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As a Swansea City supporter, it’s been a frustrating experience watching the team play this season. It’s not necessarily the results, or lack thereof. It’s more that I know they can play better. I’m sure many of t...
As a Swansea City supporter, it’s been a frustrating experience watching the team play this season. It’s not necessarily the results, or lack thereof. It’s more that I know they can play better. I’m sure many of the Swansea footballers feel the same way, especially Michu who has cut a frustrated figure at times. On paper, the Swans are currently in a relatively comfortable zone. They sit in fifteenth position in the Premier League, and are leading their Europa League group with maximum points from two matches played thus far. But going into the international break, there are warning signs that have appeared that need to be addressed. Otherwise, the club could start slipping down the table. First, the positives. Swansea were fortunate to hold on to all of their key players this summer, which is a huge boost for the club considering the reported interest in players such as Michu and Ashley Williams. On top of that, Swansea manager Michael Laudrup was able to strengthen the depth of his side by acquiring striker Alvaro Vazquez (on loan from Getafe), central defender Jordi Amat (from Espanyol), defensive midfielder Jose Canas (from Real Betis), attacking midfielder Jonjo Shelvey (from Liverpool), striker Wilfried Bony (from Vitesse Arnhem) and midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo (from Real Betis). Plus, there was the return from injury of Neil Taylor. Swansea now have more depth and fresh legs in every position on the pitch, enough to ensure that there are plenty of opportunities to rotate the squad throughout the season without fear of players being too tired. However, so far, the results have been largely underwhelming… in the Premier League, that is. So far this season, Swansea have saved their best performances, and most spirited displays, in the Europa League — convincingly beating Malmo 4-0 (on aggregate), St Gallen (1-0 at home), Petrolul Ploiesti (6-3 on aggregate) and, most impressively of all, Valencia (3-0 away). In those victories, it’s been the Swansea of old, where the performances have come together almost perfectly. While Swansea’s European exploits have largely gone unnoticed, partly because few people bother to watch or follow Europa League games especially if it doesn’t involve his or her own team, the club’s Premier League performances this season have been disappointing. The average pundit would throw out stereotypical explanations why there’s been a drop-off in Premier League form — players are too tired, lack of depth, the players are having difficulty adjusting to Thursday and Sunday matches, etcetera. But all of those reasons are just excuses and lazy journalism. Instead, I argue that Swansea’s disappointing performances in the Premier League thus far and why the side is playing better in the Europa League are due to two main reasons: 1. Priorities. While Swansea City Chairman Huw Jenkins has said that Swansea’s priority is the Premier League, I don’t get the same sense from Michael Laudrup that he agrees, even though he too has said that the Premier League is the priority. Actions speak louder than words, and it really feels that based on team selection and how his players have been reacting in games, that the manager and players seem more ‘up for it’ in Europa League games than the Premier League. Recently, Laudrup put the Europa League situation into context where he eloquently explained that it’s unlikely that Swansea City will win another League Cup or FA Cup in its near future, and it’s also unlikely that Swansea will finish in top five to qualify for the UEFA Europa League again or the UEFA Champions League, if they finished in the top four. So this Europa League conquest by the Swans is their best — and perhaps only — opportunity to make a statement on the European continent, and to try to go as far as the club can. While the Europa League may be a joke league to some supporters and club managers (and pla
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• Everton midfielder returns after Giovanni Trapattoni sacking• 'I have got something to prove,' says 25-year-oldDarron Gibson says that he has to prove himself all over again at international level after ending his self-imposed Republic...
