Friday, May 11, 2012

Leeds - 100 Greatest Players Vote

Voted for 50 players.

Names are in alphabetical order. Details here: 100 Greatest Players

  • Mick Bates
  • David Batty
  • Billy Bremner
  • Lee Chapman
  • John Charles
  • Jack Charlton
  • Trevor Cherry
  • Allan Clarke
  • Bobby Collins
  • Terry Cooper
  • Wilf Copping
  • Tony Currie
  • Tony Dorigo
  • Willis Edwards
  • Johnny Giles
  • Eddie Gray
  • Grenville Hair
  • Ernest Hart
  • David Harvey
  • Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink
  • Gordon Hodgson
  • Norman Hunter
  • Tom Jennings
  • Albert Johanneson
  • Mick Jones
  • Joe Jordan
  • Charlie Keetley
  • Gary Kelly
  • Peter Lorimer
  • Paul Madeley
  • Nigel Martyn
  • Dominic Matteo
  • Gary McAllister
  • Jim McCabe
  • Duncan McKenzie
  • Gordon McQueen
  • Jack Milburn
  • Jim Milburn
  • Lucas Radebe
  • Paul Reaney
  • Don Revie
  • John Sheridan
  • Alan Smith
  • Gary Sparke
  • Gary Speed
  • Gordon Strachan
  • Mel Sterland
  • Mark Viduka
  • Russell Wainscoat
  • Tony Yeboah

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Indian Cricket: The Alteration

We are 15 days into the year of Alan Turing and the Indian cricket team have already failed to force a resuscitating Australian team to bat twice in the two tests that have taken place since the turn of the year. The same Indian side that was the numero uno in the Test arena, less than six months ago. 

The mob have given their verdict. It's a gospel that the Indian cricket team never seem to do well on pitches that assist pace bowlers, they say. A look at India's record overseas from early 2003 to June 2011 and you could characterise that as a myth.

A number of ingredients to blend are essential for a team to do well. In a team sport, it's more the reason. Compare it with the manufacture of an alcoholic beverage like rum. At the start, you need some sugarcane or it's by-products. Sugarcane by-products then undergo a process of fermentation and distillation.

Do we have capable sugarcane in our country? Not many would disagree that we have scads of talent. The fermentation and distillation is where a part of the problem lies. I read a recent interview of Suresh Raina where he spoke of going and playing a season of county cricket to resurrect his Test career. Remember the good old days when almost every Indian cricketer used to go to land up in county cricket? Such stints helped them immensely especially with respect to their technique and helped them acclimatise to foreign conditions better. 

I'm not against the Indian Premier League. Sportspersons have a limited period where they get paid. Not all of them end up being as fortunate as Alan Hansen earning £1.5m a year post their playing careers for spouting rubbish. But sometimes you wonder, who comes up with cockeyed ideas like having a ridicuously long T20 just after a joyous but tiring World Cup?

Mahendra Singh Dhoni has accepted responsility for the humilation. And rightly so. His captaincy has been barren. One of the features of a leader is to inspire his/her troops to another level. What we have seen in England and Australia is just a sorry tale of delicate performances where one feels the team is giving in quicker than a fight between Muhammad Ali (at his peak) and Seth Green would last.

After seven consecutive losses away from home, you'd think it's time for Dhoni to bequeath his role as the captain of the Test team to someone else. But is there a better option in the wings? The names of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir spring to mind. Both have been low on form with the latter unsure of a permamnet spot in the playing XI. Can Indian cricket take a huge gamble and invest the future in the hands of Virat Kohli?

A lot has been said about the older players in the squad. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman aren't exactly at a stage of their career when they are ageing like fine wine and it's a worrying fact that the trio are the only ones in the top seven of our famed batting line-up to avergae over 30 over the last year. 

Change is inevitable. It's crucial the transition is a process and not a quick fix like a band aid on the wounds of a domestic animal. When the transition completes, it's of the essence we're not left to ask ourselves - 'Why is the rum gone?'

My Twitter: @IlGiganteBuono

Friday, July 15, 2011

International Football On The Rocks?

Johann Cruyff(left) dazzles at the 1974 World Cup.
Rewind back to last season's FIFA Ballon d'Or awards. The winner of course as we well know by now was the little genius from Rosario, Lionel Messi who beat his Barcelona mates Andres Iniesta and Xavi to the award. Most people would find that absolutely normal after looking at Messi's club record last year. But there's one missing link - the small matter of the FIFA World Cup 2010.

