Thursday, 26 April 2012

Norwich City: The perfect example for newly promoted Reading

After a 1-0 home win to Nottingham Forest last week, Reading secured promotion to the Premier League after a four year absence from the top division. Brian McDermott's side have been hovering around the top of the Championship since late February and were rewarded with promotion after an excellent second half of the season from his side.

Now back in the big time, it is imperative that the Royals invest correctly in the summer. With Anton Zingarevich set to take over the club in the coming weeks then the opportunity to bring in players will definitely be available to McDermott. The current side contains experienced players who have played in the Premier League before. Striker Jason Roberts and midfield dynamo Hayden Mullins have both spent long spells in the top division. But with other squad members in line to experience the top flight for the first time in their careers, it is important that they bring in good signings.If we take a look at the sides promoted to the Premier League this from last season, we can look at the success  of bringing in the right players. Take Norwich City for example. Under the guidance of Paul Lambert, they managed an excellent double promotion in just the two seasons. They currently sit comfortably in thirteenth and have not been at any threat of relegation this year. 

Against the odds the Canaries have impressed this year and thanks to the right signings, they have produced some excellent performances. Norwich brought in a number of lower league players at the start of the season. These included Elliot Bennett, Bradley Johnson, Kyle Naughton (on loan from Spurs) and Steve Morison. Alongside the power of captain Grant Holt, these players have blended wonderfully into the squad. With the limited resources at the club, credit goes to the team who have proved the doubters wrong and will more than likely finish the league mid table ahead of the likes of Aston Villa and Bolton. 

In contrast to this, QPR are struggling and are fighting off relegation. Although this may have something to do with the change of manager mid season, the team have not produced such great performances that saw them champions of the Championship last season. Sacking former boss Neil Warnock has yet to prove the correct decision with the side currently in a relegation scrap. New manager Mark Hughes went transfer crazy in the January transfer window bringing in Bobby Zamora, Djibril Cisse, and Nedum Onuoha. Yes these players may bring in a wealth of Premier League experience, but the lack of togetherness alongside the never ending drama of captain Joey Barton has seen the London side struggle.

We can't finish without mentioning the success of Swansea who came up through the play offs beating Reading at Wembley last season. Thrashed 4-0 away at Man City on the opening day of the season, the Welsh team were odds on to be relegated come May time. But like Norwich, Brendan Rogers side have played some excellent football this year and are well worthy of their continuation in the top flight next year.

Reading have been in the Premier League before and slowly became an established side until performances dropped and were eventually relegated. It has taken them four years to get back to the big time but with decent signings and the odd bit of luck, there is no reason why they can't be as successful as Norwich and Swansea have been this year. 

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Top 5 Football League players of the year

As we come to the end of another fantastic season in the Football League, we look at the top five players that have shone this year in the Championship, League One and Two.

1# Rickie Lambert- Southampton
Rickie Lambert Rickie Lambert of Southampton curls his free kick around the wall to score the opening goal of the third round match of The FA Cup, sponsored by E.ON, between Southampton and Luton Town at St. Marys Stadium on January 2, 2010 in Southampton, England.
The Southampton striker has scored a mammoth 31 goals in all competitions this year and has been a massive star in the club's drive for promotion to the Premier League next year. Lambert has notched an impressive four hat tricks in the league this season including an excellent performance in the away win at Watford. His penalty taking continues to impress having not missed a spot kick while playing for the Saints. The former Bristol Rovers man gained automatic promotion with Southampton last season finishing top goalscorer at the club where they finished runners up to league champions Brighton. Lambert was awarded Championship player of the year this season as well as being included in the Championship team of the year alongside fellow team mates Adam Lallana and Kelvin Davis. Having proved himself in every division in the football league, Lambert will be keen to show his goalscoring talents in England's top division next year.

2# Chris Burke- Birmingham City
An unsung hero for the Blues, Burke has been a key member of the team that has seen them reach the Championship play off's. Contributing an impressive 14 goals from the wing, Burke has added experience to the side. Having moved from Cardiff in the summer, Burke has established himself in the Midland's side and will be important when his side play in the play off's later next month. As well as chipping in with goals, the Scottish international is the lead assister in the Championship with an excellent 16 assists to his name.

