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Nicole Carroll: A one woman mission to make a name in football

Archive for July 2010

Can fans accept jail bird players?

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Today is a big day for a player who is currently a free agent looking for his next club. Ex-Wigan striker Marlon King will today be released following his stint inside for sexual assault and actual body harm on a teenager.

King certainly isn’t the first player to go inside during his playing career and most definitely won’t be the last. In 2004, Lee Hughes who at the time played for Albion, was convicted with causing death by dangerous driving and was sentenced to six years imprisonment. After his release in 2007, he signed for Oldham Athletic and currently plays for Notts County. Newcastle’s Joey Barton also spent time in jail in 2008 for common assault and ex-Birmingham City player Jermaine Pennant spent 30 days in jail for drink driving related offences in 2005.

Following King’s jailing, his former employer, Dave Whelan, stated that he didn’t want convicts at his club although he recognised that other clubs would take a chance on players who had committed crimes.

Perhaps Whelan felt he’d been stung by a player in quite a serious way. Although King got sent down for this crime, he arrived at Wigan with other crimes to his name, including a previous time spent at her majesties pleasure in 2002 whilst playing for Gillingham, who paid his wages during the time he was inside. Steve Bruce signed the player at Wigan, and perhaps Whelan felt that Bruce could change King’s ways, following Bruce‘s successful gamble with Jermaine Pennant at Birmingham.

I suppose it’s the same as any person who has committed a crime, has a criminal record, yet wants to find a job. Any employer needs to assess whether the crime and record of that person can be accepted back into their establishment.

Some fans however will find it hard to morally stomach watching and supporting those who have possibly committed serious crimes, for example Lee Hughes who was charged and convicted of causing death by dangerous driving. The problem with fans rejecting having those on the pitch with criminal records is, where does the buck stop? Do we refuse to support all of those with a criminal record, or do we differentiate between the different crimes?

At the time of King’s sentencing, Gordon Taylor of the PFA gave an interview to BBC 5 live stating, “If he serves his time, is contrite and shows a willingness to get his life back on track then that (football) is his skill and that’s the right of every individual.

“There are many managers who have taken on players who’ve had chequered careers both on and off the field. Sometimes they have been able to change them and other times not.

“It’s not going to be an easy situation to accept but I would hope with the passage of time, with the right approach from Marlon and the willingness to get his life back on track then that’s a situation that hopefully may resolve itself and he’s still young enough to be able to do that.”

What is interesting however is that at the time that Gordon Taylor gave the interview, the PFA had received no approach from King or his management to ask for support. I can see the argument behind giving people second chances and allowing them to continue in the profession they have trained in. However, when someone continually flouts the law giving no regards to their employers or fans who contribute to the wages, when do clubs finally decide enough is enough and stop taking a gamble on a player?

With around a week before the league kick off, and two weeks before the Premier League begins again, I’m almost certain that King will be signing for a club somewhere in this country. There is no doubting that he has talent, which is why people have gambled on him in the past despite of his wrong doings. Sadly, however, it would appear that without a real willing to change, history will repeat itself for Marlon King.

Written by Nicole Carroll

July 29, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Girls know nothing about football

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I’m incensed and enraged. I’ve spat out my morning tea and have almost choked on my toast whilst digesting today’s football news.

I shouldn’t be getting wound up about what I’m going to talk about, because its link with football is almost farcical, but I will continue to wind myself up over it.

This morning I was pointed towards this article at hereisthecity, entitled “Birmingham City Fans usually have big bellies“. If you don’t want to read the drivel, the basic premise for this article is Ivana Takitall is rating all 20 Premier League clubs according to the male fans attractiveness.

