Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I knew after five minutes it would be a long night. After five minutes I should have made changes. There were sloppy passes, people not sprinting for the ball and weak tackles. It just sends a message you are not 100% mentally switched on. I will certainly make changes for Chelsea. They let themselves and their team-mates down. It won’t be tolerated. Jose Mourinho made brave decisions when he was at Chelsea, he took players off in the first half if he didn’t like what he saw and I should have done that, I should have been braver. I don’t care if it reflects badly on the player. It can be a risk and sometimes you have to take risks to get to the top.” – Roy Keane.
Runner-up: “I’ve thought long and hard about this and I have a plan. You could keep the Christmas fixtures as they are but stagger one round of 10 league matches throughout January.”Three games could be played on the first weekend, another three on the next weekend and the final four on the third weekend. TV broadcasters wouldn’t lose out because they can show matches each weekend – and players could rest. Also, last season the league finished on May 11. Why can’t we extend it until the end of that month and take two weeks off in January? The weather is better in May and there’s no issue with worn-out pitches in modern football. Will it ever happen? Well, I’ve been talking about a winter break ever since I came down to England, 22 years ago … but the people in charge still think football is a winter game.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Today’s overview: There are a variety of subjects on offer this Saturday, with the papers still coming to terms with the last seven days at Tottenham, reviews of the title challengers, and a host of interviews as is standard practice on the weekends.
Gary Jacob has a rare one-on-one with Spurs’ Daniel Levy, as the Tottenham chairman answered a host of questions on the recent upheavals at White Hart Lane. “Q) Is Redknapp good enough to get you into the top four? A) I very much hope so but he has never managed a top four club so you are never going to know until hopefully we get there. We have confidence that he is certainly got every chance to get us there. We went for what we considered to be the best manager but other people may have a different opinion. It is all about opinions.”
David Lacey has sympathy for Portsmouth who “are paying heavily for Tottenham’s misguided views on how a football team should be run followed by the Damascene conversion of their chairman, Daniel Levy, to the not entirely original idea that the manager should be allowed to manage.” Terry Venables (who rules himself out of the QPR job) picks up on the same line of thought, claiming “Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has finally seen sense and admitted the sporting director experiment was a failure.” Neil Warnock doesn’t believe that Redknapp will be restricted in the January sales, arguing “you can bet your bottom dollar a goalkeeper and a centre-half are on his list already.” While eccentric Russell Brand (who fails to mention his troubles with the BBC) explains his love of Harry Redknapp – “My affection for him is such that he could turn up drunk at my house at midnight, kick my cat, seduce my mother and fart Auld Lang Syne into my gaping, awestruck gob and I wouldn’t dare trouble him for a polo.”
Taking stock of matters at either end of the Premier League table, Jonathon Wilson claims that “Tottenham know they are better than their league position suggests; Liverpool fear they are not as good as theirs.” Keeping with the title contenders, Oliver Kay looks back at the changes in attack at Liverpool since Rafa Benitez first joined the club, noting “a gradual improvement in a team who were spearheaded in his first season by Milan Baros and Djibril Cisse, before flirtations with Crouch, Bellamy, Fernando Morientes, Robbie Fowler and Andriy Voronin, Benitez is entitled to feel that, with Keane supporting Fernando Torres, Liverpool finally have a worthy strike partnership.” Henry Winter finds himself talking up Manchester United – “Ferguson is convinced the camaraderie in his squad, as well as the talent, will see the champions move towards the front.”
Daniel Finkelstein investigates the art of sacking managers (“you dismiss [a manager] when you have had a run of games in which results have been even worse than the poor results you expected”). And in a standout article, the Times’ journalists gang together to review the last few days in the Premier League, on Arsenal concluding that “Hull City are the only team in the top six that they have faced, and they were beaten at home by Phil Brownâ€™s team. They trail Liverpool by six points and a run in the Champions League seems to be the best they can hope for. It appears to be another transitional season, which could be one too many for Cesc Fabregas.”
In the Saturday interviews, Stewart Downing spoke to Daniel Taylor about his living up north and playing for England, Michael Turner talked to Louise Taylor about life in the Premier League, Emile Heskey told Alan Smith about his footballing renaissance, and Matt Lawton caught up with Sam Allardyce as he looks to get back into football.
On world football, Patrick Nathanson investigates Ronaldinho’s impact at AC Milan, Simon Kuper looks at new policing methods to tackle hooliganism (“Don’t fill the streets with officers in riot gear who implicitly challenge the fans. Police should mingle with supporters, find out what they want and what is bugging them.”), and Jonathan Wilson recalls the life of Robert Mensah, Ghana and Africa’s first top class goalkeeper, who was murdered 37 years ago.