Monday, 27 May 2013

Whats more important ?

The football world is on overdrive following Bayern Munich’s Champions league win on Saturday. Everyone is talking about a european domination by the Bavarians. Journalists talking about Pep Guardiola coming on board next season and the prospect of an even better team than the one we witnessed on the weekend. The other news making the football headlines is the transfer spree of Monaco and the imminent arrival of Falcao to the French club. Also, the arrival of Manuel Pellegrini to Man City and Mourinho’s imminent arrival to Chelsea are other popular topics you will find online and in newspapers at the moment. These are the stories that all football fans want to read. I know this because I’m a huge fan and there is nothing better than reading about possible transfer arrivals at your club or what mega star is going where. Watching the biggest game in football, the Champion’s league, it’s what all football fans want. But there is another story that is actually more important than any of this. This story is more important than anything else in football this year. This story is more important than any signing or stadium build. It’s the most important story in sport

On Sunday the 26th of March in Los Angeles, 77 minutes gone in the game, Robbie Rodgers came on as a sub for LA Galaxy against the Seattle Sounders. What’s the big deal and how does this compare to the Champions league final, I hear you say?  Well, Rodgers is the firstly openly gay athlete in American sport history and only the second man to openly admit his sexuality in football since Justin Fashanu back in in 1990. That’s what the big deal is.

Rodgers a 25 year old LA native, had a small spell with Leeds United and Stevenage and after a number of injuries during his time in England, he decided to retire and reveal is sexuality or come out, at the same time. He did this through his blog and opened the article with “For the past 25 years I have been afraid, afraid to show who I really was because of fear. Fear that judgment and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations. Fear that my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret. Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams”.


Rodgers revealing his sexuality, or coming out as they say, is old news. It happened back in February but on Sunday night, stepping onto the field with a thunderous applause from the fans, Rodgers not alone made history but he also did something more important for football than a Bayern Munich win or Monaco’s money.

If you are not aware, homosexuality in football is not talked about, addressed, or to put it bluntly, accepted. The title “The beautiful game” is a cloak of lies that covers the ignorant caveman like world of football today. As a footballer and now manager, I know too well the talk in the changing room after the game or the jokes between team mates when they do something wrong or not acceptable. Like if a player goes down from a tackle the comment that follows usually goes like “Ah come on don’t be gay, I barely touched you get up”. Now, I know most of the time this goes unnoticed, it’s just a passing footballing comment. But for a player like Rodgers, hearing this on a daily basis from managers and players must have been horrendous. Rodgers retirement and coming out was not in any of the papers I read or apps I look at on my phone for football. It wasn’t on any of the shows I watch or mentioned on any of the games. Why not? Why was it not celebrated that a 25 year old man, who is a professional sportsman has decided to tell the world his sexuality and try to break down the homophobic wall that is in football today. Why has it not got more media attention? Maybe I’m wrong and it did get the adequate coverage but not in the sources I read or watch.


Many people talk about bravery in football. How it’s brave to step up and take a penalty in a crunch game. How it’s brave for a coach to make a sub at a certain period of the game or how it’s brave for a club to spend a sum of money on a transfer target. None of those things are brave. What Rodgers has done is brave. What Rodgers is doing now is brave and if he continues to play at a pro level, not only will it be brave but it will be a milestone in the history of football. His coming out as a gay footballer will hopefully open the door for other players to do the same. Landon Donavan, Rodgers team mate and American football legend, had this to say about Rodgers “Everybody wants it to go a certain way on the filed for him but in my opinion, it’s already a success whether he plays one minute or a thousand minutes”. There are without doubt more gay footballers waiting to come out. There are 20 teams in the Premier league. Each team has a squad of around 25 players. That’s 500 players in the Premier league alone and supposedly, all 500 are straight! I don’t believe that for one second. So imagine the players all over the world and we only have two openly gay players in the history of the game

In 2013 you would think that being homosexual in sports wouldn’t be a big deal. But unfortunately it is. Football is seen as a world healing game. It brings all walks of life together with the language of football. It allows different races and cultures to come together. It brings fans from different backgrounds to the one arena singing in harmony. What about being a safer environment for players to be comfortable with who they are and not afraid of the impacts of being truthful and being honest about their sexual preference.

The talk now after the Champions league win for Bayern is what impact their win will have on the future of football. I think what Rodgers is doing will have a far bigger impact on the future of football than Bayerns win or any win.

