Category Archives: Seng Says

Seng Says- Under 21 League!

Story by Seng Ton

The gap between youth academy and first team football has always been vast, but the introduction of the U21 Premier League this season has promised to bridge that.  The U21 Premier League is brought in to give younger players big game experience ahead of their transition to the heights of first team football.  Our national team can also benefit from this proposition as tomorrow’s players should be more prepared to step up and perform on an international scale.  Simply by playing competitively regularly will give them a sharper edge (and improved match fitness), as opposed to just letting them warm the bench or “rotting” in the reserves.  Unfortunately the latter two is what a few young English players are reduced to once they’re brought in by the bigger clubs.  This might also bring down the premium on young British players being transferred, as some clubs just acquire British players to keep up and attain with the home-grown rule.  I think this is an outrage, as there are plenty of quality young British players just being wasted when they are seemingly going to these bigger clubs presumably for the bigger wage packet every week.  On the false promise of career progression and playing alongside the best in the country, they are seemingly conned into signing away football aspirations.  But soon after the extra cash and gold watches have lost their initial novelty, a number of these players look to be loaned out or permanently move to a “lesser” club to rebuild their reputation as a football player.

There are some successful stories that involve young English players transferring to bigger clubs, these have been beneficial to the national side and football in general.

  • Joe      Hart (from ShrewsburyTown to ManchesterCity)
  • Chris      Smalling (from Fulham to Manchester      United)
  • Theo      Walcott (from Southampton to Arsenal)
  • Alex      Oxlade-Chamberlain (from Southampton to      Arsenal)
  • Daniel      Sturridge (from ManchesterCity to Chelsea)
  • Phil      Jagielka (from Sheffield United to      Everton)
  • Leighton      Baines (from Wigan Athletic to Everton)
  • Aaron      Lennon (from Leeds United to Tottenham      Hotspur)

Okay rant over, now back to the U21 Premier League.

This U21 competition has 23 contributing clubs, 17 compete in the Premier League and 6 ply their trade at Championship level.  It was decided that three national groups were to be drawn splitting the teams amongst them.  All of these clubs are distributed amongst three national groups consisting of two groups including 8 teams and one having 7 teams.  Participating clubs that finish the first half of the season in the top 3 in national group one and two will qualify for the Elite Group, along with the top 2 in national group three.  Teams play each other twice, home and away just like it is in the Premier League and Football League level.  Teams that do not qualify for the Elite Group will be placed in two tiers of qualification groups to make sure the matches in the second half of the season are more evenly matched.  The winners of both of these groups will have the chance to face off against the top 3 of the Elite Group in a format like a semi-final (via an additional play-off).  The U21 Premier League champions are the team that wins this final.

As the name gave away, the focus of this league is on the under 21 players.  But up to 3 over age outfield players may be included amongst squads as well as an over age goalkeeper too.  And players that feature in the senior team can still be called upon in the U21 league, this provides a certain versatility and can be a massive compliment between the first team and U21 team.  The U21 lads will also have a sniff of that big game atmosphere, as the requirement is that at least two U21 games are played there as well as play-offs, semi-finals and final.  Getting this sort of psychology drilled into players at a younger age can benefit their development as they should be prepared for the pressures of the Premier League.

Regarding the fixtures, they’ll be playing out from Friday to Monday whenever there is a Premier League fixture that week (which is most weeks, thankfully).  And according to Richard Scudamore the fixtures were arranged to complement the games played in the Premier League.

I’ll sign off with a congratulations if your team got off to a great start last weekend.  Or a commiserations if they didn’t, keep believing and keep positive as the season has only just begun.

Seng Says!- Gap of Football, Gap of Interest?

Story by Seng Ton

Summer – Gap of Football, Gap of Interest?

Me, like many other football fans are just twiddling our thumbs until the start of the new season.  And there’s some great news, it isn’t long until the gates of heaven (domestic competitive football) open once again.  At the time of writing there are 11 days left.  The final day of the Premier League season ended on 13th May 2012 which means we’ll have waited at least three long months for the 18th August 2012 (start of the new English season).  We are lucky to have 2 international football tournaments this year to help us ease the usual summer exodus of competitive football, those being the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine and the Olympics football tournament in London.  But what have we got to look forward to next summer, when there is no international tournament to take an interest in?  The short answer to that is pre-season.

