Sunday, September 19, 2010

Brian Flynn's 180 minute trial

FAW Chief Executive Jonathon Ford announced today that the hunt was starting for the new Welsh manager.

“We really do need to do well in these next two games, but we cannot just sit and wait for the results to determine what we do thereafter."

Well he's right in a way. The results of the next two games should not determine anything. Brian Flynn, as caretaker manager will have had a matter of weeks to take on a team with low morale and serious long-term injury concerns to key players. Jonathon Ford has effectively given him a two game trial. Two defeats and we look elsewhere.

This is absurd. Since when has two games been enough to make a claim for a management job? If Flynn loses these next two games (and Wales will be outsiders to claim even a point), then will the next manager also be given a two game trial? Of course he won't. He will be given until the end of the tournament at least, and more than likely will be guaranteed the chance to work until the end of the qualifiers for the World Cup 2014.

What sort of message does that send to Brian Flynn, the man in the caretaker position, who I believe should be offered the job outright?  It says to Flynn that the FAW are giving him a chance, but unless his teams grab a couple of good results against all the odds that a proper manager will be given the opportunity to develop the team properly.

The Independent reports that Flynn is "far from being the front runner for the Wales job on a permanent basis." , which is news to me, and also to bookmakers across the country who have the former Wrexham manager as evens favourite. Flynn is the only sensible option. Most of the national squad are his players from the youth setup and they have an obvious loyalty and faith in his philosophy. The FAW are not rich, and this tournament will play in smaller stadia affecting future finances. The idea that recognised international coaches with a good pedigree are going to take on this particular poisoned chalice for 50 grand a year is a nonsense.

After years of downbeat misery and constant internal arguing with Toshack at the helm, Welsh football needs a man who will rejuvinate the squad; a man who is popular but respected. Chris Coleman fills those requirements to a certain respect, but Brian Flynn is the outstanding candidate, and he deserves more than a two game roll of the dice.

Ipswich 2-0 Cardiff City

Cooper, Burley, Mills, Wark, Beattie, Hunter, Muhren, Thijssen, Mariner, Gates, Brazil. 

That classic Ipswich side will always stay with me. Kids these days will never be able to recite their own team's regular eleven, let alone a team from miles away that weren't even League Champions. But that Ipswich team from 78-81 were class. I'm sure I've amalgamated a couple of Bobby Robson's sides there. Wasn't there a young Terry Butcher involved? Did Ally Brazil play in the same team as Muhren? I don't really want to know. The Ipswich team of my memory is cultured, skillfull and refined, and full of everything I love about football.

So yesterday's trip to Portman Road was something of a pilgramage. I'd never been there before as Cardiff's only visits combined with my patchy boycotting of the club while Sam Hammam was involved, and my move to Gwynedd in 2002. I'd targetted this game as my long away trip this season and I'm not sure there is a ground further away in hours than this one. 

I expected Ipswich to be pleasant and I wasn't disappointed.  This is an easy-going place and the amble to the ground in warm sun had more of the feel of a cricket match. I don't think they sell Stone Island in Suffolk. Ipswich makes Norwich seem like Galatasaray.

There's a statue of Bobby Robson outside the ground. Fair enough I suppose. Ipswich was the one place where Robson wasn't villified before England's 1990 World Cup performance became bathed in an angelic light thanks to a succession of tournament failures this Century. Personally, I have a grudge against him. Annoyingly, I can't remember why, but I think he once complained about releasing Gary Speed for an "unimportant" Wales game while his England players went away with his best wishes.

The away fans at Portman Road are seated in the Upper tier of the Cobbold Stand. I guess there were about 600-700 in there, with more in the Family Section in the Lower Tier.

Yes. A Family Section! Ipswich are one of very few clubs that understand that away fans with kids dont want to expose them to Scott Thomas swearing at the ref than home fans do. I couldn't see the kids enclosure but I am assuming that the little ones (and OAPs) might even be able to sit down and see some of the game. The lack of a family area at away grounds needs addressing urgently, and I know that Cardiff City recognise that.

The game was odd, but not without precedent in that Cardiff had superior players and played the better football but always looked vulnerable to defeat.  The sides swapped ends after the toss and usually this is because the away team doesn't want to allow the home team to have everything their own way. Maybe Ipswich liked to attack their "end" in the second half, except that they didn't seem to have an "end". Portman Road is the quietest ground I've been to in years.

