David Beckham, to the surprise of many, started for Paris Saint Germain in their Champions League match against Barcelona on Tuesday. Beckham has brought his media circus to the French capital since his move from the LA Galaxy. Lucy Howell discusses Beckham’s debut in France, which included a television camera dedicated to him: “Beck-Cam”.
When Frank Lampard nodded a header past Jussi Jääskeläinen to give Chelsea the lead against West Ham this weekend, he scored his 13th goal of the season. What is the statistic that you are perhaps more likely to have heard however, is that this was his 200th career goal for Chelsea – leaving him just two goals behind the all-time record for the club, held by legendary striker Bobby Tambling.
So it’s football’s turn now.
After Lance Armstrong’s disgrace shamed cycling, and spot fixing embarrassed cricket, the pendulum has swung back to football as the current sport to be associated with cheating.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana on Sunday played host to this year’s instalment of the grandest show in town: Superbowl XLVII – that’s 47 to the uninitiated. The American Football Conference (AFC) champions, the Baltimore Ravens, took on the champs from the National Football Conference (NFC), the San Francisco 49ers for the right to be called the best football team in the world.
Alexandre Pato is the latest in the long line of the ‘next big thing’ in Brazilian football. Having arrived at AC Milan in 2007 an ambitious 17-year old from Internacional in Brazil, Pato did not disappoint, with a very impressive average of around a goal every other game. This month however, Pato has joined Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva in leaving the club, having completed a £12m move back to native Brazil with Corinthians. As well as joining the huge exodus of players from Milan, Pato has joined another perhaps more star-studded list of players who have left their careers at Europe’s top clubs to return home to Brazil. Be it Ronaldo or Elano, Ronaldinho or Adriano, the Brazilian footballing structure appears to be irresistibly alluring to Brazilian players as they draw closer to the end of their prime.
After one-and-a-half qualifying campaigns under Craig Levein, which included some inglorious highlights such as a 96th minute winner at home to Liechtenstein, the 4-6-0 formation in Prague and draws against the international powerhouses of Macedonia and Lithuania, the SFA finally appointed a new manager so that we can put that bastard of a tenure to bed. The man they’ve chosen is Gordon Strachan.
So, the new plan to ‘save Scottish Football’ has emerged from the dark dungeons of the SPL and SFA. Obviously oblivious to the fact that the SFL have a huge voting majority of Scottish football teams, the SPL have suggested their own ‘improvements’ to the football setup in Scotland, adopting what has been described as a ‘continental’ model. This is true; the system being proposed by the authorities in Scotland is indeed based upon models which used to be in place in such footballing big-hitting nations as Austria. ‘Used to’ being the crucial term, here. Indeed, as an interview with former SFA President George Peat revealed, the Austrian Football Association actually approached Scotland when this model fell apart, and little more than a decade later, we’ve decided to give their model a bash.
The news of genuine proposals for reform into the structures of Scottish football have been met with sighs of relief by the majority of level headed football fans. I would be inclined to agree; the current four- tier structure is baffling due to the simple fact that there are 42 ‘senior’ clubs split into a needlessly complicated 4 tier structure involving playoffs, splits, promotion, relegation, and a bottom tier from which finishing bottom brings with it no repercussions, even when it’s done five times in succession (ahem, East Stirlingshire ’02-’07).
The new structure being proposed unanimously by the SFL clubs (that’s the clubs from the three tiers below the SPL, for those struggling to keep up) suggests the replacement of the 12-10-10-10 system with a shiney new 16-10-16 system compromising of a Premier League, a “Championship” and a “First Division”(a blatant copying of the English Football League structure) . This is a move that was greeted with fairly selfish reactions from the Old Firm, with Ally McCoist backing the changes, presumably as it would likely see Rangers hit the top flight again quicker, and Neil Lennon opposing the changes as it would gain his side no advantages over the other teams. SFL teams universally back the changes because, well, anything is better than what we’ve got now.
Now, my problem is not that I disagree with the changes proposed – although I am slightly baffled at a middle tier of just 10 teams – it’s that the deep rooted problems in Scottish football require significantly bigger reforms than changing the league sizes to rectify. Thankfully, the turmoil facing many top clubs in Scotland has provided an easy context to reflect the issues in the running of the game. Now avoiding the Rangers example entirely (being from Glasgow, one understands that this may be slightly divisive to those as passionate on the topic as I) a fine example of the problems facing Scottish football can be found over in Edinburgh with Hearts.
Following Vladimir “Mad Vlad” Romanov’s decision to leave Hearts in a state of financial turmoil for the seventh time or so (not including those times where he simply didn’t pay his staff because he couldn’t be arsed) the question has to be asked of why the SFA don’t seem too bothered that a man clearly unfit to run a football club is running a football club. Surely to ensure the longevity and financial sustainability of member clubs is in the interest of Scottish football, and is therefore the responsibility of the authorities to ensure appropriate people are in charge of the member clubs. The disastrous consequences in failing to perform this role can be found in the liquidation of the Rangers Oldco, and the demotion of the football club to the Third Division. The new league structure could very well increase revenue and interest in the league, but this does not necessarily mean that clubs will go to the wall less often.
