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01 Aug 2021 19:46:06
Rumours please.

Has the liam delap from city got any legs? Is it happening?

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01 Aug 2021 19:46:06
Rumours please.

Has the liam delap from city got any legs? Is it happening?

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01 Jun 2022 14:18:14
Let's hope so. Very difficult to have success at the top level without legs in my opinion.

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Stoke City News 08 Apr 2021
By The Numbers - Part 4: Stoke City

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1863 Stoke City are currently the world's oldest professional Football League club having been founded way back in 1863. According to legend it was set up by former pupils of Charterhouse School who were working as apprentices on the North Staffordshire Railway.

1868 It was 1868, five years after the initial founding, that The Field magazine reported on a new Association Football Club in Stoke-on-Trent and named Henry Almond as a founding member.

1868 This was also the year of the team's first officially recorded game, in October. The team, then known as Stoke Ramblers, faced a team called EW May XV and drew 1-1 at the Victoria Cricket Club ground. Almond was the skipper and the scorer of the first-ever official goal by Stoke.

5 It was not just the number of years between their claimed founding and their first official match, it was also the number of games they played in what was effectively their first ever season.

2 The margin of victory of their first ever win was 2, in a 2-0 win over Newcastle-under-Lyme.

1870 The year of their first recorded defeat, 1-0 to Whitchurch in a match which rumours claim was played using a rugby ball.

1875 Stoke, no longer using the appendage of Ramblers, moved their home games from the Victoria Cricket ground to Sweetings Field in this year.

250 The early matches at Sweeting Field were played in front of crowds of around 200-250.

1877 The establishment of a County Cup in this year meant that Stoke played their first truly competitive fixtures in this year. They also won the cup, making it the year of their first ever trophy.

26 Stoke's record win was 26-0 over Mow Cop in that first season of the County Cup. The record still stands today, over 150 years later.

1878 Stoke merged with Stoke Victoria Cricket Club in March 1878 and moved their home matches to the Athletic Club ground. The site became known as the Victoria Ground.

119 The Victoria Ground remained Stoke's home for 119 years!

1880 Teddy Johnson became Stoke's first international when the centre-forward helped England to beat Wales 3-2 at Wrexham in 1880.

1882 It is believed that Stoke's famous red-and-white striped shirt was adopted in this year. It is still the club's official strip.

1883 Stoke first entered the FA Cup in this year, which was seen as the benchmark for the best team in the land. After going out in the first qualifying round, the following season they withdrew after being drawn against Scottish side Queen's Park.

1885 Their early attempts at the FA Cup had taught them that the time of amateur clubs was over and they turned professional in August 1885.

7 Their first payroll had 7 players on it. Goalkeeper Philip Birch, full-backs Tommy Clare and Edgar Montford, half-backs Ted Smith and George Shut plus forwards Alf Edge and Bernard Rhodes.

12 The players were initially paid a half crown (12p) a game each.

25 Stoke were forced to up the match fee to five shillings (25p) after a players' revolt. The club had tried to introduce different pay for certain players until the senior players went on strike.

10 It took until the 10th month of 1886 before Stoke won their first FA Cup match 10-0 over Caernarfon Wanderers. The result is still the club's biggest win in a first class match.

12 In 1888 the Football League was founded and Stoke were one of the 12 original members.

2 The inaugural season of the Football League in 1888/89 was a difficult one for the Potters. It began with a 2-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion and continued with problems of getting players to turn up for training and matches. There was an instance against Preston North End when 2 of their players had failed to make it to the morning train to Preston and Stoke had to borrow 2 of North End's reserves to make up their numbers!

12 Stoke finished 12th out of 12 teams in their first ever league season, suffering 14 defeats along the way. The Potters had to be re-elected to a league that they had been a large part of creating.

10 The club's second league season did not start out much better than the first and they suffered an early 10-0 thrashing at the hands of reigning champions PNE. That result still stands as Stoke's biggest ever defeat.

1 In November 1892 Jack Evans became the first Stoke City player ever to be sent off in a match against Everton.

1896 In February 1896 Stoke bought Darwen striker 'Archie' Maxwell in return for a set of wrought iron gates for Darwen's ground.

1898 An even more bizarre transfer deal was made in 1898, as Stoke struggled financially, player-secretary William Rowley transferred himself to Leicester Fosse (later to become Leicester City) and agreed his own signing fee. The Football League were not impressed and promptly suspended him.

5 Stoke reached their first FA Cup semi-final in the 1898-99 season and each of the players was awarded a £5 bonus as a reward.

1908 The Potters suffered severe financial problems at the start of the 20th century and relegation to Division Two added to dwindling attendances led to the club going bust in 1908. They lost their Football League status and replaced their reserve team with the first team in the Birmingham & District League for the 1908/09 season, after re-registering as a new company.

4 Despite the players having to race from stranded trains, to taxis which then broke-down and then on to the ground itself to face Blackburn Rovers in a match which had to kick off half an hour late due to the travel chaos, it all went for nought as the match was abandoned with 4 minutes to go!

1924 The club's finances remained tight right through the pre-war era culminating in an attempt to introduce wage cuts in 1924. The cuts were dropped to stave off a players' revolt.

17 The 'Wizard of Dribble' Stanley Matthews was 17 years old when he made his Stoke debut in 1932. His emergence as one of the biggest stars of the game completely transformed the fortunes of the Potters. His very presence added thousanda to the gates each week as he became the central figure of a formidable Stoke team.

510 Club legend Bob McGrory hung up his boots to become manager in 1935 after 510 appearances for the Potters. It could have all been so different as it is said that on his arrival in Stoke from Burnley in 1921 McGrory very nearly turned round and went back. The story from the time was that he was not impressed with Stoke the city or the club on first viewing. I think it is safe to say that both grew on him.

17 After retiring from playing to become manager McGrory went on to 17 years in charge, though it was interrupted by the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939 and the suspension of league football until 1946.

1938 Snowballing rumours that Stanley Matthews was unhappy and wanted to leave Stoke City prompted a public meeting at the Kings Hall! Three thousand people fill the hall, while over a thousand more waited outside to find out the result of the meeting. Unsurprisingly the meeting decide that the club should do everything it could to keep hold of their star man.

33 Sadly with the return of football after World War 2, there came the loss of more life. The 1946 FA Cup 6th round tie at Bolton Wanderers saw 33 supporters tragically kille and 520 injured when crush barriers gave way.

1947 The return of the Football League following the Second World War saw a strong Stoke side, though robbed of its prime years by the war, challenge for the title right up until the final game of an elongated season. With a harsh winter causing the season to finish in June, the Potters just needed to win their final match at Sheffield United to win the title. Unfortunately for Stoke, they lost 2-1 handing the crown to Liverpool. Maybe even worse was the the legendary Stanley Matthews left to sign for Blackpool with just three games left to play.

53 Without Matthews, Stoke struggled and dropped down the table until eventually relegated in 1953 with just 53 goals scored, the lowest in Division One.

1952 Tony Waddington arrived as a coach with Stoke in 1952. He was promoted to assistant to manager Frank Taylor in 1957, before inheriting the job of manager in 1960. The Potters' side he took over had finished 17th in the second tier, after a battle against relegation, conceding 83 goals. Waddington created new tactics, which became known as 'Waddington's Wall', which gradually turned the tide.

1962 The return of the great man himself. 1962 saw Stanley Matthews return to Stoke after 14 successful years with Blackpool. Despite being 46 years old by now, the gate for his first appearance covered his entire £3,000 transfer fee, as nearly 36,000 witnesses his homecoming against Huddersfield Town. Just two weeks earlier less than 8,500 were watching the home game against Preston North End.

50 The now Sir Stanley Matthews played his 701st and final league game against Fulham in 1965 aged 50!

52,000 Waddington paid Leicester City £52,000 for England's World Cup winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks in 1967. Banks was still England number one and many believed the best goalkeeper in the world, his arrival stabilised a struggling Stoke team and kept them safe in the top flight.

97,852 A crowd of 97,852 at Wembley witnessed the Potters win their first (and so far only) major honour on 4th March 1972. A 2-1 win over Chelsea was enough for Tony Waddington's charges to lift the League Cup. 250,000 people lined the streets of Stoke to welcome the team home the following day. It was just a few months later, in October 1972, that Gordon Banks lost his eye in a road accident, ending his career.

325,000 Replacing Banks was a difficult job, but Stoke splashed out a world record fee for a goalkeeper of £325,000 for the man who had replaced Banks at Leicester City, Peter Shilton.

440,000 After a storm blew part of the roof off the Butler Street stand in January 1976, Stoke hit some financial difficulties paying for the repairs and Alan Hudson, Mike Pejic and Jimmy Greenhoff were sold off for combined fees of £440,000 to keep the club afloat. Unfortunately, losing three players of such quality led to the team being relegated at the end of the 1976/77 season. It also saw Waddington walk away from the club.

5 The 1980s saw Stoke go through 5 managers and 5 chairmen as stability and success eluded the club. The final chairman of the 80s was the one to restore stability as Peter Coates stepped in to the hot chair.

25 Lou Macari was brought in while Stoke were in the third tier for the first time in their history and he led the team to a club record 25 games in a row without defeat between September and February on their way to winning the division with a club record 93 points.

1,500,000 Stoke were dealt a double blow at the end of 1993 as Macari left to take over his first love, Celtic, while a month later goalscoring hero Mark Stein headed to Chelsea for a club record £1,500,000 fee. The Potters paid just £100,000 for Stein a couple of seasons earlier.

28,000 After over 100 years at the Victoria Ground, Stoke moved to their brand-new 28,000 seater stadium for the 1996/97 season. West Bromwich Albion were the last team to play a league game against Stoke at the Victoria Ground, just as they were the first in 1888/89.

2,500,000 The club's record transfer fee was raised to £2.5m in the 1997/98 season as Mike Sheron moved to Queens Park Rangers.

1999 The year 1999 was a big one at Stoke as they were bought by an Icelandic business group who appointed the club's first overseas manager Gudjon Thordason in November.

12 In 2009 Stoke ended their first ever season in the Premier League with a 12th placed finish under Tony Pulis.

40 Under Tony Pulis the sight of Rory Delap hurling the ball 40 yards into the penalty box from a throw in became a common place occurrence. Initially Delap, who was a javelin throwing champion as a youth, threw the ball further but it was found that a flat trajectory, though reducing the possible distance, made for a more dangerous ball.

10,000,000 The summer of 2011 saw Stoke spend a club record of £10m on England striker, and now podcast legend, Peter Crouch.

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Stoke City News 10 Dec 2020
A To Z - Leicester City

A is for Arthur

The club's all-time record goalscorer is Arthur Chandler, and his goals fired Leicester to within a point of the league title in 1929. In the early 60's they also had another top goalscorer, Arthur Rowley, whose 434 league goals is an all-time British record. In fact, in their top 10 of record goalscorers, three of them are called Arthur and all three scored more goals for the Foxes than Gary Lineker!

B is for Bible

Leicester were established by a bible class in 1884. It was 21 years after the creation of the Football Association and the founders established a committee, paying 9d to join and a further 9d to buy a football.

C is for Chocolate

Leicester Fosse's strip when they first entered the Football League was chocolate brown and blue halves. Prior to that they wore black tops with a sky-blue sash and long white trousers rather than shorts! It was 1903 before they switched to the colours they are now known for of blue and white.

D is for Doubles

Twice double winning English sides opened the door for Leicester to compete for a trophy. In 1961 they lost the FA Cup final to double winners Tottenham Hotspur, but due to Spurs being in the European Cup instead, they were England's entrants in the European Cup Winners' Cup. In 1971 the Foxes won their only Charity Shield as double winners Arsenal had commitments in European competition and so were unable to compete. Leicester beat the FA Cup runners up, Liverpool, 1-0 with a goal by Steve Whitworth.

E is for Europe

While Leicester City may not have had much European success of their own yet, European football did provide their one and only Charity Shield win. In 1971, as the winners of Division 2, they were invited to play FA Cup runners up Liverpool as double winning Arsenal's European commitments meant they were unable to take part. The Foxes won it 1-0 courtest of a Steve Whitworth goal.

F is for Fosse

Leicester City were initially called Leicester Fosse. That was because of the Fosse Way, an old Roman thoroughfare, that ran from South West to North East England. One of the founders, Frank Gardner, said at the time: "As the Fosse is known throughout the land, so the new club shall be known to the future." Their first match took place just off Fosse Road South against Syston Fosse.

G is for Goals

When you see a goal has been scored by Leicester now, you can be almost certain it has come from the boot of Jamie Vardy, but he is just 4th (currently) on their list of top goalscorers ever. Top is Arthur Chandler with 273, second is Arthur Rowley with 265 and third, quite a way behind those two, is Ernie Hine with 156. Vardy's current total (as of 20th November 2020) of 139 leaves him trailing behind.

H is for Heroes

There is no other word for the 2015-16 season Premier League winning team in Leicester than heroes. So much so that their only Ballon d'Or nominees since the great Gordon Banks, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, received their nominations while playing in that side. Mahrez also won the club's only PFA Player of the Year that season, Vardy the clubs only ever FWA Footballer of the Year. Manager Claudio Ranieri also won the Overall and Premier League LMA Manager of the Year and Best FIFA Men's Coach. The team itself also won the BBC Sports Personality Team of the Year and ESPN Team of the Year awards, the only time they have won either award.

I is for Ice Kings

In the 1962-63 season the Foxes' team was dubbed the "Ice Kings" as they led the old First Division through the winter due to excellent form on icy and frozen pitches. They ended the season in 4th. The form was probably due to the management of Matt Gillies, who implemented a system based on the style of play used previously by the great Austrian and Hungarian teams.

J is for Jamie

For years there was only one goalscorer anyone thought of when the name Leicester City was mentioned, arguably he is also the club's most famous supporters, Gary Lineker. Nowadays he has been supplanted in most people's eyes by a new goalscoring icon, Jamie Vardy. Despite coming late to professional sport from the non-league scene, Vardy's exploits make him a legend at Leicester and took him into international football with England. The big question is, at the age of 33, how much more is left in the tank?

K is for King Power

It was 2010 when King Power owner Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha bought the club from Milan Mandaric, with it then in the Championship. Sadly he died in a helicopter accident alongside four others outside the club's stadium in 2018 but the club's ownership remains in the hands of his family, with his son Khun Aiyawatt the current chairman.

L is for Lineker

Gary Winston Lineker is arguably the club's most famous ever youth product, due to both his exploits with England and his later career in broadcasting. Lineker was with Leicester from 1978 until 1985, when he signed for reigning champions Everton. He hung his boots up after scoring 48 goals in 80 appearances with England.

M is for Midland

The newly formed Leicester Fosse club joined the Midland League in 1891 before being elected to Division Two of the Football League in 1894.

N is for Nine

When the club founders set up Leicester Fosse, they formed a committee and paid 9d each upon entry and a further 9d to buy a football.

O is for O'Neill

Martin O'Neill established his reputation as a manager with a spell at Leicester City in the late 1990s. O'Neill led Leicester to four consecutive top-10 finishes and twice into qualification for the UEFA Cup as well as a League Cup win.

P is for Problems

In October 2002 Leicester went into administration following their relegation from the Premier League, though they still managed to get back up into the Prem at the end of that season.

Q is for Quit

The club's motto is "Foxes Never Quit" which is written above the player's tunnel entrance.

R is for Ranieri

The man who led them to their one and only, so far, league title was Italian Claudio Ranieri. They were rated by the bookies as 5000/1 against to win the Premier League before that 2015/16 season kicked off.

S is for School

The founders were a group of former pupils of Wyggeston School, then a grammar school for boys but now a sixth form college in Leicester.

T is for Thailand

The club is owned by a consortium led by the Thai owner of the King Power Group. The Asian Football Investments consortium which owns the club (which former owner Milan Mandaric is an investor in) is based in Thailand. The club's main shirt sponsors are the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the sleeve sponsor is a Vietnamese beer producer called Bia Saigon, which is owned by ThaiBev, which is based in, yes you guessed it, Thailand.

U is for Unbelievables

The Leicester team which won the 2015/16 Premier League title is often known as 'The Unbelievables'. It was the highest odds winner in sports for most bookmakers, as they were a team that had only narrowly avoided relegation the previous season. Their fans are still celebrating the title now!

V is for Victoria

The club's first settled venue for matches was Victoria Park, which they used between 1884 and 1887 before a move to Belgrave Road Cycle and Cricket Ground.. Unfortunately for the then Leicester Fosse team, Leicester Tigers Rugby Club outbid them in 1888 and they were forced into a shortlived return to Victoria Park.

W is for Walnut

The club's longlasting and famous Filbert Street home stadium was originally known as the Walnut Street Ground. They moved there in October 1891 and stayed there until 2002, when they moved to their new purpose-built stadium, which they still inhabit.

X is for Xenocracy

Leicester have been run by foreign owners since 2007 when Milan Mandaric bought the club from the consortium, led by Foxes' legend Gary Lineker, which had saved it from administration in 2002.

Y is for Yagiment

There must have been a huge sense of excitement around the club in 1981 when manager Jock Wallace announced that Johan Cruyff was close to signing for the Foxes. However it had been a ploy by the Scotsman, trying to force Cruyff's hand while in negotiations which had initially seemed promising, but were now looking like a forlorn hope. Wallace's side were bottom of the old First Division and Wallace believed that bringing in Johan Cruyff, even at the age of 33 after a couple of years playing in the United States, would save the club from relegation. Cruyff instead for signed for Spanish club Levante who sweetened their offer with (reportedly) up to 50% of gate money.

Z is for Zagorakis

As well as winning 120 caps for his country, Theodoros Zagorakis also played for Leicester City between July 1997 and July 2000, when he left for AEK Athens on a free transfer. The midfielder, who is now retired and president of PAOK Salonika, managed 59 games after eventually making his debut under Martin O'Neill in February 1998.

To read the previous A To Z: ChievoVerona click here.

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Stoke City News 08 Dec 2020
Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers A Liverpool Perspective

Another of those excellent performances that seem to be dragged out of the depths when things are looking bleak. Though it must be said that the game was a fairly even contest, except for Wolves looking a little on the toothless side without a genuine striker to play through. It is beginning to feel like Klopp could put almost any combination of 11 players out and they would be a match for anyone.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves started well, with a clear gameplan, but they are not adapting all that well to a back four and it is causing them problems. Adding that to no Raul Jiminez up top and the loss of the outball to Docherty that was so important to their play and it is quite a worrying time for Wolves in their quest for regular European football. The lack of any creativity and forward running from their midfield means all the attacking impetus comes entirely from wide areas and is much easier to defend now that they no longer have the aerial prowess of Jiminez or Doherty's late runs into the box. Adding that to their struggles defensively with a back four and this looks like a season of transition to a style that suits the players they do have.

Coady's mistake and later dive were turning points in the match, as the first Liverpool goal made Wolves look ragged in their attempts to get back into the match and the dive drove Liverpool onto really put this game beyond doubt. However, there really was little to show Wolves had any cutting edge. Traore did what he always does as a starter, has a couple of flashes of brilliance before putting the ball into an area miles away from any of his teammates (often row z of the stand) and generally offers very little. They really need Silva to find his feet fast.


Klopp - he always finds a way. I cannot remember a single game under Klopp, even last season when the title was won, where the players have not tried. There were a few games last season where you could see they were still mentally celebrating the title, but none where they were not trying to win. It is such a rare skill that he has to get players to give their all for him and to stand together when all is going wrong. This season has been one of remarkable management from Klopp and cemented him as one of the all-time greats. 65 unbeaten at home and scoring in 40 games in a row at home in the Premier League is an incredible achievement, especially when you consider the difficulties of this unusual season. I doubt anyone else could have reached this level.

Kelleher - or should that be Kellher? Whichever of the guys (as there is a team of kit men these days) was responsible for the error must be embarrassed by that bless him! Kelleher looks assured, confident and comfortable with the ball on either foot. The worry is that he looks far too good to be a back up and you have to wonder how long will he be willing to be an understudy. That is something for another day though, as he is still young enough to work with Alisson and learn from him in training. In this game Kelleher did well dealing with the balls played into the box and made one good save too. He is looking impressive.

Williams - after a bad start, with another silly foul and booking early on, he grew into the game and played well, even at the start of the second half when Traore was shifted over to try and attack him. Admittedly he was given a lot of protection by the midfield, Wijnaldum in particular, but it would have been easy for him to fall to pieces after that early error. It looks like he can learn, but now Williams just needs to not put himself into trouble in the first place.

Matip - he is looking like the rust is falling away and his all-round game was much more like the Matip of last season. Plus he scored a towering header. Now he just needs to stay fit!

Fabinho - early on he made the error of selling himself in the challenge against Traore, though at least he did it away from the box, but after that he was once again excellent. It is easy to forget that he is playing out of position.

Robertson - another outstanding performance from Robertson. This season he has been immense and Tsimikas must be wondering how on earth he will ever get a run of games. There were times last season when he looked a little tired, this season, even when carrying knocks, he just looks tireless. Robertson has also stepped up his overall game, his link up play in particular is excellent this season. He and Mane work together so well.

Jones - a very disciplined performance from what is still an inexperienced youngster. Jones showed that he is capable of making things happen in attacking areas but that he can also provide protection to the defence. I was very impressed with his work when Wolves had the ball.

Wijnaldum - started off in the holding role, then switched to the right and gave Williams excellent protection. He looked like a player playing for a new deal and was right at the top of his game and he scored, something he does need to do more of. Especially goals that good, as it was a fantastic team move with a great finish to cap it off. It was one of his better games for Liverpool. It was also interesting that he was the one given the armband when Henderson went off.

Henderson - had an excellent game and was once again the driving force the team needed. The team might not win every game when he plays, but you know that he will never allow them to turn one in the way some other teams do. After Leicester City's title win, for example, you could see half the players thought they had done all they needed to and would barely break sweat. That will never happen while Henderson is the captain, he would not allow it.

Mane - at times his footwork was sensational. Semedo was being torn apart. It is the first time this season that Mane looked to be hitting top form. You always know when he is doing well because you actually feel sorry for his opponent as they are being made to look silly. His link up play with Robertson is particularly good.

Firmino - finally hitting form, with a couple of lovely nutmegs thrown in for good measure. It has been a difficult season for him but even on a bad day he makes the team play better. On a day like this, Firmino runs the game and brings everyone into play.

Salah - looked sharp, scored and got an assist with a lovely ball into the box for Matip's header. You have to give him credit for being there to score from Coady's mistake as well, many forwards, particularly wide ones, would have given up and not been there to pick it up. Not Salah, he was there to put pressure on Coady and hoping to force an error.

Alexander-Arnold - replaced Williams in the 68th minute. So good to see him back and delivering a beautiful ball in for the final goal. It was like the icing on the best birthday cake ever.

Jota - came on for Firmino in the 73rd minute. The game was pretty much over, but he looked determined to put it beyond doubt and worked hard to try and get involved.

Keita - gave Henderson the chance to have a rest in the 81st minute. He joined a game that was done, so it is impossible to really judge his performance.

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Stoke City News 29 Nov 2020
By The Numbers - Part 3: Leicester City

185 The Foxes new training facility is being built on a 185-acre site. All of Leicester's teams will be based on the site which previously housed Park Hill Golf Club.

11 This is Leicester's 11th time in the top flight of the English leagues.

1884 Leicester City was launched in 1884, beginning life as Leicester Fosse, named after the famous Fosse Way road that runs nearby.

4 They have reached the FA Cup final four times in their history but never actually won it.

2010 Leicester were bought by a Thai consortium led by Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who became chairman the following year.

1891 Leicester moved to their Filbert Street home, where they spent the next 111 years.

1919 Following the end of World War 1, Leicester Fosse were stricken with financial problems and were taken over by a new company 'Leicester City Football Club'.

7 The Foxes have won the English second tier a record 7 times under its various names.

3 The League Cup has made its way back to Leicester 3 times.

2002 Relegation in 2002 was followed by a period in administration.

41 Leicester City have had 41 different managers so far.

78,000,000 The record transfer fee received by the Foxes was £78m for Harry Maguire from Manchester United on 5th August 2019.

40,500,000 The highest fee ever paid was a little over half of that received for Maguire when Youri Tielemans made his loan move into a permanent one from AS Monaco in 8th July 2019.

1 The Foxes have one Charity Shield in their trophy cabinet from 1971.

222 Muzzy Izzet holds the record for the most appearances in the Premier League for Leicester with 222. Though England striker Jamie Vardy is fast closing in on the record with 219 as of 26th November 2020.

110 Speaking of Vardy, his fairytale story shows no sign of coming to an end yet, he is probably the club's best-ever player and the club's top scorer ever in the Premier League with 111 goals as of 26th November 2020. Second is Riyad Mahrez, who has 39.

34 The club record for assists in the Premier League is held by Steve Guppy, with 34 which no doubt all came from his excellent crosses. Vardy is once again second in this with 30 as of 26th November 2020.

90 The most Premier League wins is surprisingly not held by Vardy, but instead Kasper Schmeichel, who has won 91 games while in the Leicester side. Vardy is close behind with 90 though as of 26th November 2020.

600 Graham Cross is the man with the most appearances in a Foxes' shirt with 600 made between 1961 and 1975.

414 While Muzzy Izzet may (just) hold the record for the most appearances in the Premier League, he is a long way behind the overall club record for top tier appearances. Though many do not realise league football actually did begin before the creation of the Premier 'Greed Is God' League in 1992, Graham Cross set the club record for top flight appearances in the 1960s and 1970s.

528 The overall league appearance record was set a few years earlier than that by Adam Black in the period between the two world wars with 528. The Scot made 557 appearances overall to sit second in that particular club record.

