All

Featured

The rise of Edin Džeko from besieged Sarajevo to breaking records across Europe

As originally featured on This Football Times, Lewis Steele charts the rise of Edin Džeko from the war-torn Sarajevo to the top of the footballing ladder.

The story of most world-class footballers starts on a local park, where the future star would spend hours a day kicking a ball around with friends from an early age. The standard edition is usually a case of something along the lines of: “he would rise with the sun and play football until the sun set at night”. A scout would spot the player and sign them up for the city’s top academy, where the kid would ease their way through the ranks of the academy setup and eventually make their name in a prestigious first team.

But, for Edin Džeko, it was different. The land the Bosnian spent his days on was worlds away from a fancy park with flat, even playing turf and an expensive ball. In fact, the park that Džeko mastered the techniques and traits that saw him work his way up the footballing ladder was in the centre of a war torn Sarajevo, which was populated with a rare blade of unharmed grass and a ball only in shape, rather than the average football that you can buy over the counter in a sports shop.

Many footballers have stories of tough beginnings to life and how they have been inspired— but this is the story of Edin Džeko’s meteoric rise from the minefields of Yugoslavia to the pinnacle of European football, where he has cemented his name as one of the most prolific strikers of the past decade or so.

For most of the formative years of Džeko’s upbringing, his hometown Sarajevo was a heavily targeted area for ‘ethnic cleansing’ operations by the Bosnian Serbs in the Bosnian War, which lasted from April 1992 to February 1996, and left a devastating trail of savagery and broken families in its wake.

Known as ‘The Siege of Sarajevo’, the siege was the longest of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, as the Bosnian capital was attacked by forces of the ‘Yugoslav People’s Army’.

During the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina followed the suit of other states and declared independence. The Bosnian Serbs had the strategic goal of creating a new Bosnian-Serb state known as Republika Srpska. They encircled Sarajevo with a siege force of more than 13,000, assaulting the city with artillery, tanks and other arms.

In the years of the war, nearly 14,000 people were killed, including over 5,000 civilians. Edin Džeko and his family lived in the middle of Sarajevo, so the sound of bombs and explosions were not rare.

Luckily, the Džeko family survived, but that didn’t prevent the events having a long lasting negative affect both physically and psychologically.

The family home of the Džeko’s was destroyed in this period, along with 35,000 other homes in the city. They had to move between substandard homes, if they could be described as ‘homes’, probably better described as a living space secured with not much more than a door diseased with bullet holes from the conflict, with no more than one meal per day.

Edin Džeko is tough, with a strong mentality. What was going on outside wouldn’t stop him from expressing his passion: football.

At the time of Džeko’s birth, Yugoslavia was becoming one of the powerhouses of football. The national team reached the quarter finals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy, to be knocked out by Argentina led by the great Diego Maradona, whilst Red Star Belgrade won the 1991 European Cup. Shortly after this, however, the conflict started as the Yugoslav army went to war with separatist Croatia, before Bosnian Serbs aimed to remove all other ethnicities from their land.

Sport as we know it today was virtually rendered into non-existence, especially in a competitive sense. There were no organised matches or tournaments to watch, as the war plagued leisure activities in Bosnia. This did not affect one thing: passion. The people loved sport, especially football, and Edin Džeko was no exception to this.

Bosanki Dijamant, which translates to ‘The Bosnian Diamond’, spent a large majority of his childhood kicking a ball of rolled up duct tape around the war torn surroundings in his hometown.

His mother, Belma, was skeptical of the idea of her young son being on the streets, but conceded that for Edin, the only way to disconnect from the tragic conflict was for him to follow his dreams and play football.

Screen Shot 2018-09-27 at 07.56.41

Despite this, one day Belma refused and told her son that he must not leave the house on that day. She made the right call. That day, the field and area where the future Bosnian captain played, was bombed and all but destroyed.

The kids of today perhaps take their upbringings for granted, if you compare them to Džeko and other children of Sarajevo. The modern childhood probably consists of days playing video games and spending some time outside with friends. For Džeko, however, it was a matter of life and death – it is hard to play in a field that may be blown up the next minute.

These harrowing experiences never thwarted Džeko’s dream: to be a footballer. He never dreamt of being the star that he is today, he never thought about the fame, he never considered the money he could one day make. For Džeko, it was the simple fact that he lived and breathed football and he wanted to express his ultimate passion.

Often in life, bad experiences shape us. The war helped Džeko mature at such a young age – he had to, there was no other option if he wanted to survive. Football was one of the few things Džeko had in his tarnished childhood, so if anything, the war grew his love for the beautiful game that he has become a master of.

Džeko continued to follow his dreams and just after the war, was signed up by his first professional club, FC Željezničar Sarajevo. The name Željezničarmeant ‘railway worker’, originating from the group of railway workers who established the club in 1921. Finally, it looked as though Džeko had made his break in professional football and completed his dream.

Sadly, however, it didn’t work out for Džeko at the most successful club in modern day Bosnia. Fans and journalists close to the club described Džeko as ‘klok’, a slang word that best translates as (wooden) ‘log’ in English. Despite his childhood idol being Andriy Shevchenko, Džeko played as a midfielder in his early days. He was too tall and his lanky structure meant he struggled, as he lacked the technical abilities needed to thrive as a creative player. He was labeled lazy and told he was not cut out to be a professional footballer.

To succeed, he had to move – both playing position and country. And so he did. In 2005, Džeko moved to Czech Republic club FK Teplice for the fee of €25,000. Years later, one of the Željezničar directors claimed this fee felt like their club had “won the lottery”. After two good goal-scoring seasons in the Czech leagues, Džeko was signed for VFL Wolfsburg by Felix Magath for a €4m fee.

During his time at Wolfsburg, Džeko was part of one of the most historic seasons in German history, playing a huge role as Die Wölfewon their first ever Bundesliga title in 2008/09. Along with Brazilian Grafite and fellow Bosnian Zvjezdan Misimović, Džeko completed what was known as the ‘magisches Dreieck’, or‘magic triangle’, as the trio led Magath’s side to unprecedented glory.

The next season, Džeko scored 22 goals and won the golden boot in the Bundesliga. After years of struggling to impress professional scouts and coaches in his homeland, Džeko was thriving in Germany. He left his comfort zone and excelled – all those hours in the minefields of Sarajevo paid off, as Džeko looked like a natural born finisher with predator-like instinct of when to pop up in the box.

The Volkswagen Arena was the first place where Džeko truly played with no pressure and for this, he molded into a top striker.

His ex coach at Željezničar, Jiří Plišek, said: “I met him [Džeko] for the first time in 2003 when I started to coach Željezničar. He was 17 and amazingly no one saw him as any kind of talent, but I saw his gift.”

Sadly, this has been one of the themes running through the career of The Bosnian Diamond: many do not appreciate him for what he is and many do not notice or appreciate his vast array of talent – almost a case of, to quote teenagers going through high-school breakups, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it’.