3# Tyrone Barnett- Peterborough United
Former Crawley striker, Tyrone Barnett made an immediate impact on the Championship. The youngster managed four goals in 12 appearances for The Posh since joining on loan in January. Having impressed for League 2 side Crawley early in the season, Darren Ferguson quickly snapped the forward up. Barnett had already scored an impressive 15 goals for Crawley this year after joining them last summer from Macclesfield. Although now at Posh, Barnett was recently named in the League Two team of the year. With safety assured for Posh and another season guaranteed in the Championship, Barnett will be looking to continue hitting the net.

4# Matt Ritchie- Swindon TownThe Swindon Town winger has been a big performer for his side this year which has seen them win promotion from League Two. After a successful loan spell at the Wiltshire club last season, Ritchie made the move permanent and has since contributed 13 goals. It has been his assists though that have seen him stand out, contributing 13 to the team. He was named in this year's League Two team of the year alongside team mate Paul Caddis and also collected the League Two player of the year to cap of a superb season.

5# Jordan Rhodes- Huddersfield Town
A striker who knows where the net is, Jordan Rhodes has been the star performer in this year's League One. The forward has notched an incredible 38 goals this season which has helped his side Huddersfield Town make a play off spot. Rhodes scored four goals in an amazing 4-4 draw away at Sheffield Wednesday this year as well as achieving an excellent six hat tricks. Rhodes was awarded League One player of the season as well as making the League One team of the year. If Huddersfield fail to gain promotion this year then Rhodes is certain to be snapped up.

Friday, 13 April 2012

FA Cup Semi Finals: Preview

Before I get onto previewing this weekends fixtures, just a note of apology for lack of posts recently, I have been very busy with uni work and working at Peterborough United as well. I am now back and have several posts in mind that shall be published in the coming months. Thanks!

As we come to the end of what has been another terrific season, we focus our attention to the semi finals of the FA Cup this weekend. We have two cracking derbies this year that sees the two games both played at the home of football, Wembley. League Cup winners Liverpool are aiming for a second trophy of the season and they take on local rivals Everton. In the other game we see a London derby between Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.

#1 Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur
A London derby that sees two of the Premier League big boys come head to head in a fight for a place in the FA Cup final in May. Chelsea have become revitalised under the management of Roberto Di Matteo whereas Spurs have had a tricky spell recently that sees them now fighting for a Champions League place. Harry Redknapp's men were seen as title contenders 4 months ago but a poor 2012 has seen their rivals Arsenal leap frog them in the table. A recent home defeat to Norwich City in the league has really dented Spurs chances of a top four place and a cup semi final against Chelsea is a welcome distraction for them. Winger Gareth Bale has recently seen a drop in form after a stunning start to the season for the Welshman. Striker Louis Saha is cup tied which will mean Jermain Defoe is likely to partner fellow forward Emmanuel Adebayor in attack. The Englishman has not played that much this season but has always impressed when he has been given the opportunity. Rivals Chelsea have begun to show what a good side they are after the sacking of former boss Andre Villas Boas. Caretaker boss Roberto Di Matteo has guided the Blues to a Champions League semi final as well as a good chance of taking the final Champions League place in the league. Striker Fernando Torres has started to look like his old self with excellent performances in recent games.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Spurs
#Liverpool v Everton
With the anniversary of Hillsborough on Sunday, this weekend is massive for the red half of Liverpool. Kenny Dalglish's side have been under a lot of criticism this season with average performances from his side. Poor results have seen his side sit eighth in the league behind local rivals Everton. Striker Andy Carroll scored only his ninth goal for the reds this week in the away win at Blackburn. Carroll has also been criticised for not proving his £35 million price tag this year but with good performances recently, the striker is sure to show what he is capable of. Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard were rested in mid week meaning the pair, who have been so vital this year, will be fresh and ready for the challenge on Saturday lunchtime. Goalkeepers Pepe Reina and Doni are both suspended the game which will see third choice keeper Brad Jones called up between the sticks. The Australian made only his third appearance for the club on Wednesday saving a penalty in the process. David Moyes' Everton are the in form side at the moment having only lost none of their previous seven games. The Toffees will be without cup tied Steven Pienaar, but with striker Nikica Jelavic in good form the blue side of Merseyside will fancy their chances against an inconsistent Liverpool side. 
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Everton