Posts Tagged ‘ Barcelona ’

Still Here

Just a quick note to let you know i’m still here…

Last weekend saw Manuel Almunia drop a clanger of gargantuan proportions which gifted West Bromwich Albion a 2-0 lead over Arsenal just shy of the hour mark. Despite Andrey Arshavin and Robin Van Persie clawing back two goals for The Gunners, only time will tell how costly Almunia’s error will prove in the race for the Premier League title.

Seeing as my last post came after another Arsenal gaffe worthy of its inevitable use on countless blooper DVD’s it seemed like the perfect moment to recommence with the blog. Work commitments, an increased onus on training/fundraising for my Mount Kilimanjaro charity trek (which is now scarily close) and a trip to Barcelona for Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat at Camp Nou have led to an extended period of silence on itbeganin1992.

Despite the result, being forced into the ground before the game and held afterwards the trip was fantastic; plenty of paella, tapas, beer, Spanish measures of rum and a photo opportunity with Hristo Stoichkov and Arsene Wenger who were watching the Blackpool v Chelsea game together.

With Hristo Stoichkov and Arsene Wenger

This photo is also in the flickr album http://www.flickr.com/photos/itbeganin1992/ which has been set up for itbeganin1992. Here you can also find Bill Nighy, Dwight Yorke and Romford Pele, feel free to check it out!

Something more substantial soon,

I92

Advertisements

Loan Sharks

There are many reasons for a parent club to loan out a player, this type of deal seems to be occurring more and more in England over recent seasons with the gap between the Premiership and the Football League widening and clubs becoming more prudent due to the current economic climate.

Without focussing on the various reasons (which are vast) that lead to a loan deal this article will take a look at five England internationals past and present who have used the loan system to their benefit.  Three of these have gone on to forge impressive international careers whilst also achieving some of the highest available accolades at club level, the remaining two will hope to follow a similar path.  

Firstly, a look at a player who was a relatively late bloomer in modern day terms.  His first big move came at the age of 25, his first international cap at 27 with major club honours not following until the ripe old age of 33.

Teddy Sheringham

Struggling to make his mark in the first team at Millwall during the 1984/85 season, the striker was sent out on loan for a first time to Fourth Division side Aldershot Town.  Being unable to score a goal in six appearances for the club led to the player questioning his future in the professional game.

A second loan spell, this time with Swedish Second Division side Djurgarden put these doubts to bed, kick starting the future England International’s career with 13 goals in 21 games.  These goals helped the Stockholm club to the Division Two North title and subsequently a playoff for promotion, in which Sheringham scored during the second leg to take the tie to a penalty shootout.  Victorious in the penalty shootout, Sheringham returned to The Den in time to score four goals in 18 appearances (9 starts) in the league. 

Establishing himself in the first team during his five subsequent seasons at Millwall, where he was regularly top scorer, Sheringham made a £2m move to Nottingham Forest under manager Brian Clough for the 1991/92 season.

The rest is history, further transfers to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United where he enjoyed the most successful period of his career in terms of honours (3 Premier League Titles, an FA Cup and a Champions League trophy) as well as 51 caps for England (11 goals).  Included in these international appearances is the 4-1 victory over Holland at Euro ’96, Sheringham’s greatest performance in an England shirt which saw he and strike partner Alan Shearer grab a brace each.  Relying on intelligence on the pitch rather than pace, Sheringham had excellent heading ability which was a source of many goals, he also had an unrivalled knack of creating space for others which was one of the reasons why his international partnership with Shearer was so frutiful.

It would be difficult to attribute Sheringham’s loan spell at Djurgarden as the reason for his success in the game, however it played no small part in boosting the strikers confidence in his own footballing ability.  It also swayed then Millwall manager George Graham into giving him more playing time.

Next we move on to one of Sheringham’s former Manchester United teammates, one of the most world renowned players in the history of the game (which can also be attributed to his off field endeavours) who is currently enjoying the twilight of his career.

David Beckham

Now with LA Galaxy of the MLS, Beckham has enjoyed two loan spells with AC Milan in recent seasons, however it is his loan move to Division Three Preston North End in 1995 that this article will focus on.

