North-West: The Ultimate Corner in football
TAKEOVER FROM HELL! Why Blackburn’s owners should have stuck to their day job £2.99 May, 2011 Issue 123
UT $4.50 ET $5.00
Rise of the Phoenix: Chester FC The End of Year CK Awards! Former referee Tony Leake interview
2 May 2011
Editor’s comment It’s been a tough season for Wayne Rooney. After a disastrous World Cup where he went from being the country’s saviour to enemy number one in a single idiotic TV rant, he then embarked upon a serious dip in form. There was then the whole saga of Rooney wanting to quit United and possibly join rival’s Manchester City. After a dramatic U-turn, in which he agreed a new five-year deal at United, he quickly made the headlines for the wrong reasons once more last month with ‘sweargate’. After his difficult year it should have been the moment which truly marked his return to form, scoring his third goal in a dramatic comeback against West Ham. But instead of basking in his moment of glory he screamed expletives down a live television camera, and once more the scouser was the number one villain again. But while it has been a testing year for Rooney it cannot be denied that in recent months he has been in blistering form, just like his fellow United strikers Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez. All three have been in such good form it’s hard to see how Fergie can justify leaving one of his hitmen out of the side. But in United’s recent victory over Everton Sir Alex made one tactical move that made me think. As United searched for a late goal he dropped Rooney into a centre midfield role, allowing him to dictate the attacks from a deeper position and leaving Hernandez to trouble the defence. It worked, as Fergie’s tactical masterstrokes so often do. This left me thinking, could central midfield be Rooney’s long-term role? United are currently seeking a replacement for Paul Scholes and rather than splashing £20-30m, he could be sat right under Fergie’s nose. Scholes himself started out as a striker, but his vision, passing and tenacity meant he soon became one the finest midfielders in the country. This season, Rooney has shown similar attributes, evidenced in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Schalke. From a deeper position, Rooney drew three defenders before playing a pinpoint through ball to Ryan Giggs who opened the scoring. Scholes-esque was immediately the thought which came to my mind. Though Rooney’s season may have been a difficult one, could it also be season in which he has finally found his true calling? Next season could we be seeing Rooney playing behind Berbatov and Hernandez more often? Only time will tell.
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May 2011 3
Featured Article: Blackburn Rovers fans have had enough of new owners Venky’s
Takeover hell How not to run a football club by Blackburn Rovers’ owners Venky’s
Club Focus A look at the inaugural year of non-league phoenix club Chester
NW round-up As the season draws to an end we round up the fortunes of the NW clubs across the leagues
Interview An exclusive interview with former referee Tony Leake
CK Awards It’s that time of year! We reveal the winner of our 2011 awards
A MAN’S BEST FRIEND
Fan’s Eye View Our team of fans give their verdicts on their clubs’ seasons
4 May 2011
HOW NOT TO RUN A FOOTBALL CLUB!
The tale of Indian chicken giants Venky’s rude welcome to English football
by Mark Hayhurst
If Blackburn Rovers ever create an official hall of fame, the first inductee would not be their record goalscorer Simon Garner, nor would it be title winning manager Kenny Dalglish. In fact it wouldn’t be a player or manger at all. The first name that would come to any Rovers fan’s head would the man statued behind the protesting fans above; the late Jack Walker. Though he passed away in 2001 the legendary benefactor’s name is still sung by the Ewood Park faithful, this season louder than ever. This is an example of the impact a club’s owner can have in the modern game. And Walker’s success is all the more reason for the contempt shown towards their current owners, Venky’s, this season. Despite the differing results there have been a number of similarities between the beginnings of the reigns of Walker and Venky’s at Ewood Park. Both came in and made big promises. The man now affectionately known as Uncle Jack not only wanted Second Division Rovers to return to the top-flight, he wanted to win it. Venky’s have promised top 5 football, an equally proposterous ambition considering how the footballing hierachies have changed since the early 90’s.
