Monthly Archives: July 2015

Delph, Benteke and the Villa rebuild to come

Benteke's move was inevitable, the money in return should help Villa move forward.  Source: The Telegraph

Benteke’s move was inevitable, the money in return should help Villa move forward. Source: The Telegraph

It’s been a busy week for Aston Villa and Tim Sherwood. They’ve added a fair amount but ended up losing two vital players, yet they have time to not be cannon fodder for yet another season.

Starting off with Fabien Delph, who I praised last week for turning down Manchester City, reversing his reversed decision. He leaves a club he told just a week ago he was proud to lead, going to a club that will guarantee him no more than 20 games should no-one get injured and whilst he did help Villa get a bit of money for his departure, it was still a very strange move.

It’s a key year for Delph, should he want to go to Euro 2016, and he now has to prove that all the hassle he’s created this summer was worth it. Otherwise, he’ll end up as another underutilised English talent in the blue side of Manchester.

Look, I was right, this does look awkward now..  Source: Aston Villa Club Website

Look, I was right, this does look awkward now.. Source: Aston Villa Club Website

Then came the news last night of the inevitable departure of Christian Benteke. Whilst he had a real renaissance this season, everyone knew the Belgian would eventually move on and to get a sizeable fee from Liverpool makes this look like great business.

Yes, Benteke helped fire Aston Villa up the league late last season but with the money from his transfer, Villa will be able to strengthen in a number of positions. If they want to avoid the annual debacle they have become, they need to make moves all over the pitch in order to rebuild.

They started that with two signings from Ligue 1 in Jordan Amavi and Idrissi Gueye. The latter is a talented midfielder, able to hold and play as a box-to-box player that will add extra dynamism to the middle of the park, especially after Delph’s departure.

Amavi is a terrific signing for Villa and could be a star.  Source: GFFN

Amavi is a terrific signing for Villa and could be a star. Source: GFFN

The latter should be seen as an incredible coup, Amavi is a very highly regarded talent in French football and had a superb season in Ligue 1 last year. Bigger teams were in for the young left-back, including the likes of Lyon, and he could even push for a place in France’s Euro 2016 squad, it could be the best piece of business of the summer.

Adding that mix to the intriguing talent they already have in the likes of Jack Grealish and other players they’ve brought through the door in Scott Sinclair and Micah Richards, Villa are an intriguing team going into the new season.

They have the money to improve now, although teams know they have the money to spend but there is talent out there for them to poach. With other mid-table sides making considerable moves, Villa need to find a few more pieces or the good moves they’ve made this summer will be for naught.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t sign Emmanuel Adebayor.

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Fabian Delph showing money isn’t everything

This photo would have look rather silly had he moved to Manchester City.  Source: Aston Villa Club Website

This photo would have look rather silly had he moved to Manchester City. Source: Aston Villa Club Website

In an almost unprecedented move, Fabian Delph rejected the advances of Manchester City this week to remain at Aston Villa. That’s despite the two-time Premier League champions matching his buyout clause and offering a bumper contract, Delph stays to play regular football with the team he’s grown with.

At the initial news that he was due to have a medical with the Sky Blues, even I started thinking about the same old cliches about others that have made similar moves to the same club. Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair, Adam Johnson and to some extent James Milner all moved to the Etihad believing that it would be a big step in their careers as first-team starters and national team main-stays.

However, it never really worked out for any of them as they might have hoped.

Scott Sinclair would have helped, he also suffered from a poorly advised move.  Source: Birmingham Mail

Scott Sinclair would have helped, he also suffered from a poorly advised move. Source: Birmingham Mail

Rodwell and Sinclair never really broke into the side, Johnson was always going to be an impact player and whilst Milner had the most success, he was the most frustrated after performing well yet still not earning a regular spot in the starting eleven. All have now moved on and while it’s also clear that some have never reached the heights expected, most of them had their careers stunted at Manchester City.

That is not to say that this article is just to attack the methods of the blue side of Manchester, other than Milner there weren’t signs that the others were quite at the level required at the club. The rules on home-grown talent also force Manchester City into a corner, buying English players for the sake of filling quotas and depriving other teams of good starters or even key players.

They are also caught in a middle ground between their recent success and their own academy catching up to them. Having to pay a premium for strong English talent, like they have with Raheem Sterling, is their only real way to move forward with the home-grown status whilst they wait for their impressive academy to produce quality products.

Delph will hope that regular first-team action will boost his Euro 2016 hopes.  Source: Aston Villa Club Website

Delph will hope that regular first-team action will boost his Euro 2016 hopes. Source: Aston Villa Club Website

That being said, it was still very tough for Delph to not only turn down the money and potential silverware but also admit to himself that at his current level, he won’t be getting the game time that he needs. It’s sometimes difficult for a player to remove themselves like that and have real foresight, especially an international and it’s incredibly refreshing.

He’s staying loyal to Villa and it’s great to see, many other young English players should follow his example. Get reassurances at your new club that you’ll be played, stay that year longer to grow in a smaller side and then allow your progression when you feel necessary.

It’s moves like this that will improve the quality of the national side in the future, rather than harshly sticking to rules that don’t end up benefiting anyone.

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England’s Women put their game on the map

It ended in tears but the Lionesses should come home with pride.  Source: The Independent

It ended in tears but the Lionesses should come home with pride. Source: The Independent

Thursday morning’s result was a real gut-punch after such a superhuman effort but England has every right to be proud of the Lionesses’ performance over the whole tournament. They came in without much fan-fare, expected to disappoint but instead they won the hearts of a nation and put the Women’s rightfully in the spotlight.

