Monday Muse: FA Cup Frolics & Draw

 The weekends football action served up a treat, not only did we have the Premier League and Championship in action but also the FA Cup 2nd Round where teams from League 1, League 2 and those from the Non-League pyramid compete in order for a place in the 3rd Round come the new year, all hoping to be drawn against the big boys.

FA Cup Shocks

Maybe their could’ve been more shocks in the FA Cup 2nd Round this weekend than it really produced, but some teams caused upsets. Most impressively were that of Wrexham, the former members of the Football League have had a rocky road on and off the pitch in recent seasons but they’ll be delighted with the 1-0 victory at League One side Brentford.

Wrexham, who lost manager Dean Saunders to Championship side Doncaster Rovers, are currently top of the Blue Square Bet Premier Division (Football Conference Premier in old money) and managed by former player and Wrexham legend Andy Morrell. The Jamie Tolley strike that settled the tie was fitting of an upset in a game that made Wrexham appear like the Football League side in terms of style and commitment.

Tamworth came out victors in their away tie with fellow Non-Leaguers Gateshead, in which Tamworth won 2-1 with a last minute winner. Whilst Chelmsford and Fleetwood both held Football League sides to draws at home and will be desperate to get a better result in the replays.

Unfortunately, the lowest place sides AFC Totton and Redbridge could not get past strong League Two opposition and were on the back of 5-0 and 6-1 defeats to Bristol Rovers and Crawley Town respectively.

FA Cup 3rd Round Draw Provides Great Fixtures

The tie of the round belongs to the dominant clubs from Manchester as holders City were drawn at home to neighbours Manchester United thus adding an extra derby to the already enthralling rivalry this season.

Other interesting draws elsewhere belong to Cheltenham Town from League Two earning the chance to play Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Whilst Arsenal play hosts to Championship big boys Leeds United.

More one sided has to belong to Everton who will host Non-League outfit Tamworth at Goodison Park. It’d be remarkable if an upset would be on the cards but many would be hoping that Tamworth can give a good account.

Elsewhere, Fleetwood could host locals Blackpool if they’re able to perform a shock result in their replay at Yeovil Town. And Chelmsford could host Premier League Bolton if they’re to do the same in the replay at Macclesfield.

There’s another derby on the cards as Nottingham Forest are home to rivals Leicester City, whilst Sheffield Wednesday could perform an upset as they will take on West Ham United at Hillsborough.

There are Premier League teams travelling to lower league opposition that could prove tricky with Aston Villa going to Bristol Rovers and Queens Park Rangers away to Milton Keynes Dons.

Liverpool will welcome either Southend or Oldham to Anfield whilst Chelsea do battle against Portsmouth. All in all it shall be a great weekend come January for the FA Cup 3rd Round, one of the best times of the season in our historic football calendar.

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Monday Muse: British Football rocked by tragedy

Starting up the Monday Muse round-up of the weekends action has come at unfortunate time when the weekends football became an insignificant affair by Sunday after the news of the Wales manager Gary Speed passing away.

It is a huge tragedy that came so unexpected on Sunday morning. The decision was made for both Premier League games to take place, which may or may not have been the right decision. Whilst the later kick-off between Liverpool and Manchester City appeared to be a contested game the Swansea City versus Aston Villa draw could be down to emotions of the players and all involved.

Maybe it was too close to kick-off for the Swansea game to be called off but in hindsight it may have been the right decision with the likes of Shay Given, James Collins and Ashley Williams, as well as others all deeply affected by the news that their friend, manager, coach and idol had died.

The minutes silence before the game which turned into a spontaneous round of applause and chanting of “There’s Only One Gary Speed” would’ve had the hardest of hard men reaching for the Kleenex to wipe away their tears. I for one had a lump in my throat and watery eyes.

Sunday was a day of mourning for all of Football and it seems insignificant to even discuss the weekend’s action without sounding disrespectful.

The tributes made by TalkSport, BBC 5 Live and Match of the Day 2 were very moving. The amount of plaudits that poured in about Gary Speed was alarming; for I personally watched him play growing up as a kid in the 1990’s and thought he was highly underrated as a midfielder. Plus, for how he had transformed the Wales team full of youth, vibrancy and talent into a winning outfit, it’s tragic in itself that we’ll never see him fulfil his managerial potential.

What I didn’t know however, is how much of a Gentleman he was off the pitch and behind the scenes. For a player who had played in the Premier League for the past two decades to remain so down to earth, polite and grounded is an achievement in its own right.

Monday Muse: La Liga strike,EPL,Spurs,Championship & Tevez…

The La Liga ‘holdout’

La Liga is arguably the most decorated league in world football and yet, it didn’t kick off over the weekend. It’s refreshing to hear that La Liga’s stellar stars such as Xavi and Iker Casillas were standing on the front of the picket line with their less celebrated counterparts across all the major divisions within Spanish Football. As always with a lockout, it’s down to money and how it’s distributed fairly amongst the professional footballers. A large percentage of players have also been playing without pay hence this lockout. Let’s hope the LFP and Spanish Players association resolve their issues soon. Spanish football is the loser.

