Ian Watmore (who?) quits the FA, Newcastle’s punch-up, Ancelotti is on Chelsea brink, Liverpool sell Riera, Bayern want RVP & Jay-Z to invest in Arsenal

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Ian Watmore tendered his resignation to me on Friday. I asked him to re-consider over the weekend. However, he has confirmed today that his position remains unchanged and I have accepted it with great regret. There will be a board meeting tomorrow at noon.” – FA chairman Lord Triesman.

Runner-up: “I don’t want to play against Arsenal. It will be weird for me to step on the pitch, even if it’s at the Emirates and not Highbury, with another shirt on… I do not want to play against Arsenal, simple as that.” – Thierry Henry.

Today’s overview: Let’s be honest. Who could pick Ian Watmore out of a line up?

Once again the foundations of English football appear to be rocking this Tuesday with news that the FA’s chief executive Ian Watmore has quit his role in frustration. But is this anything more than men in suits posturing against one-another, or should we actually bat an eyelid?

Owen Gibson begins to unravel the Watmore-quit story. “The chief executive of the Football Association last night dramatically resigned in frustration at the impotence of his role, after failing to win board support for his efforts to re-establish its place as the national regulator of the game… The FA has now lost four chief executives in the space of a eight years… His decision could also have a knock-on effect on England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup, which was rocked last year by a high-profile boardroom spat… There are believed to have been tensions between Watmore and Richards, the Premier League chairman.”

Delving deeper into why Watmore actually walked out of the FA, Jason Burt uncovers the story of the leaked email. “[It] came to a head at the end of last week following the appointment of Julian Eccles as group head of marketing and communications at the FA. It was followed by the leak of an email containing a question-and-answer briefing, sent to the FA board and other senior representatives, which asked such things as ‘Haven’t you just appointed another Whitehall/Labour hack?’ together with a firm rebuttal.”

Still confused why you should care?

David Conn fleshes out the story further noting how the FA have been stopped in their efforts to control the Premier League’s wild spending. “Within the last two weeks, insiders say, Watmore proposed again a more robust role for the FA in financially regulating the flagship clubs, and was again shot down. That is not the role which the Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, chairman Sir Dave Richards or the club owners have in mind for the FA. So, in the time of arguably greatest need for a strong governing body for football, there are only vested interests, and Watmore’s resignation, said to be due to his frustration at the inability to make any progress, exposes that vacuum.”

Giving off the impression that no-one knows what they are talking about, Charles Sale then pops up in the Daily Mail with yet more reasons as to why Watmore apparently quit. “Sportsmail can reveal that the two key areas of frustration for Watmore were a failure to overhaul the FA’s ineffective disciplinary procedures, which were slated last weekend by Sir Alex Ferguson, and the staging of a club rugby game on Wembley’s much-criticised pitch on April 17, a month before the FA Cup final and England’s last World Cup warm-up friendly against Mexico.”

Away from the reasons, the implications of Watmore’s resignation are chewed over by Oliver Kay. “So how does this affect football fans? Watmore could sit in relative anonymity at the Emirates Stadium, watching his beloved Arsenal, but he was standing up for issues that were integral to the long-term health of English football. He was determined that the Premier League and Football League should tighten their “fit and proper person” test with regard to club ownership, saying that he “absolutely condemned” irresponsible ownership of the type seen at clubs such as Portsmouth, Notts County and, fatally, Chester City.”

David Hytner wonders if Watmore’s resignation will affect England’s 2018 World Cup bid. “The resignation of Ian Watmore as the Football Association’s chief executive does not directly affect the work of the 2018 bid team, which is driven by the chief executive Andy Anson, and [David] Dein. It is Anson who co-ordinates the day-to-day logistics while Dein goes about pressing the flesh in far-flung places. They are supported by prominent figures from all areas of the game. Yet, however much it might like to divorce itself at present, the fact is that the FA put England forward as candidates to host and it instigated the setting up of the bid team.”

Bucking the hysteria, Henry Winter argues that Watmore’s resignation is no great shakes. “Most of the game’s bureaucrats privately agreed Watmore was a No 2, a Mike Phelan not a Sir Alex Ferguson. Make that Pat Rice. A discreet Arsenal addict, Watmore has at least resigned at the right time, allowing him to enjoy the team’s Premier League and Champions League run-in. The No 2 analogy rings true. Watmore, a very civil servant parachuted into the rollerball world of football politics, was not tough enough to deal with the Sturm und Drang of the national game.”

Against all the backdrop of the FA falling apart at its seams, Nick Harris comes chugging in with news that the Premier League fat cats are to get even fatter. “The Premier League’s sale of its overseas broadcasting rights for 2010-13 will raise around £1.4bn, more than double the previous level of £625m, The Independent can reveal. With just two deals left to be concluded – in Albania and Russia – the League is assured of raising each club’s average annual income from overseas rights alone from £10m now to about £23m per season from this summer.”

This is the Newcastle we all know and love! After a quiet and efficient season in the Championship, the Magpies reclaim the headlines this Tuesday we news that Steven Taylor has suffered a broken jaw after bust-up with Andy Carroll.

According to Everton Gayle, “[Taylor] will be out for at least ‘two weeks’ but more likely the rest of the season… Rumours circulating on Tyneside have suggested that the pair, both of whom were boyhood Newcastle supporters, had been involved in an altercation that came about after an exchange of text messages. The club are reportedly carrying out an internal investigation.”