Before Messi's 2011 triumph - In a World Cup year in which the winners were an European team, there has been just one instance of a player when the Ballon d'Or winner wasn't part of the victorious team. Back in the day when Messi wasn't born and the four Beatles were still alive, Johann Cruyff won the Ballon d'Or in 1974 not having won the World Cup but he was in the World Cup finals that year and was named 'Player of the Tournament' for good measure. But last season, Messi's Argentina didn't even get past the quarter-finals in which Messi was taken good care off by the excellent Bastian Schweinsteiger.

So what changed last year? Why didn't a Spanish player win the award last year? It wasn't that Iniesta and Xavi were off the mark with their club team Barcelona. Both were brilliant in a great Barcelona team that won the La Liga, reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and humiliated their biggest rivals Real Madrid 5-0 at the Nou Camp.. There was also a case for the deadly Dutch duo of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben. Both World Cup finalists - the former winning the Champions League with Inter Milan and the latter reaching the final of European club football's most prestigious tournament.

Was Messi winning the award for his 'club' performances rather than a 'World Cup' performance, a reflection in the mood of the media, players, fans? FIFA's viewership accounts say the last three World Cup Finals have been watched by 1.3bn (1998 World Cup), 1.1bn (2002 World Cup), 715mn (2006 World Cup) and 'over' 700m (2010 World Cup). There have been critics who have doubted FIFA's details, bringing forward the theory that only about a quarter of the people actually watched the finals with respect to FIFA's numbers.

One way to look at the dropping number is the fact that Brazil (a nation with a sizeable football-loving population) were in the first two finals mentioned but weren't in the recent two. But with ever increasing technology, more and more countries getting into football, surely the numbers in some form should have risen?

Compare that with the Champions League Final. Still sitting on a smaller chair compared to the World Cup Final if you go by FIFA's numbers. But if you are one who doesn't believe FIFA on their word, the Champions League Final isn't just playing catch up very soon. The viewership numbers for the Champions League are ever on the rise. So much so, that the Champions League Final in 2009 between Barcelona and Manchester United even dislodged the Super Bowl as the most viewed annual sports event drawing an audience of over 206mn who watched at least a bit of the game.

Is the Champions League simply more exciting? They say goals make the beautiful game look 'beautiful' so one should imagine that more goals would only enhance football's chance of getting into an international beauty pageant. The only winner there is the Champions League based on the following statistics :

Average number of goals scored at a game at the last two World Cups.

  • 2006: 2.3 goals per game.
  • 2010:  2.27 goals per game.
Compare that with the same stat in the Champions League over the same period(last five seasons).

  • 2006-07: 2.49 goals per game.
  • 2007-08: 2.64 goals per game.
  • 2008-09: 2.63 goals per game.
  • 2009-10: 2.54 goals per game.
  • 2010-11: 2.84 goals per game.

The least goals per game rate in the Champions League over a season in this period happens to be a good 0.19 goals per game more the 2006 World Cup, which has a higher scoring rate than the 2010 World Cup.

One of the premier reasons for the Champions League to become more 'exciting' could lie in the fact that the players at a club train together day-in and day-out for most of the year while the national team assemble for short durations during a friendly or qualifier in between World Cups and continental tournaments. Training together for a long time helps bring about good co-ordination and better understanding between players which goes a mile in helping teams play better football and adopting to their team's tactics perfectly.

In modern football, there aren't many top teams who have the same set of players playing for the same club and country. Spain is a rare example these days, with Barcelona players making up the core of their team. And they also happen to be European and World Champions!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Leeds United 2010/11 : Player Review

Stars of the season : Howson, Becchio, Gradel.
Kasper Schmeichel : For a team that has conceded 70 goals in the league in a season, you would think the keeper must take some of the blame, wouldn't you? From making a huge impression in the first league game of the season against Derby County, Schmeichel has looked superb at times and average at times. A very good shot stopper but his command over the penalty area had a lot to be desired for.
Season Rating : 6

Shane Higgs : Injuries and Kasper Schmeichel prevented Shane Higgs from getting more opportunities. He was in goal when we conceded five at Barnsley. Not surprising that the club hasn't renewed his contract.
Season Rating : 3

Jason Brown : Short loan deal where he had to fill in, in goal whilst Schmeichel and Higgs were sidelined with injuries. Did not do much to impress in the few games he played and was let go in spite of him wanting to stay at Elland Road.
Season Rating : 4

Paul Connolly : Average season for the Scouse right-back. He surely did not look up to the task whilst on defensive duties most of the season and Grayson had to bring in Eric Lichaj on loan from Aston Villa to strengthen that area of the team.
Season Rating : 5

