92 clubs favourite players – Cardiff City – Craig Bellamy

Cardiff City are playing in the Premier League for the first time and they have a few players that I do like and hope perform well but the man that I like the most at their club is Craig Bellamy.

He definitely splits opinion as a lot of people hate him because of the way he conducts himself on the pitch, always arguing with officials and usually having something to complain about. At times I feel this has slightly worked against him as he does have a bad reputation but when he is fully focused and has the ball at his feet even now defenders are worried and he will play a big part in whether Cardiff can stay up. Manager Malky Mackay has already commented that this may be his last as a player and I can see this being the case especially if they do stay up as he will have achieved what he always wanted to.
Bellamy
Unfortunately I do not think he has enough time to get to 100 Premier League goals in his career and this is down to the fact that he did something that not a lot of top players would do and that is dropping down a division to play for the club he supports. But he does still have 79 goals and that is a decent return for someone that has never been prolific, he has only ever it double figures in the Premier League on two occasions (once for Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City). But it is interesting to note that he may have actually became a better goal scorer when he modified his position and starting playing out on the left wing rather than the main striker. He was harshly treated at Man City in my opinion because he was one of their better players when he was on the pitch and then followed this up with an impressive second spell at Liverpool where he scored 9 goals in 33 games.

One of the few things missing from his career is trophies because he has played for big teams when they were competing and he only has a Scottish Cup with Celtic and the League Cup with Liverpool, he probably could have won something at Newcastle United but he should be remembered fondly by them while he was on the pitch because he scored some crucial goals for them, including some goals in the Champions League and that is a position their fans can only wish to be in again.

Bellamy will also be disappointed with his international career because Wales have never came close to qualifying and now that they are finally producing players that will give them the opportunity he is coming to the end of his career.

He is ending his career in the right way and winning the Championship last season will have been one of the best moments even though he only contributed four goals he was still a major asset and now in the Premier League I am sure teams would rather not see his name on the team sheet as on his day he will give players the run around.

Who will be the next Everton manager?

Everton are searching for a new manager after David Moyes decided to take over at Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson retires.

Moyes, did a fantastic job and deserves a lot of credit for what he has done at the club and even though he has not delivered any trophies in his time at the club, he has certainly raised the profile of the club and made them a much better side then when he first took over. I am sure there will be some Everton fans that are disappointed in Moyes leaving but that is to be expected but they must surely understand this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, not only for him to manage Manchester United but for a British manager to be in charge of one of the top clubs in the Premier League. Personally, I hope he does really well as this will encourage other clubs to take a chance on British managers rather than constantly looking abroad. His 42.05% win record is very good, especially when you consider that they battled against relegation a few times under him. But, now it is time to look for a new manager to continue the good work of Moyes.

Roberto Martinez is the favourite for the job and I can fully understand why he is being linked with the job. Martinez has got Wigan Athletic playing some good football and if he had better players at his disposal I think he could replicate the finishing positions of Moyes. If Wigan do go down I do think he will leave and I don’t think that should put Everton off getting him in as boss. He is good at bringing in good players at low prices and finding young talent that will go onto bigger and better things and although Everton aren’t a selling club, they do not have a lot of money to spend on transfers so this is a perfect fit.

Someone that has been linked with the job early on is Vitor Pereira and I was very surprised with this. He is currently the manager of Porto and has had a very good start to his managerial career but he was heavily criticised because of their elimination from the Champions League and this may just make him want to leave the club in the summer. He may turn out to be successful and follow in the wings of Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas in becoming a good Premier League manager.

Neil Lennon is also linked with the job and this could be possible because he has won nearly everything at Celtic and at the moment the SPL certainly isn’t very strong and they should walk the league for a number of years to come. This could mean that he wants a new challenge and a good move for him could be Everton and I would like to see how well he would do in England. However, I do think he could be a risky choice because even with all his trophies, he is largely untested at a good level.

Others linked with the job are Phil Neville, Michael Laudrup and Martin O’Neill.

