Who will be the Championship’s top scorer?

A lot of the time when a player finishes top scorer in the Championship their team finish within the top six.

That is why it is so important to have players that will put the ball in the back of the bet regularly and Championship teams are now starting to pay quite a bit of money for them.

An example of this is Jordan Rhodes who almost by himself kept Blackburn Rovers in the division last year will be hoping that he can just keep doing what he has been year after year. He is an exceptional goal scorer, give him a chance in the box and he will put it away. Personally I think if Blackburn don’t go up then he will still be in the Premier League next season because he deserves to have a chance in the top league.

Charlie Austin has just moved to QPR and this will give him even more chances to put the ball in the back of the net, he is playing with better players and will be involved in a promotion battle rather than a relegation battle. Yet again he is someone that I rate really highly and am surprised that a Premier League team has not signed him. He could be the difference between QPR going straight back up and spending another season in the Championship.

Reading striker Adam Le Fondre will be hoping that he gets more time on the pitch last season because even though he had a phenomenal goals to minutes ratio in the Premier League he still wasn’t given the opportunity to start many games and was used more as a super sub. I hope Adkins does use him better now and he will prove to everyone that he deserves another chance in the Premier League and fires Reading to the Championship title.

Chris Wood had a great start to his career at Leicester City but he didn’t quite keep his good run going and when the team were struggling so was he. That is not to blame him personally but it is slightly worrying that if the team aren’t performing neither is one of your main strikers. But he is still only a young player and will continually get better and maybe this is his season to shine. 7 goals in 17 games is still an impressive return and if he gets something similar next year he could be near the top of the goal scoring charts.

The final pick is Grant Holt. Not much needs to be said about this man, he has fired teams to promotion on several occasions and scored goals at every level including the Premier League so I expect him to lead the line for Wigan and score a lot of crucial goals. He may not have had the greatest year last year but it was not that long ago when some people were wanting him to be called up to Roy Hodgson’s England team.

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Should Steven Taylor have been called up to the England squad?

Steven Taylor has been in very good form in the last couple of weeks and possibly deserved a call up to the England squad this month.

Against Anzhi, he was yet again sublime particularly when Lassana Diarra looked certain to score not once but twice. The 27 year old put in two blocks and his contribution was arguably as important as Papiss Cisse’s last minute winner. This season it has been no surprise that when Taylor has been in Newcastle’s starting 11 they have performed better and looked a lot more solid with him at the back. One thing that does go unnoticed though a lot of the time is his passing accuracy, in recent games he has been close to 100% and he clearly has learnt a lot from his regular centre back partner Fabricio Coloccini in being composed at the back and building attacks from there rather than just sending it long and pointless as others do so often.

Taylor has been around the squad for a long time now since making his debut in the 2003-04 season and may feel that in that time he has deserved a call up to the full England squad. His record at youth level has been good for England and he even has a cap at B level but that full England cap still seems to allude him. He is everything you want in a centre back, he is brave and rarely loses the ball when it is in the air and has improved immensely when strikers or quick wingers are running at him.

With England struggling for options at the back these days it is a surprise to me that he didn’t get called up this time but if he keeps his current form for the rest of the season there is no doubt in my mind that the calls for him to be included in a squad will get louder and louder. There are only a few reasons why I think he won’t get called up and they are simply because England managers, including Roy Hodgson seem reluctant to come to the North East to watch Newcastle and Sunderland games so there is very little chance of a call up from either squad. But, possibly another reason is because he sometimes does things that are very strange and his antics could be costing him. He seems to do some things to get the crowd going and to get a cheer rather than just being more professional, an example of this is when he has laid on the ground to header the ball instead of just clearing it with his foot. Also, his actions towards Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic in the recent win showed a different side to him and if he did that on a national level it would be much bigger news and he would be criticised for it.

For me though, Steven Taylor should be in this England squad and could have even started because he is in better form than Chris Smalling. With Michael Dawson and Gary Cahill given opportunities already and not really making the position there own it may have been better to try someone like Taylor. Then there is Rio Ferdinand, is he still good enough? He probably is and I think Taylor and Ferdinand would have formed a great partnership.

