One on One with: Terry Phelan

There is a lot of talk about Liverpool’s Trent Alexander Arnold being the definition of the modern day fullback. The media seems intent in pointing out that Arnold and his counterpart on the left hand side of Liverpool’s defence, Andy Robertson are revolutionizing football by becoming modern day wingbacks. It seems to them that this role is new, that the Liverpool duo are doing something remarkable, something never seen before but in truth it’s been done for years.

Indeed the Premier League has witness some fantastic examples of attacking fullbacks. Players like Tony Dorigo, Warren Barton, Stuart Pearce, Lee Dixon, Graeme Le Saux , Ashley Cole and our latest One On One guest Terry Phelan were all attacking full backs who could run all day, provide that extra dimension to the attack but also defend. When we chatted recently about the overuse of the modern day terminology, Phelan laughed and said “i was doing that 30 years ago”. And he was.

Those who caught Phelan in action either for one of his many clubs (Leeds, Wimbledon, Man City, Everton, Chelsea etc) or for his country (Republic of Ireland) remember him most for those lung busting runs up the touchline to deliver a cross or racing back to thwart an opposition attack. He was the modern day full back that Arnold and Robertson are replicating today. Currently Phelan is taking everything that he learned as a player and using it to enhance and move the game forward in his new home in India. He has a big job on his hands currently but as he revealed to us in a fantastic interview his thoughts are always back in Ireland and would one day like to work there developing their next generation. We also talked about life in the Crazy gang, what it was like playing for Ruud Gullit and that win for Ireland over Italy at the 1994 World Cup. Enjoy!

Exclusive: One on One Interview with Terry Phelan.

You can follow Terry on Instagram.

Interview contributions by Rob Latham. Follow him on Twitter.

The Ups And Downs Of Modern Yorkshire Football

Yorkshire football has been through its fair share of hard times for the last half a century. However, Leeds United’s return to the Premier League for the first time in 16 years, last season’s surprise package Sheffield United and successes further down the footballing ladder offer glimpses of hope for the county’s football fans.

Despite being the UK’s largest county, teams from Yorkshire have won 11 league titles in the 121 years of English football. That’s nearly half the 21 titles won by London clubs and well short of the 61 league championships won by rivals from the northwest regions of Lancashire and Liverpool. Furthermore, the county has only produced one league title in the last 50 years and Leeds United are the only Yorkshire side to have been champions of England since 1930.

Leeds United 1992 title winning side (Image from Tumblr)

Leeds United 1992 title winning side (Image from Tumblr)

That said, the county is not without its claims to fame. Huddersfield Town became the first team ever to win three consecutive English titles between 1924 and 1926, an achievement that has only been matched four times by Arsenal (1933 to 1935), Liverpool (1982 to 1984) and Manchester United (1999 to 2001 and 2007 to 2009). While Sheffield Wednesday are the only club ever to have won the league title with different names, having won the first three of their four titles as The Wednesday.

Yorkshire’s Premier League woes

Moving into the modern era, hopes were high with the establishment of the Premier League in 1992. Leeds were reigning champions having just won the last First Division and they were one of four Yorkshire sides in the inaugural Premier League, along with Middlesbrough, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday. However, Leeds only avoided relegation by two points and Middlesbrough did get relegated, which was a sign of things to come for Yorkshire sides in the Premier League.

Sheffield United were relegated in the second season of the Premier League, returned for one season in 2006/7 before being promoted again last year. Sheffield Wednesday were relegated in 2000 and are still yet to return, while Middlesbrough enjoyed a top-flight stay between 1998 and 2009 with one season back in 2016/17. Other Yorkshire sides have flirted with the big time, including Barnsley in 1997/98 and Huddersfield in 2018/19. Bradford City had two seasons between 1999 and 2001 and Hull City were in the Premier League for five seasons from 2008 to 2019, then 2013 to 2015 and finally 2016/17.

