Top 10 January 2016 Transfer Window Signings

10 – Anthony Knockaert (Standard Liege to Brighton)

Brighton had a fantastic start to the season but recently they have lost their form and are in a real battle to stay in the playoffs. They needed a spark and Knockaert could just make the difference come the end of the season.

Anthony Knockaert

9 – Steven Caulker (QPR to Liverpool)

This might seem a strange one but Caulker has a lot of potential and at the age of 24 he could go on to become one of England’s leading centre backs. He is better than what Liverpool have, if Klopp stops playing him upfront.

Steven Caulker

8 – Leroy Fer (QPR – Swansea)

Yet another QPR departure and with them getting relegated from the Premier League last year it would seem like they don’t have the quality but in Fer they had a midfielder that can really grab hold of a game which Swansea are in need of.

Leroy Fer

7 – Gianelli Imbula (Porto to Stoke City)

When he joined Stoke eyebrows were raised, especially when they broke their transfer record to bring him in. £18.3 million is a lot of money but Mark Hughes feels he needs more power in central midfield and is the replacement for Steven N’Zonzi.

Gianelli Imbula.jpg

6 – Steven Naismith (Everton to Norwich City)

He was not prolific for Everton but he can score goals when given the chance. He has got off to a decent start at Norwich and they certainly need more goals in their team if they want to stay in the top flight.

Steven Naismith

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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.

Who will be Scotland’s next manager?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Crawley Town’s next manager?

Crawley Town are looking for a new manager after recently appointed Sean O’Driscoll decided to leave for Nottingham Forest.

Crawley Town start their league campaign against Scunthorpe United on the 18th August

O’Driscoll was given the job on the 16th May and left on 19th July without managing them in a competitive fixture which must have been frustrating for the board who had put a lot of faith in their new man and now their preseason could be in pieces. The new man that comes in won’t have a lot of time to stamp his authority on the side and maybe he won’t want some of the players that O’Driscoll thought were good enough. There will be a number of candidates that want the job but the newly promoted League 1 club will need to make a good choice to make sure they stay in the division, under O’Driscoll I thought they would challenge for the playoffs but now I am not so sure.

So who will be a good choice? At the minute the clear favourite is current Aldershot Town manager Dean Holdsworth. Holdsworth has been working his way up the leagues and has one very well wherever he has been but he doesn’t have the managerial experience in my opinion to lead Crawley next season because he hasn’t worked higher than League 2 and has only joined the Football League in January 2011. Another thing that will put Crawley off going for him is the fact that he signed a new contract in the summer and they will probably have to pay compensation.

Also in the frame for the job is former Aldershot manager Gary Waddock who unlike Holdsworth has managed in higher divisions, however he hasn’t always been so successful. In June 2006 he was appointed manager of QPR but after a poor start to the season and with the club bottom of the table he was replaced by John Gregory. Waddock, has managed in League 1 for two seasons but unfortunately for him they have both ended in relegation with Wycombe Wanderers. Obviously, this means he has gained a promotion with them and he has been relatively successful over the years with him also gaining promotion to League 2 with Aldershot gaining over 100 points.

Finally, Gareth Southgate is linked with the job and this would be an interesting decision because he had a very good career as a player but as a manager he hasn’t had it easy. His only job so far has been at Middlesbrough where he managed 150 games so he has quite a lot of experience and most of these games were in the Premier League. He won 44 of his games as manager but he, like Waddock also has a relegation on his CV but at a much higher level. It is good timing for Crawley as he has recently left his role in the FA as their Head of Elite Development and you would expect him to want to get back into football as soon as possible. He would be a good choice because he will have a lot of contacts in the game and will be able to bring in some good players either on loan or permanently and the board will surely back him in the transfer market.

Coventry City are relegated to League 1

Coventry City have been relegated to League 1 after being beaten by already relegated Doncaster Rovers and Bristol City’s 2-0 win over Barnsley.

Coventry have only picked up 40 points this season

So what went wrong at Coventry this season was it the fact that they have an inexperienced manager in charge or was it simply that they have struggled with financial problems and relegation was inevitable this year? It is obvious that they were going to struggle especially when they haven’t got a player that has got into double figures this season, their current top scorer being Gary McSheffrey only getting nine goals. However if Lukas Jutkiewicz had stayed then they may have had a better chance to stay up but it was obvious that the club couldn’t afford to keep him for the rest of the season and in fairness did accept a good offer from Middlesbrough for the player. The 23 year old had scored nine goals in 25 games this season and this is quite an impressive record for a team that have been at the bottom of the table all season.

Looking to the future though, if they keep most of the squad together do they have enough quality to return to the Championship at the first time of asking? First of all should they keep Andy Thorn in charge next season? His win record at Coventry is awful and he has only won 12 of his 55 games in charge, so in my opinion Coventry should probably get in someone else with a bit more experience if they are really wanting to challenge for promotion. Maybe he has been unfairly criticised as off field problems have forced his hand into playing youngsters and he has had to sell experienced players.

Now is the team good enough? In goal they have Joe Murphy who is very experienced and has got two international caps to his name so he must have some ability. At Scunthorpe United he was very good and helped them to promotions which will obviously help the younger players in the team next year. In defence they do have some talented players, Richard Wood is one that has suffered with injuries throughout the season and he has been a big miss because he was very highly rated at Sheffield Wednesday and looked like he was going to play at the highest level. Jordan Clarke is only 20 but has nearly played 50 games for Coventry already and will now be needed more than ever and he will have to deal with this kind of pressure next year. Nathan Cameron is very similar but the one they have to hold onto is most certainly is Cyrus Christie who has played nearly every game this season and has not looked too fazed, although he has made mistakes which are expected he has dealt with most things pretty well.

