Robin van Persie Needs To Leave Arsenal

Time to go?


The game of football loves a talismanic figure, a player who can grab the game by the scruff of the neck and turn it on it’s head in an instant.

Thoughts of Cryuff, Cantona, Zidane and Platini spring to mind when thinking about the type of player who could offer a moment of magic and change their team’s fortunes.

Last season, that player was Robin van Persie. Time and again he rescued arguably one of the most lacklustre Arsenal teams of recent memory, dragging them to third in the league.

Sometimes however it’s not enough to just be that figure. While the adulation and sense of purpose was no doubt enjoyed by the aforementioned, there is always a sense that these are players who strived for more.

Throughout the whole of last year the British media was whipped up into a frenzy of superlative-laced copy proclaiming just how good Van Persie was. Week after week back pages and supplements were strewn with words like ‘incredible’ and ‘unbelievable’ as the Dutchman embodied just what a captain’s display was.

Feeling the need to see it for myself I headed to the Emirates for Arsenal’s midweek game against Newcastle.

Much in the way that Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno’s brilliant Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait highlights Zinedine Zidane’s role in a understated game against Villarreal, Van Persie was similarly brilliantly underwhelming against Newcastle.

Prior to kick-off the Arsenal captain lapped up the praise, as 60,000 adoring Gunners fans applauded their hero, chanting his name and showing their devotion to a man who was the beating heart of this particular side.

However, come kick-off he cut a completely different figure. While his movement off the ball was instinctive and his first touch assured, he looked like a man who was feeling the strain that the pressures of being a talisman brings.

His shoulders slumped and his arms stretched out, Van Persie seemed to be asking more of himself and his team-mates, more than they were perhaps able to offer him.

Going a goal down only appeared to compound his frustrations and while he immediately snatched an equaliser, it merely papered over some pretty visible cracks.

If the first half showed frustrations, the second half showed petulance. The revered Van Persie frequently snapped at defenders and squared-up to international team-mate and Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul in an altercation which would continue after the final whistle.

While the crowd encouraged the pantomime villain, it seemed to me that this was the turning point in the mentality of a player who clearly wants more from himself.

One trophy in eight years is simply not good enough for a player of Van Persie’s stature. Lesser players have vastly more medals in their cabinets.

It was then that he looked like a man who had endured enough.

Arsenal have stood by Van Persie since he arrived as a fresh-faced 19 year-old. The fans have suck by his side through lengthy bouts with injury and indifferent form, and while he owes a debt of gratitude to a club which have made him what he is, surely it’s time to let him go.

He kept to his promise when he said he would get them into the Champions League, and as he ponders his Arsenal future while looking at his solitary 2005 FA Cup winners medal, he will know what he truly wants.

Cesc Fabregas aired similar grievances to those in Van Persie’s recent statement. While his heart lay with Arsenal, by the end his head was elsewhere.

Van Persie’s thoughts were met with derision by Gunners fans, but it shouldn’t be that way. It’s difficult to accept and even easier to say it’s about the money, but in all honesty it’s not.

Ultimately Van Persie’s success will be measured by trophies, and he won’t get that at Arsenal.



Kettering Town are staring down the barrel non-existance, with a winding up order on the horizon. It would be a shame to see the first English club to adopt a sponsor, go out of business – so instead of living up to the harsh realities of the modern day, they have traveled back to the simpler days of 1976.


Messi or Ronaldo? How about both?

For the last couple of years, everyone has been spouting the same nonsense when asking who is better out of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

To be honest, I’m a little bored of it. Instead of comparing these two phenoms of the game, let’s just appreciate them. We’re lucky to be in a generation when both these guys collectively blow the world away as they try to out-do each other.

So let’s just sit back, and enjoy the show.

