Friday, June 23, 2017

Is The Future Really Bright for England?


England’s U21 team have made it through to the U21 European Championships semifinals after beating hosts, Poland, 3-0! This result also ensured that our Young Lions finished top of their group, with second placed Slovakia finishing only 1 point behind us.


Aidy Boothroyd’s side had a mediocre start to the competition, drawing 0-0 with Sweden. The brightest point of that game being Jordan Pickford’s 81st minute penalty save. Things got better though as England eased past Slovakia, 2-1. A combination of poor defending and a cracking header put Sokolici in front but Mawson equalised with a tap in after the keeper failed to keep hold of the centre backs first effort before Nathan Redmond thumped home an absolute worldie in the 61st minute.

With so much expectancy going into the final game against Poland, you could understand if some of the young lads might have been nervous. But if they were nervous you’d have never guessed it! The England U21s dominated the game from start to finish.

Leicester winger Demarai Gray scored after 6 minutes to settle any nerves before he laid Norwich forward Jacob Murphy in for the second. The game was finish off after Tammy Abraham was brought down in the box, giving Chelsea loan star Lewis Baker the chance to round of a great day at the office from the penalty spot.

Demarai Gray calming everyone's nerves with this strike in the 6th minute.
Now this is an amazing feat for England’s U21s. They are in the last four of a major competition! I can only dream of doing something like that for my country. Every single player has played his part in getting their side here, we’re not relying on one big name to take us forward like the Senior team has for so many years…

...This is why it really saddens me to think that a number of these players will not get an England cap in the future. Unless these lads suddenly make big money moves to the right clubs, they will never get to pull on that England jersey. Even if these players go on to win the whole tournament...I predict that only 3 or 4 of them will become England regulars.

Some people might argue this with me but it’s not like it's never happened before and, like I always say, history has a funny way of repeating itself in football. In 2009 England’s U21s got to the European Championship final and were beaten by ze Germans 4-0. Let's look at the sides that played in that final.

Click to Enlarge.

Out of that starting eleven, five players currently have England caps (it would have been six if Joe Hart was able to play). But how many could you say are guaranteed starters for England? And out of the remaining six can you say that they definitely did not deserve England caps?

Out of the players who have caps, Richards and Gibbs haven’t played for England for a couple of years now, James Milner and Walcott still get selected quite regularly but aren’t guaranteed starters and the less said about Adam Johnson, the better. In fact the only player from that entire squad who is in the England eleven more or less every time is Joe Hart…

As for the players who currently don’t have any caps. Scott Loach and Martin Cranie have enjoyed long careers playing outside of the Premier League, with Cranie jumping around some high end Championship sides which Loach has been used mainly as a backup at 20 different clubs since 2004...yeah maybe they didn’t exactly warrant a call up...

But for me the rest easily could have had at least one cap. Onuoha was an incredibly underrated centre half, strong in the air, good on the deck and a leader at the back. Sadly though his career went south after the money got pumped into Manchester City. If that never happened I could see him be still being in the City side today.

Fabrice Muamba, Micah Richards and Lee Cattermole playing against Greece
We all know what happened to Fabrice Muamba, he’s one of the exceptions in this team as his career was cut short far too soon. Lee Cattermole on the other hand is still going and I am surprised that he’s never got a cap. Now I’m not saying he’s a world beater but at the end of the day you know what you get with Lee; you get tough tackling, a will to win and a leader in centre of the park. Something that the current England midfield is lacking…
~ Side note: I not saying Lee Cattermole or Nedum Onuoha deserve caps now, just that they did deserve them at one point ~

The final player to not receive an England cap was also the captain in the tournament, Mark Noble. Now I understand that over the years England have had the likes of Gerrard, Lampard and Barry over the years but...How. The. Fuck. Does Mark Noble not get a single England cap while the likes of Tom Cleverley, Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere are in double figures?

Answer: Because they play for the right clubs.

