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Another England World Cup failure

December 3, 2010 1 comment

 

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It seems that English football has had such a terrible year. An awful World Cup showing and now the humiliation of our 2018 World Cup hosting campaign.

It would appear that our standing as a nation in world football is certainly not what it used to be. The fact that we are seen as the inventors of the beautiful game and the memories of 1966 do not hold any pull with the voters.

We rolled out all of the big guns for this particular campaign. Royalty, the Prime Minister and David Beckham are national icons known the world over but all of this was not nearly enough to bring The World Cup home. Our exit at the first stage of voting really does ask the question: where do we go from here?

FIFA, from the outside, look like they are wanting to spread the World Cup hosting out to countries who have never hosted a World Cup. This has many advantages of course, all of which push England even further down the pecking order. It will bring new supporters of football to the world game. It will bring new stadia and facilities to new countries to enjoy as a legacy to the next generations.

The English bid used many great arguments which went in their favour. We have the stadia and facilities. We have the experience of holding tournaments of this size. We have a multi-cultural society and would embrace a World Cup whole heartedly. But the fact remains that the decision makers always wanted new countries to be hosts.

We could argue that the recent bribery scandal has been a major factor in the voting process. We will probably never get to the bottom of the real truth unless an independent enquiry takes place. Even if this does happen it would be covered up and watered down. FIFA are such a huge animal that they have the power to limit any such proven accusations to a minimum.

I think there is a mentality in this country to believe that we are the best at everything and that by being English we deserve more than we get. This only goes to prove, as in The World Cup, that maybe we are not as good as we were or think we are. 

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My managers…Kevin Wilson

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

 

”The best way to attack is defend”

If anybody asks me about my former manager at Northampton Town this is what I remember most. I always have a little chuckle to myself when I think of the time he said it.

It was just before we were to leave the dressing room for the  opener at home to Brentford in the 2000-01 season. The club had just achieved promotion and it was a massive game. We were all focused on the game when sent the whole squad into a fit of the giggles. Obviously he wanted to send out his team with some positive, inspiring words of wisdom but got so wrapped up in it that it came out completely wrong.

It had no bearing on the result but it sure was funny.

There was another instance where he shot himself in the foot. He had a big disagreement with a senior pre after a Saturday match. During this rant he declared that the player would never play for Northampton Town again. He was adamant. Sure enough, a week later with a couple of injuries to the squad he was in the starting line up. Either don’t say it or stick to your guns. That type of action does make players lose a bit of respect I have to say.  

Kevin was a young manager. Ian Atkins had recently left Sixfields. Officially he was player-manager. With the arrival of Marco Gabbiadini and myself in the close season and big Steve Howard meant that he didn’t need to play too much. There was a speight of matches where he brought himself on for 10 minutes or so. I think that had as much to do with the fact that he had scored 199 goals during his career. He tried all sorts to get to 200 but unfortunately he didn’t manage it. What a great scoring achievement nonetheless.

Kevin paid a record transfer fee for me from FC Utrecht. Money was given to him that summer so he broke the transfer record at Sixfields by paying £150,000 for me.

He wasnt a particularly tough disciplinarian. He adopted more of a friendly approach. This was great when we were winning but when we were having a tough time then he didn’t quite have the personality to mix it up and put players out of their comfort zone. He was very lucky to have such a good assistant in Kevan Broadhurst who did most of the important work for him. As soon as Kevan left then things started to go wrong.

There were plenty of days off and the days we were in his training sessions were short and sharp. You will very rarely get players complaining about this because we all like days off when they are on offer.There was very little done in a tactical sense. During our bad run of form towards the end of the 2000-01 season the players did have their say. We felt like we were not working on tactical issues enough and that we were having too many days off. It must have been bad. It didn’t change anything though.

I do feel like he held me back during his reign ay Northampton Town. Millwall offered good money for me, about £325,000 I believe. This would have more than doubled their investment in less than a year. He told the club to ask for £1 million for me. Ridiculous. I was in form at the time but that figure was out of the question.

