Gustav Sebes and The Magical Magyars

European, World, and European Champions, again: Greatest National Team of all time?

After that sensational performance that night in Kiev; after all those brilliant scenes of joy; of a team that had conquered all, Spain had not only won their third consecutive trophy and completely buried any lingering remnants of the ''perennial underachievers'' and ''Nine day wonder'' tags, but had stirred up  another controversial debate. The pundits wasted no time in trying to establish the fact that Spain might just be the greatest National football team ever. This assertion is probably not only based on their mersmerising form in qualifiers and tournaments alike, but also by how they've stuck to a defined tactical system and still managed to outwit every team they've faced, convincingly outplaying even the ''big boys."

People making this argument have had very little to do in terms of convincing, as their (Spain's) dominance speaks for itself. Vincente Del Bosque's team, oozes so much flair and intelligence, with a group of immensly talented dimunitive men. It's a team whose play evinces a beautiful orchestra effect. A class act, to sum it up. Coupled with being trophy laden, the argument for Spain seems to have gone beyond all reasonable doubt...

The team almost everyone seems to have accepted to be compared to this revolutionary La Furia Rojas side is Mario Zagalo's great Brazilian team of the 1970 World Cup. That team at the time played some of the most beautiful attacking football there had probably ever been, with some of the best players there were. I use 'probably' because, before then, the world had seen some teams very similar, if not different...

Hungary. Yes you read right, Hungary!

The Magical Magyars: The Great Hungarian Team of the 1950s

 
Nicknamed the Mighty/Magical/Magnificent Magyars, the team heralded as ''The Golden Team'' were the world's unrivaled football super power in the 1950s. I know many people wouldn't believe it as the tales of this wonderful side have hardly been sufficiently told to this day. It's almost as if they never existed ; but they did, and they were very dominant and influential. Maybe even more dominant than this current Spanish side...

Genesis
It all began with the appointment of Gustav Sebes, their legendary coach, in 1936. Sebes, who later on became the trainer at Honved, (one of the two top Hungarian clubs) was a philosophical tactician who believed in tactical innovation as opposed to adopting already laid out systems. Along with his highly intellectual colleagues Marton Bukovi(who managed MTK, the other top side), and the quite infamous Bela Gutmann(who managed Hoved before Sebes), they were credited as the triumvirate that radically laid down a systematic blueprint, known as the 4-2-4 formation, that was to change the dynamics formations in world football.

The aim was to create a team that would dominate world football like
Hugo Meisl's great Austrian and Vittorio Pozzo's Italy had done in the 1930s. To do this, they had to prepare thoroughly, which they did. Sebes then began a massive restructuring of the grass root systems to stream line all efforts in Hungarian football towards the success of the National team. According Goldblatt, ''He established a national scouting network, co-opted the entire
coaching fraternity of the Hungarian league in his plans, arranged
special midweek friendlies and training sessions for the national squad
and, above all, experimented with players, tactics and ideas.''
He subjected his squad to regular club-like  training sessions which were unusual, but allowed the team to gel and consolidate their chemistry. He also emphasized rigorous fitness sessions, so as to equip his charges with the required physical demands to play according to his system. Keeper Gryula Grosics recalls '' Every so often we did some military training''.

Gustav Sebes

He carefully assembled a squad with core of key players: Ferenc Deak(early member,expert goal scorer), Péter Palotás and Nándor Hidegkuti (both successive deep lying fowards), Zoltán Czibor, Sándor Kocsis and Ferenc Puskás(the potent attacking trio who got the goals) József Bozsik(Play maker) and Gyula Grosics(the goal keeper). These players had played frequently with each other at club level, which helped to facilitate some sort of continuity. The purpose was to tap into the chemistry from club level into the National side. This was vital.

He began implementing his pioneering methods in earnest, emphasizing collective team effort.They attacked together and defended together. The whole team, despite being under a defined formation, exchanged positions during play, as Sebes wanted to cultivate the system of players being able to ''play anywhere''. The secret lay in the dynamism and flexibility, which allowed them to stretch the 4-2-4 into adjusted variations.

