92 clubs favourite players – Chelsea – Juan Mata

If I had chosen to do this last season then there would not have been a problem with my selection for my favourite Chelsea player but things have changed over the summer.

The man that I enjoy watching the most is Juan Mata but unfortunately for me and a lot of other football fans Jose Mourinho isn’t giving us the opportunity to watch his talents on a regular basis. For one reason or another the Chelsea boss has decided he has better options in his squad and completely disregarded last season. Mata was in my opinion the best player in the Premier League last year and yes I am one of the few that believe he was better than Gareth Bale. In his 35 league games last year he got 11 goals and 17 assists which makes it even more remarkable that Mourinho doesn’t select him week in and week, and in total for both club and country last year in his 74 games he got 21 goals and 39 assists which means he was directly involved in 60 goals. It seemed like he was just going to get better and better but now that has all stopped and I have very rarely questioned the ‘Special One’ before but surely this is a massive blunder on his part. Yes he has multiple options to choose from but Mata has to be the first name on the team sheet for me, he is easily the most consistent of the attacking players.
Mata
His defensive side of the game has been questioned and if that is the reason he has been left out then maybe that is understandable but give the ball to Mata in the final third and chances will come and with Chelsea’s strikers not exactly hitting top form they need several of those at the moment. I am not going to say that the reason Chelsea have started slowly is because Mata has not been on the pitch but it is a factor that needs to be considered.

Mata at Chelsea needs to be given a role that Bale had at Tottenham, Cristiano Ronaldo has at Real Madrid and to a lesser extent Hatem Ben Arfa at Newcastle United. Just put him on the pitch and let him do whatever he wants, if you give him the ball your team will have a better chance of scoring simply because he is on the pitch. Will you be as solid defensively? No but sometimes you just have to say to these sorts of players go out there and enjoy what you are good at, taking players on, causing problems for the opposition defence and winning games of football basically on your own. This may sound like he is a ball greedy player but he has phenomenal vision and just look at his stats he clearly cares more about the ball ending up in the back of the net rather than scoring himself.

So the question is, should Mata be in the starting 11 every week? Has Mourinho got this one wrong? Does he now have to leave the club?

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Who will be the top goalscorer in League 2?

Finishing top scorer in any division would be a very good achievement and for the players in League 2 their goals could get their team promoted.

It is always difficult to predict who is going to finish top scorer because it is impossible to predict what injuries will occur and whether players will be able to maintain their form for a whole season but it can always be fun to try and choose.

The first player that caught my eye is the Portsmouth striker David Connolly because he has a lot of experience and knows where the back of the net is. I think Portsmouth will be the team to beat in League 2 and he will get a lot of chances to score so as long as he manages to be first choice then he will definitely be a contender. Seven goals in 17 games was not a bad return for the 36 year old in the league above so he should be confident this season.
David Connolly
Fellow Portsmouth striker Tom Craddock may also be in the running for exactly the same reasons. Portsmouth are expected to challenge and this is because they have a talented strike force and will cause everyone in the division problems. At Oxford United he had a pretty good record although not as prolific as he would have liked he still showed his potential and 10 in 32 league games last year is not a bad return but I am expecting a lot better this season.
Tom Craddock
Deon Burton is another experienced striker that knows where the back of the net is and he will probably feel a little disappointed that he is not playing in League 1 next season because he helped Gillingham to promotion by scoring 11 times in 37 games. Burton has nearly 150 career goals and I am certain he will surpass that mark comfortably next season as he has had success before under manager Brian Laws.
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Chesterfield’s new signing Eoin Doyle will be hoping to make a positive impression in England after signing from Hibernian in the summer. I haven’t actually seen Doyle play that much but he did reach double figures in the SPL last season in a team that struggled for long periods so he obviously can be a threat to League 2 defences. His time at Sligo Rovers was successful and if he can get close to his tally of 25 in his last season at the club then he will be near the top of the scoring charts.
Eoin Doyle
My final choice is yet another older professional but I just think experience could be more vital than ever in the Football League this season. Jamie Cureton is a goal scorer and has proved it time and time again throughout his career and had another phenomenal season last year with Exeter City and I think he will do even better at Cheltenham Town with them being one of the most consistent teams in the division. They will be a good shout for the playoffs and if Cureton is on form then they could even finish in the top three this year.
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I think Jamie Cureton will finish as top scorer this year with Tom Craddock not too far behind.

