Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “My colleagues are saying very quietly that the guys who are coming to them are lightweight. This is the type of thing that loses you a bid. You have to look at what others are doing and also be creative yourself â€“ these things are not happening. I feel England do not exploit their attributes. I would take Beckham and make him my ambassador in countries where people are going to vote. England’s attributes surpasses any other country. I would have been more aggressive in the market place. If I had the Premier League, Beckham and the Queen, there would have been many things I could have done for the people who are voting.” – Fifa vice-president Jack Warner.
Runner-up: “He’s done the same role at Chelsea. Directors of football fall into two categories. One is to look after all the transfer business. Or, if they are involved on the technical side â€” and he [Avram Grant] is on the technical side. He will work closely with Paul on all aspects but Paul will have the say as far as the team selection is concerned. And, as far as the players in the future it will obviously be all of us â€” we’ve appointed Ray Clarke as chief scout. So it will be him, myself, Avram and Paul.” – Peter Storrie.
Today’s overview: Avram Grant is back in English football, the Israeli returning to Portsmouth assuming his previous role as a director of football. But what does this mean for Paul Hart’s future as the Pompey manager?
Answering that question head-on, Jamie Jackson shouts that “Grant’s imminent arrival would not threaten the position of Hart… [while] Storrie will meet Grant this weekend to finalise his contract â€” it is likely to run until next season â€” before the Israeli starts work officially on Monday.
Following suit is Nick , who takes care in his language to report “Storrie and Hart were informed, rather than consulted, about Grantâ€™s appointment as director of football. But Storrie insisted that Ali al-Faraj, the new owner, has no plans to get rid of Hart, despite the club being bottom of the Barclays Premier League.” Matt Lawton is also quick to point out how Grant’s appointment was forced on Paul Hart. “Grant, who has a three-year contract, will start his job on Monday after an appointment that Hart discovered was being made only after yesterday’s training session.”
Harry Redknapp also comments on Grant’s return in his column in The Sun. “I don’t think Avram will be after Paul’s job. He will be there as a great sounding board and a voice of experience, while Paul has the final say on who plays in the team… Grant is just the right sort of person you can bounce ideas off and that is just what Paul needs right now. The last thing he needs is to feel isolated.”
Reading between the lines, Sam Wallace is convinced Grant will become Portsmouth manager soon. “Grant wants to be a manager and it is hard to believe that he will not get his wish at Fratton Park at some point this season. He has taken this new role because, so far, he has been unable to parlay his eight months at Chelsea into a manager’s job anywhere else in the world.”
The brouhaha over how and where to watch Ukraine-England on the weekend continues unabated this Thursday.
Paul Doyle explains why people are getting so excitable this week. “The real problem, of course, is that there are no games taking place at the moment. Or, put another way, there is an England game at the weekend but no one can get too worked up about it because Fabio Capello has done his work ahead of time. While this time two years ago England were on the brink of calamity, the only thing that can go wrong in Dnipropetrovsk on Saturday, apart from a rash of spelling mistakes, is some sort of internet crash.”
Straight-shooting, Marina Hyde pens her negative thoughts ahead of the event. “Where are you watching the England game? I’m watching it at the Odeon Leicester Square (Screen 1), at a cost of Â£12, and I’ll probably chase it down with six kilos of popcorn and a uranium-hued drink in a paper cup on which you could windsurf… Where better to indulge oneself in the increasingly soulless, commercially packaged experience that is following England than in one of the capital’s least appealing, most overpriced cinemas, on a velour-upholstered theatre seat?”
Former Newcastle and Manchester United striker Andy Cole explains why he’ll not be watching the match. “Let’s face it: England’s match in Ukraine is being screened solely on the internet because it’s no longer important. If it had any meaning, a broadcaster would have paid. It’s not a game I would have stayed in to watch anyway; England have qualified for the World Cup so the job’s done. I certainly wouldn’t spend Â£4.99 or more to see it on the web. I’ve got nothing against technology but we pay enough to watch football already.”
English football is also reeling this morning following Jack Warner’s criticisms of England 2018 World Cup bid. But, as Paul Kelso identifies, Warner hit several nails on the head in his observations. “English football does not have a Sebastian Coe or a Franz Beckenbauer to call on, a figure whose face opens doors and reputation goes before him. Instead Triesman is leading the campaign, attempting to fast-track his knowledge of the international political arena as he goes along. He clearly has not impressed everyone, internationally or at home, where he is not helped by persistent sniping from the margins of a bid board that continues to reflect the divisions in the domestic game.”