Who is better Ashley Cole or Leighton Baines?

The left back spot for England has been one of those positions that in the last 10 years nobody has questioned who should play there.

But in recent months in particular that has changed with the form of Leighton Baines who has arguably been the best left back in the country for a number of seasons now. However, the problem is he is behind Ashley Cole who even though he is now 32 is still one of the best and most consistent fullbacks in world football. This is the first time that Cole has faced serious competition since he became an England regular. There have been other players that have been included in England squads that can play in the position but to most people they weren’t good enough to replace Cole. By this I mean players like Wayne Bridge, Stephen Warnock, Nicky Shorey and more recently Kieran Gibbs. Two of these players, Bridge and Warnock now play in the Championship and unfortunately their careers have gone downhill very fast. Finally Leighton Baines is getting the credit he deserves and there is a very good chance he could become the top English left back.

I am certainly not writing off Ashley Cole but I think that after he has won hiss 100th cap he may struggle to pick up many more caps from the starting line up after his recent outbursts against the FA. However, Roy Hodgson may not care about this and keep him as first choice at least until after the next World Cup. Not that this would be a bad thing as he is still a fantastic player both going forward and defensively. He may not get many goals or assists but he always makes himself available and lets the player in front of him cut inside and this has no doubt let Eden Hazard and Juan Mata be more creative in the middle of the pitch. Nobody would be annoyed or be against Cole being England’s left back for a few more years yet.

Cole has 99 caps for England

Cole has 99 caps for England

However, if a change was to be made I don’t think anyone would be against Leighton Baines becoming England’s left back for the rest of qualifying and the next World Cup. The 28 year old has 13 caps so far and already has more goals than his rival for the position and if Hodgson wanted a different option for taking set pieces then Baines would be perfect to have on the pitch. This season he has six goals in 27 games and has been arguably one of the best players in the Premier League even though he may not get as many plaudits as he deserves. If he could replicate his partnership with someone at international level like he does at club level wit Steven Pienaar then it will be very profitable for England. His goal against West Brom just proved how clever he is and his composure on the ball is fantastic. Plus, he can also take penalties and everyone in the world knows how bad England are at them.

Baines scored against Moldova

Baines scored against Moldova


So who would you choose?

What will Wilfried Zaha add to the England squad?

Wilfried Zaha has been called up to the England squad and will hope to play some part in the game against Sweden.

Although, it is only a friendly it is a huge achievement for a Championship player to be called up and so far this season the Crystal Palace player has been in fantastic form and has caught the attention of manager Roy Hodgson. His club are flying in the league and now under new manager Ian Holloway he will be given even more chance to express himself on the pitch, as the former Blackpool man wants his team to be attacking and create chances. But, the big question is, does he deserve his call up?

A lot of people believe that he is good enough for the Premier League and has been linked with a lot of different clubs since making his debut in 2009. But, he has stayed at Crystal Palace and will be hoping that his and his current clubs form can continue and they can both play together in the Premier League. He has now played over 100 games for the club and in the last two seasons he has played over 40 games which a lot of players can only hope to play, especially at his age.

He will add something different to the England squad and will be a breath of fresh air which most England supporters have been crying out for. Too long have England fans had to watch mediocre and uninspiring performances and they now just want someone to get them off their seats which players like James Milner (who does a solid enough job on the wing defensively, but against opponents England should be beating, he should come nowhere near the first 11) and Theo Walcott (who has largely underperformed internationally since his hatrick against Croatia) don’t do often enough.

It would be far more exciting turning on an England game and watching Zaha and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wings then it would certainly make a lot of defences frightened and the England strikers would be expecting a lot of chances to come their way. For too long, England games have been a chore to watch and giving players like Zaha a chance will make fans a lot more optimistic about watching their country.