Injecting the smut, Colin Young farts “Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor has suffered a broken jaw following an alleged row with team-mate Andy Carroll over the striker’s ex-girlfriend… Sportsmail understands 20-year-old Carroll attacked Taylor before training yesterday morning after discovering the centre-back had received texts from a former partner.”

Rather than sex though, Rob Stewart reports that the bust-up was a result of money. “No one at the club was prepared to comment on the incident that is understood to be the result of simmering tensions over the size of their wage packets.”

Carlo Ancelotti continues to get in the neck this Tuesday as momentum continues to build against the Italian. And Matt Hughes appears to be lowering the guillotine fast. “The Italian has a maximum of ten matches in the league and FA Cup in which to turn round Chelsea’s season and his level of success will determine not only his future at Stamford Bridge, but also that of several players and the direction of the club as a whole… It is unclear whether Ancelotti has the strength of character to transform their fortunes.”

Countering the Chelsea bad press, Rob Kelly injects some common sense into the analysis of the Pensioners. “There is no doubt that Chelsea are having a small stutter, but talk of sacking Ancelotti or ripping the team up and starting again is ludicrous. Chelsea remain one of the most feared sides in Europe, and could well end this term with a Premier League and FA Cup double. It may not be the holy grail,  the Champions League, but it would not be a bad return for Ancelotti’s first year in England.”

Sadly, Kelly’s approach falls on deaf ears at the Mirror as chief hack Martin Lipman yelps “Ancelotti has five games to save his job.” “Ancelotti’s future is on the line unless he can conjure a winning run over the next five games, starting at Portsmouth tomorrow and including the Easter Saturday visit to Old Trafford and the FA Cup semi-final clash with Aston Villa… Unless the former AC Milan coach can turn around the confidence and form of his players to ensure Chelsea take their fight for the title all the way to May 9, he could become the sixth manager to leave the club since 2004 this summer.”

Continuing the cat calls for heads to roll, James Lawton wants Rafa Benitez out of Liverpool. “If you say that part of that legacy is Benitez’s remarkable triumph in the Champions League, you should perhaps remember that it came, in the most remarkable circumstances, five years ago. Five months, even five weeks, can be a long time on the football barricades. Five years is history… What can no longer be doubted is that if Liverpool are desperate for the oxygen of new investment and stable ownership, their need for leadership of both authority and empathy at the heart of the club, which will always be the manager’s office, has rarely been more apparent.”

While on a negative vibe, Tony Barrett calls out the poor form of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. “Neither midfield player is enjoying a season to remember and the statistical evidence is mounting to support the theory — which appeared to be borne out at the weekend as Gerrard struggled in Liverpool’s defeat away to Manchester United and Lampard failed to hit the heights in Chelsea’s draw away to Blackburn Rovers — that both are suffering a lull in form.”

Flipping to Spain, Sid Lowe gushes over another wonder performance by Leo Messi at the weekend. “One of the incredible things about Messi is how rarely he disappoints. In fact, it’s tempting to conclude that he has made the ridiculous so routine that he doesn’t get talked about as much as deserves; playing perfectly is hardly news… It is the sheer stupidness of his talent, the ohmygoddidyoujustseewhathedid? about him. The fact that he gets hacked at and somehow keeps on running, that he’d be like a Weeble only he hardly ever even wobbles. That the ball, to use the old cliché, really does seem to be tied to his feet… For all the sublime touches, the goals, the assists and the win-it-on-his-own performances, perhaps the most ridiculous thing of all is that Leo Messi is still only 22.”

Onto the transfers where, instead of guff, there is news of an actual deal. Sort of.

Andy Hunter reports that “Liverpool have accepted an offer of around £6m from CSKA Moscow for their outspoken midfielder Albert Riera and hope to conclude the sale of Rafael Benítez’s critic by the end of this week… Russia’s transfer window is open until 8 April.” Confusing the picture though is Chris Wheeler in the Daily Mail, who barks “Rafael Benitez remains determined to offload Albert Riera and has lined up a deal to sell him to Spartak Moscow by the end of the week.”

Back to the bread-and-butter transfer lies, Ashley Gray claims that Robin van Persie is a target for Bayern Munich. “If reports on the Continent are to be believed, [RVP] may be seeing more of Bayern Munich star Robben. The German side are said to be keen on bringing in Van Persie if they lose Franck Ribery this summer, which looks increasingly likely given the France winger’s reluctance to open talks on a contract extension.”

The Daily Mail report “Everton are interested in signing Portuguese strike prodigy Joao Silva for £650,000. The Portugal Under-20 international is top scorer in the  Portuguese second division with 10 goals for Desportivo das Aves and has caught the attention of several English clubs.”

Elsewhere, The Sun detail how Joe Cole’s contract talks with Chelsea have stalled, while the red-top also reports the long-standing rumour that Chelsea and and Manchester City are tracking Valencia striker David Villa.

The Sun announce “Sven Goran Eriksson will be Ivory Coast boss at the World Cup. The former England chief, 62, is set to earn £450,000 for taking charge of a squad including Premier League stars Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue.”

Lastly, the never-gonna-happen story of the day appears in the Mirror as we learn “Jay-Z has hinted that he may invest millions in Arsenal. The rap superstar, married to Beyonce, already holds a stake in basketball’s New Jersey Nets and may splash some of his estimated £500million fortune on the Emirates club after becoming a fan five years ago… His confession comes just days after rap rival P Diddy was linked with an unlikely takeover at Crystal Palace.”


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