It is hard to evaluate the bearing that Beckham’s time at Deepdale had on his career, joining as a teenager he made five appearances for the club scoring two goals before his return to Manchester United where he achieved worldwide recognition.

The midfielder had made his senior debut for Manchester United in the Rumbelows Cup against Brighton in September 1992, but struggled to make an impression on the first team.  This eventually led to a temporary move to Preston, in order to gain first team experience.

Given the number 4 shirt for his time at The Lilywhites where he played alongside current Everton manager David Moyes, Beckham’s individual technique in delivering set pieces was clear to see even at the tender age of 19.  One of his goals for Preston came from a freekick (which would later become his trademark), the other coming directly from a corner kick against Doncaster.     

A role model for future generations of England players, the former captain and (presently) second highest capped player of the national side won major honours with both Manchester United and Real Madrid, playing with some of the games greatest ever players under some of the worlds best coaches.  There is no doubt that Beckham would have found his feet in the game regardless of his spell at Preston North End, however it is testament to the Lancashire outfit that the midfielder acknowledged his time at the club during his acceptance speech for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. 

In the England squad for all three of the major tournaments which Beckham captained, this next player is a man who love him or hate him is often revered as the best left back in the world.

Ashley Cole

Now at Chelsea, the defender made his debut in senior football with Arsenal in the 1999/00 season, appearing against Middlesbrough at The Riverside in the fourth round of the Worthington Cup.

Later that season Cole went on loan to division one side Crystal Palace.  Making 14 appearances for the club (all in the league) arguably his most vital contribution did not come at the back.  With Palace finding themselves one nil down in their final home game of the season against Blackburn Rovers, who had taken the lead from a goal by Matt Jansen, it was Cole who hit the equaliser.  Finding himself on the end of a loose ball at the edge of the Rovers penalty area he hit an ambitious left footed effort which gave the opposition goalkeeper no chance.

Crystal Palace would go on to win the match 2-1 with a headed goal from Clinton Morrison, a result matched in the next (and final) game of the season against Tranmere Rovers, seeing The Eagles preserve their place in Division One by one point.

A revelation during his three month spell in South London, the 18 year old returned to Arsenal in time for the final Premier League game of the season away at Newcastle, which ended in a 2-4 defeat.  It was in this game that Cole made his Premier League debut, with Arsene Wenger casting one eye towards the UEFA Cup final (which was to take place 3 days later) he fielded a somewhat weakened side.

Going on to displace Silvinho in the first team Cole was to become a vital part of the Arsenal backline, his regular forays forward also contributing to the most successful period in the clubs history.  The teenagers break into the first team at Arsenal is largely attributed to the injury of his Brazilian counterpart.  However, the first team experience he gained with Crystal Palace played a part in his initial impressive displays in an Arsenal shirt which ultimately led to Wenger keeping faith with the youngster upon Silvinho’s return to fitness.

In light of their ages and the number of games they have played for club and country it could be seen as premature to include these next two players on a list with some of the best players to represent the national side in recent times.  Still at the early stage of their respective careers, with the talent they both possess they are the future  of the English game and it is surely a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ in terms of honours.   

Joe Hart

The 23 year old goalkeeper who started life as a professional with his hometown club Shrewsbury Town, moved to Manchester City in 2006.  Making one appearance for the club in the 2006/07 season (a Premier League clean sheet against Sheffield United) he would go on to spend time on loan firstly with Tranmere Rovers and later Blackpool, however it is Hart’s loan spell with Birmingham City during the 2009/10 season that really propelled him to the next level.

During the two seasons prior to his time with Birmingham the keeper made a string of appearances for parent club Manchester City, also making his England debut in 2008.  This did not deter City from signing Shay Given from Newcastle (in the 2009 winter transfer window), who subsequently became the ever present first choice goalkeeper at Eastlands for the remainder of the season.

With Mark Hughes unwilling to let Hart leave on a permanent deal a loan move was agreed with Birmingham City in order for the player to gain regular first team action.  This was precisely what he got, playing between the sticks for all but two of the Midland clubs Premier League fixtures (ineligible to play against Manchester City). 
The remarkable exploits of Hart whilst wearing the number 25 shirt of newly promoted Birmingham were a large factor in the club being worthy candidates for a Europa League berth at one stage during the season.  Despite the charge for Europe tailing off later in the campaign the club still managed to obtain a respectable league position of ninth place, their best finish for 51 years.