So pre-season, while it is a necessary process for teams to warm up before the season begins but I find it difficult to care as much.  But if you are at the game yourself, and you follow a club with fantastic and tremendous away support then you’ll know what I’m talking about.  This proceeds nicely onto the next point, as it is now becoming increasingly common to see clubs travel to countries like United States of America and China for their pre-season preparations.  And unless you’ve got a well paid job or other means of getting to these countries on your summer break, you’ll feel the same as if the friendly was held in good ol’ England, as these luxurious trips can be very costly when taking accommodation and flights are taken into account.  But if you are one of the lucky ones who can afford this, the experience I’m told is an unforgettable one.

If you support a team that has qualified for the preliminary stages of the Champions League / Europa League then competitive football returns a little sooner than the rest.  This can also be yet another excuse to get away, and even though the team you play is usually someone you haven’t even heard of, their country may be of some interest to visit.  These early competitive matches can be a good influence in getting match fitness up to scratch much quicker than regular friendlies but may also take its toll late on in the season (resulting in fatigue or burnout).

Taking aside your wedding day (for some of you), FA Cup / League Cup / Champions League final or a derby day is there much better in life than supporting your team, and showing your pride on the international scene whilst also enjoying a bit of a knees up at the same time.  I mean come on, whoever thought of combining your annual holiday plans and watching your team play is a genius.  So essentially, both entities of a modern couple should be well satisfied.  Happy days!  One of the greatest cons I can think of when persuading the missus to come on a football holiday is; propose (risky choice of word I know) a trip to the destination where your club happens to be playing, but don’t let your other half know about the somewhat sporting side of it all.  She should be so happy you’re taking the initiative of booking a trip together, winning some serious romantic points in the process.  And hopefully you’ll get your reward of watching a game of football relatively guilt-free and with minimal complaining.  However, if you’ve a partner who just craves the beautiful game then kudos, brother, kudos.

I would like to end this supplement of Seng Says by taking the opportunity to wish all of your teams a very successful season, unless you’re one of the unfortunate Birmingham City fans (*Robin may wish to insert a disclaimer here*).

Also, please stay with us while we eagerly wait for the start of the new season, it’s not long folks!

Seng Says!- Local Heroes Part II

Story by Seng Ton

Introduction

 

In this second part of Local Heroes, I take a look at players from clubs beginning with the letter ‘L’. I hope I have listed some of your favourites. One, definitely, won’t appeal to my fellow Villa fans but will to his hometown club contingent!

Leeds United – David Batty

David Batty is held in high regard by many Leeds fans, almost as much as club legend Billy Bremner.  A naturally competitive holding midfielder who loves to win the ball back for the team, it is easy to see the comparison.  And by being a Yorkshire lad, many more fans took Batty to their hearts, as you could clearly see his determination and drive in his play.  With a combined 13 years spent at Elland Road, culminating a total of 301 appearances, it is clear to see that David spent most of his career at a club he loved and held dear to him.  The English top flight division (before being called the Premier League in 1993) was won by Leeds with Batty in the side.  He has also been a key man to Leeds qualification for the Champions League and their brilliant run to the semi finals.

Leicester City – Emile Heskey

Emile Heskey is the subject of many taunts nationwide but you won’t hear many of those in the city of Leicester.  Arguably his best spell was at his hometown club, and The Foxes have certainly seen the best of the big guy.  Heskey has scored 40 goals in 157 appearances, but it’s not his goalscoring ability that makes him so immensely popular amongst team mates, fans and managers.  There aren’t many players that I can name that aren’t selfish, but Heskey is certainly one of those.  His unselfish personality coupled with his presence and the way in which he holds up the play and brings the whole team together by winning most aerial battles.  In his 6 years at Filbert Street, two League Cups in 1997 and 2000 as well as a Division One Play Off trophy were won.

Liverpool – Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard is another one of those special local talents still at the club.  Residing from a village in Merseyside he has become a hero at all that follow The Reds.  Gerrard has dominated the midfield for Liverpool for over a decade.  To date, he has 405 appearances and has scored 89 goals for the club.  Another one-club man, but also has been linked to all the big clubs in Europe because of his world class ability.  The current club captain has lifted plenty of club silverware which includes the forever memorable 2005 Champions League, two FA Cups, three League Cups and a Europa League in 2001 (called the UEFA Cup back then).

Manchester United – Paul Scholes

Paul Scholes is one of Manchester United’s most glittered players of all-time.  The golden nugget local lad coming from Salford, Greater Manchester has 488 appearances and has hit the back of the net on 106 different occasions.  Scholes has a natural ability that can simply win a game out of nowhere and that’s what makes him special to the club and the fans of The Red Devils.  Being part of some quite magical squads he has won bucket loads of trophies; two Champions Leagues, ten Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two League Cups.  That collection could well rise in the coming seasons.