The high profile clubs, the ones that look pretty. You have more a chance of playing for England if you’re on Arsenal’s bench than you do if you won the league with Leicester. And if you want proof of that then just look at Jack Wilshere going to the 2016 Euro’s ahead of Danny Drinkwater despite the fact he’d only played 3 games that entire season...absolutely piss poor selection.

Now this post isn’t here to make those kids think they’ll never play for their country. This post is here to make future England managers rethink their selections. Our current crop of U21s are a cracking bunch of footballers. They shouldn’t have to move to Manchester United or Chelsea just to get a chance at making their country proud again!

Anyways that’s all have to say on the matter. Best of luck to those lads, not just in this tournament but for the rest of their careers as well. They’re all quality footballers and deserve all the plaudits coming their way after this and hopefully it’ll attract some managers to start using them more in their first team games...unless you play for Chelsea in which case you’ll be rewarded with a loan move to Vitesse Arnhem. Oh well…

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Jordan Pickford - The Most Expensive British Goalkeeper!


Now as you can guess from the title of today’s post, I’m gonna be talking about Everton new boy, Jordan Pickford. The Toffee’s have just paid £25 million for his services (which could raise to £30 million) making him the most expensive British goalkeeper in football history. I imagine most fans would look at this as a dreadful signing but I beg to differ.

Admittedly £25 million is a lot of money when you think that Pickford is a 23 year old goalkeeper with only one year of Premier League football under his belt and that one year didn’t just end in relegation but ended in his side finishing dead last in the league...

...but if you look at the possibility of young Jordan having the longevity of someone like Gianluigi Buffon and playing well into his late thirties/early forties, then you have to say that £25 million for a number 1 that lasts 17 years is pretty good business. I mean, it’s better business than spending £17 million on a goalkeeper that barely lasted one season. *cough* Claudio Bravo *cough* he’s shit *cough*

Is £25 million a good deal for Jordan Pickford?

Let’s look at what Everton are getting for their big bucks. At only 23, Pickford is one of the best young goalkeepers in England. It’s shocking to think that he’s only one year older than me and has already played over 150 competitive games across the top five divisions of English football. Although all his experience might not have come from the top flight, that’s still a lot of games time for his age.
~ Side note: just to put that into perspective, at 23 Buffon has made 220 appearances for Parma and David James had only played 134 ~

One other check box that will be ticked from Everton’s point of view is that they haven’t had a consistent top drawer number one for a couple of years now. Yes Tim Howard is highly regarded by Premier League fans but he did struggle for the Goodison Park faithful for his last few seasons with the club. I’m gonna stick my neck out and say that Everton have had a goalkeeping problem since 2012…

Pickford made 4.7 saves per game last season. 2.4 saves per game inside the box,
2.1 outside of the box and 0.1 within the six yard box.

In my honest opinion I think their issue will be solved with this signing. Last season for Sunderland he made 29 league appearances for the club, making on average 4.7 saves per game! In total he made the second most saves in the league with 135, only beaten by fellow Englishman (and goalkeeper of the year in my book) Tom Heaton (141).

Pickford also made the second most punches in the league (22), made the fifth most catches (46) and conceded the fifth most goals of any keeper in the division (50). The only goalkeeper stats-wise who was as busy as him was probably Heurelho Gomes.

Gomes made 115 saves, 52 catches, 35 punches and conceded 64 goals.

Obviously not all those goals were his fault. If the opposition are getting over 5 shots on target against you per game then you’re obviously gonna concede goals (or at least that’s what I tell myself after my pub team gets beat 13-0). I’m positive that with a better defence in front of him, he’ll show vast signs of improvement. Despite conceding so many goals, he’s technically been one of the best keepers in the league...hear me out.

This season Pickford has made 135 saves and conceded 50 goals. That means in total he has had to deal with 185 shots in total. Conceding 50 out of 185 shots gives him a save success rate of 73%. Just to put this into perspective, league winning goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had a save success rate of 71%, whilst the PFA goalkeeper of the year, David De Gea had a 72% save success rate. You can prove anything with statistics.

I love a good goalkeeper celebration. Look at how chuffed he is!

