Monthly Archives: January 2014

Coventry – UNITED.

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Not many clubs in the English Football League can say they started the season on minus ten points, under a strict transfer embargo and playing their ‘home’ games 35 miles away from the city they belong. For Coventry City, this has been the reality.

Despite the footballing gods overlooking the Sky Blues, the band of young, fearless players have shown how competent they are against the more settled outfits in the league such as Preston and Wolves.

The confidence that has followed a succession of impressive, consistent results, coupled with the positive style of play Steven Pressley has instilled means Coventry now lie 11th in League One with a genuine chance of making a play off position.

Regrettably, due to the divisive nature of Coventry’s current situation, passion among supporters has been seen to overflow into hostility towards each other.

The club has a proud history, and nobody is content with the off  field dealings as they stand. However we do have a lot to celebrate on the field and this is what must take the limelight.

Petty playground arguments about who is a bigger fan due to the amount of away games they’ve been to needs to stop; all forms of hostility needs to be put to one side. There is a squad of young lads performing week in week out under great adversity showing pride to wear the shirt. They need our support. We are all united by one fact, the fact we are Sky Blue and we love our football club.

Now is our time to show it.

 

Read article via Cov News and Sport – http://www.coventrynewsandsport.co.uk/index.php/sport/sky-blues/673-we-are-coventry-united

Why can’t professional footballers score from 12 yards?

"How hard can it be?"

“How hard can it be?”

Every professional footballer has the ability to a strike a ball with a certain level of accuracy – you would hope so considering the amount they get paid to do it – so that raises the question, why can’t they put the ball past a keeper from 12 yards? How much can pressure and crowd noise influence the ability to kick a football?

Manchester United’s clash with Sunderland in the Capital One cup semi-final last night showed that hitting the goal from a penalty is clearly not as easy as it appears. Players seem to either produce a timid spot kick due to holding back, or conversely they blaze it over the bar whilst trying to take the net off. The psychology in taking a penalty is one which a large percentage of footballers struggle to deal when in a shoot-out situation.

Historically, this is an issue which has affected the very best. Notably Roberto Baggio in ’94 handing the World Cup to Brazil. It’s not easy to forget England’s record in high profile shoot-outs, where the sight of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard (both reliable for Chelsea and Liverpool respectively) turning away with there head in hands is not an unfamiliar sight.

With Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck and Adam Johnson all failing to convert their spot kicks last night, England fans should not be filled with confidence for the inevitable World Cup Quarter Final penalty shoot-out this summer.

14% of Britain’s shops are empty.

14% of Britain’s shops are empty.

A quick Internet search will reveal this fact and a short walk along many high streets will confirm this alarming statistic. The shop vacancy rates are at an all-time high in Britain, with some of the more deprived areas of the country seeing more than 20% of shops boarded up and empty. London is the least affected city but still has a vacancy rate of 9.4%. It seems that the economic downturn coupled with a drastic change in our shopping habits has taken its toll.

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Who or what is to blame? Fingers could be pointed at the low cost websites such as ‘Amazon’ and ‘eBay’ with prices to help ensure people stay at home and order their Christmas presents, rather than visit their local town centre. Central and local Government could be accused of not doing enough to help town centre retailers survive in the world we live in today. Or simply, the diminishing existence of high-street shops could also be accepted as a fact of life in a 21st Century Britain.

 However, there are some success stories. In a once popular but now unfashionable arcade in Coventry you will find an old Fish and Chip shop turned innovative theatre space – Theatre Absolute and Britain’s first ‘Shop Front Theatre’.  Established as a professional theatre company in 1992, Theatre Absolute have toured extensively and won Time Out Live and two coveted Edinburgh Fringe First Awards.

 Following a trip to Chicago where the ‘storefront’ theatre scene thrives, Director and writer, Chris O’Connell, along with his partner and Producer, Julia Negus, approached Coventry City Council with this model and outlined their ambitions and ideas regarding the large empty space. Favourable terms were agreed and the closed down Fish and Chip shop was soon transformed into a location for the production, rehearsal and performance of award winning theatre. Not only does it allow for affordable access to theatre, its educational projects have helped people from all walks of life across the city, specifically young underachievers. Chris O’Connell explains, “The shop offers diverse and affordable opportunities for potential participants to engage; it is centrally located, and we believe it can tackle problems of social isolation, offer opportunity to those who are not socially engaged, or to those who lack skills and confidence. Ultimately it can be a community arts space that helps to build community cohesion.

