“I will be leaving Manchester United at the end of the season and that is it.”
It has only taken 11 years for Alex Ferguson to live up to that statement, but now, after the announcement that David Moyes will replace him during the Summer, we are finally at the end of Fergie’s dominance of English football as he draws the curtains on a managerial career that has spanned almost four decades.
Opinions about the man himself will differ depending on who you ask but it is impossible to dismiss the fact that he is one of the top managers the world of football has ever seen.
Before trying his hand at management, he played as a striker for a number of Scottish clubs including Queen’s Park, Dunfermline, Falkirk and Rangers, and although he never stayed at one club for very long, he can still boast a decent goalscoring record, scoring 171 goals in 317 league games.
“Ferguson was a frightening bastard from the start”
The words of ex player, Bobby McCullen, as Ferguson started his managerial career at East Sterlingshire in 1974. The team didn’t have a single goalkeeper at the club at the time but that didn’t stop him making a name for himself, attracting St. Mirren.
There are three things I love in life more than any other: Music, Football and Gaming. These three completely unrelated past-times have kept Kevin entertained since that momentous day almost twenty years ago when I popped into the world. The first time these three things mixed was when I found my brothers’ hidden Playstation (that’s right, the original one!) and assorted games. As a football crazy four year old whose first introduction to the ‘beautiful game’ was refusing to go to bed one night and being sat in front of Barnsley v Stockport County (My father knew exactly how to get me off to sleep, you can tell!), I held the timeless classics in front of me like Command and Conquer: Red Alert, and Metal Gear Solid with little regard as I pawed my way through the collection of 8×8 plastic boxes with the ‘PS’ graphic on the side.
These days, there is the ageing debate that La Liga or the Premier League is Europe’s best league. However, Serie A displays the most competitive division in Europe. Only 41 points separate league leaders Juventus from bottom placed Palermo and Pescara, who are equal on points. Compared to the rest of Europe’s elite, where the gap from top to bottom in La Liga is 54 points and also in the Premier League where 48 points separates top from bottom, this shows Italy’s competitive nature when it comes to football.
Spain do boast the giants of Barcelona and Real Madrid, however I’m not saying that the best team in Europe is an Italian team. Based on the unpredictability of an Italian fixture, Serie A, for me, is the most watchable league in Europe. The most goals scored by a team is held by Roma who have netted 58 goals this season, but remain in 7th place. First placed Juventus are the second best goal-scorers in Serie A with 55. The Old Lady have combined their good finishing with an airtight defence, conceding just 18, which has placed them top of Serie A with a healthy nine-point lead over Napoli.
Our League of Ireland season previews continue and end here, with Shelbourne, Pat’s, Sligo Rovers, and UCD all looked at. You can read part one here (Bohs, Bray, Cork, Derry) and part two here (Drogheda, Dundalk, Limerick, Shamrock Rovers).
Despite the majority of Shelbourne fans not being overly enamoured by manager Alan Mathews, he remains in his position for the coming season despite a disappointing end to 2012. Like many teams who finished in midtable last season, the aim will be to try and emulate what Drogheda did last year and breach the top four and earn a European spot.
As of Tuesday only 13 players had signed but in the last couple of days a squad of 23 was announced with the notable absence of Dean Delany who moved across North Dublin to sign for Bohemians. New signings include Sean Brennan, one of the Brennan brothers who has signed from last years runners up Drogheda United and Pat Flynn has joined from Dublin rivals St Patricks Athletic. Graham Gartland and Robert Bayly have also decided to join.
Phily Hughes, who was linked with a move away from Tolka Park has decided to stay on for at least another season, music to the ears of Shels fans. Hughes’ goals have been crucial to the cause over the past few seasons and once again success this season will hinge on whether the 31-year-old can find the net regularly again.
With only days remaining to the League of Ireland 2013 season, Alan Finn, Kevin Galvin, and Robert O’Reardon, continue their three-part preview. In this piece, they look at Drogheda United, who finished last season in an incredibly-impressive second place, Dundalk, who almost went bust in the middle of last season but are now back with a good squad and new manager Stephen Kenny, Limerick FC, who boast by far the most impressive stadium in the league and will provide many talking points, and Shamrock Rovers, who’ve again made their off-season marquee signings and will be hoping for a much improved season after last season’s awful display.
Last season was a fairy tale for Drogheda United. At the start of the year, they were tipped as relegation candidates, by the end of October they were runners up in the League, EA Sports Cup title holders and secured a place in next season’s Europa League. Mick Cooke goes into the season having retained the bulk of his squad and has made a few additions to his squad, most notably the highly rated Paul O’Conor from UCD. Should he click with influential captain Eric Foley, the Drogs midfield will be a joy to watch next year. I think Drogheda will enjoy another impressive League campaign and I can see them winning one Cup competition again.
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After narrowly missing out on a Setanta Cup place on the last day of last season, the aim for Aaron Callaghan’s side will surely be to go one better this season. Like the previous two seasons at Dalymount Park, a lack of finances has frustrated whoever the manager has been as they attempted to attract players to the club. But, what has been different from the previous two seasons is that there hasn’t been a mass exodus of players and the former Crusaders manager will have the majority of last season’s squad to work with.
There have been some departures, however. Last season’s excellent centre back partnership have decided to move on to new pastures with Evan McMillan heading west to join champions Sligo Rovers and Kevin Feely heading across the Irish sea to join Charlton Athletic.
Stephen Paisley has been brought in to replace them and strikers Chris Lyons and Darragh Hanaphy have been recruited to help ease the goal scoring burden which was a main problem for the Gypsies last season. If they carry their 100% pre season record into the new season then you wouldn’t bet against Aaron Callaghan and his boys breaking into the top four this season.
One of the most-talked about fixtures in world football was played three times over the past couple of weeks, as Real Madrid and Barcelona went to war yet again. Two Copa del Rey fixtures followed by a less important league match, and of course the respect, adoration, and revenge that comes with victory, was what was on the cards for the three Clásico matches. At first Barça started well, grabbing a 1-1 draw in the Bernabéu, a match that the home side would have been aiming for victory in. The return leg of the Copa fixture in Barcelona was completely different though, as Real Madrid easily brushed passed their eternal rival for a 3-1 win.
Before the league game, an almost unimaginable sixteen points separated the teams in the league table. Atlético sat in between them, four ahead of Real. The result would make no realistic difference to the way the league title was heading, as even Mourinho himself conceded defeat in the league race in the press conference ahead of his first leg Champions League clash with Manchester United. Nonetheless, a Clásico is still a Clásico, and Real Madrid and Barcelona don’t get along all that well, for the most part. Real Madrid won the match 2-1, making it two wins and a draw for them in the three quick-fire Clásicos.
What was clear to see from these games is that with the unfortunate absence of Tito Vilanova due to health issues, Barcelona are lacking a leader, whilst Real’s on-pitch leader is returning to the top of his game and, like the team, is peaking at just the right time.