Jordan Pickford is a great signing for Everton

In the awkward few weeks after the league season has ended and before any summer tournaments have begun, fans are left with new signings to pretend to be outraged about. There is a new unspoken rule that all players must be written off and doubted before they have even been unveiled these days.

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Pickford’s transfer fee raised some eyebrows but will it turn into a good investment by Everton in the end? (Image from Tumblr)

Next up was Everton’s new signing Jordan Pickford, signed from Sunderland for around £30m. Never mind that he is an exciting, young, English goalkeeper (and boy are they needed), many were quick to bring him down a peg or two. Whilst the fee may sound crazy, perhaps looking at the deal from Sunderland’s perspective offers some insight. The Black Cats, newly relegated, in serious debt and selling their most valuable player, were hardly going to sell cheap. From Everton’s point of view, you have to ask yourself 3 questions:

Does he improve Everton?
Yes, bloody hell yes. Everton have struggled badly in goal for years now. Maarten Stekelenburg was a terrible signing and Joel Robles, who has been at the club for 4 years, isn’t up to scratch either. Signing a new keeper and a replacement for Romelu Lukaku are the top priorities for Ronald Koeman this summer.

 

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Pickford is a solid shot stopper who will only improve over time (Image from Tumblr)

Would any of Everton’s rivals sign him?
Pickford was undoubtedly one of the breakthrough players of last year. Any team in the top six would like to have Pickford either as a starter or future No.1, so Everton are conceivably beating off some stiff competition for Pickford.

Can Everton afford it?
It’s worth remembering that Lukaku will probably leave for upwards of £70m this summer so I’d say they can easily afford to invest in other areas. Everton have already spent similar amounts of money on Morgan Schneiderlin and Yannick Bolasie in the last 12 months.

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Long England career ahead for Pickford (Image from Tumblr)

In a previous post, I talked about how important and undervalued goalkeepers are and how it’s about time teams started spending big money on their keepers. Everton have identified that problem in their team and Pickford, at 23 years of age, is a long term solution. From an England point of view, its great news too. An up an coming talent is moving to a big club to learn and improve. At Goodison, he’ll play in a strong team (Everton had the 6th best defence last year) and hopefully get good experience in the cup competitions and play European football. Try and ignore the price in today’s market, just look at the player. Pickford’s a real prospect, a great keeper and much needed at Everton. You’d love him at your club.

Post by Tough Tackler – @thetoughtackler (www.toughtackler.co.uk)

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Does he play outside of the Premier League? Never heard of him mate

Ray Wilkins was on Sky Sports this week speaking about Manchester United’s new signing, Benfica defender Victor Lindelöf. Instead of talking up an exciting new prospect, signed by his former club, he chose to highlight how English players like Michael Keane keep getting overlooked. If you missed the Ray Wilkins interview, watch it, its gold. It has just about everything you’d expect from an out of date, football dinosaur.

Wilkins feels that Manchester United should be re-signing Michael Keane rather than going abroad (Image from Tumblr)

Wilkins feels that Manchester United should be re-signing Michael Keane rather than going abroad (Image from Tumblr)

He starts by saying “This guy (Lindelöf) has done nothing”. For the record, Victor Lindelöf has won Primeira Liga three times, three Portuguese cups, and the Under-21 Euros with Sweden, at just 22 years of age. Granted, I didn’t know all this about Lindelöf but it takes 10 seconds to look up such things, also known as basic research. He ends with “Give him (Keane) a chance”, unlike the chance he’s given Lindelöf who has been judged before he has even been officially unveiled. It is at this point I must remind everyone that Keane has already played for United so has had a “chance” and was deemed not good enough. He also has time to have a go at the foreign market for being so expensive, but who in their right mind would sell to Man United on the cheap?

Victor Lindelof - not Wilkins cup of tea (Image from Tumblr)

Victor Lindelof – not Wilkins cup of tea (Image from Tumblr)

When Wilkins was at Chelsea they spent £50m on Fernando Torres, which remains a record at Stamford Bridge to this day, and spent big on David Luiz and Ramires from Benfica (where United are buying Lindelöf from of all places). Oh and before I forget, Wilkins, who was assistant to Carlo Ancelotti for 3 years, signed just one English player in that time.

Ancelotti and Wilkins during their Chelsea days (Image from Tumblr)

Ancelotti and Wilkins during their Chelsea days (Image from Tumblr)

It was the same when Marco Silva joined Hull City and was laughed at in spite of managing in the Champions League and winning several titles. I find it staggering that UK pundits do little or no research. I don’t expect every football talking head to know about every single player the world over, but mate do you Googles. Some of these guys are paid very handsomely and I doubt they watch anything other than the Premier League. In a month spent laughing at politicians for publicly getting their facts and figures wrong, how many pundits know their numbers? How many do simple research? Knowing who the next big thing is from Holland or Brazil could be the difference in getting paid work and a television or writing opportunity could depend on it.

