Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Goodbye to a legend: Alessandro Del Piero.

     Juventus celebrated lifting the Scudetto (that's the Italian title incase you were wondering) after beating Atalanta 3-1 on Sunday. Among the goalscorers was the proficient and versed name of Alessandro Del Piero. It was his 289th goal for a club he has served for 19 years. He is a man revered by i bianconeri faithful and is noted as one of the greatest ever players to have worn the black and white of Juventus, and there are a few amazing names in there too! 

     Juventus fans had hoped he had another season in him, but playing a more reserved role has meant he has called time upon his simply brilliant Juventus career. It's simply fitting that his career finish by lifting the Italian title and possibly the Coppa Italia! If his affection from the fans wasn't noted before the game, it certainly was after. When substituted in the 57th minute it took him a minute to get off the pitch after bowing to all four ends of the ground, followed by a lap of honour. Fans simply forgot about the match as they applauded the outstanding career of one of Italy's finest players of the last 20 years. His Juventus career has allowed him to play with such legends as Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids, Pavel Nedved, Gianluigi Buffon, Gianlucca Zambrotta, Lilian Thuram and David Trezeguet. Most of these players however would have been the ones honoured to have worn the same shirt as Alessandro. 

     A complete legend of Juventus and Italy. He was a truly brilliant player and one of my all time favourites! Forever Juventus' #10.

Del Piero lifts the Scudetto.
Money is not everything. My ambition was football itself, not the money I'd make from it. If that brings me and my family a more comfortable lifestyle, then that's fine. But I don't spend my time between games and training sessions thinking about figures.
- Alessandro Del Piero

Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Carling Cup Final

How many more experiences will Cardiff get of this?
On a day I will never forget, with an atmosphere that topped all others, Cardiff City went soo close to a major piece of giant killing.

Most Liverpool fans thought the final would simply be a case of turning up, putting three or four goals past an off form Cardiff side and lifting the trophy. Ok, so they did technically win the game but the boys in blue gave them one hell of a ride!

Normally a big occassion with Cardiff City leads to a "bottlers" tag or Neil Lennon giving a team talk saying "don't do a Cardiff". After that performance at Wembley a lot of managers will be doing the opposite! "Be Cardiff! Be like Ben Turner!". For many a City fan, it was a case of pride on just reaching the final.

I'm not going to talk about what happened in the game as many, if not all of you, reading this actually watched it. With the biggest TV audience since the 2010 World Cup Final, the nation was interested. Some of the biggest names in football even admitted they were interested in what could happen. Jose Mourinho stating that he loved the fact there was a chance of real giant killing and admitted he was supporting Cardiff on the day. Future manager possibly? Only if Malky leaves us for bigger things!

Colour divided.
The game was full of heroic performances.


Not many would think that Joe 'Messi' Mason is only 20 years old. His 90 minutes against Liverpool were one of his best, and he's had some pretty cracking 90 minutes of football so far for the bluebirds. He's developed into one of my favourite players and shows there could be a lot more to come! Robbie Keane came out recently, not to sign for a new 'boyhood club' but instead gave his backing to Joe, insisting that if he keeps performing like that, a call up to the Republic of Ireland squad beckons.


The whole defence, minus Anthony Gerrard, were outstanding! Hudson returned from injury to play a key role in blocking through balls to Suarez. McNaughton made one world class slide tackle, reminding me of himself one season ago. Taylor kept Henderson out of the game in the first half and Bellamy when he came on in the second. Tom Heaton made some great saves too! His penalty save in the shootout from Gerrard was probably one of the best I've ever seen, not being biased in any way there!

I feel like I'm forgetting someone here..someone raher important..someone you wouldn't want to meet down a dark alley..someone who could easily get a role playing 'the giant' in Jack and the Beanstalk plays..someone who the NBA had to turn down because he would be able to simply place the basketball in the net...someone who..ok this is tiring thinking of stuff now. It's Ben Turner ok! Ben Turner. Possibly the greatest machine ever created. The sources of his creation aren't quite known yet as nobody is claiming this rogue beast as their own. Some say he was built by the American designers at Ford as a hybrid for a new 4x4 that could also be used as a giant wrecking ball. Others say he was built by NASA as an experiment to see if they could create a force greater than that of the Sun, Jesus and Jeremy Kyle. Whoever created him, succeeded. His 118th minute equaliser almost put me in cardiac arrest, and that was after travelling two rows down on someones back celebrating, only to go four rows up in continuous hugging/jumping/arm swinging. After a quick hands on knees recovery I just about summoned the energy to two finger gesture the Liverpool fans directly above us in the 'Wembley club' seats a.k.a the 'First Liverpool game I've ever attended' seats. Anyway, back on subject. Not only was he invincible at the back, but he carried a real influence about him. I fear our playoff chances have been hampered a blow when Hudson was out injured, leaving Turner to be partnered by the hot and cold Gerrard. The partnership was awesome, the goal was awesome, the man is just..awesome.