An example of the Hungarian Line-up in a variation of the 4-2-4

With the team being moulded in a system that allowed positional versatility and formational variations, it allowed them the freedom to accentuate their attacking potential. And they had the players of technical quality to execute their plans. Striker Puskas said this of their playing style "When we attacked, everyone attacked, and in
defence it was the same. We were the prototype for Total Football."

Unbeaten Run, Olympics and The Central European International Cup
Hungary's groundbreaking innovations began bearing fruit by 1950. Prior to 1950, they won the Balkan Cup in 1947, and were leading when the following year's edition got cancelled. It took them a while to get accustomed to and perfect their system, and when they finally did, they became an unstoppable force. Between June 4, 1950 to July 3 1954, the team went 31 games unbeaten.

Their brilliance came into the spot light especially at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. After years of experimenting players, tactics and ideas, it was their moment to showcase their work to the world in a major tournament. And they did, and in quite spectacular fashion I must say. After brushing brushing Italy, Turkey and Sweden 3-0, 7-1 and 6-0 aside respectively, they met Yugoslavia in the final. They beat them 2-0 win the gold medal. They had arrived.

The following year, Sebes led his men as they arrived in Rome to play the deciding game of The Central European International Cup tournament. This was an international football competition held by certain national teams from Central Europe, which was the predecessor of the UEFA Euro Championship. This edition of the tournament, had started in 1948 with a 6-1 thrashing of Poland (it was held in a league-home/away format over some years). It had reached it's climax in 1953, against Italy.

They went, they saw, and they conquered, leaving Rome with the ultimate prize, after two goals from Puskas and one from Hidegkuti helped them to a 3-nil win over the Italians. They finished the tournament with 11 points, 3 points clear of second placed Czechoslovakia. They had won the Olympics and conquered Europe, all unbeaten. A legendary era had began.

''Match of the Century''

Captain Ferenc Puskas leads out his team at Wembley

When we walked out at Wembley that afternoon, side by side with the
visiting team, I looked down and noticed that the Hungarians had on
these strange, lightweight boots, cut away like slippers under the ankle
bone. I turned to big Stan Mortensen and said, 'We should be alright here, Stan, they haven't got the proper kit'."
English player Billy Wright.

By this time, the Hungarians were on cloud nine. They were the number one ranked team in the world by both FIFA and Elo and had not lost a single game since May 1950.(24 games unbeaten). They had gone around the world, battering almost every National Team into submission. They induced fear and inferiority in every team they faced, and made sure they left them confessing their superiority. They thrashed, Poland 8-2, Bulgaria,Sweden and Czechoslovakia 5-0 , Albania 12-0, Poland 6-0, Finland 8-0 amongst others in exhibition games. Kocsis, Puskas, Hidegkuti, Czibor and Palotas fired in goals from every angle. Not only did they outplay every team else with attacking football, they did so scoring plenty of goals. ''On fire'' was an understatement. They became the team to beat, they became the masters.

Naturally, not all nations wanted to accept the indubitable fact that they were the best, and sought to challenge them in high profile exhibition games. At the forefront of such nations was the Queen's very own England, who pride themselves as being the inventors/originators of football. The English had just lost only once on home soil against foreign opposition, which had been in 1949 against neighbours the Republic of Ireland. As always(trust the English to hype themselves), the English believed their tactical system(of the traditional WM formation) was far superior to the beautiful 4-2-4 of the Hungarians. They proudly thought they would be no match for them.

The legendary 4-2-4 Hungarian Formation
The traditional WM formation that the English operated.

And so the FA invited Sebes and his team to Wembley on the 25th of November 1953 for an exhibition game.The ever sensationalistic British press labelled it as the "Match of the Century" - pitching the inventors of the game, against arguably the finest team in the world at that time. The stage was set, and infront of 105,000 fans, the Hungarians gave the English a footballing lesson.

