The Cool Wall

A little later than intended due to a bank holiday weekend getaway, it is time to hatch my new feature. This is in fact the Birth of the Cool

As I outlined in my first post Beginnings I will be adding some regular features and Merlin’s Premier League Stickers of the Week will now be joined by The Cool Wall that I will probably be adding to as well as making any necessary adjustments once a month or so.

Like its car-based cousin, The Cool Wall won’t reflect how good players and managers are or how much I (or potential guest judges) even like them necessarily: it will be massively subjective and yet built on some semi-coherent if partially inexpressible criteria. Also, there’s is no Jeremy Clarkson.

So without further ado, the inaugural 5 players or managers are…

Ricardo Sá Pinto, Ryan Shotton, Timo Hildebrand, Roy Hodgson and Lukas Podolski…

Ricardo Sá Pinto

Sartorial but hard as nails

Is there any doubt? There aren’t many managers who can stroll around the dugout rocking braces and white elbow patches but Ricardo knows what he’s doing. Ricardo Sá Pinto is S-u-b Z-e-r-o.

Ryan Shotton

Nice towel

Easy prey perhaps but a useful benchmark nonetheless Ryan Shotton’s status as a top flight footballer and his overall contribution to the sport can be reduced to 3 points:

1. He is good at drying the ball.

2. He has a throw-in that is a bit like Rory Delap’s.

3. He is not in fact as old as Rory Delap.

The only problem being of course that he doesn’t have a throw-in that is a bit like Rory Delap’s. It’s nothing like Rory Delap’s. There are no redeeming features. He is seriously uncool.

 

Timo Hildebrand

Super Timo

Ah, Timo! The journeyman goalkeeper is a rare breed indeed but it was not always this way for the man who once seemed destined to make the German no1 shirt his own. Timo spent eight often successful years at Stuttgart at the beginning of his career as one of the original jungen Wilden (young wild ones) but whilst some things change, in this case being cool does not.

 

Roy Hodgson

“So long suckers” – Roy on leaving Liverpool (may not be exact quote)

Firstly, I do actually think that Hodgson is a better choice than Redknapp for England in the short and long term but that isn’t important here, in fact becoming the England manager may even count against him. Globe-trotting Englishmen in football are few and far between however and for one to be hired by a club like Inter Milan on two separate occasions they have to be doing something right even if their major successes lay elsewhere! Since his return to these shores Roy has been an absolute hero, even being fired by Liverpool isn’t uncool given Suarez-gate(s)! A narrow escape indeed! So is Roy Hodgson in fact cool? No, but he’s certainly not uncool either.

Lukas Podolski

The Pod

The question of whether Poldi is cool would, just a few short week ago, have had an extremely simple answer; he is one of my favourite players and one that I scarcely allowed myself to believe would actually be joining Arsenal but therein lies the problem. On the Cool Wall’s car-based cousin if one of the presenters buys the car in question it is automatically demoted and there is an element of that here although for slightly different reasons. Your own team is often too close to home, especially with new signings that haven’t even played yet – how on earth will they get on??? You don’t want to count your eggs too soon, nor end up with them on your face further down the line. The only problem is… Lukas Podolski is undoubtedly cool.

The Cool Wall – CLICK TO ENLARGE

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Merlin’s Premier League Stickers of the Week: Are you still playing??? (Part 2)

Following on from Are you still playing??? (Part 1) this week it’s a selection of well known current players as they were in 1997/98…

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Featured in 1997/98: Shay Given (currently at Aston Villa), Nicolas Anelka (left Chelsea in January 2012, now playing for Shanghai Shenhua), Kevin Davies (currently at Bolton Wanderers), Rio Ferdinand (currently at Manchester United), Philip Neville (currently at Everton)

[Every player mentioned above can be found in the Sticker Archive]

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May The 4th Be With You!

More deadly than Campbell and Brolin

May 4th is not only Star Wars day but also the anniversary the 1993/94 European Cup Winners’ Cup final.

In what has inadvertently turned into George Graham season on Mountain’s Short Thoughts & Bits, it’s time to look back at the final that pitted Arsenal against defending champions Parma who could boast the attacking talents of Brolin, Zola and Asprilla in their starting eleven!

May the 4th be with you!

