Fabulous 40 is magic number for sporting legends Ryan Giggs and Sachin Tendulkar – heroes united by universal adoration
November 29th, 2013 at 10:41 pm
On the day that Ryan Giggs hits 40 the world of sport has rightly been paying homage to one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen. The Manchester United superstar’s remarkable longevity is not unique. He is the fourth outfield player – and the seventh in total – to grace the Premier League at 40. But none can match the extraordinary level of sustained success achieved by the Welsh wizard.
Just two days before reaching his incredible milestone, the most decorated footballer in English soccer turned in yet another remarkable 90 minute display in United’s outstanding 5-0 Champions League demolition of Bayer Leverkusen. It was a midfield masterclass from arguably the greatest ever player in the history of the club to demonstrate that he is still hungry for more success.
The magnificent seven who have graced the Premier League into their fabulous 40s are Kevin Phillips, Teddy Sheringham, Gordon Strachan, Brad Friedel, Mark Schwarzer, Mike Pollitt and Giggs, whose appearance in Germany was his 953rd for United. Even more remarkable is that Giggs has done it for one club, scoring 168 goals along the way.
Almost 23 years after he first pulled on a United shirt as a raw 17-year-old, he still plays with the verve, vigour and guile of a man at least 10 years younger.
It has been an historic month for famous forty year old sporting legends, with arguably the greatest cricketer in history Sachin Tendulkar crowning his majestic career with a spectacular flourish in his final Test Match for India against the West Indies in Mumbai.
An estimated television audience of over a billion people watched Tendulkar crown his 200th Test Match with a dazzling 74 that fell short of yet another century by the only man to score 100 international 100s, the feat he achieved when he scored his final ton against Bangladesh in March 2012.
Like Giggs, Tendulkar can proudly declare that he was still hitting extraordinary levels of achievement at the end of his fourth decade in his chosen sport. And there is at least one other parallel between these giants of the sporting world. Both are true legends because they are admired by fans of their rivals as much as the supporters of the teams they have graced for so long.
Such is the universal love for Tendulkar that in New Delhi the Pakistan Taliban commander, in a video message widely circulated on social networking site Facebook, has warned the Pakistan media to stop paying tribute to the Indian cricket legend.
“We have been monitoring Pakistani media, including news channels and newspapers, for the past three weeks and got to know how was Pakistani media praising Indian cricketer during his farewell. It was unfortunate to see Pakistani media went to great extent to pay tribute to Indian cricketer by running video clips on TV channels and writing huge articles in his praise. On the other hand, it was sad to know same Pakistani media badly criticised Pakistani cricket team as well as its captain Misbah-ul-Haq. We condemn this move of Pakistani media and expect it will not repeat the same in future,” said the commander in the video.
“Shame for Pakistani media that spoke highly of Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. No doubt, he has been a great cricketer, but, he`s Indian after all, so stop promoting him,” warned the Taliban leader.
To my knowledge there has been no equivalent plea from the big chiefs at United’s rivals Manchester City or from any other quarter tired of the adoration for Giggs. Watching the old master turn back the years with his latest contribution for Manchester United in Germany on Wednesday night, it was music to my ears to hear a life-long Arsenal fan pay tribute to the memory of Giggs’ wonder goal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay that shot down the Gunners. And that underlines my point.
True sports fans appreciate greatness, whoever they perform their magic for. It is that respect and appreciation that unites us all. In Giggs and Tendulkar we have been privileged to witness two of the greatest sportsmen of them all. And that is something beautiful that no tribal jealousy can deprive us of.
The difference is that Giggs is a freak of nature who still has more to give and where it will end is almost impossible to predict.
Were you watching Mr Blatter? Ronaldo deserves to be crowned World No.1 after knocking out Ibrahimovic’s Swedes
November 20th, 2013 at 12:42 am
Ronaldo or Messi. Messi or Ronaldo. The debate over who is the best player in the world is never ending and the argument got personal when FIFA’s buffoon of a President Sepp Blatter recently delivered a tasteless putdown of Real Madrid’s former Manchester United superstar.
Confirming his preference for Messi, Blatter mocked the Madrid hero for having “more expenses for the hairdresser” than the Barcelona player when he made an address at the Oxford Union last month. It sparked a storm that has overshadowed the countdown to the vote for this year’s world player of the year.
