Manchester United warn of long-term economic effect of COVID-19 virus

On this day 21 years ago, ITV’s Clive Tyldesley uttered those famous words in Barcelona:

“Sheringham and Solskjaer has won it!  Manchester United have won it.”

Subsequently, The Red Devils lifted the Champions League for only the second time in their history, in so doing they completed the famous 1999 treble consisting of the Premier League, FA Cup and the prestigious European Trophy.

Fast-forward to the here and now, Manchester United has forecast that annual revenue would fall for the first time in five years after its failure to qualify for this season’s UEFA Champions League.

Manchester United say the coronavirus pandemic has cost them an initial £28 million – and expect the final figure to be far higher.

Manchester United’s Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said:

“Our third-quarter results reflect a partial impact that the pandemic has had on the club but the greater impact will be in the current quarter and likely beyond.

“These are unprecedented times and we must recognise that this crisis will not disappear overnight.

“However, our club is built on a solid foundation. We remain firmly optimistic about the long-term prospects for the club once we have worked our way through what is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary and testing periods in the 142-year history of Manchester United.”

United, however, do have history of coming back from adverse situations, most notably the Munich air disaster that affected Sir Matt Busby’s ‘Busby Babes’ in 1958.

One of the clubs best ever a player at the time, Duncan Edwards, was among them.  That year they would go onto to some how make the FA Cup final and just 12 years after that fatal incident they would lift their first European Trophy in 1968.

Chief financial officer, Cliff Baty, estimated the lockdown cost United £23 million in the final two weeks of March because of the postponement of one Premier League away fixture (worth four million pounds at Tottenham Hotspur), a home Europa League last-16 tie against LASK (Linzer Athletik- Sport- Klub), the FA Cup quarter-final at Norwich City, broadcasting reductions plus the closure of the Old Trafford megastore, Red Cafe and United Events.

The managing director, Richard Arnold, said:

“The economic ramifications from this global pandemic will continue to resonate for years to come, but we remain optimistic about the long-term outlook for the sponsorship business and our ability to remain a leader within the market.”

United are also waiting on the Football Association to make some crucial decisions that could have a big impact on their interim future.

The Football Association will remain determined to get the FA Cup, which is up to the quarter-final stage, played.

Wembley Way is quiet due to the current crisis. If the FA Cup does get back up and running this season then Wembley Way will still be silent when the final is played. The idea of football returning without fans and an empty stadium will be a quite a different feeling for the players.

That might be as good a reason as any to cancel it. Will winning the FA Cup when no fans are there to celebrate really feel like winning the FA Cup at all?

For now United’s teams are waiting to hear how their chances of lifting a trophy this season are going to be affected by football’s new terrain.

Article written by Subeer Suri

How can Home teams overcome lack of fans?

Could the way forward for football in England when it gets back to playing behind closed doors, consist of artificial crowd noise?

Well, daft as this may seem to some people, the English Football League is considering putting this to the Championship clubs, the majority of whom returned back to training on Monday.

One club, Bristol City are already discussing varying innovations at the club with Premier League Brighton also discussing the possibility of pumping crowd noise for their forthcoming games.

Already the broadcasters in Germany have offered the option of fake fan noise during RB Leipzig’s win at Mainz at the weekend, while Borussia Monchengladbach utilised 12,000 cardboard cut-outs of fans.

This begs the question, when the Championship along with the Premiership can get back to playing again? Albeit behind closed doors, do we really need the sound of fan noise pumped into an already empty stadium and cardboard cut outs as well?

Yes of course football will never be the same without actual fans at games, but remember we are currently living in a time when we must expect this practice never being seen again for a long time.

The thought of having artificial noise inside stadiums mainly to help the home side really isn’t working now. Take the Bundesliga for example. Since the restart of football in Germany, there has only been three home wins from 18 matches played. So, the theory of home teams having a big advantage even in games played behind closed doors simply doesn’t work.

Any games played behind closed doors offers a level playing field to both sides, and honestly, we don’t need pumped music, or fan noise during games along with cardboard cut outs of fans.

It’s certainly taken a little while for players to get used to the new experience of playing in front of empty stadiums, but they are used to it by now. They don’t need extra noise to improve their performances.

Fans will gradually get used to the sight of unfilled grounds with no noise. Unfortunately, it is a slow process of the way football is going to look for a long time to come. The message to football fans at the minute should be this, no noise and no actual fans at grounds is different, but in the present world we live in it has to be either this or no football played in front of anybody.

Article written by Peter Moore

EFL CLUBs could go bust

While the main topic around the return of football centres on the Premiership, lets take a moment to reflect on finances of clubs down the lower leagues.

Huddersfield Town’s owner Phil Hodgkinson has gone on record to say that up to 60 sides in the EFL could go bankrupt if clubs are required to play in empty stadiums next season.

Hodgkinson said that the domestic football pyramid could be destroyed as a result of the ban placed on supporters attending matches during the current pandemic.

He said recently. “The problem is not whether we finish this season or not, it is what happens after that.” There are clubs I know of that are only still trading because they are deferring wages and tax and other creditors.” There is an absolutely real stark probability that if something isn’t agreed now within football to ensure all clubs can pay their bills and get through to the point where income is resumed, you will be looking at 50 or 60 clubs ceasing to exist.” he warned.

This clearly is worrying times ahead for the lower divisions of the pyramid.  If the game was to continue for clubs in the EFL, it would cost them between £150,000 and £200,000 for testing to get to the end of this season alone.

Will all lower league clubs having to rely on gate receipts, match day sales of leisurewear, shirts, programmes and food and drink along with match day hospitality and sponsorship, it doesn’t need a calculator to work out that it is virtually impossible for clubs to continue without crowds being allowed into grounds to watch the games.

Unlike the Premiership, the TV deal for the EFL is peanuts compared to the big boys of the top league in England. The only feasible solution to help out clubs in the EFL should be to reduce players wages at this unprecedented time sport is going through.

Yes, the players are not to blame, but the reality is that they are part of the solution because if some clubs do go out of business, their contracts won’t get paid by the clubs anyway.

The PFA in consultation with the clubs should put in place salary cuts until such a time as crowds are allowed back into football stadiums.

At this worrying time for all levels of football, surely it is time also for the Premier League to help out their fellow players by dipping into their ever-increasing large revenues and funding the EFL and the Non-League pyramid.

After all, the beautiful game isn’t just about the big clubs, it’s about the smaller ones to. So please let’s not forget them, as I’m sure no football lover in the country would want to see any team fold in these very trying times that we live in.

Article by Peter Moore

Hull City reveal two positive COVID-19 tests after first round of testing in Championship

Sky Bet Championship outfit Hull City have confirmed they are the club who have returned two positive results during their coronavirus testing on Friday.

The EFL released a statement on Sunday lunchtime, to reveal that 1014 players and staff had been tested at 24 clubs, with only two individuals testing positive for the virus.

The Tigers, who have said they won’t reveal the identity of the individuals keeping in with medical confidentiality, released a statement on Sunday afternoon to say both of those were returned during the testing programme held at the clubs training ground on Friday.

Both players, whom are not to be identified, will now spend seven days self-isolating in line with EFL guidelines.

A statement released by the club this afternoon read:

“Hull City can confirm that two people have tested positive for Covid-19 following the first round of testing at the training ground.

“Medical confidentiality means the names will not be disclosed, and the Club asks for this to be respected.

“The duo, who are both asymptomatic and feeling no ill effects, will now self-isolate for seven days – in line with the protocols set out in EFL guidelines – before being tested again at a later date.

“The Club will continue to liaise closely with the affected personnel and will make no further comment.”

The Tigers vice-chairman Ehab Allam did write to the league and the other 23 clubs voicing his concerns about returning to action in the last week.

There were an initial letter which outlined “serious concerns” and calls to void the season, while another email was sent out on Friday reiterating their stance.

Allam wrote:

“I continue to strongly believe that Championship clubs are being exposed to entirely unnecessary legal and financial risks (and forced to overlook the health and safety concerns that exist) as a result of the inappropriate haste with which clubs are being encouraged to return to training by the EFL,

“I also retain serious concerns about the integrity of the competition (which in my opinion is more than simply upholding promotion and relegation at all costs) should some, but not all, of the remaining games of the 2019/20 season be played.”

Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich Preview – Title Decider?

Borussia Dortmund host their bitter rivals Bayern Munich on Tuesday in a showdown that could decide who will go on and be crowned Bundesliga champions.

Both sides will go into Tuesday’s encounter on the back of victories at the weekend. Dortmund travelled to Wolfsburg on Saturday and completed a 2-0 victory, thanks to goals from Raphael Guerreiro and Achraf Hakimi, to keep the pressure on leaders Bayern, who responded later in the day with a 5-2 victory at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.

In a pulsating game, Bayern took a two-goal half time lead thanks to goals from Leon Goretzka and Thomas Muller. Shortly after the break Robert Lewandowski made it 3-0, before Frankfurt staged a fightback, scoring twice in three minutes through defender Martin Hinteregger, the first a volley and the second a header from a corner.

However, any hopes the visitors had of completing a stunning comeback were thwarted when Alphonso Davies made it 4-2 before Hinteregger scored at the wrong end to give Bayern a four-point lead at the top of the table going into Tuesday’s crunch game.

Bayern Munich will go into Tuesday’s game having won 16 of their last 17 games in all competitions. Dortmund, since the return of German top-flight football have completed back to back victories over Schalke and Wolfsburg.

Dortmund will be looking for revenge on Tuesday evening after slumping to a 4-0 defeat against Bayern in the reverse fixture back in November. Both these giant German sides have not played out a goalless draw in the league since March 2016.

It will be no surprise to anybody to tell you that Lewandowski, has been a thorn in Dortmund’s side, scoring 10 goals in his last seven appearances in all competitions against his former club.

Bayern, should they win at Dortmund, would surely be on course for their eighth straight Bundesliga title, so the pressure to snatch victory falls on the shoulders of the hosts.

Normally the match would have The Yellow Wall supporting BVB, but with the now familiar sight of the stands empty, there will be no significant advantage for Dortmund.

Key players to watch

Lewandowski and Erling Haaland will certainly be two of the main players to watch out for on Tuesday. Haaland, has already netted 41 goals in total this season, with 13 coming from 12 appearances in a Dortmund shirt since moving from Red Bull Salzberg in the winter. Guerreiro is in prolific form for the hosts along with Eden Hazard’s brother Thorgan.

Aside from Lewandowski, Bayern have winners on the pitch in the shape of Muller and Ivan Perisic alongside former Arsenal youngster Gnabry who is excelling in a Bayern shirt this season, having already banged in 11 goals.

All eyes on Tuesday will be on Jadon Sancho, who has recently been struggling with a groin strain, starting the last two matches on the bench. Sancho, came on to set up Dortmund’s second goal on Saturday and certainly has strong claims to start on Tuesday.

The hosts may have to be without the services of defender Matts Hummels who left the field on Saturday at half-time with a heel problem. If he does miss out, this will be a big blow to Dortmund as Hummels is a player who holds this fine Dortmund side together.

Prediction

Don’t expect a classic on Tuesday, as this could well be a cagy affair. Our prediction, for what it is worth would be a narrow Bayern Munich win.

How to view

Fans in the UK can watch this game live on BT Sport on Tuesday with a 5.30 pm kick-off time.

Article written by Peter Moore

Nottingham Forest were Promoted to The Championship After beating Yeovil Town

Most die hard Nottingham Forest Fans will have seen so many fantastic games at the City Ground. I don’t think, however, in all my 15 years of following the Reds have I ever seen a game quite like this.

It all came down to 90 minutes of football, Forest had to win and hope that Doncaster slipped up at Cheltenham. It was the final day of the League One season.

Forest started the day in 3rd place and they were playing Yeovil, a team that had ended Forest’s Play-Off hopes the previous season. Even before the Players came out onto the pitch, the whole City Ground was buzzing with excitement knowing that this could be their day that they won Promotion from League One. Forest had after all spent the past three years in that division.  It was a Sunny Day at a Packed City Ground and the noise was epic. The Forest players knew that they had to get the job done or risk the Play Offs one more time.

If you think that the Players and Fans were nervous none were more nervous than The BBC Radio Nottingham Sport’s Team Of Robin Chipperfiled, Colin Fray and John McGovern. It was there job to not only commentate on the action but keep all the fans informed on what the score was down at the Cheltenham vs Doncaster Match.

It was a nervous opening 10 minutes or so with both Forest and Yeovil getting some early touches of the ball.  In the 12th minute of the match however the breakthrough arrived as Kris Commons planted a beautiful ball into the box . The Yeovil backline cleared the danger only as far as Forest’ Player of the Year, Julian Bennett, who put in a great tackle, that even Stuart Pearce would of been proud off.

Bennett picked up the ball and sent a rocket of a shot into the top left hand corner giving the Yeovil goalkeeper, Steve Mildenhall no chance.

That goal meant so much to Jules, his nickname to the fans, as being a local boy with his family and friends sat in the stands you could see on his face how much it meant too him. It was the perfect start for The Reds.

Jules said after the game:

“That goal was the best that i have ever scored in all of my time playing football, but I loved that tackle almost as well as the goal”

Yeovil came back after 15 minutes as they worked the ball up the pitch through Jaime Peters, who played a one two with Marcus Stewart and calmly walked the ball into the net from six yards out making it  1-1.

Now it truly was game on, Forest however did not have to wait long to restore their lead as Kris Commons was played in by Brett Ormerod and Yeovil were looking for the offside flag that never came. Commons had timed his run to perfection and subsequently  slotted the ball under the body of the goalkeeper, making it 2-1 to the reds.

Then came the moment that all Forest fans had been hoping for, at around the same time as Forest were getting back in front, Cheltenham Town were leading Doncaster by a goal to nil. BBC Radio Nottingham’s Reds Commentator was getting the news via his earphones.

Colin Fray BBC Radio Nottingham reds Commentator “Cheltenham 1 Doncaster Nil This Time i can Confirm It” when that score was given out The whole Place cheered as if Forest had scored again.

Forest were 2-1 ahead with over 28 minutes played and had at this moment in time one foot back in the Championship.

