Season-defining spell approaching for Liverpool…

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Season-defining spell approaching for Liverpool…

Season-defining spell approaching for Liverpool…

Make or break for Reds It feels like Liverpool are entering a season defining 23 days once we return to action this Saturday.

In the Premier League we face Spurs (A), Saints (H) Chelsea (A) Man City (H). In the Champions League we have PSG (H) & Napoli (A)

And sandwiched in between these two competitions we face Chelsea (H) in the League Cup.

Let us just list these out in chronological order; Spurs(A) PSG(H) Saints (H) Chelsea(H) Chelsea(A) Napoli(A) Man City(H)

The season is still in its infancy and yet it feels like the Reds are entering a make or break period in their campaign.

We will know just how serious Jurgen’s team is when the dust has settled on this set of fixtures.

You often hear that managers will chop games into sections. Just how do you chop these?

I am going to give it a go;

Spurs & PSG – Full Strength with maybe a body switched in midfield

Saints & Chelsea – Ring the changes. Sturridge, Shaqiri, Lovren, Matip, Moreno, Clyne & Fabinho maybe. All of these should expect start(s) in these games.

Chelsea, Napoli & Man City – Whole hog again. The front 3, the back 4 but the flexibility to change a midfielder or two depending on fitness and performance levels.

It’s an intimidating yet delicious set of fixtures. It should be relished by the players not feared.

It also gives young English defenders the chance to test themselves against some of the very best in the business.

For all the talk of players being given a chance, England will have two defenders who are not in their international starting 11 going up against some of the biggest names in world football. Gough, LFC, Dublin

 

Gambling insight I’ve read a lot on here recently about gambling and football. I’m a former employee of one of the largest gambling groups in Europe and active worldwide, I wanted to address some of the points being made as unfortunately, it seems that not many commenters understand how the industry works.

Generally speaking, you as an individual do not matter to a gambling company. Roughly 97% of all players have a lifetime value of approx. ~£0.10-£0.20. Most people sign up because of a bonus offer i.e. £20 matched deposit, and after they play and claim the bonus never play again. Those who do continue to play might win, might lose, but by and large, they cancel each other out. Where it gets interesting from the company perspective is that 3% – the big winners (bad) and the big losers (good).

If you’re not losing over £1k a month net minimum you’re not really impacting revenues & profits all that much. The biggest losers have specific VIP managers assigned to them to ensure they feel loved and lose more money to the company. This includes free tickets, hotels, flights, and basically anything else that you might want all for ‘free’. The VIP manager will know when your birthday is and make sure you have a present, they’ll answer the phone to you morning or night. It can be the case that one individual is responsible for 20% for an entire countries’ annual revenue.

Any company that claims they want players to ‘play responsibly’ are complete bullshit. They rely on a few problem gamblers to sustain them. Of course, they’ll never say that and they even lie to themselves until you get to the point you almost believe it. These companies don’t know who these problem gamblers are – they have problems in identifying them so they have to mass market. Throw the net out far and wide and hope they pick up enough VIPs. And if they get identified following purely predatory practices they’ll get hit with a large fine, so mass marketing helps obscure that.

Sometimes firms have a different reason for getting involved with football. The Swansea City sponsorship, like most of the other Asian bookies getting involved, is far less about entering the UK market but building credibility back home. Everybody knows the eye-watering sums paid for PL broadcasting rights, it’s watched world over. Gambling firms in those regions have far less credibility – sometimes they close overnight and the owners run off with the money. Largely illegal in most countries as well, they need to be creative to get their name out there and show they are reliable, and what better way to do that than sponsorship a PL team?

Arguably the current coverage of gambling in football is a little unfair. In fact, some of the negative treatment is being funded by land-based casinos who are losing market share to online bookies – sports betting is used to acquire customers before cross-selling to the infinitely more profitable casino games. A prominent Labour party MP is just one individual who accepted campaign contributions from a casino magnate before coming out strongly against FOBTs whereas before had voted in favour of liberalisation of the market. Every operator in Italy is leaning on their friendly MPs at the moment to reverse a blanket advertising ban recently announced. Issues around sports betting aren’t necessarily getting worse, they’re just being recognised more. If there were one area in particular to examine then it would be the treatment of VIPs.

