Italy march on, while it’s Ashes to Ashes for homebound England

Penalties were, once again, England’s undoing in a major championship. Italy prevailed from this European Championship quarter-final via a shootout after a tense, scoreless game in Kiev’s Olympic Stadium.

Pirlo’s fantastic chipped penalty sets Italy on course for victory

England started the game brightly – they used Italy’s inherent narrowness to their advantage. Gli Azzurri started with a diamond 4-4-2, just as they did against Ireland in their final group game. Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole got forward from their full-back positions, to exploit Italy’s lack of wide midfielders. Johnson, especially, got a lot of space in the opposition half, as Daniele De Rossi neglected his defensive assignment.

This paid dividend within five minutes, as Johnson drifted inside, with the ball, from the edge of the Italian box – De Rossi didn’t challenge him. He laid it off, and some nice interplay created a chance for the Liverpool man, forcing a superb reaction from Gianluigi Buffon in the Italian goal.

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A Hodgson Affair

Written by David Martinez.

Hodgson will fail with England – History tells us it was ever thus.

‘Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it’ – George Santayana.

Roy Hodgson is a competent football manager who has found his level again at West Bromwich Albion over the past season and a half. He is not a manager capable of taking on the enormous pressures of a nation that is so starved of and desperate for success as England. He will fail as England manager and the treatment he will receive from the press and supporters will be cruel and excruciating to watch. How do I know this? Because I’ve already seen it happen. We all have.

Roy Hodgson unveiled as the new England boss

Imagine for a moment that you are an employer seeking a new employee to fill a vital role in your organisation. The first C.V. that you pick up contains a vast amount of experience in the field that you require. Assuming experience is almost a prerequisite for the post you are advertising, what would be the next things that you look for? Having never been in such a position myself you will have to indulge me while take a few guesses.

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The Original Crusader

By Bryan Hutchinson

As this season’s Setanta Sports Cup draws to a close, Crusaders were the final side left representing the IFA Carling Premiership. The North Belfast club have a long history of ‘importing’ talented footballers from across the border, from the mid 80s right through to early part of this century, there have been a multitude of Southerners gracing the red and black shirt.

Marty Murray before the 1997 season

From Leo Flanagan and Damian Byrne in the late 80s, through to Roddy Collins, Liam Dunne, Aaron Callaghan, John Cleary, Peter Eccles, Derek Carroll and Mick Deegan, who still remains the only player to win an All Ireland Senior Football title and Irish League Championship in the same season, when the Crues 3rd title success was matched by Dublin’s Sam Maguire triumph as they beat Tyrone by 1-10 to 0-12.

However the next Dubliner was the very first signed by Roy Walker, and to many, he was the best of them all. Martin Patrick Murray joined Crusaders in July 1991 after a spell with Dublin junior side Ashtown Villa. But his career up to that point had been largely spent in senior football, with Home Farm, Drogheda United and Dundalk, but also included a spell at English club Everton under Northern Ireland great Billy Bingham.

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Crossing the line?

I heard a recent story about 8,000 copies of a Manchester United fanzine ‘Red Issue’ being taken off them recently, after printing a mock miniature sized Klu Klux Klan masks before playing Liverpool in the FA Cup; the match that marked the return of Luis Suarez having missed eight games after racially abusing Red Devils full-back Patrice Evra in a previous Premier League encounter. Greater Manchester Police confiscated the issues (which cost over £10,000 to produce) citing the fact that the image may be likely to incite hatred. The MEP did later give the fanzines back, but having suffered a substantial loss, a roomful of worthless and out-of-date fanzines was the last thing its creators wanted landed on their doorstep.

In the days following the game, fans from all over were downright indignant about the whole affair, believing their freedom of speech to be taken from them, in a country that’s becoming more and more politically correct and multidenominational. While others said the police had full right to take something which was likely to add fuel to a fire between two sets of supporters that already hate each other’s guts. Police clash every year with fans from both sides, trying to keep the peace in a fixture that has provided many-a-skirmish in previous years between Lancashire’s proudest clubs.

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League of Ireland First Division Preview

That week has arrived – your last week in work or school before the weekend that brings the first round of league fixtures with it. All football fans know the week. For League of Ireland fans, they can once again breathe the annual sighs of relief, knowing they’ll very soon be able to see their team in action again. The season 2012 is fast approaching, and with it comes the BOIP season previews! Here, Brendan White gives us his expert analysis to the new-look, 8-team First Division, while later on in the week we’ll have a bumper Premier Division Preview.

Odds-on favourites Limerick look the team to beat in this season’s First Division season as Pat Scully’s men look for promotion to the Premier Division. A team full of quality was added to over the pre-season with Stephen Bradley and Dominic Foley brought in to go alongside last season’s big name signings of Denis Behan and Joe Gamble.

Lims unveil their new signings Dominic Foley (L) and Derek O'Brien (R) (via their Facebook page)

With a squad of young and exciting players along with the experienced players, Limerick have a blend of players that would make most managers jealous. But with big players come big pressure; winning the league and promotion to the Premier Division is the sole objective for Pat Scully, anything less will be unacceptable on Shannonside. Prediction: 1st.

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Cheating in the modern game

Recent events relating to Luis Suarez have led to many of questions being asked about how the football family handle problems caused by their players. In the curious case of Luis Suarez he is coming under much scrutiny due to his own actions. Outside Anfield he is the target of opposition fans wherever he goes. His employers as is traditional with football clubs in England defend him to the last and try to lay the blame at the doorstep of others. Much of this relates to their perception of him as a cheat who will dive at every apparent opportunity to gain advantage for his team. He is probably the most high profile player in the Premiership who is serially accused of cheating at this time.

Eduardo gets a 7.6 for this dive

I should point out that I include cynical fouling in the definition of cheating although the authorities have clamped down seriously on this aspect of cheating. Issuing of red cards for the last man taking out the attacker has helped greatly eradicate this type of fouling.

Having watched Suarez in numerous games there is no doubting his ability with the ball at his feet. One moment in particular in March 2011 when playing against Man United he waltzed through the defence to set up Kuyt, showing excellent skill in the execution of the move. The frustration comes when knowing his ability we see him week in week out take dive after dive, usually in the opponents penalty area. He then shows complete disbelief when the penalty or free kick is not awarded in his favour.

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The demise of the defensive midfielder at Manchester United

As we sit in the aftermath of that disastrous away leg in Switzerland, the questions are again being asked in relation to the midfield situation at Manchester United. As we all know by now, the result did go wrong, and we saw the giants Manchester United knocked out of Europe from a group in which they were the favourites to qualify. This campaign as well as the drubbing to the hands of Manchester City, where the defence collapsed like a pack of cards in the last 10 minutes, serves to highlight the deficiencies that exist at the heart of the Manchester United midfield. If Barcelona ripping United apart in two European Cup finals was not enough of a wakeup call, the rise of City the ‘noisy neighbours’ must now surely be the internal alarm bells going off in the head of Sir Alex Ferguson.

United players after being knocked out of the Champions League

Many journalists point to the failure to land Sneijder, which may have been more about a refusal to pay the wages than a refusal to pay the transfer fee, as the chance missed by Sir Alex Ferguson to gain parity with his opponents domestically and abroad. Others were available apparently but it would appear United were not interested. Anybody who keeps abreast of matters United will know
about the promise of youth that appears to be ready to rise to the top. We have heard the names of Pogba and Morrison mentioned in whispers from United supporters and apparently Sir Alex feels these players have what it takes to make it at the club. If so these will be the first players to come through since the “you won’t win anything with kids” brigade of Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, Butt and Nevilles Phil and Gary.

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