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Archive for August, 2010

What Would You Do For $100 million?


“Washington D.C. is a city filled with people who believe they are important”

I enjoy game-shows. Not the geek-fests like University Challenge but those shows with rather ridiculous twists. You know the shows where average everyday humans will do almost anything for 15 minutes of fame and a large cash prize? The type of shows which have the older generations, reared on a diet of Countdown and Mastermind, shrieking “have they no shame?” Watch fifteen minutes of Takeshi’s Castle and you’ll see that humans have very little dignity when it comes to game shows.

People will do anything for money

Still, these large cash prizes never amount to anything near $100 million dollars. Which got me to thinking, what would you do for $100 million dollars? Perform naked at the Royal Variety Show? Fire yourself out of a cannon? Lose a limb? It’d certainly cure a few phobias too. Would you bungee jump out of a plane? Have a dozen tarantulas put in your bed?

I’m not sure man has a breaking point with all that money on the table. You have to think that for $100 million, people would do literally anything. One man who wouldn’t resort to such painful or shameless shenanigans is Washington Redskins’ Albert Haynesworth.

Now it’s not a glowing reputation or pride that Albert wants to keep in tow, oh no. Albert would just rather do something else, even if he is getting paid a lot of money to do whatever he’s told. When he agreed to his seven-year $100 million contract, Albert didn’t have to take his kit off on television or suck grapes out of his grandparent’s toes. He just has to play nose-tackle in the Redskins’ new 3-4 defensive system.

I’ve got to say, I’d have reservations about lining up at nose-tackle too. The thought of Brandon Jacobs trampling over me isn’t the most enticing prospect. After the first snap I’d probably resemble something close to a creature from whack-a-mole with my head the only thing above ground-level. But then my slight frame resembles more of a pre-pubescent boy than an NFL player. If I was 350 pounds and 6 ft 6 as Albert is, I think I’d fancy my chances there and if you were going to give me $100 million, I’d probably perform the role of tackling bag for you too. With his jockstrap stuffed so full of Benjamin Franklins, you’d think Albert would be a prime candidate to have two rather than three teammates join him in the trenches. Albert thinks otherwise.

Mega-rich Albert Haynesworth is unhappy

If they were going to give me $100 million I’d also definitely make sure I was in pristine condition come training camp. Yes, $100 million could get me an unlimited supply of Wimpey’s finest, but it would also probably stretch to a treadmill and exercise bike. Unfortunately Albert didn’t arrive in condition to practice. Weighed down by all that money, he couldn’t complete some basic shuttle runs in the allotted time.

So he’s hardly helping himself. A woeful year last season and a rather apathetic attitude this pre-season has left him with few bargaining chips. He has used his phone-a-friend; his ask the audience and his 50-50. If Albert wants to get out of this frankly awful predicament, he has to pay some of that money back. Laughable, right?

I can only presume Redskins owner Dan Snyder does not share my liking of pain and comedy as he handed Albert the first $100 million contract in NFL history with few stipulations. Maybe the next time Snyder and the Redskins elect to throw such astronomical sums of money at someone, they’ll at least see if they’re willing to throw themselves out of a plane strapped to an anaconda for the team first.

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Why Mikel Arteta Shouldn’t and Won’t Be Called Up For England

August 23, 2010 3 comments

“If one day the opportunity comes obviously I would have to consider it very seriously”

Even with six goal thrashings, transfer deadline day looming and the vacant managerial position at Aston Villa, the England team never seems to stray too far from the headlines these days. The World Cup post-mortem continues with the future a hot topic for discussion.

Despite the fallings of Italian coach Fabio Capello, it seems the latest answer will also come from abroad. England are not just hoping to acquire inspiration from world champions Spain, they are also hoping to acquire their unwanted personnel.

Spanish-born midfielder Mikel Arteta has announced he would seriously consider representing England should they choose to select him. Arteta qualifies for England due to this FIFA ruling which states you can acquire a new nationality if:

“He has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant Association”

Arteta would contemplate playing for England

After arriving in 2005, Arteta ticks that box and his name is now firmly in discussions regarding the next England squad.