Ronaldo’s record-breaking 100th La Liga goal in 92 games:

2011/2012 seasonal statistics (as of 26/03/12)

Games: 45

Goals: 49

Shots: 269

On target: 105

Goals-per-game: 1.09

Shot-to-goal ratio: 5.49

Messi breaking Barcelona’s all-time goalscoring record

2011/2012 seasonal statistics (as of 26/03/12)

Games: 46

Goals: 55

Shots: 209

On target: 112

Goals-per-game: 1.19

Shot-to-goal ratio: 3.8


Follow me on Twitter: @SimonKnights


Who Will be the Next England Manager? – Capello’s Bitter Resignation Opens Old Wounds

Capello's Exit - Bitter but Necessary?


It all began with such optimism. The unveiling of Fabio Capello in December 2007 – a manager boasting nine major league titles and a European Cup across four major cities over 16 years – justified the billing he had been offered upon his appointment by FA officials. Trevor Brooking dubbed him “one of the world’s finest coaches”, insisting he had the “respect of everyone in football”. Capello embraced it as a “beautiful challenge”, and his earliest skirmishes intimated that he would be the man to rise to that challenge.

England achieved their best ever start to a World Cup campaign just a year into his tenure, accumulating nine successive victories under the sternest of gazes. Four years later, and Capello’s timely resignation prompted a collective sigh of relief throughout the echelons of English football. On February 9, 2012, Fabio Capello vacated his position as manager of the England national team, after a spell of on-pitch disappointment and off-pitch distaste.

Inciting the public gag reflex was yet another example of the FA’s perseverance towards ‘reward for failure’. Capello, akin one of his most vilified predecessors, Sven-Goran Eriksson, will take a reported £1.5m pay-off settlement despite instigating the resolution of his contract. The removal of his entire backroom staff has already grossed a £1m bill for the FA, including the dismissals of Franco Baldini, Italo Galbiati, Massimo Neri and Franco Tancredi, all initially employed upon the insistence of Capello back in 2007.

Indeed, Capello will once again find alignment with Eriksson in an opportunity to fall, kicking and screaming, upon his feet and without resistance. Sven divorced himself of English football with a considerably heavier wallet but in unsatisfactorily sour terms, yet managed to swiftly resuscitate his career with financially lucrative spells at Notts County, Leicester and the Ivory Coast. For Capello, a sympathetic response from the Italian media has already positioned him as a likely candidate to rediscover employment, in a managerial capacity, at Juventus or Inter Milan.

The bitterness of the divorce, despite the FA’s diplomatic assurance that they “thank Fabio for his work with the England team and wish him every success in the future”, is sure to leave both parties with distasteful ill-wishing for their former companion. Like the husband who cannot bear to see his former spouse rediscover happiness with a new partner, the British public and media will hope, deep down, that Capello doesn’t waltz back into top-flight management unresisted. Similarly, it would be hard to imagine Fabio Capello – his unity with English football now annulled – eagerly cheering on our nation from the edge of his FA-funded sofa at the European championships on June 8. Neither party ever truly embraced the union.

The seeming lack of genuine interest displayed by Capello throughout his tenure – his apparent unwillingness to learn English at an acceptable rate, his admission that “football is just a job to me”, his inability to name or identify England’s first-choice goalkeeper during a press conference – actually proved a perversely decisive factor in the decision made by the FA to employ him in the first place. Capello’s reputation as a distant, obdurate, waspish disciplinarian had seen him through the interview process, with the FA suitably impressed by his resilience and citation as a man of principles. Yet it was that insubordinate, headstrong mentality that proved the basis for his eventual resignation; Capello’s belief that the FA had undermined him over the stripping of John Terry as captain proved a tipping point. The FA had crossed the line, and consequently been bitten by a beast of it’s own creation.

His departure had been building; both the FA and Capello were of the understanding that the existing contract would not be renewed following the European Championships in the summer. Fabio Capello no longer wanted to manage England. England no longer wanted to be managed by Fabio Capello. The underperformance of England at the World Cup in South Africa – the utter impotence displayed in a decisive 4-1 loss at the hands of an energetic, invigorated Germany under the tenure of Joachim Low – did little to affirm Brian Barwick’s initial insistence that Capello was “a winner with a capital W”.