6-2 it ended, with the English left to mope over the huge flaws of their WM formation and entire playing philosophy for that matter. That day, Nandor Hidegkuti(who scored a hatrick), made famous the deep
lying center forward role ( quasi ''false 9''). The English had thought
he would be conventionally positioned deep upfront, but he withdrew (quite in
Lionel Messi fashion), into the midfield and displaced all the defenders
marking him, which opened the English defense ajar for  Puskas(scored a
brace) and co to run riot

"We saw a style of play, a system of play that we had never seen before''
"That one game alone changed our thinking. We thought we would demolish
this team - England at Wembley, we are the masters, they are the
pupils. It was absolutely the other way."
the late Sir Bobby Robson.

In what was considered one of the finest performances of all time, Sebes
and his men practically brought England to it's knees, in the full
glare of the world.The story was legendary, the message was clear and simple ''WE ARE THE BEST''. Interestingly, the embarassment was so intense that six members of the England team - Alf Ramsey,  Harry Johnston, Stan Mortensen, George Robb, Bill Eckersley, and Ernie Taylor - were never called up to play for the three lions again. That game was their last.

The English stubbornly demanded a rematch back in Budapest in the hope of avenging that humiliating debacle at Wembley: a mistake they should have never made. Why? At the Nepstadion in Budapest, infront of 92,000 fans, the Hungarians utterly pulverized the English beyond repairs.

7-1 it finished. A goal feast. The English raised the white flag from beneath the rubble of their own destruction.It was England's heaviest ever defeat, and the reality dawned on them;they were no longer a super power in football. Both games against the Magyars was a defining moment in football in every
respect, as it no doubt made the English consider a major restructuring
of the their systems. They finally had to admit their's was inferior, and to learn from the masters.

The day was 23rd May 1954, the day the English became totally convinced they were ''wack."

1954 World Cup


The 1954 FIFA World Cup was supposed to be that moment, the defining moment for the Magical Magyars. After all their hardwork, innovation and domination, it was only befitting to seal it with a World Cup win to further deepen the mark they made in the annals of world football history. They entered the tournament in Switzerland as red hot favorites(which does not even capture the intensity of expectations).  I mean , winning two tournaments, thrashing the noisy English and being unbeaten since 1950 was more than enough a track record to be tagged as favorites. Infact, it was almost as if they had won the tournament months before competing. Most football fans, who had been won over by their brilliance and charisma , rooted for Hungary to win. They were set on the brink of history, and nothing was going to stand in their way.

They found themselves in group 2, as the seeded side, alongside West Germany, Turkey and South Korea. Being seeded meant they had to play only two matches in the group against the unseeded sides. The teams they met, wished they had never played them. They were mercilessly humiliated and  annihilated to say the least. The Magyars beat South Korea 9-0...9-0!! and West Germany 8-3...8-3!! Winning both games with a 100% percent record and 17 goals sure did send lethal shivers down the spine of the other ''competitors'' in the tournament. The Hungarians had their eyes on the prize, and were in no mood to entertain any form of an obstacle course.

They went on to face Brazil in the Quarters. In a match heralded ''the battle of Berne'' , the Hungarians faced a Brazilian side that had almost won the world cup 4 years earlier and had also been highly praised for their attacking style. The game was won 4-2 by the magyars, amidst a game that featured uncharacteristic physical battles and multiple fouls. Legend has it that the players fought in the tunnels and dressing rooms after the game, in a game that was worryingly ugly. But the Hungarians couldn't care less, as it qualified them to face world champions Uruguay in the semis. Uruguay had never lost a World Cup match in their history, winning both previous tournaments they had entered. They were however going to lose that record, as the devastating Hungarians triumphed 4-2  after extra time. It was a game that in stark contrast to the one against Brazil, as both teams ''opened up'' and attacked each other, in one of the finest attacking displays in World Cup history.

They were closer now more than ever. Just a game, ONE game, and they would become immortalized....world champions...they could feel it. Standing in their way.....West Germany. Again. The Swiss capital Berne was to hold the final. The Hungarians couldn't wait.