The concept of nationality is a murky one. In the ever-growing, multi-cultural society we live in, nationality boundaries are blurred. I have no problem with a player representing a country if he has a biological link or if he has spent five years living on the territory BEFORE the age of 18, but the current ruling which Arteta may utilise throws up some serious issues.

The English don’t need to look far to see the benefits of acquiring ‘international’ talent. Anyone who has ever consumed a Sunday roast, performed a morris dance or listened intently to the queen’s speech has been considered for selection by the England Cricket Board. Kevin Pietersen, Michael Lumb, Craig Kieswetter, Matt Prior, Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan were all born outside the country. Though the key difference here is they all have direct English relations (excluding Kieswetter who has a Scottish father), usually parents and in some cases grandparents. Mikel Arteta does not.

The football team itself have fielded players not born in England before. But they at least have an affiliation with the country, be it through blood (Owen Hargreaves) or through a move during childhood (John Barnes, Terry Butcher). Again, Arteta matches neither criterion.

Other countries do expose this FIFA naturalisation ruling but not as many as believed. Brazilians Deco, Pepe and Liédson elected to play for Portugal after they had moved there to play club football.

France’s successful campaign in 1998 had its fair share of questionable cases but they didn’t expose the same rule Arteta may do. Patrick Vieira, born in Senegal moved to France at eight, Ghanaian-born Marcel Desailly moved when he was four, Lilian Thuram and Christian Karembeu were born in French-ruled territories Guadeloupe and New Caledonia.  The rest were born in France.

Indeed the Germans are frequently cited as an example of acquiring talent which isn’t strictly their own. However Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski have strong German ties through their families, Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil and Jérôme Boateng were all born in Germany and Marko Marin has been in Germany since he was two. Only Brazilian-born Cacau’s situation is similar to Arteta’s.  

Germany and France possess players with different ethnic identities, but the country they represent has been a part of their lives for many years either through blood or residency.

Arteta’s proposed inclusion has many supporters. Dejected with England’s World Cup showing, Arteta is a clear upgrade on what England already have. He is technically sound, adept at preserving possession and has a good understanding of the Premier League. But he simply ISN’T English. In fact, he isn’t even English based on FIFA’s rulings, he is British.

Desailly moved to France at the age of four

There are also wider ramifications should Arteta choose to ‘become’ English. Arteta has UK citizenship meaning he is also eligible for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If these countries elect to choose anyone who has a UK passport, Scotland and Wales could soon become England’s ‘B’ team. It is this conundrum which is also likely to be the sticking point in any call-up for Arteta. Nacho Novo found this out when he declared he would opt to play for Scotland should they so desire his services. SFA chief Gordon Smith said at the time:

“We have had discussions with the other associations in the past couple of days and I’ve found out that everyone is adhering to our agreement, and that, subsequently, we’re all going down the line that we will use bloodline as the basis for eligibility.”

You only need to look at the debacle that is Great Britain’s 2012 team to see how important the distinction between the four countries is to these associations. England’s loyalty to the gentlemen’s agreement will be tested this time and Arteta would be a precedent-setting pick which would break down the barriers between the individual British countries.

There are other dilemmas with this current rule. English clubs already take foreign players in at a young age, for example Manchester United have just signed Dutch teenager Gyliano van Velzen from Ajax. There is nothing to stop England effectively buying in and nurturing their future international team. Suddenly international football would develop a transfer system where the major countries could simply inherit the best young talent as they do at club level.

Players should have to reach one of two criteria to represent a country at international level. One would be that the player has a biological relation from that country, mother, father or grandparent. The second would be that the player had resided in the country for five years before the age of 18 to avoid countries farming in the top international talent to call their own when they mature. This rule would include Marcel Desailly, a child who immersed himself in French culture and was brought up in the French football system. However it would exclude Mikel Arteta, Manuel Almunia and Carlo Cudicini, players who were born and raised outside of England and whose only relation to the country is their current adult residency here.