The Chosen One - Marco Silva is wanted by several clubs (Image from Tumblr)

Marco Silva was ridiculed by the British pundits when he arrived in England (Image from Tumblr)

This week, Sky Sports announced their lowest audiences since records began, which makes sense, I mean who pay would listen to this nonsense for £70 a month? The modern fan is very clued up, they crave insight. That’s why Monday Night Football has been such an incredible success. I’d suggest Sky Sports get rid Ray Wilkins, Paul Merson and “the lads” and getting some proper experts in. Hopefully Sky have learned a valuable lesson.Wilkins was rightly mocked on social media as he clearly didn’t know anything about Lindelöf. If he isn’t an expert, why should we tune in?

Post by Tough Tackler – @thetoughtackler (www.toughtackler.co.uk)

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Why are keepers so undervalued?

When Ademola Lookman put the ball through Claudio Bravo legs to round off a 4-0 win for his new club Everton, Pep Guardiola knew he had a serious problem in his defence. Lookman’s strike was the 14th goal Bravo had conceded from his last 22 shots. The Chilean keeper only kept 4 clean sheets all season and even lost his place to his understudy Willy Caballero, who Guardiola would later release at the end of the season. Bravo, a £9.7m buy from Barcelona, was nothing short of a disaster for Man City and a big reason why they struggled to get near Chelsea and contest the title. For the second season in a row, Pep Guardiola is on the hunt for a new No.1 and has his sight set on Benfica star Ederson Moraes and is willing to break the bank to get his man.

Bravo has had a difficult start to life at City (Image from Tumblr)

Gianluigi Buffon holds the record for most expensive goalkeeper when Juventus paid Parma £32.6m in 2001 but that remains the only time a keeper has be bought for over £20m. Having played for Juventus for 16 years (with absolutely no signs of stopping), Buffon might well be the best pound for pound signing ever made. However, this remains the only time a club has paid serious money to sign a goalkeeper. A goalkeeper will win your club more points over a season than a right-back or a reserve striker, so why are goalkeepers so undervalued?

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Still the most expensive – Gigi Buffon (image from Tumblr)

Perhaps as they do not grab the headlines and sell thousands of replica shirts, their prices remain modest. For all the money in the Premier League, only Man United (David de Gea) and Arsenal (Petr Cech) have spent over £10m on their keepers. Incredibly, eight teams in the Premier League signed their first choice keeper on a free transfer.

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Goalkeepers can be the fine margin between winning and losing (Image from Tumblr)

The £35m that Man City are rumored to be paying for Ederson is roughly the same they paid for Fernandinho and less than they paid for centre backs John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi. City are happy to spend big money on improving their defence but everyone gets upset when they spend similar amounts on an actual goalkeeper. As Bravo performances have shown, a keeper is one of the most important positions in the team and yet somehow the last line of defence rarely command big fees which seems odd given a) that the role of a keeper is usually undisputed with the No.1 playing almost every minute of every game, b) due to the lack of contact with other players and unlikelihood that they will run great distances they are rarely injured and c) the longevity of a keeper means most play on until they are nearly 40 years old unlike outfield players.

On route to Bournemouth - Asmir Begovic (Image from Tumblr)

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth massively struggled in defence last year, with only four teams conceding more, two of which were relegated. Howe has now splashed out £10m on Asmir Begovic from Chelsea to beef up his defence. Having scored more goals than Man United last season and now with a serious upgrade in goal, expect big things from the Cherries next year. Given their importance and influence, its crazy that prices for keepers haven’t skyrocketed in recent years. City had to find out the hard way just how important a keeper is, so maybe Ederson and Begovic will be the start of a new wave of huge spending for goalkeepers.

Post by BOTNBlog contributor ToughTackler (@thetoughtackler) – www.toughtackler.co.uk 

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Newcastle United will be a major force in the Premier League next season

After a long Championship season, Newcastle were one more game away from the big time. On a tense night at St James’ Park, nerves were eased just after the hour after Preston’s Paul Gallagher handled on the line, gifting Newcastle a penalty that Matt Ritchie cooly dispatched. The party could begin, Rafael Benitez had done his job, Newcastle were back in the Premier League.

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Job Done Rafa (Image from Tumblr)

The potential of Newcastle United, may finally be realized. There is a reason a manager like Benitez, who left Real Madrid just two months earlier, took the job of resurrecting Newcastle. They are a massive club with huge prospects. With Newcastle back where they belong, they will be a major force in the Premier League next year. After the disappointment of relegation, Benitez identified Championship specialists and bought in the likes of Mohamed Diamé, Grant Hanley and Daryl Murphy to get them back up. Only run away leaders Brighton have stopped them winning the Championship.

The arrival of players like Murphy has helped Newcastle navigate the Championship with ease (Image from Tumblr)

Newcastle aren’t like any other team being promoted from the Championship, they are a club with enormous potential. When promoted in 1992, Kevin Keegan took the Toon to 3rd in the Premier League as a newly promoted side. Even Alan Pardew took Newcastle to 5th a year after they returned to the top flight. Newcastle have unbelievable resources and can easily compete in the top ten in the Premier League. Their fan base is one of the largest in the UK, with St James Park regularly getting 50,000 through the door. To gain promotion, Newcastle spent nearly £60m on new recruits. In the Premier League only the current top six sides plus Leicester City, fresh from winning the Premier League, spent more than that. Even when they were relegated, Newcastle spent over £80m. They are one of the richest sides in Europe. And it won’t be long before top players are signing for Newcastle wanting to work for a manager like Benitez.

