Should Steven Taylor have been called up to the England squad?

Steven Taylor has been in very good form in the last couple of weeks and possibly deserved a call up to the England squad this month.

Against Anzhi, he was yet again sublime particularly when Lassana Diarra looked certain to score not once but twice. The 27 year old put in two blocks and his contribution was arguably as important as Papiss Cisse’s last minute winner. This season it has been no surprise that when Taylor has been in Newcastle’s starting 11 they have performed better and looked a lot more solid with him at the back. One thing that does go unnoticed though a lot of the time is his passing accuracy, in recent games he has been close to 100% and he clearly has learnt a lot from his regular centre back partner Fabricio Coloccini in being composed at the back and building attacks from there rather than just sending it long and pointless as others do so often.

Taylor has been around the squad for a long time now since making his debut in the 2003-04 season and may feel that in that time he has deserved a call up to the full England squad. His record at youth level has been good for England and he even has a cap at B level but that full England cap still seems to allude him. He is everything you want in a centre back, he is brave and rarely loses the ball when it is in the air and has improved immensely when strikers or quick wingers are running at him.

With England struggling for options at the back these days it is a surprise to me that he didn’t get called up this time but if he keeps his current form for the rest of the season there is no doubt in my mind that the calls for him to be included in a squad will get louder and louder. There are only a few reasons why I think he won’t get called up and they are simply because England managers, including Roy Hodgson seem reluctant to come to the North East to watch Newcastle and Sunderland games so there is very little chance of a call up from either squad. But, possibly another reason is because he sometimes does things that are very strange and his antics could be costing him. He seems to do some things to get the crowd going and to get a cheer rather than just being more professional, an example of this is when he has laid on the ground to header the ball instead of just clearing it with his foot. Also, his actions towards Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic in the recent win showed a different side to him and if he did that on a national level it would be much bigger news and he would be criticised for it.

For me though, Steven Taylor should be in this England squad and could have even started because he is in better form than Chris Smalling. With Michael Dawson and Gary Cahill given opportunities already and not really making the position there own it may have been better to try someone like Taylor. Then there is Rio Ferdinand, is he still good enough? He probably is and I think Taylor and Ferdinand would have formed a great partnership.

Who will be AFC Wimbledon’s next manager?

AFC Wimbledon are looking for a new manager after sacking Terry Brown seven league games into the new season.

The club has failed to win since the opening game of the season and the board believe that if they want to avoid a relegation battle this year and push up the table a new man is needed in charge. Brown, was always liked by the fans as he has achieved so much in his five years as manager, including getting them into the Football League. He was manager for 266 games and won 126 of them so he had a very good record and under him they always achieved their goals so there is no doubt in my mind that he would have kept them up but I am not sure if he could have took them to the next level so maybe the board were just waiting for a bad run like this to get rid of him.

There will be plenty of contenders for the job, but the favourite at the moment is recently sacked Coventry City manager Andy Thorn. Thorn, began his playing career at Wimbledon and was part of their team when they won the FA Cup in 1988 so he obviously has a lot of good memories of the club and would love to bring the good times back. He left the club shortly afterwards but returned a few seasons later, so if he does become the manager it will be his third spell there. Looking at his time as a manager though he hasn’t had much success and only has a win percentage of  21.67% but this was at Coventry and there was very little chance of success there and even a more experienced manager couldn’t have done much better in my opinion.

Next up for contention is Andy Scott who has had mixed fortunes as a manager so far, winning the League 2 title with Brentford in the 2008-09 season but being sacked as manager of Rotherham United after less than a year in charge in 2012. He started off well at the club though and actually won the manager of the month award in August but they couldn’t continue their form for the remainder of the campaign and Scott took the blame for it. He would be an interesting choice because he does have a bit of experience of success and could take the club onto the next level or it could backfire horribly.

Finally, another name linked with the job is also a former player that won the FA Cup with the club and that is Dennis Wise. I don’t know if the fans would be in favour of him getting the job because he hasn’t been involved in football since leaving Newcastle United and his time there was, to put it simply, a disaster. He has claimed that it has ruined his image and had damaged his chances for further work and rightfully so in my opinion. But, if there was a club that he could start again at, surely it would be a team that gave him his first chance in football. He hasn’t done badly as a manager so it may be a good move for all the parties concerned.

Chelsea will face Benfica in the quarter final of the Champions League

After overcoming Napoli, Chelsea will face Benfica in the next round of the Champions League as they look to progress to the semi final.

Roberto Di Matteo will not be too disappointed with this draw as they know Benfica are a good side therefore they will not underestimate them and make sure his team prepare for the game properly but on the other hand he will also know that it could have been worse for his side. They came back fantastically against Napoli after a 3-1 defeat in the first leg but they managed to win 4-1 in extra time at Stamford Bridge and by doing this they have let everyone in Europe know that they are not finished yet and they still have enough quality left to win the whole competition.

Would they have progressed if Andre Villas Boas was still in charge? In my opinion no because the players looked happier and looked like they wanted to play for the man in charge. John Terry scored and had an all round fantastic game before going off injured, he wanted to get his head on every ball possible which he may not have done a few weeks ago. Frank Lampard scored a crucial penalty and he was also more influential in this game than I have seen him for quite a while and when he is on form you know he can get a goal or provide an assist. Didier Drogba opened the scoring and looked like a man possessed and someone that wanted to get Chelsea through all by himself and his performance reminded me of when Jose Mourinho was in charge and he destroyed opposition defences.

Lampard, Terry and Drogba celebrate a goal

These players may be a few years older now but they have proven when they want to, they can still put in match winning performances and on the night they all had to. The players showed a lot of togetherness and as soon as the first goal went in there was no doubt in my mind who would go through.

If Chelsea do progress, and they will be favourites to do so, they will face either Milan or Barcelona. Which will not be easy as Barcelona are clearly the best team in Europe right now and Milan showed everyone against Arsenal that if they are on form they can give a team a good beating, so it will not be easy for Chelsea but if they can get through the Benfica tie, they will grow more in confidence and they could spring a shock in the semi final.

The other quarter finals drew together APOEL from Cyprus and the European giants Real Madrid and in the other semi final they will face either Marseille or Bayern Munich. In my opinion even though APOEL  have done amazingly well Real Madrid will be the happiest of all the teams in the draw while Marseille and Bayern could be really close as they both possess real quality in their side.

It could be a fantastic quarter final this year with a lot of goals rather than the usual tactical battle so I for one cannot wait for the games to get underway.