Mark Warburton Couldn’t Realise Rangers Potential After Promising Start

Mark Warburton impressed when he first arrived at Rangers. He was a clear communicator and was a man with a plan!

The Englishman stated that he wanted to bring through the club’s youngsters, he wanted to establish a ball retention style of football that would excite the Gers supporters and only wanted to bring in players that would offer more to the team and have a re-sale value.

Warburton would enjoy the majority of his debut season in charge and he was rewarded with a new deal at the end of it.

But it hasn’t worked out for him this term.

The knives were out before last night’s announcement that Warburton, his assistant David Weir and head of recruitment Frank McParland had all resigned from their duties.

The Gers fans had already become pretty disillusioned with their manager.

It was clear that he was too stubborn with his tactical ideas. Quite a few Premiership sides and found ways of getting around the Rangers possession style, they knew there was a lack of a killer instinct.

Warburton failed to grasp that at Ibrox a win was more important than the style in which the team played. Yes the fans enjoy good football but not at the cost of all three points!

It’s ironic but I believe that the rot started to set in straight after Rangers famously defeated Old Firm foes Celtic in last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final. It’s where Mark peaked as Gers boss but after that, things started to collapse around him.

After winning the Championship in early April, Rangers would then finish the season without a win in the league in their last four fixtures. The players seemed to be playing in their sandals and with beach towels under their arm.

Then they lost out to Hibs in the Scottish Cup final. That defeat highlighted that Warburton had to  invest in his squad and, in particular, the defence had to be strengthened.

But in his second summer, the recruitment drive seemed to go against many of his philosophies. He obviously felt his side needed more experience but those players didn’t have re-sale value and took places away from younger talent. Many of the new signings have struggled with injuries or failed to improve on the quality that was already at the club.

You also had the Joey Barton saga.

Now Barton was seen as a bit of a coup as he was a big name player. But Joey was never the type of player that would fit into a Mark Warburton team. Barton would always want the ball to be played through him and that would often slow down breakaways.

Another thing that the whole world knows about Joey Barton is the fact that he likes a moan and an argument. At the first sight of trouble from Bartion, Warburton was found wanting and out of his depth. Instead of trying to sort the issues out, he just washed his hands of the player and that was that.

So looking back at the opening ambitions of Mark Warburton as Gers boss and you can see that he couldn’t live up to them.

The exciting football wasn’t overly exciting, especially when the team started dropping too many points in the Premiership.

The signing policy went to the wayside last summer and the new signings struggled to make a huge impact on the side, to such an extent that the board and Gers support had started to question the boss and his head of recruitment!

Then you look at him bringing through youngsters. In the current first team, who actually came through the ranks at Murray Park?

Danny Wilson, I suppose, but he’d left and came back again; so does he really count?

Liam Burt is on the fringes but is hardly a first-team regular at the moment. Many had hoped to see more of Ryan Hardie but the young forward has been loaned to Championship sides this term.

Billy Gilmour might get there one day but that’s only if the fifteen year old rejects the elite’s advances once he turns sixteen.

So really it’s only Barrie McKay that has made the transition from the youth set-up to the first team.

That just doesn’t seem right given Warburton’s opening presser when he was almost singing about giving youth it’s chance and for having a clear path into the first team for talented kids. Is Murray Park failing to bring in talent? Or did Warburton turn his back on his own beliefs?

This season was always going to be a learning curve for Warburton but he continually failed to learn from his mistakes. The team didn’t seem to possess a ‘Plan B or C’ to change the outcome of games. The defence all too often still looks weak and slow.

His last few press conferences had seen a once confident, clear manager change into a nonsensical boss who would often clutch at straws and fail to understand his audience.

I truly believe that the whole ‘resigning’ situation could’ve been handled better by Rangers Football Club and I feel the Gers board are also partly to blame for the things that have went wrong this season.

But in truth, Mark Warburton struggled to make good on his early promise and the end was always coming, it was just a matter of when it would happen.

 

The Continued Farce That Is Rangers Football Club

So at 8.30pm tonight Rangers released a statement stating that the club had accepted the resignations of manager Mark Warburton, assistant David Weir and head of recruitment Frank McParland.

The club’s official twitter account also made a similar statement.

What has followed has been a complete meltdown as the media cover the story but have had very little to actually go on.

BBC journalist Chris McLaughlin then tweeted that Warburton was unaware of his own resignation:

Many have then speculated that the Gers website may have been hacked. It was down for quite some time and it has continued to experience trouble since the news broke. But whether that’s down to a high number in traffic or a hack, no one has been able to clarify at this time. It should be noted that the site is up and running at this current juncture and still has the statement on site.

More news has been dripping out since this initial statement.

Roddy Forsyth has a piece on the Telegraph website saying that the management team jumped but it was just a matter of time before they were going to be pushed. Then their representative wanted to take back the resignations but that offer was rejected by the Gers board and they then decided to make the ‘resignation’ statement. Talk of the Nottingham Forest job seems to loom largely in the midst of this story.

As of yet we are all still a bit unsure what the hell is actually happening at Ibrox.

What we do know, is that the club is becoming a complete and utter circus and the story is beyond a farce.

Look at the statement. It’s poorly written and executed, it’s so bad that people are still split on whether or not it’s actually true or fake!

No club official/director has came out and verified the statement or denied it. This from a board that said they were all about transparency and keeping the fans informed.

The last line in the statement:

‘We thank our support for their loyalty and desire to be the best.’

That’s vomit inducing horse-shit if ever I’ve read it!

This is supposed to be a huge football club, an institution! They are meant to be professional and have extremely high standards, yet they feed their fans soppy soundbites that make everything about the club look amateur.

Why, if they accepted the the resignations earlier in the week, did they not announce them earlier? Why wait until a Friday night just before a game before releasing this gigantic news grenade? Then keep quite!

Let’s go with the ‘Hack’ theory… If this is true (and it’s looking very unlikely), then why has it taken so long for anyone at Rangers to state that this is the case?

If Rangers have accepted their manager’s resignation then why not have managing director Stewart Robertson or chairman Dave King confirm it?

If the any of the previous Rangers board regimes had been in this situation King and Co would have been all over it and stating that these boards were dragging the Govan club through the mud. Yet a huge announcement like this is dumped on the club’s website and left to linger without being handled properly.

Now maybe it’s best for all involved that Rangers and Warburton go their separate ways. Things haven’t gone right for the team this season and both the board and the manager have to hold up their hands to making mistakes. Maybe Warburton wanted out and tried to seek offers from elsewhere, if true then Rangers would be understandably upset and annoyed.

But it doesn’t change the fact that this has all been handled terribly by the club and they’re an absolute laughing stock! Warburton deserved to know about the press release before it was published and the fans certainly deserved more the club’s custodians!

