Imagining a world where Souness signed Cantona for Liverpool…

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Imagining a world where Souness signed Cantona for Liverpool…

Imagining a world where Souness signed Cantona for Liverpool…

Sliding doors I’m sure there’ll be a lot of Arsenal related emails, just purely because of Wenger’s longevity but for me the big miss was Yaya Toure.

Apparently Arsenal have been crying out for a skilful, powerful dominant midfielder since Vieira left. Someone who can mix it physically and drive the team forward with the ball. Someone with an eye for goal, ability in close spaces, strong, forward thinking and capable of doing the defensive dirty work as well as going forward. Vintage box to box stuff. In 2003 Toure actually played a pre season game for Arsenal. That’s 2 years before Vieira left. His eventual replacement could have been there for 2 years, learning from Vieira, ready to take hold of PL midfields.

Vieira left the club in 2005. Starting then – Toure won 6 leagues, 6 Domestic cups, 1 Champions League ( not counting silly Shields, silly Super Cups etc ) an African Nations Cup and a slieu of individual honours. He played as a holding midfielder ( and champs league CB ) in a treble winning Barca side, then helped absolutely revolutionise Man City in a more attacking role.

I don’t know if you heard, but after 2005 Arsenal struggled to win a trophy for a while. Adding Toure’s direct approach to the existing midfield options of Fabregas, Flamini, Rosicky, Hleb & Gilberto could have been the missing piece. Doug, AFC, Belfast

 

…In response to Andy, London, and to get away from all the LFC rubbish (well almost), the players which spring to mind immediately, who would/could have made a difference, and in fairly recent times are:

Eric Cantona. Graeme Souness (how was he so bad as a manger but seems a very good pundit) was apparently tipped off about him by Michel Platini before his move to Leeds. Platini said he was a problem though and Souness felt he had enough of those! Peter Schmeichel. Souness again, Schmeichel wrote to Liverpool asking for trials but Souness had just signed David James as a replacement for Bruce Grobelaar and couldn’t be arsed! We lost a league title when Fowler and Collymore scored 55 goals between them as a result of Calamity James. Cristiano Ronaldo. Gerard Houlier had the chance to sign him but opted instead for Sinama Pongolle and Anthony Le Tallec (that bit might not be true but the first part is). Dele Ali. Supposedly on his way to Anfield when our Chief Executive decided to renege on the agreement and tried to reduce his fee, MK Dons Chairman assured him that he would get his move to the Premier League to anybody other than Liverpool. Loris Karius. Reputedly the best young keeper in the Bundesliga and would put an end to our shaky defence……oh wait a minute! I’m sure there are many more (Lou Macari not included)! Howard Jones

 

…Andy, London has re-opened a 20 year old wound for me in terms of his “transfers that never happened” question. Every year from 95-98, Man Utd would be linked with the Florence-based, lank-haired, Argentinean goal-machine, Gabriel “Batigol” Batistuta. My favourite United player was Eric, but as we didn’t have Sky, most the football I actually got to watch in the 90s was on Channel 4, and my favourite non-United player, by a distance, was Batistuta. The prospect of the two of them, lining up together up front for United… Words cannot express the level of excitement! Every year we were linked with him and every god-damned-year it didn’t happen (despite subsequent reports we came close on two occasions). It still breaks my heart to this day that he never pulled on the red shirt. Perhaps the first Champions League would have arrived sooner…. Lewis, Busby Way PS His indirect free-kick goal from 6 yards against Milan in 98/99 is one of my all-time favourite goals. The defender on the line that just says “nope” in terms of blocking it is glorious.

 

…In answer to Andy, I was gutted when Nabil Fekir failed his medical to join us last summer. His subsequent excellent season for Lyon since then just has me more confused.

Do I think him joining Liverpool would definitely swung the league our way? No, but I just love the idea of him playing in England and commentators saying “fecker” 30 times a game. Preferably in an Irish brogue. Aussie Red

 

Second teams The mail from David (shameless Zbrojovkast podcast plug) Szmidt, Brno, Czech Rep. asking which overseas team we follow struck a chord with me. I have often considered adopting an overseas ‘second’ team. Maybe Ajax because of Cruyff and – as with my beloved Spurs – the jewish connotation. Perhaps an italian team such as one of the Milan sides – but which one? So I never have. Until recently. A little while ago I decided that I would ‘adopt’ Boca Juniors.

