Who will be the next Birmingham City manager?

Birmingham City are looking for a new manager after Chris Hughton decided to leave for Norwich City and will be hoping the new man can guide them back to the Premier League.

Birmingham City finished fourth under Chris Hughton

First of all Hughton did a fantastic job at Birmingham and should be remembered fondly by their fans as he got them into the group stages of the Europa League and into the playoffs. This is remarkable seen as though they lost a lot of players last summer and he had to rebuild basically a whole new squad. He only lost 15 of his 62 games in charge but unfortunately they could not overcome Blackpool in the playoff semi finals losing 3-2 on aggregate. It was a difficult job when he took over and he has made it a lot easier for the new man so who will it be?

The favourite for the job at the minute is Lee Clark and he is quite similar to Hughton in a way because he would rather see his team pick up a point than try and get all three. This may seem a little bit of a negative tactic and it may be the reason why Clark couldn’t get Huddersfield Town promoted from League 1 but Birmingham do have enough quality in their side to produce some magic at any given time, so it could work out well for them. The only reason why they should be reluctant in giving him the job would be the fact he hasn’t managed in the Championship before.

Paul Ince is also in the running for the job and this does surprise me slightly as he hasn’t had a job since leaving Notts County in April 2011. The managers they are linked with suggests they don’t want to spend much money and are looking to give someone another chance at a good club. Ince, had a terrible time at Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League, winning only six games out of 21 but this experience could have served him well and he may be able to get his career back on track at St Andrews. Personally, I don’t think hiring Paul Ince would be a good choice but he has achieved the board’s ambitions both at Macclesfield Town and MK Dons the first round so maybe he would be a success.

Finally, Alan Curbishley is linked with yet another job and he has been out of football for even longer than Ince so it won’t be easy for him to jump straight back in and challenge for promotion. But if the board are going to give him a few seasons to sort it out, I can see the former Charlton Athletic manager leading them back to the Premier League. After leaving West Ham United in 2008 he wanted to take a break from the game but nobody expected it to be this long and now it could be a huge risk giving him the job because football has changed a lot in the last few years. He did a fantastic job at Charlton for a very long time and a very underrated job in my opinion at West Ham United so why not give him another chance.

I do want to see Curbishley get another job and Birmingham could be a good fit for him as the fans are always very realistic and over the last few years have been very patient so he could be given the time to succeed and do well. I’m not sure what the target is for the coming season but I think it would be a little silly for the board to be expecting as much success next year.

Chelsea’s best performance for years is enough to beat Barcelona

Chelsea beat Barcelona 1-0 to give them an excellent chance of qualifying for the Champions League final but it is still a tough task.

Di Matteo has now won 10 of his 13 games in charge of Chelsea

First things first, Barcelona were not at their best and even though they weren’t at their best they still dominated the game and possibly should have won the game. They had numerous chances to work Petr Cech who did pull off a few wonderful saves but on the whole they just missed chances, hitting the woodwork and missing guilt edged opportunities. In particular the Cesc Fabregas chance which was brilliantly cleared off the line by Ashley Cole, but in all honesty should have been a goal and Fabregas should never have given Cole the chance to hack it away.

Onto Chelsea and what has on a whole been quite disappointing, it was  a very good performance by them and the goal they now take to the Nou Camp should give them at least a lift and a bit of confidence. Roberto Di Matteo should be getting praised for what he has done because under Villas Boas the team from London were going out of the Champions League and may have not got as far as they have done in the FA Cup. His team selection turned out to be perfect, choosing Didier Drogba instead of Fernando Torres. This was a very big decision and in the end it made the difference with Drogba scoring the only goal of the game. He may have split opinion on his performance with him at times looking very strong and powerful with the Barcelona defence struggling to cope with him then at other times flopping to the floor at the slightest touch. With a lot of controversy about diving at the minute Drogba didn’t do anything to help the situation but in his defence the opposition players were doing very similar things and maybe it was just a little more embarrassing to watch him do it because of his size. However, I thought he had a decent game and held the ball up well and allowed his team to push out at times, he also took his goal brilliantly.

