Roy McDonough reads this blog.
Roy McDonough reads this blog.
Born in Lurgan, Northern Ireland in 1971, Neil Lennon is a true Celtic fan. From his youth he set his heart on one leading his beloved Glasgow club to the top spot in Scotland. Well, it now seems certain that Lennon will be doing that again this season, seemingly for the umpteenth time and after years of turning out solid performances as a player and then subsequently as manager. It has though, not been the safest of jobs over recent years and it is for this reason that Neil Lennon is being inducted.
John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood was recently inducted in to hardest bastards and reasonably so I still insist. He was included because of his devout nature towards his club. He attends nearly all games, dresses like a pillock in hardly nothing in high winter and his belligerent behaviour has seen him consistently chucked out of grounds. John Westwood is an uber fan and entirely deserves that moniker, his life though has never been threatened. Lennon’s has.
The sordid ordeal commenced when Lennon was a player for both Celtic and Northern Ireland. Before an international match and after allegedly making comments about ‘a united Ireland,’ the player received a series of death threats that resulted in him stepping down from international football altogether. An isolated case like this would surely be enough to shake the timbers of your average sole but it was Lennon who was appointed in 2010 as manager of Glasgow Celtic, a key symbol of pro-Catholic sentiment and Unionist politics.
Serving the club in the way that he had wanted to since he was a child, the former Celtic player’s life has not been easy since his appointment. In 2011 Lennon was sent an intimidating package that included bullets, a few months later in the same year, a presumably similar package was sent to him, Royal Mail who intercepted describing it simply as ‘suspicious.’ It was later made public though that the item was in fact a parcel bomb, an incident that saw him put on 24-hour protection. Perhaps to a lesser extent, Lennon has been confronted on pitch-side on numerous occasions by opposition supporters of the bellend persuasion.
Basically and in the opinion of this writer, the poisonous Catholic-vs-Protestant Unionist-vs-Loyalist relationship between Celtic and Rangers is one to be deplored and not revered, both sides being seemingly bad as one another. It’s context within this particular story and career serves as testament though to possibly the biggest uber fan of them all. With ‘Rangers’ all the way down in the Scottish 3rd tier, Neil Lennon is having a comparatively quiet time of it at the moment. Give it a couple of years though and we may well be reminded why he is being inducted in to The Hardest Bastards in Football.
Article and Illustration by Philippe Fenner
So, we submitted 3 pieces to The Guardian Gallery this week with the theme of Adnan Januzaj, one of them got in and it won this week’s competition!!! See if you can guess which one…
Illustrations by Philippe Fenner
Roy Keane used to joke that he almost made a medical breakthrough when he tackled Alf-Inge Håland. That’s why he isn’t invited to many dinner parties. British football, however, has in recent years made one surprising contribution to medical science.
In the early noughties anaesthetists at the Royal Free Hospital, London, started using recordings of Andy Townsend’s football commentary as an alternative to conventional anaesthetics. It was cheap, relatively easy to administer and low-risk, with side effects that were largely negligible (loss of appetite, loss of sexual appetite, loss of interest in football, hair loss, memory loss, stupefying reversion of mental faculties, inanity, insanity, mundanity and some chafing).
However doctors now say they have perfected the technique using two recordings of Michael Owen; one in which he can be heard recommending mobile phone tariffs to Alan Shearer (Owen, a shrewd business man, extolls the virtues of an all-you-can-eat data package from telecoms enfant terrible* GiffGaff), and another in which he can be heard coaching Robert Soldado, a former stablemate at Real Madrid, through a ten-point guide of how to bleed a radiator. Soldado was evidently as unaccustomed to North London autumns as he was to the concept of radiators; the Spanish have no word for them.
It is reputed that the Owen bootlegs were hacked by a lone unscrupulous Sun reporter but that they have since been disseminated widely and used by Rupert Murdoch to successfully purge the final remnants of his conscience, as well as almost curing Dennis Bergkamp of his fear of flying. Owen, keen to jump on his own bandwagon, will be releasing an iPhone app ‘Transcendental Success with Football’s Michael Owen’ in mid-2014. Whether Roy Keane will buy it remains to be seen.