This isn’t as random as you might think. There are (I think) some sound reasons for my choice: 1. Argentina. Ardiles, Villa, Pochettino. 2. Maradona. In my view the greatest (and we share a birthday). 3. La Bombonera. Any team that has a ground called ‘The Chocolate Box’ has to be worth following; and 4. When the crowd gets going , I understand that the stands shake. Epic.

But the thing that finally tipped me over the edge, after long years of merely thinking about adopting a second team, was the recent Copa Libertadores final. To lose the final to their arch rival – even after said arch rival had to play the ‘home’ leg on a different continent – is just so ‘Spursy’ that I had no choice. It put finishing fourth and not getting into the CL, or winning a League Cup semi-final on away goals in the very year that they scrapped the away goals rule, completely in the shade.

So Boca it is. ‘Fuerza Boca’ (I think). Mike (Canada expat)

 

A plea for perspective The last week or so has seen a significant turn for the worse in mailbox. What is usually a vibrant community of football fans from round the world discussing, debating and arguing about stats, players, managers and teams, dissecting matches, sharing stories and providing insight into their own lives and reasons for loving football.. has devolved into a fairly nasty slanging match between a clutch of Liverpool supporters and assorted others.

I don’t really care who started it or who said what (except for one person who I’ll return to**) but I do care about this community and it saddens me when people throw around awful disasters such as Heysel or Hillsborough or Munich as attempts at points scoring. For the most part football is a release from every day mundanities, an escape to an abstract world of heroes and villains, champions wearing heraldry doing battle with others and giving ordinary folk like you and I the chance to feel exhilarated, thrilled and utterly dejected in equal measure. The highs and the lows, the rollercoaster of emotions. The beautiful game.

But sometimes something happens in the football world that is so much bigger, a World Cup every four years that gets everyone involved for a brief few weeks. But very occasionally something terrible happens and we are brought back to reality, and (should be) united in our grief and sorrow at the loss of life. Whether it’s players dying on the pitch, a surprisingly common occurrence, or something far bigger such as the fire at Bradford City that saw 56 die, there are times when we should remember that this game that we all love is just that, a game – sorry Shankly but it is.

Whatever we may think and feel about our team and our rivals, we should not forget that. Put it this way, how would you feel if you knew someone who died at Hillsborough and you saw your fellow mailbox contributors bandying it about in the same breath as XG, cup runs and reasons one set of fans are shit. I would probably not revisit this place if it were me.

I’m taking a few days holiday from the mailbox, one of only two things I read every day (hat tip Arseblog), until this settles down as it’s making me sad and a bit sick.

**I was going to call out one particular contributor but it feels spiteful and unhelpful at this point so I’ll let it lie. Alay, N15 Gooner

 

All part of the plan F365 have taken some stick for publishing the plethora of emails from various Liverpool and Anti-Liverpool dullards, and I was tending to agree. This spamming of the mailbox with ludicrous missives made up of exponentially growing lists of specific points being addressed by each side was becoming fucking tiresome.

Then the lightbulb moment hit me, like a, erm, lightbulb. The moment is now. We can do this. It can be the blueprint for all peace talks going forward.

You see, to the outsider (a neutral if you will, and one that couldn’t give a shiny shit who wins the PL as long as their main men are in my FPL team), these emails all look the same. Grasping for points to “Aha” at like Alan Partridge and therefore win the internet. If we give them another week, they will actually morph into each other. Its already starting to happen. Great work F365. A few more days and they’ll be so far down their “facts” rabbit holes that they wont know which way is up. An entire generation of bores will walk each other into a groundhog day of never ending emails about fuck all, united in a common quest to win the likes of me over. Fuckng genius. PACMAN (League one is where it’s at. Pompey are going back to Wembley too!)

