All posts by 24/7 Football

The Future is tangerine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post written by George Wincott of utmp

Should Salary caps be introduced in the English Leagues?

In the current economic situation, sport and football clubs in general are having to tighten their belts, like they have not had to do so ever before.

Recently FIFA President Gianni Infantino reportedly spoke out about this problem by saying that there may well be a need to introduce salary caps in post Covid football.

The curtailment of  some leagues along with the absence of paying spectators will certainly have far reaching effects on all clubs, bar the biggest clubs worldwide, and Infantino now feels that this is the time for the game to take a step back and seriously reflect on this growing concern.

“I heard some interesting proposals on a wide range of topics.” Infantino said.

“From salary caps to transfer fee caps, to the possible obligation of governing bodies to contribute to a reserve fund which can be of assistant in hours of need such as now.”

He also promised to look into the amount of matches top players are asked to play each season. But surely it was FIFA after all who are mainly responsible for the extreme demands on their players. They for one are the only ones who brought on this problem.

Surely at some point in the coming months there must be a situation where lower wages will have to happen at every single Premiership club. Days of players reportedly earning around 15 million per year will end.

Another possibility could well be a gradual phasing out of the transfer fee system, but the most likely way forward in my opinion would be to bring in a salary cap in all leagues in English football including non-league level as well.

I am sure this would certainly become unpopular with the cream at the top of the Premier League for now, but if a salary cap was introduced it would give every side in their appropriate league the chance to become more competitive.

The likes of the Liverpools, Man. City’s. Chelsea’s and Man Utd’s would suffer but by bringing in a salary cap this would give other sides a much better chance of aiming for a top six finish.

If this idea was introduced into football at all levels it will always be open to some sides breaking the cap rule, which has happened recently in Rugby Union with Saracens being punished for their misdemeanour’s, but I’m sure this would only amount to a handful at most.

It would also see the end of excessive spending by most clubs, and in so doing secure their chances of surviving in the crazy world of football for many a year to come.

Article Written by Peter Moore

Chelsea look set to sign Timo Werner from RB Leipzig

Although Liverpool are within touching distance of lifting the Premiership, they appear to have lost out in signing the highly rated striker Timo Werner.

Chelsea look to have beaten the Merseyside club to the race to sign the RB Leipzig star player. The 24-year-year-old has agreed in principal to sign for the London side after Chelsea agreed to activate Werner’s £49 million release clause.

Jurgen Klopp has been a long-time admirer of the forward and had a conversation with him back in April, in which he expressed the financial implications of coronavirus rendered it hard for the club to lay out any huge outlays.

With his clause running out on the 15thJune, it was inevitable that the Bundesliga side would lose their key player to one of the Premiership giants.

Sources in Germany have indicated that Werner’s salary will be around £16 million a year, with the German looking to earn around £200,000 a week. Werner, who has netted 32 times this season is guaranteed plenty of minutes at Stamford Bridge, with Frank Lampard rebuilding the club, he appears to be the ideal fit for the London outfit.

Werner, who became VFB Stuttgart’s youngest player ever to represent the club and the clubs youngest ever goalscorer, had originally indicated his preference to move to Premier League leaders Liverpool, but they were unwilling to pay the release clause.

On paper Werner has made the right decision to join Lampard’s outfit, as he will be guaranteed plenty of games at Chelsea. At Liverpool, you would feel it would be difficult for him to get regular minutes under Klopp, unless either one of Salah, Mane or Firmino got injured or were rested.

The Premier League will certainly welcome the addition of this wonderful talent. The only small doubt remains, can he make the big step up from the Bundesliga to the Premiership. Certainly, Chelsea think so.

Article written by Peter Moore

Football desperate for bail out

Whilst the welcoming news recently that the Premier League will be back on our screens shortly now is the time to spare a thought for the clubs in the lower levels of football, most of which are struggling financially in this current climate.

The Premier League is under increasing pressure to explain how it will deliver the Government’s call to share the financial benefits of Project Restart through the entire football family.