Then it got even better for Forest as they went 3-1 ahead thanks to a beautiful free kick by Lewis McGugan.  McGugan was brought down 25 yards out from goal and with both himself and Commons standing over the ball there was only going to be one outcome. McGugan stepped up to sent it into the top right hand corner.

Forest were 3-1 ahead and it looked like it was going to be there day despite Doncaster Rovers equalising against Cheltenham.

The Second Half started with Forest attacking the Trent End, as they like to do and with a two goal advantage it seemed that nothing could go wrong. Things started to get even more interesting however as Doncaster went ahead in their game.  That meant Rovers were the ones in 2nd Place with Forest in 3rd. It was getting more tense as the second half continued, it seemed that all was lost.

From nowhere, The Robins were able to pull it back to 2-2, meaning that Forest were now back in 2nd place, so it was back to as you were at the start of the half. Forest once more had it in their own hands.

Yeovil seemed to have other ideas and after 75 minutes they got their second after a corner was taken quickly and Marcus Stewart popped up to head in at the near post. With over 15 minutes plus added time left to play Forest knew that they had to hold one to this slender lead.

Colin Fray ” Forest Please Please Please do not let this lead slip now”

They need not have worried however as the best news was to come, after 80 minutes Cheltenham had scored again making it 3-2 to them. As the news was coming through everyone’s radio the Forest Fans went bonkers, It was party time.

With five minutes of added time to play, Forest just had to get past this and they were there and when news came in that the match at Cheltenham had finished it was celebration time for everyone at Forest: the players, the staff and the fans all now knew that Forest had pipped Rovers to second place.

Now it was all down to referee Fred Graham to blow that whistle and after an extra two minutes, he did. Cue the total pitch invasion as fans and player’s alike all celebrated on the pitch .

It was a pitch invasion like no other as everyone danced around on the hallow turf. BBC Radio Nottingham pitch side reporter Robin Chipperfield had a very hard time in trying to get some reaction from the players. He eventually managed to get some in the dressing room.

He spoke to Lewis McGugan after the match and McGugan said:

“This is the most unbeleavable moment of my life to have finally done it. All the players and staff kept going even when the other score were coming in.

“It felt wired at times as it was like, are we up or are we not. It was a rollercoaster of a game and its one that I will never forget in a hurry.”

Forest had done it. They were promoted back to The Championship after three long hard seasons in League One.

We must however give credit to all the Yeovil Fans who stayed behind to clap off the Forest players staff and there family’s on the lap of honour.

It was a game that had everything,  the team at BBC Radio Nottingham must also be given plaudits for keeping a cool, calm head when giving out the scores and making sure that everyone was updated.

Its a game that I will never forget in a hurry and I hope that at some point we will see that same kind of atmosphere again, if the EFL Season restarts. We will have to wait and see….

Football stars to join on the grid for Sunday’s Virtual Monaco Grand Prix

Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang  will be among the guest stars logging on to show off his sim-racing skills in this Sunday’s Virtual Monaco Grand Prix.

The Gabon International is due to partner F1 driver Lando Norris in the McLaren Mercedes for this online race around the famous Monte Carlo circuit.

Aubameyang will join Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on the starting grid .  The Belgium international is set to race for Alfa Romaro again after securing an 11th place finish in the Virtual Spanish Grand Prix last time out.

Aubameyang and Courtois are due to compete against other professional F1 drivers such as Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon, who will also join the Virtual Grand Prix grid for the first time this weekend.

The race also features Virtual GP regulars Alex Albon, Antonio Giovinazzi, Charles Leclerc, Nicholas Latifi and George Russell – who secured a brilliant victory in the series last time out in the Virtual Spanish Grand Prix after a thrilling battle with Leclerc.

How to Watch

Drivers will join the race remotely, with a host broadcast live from the Gfinity Esports Arena from 1700 UTC (1800 BST).

The broadcast, which will be available here on F1.com and the official Formula 1 YouTube, Twitch, Weibo, Huya and Facebook channels, is expected to run for 1 hour 30 minutes, with a qualifying period followed by a 39-lap race.

The Virtual Grand Prix will also be broadcast live with international broadcast partners in over 100 countries, including in the UK on Sky Sports F1, Main Event and Mix.

In the US meanwhile it will be shown on ESPN and FOX Sports Asia across Southeast Asia.

Article written by Subeer Suri

Tottenham’s Serge Aurier breaks lockdown rules for third time, faces punishment from club

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The quarantine life has been a difficult obstacle for everyone in the world to get through during the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, they will do whatever it takes to experience the life they once had before the chaos occurred. Serge Aurier, the right back for Tottenham, has become so desperate, he has broken the lockdown rules three times.

Most recently, Aurier shared three images on Instagram of himself getting a haircut, which has caused the North London side to launch an investigation for an apparent breach of social distancing rules.

Later, the Ivory Coast international responded to criticism of his latest action with another post on Instagram.

“My hairdresser is negative and me too so stop talking in a vacuum and put on masks and gloves when you come to take pictures at the training centre it’s part of the rules too.”

The 27-year-old has also been pictured training too close to teammate Moussa Sissoko and also was caught going out to run with a friend.

Given that this is his third time breaking the rules, Spurs are going to properly look into the situation and assess if they should punish the defender for his latest stunt.

Tottenham issued a statement that said:

“We are investigating the circumstances and will deal with the incident appropriately.”

Aurier is not the only player in the Premier League to break the lockdown rules. Manchester City defender Kyle Walker has broken social distancing guidelines by holding a party at his house and visiting his parents and sister in Sheffield. Also, Arsenal’s David Luiz, Granit Xhaka, Nicolas Pepe, and Alexandre Lacazette broke were spoken to after breaking the rules, specifically government, last month.

With the Premier League hoping to resume their season, Spurs could ask Aurier to self-isolate for seven days if the incident occurred after the leaguewide testing on Tuesday.

What next for the EFL Championship?

The rumblings of if and when football should return continues with Championship side Hull City.

The Tigers emerged as the first club in the second tier of football to oppose a resumption of the season, insisting the campaign must be voided in a letter sent to English Football League chairman Rick Parry.

Ehab Allam, the club’s vice-chairman, has written to Parry and the other 23 clubs in the championship to outline his serious concerns over football’s return amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Hull’s other concern is that they are disappointed that a club letter reportedly opposing the resumption of the Championship campaign had been leaked to the media.

The club stated that the correspondence was intended to remain private between the EFL and the other Championship clubs.

In the week that Championship clubs players were due to start coronavirus testing at least twice a week, with the possibility of a return to light training next Monday, news broke that no less than six positive results from over 740 coronavirus tests carried out by the Premier League, including three from Watford, could well back Allam’s message to the rest of the League.

So, in light of this news what impact will this have on other clubs decision when to restart the season. Unlike their counterparts in the two divisions of the football league, one of which has already decided to finish the season- EFL Division Two- Division One are still debating if their season should continue or not, with the likely outcome being to follow suit with Division Two and declaring the season stopped with promotion, play-offs and relegation all decided by PPG.

Whatever the outcome that the Championship sides eventually decide to go with, one scenario they surely can’t go with is to declare the season null and void. This must be the worst way of finishing any season in any sport. Having already played well over three quarters of a season already, you just can’t say to clubs that this is how we will close the season.

It will be grossly unfair on all players to end a long season this way, with no rewards at the end of it. There will always be arguments from different clubs about how to finish a season, but for the sake of football and sport there has to be some conclusion.

Yes, it won’t go down well with every club, however, in my opinion the fairest way of deciding any decision is on a points per game average. There will always be one or two clubs who would vote against this, depending on their current position in the league, but in sport, surely it is about pleasing the highest percentage of clubs.

In these unprecedented times that we are going through at the moment, difficult decisions have to be made by people who have never been put in this awkward position before.

For the sake of football, lets hope whatever decisions are made will be for the good of the game.

Article written by Peter Moore

Brentford crowned EFL Football Manager Cup Winners

Brentford supporter Sam Jacques successfully managed the Championship side to FM2020 EFL Cup glory this past weekend.

The Bees overcame Welsh side Swansea City in the final of the competition in a nerve racking penalty shoot out after the match finished 1-1 after 120 minutes of action.

The final was ultimately decided by David Raya’s penalty saving heroics after saving spot kicks from Andre Ayew and Conor Gallagher meaning that the shootout finished 5-4.

In truth, Jacques’s team should have won before it reached the penalty stage having created more than enough chances to win the contest in normal and extra time but were kept at bay by the Swansea’s impressive keeper, Freddie Woodman.

It was however the Welsh side, managed by supporter Gareth Roberts, who took the lead through Conor Gallagher who latched onto a long ball from Matt Grimes.

The lead lasted a mere 79 seconds as Emiliano Marcondes headed in Mathias Jensen’s free kick to make it 1-1 before half time.

The second half saw a number of missed chances from the Bees, Marcondes and striker Ollie Watkins both wasted good chances.  In extra-time Marcondes also saw a goal disallowed for offside.

Ultimately, these missed opportunities did not come back to haunt Brentford as they were able to keep their nerve from 12 yards to bring to an end a compelling virtual tournament organised by EFL and partnered by Mind UK.

Overall 54 teams took part in the tournament, which lasted over four weeks.  The JustGiving page set up has so far managed to raise £7,929 for the Mental Health Charity and there is still time to donate to this very worthwhile cause.

Plan to complete EUROPEAN competitions

Uefa president Aleksander Cerefin says it has a “concrete plan” for finishing the European season “in August”.

The head of European football’s governing body told BeIN Sports;

As things look now, I’m sure that we can finish the European season and this means Uefa competition, the games will “have to be played without spectators” but hopes the “majority” of domestic leagues will complete the season.

The Premier League has nine rounds of fixtures remaining, while Paris St-Germain were awarded the Ligue 1 title after the French government cancelled the 2019-20 sporting season.

The German Bundesliga returned behind closed doors on 16 May and Spain’s La Liga hopes to do the same in June after players returned to training.

Cerefin said leagues which do not complete the season “will still have to play qualifiers if they want to participate in Uefa competition” next season.

But how will this work? The quarter-finals and semi-finals are expected to be played over two legs and there are still round of 16 matches to be completed. This means they’re is a minimum of five matchdays plus the final to be completed. The competition would have to resume in June to have any chance of finishing in August with a week between matchdays. Is this realistic considering only the Bundesliga has returned so far and there is other leagues will restart before June.

Euro 2020, due to take place from 12 June to 12 July this summer, will now run from 11 June to 11 July next year after a decision to postpone in March.

Is The League One & Two season coming to an end?

Friday saw a very important meeting take place, with all the owners off the respective League One and League Two clubs, as they come to an agreement with what to do with the rest of the 19/20 campaign.

LEAGUE TWO

After a lengthy meeting on Friday, owners off all of the league Two teams decided that the best option for everyone involved was to finish the league two season, and decide the final table on Points Per Game (PPG).

This would mean that Swindon, Crewe And Plymouth Argyle would all be promoted to League One. Unfortunately, this would mean that Stevenage would be relegated to the National League for the first time in a decade. This means, the Play-Offs would be played  just like any other season ( Two Semi-Finals and a Final) to determine who the final promotion spot goes too.

A statement on The League Two Season was released by the EFL on Friday.  Here is what was said:

“Having considered the protocols and costs that would be required to be met to conclude the current season, League Two clubs have unanimously indicated a preferred direction of travel to curtail the campaign in line with the framework outlined by the EFL Board.

In addition, clubs asked for consideration to be given to suspending relegation to the National League for 2019/20 as a result of circumstances created where fixtures cannot be completed. No commitments were made in this respect and the Board will now consider the implications of the division’s preferred approach at their next meeting.”

So, therefore, the vote is subject to approval from the EFL and the FA.

League One

In the same way as League Two, The Owners from all of the respective League One clubs held a meeting to determine what would be the best way to finish the League One Season.   However, they couldn’t come to an agreement on what was best, but IF League One was to be determined using PPG, Coventry & Rotherham would be promoted to the Championship.  Subsequently, Tranmere Rovers, Southend United & Bolton Wanderers would be relegated to League Two.  Just like League Two, however, The Play-Offs would stay the same, (Two Semi-Finals & A Final) to determine the final promotion place.

Here is what the EFL had to say on the League One Season:

“There were varied views shared in League One and it was determined that there would be a further period of reflection and consultation to understand what creative solutions could be implemented. It was acknowledged that the need to find innovative and creative solutions was of paramount importance as was the need for decisions to be taken quickly.” 

There is expected to be an announcement on the League One Season in the next couple of days.

Bundesliga marks return of professional football

The eyes of the football world were on Germany when the Bundesliga returned to action on Saturday.It became the first major league to return since football was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, with six fixtures on Saturday and a further two matches due to be played on Sunday. All games were played under heavy precautions laid out by the German Football League. A strict hygiene and safety protocol, including the ban of crowds, was necessary to get the go-ahead from political authorities.

Erling Braut Haaland scored for Borussia Dortmund as they marked the return of the Bundesliga during the coronavirus outbreak with a convincing derby win over Schalke. There was an eerie atmosphere at Dortmund’s iconic Signal Iduna Park stadium, with every shout by players or coaches audible, and social distancing protocol followed by substitutes and during goal celebrations.

There was a surprise in the Dortmund line up as English starlet Jadon Sancho was only on the substitutes bench. The Match started slowly with Schalke being the more aggressive early on, however it did not take long for Dortmund to take control. Haaland opened the scoring with a trademark cool finish, flicking home Thorgen Hazard’s cross to continue his sensational season, In the build up Julian Brandt pulled of a delightful touch to release Hazard,

Raphael Guerreiro added two more goals and Hazard also found the net as Dortmund went on to claim a comfortable win over their near neighbours and move within a point of leaders Bayern Munich, who play on Sunday.

In the days most interesting and dramatic matches of the day, title contenders RB Leipzig were held to a 1-1 draw by Freiburg. Freiburg took the lead after 34 minutes from a poorly defended corner by Vincenzo Grifo which was put in by Manuel Guide.

Leipzeg had most of the play throughout the match with a total of 22 shots on goals, there best chance shortly after the break when half time substitute and former Everton player Ademola Lookman was left unmarked and completely free but miskicked. Leipzig had more chances but Freiburg were defending very well. They found their equalizer after 77 minutes through Yussuf Poulsen’s header. It could have turned out worse for RB as Freiburg thought they had won it when Robin Koch headed home a free-kick, but the VAR correctly ruled the goal out for offside, football is back and so is the drama of VAR.