 

Cash > cups Good analysis on Thursday morning about Liverpool dismal run in domestic cup competitions but as a certain Spurs manager comments on cups, it seems also to apply at Liverpool. The last Liverpool manager to do well in domestic cups got sacked after losing ( probably got sacked even if they had won) in his 2nd final of the year. Contrastingly in the last 3 seasons they have beaten some pretty good teams in Europe and progressed to finals on two occasions whilst climbing several places in the league. I am not trying to put a new trophy or diametric in football but the revenue that competing in the league and progressing through European competition far out weighs a nice away day at Wembley in the eyes of the business folk who run top level football. We can all decide whether we agree with this or not, but when it comes to recruiting new players then money generated far out weighs the cups. Gary in Germany

 

Mic-ing up refs Great mail from ‘A Ref’ yesterday in reply to Steve Chicken’s article. He/she makes perfect sense but, it seems to me, that there are two very simple reasons why football refs won’t EVER get mic’d up.

The first is that I can’t see any broadcaster taking the risk with regards to the inevitable obscene language. Not for live games anyway. And, as Mark from Manchester’s excellent mail yesterday also pointed out, it’s not just the players that they’d be worried about. Imagine what would be picked up when a line-o is explaining to the ref what the supporters’ behind him/her think is a dodgy decision? Anybody who swears, even accidentally, on live TV programmes instantly draws profuse and repeated apologies from presenters. So much so that I’m guessing that broadcasters are legally vulnerable in some way if they don’t?

Secondly, I think the FA would be caught between a rock and a hard place for the same reason. Players shouting abuse at the ref would be damning in terms of the brand’s ‘image’. In addition, to combat it, an inevitable consequence would necessarily be refs having to take action against the offender. Can you imagine how the first set of games under this new regime would go? How many yellows/reds would get dished out? After all the evidence would, literally, be there for everybody to hear. You could see the shortest set of games in Association Football history! Is it 5 players or less for a game to be abandoned? (You know, as I type this I’m strangely warming to the idea!).

I would love to get ‘A Ref’s’ views on this and, likewise, anybody in a relevant part of the broadcasting industry. Mark (77 mins gone and Scotland are 3 nil down. Ohhhhhhh dear). MCFC

 

…Looking over events and developments in football over recent years, it really does seem that we are at a point where some small changes could have big knock-on effects.

Microphones on referees are already a thing, but they are only being used for a fraction of their potential value. Let’s not get all silly and suggest we broadcast them for 90 minutes, but surely we should do the rugby thing of broadcasting the VAR discussion. It would follow the unnaturally quiet void on the game with something of real merit. Knowledge and education are the two best cures for ignorant bile. it would be entertaining, insightful and very useful in taking some of the seething fury out of the atmosphere.

Microphones also offer a great way for the FA to enforce rules. Very explicit at the start of next season that foul and abusive language to small official will result in a yellow card. No exceptions, and continuing the tirade means a second. Listen back to recordings after matchess and sanction referees who do not follow this edict. Again, it would reduce vitriol in the stadia.

Football really needs to respect its refs and anything that helps to turn down the hostility at matches can help to stop things snowballing.

The tombola idea is obviously the first and most important change though. PACMAN (I think liverpool would have the best/worst tombola)

 

…I actually saw that video of the referee and his team with the microphone before reading Steven Chicken’s article and thought about writing in. Imagine my dismay at realising I was too late….

But I do think the article missed the strongest argument in favour of bringing this to British shores.

Mike F*cking Dean.

Don’t you dare try to tell me you haven’t wondered what he’s thinking, how he’s feeling trying some of those antics. You can tell me you don’t wish you could hear everything he says to the players, to the linesman, to himself as he shoots around the field like a inter-continental egotistic missile, and I’ll call you a liar.

Through the reliable source of Wikipedia, I have confirmed that The Dean has been a premier league referee since the turn of the century. That’s 18 years at the top. We need to give him the voice he’s always wanted, so that he may spread his wisdom far and wide. We may not have long left to hear this majestic beast before retirement.

Or until he becomes BT’s “official referee pundit guy” (trademarked). Dave, MUFC, Leeds

 

VAR So I might just get published.

I like both football and rugby and while I have no time for the egg-lovers ‘Rugby is sooo much better’ chat, I did want to make a point about the use of VAR (or TMO, depending on the shape of your ball) and also relate it to the prospect of the ref being miked up in football.

Probably not many of this site’s fanbase watched the Wales Ireland game last Saturday in the Six Nations, but on two occasions the (young and rather handsome) Kiwi ref was corrected by the TMO, simply apologised to the players (‘sorry lads, my mistake, we’ll go back for a scrum red’).

