Ledson Tipped For Greater Things Following Europa Performance

Ryan Ledson is tipped as a future star for Everton and England (Image from Getty)In the end the result matter little with Everton having already secured their passage into the knockout rounds after three wins and two draws. With the pressure removed, manager Roberto Martinez decided to rest some of his first team players in preparation for Monday’s clash with Queens Park Rangers. It also gave him the opportunity to give some of the clubs most promising youngster’s valuable playing time. Into the starting lineup came right back Tyias Browning, left back Luke Garbutt and striker Conor McAleny whilst Kieran Dowell, Gethin Jones and Chris Long all made appearances from the substitutes bench. It said a lot about Martinez approach that Long at 19 years old, was the oldest squad player on the Everton bench. And it almost paid off with his young team restricting their Russian opponents Krasnodar to only a handful of chances with only one trickling through under reserve goalkeeper Joel Robles to hand them the victory. The fans however did not leave Goodison disappointed as they were shown a glimpse into the clubs future with the unveiling of the latest youngsters from their youth system production line. They all gave a good account of themselves but one other youngster in particular stood out above all of them.

Ledson commanded the Everton midfield against Krasnodar  (Image from PA)

Ledson commanded the Everton midfield against Krasnodar
(Image from PA)

Defensive midfielder Ryan Ledson is seen by the club as one of the brightest prospects to have ever emerged at the club. He took up position at the heart of the midfield alongside seasoned veteran Gareth Barry and demonstrated exactly why the club rates him so highly. Ledson controlled the game with a maturity well beyond his 17 years and looked confident on the ball throughout. His passing both short and long was exceptional with 91% of the 56 passes he made hitting their mark whilst his superb positioning at all times help Everton to retain its shape especially when under pressure from the five man Krasnodar midfield. Having been at Everton since the age of five, Ledson is very much at home at the club and is pushing hard to get into the first team as a regular squad member. Progress has been quicker than expected with Everton keen to secure the player for the long run rather than lose him to potential suitors like Manchester City and Tottenham who have been rumoured to be interested. It would appear though that Ledson has no intentions of playing for anyone else by signing his first professional contract with Everton in August. This was swiftly followed by a first team bench appearance against Southampton, and although he didn’t make it on to the pitch it was a signal of intent by Martinez that he sees Ledson very much in his plans. England are also keen to ensure that Ledson is part of their long term plans having already watched him excel at Under 17 level. Ledson played a significant role as captain as he led the England Under 17 national team to European Championship success last season. Now very much part of Gareth Southgate’s Under 21 squad, it won’t be long until he follows in Ross Barkley’s footsteps into Roy Hodgson’s full team.

Ledson signed his first pro deal in August (Image from Getty)

Ledson signed his first pro deal in August (Image from Getty)

Before that happens, Ledson knows that he must establish himself as a regular starter at Everton. His performance against Krasnodar will go a long way to helping this transition with Roberto Martinez praising the way that he played. This won’t be the last time that we see him pull the strings for Everton at the heart of their midfield.

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Overhaul Needed As QPR Prepare For Life In The Championship

QPR (iMAGE FROM GETTY)Tony Fernandes broke his season long silence this week and blasted his overpaid QPR stars in what is set to be the first move in overhauling the club. The Malaysian businessman, who bought a controlling stake in the club in August 2011, had vowed never to publically slam his players despite their poor form in order to maintain morale and keep the passion alive for the fight against relegation. But now that the fight is over and QPR’s fate has been sealed, the popular owner has pulled off his gloves and come out punching. His scathing attack critizied players in the squad who he felt had not given their all in every game and those who came to the club for the wrong reasons.