The dropped points mena Leipzig are four points behind Bayern Munich who have a game in hand and three behind Dortmund, they’ve also been overtaken by Borussia Mönchengladbach.

FIFA Council to select Women’s World Cup 2023 host(s) in June

The FIFA Council announced on Friday that they will announce the next host(s) for the 2023 edition of the Women’s World Cup online on June 25.

It has 314 days since the United States women’s national team defeated the Netherlands 2-0 at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Décines-Charpieu. Due to COVID-19, football fans have been anxiously waiting for the return. However, as league play starts to come back, FIFA delivered some good news to fans, especially those who hope their country hosts the tournament.

The bids for the tournament include a joint submission by the Football Federation Australia and New Zealand Football, Brazilian Football Association, Colombian Football Association, and Japan Football Association. This race is the most competitive bidding process in the history of the Women’s World Cup.

Australia and New Zealand, ranked seventh and 23rd in the FIFA World Rankings, have never hosted the tournament in either the men’s or women’s edition of the World Cup. The Matildas advanced to the knockout stages, led by superstar Sam Kerr, before falling to Norway in penalties during the Round of 16. However, the Football Ferns finished dead last in their group, losing all three games in the process.

Brazil has hosted several World Cups, including in 2014, for the men, but never for the women. All-time great Marta, in a message after their loss to host France in the Round of 16, insisted that “the women’s game depends on you to survive.” The honor of hosting would be great for the future of the game for the women in the South American country.

Colombia, ranked 25th in the world, was not a part of the last edition of the Women’s World Cup. However, they are looking to make it for the first time since 2015, where they fell in the Round of 16 in Canada. The best way to qualify is to get an automatic bid as a host.

As the 2015 World Cup champions, Japan is hoping to add hosts as another one of its achievements in women’s football. The country hosted the 2002 edition of the Men’s World Cup with South Korea but is hoping to host its first with the women’s side. 

The 2023 edition will be the first one to feature 32 teams, so it is a great honor for whichever nation(s) get the host the biggest tournament in the world’s most popular sport.

Jill Ellis Looks to Be FAVORITE to Replace Phil Neville As England Manager

As we are all hoping for the Football in England to return, for many of us its been a long wait to see what will happen. In the woman’s game its just the same as the FA are still waiting to see if they can give the go ahead to restart the WSL.

Apart from that the big news coming out of the FA in the Woman’s Game is that Phil Neville has said that he is stepping down from his role as manger of the England Lionesses after his contract runs out in the summer of 2021.

Neville has been the England manger for a few years now since taking the role in 2018. He lead the Lionesses to their first ever win in the SheBelieves Cup and following that he also lead the Lionesses to two Semi-Final places in the European Championships and the World Cup , where they lost to the eventual winners Holland and the USA respectively.

Since the World Cup in 2019, however, the Lionesses have only won three of their last 12 matches.

This is a very poor record for a team that reached the Semi Finals and will soon be hosting The European Championships in 2022.

This brings us to former USA coach Jill Ellis,  who lead the Americans to two World Cup successes as well as making them the top rank team in the world.  This makes her an ideal choice to replace Neville when he steps down.

Former England International Eniola Aluko says Ellis is the best candidate but also says the Football Association must be prepared to pay Ellis the same as England men’s boss Gareth Southgate.

“She has that pedigree and she has that experience,” Aluko told Sky Sports.

“She’s worked with some of the best footballers – elite athletes – in the world. The England women’s team now are at that point where they’re getting to semi-finals and now need to be getting to a final and winning it, winning World Cups, winning European Championships.”

Ellis was manager of the USA when the team began their legal battle for equal pay, and Aluko has suggested that the FA would need to avoid the possibility of a similar scenario developing.

“The contract she’s probably going to command is going to be very, very high and it’s whether the FA are willing to invest that amount of money,” added Aluko.

Last month, former England and Arsenal defender Alex Scott said

“the FA has the capability to attract Ellis” because of the growing investment in women’s football.

So thing’s in the Woman’s Game are taking pace keep as we might soon have a new manager leading the Lionesses to an even better future.

Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke 04 Preview

All eyes will be on the restart of the German Bundesliga this weekend as it is set to become the first major European league to return to action following the global pandemic.

Among those fixtures set to take place feature the Revier Derby, which is held between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04.

Before the postponement of the league, Lucien Favre’s Dortmund team were sitting four points behind reigning champions Bayern Munich and will be looking to close the gap to just a single point before their title rivals play Union Berlin on Sunday.

Since David Wagner took over at Schalke, the former Huddersfield Town and Dortmund coach has turned them from potential relegation candidates to Champions League hopefuls.

The team known as the Royal Blues, however, come into this one on a poor run of form having not won a Bundesliga match since the middle of January and suffered 5-0 losses against the likes of Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig.

The last match Dortmund played was their Champions League match against Paris Saint Germain, where the ultimately suffered a 4-2 aggregate loss. They did win their last league match at Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1 on the 7 March.

Previous successes and meetings

Dortmund have had the most recent success out of the two clubs having won five Bundesliga titles, the latest coming during Jurgen Klopp’s reign in 2011/12.  Schalke, meanwhile have not won the German Bundesliga since it was reformed in 1962 with their last of seven national titles coming in 1958.

In total there has been 19 Bundesliga previous matches between these rivals, seven have been won by Dortmund compared to Schalke’s five and there have also been seven draws including a 0-0 draw in the last match between the sides back in October.

Schalke do however boast an impressive recent record against this season’s title challengers having just lost once in their last five matches against them.

Indeed, the Royal Blues won the last encounter between the sides at The Westfalenstadion 4-2 in a dramatic match that subsequently saw Dortmund reduced to nine men.

Key Players

In their 2019/20 campaign so far, Schalke have certainly struggled for goals but two of their young midfielders, Moroccan international, Amine Harit, 22 and German Suat Serdar, 23 have enjoyed impressive seasons to date.

Serdar is the Royal Blues top scorer currently with seven league goals, while Harit has managed six goals and four assists in 24 appearances this season.

The Royal Blues also boast England under-21 international, Jonjoe Kenny in their ranks.  Kenny is currently on loan from Everton and the right back will certainly be in for a tough afternoon.

Kenny and his team will be tasked with keeping two of the most prolific and highly regarded attackers in Europe quiet.  England winger, Jadon Sancho is Dortmund’s top scorer with 14 goals so far, while January signing Erling Haaland has already managed nine goals in just eight appearances for the club.

Dortmund Club Captain, Marco Reus meanwhile has also reached double figures this season with 11 goals.

Where to watch?

BT Sport will be showing every game live on TV and online this weekend.

Dortmund versus Schalke will be shown on BT Sport 1 HD from 2pm BST.

Prediction

Dortmund 4-1 win

We are anticipating goals in this one but ultimately we believe that Dortmund will have too much firepower for Wagner’s Royal Blues with both Sancho and Haaland proving to be the difference between the teams.

Football to Return

The Bundesliga will resume behind closed doors on 16 May, becoming the first European league to restart following the coronavirus shutdown.

One of the games of the day is the derby between Schalke and Borussia Dortmund, Which should be shown be shown live on BT Sport. Champions Bayern Munich, who are four points clear of Dortmund at the top of the table, travel to Union Berlin on Sunday. Most teams have nine games to play, with the final weekend of the season rescheduled for 27-28 June.

The German Football Association (DFB) said the season would resume under strict health protocols that ban fans from the stadium and require players to have Covid-19 testing. About 300 people, including players, staff and officials, will be in or around the stadiums during match days.

This come as good news for all football fans who have been starved off live football since March. The question is now Will the English Premier League and other Leagues across Europe follow Germany’s lead?

Germany has a lower death rate than the UK from the pandemic and Clubs returned to training in mid-April, with players working in groups. The prospect of the Premier League returning on the same date is minimal as players need to re-gain fitness however it may not be to long until it is resumed.

Prime minister Boris Johnson is due to address the nation with a new message at 7pm tonight (Sunday May 10th), the message is expected to be ” Stay Alert” rather than Stay Home, the message could be confusing but suggests lighter isolation restrictions which could in-turn mean they think it’s safe to allow football to return behind closed doors.

In worrying news Dynamo Dresden, who play in the second tier of German football, have put their entire squad and coaching staff into two-week isolation after two players tested positive for coronavirus. Bundesliga 2 is also due to restart on Saturday, 16 May. Elsewhere a third Brighton player has tested positive for coronavirus. Brighton players have been training individually at the training ground and the club say this will be allowed to continue. Premier League clubs are due to meet on Monday for more discussions about their proposed Project Restart plan.

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish says that unless Premier League clubs can find a way to stage matches soon, it may be a “very, very extended period” before the top flight returns.Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Parish said that initial plans for league matches to be staged again from June may prove unfeasible.

“We would be derelict in our duty if we didn’t find a way to try and bring the game back,” he said. “It may prove beyond us.”

At least three clubs – Watford, Brighton and Aston Villa – are opposed to the plan to stage matches at neutral venues under ‘Project Restart’, while club doctors have raised concerns over aspects of the proposals.

A previous wave of 1,724 tests carried out last week by the Bundesliga returned 10 positive results.

“The German example could provide a blueprint for us and clearly we can see some of the early challenges,” added Parish.

“They may prove insurmountable, but the concern for us is that if they prove insurmountable now then we may be in for a very, very extended period of not being able to play and that has huge ramifications for the game.”

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has previously predicted a loss of “at least £1bn” if the Premier League fails to complete the 2019-20 campaign.

Parish believes that deciding the final league positions on the pitch, rather than relying on points per game or taking the current table as the final outcome, is preferable, even if conditions are far from ideal and this is something that I agree with.

Watching Football on TV even without crowds is something I am looking forward to in these times and Dortmund v Schalke is an exciting match to resume to.

Want to hear more about the return of football then be sure to watch our YouTube Podcast by clicking below.

Joe Lolley’s Forest require penalties to see off eight-man Mansfield to reach the EFL Football Manager Quarter-Finals

The last 16 of the Virtual EFL Football Manager Cup certainly delivered up its fair share of drama this past week.

The round featured a classic Championship versus League Two tie between Nottingham Forest and Mansfield Town. Following the game virtual manager Joe Lolley said:

“Well if that’s not repeated on sky sports classics for the next 20 years there is no justice.”

Indeed, Lolley’s Nottingham Forest side had to overcome the spirited effort from Jamie King’s Mansfield Town. The League Two side went ahead twice but their discipline certainly proved problematic as the match ended in a 2-2 draw.

In extra time Forest had as many as three goals ruled out before ultimately coming through on penalties against FM content creator King’s troops.

A remarkable hat-trick from Birmingham City’s centre back Harlee Dean meanwhile saw the Lee Camp’s blues progress to the last eight at the expense of Luton Town in another thrilling 3-2 Championship clash.

Following his side’s victory, virtual manager Camp said:

“We took the game to them, took the lead like we did last week and controlled the game.  They had a couple of moments but it’s cup football and you expect the opposition to come out and ask you questions but overall I thought we managed the game very well.”

Elsewhere, Brentford and Preston North End emerged victorious from their respective local derby matches against Queens Park Rangers and Blackburn Rovers.

Sam Jaques’s Brentford side ultimately emerged with a 3-1 victory over their fellow Londoners, while Tom Barkhuizen rounded off Preston’s 2-0 victory over their Lancashire rivals.

There were also wins for Fulham, Huddersfield Town, Swansea City and Middlesborough  who complete the line up for the last eight.

Who do you fancy to go all the way?

Don’t forget that throughout the tournament you can donate on the JustGive page to Mind UK. #haveyourmatesback.

https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/TheEFLFootballManagerCup

How much of a difference will using neutral venues make in completing the Premier League season?

As football fans in the UK anxiously await when the likelihood would be of seeing some sort of action on the pitch, news reached us yesterday that the Premier League are reportedly looking into the prospect of staging matches at neutral venues to complete the season. However, understandably so, this has faced strong opposition from clubs at the bottom of the table, such as Brighton who were due to play five of their final nine games at their home base of the Amex.

Not only do the football authorities need to look seriously into this suggestion, but the prospect of no fans inside any neutral venue will seem very surreal.

It would certainly make a difference having very little noise inside a stadium- after all fans make noise inside a ground which generates an atmosphere that players feed off. Yes, teams would find it very hard to adapt to this strange setting, and with no sound level, would that not take out the competitiveness of the game being played. I certainly fear this would happen.

Something else to consider, imagine the scenario when a team score a goal, how will the player react without the roar of a crowd. Most certainly the celebrations would be muted.

Despite other solutions that have been talked about, as it stands at this moment in time, football looks to be on the verge of having to play behind closed doors for a long time. Fans are the life and soul of any club. Most will follow their team through thick and thin. Any player and Manager will always tell you that fans will always be the 12thman, but with the problems we are going through at this moment in time, for once football fans are going to have to take a back seat and be patient.

There has also been talk of going ahead with the matches with minimum movement and risk to the players.  This quite simply needs to happen, as the upmost priority in this debate must be the players welfare, safety and health at all times.

After all, it would only take a single player to be tested as positive for Covid-19 to send panic signals around the football world.

We all want to see the beautiful game at some point this year, but it must be done only when it is safe to do so for all parties involved.

Article written by Peter Moore

Woking Manager Alan Dowson stresses the ‘club can manage if matches have to played behind closed doors’   

The Woking Manager Alan Dawson believes that the club can cope with having to play their matches behind closed doors for the foreseeable future.

Speaking to 24/7 football, Dawson said:

“If it’s got to be played behind closed doors then surely supporters can pay the normal price and watch it at home, but at this minute nobody in football has got this nailed, but whatever happens we will be ready when the time comes.”

Dawson, however, while optimistic about Woking’s future remained pessimistic regarding fellow National League clubs, he added:

“If the League starts tomorrow, I’m not so sure how many clubs in the bottom ten of the football league and top ten of our league could actually survive the football league, we certainly could.

“ I bet we are the only club in the top ten in our league and the only club in the bottom ten of the football league who haven’t got loads of debts.”

