Who will be the next Republic of Ireland manager?

Giovanni Trapattoni has left Republic of Ireland after getting beat 1-0 away to Austria leaving them in fourth place.

Trapattoni has been very successful throughout his career both as a player and a manager but it has seemed for a while now that he should go but he obviously felt that he could still turn it around and qualify for the World Cup in Brazil. He won 26 of his 64 games in charge and did get them to Euro 2012 and even though they did not perform that well it was still a decent achievement getting them to the tournament.

The squad is filled with some good players and they should have possibly done better in this qualifying phase, however one criticism aimed at Trapattoni is that he stuck with the same players for far too long. Defensively their best player by a long way is Seamus Coleman and he has started this season fantastically and the new man coming in needs to make sure he is on the pitch as often as possible. Midfield at this moment in time looking at the last squad is a little weak, they have a lot of players that are good but nothing more like Glenn Whelan. Up front they still are relying on Robbie Keane who they need to find a replacement soon because he is 33 and the MLS isn’t the most competitive.

Martin O’Neill is the favourite to take over and initially I was surprised because he is Northern Irish and he may not enjoy international management. Apart from his time at Sunderland he has mostly been successful and would get the best out of most of the players. He may be looking for a new job right now and if he can’t find a club job that he wants then this job could be perfect for him.

Another surprising name linked with the job early on is Mick McCarthy. He has already had the job once and even though he was successful he did have a few problems, for example his much publicised fall out with Roy Keane before the 2002 World Cup. He had a similar win percentage as Trapattoni as manager of Ireland, winning 29 of his 68 games so would he be the man they are looking for? Plus he probably wants to achieve promotion from the Championship again, this time with Ipswich Town although they haven’t got off to a brilliant start so he may be tempted away.

Third favourite for the position is Brian McDermott, another manager that has just recently been appointed by his club Leeds United so that may make it difficult for Ireland to tempt him away. He has only been in charge for 12 games but has only lost three of those so he definitely does have the ability after a largely successful spell at Reading. I personally do not think he will go for the Ireland job but if they did manage to convince him then I do think he would be a success.

Others linked with the job are Roy Keane, Stuart Pearce and Chris Hughton.

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Players of the day- Andrea Pirlo and Mario Mandzukic

The games in Group C kicked off and all eyes were on Spain, Italy, Croatia and Republic of Ireland.

The first game saw Spain kick of the defence of their European Championship against Italy in what showed two very different styles of football. Spain with their short, sharp passing style and Italy with their focus more on defending and counter attacks. As expected Spain had more of the ball but strangely they decided to start the game without a recognised striker so they had six midfielders in their starting line up. However, it was the Italians who had the better opportunities and looked the more likely to score the opening goal which they did through Antonio Di Natale who scored with almost his first touch after coming off the bench with a fantastic finish. But, Spain hit back quickly with a very good goal themselves, David Silva slipped through a perfect through ball for Cesc Fabregas to run onto and score past the advancing Gianluigi Buffon. That is how it ended, but not before Fernando Torres missed two very good opportunities to win the game.

Man of the match- Andrea Pirlo- The midfielder proved his worth to the team and a lot of people that don’t watch Italian football would have been surprised that a player of his age still gets into their national side. Bu for Juventus this season he contributed a lot to their title winning side and provided a lot of assists. His game today was slightly different as he got through a lot of work defensively and had to follow the Spanish midfielders around and he was always there putting them under pressure, forcing them into errors. His pass to set up the goal in my opinion could be the pass of the whole tournament as it was perfectly weighted and allowed Di Natale to finish first time.

Pirlo got 13 assists for Juventus this season

In the second game, the goals came at perfect times for Croatia, just a few minutes into the game they scored, then just before halftime they added another. They finished the game off just after halftime. Ireland did manage to pull back an equaliser to Mario Mandzukic opener through Sean St Ledger but were never really at the races, although they should have had a penalty when Robbie Keane was fouled and Keith Andrews put a few efforts wide. The Croatians just looked the better side and they may not be the best at the back but going forward they will cause Spain and Italy problems.

Man of the match- Mario Mandzukic- The striker looked on top form and scored twice (the second one did hit the post and then Shay Given but I think it should be his goal). He caused the Ireland team so many problems in the air and on the floor, Richard Dunne couldn’t handle him in the air and Sean St Ledger couldn’t handle his movement so they will be happy to see the back of him. He even outperformed Nikica Jelavic which not a lot of players have done since he joined Everton in the Premier League so that shows how well he played. I’m sure Croatia’s playmakers Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic love playing with him as he always makes himself available for a pass and wants to get balls both into his feet and in the air.

Mandzukic has 30 caps for Croatia

Who will Dimitar Berbatov play for next season?

Dimitar Berbatov’s time at Manchester United looks like it is coming to an end this summer with him not featuring as much as he would like in the season just gone.