Tonight, on the pitch, it was much anticipated Cristiano Ronaldo v Zlatan Ibrahimovic II . . . and the man from Portugal delivered one of the most spectacular statements ever in the quest to be crowned No.1 with a sensational one-man demolition of Sweden’s World Cup hopes.
In one of the most dramatic qualification play-off deciders in the history of the FIFA World Cup, we were treated to a gladiatorial showdown of the highest quality that will force many of the experts who have thus far favoured Messi to reconsider who is the greatest of them all.
The talk in the game is that the Ballon d’Or voting – which was due to end last week – has been extended to the end of November, which means that Ronaldo’s latest extraordinary show could help him to the world title.
With a ticket to Brazil on the line, Portugal went to Sweden with the slender margin of a 1-0 lead from the first leg. Ronaldo, who scored the winner in Portugal, struck yet again when he doubled his side’s lead with a 50th minute opening goal that ignited an astonishing duel with his outstanding Swedish counterpart.
Ibrahimovic responded with a stunning quickfire double in the 68th and 72 minutes that made it 2-2 on aggregate. The stage was set for a pulsating final half an hour in the battle for that precious place in the greatest football show on earth and Swedish fans sensed home advantage was destined to give them the edge.
But then came an even more spectacular double from Ronaldo to spark wild scenes of Portuguese celebration. Two goals in the space of three minutes delivered the knockout blow.
It meant the Portugal skipper had scored all four of his country’s goals in an epic shoot out. And with the statesman-like dignity so lacking in president Blatter, Ronaldo insisted his celebrations were not aimed at FIFA’s dictatorial leader who made it clear Messi gets his vote when he spoke at the Oxford Union last month.
Ronaldo, who clearly believes he is now the undisputed No.1, said this after his match-winnning display against Sweden:: “I do not live my life obsessed with titles and do not have to show anything to anyone, because I have shown my worth, I’ve done 40/50 goals every season and it is not within the reach of anyone. I know what I am.”
In my humble opinion, not since the great Diego Maradona dragged Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup Final in Mexico has there been a footballing superhero so indispensable to his national team.
Just as Ronaldo dragged Portugal into the 2012 European Championships and then all the way to the semi-finals, the golden boy has done it again by leading his countrymen all the way to Brazil.
While Barcelona’s adopted Argentinian Lionel Messi has never quite reproduced his majestic artistry for his country, no such criticism can be aimed at Madrid’s hero who has matched his Barca rival in La Liga. At club level there is little to choose between Messi and Ronaldo.
But on the world stage Ronaldo has surely done enough to claim the top prize.
On a night of high drama, lovers of the beautiful game will be thrilled to see France joining Portugal in the finals after their own sensational comeback from 2 goals down in the first leg against Ukraine with a thrilling 3-0 victory in Paris.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: “A world cup without me is not worth waiting for.”
Don’t call me Dean! How Daniel Sturridge is keeping up the family goal-scoring tradition and believes in Wayne Rooney partnership
November 19th, 2013 at 7:33 pm
Two decades on from the spectacular goalscoring exploits of Dean Sturridge, his nephew Daniel is enjoying the limelight with both Liverpool and England – and the ace marksmen is hellbent on making the world remember his name at next summer’s 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Dean Sturridge made his mark when he topped scored with 20 goals to help Derby County win promotion to the Premier League in 1995/1996. It was a spectacular season for the Rams that launched Sturridge – who went on to complete 10 years with Derby – onto the biggest stage in domestic football.
“People still call me Dean now,” says the current England ace Daniel, adding: ”I’ll say ‘wait a minute I’m Daniel’.
The 24-year-old has found a new lease of life since moving to Liverpool, scoring 21 goals in 29 games since he has been regularly accommodated in the central striker role he has always enjoyed the most. Initially benefitting from the 10-match ban for Luis Suarez, Sturridge has since formed what he describes as a “telepathic” partnership with the world class Uruguayan hitman.
If Sturridge can forge a similar understanding for England with Wayne Rooney, the sky is the limit for the hotshot who showed no lack of ambition when he decalred as a 19 year old at Chelsea: ”If a player said he didn’t want to be one of the greats in football, then he would be lying because everyone wants to make a stamp on football.”
“It can definitely be as good,” says Sturridge of his partnership with the Manchester United striker. ”Wazza is a world-class player and it is easy to play with him. I enjoy playing with him. We complement each other’s game. In training, it is almost like we don’t need to work on things. We know where we are, where team-mates are.”