I reckon they thought ''Ah well, lets just beat them and get it over with.'' Complacency, yes, it was complacency, and it was justified complacency, sweet complacency. Could you blame them? They had brushed them aside 8-3 in the group stages, although German Boss Sepp Herberger claimed to have fielded a reserve side. The Germans would be no match, and only a miracle would save them from the utter destruction that was to ensue in Berne...yes...a miracle...only a miracle...

Interestingly, the worst fear of the Hungarians happened right before their eyes. A miracle, which was least expected, did happen. In fact, the final became known as ''"Das Wunder von Bern" ("The Miracle of Bern"). It was a literal miracle, because, on paper, the Germans stood no chance, heck, at the end of the first ten minutes, the Germans  stood no chance, as they were already two goals down! The Hungarians meant business.

 But football as it is, a vast valley of emotions  and the unexpected...

"Aus dem Hintergrund müsste Rahn schießen, Rahn schießt - TOR, TOR, TOR!" meaning...''Rahn has to shoot from the background, Rahn shoots - goal, goal, goal! -German radio commentator Herbert Zimmermann during that miraculous game in Berne, Switzerland.

The Germans came back from two goals down to win 3-2. An 84th minute Helmut Rahn strike dashed the hopes of the Hungarians. It was harsh...too harsh...after all they'd done...they were crestfallen...

"AUS! AUS! AUS! Das Spiel ist aus. Deutschland ist Weltmeister, schlägt Ungarn 3 zu 2!" meaning- "Over! Over! Over! The game is over! Germany are World Champions, beat Hungary 3–2!)-Zimmermann continued.

This is probably the most famous audio clip in German football history, And in sharp contrast, the most disheartening for Hungarians, symbolic of a dream that never was.

And so it was not to be. Sebes and his men, Kocsis(who top scored in the tournament with 11 goals), Puskas, Czibor, Hidegkuti, Grosics, et al, were left dejected. It was their first loss in 4 years. Losing was a feeling they had almost forgotten even ever existed. It was a reality check, and it was hard on them. Way too hard...

The Dutch team of the 70s were not the only great team never to win a World Cup.The Hungarians shared in their misfortune. The unfairness of football epitomized.

Aftermath


The disappointment in Berne proved a heavy blow to their momentum. Nonetheless they stayed at the top for a while, even engaging in another historic match at Hampden park infront of 113,000 fans on the 8th of  December 1954. Scotland were the opponents, who were more or less trying to ''teach England how it's done''. The Scottish had seen England lose their very footballing dignity at Wembley two years earlier and were determined to beat the Hungarian and get one over their neighbours...WRONG!

The Hungarians beat them 4-2. I guess it's fair to say that the Scottish at least put up a credible fight, as at some point in the game they actually had a chance of winning, which not many teams can boast of against the Magyars . Puskas even personally congratulated the Scottish after the game.

After the 54' World Cup heart break, between July 1954 and February 1956, Hungary played a 19 games, winning 16, drawing 3 and losing none.
Despite this, Sebes was sacked in June 1956, which just went to show just how high their standards had reached. He was replaced by Márton Bukovi, a colleague. Sebes however stayed on in a different capacity, as President of the Hungarian Olympic Committee from 1948 to 1960.

The eruption of the Hungarian revolution in October of that same year broke up the team, very much like the Anschluss(the taking over of Austria by Hitler's Nazi Germany) broke up Hugo Meisl's Austrian Wunderteam in the 1930s. Most of the players left Honved and MTK respectively, to Spain especially. Puskas as most people quite know joined Santiago Bernabeu's great Real Madrid side whilst Kocsis and Czibor joined Helenio Herrera at Barcelona.

It was dusk time on one of the greatest eras in football...

Legacy
This wonderful team shaped the game in many respects. Their doctrine of players being versatile and playing every position, as I mentioned earlier, was the module upon which Rinus Michels refered to in the creation of the Total Football philosophy in the 70s. Total football as we all know evolved through the years into Barca/Spain's current tiki taka. Although Hugo Meisl's Austrian side of the 30s have been credited for
playing the earliest form of total football, it was the Hungarians that
clearly enunciated the idea for the world to see.