This blog is behind schedule by about two months and yet the memory of the game is still fresh in my mind. This was a great day to be a Bluebird.

Nervous times at Wembley.

Friday, 10 February 2012

The 'Winging' Formula

Over the last few seasons in the Championship I've seen how a good winger or two can really help a promotion push. Most people are under the impression that strikers are the key to promotion and where is some cases they are right, most of the time it's all about the service into them.

Routledge helps QPR out
Promoted 2010/11 Season:

Queens Park Rangers - Although Taarabt had a very free role, alot of his goals came from cutting in off the wing. The aquisition of Wayne Routledge on loan in January also gave QPR a massive boost towards the finish line and scored some vital goals.

Norwich - One of those cases where strikers (and a lot of late goals!) actually got them promoted. Grant Holt, Simeon Jackson and Chris Martin all had great seasons up front. Wes Hoolahan had a great season from midfield though.

Sinclair the key for Swans.
Swansea - As much as I want to be bitter about it, Sinclair and Dyer were insanely good last season. Swansea struggled for goals in 2009/10 but by taking Sinclair onboard they managed to get the goals to take them up. It's no surprise they've continued their form into the Premier League by keeping hold of Sinclair and Dyer and also aquiring Wayne Routledge from Newcastle.

Special mention from 2010/11 has to go out to Jobi McAnuff (Reading) who in my opinion is the best winger in the Championship currently. His team-mate Jimmy Kebe also helped Reading to a playoff final which unfortunately they lost. *grumble*

Current Championship Season 2011/12

Lallana deserves all plaudits
Where do I begin? Southampton have Adam Lallana who like Taarabt has a bit of a free role. Lallana loves his crosses almost as much as a 17th Century vampire hunter and his build up play is exquisite. He also has the bonus of Rickie Lambert to aim for, who is surely related to the Green Giant from the sweetcorn adverts!

Burke lifts the Blues
Birmingham's surge in the league has been helped by the incredible form of Chris Burke. As all Cardiff fans will know, he can play on the left and he can play on the right..and sometime's he doesn't make Nikola Zigic look shite! Burke was a fan favourite at Cardiff and the passionate little Scot has certainly impressed at Birmingham, and I am happy for him!

McAnuff constantly impresses me.

Other Championship wingers

Matt Phillips (Blackpool) - tore Cardiff apart last week and despite not being part of Holloway's plans in the first half of the season, he could be key to their second half.

Jobi McAnuff (Reading) - Another former Cardiff man. When Reading play well, it's generally because of him. Has turned into a leader as well which is unusual for a winger, he does a very good Captain's job.

Robert Snodgrass (Leeds United) - Has impressed this season from the wing with 11 goals so far. I'm not a fan of his after he spat on Craig Bellamy last season.
The 'winging' feeling!

In summary, I'm not saying that you need a very good winger to win promotion but it's going to help your strikers if they have decent delivery from out wide and will massively help the team if they chip in a few goals too! Obviously for a winger it genereally helps if you have a big man to aim for in the middle but most teams need their wide men to be able to beat players as well.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Championship Review 04.02.2012

The Big One

The weekend started with one of the games I have been waiting for all season. West Ham v Millwall. The game didn't disappoint in terms of talking points either as Kevin Nolan was sent off for a two footed tackle very early on in the game. Carlton Cole managed to bag his first goal in five games with a headed goal which probably would have been saved if it were anyone but David Forde in goal. Trotter then scored a brilliant equalizer for Millwall before Winston Reid scored a dubious goal minutes later as Forde was rugby tackled by Julian Faubert leaving Reid to slam the ball home into an empty net. 2-1 Hammers.

