92 clubs favourite players – Fulham – Aaron Hughes

Fulham have not had the greatest start to the season but that does not mean they have a poor squad and I expect them to get better and Martin Jol to guide them to safety.

They have experienced players that have played at the highest level and a lot of talent in their squad including Dimitar Berbatov, Adel Taarabt, John Arne Riise and Scott Parker. But even though I do like these players and think they are brilliant footballers, the player I have decided to choose is central defender Aaron Hughes.
Aaron Hughes
This may seem like a strange choice at first but personally I do not think there has been a more consistent player in the Premier League. Over the years he has not grabbed any headlines but he has also not made many mistakes which a lot of the top defenders strive for. The 33 year old has had a good career and it has got even better since joining Fulham and having one of the most underrated central defender partnerships with Brede Hangeland. They are one of the main reasons why some believe they overachieved and under Roy Hodgson got to the final of the Europa League. Hughes helped the club have a great home record and even though in recent years it has not been the greatest they are usually very consistent at Craven Cottage and even the bigger teams struggled to get results there.

It is not surprising to me that when he is not in the starting 11 Fulham look shaky at the back and it was a similar story when he was younger at Newcastle United. While at Newcastle he played all across the back four and occasionally in midfield. He also played in a Uefa Cup semi final but unfortunately for him and the team they ran into Didier Drogba who was on top form and unstoppable. I was very surprised when they sold him because Newcastle are famous for having some pretty bad defenders that make a lot of mistakes and he was always the one that put in good performances. But for whatever reason he left the club and joined Aston Villa and it didn’t quite work out for him there but he was first choice in his first season at the club.

I do feel sorry for him on the international stage because Northern Ireland have never looked like qualifying for a tournament and even though he has over 50 caps he would have maybe hoped for more. However he has been involved in some historic wins for his country and will obviously be proud to have played so many times for his country.

In his career he has not scored many goals and only got seven club goals in his career and they include goals against Manchester United, Everton, West Ham United, Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday, Norwich City and Dnipro. Maybe for a centre half that went forward for a lot of corners he should have scored more however this is not what he will be remembered for and unfortunately for him he has never got the recognition his talents have deserved.

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Assesment of English teams in Europe this week

The English teams in Europe this week all had tough tests and it ended up being a difficult time for some.

Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United all had games this week. To start with Manchester United were at home to Real Madrid and after getting a 1-1 draw in the away leg, they may have been slight favourites to go through and when they went 1-0 up at Old Trafford they seemed to have one foot in the next round. However, Nani was sent off and the game was taken away from the quickly with goals from Luka Modric and the returning Cristiano Ronaldo ending their hopes this season. The turning point was the red card and it was dangerous play but in my opinion it should have only been a yellow card and Man United should have been in the next round.

Should Nani have been sent off?

Should Nani have been sent off?


Now, the Europa League first legs were taking place and Chelsea were playing Steaua Bucuresti and Rafa Benitez wasn’t given any help from his opponents. His time at Chelsea has been pretty close to a disaster with a lot of people unhappy with him in charge and the players not exactly playing to the best of their ability. They lost 1-0 but should go through by winning comfortably at Stamford Bridge but it is going to be more difficult than Benitez would have hoped.
Will it ever turn round for Benitez at Chelsea?

Will it ever turn round for Benitez at Chelsea?


Tottenham Hotspur had possibly the best looking tie on paper and one that could have went either way against Inter Milan. But they were too strong against the team from Italy and made them look very poor. 3-0 did not flatter them and they possibly should have had more. Gareth Bale added to his growing reputation by scoring the first and Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen were the other two scorers. Spurs do need to be careful and not concede early in the away leg but I feel they have done enough to get into the next round.
Will Bale become one of the best in the world?

Will Bale become one of the best in the world?


Finally, Newcastle United had the toughest tie in the Europa League but got through it and defensively performed brilliantly against Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala. They did not offer a lot going forward but could have nicked a result had Hatem Ben Arfa went for power instead of a chip. The two centre back James Perch and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa were fantastic and neither of them have been first choice in that position so far this year (with Yanga-Mbiwa only signing in January) and with Fabricio Coloccini injured at the moment they have both staked a claim for a starting place.
Newcastle's new Mr Consistent

Newcastle’s new Mr Consistent


So who had the best result in Europe this week? Who was the best player for an English team?

Intersting ties in the 3rd of the FA Cup

The draw for the 3rd round of the FA Cup is one of the most exciting days in the football calendar as it can throw up fixtures that nobody will have even imagined.