But why Zaha? Personally, I think he is one of the better English wingers and I am glad he has got a chance because it is more than likely that he will be a big star at club level and internationally. But, is the real reason they have called him up is to convince to sign him up for England instead of his country of birth Ivory Coast?

I don’t think this is the reason he got called up as Hodgson is now starting to give other players chances, such as Zaha and Everton’s Leon Osman and this can only benefit the national side. I hope he gets an appearance in Sweden and proves to everyone that he is a real talent, the only people that may not be happy are the Crystal Palace fans who will have to listen to even more transfer rumours about one of their star players.

Does Wayne Rooney deserve to be captain against San Marino?

Wayne Rooney has been named as England captain for the next qualifier against San Marino but is he the right choice?

With Steven Gerrard ruled out of the game through suspension, manager Roy Hodgson had to make a decision on who should lead the team out and maybe he decided to give it to the Manchester United striker as a bit of a confidence boost. He hasn’t made the greatest starts to the season as he has suffered with a few injuries and has had to play second fiddle to summer signing Robin Van Persie so maybe he is feeling as though he is not the top man anymore at Old Trafford. If, Hodgson has give him the armband for this reason, to make him still feel like he is the best English player then it is quite good man management because it is the first time in a number of years that he hasn’t been the main striker at club level.

But does he actually deserve to be captain? He has matured over the years but he can still be a liability at times as all England fans found out when he was suspended for the first two games of Euro 2012 which meant a lot of people didn’t even want him to go to the tournament. Looking back, he probably shouldn’t have because he was very poor and it meant that players that had just started to get a bit of form in their game were dropped, in particular, Andy Carroll, who seemed to have a good understanding with Danny Welbeck and it could have been the start of a good partnership.

However, he is experienced and has 75 caps so there is no doubting his commitment to England and everyone knows that when he pulls on the shirt and give 100%. Plus, you have to consider the fact that both Gerrard and Frank Lampard are out so the obvious choices are not available. Maybe, this was the only real appointment Hodgson could have made, and he is partly to blame for it but it is the players’ faults that they won’t have this honour. Rio Ferdinand isn’t in the squad anymore because of ‘footballing reasons’ according to Hodgson but we all know it is because he backed John Terry over him and I’m not calling Terry a racist but he said a racist term and was rightfully in the end found guilty by the FA, and because of this Terry quit England so that leaves Hodgson with even less options.

Ashley Cole was linked with the role to mark his 100th cap but because of his tweet I don’t think Hodgson would be allowed by the FA to make him captain, even if he really wanted to. So, that doesn’t leave England with many options as there isn’t really anyone else in the squad that has been a captain at club level never mind internationally. Possibly, the only other real alternative to Rooney is actually Joe Hart and that is simply because he is the only guaranteed starter for club and country every week.

So what do you think? Does Rooney deserve the armband or was he the only real option under the circumstances?

 

Player of the day- Andrea Pirlo and would the Italian get in the Spain team?

England have crashed out of yet another tournament after losing in a penalty shootout against Italy, however they were massively outplayed by their opponents.

The Italians deserve their place in the semi finals and they will give Germany a better game than England would have so at least it will be a good game to watch. It is disappointing that England have gone out on a personal level but to be fair to the players and Roy Hodgson nobody really expected us to win the group so that should be seen as a massive achievement. But, onto the game and it was all Italy and they had numerous chances to win the game and had a lot of attempts on Joe Hart’s goal. Mario Balotelli was threatening in behind with his pace and was almost through one on one but was blocked out by John Terry. The game finished 0-0 and in extra time the pattern of the game didn’t change and the Italians poured more and more men forward with Antonio Nocerino having a goal disallowed just before it went to the dreaded penalty shootouts. Italy won 4-2 with Ashley Young and Ashley Cole missing. I enjoyed the Italian penalties actually as they mostly showed their composure and showed the English how it was done. Balotelli’s was brilliant as no keeper would have saved and Andrea Pirlo’s well it is difficult to describe it as he was under so much pressure and he had took it like he didn’t have a care in the world and it wasn’t in front of millions of people around the world.

