the first time in their history. Despite being a key player in River’s return to the top flight, he was deemed surplus to requirements once promotion has been obtained. Ouch! He now turns out for Newell’s Old Boys, based in Rosario. He’s still banging in the goals there too.
What other players have been forgotten about? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
Meet Atlético Goianiense – a Brazilian based in Goiânia who ply their trade in the country’s 2nd tier of club football. Having played top level football just three years ago brought a little spotlight back on the club. But they can now boast not one, not two, but three of the most famous men in history in their current - John Lennon, Michael Jackson and Mahatma Gandhi.
OK, so John Lennon Silva Santos was born eleven years after the death of the former Beatle. So what? What an incredible name to have on the back of that jersey. Lennon, who is currently on loan from giants Botafogo, was named after his uncle suggested the name to his father. I wonder what music they listened to in their house.
The other musical genius is Michael Jackson whose real name sadly is not Michael Jackson. 26-year-old Carlos Adriano de Sousa Cruz can boast the incredible nickname, but if his feet are as quick and skillful as the Billie Jean star, then he’ll have no trouble doing some fancy tricks and beating his opponents on the ball. He shares the midfield role with 21-year old Mahatma Gandhi. Apparently while he was being born, his mother had visions of the Indian leader and therefore no other name could suffice.
So there you go. One club and three of the 20th century’s biggest idols. Sort of. But I think it’s only a matter of time before they sign the brilliantly named Santa Cruz midfielder Creedence Clearwater Couto.
What are the best footballers names you’ve heard? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
Gameweek 3 of the Champions League is over – let’s look back at the last two days of football action:
On Tuesday Arsène Wenger celebrated his 64th birthday. However I’m sure there was little celebrating taking place for the Frenchman following his Arsenal side’s 2-1 home defeat to Borussia Dortmund thanks to Robert Lewandowski’s 82nd minute winner. Arsenal, Dortmund and Rafa Bentiez’s Napoli, who themselves beat Marseille 2-1, are all on 6 points in Group F.
AC Milan kept Barcelona frustrated in the San Siro on Tuesday. Robinho’s opening goal following a beautiful one-two with Kaka was met with an equaliser from Leo Messi 14 minutes later. Also in Group H, Celtic beat Ajax 2-1 in Glasgow. The goals either side of half-time from James Forrest and Beram Kayal and Celtic lie in 3rd, with Barcelona leading and Milan in 2nd place.
In Group G, Zenit St Petersburg overcome 10-man FC Porto for their first group win while Atlético Madrid‘s Diego Costa grabbed a double in the Spanish side’s 3-0 win over Austria Vienna. Los Rojiblancos lead the group on maximum points with Zenit and Porto behind on 4 and 3 points respectively.
Fernando Torres scored twice to help secure Chelsea a 3-0 victory over Schalke 04 Meanwhile in Bucharest, Leandro Tatu’s late strike earned Steaua a draw against Swiss side FC Basel and their first point in Group E. Chelsea still lead the group on on goal difference ahead of Schalke with Basel in 3rd place on 4 points.
On Wednesday, two Sergio Aguero goals earned Man City against CSKA Moscow but the Russians were unlucky to have a goal ruled out ten minutes from time. Replays suggest the goal should’ve been allowed. Also in Group D, Bayern Munich predictably won 3 points following their 5-0 win against group minnows Viktoria Plzeň.
Zlatan Ibrahomovic was in fine form scoring four of the goals in PSG‘s 5-0 win against Anderlecht in the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. The French side still top Group C, with Olimpiacos and Benfica in 2nd and 3rd respectively as the two sides drew 1-1 in the Estádio da Luz.
A 2nd minute Iñigo Martínez own-goal was enough for David Moyes’ Man United side to get their much needed 3 points over Real Sociedad who themselves are yet to get off the mark. United lead Group A on 7 points with Bayer Leverkusen lurking behind on 6 pointss. The Germans thrashed Shakhtar Donetsk 4-0 in the BayArena.