Clubs from the lower leagues want to draw a big Premier League side and this year hasn’t disappointed in that respect, with the winner of Lincoln City and Mansfield Town hosting Liverpool. This will add even more incentive to the replay and both teams will be hoping that the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez will be visiting their stadiums in the very near future. Personally, this is what makes the FA Cup special and in recent years the competition has lost a little of its spark but a tie like this will get a lot of attention and possibly even a giant killing.

Two other teams that have to play again are Harrogate Town and Hastings Town and these will be equally looking to win their game after seeing the draw as they will get to travel to former Premier League side Middlesbrough. The team from Teeside may not be in the top league anymore but under Tony Mowbray they are certainly challenging for a place in the playoffs at least.

Looking at potential upsets in this round, you certainly don’t have to look further than Brighton as they have been drawn against Newcastle United, who they also beat in the competition last year and with the Europa League participants not having the best of times at the moment, I expect this game to be on television so more viewers can see if Brighton can win. Other similar to this are high flying Crystal Palace against Stoke City. The Championship side will be looking to test themselves against an experienced and consistent Premier League side and if they can get through the tie then their fans will be optimistic for the rest of the season and their challenge in the Premier League if they do get promoted at the end of the season.

Two more potential shocks in my mind are Crawley Town vs Reading because Reading may be distracted by their own league form and may discount the cup this season. Also, Luton Town vs Wolves could be a potential shock as going away to a non-league side is always difficult, no matter what position you are in.

Finally, the FA Cup also throws up a few interesting all Premier League ties and this year the biggest one is probably West Ham United and Manchester United who will both be looking for good cup runs this year. West Ham may have hoped for an easier tie but you cannot count them out and will be doing all they can to qualify for the fourth round. Swansea have been given an equally difficult draw at home to Arsenal, but their last performance against the Gunners will give them a lot of confidence but Arsene Wenger really needs a trophy this year and the FA Cup may be the last one they can realistically go for.

Will Clint Dempsey leave Fulham this summer?

The Clint Dempsey transfer saga could run and run for the whole of the summer and come down to the last day.

Dempsey has scored 50 Premier League goals

Fulham will definitely not want to lose one of their main players and it seems like the player is very happy at the club but money talks in football and I am sure he is a very ambitious man and will want to have a better chance of challenging for trophies. Also, he seemed to thrive under the pressure of playing in Europe so he will want to have another go in the Europa League as well seen as though he got so close to winning it a few years ago. Dempsey scored 23 goals in 46 appearances last year and this has made him hot property with a number of clubs keeping tabs on the situation. With 17 goals in the Premier League he has just proved his quality finally as I believe he has been one of the most underrated players in the league for a number of years now. If he was slightly younger then he would go for a much bigger price but he is 29 and can be a star for a while to come.

Liverpool have been the team chasing his signature all summer so far with manager Brendan Rodgers confirming the club have had contact with Fulham over the player and they have been reported several times to be close to signing him. However, not everything you read in the papers is true and they may not have bid for him as they may not want to pay the price Fulham want for him. He is a very good player and can fit into many different systems which is obviously very beneficial to any side and he will provide a goal scoring threat from either one of the front three or even one of the three midfielders.

The American international would be a very good fit in my opinion at Arsenal as they seem to lack a goal scoring midfielder these days and with the expected departure of Robin Van Persie they need to try and replace his goals with someone experienced in the Premier League. For too long Arsene Wenger has tried to bring players through or sign younger players but now they could be dropping out of the top four and something needs to change if they want to keep up with the top teams. If they could get him for £10 million then it would be an absolute steal.

Finally and a little surprisingly Newcastle United are linked with him and as much as this would be a good move for all parties, I just cannot see it happening with Newcastle seemingly focused on other players and them targeting younger players so they have a better resale value in years to come. It is a possibility as he would add a lot of quality to the squad and take a bit of the goal scoring pressure off Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, plus they are playing in Europe this year so he probably would be willing to join. But I really just don’t see it happening at all.

Who will be Tottenham Hotspur’s next manager?

Harry Redknapp and Tottenham Hotspur have parted ways after the club failed to qualify for the Champions League.