The manager was subsequently quick to praise everybody at the club and what the team has achieved this season:

“I feel the players have been the most achieving in the world. We’ve got a great football club here, how about having a crack at the football league.

“We are planning now for the future every single day from the directors to everybody else in the club from the players, myself and management, because they know that whatever happens Woking will have a future, but I’m not so sure other clubs will”.

Woking FC have had to overcome the disappointment of the National League agreeing to end the season,  having seemingly been perfectly positioned for a late play-off charge.

Despite this disappointment, Dawson ultimately stressed it was the right thing to do as he  personally experienced the challenges of COVID-19 but has since made a full recovery.

“It was at the Dagenham game that I had a bit of a cough and I thought it would be a bit of flu, but it got worse and worse with a headache starting and the sweats starting and before I knew it I walked down the stairs and I was in an ambulance and was in St. Peters hospital for oxygen, but I’m all right now and ready to crack on.”

Best overall coronavirus solution for FOREST?

With Nottingham Forest sat in 5th place in the Championship Table when all play was suspended, fans have been eager to find out how their promotion push is going to be resolved. Would all the teams hard work go to waste with the season abandoned ? Would fans have to miss out on the exciting climax to the season? Or Could the season finish with the league table how it stood on suspension?

Forest weren’t on the best of form when time was called having just been humbled 3-0 on their own pitch by Millwall.

Thankfully one thing the EFL appear to not want to do is right off the season as void, this would’ve been a disaster for Forest and any other promotion hopefuls. The big question now is when will it be resumed and when can fans go and watch? My personal opinion is once it’s deemed safe (hopefully by June) then it would be OK to initially restart behind closed doors, with media so fans don’t miss out completely. If then Forest are in the play offs the situation changes because these matches need the atmosphere created by fans. Hopefully it will be safe by then to do so because if not very tough decisions will have to be made, Is it fair/worth abandoning the play offs and promoting 3rd place if no fans can attend play off matches?

Talks in government are planned this week about if the lock down can be started to be lifted gradually soon, therefore my hopes are that the logical timescale will lead to at least fans being able to safely attend the play offs.

Another issue the pandemic has caused for Forest is the manager’s contract which will current expire before the season reaches it’s climax. Surely an extension will be agreed sooner rather later.

Alternative and fun way’s to fill the football absence drug have been the EFL Football Manager Cup ( Read more here) and Football Manager predictions by Sky Sports which both have Forest performing well.

Joe Lolley is the man in charge of the the Forest Football Manager Side and he took Twitter to express his joy at one of his sides results.

Football Manager have used their unique software to simulate the rest of the season, and to see how the table would have shaped up going into the final day of the campaign.Forest storm their way into title contention after a sensational run of seven wins and a draw from their final eight outings, moving Sabri Lamouchi’s side level on points with second-placed West Brom and just two behind leaders Leeds. However Forest had to settle for the play-offs after a 0-0 draw on the final day,  a glorious opportunity missed with a late penalty miss, too.

For more on the latest corona virus issues please read this

https://247-football.com/2020/04/28/what-will-happen-in-leagues-one-and-two/

EFL Football Manger Cup Round Two Review

The EFL Football Manager Cup is building up ahead of steam following the second round’s completion.

The virtual cup began on Monday 18 April with 54 teams in the hat and has now been whittled down to just 16 sides.

The match of the round was undoubtedly Brenford’s compelling encounter with Shrewsbury Town.  The Bees had to come from behind twice to secure a 2-2 draw in normal time.  Following an additional 30 minutes, the sides still could not find a winner so the contest was settled by who could keep their nerve from the penalty spot.  Ultimately it was the Championship side who prevailed 3-1 thanks to goalkeeper David Reyna who produced the crucial save from Shrewsbury’s midfielder Shaun Whalley.

Joe Lolley’s Nottingham Forest meanwhile managed to put five past Southend at the City Ground thanks to two goals from Ben Watson and Portuguese left back Yuri Ribeiro.  Lee Camp’s Birmingham City side also managed to score five in an impressive 5- 0 over Forest Green Rovers.

Elsewhere, Luton Town progressed to round three with a 3-1 success against Ipswich, mirroring the exact result between the sides when they met in the Carabao Cup back in August.  While there were 1-0 wins for Fulham and Mansfield Town against Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth respectively.

This tournament has so far managed to raise £1,879 for the mental health charity, Mind UK and you can continue to donate via the JustGive Page until it’s conclusion on the 17th May.

The draw for the next round is set to take place this Sunday via the Football Manager twitter page.

EFL Football Manager Cup Schedule

The Round of 16 – Commences week of May 4th

The Quarter-finals – May 11-14th

The Semi Finals –  Saturday May 16th

The Final – Sunday May 17th

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN LEAGUES ONE AND TWO?

With UEFA announcing today that they require leagues to make decisions about the remainder of the season, 24/7 football decided to look more closely at the effects of Covid-19 on lower tier football in England.

It has been rumoured that in EFL Leagues One and Two promotion may be decided through an eight team mini tournament. In turn this would mean no relegations for the 2019/2020 season, instead additional relegation places would be introduced for next season.

With a clear conflict of prioritising the opportunity to go up and trying to negate the effects of relegation, it goes without saying the league organisers have a real struggle on their hands. From the perspective of teams struggling at the bottom of their respective leagues, such as Bolton, Southend, Stevenage and Morecombe, this could be a blessing. A null and void season with no relegation could be seen as a ray of hope to recruit and rebuild for the upcoming season.

On the other hand it could simply just postpone their misery. Relegation was instated for a reason, in that the clubs which find themselves at the foot of the table simply could not cut it in their league. However, like with most football matches, no one result can be predicted. Condemning a team to relegation would be a subjective decision that those at the bottom would not have been able to change their fortunes in the regular season, an issue which would undoubtedly have been highly disputed by fans and clubs alike. Additional relegation spots next season could ensure increased competitiveness, delivering great football but with the cost of more heartache for those extra teams who face relegation.

Now turning interests to the top of the table, and the idea of a potential eight team play-off tournament. This in fact seems like a good prospect, in terms of competition and could produce some wonderful football games.  Not only that but it will also includes some new and unprecedented traits. This idea would see eighth placed teams granted with an opportunity of promotion, great for them, but the higher placed teams will have greater competition.

Arguably the higher teams should experience a little more ease in promotion, in reflection of securing results through the duration of the season. In fact this method does recognise that this season is far from regular and holds the potential to be an exciting prospect of a new promotion scheme. Even if these games are held behind closed doors.

Which brings me to my next point. The play-offs. Wembley. Your team in the play-offs at Wembley. Would not dream of missing that would you? In what can sometimes be a once in a life time experience, the play-offs are the pinnacle of English League football. We cannot imagine the play offs being the same this season, with the sheer lack of competitiveness, nerves and atmosphere. It would cause a huge anomaly for this season, let alone the absent fan experience.

In this particular situation we are inclined to side with idea of the two top sides securing promotion as normal, with the teams in the play-off places staying put. With future plans in mind and with recognition of the play-off placed teams during this season, it would be interesting to see the 2020/2021 start with positive points on the board for play-off placed teams, to increase the likelihood of their promotion next season.

This season and the next as like any other, will see clubs struggling with the financial loss in relegation and the struggle with keeping up with monetary issues in the higher league after promotion. The EFL are tasked with finding an answer that will be best for these clubs, a conclusion which is continuing to become more and more complex.

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How does the FA plan to complete the Women Super League season?

These are certainly challenging times for the sporting calendar across the board.

Particularly it seems for women’s football, this appears somewhat remarkable given its raised profile in this country over the last few years and when the FA announced the Women Super League as the first fully professional division in Europe back in 2017.

It looked as though the only way was up with the prospects of improved publicity and clearer career paths for young talent emerging through the ranks.

Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown attendance records for women’s matches were rising significantly as 38,000 fans turned out at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium to see Arsenal’s 2-0 win over their North London rivals back in November of last year.

This in mind, 24/7 football decided to examine what the Football Association’s current plan is for completing the WSL season.

How many games are left?

There are 45 games of the current season still to be played and no WSL fixture has taken place since the 23 February, following an international break for the SheBelieves Cup involving England, Spain, Japan and the USA.

Current situation?

Already the tiers three to seven of the women’s football leagues in England have been declared null and void and subsequently the decision was confirmed on 9 April.  There is the prospect of the top two leagues in the Women’s game following this same line depending upon health advice given by the Government over the coming weeks.

What is the FA’s current plan?

The current plan that the Football Association is looking into is playing out the remaining fixtures all at one central venue behind closed doors with St.George’s Park, the FA’s English National football centre, currently being talked about as a possible location.

The earliest the campaign could begin however would be the weekend of the 6-7 June depending on the government’s advice and would rely on the players being able to begin training in the final week of May.

The completion date being targeted would therefore be the weekend of 18-19 July and would require each of the 12 WSL teams to play two matches per week.

It is understood that the FA would want any decisions made on the top women’s division to follow along with any similar choices made by the Premier League and the European Football governing body, UEFA.

How do the managers and players feel about this?

Manchester City and England striker Ellen White is hoping that the ‘crazy’ Super League season will be completed when the coronavirus is lifted.  White said:

“First and foremost I just want everyone to be healthy. I think everyone would love to finish the season but everyone’s health is the top priority.

“It’s been a pretty crazy season already and it’s a massive fight for who is going to win the league.”

Despite losing their manager Nick Cushing to New York City FC Manchester City found themselves a point clear ahead of their nearest rivals Chelsea. However their title rivals have a game in hand, which had set up an exciting finish until COVID-19 stopped all sport.

The Chelsea Women’s manager Emma Hayes meanwhile has said:

“When the men’s professional game resumes the WSL should consider doing that but I understand if the season does not resume and life is ultimately more important. Hopefully when the times come to lift the restrictions we can all do it in the same way.”

While the Bristol City Women’s manager Tanya Oxtoby has recently expressed concerns that some players may in fact be struggling with anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 lockdown.  Oxtoby said

“Athletes like structure, routine and to be around each other.  So I think from a mental health point of view that’s probably very difficult.

“There’s also been the added stress in terms of finances and families, those are all factors that will affect individual players a little bit differently.”

This observation can certainly be applied to all sports personnel during this time. FIFA Pro recently carried out a survey alongside Amsterdam University on both male and female footballers which showed 22% of female players and 13% of male players have reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of depression.

What next?

The Football Association is determined to complete the current season but wants it finished by no later than early August.

The FA Women’s Director Kelly Simmons, supports this by saying:

“We are determined to finish the FA WSL, Women’s Championship and the FA Cup in the most appropriate way while it is also the intention of UEFA to complete the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

“We are doing everything we can to plan for the return of football but for now safety and welfare remains are primary concern.”

One thing is however clearly apparent; this is certainly an unprecedented time for all those involved and ultimately tough decisions will need to be made about the future and growth of the women’s game in the days ahead.

National League clubs vote to end regular season

Following The FA’s decision to conclude the 2019/20 season for Grassroots football, The National League Clubs (Steps 1 & 2) have voted to end their current season as it stands.

A National League statement added:

“In the knowledge that the ordinary resolution has passed, the League’s board has chosen to communicate the decision now and before the last few responses are received, which will not change the outcome, to enable clubs to make business decisions with greater clarity as soon as possible.

“The options concerning the sporting outcomes of the 2019-20 season remain under careful and timely consideration, and further updates will be given in due course.”

The promotion and relegation outcomes are now under “careful consideration” after the league’s board had urged clubs in its three divisions to vote in favour of ending the regular season without further games because of coronavirus.

The National League board will now meet on Friday (24/04/20) to discuss the next steps and whether it will be plausible to continue with the playoffs or not.

The idea of ending the current season as it is, as opposed to voiding it, leaves some clubs in a promising position and Barrow AFC boss Ian Evatt has said cancelling the league ‘is the right thing to for football’, and Barrow should rightfully be promoted to the Football League.

Barrow took a huge gamble being one of the clubs to vote for the league to be ended. For some in non-league though it is more than the standings they have to think about.

Evatt told talkSPORT:

“We understand that contracts are 44 weeks and we’re getting to that stage where players are out of contract at the end of April and clubs need to save that money, it’s that simple.”

With The Northern Premier League abandoned as a result of Grassroots football being concluded, some will be having a watchful eye on the National League developments, one being league leaders South Shields.

The Mariners were runaway leaders in the competition before it was considered null and void but should the National League find a way of deciding promotion and relegation it could see a way for South Shields gaining entry to the National League North (NLN) next season.

One way that is said to have been considered is by a points-per-game basis. If that was to be the case then York, who top the NLN, would miss out to Kings Lynn who, despite being second, are only two points behind playing two less games hence, a higher points-per-game ratio.

On the contrary, a club disappointed with this outcome is Notts County, who are playing in the National League for the first time in their 158-year history.

“We would like to place on record our disappointment that the season has been brought to a premature end,” said a statement from the Magpies’ board of directors.

“While we appreciate the views of other clubs and respect the overall outcome of this vote as a representation of opinion across the three divisions, our stance has always been that the National League should operate in tandem with the EFL due to the intrinsic link between the two leagues.” The full statement is on their website.

The National League will have to work with the English Football League (EFL) on the principle of two teams getting promoted. What’s more, there is still the task of balancing the books after Bury’s expulsion left League One with 23 teams.

Football in England is suspended indefinitely, with the Premier League and EFL still hoping to play seasons to a conclusion.

Every mind matters – How Harry maguire and Jesse Lingard are coping in lockdown

England and Manchester United duo Harry Maguire and Jesse Lingard have announced their support of the Every Mind Matters campaign to support everyone in lockdown.

Data shows that there are as many as four in five people suffering much higher levels of anxiety as a result of the virus and the campaign offers advice for people to help with their mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 lockdown,

Due to many people feeling worried, anxious or isolated during these challenging times, Public Health England’s Every Mind Matters shows that there’s plenty of things we can all do to look after our mental wellbeing and help others prevent these concerns from becoming more serious.

Both Lingard and Maguire have revealed the ways in which they’ve been able to try and keep their mind, and bodies, active during the current lockdown.

“Speaking regularly to my friends and family is so important during this time,” revealed Maguire.

“It doesn’t matter how – whether it’s via Skype, FaceTime or just a simple call, it’s good to speak about how you’re feeling with others which supports everyone’s mental wellbeing.