The delightful article then goes to rate each clubs fans, with no fact or reasoning flung in. Just 20 paragraphs of made up stuff about the respective male fans of each clubs. One thing I get a whiff of here is the fact she’s probably a Cockney bird or a Cockney wannabe bird, seeing as on the whole she generally gives London clubs male fans the massive thumbs up, for example Fulham, “A Fulham supporter is every girl’s dream. Well off, daft as a brush, and able to go like a train for hours” although she is massively disparaging about Chelsea “In the same way that many Chelsea fans arrived from other clubs without warning, so Chelsea man will often return home after a visit to another man’s wife. Don’t trust him, or at least accept him for what he is – a selfish, flash-harry with a Narcissus complex.”

Just by reading the pieces title, you know she isn’t going to be kind about Birmingham City, who she duly describes as “These men are a little more basic than their Brummie rivals. All those years letching after Karren Brady have take their toll. And so have all the pies and pints. The biggest thing about the average Birmingham City fan is unfortunately usually his belly”. Where is her proof that all Birmingham supporters are pie eating letches? Why doesn’t she provide the stats that show that all Birmingham loving males have big bellies? If anything, I’ve sat with some very nice looking young men at the football!

Even the opening statement is nothing more than obvious, “My research has led me to believe that couples are better off not going to watch matches together’, she continues, ‘As particularly younger men much prefer to watch their teams with their ‘proper’ mates, having a few drinks before and after the game, and stuffing pie and chips like it’s going out of fashion. Arguments can often ensue when a female partner wants to join in the fun. In many way, the perfect partner for the average football fan is one who actually dislikes football – that way, the guys will be free to support their team without any ‘interference’.”

How many people have you seen on a night out who go out as a couple and end up arguing? That is just life. Generally, couples and days out together do not mix. It only takes a snidey comment from one partner in front of the other partners friends to light the blue touch paper and it all goes up.

Saying that though, a football loving bird is sometimes a massive coup for some men. Sometimes, it is quite amusing to let the woman tear apart a friend’s football theory and their only comeback is “she’s a girl, what does she know about football?”.

I know many of you will be banging your heads against the wall right now, telling me I’ve missed the point. This is obviously a tongue in cheek piece, mildly mocking each football club, using small anecdotes about each club to validate the facts in some way. I must have had a sense of humour by pass this morning though, because it just isn’t funny.

Being a girl and writing about football is tough. Horribly tough. If you have an opinion on anything which is traditionally male, the response is usually to get back into the kitchen and have a sandwich, or people view you with massive suspicion. The only way to gain any respect as a female writing about football, in my opinion atleast, is to write about football topics that men want to hear about. On the pitch formations, transfer speculation, history of the club. Those kinds of subjects always go down well. Topics like what Takitall wrote today only add to the argument that girls really know nothing about football.

Written by Nicole Carroll

July 27, 2010 at 10:08 am

Portsmouth pre-season tour: just why?

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With many clubs jetting off on money spinning tours this summer before the season kicks off again, cash stricken Pompey followed suit with a tour to the USA which has gone disastrously wrong.

Failures on the tour included the loss of the first team kits, a squad so thin that they could barely put a squad out, and flight cancellations which meant journeys were extended to forty hours plus.

Maybe I’m on my own, but although this is a calamity story, am I the only one questioning why Portsmouth felt the need to go on a foreign pre-season tour at all.

This is the team who have the dubious title of being the first Premier League club to go into administration. This is a club who are still in administration and are going through a court battle with HMRC over plans to come out of administration.

The off field financial problems have impacted massively on the pitch for Portsmouth, with a transfer embargo being placed upon the club, placing the club in a position where they may start the season with a squad primarily made of academy players.

For a team with so many problems, isn’t a trip abroad just screaming of indulgence? Will the club actually feel any benefit of going on a foreign tour, especially as it has ended up being a complete disaster?

As an outsider, maybe I’m missing the point. However, I cannot see how any positive outcomes could have ever come out of this trip, and maybe a few weeks playing clubs in England would have been better for this young squad who are going to have to acclimatise quickly to a life in the Championship.

