Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “We’re sitting down and having a chat with him [Michael Owen] and his agent. We’re going to fight like hell to keep him. I’d sooner have Michael scoring goals than any amount of cash. His record speaks for itself. I played with one of the best [forwards] for 10 years in Jimmy Greaves and Michael’s very similar.” – Joe Kinnear.
Runner-up: “If I think about the competition and the games that we lost and the points we lost here, I agree with the fans [who booed at full time]. But they need to understand the players try to do their best every time. They donâ€™t want to draw, they donâ€™t want to lose, but sometimes we donâ€™t have the quality to win.” – Felipe Scolari.
Today’s overview: It’s a happy day to be a Hammer, with Zola’s boys being showered with praise in today’s backpages.
For Richard Williams, “too much should not be made of one good performance, but yesterday’s display suggested that the resilience that made him such a dangerous player is still at his disposal.” Matt Hughes also credited the Hammer’s performance, noting “to linger too long on Chelseaâ€™s deficiencies would be unfair on West Ham and particularly Zola, who deserves immense credit for formulating a bold game plan.” Henry Winter liked what he saw for the Eastenders, writing “if Zolaâ€™s men perform with similar heart and discipline for the rest of the season, and sharpen their cutting edge in front of goal, they will surely avoid relegation.”
On Chelsea, Kevin McCarra points out that “the ramparts of Stamford Bridge no longer look impregnable… the side has now won just three of their nine League fixtures at home, dropping 14 points.”
Hot on the heels on Rob Stewart’s claim that “it is understood that the members of the [Sunderland] boardroom oppose the hiring the former Newcastle manager [Allardyce] because of his association with their rivals and his rejection of their advances before they hired Roy Keane in 2006,” Martin Samuel is shocked that Big Sam has yet to receive the reigns. “It is an English thing, this penchant for dismissing and disregarding our own… In Spain, for what he achieved at Bolton, Allardyce would have bypassed Newcastle and gone directly to the equivalent of our Champions League elite.”
In a standout article, Sam Wallace takes Lord Mawhinney, the Football League chairman, to town for claiming that “14 out of the 23 players in the England squad had been ‘developed’ by Football League clubs… Mawhinney was trying to make a point that the Football League has a major role in developing elite footballers, although rather fewer than he first claimed. The real sadness about promising young footballers who do find themselves at Football League clubs and want to leave is that their options are being limited by the huge transfer fees set by tribunal. The trade in teenage players is one of the least edifying aspects of English football.”
In Premier League news, Paul Ince continues to be dogged by headlines forecasting his sacking, and Richard Bright goes so far as to highlight the candidates for the still occupied Rover’s job. And talking on his beloved Spurs, David Pleat charges Harry Redknapp’s next move to be “to maximise Luka Modric’s abilities, particularly if Roman Pavlyuchenko and Darren Bent are not to be paired together or even considered compatible.” While Joe Bernstein reports that “Manchester City manager Mark Hughes is stamping down on the emerging Brazilian clique at Eastlands by offloading Elano and Jo in January.”
Lee Clayton compiles that Daily Mail’s guide to the top ten footballing superheroes. “Bryan Robson Dynamic goalscorer from midfield, who put his body on the line for club and country.Â The timing of those runs to meet the ball with a header or volley from deep… that’s what made him such a special player. The Captain Marvel nickname was born for him. And he was.”
Gabriele Marcotti delivers his verdict on Barca having watched El Clasico, claiming the Spanish leaders are not impregnable. “There are clear chinks in the armour â€” Alves is vulnerable defensively, there is no real aerial threat in midfield and attack. If opponents can keep possession, Barcelona struggle to get it back â€” which will make the rest of the season rather interesting.”
Lastly, in the first of many likely reviews of the season, Duncan White looks back at 2008. “Theo WalcottÂ¹s hat-trick, Sept 10 Not since John Barnes stunned the Maracana has a young English winger announced his talent so spectacularly on the international stage. Croatia had not lost at home since their entry into international football and had twice beaten England in Euro 2008 qualifying. All that was forgotten as Walcott tore the Croats to pieces in the most morale-boosting England victory since the 5-1 defeat of Germany in Munich.”