Scott Parker finally has the chance to succeed

Scott Parker proved again against Liverpool what a vital player he is to Tottenham Hotspur, when all the flair players underperformed, he stepped up and made sure he did his job brilliantly. Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor most notably had off days while Niko Kranjcar and Luka Modric could not get involved high enough up the pitch to cause the Liverpool defence any problems.

At the age of 31, Parker just keeps getting better and better it would seem however he has played like this throughout his whole career, but he is finally getting the recognition that he deserves because he is playing for a big club. Plain and simple, he just wants to win the ball back for his team and will keep chasing and tackling until he achieves his target, he does not allow the opposition a moments rest and it is little wonder he is a fans favourite at every club he has been apart from possibly Chelsea. But I think Chelsea missed out here because they most certainly did not give him enough playing time and he deserved more of a chance to succeed at a big club earlier in his career.

But for some reason his career has not really kicked off until quite recently as he was constantly overlooked by England who persisted in playing Gerrard and Lampard in the middle of midfield when clearly this wasn’t working. He should have won more international caps than he has but now hopefully his time has come and he will grab it with both hands.

Even in his early days at Charlton Athletic you could see he was going to be a fantastic asset to any team even though he was probably more attacking back then and has now adapted his game to focus more on being a holding midfielder. He can easily play both roles and he does still occasionally try and get into the box to score a few goals.

He singlehandedly kept West Ham in the Premier League one year and then stayed on for another even though the club were facing another relegation battle which tells me that he has a lot of heart and doesn’t mind rolling up his sleeves when the going gets tough. It must be difficult playing in a very average team when you are being linked to better teams who are competing in Europe but he did and was the best player in the league because of it. It isn’t very often you see a player that has just suffered relegation being praised and given awards from fellow professionals and pundits.

Finally his time has come to be a success because in his career he has suffered many let downs, not getting a real chance at Chelsea, getting sold by Newcastle when it looked like the club had finally got it right and were challenging for European places. Then signing for West Ham who seemed to have a bit of money and a few good players coming in so there was plenty of potential there which the club as a whole failed to live up to. So he has one final chance to make it work at Tottenham and he is doing everything possible to achieve this and his performance against Liverpool shows he is going to fight to win trophies before the end of his career.

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Newcastle’s striking dilemma

Demba Ba has been one of the best signings in the Premier League this year and Newcastle need someone to step up to the plate and fill his boots while he is away on international duty.

The options they have are Peter Lovenkrands, Shola Ameobi, Hatem Ben Arfa and Leon Best. Sammy Ameobi would have had a chance to try and cement his place in the starting line up but he picked up an unfortunate injury which could keep him out for months in a reserve game against Wigan.

Since coming back from injury himself Ben Arfa has been blowing hot and cold for Newcastle producing wonderful moments that any player in the world would be proud of with his goal against Blackburn where it seemed like the ball was stuck to his foot. But, in other games it has seemed like he hasn’t got back to his best and has looked off the pace. A lot of the Toon Army want to see him playing on the right wing but manager Alan Pardew seems reluctant to do this, seeing him as more of a number 10 type player that drops off the main striker and dictates play from there, in the way that Dennis Bergkamp did so effectively for Arsenal.

Shola Ameobi can be one of the most frustrating footballers in the world (especially to Sunderland fans as he seems to perform to the best of his abilities in the Tyne-Wear Derby) because at times he looks like he is a good player, for example when he rescued a point for Newcastle earlier in the season with an unstoppable left foot strike against Tottenham. He can cause problems to defences, using his height and power to his advantage but then there is the other side to his game. He frustratingly gets caught offside countless times in a game and trips over his own feet. When he is good, he is very effective, but when he is bad, he looks more like a Sunday League footballer.