Man of the match- Andrea Pirlo- The Italian midfielder is my player of the tournament as he has just been fantastic, every time he gets the ball he produces something special, his through ball to Balotelli was outstanding and his awareness was incredible. He picked up the ball near his own box and casually chipped the ball through right into the path of Balotelli who just couldn’t take the chance. He could have got man of the match just for his penalty but his passing is in my opinion unrivalled as not many players can drop in deep and play little one twos then play a cross field pass with so much accuracy. A lot of people will argue that Spain’s midfielders are better because they have a better passing average but Pirlo dictates a game by himself whereas Xavi and Xabi Alonso etc do it more as a partnership. That is just my opinion and I think if he was Spanish he would get into their first 11.

Has Pirlo been the best player at Euro 2012?

Players of the day- Franck Ribery and Theo Walcott

Sweden are the second team to be knocked out of Euro2012 after their 3-2 defeat to England while France beat Ukraine.

The first game was suspended after the fourth minute because of terrible weather conditions and it eventually got under way almost an hour later. The first half saw both teams come close but neither could really take control of the game, although France had more of the possession they couldn’t quite carve the Ukrainian defence open. However, early in the second half the game was all but over after two goals in three minutes from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye. Both goals were finished off brilliantly after some wonderful passing. Cabaye deserved his goal and once again was sublime in the centre of the midfield and along with Andrea Pirlo, has been the most consistent player in the tournament. Ukraine had a few half chances but couldn’t find a way past Hugo Lloris in the French goal.

Man of the match- Franck Ribery- The Bayern Munich winger was in and out of the game but whenever he had the ball he frightened the life out of the Ukraine defenders. His pace was crucial in the first goal and he looked the most likely all through the first half to open the scoring. France’s other flair players were slightly disappointing in my opinion with Samir Nasri never getting out of first gear and Menez being very wasteful at times. Ribery was the one that added some much needed creativity to the game and outshone the rest.

Ribery made his international debut in 2006

England managed to beat Sweden in a thrilling game with both teams pushing forward for the win. Andy Carroll gave them the lead with a good header from an accurate cross from Steven Gerrard and England seemed in control without every really posing a threat. The second half was very different as the Swedes knew that defeat would mean they were eliminated from the competition and when Glen Johnson couldn’t clear an Olof Mellberg shot, they looked confident and were forcing the issue a lot more and then Mellberg once again popped up from a free kick to score a header. This left the England fans with a feeling of oh no not again but Roy Hodgson made a positive substitution and brought on Theo Walcott who scored with one of his first touches. Goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson should have done a lot better though. The winner was scored by Danny Welbeck who flicked in a Walcott cross with an inventive effort that not many other players would have been able to pull off or even try.

Man of the match- Theo Walcott- He may not have been on the pitch for that long but he changed the game and proved to be the difference between the sides. James Milner hadn’t been able to get much out of the fullback Martin Olsson but he looked awful against Walcott. His goal may not have been the best but at least he had a try and it lifted everyone. For the Welbeck goal he was vital as he picked up the ball and was very direct, driving at the defence and pulling the ball across for the Manchester United striker. He may not have been involved a lot but when he did have the ball he caused problems and maybe will get a chance to start in the next game.

Walcott now has four goal for England

Who will be the next West Brom manager?

Roy Hodgson is leaving West Brom to become the new England manager and it will be difficult to replace him but that is the task that their board have been set.

When looking at Hodgson’s record at West Brom it would seem that he hasn’t done a great job with him winning only 37.04% of his games in charge but it is another example of when stats don’t tell the full story. Last season he managed to keep them up quite comfortably and with a few more additions he has guided them to 10th place this year. He won’t be easy to replace and the next manager has a tough job but he made some good signings like Shane Long, who are good enough now for the Premier League and will improve even more in the coming years.