That was the case for fans of his next club, Manchester City. In the Premier League,Džeko was often viewed as ‘good, but not great’, and would almost certainly feature in a fantasy XI made up solely of ‘super-subs’. In Manchester, Džeko played a huge role in two title wins for City under Roberto Mancini and then Manuel Pellegrini.

The first time round, Džeko was the prequel to the Agüero-ooooo goal, where his header leveled the score before Argentinian Sergio Agüero scored the most memorable goal in Premier League history to win his side their first league title in a whopping forty-four years. Three seasons later, Džeko played a pivotal role in City’s 13/14 title win, scoring 26 goals despite often playing second fiddle to the partnership of Sergio Agüero and Alvaro Negredo. Again, Džeko will often be secondarily cited as a reason for City’s success, instead many will note the brilliance of Yaya Touré’s heroics or Steven Gerrard’s unfortunate slip against Chelsea.

Džeko turned down the opportunity to play for the national teams of countries he played in, such as the Czech Republic and Germany. Instead, whenever he wins a trophy, as he did plenty of times in the sky blue of Manchester City, he drapes himself in the blue and yellow flag of Bosnia, grasping the flag aloft with the same pride as he held high the iconic Premier League trophy two times.

Now, Džeko is a dime of Bosnia. When he scores a goal for the national team, it represents much more than a goal to add to the score-sheet: it is a goal for every Bosnian that went through physical and mental pain in the 90’s; it is a goal for peace; it is a dedication to all those that were not as fortunate as Edin Džeko to survive and become a sporting great, or a national icon.

Muhamed Jonjić, ex-defender and first ever captain of the Bosnia-Herzegovina national team in 1995, speaks extremely fondly of Džeko: “We see him rise through all that and make his global career, to become a great – a Bosnian great, a world great – but he stayed the same boy. Genuine, kind and straightforward – that’s the beauty of his greatness.”

Džeko kept his humble character despite being a superstar. Ahead of the 2014 World Cup that Bosnia qualified, which is another story in itself, Edin Džeko took part in a charity friendly to raise funds and awareness for floods that engulfed villages and cities in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia, that caused damage beyond repair. Along with his other team-mates, Džeko and the Bosnia national team played against 100 children from families affected by the devastating floods.

That day, there was only one Edin Džeko, for obvious reasons, but on the pitch, every child tried to imitate their hero, by wearing shirts with ‘Džeko #9’ on the back and trying to play football in the style of their role model.

After seemingly conquering England and Germany before it, Džeko sought a new challenge, so moved to the eternal city of Rome, signing for AS Roma. Whilst the Bosnian has no Serie A titles to his name, his legacy will live on with the Giallorossias he won the golden boot with 29 goals in the league, and has been part of many famous nights in Rome.

It was indeed Edin Džeko that started the unforgettable comeback as his side ‘rose from their ruins’ in Rome to defeat the mighty Barcelona, who had a 4-1 advantage going into the second leg. His name will rarely be mentioned when talking about that day, as it is when discussing City’s title win in the last minute against Queens Park Rangers. This adds to the common theme that Džeko goes rather unnoticed in the wider footballing community, and is vastly underappreciated.

Screen Shot 2018-09-27 at 07.57.28

The story charting the journey of Edin Džeko is inspiring. It may not be the tale of a glittering career, dusted with Balon d’or’s and World Cup trophies, nor will Džeko go down as one of the best strikers to grace our leagues, but the story carries weight nevertheless.

It is the story of a boy, who kicked a ball around a park and went home at night not knowing if the park would be there the next day. It is the story of a Bosnian child who watched buildings and families be destroyed one by one alongside him, who went on to be a great. It is the story of how tragedy shaped ones passion and how a young man with a dream went on to represent his beloved Bosnia at a World Cup, despite having the chance to play for Czech or German national teams.

Edin Džeko will never be spoke about in the same breathe as the greats at his clubs. But, as the only player to have 50 or more league goals in England, Germany and Italy, he should be regarded as one of the most underrated players of his generation.

The war child from Sarajevo disproved the feeling that it was not possible to succeed from Bosnia as a sportsman, by clinging on to his love and passion for football at a time when there was little else to smile about. Džeko remained humble and rose from the depression of his house covered in bullet holes, to conquer three of the best leagues in the world.

As a story, Džeko’s career has a few chapters left yet. He isn’t a player that relies on pace. Instead he uses his ‘slow and lazy’ approach, which saw him sold by his first club FC Željezničar, to light up the biggest stages in world football. Thus, there is still life in the big Bosnian yet.

If you have learned one thing from this story, make it be: do not undermine or underrate the talent and character of Edin Džeko – he will continue to prove you wrong, just as he has done from a young boy through to becoming Bosnia’s greatest ever player and a prolific goal-scorer around the continent.

Featured

Opinion: Bernardo Silva proves City will be in good hands when his namesake retires

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 01.37.31

When Manchester City announced the signing of Portuguese winger Bernardo Silva from AS Monaco in the summer of 2016, eyebrows were raised at the £43m price tag.

Rival fans criticised Pep Guardiola and City for spending big money on a player who only really had one top season under his belt, and wasn’t even a guaranteed starter at The Eithad, with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané seemingly dislodgeable in the starting eleven.

Yet, supporters of the ever-growing club who announced a club record income and further profits this week, were delighted at the signing of the Portuguese trickster who starred in Monaco’s surprise Champions League run under coach Leonardo Jardim.

From all corners of the Etihad, the winger was an exciting acquisition and fans started to speculate. Although he played predominantly as a right-winger in his opening season, fans had a vision for Bernardo Silva: to eventually be moulded into a central midfield player where he could star for City.

In fact, it was more than become a midfielder that City fans tasked and envisioned Bernardo Silva with, it was to take the reign of David Silva, Manchester City’s greatest ever player.

He first made his name amongst the City fan base in February 2017, during the Champions League clash between City and Bernardo’s Monaco.

Kylian Mbappé’s performances over two legs were heavily dissected as ‘a star was born’, but for many, Bernardo Silva was the shining light both at the Etihad and the return leg at the Stade Louis II, where Monaco played Pep Guardiola’s side off the park.

That performance in the principality of Monaco surely took the eye of Guardiola, who reportedly contacted the Portuguese star.

Fast-forward a few months, Bernardo Silva signed for City, becoming Guardiola’s first signing of a summer that will be remembered long in the memory of City fans, as they added the likes of Ederson, Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker to strengthen weak areas and set them up for a record-breaking season.

Although he made the most appearances for City last season, Bernardo Silva took a few months to get going, only really making substitute appearances in the first half of the season.

In the second half of the season, perhaps helped by the injuries of Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva came into his own, with fine performances against many top opposition that saw him on the scoresheet against Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal to name a few.

This pre-season signified a change for Bernardo Silva, however. After a below-par World Cup for Portugal, he returned to Manchester and was one of the first of City’s sixteen that went to Russia to join the pre-season tour of the United States.

There, Guardiola worked and worked on Bernardo Silva as a midfielder. After some eye-catching displays on tour in the States, it would seem that following a season used to settle into the new tempo of the Premier League, Bernardo Silva was ready for a place in Pep Guardiola’s demanding midfield.

