Enjoying Manchester City’s treatment of Carlos Tevez

Manchester City in their affluent form can sometimes be slightly unpalatable; such is the nature of envy. However, I think it’s time for a sincere and hearty round of applause for the way in which the club have handled Carlos Tevez.

Ironically, the commodity that City possess that has turned us all green-eyed is the very same one that has enabled them to strike a blow against player-power. Minor and subsequently insignificant as it will soon be, I’ve still enjoyed it.

As has been obvious for some time now, the players rule the game. Don’t like your club – sulk and get a new one. Don’t like your contract – tell the press about it. Don’t feel like playing – don’t bother. Don’t like your wife/girlfriend – physically assault her.

Carlos Tevez is guilty of the majority of the last paragraph, and it’s warmed my heart to see City flex their financial muscle to spite him. It would have been all to easy for Sheikh Mansour to write the net loss off on Tevez, and allow to move to the first club willing and naive enough to take him – and it would have been forgivable, the Argentine is the proverbial dressing-room cancer after all.

“Absolutely not Carlos, you can train with the u10s until someone matches our valuation of you – and if they don’t, well that’s really more your problem than ours isn’t it?”

I’ve loved every second of it – because there’s nothing that Tevez or Kia Joorabchian has been able to do to force City’s hand.

“Oh he’s on enormous wages is he? So be it, we can afford to just keep paying them”

Ultimately, as we all know, as and when the ugliest man in all of South America does move to another club, it will all begin again – and buona fortuna to our Italian friends with that.

Still, small victories…

Chelsea vs Sunderland: Preview

Saturday 3pm, Stamford Bridge

Chelsea 1.36 Draw 4.75 Sunderland 8.50

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All of a sudden the table looks an awful lot better if you’re a Sunderland fan. Martin O’Neil’s arrival at the club seems to have created an enthusiasm that had long since evaporated at Sunderland, and that’s well-documented by the four wins out of seven achieved during O’Neil’s short tenure. In fact, almost 60% of Sunderland’s points this season have come under the Irishman’s watch, despite him only being appointed in December.

For Chelsea, John Terry and Daniel Sturridge(f/g) are fit to start, although Branislav Ivanovic, John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien remain sidelined – Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou are with the Ivory Coast at the ACN.

For the visitors, Nicklas Bendtner(f/g), Connor Wickham(f/g) and Phil Bardsley are all nearing fitness, although Wes Brown, Jack Colback, and Titus Bramble are out. Long-term absentee Fraizer Campbell is available.

Chelsea’s internal issues have been covered to death, and we all know that they’re struggling for consistency. Fernando Torres(f/g) clearly doesn’t offer the same kind of threat posed by Didier Drogba, but I still think through weight of pressure that this is a home win. Sunderland’s resurgence has been remarkable, but also characterised by not being particularly direct in the attacking third. To beat Chelsea at home, you need pace up front, which is not really something they possess at the moment. The visitors will be neat and tidy on the ball, but it’s hard to see them making that much of an impression.

Chelsea to labour, but to ultimately take the points. 2-0.

Newcastle vs QPR: Preview

Sunday 1.20pm, St James’ Park

Newcastle 1.72 Draw 3.50 QPR 5.00

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A strange time for both clubs. QPR for obvious reasons; a new manager and new faces imminent. For Newcastle though, the kick of the Africa Cup of Nations is about to be felt, as Chiek Tiote and Demba Ba are both absent.

Danny Guthrie and Leon Best(f/g) will likely replace the notable absentees for the home side, and their ability to offer the same kind of contribution will obviously be key to how Newcastle cope with this January period.

Mark Hughes’ first team selection will tell us a lot about who has a future at Loftus Road and who doesn’t. It’s always dangerous to second-guess the impact of a new manager on a club, but expect – this weekend at least – the team to retain a Warnock-like feel to it. Bids have already been lodged for Alex and Chris Samba, which suggests that the future may not be bright for Danny Gabbidon – the Welshman is also expected to bolster his front-line at some point this month, so whichever forwards don’t start on Sunday probably need to be placing calls with their agents sharpish.

The loss of Demba Ba and Tiote is an obvious, yet pertinent, point. I don’t think Newcastle have enough substance without them. Certainly, if you take Ba out of the equation, you’re removing 15 of the 29 total goals that they’ve scored this season. That’s a concern, because while Leon Best is a decent player, he doesn’t offer anything like the presence of his Senegalese teammate. Danny Guthrie? A blue-collared player for sure, but with a Championship feel to him – if Yohan Cabaye(f/g) is to continue to prosper, Guthrie needs to play above himself in anchoring that midfield.

I think QPR will get something on Sunday. They’re obviously not a huge attacking threat, but they’ll be competitive – and they are marginally better away from Loftus Road. I don’t expect Bothroyd and Helguson to get much change out of Coloccini(f/g) and Williamson, but then neither do I think that Newcastle have enough edge up the other end to do any damage.

Rangers to be competitive enough for a stalemate – 0-0.