Finally, Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in Wednesday evening’s tastiest fixture – Real Madrid v Juventus. The Spanish outfit beat Antonio Conte’s men 2-1 in a tight contest at the Bernebeu. In the other game in Group B, Galatasaray beat FC Copenhagen by 3-1 with first-half goals from Wesley Sneijder, Didier Drogba and Felipe Melo. The Turks lie in 2nd place on four points with Real in first on maximum points. Juve are placed in 3rd spot disappointingly on just 2 points.
Gameweek 4 is in a fortnight as these sides all meet again. The likes of Juve and Arsenal will be seeking revenge.
What games/players stuck out the most for you? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
I bet you forgot about some of these players but can remember them from Euro 2000 or the World Cup in 2002. Here’s my top 5 veterans still playing today:
5. Juan Sebastián Verón
Verón’s time in England is how many of us from this part of the world will remember him. And that wasn’t exactly a great success. Before Blighty, he had been turning heads in Serie A. But he returned to his beloved Estudiantes, in his native Argentina where he began his career, back in 2006. Apart from spending one season turning out for Argentine minnows Brandsen, he has been lining up each week for Estudiantes in his native La Plata, just outside Buenos Aires. He still plays for them to this day aged 38.
4. Javier Zanetti
Back in 1995, Oasis were quickly becoming the biggest band around, Microsoft introduced the (then) incredible Windows 95, and Eric Cantona was kung-fu kicking the occasional spectator. Also, this was the year Argentine defender Javier Zanetti made his debut for Inter Milan. Five Serie A titles, four Coppa Italias, one Champions League and one FIFA World Club cup winners medal later, he still plays a crucial role for il Nerazzurri to this day at the age of 40, captaining the side weekly.
3. Clarence Seedorf
An Ajax youth product, former Dutch international Clarence Seedorf has lifted the Champions League trophy for three different teams – Ajax, Real Madrid and twice for AC Milan. He spent ten hugely successful years at Milan before finishing up his contract last year. At age 36, he was expected to hang up his boots, but decided to make Brazil his new home as he signed for Botafogo, where he has been a big success in Rio de Janeiro.
2. Rivaldo This blog loves Rivaldo. Then again, who doesn’t? The Brazilian is now 41 years old and the last we heard from him he was playing in Angola. Having spent his years playing in Spain, Italy, Greece and Uzbekistan to name but a few, the 2002 World Cup Winner is back in his native Brazil playing for second tier side São Caetano who are based just outside Sao Paolo. And is he still scoring at age 41? Of course – he’s Rivaldo!
1. Alessandro Del Piero
In my estimation this man is one of Italy’s finest forwards – possibly THE finest. Oozing sheer class, Del Piero is to Juventus what Steven Gerrard is to Liverpool. Or what Xavi is to Barcelona. But unlike them, Del Piero isn’t a one-club-man. He started his career at Padova before beginning his 19 years with Juventus. Having said goodbye to “The Old Lady” in 2012, he resisted a move to Anfield and made Sydney his home. He still plays – and plays unsurprisingly brilliant – each week for Sydney FC now at the age of 38. Class is, after all, permanent.
Honourable mentions must go to Ryan Giggs, Steven Gerrard, Raul, Carles Puyol and Francesco Totti.
Who else should have been mentioned? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
“A poisoned chalice” is how Aiden McGeady last week described for anyone willing to take on the position of Republic of Ireland manager. Indeed, he is right. You can’t please them all. Especially not the pundits on RTÉ – as Noel King found out during the week. But now with Martin O’Neill, the one-time favourite by far, believed to be keen on returning to the Premier League as soon as possible, who else could we give the job to?
Mick McCarthy‘s name was mentioned. Many wouldn’t mind seeing him return. He did do a great job with the national team when he managed them from 1996 until 2002. He is however contracted with Ipswich. He only signed said contract less than a year ago – which is surprisingly long in modern day English football, isn’t it? It would cost the FAI to bring him in. But would his methods suit the squad in 2014?