In beating Chelsea 2-0 at Wembley in the Community Shield, his coach was full of praise.

“The performance of Bernardo Silva was a masterpiece,” Guardiola said.

“Right now, it is Bernardo and 10 others.”

“He is so intelligent, he is clever. He is a fighter, a competitor. I think he is the guy most beloved in our team and today he showed me a lot of things.”

Although Bernardo Silva showed promising glimpses at Wembley and in the victory over Arsenal at the Emirates, which included a well taken goal, the performance of Silva yesterday against Fulham was mesmeric.

City defeated Jokanovic’s side with ease at the Etihad, with goals from Sané, David Silva and Sterling, it was Bernardo Silva who was the name on many fans lips leaving the ground.

Bernardo managed five key passes, an 89.7% pass accuracy as well as 5 chances created. A smile could be seen on the face of the player who was awarded man of the match in the stadium.

The little magician, who was nicknamed ‘Messizinho’ when playing for SL Benfica, showed why he earned such names.

After David Silva made it 2-0 to City, I tweeted my joy for the player.

On a personal note, sometimes when I watch players I get a buzz inside. It is very rare and only a handful of players can bring this out of me. Lionel Messi did it when he was making his name at Barca, Kylian Mbappé was another with his performance against Argentina at the World Cup, Kevin De Bruyne against Stoke City when he racked up assist after assist in a 7-2 win, but it is rare.

Bernardo Silva did that. Watching him live at the Etihad yesterday was a pleasure.

I compared him to City’s biggest stars, the midfield partnership that ran the Premier League last season. The midfield partnership that sadly, only has a year or so left. If they had years ahead, there is no doubt they would go down as one of the best midfield duo’s in recent history, along with the likes of Xavi and Iniesta or Kroos and Modric.

Sadly for City fans, David Silva’s career is coming to an end. El Mago will be remembered as one of the greats of the Premier League era, but sadly, it is nearly over and the day of his departure is ever approaching.

But yesterday, City fans showed something that proved to them that Bernardo Silva could take that role and leave City in safe hands for years to come.

His nonchalant touch, his passing ability, the way he drove forward and linked the midfield and attack – just a few things to note from a memorable performance.

Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 01.36.51

“It’s almost impossible to be more pleased as a manager. That’s why he deserves to play all the minutes he’s playing. He’s a good example for us, all the guys”, said Guardiola after the game.

“Thank you so much to Manchester City for buying him.”

The only thing holding Bernardo back from getting full marks and a 10/10 was the fact he didn’t add a goal, missing a couple of chances that he could have done better with.

Soon, David Silva will move on, it will be a devastating day for all concerned with City, but yesterday especially showed that City are in great hands – Bernardo Silva is the heir to the throne that David Silva has reigned from for his eight-year stay in Manchester.

Featured

Saúl Ñíguez is the heartbeat of Enrique’s new-look Spain side

Screen Shot 2018-09-12 at 16.21.36

From being carried off the pitch at the BayArena in Leverkusen with devastating kidney problems, to being tipped as a mainstay in the new look Spanish midfield for years to come, Saúl Ñíguez is proving he is more than just a name easily made into a ‘Better Call Saul’ pun for tabloid newspapers, but a top class player. Lewis Steele charts his rise and offers his opinion on where the Atletico star goes from here: 

Spain’s wins over England and Croatia in the international break represented a changing of the proverbial guard in many aspects. Most notably, the week represented a change in the dugout in Luis Enrique, who fills the seat that Fernando Hierro sat in for all of a month after Julen Lopetegui departed from Spain on the eve of the World Cup. As well as the managerial change post-Russia, mainstays David Silva and Andrés Iniesta announced they were to step down from international football, both on the back of illustrious international careers. This paved the way for Enrique to experiment with his side, and perhaps give caps to midfielders who have been on the periphery for the past few seasons.

Let’s not feel too harsh on Enrique who lost Silva and Iniesta, as it is common knowledge in the football world that Spain have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to central midfielders. However, one man who particularly took the light in Spain’s wins was Atlético Madrid’s Saúl Ñíguez.

Ñíguez, 23, scored in both fixtures as Enrique’s side convincingly did away of Russia’s runners-up Croatia in a 6-0 win, days after an impressive victory over England at Wembley.

For Saúl, it has been a tough start to his international career, with few minutes available. In Russia, he played a grand total of zero minutes. Even when the likes of Iniesta were replaced, there were players further up the pecking order or midfield hierarchy. It was a frustrating summer for the Atlético star.

However, Saúl showed in these games that he has what it takes to be a pivotal part of the next generation of Spanish superstars, a symbol of a new formed Spain.

La Roja were never convincing in Russia and were dumped out by the hosts on penalties, so it was perhaps wise to call an end to the international careers of the legends that will be remembered for the triumphs between 2008 and 2012, where they will go down as one of, if not the, best international sides of modern history. Along with Silva and Iniesta, Spain also said goodbye to Gerard Piqué, while Jordi Alba and Koke didn’t make the cut, with Chelsea high-flyer Marcos Alonso getting the nod over the former. In fact, only three World Cup winners remained in the 23-man squad Enrique picked.

The break brought positive performances from many of Spain’s young talent, including Marco Asensio, Dani Ceballos, José Gayà and Rodri. But Saúl stood out, perhaps symbolically more than anything else. Real Madrid’s star Asensio was excellent in front of goal, but we know Spain for the beautiful passing side they are, and Saúl captivated that in abundance, as he was the heartbeat that kept the Spanish ticking from minute one, to the final whistle.

The England performance won Saúl plaudits, but it was the game against Croatia that will be remembered by Saúl and his family for decades. The game was held at the Martin Valero stadium in Elche, which coincidentally, is where Saúl started his career in football.

Elche CF, the team from the town just inland from Alicante on the Mediterranean Coast, play in the Segunda Division, but boast an impressive 33,000 seater stadium which has played host to a rare few international games over the years. They are the club where the Ñíguez family made their name: father Jose Antonio played as a striker for the club for nine years, Saúl’s eldest brother Jonathan plays there now, while other brother Aaron played there for two seasons before moving on to pastures new.

So, on Tuesday night, the homecoming so to speak of Saúl Ñíguez was a huge incentive for the locals to go out and buy their tickets for the fixture. Everyone in the Martin Valero stadium went to see the boy that is slowly becoming the best thing to ever come from Elche.

In fact, the last time La Roja played at Elche, Saúl was thirteen. That day Spain beat Italy 1-0 through a David Villa goal. The teenager would have watched that game, and surely dreamed of potentially playing for Spain at his home stadium one day.

Although Saúl was tipped to be a star from this age, it was a long road to the top. His talent was spotted at Elche, with his elegant style noted by many top clubs. Thus, he was headhunted. At just the age of 11, Saúl moved to Madrid and signed for… Real Madrid.

Yep, that’s right. Atletico fans can’t even claim Saúl to be one of their own, technically.