Even without these stats I’d say he’s still an impressive up and coming shot stopper and will only get better with Everton. It’s a great thing to see from an England perspective as Pickford is now like the sixth great goalkeeper our country currently has at its disposal. An England call up must be on the cards if he continues this season’s form with The Toffees.

Watch this space as I think he’ll go far for club and country, and I for one am very excited to see how he progresses. Best of luck Jordan Pickford!

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

End of Season Ramble - 16/17


Right, now that the season’s completely done and dusted I think it’s about time I gave a little review on the last year of Premier League football. Now I want to warn people that I may end up rambling a bit here but there are a lot of clubs, managers and players I want to talk about. So let me begin by talking about this season’s Premier League Champions, Chelsea.

The Blue’s absolutely dominated this season, more or less winning the competition by November. I’d put this down to the two huge signings they made in the Summer; N’Golo Kante and Antonio Conte.


Now I’ve spoken a lot about my love of Kante. He plays arguably the most unglamourous role on a football pitch and still manages to get so many column inches devoted to him. He has the ability to go so far in football and I’m probably more excited than he is to see how he fairs in the Champions League next season.

As for the Chelsea boss well I have to give him a lot of credit, he’s taken a Chelsea side that looked disinterested and lethargic into a side that is ready for that jump back into European football. One thing I do like about the Italian is that he didn’t just twiddle his thumbs at the start of the season when results weren’t going his way. He mixed it up before settling on the 3-4-3 formation that has proven deadly for Chelsea this year…

...which is more than what Pep Guardiola did for City. City have struggled this season, admittedly they did finish third but with only one game remaining there was still a possibility that they would drop to fifth behind Liverpool and Arsenal.

I’m sure some Man City fans will be able to remember the very beginning of the season when The Sky Blues won their opening six games and Raheem Sterling was been spouted as “City’s answer to Messi”...an actual quote there. I said at the time it would all come crashing down and I’m so glad I was proven right. He’s nothing but an overpriced Shaun Wright-Phillips. Imagine a Matty Jarvis who can’t cross and you have Sterling. I’d rather have Glen Johnson at right wing than Raheem Sterling...not even joking.


Back to Pep though I think he’ll continue to struggle next season. His tactic isn’t best suited to this league and he seems so stubborn and refuses to make a change. Then again I might be wrong, he’ll probably go and spend £200 million in the Summer and get hailed as a managerial genius for doing so...oh look he’s already spent £33 million signing a goalkeeper to replace the goalkeeper he signed to replace one of the best goalkeepers in the world...world class management.

Speaking of poor managerial choices, David Moyes’ Sunderland have been relegated from the Premier League. Not much surprise as they have been flirting with that idea for a couple of season’s now. Actually they were less flirting with the idea...more fucking the idea, getting it pregnant, asking the idea to marry it before binning the idea off at the altar at the last minute...leaving the likes of Newcastle, Norwich and Aston Villa to raise the kid...Jesus Christ, that analogy got deep…

I’ve only brought up Moyes because I feel sorry for the bloke. Since leaving Everton he’s had shit hand after shit hand dealt to him. Alex Ferguson was a tough act to follow, Spain was a huge ask considering he struggles with English and Sunderland have needed a complete rehaul if Moyes was to have a prayer of keeping them up. I’m normally really respectful of other people’s footballing opinion but if anyone believes that Sunderland’s relegation was solely down to David Moyes then you are wrong.


The Scots former club don’t seem to be fairing much better. A seventh place finish for Everton is now probably considered the standard for the Toffee’s. But with the amount of attacking wealth in their team you wouldn’t be mad for thinking they’d push on this season and possibly challenge for a Champions League spot, failing that, a Europa League place.

For me they’ve seriously missed out. Romelu Lukaku has been turning many heads this season, scoring 25 goals and gaining 6 assists. Now that Everton are without Champions League football next season I think the Belgian will be out of the door.

