Archive for January 2007
Friday, January 26, 2007 by Paul Grech
Book Review: Sing When You're Winning by Colin Irwin
Fans have taken something of a battering lately and not just from clubs eager to exploit them as much as possible. The Guardian Unlimited’s Paul Doyle has just rounded on supporters of Liverpool, Newcastle and other clubs whose fans have remained loyal despite meagre results, claiming that their encouragement is ensuring their club’s mediocrity.
Perhaps Doyle should have joined Colin Irwin as he went round Britain in order to write this book. Irwin is primarily a music journalist but with a passion for football, so his choice to write about singing during games is hardly surprising.
His background and knowledge on the subject allows Irwin to be quite insightful on the origin of some of the most popular chants, sometimes even making the connection between how the original song was taken up by the fans and transformed into a chant.
In truth, however, Irwin seems undecided as to whether that is the real core of the book or if this is to be simply a narrative of his trips to various grounds where he takes in a number of games. Ultimately, you conclude that he’s gone for the latter with a couple of nods towards the former.
It’s not a bad choice, given that Irwin has a special talent for the narrative yet it doesn’t differentiate the book from the countless others of a similar nature.
Sometimes you also get the feeling that rather than researching for this book, Irwin’s main purpose is to take in the atmosphere. Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, yet the fact that he didn’t make it at into some four grounds due to the unavailability of tickets is somewhat grating. Regardless how he tries to romanticise matters listening to games outside stadia smells of lack of proper planning.
Somewhat irritatingly, Irwin seems to sneer at out of towners such as the family from Yeovil who sit next to him during a Manchester United game. By his own admission, Irwin chose to start supporting Southampton on a whim yet the fact that he also follows local side Weymouth in his mind differentiates him from that type of fan.
Despite everything, I still enjoyed reading this book, partly as I like this genre but also because Irwin’s evocative writing. His sharp analysis of how the game is changing adds further interest.
There’s also a pretty vital lesson to be learnt. What Irwin concludes is that fans congregate to games in order to have fun and singing ensures that there is the right atmosphere fore them to do that. Regardless of the level or attendance, there’s always a good reason to chant. It seems pretty obvious but, on recent evidence, perhaps that isn’t the case.
by Paul Grech
When Anthony Stokes joined Falkirk on loan six months back, virtually no one knew anything about him. Yet sixteen goals in the first half of the season transformed him into one of the most sought after players by clubs both north and south of the border, eventually moving to Sunderland for £2.2 million. Not bad for an eighteen year old who a year ago was struggling to get into Arsenal’s reserves.
The obvious fallout from Stokes’ success is that clubs have now started combing through Premiership reserve squads in the hope of finding a similarly talented player.
And Dunfermline might have done just that. The East End Park side might be adrift at the bottom of the Scottish Premier League and might not appear as the ideal candidate to test out any promising players, yet manager Stephen Kenny must have made quite an impression on the Liverpool coaches as they’ve allowed Adam Hammill the opportunity to spend the rest of the season with Dunfermline.
It will be an important test for the talented young winger who was one of the star players in last year’s FA Youth Cup winning side. Indeed, Hammill is one of the few who are considered as having a genuine chance of breaking into the first team. He is a naturally talented player who is always full of tricks, has great vision and is never afraid to take players on.
Such talent and confidence, however, can have it’s downside and that holds true with Hammill. In fact, he doesn’t appear to be the most determined of players and can often fade out of games. Which is why this loan is so important for him. Rafael Benitez clearly feels that reserve team football isn’t enough to toughen up young player and he is probably right.
There isn’t the same kind of pressure to perform that is present in first team games. If during his stay in Scotland, Hammill shows that he is capable of expressing his talent despite such pressure, then he will be significantly closer to making it into Benitez’s plans.
Monday, January 22, 2007 by Paul Grech
Adam Hamill's experience on loan at Dunfermline might have started with a 1-0 defeat to Rangers, but from a personal point of view it was all positive. The highly rated youngster was singled out by The Independent in their match report.
Dunfermline's Adam Hamill caught the eye when he made his debut in the second half. The teenager, an England youth international, is on loan from Liverpool and twice created chances for an equaliser. The best of them was headed over from point blank range by Jim Hamilton with eight minutes remaining.
Coming in the same week that Liverpool sold Darren Potter for £200,000 to Wolves and could get £1.5 million from Blackburn for Stephen Warnock, it makes light of claims that the club's academy isn't working.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007 by Paul Grech
They don’t call it the silly season for nothing. Ashley Young might have decided against moving to West Ham yet the fact that these were willing to pay a £10 million transfer fee highlights the lack of quality that is available. As well as proving that West Ham have too much money to spend and are getting slightly desperate.