59 Graham Cross is again the man when it comes to appearances. His FA Cup appearance record is 59, with no one else even coming close to reaching 50 in the FA Cup so far in a Leicester shirt, it looks like it will be a record he will hold for a very long time to come!

40 For once Cross has a peer, when it comes to League Cup appearances Steve Walsh has made the same number. Walsh played for the club between 1986 and 2000, in a time when it seemed like they were always in the running to win the League Cup in its various guises.

61 In the 1991-92 season Gary Mills set a club record by making 61 appearances in total. 46 in the league, 3 in the play-offs, 2 in the FA Cup, 4 in the League Cup and 6 in the Full Members Cup.

331 Surprisingly, considering the number of games he played for the Foxes, Graham Cross is beaten to the consecutive appearance record by Mark Wallington. Between 1975 and 1982 Wallington did not miss a single match!

19 The longest spell at the club very nearly reached 20 years, as Sep Smith was on Leicester's books between 1929 and 1949 for a total of 19 years and 249 days.

15 The Foxes youngest ever player was Ashley Chambers, who made his debut in a match against Blackpool in 2005 aged just 15 years and 203 days old.

43 Mark Schwarzer was nearly three times as old as the youngest ever player when he faced Hull City in 2015 aged 43 years and 21 days old.

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Stoke City News 23 Nov 2020
Liverpool v Leicester City A Liverpool Perspective

Once again Liverpool faced Leicester at a time that really was not good for Liverpool with all their injuries and missing Mo Salah. Once again Liverpool made the Foxes look second rate, which they clearly are not. It must be pointed out that Leicester were fairly badly hit by injury, though they did still have most of their first choice players to choose from, only Ndidi, Soyuncu and one of Pereira or Castagne would most likely fit into the team. What it showed is that Leicester are still missing a lot of pieces from a championship-winning side, in a normal year, as they have not replaced Chilwell effectively.

It was an exceptional performance that showed that Klopp's talk of 'mentality monsters' is true. The more things go against them, the more they step up and the better they play. Lose 3-0 to Barcelona and no Salah for the second leg? No problem, even when Robertson goes off injured. This was a similar level of performance. It was dominant and demoralising for Leicester, just like last Christmas (how many of you are now hearing the Wham! song go round in their head now?!?) when a jetlagged Liverpool team destroyed the then second-placed Foxes.

It was the kind of performance that champions need to produce on a regular basis, if they are to hold onto the title. However, there is still a long way to go this season and, with yet another injury to contend with, there is only so much that can be done to patch the team. Wins like this will go a long way towards covering up for any injury problems as this was the kind of result that puts fear into future opponents. Just when there is a sight of a chink in the armour, the team goes and does this.

This is the way to go about building the kind of feeling of invulnerability that Liverpool had in the 80s, which saw them pick up their last league title until Klopp, even when the team was not really good enough to deserve it. It creates an aura that sees a number of opponents expect to lose and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when their heads drop at the slightest setback. It is just one game though and that must be remembered.

Leicester City

They just had no answer to Liverpool's pressing and their attempts to drop off and draw the defence out did create a few moments for Vardy to counter, but the pressure on the ball made most of the balls inaccurate. They were not given time and space at all, mistakes were forced out of them and that increased the pressure as they were once again trying to chase shadows.

Tactically Rodgers made a huge mistake, he left Firmino free to go where he wanted. No doubt he had been looking at the stats, which suggest Firmino is not performing and never looked any deeper to see why it was so. Every game has seen opponents try and shut him down, to work on keeping the ball away from him as much as possible and ensuring Firmino never got any time and space when he did actually get on the ball. Every game until now, that is. As usual, when given time and space Firmino's link up play lifts Liverpool and allows them to play the way they want to.

It is the same as ever with Rodgers, he just has not quite got the tactical nous when it matters. The Foxes could really do with looking at getting someone in to analyse opponents and how to neutralise them and get at them. I am not sure who is doing that for them at the moment, but it is clear that they are getting it wrong far too often. It led to them falling away last season and it could well do the same again this season if they are not careful. I am not meaning just prior to matches, but someone to be there during the game to give Rodgers help when changes are needed mid-game. Someone within his close staff that he will listen to.

There were a couple of good signs for Leicester to get comfort from, Schmeichel played well but his distribution under pressure was poor. Fofana was excellent on the ball but his defending was rash, a real show of inexperience as he constantly sold himself trying to win a ball he was never going to get to. They also did get chances to launch a counter, but made a mess of the passes under pressure.


Klopp - what can you say? Once again Klopp has dragged a performance out of a Liverpool team that made it look like it was a first-choice team firing on all cylinders. The squad is so well coached and drilled that they can just be shuffled around to suit need on the day and it all works like a well-oiled machine. 64 unbeaten at home in the league in a row tells its own story. The one thing that does need working on is corners, the delivery was poor except for two or three good balls. Considering two of the goals came from those few good corners, it would be worth trying to ensure the frequency of good deliveries increases.

Alisson - when called upon, he was there. His quick feet and excellent starting position made a big difference to the game. It made it that much more difficult for Leicester to put a ball in behind the defence as he condensed the space available. Made an excellent double stop at one point, though Vardy should really have been flagged offside.

Milner - was brilliant at right-back, playing some excellent, incisive passes and winning the battle there with Barnes. Just when you think you are getting a handle on where his best position is, Milner puts in a performance like that and you wonder if just maybe this is where he would have been best all along. When he moved into midfield, he was just as good. He must be a dream for Klopp to work with.

Matip - started the game looking a bit rusty and allowed himself to be dragged into midfield leaving a gap in behind a few times. In the second half, whether by instruction or he was finally waking up, he dropped off with a runner, rather than chasing into their half trying to win the ball, and saw out the danger. Though, just as I was noting it down he then went and gave away a needless corner with a mistake! I do think it is rustiness though, his passing is not quite there and nor is his touch, two parts of the game he normally excels in, I expect them to come back as he shakes off the rust with a run of games.

Fabinho - an excellent game, Vardy barely got in the game and that was in large part due to him. The few times Matip got drawn out of position, he was always there to cover. He has slotted in as a centre-back like he was born to play there. At times he had that imperious quality of van Dijk at his best.

Robertson - absolutely outstanding again. Poor Tsimikas is really going to struggle to get a run of games with Robertson in this form. His link up and partnership with Mane works so well and his delivery for Firmino's goal was a great cross. It was noticeable that in the warm up he and Milner were the two doing all the talking, they were clearly talking through what everyone needed to go and getting them fired up. He is having the season of his life.

Keita - started off with a weak challenge, but then grew into the game and was much better on the ball than usual, closer to the Keita we hoped for. He did play one particular nice ball down the side to Mane which completely took Fofana out of the game. Still not doing his job well off the ball though, a lazy foul after being caught out of position is not something to be lauded, though it is an improvement. In the past he would have not even bothered to commit the foul, so it is a step forward, but there is a lot of potential to get better. The big problem is that, as usual, he is unable to stay fit. In a season like this one that is a problem as there are just too many players with similar problems in the squad. Unless he starts to do more when he is fit, to earn his place, there is little point having such a financial drain at the club.

Wijnaldum - played the deeper role, which is not really his ideal role, but it was a case of needs must. Despite playing out of position, he stepped up and put in a very good performance. Together with Jones, in particular, he shut down the Foxes midfield and forced Leicester to look longer than they wanted. When Leicester shifted to a back four, he was forced to do a bit more defensive work, but he did it very well and gradually took back control of the midfield.

Jones - involved from start to finish at both ends of the pitch. Showed good movement, worked back well to help break up attacks and was generally very good on the ball. A very impressive game from him.

Jota - tied Fuchs up in knots and had the Austrian looking leggy by the end of the first five minutes. Some of his movement was exceptional and he linked up really well. I have never been convinced by him playing from the right in the past, but he showed he can play there and play it to a very high level. I can think of no higher compliment than that he made sure we did not miss Salah. Evans was almost constantly being dragged across to cover and Jota fully deserved his goal. Arguably the best player on the pitch and yet another goal to make it 8 in 12 games (4 in 7 in the Premier League) is making it impossible to leave him out.

Firmino - played really well, his press was back and he was everywhere linking up the play. It did seem like he was cursed not to score until it finally went in for him. You have to give him plaudits for his persistence, it would have been easy to just give up trying and look for the pass. Leicester will be rueing giving him so much time and space.

Mane - absolutely destroyed Fofana time and time again. The Leicester defender ended up making desperate lunges to try and cut off the ball, rather than just trying to deal with Mane after he got it. It was clear that Fofana knew Mane had the beating of him and was just avoiding a head-to-head with him at all costs. His link up with Robertson is particularly good.

N. Williams - replaced the injured (again) Keita in the 54th minute. Fine going forward but worried me when in the defensive third as he dithered on the ball and allowed Leicester to close off the options. It was clear they realised he was a weak link and targeted him for a full press. He got away with it, but he needs to be more decisive and move it forward more quickly when deep in his own half. Better to just put it in behind them and allow the team to push up, rather than dally and allow them to apply a press when back there.

Minamino - came on late in place of Jota. The game was petering out and, while he worked hard he was unable to make an impression in the short time he had.

Origi - was brought on to replace Mane in the 89th minute as half of a double-substitution along with Minamino. Barely got into the game.

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Stoke City News 10 Nov 2020
Manchester City v Liverpool A Liverpool Perspective

Unusually in this period of football with no fans in grounds, this was a high-intensity match in the first half, but it was clear that the players had nothing left for the second half. What was an exciting game of two sluggers throwing everything at each other looking for a knockout blow petered out into two worn out leg weary fighters at the end of a fight who have punched themselves out. By the end it was looking like both teams had settled for the point.

The two penalties were always going to be given, a handball is always subjective and Gomez did pull his hand away but, though it was smashed at him, there was a bit of distance which meant the referee was always going to give a penalty. Harsh? Definitely, but there are a lot of those given, so it is no surprise. The other one was a foul, though it must be said I have seen a few of those missed by the officials in recent months. Even with the arrival of VAR, they are still incompetent and clueless about the game.

Overall it was a fairly even game, though I feel that Liverpool shaded it, that could just be my personal bias at play, so I would not put much store in that feeling. The surprising thing was the lack of clear cut chances, there was nothing like as many as you would expect in a game between two teams with such potent goalscoring threats.

Manchester City

I have to say City disappointed me, they look a shadow of the team they were, for me that is mainly down to the loss of David Silva. With him in the side they kept good possession, moving the ball around quickly but without turning it over. Without him they struggle to keep hold of the ball for extended periods and that is no doubt contributing to the rise in goals against them. One of the main ways a Guardiola side defends is by keeping the ball for lengthy periods, moving the opponents around. When the opposition does get the ball, they are often needing a breather after chasing after it for 10 minutes and so unable to mount a meaningful attack.

They finally have a defence worthy of the name, something that has taken Pep a lot longer to sort out than it should have, but their midfield and attack now look weaker than they have been in a long, long time. It feels like a team in transition, something which is incredible when you consider how much money has been spent in the last few years. Maybe even more incredible is that this is a squad that is still fully capable of winning the league and arguably the strongest in the Premier League!

The other big question, I suppose, is whether Jesus meant the touch for the goal? His reply when asked after the match was that of a player that did not mean to do it and I do feel that there was no way he meant the ball to end up where it did. However, in my opinion, that just shows good instincts and reactions to reach the ball first and put it away. In other words, whether he meant it or not, it was a great striker's goal.


Klopp - it is probably harsh to criticise him, I fully understood why he chose the team he did, but I think he needs to start looking at rotation of the front 3, rather than just removing a midfielder. It did work, particularly in the first half, to a large degree, but it requires so much more work and meant players were playing out of position. It might well be that he just did not want to take the risk of one holding when Fabinho is out, as none of the rest of the team can cover defensively to his level.

Alisson - a good performance from the Brazilian, he exudes calm, even when rushing 40 yards out of the box to head a ball clear. His decisiveness is very important to a team with aspirations of retaining the title.

Alexander-Arnold - once again not at his scintillating best, but clearly it was fatigue as he pulled up in the second half with an injury. Losing him for a lengthy time would be a huge blow, not just is he a great player, but even when not playing well he draws the focus of the opponent's defence too him.

Matip - he just looked like a player coming back off a long injury, extremely rusty, slow to react and in need of games. So, despite his passing being absolutely abysmal, I am not too worried as we know he can do so much better once he gets going. The only real worry is keeping him fit.

Gomez - a decent performance from Gomez, but only decent, still a way off his best, but that could be down to playing alongside a different partner again, one who was way off the pace. One thing that has impressed me is his willingness to look for those diagonal balls van Dijk specialised in. Like van Dijk, they do not always come off, but it shows he is looking to change the point of attack and about how to create, rather than just making the easy pass sideways or backwards. If there was one major criticism of him when he was playing well, is that tendency to take the easy pass too often. Both Matip and van Dijk have the vision to look for the more incisive pass, Fabinho was often dropped back when chasing a game as he can too. It is a big bonus if Gomez adds it to his armoury as well.

Robertson - just about the only player that looks to be unaffected by the lack of a pre-season, he has been on it since the season started and is still playing really well. His link up with Mane is exceptional. But, he does tend to stand off a bit much and allow crosses.

Henderson - not his most effective game, struggled to establish control of the midfield as City outnumbered Liverpool massively in that area. Had a quiet second half.

Wijnaldum - struggled after a really good start, looking really leggy and was unable to make any of his bursts forward from midfield. Looks in need of a rest by the way he faded as the game went on.

Jota - he is allowed a poor game after his recent performances, but this was particularly poor. I do have one major worry with him, his game seems to consist of him creating chances for himself, when at his best. I really cannot remember him playing anyone else in or doing anything to help build an attack. That might be due to still learning how to work with the others, but it is a real worry as he becomes little more than a hindrance when not playing well. It is something I would like to see him work on as, for all the criticism of Salah being greedy, Salah and Mane contribute heavily when not playing well. I really do not think playing on the right suits him and he very rarely offers width out there, usually coming in far too early and so giving time for the defence to adjust and leave no gap for the Liverpool right-back to attack.

Salah - his touch was off and he looked out on his feet at the end, but he never stops going at the opposition, or gives them a moment's peace. He also keeps running at teams in the box which caused the penalty award, plus he is clinical with putting them in the back of the net.

Firmino - started well but also faded out of the game. It was telling that after he went off Liverpool created almost nothing and struggled badly to keep any control of the ball. Even an out of form Firmino is key to the way Liverpool play and Klopp needs to find someone else who can provide something similar in the middle. Really needs to make more of his chances, especially when breaking through against just the keeper, though Ederson did do very well.

Mane - looked much more like his old self but he did allow Walker far too much space to get forward. If the system is going to play with the four forwards in it, the wider ones have to be more diligent about keeping the opposing full-backs pressed back.

Shaqiri - came on for Firmino in the 59th minute. After a number of good performances in midfield, Klopp decided to stick with his system and bring him on to play on the left. A mistake in my eyes as we needed his vision and range of passing in the centre without Firmino there. He struggled to get into the game.

Milner - replaced the injured Alexander-Arnold in the 63rd minute. As usual he came in and gave a no-nonsense all-action performance. Milner really is the man that can, no matter where he is asked to play, he just can do it.

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Stoke City News 02 Nov 2020
Liverpool v West Ham United A Liverpool Perspective

It was not a great watch, but once again Liverpool ground out a win when it mattered. Despite all the talk of how they are not playing as well as last season, they spent most of last season doing exactly this and the media and pundits saying they were not playing as well as the previous season. It is reminiscent of the 1980s, when Liverpool would just grind their opponents down, tiring them out by moving the ball around until gaps appeared late in the game. It was only when there was an early breakthrough that Liverpool would be able to rip teams apart, as opponents would otherwise sit in and leave no gaps for Liverpool to use.

At the moment there is a definite blueprint for the opposition to use against Liverpool, which does stifle the team, but has not actually managed to stop them. It is based around a deep-lying midfielder man-marking Firmino and leaving the central defenders free to stay in position. No longer is Firmino's movement able to pull the centre-backs out of place and leave gaps for Salah and Mane to exploit. It does mean the opposition tend to be less able to build any attacks of their own or controlled possession, but it also makes it more difficult for Liverpool to create meaningful attacks.

In fact, that was a big worry, that Liverpool had such difficulty creating anything, the ball movement was too slow in the first half and a lot of the players looked jaded at times, from both sides. Liverpool did improve in the second half, moving the ball with more purpose and reaped the benefits. There is a real issue with crosses though, they are never shut down. West Ham were able to put crosses in any time they got forward, without anyone doing a thing to stop them. That does need to be looked at when facing teams such as the Hammers.

West Ham United

Moyes once again showed why he has never won at Anfield, his attitude is too negative going into the game. Yes they were missing their main man up front in Antonio, but they were in good form and full of confidence coming into the match, but he still set up to try and avoid defeat. They did defend well and made Liverpool work for the win, but it was never really in doubt, in my opinion. Moyes is like Hodgson, extremely limited, it is difficult to see the promised Champions League football coming with him in charge as too many points will get dropped playing for a draw.

They are well organised and will get crosses into the box every chance they get, but the Hammers look toothless without Antonio and that is a real worry. Especially when you consider that he tends to miss chunks of every season through injury. They really need to find an alternative for those games he is unavailable for, which is clearly not Haller as a loan forward. It is not his game. The few times I saw him play before he moved to West Ham, he was actually playing more of a numer 10 role, behind a poacher (I think it was Jovic if I remember correctly but I am probably wrong on that one as my memory is very vague on this). Maybe it is time for Haller to be used once more in a deeper role, while someone else covers the Antonio role?


Klopp - Once more Klopp found a way to win with his substitutions once more proving to be crucial. It is a far cry from his early days with Liverpool when most of the criticism surrounded his use (or lack of) substitutions. Now he has the players to come on and change the game he is doing so regularly.

Alisson - A fairly quiet game for Alisson. Had little chance with the goal, was not really tested other than that, other than maybe could have been a bit more forceful when crosses came in. Maybe.

Alexander-Arnold - Played well though I do wish he would have done more to stop the crosses from coming in. There were far too many balls coming in to the box and that is always dangerous. It only takes a slip or mistake and it is a good chance for the opposition, as we saw. He needs to close down the wide men properly and give them less space. The rest of his defensive game has come on in leaps and bounds, that is the one outstanding weak spot left in his game. Though it must be said on the goal he dropped far too early and deep, while the rest held the line, the key issue with that was that he then never dealt with the runner and allowed a cross to come in far too easily. Alexander-Arnold has to shut that player out if he is going to choose to abandon the defensive line.

Phillips - The debutant was clearly being targeted by Haller, who tried to use his strength and height to bully the new boy but, apart from one or two headers, Phillips got the better of their battle. He was also very good at attacking the set-pieces and crosses coming into the box. A very impressive first game.

Gomez - Unfortunately for him, his day will be remembered for one poorly directed header that Fornals scored from. It is a shame because overall he was very good, apart from a few over-hit passes out from the back.

Robertson - Like Trent, he was not dealing with crosses. His game overall was once again really good, but you have to deal better with widemen when playing against a team managed by the likes of Moyes. His tactical plan always heavily favours getting the ball into the box and it is never a good idea to make it easy for his players to do so!

Henderson - While he is not getting to play in his best role at the moment, his importance to the team cannot be overstated. When Klopp talked about 'mentality monsters', he was describing Henderson, whose leadership makes so much difference. An excellent player, but it his leadership and the way he inspires the rest that makes him particularly key to results like this.

Wijnaldum - Had a really good game, covered so much ground and was one of the few on the pitch that did not look to be slowing down after an hour. He has impressed in the last couple, as others are fading due to the amount of football they are playing, he has come in and looked fresh and fired up. Well as fired up as Gini Wijnaldum can look.

Jones - Jones struggled to get into the game and is far too slow to close down to allow a press to work properly with him in the team. While he does lack a little in the physical department, it is mentally that he is struggling. He is still learning the role and that shows as he is reacting late to the triggers.

Salah - Had an excellent game overall, chasing back, constantly moving the defenders around and trying to make something happen, though his game will be remembered for one moment, just like Gomez. It was soft, he did go down far too easily, but it was a foul. I am not sure what the answer is to all the players doing this, I hate to see them make the most of contact but it is just as frustrating to see them fouled and the ref ignore it because the player did not go to ground.

Firmino - Had Soucek closely monitoring him throughout the game and so found it difficult to get involved and had a quiet game. A couple of nice moments but not much else. However, what he is doing is tying down one of the Hammers best players for most of the game, so it was not a wasted afternoon.

Mane - At times was shockingly bad, repeatedly gave the ball away early on. He did pick up his game as the match went on thankfully and got better and better as the game went on.

Jota - replaced Firmino in the 70th minute. The arrival of him and Shaqiri changed the game and lifted the momentum of the game. His first goal was sadly ruled out by VAR for a foul by Mane that was difficult to see. So much for clear and obvious! Jota certainly never let it phase him and he just put it in the back of the net again for the winner. His contribution has been growing each time he plays.

Shaqiri - came on for Jones at the same time as Jota. It really seems like Shaqiri has figured out exactly how to be a Klopp player now. Gone is the sometimes lazy player that turned out for the likes of Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Stoke City at times, instead there is the Switzerland international that gives his all and works hard for the team. What has never been in doubt is his ability and he once again proved it with a delicious ball for Jota's winner. He just needs to stay fit and continue to work hard and he will be in line for a lot more game time this season.

Milner - took the place of Salah in the 90th minute as Klopp looked to see out the game. Only came on to close things out, but managed to put himself about and get involved in the few minutes he was on the pitch.

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Stoke City News 26 Oct 2020
Liverpool v Sheffield United A Liverpool Perspective

Not the best watch and again marred by a VAR controversy, this season is really sapping my love for the game right out of me. Personally I do not believe it was even a foul, though Fabinho took a big risk by attempting the tackle, it looked an excellent tackle to me. I am not sure that I want to watch a contact sport where any contact is deemed to be a foul! Putting that aside, there is no way that VAR could reliably judge whether the contact was in or outside of the box, so why did they rule on it? They constantly miss clear and obvious mistakes (just watch Harry Maguire bearhug Cesar Azpilicueta in the Man Utd box earlier in the day for one such blatant error), yet now they feel they should rule on marginal decisions. I just have no words that can be printed!

At least it was just one moment in this match, which is an improvement on some of the others I have seen recently. There were other moments it could have stepped in and made rulings, but decided they were not clear and obvious errors. It just showed how inconsistent the use of VAR is. I do not understand why the referee is no longer using the monitor to have a look, rather than just trusting the judgement of the idiot 300 miles away in Stockley Park. These judgement calls should be made by the referee on the pitch, VAR's job should just be to spot incidents he might have missed and bring them to his attention or to bring up footage on close calls so that he can look at it and make the decision.

Sheffield United

They looked like the Blades from last season from the kick off. They ran themselves into the ground in the first half, pressing hard and leaving no space for Liverpool to play. Of all the teams in the Prem, it is difficult to begrudge Sheff Utd a bit of luck with decisions, as they have been one of the clubs that have most suffered at the hands of the ineptitude of officials. Though I doubt I would be saying that had they held on to win! They do still have issues up front, Brewster has not settled in properly and is struggling to link up, he was also playing far too deep, so that most of the time it was McBurnie who was chasing the loose balls, rather than the much quicker Brewster.

They did tire in the second half and could not maintain their press, which led to the game getting away from them. Their big worry has not yet been solved, nor did there look to be any signs that Brewster could be the answer to their goalscoring problems just yet, so this could be a long, hard season for them. One player who did stand out for them was Ampadu, he was regularly in position to break up play in the defensive midfield role and did really well.

What I like most about them is that they never stop trying to attack. When they get the ball, they go forward and look to score. If they can get Brewster firing, they should get themselves out of danger quite easily.


Klopp - I am not convinced he picked the right system to begin the game, it is more suited to playing against a team that utilises the low block and is happy to sit deep and defend. Despite being in poor form, Sheff Utd were certainly not happy to just sit back and look to snatch a goal on the break. In the second half Klopp's half-time tactical changes and the Blades' tiring legs combined to give Liverpool a bit more control over the game. I would like to know the thinking behind the in-swinging corners, as it was clearly a planned tactic, with every corner seeing the opposite full-back go over to swing it in. Possibly because their goalkeeper is seen a weak link, but the deliveries failed to really put him under any pressure.

Alisson - looked very rusty but still pulled off a decent save or two. He did nearly get caught napping, taking too long to clear the ball but that just woke him up and Alisson made sure to kick the ball long before he could be closed down again.

Alexander-Arnold - a superb free kick right at the start seemed to set the tone for him and he was much more like his old self. Defended well and provided a good bit of attacking threat too.

Fabinho - looked like a makeshift centre-back here. Apart from the bad clearance which led to him rashly challenging and giving the opportunity to Sheffield United to take the lead, his overall game was not as good as it has been. Positionally he struggled, he never gave himself enough space when faced up with Burke, which saw the Scottish forward just run round him easily. It just shows you can only get away with playing a player out of position for so long before someone figures out how to take advantage. It did lead to our defending seeming a bit panicked at times but Gomez did ensure to be on the cover as much as possible.

Gomez - played well, covering for Fabinho as much as he could, though it was not that easy as Sheff Utd play two up top, so he mostly had to worry about his own man. Never really got many chances to get on the ball and play out from the back, but did play one magnificent van Dijk-esque diagonal ball to the right flank.

Robertson - he has started the season like a house on fire and is still playing well. My worry is that he will run out of steam with the games coming so thick and fast.