Hull during their Premier League days (Image from Tumblr)

Hull during their Premier League days (Image from Tumblr)

But only Leeds have really had Premier League success to shout about, finishing as high as third in 2000, then fourth and fifth in the following two campaigns. But things quickly fell apart as their finances spiralled out of control and the club was relegated in 2004.

Signs of hope for Yorkshire football

It may seem like a doom and gloom situation for Yorkshire’s football scene, but there are certainly signs of things being on the up. Sheffield United really shook things up in their first season back in the Premier League for 13 seasons. They secured wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, had the fourth-best defence in the league, and even threatened to break into the European qualification places before finishing the campaign in ninth place. And they’ll be joined next season by local rivals Leeds, who won The Championship by 10 points from West Bromwich Albion.

Both sides will be hopeful of strong campaigns in 2020/21, with Sheffield United looking to strengthen and build on last season’s success. While Leeds will be hopeful that manager Marcelo Bielsa will work wonders to make them competitive on their return to the top.

Leeds-united

Leeds United have won promotion to the Premier League where they will join Sheffield United (Image from Tumblr)

However, it’s not all about the Premier League. Rotherham United just got promoted to the Championship at the first time of asking. Harrogate Town finished second in the National League and will compete in the playoff final for a chance to reach the Football League for the first time in their history on Sunday (2 August). A league below them, York City look to be on the up as they were top of the National League North only for non-league football to be declared null and void for the season.

Elsewhere, Doncaster Rovers may consider themselves unlucky as they finished six points shy of the League One playoffs with a game in hand and 12 remaining. Likewise, Bradford City can take positives from finishing four points off the League Two playoffs with nine games remaining.

Bradford City defender Ben Richards-Everton

Bradford City defender Ben Richards-Everton (Image from BCFC website)

Despite these positives, fans of other Yorkshire sides have had their fair share of woes. Hull City suffered a painful relegation from the Championship, finishing bottom of the league just three years after dropping out of the Premier League. Barnsley, Huddersfield and Middlesbrough only narrowly avoided joining them in League One, and the financial situation at Sheffield Wednesday has seen them embroiled in legal issues with the EFL.

Yorkshire football has had plenty of highs down the years but the lows have been all too frequent in the last few decades. A 12th league title won by a Yorkshire side may well be many years away but there are certainly signs of hope for the county’s football fans up and down the footballing pyramid.

Post By Rob Latham (@robilaz)

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Raising Awareness Of The Silent Killer Affecting Football

 

On the morning of November 10th 2009, Hannover 96 goalkeeper Robert Enke kissed his wife goodbye and said he was off to training. Two years later, Wales’s manager Gary Speed said farewell to his colleagues at the BBC after filming Football Focus, saying he would see them next week. Unfortunately it would be the last time that anyone would see these men alive again as shortly after their subsequent departures, they took their own lives. Their deaths, along with the attempted suicide of referee Babak Rafati a week before Speed, in a hotel bathroom just shortly before he refereed a German league match highlighted that depression in football is very much a problem. The pressures of the modern game is affecting all of its participants with some unable to cope, forcing them to look for an escape.

Babak Rafati tried to take his own life due to depression (Image from Getty)

Babak Rafati tried to take his own life due to depression
(Image from Getty)

Enke’s death shocked German football as it came as a surprise to many, with few signs that the player was in trouble. However underneath his calm professional façade lay a man who had been battling depression for nearly six years. The death of his daughter Lara in 2006 due to a severe heart defect, three years into his depression only heightened his sense of despair and despite seeking treatment, Robert decided on that cold morning in 2009 to step in front of a train and end his pain. Speed’s death was also a shock given how highly regarded he was in the game. After a glittering career with Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United, Speed had now turned himself into an accomplished manager and was in the process of revitalizing the Welsh national team when he died. Former teammate Alan Shearer and BBC presenter Dan Walker had spent the day with him at the BBC’s Manchester studio watching his former club Newcastle play against Manchester United and commented that Speed appeared to be in high spirits. But in truth Speed was suffering and later that night he would hang himself in his garage, only to be found the next morning by his wife.