Managers That Could Interest Rangers If They Decide To Sack Mark Warburton

The dark clouds are gathering around Ibrox.

Recent results have once again highlighted that things aren’t progressing at Rangers, certainly not to the extent that the board and the the fans were probably expecting.

Now I always said that it was folly to suggest that Mark Warburton’s men would come into the Premiership and challenge straight away for the title. Celtic always had a superior squad and that was only enhanced when Brendan Rodgers arrived at Celtic Park in the summer.

But Warburton’s transfer policy has left many scratching their heads, the way he handled the Joey Barton affair wasn’t the best, his inability to change his systems when things aren’t right is quite telling and his team’s away record against rival sides has been pretty dreadful since his arrival in 2015.

I think finishing second is a reasonable goal for this Gers squad but at the moment it’s far from guaranteed and if Mark fails to secure that spot, then I’d expect him to leave in the summer. Actually I am not 100% sure that he’ll remain in charge for next season, even if he manages to clinch second place.

With that in mind, it would seem likely that the Rangers board will already be looking at possible successors.

So I thought I’d look at five men that might pique their interest:

MARCO SILVA

Ok let’s start with the most ambitious choice.

So few had heard of Mr Silva before he turned up at Hull City just over a month ago (if Soccer Saturday are to be believed).

In actual fact the thirty-nine year old has a fine CV.

At his first club Estoril he helped them to the Segunda Liga title in Portugal. He then had them finishing in fifth and fourth in the Portuguese top flight.

He then took over at Sporting Lisbon and during his one year in charge at the Leões he helped them to finish in third place and the Taça de Portugal (the Portuguese Cup). He was bizarrely sacked due to not wearing the club’s suit during a cup game.

After leaving Sporting, Silva would manage Olympiacos for a season. He guided them to the Greek league title in 2016 and also oversaw his team’s 3-2 victory over Arsenal in the Champions League. He left after that successful season, citing personal reasons. He enjoyed a 79% win rate whilst managing Thrylos.

That takes us to his current club Hull. The Premier League side were struggling under Mike Phelan and a lack of leadership from board level hasn’t helped the Tigers. But Silva has came in and had an instant impact at the KCOM Stadium. In his first eight games, he has picked up four wins and one draw. In his last two Premier League fixtures, Silva managed to secure a 0-0 draw away at Old Trafford with Man United and most recently Hull managed to beat Liverpool 2-0.

His influence has given Hull City a new belief that they can remain in the Premier League, they’re only a point away from getting out of the relegation zone. His approach has been refreshing, he’s very hands on in training and able to get more out of his players. Silva likes to make sure that his squad know their shape and how to defend as well as attack.

His training methods have seen improvements on the park. There’s no doubt that Hull are now a tighter unit and harder to break down. His concentration on defending would certainly be appreciated by those in the Ibrox stands. His tactics are based on getting results and it seems Mark Warburton’s is more about style over substance.

Silva’s footballing contacts go beyond Britain and that is something that could benefit the Gers pool at the moment.

Ok if things are going so well at Hull then how could Rangers persuade him to come to Govan? Well it all depends on where the Tigers finish in the league and then other potential suitors.

If Hull are relegated, after a brave fight, then Silva can walk away with his CV intact. He only signed a six month deal when he took-over. This would mean that he’s free to speak to whomever he chooses without the threat of a compensation package. But his style will not have gone unnoticed in Europe’s top leagues, so Rangers might have to act fast if they want to convince him of their project. They would also have to show that money is available to spend on the squad and allow him to bring in his own men.

Quite probably too big a fish to catch at this stage but would be worth asking.

DEREK MCINNES

The former Rangers midfielder could be the manager that prevents Warburton’s team from securing second place. He was heavily linked with the Gers job before it eventually went to Mark Warburton.

He has done extremely well at Aberdeen and has done his very best in trying to make them Scotland’s second force!

McInnes won the League Cup with the Dons in 2014 and they’ve finished runners up to Celtic in the last two campaigns. They were also in the League Cup final again this season, losing out to Celtic in the final.

So far, Derek has managed Aberdeen in 180 competitive fixtures and has seen his side triumph 101 times, that’s a healthy 56% win ratio. His side have not only conceded fewer than Rangers so far this term but they’ve also scored more too. They are both level on points at the moment but the Dons have a game in hand.

In Europe, he watched on as has his side beat Dutch side FC Groningen in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League in 2014.

McInnes is a thinker, he doesn’t just have the same tactics for every game. If something needs to change, then he’ll change it. Results are obviously important to him. Like Warburton, he has contacts down south and can get young prospects up on loan.

The fact that Aberdeen have been able to keep a good amount of their star players is testament to the job that he’s doing at Pittodrie. Plus he’s now under pressure to finish ahead of Rangers this term, that’s down to the good work he’s done in the past.

Might not be a big name that excites Gers fans but if Aberdeen pip them to second place this season, then surely McInnes becomes an attractive option.

His deal with the Dons runs until 2019, so that will mean compensation. Also don’t be surprised if he needs convincing to take up the post, he has a good relationship with the Aberdeen hierarchy and he’s also got a decent squad up there too.

MICHAEL O’NEILL

Again he might not be the big name that the Gers support will be wanting but it’s time to be realistic.

The Northern Ireland manager has worked wonders with his national side. Not only did he succeed in getting them to the Euros in 2016 but he also managed to get them through to the knockout stages. During the qualifying campaign, Northern Ireland only suffered one defeat and topped their group ahead of Greece, Romania, Hungary and Finland.

As a manager he gets the best out of his players and many of them usually play beyond their potentials. He has even made Kyle Lafferty look like a world beater and the Gers fans know that’s no mean feat!

 

His sides always try their best to grind out results and are well drilled in what’s expected from them. The Rangers traditions show that getting the positive result is the main thing and it doesn’t have to be done by playing pretty football.

At forty-seven years of age, I’d imagine that O’Neill could be ready to make a return to club football and could be tempted to make that step at Ibrox as he’s already based in Edinburgh.

Northern Irish managers have a pretty decent record in Scotland (Usually at Celtic) and look what happened the last time Rangers tempted an international manager to take their hotseat.

Any deal would be dependent on agreeing a compensation package with the IFA and if O’Neill would walk away from his nation when they still have a chance of qualifying for the World Cup in 2018.

GARY ROWETT

Rowett is a young English coach that has been linked with various jobs since his surprising dismissal at Birmingham City in mid December.

Starting in England’s League Two with Burton Albion, he soon became noticed as the Brewers vastly improved under his guidance.

