Former Celtic Man Sutton Was A Player Opposition Fans Loved To Hate

Chris Sutton the player was much like Chris Sutton the pundit: People seem to either love him or hate him.

Those that enjoy his work will say he’s passionate and honest, while those that dislike him will say he’s arrogant and biased.

Growing up I supported the blue half of Glasgow and that meant Sutton was part of the enemy.

Your rival’s players could fall into various categories; those you laughed at (Rafael Scheidt), those that were a bit meh (Marc Crosas) and those you had just had to respect (Henrik Larsson).

Chris Sutton fell into another important category and that’s one that opposition fans really dislike but grudgingly knew that they’d love to have in their own team.

The Englishman came to Glasgow after a poor season at Chelsea. His £6m signing was a masterstroke bit of business from Martin O’Neill. Sutton would join the Hoops determined to prove himself and was still only twenty-seven years of age, so he was just hitting his prime. That’s a dangerous combination for the opponents he’d come against.

His style and Chelsea’s style didn’t really suit each other but at Celtic his physical approach was just what was needed at Parkhead. His partnership with Larsson was legendary and they’d provide plenty of assists for one another. Having supply lines from the likes of Alan Thomson, Bobby Petta and Lubo Moravcik was perfect for the strikers.

He instantly became a hero for the fans with a debut winning goal against Dundee United in the SPL. His fine form continued into the first Old Firm derby of the year that year and Celtic knew that this game was the one that would help form their season.

When the game started, it was quite clear that Celtic were at the races as they rushed into a three goal lead inside the first fifteen minutes. Sutton grabbed the first and helped with an assist for another. Celtic didn’t take their foot off the gas and completed a 6-2 rout and Sutton scored again at the end of the game.

He seemed to relish scoring against his side’s biggest foes and that gave him a hero status in the east end and he quickly became hated in Govan.

To be fair, Chris was a very intelligent player. He would work on opponent’s weaknesses and he scored various types of goal. He could also play at the back or in midfield, and only smart players can adapt to play in such varied roles for their team. His involvement in the build-ups was majestic and his unselfishness in helping his fellow strikers was admirable.

Sutton’s overall style on the park was the main reason he wasn’t liked by those in blue. He was very physical and didn’t mind bullying defenders. He would pull, push and grapple with opponents. Those type of actions that the referee would tolerate but the opposition fans would be yelling from the terraces.

When you took a step back as a rival supporter screaming at his dirty tactics, you could see that he was actually the type of player you would like in your team. Rangers had a similar type in the past in the form of Mark Hateley and he was adored.

Who wouldn’t want a player who was passionate about the team, that could bully defences and who could score in the biggest of games both domestically and in Europe?

Chris Sutton later stated:

“When I arrived I wanted to put Rangers in their place. I felt strongly about this. I came to Scotland to be a winner and be successful.”

To be fair, that kind of statement is what you want to hear from a player that has played for your club. It obviously stings when it’s against you, but it only hurts because you know that’s what you want from your own players.

When I look back at Sutton’s time in Glasgow, as a player, I have to grudgingly accept he was brilliant for the Hoops and had the qualities that you had to admire.

Both Rangers And Celtic Have Points To Prove In Old Firm Clash

Glasgow has already hit fever pitch with Old Firm fans, the Scottish media and the two teams discussing the upcoming clash that will take place at Ibrox on Sunday.

Various columnists and pundits have stated who they think is under the most pressure to get a result this weekend.

Celtic boss Brendan Roders insists that the heat is on the home side. He’s been backed up by Gers legendary figure Walter Smith who said:

“Sunday’s game is one Rangers have to win.”

“Not just for the sake of beating Celtic but for showing the rest of the world that, ‘Right okay, there might be a wee chase on for the league this year. Okay, this might be the start of Rangers coming back to being the club they were before all the turmoil”

While former Celtic star Kris Commons has stated that the champions are the ones that are under pressure to perform.

In truth, both sides have points to prove and that kind of shows us that the fixture is significant once again.

Without doubt Rangers have improved under Graeme Murty. His Gers side have won their last six matches on the bounce and a win in the derby will see them lie just three points behind the Hoops (Although Celtic will still have a game in hand). A positive result will probably cement Murty as the club’s next permanent boss.

As I’ve mentioned Rangers are on a decent winning run but they now need to prove that they can challenge Celtic and to do that they need to give their rivals a game and collect all three points.

Some of the boys in blue also have to show that they cane meet the demand that such a fixture brings.

Alfredo Morelos has had a terrific season thus far, but the Colombian hasn’t scored against the Scottish Premiership leaders and he’ll be determined to change that.

New boys like Russell Martin, Greg Docherty, Jamie Murphy, Sean Goss and Jason Cummings will want to prove that they can perform in such an intense atmosphere too.

In Glasgow’s east end, Celtic have to show that they can meet this Rangers revival and crush the optimism that currently seems to engulf Ibrox.

The champions haven’t been as strong since the end of December and complacency has taken hold on occasions recently. That being said they went up to Aberdeen and professionally ended the Dons title hopes last month.

Rodgers and his team will know that a win over Rangers will see them go nine points clear and still have that game in hand. That would probably knock the stuffing out of their closest rivals.

The Celtic defence will want to prove that they aren’t the side’s weakest link, Moussa Dembele will be determined to show he’s back to his goalscoring best and Scott Sinclair’s hoping he can rediscover his form.