Leeds paid tribute to their former player Gary Speed (Image from PA)

Leeds paid tribute to their former player Gary Speed
(Image from PA)

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects an estimated 350 million people per year globally across all age groups and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Depression is hard to spot as it often disguises itself amongst the normal lows of life. However consistent feelings of detachment, disillusion and despair can indicate a larger problem. Self diagnosis does happen however fewer than half of people (or in poorer regions it can be less than 10%) who recognize that they may suffer from depression seek help. Many factors prevent treatment from happening such as cost, accessibility of help and the social stigma of admitting you have a problem. Even talking to a love one can be hard with few caring to admit to what they perceive as a weakness. For families and friends, spotting depression in others can be extremely difficult given the varied levels that the disorder has. Early warning signs are increased irritability, lack of energy or appetite to do anything, sleepless nights or sleeping too much and general disengagement from society. Unlike some other disorders, depression can be treated with a range of psychotherapies and if needed antidepressant medications.

Depression affects 350 million people worldwide (Image from Getty)

Depression affects 350 million people worldwide
(Image from Getty)

Since Robert Enke’s death, his wife Teresa has worked hard to raise awareness about the condition and destroy the social stigma attached to it in an effort to encourage others who suffer from this disorder to seek help. She set up the Robert Enke foundation in his honour and is working closely with his former club Hannover 96 and the German FA to offer confidential support options to anyone else in the game who may be suffering in silence. Pressure is part of all professional sports but for footballers who are always in the public eye for better or worse, the pressure can be too much to cope with. The awareness of the disorder brought on by the untimely deaths of Enke and Speed has increased dramatically and is helping others with their fight. Some things are changing with depression no longer a taboo subject in clubs with players encouraged to talk to the clubs medical staff, coaches or a teammate if they are find themselves spiraling out of control. But it is a long road ahead with more needed from the games governing bodies to help promote further awareness and support in order to prevent another tragedy like this happening again.

For further information about depression, please see the World Health Organization page here: http://www.who.int/topics/depression/en/

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Swindon Books Final Place in Ten Goal Play Off Thriller

Swindon progress to Wembley after epic game (Image from Getty)With a place in the League One play off final at stake, Swindon Town entertained Sheffield United at the City Ground in the second league of their semi final clash. Swindon held a 2-1 advantage going into the match with manager Mark Cooper knowing that a draw would be enough for the Robins to confirm their place at the Wembley showcase. Sheffield United, who finished eight points behind Swindon in 5th place in the League knew that they would have to attack the game and score at least twice to win (there is no away goal rule in the playoffs). With the match balancing on a knife edge, the crowd made its way to their seats expecting a nervous clash between two evenly balanced sides. To their surprise what followed in the next ninety minutes was one of the most dramatic high scoring playoff matches of all time. As the referee blew his full time whistle, few could believe what they had just seen – a ten goal thriller that was high paced and full of action from the 1st minute to the last.

The game was on a knife edge heading into the second leg  (Image from Sky Sports

The game was on a knife edge heading into the second leg
(Image from Sky Sports

It was Swindon who came charging out of the blocks first using their five man midfield as a battering ram against Sheffield’s bewildered back line. The pressure paid off with Swindon taking the lead within four minutes. Some clever play down the right hand side resulted in Nathan Byrne whipping the ball into the box only for Craig Alcock to head it clear from inside his six yard box. Unfortunately for Alcock his header fell to the right boot of Ben Gladwin who rifled the ball into the net from 18 yards. The 22 year old midfielder, brought in two seasons ago from Hayes & Yeading in the Conference league has been in superb form this season and he added to his tally with his second goal of the game only six minutes later.  With Sheffield failing to clear their lines, Nathan Byrne capitalized by chasing down what looked to be a lost ball before crossing it across the face of the goal for the easiest tap in for Gladwin. Sheffield United were in disarray so when Swindon added a third on 18 minutes, the game looked all but over. Again it was that man Byrne on the right hand side causing the problems with another delightful cross into the box which the Sheffield defensive failed to clear properly once again. Picking up the loose ball, striker Michael Smith turned his marker before rifling his shot past Mark Howard in the United goal.

