Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
Over 17 years on from Cheltenham’s first play off final success, Robins legend John Finnigan reflects and looks ahead to what Duff’s side can achieve this season.
The Cheltenham legend scored the third Robins goal in their 3-1 play off final victory over Rushden and Diamonds at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff. A victory which promoted the Gloucestershire club to the second division at the time (now known as the Championship).
Reflecting on the momentous occasion at the Millennium Stadium, Finnigan spoke about the nerves he was feeling playing in such a big stadium.
He said: “It was brilliant. The second time you almost knew what to expect having experienced it the first time. But the first time for me it was like a lower league players’ FA Cup final growing up.
“Having that cup final atmosphere and 15,000-16,000 Cheltenham fans down there- pulling in on the bus and seeing a sea of red and white everywhere, it was a great feeling and winning the game was great.
“Being lucky enough to score at the end was a weird feeling. I felt sick when I scored running back to the halfway line. The emotions took over. It felt weird- I never had it before and never had it since.
“But it was a massive day for the club and a great experience for me personally.
“And a great stadium aswell by the way.”
Michael Duff’s side will be aiming to at least make it into the playoffs this season and maybe even another play off final like in 2002. But the 43-year-old club legend revealed that a lower placed finish outside the play off places and in the top half of the table will still mean a successful season for the Robins.
“I think they have done unbelievably well so far”, Finnigan said with assurance. “At the start of the season, if someone would have said to me that we would have had a top half finish- I would have snapped hand off for it after two or three seasons of finishing around 19th place.”
“The budget that we have got- I don’t know exactly what the board give him to spend on players, but I imagine that we are in the bottom eight of what he gets to spend on his team out on the pitch.
“So, I think anything in the top half would be a fantastic achievement for Michael to do. Obviously, he has set the bar high and expectation have been raised.
“And if we get in the play offs, I think it would be an unbelievable achievement. Arguably one of the greatest considering the resources that he has got available to him.
“Now I know a lot of people would be disappointed if we dropped out of that. But I think if we finish 10th, I don’t want us to finish 10th- I want us to finish in the top seven, but if we finish 10th this year, and next year Michael looks to the board and says give me this and give me that, we can then push on to the next bracket.
“But top 10 and hopefully play offs a year after, but if we achieve that early, then fair play to Michael and his side.”
Football back in the day was more of a tougher sport in terms of the amount you could have got away with. But as football has evolved, tactics and the way the game is studied has also evolved.
Despite the evolution of football from 2002 to nowadays, the ex-Cheltenham midfielder was still able to state the similarities and a few differences between the promotion winning side that he was a crucial part of and Duff’s current side.
He said: “I think there are a lot of similarities in the way this team won’t give up. So, when they go a goal behind, you never feel like they are out of the game.
“In the past few years, if we go a goal down, we felt like it would be tough to get back in it. Now if we go a goal down with Michael’s team now, you always feel like there is a way back in.
“We can even win the game, not even draw it. I think the spirit in the team is similar, but I think there is a lot of differences to the way Michael’s team plays and the way we played back then.
“We were a little bit more direct- get it to the front and go play off. Now, the build-up play is more playing it out from the back. The formation was different. We were a four four two [rigid], whereas they play three at the back now.
— Martyn Bishop (@MartynBCFC) February 1, 2016
“So, there are similarities with the spirit, like they have that fighting spirit that we had in that play off final to get back into games. But the style of play is quite different, and football has changed quite a bit since we were playing.
“You used to be able to kick lumps out of people. But now it’s a bit nicer now. The sort of build-up and passing is a little more continental now.
Bradford City first visited Cheltenham Town in September 2006, when John Finnigan was sent off after a ‘painful situation’ involving Dean Windass and the Bantams won 2-1 #ctfc pic.twitter.com/fjIqG0NDhG
— Jon Palmer (@JonPalmerSport) September 17, 2019
The win for Slaven Bilic’s side has maintained their two point cushion over second place Leeds United who continue to keep up with the League leaders after their last gasp 2-1 away win over Luton Town.
Here are the five key talking points from the closely contested contest at the Hawthorns:
The key moment of the game was Slaven Bilic’s sub in the 75th minute of the game to bring on Charlie Austin for Hal Robson-Kanu.
