Josh Wright

Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

Strength of the Football League: Adel Taarabt

In Football on March 22, 2011 at 4:47 pm


Adel Taarabt - Championship Player of the Year 2010-2011

Following this week’s Football League awards it seems fitting that this feature is on the player who won the award for this season, Queens Park Rangers’ Adel Taarabt, a player that so far this season has scored 15 goals and captained his team within a short grasp of the Premier League.

At 21 Taarabt is one of the youngest to players to win such a prestigious award, an award that recognises him alongside previous winners such as Kevin Nolan, Kevin Phillips and Phil Jagielka. His manager Neil Warnock describes him as, “the most talented player that I have had under my wing in my entire 30-year management career,” not a bad reference coming from one of the most experienced managers in the country. The host of praises continue from his team mates, Shaun Derry, when questioned on Taarabt stated, “In this division you look for individual talent that can singlehandedly change games and you cannot look further than Taarabt. When we have needed a bit of magic to get back into a game, he has given us a bright spark by either scoring or creating a goal.”

Praise and awards such as these have not been ever-present in Taarabt’s early career, and the player has had to work hard to achieve what he has to date. The Moroccan-born midfielder grew up in France, after moving from his native Morocco aged 9 months. He signed for Lens however made just a handful of appearance before being signed by Tottenham Hotspur aged 17, with comparisons to greats such as Zidane. The period at Tottenham was, however, an unhappy one for Taarabt and after suffering setbacks such as not being given a squad number by the then Spurs manager Juande Ramos and after only making a minimal number of appearances, Taarabt made the loan move to QPR.  After a string of appearances Taarabt clearly impressed and was signed on a season-long loan the following year, a season that would include 7 goals in 41 appearances. In the summer of 2010 Taarabt signed permanently for QPR, for a fee believed to be in the region of £1 million. It is this step down to the Championship that has seemingly rejuvenated the individual’s career, and spring boarded him onto the football world radar.

It is not just the return goal wise that has set Taarabt apart from his contemporaries this season, although 15 goals from an attacking midfielder with 8 games to go is a fantastic return, but the way he plays and the skill he possesses. Taarabt is one of the most technically gifted players to grace the Championship and his range of tricks and turns dazzle and amaze not only supporters but his team mates and opposition alike. The player does possess an attitude that Warnock’s predecessors struggled to deal with. However despite a few incidents in which his previous attitude issue has arisen, on the whole Taarabt and QPR have managed to control this and as such have reaped the rewards. Whilst Warnock has been integral in this, Taarabt has likened him to a father, credit must go to the player for constraining a weakness that has ruined many and threatened to ruin his career. Taarabt is not a defensive player, his positional statistics show this, on some occasions he sulks and can be selfish, but any manager would be delighted to have this individual in their squad, a point emphasised by Warnock appointing the Moroccan as his captain, and their teams would be far better for it.

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Exodus to the North: Football League Talent North of the Border

In Football on March 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes, both former Football League players, are currently enjoying a rich vain of form in the SPL

At the current moment in time the highest level of Scottish Football is awash with Football League talent, with many of the most promising individuals in the English second tier choosing SPL football over the Football League. Whilst the facts speak for themselves, Celtic and Rangers are regularly involved in European football, albeit (apart from the occasional season) unsuccessfully, and are normally guaranteed a form of silverware in one form of the other most seasons, the attraction of this is one that seemingly passes me by, and that in fact for the players involved, England’s second tier should be a greater lure.

Members of Celtic’s current squad include Gary Hooper, Kris Commons, Joe Ledley and Fraser Forster as well as the likes of Daryl Murphy and Anthony Stokes, and in Rangers squad we see Kyle Lafferty. Many of these players have been viewed as potential talents, who have proved their worth in the Championship. If we take Hooper for example, the former Scunthorpe United marksman scored 43 goals in 80 appearances for the Lincolnshire club, and despite interest from the top clubs in the Championship chose a move to Celtic in the summer. Since this move his goal scoring has continued, this season’s statistics read 15 goals in 24 matches, in any league those are fantastic figures. Anthony Stokes’s performances this season have been similarly successful, scoring 17 in 27. However unlike Hooper, Stokes’s career in England had seemingly stalled, with an unsuccessful period at Sunderland which included two unexceptional loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace. Stokes has seemingly rejuvenated his career in the SPL, and whilst this has been successful for him, is this league really the best opportunity for some of the best young talent in the Football League?