F.A. should heed Carragher’s words after Scholes’ masterclass

August 19, 2010 2 comments

“It looked to me as if the English have gone backwards into the bad old times of kick and rush”

Although he may have his detractors, Jamie Carragher is a very intelligent man and any interview with him is refreshingly candid. Last week he spoke with the Daily Mail about a variety of issues but the ones which were most intriguing were his thoughts on the state of the English game both at international level and at the grass-roots. The Liverpool defender believes the two are intertwined. He moans that at international level “there isn’t that spell of keeping the ball, just slowing the game down.” Then he points to the deficiencies of youth football in this country:

“My son is playing now and, the first thing in England is that you want your lad to get stuck in. Whereas a Spanish kid, you want him to be skilful.”

Carragher doesn't believe England keep the ball well enough

Beckenbauer’s ‘kick and rush’ comments may not have been wide of the mark after all. At the time, those within the England camp rubbished the claims but Carragher’s thoughts provide at least some evidence that the mentality in this country is way behind other nations.

It is not that England doesn’t produce players capable of carrying out Carragher’s wishes. If the F.A. wondered if the Scouser’s words should be taken onboard, they were left in little doubt when a certain Mancunian echoed Carragher’s sentiments with a masterful display last Monday night. Actions often speak louder than words and Paul Scholes’ performance against Newcastle was a delight to behold. It was a vintage display and a brilliant advert for maintaining possession, creating chances and completely controlling a football match. At the same time it was all very un-British.

The World Cup statistics show Carragher’s fears are founded. Looking at the pass completion percentages, England players don’t match-up well against other countries most notably the eventual champions Spain. England’s percentages, Frank Lampard 78%, Gareth Barry 75%, James Milner 65% and Steven Gerrard 64%, are pitiful when compared with their Spanish counterparts, Sergio Busquets 88%, Cesc Fàbregas 84%, Xabi Alonso 81% and Xavi 81%. Other major internationals have far more favourable stats too, Felipe Melo 90%, Gilberto Silva 86% and Javier Mascherano 80%. Even the more advanced players like Kaká 76%, Robinho 76% and Leo Messi 72% havefar better ball retention skills than England’s own Wayne Rooney 62%.

The only ‘major’ country who had similar stats to England was Germany, Bastian Schweinsteiger 76%, Sami Khedira 76% and Mesut Özil 71%. But consider that most of Germany’s goals and chances came from their electrifying counter attacks rather than prolonged build ups.

Paul Scholes didn’t travel to South Africa and his absence was clearly missed. As pointed out by Opta and on this Manchester United blog, Scholes was the Premier League’s most accurate passer with an 89.58% completion rate last year.

Scholes was the Premier League's most accurate passer last year

So when under intense pressure from an expectant media and fans, it seems the English players in South Africa did revert to type, the style Beckenbauer labelled ‘kick-and-rush’. Carragher himself acknowledged this:

“John Terry knocked it long to Emile Heskey into the box and I was thinking: ‘You wouldn’t have done that for Chelsea. You’d have passed it straight to Ashley Cole and just started playing again’.”

Certainly the players should know better. Enough of them play at the highest level to appreciate the importance of long periods of possession. But the system these players were brought up in is also flawed. The Spanish and the Germans have evolved but the English seem to be stuck in their traditional ways. Hard-tackling, lung busting midfielders are everywhere in England but we produce too few players of Scholes’ ilk.

Carragher’s comments this past week show that there is a concern among the professionals. Now the F.A. must look to rectify this at the very grass roots of the game.

Martin O’Neill’s Penchant for British Talent Proved His Undoing


“I can’t even spell spaghetti never mind talk Italian. How could I tell an Italian to get the ball? He might grab mine!”

In the aftermath of another dismal showing in an international competition, everybody has a diagnosis for the terminally ill English national team.

Is it the manager? Is it the egos of the exceedingly rich Premier League players? Is it the absence of a winter break? Or is it the influx of foreign players in the country’s top division? All likely theories but it is the latter which I want to draw attention to here.

It is a theory I refuse to subscribe to. All of England’s squad played in the Premier League last year and the majority play for clubs who continually play in Europe’s premier club competition, the Champions League.

Nevertheless, The Premier League is certainly concerned about the development of young British players. It is concerned enough to offer a remedy, the home-grown rule. As a result, this season, clubs will need to include no more than 17 non home-grown players in their 25 man squad.