 There is no denying that the transformation from run-down empty shop into an active, dynamic work space has been an influential factor in creating a positive multiplier effect to its immediate surroundings and to Coventry as a whole; at a previous event ran by Theatre Absolute and their team of helpful volunteers over 700 people visited the shop in one day.

 This model proves that despite arts funding cuts and such a large number of shop premises falling away from the market, success can be found in a recession through innovation.

 

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Coventry’s Shop Front Theatre.

A letter regarding the current state of English Football.

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Original points are that of Paul Lawrence. Edited by Ed Delaney – @thedition.

I am writing to express my concern for the current situation of English Football as well as the future development of the game in this country. At the present time I think English Football is taking a severe downward spiral and is losing its reputation of being one of World football’s biggest nations. I believe the National side has lost the fear factor they once had, and clubs in England are also becoming less feared when they play teams from different nations. There is no denying that the elite club sides in the world are not from England but from countries such as Spain and Germany. When a ‘top’ English side draws a top Spanish side in the Champions league the English team is automatically labeled as underdogs; to some this may be a good thing however do we always want to be known as the underdogs? We should be aspiring to be one of the feared nations in the world.

Out of 500 players named over 20 squads in the English Premier League, only 222 are home-grown talents. That’s an astonishing figure compared to other nations. A model example would be that of Athletic Bilbao in Spain, they have installed the philosophy of only using players that are from the Basque regions. When Bilbao met the English giants Manchester United in the Europa League in 2012 they were given a lesson in fast paced passing football – United ended up losing 5-3 on aggregate. This was an eye opener to many and showed how good the standard of football in Spain is compared to England.

The principle of football ownership and general running of clubs is also something that is a major cause for concern. Owners who are in it because of their passion for football are becoming a thing of the past – Dave Whelan of Wigan still a shining example – and are rapidly being taken over by people who think they can make quick profit. Take QPR for example, which were taken over by the director of Air Asia, Tony Fernandes. They pumped millions of pounds into QPR to try to become one of football’s big names however this backfired when they were relegated last season. When experienced head of football management, Harry Redknapp, took over as manager there last season in a last-ditch attempt to save them from relegation he said in an interview, ‘There’s an awful lot of players at this club earning far too much money for what they are; far, far, far too much money for their ability and what they give to the club.’ This shows that spending ridiculous amounts of money on wages and transfer fees doesn’t always pay off. On the other hand there is Norwich City who are owned by British Businessman Alan Bowkett, supported by lifelong Norwich fans Delia Smith and Stephen Fry. They have recently announced that they have erased £23 million of debt. This means that they are free of external debt. This is a great example of how a club should be run financially. Carrow Road regularly sells out and because of these foundations there is a real passion for football at the club. The benefits of this sensible, patient style is that now they will be able to invest more money into their squad so that they will be able to ensure Premier League stability and compete in the top half of the table. In my opinion this is where football should be changed to ensure financial stability, therefore concentrating on improving their squad and youth setup.

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Promising England talent coming out of Southampton.