Pre-season, it is not all it’s made out to be.

Written by Nicole Carroll

July 26, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Footballers + Message boards – they just don’t mix

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There was a fantastic column by Charlie Brooker last week on the Guardian on the subject of people on the internet. The paragraph that stood out to me was this,

“One of the chief joys of the internet is the way it has liberated millions of anonymous hecklers, strikingly few of whom had hitherto risked sharing their coruscating views in public because people tended to yawn, or ask them to shut up, or physically attack them. Suddenly, they had an outlet, and before long, a vastly inflated sense of self-worth. They could pop up, courageously tell a blogger she was fat, and disappear into the night like Raffles the gentlemen thief”.

You can read the rest of the column here.

I hope you are still following, because I promise this will become football related eventually. Essentially, the internet is a huge vent box where people can talk to faceless others about a variety of topics, before turning off the machine and going back to their daily lives.

Any who is in any way “public” or known online is a target to other internet users. If people are not getting into internet fights with eachother, then they are joining together to put down other peoples opinions online. Journalists get stick, people who have an opinion get stick. Once it is online, its almost fair game to comment negatively about something just because you can.

Football fans quite obviously have an opinion to the game, it would be horribly difficult to become impassive to the whole thing. If anything, I relish the passion of football fans who can banter about players or decisions in matches, with their passionate arguments reflecting their passion for the team they support. These passionate words can also extend to the opinions of players past and present for clubs.

Step in Leon Knight, a footballer who has joined a Brighton fans messageboard to, in his own words “leon knight here im talked about too much on this site time to defend myself. u can ask me anything u want or just hammer me or thank me or whatever u want and ill get back to you as i think some of you have got the wrong end of the stick with my relationship with brighton football club ive been reading this site for years”.

Leon, if that is you, please step away from the keyboard. You are not going to change anyones opinion on you. Let your football elsewhere do the talking. You know what? You could be the greatest footballer in the world and you STILL would have your detractors! Basically, you have opened up the chance for people to wind you up, take a pop at you and draw you into an argument which will look embarassing (especially when you cannot use punctuation or capital letters, as it seems apparant from reading!)

I am almost certain that the nosier footballers will google themselves or perhaps brace themselves to read fans forums. Getting involved just spells trouble to me. Keep anonymous on the internet before you open up a can of worms.

If you want to read the thread he started, click here

Written by Nicole Carroll

July 23, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Shirt-fashion face off: The From the Press Box verdict!

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Call me Gok darling! For every football team, the replica shirt is a huge money spinner for any club, and those fashion concious fans will be wanting a decently styled replica to splatter their pie of choice on.

Heres the round up of this seasons 20 teams:

Arsenal

Instantly recogniseable as an Arsenal shirt. Slightly retro looking but should be a hit for the fans. A million times better than the monstrosity of the away kit. No fancy collar which always has a thumbs up from me.  7/10

Aston Villa

There was quite a big launch of this kit in Birmingham, with the players modelling the kits for the fans, alongside a Villa supporting band performing and local schools taking part in a 5-a-side tournament. It’s a bit disappointing to have this revealed at the end however. It’s not a bad shirt, but I just think it lacks imagination. If anything, the amateur looking logo spoils it. 6/10 – Playing it safe

Birmingham City

bcfc.com

The shirt this year was chosen by a vote by the fans. A potentially flawed system in the fact that the vote could have been sabotaged. This was far from my favourite, and will probably attract comparisons with the V shirt that has been worn by Manchester United. Xtep are a unknown maker in terms of football shirt, so hoping for a high quality, hard wearing shirt for the money. Not a bad price though, considering the pre-order price of £34.99 5/10 Blues, please be more imaginative next year! EDIT – Since seeing this in pre-season pictures, it has grown on me ten fold. It’s very distinctive and actually looks smart in the flesh, if anything, we need photos of material examples next season and not sketches. 7/10