After two and a half years at Burton, Gary would find himself accepting the managers job at Birmingham in the Championship in October 2014. At the time Birmingham were in dire straits both in the league and in the boardroom. Rowett took charge with the Blue’s lying deep inside the relegation.

The manager would quickly turn things around and would finish the season in a healthy tenth position. He would repeat the feat in 2015-16. All with a shoe-string budget, where loan deals were important. But his delves into the transfer market have worked out well.

This season saw Rowett getting more improvements from his squad. But with his side a point off the play-off positions and after a 1-0 win over Ipswich Town, he was unexpectedly given the boot and was replaced by Gianfranco Zola. Birmingham have since dropped further away from the play-off places, with Zola only managing one win in eleven matches.

Not many managers see their stock rise after getting the sack but his diligent performance at St Andrews and his dignified response since his sacking has seen Rowett linked with various jobs including Hull City and more recently with Nottingham Forest.

A promising boss that has done well in the English Championship, does it sound a bit too familiar? Would the Gers board and support prefer a man with more winning experience?

Well he’s a free agent and has done well in the transfer market with little resources. That could be enough to see Dave King take an interest, if he’s looking for a new gaffer.

STEVE CLARKE

Another unemployed boss who has plenty of experience down south.

Steve Clarke impressed when he was West Brom’s head coach in the Premier League. He seemed to get his players up for the games against the bigger sides.

In his only full season in charge, he would see his club beat Liverpool (twice), Everton and Chelsea. Clarke would also use his connections with Chelsea to good effect by bringing in Romelu Lukaku on loan, the Belgian would score seventeen league strikes for the Baggies. That 2012-13 season would see West Brom finish in eighth place in the Premier League.

He was sacked in the following season following a poor run of results. Steve would spend a year at Reading in the English Championship and helped them to an FA Cup semi-final appearance. But he was sacked the following campaign after being interviewed for the Fulham job and then seeing his Royal’s side go on a slump.

Has worked under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and under Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool. He’s also coached at Aston Villa, West Ham and Newcastle Utd so he’s built up plenty of respect and contacts within English football.

Steve Clarke was interested in taking the Celtic job last summer, so it seems likely that he’d listen to a proposal from Rangers if they decided to give him a call.

Is Man United’s Number Seven Shirt Waiting For Antoine Griezmann

Names like George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo have all given the Manchester United number seven jersey a special aura!

They were all gifted heroes, who managed to capture the imaginations of the United faithful and even transcended  beyond the Old Trafford terraces.

So it’s interesting to note that that particular squad number is currently without a holder in the Man Utd dressing room.

Micheal Owen, Antonio Valencia, Angel Di Maria and Memphis Depay all struggled with the burden of playing with such an iconic number on their backs.

Ecuadorian wingman Valencia decided to hand the number back, after struggling during the one season he was given it. While the others have all since departed Old Trafford.

So who will be the next pretender to the throne and try and break the curse?

Well, by all accounts, it looks likely to be Atletico Madrid man Antoine Griezmann.

The French forward seems to have an £85m release clause and United could be willing to pay that to get their man in the summer. It wouldn’t be ideal for Atleti as they’ve got a transfer ban to serve until 2018 but if Man United offer the release clause fee then they’ll be powerless to stop the move.

His current boss Diego Simeone didn’t seem surprised to see teams linked with a summer move for his star player:

‘It is normal that the best teams in the world want him. I am not surprised that the teams who are looking are the ones who can afford him.’

Reading between the lines, I’m inclined to think Simeone is suggesting that this could be Griezmann’s final few months at Atletico.

The Independent have reported that Antoine’s image consultant is fully behind the move, quoting Sebastien Bellencontre:

“When I read articles about a hypothetical transfer to Manchester United I think it would be the ideal commercial scenario,”

“He would play at Beckham’s former club, which is his idol, with the same legendary number on his back.”

He’s right, the proposed mega deal would probably be a publicist’s dream and create huge commercial benefits for all involved.

But the man who’ll decide if the deal makes sense will be ‘Red Devils’ manager Jose Mourinho.

Without doubt Man Utd have looked at their best when they’ve used a 4-3-3 formation. It gets the best out of Paul Pogba, it’s allowed Henrikh Mkhitaryan to shine and everything seems to go through the talismanic figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

At the 2016 European Championships, Griezmann ended the tournament as it’s leading goalscorer with six goals. But he was playing in the hole behind the frontman as a number ten. Now Man United started this campaign off by playing a similar 4-2-3-1 style as France had gone with at the Euros but with mixed success. That formation didn’t get the best out of Pogba and the whole side looked unbalanced.

With ‘Los Colchoneros’ the French forward has been mostly deployed as a striker in a 4-4-2 formation. Now under Jose, United have hardly ever gone with two up-top.

So it would seem that if he were to join the Old Trafford club, then he’d have to settle for a place on the wing. Now Mkhitaryan looks better on the right but so does Griezmann, who may be left-footed but he likes to cut in from the right and finish with his left.  Maybe Mourinho will rotate the two on either wing until he finds which way suits the squad as a whole.

The Portuguese boss may even revert back to a 4-2-3-1 and hope Pogba can star as a central midfielder. That formation would allow Jose to keep Henrikh on the right, have Antoine in behind Zlatan and have either Marcus Ashford or Anthony Martial on the left-wing.

It’s worth noting that Manchester United seemed to play with a 4-4-2 in their recent 3-0 win over champions Leicester City. Pogba looked decent in that system and Mkhitaryan was a star on the left scoring and assisting.

Could that be a sign of things to come? 

So would Mourinho want Griezmann in his squad?

I think so. He offers a confidence that Jose likes in his players. He also has a versatility that would impress the United manager. People believe that Jose Mourinho wants too much defensive effort from his forwards but in fairness Antoine is used to that working under Simeone for the last three years.

A stumbling block in any deal to bring the French attacker to Old Trafford could be Man United’s finishing position at the end of this term. They’re currently in sixth place and two points away from a vital top four Champions League spot. They’re also still in the Europa League and victory in that competition would also see them make Europe’s elite tournament next season. But if they fail in qualifying for Champions League then that could see Griezmann think twice about going to Manchester.

It’s funny because the player himself has stated that he’s always been a fan of Beckham and the United faithful will think he’s French so might instantly compare him to Cantona. But when you watch him play it’s actually more akin to watching Ronaldo or Best rather than the other number sevens; as he posses a strong direct play, an eye for goals and a speed to evade markers.

Ultimately if Manchester United can strike a deal and bring Antoine Griezmann to the club this summer, then I think he’d take the much coveted red seven jersey and make it his own and give the United fans a new hero to worship!

Four SPFL Talents That Celtic May Fancy This Summer!