On an individual level, these impressive performances led to Hart being named Birmingham City’s player of the season for 2009/10 as well as being named as goalkeeper for the Premier League PFA team of the year.  A member of Fabio Capello’s 23 man squad for the 2010 World Cup, Hart did not make an appearance at the tournament, the stopper returned to his parent club for the 2010/11 season.

Returning to Manchester City (who were now managed by Roberto Mancini) surrounded by speculation in regards to who would be first choice goalkeeper at the club, it was Hart who was given the nod for the first Premier League game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur.  Awarded man of the match, Hart has gone on to make 36 appearances in all competitions so far this season, limiting goalkeeping rival Shay Given to just 4 cup appearances.

With Roberto Mancini keeping faith in the young keeper in the face of recent poor performances despite having backup in the form of the vastly experienced Shay Given and also a wealth of riches available to bring in an alternative is testament to Hart’s abilities, only emphasised further by Capello installing him as number 1 for all three of England’s 2012 European Championship Qualifying games so far.
The inclusion on this list of a midfielder who is yet to make a competitive appearance for England is somewhat controversial, only one substitute appearance and one start so far there is surely more to come from the latest player to be heralded as the heir to Gazza’s thrown as the jewel in England’s crown.
 
Jack Wilshere

Arsenal plucked the predominantly left footed midfielder from Luton Town at the age of nine.  Since then Wilshere has risen through the North London clubs youth and reserve ranks, leading to a place in the first team for the 2008/09 season.  Inheriting the number 19 shirt left vacant by Gilberto Silva, he set a record as Arsenal’s youngest ever league player aged 16 years and 256 days as he came on as a substitute for the last nine minutes of a 4-0 defeat of Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park in September 2008.

The remainder of that season saw Wilshere make just 7 further first team  appearances in all competitions.  It was in January of the following 2009/10 season that Wilshere went on loan to Bolton Wanderers in order to gain valuable first team experience.

Bolton was the perfect fit for Wilshere, with the clubs new manager Owen Coyle attempting to advocate his preferred passing style at the club.  Wilshere made his debut in a 2-0 loss to Manchester City, regardless of defeat the midfielder flourished at the heart of every Bolton attack.  He went on to make a further 13 Premier League appearances for the club, acrobatically scoring one goal against relegation rivals West Ham.  The goal turned out to be the winner, three vital points which proved to be even more important considering Bolton would go on to win just three of their remaining ten fixtures.     

Returning to Arsenal ready for action in his breakthrough season, he started away at Liverpool on the opening day of the season.  Wilshere has gone on to make 34 appearances in 2010/11 so far, including a fantastic Champions League performance against Barcelona last week.

It is hard not to wax lyrical about a 19 year old player who has it all; a footballing brain which defies his youth, composed on the ball, impressive in the tackle with an ability to spot space on the pitch that would be envied by players far his senior.  His presence on the field and distinctive running style provide Wilshere with an aura about him that in some young players would be perceived as arrogance.  With Wilshere this is mere graciousness, a childlike love for the game that could be compared to that of Gazza.  Both attributes emphasised by the image that depicts Wilshere proudly standing with his father beside the Emirates pitch, displaying the shirts of Messi and Xavi after the Barcelona game which has elevated his standing in the European game.

Making his first start in an England shirt at the beginning of this month, it is left for Wenger and Capello to duke it out in the press over which player Wilshere shares the most likeness; Makelele, Pirlo or Scholes.  No doubt both hold a debt of gratitude to Owen Coyle’s Bolton for providing Wilshere with regular top flight action last term.

Loan deals have come under the spotlight recently, largely receiving negative press due to the distortion of league tables that such deals can cause, particularly when players on large salaries have their income subsidised by parent clubs during these spells. 