On recent form England will go to Brazil as no hopers. But as all top managers will tell you, you always have the ability to beat the best when you have top strikers. In Sturridge and Rooney, Roy Hodgson’s men potentially have one of the most lethal strike forces in world football. And if they do hit it off next summer, the days of people getting Daniel Sturridge’s name wrong will definitely be a thing of the past.
Wenger reaping rewards for putting faith in Aaron Ramsey when Welsh youngster looked destined for Manchester United
November 2nd, 2013 at 10:45 pm
You can say what you like about the durability of an Arsenal side searching for their first silverware in nine seasons. But the Gunners boast one of the standout players of the season so far in Aaron Ramsey . . . and the most successful Premier League manager in Arsene Wenger.
Ramsey, whose career was threatened by an horrific double leg break in February 2010 inflicted by a tackle from Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross, is making the kind of impact that will soon see him being compared to fellow Welshman Gareth Bale if his progress continues.
And you have to credit Wenger for putting his faith in the prodigiously talented youngster, who once looked destined for Old Trafford.
Much has been said and written about the professor stealing a march on his rivals when he pulled off the standout signing of the summer with the spectacular £42.5 million capture of German superstar Mesut Özil.
But just as crucial for the Gunners was the business Wenger did five years ago when he persuaded the Cardiff City youngster to opt for a move to North London rather than the North West.
The Bluebirds’ youngest ever player at just 16 years and 124 days when he made his debut in 2007, Ramsey soon became one of the most sought after youngsters in Europe, attracting interest from Everton and Manchester United.
While United reportedly offered £5 million for him to be loaned back to Cardiff, it was the Gunners who secured Ramsey’s signature when Wenger matched that bid and promised to put him straight into his first team squad.
That crossroads in his career will give an extra edge to the showdown between defending champions Manchester United and this season’s pacesetters Arsenal on November 10. But whatever the outcome, there is no doubt that Ramsey is a player with the world at his feet.
FACT FILE: AARON RAMSEY
:- Born 26 December 1990, he joined the Youth Academy at Cardiff City when he was eight years old.
:- He made his debut for the Bluebirds on the final day of the 2006/2007 season, when he came on as a substitute in a the final minute of a 1-0 defeat by Hull City. He was still 241 days short of his 17th birthday.
:- Signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2008 for £5 million.
:- Made his competitive debut for Arsenal in a Champions League qualifier against FC Twente on 13 August 2008
:- Given his first run out in the Premier League a month later against Blackburn Rovers.
:- His first goal for the Gunners came in a 5-2 Champions League win at Fenerbahce on 22 October 2008, making him the fifth youngest scorer in Champions League history.
TITLE RACE: ROONEY v RAMSEY
While Aaron Ramsey has been the player whose outstanding early form has been arguably the biggest surprise of the season so far, even more spectacular has been the way Wayne Rooney has shrugged off doubts about his future at Old Trafford.
Rooney has a great record against the Gunners, a side he has enjoyed superb form against, ever since he burst onto the scene with that famous strike as a 16-year-old for Everton to become the youngest goalscorer in the Premier League. Not surprising that Wenger and Jose Mourinho both wanted to sign him in the summer. What top manager wouldn’t want to sign him?
Ramsey, meanwhile, also has form against United. In 2010/2011, he scored the winner at the Emirates. It came at the end of the season that celebrated his return from his career threatening injury, after signing a long-term contract with Arsenal.
There will be many other potential matchwinners on show next Sunday, with Robin van Persie and Olivier Giroud both hitting the target on a regular basis. But Rooney v Ramsey at Old Trafford will be a fascinating showdown between two players at the top of their game.
HOW WAYNE IS STAKING HIS CLAIM TO BE UNITED’S NEXT LONG-TERM SKIPPER
Manchester United’s new manager David Moyes deserves enormous credit for standing by his former Everton protegee and helping the England striker rediscover his best form. Wayne Rooney looks lean, mean and determined to prove the critics wrong who have been too quick to write him off.
In fact it will be no surprise to see Moyes hand Rooney the captain’s armband, further underlining the new boss’s pre-season insistence that there is no way Wazza will be leaving United any time soon.