Henderson - had a decent first half, but struggled to cope with the numbers running at him from the Sheff Utd side. In the second half he took charge of the midfield and played a lot like the Henderson we saw last season.

Wijnaldum - like Henderson he struggled a little in the first half but as the game went on he got better and better. Some of his forward runs in the second half were lungbusting, right up until the final seconds. His stamina and workrate was exceptional.

Jota - he works hard, keeps going and is always a pest for the opposition, his goal was well taken too. However his runs are still too often tripping over teammates. It is going to take some time for them all to understand each other, especially if they are playing in an unfamiliar set up as they were in this match. There is enough to suggest he will be a good fit in the team when he does develop an understanding, though he does need to take less touches at times.

Salah - if he could have added a goal, or final pass when the chance came, his performance would have been excellent. As it was Sheffield United did very well against him, constantly ensuring there were always extra men there to cover any breakthrough he did make. Such a shame that his beautiful goal was disallowed.

Firmino - could not get into the game in the first half, mostly due to Ampadu being right on him, though he did finally get his Anfield goal. In the second half he got on the ball and made things happen, which resulted in a much improved half for Liverpool as well. It is worrying how reliant Liverpool are on him for creativity.

Mane - while he never got a goal himself, he was a constant source of menace and movement. The Blades really could not get to grips with him at all.

Minamino - replaced Firmino in the 83rd minute. Worked hard but never really got into the match as the Blades lifted their game to try and snatch an equaliser. He was more involved in helping the defence than he was in getting on the ball and making stuff happen.

Milner - took the place of Jota in a double substitution with Minamino. Despite coming on late, he was immediately heavily involved and, as usual, was here, there and everywhere breaking up play and creating too.

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Stoke City News 23 Oct 2020
Everton v Liverpool A Liverpool Perspective

Disappointingly this is a game that will not be remembered for the match itself, the brilliance of Thiago or Everton's drive and desire to fight back twice after going behind. Instead it will be remembered for a number of terrible refereeing and VAR errors, which resulted in the wrong decisions on far too many occasions for a game with the amount of technology available to the officials. There are no excuses that can be given for the mistakes as they were blatantly incorrect and if they are unable to see these things then we have to question their fitness to be match officials.

Aside from that, it was a good match, marred by a long term injury suffered by Virgil van Dijk, between two teams that are more closely matched than they have been in recent years. In fact, in my opinion, there are only three things that are stopping Everton from having an 11 that are capable of challenging right at the top (though their lack of squad depth is a problem). One is central midfield, Andre Gomes is lacking the quality and mobility of a top class player, which was starkly shown up in comparison to Thiago Alcantara opposing him.

Their second issue is the pure laziness of James Rodriguez, which left them wide open all game to attacks down their right, particularly once Coleman went off injured. If he continues to saunter around doing nothing to help the team defensively, the opposition will figure them out and they will be in trouble. The final one is the obvious one, the goalkeeper, whose only saves were at the perfect height for a goalkeeper, rather than being truly great saves, because he is not capable of greatness.


Well organised and competitive, overly so at times but it was a derby and they have always had a tendency to devolve that way as the moment affects players, Everton are a totally different proposition from recent years. They have two-thirds of an excellent midfield, a goalscorer up top who is exceptional in the air and the creativity to find that goalscorer in dangerous areas. Unfortunately their defence is simply not up to scratch, only Digne looks good enough for the long term if they are going to become a regular Champions League team fixture.

In that arena they will find James will be well suited, with his ridiculous antics which nearly cost his team a goal at one point when he was writhing around on the floor in 'agony' despite barely being touched. His constant play-acting is simply embarrassing and his laziness is shocking. A couple of good passes over 90 minutes do not make up for his complete lack of effort. Teams will learn how to play him in the Prem and he will be a hindrance, as you cannot afford to carry someone in a normal league season.

They did have a lot of luck in terms of decisions going their way, a very dubious offside followed by a terrible bit of officiating to not send off Pickford for a clear red card offence changed the game just as they were under the cosh. It does seem odd that an assault is ignored and they profit from that but it is the way it is with the terrible state of refereeing in the English leagues. They took advantage of the psychological hit Liverpool took losing van Dijk and got themselves back into the game, showing a good mentality.

Then there was the last gasp goal being chalked off, for what was clearly a wrongly awarded offside that saved them from a defeat. Those are the kinds of things that have to go for you if you are to have a season better than you could have hoped for. Luck like that can lead to title challenges if they continue throughout the season. They do not quite yet have all the quality needed to sustain a title challenge without a fair chunk of luck, but you can see the building blocks are in place for a future one.


Klopp - a difficult game for Klopp. His team were beginning to establish control when hit by the van Dijk injury and that not only knocked Liverpool back mentally, it also lifted Everton and gave them belief. It was only bad decisions that stopped it being another win for the Reds, so it is difficult to fault his tactics or gameplan.

Adrian - struggling for confidence and it shows in his decision-making, which is all over the shop at the moment. He just needs to settle down and relax, while Liverpool fans need to stop expecting him to be a top class goalkeeper and remember he is just a back-up.

Alexander-Arnold - playing much more within himself than usual, but I think in this game it was a tactical choice to hold him back as there was so much space to attack Everton down the opposite flank. With him still coming back to full sharpness after an injury and no pre-season, the lack of time between matches to train properly is showing. He looks way off full sharpness and it is going to take longer than usual to get him up to speed as there is so much recovery after matches to be done. The team is barely getting to train together at the moment, unlike a normal season. It is going to be about patience each time a player picks up an injury this season, as they are all going to struggle to get back up to speed, without picking up more injuries.

Matip - surprisingly for him, as he is normally excellent in this aspect of the game, his passing was off and he was giving the ball away very cheaply. I think it was probably just rustiness, as he is (as always it seems) just coming back from an injury. Which will not be helped by him picking up another injury in this match. In the main he did not look too far off his best though, it was just his passing which let him down really.

van Dijk - according to a few Everton fans, he had been trying to end other players' careers from the kick off and so reaped what he sowed when he was injured. However, I have watched it over and over, right up until his injury, and I saw nothing. There were 3 moments, which they seem to be referring to. The first he went into the back of James, nothing serious, nothing particularly different from anything any centre-back does, certainly nothing dangerous about it, though James' reaction did suggest van Dijk had run him through with a pitch fork. The second was a collision, again with James, where van Dijk did turn his shoulder into it, as any intelligent player would do, to protect themselves. James was unable to do so, through no fault of his own, and the pair ran into each other. Something that happens all over the pitch many times a match. Again nothing serious, but James reacted as if Virgil had shanked him, then shot him and possibly stamped on him afterwards, judging by the screams, the rolling around etc. The final one was on Calvert-Lewin, which has been described as cutting him in half by one poster on the Everton site. Except all that happened is that van Dijk got tight to the Everton forward and then reached his leg around him and toed the ball away. The ref gave them all as free kicks, though Calvert-Lewin seemed as surprised as anyone to get the decision in his favour. I can only think those couple of Everton fans are so desperate to justify Pickford's actions that they are deluding themselves in order to do so.

As for his performance, he was not on the pitch long enough to really judge him, though it did look like he was fired up. It is a big shame about the injury, but I think people are getting too carried away with it, there is no way Pickford has the intelligence to be sly enough to deliberately set out to injury Virgil. It was reckless and dangerous and a red, but no more than that. People need to move on and stop wasting their time on bitterness.

Robertson - once again he was excellent, absolutely marauding down the left flank using the space James cannot be bothered to track back into. I have to say that I think that Robertson has been Liverpool's best player overall at the start of the season. Which makes it all the more galling that he should have been red carded for a kick out. That was silly and could have seen us in real trouble in that match.

Henderson - I do worry for what would have happened in this match if Henderson was not on the pitch when van Dijk went off. It clearly gave Everton such a lift, while knocking Liverpool for six, and they needed his leadership. Luckily he was there and he was able to help the team through it, then get them going again to retake the lead after Everton equalised. Then did it again when the Blues equalised a second time, driving the team on and even managed to score right at the end. Sadly it was disallowed for a non-existent offside but that is no fault of the player's. Liverpool are a better side with Henderson in the middle.

Fabinho - a good game, though one aspect of his game, that creativity and pinpoint passing was a little subdued, probably due to Thiago being there to take over the mantle.

Thiago - if there was one game that I would have expected him to struggle in, it would have been this one, as the Derby is the match that gives players like him no time to breath, let alone create anything. Obviously no one told Thiago that, as he was on a completely different level from everyone else on the pitch. It was not just his brilliance on the ball either, it was his workrate, his tracking back and winning the ball back, his pressing and the way he could hold on to it under pressure. Sometimes you just have to applaud a performance and not even try to pick holes in it. This was definitely one of those times. Such a shame he got injured by a nasty tackle, which saw Richarlison quite rightly sent off. Thiago has almost done enough to pay off his transfer fee already and he has only played one and a half games!

Salah - a really good performance by Salah, put in some really hard yards working back covering, as well as causing so many problems up front. Took his goal really well too. His movement causes so many problems for defenders. Probably should have scored more though and did try to force a pass at times, when it was not on.

Firmino - desperately needs to score in a Liverpool shirt to get himself up and running. His link up play is there, the little flicks, the beautiful pieces of control, the twists and turns are all working, but he is trying far too hard when in the box. The header, in particular, showed a player that was being too careful, attempting to place the ball right in the corner, rather than just getting it on target.

Mane - did some really good things in this game, as well as opening the scoring. I do worry about his tendency to go down softly at time, it is something I do not like, though he is nowhere near as bad as some, it is still not needed. It must be so frustrating for him, I do get that, he gets kicked all over the pitch and does not get a foul because he stays on his feet. The answer to that problem is not to then go down under little challenge because you have lost the ball though. In fact that is more likely to make referees think twice about giving you genuine free-kicks!

Gomez - replaced the injured van Dijk in the 11th minute. Took a while to get up to speed on his weaker side, but did not do too bad overall. Perhaps could have done more on Calvert-Lewin's headed goal, but as Calvert-Lewin is one of the few attackers that can consistently beat van Dijk in an aerial battle, I think it is probably harsh to blame him for that goal. Calvert-Lewin is probably the best around right now at getting on the end of crosses.

Jota - came on in the 78th minute in place of Firmino. His running causes the opposition lots of problems, but he does have a tendency to run into teammates too. Jota really needs to build up an understanding with the rest of the frontline, as it is happening every time that he is either tripping over one of the other forwards or they are tripping over him. He is exciting to watch though, has the look of the type of player who can become a fan favourite.

Wijnaldum - in the 90th+1 minute he came off the bench to replace Fabinho. Just did not have time to really make a mark on the game.

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Stoke City News 29 Sep 2020
Liverpool v Arsenal A Liverpool Perspective

A very one-sided match, with a result that massively flattered Arsenal.


Arteta has clearly inherited the arrogance of Pep and the ridiculous tinkering as well. Arsenal were utterly dreadful and Arteta, despite the bizarre media love-in with him, has to take the full blame as it was all his fault. Everything he did, from tactics to team selection was frankly shockingly bad. The problem with criticising it is where do you start?

I think I will start with the team selection. I get he has decided to bomb out Ozil, and he is clearly far too stubborn to admit it is a mistake, but that is no excuse for shoehorning players into positions that the club has very good players available for. You have Gabriel, a left-footed centre-back, who has played quite well so far this season, why drop him and play Tierney there? Especially when it means that you pick a right-footed central midfielder as left-wing-back to compound the error. It is not like Arteta does not have options, he has Saka, Tierney and Kolasinac who can play that role and will actually provide some much-needed width.

The commentary were constantly trying to claim the use of Maitland-Niles there was to allow Tierney to play an overlapping centre-back role, like Sheffield United do. That seems to miss the point that the Blades keep their wing-backs wide and the overlapping centre-backs are there to create an overload in wide areas, not to allow the wing-backs to drift inside and clog up the middle with excess bodies. What they have done is create a weakness to be exploited by opponents instead, as they are wide open down the flank.

What on earth possessed Arteta to pair Elneny and Xhaka in the centre? That was just begging to be attacked, the pair play with all the finesse and mobility of a 50 year old docker who has smoked 60 a day for the last 40 years and still plays in big, heavy hobnail boots. They were always going to get overrun and they just ended up dropping deeper and deeper to try and block the Liverpool midfield from running in behind them. They were then getting in the way of the defence and not offering any option for a pass. With neither of them possessing the ability to pick a quick forward pass over the top, it invited pressure.

I know Ceballos is powder puff, but when your tactics are based around quick counters from deep then you have to pick players who can actually play that way. Elneny can barely pass water, let alone the ball more than 5 yards and Xhaka is just too slow of thought to pick the quick pass over the top. Again it just invites a more complete press as there is no fear of the press being broken. You are just asking for trouble against a team that is so good at the press.

Added to that, why on earth would you instruct your players to play out from the back constantly? It was clear the players themselves were unhappy with it, both Holding and Tierney were terrified of getting the ball and knew that, even if they got the chance to look up, there would be no pass available to them. At what point does a manager look at it and say this is not working, it is time to try something else? Personally I would have thought that any analyst worth his salt should have been telling Arteta before the game even kicked off that to try it was idiotic. Yet he persisted with it for 90 minutes and it constantly cost them possession.

As a young manager, you expect Arteta to make mistakes, but you also expect them to be learning experiences and for him to make changes during the game to attempt to improve things. The fact he was quite happy to persist with a tactic that was blatantly not working is a major worry.


Klopp - I doubt Klopp has had many easier nights to be honest. Arteta played straight into his hands with the set up, even when Arsenal opened the scoring it never felt like Liverpool were in any trouble. Sure enough they were soon level again and all Klopp had to do was keep them doing what they were doing.

Alisson - had one of the easiest nights ever, though he will be disappointed with himself for not saving the mishit shot by Lacazette. He made it up for it afterwards, even if most of the attacks were offside. He did have a fair few kicks of the ball, as Liverpool tried to draw Arsenal out, but it was fairly routine stuff.

Alexander-Arnold - not quite at his extraordinary best, but still came away with yet another assist. Klopp was worried enough about him in the first half to ask the medical staff if he was OK, after a couple of misplaced passes. Alexander-Arnold gave the thumbs up to say he was fine, but it does suggest he was carrying some sort of minor problem, which is a worry for the future. His game did pick up after that and he was as good as ever, but it is interesting that Alexander-Arnold is so good that Klopp worries about him when he misplaces a couple of passes!

Gomez - a really good game for him, he shut Aubameyang out of the game pretty much. He fits so well with van Dijk, they are an excellent pairing. His pace comes in particularly useful in games like this and it ensured that Arsenal had no easy out ball over the top. The Arsenal forwards were not able to wait and outsprint him like they normally would, which meant they were caught offside trying to get the jump on Gomez and van Dijk. With no runners from midfield, as it was too deep, Liverpool were able to push right up when they lost the ball and crush the life out of the game.

van Dijk - back to something near his brilliant best. Not just defensively but some of his passing was incredible. Nice to see him get within range and try a shot as well.

Robertson - made a mistake which Arsenal scored from, ten minutes later he had scored to make up for it. That sums up Robertson, he is not perfect, he does make the odd mistake from time to time, but he works incredibly hard to make up for it. His mentality is that of a true champion, Robertson just keeps on going no matter what.

Keita - a better performance, but still not exactly impressive. He is still a little slow on the press, but at least he is pressing now. Still a little weak in the challenge but it is a step forward that he did not pull out of any. A five out of ten performance, which is a massive improvement over recently but I do have reservations about his partnership with Wijnaldum, which I will explain in his review.

Fabinho - it's Fabinho being Fabinho. He does what he does and he does it brilliantly well.

Wijnaldum - I was thinking how subdued a performance it was from Wijnaldum right up until the moment Milner replaced Keita, then it was like he was unleashed. It is clear that he plays within himself and does not get forward as he can when paired with Keita. Whether that is a tactical instruction to allow Keita to make the forward runs or whether that is just that Wijnaldum does not trust Keita to track back I am not sure. It is very clear that it held Wijnaldum back in this match. It is not necessarily a bad thing, if Keita performs well it would be a good thing to free him up a bit from defensive duties. The problem is that Keita is not yet doing enough to justify it.

Salah - such a quality forward, poor Tierney will have had nightmares after this game. Salah tied him up in knots at times and never gave him a moment's peace when he got on the ball. All that was missing was a goal and maybe that moment when he took the ball on as Jota was coming on to it he could have been more decisive. He dithered when his touch was not perfect and Jota did too, so it gave the defence a chance to clear. Salah was excellent though.

Firmino - a couple of loose passes but he was at the heart of pretty much everything good Liverpool did, as usual. He was the one receiving the brilliant ball on the right from Virgil, killing it on the run, then playing it back before making the run to pull the Arsenal players away to create space for Alexander-Arnold to saunter into and cross to Robertson for the second. His movement is exceptional, it pulls defenders all over the park and leaves them constantly having to think about what they are doing.

Mane - the best player on the pitch. I do think the right decision was made about him catching Tierney with his arm, a yellow was correct and I would have been gutted if it was a red, but that could have led to a completely different game. I am just glad the ref felt the same as me! It must be said that Holding defended really well, but still Mane tortured him. He is incredible right now.

Milner - came on in the stead of Keita on 79 minutes. He came in and closed out the game while freeing up Wijnaldum to get forward more. Liverpool will miss him so much when he goes.

Jota - brought on in place of Mane after 80 minutes. Worked hard and got his reward in the end. Showed some good stuff but needs to learn when to release the ball when he runs with it.

Minamino - replaced Firmino on 90 minutes. Never had time to really show anything.

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Stoke City News 28 Sep 2020
Partnerships 1: Steve Bruce & Gary Pallister

There have been many great partnerships in sport, where the total of the partnership adds up to far more than the sum of its parts. In the case of Bruce and Pallister (or Dolly and Daisy as Alex Ferguson once called them), it is fair to say Manchester United have had better individual centre-backs, but the two of them together were arguably the best centre-back pairing the club have ever had.

When Alex Ferguson arrived at United as a virtually unknown quantity it was not in a good place. While they were known for good football, they had been mired in mediocrity in terms of results for a long time. Worse there was a real problem amongst the playing staff, who seemed happy with their mediocre results so long as they could get hammered in the pub. Captain Bryan Robson would hold a players' 'meeting' on Tuesdays, which meant all day in the pub getting smashed.

Ferguson decided to weed out the drinking culture and bring in more professional players. One of the early arrivals in 1988 was a little known English centre back from Norwich City who had an aversion to the number 5, due to having scored a number of own goals while wearing it. Bruce had struggled to find a club after leaving school, being rejected by a number of professional clubs before Gillingham offered him a contract. After proving himself at the Gills he had moved on to Norwich and was just about to turn 27 when Ferguson stepped in to get him.

Man Utd agreed to pay a fee of around £825,000 for the centre-back, despite having doubts about fitness. Bruce only found out about the worries over his fitness when Ferguson picked him up at the airport to take him to his medical and kept asking him what was up with his knee. It was only then that Bruce discovered that he had a knee problem which was recorded in his medical records. Bruce himself believes he would not have passed a modern medical due to the problem.

Now he just needed a partner at the back, someone Ferguson felt he could rely on and he turned his sights on Gary Pallister, who was already capped by England, even continuing to be chosen while playing in the 2nd Division with Middlesbrough. Pallister was highly rated and Boro were not going to let him go cheap, even though they had only given Billingham Town, his first club, a set of strips in return for his signature. In the end, it was 1989 before United could finally get Pallister, after a fall-out with temperamental boss Bruce Rioch saw him lose his Boro and England place. Pallister was so intent on moving that he hired his first agent to ensure a deal was done with someone.

First to move for him was Liverpool, but Boro's asking price saw them walk away and leave the door open for Man Utd to step in. As Pallister recalls: "I met my agent at the hotel which was a 15-minute drive away from where I lived. I said I'd follow him in my car. My agent was driving in front of me in his big Rolls-Royce and we came into the car park. My agent went inside the hotel to see that everyone was there and Bruce Rioch said if that ****** walks in here the deal's off. So I had to sit in the car park for something like seven hours while they haggled this deal through. There were no mobile phones back then, so there wasn't a lot to do. I just sat there twirling my fingers, hoping for the best. Intermittently the gaffer (Alex Ferguson) would come out and say, 'we've gone up to £1.8m and they're still saying no....We've got up to £1.9m, up to £2m and they're still saying no'. Eventually at about three in the morning they came out and said 'the deal's been done; £2.3m'. He said 'you've got to go to the restaurant and sort out your personal details'. I went up there and sat with the gaffer and Maurice Watkins and the gaffer went 'that's what Bryan Robson is getting; that's what you're getting'. I just said OK, and it's only lately that I've found out Robbo was on a lot more, so the gaffer did me out of a few quid! He had to get a little bit of money back because they were never going to be prepared to pay £2.3m, but that's what it took. That's where the name 'Cash' came from, that Archie Knox so aptly named me."

That fee was big money for the time, in fact it broke the record for highest fee paid between two British clubs and was the second highest fee ever paid by a British club, beaten only by Ian Rush's transfer back to Liverpool from Juventus. At the time, Ferguson was under severe pressure and Pallister's arrival was not immediately successful. Ferguson was worried about his new signing's lack of physical strength and, after popping round to his house one day to find him sat around munching chocolate bars and crisps, the centre-back was put on a weight-training regime to build his strength up.

As the season went on the Bruce and Pallister partnership began to show signs it was coming together, despite United's lowly finish of 13th in the league they won the FA Cup after Mark Robins' (in)famous goal in the 3rd round was reported to have saved Ferguson's job. Pallister went on to win the Matt Busby Player of the Year award and he, Bruce and Man Utd as a whole went from strength to strength. The next year, 1990/91, was livened up once more by good cup runs, this time the Red Devils reached the final of both the League Cup and Cup Winners Cup. They lost in the League Cup final to Sheffield Wednesday, managed by Ferguson's predecessor Ron Atkinson, but they beat Barcelona in the Cup Winners' Cup final in Rotterdam.

1991/92 saw United make a good start and were on a 12-match unbeaten run before Wednesday beat them 3-2. In the previous 12 games they had only conceded 4 goals. A win over Nottingham Forest in the League Cup final was followed 8 days later by Forest getting revenge in the league at Old Trafford and that launched a run of poor results culminating in a 2-0 defeat at Anfield which gave the league title to Leeds United. Despite failing to win the final title before the Premier League era began, Pallister won the PFA Player of the Year award, in appreciation for just how well he, and Bruce, had defended that season.

Despite a determination to not let the title slip this time around, Man Utd got off to a slow start to the Premier League, in fact they sat bottom after the first two matches following defeats in both. Ferguson kept faith in his defence and they helped the team rise up the table as the season went on, then last year's champions Leeds made the fatal error of selling them Eric Cantona in November. This was their year and they lifted the league title with a game to spare, leaving just one final, meaningless game for United to play at home in front of 40,000 celebrating fans against Blackburn Rovers. With Pallister having failed to score all season he was given the chance to take a free kick on the edge of Rovers' box and duly placed it in the bottom corner to send the fans wild. United had won on the back of a strong defence, conceding just 31 goals in 42 league matches.

That season Robson had begun to really suffer through injury, missing large chunks of the season and so Bruce had shared the captaincy with him, even being jointly given the league trophy at the end of the season. It was time for change and, after the season Bruce was in for a surprise: "I got a phone call from Sir Alex one afternoon. 'Are you in the house? Can I call in and have a cup of tea?', he said. We were wondering what was wrong and why he wanted to come to the house, because that was unprecedented. We sat down over a cup of tea and a biscuit and he said he wanted me to be the new captain of Manchester United. He asked me what I thought, and I was like 'absolutely, bring it on'."

Roy Keane arrived to replace Robson in the heart of midfield and United cruised through the season winning the league and FA Cup double, making Bruce the first Englishman to captain a club to the domestic double. United lost just 4 times in the league and Pallister was present for 60 of the club's 62 competitive matches that season. The only blip was the defeat to old nemesis Ron Atkinson and his Aston Villa team in the League Cup final.

Bruce had begun to pick up injuries and Ferguson signed David May from Blackburn in the summer of 1994 as the end was in sight for Bruce as first choice. The 1994/95 season was affected by the change in rules in European competitions, limiting teams to just 3 foreigners and that led to struggles with Ferguson having to make difficult choices as players like Keane, Peter Schmeichel, Ryan Giggs, Dennis Irwin and Mark Hughes, not to mention flying winger Andrei Kanchelskis, were all classed as foreigners in the Champions League. That was the reason Bruce said made him turn down an approach from Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton to play for Ireland. His place in the Red Devils line-up would have been in jeopardy if he had nailed his colours to Ireland's mast as he would then have become classed as a foreigner too.

While Europe was tough, Barcelona handing them a 4-0 hammering when Schmeichel was one of the foreigners who had to sit out the game, domestic football saw United chasing another double. Andy Cole arrived in January to give the side a lift but Cantona's 8 month ban for his 'kung-fu kick' at Crystal Palace caused enough disruption for Blackburn to pip them to the league title and Everton to beat them in the FA Cup final.

The 1995-96 season was to be Bruce's final one in the colours of Man Utd, though Ferguson wanted to hold onto him, convincing Bruce to reject 3 different offers of a manager's job over the course of the season. Little wonder Ferguson wanted to keep him as United went undefeated in the first 10 games, though they did struggle in the run up to Christmas, failing to get a win in 5 matches, which allowed Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United team to go 10 points clear at the top. Bruce's value was clear though as he missed the game against Tottenham Hotspur, where United were given a 4-1 hammering at White Hart Lane. Bruce's replacement was on-loan French centre-back William Prunier and he was, to be polite, dreadful.