Arsenal v Liverpool Continue reading

Mid-Week Muse: Football League & European Action

Due to life getting in the way I was unable to produce a ‘Monday Muse’ article on Monday focussing on the events from the weekend’s football action. To make up for it, I thought I’d do a special Mid-Week Muse with all the Football League and Europa League action that took place.

The Football League went through its third run of games which provided a series of interesting results. In the Championship, newly promoted Southampton and Brighton & Hove Albion continued their excellent start to the season with impressive victories over Ipswich Town and Cardiff City.

The Saints came away 5-2 winners at Portman Road causing the Tractor Boys a third straight victory including defeat in the League Cup. Their manager Paul Jewell must be wondering where it went wrong since their opening day 3-0 victory at Bristol City.

Joining the two promoted teams with a 100% record is Derby County, a team that have struggled in recent years under manager Nigel Clough but finally the rub of the green is on their side this season with a 3rd straight league win coming at Blackpool. County ran out 1-0 winners causing Ian Holloway an indifferent start back in the Football League.

Leicester City were one of the favourites with Sven Goran-Eriksson allowed to spend in the summer but they suffered a shock defeat at home to Bristol City. It may take some time for all the new players to gel but the Foxes will be expected to challenge for promotion come the end of the season.

In League One, Chris Powell looks to have the remedy for Charlton Athletic with third straight league win with a 2-0 result at Colchester. Newly relegated Sheffield United have also recorded 3 straight wins which is an excellent start if they want to achieve promotion at the first attempt.

The blue side of Sheffield has been indifferent; a win on the opening day looked good for manager Gary Megson but two straight defeats have been alarming, with the last being a 2-1 defeat at Bury.

Russell Slade looked to have turned Leyton Orient’s fortunes around last season but 3 straight defeats has seen them rock bottom of League One.

Rotherham are the only side in League Two with 100% record intact, a 2-1 victory at Crewe saw them top the table. Newly promoted Crawley Town remain undefeated in their Football League history and a 3-0 home victory over Southend United is mightily impressive.

AFC Wimbledon have also turned an opening day defeat around with two back to back wins, a surprising 2-0 victory down at Peter Reid’s Plymouth Argyle came about on Tuesday night with a brace from Jack Midson.

It was a contrasting set of results on Thursday evening in the Europa League for England and Scotland. Tottenham Hotspur who were denied starting their Premier League campaign last weekend took it out on Scottish Premier League side Hearts of Midlothian.

A 5-0 victory at Tynecastle was more than embarrassing for the SPL who have always faced scepticism about the competitiveness of their league. Despite Hearts being a month into their season, it was Spurs who looked sharp with excellent passing and moving from the team.

They didn’t miss Luka Modric as Krancar and Van Der Vaart teamed up well, plus a goal for Jake Livermore was well deserved.

The SPL’s run away clubs didn’t fair well either, Glasgow Rangers went down 2-1 to Slovenian champions NK Maribor. Rangers took the lead in the first half, but a 2nd half equaliser and a last minute goal saw them left red faced.

More shocking was Glasgow Celtic being held 0-0 at Parkhead to Swiss side FC Sion. However, the Swiss club could face a penalty by UEFA by fielding 4 players of the ‘Sion Six’ who were banned due to a transfer embargo placed on the club.

Stoke City survived any embarrassment on the Astroturf in Switzerland with a 1-0 victory over FC Thun. Whilst Championship side Birmingham City held Nacional to a 0-0 draw in Portugal.

Fulham manager Martin Jol made a number of changes to the starting line-up for the home tie with Dnipro but the south west London side came out 3-0 victors.

That’s the Mid-Week Muse complete, we learnt that Scottish football is as pants as we all expected, Sven-Goran Eriksson may think about retirement and Spurs fans think they’re going to win the World Cup after out passing Hearts.

Monday Muse: End of the Football League season & EPL drama

  Woah, what a weekend of Football once again! I LOVE this time of the season, promotions, relegations, tears of joy of pain. From surprising results or incidents (Spurs v Blackpool), (Stoke v Arsenal) and even (Man Utd vs Chelsea) to the final league games in the Football League. It’s Monday, it’s time for another Muse… Continue reading

Monday Muse: Handballs,Promotions&Relegations

  Time for a very late Monday Muse here on Verbal Football which has undergone a number of makeovers in the last week, but it’s all part of the process. Another bank holiday weekend of football action saw promotion and relegations settled across the Football League, whilst the Premier League table is looking as unpredictable as ever.

I was not surprised to see Arsenal victorious in the home game against Manchester United yesterday. The 1-0 victory was perhaps deserved on their overall performance where the young and exuberant midfielders Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey had a field day against a lack lustre United team.

Perhaps the extra Champions League games have caught up with United and they would’ve settled for a draw at the Emirates, knowing that a win over Chelsea next weekend will (more or less) win them the English Premier League title. But typically this Arsenal side play well when there isn’t so much pressure on top of their young heads after squandering three potential victories in their last three games that could’ve seen them top of the league right now.