Another former Irish international, and one time friend and foe of McCarthy, Roy Keane has also been mentioned. An extraoridnary man of exceptionally high standards, his managerial career has been, well, it hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, has it? Aside from securing Sunderland promotion to the Premier League six years ago, there hasn’t been much else to write home about.
There’s the three big names – O’Neill, McCarthy and Keane. If not them, then who?
Well, a bit of an outsider, but Chris Hughton would be a great appointment. A former Irish international, he was actually assistant manager under Brian Kerr from 2003 until 2005. His managerial career has earned him much respect from the football world. The only thing is – and it’s a minor thing – he may not want to leave Norwich at all. Still, one can hope.
Would the FAI bring in another non-Irish manager? Possibly. But who?
Well along with Ray Houghton, the FAI’s High Performance Director Ruud Doktor has been given the task of finding Trap’s permanent replacement. One would think Doktor may look to his native Holland for possible candidates, given his previous affiliation with the Dutch FA. With this in mind, the first names that springs to mind include Guus Hiddink, Frank Rijkaard and Fred Rutten.
Aside from the Dutch connection, I’m sure they’re also thinking about Marcelo Bielsa, Tony Pulis and Felix Magath – all of whom are well respected and currently seeking work. A provisional date of 1 November has been set to appoint a permanent successor to Trapattoni. It’ll be interesting to see who the next gaffer is. A return for Stan? Just kidding,
Who would you like to see in the vacant Ireland manager’s position? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
Former Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni told the Italian media that he did a good job with the boys in green – especially since Ireland is a country that doesn’t have it’s own league.
Talking to Tuttosport, the 74-year-old said: “I left Ireland without controversy. We had important results together and had some satisfying moments. It’s true we were unable to achieve qualification to the World Cup, but at the end of the day we said goodbye like civilised people.”
“I got to know an exceptional country, humble and also proud. In a nation that doesn’t have its own football league, I think I did a good job.”
Now, while the League of Ireland isn’t filling giant stadiums and it’s teams aren’t Champions League quality, it’s hugely insulting to the league’s fans and players. But it’s hugely baffling as many of the squad he managed came from the league (eg. Coleman, Hoolahan, Doyle, Forde, Long, McClean etc.)
What’s worse is it’s now the second time he’s made comments like these having told the media that Ireland doesn’t have it’s own league following the loss to Sweden.
Thanks for that. Best of luck with the future, Trap.
What do you make of Il Trap’s comments? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
Jack Wilshere has landed himself in a spot of bother as he stated this week that he believes naturalised English players should not be allowed play for the English national team.
It all started with the news that England boss Roy Hodgson was monitoring the progress of Manchester United starlet Adnan Januzaj – who himself is eligble to play for Belgium, Albania and Serbia. If he remains uncapped at international level and becomes a naturalised English citizen, Hodgson is definitely interested. Wilshire, on the other hand, wasn’t too keen on the idea.
“If you’ve lived in England for five years, for me, it doesn’t make you English,” said the Arsenal star. “If I went to Spain and lived there for five years, I’m not going to play for Spain”.
Then yesterday England’s South African-born cricketer Kevin Pieterson questioned Wilshere’s comments on Twitter. “Interested to know how you define foreigner … ? Would that include me, Strauss, Trott, Prior, Justin Rose, Froome, Mo Farah?”.
Wilshere responded: “With all due respect Mr Pietersen, the question was about football! Cricket, cycling, athletics is not my field.”
Pietersen then replied: “Same difference … It’s about representing your country! IN ANY SPORT!”
It’s an interesting topic. There’s a difference between playing for a country for the sake of international football and playing for pride and the country itself.
Indeed there has historically been some fantastic talent of naturalised players such as the great Alfredo di Stefano, Laszlo Kubala, Patrick Vieira, Lukas Podolski, Marcel Desailly, Eduardo, Deco and Kevin Kuranyi have all excelled for their new country at international level over the years.