 

Newcastle United – Alan Shearer

Alan Shearer is certainly loved up on The Tyne.  Moving from Blackburn Rovers for a then record fee of £15million, this secured his dream move back home to Newcastle.  Shearer spent a decade up on Tyne that mostly pleased fans with him banging in plenty of memorable goals for The Magpies.  In a total of 303 top flight appearances, a quite remarkable 148 goals were scored.  That nearly equates to a goal every two games (outstanding).  With Shearer’s goals, The Toon have come incredibly close to silverware becoming runners up to the FA Cup in two consecutive seasons as well as finishing 2nd in the Premier League.

 

Norwich City – Adam Drury

Adam Drury has been a tremendous servant to Norwich, turning out for The Canaries for 11 loyal years, amassing a dependable 326 appearances.  By winning the NorwichCity player of the year in the 2002-2003 season, this lead to being handed the honour of the captain’s armband.  Only special players can lose the skipper’s armband only to show truly magnificent form in order to regain it.  Lesser players do not get the chance to wear it again once it has been taken away.  Drury was inducted into NorwichCity’s hall of fame alongside other first team members.  Additional achievements include the League One championship in 2009 and a First Division title in 2003.

Southampton – Matthew Le Tissier

Matthew Le Tissier is another one-club man, that anyone even remotely associated with Southampton will hold his name dear to their heart.  Le Tissier was a hugely influential attacking minded midfielder who spent the best part of 16 seasons at St. Marys.  He has 443 appearances and scored on 162 of those.  Loyalty is one thing that many players today do not have, and despite severe interest from (no disrespect) bigger clubs, Le Tissier stuck with The Saints much to the fans pleasure.  Although born in Guernsey, it is safe to say that Matthew has very much adopted Southampton as his footballing home where he is known to many south coast fans as “Le God”.

West Bromwich Albion – Lee Hughes

Lee Hughes is somewhat of a legend in the West Midlands, especially for Baggies fans.  A true local lad that was born in Smethwick warmed to the fans as he comes from the same area as most of the people who support West Bromwich Albion.  Spending two stints at The Hawthorns, they say “never go back” but Lee proved otherwise.  Proving most effective in both spells by scoring 85 times in 174 appearances first time round. And second time round, scored 13 times in 60 appearances.  Hughes is only 2 goals short of amassing a total of 100 goals for The Baggies.  To date, there are only 6 people that have played for West Brom who have registered goals in excess of 100.

West Ham United – Mark Noble

Mark Noble is one the latest quality products to have come from the infamous West Ham youth academy.  In contention with the first team for 8 years (despite being only 25 years old) and has been a key player for the last 5 years.  Noble is a reliable performer in the heart of midfield, and has had time to settle there as he is the current longest serving player for The Hammers.  Being with the West Ham set up since he was a schoolboy, Mark has strong links with his current club and his hometown which is in East London.  Trophies come in the form of two Championship Play-Off Final wins in 2005 and 2012.  A notable personal accolade was achieved when Noble was voted in the PFA Championship Team of the Year last season.

Conclusions

Well, that’s it. I hope I have given you all a flavour of some happy bygone eras and here’s to hoping that all of your clubs find more local talent, in the next few years!

Seng Says!- Local Heroes Part I

Story by Seng Ton

Introduction

As football fans of our beloved clubs as well as of the beautiful game, we love to relate to and support the star players.  And quite frankly it is a massive bonus when that player comes from the same town or city as you.  You feel a specific personal connection, and when that player is on the field, you are satisfied that you are well represented.  Suddenly your passions and energy as a fan are transferred to the pitch.  So we are absolutely over the moon when anyone of our players score, but that excitement is somewhat magnified greatly if the local lad hits the back of the net.  There is a connection that is nearly indescribable, but can be likened to a long life fan of a club playing for that club.  You just know he’s going to give it everything to succeed, because as fans we all wish we could win every game.  But unfortunately this isn’t the case.  This special edition of Seng Says takes a slightly different turn, by focusing on some football clubs and their local heroes.  Please accept my apologies if you can’t see your team mentioned here.

Arsenal – Tony Adams

Tony Adams is a one-club man, and an Arsenal legend with 504 appearances and 32 top division goals for the North London club.  He was born in Romford, London and raised in Dagenham.  One quarter of the “Famous Four” that was so successful in utilising the offside trap with great effect.  Adams was given the captain’s armband at the age of 21, and would hang on to it for the next 14 years.  In the 1992-1993 season history was written when Adams captained the first English club to win the League Cup and FA Cup double.  More silverware came in the form of two Premier League titles, two other FA Cups and one other League Cup.