At that point before the substitution, Sheffield Wednesday had all the momentum to go on and win the game. But the substitution flipped the game on its head and suddenly West Brom had new lease of life to them with the introduction of the ex Southampton player
The warning signs were there for the Owls before Austin managed to score his goal. The fact that he hit the post with a header in the 83rd minute should have been enough to get the Sheffield club to adopt their tactics to nullify his threat.
However that warning wasn’t taken due to the fact that Matheus Pereira was wiped out by the onrushing Kieran Westwood in the 87th minute, meaning only one man was going to step up…
The 30-year-old converted the penalty with ease to score his second Championship goal of the season and more importantly win the three points for the Baggies.
After the match, Slaven Bilic praised the mentality of the striker to step up and take such an important penalty so late into the contest.
He said: “It takes courage to take a penalty like that but that’s why he’s Charlie Austin.”
The Midlands club weren’t at their fluent best yesterday and at points like mentioned above- looked like losing the game in the end.
However the best sides and winners always find a way to win even if they aren’t at their best, or if the game isn’t going their way.
And like last week where Bilic’s side grinded out a tight victory against Hull City, they were able to do that again but against a superior opposition in Sheffield Wednesday.
Those two results prove why the Hawthorns club are favourites with most pundits and even the bookies to win the Championship this season.
Coming into this game- all the odds were with West Brom to pick up a comfortable victory.
However Sheffield Wednesday demonstrated why they will be up there come the end of the season challenging at the top with their battling and gusty performance that they put in against the Baggies.
Even after an early set back, the Owls were able to regroup and create chances against top of the Championship.
After half-time, Monk’s side looked like winning the match only for the momentum to flip when Austin came on.
It was just one of those days for Wednesday- looked bright going forward, just lacked the final ball on many occasions to trouble the West Brom backline (especially in the first half).
The disappointment of not coming away with a well deserved point showed after the game in Gary Monk’s post match reaction.
He said: “I feel sick for the players. To come to the league leaders and play that well and get nothing. The first half was even, but in the second we were the better team.”
The Portuguese sensation has been pivotal for West Brom all season, and has shown in this game why the Baggies will need to sign him permanently from Sporting Lisbon if they get promoted to the Premier League.
Most of the chances created for Bilic’s side came through the 23-year-old.
The attacking midfielder assisted Hal Robson-Kanu’s goal in the 10th minute with a lovely through ball.
And he was the player who won the winning penalty for the Midlands side, meaning that they took the three points from the game due to his involvement in the attacking areas.
Those two assists yesterday means that Pereira currently has seven Championship assists this season to his name.
It’s clear to see that the Owls would be further down the table if they didn’t have Steven Fletcher in the squad
at the age of 32-years-old, the striker has shown no sign of ageing on the pitch and as a result is still Wednesday’s main man.
His penalty goal in the 58th minute was the Scottish strikers sixth Championship goal of this season so far.
After the match Monk said: “We can’t continue in that way. So much of that game was exactly what we needed it to be. We’ll stick together and, if we continue to perform like that, results will turn for us.”
If results were to ‘turn’ for Monk’s side, then you would assume that Steven Fletcher will have to continue his goalscoring form. That’s how important the 32-year-old is to Sheffield Wednesday’s chances of pushing for promotion this season.
West Brom narrowly defeated promotion rivals Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 in the Championship, courtesy of a late penalty from substitute Charlie Austin.
Hal Robson-Kanu and Steven Fletcher scored for their respective sides before Austin scored the winning goal in the 87th minute from the spot, after Matheus Pereira was brought down in the box by Owls goalkeeper Kieran Westwood.
Gary Monk’s pain was then compounded shortly after when Liam Palmer was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Pereira in injury time.
This win for the Baggies means that they maintain their two point lead over second placed Leeds United, who also left it late to win 2-1 against Luton Town.
Mark Kennedy has sung the praises of the Chelsea academy speaking ahead of the clash between the two U23s sides on Saturday.
This season, Kennedy’s side sit in 10th place in Premier League 2, Division 1 with nine points.
