FA WSL Round Up: Chelsea go top of the table

With just one WSL game last weekend there was a full fixture list this past weekend.

Reigning Champions Chelsea moved to the top of the WSL table after a 2-1 win over previous leaders Manchester United. The teams are level on points but Chelsea have a better goal difference, plus a game in hand.

Third placed Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw by Reading. Manchester City hammered Aston Villa 7-0 while Everton put four past bottom side Bristol City. Tottenham beat West Ham by 1-0 and Birmingham City drew at home to Brighton.

Chelsea 2 v 1 Manchester United

Chelsea began brightly with Sam Kerr going past two United defenders to take a shot forcing Mary Earps into an early save. Just two minutes later and Fran Kirby’s though ball finds Kerr in the box but she shot wide. Kerr had another chance but her first time shot went wide again. Three really good chances for The Blues who should have been leading.

United’s first chance came from Christen Press, Kirsty Hanson’s cross defected to Press who hit the ball on the half volley but put it wide.

Chelsea were soon back on the front foot. Working into the box on the right, Fran Kirby had another chance but Earps stuck a leg for a Chelsea corner.

Erin Cuthbert swung in the corner which was met by Pernille Harder who headed towards goal. Amy Turner headed the ball out but it found its to Kirby who shot was blocked but United could not clear and Harder turned the ball into the net. 1-0 Chelsea 30′.

United brought Lauren James on for Press after 55 minutes and it took the 19 year old just six minutes to make an impact. After playing a lovely 1-2 with Ella Tonne, James took sight of goal and curled her shot past the outstretched arms of Berger. 1-1 61′

The goal woke the Chelsea team up as Kerr had another chance saved by Earps. After So-Yun Ji’s shot defected into her path Kerr tried the shot but Earps saved comfortably.

Chelsea retook the lead on 65 minutes as Berger’s long ball went the length of the pitch. The United defenders were not alive to the ball over the top but Chelsea’s in form player Fran Kirby was. Taking a couple of touches Kirby calmly put the ball past the advancing Earps. 2-1 Chelsea 61′.

Lauren James had another chance to level. Ella Tonne playing James behind the chelsea backline, but the striker but her shot wide of the target.

A thrilling game between the top two ends with a win for the Champions, who now go top of the league.

Reading 1 v 1 Arsenal

Arsenal missed the chance to close the gap to second place after drawing at Reading. Reading took the lead after 5 minutes as Lauren Bruton turned in Emma Mitchells free kick. Arsenal were level five minutes before halftime. Jill Roord’s header was saved by Grace Moloney, but Vivianne Miedema was first to react to tap in for her 12th goal of the season.

Reading reamian in sixth place while Arsenal are still third three points of Chelsea and Manchester United.

West Ham United 0 v 1 Tottenham Hotspur

West Ham began this game brightly but failed to really trouble Spur’s keeper Rebecca Spencer. Tottenham grew into the game and took the lead on 35 minutes.

Rosella Ayane putting temping cross across the six yard box, Alanna Kennedy was crowded out by West Ham’s defenders and unable to get the ball. Tottenham’s Gemma Davison picked up the loose ball and found Lucy Quinn who fired home.

West Ham pushed for an equalizer in the second half but couldn’t find the net. The win is Tottenham’s third in a row and they sit in 7th place. West Ham are 10th.

Everton 4 v 0 Bristol City

After five games without a win Everton picked up all three points after putting four past Bristol City.

Taking the lead after 4 minutes, Nicoline Sorensen’s cross was turned into the roof of the net by Izzy Christiansen. Sorensen and Christiansen almost combined for the second but City keeper haland made a good save. Hayley Raso’s cross looked to be the keepers but she fumbled the ball and it was turned in by Simone Magill. Everton lead 2-0 at half time.

Christiansen made it three after squeezing the ball from a tight angle into the far corner after being played in by Lucy Graham. Megan Finnigan round off a good win with a fourth heading in at the near post from Christiansen’s corner.

Everon stay in fifth place on 17 points while Bristol City are still looking for a first win.

Manchester City 7 v 0 Aston Villa

Not really a contest at The Academy Stadium as Manchester City ran riot and put 7 past Aston Villa. Lauren Hemp got the first sliding in at the far post from Chole Kelly’s cross. Jill Scott made it two after 17 minutes before Stanway scored the third on 31 minutes. Kelly and Hemp combined again to make it four nil, before Kemp’s cross was put into the goal by Villa’s Natalie Haigh. Ellen White made six before half time.

Chloe Kelly got City’s seventh in the second half. City are fourth five points off the leaders Chelsea and Manchester United. Villa are 11th four points ahead of Bristol City.

Birmingham City 0 v 0 Brighton

Brighton controlled this match but rarely caused Birmingham keeper Hannah Hampton. Despite having seven shots on target the Birmingham keeper was never in danger of conceding. Birmingham had only one shot on target in the entire game and Brighton will feel hard done by with just a point.

Brighton are in 9th place while Birmingham are 8th.

Birmingham City will host Everton at 19:00 on Wednesday 20th January. Aston Villa are home to Reading on Saturday 23rd January 12:00. Two 12:00 kick offs on Sunday 24th January as Arsenal host West Ham and Manchester United host Birmingham City. Brighton will play Manchester City at 14:00 and Bristol City will host leaders Chelsea.

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Wayne Rooney Named As Permanent Derby Manager

Former Manchester United and Everton forward Wayne Rooney has taken over as permanent manager at Derby County. The news broke on Friday 15th January that Rooney, who had been in temporary charge since the departure of Phillip Cocu in November.

Derby comfired the appointment of Rooney, who will retire from playing with CEO Stephen Pearce saying,

“We are delighted to confirm the appointment of Wayne Rooney as our new manager.

“Our recent upturn in results under Wayne was married together with some positive performances, notably the 2-0 home win over Swansea City and the 4-0 victory at Birmingham City.

“During that nine-game run we also dramatically improved their defensive record and registered five clean sheets in the process, while in the attacking third we became more effective and ruthless too.

“Those foundations have provided a platform for the club to build on in the second half of the season under Wayne’s guidance.”

Rooney will be helped by Assistant Manager Liam Rosenior, Shay Given will move into a first team coach role with Justin Walker remaining as first team delvopment coach. Acadamey goal-keeping coach Jason Pearcey will move to first team goal-keeping coach. The club also comfired that former England Manager Steve McClaren will remain as Techichal director and advisor to the board.

Rooney enjoyed a stellar playing career with Everton (twice), Manchester United, DC United before sigining for Derby. Rooney picked up five Premier League titles, three EFL cups an FA Cup as well as a Uefa Champions League and Europra League. He is Manachester United’s all time top scorer with 253 goals. Rooney is also Englands leading goalscorer having scored 53 for his counrty.

Speaking about calling time on his playing career,

“I’ve had a great career and enjoyed every minute, Of course, I will miss it but I’ve been very fortunate to play for some massive teams. Playing for Everton was a boyhood dream of mine and then to go and play for 13 years at United was the highlight. To stay at the biggest club in the world for so long and win so many trophies is something I’ll always appreciate.”

Rooney said that the potenial of the club was what attracted hime to Derby,

“When I first arrived back in the United Kingdom I was completely blown away by the potential of Derby County Football Club. The Stadium, Training Ground, the quality of the playing staff and the young players coming through and of course the fan base that has remained loyal and supportive.

“Despite other offers I knew instinctively Derby County was the place for me.

“To be given the opportunity to follow the likes of Brian Clough, Jim Smith, Frank Lampard and Phillip Cocu is such an honour and I can promise everyone involved in the club and all our fans, my staff and I will leave no stone unturned in achieving the potential I have witnessed over the last 12 months of this historic football club.”

Rooney first game will be a home game against Rotherham United on Saturday 16th of January.

Championship Preview: Cardiff City v Norwich City

Championship leaders Norwich head to Cardiff on Saturday looking to maintain their four point lead at the top of the table. The two side will be familiar with each other having met at Carrow Road on December 19th, with Norwich winning two goals to nil.

Cardiff manager Neil Harris is under pressure after seeing his side lose four games in a row, a run that has seen The Bluebirds drop to 15th in the table. Norwich have lost just one game in their last nine, a 1-0 defeat at Watford. This run includes seven wins.

Team News

Cardiff are struggling with injuries currently but are hopeful that Wales forward Kieffer Moore will be able to take part this weekend. Full back Greg Cunningham is back training but Saturday’s game comes to soon for him. Cardiff captain Sean Morrison is also likely to miss this match, and Aden Flint (who returned from loan at Sheffield Wednesday this month) will also miss out. On Loan right back Jordi Osei-Tutu came off after 40 minutes of a under 23’s game this week so Leandro Bacuna will continue at right back, whilst Joe Bennett will play a t centre half again.

Cardiff announced this week that Sol Bamba has been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and will be receiving treatment. Whilst he won’t be part of the match squad Bamba will be supporting his team mates and continuing his role at the clubs academy. Everyone at 24/7 Football send their thoughts to Sol and his family.

Norwich will be without Bali Mumba and Xavi Quintilla for the trip to Cardiff after the pair tested positive for COVID-19. Goal keeper Tim Krul and Adam Idah are both still recovering from the virus and will not be the match squad. Lukas Rupp and josh Martin will also be out for this game both are ill. Marco Stiepermann is suffering from an ear infection and will miss this game.

Manager Thoughts

Neil Harris dismissed that this is a must win game during his pre-match press conference saying:

“It’s not a must-win game, we are not anywhere near that position.

“We have come away from being very close to it to where we are now.

“To get back there we have to put a consistent run of results together. Whether that’s fit players or new signings, that’s vitally important.

“But then, we have still got a group of players who are good enough to compete at the top of this division.

“We are a side capable of putting a run together. We showed that last season and this season as well.

“This weekend is going to be tough but it’s a game we can win. Then we have a run of games where we can build performances and results.”

Norwich Manager Daniel Farke believes that this will not be a easy victory for his side saying:

“Cardiff are a side who know how they pay. Kieffer Moore could come back in, they have an unbelievably experienced coach. Right now, they’re not in the position they want to be but that have potential to win five or six in a row. 

“It will be a difficult away game and they’ll be highly-motivated coming up against the league leaders at home.

“I trust my players and we’re confident in each and every game. Cardiff will want to show a reaction to the first game. We need a very good performance and we are respectful.”

Prediction; Cardiff 0 v 2 Norwich

Cardiff are on a poor run and still without several key players and lacking a cutting edge in front of goal. Norwich should win this game comfortably.

Kick off for this game is 3pm on Saturday 16th of January.

Dortmund Propel Themselves Back Into Bundesliga Title Race With 3-1 Win Over Leipzig

Borussia Dortmund reignited their fading title hopes with a statement victory over fellow challengers RB Leipzig on Saturday which moved them within five points of leaders Bayern Munich.

Jadon Sancho opened the scoring before a double from Erling Haaland sealed the win, with Alexander Sorloth netting a late consolation for the hosts as they suffered only their second league defeat of the season.

Both sides went into the game in good form, with Leipzig unbeaten since the end of October. Die Roten Bull knew a win at the Red Bull Arena would see them leapfrog leaders Bayern Munich at the summit, after the Bavarian giants let a two goal lead slip against Borussia Monchengladbach to suffer a 3-2 defeat.

It would be a stern test against a much improved Dortmund however, with Die Borrussen having won two of their three Bundesliga games under interim manager Edin Terzic since he took over in December.

Julian Nagelsmann made one change to the team which defeated Stuttgart 1-0 last Saturday, with Yussuf Poulsen coming in for Kevin Kampl. Opposition boss Terzic opted to name the same starting eleven who helped Dortmund to overcome Wolfsburg 2-0 last weekend.

Dortmund were dealt an early blow in the game as Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel was forced to limp off and be replaced by Emre Can. The club later confirmed that Witsel had suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon and is set to be ruled out of action for a number of months.

In a first half where chances were at a premium, Leipzig’s Dani Olmo came closest to opening the scoring. He capitalised on a poor clearance from Dortmund left back Guerriero, taking the ball down well on his chest on the edge of the area, before volleying a shot which dipped just over the top of the crossbar.

After a toothless first period, where Dortmund failed to register a single shot on target in a half for the first time in nearly 14 months, they came out for the second half with a renewed vigour and were nearly rewarded with an early breakthrough.