I noticed from my research that the Hungarians actually pioneered the core elements of the tactical
system the Spanish operate today. In fact, from jux apposing these
two great sides, I observed that the Hungarians were very much
like the Spanish on so many levels, some of which are that:

  • They(Hungarians) also had a defined tactical philosophy(of attacking total football) that was their signature system.
  • Their team was made up of a unique core of players that played
    together frequently at two dinstinct clubs(MTK and Honved) which made
    that connective fluidity flourish within their ranks. According to
    historian David Goldblatt, it also ''ensured that the national team benefited from their familiarity(from club level)''. You may have noticed how the current Spanish side also have a similar
    core of players that play together at club level(ie Real Madrid and Barcelona)
  • They utilized that unorthodox role of the deep lying center forward ,something that inspired today's ''false nine''.
  • They also considered the Goal keeper as very much a vital part of
    ball play, as he was considered a sweeper, who was also nurtured to be
    comfortable with the ball at his feet.

The coincidental
similarities between the systems of both iconic sides are striking. There is not a shadow of doubt that Barca and Spain's current philosophy is based fundamentally on
the Hungarian blueprint. Of course, it has morphed significantly and
might not be exactly the same, but it's only fair that the Hungarians be
given the due credit.

Many teams and managers became inspired by their impressive attacking game. There was a massive  change in formations in world football in the 50s as many teams migrated from using the orthodox WM formation unto the new 4-2-4 formation pioneered by the Hungarians. Brazil utilized the 4-2-4 system and won the 1958 World Cup.

With regards to player recruitment for the National team, the Hungarians again were pace setters using a distinct method. Here's a paragraph I found on Wikipedia, which I decided to copy verbatim for the purposes of harnessing it's very essence. Here goes...

''Sebes's idea of using a core set of players, drawn from just a handful
of clubs, was a new idea that was critical to the success of the team.
Most national teams were selected on the concept of picking the best
players, not the best team; England famously had a selection committee
that selected the team for each game. By using players who were familiar
with each others strengths at a club level, Sebes introduced a sense of
continuity at a national level - something no other nation had at the
time''
Wikipedia

At the peak of their powers, the Hungarians beat all of the football super powers then; England, The Soviet Union, Uruguay etc. At a time when the world was firmly divided along ideological lines amidst tension, the magyars were seen as a symbolic embodiment of the communist ideals of the Eastern bloc. The Hungarian dominance of the world football landscape was an expression of power for the iron curtain-ers over the westerners during the cold war.

The Hungarians set a tall list of World records, some of which to date, remain unbroken. I selected some of their most impressive records via Wikipedia. The Hungarians....

  • feature in three of the top 10 highest rated matches all-time, a list of
    the 10 matches between teams with the highest combined Elo ratings (the
    nation's points before the matches are given) as of July 16, 2010). 
  • hold the world record run: of  42 victories, 7 draws, 1 defeat(the West Germany loss)  between June 4, 1950 to Feb 19 1956, chalking a jaw dropping- 91.0% winning percentage ratio.
  • hold the World Record: strongest power rating ever attained in the sport's history using the Elo rating system for national teams, 2166 points (set June 30, 1954)
  • hold the World Record: most consecutive games scoring at least one goal: 73 games (April 10, 1949 to June 16, 1957).
  • hold the World Record: longest time undefeated in 20th and 21st centuries: 4 years 1 month (June 4, 1950 to July 4, 1954)
  •  hold the World Record: most collaborative goals scored between two
    starting players (Ferenc Puskás & Sándor Kocsis) on same national
    side (159 goals)
  •  hold the 20th Century Record for a manager: (Gusztáv Sebes)
    highest ratio of victories per game past 30 matches with 82.58% (49
    wins, 11, draws, 6 defeats).
  •  hold the 20th Century Record for Most International Goals: Ferenc Puskás (84 goals)
  • hold the  World Cup Record: 27 goals scored in a single World Cup finals tournament(1954 WC)
  • hold a Precedent: first national side from outside the British Isles to defeat England at home since the codification of association football in 1863, a span of 90 years (Hungary 6-3 England see "Match of the Century" )
  • hold the World Cup Record: highest margin of victory ever recorded in a World Cup finals tournament match ( Hungary 9, South Korea 0 - July 17, 1954)..... etc etc etc..

