“Football makes fools of men; the bigger the fortune, the bigger the fool”

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I’ve been working desperately hard to find a way forward with the directors, but sadly that has not proved possible, it’s my opinion that a manager must have the right to manage and that clubs should not impose upon any manager any player that he does not want. It remains my fervent wish to see Newcastle United do well in the future and I feel incredibly sorry for the players, staff and most importantly supporters. I have been left with no choice other than to leave” – Kevin Keegan.

Runner-up: “The club made it clear to Kevin that if he had any outstanding concerns on its proposals, he should raise them with the club. The club regrets that Kevin has, instead of taking up that offer, chosen to resign.” – Newcastle United statement.

Today’s overview: Following the departure of Kevin Keegan, Mike Ashley is in the firing line this morning. Matt Lawton (Daily Mail) argues that “To date, Ashley has got it horribly, depressingly wrong and Newcastle’s supporters know that only too well.” And Tim Rich (Daily Telegraph) adds to the chorus, “The saddest thing is that this was so predictable. Of course it would end in tears, how could it not.”

The main news story following Keegan’s third departure from Newcastle is that the club are preparing legal proceedings against King Kev. This claim is run by Colin Young in the Daily Mail and Matt Hughes and Jason Meller in The Times.

Other stand-out articles on the trouble at the Toon are by Michael Walker in the Independent who questions why Kevin Keegan allowed the appointment of Dennis Wise in the first place and Gabby Logan (The Times) who pushes the theory that Newcastle are the new Manchester City.

Away from the north-east, Jason Burt in the Independent looks at the chase for the West Ham job with Neil Ashton in the Daily Mail warning Slaven Bilic he will have to be quick if he wants the job. Other London based football news includes Jeremy Wilson in the Daily Telegraph who reports that West Ham and Spurs could play at the new Olympic Stadium in London and that Arsenal are to revive their interest in free agent Stephen Appiah.

Mike Ashley is not the only club owner to receive stick this morning. Steven Howard (The Sun) rallies against the foreign owners in the Premier League, in a piece titled “Dr Death carries a fatal disease.”

The article of the day this Friday morning comes from the always excellent Simon Barnes (Times) who writes about Manchester City and club owners in a piece titled “Manchester City: an accident waiting to happen.” “A brilliant business brain doesn’t let you off, nor does a bottomless purse, nor does a lifetime in the game. Football makes fools of men; the bigger the fortune, the bigger the fool.”

The events of the past week have meant that their hasn’t quite been the usual focus on England. Phil McNulty (BBC) argues it is “time for Capello to deliver” and Tony Cascarino (The Times) calls for England to be arrogant.

Other features of interest include a pdf on how and why Wayne Rooney helped develop a boot to shoot more accurately. And Shaka Hislop (Guardian) and Grahame L. Jones of the LA Times try to decipher why the MLS is so mediocre.

Matt Lawton (Daily Mail) sticks the knife into Mike Ashley for the mess at Newcastle. “A line has to be drawn under this shambles of a situation and the football club needs to be spared any further embarrassment. Going after the Messiah is not the answer. Unless Ashley really does have a buyer lined up and no longer cares. To date, Ashley has got it horribly, depressingly wrong and Newcastle’s supporters know that only too well. They are passionate about their club but their love is not blind.”

Tim Rich (Daily Telegraph) also analyses the position of Mike Ashley at St James’ Park. “The saddest thing is that this was so predictable. Of course it would end in tears, how could it not. When Keegan made his third return to Tyneside, with cars circling St James’ and blaring their horns to make Newcastle appear like a suburb of Rio, Keegan discovered that the fans had not changed. But the club had… There was no point in Ashley and Keegan having the same conversation. They could not possibly understand each other. To Ashley, Keegan would have spoken a dead, long-lost language. And they both knew that Newcastle United were now far beyond their ability to save.”

Harry Pearson (Guardian) warns his readers to steer clear of any Geordies in the coming days. “My barber is a Newcastle season ticket-holder. Like all Geordies he is keen on talking (I used to think I talked a lot, then I moved to Northumberland. Now I consider myself laconic). The minute I sit down, he whisks the nylon cape around me, pumps the chair lever, fires up his clippers and starts in telling me what – in the prevailing view of his social club – has been going on at the Toon of late. And he doesn’t stop snipping and shaving until he’s finished. At times of high drama – and they come thick and fast in Newcastle, let’s be honest – you need a buffer zone of extra hair to fill the time. Otherwise, you’re going to go in and ask for a number three at the back and sides and a tidy-up on top and come out looking like Duncan Goodhew after an accident with the Immac.”

Matt Hughes and Jason Meller write in The Times that the real winner at Newcastle was Dennis Wise. “Kevin Keegan’s acrimonious departure from Newcastle United could lead to a bitter court battle after the club signalled their intention to pursue their former manager for £2 million in compensation. It is understood that Keegan had a clause in his contract stipulating that such a sum would be payable to whichever party terminated their 3½-year deal. Keegan blinked first by resigning yesterday after losing a power struggle with Dennis Wise, the executive director.”