Both made unsuccessful attempts in immediately bringing in top names to the club and both were ridiculed for it. Walker was unable to bring in England internationals Gary Lineker and Geoff Thomas to his hometown club, whereas Venky’s failed in their ambitions to bring Ronaldinho and David Beckham to East Lancashire. Both made the early decision to sack the club’s manager and replace them with their own man. However, this is where the differences begin. Whereas Walker brought in one of the game’s biggest names, title winning manager Kenny Dalglish, Venky’s replaced Sam Allardyce with the club’s unknown first-team coach. Though Allardyce was not everyone’s cup of tea, there is one thing he virtually guaranteed Blackburn this season, Premier League survival. His methods weren’t pretty, and some of his egotistical traits can grate on you, but his track record is proven, whereas Steve Kean’s was far from it. Many believed Kean’s appointment was temporary, and maybe Venky’s intended this at the time, but Kean’s reign was quickly lengthened. The ‘next two games’ became ‘two to three months’, which eventually extended to the end of the season before Kean was given a 3 year contract just a month after his initial
appointment. Led by Dalglish, Walker’s Rovers won promotion to the newly formed Premier League via the play-offs in his first full season. In comparison, since Kean’s appointment, Blackburn have been in freefall down the table, and in the process embarked upon their longest winless run in 25 years. Whereas Walker splashed millions to make his visions a reality. Venky’s have yet to prove they can deliver the ‘marquee’ signings they have been promising. So just how have Venky’s turned one of the most stable clubs in the country into what Blackburn fans now consider a laughing stock. Well their business background hasn’t helped. Though it is hardly Venky’s fault the media, rival fans and even their own (far right) have lapped up the chicken farming factor to produce endless puns and jokes at the club’s expense. ‘Blackburn Rovers KFC’, ‘Blackburn Roosters’, ‘Blackburn have egg on their faces’, plus a plethora of similar ‘topdrawer’ comedy has littered the press and message boards since the takeover. However, I’m sure every Blackburn would sit there and take all the chicken puns under the sun if it meant success for their beloved club. But
Corner Kick! coupled with the club’s on-field decline it all becomes an array of embarrassment.
Kean by the statue of their beloved Jack Walker (far left).
So what has made Venky’s inaugural season in charge of Blackburn such a disaster? Some have said they are being misadvised, some have claimed it is merely inexperience, the more cynical have said they have little care for the club and it is purely a money-making venture. Whatever the reason, the statistics remain. Under Allardyce Rovers managed 21 points in 17 games and were sitting in midtable. Under Kean they have taken 17 points in 18 games and are perilously close the relegation zone. These are the statistics which have infuriated the Ewood faithful.
Former Premier League referee and Rovers fan Tony Leake, 53, (who CK has a full interview with on page 8) said: “The appointment and subsequent backing of Kean is nothing short of crazy. He must be putting all kinds of spin on the situation when he visits them (Venky’s) in Pune and they are falling for it. They need to talk to real fans to get a true picture.”
The public appearance of the three sibling owners of Venky’s have also done little to endeer themselves to the supporters. Disastrous interviews have included the elder sister of the Rao brothers, Anuradha Desai admit she knows nothing about football as well as justifying the appointment of Steve Kean because he is a “good thinker”. Venkatesh Rao went one better and has defended his under-fire manager by saying he is “very nice”. Being a pleasant, good thinker may work if you wanted to hire a chicken salesman but a lot more is required for a Premier League manager. The embarassing communication from Venky’s has prompted fans to propose the formation of a supporters’ trust. The proposed Blackburn Rovers Supporters Trust will hold its first meeting on 11th May. Spokesman Dan Clough has stressed that it is not an AntiVenky’s protest group and instead aims to act as an authoritative voice for any concerns of the fans. He said: “Recent events at Rovers have caused a great deal of anxiety and unrest amongst our supporters. It’s imperative we ensure we make ourselves heard, and by uniting together in the form of a Supporters Trust, we believe this can be achieved.” Other fans have displayed their displeasure at the running of the club in other ways. Following the recent loss at home to Manchester City, a number of supporters stayed behind to protest against both Venky’s and Steve