Nigel Cloughs side needed a miracle to turn this around. Now trailing 5-1 on aggregate, Sheffield needed a quick response if they were to stay in the game and they got it pretty much from the restart thanks to some good link up play down the right with two of the six Scottish players (Flynn and McNulty) in the Sheffield United starting lineup combining to set up the goal.  McNulty’s defense splitting pass was met by Jamie Murphy whose weak effort was bundled into the net thanks  to a deflection off Swindon defender Nathan Thompson. Sheffield were now on the attack and added a second just before the break with Robert Harris setting up Chris Basham to head home with a superb diving header. Both sides decide against making changes at the break but it would appear as though the half time team talks were the same; go out and kill this game off. The second half started with the same energy and drive as the first had ended. Sheffield with the bit between their teeth were pushing hard for an equalizer when the ball got turned over and caught them out of position. A long kick by Swindon goalkeeper Wesley Foderingham put Sheffield under extreme pressure with their defensive frailties showing again. First Smith was pulled over by Alcock as the pair chased the bouncing before Jermaine Hylton was bundled over in the box by Howard. Smith dusted himself off to covert the resulting penalty and put Swindon 4-2 ahead. Sheffield heads did not drop however and when left back Harris, who had been a constant threat with his crossing abilities picked up the ball and whipped in a beautifully curled cross towards substitute Steve Davies, there was only one outcome. His header gave Sheffield hope with 25 minutes left to play.

The superb Nathan Byrne battles with Ryan Flynn for the ball  (Image from AP)

The superb Nathan Byrne battles with Ryan Flynn for the ball
(Image from AP)

That hope however was eventually dashed as substitute Jonathan Obika sealed Swindon’s passage to the final with a delightful move. Breaking out of defence Swindon drove the ball up field with Australian Matt Luongo leading the charge. Sheffield, who had thrown everyone forward in hopes of getting the goals they needed were caught short once again at the back so when Luongo threaded a pass to Obika, the former Tottenham youth player only had Alcock and the keeper to beat. Bringing the ball back inside to beat Alcock, he coolly slotted past Howard sending the Swindon fans into hysteria. Sheffield needed three goals to send the game into extra time and they almost managed it, grabbing two late goals thanks to a Matt Done close range finish and a stunning solo effort by Che Adams but in the end they simply ran out of time. Swindon now travels to Wembley on the 24th May to face Preston N.E. with the winner earning a place in the Championship next season. For Sheffield it is another play off heartbreak making it their eighth successive playoff defeat and consigning them to yet another season in League One. However Nigel Clough’s men can be proud of the way that they rallied in the game after going behind and never gave up. That attitude and approach next season could end their Championship hiatus once and for all.

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Giant Slaying In FA Cup as Bradford and Middlesbourgh Progress

Bradford City shocked Chelsea by coming back from 2-1 down to win (Image from Getty)Humbling, embarrassing, shocking – all words used to describe the FA Cup exits of the Premierships’ two top clubs Chelsea and Manchester City over the weekend to lower league opponents. Despite leading 2-1 at half time, Chelsea folded in the second half eventually losing 4-2 to an impressive Bradford City.  Jose Mourinho gave his team the silent treatment following their disastrous second half performance and rightly so. The current Premiership leaders have been in great form to date but failed to show up in the second half with League One side Bradford taking advantage. Three goals in fifteen thrilling minutes won the game with former Chelsea’s youth player Filipe Morais starting the rout. Further goals from Scottish midfielder Andy Halliday and Mark Yates sealed the win for Phil Parkinson’s side and continues their journey in the cup.  Chelsea did rotate their squad in preparation for the match but the quality was still apparent and should have been enough to dispatch Bradford. But in the end, Bradford wanted it more and were rewarded for their efforts with the win.