Celtic didn’t need to buy in bulk last month, they have the strongest squad in Scotland and are still on course to secure their first domestic treble in sixteen years.

So obviously Brendan Rodgers didn’t want to tinker too much with his successful side and only brought in teenage midfielder Eboue Kouassi from FC Krasnodar for a £2.8m fee.

But don’t be fooled, the Scottish Premiership champs will already have their eye on summer recruits. As anyone who has kept a keen eye on Scottish football will tell you, the dominating club in the country always tries to nick the best players from the competition. Rangers and Celtic have done it for years!

So with that in mind I thought I’d look at four players in the Scottish Premiership that might take Brendan’s fancy this summer:

JOE LEWIS (ABERDEEN)

I’m not convinced that Chelsea won’t follow up on their interest in Celtic’s current number one Craig Gordon in the summer.

There’s no doubt that the Scottish international was at least tempted to hear what the English Premier League leaders had to say. I’d imagine that Antonio Conte will sell Asmir Begovic in the summer, so he’ll still be looking for a capable number two.

So if Gordon pushes for a move or if Rodgers decides to cash in on the veteran, then the Hoops will need a new goalkeeper in their ranks.

Even if they don’t sell their number one, I doubt Rodgers would stand in the way of either Logan Bailly or Dorus de Vries if they wished to leave the Glasgow club. Leaving the Hoops in need of a new keeper.

That could see Celtic looking at Aberdeen goalie Joe Lewis.

The Dons are currently lying in second place and they’ve also got the second best defensive record in Scotland’s top flight. Lewis has been a big part of that success. In his last five outings, Joe has kept four cleansheets and conceded just one (against Celtic).

Joe Lewis was once viewed as the next big thing in England, playing for all the youth sides including the English under-21s and he even received a call-up to the senior side in 2008.

He has been an ever present for Aberdeen so far this term. The Aberdeen star is a fine shot-stopper and at 6ft 5in he possess an ideal stature for a goalkeeper.

Brendan Rodgers might view Lewis as an ideal recruit who can either step in and replace Craig Gordon or compete with Gordon for the number one jersey.

JAMIE WALKER (HEARTS)

It’s funny how many players in Scotland truly announce themselves with a top performance against one of the Old Firm. Jamie Walker certainly cemented his name as one of Hearts better stars with his recent brace against Rangers.

But the twenty-three year old had been in fine form before that fixture, he has bagged eleven league goals and quite a few assists so far this term (including a goal against Celtic).

Walker is a creative talent, who also possesses a fiery character. These are traits that Rodgers and the Celtic faithful appreciate.

The Hearts man can play on the wing or as an attacking midfielder. His keen eye for goal is another quality that will attract various scouts.

New Hearts boss Ian Cathro has been singing the wideman’s praises lately:

“He feels the game, he understands it. He just knows. He feels when somebody is coming in or this space opens or closes. He just feels football.”

When asked about how Walker compares to the likes of Barrie McKay and James Forrest, Jambos manager Cathro stated:

 “Jamie is the only one I want out of them. Fortunately he’s here. I wouldn’t swap him for any of them.”

High praise indeed and that won’t have gone unnoticed at Celtic Park and with various scouts from down south.

But will Brendan believe that Jamie Walker can edge Scott Sinclair, James Forrest or Stuart Armstrong out of the team?

That will be the big question.

LIAM LINDSAY (PARTICK THISTLE)

At twenty-one, Liam Lindsay could represent a player with promise and not necessarily an automatic starter straight away. But Celtic have often looked at their weakest in defence this year!

His age won’t count against him in Rodgers eyes, the Celtic boss would no doubt like to mould a young defender to play with his footballing philosophies. Patrick Thistle boss Alan Archibald has gone on record to say that Lindsay ‘always wants to learn‘ and that will be news to Celtic gaffer’s ears!

The central defender has enjoyed a successful season so far with the Jags. His form has seen him linked heavily with a move to Leeds United in the last transfer window but a move never materialised.

Lindsay has scored five times this season, including a nice looping header against Celtic in December. The centre-back has also only picked up three yellow cards in twenty-seven appearances.

One thing that may tempt Rodgers into signing him this summer has been Liam’s performances in a back three. That could be a formation that Celtic could change to in Europe next term, as it could make them stronger defensively and maybe give Scott Sinclair more freedom in a role behind the lone striker.

A very good aerial threat in both boxes, Lindsay still has a lot to learn and it would be advantageous if he could fill-out a bit but he could very well be on Brendan’s radar if he ships out a few centre-backs in the summer.

LOUIS MOULT (MOTHERWELL)

Motherwell were no doubt extremely pleased that they managed to keep hold of striker Louis Moult for the remainder of this campaign. I’m actually quite surprised no one made a bid for the twenty-four year old last month.

The former Stoke City man has banged in thirty-one goals in sixty-four appearances for the ‘Steelmen’ in his one and a half seasons at the club. Motherwell did well spotting him in England’s lower leagues.

After missing the start of the season due to injury, Moult returned to the starting line-up and has grabbed ten league goals in nineteen games. As well as grabbing four against Well’s local rivals Hamilton Accies, Louis also claimed a brace against Celtic at the start of December.

His movement on the field can be exceptional and it’s vital in him getting away from his marker and getting on the scoresheet. His ability to find space in the six-yard box is often outstanding and what you want from your striker.

Confident enough to take on the penalty duties, he’s also decent with his head and can play as part of a twosome up-front. Always keen to take his chances early (mainly first time), giving opposing keepers little time to set themselves.

It will all depend on whether Celtic need a striker or two this summer.

Obviously Moussa Dembele is being linked with a big move away but I’m not convinced he’ll leave in 2017. I’d think the summer of 2018 will be a more likely time for his departure.

I’d imagine that Nadir Ciftci will be offloaded but what will happen with Leigh Griffiths?

The Scotland striker was recently dropped by Rodgers and the Hoops boss warned the forward that he needs to buck up his ideas:

“There is no coincidence that lots of the other players in terms of fitness and tactical ideas are improving and if Leigh can do that then he’ll be a consistent goalscorer.”

“That’s from the lifestyle of a footballer. You have to live it right. Unfortunately for him, he’s in this cycle of breaking down. It’s not just about the games. You have to train well, work well.”

I’d take that as a final warning for Griffths.

So if Celtic are looking to bring in some more striking reinforcements then why not Louis Moult?  He’s a forward in-form and capable of scoring bags loads of goals in the Premiership.

 

Big Sam’s Crystal Palace Are In Big Trouble!

When you look at the current Crystal Palace squad you get the feeling that they’re just too good to go down but in the past we’ve said the same things about Leeds United, Aston Villa and Newcastle United only to see them all fall through the trap-door and into the Championship.