Berbatov has also scored 48 goals in 77 appearances

But is his time in England coming to an end? He has a really good record in England and has performed quite well for both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. When he signed for Spurs he was well known in Germany after scoring 91 goals in 201 appearances at Bayer Leverkusen and after his first season in England he was one of the most feared strikers in the country. He scored 23 goals in both his seasons at Tottenham and formed a very good partnership with Robbie Keane. He was often criticised by fans because he was seen as lazy and not very interested but his quality was never in doubt and he showed amazing composure at times and deserved his move to a team challenging for the title in my opinion.

At Manchester United, he won two Premier League titles and even finished up as the league’s top scorer in the 2010-11 season after hitting 20 goals in 32 games. Apart from that season though he didn’t quite hit the heights and only got 56 goals in all competitions for the club. However last season it was really surprising that he wasn’t used more as he got 7 goals in 12 Premier League games, when they needed a goal in a game I don’t understand why he wasn’t given more of a chance.

It is more than likely that he will leave England and go back abroad but if he doesn’t, who would have him in the Premier League? The first team that may be interested in his services could be Liverpool as they have struggled to put away their chances these years, and he would surely add more than what Andy Carroll has. A problem could be whether Sir Alex Ferguson will sell a player to Liverpool, he basically refused to sell Gabriel Heinze to them a few years ago. Another problem could be whether the new manager would want him and also how he would get him to play alongside Luis Suarez as they are both quite similar and like to drop deep.

Newcastle United could also be interested in Berbatov and I think he would be interested in joining the Magpies as his idol was Alan Shearer and he used to sleep in a Toon shirt so I’m sure he would like to play for them at some point. They are in Europe and they may have to replace Demba Ba this summer if he leaves as all the rumours are saying. The price tag could put the club off and the fact that he is getting towards the end of his career will put Alan Pardew off. I think it would be a good signing but not likely to happen.

A return to Tottenham could be on the cards as they will be in need of a striker as they may not be able to keep hold of Emmanuel Adebayor. I don’t think his wages would be as high as the Manchester City striker either so he could be a very good option but I’m not sure he would fit into their style of play anymore as they like their main striker to be a bit more of target man.

Berbatov can still do a good job in the Premier League but he will probably go abroad to a team like PSG or even be included in a swap deal for a Borussia Dortmund as Manchester United have been linked with a few of their players like Shinji Kagawa and Robert Lewandowski so that could be very good deal for both clubs.

Will Aston Villa get relegated from the Premier League?

Aston Villa may be getting dragged into a relegation battle this season with some of their star players underperforming and now the news that Darren Bent will be out for three months has made the possibility of relegation a lot more likely.

They are not a one man team but who will score the amount of goals Bent does, Gabriel Agbonlahor for all his pace and directness does not quite have the ability to reach the same levels as Bent. However, I have been impressed with him this season but five goals isn’t exactly prolific. Saying that though he has hit double figures in three seasons so far in his career with his best being 13 goals, he will need to get somewhere near this target this season if Villa are going to stay up.

Emile Heskey has never been prolific in his career and does not seem to be favoured by Alex McLeish anyway so he may be overlooked. Whenever I have seen him play this season he has been on the left wing which he has done a few times over the years but you cannot get the best out of him from that position. Everyone always says that Heskey makes his strike partner look better and score more goals and maybe he will be able to help Agbonlahor grab the goals as well as him chipping in with a few himself.

With Robbie Keane’s loan spell ending, this injury could not have came at a worse time and they will no option but bring Nathan Delfouneso back to the club and push him straight into the first team. He is only a young player but he has certainly showed some promise when he has came off the bench in the last few years and maybe now is his time to step up and show everyone that he is a Premier League quality striker. If he can also grab a few goals between now and the end of the season he could be a hero to the Villa fans as they are in need of one at the moment.

The midfield will have to step it up also as they can get goals but have struggled to so far this season. Charles N’Zogbia can score goals from out wide and has done so on many occasions for former clubs Wigan Athletic and Newcastle United. He only has one goal so far for the club and this is quite remarkable as he hit 10 goals in all competitions last season in arguably a weaker side. Marc Albrighton on the other side should be adding more goals to his game as he is a very good player and likes to get himself into attacking positions but in his defence he hasn’t always been first choice. I believe though that this injury could be a blessing in disguise for Stephen Ireland as he really needs to get his career back on track, he has struggled for years and maybe now with the pressure on, he may get back to the form he showed at Manchester City when he was one of the best attacking midfielders in the Premier League and.

I do not believe Villa will go down but the Premier League does throw up a few surprises and with the fans still not taking to McLeish very well, it all adds up to a very difficult end to the season. Maybe it is down to the manager that they are struggling because at times he can be far too negative and doesn’t allow his players to express themselves and this could be part of the reason why there flair players from last year, like Ashley Young and Stewart Downing left. It could also be why players like N’Zogbia have underperformed.

Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland looking good for Euro 2012

Sunderland’s James McClean has been rewarded for his brilliant form at club level with a call up to the Republic of Ireland squad for their forthcoming game against Czech Republic.