O'Neill has left Villa in the lurch

One club who this certainly doesn’t endanger is Aston Villa. Villa’s proposed squad contains 13 players who qualify as ‘home-grown’. Of these, 11 were signed by Martin O’Neill, the man who has just stormed out of Villa Park in a dispute over future transfers.

O’Neill’s gripe was obvious. He wanted more money and he wanted it to assemble a squad capable of toppling the established order. He has seen Gareth Barry depart and he fears James Milner and Ashley Young are on the verge of leaving too. But owner Randy Lerner’s counterargument was also fair. He had given O’Neill plenty of money every summer since he joined. He now faces the unenviable task of trimming a wage bill which is 85% of the club’s turnover. O’Neill may bemoan Lerner’s sudden frugality but the American has opened his wallet on multiple occasions for the Ulsterman before, it is time to close it shut.

O’Neill’s problem is that he loves to buy British. Like the old man who turns his nose up at the lasagne in Tesco, he never could take to that ‘foreign muck’. With the exception of some of those hotly tipped for relegation, Aston Villa are perhaps the least multi-national team in the Premier League. Stiliyan Petrov, Carlos Cuéllar, Habib Beye and Brad Friedel may not originate from these shores but they were already well versed in the British game when they came to Birmingham. Their current foreign legion includes John Carew and two back-up players in Moustapha Salifou and Brad Guzan. Moreover, for all the hype regarding their academy, only Gabriel Agbonlahor is a regular. Martin O’Neill assembled this squad rather than inheriting it and he has built a team with a distinctly British flavour. It is this which endears him to both the public and the media but it is also a serious flaw not to include talented foreigners in your ranks.

The British-first approach has proved costly

The main reason is economical because buying British in O’Neill’s line of business is a rather costly hobby. The 11 home-grown players in the current squad that O’Neill signed are: Luke Young £6 million, Richard Dunne £6 million, Steve Sidwell £5 million, Stewart Downing £12 million, Ashley Young £10 million, James Milner £12 million, Curtis Davies £8 million, Emile Heskey £3 million, James Collins £5 million, Nigel Reo-Coker £8.5 million and Stephen Warnock £8 million. James Collins and Richard Dunne both represent their countries but only James Milner and Emile Heskey made an impact at the World Cup with England. Acquiring established international players comes at a fraction of the cost and you can’t help but feel O’Neill missed a trick by sticking with the Brits. He has signed good players, but nobody who you would consider capable of performing on the Champions League stage. The 11 players listed earlier only represent the legacy O’Neill left behind; the BBC estimates that 30 of O’Neill’s 50 signings were British.

Many believe that O’Neill is a fantastic manager and they believe he did a great job at Villa. I would concur with the first statement but I believe he did an OK job and nothing more. He spent big and ultimately produced little. Had O’Neill invested some of Lerner’s millions in cheaper foreign talent, he may have won a trophy or finished in the top four. They certainly wouldn’t have spent so much on squad players and the finances would now be in a far better state.

If the influx of foreign players has done one thing in this country it is raise the price of British players. The new home-grown ruling is only going to exploit this more. Under O’Neill’s British-first approach, Villa had no chance of progressing further.

Premier League Predictions 2010/2011

August 13, 2010 3 comments

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”

On the eve of the forthcoming Premier League season I have, like many others, foolishly left myself open to mockery and abuse by predicting this season’s big winners and losers. Still given the dominance of the ‘Big Four’ and the belief that it’ll be the usual names in the usual places, it should be easy, right? Maybe I should have used this quote to open instead:

“The groundhog is like most prophets; it delivers its prediction then disappears”

If you don’t hear from me come May you’ll know why…

CHAMPIONS = CHELSEA

Last time around the pitfalls appeared greater. January’s African Cup of Nations was supposed to upset the applecart and if that didn’t Michael Essien’s injury looked set to. But they soldiered on and when the title race really got going, Carlo Ancelotti’s men found the extra gear first. Their form at the end of the season was sublime and it bodes well for this season too. Ricardo Carvalho’s loss won’t be felt particularly hard with the excellent Branislav Ivanović a more than adequate replacement. Essien’s return only strengthens the league’s best midfield which won’t lose its aura even with Joe Cole and Michael Ballack’s departures. Ballack’s performances were steadily declining and Ancelotti has never taken a shine to Cole. Ramires will surely be an upgrade on Jon Obi Mikel and look for Daniel Strurridge to push on this year too; he has all the raw attributes to be a great player.