The fans are desperate to get their voices across and tell the owners, who reside over 6,000 miles away from Blackburn, just what they believe is happening to their football club. Although it is easy to feel a degree sympathy for Venky’s. They may well have gone into this with good intentions but failed to anticipate what was required. It is also possible that they have been victims of bad advice. It has been widely reported that the partner companies SEM and Kentaro have been advising Venky’s during and since the takeover. The two sports agencies have played a major part in what has happened at Blackburn these past few months and some fans believe they are the real villains in this saga. Just how much influence SEM/Kentaro have had is only known to those involved. Conspiracies such as SEM Chairman Jerome Anderson having his own office at Ewood Park were quickly denied by the club. Although there have been signs that Anderson is more involved than he has admitted. The biggest sign came in March when Rovers announced what would, in normal circumstances, have been a lowkey signing of a young talent that generated little discussion. How-
Venky’s timeline of decline... • • • • •
May 2011 5
ever, this young talent Feature was none other than Jerome Anderson’s son, Myles. The 20-yearold defender, unsurprisingly represented by his father’s company, has made just one firstteam appearance in his career, three minutes as a substitute for Aberdeen. Obviously this immediately led to many questioning Anderson’s role at the club even further. Steve Kean robotically denied any nepotism, likening Anderson to Chris Smalling and claiming he has Premier League potential. In just over six months Blackburn Rovers have become a club clouded in mystery and uncertainty. The fans do not know whether their owners or manager can be trusted and are becoming increasingly disillusioned. Many are clinging onto the hope that this first year has just been a learning curve for Venky’s. Rovers will narrowly survive and they will finally replace Steve Kean with a proven manager in the summer. Venky’s will finally deliver on their promise of top signings and the jokes and rumours will slowly fade away. It is this hope that has prevented the pictured protest from becoming a weekly event attended to by thousands, as oppose to the hundred or so who turned out against City. If Venky’s are serious about their commitment to Blackburn Rovers then it is time to start showing it. Mismanagement is becoming an increasing trend throughout the leagues, and while owners, players and managers can come and go it is the fans that truly feel the effects.
Even at a time of crisis for their club, Blackburn fans still can’t resist a good pun signing for Venky’s.
20th January - Steve Kean given the job permanently
21st November - Venky’s upset some fans by speaking about remaining Ewood Park.
31st January - An in-form El-Hadji Diouf is loaned out to Rangers will no direct left wing replacement.
13th December - Sack Sam Allardyce & assistant Neil McDonald. Coach Steve Kean takes ‘temporary’ charge.
31st January - Mauro Formica is signed for £3.5m from Newell’s Old Boys. Yet to make a first-team appearance.
15th December - Venky’s say Steve Kean will be the manager for 3 months to ‘test his mettle’
3rd February - Popular long-time chairman John Williams leaves the club.
5th March - An away defeat to Fulham leaves Blackburn just 2 points away from the relegation zone.
22nd March - Sign Myles Anderson, a 20-year-old defender who has made just 1 appearance for Aberdeen and also the son of S.E.M. chairman Jerome Anderson.
16th April - A 2-0 defeat at Everton makes it 10 matches without a win, their worst run for 25 years.
19th November - Venky’s buy Blackburn Rovers for £43 million after being advise by the talent agency S.E.M.
20th December - Club captain Ryan Nelsen and team captain Chris Samba both hit out at Venky’s for sacking Sam Allardyce. Rumours of other senior players being unsettled.
2nd January - Venky’s announce an attempt for an audacious bid to sign Ronaldinho
- David Beckham is also touted as a potential marquee
6 May 2011
This month’s club focus profiles Chester FC. A club reborn
THE RISE OF THE PHOENIX The country’s most turbulant club has again found it’s feet and is on the rise once more
This time last year Chester FC was nothing more than an idea. Now the city gathers to salute an open-topped bus filled with players and coaches celebrating a championship victory. Attaining that title was far from easy, though it should have been. But it’s just not like Chester to do things the simple way. On the 9th March, with just twelve games remaining, Chester were thirteen points clear at the top of the table. It would have taken the most pessimistic Cestrian and the most romanticist Skelmersdale United fan to predict that the two clubs would swap places by the end of April. But it came so close to happening. In fact, at one point it was even in Skelmersdale’s hands. By this point, some Blues fans feared the worst. After enduring so much adversity, the first bit of success in so many years was about to be taken from them. An unexpected loss of form, coupled with Skelmersdale’s eight-match winning streak threatened