• Everton midfielder returns after Giovanni Trapattoni sacking• 'I have got something to prove,' says 25-year-oldDarron Gibson says that he has to prove himself all over again at international level after ending his self-imposed Republic of Ireland exile in the wake of Giovanni Trapattoni's sacking last month.The Everton midfielder, who is in the caretaker-manager Noel King's squad for Friday's World Cup qualifier against Germany in Cologne, fell out with Trapattoni after the Euro 2012 finals, when he was furious to have been an unused substitute in each of Ireland's three group phase games. Trapattoni said that he wanted to include Gibson from the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign but the 25-year-old could no longer face playing under him.King, who will also take charge of Ireland's final tie against Kazakhstan in Dublin next Tuesday, has recalled Gibson, along with a clutch of others who fell from favour under Trapattoni – Andy Reid, Kevin Doyle and Anthony Stokes. With Ireland's World Cup hopes effectively over, the tie against Germany has assumed importance for the nation's longer-term planning for Euro 2016."I have got something to prove," Gibson said, as he hoped to add to his 19 caps. "I thought I should have played back then [at the Euros] and hopefully I will get my chance against Germany to show what I can do. It does feel a little bit like starting all over again, not with the players … they were fine when I came back in, but with the fans."Gibson was particularly upset at how Trapattoni tended to prefer Leeds United's Paul Green to him, even at the time of the Euros when Green had been released by his former club, Derby County. Gibson said in an interview last month that "there was obviously something wrong."He added: "If you've got a player playing for a Premier League team that finishes in the top six and you have someone – and I don't want to show any disrespect to Paul Green – but he had been released from his club. He got on the pitch [at the Euros] and I didn't."Gibson said on Wednesday that he and Green, who is in King's squad, got on well. "I didn't say anything bad about him," he said. "I just said that I thought I should have been playing ahead of him."The job of identifying Trapattoni's permanent successor has been given to the Football Association of Ireland's high performance director, Ruud Dokter, and the former Ireland midfielder Ray Houghton. Dokter said that it could take some time."There has been a lot of interest and, yes, we have talked to some people," Dokter said. "That's actually all I want to say about it because it's an ongoing process."The Republic of Ireland captain, Robbie Keane, missed training on Wednesday morning with an ankle injury but he is expected to be fit to face Germany. Bruce Arena, Keane's manager at Los Angeles Galaxy, had requested that the striker be released after Germany, thereby sparing him against Kazakhstan but King has refused."Noel King has responded to Bruce Arena to inform him that he has decided not to release Robbie Keane," the FAI said in a statement. "He trusts that he understands the position, having been an international manager himself."EvertonRepublic of IrelandWorld Cup 2014 qualifiersGermanyDavid Hytnertheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
about 1 hour ago
The Bulgarian coach who was stripped of his shirt by angry fans quits the club a day after being appointed.
The Bulgarian coach who was stripped of his shirt by angry fans quits the club a day after being appointed.
about 1 hour ago
The early signs for the FA chairman's bid to encourage top clubs to use more homegrown talent do not augur well for its successThe early signs for Greg Dyke's Football Association commission into the declining number of English footballe...
The early signs for the FA chairman's bid to encourage top clubs to use more homegrown talent do not augur well for its successThe early signs for Greg Dyke's Football Association commission into the declining number of English footballers playing for Premier League teams are sadly, in a nutshell, not encouraging. The FA's new chairman, the tiggerish former journalist, was straining at his own resolve to say little of note at the Leaders in Football conference, and in a generally emollient speech, did acknowledge he is disappointed that the Premier League declined to be part of the commission."I do not think they are right," he said. "I think it's a shame, but I can understand why."Pressed about what he meant, Dyke answered: "The Premier League's view is that it will be a negotiation. It is inevitable that we will be putting things to them, and they'd rather have that discussion separate from having somebody on there."He had clearly believed that the Premier League's new chairman, the investment banker Anthony Fry, whom Dyke described as "an old mate," would accept the FA invitation to engage with commitment to the process. Instead, this commission is from the outset not what Dyke intended it to be: it will hold its inquiry into what he describes as "the biggest problem the England team faces," without the top clubs which are responsible for it.The commission, whose members Dyke named at the conference, including three football men not representing any organisation, Glenn Hoddle, Dario Gradi and Danny Mills, will come up with ideas, then put them to the Premier League, which will treat them as part of "a negotiation."With respect to Dyke, who is in the early weeks of this latest top job on a hefty CV, the FA has not come out well from any of its negotiations with the Premier League during the top clubs' rise to overwhelming dominance in the past 20 or so years. In his last speech Dyke recalled his role as an ITV executive in promising television support to the First Division clubs' original breakaway from the Football League to form the Premier League in 1992. Back then, he said, he and others involved believed the FA should have obtained a lot more in return from the top clubs, for the backing which the governing body mistakenly gave to the breakaway.The outcome set the conditions, as Dyke acknowledged last time, for the Premier League's great success and financial dominance, and its downsides; the dislocation from the wider English game and rampant commercialisation.So now the task of achieving better for the FA, and opening the Premier League to greater opportunity for young English players, falls to Mills, Hoddle, Gradi, and the chairmen of the Football League, the Professional Footballers' Association and the League Managers Association. Alongside them will be Dyke and Roger Burden, a time-served member of the FA council never known for rocking the Premier League's yacht.For an inquiry intended to examine rigorously difficult issues, such as whether foreign ownership of the big clubs makes them less committed to promoting English talent, questions will be asked about the rigour of Dyke's appointments.Gradi has an unimpeachable track record of youth development at Crewe Alexandra; Hoddle, Dyke said, is "particularly interested in the subject," and Mills has written a paper on it which he sent to the FA. A generation of English child footballers, and the mums and dads currently driving them to Premier League academy training three times a week, will hope these men do have what it takes, as Dyke put it, to "open pathways."But when, without the participation of the Premier League on an inquiry into their selection of players, Dyke's FA commission "puts things" to the Premier League, it will treat it as a "negotiation."The lines of the top clubs' stance are already drawn, quite clearly. They do not accept foreign ownership is an issue, nor do they agree they provide too few opportunities for English players by signing too many
about 1 hour ago
During his playing career, Steve Bruce was a centre back who played for five English clubs: Gillingham, Norwich City, Manchester United, Birmingham City and Sheffield United. While at Norwich City he became known for his energetic, “ramp...