The average Championship attendance for last season was 18,106, making it around the fifth largest league in the world. These attendances are matched by viewing figures, with media companies spending large quantities on the rights for the Football League, the BBC’s recent contract for the Football League Show being the epitome of this. On the other hand SPL football averages around 13,915, however without the likes of Celtic and Rangers this figure would plummet. Whilst playing in front of 45,000 at Parkhead and Ibrox has its benefits, away fixtures at Hamilton and St Mirren in front of around 4000 limit this. Although comparing the playing standards of the leagues is difficult, if we examine some of the players to have moved between the two and the success they have had relatively it is possible to deduce a distinction between the quality. Kris Boyd, the all time SPL leading goal scorer has struggled at Middleborough, as has Scott MacDonald and Kenny Miller during his period at Derby County in the Premier League. Stokes, a player who seemingly struggled in the English game has flourished at the highest level of the Scottish game.

The standard of Championship football is ever-increasing, with more money being invested and more supporters flocking to games. The Scottish game, on the other hand is in somewhat of a lull, with a lack of a major TV backer following the collapse of Setanta and the upcoming review of the league structure.  This is not a rant in regards to Scottish football which as a league contains one of the most compelling, competitive and highly charged derby matches, as well a multitude of enthusiastic fans and clubs. However is this really the best environment for the development of the some of the talent that has fled from the Football League to north of the border? The growing strength of the Football League should convince players that their futures lie here, and this will provide them with the experience they need to fulfil their potential.

Strength of the Football League: Nicky Maynard

In Football on March 17, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Nicky Maynard's 09-10 Goal of the Season against QPR

The Football League is more than often ignored as a source of talent for the English game however in reality the case in completely the opposite. The second, third and fourth tiers of the game in England have provided large numbers of top class players involved in the Premier League and judging by the talent available this is likely to continue into the next few years.  This is the first in a series of articles with regards to the depth of talent in the Football League, and in this instance the player in question is Bristol City’s young striker Nicky Maynard.

At 24 Maynard is approaching the prime of his career; however his achievements seemingly suggest that he is already in the most successful period of his career. In the 2009-10 season Maynard scored 20 Championship goals, more than the likes of Andy Carroll, Michael Chopra and Charlie Adam. Maynard’s strike against QPR, a goal of the highest calibre that involved a flicked turn under pressure on the edge of the box and volley into the top corner of the net, was later won the Mitre Goal of the Year award at the Football League Awards. This season Maynard has suffered serious a serious knee injury which prevented his season from starting until February, however at the time of writing Maynard has scored 3 goals from 5 starts, rejuvenating an under-performing Bristol City and leading them away from the relegation zone. Rumours have also been circulated linking Maynard with a host of Premier League clubs, including the likes of Liverpool and Everton, however some question whether the player could deal with the step up in talent.

Maynard’s career began at Crew Alexandra, under the stewardship of the one of the Football’s League’s most respected managers in Dario Gradi. It is undeniable that the talents of one of the best managers at this level of football greatly aided Maynard in the early years of his career, and a goal return of 32 goals in 59 appearances, followed by becoming Bristol City’s record signing at £2.25 million in the summer of 2008, showed how highly the player was rated. The step up to the Championship, as has been said, has been successful, with a host of goals and awards. Statistically Maynard looks as if he could make the step up to the highest level however what differentiates him from multitudes of other goal scorers is the nature of his goals. Maynard very rarely scores simple or lucky goals; the majority of his goals are spectacular to say the least. If Maynard is not scoring high quality long range efforts such as those against QPR and Newcastle United last year, the player gets into intelligent positions, scoring intelligent goals such as the ones he has scored following his return from injury.  The striker is also blessed with that asset that all defenders fear, pace, and this pace combined with the skill and intelligence he possesses currently makes him the complete center forward at his current level of the game. Can Maynard successfully make the step up when successful individuals such as Michael Chopra have failed? The answer to this question can only be answered if the rumoured moves take place, however as a Football League fan I will be hoping for a few more years of Maynard, as the talent his possesses is a pleasure to watch.

Do Lesser Cricket Nations Performances Justify World Cup Cricket?

In Cricket on March 9, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Kevin O'Brien celebrates the fastest World Cup Century, one of few inspirtational moments by the lesser nations

This year’s ICC Cricket World Cup is one that from the off has been associated with controversy. The future of ODI in its current form is under question, deriving from lack of entertainment, decreasing crowds and the growing popularity of Twenty20.  If this world cup has taught us anything so far is that many of these criticisms are unwarranted, and that 50 over cricket still has a crucial place on the world stage. The tied contest between India and England had all the qualities one could possibly want from one-day cricket, highly skilled batting and bowling, tension and crucially drama. The game itself also portrayed the importance of ODI cricket in terms of cricketing quality. As reiterated by Geoffrey Boycott following the contest, ODI cricket allowed batsmen the time to build a secure, stable and skilful innings. This is not a criticism of 20 over cricket which has revolutionised the sport, but the 50 over game allows a certain skill not present to the same extend in the shortest version of the game.  But whilst some of the cricket played in this World Cup has been unbelievable, in regards to the structure of the tournament there is still much to be debated.