England, like ourselves, is a very proud nation. And I have no doubt that many will agree with Wilshire. But if Januzaj becomes a naturalised citizen, feels English and wishes to represent England, then surely he should be given a chance if good enough?
OK, so it’s not exactly holiday season, but that doesn’t stop us from buying a good book does it? Take a peek at my top 5 football books:
5.Mad For It: From Blackpool to Barcelona: Football’s Greatest Rivalries by Andy Mitten (2008)
This is an intriguing account of some of football’s biggest rivalries, written by the founder of the now legendary fanzine United We Stand, Andy Mitten. The Mancunian author has visited more grounds around the globe, covered more games and interviewed more fans and players than I have eaten hot dinners – he knows what he’s talking about. Everything from Buenos Aires’ tense derby to the boys from the black country battling it out is covered here. A fascinating read.
4. Barça: The Making Of The Greatest Team in the World by Graham Hunter (2012)
When I took this book on my honeymoon in Rome last year, I didn’t realise that I’d have a much harder job putting it down than finding my way around the Eternal City without a map. Hunter, who himself is based in the city of Barcelona, presents an incredible page-turner with this book. If you’ve ever watched the author on Revista De La Liga on Sky Sports, then you’ll know his knowledge on Barça seems to never end and in this book and he captures absolutely all that knowledge of the club’s most successful era just brilliantly.
3. I Am The Secret Footballer by Anonymous (2012)
The Secret Footballer is, as you may already know, an anonymous footballer who has played at England’s top tier. Initally a columnist in The Guardian newspaper, his identity remains anonymous so that he can reveal some stories that only a player of his level could reveal and without fear. It’s an incredibly fascinating look at life inside the game. It’s funny, gritty, surprising and hugely enjoyable. For a very similar book, check out The Secret Player (2013). It’s the exact same idea (in fact the Secret Player has been writing his column for FourFourTwo before TSF wrote first his column for The Guardian). Both fascinating accounts but, in my view, I Am The Secret Footballer is just that bit better.
2. Yo Soy El Diego by Diego Maradona (2000)
Maradona, arguably the greatest footballer to ever kick a ball, led an extraordinary life on the pitch. And very much off it. Written by the Argentine genius in Havana, he documents plenty of major and minor events from his humble beginnings in Buenos Aires to playing with Boca Juniors and from his difficult time in Spain to reaching World Cup glory with his country in 1986. Life off the pitch for Diego, believe me, was just as fast as it was on it. Incredible story from the horse’s mouth as he remembers it.
1. Only A Game? The Diary of a Professional Footballer by Eamon Dunphy (1979)
Long before the Premier League, all-seater stadiums and Sky Sports, football was a gritty but beautiful game. In the 1970′s, it was a demanding game and Ireland’s most colourful character of journalism, Eamon Dunphy, documented his time with Millwall in the old second division during the 1974-75 season long before he was getting into arguments with Liam Brady on RTÉ. It’s a truly honest, witty and insightful look of a day-to-day life of a professional 1970′s footballer.
The World Cup in 2022 is, as we all know, to be held in Qatar. With temperatures soaring to around 40°C plus, it would risk the health of many professionals playing at the highest level and even possibly some fans. FIFA’s solution? Move it to the winter.
Of course, that would severely disrupt almost all major leagues at club level. But while that’s one debate why Qatar hosting the World Cup isn’t, in my opinion, an appropriate host nation, the Gulf state now faces serious allegations about its alleged appalling treatment of migrant workers. Far more serious issues than the fact if the competition should be staged at the right time of year. But that’s another debate.
Qatar, a country of just 1.7m people, was announced as the winning candidate of the 2022 competition just three years ago – beating off the rival bids from the United States, who had been considered the favourites by many, Australia, South Korea and Japan.