Despite the famous 'grey kit' 3-1 defeat to Southampton, where Ferguson made the team change kit at half-time, United went on a run and won a second domestic double in 1995/96. Bruce made just 30 appearances over the course of the season, due to injuries, and missed the FA Cup final. Cantona tried to get Bruce to go up and collect the trophy but he declined. Ferguson tried to persuade Bruce to stay another year, but Bruce was 36 now and decided it was time to change, moving to Birmingham City. Pallister only stayed a couple more years himself, before he returned to Middlesbrough, United actually making a profit as Boro paid £2.5m to bring the veteran defender back.

Bruce and Pallister were the first choice pairing who helped Ferguson launch a lengthy period of domestic dominance for Man Utd in their 7 years as the rocks at the back. They won 3 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, the League Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup together. 317 matches saw just 282 goals conceded in that time, 180 were won and just 55 times they were defeated, with 133 clean sheets. They will quite rightly go down in history as one of the best centre-back pairings of all-time in the English game.

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Stoke City News 26 Sep 2020
Lincoln City v Liverpool A Liverpool Perspective

It was such a shame that no fans could be there for this match, as Lincoln really needed their support last night. They needed that lift of having their fans driving them on to turn this into a contest, especially after the first goal. As it was, they looked a team which failed to match up to Liverpool in any way. They seemed physically weaker and slower, technically miles off apart from one or two exceptions and tactically, well tactically there was no comparison. Having the fans there roaring them on might have given them enough drive to make it into a contest and slightly tip the balance back towards them.

Lincoln City

They gave their all and never gave up, even when 4 down, but they were out of their depth. Still managed to make a few chances and score a couple, but they did not really take advantage of the weak spots in the Liverpool team the way they should have.


Klopp - he got the right mix of youth and experience to see the team through at a canter.

Adrian - had a very good game, making a number of saves.

N. Williams - dallied on the ball in dangerous areas, lacked defensive awareness or any kind of reading of the game and is slow to react to danger. Even his crosses were not at their best. However he is young and learning a new position, Trent was not the best defensively in his first couple of seasons at right-back either.

R. Williams - on the ball he was composed and confident. Defensively though he was awful. Positionally he was all over the place and his awareness was dreadful. It was his debut though, so he might well have just been overawed. This game will have shown him he still has a lot to learn as well, when a great start could have led him to think it is all easy.

van Dijk - only played the first 45 minutes but was the main reason why the first half finished 4-0 to Liverpool. You could see they were lifted by his substitution.

Tsimikas - it was an impressive debut by the Greek, who looked extremely capable with both feet, strong and quick. He reminded me of Robertson in terms of attitude, that no-prisoners approach to rampaging up and down the flank always looking to take on opponents head on and never let them have a moment's peace. I am looking forward to seeing more of him.

Jones - stood out like a sore thumb and was my choice for man of the match. Not just because of his 2 goals but because of his all round contribution to the team. He was excellent, popping up all over the pitch and involved almost constantly. Jones showed he can pass, dribble, track back and shoot. The boy is growing into a man who is one hell of a player.

Shaqiri - looked really good in a midfield role, played some excellent passes, right up until he hurt himself playing one in the second half and had to be taken off. It is such a shame that his Liverpool career is going to be remembered for all his injuries as he always seems to perform well in those ten minute spells he gets between those injuries. When he has the quality to score goals like the free kick in this match, he really should be on the pitch more.

Grujic - while you have to bear in mind the opposition, as with all the good performances, but he looked really good. Grujic has put himself forward as a credible alternative/back up to Fabinho in the holding midfield role or to play as one of the two in front of him. His passing was good, he tackled back, protected the defence and worked extremely hard. He did enough to make me want to see more of him in a Liverpool shirt. Hopefully the deflection which assisted his goal is a sign of good fortune being on his side this season.

Elliott - struggled to impose himself on the game and was clearly frustrated to come off without scoring himself but he was busy and showed some nice touches. It was clear he has yet to build up an understanding with Minamino and Origi, but his movement was good and his workrate was excellent too.

Minamino - works like a trojan and fully deserved his two goals. The lad seems to be everywhere at times. It is hard not to warm to him and want him to succeed as he gives everything he has on the pitch for every second he is out there.

Origi - really struggled to get into the game but managed to finally get a goal right before the end. He really needs to get more regular football in a steady position. He has the ability and the workrate to do more, but he has not developed the understanding of his role that he needs.

Fabinho - replaced van Dijk at half-time. A planned substitution to protect van Dijk and to ensure Rhys Williams had a senior figure alongside him. Never looked comfortable on the left side, but did ok for a makeshift centre-back.

Jota - brought on in place of Elliott after 57 minutes. There were flashes of the player he could be, he worked hard and kept trying things but the link up with his teammates is not there yet.

Keita - came on instead of Shaqiri in the 75th minute after the Swiss international had begun limping. Offered little but the game was well over and he was unable to get any kind of control over it like he should have.

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Stoke City News 18 Sep 2020
Freddy Adu Championship Manager 03/04 CM4 Edition

The ultimate icon of failed potential is Fredua Koranteng Adu, one time lauded as the 'next Pele', now little more than a minor influencer on social media. More relevant for this series, he was voted the Greatest Football Manager Wonderkid of All Time in 2019, beating Cherno Samba into second. If only Adu was prophetic when he said: "A lot of people have been hyped up to be great but just disappeared. I promised myself I wouldn't be one of them." Unfortunately he was wrong.

Born on 2nd June 1989 in Tema, Ghana, the same city as a future subject of this series, Nii Lamptey and grew up there playing football against grown men. His mother Emilia worked long hours in a convenience store to support the family, as father Maxwell was not the most supportive father. In fact Emilia was forced to rely on those that Freddy played football with to look after him while she was at work. Luckily for her, even by the age of 6 he was invited to games against teenagers and adults due to his standout ability. Or possibly it was because his mother was always able to provide them with a ball to play with as Adu revealed recently: "My mom was always the supplier of soccer balls, and so people were always knocking on my door, and trying to get me out so we could play."

It was Maxwell who dreamt of moving to the USA, but mother Emilia was also keen to join her brother in the States and so they were both delighted when she won the Green Card lottery in 1997. The whole family moved to Maryland, though Maxwell soon abandoned them, leaving Emilia to raise Freddy with the help of her family. That left her once again working long hours, this time with two jobs, one testing computer boards for Hughes Network Systems and the other as a cashier at Home Depot. Emilia had to be up at 5am each day and worked over 70 hours a week to make ends meet.

Freddy attended Sequoyah Elementary School where he began playing soccer during recess and starred in those playground games tosuch a level that a classmate called David Hawk told his parents about him. They invited him to join David's club team in a Potomac Soccer Association Tournament, it was Freddy's first ever organised match. There he was spotted by Arnold Tarzy, an insurance agent who also coached one of the best teams in the area and Tarzy convinced Adu to join his team the Potomac Cougars.

Tarzy managed to arrange a full scholarship for young Freddy and his brother to a private school called The Heights, where Freddy excelled as a student. Not only did he excel in various sports, incluing basketball and golf, he was also an exemplary student and skipped 7th grade and won a country-wide 5th grade art competition. Freddy was also widely remembered for being friendly, polite, courteous and well-behaved at the school.

By the age of 11 he was also playing for the US Olympic Developmental Program and went to Italy with them for an under-14 tournament against teams such as Lazio and Juventus. Freddy was top scorer in the tournament and drew the attention of Inter Milan, whose general secretary Piero Ausilio said: "We have never done this before - Freddy s the first American soccer player that we have ever seen with potential as a pro in European soccer." They put an offer on the table that was worth $750,000 to the family. Despite the financial benefits, Emilia turned it down as she wanted the young Freddy to concentrate on his education first and foremost. She also rejected offers from Adidas and the US Soccer Federation.

It was not all plain sailing though and little Freddy's skills with the ball had brought attention of the unwanted kind as well. One of his Cougar teammates and childhood friends, Nicholas Scrivens recalls finding Freddy alone crying: "And it's just me and him. And I'm like, 'Yo Fred, what's wrong, man?' And he's like, 'Everybody keeps saying that I'm not the age that I am. That I'm 20 years old. Just because I'm black and I'm African, they think that I'm lying.'"

The age of Adu became a genuine bone of contention, though Tarzy dismisses it as jealousy: "The egos of the collective parents would not believe anyone could be better than their chosen kids. They had to blame it on something so they said he must be too old." But, whatever the reason it became a media story as Scrivens says: "People asked to see his birth certificate, they wanted to take away our medals." Sports Illustrated even sent a journalist to the hospital he was born to investigate, but they could find no evidence of any wrongdoing. That did not end the problems for Freddy though as opposing parents and fans would then bay for his blood, encouraging the kids he was facing to kick Adu out of the game. The fouling got so bad that US Soccer used videos of it to train their officials.

Despite the rough treatment, Freddy still managed to score 25 goals and 12 assists in 16 matches for his school in his first year there, but that left the family with a problem. Staying with the school team would see Freddy stagnate, as he was already too good for the opponents and his teammates. The offer from Inter was still sat there waiting on the table for him, but Emilia was still not keen on it. Then US Soccer's John Eilinger, their Under-17s head coach, asked Adu to join them for a weekend tournament in Florida. Freddy was impressive enough to be offered a place at the Under-17 Residency Camp, which was run by IMG in Florida.

Freddy was by far the youngest member of the 30 boys there when he joined in January 2002, aged just 12, at least two years the junior of the other players on the team, but he still stood out in exhibition matches against MLS sides. He was playing with the best young players in the USA and under the best youth coaches in the country and they tried their best to prepare Freddy for the future. Trevor Mowad, a mental conditioning coach, was assigned to prepare Adu for the media and Mowad hooked him up with mentors, such as legendary sprinter Michael Johnson, MLS star Clint Mathis and American footballer Roy Williams.

U.S. citizenship was granted to him in February, so that he would be eligible for the national team and less than a month later he was called up by the under-17s for the qualifying phase of the Under-17 World Championships. Though still only 13, he went to Finland in August 2003 for the tournament itself and scored a hat-trick in the US's first game, a 6-1 thrashing of South Korea. That just brought him to the attention of their next opponents, Sierra Leone, who targeted him with knees and elbows. The referee gave Freddy no protection at all but he retaliated in the best way, by scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory. That was as far as the USA went though, as Brazil put them out in the next round.

Adu had done enough to earn a call-up to the Under-20s after Arturo Alvarez pulled out with injury and went to the UAE for the FIFA World Youth Championships. By now he was being called the 'next Pele' and the 'future of US Soccer' so it is little surprise that MLS made special allowances to allow him to be drafted in the January 2004 draft, though he was still only 14. The Dallas Burn had the number 1 draft pick, but they were compensated with a player allocation in November 2003 and the pick was assigned to DC United so that Freddy could stay near to his family. This was done to ensure Adu chose to stay in America, rather than take up one of the offers on the table from Europe.

In January 2004 he became the youngest athlete ever to sign a professional contract in the US and became the highest paid player in MLS history at the same time with a $500,000 contract in his pocket from DC United. That age record has since been beaten by a youngster called by Francis Jacobs in 2019, when he signed for Orange County SC on loan from Rangers, also aged 14. Nike had already signed him to a $1m contract and then Pepsi shortly afterwards also agreed a lucrative sponsorship deal with Freddy shortly afterwards. It is little wonder that ESPN said that his commercial potential was greater than LeBron James'.

Nike chairman Phil Knight said of him in 2003: "Freddy has the potential to bring soccer almost for the first time into the public's consciousness. Soccer in the United States isn't really part of the culture. What it needs, I think, is a superhero, and he clearly could be it. Now, that's putting a lot of pressure on him, but the kid's got all the potential to do that." Major League Soccer clearly saw the potential and used him in a media campaign and Freddy was on The Late Show with David Letterman, NBC's Today, 60 Minutes and MTV's Total Request Live and featured in major magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Time and Vanity Fair.

Freddy was still just 14 and that meant he missed much of DC United's training camp due to high school but his high grades, he was a straight A student, and the USSF's accelerated academic program helped him to graduate in March 2003, three years early. While Adu was completing his schooling, ABC and ESPN2 were haggling over the TV rights to DC United games. Even his first exhibition match with DCU in Tampa saw the kind of hysteria normally reserved for pop stars, as thousands awaited his arrival in town.

DC United's opening MLS game of the season was against the San Jose Earthquakes and vendors struggled to cope with demand for Adu t-shirts for the 24,000 who attended, a sell-out. Coach Peter Nowak was determined to bring him through gradually and Freddy started the game on the bench. In the second half the crowd chanted his name and Nowak succumbed to the pressure in the 61st minute, with DC 2-1 up, and brought a 14 year old Freddy on for his debut on 3 April 2004. Adu was the youngest player ever in Major League Soccer.

Two weeks later Freddy became the youngest ever goalscorer when he scored in a 3-2 defeat to Metrostars, but that did not stop criticism from commentators that he was too young and needed more time to grow into the adult game. Adu even managed to force his way into the starting line up for a short period, until Christian Gomez was signed midseason, returning the youngster to the bench. By the end of the season Adu had played a part in all 30 regular season games and scored 5 goals and 3 assists. He got a further assist in the play-offs too. He was also a commissioner's choice for the MLS All-Star game.

That left the club struggling to hold Freddy back for the 2005 season, he was visibly straining at the leash wanting to play, even getting himself a 1 game ban for complaining about his lack of playing time in the media. Nowak held firm with his approach and it certainly did not seem to do the teenager any harm as he was called up by the USA for the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championships in a group with Argentina, Egypt and Germany. Argentina had the likes of Pablo Zabaleta, Sergio Aguero and a certain Lionel Messi in their squad.

Despite being 2 years the younger, Adu was the one that shone and USA topped their group, though the Argentinians went on to win the tournament. Freddy impressed enough to earn a nomination for FIFPro Young Player of the Year. In January 2006 he won his first full international cap in a friendly against Canada, the youngest to ever play for the USA. All that meant that it was no longer possible to hold him back and Adu became a regular starter for DC United in the 2006 season.

Freddy did well enough to earn a spot in the MLS All-Star team via coach's choice and to earn a frustrating two week trial with Manchester United in November. He was unable to get a work permit and so was only able to train and play in practice matches, but then-United manager Alex Ferguson said of him: "Freddy has done all right. He is a talented boy. He'll go back to the US and we'll keep a check on him. When he is 18, we will have to assess what we can do next. What we did was to bring him here to give him an idea of what United was like so he could see the place and see how comfortable he was with it."

Despite all the attention, at the end of the season Adu was traded to Real Salt Lake, along with goalkeeper Nick Rimando, for a major allocation, another goalkeeper and future considerations. He had managed 11 goals and 17 assists in his 3 seasons with DC United. He continued to play for the US U-20s and captained them to qualification for the U-20 World Cup, where he also captained the side. His hat-trick against Poland on 3rd July in the group stage made him the first player to score a hat-trick in both the U-17 and U-20 World Cups.

That was enough to persuade Benfica to show interest and begin talks with Real Salt Lake and MLS over signing him. Talks were not progressing quickly enough for the teenage Freddy and he skipped out on an RSL game to fly to Benfica. That sealed the deal and Benfica announced the $2m signing of Adu on 30th July 2007. Just over 2 weeks later he reached probably the highest point of his career when he made his debut in the European Champions League qualifiers against Copenhagen as a 37th minute substitute.

The rest of the season saw him struggle and he joined Monaco in July 2008 on loan with a view to a permanent deal, despite not being able to talk French, saying: "I don't know French at all. I took some lessons when I was younger but all I know are the numbers. I've been told basically everyone in Monaco speaks English because of it being a huge vacation spot so I'm excited about that. I might not need to learn French after all." Already the signs of laziness were there for people to spot, when a player moves to foreign country and is just glad not to have to bother to learn the lingo!

It must be said that the signs were there much earlier for people to notice, Arnold Tarzy has claimed that even as young as 10 Adu would stand around waiting for the ball to come to him and that things came so easy to him that he never developed a work ethic. It did not stop the USA taking him to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he scored 4 goals in 3 games and was voted into the team of the tournament. Despite 2008 being the year Freddy scored his first international goal, in a World Cup qualifier against Guatemala, he flopped in France and Monaco declined the option to make the loan into a permanent move.

Benfica were still unable to find room for him in their squad and loaned him to fellow Portugese side Belenenses. It started badly when he was injured just before half-time in his first start and the loan was cut short in December. Greek side Aris were the next to give him a chance, when they signed him in January 2010 on a 12 month loan to play alongside fellow American international Eddie Johnson. Despite getting off to a good start, Adu again failed to impress. In July 2010 he spent a week on trial with Swiss side FC Sion, who rejected the chance to sign him. Adu ended up on yet another loan deal, this time with Turkish second tier side Caykur Rizespor, on 1st February 2011.

Despite his struggles Freddy's confidence was not affected and he told ESPN: "By the age of 25, I wanted to be playing in England or Spain - and not just playing but be a regular starter for my team. I'm 22 this year. In 3 year's time, I see myself playing in one of those leagues. A lot of people might not know this, but that's been my goal all along. I wanted to be an established regular for a team in like Portugal or France before that. That's why I chose to go to Portugal instead of going straight from here to England or Spain."

Despite his talk, 2011 saw him return to Major League Soccer in August as he signed for Philadelphia Union, now coached by his former DC United and USA U-23s coach Piotr Nowak. The following July Nowak was sacked and once more Adu lost his way. New coach John Hackworth gave up on him and traded him to Brazilian side Bahia in April 2013 in return for Kleberson. "With me not performing to the level expected of someone making designated player money in Philly," Adu admitted later, "coupled with the fact I had the young guys looking up to me on that team, in his eyes, maybe I wasn't setting a good enough example for those young guys on the team. Looking back on it, he was right. I can't even be mad at Hackworth for pushing me out of Philly. At the end of the day, you have to take some responsibility for yourself. You have to put yourself in the best position to succeed, on the field or off the field, and at that time I wasn't performing great on the field or off the field."

After just 7 appearances for Bahia, Freddy was released in November. He later sued them over $220,000 in unpaid wages, the breach of Brazilian law made by Bahia not contributing to pension payments and the clubs' failure to formally terminate his contract. Bahia were still paying Kleberson's back pay amongst others and never disputed the claims, eventually reaching an out of court settlement with him.

Following his release Adu spent the early part of 2014 jobbing around Europe having trials with team after team, including Blackpool in February, who allowed him to stay and train with them for a while, despite deciding against signing him. In June he trained with Stabaek in Norway, who were managed by former USA manager Bob Bradley, then he was off to Holland to a trial with AZ Alkmaar, neither team wanted to sign him. Serbian side FK Jagodina decided to take a chance on him in July. It was September before he made his debut as a second half substitute in a Serbian Cup match. It was his first and last game for the Serbians and he was released in December.

It was March 2015 before he found another team when he signed for Finnish side KuPS. After a few games in their reserves, he was loaned out to third tier KuFu-98, where he again failed to make an impression and his contract was terminated in July. A week later a team in the US second tier, the NASL, Tampa Bay Rowdies signed him. His time with the Rowdies did not last longer either and he was released in 2016. Once again he was back searching for a new club, undergoing a trial with Portland Timbers and Polish side Sandecja Nowy Sacz. The Timbers did not want him and the Poles had not even told their manager that Adu would be arriving. The manager called it "a joke" and Freddy could not win him over.

Newly formed USL (the USA's third tier league) side Las Vegas Lights took him on trial in 2018. He failed to even make the team for their first two pre-season matches but was finally given a run out in the third, playing 30 minutes and notching the team's first ever assist. It was enough for him to sign for them on 15th March, but he was released at the end of the season. One member of staff at the club said: "The fans would chant his name, 'Freddy! Freddy!' Then they'd see him play, and they wouldn't chant any more." Adu was heavily overweight and struggled badly, badly enough for it to seem to be the sad end to a once extremely promising career.

Even his off field life showed the same downward spiral. From being on the cover of cereal boxes and making commercials for drinks with Pele comparing him to Mozart, he is nowadays seen, rather forlornly, pushing a Hoover vacuum cleaner around by a pot plant in a social media advert. He also reviews films and television series for a lasagne company, assigning the shows a lasagna rating rather bizarrely. His love life has equally gone down the pan, from a time when he dated a singer called JoJo who released a song and video about their relationship and break up which featured MLS footballer Mike Zaher badly reenacting bits of Adu's career.

Freddy is left hoping to revive his career, he still wants to play professionally, but all the game has for him now is a few coaching sessions a week at a friend's youth club. It is all a long way from the 'Next Pele' with the million dollar sponsorship deals. Adu does admit that it is probably his own fault that it went so wrong: "As a fourteen, fifteen, sixteen year old, you're young, you're immature, and you kind of get caught up in that a little bit....and maybe I wasn't training as hard as I should have. And it hurt me."

For the previous Champ Man Legends article on Jonas Lunden click HERE

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Stoke City News 17 Sep 2020
Liverpool v Leeds United A Liverpool Perspective

Well that was some game! A great end-to-end spectacle of exciting attacking football, despite neither team being fully fit, but they still kept going. As usual with half fit players, it was a game littered with mistakes, but that is why it was exciting. You just have to hope that games continue to be so entertaining when all the teams are up to full fitness.

Leeds United

If they can keep up this intensity throughout the season, then they are going to give teams a torrid time. The problem comes if they do what Norwich, Huddersfield and many others down the years have done and lose that approach. That all-action style added to Bielsa's tactical tweaks are the only hope they have of staying in the league this season. The players have improved a lot under his coaching, but in essence they are still a very thin midtable Championship side performing above expectations because of Bielsea. If they let the plaudits go to their head, they could struggle.

With Bielsa in charge I expect quite the opposite, though the shortened season and possibility of losing key players to quarantine/self-isolation periods could well cost them. They just have to keep faith with the methodology and keep plugging away, no matter how difficult things get and they will be fine.

They do have issues defensively, not just their open, attacking style, but a lack of real defensively minded players in midfield. Phillips is a very good playmaker who can spray the passes around brilliantly, but he lacks mobility and does not yet have good enough reading of the game to make up for it. Their real Achilles' heel though is set-pieces. They are going to concede a fair few this season due to an inability to defend them unless something changes.


Klopp - he took a big risk starting with Wijnaldum, Keita and Henderson in the centre of midfield and it nearly cost Liverpool all three points. Nearly is the important word, the team still got the 3 points and the players took a step forward in terms of fitness. This was always going to be a difficult game, all teams are going to one to put one over on the champions and LFC were coming into it nowhere near fully prepared for the season. It is not just them in this position, but being defending champions is a much more difficult mindset to approach games with than going out to beat the reigning champions.

When changes were needed Klopp made them and they benefitted the team, Fabinho in particular changed the game and it was good to see Jones being the one to come in. That will be a huge boost to him that he was chosen over the other options on the bench.

Alisson - considering the number of goals in the match, Alisson had very little to do overall really. One-on-one with Bamford aside, it is difficult to think of anything else he had to do. Leeds were very clinical, for once, though it must be said Alisson at his superhuman best would likely have saved at least one other shot. Clearly not 100% yet and so not quite superhuman yet.

Alexander-Arnold - woefully short of match fitness as he returns from injury and it was glaringly obvious. It was like he was running in treacle with diving boots on while towing David Batty's caravan behind him at times. Harrison was able to torment him simply because he was struggling to run. That was a good run out to get him closer to full fitness.

Gomez - started off badly but grew into the game and got better and better. Brought the ball out from the back really well and did as much as humanly possible to cover for Trent and Virgil's off day. Once he moved over to right back, he completely shut down that flank, for both of the minutes he was there. It did make me wish he had perhaps moved there sooner, but Trent needed the fitness work.

van Dijk - he truly is human and showed all the fallibilities of a human for once. That arrogant composure for once was his undoing and he was (and I can't believe I am typing this) one of the worst players on the pitch. He was caught ball-watching, made a sloppy error and generally looked like his head was not in the game at all. Luckily he is such a threat in the opposition box and scored a goal, so his day was not a complete washout. From a Liverpool perspective, you just have to hope that was a lack of match sharpness but this has been a worrying trend in recent months. His performances have been declining alarmingly from the incredibly level he set when first arriving. Maybe this is the wake up call he needs to rediscover his form and get back to being the world's best centre-back.

Robertson - looked fresh and fired up, playing really well, with his customary energy and verve. Tsimikas is going to struggle to get much football if Robertson continues like this.

Keita - I suppose someone had to make Virgil's game look better and that someone was Keita, who was quite simply abysmal. Shirked challenges, ducked out of the way of Leeds passes he could have blocked, bottled out of headers and generally hid in a cowardly fashion on the pitch. The press failed because of him on more than one occasion. I really was disgusted with his performance. Keita was the very definition of an empty shirt. It was no surprise he was hooked with less than an hour gone. How much longer are we going to have to wait to see the Keita that impressed so much in the Bundesliga?

Henderson - another who was clearly miles away from full fitness and played well within himself. There was no drive and rampaging runs forward as we see when he is at his best. That hour or so in his legs will have done him the world of good.

Wijnaldum - so often Wijnaldum has games where he is utterly anonymous, this was one of those but added to it there were moments where he just looked like he was playing well within himself. One such came in the first half when Trent was caught up field and he was 'chasing' back. Well I say chasing, it was more sort of gently jogging in the same general direction as the Leeds attacker. Normally he would have sprinted, closed him down and seen out the danger. I am hoping he was just not fit either because the alternative is that his heart is no longer in it.

