Written by John Newsome
As a football fan the ‘Close Season’ is possibly the worst period of the year, even worse than Halloween which is up there as the least favourite day of the year. Firstly, is it ‘close’ as in ‘closed’ or ‘close’ as in ‘nearby’.
Women`s World Cup
There is the Women’s World Cup on, which, by the way, no ones allowed to criticise for fear of being sexist but is this enough to quench the thirst? England’s Lionesses are one of the favourites to lift the trophy and will have to compete with current holders USA, host nation France and 2015 finalists Japan.
USA beat Thailand 13-0 in their first-round match and were criticised for celebrating too much. In a previous fixture, Thailand had beaten Indonesia Women 13-0 back in 2018. The first thing taken from that result is how bad are Indonesia Women? Also, Thailand Women celebrated all the goals. USA Women were entitled to celebrate.
Alex Morgan scored 5 Goals in the game against Thailand which will go along way in her quest for the Golden Boot. Sweden Women and Chile Women have to play Thailand yet so their ladies have the chance to notch a few, however, the women from all the other teams in the competition will feel somewhat annoyed if the Golden Boot lady gains the award by filling their boots against Thailand.
Brazil Women have one of the female games most famous stars in their squad and current FIFA World Player of the Year. Marta scored her 16th World Cup goal in Brazil’s opening game against Australia making her Brazil’s highest World Cup goalscorer ahead of Ronaldo (the First one!) and Pele. Not a bad accolade but is it really the same?
England Women have a number of great players. Lucy Bronze has just won the Women’s Champions League with Lyon beating Barcelona 4-1 in the final. In that Barcelona team was Lucy’s fellow England Lioness star Toni Duggan. Toni has a slight injury and hasn’t featured in the opening 2 games yet but will be a vital addition as the tournament progresses. Nikita Parris, who stars for the Man City Women, scored a VAR penalty against Scotland then missed a penalty against Argentina. Chelsea Women’s Fran Kirby is a great little midfielder who is not afraid to get on the ball and run at the opposition.
At the back England have the very experienced Steph Houghton. Steph is a teammate of Nikita’s at Man City and Captains both City and the Lionesses. One thing what’s not commonly known about Steph is the Centre-Back is married to former Bradford City and Bolton Wanderers defender Stephen Darby. It sounds a great footballing combination but there is a tinge if sadness in the partnership. At only 29 and just after the couple married, Stephen announced he was diagnosed with MND, Motor Neurone Disease. Stephen had to retire from football at 29 but is always there at Steph’s matches giving her the support she needs and Steph is there to support her husband through his illness. Good luck for the future to the 2 Steph’s.
Against Scotland and Argentina Steph was arguably the best player keeping calm and composed at the back like a female Virgil Van Dijk. One female player who could consider herself very unlucky to have parents who decided to make her born in Scotland is Kim Little. Little must be so annoyed that her parents didn’t temporarily move South for her birth or even have taken a little trip to USA or Brazil. Kim has played for Scotland Women since she was 16. She is Scotland’s leading scorer and was one of only two Non-English girls to play for Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics in London. Kim is a brilliant little player of the similar poise and stature to Paul Gascoigne. It’s just a pity Kim is not English like Gazza.
Manchester United have made their first signing of the season bringing in young Welsh starlet Daniel James. Dan could have signed for Leeds United in January and was reportedly at Elland Rd on Transfer Deadline Day but something was amiss and returned to Swansea. Fate? Twenty-one year old Daniel is literally a flying machine and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have a modern-day Andrei Kanchelskis to breathe life into the Pink Devil’s. If only Ole could find a modern-day Ryan Giggs or Lee Sharpe for the other wing.
Newcastle’s Sean Longstaff is a target and could potentially be a modern day Michael Carrick. Another target is Crystal Palace’s young English Right-Back Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Leicester’s Harry Maguire is also on Ole’s radar but realistically, given the choice of signing for the Red half of Manchester or the Blue half, its a no brainer for Harry. With Vincent Kompany moving on and John Stones currently playing like any member of the Rolling Stones, Pep could be favourite to land Harry.