So looking at the contenders and the favourite is Chris Hughton and rightfully so in my opinion. What he has done in charge of Birmingham City this season has been sensational and they were unlucky to lose in the playoffs. In just one season, he has took charge of 62 games which just proves that he has a good pedigree in cup competitions and I’m sure the Baggies would love a good cup run. Out of the 62 games, he has only lost 15 games. He has already proved in his short managerial career that his teams do not lose a lot of games and firstly makes them difficult to beat so he has a similar style to Hodgson. He was harshly sacked as manager of Newcastle United and there he had an even better record as he only lost 14 of his 70 games in charge and was keeping them in the Premier League comfortably.

Another candidate for the job is ‘The Tinkerman’ Claudio Ranieri who has been without a job since being sacked as manager of Inter Milan. This rumour interested me the most as he has had a lot of jobs since leaving Chelsea in 2004 and has on the whole struggled with him only winning one trophy and that being the UEFA Super Cup with Valencia in 2004 even though he has managed such huge clubs like Juventus, Roma and as previously mentioned Inter. But in his defence he does have decent winning percentages for each club however he wasn’t meeting their expectations and if he doesn’t do that at West Brom they will be in serious trouble of relegation. I like the idea of Ranieri coming back to England as he did a good job for Chelsea but personally I don’t see him and West Brom as a good fit.

Finally, the last name to put forward is Michael Appleton who is the current manager of Portsmouth and this is another strange one because they have just been relegated from the Championship. The reason why I think he could be a good choice is the positive response he gets from everyone, whenever asked a question, he always answers very openly and is honest with what is going on, which a lot of managers are not these days. He previously played for West Brom and was their first team coach under Roberto Di Matteo so he knows the club and some of the players so it will be easy for him to settle into the role. It is a long shot but who knows maybe he is in with a shout.

I would go for Chris Hughton as he has done a fantastic job at every club he has been and deserves another shot at the Premier League. He may not be able to push the club onto the next level but a bit of stability would be nice at a club that is known for going up and down the divisions. With Hughton in charge there would be no threat of relegation.

Who will be the Premier League manager of the year?

As the season is nearing its conclusion it is going to be a very exciting time in the Premier League with the title yet to be decided, European places still up for grabs and the battle to avoid the drop going down to the wire. But now is also is the time of the year when awards are handed out and there are many contenders for manager of the year.

Harry Redknapp and Roy Hodgson both deserve a shout as they have done very well and are obviously the front runners for the England job because of the job they have done at club level but in my opinion Tottenham have done exactly as expected, challenged for the title for a while and then inevitably fell away and are now looking to finish in the Champions League places. West Brom have done slightly better than I expected but mid table is about right for them, however, they were pushing for a top 10 place before their recent slump.

So here are my five nominations for manager of the year.

Brendan Rodgers – Swansea City

Swansea have performed better than anyone could have imagined with an impressive home record and an improving away record, they have took to the Premier League like a duck to water. It is not only the results Swansea have picked up, it is the way they have done it and Rodgers deserves a lot of praise for this as he gives his players the confidence to go out and play. The play arguably the best passing game in the country and are never fazed by anyone and will continue to play their way no matter the opposition and Rodgers deserves credit for this. He has done it with a shoestring budget also and he is now linked with a move away from the Liberty Stadium because of how impressive he has been

Alan Pardew – Newcastle United

Newcastle yet again are another team that has performed a lot better than expected. After losing key players in the summer, they were expected to struggle but the players Pardew has brought in have been fantastic signings. Demba Ba, scored goals for fun in the first half of the Premier League and even though the goals have dried up, he is still playing very well. Yohan Cabaye, has dictated a lot of games from the centre of midfield and, although he would have liked more goals, has formed a very good partnership with Cheick Tiote. Finally Papiss Cisse has set the Premier League on fire with seven goals in his first seven games. Pardew hasn’t been given a lot of money but has spent it wisely and now Newcastle are back where they belong challenging for a place in Europe.