Make your own decisions regarding the morality of gambling and football tying itself together, personally I couldn’t care less. However keep in mind that no matter what you might suggest, gambling firms will find a way around. There are many markets where restrictions have been placed, ranging from DNS blocking, credit card blocking, partial or full prohibition of advertising, to outright bans. No country is ‘free’ of gambling and there is no ‘model’ to follow, they’re involved from Germany to Ghana, Peru to Poland. None of this really stops gambling operators or customers. Sport is, has been, and will forever be intrinsically linked to gambling. Anon

 

…Re Mike, Auckland Blue, CFC, there was one team last season who was sponsored by a betting company, my own beloved Hertha Berlin, who to be fair rarely do anything exciting enough to make a highlights package. This season they are sponsored by and odds and ends store called Tedi, which feels much more appropriate. While there are no betting company sponsors this season the sky coverage of games here is very similar to the UK, just substitute Oliver Khan’s head for Ray Winstone’s giving the in pre game / in play odds. Neither are appealing… Mel – Berlin

 

…Bit unfair having a pop at Degsy’s column without reading it. I have no interest in gambling, but one of my favourite columns each week is Degsy’s, and to be fair he hardly portrays the life of a gambler as glamorous.

Thanks David McDougall

 

 

Embrace Englishness I agree with the sentiment that people should be able to choose their nationality, however, the issue I would like to address is why footballers don’t want to play for England.

Now my 2 best mates growing up had polish and south african backgrounds. Both were born in different countries to parents of that nationality. However, these guys are English. They grew up in England, were educated in England, married an English person and support English teams regardless of sport.

Todays’s curious case is one of Ademola Lookman. Played all through English youth setups, but can’t get in the Everton team. He has been complaining about his opportunities for a while now and has topped it off today by saying that he wants to play for Nigeria rather than England.

My take on the matter is that he thinks he’s better than he is. I’ve seen some good moments from him, but mostly bad. Evertonians are split on him too. So I don’t know what the issue is.

Has he accepted that not being good enough for Everton means he won’t be good enough for England? Is he being influenced by his parents? or agent?

Or is it just a case of people being encouraged to embrace their heritage more than their nationality? I’m not saying that we should start getting our St Georges flags out every year but when have you heard of someone being encouraged to celebrate their English roots? Scots, Irish, Welsh, their national identity is celebrated as part of a Great British Empire but actually isn’t that what is muddying the waters here?

If we grew up as a nation, accepted that we no longer have an empire, are no longer a global power and do not have sovereignty over former colonies then perhaps more people would like the English and more people would want to play for us.

At the moment no-one knows what it means to be English as the “British” moniker hangs over us like a mental straitjacket, shrouded in class and elitism. Fat Man Scouse (this might help with some mailbox contributions)

 

…Just a few points on the dual nationality debate going on here and in the wider media:

First, the rules. Article 7 of FIFA concerning international eligibilty: a) He was born on the territory of the relevant association; b) His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant association; c) His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant association; d) He has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant association.

All of that makes sense, you don’t Qatar or whoever else fielding a team of hastily naturalized Brazilians.

However, Article 8 also states that you can only change international allegiance once, provided you haven’t played in a competitive game for the senior team. This is where it gets silly.

By those rules you could have a player who was born in England to Irish and French parents but whose grandparents were from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain. They would be eligible for seven countries and an additional eight if they had lived in another country for 5+ years (with a ninth possible if they had 5yrs of schooling in another UK nation). Hypothetically this player has spent time visiting and learning his cultural heritage in each of these nations, they might even be multi-lingual.

If this player played for England u17s then decided to play for Germany u21, they would then be unable to play at senior level for France, Spain, Holland, Belgium or any country they lived in for 5+ years post-18. If the player was not wanted by senior level by either Germany or England it would preclude them from playing for any other nation, even if they would be a guaranteed starter and would fill an obvious hole in the team. This is a stupid rule.

Michael O’Neil gave a really good interview on Monday Night Club this week about how hard it can be to explain the gravity of these decisions to a 17/18 year old and how it can lead you feeling morally conflicted whether to cap them at any level so as to remove the choice of nationality from them. As many of his player selection pool are eligible for NI, Republic and England, capping at even u17 level would prevent them for playing for one of their other options.

Likewise, how many 17 year olds fully understand the gravity of such a decision? How many teenagers fully understand the meaning of nationality and the personal/political ramifications of choosing country X over country Y? Also, when you’re young it is easy to have your head turned by the biggest nation or shiniest facilities, that same nation might only want you for one round of qualifiers to cover for an injury, or, they might decide you aren’t good enough after one cap. That then ties you down despite having no hope of ever playing for the seniors.

In the reverse, how many nations would try and lock in a player just to weaken a rival? Welbeck, Zaha and Moses were all given u21/friendly caps to try and turn their heads and prevent them from playing for Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria respectively. Being the FA they bungled it and didn’t lock two of those in properly meaning good players were lost. However, David Brooks, Ethan Ampadu and Harry Wilson for Wales were all given caps at a young age to lock them in and prevent them from switching to England at a later date. Whilst many of those have probably greater affiliation to Wales, Ampadu and Wilson got caps at 16/17, by the time they are 20 their views on nationality might have completely changed.