Reports suggest that Chelsea are going to offer £70 million for Lukaku and for me Everton would be mad to turn it down. This could be the turning point for Everton, like when Spurs sold Bale. Re-investing this money correctly could transform them into a consistent top four side. Mark my words, there’s gonna be big things happening at Goodison Park over the next few years.


Next I’d like to talk about the club that are just over the road from Everton, Liverpool. Now I’ll always be the first to admit when I’m wrong, I said last season that Klopp is an overrated manager...How wrong could I have been. The German has managed to take Liverpool back into the Champions League in his first full season with the club.

His “rock and roll” style of play has impressed me this season. I watched their 4-0 demolition of West Ham and was blown away by the skill and ability on show from Coutinho, Lallana, Origi and Sturridge, all four who were integral parts of this top quality performance...admittedly West Ham did have a shocker on the day, more or less gifting the result to them with an nice pretty bow.

Now a lot has been made of Coutinho and Firmino and Mane this season but I want to talk about another man who I’ve raved about for years, Georgino Wijnaldum. Gigi has been on my “radar” for years now, ever since I conducted extensive research before signing him from Feyenoord on Fifa 08...back then, signing a player on Fifa was the only way I could see if a player was world class (admittedly I also thought Obafemi Martins and Chris Kirkland were world class because of this game too).

The Dutchman has quietly gone about his business this season. Playing in a deeper role than he’s used to, he’s still managed to score 6 goals this season. With rumours circulating that Coutinho will be off in the Summer I do hope that Klopp trusts Wijnaldum in that number 10 role as I believe the former Newcastle and PSV man could easily bag double figures if he’s given a little more freedom.


One player who has been in fine form this season is Josh King for Bournemouth. Now I’m gonna throw this out there, I love Bournemouth! A true underdog story. What Eddie Howe has done at this club is truly an amazing feat. To steer comfortably clear of relegation last season was impressive but to finish comfortably mid table in your second season is a huge task and King’s goals have played a huge factor.

The Norwegian international has bagged 16 goals in the league this season, also becoming the sixth Norwegian to score a Premier League hat trick (pub quiz: can you name the other five?). Now as much as I like King, I do think he’ll struggle to get this many next season but with talk of Jermain Defoe rejoining The Cherries, the weight might be taken off his shoulders. And who know’s, Bournemouth could actually end up with a 30 goal a season partnership…


Speaking of goalscorers, Harry Kane won this seasons golden boot, scoring in total 29 league goals...class...just sheer class. Spurs were unlucky to miss out on the league title for the second season in a row but the future continues to look bright for them.

They have a young and talented side, have scored the most goals this season, conceded the least this season and seem to have an intelligent manager who’s willing to mix it up when things aren’t going his way. As much as I don’t want to jinx it, I have to say that next year just might be their year.

Going back to Harry Kane though, I think the guy is one of the best strikers in Europe. I wrote a post on the Spurs number 10 quite recently so if you want my opinion on him then feel free to read that...but to save you five minutes I’ll just say he’s pretty good.


Now whilst things have gone well for Tottenham, it’s all gone tits up for Arsenal. For only the third time in my lifetime the Gunners have finished outside the top four and you’d think they’d just been relegated out of the football league...

It was inevitable that Arsenal would drop out of the top four eventually. The likes of Ozil and Sanchez have received a lot of criticism this season but for me it is Wenger who needs to take a long look at himself. To get the best out of your creative players you need quality behind them and the North London club just don’t have that anymore…

I’ve said this a million times before, Wenger should have signed Kante. He can complain all he wants that Kante only went to Chelsea because of the silly wages but at the end of the day Kante is only on £110,000 a week. When you consider Jack Wilshere is on £90,000 a week and isn’t fit to lace kante’s boots it kinda puts things into perspective…


I also think that Arsenal need another top class centre back and should look to sign Virgil Van Dijk (obviously without “tapping him up” first). The big Dutch bastard is world class. He can play in a back four on his own. He will be playing in Europe’s elite one day so Arsenal should tie him down now on a long term contract - WHATEVER THE COST!