Just three minutes after the restart, Jadon Sancho slipped Marcos Reus in on the left hand side of the penalty area, but the Dortmund captain was denied by Gulasci at his near post. From the resulting corner, Emre Can rose highest to meet Sancho’s inviting delivery, but the German midfielder’s thumping header skimmed the crossbar.

They took a deserved lead on fifty five minutes after a lightening quick move. Haaland burst down the right and squared to Reus, who cleverly flicked the ball into the path of the onrushing Sancho and the winger did the rest, coolly slotting past Gulasci at his near post to put Dortmund ahead.

It was the Englishman’s second goal in as many games, after previously going seventeen games without one. Dortmund continued to find their strive and almost had a second when Sancho fed Haaland who had made a darting run into the penalty area, but the Norwegian striker’s thunderous effort cannoned off the crossbar after a touch from Gulasci.

At the other end Leipzig came closest to equalising when Dani Olmo’s low drive rattled the far post. The Spaniard received the ball on the half turn and wriggled away from Guerriero before shooting, with his angled drive bouncing off the upright and away from goal.

Dortmund got the all important second goal with just twenty minutes of the contest remain after some lovely build up play, which was started and finished by Haaland. He danced past a number of players before feeding Sancho on the left. He then neatly exchanged passes with Guerriero before putting in an enticing delivery which Haaland duly met, towering above Halstenberg to give Dortmund a deserved two goal cushion.

Haaland wrapped up the win in the 83rd minute when he latched onto Reus’ perfectly weighted through ball before rounding Gulasci and tapping into an empty net for his 12th Bundesliga goal of the season.

Leipzig found time to pull one back when substitute Alexander Sorloth reacted quickest to fire home at the second attempt after Burki had parried his initial header back into the striker’s path. It proved to be too little too late however, as Dortmund held on for a crucial win which moves them to within three points of the home side.

Speaking to ESPN after the game, Dortmund midfielder Emre Can said:

“Everyone knows that today this was an extremely important game for us. It was a game that would tell us which way our season will be going. It was decisive to win it. The last few weeks have not been easy. Now we want to launch our attack.”

Meanwhile Leipzig boss Nagelsmann told the media:

“We’ve lost after nine unbeaten. It’s frustrating because it was against a direct rival. However looking at their chances, it was a deserved victory for Dortmund.

“It was an interesting game, with both teams very good tactically. We controlled the first half and Dortmund the second.
In the second half, we lost our structure and BVB took advantage when we lost possession.”

Both teams are back in Bundesliga action next weekend as Dortmund host Mainz in their next fixture on Saturday afternoon whilst Leipzig are away to Wolfsburg at the same time.

Who is Alfie Devine? Spurs’ Youngest Ever Player and Goalscorer Profiled

Debuts don’t come much better than Alfie Devine’s for Tottenham in their 5-0 thumping of non-league Marine in the FA Cup on Sunday.

The Warrington born midfielder, who is the son of former St Helen’s rugby player Sean Devine, wasn’t even born when Jose Moutinho was revealed as Chelsea boss in the summer of 2004.

At just 16 years and 163 days Devine broke his first record of the day when he was introduced by Mourinho at half time. His first appearance for the club, with Tottenham already 4-0 up and cruising, made him Spurs’ youngest ever player, overtaking his Under-18 teammate Dane Scarlett, who had held the record since his debut in November.

The second record he broke was the icing on the cake. After receiving a pass from Lucas Moura, the young midfielder cut inside and drilled a low effort inside the near post. His name was again written into the history books, this time as the club’s youngest ever goalscorer.

His huge grin after scoring shows just how much it meant to him, and he more than held his own in his cameo appearance, looking comfortable on the ball and strong in the tackle, attributes familiar to anyone who had watched Devine previously at youth level. The game marked the latest milestone in the creative midfielder’s rapid ascent since joining Tottenham in the summer.

Devine started out in Liverpool’s academy, but was released aged 11 and moved on to Wigan, where he really began to make a name for himself. Given his immense talent, which has been evident from a very young age, Devine’s development at Wigan was fast tracked, so much so that he made his debut for the Latics’ Under-23 side aged only 15.

He really caught the eye last year, as did many of his teammates involved in Wigan’s magnificent FA Youth Cup run which was halted by Manchester United at the quarter final stage. Devine started that game at Old Trafford, having appeared as a late sub in Wigan’s fourth round victory over Tottenham.

He signed a new deal with the club in June of last year, but was sold just a month later as a result of the club going into administration and needing to raise funds. The Athletic reported that Spurs had to tussle with the likes of, “Celtic, Rangers, Leeds, Brighton, West Ham and Chelsea” to secure Devine’s signature, evidently displaying that the midfielder was a wanted man.

They also revealed that whilst it was the club’s head scout who pursued the player, the move was, “rubber stamped by Jose Mourinho, who even went to Devine’s medical in the summer to meet him,” conveying just how highly the Portuguese boss rates the midfielder.

Spurs got their man last July, in a transfer which cost them around £300,000. Despite his young age, the club were keen to fast track at every opportunity, and he trained with the first team during pre season before appearing in friendlies against Ipswich and Reading.

He started with the Under-18s this season, scoring twice and assisting another in seven games before quickly moving up to the Under-23s, scoring on his debut against Derby County. He hit the headlines last month after a nasty challenge on Chelsea’s Danny Drinkwater in an Under-23 game, which led to a mass brawl before both he and Drinkwater received their marching orders. He has played four games in total so far for the Under-23s.

That incident with Drinkwater hasn’t deterred Jose Mourinho however, as Devine has been a regular fixture in first team training alongside fellow youngsters Dane Scarlett and Harvey White. Coaches are said to be impressed with both his ability and attitude.

Devine has also caught the eye on the international stage, having represented England regularly at Under-16 level. He played in the Sportchain AGS Cup in December 2019, picking up the player of the tournament.

His former Wigan coach lavished praised on him last year stating:

“Alfie is one of the best players I have worked with; he has a mature head on young shoulders.”

Many Tottenham fans are already drawing comparisons between Devine and the likes of Oliver Skipp, who is currently on loan at Championship side Norwich, and Harry Winks, given his capability of playing as a deep lying playmaker.

His task now will be to establish himself at Under-23 level, and to continue to train well with the first team when presented with the opportunity. Given the condensed nature of this season, he could make his Premier League bow before the season is out and will definitely be in contention for the next FA Cup game depending on the quality of Spurs’ opposition.

The Guardian included Devine in their list of the best 20 talents at Premier League clubs, and on the evidence of his showing in Crosby, it seems justified as there is plenty more to come from the young midfielder.

Phil Neville leaves Lionesses to join Inter Miami

England Women’s head coach Phil Neville has left to succeed Diego Alonso at MLS club Inter Miami.

The former Everton and England defender is set to leave his post as Lionesses’ head coach, (which he has held since 2018), with immediate effect.

At 43, Neville already had a vast amount of coaching experience under his belt, working with the England’s U21 side, taking a coaching role at Manchester United and the assistant manager position at Valencia, before landing the England Women’s job.

During his time in charge, he led the Lionesses to glory in the SheBelieves Cup for the first time in 2019 as well as a fourth place finish at the World Cup in the same year, where they were narrowly eliminated by eventual winners USA in the semi final.

Despite a promising first eighteen months at the helm, the team’s form tailed off after that impressive tournament. They failed to retain their SheBelieves Cup crown last year and have lost seven of their eleven games since, their worst run since 2003 which placed mounting pressure on Neville to resign.

In April of last year Neville announced he planned to leave his position as manager when his contract expires in July 2021 after the 2021 Euro tournament was postponed to 2022 as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Neville agreed to step down from England duties almost nine months ago now, but was still in line to oversee Team GB at this year’s rescheduled summer Olympics in Tokyo before allowing Holland head coach Sarina Wiegman to take over the England role permanently in September.

Taking the Inter Miami job would obviously rule him out of contention for leading Team GB at the Olympics, with the FA already looking to appointing a caretaker manager to do so.

Inter Miami, who are part owned by Neville’s former teammate David Beckham, finished 10th in the Eastern Conference in their inaugural season, winning seven, drawing three and losing thirteen of their games.

They earned a spot in the MLS playoffs, becoming only the seventh franchise to do so in their first season, but were defeated 3-0 by Nashville, in what proved to be Alonso’s last game in charge.

Neville will be tasked of getting the best out of Miami’s marquee signings, mainly World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi, Argentine Gonzalo Higuaín, who registered just one goal last season and former Celtic player Lewis Morgan who was a huge success story last campaign.

West Ham record signing completes Ajax move

Sebastien Haller has completed his transfer to Dutch side Ajax for a cut-price deal of £20 million. 

West Ham broke their transfer record in signing the striker from Eintracht Frankfurt for £45 million 18 months ago, however, Haller has struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League having just scored 10 goals in 48 League appearances.  

In a statement made by the club, the West Ham official site said:

“West Ham United would like to thank Sebastien for his contribution to the club and wish him the best for his future career.”

TalkSport’s Alex Crook, meanwhile, added:

“I think it’s pretty clear now that Haller isn’t really a player David Moyes feels he can hang his hat on.  He has scored some spectacular goals but not with the regularity Moyes is looking for, and we know when Michail Antonio is fit he won’t be in the starting XI.

Indeed, the likes of Ajax impressive 19-year-old striker Lassina Traore have been mentioned. The Burkina Faso International has made 29 first-team appearances for the Dutch side to date and has scored 12 goals so far this season.  This includes seven in 11 Eredivisie starts. 

The Hammers, however, may have to compete with fellow Premier League rivals Wolves, who are also in need of a striker following the serious injury sustained by Raul Jimenez. 

Another realistic possible signing could be Bournemouth striker Joshua King, who has previously attracted the interest of the East London side.  In addition, the Norwegian’s contract will expire at the end of the season. 

Reports, meanwhile, are also linking West Ham to resigning Austrian forward Marko Arnautovic from Shanghai SIPG, however, the club have since distanced themselves from this prospect due to his high wage demand.  

So, with the Haller transfer now officially confirmed it is vital that Moyes does indeed bring in a striker to the London Stadium this month with first choice striker Antonio having on going hamstring issues. Who he does bring in as a replacement though remains to be seen.

Who do you reckon West Ham should sign to replace Haller in the January Transfer Window? Feel free to share in the comments below….

Former Premier League title winner moves to Belgium

Former Leicester City and Welsh International Andy King has joined OH Leuven until the end of the 2020/21 season. 

King spent 15 years at King Power and was part of that memorable 2015/16 Premier League title triumph. In addition, the 32-year-old won the Championship and League One trophies during his stint with the side. 

The midfielder remains 11thon the club’s all time list of appearance makers having played 378 games and joins Leuven, who are currently sitting sixth in the Belgium Jupiler Pro League and are 10 points behind leaders Club Bruges.  Remarkably though Leuven will be King’s second permanent club of his professional career.  

King made his first appearance for the club way back in October 2007 and scored his first-ever-goal for City against Southampton. Weirdly his last goal for the side also came versus the Saints over 10 years later.    

When he left the King Power back in June 2020 the Leicester City Chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha said:

“He’s been through everything with us and is an amazing guy.  He’s been a massive part of what the Club has achieved in that time and earned the respect of so many people.”

Indeed, since helping The Foxes secure their maiden Premier League crown, King fell out of favour with previous Leicester manager Claude Puel and subsequently went on a series of loan moves at: Swansea City, Derby County, Rangers and Huddersfield before his contact ended in the summer of 2020. 

A statement on Leuven club’s website, meanwhile, added:

“Andy was looking for a new challenge and found it at OH Leuven.  With his experience he can contribute to the further development of the club.” 

King will join three Leicester City loanees at the club in midfielder Kamal Sowah, goalkeeper Daniel Iversen and forward Josh Eppiah. 

Ex-Manchester United Player joins Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Coaching staff

Manchester United have confirmed that Darren Fletcher will become the latest ex-player to join their first-team coaching staff.

Fletcher, joined the United academy in 1995 and went on to make over 340 first team appearances for the Red Devils between 2003 and 2015. During that time the midfielder won five Premier League Titles, one FA Cup and the Champions League. He also scored 24 goals for the club. 

In addition, the former Scottish International won over 80 caps for his national team and scored five goals. 

The 36-year-old, who also played for West Brom and Stoke City, only retired in 2019 and has been working as pundit for Sky Sports. 

Fletcher has also been coaching the Manchester United under 16s since October 2020 and following his appointment to the first team staff said:

“It is a very exciting time for this young team and I am looking forward to taking the next steps in my coaching career by working with Ole and his staff.”