to cruelly end the fairytale for Chester. A fairytale the fans who had stayed loyal really did deserve. However, Chester managed to turn things around and narrowly bring the Evo-Stick Northern Premier League Division One North (NPLD1N) title home on goal difference after one of the most dramatic final days in non-league history. Going into the last game Chester needed just a draw away at Garforth Town to be champions. The only way Skelmersdale could snatch the title was by defeating Ossett Albion and Chester losing with a sevengoal swing in Skem’s favour. In the bag for Chester then surely? Think again. Things got off to a great start for Chester, taking the lead just before half time, meaning that what happened at Skelmersdale did not matter. Though when Garforth scored two and news came through that Skem were winning 5-1, a few worried faces started appearing in the Chester crowd. Those faces of worry began to turn to anguish as Skem scored two more, leaving just one solitary
No More Lies: It will be a long time until the Chester fans forget the Vaughan’s impact on their club
goal the difference. Ossett quickly got one back to slightly ease the tension and increase Chester’s margin once more, making it an incredible 7-2. All Chester needed was an equalising goal but despite testing the Garforth keeper on numerous occasions, it just never came. The final whistle went for Chester, a 2-1 defeat was finalised leaving every Cestrian in the country praying for news of the same whistle to arrive from Skelmersdale. The seconds seemed like minutes, fingernails were chewed to shreds, but eventually it came. In the end Ossett’s two goals, while meaningless to them, had won Chester the league. The feeling of relief soon turned to ecstasy. In the hardest way possible, Chester had done it. “When we were 2-1 down and Skem 7-1 up I have to admit to feeling physically sick,” remembered Chester’s media officer and director Jeff Banks. He added: “We obviously dreaded any more updates coming through with more Skem goals, and when we had
May 2011 7
after many years of mismangement and financial turmoil to wait through 6 minutes of injury time at Skem with our game already over, it was horrendous to go through but when Neil turned round to me on the pitch and said we’ve done it, well that was it, cue the celebrations.” Despite the end of season dramatics, the title victory is a credit to how far the club has come in under twelve months. The word ‘turmoil’ has never been used so aptly as when describing the final years of Chester City.
The Vaughan years When Stephen Vaughan first took over Chester City, the Blues entered what would turn out to be a honeymoon period before a tremendously turbulent relationship with the boxing promoter. Vaughan’s past had not been too rosy. After initially bringing success to his previously owned Barrow AFC, he entered a series of money laundering allegations before leaving the club with a £200k shortfall, causing them to enter liquidation and be removed from the Conference. But when the Liverpudlian took over Chester City, few would predict that history would repeat itself in such an identical way. After at first investing heavily, improving their Deva Stadium, he brought them success in 2004 as they won the Conference to gain promotion to the football league. At the time the chairman of the official supporters club, Barrie Hipkiss said: “It’s a great improvement. I’m very impressed by Stephen’s approach and his promise to get things right. He has simply told us he wants to be involved in football and wants to own a club.” Problems first arose in his time at Chester
when, following an outcry of controversy at arranging for the club to hold a minute’s silence following the death of the well-known murdered gangster Colin Smith, he stepped down as chairman. Vaughan, however, remained the majority shareholder of the club, which entered a series of financial problems. As Chester began to seriously struggle on the pitch, sliding towards a return to the Conference, Vaughan announced a sale of the club to Liverpool businessman Gary Metcalf. Dubiously though, the ownership was instead transferred to Vaughan’s son, Stephen Vaughan Jr, a 24-year-old player at the club. Shortly after, they entered voluntary administration before being bought by Chester City Ltd, a company owned entirely by the Vaughan family. Due to the way they had entered and left administration, the club were refused affiliation to the FA for the 2009-10 season while they awaited a High Court ruling. Chester were eventually given affiliation but also received a 25-point deduction at the start of the season. In November 2009, Vaughan Sr. became the first club owner to fail the FA’s ‘fit and proper person test’. This came after being disqualified from acting as a director of any company for a period of 11 years due to his involvement in a £500k VAT fraud whilst director of Rugby League club Widnes Vikings. Vaughan again passed control of Chester City to his son whilst remaining heavily involved in the running of the club. However in February 2010, after failing to fulfill fixtures due to a failure to pay players, police and other staff members, Chester were suspended from the Football Conference. After being officially expelled from the league, the club 125 year history was over on the 10th March after winding up following a High Court ruling.