Similarly not at the races, Manchester City crashed out of the cup thanks to two superb goals from Middlesbourgh. It’s debatable whether City even cared about this competition given that they only arrived back from Abu Dhabi the day before.  Having spent the week in the Arab state, City flew back on Friday arriving late that night which is hardly ideal given that they had the option to return the day before. City lined up with a strong enough team but most of their players still looked like they were on the beach enjoying the Middle East sunshine. Middlesboro, who are flying high in the Championship under the tutelage of Aitor Karanka looked weary of their jetlagged opponents at the start but did managed to hold off the Premiership Champions until the break.  Several great save from Thomas Mejias and some solid defending prevented City from breaking the duck early on in the match but soon Middelsbourgh rallied sensing that City were there for the taking. In the second half, Middlesbourgh were transformed and on the attack from the first kick of the ball. It was clear that they wanted it more and were duly rewarded with a goal courtesy of Chelsea loanee Patrick Bamford on the 53rd minute. After some messy play in the centre of the park with City failing to clear its lines the ball fell to Albert Adomah who was clear through on goal only to be challenged woefully by City stopper Wily Caballero. Failing to clear the danger the ball ricocheted off of the Middlesbourgh midfielder and towards the goal. The race was now on between Bamford and Kompany to see who could get to the loose ball.  Despite having half a yard on Bamford, Kompany struggled to get back and watched as Bamford knocked the ball in.

Once the first goal went in, Middlesbourgh looked the more likely to add further misery to City especially when Lee Tomlin spun round Kompany and curled a shot past Caballero with the outside of his right foot. However the post came to City’s rescue, keeping the Premiership side in the running. In a rare attack, Frank Lampard almost drew his side level with a superb curling effort that bounced back off of the far post, much to the relief of Mejias in goal. That near miss spurred Middlesbourgh on who eventually made the win certain with a well worked second goal from substitute Kike.

Goal scorers Bamford and Kike celebrate  (Image from Getty)

Goal scorers Bamford and Kike celebrate
(Image from Getty)

Both Bradford and Middlesbourgh now go into the next round in what is becoming one of the most open FA Cups in recent years. They are joined by fellow lower league sides Preston, Rochdale, Sheffield United, Blackburn, Bolton, Derby, Fulham and Reading with Cambridge United also in with a shout if they can dispatch Manchester United in their Fourth round replay. The magic of the cup is very much alive, at least for another round.

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Sheffield United Delay Decision On Evans As Protests Increase

Ched Evan was released from prison last month (Image from AFP)In a controversial move, Sheffield United have invited convicted rapist  and former striker Ched Evans to come back and train with them following his release from prison. Evans was convicted of raping a 19 year old girl in a Holiday Inn hotel room in May 2011 and served two and a half years of a five year sentence before being released last month. The former Wales and Manchester City player insists he is innocent and is desperate to return to the game after what he said was a very painful and harsh lesson. Despite public opinion being mixed, United has offered Evans a route back into football, although the club still insists that no decision has been made about whether they will resign him.  Citing the opinions of the Players Football Association who suggest that Evans has served his time so should be allowed to resume his life as a footballer, United’s actions appear to be in direct opposition of many associated with the club who are shocked by these latest developments.

Evans during his Sheffield United days before his conviction  (Image from Getty)

Evans during his Sheffield United days before his conviction
(Image from Getty)

This move has spurred anger amongst some fans with over 155,000 signing a petition against allowing Evans to return to the club. And in the last week Sky TV host Charlie Webster has quit her post as patron for the club in protest stating on the BBC Newsnight program that the decision to let a convicted rapist represent the club sends the wrong message to its younger fans. As a women’s right activist who herself was sexually assaulted in her teenager years, Webster has blasted the club and the player calling for them both to rethink this move. Her point is that as a player at the club, Evans is viewed as a role model for younger fans who are still learning how to respect and treat women. By allowing the player to return to his career at the club would send a message that what he did was acceptable which potentially sets a dangerous precedent. Webster informed the club of her decision to quit and has stated that she felt strongly that she had to act and give a voice to victims of sexual abuse.