As I said, both teams are under pressure to prove themselves as they meet up on Sunday.

I think it’s great that we are once again talking about this match and putting so much importance on it. On Sunday hopefully both sides will go for it and the victors can enjoy proving their point!

Should Jose Mourinho Drop Alexis Sanchez From Man United Starting Eleven?

There was a huge buzz when Manchester United beat Manchester City to the signature of Alexis Sanchez back in January. Yet it has so far not really worked out for the Chilean at Old Trafford.

Alexis has played eight times for the Red Devils. In that period, he has missed a penalty but scored the rebound and created two assists (one on his debut against Yeovil in the FA Cup). In truth, his performances have been a bit lacklustre. He certainly hasn’t contributed enough in the bigger games against Chelsea, Sevilla and Tottenham Hotspur.

Man United boss Jose Mourinho is trying his best to fit Sanchez into his team; having played him on either wing and as a number ten behind Romelu Lukaku.

The international forward is still working hard and trying to get involved but not in the areas of the field that will make an impact going forward. He may be more disciplined defensively under Jose’s instructions but that hasn’t and won’t work. When you look at the average shots per game stats in the Premier League, United are the sixth best team and Sanchez was brought in to improve that record. It’s the same story with shots on target per game.

It looks as though Jose is trying to be persistent and hoping that he can play Alexis into form but that could have an adverse affect on the creative maestro. He looks to trying too hard and he’s cutting a frustrated looking figure on the park.

Maybe the time is right for Jose Mourinho to drop his latest recruit.

By taking Sanchez out of the starting line-up against Liverpool this weekend, it sends the message to the Chilean that he needs to improve. It may also take some pressure away from him, especially if Mourinho handles it in the right way.

Plus let’s face it the Man Utd manager hasn’t been slow to drop other under performers like Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford.

Before the arrival of the former Arsenal man, United were on a seven game unbeaten run. Things were looking good with Martial on the left, Juan Mata on the right and Jesse Lingard playing in the hole behind Lukaku. Yet when Alexis arrived that seemed to derail things and players went on a decline when Mourinho made changes to accommodate his new signing.

Losses to Spurs and Newcastle United since the turn of the year has seen Man Utd’s position in second place come under serious threat. If Liverpool beat them at Old Trafford on Saturday then Jurgen Klopp’s men will step over United in the league standings.

If Manchester United can secure a victory over their rivals then they will once again have a cushion to protect during the run-in. Third or fourth place won’t really signify progress this term in my book.

When he signed Sanchez, Jose said this:

‘He will bring his ambition, drive and personality, qualities that make a Manchester United player and a player that makes the team stronger and the supporters proud of their club dimension and prestige.’ 

So far, United haven’t really seen the best of Alexis Sanchez but I think class is permanent and he just needs time to settle in at his new club. In the end, Jose Mourinho will need to decide if he persists in starting the forward and hope he turns good sooner rather than later or take him out the firing line for a short time and hope that can kick-start his season.

Where Are They Now? – Italy World Cup Squad 2006

I loved the Italian World Cup 2006 winning team.

They had so many superstars in that squad and in various positions too. They had defensive discipline (well they were Italian after all), they had great passing midfielders and sublime forwards who could unlock the sternest of defences. They also had a squad with such a strong work-ethic that saw every player do their bit for the Azzzurri.

I actually predicted the Italians would go all the way to the final and that won me £200 (I should note my love for Ronaldo was too strong and I predicted Brazil would win the tournament). After the final I bought a Puma Azzurri t-shirt that marked the triumph and then bought a replica gold boot signed by Fabio Cannavaro (which I sold to help fund my now wife’s engagement ring).

Anytime I watch the 2006 final I always get goosebumps, so I thought I’d checkout the stars of 2006 and see what they’re up to now:

Coach: Marcello Lippi 

My first memories for Signore Lippi was as the boss of Juventus in the 90s.

At Juve, he won the lot including Serie A titles and the Champions League. It’s scary how similar that Juventus squad was to the Italian team that would then lift the World Cup.

He needs foot-soldiers that will give 100% in every fixture and would garner so much team spirit. Then he’d add that sprinkle of magic dust that the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, Andrea Pirlo and Francesco Totti gives your team.

The legendary boss would go on and win Chinese League titles with Guangzhou Evergrande. He seemed to retire from coaching in 2014 but then announced his return in 2016 as the Chinese national team manager.

1. Gianluigi Buffon 

The goalkeeper is without doubt the best of his generation, in my opinion.

Still playing and winning trophies with Juventus, although Buffon has stated he’ll retire at the end of this season unless Juve win the Champions League (A title that missing off his CV).

Was tremendous at Parma and became even better in Turin. Has the respect of his teammates and his opponents. Was a star in the World Cup, playing in every game and keeping five clean-sheets in seven outings.

Unfortunately won’t be at the World Cup this summer due to Italy failing to qualify. The tearful captain said “sorry for all of Italian football” after the Azzurri lost to Sweden in the play-off. He’s has made more appearances for his country than anyone else.

Italian Caps: 175

2. Cristian Zaccardo 

Like many in this squad, Zaccardo has played for quite a few teams in his career. While his CV mainly includes Italian teams like Milan and Parma, Cristian also played abroad, winning a Bundesliga title with Wolfsburg.