Carlton Cole celebrating giving West Ham the lead
The Chasing Pack

Terrible weather at St. Andrews
Birmingham and Southampton shared the points in conditions at St. Andrews similar to that shown on Frozen Planet. Unfortunately there was no commentary from David Attenborough and the game finished 0-0.

Blackpool scored three in the last 11 minutes at Cardiff to secure a huge 3-1 win for the Tangerines. A Phillips double act saved Blackpool as Cardiff had taken the lead through a close range finish from young prodigy Joe 'Messi' Mason. Blackpool deservedly equalised through pensioner Kevin Phillips which was quickly followed by Blackpool's own youth prodigy, and ironically a transfer target of Cardiff, Matty Phillips bagging a brace in the final 7 minutes to send Ian Holloway home laughing as once again he masterminded a comeback against Cardiff. Shucks.

Middlesbrough, off colour at the moment managed to gain a point at home to Crystal Palace after the Eagles dominated the match and may have felt unlucky to only be taking one point home with them. Another 0-0.

McCormack and Clayton celebrate
With Leeds United's form of late you would have expected them to have gone home from Ashton Gate empty handed but the referee had other ideas. Bristol City have been seriously inconsistent this season and didn't help themselves when James Wilson decided he wanted a hot bath more than kicking a ball around in the snow and got himself sent off. Snodgrass had given Leeds the lead four minutes earlier and Robins' fans must have been fearing the worst at half time. They were right to. Leeds soon had a two man advantage as Bolasie got himself a second yellow and joined Wilson in the bath for what I presume to be a very warm snowball fight! McCormack, a former Cardiff player, scored the second to a 'warm' reception from the home fans. If they weren't heading back to their homes already they were when Becchio added a third. 3-0 to Leeds in their first game without Simon Grayson.


Buckley celebrates his last gasp winner
In a game with few chances, Brighton stole the spoils against Leicester in the 90th minute thanks to a Will Buckley volley from a Vicente cross. I had started to doubt whether bringing in Vicente was a good move by Gus Poyet and Brighton but a vital assist and three points to help their playoff push surely goes some way to fixing the doubt. Leicester finished the game with 9 men after having Beckford and Danns sent off while Brighton also finished a man light with Sparrow seeing red late on. 1-0 Brighton.

Composure shown from Rodriguez
Jay Rodriguez saved a late point for Burnley at Turf Moor against a struggling Peterborough. A defensive lapse had let Peterborough take an early lead with a great finish from Taylor. That would turn out to be the Posh's only shot on target all game. Burnley couldn't find the break through despite twelve shots on target, that was until young man Jay picked the ball up near the half way line, charged towards the defence, kept going..and going..and going.. before slotting the ball home in Henry esque fashion. A top goal from one of the Championship's best players. 1-1 in the end.

Relegation Battle

Chopra heads late winner
Watford and Barnsley met at Vicarage Road and it was the London club who came away with the three points as John Eustace scored twice before a late goal from Scott Golbourne set up a nervy finish for the Hornets. A first home game without Marvin Sordell saw Troy Deeney and Joe Garner play up front with each other after Sordell's £3m move to Bolton. Watford 2-1 Barnsley.

Coventry and Ipswich surprisingly served up the game of the day at the Ricoh Arena infront of a 13,500 crowd which isn't even 50% of the stadium capacity! Jay Emmanuel-Thomas managed a deflected goal for the Tractor Boys before Clingan levelled from the spot. Deegan then gave Coventry the lead before Chopra scored twice to secure the win. 3-2 Ipswich.

Biggest Winners

West Ham and Blackpool have to be contenders with other results going their way but this week the biggest winners have to be Ipswich Town. They were one of two teams in the bottom twelve to pick up three points, moving ten points clear of the drop zone. Also getting Michael Chopra back into goal scoring form is a huge positive for them!

This weeks biggest winners could also be the teams fans that didn't play. Not the most exciting day of football which wasn't helped by the adverse weather conditions. Let's hope for better next week!
What I wish the Cardiff City Stadium looked like so our game would have been called off!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Sharp End

Billy Sharp seals his move to Southampton F.C
Billy Sharp is one of the most prolific finishers in the Championship, especially when he was at Doncaster Rovers. In his time at the Yorkshire club he scored 40 goals in 82 appearances which is an incredible feat for a club that have been fighting relegation constantly since getting promoted to the Championship. After completing his transfer to Southampton this week he will now form a strike partnership with Rickie Lambert that is simply mouthwatering. Lambert is currently the Championship's top goalscorer with 15 goals and when I have gone to watch Southampton this season the one thing I thought they needed was a small man to play off Lambert's flicks and headers.