Colin Young Daily Mail claims “Newcastle United are preparing legal proceedings against Kevin Keegan after he walked out on the club. Stunned by the troubled manager’s abrupt exit and subsequent statement, issued some 90 minutes before he was due to meet board members, Newcastle will demand £2million in damages. With owner Mike Ashley in America and refusing to return for face-to-face talks, Keegan considered the club’s behaviour to be unacceptable and contemptuous. It is understood that Keegan’s contract included a clause which stated that he would receive £2million compensation if sacked but would have to pay the same amount to the club if he quit. It had been inserted because of his history of dramatic walk-outs for club and country.” (This same angle on the Keegan departure is also taken up in The Daily Telegraph.)

Michael Walker in the Independent questions why Kevin Keegan allowed the appointment of Dennis Wise at St James’ Park. “Ever since Dennis Wise walked into St James’ Park 12 days after Kevin Keegan in January, a question has been asked as to why Keegan acceded to this when he would never have done so before? One answer, widely believed, is that Keegan needs money to fund his business, the Soccer Circus enterprise. It is thought that Keegan signed a contract at Newcastle worth £3m per annum across the three-and-a-half years he agreed to at St James’, which is a huge sum even in these days of inflated football salaries and transfer fees. That would obviously be an attraction to the 57-year-old, though undoubtedly so too was the opportunity to return to St James’, a stadium that Keegan in his first managerial spell had helped transform into a modern English football monument. But the £60,000 a week would offset some of the losses in the Glasgow-based Soccer Circus scheme, a prototype entertainment complex Keegan hopes to roll out across the country and abroad.”

Nial Hickman reports in the Daily Express that “Civil war looms as Keegan resigns and Ashley moves for Poyet. Kevin Keegan yesterday resigned as Newcastle manager having lost his battle to stay at St James’ Park, with a football war ready to erupt on Tyneside following his exit. Magpies fans and players are seething over how Keegan has been treated after only eight months in the job and the shabby way their ‘messiah’ was pushed to the brink, with Spurs coach Gus Poyet hot favourite to replace him.”

Gabby Logan (The Times) pushed the theory that Newcastle are the new Manchester City. “We will pick our battles and live off the small victories for longer. Didn’t you secretly have a soft spot for Sven-Göran Eriksson when City did the double over Manchester United last season? It was that David and Goliath thing. City fans dined out on it for a season. We will treat our Tyne-Wear derbies with the respect they deserve and we shall arrange open-top bus parades if we do the double. In admitting some kind of defeat, I am crying into the page. It is like the middle-aged woman who gives up the gym, the diets and the highlights for old age, grey hair and chunky thighs. Somewhere in the attic there is a photograph of Newcastle United holding aloft a trophy, but we are going to have to give up the ghost for a while.”

Tom Dart (The Times) waxes lyrical over Keggy Keegle now he has probably left football for good. “Keegan appealed to the senses like few other football men could, but the situation at Newcastle was senseless. He has gone from the game and he surely knows that he will never come back. Too many grey areas these days in the black-and-white city for a man of colour. And so the ties were cut.”

Neil Ashton in the Daily Mail warns Slaven Bilic he will have to be quick if he wants the West Ham job. “Slaven Bilic must walk out on Croatia after their World Cup qualifier with England on Wednesday if he wants to become West Ham’s manager. The club will pile the pressure on Bilic to make a decision by interviewing John Collins and Roberto Donadoni this weekend.”

According to Jason Burt in the Independent, “West Ham United have drawn up a high-calibre shortlist to succeed Alan Curbishley as the club’s manager following a board meeting yesterday. The seven-strong list is headed by Croatia coach Slaven Bilic but also includes Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Donadoni, John Collins, Michael Laudrup, Roberto Mancini and Gérard Houllier. Although Zola and Houllier both have jobs, only Bilic’s employment presents a problem. The list has been reduced from a longer list selected by technical director Gianluca Nani. West Ham – who face West Bromwich Albion away on 13 September – hope to have a new manager in place by the time their next Premier League match comes around. Soundings will now take place before the shortlist is whittled down to two or three candidates who will meet the board.”

Jeremy Wilson in the Daily Telegraph reports that West Ham and Spurs could play at the new Olympic Stadium in London. “London mayor Boris Johnson said last month that he did not think the issue of having a Premier League side playing in the stadium after the Games was definitely settled. Tottenham and West Ham are both looking at ways of increasing their capacities and would be interested in exploring any sort of option that could work in a similar way to Manchester City’s move to the stadium that hosted the 2002 Commonwealth Games.”

Matt Lawless claims in the Daily Telegraph that Arsenal are to revive their interest in Stephen Appiah, who is a free agent and can be signed outside the transfer window. “Appiah, a free agent following his release from Turkish club Fenerbache, had been considering terms to sign at Upton Park. However, the resignation of Alan Curbishley has forced the player to reconsider his options having been said to be close to reaching a £40,000-per week three-year deal. The player is keen to ply his trade in England and it is understood Arsenal could now offer him that opportunity as manager Arsene Wenger contemplates an eleventh hour offer to improve his midfield options.”