Chelsea fans could be treated to more of the same

The interesting situation will arise at right back. Ancelotti’s diamond formation does hinge on the production of his two full backs and José Bosingwa’s return from a serious injury will be something to monitor. Question marks remain about his defensive capabilties but Ivanović has proved adept in that slot too should Bosingwa fail to make an impression.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PLACES = MANCHESTER UNITED, ARSENAL, MANCHESTER CITY

Chelsea’s challengers remain strong but are still half a step behind. It is United who look likely to be their closest threat once more. For all their positives they did look frail and toothless when Wayne Rooney was out of the side last year. The hype around Chicarito is intoxicating but Dimitar Berbatov needs to finally justify his hefty price tag. Sir Alex Ferguson has done little to strength the midfield which may be their downfall. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes cannot play every week and Owen Hargreaves’ continued absence meant Ferguson really needed to purchase an attacking midfielder and/or a strong anchorman. I expect Nani to really excel this year and some predictions indicating that they will fall outside of the top four are wide of the mark. 

Arsène Wenger has addressed a glaring weakness by getting Marouane Chamakh and IF Robin van Persie can stay fit, they could be Chelsea’s biggest contenders. However I still have question marks about their ability to beat the big sides. They can’t win games ugly, they are susceptible to counter-attacking football and the naivety which has haunted them in the past shows no signs of leaving just yet. United, Chelsea and Barcelona all tore them to shreds last year. They remain a young, inexperienced team and even though they have kept hold of Cesc Fàbregas they still lack the leadership and know-how of Wenger’s previous title winning teams. The purists would love them to be crowned champions but they lack a steely resolve to beat the very best.

Preseason predictions and Premier League discussions never seem to veer far away from Manchester City. Few seem to be tipping them for the title but there are plenty predicting they can break into the top four and cause serious problems for the very best. I am among the believers. They have surpassed Aston Villa and Everton (taking some of their best players in the process) and now they have bigger fish to fry. City simply have too much money and too much talent to miss out on the Champions League again. After missing out on Kaka, Roberto Mancini has rightly targeted the next tier of quality players. Jérôme Boateng, Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov are all young talents with blossoming reputations. Yaya Touré and David Silva, along with Balotelli, have been around extremely successful teams and know what it takes to win trophies. Time will be the biggest obstacle in Mancini’s path because it is a luxury he isn’t afforded. The owners have proved they are willing to pull the trigger quickly and Mancini needs to make sure he’s in prime position by Christmas or he could endure the same fate as Mark Hughes.

Mancini and Mario are back together again

EUROPA LEAGUE = LIVERPOOL, TOTTENHAM, EVERTON

Liverpool will be better under Roy Hodgson but this may be more of a rebuilding year as Hodgson clears the deadwood. Spurs have done little to improve on last year’s team and you have to think City will overtake them particularly with Tottenham enjoying Champions League football and all its trimmings. Everton could do even better than 7th with Mikel Arteta and Phil Jagielka back this year. Goals may be a problem though, Louis Saha has persistent injury problems, Yakubu blows hot and cold and I’m not sure Jermaine Beckford is Premier League quality. The uncertainty of both player personnel and the next managerial appointment at Aston Villa should result in a drop in performance.

SURPRISE PACKAGE = BOLTON WANDERERS 

Bolton are always a tricky team to beat and they have a good nucleus. Jussi Jääskeläinen, Gary Cahill, Fabrice Muamba and Kevin Davies represent a strong core and manager Owen Coyle looks destined for big things. Matthew Taylor had a superb season last year and the free signing of Martin Petrov adds some real creativity and an attacking threat. There’s little chance Bolton can achieve European qualification but a top half finish looks very achievable. Of the group of those who dodged relegation last season they look most likely to make the next step up. Coyle is certainly a shrewd operator and I believe Petrov could well go on to be the best bit of business a Premier League side did this summer.

