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Billy's Boot Room

Billy Lansdowne talks football

Of course we´ll win the World Cup!

April 27th, 2010 by billysbootroom

The world cup finals are closing in fast and its now only 46 days until England meet the USA in Rustenberg. I dont know if i am the only Brit who has the feeling things looked better for Capellos boys a few months ago but i guess a lot can change for the good during the next 6 weeks. Lets look at the facts. Goalkeeping wise our first choice is David James a 39 year old who has just been relagated with Portsmouth and has missed a lot of the season due to injuries. Back ups are Robert Green who has a lot to do of late at the “just survived” West Ham and Joe Hart who has been loaned out by his club Man City to Birmingham this season.

Defensively. Glenn Johnson has missed a lot of games this year but has been ok of late. John Terry has had his problems off the field and been stripped of the captains arm band. Rio Ferdinand is still injured Ashley Cole has just returned from injury and their “talked about” replacements are “part time” Spurs defender Ledley King. “Semi retired” Arsenal defender Sol Campbell and newly fit again Everton defender Phil Jagielka. Even Man Utd reserve team player Wes Brown is in with a shout.

The midfield looks a little bit more solid. Chelseas “Fab Frank” has just reached 20 league goals for the season, Gareth Barry has been a consistant performer all year at Man City and James Milner has been outstanding for Villa. Beckham is out injured which saved Capello having to possibly leave him out of the squad. Lots of rumours surrounding Stevie G of late. Who knows what ones (if any) are true but his form has definately been effected. Walcott has been struggling at the Emirates and most other grounds for that matter, Carrick not really performing and Lennon not yet back for the Spurs.

That leaves the front men. Rooney has been world class all season and recently voted the players player of the year but is likely to miss Man Utd last two league games due to injury. Defoe had a great early part of the season but has dried up of late. Heskey and Crouch are both regulars on Aston Villas respectively Tottenhams benches and subsequently not scoring that often. Carlton Cole has been injured and looks half the player he was earlier in the campaign.

So to sum things up. Why shouldn´t we win the World Cup?

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Gareth Bales Spurs out!

April 18th, 2010 by billysbootroom

At the tender age of 16 years 314 days he made his first appearance for Wales becoming his countrys youngest ever debutant. At the time he was playing for Southampton in the championship and making a name for himself as an attacking left sided player. After 40 appearances for the Saints it was time for Gareth Bale to make the step up to the Premier League. He signed a 4 year contract with Tottenham in May 2007 and we all waited for him to explode onto the PL scene.

Two years, three managers, 25 games and 1,533 minutes later he finally managed to play for the first time in a winning Tottenham side when he came on as a sub in a 5-0 win against Burnley. During this time he had become a “laughing stock” amongst home and away fans alike. He had also had his fare share of injuries and found it hard to get a regular spot in the side. Even his current trainer Harry Redknapp was concerned, admitting: “The record bothered me. Sir Alex Ferguson said to me last year, ‘You can’t pick him, you’re mad!’ Redknapp even considered selling him to Birmingham or Fulham in the summer but fortunately he changed his mind.

Fortunes changed for Bale when Assou Ekotto Tottenhams first choice left back was injured giving him the chance to play on a regular basis and become part of an ever improving Spurs side. During the last few months Bale has gone from good to better to best and is now in my opinion the deciding factor in Tottenham taking 4th spot or not. He has been outstanding in recent games and this weeks 2 performances against Arsenal and Chelsea have proved what a quality player he is. He is one of the best crossers of a ball in todays Premier League and has now even started to add goals to his game.

I dont know if “Happy Harry” should take all of the credit but whatever has caused his change in form the Spurs fans should be hoping the rumours of him leaving for Juventus in the summer are just that,rumours. Can you imagine the potential at Spurs next season! Lennon on the right and Bale on the left hitting crosses for Crouch to head down for Defoe. Who knows Spurs and Bale might yet become one of the big 5. Its just a shame for “Don Fabio” that Bale was born in Wales.

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Bendtner will be a great dane!

April 8th, 2010 by billysbootroom

Niklas Bendtner is probably one of the Premier Leagues most maligned and definately one of the most underated players. He came to Arsenal as a 16 year old from BK Köpenhamn made his debut the season after, coming on as a late substitute in a league cup match against Sunderland. The 2006-07 season he went out on loan to Birmingham City and immediately made his mark by scoring a late winner on his debut after coming on as a second half sub. Scoring late winners is slowly becoming his trademark repeating the feat on many occassions for both Arsenal and Denmark. His first Premier League goal was also one to remember scoring the winner against arch rivals Tottenham again after coming on as a sub.