Steve Harper – A Newcastle Legend

Steve Harper has announced that he will be leaving Newcastle United this summer after spending 20 years at the club he supports.

Harper has played 198 games for Newcastle

Harper has played 198 games for Newcastle


It must not have been easy for him to decide to leave but he has fallen further down the pecking order this season, with both Tim Krul and Rob Elliott starting more matches. But he will always be remembered by the Newcastle fans as one of their own because he was always ready to play whenever he was needed and never let the club down. Also off the pitch he was someone that the rest of the players could look up to as he never moaned that he wasn’t playing and was the perfect professional under a lot of different managers.

Some will say that he lacked ambition, not leaving Newcastle earlier even though he was always considered second choice, particularly when Shay Given was around but to me personally he made Given a better goalkeeper simply because Harper was too good to be a number two and no manager would have been afraid to drop the Irishman as they had a fantastic replacement. When Newcastle were regularly finishing in the top five of the Premier League, Harper was arguably better than most other first choice keepers in the league and could easily have left and played first choice. But, Newcastle are his club and he will now, if he wasn’t already, be considered a cult hero, everything he did benefitted the club in some way and when a lot of other players did not want to stay around and fight and get the club back to where it belongs, he showed everyone his loyalty and commitment not to the board or to the manager but to the shirt that he was wearing and to the fans that had continually supported him.

His greatest moments would have been in the Championship winning season where he was first choice and helped them secure promotion straight back to the Premier League. In doing this he also set a new club record in keeping the most clean sheets in a season, he kept 21 in total and in some games was phenomenal, especially in a game against Sheffield United where he pulled off a number of fantastic saves. He kept his place for a while when they got promoted back to the Premier League but suffered an injury and has never been able to regain his first team spot afterwards.

He has had a good career, and some highlights along the way, a lot of people forget he actually did start the 1999 FA Cup final, so he came very close to winning a trophy at the club. But other great memories fans may have of him are not even to do with his goalkeeping and they include his famous elbow drop celebration after Cheick Tiote scored the equaliser in the 4-4 draw against Arsenal and having a spell upfront in a friendly game against Celtic.

Steve Harper will always be a legend to Newcastle fans and in my opinion was good enough to be in some England squads but it will be interesting to see what he does in the summer as he does also have his refereeing badges.

Who will win the Champions League?

The Champions League has reached the quarter final stage and it is quite wide open at the minute and it is difficult to pick a winner.

Looking at the teams, the favourites are still Barcelona even though they may not have been as dominant as usual in recent weeks. However, they proved to the rest of Europe that they are not going to be easy to knock out. 2-0 down after the first leg, they managed to win the second leg 4-0 and put on a fantastic performance. I do think they can win it but must perform better away from home.

Spanish rivals Real Madrid are second favourite, and you can understand why. They may even be a little annoyed that they aren’t considered the favourites by the bookies but with Jose Mourinho in charge and Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch they look a force and will do everything they can to win the competition. For me I think they can win it because in Mourinho they have one of the best tacticians in world football and some may argue that this is his competition.

Third favourite are Bayern Munich and they probably would have been more fancied had they not limped over the line against Arsenal. After securing a 3-1 away win, it should have been comfortable, however they lost the second leg 2-0 and only went through on away goals. This has obviously caused some concern but it really shouldn’t because they have a fantastic team and they may have just been slightly too complacent. Plus there manager will want to leave the club on a high and win the big trophy.

Another team from Germany have also made it to the quarter finals and Dortmund could be the dark horses in this competition. In the last couple of years they have been a breath of fresh air and will certainly give anyone a game. Throughout the squad they have very good players that have been underrated and maybe don’t get the spotlight as much as they should. Players like Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze are just two that have finally caught the attention this season.

In the Champions League there are always fantastic teams and this year realistically anyone could win it. Italian giants Juventus will not want to be wrote out just yet and will feel that they will be picking up the trophy at the end of the season. Experience has been key and they have been very quiet for a number of years now and may have been fortunate with their last draw against Celtic but they still comfortably beat the determined Scottish side.