Salah - without a doubt the best player on the pitch. The left side of Leeds' defence will be giving thanks they will not have to face Salah every week. He looked absolutely at it and gave them a roasting. His commitment to his trade shone through as he was not lacking sharpness at all, despite staying back at Melwood during the international break.

Mane - there were flashes of the Mane Liverpool fans know and love, including a lovely nutmeg on Ayling after drawing the Leeds player right out of his half, but they were just flashes. Not at his best, but still a handful for the defence. He was clearly struggling for fitness as the second half wore on, there were a couple of times he did that little stumble people do when they are trying to go on a run but their legs are on the verge of giving out.

Firmino - miles off full fitness, though it is usual for him at this stage of the season. Bobby always seems to take a bit longer than the rest to get up to speed. He was still at the heart of the moves and produced some of his trademark Brazilian flair, but it was far from him at his best.

Fabinho - replaced Keita in the 59th minute and it changed the game. Liverpool looked so much better with him there, though that could probably be put down in large part to it being Keita that went off. He controls the midfield and made it much more difficult for Leeds to play through.

Jones - Henderson went off to be replaced by Jones in the 66th minute. Once again he impressed, without doing anything special this time. Looks very much like a natural player in that midfield.

Matip - only came on in place of Alexander-Arnold in the 89th minute, so never had time to impose himself on the game.

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Stoke City News 04 Sep 2020
Underrated Players: Number 1 The Anfield Iron Tommy Smith

This series is to give credit to those players who are often dismissed as 'just a ....' and never really given the credit they deserve for having ability. It is not my judgement of their rating I am using, but picking them due to the articles you tend to read about them, which never seem to quite give them the credit they deserve or comments from people online. It is not about the person, but the player, so I will also not be getting into controversies, such as Tommy Smith's racism (ironic considering his namesake was one of the Olympic Athletes in Mexico in 1968 that gained worldwide fame for giving a 'Black Power' salute).

Smith was always dismissed as merely an enforcer, someone to frighten opponents into submission, a reputation he worked to build for himself by his actions on the pitch. While he occasionally lamented how his reputation would overshadow his ability, Smith also knew that it gave him "an edge", something Bill Shankly wanted from his players. So it was that he would use tricks such as handing Jimmy Greaves a menu from Liverpool Infirmary (hospital) ahead of kick off to instil fear and create himself a legend as "The Anfield Iron".

"Tommy Smith wasn't born, he was quarried." - Bill Shankly

It was the 5th April 1945 when Smith was born, leading Steve Kindon, a fellow pro, to say: "I'm not saying Tommy Smith was hard, but he was born in April 1945 and the Germans surrendered a month later." An only child, Tommy's father died of pneumonia in 1959 and it led to the end of his Catholic upbringing as he stopped attending church afterwards. Not because of some epiphany caused by the loss of his father, instead it was his disgust after seeing the local priest stagger out of his family home drunk when he had visited to offer condolences.

A year later he became a schoolboy associate at Liverpool, joining the groundstaff as was the custom in those days. In those days he was a centre-forward who manager Bill Shankly quickly took under his wing, becoming a father figure to him. It did not start so well though for him: "I was only 15 and playing in a five-a-side game at Melwood," Smith recalled later. "I nutmegged Gerry Byrne and scored and I was on top of the world. A couple of minutes later a ball dropped between us. I went to head it and Gerry headed me and I went down with a gashed eye. As I lay on the ground covered in blood, Bill Shankly strolled across, looked down at me and said, 'Lesson number one, never nutmeg Gerry Byrne son and think you can get away with it.'"

That lesson stayed with Smith throughout his career, he became known for 'letting people know he was around' early in games. It was his way of getting an advantage, a frightened opponent is not going to perform to his best, especially when the man inspiring the fear is ready to cut him in half the moment he gets the ball. Shankly was impressed by what he saw and Smith went straight into the A team, jumping straight past two reserve teams. Smith continued to make a big impression playing as a forward, in pre-season ahead of the 1961-62 season he beat Shankly's 'colossus' Ron Yeats to a header to score in training in front of the watching Shanks. The following summer he turned professional on £18 a week.

"I remember once at St James Park, Newcastle, Malcolm McDonald had scored a hat-trick against us. He was making his home debut, I'd missed a penalty and Kevin Keegan had given one away. Towards the end of the game McDonald went up for a high ball with Ray Clemence and Clem clattered him. He had to be carried off and as he lay on the stretcher I walked over to him and said 'Right, that's yer lot, you'll never score another fucking goal against Liverpool while I'm on the same pitch', and I meant it, and what's more, he never did. At the end of that season we played them in the cup final and once again words were exchanged in the tunnel before the game. Then we went out and slaughtered them 3-0 and it could have been 6." - Tommy Smith

Smith made his Liverpool debut in May 1963, replacing an injured Jimmy Melia in a 5-1 win over Birmingham City, but did not play again for the rest of the season or the next one. Smith did enough to impress England and went with the England youth team that won the 1963 Junior World Cup. He finally made his second appearance for LFC in August 1964, where he scored his first goal playing inside-left in a 3-2 defeat against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. That was enough to keep his place, scoring against Leeds and then making two more appearances before being dropped back to the reserves once more.

It was 1964 that he finally earnt his place in Liverpool's team. It was LFC's first ever European foray and he was brought into the team as a defender against the then-mighty Anderlecht. Shankly picked Smith as a number 10 but told him to play in defence, that confused Anderlecht so much that he was man marked by their number 4 for the first 20 minutes! Tommy was desperate to make a good impression: "They had a lad who could really play a bit, Van Himst his name was. I slammed into him early on and as he got up, he pointed to his head, and said 'Loco' to me. I was determined to show Shanks I was up for the task."

Liverpool won 3-0 and Smith was excellent, prompting Shankly to say: "The game marked out Tommy Smith as a fine player. The boy has arrived." Tommy played every game of the FA Cup run that season as Liverpool picked up their first FA Cup with a 2-1 win over Leeds United in the final. While he managed to lock down a place in the Liverpool side, at international level it was a different matter, though he did make Alf Ramsey's initial 40-man squad list for the 1966 World Cup. However he was one of the ones removed when it was pared down to the final squad of 28 to go to Lilleshall, Smith was put on standby to replace any injury drop-outs.

"Tommy doesn't tackle opponents so much as break them down for resale as scrap." - Bob Paisley

In the end he made just one England appearance, in 1971, the season that he was made Liverpool captain and was also runner-up in the Footballer of the Year voting. Smith was a hard man, as no less a man than Jack Charlton said: "Tommy Smith was easily the hardest player I faced. I ran into him once and he knocked every ounce of breath out of me. I tried to get up and look like he hadn't hurt me, but he had." He was more than that though, Smith was more akin to a Bobby Moore-style of defender, with excellent reading of the game and the ability to pick a pass. Very few people remember that though because, in his own words, "I make no bones about it, that's what I was good at. Some players were good dribblers, others good headers, I was a hard tackler and I used it to gain that 'edge' that Shanks was always looking for."

Even when, towards the end of his career, he went over to the USA to play for the Tampa Bay Rowdies he was given the nickname of 'The Tank'. A European Cup final goal aside, Smith will not be remembered for good play on the pitch, he will be remembered for frightening opponents, for his feud with Emlyn Hughes and for stunts like handing Jimmy Greaves the menu for the local infirmary before kick-off. If he had played 20 years later, it could well have been him presenting the 'Soccer Hard Men' video and grabbing Paul Gascoigne by the balls.

While it may have given him 'an edge', it has made sure that he is not remembered for being good enough for Matt Busby to attempt to sign him for his 'Busby Babes'. As being good enough to play left-back, right-back and centre-back in some great Liverpool sides. Instead he is remembered as being the photograph that mothers in Merseyside would put on the mantelpiece to keep the kids away from the fire and the one that nearly cut Ossie Ardiles in half with a 'tackle' to remind the Argentinian that "this was a man's league".

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Stoke City News 20 Aug 2020
The Oddest Season - A Quick Review

20. Norwich City


Sam McCallum from Coventry City for £3.74m

Ralf Fahrmann from Schalke 04 on loan for £2.7m (loan fee)

Sam Byram from West Ham United for £747,000

Lukas Rupp from Hoffenheim for £450,000

Daniel Adshead from Rochdale for £302,000

Josip Drmic from Borussia Moenchengladbach for £0

Ibrahim Amadou from Sevilla on loan

Ondrej Duda from Hertha Berlin on loan

Melvin Sitti from Sochaux for £?

Rocky Bushiri from Oostende for £?

Patrick Roberts from Manchester City on loan

Nothing really of note happening on the in front. Norwich never went all in and seemed to accept they were out of their depth, preparing instead for next season back in the Championship. No gaps were filled in the squad for the season but a few were bought for the future. Mark: E


Marcel Franke to Hannover 96 for £900,000

Nelson Oliveira to AEK Athens for £900,000

Dennis Srbeny to Paderborn for £180,000

Yanic Wildschut to Maccabi Haifa for £0

Sean Raggett to Portsmouth on loan

Ivo Pinto to Dinamo Zagreb for £0

Sam McCallum to Coventry City on loan

Melvin Sitti to Sochaux on loan

James Husband to Blackpool for £0 after loan

Tristan Abrahams to Newport Count for £0

Carlton Morris to MK Dons & Rotherham United on loan

Steven Naismith to Heart of Midlothian for £0

Rocky Bushiri to Blackpool & Sint-Truiden on loan

Louis Thompson to Shrewsbury Town & MK Dons on loan

Philip Heise to 1.FC Nuremberg on loan

Ben Marshall released

Matt Jarvis released

Mason Bloomfield to Crawley Town on loan

The outs saw a lot of unwanted and unneeded players leave the club, some of them the club had been stuck with since its last stint in the Premier League. It could be considered a good window in that respect. Mark: B+

Overall: The Canaries refused to gamble to club's future on big signings in an attempt to stay in the Premier League, having previously ended up in severe financial difficulties following a relegation. It did mean that the team were pretty much trying to compete with an arm tied behind their back. Initially they performed well, pulling off a good win in Manchester against reigning champions Man City, and looking like a team willing to give their all to survive. In the end they went out with a whimper and it was little wonder they ended the season propping up the table. Still they are in good shape to try for a quick return and will not need to hold a fire sale of assets to manage their finances, so it is not all bad. Mark: E+

19. Watford


Ismaila Sarr from Stade Rennais for £27m

Ignacio Pussetto from Udinese Calcio for £7.2m

Craig Dawson from West Bromwich Albion for £5.4m

Joao Pedro from Fluminese for £3.6m

Tom Dele-Bashiru from Manchester City for £0

Danny Welbeck from Arsenal for £0

The usual mixed bag of recruits that show little sign of planning or forethought. As usual it is a mess that does not move the club forward on the pitch. A lot just seems to be shuffling players between the clubs the Pozzos own for reasons I am unable to fathom. Mark: E-


Dodi Lukebakio to Hertha Berlin for £18m

Obbi Oulare to Standard Liege for £3.06m

Marvin Zeegelaar to Udinese Calcio for £1.8m

Filip Stuparevic to Vozdova & 1.FK Pribram on loan

Dimitir Foulquier to Granada on loan

Kwasi Sibo to Ibiza on loan

Ken Sema to Udinese on loan

Cucho Hernandez to Mallorca on loan

Adalberto Penaranda to KAS Eupen on loan

Stefano Okaka to Udinese for £?

Ben Wilmot to Swansea City on loan

Jerome Sinclair to VVV-Venlo on loan

Luis Suarez to Real Zaragoza on loan

Jorge Segura to Envigado on loan

Pontus Dahlberg to Emmen on loan

Tommie Hoban released

Miguel Britos retired

Sebastian Prodl released

Like the recruitment, the outs are a mess, a bunch of players, almost all of them nowhere near good enough, who they are shifting around on loan, in the main. The Pozzos have brought Watford a long way, but now their haphazard recruitment is costing the club badly on the pitch. Mark: D

Overall: The same old problems of lack of fitness and stability have finally caused the club's form to collapse and drop them back down to the Championship. The team, on paper, is more than good enough for a top half finish, so relegation is a sign of how bad things have got. Though the biggest indicator is probably the 4 different managers they got through during the season! Mark: F

18. Bournemouth


Arnaut Danjuma from Club Brugge for £16.2m

Philip Billing from Huddersfield Town for £14.85m

Lloyd Kelly from Bristol City for £13.32m

Jack Stacey from Luton Town for £4.01m

Harry Wilson on loan from Liverpool for £2.43m loan fee

As usual Howe invested heavily in the transfer market for little real return on the pitch. On paper though, the recruitment looks to have moved the team forward. Mark: B+


Tyrone Mings to Aston Villa for £20.07m

Lys Mousset to Sheffield United for £9.99m

Connor Mahoney to Millwall for £990,000

Kyle Taylor to Forest Green Rovers on loan

Matt Butcher to St Johnstone on loan

Marc Pugh to Queens Park Rangers for £0

Asmir Begovic to Qarabag Agdam & AC Milan on loan

Harry Arter to Fulham on loan

Sam Surridge to Swansea City on loan

Emerson Hyndman to Atlanta United on loan which was made permanent for £?

Nnamdi Ofoborh to Wycombe Wanderers on loan

Brad Smith to Cardiff City on loan

Again, on paper it looks a decent bit of work done, particularly getting such a huge fee for Mings. They lost no one vital to the team, just fringe players moving on. Mark: B

Overall: A terrible season. Previously the Cherries had scored enough goals to cover up how bad their defence is but this season the goals dried up too. Howe reached his zenith a few seasons ago and they have been gradually worsening year on year, it was the right time for him to leave at least a season ago, probably more. Mark: F

17. Aston Villa


Wesley from Club Brugge for £22.5m

Tyrone Mings from Bournemouth for £20.07m

Douglas Luiz from Manchester City for £15.12m

Matt Targett from Southampton for £13.95m

Ezri Konsa from Brentford for £11.97m

Marvelous Nakamba from Club Brugge for £10.8m

Mbwana Samatta from KRC Genk for £9.45m

Trezeguet from Kasimpasa for £9m

Anwar El Ghazi from LOSC Lille for £8.1m

Tom Heaton from Burnley for £7.92m

Bjorn Engels from Stade Reims for £7.2m

Jota from Birmingham City for £4.05m

Kortney Hause from Wolverhampton Wanderers for £3.06m

Borja Baston from Swansea City for £0

Pepe Reina from AC Milan on loan

Danny Drinkwater from Chelsea on loan

Lots of money was flung at recruitment with little success, Marvelous turned out to be far from marvellous and Targett never really hit the target. Luiz and Reina did step up right at the end but overall they spunked millions on a lot of players for very little return. Mark: E+


Jonathan Kodjia to Al Gharafa for £2.7m

Aaron Tshibola to Waasland-Beveren for £900,000

Lovre Kalinic to Toulouse on loan

James Chester to Stoke City on loan

Ritchie De Laet to Royal Antwerp for £0

Tommy Elphick to Huddersfield Town for £0

Albert Adomah to Nottingham Forest for £0

Glenn Whelan to Heart of Midlothian for £0

Scott Hogan to Birmingham City & Stoke City on loan

Andre Green to Charlton Athletic & Preston North End on loan

James Bree to Luton Town on loan

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy to Tranmere Rovers & Derby County on loan

Matija Sarkic to Livingston on loan

Gary Gardner to Birmingham City for £?

Micah Richards retired

Ross McCormack released

Alan Hutton released

Mile Jedinak released

Birkir Bjarnason released

Mark Bunn retired

While they lost no one of consequence, they also recouped almost nothing in return. They also still have a lot of players left to offload. Mark: D+

Overall: They achieved their aim by staying in the Premier League, but only just. It was an extremely difficult season, with the team finding it a real struggle to get their play going. For long periods they looked completely out of their depth in the Prem and it is hard to see their survival as anything other than because there were three teams that were worse than them. They will certainly need to improve next season. Mark: D

16. West Ham United


Sebastien Haller from Eintracht Frankfurt for £45m

Pablo Fornals from Villareal for £25.2m

Jarrod Bowen from Hull City for £19.17m

Albian Ajeti from Basel for £7.83m

Darren Randolph from Middlesbrough for £4.23m

Tomas Soucek from Slavia Prague on loan for £4.05m loan fee

Goncalo Cardoso from Boavista for £2.7m

Roberto from Espanyol for £0

David Martin from Millwall for £0

A couple of successes aside, in Bowen and Soucek (though merely on loan), the recruitment was poor. It comes to something when you manage to pay too big a transfer fee for a free transfer signing, but the Hammers managed to do so with the utterly abysmal Roberto. That is nothing compared to the big money signing Haller, who was massively disappointing. Mark: D


Marko Arnautovic to Shanghai SIPG for £22.5m

Chicharito to Sevilla for £6.98m

Edimilson Fernandes to 1.FSV Mainz 05 for £6.75m

Pedro Obiang to Sassuolo for £6.3m

Sead Haksabanovic to Norrkoping for £2.34m

Lucas Perez to Alaves for £2.07m

Reece Oxford to Augsburg for £1.8m

Sam Byram to Norwich City for £747,000

Moses Makasi to Eindhoven for £0

Adrian to Liverpool for £0

Andy Carroll to Newcastle United for £0

Samir Nasri to Anderlecht for £0

Jordan Hugill to Queens Park Rangers on loan

Winston Reid to Sporting Kansas City on loan

Josh Cullen to Charlton Athletic on loan

Grady Diangana to West Bromwich Albion on loan

Roberto to Alaves on loan

In the main the outs were very good for the Hammers, they offloaded a lot of unwanted players and a couple of players who were causing problems too. The only real loss was back up keeper Adrian, due to the injuries Fabianski suffered during the season. Mark: B+

Overall: After a poor start to the season, Moyes was brought in and he turned it around, albeit slowly, and got the team playing some decent football towards the end. They looked a much better team at the close and it seems they are heading in the right direction again. Mark: D

15. Brighton & Hove Albion


Neal Maupay from Brentford for £20m

Adam Webster from Bristol City for £20m

Leandro Trossard from KRC Genk for £18m

Aaron Mooy from Huddersfield Town on loan made permanent for £5.4m

Matt Clarke from Portsmouth for £3.51m

Tariq Lamptey from Chelsea for £2.97m

A mixed bag for the Seagulls. While Webster and Mooy played as often as fitness allowed and did well, the rest struggled in various ways. Clarke was unable to break in to the side, Maupay and Trossard did good things at times but mainly flattered to deceive and Lamptey was raw when he got into the side. They needed a goalscorer all season and that is one thing they failed to buy, though Maupay worked hard he did not add the goals they wanted. Mark: C-


Anthony Knockaert to Fulham on loan for £4.05m loan fee

Ales Mateju to Brescia for £1.62m

Florin Andone to Galatasaray on loan for £630,000 loan fee

Gaetan Bong to Nottingham Forest for £450,000

Richie Towell to Salford City for £0

Ben White to Leeds United on loan

Tomer Hemed to Charlton Athletic for £0

Markus Suttner to Fortuna Dusseldorf for £0

Soufyan Ahannach to Saint Gilloise on loan and then Go Ahead Eagles for £0

Tudur Baluta to ADO Den Haag on loan

Viktor Gyokeres to St Pauli on loan

Percy Tau to Club Brugge on loan

Matt Clarke to Derby County on loan

Beram Kayal to Charlton Athletic on loan

Anders Dreyer to Heerenveen on loan

Jurgen Locadia to Hoffenheim & Cincinnati on loan

Billy Arce to Barcelona (Ecuador) & LDU Quito on loan

Jan Mlakar to Wigan Athletic & Queens Park Rangers on loan

Anders Dreyer to Midtjylland for £0

Leon Balogun for Wigan Athletic on loan

Alexis Mac Allister to Boca Juniors on loan

Leo Ostigard to St Pauli on loan

Christian Walton to Blackburn Rovers on loan

Bruno retired

Other than an excellent fee for Knockaert on loan, the club did not really recoup much of the spending they did. They were unable to offload a lot of players they would have prepared to get off the wage bill as well. Mark: D-

Overall: A difficult first season for Graham Potter, they played much prettier football than under Chris Hughton but struggled to get the results they should have. There were signs of progress by the end of the season and it looks like the faith the board showed in Potter will be repaid in time. The players do look to be improving as footballers under him and that should lead to improved results and it would be expected that sales will recoup much more money in future. Mark: D+

14. Crystal Palace


James McCarthy from Everton for £2.97m

Jordan Ayew from Swansea City for £2.52m

Victor Camarasa from Real Betis on loan for £1.35m loan fee

Stephen Henderson from Nottingham Forest for £0

Gary Cahill from Chelsea for £0

Cenk Tosun from Everton on loan

It is little wonder Palace seem stuck in mid-table and struggling to make progress forward, their transfers are the same every season. They improve the defence, the midfield stagnates and the attack adds very few, if any, goals. Until they start to fix the goalscoring issue they are going nowhere. Mark: D-


Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United for £49.5m

Alexander Sorloth to Trabzonspor on loan for £675,000 loan fee

Ryan Inniss to Newport County on loan

Jason Puncheon to Pafos for £0

Pape Souare to Troyes for £0

Jaroslaw Jach to Rakow on loan

Connor Wickham to Sheffield Wednesday on loan

Bakary Sako released

Julian Speroni retired

The sale of Wan-Bissaka, who had barely established himself in the team, paid for all their transfer dealings and put them in a strong position. With the way they operate in the market, that is unlikely to happen again. They are not developing younger players often enough and that is why they saw almost no return from the rest of their transfers. That does not put them in a strong position for the long term. Mark: C

Overall: An ageing team which started well, but it does feel like it was only a matter of time before results started to slip due to their lack of goalscorers. With an unsustainable transfer policy, which spends money on older players who want higher wages but have little to no sell-on value, it is going to be tough to maintain their place in the Premier League in the long term unless they find a goalscorer. The way they dropped down the table after the restart suggested that they could be in trouble next season without a striker. Mark: C-

13. Newcastle United


Joelinton from Hoffenheim for £39.6m

Allan Saint-Maximin from OGC Nice for £16.2m

Emil Krath from Amiens for £4.86m

Danny Rose from Tottenham Hotspur on loan for £1.8m loan fee

Valentino Lazaro from Inter Milan on loan for £1.35m loan fee

Nabil Bentaleb from Schalke 04 on loan for £900,000 loan fee

Jetro Willems from Eintracht Frankfurt on loan for £900,000 loan fee

Jake Turner from Bolton Wanderers for £0

Andy Carroll from West Ham United for £0

The detestable slimeball who owns the club, Mike Ashley, finally loosened the purse strings a little and saw a lot of money spent for little return. Loan fees cannot be recouped and the best you can say about any of the signings is they showed flashes of ability but no consistency at all. Mark: E


Ayoze Perez to Leicester City for £30.06m

Joselu to Alaves for £2.02m

Sung-yeung Ki to RCD Mallorca for £0

Mohamed Diame to Al Ahli for £0

Jacob Murphy to Sheffield Wednesday on loan

Rolando Aarons to Motherwell & Wycombe Wanderers on loan

Dan Barlaser to Rotherham United on loan

Freddie Woodman to Swansea City on loan

Achraf Lazaar to Cosenza on loan

Not a bad set of outs, receiving a big fee for an average striker who is not the best goalscorer and offloading some unwanted players. In fact, it could even be considered a good window for the Toon in terms of outs. Mark: B-

Overall: Steve Bruce's appointment was not greeted with universal approval and expectations were low. It is fair to say Bruce exceeded those expectations with a lot to spare. However, that must be placed in context. Rafael Benitez had built good, solid foundations to be built on, Bruce was given a decent amount of money to spend and still barely improved on last season. It does provide a platform to work on for next season. Mark: C

12. Everton


Alex Iwobi from Arsenal for £27.36m

Moise Kean from Juventus for £24.75m

Andre Gomes from Barcelona for £22.5m

Jean-Philippe Gbamin from 1.FSV Mainz 05 for £22.5m

Fabian Delph from Manchester City for £8.55m

Djibril Sidibe from Monaco on loan for £2.25m loan fee

Jonas Lossl from Huddersfield Town for £0

I think their signings can be summed up with one word - disastrous. It is hard to understand how they can have so much money to spend over the last couple of years and still go backwards as a team. Their best signing looks to be Carlo Ancelotti, though he has yet to turn things around, but it is early days under him. Mark: F


Idrissa Gueye to Paris Saint-Germain for £27m

Ademola Lookman to RB Leipzig for £16.2m

Nikola Vlasic to CSKA Moscow for £14.13m

Henry Onyekuru to Monaco for £12.15m

James McCarthy to Crystal Palace for £2.97m

Phil Jagielka to Sheffield United for £0

Mateusz Hewelt to Miedz Legnica for £0

Brendan Galloway to Luton Town for £0

Kevin Mirallas to Royal Antwerp for £0

Luke Garbutt to Ipswich Town on loan

Muhamed Besic to Sheffield United on loan

Matthew Pennington to Hull City on loan

Shani Tarashaj to Emmen on loan

Kieran Dowell to Wigan Athletic & Derby County on loan

Sandro Ramirez to Real Valladolid on loan

Jonjoe Kenny to Schalke 04 on loan

Cenk Tosun to Crystal Palace on loan

Yannick Bolasie to Sporting CP on loan

Ashley Williams released

Jonas Lossl to Huddersfield Town on loan

The outs look to be good for the team, the only odd one was loaning out Kenny to take Sidibe on loan as a replacement. There is little doubt Kenny was at least as good and he is on lower wages plus he would not have required the club to pay over £2m in loan fees. Overall it was mostly getting rid of problems, such as Mirallas. Mark: B+

Overall: A very poor season by Everton's usual standards but the arrival of Ancelotti has given the fans hope for the future. There is also good reason to hope that the club has learnt lessons on its poor recruitment over the last few years, which does bode well. Unfortunately that was too late to rescue this season. Mark: E

11. Southampton


Danny Ings from Liverpool for £19.98m

Che Adams from Birmingham City for £15.03m

Moussa Djenepo from Standard Liege for £14.13m

Kevin Danso from Augsburg on loan for £3.6m loan fee

Kyle Walker-Peters from Tottenham Hotspur on loan

It can be considered a successful window for the Saints. The arrival of Ings alone made it work, even if the rest were not quite as helpful to the team. Mark: B+


Matt Targett to Aston Villa for £13.95m

Sam Gallagher to Blackburn Rovers for £5.85m

Charlie Austin to West Bromwich Albion for £3.87m

Mario Lemina to Galatasaray on loan for £900,000 loan fee

Jack Rose to Walsall on loan

Steven Davis to Rangers for £0

Jordy Clasie to AZ Alkmaar for £0

Maya Yoshida to Sampdoria on loan

Jake Hesketh to Lincoln City on loan

Wesley Hoedt to Royal Antwerp on loan

Guido Carrillo to Leganes on loan

Mohamed Elyounoussi to Celtic on loan

Fraser Forster to Celtic on loan

Harrison Reed to Fulham on loan

Josh Sims to NY Red Bulls on loan

Cedric Soares to Arsenal on loan

Like the ins, this was a successful window for Southampton. They have managed to offload a number of players who were unsuited to the style of play Ralph Hasenhuttl wishes to play. Mark: A-

Overall: They showed the value of patience after a big defeat at the hands of Leicester could easily have seen Hasenhuttl given his marching orders. Many clubs would have pulled the trigger. Saints stood by the Austrian and he repaid their faith by moving the club into a safe mid-table position and putting the building blocks in place to go further. They now look like a club on the up. Mark: B+

10. Burnley


Josh Brownhill from Bristol City for £9m

Jay Rodriquez from West Bromwich Albion for £5m

Bailey Peacock-Farrell from Leeds United for £2.48m

Erik Pieters from Stoke City for £990,000

Danny Drinkwater from Chelsea on loan

The usual bargain basement buys for Burnley as they look to stay within their budget while remaining competitive. It is difficult to judge their transfers as their players just seem to slot in and out with little change to the quality or play. That is probably a sign that they are doing well, as they could easily drop down the table with their limited spend, as other clubs have done. Mark: C+


Tom Heaton to Aston Villa for £7.92m

Nakhi Wells to Queens Park Rangers on loan then Bristol City for £4.28m

Steven Defour to Royal Antwerp for £0

Stephen Ward to Stoke City for £0

Anders Lingaard to Helsingborg for £0

Aiden O'Neill to Brisbane Roar on loan

Ntumba Massanka to Chorley for £0

Peter Crouch retired

One thing that having a lack of standout star players has meant is that they do not have to fear their best players being cherry-picked each season. Nowadays the players that move on are those that are surplus. Mark: C

Overall: Once again a top half finish for the Clarets, but it is a measure of how far they have come under Sean Dyche that they were probably disappointed not to qualify for Europe again. They are never going to be pretty to watch, but they are pretty effective at what they do. The question has to be asked if Dyche has taken them as far as he can though? Mark: C

9. Sheffield United


Sander Berge from KRC Genk for £19.35m

Oliver McBurnie from Swansea City for £17.19m

Lys Mousset from Bournemouth for £9.99m

Callum Robinson from Preston North End for £7.02m

Luke Freeman from Queens Park Rangers for £5.04m

Ben Osborn from Nottingham Forest for £3.51m

Michael Verrips from KV Mechelen for £0

Dean Henderson from Manchester United on loan

Phil Jagielka from Everton for £0

Ravel Morrison from Ostersund for £0

Muhamed Besic from Everton on loan

Jack Robinson from Nottingham Forest for £?