Was a regular for Palermo when selected in 2006 and could play as a right-back or in central defence. Had a good engine on him and a decent amount of pace too.

Played three times in the tournament and unfortunately scored an OG in the group game against the U.S.

Zaccardo (aged 36) still plays and is currently at Maltese club Hamrun Spartans, after advertising his services on social media. Not everyday you see a World Cup winner asking for a game on twitter.

Italian Caps: 17     Goals: 1

3. Fabio Grosso

The adventurous full-back was actually a very important member of the Azzurri in Germany 06.

Grosso won a dodgy looking penalty in the final minute in the last 16 match against Australia. It was duly converted and saw the Italians advance. He then scored a last gasp goal in the semi-final against the hosts and then the attacking left-back was the player entrusted by Lippi to put away the last penalty to win the cup, Fabio made no mistake. Lippi would later say that he thought it was fate that Grosso should be the one to do it again with the final kick.

Won Serie A titles with Inter and Juve and would also win a Ligue 1 title with Lyon.

Retired from playing in 2014. Started his coaching career with the Juventus youth set-up before taking the Bari job in 2017, they are currently in fifth place in Serie B.

Italian Caps: 48     Goals: 4

4. Daniele De Rossi 

At just twenty-two years of age, De Rossi was the baby of the group.

He started the opening two games but the feisty youngster was banned for four games after receiving a straight red for a dangerous elbow that left USA striker Brian McBride bloodied. His only appearance after that incident was a substitute in the final itself. He scored in the penalty shoot-out against France.

Daniele has been a one club player, starring for Roma since 2001. He has two Coppa Italia winners medals to his name. In his prime, De Rossi was a fantastic midfielder who could tackle, who had terrific vision and who could also score goals.

He now captains his beloved I Giallorossi and like Buffon retired from the international stage after the last qualifying campaign.

Italian Caps: 117     Goals: 21

5. Fabio Cannavaro (Captain)

The legendary defender was the Azzurri’s captain, so was the first to lift the famous trophy after the final whistle in Berlin.

He might have been small in stature but Fabio was an absolutely fabulous centre-back. A very intelligent player, Cannavaro would effortlessly read the game and sweep up any dangers that happened ahead of him.

Produced some of the finest defensive displays ever seen at a World Cup and he won the tournament’s silver ball and then later on that year he would also be awarded the Ballon d’Or.

The classy defender won plenty of trophies with Parma, Juve and Real Madrid before quitting after a season with Al-Ahli in UAE.

Now manages in China with Guangzhou Evergrande, where he won the Chinese FA’s coach of the year award for 2017.

Italian Caps: 136     Goals: 2

6. Andrea Barzagli

A powerful, commanding defender who wins plenty in the air as well as on the deck. Won his first cap under Lippi in 2004.

Brought to Germany as a back-up and ended up playing in two games in the latter stages and helping the Italians in keeping two clean-sheets.

Andrea has since become a regular in the starting eleven for the Italians since 2012 and has won Serie A league titles with Juventus and also helped Werder Bremen to a Bundesliga triumph in 2009.

The strong, intelligent defender is another that still plays to this day and at the highest level with Juve. He too, retired from international football after the dismal recent World Cup qualifying campaign.

Italian Caps: 73

7. Alessandro Del Piero

Del Piero was one of those gifted individuals who could perform at the biggest of stages. He could be lethal from free-kicks and became a superstar under Marcello Lippi at Juventus in the 90s.

He took part in five of the games at the 2006 World Cup. In the semi-final against Germany he grabbed the vital second goal that knocked the hosts out. After a fast counter attack, Del Piero popped up on the left-hand side. Alberto Gilardino played him in expertly and Alessandro curled the ball beyond the German keeper. The forward would also score his penalty in the final.

Spent the majority of his career with Juve and stayed with the club when they were demoted after the 06′ World Cup. He has the record amount of appearances and goals for the Vecchia Signora. Left Turin in 2013 after almost twenty years at the club. Then had a successful stint in Australia with Sydney FC and then a season in India.

Retired in 2014 and is now a TV pundit in Italy.

Italian Caps: 91     Goals: 21

8. Gennaro Gattuso

I remember seeing the tenacious Rino as a teenager, when he played for Rangers. Although I loved his attitude and desire, I never once expected him to become the star that he ended up becoming!

Gattuso was the spoiler of this team. If someone needed kicked, then Gennaro’s boot was primed to do the kicking. He was an eager midfielder that would chase down opponents and break-up play. Played plenty of minutes during the tournament, making a huge amount of tackles (47) and passes. Yet Rino will best be remembered for his aggressive celebrations, where he’d physically assault Lippi after victories.

After stints at Gers and Salernitana, Gattuso would become a legend at AC Milan. He won two Scudettos and two Champions Leagues with the Rossoneri. 

Is now back at the San Siro as Milan’s manager and enjoying his tenure thus far. He also bossed at Sion, Palermo, OFI Crete and Pisa before getting his dream job.

Italian Caps: 73     Goals: 1

9. Luca Toni

The powerful number nine was widely tipped to challenge for the tournament’s golden boot but it didn’t quite work-out that way.

He came into the World Cup on the back of scoring 31 times in 38 league games for Fiorentina. Yet he only scored two in Germany, both against Ukraine in a 3-0 quarter-final win. His never say die attitude and aerial ability still caused plenty of opponents problems.