Screen Shot 2018-09-12 at 16.22.14

It was a tough time for Saúl across the city, as he was subject to bullying from fellow academy players.

He told El Mundo: “During that year with Real Madrid I learned many things, I matured a lot. It was a difficult year because many non-sporting things were happening.”

This was a mental setback for Saúl, but a physical injury was to follow that could have ended Saúl’s career.

In the years leading up to now, the midfield metronome had a serious kidney injury which meant he would often be out of breathe and at worst, urinate blood.

In 2015, away at Leverkusen in the BayArena, Saúl departed in the arms of the physio unable to continue, and remembers violently vomiting.

It looked like Saúl’s career was to fizzle out, but the young man showed determination to recover and it is paying dividends now, as he is moulding into one of the finest midfielders in the world.

Saúl has a knack of netting in big games, notably a goal v Bayern in the Champions League semi final of 2016, or his goal more recently in the UEFA Super Cup v Real Madrid.

If he can carry on, on this trajectory, Saúl Ñíguez could go down as one of the greats. With Spain looking to move away from the plagued ‘tiki-taka’ craze (a whole story in itself), Atletico’s dynamo will be crucial, as he has been early in Luis Enrique’s side as the heartbeat of La Roja. 

Want a midfielder good enough to replace Iniesta and Silva? Better ca— finish it, I can’t bring myself to recycle the most used headline in the history of headlines.

 

 

Featured

Talking Tactics: Marcelo Bielsa’s Philosophies

Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 11.34.49

Marcelo Bielsa is quickly winning praise in England for his fast start with Leeds, but who exactly is ‘El Loco’ and why are his philosophies so lavished in the footballing world?

To the shock and delirium of many English football fans, Leeds United appointed ‘El Loco’ Marcelo Bielsa ahead of the new season. Literally translating as ‘the crazy one’, Bielsa adopts an innovative, fast moving style of football that has won him global plaudits from some of the best coaches in the game, including Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino.

Surprisingly, many neutral watchers in England knew nothing of the Argentinian coach, and some still don’t. A couple of months into his spell at Leeds, we have learnt that Bielsa is indeed a very interesting character: he sits on a cooler during matches, is not afraid to make first half substitutions if things aren’t going right and employs a translator to help him with his interviews in a very odd yet admirable style.

Bielsa’s first job in management was with Argentinian club Newell’s Old Boys, who play their football at the stadium now called ‘Estadio Marcelo Bielsa’ in Rosario, Santa Fe.

Taking the job in his mid thirties, Marcelo Bielsa’s meticulous style became evident months into his two-year stint at Newell’s. The dedicated coach racked up circa 25,000 miles in his Fiat 167 as he fled around the country trying to persuade players to join the club. Often, it was his eye for talent that made him stand out from the crowd, as he brought the likes of Gabriel Batistuta and Mauricio Pochettino to the club, both of whom went on to have playing careers at the highest level.

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 14.17.38

Just like all revolutionary coaches in sport, Bielsa has a desire for detail. When the Argentine took over at Leeds, this was clear. He installed sleeping quarters at the training ground and went against the norm of English football training patterns, by insisting that Leeds do double sessions with the players allowed to rest in the sleeping areas in between.

In essence, he has transformed Leeds’ training from a couple of hours in the morning to a nine-to-five job, with the players having demanding physical schedules as well as intense lectures in front of a tactics board learning about their next opponent.

Before his arrival, Bielsa watched all 51 Leeds games from last season, so he knew his players inside out. He completely immersed himself in the club and its surroundings, and thus far it is paying dividends, with Leeds flying in the league.

Top coaches such as Simeone, Guardiola and Pochettino swear by Bielsa as one of their biggest inspirations in management. Pep Guardiola visited Bielsa in Argentina before he took the job as a coach at Barcelona B, his first job. In fact, the two spent 11 hours at a barbecue at Bielsa’s Rosario home talking football and tactics.

Why? Bielsa has won a couple of Argentinian league titles as well as guiding Argentina to Olympic glory, but why is he so coveted in the wider footballing community?

“I only believe in Plan A. Plan B is to get Plan A to work”

Perhaps taking inspiration from Bielsa, a vast majority of top coaches in world football tend to stick to their core beliefs and not stray away from them. For example, Guardiola would never ‘park the bus’ based on the opposition in the same way Simeone refuses to depart from his defensive counter attacking game.

Bielsa sees the notion of changing tactics mid game as failure or a sign of weakness. If he doesn’t believe in his own way, why should the players invest so much attention and effort to believe in Bielsa?

That doesn’t mean El Loco is afraid of change – far from it, in fact. In the game against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium a fortnight ago, Bielsa hauled off his key midfielder Kalvin Phillips with not even half an hour on the clock, for tactical reasons. When Leeds needed a goal, it was always going to be one striker for another, rather than throwing Bamford on for a defender and changing the game plan to throwing balls into the box.

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 14.17.58

It doesn’t always work. In his early days at Lille, Bielsa made three changes before half time and ended up having to play an outfield player as a goalkeeper, before changing his mind and swapping the outfield player. Lille lost that game 3-0, to Strasbourg. His style is rash and sometimes backfires, but often it works.

As Kanye West would say – “Name one genius that ain’t crazy”.

The famous 3-3-1-3 and more conservative 4-2-3-1 styles

Leeds’ star coach has been hailed in world football for his tactical innovations, namely his eye catching 3-3-1-3 formation, which gained popularity in Bielsa’s Chile, Marseille and Bilbao sides.

The system demands highly demanding pressing, elaborate attacking and fluid transitions that combine for a very exciting style of play.

The eccentric formation consists of: three defenders ample on the ball; a defensive shield in the middle of two inverted wing backs; an enganche; a front three of a target man and two wide men.

Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 23.29.10

Perhaps most eye catching of the formation is the playmaker just behind the front three: most notable in this role was Dimitri Payet during Bielsa’s stint at Marseille.

This player is given the most freedom and is relieved of pressing duties, thus is the biggest creative outlet in the system. Enganche is the traditional playmaker that is the prompt for attacking moves.

The wide men stay as wide as possible, creating overloads in the wide areas, allowing the playmaker to excel.

The un enganche y tres punta belief galvanized the French league at the time and Marseille fought for the title right until the end, where they were beaten by multimillionaire giants Paris St-Germain.

As is similar with most of the pioneer coaches of attacking football, many forget about the defensive side. Bielsa’s sides are more than equipped off the ball.

Chile adopted a high intensity style around this famous 3-3-1-3 formation and although not littered with talent, the South American nation have over performed in tournaments in the past decade, especially on the continent.

Whilst at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola stated that Barcelona’s draw at the San Mames, home of Bielsa’s Bilbao, was their toughest game of the season. He said that Bielsa’s men played like lions as the Catalan giants struggled to cope with their high pressing.

In that very season, the Basque club earned their way to surprising finishes in the Europa League and the Copa del Rey, achieving the final in both competitions.