Leon Best is another player that can be frustrating, he had to wait almost a year to score his first goal for Newcastle but he did have limited chances when Andy Carroll was at the club. He contributed magnificently when Carroll left for Liverpool in keeping Newcastle in the Premier League by finishing the season with an incredible six goals in 11 league games. Then he started this season where he left off and was a potential candidate for the coveted number 9 shirt. After his double against Fulham and his equaliser against Aston Villa he has struggled slightly but in his defence he has picked up a few niggles recently and has been on the bench. Many people would argue Ba produced his best alongside the Irish international as he challenged aerially and didn’t mind putting in a shift for his team.

Peter Lovenkrands has been frozen out of the Newcastle squad this season and will be desperate to prove a point to his manager but I can’t see this happening as he has lost a yard of pace and that was his main asset. He will be loved by the Newcastle fans because of his performances in the Championship and also playing and scoring in a game against West Brom despite having just returned from Denmark after his father died. He will be remembered very well by the Newcastle fans but I can’t see him making much of an impact unfortunately

I believe Newcastle play at their best when they have two out and out strikers on the pitch and therefore should play Best and Ameobi however I do believe the team needs slightly more creativity and that is why Ben Arfa also needs to be in the team, although I think he should play on the right wing as Gabriel Obertan has looked very poor so far.

Alan Pardew will be hoping to get through this period
picking up as many points as possible and then hoping to end the season with a flurry of points upon the return of Demba Ba as they look to secure European football at St James’ Park next season

England’s right back for the Euros

When Liverpool played Manchester City in the Carling Cup it gave England fans the opportunity to see two players aiming to be England’s starting right back at Euro 2012 with Glen Johnson being switched to left back for the tie and Micah Richards playing in his usual right back position.

Both players have played plenty of times for England and will be hoping to impress Fabio Capello in the coming months to show why they should be one of the first names on the team sheet. Glen Johnson seems the favourite at the minute for Capello but may not be the fans’ choice. Everyone that watches Johnson play knows he is good going forward but at times looks suspect at the back and even though in the modern game full backs need to be good going forward, their primary role in the team is to stop the opposition scoring.

Micah Richards must feel hard done by as he broke into the England team a number of years ago and seemed to be the natural successor to Gary Neville but for some reason he lost his way on the international scene. But his team are top of the table and have one of the best defences in the league so surely he deserves another shot. Like Johnson, very good at going forward and is probably one of the strongest and quickest players in the Premier League which allows him to get back into position quickly after making a break forward.

While this game was being played, Kyle Walker of Tottenham was helping his team keep a clean sheet at home to Everton and is proving to everyone why Harry Redknapp made him his first choice right back at the start of the season. Scoring a wonderful goal against Arsenal obviously made the Spurs fans love him but he is most certainly catching the eye of Capello. His loan move to Aston Villa last season has done him the world of good and he would be disappointed if he wasn’t selected.

Danny Simpson has an outside chance of making the trip to Ukraine and Poland because he has been in good form for club side Newcastle but it isn’t looking very likely at this stage. But he is proving to be one of the best right backs in the country and if the players above him in the pecking order suffer an injury or go on a poor run of form, he would do a solid job for the team.

Other options for Capello are to play Chris Smalling, Phil Jones or Phil Jagielka at right back as all of these have played in that position at some stage in their career but all three of them are better centre halves than right backs. Although, their versatility could work in their favour, it is unlikely that they will get played at right back ahead of Walker, Richards or Johnson.

Verdict: Micah Richards should be England’s first choice right back as he is currently stand in captain for the team that is top of the league and is looking very impressive, his marauding runs forward cause panic in the oppositions defence due to his sheer size and presence therefore he adds something completely different to the team.

But who will Capello choose?

The goal machine Jordan Rhodes

Jordan Rhodes is having the season of his life so it’s not surprising he is being linked with a move away from Huddersfield. The Scotland striker hit another five goals against Wycombe and is proving time and time again that he is the best striker in League One and deserves his chance to play at a higher level.