RELEGATION = BLACKPOOL, WEST BROM, WIGAN

The critics are unanimous in their belief that Blackpool are merely on a sight-seeing tour of the top tier. Some sides, like Hull and Wigan, have stayed up and defied the odds but Blackpool’s squad possesses no Premier League experience (excluding Jason Euell) and their manager is a novice here too. Ian Holloway will ensure they are plucky and fight in each game but I don’t expect them to spring any surprises.

Playing great football and earning all the plaudits, West Brom will lure us all into a sense of déjà vu as they head straight back down again. Roberto Di Matteo’s squad is packed full of players who look like world beaters in the Championship but fail to make the step up. It would be nice to see them buck the trend but they are still miles behind West Ham, Fulham and Birmingham and Mick McCarthy has enough knowledge of relegation dog fights to ensure Wolves don’t get dragged under again this time around. Once again West Brom will live up to their yo-yo tag and cash in those all too familiar parachute payments. Of course they’ll be back in 12 months with the same crop of players, the same style and the same results.

Wigan really look like relegation fodder this time around. I stated last year that I believed they would be one of the more fascinating teams to watch due to Roberto Martínez’s arrival. Wigan over-performed under Steve Bruce and without Amr Zaki, Antonio Valencia, Emily Heskey and Wilson Palacios; I thought Martínez faced an uphill struggle. He did well to keep the team up but they were wildly unpredictable. They lost 9-1 to Spurs, 8-0 to Chelsea and 5-0 to United despite beating Arsenal and Chelsea at home. They also had the worst defensive record of a team ever to stay up in the Premier League. Had it not been for Portsmouth’s financial issues they may well have joined Burnley and Hull City in the Championship this year. Only Liverpool and Manchester City have more foreigners in their squad than Wigan right now, an issue they must resolve before September swings around. Titus Bramble and Paul Scharner, both regulars last term, are gone. Meanwhile Charles N’Zogbia has applied the stamp and is licking the envelope which contains his transfer request. Even if they manage to keep hold of Hugo Rodallega and Maynor Figueroa, they look likely to drop out of the league.

So there you have it, my tips for the top, the bottom and the surprising package in-between. It’s always interesting to see just how wrong you are when May comes around and these predictions make you look rather foolish. So I’m off to put money on Wigan sneaking a Europa League place and Bolton imploding on their way to the Championship. There’s nothing quite like hedging your bets.

Fabio Capello Must Change in Order to Succeed with England


“The key to success is often the ability to adapt”

This weekend provided an intriguing insight into the possible future of the England team under Fabio Capello. The retirements of Paul Robinson and Wes Brown were both bizarre and untimely. They may have little impact on Capello’s team selection but they were further examples of the communication problems emanating from the England camp. Capello’s face will have turned a shade of scarlet after these premature retirements but he would have been even more frustrated at the Wembley snubs from both Ashley Cole and Michael Carrick.

When facing the music this afternoon, Capello admitted that he needed to improve the mindsets of the players. The withdrawals of Robinson and Brown, coupled with the chilly receptions from Cole and Carrick have simply reaffirmed this. The problem is, Capello stated he simply doesn’t know how to. It is a massive admission from a man who commands £6 million a year to concede that he sees no way to improve the attitudes of his own players.

Terry's World Cup press conference undermined Capello

He should begin by looking squarely in the mirror. What was painstakingly obvious from this summer’s debacle was that Capello had lost his own dressing room. When he accepted the England manager’s job we were led to believe he was a disciplinarian. He would command the respect of this country’s elite and was supposedly a breath of fresh air after Steve McClaren who was more of a mate than a manager.

The initial signs were positive. A highly successful qualifying campaign brought back the lofty expectations that come around every two years. But as soon as the squad came together in South Africa things started to turn sour. The players were isolated, bored and unhappy; this manifested itself onto the pitch where England embarrassed themselves continually. The most poignant moment was a John Terry press conference where he called for immediate changes; Capello was being undermined.

For the record, I don’t believe Capello is to blame for England’s pitiful showing in South Africa. Any post-mortem should focus on the absence of a winter break. It was not just England’s players but the majority of the Premier League’s finest who toiled away in South Africa. The entire England squad faced a rigorous year in the Premier League whilst the majority of their counterparts enjoyed lengthy breaks midway through the year.

