“You can’t afford to be Roy of the Rovers all the time” – Stevie G

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “He [Capello] wants me to emulate my form for Liverpool for England. He is prepared to help me. That is what I want. I do not want a manager to give up on me for club or country. I haven’t always hit my Liverpool form for England but it’s not through a lack of trying. I’m desperate to play well… I have delivered for England but I need to make that more consistent, That’s the next challenge for me, to try to stay in the starting XI and perform as consistently for England as I do for Liverpool. The manager has shown in the games he has been in charge he’s prepared to make changes. He’s not bothered about big names or big hitters, he’ll pick the team who he thinks will do the job… You can’t afford to be Roy of the Rovers all the time against top sides. If I’m wandering off all over the place my team-mates will come unstuck.”  – Steven Gerrard.

Runner-up: “Manchester City is a team that has a very important financial support that is getting prepared for winning the title, I am very happy at Blackburn but I like the idea of playing for a team that will be fighting for important objectives. I will keep on doing what I do at Blackburn but if the coach of Manchester City is interested in me I would like to join Robinho in that team. He is a wonderful player and I would like to play next to him.” – Roque Santa Cruz.

Today’s overview: Although England is the focus this Tuesday morning, there are a few threads of interesting Premier League news.

The Daily Mirror claim Juventus are chasing Rafa Benitez to be their new boss (which sounds like a story put out by some of the Spaniards friends in the British press). Ian Herbert reports in The Independent that Manchester City have appointed Martin (“Marty”) Edelman, “one of New York’s leading property lawyers, fresh from helping tie up the £316m purchase of the Miami Dolphins,” to their board.

And financially troubled West Ham “are close to securing a new £4m-a-year shirt sponsorship deal,” according to Paul Kelso in the Daily Telegraph. And Matt Scott (Guardian) writes that “West Ham were yesterday the subject of a takeover approach by Dubai’s sovereign-wealth fund Zabeel Investments.” In other takeover news, George Caulkin in The Times claims that there are a number of interested buyers in Newcastle.

On to England and Steven Gerrard’s quotes take center stage. Matt Lawton in the Daily Mail analyses Gerrard’s body language yesterday. “Steven Gerrard has spoken of a desire to play like ‘Roy of the Rovers’, but Roy of the Rovers never had days like yesterday. Liverpool’s captain sounded like he needed Billy’s boots, and not just to sharpen up his shooting.” Matt Dickinson (The Times) also writes of Gerrard’s “soul-searching.” “If he was not concerned about his place before he went in, the Liverpool captain must have been worried sick by the time he left.”

Also on England, Kevin McCarra writes of David Beckham and his determination to play for England, even in a bit-part role. Whilst, Ian Wright in The Sun blames Wembley for England’s poor performances: “Wembley doesn’t possess a wow factor. It’s a grey, functional lump of concrete.”

In The Independent, in the first of a two-part investigation, Glenn Moore “reports from the training ground on an FA initiative aimed at encouraging players to express themselves.” And on Belarus, there is a feature on manager Bernd Strange and on a pdf file, Bill Edgar (The Times) analyses the attacking strengths of Belarus.

On some of the other international games in recent days, Paolo Bandini in the Guardian casts his eye over Italy’s 0-0 draw in Bulgaria, with special focus on the fascist fans that blighted the game, Raphael Honigstein (Guardian) analyses Germany’s 2-1 win over Russia, with an emphasis on Lukas Podolski. And the always excellent Tim Vickery (BBC) hails the top scorer in South American World Cup qualifying, Bolivia’s Joaquin Botero and looks at Colombia’s problems.

Other articles of interest include an attack on Michel Platini and French football by Jim White in the Daily Telegraph, a report by Luke Harding (Guardian) that Roman Pavlyuchenko has “won a seat on the regional council in his home town of Stavropol” and a feature on the new online game Football Superstars. And finally news of a petition started by Everton fans calling on Mikel Arteta to play for England.