“The conversations give me a lot of encouragement and positivity, which is exactly what everyone needs during self-isolation.”

Lingard added: “I’m doing yoga twice a week at home to help look after my mental health.

“Speaking to my family on a regular basis is also really helpful as they give me support and make me feel connected.

“All of our lives have obviously changed a lot in recent weeks which can be confusing and make you feel anxious.

“Even during isolation I am trying to stay focused and set goals which has helped me maintain a routine and positive attitude.”

Furthermore, the campaign has been backed by FA President The Duke of Cambridge and the Duchess, who have been part of a powerful new film in support of it which was broadcast across national TV channels on Monday 20 April.

The Every Mind Matters website includes new NHS expert tips and advice on looking after mental wellbeing and supporting your family and loved ones during this time.

There is new advice, centered around taking care of individuals’ mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic with loads of new assets that are intended to help deal with our psychological prosperity during coronavirus.

It incorporates a custom fitted COVID-19 mind plan with content for people and their friends and family and backing for explicit mental wellbeing issues, for example, anxiety, stress, low mood and trouble sleeping. The site signs individuals to exercises, for example, careful breathing activities, help reframing unhelpful contemplations, and muscle unwinding.

As well as the new COVID-19 mental health support, Every Mind Matters urges individuals to finish a ‘MindPlan’, a snappy and free initiative that offers custom-made mental wellbeing guidance. More than 1.9m ‘Mind Plans’ have been finished since the dispatch in October.

The NHS-embraced content has been created in organization with clinicians, academics and driving psychological well-being noble cause and social endeavors including Mind, Mental Health Foundation, Samaritans, Rethink, Mental Health First Aid England, and offers definitive, proof based and functional help to the overall population, just as individuals with explicit emotional well-being concerns.

Blades players take partial wage/bonus deferrals due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Sheffield United have confirmed their players have agreed to partial wage and relevent bonus  deferrals due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the Premier League club have announced on their official website.

On Monday Blades boss Chris Wilder along-with members of his backroom staff and chief executive officier Stephen Bettis agreed to to the mesures for six months  to assist the club’s cash flow issues they currently find themselves in.

Following their managers decision, the playing staff have also decided to emulate the decision by accepting partial wage deferral, and bonus payments, until the end of 2020, due to the uncertainty regarding the timing of a return to action.

Speaking to the clubs official website CEO Bettis said: “First and foremost, our thoughts remain with those directly affected by the issues related to Covid-19.”

“This announcement follows positive and constructive discussions throughout the Club, taking into account the severity of the situation that the country finds itself in at the moment. I am pleased that we have reached an agreement with our first-team players, manager and backroom staff to help support the Club.” Bettis admitted

“It is a difficult period for everyone, but our Football Club also needs to be taken care of and I’m delighted that the players want to mirror the gesture of Chris and the staff by contributing, it confirms that they care about Sheffield United.

“The players should be commended, not only for this action, but also for their role in the #playerstogether initiative with other Premier League clubs.”

When the Premier League suspended games due to this ongoing pandemic, the Blades were sat in seventh, just two points behind fifth placed Manchester United, after an impressive campaign having just been promotion from the Championship.

It’s unclear when and if the season will return this season, however, the Premier League clubs said last week that they were committed for the season to be played out, but there is no set date for the games to return.

https://247-football.com/2020/04/20/a-glimpse-of-the-footballing-world-through-covid-19/

A glimpse of the footballing world through covid-19

As football came to a standstill, with the last football fixtures played over a month ago, clubs submerged into circumstances which would cut revenue and throw thousands upon thousands of jobs into jeopardy. Uncertainty of cash flow has seen various individuals sacrifice a wage percentage to ensure non-playing staff receive income. In one example, Reading manager Mark Bowen and chief executive Nigel Howe took a ”substantial percentage” wage cut in order to pay staff at the Berkshire club.

In the uncertain times of today, football clubs and their players have not been short of ideas in helping out and keeping busy. Social media has been flooded with entertainment courtesy of the biggest stars in football, whether that be Cristiano Ronaldo using his children as weights in his home gym or Nottingham Forest winger, Joe Lolley throwing a pan over his house. We have certainly seen a variety!

Premier League Season Extends Hiatus Indefinitely Because of COVID ...
As Coronavirus causes disruptions across the globe, we gain insight to how the footballing world is reacting.

With recognition that a football club is a colossal source of employment relative to a small town or community, it has become crystal clear just how important the football industry has become to towns and cities across the country. Fears of small clubs being disabled in recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic puts whole communities in a dismal situation. Despite this pressing thought, the football clubs we know and love are giving back through support in the community.

In regards to the 2019/2020 football season as a whole key decisions certainly need to be made. After all, with so much money at stake and livelihoods of many at risk, should there in fact be any relegation’s this season? Dropping down a league is a deeply emotional as well as a troubling financial affair and in the current situation may we see the Premier League and the Football Leagues decide to stop the drop?  Perhaps the most likely of the options is to finish the season – when safe for players, immediate staff and reporters to do so- behind close doors. This option is certainly the safest and potentially most sensible option, but both players and fans alike will argue this does not allow for a true representation of the season considering how atmospheres in stadiums can affect the game.

As for promotions and league titles this has to be concluded, not only because the whole team, fans included, have been building towards that target, but have also pledged large amounts of their budget on the basis of gaining promotion. Suddenly having that taken away could have dire financial consequences. When it is safe to do this is still unknown,however some reports say that the start of June is a possibility.

Another thing to consider is how will contracts and the transfer window work? Players and staff contracts usually run until the end of June/July in order to cover the season. Will contracts have to be extended to see out the current season or will a general rule be brought in? How will the Transfer Window work with Social Distancing rules? Could deals be done via video calls, potentially yes, but will everyone be satisfied by this ?

On a large scale, we’ve seen in the space of two weeks players unite with #PlayersTogether. A charity set up amongst the Premier League club captains in order to fund and provide PPE, vital equipment for NHS staff and key workers on the front line of the pandemic.

At a local level, many clubs have delivered for those wonderful individuals of the NHS. In Watford, Vicarage Road has been opened to allow a place of rest and recovery for Doctors and Nurses and Watford General Hospital.

While up north, Wigan Athletic boss Paul Cook has transferred managerial skills to supermarket delivery skills, signing up as a key worker to deliver shopping to those in self-isolation.  

Manchester United and England striker, Marcus Rashford has also continued his work within the community by partnering with FareShare, a charity which is reaching out to school children who would usually benefit from free school meals. Rashford’s involvement has helped the charity raise over £20 million which is directly bettering lives through distribution of meals to over 400,000 school children.

Arguably social media has been poignant in lifting spirits of everyone bound to their homes, giving us an insight to the lives of footballers and also allowing engagement between clubs and community. Various footballers from all teams have been video calling with young fans and we even had an insight to the Liverpool side having their morning meeting via today’s technology.

Furthermore, the Match Of The Days boys are ever present on social media and also completing one of many football podcasts. In the time slot of the regular highlights programme the show continues to add some routine to football fans across the country.

In a time of little positivity, it is these small gestures that are welcomed to bring light to the situation.

To hear more about football during isolation please listen to our podcast below.

The Isolation Pod: When will football return and Newcastle to be taken over?

https://247-football.com/2020/04/21/blades-players-take-partial-wage-bonus-deferrals-due-to-ongoing-covid-19-pandemic/

2020-21 UEFA Nations League draw announced

The UEFA’s Nation League announced their draw for the second edition of the tournament on March 3 in Amsterdam.

With 55 associations as part of UEFA, they are split into four Leagues based on their position in the UEFA National Team Coefficient Rankings. Sixteen nations will be competing in Leagues A through C while only seven compete in League D.

There are some intriguing matchups in the group stage for the competition, specifically for those who are in League A. 

For Group 1, the Netherlands, who finished as the runners-up in the inaugural edition, face off against Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Poland. 

In Group 2, England will face off against Belgium, who they lost to in the 2018 FIFA World Cup third-place match, Denmark, and Iceland, the surprise of the 2016 European Championship.

Group 3 consists of a rematch of the 2016 European Championship final as Portugal, who won the UEFA Nations League last year, battle France, the 2018 FIFA World Cup champions. Sweden and  Croatia, the runners-up in the 2018 FIFA World Cup are also in the group.

Rounding off League A, Group 4 contains Spain, Germany, Switzerland, who finished fourth in the competition last year, and Ukraine. 

The league phase was set to begin in early September, However due to the corona virus outbreak no dates are now known, If this edition is anything like the inaugural one, football fans are in for a treat.

League B is where we find the other Home Nations with Wales and the Republic of Ireland drawn together in Group 4 alongside Finland and Bulgaria.  Northern Ireland are in Group 1 alongside Austria, Norway and Romania. Scotland meanwhile will face Czech Republic, Slovakia and Israel. The remaining Group contains Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Hungary.

 

 

Middlesbrough 2-2 Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest scored a late equaliser to earn a point and deny Middlesbrough the 3 points which would have taken them out of the relegation zone. The goal had Boro players up in arms as they appealed for a foul by goal scorer Lewis Grabban on goalkeeper Aynsley Pears. The ball spun up from a deflected Joe Lolley shot and Grabban positioned him between the goalkeeper and where the ball was dropping, it fell to Grabban inside the six-yard box and with his back to goal, the striker delivered a clever finish to guide a spinning ball behind him and into the Middlesbrough net.


Sabri Lamouchi made one change from the 1-0 victory at Cardiff City last week as the injured Tiago Silva was replaced in the starting line-up by Alfa Semedo while John Bostock took a place on the bench. Jonathan Woodgate made three changes to his Middlesbrough side as Marvin Johnson, Paddy McNair and Rudy Gestede came in for George Friend, George Saville, and Ashley Fletcher. Forest were below par for much of the match but did take the lead when Ryan Yates picked the ball up on the edge of the box and drilled a low strike beyond Pears and into the corner of the net. Forest did not push on from the winning position and their usually effective counter-attacking style away from home was not working. They were allowing Boro players far too much time on the ball which gave them the encouragement to get back into the game. They almost found a response within a minute of the goal but Hayden Coulson’s powerful drive flashed past Brice Samba’s left-hand post and Wing had a decent opportunity soon after but his shot was superbly blocked by Figueiredo.
Gestede, Forest’s nemesis for so many years, was the man to bring Boro level five minutes before the break. A free-kick to the back post was headed back across goal by Harold Moukoudi and Gestede arrived right on time to squeeze his header into the net from close range. This was Gestede’s 8th goal against Forest; the most he scored against any opposition.

It was not long after that Boro had turned the game completely on its head, Pears started a quick counter-attack with a smart throw with Forest committing players forward. They exploited the space well with Coulson finding Louis Wind whose shot spun off Brice Samba and into the net.


The second half started with Forest only creating half chances for Figueiredo and Grabban. Boro had won just one game all season after falling behind – on 21 occasions and perhaps that showed late on as Forest improved once they had brought on Joa Carvalho on 69 minutes. He slotted into the number 10 position and immediately made an impact flicking the ball to fellow substitute Diakhaby who couldn’t take advantage. Carvalho was getting on the ball to create and delivering dangerous set-pieces one of which he picked out Joe Lolley from a corner which lead to the equaliser. He was producing probably his best performance since his outstanding performance against Middlesbrough almost a year ago. With Tiago Silva out injured for a few weeks, Joa could finally get a run in the side in his preferred position.
Nottingham Forest head coach Sabri Lamouchi was honest and left frustrated at his side’s poor overall performance despite taking a point. Speaking after the match, he said:

“We can say it was a good point because it is two games away, four points from Cardiff and Middlesbrough so that is not bad.”I think we are happy with this point but just the point, because the way we played, the organisation, the mistakes, simple things, I am not totally satisfied. “We never controlled the game, we started better than them but we never made the difference with our quality. Tonight, we made a lot of mistakes, simple things; position, technically, I don’t know what was wrong.”If the fans are happy with a point, I am happy with a point but I am not happy with the way we played. We need more character, more personality. “We never asked to play quick, fast because when you do, you can make mistakes but it was easy mistakes to make to avoid. It was a bad game, a bad performance and I am a little bit upset because the expectation was bigger. When they want something important, you need an important performance and tonight the performance was wrong.”


Middlesbrough’s Jonathan Woodgate said: “I thought it was [a foul on Pears] to be honest with you. Nine out of 10 times that’s getting given. The referee in my opinion didn’t make the right decision, but it happens and we move on from it.

“I thought we deserved the win. The reaction, especially after they went ahead, was good. I’ve got to remain positive with my players and keep them going for the next game against Charlton. We’ve just got to win as many as we can now. We need to put a run together.”

Forest: Samba; Cash, Worrall, Figueiredo, Ribeiro; Watson (c), Yates (Bostock 78′); Lolley, Semedo (Diakhaby 56′), Ameobi (Carvalho 69′); Grabban

Subs not used: Muric, Jenkinson, Dawson, Walker

Goals: Yates 29′, Grabban 86′

Booking: Carvalho 90′

Middlesbrough: Pears; Howson (c), Shotton, Moukoudi, Johnson; Clayton, McNair, Wing (Saville 81′); Tavernier (Spence 87′), Coulson, Gestede

Subs not used: Mejias, Wood, Morrison, Nmecha, O’Neill

Goals: Gestede 40′, Wing 44′

Booking: Shotton 75′

Referee: Darren England

Attendance: 18,884 (1,100 away)
Man of the Match: Hayden Coulson

Christian Eriksen transfer saga ends as he signs for Inter Milan

With rumors swirling around since last season about wanting to move from Tottenham, Christian Eriksen has finally departed by signing with Inter Milan.

The Danish attacking midfielder has played a pivotal part for the Spurs since he began his career with the club in 2013. His accolades with the North London side include winning the club’s Player of the Year award in 2014 and 2017, was part of the PTFA Team of the Year in 2018 and was a member of the squad that finished as runners-up in last year’s edition of the UEFA Champions League.

Eriksen has had a successful senior career thus far with Ajax and the Spurs. For the Dutch side, where he had been since his youth career in 2008, he scored 25 goals in 113 appearances before leaving for the Premier League side in 2013. Meanwhile, for the English-side, he scored 51 goals in 226 appearances, but has only scored two goals in 20 appearances this season.