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It’s Up For Grabs Now! – The Title Decider

[Including: Merlin’s Premier League Stickers of the Week: Arsenal Legends… 1988/89]

With Premier League leaders Man United set to face second place Man City on Monday night in a match that could decide the fate of the title this season it seems like a good time to look back at another title deciding bout from the season I was born. In 1988/89 however, due to the Hillsborough disaster the meeting between the top two clubs was postponed until the very end of the season.

POS Club Pld W D L F A GD PTS
 1 Liverpool 37 22 10 5 65 26 +39 76
 2 Arsenal 37 21 10 6 71 36 +35 73

Anything other than an Arsenal win by at least two clear goals would see Liverpool clinch the title, the problem for the Gunners was that Liverpool had not lost by two or more goals at Anfield in three years, Arsenal hadn’t beaten them there since 1974/75 and Liverpool had never lost a match with both John Aldridge and Ian Rush up front!

“Now I’ve heard of Liverpool. They’re famous for being good, aren’t they? Gary Lineker, Peter Shilton, all that lot.”

– Jo in Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch

Despite Lineker and Shilton never having played for Liverpool, Jo had it about right.

Over to Mr George Graham…

 

“Arsenal come streaming forward now in surely what will be their last attack. A good ball by Dixon, finding Smith, for Thomas, charging through the midfield… it’s up for grabs now… Thomas, right at the end!!!”

– Brian Moore

Level on points, level on Goal Difference, Arsenal had won the league on goals scored:

Pos Club Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 1 Arsenal 38 22 10 6 73 36 +37 76
 2 Liverpool 38 22 10 6 65 28 +37 76

Which brings us to the Premier League Stickers of the Week: the Arsenal team that started that day and brought the Division One trophy back to Highbury (although O’Leary features as an 80’s Panini because I somehow failed to collect him as either a player or a manager!)

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From 1993/94: John Lukic (Leeds United), Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, David Rocastle (Leeds United), Kevin Richardson (Aston Villa), Alan Smith (repeat)

From 1994/95: Steve Bould

From 1995/96: Michael Thomas (Liverpool!!!)

From 1996/97: Paul Merson

[Panini 1987/88: David O’Leary]

[All these (and more…) can be found in the Sticker Archive]

Categories: Arsenal Legends, Flashback, Merlin Premier League Stickers of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three and Out for Pep’s Barça?

Pep following defeat in El Clásico at the weekend

“The third year,” the great Hungarian coach Béla Guttmann always said, “is fatal.” If a manager stays at a club more than that, he said, his players tend to become bored and/or complacent and opponents start to work out counter-strategies…

– Jonathan Wilson

Back in January I read this Jonathan Wilson piece for the Guardian Sport Blog that outlined how at the very highest level the greatest teams in history often only last a maximum of three years (especially those who played a pressing game) or ‘Béla Guttmann’s Three-Year Rule’ as also mentioned in Wilson’s excellent book Inverting the Pyramid. The piece was written following a draw against Espanyol that saw Barça fall five points behind Real Madrid in La Liga but having comfortably defeated their rivals in El Clásico in December and with them still being most people’s favourites for the Champions League.

Fast forward three and a half months and with the end of the season approaching Barça now find themselves trailing by seven points in La Liga having just been defeated in El Clásico and having been knocked out of the Champions League by 10 men from a team that are currently only sixth in the English Premier League (twenty-five points behind Man Utd).

(left to right) Béla Guttmann, Victor Maslov, Johan Cruyff, Arrigo Sacchi

Dynamo Kyiv 1966-68 (3 consecutive Soviet titles under Victor Maslov)

Ajax 1970-73 (3 consecutive European Cups)

AC Milan 1987-90 (1 Scudetto & 2 consecutive European Cups under Arrigo Sacchi)

Barcelona 2008-11 (3 consecutive La Liga titles & 2 Champions Leagues under Josep Guardiola) ?

Decay can have numerous causes. A shape-based game saps players because it requires constant thought, and because training to get the shape right is boring and repetitive. Pressing is physically exhausting, demanding perpetual running. Players living and working in close proximity for three years will start to get on each other’s nerves. And then there is hunger: when you’ve won a league title three times, does the fourth really matter as much as the first?..