With the countdown under way to next summer’s World Cup in Brazil, Rooney has looked in menacing form and is hopefully destined to make an injury-free impact on a major international tournament for the first time. Meantime, he has been United’s most consistent performer and the main reason why the defending champions are still in touch with race for the Premier League title.
Rooney has shown his leadership qualities by lifting his team mates during a difficult start to the season and with Patrice Evra and other senior players nearing the end of their United careers, the case for making him skipper is stronger than ever.
Given the captain’s armband on several occasions by Sir Alex Ferguson,Rooney has already had the honour of being captain for Moyes in the Capital One Cup win over Liverpool.
Meantime, his leadership skills will be needed against form team Arsenal, even if he is not the player who leads United out against the table-toppers.
Book Wars: David Beckham response to best-seller from Sir Alex Ferguson is stylish interactive Facebook game-changer
October 30th, 2013 at 3:17 pm
When is comes to style management and glitzy marketing there is no sportsman on the planet who can Bend it Like Beckham. And this afternoon in London Becksmania went interactive with a ground-breaking book launch.
The latest promotional masterplan by Team Beckham was the promise to bend time so the former England, Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and AC Milan superstar could simultaneously sign copies for ticketed fans in London, New York, São Paulo, and Hyderabad, India.
As his former mentor Sir Alex Ferguson, a 71 year-old dinosaur in the new world of social media, acknowledged when he paid tribute to Becks in his own autobiography last week, the kid from East London is a “global icon.”
Fitting then that David Beckham could respond this afternoon to a worldwide audience with his own spectacular book launch streamed live on Facebook. An event that in his own words was designed to engage fans around the world ”reinventing the traditional format of the book signing” through the use of “groundbreaking technology”.
Hosted by Facebook at a Digital Studio in London the star of the show talked openly about his career to TV personality Jake Humphrey, who guided him through the event and managed a global Q and A session with fans all promised digital signed copies of his book.
Resisting the opportunity to respond negatively to some of the comments made by Ferguson in his book, Beckham talked affectionately about Sir Alex and recalled the way he helped him become one of the world’s most famous sporting heroes.
Remembering the early days when his Class of 92 – including Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers Gary and Phil – won the Youth Cup for Manchester United, Beckham spoke warmly about Ferguson with a series of tributes.
:- “We all looked at him like he was a father figure – and I needed that at the time.”
:- “He’s a man who gave me the chance to play for a club that I always wanted to play for.
“- “I’m not going to sit here and be negative about a man who gave me the chance to play for my boyhood heroes”
:- “He believed in me.”
Pressed by Humphrey to say something controversial. the closest Becks came to criticising Fergie came when he jokingly said:
“Funny thing was I’m involved in the MLS and bringing my own franchise into the league and he was one of the first numbers I was going to ring to ask to be manager. But I’m not sure now he will accept.”
The reality is that Beckham has too much class, respect and dignity to put down the manager who set him on the road to stardom and helped him through the most difficult moment of his career when he was vilified for getting sent off in the 1998 World Cup during England’s infamous quarter-final defeat by Argentina.
Ferguson was one of the first people to speak to Beckham after his red card for his ill-fated flick at Diego Simeone. “He told me to come back to Manchester and promised ‘You’ll be fine son’.” It was the fatherly support Beckham needed at the time. Fifteen years later it would be an understatement to say this footballing icon has done better than fine.
Beckham is the ultimate sporting role model and it was no less than I expected of him when he later repeated that he will not enter a war of words with Ferguson. Making it crystal clear to the negative forces in the media who thrive on confrontation, Becks assured the BBC’s Dan Walker: “I’ve got so much respect for Sir Alex Ferguson. I wish him good luck with his book. My book is totally different. Anything he has written in his book will never affect how I feel about him as a manager.”
There’s only one David Beckham. How can you not love the guy!
Becks retirement: Iconic football legend David Beckham deserves his special place in history of the beautiful game
- 16 May 2013
Reach Your Goals with Sir Alex Ferguson and Phil Berg, the former Spurs and QPR youngster with winning formula for leaders
October 22nd, 2013 at 8:18 pm
During the summer I filmed a seminar themed the Unspoken Language of Leadership and the standout speaker was Phil Berg, who once pursued his ambition of becoming a professional footballer during spells as a youngster with Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers.
His dream of a career as a professional sportsman was never fulfilled. But Phil’s love of sport has stood him in good stead en route to a successful business career that currently enables him to travel around the world as a much sought after motivational speaker.