The Scot always planned to go into coaching once he retired and will join his former midfield colleague Michael Carrick in the Old Trafford dugout.  Fletcher also played alongside the Solskjaer for four seasons when the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson was at the helm. 

When asked about Fletcher’s appointment to his coaching staff Solskjaer said:

“Darren has the United DNA running through his veins and he knows exactly what it takes to be a Manchester United player.

“His experience both on and off the field will be a great addition to the coaching staff.”

Fletcher will be due step into his new role straight away with his first involvement on the touchline being Wednesday’s Carabao Cup Semi-final against fierce rivals Manchester City.

Do you think that Darren Fletcher has what it takes to follow in the footsteps of other former Old Trafford players into Management? Share your views in the comments below. 

Cristiano Ronaldo eclipses Pele’s career goal total

The Portuguese and Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo made a terrific start to 2021 over the weekend by surpassing the legendary Pele’s career goal total with his two goals in ‘The Old Lady’s’ 4-1 win over Udinese.

Pele now subsequently sits third on the list after registering 757 career goals between 1956 and 1977 during his time with Santos, New York Cosmos and Brazil. 

Ronaldo scored his 757thand 758thgoal of his incredible career and now sits second on the all-time list behind only the Czech striker Josef Biscan’s total of 759.  In addition, the 35-year-old took his already impressive Serie A goal tally this season to 14 from only 11 matches.  

The Portuguese forward is currently leading the goalscoring charts and has played a crucial part in moving Andrea Pirlo’s side into fifth place where they are ten points behind leaders AC Milan with a game in hand. Udinese, however, drop to 13thand are without a win in their last four matches. 

The five-time Ballon d’Or Winner scored his side’s first goal of 2021 just half an hour into the encounter with one of his trademark strikes after latching onto former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey’s pass. He then set up Federico Chiesa for Juve’s second shortly after half time.  

Ronaldo then made it 3-0 after latching onto Rodrigo Bentancur’s through ball.  Udinese did manage to get a goal back throughMarvin Zeegelar, however, Argentine forward Paulo Dybala struck late on in injury time to secure Juventus’ 4-1 win.   

Following the match, the Juventus Manager Pirlo confessed that his team struggled, with the surprise 3-0 defeat to Fiorentina still playing on their minds in the final encounter before the winter break.  

Pirlo said:

“We started frightened after the match against Fiorentina.

“Little by little we grew up and in the second half we did better.  It wasn’t the best Juventus.” 

In total Ronaldo has managed 656 club career goals since making his debut for Sporting Lisbon back in 2002.  

The majority of his goals ultimately though came during his time with Real Madrid where he scored 450 goals in just 438 games. While playing for Manchester United, meanwhile, he still managed 118 goals in 292 appearances, but he is rapidly closing in on that total already for his current side Juventus, having scored 83 times to date. 

For his international side, Ronaldo currently has 102 goals in just 120 matches and the forward will likely add to that impressive tally as he will look to help Fernando Santos’s team to defend their European Championship this summer. 

Indeed, it is surely a matter of when and not if he will eclipse Biscan’s tally with the first opportunity being on Wednesday night when the Serie A Champions visit Milan.

What is your favourite Cristiano Ronaldo goal to date? Feel free to list it in the comments below…..

From failed Rovers move to Worlds Best

Cast your minds back to the 2009/2010 season, when Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers side were sitting mid-table and were relying on the creative skills of Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Dunn.  The likes of Jason Roberts and Franco Di Santo were not being clinical enough in front of goal and Allardyce was crying out for someone to convert the chances that his midfield were producing. 

Head of Recruitment at the time for the Lancashire club Martyn Glover had reportedly scouted out a promising Polish forward at the time, who had scored 21 goals in 34 appearances for Lech Poznan and Glover envisioned that this striker could perhaps be as good as the man who fired Rovers to the Premier League title in 1995, Alan Shearer.  

Glover, who is now Head of Recruitment at Southampton and has been since 2019, said:

“We had seen a lot of Robert Levandowksi and we knew we were dealing with a top class striker.”

Discussions with the club president went as planned and we had outlined a proposal for him to join Rovers. 

However, the chairman (John Williams) was worried that Poland was not famous for producing prolific goal scorers and there was also questions surrounding the fee, which was £3 million possibly rising to £4 million.

Indeed, Rovers hesitation surrounding the player proved costly as the player had a pal at the Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund and before the Premier League side could do anything Dortmund snapped him up for the same fee. 

Glover added: 

He’s certainly close to the top of the list of the ones that got away!”

Allardyce subsequently bought Croatian Nikola Kalinic instead for a reported £6 million. 

The prolific Polish International striker certainly proved that he was indeed the one that got away.  Having joined Dortmund 2010, under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp he became the complete striker.  He immediately endeared himself to the Dortmund fans by scoring his first goal for the club against fierce rivals Schalke in the Revierderby.     

Lewandowkski spent four seasons at die Schwarzgelben scoring an impressive 103 goals in 187 appearances. He helped his team to the 2010-11 and 2011-12 Bundesliga titles, plus the 2012 DFB-Pokal Cup.  While at the same time also playing a key role in Dortmund’s run to the 2013 Champions League final, which they subsequently lost to Bayern Munich. 

The highlight of that memorable 2012-13 Champions League campaign was undoubtedly his four goals against Real Madrid in the semi-final. 

The Pole broke Dortmund fans hearts, however, by agreeing to move to their fierce rivals, Bayern Munich, in 2014 on a five-year deal.  At Bayern he got to work with the likes of Pep Guardiola and won title after title. 

There were periods, however, where it was not plane sailing but it all came to together last season with manager Hans Flick. League crown thanks to a 1-0 win over French Champions Paris Saint Germain.

The incredible year for Lewandowski was capped off by winning the Best FIFA award for men’s player of the year and finished first in the Guardian’s 100 best male footballers. The past season saw Lewandowski score 55 goals in just 47 games.  

Under the guidance of Flick, Lewandowski has clearly become more of a team player. His team mate Thomas Muller added:

“It has even gone so far that he can almost enjoy an assist now.” 

Jacek Grembocki, the coach of the Pole’s first ever-professional team Znicz Pruszkow, meanwhile, said:

“Players like Lewandowski only think about one thing: success, success and success.  Now he plays not only for Poland, but for Bayern too.  And he is a legend up there with Messi and Ronaldo.  

“He is the best player in the history of Polish football.”

Should Dele Alli leave Spurs in January?

‘He caused a problem for his own team by giving away possession’.

That is how Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho saw Dele Alli’s performance against Stoke City in the quarter-finals of the Carabo Cup this week after Alli had tried a flick, which ultimately led to The Potters equalising goal through Jordan Thompson.

Speaking after the game, Mourinho added:

“For me a player in that position has to link and create. In that situation, a counterattack would probably end with a goal and they transformed a game that was totally in our hands.  So yes I was upset.”

Alli was subsequently hauled off and replaced by Erik Lamela as part of a double change very soon after that fatal moment.  It seems strange to think though that up to that point the Milton Keynes born midfielder was having a pretty impressive return to the first team. 

The England midfielder did not take too kindly to being substituted, which highlighted the growing rift between both the player and manager. 

It was certainly decision that did not sit right with former Spurs player Jamie O’Hara, who told TalkSport:

“I didn’t like the way Mourinho dug him out and he keeps singling him out.  I think he is doing a great job and he’s got the team all on side but,for me, it doesn’t sit right with the way he keeps digging out Dele Alli.”

Mourinho had selected Alli from the start for the first time in a month long exile from the North London side’s first 11.  It is certainly clear that the midfielder has struggled for games this season having only been involved in 11 matches in all competitions this campaign. 

What is more, he has only scored twice in those games and provided one assist.

This begs the question.  Should Alli be looking for a move in the January Transfer Window?

The short answer is undoubtedly yes. It is clear that Mourinho does not trust him and the 24 year old is not getting the opportunities nor the playing time that he needs at this stage of his career.  

In addition, if Alli has any designs on forcing his way back into the England squad for next summer’s Euros he definitely needs to be starting regularly.

What are his options?

Paris Saint Germain

The first option that immediately comes to mind is last season’s Champions League Finalists Paris Saint Germain.  

They would clearly present Alli with a fresh challenge and an opportunity to thrive in a brand new environment.  

In addition, with the French Champions having just sacked their manager of two and half years Thomas Tuchel, they have been linked with former player and Alli’s ex-manager Mauricio Pochettino, who could be the perfect candidate to reinvigorate the ex- MK Dons man. 

This option, however, does not come without an element of risk as there are talented players already based in Paris already playing in Alli’s position so he would not be always guaranteed a place in the first eleven. 

Inter Milan

Another alternative could be Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan.  The Serie A side currently sit second in the table and are just a point behind their Milan rivals.  Conte’s team have also invested a lot in Premier League players in the past year having signed the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Ashley Young.

Manchester United

Closer to home, meanwhile, Alli could look at a move to Old Trafford and Manchester United.  Sir Alex Ferguson was reportedly a keen admirer of the Alli and with the Red Devils still looking at potentially strengthening their attacking options a move to Manchester could be an option.  Again, however, it would not come without an element of risk as United do already have a number of attacking midfielders at the club. 

Arsenal

Finally, somewhat controversially, Alli could look at following Sol Campbell’s example and make the move across North London to fierce rivals Arsenal.  The Gunners are undoubtedly crying out for an attacking midfielder and it is well known that they have struggled for goals this season, having only managed 12 goals so far in the Premier League. 

Where do you think Alli should move to in January? Any of the clubs listed above or perhaps another? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below….

The Future is tangerine!

It’s safe to say that it’s been a tough year for all football fans after the sport was paused for three months earlier in the year, and ever since the majority of grounds haven’t had a return to supporters. But spare a thought for Blackpool fans who spent five years divided over the ownership of their football club. No sooner had they returned against Southend in March 2019, and COVID-19 put paid to the first full season under new ownership earlier this year.    After spending five years staying away from Bloomfield Road as part of a ‘Not a Penny More campaign’, Pool fans are now being forced to stay away due to the risk of COVID and instead forced to watch a new squad, under a new manager, via laptop at home. But there is still a feeling of excitement and optimism building – despite the fact the fans can’t show their support first-hand.

In June 2019, Blackpool-born businessman Simon Sadler bought a 96.2% share of Blackpool Football Club, much to the delight of Blackpool fans after many turbulent years of suffering through the Oyston ownership. The reign of the Oystons, which started in 1987, is commonly renowned for the Seasiders’ downfall from the Premier League down to League Two, in the space of four seasons. In what could only be described as one of the worst ownerships in football history, where the owners sued their own supporters, openly mocked others via text and gloated around the town with OY51OUT as his number plate, on the field the club suffered back-to-back relegations and failed to keep hold of its previously impressive squad, assembled by Ian Holloway. It caused much unrest and discontent throughout the fans, with the majority opting to stay away and refusing to give any more money to the owners. The Oystons were eventually forced to sell the club, after losing a high court case to Latvian businessman Valeri Belekon, a man who previously owned a share in the Tangerines and was found to be owed £32m in court. 

Simon Sadler’s purchase was completed in June 2019, sparking scenes of jubilation across Blackpool and beyond, as fans looked forward to their long anticipated trip back to Bloomfield Road, with some having boycotted the stadium for upwards of four years. Sadler’s purchase allowed fans to feel like their club is finally in the correct hands, after so many years of division and unrest. Sadler proved to the supporters that he was the man to take the Seasiders forward from the start, by interacting, communicating and meeting the fans face to face, something Blackpool were not used to. 

Sadler has not only brought financial stability to the club at the perfect time, but also security for the once suffering fans, in knowing that their club is safe and in the correct hands. The prospect of new ownership was, and still is, an extremely exciting one for Blackpool fans. In aid of pushing the Pool back towards the Championship Sadler has immediately made the Seasiders one of League One’s highest spenders in terms of outgoing transfer fees. In his first transfer window Sadler supplied newly appointed Simon Grayson with over £1m, a fee which was eclipsed this summer as the club brought in 17 new players to support the new manager Neil Critchley. 