The Daily Mirror claim Juventus are chasing Rafa Benitez to be their new boss. “Rafa Benitez is on a shortlist of three if Juventus sack under pressure coach Claudio Ranieri. The Italian boss has been given until Christmas to save his job in Turin. If he fails, then Juve want one of Benitez, Frank Rijkaard or former Italy boss Roberto Donadoni. And that effectively could leave Liverpool’s American owners with a new year deadline to secure their manager’s long-term future. The Spanish coach has indicated that he is ready to sign a new contract to ensure he stays at Anfield. So far, despite stating several times that they want the manager to extend his current deal, owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have failed to make any sort of offer. But with Ranieri seemingly certain to be sacked within the next few weeks, it adds some urgency to talks, with Benitez’s contract running down.”

Ian Herbert reports in The Independent that Manchester City have appointed a new member to their board. “Manchester City’s transformation from the rainy city’s other team into an international sporting property was underlined last night with the appointment to its board of one of New York’s leading property lawyers, fresh from helping tie up the £316m purchase of the Miami Dolphins. Like many of those now at the City helm, Martin (“Marty”) Edelman does not appear to have any grounding in British football. But he did help the Dolphins’ new owner Stephen Ross buy 50 per cent of the American football franchise and land surrounding it in February and his appointment illustrates the belief of new City owner Sheikh Mansour al Nahyan that the development of a business like the Dolphins can be replicated at City.”

According to Paul Kelso in the Daily Telegraph, “West Ham United are close to securing a new £4m-a-year shirt sponsorship deal that could ease fears that the club has been destabilised by turbulence in the Icelandic economy.”

Also on West Ham, Gary Jacob (The Times) writes that “West Ham United will step up their fight against paying Sheffield United compensation by lodging an appeal in the High Court this week. An arbitration panel ruled last month that West Ham are liable for compensation on the basis that Carlos Tévez, their former player, was worth more than the three points that separated them and Sheffield United, who were relegated, after the 2006-07 season.  The East London club, who breached Premier League rules in the transfer of the Argentina forward, have also asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, to hear the dispute and are willing to take the issue to Fifa.”

And finally on West Ham, Matt Scott (Guardian) writes that “West Ham were yesterday the subject of a takeover approach by Dubai’s sovereign-wealth fund Zabeel Investments. The same company, controlled by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, declared its interest in Charlton Athletic last Friday in the form of an “indicative bid”. But yesterday’s approach was far more discreetly conducted.”

George Caulkin in The Times claims that there are a number of interested buyers in Newcastle. “Football is not immune from the flux afflicting the global economy, but at least three of the parties manoeuvring to buy Newcastle United have provided proof that they have the funds to revitalise the club. As of last night, the number of groups who have registered a firm interest in acquiring Mike Ashley’s stake before Friday’s deadline remained static at seven, but no one has dropped out. Reports over the weekend suggested that Ashley, Newcastle’s billionaire owner, was hunkering down for an extended stay at St James’ Park in the face of the turbulent financial conditions that are affecting his search for a buyer. It has also been said that Joe Kinnear, the club’s interim manager, may remain in his position until the end of the season.”

Matt Lawton in the Daily Mail analyses Steven Gerrard’s performances for England. “Steven Gerrard has spoken of a desire to play like ‘Roy of the Rovers’, but Roy of the Rovers never had days like yesterday. Liverpool’s captain sounded like he needed Billy’s boots, and not just to sharpen up his shooting. Overcome, seemingly, by self-doubt, he admitted not only to fearing for his England place but to putting himself under too much pressure.”

Matt Dickinson (The Times) also writes of Gerrard’s “soul-searching.” “If he was not concerned about his place before he went in, the Liverpool captain must have been worried sick by the time he left. When was the last time he played well for his country, we wanted to know. Was he anxious about the prospect of being dropped? Why does he look so troubled in an England shirt? Instead of a massage, he probably went off for a lie-down on a psychologist’s couch.”