It isn’t just the eccentric 3-3-1-3 formation that Loco has up his sleeve, as he often turns to a 4-2-3-1 system with high full backs, which he is adopting thus far in Yorkshire.

Bielsa’s aim is to have one more central defender than the opposition have strikers, which facilitates his high line and pressing style of play, as only one spare defender means there are more players to push forwards.

“Concentracion, permanente movilidad, rotacion y repentization” – concentration, focus, rotation and improvisation.

Even though the shape may look slightly different, the idea and emphasis is the same. The key components are speed, verticality and fluidity: each player is expected to improvise within the system and fill in for one another.

Bielsa swears: “if football was played by robots, I would win everything”. He has a belief in his system that if players carry out his orders of where to be on the pitch, they will succeed.

The robotic comment seems strange, as Bielsa relies heavily on improvisation in situations for effectiveness.

He believes that totally mechanized teams are “useless, because they get lost when they lose their script”. The role of the enganche, in both systems, thus, is crucial.

Whether it be Dimi Payet at that high flying Marseille side in a 3-3-1-3 or now at Leeds, Samuel Saiz, the creativity and improvisation aspect is crucial. The playing style is about movement – you may watch Leeds and not know what position certain players are playing, because they have to be multifunctional similar to Pep’s City, where Kyle Walker pops up all over the pitch in wing back, midfield and centre back roles depending on the situation.

His interesting character and demeanour  

Bielsa has an affinity with fans and tries to drill into his players that they must fight for the supporters who work hard to afford to come and watch their team. He said: “[players] are an extension of fans, [players] are those people.”

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 14.15.03

During pre season, Loco wanted to make the players know what it takes to earn a ticket, so made his squad go around litter picking for the time that it takes for the average earner to make enough to afford a Leeds United home ticket.

He believes that he is the boss, but he is separate from the players. The captain, Liam Cooper, was voted for by the players – Bielsa believes the captain is the voice of the players, so he should not have a say in who wears the armband.

What you do on the training pitch win you matches, but the finer details are what win you titles. The small changes Bielsa has made at Leeds will go a long way to making this side better equipped to fight for promotion.

This has always been the case: when at Chile, he changed everything from the dimension of the pitch to the font on the signage around the training complex, because he saw a font he liked at Santiago Zoo.

He speaks adequate English, but does not want his message to come across wrong, so relies heavily on his translator.

These finer details helped setup Chile’s golden generation which won back-to-back Copa America titles – they will be crucial for Leeds in a division which is so often decided on tight margins.

Leeds have started brilliantly, but they have done before. This feels different. Bielsa has a blueprint that he will stick by and the players can only improve, unlike previous years when it was potentially a new manager effect driving improved performances for a short period of time.

The buzz around the city is different and better than it has been for over a decade, with 20000 watching Tuesday night cup ties at Elland Road to see Bielsa’s Leeds in the flesh.

Bielsa has never had vast amounts of money to spend, so his ideas are crucial. He has a system that he believes in – if he can transfer this belief to the players, Leeds will go far.

Law to reduce knife crime could harm Sheffield cutlery industry

For JUS News
A proposed bill to prohibit the sale of knives could lead to Sheffield cutlery manufacturers and retailers losing business.

Amid problems with growing knife crime rates, the Offensive Weapons Bill would make it a criminal offense to deliver knives and bladed objects to residential properties, with the exception of bespoke bladed objects used for sporting or re-enactment purposes.

The Bill also looks to impose age verification procedures when selling bladed objects.

Sheffield is seen as the biggest cutlery manufacturing city in the UK, and the new legislation could seriously hamper the business of many of these firms.

John Adams owns J. Adams Cutlery, a family business spanning five generations, and is worried about the impact this may have on his business.

He said: “Knives are made for a purpose, to do a job, not for attacking people. 99.9% of people who buy our knives buy them for industrial reasons or they are collectors. This new rule would not stop crime but it could stop our business.”

He added: “We already do all we can to verify our customers’ name and age, but this law could really run our trade to the ground and we would have to lay off some of our experienced workers.”

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield has secured a meeting between Sheffield steel manufacturers and a Home Office minister in the coming days.

Mr Blomfield said: “We have a serious problem with knife crime. We need serious solutions, but we need the right solutions.

“Large retailers might well be able to deal with age-verified collection easily and with little impact on cost, but smaller manufacturers which use the internet to reach niche markets will struggle.”

Earlier this year, South Yorkshire Police launched the ‘Sheffield City Knife Crime Strategy’ to combat the rising problem in the city.

MP Paul Blomfield thinks the legislation is the incorrect way to approach the situation and believes the provision has loopholes.

Speaking in Parliament last week, he said: “Under the provisions, a sword could be delivered to a residential property, but one of my local manufacturers’ steak knives could not.”

Blomfield wrote to Home Secretary Sajid Javid to outline that manufacturers in Sheffield make knives that are used for a huge range of legitimate and necessary purposes, including kitchen knives for chefs and cable stripping knives for electricians.

The combined effort of Paul Blomfield and leaders of the manufacturers has delayed the Bill, and they are aiming to alter the wording of the statute, but the issue remains uncertain.

Advertisements

The prestige of a Benito Mussolini inspired Italian national team in the 1930s

For Football Chronicle

The beautiful game as we know it today was not always so pleasant. While the Italian team of the 1930s played some beautiful football, they were the butt of a desire for collectivism. From monarchy to democracy, to the rule of church and despotism, every European political ideology was ripped up and rewrote in the ‘30s.

Whether it was fascism or Nazism, many ideas shared the same core. Throughout Europe, many nations had a desire for collectivism and the population was seen as ‘the mass’ – everyone would dance to the tune of the state, each person as a tiny screw in the huge machinery of the nation.

For the most part of the 20th century up until this point, sport was just a hobby, and the state were disinterested. In Italy, football was seen as a game of the dreaded inglesi – the English – so although many played it, the government were not bothered about trying to popularise it for national gains, such as health or fitness. It was around 1926, though, that this changed. Benito Mussolini, the Fascist dictator of Italy, thought that he could use sport and football in particular to better his objectives.

The totalitarian regime had to stake out a moral dominion over every citizen’s life, and in the 1920s, powerful European leaders started to realize sport and recreation could be a key part of this.

In Paddy Agnew’s brilliant account of Italian football, Forza Italia: The Fall and Rise of Italian Football, he wrote about Mussolini’s realization that sport could help better his desires. Agnew noted that Mussolini wanted to make football ‘more consonant with the new life of the nation’. It was not an importation from the ‘football’ game of the English, but a different logical development of Italian football.

In fact, if you translate the term ‘football’ in many European languages, they will all be similar: football, fussball, futbol, le football, so on and so forth. Italians, however, refer to it as ‘calcio’, a differing arm of the game originating from Florence.

Il Duce, as Mussolini was known, played a huge part in setting up the Italian football system – Serie A, B, C etc as we know it today. The FIGC, Italy’s governing body, was overhauled in these years and the 1929/30 season was the first round-robin format of Serie A. Ambrosiana – Internazionale in their original form – won the title that season, with Giuseppe Meazza scoring 31 goals.