Aston Villa – Ian Taylor

Ian Taylor spent 9 happy years at Villa Park playing for the club he used to support as a boy.  The midfield dynamo comes from Birmingham and can still be in the terraces to show support for his beloved Villa.  He is also currently a club ambassador.  Taylor has 234 appearances and 28 goals to his name as a Villa player.  Part of the squad who won the League Cup in 1996 and runners up to the last FA Cup final played in the Old Wembley.  The Villa fans love for Taylor certainly hasn’t died out and he still seen as a club legend with fans occasionally chanting his name in The Holte End at Villa Park during matches.

Blackburn Rovers – David Dunn

David Dunn is an exciting midfielder that is considered to be one of the gems of Lancashire, being born in the local area and spending two spells at Blackburn.  In a combined 268 appearances and scoring a total of 45 goals, this number is sure to increase further as Dunn is also a current key member of the Rovers squad. Blackburn’s most prestigious period since winning the Premier League title in 1995 came in 2001, when the club won the League Cup and David Dunn was part of the team to do that.  Having joined the Lancashire club as a trainee at the age of 18, there is a strong personal link between Dunn and Blackburn Rovers.

Cardiff City – Joe Ledley

Joe Ledley’s Cardiff roots are about as strong as any hardcore football fan.  A lifelong follower of The Bluebirds and passion for the game resulted in him joining their youth academy aged 9.  Joe broke into first team aged 17, which has then lead to 225 additional appearances as well as 26 goals from the centre of midfield.  Whilst Ledley doesn’t have any English silverware, there is a particular achievement that must be mentioned (as it’s remarkable for a Welsh club).  A Cardiff City team (which included Ledley) became runners up to the FA Cup in a quite unforgettable 2007-2008 season.

 

Chelsea – John Terry

John Terry is one of the few currently playing local heroes at Chelsea.  To date he has 373 appearances, scoring 28 goals.  And this is likely to increase in the coming seasons.  Being brought up in Barking, London he has felt the pain of the past as a Chelsea fan and counteracting that by celebrating much success in recent times.  This includes three Premier League titles, five FA Cups, two League Cups and also has the honour of lifting the club’s first ever Champions League in 2012.  He is a popular fellow at Stamford Bridge as he has been voted Chelsea’s player of the year on two different occasions.

Everton – Dave Watson

Dave Watson spent the last 15 years of his playing career at Everton.  Whilst also managing them for a seven game stint in 1997 as caretaker manager.  Born and bred in Liverpool, he was a strong and commanding presence in central defence.  Watson was the club captain for eight sturdy years, whilst also registering 419 appearances and 23 goals in the process.  The last time Everton won a top flight league was when the man from Merseyside was involved, as well as skippering a triumphant FA Cup winning side in 1995.

Seng Says!- Freebies!

Story by Seng Ton

Freebies!  …Good Now That I’ve Got Your Attention

It’s not just us football fans that suffer the depression of the recession, and in recent times clubs have taken to alternative methods in acquiring players.  A ruling which originated in about 1995, called what we know it as “The Bosman ruling” came into practice.  This means that players without a contract could negotiate terms with other clubs independently, and essentially move on a free transfer.  As the recipient club wouldn’t need the former club to pay a transfer fee for taking their player to the new club.  Numerous clubs along the line have benefitted greatly from this ruling as it can mean quality players moving to new clubs with only their wages to worry about.  Not all football clubs are backed by stupidly rich Arab or Thai owners or Indian chicken meat processing companies.  So this means most clubs outside this bubble will have no choice but to look in alternative markets, like the loan and free transfers categories.  It also means that professional players have been given added power, in that they are able to purposely run down their contract if they wish to leave a club.  And this won’t make clubs happy (and rightly so) as the player can then leave for nothing as opposed to for a fee.  This fee could potentially save a club or at least make them more financially stable in the near future.  But it is widely perceived that a modern player is more like a mercenary than somebody who cares about the club.

 

Seng’s Best Free Transfers (1995-2011)

Here are some of the best free transfers / bosman rulings to have ever taken place in British and European football from the 1995-2011.  And I really hope that by just mentioning these, it’ll spark off some great memories.  There’s a fair few Sam Allardyce bargains present too, which Bolton fans are going to love to reminisce about.  And finally, yes I still think Joe Cole is a brilliant player, as he wasn’t given a chance at Liverpool and showed he’s still got it by performing amicably with Lille in France.  In my opinion should probably have got into Roy Hodgson’s England Euro 2012 squad instead of Stewart Downing.