It’s going to be a long ‘close season’ with lots of speculation, trepidation, and rumours. Chelsea will be changing their name like Derby did last season. The Blues, will now be known as Frank Lampard’s Chelsea just like Derby were renamed Frank Lampard’s Derby last season.
The Premier League used to be competed solely by Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. Liverpool and Chelsea made it a bit more competitive and joined a Premier League Top 4. Tottenham and Man City theoretically turned the Premier League elite into a Top 6. In reality, the Premier League as reverted back to an elite Top 2. Pep has replaced Sir Alex and Jurgen is the new Arsene. One thing for certain is Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal and Frank Lampard’s Chelsea will have to do their utmost to bridge the gap on Pep’s High Flying City and Jurgen’s Champions League winning Liverpool.
Liverpool did brilliantly to win their 6th European Cup getting to the final of the Champions League in Madrid by beating Barcelona 4-0 after losing the first leg of the Semi-Final 3-0 in the Nou Camp. To be the Champions League winners is remarkable in itself having not actually won the Premier League. What was more remarkable was Liverpool’s Madrid opponents in the Champions League Final were fellow Premier League rivals Tottenham.
Tottenham secured their place in the Final after losing 3 group games, Fernando Llorente throwing the ball into the net and VAR. Chelsea will become Frank Lampard’s Chelsea after Maurizio Sarri appears to be leaving Stamford Bridge and returning to his homeland of Italy to take over at Juventus. The irony in Maurizio’s Sarri-Ball was it finally came to fruition in the final 45-minutes of Chelsea’s season. After a poor 1st-half in the Europa League Final against Arsenal, Sarri-Ball suddenly clicked into place in the 2nd-half with Chelsea comfortably beating the Gooners 4-1 to not only win the Europa League but prevent Arsenal from getting into next season’s Champions League. Although Chelsea gained entry into the Champions League winning the Europa League the Blues were already in the competition after finishing in the Top 4. Frank Lampard’s Chelsea will start next season without the talent of Eden Hazard. Eden has left Stamford Bridge to join Real Madrid.
The 2019/2020 Premier League Season will be the most innovative, exciting, enthralling season for a long time with the introduction of some new laws and the much-maligned VAR ( Video Assistant Referee ). Whilst a lot of people are wary of VAR, even scared, its just evolution.
In 1992 the English Football League Division One decided to break away and form what we all now know as the Premier League. What a lot won’t know especially those under 30 is at the same time another law change was introduced that being the ‘Back-Pass’ Rule. Prior to the inception of the Premier League in 1992, Goalkeepers were allowed to pick the ball up if their own player passed it back to him. This new law introduced to prevent time-wasting and boring play was seen as innovative, exciting and enthralling back in 1992. Now it’s just part of the game and has been for many years. In a couple of years time VAR will just be a part of the game. It will be good for the game we all love.
VAR caused an uproar in the recent UEFA Nations League game against Holland because Jesse Lingard’s toe was deemed off-side.
“If this is VAR we don’t want it!!” “it was only a toe” ( sounds like a line from the Killers Mr Brightside ! ) “Keep it out of the Premier League” etc etc.
However, go back to Chelsea v Cardiff at the end of March. Cardiff were leading Chelsea 1-0 when Cesar Azpilicueta scored an equaliser for Chelsea stood literally 2-yards off-side. VAR would have ruled that goal out. Chelsea went on to beat Cardiff 2-1. It doesn’t mean that if VAR was available for that decision then Chelsea would only have drawn with Cardiff. What it would have meant is Cardiff would have still been leading 1-0 and Chelsea would not have had the momentum they gained from the controversial goal to go on and win the game. Cardiff were relegated. Not because of that decision but because of their whole season but VAR would have helped them on that occasion and will help all the teams over the season.
Neil Warnock wasn’t singing “it was only a toe !” Big Neil was screaming “it was bloomin’ 2-yards linesman! “ VAR will be a leveller. It’s here and it’s here to stay. Embrace VAR.
Football! We Live it! We Love it!