Let’s hope that Rodgers bravery and courage will be an important step for the game becoming as beautiful as it says it claims to be.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Manage the Man

In life, we constantly strive for success. We always want to improve, move forward and to find new ways to become better, fitter stronger and healthier. This is particularly evident in today’s sports world. New ways of improving the individual and the team come along so fast it is sometimes hard to catch up. From recovery supplements to performance enhancing clothing, each sports team strives to be better than their competitor and will look down any avenue to gain the upper hand.  This can be traced back to the days of the cold war and the supposed alternative training methods used behind the iron curtain. These methods intrigued the world, particularly the United States, and after the iron curtain fell, many Americans ventured over to Russia to see how they could keep up.

In today’s world nothing has really changed from then. From a football perspective, soccer boots are now made that supposedly make you go faster, turn quicker and track how many miles you ran on a pitch. The under garments worn in games now are supposed to increase blood flow while keeping the body cool or warm, depending on the weather. Then some players use certain fluids to replace their electrolytes and supplements to aid recovery after a game. Fitness drills have changed. Gone are the days of long distance pre-season who can get sick first training. Now, we have heart rate monitors monitoring our work rate, our workout it’s specified to the position we play in and our diet is as detailed as nothing you have seen. From TRX to cross fit to plyometrics, it’s hard to keep up isn’t it?

But one thing that seems to be forgotten about or overlooked is the art of man management. This, in my opinion, is vital in looking after a team or any individual in sports. If you can man-manage well, the greater the likelihood of the team and individual given you all they can and pushing themselves to the maximum. Recently Frank Lampard of Chelsea said this about man management “First and foremost it is about man management and how you get on with players. If you are a top-level manager you have top players, but getting the best out of them is the trick and it’s 70 per cent of the job”.

As a football coach myself, I can see the importance of managing an individual and the team as a whole. It’s extremely important in my role as I manage the two teams in the club, so I deal with 35+ players, all who have full time jobs and want to enjoy football but win at the same time. I am coach / manager of an amateur team, Dunbar Rovers, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. I am very blessed to manage some amazing footballers in my two teams and their technical ability and knowledge of the game is amazing. But like every player, whether they are pro or a pub team, managing them and keeping them happy is vital in the group’s pursuit of success. If a player is not happy with his or her surroundings, then their attitude and application will drop, which will affect both their own game and the group goals and ambitions

In my teams, I deal with some players who have families and very demanding full time jobs, so the time they can fully dedicate to the team is limited. So, when dealing with grown men, majority all older than me, I try to balance the goals of the group together with the time the individual can give me. As a group, there is always one common goal. That is to be successful. In our teams and club, we also try to incorporate certain styles of play and to ensure we enjoy it.  Before I took over this season, I spoke to several of the older players in the squad who had been with the club for a few seasons  and asked them what they liked the previous year, what they didn’t like and what they would like to see in the coming season. Then I told them my ideas and vision and we successfully came up with a plan that we felt would help the group, as well as helping the individuals. One thing was training. Before we began training at 8pm and didn’t finish until 9.30pm and by the time the players got home and had food, their kids were gone to bed and it was past 10pm. This season we shortened out training time and started earlier and ensured that in the time we had, we worked as hard as possible.


In pro sports there are many well-known coaches who excel in man management. In Basketball, Phil Jackson, winner of 11 NBA titles, managed two of the best players in the history of the NBA in Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. In his time at the Lakers he managed the hostile relationship with Shaq and Kobe and managed to win 5 championships by keeping the group goals as the focus while making sure the two huge egos were massaged and dealt with properly . In football, Harry Redknapp is a manager that comes to mind when you think of managing players and galvanising squads. Many times he has been criticised for taking over the hill players or players who are seen as disruptive but Harry uses his unique skill to bring harmony and to ensure that all players play to their maximum while achieving the team goals


Man management is not something you can learn in college. Some people either have it or they don’t. They can build a rapport with their team and demand respect and honesty from their players. In return the coach provides a happy and open environment which suits both him and the players and enables everyone to work towards the common goal. Winning. 

A lot of managers and coaches find that consulting their players or asking for opinions is a sign of weakness and devalues their authority over the group. They are afraid that it will show they are incapable of making decisions and need confirmation from their players before deciding. This is not the case. If done in the right manner, consulting certain players on decisions makes them feel important. It can help you get the senior players on track to your way of thinking while also letting the players voice their opinions. At the end of the day, no one is always right and by speaking to your players, it shows them you care about their feelings, are humble enough to admit mistakes or look for counsel and want to know what makes them happy. This builds a relationship of trust and respect that can help you through tough times in seasons ahead.