On paper the squad might look decent enough but it’s all about the side’s performances on the park and let’s face it they’ve not been good enough this season. That point was hammered home as fellow strugglers Sunderland thumped the Eagles 4-0 at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

Palace are now lying in nineteenth place, with only a better goal difference keeping them above Sunderland.

The appointment of Sam Allardyce on the twenty-third of December was meant to give the club a boost and see them move away from the relegation zone. Big money was spent both in the summer and again during January with the objective of getting better results. But alas neither tonic has worked at the moment, with Big Sam only overseeing one victory in his first seven Premier League games in charge.

After the defeat to the Black Cats, in which winter transfer target Jermain Defoe scored twice, Allardyce would tell the BBC:

“Fear gripped the players and it hasn’t allowed them to express their ability. I cant think it can be anything other than that.”

Now Sam is used to a dogfight and he’s used to surviving that particular fight and staying in the top flight. But at the moment it seems as if he’s struggling to put his finger on the problem or resolving the deep-rooted issues that have seen Palace go from FA Cup finalists to relegation candidates in the space of half a season.

The fans vented their fury on Saturday, chairman Steve Parish supposedly tore a strip off the team in the dressing room and the manager then called them into training at 7am on Sunday.

Now these are all understandable reactions but it may be too much for a squad that’s obviously very fragile at the moment.

A major problem for Palace is that when they concede first, then the defence totally collapses. You’d like to think with experienced pros like Damien Delaney, James tompkins and Scott Dann in there then that wouldn’t happen but it quite obviously does and it happens too often this term.

The quicker they can get new signing Mamadou Sakho match fit and integrated into the first team the better. The French defender is a warrior and can improve things at the back as long as he’s in the right frame of mind. Big Sam has to tell him that he’s the player that can make a real difference.

I also think Allardyce would want to get Steve Mandanda back in goals as soon as possible.

Going forward they aren’t bad.

Christian Benteke has nine Premier League goals, which isn’t bad but you’d expect more if he was given better ammunition.

For me on the assists column, only Wilfried Zaha gets pass marks with his six assists so far this season. Palace certainly missed Zaha when he was away for the African Cup of Nations.

I’ve always said that Andros Townsend doesn’t create enough chances for a international winger. To spend £13m on him, you’d have expected a better return than one goal and two assists. But he’s never been one to regularly provide assists and he needs to do more in the second half of the season.

Townsend was meant to replace Yannick Bolasie but it’s not happened. Bolasie (before his longterm injury) had already created twice the amount of assists Andros has this term.

I also have to dig out Yohan Cabaye.

The Frenchman made a name for himself in Ligue 1 and the Premier League for his goals, runs and assists. Now yes he’s playing more as a holding midfielder in this set-up but he’s still takes a fair amount of set-pieces and he still has the vision and ability to make a key pass. Now surely he’d be a player that could hit pin-point balls to Benteke and give the big striker more chances to score from? The fact that the French international has only one goal and zero assists shows he’s not having as much of an impact as he really should.

Allardyce will be hoping that the return of Loic Remy from injury can add more goals to the team but again he’ll need the others around him to create more!

Sam Allardyce will be desperate to show that he’s still got the Midas Touch when it comes to avoiding relegation from England’s top flight. He knows everyone and their granny will be quick off the mark to say he’s lost his groove after losing the England job in such circumstances back in September of last year, after just months in the role.

But he needs to address his sides poor home form, which is by far and away the worst in the Premier League. They’ve only picked up seven points out of a possible thirty-six. As well as losing to Sunderland at Selhurst Park, they’ve also lost to Swansea City at home in recent weeks.

It’s as if Sam himself looked at the Crystal Palace pool of players and thought this was going to be an easy turnaround. That bad luck or poor management was the blame for the slump. But now at the coalface he has seen that the players seem frightened of their own shadows and don’t seem up for a fight!

At the moment other engulfed sides like Sunderland, Swansea and Hull City seem to have more belief about them and understand the positions that they’re in.

The fixture list doesn’t make for great reading for the Eagles either.

With fourteen games remaining they’ve still got to face all of the clubs that currently occupy the top seven places in the league. Those games are pretty spaced out, meaning it could be hard for Palace to get a good run of wins under their belt.

In May, out of their final three fixtures, they have to go to Manchester twice and face City and United. Those games might be huge for the Manchester sides as they could prove vital in their search of Champions League qualification!

So it’s certainly become a huge task for Sam Allardyce as he hopes to guide the Eagles away from the dreaded drop zone before the final whistle come the twenty-first of May. But he really has to wonder if the players currently at his disposal have the necessary qualities to claw their way out of trouble.

At the moment it’s very touch and go!

Time Is Right For Arsene Wenger To Leave Arsenal

I have been defending Arsene Wenger for a few years now, I was actually possibly one of his best defenders (certainly better than Sebastien Squillaci).

I honestly believe that during the move to the Emirates, Wenger was extremely loyal to the Gunners and absolved a lot of the blame when money for transfers was tight.

But unfortunately for Wenger, as the purse strings loosened up and as rivals slipped up, Arsenal have still been found wanting.

This week Wenger stated that he had wanted to sign N’Golo Kante from Leicester City but the player chose Chelsea:

“I tried to sign Kante when he was in France and when he was at Leicester.”

“We cannot explain everything – transfers are transfers – but it is quite obvious when you look at where he has gone.”

Ok so Arsene is basically saying that Chelsea offered more cash.

Now in terms of transfer fee, Arsenal paid more for Granit Xhaka in the same summer Chelsea signed Kante.

In terms of weekly wage, supposedly Kante earns around £110k a week and that’s certainly higher than Xhaka’s £90k a week.

But when you look at the Arsenal squad; Theo Walcott, Oliver Giroud and Hector Bellerin are all on £100k a week or more. Surely Wenger could have convinced his board to match or better Chelsea’s offer and have the incentive of Champions League football to woo Kante to the Emirates.

In the end they didn’t seem to have the hunger to go after the player, who would have vastly improved their midfield, and battle a team for his signature. They settled for something else.

Arsenal are once again slipping up in the league, yes they’re still in the top four but surely they need to be challenging for the Premier League title.

Last season was their big chance as Chelsea, Man United and Man City struggled to make an impact. But alas it was Leicester City who took the crown. Even when their rivals had fallen away, Wenger’s men couldn’t take advantage.

Nothing in the last season and a half suggests Mr Wenger has the answers or deep desire to win the biggest competitions. It’s as if the manager has lost the competitive edge he arrived with. I think when the club were moving to the Emirates the emphasis was always on Champions League qualification, not winning the Premier League or the Champions League.