Paul Lambert- Norwich City

Yet another overachiever in Paul Lambert, Norwich have shown everyone why they deserve their place in the Premier League. Lambert went for determined players instead of experienced players for this campaign and it has worked out magnificently with Grant Holt being the second highest English scorer in the league even though it is his first season. The players clearly love Lambert for giving them this chance and they are repaying him for that. Maybe an outside shot for manager of the year but definitely deserves a lot of praise for the job he has done.

Sir Alex Ferguson – Manchester United

Fergie needs no introduction and it seems like he has masterminded yet another league title. Their rivals may have splashed the cash but this still has not been enough for them to wrestle the title away from the Red Devils, however, this could all change if United slip up in the coming weeks. Do we really see this happening though? This may be one of Ferguson’s greatest title wins because of the pressure they were under from the noisy neighbours but there is no sign that he is about to slow down and will be wanting even more success in the years to come.

David Moyes – Everton

Still the most underrated manager in the Premier League in my opinion because year after year he gets Everton into the top half of the table even when he loses his best players and is not given a lot of money to replace them. With his team currently in the semi final of the FA Cup and above Liverpool in the table, it has been yet another fantastic year. If he can add a trophy then he will surely go down as one of Everton’s greatest managers ever. Also, I think he is the man to replace Alex Ferguson at Manchester United so the Everton fans will need to enjoy this success while it lasts because I do not believe anyone else can do as good a job as he has done in the past 10 years.

Here are the five managers that I think deserve to be manager of the year and they are difficult to separate but I think Brendan Rogers should win the award and English teams should try and replicate what Swansea have done. So, who do you think should be manager of the year?

Who will be the next Chelsea manager?

Chelsea have sacked their manager Andre Villas Boas and will try to find someone who can deal with Abramovich, Terry, Lampard and Drogba.

I do not who is worse because it is blatant that these players run Chelsea and if they don’t like a manager then he will not last very long. At least Abramovich owns the club and can do whatever he wants because it is his money that he is pumping into the club but the players have no excuse, it doesn’t matter who the manager is, he deserves respect and should have full control over the team and not be influenced by players. This is why I feel sorry for Villas Boas because he is only a young manager and would have had a great future at Chelsea if the old regime weren’t there. I blame Mourinho slightly for this because he gave the players the confidence and made them feel like they were the best in the world and now nobody can control them.

This is why Jose Mourinho should be a contender for the job and if Chelsea want to be real challengers for the title then they have to bring the man in at all costs. He is the ‘Special One’ and nobody can argue with his record, everywhere he has been he has won trophies, including the Champions League with Porto and Inter Milan. In his first spell, he only lost 18 games out of 185, so why did he ever leave? Abramovich is the reason  and he needs to swallow his pride and do whatever is necessary to make sure that Mourinho manages Chelsea again because they desperately need him.

However, if the club don’t want to hire him then there are plenty of other candidates, Rafael Benitez has been linked with the job and he has also won the Champions League which is what Abramovich wants so that gives him a good chance. But when he was manager of Liverpool, he did a solid job but nothing more than that, he got them into the Champions League most years and had a decent win percentage. However, between him and Roy Hodgson they have left Liverpool in a position that they probably shouldn’t be in. Also, his last job at Inter Milan went horrifically even with some world class players like Wesley Sneijder, he could not get them to perform. He may get the respect of the players because of his achievements but this is not a certainty with the massive egos at the club.

Finally, Pep Guardiola is a huge name in the game and has won loads of trophies at Barcelona and therefore if he wants the job, he should probably be given it. Will he want the job though? He might want a new challenge especially if he wins the Champions League yet again and he might just want to test himself in a new environment. However, if he did come to England I think he would rather go to Manchester United or Arsenal because I think they would suit him more.

Mourinho and Guardiola

An outsider is David Moyes but this is very unlikely as he isn’t the biggest name and I think Abramovich cares about that and will take it into consideration. The next manager should be Mourinho and if they can patch up their differences then Chelsea will be a force yet again and the players will know who is boss. Player power cost Villas Boas his job but I don’t think that could happen to Mourinho because he has a bigger ego than all of them put together and this is the reason why he is so successful.