The defence deserves the most praise out of everyone and that includes John Obi Mikel who was fantastic and sat in the back four cutting out a lot of the little through balls that Barcelona like to play. He did give away a few free kicks in dangerous areas but he kept possession well when he had it and nullified the threat of the oppositions attacking players. In the centre of defence John Terry had arguably one of his best performances for a number of years but man of the match for me was Gary Cahill, for a player to play the way he did just a few months after being in a relegation threatened side was unbelievable. I think Cahill is good but I have said it before that he struggles when a striker has clever movement. He dealt with Lionel Messi better than most this season and even when his team were under pressure he bailed them out with a last ditch tackle or block.

It must have been a fantastic night for the Chelsea fans but they and the team know this tie is not over and it will be a lot more difficult in the away leg but at least they have something to hold onto. There is far more optimism that they will be in the final now than there was when the draw was made.

The worst way to win… Penalties

Penalties is the most heartbreaking way to lose a game of football especially if you went down to ten men during the game like Crystal Palace did away to Cardiff. After Patrick McCarthy got sent off for two bookings, the Palace team defended brilliantly and did everything they could to keep Cardiff from scoring.

Cardiff missed opportunities and over the two legs they probably deserved to win the tie but Crystal Palace must feel hard done as they put in a very committed display and a draw would have been fair but the rules state that the tie had to be decided that night and when it came to it their players failed to keep their cool missing three of their penalties. With Jonathan Parr missing the target completely and both Jermaine Easter and Sean Scannell seeing their spot kicks saved by Tom Heaton they must be travelling back to London deflated and absolutely devastated to have missed their best opportunity of getting to a cup final in a long time.

Tom Heaton will be seen as the hero and will grab all the headlines in the morning papers whereas Kenny Miller who actually missed for Cardiff will hardly be mentioned unlike the Palace players that missed will be portrayed as villains.

Although this isn’t directly the same it is yet another time when England have failed to win a game because of penalties. England have been knocked out by Portugal and Germany which was heartbraking both in 1990 and 1996.

So what goes into taking a penalty? The most important thing a player needs is confidence and players that put their names forward deserve great credit as they are basically putting themselves forward to be shot down as they have put all the pressure on themselves to succeed as their opposite number, the goalkeeper, can only be a hero because nobody expects him to save the penalty.

The longest walk a player must take in his career is when he knows it is his turn next and has to walk from the centre circle to the penalty spot and look at the fans behind the girl which will either be his own who will be trying to encourage him or towards the opposition fans who will be doing all they can to put off the player. That walk must be so nervous and basically takes away the majority of a players footballing ability because it is one kick and one opportunity and although people say practice makes perfect, it doesn’t matter how often you practice taking penalties, you may choke on the big stage or the keeper could pull off a great save.

Another thing that would make anyone feel nervous is when a player places the ball and is all set to take it and then the referee tells them to replace the ball, it must ruin all momentum and cause panic as the player will be focused then all of a sudden they are taken out of the zone because the referee has spoke to them as the best penalty takers block out all the noise around them and just hit the ball.

Another thing that is important to remember though and the best advice to give to someone taking a penalty is that the goalposts do not move, they are in the same place every time and you are only 12 yards away. If you are a striker and you have a chance from 12 yards unmarked you are expected to score and most good strikers do put them away and therefore every penalty should go in.

However as I have said pressure can get to everyone and if a chance falls to you in a game it is a split second moment whereas you have so much time to think about it when taking a penalty especially in a shootout.

So is a penalty shootout the best way to end a game? In my opinion, yes because games have to come to a conclusion in some way and even though it is slightly unfair, every single player is under the same pressure and therefore it just comes down to whoever can hold their nerve the most.