Who will be the next Nottingham Forest manager?

Nottingham Forest are searching for a new manager after sacking Sean O’Driscoll who had just led his team to a 4-2 victory over Leeds UnitedForest

O’Driscoll, joined the club in strange circumstances after earlier in the summer being appointed Crawley Town manager, however he never managed the team in a competitive fixture and left for Forest. He was given just 26 games in charge and only lost seven of those games, so his record was not that bad and there was a very realistic chance of the club getting promoted this season with the former Doncaster Rovers manager in charge. The team are currently 8th in the table and only one point outside the playoffs and with a crucial game against promotion rivals Crystal Palace next it is a very strange time to sack their manager. If they win the game then they will only be four points behind their opponents so it is actually unbelievable that the manager has gone, but the players need to move on and try and get promotion under the new manager, and there certainly will be some high profile names linked with the job and the former champions of Europe will be looking to appoint a well known name.

The clear favourite for the job is Alex McLeish and it will be interesting to see what the fans think of this decision because he has had an indifferent time as a manager in England. Under his guidance, Birmingham City were relegated twice but he also led them to a ninth place finish in the Premier League and a Carling Cup, as well as a promotion from the Championship. But, his time at Aston Villa was a disaster and he was hated by most of their fans for his negative style of football. However, I do not think he was ever given the chance to succeed at Villa Park.

Al McLeish

The next manager linked with the job is the recently sacked Chelsea manager Robert Di Matteo. If they could convince him to join the club then it would be fantastic for them as he lifted the Champions League trophy last season. For him, personally it may not be exactly what he is looking for, but he will surely be given money to do what he wants, rather than getting players bought for him which seemed to happen at his former club. I honestly can’t see this happening but there have been stranger things happen in football.

Roberto di Matteo

Finally, Roy Keane has been linked with the job and he also has experience of winning promotion from the Championship with Sunderland, so he knows the league and what is needed to succeed. However, his time at Ipswich Town was not so successful and he did not achieve his own expectations and they struggled for long periods under his management. He played 123 times for Forest and scored 22 goals so he knows exactly what the fans expect and will want to be the one that gets them back into the Premier League.

PKT5111-369467FOOTBALLER - ROY KEANE1992Roy Keane - Nottingham Forest FC.

 

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Which Carling Cup Quarter Final game looks the most exciting?

The fourth round of the Carling Cup produced some of the most exciting games in the whole season so far.

With Arsenal coming from 4-0 down to eventually beat Reading 7-5 in extra time and Chelsea scoring five goals against Manchester United to defeat them 5-4, it will certainly tough to find more exciting games this season and I doubt all of their defences will be as bad as this again. The team I feel most sorry for though are Bradford City because they knocked out a Premier League side in Wigan Athletic on penalties and on a normal week, this would have been the main headline surely. Also, a special mention to both Leeds United and Middlesbrough for knocking out Premier League opposition too. Swansea City and Norwich City also won games which many people didn’t expect and I am sure the fans of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool would have expected to be in the draw for the next round.

So, onto the next round and I think it is difficult to choose which games will be the most exciting, but I am going to look at them all and see what I think. Leeds United against Chelsea will be very interesting as this could be the shock of the round in my opinion, because Chelsea may be more focused on their World Club Championship participation and may not take this game as seriously as they should. Leeds are a good side and under Neil Warnock they will give anyone a game, just ask Everton and Southampton.

Swansea against Middlesbrough is yet another tough one to call. The North East team have a lot of momentum at the moment and if they can keep that going, I believe they have enough quality to beat the Welsh side. But, Swansea could be the dark horses for the competition in my opinion, they have a decent record at home and if they play to their potential, then Boro may not get a kick all game.

Paul Lambert will be up against his former club Norwich City yet again and he will be hoping that his Aston Villa side can produce the goods on the night and qualify for the semi finals. But, Norwich are just starting to pick up under Chris Hughton and some very good wins at home in recent weeks have been much needed and also very impressive.

Finally, League 2 Bradford have been drawn against Arsenal at home and I don’t think they could have got a better draw as being at home gives them a little more of a chance of sneaking a result. Although this is very unlikely, they will surely get a big crowd it will just remind the football world once more that Bradford are quite a big club and it wasn’t that long ago they were playing in the Premier League. It is a lose-lose situation for Arsene Wenger’s side because they are expected to win but if they don’t put four or five past them then they may get slated.

Which game are you most looking forward to? Who will provide the biggest shock? At this stage who do you see winning the trophy?

Who will be Crystal Palace’s next manager?

Crystal Palace are looking for a new manager after Dougie Freedman decided his future is away from the club and at Bolton Wanderers.