Interview: Chester’s director Jeff Banks Towards the end of the life of Chester City, how did you feel watching the decline of your club? It was horrible to see how the club was going down. I, like others, felt simply powerless to do anything, and that is the danger of having one person in control of your club. When there is no way out, the fans are the ones who suffer whilst for one person they just move on. Looking back however, it gave the club chance to breathe new life, and we have not looked back since. Standing outside the Deva Stadium boycotting for a match was the hardest thing to do, but it had to be done. Could you briefly describe the process when starting up the club? The first step was to meet the council to find out what we had to do to apply for the lease to the ground, should CCFC go under. Following that we had to prepare for the club to eventually fall, before
we would apply to reform the club through the FA. We then had to apply to the FA to become members of the Cheshire FA, whilst at the same time applying for the lease to the ground. When we had the lease the full application, a sound business plan was submitted to the FA for us to become a ‘fit and proper’ club. We then were at the mercy of the FA to recommend which league we’d be placed in, however we felt the original decision made went against all advice and precedent that had been set, and we registered an appeal and were uplifted to the Evo-Stik Division 1 North. At the same time as all of this we did of course set about creating a management structure to be able to start the process of building a team capable of challenging for promotion. How satisfied are you with the progress Chester FC has made in it’s inaugural year? I don’t think we could be any more satisfied than
Phoenix rising Though a black day for the city, the news of the club’s extinction was what the majority of the clubs’ fans wanted. It gave them a chance to start again from scratch. Rebuild Chester as a club owned by the fans, or more importantly, not owned by Vaughan. With full support from the local authorities and residents, the supporters group City Fans United began the reconstruction process. They secured the use of the Deva Stadium, and were eventually granted entry to the NPLD1N, level eight on the football pyramid. Neil Young, a proven non-league manager previously at Colwyn Bay, was brought in to build a team ready to lead Chester up that pyramid. He began to scour the leagues to assemble a team of the best non-league players he could find. With that he did an excellent job, signing 37-goal striker Michael Wilde, the former Manchester United youth player Iain Howard (left) and the former Rhyl skipper George Horan, who would lead captain Young’s side to championship glory. Another of those players was the former Blackburn Rovers trainee Michael Aspin (21), he said: “I signed purely because of the excellent fanbase, and the players who had already signed before me,I knew were good players and that it was going to be a good season.” A total of 44 players were used by Chester in their inaugural season, a stat some fans blamed for their dip in form towards the end of the season. None of them will care now though. Chester have taken that first big step in their quest to return to the football league. It wasn’t easy, but a Chester fan would not have expected any less from their rollercoaster ride of a football club. By Mark Hayhurst what we are. Promotion in our first season, crowds averaging 2500 throughout the season, and 30% of that fan base being children. Record season ticket sales, Record shirt sales. Major sponsors from one of the world’s biggest companies - it’s just been fantastic. What does the long and short-term future hold for Chester? Fan ownership is proving to be the way forward, especially for lower league and non league clubs, and we see this as a key way to drive the club forward. We are now an established club, with the chance to progress further, and it is our five year goal to reach the Conference, and a 10 year plan to reach the Football League. We’re now 2 leagues away from competing in the Conference. Fans and local businesses are throwing their weight behind us as they are being treated in the way they should be, and Chester FC is certainly one big family at present, and long may that continue.
8 May 2011
North-West Round-Up It’s been a season of ups and downs for the North-West. Victory for Manchester United over Chelsea would almost guarentee a record 19th title, while Manchester City seem a safe bet for fourth spot. Should United defeat Chelsea, then the most intriguing battle in the Premier League is at the bottom. It is possible that the Premier League could lose three North-West teams this year with Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic and Blackpool all struggling in what seems to be a three from five situation. Of the three teams Wigan look to have the easiest run-in but at this stage of the season upsets seem to come around more than ever. In the Championship, Preston North End ended an eleven year stay in the division after a defeat to Cardiff saw them relegated. So often the Lilywhites came close to promotion to the promised land via the playoffs but the constant requirement to sell their top performers meant this dream was never able to become a reality. At the other end Burnley failed to make an immediate return to the top-flight after losing away at Leeds. This failure to gain promotion means the number of North-Western clubs in the Premier League could reduce from eight to five should the aforementioned three be relegated. In League One Rochdale have failed in their attempts to make it two promotions in a row after missing out on the play-offs. Oldham Athletic still remain in the third-tier after fourteen seasons after comfortably avoiding relegation along with Tranmere Rovers. Bury secured promotion from League Two after a victory over title rivals Chesterfield in a match where their keeper Cameron Belford was punched in the face by a young Chesterfield fan. Belford had the last laugh though as Bury are still on course to push The Spireites for the top spot. Accrington Stanley’s fantastic end of season form has seen them secure a playoff spot. Despite another tough time off the pitch for Accy, the longest-serving manager outside the top-flight John Coleman, has worked miracles on it. Speaking of miracles, Stockport County’s fate was all but sealed after a draw against Northampton. It would take a miracle to keep them up in their final game. In the Blue Square Conference Fleetwood Town secured a play-off place with a 1-0 victory over North-West rivals Barrow, who survived relegation on the last day of the season.