Richairo Zivkovic from Changchun Yatai on loan

Panagiotis Retsos from Bayer Leverkusen on loan

Jack Rodwell free agent

Lots of hopeful punts on players, some of which paid off, while others did not. Overall they must be happy with the players brought in considering the position in the table those players helped them to. Mark: C-


Richard Stearman to Huddersfield Town for £180,000

Ched Evans to Fleetwood Town for £135,000

Jake Bennett to Alfreton Town for £0

Samir Carruthers to Cambridge United for £0

Ben Heneghan to Blackpool on loan

Caolan Lavery to Walsall for £0

Conor Washington to Heart of Midlothian for £0

Paul Coutts to Fleetwood Town for £0

Martin Cranie to Luton Town for £0

Nathan Thomas to Carlisle United on loan

Danny Lafferty to Shamrock Rovers for £0

Jake Eastwood to Scunthorpe United on loan

Jake Wright to Bolton Wanderers on loan

Mark Duffy to Stoke City & ADO Den Haag on loan

Ravel Morrison to Middlesbrough on loan

Kean Bryan to Bolton Wanderers on loan

Callum Robinson to West Bromwich Albion on loan

Jake Wright released

They offloaded a number of unwanted players but they received almost nothing in return, which is the only negative from their season at all really. Long term they will need to build a more sustainable transfer policy, as their wage bill increases while income stabilises, but in the short term they will be fine to continue as they are. Mark: C

Overall: A fantastic season which could have been even better but for the enforced break due to the coronavirus. They were the team who suffered most due to the stoppage as injuries disrupted their rhythm. Missing out on Europe for next season might turn out to be a good thing due to the small size of their squad and how badly injuries disrupted their run in. Mark: A

8. Arsenal


Nicolas Pepe from LOSC Lille for £72m

William Saliba from Saint-Etienne for £27m

Kieran Tierney from Celtic for £24.3m

David Luiz from Chelsea for £7.83m

Pablo Mari from Flamengo on loan for £7.2m loan fee

Gabriel Martinelli from Ituano for £6.03m

Cedric Soares from Southampton on loan

Dani Ceballos from Real Madrid on loan

It was a very mixed bag of transfers, huge amounts wasted on Pepe, Mari and Luiz. Then there was Tierney who would have pretty much missed the season but for the lengthy stop due to the virus. Saliba looks a fantastic signing for the future, as does Martinelli, but is that enough to make up for the huge fee blown on Pepe? Mark: D-


Alex Iwobi to Everton for £27.36m

Krystian Bielik to Derby County for £7.38m

Laurent Koscielny to Girondins Bordeaux for £4.5m

David Ospina to Napoli for £3.15m

Henrikh Mkhitaryan to AS Roma on loan for £2.79m loan fee

Carl Jenkinson to Nottingham Forest for £1.98m

Takuma Asano to Partizan Belgrade for £900,000

Nacho Monreal to Real Sociedad for £225,000

Stephan Lichtsteiner to Augsburg for £0

Cohen Bramall to Colchester United for £0

William Saliba to Saint-Etienne on loan

Aaron Ramsey to Juventus for £0

Danny Welbeck to Watford for £0

Konstantinos Mavropanos to 1.FC Nuremberg on loan

Dejan Iliev to SKF Sered & Jagiellonia Bialystok on loan

Eddie Nketiah to Leeds United on loan

Mohamed Elneny to Besiktas on loan

Petr Cech retired

The Gunners worked a minor miracle getting any kind of fee for the woeful Iwobi and Mkhitaryan, the only issue is that the Armenian is still on their books drawing a big wage for nothing. The only real loss was Ramsey and Koscielny, both of whom wanted to leave, so it was probably best they did move. Mark: B+

Overall: While some seem to think the FA Cup rescued their season, to me finishing 8th in the league, with absolutely no signs of anything having changed in terms of them being able to defend, is a terrible season for a club that is meant to be challenging the top 4. If anything they look further away from being a title challenger than ever. Even worse, from the fans' point of view, must be that once again they are below bitter rivals Spurs, despite them also having a poor season. The only bright spark is the appointment of Arteta, which has brought the fans onside, even if he has shown little sign of improving anything yet. Mark: D-

7. Wolverhampton Wanderers


Raul Jimenez from Benfica for £34.2m

Patrick Cutrone from AC Milan for £19.8m

Daniel Podence from Olympiacos for £17.64m

Pedro Neto from Lazio for £16.11m

Leander Dendoncker from RSC Anderlecht for £12.42m

Bruno Jordao from Lazio for £8.01m

Luke Matheson from Rochdale for £990,000

Renat Dadashov from Estoril for £450,000

Leonardo Campana from Barcelona (Ecuador) for £0

Jesus Vallejo from Real Madrid on loan

An excellent transfer window, mainly due to the arrival of Jimenez on a permanent deal. The team and squad showed real improvement thanks to the signings. Mark: A-


Ivan Cavaleiro to Fulham on loan for £5.31m loan fee then permanent for £10.62m

Kortney Hause to Aston Villa for £3.06m

Patrick Cutrone to Fiorentina on loan for £2.7m loan fee

Jack Ruddy to Ross County for £0

Michal Zyro to Korona Kielce for £0

Ethan Ebanks-Landell to Shrewsbury Town for £0

Luke Matheson to Rochdale on loan

Ryan Bennett to Leicester City on loan

Sylvain Deslandes to ACS Arges for £0

Leo Bonatini to Vitoria Guimaraes on loan

Bright Enobakhare to Wigan Athletic on loan then released

Renat Dadashov to Pacos Ferreira on loan

Will Norris to Ipswich Town on loan

Rafa Mir to Nottingham Forest & SD Huesca on loan

Connor Ronan to Blackpool on loan

Helder Costa to Leeds United on loan

Jesus Vallejo to Granada on loan

Roderick Miranda to Famalicao on loan

Harry Burgoyne released

Jordan Graham to Gillingham on loan

They lost no one important to the squad, but they did not recoup anything like as much as they spent. That is their one issue, not getting in enough money, otherwise it would have been an excellent window. Mark: C+

Overall: Another good season with Wolves looking like a club progressing towards becoming a regular European competitor. While they did just miss out this time, they are putting the cat amongst the pigeons and have turned the regular top 6 into a top 7. It is a sign of their progress that some even see 7th as a disappointment. Mark: C-

6. Tottenham Hotspur


Tanguy Ndombele from Olympique Lyonnaise for £54m

Steven Bergwijn from PSV Eindhoven for £27m

Ryan Sessegnon from Fulham for £24.3m

Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis on loan for £14.4m loan fee

Jack Clarke from Leeds United for £9.9m

Gedson Fernandes from Benfica on loan for £4.05m loan fee

Michel Vorm free agent

On paper they brought in some excellent players of the kind they needed to improve their team, though they did pay heavily for them. The issue was that the players failed to make enough of an impression on the team to justify their price tags just yet, though there were some promising signs. Mark: C+


Christian Eriksen to Inter Milan for £24.3m

Kieran Trippier to Atletico Madrid for £19.8m

Vincent Janssen to Monterrey for £8.1m

Georges-Kevin N'Koudou to Besiktas for £3.6m

Danny Rose to Newcastle United on loan for £1.8m loan fee

Cameron Carter-Vickers to Stoke City & Luton Town on loan

Josh Onomah to Fulham for £0

Victor Wanyama to Montreal Impact for £0

Fernando Llorente to Napoli for £0

Jack Clarke to Leeds United & Queens Park Rangers on loan

Kyle Walker-Peters to Southampton on loan

Michel Vorm released

They managed to clear out unhappy and unwanted players, so all in all a good window. Mark: B-

Overall: Despite the good transfer window, on the pitch Spurs failed to make any progress and looked, at times, to be going backwards as a team. They did bring in some good young talent to improve the squad for the long term, but those players need to finally show what they can do on a consistent basis. This season was a disappointment as the team failed to reach the top four and Champions League qualification. Mark: D-

5. Leicester City


Youri Tielemans from Monaco for £40.5m

Ayoze Perez from Newcastle United for £30.06m

Dennis Praet from Sampdoria for £17.28m

James Justin from Luton Town for £6.03m

Ryan Bennett from Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan

Callum Hulme from Bury for £0

The Foxes have continued to invest heavily in building their squad, as they look to win another Premier League title. It is questionable whether they spent the money as well as they could have done, particularly in the case of Perez. Mark: C-


Harry Maguire to Manchester United for £78.3m

Callum Elder to Hull City for £1.35m

Shinji Okazaki to Malaga for £0

Rachid Ghezzal to Fiorentina on loan

Fousseni Diabate to Amiens on loan

George Thomas to ADO Den Haag on loan

Andy King to Huddersfield Town & Rangers on loan

Filip Benkovic to Bristol City on loan

Islam Slimani to Monaco on loan

Danny Simpson released

They got an obscene fee for an average defender but little else. That is something they cannot rely on being able to do each season. With the continous investment they are undergoing, they will have to make ends meet at some point if they are to compete regularly in Europe. Mark: B+

Overall: What started off as an exceptional season fell off the tracks after Christmas and they lost their way. While 5th would usually be a very good season for the Foxes, the way it ended with the team folding just when it mattered will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of supporters. It is a worry as this is a continued pattern for manager Brendan Rodgers teams, whenever the pressure is on they always seem to fail to get the results needed. He will have to change that soon or it will begin to prey on the minds of the players. Mark: C

4. Chelsea


Mateo Kovacic from Real Madrid for £40.5m

A difficult transfer window due to a transfer embargo meaning they could only make the Kovacic loan deal into a permanent one. There was little they could do. Mark: C+


Eden Hazard to Real Madrid for £103.5m

Ola Aina to Torino for £8.82m

Tomas Kalas to Bristol City for £8.1m

David Luiz to Arsenal for £7.83m

Michael Hector to Fulham for £5.31m

Kenneth Omeruo to Leganes for £4.5m

Tiemoue Bakayoko to Monaco on loan for £2.7m loan fee

Ethan Ampadu to RB Leipzig on loan for £585,000 loan fee

Victor Moses to Inter Milan on loan for £194,000 loan fee

Eduardo to Braga for £0

Todd Kane to Queens Park Rangers for £0

Gary Cahill to Crystal Palace for £0

Davide Zappacosta to AS Roma on loan

Kenedy to Getafe on loan

Abdul Rahman Baba to RCD Mallorca on loan

Lucas Piazon to Rio Ave on loan

Danilo Pantic to Fehervar on loan

Jamal Blackman to Vitesse Arnhem & Bristol Rovers on loan

Matt Miazga to Reading on loan

Danny Drinkwater to Burnley & Aston Villa on loan

Lewis Baker to Fortuna Dusseldorf on loan

Rob Green retired

It is shocking how many players nowhere near good enough for Chelsea that they still have on their books. The number that continue to be farmed out on loan each year is incredible. This season they did manage to reduce them, with the embargo meaning no one could come in. They also finally ended the tedious 'I want Madrid' saga with Hazard and got a very good fee for him. Yes he was, when he wanted to be, a fantastic player, but he was disruptive and it was time for him to go. It was a very good window for Chelsea. Mark: B+

Overall: About as good as could be expected for Chelsea in Lampard's first season. He was just about the only option they had to keep the fans onside and bring the club together while they got past the transfer embargo. He turned out to be a decent option, though he could not quite hold it together when it mattered in the cups. That is the issue long term, that need to produce when the chips are down. So far Lampard has yet to show he can do that in his career and it could become an anchor weighing him down if he does not get over this hurdle soon. Lampard needs a trophy to build on. For now though, top 4 was the aim and he achieved it. Mark: C+

3. Manchester United


Harry Maguire from Leicester City for £78.3m

Bruno Fernandes from Sporting CP for £49.5m

Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace for £49.5m

Daniel James from Swansea City for £15.3m

Odion Ighalo from Shanghai Shenhua on loan

They may have overpaid, as clubs always put the price up for a club so rich, and Maguire is not the answer at the back, but there is no doubt the signings improved the team. A very expensive step forward, but it was a step forward. Mark: C-


Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan for £66.6m

Chris Smalling to AS Roma on loan for £2.7m loan fee

Matteo Darmian to Parma for £2.23m

Ashley Young to Inter Milan for £1.53m

James Wilson to Aberdeen for £0

Ander Herrera to Paris Saint-Germain for £0

Antonio Valencia to LDU Quito for £0

Joel Pereira to Heart of Midlothian on loan

Alexis Sanchez to Inter Milan on loan

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson to Oldham Athletic & Tranmere Rovers on loan

Marcos Rojo to Estudiantes on loan

They managed to get a good fee for Lukaku and clear out a number of unwanted players. Added to that Smalling's loan increased his value and will no doubt ensure a better fee in the next window. It is hard to judge this window as anything but a success for United. Mark: B

Overall: This is a difficult one to judge, at times United were dreadful, defending deep and hitting on the break, but the arrival of Bruno improved the team no end. They ended the season in a position that was about as good as they could have hoped for, but they still got just 66 points and were there as much because the rest failed as because they succeeded. All of that makes the cup competitions the only fair way to judge their season overall, they were in a good place to lift one and yet failed to do so. It was a case of so near and yet so far. Mark: C

2. Manchester City


Rodri from Atletico Madrid for £63m

Joao Cancelo from Juventus for £58.5m

Angelino from PSV Eindhoven for £10.8m

Pedro Porro from Girona for £10.8m

Zack Steffen from Columbus Crew for £6.14m

Ryotaro Meshino from Gamba Osaka for £900,000

Scott Carson from Derby County on loan

As usual, lots of full-backs arrived for far more than they were worth and flopped. Only Rodri even managed to earn himself a regular place in the team and he did not prove to be an improvement, so far, over Fernandinho. As usual, they failed to fix their central defensive issues as well. It was yet another surprisingly poor window for a club that is lucky enough to be in a strong position to begin with. Mark: E


Danilo to Juventus for £33.3m

Douglas Luiz to Aston Villa for £15.12m

Fabian Delph to Everton for £8.55m

Manu Garcia to Sporting Gijon for £3.6m

Pablo Mari to Flamengo for £1.53m

Vincent Kompany to RSC Anderlecht for £0

Luke Brattan to Sydney for £0

Anthony Caceres to Sydney for £0

Eliaquim Mangala to Valencia for £0

Arijanet Muric to Nottingham Forest on loan

Philippe Sandler to RSC Anderlecht on loan

Aleix Garcia to Mouscron on loan

Ryotaro Meshino to Heart of Midlothian on loan

Pedro Porro to Real Valladolid on loan

Marlos Moreno to Portimonense on loan

Tosin Adarabioyo to Blackburn Rovers on loan

Yangel Herrera to Granada on loan

Patrick Roberts to Middlesbrough & Norwich City on loan

Zack Steffen to Fortuna Dusseldorf on loan

Ante Palaversa to KV Oostende on loan

Angelino to RB Leipzig on loan

The loss of captain Kompany was huge, even though he struggled with injuries he was still the key leader at the club and they have no one to replace him. Other than that, they mainly offloaded a few expensive, and not so expensive, mistakes at a loss. With his age and injury problems even losing Kompany should have been a positive in this window, it is only down to the failings in recruitment that him going is not seen in a good light. Mark: D

Overall: It is a sign of how far City have come that finishing second and winning the Community Shield and League Cup is seen as a failure. It may well be harsh, but that is how they must be judged, second is simply not good enough. Worse is the failings in Europe, when Pep's appointment was specifically intended to be the catalyst for success in Europe. Once again he has been almost solely responsible for them losing the chance to lift a European trophy. The owners have invested a lot of money for European success, previous managers have already shown that domestic success is attainable, so you have to wonder when will the faith in Pep slip? Or will he finally manage to get the European trophy so badly craved by the City faithful. Mark: D

1. Liverpool


Takumi Minamino from RB Salzburg for £7.65m

Sepp van den Berg from PEC Zwolle for £1.71m

Andy Lonergan from Middlesbrough for £0

Adrian from West Ham United for £0

On the face of it, the transfer window was not a good one for the Reds. Minamino did not even join until January, so the summer seemed a bit of a failure. The only area of need filled was a back up keeper, which turned out to be a key signing during the season, as Alisson missed games through injury and suspension. In the main Adrian filled in ably and enabled the team to maintain its incredible form. It could have been a disaster, with not one player coming in to strengthen the first team. Mark: D-


Danny Ings to Southampton for £19.98m

Ryan Kent to Rangers for £6.48m

Simon Mignolet to Club Brugge for £6.3m

Harry Wilson to Bournemouth on loan for £2.43m loan fee

Marko Grujic to Hertha Berlin on loan for £1.8m loan fee

Taiwo Awoniyi to 1.FSV Mainz 05 on loan for £450,000 loan fee

Alberto Moreno to Villareal for £0

Daniel Sturridge to Trabzonspor for £0

Ben Woodburn to Oxford City on loan

Ovie Ejaria to Reading on loan

Connor Randall released

Adam Bogdan released

Sheyi Ojo to Rangers on loan

The outs saw good fees received and did not weaken the team at all, other than the loss of Ings as a back up forward. On the whole it was a very good window for Liverpool. Mark: B

Overall: What can you say? A fantastic season which saw the end of 30 years of failing to win the Premier League. It was not just a win, the team trampled over all comers until it was won. It was probably the most dominant league title of my lifetime. The only low points came in the cups, but not before the youngsters had provided some incredible moments. All in all, this season was all about getting that league trophy and so has to be seen as a complete success. Mark: A+

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Stoke City News 16 Aug 2020
Top 10 British Managers

10. David Moyes - West Ham United

After a few recent failures a return to the Hammers, where he did succeed in his aims in his first spell, must be a relief to Moyes. It was a mistake in the first place to let him go, when he had given the board a roadmap to move forward. You have to wonder why they do not want to invest in the club's infrastructure to move it forward? Maybe it is not as exciting as bringing in big names, but it makes more of a difference to the club's long term future. Now Moyes is back, he will be pushing for those infrastructure improvements he highlighted to move West Ham into the modern era.

9. Nigel Pearson - N/A

I initially had Pearson ahead of Lampard for the work he did at Leicester, building the foundations for their league title, but recent weeks have not been good watching for Pearson. His Watford team look devoid of fight in their battle against the drop and are sinking without a trace. Their saving grace is that others are even worse. However Pearson's reputation was sinking along with Watford right now until the owners made the bizarre decision to sack him with 2 weeks left.

8. Frank Lampard - Chelsea

Still early days for Lampard as a manager, but there have been some promising signs, as well as some disappointing ones, such as Derby's flop in the play-offs. It has not been all smooth sailing at Chelsea either, but that should enable him to learn all the more quickly. He now needs to prove he can build a long-term team. He also needs to prove he can win when it matters, as so far his teams have failed at the critical moments in the play-offs and cup final.

7. Steve Bruce - Newcastle United

After spending recent years with his reputation taking a bit of a pounding and only getting impossible missions, he has finally got the big job he dreamt of. So far he is doing well, though it must be said the club have backed him a lot more than previous incumbent in terms of funding, he is doing about as well as can be expected. The big problem he will have is sustaining success, if it can be called success, and building on it.

6. Graham Potter - Brighton & Hove Albion

While he has yet to make his mark properly in English football, his work at Ostersunds was quite simply sensational. To take a small town team up three flights and to a Swedish league title without major financing is a massive achievement. Now he needs to prove he can do it again, rather than just play pretty football.

5. Brendan Rodgers - Leicester City

Rodgers inclusion so high in the list shows you just what a paucity of quality British managers there are in the game right now. A good coach but tactically lacking (to be polite) and too egotistic to truly understand others, as it is always all about him. That is why, when it matters his teams always fail to deliver. If he could stop taking the credit all to himself and blaming others when it goes wrong, then he could finally become a top class manager.

4. Michael O'Neill - Stoke City

Worked what could be considered a minor miracle with Northern Ireland and then turned around a sinking ship in Stoke. His star is rising fast and if he continues to improve Stoke's fortunes there is no doubt he will be higher in the list the next time I do it.

3. Sean Dyche - Burnley

Took over a Burnley side in considerable financial difficulties, sold players to keep the club afloat and still won promotion to the Premier League that season. He was unable to keep them in the Prem, but refused to spend the extra revenue received on players, instead he asked the club to invest in infrastructure, training facilities in particular. Again he won promotion and since then has kept the club in the league and even taken them into Europe despite a smaller investment in playing staff than most teams they are competing with. The big negative is that Dyche's teams do play very basic football, which is not the most enjoyable to watch, but it is difficult to tell if that is the style he wants to employ or just him being pragmatic and playing the way best suited to the players he has.

2. Chris Wilder - Sheffield United

Had some success in non-league and the lower leagues before getting his dream job with the club he supported as a kid. There he won promotion from League 1 to the Championship and now to the Premier League, where they excelled in their first season. It remains to be seen if he can maintain his success, but he has certainly shown he is not afraid to try something new tactically. What we need to see now is how he adapts when his 'overlapping centre-back' system is negated by tactical ploys from the opposition.

1. Roy Hodgson - Crystal Palace

It shows the lack of really top quality British managers that a mid-table manager is about as good as it gets right now. Hodgson's style of football and lack of real success counts badly against him, but his longevity and ability to get good results from mediocre players is very much in his favour. At the age of 73, the biggest question left to answer is how long can he continue in such a stressful job?

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Stoke City News 14 Aug 2020
By The Numbers - Part 2: Barcelona

1992 The year of Barca's first ever European Cup triumph, at Wembley Stadium. Cruyff's Dream Team made Catalan dreams come true with this victory.

2011 Barcelona managed to lift the European Cup for a second time at Wembley Stadium, this time the new Wembley. While no longer managed by Cruyff, it was his number one disciple, Pep Guardiola, who followed in his mentor's footsteps.

2 Considered the predecessor of European club tournaments, the Latin Cup was played between 1949 and 1957. It was competed for between club sides from France, Spain, Portugal and Italy and Barca won it twice to be the joint most successful team.