Who will be Coventry City’s next manager?

Coventry City are looking for a new manager again this season after Mark Robins decided to leave for Huddersfield Town.

Robins has improved Coventry a lot from when he took over and now it does seem like a good club to join again as they are in the battle for the playoffs and could get promoted this year, which didn’t look likely at all when he first took charge. Lee Carsley has been named as the caretaker manager and he will try his best to stake his claim for the job if he wants it permanently. What is quite worrying though is that the club are now looking for their 12th manager in a number of years. I am slightly surprised that Robins decided to leave but to be fair to him he is getting another chance to be successful in the Championship. However, he was building something at Coventry and there was certainly more of a feel good fact around the club after many years of disappointment and failure. He was only in charge for 33 matches but he did win 17 of those and only lost seven league games in total. So who can carry on his good work or at least bring a bit of continuity to the club?

The favourite for the job is current Falkirk manager Steven Pressley. This to me is quite a strange one as he hasn’t been able to get Falkirk promoted back to the SPL yet and has only been a manager since 2010 so he doesn’t quite have the experience yet. Falkirk are currently fifth in the First Division of Scotland and there isn’t a chance of them getting promoted again this year. But he does work with a lot of young players and there isn’t a lot of money at the club so his 41.35% win record isn’t too bad.

Second favourite and possibly a better appointment is Phil Brown. Throughout his managerial career he has been slightly hit and miss but he does still have experience in the higher leagues and could use this to his advantage. However, his last spell in management at Preston North End didn’t go too well and he struggled to get them competing at the top of the table which was expected so he may not be able to do it at Coventry. But, he does deserve another chance in my opinion and could get the club back into the Championship.

Finally, another inexperienced manager has been linked to the post and that is former Coventry player Andy Morrell. He played 111 times for the club scoring 19 goals so he will obviously want to impress the fans once again. Even though he is inexperienced he does have a fantastic record as a manager so far at Wrexham winning 48 of his 81 games and guiding the club to second in the Conference Premier. The only problem is that he may not be able to make the jump up to League 1 and he may need time but this might not be given.

Others linked with the role are Eric Black, Peter Houston and Richard Money.

Who will be Oldham Athletic’s new manager?

Oldham Athletic are looking for a new manager after Paul Dickov decided to resign from his position.
Oldham Athletic
This may come as a surprise to football fans that do not follow League 1 closely as they will have just seen that they beat Liverpool in the FA Cup 3-2. Apart from this result it has been an awful time to be an Oldham fan as they have lost eight of their last nine league games with the latest being a 3-1 defeat to Walsall. This defeat has left them in 20th place, only one point above the relegation zone. The worrying thing about this is that all the teams below them have a game in hand and Dickov has decided that he is not the man to keep them up after guiding them to 17th and 16th in his two full seasons in charge. Dickov was manager for 141 games, winning 43, drawing 37 and losing 61 of them. Now it is up to the board to find someone to take control and make sure the club do stay in League 1 and there have been some interesting names linked with the post.

The favourite for the post and the most likely to get the job is Iain Dowie. If he does get the job then it will be the second time he has been in charge of the club. His first spell was from May 2002 to December 2003 and he led them to the playoffs but unfortunately he could not continue his job because of a number of reasons including financial problems at the club and he finally left because of family reasons. Since he left the club he is most recognised for his work at Crystal Palace as he got them promoted to the Premier League. One of the problems with appointing him is the fact that he has been out of management since he left Hull City in 2010.
Iain Dowie
The second favourite for the job is a man that supports the club and would certainly want to succeed and keep them in League 1. That man is Paul Scholes and although he is still actually contracted to Manchester United he is obviously nearing the end of his career (he has already retired once). Would he be a good choice though? In my opinion I don’t think they should go for another inexperienced manager but his love for the club and his connection with Sir Alex Ferguson could allow him to bring in some good talented youngsters from Old Trafford.
Paul Scholes
Another person linked with the job is Nicky Butt also a former Manchester United player. But yet again he is very inexperienced and a job like this won’t be the easiest and it may be tough for him. However, the players should respect him and listen to everything he has to say because of what he achieved as a player. Just like Scholes, he may have some good connections to Manchester United as well as other clubs and managers that he played under.
Nicky Butt
Other names linked with the role are Neil Redfearn, Phil Brown and Simon Grayson

Who will be Blackburn Rovers next manager?