Straight from the horse’s mouth...
Name: Tony Leake Age: 53 Job: Former Premier/Football League referee When did you retire from refereeing? April 30th 2006. My last game was Sheffield Utd v Crystal Palace. Sheffield Utd were already champions and Crystal Palace in the play-offs so it was pretty much a routine match. Do you miss it? Would you go back if you could? There are aspects I miss and some I don’t. Physically it was getting tough with the demands of training and reporting the stats from my heart rate monitor to a sports scientist. The intensitiy of training increased as I got older but what made me better year on year was experience. What is your view on the current standard of refereeing in the English game? Without trying to sound like a bitter ex referee I think the standard is as low as I can remember. The advent of full time referees in 2000 hasn’t really produced better referees, just fitter and better prepared referees but there are still key and game changing decisions wrongly made which have an effect on promotion/relegation. There is an air of arrogance about some of them which doesn’t do the image of refereeing any good. What was the strangest moment of your refereeing career? There are many but probably the strangest was playing 13 minutes of additional time at Grimsby v Derby in a live Sky match. One of the Grimsby players suffered a serious injury which required attention from paramedics and doctors. With the time constraints that Sky have with their programming it was funy to see the floor manager under pressure. They wanted to cut half time short but I wouldn’t. What is the most testing match you have officiated? A play-off semi final second leg between Wolves and Norwich. Norwich were 3-1 up from the first leg and everybody at Wolves were really up for the game. The intensity and pressure I was put under by the players and the crowd was immense. I cautioned four Wolves players in the first 30 minutes and at half time I could hear the then Wolves manager, Dave Jones screaming at his play-
ers about their lack of disciplne. They got the message and scored early on in the second half. Despite massive pressure they couldn’t manage a second goal. I was absolutely knackered, mentally and physically for a couple of days after. Around an hour after the game I was walking back to my car with the other officials when we were confonted by a group of angry Wolves fans who verbally abused us. I really thought that we would get a good hiding but this gang backed off. What is your opinion on Rooney’s two match ban for swearing at the camera? I was always a lenient referee when it came to players swearing but I wouldn’t let them verbally abuse me. Rooney didn’t do himself any favours but the referee was put under pressure by the FA to report it. They wanted to make an example and who better than Rooney? Once the FA got involved the referee didn’t really have an option and that would have applied to all referees. Who was the most difficult manager to work with when officiating a match? Without a shadow of a doubt Neil Warnock. He always blamed the officials when his team didn’t win and he had a nasty way of doing it. Who do you believe is the best referee in England currently? I believe that Mike Dean has been the best now for a couple of seasons. He has a few traits and mannerisms I don’t like but overall his decision making has generally been correct. The vast majority of stakeholders in the game judge referees solely on their decisions and that is why I think Mike Dean has consistently been the best. If you could change one rule in football which would it be? The amount of time lost during a game and not added on at the end is a real bug bear for me. The majority of injuries for whcih the game is stopped is ludicrous. More often than not the referees tell the player to go off without allowing the physio on. In my opinion the majority would stay on and ‘run’ the injury off. I also think this is used as a tactic to relieve pressure when a team is under the cosh and their opponents are gaining momentum
May 2011 9
The Corner Kick Awards Premier League Player of the Season: 1. Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)
Young Player of the Season: 1. Javier Hernandez (Manchester United)
No obvious choice this year for this one, but we’ve gone for the Argentine striker. Despite his size he often played as a lone striker for the Citizens and contributed over 20 goals before his injury.
The Mexican striker has completely discarded the notion that young foreigners need time to adjust to the Premier League. He adds a whole new dimension to the United attack with his pace and positioning.
2. Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United) 3. Charlie Adam (Blackpool)
2. Phil Jones (Blackburn Rovers) 3. Seamus Coleman ( Everton)
Championship Player of the Season: 1. Chris Eagles (Burnley)
NW Derby of the Season: 1. Manchester United 3-2 Liverpool (19/9/10)
The flashy winger was unable to set the Premier League alight last season but has once again shown tremendous form in the Championship. Without promotion though Burnley may now lose him.