Blackburn

This picture is from the official club shop – firstly, I need to point out that they should make better effort in the pictures of the shirts for the club shop. This is so unprofessional for a top level club, and to be honest, I don’t think a massive amount of the shirt anyway. I have a thing about collars on football shirts, in the fact that I’m not a fan of them. Here it’s a sort of V-neck/collar hybrid which I’m definately not a fan of. I know there isn’t a massive amount you can do with a shirt that has to have the colours in the way they are presented. Perhaps paring the collars back and having an incredibly plain but classy shirt is the way forward? 6/10

Blackpool

Decent colour? Check. Correct shade of orange for the fans? Check. I think I’ve worked out the trend this season, and it’s obviously for terrible TERRIBLE sponsorship logos. There is just no attempt to make it fit in with the shirt, it stands out like a sore thumb. It’s just a terrible reminder of that horrible advert where a chubby man shouts Wonga at us. Obviously Blackpool fans will be hoping they can survive this Premier League season, but if they go down, would they really want this shirt as part of their Premier League legacy? 3/10

Bolton

Anything has to be better than the thing released last year by Bolton, whoever came up with the stripes coming out of the bottom?! This year, they seem to have played it safe with this plainer option. I always think plain white shirts look smart, but the red lines seem to detract from the overall effect. Will be a bugger to get beer spills out of aswell. Good enough effort though. Priced at £39.99 7/10


Chelsea

ChelseaMegastore.com

Actually quite a radical change of style from the Chelsea kit, with the introduction of the red to the collar, and white definition around the neck. Some fans may not be impressed by the subtle dye job but I like it. Interesting idea though, I quite like it. Priced at £42.99 8/10 – A different way of adding colour

Everton


I love this shirt. Plain, but still tonal with the different material on the front of the shirt. The shirt is instantly recogniseable just because it is so plain, and the sponsor looks like it’s meant to be on this shirt without dominating it. Many sponsors look terrible on shirts, but the Chang logo just seems to fit. A simple round neck just completes the deal. Classy. 9/10

Fulham

Cheap, cheap and cheap. I hate the novelty Kappa logos on the shoulders. I don’t like the logo – it looks like something I knocked up. Necks ok, but thats about it. 3/10

Liverpool

Liverpoolfc.tv

Gone with a retro looking feel with a change of sponsor this year. Really not sure on the round neck collar or the appearance of the pattern in the material. Maybe the kit maker thought a retro look might bring Liverpool some of the glories from the past? Needs to be seen in person to make a firm judgement, but not a fan at the moment. 5/10 – lacking imagination

Manchester City

Like the Everton shirt, this is incredibly plain. I like plain, I don’t want bells and whistles when it comes to a football shirt. As long as they get the clubs colour right and the badge is in the right place, nothing else really matters. Very much so a copycat of the template for the England away shirt, but the style seems to almost fit the Manchester City colours better. 8/10

Manchester United

This is a massive departure from last seasons shirt with the black V. I think the new AON logo actually adds to the retro feel to this shirt, which has been pared down and is quite simple really. The collar isn’t too bad, but I don’t think it’ll go down as a shirt classic. 6/10

Newcastle United

It’s difficult to make a stripey shirt look interesting, ala Sunderland but this isn’t bad. The neck is a bit strange an the position of the makers logo is slightly odd. Good thing for Newcastle fans is that the shirts don’t vary a massive amount so there isn’t much need to buy a new one every season. 5/10 – standard affair

Stoke City

scfcdirect.com

A change of kitmaker for Stoke this year, from Le Coq Sportif to Adidas. It can be hard to make a kit that has to be stripey, look individual. However, this kit seems to achieve it. I really like the neck and the slightly quirky placing of the Adidas logo – it looks like a kit which is individual, rather than a  kit design that is produced in a number of colours by the same shirt maker. The only thing I’m not entirely struck on is the appearance of the blurred lines down each stripe on the shirt, but perhaps this will again look better in person. Nice to see a little imagination on the kit here. Pre-orders are priced at £39.99 8/10 for creativity.