* His words.
Illustrated by @alice_devine
Johnny Giles cuts a kind, elderly figure these days, enjoying the game in the best possible way by watching from afar and scrutinising from his proverbial armchair. The Johnny Giles that most football fans are familiar with however is a different breed from the pundit on Ireland’s RTE football coverage.
Born in Dublin in 1940, Giles had an illustrious senior career that started at Manchester United, a year after the Busby Babes dream was wiped out on a Munich runway. Giles racked up 93 appearances over 6 years before being frozen out and signing for Leeds United. ‘I’ll haunt him,’ Giles is said to have told his wife of Matt Busby.
Indeed it was the beginning of a period in which Giles would appear in many players’ nightmares made material. A team tailor-made for he and fellow hardest bastard Billy Bremner, this immensely successful if controversial side was the realisation of manager Don Revie’s Leeds United BBC (breaking bones club), crunching and conniving their way from title to title, playing well yes, but taking every violent shortcut and using every trick and unnoticed foul that was available to them.
Not giving a Jolly Roger as to whether what they were doing was fair or not, Giles et al gained a fair few detractors, notably of course in Brian Clough who would one day fool-hardedly attempt to temper the Yorkshire side in to playing the game ‘properly’ in his doomed outing as manager of the team. Ousted ignominiously after 30 days, Clough was just another casualty of a side that insisted stubbornly on playing so ruthlessly.
As stressed before and key in explaining his inclusion in to hardest bastards, Giles was central to this team of ruffians that to this day mingle in the circles of footballing infamy and what one surely has to understand is in order to be co-leader of such a group of players as Revie’s Leeds United, you have to be one hard bastard yourself.
Article & Illustration by Philippe Fenner
Should United Ca-buy?
Disclaimer: Art takes time. Unfortunately for T.I.G writers, the art often takes longer than the article. So whilst we’re waiting for the illustrators to work their magic, things happen. Football is a notoriously fast-paced business. This time, it was a little bit faster than me. Newcastle and PSG have just agreed a fee for Cabaye, and as a result, pretty much ruined this article. It can, however, still be useful as a general statistical look at Cabaye and Manchester United. Please enjoy reading.
First let me apologise for the rather unnecessary title. My generation were built with little focus and short attention spans, therefore, patting myself on the back is the only way to get through writing something longer than two lines. So with renewed desire and a red-raw back, let’s get to it.
In the last week, football fans have watched David Moyes move from unwanted, backwards nimrod to a progressive, tactical master. Almost instantaneously did the shadowy, cold regard for the Scot wash away, replaced by the thousands of hopeful, smiling little faces of Manchester United fans around the world – and all he had to do was buy a good player. For this reason alone, buying Juan Mata was a good idea. To address Gary Neville’s concerns: Is he the traditional Manchester United player? No, probably not – but his signing has profoundly strengthened my faith in the capabilities of not only David Moyes, but Manchester United. A week ago, Rooney was leaving, Manchester United were finishing outside of the top four and David Moyes was slipping down Dante’s Inferno with no possible escape route. Today, we’re all laughing in Lucifer’s stupid face.
Speaking of the devil, Mike Ashley is a man well-known for dealing at the right price (and at the wrong, if you count Liverpool’s criminal theft of Andy Carroll for a measly £35m). Since the capture of Juan Mata, David Moyes has spoken of the Spaniard being the “first piece” in his rebuilding process. These sorts of comments predictably send the rumour mill into a fierce frenzy and as such, Newcastle’s prized asset is a name being touted by certain journalists. Yohan Cabaye’s status has been reasonably public for some time now. The Frenchman was moments away from packing his bags last summer, though a proposed transfer to Arsenal never materialised. Alongside January interest from Manchester United, PSG manager Laurent Blanc is also keen on snatching up the central midfielder and bringing him home to France. The Ligue 1 leaders were reported to have made a £14m bid for Cabaye on Sunday, showing their intent whilst simultaneously insulting Newcastle and Cabaye with their valuation. Clearly, that price was not right for Mr Ashley. With Moyes apparently hot on the heels of the French, I propose a ‘Gary Neville’ all over this. Would the 28year old be a fit at Manchester United?