Charlie Webster has quit her post as patron of the club in protest  (Image from Getty)

Charlie Webster has quit her post as patron of the club in protest
(Image from Getty)

Evans would not the first player to come back to the game after spending time behind bars. Joey Barton and Marlon King both made successful comebacks after serving their time for assault whilst Jermaine Pennant spent a period in jail for drink driving whilst excluded. Even Lee Hughes has managed to rebuild his life and career after being found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving. But all of the players mentioned above have one thing in common – they are all or at least have come out as remorseful for what they had done. Evans however has so far showed little remorse nor has not apologized to his victim, continuing to plead that he was wrongly convicted and that the sex was consensual. Whether he is telling the truth or not is to be debated but he was still convicted of a crime in a court of law. His lack of apparent remorse or reluctance to ask for forgiveness in any regard appears to be one of the key issues troubling many onlookers to this story.

Joey Barton walks free after serving time for assault  (Image from Getty)

Joey Barton walks free after serving time for assault
(Image from Getty)

There is a popular belief among many that football has created a false sense of entitlement in its players and that they can do no wrong. Awash with money and with boosted egos from the praise received from fans and the media alike, these footballers are turning into celebrities in their own right who believe that they should be treated differently than everyone else but this is not the case. They are still ordinary members of the working community and in such need to adhere to the laws of the land that they reside in. There should be no special treatments for them nor exceptions but in some cases this is not the case. Evans found out the hard way that his actions are accountable and must now stand up and recognize this as well. The argument over whether a convicted rapist should be allowed to return to his former place of work is not for us to determine nor is it our place on this blog to hand down a moral sentence to all in this situation.

Nick Clegg has warned Sheffield United about letting Evans return  (Image from PA)

Nick Clegg has warned Sheffield United about letting Evans return
(Image from PA)

But in this case, Sheffield United has the chance to send a strong message about what it believes around this issue rather than what it is choosing to do which is sitting on the fence. Either they publically stand up and back Evans by signing the player or distance themselves from him all together. They cannot bring him back on a temporary basis in the hope that the media attention and public outcry will simply fade over time. Now under increased pressure to act following revelations that key sponsors are about to walk away from the club if Evans returns, Sheffield United will need to make their decision quickly to avoid further problems. Regardless of what United chose to do, the question of whether Evans should play for any team is still up for debate but it is clear that until he shows real remorse for his actions three years ago, the voices that are objecting to Evans continuing his football career will likely continue to get louder and louder making a return to football in any capacity unrealistic.

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Last Chance Saloon For Wenger As He Targets Cup Success

Last Chance Saloon for Wenger (Image from Getty)A wry smile crept over Arsenal Wenger’s face as he sat back and watched Wigan dispatch favourites Manchester City in the quarter finals of the FA Cup. He knew that this might be his best shot at delivering what the fans want – a first trophy in nine years. It’s hard to believe it has been so long but it has. When Arsenal last one a trophy, Manchester City were fighting for survival, not titles and Wigan had just secured their passage to the Premiership for the first time in their 73 year history. Now with only Premiership side Hull and Championships sides Sheffield United and Wigan left to compete against, this may be the best chance Arsenal have had in a very long time. City’s victors Wigan are up first in a semi final showdown that is a must win for Wenger if he is to keep his job longer than this summer.