Sunderland

Simple, but I actually quite like this shirt. No fancy gimmicks, just the clubs colours, a decentish sponsor and the badge over the heart where it is meant to be. Umbro haven’t done too badly at all this season with kit design. 7/10

Tottenham Hotspur


Now this is what I call sexy. Spurs always seem to have nice shirts, which always seem to appear quite tightly fitted. The design is minimal yet innovative and should look fantastic on a nice toned footballer. Ooh I’m having a moment. Shame about the sponsor, but I’ll get over it. 9/10

West Bromwich Albion

There is so much wrong with this shirt. The logo – I mean, it’s cheap and tacky looking and placed far too low. The logo resembles something I’d expect to see on a lower league shirt.  The collar just reminds me of the horribly polo shirts we were forced to wear during high school. A clanger for Umbro here, even placing the logo appropriately would improve this shirt ten fold. 4/10

West Ham United

This shirt just shouts old at me. Old fashioned collar, old fashioned design. Theres nothing spectacularly bad about the shirt, its just not spectacularly brilliant either. Yet again theres a logo that lacks imagination, which matches a shirt which lacks imagination. Macron, try harder next year 5/10

Wigan Athletic

I really like this. It’s recognisable as a Wigan shirt, but at the same time it’s different to everything else in the league. The logo almost looks as if its been designed to fit in with the design, and it has a decent enough round neck collar. I really don’t think Latics fans can have anything to moan about in terms of the shirt design here. 10/10

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves shirts are never going to be radically different, sticking to the template of Gold with a bit of black. I’m not sure about the collar though, it looks like a dodgy Harry Hill impression. The fabric is meant to be full of technology in the fact that it is meant to draw moisture away from the body – brilliant for you sweaty betty fans. Costs £40 for an adult shirt  6/10

We’ve won it one time…

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WE’VE WON IT ONE TIME…the Xtep cup, We’ve won it one time.

Yes it was a massively momentus day for Blues fans yesterday as took home our first silverware of the season in the shape of the Xtep Cup following our 3-2 victory over Hong Kong XI.

Goals from Scott Dan, Craig Gardner and Garry O’Connor sealed the win for the Blues, in which we saw the first glimpses of new signings Valles, Foster and Zigic.

Whilst on this tour, we’ve actually been spoiled with some brilliant coverage. Blues have been writing their own match reports and treating us to free videos of match highlights and Blues landing in Hong Kong. Similarly, local paper Birmingham Mail have two journalists in the shape of Colin Tattum and Andy Walker covering the action.

Part of this included a live blog yesterday during the match, which was played at 8am English time. Events like this are good for fans who can’t be close to the action, but it does amaze me sometimes some of the comments made by fans. Once Blues had gone 2-1 down, the moaning started. People were claiming that on this form we wouldn’t survive in the Premier League, we desperately need new signings, the performance just isn’t good enough etc etc. Although there are questionable comments made during any event like this, it does give fans the chance to ask questions of the local media and to get a feel of what is happening on tour.

I know its not the majority of fans, but eventually I had to give up with the live blog and just follow updates on twitter. If anything, a win is a bonus in a pre-season friendly. This was just a chance for players to get a run out (in very hot conditions apparently). Pre-season form really has no bearing on how a team will perform in the league – we had a poor pre-season last year, yet had a storming Premier League campaign. I would rather Blues have average performances, avoiding injuries and just building stamina, rather than going into full league mode before it is necessary.

I’m not sure if other Blues fans thought it, but how much better does the home shirt look whilst playing? I really was very undecided about the shirt, but on it is actually pretty smart and different to any other shirt I’ve seen this season. I would even consider buying one now, which is a massive departure to my feelings on the shirt previously!

