Friday, 13 February 2009

A beach of a day for cricket

Having just finished a Test match in Kingston, leaving England red in the face after being bowled out for 51 (England’s third lowest Test score), it was the turn of the West Indies. Not for horrifically bad batting, nor bowling, but providing a pitch not that dissimilar to one of Antigua’s 365 beaches.

After just ten balls of the second Test, the match at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium was abandoned due to the dangerous pitch surface. West Indian captain Chris Gayle put England into bat, with the hope of continuing where they left off in Kingston. This certainly didn’t turn out, as the home side’s opening bowlers struggled to run in smoothly across the uneven and sandy based surface.

On an unlucky for some Friday 13th, a large and highly disappointed crowd turned up to witness the farcical scene, which brought back memories of the Sabina Park debacle in January 1998, when the uneven pitch was deemed too dangerous for batsmen.

Before the match started today, selection decisions were made choosing Shah and Anderson over Bell and Harmison. Well, perhaps Graham Gooch, Robin Smith and Allan Lamb should have been considered, as they have had plenty of practice playing for England at beach cricket.

The match referee Alan Hurst said: "No one had bowled on the wicket to test it out. It would have been jumping the gun to say it was unfit before the start of play.”

The weather may have been poor before the start of the match, but for Test Match standards, surely the head groundsman and his team could have seen that the pitch was not fit for cricket at the highest level. Even spectators could see that pitch was diabolical. Why did the match start in the first place?

Gayle said the whole event was “embarrassing” and Strauss remarked that "It's not right that Test cricket matches have to be abandoned like this; lessons definitely need to be learned.”

I could say the same thing to Strauss after his side’s performance in the last Test, but his comments concerning this match are spot on.

Following these words of wisdom saying lessons must be learnt, the match has been rescheduled to be played on Sunday 15th February at the Antigua Recreation Ground (ARG). This is the place where England has been training, and Chris Gayle says the place has "…a lot of football played there and the field is a bit bumpy, even the wicket has a couple of ridges so you have some uneven bounce."

This sounds like a recipe for utter disaster.

The ARG offers no referrals, because according to Alan Hurst, there will be limited camera angles available. Well, after the confusion during the last Test, and huge debate over the referral system, this perhaps won’t be a bad thing. This is a whole different kettle of fish altogether though.
Watch this space as the saga continues...

Monday, 9 February 2009

Sack the manager!

You're in the Premiership, the top flight, and your team fails to live up to expectations. What’s the obvious next step? Sack the manager.

Tony Adams and Luiz Felipe Scolari were sacked today from Portsmouth and Chelsea respectively, and the truth is, there was no great surprise. One may argue that Scolari’s exit was not foreseen, but news of a Chelsea manager losing his job really isn’t a shock.

Since arriving at Stamford Bridge, Roman Abramovich has seen four managers depart. Have all of those men been given a good shot at really building a solid team to stay at the top I ask. Perhaps Mr. Abramovich needs to be informed that throwing together a load of big names isn’t always the answer to a successful team.

Blaming managers with superb track records is another questionable Chelsea tactic. Many fans are still furious with the manner in which Jose Mourinhio left the club, and are even calling for his return.

Sir Alex Ferguson described Scolari’s sacking as “A sign of the times” saying there is no patience in the world now. This is all too true. Goodness knows who will be brave enough to take on Sir Alex’s job when he eventually finishes at Manchester United.

There is also a trend appearing of past Premiership stars taking on Premiership managerial roles soon after retirement from playing. These men seem to be having considerable difficulty in keeping their jobs too. Take the cases of Paul Ince, Roy Keane and today with Tony Adams.

The frequency of football managers getting the boot, if you forgive the pun, is becoming so ludicrous that the bookmakers are probably receiving more bets on who the next manager to be axed is, rather than bets on the games.

This brings me to the next question. Who is next? Redknapp from Tottenham? Benitez from Liverpool? Wenger from Arsenal? Spurs are still struggling, even after the seemingly remarkable start from Harry Redknapp after ditching Portsmouth. Benitez is being accused of poor team selections causing Liverpool to lose their top spot, and Arsenal are clearly underperforming and could struggle to end their season within the top four.

Who would want to be a Premiership manager nowadays?

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Is football foreign to you?

Workers at the Lindsey Oil Refinery in Lincolnshire have been on strike over the past week or so concerning the use of foreign labour. Hundreds of British workers across the country joined the strike, backing the dispute over the rules on employing foreign staff. Owners of power stations and refineries (in this case) have been giving a large chunk of the jobs to foreigners to carry out.

You may be wondering what the devil this has to do with sport?

Well, top level league sport in Britain, particularly football, is dominated by overseas players and has been for some years now. I don't see many strikes from the English players in line with the oil refinery case however.

Premiership and top league clubs have bought in so many talented foreign players and managers. Without these players, it can be argued that English football would be considerably less wealthy and popular. Not to mention the high standard of Premiership football today, largely thanks to the overseas players. However, the English national team is struggling because of it.

Teams with big money can splash out on the big names. Take Chelsea FC for example. This is their squad:

Cech, Ivanovic, A. Cole, Essien, Carvalho, Lampard, Di Santo, J. Cole, Drogba, Mikel, Ballack, Malouda, Bosingwa, Ferreira, Deco, Kalou, Terry, Mineiro, Alex, Belletti, Anelka, Hilario, Mancienne, Stoch, Woods, Smith, Kakuta and Hutchinson.

Last 6 managers (excluding Graham Rix who was in charge for just 2 matches):

Scolari (present)

Spot many English names in there? As David Brent once said: "shouldn't have thought so." Chelsea faced Liverpool for their last match, where only 6 out of 36 squad players, from both teams, were English.

There has been some talk of introducing new rules to football, with regard to clubs having a certain amount of 'home grown' players in their squad. This hasn't kicked off terribly well as yet. Furthermore, acadamies have been set up to try and enforce a further influx of local talent, but foreign players are appearing here too.

Certain clubs are taking this seriously and some quality local players are begining to shine through however. Middlesbrough FC have a strong urge to develop their youth teams and young English players. I was fortunate enough to hear a talk from their Academy Manager David Parnaby a few years ago. He emphasised the importance of home grown talent to English football, focussing on the success of their player Stewart Downing.

If England's top players, such as Gerrard, Terry, Rooney and Lampard, play alongside overseas players at their clubs rather than training with talented English footballers, what hope has our national team got?

They gel so very well with these big money players at their clubs, and spend plenty of time training with them. They have now forgotten how to work well with their fellow countrymen. Failing to qualify for the Euro tournament highlights this.

Is there any hope for the future of English football if the foreign player allowance doesn't change any time soon?

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