Fernandes backs his team and its bosses all the way  (Image from Getty)

Fernandes backs his team and its bosses all the way
(Image from Getty)

Fernandes is within his right to do so, after enduring a season to forget, watching week in week out a team that had enough quality throughout to easily stay in the Premiership but lacked the desire to do so. He has been fully transparent throughout his time as owner and has backed his managers both publically and financially without question. His handling of the Mark Hughes situation has to be admire as most owners would have dismissed the bumbling Welsh manager months before Fernandes did, but the businessman bought into his vision and gave him as much time as possible to execute against it. Only when the situation was getting beyond repair did Fernandes depart with Hughes and install Harry Redknapp in his place, but still has not publically slammed Hughes for putting QPR in the position they were in. Once again Fernandes has backed his manager in Redknapp by committing to him next season, despite the Englishman being unable to stop the rot. Harry has been highly critical of the team he inherited, blasting their lack of professionalism and greed. But now Fernandes and Redknapp must plan for next season in the Championship, which will see them come straight back up. As always BOTN is on hand to offer its advice to the chairman and head coach as they rebuild for the next campaign.

Keep hold of Harry

Fernandes and Redknapp have already discussed the coach staying on for next season and have agreed but nothing in football is definitive so above all else, Fernandes and QPR must keep hold of Harry and prevent his head from being turned by a better opportunity. Redknapp is faithful and loyal to the club and has expressed his desire to remain at Loftus Road but if a job comes up in the Premiership at a club like Everton for instance, you can count that Harry will be on the shortlist. The draw of England’s top league may prove too difficult to ignore as Harry knows that at 66 years old he probably won’t be managing for much longer. Redknapp has had a good managerial career and is a proven master of turning teams around (QPR were a sunk ship when he inherited them) so he will want to end his career on top in the best division in the league. A quick rebound with QPR will give him that but the Championship is considerably harder to get results in than the Premiership, with the teams more evenly balanced so promotion is not a foregone conclusion. Fernandes must keep Redknapp and back him 100% as switching managers even at the start of the season can prove costly. 

Much to Ponder - QPR must hold on to Harry  (Image from Reuters)

Much to Ponder – QPR must hold on to Harry
(Image from Reuters)

Trim the fat

The QPR squad is heavily bloated and overpaid, making it one of the biggest and most expensive to run squads in the Premiership. With over 42 players in the first team, all on over inflated wages, trimming the squad down to a manageable number is a must. Fernandes will know what that number looks like but it is likely to be a fifth of what they are currently paying out (premiership wages are historically five times larger than championship ones). Between Fernandes and Redknapp, they need to trim the squad down to a manageable 22 players, give or take a few. Cardiff by example won the league this year with a squad of 28 players and a handful of youth/reserves thrown in from time to time.

QPR’s drastic overall must start at the top with the biggest earners leaving first (Samba, Remy, Julio Cesar, Zamora) hopefully all commanding fees then followed by the players who are surplus to requirements, either for a fee or on a free transfer to get them off the books – Bosingwa, Wright Phillips, Jenas, Barton, Cisse. Finally Redknapp must make decisions on players who may want to stay and play for him but don’t fit into his long term vision for the club – Green, Ganero, Park Ji Sung, Taarabt, Ferdinand. They may be offered the chance to stay but must do so on heavily reduced wages and on Harry’s terms. Rob Green and Anton Ferdinand may opt to do so, but will likely insist on a clause in their contracts to allow them to leave after one season if promotion is not achieved. Once Redknapp is finished he should have trimmed his squad down to 28, with a few others deciding to leave on their own accord. 

First in, First Out - Samba could leave (Image from AP)

First in, First Out – Samba could leave
(Image from AP)

Keep a strong core group of players

With a now reduced squad and a wage bill that has been cut in half, Redknapp will focus on building a core around a select group of players. These individuals are at QPR to play for the club, not the money which a majority of Hughes signings ended up being. Players like Clint Hill, Shaun Derry, Alejandro Faurlin, Luke Young, Jamie Mackie, Nedum Onouha and Andy Johnson are likely to stay for various reasons, some through a love for the club and others as a sense of loyalty to the fans for getting QPR into this position in the first place. The last three on the list may be harder to hold on to, with Premiership clubs interested in all of them but if Harry can be persuasive then perhaps they will end up staying. But most will have to take a pay cut of some degree as the club looks to slash its costs across the board. With a core intact, Harry can add to this with fringe and youth players like Yun Suk-Young, Max Ehmer and Angelo Balanta as well as some select signings.