For the Denmark National Team, Eriksen has scored 31 goals in 95 appearances. During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he helped the squad advance to the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time since the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. After finishing second in Group C to eventual champions France, they ended up losing in the Round of 16 to runner-up Croatia.

With this move to Inter, the Italian giants have been creating their own Premier League squad with the addition of Eriksen. Former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s squad this year has also acquired Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Alexis Sánchez (loan from Manchester United), Ashley Young (Manchester United), and Victor Moses (loan from Chelsea). 

As Inter sit three points (48) behind Juventus (51) for the top spot in Serie A with 17 games left, their fans are hoping they are team to finally dethrone the Turin squad, who have held the possession since 2012.

WSL Update: Week 10 round-up and Week 11 preview

The Robbins stun Casey Stoney’s United to record first league win, Sam Kerr makes a successful WSL debut for Chelsea and Nick Cushing’s Manchester City record a convincing victory against Tottenham

Bristol City enjoyed a fine start to the New Year as they secured their first league victory of the WSL season. City beat Manchester United 1-0 at United’s Leigh Valley Stadium. 

Former United player Ebony Salmon scored the only goal of the game in the first half by slotting the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Mary Earps.

Sophie Baggaley also performed a starring role for the West Country club in goal, as she pulled off a string of outstanding saves in the game’s closing stages.

Chelsea meanwhile had to come back from a goal down to see off Reading 3-1 at Kingsmeadow.

England’s most-capped international, Fara Williams had given the Royals an early lead before Reading keeper, Grace Moloney was sent off for a late challenge on Chelsea’s Australian debutant Sam Kerr.

Kerr is the Australian and American League record goal scorer who signed for the blues in November but was only available to make her first appearance for her new club in January.

Although she missed a few chances she was involved in the equaliser, producing a classy backheel to create the opening for Beth England to score.

Guro Reiten and Erin Cuthbert completed the scoring in the second half, securing the win for Emma Hayes’ side.

Elsewhere, two goals from Pauline Bremer helped Manchester City to a 4-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur.  Rianna Dean managed to score a penalty for the home team, however further goals from Ellen White and Lauren Hemp put the result beyond any doubt.

The league leaders Arsenal were able to maintain their three point advantage by completing a 2-0 win over Birmingham City.  While Liverpool remained winless as they lost 1-0 to Hope Powell’s Brighton.

The final match between West Ham United and Everton was called off due to a flu outbreak within the East London side’s squad. A rescheduled date is to be confirmed.

Week 11 preview: Saturday 11thJanuary

Manchester City vs Everton (Kick-off 17:30) – BT Sport

The weekend kicks off with Nick Cushing’s team hosting an Everton side that have lost all of their six league matches against Manchester City.

It is set to be one of Cushing’s last games in charge of City as he is going off to take over as assistant manager at New York City in the MLS in February.

The Toffees will have to watch out for City’s top goal scorer Pauline Bremer, the German has scored three goals in her past two games.

Prediction City win 3-0

Predicting that Manchester City will maintain their strong start to 2020.

 Sunday 12thJanuary

Liverpool vs Manchester United (12:30)

Both of these sides are coming off the back off disappointing results last time out. Liverpool did manage a 1-1 draw with Chelsea in their last home game and are currently unbeaten in their last three home matches.

Manchester United however won the reverse fixture in the league back in September 2-0.  They will most likely be looking to their midfielder Lauren James to provide that spark.  James is currently United’s top league goal scorer with five goals.

Prediction: United win 2-1

Think that Manchester United will return to winning ways against Vicky Jepson’s team.

Brighton vs Arsenal (12:30)

Brighton have recently enjoyed an upturn in form in recent weeks aside from the 5-0 loss against Manchester City that is their only defeat in the past five matches.

The defending champions Arsenal meanwhile are on an even better run and have scored 28 goals in their last five games.

The Seagulls will have to pay close attention to Scottish international and Gunners captain Kim Little.  The midfielder has contributed three goals in her last three games and has been an integral part of the North London Club’s impressive run.

Prediction: Arsenal win 2-0

Anticipating that the Gunners will have too much for Seagulls.

Chelsea vs Bristol City (14:00)

The West Country side finally secured their first league win last time out against Manchester United.  They have also won their last two away games in all competitions that indicate that they are starting to turn a corner.

Chelsea however are the only unbeaten team left in the Women Super League and young English midfielder Beth England in particular has been impressive in recent weeks.

Prediction: Chelsea win 4-1

Reckon the blues will put on another strong showing in front of their own fans.

Reading vs Birmingham City (14:00)

Birmingham come into this game not in the best of form having lost three of their past four league matches.  The midlands side however have never lost to Reading in seven matches.

The Royals will most likely look to their England midfielder, Fara Williams to make the difference.  Williams made two assists in Reading’s last home win against Tottenham Hotspur back in December.

Prediction: Reading win 1-0

Believe that home advantage will give The Royals the edge against Birmingham this time around.

Tottenham Hotspur vs West Ham United (14:00)

Tottenham are going through a bit of a tricky period as they have lost their last two league games.  They did however win the reverse fixture against the Hammers 2-0 at the Olympic Stadium in September.

West Ham meanwhile is going through a frustrating time as well as their last two league matches have been postponed for various reasons and they will hope that their squad has recovered from the flu they suffered last week.

Prediction: Draw 2-2

This is a difficult one to predict. So we are going with an entertaining score draw between these sides.

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: THE GOOD WORK CARRIED OUT WITHIN FOOTBALL CLUBS

Professional football clubs have an immense following within their local community with increasing influence on a global scale. With their top-tier status in society, this must used to the advantage for the people.

In the last decade, the relationships between football and charities has rapidly grown, and rightfully so. Perhaps the most famous partnership with La Liga highfliers Barcelona who wore the Unicef logo on the front and back of their famous burgundy and navy stripes for over ten years. The connection of the two organisations saw the Spanish club contribute £2 million per year from 2016, in aid of improvement of education through sport and play in countries where the United Nations charity operated. The perennial champions of La Liga successfully support this wonderful charity, but should management of football clubs begin to focus upon taking advantage of their platform to provide social responsibility?

Looking most recently at the disastrous situation down under, the destruction of homes and wildfire life has caused a sad scene for all. With premise of the Australian open being held in Melbourne on the 20th January, elites of the game have subscribed to play in an exhibition match to raise money for those affected by the bush fires in Australia. A simplistic idea but an event which will not only bring enjoyment for spectators to give break from their hardships, with participation of Rodger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal confirmed, but is also an effective money maker for the economic help the country needs.

Looking specifically at professional footballers, their social media platforms could be used as a gateway for good causes. An impeccable example is of Aston Villa man Tyrone Mings. On top of establishing a football academy which targeted those who had been affected by homelessness, just as he had as a youngster, he opened up his executive box for the Christmas game against Southampton. The regular starter at Villa Park used Twitter to announce his opening and his followers may send nominations of inspirational people who perhaps could not make the game in normal circumstances. Social media was full of praise for the kind gesture but most importantly those who spent the day in Aston Villa’s hospitality, courtesy of Ming’s, had a once in a life time experience.

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Growing up in a homeless shelter, Tyrone Ming’s uses his status to help those who descend from a similar background has he did.

Aston Villa as a club, along with many others, have a close relationship with their local hospice. Acorn Children’s Hospice have been the official charity partners of Villa sine 2006 and have quoted on their website the players regularly visit the hospice to show support and awareness for those who use the hospice and those working there. It can be a very humbling experience for the players, but with the stature of their football player title, you can imagine what it will bring to those they are visiting.

Footballers have the status and ability to make these simplistic gestures which has potential to be a once in a life-time experience. It is clear to see many clubs and individual players are aware of the positive effect they can have on wider society and do show social responsibility. There is always room for further improvements and clubs and players should be encouraged to increase and maintain their interaction within society to the upmost.

Club legends: a new era of managers?

The past year has seen an increase of past player managerial appointments, with the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and most recently Mikel Arteta at Arsenal. But how big is the risk to appoint a club legend?

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Frank Lampard is well under way in his first season in charge of Chelsea

Frank Lampard is possibly the best example of a club legend taking charge of a former club. Lampard spent 13 playing seasons at Chelsea where he totalled 648 appearances for the South London club. Lampard took charge of Derby County during the 2018/19 before returning to the capital where he was appointed as Head Coach.

At the time it was seen as a gamble as it was only Lampard’s second season in a managerial position but with England teammate Steven Gerrard taking the same role at Rangers, Chelsea were not alone in their method of appointing a new generation of managers. Lampard got off to a respectable start with their first league loss of the season coming against reigning champions Manchester City at the Ethiad. Since then, the club has seen its fair share of mixed results. Some have been reasoned poor results, such as a 3-1 loss to struggling Everton, due to the youth of the team but and possible naivety.

But can it be argued that the lines of managerial blame become blurred when the manager in question has already such an intense relationship with the club? If the team isn’t performing to a standard expected, an element of the blame is usually passed onto the manager and the way in which the manager reacts is generally a determiner of their future. As with any manager, previous club relations or not, it is up to the powers above how long they are in charge at club. It can be suggested bias may come into play if the manager is affiliated with the club, with a possible unconscious hope of wanting him to do well. Equally, it may cause discrepancy amongst fans, some may want him to do well but if a group believe he is only keeping his places due to his club history, it could cause a divide in the support.

On the other hand with some clubs of late sacking managers as if it was going out of fashion, could it be a good thing to appoint more club favourites to coaching positions? Affiliation with the club could lead to longer managerial spells if the club want the individual to succeed in a coaching role. Former players could have the opportunity to reignite old passions within the club which would reinforce its culture. This would be advantageous also because they know and understand the club and could potentially reinforce its older traditions of play which will be reason as to why a large majority of the fans have such strong connections to the club.

Respectively it is a risk to appoint a club legend, especially for a ‘big’ successful club, who could easily attract a ‘safe’ option of an experienced man. However, the risk could be beneficial if the manager is able to recreate the passion they once had for playing for the club in the form of management.

TOWN TAKE ALL THREE POINTS FROM ROVERS

A fixture which has seen more draws in the last few years than an other score-line, fans on both sides would have been hopeful for more than just a point a piece.

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A second goal of the Christmas period for Huddersfield’s front man

Following this weeks news of star striker Bradley Dack being ruled out for the season due to injury, a heavy weight laid upon a Blackburn side who were looking to continue their unbeaten run dating back to 9th November. For Huddersfield, Danny Cowley made two changes to the Boxing Day starting line up which included the return of left back Jaden Brown who came in to replace Flo Hadergjonajat.

As expected, the beginning stages saw both teams very open in defence with both sides having chances in the primary stages. Danny Graham was the first to capitalise one of these chances for the visitors as he headed past Grabara, leaving the Huddersfield players to simply watch as he nodded down to the near post. Up at the other end shortly after referee Andy Woolmer waved away penalty claims as Karlan Grant was brought to ground in the penalty area. Woolmer was keeping the game flowing choosing not to be disciplinary with cards where other officials might have been during the first half.

Shortly before half time a whipped in free kick from Juninho Bacuna reached six yard box to be met by Town’s centre half Jon Gorenc Stankovic who recorded his home turf debut goal with a bullet header to make it 1-1. Stankovic arguably Huddersfield’s best player of the day was up against Blackburn’s Sam Gallagher who caused problems for the home side on multiple occasions, a great contest to watch throughout the 90 minutes.

It was Huddersfield who fought back in the second half to take the lead through a skilled strike from Steve Mounie who, from middle distance, struck the ball into the top right hand corner of the Blackburn net in the latter quarter of the game. A good strike which turned out to be the winner for the Terriers, however this wasn’t before Huddersfield’s keeper Grabara was needed to pull off a close range save to deny Rovers an equaliser.

Nine minutes added on for injury time led to a majority nervous atmosphere at the John Smiths but the home side managed to cling on to their one goal advantage. A good game of football from both sides with some real glimpses of talent in youth players from John Buckley for Rovers who showed intent to get the ball forward and supply his strikers. Similarly, Lewis O’Brien who balanced maturity and desire to attack well, stepping up to replace the injured Jonathon Hogg.

Liverpool to battle Flamengo in the Club World Cup final

The European Champions escaped a close semi-final match in the Club World Cup against Liga MX side Monterrey in Qatar, ultimately needing a stoppage-time winner from substitute Roberto Firmino for the 2-1 victory.

 Liverpool had several key players either unable to play or started on the bench for the match, especially in the center of the defense. The situation was so complicated that midfielder Jordan Henderson had to fill in the void due to Virgil van Dijk (illness), Dejan Lovren (injured), and Joel Matip (injured) not able to suit up for the squad.

The current Premier League leaders got off to a quick start after Naby Keita scored in the 12th-minute, courtesy of an outstanding reverse pass from Mohamed Salah. It was a short lead, however, as Rogelio Funes Mori scored two minutes later for the recent winners of the CONCACAF Champions League.

The Reds were able to squeeze out a narrow victory after Firmino, who only entered the match in the 85th-minute, scored the late goal, causing the side to head into the finals of the competition.

In the finals, Liverpool will face off against Brazilian Série A side Flamengo. They will face off against a familiar opponent in Filipe Luis, who played for the likes of Atlético Madrid and Chelsea before making the move to his home country this season.

The two sides will play on Saturday, the first time they both play against each other in a tournament match since the 1981 Intercontinental Cup, where Flamengo defeated Liverpool 3-0 in Tokyo.

Match PREVIEW: Wolves vs Sheffield United

This weeks Sunday afternoon kick off is set up to be anything but relaxing, with two of the most in form Premier League teams going head to head at the Molineux.

See the source image
McBurnie celebrates late equaliser against Manchester United last weekend.

Both teams will enter the fixture on the back of 3-3 score lines; Wolves progressing through Europe midweek and United gaining one point in a game where they perhaps should have taken all three. The supporters will certainly be hoping for a repeat of the exciting performances both teams have delivered since the beginning of the season.

Wolves fans have certainly enjoyed watching prolific forward Raul Jimenez and tricky winger Adama Traore who have 12 goals between them this season, which has allowed Nuno’s team to balance both Premier League and European football this season. Jimenez has been praised by Nuno for his successes in front of goal this season with reference to his clinical finishing and aerial threat which has galvanised the team throughout the season.