It’s not all been plain sailing so far – the return of Simon Grayson last summer was initially seen as a solid appointment, given he’d previously achieved four promotions from League One previously – including once with the Seasiders already in 2007. Unfortunately, Grayson’s return to Bloomfield Road mirrored his poor recent spells with Sunderland and Bradford City rather than the earlier success he’d seen. Grayson departed in February, having been considerably backed in the January transfer window, after a shocking run of just one win in 12 matches

By March, the new man was appointed in the shape of Liverpool under 21’s manager Neil Critchley. The then-41 year old was relatively unknown when appointed, having only managed at academy level with both Crewe Alexandra and Liverpool. But as one of only sixteen coaches worldwide to obtain UEFA’s elite coaching badge, he certainly has an impressive CV – though there were questions over whether he could do it at First Team level. 

Just two games into his reign, the outbreak of COVID-19 curtailed the rest of the League One season. Rather than sitting and waiting to find out when football would resume, Sadler did not furlough his scouting team and work continued as the board and new manager looked to assemble a squad to compete at the top end of the table this season. That allowed the club to steal a march on its rivals with free agents at the start of the window, as Keshi Anderson, Marvin Ekpiteta, Oliver Sarkic and Ethan Robson all joined by early August. They were accompanied by Jerry Yates and CJ Hamilton for substantial fees in the current climate. Critchley cited the club’s ambitious, forward-thinking direction as one of the key factors that lured him into the managerial role.

There’s no doubt in saying that this isn’t an overnight process. Especially with an almost entirely new squad, that even today are still learning about each other’s strengths, weaknesses and attitudes. This has been reflected by the Seasiders’ bumpy start to the campaign, picking up just one win from their first seven league matches. But more recently, the new squad has started to find its feet and get to know each others’ games. Mistakes were made early in the season as the side looked bereft of cohesion and togetherness, but now they are improving each week in terms of performances and results. Those mistakes helped to shape the squad into a stronger unit as a team, and a force against any side in the division in recent weeks. 

Ahead of Saturday’s trip to Fleetwood Town, the Pool have won eight of their last 10 games in all competitions, with the togetherness, unity and cooperation of the team playing a massive part in some impressive results – particularly against Peterborough and Portsmouth who are up at the top end of the table. Critchley’s fresh, exciting and attacking football that was talked about with the boss’ introduction has been evident, something that is an extremely exciting prospect for all Seasiders fans who have long dreamed of such a reality. 

The main thing for now is that the fans have the club back. Sadler certainly came to the aid of broken Blackpool supporters after times of such misery and despair under the previous regime. It was a very dark period in the club’s history, and simply by walking through the door, the club was already in a far better place. But not only that, Blackpool have been able to really build on the feel-good factor by showing ambition already both on and off the field. The final piece to the jigsaw is for fans to return and show the appreciation to the new group of players first-hand. This was possible once this season after the Seasiders were involved in a pilot event at the start of the season, allowing 1,000 fans into Bloomfield Road against Swindon Town, and hopefully in the coming weeks this will be able to be built on. 

These fans have never stopped fighting for what they believe in, and Sadler – who is one of them himself – has shown just how committed he is to the cause, and how much this town, and football club mean to him. It’s clear to see that Sadler certainly bleeds tangerine, and has allowed the fans to feel at home again at Bloomfield Road – restrictions permitting. With an exciting brand of football in the pipeline and off-the field developments starting to gain momentum, Sadler is rebuilding and galvanising a the football club which has a proud history. Together, the owner, board, players and staff – as well as the fans – are all striving to work together and get this great football club back to where it belongs. The future is bright, the future is tangerine!

Post written by George Wincott of utmp

Will the presence of fans in some stadiums affect results?

March 9, 2020 was the last game that involved fans watching their team live.  The match was Leicester City vs Aston Villa and resulted in a 4-0 victory for The Foxes. 

Who would have thought though that it would have taken until December to see fans to witness competitive sports in some of the lands most famous stadiums again? 

Well, if you’re a supporter of a team living in COVID-19 Tier One or Two areas some fans will be able to watch their side live for the first time in almost nine months. This means 51 of the 104 clubs across the Premier League, EFL and Women’s Super League able to host a maximum of 2,000 supporters.

Which teams can have fans in stadiums again?

This means good news for Premier League’s London clubs: Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham, Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Fulham. While also on the list are South Coast clubs Southampton and Brighton as well as the Premier League Champions Liverpool and their rivals Everton. 

The other ten sides in the top flight, however, will have to wait to welcome back supporters.  Being in Tier three areas such as Manchester and Yorkshire they will continue to play games behind closed doors.  This means: Manchester United, Manchester City, Burnley, Sheffield United, Leeds United and Newcastle United .  While midlands clubs Leicester City, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton and West Brom will also have to play games without their fans. 

In addition, away fans from tier three areas will be unable to travel to games in tier two stadiums. 

Indeed, on Thursday Arsenal will have the honour of being the first English team to play a competitive match, a Europa League tie against Austrian side Rapid Vienna.  Being in a Tier 2 area, the Gunners will be able to play in front of 2,000 of their own supporters for the first time in nearly nine months. 

Unsurprisingly, however, the 2,000 tickets were sold out within 20 minutes of going on sale.  The first Premier League games, meanwhile, to take place in front of fans are set to be West Ham United’s encounter with Manchester United and Chelsea’s home game with Leeds United. 

Will allowing supporters in certain grounds be fair?

The awkward question remains. Will having supporters back in certain grounds affect the outcome of the match? 

Crystal Palace Manager and former England Coach, Roy Hodgson said:

“It will make a bit of a difference at Selhurst Park than it will do at some other stadiums, where the capacity is so much higher. 

“But I don’t think it is a question really of what difference the fans are going to make, I think it is more of how nice it is going to be for those fans who are selected to be one of those who gets a ticket to see a match live again.”

While Fulham boss Scott Parker said: 

“It’s a breath of fresh air, it’s what we all want. It’s what the fans want and what we want as a team.”

Understandably not everyone is in agreement.  Leeds United Manager Marcelo Bielsa, whose side falls into the category of a tier three area, meaning supporters will have to wait a little longer to see their side live, said:

“It shouldn’t be about the category, or the consequences of being in a category, it should be about trying to maintain the competition as equal as possible with things that are controllable. 

“I am just looking at common sense, which perhaps doesn’t go.  The presence of fans has an effect on the results.” 

Boton Wanders boss Ian Evatt, whose side play in League One and will also have to continue playing without the support of fans in stadiums, said:

“Without getting into a big political debate I just cannot believe the way (it has gone).  For me, we’re a country and we should all be together, regardless.  It should be one for all and all for one.”

What do you think?

It must come, therefore, as no surprise to see the football world split down the middle following this government announcement. There certainly is a compelling case for both arguments, on the one hand watching football without fans in the stadiums is not the same as stated by former Manchester United Manager, Sir Matt Busby. 

Busby was once famously quoted as saying:

“Football is nothing without fans.”

There is, however, the legitimate question of fairness and equal competition when it comes to competitive sport.  How do you create a level playing field?

Personally, however, I can’t wait to see to see fans bring the atmosphere and magic back to the sport again, no matter whom they support! 

Feel free to share your views in the comments below. 

Should Arsenal make a move for Christian Eriksen in January?

Following Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with newly promoted Leeds United on Sunday, it is now seven hours and 56 minutes since the Gunners scored from open play in the Premier League. 

This equates to the North London side’s lowest tally in 34 years, just nine goals in nine games. The failure to score against the leagues’ worst defence must draw concerns for Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff all be it they were playing with ten men for the best part of half an hour. 

In addition, Mikel Arteta’s side have now not scored in four of their last Premier League matches.  Their one goal came in an impressive 1-0 victory at Old Trafford scored from the penalty spot by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

What is a more startling stat, however, is that the North London club now rank among the bottom six teams so far this campaign for chances creation per match in the top flight. 

German international Mesut Ozil, who has not played for Arsenal this season, ended up ranking second on the list of most creative player for the 2019/20 season. Despite only playing 18 games he created 38 chances for his teammates.  

This begs the question whether Ozil should be recalled from his exile or in fact should Arteta go all out to recruit another creative player in the January transfer window?

Arsenal’s Christian Eriksen link?

One former Arsenal player Kevin Campbell has suggested that the Gunners should sign the ‘superb’ ex-Tottenham star Christian Eriksen. 

The 28-year-old Danish attacking midfielder has reportedly asked to leave his current club Inter Milan and could be sold in January according to the Serie A club’s sporting director Giusppe Marotta. 

Marotta told DAZN:

“We do not certainly have to force a player to stay when he asks to leave.”

Indeed, since moving for £17.5 million from Spurs to the San Siro in January of this year, Eriksen has just managed four goals in 33 matches – including none this season. 

Eriksen has also only started three of the club’s eight league matches so far and has been an unused substitute in Inter’s last two matches, including Sunday’s 4-2 win over Torino.  

The attacking midfielder’s contract with Inter Milan runs until 2024, but when asked about his current role with the club Eriksen told TV2:

This isn’t want I dreamed of, 

It is a strange situation, as the fans want to see me playing more and so would I, but the coach has different ideas and as a player I have to respect that.

“I am concentrating on my football, then when the transfer window opens we will see if something happens or not.”

While Inter Milan manager, Antonio Conte said:

“I will not select my team just to please one player.” 

Eriksen’s record with Tottenham

The Denmark midfielder’s record with Tottenham is significantly more impressive as he played more than 300 games for the club and helped Mauricio Pochettino’s side reach the Champions League final back in 2018. 

Overall he scored 69 goals in his 305 games for the club but perhaps more importantly chipped in with 89 assists for his team. 

When asked about the Eriksen speculation, Campbell said: 

“Christian Eriksen played for the rivals but we all know the quality he possesses, that’s for sure.

“It is not quite working out for him at Inter Milan right now and I am sure he would be a good addition to Arsenal’s squad.” 

Do Arsenal need a player like Eriksen?

Truth be told, a team like Arteta’s could certainly do with someone of Eriksen’s talents.  

The Danish playmaker is certainly someone who has that potential to come up with that spark in the final third and picking that pivotal final pass is something that the Gunners clearly lack at the moment.

It is also clear that Eriksen is a player who currently does not fit in with Conte’s plans at Inter Milan and he has struggled so far to get the best out of the Danish international. 

It certainly worked out well for Eriksen first time round in the Premier League for another North London side, could perhaps it do so again?

Let us know what you think Arsenal fans in the comments below, would you be happy to see your side make a move for the Danish international in the January transfer window? 

WHAT NEXT FOR OLIViER GIROUD?

Often underrated and always scores goals Olivier Giroud is facing a decision over his future. After all, It is imperative that the French World Cup winner plays regular football in order to secure his place in his national side for next year’s Euros.

The 34 year old has appeared just six times this season for Chelsea and this week France manager Didier Deschamps spoke out about the striker who has been an integral part of his plans in recent times despite being on the fringe at Stamford Bridge.

Giroud scored twice in midweek for France against Sweden to move him to within seven goals of the nations record goal scorer Thierry Henry – a mark of the forwards credentials.

However, with the plethora of striking options available to Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, Giroud has been on the periphery of matters in West London this term, leading to plenty of speculation around a move in the upcoming January transfer window.

Fellow Premier League club West Ham are believed to be interested, whilst a host of Serie A sides have also been credited with interest, including a reunion with former manager Antonio Conte at Inter Milan.

The cultured French striker who’s attributes stretch to beyond his prowess in front of goal with his ability to hold up the ball and bring others into play will be desperate for one final hoorah on the internationals stage in the rearranged Euros next summer – therefore may need to move on to pastures new.

France boast a host of high-quality forwards who will all be hoping to oust the tall striker from Deschamps’ plans. The likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezzmann, Anthony Martial, Moussa Dembele, Ousmane Dembele and Marcus Thuram are all in with a shout of leading the line.

With competition for places at the attacking end of the France squad as such, it is inconceivable Giroud could expect to be picked without regular football behind him.

One thing is for certain is Giroud’s representatives believe their player deserves to be seeing more action, this week the players agent questioned Lampard’s preference of Tammy Abraham whilst hinting at a January exit.

At 34 years old and with Timo Werner and Abraham clearly above him in the pecking order, a mid-season move seems the most viable option in order for the cultured frontman to get the football he needs for the rest of the season.

Is southampton FC the new feel good story of the Premier League?

It seems like only yesterday that we were praising how well Everton have started the new campaign and how James Rodriguez was the signing of the summer. 

Fast forward to December and it is now Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton who are competing with the early pace setters in the top flight.  

Where are the Saints in the current Premier League table?

Indeed, it maybe early days but the Saints have been mightily impressive, they finished last season brilliantly having lost just one of their Project Restart games.  