Redknapp had been at Spurs since 2008

Tottenham finished fourth but because Chelsea won the Champions League they will be playing in the Europa League next season and even though this seems quite unfortunate should they have even been in that position? At the turn of the year they were genuine title contenders and many people believed that they were going to win the league. But they fell away and finished below Arsenal even though they were comfortably in front of them for most of the season. The distraction of the England managers job obviously didn’t help the situation and Spurs soon went on a slump after Fabio Capello left England and this was their downfall, their players seemed to not know what was going on and Redknapp didn’t help the situation at all. Overall Redknapp did a very good job winning 49.49% of his matches and will be very difficult to replace so the new man coming in may struggle under the pressure straightaway. Plus, key players may be more likely to leave no such as Luka Modric and Gareth Bale who will want to play in the main European competition next year.

So the board have a very big decision to make, they need a manager that is going to continue the work Redknapp started or they could end up a mid table club again. David Moyes is currently the favourite to take charge and I think this would be a fantastic appointment, he has worked miracles at Everton, getting them into the top half year after year spending very little money. He deserves to be at a club that can spend more money and I believe he has the ability to take them to the very top, as he always makes astute signings and improves the players he has in his squad. I only see two problems in them getting him and that is, will he be a big enough name to convince their star players to stay and is Moyes holding out for the big job at Manchester United?

Roberto Martinez is linked with every job going at the minute and it isn’t surprising however he could have the same problems as Moyes and not be able to convince their stars to stay. His Wigan team have defied the odds and kept them up year after year playing some very entertaining football and he has shown his tactics can beat the big teams in the league. One result the Spurs fans will remember about Martinez is when he took his Wigan team to White Hart Lane and they got destroyed 9-1 surely the board will remember this and see that he may not quite be good enough yet for a really big job.

Finally, another name I have seen linked with the job is Fabio Capello and a lot of Spurs fans are actually blaming him for ruining their season, if he just stayed as England manager then there wouldn’t have been so much speculation about Redknapp’s future. But looking at Capello’s career would he be able to do a good job? Yes in my opinion because he has shown he can win titles and trophies at club level, he will be judged mostly though by his time as England manager however I think this is harsh as international and club management is very different.

I hope Capello doesn’t get the job but he does offer something different to the other two and that is real pedigree in Europe and will be attract a lot of big names to the club. I really want Moyes to get the job but only if he is given the opportunity to build something at the club and is given money to replace the players that leave.

Moyes has won the LMA manager of the year three times

 

Who will be the next Birmingham City manager?

Birmingham City are looking for a new manager after Chris Hughton decided to leave for Norwich City and will be hoping the new man can guide them back to the Premier League.

Birmingham City finished fourth under Chris Hughton

First of all Hughton did a fantastic job at Birmingham and should be remembered fondly by their fans as he got them into the group stages of the Europa League and into the playoffs. This is remarkable seen as though they lost a lot of players last summer and he had to rebuild basically a whole new squad. He only lost 15 of his 62 games in charge but unfortunately they could not overcome Blackpool in the playoff semi finals losing 3-2 on aggregate. It was a difficult job when he took over and he has made it a lot easier for the new man so who will it be?

The favourite for the job at the minute is Lee Clark and he is quite similar to Hughton in a way because he would rather see his team pick up a point than try and get all three. This may seem a little bit of a negative tactic and it may be the reason why Clark couldn’t get Huddersfield Town promoted from League 1 but Birmingham do have enough quality in their side to produce some magic at any given time, so it could work out well for them. The only reason why they should be reluctant in giving him the job would be the fact he hasn’t managed in the Championship before.

Paul Ince is also in the running for the job and this does surprise me slightly as he hasn’t had a job since leaving Notts County in April 2011. The managers they are linked with suggests they don’t want to spend much money and are looking to give someone another chance at a good club. Ince, had a terrible time at Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League, winning only six games out of 21 but this experience could have served him well and he may be able to get his career back on track at St Andrews. Personally, I don’t think hiring Paul Ince would be a good choice but he has achieved the board’s ambitions both at Macclesfield Town and MK Dons the first round so maybe he would be a success.

Finally, Alan Curbishley is linked with yet another job and he has been out of football for even longer than Ince so it won’t be easy for him to jump straight back in and challenge for promotion. But if the board are going to give him a few seasons to sort it out, I can see the former Charlton Athletic manager leading them back to the Premier League. After leaving West Ham United in 2008 he wanted to take a break from the game but nobody expected it to be this long and now it could be a huge risk giving him the job because football has changed a lot in the last few years. He did a fantastic job at Charlton for a very long time and a very underrated job in my opinion at West Ham United so why not give him another chance.