A “long ball” label currently underpins English football and this stereotype has been relevant for as long as I can remember. This is something that needs to be changed in order to compete with the best in the world. The successful clubs of recent years have implemented a fast passing style whilst in possession, and a fast pressing style off the ball. This is something that very few English clubs have tried. Take Southampton for example, they play a high intensity passing game combined with fast pressing. It is no fluke that they are in the top half of the Premier League and took on, and beat the supposed big clubs with their usual self-confidence at the start of the season. They have a squad of players who are far from world-beaters, in their squad of 25 they have 13 home-grown players – including promising England talents such as captain Adam Lallana and 19-year-old James Ward-Prowse. The mix of technical ability and passion between the players alongside the style that Mauricio Pochettino has brought to Southampton has made them into a great team to watch. Other clubs such as Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich are also playing this way and they lead the line in international football at this time. The club I support is Coventry City, it is no secret that we are a terribly ran club off the pitch hence the reason we play our ‘home’ games in Northampton and began the season under a transfer embargo on minus 10 points. On the pitch however we are playing brilliant football and are the in-form team in League One. We are now mid table and pushing for the play offs. Steven Pressley and his players have been a credit to the club recently, Pressley has installed a fast paced, passing style of football and other League One sides are struggling to handle the Sky Blues. Recently Leyton Orient, nicknamed the ‘Orient Express’ came to play Coventry having won 10 out of 10 fixtures sitting comfortably at the top of the league. The ‘Orient Express’ came to an abrupt stop with a 3-1 defeat at the hands off Pressley’s young team. This shows that this style of play isn’t all about the players you have but how you adapt them to play the way you want them to. The 40-year-old manager has moulded his young side magnificently. They do say it’s easier to teach young dog new tricks.

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Pressley of the mighty Sky Blues.

Another massive problem in modern-day football is the inconceivable salary of the professional players. How can someone possibly earn £200k a week in the current economic state? It’s ridiculous. With an increasing amount of footballers declaring themselves bankrupt, it’s not like you can say they all use their fortune wisely. There are some exceptions to this, take Didier Drogba for example, he sends money back to his home country to develop infrastructure and improve the quality of life of the people in the Ivory Coast but unfortunately this is not a common occurrence in modern-day football. If I had the authority to make big decisions in football I would bring in a wage cap to English football, each stage of the English football pyramid would have a different individual wage barrier. For example no player in the Premier League could earn over £80k a week, £15k in the Championship and £5k in League one etc. This would encourage players to work harder to earn the highest salary they can get and play in the top leagues. No 10-year-old boy who aspires to be a footballer when they grow up want to do it for the wages. They do it because they love the game like so many millions. It is disgraceful how greedy some professionals and their agents have become in recent years. Would Bobby Moore have refused to play for his club unless they offered him a new contract with a wage rise? No he would not.

This again brings me back to the point about Grass Roots football; all the money that clubs would save from the players’ salaries could be used to ensure financial stability and then to invest into the surrounding area at Grass Roots level. This would produce more English talent and would ultimately make English football a stronger force in the coming future. I am looking to gain my coaching badges in the near future, as football management has always been something I have been interested in from a young age. I looked to see where and when I could gain my Level One qualification and was astounded to see that it would cost me £110 as well as travelling at least 10 miles to get there. To me this isn’t enticing young people to want to coach football, if anything it’s putting them off, as a teenager there are a lot of other things £110 could be spent on. So what are the FA’s plans in order to attract young, eager coaches? What’s going to happen when the current coaches decide they’ve had enough and want to stop? Then will there be a sudden light bulb moment that they could reduce the prices of gaining the essential qualifications by subsidising the costs with the ridiculous incomes from television rights? This is something that needs to be acted upon immediately, as England’s footballing future will be over before it’s even started.

Is enough being done with regard to young coaches in England?

Is enough being done to encourage young football coaches in England?

Being a young football fan I have played football since the age of 9, I have played at Sunday league level my entire career. Sunday league football is very popular for both adults and children throughout England. I have played with very talented footballers who have never been given a look in at Professional clubs academies; I believe that if a player can stand out on a park pitch playing with friends, then they will stand out on the green carpets that the professional clubs play on with other talented players around them. More scouts should be sent to watch footballers at a young age so that good English talent does not get wasted. The quality of pitches, coaching and officials is crying out for improvement all over the country. Professional players are earning hundreds of thousands of pounds yet amateur football clubs are folding because they can’t afford to pay for essential equipment. To prevent things like this happening there should be mandatory rules for each professional club that means they need to invest a certain percentage of the clubs income into grass-roots football in that area. This would lead to a higher quality of pitches, better coaching and top-level equipment. This would be a long-term investment that would bring great rewards in the next generations of English football.