 One of the greatest man managers of all time, Vince Lombardi summed it up perfectly It is essential to understand that battles are primarily won in the hearts of men. Men respond to leadership in a most remarkable way and once you have won his heart, he will follow you anywhere”.

You may know all the drills, all the tactics, formations and techniques but unless you have all of your team on board and singing from the same hymn sheet , as they say, then all coaching badges, formations and tactics are useless to a group who don’t want to learn and don’t see you as a leader. They will not follow you.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Who are we to turn our nose up at the Europa League?

Since Chelsea’s dramatic win the other night, I have listened to so many football fans degrade their win in Amsterdam. Every fan I speak to says that it’s a terrible competition and not worth winning or who wants to be in it anyway. They say that the standard is poor and there are too many games that interfere with the league progression of their team. They are happy their club are not in the competition and laugh at the fact that Chelsea and Rafa, are being congratulated for wining a Mickey Mouse trophy as they call it.

This is pure stupidity. How can any fan, besides a Manchester United fan, snigger at the Europa League. Arsenal fans, Spurs fans and Liverpool fans all laugh at it.  How can even Chelsea fans snigger at it? Their club has just won a trophy. The manager that they hate and despise has given them another European trophy to add to their pretty empty cabinets. They have won more than Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs this year. They have beaten a very good team in Benfica.

Put it this way, I’m sure Brendan Rodgers or even the recently sacked, Roberto Mancini would like to have the Europa League in their hands to keep their owners happy. No matter what the competition is or what the trophy is or who you play, a trophy is a trophy, and to play in Europe for player, is a massive occasion. You ask Ivanovic if he thinks it is a Mickey Mouse trophy. The player who scored the winner in the final who also missed the last final, I’m sure is over the moon to have a Europa League medal. You ask Frank Lampard what he thought of Amsterdam the other night and I’m sure he will be happy to be still wining trophies at this stage in his career. Even ask tracksuit wearing John Terry, he wasn’t even playing yet he was decked out in head to toe of Chelsea and celebrated the win like it was 1999. A trophy means success and Chelsea were successful. End of story

As a Liverpool fan, I would be happy with any trophy at this stage, never mind a top four finish, which Chelsea also have. Arsenal hasn’t seen a trophy since the prehistoric age and the same goes for Spurs. So where all of a sudden has this snobbery outlook of the Europa league come from? I can understand why Barca, Real, Munich and Man united don’t favour it too much. They have high standards. They have done the hard work to get to where they are. They have competed in the old UEFA CUP or Cup Winners cup and climbed the ladder. They win trophies every single year.  Before Wednesday night, Chelsea had 4 European trophies since 1905 and 4 league titles. Oh and two full members cup !!

Winning the Europa League will have a big impact on any squad and especially Chelsea’s one. If you look through their new team in a transitional year, not many have the experience of big finals or winning trophies do they? Hazard, Moses, Bertand, Ba, Azpilicueta and Cahill. It will give them the hunger and desire need to keep improving. It will also help older players like Lampard and Terry. Winning trophies still going into your mid-thirties is a massive boost personally and gives you the extra drive and passion to keep winning more. Fernando Torres, under Rafa at Chelsea, has scored 20 + goals and another European final goal to his name. That will help with his confidence going into a new season with another new manager and probably more new team mates. Goals help strikers and especially in big finals.

The Europa league also allows managers to test their young players against some of the best teams in Europe. Tactical teams, away from home in some intimidating stadiums, young players get to put on the club jersey and play for their future.  The next generation of players coming through and the early stages of the Europa league are a perfect platform for managers to showcase their young talent. It’s too risky these days to play them in the Premier league yet at the same time every club, with the new rules coming in, need home grown players to comply. You also get to experiment with formations and tactics and Chelsea can now see that David Luiz is a classy defensive midfielder as opposed to a PlayStation defender once described by Gay Neville. By winning the Europa League, Chelsea is the first team in history to win the Champions League and the Europa league simultaneously. And Rafa is part of that history whether Chelsea fans like it or not. Do Spurs have that history? Do Arsenal?? Nope they don’t.

We now live in a world of instant Gratification. We want everything done yesterday. But success isn’t like that. You have to work hard for it. You have to earn it. And no matter whom you play against or what competition you compete in, a win is a win. No football fan should turn their noses up to the Europa league or any competition as a matter of fact. The Europa league provides us with topics of discussions during the week. It gives Journalist’s more stuff to write about . It provides us with TV viewing on an otherwise boring Thursday night and in Chelsea’s case, win a piece of silverware. Irrespective of your view on the competition or Chelsea or Rafa, one man summed it up perfectly.

“Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged on one thing: the result.” Vince Lombardi

And Chelsea got a result and a trophy, which is a lot more than 17 teams in the Premier league isn’t it!!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Someone is still sticking around

It has been extremely emotional lately hasn’t it? Sir Alex saying his farewells to everyone at Old Trafford. The great man stepping down after 27 years at the top. Then, one of the most gifted midfielders of the last 10 years , Paul Scholes, also bid farewell to the Old Trafford faithful for a 2nd time. He too, will step away from Manchester United. Then we go to Merseyside, where Everton say te-ra to their gaffer, David Moyes, as he has the honour of taking the biggest job in world football. And in the red half of Merseyside, Liverpool must now try to find a team without Jamie Carragher in it, after 600 appearances, he too says farewell. Then we have the strange possibility of club record goal scorer, Frank Lampard, saying goodbye to everyone at Stamford Bridge.  That’s a lot of goodbyes and farewells for one season isn’t it? Seems a bit of a morbid end to a season to me

As I sat back on the couch and thought of all the farewells, all the so longs and deserved retirements, I wondered  “ There must be something else about this season…maybe not even in the Premier League but something else that can take us away from the morbid goodbyes and make us smile again". Wigan winning the FA cup…well kind of..I smirked as opposed to smiled. Suarez biting Ivanovic made me laugh in amazement but then I stopped, I swear. Robbie Savages hair always makes me laugh but that wasn’t what I had in mind. There was something that I couldn’t put my finger on. Something I was overlooking. It took me about an hour and then BOOM…I remembered…this lad. Plays football in France, no  no  not that idiot Barton , trying to be so intellectual in one breath and then a savage gurrier in the next , no not him. This other lad.. Plays in France and at the ripe old age of 38 has just won a Ligue one title and the list goes on


Premier league – 6

FA Cup - 2

Champion’s league- 1

MSL winner - 2

La Liga  - 1

Ligue 1 - 1

Winner of Goal of the decade in the Premier League

First Englishman to win four titles in four different countries

First England player to score at three World Cups.

First British footballer to play 100 Champions league games.

Most outfield England international appearances.

Handsome git

Filthy rich


Why it could only be, David Beckham. This man is hard. Some of you may laugh at what I just wrote. “Hard? Are you mad?” Well I’m serious. Beckham has been through hell and back and he is still here. Playing with some of the best players in the world and winning titles.  As the quote goes” if you find yourself in hell, keep going” and that’s exactly what he has done. Kicked out of Manchester United because of the fame circus that surrounded him, he then sets off to the biggest team in the world with Ronaldo (the real one), Zidane, Raul and Roberto Carlos as his new team mates. Then he got told by Capello that he wouldn’t play for Madrid again. Beckham put his head down, trained hard, was called back into the Galacticos and made a massive impact in their title winning run also earning himself a recall to the England team after being told by McClaren that he wasn’t in his plans either… he seems to be in nobody’s plans but he doesn’t care. He just keeps going. He works, grafts, trains, looks after his body and gets on with it. At the age of 38 he is still going. For some reason everyone continuously goes on about Ryan Giggs. Nearly 40 still going blah blah blah. Don’t get me wrong, he is an incredible player and his loyalty is something that must be admired in the modern game. But me personally, if that was me, I’d want to try a new team, a new league to see how good I really am. I always wonder why he didn’t go to Italy. At the time Italian football was the best in the world and was known for its tactics and amazing defences. Why didn’t he say “I will test myself here and give it a go”. Look, again don’t get me wrong, the medals he has, the longevity of his career, it’s unreal. And I take my hat off to him. But Beckham has done it in England. He has done it in Spain, he went to the MLS when no one else was there. Now look, Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane and bigger stadium attendances. Then, he goes to Paris St Germain and wins a title with them. He is part of their title winning squad and lauded and praised by coach and superstar players alike.