On the other hand, when looking at his opponents [Chelsea U23’s]- in nine Premier League 2, Division 1 games so far, Andy Myres’s side are unbeaten and as a result sit top of the table with 21 points.
The Blues have a game in hand on second place Derby County U23s who have the same points at this moment, but have a inferior goal difference to the Blues.
The U23s have won six of the PL2 games, drawn three and lost none so far.Embed from Getty Images
With the likes of Charlie Brown, Clinton Mola and Faustino Anjorin being a selected few of the current U23s crop who have impressed so far this season in PL2, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them included in Frank Lampard’s squad in the future.
Speaking after his sides 1-1 draw to PSG U23s in Group E of the Premier League International Cup, the former Wolves player himself has had alot of positive things to say about the Chelsea academy and Chelsea as a club itself.
The Wolves U23s coach said when speaking about the job his side face against Chelsea U23s on Saturday: “The reason I’m thinking about it is because it will probably be the toughest game of the season.
“Chelsea are an outstanding academy, and are arguably in the top two academies every year in terms of style of play, and the type of players they bring in. The budget they have, resources, facilities- they are a world class club.
“You always know with Chelsea is that they have excellent players. Even though they send a lot players out on loan.
“It will arguably be our toughest game of the year. They will be really physical, technically good, quick, strong, and they will be sizeable lads. So from every aspect, it will be a tough game.
“And not only that, It’s going to come so quickly after a really tough game tonight. You’ve seen collectively- the amount of players that went down with cramp. But no doubt about it- It will be a really tough game on Saturday.”
The game kicks-off at 12:45pm on Saturday November 23, so get down to AFC Telford’s New Bucks Head ground and support Andy Myres’s youthful and exciting Blues side to another important win and three points in PL2.
Wolves U23s and PSG U23s played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at Molineux in Group E of the Premier League International Cup.
Alexandre Fressange opened the scoring for the visitors within the first minute of the game with a header from Ayoub Yousfi’s cross. That goal was the 18-year-old’s second goal in this competition this season, after he scored the only goal in PSG U23s 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao U23s.
The home side did equalise in the 56th minute through Dan Csoka’s header from a Elliot Watt free-kick which earned the midlands club a vital point in Group E.
Wolves U23s next play in this competition on the 27th against Athletic Bilbao, whilst PSG U23s face Liverpool U23s.
Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia has been at the club since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, and she is known to be a controversial figure around the Chelsea fan base.
Well-known as the ‘Iron Lady’ by Chelsea fans, this Russian sporting director has a history of being known as a tough negotiator when it comes to transfers.
She is like marmite; some people love her and some people hate her.
Ngolo Kante alongside Eden Hazard has been Chelsea’s best player for a number of seasons.
Kante was signed by Chelsea in the summer transfer window of 2016. The season before was the one where he was essential in helping Leicester win the Premier League under former Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri.
With that in mind, you wouldn’t think that the Foxes would sell the Frenchman straight after winning the title.
But enter Marina Granovskaia…
The Russian director managed to negotiate a £35 million fee to bring the midfielder to Stamford Bridge. At the time not much was made of the signing but now every fan (opposition and Chelsea fans themselves) see this as one of the best transfer deals in the club’s history considering the impact he has made to this Chelsea side for a number of years.
It is clear that Marina loves doing business with the Foxes. Ngolo Kante signing was one of her best transfer deals made with the Midlands club. However, the Danny Drinkwater signing was arguably one of her worst deals.
Deadline day is normally a day where clubs panic buy, and Chelsea and Marina herself fell into this trap in the summer transfer window of 2017.
Drinkwater was signed for Chelsea for the same fee as Ngolo Kante- £35 million. So, in that aspect you would hypothetically say that was a good deal. However it didn’t turn out this way.
Since joining the club, the English midfielder has never nailed down a first team position within the Chelsea set up under a number of managers; Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri and more recently Frank Lampard.
As a result, the Blues are trying to get rid of the midfielder but no club are willing to pay near the £35 million pounds that Chelsea spent on the 29-year-old.
This has meant that the West-London club could only loan Drinkwater out to Burnley in the hope that he impresses and furthermore increases his value for Chelsea to sell him.
However, he is also struggling at Burnley and as a result the Blues are struggling to get rid of him permanently.