During his playing career, Steve Bruce was a centre back who played for five English clubs: Gillingham, Norwich City, Manchester United, Birmingham City and Sheffield United. While at Norwich City he became known for his energetic, “rampaging” play. Bruce wasn’t a player who was blessed with natural ability, but he made up for it with his bravery, and by staying calm under pressure. While at Norwich City, Bruce began to attract interest from larger clubs before eventually signing for Manchester United. While playing for United, his readiness to take knocks from opposing players and play through injuries made him the “heart” of their defense. After missing several weeks due to a hernia operation, he returned to the 1991-92 team on short notice and led United to their first-ever League Cup. Red Devils supporters will always remember Bruce for the two late goals he scored against Sheffield Wednesday in 1992-1993 which helped United win the league for the first time in twenty-six years. He was also captain of the Manchester United side which won the “double-double” (league title and FA Cup) during the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons. Bruce was respected throughout his career for being able to galvanize a team. He was the ultimate team player who understood his role and limitations. He was able to lead because it was in his character to put the team before himself. After his playing career, Bruce embarked on his life as a football manager. He has managed seven clubs prior to his time at Hull City. His managerial advocates regard him as resilient, with an ability to seize a club’s potential and lead them to, or keep them in, the Premier League. His résumé features two prior top flight promotions with Birmingham City (2001-02 and 2006-07). The last time Hull City was in the Premier League they avoided relegation during their first season. Phil Brown, the manager at the time, was able to keep the club in the top flight for two years before they fell back into the Championship. The Tigers spent the past three years in the lower division before earning promotion on the final day of the 2012-13 regular season (under the leadership of Steve Bruce). For those who witnessed the opening minutes of Hull City’s 2013-14 season at Stamford Bridge, the early images weren’t good. It would be safe to say that more than a few Tiger supporters were already worried for the club’s immediate future in the Premier League. Hull City manager Steve Bruce was certainly not hiding his club, he wasn’t “parking the bus”, as he sent Sone Aluko and Yannick Sagbo racing forward in support of Danny Graham. But Chelsea dominated early possession and blitzed the newly-promoted team with two goals in the opening 25 minutes. During that time, Hull City could barely get a touch of the ball as the Blues literally had the Tigers chasing shadows. The team looked disoriented and overwhelmed by the speed, power, and precision of its top flight competitors. Instead of folding up shop and following the script of most freshly promoted clubs, something suddenly clicked for the club. Almost as soon as the second goal had gone past Hull City keeper Allan McGregor, it seemed as if the Hull City players realized they belonged in the Premier League. They suddenly regained their grit and determination. For the remaining sixty-five minutes of the match, the Tigers took the fight to Chelsea. They outmuscled the Blues and created the better scoring chances before eventually ending up on the wrong side of a 2-0 defeat. During Bruce’s post-match interview, he paid a great deal of respect to the Chelsea players while reassuring Hull City supporters of the task before the club: “We had a rampant Chelsea who simply in the first-half we weren’t good enough against. There’s no shame in that, we understand that, that’s why they play for Chelsea and they’re top, top players.” He went on to say, “Our season will be defined against the teams who are
about 2 hours ago
Exclusive book extracts: John Wark on hostility in training, playing with Pele, and Sly Stallone knows nothing about football.
Exclusive book extracts: John Wark on hostility in training, playing with Pele, and Sly Stallone knows nothing about football.
about 2 hours ago
It is too soon to start thinking about winning the Premier League, says Arsenal’s record signing Mesut Ozil. Arsene Wenger’s side are top of the league going into the current international break, and Ozil has been asked about...
It is too soon to start thinking about winning the Premier League, says Arsenal’s record signing Mesut Ozil. Arsene Wenger’s side are top of the league going into the current international break, and Ozil has been asked about the Gunners’ title credentials while on duty with Germany. Ozil told the German Football Association website: “I […]
about 2 hours ago
• Ivaylo Petev leaves after hostile reaction to his appointment• Fans invaded press conference and made him remove shirtLevski Sofia's new manager Ivaylo Petev has resigned from the club, a day after being undressed and forced out of his...