A Gerrard double levelled the score for Liverpool in this thrilling encounter after a stunning Berbatov overhead kick put United 2-0 up. However Berbatov hit again late on to seal his hat-trick and victory for United.
2. Everton 3-3 Manchester United (11/9/10) 3. Blackpool 2-3 Manchester United (25/1/11)
2. Jay Rodriguez (Burnley) 3. Ian Hume (Preston North End)
League One Player of the Season:
Manager of the Season: 1. Owen Coyle (Bolton Wanderers)
1. Craig Dawson (Rochdale) The 20-year-old centre back was snapped up by West Brom last summer but it was a shrewd bit of business by manager Keith Hill to have him return to Rochdale on loan, a head beyound his years.
Working with very limited funds and a squad of another manager’s players is a very difficult situation to achieve success in the Premier League, but Coyle has managed it while also playing attractive football.
2. James Berrett (Carlisle United) 3. Gary Jones (Rochdale)
2. Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United) 3. Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool)
League Two Player of the Season:
Signing of the Season:
1. Ryan Lowe (Bury)
1. Raul Meireles (Liverpool)
The proverbial late-bloomer. At 32 years old it seemed Lowe was winding down his mediocre career. But the former Chester City striker has hit 27 goals so far to help Bury’s push for the title.
Meireles struggled when he first came to Liverpool as Hodgson played him in a defensive midfield role. However, Dalglish pushed him forward and has reaped the rewards with the form of Meireles.
2. Javier Hernandez (Manchester United) 3. Daniel Sturridge (Bolton Wanderers)
2. Clayton Donaldson (Crewe Alexandra) 3. Jimmy Ryan (Accrington Stanley)
North-West team of the season... Hart
Kompany Man City
Tevez Man City
Berbatov Man United
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10 May 2011
Blackburn Rovers “It’s certainly been a season to forget for us Roverites. Hopefully after beating Bolton we should now stay up but after what has gone on that is little consolation for the season we’ve had to endure! The sacking of Sam Allardyce without a readymade replacement has to go down as one of the worst managerial sackings of all time. With him we knew the football wasn’t gonna be the nicest to watch but he’d definitely keep us up. Personally I don’t mind how we play as long as we get three points at the end of the game. Recently we’ve reverted back to the long ball game anyway! You’re actually quite lucky to catch me after last weekend as it’s been our most satisfactory one in ages. Beating Bolton to lengthen the gap between us and the relegation zone as well as Burnley ruining the slight chance they had to return to the Premier League made it a good Saturday night for us. Next season though much needs to improve! Starting with a new manager.” - Brandon Rogan (20)
Bolton Wanderers “Eighth in the league and an FA Cup semi-final. Not a bad return for Owen Coyle’s first full season. With limited funds he has done a decent job and the vast majority of Wanderers fans are more than happy with our progress so far.” - Mo_Choudhury “Team-wise it’s been encouraging to see Mark Davies, Adam Bogdan and to a lesser extent Marcos Alonso maturing - bodes well, however some of the senior players will need replacing and a few will be offski so in terms of building the club it remains to be seen if the development work this season will provide an adequate foundation for next.” - wanderlust “We all would have took 8th and the semi final of the cup back in august. With that win against Arsenal I think at the lowest it will be 8th if we get a good run in in the final 5 games 7th is a possiblity and that would cap off a great season. Don’t know whether we will make europe though.” - culsh_bwfc
“What a ride it’s been! Big Dipper eat your heart out (that’s my obligatory Pleasure Beach reference out the way early).
“This season has been frustrating for the majority of Everton fans. After getting off to a poor start to the season with personal mistakes being key in a large number of games that we lost. So much so that it was only until October that we managed to record our first win. Inconsistent form throughout the middle period of the season meant that we found ourselves stuck in the bottom half of the table and toying with the relegation zone.