Trapattoni must have been impressed with the way he has took to the Premier League instantaneously after being pushed into the starting line up by new Black Cats manager Martin O’Neill. The winger will be hoping his good form continues as he looks to secure a place in the squad for Euro 2012. This may have been slightly surprising as the Italian manager had stated that he will stick with the squad that qualified for the tournament in the summer but when a player is on form, he has to be given a chance. Maybe some former England managers should have followed his lead as they have constantly picked players that are their favourites rather than giving someone else a chance.

But back to Ireland and the rest of their squad is pretty similar to what we are used to and the only other inclusion which may have raised a few eyebrows is Derby County midfielder Paul Green. Green, scored on his first international start and will be hoping to add to this against the Czechs and give the manager more selection headaches.

The rest of the team is as you would expect, Shay Given the undoubted number one is in there being backed up by Kieran Westwood and David Forde who have both played quite well this season when called upon but unfortunately for them, Given has remained as consistent as ever and will definitely start the Euros in goal unless there is an injury. In the defence, they are missing Richard Dunne who could be a big loss as he is a leader at the back and has been one of the best defenders and possibly most underrated in the Premier League. Shane Duffy has been called up as a possible replacement after looking solid for Everton in the five games he has played this season. So, the only problem is whether he is experienced enough to cope at international level. But, they do still have John O’Shea who has had a new lease of life at Sunderland and is benefiting from playing every week.

The midfield is looking exciting with quick direct wingers in McClean, McGeady and to a lesser extent Damien Duff, but in fairness to Duff in recent seasons he has adapted his game and is still causing opposition defences problems. Also Seamus Coleman is able to play on the wing and when he is on form he is most definitely an Irish version of Gareth Bale as he has the pace to beat players and can produce moments of real magic when his team need it.

Robbie Keane is still in the squad and during his loan spell at Aston Villa he has proved that playing in America has not made him a worse player and his career is not coming to an end. He scored some fantastic goals and his movement is still fantastic and he seems to have a good partnership with Kevin Doyle at international level and could be key not only in the upcoming friendly but the tournament itself. Jon Walters is another underrated player in the Premier League as he does a very good job at Stoke and works his socks off every game so the two upfront know that he will be waiting to take their place. Also the West Brom pair of Shane Long and Simon Cox are decent strikers that have scored quite a few goals in the Premier League between them this season.

Ireland are shaping up nicely for the Euros with a hardworking and organised squad combined with their little bit of flair and skill they could just spring a surprise this summer and give some of the bigger teams a shock. It wouldn’t shock me if they got further in the competition than England.

David Beckham signs new contract for LA Galaxy

David Beckham has signed a new two year contract at LA Galaxy ending speculation  that he could be joining a European club.

Beckham has played 81 games for the American side scoring 12 goals and providing 28 assists. He went to America to raise the profile of the game over there and it is debatable whether his arrival has had an impact however one thing that has changed is that now players coming to the end of their careers are now looking for one last big pay cheque by going over there. The most notable being Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane but both of these have returned on loan to Premier League clubs, Henry rejoining Arsenal and Keane joining Aston Villa.

Also what is worth noting is that LA Galaxy have given Beckham permission to play for Great Britain in the Olympics if he is selected by Stuart Pearce as one of the three over age players. This must have clinched the deal for the former Manchester United midfielder as he had reportedly turned down a move to PSG because of family reasons which would suggest that Victoria and the rest of the family are very happy in LA.

However, the only negative he will see is that surely now he is staying with Galaxy he has almost certainly ruled out any chance of being selected for Euro 2012 but I have a suspicion that with all the work he put in to get the Olympics in London in 2012 he would prefer to be playing for Great Britain as Stuart Pearce has already said anyone going to the Euros won’t be selected.

Even though he is playing in a league that is well below the level he could still play at, he has made a good choice as he is trying to do good in the game by getting more people in America involved in the sport instead of it being behind American Football, Basketball, Baseball and possibly even Hockey. Only a small minority play soccer in American and if they could get more players involved they would produce some of the best players in the world just because of the sheer size of the country.

Back to the former England captain, it would have been good to have seen him back playing in the Premier League before he retired but that seems unlikely now. He did say he wouldn’t play for another club in England apart from Manchester United and he must have been thinking after watching Paul Scholes return and some bets (yes actual money) being placed on Phil Neville to return from Everton, that Sir Alex Ferguson may be tempted to pick up the phone and give him one final chance at Old Trafford.

It would not be surprising to have to call him Sir David Beckham in years to come as his services to football, charity and getting the Olympics to London have been nothing short of outstanding. He has always been a model professional and always wore the shirt of whichever team he was playing for with pride.

Finally can anyone remember a better moment in the last 20 years for England when he scored that penalty against Argentina in the 2002 World Cup? Because I can’t and for this moment alone he should be remembered as a fantastic player and captain for England.