• Ivaylo Petev leaves after hostile reaction to his appointment• Fans invaded press conference and made him remove shirtLevski Sofia's new manager Ivaylo Petev has resigned from the club, a day after being undressed and forced out of his first press conference by hostile Levski fans.The 38-year-old was expected to hold his first training session as coach after saying he was keen to continue his work at the club despite the fans' anger, but changed his mind after discussing the situation with his family.Petev, considered to be one of the best young coaches in Bulgaria after leading Ludogorets to back-to-back league titles, told a news conference: "What happened yesterday is extremely ugly and I would not like to work in such an environment."Fans burst in shortly after the start of Petev's presentation to the media on Tuesday and made him take off the club's shirt before showing him the door, because they believe he is a supporter of rivals CSKA Sofia.Petev was quoted by local media this year as saying he was a CSKA fan, adding that this had never stopped him being uncompromising against his favourite team on the field. But Petev said: "I did not say this. I have no sympathy for another Sofia club."Petev was due to become Levski's fourth manager this year after the former players Ilian Iliev and Nikolay Mitov, and the Serbian Slavisa Jokanovic who was sacked on Tuesday."I considered many things and I also discussed it with my family," said Petev. "I wanted to work at Levski but I didn't expect that such a thing could happen in the 21st century. This is something abnormal. I'm not a criminal, I'm not a thief, but yesterday I felt exactly like that."The owner Todor Batkov, who labelled the fans' behaviour as a "disgrace … It's a stain on our club, this is unprecedented", named the former Levski defender Antoni Zdravkov as Petev's successor.Zdravkov, who is the head of Levski's junior academy, will make his debut in the much-anticipated "eternal derby" against CSKA, on 19 October.Levski are sixth in the standings with 19 points, nine behind the leaders, Ludogorets.Levski SofiaBulgariatheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
about 2 hours ago
Napoli supporters unfurl banner in solidarity with Milan fans sanctioned for calling the southern club 'cholera-sufferers'For your average Italian football fan, the regional insults flung across the terraces are considered a humourous of...
Napoli supporters unfurl banner in solidarity with Milan fans sanctioned for calling the southern club 'cholera-sufferers'For your average Italian football fan, the regional insults flung across the terraces are considered a humourous offshoot of Italy's vibrant local cultures and dialects. So when tough new rules against discriminatory chants were used to ban Milan fans from their stadium for a game after they hurled insults at fans of southern club Napoli, it wasn't long before fans across Serie A united to fight for the right to be insulted.The row started this summer after Italy implemented new Uefa rules on stadium bans for racist chanting, long a problem in Italy, where Juventus fans have abused the black player Mario Balotelli and Lazio fans have raised antisemitic banners.However, Italian authorities have also applied Uefa's stadium ban rule to what it calls "territorial discrimination". "We have had financial sanctions for territorial discrimination since the 1990s," said a spokeswoman for the Italian football association (FIGC), "but this summer we made it punishable with a stadium ban to align it with the new Uefa rules, since each country can decide on the various types of discrimination the Uefa rules should cover."Milan fans were banned from their stadium for a game after insulting their counterparts from Napoli, who have long been victims of chants about crime, poverty and cholera outbreaks in their city.Suprisingly, thick-skinned Neapolitans mounted a defence of the Milanisti this weekend at their San Paolo stadium. A banner was unfurled in the Curva B section – one of the ends of the ground behind the goalposts that traditionally houses diehard fans or 'ultras' – that said: "[We are] Naples cholera-sufferers. Now close our curva!". Fans also reeled off a string of anti-Napoli chants.The protest echoed chants in the UK at the weekend of "We'll sing what we want", and "Yid army" by fans of Tottenham Hotspur – which traditionally has a large Jewish fanbase – in defiance of police warnings not to use the word "Yid" in chants.Milan fans thanked their Napoli rivals for their support, stating on their website: "They have shown how false and ridiculous these accusations are," adding: "Welcome to the country where teasing and making fun [of opponents] motivate sanctions that limit freedom."Amid signs of a partial climbdown by FIGC, fans of Internazionale got in on the act, appealing to fans of Italian football teams to belt out insulting chants about their rivals "in order to have a Sunday in which all stadiums are closed".As clubs faced up to the possibility of a season of empty stadiums, chairmen wrote to FIGC on Tuesday pleading for a rethink. "We are passing from a firm condemnation of racism – a phenomenon we consider unacceptable," wrote the Milan fans on their website, "to the impossibility of being irreverent, acid and even rude!"Italian fans' humour: a selection of favourite chants• Napoli fans waved a banner declaring "Juliet is a tart" during a game against Verona, the famous setting for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.• "Only prosciutto, you've only got prosciutto" is a popular chant directed at fans of Parma, where the cured ham is made• "You are uglier than a Multipla," directed at Juventus fans. This is a reference to the notoriously odd-looking car made by Fiat, the company associated with the Agnelli family that controls Juventus.ItalyEuropeSerie AEuropean club footballMilanNapoliTom Kingtontheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
about 2 hours ago
Video: Ivaylo Petev endures indignity of having his tracksuit top forcibly removed by supporters furious with his appointment.
Video: Ivaylo Petev endures indignity of having his tracksuit top forcibly removed by supporters furious with his appointment.
about 2 hours ago