“We know it would be a bold gamble and an exciting prospect but with no risk,” the bid chief executive, Hassan Al-Thawadi, said. “Heat is not and will not be an issue”. Plenty of professionals, journalists and indeed fans seemed to take issue with Qatar as host for the competition in summer. But moving it to winter would be unthinkable surely? Apparently not.
Indeed FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in October 2012: “The FIFA World Cup is played in June and July. That’s the basic condition. It is my duty, my responsibility and my right to defend FIFA’s principles. One of these principles was: June, July”. Just last month he then said: “I came to the conclusion that playing the World Cup in the heat of Qatar’s summer was simply not a responsible thing to do.”
There’s something not quite right about Qatar hosting this World Cup. Play it in the summer and there’s major health risks. Play it in the winter and it goes against what we all love about the competition – let alone the major disruption to club football around the globe. I’ll leave you with a quote from Sepp Blatter about awarding Qatar the tournament: “It may well be that we made a mistake at the time.”
As a fan, I don’t support having a winter competition. Do you?
Noel King, though only a interim manager for Ireland, has done what the Irish public had been demanding of Giovanni Trapattoni for some time – he’s brought Andy Reid back into the Ireland squad.
As well as the Notts Forest midfielder, Kevin Doyle and Anthony Stokes have also been recalled by King. And of course Darron Gibson has ended his self-imposed exile after vowing never to play under the Italian boss again – he’s in the squad to face Germany and Kazakhstan next month. Some very welcomed names I’m sure you’ll agree.
Though the chances of us going to Rio next summer have pretty much died, it’s still important to play with some heart and passion – something the team had been lacking under Trap’s guidance. Noel King is laying down the foundations for the post-Trapattoni era.
One other player who King was also interested in recalling was Stephen Ireland. The Corkman had indicated his willingness to return to the set-up, but only once he has re-established himself in club football since being put on loan to Stoke City this season.
While most players would cut off their hand to represent their country, here Ireland has the chance to showcase his talents (and he can be quite the player) on a big stage against one of the biggest teams.
I would like to see Stephen Ireland play for Ireland – but I’d prefer if HE wanted to play for us. It shouldn’t be a chore.
The Republic of Ireland squad to face Germany and Kazakhstan are: David Forde (Millwall), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland), Darren Randolph (Birmingham), Joey O’Brien (West Ham), Sean St Ledger (Leicester), Marc Wilson (Stoke), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Stephen Kelly (Reading), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Paul McShane (Hull), Darron Gibson (Everton), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), James McCarthy (Everton), Paul Green (Leeds), Andy Reid (Notts Forest), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Anthony Pilkington (Norwich), James McClean (Wigan), Stephen Quinn (Hull), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich), Shane Long (WBA), Robbie Keane (L.A. Galaxy), Jon Walters (Stoke), Kevin Doyle (Wolves), Anthony Stokes (Celtic).
What do you think of Noel King’s selection, and what do you make of Stephen Ireland’s possible return? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
If you think Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is bad – he’s no Maurizio Zamparini. The president of Palermo came back into the headlines recently for sacking Gennaro Gattuso after just six games in charge (he won two of them, including a 3-0 win, lost three and drew one). Six games? What does a man have to do to keep his job as a football manager these days? That is no doubt a question that Roberto di Matteo asks himself every day since November 2012.
But Zamparini, nicknamed “the manager eater” by the Italian press, makes the trigger-happy Chelsea owner seem lazy. While to be sacked after six games is harsh, it’s hardly surprising. Gattuso became the 20th manager to get the bullet from Zamparini since the Italian businessman bought the Sicilian club 11 years ago. Yes – the twentieth! He’s even given the same manager the boot on more than one occasion.
Last season, Zamparini used three different coaches – two of them twice.
Former Inter boss Gian Piero Gasperini was brought in and then very promptly sacked. He was replaced with the much-travelled Alberto Malesani for three games, but then Gasperini was brought back in again before handing him his P45 after just two games in charge. Yes…two! Zamparini eventually brought back Giuseppe Sannino, who had actually started the season as manager but was sacked after three matches.