Young’s ability cannot be questioned. He has skill, pace and the strength needed to trouble defenders, a combination of talents that is always going to attract interest. That he can play in a variety of positions is also something likely to appeal. In a Watford side that has struggled to adapt to this level, he is the only one to have consistently shown that he deserves to stay here.
Yet that is hardly a good enough reason for West Ham – or any other club – to come charging through with an offer so large. Lest it be forgotten, Young has played at this level for a little over half a season: hardly enough to be confident that he is good enough to consistently perform in the Premiership.
When Liverpool where rumoured to be interested in him, Young’s valuation was said to be around £3 million. Which would have been acceptable. Yet, as more and more clubs started expressing an interest, this ballooned to £10 million in the space of a couple of weeks.
And still there are those who doubt Benitez’s transfer strategy. People said that signing Jermaine Pennant for £6 million was something of a risk yet Pennant had been playing consistently well in the Premiership for two seasons before he made the move to Liverpool. What do you call spending £10 million on someone with so little experience?
Cynics might claim that Liverpool dropped out simply because they don’t have the money to compete. Which might be true until you realise that for a similar fee Liverpool bought Xabi Alonso. Now who of the two would you prefer to have in your team?
Tuesday, January 16, 2007 by Paul Grech
When you’ve got a sport paper to fill every day, you have to get creative. So what if you might be somewhat liberal with the truth? Or, at least, that is how to best describe AS’ editorial policy.
David Beckham’s decision to decamp to America after spending the past six months watching most games from the sidelines, coupled with the recent captures of young Argentines Gonzalo Higuan and Fernando Gago, have been interpreted as Real Madrid finally deciding to get rid of the old guard.
Which made it perfectly logical for AS to decide that Raul would be the next to leave. Well, after Ronaldo that is, but he’s been getting so little playing time that it is as if he wasn’t there already. And what better destination for the current club captain then Liverpool? In fact, on the second page of AS’ editorial policy it is probably stated that any Spanish player likely to move to England should be linked to Liverpool.
Unfortunately for them, that isn’t necessarily the case. The fact that buying English players costs so much might be forcing Rafael Benitez to look abroad to boost his squad yet by now even he has realised that not every player is suited for English football. The abject failure of Fernando Morientes has seen to that.
Should Raul ever get to try his luck in the Premiership, he would probably suffer a similar fate. There’s no doubting that he is a talented player – even if he has struggled to perform consistently for the past three years – yet the last thing Liverpool need at the moment is a lightweight striker who isn’t too fond of scoring goals.
Saturday, January 13, 2007 by Paul Grech
Given that he has just conceded nine goals over two games, the news that Liverpool are about to bring in keeper Daniele Padelli is hardly going to lift spirits on Merseyside unless it means the end of Jerzy Dudek. And it doesn’t.
So it is hardly the best of starts for the young Italian who is already being likened to Patrice Luzi, the Frenchman plucked out of nowhere by Gerard Houllier, played just one senior game in three years before disappearing out of sight once Benitez took over.
In the pessimistic mood that has enveloped the club this week, it is very easy to be negative about this transfer. After all, Padelli has managed just one game for Serie B side Crotone this season and even the Italy U21 cap he won last month was to a degree brought about by the lack of available players.
Yet, whilst those are indeed facts, there is more to his story. Padelli spent last season at Serie C1 (third division) side Pizzighettone where he was consistently one of their better players and established himself as one of the most promising goalkeepers in Italy. Which, given the country’s reputation for excellence in that department, is saying something.
This season, Sampdoria wanted to keep him as back up to Gianluca Berti yet his desire for regular first team action saw him being loaned out once more to Crotone. Given all this, his lack of exposure was a disappointment yet hardly unexpected.
Crotone are currently struggling in the Serie B and are currently fifth from bottom. Yet with regular keeper Salvatore Stoviero doing well, they’re unlikely to change for change’s sake especially when the replacement is a raw 21 year-old. He did manage one game for them – a 2-2 draw with Pescara where by his own admission he was at fault at one of their goals – but that wasn’t enough for Sampdoria who recalled him back at the start of January.
No one, however, could have anticipated what was about to come next as Liverpool came in to sign him on-loan in view of a permanent deal.
Why that move came about remains something of a mystery considering that last season Liverpool had brought David Martin from MK Dons. It also remains to be seen why Benitez went for him. Padelli is a massive presence in goal and his good reflexes brought him to the attention of the Italian national youth team selectors from an early age. Like most young keepers he still needs to work on his timing and decision-making but that is something that can be solved in time.
How long it will take and how close he is to being the final product will determine whether Liverpool will exercise the option to sign him up in the following six months, a period that will also be vital for him if he is to dismiss the comparisons with Luzi.