Gary Cahill’s hesitation over prospective Chelsea contract is extraordinary

Some of you will remember a situation a few years ago between Liverpool and Lee Bowyer. Back when he was still good, Bowyer was targeted by the Merseyside club and was on the verge of a move to Anfield. Unfortunately, the player dallied so long over the personal terms offered to him, that Liverpool eventually retracted their offer – the logic being that if his decision was predicated so heavily on financials, then he obviously didn’t want to play for the club enough.

The same series of events looks to be repeating itself with Gary Cahill and Chelsea.

This is a 26-year-old player approaching his prime, who’s being given an opportunity to play his football – and enhance his international credentials – at one of the biggest clubs on the continent. Frankly, whatever Chelsea were offering should have been enough for the player to snap their hand off.

Since when did the difference between £80,000 and £100,000 override ambition? This is Chelsea and this is Gary Cahill, the player needs to be more aware of how little bargaining power he has in this situation – if the desire to play for the club isn’t there, then Chelsea should treat this as a red flag. There are plenty more centre-halves of Cahill’s ability elsewhere.

Chelsea to beat Sunderland on Saturday – 1.36 with Paddy Power. Sign-up and claim your £20 welcome bonus.

Struggling to understand the release clause in Demba Ba’s Newcastle contract

Who thought this was a good idea?

Reports are mixed over how much it would actually take to activate the release clause in Demba Ba’s contract, but by all accounts it seems to be below £10m.

I don’t know what to think of Newcastle’s ownership anymore. One week shrewd, one week naive – but always with the vivid background of self-interest.

A quick question for Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias. On the basis that top quality goalscorers are at a premium in this country, wouldn’t allowing such a low release clause in Ba’s contract make you incredibly vulnerable. If Ba was a success, which he has been in the North East, was it not inevitable that clubs would start sniffing around the focal point of the team in January?

In a world where a club is willing to pay £35m for Andy Carroll, sub-£10m transfers represent a drop in the ocean. It’s unlikely – given his ACN involvement – that Ba will be anywhere else but St James’ Park on February 1st, but it’s not wholly unrealistic, and if he did depart it would spectacularly derail Newcastle’s season.

I don’t want to always be cynical about the Cockney Mafia, but you suspect that they had one eye on Net Player Sale Revenue when they signed this contract – allow a player a release clause if you must, but at least afford yourself a semblance of security with its value.

Newcastle to beat QPR on Sunday – 1.75 with Paddy Power. Sign-up today for your £20 welcome bonus.

Rumoured QPR target Henrique

A bit speculative this one, but there’s been more than one report linking 20-year-old Sao Paolo starlet with a move to Queens Park Rangers.

Jason Burt had the story in The Telegraph yesterday, and a couple of tabloids picked up on it today. The Brazilian would certainly be very expensive, but would tick the box labelled ‘marquee signing’ that Mark Hughes is looking for.

It’s one of those that’s so random that it might actually have some foundation – who knows…

QPR to beat Newcastle – 5.00 with Paddy Power. Sign-up today for your £20 welcome bonus.

Premier League Moments: Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler ‘does’ the lines at Anfield

April 1999.

Regardless of the sinister aspect to it, this is still probably one of the most original goal celebrations the Premier League has seen. Yes, yes, it’s about drugs so it’s ‘bad’, and ‘irresponsible’ and whatever else, but it was also ‘funny’.

If you’ve read Robbie Fowler’s book – which is actually more entertaining than you’d think – you’ll know quite how much junkie-themed abuse Fowler took from the Everton fans over the years. What’s more, you’ll know quite how fiercely anti-drugs he is.

With the chants of ‘smackhead’ ringing in his ears, it followed naturally that on converting a penalty at Anfield in the Merseyside derby of the spring of 1999, that Fowler would get to his knees in front of the away fans and ‘snort’ the white goal-line. Obviously.

In amongst the goal-scoring exploits, Fowler’s career was spiced with incidents like this – and actually, rather than making him dislikeable, it made him more human and easy to relate to. One of the last ‘local boys made good’ that the game in this country saw – even if he did occasionally come with an ‘explicit content’ sticker across his nose.

“Robbie, the FA’s on the phone…”

Tottenham vs Everton: Preview

Wednesday 7.45pm, White Hart Lane

Tottenham 1.57 Draw 3.75 Everton 6.50

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A huge game for Spurs, as victory would see them draw level with Manchester United in second place – this is the game in hand for both sides that was produced by the civil unrest in August.

For the home side, Ledley King and William Gallas are ruled out, but Michael Dawson makes a very timely return to action to partner Younes Kaboul in the centre of defence. Scott Parker is doubtful with the knee problem that saw him miss the victory over WBA, and Sandro is out after tearing a calf in the same game.

Everton’s injury list is even longer; Phil Jagielka is definitely out, while Tim Cahill, Leon Osman, Tony Hibbert, Jack Rodwell, and Seamus Coleman are all question marks.