The players accepted it and got on with the game. Is this not the epitome of how VAR should be used? VAR’s biggest flaw is that the ref on the pitch still makes the decision by going over to watch the screen. If there is a ref sitting in the box watching, the on pitch ref can avoid the backlash by saying ‘Lads, decision made by the Video Ref, I haven’t seen a replay, on we go.’ He can’t be influenced or argued with – it is not his decision – and the replay shouldn’t be shown in the ground.

Maybe I’m missing something but happy to hear if that is the case (but please less of the club tribalism, it is so very dull).

Over and out, Mike D, Liverpool fan in London

 

Dear Paul Pogba Hello Paul, Great timing on the “I dream of Madrid” press statement right after I sent in a mail highlighting his importance to this Manchester United team.

Many thanks, Yash, MUFC (Can’t imagine any current French player who wouldn’t be dreaming of playing under the 3 time CL winning Zidane, especially at a time where it seems that Man Utd are at least a couple of seasons away from challenging for one.)

 

Dropped by my dad In response to David’s ream of questions in the PM mailbox I thought I would share a few answers because I am bored of my work, frankly. I was never much cop at actually playing football, but my brother was. He had a magnificent right foot, scored from corners and the halfway line for our local Under 15s and was captain of the youth side we both played for before that. He was reportedly being watched by a few teams in the lower leagues in England when he turned his ankle in the back yard playing with his shite younger brother. Still feel bad about that as the ligament damage never really recovered.

In terms of my own exploits my dad managed a team in our wee local league and my brother was the captain and star player pulling the strings in midfield while I stunk the place out up front, scoring once all season (a cracking Mark Hughes-esque volley though) against the worst team ever assembled. When the time came to register the squad for the second season my dear old dad sat me down and asked me to put the team first and take a promotion that he wanted to offer me – assistant manager. The honour, the prestige, the chance to boss around the big brother. I jumped at the chance and did a great job of shouting “come on lads” and giving out water and oranges at half time. We won the cup and the lad who replaced me up front was player of the year.

Promoted by my dad cos he didn’t want to drop me. Truly shite, I was. That being said the season as Assistant Manager was fantastic – my only regret being that I didn’t go through with my plan to wear my confirmation suit to the cup final. Mangor United, Belfast

 

Whiffy business In response to a number of questions posed in the mailbox yesterday I thought I would add a couple of my thoughts.

Firstly I have absolutely been influenced to open pandora’s box and get back into Football Manager due to the Diamond Geezer series. It is amazing how quickly the whole thing sucks you back in. I can highly recommend the Football Manager 2019 version which has stolen my life outside of work. Currently I have led AFC Wimbledon up to the Premier League and am making my first steps in Europe in 2025/26 season. The mobile version keeps things simple and allows you to whiz pretty quickly through the seasons.

Secondly the smell that immediately screams football to me is Tiger Balm / Deep Heat. Any whiff of it and I am instantly back in a tiny changing room on Saturday afternoon putting on the kit ready to attempt to be a half decent footballer for 90mins. My wife uses Tiger Balm as a soother when she get migraines and it’s the weirdest thing laying next to your wife when all you can think is she smells like your old pal who used to kick lumps out of people as a Centre half!

Looking forward to reading some of the other more lighthearted contributions today. Chris (Like a kid waiting for a very overdue Christmas present when the Spurs stadium finally opens), London

 

Postcard from Brussels Belgium brushed Russia aside at the Roi Baudouin stadium on Thursday night. Eden Hazard at his imperious best put in a man of the match performance and scored a brace. It was a pen and an opportunistic strike but that doesn’t tell the whole story of how he hustled and created for his team. He is sometimes criticised for his performances for Belgium but he starred tonight.

Tielemans scored his first goal for the national team, a precise and powerful shot after a good pass and move. Alderweireld also stood out for me and Batshuayi who led the line well in a depleted side. Russia? They were tidy but hardly threatening. They scored from an absolute howler from Courtois who dribbled past a Russian and passed to another. All the talk here has been about replacing an ageing squad but the young guys did really well.

Regards Paul in Brussels (think Theresa May came over just to watch the game)

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