If I were a Football manager I would try to model my team on someone like Borussia Dortmund. With the ball, play a fast passing game that will pull defenders on the opposing team out of positions therefore creating space for the dynamic midfielders to exploit. A key thing in football that I think isn’t said enough is that the opposing side cannot score without the ball. Ball retention is key. The transition from attack to defence is also essential as when a team are piling players forward and applying a lot of pressure this is where they are most vulnerable, so to have fast players that can counter attack quickly and take the pressure of the defence are vital. Borrusia Dortmund is also a great example in terms of the relationship between fans and players and club and fans. This relationship is one that should be installed in every club, because after all it’s the fans that pay the players’ wages and makes sacrifices to watch their team play around the country.

As you can see, in my opinion English football needs big changes and big changes fast. Other nations have made big changes to their footballing structure and they have all benefited massively from it. Its England’s time now to start a new chapter in International football.

Thank you for taking your time to read this and hopefully I have got some points across that I think English football can benefit from.

By Paul Lawrence. (Edited by Ed Delaney)

Man City Quadruple – The Impossible Task.

Following Manchester City’s two supremely convincing domestic cup victories, over fellow Premier League outfit West Ham and Blackburn Rovers respectively, both Vincent Kompany and former Manchester United trainee Robbie Savage have come out suggesting winning the Premier League, F.A. Cup, Capital One Cup and elusive Champions League in one season is not beyond Manuel Pellegrini’s men. With Manchester City on the verge of their 100th goal this season from just 33 fixtures in all competitions there is no denying their attacking strength in the form of Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo, however whilst form continues to bring Man City up to speed with the best clubs in Europe, it raises the question… Is the Quadruple a possibility for any team?

Whilst the Manchester City captain has emerged as one of the most consistent and reliable centre backs in world football, placed between the England number one and African Footballer of the year, his view of the quadruple being ‘only a matter of time’ seems naive.

For a team still under a relative transition period following Roberto Mancini’s departure in the summer, the failure to win the F.A. Cup and defend their first top flight title since 1968 came as a set back for the ‘noisy neighbours’. Achievement in all competitions requires an incredible amount of fixtures that would demand a squad of such strength and depth that no club team in the world has. For a club that has lost to Cardiff, Aston Villa and Sunderland already this campaign, I simply do not see them having the consistency to compete for the most competitive league in the world as well as overcoming Europe’s finest such as Munich, Madrid and Barcelona.

Local rivals Manchester United performed the sensational ‘treble’ in 1999 with the ‘Class of 92’ as the driving force. But whilst the top three Ballon d’Or contenders play away from the Etihad, the ambitious quadruple really does seem a long way off.

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Jonny Be Good. (September 2011)

There’s a well-known film that states the world will end on the 21st December 2012… For a brief moment today I thought the world was ending; all set to implode on itself and soar through the sky as a burning fireball before turning into dust, leaving just one very well made New Zealand score board (possibly German-made), undamaged and floating around the universe for the rest of eternity, reading,

Argentina: 9 England: 3

But this is England at a World Cup… We were never going to make things easy for ourselves!

Something has to be wrong with the world when Jonny Wilkinson misses 5 penalties in a row?

Yes, there is no denying, that for a second, every English rugby fan experienced something they have never felt before while watching Jonny go through his usual routine before a kick… Doubt. We all felt it, some of you may even have heard the words ‘Toby and Flood’ whispered at the back of your mind.

But then you remember… you’re thinking about replacing the man who gave a nation its greatest sporting moment since 1966 with a Thomas Kuszczak look-a-like?

Although I’m only 15, I still remember England’s 2003 World cup campaign. Most vividly, that drop goal.  In my mind, no matter what, Jonny Wilkinson is the greatest rugby player ever… he certainly has given me the most memories.

Watching England’s first game of the 2011 RWC campaign today in Dunedin, it’s quite clear we are really going to need, Jonny, to be good.

English rugby’s answer to David Beckham will always be the greatest in my eyes, I’d say we can forgive him for a few missed kicks after all he has done with an England shirt on! The 10th September 2011 was a bad day at the office for Jonny, a small blip in what otherwise has been a sensational, memorable career… and long may it continue!

Wilko - 10.

Wilko – 10.