Max Ehmer may play a key role next season  (Image from Reuters)

Max Ehmer may play a key role next season
(Image from Reuters)

Buy wisely

Fernandes will make money available to Redknapp that is for sure but how much will depend on who can be sold, what savings can be made and what requirements he has. The Premiership will kick in some money as well in the form of the parachute payments but much of this will go towards paying off player contracts and general running of the club. Redknapp wants to sign players of good character in order to unite a dressing room that was split for most of this campaign due to the irregular levels of pay that some players were on compared to others. He is likely to go back to Tottenham to sign, either permanently or on loan Andros Townsend who spend the last six months at the club on loan and impressed Redknapp. In addition players like Blackburn trio Jordan Rhodes, Grant Hanley and Paul Robinson plus Leeds United’s Stephen Warnock and Ross McCormick could be on Redknapp’s wish list as they all possess the self drive, determination and commitment that he is looking for. Regardless of who he signs, Redknapp will be cautious to avoid a repeat of last season when average players were given star status and the wages to match, which ultimately led to the clubs downfall. It’s unlikely that the club or its fans would survive another fall.

Jordan Rhodes could fire QPR back into the Premiership  (Image from PA)

Jordan Rhodes could fire QPR back into the Premiership
(Image from PA)

Repay the Fans

Above all else, Fernandes needs to repay the fan. They remained loyal throughout the entire campaign and give their all even if the team on the pitch didn’t. It won’t have been easy to watch this supposed star studded lineup fail so miserably week in week out but the fans stuck through it and will come in their droves again next season as well. Fernandes has already made promises to heavily reduce the cost of tickets down by almost 35% next season. This should go some way to appease the fans but more needs to be done to reward them for their loyalty. They need stability at their club, investment in infrastructure and the promise of a quick return to the Premiership, where they feel they truly belong. Fernandes has been a man of the people so far and will likely look to offer more to the fans in order to keep them on side. But if performances on the park don’t improve before next season, even reducing ticketing costs won’t stop the fans from expressing their anger.

QPR fans blame Hughes for what has happened  (Image from Getty)

QPR fans blame Hughes for what has happened
(Image from Getty)

Fernandes, Redknapp and QPR have a huge summer ahead of them as they look to overhaul the first team in preparation for next season’s grueling Championship campaign. If Fernandes and Redknapp can work well together to quickly move on players and secure the ones they need before pre season begins, then QPR will undoubtedly be seen as a challenger for the title. Any delays however could result in a stuttering start to the year and lead to disaster once again for QPR.

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Remy Ready To Rescue Newcastle’s Season

Loïc Rémy  (Image from Goolhaye.com)Newcastle United appear to have finally gotten their man, adding to their growing french legion at St James Park. Rémy is due in Newcastle today for a medical ahead of signing for the club, following his £8 million move from Marseille. The French international striker, who joins compatriots Johann Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Mathieu Debuchy at Newcastle, has been tracked by Alan Pardew’s scouting team, led by Graham Carr for almost a year and have fought of the challenge of fellow Premiership club, Queens Park Rangers to land the 17 time capped forward. Marseille president Jean-Claude Dassier confirmed the club had received an acceptable bid from Newcastle at the weekend and allowed the player’s agent to start negotiations, with the player likely to join after undergoing medical checks.