As the English public fell out of love with Capello, so too did the players. The inflexible, autocratic tactical and social restrictions enforced upon the squad did not rest well; with morale diminished, little enthusiasm for England’s chances at Poland/Ukraine 2012 held true amongst the English public and it’s media. For once, our instinctive tribal optimism had subsided; we no longer believed England could conquer all. Something was wrong. Capello’s England had extinguished the seemingly inextinguishable flame of English hope and expectation.

The Terry issue proved an affront that simply advanced the inevitable, with conflict perpetually bubbling beneath the surface. Dante Terrell Smith once asked; “Why did one straw break the camel’s back?” He reveals; “Here’s the secret – the million other straws underneath it.” The Terry debacle was a straw too far.

With England now one camel short of a flock, inevitable questions arise surrounding which unwitting candidate we should slaughter next. Some believe the camel must be English; many dispute that England simply doesn’t have the right climate to breed it’s own, thoroughbred, high-quality, camels. In any case, the poisoned chalice that is the England manager’s job still has it’s appeal; for English candidates, it represents the ultimate prize for the blind patriot. For foreign suitors, it will pay healthily. So who will be the next manager to inevitably quit as England manager under controversial circumstance and financial enhancement?

1) Harry Redknapp - On Wednesday, Redknapp had awoken to the possibility of a prison sentence, but tucked himself into bed that night as the bookmakers odds-on favourite to be the next manager of the England national football team. His work with Tottenham Hotspur has been nothing short of remarkable, as were some of the performances he bled out of limited resources with Portsmouth and West Ham. Charismatic, inspirational, and (perhaps most importantly) English, Redknapp seems to have emerged as the clear favourite for the job amongst players and public alike. Redknapp has found himself endorsed almost universally, with social networking site Twitter judging the public support with relative accuracy, particularly after insisting that “no Englishman would turn it [the England job] down”.

2) Guus Hiddink - A proven international manager, with spells in charge of Turkey, Russia, Australia, South Korea and the Netherlands, Hiddink has twice finished fourth at the World Cup, as well as reached a European Cup semi-final and a quarter-final. If England want a short-term fix for the position, Hiddink’s willingness to operate as a disposable mercenary could make him the ideal candidate for a single-competition term. Hiddink’s experience as a club manager includes spells with Valencia, Real Madrid, PSV Eindhoven and importantly Chelsea, suggesting he has the confidence to deal with any ego and experience of the English game. Hiddink is likely to be second choice behind Redknapp, although there is a possibility that he could temporarily occupy the job as an interim boss between Harry Redknapp’s eventual appointment and the FA’s decision to install Stuart Pearce as manager for the upcoming friendly with Holland.

3) Stuart Pearce - Another Englishman that will appeal to the tribal instinct to look within the confines of our own shores, Pearce has been undertaking his apprenticeship for the international management job by working closely under Capello and crafting his knowledge of the international game over the last four years. Since leaving Manchester City in 2007, Pearce has worked tirelessly with the best of England’s young prospects as Under-21 boss, becoming a highly respected part of the current international setup. Installed on Thursday February 9 as the temporary caretaker boss following Capello’s resignation, Pearce evidently has the backing and confidence of his potential employers. Questions still remain over Pearce’s readiness to take the job on a permanent basis; he is still relatively inexperienced in comparison to the alternatives.

4) Roy Hodgson - Hodgson will be regarded a genuine outsider for the position, with his difficult experience at Liverpool still weighing on the minds of many on the domestic scene. Given a limited budget, restricted resources and inhibited expectations, Hodgson can be expected to excel. However, he is relatively unproven at the top level, with just a sackful of Scandinavian domestic honours to show for his forty years as a manager. Hodgson still presents the most well-travelled option, having managed across the globe including spells at Halmstad, Malmo, Inter Milan, Blackburn, Udinese, Viking, Grasshopper and Fulham, as well as stepping into the international game with Switzerland, Finland and the United Arab Emirates.

Follow me on Twitter: @cmaherdoyle


The England Manager Should Be An FA Appointment, Not The Players’

Next England Boss?