With these reforms being proposed things are looking bright for Scottish football. Whether the future is bright, I’m not entirely sure, and to be honest, I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one. But considering SFL Chief Executive David Longmuir is the face of these changes, and also holds the distinction of being the only reasonable man of authority in Scottish football, that’s at least a small positive. But still, with Snoop Dogg’s apparent interest in buying shares in Celtic, the next few months will certainly be interesting if nothing else.
So there we have it folks, the big wigs over at the Scottish Football Association have finally acted on the national shame that was Craig Levein’s tenure as Scotland boss and shown him the door. This act of basic competence – albeit belated – has led to the question of who will replace Levein as manager. With the doubtless talent at the disposal of the new manager, whoever that may be, this week I will dedicate my column to the potential candidates for the role and the chances of each of them of landing the top job.
Former Scotland International Gordon Strachan has received the most high profile media attention and has been installed by every bookmaker as favourite. For this reason he is highly uninteresting to talk about, because everyone else is talking about him. He’s ginger, fairly short, and has a good track record as a manager. Also famed for his bizarre, nonsensical responses to fairly valid questions from the press, so at least that would be interesting to watch. On a more serious note, his spell in charge of Celtic would be enough to convince the majority of the Tartan Army that he’s the right candidate to move the side forward.
Compton’s Odds: A logical choice, and bizarrely, a logical choice that the SFA may actually take. I see him as strong favourite and with good reason too. However, his disappointing spell at Middlesbrough may raise a few eyebrows. 1/5.
Having achieved moderate success in his previous spell as Scotland boss, Walter Smith comes with all the pedigree that anyone could possibly ask for. Having been touted for the job by Smith’s assitant at Rangers and Scotland, now Rangers manager Ally McCoist, his name has been thrust into consideration. A stellar managerial career with two excellent spells at Rangers, a vastly underrated spell in charge of Everton, and a very impressive job in the role previously. This appointment would be controversial however, as Smith left the Scotland job in unfavourably circumstances, resigning in order to return to Rangers in the wake of Paul LeGuen’s sacking, prompting legal action from the SFA.
Compton’s Odds: It goes without saying that Smith has one of the more accomplished CV’s of all the likely candidates for this role. However, his potential commitment to the role may hinder his chances. His resignation from the role previously for greener pastures and his hinting towards retirement when leaving Rangers may call into question the longevity any spell as Scotland boss would have. It’s also unlikely that the Tartan Army, or indeed the SFA themselves, have forgiven Smith for leaving the role previously. 16/1.
Was too old to be a footballer, and is too young to be a manager, so I guess you get the best of both Worlds. Always read the game superbly, but has no managerial experience. He is currently a youth and reserve team coach at Everton, but there’s no way of knowing how well he’s doing, seeing as he’s a coach, and we never really know what they’re up to. A scholar of the game with a great footballing mind.
Compton’s Odds: It’s a long shot, to say the least, and as respected as he is as a player, including his achievements as former Scotland captain, Weir may need to make the step up to management somewhere else for some experience if he’s ever likely to hold the national team top job. Then again, everyone said he was too old when he signed for Rangers, so he’s used to overcoming the odds. 66/1.
What a farcical appointment this would be.
Rightfully considered a legend of Scottish football, and one of the finest players ever produced by this nation, Dalglish deserves much praise, respect and his position in Scottish Football’s Hall of Fame. His managerial career however, has been nothing short of a train wreck. Yes, his spells in charge of Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers were successful, but they were also in the eighties and early nineties, and everything since there has been shamefully poor. When in charge of Newcastle United he lost nearly as often as he won, and his spells at Celtic and Liverpool were uninspiring to say the least. As much as the “Dalglish Factor” seems to work for the first few weeks in charge, his managerial nous has never been proven, and I for one don’t believe that he has what it takes to be a successful manager in the modern game, and his sporadic gaps from managing suggests his commitment to improving his record is lacking.
Compton’s Odds: A big name boss, but the disappointing spell at Liverpool recently will probably see the SFA avoid what would likely prove an expensive mistake. 33/1.
What a wonderful, wonderful appointment this would be. A sterling reputation within the footballing world thanks to a fantastic spell in charge of Fleetwood, culminating in promotion to the Premier League and FA Cup success in the 2018-19 season. Compton is the shining beacon through the otherwise foggy set of potential appointments. His tactical wizardry, hands-on approach, and legendary ability to manage his players effectively there is little doubt that the trademark cheeky grin and charming quip to the media would be a reflection of the undeniable success he would bring to the role.
Compton’s Odds: Easily the most qualified and desirable candidate. The only concern over this would the fact that the SFA are most likely looking for a long-term project from their next manager, and holding onto Compton and fighting off the advances of some of the World’s most desirable football jobs may prove too off-putting for the authorities to take the chance on. Wages would also be a major issue, although he would certainly be worth every penny. Finally, there may be concerns that as valid as all of his achievements are, they were all achieved on Football Manager. 5/1.
Alan talks racism in football. What is its current state considering organisations like Kick It Out are trying to combat it? Continue reading