Freedman, has left the club in a lot better position than the one he took charge of and along with his playing career, he will always be seen as a legend by the fans and I’m sure a lot will want to wish him the best of luck at his new club. They, along with Freedman will have good memories over the last couple of years, including beating Manchester United in the quarter final of the Carling Cup and escaping relegation quite comfortably in the end. So, who will they get to replace him? Should they be looking for more experience this time to continue the good job the Scotsman had done or bring in someone that is young and exciting? However, one thing to take into consideration is still the financial side of the game, will they have to look at the unemployed list or can they tempt someone to leave their club? Obviously, they should get a compensation package from Bolton so they may just use this to get a new manager.

The favourite for the job currently is Steve Coppell. This is a very interesting one in my opinion because he left Bristol City after just two games and actually announced his retirement. However, a lot of fans will be in favour of this because he obviously has a lot of affection for the club and including caretaker spells has been in charge four times. His experience is not in question but he has been out of the managerial game for a number of years now so maybe he wouldn’t be the best choice right now. Also, he is currently the Director of Football at Crawley Town so they may have to pay compensation for him.

The next name is actually one that if they could get, would be a fantastic coup for the club as he will be linked with every job in the Championship until he decides to take a job. This man is Mick McCarthy and he would bring a lot to the club and could actually push them onto the next level and get Premier League football back to Selhurst Park. Gaining promotion with Wolves and Sunderland has made his CV even more impressive. Could Crystal Palace realistically get him though?

The final name that caught my attention is a former player, that actually has managerial experience, not only in the Championship but the Premier League and that is Gareth Southgate. Obviously, he started his career at the club and played over 150 league games so he knows exactly what the fans are about and even though things will have changed since he left, there is still the same passion about the club that was there back then. The only worry is that, he has also been out of the managerial game for a while and it might take him some time to adapt to the role again.

Other names that have been linked with the job are Andy Thorn, Lennie Lawrence and Karl Robinson. Would the Palace fans prefer one of these to get the job?

Crystal Palace’s Dougie Freedman for manager of the year

Crystal Palace have been performing above expectations this season and a lot of the credit has to go to their young manager Dougie Freedman.

The former striker was given the job after George Burley was sacked initially as caretaker but then was given the job permanently in January and brought in his former teammate Tony Popovic and Lennie Lawrence to assist him. He had a pretty successful season last year keeping the team up with a game to spare which seemed unlikely at certain points in the season. Crystal Palace have been dogged with financial problems in the last few years and he has to deal with very little money and also being unable to offer players a good enough contract to keep them at the club.

This season, he has guided the club to a respectable position in the league and are an outside bet to finish in the playoff places and the manager is quietly confident they could just spring a surprise and finish above teams with larger wage bills. This is a remarkable achievement as they were one of the favourites to get relegated and in fairness to the bookies, looking at the squad, they probably should have been down the bottom of the league. One of his greatest qualities is that he gives his players confidence and trusts them to do their jobs and this is why some of the younger players in the squad have performed exceptionally well, Wilfred Zaha in particular. Zaha was linked with a move away from the club but I believe that Freedman convinced him to stay and convinced him that if he plays first team football instead of the odd game in the Premier League he will become a better player. A lot of players allow their heads to be turned but obviously the boss has kept him focused and he is looking better and better every game.

Some of the results this season have been impressive, beating Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup and drawing 0-0 with league leaders West Ham at Upton Park. These are big results for the team but more importantly for the fans as they can see that this team under Freedman are going places and if they keep the squad together they could be genuine promotion contenders in the next few years.

The board will also be happy with their choice and the run to the Carling Cup semi final, which they were unlucky to lose on penalties, will have helped the club financially and the extra income will have pleased the board as they would not have expected the team to get so far.

Freedman deserves a lot of recognition as he has arguably done more for the team than anyone else has for their club. Yes the teams at the top get all the praise but sometimes you have to look down the table and see that some managers are performing above expectations and these deserve more credit than they get from the media in particular. A 37% win record is good for a manger that is at a team that aren’t expected to perform well and has limited experience.

Big mistake from Mancini

Roberto Mancini has let Nedum Onuoha join QPR in this transfer window which could prove to be yet another terrible decision and could come back to haunt him as Craig Bellamy has done so recently.

It is unbelievable that Onuoha who is largely underrated by Mancini has not seen much first team action this season after impressing on loan at Sunderland last season it seemed that he at least deserved a chance, at least as backup. When Vincent Kompany was sent off against Manchester United he must have hoped that the Italian manager would have at least played him in one of the Carling Cup semi finals against Liverpool just to see if he was able to fit into his defence.