Moving on I want to talk about a goalkeeper who I believe has been the best in the league this season...Tom Heaton. Admittedly there has been a lot of competition this season but this lad has been unreal. I’ve not seen much of Joe Hart this season but out of the remaining English goalkeepers, I’d say Heaton deserves to be England’s number 1 at the minute. People who don’t agree with me, just YouTube him and enjoy.


Quickly moving on from the high’s of Tom Heaton, I’d like to remind everyone of the lowest bottom feeder of this Premier League season, Dimitri Payet. An absolute prick. Capable of some outstanding things on his day but sadly his day will never come again in the Premier League. Have fun in the French League you fucking snake in the grass…

...speaking of snakes in the grass I’d like to bring up my last topic of this seasonal ramble, the Leicester City team. For me Ranieri was the whole reason won the league (him and Kante). For those players to give half the effort and then blame the manager is laughable.

I think every every neutral supporter wanted Leicester City to win the league last season. I think every neutral supporter wanted them to do well this season. But after those players got Ranieri the sack I think every neutral supporter wanted Leicester City to get relegated.


Apologies to and Foxes reading this, you guys don’t deserve relegation...but to those players who went behind the Italians back...you don’t deserve your Premier League medals…
Best of luck to Shakespeare next season with them.

Anyways that’s it, I think I wanted this post to be an official review of the season but it just ended up me chatting bollocks about things I liked or in some cases, didn’t like. Oh well. Roll on next season so I can watch Bournemouth get top four, Wijnaldum scoring 30 goals, Sheffield Wednesday get promoted and Billy Sharp to waste away on the bench...the fat pig.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Top 10 Best Signings - 16/17 Season


The other week as I was swanning it up in Portugal I wrote a blog post about the top 10 worst signings of the 2016/17 Premier League season so it only makes sense that this week I write a post about the top 10 best signings.


Now like I said in the last post, there have been a number of great signings this season and this is only my chosen top 10. If anyone reading this feels I missed out a big name or an obvious choice then please feel free to comment below or tweet me @ThePenaltyKing1. Without further ado let me get the ball rolling.

10 - Lee Grant
I am so happy to be adding Lee Grant to this list. Back when he used to play for Sheffield Wednesday I used to tell people that Grant was good enough for the Premier League and he’s finally getting his chance to prove me right. I’m just gutted that it took him until the tender age of 34 to get his chance...still time left though.
The Potters shot stopper has kept 9 clean sheets in 28 games this season, the same amount as Simon Mignolet and Kasper Schmeichel and more than Champions League winners Victor Valdes and Claudio Bravo! Safe to say that Grant has more than filled the boots of Stoke’s regular number 1, Jack Butland.

9 - Manolo Gabbiadini
This might raise a few eyebrows being so low on the list but I just couldn’t bring myself to stick him any higher up the list than this. The Italian joined Southampton from Napoli and really hit the ground running, scoring 6 goals in his opening 4 games, two of which came in the League Cup final against Manchester United...should have been a hattrick too...bastards…
He hasn’t scored in his last 8 games for the club, however he has only played a full 90 in one of those games. The future definitely looks bright for The Saints who look to have finally found that consistent goalscorer they’ve been missing.

8 - Mamadou Sakho
How impressive must you be to have played 8 games and still get nominated for your club’s player of the season? Mamadou Sakho joined Crystal Palace at the end of January on a loan move until the end of the season and has played a huge part in keeping The Eagles in The Premier League.
The French international has made on average 1.6 interceptions and a whopping 6.3 clearances per game for Palace. This has caused some Liverpool fans to wonder why Klopp is so desperate to get rid of the 27 year old.

7 - Matt Phillips
This one is another quite controversial entry. Matty Phillips has been a driving creative force in West Brom’s rise up the table this season, collecting 8 assists and 4 goals along the way. His direct and attacking abilities have been impressive this season and his pinpoint deliveries have helped to get the best out of Salomon Rondon.
Making 1.3 key passes and 2 successful dribbles per game, the Scotland international has really spread his wings, with Tony Pulis’ tactic complimenting him perfectly. At only 26 we may see even more improvement from Phillips in the next few seasons.