Demba Ba from West Ham United to Newcastle United in 2011.

Joe Cole from Chelsea to Liverpool in 2010.

Mark Schwarzer from Middlesbrough to Fulham in 2008.

Geovanni from Manchester City to Hull City in 2008.

David Beckham from Real Madrid to LA Galaxy in 2007.

Michael Ballack from Bayern Munich to Chelsea in 2006.

Kanu from West Bromwich Albion to Portsmouth in 2006.

Edgar Davids from Inter Milan to Tottenham Hotspur in 2005.

Luis Figo from Real Madrid to Inter Milan in 2005.

Henrik Larrsson from Celtic to Barcelona in 2004.

Fernando Hierro from Al Rayyan to Bolton Wanderers in 2004.

Jean-Alain Boumsong from Auxerre to Rangers in 2004.

Christophe Dugarry from Marseille to BirminghamCity in 2003.

Kevin Davies from Southampton to Bolton Wanderers in 2003.

Youri Djorkaeff from Kaiserslautern to Bolton Wanderers in 2002.

Paul Merson from Aston Villa to Portsmouth in 2002.

Jay-Jay Okocha from Paris Saint-Germain to Bolton Wanderers in 2002.

Sol Campbell from Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal in 2001.

Jari Litmanen from Barcelona to Liverpool in 2001.

Teddy Sheringham from Manchester United to Tottenham Hotspur in 2001.

Robert Prosinecki from Standard Liege to Portsmouth in 2001.

Brad Friedel from Liverpool to Blackburn Rovers in 2000.

Paul Lambert from Motherwell to Borussia Dortmund in 1996.

Gianluca Vialli from Juventus to Chelsea in 1996.

John Collins from Celtic to Monaco in 1996.

Ruud Gullit from AC Milan to Chelsea in 1995.

Seng’s Picks of Summer 2012 Free Transfers

Here are some free transfers which are still available for clubs to pounce on.  There are a few gems in this list, and I feel most will be a welcome addition to any squad.  And clubs can capture some real legends in the game including names like Italian household names like Alessandro Nesta and Alessandro Del Piero, German midfield legend Michael Ballack and England goal machine Michael Owen.  Great players who have proved they can perform in the Premier League also feature here, most notably Canadian hotshot Junior Hoilett, Ivory Coast’s reliable Salomon Kalou and France’s Louis Saha who has scored goals for each of the clubs he’s been at.  These names will definitely be hot property in the current free transfer market.

Craig Gordon (94 appearances for Sunderland and 40 caps for Scotland)

Manuel Almunia (175 appearances for Arsenal and 53 Premier League clean sheets)

Danny Shittu (187 appearances for Queens Park Rangers and 28 caps for Nigeria)

Alessandro Nesta (587 Serie A appearances and 78 caps for Italy)

Cristian Chivu (276 Serie A appearances and 75 caps for Romania)

Jose Bosingwa (89 appearances for Chelsea and 10 Premier League goals)

Michel Salgado (434 La Liga appearances and 53 caps for Spain)

Michael Ballack (119 Bundesliga goals and 98 caps for Germany)

Nigel Reo-Coker (120 appearances for West Ham United)

Owen Hargreaves (42 caps for England and 218 appearances for Bayern Munich)

Salomon Kalou (60 Premier League goals and 40 assists)

Junior Hoilett (14 Premier League goals and 9 assists)

Alessandro Del Piero (262 Serie A goals and 91 caps for Italy)

Louis Saha (146 Premier League goals)

Michael Owen (205 Premier League goals, 89 caps and 40 goals for England)

Emile Heskey (151 Premier League goals, 62 caps and 7 goals for England)

Concluding Comments

Will all these players listed, as well as other free agents, find new clubs or will they find their retirement plans instead by the end of the transfer window?  Although age may have caught up with some of the more experienced players, their skill and awareness shouldn’t have perished too much (excluding fitness, stamina and pace of course).  As that is the danger of purposely running down your contract, other clubs may see this as a lack of loyalty (yes there isn’t much in the modern game).  But this display isn’t exactly a desirable trait that a potential suitor club likes to see.  So players who use this particular trick may end up at a club, a division or sometimes country they didn’t expect to see themselves until much later in their playing career.