Many have also questioned the credibility of loan deals between Premier League clubs due to their financial muscle (they should be able to afford their own players), however if loan deals continue to aid the development of young (particularly English) players then I’m sure that the present loan system will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

What Became Of Ajax ’95 (Part 3)

Welcome to the third and final part of this series looking at the victorious Ajax side of the 1995 Champions League final.  The latter part of this piece looks at the substitutes on the night, but firstly the forward trio which was somewhat cosmopolitan in comparison to the rest of the side.

Marc Overmars:  Currently a member of the backroom staff at his first ever club Go Ahead Eagles, he is also involved in the building trade, more specifically with a project entitled Drain4You.

The winger retired in 2004, however he hit the headlines in 2008 having returned to professional football as a player with Go Ahead at the age of 35.  Upon retirement Overmars had continued to train with the Go Ahead players and ex Oranje team mate Paul Bosvelt once a week.  His one season comeback was sparked by an impressive showing during Jaap Stam’s testimonial (in which six of the Ajax ’95 final team made an appearance) when up against defender George Ogararu (of Ajax at the time).  

Having had spells with Go Ahead Eagles and Willem II Overmars arrived at Ajax in 1992.  He enjoyed a five year period with the Amsterdammers which was the most successful time of his career, scooping three Dutch league titles, The Champions League and European Super Cup amongst others. 

Missing out on Euro ’96 with The Netherlands (for whom he won 86 caps) due to a serious knee injury, it was a considerable gamble for Arsene Wenger to bring the player to Arsenal, where he was affectionately nicknamed Roadrunner by supporters.  The £5.5 million gamble paid off, with Overmars becoming a key player in the side which won a Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season at the club.  The only further silverware he added in North London prior to a £25 million pound transfer to Barcelona was the following season’s annual curtain raiser, The Charity Shield. 

Arriving in Spain, Overmars was at the time the most expensive Dutch player in history, unfortunately for him he was not to add any further honours to his list during a four year stint at the club which saw him make just shy of 100 appearances.

Finidi George:  In November 2010 Finidi was appointed as Director of International Football at Real Betis.  The former Nigerian International will be expected to use his footballing knowledge and vast web of contacts to bring fresh talent to the club from all around Europe and particularly Africa.

After playing for three clubs in his homeland Finidi arrived at Ajax alongside his compatriot Nwankwo Kanu, going on to win the Eridivisie three times as well as The Champions League before moving to Spain with Real Betis, the place where he called home for four years.

The wingers’ previous success at club level proved a hard act to follow, only adding a Spanish Cup runner’s up medal (‘96/’97) to his collection for the remainder of his career which also saw moves to Mallorca, Ipswich and back to Mallorca again before retiring in 2004.

Winning the African Nations Cup in 1994 and playing in two World Cup’s (USA ’94 & France ’98) Finidi was awarded 62 caps for Nigeria. 

Jari Litmanen:  The 39 year from Finland currently dons the number 10 shirt of hometown club FC Lahti, recently rolling back the years by scoring a spectacular overhead kick in a match against AC Oulu.  Clips of this goal were seen by thousands as it sprung up on numerous football websites, not content with this Litmanen hit the headlines once more after scoring in Finland’s 8-0 defeat of San Marino in November.  This goal made him the oldest player ever to score in a European Championship Qualifying match.

Inheriting the Ajax number 10 shirt vacated by Dennis Bergkamp who had left for Inter Milan, Litmanen spent 7 years in Amsterdam winning 4 Dutch Championships and 3 Dutch cups (to go with his Champions League winners medal of ‘95) this was to be the most successful period of his career with the remainder blighted by injury.

A two year stint at Barcelona was followed by a move to Liverpool and although he was part of the 2001 squad that won the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup treble, injury prevented his involvement in any of these finals. 

His second coming at Ajax was never destined to be as successful as the first, the highlight of this spell being progression to the Quarter Finals of the 2002/03 Champions League.

Three players of different backgrounds, all of whom moved to England at some point in their career’s with somewhat differing levels of success.  Unable to break the deadlock in the final, this brings us to the substitutes who made an appearance on the night. 

There were two substitutes made by Ajax during the course of the final, one of these provided the inspiration for this article (mentioned in part 1) and the other scored the winning goal (85th minute), providing the Ajax team of 1995 with a lasting legacy.