Remy's medical report will be examined carefully (Image of Rafael Van Der Vaart from TheOffside.com)

Remy’s medical report will be examined carefully (Image of Rafael Van Der Vaart from TheOffside.com)

The medical may not be as straight forward as many suspect. Rémy has a heart defect that was identified during his medical when signing for Marseille that had previously been missed when the player moved from Lyon to Nice. The defect was flagged by Marseille who investigated further and sought cardiac specialists advice before clearing the player to join the club. Newcastle will undoubtably want to look into this further with their own people, well aware that they would want to protect themselves from a possible horror situation of the player collapsing or having to retire because of the defect. If they do go ahead, it won’t be the first time they have taken a risk with a player after signing Demba Ba from West Ham two summers ago. The Senegalese striker, who has just left the club to join Chelsea for £7.5 million, has a troublesome right knee that has blighted him during his career. Whilst at Hoffenheim, Stoke attempted to buy the powerful striker, agreeing a fee with the german club, only for the player to fail his medical due to his weak knee. Both West Ham and Newcastle both identified the weakness as well but pushed the signing through as they deemed the risk to be minimal. Rémy’s problem is more concerning but Newcastle are again likely to weight up the risks versus the advantages of signing the talented striker.

Rémy is a natural replacement for Ba (Image from AP)

Rémy is a natural replacement for Ba
(Image from AP)

As a French internationalist, Rémy knows how to score which will delight the Newcastle faithful. Despite a poor start to this season with Marseille, where Rémy has scored only one strike in fourteen outings, the player has a history of goals to his name. With an average of 11 goals per season since the player started his career and four goals in 17 appearances for France, Rémy is a natural goalscorer and should act as a good strike partner for Papiss Cissé. Rémy is a tall but quick striker, who is as comfortable on the wing as he is as a central striker, but Pardew will likely learn from his mistakes with Ba and limit his new signings time on the flanks as much as possible. Former Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton, currently on loan at Marseille from QPR, has gone public on Twitter with his approval of the deal:

‘Good luck to Loïc in Newcastle. Don’t  worry I’ve told him what to expect.  Great guy. Perfect club for him”

French International Loïc Rémy  (Image from Reuters)

French International Loïc Rémy
(Image from Reuters)

If the player does pass his medical and signs for Newcastle in the next couple of days, it will come as a huge relief to Pardew who is desperate to bring in some new faces to turn around Newcastle’s season. With right back Debuchy onboard and Rémy expected to add options to his front line, Pardew will turn his attention to other areas of tha park, most notably central defence. A weak area at present, Newcastle have been rocked by the news that captain ­Fabricio Coloccini wants to leave during this January transfer window and return to his native Argentina for personal reasons. It is believed that ­Coloccini’s wife has become unsettled in the north of England and has left with the couple’s son to go back to Argentina and ­Fabricio needs to move to rejoin them. It’s unlikely that any club there will be any club in Argentina able to afford his wages or the transfer fee so Pardew will have a dilemma on his hands as he tries to hold on to his star player. Successful or not, he will still need to bring in additional centre backs with James Tomkins arrival from West Ham likely. But further additions will be needed, such as left back cover and an attacking midfielder to add options to the team sitting in 17th place in the league. If they can shore up their defence and Rémy can hit the ground running with goals, Newcastle will surely climb the league and challenge again for a place in Europe next season.

Toronto Unable To Lock Down Full Nelsen

Ryan Nelsen takes over at Toronto (Image from Frank Gunn/AP)Toronto’s abysmal season last year and the gruelling post season interview between the media and head coach Paul Mariner, eventually led to his dismissal. Toronto need a fresh approach after more than a few disappointing seasons so have turned to QPR centre back Ryan Nelsen as the man to lead this. The 35-year-old New Zealand captain has had a distinguished career which has seen him take the field for Christchurch United, DC United, Blackburn, Tottenham and now Queens Park Rangers. But his new job, as Head coach of Toronto FC will end his playing days and begin what is sure to be a long career in football management. Nelsen, capped 49 times for his country, has a wealth of experience that he will undoubtedly bring to the role, once he actually starts. The problem is that Nelsen is under contract with QPR until this summer with the club keen for him to see out the term but with the new MLS season starting in March and pre season a month before, Toronto may be managerless for the first four months of the season. A farce is not quite what people are calling it, but its close.