Toni’s prolific form saw him crowned the Serie A top scorer on two occasions (2005-06 & 2014-15). Notably won the league and cup double with Bayern Munich in 2008. Retired in 2016 after two season with Verona. Ended his career having scored more than 250 league goals.

Has since had a short stint in an administrative role with Verona before leaving in 2017. Luca is now being linked with a role at the rebirth of Modena.

Italian Caps: 47     Goals: 16

10. Francesco Totti

Totti was another creative maestro but he also had the leadership and loyal qualities you’d expect from a Roman emperor.

Francesco probably wasn’t as great for Italy as he was for Roma but just having him in the team meant that you had a game changer on the park. Came into the finals after a three month rehab on a ligament injury. He took part in all seven games, providing four assists and a goal against Australia.

Totti was a genius on the field as he could operate as an attacking midfielder or as an all-out striker. His 307 goals is an all-time record for Roma and he was named Italian footballer of the year on four occasions.

Stayed at AS Roma for his whole career and captained them for much of that time. Won the Italian championship in 2001 and retired from playing in 2017. He has stayed on at the club and now serves as a director.

Italian Caps: 58     Goals: 9

11. Alberto Gilardino

Once dubbed the next great thing, Alberto Gilardino just couldn’t seem to settle at one club. In fact he has played for twelve different clubs.

Played in three of the games in 2006, scoring in his side’s 1-1 draw with the United States. Had pace and a work rate that made him an ideal sub and he proved that in the win over the Germans in the Semi.

Was part of the Milan squad that won the Champions League in 2007, won the Italian player of the year award in 2005 and also won the Chinese Super League in 2014 (playing under Lippi).

Another one of the squad that is still playing. He joined Serie B outfit Spezia in October of last year.

Italian Caps: 57     Goals: 19

12. Angelo Peruzzi

Peruzzi was certainly the experienced campaigner for this Italian team. The then thirty-six year old was taken as Buffon’s back-up and Lippi had known him well from their time together at Juve.

Didn’t play at the major tournament but he was a consistent top class keeper; known for positioning qualities and for commanding his area.

Won the lot at Juventus and he also collected three Italian keeper of the year trophies.

After retiring, Peruzzi would hold coaching positions with the Italian FA and Sampdoria. He is now Lazio’s team manager not to be confused with Simone Inzaghi who is the club’s head coach.

Italian Caps: 31 Caps

13. Alessandro Nesta

Another classy defender and one of the best of that generation.

The smart centre-back, who could easily take the ball out of the back-line and play it forward without much fuss, started the group games but unfortunately picked up a groin injury in the match against the Czechs and had to miss the rest of the tournament.

Another leader and serial winner in the pool. Nesta won bucketful of domestic medals with both Lazio and Milan. He would also win the Champions League at AC Milan.

Retired from the national team in 2006 and then from playing in 2014 following stints in Canada and India.

Took charge of NASL side Miami FC (who are co-owned by fellow Italian legend & former teammate Paolo Maldini) and lasted there until the end of last year, citing he was looking for a new challenge.

Italian Caps: 78

14. Marco Amelia

The goalie was yet another back-up behind the phenomenal Buffon and elder statesman Peruzzi.

Was Livorno’s number one in 2006 but failed to make an appearance for the national team at the World Cup.

The talented keeper struggled to hold down a number one spot and spent time at six different sides after 2010, he’d hardly see first-team at any of those sides.

Thirty-five year old Amelia spent a few months towards the end of last season at Vicenza but was released at the end of the campaign and he’s still looking for a new club.

Italian Caps: 9

15. Vincenzo Iaquinta

Iaquinta was a speedy, tenacious striker. He had scored seven goals in Europe during the 2005/06 season, including a Champions League hat-trick for Udinese against Panathinaikos.

Vincenzo made his international debut in a friendly against Iceland in 2005. He’d grab his first goal in the opening game of the World Cup against Ghana. The forward made five appearances in the finals.

After his time at Udinese, the attacker would spend six years at giants Juventus. He had four decent seasons there but injuries always seemed to follow him around, especially towards the end of his time in Turin. He’d also have a loan spell at Cesena in 2012.

He won the Serie A league trophy with Juve but retired in 2013 after failing to make a single appearance in his last year as a professional. In 2015, he was ordered to appear in court over alleged links with the Mafia and for illegally possessing firearms.

Italian Caps: 40     Goals: 6

16. Mauro Camoranesi

The talented winger was as industrious as he was technically gifted. Available to play for Italy as his great-grandfather was born there, thus giving Camoranesi dual nationality.

Was used five times in Germany and started in the final before being replaced by Juve teammate Del Piero. He bizarrely allowed Massimo Oddo to cut off his ponytail on the pitch after the final and many of his teammates danced around it. Mauro finished his Italian career after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Another player who stuck by Juventus during their troubles (helping them back to the Italian top flight) but then felt let down by his departure from the bianconeri and stated that he and others  ‘had to leave by the back door, let’s say.’

Retired from the game in 2014 after stints in Germany and back in Argentina. Unlike others in this squad, Camoranesi seems to enjoy life out of the limelight.

Italian Caps: 55     Goals: 4

17. Simone Barone

Barone is another member of the squad that was a bit of a nomad, playing for eight different Italian clubs.