The always excellent Simon Barnes (Times) writes about Manchester City and club owners in a piece titled “Manchester City: an accident waiting to happen.” “It comes down to the inescapable fact that football is based on wild, romantic notions about life that are fundamentally incompatible with business practice. To go for pure business strategies in football is as inappropriate as going for pure footballing romance in business. But try the two together and you find yourself in a world of eternal tensions, which create eternal chaos in individuals and institutions. A brilliant business brain doesn’t let you off, nor does a bottomless purse, nor does a lifetime in the game. Football makes fools of men; the bigger the fortune, the bigger the fool.”

Steven Howard (The Sun) rallies against the foreign owners in the Premier League, in a piece titled “Dr Death carries a fatal disease.” “If there’s one man destined to kill off the England team once and for all it’s Dr Sulaiman Al Fahim of Abu Dhabi. Dr Death boasts he will use his backers’ billions to sign Kaka, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Berbatov, Messi and anyone else he might have vaguely heard of. With Pamela Anderson leading the pom-pom girls. All this will achieve is a roll-on effect at other clubs and an ultimate situation where the body of English football is buried under one further, final and uncontrollable stampede of foreigners into the Premier League. A point where the current level of players available to the England manager falls from 30 to 20 per cent. A point where even Manchester United, once the backbone of the national side, will be fielding only two homegrown players. What a future to contemplate just five days before a pivotal World Cup qualifier against Croatia in Zagreb.”

Also in The Sun, Ian Wright argues that Roman Abramovich should get used to being snubbed. Wright: “”Abramovich could get whoever he wanted but now City can just come in and say, ‘Excuse me, we want him’. They can put the same money on the table and it’s a wake-up call to Chelsea because someone else has joined the party who can flex their muscles. It does show that for a lot of players it is all about the money but if they come with the same quality and potential as Robinho, I can’t see the problem. A lot of players have joined Chelsea for precisely that reason and the fact they’re in the Champions League. I’m sure once City get to the point where they can offer that too, they’re going to attract even more star players. I think we’re seeing the beginnings of another Chelsea.”

Phil McNulty (BBC) argues it is “time for Capello to deliver.” “Now is the time for Capello to deliver the answers and demonstrate that he has something new and fresh to offer England, not simply a rehash of failings displayed under Sven-Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren. It is time for Capello – and indeed his expensively-assembled Italian back-up team – to show he is the man England thought they were getting, a ruthless seeker of results with a tactical mind who can combat the best in Europe.”

Tony Cascarino (The Times) calls for England to be arrogant. “There are plenty of nice people in the England camp; I wish there were a few nasty ones. I do not get the impression that players are willing to fall out with each other, to voice strong opinions, to win at all costs. They do not have that fire in their bellies. Perhaps that is because they feel that club football is more important, that international duty is an unwelcome distraction. They do not need the hassle from fans and media. True winners would want to shove that criticism back down their throats and the only way to do that is with success on the pitch. The match against Croatia next week will set the tone. Are England ready to ditch the fear factor?”

Graeme Le Saux argues in The Sun that Fabio Capello was right to drop Michael Owen. “I don’t think Michael’s absence is a big surprise. There’s still question marks over his fitness and he’s not as dynamic as we know he used to be. It’s naturally a tough choice to leave him out because he’s got a huge reputation with his goalscoring record. I respect Michael hugely as a player but ultimately the manager has to look at where the players are at this stage of the season.”

The Guardian have a pdf feature on how and why Wayne Rooney helped develop a boot to shoot more accurately. And The Times have a pdf feature on how England stop Luka Modric when England play Croatia.

The International Herald Tribune look ahead to the upcoming weekend of international action with a European preview, African preview and an Asian preview.

Shaka Hislop (Guardian) analyses the disappointing displays of the MLS teams in the Concacaf Champions. “Regardless of the international results, the non-qualification of any MLS team for the Concacaf Champions League group stages should have alarm bells ringing through the halls of MLS headquarters in New York. Surely it is time to rethink and to restructure much of the league: from the salary cap to the fixture congestion suffered by the league’s more successful teams, the splitting into zones or conferences, and the league not breaking for internationals. Sustainability remains the priority, expansion is inevitable and welcome, but neither should compromise the overall success of the league. Success is won on the pitch after all.”

Grahame L. Jones of the LA Times tries to decipher why the MLS is so mediocre. “The SuperLiga, the U.S. Open Cup, the CONCACAF Champions League, the Pan-Pacific Championship and all the rest only clutter up the MLS calendar with meaningless games that fans do not care about. Reorganize the league without conferences. Have the 15 MLS teams play each other once at home and once on the road for a total of 28 games. The league has fallen into the same trap as the Galaxy — trying to run before it can walk, trying to be global before it is even local. All that fans want is a decent league with decent players. The rest is nothing but window dressing.”


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