Despite losing their opening two matches, against Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace and Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur, they have since gone on a run that has seen them win six, draw one and loose just once of their next eight matches. This is including their latest 2-1 victory over South Coast rivals Brighton.

Following their latest victory the Saints have now moved up to fifth in the table and are just four points behind the Premier League leaders Spurs.

2019/20 League Low point

It seems certainly remarkable to contemplate that just over a year ago that Hasenhuttl was left to pick up the pieces from what was one of the darkest days in the Saints Premier League history, where they suffered a 9-0 reverse against Brendan Rodgers’ current league leaders. 

This proved a significant moment in the Austrian’s reign as manager as it was the not only the biggest ever victory by an away side in the top flight, but it was also Southampton’s biggest ever defeat in their history. 

That day saw a hat trick each for both Jamie Vardy and Ayoze Perez following an early red card for the Saints left back, Ryan Bertrand. 

The Rebuild 

The following day, the Austrian was understandably close to sack, but after some constructive talks what resulted was a getting back to basics approach. 

Indeed, Hasenhuttl took on board both players and coaches’ feedback and what came about was the Austrian reverting back to his favoured 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 formation.

What transpired from this tactical alteration was an encouraging 2-2 draw at Arsenal, which ultimately began their revival. 

Not only that but the players have also now understandably got more use to Hasenhuttl’s methods.  His preferred tactics is modelled on that of his former club RB Leipzig and involves: high energy, pressing and front foot defending. 

Key Players

The players who Hasenhuttl has undoubtedly had a positive impact on has been James Ward-Prowse.

Ward-Prowse is now not only the club captain but also figured prominently in the most recent England squads for Euro Qualifiers and The Nations League.

One of the standout performances that demonstrate Ward-Prowse’s quality that immediately comes to mind was at Villa Park in the 4-3 win over Aston Villa where he scored two stunning free kicks.

The England midfielder followed up that impressive display by scoring another terrific free kick against Manchester United, which at the time gave them a 2-0 lead against the Red Devils before they subsequently lost the match 3-2.

While another who has flourished is Ward Prowse’s fellow England international, Danny Ings, who scored 22 goals in all competitions last season. Ings marked his return to the side with a typically composed penalty, which secured the victory over The Seagulls and made him the first Saints player to score in four consecutive away matches since Rickie Lambert between December 2012 and January 2013.

In addition, Che Adams has stepped up in a big way since the unfortunate injury sustained by Ings. Adams has scored three goals in his last four appearances, having had to wait until his 30th appearance to grab his first Saints goal.

Not only that but Adams has since been nominated for the PL Player of the Month award following some of his recent impressive displays.

At the back, meanwhile, Danish centre back Jannik Vestegaard is rapidly becoming one of the most consistent performers in the Premier League after overcoming a rather shaking start to life in the top flight. 

Where next for Hasenhuttl’s rejuvenated side? 

The big question for Saints fans and Hasenhuttl is can they keep their impressive run going? 

Well they next play current strugglers, Sheffield United at St.Mary’s in their first match in front of their home fans since March of this year, before facing tricky fixtures away at Arsenal and then they play Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

Although, in this strange 2020/21 season, the side from the South Coast could perhaps start dreaming of a top six finish or more? 

Where do you think Southampton will finish this season? Feel free to leave predictions in the comments below….

Who has impressed in the EFL Championship so far?

The latest episode of the writers podcast features writer and Cardiff City fan Martin Townley.

We discuss his opinion on which sides have impressed in the EFL Championship so far as well as what he has made of the start to the Premier League season.

Link to the Writers Podcast below: https://soundcloud.com/adam-stephens-425096853/24-7-football-episode-8

In addition, we are also proud to announce that we have been ranked by Feedspot in their Top 40 UK Football Blogs

WHAT HAS CHANGED AT FOREST

SinceI last wrote about Nottingham Forest quite a lot has changed, not at least their manager, new signings departures, and a new style of play. All of these were done with the right intentions and looked like positive changes at the time, and still yet maybe, but have resulted in a poor start to the season which leaves Forest languishing towards the wrong end of the table.


The managerial change was half expected as Sabri Lamouchi’s positive spell in charge declined dramatically towards the end of last season and even more so with 4 defeats to start the new campaign. Sabri had brought positivity and hope back to Forest Fans and left with a message of thank you from the fans. His replacement’s record in the Championship is second to none and I believe his availability and willingness to take the job contributed to the change. It seems like Chris Hughton must have been in discussions with Forest for a while before the change as it was announced almost immediately after Lamouchi’s departure.


The nature of forest’s signings were along the lines of Hughton type players, by this I mean experienced quality championship players. Anthony Knockaert was the only official signing made by Chris but the likes of Luke Freeman, Harry Arter, and Cyrus Christie fit this mould. Knockaert is in my opinion a top Championship winger whose delivery cannot be beaten at this level and Houghton got the best out of him at Brighton. He also tried to bring in Kamil Grosicki, a player forest have been linked with ever since January, however, after a long wait they discovered last Thursday that the deal was completed marginally past the 5 pm transfer window deadline. When you look at the squad it’s very strong and the strongest I’ve seen at Forest for about 10 years.


So what’s gone wrong?


Firstly there was a massive hangover from the failure of getting into the playoffs when it seemed certain they would. Then came the uncertainty over the manager’s future during the break and then big changes to the playing and coaching staff. I think the squad has changed too much over the summer break, last season was based on a tight-knit group in which Ben Watson, Thiago Silva, and Matt Cash played a big part. Loosing these 3 is a big blow, their replacements of Jack Colback, Luke Freeman, and Cryus Christie have been good, but the team spirit and togetherness takes time. When you add 13 new players to a squad with a good spirit you risk changing the togetherness and getting a squad that is too big and not everyone feels involved. I would have much preferred to have kept as much of the same squad together as possible and adding extra bits of quality. For example, the signings of Cafu and Fouad Bachirou in particular seem unnecessary.


There has also been a change in the style of play to get used to, Lamouchi stated he wanted to add more creativity and attacking options to the side which he did by bringing in Freeman and Lyle Taylor. But to achieve this a less compact defensive was attempted and this ultimately failed and cost him his job.Hughton is adopting a similar approach with the team playing much higher up the pitch and trying to control possession more than last season. This is ultimately the style of play fans want to see however it will take time to change and perhaps a more pragmatic approach is needed to get results on the board to build confidence.

Liverpool facing defensive crisis: can they come out on top?

Liverpool, already without talismanic central defender Virgil van Dijk were dealt another huge blow on Tuesday night when Fabinho pulled up, before being forced off with a hamstring problem.

The Brazilian had been deputising, successfully, for the missing Dutchman when he stopped in his tracks whilst defending an FC Midtylland attack in the UEFA Champions League.

Indeed, Reds fans and players alike wait with bated breath for the severity of the injury. It is almost certain they will be without Fabinho for at least the weekends visit of West Ham to Anfield.

Central defender Joel Matip also remains side-lined, leaving Jurgen Klopp with just one senior central defender – Joe Gomez.

So how can the Premier League champions cope with such flimsy numbers? I’ve had a look at the options…

Youngsters

Tuesday night saw 19-year-old Rhys Williams play out the remaining hour, and in doing so the powerful looking teenager looked comfortable as he helped the Reds to a clean sheet.

Williams seems most likely to start on Saturday in the absence of Fabinho, although Nat Phillips will be pushing for a place after he spent the 2019/20 campaign season playing senior football for Stuttgart in the German Bundesliga 2.

Versatility

Fabinho himself was operating out of position when his injury came and there is a chance captain Jordan Henderson could be asked to do the same after playing in the role during the FIFA World Club Cup last term.

Missing Henderson’s influence in midfield, however, may be too much of a blow to Klopp’s side.

Should James Milner, Thiago, Naby Keita and Gini Wijnaldum all be fit and available, there is certainly scope for Henderson to drop back into centre-half temporarily.

Time

Albeit an obvious huge blow to Liverpool, and indeed their title chances, with an impended international break and with football a little all over the place at the moment, there is hope the Reds could make it to January without suffering too much damage to their hopes.

In January they would at least have the option of signing reinforcements, with many names linked with the club. The likes of Dayot Upamecano, Ben White and Ozan Kabak to name just a few.

In the mean time Klopp, fans and teammates will be hoping Fabinho’s injury isn’t serious, Matip can get run of fitness, and Rhys Williams can deputise successfully. All of this while not dropping too many points along the way, which with a trip to rivals Manchester City on the horizon, may be easier said than done.

24-7 Football Writer podcast

Our latest episode of the 24-7 Football writer’s podcast features writer Lauren McCann.

We discuss the Project Big Picture Proposal, preview the upcoming Merseyside Derby and the growth of the Women’s Super League.

Link to podcast is here: https://soundcloud.com/adam-stephens-425096853/24-7-football-episode-7

Return of the macc

Macclesfield Town FC are to relauch as Macclesfield FC following the takover from local businessman Robert Smethhurst.

The pre-existing club were wound up in September and expelled from the National League. Macclesfield Town FC were removed from the football pyramid with debts amounting to more than £500,000.

Former Premier League Midfielder Robbie Savage Involved

Former Leicester City, Birmingham, and Derby County midfielder Robbie Savage has been appointed as head of football operations at Moss Rose.

Savage, who also represented Wales on 39 occasions, finished his career at Town’s local rivals Stockport County will also be a board member at the Cheshire based side.

The 45-year-old took to Twitter to express his delight at his involvement in the phoenix club.

Familiar Feel To New Club

The manager at the time of the original club’s demise, Danny Whitaker, will remain in charge of the new club Macclesfield FC, who aims to compete in the North West Counties Football League in 2021/22.

On top of the retained manager, the new club will see the Silkmen retain their historic brand and logo.

Businessman With Local Roots

Smethurst, who hails from the local area released a statement on his takeover and the forming of the new look club: “Over the coming years, our main aim is to move up through the leagues.” 

“This is an extremely exciting opportunity to rebuild a historic football club for Macclesfield and the surrounding areas.”

Positive News for Macclesfield After Turmoil

The club’s relaunch is the light at the end of the tunnel fans had been hoping for.

After months of turmoil over unpaid debts, wages, and bills that ultimately ended in the demise of a football club that had existed since 1874, this will come as music to the ears of Macclesfield football fans who will no doubt be looking forward to the new campaign to watch their beloved club once more, even in its new guise.

Jack Wilshere: What Next?

Once regarded as one of England hottest prospects Jack Wilshere’s fall from grace has been a dramatic one. In one of the most interesting developments of Transfer Deadline Day he left West Ham. But it was with a bitter taste as Wilshere claimed on Twitter that he is fit and available for selection and he can ‘still play at very top’  but not being considered.

When at Arsenal he was billed as the next Cesc Fabregas , An extremely talented player, Wilshere made 197 first-team appearances for Arsenal and was part of the 2014 and 2015 FA Cup-winning sides. He has 34 England caps, the last of which came in the 2-1 defeat by Iceland in the 2016 European Championship last 16.

But injury after injury have ruined his career since then and now it seems the West Ham management don’t see him as worth an opportunity. But can he still cut it in the Premier League, who knows but i’d like to think so. A team at the lower end of the league that need something to survive – Fulham for example should consider him. The Daily Express even claim that Arsenal fans want him to re-sign for their side

A move to the Championship may be more realistic with former club Bournemouth being linked with a move along with Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers. Wherever he ends up it will be one to keep an eye on to see if he can rekindle any of his talent in what remains of his career.

Who can Challenge Liverpool for the title?

Our latest edition of the 24-7 Football Podcast features writer and Liverpool fan Daniel Clubbe.

In this episode we discuss who can stop Jurgen Klopp’s side from winning the Premier League again, Everton’s impressive start to the season, the latest handball controversies and more….

Link to the Podcast here : https://soundcloud.com/adam-stephens-425096853/24-7-football-episode-6

Wrexham afc: hollywood comes to north wales

Its not every day Hollywood films stars worth an estimated £56million, and fifth-tier football Wrexham AFC are mentioned in the same sentence. Well, just as 2020 couldn’t get much stranger, this week it happened.

Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds and Wrexham AFC will now become united after it emerged from the North Wales club the actor wants to invest in the National League team along with Rob McElhenney, an actor are best known for creating It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The duo are set to make the most unlikely of entrances into UK football.