The short answer is yes. At Newcastle, Cabaye has proved himself to be a more than suitable central midfielder in the Premier League and one look at Manchester United’s season will tell you why he’d fit in: Moyes has set about resolving Manchester United’s creativity issues since taking the job, hence Juan Mata’s arrival at Old Trafford. The prevalent issue currently hampering the champions is their lack of connectivity between the front line and the midfield. Despite the argument that Rooney is a clumsy/inconsistent no.10, this season he has made 40 key passes in 21 games. This is not a bad statistic; the problem is that the other midfielders are not working at this level. In 25 appearances, Antonio Valencia has made only 19 key passes, and almost laughably has made 90 crosses – of which 16 were successful. Although he’s not yet setting the league alight, Adnan Januzaj has enjoyed a bright start at Manchester United. He managed 18 key passes in his 17 appearances (and it should be pointed out that that stat includes 6 substitute appearances). These numbers might be meaningless to you without their comparison to others so let’s take a look at what Mesuit Ozil has managed for Arsenal this term. In 17 appearances, Ozil notched 51 key passes. Now clearly this man is a world beater, but surely this is the level that Manchester United should be striving to achieve. In 13 appearances, Juan Mata made 30 key passes. As Moyes suggests, Mata is the first in a rebuilding process – and as far as I’m concerned, he should set the standard in terms of ability.
Now, if this is the case – should Yohan Cabaye be in that category? Again, the short answer is yes. Though occasionally an unremarkable player – the statistics show that Cabaye puts the work in every game. A multifunctional player, this season at Newcastle Cabaye has been used in the no.10 role, a straight forward centre-mid role and a deep lying defensive role. In 19 appearances, The Frenchman has netted 7 times and made 33 key passes. For a player of generally deeper positional play, his key passes stat is impressive. Whilst coming close to matching Wayne Rooney’s offensive, key-passing output, Cabaye shows his worth with his defensive capability. Despite his admirable tracking-back and stamina, Wayne Rooney doesn’t defensively compare to most high-level CM’s. Put his season’s 14 tackles next to Cabaye’s 46 and the penny begins to drop. All the bleary-eyed United fans calling for Rooney to settle into a central midfield role need to go back to their online campaigning for the return of Ronaldo and get over it. Rooney has 18 interceptions to his name, Cabaye has 46. Amusingly, and despite the difference in defensive output, both players have made around the same number of fouls. This suggests that Cabaye’s defensive efficiency is of a far higher standard that Rooney’s.
So if the Frenchman isn’t far off Rooney’s offensive output, and clearly a superior defensive player – then why wouldn’t Manchester United consider him for a role in the centre of that midfield? It strikes me that comparing Cabaye to Rooney may have been interesting, though a comparison between Cabaye and Cleverly might have made more sense for the article. In fact, let’s have a quick look. In 16 appearances, Cleverly has made 7 key passes to Cabaye’s 30, 1 goal to Cabaye’s 7 and all that for only (amazingly) 4 passes less this season. That suggests that Cabaye is staggeringly more proficient in an offensive role. Defensively, Cabaye has made 13 more tackles, 19 more interceptions, and 1 more clearance. Considering that Cabaye has spent at least 6 of his 17 games this season in an attacking midfield role, that’s a pretty overwhelming difference.
Clearly a bid for Cabaye wouldn’t go amiss at Manchester United. Not only is he a better option than what’s already available, but he would also contribute to an improved level of creativity at the club. He is arguably not in the class of Vidal or have the potential of Pogba, the combativeness of Khedira or the mobility of Iniesta, but he’s a more than capable all-rounder and arguably the sort of player that could really excel at Manchester United. Darren Fletcher is quite clearly not Yaya Toure, but that’s never stopped him from acting like it.
Thanks to WhoScored.com for all the stats. Unless you hated the article, in which case blame them.
Illustration by James Hunter