I can predict just how surprised, impressed and informed most people'll probably feel after reading this piece, just as much as I was during my research. It is especially hard to believe this 'tale' since the current Hungarian side look nothing like it's predecessors, currently ranked 34th and 47th on the FIFA and Elo Rankings respectively. It is sad that there's such a disconnection, as normally, such quality is usually sustained over the years. It however  should come as no surprise should Hungary wake up from their deep slumber to reclaim their place in the higher most echelons of world football. Form they say is temporary, but class is most definitely permanent.

At this juncture, I feel it's now appropriate to ask: after all you've learnt about the Magyars, do you think it's fair for the Greatest National team ever debate to be narrowed down to just Spain(2008-2012) and Brazil (1970)?

Well, YOU be the judge.

*Credit to Wikipedia and ESPN Soccernet for the facts and records and Google images for all the photos*

Fiifi Anaman.  ( @fiifianaman )
Sunday July 22, 2012.


Who occupies the national dugout? - The passionate divide

Ghana's C.K Gyamfi : Three-time African Cup winning coach

People have really strong opinions on which side of the Local/International divide our National Team trainer should be recruited from. And I'm no exception, as you'll find out later on in this article. For almost a decade, Ghana had been under the reins of foreign managers, many of whom delivered, some of whom failed,some of whom, well--run away. Among the ones that chalked successes were  Ratomir Dujković (Qualified team for the 2006 FIFA World Cup) and the very recent Milovan Rajevac (Second place at Afcon 2010 and Quarter Final at the 2010 FIFA World Cup). A foreign coach qualifying Ghana for it's first ever World Cup in 2006 made an indelible influencial mark on the thinking of many football fans on this issue. After many decades of toil, Ghana had finally made it into ''thee promise land''. And our Moses, was a white man..

Then came a reincarnation of the classic proto-Nationalistic (colonial period reference) mentality. The white man/ foreigner (I'll be using them interchangeably) had struck gold, and so had effortlessly won the deep admiration and loyalty of the people(football fans). It was that easy. And it was not a trophy, but a qualification. It had many Ghanaians turning their back on even the slightest faith in the potential of a local trainer. Not to say that before then, there was no 'taste for foreign managers' .No. It existed. But it became practically entrenched after our qualification for the Mundial in 2006. We had won the African Cup multiple times,yes, but the World Cup had been a long held thirst, a chronic obsession. And so the stage was set for the endless debate, the majority anti-Local Coach side against the minority pro-local coach activists. At this juncture, I would like to say, proudly, that I'm of the latter school of thought. And you're about to find out why..

Fundamental Argument


Let me state, that National team football is totally a different ball game from Club football. Club football is commercially driven. Clubs basically survive on funds, which are generated from a variety of sources, the ultimate of which is success. Thus teams with success are able to survive the pressure since they have access to finance. This drives teams to prioritize success, meaning hiring the best coaches and buying the best players possible to make that success dream/plan a reality. National Team Football on the other hand, is about National Pride.

A Nation's National team is not only a representation of it's best players but also an expression of a nation's sense of pride and honour in football. Every Nation parades their best players, who are Nationals, even if they are good enough or not. Thus transfer of players is forbidden in that respect, as unlike club football it's not commercially driven per se (per se because it's also about chalking successes, but not necessarily for the money,but the pride).

With this observation made, it seems illogical to have a nation, looking past it's own and employing a foreigner as the trainer. If the players are to be from the nation, regardless of their quality, why should the manager be recruited from elsewhere based on this very same 'quality'? One would say ''Because it is allowed''. Well it being ''allowed' is not to be confused with it being appropriate.

