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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.

Championship Christmas run in

In one of the busiest footballing periods of the calendar year, the festive season brings battles at the bottom and top of the Championship.

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West Brom have been in brilliant form this season, will they top the Championship this Christmas?

Interchanging at the top spot are Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion, with only goal difference separating the two clubs, the Christmas fixtures could set either club on their way, if successes fall in their favour.

On paper, it would seem West Brom have the most comfortable run in with visits to St Andrews and Oakwell to face two lower table sides in Birmingham and Barnsley. Their toughest test in upcoming weeks is set to be against 7th placed Brentford on the Saturday before Christmas.

Arguably, Leeds have a trickier winter run in with a trip to London to face Fulham preceding Christmas, followed by hosting Preston North End on Boxing Day. With several games in quick succession, player determination and fitness could take toll and any slip up could have drastic effect on form going into 2020.

Sitting at the bottom of the table are a few teams with potential risk to be in a relagation battle come the spring. Falling further adrift are bottom club Barnsley, who have documented defeats to all the clubs around them so far this season, a factor which could prove poignant come the end of the season. Barsnley will be hopeful of a Christmas miracle as they take on West Brom who could be sitting top of the Championship on Christmas Day.

Four points into the relegation zone are Wigan and Stoke, two teams who have equally difficult festive periods ahead with a combination of lower and higher table opponents to face.

The fluidity at the bottom of the table is set to come into play, there is no predicability about who will be snatching points in games which are set to be close called.

Looking specifically at the bottom clashes of Middlesbrough and Stoke; Wigan and Huddersfield; Middlesbrough and Huddersfield, who also meet on Boxing Day, there is potential for season defining games to commence.

The Christmas period is expected to be as busy as ever, but this season we could really see vital points being gained or lost at either end of the table, making and breaking the New Year’s opportunities.

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.

Gunning for the Top Four

Arsenal are a conundrum at the moment. It feels like there definitely is something up with them, but also like everything might just be going alright as Unai Emery attempts to move on from the Arsene Wenger era.

Opinion is generally split on whether the Spaniard is doing a good job or not, although last night’s 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United seems like it may have sent Arsenal fans over the edge. In fairness to Emery though, annoying the Arsenal fans doesn’t take much if you’re their manager.

The loss at Bramall Lane saw the Gunners spurn the opportunity to go third – and if they had won then perspectives today would probably be greatly different. 

But they did not, and their defeat was against a Sheffield United side who are not to be underestimated. The Blades are organised, well drilled and constantly surprising the Premier League with innovative tactics. It’s probably safe to assume that we’re all now up to date on the functions of overlapping centre backs.

Watching the game, it really didn’t feel like Arsenal were ever going to score. To use that old cliche, they could have kept playing till the next morning and still not have found a way through. 

Even recapping over the short burst of highlights Sky Sports graces us with on YouTube, there is very little for Arsenal to shout about from the game. Whoever was editing that video would have had a hard job scraping together three minutes of action. 

But it’s not like the Gunners lack any abundance of attacking talent. They have Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe as a ‘first choice’ front three. Then they also have the young talents of Bukayo Saka and Joe Willock. 

Behind them in midfield, they have the aggressive pairing of Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi, as well as Dani Ceballos adding a bit more technical quality. 

With this considered, you feel that Emery should be doing better. It seems he is struggling to find a system to incorporate and fully utilise the talents of his squad. Sheffield United were superb on Monday night but with the quality Arsenal have, they really should have created more. 

If only they had a little bit more class in the final third. A proven creative, an assists machine. Someone who, preferably, had proven themselves on the world stage. 

The above is, of course, a thinly veiled reference to Meszut Ozil – the forgotten man at the Emirates. It’s only three years since he recorded 19 assists in one season, and it seems Arsenal are in need of his creativity now. 

But he generally remains on the bench or out of the squad, with Emery tight lipped about what exactly is going on. It’s a mystery that has, unbelievably, seemed to unite Arsenal fans behind Ozil. 

There are certainly failings on Emery’s part, but there are some things that just haven’t gone his way.

The Gunners have generally failed to recruit well in defence of late, and what they have to show for the fruits of their labour is a centre back pairing of Sokratis and David Luiz. This partnership has become something of a calamity duo, with Luiz’s failings in one on one situations becoming ever more apparent. 

And then there are the early season injuries to Hector Bellerin and new signing Kieran Tierney going against Emery. Arsenal look, on paper, relatively strong at full back with these two fit. Bellerin’s return is imminent while Tierney has apparently recovered. Emery’s unwillingness to throw him straight in, though, is yet another thing that is angering fans. 

So while some things are certainly not helpful for Emery, there are ways in which he could be doing better. Some fluidity and creativity is needed up front, and the ex-PSG manager desperately needs to find the best system for his talented front line. Most likely, it will involve some difficult decisions on who to leave out. 

So in the sense that Emery has gotten some good attackers and is blooding young prospects (which, thanks to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, we now know is the best thing in the world), he is doing pretty well.

But there is a lack of coherency and guile, as well as floundering attempts to find the best system for his side. And not to forget the shortcomings at centre back. So there’s some good, but also some bad.

With a fully fit and firing squad, Arsenal should really be aiming for the top four. The Gunners will not want another season confined to the Europa League.