Zlat’s all folks!

Today saw the final of the English Football League (EFL) cup, where Manchester United scraped their way to the trophy by beating a valiant Southampton side 3-2.

If I’m honest, the word ‘valiant‘ does not really do Southampton justice, perhaps considered as plucky underdogs before the game, it should be noted they hadn’t conceded a goal in the competition prior to Zlatan scoring a free kick in the 19th minute.

Southampton started brightly, continually pressing Manchester United and forcing them into more and more rushed passes with possession frequently being lost. It culminated in a disallowed Gabbiadini goal in the 11th minute, Cedric had cut inside following a mistake by Rojo and played a ball across the front of the goal, which Gabbiadini slotted home well. The decision was understandable, as Bertrand was in an offside position when the ball was played across, but it was a mistake that would prove pivotal.

This was a well crafted move from Southampton and showed just how well-drilled Claude Puel had his side, using their width and the lack of willingness in Martial and Mata to continually track the runs of Bertrand and Cedric to great advantage.

The first goal of the game was from a free kick that was rashly given away by Romeu, he had no business to slide in on Ander Herrera in a position that was just under 30 yards from goal. Zlatan did what Zlatan does, but not without a little help from Forster who was slightly late in setting off to try to make the save.

Southampton then resumed their pattern of play, continuing to be the better side, as they were for much of the final. Against the run of play, Jesse Lingard slotted home in the 38th minute. It was an extremely composed finish from a player that is yet to prove he is of sufficient ability to be a consistent Manchester United player for years to come.

Despite being the better side, it appeared as though Southampton would be heading into half-time 2-0 down, however that was not the case. On the stroke of half time, Southampton pressed home their advantage of having good width, matched with a great delivery from the right hand side by Ward-Prowse. Smalling missed the near post interception, and Bailly attempted some form of ‘Moonwalk‘ which Gabbiadini slipped behind and finished neatly through De Gea’s legs.

During the first half, Tadic kept finding space between Manchester United’s central midfielders and their centre halves, something that saw Michael Carrick introduced at half time for an understandably quiet Juan Mata.

This change did absolutely nothing to stem the flow of the game, Southampton again started the half brightly, creating good pressure and having a flurry of corners. It was from one of these corners that Gabbiadini tucked home what should have been his hat trick. It was an extremely composed and great finish, hit on the swivel and past an onlooking David De Gea.

From this moment, neither team really grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. Controversy was almost afoot in the game, when Romeu and Herrera went up for an aerial challenge; Romeu’s elbow connected with Herrera’s face. The Saints midfielder had already been booked, and the Manchester United players again made their feelings very clear to Andre Marriner, but the referee stood firm and simply warned Romeu. The right decision in a cup final.

Manchester United found themselves in a similar situation, where Lingard had a little nibble at the heels of a very dynamic Nathan Redmond. It was almost identical to his first half booking but Marriner simply warned Lingard and allowed the game to continue. I thought the game was officiated extremely well by the referee, despite the pivotal offside decision.

All in all, Southampton were the better side, but finals especially are not about the performance and all about the result. It was an 86th minute corner that saw Southampton being undone. They had pushed players forward in the hope to win the game, and whilst admirable, this left them light at the back and Manchester United moved up the field with great purpose. Martial showed very good footwork and played the ball out to Herrera, all the while, Zlatan was drifting into what must have seemed like an acre of space in the middle of the box. Herrera needed to deliver and he did, drifting the ball perfectly on to Zlatan’s head, and from that moment there was never any doubt. The back of the net rippled, and broke the hearts of Southampton fans and players alike.

The ‘Ibrahimovic effect‘ has been profound, the big Swede has got 26 goals already this season, which for a free transfer is phenomenal. He has to be one of the best signings ever made by a Premier League side, the goals he has scored, impact in the dressing room and on the pitch have been vital. Mourinho made some big statement signings in the summer, with the club breaking the record transfer-fee on Paul Pogba, but it is consistently Ibra that shines and it’s frightening to think that he has missed some guilt edged chances throughout the season.

