laudrup1024_2779780[1]Whenever a Premier League team lose a manager to another club the same old names are normally banded about as a replacement. Alan Curbishley will be linked with any job going, up and coming young managers like Brighton’s Gus Poyet will get a mention and a random ex  player of the club looking to hire will come out in the press asking for a chance at the club. When Swansea City lost their highly regarded manager Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool it would have been easy for them to go down either of the routes mentioned above, however in bringing in former Brondby, Spartak Moscow and Real Mallorca manager Michael Laudrup, Swans chairman Huw Jenkins has ensured that transition from Rodgers to Laudrup should be seamless.

Danish legend Laudrup was known as a classy, elegant footballer when he became the big name in Scandinavian football in the 80s and that is the style of play he likes to impose on his teams. Rightly so as well given that as a player he notched up an impressive haul of honours with some of the world’s biggest teams. Having represented the likes of Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Ajax it’s safe to say they have a manager in place who has experienced the most high pressure situations during his career. Continue reading

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David Beasant of Wimbledon and John Aldridge of LiverpoolBefore I go into a bit of a rant I’d like to bring up two memories from my childhood that as football fans (I presume) you will be able to relate to. Saturday 30th January 1988 and I took my first steps into a professional football ground as a 5-year-old to watch Newcastle United play Swindon Town. In all honesty, the excitement of the day and going to a match with my Dad means that in all the rush and clamour the day completely passed me by. I remember the noise and the swaying of the crowd, the fact it was freezing and the craziness that followed each Newcastle goal (all five of them!). However the thing that made the day really special was the fact that not only was it my first ever game with my Dad but it was in the FA Cup, the greatest domestic club competition in the world. I still have a programme from the day although I’ll be honest it’s not the one that me and Dad (well Dad really) paid for on the day but one I bought from the excellent Back Page shop in Newcastle. As I say, it’s a memory that will live with me forever. Another date for you that’s prominent in my mind is Saturday 14th May.

My beloved Newcastle had been knocked out of the FA Cup back in the 5th Round by some bunch of noggy cloggers called Wimbledon. However, the very same noggy cloggers were now running out at Wembley to face the then mighty Liverpool who boasted the talents of Hansen, Barnes and Beardsley. The build-up to the Cup Final was massive with every single TV programme seemingly wanting to be part of it. A boiling hot Saturday (as it always was on Cup Final Saturday) saw my Dad wake me up earlier to go for a kick around down the park, then to the shop for a paper and back home to get ready for the build-up. Dinner was eaten in time to make sure that by the time Cup Final Grandstand started we were sat on the sofa ready. Continue reading

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boro para 2There have been some seminal moments in the recent history of Middlesbrough Football Club. Who can forget the entertaining side produced by Bryan Robson featuring the White Feather Fabrizio Ravenelli, disco dancing Brazilian midfielder Emerson and the little maestro who conducted the Riverside Orchestra Juninho? Then there was Steve McLaren’s side of Southgate, Schwarzer, Zenden and the second coming of Juninho who lifted the club’s first ever major domestic trophy in 2004 beating Bolton in the Final of the Carling Cup. There was the dramatic run all the way to the final of the 2005/06 UEFA Cup Final which featured unforgettable matches against FC Basel and Steaua Bucharest.

On a more negative note, twenty-five years ago the club was on the brink of going out of business and literally ten minutes away from extinction when local businessman Steve Gibson saved the club with the help of a consortium. In those dark times, new heroes were formed as youngsters battled for nothing more than pride in the shirt. Manager Bruce Rioch gave debuts to players who were to go on to become club legends. Youngsters like Gary Pallister, Colin Cooper and Tony Mowbray all made their first appearances in the red of the Boro in difficult circumstances and it is the latter who will oversee what I believe will be the next major event in the history of the Teesside club. Continue reading

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guard4_1498040a“Més que un Club” or “More than a Club” is the rather bold motto of one of the giants of World Football, Barcelona. If any week has proven that the extremes of football are extenuated then it has been this week at the Nou Camp. A week of hell for the Catalan club saw them lose their El Clasico derby to a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Real Madrid; saw a superb defensive performance from Chelsea dump them out of the Champions League at the Semi Final stage and in one last dramatic action of the week, their Head Coach Pep Guardiola stepped down to end a trophy laden tenure in charge. Guardiola as a player was someone I admired greatly and in all honesty, as a coach he only added to that admiration.

Inheriting an already superb Barca side from Dutchman Frank Rijkaard, Pep gave the team a new ethos. Whereas the days of Deco, Etoo and Ronaldinho had brought great success Guardiola set about putting together one of the greatest sides club football has ever seen. The spine of the team was built on players who had come through La Masia, Barca’s famed academy based on the outskirts of the capital of Catalonia. Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Iniesta, Xavi and of course Lionel Messi were the foundation upon which Pep’s Barcelona would be built. Continue reading

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SUNDAY LEAGUE TO SUPER SUNDAY: The Rise and Rise of Nigel Adkins

There are managers in the Championship who have taken charge of big Premier League clubs in the past; there are some who have had glittering playing careers on both the domestic and international scene; there are those who have formed an affinity with the club they are at whilst playing for them in their pomp. However, few managers in the Championship or at any other level can match the journey taken by (in my opinion) one of the best up and coming managers in the Professional game.

As things stand Nigel Adkins is on the brink of leading Southampton to back-to-back promotions, an impressive feat managed by Norwich City’s Paul Lambert who is now receiving well deserved plaudits for the Canaries’ impressive first season back in the top flight. Whilst Lambert’s footballing education was spent winning trophy after trophy with massive clubs like Dortmund and Celtic, Adkins learnt his trade in a slightly more modest environment. Continue reading

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deanwindass1024_2702608Throughout the 2011/12 season there were many joyous moments for football fans around the country. Whether it be the success of Swansea in translating their fantastic brand of passing football from Championship to Premiership with consummate ease or the intriguing ongoing battle for supremacy in Manchester and for the Premier League title. Looking lower down the leagues we have seen Brian McDermott revitalising his Reading side to march through the Championship and make a return to the top flight. In League Two the appointment of Paulo Di Canio has proven a masterstroke for the Swindon Town board as he led his side to the top of League Two. However there have been so many sad moments and one key topic has been brought into the public domain whether it been in the Sporting arena or in society as a whole.

In September I’m sure you were as shocked as I was when former Bradford City and Middlesbrough star Dean Windass revealed his battle with depression and his shocking admission that he had tried to take his own life in the week before the article was published on two separate occasions. In the uber macho world of Sport it is slowly becoming more acceptable to admit that you suffer from what sadly is seen as a weakness but in reality is actually an illness. In modern society too often depression is the elephant in the room, everyone knows it exists but few want to acknowledge it. However in recent years some of our greatest sportsmen and women have suffered badly. Continue reading

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