These early changes in the late ‘20s set in motion a glory decade for the Azzurri, who won two of the first three World Cups. In the history of looking at football through a political lens, it is hard to find one state regime that has directly affected a national team in such a way.

Mussolini wrote at the time: “Sporting achievement enhances the nation’s prestige and they also prepare men for combat in the open field and in that way they testify both to the physical well being and moral vigour of the people.”

He saw football as a way to ready men for war, but more importantly, he saw it as a PR tool, to promote his regime and give him opportunities to put himself at the forefront of international media. 20 years after Italy’s first ever football match – a 6-2 hauling over France in Milan – football in Italy had grown to be a force, and Mussolini had his eyes set on one thing: the 1934 World Cup on home soil.

Before that though was the inaugural World Cup in 1930. Five countries – Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Uruguay – put themselves forward to host the tournament. This list was shortened to just three, with Netherlands and Sweden pledging their allegiance to support the Italians. Jules Rimet, the father of the tournament, opted for Uruguay.

The reason he gave was to globalise the competition. Every game was to take place in the capital of Montevideo, at the home of the 1924 and 1928 Olympic gold winners (which they sometimes use as a claim for being one of the best football nations in history).

GIUSEPPE MEAZZA WAS ARGUABLY THE BEST FOOTBALLER IN THE WORLD AT THE TIME

Italy were dismayed at the decision to take the tournament to South America and withdrew from the tournament in anger. La Celeste went on to be winners, with Pedro Cea the star man in their final victory over fellow South Americans, Argentina.

Uruguay returned the favour four years later, withdrawing from the 1934 World Cup in Italy. Under the tutelage of Vittorio Pozzo, Italy would go on to be winners on home soil, just like Uruguay four years prior. Strangely though, this didn’t stop Uruguayan nationals playing in the Italian World Cup. One of the stars of the show in Montevideo was Luisito Monti, who ended up playing for Italy in 1934.

This was thanks to the Oriundi policy, which allowed Italy to steal Monti, as well as Raimundo Orsi and Enrico Guaita. The politics of the rule is extremely complicated, but in basic form there were three rules that qualified who was available to switch allegiances and play as a ‘oriundo’: they had to play in the league of their country; they had to be able to determine their family history for their new country for three generations; they couldn’t possibly play against their former nation.

This, as you can imagine, was widely criticized and debated, but boss Vittorio Pozzo summed it up with a counter-argument that is hard to debate: “if they can die for Italy, they can play for Italy.”

As a side note, it is interesting to note that the Oriundi policy is not ancient and had an impact on Italy’s 2006 World Cup win. Mauro Camoranesi, a Juventus icon of that decade, won the World Cup with Italy despite being born in Argentina. The instantly recognizable winger did not sing the Italian national anthem and did make a nod to his blood origin upon winning the trophy in Germany. He said to a camera: “Para los pibes del barrio”, which loosely translates as ‘for the boys from the neighbourhood’.

VITTORIO POZZO LED THE ITALIAN NATIONAL SIDE TO GREAT SUCCESS IN THIS ERA

The likes of Monti, Orsi, and Guaita had a key part in the 1934 World Cup. Italy kicked off their campaign with a staggering 7-1 victory over the USA, followed up by a 1-0 win against Spain after a replay. In the game against the USA, even the goalscorer on the losing side had an Italian feel – Aldo Donelli was the son of Italian immigrants.

It was the semi-final that the world started to stand up and take notice of the Italians, though. Against Austria’s Wunderteam, managed by the great Hugo Meisl, whose brother Willy wrote the revolutionary book Soccer Revolution. On paper, Austria should have walked past Italy, but this was Italy’s World Cup, and Mussolini had written what felt like a script for how the tournament should pan out.

It is strongly believed, though never confirmed, that Mussolini himself had dinner with the referee of that semi-final, the Swede Ivan Eklind. No one made any notes over what happened, but the presumption could be made that they weren’t talking tactics.

Seven days later, Italy triumphed in the final over Czechoslovakia, with goals from Raimundo Orsi and Angelo Schiavio. Both teams lined up in their interesting – yet standard in those days – 2-3-5 formation, more commonly known as the W-M formation.

The tactics were far from revolutionary, but the trailblazing style of one man set in motion the history of Italian football: Giuseppe Meazza – so good, they named the San Siro after him. Rumour has it that Meazza slept at a brothel the night before, and the star also punched a Czech player in the liver during the final.

In short, he was the first incarnation of the mold of striker who could pick up the ball from deep and run at his opponents, but still, have a deep locker of finishes. Vittorio Pozzo, the manager, said: “Having him [Meazza] on the team was like starting the game 1-0 up.”

ITALY SCORE IN THE FINAL OF THE 1934 WORLD CUP

Italy were champions. In the age of economic depression, Il Duce had used sport as a way to advance his relentless propaganda machine. He used football as a symbol of Italy’s superiority, and other leaders started to take notice – Hitler and Franco included. Mussolini had shown – in his opinion – that fascism was the way forward in the future. In front of the whole world, he had shown how happy Italy as a nation once.

Fascism may not have played a huge part on the pitch, but the four years between 1934 and the next World Cup saw Mussolini build many foundations of Italian football’s glory era in the ’90s and early ’00s. Stadia and mass transport links were built in this era, planting the seeds for a golden generation for calcio.

Four years after the successes on home soil, Italy were ready to do it all again, where fascism was even larger than it was in 1934. Held in France, Italy’s route to the final was fairly uneventful on the pitch. With wins over Norway, hosts France and Brazil, the Azzurri had booked a place in the final over another team of the mid 1900s – Hungary – although not as good as their Magic Magyars of the 1950s. Austria were not at the tournament, due to political tensions with Nazi Germany, and Spain also stayed at home due to their civil war, meaning Italy’s biggest contenders were likely to be hosts – France.

One of the more strange moments, though, was when the Italians wore black shirts. In the quarter-final against the hosts, the Italians sported this politically motivated all-black jersey and performed the fascist right-arm salute before kick off. Simon Martin, the author of Sport Italia, wrote: “The desire to forget saw Mussolini swept under the carpet, and the 1938 black shirt and Roman salute were consigned to one of the World Cup’s and FIFA’s least edifying but overtly political moments.”

The final was won in ease, with Gino Colaussi and Silvio Piola both netting a double in a 4-2 victory. Vittorio Pozzo’s influence was felt more here, with his W-M being slightly tweaked to more of a 2-3-2-3, known simply as ‘the method’ or better known as il metodo.

1938 SAW ITALY SUCCESSFULLY DEFEND THEIR WORLD CUP HONOUR

Before the match, though, a telegram was sent to all players reading ‘vincere o morire!’ or ‘win or die!’ literally. After the match, Hungarian goalkeeper Antal Szabó famously said, “I may have let in four goals, but at least I saved their lives.”