Mourinho becomes the first Manchester United manager to win a trophy in his first season, and that is some feat. Granted the squad that has been assembled has cost a lot of money and until recent cups, hasn’t delivered a great deal but you can’t help but feel Mourinho is getting a grasp of the task at hand and how he will move the Manchester United squad forward, and how he will go about winning their first title since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

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FA Cup Glory? No thanks, I’d rather have a pie.

The Sun and controversy have never really been too far away from one another. That has struck once again, with Wayne Shaw (now ex-Sutton United) at the middle of a media frenzy regarding an 8/1 bet for him to eat a pie during the fifth round FA Cup game.

I think it is important to really start with the fact that Wayne Shaw has now resigned from his position at Sutton United, which is a great shame as he would have been a true part of FA Cup folklore, being a 45-year-old goalkeeper that is the antithesis of the modern-day professional footballer.

Upon seeing the original tweet from Sun Bets, my initial reaction was that of the club being underhanded and having set the stunt up for extra money and in an attempt to garner as much attention as possible! My view has slightly changed since the story initially broke and more information has come to light regarding the situation.

Wayne Shaw, I believe, did not feel he was doing anything wrong by partaking in this possible light-hearted action, but in the strict world of football that is not the case. It may have been naivety on Shaw’s part or maybe he was egged on by the club or their new part-time sponsor, to ensure that there would be a continued interest in the club.

It is extremely disheartening that a club would go to such levels to try to progress their stature within the game, when they had already done so well on the plastic pitch. You would also hope that a man partly living his dream, and lining up (albeit on the bench) against one of the biggest sides in Europe would not risk his position by helping a few mates gain an extra bob or two but you cannot rule it out. That would lead me to be most suspicious of The Sun or Sun Bets more specifically, as this was most likely a PR stunt orchestrated by them.

All of this has taken a much more serious turn, at Shaw’s expense, as he now finds himself without a club. At the age of 45, he will not find himself another club but he will find himself a huge amount of support from the various Social Media websites. The Sun have a HUGE amount of responsibility for this, as the market they offered was frankly disgraceful. The market was offered purely on the basis that Wayne Shaw is an average bloke with a bit of excess weight, on that front, they deserve all of the extra negativity this will bring! The Sun needs to take a lot of steps now to help Wayne Shaw to move forward, whether they will or not, is a different matter.

Nevertheless, ‘Piegate‘ will rumble on for a few more weeks and really does highlight a potential issue in the novelty betting market. Gary Lineker has posted a tweet saying that we would all be on the gravy train if we were in a position of being subject to an 8/1 betting market.

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Great pun aside, I genuinely think this is an inappropriate tweet to send out, Gary also nonchalantly goes on to dismiss that this situation is comparable to arranging cards & throw-ins, which is possibly fair but it isn’t a huge jump to make.

Of course, the above has detracted from the magnificent story of Sutton United, the Vanarama National League and could somewhat impact the achievements of Lincoln City. The differences between each respective story should not be so vast, as prior to this weekend the players have achieved the same feat, however the people behind the scenes have now highlighted the huge differences in the professionalism at each club.

Luckily for the Vanarama National League, Lincoln City are flying the flag for non-league sides and will do so against the same side that knocked Sutton United out last night.

Whichever side you take, whether it is the fault of The Sun, Sutton United or Wayne Shaw himself, it really serves to show the FA needs to work extremely hard to explain the issues this scenario can create and to educate anybody that may be subject to this sort of “opportunity” in future.

FA Cup Glory? No thanks, I’d rather have a pie.

The Sun and controversy have never really been too far away from one another. That has struck once again, with Wayne Shaw (now ex-Sutton United) at the middle of a media frenzy regarding an 8/1 bet for him to eat a pie during the fifth round FA Cup game.

I think it is important to really start with the fact that Wayne Shaw has now resigned from his position at Sutton United, which is a great shame as he would have been a true part of FA Cup folklore, being a 45-year-old goalkeeper that is the antithesis of the modern-day professional footballer.

Upon seeing the original tweet from Sun Bets, my initial reaction was that of the club being underhanded and having set the stunt up for extra money and in an attempt to garner as much attention as possible! My view has slightly changed since the story initially broke and more information has come to light regarding the situation.