6 - Victor Wanyama
This absolute powerhouse came into a Tottenham side looking to sure up the back four as well as give the more attacking players more creative freedom. And for a low price of £11 million the Kenyan international has done just that!
On average this season, Wanyama has made 2.5 tackles, 1.1 interceptions and 1.9 clearances per game! On top of that he has also scored 4 goals in Tottenham’s push for the title which is more than his last 3 Premier League campaigns combined. A class signing from Pochettino.

5 - Marcos Alonso
I’ve really enjoyed watching Alonso this season. He’s dominated all up that left side for Chelsea all season not just defensively but also when he marauds up the pitch to join the attack. In my opinion he has been (dare I say it) as good as Ashley Cole…
The Spaniard is now on his third stint of Premier League football and looks to have finally hit it big, putting in some amazing performances for Chelsea which did come as a bit of a surprise after his performances for Bolton and Sunderland. Conte’s tactic fit Alonso perfectly as he managed to bag 6 goals and 3 assists for The Blues and help them to the Premier League title.

4 - Nacer Chadli
West Brom’s second entry and club record signing Nacer Chadli comes in at number 4 . This guy has been superb this season for The Baggies this season, picking up 5 goals and 5 assists in the league, helping Albion to their highest finish since the 11/12 season.
Tony Pulis’ squad are very organised and well drilled defensively, which gives a player like Chadli freedom to be creative knowing that players like Yacob, Livermore and Fletcher can clean up for him if his attack doesn’t pan out. Arguably West Brom’s best player of the Premier League era, Albion fans can expect bigger things to come from the Belgian international.

3 - Sadio Mane
The most expensive player in African football history comes in at number 3. Liverpool paid £34 million for the Senegalese attacker and haven’t looked back. He’s managed an impressive 13 goals and 5 assists in just 27 appearances for The Reds, playing a huge part in taking them back into the Champions League.
Despite missing out on a lot of the season through either injury and The African Cup of Nations he still managed to pick up Liverpool’s player of the year award. If he manages to play all 38 games next season the scousers may actually make a stronger claim for the Premier League title.

2 - Zlatan Ibrahimovic
There are 2 reasons why Zlatan Ibrahimovic is at number 2 in this list. 1 - he has scored 28 goals in 46 appearances for Manchester United this season. 2 - he cost them absolutely nothing! These days clubs spend tens of millions to find goalscorers so you have to give credit to The Red Devils for bringing in such a top class forward on a free.
The 35 year old has been at his best this season has been a driving force in taking United back into the Champions League...even if it is only the qualifying rounds. I’m sure it’ll be a huge weight off Mourinho’s shoulders if the Swede does decide to stay at Old Trafford for another season.

1 - Paul Pogba
What can I say about Paul Pogba that hasn’t been said before. He’s the best player in the world, better than Messi and Ronaldo. Actually he’s the best player in the history of football. No one even comes close. And if anyone believes this then they must be on crack!
MUFC paid £89 million for a player who’s probably had more haircuts than goals or assists. No player is worth £89 million in my opinion. For £89 million I’d expect a player so good he renders the game pointless. So good that he can take Woking to the Champions League in 6 seasons! Someone who is so good you just automatically win the league by signing him...the only player I can think of who can do that though is...

1 - N’Golo Kante
My actual number 1 spot goes to N’Golo Kante who somehow is a better player this season than he was last season! Regular readers of my blog know that I love the little French bulldog and that is simply because of his workrate and intelligence on the pitch. It’s shocking to think that there wasn’t more interest for him.
If Arsenal signed him, they’d have won the league. If Spurs signed him, they’d have won the league. If Liverpool, City or United had signed him, they’d have won the league. Leicester essentially sold the title to Chelsea for £32 million, an absolute bargain!

And that’s it. Feel free to comment below or tweet me on how I missed out (insert player name here) and that he’s been class for (insert club name here). It’s all about opinion and I’d love to hear yours and see who I may have missed out on.

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