On the other hand Sheffield’s following will not have seen as many goals from their team as Wolves have, but this is not to say it will be a game of out scoring. Sheffield’s immaculate record away from Bramall Lane is only matched by runaway league leaders Liverpool, and no doubt manager Chris Wilder will be putting out his most consistent team to carry forward this record for another week. The wing back positions have become integral for the Blades just as the skilful Edna Stevens, who has shown talent and delivered dangerous balls which have been optimized by the lurking striker in the form of top goal scorer Lys Mousset. The effort shown by the players on the pitch has been replicated within the whole of the South Yorkshire club, which is what has seen Sheffield create many friends already in the their time in the top flight, which is looking to be a lengthy stay.

With two highly respected managers, this fixture is set to be a test of two great footballing minds, a test of strength and talent for the players and a test for the spectators to stay on their seats!

Championship VAR: for better or worse?

With Izzy Brown’s winning goal against Charlton reviewed post match as handball, would the Championship be better off with VAR?

But would the implication of VAR have made the night any less frustrating for an unlucky Charlton team? It is clear that VAR is yet to be perfected in the Premier League therefore if it was to be used in the Championship it would be certain to cause further controversy.

The Championship, known for its intensely contested and physical football, would be in for interval filled games if VAR was too be established before its system is perfected.

It can argued the biggest downfall of the VAR system at the moment is the time it takes to come to a decision, whether it be correct or not. Without doubt this would lead to disgruntlement from the fans, players and managers surrounding the fluency of the 90 minutes.

Despite this, in cases such as the Hatter’s ‘illegitimate’ match winning goal, managers especially argue that VAR should be in place for one hundred percent accuracy of the game. Which yes, if VAR was in use the goal would have been reviewed, but as we have seen in the Premier League it is not always correct. Raheem Sterling’s goal against Chelsea was wrongly ruled out for offside through the process of VAR, with the officials proving they are still able to make a wrong decision during a live game. VAR is just not yet at without it’s flaws.

With this is mind it seems dubious to introduce VAR to another football league as the system appears just as unpredictable as football would be without it.

Manchester City owners add Mumbai City to CFG network

“We believe that this investment will deliver transformative benefits to Mumbai City FC, to City Football Group and to Indian Football as a whole.”

Manchester City owners City Football Group (CFG) have announced the purchase of a majority stake in Mumbai City FC.

It comes just a day after CFG announced the sale of a 10% stake to American technology investment firm Silver Lake for $500 million, valuing the group at just short of $5 billion.

The Indian Super League side become the eighth football club involved in the group’s network, also joining Melbourne City in Australia, New York City in the USA, Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan, Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay, Girona in Spain and Sichuan Jiuniu in China.

It was announced on Thursday morning that a 65 per cent share has been acquired, while the club’s existing shareholders – including actor and film producer Ranbir Kapoor – will hold the remaining shares.

Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chairman of CFG, said in a statement that the group believes the investment will provide “transformative benefits” for Mumbai City, CFG and to Indian football as a whole.

He added: “City Football Group is committed to the future of football in India and to the potential for Mumbai City FC within that future.

“We are very much looking forward to playing an active role in Mumbai City FC’s fan and local communities, and working with our co-owners to further develop the Club as quickly as possible.”

While the deal provides clear benefits for Mumabi City and Indian football, it is also likely to benefit the rest of the CFG network, in particular flagship club Man City.

With the Premier League champions unable to play in countries such as India or the USA every week, CFG provides an opportunity to maintain franchises of the brand in such locations, enabling a constant market presence.

Deloitte’s Fernando Pons has stated that the CFG model is a leading example of ‘glocalisation’, a concept which implies adapting global products for local markets.

And while Man City merchandise isn’t sold by other CFG clubs – so that supporters of different British teams are not alienated – Pons states that followers of subsidiaries will almost certainly become MCFC fans.

A wider network of clubs improves their capabilities in terms of supporter base, and the larger their fan base the more revenue CFG will produce. With that in mind, it is unlikely that the group will stop at Mumbai, and – according to reports – CFG could make a move in Brazil and Mexico next.

POCH OUT, JOSE IN AT SPURS

Tottenham’s poor start to the season has resulted in Mauricio Pochettino losing his job. It was not long ago that Pochettino was one of the most admired and sought after managers in the business, yet now he has been sacked by Spurs despite being heavily linked with the Real Madrid managers’ position in the summer – following his success in guiding The Lilywhites to the Champions League Final. His achievements speak for themselves; when he took over Spurs were a Top 4 outsider, he turned them into the closest challengers to Liverpool, Man City and Leicester for the premiership title. All whilst developing young players and playing attractive attacking football. It comes as no surprise to me that he is already being linked with another top job as Bayern Munich are reportedly interested as are Real Madrid once more.

What went wrong?

Tottenham’s success was considered more remarkable due to the fact Lucas was their only signing over 2 transfer windows. But this created a togetherness and team spirit which were key elements in reaching the illusive Champions League final. This summer this changed with money being spent on new players, existing players linked with moves away and Pochettino himself linked with other clubs. Bringing players in with the aim of building on what he had already done was what it seemed Spurs needed. But with players like Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld seemingly seeking moves away it all added up to less cohesion and team spirit than beforehand.

Tottenham became one of my favourite sides to watch under his management and I fear this could change under the new man in control. José Mourinho is renowned for defensive football or “parking the bus” as it has been referred to as and this is the complete opposite of Pochettino. He likes 2 defensive midfielders whose prime focus is to protect the back 4; this could result in Eric Dier being brought back into the team in place of Harry Winks – despite his recent success in the International break for England. His wide players in a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation need to track back which for me casts further doubts on Eriksen’s future at the club. However one thing that Mourinho always seems to do is win trophies and that is the one thing Spurs under Poch didn’t do, so the question is whilst they might not be as entertaining or attacking if they win a trophy will this be forgiven?

Do you think Mourinho is a good replacement for Pochettino?

Top 10 players of the decade

With the decade that brought 7-1 wins and title winners that defied all odds, we’re going through the top 10 players of the last 10 years.

Lionel Messi

How could you not put this man in? Labelled one of if not the best player of all time, the Argentinian has been hugely influential. Messi has two Champions League titles and a Golden ball at the 2014 World Cup to his name. He also scored ninety-one goals in one calendar year, a record that hasn’t been equalled in recent years.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Another who is impossible to miss, Ronaldo has done everything a player can do. You name it, the Portuguese has won it. Two La Liga’s, two Copa Del Rey’s, four Champions League’s and a winners medal at Euro 2016 to name just a few team trophies. Real Madrid’s all time top scorer has also won five Ballon d’or.

Neymar

The Brazilian burst onto the scene with Santos in 2013 which earned him a move to Barcelona for around seventy million. After being a crucial part of the deadly MSN trio that lead the Catalonian side to a Champions League, Neymar moved to Paris Saint German for a record breaking two hundred million.

Andreas Iniesta

The first of four midfielders in this list, the magic Spaniard has been included in the Ballon d’or top three twice since 2010. He was also an influential part of the Spanish World Cup winning side in 2010 and he even scored the winning goal in the final.

Xavi

Iniesta’s midfield partner for club and country, Xavi is you dream midfielder. One of the best ball players in recent years, Xavi has been in the top three of the Ballon d’or once and was another who was crucial to Spain’s World Cup wining team. In 2015, he moved from Barcelona, the club where he’d played for over fifteen years to join Quatrain side Al Sadd. After four years of making everyone around him look like fools despite being in his mid thirties, he became their manager at at the start of this season.

Andrea Pirlo

The third magic midfielder in this list, Pirlo is the definition of majestic. The Italian could always find a pass and didn’t just pass. Some of his passes defied physics with him being able to make the ball go where ever he wanted. The fact that he has very little individual credit to his name is outrageous being one of the most underrated players of our decade.

Luis Suarez

After announcing himself to the world with Ajax, the Uruguayan moved to Liverpool where he formed a deadly partnership with Sturridge. After scoring sixty nine goals over four successful seasons, he moved to Barcelona for seventy million. Despite a decline in recent years, Suarez has been brilliant at the Blaugranes.

Luka Modric

The last of the midfielders in this list and unsurprised the only Croatian. He was labelled the ‘worst signing of the summer’ by Real Madrid fans after his move to the club in 2013. He’s proved the haters wrong since then and after an impressive 2017 and 2018 he finally picked up an individual award. He won the Ballon d’or in 2018 and won the golden ball at the 2018 World Cup after helping his nation get to their first ever final on the world stage.

Sergio Ramos

One of the biggest (and dirtiest) characters in the footballing world makes it into our list. Ramos isn’t afraid to voice his opinion or go in for a tackle meaning he has accumulated twenty five red cards (the most in Europe). He has won everything their is to win with Spain and Real Madrid so you can’t not put him in.

Manuel Neuer

Another who’s declined in recent years, Neuer has undoubtedly been one of the best goalkeepers of our decade. He has so much agility and he was probably the best ball playing goalkeeper in his prime. The World Cup winner has also kept Barcelona first choice keeper Ter Stegan to only twenty three Germany caps.

LA Galaxy look towards PSG’s Edinson Cavani to replace Zlatan Ibrahimović

According to several reports, the LA Galaxy are hoping to replace Zlatan Ibrahimović with former PSG teammate Edinson Cavani.

Ibrahimović, who had been in the league since making his much-anticipated debut for the Galaxy on March 31, 2018, decided it was time to leave the club after scoring an impressive 52 goals in only 56 appearances.

Cavani, who has been sensational for the French giants since arriving from Napoli in 2013, has fallen down the pecking order after the club signed Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi on loan for this season. This has caused the Uruguayan striker to find a move that could get him playing time, which the MLS would be able to offer.

Throughout the summer, Cavani had been linked to David Beckham’s Inter Miami for their inaugural season, but Ibrahimović’s departure could lead the storied franchise to sign the prolific striker.

The Uruguayan has been a pivotal part of PSG since his arrival, scoring 136 goals in 192 appearances with the club. Cavani has also been sensational for his national team, alongside FC Barcelona’s striker Luis Suárez, bagging 48 goals in 114 appearances. 

If the Galaxy are able to land Cavani, it would be a major coup for the league. The striker has dominated Europe, winning a Coppa Italia with Napoli in 2012, winning five Ligue 1 titles, and many more. The Uruguayan was also a part of the squad that won the 2011 Copa América in Argentinian soil.

Although Cavani’s personality may not as out-of-the box as Ibrahimović’s, whose flair off the pitch seemed to take over the city of Los Angeles and the league, he is a player that could make an immediate impact if signed.

The 32-year-old looks as if he could still play at a high level, so some may wonder why he would move to the MLS, a league considered to be a place where Europe’s biggest stars come to “retire.” However, if the Galaxy are able to land Cavani, it could be a huge step to increase star influence in the league, having already had players such as Beckham, Ibrahimović, Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba, and many more take their talents to the U.S. and Canada. 

As the Galaxy become desperate to search for their next No. 9, it should be interesting to see if Cavani will be able to fill the giant void left by Ibrahimović in a city where the lights and pressure shine the brightest.

FIFA Appoint Wenger…

FIFA have announced they have appointed Arsene Wenger as their new Chief Of Global Football Development.

Wenger has been out of work since leaving Arsenal, being their manager for some 22 years. In the last 12 months he had hinted that he was looking to return to football in ‘some capacity’ possibly at managerial or head coach level.

In the last week, he was interviewed for and looked set to take the Bayern Munich head coach position, a position he has previously been linked with.

However talks on that stalled, because even at 70… he wanted a longer contract than Bayern were offering.

But now it seems that he has found a more fitting role, given his all round knowledge, global contacts and absolutely breath taking football experience.

FIFA have described Wenger as being a “Leading Authority on Technical Matters” a fact you could hardly disagree with.

Wengers new role has yet to be fully defined, but is thought to be ‘driving growth for men and women across the Globe’.

Certainly it is a role which for those who like Wenger, will be followed with great interest. Another part of the role will involve coaching education and a programme that will encourage former players to become managers and stay in the football world.

Given Wenger’s reputation and experience in the football sphere, his role is expected to be fulfilled well.

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry named head coach of MLS side Montreal Impact

Thierry Henry, one of the biggest players in the most popular sport worldwide, was appointed to be the head coach of the Montreal Impact on a two-year contract.

 For Henry, who has played for the likes of some of Europe’s top clubs such as Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal, and FC Barcelona, this will be his second stint in the league after he played for the New York Red Bulls from 2010-2014, scoring 51 goals in 122 appearances for the club.

The Frenchman began his coaching career in February 2015, coaching Arsenal’s youth teams along with working for Sky Sports. Henry later became an assistant coach, specifically focused on the forwards, for the Belgium national team under manager Roberto Martinez. His efforts led him to be offered the managerial position for Bordeaux, but disagreements with the club’s owners led him to not accept the job. 

After being promoted to lead assistant coach, Henry accepted his first job as a manager for his former club Monaco in October after the firing of Leonardo Jardim. After starting off his tenure with a 2-1 loss at Strasbourg, Henry was unable to get a win for over a month before defeating Caen 1-0 in November. The club’s struggles led him to sign several key players during the winter transfer window, including former Arsenal teammate Cesc Fábregas from Chelsea and Brazilian center back Naldo from Schalke. Ultimately, these signings did not help the club improve its form, and Henry was dismissed from his former club after the team was in 19th at the time, finishing his tenure with a record of 4-5-11.

 Although Henry’s tenure at Monaco was rough, he does not have to face the pressure of relegation in the MLS with the Impact. The club’s partnership with Italian-side Bologna will also offer a great deal of help as he would be able to loan some players from a top-flight league into the squad, offering some much-needed assistance for a squad that missed the playoffs after finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference. 

With the fate of Montreal’s success in the league in the hands of Henry, time will tell if the Frenchman – who had only previously managed one side prior and was unsuccessful – will be able to improve the squad’s performance compared to last season.

How do you think Henry will get on at Montreal Impact?

Women’s Football Weekend

Following a record-breaking attendance of 77,768 for the England international match against Germany last weekend, The FA is set to launch the first ever Women’s Football Weekend this Sunday 17thNovember.

All 12 teams will be in action in the Women’s Super League with three of the six ties being played at Premier League grounds and another at a well- known and highly respected Championship stadium.