Even at international level he has been a success. Scoring goals at U16, U17 and U21 level before making his full debut in 2006 scoring in games against Poland and Portugal that same year. He has since then become one of the stars of the Danish side and a cert to start in this years World Cup in South Africa.

This in my opinion sounds like a good start to a career and a start that would have given many a 22 year old a place in the heart of his home fans. In the case of Niklas Bendtner that is far from the truth. Why? My theory is 3 fold. Firstly he is not the classical Wenger protege. He is 192 cm tall and has a few Peter Crouch like ungraceful indignities. Secondly. He has a tendency to have a little to much belief in his dribbling ability and an amazing knack of missing clear cut goal chances. Thirdly. He has been involved in a few incidents both on and off the pitch that haven´t done him any favours with the fans. All this said and done he has been one of Arsenals biggest successes this season. He has scored late winners in the Champions League and last saturday he got an injury time winner that kept Arsenals title chances alive.

The Arsenal faithfuls have been used to watching the likes of Henry and Wright both world class goalscorers and of course Bendtner isn´t anywhere near that level as yet. The one thing he has got however is an unwavering belief in his own ability. The fans have booed him the tabloids have absolutely slaughtered him but he just keeps on battling away. Many a younger player would have called it a day and moved on. Not Niklas Bendtner. Wenger and Arsenal FC believe in him and i have a feeling even the fans will learn to love him given time. Maybe a staring role for Denmark in South Africa and a few more late winners this season will give him the status i for one feel he deserves.

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Zola needs to get tough

March 30th, 2010 by billysbootroom

I for one was happy when Gianfranco Zola was appointed West Ham manager in September 2008. He was one of the best foreign players ever to have graced the Premier League. He had great technique worked hard and scored vital goals during his time at Chelsea. He also played 35 times scoring 10 goals for Italy. So his pedigree as a player is not in question. In 2006 after hanging up his boots he went into management assisting Pierluigi Casiraghi with the Italien U21s. They lead the side in the 2008 Beijing Olympics reaching the last 8.

His start at West Ham was not the best and the fans questioned his appointment. Not experienced enough, wants to play to much football, doesn´t have a killer instinct and he´s far to nice a person to be a manager were the cries from the stands. The cries died out as he together with newly appointed assistant Steve Clarke turned things around and the Hammers finished 9th just 2 points off a European spot playing the sort of football that had Zolas trade mark stamped all over it.

This season has been a disaster for the club in general. As usual having had to sell players in the summer and with no money to strengthen the side things have been tough for Zola and Clarke. Adding to the problems has been the long injury list to key players. All this doesn´t alter the situation and the fact that they are just above the relegation zone on goal difference only with 6 games to go is a precarious state of affairs. Current form 6 straight defeats the last 2 coming against relegation candidates.

I am a great believer of “horses for courses” and this unfortunately leaves me with the uneasy feeling that West Ham will be playing in the Championship next season. Zola is not a man known for his aggresive nature and i am not sure that you can play your way out of this situation. West Ham were for many years known as a great footballing side who were a soft touch. It´s begining to look that way again now and unless Zola can forget his footballing principals for the next 6 matches relegation is on the cards.

As a friend of mine informed yesterday there´s a new cheese being made in the East End…. yourgonzola !!

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Will the real Stevie G please stand up!

March 22nd, 2010 by billysbootroom

I used to love watching Liverpool on “Match of the Day” and see how they took teams apart infront of their adoring Kop. Great names like Heighway, Smith, Hughes, Keegan, Toshack, Souness, Dalglish, Clemence, Rush, Barnes and many more. They always had a local hero who had made his way through the ranks and symbolised the spirit of Liverpool FC.

The last few years and Steve Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have kept the tradition alive. Carragher is still flying the flag and playing his heart out week in week out but what has happened to Mr Gerrard?

I have always been a fan of “Stevie G” and admired the way he has time and time again turned games around with his all action displays. He has scored vital last minute goals made important last ditch tackles and lead the side by example. But this season there has been something missing. He has always been a big game player but of late the big games have passed him by. He has been unable to lift his game to the standards we have grown to expect.  He has even been showing signs of frustration of late. His elbowing of Wigans Michael Brown went largely unnoticed and some badly timed tackles have been all to common in recent weeks. The big question is what´s gone wrong?