Italy completed back-to-back triumphs and went on to hold the trophy for 12 years due to a break because of the war. Benito Mussolini had used football for political gain, as a propaganda tool. While the two World Cup wins may be barred due to the coercion and corruption at the hands of Il Duce, it would be unfair to question a golden generation littered with talents such as Meazza, Monti, and Piola, who are all seen as legendary figures in Italian football history.

Brendan Rodgers, the underrated disciple of possession football who came five years too late

For 5WFootball 

“When you look at the stats of the modern game, I am big on controlling domination of the ball. But against Everton we were able to dominate without the ball.” – Brendan Rodgers.

Igor Akinfeev parried the ball to his side and without breaking stride, he jetted off in euphoric celebration. Hosts Russia had defeated the great Spain in the Luzhniki Stadium, and Akinfeev became the first man to have the whole of a country singing his name since the great Black Spider Lev Yashin. Up in the press box at the extraordinary coliseum formerly named after Vladimir Lenin, match reports were being filed, the postmortem already underway. All around the world, journalists not lucky enough to be in Russia were busy writing headlines and getting them ready for the press deadline: THE DEATH OF TIKI-TAKA. The headline had a nice ring to it, but it was a mass over-exaggeration and ignorance of the facts: tiki-taka was long deceased.

Brendan Rodgers, the all-conquering Celtic boss, brought a possession-based style to the Premier League in the age of the counter attack. Tiki-taka – which I must state, as per my fascination with Pep Guardiola, is boring passing for the sake of it – had died when multiple attacking sides were embarrassed in the Champions League to stubborn defensive outlets. Brendan Rodgers, though, had an exciting philosophy that made Swansea everyones second team in the Premier League.

Sadly for Rodgers, his Premier League legacy is nearly winning the league with Liverpool. As he embarks on potentially joining Leicester City, I’d argue: don’t remember Rodgers for what he did (wrong) at Anfield, remember him for his trailblazing style at Swansea, his desire to play possession based attractive football, and his comeback in Glasgow, where he has more than set himself up for a healthy return to English football.

It will take time for Rodgers to implement his philosophy to a dressing room that is struggling for morale and confidence, but the Leicester board will give him time.

In an interview on Match of the Day 3 in 2012, Rodgers said: “We kicked the ball long [chasing a game] and it would come straight back again into our box. We ended up drawing the game two each. The next week in training I said to the players that we have to retain our composure and relaxation with the ball. Low and behold if it came again, we could manage the game with the ball. The following week, we were playing Bolton at home, and they get a goal to bring it to 2-1. To be fair the players then, for ten minutes, Bolton never got a kick of the ball. We eventually got the third and won the game 3-1.”

In a microcosm, that interview outlined Rodgers’ philosophy: keep the ball. In a way, he is up there with the likes of Guardiola in the way he has redefined ‘seeing out a game’ in the Premier League. He is no innovator, but the typical English way of seeing out a tender lead is to drop a few yards and limit the spaces for the opposition. Rodgers is the opposite, and will defend with the ball.

On the whole, English football pundits and fans seem blind to tactics, judge players and managers too quickly, and change their minds without a second of thought. A good example of this is Eden Hazard: one weekend, he is heralded as the best in the league, whereas the next he could be labelled a ‘fraud’. It was a similar story with Rodgers in England, who was heralded as a tactical genius for leading Liverpool to the cusp of the Premier League title, but then criticised as a flop in the months after, when the whole squad was bereft of confidence.

His time at Liverpool was strange, as despite the heavy metal football that Liverpool played with the likes of Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling, Rodgers’ style failed. His possession based game was not the way Liverpool got so far, it was a more direct style that meant that his side could not control games in the way he wanted. That was demonstrated with that fateful night at Selhurst Park, where Liverpool threw away a three goal lead against Crystal Palace that virtually cost them the league title.

It is not the stint at Liverpool he should be solely assessed on, though.

Rodgers is clearly a tactician, but aside from that, he is a man motivator. If you look at the list of players he has improved in his career, you will quickly sit up and take notice of this mans talents. I won’t name them, because there are so many.

He turned Swansea into an established Premier League club, playing a progressive, vertical style in an era of counter-attacking football that lasted until the likes of Guardiola and Klopp arrived on English shores. He slightly adjusted Roberto Martinez’s system and laid the foundations for ex-Barcelona man Michael Laudrup to restore it. He built the team around Joe Allen and got the best out of multiple young players, which could be crucial for The Foxes, who have a plethora of young midfielders who could thrive, such as James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and Hamza Choudhury.

The general argument at the end of his stint at Liverpool was that Rodgers was too reliant on Luis Suarez, which is probably a fair assumption. He was, but that is because he built the system around him and allowed the Uruguayan to thrive. There will always be an asterix over his time in Merseyside, but part of the blame has to be attributed with the scouting department and ownership. All in all, though, he got the best out of many, including Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge. His signings were well off, and his last half-season a disaster, but he deserves more respect than what some give him for his time at the club.

The Rodgers revival came at Celtic, which yes, is an easy job. Just like Bayern’s decline when Guardiola left the so-called easy job, I wouldn’t be too surprised if Rodgers’ ex-captain, Steven Gerrard, seizes the moment to close the gap on Celtic without Rodgers at the helm.

With a young and talented squad, and a few months to get used to them with the pressure off, Brendan Rodgers has a chance of really making his name again in English football. He has a positive style that could thrive at the King Power Stadium, and while he won’t repeat the successes of Claudio Ranieri, Rodgers could really bring the good times back to Leicester City Football Club.

Let’s leave on a quote from Rodgers himself: “If you are better than your opponent with the ball, you have a 79% chance of winning the game.

Endcliffe Park flypast shows togetherness of Sheffield in a time of polarisation

Tony Foulds was just 8-years-old when he witnessed the USA B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed “Mi Amigo”, of the 305th Bomb Group, swerve away from a group of children in the park and crash into the nearby woods.

Foulds has maintained a memorial in memory of the ten who lost their lives that day and said that he feels “guilty” for causing the aircraft to swerve away from the field they were planning to make a crash landing in.

Few in Sheffield were even aware of the memorial until recently. The park is a popular destination for runners, dog walkers and families to enjoy a day in the sun, but the fact the memorial is tucked away in the woods means it is it out of sight and many were unaware of it.

Despite this, the whole story came to the forefront of media attention not just in Sheffield, but the world, when BBC Breakfast frontman Dan Walker started spreading knowledge of Tony Foulds’ story. Within weeks, Walker had arranged a flypast from various fighter jets to commemorate the fateful crash on that day in February 1944.

Foulds told Dan Walker of The BBC: “I actually love them like I do my own son and my own daughter, and I will never ever let them down.

“My son has promised that when I go, he will come.

“This means so much to me, so much to me.”

The flyover itself was exceptional, and the scenes of Tony Foulds on the giant screen that was erected on the park to livestream BBC Breakfast brought a tear to the eye of more than one person in the gathering crowd, which grew by the minute.

Foulds said on the tannoy system: “That crowd has doubled since ten minutes ago. It is a good job I am charging you a fiver each on your way out!”