Eric Lichaj : An improvement from Connolly and a real asset to the team in the latter part of the season. I would be most pleased if he returns next season as he looked one of the more assured players in our team over the last couple of months defensively. His work rate was also top notch, running down the flank assisting Robert Snodgrass in attack on the right flank.
Season Rating : 7

Andy Hughes : Always seemed a matter of time before he leaves the club at the start of the season. He did leave in the January transfer window but not before attaining the status of a cult hero with the fans.
Season Rating : 5

Alex Bruce : Apart from his outstanding display at the Emirates in the FA Cup, he did not inspire much in the heart of the defence. A liability who was rightly dropped from the first team after a few shocking displays in recent months.
Season Rating : 5

Richard Naylor : A player who gives it his all when he puts on the white shirt of Leeds United, but unfortunately the Championship was a level too far up for him. He struggled a lot in the first couple of months and injuries didn't help his cause either. Another player who has been let go.
Season Rating : 4

Neill Collins : Started the season reasonably well, but then everything went wrong for the big man. Sold without completing a year on a three-year contract says a lot about his form this season.
Season Rating : 4

Andy O'Brien : The only one of the five central defenders we used this season who looked assured. He was shaky at times too but overall, had a solid impact on the team after joining the club on a permanent deal after a loan deal in which he caught the eye.
Season Rating : 7

Leigh Bromby : In my first entry in this blog, I had written how Bromby deserved more chances. Well in the end when he did, I was proved wrong. Another defender who looked out of his league in the Championship.
Season Rating : 5

Federico Bessone : Who? The Argentine full back. Did he do anything good? No. Transfer listed? Thank You, Uncle Ken.
Season Rating : 2

George McCartney : He was decent in his first loan spell. In his second spell, he had problems off the field and his lack of commitment and desire on the field made him a target for fans. I hope we have seen the last of him at Elland Road.
Season Rating : 3

Ben Parker : Came back from a long injury and then had to face Arsenal and Theo Walcott. Responsible for three of the four goals we conceded against Arsenal over the two legs.
Season Rating : 4

Amdy Faye : Bradley Johnson's rise this season meant Faye couldn't get much games and was forced to leave by January.
Season Rating : 4

Neil Kilkenny : Not a glamour player, but a very effective player to have in the team. Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson and him formed a very good midfield that saw us go a good unbeaten run in the middle of the season. Got fewer chances after returning from the Asia Cup. An important player of the squad who I wish would sign a new deal at the club.
Season Rating : 6

Bradley Johnson : One of the players who has made a big impact this season. Started the season off slowly, but then moved on from strength to strength and was a vital part of the team in the heart of the midfield. His impressive season also included a headline goal against Arsenal at Elland Road.
Season Rating : 7

Jonathan Howson : You could say this season was the coming of age for Jonny Howson. Captain for most parts of the season with Naylor nursing an injury, he turned heads with his brilliant performances, even earning him an England u21 call up while some people proposed his name for the senior England squad.
Season Rating : 8

Adam Clayton : Played less than a handful of games earlier in the season, didn't set the place on fire and was loaned out to Peterborough United and later MK Dons. Likely to see more of him in the future.
Season Rating : 4

Barry Bannan : A player who should have got many more chances than he did end up getting at the club. A very talented player, who will probably end up playing for a top club in the future could have been the man who would have added that extra dimension that could have seen us cross the finish line.
Season Rating : 5 (More due to his lack of chances than his performances)

Jake Livermore : Never understood the point of his loan when he came. Still don't.
Season Rating : 2

Ramon Nunez : Another player who could have got many more chances. Hope to see a lot more of him next season.
Season Rating : 5

Robert Snodgrass : Probably the most talented player who is contracted to Leeds United at this moment. Injured early in the season, he set the league alight once he returned to full fitness. A late run of poor form did hamper his season, but it won't take away the fact that he has made it big this term.
Season Rating : 8

Max Gradel : Zero to Hero, Having almost costed us automatic promotion last season, Mad Max, as we like to call him, set the league on fire. Player of the season without much doubt.
Season Rating : 9

Sanchez Watt : Made a very good start to the season. Unfortunately for him, the form of Snodgrass and Gradel meant that there wasn't much room for him in the first team. His injuries didn't help either. I do hope we can get back a fitter and better Watt next season.
Season Rating : 6

Lloyd Sam : Another player who was hard done by injuries and the form of Snodgrass and Gradel.
Season Rating : 5

Luciano Becchio : One of the stars of the season, the Argentine shone in a new role as a lone striker. Our top scorer this season. His work rate was as great as ever. It was particularly pleasing to know he had signed a new contract during Christmas but there have been few murmurs that he could be on his way out. He is one player we can't do without.
Season Rating : 8

Billy Paynter : Too many chances. Just one goal. Sorry, simply not good enough. One player we could do without next season.
Season Rating : 3

Davide Somma : Another star who was born this season. His awareness of where the goal stands is his main strength and a fan's favourite. Another player who probably could have started more games towards the fag-end of the season with Becchio injured.
Season Rating : 7

Ross McCormack : Did not start the season off very well, but ended it on a high.
Season Rating : 5

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Big Jack!