His company Reach Your Goals is more than a passing recognition of his passion for the beautiful game. Helping individuals and companies hit their targets and achieve their goals is a skill that he has honed and developed over a colourful career in business. Quite simply, there is no one better at bringing the best out of upcoming talent and established entrepreneurs.
While Sir Alex Ferguson is currently carving out a new identity as an expert on leadership with his new book My Autobiography (brilliantly ghost written by Paul Hayward), Berg has opted to share his learnings in a brand new DVD produced and directed by yours truly.
It became clear to me while filming and editing Phil’s unique presentation that there are some great parallels to be drawn between the greatest British football manager of all time and the king of the motivational speakers who has a wonderful gift for inspiring individuals with his engaging delivery and priceless collection of Bergisms and anecdotes.
Great leaders know how to lead and it is that formula that Berg, like Ferguson, understands and knows how to articulate.
Their styles, techniques and delivery are different but the underlying messages are the same. Ferguson found fame and fortune as a football manager who enjoyed outstanding successes with both Aberdeen and Manchester United. But he possesses the skills to have been a dynamic leader of any big business or corporation. He could have been the CEO of any major company – from BP to Microsoft. It is no surprise that Fergie’s managerial secrets have been the subject of a case study by Harvard Business School. At Old Trafford he built an empire that extended way beyond the football pitch creating a business pyramid with solid foundations, delegating to trusted lieutenants who bought into his philosophies and goals.
Berg’s mantra “before you achieve a plan you have to set the goal” instantly reminded me of Fergie’s inaugural war-cry on being appointed Manchester United manager back in 1986 when he targeted “knocking Liverpool of their bloody perch” as his raison d’etre. Thirteen Premier League titles later in a mind-boggling tally of 38 pieces of silverware, the Glaswegian achieved his goal and then some in a role that many had previously regarded the impossible job.
If you want to be a successful leader and have the choice of buying yourself one book and one DVD this Christmas, there are no surprises that my recommendations are Fergie’s “My Autobiography” and Berg’s “Effective Networking for Leaders”
Wayne Rooney was right to question why Manchester United failed to sign Mesut Özil
There are many headline grabbing storylines that have emerged from Ferguson’s book with sections dedicated to David Beckham, Arsene Wenger, Roy Keane, Rafa Benitez and others – but it is one throw away putdown of Wayne Rooney that stands out like a beacon in the light of Manchester United and new manager David Moyes currently toiling behind early season pacesetters Arsenal.
While both recognising Rooney’s great contribution to the club and his loyalty lapses during the Liverpudlian’s well-documented temptations to leave Old Trafford, Sir Alex inadvertently invites support for the England star. Criticism of United for failing to sign Mesut Özil when he joined Real Madrid in 2010, is a sentiment that will resonate loud and clear with United fans who recognise that the Gunners have revitalised their club with a transfer coup that threatens to give Wenger’s men supremacy in the post-Ferguson era.
Manchester United have youth on their side and rejuvenated Wayne Rooney will help David Moyes prove critics wrong!
October 18th, 2013 at 10:56 pm
There has been no shortage of ’experts’ in the media – not to mention rival fans envious of the Theatre of Dreams – who have spent much of the past two decades predicting the decline of Manchester United. The sudden retirement of the greatest manager in the history of British football and the subsequent appointment of David Moyes as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor gave the prophets of doom new hope.
With the new manager overseeing the Red Devils’ worst start to a League season since the Premiership was born in 1992, the vultures eagerly licked their lips. This United team is “too old”, Moyes “is out of his depth” and talisman “Wayne Rooney wants to leave Old Trafford” were all the media fuelled chit chat that was the talk of pubs and clubs around Britain and Radio Phone-Ins that feed off the soap opera that surround the beautiful game.
The chatter so convincing for some observers that the majority of non-Manchester United fans – and even a large percentage of the glory hunters who have never even been to Old Trafford – were starting to talk about the decline of the Empire as if it was a fait accompli.
But the delicious reality for United’s faithful worldwide army of followers is that the doom-mongers have once again got it all hopelessly wrong.
The honest truth is that Moyes has skilfully overcome a difficult start to what most people have taken for granted is the impossible job of following in the footseps of Sir Alex.