Something that did shock me was to see Liverpool now 5th in the English Premier League. Where did that come from? Kenny Dalglish deserves all the plaudits for rejuvenating the Liverpool side into having some kind of successful season that was looking like mid table mediocrity around Christmas. It also questions whether Harry Redknapp and Tottenham Hotspur even want 5th spot and Europa League qualification? Continue reading

Monday Muse

 Hello and welcome to the first edition of ‘Monday Muse’ which will be a regular feature here on Verbal Football every Monday with a musing view on the weekend’s football results and any hot topics that take the authors fancy.

First off, it feels quite refreshing from taking a short break away from hacking at the keyboard with my opinions on football over the last 10 days but I am fighting fit once again and ready to enlighten you or enrage you with my football opinions.

So where are we on this Easter Bank Holiday Monday…well, first off my beloved Queens Park Rangers were denied celebrating promotion today after a 96th minute winner by Simeon Jackson for Norwich City at home to Derby County. The Canaries won 3-2 after the in form striker netted his hat-trick and denied a promotion party in West London where Rangers were held to a 1-1 draw with Hull City.

It’s typical of Rangers to be doing this the hard way, but on a personal note I did not fancy celebrating promotion whilst travelling from the North on the Megabus today and will quite happily celebrate promotion at Watford and then the Championship in front of Leeds United in the following week!

Despite the rich names attached to the Q.P.R. boardroom, we have not bought our way out of this league and in theory, have spent the same as the likes of Nottingham Forest, Cardiff City, Reading and Leicester City have done over the last few seasons. Neil Warnock deserves a lot of credit from turning a team fighting the drop to League One last season, into topping the Championship table for the majority of this season. We may have not played the best football, but we’ve been the most consistent and we deserve the League title.

Aside from my partisan views, I was surprised to see Preston North End confirmed with relegation from the Championship today, they had been the longest serving Championship side having been in the division for the past 11 seasons but after the 1-0 defeat at home to Cardiff City, they will be playing League One football next season. Phil Brown looked to have turned the clubs fortunes around and hopefully they can keep him on as manager if they are to bounce back next season.

Sticking with Lancashire based clubs, I was pleased to see Blackpool come out of the relegation zone, albeit on goal difference with their 1-1 draw at home to Newcastle United on Saturday and Wigan Athletics 4-2 defeat at Sunderland. I’ve already expressed my admirations for Blackpool and Ian Holloway on this blog and it will be a fantastic achievement if they are to stay in the top flight this season.

My Tottenham supporting friends seem to all ask the question about QPR wanting promotion after our two draws this Easter weekend preventing any promotion parties, but I reciprocated with asking them if they want 4th place after a 2-2 draw at home to West Brom. Spurs have been fantastic this season, but it seems like the squad could do with the summer break already and with some new faces to the squad.

At the time of typing, Blackburn are holding Manchester City to a goalless draw, which may be a good result for Spurs if they have any chance of finishing 4th but I just can’t see City giving it up. If Spurs do fail to qualify for the Champions League, it would be great to see them take the Europa League as serious next season and try and win the trophy that lacks too much respect in this country for my liking.

Sticking with North London, I couldn’t believe Arsenal losing at the Reebok Stadium. I thought a draw or an Arsenal win was on the cards, but a Bolton victory came out of the blue and it seems like everything is starting to fall apart for Arsene Wenger’s third generation squad.

Like I said in an article on FootballFanCast a few months ago, the Arsenal coaching staff has barely changed since 1997 and Arsene Wenger needs some new faces and voices on that training pitch and dugout if there is going to be any change in results. As for Bolton, it was a very touching moment for Tamir Cohen to get the winner and reveal the t-shirt with an image of his late father, Avi. His interview after the game was one of the most emotional interviews in football I have ever seen.

Surprised to see Swindon Town have been relegated to League Two today. I remember Swindon being in the Premier League once-upon-a-time although, I think they still hold the record for the most goals conceded in a Premier League season. If any Swindon fans happen to be reading this, then I want to know more on why the Robins have been relegated this season….

Shout out to Bury in League Two who beat league leaders Chesterfield 3-2 to confirm promotion. I am sure both clubs will be fine competition for League One next year. They could also pip Chesterfield to the league title with only 2 points separating the promoted clubs. The third promotion spot seems to be a dog fight between Wycombe and Shrewsbury with only two games now remaining.

Back to North London and Barnet were denied another amazing victory after they were held 2-2 at home to Oxford United today. There impressive 4-2 win at Gillingham on Saturday was emphatic but they’re in the relegation zone now by a point. With their remaining games against play-off contenders Accrington Stanley and Port Vale, it’s going to take a lot of courage from Grazioli’s men to try prevent an exit from the football league. Personally, I hope they can do it. Come on you Bees!

Stockport County are all but out of the football league with a huge goal difference, even two wins won’t be enough to see them survive unless they win by about 20 odd goals to nil. It’s a big shame for a club that were tough competitors in the Championship (old Division One) not that long ago.

That’s it for this round-up, apologies if your teams achievements were not mentioned in this edition but that’s why it’s the Monday Muse! A quick fire of thoughts on the weekends games.