Jack Charlton(3rd from left) with John Charles after winning promotion to the 1st division in  1956.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Premier League : Are We Ready?

A few weeks ago, the question in the minds of most Leeds United fans were 'Will we win automatic promotion?' Three defeats in the last four games has transformed that question into another one : 'Can we get lucky through the playoffs?'

Amidst all the excitement that we could be a Premier League club next season, there lies a very different question in my mind. One which would make me look like a pessimist rather than an optimist. One which asks : 'Are we ready for Premier League?'

Let's not forget this is our first season in the Championship after a three year stay in League One. A new league usually takes time to perfect. Surprisingly the players who played for us last season have been our best players this season. Robert Snodgrass, Max Gradel, Jonny Howson, Luciano Becchio & Bradley Johnson have arguably been our best five outfield players this season. So if they did complete the transformation to the Championship so easily, what's the problem?

The problem lies behind him. One word - Defence. To say Simon Grayson isn't a big fan of defending would probably be an understatement in the present situation we find ourselves in. Make no mistake about it, Grayson is a very good manager but the fact that he has not been able to fix our defence the entire season irritates me.
A familiar sight.
In spite of being sixth in the table at the present moment, we have the 4th worst defence in the league only after Scunthorpe United(77), Doncaster Rovers(72), Preston North End(70) and joint with Sheffield United having conceded 66 goals apiece. All the four teams that have been mentioned find themselves amongst the bottom five of the league.

Clearly, if our attack could make the transformation to the Premier League, I'm not sure our defence could. New players could come in but will Ken Bates spend reasonable money on players who can make the cut in the Premier League? I wouldn't bet on it. 

Personally, I wouldn't complain if we went up. Hell NO!! But the last thing I want to see is Leeds United becoming a yo-yo club. So it wouldn't be such a bad thing after all if we don't win promotion this season as it would surely help us to build a more solid squad before eyeing the top league in the country.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Don Revie : Change In Outlook Required

Fifty years ago this week, Don Revie became Leeds United's player-manager. Fifty years since, he is remembered by the Leeds United faithful as one of (if not) the greatest manager, English Football has ever seen. But at the other end of the spectrum, he is remembered as a man who managed a great set of players with a 'win-at-any-cost' approach. A judgement which led Revie's side to be called 'Dirty Leeds' across the board.

While Revie's side was one of the most physical teams that has played in the English Football League, it was also one which played the most beautiful football in the country at the time. The opposition and critics have always looked at the physical nature of Revie's side, while completely ignoring the breadth-taking football the team played.  Everyone remembers the Charity Shield against 1974 (when Don Revie wasn't even in charge) but they tend to forget the Southampton game in 1971/72, a game which would make even Johan Cruyff would stand up and applaud.

Case in point, being Brain Clough (Story on screen : The Damned United). A vouch critic of Don Revie's tactics, Clough faced Revie in an interview after he had got sacked at Elland Road after just 44 days in charge. Brain Clough accused Revie of using dirty tactics to win football games. Revie retorted by bringing forward the facts, facts which tell us that Leeds United were the most entertaining team in the top tier of English Football when Revie was in charge. Facts which tell us in Revie's last five seasons in charge at Elland Road(1969/79-1973/74), Leeds were among the top two scoring teams in the league every season. Yet people will bicker about a 'win-at-any-cost' approach.

Don Revie had also been charged with match-fixing in an expose by the Daily Mirror. Roy Greenslade came forward with a timely reminder yesterday. Mr. Greenslade, there is a reason it has been airbrushed from history. Frank Munro, one of the opposition players accused of taking bribes from Revie actually scored the opening goal in the game and Wolves won the game 2-1 which cost Leeds the title. It's no science rocket, that Revie to this date hasn't been proven guilty of those charges.

What people won't tell you is the story of The People(Mirror's sister paper) repeating the charges against Billy Bremner in 1982. Bremner sued them and was successful. On the same subject of match-fixing, why doesn't the media look into the 1973 UEFA Cup Winners Cup Final? Christos Michas, the referee in charge for the game was debarred from refereeing any European games thereafter because of match-fixing allegations (Read More).

A God at Elland Road, a revolutionist in English Football. Happy Don Revie Day!