The Blues may have to lose money and that would be Granovskaia’s fault for overpaying for him.
The striker position has always been a poison chalice at Chelsea.
Few strikers have succeeded at Chelsea since the start of the 21st century.
The notable two who have succeeded are Didier Drogba and more recently Diego Costa.
Costa left Chelsea in the summer of 2017.
Granovskaia had the big task of signing his replacement and with the history of Chelsea strikers, this would not be an easy task.
Initially it looked like Romelu Lukaku would return to the Blues, and Alvaro Morata would join Manchester United. But it was the other way round!
Lukaku joined Manchester United and Morata joined Chelsea.
The fee Chelsea paid for Morata was around £58 million rising to £70 million in add ons.
That was a big fee paid by Granovskaia to Real Madrid, and as a result Chelsea fans expected a lot of the Spanish striker.
He had a reputation of scoring a good amount of goals at Real Madrid and previously Juventus.
However like most Chelsea strikers nowadays, he flopped!
Over two seasons for the Blues as their main number nine, Morata scored 24 goals in total.
But his time will be remembered for all the easy chances he missed.
Again this turned out to be another failed signing by Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia.
Despite failing in overpaying for ex Chelsea flop Morata, Granovskaia did a good enough job in getting most of the money back for the Spanish striker.
In the last transfer window, Atletico Madrid wanted to sign Morata after his impressive loan spell at the club during the 18/19 season.
But the Spanish club weren’t willing to pay the asking fee that Granovskaia set out.
The Russian director agreed a deal where they take Morata back on loan for this season, but must pay £58 million once the loan expires at the end of this season.
That was a good deal considering the fears that the Blues may not make even half the money back for the striker.
The 2017 summer transfer window was the time where Granovskaia grew a bad reputation among the Chelsea fan base.
Another factor which caused many Blues fans to turn against her was the signing of Tiemoue Bakayoko.
Granovskaia paid Monaco £40 million rising up to £50 million for the French Midfielder.
Again, this signing was very unsuccessful in the end.
The 25-year old struggled mentally and physically to adapt to the Premier League and a result was loaned out to AC Milan and then back to former club, Monaco.
Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois were two Belgian players who were vital to Chelsea’s team for a number of seasons.
But both had aspirations whilst playing for Chelsea of signing for Real Madrid.
Courtois was the first player to leave the Blues for Madrid. £35 million was the fee agreed between the two clubs.
Now that doesn’t seem a lot but the way Courtois forced his way out of the club in such a disrespectful manor made the fee seem a lot as Chelsea fans just wanted rid of him in the end.
The next player was Eden Hazard. The Belgian winger was loved by Chelsea fans and still is today. The reason he is still loved and Courtois isn’t anymore is due to the way he left the club.
The fee agreed between the two clubs on this occasion was a fee rising to £130 million. For a player who was going into the final year of his contract, this was a good deal for the West Londoners.
The deals that Granovskaia has done with Real Madrid has proved a lot of her haters wrong.
No one really knew much about Davide Zappacosta…
But this was the full back who Marina Granovskaia and the rest of the Chelsea board signed on Deadline day of the summer 2017 transfer window.
The Russian director spent £23 million to sign the Italian fullback from Torino, and again it has turned out to be a failed signing.
The 27-year-old is currently out on loan to Roma, but these failed signings by Granovskaia have been shown in the number of players who have been loaned out to various clubs in recent seasons!
Antonio Conte won the title in his first season (2016/17) as Chelsea manager.
The season after was difficult though. Despite struggling in the following season (2017/18), he still managed to win a FA Cup for the club.
But the Chelsea board including Marina Granovskaia decided to sack the Italian coach despite his successes in two seasons at the club.
After Conte was sacked, the process of hiring a new manager began for the Blues.
Most Chelsea fans wanted a manager who would bring an attacking philosophy to the club.
Chelsea hadn’t had an attacking manager since Gianluca Vialli. The Blues had appointed many pragmatic managers before Maurizio Sarri like Jose Mourinho, and Antonio Conte etc.
But Granovskaia listened to fans and appointed Maurizio Sarri who was known for his attacking and expansive style of play with Napoli.
This showed that she understands what direction the fans want this club to go towards which is a positive sign.
Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out for Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea due to personal reasons in the end.
Him leaving at the end of last season after winning the Europa League final against Arsenal meant that Granovskaia and the rest of the Chelsea board had to appoint another manager.
With a transfer ban, the role didn’t really appeal to many managers other than Frank Lampard.
The Russian director took a gamble on Lampard and it has so far paid off.
Appointing Frank had reunited the fan base and has made this season one of the most exciting seasons to be a Chelsea fan due to his use and development of the Chelsea youth.
So credit has to go with Granovskaia for making this appointment.
Chelsea pulled off a major shock in Group H beating the unbeaten Dutch Champions in their own back yard.
Michy Batshuayi’s 86th minute strike was the difference between the two youthful sides.
Here are the five key talking points from the game:
After the Valencia game, a minority of fans thought that it would be mission impossible to get out of the group after that lacklustre and uninspiring performance.
The Ross Barkley missed penalty was thought to be pivotal in the reason why Chelsea may have in the end missed out on qualification from Group H.
However that was only a blip as since the Valencia game, the Blues have managed to now win six consecutive games in all competitions (not taking into account the Liverpool loss straight after the Valencia game).
In the Champions League since the Valencia game, the Blues have beaten Lille 2-1 away from home and most recently Ajax tonight. That has left them joint top of Group H with the Dutch champions on six points.
The West-Londoners now have three games left in Group H to secure their passage to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
They face Ajax in the revers fixture at Stamford Bridge next, then take on Valencia away from home at the Mestalla, before finishing off wit Lille at Stamford Bridge.
A minimum of four points from the remaining three games in Group H could be just about enough to see Chelsea through.
However Lampard would want more to make it an easier and more convincing qualification for his Chelsea side and expect at least six points from the remaining games the Blues have left in Group H.
Frank Lampard got his tactics spot on tonight- Limiting Ajax’s attacking threats by setting up his team to defend with a real intensity and high pressing the Dutch champions to force the issue.
But the main aspect that of the game tactically that Lampard got spot on tonight was his substitutions.
Both of his subs combined for the goal with Christian Pulisic providing the low cross into the box for Batshuayi to smash in via the under side of the bar.
Not just those two subs but when the Blues went 1-0 up, the boss acted quickly by bringing on right back Reece James to see the game out. And that worked out perfectly.
Pulisic offered more attacking drive from the bench, whilst Batshuayi added more of a focal point and James added solidity at the back.
What game nowadays doesn’t have an incident with VAR?
This game was another game where VAR was used to chalk off a goal.
In the 35th minute, Ajax thought they had taken the lead when Hakim Ziyech’s deflected shot fell into the path of Quincy Promes who prodded home from close range.
However VAR adjudged Promes’s arm to be in an offside position.
Judge for yourself!
The main concern before the game from a Chelsea perspective was the absence of star midfielder Ngolo Kante.
The consensus before the game was no Ngolo Kante would mean no Chelsea win against Ajax.
However Jorginho’s and Mateo Kovacic’s work in the two man midfield showed that the Blues can cope without the Frenchman.
The Italian was the more defensive of the two midfielders, breaking up play and setting up Chelsea attacks from deep within his own half.
Whereas, the Croatian midfielder was the more attacking of the two. Driving at the Ajax midfield and back line with his direct runs and distributing the ball to the Chelsea wingers when on the attack.
Both worked so well together and created a dynamic that Ajax could break down and ultimately could not cope with as the Blues won the highly contested midfield battle in the end.
The jury has been out all season to whether Kurt Zouma will ultimately be good enough to play for Chelsea in the long-term.
The answer at the start of the season to that question would have been that he is not good enough especially considering his poor performances against the likes of Manchester United and Sheffield United.
But as this season is progressing, you can see major progression in Zouma’s game and his confidence!
And tonight’s match reinforced that pattern!
He in many Chelsea fans eyes was a beast in that defence. Him and Tomori worked so well together defending against the lethal front three of Ajax!
The Frenchman was definitely the better of the two centre-backs tonight, but this isn’t always the case which is huge credit to the work that both himself and Tomori are putting into making a stake to be Chelsea’s permanent centre-back’s for the seasons to come!
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