Nwankwo Kanu:  The Nigerian who has literally touched the hearts of many having set up the Kanu Heart Foundation in July 2000 currently finds himself playing in the second tier of the English league with Portsmouth having been relegated from The Premier League with the club last season.  The highlight of Kanu’s time at Pompey being his winning goal in the 2008 FA Cup final against Cardiff, this netted him a career third FA Cup winner’s medal.

Kanu made 54 appearances for Ajax before a brief spell at Inter Milan which was marred by a heart scare for which he had to undergo surgery.  A stint in North London with Arsenal was to follow.  It was here that he won both The Premier League and FA Cup twice (one cup double) and is still fondly remembered for scoring a spectacular goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 1999.  Shimmying past goalkeeper Ed De Goey and slotting home from almost the byline, the goal was made even sweeter by the fact that this was his third in 15 minutes, winning the game for Arsenal who were previously 2-0 down.                                                                                                                                                               

A spell at West Bromwich Albion before his transfer to Portsmouth, Kanu can also add domestic league titles, a UEFA Super Cup and an Intercontinental Cup with Ajax, a UEFA Cup with Inter, an Olympic Gold medal with Nigeria (84 caps) and a brace of African Footballer of the Year awards to his honours list.

Replaced Seedorf on 54 minutes.

 Patrick Kluivert:  The Dutchman is currently employed as assistant coach at NEC Nijmegen of the Eridivisie, signing a contract for the 2010/11 season this is his first full time coaching role having obtained his professional coaching badges at the close of 2009.  Kluivert completed his 15 month traineeship to obtain said badges with the PSV youth team having initiated the course as a youth team coach with AZ Alkmaar.     

 Born in Amsterdam Kluivert joined the Ajax youth academy aged seven.  By the time he had departed for AC Milan in 1997 following in the footsteps of boyhood idols Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten he had won a Champions League, two Eredivisie titles, two Dutch Super Cups and two European Super Cups with the senior team. 

Despite being reunited with some of his former team mates (Davids, Reiziger and Bogarde) at Milan he was unable to relive past glories in his one season at the club, culminating in a tenth place finish in Serie A.

Moving to Barcelona in 1998 the striker was this time reunited with his former coach at Ajax, Louis Van Gaal.  A successful first season in Spain saw the Catalan giants defend their crown as champions of the domestic league.  That La Liga trophy was to become the only piece of silverware Kluivert would win with the club during six years at Camp Nou.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

A series of one year stints plagued by injury at Newcastle United, Valencia and PSV where Kluivert was to add another Eridivisie title to his tally all preceded his final year at Lille where he retired in 2008. 

Still the all time leading goalscorer for the national side with 40 goals Kluivert went full circle, joining the compatriots he once idolised as a boy on the FIFA 100 list named by Pele in 2004.

Replaced Litmanen on 69 minutes.

 

Two great strikers of the modern game with vastly differing playing styles, both chose to move on from Ajax to the San Siro, albeit one choosing blue stripes and the other one red.  With Kluivert going on to become Barcelona’s all time top scorer since the 50’s with an incredible 90 goals in 182 appearances it is perhaps a shame that he didn’t follow Kanu to the Premier League sooner.

Finally, a brief look at the unused substitutes on the night.

Fred Grim:  Now aged 45 Grim currently finds himself working as Youth Goalkeeping Coach at Ajax.

Winston Bogarde:  The former Dutch defender who made 20 appearances for his country is now coming to the end of a coaching course which will see him obtain a UEFA Pro Licence.

Peter Van Vossen:  The former striker who earnt 31 Oranje caps is now Assistant Manager at Dutch second tier club RBC Roosendaal, contracted to the role until June 2011.

Such a wonderful group of individual talent, such a brilliant team under the stewardship of Louis Van Gaal it would have been impossible to predict the future success stories of each of these player’s despite their remarkable abilities.

I hope that you have enjoyed this series and it has provided you with some insight into this triumphant side, if you wish to contact me for anything be it questions or feedback please get in touch on twitter @itbeganin1992 or via email at itbeganin1992@gmail.com.

 I92.