Looking at those respective injury lists, and the squads in place to cover for them, it’s hard to look beyond Spurs. David Moyes will likely arrive in North London with the intention of shutting-up shop and taking a point, but without the influential Jagielka that looks a tall order. Tony Hibbert’s absence would be a concern too, as the right-back has been excellent so far this season – and you don’t want to patching up your right side when you’re about to face Gareth Bale.

Further bad news for the visitors comes in the form of Aaron Lennon’s(f/g) return to action. Lennon’s style of wing play may be overshadowed by his Welsh teammate, but his presence restores the natural balance to the Tottenham team – with Lennon and Bale playing, the opposition doesn’t really have the option for double-up and subdue either.

Marouane Fellaini(f/g) is to key to Everton tonight, as he’ll be asked by Moyes to subdue Luka Modric. The Belgian, on form, is one of the most effective midfield anchors in the league, and his ability to combine his physical presence with a semblance of discipline is key to the visitors stemming the tide.

White Hart Lane, both wingers playing, Rafael Van der Vaart(f/g) restored to his usual free-role; Tottenham win here I think.

3-1 Spurs.

Concerns should exist over Mark Hughes having a big budget at QPR

When anybody in football talks about ‘ambition’, I think we all know by now that they’re really talking about ‘money’. So when Mark Hughes left Fulham citing a lack of ambition on the banks of the Thames, he was really referring to the lack of transfer funds made available to him.

It’s not hard to see why the Welshman has been enticed to Loftus Road then, with all the bank notes spilling out of Tony Fernandes’ pockets.

The problem is though, that Hughes’ track record with money isn’t particularly good. Some managers operate best in frugal conditions, and conversely seem to get over-excited when they have too much cash at their disposal.

That’s Hughes in a nutshell, and Tony Fernandes would be well-advised to not to loosen the purse strings too much at QPR. Realistically, I’m sure Hughes has already been given a guarantee over the funds that will be available, but still.

If you look back at his managerial career, two things become obvious; he has an outstanding eye for a bargain, but he overpays for players if given a chance. I know that’s a contradiction, but look at his track record at Blackburn (modest finances) versus his spending at Manchester City (blank cheque)

Chris Samba – £400,000
Ryan Nelsen – Free
David Bentley – Sub-£1m
Roque Santa Cruz – £3.5m
Benni McCarthy – £2m

Clearly, all five of those deals represented outstanding value – remember also that Blackburn raked in £35m for the combined sales of Bentley and Santa Cruz. Ironically of course, the latter was bought by Hughes at Manchester City for a vastly-inflated £18M – in addition to, amongst others:

Carlos Tevez – £32m
Jo – £18m
Wayne Bridge – £10m
Tal Ben-Haim – £5m
Joleon Lescott – £22m
Kolo Toure – £16m
Emmanuel Adebayor – £25m
Robinho – £32m
Craig Bellamy – £14m

It’s not exactly a glowing reference.

In no way do I think that he’s a bad manager, more that he hasn’t really earned the right to be trusted with a big budget – given that the one time he did have access to one, he essentially failed.

If Fernandes is strong with him in West London then I’m sure it will all go well, he just needs to be sure not to leave the cheque book lying around for too long.

Man City’s Kompany has appeal rejected by ever more vague FA

So Vincent Kompany is going to serve a four-game ban for his red card on Sunday, as the FA have declined Manchester City’s appeal. From The FA’s website:

An Independent Regulatory Commission has today dismissed a claim of wrongful dismissal from Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany following his red card for Serious Foul Play in The FA Cup Third Round tie between Manchester City v Manchester United on 8 January 2012.

Kompany will serve a four-match suspension with immediate effect. The suspension consists of a statutory three-match suspension for Serious Foul Play plus one additional game given this is Kompany’s second dismissal of the season.

Is that it? Few things are as frustrating as the FA’s disciplinary procedures.

It’s quite staggering that, given how the game has advanced and the amount of interest in it, the FA don’t see a need for greater transparency here. I happen to think that Kompany’s challenge wasn’t worthy of dismissal, but regardless, I’d be interested to know how the Independent Regulatory Commission arrived at this decision.

What was it? Was it the two-footed nature of the challenge? The overly-aggressive nature of the tackle? Sport never benefits from ‘grey areas’, so why are the FA so reluctant to clarify their position here. Currently, the Premier League’s disciplinary system is very much in the mould of a ‘because we said so’ style of playground officiating.

Why not add in some details here from the referee, because not only would the FA be justifying their decision, but they’d also be setting a precedent for what can and cannot be appealed in the future.

Is it too cynical to suggest that their reason for not doing this is because it doesn’t really fit in with their ethos of ‘making it up as they go along’?

While we’re at it, is there any comment coming out of Wembley about the standard of Chris Foy’s performance on Sunday. Whether you’re a Manchester United or City fan, or whether you were just a neutral at the weekend, I think everybody is unanimous in their agreement that the referee’s contribution was unacceptable.

But yet another aspect of the game that’s veiled from the supporters – is it any wonder that there’s some much aggravation about how the game is governed. It’s a very amateur approach.