When that period of transition finished, Wenger struggled to get away from that ‘finishing in the top four is fine’ way of thinking.

Star players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez were brought in to move the club up a level but the main silverware still eludes them. That starts a vicious circle when they buy world-class talent, fail to win the big prizes and then the best players look to leave for club’s challenging for all the trophies.

Now Sanchez and Ozil may not be actively looking for a move away but they’ve still not signed new deals and everyone is getting a bit nervy down at the Emirates.

I think it would be best for all concerned that Wenger and Arsenal decide to part company in the summer. He will forever be remembered as an Arsenal legend, who also changed the whole landscape of English football. But the Gunners seem stuck in a rut and Arsene just can’t get them out of it.

To break from this new norm then maybe they need to go for a new manager who can change things.

Unfortunately For Mark Warburton Every Loss Is A Problem At Rangers

Sometimes, just when you think Mark Warburton knows what it’s like to be in charge of Rangers, you realise he’s still getting to grips with the club and the job.

At Tynecastle this week, his side were humped 4-1 by a thoroughly deserving Hearts team.

Before the game questions were being asked of both managers, and without doubt Heart of Midlothian boss Ian Cathro came up with the answers.

Warburton? Well Mark was only offering excuses and poor ones at that.

The main question that the Gers manager still has no answer to; is why his own side have such a poor away record? Especially against his closest rivals in the league that there in.

They suffered defeats away to Hibs and Falkirk last term in the Championship, while in the Scottish Premiership they’ve lost twice away to Hearts, up in Aberdeen and heavily to runaway league leaders Celtic. They also collapsed against the Hibees in last seasons Scottish Cup final at Hampden.

Asked, after the recent Jambos loss, if his squad had issues with big away games Warburton stated:

“I don’t think there is a problem with big games. I don’t see it as a big problem. We went to Aberdeen and I felt dominated and should have won the game.”

“The Parkhead game was well documented. Hearts, we had two bad performances, it’s as simple as that.” 

Personally I think the answer shows naivety in Mark’s part. At Rangers any and every defeat is scrutinised and is viewed as a problem by their fans.

Now the odd defeat can be overlooked if things are going well and if the supporters are seeing progress on the field.

But the continuous defeats in rival grounds is now the norm for Rangers and that will be deemed as a serious issue for the fans.

Mark Warburton struggles to change things, like his formation and tactics, and it seriously doesn’t work against the likes of Celtic and Hearts in away trips.

The other problem for the Gers boss is that his recruitment policy last summer didn’t enhance the pool as much as it should have.

Yes injuries have hampered a few of the new players but defensively they needed a commanding centre-back and didn’t get one. Up-top they needed a prolific goalscorer and again Warburton and his chief scout Frank McParland failed to deliver.

The fact the club still have a basic scouting network relying on just two men says it all really.

Recently newspapers have been discussing a strained relationship between the manager and the board, with chairman Dave King unsure about the recent transfer activity.

But the board have also struggled to make the required impact.

They need to be the ones to push for a more extensive scouting network. King came into the club banging on about new investment and not just from himself and his fellow board members. He also told the fans that they we see more transparency from the club.

Neither of which has happened, especially not to the extent that the new chairman had previously stated. Dialogue from the boardroom is sparse. No doubt they’ve been bogged down with a lot of rubbish that they’ve inherited and the Sports Direct issues are still an intolerable hindrance.

But truthfully they need to do more to give any manager the best opportunity to get to grips with the job in hand.

Then you have the players. As the media will happily tell you, Rangers have by far and away the second biggest wage budget in the country. Not enough of the side play like it! They need to do more in all areas.

But performances and results ultimately lie at the manager’s door.

While I have sympathies for Mark Warburton, he’s had to work under difficult circumstances and wants to apply an exciting philosophy at Ibrox, I can’t help but feel he’s struggling with the high demands.

Rangers are a club that puts results ahead of everything else and Warburton still doesn’t seem to get that. If he fails to change things now, and we all know how much he hates changing things, then we could be watching his last few months at the club.

Be in no doubt the board will axe him, particularly if it means they can deflect blame away from themselves!

Chris Sutton Does A Great Job Representing Scottish Football

Ok I’m not going to lie, I didn’t like Chris Sutton when I first heard him doing co-commentary or punditry on BT Sport. I though he was monotonous, boring and a bit uninterested.

But the former English forward has settled into his role and he’s made a few observations that have riled up with viewers, current players/managers and fellow pundits alike.

Sutton was always a divisive figure. As a player fans would equally love and hate him, it all depended on who you supported.

If you look at Chris, you can actually see how he actually does a good job in showing what it’s like to support Scottish football.

Growing up in Glasgow, as a Rangers fan, I was always drawn to being good friends with Celtic supporters. We would be extremely passionate about our teams and argue over football all the time and slag each other off (sometimes brutally)! It was fun and I wouldn’t change it.

It happens in pubs and workplaces all over Scotland every week. Friends and colleagues will argue over football constantly and not in the violent/sectarian ways that the media like to highlight.

Watching Sutton passionately butt-heads with Michael Stewart or Stephen Craigan is welcoming and refreshing as it mirrors what Scottish football fans do every Monday morning.

Sutton doesn’t shy away from being honest and/or controversial, it’s entertaining for many and that has always been the point of TV and football. I get the feeling he says certain things on purpose but again most Scottish footballing fans are wind-up merchants.

Now obviously people disagree with him or dislike him, but there’s still a reaction and that’s all that matters to the TV execs and Sutton himself.

BT Sport as a whole, probably produces the best content when covering Scottish football. They don’t sit back and accept the norm, they’re constantly looking at ways to change things and look for improvements.

In Derek Rae they have, in my opinion, the best commentator in the game. He’s constantly researching and is constantly impressive with his knowledge, that will teach the viewer more about the game.

Stewart and Craigan, like Sutton stick to their guns and give frank views. Without them, Sutton wouldn’t have the same impact. They come together and give different sides of a debate and it works!

Love him or hate him, when you watch Chris Sutton and you’re a fan of Scottish football, you’re probably seeing traits that you and a lot of your friends share.

Ten Amazing Transfers That Nearly Happened!

As this January transfer window comes to a close tonight, I thought it would be fun to look at some superb deals that very nearly happened!

I say nearly, how close I don’t actually know but they have now gone down in footballing folklore.

RONALDO TO RANGERS 1997

In 1997 Ronaldo was football’s hottest property and had just had a wonderful season with Barcelona.

At that time Rangers were actually a big financial force not just in Scotland but also in Europe. Winning the Champions League had became their owner’s main burning ambition.

Then we had the ‘Golden Fax!’ story.