Whilst its no longer uncommon that foreign investors and owners turn up in our beloved football pyramid, the randomness of the duo’s interest in the quiet market town famous for Mickey Thomas’ FA Cup Goal, is almost unparalleled.

The duo unsurprisingly have won approval from 98 per cent of club members to get to this stage and a takeover could see a reported £2million invested in the fan-owned club – not small fry for the level.

Wrexham unveiled the pair as potential new owners in a Tweet yesterday after the those fans involved in the current ownership voted on the likely investors. Director Spencer Harris has said he has spoken to the duo on a Zoom call last night – something I can’t imagine he had envisioned when he took the role.

Reynolds himself took to Twitter following the announcement and replied to a Tweet he received over eight years ago asking if he’d ever be seen in the North Wales town.

Reynolds replied to the question and his 16.5million followers with ‘Yep, you never know.’

A club in truth playing below themselves in the National League, in recent times they have been seen deep in cup competitions and in and around the playoffs of League One.

The Wrexham Supporters Trust Board members have already voted overwhelmingly in favour of the investors at a general meeting and will talk more with the potential new investors in coming weeks.

Both men, famous for their on screen exploits have numerous business interests, although its fair to say none are as random as Wrexham.

The club shop have already bought into the spirit of things by producing Dragons’ shirts with the names of their potential new owners printer on the back.

With the takeover now all but certain to go ahead, we will likely see the famous Hollywood duo at the old Racecourse Ground, and perhaps Wrexham in the Premier League, far sooner than we previously thought possible.

Crazy, crazy times!

DOES NEW LIVERPOOL SIGNING MEAN Something has jota give?

Liverpool’s recruitment kicked into gear in dramatic fashion last weekend as they unveiled the signing of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich, quickly followed by Diogo Jota from fellow Premier League club Wolves.

It was the latter which caught many by surprise, without being linked to the Portuguese star, suddenly he was a Liverpool player as the Premier League champions tied up a £41 million deal to sign the 23-year-old.

Often used as a wide forward Jota ticks the ‘need backup for the front three’ box in Jurgen Klopp’s squad. Although it remains to be seen who may depart Anfield in the coming weeks, coupled with options such as Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri, Takumi Minamino as well as a host of youngsters, it seems the Reds have now got all backup bases covered.

Just where will Jota fit in with the title holders?

Often used as a left inside forward throughout his career in Portugal and since his arrival in England, Jota is capable of operating through the middle although it seems likely he will mainly be used out wide.

Although currently occupied by Sadio Mane, Jota will see his fair share of match action. It has long been used as a stick to beat Klopp’s Reds but their apparent nonplussed attitude towards domestic cup competitions could well change with additional strength in depth.

Jota could well make his Liverpool debut in such a competition when they travel to Lincoln City on Thursday night for the Carabao Cup Third Round.

Whilst the infallible Liverpool front three are arguably the best in the world it is a fair argument to say without one the others fail, as well as the drop off in quality with the previous understudies being too high to afford to rest anyone during even the most strenuous periods.

Now, however, with quality of the likes of Jota waiting in the wings, Klopp will be far more willing to perhaps rest his star men in certain matches, as well as having the capabilities from the bench to change the direction of travel of a match should it not be going his side’s way.

The Stats

From a numbers perspective whilst Jota doesn’t quite match up with the current Liverpool wide men, although neither Mane or Salah were hitting the numbers they are now prior to their Anfield arrival. Klopp and his staff could well be about to take another prestigious talent up a number of levels.

Jota struck 33 goals in 111 league Wolves performances, and has also recently bagged his first international goal amidst his first four caps.

In 34 Premier League appearances last term, the Portuguese star scored seven times and assisted once. By comparison Mane scored 18 times and assisted seven in just one more outing.

Clear to see the position sharers are somewhat apart on the numbers front, although that gap could be accentuated by the differing levels of teams they were in.

Summary

Ultimately Jota is unlikely to be a regular starter to begin with and at just 23, the Portuguese international has plenty of time to grow into his Reds career, without any pressure to begin with.

Jota will most likely be utilised at the forefront of what Liverpool will hope to be a prolonged cup run, whilst providing an energetic and slightly alternative option off the bench in Premier League action.

Should, god forbid, any of the front three pick up an injury, Jota at least offers high quality backup with proven English top flight experience. Something almost everybody can agree was previously missing from the squad, despite the unrivalled success of the last 18 months.

five youngsters to watch in the Premier League

As the Premier League season kicks back into full gear with everyone in action this weekend, what better time than to look at five youngsters who could be set for breakthrough campaigns in 2020/21.

Rhian Brewster – Liverpool

Liverpool player for now, but a lot perhaps depends on where the 20-year-old does end up. Should he remain with the Premier League champions? It is unlikely the former Under-17 World Cup Golden Boot winner will get the game time required to have an impact, however, should his much talked about departure come to fruition – this could well the year Brewster makes it on the biggest stage.

Jamie Shackleton – Leeds United

Leeds born and raised. Jamie Shackleton made 22 Championship appearances during the Whites title-winning campaign and could be set to have a big impact on the highest level. An England Under-20 international with a forward-thinking nature from midfield, the 20-year-old who possesses bags of energy could well be one to impress from the eye-catching Marcelo Bielsa side.

Tyrick MitchellCrystal Palace

The left-back from the Palace academy. After joining at a young age from Brentford, Mitchell looks set for a big season in Roy Hodgson’s squad. The 21-year-old looks set to put serious pressure on Patrick van Aanholt for the number one choice and started in the absence of the Dutchman in the opening day win against Southampton at Selhurst Park.

Khanya LeshabelaLeicester City

South African born 20-year-old who has been around the first-team squad during pre-season. To date Leshabela’s appearances have been restricted to Under-23 outings, however, do not be at all surprised to see his name make its way onto at least Brendan Rodgers’ bench during the season. A powerful runner who is tricky on the ball and blessed with pace and can play both centrally and out wide.

Regan Slater – Sheffield United

A product of the Blades youth system who has captained numerous academy sides at Bramall Lane. There are extremely high hopes Slater. The 21-year-old made his first-team debut way back in 2016 against Grimbsy Town, becoming the youngest Sheffield United debutante in the process. Slater has since spent successful loan spells at Carlisle United and Scunthorpe United, expected to stay with Chris Wilder’s squad this time and could have a major impact on the season.

When you are forced to put these lads in your FPL team later in the season, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Should Lucy Bronze now be considered the best England player of all time?

This week England full back Lucy Bronze returned to the Women Super League, signing a two-year contract with her previous club, Manchester City. 

Bronze concluded her three-year stay with Olympiqe Lyon Feminine by lifting the Champions League last month as the French side secured the trophy with a 3-1 win over Frauen Bundesliga Champions VlB Wolfsburg in San Sebastian. 

During her remarkably successful time with the French Champions, she won all that was available to her: claiming three Champions League titles, three league titles, two Coup de France Feminine and a Trophee des Championnes.

Indeed, the 28-year old also secured a number of individual allocates, including the UEFA Women’s Player of the Year in 2019. 

On Bronze’s return to Manchester, Head Coach Gareth Taylor said:

“She is an unrivalled talent and her endless individual and team awards only scratch the surface of what a superb player she is, not only at Club level, but also internationally with England.”

For the Three Lions Bronze has also produced some memorable moments, one that immediately springs to mind is that stunning goal against Norway in their last 16 game back in 2015.

This, however, begs the question, should she now be considered the best female player that England has ever produced?

Well, when you think of great England Women footballer’s one name that immediately springs to mind is Kelly Smith.

Smith was able to successfully represent the Three Lions for the best part of two decades earning 117 caps. She was one who arguably blazed a trail for future England footballers such as Bronze. 

During her club career she scored a remarkable 125 goals in 144 games for Arsenal Ladies over three separate spells with the Gunners. 

Smith also played for a number of American football teams such as New Jersey Lady Stallions, Philadelphia Charge and New Jersey Wildcats in her eight years in the USA. 

Ultimately, Smith ended her career with 20 trophies in three separate, which included starring in Arsenal’s amazing 2006-07 season where they secured the Quadruple.  She played a key part of this success by scoring 30 goals in 34 matches across those four competitions.  She was also presented the FA Player of Year award twice. 

BBC Match of the Day commentator Jonathan Pearce said:

“She had power, strength, a lovely eye for a pass, finishing of course and was so dynamic in the penalty area. 

“She was a leader because of the way she played, that she demanded respect from her opponents and team-mates.  She was the first England women’s football superstar.” 

In short, what Smith was able to achieve while the English game was not fully professional was terrific but Bronze is certainly on the right path to either match or surpass her.

It is, however, difficult to compare the two players directly as they play different positions.  Bronze is the epitome of the modern day full back, while she can also be utilised in midfield and at times the centre of defence, where as Smith applied her trade typically further forward as a striker.

Overall I would still consider to be Smith to be the greatest player to come from these shores having been able to perform at a consistently high level for a number of years, added to that Bronze has still to win a European trophy with an English club. 

The 28-year old, however, certainly is on the right path and comes back to the WSL at a time when the League has a chance to establish itself as the world’s finest women’s division.  

What do you think? Should Lucy Bronze be considered England’s greatest ever player? Would Kelly Smith still get your vote? Feel free to post in the comments below….

Neco Williams: Liverpool’s latest Kirby star and a new Welsh hero

“England were trying to ring my agent a lot and wanting to speak to me, but I weren’t having none of it,” declared a young Neco Williams not long before he made his senior debut for the Welsh national side on Thursday against Finland.

As if snubbing the old enemy wasn’t enough to endear himself to the Welsh faithful Williams went one better, popping up with his first senior goal in the dying seconds to prevent Wales from succumbing to a disappointing draw against Bulgaria.

It was another important milestone in the Wrexham teenager’s fledgling career to date, and it seems as if the only way is up for the right back.

Williams has been at Liverpool since the age of six and has progressed through the various youth ranks. Previously an attacking midfielder or a winger in his younger teenage years, the 19-year old was converted to a right back by Academy coaches to help accelerate his development.

After a back injury ruled him out for almost the entirety of the 2017-18 season he impressed upon his return to action in 2018, making his debut for the U23s and Wales’ U19 side.

The following campaign, 2018-19, was when Williams really began to prosper. He featured for the Reds’ U18s, U19s and U23s that season. He was also an integral member of the squad who lifted the FA Youth Cup, holding his nerve to convert his penalty against Man City as Liverpool defeated the Sky Blues in the shootout.

He stepped up to the first team ahead of the 2019-20 season, featuring in a number of pre season friendlies for Liverpool, before making his official debut in the Carabao Cup game with Arsenal in October.

Williams put in a sublime performance on the night, assisting Divock Origi’s goal to make it 5-5 as the Reds went on to triumph over the Gunners on penalties.

He travelled with Klopp’s side to Qatar as they lifted the FIFA Club World Cup before he starred in the FA Cup third round defeat of Everton in January in which the majority of Liverpool’s starting XI were aged 22 or under.

He started both cup ties against Shrewsbury in the next round and had a hand in the winning goal. His fizzing cross forced Ro-Shaun Williams to head the ball his own net as Liverpool progressed to the fifth round.

He played the full game as Liverpool suffered a 2-1 loss to Chelsea. His Premier League debut followed after lockdown, with Williams coming on for the final fifteen minutes in the 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace and almost scoring, lashing an effort just off target in a lively cameo.

He would go on to feature against Man City and Aston Villa, before making his first Premier League start against Brighton.

Two further appearances against Burnley and Newcastle on the final day of the season meant that Williams played enough games (six in the top flight) to earn a Premier League winners medal as Liverpool wrapped up the title with 99 points.

Whilst on Liverpool’s pre season trip to Austria it was announced that Williams had signed a new 5 year deal with the club, a reward for his terrific transition into the first team set up last year and he will be hoping to continue his upward trajectory this term.

He started the Community Shield loss today Arsenal at the end of August, deputising for Alexander-Arnold who was out injured, and Williams will be hoping to provide strong competition for the Englishman this campaign as Liverpool attempt to hold on to their Premier League crown.

Williams is a marauding full back, made very much in the same mould as Trent Alexander-Arnold, a fellow Kirby graduate. He is quick, strong in the tackle and has an eye for a pass, with his crossing ability particularly impressive even at his young age.

He is solid defensively and wins many of his aerial duels. His positioning sometimes leaves a lot to be desired, as seen in the Community Shield when he stood off Aubameyang allowing him to curl a splendid effort into the far corner, although this should only improve with experience and learning from the likes of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson in training each day.