Kevin McCarra writes of David Beckham and his determination to play for England, even in a bit-part role. “The persistence in pursuing involvement with the national team does have its note of pathos. Fulfilment might otherwise be denied him nowadays. LA Galaxy are underachievers, management is not a plausible career move, eloquent punditry will never come readily to him, and operating soccer academies is unlikely to enthral. Beckham might as well play some more football.”

Matt Lawton also fears for John Terry’s future after he was left out of the trip to Belarus due to injury. “Terry is renowned for his courageous, combative style and for playing carrying injuries. But there is a fear that his ‘Captain Marvel’ style is starting to take its toll and statistics reveal a decline in his ability to play as regularly as previously.”

Ian Wright in The Sun blames Wembley for England’s poor performances. “Wembley doesn’t possess a wow factor. It’s a grey, functional lump of concrete. As a player, I couldn’t wait to get out at the old Wembley — I loved it. That long walk from the tunnel behind the goal was magical, just ask any player lucky enough to have made that journey and they’d tell you the same. When I first walked out at the Nou Camp at Barcelona, I thought ‘wow!’ When I have gone to the San Siro in Milan, I have also thought ‘wow!’ Old Trafford also gives me a buzz each and every time I go there. But when I go to Wembley, I think ‘what a waste of so much money.’ I wish the Twin Towers had been listed so we couldn’t have bulldozed them. Or, at least, Norman Foster, the architect, could have incorporated a new version of them. The towers were iconic but, instead, we’re left with an irrelevant arch! Is the arch better than the Twin Towers? NO. The only thing familiar from the old Wembley is the pitch — and even that’s in a state.”

Sam Wallace in The Independent provides the “anatomy of a modern England fan.” “Which is not to say England’s support is not knowledgeable or patriotic – in the best sense of the word – but, even eight years on from the riots at Charleroi, many of them still seem too quick to obey the instincts of the mob. The FA, who have three full-time staff just to take care of their supporters, are understandably twitchy. They have a £341.5m mortgage on Wembley that relies on the fans. They also have a group of players who are falling out of love with those same supporters. It is a fissure that is opening up throughout football and, with the money in the game, it only seems to be getting worse. Trust England, the players, the FA and the fans to find themselves either side of the widest part of the gap.”

Also in The Independent, in the first of a two-part investigation, Glenn Moore “reports from the training ground on an FA initiative aimed at encouraging players to express themselves.” “With England’s failure to win a major tournament stretching towards half a century, the Football Association has again overhauled its coaching system. Concerned that English players lack imagination on the big stage and have a tendency to freeze, traits which were evident again against Kazakhstan at Wembley on Saturday despite the eventual result, they have gone all touchy-feely. The new generation of courses encourage coaches to work with young players rather than dictate to them.  The change is driven by Trevor Brooking, the FA’s director of football development. ‘In my era we developed with our mates playing on the street,’ he said. ‘Now kids’ football is all structured with an adult in charge. If that adult is dictatorial he can do massive damage. We have tended to be coach-dominated and our youngsters are frightened of their own shadows. Coaches should encourage players to express themselves, to take chances and not worry about making mistakes.'”

Andrew McKenzie on the BBC website features Belarus manager Bernd Strange. “Brought up in East Germany during the height of the Cold War, Stange was sacked by Hertha Berlin over accusations of spying on his players for the secret police and put himself in the line of fire during his time as national coach of Iraq. ‘My car was shot at,’ he told BBC Sport. ‘I had death threats because there was a picture in the newspaper of me with the British foreign minister Jack Straw and 5,000 footballs that he had given us. A photo of me with the mortal enemy! After that I had to leave the country.'”

On a pdf file, Bill Edgar (The Times) analyses the attacking strengths of Belarus.

The Daily Mail report that Everton fans have started a campaign for Mikel Arteta to play for England. “the Goodison Park faithful have taken matters into their own hands and started a petition on evertonbanter.co.uk to persuade England to pick their favourite playmaker in January 2010 when he becomes eligible under the residency rule. This would even make him available for the World Cup if England qualify even though he did win seven caps at Spanish under-21 level.”