In his announcement on Saturday, the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden described this distribution of income as part of the challenges he had set elite football, but so far little detail has been forthcoming.
The Premier League is already committed to solidarity payments to the rest of the professional pyramid, which have been advanced for this summer. But according to the Daily Telegraph, no new money has been forthcoming as a result of the Premier League restarting.
With Premier League clubs failing to reach any definite decision with there players on wage deferrals or cuts, understandably they desperately want the league to resume as soon as possible to minimise any rebate to the broadcasters.
It is estimated that Premier League clubs keep around 93 percent of their broadcast income. A huge amount considering the vast sum of money that Sky, BT and Amazon Prime pay for this service.
Football League chairman Rick Parry recently said,

“I would love to see money trickling down, but I’ve not seen any evidence of it yet”. The question to ask at this moment in time is are we really going to see any money work its way down the lower leagues from the Premiership very soon.

Charlie Dobres, a director at non-league Lewes said “

For most clubs outside the Premier League, COVID is potentially an extinction-level event. Oliver Dowden referred to the entire football family. Family is such a good analogy because families look after each other.”

Paul Doswell, Manager of Havant in the National League South said

“the reality of the Premier League’s advance solidarity payments was that his club received £8,500 a few months earlier than it was due. An amount of money that wouldn’t last a month in the non-league world.
The worrying fear for an awful lot of lower league sides is without a big bailout from the Premier League boys, there is a very strong threat that a few could well go out of business sooner rather than later.

Article written by Peter Moore

When we met Gary Lewin

Gary Lewin has been involved in football virtually all his life. He was head physio at Arsenal for 22 years along with a stint as England physio.

Lewin has recently opened a brand-new practice in Hainault, but like all businesses’ in this current climate, he has found it tough.

“It’s been difficult really,” he said. We recently opened up a clinic with my cousin Colin- Lewin Sports Injury Clinic- which we opened in October 2019 and it was going very well until March and then unfortunately due to the lockdown we had to close down, but the good news is this week we are preparing to open fully as of June 8th. So, we are getting all our PPE equipment ready and our risk assessments are done and hopefully, we will be up and running next week.”

Lewin has spent most of his life at Arsenal and considers himself to be one lucky man.

“As a physio, I’ve been very lucky as I actually started at Arsenal as a player.” He said. “I signed as an apprenticeship at 16 and was there as a player for four years before I got released and went on to play at Barnet for a year and then I was fortunate enough to be accepted into Guys Hospital physiotherapy, and whilst I was training there I was doing work with the Arsenal reserve team and in 1986 I joined and qualified as a first-team physio for Arsenal.”

“I always wanted to be a footballer,” he added. “But that dream was taken away from me as I wasn’t good enough, so I had to decide what else to do. At the time I was debating whether to go into the police force or a PE teacher, but there was a physio at Arsenal called Fred Street who said to me at the time why don’t you go into physiotherapy. At Guys Hospital I got very interested in it and I went back again and thought this will be a great career for me.”

Lewin is normally the man players look towards getting excellent treatment, but he remembers one incident in particular when he himself needed treatment in a World Cup tournament in 2014 in Brazil.

“They had put astroturf in the dugout area and they watered the pitch and when we equalised through Daniel Sturridge we all jumped up to celebrate and as I went to go and get the drink containers I slipped and my foot went into a small ridge between the grass and the astroturf. Unfortunately, my body went one way and I went the other and I suffered a fracture to my left ankle. Unfortunately, I had to fly home and the team had to follow me home a week later because we lost a game to Italy and then Uruguay, which meant we were knocked out.”

The Premier League is set to return in the middle of June. Gary welcomes this news but is still cautious that there may be the risk of players getting injured.

“After having such a long lay off and without having any competitive or friendly pre-season matches, players literally are going straight back into competitions,” he said. “I do expect a small increase in the number of injuries, that can be tempered by two or three factors. The first being without the crowd there will it still be the same competitive edge, plus it’s a level playing field as every team is starting at the same level and so they are all going to tire at the same rate. I just hope that there will be no significant injuries.”

Lewin certainly feels that the time is right now for the return of the Premier League.

“They are reducing the risk of players catching it to a minimum and they are doing all that they can to get it back on.” he said.

Article written by Peter Moore

Listen to the Interview with Gary Lewin by clicking below