From the start Moyes has told anyone who would listen that Rooney was staying at Old Trafford and was looking fitter and in better shape than he done for years. With seven goals already for club and country this season Wazza is back to form approaching his best and in the countdown to next summer’s World Cup in Brazil he looks like a player rejuvenated and hungry for a new era of success.
As Ferguson’s “Chosen One” only a fool would write off the former Everton manager after six League matches. While the Reds may currently lie six points behind early pace-setters Arsenal, the gap behind neighbours Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur is just one win and pre-season favourites Chelsea are only four points ahead of Moyes men. There is still a long way to go and the sensational full debut of 18-year old Adnan Januzaj with a matchwinning double at Sunderland before the international break illustrates the real strength in depth of a squad that has been built for longevity.
Yes of course there are a number of experienced, older heads at the club in Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick and the unbelievable Ryan Giggs who hits 40 next month. But the truth is that United have an outstanding nucleus of young stars.
There have been youth players making the grade at Old Trafford in every season since the Busby Babes made United great. And the current blend of home grown talent and imported youngsters is no exception.
To suggest that United are a team in decline because the players are too old is the biggest misrepresentation of the truth by that unrelenting gang of media hatchet men, self-interested critics and so-called experts.
Moyes could easily send out a formidable United team where the veteran of the team is Wayne Rooney at the ripe old age of 27 and the average age is just 23. And I am not talking about fringe players, for example;
David de Gea – 22
Rafael da Silva – 23
Phil Jones – 21
Jonny Evans – 25
Chris Smalling – 23
Adnan Januzaj – 18
Tim Cleverley – 24
Luis Nani – 26
Danny Welbeck – 22
Javier Hernandez – 25
Wayne Rooney – 27
The following subs have an average age of 22:
Ben Amos – 23
Marouane Fallaini – 25
Wilfried Zaha – 20
Nick Powell – 19 (on loan at Wigan)
Jesse Lingard – 20 (on loan at Birmingham)
Michael keane – 20
Will Keane – 20
Anderson – 25
Shinji Kagawa – 24
Fabio da Silva – 22
Robin van Persie – 30
Michael Carrick – 32
Ryan Giggs – 39
Antonio Valencia – 28
Ashley Young – 28
Patrice Evra – 32
Rio Ferdinand – 34
Nemanja Vidic – 32
October 18th, 2013 at 9:12 pm
Twenty Years ago Norwich City boasted one of the most attractive teams in the Premier League. Following their best ever campaign and a top three finish, Mike Walker’s team had a brilliant UEFA Cup run that included an historic win at the home of Bayern Munich. Among the stars of the Canaries team were the likes of Chris Sutton, Jeremy Goss and Ruel Fox who is featured here with the matchwinner against Coventry City on 2nd October 1993. A week later the speedy winger was on the mark against in a 2-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. That was 20 years ago this weekend, when City are on the road again with a tough test at the Emirates against the Premier League’s early season pace-setters Arsenal. Join us daily at 5pm with our Retro Goal trip down memory lane on the official VISIONSPORT TV YouTube Channel Subscribe for FREE now!
Roy’s Boys were brilliant against Montenegro and Poland so give Hodgson the respect he deserves for restoring England’s pride
October 16th, 2013 at 7:51 pm
As an Englishman I am thrilled that Roy Hodgson did what he promised and secured qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. What makes me proud is that Roy’s Boys booked their place in Brazil with a swagger, proving all the doubters and the critics wrong in sparkling fashion. There is even satisfaction at the way an honourable man has made a monkey out of the media who mocked his appointment less than 18 months ago.
Instead of getting behind the new man, the pathetic Sun ridiculed the way Hodgson speaks. It was a cynical attempt to make money out of a headline designed to sell newspapers. It backfired because even their own readers recoiled in embarrassment at the headline-writers’ sick sense of humour. While the Sun overstepped the mark of decency, the rest of the media have never been shy in taking aim at the man in the top job. Many felt vindicated because of a blind loyalty to Harry Redknapp, the man the majority of hacks wanted to be at the helm because he has a flair for giving the media what they want. I must admit I was initially disappointed that Redknapp was overlooked. but I have always given Hodgson the respect he deserves.