Even the sixth favourite team have a chance of winning the competition. PSG have the players, they have the manager and they have the experience to win games when they probably haven’t been at their best. Zlatan Ibrahimovic could have a big say in where the trophy goes, when he is on form he can be lethal but too often he isn’t quite at it. If he and the rest of their attacking talent like Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore backing him up they should score goals against anyone but can they keep it tight enough at the back?

Galatasaray were probably just happy to get to this stage but with recent signings of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder they may have just set their sights a little higher and they could win the tournament. A lot of people will write them off but it isn’t always the most glamorous club that wins the trophy, just look at Porto when they won it. Also, going to Turkey is never easy and they may get a lot of joy at home in an intimidating atmosphere.

Finally, Malaga are also still in the tournament and for me they are the only team that I don’t believe could win it and that is unfortunate because they did very well getting through the group stages and then knocking out Porto. All the other teams will be hoping to draw Malaga but that could work in their advantage, being the underdog.

It is difficult to bet against Barcelona and they are the team I think will win it but it all depends on the draw, so if they don’t my second pick would be Bayern Munich.

Who do you think will win the Champions League?

Who will be Scotland’s next manager?

Scotland are looking for a new manager after Craig Levein was sacked after just 24 games in charge.

To some fans though 24 was too many and I am sure a lot would have been happier if he had been replaced sooner. He actually won 10 of his games in charge so he doesn’t actually have such a bad record, however, everyone knows that winning percentages in international football don’t really matter because there are a lot of teams around the world that simply are just not good enough and teams like Scotland, who have a full team of professionals, should be able to brush them aside. It is very unlikely they will qualify from their group now, with only two points from their four games so the SFA have obviously acted now so the new man has time to build a squad ready for the next qualifying campaign. They were beaten by both Belgium and Wales in the last two games and even though these results won’t have helped, personally I believe it was the 1-1 draw against Macedonia that really signalled the end for Levein. I don’t know why he was given the extra two games but he was and now their campaign is over, so who should take charge.

The favourite for the job is currently Gordon Strachan, and this would be an interesting choice as he has not had a job since leaving Middlesbrough in 2010. He was very hit and miss at the North East club and a lot of their fans weren’t happy with the type of football he wanted the team to play. But, throughout the rest of his career, he has been largely successful, especially at Celtic, where he won 122 of his 182 games. As a player he won a lot of trophies and played 50 times for Scotland so he would hopefully bring a winning mentality back to the squad.

Alex McLeish may be tempted to come back and finish off a job that he did superbly in the first time round? If they could get him back then I certainly think they should give him the job because he has a fantastic record internationally, winning seven of his 10 games in charge. It may not have gone too well for him at Aston Villa but maybe he wasn’t given a fair chance by the fans and at least with Scotland he will get the backing from the crowd.

Finally, recently sacked Owen Coyle is a name that has been mentioned and this would be remarkable. Coyle, spent most of his playing career in Scotland and managed Falkirk and St Johnstone, however, he decided to play internationally for Republic of Ireland, so would this go down well with the Scotland fans? But, he does have a good record for the most part and although his time at Bolton Wanderers ended miserably he did still take them to an FA Cup semi final. In all honesty I can’t see Coyle getting the job but if given the chance he could do a good job.

Other names linked with the job are Joe Jordan, Walter Smith, Ally McCoist and Billy Davies. So who would you like to see in charge?

Is Aiden McGeady’s future in the Premier League and who would he help improve?

Spartak Moscow winger Aiden McGeady has been linked with a move to the Premier League in the last couple of days because his agent has said that he would consider a move if an offer came in for him.

The former Celtic man has been in Russia since 2010 and has been in good form in recent weeks which has made a lot of clubs notice him once again. When he left Celtic he went off the radar slightly as in the past he has been in a very similar position with many teams wanting his services. He won the Player of the Month award three times whilst at Celtic as well as four Young Player of the Month awards so there is no doubting his qualities.