The 82-year-old was in a cheery mood, and he had every reason to do so, as this is something he has been yearning for during the last seven decades he has spent maintaining the memorial.

Foulds was not the only one in a cheery mood. The crowd, with a range of ages, from locations all over the country and even some from America, was full of cheer and enthusiasm as they were waiting in the early-morning Sheffield sun.

Samuel Matthews, 8, enjoyed the final day of his half-term holiday at the flypast.

He said: “It was really cool to see the planes do lots of patterns and shapes.”

On a more serious note, the flypast educated him of the real reasons for the aesthetic plane patterns.

He added: “I think that the people in the jet trying to save all those children and risking their lives instead of trying to save theirs and ending the child’s.”

The flypast had a real family vibe to it

Richard Bancroft, 79, said: “I have never seen so many people in this park before.

“I’m ecstatic, it has put Sheffield on the map like never before.”

Now, there are calls for Foulds to receive an honour such as an MBE for his services, which JUSnews reported earlier today.

The MBE is only at the petition stage, but Foulds has been awarded with his name of the ‘Heart of Steel’ monument at Meadowhall in Sheffield.

At a time where the country seems in disagreement over most things, the flypast brought the community of Sheffield together for the better, and completed the lifelong dream of one very special individual, Tony Foulds.

Angela Smith among seven Labour MPs to resign

For JUS News 

Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, is one of seven Labour politicians to resign from the party this morning.

The group of MPs stood down in a protest over “the future of British politics” in order to form the “Independent Group” amid their party’s handling over Brexit, National Security and Anti-Semitism.

Ms Smith, who has been in office since 2010, said in a statement: “I don’t want to be patronised by left wing intellectuals who think being poor and working class constitutes a state of grace.”

Speaking later to BBC Politics Live, she said: “We feel that morally and politically to break free of a party that no longer represents what we stand for.

“The culture of the Labour Party is vicious, it is bullying, it is unpleasant.”

She added: “Not only has Jeremy Corbyn got hold of the machinery to the party, he has changed the locks, we no longer have the keys.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he is “disappointed” with their decision. He said: “I am disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue.”

Ms Smith has represented the seat since 2010, and was MP for Sheffield Hillsborough from 2005 to 2010. In November 2018, her Constituency Labour Party passed a motion of no confidence in her grounds of her lack of support for the party leadership.

She said in the statement: “Our politics, in other words, is broken, incapable of inspiring confidence in the future.”

She added: “The level of alienation from the political process on the part of the people is at a record high, with the chaos and conflict characterising Brexit encapsulating perfectly the sense of deadlock and hopelessness which pervades our political culture.”

Liverpool Wavertree MP Luciana Berger, who also resigned, led the group  in making a statement.

She said: “This morning, we have all now resigned from the Labour Party. This has been a very difficult, painful, but necessary decision.

“From today, we will all sit in Parliament as a new independent group of MPs. From my part, I have become embarrassed and ashamed to remain in the Labour Party.”

More to follow…

Stop comparing Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden, they are both the future of England

For 5WFootball

Video Assistant Referee. Messi and Ronaldo. Who will win the title race? Three debates that are unavoidable on a daily basis that, if you’re like me, will make your ears (or eyes, in the age of social media) metaphorically bleed. Three torturously annoying debates that have no real answer, but are still discussed on the daily. Another argument that seemingly pops up in conversation nearly as frequent as Brexit does is whether or not young Englishmen making the move to the German Bundesliga – or other foreign top leagues for that matter – is better than sitting on the bench back here.

The best example of this is Jadon Sancho, who was the trend of conversation around the country this week due to his return to Wembley in a Borussia Dortmund shirt. The teenager made the audacious and trendsetting move to Germany in the summer 2017 after failing to see a route to the Manchester City first team and ever since, he has been the example for many pub arguments, as midweek debaters look to backup their point that every English youngster should follow suit.

Yes, he is doing brilliant at Dortmund, who are leading the way in Germany, and Phil Foden may not be pulling up trees for Manchester City, but he is doing it his way, and that is fine too. Like VAR, there is no definite answer over what path is best: stop comparing the two. One size does not fit all, and while Sancho is clearly ahead of Foden (and the likes of Hudson-Odoi etc.) at the moment, it does not mean that all youngsters should quit the club they have grown up with, in search of regular football.

If the rows over VAR and the like weren’t enough of an eyesore for you, the pathetic, shameless clickbait journalism of many clickbait organisations this morning is enough to ruin a weekend.

While it was only Newport County, Phil Foden stood out in a midfield populated with a World Cup winner David Silva, and created more than the likes of Leroy Sané and Riyad Mahrez. Therefore, the ‘it is only Newport’ counter-argument for this will not suffice. Foden possesses a turn of space to leave any defender in their wake, and the ball stuck to him with elasticity on a pitch unfit for a Sunday League game.

This was not the first time Foden has stood out in the FA Cup this season, with the youngster excelling against Rotherham in January.

While Rabbi Matondo became the latest to leave City for Germany in the transfer window just gone, Phil Foden is patient in waiting for his chances, but they are coming. Admittedly, his chances are coming less frequently than others, but the experience of being coached by Pep Guardiola must count for something here.

Jadon Sancho, on the other hand, is thriving at German league leaders Dortmund, with manager Lucien Favre happy to build a team around Sancho as one of the focal points of the attack. Would he walk straight back into Manchester City’s team? No. Sterling and Sané are still ahead of Sancho at this current moment, just like De Bruyne and Silva (either of them) are ahead of Foden.

He may find earlier success than Foden does, but does that mean Sancho will have the better career overall? There is no definite answer to this, so stop comparing them.

The Bundesliga route is audacious, and I admire it all the same, but it doesn’t mean that staying at England means that the player will not ‘make it’. If Foden doesn’t play a single minute for four years, he will still be younger than the likes of many of City’s first-choice eleven including Sterling, Bernardo Silva, etc. If he doesn’t play a minute for four years, obviously then he will move, but in the hypothetical situation, getting regular game time in this star-studded City side will do for 18 months more yet.

By the time Foden is 21, David Silva will have retired or at least moved on from City, while Ilkay Gundogan will likely be of an age where he may leave. Therefore, the path to the first team is clear. He may not be a guaranteed starter, but with City competing on four fronts, that is irrelevant.

Just like the Messi and Ronaldo debate, stop comparing the two and just realise that we are witnessing two era-defining talents. Even though you may have your clear favourite, if you cannot appreciate the greatness of both of them, this sport is not for you. The same argument stands for Foden and Sancho: yes, Sancho may be better, and he may have made the right choice in joining Dortmund, but that does not mean Foden will not ‘make it’ at City. These are two of England’s best youngsters for well over a decade, so we should stop comparing them and get behind them both, as England look to end their half-century of hurt.

In a decade, England may finally win the World Cup again, with a squad full of Bundesliga-bred talent. If that is the case, fair enough. For now though, stop comparing the two different routes to first team action. Just watch Phil Foden for one game, you will see he is more than ready to step up into Manchester City’s team and excel for years to come.