But remarkably, Mancini stuck with Stefan Savic who ultimately cost City a place in the final of the competition with two shambolic performances, firstly getting bullied by the out of sorts Andy Carroll. If Carroll was in any type of form he would have destroyed him even more, he won most things in the air and brushed him aside with ease. In the City manager’s defence everyone is allowed a bad game and he may have been nervous because of how big the game was. But then he followed up this performance with another shocker against Tottenham and when he misjudged a simple long ball it allowed Jermain Defoe to score and allowed Spurs back into the game. Fortunately, City won the game with a last minute penalty and he was let off the hook.

In the return leg against Liverpool, Onuoha was once again left out and QPR were in talks with the young defender and therefore this basically signalled the end of his career at the Etihad Stadium. But before the deal was completed Savic had another chance to prove he was good enough for the Premier League or at least a more competent defender than the QPR bound man. But he struggled against the pace of Bellamy and he can’t have been completely confident when his own manager didn’t trust him 100% and changed the formation to five at the back so he had extra cover when he inevitably made a mistake. He was still a liability and got hauled off at halftime which must make the supporters of the league leaders worried as they have spent a lot of money yet they have no decent cover in the heart of their defence which is one of the most important positions on the pitch.

Kolo Toure is passed his best, therefore, the club only have two players that have real quality in this position in Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott. Even this is quite surprising as last season there were a lot of question marks over Lescott as he had failed to live up to his price tag.

If Man City do not win the league, I will blame Mancini because everyone can see where they need to improve and it’s not as if they have little money to spend. He needs to buy a centre back sooner rather than later or it could cost him his job. I’m not saying Onuoha could have won them the league but surely he would have played a lot better than an out of depth Savic and an out of form Toure.

The most hated player in the league Craig Bellamy but I like him

Love him or hate him Craig Bellamy always turns it on in the big games and yet again in the Carling Cup semi final second leg against his former club Manchester City he made the difference.

He rarely plays two games in a week anymore due to injuries and fitness worries but every time he steps on the pitch you knwow exactly what you are going to get from him. He will keep moving, keep chasing and keep shouting and encouraging his teammates. He is everything you would want in your team because he will work right until the last minute and he thoroughly deserved his man of the match in the game as he made Stefan Savic look very poor, however in all honesty he is a very poor player and Mancini is making a huge mistake not buying another centre back as he is not capable of succeeding in this league.

Just watching Bellamy, you can see why fans of opposition teams hate him because he moans and shouts and gets your team’s players wound up which can lead them to retaliating and getting themselves in trouble with the referees. But we will not focus on the negative side of his game because he gives Liverpool so much, his pace is still frightening even though he is getting to the end of his career and his finishing is still up there with the best and he can score with both his left and right foot.

I am going to slate Mancini yet again because he let Bellamy go and why? Probably because yes he is a very big character and will probably be hard to manage but everyone has known this since the start of his career. Mancini let him go, he plays brilliantly for Liverpool and City at times look like they need something different in their squad which Bellamy would have given them. But, Mancini isn’t the only manager that the Welshman has clashed with as he had a very public fallout with Graeme Souness when he was at Newcastle which led to him getting sold by the club, where at the time he had formed a formidable partnership with club legend Alan Shearer.

Throughout his career he has scored memorable and important goals, none more so for Newcastle when in the Champions League the team needed to beat Feyernoord to qualify from their group. He opened the scoring after a flick on from Shearer and he expertly finished with his left foot, Hugo Viana then made it two and it seemed they were on their way through but the Dutch side scored twice and were back in the game and the Toon were heading out of the competition but Bellamy had other ideas when in the very last minute he scored from the tightest of angles to make it 3-2. It will live long in the memory of every Newcastle fans.

Even at City he scored goals that will be remembered with his double against Manchester United which should have at least got them a draw, however they did go onto lose the game.

I cannot think of a more hated player in the Premier League but it’s not only because he can be annoying and argumentative, it’s because he is one of the few players in the league that can change a moment in the blink of an eye.

The worst way to win… Penalties

Penalties is the most heartbreaking way to lose a game of football especially if you went down to ten men during the game like Crystal Palace did away to Cardiff. After Patrick McCarthy got sent off for two bookings, the Palace team defended brilliantly and did everything they could to keep Cardiff from scoring.

Cardiff missed opportunities and over the two legs they probably deserved to win the tie but Crystal Palace must feel hard done as they put in a very committed display and a draw would have been fair but the rules state that the tie had to be decided that night and when it came to it their players failed to keep their cool missing three of their penalties. With Jonathan Parr missing the target completely and both Jermaine Easter and Sean Scannell seeing their spot kicks saved by Tom Heaton they must be travelling back to London deflated and absolutely devastated to have missed their best opportunity of getting to a cup final in a long time.