Blackburn Rovers are searching for their second manager of the season after sacking Henning Berg after just 10 games in charge.

Berg, was only given 57 days but the board have decided that he is not the right man to take the club forward. Firstly, I would just say that I did not think this was a good appointment in the first place and although a lot of Blackburn fans will disagree with me, I thought Steve Kean was actually doing quite well for them this season. He had got a good squad together and they were picking up points and would have challenged for at least the playoffs. But, he was sacked and now Berg has joined him in the unemployed managers list. After playing 159 league games for Blackburn and being part of their title winning side, it was expected he was going to be given more time as the fans would surely have good memories of him as a player and believe he would want to be the man to get them back into the division that he once won with them. However, in his 10 games he only managed one win and the club has slipped down the table at an alarming rate. So, who can stop the slump and turn the club around?

Kevin MacDonald is currently the favourite to get the job and I do not think this appointment will excite the fans and this is not being disrespectful to MacDonald but the only experience of being a manager is two spells as a caretaker at Aston Villa and Leicester City. He has been a good assistant over the years but only 12 games as manager and only three wins is not what the club should be looking at right now. In his 12 games he also suffered a 6-0 defeat to Newcastle United.
But, even more remarkably Judan Ali has also been linked with the job and this would be ridiculous, so if this is MacDonald’s only genuine competition then he will surely get the job. Not a lot is known about Ali and this would certainly end in disaster. I am not saying Blackburn players are egotistical but they will not respond well to this unknown person coming into the club and telling them what to do. Apparently, Ali is a Bollywood star but if he does get the job this would be his biggest challenge yet.

Finally, Mark Hughes is also linked with the job, but to be honest I cannot see this happening , simply because I don’t think he will talk to the owners after seeing what they have done in the last few years. He would be a great choice and he would certainly bring a bit more respectability to the role but unfortunately for Rovers fans they may be the laughing stock of football once again when the new manager is announced. An interesting side point though is if Mark Hughes wants to get back into management, will he have to drop into the Championship?

Who will be League 2’s top scorer?

A difficult thing to predict is always who will top scorer be at the end of the season because so much can happen in a season including injuries and loss of form.

Sacking of managers can also be influential because even if someone is in goof dorm they may get dropped simply because the new man doesn’t fancy them or wants to bring in his own players. So, League 2 is obviously 46 games long and this could be a very tough choice as top scorer could be from a team that is challenging for promotion or it could easily be for a team that are struggling and this one player has become their star and is doing everything he can to save them as we saw last season with Izale McLeod at Barnet.

New Fleetwood Town signing Steven Gillespie could be considered the favourite as he does have a very good scoring record over the years but has unfortunately struggled with injuries. But just looking at his record he should be one of the most feared strikers in the division, he scored 25 goals 98 league games for Colchester United in League 1 and a lot of his appearances were from the bench so that makes his record look even worse. It was his 21 goals in 67 games for Cheltenham Town that convinced Colchester to sign him but he was struck down by injuries regularly and couldn’t get a good run of games going.

His main competition could come from Stuart Beavon of Wycombe Wanderers who were relegated to League 2 last season. The only problem with backing him is if he starts the season well then he could be sold if an offer comes in for him because he did score 20 goals last season while the club were playing in a higher division. But, if he does stay he should score goals for fun because he must be confident and will cause a lot of problems.

Billy Kee could be an outsider for the award as the 21 year old plays for Burton Albion who I think could struggle this season but obviously that will not stop this man from scoring as they weren’t exactly great last year and he still managed to score 12 goals in just 20 games. I would expect him to get to double figures but maybe it is a little too early for him to be considered top goal scorer.