…Yet in many ways, Barcelona are a side set up to endure. Like Ferguson, who reflected last week on how those who have been brought up at a club have more instinctive loyalty, Guardiola has a stock of homegrown talent. The impression is that most players play for Barcelona because they want to rather than because it’s a convenient way of paying for the cars and clothes and rounds of Jaegerbombs…

If they can kick on, if they can overcome Guttmann’s three-year rule, then their achievement will be truly historic; if it does all slip away, then they will merely have been another excellent team.

Chin up

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Merlin’s Premier League Stickers of the Week: You Played For Darlo!!! (Part 1)

Division 3 Play-Off Finalists 1995/96

A footballer’s career can be a funny thing, whether essentially a one-club man or the consummate journeyman you can find yourself playing at the very highest level of English football as well as Feethams football ground over the years (or if you’re really lucky the Reynolds Arena / New Stadium / Williamson Motors Stadium / 96.6 TFM Darlington Arena / Balfour Webnet Darlington Arena / Northern Echo Darlington Arena, soon to be the only 25,000 seater stadium in the Conference North).

Here is handful of players who did just that: Premier League players who also ran out for the mighty Darlington F.C.

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From 1993/94: Gary Pallister – Darlo (loan) 1985/86 (also appointed operations director in 2010)

From 1994/95: Neil Maddison – Darlo 2001–2007

From 1997/98: Matty Appleby – Darlo (loan) 1993/94, signed for 1994-96 and 2005/06

From 1998/99: Julian Joachim – Darlo 2006-08 (club record signing of £100,000); Phil Stamp – Darlo 2005–2007

[All these (and more…) can be found in the Sticker Archive]

 

As an extra treat here is some semi-unrelated but absolutely fantastic Pathé News from 1957/1958…

Can we start referring to Chelsea as The Pensioners again? What a nickname!

Categories: Merlin Premier League Stickers of the Week, You Played For Darlo!!! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

David Beckham, take a bow son.

Becks celebrating his goal on Saturday

Still got it.

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Merlin’s Premier League Stickers of the Week: Internationals… World Cup Winners (Part 1)

Continuing the Juninho Paul-Easter celebrations today is a selection of World Cup winners who graced the Premier League including the Brazilian maestro himself.

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From 1994/95: Jurgen Klinsmann (with West Germany in 1990)

From 1996/97: Juninho Paulista (with Brazil in 2002)

From 1997/98: Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Vieira (both with France in 1998)

From 1998/99: Stéphane Guivarc’h (with France 1998)

That’s right, France won the World Cup with Stéphane Guivarc’h up front… No, honestly they did!

[All these (and more…) can be found in the Sticker Archive]

Categories: Internationals, Merlin Premier League Stickers of the Week, World Cup Winners | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HAPPY Juninho Paul-EASTER!!!

It takes one hell of a player to be capped for Brazil whilst playing week in week out with Phil Stamp, not to mention winning the World Cup whilst playing your club football alongside Dean Windass but that is exactly what Juninho (Paulista) achieved.

It is at this time of year that we remember what this player did, returning seemingly from the dead to pull on a Middlesbrough shirt not just once but three times! (If you count the 2011 farewell match.)

So kick back and enjoy eating some chocolates to mark the occasion as first established by Juninho’s former team mate Ugo Egg-iogu (apologies).

Categories: Flashback, News | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Merlin’s Premier League Stickers of the Week: Brits & Irishmen Abroad… Italy (Part 1)

Today it’s a selection of Premier League players who have also plied their trade in Italy…

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If you have a bit of time then take a look at this piece I wrote last year:

Mountain’s Blog – Football Italia: The all-time XI British & Irish footballers to play in Italy

or for a whole website based on English footballers playing abroad see Gav Stone’s Les Rosbifs.

From 1993/94: Ian Rush (Juventus 1987/88)

From 1995/96: David Platt (Bari 1991/92, Juventus 1992/93, Sampdoria 1993-95), Mark Hateley (AC Milan 1984-87)

From 1997/98: Paul Ince (Inter Milan 1995-97)

From 1999/2000: Robbie Keane (Inter Milan 2000/01)

[All these (and more…) can be found in the Sticker Archive]

Categories: Brits & Irishmen Abroad…, Italy, Merlin Premier League Stickers of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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