Another point that is often overlooked is that international football can be a very good shop window for players. Playing for Northern Ireland, or Scotland at senior level will help you out far more in your career than playing for England u17s. Playing for a so called lesser nation will inevitably lead to games against top level players – Germany, Argentina, Spain etc. – that can be the making of some players. Over the years Ikechi Anya (who has a very colourful mixed heritage) made a name for himself after scoring against Germany and Hal Robson-Kanu did the same at Euro 16. Both of these players could have said they’d rather not play for a smaller team but have managed to get successful careers largely aided by international football.

One point echoed in the morning mails is that players shouldn’t be victimised for having/feeling like they have more than one nationality. The Bill Hicks quote is perfect. I remember Danny Mills, born and raised in Norwich, criticising Wilfried Zaha, born in Abidijan, Ivory Coast and only moved to the UK as aged 4/5, for flaking out on England. H. How could Danny Mills ever know what that feels like?

Finally, speaking of Ampadu, he really is one that England have missed out on. Someone who is dynamic enough to fill the Henderson role but also flexible enough to play at the back and pass/dribble the ball with confidence. As a Palace fan, I think England was crying out for a player like Zaha who can really change a game and is a constant threat with the ball. He would also be perfect on the left of a three or as a support striker in a two. Interested to hear what the mailbox can offer in terms of other players England let slip away. Joe, Midlands

 

Homegrown quota With regards to English players being held back in the Premier League – I think the homegrown rule is largely to blame. It has failed miserably in my opinion.

Presumably the purpose of it was to encourage clubs to develop English players as part of their first team squads, so more homegrown youngsters will get game time at the top level. In practise, this has not happened. Instead, top clubs simply hoard English players to fill the homegrown slots as required, while they never get anywhere the first team. If it wasn’t for the homegrown rule, would Chelsea have bought, say, Danny Drinkwater for example? Not saying he was going to be the future of the England team or anything, but without the homegrown rule being in place, he could still be featuring for Leicester and putting in good performances, rather than having disappeared off the face of the earth. Another similar example is Danny Welbeck – OK he’s a figure of fun in some quarters, and has a poor injury record, but I suspect the reason Arsenal have never moved him on is because he’s English, so it makes sense for them to keep him around as 3rd choice, never getting a start whether he’s fit or not. He may have developed into a far better player, providing at least rudimentary competition for Kane, if he’d have been moved on and got more regular games, but because of the homegrown rule, this hasn’t happened, and now we’ll never know. The likes of Barkley and Loftus-Cheek need to get out of Chelsea as quickly as possible if they’re to avoid this happening to them.

The homegrown rule was a nice idea in theory, but it has backfired so I think it needs to be scrapped, or very heavily rethought. Saying players need to go abroad to get games is all well and good, but currently English clubs will pay them good money to sit around and be back-ups, if the homegrown rule wasn’t in effect as it is now, then they wouldn’t, and these players would be forced to go and get themselves a game elsewhere – benefiting them and us. Too many young players have fallen into the trap of joining big clubs early, promised development and top level football, only to find themselves ending up as a homegrown box-ticker. Olly Cole, THFC

 

Yeah, but Ray Houghton… During the 1994 World Cup – a good many of us at school were scratching around for a team to support as England didn’t qualify – did we not like that and all that.

But there was a guy at school, who had a choice of three teams. His mum was Irish, his dad was Italian but he was born on a plane in Swiss airspace.

He did the only logical thing and quite frankly everyone should follow his example.

If you’re ever lucky enough to have the choice of representing a couple of countries at a major event – go with the country with the craziest fans. This guy chose Italy and I make him right to do so. Who wouldn’t want to be part of the celebrations in 82 or 06?! Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London

 

Keane v Walters That was astonishing reading, for both good and bad reasons. Martin O’Neill may well be denying it in public, but you can imagine the FAI are not happy with what essentially looks like workplace bullying, albeit relayed anecdotally, and have instructed their head coach to take action. Roy Keane’s comedic irascibility as a pundit is one thing, but this is different. O’Neill must reprimand him or sack him, otherwise he looks complicit, and the FAI would then want to take it even further.

And Jon Walters comes out of it sensationally. He has experienced enough proper struggles in his life to make a short-tempered, over-promoted bouncer’s egotism utterly irrelevant, let alone intimidating, so he’s properly giving it back. I can’t imagine Keane was ready for that, and the line about being fined by post rather than face to face is priceless.

I’ve always rated Jon Walters as a player. I now rate him even higher as a bloke, and I can imagine younger players in the Irish camp are feeling quite grateful towards him right now. Matt, ERoY

 

 

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