Up Next - Wigan  (Image from Getty)

Up Next – Wigan
(Image from Getty)

Not that it’s a cut and dry as it seems. They face tough opposition in Wigan, who are looking to join a select list of clubs who have successfully defended the FA Cup. Shock winners last year, courtesy of a solo Ben Watson strike against Manchester City, Wigan have gone through a lot of changes since that fateful day in May last year. But what hasn’t changed is the belief and determination that they can win the cup again and beat anyone put in front of them on the way there. So far Wigan, now under the management of Uwe Rosler, has put MK Dons, Crystal Palace, Cardiff and City to the sword as they continue their run to Wembley.  Facing Arsenal, who have struggled lately with form, after a blistering start to the new season, will not worry Wigan as it’s the Premiership side that have it all to lose. In the past Wenger has given little care to the FA Cup, preferring to use either second string or emerging youngsters in these games. But he can ill afford to squander an opportunity to return to Wembley, especially given recent history.

Martins goal still haunts Wenger  (Image from PA)

Martins goal still haunts Wenger
(Image from PA)

Arsenal and Arsenal have been in this position before and have let a potential cup win slip through their fingers. Memories of a cup final defeat at the hands of Birmingham City still lay heavily on the minds of the Gunners faithful. That last minute drop of concentration that allowed Obefemi Martins to capitalize still must etch away at Wenger on a daily basis. Now could be his chance at redemption, but he must keep his players focused more on the job in hand than what level the opposition are playing at.  One thing that might work in Wenger’s favour is the fixture list for the two teams between now and the 12th April, when the two sides are scheduled to meet. Having been knocked out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich mid week, Arsenal face difficult games against Spurs, Chelsea, City, Everton and Swansea in the league before playing Wigan. The Championships side however have eight games to play in the league before they take on Arsenal including three must win games at the start of April which will likely stretch Rosler’s side to its fullest. Cup success for Wigan would be a bonus but gaining promotion back to the Premiership is their main goal. Sitting in 7th place, with two games in hand, Rosler’s team is pushing hard for a playoff berth. With 13 games left in the standard season including crunch games against Reading, Leicester and QPR, the clash with Arsenal may not be top of mind. But try telling that to owner Dave Whelan who still basks in the glory of last year’s cup success. Promotion back to the Premiership and lifting the FA Cup again is his dream, one that Arsene Wenger must do all he can to shatter.

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Weir Steps Into The Management Fold At Sheffield United

New Job? David Weir (Image from Getty)It was only a matter of time before former Everton, Rangers and Scotland legend David Weir took his first steps into management. Having had a distinguished career that saw him play at the highest level all the way up to his 39th birthday, Weir hung up his boots only a few years ago and rejoined Everton as Reserve team coach. During that time, he impressed the clubs hierarchy with his professionalism and strict approach to coaching, so much so that following the departure of David Moyes to Manchester United; Weir was one of the front runners interviewed to replace him. That job eventually went to former Wigan boss, Roberto Martinez but made Weir ponder his future and think more about taking that step into management.

Weir played for Rangers until he was 39  (Image from Getty)

Weir played for Rangers until he was 39
(Image from Getty)

When the vacancy at Sheffield United became an distinct possibility, Weir  knew that this may be his first opportunity to take the hot seat. The League One club has been in a slide for the past decade and see Weir as the man to turn things around. The Blades had been without a manager for eight weeks after sacking Danny Wilson who failed to get the club out of the division and have interviewed several candidates such as Stuart McCall, Gareth Southgate and Karl Robinson, but the trio all turned down the job. Weir by no regards was the last chance saloon for the club with other potential candidates mentioned, but they decided that they didn’t need to continue their search and instead gave Weir the nod by handed him a three year deal.

Weir learned from the best in Smith  (Image from AFP)

Weir learned from the best in Smith
(Image from AFP)

His appointment won’t come as a surprise to many who have tipped Weir as a future manager for some time now. Having learned from two of the best managers in the game; Walter Smith and David Moyes, Weir has soaked up their knowledge like a sponge. The 43 year old former captain possesses a deep knowledge of the game from tactics to player motivation tools to fitness and nutrition, which helped him to prolong his career at Rangers. Sheffield United will be hoping he can use all of his acquired skills to turn around the troubled club, kick them into shape and send them on a path towards promotion back to the Championship.