His strong defensive, versatile performances for Palermo in midfield were enough to convince Lippi to select him for the World Cup winning squad. He appeared in the wins over the Czech Republic and the Ukraine during Italy’s progress.

Retired in 2012 after a year at Livorno. Simone would join Gianluca Zambrotta’s backroom team at Indian side Dehli Dynamos.

Barone is now at Juventus as their under-16’s head coach.

Italian Caps: 16     Goals:1

18. Filippo Inzaghi

Pippo was a legendary striker, who seemed to be gifted at leading the line and scoring vital goals. He had the reputation of being constantly offside, which led to Sir Alex Ferguson saying ‘that lad must have been born offside’ when discussing Inzaghi.

Surprisingly Pippo only made one appearance during the tournament, unsurprisingly he netted in that encounter when he rounded Czech Republic keeper Petr Cech. That goal made Inzaghi Italy’s oldest player to score in a World Cup.

Won Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League titles throughout his career and starred for both Juve and Milan. The prolific marksmen ended his playing career in 2012 and had scored 288 goals by that point.

He would takeover the manager’s job at Milan after a stint in charge as the Primavera boss but he’d only last one year in the hotseat. He’s now at Venezia and has guided them to Serie B, where they are occupying sixth spot in the table.

Italian Caps: 57     Goals:25

19. Gianluca Zambrotta

A great modern day full-back, Zambrotta has played for some of the best teams in the world. He could play on either side and had pace to get beyond players and was also strong in the tackle.

Suffered an injury scare during the build-up but only missed the opening game of the tournament. His key game came in the quarter-final as he scored one, set up another and cleared a chance off his side’s goal-line.

After spending time at Juve, Barcelona and Milan Zambrotta signed off his career at Swiss side Chiasso as a player-coach.

Was made head coach at Chiasso in 2013. Then became the gaffer at Delhi Dynamos in 2016 and is now Fabio Capello’s assistant at Jiangsu Suning.

Italian Caps: 98     Goals: 2

20. Simone Perrotta

Perrotta became a stalwart at Roma, spending nine years with the side. He was a versatile midfielder, who was incredibly hardworking.

The middle-man was used in all seven matches and was in alongside Gattuso to protect the team’s defensive spine. He also set-up Inzaghi’s goal in the group stages.

Saw out his career with La Lupa, helping them to Coppa-Italia triumph in 2007 and 2008!

Was actually born in England and has a statue alongside English World Cup winners Geoff Hurst and Jimmy Armfield in Tameside. In October, Simone started his UEFA B coaching badge.

Italian Caps: 48     Goals: 2

21. Andrea Pirlo

Yet gifted conductor from this era. Had the vision, technique and craft to create and score wonderful goals. Pirlo made the deep-lying playmaker role his own and was a set-piece specialist.

I wasn’t happy when he scored two free-kicks against Scotland, those goals secured his nation’s World Cup qualification. He then scored Italy’s opening goal of the tournament with a whipped in shot from the edge of the box against Ghana. Alongside Totti, Andrea produced the most amount of assists during the tournament. In the final, Lippi stated he wanted his best penalty kick taker to take the opening spot kick and it was Pirlo who stepped forward and scored.

Won plenty of titles (both team and personal) at Milan and then moved to Juventus when many had written him off and he produced more magical performances there!

Pirlo would spend two years at MLS side New York City FC and retired towards the end of last year at the age of thirty-eight.

Italian Caps: 116     Goals: 13

22. Massimo Oddo

Oddo was a determined defensive right-back, who also seemed to relish chances from free-kicks and penalties.

Made only one substitute appearance in the 2006 tournament, playing in the Ukraine encounter. As I stated, he cut off Mauro Camoranesi’s ponytail as part of the celebrations after the final, reports suggest Oddo was a qualified barber.

Retired in 2012, enjoying his most successful spells at Lazio and AC Milan. He won the Scudetto in 2011.

Massimo then had various coaching jobs in youth football before taking over at Pescara in May 2015 and led them to promotion to Serie A. He was sacked in February 2017 and was then offered the Udinese job in November and they’re in eleventh place in the Italian top flight.

Italian Caps: 34     Goals: 2

23. Marco Materazzi

Materazzi was a strong and physical centre-back that wasn’t scared to jump into any tackle that was going.

The Inter Milan man benefitted from Nesta’s injury in the opening match as it was Marco who would replace him in the starting line-up. Let’s fast forward to the final as that was where Materazzi came to the fore. The tough tackling defender gave away the penalty that France scored from. He then scored a nice header from a Pirlo cross to level the score. Marco Materazzi then infamously had a verbal altercation with French star Zinedine Zidane, the Frenchman took exception to comments made about his sister and he head-butted the Italian defender and that saw him receive a red card. To rub salt into the French wounds Marco would score in the penalty shootout and lift the famous trophy!

Spent almost a decade with Inter and won five Serie A titles and a Champions League trophy. Personally, he was named Serie A’s defender of the year in 2007.

Turned up as a player-manager at Chennaiyin FC in 2014 and guided them to the Indian Super League championship in 2015. He left in March 2017.

Italian Caps: 41     Goals: 2

In dedication to Davide Astori (1987 – 2018)

Time’s Right For Arsenal Board To Ruthlessly End Arsene Wenger’s Reign

Time will never forget Arsene Wenger’s great achievements at Arsenal but the longer he continues without any real success the more his reputation and legacy will be tarnished.