4 Ahead of World War 1, the Pyrenees Cup was a tournament for Spanish and French teams based in the territories of the Pyrenees. Catalonia, Basque Country, Languedoc, Midi-Pyrenees and Aquitaine were the territories involved and it was won by Barcelona every year except for the final event in 1914, where they failed to even reach the final despite it being hosted in the city.

1910 Barcelona's first Copa del Rey (King's Cup) was won in this year.

4 Another trophy in their extensive collection is the European Cup Winners Cup. No longer in existance but they managed to lift it 4 times while it was.

13 The most successful club in the Supercopa de Espana (Spanish Super Cup) is Barcelona with 13 wins since its creation in 1982.

2 Despite all their success down the years in other trophies, when it comes to the Spanish League Cup, Barcelona have won it just twice. Both times in the 1980s.

1937 The Mediterranean League was a one-off competition played in the Republican area of Spain during the Spanish Civil War which Barca won.

5 Barca are one of the more successful clubs in European competition with 5 European Cups to their name. Only Real Madrid, AC Milan and Liverpool have won more, with Bayern Munich also having 5 trophies.

23 Before La Liga was created in 1929 each region had their own championship. The Catalan region continued to hold their championship right up until 1940, though the 1938-39 season was cancelled due to the Spanish Civil War. Barca won the competition for the first time in 1902 under the name of 'Macaya Cup' and for the final time right before the civil war in 1938 to make 23 in total.

3 Barcelona are the most successful club in the history of the Eva Duarte Cup, a short-lived tournament played between the winner of La Liga and Copa del Generalisimo/Copa del Rey. The competition, which was a tribute to the Argentine dictator Juan Peron and his wife Eva Peron, preceded the Spanish Super Cup. Two of Barca's three trophies in this competition were awarded without a match taking place after the Catalans won both La Liga and Copa del Rey in 1952 and 1953.

14 Pep Guardiola won 14 trophies in his 4 years in charge of the Catalans. Pep won three league titles, two Champions League, two Copa del Rey, three Spanish Super Cups, two European Super Cups and two FIFA World Club Cups. That is 3 more trophies than even the legendary Johan Cruyff.

5 the club has teams in 5 different sports, football, basketball, futsal, roller hockey and handball.

2015 The club's final, so far, European Cup was lifted in Berlin this year. They have not really looked likely to win it again since then either.

1899 A group of footballers from England, Catalan, Spain and Switzerland founded Barca in this year. It has since become a symbol of Catalan culture, but started out very differently. Hans Gamper (now known as Joan Gamper) it was who placed an advert in 'Los Deportes' looking for help to form a football club on 22 October 1899.

5 When Barcelona win a European competition to qualify for the European Super Cup, they generally win it. They have managed to add five of these trophies so far.

74 So far FC Barcelona have won 74 domestic trophies.

26 La Liga has found its way to Barcelona many times now, though they are not the most successful team in La Liga.

2 Running since 2014 and pitting the two highest ranked Catalan La Liga clubs against each other, Barca have won the Catalan Super Cup twice.

30 Barca have been even more successful in the Copa del Rey than the league.

16 Two debutants for Barcelona have been aged just 16, Vicente Martinez, way back in 1941, and Ansu Fati in 2019.

3 Barca have always taken the Club World Cup seriously, winning it three times in 4 attempts as a result.

130 That is how many millions Barcelona paid for record signing Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool in January 2018. Though that figure does not take into account payments that will no longer need to be made after Coutinho failed to force a regular spot in the Barca side.

8 Catalan Cups sit in the Barca trophy cabinet.

2009 Rome was the scene of Barcelona's fourth European Cup win. Pep and Messi proved a lethal combination for all who had to face them.

200 The world record fee Barcelona received for Neymar Jr., though not technically a transfer fee, was £200m. That was the amount paid to buy him out of his contract so that the Brazilian cry baby could take his circus act over to Paris Saint-Germain. The oddity is that Barca have been trying to get him to come back ever since. You would think they would take the money and run!

1949 Barcelona won the inaugural Latin Cup in this year. The short-lived trophy was scrapped two years after the creation of the European Cup.

2006 It took a while before Barcelona managed to lift a second European Cup. So long that it had changed its name to the Champions League by the time they won it in Paris.

3 Barcelona managed to win the Fairs Cup on 3 occasions. The competition is often considered the forerunner of the UEFA Cup, though it was not organised or recognised by UEFA.

144,500 Barcelona claimed to have that many members (socios) involved with the club. Socios are more than fans, getting to vote on issues such as club president and so influence the direction the club takes.

99,354 The capacity of Barcelona's vast bowl-like stadium Camp Nou. Just 20,000 of those seats have any kind of covering to protect from inclement weather, though that is not often an issue.

767 Xavi holds the club record for most appearances with 767 as he helped the Catalans to dominate European football for an extended period. The diminutive midfielder was very nearly discarded from the club's famous La Masia youth academy due to being too small. La Masia now has a number of reminders for the staff that size should not be used to judge young players.

2009 This was the year that Barca became the first Spanish side to do the treble of Spanish Cup, La Liga and Champions League.

2015 The Catalans got their second treble of Spanish Cup, La Liga and Champions League in 2015.

3 Barca have broken the world record on transfer fees three times when they splashed out on Johan Cruyff in 1973, Diego Maradona in 1982 and the Ronaldo in 1996.

633 Lionel Messi is Barcelona's record goalscorer with 633 goals in 729 games.

9 Joan Gamper managed to score 9 goals in a single match on three separate occasions for Barca between 1901 and 1903.

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Stoke City News 15 Jul 2020
Tactics - Part 1 - 4-4-2

I thought I would start off this first episode in a new series on tactics discussing the formation that the legendary tactical genius Mike Bassett used, the 4-4-2. It has become associated with inflexible British-style longball football, but it does not have to be used that way. It can be a very flexible system in the right hands. Managers as diverse as Arrigo Sacchi, Arsene Wenger, Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche have relied upon a variant of it at times in their career.

Sean Dyche, for example, uses a very simple and basic variant of 4-4-2. In fact it is very close to the British longball style of football that has given the formation a bad name in the past. His team sits deep and defends with two banks of four and looks to hits the target men with an early ball, hopefully something they can control and then lay off to midfielders arriving in support, but often it is just aerial balls for them to contest and hope to pick up bits and pieces.

Dyche wants his wide men to hit the byline and cross the ball to create chances and works especially hard on setpiece situations to create goalscoring opportunities. It does have weaknesses, not just in being lacking aesthetically. It can get overrun in midfield, which means he accepts that the opposition will have most of the possession.

However, what do you do if you do not want to accept that your midfield will be overrun and want to be the team who controls possession as much as possible? You could try the variation employed by Arsene Wenger in his early days at Arsenal, which was very much a 4-4-2 when on the ball but off it, then it was different, almost a 4-3-3.

The left winger, usually Marc Overmars in my recollection, would hold his position further forward, to provide an out ball. One striker would withdraw deep to find space between the opponent's defence and midfield, while the other would stay on the shoulder of the last defender to stop them pushing up too high. The key to the system was the way the other three midfielders worked.

It was utilised to take advantage of Ray Parlour's workrate and ability to get wide and deliver when Arsenal had possession. When they lost it Parlour would move more central, moving inside to create a central three with Vieira and himself either side of Petit. With both Vieira and Parlour having good mobility and work ethic, they were able to cover the full-backs and avoid being outnumbered in midfield.

It was heavily reliant on Parlour's workrate, his willingness to track back and get forward, like a modern day full-back. It was mainly because he had Parlour available to him that Wenger chose to play this way. Without him it would not have been as effective. With the emergence of the modern-day flying wing-back, there would be no need for him to cover the wide areas on the ball, as the full-back would provide the width.

An early variation of the system was to withdraw one forward when your team lost the ball, which was the way Liverpool operated when Bob Paisley first took charge, amongst a number of systems. For all people think that in those days British teams used to be inflexible 4-4-2 only, Paisley would use a mix of formations in order to attain his success, from 4-4-2 to what is seen as a modern-day formation, the 4-3-3, and everything in between.

The arrival of Kenny Dalglish allowed the team to swap easily between 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1 and 4-5-1, as Dalglish could easily drop off and play the deep-lying striker role or even into midfield if it was being overrun. While pretty much everyone else was playing a big man/little man duo up front in England, Liverpool changed it.

There was no quick launch forwards for the big man to knock down to his partner. It was played through the midfield and to Dalglish to create something for a penalty box predator. Due to its success, deep-lying forwards soon became very much in vogue. It worked well going forward, the predator would make forward runs, they would force the defence to drop off and that would leave space between the midfield and defence for the deep lying forward to operate in.

It is understandable why it is still used even today. As you can see from those few examples above, the 4-4-2 can be very flexible and adaptable. The set up provides good width and balance, as well as being probably the most suitable formation for a deep-lying defend at all costs team. The two banks of four create a very solid and compact protection for the goalkeeper, it is easy for players to understand and extremely difficult to break down.

Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid are the prime example of a deep-lying defensive system utilising the 4-4-2 to great effect. They keep their defence within the width of the penalty box as much as possible, giving up the wide areas of the pitch in order to protect the centre. They are comfortable in their ability to deal with anything which gets played into the box and so they are happy to allow opponents time and space on the wings to deliver crosses.

If they are really struggling, then one or even both forwards can drop deeper to help out, but that then leaves the team lacking an out ball, so they try not to do that. The problem with that system is that it is more about not losing, rather than winning. It is easier to play not to lose, but, in this era of 3 points for a win, it often leads to 2 points being dropped. That makes it difficult to win leagues and lends itself to cups and midtable football, rather than league winners.

The main reason it has gone out of fashion in the modern era is because of the emphasis on possession, with a 4-3-3/4-5-1 being able to outnumber a 4-4-2 centrally, it is much more suited to keeping hold of the ball. While a 4-4-2 can be tweaked to counter it, if your intent is to keep possession, it is much easier to just start with the extra man in there as a basic set up. It can still be a very useful formation and it is likely that it will never truly vanish due to the balance it provides across the pitch when defending.

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Stoke City News 12 Jul 2020
Quick Liverpool Review: Since Lockdown

12 Jul 2020 08:48:39

Morning eds1

Any chance of review of the games from when we started back. Not to detailed just a summary of good points and bad. Players good and bad.?

Thanks mate. Longthing76

Versus Everton:

Both sides looked really rusty and just like they had not played for a while. Which neither had. Neither team were anywhere near their best and a nil nil draw was probably about as much as they deserved. Hard to criticise anyone on either team as it was just the first game back. It was just really about getting it out of the way with picking up too many injuries or losing. It was a step closer to the title after 4 months of painful waiting.

Versus Crystal Palace

The disappointing performance against Everton needed a response and the team gave one with an emphatic demolition of the Londoners. Once Liverpool took the lead, the Eagles rolled over and never looked like they had any fight in them at all. Losing Zaha early on probably didn't help them, though he very rarely shows anything much against the Reds anyway, so it is difficult to know how much of an effect his loss had. The way Liverpool played, it is doubtful he would have done any more than left them more open to attack.

Versus Manchester City

After a promising start the difference in importance of the fixture to the two teams showed. Liverpool had the title wrapped up and little to play for, just pride. City have been embarrassed by the way Liverpool have strode away from them in the title race and needed to prove a point. I am not sure they proved anything, but it did give the media some reason to return to their salivation over how Pep is the greatest of all time and his success is not at all related to having been handed the best teams in their leagues and then lots of money to throw at it. City did get a deserved win, they were the better team on the day, but it meant about as much as a League Cup match does these days.

Versus Aston Villa

This showed that, despite the City game in real terms meaning nothing, the defeat hurt the players and they reacted in the right way. It was very much the archetypal Liverpool performance from this season, a gradual turning up of the pressure as the game went on until the opposition get ground down into defeat. It is very reminiscent of the 1980s. Liverpool would wear the other team out over the game, opening up gaps as defenders and midfielders tire and lose concentration. This was despite Villa fighting for their lives, they were just outclassed.

Versus Brighton & Hove Albion

This was a game that was won in the first ten minutes, as Liverpool capitalised on a sleepy, error-strewn start from Brighton to take a 2-0 lead. After that it was a case of just continuing on from the previous game, but then Brighton started to take advantage of space down the Liverpool left and exposing the inexperience of Williams playing out of position at left-back. Getting a goal back just before half-time could have presented Liverpool with a real problem for the second half but some astute substitutions at half-time turned the game back Liverpool's way and control of the midfield was re-established.

Versus Burnley

A disappointing draw to lose the 100% home record, all the more disappointing as the team's Achilles' heel reared its ugly head as Liverpool were extremely wasteful in front of goal. Too many misses or shots placed easily within the Burnley keeper's reach, when the game should really have been out of sight. You have to give the Clarets their due though, they keep going and give their all for their manager with a never say die attitude. Yes they are extremely physical, but they lack the financial means to buy the kind of quality other teams around them have, so they get stuck in to even the playing field. They, and Sheffield United for that matter, are showing that a good team is much more important than good individuals.#

The Good:

Alisson Becker - the defence have faith in him and he can often spend 80min just spectating only to have to pull out a stop from nowhere. That is never easy. He is the bedrock that the defence is built on.

Virgil van Dijk - he is the leader at the back, even when not at his imperious best, he is still talking, cajoling and instructing his teammates through the game. When he is at his best he makes top class strikers look like non-league amateurs who are completely out of their depth.

Andrew Robertson - he offers far more than just balance down the left, though that is very important. His drive and willingness to go head to head with anyone and to show no care for reputations is a key factor in Liverpool's recent successes.

Fabinho - since the restart he has rediscovered his form and has looked Liverpool's best player overall. Some of his passes are Xabi Alonso/Jan Molby-like and he has scored a scorcher too. At just 26, he should have four or five peak years to come.

Jordan Henderson - after their careers have finished, there are certain players that become remembered by fans of their team as 'captain fantastic', I think Henderson has earnt the right to be one of them now. It is not just what he provides as a player himself, but the way he drives everyone around him on to be better and to keep on going. He has, by hard work and no little talent, turned his reputation around after being the subject of ridicule early on. A few more goals would not go amiss though!

Curtis Jones - a bit early to judge him just yet, but he has been extremely impressive when he has had chances and it looks like he will have a big part to play in Liverpool's future.

Sadio Mane - Mane is just immense. It is not just his brilliant movement and his exceptional skill on the ball but also his workrate and the protection he provides to the defence that makes Mane the best in the world in his position right now.

Mohamed Salah - the Egyptian King provides so much for the team, as well as an immense amount of goals. He creates chances for others, either with passes or by dragging two or three players over to shut him down constantly. It is difficult to understand why he draws so much criticism from a section of the Liverpool support. Liverpool are incredibly lucky to have him and Mane, two world class forwards, in one team.

Georginio Wijnaldum - rarely draws the plaudits but has been a reliable performer since joining. He has come back from the lockdown seemingly refreshed and full of running.

Jurgen Klopp - before the lockdown he led the club to an enormous lead. Throughout the lockdown he said all the right things and now that football is back he got the title won early. Liverpool has always been a club where the manager is held in higher regard than most and Klopp has put himself in the top echelon of the great managers the club has had. He understands the ethos of the club and has fully bought into it. He is arguably the best manager in the world right now.

The Bad:

Injuries - every club has struggled with niggles since the restart as players struggle to regain fitness, so it is not just Liverpool but it is frustrating to see teams having to put out makeshift sides.

Inconsistency - again this is a general problem throughout the Premier League as the games come thick and fast after such a long lay-off, teams are struggling to get into any kind of form. Injuries and the lack of fitness after the break has made it difficult for anyone to put out a consistent team selection, which is then reflected in performances. Liverpool have the added problem of having nothing to play for, adding motivational issues on top of it all.

Cutting Edge - Liverpool are creating huge amounts of chances, and have been all season, but there has been a real lack of clinical finishing. During the normal season it nearly cost the Reds against Leicester. Since the restart it has cost badly against Man City, when a number of early chances went begging before City got off the mark, and now Burnley have taken advantage to pick up a point when Liverpool should have been out of sight.

The Ugly:

Idiot Fans - we all wanted to celebrate the league title, but just why did they have to embarrass the club and fellow fans with the way they went about it on the night? There have been victory parades in a number of places around the world that have shown it can be celebrated responsibly and without causing any problems, so why let the club down in Liverpool city centre itself? They let us all down with their actions.

Firmino's Hair - it hasn't worked Bobby! I love the enthusiasm but the red curls are just not the right red. Still, it could be worse, he could have ended up looking like Djibril Cisse reincarnated like Origi.

Firmino's Finishing - I absolutely love Firmino as a player, he is absolutely central to the way Liverpool play and a big part of the creativity that means the team get so many chances. He must have run over a black cat on the way to Anfield every single game, as he has not been able to score and has had absolutely no luck to help him with that.

Tissue Paper Trio - all three have contributed when on the pitch, but Lovren, Matip and Shaqiri are injured far too much. Klopp is unable to trust any of them because the moment they get a run of games they are out injured once more. Or, in Shaq's case, the moment he gets near a grass pitch he pulls a hamstring.

Lallana Leaving - it is such a shame the way the season has worked out and meant Lallana is leaving in such a way. He played a, albeit minor supporting, but still a role in the title win, in particular with his goal against Man Utd. It would have been nice if he had been able to get a proper sending off with a final game as a champion.

And The Mildly Disappointing:

Naby Keita - he has finally managed to stay fit for a run of games but each time he plays you are left with what could have been, rather than what he did do. The first ten minutes against Brighton, when he worked hard as anyone and pressed Liverpool into a lead should have been ten minutes that launched his Liverpool career at last. Instead he has gone back to showing flashes of his fantastic talent, mixed in between long periods of anonymity on the pitch. He certainly never hides from getting on the ball, but he does hide from the work needed to win it back for periods of the game. Far too often his efforts are lacklustre and weak and he is easily brushed aside when he makes a challenge, yet there are moments when he shows power. It is so frustrating to see the ability that he possesses but he is not making anything like the most of it. He has had the chance to make himself first choice and just failed to even come close to looking like he could be a go to starter in the big games ahead of the likes of Henderson, Wijnaldum and Milner.

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Stoke City News 27 Jun 2020
Liverpool v Crystal Palace A Liverpool Perspective

Was that possibly Liverpool's best performance of the season? It is hard to pick fault with anything that happened from a Reds' perspective or to find anything to say about the game itself. Certainly it is going to be a real struggle to find anything to criticise! It was overwhelming dominance from start to finish, so no surprise Palace were unable to even get a kick inside the LFC box. They never threatened at all.

It was not like Palace just rolled over and let Liverpool win either, they defended hard, it was just that every time they got the ball they were quickly swarmed and lost it before they could get anywhere. That was the famous 'gegenpress', keeping the opponent compressed into their own half and allowing them no chance to even get a breather by holding onto possession.

A deep-lying defensive system like Palace employ is simply unable to cope with a high press attack which works well. It can handle the high press when it is not at its best. This season no one has managed to find a system which could handle Liverpool when they play well, most have been put to the sword even when the Reds are not playing well, so it is no shame for Hodgson's men to lose.

Crystal Palace

Roy Hodgson - he would not have enjoyed his return to Anfield, despite Klopp's nice words before kick-off explaining how he had been told to study footage of Hodgson's time with Switzerland to learn about the game when he was doing his coaching badges. I can only imagine how much face rubbing went on in this match as Roy must have been in absolute despair at seeing his team dismantled so easily. He had no answer but at least he will have some footage to study to learn about how to play the game with a bit of attacking flair.

Hennessey - absolutely no chance with the goals and really did nothing particularly wrong. It was a night to forget for the Welshman, though he has no real blame attached to him, it was clear the defence were not as confident and organised with him behind them, rather than first choice keeper Guaita.

Ward - given an absolute roasting by Mane last night and got little to no protection from Townsend, who had his own hands full with Robertson. Ward was outclassed, even though the system played protects full-backs from exposure.

Cahill - lacks any understanding with Sakho, but also looked his age and really struggled with the movement around him. If ever a night is going to give you thoughts of retirement, that was it.

Sakho - the French centre back has not played since New Year's Day, when he went off injured at half-time, but he looked like a player that had not played for years. His big weakness is his tendency to get carried away and over play, that was on full show time and time again. Added to that, his positioning was all over the place, his touch was off and he looked off the pace of the game. A really poor performance.

van Aanholt - always struggled defensively, but last night was a bad night for him. Despite his pace he still got caught out by Salah's runs, particularly on the Egyptian's goal.

McCarthy - moaned to the ref well, but that seemed about all he had to offer to the Palace cause.

Kouyate - played a large part in keeping the score down to just 4 as he cut out a fair number of balls through and tackled back really well. Did nothing on the ball, but off the ball he was without doubt Palace's best player on the night.

McArthur - worked hard but failed to have any effect on the game at all.

Townsend - utterly anonymous. Failed to help out Ward at all and got torn apart by Robertson constantly.

Zaha - an injury picked up in the warm up ended his game before it really could get started. When he went off so did Palace's hopes of picking up something from the game.

Ayew - had a torrid night with almost no service and struggled to impact on the game at all.

Meyer - the German was the chosen replacement for Zaha on 15 minutes but he failed miserably to get involved. He has looked nothing like the player he was supposed to be before signing for Palace. It had been thought of as a coup at the time, now it looks like a huge mistake.

Milivojevic - replaced Kouyate in the 66th minute as Hodgson looked to bolt the stable door. Struggled to get into the game at all.

Reidewald - came on at the same time as Milivojevic but in place of McArthur. Offered even less than the Scot had done.

Keutcha - the youngster was brought on in the 84th minute and chased around but could not get hold of the ball.


Klopp - a masterclass in management from Jurgen. He is truly cementing his place in the pantheon of Liverpool legends this season. Everytime it seems like the team is in trouble and performances are dipping, Jurgen steps in and motivates the players into producing something special. This was reminiscent of the extraodinary battering that was handed out to Leicester after the team came back from Qatar and were supposedly too jetlagged to cope with a Foxes team that were flying high at the time. This was a huge dismantling of a Palace team that had been in excellent form and a fantastic performances.

Alisson - the person who most suffered from having no crowd there as there was no one for him to chat to once he had finished his sudoku and realised cross-stitch is impossible while wearing the gloves. It did give him a lot of time to google celebration memes to send to Ederson today...

Alexander-Arnold - he was brilliant this season and once more he showed that he is more than just hype and overexcitement because he is 'the Scouser in the team'. Trent is the real deal and has a fantastic delivery. What a free kick! Once more Trent delivered when it matters and you cannot ask any more of a young player than that.

Gomez - Gomez has grown as a player this season, before the lockdown he was outperforming even the imperious van Dijk, which takes a lot of doing. In this match he was once again outstanding and really looks to be the perfect partner for van Dijk. His recovery pace frees up Alexander-Arnold to take more chances in attack and his defensive ability makes the risk pay off.

van Dijk - the kind of game he was born for. On days like that van Dijk is utterly dominant, he seems to grow and frighten opposing forwards into submission before the game even kicks off. Then they try and play in areas away from him, only to find Gomez gives them nothing either. It kills their game dead, as they just lose hope of getting anything from it. Added to that, van Dijk offers so much on the ball that he is more than just shutting the opposition out, he is creating chances too.

Robertson - Liverpool really missed his drive and workrate (and left foot) against Everton. It is not just the balance he gives the side, it is his determination and his willingness to take on anyone head on without care for reputation. Against Palace he was excellent, dominating the flank and taking the game to them.

Fabinho - probably his best game in a Liverpool shirt, he was sensational and his goal was the cherry on top of the icing on the cake. He completely shut down the Palace team and kept their midfield out of the game.

Henderson - he was here, there and everywhere leading from the front like a true captain should. This season has cemented his legacy as one of the better captains Liverpool have had, despite how difficult a start he has had. I doubt anyone has ever had such a difficult task as Henderson did to inherit the armband from one of the club's own in Gerrard, who was beloved by the fans. With so much crap from the media aimed in his direction, he has shown his mettle by just taking it all in his stride (even if he can't run properly hey Fergie?) and leading the team to trophy after trophy. If only he could get the goals his play deserves!

Wijnaldum - had an excellent game, helping to maintain dominance of the ball and breaking into the box, but he really should have scored at least once. Though that would probably have been harsh on Palace to concede 5, as that becomes embarrassing then and they did not deserve to be embarrassed. Gini was much more involved in driving the play forward and had a very good game. Then shifted to left-back for the final few minutes and did a good job there for the team.

Salah - it is hard to believe that there are people who feel we should be looking to sell him and that he does not offer enough to the team. Salah is so important to the way Liverpool play, most of the time he is double-covered creating space elsewhere for the team and when that double-cover is not available he usually scores. And what an excellent goal he scored, but it was bettered by his first-time pass with his wrong foot for Mane's goal. It is just a shame he messed up a chance to play Minamino in, probably caught in two minds about whether to shoot or pass and ended up doing neither.

Mane - growing in stature as a player each season to such an extent that it is difficult to argue against him being the best in his position in world football. Once more he caused havoc and was excellent. Palace simply could not handle him.

Firmino - showed some lovely footwork and worked hard to ensure the team won back possession high. He really does need to get a goal at Anfield this season though. Everything else he does is world class, but his finishing is just not there at the moment. The rest of his game makes up for it.

Oxlade-Chamberlain - came on in the 64th minute for Henderson and gave a fresh impetus to the play with his movement. Everytime he plays in central midfield he impresses more and more. Against Palace he just kept the pressure on and never let them have any respite at all.