The midfield does have some quality in there but maybe they haven’t shown it enough this year. Sammy Clingan is another player with international experience and does have a very good passing range to his game. The problem has been that they have some good passers in their midfield but not enough goals from there, David Bell is another intelligent footballer and is good enough for the Championship but hasn’t scored, Gary Deegan is again another decent footballer but only has three goals.

Gary McSheffrey can play left wing or upfront and he is easily the most talented player in the squad and you can tell that he wanted to get the club out of the position that they are in. Even upfront they do not have a lot of firepower, Clive Platt can be effective but he will not really get the goals needed, a return of four goals just isn’t sufficient enough and he will be hoping for more success next season. Cody McDonald signed for the club after hitting 25 league goals for Gillingham but that was in League 2 and he hasn’t quite stepped up to Championship level with only four goals but he is only 25 so his time at that level may come again.

It is disappointing to see a club like Coventry City in League 1 especially when they were in the top division for a long time but times have changed and the team hasn’t really looked like returning there anyway. The fans need to stick with the club as they need as much help as they can get and they have a fantastic stadium so I hope they do make a return to the Championship as soon as possible.

Is this the end for Matthew Bates?

Matthew Bates may be the unluckiest player in football at the minute as he has suffered a cruciate ligament injury for the fifth time in his career.

Bates has struggled with injuries his whole career

The injury will keep the promising centre back on the sidelines for yet another six months and it will be very difficult for the player to keep up his own moral and spirits as he may not come back the player he has been this season.

The 25 year old has been at Middlesbrough his whole career so far but was linked with moves away last summer and Swansea in particular were very keen on giving him a chance in the Premier League. He had hoped that his form would propel Boro up the league table and challenge for promotion this season and play for his boyhood club again in the Premier League against the big teams like Manchester United and Arsenal.

He actually made his debut in the 2004-05 season and has only played 120 games for the club which is remarkable and shows just how much his injuries have slowed down his career. This season, it looked as though he had got over all of his problems as he had played more than ever before in a single season and was named new captain by manager Tony Mowbray who must have seen similarities in the way Bates plays and the way he was when he was a player for Boro. Even more worrying for the player is that his contract is up at the end of the season and his latest setback will keep him out until October so no other team will want to take a chance on him. He will have to hope that Boro will give him another opportunity to get fit or there is a chance that he may never get a chance in the professional game again.

Personally I hope he does because he has proven this season that he is at least good enough for the Championship and was looking very consistent as Boro pushed for a place in the playoff spots. Not only is it a bad thing for the player personally but for the club as well because they don’t have the biggest of squads anyway and would have needed all their players to be fit from now until the end of the season. They have recalled Stephen McManus from his loan spell at Bristol City but this will not fill the fans with confidence because he came with quite a good reputation from his time in Scotland but has not really delivered. However, if he does step up and has a good end to the season he could easily become a fans favourite and may be first choice at the start of next season which will then lead to the question, do we need Matthew Bates? Injuries are a cruel part of the game and it has ruined many players’ careers but to have the same sort of major injury five times has got to be hard for anyone but at least he knows he can come back, let’s just hope it is to a good standard.

Aston Villa sign Australian international Brett Holman from AZ Alkmaar

Aston Villa have made their first signing for next season with Australian Brett Holman joining from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.

The winger was out of contract in the summer so was allowed to speak to other clubs and the player stated himself that he knew all about Villa’s history and this is why he wanted to join the club. It is a signal of intent from Alex McLeish that he believes that the club will stay in the Premier League or he would not want to sign new players for the new season if he did not know which division they were playing in. Although he is not the biggest name in world football and he may not excite the Villa fans as much as a few other names that are usually thrown around in the summer, Holman is a very consistent player and always chips in with goals and assists.

This season could prove to be his best yet in Holland with him already scoring six goals and contributing another nine assists. He has played in Holland for quite a long time now and was originally brought over by Feyenoord but did not play a game for the club and was loaned out to Excelsior where he finally started to make an impact, although this was in the second tier, he was starting to make a name for himself. He then continued to progress when he joined NEC Nijmegen, scoring 15 goals in the two seasons he was at the club which is pretty good for a winger.

He is currently at AZ Alkmaar and won the league with them in 2009. Every season he has been at the club he has got better and better and they were trying to persuade him to stay for longer but the lure of English football was too strong for him. He also has 53 caps for Australia scoring eight goals.

Holman playing for Australia against Japan

Now the question is will he succeed in England? A lot of the players we see coming from Holland are strikers and they have had a mixed time of playing in English football. Starting with Ruud Van Nistelrooy who was fantastic and in my opinion if he had stayed at Manchester United for the rest of his career would have come close to becoming the all time top scorer in the Premier League. However, there have been some expensive flops, the one that springs to mind the most is Afonso Alves who scored 47 goals in just 39 games for Dutch team Heerenveen. He then joined Middlesbrough and was very poor only scoring 10 league goals in his two years at the club. In his defence when he first signed he did look very promising as he scored six goals in his first 11 league games but then faded away and was very poor afterwards.

Two others that have not exactly failed in England but haven’t exactly hit the heights are Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez. Both were fantastic goal scorers but know Kuyt is seen more as a wide player and gets his fair share from that position but not enough for a striker. Suarez has looked pretty good but yet again has not added the goals to his performances.

So it will be interesting to see how Holman adapts to the Premier League but he may not be the flamboyant player the fans wanted to see and definitely feels like an Alex McLeish signing. Someone that has a high work rate and will try and cover every blade of grass and maybe what Villa need is someone that is going to unlock a defence when the game is tight which has cost them a few times this season.