Fabio Capello’s resignation as England boss last Wednesday was initially met with a mixture of shock and relief. Whether you were supportive or critical of his decision to stand down, one thing is for certain, you had an opinion.

In the world of football everyone has an opinion. From the back-page columnist, to the ex-professional, sometimes you can’t move for an opinion. With the growing popularity of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, it’s almost too easy to offer an opinion on the modern game.

In fact, nowadays it’s very rare to find a tabloid article which doesn’t refer to a ‘tweet’ or some other observation in the public arena.

However, last week, once the yellow ‘BREAKING NEWS’ strap line confirming Capello’s resignation appeared on every 24-hour news channel, the ‘pundits’ turned up in their droves, offering thoughts on who should be his successor. The Italian’s seat was barely cold before the masses made their minds up on who that man should be.

Now whether that man should be Harry Redknapp, Guus Hiddink or Alan Partridge is irrelevant here. What struck me was just who was offering an opinion. A quick look on the Twitter timeline, and the likes of Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand were nailing colours to their mast by calling for Redknapp’s appointment, and that struck me as weird.

Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, but I found it immensely unprofessional for two of England’s most pivotal and important players to openly call for Redknapp’s appointment.

Surely by doing so, they are instantly undermining any potential manager linked with vacant position, who isn’t Harry Redknapp.

Over the next few weeks and/or months, the Football Association have an immensely difficult task of finding a suitable replacement. This should be a footballing decision, not one which suits the fans and the players.

Two months ago, England were heading towards Euro 2012 with ambitions of mounting a realistic challenge. Now, England are staring down a barrel of uncertainty, and could potentially head to Ukraine and Poland with a dis-united squad and a manager who doesn’t have the full respect of his players.

The national team find themselves in a position not too dissimilar to that which the Netherlands found themselves in just eight months before the 1990 World Cup.

Thijs Libregts had been relieved of his duties as national team coach, and as the KNVB were deciding who should be his successor, the players decided to hold their own forum in Schipol to vote on who they thought should be the man to take over.

At the time the Dutch were European Champions following their success in 1988, and were heading to Italy as tournament favourites.

However, rumours of divide were circling, with suggestions that the squad was split between the Milan players (Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard) and the rest.

Every player had an opinion and duly gave it, but collectively they decided that the perfect managerial replacement should be Johan Cruyff. This decision was leaked to the media, who too called for the appointment of Cruyff. Perhaps unsurprisingly this didn’t sit well with the KNVB.

As either a direct defiance to the players’ calls, or simply a flexing of authoritative muscles, the select committee headed by Rinus Michels, the man who lead the Dutch to Euro glory just two years earlier, ignored the masses and installed Leo Beenhacker as head coach, with himself as an advisor.

It was a move which ultimately ended the Netherlands World Cup dream before it could even begin.

Beenhacker, in David Winner’s fantastic book ‘Brilliant Orange’, knew he was accepting an impossible position, but conceded there was an allure to the position. “There was a special circumstance why I accepted the job. I will never tell the reason; but there was a special reason to accept,” he said.

The Netherlands went into Italia ’90 a shadow of the team they should have been. They lacked the unity of two years prior, felt ignored by their football association, and were led by a coach who simply could not control them.

Three draws in the group stage and a battling loss to Germany in the first knock-out round put an end to their world cup campaign, and confined them to the history books.

While they would go onto reach the semi-finals of the European Championships two years later, in many respects the die had already been cast.

Arguably, the Netherlands did not look a like a footballing force again until 1998, a period of nearly ten years. And although there were issues of racial divide plaguing that period, the KNVB’s decision to ignore the players in 1990 did not aid an already fractious relationship.

England can’t afford to be set back ten years, as the footballing public endure yet another disappointing reign. Players will come and go, and their relationship with the FA will no doubt sour at some point, but the appointment of the next England manager should not be their decision.

While the FA may have fallen on their sword hiring, in Fabio Capello, a disciplinarian who managed and quit on principles, they need to be given the chance to hire the best man they believe could take England forward. This needs to be a footballing decision, not populist pandering.

Follow me on Twitter: @SimonKnights