Going back to the European Championships two years ago, England were dumped out of the group stages with a lot of embarrassment. Out went a lot of the old guard, including Hope Powell, and the remodel of the team started.

Heading into the tournament in Canada, this England team wasn’t under a great deal of pressure and weren’t expected to go too far. In fact, after their opening loss to France, some predicted that they’d be coming home early.

How wrong they would be.

Lucy Bronze has been excellent and is nominated for the Golden Ball award.  Source: The Guardian

Lucy Bronze has been excellent and is nominated for the Golden Ball award. Source: The Guardian

Two wins against Mexico and Colombia saw them through to face Norway, a challenge that to some could have been insurmountable. The Lionesses hadn’t won a knockout game in World Cup history but they snapped their duck in style, winning 2-1 and heading to Vancouver to take on the hosts Canada.

Many thought this would be the stopping point but no, a strong first 20 minutes blew Canada away and despite having to cling on in the end, England made the semis. They had an incredibly strong showing against the reigning champions Japan but the football gods are cruel.

Despite being on top, especially in a 20-minute period at the start of the second half, a freak own-goal in the final moments ended their final hopes. They beat all expectations, putting in an excellent display against a side many predicted would steamroll them, and they’ll return home after the third-placed playoff as heroines.

Mark Sampson has done a superb job in charge of the Women's national side.  Source: The Guardian

Mark Sampson has done a superb job in charge of the Women’s national side. Source: The Guardian

What was really great to see was how this England team really encapsulated what English fans love to see. They worked hard, they pressed the ball in an attempt to suffocate the opponent and they weren’t afraid to put themselves about and go in where it would hurt.

It was a full-blooded display, especially in the knockout rounds, where sheer enthusiasm and team spirit elevated them to levels even they may not have expected to reach. That’s what captured a nation that barely noticed them before the tournament and now will warmly embrace them once they step off the plane next week.

Credit has to go to the WSL too for laying the foundations but the national side have laid that first brick in putting themselves and the women’s game into this countries subconscious. Hopefully there will be a knock-on effect from this, hopefully there will be less of the constant comparisons to the male sides and that a new generation of girls will be inspired to pick up the sport too.

If anything, it should bring some more supporters to the excellent, and very cheap, WSL. I’m certainly invested in going to watch the Notts County Ladies, a ticket is just £6 for adults and I hope others will follow suit.

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The Copa America needs a revamp

The attitude Neymar showed during the Colombia game was frankly embarrassing.  Source: The Independent

The attitude Neymar showed during the Colombia game was frankly embarrassing. Source: The Independent

When I learned that the Copa America wasn’t being picked up by any big sports broadcaster, with Premiere Sports having the right in the UK, I was sceptical as to why no-one wanted to have it. There’s a lot of wonderful talent in South America that have shown their competitiveness in the last World Cup, along with a lot of world stars gracing the pitch.

However, as the tournament reaches its final stages, it’s not difficult to see why there wasn’t a big rush from companies to get the Copa America on their channel.

It’s been a really tempestuous tournament so far, with most of the headlines being taken by the petulant actions of players both on and off the field. It started with Neymar, one of the real jewels of the tournament and in real form at Barcelona, losing his cool against Colombia.

Both Jara and Cavani should be disappointed with their behavior.  Source: The Guardian

Both Jara and Cavani should be disappointed with their behavior. Source: The Guardian

He should have been sent off before he was eventually red carded, rightly, before setting off on a verbal triade at the referee. It wasn’t pleasant to see, especially from such a wonderful player who’s had such a positive season and he ended his tournament early.

Then one of the host’s stars, Chile’s Arturo Vidal, was caught up in a DUI car-crash just a day after his country’s draw against Mexico. Hardly a time to celebrate and despite his nation denouncing his actions, it hasn’t stopped him playing and Chile advancing to the final.

It’s only gotten worse, Edinson Cavani was sent off for an altercation with Gonzalo Jara that’s left neither player looking very good. Jara provoked Cavani with a cheeky bum poke, ending his tournament and in turn, it looks likely that he’ll leave his embarrassed club Mainz this summer too.

Even after his DUI, Vidal will be treated like a hero should Chile win the competition.  Source: sports.ndtv.com

Even after his DUI, Vidal will be treated like a hero should Chile win the competition. Source: sports.ndtv.com

Cavani didn’t cover himself in any glory, he looked annoyed throughout the game before lashing out at Jara, which could be forgiven, but his triad at the referee should not. It came just days after the news that his father was involved in a fatal car crash with a motorcycle, so his head might have been elsewhere but at the same time, you shouldn’t behave like that or if it’s likely to happen, don’t play.

Despite some exciting moments and passionate football breaking out at times, the tournament overall hasn’t been excellent. No extra-time has meant more urgency from some teams but more security for others, Colombia tried their best to sneak through by barely playing against Argentina and luckily, it didn’t work.

It’s a real shame that all of this will overshadow some good moments, much like Argentina’s 6-1 win against Paraguay in a thoroughly entertaining affair but in all honesty, it currently has a bit of an image crisis. A little bit of a revamp might be in order, more discipline should be shown from the players and organisers need to find a structure that will propel this competition further into the public’s subconscious as one of the best in the world.

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