The thing I always hear off a lot of football fans is that he is not a good footballer. Lads listen, if he isn’t good, then I’m Bill Cosby. To play for AC Milan, Real Madrid, Manchester United and nearly 150 caps for England, you must be truly WORLD CLASS.  Of course he sells a few millions jerseys but that makes him even more amazing. As you may know, I’m a Liverpool fan, but I don’t mind saying he is a player and a man that I truly admire and respect.He helps Paris St Germain win their first title in 16 years and now an offer of another year with bourgeois Parisians is on the tableu.
So as I said, the end of the football has bit of a sad feeling to it. Saying so long to all the legends retiring or moving on. But one still remains. Someone we all love to hate but love at the same time. Mother’s and daughters love him, men envy him and boys want to be him. He has money to last him four life times, so he doesn’t need the wages. He has a big family, houses all over the world and more medals than you have fingers and toes. He is really a footballing giant.
Although it’s hard to say goodbye sometimes, we must still be appreciative of what we still have while it’s here.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

We all wonder..dont we

So after 27 years it has finally happened. The great sir Alex Ferguson has stepped down from Manchester united.  As a Liverpool fan, I can say that he is without doubt, the greatest manager in the history of football. No denying that. Year after year he built a team and rebuilt it, he got rid of players at the right team and he won something with kids. But everything that has a beginning must have an end and the great man steps down after reclaiming the title from the noisy neighbours and leaves behind him a fantastic squad brimming with youth and don’t forget the league’s top scorer.

And this is all left to a fellow Scots man who was personally recommend by Sir Alex to replace him and for a long time, has been lauded as his eventual successor. But let me make this point before I continue. No one ever actually thought Sir Alex would retire. Ok, we knew one day it would happen because of his age. But in our heads it just wasn’t conceivable. Manchester United without Alex Ferguson just didn’t seem realistic. Many managers have been mentioned as a potential successor. Pep, Jurgen Klopp, Mourinho and of course Moyes. But the thing is, we never took it seriously about Moyes and the reason for that is because we never thought Sir Alex would go.

But it is now a reality, and David Moyes replaces his fellow country man at the biggest club in the world. So what are the thoughts now he actually IS the manager?  Many comments have been made about Moyes's appointment. Words such as longevity, character, temperament, attitude and have used to describe the new managers qualities. The club say he is the perfect fit and he represents what Manchester United is all about. And let’s not forget he was personally recommended for the job by Sir Alex.

One interesting comment about his appointment intrigues me. “He done a great job at Everton with a shoe string budget, imagine what he can achieve with Manchester united”. Didn’t Fellaini cost 15 million pounds? That’s not a bad shoe string to me. So in his years in charge at Everton on a shoe string budget, what has he won? “But he had no money and we always finish in top half of the table”. Wigan, on a really shoe string budget, have just won the FA cup. Swansea, on a shoe string budget in their 2nd season in the premier league, have won the Carling Cup. Swansea’s record signing is 5.5 million pounds and that’s just this year. Wigan’s record signing is 7 million for Charles N’Zogbia.  Moyes purchased Fellaini for 15 million, Yakubu for 10 million, 9 million on Bilyaletdinov and 8 million on Andy Johnson. That’s not a shoe string to me. And even if Everton fans still think it was a shoe string, his brand of football is nowhere near that of Swansea or Wigan, who play attractive, passing, trophy winning football.  Everton play off Fellaini and work from there. They play percentage football. Can he show his tactical knowledge at Manchester United? Does he have the knowledge to lead superstars to another Premier League crown or European success? Don’t get me wrong, I like Moyes and even as a Liverpool fan, I commend the job he has done at Everton, finishing higher than Liverpool last season and possibly this season and getting the club into Europe, is a good achievement. But, is that enough for Manchester united?  Is that enough to know how to beat Real Madrid away from home? Is it enough to keep Van Persie or Rooney happy? And is Moyes enough to attract new world class players to the club.

Speaking to many Man United fans, they are a bit disappointed by his appointment. Deep down they longed for Mourinho. They wanted him to come in a take the club even higher and achieve european success .They know the type of players he attracts. The fans know the instant respect he would have from his players and every fan in the world loves Mourinho.  So although they are content with Moyes, they are still not overly happy. The other news is now Paul Scholes, the greatest technical midfielder in England, will retire for the 2nd time at the end of the season.  Two irreplaceable legends stepping away. Two icons of Manchester United gone. The Premier League will no doubt be tougher next year. Man City will revamp their team, Chelsea will add to their squad as will Spurs and Arsenal and Liverpool will try to push on. So Moyes faces a huge task. Football has changed since Sir Alex was appointed 27 years ago. No manager is given time, no matter who they are. I hope Moyes does succeed as I like him and it’s always good to see British managers getting a chance at the top. I just wonder….we all wonder. I think even Manchester United fans, for the first time in a long time…really wonder