Williams - replaced Alexander-Arnold in the 74th minute and there was no noticeable drop in performance having him there rather than Trent. In just about any other team in the league he would probably be first choice with his quality and lovely quick feet.

Minamino - came on along with Williams but to replace Firmino and slotted in up front in place of the Brazilian. Looked much more comfortable in the centre and offered a lot more than against Everton, but is still clearly not at the same level as Firmino, though he has similar luck in front of goal!

Elliott - was brought on in the 84th minute in place of Robertson, as Klopp reshuffled. Elliott played on the left, something I had not see him do before and he never got a chance to really get into the game and have an effect.

Keita - arrived at the same time as Elliott, but took Mane's place. Like Elliott, he had little time to get properly involved.

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Stoke City News 25 Jun 2020
Top 10 Strikers

10. Erling Haaland - Borussia Dortmund

The youngster has had a meteoric rise which is showing no signs of stopping any time soon. He has all the attributes needed to reach number 1 in time, if he can continue to improve his game. With his physique and speed, Haaland has the potential to play in any league in the world.

9. Karim Benzema - Real Madrid

It is very easy to dismiss Benzema and overlook him. His demeanour is often sullen, he gets involved in issues he should avoid and is one of those characters who are very easy to dislike. However, as a forward he is exceptional, more as a creative force than a top class finisher. That is his downfall, Benzema simply does not score enough goals, but he creates so many chances for his team-mates that it more than makes up for that.

8. Raul Jimenez - Wolverhampton Wanderers

The margins were incredibly tight between the next few players, outside the top 3. However I am choosing Jimenez in eighth, just. His weakness is simply that he does not score enough goals, though his scoring record is certainly not a bad one, just like Benzema, and has been much better this season. Also like Benzema, his work as a conduit for the team's play is exceptional. Though he is more of a target man, he still possesses genuine creative ability.

7. Timo Werner - Red Bull Leipzig

Pace, movement, workrate, skill, Werner has it all. Whether he will be as good in the Premier League as he has been in the Bundesliga is a different matter. On the face of it though he looks like an excellent buy for Chelsea and should be a real difference maker for them next season, when it finally gets under way.

6. Lautaro Martinez - Inter Milan

This lad would be much higher up the list but he has not stood out for long enough to rise higher. It is little surprise that Barcelona are desperate to sign this lad, he stands out as one of the best young talents in world football. You would have to expect him to hit a bump in the road at some point soon and how he deals with it will decide whether he continues to rise or not.

4= Roberto Firmino - Liverpool

Another of those strikers that does not score enough goals, but do so much more for the team in a creative sense that it makes up for the lack of goals. Added to that Firmino also works so hard off the ball defensively it makes him the first line of defence too. Some of his touches and skills are sublime, the no look passes and goals are not his only qualities, he can effortlessly take the ball under control and past a player in one movement. It is done so well that it goes unnoticed most of the time now.

4= Harry Kane - Tottenham Hotspur

Until Salah provided him with genuine competition for the golden boot each season, he was improving massively and looking certain to make it to number 1. Kane's last couple of seasons did see some slight regression as he shot too much and obsessed over trying to score rather than doing what was best for the team. However this season had shown signs of him getting back to what he does best, as his creativity is a big part of his skillset. Now it is just the glass ankles that see him miss large periods of time every season that are a worry.

3. Kylian Mbappe - Paris Saint-Germain

The incredible speed and skill Mbappe possesses often overshadow just how good he is overall. It is so easy to forget that he is not just incredibly quick, but also a top class young player, though he needs to move to a more competitive league to really push for the top spot. With so many easy games a season, it is difficult to truly assess how good he is.

2. Robert Lewandowski - Bayern Munich

Possibly the complete striker, good in the air, great movement and his finishing is sublime. It is an incredibly close call to whether he is first or second. In fact I have swapped them a few times but the Pole has just been edged out. Just.

1. Sergio Aguero - Manchester City

Kun has always been a great striker, but working with Guardiola has added workrate and pressing to his game and it has turned him into something special. Incredible acceleration aids him in finding space to shoot, plus he has a lovely low centre of gravity which enables him to twist and turn at pace and the strength to keep his balance under pressure. Aguero has genuine power in his shot with either foot but his key asset is his intelligent runs.

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Stoke City News 18 Jun 2020
Gordon Banks 'Banks of England'

To read the player profile on Gordon Banks click here.

To read the manager profile on Gordon Banks click here.

Gordon was born on the 30th December 1937 in Abbeydale, Sheffield, the youngest of four brothers to a steelworker dad. They lived in the working-class area of Tinsley until moving to the village of Catcliffe, where his dad set up a betting shop, which was illegal in those days. That led to the loss of his disabled brother, who was mugged for the shop's daily takings and died of his injuries a few weeks later.

At school Banks became a goalkeeper due to playing 5-a-sides. The kids would all take it in turns, and he found he enjoyed it, so Gordon ended up being the keeper on a more and more regular basis. He went on to represent Sheffield Schoolboys but he was never a good pupil, Banks himself admits he never liked school and he left aged 15 to become a bagger for the local coal merchant. Banks would be in a lorry waiting as trains came into the sidings full of coal. They would get into the wagon, shovel coal into bags on the wagon and then stack the bags on the lorry. Then they would deliver the sacks to houses in the area.

Gordon was still just 15 when his brother David got him a job on a building site as an apprentice bricklayer. There he would carry hods, mix cement and dig ditches. On a Saturday morning he would do overtime then run home, wash and get changed before catching the bus or tram into town to watch whichever of the two Sheffield teams was playing at home that day. One Saturday Banks missed the bus and so he instead went to watch local team Millspaugh play on the 'rec'.

He was leaning on the fence when their coach spotted him in the crowd and asked Gordon if he would play as their keeper had not turned up for the game. The coach had seen him play for Sheffield Schoolboys and recognised him, no doubt with a huge sigh of relief. Banks rushed home to get his boots and played well enough to be asked to play for them regularly. Yorkshire League side Rawmarch Welfare spotted him playing and snapped him up but after two games, in which Rawmarch lost 12-2 and 3-1, they dropped him and he returned to Millspaugh.

Chesterfield scouted him and offered him a six game trial with their youth team in March 1953, which he accepted. After his trial he signed a £3 a week part-time deal with Chesterfield and would continue to work on the building sites, training on a Tuesday and Thursday night. National Service intervened and he spent a year posted in Germany with the Royal Signals, winning the Rhine Cup with his regimental team and winning the heart of his wife Ursula while there too.

Returning to England he was part of the Chesterfield youth team that made it through to the 1956 FA Youth Cup final, where they lost 4-3 on aggregate to the Busby Babes. Chesterfield's reserves were placed into the Central League due to the influence of a powerful club director, but they found themselves out of their depth, even with Banks in goal. They finished last with just 3 wins and Banks conceded 122 goals!

Despite Gordon's lack of success in the reserves, in November 1958 he was given his first team debut against Colchester United at Saltergate. The score finished 2-2 but Banks held on to his place for the rest of the season, missing just 2 matches and all were due to injury. With no specialist goalkeeping coaches in English football at the time, Gordon Banks had to teach himself how to keep the ball out of the net. With just 26 total appearances under his belt, Leicester City manager Matt Gillies had seen enough to pay £7,000 for his services in July 1959 and he was given a salary increase to £15 per week.

The Foxes had five other goalkeepers competing for the number 1 shirt already, including Scottish international Johnny Anderson. Dave MacLaren had the shirt, but Banks began the 1959-60 season as the reserves keeper, ahead of Anderson. After just four games in the reserves, MacLaren picked up an injury and Banks made his first team debut for Leicester on 9th September at Filbert Street against Blackpool in a 1-1 draw. He also played 3 days later in a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle at St James' Park but then MacLaren returned to fitness and Banks returned to the reserves.

Over the course of the next five matches the first team conceded 14 and so Banks was recalled to the first team. His return did not pay immediate dividends, Leicester still leaked goals, including 6 at Goodison Park, but Banks worked hard on his weaknesses in training. This was before specialist goalkeeping coaches and so Banks would create his own practice session to work on things, such as coming for crosses. He did well enough that both Anderson and MacLaren were allowed to move on at the end of the season, leaving Banks as undisputed number 1.

The following season was much better for Leicester, as they came 6th in the league and reached an FA Cup final, with Banks conceding just 5 goals in their 9 games en route to Wembley. The semi-final went to two replays against Sheffield United, with Banks keeping a clean sheet in all three games to see the Foxes into the final. There they met a Tottenham team that beat them 2-0 and then Spurs clinched the double with the league title. That meant Leicester were in European competition, as Spurs were in the European Cup, and had a run in the European Cup Winners' Cup to look forward to for the 1961-62 season.

Banks had impressed enough to put himself into the England reckoning now, which caused a few problems for the goalkeeper when an England v Portugal game clashed with Leicester's game against Atletico Madrid. He resolved the dilemma over which to choose by not choosing between them. Banks instead left London as soon as the England game had finished (he was not in the team) and raced up to Leicester to arrive 30 minutes before kick off. It was not enough to see Leicester through as the game finished 1-1 and they went on to lose the return leg 2-0 despite Banks's penalty save. The run in Europe seemingly affected their league form as they finished the season just 14th in Division One.

Banks opened the 1962-63 season with a broken nose in a 2-1 defeat at Craven Cottage on opening day, but it was not a taster for how the season would go. Leicester were chasing the double and were sat top of the Division 1 table in April and were in the FA Cup semi-finals, where they would face Liverpool. In the semi at Hillsborough, Liverpool bombarded his goal, with the game finishing 34 shots to 1 in their favour, but Banks still managed to keep a clean sheet and see the Foxes into the final with a 1-0 win. After his retirement Banks referred to it as his finest performance at club level.

At international level Alf Ramsey started looking to the 1966 World Cup and dropped Ron Springett for him on 6th April 1963 against Scotland at Wembley. England lost 2-1 but Banks held on to his place. The end of the season did not go so well though as Banks broke a finger at the Hawthorns in a 2-1 defeat by West Brom and missed the last 3 league games as Leicester slumped without him, losing them all and dropping to 4th. Banks did return to play in the FA Cup final, but the entire team played poorly in a 3-1 defeat to Manchester United.

The next season saw Leicester in inconsistent form in the league, finishing just 11th, but they reached another cup final, this time the League Cup variant. In those days it was a home and away affair and Stoke were the opponents. The first leg at an extremely muddy Victoria Ground was a 1-1 draw after Banks spilt a Bill Asprey shot, which Keith Bebbington slotting home the loose ball. Back at Filbert Street, Leicester won 3-2 to lift the cup 4-3 on aggregate.

By the end of the season Banks had firmly established himself as England's number 1 and played two of the 3 matches during the summer's "Little World Cup" in Brazil. At this time Leicester paid full internationals, such as Banks and Frank McLintock, £40 a week and that saw McLintock request a transfer due to his low pay. Rival clubs were paying their fringe players that much and they eventually, in December, upped Banks' wage to £60 a week. It was not the best season for Banks personally as Blackpool keeper Tony Waiters managed to push in, picking up 5 caps, but he lost his place back to Banks after conceding five goals against Brazil. Waiters' chance came about after Banks was one of a party of England players who went on an unsanctioned night out before a friendly in Lisbon. The players all returned to their hotel rooms to find their passports waiting for them on their pillows!

In the league the Foxes struggled, finishing 18th, but managed to reach the League Cup final again, this time losing to Chelsea. After the season, England's summer tour saw Banks and the defence build an understanding and conceded just 2 goals in 4 games. Returning to club duty, he broke his wrist in pre-season, which saw him miss the first 9 games of the season, however Leicester's form improved and they managed to reach 7th before Banks headed off on England duty once more.

England played 7 friendlies in the build up to the 1966 World Cup, included in that was a 4-3 win over Scotland in the British Home Championship in front of over 130,000 at Hampden Park and they headed into the tournament in fine form. The tournament began with Banks pretty much a spectator in the first game against Uruguay as they were so defensive. Against Mexico he again had an easy day before another win, and a third clean sheet in row saw England through to the last 8 without conceding a single goal. Argentina were next up, though it lacked the rivalry of future games, and another clean sheet helped England into the semi-finals.

The teams were lining up in the tunnel before the match when trainer Harold Shepherdson realised he had forgotten to buy Banks' chewing gum. As Banks explains: "I didn't use gloves in those days, only when it was wet. Woollen ones like the ones you may buy to wear in winter now with your overcoat. But I learned from Bert Trautmann to get a couple of pieces of chewing gum and start chewing. He told me to wait until just before the icing on the gum cracked and then spit on my hands and smooth it over. Then when the opposition came over the halfway line you just had to lick your palms and they would immediately get sticky and help you hold the ball when it came." In a panic Shepherdson ran to a nearby newsagents to buy some chewing gum and just made it back in time for kick off.

Perhaps that contributed as Banks conceded his first goal in 721 minutes of regular play, but England managed to beat Portugal, with the great Eusebio up front at his peak, 2-1. As some of you might have heard, England went on to beat West Germany in the final to become World Champions for the first (and so far only) time. The German players were all given £10,000 each and a VW car for reaching the final, England gave its players £1,000 each and a raincoat.

Banks returned to the Foxes fresh from a World Cup win only to find himself dropped towards the end of the season, being told by manager Matt Gillies that "we think your best days are behind you, and you should move on". Leicester team mate Richie Norman told him that Gillies had been pressured into it by the board after Peter Shilton, who replaced Banks in the team, had threatened to leave if he was not playing. Shockingly Leicester transfer listed Gordon Banks with a price of £50,000.

As soon as Liverpool manager Bill Shankly got the news that Banks was available he jumped in his car and drove straight to Leicester. He met Leicester's directors and agreed a fee, then he spoke to Banks and agreed personal terms before racing back to Liverpool to speak to the LFC board. The Liverpool board refused point blank to sanction paying that much for a keeper. West Ham manager Ron Greenwood was the next to show interest but he had already agreed a deal with Kilmarnock for the signing of Bobby Ferguson for £65,000 and would not go back on his word. So it was left to Stoke City to step in and pay the £50,000 to buy him in April 1967.

Just one year after becoming a World Cup winner Gordon Banks was being forced to make a move from Leicester and the England goalkeeper asked for the standard 'loyalty' payment from the Foxes. Gillies told him: "We've decided not to pay you a penny. There's to be no compensation payment and that's final." Shocked, as this was a time when players were not being given huge money and could not just afford to go and buy a new house every time they moved club, Banks refused to move to Stoke. In the end Stoke's manager Tony Waddington told Banks that he had manage to negotiate a £2,000 payment from Leicester for him. It was not until years later that Banks found out Stoke had paid him the money.

At the Potters he replaced John Farmer as number 1 and played the last four games of the 1966/67 season, making his home debut in a 3-1 win over previous club Leicester. Though he has never publicly stated it, I am sure he would have taken a great deal of satisfaction from that result! Banks continued to hold down his place as England's first choice man between the sticks, representing them in Euro 68 in the days when there were just 4 teams in the tournament - Italy (hosts), Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and England. Despite the safe hands of Banks, England lost their first game 1-0 to Yugoslavia before beating the Soviets in a third place play off.

He still had time to head off to the USA for the summer and play for Cleveland Stokers of the United Soccer Association on loan. Banks found the time to play seven of the Ohio club's 12 matches of the season before a return to England. Despite Leicester selling him as over the hill, Banks was playing more games than ever and continued to hold down the number 1 jersey for an England team that was believed to be even better than the one that won the World Cup a few years' previously. They headed off to the heat and altitude of Mexico '70 as one of the big favourites.

The England team went over to South America early to acclimatise but Banks struggled with the heat and the altitude, as did many others. Despite that, England opened the tournament with a 1-0 win over Romania to set up a clash with the other favourites Brazil in the second game of the group stage. The game most felt should have been the final, between the two best games in the tournament came along the day after Gordon had been honoured with an OBE. In this game he produced the one moment he will always be known for and one that made the OBE seem like it undervalued his contribution.

In Pele's words: "Banks appeared in my sight like a kind of blue phantom. He came from nowhere, and he did something I didn't feel was possible. He pushed my header, somehow, up and over. And I couldn't believe what I saw. Even now when I watch it, I can't believe it. I can't believe how he moved so far, so fast." As the ball flew off Pele's head, he even shouted "Gol!" Pele was that sure he had placed his header so far from the keeper that no one is going to save it. As the ball headed to his right, Gordon Banks flew across and somehow miraculously managed to tip it over the bar, scooping it right up.

"They won't remember me for winning the World Cup, it'll be for that save. That's how big a thing it is. People just want to talk about that save." - Banks

At the time Banks ended up in the back of the net and only Pele's reaction told him that he had managed to save it. "I thought that was a goal," an incredulous Pele told him. "You and me both," replied Gordon. Then Booby Moore arrived to ruffle his hair and told him: "You're getting old, Banksy, you used to hold onto them." Despite that incredible save (and that tackle by Moore) Brazil still beat England 1-0 but they then beat Czechoslovakia to reach the quarter finals, where they would once again face West Germany.

Before this game it was not an award he picked up but a stomach bug of some kind, which went from merely an upset stomach to turn into violent stomach cramps and aching limbs. Banks spent the day before sweating, shivering and vomiting. On the day of the game he did feel better and managed to pass a fitness test before suffering a relapse, which led to him being replaced by Peter Bonetti. Gordon was sat in the team hotel watching the game, which was shown with a significant time delay. The time delay was such that England were winning 2-0 on his TV screen when Bobby Moore came back from the game to tell him that England lost 3-2 after extra time. The loss of Banks was key, as Bonetti struggled and that, along with the so-called 'Bogota Bracelet' incident led to the spread of conspiracy theories that England had been 'nobbled' to stop them winning it again.

While in the region Banks had picked himself up some of the new, oversized goalkeeping gloves with a dimpled rubber surface, which South American keepers favoured. Most Brits mistrusted foreign goalkeepers, but Gordon Banks was someone who was looking to learn from everyone. He returned to England and Stoke began to start being competitive for honours, reaching the semi-final of the FA Cup in the 1970-71 season. They lost to Arsenal after a replay.

There was a controversial moment during the season, something that many forget involved him. In May 1971 Banks was playing in goal for England against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park with the score 0-0. The ball was in Banks' hands and he balanced it on one hand as he prepared to kick down field when George Best nipped in and headed the ball out of his hand and put it into the empty net. Banks protests quickly saw the referee disallow the goal, but it has stayed in people's memories as a moment of Best magic.

The following season Stoke won the only major honour in their history, as Banks led them to pick up a League Cup. They also once again reached the FA Cup semi-final to face Arsenal once more. It went to a replay again and Banks later admitted he felt cheated of a chance to play in an FA Cup final after the Gooners won 2-1 thanks to a hotly disputed penalty and a goal that TV replays showed was clearly offside. His performances were so integral to Stoke's success that he won the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award. He was the first keeper to win it since Bert Trautmann in 1956.

It was a quiet summer for Banks as England had failed to qualify for the European Championships that summer due to a 3-1 loss to West Germany in qualifying. He was still undisputed number 1 for England and Stoke City on 22nd October 1972 when he was driving home after a physio session on an injured shoulder. Banks admitted he was driving too fast and not being careful enough, deciding to overtake on a sharp bend and hit an oncoming van. His car ended up in a ditch. He was rushed to North Staffordshire Hospital for emergency treatment where he received 200 stitches on his face and another 100 micro-stitches inside the socket of his right eye. Unfortunately the treatment was unable to save the sight in his right eye.

The following summer he officially retired from professional football with 73 England caps, 35 of them clean sheets, and just 9 losses in an England shirt. Banks' final performance was fitting as he was part of an England team that beat the 'Auld Enemy' Scotland 1-0 at Hampden Park. He had been chosen as FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year six time, 5 years in a row, the final year being as recently as 1971. Gordon chose to retire as he was afraid that losing an eye would completely destroy his depth perception and ability to compete at the top level.

Retirement never suited him at all and he made one appearance for a semi-professional side, Scarborough FC, in the Anglo-Italian Tournament as a guest. Alan A'Court also guested in a 0-0 draw against Monza. Banks was convinced to join the North American Soccer League as a named superstar in April 1977 with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. They won the league with the best defensive record in 1977, conceding just 29 in 26 games, but he never really enjoyed the showmanship of the league saying: "I felt like a circus act... Roll up, roll up, to see the greatest one-eyed goalkeeper in the world."

It was very different from what he was used to in the no-nonsense world of the English league, for instance there was one occasion when Banks found himself being driven to the pitch in a hearse. Then he helped to carry a coffin to the centre circle whereupon the team's manager jumped out, dressed as Dracula, as the PA system announced to the fans that, "Lauderdale Strikers are coming back from the dead!" They had lost just two games in a row before this one.

His performances were enough to win him the NASL Goalkeeper of the Year award, which was unsurprising according to the team's back up keeper, Van Taylor: "He had such a high work ethic. He was the first to training, last to leave. He worked hard. There was a time in the pre-season where we would run on the beach from one pier to the other and he would be at the front of that pack every time. He took pride in his professionalism. He was so impeccable on angles and positioning. Where maybe I was flopping and making it look like good saves, he would just collect balls. He made things look so easy. When training was over he would say: 'Let's just keep a bag of balls'. I learned how to deliver a pretty good cross!"

During the season St Patrick's Athletic manager Barry Bridges was without a goalkeeper for the Dublin derby with Shamrock Rovers. Bridges made an approach to sign Gordon for just that one game and was waiting to hear back from the legendary keeper. Bridges told the groundsman, Harry Boland, that he was expecting a phone call then took the players out to training. Bridges and the players are out on the pitch training, Harry is down in the dressing room making tea for the players to drink after training when he heard the phone ring upstairs. Rushing upstairs, Harry reaches the phone just in time for it to stop ringing. Back down the stairs, grumbling under his breath, Harry makes it as far as the dressing room before the phone begins to ring once more. Once more he makes his way all the way up the stairs to get to the phone before it stops ringing. By this point he is convinced it is lads in the Black Lion pub, who often used to play this prank on him, so the third time it rings he is ready and waiting by the phone and picks it up. A voice on the other end says: "I'm Gordon Banks, I'm looking to speak to Barry Bridges", only to receive a tirade of expletives before the phone is slammed down on him. Bridges returns from training and asks, "any phone calls?" "Well there was one," replies Boland, "but it was the lads up in the Black Lion messing saying it was Gordon Banks on the phone."

Luckily Barry Bridges was able to rescue the deal and it saw the stadium packed long before kick-off with a large crowd of small boys and small girls chanting, "Gordon Banks, Gordon Banks". However it was not until about 5 minutes from the end that he was seriously tested when a volley from Eamon Dunphy headed for the top right-hand corner of the net. Banks flew across to pull off a stunning save and earn himself a rapturous ovation after the game as St Pat's ran out 1-0 winners. Even at 40 with just one working eye, Banks still had it.

In December he joined Port Vale as a coach under Dennis Butler, coaching was clearly something he was keen to make a future in according to Van Taylor: "I was cleaning out my attic the other day and I found some old Delta Air Lines napkins - when we were on the flight, Gordon and I would do Xs and Os, tactics, and he had signed it. We would just talk about the game, as players would, and get a napkin. As it turned out I ended up having a coaching career for 30 years. When I saw that I thought, 'there was one of my first coaching mentors.' It was kind of neat."

Banks continued to play for the Strikers, combining it with the coaching role at Vale, managing 11 appearances in the NASL over the course of 1978. Vale were not doing too well under Butler and he was replaced by Alan Bloor, who then demoted Banks to coach the reserves in October. The great man, without a doubt England's greatest ever goalkeeper, resigned soon after as he felt the players were not listening to him or taking notice of his advice. He then applied for jobs as manager of Lincoln City and Rotherham United, but both turned Banks down.

Eventually non-league part-timers Telford United game him a chance for the 1979-80 season. There Banks did everything, from appearances at supermarkets to hand out tickets to coaching the team. They finished 13th that season, not as good as was hoped for but he started the following season with optimism. In November he took time off to undergo surgery, leaving Jackie Mudie in temporary charge while he recovered. Telford lost to a lower league team in the FA Trophy while he was away and Banks was promptly sacked on his return and offered a job as a raffle ticket seller instead. Banks accepted it, thinking it would mean the club had to pay up what he was owed, but he was mistaken and ended up having to settle for 50% and said of his treatment: "It broke my heart.... I did not want to stay in the game."

The game had changed a lot during his lifetime: "In my early days, a goal against us was shrugged off. Nobody liked conceding a goal, but once the ball had gone into the net it was accepted as 'one of those things' and everybody in the team would concentrate on trying to get the goal back. But once the maximum wage had been lifted and win bonuses became all-important, it was suddenly considered a crime to concede a goal."

Despite that, Banks did stay within the game to a degree, as he was appointed to the three-man Pools panel. After Stanley Matthews death in 2000, Stoke appointed him as their president. He also finally got his testimonial game from Leicester, belatedly, in 1995 after he lost a lot of money in a Leicester-based hospitality company. Banks never earnt the wealth his talents deserved and ended up selling his World Cup winner's medal and his international cap from the final for around £150,000 in total so that he could help his three children buy their first houses.

Recognition of his achievements came late as the IFFHS chose him as number 2 goalkeeper of the 20th Century behind Lev Yashin. He was an inaugural inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002, Keele University awarded him an honorary doctorate and a statue of him holding up the Jules Rimet Trophy was unveiled outside Stoke's Britannia Stadium by Pele, who described Banks as a "goalkeeper with magic" as he did so. All of that he got to see before he passed away in his sleep on 12th February 2019 as, without question, the best English goalkeeper of all time.

Suggested by c_matthews94

For the previous Legend of the Game article on Jimmy Johnstone click HERE

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