It would have allowed me to play at a higher level but all Kevin could think about was himself. He told me that if he let me go then he would get stick from the fans which would lead to him getting the sack. Well, as we know he got the sack anyway. There were a couple of other players in that team that could have played at a higher level but he held them back too. James Hunt could have played in The Championship with QPR who offered good money for him but he held him back too.It does leave a bad taste in your mouth.

I enjoyed working under Kevin but when he lost his job we were in a real relegation scrap. Although it is the players who cross the white line it is always the manager who bares the brunt of it all. I think that we lacked direction and results were showing that this was the case.

My time at…Notts County..Part 2 Game over

December 1, 2010 Leave a comment

 

Our small, experienced squad made it difficult for us to have a settled team. Michael Johnson struggled to play 3 games a week. Although I was in a bit of denial at the time about this (I thought I could play 3 games a week but couldn’t either) he was pretty honest about it. He was a great player. Not just for Notts but at his other clubs.

 I remember playing against him for Grimsby Town against Birmingham City many years ago. I recall a situation during the game where I had about 10 yards on him chasing a ball. I sauntered through only to find that he had eaten up the ground on me and easily dispossessed me. Although at Notts he had lost some of his pace he could read the game amazingly. It was his last season that year and was a true Notts legend.

Training was always pretty good during my time at County. This was something that was very important to me. I had been at some clubs where training was a joke. Lots of standing around….very boring stuff. At the age I was 34, I was not going to get any better. In fact I was getting worse! So good training was essential. Lots of small sided games, passing drills, shooting drills.

The managements were very sensible with us older pros. We did slightly less training than the younger boys which allowed us to recover quicker. Ian was very good with us in this way. He had suggested that we would not be needed on Mondays for training but given that our results were not anywhere good enough then it was not an option.

We played some great stuff that season without really being too effective. We were great up to the final third but didn’t have the required quality to win enough games. We missed chances at vital times in games and conceded against the run of play too often. I was as guilty of anybody for this. I think I actually played too deep which meant that I was not in the penalty box enough when the ball arrived. Miles Weston was so quick that nobody could keep up with him !!

Myself, Delroy Facey, Sean Canham and Spencer Weir-Daley were the striking options.  The highlight of my season was my hat-trick against Port Vale. It was a day to remember for me. Unfortunately there were not enough days like that for me personally at Notts County.

By February I was starting less matches than ever before. My form was poor so I had no complaints really. Jonathan Forte was brought in and he started scoring immediately. He had the pace that our attack was missing. I remember thinking to myself at around that time that I was getting too old for this. I just wasnt a god as I used to be. age had caught up with me and it was showing. This in turn led to me becoming frustrated with myself which affected my form even further.

From then on I knew that I would not get a new contract. I also knew that this would probably be my last season in pro football.

Unfortunately Notts County didn’t see anywhere near the best of me. At the end of the season was the time when all of the out of contract players learned their fate. The season had been a failure. Our league position was poor. There were times when we flirted with relegation but it never looked like a reality to me. We lost to non-league opposition in The FA Cup to Kettering and the squad was too old. When you have a season like this then not too many players are taken on. Most of the out of contract players were released. Gavin Strachan, Richard Butcher too. I was surprised about Butch because the club were keen to discuss a new deal with him in January before his injury against Kettering.

Ian was very good when I was called in. We were not aware that it was happening but once I got the call I knew the score. He didn’t go around the houses and just told me outright that I was to be released. I replied that I didn’t deserve a new deal after the season I had so it wasn’t a sour encounter like many of these are with other players.

So there it was. Game over…literally. I knew it couldn’t last forever but when it actually happens it took a while to sink in.

C’est  la vie.

Interview with ex-Notts legend Mark Stallard. Your questions please for Mark. 

 

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