Jürgen Klopp is certainly a fan of what he sees from the Welshman and is keen to utilise him this season with Liverpool competing on four fronts.

He told Liverpool’s official website last month:

“Neco from the first day he trained with us, he trained like a machine. Every day he became better and better and better and I thought, ‘OK, what’s that?

“He has a lot of things that we really like so I am really, really happy that he signed the contract.”

Many at Liverpool believe Trent Alexander-Arnold’s future lies further forward, in a centre midfield role, and if Williams can reach the dizzying heights Trent has reached in just a few short years, that transition may be made sooner rather than later in order to accommodate both of Liverpool’s prodigious talents.

Williams isn’t looking too far ahead despite the hype surrounding him, aiming to keep his feet firmly on the floor and enjoy the great memories which this week has provided him.

Speaking to BBC Sport after the game Williams said:

“To learn off the best players in the world for club and country is something that a young lad like me has always dreamt of.

“I’ll keep improving as a player and keep showing the dedication, I’ll stay humble and if all that comes together I’ll be a top player.”

Williams certainly believes in his ability and with a committed attitude like that to match his talent he could be the next Liverpool great to step off the production line.

Premier league 2020/21: WHO CAN WIN IT?

The new Premier League season begins this weekend, unbeleivably as it seems like only yesterday we were waving goodbye to the last season.

Ahead of the 2020/21 season, we have some questions surrounding the top of the table. Can Pep’s Manchester City rid themselves of last years frailties and compete for longer this time? Or will Liverpool continue their consistency and defend their title?

Let’s not rule out the possibility of Manchester United’s continuing their progression and it would be almost insanity to dismiss Chelsea, given their spends, wouldn’t it?

Here’s how I think the teams involved in the upper echelons of the Premier League title race will play out in 2020/21…

Liverpool

The reigning champions. Jurgen Klopp’s side may have ended the season in somewhat bizarre fashion as they rather limped over the line following lock-down and title celebrations. That should not take away from the sheer dominance the Reds imparted on the Premier League.

While many people question the business, or lack of business done by the champions up until now, its my belief only minor changes are required, if any at all.

Natural left-back cover for Andy Robertson was required and has been found in Greek international Kostas Tsimikas.

One saga, which rumbles on is the Thiago Alcantara links, now joined by the Gini Wijnaldum to Barcelona rumours. Whilst many Liverpool fans may argue why not have both? I’m not sure there is room both in the current group, a squad that already boasts a plethora of central midfield options and the two players are of a similar mould.

The main bone of contention continues to be the back-up options to the starting XI. Should Klopp face a long-term injury to his front-line options the understudies may not be of a level required, although in truth that is the case of almost every team in world football. Not many can be a suitable understudy to Virgil van Dijk.

Overall, I believe Liverpool will go on to retain their title, the relentless nature in which Klopp has his squad churning out results is very difficult to keep up with week on week. Don’t be surprised by the growing influence of some of the younger players, in particular Curtis Jones, and also Naby Keita may finally find his feet in English football.

Manchester City

The main contenders to take Liverpool’s crown, Pep Guardiola’s well furnished Man City side.

There is little doubt 2019/20 can be viewed as somewhat of a failure from a sky blue perspective in Manchester. As glorious a victory as the Carabao Cup may have been, a side comprised of such talent and expenditure is expected to finish closer than 18 points off the summit. Not to mention the dismal UEFA Champions League exit.

That, however, was last term, how about now? The arrival of Nathan Ake certainly plugs a crack in the issues faced at City, a forced to be reckoned with going forwards, just ask Watford, but defensively they were often found wanting, just ask Adama Traore. However, I’m not sure Ake is the answer, for one the Dutchman is very much a left-sided centre-back, similarly to Aymeric Laporte. On top of which, despite being a more than decent operator at Premier League level, he isn’t elite, and City are operating amongst that level.

Elsewhere, the club has seen the departure of David Silva from the Etihad, a fine servant to the football club who leaves with the knowledge he will be forever immortalised in statue form. On the field, in a more mobile capacity, Silva is likely to be replaced by the much praised but lesser seen Phil Foden.

Pep has also spent £20 million on former Valencia man Ferran Torres, a 20 year old right winger who arrives with plenty of plaudits and provides competition to the likes of Rihad Mahrez, Bernado Silva and Foden himself.

Whilst the transfer window remains open there is always the chance City could strengthen further, although the Lionel Messi links have now subsided, as things stand in the week of the season’s opening day they haven’t addressed the areas of the squad suitable to overcome an 18 point swing.

Manchester United

Despite the obvious improvement in the past six months, particularly since Bruno Fernandes arrived back in January, there are still areas of weakness at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær is learning on the job somewhat and with that there is bound to come mistakes, certainly when up against seasoned campaigners over a prolonged period.

Despite the frailties, however, it should be another year of progression for the red half of Manchester, who have already bolstered their midfield ranks with the arrival of Donny van de Beek from Ajax. One or two more signings, particularly in defensive positions and they should find themselves cutting the gap to the top two.

Chelsea

Who haven’t they signed? One thing is for sure is the Blues are set to be an enthralling watch with the attacking prowess in their currently huge squad.

Boasting the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, to name but a few, Frank Lampard’s side will give anybody a match on their day, but it’s consistency they may lack to begin with.

They shipped goals all too regularly to maintain prolonged title challenge last term and as things stand that won’t change too much, despite the arrival of the vastly experienced Thiago Silva, it’ll remain a difficult ask to breach the gap to the top two.

Any Other Contenders

Whilst the Premier League has seen Leicester City win the title against the odds, it seems unlikely 2020/21 will see another Claudio Ranieri and Jamie Vardy shaped fairy-tale, but you never know. The main protagonists would of course be Tottenham and Arsenal, although the rivals may be best focusing on breaking into the top four instead of harbouring serious title ambitions.

Outside of the North Londoners, perhaps Wolves could be considered for a tilt for a time being, however a 38 game threat seems unlikely at this stage.

With over a month left in the transfer window anything can happen (Messi), but for now it’s back to back Liverpool glory. After-all, top flight domestic titles are like Mersey Ferries, you wait 30 years for one and two come along at once….

Is the Sky Bet Championship the Best League in the World?

The latest Podcast episode for 24/7 Football features sports journalist Peter Moore discussing his articles, which include the dramatic conclusion to the 2019/20 Sky Bet Championship season, how Leeds United might fair in the Premier League and how VAR can be improved upon for the new season…..

How do you reckon Leeds United will fair in the Premier League this season?

What more do you reckon can be done to improve VAR?

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the link below: https://soundcloud.com/adam-stephens-425096853/24-7-football-episode-5

You can also watch the Webcast here:

New Premier league fixtures announced

Today fans can start looking forward, planning and getting excited about the new Premier League season as their teams fixtures have been released. The wait is over to find out when your team play their big local derby, crucial relegation and european qualification battles.

Newly promoted Leeds face the toughest challenge possible on opening weekend against Champions Liverpool. Championship play-off winners Fulham will host Arsenal, while West Bromwich Albion, the third promoted side, are at home to Leicester City. A tough start for all the newcomers.

The opening round of fixtures will take place on the weekend of 12 September. However, Manchester City v Aston Villa and Burnley v Manchester United will be rearranged.Those two games will not be played on the opening weekend to give City and United 30 days since their defeats in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and the semi-finals of the Europa League respectively. Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ opening matches are both scheduled for Monday, 14 September after their slightly earlier European exits. The Blues are at Brighton, while Wolves go to Sheffield United.

The other opening weekend fixtures are Crystal Palace v Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur v Everton and West Ham United v Newcastle United.

Exact dates and kick-off times will be confirmed when the television selections are made.

When are the key fixtures?

Manchester City, who finished second last season, face title rivals Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on 7 November, with their other game on 6 February.

Selected matches…

  • 19th September – Chelsea v Liverpool
  • 5th December and 13th March – Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal
  • 12th December and 6th March – Manchester United v Manchester City

With the season starting a month later than usual because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the games will come thick and fast.The upcoming campaign will be five weeks shorter than a standard season because of the late end to 2019-20.

Arsenal and Liverpool meet in the Community Shield on 29 August, with players then going on an international break for the Nations League before the Premier League starts.

Spurs start Europa League qualifying on 17 September and could end up with two first-team matches in the same midweek as those are the dates Premier League clubs not in Europe enter the Carabao Cup at the second round.

England Lionesses: Sarina Wiegman to succeed Phil Neville in September 2021

Netherlands Woman’s manager Sarina Wiegman is to take over from Phill Neville as England’s Head Coach from September 2021. 

 The former Dutch midfielder, whose team won The European Championships in 2017, is set to sign a four-year deal, while Neville will leave his Head Coach role next summer. 

Following her confirmed appointment, Wiegman said:

“England is the cradle of football and I’m very much looking forward to contributing my experience and expertise to this ambitious team.”

The first tournament that Wigeman will be in charge of the Lionesses is the Women’s Euro 2021 on home soil, which has subsequently been pushed back until July 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

England-born ex USA Manager Jill Ellis was also said to be in the running for the job whose USA Team has won the past two World Cups.

Last Month The FA reviled that they had 142 Applications for the Job with Head of Woman’s Football Baroness Sue Campbell saying:

“The players deserve the best and I will bring them the best if I can”

Wiegman has a contract with the Dutch FA till the end of 2021.

Neville’s contract, however, runs out at the end of 2021. He could still be in charge though, of Team GB should Wiegman chose to stay with the Dutch during that Tournament.

The Games in Japan are due to take place from July 29th till 8th August.

Having reached the Semi-Finals of their last three Major Tournament’s, the FA wanted to appoint someone who can take the team that one step further and ultimately lead them to World Cup glory. 

Wiegman lead her side to glory as hosts of Euro 2017 where they beat The Lionesses, managed by Mark Sampson 3-0 in the last four.

She also guided the Netherlands to there first World Cup final two years later, even though they lost to Ellis’ USA in the Final

Wiegman is well-acquainted with the English game as many of her star players play in the the Woman’s Super League including: forward Vivianne Miedema and midfielder Danielle Van Da Donk, Both of Arsenal and Manchester United’s Jackie Groenen.

Premier League Clubs Vote to Scrap Five Subs Rule for Upcoming 2020-21 Season

The Premier League have announced today that the five substitutions regulation will not be implemented for the upcoming top flight season which is set to begin on the 12th September.

At a Premier League shareholders meeting last Thursday featuring all twenty clubs, the decision was taken to get rid of the five changes permitted during a game. It is believed 11 clubs, including the three promoted side rejected the proposal.

The IFAB gave football leagues across the continent the opportunity to bring the rule into the next campaign, with the Scottish Premiership opting to allow clubs to continue to make five changes during the 2020-21 season.

FIFA have extended the use of five substitutions regulation until August 2021, meaning that it could be utilised in next year’s European Championships and the Copa America.

The new rule was originally brought in ahead of Project Restart in May, with clubs agreeing to the change in order to allow players to cope with such a condensed and demanding schedule of games after a three month break due to lockdown. Clubs were allocated three windows to make these changes during the 90 minutes.

From next season, Premier League clubs will revert back to being permitted to make three substitutions per game, whilst the number of players on the bench will be again reduced to seven, and matchday squads to 18 from 20.

Many clubs believed that allowing five substitutions gave bigger teams an unfair advantage, as they have greater squad depth allowing them to rotate players more frequently with the change.

The rule change had allowed younger players to become more involved in the first team set up however, with 22 teenagers featuring off the bench for their clubs’ final nine outings, when it was unlikely they would have been involved in play had only three subs been permitted.

At Thursday’s meeting the clubs also approved a new VAR protocol, which encourages referees to use pitch side monitors more regularly to make the final judgement on tight decisions.

This comes after the world governing body FIFA took control from the IFAB for overseeing the successful implementation of the video assistant referee.

The decisions in question apply specifically to red card offences, penalty awards and those taken on goals given, with officials in the Premier League coming under fire last year for not utilising the monitors more often, like referees in other leagues.

There will also be no tolerance for encroachment from penalties, the Premier League announced. A retake will be ordered if a goalkeeper has saved a penalty with one of their feet over the line.

A player will be judged to have encroached if any body part is on the ground when the spot kick is taken. A retake will only be enforced in this scenario if the player encroaching has an impact on the penalty.

Have Fulham learnt from their disastrous £100m spending spree?

After the celebrations of the return of Fulham back to the Premiership at the first time of asking, it is time to take a step back and access their chances of surviving in the Premiership next season.