As I wrote a week before the start of Euro 2012: “There is little doubt in my mind that the new England boss is going to restore pride in the top job. And that is just as important (as success) this time around.” Post tournament I concluded: “Not only has Roy Hodgson shattered the myth that managing England in the modern era is an impossible job, he has turned around a team with no direction and no hope into a confident squad with no fear and a fresh belief that nothing is impossible. To claim a quarter-finals showdown with Italy at Euro 2012, Roy’s boys have confounded the critics. Only all-conquering Germany won more points in the Group stages. And in skipper Steven Gerrard England have been inspired by one of the stand-out players of the tournament.”
What makes Hodgson’s success so rewarding is that he has done it his way, learning and moving on from his mistakes and never losing sight of the end goal and his footballing philosophy, whatever the media throw at him.
And it is not just the tabloids who are quick to criticise at every opportunity. Just about every national newspaper has turned on Hodgson and his predecessors whenever they get the chance. While former England player Gary Lineker, a man who is always ready with a putdown but never goes out of his way to contribute anything positive, is just one example of the broadcast media who have become part of the pack that feeds on the game and never shirks from sticking the boot in.
What has made the England job increasingly difficult ever since Sir Alf Ramsey’s heroes won the World Cup at Wembley in 1966 is a media that revels in destruction, confrontation and fostering an ugly blame culture that stifles creativity and self-expression. It is no surprise that playing for England was losing its appeal for an increasing number of players. While big name managers primarily viewed the challenge as a chance to bank a gold-plated pension.
It is not just the job of managing England that has suffered at the beck and call of the media. Just take a look at the Premier League. Only Arsene Wenger, another dignified man with the thickest of skins, has had any significant time in the hotseat. While I am not an Arsenal fan and never will be, I do feel a warm glow of satisfaction in publicly sticking by Wenger when the knives were out, now that he has his team sitting proudly at the top of the Premier League summit having pulled off the transfer coup of the summer in signing Mezut Ozil.
What really makes me laugh is the way the media are skilled in turning things round to suggest they were right all the time to shower abuse on the men whose jobs they could never come close to doing if they were given the chance. Martin Samuel, great writer that he is, does just this in the Mailonline when he argues that the critics got it right because they wanted Hodgson to be less cautious and Wenger to spend big. This argument is so simplistic that I almost did myself injury laughing at Samuel’s bare-faced arrogance.
Tell me honestly, how many people sitting in Roy Hodgson’s shoes would have gambled on picking Andros Townsend for England’s two decisive World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland. And how many football managers would have succeeded in persuading Ozil to join their team. Not that team selection and transfer activity is the be all and end all. Tactics and creating an unbreakable team spirit is something that only the most gifted of managers get right.
What stands out like a beacon from this World Cup qualifying campaign for England is that Hodgson has created the type of team spirit that we are more used to seeing at a successful club side. In much the same way that Jack Charlton brought success to the Republic of Ireland with a limited pool of talent during his colourful reign from 1986 to 1996, the oldest ever manager to be handed the so-called “Impossible Job” has already done something that his over-rated predecessor Fabio Capello miserably failed to achieve. He has restored English pride for the fans, the players and the manager himself.
The media critics who did not want Hodgson to get the job in the first place will now become self-appointed cheerleaders until the next bad result or shift in public opinion. But we can only make real progress with a long term strategy. Not the kind of short-term knee jerk decision making that we see at some of our biggest club sides. That is why Hodgson must be given a fair opportunity to build on what he has achieved so far. We owe him that at least for getting England to what will be the biggest World Cup in our lifetime.
Greatest Ever Comebacks | Gavin Peacock hat-trick sealed victory for Newcastle United | Retro Match of the Day
September 27th, 2013 at 12:00 pm
A STUNNING HAT-TRICK FROM GAVIN PEACOCK CROWNED A REMARKABLE FIGHTBACK BY NEWCASTLE UNITED
Crewe 3-4 Newcastle United – 24 September 1991
Trailing 3-nil at Gresty Road in this second round 1st leg tie in the Rumbelows League Cup, Newcastle United looked down and out. But then came an amazing comebackthat saw Ossie Ardiles’ team storm back to claim an unlikely win on a dramatic night of Cup football.
It was a roller coaster season for Newcastle United fans with former player Kevin Keegan rescuing the club from the jaws of relegation to the third tier of English football after Ardiles’ reign came to an abrupt end.
Look out for more classic archive matches from visionsport TV
http://visionsport.co.uk/shop/newcastle.html for the full story of this dramatic season on DVD – AVAILABLE OCTOBER 2013
production company: VSI TV for VISIONSPORT