After hearing the hearbreaking news of the loss of his two-day-old son, Sharp played against Middlesbrough hours later and scored an absolute cracker of a volley. His celebration was, as you could imagine, very emotional and it was great to see even the Middlesbrough fans applauding him, a great sign of respect for one of football's 'good guys'.
Sharp celebrating against Leicester

The signing of Sharp may just give Southampton fans and players alike renewed belief that they can get their promotion charge back on track after having a dip in form which has allowed West Ham to go top of the league and the chasing pack the chance to catch up!

The signing gives Southampton the most formidable front line in the Championship, with Lambert and Sharp up top with De Prado and Lallana creating behind them. This reminds me a bit of Cardiff last season with Bothroyd, Chopra up top with Bellamy and Whittingham creating. Ah, good times.

I expect big things from Southampton now this season. They have everything they need to go up, they just need to start grinding results out again and I'm sure they will be fine!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Blues Brothers

The Demise of one CCFC is the Rise of Another.

Aron Gunnarsson
Cardiff City and Coventry City are both one of the top longest serving Championship teams, but this season that looks like it's about to change!

With Cardiff pushing for promotion and Coventry holding everyone up at the bottom, both teams could go their different ways next year. This isn't to say Cardiff haven't exploited, and probably assisted in Coventry's downfall, and Malky Mackay must feel like Daniel Ocean after we stole Aron Gunnarsson and Ben Turner away from them for a smidgen of their true value!

Ben Turner
When Coventry lost these players, they really had to be replaced, but they weren't. They survived last season due to these two players, Marlon King (boo) and Keiron Westwood. All four departed in the summer and Coventry have taken just 22 points from 27 games this season. Add to that their average attendance is at the lowest in years, there is a real fear around the club that they will be playing League One football next year. Who can blame them? If they did go down, I would fully expect them to be at least in the playoffs at the end of the season. Coventry fans may wonder where the money has gone, but in football you can never give up hope! Coventry have a decent youth academy and with no players being bought, maybe manager Andy Thorn is just looking to the future and trying to establish a good youth base for a promotion push next year if the worst should happen this year.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Different Cardiff

Since packing up and moving out of Cardiff, travelling down south, and moving into university halls in Southampton, I haven't been able to watch my beloved Cardiff City. While at home I watched Cardiff City whenever they played at home, now I end up going to one or two games every three months, my last being Middlesbrough which we lost 3-2, typical! My reaction to this result however was strange. I accepted the fact that the better side had won and just brushed it off, as if the result meant nothing. Of course it did! We lost to a Championship promotion rival, we lost to a team who embarrassed us last season. Instead of moaning about the players performance or our manager not being able to change a game, I thought back to an exciting game which unfortunately didn't go our way. If Dave Jones were still in charge I probably would have reacted in the same manner as Pepe to a nudge in the back and gone completely mental! Under our previous regime I had no belief, no confidence in the team to grind out results. Now, I am fully behind the movement of 'In Malky we Trust!'

Being in exile is not easy as a football fan. It was a strange feeling as I left the game, even though we had lost, I was glad to have just watched my team play live and not the usual 37 seconds of highlights on the Football League Show or some dodgy internet stream on Radio Wales. It was nice to see how the team had progressed over the months I had been away. My last visit prior to this was the 2-0 win against Doncaster, which was hardly convincing. Now there seems to be chemistry within the team just like Jon Parkin's chemistry to pork pies, electrifying!

Mackay seems to have done a miracle job so far. There's a buzz when people talk about the club, people are excited by the position we are in, especially after what was left when Dave Jones departed. When Mackay entered the club, he had very little to work with. As he quotes "I was standing with David Kerslake, my assistant, and we had 10 people jogging round a park." And when people look at the squad now, they see Carling Cup Finalists (possibly winners!). Mackay has somehow guided us to Wembley for a 4th time in 5 seasons and the whole outlook of the club looks positive. What would Mackay be regarded as if he won us the Carling Cup and Promotion? Any big club with a manager nearing the end (Arsenal, Man Utd) would be silly not to look at Malky.