So would any Premier League teams want him and will they be willing to pay quite a high transfer fee for him? Spartak paid around £9.5 million for the winger so they will want at least that if not more but if the player claims he is not happy in Russia and wants to move back to the UK then their hands may be tied and will have to sell him. But, let’s look at who would be interested in him. First team that comes to mind is Sunderland because Martin O’Neill gave him his chance at Celtic and obviously knows what he can bring to the side. His trickery on the wing would be a very useful asset to most teams and a team like Sunderland who are quick on the counter attack could certainly use him. However, Sunderland do have a lot of wingers currently with James McClean, Seb Larsson and new signing Adam Johnson on the books but Larsson could play inside as a central midfielder and even McGeady could play inside just behind the striker. Yet again though, that would cause problems with Stephane Sessegnon usually playing in that role. If Sunderland want to be genuine contenders for a European place or trophies then I think they need some better players and McGeady would give them a lot of strength in depth.

Next, I think that Aston Villa, if they could afford him should be looking to sign him in January as they do have quite a young side and some of their wingers just haven’t lived up to their potential, in particular, Charles N’Zogbia. With Marc Albrighton and Gabriel Agbonlahor (who I think will definitely be a winger under Paul Lambert) struggling with a few injuries at the moment they do seem a little weak out wide. Barry Bannan is inexperienced so he will not be able to produce his best every week and Brett Holman is new to the league so he may also be inconsistent for the first few weeks. If they brought in McGeady they would have a little extra cutting edge and someone that can do something a little special when the game isn’t going quite right for them which is something I think they lack at the moment.

Finally, a team that may be looking to sign him is Newcastle United because they, like Villa, also lacking that little bit of spark, especially if Hatem Ben Arfa is having an off day. They are another team that doesn’t have many wingers that are going to be able to produce consistently. Jonas Gutierrez always does a solid job but in the attacking third his final ball isn’t the best. Sylvain Marveux has had injury problems and has only started two games in the Premier League so he is a difficult one to judge but then the next option is Gabriel Obertan who has not lived up to his potential at either Manchester United or Newcastle so they should maybe look to get rid of him in January anyway and a perfect replacement would be Aiden McGeady.

Who will Craig Gordon sign for?

Goalkeeper Craig Gordon has been released by Sunderland after losing his place as their number one this season.

Craig Gordon has played 40 times for Scotland

The Scotland international was signed for £9 million in 2007 which at the time was the highest fee a British club had paid for a goalkeeper and to begin with it looked as though he was worth every penny. But soon things started going wrong as he was dropped to the bench after conceding seven goals against Everton. His first season at the club he played the most games in his Sunderland career and eventually Simon Mignolet took his place permanently and towards the end of last season it was obvious that he wasn’t going to get a new contract. However, one of the finest moments of his career must have been his save against Bolton Wanderers in 2010 which was voted the best save at the Premier League 20 seasons awards.

He does still have his admirers and I’m sure a lot of clubs will be hoping to convince him to sign for them. Surprisingly though, Tottenham Hotspur are linked with him and I was really shocked by this as they have a very good number one in Brad Friedel who is very consistent and plays in every league game, even though he is getting towards the end of his career, it doesn’t look like he is planning to retire anytime soon with some very impressive saves last season. However, if Gordon is willing to wait for at least a season he could become Spurs’ number one in a few years time and in the meantime he will still be playing Europa League and cup football which is something that he didn’t even get at Sunderland. So if the interest is genuine then I could see this transfer happening.

A more realistic transfer could be to Celtic as he has already proven that he is one of the best ever in the Scottish Premier League when he played for Hearts as he was inducted into their hall of fame at the age of only 24, which makes him the youngest player to receive this honour. Celtic may need a goalkeeper too as Fraser Forster was only on loan from Newcastle United last season and even though his contract has expired there, compensation will still need to paid which could be up to £2 million. With Gordon being a free, I think he would be a much better option anyway as I have never been convinced by Forster.