Blues have two further games on this tour, one on Wednesday and one on Saturday, and Birmingham Mail shall be live blogging again. If you want to follow the action, it is all available over on BirminghamMail.net.

Written by Nicole Carroll

July 19, 2010 at 11:31 am

Can Blues strike gold with domestic loans?

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With clubs like Portsmouth feeling the financial strain of over spending, Premier League clubs will be keen to avoid huge transfer fees by taking advantage of the loan scheme.

Within the Premier League you can loan 2 players off a fellow club (but no two players from the same club). Last season Blues plumped for Manchester City’s Joe Hart which was arguably the Premier League loan of the season, and Sunderland’s Teemu Tainio who unfortunately sustained an injury which cut his season short.

Blues are very light in cover across all areas of the pitch, and we would be kidding ourselves as fans if we really believed that management could afford to buy players to cover all the areas we need. To ensure we have players to be able to last the season, allowing for injuries and fatigue, we’re looking at needing at least one centre half, a left back, a winger and a striker.

If McLeish could emerge from this window with two very decent loan signings in tow, it could go a long way to ensuring Premier League survival for a second season. Joe Hart was instrumental to this last season, but now we have Ben Foster as a permanent signing, we can somewhat relax and focus on strengthening the outfield areas.

Realistically, we’re looking at the teams above us loaning us an outstanding youngster, or perhaps players who have become surplus to requirement at the moment due to new players arriving at their clubs.

Perhaps, however, we could go knocking on Manchester City’s door again in the hope of taking defender Nedum Onuoha on loan. Despite playing semi regularly in 2008-2009, injuries and new arrivals to the club have now seen the young defenders chances limited. His team mate Joe Hart had only positive things to say about the club, perhaps if Blues knocked at the door he could be persuaded to visit the Midlands for 9 months. The fact he is versatile and can play in the centre and at right back would mean we had options at the back, especially if we are going to face injury problems this season.

An option to add to midfield and cover the left hand side of the pitch could be Portsmouth’s loan signing last season, Jamie O’Hara. He received good reviews for his season on the coast, and perhaps if he isn’t to focus in Harry Redknapps plans this season, then he could move to the Midlands to get regular football. If O’Hara wasn’t an option, then why not Danny Rose, the scorer of THAT screamer against Arsenal last season. Despite him getting on the score sheet, that was the only league appearance he made last season. Although he’s relatively unknown except for that goal, he must have something about him to be signed for the Spurs first team, perhaps a season at somewhere like Blues could really show what this young player is made of?

Can we loan someone with the talent of Mikael Forssell?

I’m not sure that a striker will be coming to Blues on loan from a fellow Premier League club. Blues struck lucky when they loaned Mikael Forssell from Chelsea and he went on to be a complete hit at St. Andrews. Blues dipped their toes into loaning a foreign striker in the shape of Christian Benitez, who struggled to set the league alight. It’s difficult to judge whether a player will translate their own domestic form into the Premier league, and even if they are outstanding, you run the risk that someone bigger is going to come along and buy them from under your nose.

Maybe this would be where, if McLeish was going to explore the options here, he would possibly talk to fellow manager Sir Alex Ferguson and perhaps see whether United had a young striker who was ready for first team Premier League experience. Signing someone on loan until January maybe could prove enough time to see whether a gamble could pay off. Loan moves like these when they work well are massively beneficial to all three parties, and if it works out well there is always a possibility that you could get the player permanently.

Whilst Blues are currently on tour in Asia, it seems highly unlikely that any new faces or much business will be conducted at all. By the time the players are back at Wast Hills, perhaps McLeish and his backroom staff will have identified some possible loan moves for Premier League players that they can slot into the squad for the start of the season. With teams like Manchester City spending in a big way, there perhaps will be talent that other clubs like Blues can take full advantage of to bolster the squad without any hard commitment.

Written by Nicole Carroll

July 17, 2010 at 12:01 am