It goes something like this…

Barca were looking to cash in on their star player and teams in Italy were the main suitors. But then Rangers supposedly faxed in an offer, which was reported at the time as being £35m for the player. His agent would later say that the fee involved was £20m, but still a record for the time.

The contract offer on the table stated that Ronaldo could pick and choose his games as long as he played in all the European encounters. It was also noted at the time that he could miss the whole of January to return to Brazil for the Rio carnival.

His agent would state:

“The offer from Glasgow Rangers was incredible. They told us he didn’t have to play on a Saturday in the Scottish League.”

“They were desperate to win the Champions League and were going to allow him to play in the European matches only.”

Many speculated that Nike, who were Rangers kit suppliers at the time, were willing to help pay his wage should he have joined the Glasgow side.

In the end Ronaldo decided to give Scotland a miss and sign for Inter Milan instead. He’d go on an become a World Cup winner and record goalscorer (until Klose beat his tally) and win more medals at Real Madrid.

If it wasn’t gauling enough to miss out on the signing, Gers fans heard from the man a year later who suggested he may have joined had Dick Advocaat been in charge of Rangers (Advocaat joined a year later):

“Yes, I almost joined Rangers last summer but decided on Inter Milan and the Serie A.”

“However, if Dick Advocaat had been in charge at that time it would have greatly increased my chances of signing for Rangers.”

ZINEDINE ZIDANE TO BLACKBURN ROVERS 1995

The French maestro was already a French internationalist by 1995 and a star performer for Bordeaux.

The story goes…

Blackburn boss Kenny Dalglish had been approached regarding not just Zidane but Christophe Dugarry. The Scotsman liked the look of the pair and wanted to bring them to Ewood Park to bolster his side for their first tilt at the Champions League.

But veteran Rovers owner Jack Warner, who had just bankrolled his side to the Premier League title, didn’t see much point in the deals and vetoed the moves.

Supposedly Mr Warner would ask Kenny:

Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?

Well history clearly shows that Blackburn would have signed a genius and their decline might have been halted. Instead Zidane joined Juventus a year later for £3m and would win league titles in Italy and Spain. Plus he’d score a brace in the 1998 World Cup final as France won their home World Cup (With Dugarry).

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC TO ARSENAL 2000

To be fair it has happened a few times at Arsenal. They decided against signing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Yaya Toure whilst Arsene Wenger has been in charge. Instead they’ve snapped up players like Francis Jeffers and Denilson.

Now for the story…

So Zlatan was an exciting teenage prospect who was doing well in his homeland with Malmo. His performances had seen scouts all over Europe flocking to Sweden to take a look at him.

The young Ibrahimovic travelled to London and expected to receive an offer to join the Gunners. He had thought that Wenger would sit him down and explained to him what was going to happened and how he’s going to become a star for Arsenal.

It started well as Zlatan was handed an Arsenal jersey with his name and the number nine emblazoned on it.

But then it all went wrong when Arsene asked the striker to go out and train with the first team, so the manager could have a look at the prospect.

According to the now legendary Swede he told Wenger:

‘No way, Zlatan doesn’t do auditions.’

So Zlatan Ibrahimovic would then go on and join Ajax. He would win league titles in Holland, Italy, Spain and Italy. This season saw the thirty-five year old join Manchester United, to finally have a crack at the Premier League.

RONALDINHO TO ST MIRREN 2001

St Mirren have also got a wee bit of history when it comes to nearly signing gifted talent. Leicester City’s player of the year Riyad Mahrez once disappeared from training with the Buddies because it was too cold and physical.

Brazilian World Cup winner Bebeto was also linked with a move to Love Street.

But with Ronaldinho the story goes…

In the winter of 2001, the Brazilian boy wonder had just agreed to join PSG from Gremio and that deal would go through in the summer transfer window.

It’s thought that either Ronaldinho’s advisors or PSG felt it would be smart for the youngster to join another European side on loan for the rest of the 2000-01 season.

He had already won the Copa America by this time, so you would have thought that the list of clubs interested would’ve been endless. But it appeared that struggling SPL side St Mirren were front runners for his signature. Maybe people in Brazil confused St Mirren with Saint-Etienne.

According to then St Mirren boss Tom Hendrie his club were just waiting for the paperwork to go through to rubber stamp the deal but then the Brazilian FA stalled and the window shut:

“We spoke about Ronaldinho but there was a legal problem at the club he was at,”

“Because of the problem, the Brazilian FA would not release the player’s international clearance in time for us to register him ahead of the deadline.”

The skilful Brazilian never mentioned St Mirren but he did admit that various teams wanted him during that period:

“It was a long time ago and I can’t exactly remember what was happening then but there were a lot of clubs interested in taking me on loan.”

Instead of getting Ronaldinho, St Mirren had to make do with signing Stephen McPhee on loan from Coventry City. The Paisley club would suffer relegation that season.

Ronaldinho would go on to become one of the best players of his generation and this week he returned to PSG to watch the side train.

ALFREDO DI STEFANO TO BARCELONA 1953

It’s hard to think of legendary forward Di Stefano playing for Barcelona instead of Real Madrid but it so nearly happened.

The story goes like this…

So Alfredo was always a goalscoring machine and banged them in, originally for Argentine giants River Plate. There was then a players strike in Argentina and he’d end up at Colombian side Millionarios.

After playing a friendly in Spain with Millionarios, Di Stefano was wanted by both Barcelona and Real Madrid. The transfer was full of complications, mainly the fact that no-one knew who actually owned the player as both River Plate and Millionarios claimed to have his registration papers.

Barca initially tried to do a deal with both clubs and thought negotiations were going well. But then things started to turn sour with the Colombian side. Barca’s chief negotiators decided that River Plate lay true claim to Di Stefano’s registration and so struck a deal with the Argentine side.

Things progressed so much that Alfredo arrived in Catalunya in the summer of 1953. He had a preseason with the Catalan giants and even played at least one friendly fixture.

Then Real Madrid made their claim for the player, as they had just concluded a deal with Millionarios. FIFA were called in to mediate, along with the Spanish FA and came up with the decision that the player should play an alternate season with each club for the next four years. Then surprisingly Barca’s president resigned because of the issue and their board then inexplicably ripped up their contract with the player, allowing him to sign for rivals Real.

Many conspiracy theories still surround the transfer including that General Franco got involved and made sure Real would be the forward’s next destination.

The facts that we know are that Di Stefano became a legend at the Bernabeu winning five European Cups, eight La Liga titles and scoring over three hundred goals for the Blancos.

DIMITAR BERBATOV TO MANCHESTER CITY 2008

Man United’s neighbours started making a big noise in the summer of 2008.

The story goes a little something like this..