I know a lot of us are disappointed at our downturn in form after the start we made to the season but for me I think of it like this: if you’d have said to me at the start of the season that with three games left we’d be 17th place I’d have snapped your hands off! Ian Holloway and the lads have given me something which I never thought I’d get as a Tangerine, a season in the top-flight. If we stay up, then words will not be able to describe the feeling I’d get. If we don’t, well we’ve had an amazing experience and the club will be in a far better position because of it.” - Ian Harper (30) “It’s certainly been a season of two halves. The first half I thought I was in dreamland, we were actually outplaying most of the Premier League teams! The second half reality has kicked in but I’m praying our first half results will be enough to keep us up. Tough run-in though!” - Nicky Reed (21)
A large number of injuries looked to cement Everton’s place into the relegation fight. However, we still managed to put a decent run of form together and in the latter periods of the season have been rising up the table. Currently lying 7th in table two places of a European place and pushing the teams above them. Although happy with the resurgence of the team, a poor start meant that our late form has stopped us from pushing for an assault on the Champions League spot. Overall, I’m satisfied with our performance this season.” - Jonathan Redhead (21)
Giving Fans a Voice! This month’s topic... As the season draws to an end the fans round up their clubs’ season Liverpool “In January it looked like it was going to be an absolute disaster! But since the return of King Kenny we have looked like the team we used to be. Kenny’s magic touch has completely rejuvinated us and I actually think that with a few new players coming in this summer, we can mount a serious push at the title. Luis Suarez looks a quality signing and I have full faith in Aunty (Andy) Carroll once he shakes off his little niggles. However the best surprise about this season has been the emergence of the younger players. I’ll shamefully admit I’d never heard of John Flanagan or Jack Robinson at the beginning of the season but they look like future England full-backs. Also Jay Spearing in the middle is just what we’ve lacked since Mascherano left us in the Summer. Kenny’s faith in youth has really paid off but we still need new players next year. As much as I love Carragher I think we need to think about getting someone new in.” - Mick Baldwin (62)
May 2011 11
North-West League Table
P W D L F
A GD Pts
1. Manchester United
12 8 3 1 29 14 +15 27
2. Manchester City
12 7 2 3 15 10
13 4 6 3 20 17
14 5 3 6 20 22
5. Blackburn Rovers
13 5 2 6 18 24
12 3 3 6 23 24
7. Wigan Athletic
14 2 6 6 13 24 -11 12
8. Bolton Wanderers
12 2 5 5 12 14
Manchester City “It is a bit premature to speak of our season, because it could easily all go wrong even at this stage and i’m sure that Mancini, and the vast majority of City fans, will be taking nothing for granted. But it is looking promising, and should we end up in a top four spot, and win the FA Cup , then i’d consider it definite progress for this club, and a very successful season. If we got just one of them I’d consider it a pretty succesful season, but might well have done better. And if we got neither of them then i reckon it could easily be curtains for the boss, not to mention one or two players who are ‘really’ lookingforward to playing in the Champions League next season! - mancblue1 “The highlight will be beating scum (Manchester United) at Wembley. They can sing all they want about how many years it’s been since we won a trophy because I have the upmost confidence that will beat Stoke and finally stick on in the trophy cabinet! Next season though it’s time we made a serious push at the title.” - Alan Goodman (50)
Manchester United Wigan Athletic “People have consistantly said this year that; “Manchester United aren’t as good as they used to be”. Yet United are currently at the top of the Barclays Premier League and are the only remaining British team in Europe. Chelsea and Arsenal aren’t as good as they used to be. Liverpool certainly aren’t as good as they should be! Even the “legendary” West Ham sit at the pit of the Premier League table. This is undoubtedly the year of underachievement, yet Manchester United still stand to achieve above everyone else. It should rather be said that Manchester United are as good as they need to be. And our noisy neighbours over the road can yap all they want about the Semi-Final, but while they enjoy the FA Cup I’m sure our record 19th title and Champions League double will just about ease the pain! All in all a very good season for United should we secure those trophies.” - Karl Chippendale (21)
“It’s been awful. I never agreed with the appointment of Martinez and think he should have been sacked months ago. If we stay up it won’t be because of him it’ll be because of players like N’Zogbia, Cleverley and McCarthy. And I’m sick of people treating us as though we shouldn’t be aggrieved of relegation because we’re ‘little rugby town Wigan’ and have ‘had a good run’. Nonesense. We’ve been in the Premier League this long and should expect that we can still continue as a top-flight club. Attendances don’t matter, it’s about who’s out there on that pitch and I believe we’ve enough quality players to survive. Our run-in looks pretty decent so hopefully we will stay up but if we do then next year I want Martinez out and a manager with experience brought in. I think Sam Allardyce could do a brilliant job at Wigan if he came. Whelan, cheque book out please!” - Liam Moon
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Published on Feb 9, 2012
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