Henry Winter is quick to calm down the sense of shock from Warner’s criticisms of England. “Warner has definitely spooked the FA, who must now avoid panicking or believing that all is lost simply because a Machiavellian figure has delivered some barbs.”
Moving on, Ireland bosses Jack Charlton and Giovanni Trapattoni. “But did Jack care what others said? Does Trap give a monkeyâ€™s? Do they heck. Ireland were difficult to beat and are now. OK, at times neither style is particularly pretty, but itâ€™s effective.”
Keeping in the international arena, Paul Doyle traces the woes dogging Belgian football. “Throughout this campaign stories seeped out about players asking to be declared injured so they could skip training and go carousing instead; of players refusing to travel unless allowed to carry their gear in Gucci manbags; of a fight in a nightclub after the 5-0 defeat in Spain; of high jinks in a nightclub a few hours before the 2-1 defeat in Bosnia-Herzegovina; of substitutes refusing to play; and of an experienced player being dropped after turning up for a match without any boots.”
With a lack of fresh football to chew over, Alex Ferguson’s rant towards referee Alan Wiley continues to make waves across the backpages.
The Manchester United manager is criticised by Lawrence Donegan for his outburst. “Every time Ferguson opens his mouth in such a fashion, hoping to gain an unfair advantage, he is damaging the game. That is bad enough, but of more serious interest â€“ or at least it should be to Ferguson’s friends â€“ is the impact his words will have had on Wiley, who until now has lived a fairy innocuous professional life (at least by modern standards of refereeing controversies).”
Taking a different angle, Tony Barrett considers how powerful Ferguson is to be able to control the media agenda. “The fact that everyone knew his comments about Wiley were a diversion was not enough to stop them from taking the spotlight away from a poor result and performance. It is media management at its most powerful and for some reason Ferguson gets away with it again and again and again.”
Staying with Manchester United, and in a conclusion to a story which is not as dramatic as when the news broke in the first place, Neil Johnson reports that “United have been cleared to sign Paul Pogba after a protracted battle with the teenagerâ€™s former club, Le Havre.” And, from one teenager to another, Mark Ogden notes that “Unitedâ€™s pursuit of the Brazilian teenager, Douglas Costa, billed as the ‘new Ronaldinhoâ€™, is likely to continue for some time, however, with the 19-year-old forward admitting he is reluctant to leave Brazil in the short-term.”
Gossiping, the Telegraph’s Giles Mole announces “Maicon’s agent has said Manchester United have upped their interest in the Inter Milan defender, but insists there are no offers on the table.”
In other transfer news, Ashley Gray claims “Roman Pavlyuchenko’s move from Spurs to Zenit St Petersburg is still on the cards,” while Ian Ladyman trumpets that the Man City spending spree is not over by a long shot. “It is understood that Hughes, who spent more than Â£120million this summer, has been given the go-ahead by the club’s owners to take the next step in the New Year after he made it clear that his squad still need a right back, a left back and another creative midfielder.”
In the other transfer tales, Spurs are said to be making moves according to the Daily Mail, as “Sulley Muntari could be set to end his miserable spell in Italy and leave Jose Mourinho’s Serie A champions Inter Milan for Tottenham Hotspur in the New Year after the player’s agent admitted the two clubs are in talks.” Elsewhere, Alan Nixon barks that “Sol Campbell is in talks with West Brom boss Roberto Di Matteo about leading their promotion push – and wants to be cleared to make an instant comeback.”
Finally, ownership of two Premier League clubs could change hands in the near future, if the tabloids are to be believed.
The Sun’s Andrew Dillion swoops in with reports of “the Return of the Egg.” “Eggert Magnusson is secretly plotting to make a shock comeback as West Ham’s new owner… Magnusson retains a deep fondness for West Ham and is prepared to step in and ‘rescue’ them – but at nowhere near the current Â£100million price tag being touted.” The Mirror also carry the story adding “the Icelandic businessman wants a second spell at the club and could be about to battle David Gold and David Sullivan and consortiums from Asia and the USA for control.”
While, over in The Mirror, Alan Nixon splashes with news that “Liverpool co-owner George Gillett is flying to Saudi Arabia next week for talks in a bid to sell his 50 per cent stake to Prince Faisal bin Fahd. Gillett is due to arrive in the Middle East on Wednesday and is scheduled for a three-day stay to sort out the deal with the Prince’s advisers and his financial company F6 Sports.”