The 21 year old started the season in blistering form scoring 13 goals in the first 12 games of the season  and becoming the first Huddersfield player to score back to back hat-tricks in successive games since the 1920s against Exeter and Preston.

He has been part of the reason why Huddersfield went on their amazing unbeaten run in the league (excluding their defeat in the playoff final- still not sure why that game doesn’t count but in the record books it shows that Huddersfield went 43 league games undefeated) and has put in some match winning or at least match saving performances against the best teams in the league like against Sheffield Wednesday when he scored all four of the Terriers goals at Hillsborough, putting his side 2-0 up in the first half then rescuing them in the second half scoring with two sublime finishes to level the game at 4-4. Ironically, Andy Rhodes, his father is the goalkeeping coach at Wednesday and Gary Megson the Owls boss refused to get information of how to stop him. However, with the finishes he produced in the game it could be argued that he wasn’t going to be stopped on the day.

The only man in the country that is probably not enjoying Rhodes success is Roy Keane who let him go for an undisclosed fee to Huddersfield when he was manager of Ipswich. At the time Ipswich were struggling and needed a striker that could hit the back of the net and Keane felt that Rhodes was not the man to do it. How he has been proven wrong? And probably one of the many reasons why Roy Keane is currently unemployed and had such a torrid time at Ipswich he seemed to not give the youth a chance and did not keep players that had the potential.

He may not be the finished article yet, but he has all the right attributes, he is good in the air, has good close control and decent turn of pace but most importantly for a striker he knows where the back of the net is. As the saying goes the goalposts do not move and that is probably why he doesn’t even have to look up when lining up a shot he knows exactly where the goal is.

He has been linked with moves to West Ham, Newcastle and Everton but who is the most likely to sign him? Or he could choose to stay at Huddersfield for the rest of the season but if they don’t achieve promotion he will most certainly on his way.

He reminds me of a young Alan Shearer and with the link to Newcastle it could be genuinely good move for both the player and the club and even possibly one day get the iconic number 9 shirt.

At the moment it’s all ifs and buts, but what is for certain is that he is going to score goals in League 1 and deserves his chance to play at a higher level and international level.

Andy Carroll given his chance to shine

Liverpool beat Newcastle 3-1 and all eyes were on one former Newcastle player but it was another in Craig Bellamy that stole the show with some clinical finish.

Onto Andy Carroll and during the game he looked focused on his own performance rather than getting involved in and producing a reaction to some of the Toon Army chants. In the first half he was largely anonymous and struggled to get into the game but in his defence he is never going to shine when Liverpool are trying to play with the ball on the floor every attack. However for a player that cost £35 million he should be more than a one trick pony, and should by now nearly being at the club for a year have adapted to the way Liverpool want to play. The second half showed a different side to Carroll and this was largely down to the introduction of Club Captain Steven Gerrard who was not afraid to mix it up sending in three teasing crosses for the number 9 to attack. One of these crashed against the bar when arguably he should have done better but he was under pressure from Newcastle defender Mike Williamson.

With only five goals scored for Liverpool so far he has not lived up to his price tag in any stretch of the imagination but when Gerrard plays he does look far more threatening and given the right service as he was in the game last season when scored twice against Manchester City he could become a Liverpool legend. The big problem for Kenny Dalglish is when Luis Suarez plays he surely cannot lump the ball up to Carroll as he won’t be able to influence the play as often as he would like. But with Suarez looking like he is going to be banned for eight games it will give the pony-tailed striker the opportunity to have a decent run of games and to get back some of the form that he had while playing for Newcastle.

If Liverpool win the next eight games and Carroll bags a few goals and assists then King Kenny will have a big call to make. With Suarez in the side they have not won as many games as they would have hoped and with many people expecting more of a challenge on the Premier League title itself this season it may force the manager to leave out the Uruguayan instead of the Englishman.

The pressure is really on now for Carroll to pay back the club that obviously had a lot of faith in him when he arrived. So over to you Mr Andy Carroll can you lead Liverpool back into Europe?