The City following was largely composed of the "seen-it-all"
weary traveller crowd and they were pretty subdued after a nightmare trip from Cardiff with closures on thd M4. Personally, my ridiculous nervous disposition means that any chanting and singing would induce retching, so I try to save it until absolutely necessary.

Cardiff were pretty much in control early on, until Connor Wickham went through on goal and it looked for all the World like Gabor Gyepes brought him down and would watch the resulting penalty on his way down the tunnel. A well-positioned ref indicated that Gyepes had played the ball, but television replays make me think we were very lucky.

New signing Andy Keogh was being asked to play wide left in a 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 system and while the midfield were able to compete well in this formation, he struggled to fit in. Shame to hear the fans on his back already though. He needs time to settle and, and a left midfielder he is not.

Darcy Blake did well enough first half to prompt me to suggest that he could possibly fill the Wales deep-midfield berth. (Does the term "berth" ever get used in any other walk of life apart from caravans & boats?"). However, Blake faded badly as the game went on & he finished with his socks rolled down. He was also guilty of trying to play too much football
when he should just have been feeding McPhail & Whittingham alongside. If we had'nt made two half-time substitutions he would have been replaced I'm sure.

In the end it was those two changes that killed us. Rae came on for McPhail and in a stroke our midfield became more prosaic. I don't mind Gavin Rae in certain circumstances but I don't think it strikes terror in the opposition to see him trundling towards Bothroyd's flick-ons as an attacking midfielder.

In defence the fragile McNaughton was replaced by 18 year old Adam Mathews, which didn't give great cause for concern. Well at least not for 15 minutes until he placed a header into his own goal as he tried to glance away a deep cross. Stupid, but it happens. 

Now you would think that a teenage player would be consoled by his team-mates after a mistake like that. But no, he took a right hammering from
his more experienced colleagues. My eagle-eyed neighbour is sure that his Captain Mark Hudson simply screamed the word "Twat!" at him. I'm no human resource expert, but I'm not sure that technique is given it's own chapter in any leadership manual. 

And the game was over then. City imploded in a spirit of self-pity and futility. Apart from a Whittingham header late on, they offered no reaction. Hudson, Gyepes and even Dave Jones blamed Mathews for the second goal, but I think our defenders were deflecting blame after another uninspiring performance. I don't agree with Jones publically berating the kid either. All the team made mistakes today, not just the 18 year old substitute. 

And finally a word about the players' reaction. Only two of them bothered to show any sort of recognition to the travelling fans. Darcy Blake was one. I don't usually care about this sort of thing, but I know that lots do. Yesterday was a shit of a trip for lots of people. This wasn't a nice little weekend booze-up in a pretty City, it was a long drive across the country to a ground that most people had visited several times before. If the team is happy to jig about taking plaudits for a happy win, they should also bloody well face up to those loyal supporters who don't have the luxury of a chartered flight. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Denmark 0-1 Wales

You know I wasn't surprised. I backed Wales to win this one. I just think that any team with Aaron Ramsey in it can win the game. I know we're not supposed to out too much pressure on the lad, but hey I'm a fan. I jus love watching the kid play.

I usually enjoy listening to Ian Walsh's summaries but he had a bit of a poor night tonight. "I mustn't harp on, but Ramsey looks tired". But he did harp on. All through the second half.

I was also surprised by some of their tactical remarks. I assumed from the start that Bellamy would play deeper, but it seemed to surprise Walshy and even Ian Gwyn Hughes. And the half-tie switch of Ricketts for Edwards with Bale pushing on is a sign of things to come. Bale is struggling for confidence since he missed that penalty in Russia, and his defensive qualities are not great.

I expect Shearer will have another pop at bellamy's finishing, but at the moment I will forgive the man anything. I'm not sure Ramsey will be able to forget the chance that Bellamy had to put him through for an open goal on his debut.

I worry about how many times James Collins is left to distribute the ball. he inevitably goes for the 80 yard pass and loses posession. I was glad to see Ramsey dropping deep and picking it up. He overshadowed Collison in this respect. As a deep lying midfielder you would like to see Collison taking more responsibility.