To me, it seems quite clear that Wenger won’t fall on his own sword and the Frenchman will stubbornly hold on to his position until he’s relieved of his duties. In fairness I don’t think Arsene is holding out for something as common as monetary compensation, I think he honestly thinks he is still the right man for the job and can turn things around.

The Arsenal hierarchy need to understand that this is no longer the case.

Wenger has spent big in recent transfer windows and yet the Gunners are no closer to attaining the Premier League title, in fact it can be argued that they’re getting further away from that goal.

In their recent humblings by league leaders Manchester City, Arsenal were beaten by the free flowing attacking football that Arsenal used to be famed for under Wenger. The interesting thing about City and their boss Pep Guardiola. has been the fact that they have spent big on improving their defensive positions. For too long, Wenger has treated the backline as an after thought and they’ve never been strong enough in that area to withstand the pressures of playing against superior sides.

Arsenal have conceded more than anyone else in the top seven, that includes Burnley and that is damning to the way things are being done at the Emirates.

This term, the Gunners have only beaten a top six side once in nine attempts. That’s not good enough and that’s why they are a full thirteen points off Tottenham Hotspur in fourth place.

In the big games, Arsenal’s perceived big stars go missing. They shouldn’t and they have to accept responsibility for not turning up when it matters but it is also clearly a psychological issue that runs throughout the team. Again that has been a long term problem with the club and it seems to be an issue that Wenger again can’t get to grips with!

I think it’s got the stage where the board need to step in and put the manager out of his misery.

People might say they should hold on until the end of the season and that Arsenal are still in the Europa League but even if they win that, it’s just about papering over the cracks. Plus does anyone believe that Arsene can get enough from his troops to win the European competition?

A good portion of the support have had enough and the players just aren’t playing for their gaffer.

Personally I would get rid of Arsene now and have someone like Thierry Henry take-over for the rest of the campaign. Henry’s legendary status and his love of the club will buy him time until the end of the term without any issues for the fans. You’ll probably find the whole atmosphere at the Emirates will lift with just having a new person at the helm. Thierry is a man that the current team would/should instantly respect.

Former hitman Henry has already stated he’d take on the opportunity if it arose:

“If you love a place and they ask – I repeat, they ask – for help, you are always going to say yes.”

The club’s board will also buy themselves time if they change now. It would get the fans back onside for a time at least. They could then find a new exciting, long-term replacement to come in during the off-season. They’ll need a big name that the fans and the squad can get behind.

Arsenal don’t have a right to win things in football. Nor should we forget the many great things Arsene Wenger has brought to his side and English football as a whole. But the Arsenal support deserve to have a club that is doing all it can to improve and get better and with Wenger in charge that’s looking increasingly unlikely.

Former Rangers & Dutch Star Arthur Numan – Forever Blue!

I was watching a TV show on Sky Sports just before the last Old Firm game and former stars Barry Ferguson, Neil Lennon, Kris Boyd and Kris Commons were discussing the fixture.

During the programme they were stating who they’d want to see line-up beside them in such an important game. The usual suspects of Ferguson, Henrik Larsson and Scott Brown were given and then former Gers captain Barry Ferguson said his selection would be Arthur Numan.

It reminded me how good the Dutch left-back actually was.

The full-back joined the Ibrox side in 1998 for a £4.5m fee and he was already an international for the Netherlands and represented his nation in the World Cup in France 98.

As soon as he stepped onto the pitch in Govan, you could tell Arthur was a classy operator.

He was a modern day full-back who possessed a good engine and the right kind of work ethic to get up and down for most of the game. While he seemed natural at getting down the flanks and attacking the opposition, the Dutchman always knew his first priority was to defend his own goal.

Playing under a manager like Dick Advocaat meant you had to be disciplined and Numan was definitely an Advocaat player; the Little General was also his international manager, his gaffer at HFC Haarlem and his boss at PSV Eindhoven before his move to Glasgow.

The experienced influence that Advocaat on the sidelines and Numan on the park gave Rangers in that era helped the club become a more mature force in European football. Arthur was clearly a foot-soldier that Dick knew he could trust on the field and the other players certainly seemed to respect their teammate too. That’s why he was perfect as the club’s vice-captain.

Going back to his playing style; he was accomplished with the ball at his feet, whether it be in the pass or in the dribble.

One of the biggest memories I have of Arthur Numan, the footballer, was just how smart he was. I particularly remember him against Celtic and up against Didier Agathe. The winger was a speed merchant and he caused many a defender in the SPL problems during that period of time. Yet Numan seemed to work out the perfect game plan to nullify the wideman’s threat.

The Gers left-back knew Agathe wanted to draw him into a foot race, yet the experienced defender knew that would be a mistake as the Celtic man was too fast for him to handle. The Dutch star also knew that the Frenchman wasn’t the best provider of an early ball. So with all that in mind, Numan played Agathe perfectly by just sitting off him, he’d allow Didier to have the ball in space ahead of  the defender in deep positions but then the space in behind Arthur was non existent and that’s exactly where Agathe wanted to be.

Now I am sure Celtic fans can point to a fixture when their man got the upper hand but I genuinely can’t remember that and that’s probably because it didn’t happen in a lot of occasions.

The Dutch full-back scored the odd goal but none stood out more than his left-foot piledriver against the club’s Old Firm rivals at Ibrox!