Daniel Nardiello signed for Rotherham United this summer and will be hoping that he can score the goals to get them into League 1. Nardiello, who was once capped by Wales, has had an up and down career and never seems to settle at a club for very long will be hoping that manager Steve Evans gets the best out of him. The longest he has stayed at a club is two years but this may be where he shines so he may stay for longer and what better way to start than win the Golden Boot in League 2.

Finally, yet another Fleetwood Town signing David Ball could be an outsider especially if him and Gillespie form a good partnership. Ball, came through the Manchester City academy and will be hoping to show his quality in League 2 this year and he did do quite well for such a young lad at Peterborough United in the last few years where he scored nine goals in 41 games. He is an outsider but definitely in with a chance.

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.

 

Graham Alexander retires from football

Graham Alexander has retired from professional football after a fantastic career which has seen him play for four different clubs as well as represent his country.

Alexander took penalties with the outside of his foot which is quite unorthodox

Alexander also became only the second outfield player to play over 1000 professional games during his career. For every club he played for he played a minimum of 150 league games which just shows how brilliant and consistent he has been since his debut for Scunthorpe United in the 1990-91 season. Remarkably, in the very next season he became a first team regular and was virtually an ever present for the team for the next four seasons. Even though he was usually deployed as a right back or a holding midfielder he could also score goals and in his 159 league games he got 18 goals.

Luton Town was the next club he signed for and continued to play in most games for them too. His £100,000 price tag did not faze him and there was no doubting his commitment for the cause with him playing 152 league games and added 15 goals to his career tally. Although his first season ended in relegation he stayed with the club in the old Second Division and played over 50 games for the first time in his career, the first year they were down in the Second Division.

Unfortunately for him and the club he could not help them get promoted and joined Preston North End in the 1998-99 season. In his second season at the club he helped the club gain promotion to Division One after scoring 10 goals in 58 appearances. It is not very often you get a player that can score that amount of goals from the positions he played for the club. After securing Preston’s place in the league for a number of years, he was appointed club captain and was taking all of their set pieces including penalties which accounted for many of his goals. During his eight years he did not suffer many injuries and was able to play in most of the games and was one of the first names on the team sheet. He made exactly 400 appearances for the club and was named in the PFA Championship’s Team of the Year in the 2004-05.

But he did eventually leave the club for rivals Burnley which was seen as slightly controversial and a little strange after he had turned them down earlier in his career. The transfer was completed for £200,000 so Preston could not really complain after all the years of service he had given them. At the age of 37 he gained promotion to the Premier League for the first time in his career and played in an amazing 61 games in all competitions that season and in the next season became the oldest player to make his Premier League debut. In his only season in the Premier League he scored seven goals in 33 games and was one of their better players in a season which ultimately ended in relegation. For Burnley, he played in his 1000th professional game when he came on as a sub in a game against Swansea City.

He left Burnley and returned to Preston North End where he has ended his career. To make it even more special in his very last game in his career he scored against Charlton Athletic which both supporters applauded.

It was a fantastic career and he will be proud of every moment of it and I am sure the fans will have some wonderful memories of his time at their club. Alexander will also be proud of his 40 international caps for Scotland and his only disappointed will be that he didn’t score for his country.

How will Swindon Town do in League 1 after promotion?

Swindon Town have been promoted and will be wanting to win the league in their next fixture at home to Port Vale.

Strangely though there have been rumours that Paolo Di Canio wants to leave at the end of the season however this doesn’t seem very likely and I would be very shocked if he did go unless he got offered a Championship job. Di Canio has won 35 of his 56 games and also guided his team to the final of the JP Trophy which they unfortunately lost. Some fans may have thought that this was a terrible decision at the start of the year especially as the team did not start of fantastically but the gamble has paid off. But the big question is will he and his players be able to perform at a higher level? Personally, yes I think Di Canio will be able to cope with the promotion simply because he is a big personality and he may even be able to attract even better players to the club which will only be a good thing.

So looking at the players, are they good enough? Goalkeeper Wes Foderingham at 21 has a lot of potential and playing 39 league games this season has proved he is a worthy number one and can progress further in the game. At the back they also have some good young players with a lot of potential which suggests that this is the way forward for Di Canio. Aden Flint is one of these and at the age of 22 playing 40 games can be tough but he has coped with it fantastically well and contributed three goals. Joe Devera has also had a good season and has progressed brilliantly throughout his career after starting out at Barnet, playing 177 league games which is a lot for a 25 year old which shows that he deserves his chance at a higher level.