It is a well know fact in football that sides who get promoted through the play-off route in the Championship, normally struggle.

In recent times the likes of Aston Villa, Huddersfield, Hull City, Norwich City and QPR all finished in the bottom six places in the division.

Two points that may make it possible for Fulham to survive in next seasons campaign would be the Manager and the experience of being in the top flight of English football before.

In Scott Parker they have an astute man in charge of the Cottagers. In the play-off final against Brentford his master tactics came out on top. By spotting the gap at Brentford’s near post and Joe Bryan’s technical ability to find that gap was a pure master stroke from the former West Ham player.

Since Parker has been put in charge, he has turned around the club’s fortunes. Just two years ago on transfer deadline day in the summer of 2018, five players were signed as the clock ticked down to zero.

Fulham spent an astonishing £100 million on no less than twelve players, only to look considerably worse for signing these players.  In season 2018-19 Fulham sacked Slavisa Jokanovic and Claudio Ranieri but a second play-off victory in three seasons gives them a chance to heal some scars.

For the club to survive next season in the top flight of football they will have to learn by their mistakes of 2018. Pointless splashing out that amount of money to try and survive in the Premiership. In truth, it rarely works out.

Parker needs to keep the spine of this current side to have a chance of surviving. The key player to hold on to has to be Aleksandar Mitrovic. The goal machine will learn by his poor return when Fulham were last back in the top flight. If he does so and can get back to a return of around twenty goals in a season, then the London club have a good chance of staying up.

They also need to keep the likes of Tom Cairney, Aboubakar Kamara, Denis Odoi and Tim Ream. If they can hold on to this talented group, then they could realistically keep out of trouble.

Parker will know that the hard work starts now. It will be an interesting few weeks before next seasons campaign as to what he will do in the transfer market. Key to their chances of survival will also be who they bring in.

In terms of the other two promoted sides Leeds United and West Brom. For the Yorkshire club with the flamboyant Marcelo Bielsa managing at the main table this will b e a massive challenge for him. His toughest assignment to date and hardest task for the upcoming season will be to survive.

Under normal circumstances with Leeds outstanding fan base and home fans would be worth a lot of points for the club but the likelihood of having no full capacities for the foreseeable future, this could well go against the Whites.

West Brom under Slaven Bilic look like a side that could well survive next season. Having the advantage of previously being in the Premiership for eight seasons, the Baggies know exactly what is required not to face a relegation battle.

One thing is for sure, having three shrewd and intelligent managers in the form of Parker, Bielsa and Bilic managing in the biggest league in the world and pitting their wits against other more experienced managers is going to be a sight worth seeing.

 

Odsonne Edouard: Celtic’s ‘French Eddy’ Who is Ripping Up the SPL

Celtic kicked off their charge for a record breaking 10 Scottish Premiership titles in a row by dismantling Hamilton 5-1 at home.

French forward Odsonne Edouard picked up where he left off last season by netting a hat-trick, and picking up the man of the match award after another impressive display.

The 22 year old is subject to Premier League interest, with Arsenal the latest club to be linked to the striker, seeing him as an ideal replacement for Aubameyang should the Gabonese international choose to leave the Gunners this summer.

Celtic are still confident of hanging on to Edouard, with their hopes of becoming the first Scottish side to win 10 league titles in a row, largely hinging on the forward staying at Celtic Park.

This is because Edouard has become such a pivotal figure for Celtic since first arriving at the club on loan in 2017 from PSG.

A relatively unknown entity at the time, aged just 19, Edouard had risen through the ranks at PSG but had failed to break into the first team at the Parc de Princes.

This was through no fault of his own but rather the star studded line up at PSG blocking his path to the starting eleven.

He first showcased his evident talent on a big stage in 2015, when he was named player of the tournament and was top goalscorer with 8 goals as France won the U17 European Championships.

After a failed loan spell at Toulouse the season after, the Frenchman swapped Paris for Glasgow, agreeing a season long loan switch to Brendan Rodgers’ side with an option to buy at the end of it.

A goal on his debut against Hamilton would set the tone for Edouard’s time on Glasgow’s East End to date. He made 29 appearances that season, netting 11 goals and providing 4 assists, a decent return for his first full season in senior men’s football.

The highlight of his and many Celtic fans’ campaign was undoubtedly his winner at Ibrox in March at the Old Firm game, which was a glimpse of what was to come from the Frenchman.

Celtic had come from behind twice in the game before being reduced to 10 men in the second half. With 69 minutes on the clock Eduoard received the the ball on the left hand side. He darted into the area before dropping his shoulder and cutting inside, curling an effort into the far corner to send the travelling Celtic faithful into hysterics.

A month later he would bag a brace against the same opposition, to really endear himself to Hoops fans as Celtic romped to a double treble.

With countryman Moussa Dembele departing in the summer of 2018 to Lyon for a fee of £20 million, Celtic were able to break their transfer record to bring ‘French Eddy’ (as he is fondly known by Celtic fans) back to Celtic Park on a permanent deal.

The deal was reportedly worth £9 million, a sum which Celtic could quadruple now if they were willing to cash in on Edouard, given his performances over the past two seasons.

With Dembele moving on, the Frenchman was now Celtic’s main frontman, with Rodgers, and his successor Neil Lennon opting to play with just a sole striker in either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 formation.

Edouard carried that burden superbly well, registering 22 goals and 8 assists in all competitions as Celtic secured a monumental ‘treble treble.’

He seems like a manager’s dream for a striker. He is strong and his hold up play is great, he can regularly be seen holding off a defender before bringing others into play and continuing his run into the box to get on the end of the cross.

He has an explosive turn of pace, is good at dribbling and in one v one situations and has the eye for a killer pass.

His finishing is first class, he is comfortable on either foot and his goal compilations involve various types of finishes, whether that be long range screamers, curling efforts, tap ins or deft side foot placements into the far corner, Edouard has it all in his locker.

Although in some games he may fend off scraps and be uninvolved in build up play, he comes alive in and around the penalty area. If he is presented with just one opportunity, odds he will pounce.

He showed all these admirable attributes last campaign in what was his best season in green to date. Edouard found the back of the net 27 times and provided a further 19 assists in all competitions.

With the SPL taking the decision to curtail the league with 8 games remaining it is frightening to think how many more goals Edouard could have netted, especially considering his form since the turn of the year.

Lennon’s decision to switch to a 3-5-2 formation after the winter break as well as the up turn in form of full back Greg Taylor all benefitted Edouard tremendously.

Firstly, he struck up a great partnership with fellow frontman Leigh Griffiths. After leading the line on his own for much of the season, having another player around him helped Edouard to become more involved in the game and he linked up really well with Griffiths for a number of his own goals and others scored by the Hoops.

Manager Neil Lennon was full of praise for the duo in February telling Celtic TV:

“He (Edouard) is a mercurial talent. If you look at both his goals at the weekend they are very difficult and he makes them look easy.

“His movement off the ball, I think it helps sometimes having a body around him, him and Griff, particularly at Kilmarnock, the two of them linked up brilliantly. His all-round game is improving all the time.”

Secondly, the three at the back allowed Lennon to deploy the more attack minded full backs Taylor and Jeremie Frimpong further up the pitch, which worked to devastating effect for the champions, and in particular Edouard.

The Frenchman thrives off crosses into the box, and the two full backs are experts at delivering pinpoint balls into dangerous areas.

Given his considerable height he is good in the air but Edouard is also incredibly quick and intelligent. His movement is incredible. He often starts at the edge of the area and makes darting runs across the defenders before arriving on the scene just in time to latch onto the ball and score.

Celtic won nine of their next 10 games after the tactical tweak with Edouard getting on the scoresheet nine times and setting up four other goals, as Celtic landed an unprecedented quadruple treble and Edouard scooped the club’s

Celtic reverted to a back four for their opening game of the 20/21 season, with Edouard again the sole striker, but the outcome was the same, a roaring success as the Frenchman was too hot to handle for the Accies.

Celtic have slapped a £40 million price tag on Eduaord’s head to fend off interest, as they are hell bent on keeping the striker for at least another year, with boss Lennon telling reporters after the game at the weekend:

“We don’t want him to go anywhere!”

Given that the full extent of financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic on clubs have yet to been revealed, it is a hefty price to pay and a huge gamble to take for a Premier League club, especially one like Crystal Palace who are rumoured to be interested, given that that could amount to nearly all their transfer budget.

Edouard will feel indebted to Celtic for giving him his break in football, and he seems settled in Glasgow. He has a great relationship with the fans, who adore him, he is a well liked member of the squad and has embraced the ethos of the club very well, understanding the history and what it means to play for Celtic.

It is therefore difficult to see him leaving this summer with the allure of the opportunity to write his name into Celtic and Scottish folklore looming very large in the background. It will take a huge offer to prise Celtic’s jewel from their all conquering crown.

If a lucky club manages to do so they may have unearthed another gem from Scotland, and Edouard will hope to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Andy Robertson and Virgil Van Dijk before him, fellow exports who have made it to the pinnacle of world football.

Former Real Madrid and Spain keeper calls it a day

As the well-known saying says, all good things must come to an end. That time has come for former Real Madrid and Spain legend Iker Casillas.

The 39-year-old goalkeeper has decided to hang up his gloves for good and will always be remembered for being somebody loved by the Spanish people.

During a 16-year career at the Bernabeu, he made 725 appearances for Real, winning three Champions League titles and five La Liga crowns.

He also helped Spain win the 2010 World Cup and two successive European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

Casillas joined Portuguese side Porto in 2015 making 156 appearances for them, winning two Primeira Liga titles and one Portuguese Cup.

Casillas played for the Spanish national side for six years winning 167 international caps. Only former team mate Sergio Ramos has made more appearances for Spain.

The Spaniard hasn’t played since April 2019 after suffering a heart attack during training. Considering his age and recent health issues it probably comes as no surprise he came to this eventual decision.

He joined Real Madrid at the tender age of nine and the club said recently he was the best goalkeeper in their 118-year history.

The 39-year-old currently holds the record for most Champions League clean sheets and was also part of the Real side that won the Champions League three times in his distinguished career.

To prove what a footballing legend he is, in 2014 he became one of four players to represent Spain at four World Cups. He was also named as the second-best goalkeeper of the 21st century, behind who else but Gianluigi Buffon.

But he will always be remembered by football lovers around the world for his time at Real Madrid. He is without doubt one of the finest keepers ever to play the game and somebody whom strikers at last will be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief that they don’t have to face him anymore.

What was do you think was Iker Casillas greatest moment of his historic career?

Harrogate Town promoted to the Football League for the first time in their history

There must be something in the Yorkshire air this season. First Leeds United gain promotion to the Premier League and now Harrogate Town will be playing in the Football League next season.

What a success story for little Harrogate Town. They pushed National League Champions Barrow all the way all season, before eventually finishing second.

After defeating highly fancied Notts County in Sunday’s play-off final 3-1, it is a fairy tale story for a club living in the shadow of Leeds.

A town more famous for its tea rooms than its football club, will be playing amongst the likes of Bradford City, Forest Green Rovers, Port Vale and Oldham Athletic next season.

For the very first time in their history, Town are a Football League club. Harrogate itself attracts tourists from around the world to sample tea and cake in their famous tea rooms.

The club, who averaged around 1,400 in the National League has spent most of its existence in the Midland Football League, Northern Counties East League and Northern Premier League.

The success of Harrogate is down to the father and son team of the Weaver’s. Father Irving bought the club back in 2011. Two years earlier son Simon was appointed as Manager at the age of 31.

In his first season in charge the club finished bottom of the Conference North and were due to be relegated. However, Northwich Victoria were demoted due to financial problems and Town were reprieved.

During the 2017-18 campaign the club made the decision to turn full time. At the end of the season they won the National League North play-offs after beating Brackley Town, which earned them promotion to the National League.

The club finished sixth in their first National League campaign and were rewarded with a play-off game against AFC Fylde. Unfortunately for the Yorkshire side they were beaten 3-1 and lost out on the chance to become a Football League club.

Fast forward a year and Harrogate and the Weaver’s have been rewarded for their hard work and dedication by securing a place in the English Football League Two.

When the season starts again, little Harrogate will no doubt be written off. But in Yorkshire folk are made of true grit and with the enthusiasm of both father and son this little football club could well climb up the Football League ladder and continue to make Yorkshire proud.

THE FANS PLATFORM

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