The point of it being a National team, is to have National players and National coaches regardless of any factor. It is about empowerment, showcasing a nation's products to the world. About pride and nationalism. Patriotism. That is the entire point. With the acceptance of employing foreign coaches and naturalization, the definitive line between National team football and club football is being gradually erased. It's becoming fainter each day, which is unhealthy for football.

Let me put it this way, employing a foreign manager means telling the world you have nothing to offer human resource -wise in the technical and tactical aspect of football. An indictment on your human resource, and it's training system. An act of demeaning one's own country: of saying the man coming in is better than all other managers in the country. Logical? I say No. Judge for yourself.

Why Serbia? Competence? Seriously?


Ghana especially has made it a habit of employing not only foreign coaches, but foreign coaches from Serbia. Yes. Serbia. Why? I don't know! Anytime there is a vacancy, the option of actually employing a National man for the National Job(see how much sense it makes) is overlooked in the name of ''competence''. How would you explain the appointment of Goran Stevanovic, a Serbian with no International experience at any level, NO trophies in his C.V , and no significant achievement over many other local coaches who have all these and still say you recruited on a competency criterion?

You are basically trying to say ''Anyone but a local coach'' which is totally absurd and unprofessional. This also gives rise to conspiracy theories about influential people having ''something to gain'' which is not only justified, but treacherous to the National course as well. Imagine having a Serbian as the president of the Ghana FA, of even worse as the President of Ghana, because they are ''competent''(again the ''it is allowed/not allowed'' argument clearly does not apply here).
 
The Pan-Africanist Perspective


Besides, Ghana, as a Nation gained independence for this very reason: that is that (in Kwame Nkrumah's own words) ''the black man is capable of managing his own afairs''. Infact it's based on this principle, as well as the pride in autonomy, that many countries strived for independence. Now wouldn't it be grossly shallow and one dimensional to think that this ''independence'' was only limited to Government control? Are we saying that it does not transcend politics/governance into our economic and social lives?

How can we believe in freedom, independence and emancipation (yes I know how far I've gone) when we still practice ''traditions''(how ironic) that are blatantly contradictory? That is clearly unacceptable? For a whole nation to basically be brought to it's knees in begging a foreigner to come coach us, offering ridiculous extravagant salaries and working conditions,which we  inferentially consider our very own ''not worthy'' of enjoying is just sad. Pathetic! Name it! How far have we come as a nation? Still depending on white people for expertise? Because we don't have it due to our lack of putting training systems in place? May I ask: Do we even lack coaches? Do you have to be a foreigner to actually know how to coach? And the pathetic point of experience and inability to handle egos of foreign based players....Seriously? That's our excuse? Or the know-how....once you're local you're automatically incompetent? If the foreigner is that good, why not send your native there to learn from him, come back, and take charge? Wouldn't that make much more sense?

Are these the reasons, excuses and explanations we are giving?

Abandoning the Nationalistic/Pan-Africanist course?

Level Playing field....


Even to alarming heights, we hire foreigners (most of whom are grossly unqualified compared to some of our coaches on so many levels) and pay them huge sums in salaries, luxurious accommodation, and all the help ( logistically etc in cars, workers etc ) which we all know we wouldn't give to our own compatriot.

Besides, did I mention the huge gulf that existed between  Kwasi Appiah's salary (then as assistant coach) and his boss's (Goran Stevanovic, an expatriate)? Yes, Kwasi Appiah's in the helm now, supposedly enjoying all these. But don't we all know the alleged conspiracy theory of trying to ''prove a point'' by going like ''yes, you said you needed a local coach, there you go, lets see!''(Not saying it is true though, just trying to make a point.)

In that case, it is like a trap : to hope he fails, so the pro-foreign coach activists, most of whom I dare say are influential in the recruitment, would have the triumphant ''I told you so'' call. And trust me, such calls are normally positive, but this would conspicuously be malicious..