Wayne Shaw, I believe, did not feel he was doing anything wrong by partaking in this possible light-hearted action, but in the strict world of football that is not the case. It may have been naivety on Shaw’s part or maybe he was egged on by the club or their new part-time sponsor, to ensure that there would be a continued interest in the club.

It is extremely disheartening that a club would go to such levels to try to progress their stature within the game, when they had already done so well on the plastic pitch. You would also hope that a man partly living his dream, and lining up (albeit on the bench) against one of the biggest sides in Europe would not risk his position by helping a few mates gain an extra bob or two but you cannot rule it out. That would lead me to be most suspicious of The Sun or Sun Bets more specifically, as this was most likely a PR stunt orchestrated by them.

All of this has taken a much more serious turn, at Shaw’s expense, as he now finds himself without a club. At the age of 45, he will not find himself another club but he will find himself a huge amount of support from the various Social Media websites. The Sun have a HUGE amount of responsibility for this, as the market they offered was frankly disgraceful. The market was offered purely on the basis that Wayne Shaw is an average bloke with a bit of excess weight, on that front, they deserve all of the extra negativity this will bring! The Sun needs to take a lot of steps now to help Wayne Shaw to move forward, whether they will or not, is a different matter.

Nevertheless, ‘Piegate‘ will rumble on for a few more weeks and really does highlight a potential issue in the novelty betting market. Gary Lineker has posted a tweet saying that we would all be on the gravy train if we were in a position of being subject to an 8/1 betting market.

img_6731

Great pun aside, I genuinely think this is an inappropriate tweet to send out, Gary also nonchalantly goes on to dismiss that this situation is comparable to arranging cards & throw-ins, which is possibly fair but it isn’t a huge jump to make.

Of course, the above has detracted from the magnificent story of Sutton United, the Vanarama National League and could somewhat impact the achievements of Lincoln City. The differences between each respective story should not be so vast, as prior to this weekend the players have achieved the same feat, however the people behind the scenes have now highlighted the huge differences in the professionalism at each club.

Luckily for the Vanarama National League, Lincoln City are flying the flag for non-league sides and will do so against the same side that knocked Sutton United out last night.

Whichever side you take, whether it is the fault of The Sun, Sutton United or Wayne Shaw himself, it really serves to show the FA needs to work extremely hard to explain the issues this scenario can create and to educate anybody that may be subject to this sort of “opportunity” in future.

It’s no nay never…

This is my first Burnley specific blog piece, I have written a couple of others regarding other bits of football but thought that I would start writing articles on the club I love the most!

I thought now would be a good time to start because we are two thirds of the way through the season and have performed remarkably in the Premier League, but we are now coming off an extremely embarrassing result.

Having been at the FA Cup game against Lincoln City, I am an extremely disappointed fan, our players have fed off the amazing Turf Moor atmosphere since Sean Dyche has been in charge. This has been most evident this season where ‘Sean Dyche’s Claret and Blue Army‘ have one of the best home records in the Premier League, however it was distinctly lacking during the recent FA Cup game.

The away fans were by far the louder and created an amazing atmosphere, and their team played magnificently and as James Tarkowski said in his post match interview, Lincoln City are currently playing far above their current league position. This shift from the usual atmosphere appeared to create doubt amongst the players, and to an extent bred a nervousness when it came to taking the chances we had.

I don’t want to waste too much time discussing the Joey Barton debacle, or the referee, as this has received the most discussion since the game from both sets of fans. I will say Barton was pathetic, but I do not believe his actions were as bad as made out. Matt Rhead (Lincoln’s best player during the game) put himself about a bit and played much like Ashley Barnes does for us against other Premier League teams. There was good old fashioned bite in the fixture and whilst this may have contributed to our downfall, it should not be the main focus point.

We were out battled during this game and further to our League Cup exit away at Accrington Stanley earlier in the season, it does make me question our players’ attitude against sides from the lower leagues (this may also play a part when we play away from home). Whilst we have made a conscious effort to have the minimum requirement as maximum effort, this is something that has failed to translate in the two cup games I have mentioned and in away league games at West Brom and Southampton, where we were comprehensively beaten.