The former PSV man just seemed to understand and appreciate the Rangers cause (Cue EBT chat from rival supporters). His work ethic, intelligence and determination to succeed were no doubt the reasons why Barry Ferguson named him as the perfect partner to be beside him in the trenches.

Arthur Numan clearly loved his time in Glasgow and remained in Scotland after his retirement in 2003. He has been seen in the stands alongside the Gers support and the fanbase loves it when any player, never mind a foreign player, shows that kind of adulation for the badge.

Yes injuries curtailed Numan’s time at Rangers but he still won trophies and he showed great dedication for the Light Blues. He was one of those stars that just seemed to push our game on during that impressive era for the Old Firm sides.



Why Arsenal Need Jack Wilshere

Had Jack Wilshere left Arsenal at the end of last season on a Bosman, many wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. A lot might have mourned the lost potential but they’d have probably thought it was the best thing for all concerned given the midfielder’s injury issues.

But fate decided it would be this summer and not last for Jack’s contract to run down and now the player seems to be back in-shape and he’s once again doing well for the Gunners.

Despite his return to fitness and form, the North London club haven’t been able to agree terms with the England international regarding a new deal.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger stated earlier in the week that he’d love to keep hold of the midfielder:

‘I want Jack to sign very quickly and I am happy to find the pen for him.’

‘Talks are progressing but the decision belongs to him and we have to respect that. Our desire has been clearly expressed and numbered and, after that, the player has to find satisfaction as well.’

Today various news outlets are suggesting that the two parties are miles apart and that Wilshere could be ready to seek his fortunes elsewhere and, for me, that could be a bad thing for the Premier League club.

So far this term, the Englishman has made twenty-seven appearances for the Gunners. In those games, he’s managed to score twice and create three assists.

More importantly, for me, is the fact that Jack shows more desire and has a deep love for the club.

On the pitch; it’s Wilshere who gets stuck in and rolls his sleeves up when everyone else seems to go missing. He’s very smart and efficient with his keen passing ability. With the ball at his feet, he doesn’t shrink and instead he tries to take it forward. When others have it, Jack shows a willingness to bomb forward and get beyond the teammate who has the ball. These are qualities that this Arsenal team needs. They need more heart and Jack Wilshere always tries to give them that when he’s in a Gunners shirt.

He’s still only twenty-six years old, so if he has finally overcome his fitness woes then he should be heading into his peak years as a professional footballer.

While he hasn’t lived up to his early potential yet and he still has mistakes within his game, the player is continuing to improve and he’s still learning. His performances this season have proven that to us. Whether it’s in the middle of the park our as a number ten, Jack has impressed during this campaign with his tenacious displays.

Off  the park, a story keeps coming to mind that shows his dedication to the football club.

In November of last year, there was a documentary celebrating the achievements of the Arsenal team that won the top division of English football in 1989. Yet the only current first team player to go to the premiere was Wilshere. That should shows you the affection he has for his side.

Yet Arsenal supposedly want to keep the player on reduced terms and on an incentive based deal. Now while I understand where they are coming from, the player now holds most of the cards when it comes to negotiating a new contract.

His performances this year will have caught the eye of a few good clubs and those teams will offer him a big deal if he becomes available on a free transfer. We know that Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has been an admirer of Wilshere in the past. Chelsea have been bringing in more English talent in recent years and Liverpool might be in the market for a new midfielder when the summer transfer window opens.

If Arsenal were to let their homegrown star leave for zilch and watch him shine elsewhere in the league, then that could be too much for the home fans at the Emirates.

Every deal represents a gamble but for Arsenal, I think it makes more sense in keeping those that love the club there and watch them battle for every tackle and point!

Would Brendan Rodgers Represent Wenger Lite For Arsenal?

Morning reports have suggested that Arsenal may look to appoint Brendan Rodgers as their new manager, if the Gunners decided to call time on legendary boss Arsene Wenger’s tenure at the club.

Arsenal collapsed in the League Cup final against Manchester City this past Sunday and are struggling in the race to finish in the Premier League’s top four. The North London side are still in the Europa League and that could be their main hope for this term.

If they don’t win the Europa League or finish in the top four, then it could be almost impossible for Wenger to hang on at the Emirates.

Brendan Rodgers has done a tremendous job at Celtic, he guided the Hoops to a Scottish treble last season and they went unbeaten in all of their domestic games last season too. This season has seen them reach the round of thirty two in the Europa League after the qualified for the Champions League group stages and finished their group in third place. The Scottish champs also still have a chance at completing a sensational successive domestic treble!

At Celtic, Brendan has introduced exciting attacking football and he’s instilled confidence within his squad.

So why am I unsure about his potential appointment at the Emirates? 

Well he offers the same traits as the current Arsenal gaffer without offering enough evidence that he could change things in the areas that need changing the most.

Like Wenger, Rodgers can be very stubborn with his tactics and philosophy. Against superior opposition in Europe, Celtic have been destroyed because they haven’t changed from their possession style. They’ve at times went toe to toe with the likes of Barcelona and PSG and came away battered and bruised. Arsenal need a different type of boss, one who will get wins no matter what in the bigger games.

One of the Gunners major problems has been their defensive record and it’s been that way for a while now. No other top seven team in England’s top flight has conceded more than Arsenal’s thirty-six goals this season.