Paolo Bandini in the Guardian casts his eye over Italy’s 0-0 draw in Bulgaria, with special focus on the fascist fans that blighted the game. “It is unrealistic to imagine football can force its followers and participants to change their political views. What it can aspire to is improving the way they behave at games. If Abete believes that the only way to guarantee no trouble at games is to ban fans from travelling, then that is what he must do. As a long-term solution, however, it is glaringly incomplete.”

Raphael Honigstein (Guardian) analyses Germany’s 2-1 win over Russia, with special emphasis on Lukas Podolski. “Achtung Baby, trick question. Who thinks he should always be in the starting XI, in his favourite position, irrespective of form? Who doesn’t know what he’s doing half of the time and is deadly the next minute? Who’s a shining knight in white and a piece of sloth excrement in red? If your answer’s Steven Gerrard, you’re wide of the mark – wrong shirt colours. No, the dissociative identity disorder-suffering player in question is of course none other than HRH Poldi I, Clown Prince of Germania, commonly known as Lukas Podolski.”

The always excellent Tim Vickery (BBC) hails the top scorer in South American World Cup qualifying, Bolivia’s Joaquin Botero and looks at Colombia’s problems. “At the halfway stage in South America’s World Cup qualifiers the top scorer is Joaquin Botero of Bolivia. He had plenty to celebrate on Saturday – he scored twice to help his side to a 3-0 win over Peru and in the process became Bolivia’s all-time leading marksman and the first man on the continent to score five goals in the current campaign. This last achievement is all the more remarkable given that Botero was not even selected for the first few matches. But in three starts plus 25 minutes off the bench he has one more goal to his name than the entire Colombia team have managed in nine games.”

Jim White in the Daily Telegraph attacks Michel Platini by attacking the quality of the football in France. “There is plenty wrong with English football right now. Like John Prescott let loose in a pie shop, it is a game suffering from greedy excess. Debt, wages, foreign mercenaries: there is too much of everything. Everything, that is, apart from trophies won by our national team.  Yet care should be taken when deciding which country offers a model for a better way. France is hardly the paragon of how a system might be set up. Take the top division of their domestic league. This is a competition that makes the Scottish Premier League look like the apex of competitive interest. At least in Scotland there are two clubs in contention for the main prize. The last time anyone looked, Olympic Lyonnais had won the French title for the past seven seasons. This year they are poised to run away with it again.”

Luke Harding (Guardian) reports that Roman Pavlyuchenko “won a seat on the regional council in his home town of Stavropol as his party romped home with 63% of the vote during regional polls in Russia’s south.”

Owen Gibson (Guardian) features the new online game Football Superstars. “It will aim to mix the appeal of virtual worlds such as Second Life with the popularity of console football games such as the Wayne Rooney-endorsed FIFA series in an effort to take a slice of the hugely profitable global market for so-called Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG). The most popular, World of Warcraft, has almost 11 million paying players worldwide.  Once players have downloaded Football Superstars for nothing, they will develop their skills in small-sided kickabouts before graduating to full 11-a-side games and, if they become sufficiently skilled, being picked for representative games and eventually international tournaments.  Off the pitch, they will be able to socialise and blow their wages in a virtual world of restaurants, bars, clubs and shops. CyberSports has signed a branding deal with Puma that will see its Carnaby Street store recreated online and players able to wear its boots and clothing. It hopes to strike scores of similar branding deals. Although the game is free to play, which its backers hope will be an advantage during an economic downturn, players will also be encouraged to spend real money on virtual clothes, boots and cars.”

In the Guardian, Steve Claridge provides a scouting report on Brighton’s Tommy Elphick. “Elphick has progressed through the youth ranks at Brighton where he made his debut in April 2007 against Doncaster Rovers, and such was his impact in his first year he was named player of the season. As you’re probably aware, I don’t always agree with fans but on this occasion I think the Brighton supporters’ appraisal is spot-on.”