There seem to be two innate issues with this year’s World Cup, firstly the length of the tournament with the first group game taking place on the 20th February and the final commencing on the 2nd of April, a whole 41 days after the opener between New Zealand and Kenya, and secondly the presence of these lesser cricketing nations that are not regular fixtures on the global circuit. The length of the tournament is plainly tedious and derives from the presence of countries such as Kenya, Canada and the Netherlands, presence that as of this moment is perhaps unwarranted. We cannot ignore Ireland’s fantastic victory over England with O’Brien hitting the fasted ever World Cup century; however this has been the only stand out result from these nations. As it stands Kenya have lost matches by 10 wickets, 9 wickets and 205 runs, hardly competitive and entertaining? Canada have not fared much better, losing by 210 runs,  175 runs to a poor Zimbabwe and 46 runs, a relative success. These nations need to earn their presence in major tournaments such as these, World Cup cricket should be a privilege rather than a right. The experience Irish cricket has earned through being involved in domestic competitions in England has undoubtedly helped them develop to a nation that deserves its place on the highest stages. However until nations such as Canada, Kenya, the Netherlands and even Zimbabwe gain such experience their presence limits the attraction of the tournament.

As it stands we are looking forward to a fascinating knockout stage, with a host of quality teams likely to be involved, but unfortunately we will have to wait just a bit longer. I for one will not be intently following the game between Australia and Kenya or New Zealand and Canada but will be looking forward to the true aspect of the World Cup, high quality cricket played by the best players in the world.

Rooney sees Red! Surely?

In Football on March 3, 2011 at 1:55 pm

James McCarthy clutches area of his head that collided with Rooney

Manchester United’s 4-0 defeat of Wigan Athletic on typical Premier League Saturday on the whole may have seemed to be an example of a number of regular occurrences, Manchester United’s usual dominance, Wigan’ Athletics inconsistency of performance that has left them in the predicament they are in, the fantastic display of one of the bright sparks of the Premier League this season in Hernandez and Wayne Rooney and the referee losing it.

It had been two weeks since Rooney’s wonder goal which many claim to be the goal of the season, a fantastic over-head, scissor kick, in all honesty it had it all, drilled into the top corner to clinch a decisive derby victory. Rooney received praise from all quarters of the footballing world however within the fortnight this praise turned to damnation, and rightly so. The event itself was unwarranted, unjustified and unnecessary for a United team approaching the ‘business end of the season’ who would surely need their best players. However in the strange circumstances that occurred, Rooney escaped the incident without any punishment both during and after the game.

The incident itself leads to two major issues, both of which are, as in keeping with the match, regular issues; the hypocritical nature of the United staff and innate flaws with the referring system within our game. After the game United Assistant Mike Phelan said in regards to the incident, “”we can’t dispute referee’s decisions” however during this weeks fixture between Chelsea and United, Ferguson stated in regards to the missed foul on Rooney by Luiz,”He does Rooney clear as day, [the referee is] six yards from it, he doesn’t do anything. That changed the game.” It is events such as this by Ferguson that seem to happen on far to regular occurrences, as well as mistakes being made by referees which could easily be accounted for if they receive the support that is both available and clearly necessary. We now look forward to this weeks fixtures, and of course the numerous regular events that cause such debate.

Introduction

In Uncategorized on March 3, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome to studentsportviews. This is just a quick post with the aim of introducing to you the details and aims of this blog.

I am currently a university student in Exeter, UK, who has a keen interest in all things sport related. Whilst I can say I am a keen sportsman, unfortunately my ability doesn’t match my enthusiasm and which has such has led me to become an impassioned fan, critic and now writer. The beauty of sport is that there is so much of it, and as such everybody can be involved in some form or another. From athletics to volleyball and everything in between sport is being played at the highest standard we have seen. Though I cannot claim to be a expert of all such sports I encourage everybody to get involved, as there is no doubt you will find something you enjoy and become passionate about. Personally my sports are football, rugby union, hockey and cricket, sports which I play regularly and watch more regularly. Crucially I am a massive Bristol City FC supporter, and the activities surrounding this esteemed club may pop up once in a while.

The aim of this blog is for students to portray their views on all sports, to post comments on articles posted by myself or by others. The aim is to get students talking about the major issues in sport, not just local sport but all the way to a national scale. Too often student media ignores views on such issues and with major stories occurring almost daily it seems foolish to do such a thing with the talent of writers available to us.

Please post your views, opinions, rants, raves; whatever you feel is appropriate to any given situation in any sporting matter.