Premier League bound Ayoze Perez (Image from Tumblr)

Premier League bound Ayoze Perez (Image from Tumblr)

After years of mismanagement, Newcastle are now on to something and the difference is Benitez; he’s one of the best managers in Europe. Benitez knows the Premier League inside out after two successful spells with Liverpool and Chelsea and now he is back in charge with one of the biggest sides in England. Newcastle United, the sleeping giant of English football, may finally be waking up.

Post by Tough Tackler – @thetoughtackler (www.toughtackler.co.uk)

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An Expanded World Cup? Sign Me Up!

After the expansion of the 2016 European Championships, the World Cup is now set for a revamp. The FIFA Council has unanimously decided on a 48-team World Cup from 2026. The increased World Cup would see 16 groups of three teams with the top two teams in each group would progress to the knockout rounds.

Ordinarily I would be cynically calling this a money making exercise. More teams would mean more games, more fans and greater broadcasting revenues. Adding 12 more teams is rumoured to generate an extra £823m in revenue, which sounds a lot like FIFA chasing more cash. But the football fan in me can’t wait. 48 teams, 80 matches, a tournament 25% longer. An expanded tournament creates optimism in qualifying; everyone thinks they have a chance.

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The format of the World Cup was last changed in 1998 to expand it 32 teams. France won the trophy that year (Image from Tumblr)

During qualification for Euro 2016, Albania, Iceland, Slovakia and Wales all made it to their first European Championships whilst Northern Ireland won Group F. Everyone thinks this is a devious plot by FIFA, but, in truth, the Word Cup has always invited more and more countries to play. Originally 16 teams competed which rose to 24 in 1982 and then 32 in 1998. One of the great fears of an expanded tournament is the addition of so-called weaker teams. Currently 11 of the top 30 nations in the FIFA World rankings did not qualify for the last World Cup in Brazil. There is quality waiting in the wings. So the idea of Moldova or San Marino rocking up at a major tournament would be very, very unlikely.

The elitist mentality of football fans is quite odd. We all loved watching Leicester winning the Premier League or Wales take the Euros by storm but now we are turning our noses up at smaller sides. In early June 2004, England played Iceland in preparation for the European Championships a few weeks later. England won 6-1. Twelve years later Iceland would knock England out of the Euros to complete their remarkable journey. There are up and coming sides out there, like Iceland, who are desperate to join the party. We need to stop being snobs and let the new guys have a chance. Football fans are quick to hate the idea but do not see the amazing benefits. 16 more games, roughly 800,000 more fans, a longer tournament for us all to enjoy. Sign me up.

Post by Tough Tackler – @thetoughtackler (www.toughtackler.co.uk)

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Pampered Players Aren’t To Blame For England’s Failings

Following on from England’s embarrassing exit from the European Championships at the hands of Iceland, fans and pundits have been quick to blame the “washbag generation” of pampered England stars who don’t have the fight. Jamie Carragher in his excellent Daily Mail column has talked of how young players today have become babies and today’s mentality strips them of the character needed to succeed. He went on to suggest English players today have it easy, they get driven everywhere, they get looked after by agents and it’s made them weak.

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Ryan Giggs echoed these words in his first appearance on ITV during Euro 2016, saying that players are rewarded in football these days before they’ve even achieved anything. I can see why a tough, old-school characters like Carragher and Giggs shake their heads at the youth of today but come on, this cannot explain England’s struggles. Players weren’t pampered, self-obsessed millionaires in the 70’s and 80’s and England were dreadful. During the 70’s, England didn’t qualify for a single tournament in that era. Of seven tournaments between 1972 and 1984, England only qualified for two. Back then they were brought up as apprentices, cleaning boots and paying their dues just like Carragher and Giggs would have wanted and they performed worse than the England team of today. Sir Alf Ramsey failed to get England to three tournaments, were his team’s arrogant, spoilt, little babies?

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Were things any different during Ramsey’s reign? (Image from Tumblr)

The era of English football, where “men were real men”, produced precious few divas and prima donnas but they didn’t produce too many successful sides either. I dare say that money has turned many an England player greedy, only focused on the pounds signs and the next big move but let’s not forget that they can still play a bit. The problems affecting England have been there long before the big bucks came to town; what was wrong 40 years ago is still wrong now. It won’t be long before you see another cringing tweet by an England star of his latest fast car, mansion or magnum of champagne but let’s not pretend the culture of today’s stars has held the national team back.

No amount of selfies makes you misplace a pass or fluff a free kick. Why so many ex-players pine for an era when England would routinely fail to even qualify for tournaments is beyond me. Let’s stop pining for the good old days that, frankly, weren’t that good anyway.

Post by Charlie Tang, writer for BOTNBlog and ToughTackler

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