New Boss for Nelsen - Payne (Image from Torontofc.ca)

New Boss for Nelsen – Payne (Image from Torontofc.ca)

Nelsen is tired. He has played in England’s top division for the last seven years and is now running on empty. With knees and ankles like glass, as Nelsoe himself describes it, it would appear that the time has come for the defender to hang up his boots. However he is still performing, week in, week out and is the main reason why QPR still have a chance of surviving a relegation dog fight. Manager Harry Redknapp knows this, hence why his reluctance to release the player to Toronto in this January transfer window. With little or no cash available to spend by Harry, assuming because Mark Hughes spent more than his share of it in the summer, finding a capable replacement for Nelsen may be tricky. Israeli Tal Ben Haim has arrived on a short-term contract to provide cover so could fill the slot left by Nelsen. Redknapp knows Ben Haim well from his time as Portsmouth boss so will be comfortable turning to the 30-year-old but he is not even half the leader than Nelsen is, who generals the QPR back line as if his life depended on it.

Nelsen gives his all for QPR (Image from Getty)

Nelsen gives his all for QPR
(Image from Getty)

For QPR it’s a sad state of affairs that your best defender is a soon to be retired 35-year-old. Nothing against Nelsen or older players as such but looking at the money Hughes invested, especially in his back line, you have to wonder what has gone wrong. Along with Nelsen, Hughes brought in Portuguese right back Jose Bosingwa (Free) , centre back Stephane Mbia (£4.5million) and left back Fabio (loan deal), as well as two experienced goalkeepers in England’s Rob Green and Brazil’s Julio Cesar.  All are internationally capped players  (granted Fabio only has two caps and is still 22) and most arrived for a considerable fee but yet are unable to form an effective back line between them or the players who were already at QPR – Nedum Onuoha, Anton Ferdinand, Clint Hill, Armand Traoré and Luke Young. For Nelsen, who this season should be enjoying one of his last full seasons as a professional, it’s a sad state of affairs that Redknapp has no option but to use him in every game, despite his tiring legs.

New Zealand celebrate scoring against Italy at the World Cup (Image from Zimbo.com)

New Zealand celebrate scoring against Italy at the World Cup (Image from Zimbo.com)

For the New Zealand legend, who captain his side to their first ever FIFA World Cup appearance in 2010, the next chapter of his career looks to be happening back across the pond in the MLS, where his career began. He is due to meet with Redknapp and QPR owner Tony Fernandes to plead for his release at the end of the January transfer window, but this is unlikely to happen unless QPR can find a replacement. West Brom’s Swedish defender Jonas Olsson is a likely option whilst Tottenham defenders William Gallas and Michael Dawson are rumoured to be targets as well, mainly as the duo are known to Redknapp and played for him at Spurs. Gallas will be the more likely of the two to join as either no fee or a minimal fee would be required for the experienced 35-year-old French defender. Dawson would be the preferred option but Tottenham will be looking for a fee around £6million before they let the player leave White Hart Lane. Regardless of who arrives, Redknapp will want to reach a conclusion to the Nelsen decision soon as he holds too much respect for the player to drag it on and delay the inevitable.

Possible Options? Dawson and Gallas (Image from AP)

Possible Options? Dawson and Gallas (Image from AP)

For Toronto FC new club President Kevin Payne (who worked with Nelsen at DC United) the waiting game is now on, with a slim chance that his new head coach will arrive before pre season begins in late January. There is more chance of Nelson being in place by the season opener against Vancouver Whitecaps on March 2nd but there is also a chance that he won’t take up the job until Toronto’s home game against Montreal Impact on July 3rd, some 16 games into the 34 game season.  Payne will be praying that QPR backs down and releases the player so he can move to Canada and start the next phase of his life. Payne will also know that hiring Nelsen is a gamble, regardless of the start date as he has no coaching licences and has not managed until now. If Nelsen can turn around Toronto’s fortunes and lead them to a reasonable;e finish in the Eastern conference and potentially a CONCAF Champions League place then his lack of paperwork or experience will be forgotten. If he can’t and Toronto replicate the run that they showed this year, it may not be only Nelson that is looking for pastures new once again.