For now Capello can do nothing but lament the current schedule and hope a change comes soon enough. In hindsight, he should have lobbied harder for a mid-season break when he signed his initial deal. No doubt the large sums on offer were enough to dissuade him from pushing the issue further.

Capello should take note of the situation in France

Aside from the scheduling concerns, Capello must address the internal problems. In this situation, if he wants his students to change, the teacher himself must adapt also. Players like Terry enjoy far more leverage at club level and more than likely they had more sway under McClaren and Sven Goran Eriksson too. The laid-back style of these two previous English coaches may have failed but it appears Capello’s head teacher-like style isn’t paying dividends either. Capello needs to discover a happy medium.

If he doesn’t, expect another repeat of this summer’s abysmal showing because if the players don’t want to play for their manager there is no chance success will come. Although it is certainly a more extreme case, one can’t help but look at the mess that erupted on the other side of the Channel. France’s Raymond Domenech didn’t command an ounce of respect from his players and the effects were mortifying. The French team is stacked with talent but without any motivation, they were merely a laughing stock. Brian Clough is another case in point. Clough remains one of the finest to have ever managed but even he was primed for nothing but disaster the moment he walked into that Leeds United dressing room back in 1974.

Capello’s relationship with his players is not as strained as these examples but it is also far from perfect. The man who was once held in such high regard has become an outcast. Unless he changes his ways and regains that respect, Capello will continue to fail with this group of players.

Ryan’s Hype Has Assisted Revis in Contract Pursuit


“Self-praise is no recommendation”

You might forgive New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis for thinking the sun shines out of his derrière. There has been universal praise for his shut-down abilities and when discussing Revis’ extraordinary season in 2009, pundits trip over themselves to shower him with plaudits. In a recent NFL feature, Brian Baldinger cooed that he was the best player in the entire league.

His own coach Rex Ryan is among Revis’ biggest fans and like anything concerning his Jets, he isn’t afraid to tell anyone in earshot just how good he is. The trouble is Ryan and the Jets have created a monster. He has hyped Revis up to the high heavens and back down to his very own island. The player’s are certainly enjoying breathing in this air of confidence, Revis it seems, more than most.

Ryan has hyped up Revis in the media

This has become an issue now Revis wants more money. He believes he is deserving of it and the praise Ryan and others have lavished on him is only reinforcing these beliefs.

Does Revis deserve to be paid more? Sure. Does he deserve to be the best paid corner in the league? Possibly. But Nnamdi Asomugha’s gigantic deal means that the Jets will have to cough up a lot, an awful lot.

The trouble is, if you listen to Rex, the Jets also have the best players everywhere else. This surely means that the offensive-line, the linebackers, the punter and the kit man will also want to be the best paid in the league. There’s only so much pie to go around and Revis’ demands threaten to take a large slice of New York pastry. The Jets know that if they load up Revis’ plate, Nick Mangold, David Harris and others will be doing their best Oliver impressions in front of owner Woody Johnson, “please sir, can I have some more?” It may well set a dangerous precedent.

Had it not been for Ryan salivating over Revis and the rest of his troops, you’d think the Jets would be in an extremely strong position when negotiating with Revis and his agent. He has three years left on his current deal, a deal he fought tooth and nail to acquire and the Jets have strength and depth at his position. The defense is extremely strong and has been strengthened again since last term. No more so is this evident than at Revis’ own position, cornerback. The Jets traded for Antonio Cromartie and they used their highest draft pick on Kyle Wilson. As a result, Revis’ absence may not be as significant as he would like to think. The Jets are considerably better with Revis but they have covered their back by loading up in his position.

Revis Island's own mayor wants more money

However Revis can draw upon a plethora of soundbites from his own coach to provide compelling evidence for his own case. Rex’s most glowing reference:

“This year was the best year a corner has ever had in the National Football League.”

Ryan has shot himself in the foot. Whilst his brash demeanour appears to be doing wonders for the team, this is the other side of the coin. Revis believes this contrived hype and he wants the dollars to match it. It will be fascinating to see how this one transpires.