That will probably mean that the defence needs to be looked at and improved upon. Even the goalkeeping position will probably be reassessed in preseason. These are positions that Rodgers himself has struggled with in his previous roles.

At both Liverpool and Celtic, Rodgers has had issues with recruiting keepers and having a solid dependable number one.

The central defence at Celtic is also a talking point up here as it’s seen as the Hoops weakest position. It has been obvious for a while and nothing seems to have improved during Brendan’s time at the Glasgow giants. Liverpool have had an iffy defence for a while, that’s why they spent big on Virgil van Djik in the last transfer window.

Another issue could be Brendan Rodgers’ lack of trophies in England. He came close to the Premier League title with Liverpool in 2o14 before they seemed to bottle it against Chelsea. Has Rodgers trophy laden time in Glasgow been enough to get the boards at the big English clubs to forget that period?

I think Brendan is a terrific gaffer, he has been described as a “fantastic man manager” by former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.

I’m just not sure he is what Arsenal would need if they chose to replace Arsene Wenger, I get the feeling he would be much of a muchness and too similar in style to the Frenchman. I’d imagine the Gunners may go for a continental boss with Germany a likely market.


Romelu Lukaku Needs To Continue to Make His Point For Man United

I think quite a few at Manchester United had a point to prove against Chelsea last weekend; Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho to name a few and I believe they were all happy with the valuable win.

Striker Romelu Lukaku possibly had the biggest issues to overcome as some believed he still had question marks regarding his ability to lead the line for one of the biggest clubs in the world.

He hadn’t scored against any of the Premier League’s top eight clubs so far this season and his record against former side Chelsea was particularly poor.

The Belgian striker just didn’t seem to be as fast, as powerful or as clinical as he was with Everton in previous seasons.

In fairness to the hitman he has been asked to do a different role at Old Trafford. He has been asked to be more of a focal point and dare I say it a target-man. That role isn’t as geared towards goals as being an all out centre forward is but it can create chances for others and it can intimidate defences.

Lukaku has become better at holding up the ball and bringing players into the game in attacking areas.

But without doubt his scoring exploits suffered and he hasn’t always looked confident in front of goal this term. People will always question a £75m forward who doesn’t grab the goals, especially in the bigger games.

Going into this one, the pressure on Lukaku was building but the international managed to come up with the big moments when it really mattered.

He scored the vital equaliser which brought United level with their opponents before half-time. He was involved in the build-up along with fellow forwards Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez. His finish was calm and collected.

His second major influence was his great cross from the right that was met and headed in by substitute Jesse Lingard.

A goal and an assist in a win against another top four side answered a lot of the questions that surrounded him before the game.

Yet his overall performance also deserves a mention.

He started sluggishly and the ball just wasn’t sticking to him but he didn’t stop showing for the ball. It was also noticeable that he started to move into the channels more and that allowed him to run with the ball and he excelled at that at Everton. It allowed Sanchez or Martial to enter the space in the middle that Romelu had vacated, that could be an ideal tactic for the rest of the season.

His desire to keep running down opponents and keeping the ball in the opposition’s half was great for his team’s cause.

Now that Romelu Lukaku has shown us that he can show up against the top sides, then he needs to do it on a regular basis and to be honest I believe he’ll just go from strength to strength.

In-Form Willian Could Be Chelsea’s Key Man Against Man United

This Sunday, Manchester United welcome Premier League champions Chelsea to Old Trafford as both sides look to cement their places in the top flight’s Champions League places.

A lot of the media will concentrate on the friction between the two managers. Former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is now United’s gaffer and he hasn’t been slow in starting arguments with current Blues manager Antonio Conte.

Yet when it comes to the final result, it will be the players on the park that will have the biggest say on who wins and one star who could influence things could be Willian.

It’s quite ironic that the Brazilian seemed to have had more opportunities under Mourinho than he’s had under Conte this term. Recently though Willian has been in superb form for the London club and his return to the first team could see him downing his old gaffer.

The attacker has scored four, created an assist and collected two man of the match awards in his last six appearances.

His Champions League performance against FC Barcelona in midweek was superb. He hit the woodwork twice before grabbing his side’s goal. He ran all game and seemed to find space with ease, not easy when against a pressing side like Barca.

Willian’s close control, passing ability and his dribbling are qualities that cause opponents problems. With Eden Hazard in similar form in the same team, it can be understandable that defences struggle to gain control of the ball when Chelsea are in full flow.

The twenty-nine year old has been in and out of Conte’s team so far this term but he seems to have regained his confidence and now making it almost impossible for the Italian to drop him from the starting line-up.

Worryingly for Man United, the Brazilian has warned that Chelsea and himself are just hitting their stride:

‘I’m always ready to score goals,’ 

‘I think the hat-trick is coming soon. I nearly scored one against Hull and against Barcelona.’

‘It is totally different to play in the Premier League to the Champions League. I think we can stay at this level, go to Old Trafford on Sunday and play another great game. We have to play in a similar way.’

If Manchester United want to nullify Chelsea, then stopping Hazard and Willian could be the key but that’s easier said than done. Especially when the duo are playing in such a rich vein of form and finding space or running freely with the ball.

Jose Mourinho respects Willian’s style but the Portuguese manager will be hoping that the forward doesn’t shine at Old Trafford. While Antonio Conte will be hoping that the Brazilian can have yet another inspirational outing and see Jose disappointed at the full time whistle.