Finally, another team I have seen linked with goalkeeper is Wigan Athletic and this does not seem likely to me either unless they are losing Ali Al Habsi in the summer because Al-Habsi proved time and time again last season that he is too good for Wigan and should be playing for a team that is challenging for Europe. So if Al Habsi leaves then yes I think Gordon would be an adequate replacement but I cannot see him becoming their number one if the Oman international stays at the DW.

Who will be the next Norwich City manager?

It looks as though Norwich City will be looking for a new manager with Paul Lambert wanting to leave the club.

Norwich City finished 12th with 47 points

The expected departure of Lambert means that not one of the three managers that had gained promotion to the Premier League will be in charge of their teams even though they all stayed up. Neil Warnock was sacked by QPR earlier in the season, Brendan Rodgers left Swansea City for Liverpool and now it looks as though Lambert will join Aston Villa. It has been one of the worst summers for the Norwich fans as they also have to deal with their main goal threat Grant Holt wanting to leave the club so it seems that something may be going on behind the scenes that not many people know about. The chairman needs to make sure that he appoints the right man next as they will need to continue their development and stay in the Premier League next year or they may find themselves struggling back in League 1 in a few years. I personally hope this doesn’t happen as the Canaries are very well supported and their fans are some of the most passionate fans in the Premier League and have stuck with them through thick and thin.

But now onto who could take charge. It seems current Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay is in pole position and it is not difficult to see why. He had a fantastic first season at Cardiff, guiding them to the playoffs where they were beaten by West Ham United and also the final of the League Cup. This was a very good achievement as he had to deal with a lot of departures and basically make a whole new team with very little money. He is a manager that works well with what he has got and does very well signing players on a free or for small transfer fees which would obviously be a good thing for Norwich as they aren’t the richest and want to develop in young British talent as much as possible.

Unsurprisingly, Chris Hughton is also linked with the job and I think he would be perfect for most sides in the Premier League so if Norwich could get him then I believe they would stay up comfortably next season. Hughton was harshly sacked by Newcastle United and has also done a brilliant job at Birmingham City where he almost got them promoted even though he had to deal with a small squad and a lot of games, including the Europa League. He is a manager that gets players playing with a smile on their faces and is a very open and honest manager so the fans would take to him.

Neil Lennon is also linked with the job and I think they could tempt him to join the club as in all honesty the Scottish Premier League will be even more boring for the next couple of years because of Rangers’ financial problems. So he may want to move so he can actually get challenged. He has a 75.22% win record and has only lost 16 of his 113 games but then again he has only managed Celtic, however in his defence you can only beat what is put up against you. I don’t know how good of a manager Lennon is but winning trophies gives you confidence and he could be a success at Norwich.

I would love to see Chris Hughton get the job as he always seems to deliver at whatever club he is at and I just think he deserves another chance in the Premier League.

Are Wigan good enough for the Premier League?

After beating Manchester United 1-0, Wigan have given themselves a great chance to stay up this season but are they really good enough to stay up again this year?

Roberto Martinez has a 24.59% win record at Wigan

I am one of the few people that actually had faith that the club would stay up basically because they have been there and done it for a number of years now and they understand the pressure that they are under. It is the same reason why a lot of people believe that Manchester United have already won the title and that is because of their experience in their current situation. But even Alex Ferguson said Wigan are in a false position and are playing some of the best football in the league and yes some decisions went there way in this game but in recent weeks they have had some horrific decisions against them, in particular the Chelsea game where both goals could have been given as offside.

But anyway, Wigan have a lot of quality that may have been missed by a lot of fans and pundits because of the position they are in now. Starting with the manager, Roberto Martinez, he likes to play football in one way and sometimes it works against his team but on the whole they play some good football and are one of the best and most fluent attacking teams in the league when they are on form. If he could sort out the defence then I believe they would be a solid mid table side and wouldn’t have to worry about relegation.