So it’s transfer deadline day on the first of September 2008. In the morning Sky Sports News had a new headline, Manchester City have been bought over with the Abu Dhabi United Group the club’s new owners.

Suddenly the blue side of Manchester were being linked with every star in the footballing world. They suddenly had unimaginable cash, that hadn’t been since since Roman Abramovich’s arrival at Chelsea in 2003.

Then it became clear that their main target was Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov, who had been linked with a move to Man United all summer. Sir Alex Ferguson and his United board had been arguing with Tottenham’s Daniel Levy over the fee. Man City then stepped in and made a £34m bid, which was accepted!

Bulgarian superstar Berbatov then travelled up to Manchester. Now City probably believed that he was going to leave the airport and head to their training ground or their stadium.

But Sir Alex had other ideas and he drove to the airport himself to pick up Dimitar, without Tottenham’s permission. Shadowy footage then appeared on Sky Sports News of the striker walking down the Old Trafford hallways.

Berbatov obviously appreciated the lengths the Man Utd boss went to:

‘I am flattered that he (Sir Alex) gave me so much of his time. He personally came to pick me up at the airport. It was a shock to me, but it was a pleasure to get to know him.’

Initially Levy was fuming and was ready to report Fergie and United to the Premier League but then decided to cash in and agree a £30.75m deal. Manchester City would end the day buy splashing out £32.5m for Robinho.

It was this deal that really made transfer deadline day the spectacle that Sky crow on about to this day.

EDINSON CAVANI TO WEST HAM UTD 2010

West Ham United have a history of signing and missing out on top strikers. On this occasion it was all a case of what could have been for the Hammers.

Let me tell you the story…

Avram Grant arrived at the Boleyn Ground in the summer of 2010 and wanted a hitman to partner Carlton Cole up-front.

They were alerted to Uruguayan attacker Edinson Cavani, who had just enjoyed a few decent seasons with Palermo in Serie A. It seemed the player wanted to try his luck in the English Premier League and the international’s agent issued a ‘come and get me plea’.

It’s said that Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini wanted around £14m but West Ham’s owners baulked at that price and offered a bit less.

According to the notorious Palermo owner, his manager was happy to sell to the Hammers. He told Football Italia:

“When Cavani was here, I had coaches who were knuckleheads!,”

“Colantuono, for example, wanted me to send him to West Ham. I told him, ‘you can go to West Ham’.”

The coach in question, Stefano Colantuono, has since came out and said that Cavani had requested a move to London.

Instead of London, Cavani would leave for Naples and sign for Napoli on a €20m deal. He’d score bags of goals for them before a big move to PSG, where he leads the Ligue 1 scoring charts this season.

That year West Ham would finish bottom of the Premier League and suffer relegation after new striking signings Freddie Piquionne and Victor Obinna failed to find the net regularly enough!

STEVEN GERRARD TO CHELSEA 2005

Steven Gerrard always seemed to be the main man at Liverpool. So was he really interested in leaving Anfield for Chelsea?

Well here’s the story…

After captaining Liverpool to their fifth Champions League/European Cup in Istanbul Gerrard stated:

“How can I leave after a night like this?” 

But then contract talks between the two parties stalled and Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea entered the fray with a £32m bid. Liverpool rejected the offer but the press speculated that Gerrard was interested in speaking to Chelsea as he wanted to challenge for the Premier League title and work under Jose.

The Reds then offered Steven a whopping £100k a week to stay but the midfielder rejected the offer and instead he handed in a transfer request. Half of Merseyside went into meltdown at the thought of losing their main hero, a player that they identified with on the pitch.

Liverpool released a statement and it seemed just a matter of time before the England star would be wearing a Chelsea jersey:

“Steven has told us he will not accept our offer of an improved and extended contract because he wants to leave.”

But just as Chelsea’s moneymen were readying an improved offer for Steven Gerrard it was announced by Liverpool that their captain was staying after all.

Within a week Gerrarrd signed the contract offer that he initially rejected and would stay on for another ten years before ending his playing career in America with LA Galaxy. Earlier this month Stevie returned to Anfield, taking a coaching job at their academy.

WILLIAN TO TOTTENHAM 2013

Brazilian Willian had long been linked with a move to the Premier League and it seemed that White Hart Lane was going to be his destination.

But the story changed…

Due to Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala’s decision to restructure the club’s business model, they decided to place every player in their squad on the transfer list.

Willian was certainly one of the main attractions.

Liverpool wanted to bring him to Merseyside but it seemed that the forward was attracted by the bright lights of London. Tottenham then moved quickly with Andre Villas-Boas (the then Spurs boss) a big admirer, he had even tried to bring in the Brazilian when he managing at Chelsea.

Spurs thought they had done the deal with a £30m fee agreed and Willian arrived in the English capital to undergo his medical. It seemed a move was imminent and he’d replace Gareth Bale in the Spurs side.

Unfortunately for Tottenham, they didn’t keep their intentions out of the press and Willian was photographed in London on the day of his medical. Terms between the player and the club hadn’t been ironed out by this time and Chelsea decided to swoop for the attacker.

Owner Roman Abramovich picked up the phone and called fellow Russian Oligarch Suleyman Kerimov and agreed to do a £32m deal. Willian then flew back into London but this time completed a move to Chelsea and not Spurs.

Always one to have a pop, Jose Mourinho blamed Tottenham for their own failure by saying:

“the best thing to do is have the medical in secret”

Willian has recently spoken about the saga:

“Yes, it was difficult. But I didn’t sign. When at the last moment Chelsea call me I say I’m sorry but I go to Chelsea, that’s my dream.”

The Brazilian has since became an integral part of the Chelsea team and helped them to the Premier League title in 2015.

JOHAN CRUYFF TO DUMBARTON 1980 

So this one wasn’t as close to being over the line but I like this story because I was told about it from the manager who tried to do the deal.

This is how the story ends…

Sean Fallon was a Celtic legend and he was also Jock Stein’s assistant manager during the Lisbon Lions era. He was the man that convinced Kenny Dalglish (and many others) to sign for the Hoops.

Well in 1980, Fallon was announced as lowly Dumbarton’s new manager. Fallon knew that he had to make people sit up and take notice of ‘The Sons’.

So Fallon decided to fly out to the Netherlands and approach legendary forward Johan Cruyff about joining Dumbarton. Fallon was hoping that he could convince a hard-up ageing Cruyff to sign a lucrative deal to star at Boghead.

Sean and ‘The Sons’ chairman did manage to meet the great number fourteen but it was one player who Fallon couldn’t convince to join him. But at least Johan was nice enough to hear them out.

You can view my interview with Sean Fallon HERE and see him discuss his time at Celtic and that Cruyff deal.