When the former Bohemians and Shelbourne boss was appointed as Hibernian manager in November 2011 the club were in a desperate position nearing the half-way point of their season. He was initially left to work with a squad of players which had been assembled by previous manager, Kevin Calderwood, thus making a slow start, taking just one point from his opening five league games. The following January, Felon took the opportunity to revamp his struggling squad adding key players such as now captain, James McPake. Hibs reached the SFA Cup Final the following May but were trumped by rivals Hearts 5-1 in the final, the hurt of which still lingers today. Ultimately Fenlon managed to keep the Hibees in the SPL having found his squad floundering in second-last when he arrived and began to build for his first full campaign adding no less than 10 new players to his squad.
In this piece I will be writing a first-hand account of my experiences I encountered on my travels as an away supporter. On the 6th of October I set off to London from Dublin for my first Arsenal game of the season. It was a London derby with West Ham which made the tie all the more intriguing and it was something that I had never experienced, until now. Prior to the game, the situation for Arsenal was a must win one. They fell defeated to other London rivals and league leaders, Chelsea, at home the previous week so anything less than a win would leave them way off the early set pace. Newly promoted West Ham on the other hand had made a great start to their campaign and found themselves in 7th place at this early stage of the season as they looked to continue their impressive form.
I arrived in to Heathrow airport as keen as mustard on the morning of the game at 10:20 which gave me plenty of time to get my bags in and head off to the pub for some pre-beer soakage and then on to the lagers. The plan was to rendezvous with a friend at Liverpool Street at 1pm and then get straight down to away day business (heavy drinking and loud singing). After filling ourselves full of your usual pub grub of chips, beans, bacon and two sausages we made tracks on the tube to the Stratford area where we planned to meet up with some other Arsenal compatriots and to get our first beers of the day.
Spain went in to this sporting their unorthodox 4-6-0 formation fielding a team without a recognized centre-forward. The ‘eyebrow raising’ formation had been introduced by Spain in this tournament and had been working to their success until now. The Italians on the other hand only made one change to their team that beat Germany 2-1 in the quarter-final which saw the rather unfortunate Balzaretti, who had a world beating performance lose his place to Abate.
In the opening frames of the game both teams were working extremely hard to obtain command. Inevitably it was the Spanish, who once got their typical passing game going were always going to be hard to hinder. However, to Italy’s credit they were no push-overs and did not allow themselves to become besieged by Spain. They got frequent, although brief spells of possession and they looked to gain an advantage by pushing full-back Chielini high up the by-line and to get some deliveries in to Balotelli who displayed his areal potential against the Germans.
Before affairs had begun in Group B, Die Mannschaft only needed a point to cement their quarter-final date with Greece in Gdansk. The Danes on the other hand knew that a win was necessary if they were to hold any hopes of reliving their glories of 1992. Germany, as suspected were hot favourites for this one and had shown that they were ready to live up the hype surrounding them by seeing off Holland and Portugal already.
In the opening stages of the game unsurprisingly it was Germany who dominated, and their impetus nearly paid dividends when Thomas Mueller blew an opening which Anderson gathered up from just eight yards. The scene was set for what was to come for the Danes for lengthy periods of the first half. Lahm, Ozil and Podolski were exposing Denmark relentlessly from wide positions combined with Bastian Schweinsteiger ‘s clever in-to-feet passing of which Mueller and Gomez took advantage of, creating several half-chances with some quick link-up passes on the edge of the box, only to be halted by an inspired Daniel Agger on the evening.
With the European championships looming it’s time to assess each of the groups and take an in depth look into each side to see how they may fare in their group. In this piece I’ll be taking a look in to England’s group which sees them pitted against Sweden, hosts Ukraine and their inter-channel neighbours, France.
Most of the speculation and pre-tournament interest has been centred on Roy Hodgson as he was named England boss in wake of Capello’s resignation. His squad selection is also something which has sparked much debate, not least his decision to omit Rio Ferdinand from the squad in favour captaincy-stripped John Terry, who has yet to stand in court amidst being accused of racially abusing Rio’s brother, Anton.
On the 12th of May the two of the Bundesliga Supremes, Champions League finalists Bayern Munich and reigning league champions Borussia Dortmund will lock horns in the Olympic Stadion in Berlin and fight it out for the domestic cup. The game is tantalisingly poised and has the makings to be a classic. Both teams going in to the game are in rich veins of form and both ended their league campaigns on a high, but Dortmund however were comfortable winners in the end holding off Bayern at a gap of eight points.
Coming in to this one, Dortmund are on a 25 game domestic unbeaten streak and have been ruthless in their league run-in which has seen them finish as champions. Bayern on the other hand will be out for some revenge over their Nord-West Rhineland rivals after they were beaten by them both home and away in the league. Something that is not to be forgotten also is the fact that Bayern will face Chelsea in the Champions League final seven days after the cup final, a competition that Bayern will hold in higher regard surely, not least to mention that the the European final will be held in their own back yard this year.
In the following we will be taking a look at The Premier League, The Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A as they all come to the end. As May approaches the heat intensifies at both ends of the table and we’ll be assessing who will be experiencing the gloom or the glory. So without any further ado, taking you through the Premier League will be Ashley Brewer, The Bundesliga will be Sam Henderson, La Liga will be Rob O’Reardon and finally through Serie A will be Cillian Shields.
In this domestic campaign, it initially looked like giants Bayern Munich were going to storm through after an impressive start, losing their first game but then going on to win their next eight games in a row without conceding a single goal. Spearheaded by €30 million goal-machine Mario Gomez, the Bavarians were in scintillating form and few could looks past them as they were bidding for their 23rd German league crown.
Meanwhile their primary competition and reigning champions Borussia Dortmund got off to a less than steady start losing games early on to Hoffenheim, Hannover 96 and Hertha Berlin. It would take a rapid rejuvenation and some major wins for Die Schwarzgelben to mount a challenge and retain their Bundesliga title.