Tom Heaton will be seen as the hero and will grab all the headlines in the morning papers whereas Kenny Miller who actually missed for Cardiff will hardly be mentioned unlike the Palace players that missed will be portrayed as villains.

Although this isn’t directly the same it is yet another time when England have failed to win a game because of penalties. England have been knocked out by Portugal and Germany which was heartbraking both in 1990 and 1996.

So what goes into taking a penalty? The most important thing a player needs is confidence and players that put their names forward deserve great credit as they are basically putting themselves forward to be shot down as they have put all the pressure on themselves to succeed as their opposite number, the goalkeeper, can only be a hero because nobody expects him to save the penalty.

The longest walk a player must take in his career is when he knows it is his turn next and has to walk from the centre circle to the penalty spot and look at the fans behind the girl which will either be his own who will be trying to encourage him or towards the opposition fans who will be doing all they can to put off the player. That walk must be so nervous and basically takes away the majority of a players footballing ability because it is one kick and one opportunity and although people say practice makes perfect, it doesn’t matter how often you practice taking penalties, you may choke on the big stage or the keeper could pull off a great save.

Another thing that would make anyone feel nervous is when a player places the ball and is all set to take it and then the referee tells them to replace the ball, it must ruin all momentum and cause panic as the player will be focused then all of a sudden they are taken out of the zone because the referee has spoke to them as the best penalty takers block out all the noise around them and just hit the ball.

Another thing that is important to remember though and the best advice to give to someone taking a penalty is that the goalposts do not move, they are in the same place every time and you are only 12 yards away. If you are a striker and you have a chance from 12 yards unmarked you are expected to score and most good strikers do put them away and therefore every penalty should go in.

However as I have said pressure can get to everyone and if a chance falls to you in a game it is a split second moment whereas you have so much time to think about it when taking a penalty especially in a shootout.

So is a penalty shootout the best way to end a game? In my opinion, yes because games have to come to a conclusion in some way and even though it is slightly unfair, every single player is under the same pressure and therefore it just comes down to whoever can hold their nerve the most.

Thierry Henry- The return of the Gunners legend

With a weekend of retuning legends, Thierry Henry has overshadowed Paul Scholes and looks every bit as good as when he left all those years ago for Barcelona. He may not have the pace anymore but he knows where the space is and he exploited it magnificently in his second debut against Leeds in the FA cup.

Yes it is against lower opposition but Henry did what Chamakh couldn’t in 68 minutes and that was score against a resolute Leeds defence. The way he moved inside the full back was clever and then he showed the finesse to coolly slot the ball past the advancing keeper as he has done so many times for Arsenal.

He might just give Arsenal the spark they need to challenge for honours once again and Arsene Wenger may be glad he brought him back and even just on this one cameo performance may be regretting ever letting him go in the first place.

His celebration showed everyone he still has the passion and wears the Gunners shirt with pride and the way he hugged his gaffer shows the respect he has for the man that made him the player he is essentially. Henry signed for Arsenal after a poor spell in Italy and the fans were probably struggling to work out why Wenger was so desperate to get him and paid then what seemed to be a lot of money which now seems insignificant after all the goals he scored and there have been some special ones. The one that springs to mind the most is when he flicked the ball up for himself and volleyed it past fellow Frenchman Fabien Barthez in a massive game against title challengers Manchester United. Simply, the audacity to try that in such a big game shows that he doesn’t let pressure get to him and he can turn it on in the big games which many of Arsenal’s big stars have failed to do in recent seasons.

Arsenal fans will be wishing that the loan lasts only two months because he could prove the big difference between them winning trophies and flattering to deceive as they have done so many times. If he had been in the team against Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final would the result have been any different?

The frightening thing is if he can produce the goods and strike up a  good partnership with currently the most in form striker in the Premier League Robin Van Persie then Arsenal will once again be a team that everyone fears.

Looking at things that have changed at Arsenal, there is no Fabregas, Pires, Ljungberg, Vieira or Bergkamp so he will have to play alongside the inconsistent Walcott, the promising but young midfielder Aaron Ramsey and the sometimes lazy Andrei Arshavin but what Wenger is hoping for along with goals is that he can mentor these players and teach them things as he did against Leeds, whilst sitting on the bench, Arshavin put a shot over the bar and straightaway Henry leaned into Walcott and gave him some tips on what to do in that situation and the England international seemed to be hanging on his every word.

His teammates may not be as good as they once were but he could still light up the Premier League with a hatful of goals and majestic performances we all know he is capable of. He hasn’t lost his footballing ability. So can he bring the va va voom back to the Premier League