However, saying that Wigan have one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the league in Ali Al-Habsi who has saved his team on many occasions and produced some stunning saves, surprisingly against United he was rarely stretched and you have to give credit to the whole team for that not just the defence. I think when Brad Friedel retires, Tottenham may look to sign Al-Habsi because he wouldn’t look out of place in a top four side.

In defence, they have a bit of experience but maybe not a lot of quality, Gary Caldwell has been there and done it, he has played for Celtic so he knows what it’s like to be under pressure to win games and in the last few weeks he has been in really good form. Scoring the winning goal against Liverpool must have given him and the whole club a boost and they have gone from strength to strength since then.

The midfield is full of quality with James McArthur, James McCarthy and Shaun Maloney who have all looked good in Scotland but now this season are proving they have enough talent to succeed in the Premier League but the stand out player is winger Victor Moses. He may not get as many goals as he should because his shooting and decision making can be a bit poor but his skills and his ability to create a chance out of nothing have been crucial in the last few weeks, even if they do stay up it might be difficult to keep hold of him this summer.

They do not have a lot of firepower up top but they do have a bit of talent in Franco Di Santo and Hugo Rodallega who maybe should get more goals than they do because they do have a goal in them and if they could have produced more consistently then they wouldn’t be in the position they are in now.

Like I said earlier, I always thought Wigan would stay up this year and it will still be difficult but they have given themselves a great chance of being a Premier League club next year and with a few more additions they may not be in this position again next year, although that is probably what the fans thought last summer.

Did Celtic deserve to win the league?

Celtic have been crowned SPL champions again after a four year wait and they did it in spectacular fashion beating Kilmarnock 6-0.

Goals from Charlie Mulgrew, Glenn Loovens, Gary Hooper and Joe Ledley meant the title was coming back to Celtic. The result will also be sweet for the fans and players because they got beaten in the Scottish League Cup final by Kilmarnock when they were hoping to add more silverware to their fantastic season. Some people may argue that this league title should mean less to Celtic and because of Rangers’ current financial problems they shouldn’t celebrate it as much but I don’t agree with this and I believe that Celtic would have went on to win the league anyway. After being 15 points behind their rivals at one stage they pulled it back and to make it even better they actually beat Rangers to completely overturn the points deficit with a goal from Joe Ledley.

Looking at the team, they had the best in Scotland anyway and deserve the title, the only player that was possibly going to stop them would have been Nikica Jelavic who is proving in the English Premier League that he is a good goal scorer and may have made more of a difference. But we will never know because they were forced to sell him and they only have themselves to blame for that so why should Celtic be bothered. In goal Celtic have Fraser Forster who has a lot of potential and could one day be one of the best in Europe if he learns to keep his concentration up fully especially when defending set pieces but he is certainly a very good shot stopper and with more experience will get even better.

The defence is possibly the weakest part of the team but they do have a lot of potential in there with Adam Matthews at right back who is very solid defensively and adds a lot going forward with his pace. Two defenders actually scored three of the goals that secured the title and in Charlie Mulgrew they have a player that can play in a few positions and his versatility can be vital at times. He does also get a few goals and assists as well. Unfortunately one of the best players in the league couldn’t take as much part as he would have liked in the title win and that is Emilio Izaguirre who is a fantastic player and one that I want to see a lot more of.

The midfield is very hard working and committed and in Scott Brown they have a player who will do anything to win a game of football and will do anything for the cause therefore it is easy to see why the Celtic fans love him. Joe Ledley is very similar in that respect and he can at times just add a little extra quality too.

They also have some good attacking options and some very good finishers at the club in Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes. They may miss a few chances but the bonus of being at a massive club like Celtic is that they will get the opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net. Georgios Samaras also chips in with goals and his six this season have been vital and he may infuriate some fans but he is always a danger and can always score an important goal for the team.

Lennon will be hoping for even more success in charge of Celtic

So well done to Celtic and I hope Neil Lennon enjoys this moment as much as he should because this could be the first of many and Celtic will probably go and dominate Scotland for a long time to come. They were the best team for most of the season and for that reason I believe that they did deserve to be SPL champions of 2012.