Although the cup game was an embarrassment and we now form an unwanted part of history that could well stand for another 100 years or so, we need to take stock of the whole season.

The players and club have completely surpassed all expectations (well my personal ones anyway). We are currently 10 points above the relegation zone, with 13 games to go, and that is massively impressive. In addition to this, we have broken our transfer record on three separate occasions this season, really strengthening the squad as a whole. We are making massive steps forward as a club, and it is extremely important to remember that.

I have heard excuses that our Premier League games are much more important than the recent cup game (I assume as a poor justification for the loss), and to an extent this is the truth. Obtaining survival in the Premier League has to be our number one target and if we win three of our next four away games, the feat will all but be guaranteed, we will then be able to continue growing as a football club and move forward to start ensuring we become the next Stoke City or West Brom, and that we are a Premier League mainstay.

Whilst the cup game was a huge disappointment, and the idea that it would have been better to lose and play one or two less games is nonsensical, we are still moving forward as a club and doing so brilliantly!

Let’s do the same thing as we did with the Accrington Stanley result and put this behind us, dust ourselves off and kick on by winning our first away game of the season and securing Premier League survival!

Come on Sean Dyche’s Claret and Blue army. UP THE CLARETS.img_6635

Help, we’ve been Impvaded!

Well, as the dust settles following a quite frankly hectic day of FA Cup football that saw not only one massive upset but three. My earlier blog said that I thought Burnley would beat Lincoln, which in theory was a very logical statement.

I would like to start by saying congratulations to Lincoln City, having been a Burnley fan for some time, I have experienced big cup upsets (on the right side) in the League Cup where we got to the semi final and narrowly missed out on Wembley!

I mentioned the Cricket Field stand created one hell of an atmosphere, and today, it felt as though the entire stand was bouncing! The fans were fantastic, usually Turf Moor is one of the most hostile grounds an away team can face (hence the fantastic record this term), however the FA Cup does not have the same fans in the same places and meant the home support paled in comparison to the ‘Impvasion‘.

The goal we conceded was disappointing and very basic, it was a perfectly executed set piece though and entirely deserved! Burnley were outdone in every aspect today, the performance was full of lethargy, but today is not a day to discuss Burnley but a day to celebrate Lincoln City!

A game with little true quality, Muldoon’s touch shone through in the first half and although Burnley had one guilt edged chance in the second half, it wasn’t enough. Until the goal, the main talking point was a number of altercations between players. It would have been a shame if they were the MAIN issues being discussed after this historic occasion for Lincoln City.

This leads me to the pantomime villain for the day, step forward Joey Barton. I will set my stall out now and say that he has been one of the best Burnley players since he has been with us, he virtually carried our midfield to the Championship title last season. Today was the first time I had seen his well publicised idiocy on the football pitch. Joey Barton lowered the tone of the tie, but probably tried to get amongst it to try and spur Burnley players on to start performing.

Much has been made about the stamp and the dive of Barton, which is what it was, but there was a moment much earlier in the game than that where Rhead planted an elbow squarely into the side of his head. There was a lot of bite between the two for the entire game and it would be the wrong thing to focus on either way!

I am so glad that there was no controversial moment that lead to the result and it was an old fashioned goal that earned victory for the Imps. There is much to be lamented about the lacklustre performance from the Clarets, but so much more to be enjoyed in looking back at a thoroughly professional performance displayed by Lincoln City today!

Danny Cowley has compared Lincoln City to Burnley and I can see why, we won our league last year based on a 4-4-2 formation, which is what we were up against today. A solid base, with 4 attacking players (Hawkridge, Arnold, Rhead & Muldoon) giving the main threat and two players providing extra defensive protection. Lincoln played us at our own game and won! Fair play for that.

Fingers crossed this will help the Imps kick on even further and will not have a detrimental impact on Burnley’s season. Although, I really REALLY hope that Lincoln City get a home draw (or Manchester United away) in the next round so I don’t see any more posts about ticket allocation!

GOOD LUCK IMPS, GET YOURSELVES TO WEMBLEY!

Oh and for those that might have an interest, my daughter wants to go back and watch football (despite the result)!

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