Has he just got fed up doing it all himself? Or getting frustrated watching Benitez buy one average player after the other? (Torres being the exception) Other clubs improve there squads while Liverpool are standing still. Maybe he has had enough of Benitez and his “strange” tactical strategy. Is he feeling the pressure of the World Cup coming up? Have other clubs been in touch offering him sacks of money?

Whatever the reason its time for a major change at Liverpool FC if Gerrard is to remain at the club. A new manager with different ideas and a major overhaul of the playing staff is a must or Stevie will be on his way.

I for one miss the old Steven Gerrard. He has two months left to sort things out. If he doesn´t then the question is will he make “Don Fabios” starting line up in South Africa?

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Mourinho footballs Del Boy

March 17th, 2010 by billysbootroom

Mourinho is both a tactical genius and a conman rolled into one. Part “Alexander the Great” part “Del Boy”. His success rate as a trainer is second to none. He plays mind games with every opposing manager even those he is close to and he gets respect from nearly every player he works with. Yesterdays win for Mourinhos Inter Milan was a perfect example of the master in action.

Step 1. Get the Stamford Bridge faithful in a respectful state of mind. How? By pointing out how much he enjoyed his time at the Bridge and how much he appreciated there support. Then remind them that he only lost twice at home in his three years at the club. The latter comment both gave respect and a timely reminder to everyone of his success rate at Stamford Bridge.

Step 2. Remind the Chelsea players of how successful they were under his direction and of course mention the fact that he knows them inside out and that he is a master tactitian. Then chat with them in the tunnel before the game give Ray Wilkins a hug and generally play the “its great to be back” good guy. During the day mention to the press that he has seen the first leg on dvd at least seven times and that he knows how to stop Chelsea playing. Thus getting the regulars from his day to have a few doubts in their minds.

Step 3. Pick a side that will defend a one goal advantage. How? Stop Chelsea playing. Make sure his players are really up for the fight. Lucio was like a man possesed and he lead the way. Etoo worked harder than ever before and the defensive midfield duo kept Lampard and Ballack in check. Chelsea never got started and when Etoo scored in the 79th minute everyone knew the job was done.

Mourinho left the bench just before the final whistle and made his way to the tunnel without displaying any emotion in that way once again showing respect for the Chelsea fans and making sure that he will be welcome back to win another day.

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A proud Brit regardless

March 13th, 2010 by billysbootroom

A great week for the English club sides in Europe. First out were Arsenal. 2-1 down after their away leg in Porto and without Fabregas. A Porto side that looked very dangerous going forward. I had my doubts. I shouldn´t have. 5-0 and a hattrick by the great dane Nicklas Bendtner and their place in the last 8 was sorted. That Manchester United beat AC Milan came as no surprise. “King Rooney” is in a class of his own and Milan are not the Milan of old. 4-0 however was both impressive and flattering. Next week its Chelsea´s turn to make the quarter finals and baring in mind Inter Milans woeful perfomance last night against Catania (1-3) i am sure Ancelotti´s boys will make the hat.

I have now lived in Sweden for 27 years and i have noticed a dramatic change in my attitude towards the English sides playing in Europe. In my pre Sweden days i used to follow all the English teams playing in the then 3 european tournaments but never really with any passion (unless it was West Ham which wasn´t that often). Being a londoner i guess it was OK if the london clubs were successful as it was local lads that had “done good” but when Liverpool, Man Utd and other “northerners” (Aston Villa, Notts Forest) won it hurt. Nowadays however i have become a big fan of all the British sides playing in Europe. It´s been fantastic the last 5 years seeing the “big four” reach the semi´s and final of the Champions League and establish the Premier League as no 1 in Europe.

I guess its the fact that i am at heart a proud “Brit” living abroad and enjoying the success of the clubs i watched as a lad. The ironic part (as i am constantly reminded) is that these successful English sides contain very few English players. A fact i guess i have learnt to accept.

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The Crouch Case

March 8th, 2010 by billysbootroom

10 years ago Peter Crouch played in Sweden for div 2 side Hässleholm. He came on loan from Tottenham for 3 months to get some experience. 8 games and 3 goals later he returned to Spurs with the assessment “good feet but not as good as he should be in the air” on his resume. He has since then had no more than seven different clubs including Portsmouth twice. Eight clubs changes in 10 years usually implies that the player has a major fault in his make up. That he makes himself a problem for the manager or even his team mates and the club then decide its time to move him on. This is not however the case with Mr Crouch. He appears to get on well with nearly everyone and looking at his goals per game ratio he nearly always delivers. This said and done he seems to find himself on a reasonably regular basis placed on the subs bench. Why? I personally felt he was outstanding at Liverpool when he eventually started scoring and some of his goals during that period were both outstanding and very important. He was then left out for long periods and eventually sold to Tottenham. He is at the moment on the bench at the White Hart Lane club as Pavlyuchenko is scoring freely. So how does this effect his status in the England set up?

