A Cut Prize Manager

After a surprisingly short Euro campaign in which England were beaten by Iceland, the FA, surprise, surprise appointed Sam Allardyce as new manager. While Allardyce has made it clear that he always wanted the job and that it is the best job in English football, the salary for his services is reported to be less than his predecessor in office. The press were quick to point out that £3m a year is a sorry amount for an England manager.

In the Wikipedia page for delusion this condition is described as

a belief that is held with strong conviction against superior evidence to the contrary.

Reading reports about the annual salary of Sam Allardyce in his new position as England manager, one cannot but think the England football media establishment is suffering delusion. It is important to look at the performances of the team at the most recent tournament in France. England dominated Russia yet failed to get anything out of this game except a mere point. Against Wales luck was on their side to turn the game around. This was followed by a dull game against Slovakia. OK, three matches in ten days are excruciating, though professional footballers should be able to adapt to such circumstances. Moreover, the Premier League often has the same rhythm. It is therefore astounding to see the team stumble at the first hurdle, in this case against Iceland. England’s qualification for Euro 2016 was impeccable: ten games, ten victories. At this stage, the salary for Roy Hodgson was partly justified.
At his presentation as new England manager Sam Allardyce said it was time to deliver. From the beginning there is pressure on him and he knows it.
Some media reports say that the salary is said to be less than his predeccor’s but still £3m per year. It is the highest salary in international football. Here is where delusion is diagnosed. The evidence of England’s performances in the last six years suggests a stagnation after a decade of reasonable performances at two World Cups and the Euros, with missing out on 2008 being the exception.
As a comparison the German national coach Jogi Löw’s salary is looked at. His current contract sees him earning €3,3m per year. On top of that he has a contract with Nivea for men’s toiletry products. Could we imagine Big Sam in a Nivea ad? Löw has managed Germany for ten years now and has reached two finals, won the World Cup and his teams have always reached at least the semi-finals in every tournament since 2006. A few other figures will give an even better picture. The Portuguese coach Fernando Santos earns €1.2m, the French coach Didier Deschamps €2m a year. Roy Hodgson was the highest paid coach at Euro 2016. It is staggering what the FA are willing to pay for their managers given the performances of players and coach.

The last big Tournament?

With Portugal the winner of the Euro 2016, a short reflection on the state of Europe as it was mirrored in football during the past four weeks. Read more →

Where is Götze?

This question asked by my son during Germany’s semi-final defeat at Euro 2016 has summed up the German tournament. Not just in highlighting the development of the player himself over the last two years since scoring the goal to win the World Cup. It also highlights a lack of centre forwards in German football. There is Mario Gomez, who, while not the greatest of players, was at least a pivot in the German attack during this tournament. During the last tournament he was the target of wide spread media ridicule, some of it justified. Gomez, a tall player was seen too immobile. That however, has changed and was possibly best seen in the build-up to the German goal against Italy, when he played a pass, that is normally the domain of Mesut Özil. Gomez created that space for Hector and Özil rushed in to score. The roles were reversed. Yet, it overpainted the glaring in the middle up front.

Ever since the retirement of Klose 2014 the lack of an out and out striker, a real centre forward has been ignored. The qualification for the tournament was not without little shake ups but was secured nonetheless, but the man in the middle was missing. Nowadays, though everyone wants to be a Mario Götze, a midfielder who scores beautiful goals. The invisibility of Götze summed up the substitutions of Germany’s coach, Jogi Löw. Can went off and Götze came; it did not pay any rewards. Götze was not connected to the game, he was not there. It did not help Germany that they had more possession and created more chances; without a poacher there is nothing to be done to work on a 2-0 deficit. The defeat against France was self made and the analysis should be thorough.

Where is Götze? This question by a six year old sums up the game for Germany and I could not have put it better. On that note …

A short History of the Henri Delauny Trophy

As the quarterfinals are about to commence, the tension is increasing ever more in France as to who will be winner come Sunday July 10. Read more →

Tiny Whiny Ronaldo

Euro 2016 has so far not been a hugely exciting tournament. No team suffered a thrashing like Spain did at the hands of Holland at the Brazil World Cup two years ago. The surprise so far surely were Belgium who appeared tame against Italy on Monday night and Austria who were unexpectedly beaten by Hungary yesterday. Though the biggest surprise was the iceland team who denied Cristiano Ronaldo to shine.

The Icelandic English language magazine The Grapevine posted a number of tweets throughout the game providing a humourous edge to the game.

The Portuguese can’t say they have not been warned:

On completing a few passes:

No comment needed:

The draw for Iceland was almost unthinkable before kick-off as was for Portugal. The celebrations of the players were therefore understandable. Unfortunately, so was Ronaldo’s reaction.

Football, Riots, Hypocrisy

The first days of Euro 2016 already gave enough material for discussion. This is the first in a series of observations from the tournament that’s happening right at my door step. Read more →

The Writers’ Game

Just before the EURO 2016 gets underway for real, the French Sports Writers Association hosted the German national writers’ team in Paris as a warm up for EURO 2016. The match was a game of German organisation vs. French improvisation. Read more →

Muhammad Ali

The greatest boxer of all time, the most excellent man as Bob Dylan has described him, has had an opinion about a particular English football manager, Brian Clough.

image credits: National Archief via WikiCommons under CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

Germany – England 1956

It was 60 years ago that England played in West Berlin against West Germany; the first time since 1938. While England maintained their record against their beloved rival, the impressions of the press and of Colin Grainger talk of admiration for the Germans. Read more →

The Magic of the Cup

There is a saying in Germany that the Cup has its own rules. It means that the underdog has the chance to beat the favourite if the latter have a bad day at the office. Looking at the Cup Final results from Europe one can but note that this rule has somehow been made obsolete. In Germany, Bayern won a long battle against Dortmund only after penalties. Paris Saint German beat Olympique Marseille 4-2 with two parting gifts from Zlatan. In Italy Juve have long established a dominance that could turn out to be problematic for the league. Yesterday they beat Milan 1-0 after extra-time in the Coppa Italia. Today will see Barcelona face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey in Spain. Sevilla could add another trophy to their third consecutive Europa League title. In England, where the FA Cup is the oldest established football competition in Europe, Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-1. It was a traditional London vs. the North East encounter. There is some bitter aftertaste as Louis van Gaal, the United manager will be relieved of his duty as manager of the Red Devils.

However, not all hope is lost. The Scottish Cup final saw Hibernians take on Rangers. Normally, a win for the latter would be nothing but expected. After years of playing in the lower leagues of Scottish football, Rangers are no longer the powerhouse they once were. The game ended 3-2 for Hibs. It is their first Cup in 114 years! Accordingly, the fans celebrated in style.