I do want to see Curbishley get another job and Birmingham could be a good fit for him as the fans are always very realistic and over the last few years have been very patient so he could be given the time to succeed and do well. I’m not sure what the target is for the coming season but I think it would be a little silly for the board to be expecting as much success next year.

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.

Newcastle United sign Romain Amalfitano

Newcastle United have signed French midfielder Romain Amalfitano as they look to add depth to their squad for next season.

Amalfitano scored six goals for Reims in the league

The club are obviously wanting to get their squad together for next year as they will be competing in Europe and will be hoping to progress quite far in the Europa League while still being competitive in the Premier League. The signing of a midfielder suggests that some players are going to be leaving later in the summer. Danny Guthrie’s contract is up and although I think he should get a new contract, the player himself probably wants to leave to get more first team chances as he is behind Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye in the pecking order. With this news, he will most certainly be going and I’m sure he would have been a very good squad player which another team can take advantage of and he is currently being linked with Sunderland. The signing also adds to the speculation that Dan Gosling could be leaving as he has been continually frustrated that he hasn’t played that often and been restricted to substitute appearances. Since signing in 2010 he has only played 13 league games due to the fact he has had a lot of injuries and has been overlooked by Pardew many times when he has decided to play James Perch in the middle of midfield.

So onto Amalfitano himself, he is yet another player that has signed for the club that nobody knows and will be hoping to emulate the performances of players like Cabaye and Tiote. He is regarded as player with a lot of potential and now that he is 22 he also has enough experience to be able to cope with the move to England. The attacking midfielder will join the club on the 1st July after his contract expires at Reims. He has previously played for Evian and looked as though he was going to make an impact in the French leagues with some impressive early performances. He managed to score three goals 22 appearances.

Looking at his abilities and he is definitely a confident player that can change a game as he has a very good first touch and can see a pass. He also has a good strike on him and likes to try long ranged efforts. But his best attribute is his ability to break into the box at the right time and finish off chances, he is a similar player to Frank Lampard and if he can adapt to the Premier League quickly he could become a vital part of the team and could be crucial in coming off the bench and grabbing an equaliser or a winner.

This season he helped Reims get promoted back to the top French division and he will obviously join Newcastle with a lot of confidence and will be helped by Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba who will all help him settle in. Hopefully this will be a signing to add to squad depth rather than replace one of their starters because their current first 11 have been linked away from the club.

 

Who will Paul Scharner play for next season?

Paul Scharner could be leaving West Brom this summer and would like to play in the Premier League next season.

Paul Scharner has also played for Wigan Athletic

It is not 100% confirmed that he will leave the club at present and if he does stay the new manager may want him to be a key member of the squad which would obviously convince him to sign a new contract. He can be valuable to the squad as he is a versatile player and has got quite a lot of experience in the Premier League now which is very vital especially for teams in the bottom half of the table so they don’t get sucked into a relegation battle. Scharner has played 61 league games for the Baggies and scored seven goals but unfortunately could not trigger a clause in his contract that would give him an automatic new 12 month contract because he did not play enough games in the season just gone.

But looking to the future, he may leave the club because he may want a longer contract and may feel that it is time to move on as he hasn’t been used as much as he would have liked this year. He is coming towards the end of his career and will want to finish it by playing a lot of games and contributing regularly. So who would need him and who would want him? Personally, I think he could do a good job at any of the newly promoted clubs. Reading have quite a young team and his experience in the middle of the park or even in the centre of defence could make the difference between them staying up and going down. With Jem Karacan also being injured, they may need another midfielder in there just to boost their options. Southampton are in a similar position and he would pass on useful tips to their younger players like Adam Lallana and Jack Cork who will certainly benefit from his experience. West Ham have the experience but maybe not a player as much quality, in my opinion he is a lot better centre back than Winston Reid and Abdoulaye Faye and would slot in alongside James Tomkins. He would be a good talker and would even improve Tomkins as a player, Tomkins has a lot of potential and has played alongside some good centre backs, and another one in Scharner would only help him develop further.

A rumour I heard was that Newcastle United were interested in him. This would be a strange one although it could possibly true as they will be playing a lot of games next season with them qualifying for the Europa League so will need more options. Added to the fact that Danny Guthrie has yet to sign a new contract with the club, he may be a good choice especially as he would be a free transfer and could easily slot into the team. The fact he can also play centre back also adds to appeal. However, I can’t see this happening as he doesn’t fit into Newcastle United’s policy of buying young and developing them, plus they may be looking for a slightly better standard.

So would your team be interested in signing him? Or is he going to drop into the Championship or go abroad?