The midfield also possess a lot of quality including the League 2 player of the year Matt Ritchie. The 22 year old has played 50 games and scored 10 goals, and contributed many more assists. He is a lot better than League 2 and he will be looking forward to showing Portsmouth next season that they should never have let him go. Even though he may not grab the headlines as much as Ritchie, Alan McCormack has been equally important, he does the job that not a lot of players do. He can either play as a holding midfielder or a centre back which he has done a lot somewhat surprisingly at Swindon Town.

Up front they do not really have a goal scorer that will get a lot of goals but they work hard and do a very good job for the team. Alan Connell and Paul Benson both have 12 goals this season and this does not seem high enough for a team that are going to be champions. Connell has got 10 of those goals in the league in 30 games. The undisclosed figure which is believed to be a six figure sum may not have quite been paid back yet but if he scores enough goals to keep the team in League 1 next year then the fans will be grateful. Paul Benson on the other hand has been a very good signing and 9 goals in 21 league games is impressive. I think he is a very good player and if given the opportunity I believe he will do well in League 1.

I hope Swindon do well in League 1 as I like a lot of their players and Di Canio. They have a lot of potential and if they progress in the right way they could be in the Championship within a few years. The relegation to League 2 must have hurt the fans and I’m sure they are proud of their team and will be hoping for more success.

Hughes looking to improve QPR

A slow start to the transfer window might be starting to pick up the pace with QPR and Mark Hughes finally getting somewhere. They had been in talks with a lot of players and clubs to bring players in but finally they got in Taye Taiwo, a left back from AC Milan who has been linked to Arsenal and Newcastle in this transfer window.

The 26 year old has only played four league games for Milan but he was a very good full back for his previous club Marseille and was rated as one of the best in Europe at one point. QPR fans will be hoping he can rediscover this type of form and can aid them in their quest to stay in the Premier League.

No offence to the current left backs at the club but that is where they are the weakest and obviously Mark Hughes has identified this quickly. In his first two games he played Clint Hill in that position and although he is a very steady player in the Championship he is not good enough for the Premier League and left back isn’t even his best position as I believe he does a better job at centre back. The other left back in the squad is Armand Traore who is 22 and does seem to have some potential which former manager Neil Warnock spotted but against the better side he looks poor when defending and not very effective going forward with wayward passes and awful crosses. Which was shown mostly in his last game for Arsenal when they shipped eight at Old Trafford and then proved once again that he is a liability in one of his first games for QPR when he was branded a disgrace by Warnock for his sending off in the game against Aston Villa.

Hughes obviously wants to improve the defence with QPR being linked to players such as Chris Samba and Wayne Bridge. However, both of these look unlikely as Blackburn are reluctant to let Samba go and if they do Tottenham seem very interested and will probably be a better destination for the centre back. Wayne Bridge is a strange one for me as he doesn’t seem interested to leave Manchester City even though he gets nowhere near the first team, he just seems to want to pick up his wages and sit in the reserves. I hope I am wrong about him because to me he has been the second best England left back for years and if it wasn’t for Ashley Cole, he would have been first choice. I also feel sorry for him because he always joins a club with a lot of money and potential and then gets replaced, at Chelsea with Ashley Cole and now at City firstly with Kolarov and now Clichy. They are also in talks with Nedum Onuoha who may be a good signing as he did look promising for City.

QPR need to focus on improving their strike force though if they have realistic ambitions of staying in the league because Jay Bothroyd, DJ Campbell (although he was impressive for Blackpool last season), Rob Hulse and Federico Macheda they are not going to score a lot of goals. I would have put Heidar Helguson in that list but so far he has done the business somewhat surprisingly but I don’t think he alone will score enough goals to keep them up.

They also need a goal scoring midfielder but they aren’t easy to find so they may just be hoping that when Taarabt comes back from the Africa Cup of Nations he will live up to his potential because I was expecting a lot more from him but he has been unable to step up to the plate.