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Zimbabwe Mourns The Death Of A Legend and Prays For Another.

Adam Ndlovu RIPThe death of former international striker Adam Ndlovu at the weekend has rocked Zimbabwean football to its core. Driving back from watching a local game with his younger brother Peter, best known  for his time in England with Coventry, Adam was killed with a female passenger when their car struck a tree following a tire blow out. Adam, who played alongside his brother in the national team and scored 34 goals during that time, was killed instantly whilst his brother was left in a critical condition with multiple injuries including a broken leg, head injuries, internal bleeding and broken ribs. The former international striker who still holds the records for the most caps and goals collected by a  Zimbabwe player, he is loved in his homeland as much as he is loved across the midlands of England where he made his name. During a 13 year spell in England, Ndlovu played for a variety of clubs including Sheffield United, Huddersfield and Birmingham but it was his time at Coventry, the club that brought him to the uk, that Ndlovu is most fondly remembered for.

Coventry legend Peter Ndlovu

Coventry legend Peter Ndlovu

Signed by Terry Butcher under the recommendation of former Blues boss John Sillett, Ndlovu became a fans favourite early on in his time with his dazzling runs, trickery and explosive finishing. Scoring on his debut against a strong Arsenal side helped but it was his goal against local rivals Aston Villa that remains in the memory for those that were lucky to witnessed it. Known to the fans better as Nuddy, Ndlovu starred during a relatively exciting times for Coventry fans, playing alongside the likes of Mickey Quinn, Roy Wegerle, Darren Huckerby, Noel Whelan and Dion Dublin. Despite this, Coventry and Ndlovu suffered a rollercoaster time during his six-year spell at the club, playing under 4 different managers and coming to relegation on more than one occasion. But this wouldn’t deter Ndlovu, even when offered a £4 million escape route by Arsenal at the end of the 1994 season, Ndlovu was committed to the club and was going nowhere.

Ndlovu as a Blades player

Ndlovu as a Blades player

Ndlovu would eventually leave Coventry to join Trevor Francis’s Birmingham but rumours surrounding his departure suggested it was not Peter’s decision. Considered a success during his time at St Andrews, Ndlovu only spent 4 years at the club (with one on loan to Huddersfield) before moving again to Sheffield United in 2001. Moved from a central striker to right midfield, there were concerns by many that Ndlovu’s goals would dry up but their fears were unfounded as Peter went on to score 25 times in 135 appearances, helping Sheffield United reach two semi finals in three years. As his career wound down, thoughts turned towards returning to Africa and making the move into coaching. He would get his wish, firstly joining South African based team, Mamelodi Sundowns for a further 4 years, prolonging his playing career. It would be during this time that he played his final game for Zimbabwe, alongside his brothers Adam and Madinda as he had done many times before.

The Ndlovu brothers - Madinda, Adam and Peter

The Ndlovu brothers – Madinda, Adam and Peter

Like Adam, who moved into coaching after his retirement, Peter’s love for the game never faltered. He was honoured to play alongside his brothers in any capacity, whether it be in a friendly kick around or in the Zimbabwe national shirt. The two players had become legends in their country, going down in history as part of Zimbabwe’s Dream Team. Sunday’s tragedy has affected the whole country, with Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai expressing what the country is feeling in a series of tweets yesterday:

“I am deeply saddened at the passing  on of  soccer legend, Adam Ndlovu, who was taken away from us in the  horror crash that  left his young brother, Peter, in hospital. I wish Peter a speedy recovery. Adam and  Peter were part of our national football Dream Team in the  1990s and have  continued to impart their skills to other young  Zimbabwean footballers. They  have made a significant contribution to  culture in Zimbabwe. My prayers are with the Ndlovu  family, the  football fraternity and the nation at this sad loss. On  behalf of my Office,  my family and on my own behalf, I join with so many others who knew Adam, in offering our deepest sympathy on his passing.”