The weekend begins at 12:30pm with a repeat of last season’s FA Cup final as Manchester City will be looking to bounce back from their first defeat of the season against a strong Arsenal team last time out. They host West Ham at their Academy Stadium.

Brighton’s Amex Stadium will see the Seagulls welcome fellow strugglers Birmingham City, while Reading entertain Bristol City at the Madejski, both at 2pm.

The other 2pm kick-off sees league leaders Chelsea against newly promoted Manchester United at the Blues Cherry Red Record Stadium, in what promises to be an entertaining match between two of the divisions in-form sides.

The final two matches feature two of the most enthralling Derbies in English football. The Merseyside Derby will take place in front of the Kop at Anfield between Liverpool and Everton. The North London Derby meanwhile is set to take place at The Tottenham Hotspur stadium as Tottenham Hotspur host Arsenal.

Tickets at Anfield are set to cost just £5 for adults while tickets to Tottenham vs Arsenal priced slightly more at £6.50, both matches start from 3pm.

FA Cup Final Rematch

Both Manchester City and West Ham United will be looking to get back to winning ways. West Ham suffered a 3-1 defeat against table topping Chelsea, while Manchester City lost for the first time in the Super League away at defending champions Arsenal, 1-0.

Nick Cushing’s Manchester City side completed the domestic cup double against Matt Beard’s West Ham team the last time these two sides met back in May of this year, winning 3-0.

City also completed the league double over the Hammers last season that included a  7-1 victory at the Academy Stadium.

The Hammers will need to watch out for striker Pauline Bremer.  The German international so far has eight goals in nine games this season for City.

Match Prediction: Manchester City 4-1 West Ham United

Cannot see anything other than a comfortable Manchester City home win in this one.

Amex and Madejski Stadiums host Women Super League football

Hope Powell’s Brighton side host Birmingham City.  The Seagulls are still waiting for their first win in the Super League this season having lost 2-0 away at Everton last time out. Birmingham however gained their first win of the season, a 2-0 home win against Liverpool.

The South Coast club will very much be looking a repeat of last season’s 2-1 score line.

Prediction: Brighton 1-1 Birmingham City

The matches last season between the sides were close and I can see both teams cancelling each other out this time around.

Reading has had somewhat of a mixed start to this season so far.

The Royals have managed six points from their opening five matches; they are coming off a 2-0 loss against newly promoted Manchester United.  Bristol City meanwhile is one of three sides still without a win in the Super League, they were only narrowly beaten 2-1 against Tottenham in their last game.

Reading won both league matches against the West Midlands club last season; this included a comprehensive 3-0 home win.

Prediction: Reading 2-0 Bristol City

Predict that it will be relatively comfortable win for The Royals.

Battle of two in-form teams

The League leaders Chelsea host Casey Stoney’s Manchester United at the Cherry Red Record Stadium. Both of these sides have won their last four matches in all competitions.

Emma Hayes’ Chelsea team remain the only unbeaten Super League side, while the only two defeats that Manchester United have received were against last season’s top two sides, Arsenal and local rivals Manchester City.

This Sunday’s match will mark the first ever meeting between the two teams.

 The Red Devils will need to keep talented England international Beth England quiet. The Blues striker has two goals and one assist so far this campaign and she recently scored in England’s 3-2 win against the Czech Republic.

Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Manchester United

Predicting that the league leaders will maintain their unbeaten record.

Merseyside Derby in front of The Kop

Liverpool will be hoping that hosting the first ever Women Super League fixture at Anfield will inspire the team to their first win of the season against fierce rivals Everton.

The Reds won this fixture 3-1 in the last campaign and will be looking for more of the same this time around.

In complete contrast to their Merseyside rivals, Everton have enjoyed a strong start and are currently fifth in the table with three wins from their five matches so far.

Liverpool will have to stop England striker Chloe Kelly.  She is currently the division’s leading scorer with four goals.

Prediction: Liverpool 1-2 Everton

I predict that Chloe Kelly will prove the difference between the two teams in this one.

First ever WSL North London Derby at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Newly promoted Tottenham Hotspur will take on Joe Montemurro’s Arsenal in their first ever Women Super League match.

Both sides won their last matches and will be looking to build on those results. Arsenal in particular will be looking to keep pace with title rivals Chelsea.

Tottenham will have to look out for prolific Dutch striker Danielle van de Donk. She is currently the Gunners top goal scorer in the Super League with three goals.

Prediction: Tottenham 1-3 Arsenal

Can see Arsenal coming out on top in this one. The Gunners attackers are in good form with the likes of Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema as well as the previously mentioned van de Donk.

Fixture list: Sunday 17th November

Manchester City vs West Ham United (Kick-off 12:30pm)

 Reading vs Bristol City (2pm)

 Chelsea vs Manchester United (2pm)

 Brighton & Hove Albion vs Birmingham City (2pm)

 Tottenham Hotspur vs Arsenal (3pm) –  Live on BT Sport

 Liverpool vs Everton (3pm)

Chelsea Women’s land international superstar Sam Kerr

Manager Emma Hayes and the Chelsea Women’s side, who are currently the leaders of the WSL at 4-1-0, improved their squad drastically by signing Australian sensation Sam Kerr on a two-and-a-half-year contract.

The Blues competed against several of European’s top clubs, including FC Barcelona, PSG, and Champions League winners Lyon, but were able to sway the prolific scorer into playing in England. She will officially join the squad in January 2020.

Kerr, 26, was rotating her playing time between the Perth Glory of Australia’s W-League (whose season runs from October to April) and the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL (whose season ran from April to October), which was taking a toll on the striker. 

The Australian international had a strong campaign in her home country’s league last season as she won the Golden Boot Award for the second consecutive year in the league with 13 goals. Kerr also had an MVP season in the U.S. as she accumulated a league-record 18 goals along with five assists – leading the Red Stars to the championship game before ultimately losing to the North Carolina Courage. She is currently the all-time leading scorer in both leagues (64 in W-League, 65 in NWSL).

However, Kerr is most known for being the face of soccer Down Under, where she has been striving for the Matildas since her international debut at a mere 15 years of age. The captain of the squad has scored 38 goals in 83 appearances, leading Australia to the Round of 16 in the most recent edition of FIFA’s Women’s World Cup before falling to Norway in penalties.

 This signing for Chelsea was a huge step towards league and European dominance as they look to compete with these powerhouses by signing one of the best goal scorers in women’s soccer history.

Stoke Appoint Michael O’Neill

Stoke City have appointed the Northern Ireland national team manager Michael O’Neill as their new manager, following the sacking of Nathan Jones.

O’Neill who lives in Edinburgh, was appointed last week following a dismal run of results for Stoke. The results have been declining way back to when Tony Pulis was at the helm.

Following Pulis’ departure from a then premier league outfit, Stoke have plunged like a stone almost to the bottom of the Championship, with a wretched run of results, which saw them win just 6 games in 38 under Jones.

So, will O’Neill be able to turn Stokes fortunes around?

At first glance, it would seem a strange appointment, given that his previous job in club management were with Brechin City in Scotland and Shamrock Rovers in Ireland, before taking the Northern Ireland managers role.

In terms of honours, he guided Shamrock Rovers to the League of Ireland Title and Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 Championships, where they gave a good account of themselves.

He has good man management skills, and though he will continue to combine the Stoke Job with manageing Northen Ireland until their campaign ends in 2 games time, he seems to have had an influence on Stoke already after defeating Barnsley 4 ~2 away. Stoke were scoring for fun – when previously they had found goals hard to come by, not to mention results.

FOREST 1-0 DERBY

Nottingham Forest made it 3 consecutive east-midlands derby wins for the first time since 1990, by beating the Rams 1-0 at the City Ground. The win also means it is 8 consecutive visits and 7 years since Derby’s last win in Nottingham and keeps Forest in the Top 6 whilst Derby stay in the bottom half of the league table.

The goal came following a mistake by Derby right back Jaden Bogle, when a loose pass across his defensive line went straight to Grabban who smartly finished first time into the bottom corner. Grabban spoke about the goal:

“I had a little glance at where the keeper was and it looked like he hadn’t covered the near post so I just tried to aim for that and fortunately it went in.” He added: “The main thing was that we got the win. It was good for the fans, so I’m very happy. Their support gives us that little bit of a boost.”

In scoring, Grabban upped his tally for the season to seven, meaning he has now scored 80 times in the EFL since the start of the 2013-14 campaign, four more than any other player.

The match started evenly amid a raucous atmosphere at The City Ground and it was Forest keeper Brice Samba who was the first keeper called into action, doing well to keep out Tom Lawrence’s shot from inside the penalty area following a good run by Bogle. Lawrence was unsurprisingly constantly jeered by the home faithful following the drink driving scandal, however, he was probably Derby’s main threat and handled the reception well. That was until a second-half challenge on Yuri Ribeiro which he saw yellow.

It was extremely competitive, with both sides fighting for the ball and putting in committed challenges. Bogle and Ben Watson were both shown yellow cards for fouls on halfway, whilst Ryan Yates was somewhat fortunate not to be added to the list of booking’s following a challenge on Clarke, who had to be replaced.

Forest were effective in pressing the Derby backline and won the ball high up the pitch a few times, possibly leading to the goal. Forest’s best efforts in the first half both came from winger Sammy Ameobi who shot twice from the left-hand corner of the penalty area to force Derby Keeper Roos into decent saves.

The second half started with The Reds firmly in the ascendancy, applying plenty of pressure on the Derby goal. Several crosses were fizzed into the area, with only glancing headers from a Derby defender keeping the ball away from danger. It was just before the hour-mark when Derby were their own worst enemy in making the costly mistake which gave Forest the lead.

Forest sensed they could put the game beyond doubt as Derby were on the ropes following the mistake, but couldn’t find the second goal. Derby came back into the game towards the end and the closest they came to an equaliser was when Jack Marriott had a sniff of goal, but The Reds defended resolutely to hold onto their one-goal lead and claim a brilliant victory against their arch-rivals.

Man of the match

Tiago Silva – The Portuguese midfielder put in an outstanding performance, he had great energy, tenacity and put in some great tackles. Along with that, he showed his skill with some lovely touches to beat opposition players. When Silva was signed from Benfica in the summer many forest fans assumer he would an alternative to fellow Portuguese playmaker João Carvalho, however, he has shown he is a more all-round midfielder than João.

Forest head coach Sabri Lamouchi was delighted to claim victory in his second East Midlands derby of the season. Lamouchi was satisfied with his side’s second-half display which he believed was a marked improvement on the first 45 minutes. Speaking after the game, he said:

“It was a difficult, emotional game and maybe that is why we found it difficult in the first half. The second half was much better and fortunately, they made a mistake at the back and Grabbs produced another fantastic finish like the killer that he is. It was important for us to be compact, patient and focused and in the end, I think we deserved the victory because in the second half we went out for the three points. After the goal, I put more attacking players on the field to try and get that second goal but it wasn’t meant to be. It has been a good day, the perfect way to spend my birthday, and I am happy that our supporters could enjoy it too. When we play with this sort of attitude and character then we can always win games like this. We know we can still play better and control the ball better but it is important that we take three points when we don’t play at our best. It is a fantastic result and I’m happy because we’ve made our fans proud of the players. Now we can go into the international break with a positive mentality before we come back to play Bristol City.”

Norwich 0 Watford 2: Match Report

Carrow Road was the host to a game that, by the end of the season, could prove decisive in terms of Premier League survival.

Before the game, Norwich sat in nineteenth, losing six of their last eight games whilst the visitors were propping up the table but were on slightly better form. Three draws in their last five games meant the Vicarage Road faithful had something to cheer about.

The Canaries were unchanged from their 2-0 loss to Brighton which meant they still had clumsy defensive midfielder Tettey partnering Godfrey in defence.

As for Watford, they made three changes to the team that lost to Chelsea. The disappointing Masina was dropped and versatile Holebas came in. As for the Hornets other two changes, Gray and Chalobah were taken out of the side and in their place Capoue and Hughes.

Watford, boosted by the presence of Deeney on the bench after over a month out, took an early lead through former Barcelona fringe player Deulofeu.

Godfrey made an early burst forward, passed to Pukki who toe poked the ball to Buendia just inside the Canaries half. Buendia tried to Cruyff turn Deulofeu but he nicked the ball and the Spaniard had acres of green space for him to exploit, which he did. Once in the box, the winger come striker cut inside and shot past the despairing Krul.

The Hornets got off to the best possible start – silencing the nervous home crowd. The Canaries responded well with most of the play being inside the Hornets half.

Through ball after through ball fed Hernandez who was causing the Hornets defence havoc all night.

Despite all their dominance, the home side struggled to create chances in the opening half but did create one. Steipermann pushed the ball through to Hernandez who couldn’t quite get to it and Foster smothered the ball but it landed at the feet of Pukki who shot but Kabasele blocked.

The Canaries were pushing and pushing which was leaving huge wholes in the defence which the Hornets exploited on occasions.

The half ended 1-0 so a response was needed by the home side, the game went the other way though and Watford killed the game of just a few minutes after the restart.

Deulofeu skipped past Tettey who dived in and he put in a ball which initially got blocked. The ball rebounded straight back to him, he had another go and this time he was on the money putting in a delightful ball for substitute Gray to attack. Gray, who’s struggled for form in recent months backed heeled the ball bottom corner from six yards out. Krul was completely flat footed.

Wave after wave of disappointing Norwich attacks came and went without them creating any meaningful chances. Long shots from Lewis and McLean tested Foster but that’s about as much as they could muster.

The before mentioned havoc that Hernandez was causing the Hornets defence proved to be fatal for Kabasele as it meant the end of his night.

The defender kept fouling the winger and finally in the second half Kabasele got a yellow card for holding the pacy winger back with his shirt. Then twenty minutes later, Drmic and the Belgium found themselves in a race for the ball, a race which the fresher legged substitute won and in an attenpt to reach the ball fist, the clumsy centre back brought down Drmic for his second yellow.

The red card will matter more in the coming matches than it did against the Canaries as they still couldn’t create anything.

The match ended 2-0. A damaging loss for the already confidence lacking Canaries but a huge first win of the season for the visitors.

(Photo – Daily Mail)

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