Crouch has scored 20 goals in 37 internationals. No one in the current squad has a better ratio. Defoe 12/39, Rooney 25/58, Heskey 7/57 and Carlton Cole 0/7. Yet i still get the feeling that until Wednesdays 2 goals against Eqypt he was not a cert for the World Cup squad. Nearly every other member of the England squad are assured of playing week in week out in their club sides and nearly all have cult status. Capello has said he wont pick anyone who is not playing regulary does this include Crouch?

As a player i feel he has improved year by year and he has all the qualities needed for a target man. He holds the ball up well, has a great first touch, good awareness for his team mates runs and is strong in the air. Even his work rate has improved throughout the years. Being 201 cm tall has always been the major talking point when you mention Crouch and the well known Swedish sports journalist Göran Zachrissons description of how Crouch moves on the pitch “ he looks like an octopus falling out of a tree” is as good as i have heard.

Whatever description is used for Peter Crouch i just hope he is in the England Squad and that he is given the opportunity to shine in South Africa. Geoff Hurst was not a regular for England before the 1966 world cup finals and we all know what he produced when given his chance.

 

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Roy Hodgson´s road to success

March 1st, 2010 by billysbootroom

When i first arrived in Sweden in 1983 i was often asked if i knew Bob and Roy. They were 2 very successful trainers in Sweden both from London and of course coming from London myself it was assumed i must know them. Bob Houghton had taken Malmö FF to the European Cup Final and lead Malmö FF to 3 league titles and Roy Hodgson had in his first year at Halmstad BK won the Swedish Championship for the first time in the clubs history.

Roy Hodgson was at Örebro the season i arrived but a couple of years later i met him for the first time when he trained Malmö FF. Malmö FF were the best side in the country and very well organised. I played for Kalmar FF and was often on the losing side against Malmö and the one thing i remember playing them was the respect the players had for their trainer. They belived in his tactics and always worked their socks off. Since those days Roy has trained clubs in Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Norway and England. He has even coached the Swizz, Finish the Arab Emirates national sides. He has won the Uefa Cup with Inter Milan and had success in Denmark and Switzerland.

Nowadays he is doing a great jog at Fulham. He kept them up in his first season and last season they qualified for Europe. They are again having a great season and in the week knocked out Shakthar Donetsk in the Europa League. His success at Fulham is all the more impressive when you take into account the club’s limit funds. No big name signings. Roy has a great knowledge of the game and a knack of finding quality players at lesser clubs in England and even made some good buys from Scandinavia. I hope he will one day be given a bigger stage and the chance to manage in the Champions League.

I think it would be a great start for some of the younger up and coming trainers in England if they could serve their apprenticeship in another country and learn about other aspects of the game. Young english players have been sent abroad through the years and developed their game. Why not give the young trainers the same chance. Who knows we might even have an English trainer that wins the Premier League one day. Maybe even a successful English born trainer in charge of the national side. Maybe Roy could be the man.

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A trip down memory lane

February 26th, 2010 by billysbootroom

Tuesday evening and Champions League. What game do I watch? Olympiakos – Bordeaux or Stuttgart – Barcelona? Mellberg in Olympiakos or Zlatan in Barcelona? Not an easy choice, then i remember Man Utd are playing my old team West Ham in the Premier League. The Theatre of Dreams and memories of Tevez scoring the winner against Man Utd for West Ham in the last game of the 2006-2007 season and keeping West Ham up.

I then started dreaming myself and was a long way down memory lane. 1968 to be exact and West Ham playing United at Upton Park. In the Hammers line up that day Moore, Hurst and Peters: the three players that 2 years earlier had won the World Cup for England. Hurst 3 goals Peters 1 and the late Sir Bobby captain and man of the match. Man Utd had Best, Charlton and Law three legends of British football and the previous year they had won the European Cup beating Benfica 4-1 in the final at Wembley. I was nine years old and i still remember that day. My dad who was then youth team manager at West Ham took me to meet the players after the game and it was then I decided I was one day going to run out at Upton Park.

The only thing about tonight’s game that could compare to the quality on show in 1968 was watching Wayne Rooney. Who knows, he might be England´s star the next time they win the World Cup!

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