Overall it was the most enjoyable Wales performance for many a game. We look very likely to create chances, and our defence is brave if not impenetrable. Once Denmark went behind, they looked like they could score when they needed to. That's pretty much the story for all our games at the moment. Our attitude is generally very good, but once our opposition get hungry, we struggle to cope.

Still, the result is great for confidence. Amd also for all those snipers who prefer to sit at home instead of wearing the red shirt. Face it lads, we don't need you. And isn't that hard to take?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bangor City 0-2 Rhyl

Footage of this game and the incidents I describe can be seen at the Sgorio website.

I was greeted by a queue of people snaking round onto Farrar Road as I turned up with my camera to this one last night. I snuck through to the press entrance and took my place in front of the Farrar Road stand which Bangor usually attack. Rhyl must have won the toss because they made Bangor swap, and 500 people began the trek round the ground to stand behind the Rhyl goal.

I was on my way too until I noticed the arrival of about 30 Rhyl fans, some of whom began chanting as they entered the ground. They stood on the Farrar End and let rip with a number of tunes regarding their opponents. "I'd rather be a smackhead than a Blue". There were a couple fo songs about in-breeding too, and generally lariness aimed at the large gang of Bangor teenagers who decided to loiter and provoke.

There was only one steward to start with, and he was joined by a couple of others when the game started. The Bangor group edged closer to the Rhyl fans, and insults were freely traded. I nevcer thought I would see a cut-throat sign at a Welsh premier game , but there it was, coming from one of the young Rhyl lads, one of a few wearing Stone Island labels.

To be fair, I never thought it was going to kick off. These were very young kids and there were plenty of sensible heads around to calm things down. And the fuss did start to die down until Rhyl's second goal mid way through the first half.

Then I saw a crowd surge. You don't get many crowds at Welsh Premier games, let alone surges. There were punches thrown and it all got a bit nasty. The stewards bravely stepped in and re-inforcements were called. As the Bangor fans were moved away from the area, further scuffles broke out.

I took a number of pictures from pitch-side, though I'm not sure its in anyone's best interests that I publish them here. From what I could see it appeared that one of the older Bangor lads was trying to grab a flag from one of the Rhyl boys. Rhyl piled in and at one stage somebody was being kicked on the floor by half a dozen lads.

It got pretty messy. It was certainly the worst disorder I've ever seen at a Welsh Premier game, and probably the worst I've seen inside any ground for a few years. Isolated scores were being settled across the terrace and stewards had a tough time.

After that flurry, it was all over when the teams changed ends for the second half. By now the stewards were in the right place and about a dozen police were placed inside the ground.

Bangor will be in trouble for this I'm sure. Despite the extra security they had in place, when it came to the crunch, there were only a few flourescent jackets in amongst the Rhyl fans. I feel sorry for the club. The officials do try their best, but these people are volunteers and shouldn't be having to deal with social disorder issues.

If anybody from the club wants to see my photographs, please get in touch and maybe you can identify and ban a few of the people involved.

On the pitch it was one-sided. Bangor simply had nothing to threaten the Rhyl goal, and the game was effectively over after half an hour.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

inflatable igoals review

This is an igoal. It's inaflatable.

If you run a junior football team, it's more than likely that you will have spent hours on a muddy field in the rain trying to fit together 45 bits of plastic tubing to set up the gols for your kids team. It means that you have to arrive at least 45 mins before everyone else and you pray that all the bits are there.

Well we'd had enough, and when my mate Cags spotted these in a garden on Anglesey, he made enquiries. We got sponsorship from Greenwood Forest Park and I order a goal on Saturday, which arrived this morning. I decided to use JJB as we weren't sure what we were getting and thought that returns might be a little easier. The goal was £179, with a free football and some vouchers.

I'm not exagerrating when I say that I opened the bag and had set up the goal within 5 minutes.
All you do is find the valve, stick in the pump provided, and pump it up. It even has the nets already attached. We have the large size goals 12ft x 6ft, which means we can use them in matches.

It took a good 50 or 60 pumps and I don't think that I've inflated it to 100% yet. We're going to try it out on Saturday, and if it's successful we'll order the other next week. But so far so good.

They look fine, and they're certainly sturdy enough. they may be a little less rebound that off the plastic goals, but there's not much off them anyway. And if you peg it down properly, I reckon it's ideal for junior matches.