And then the highly obnoxious attitude some of these foreign gaffers give us.... Some come in, travel out as and when they feel like it, never monitoring our local league to fish out material for the team amongst others(the discrimination against local coaches can fully be compared to this topic I'm addressing) Some can't even speak English! I mean how clearly inappropriate is that? We have to pay their translator too?! Isn't the picture painted incongrous? It's almost as if we want to aggressively suppress and undermine ourselves. Excuse after excuse, we kill ourselves steadily,claiming pursuit of  success(which we've not even achieved) at our own expense.

We defend the foreigner when he makes a huge mistake, but mercilessly villify our own for committing a slight error. Isn't ''err to human''?? So why do we want to insinuate that mistakes are best destructive when made by our own? I'd say, when the Black Man messes up, get rid of him if you want, and bring in another black man. That is how it should be! We shouldn't look for the slightest reason to ''justify'' our crude belief in the supremacy of the whites in football tactics and strategy. We can do it. We just have to know that we can, put measures in place to ensure that we can. That is all.That simple.

Ghana's very own Jones Attuquayefio and his all conquering African Champions League Winning Side(inset)

Sepp Blatter is actually making sense!


It's high time we quit churning out such disgracefully spurious excuses and admit that our mentality in the recruitment of coaches is flawed. Infact, current FIFA President Josep ''Sepp' Blatter might sound absurd in his comments and decisions sometimes, but there is one pronouncement he once made that made a lot of sense. Here goes..

 "I would say it is a little surprising that the motherland of football(England)
has ignored a sacrosanct law or belief that the national team manager
should be from the same country as the players. I have never seen Italy,
Germany, Brazil or Argentina with a coach from another country
." 2008 -- after the appointment of Fabio Capello as England boss.

Spot on Blatter! Spot on! (And that is a really rare thing to hear being said about this man).

Here's an analogy(which might sound weird,I know):

If the UAE cannot buy Foreign Nationals from elsewhere (because obviously, they have the monetary means) to form National teams, why should a Nation(with the means) go in for(''buy'' so to speak) a foreign manager? I guess the best way to put it is that there is a reason why it's called ''A NATIONAL TEAM''(emphasis on NATIONAL)

Infact, if this ''culture''(irony again) continues, National Team football will eventually lose it's essence. Is that what we want as a nation? As a globe? Are we so desperate to kill National team football? To kill the beautiful FIFA World Cup, The Euros, Afcon, Copa America et al?

We do love football don't we? That is why it is best to look out for it's interests. To state factually, there has never been a World Cup winner without a local coach, right from the beginning in 1930. To narrow it down to Ghana(for whose reason I'm doing this piece), we have never won the African Cup with a foreigner, and I'm sure we ought to know this, if facts and history matter at all. If we're willing to betray and degrade ourselves by ''worshiping'' foreigners and their so-called impeccable knowledge of the game, then way to go Ghana! Way to go!(Please pardon my sarcasm)

Fiifi Anaman. ( @fiifianaman )
July 16, 2012.
Ghana.


Back In, For Good?

Ghana's own prodigal son : Asamoah ''baby jet'' Gyan

He made the decision. The people protested. Expressing misgivings, not only based on his decision per se, but based on the 'tangibility' of the reason for that decision. Asamoah Gyan, in his career,has more often than not been under the torturing spotlight as a target for a wide range of psychologically damaging insults(Most especially at CAN 2008). But the intensity of the very recent insults 'bombardment' penetrated what he thought was thick skin. It was too much to shake off, too grave to sneeze at.

His penalty miss against Zambia had basically cost Ghana a place in the final, and a possible chance to win it and fulfill a whole nation's dream of winning the tournament for the first time in over three decades. The coincidental occurence of a chronological chain which started with a disappointing 3rd place finish in Ghana during CAN 2008,to a second place in Angola during CAN 2010, made winning CAN 2012 an almost natural progression. The people of Ghana couldn't care less about it being merely a dream, they were almost sure it was what was supposed to happen.

That is why most Ghanaians just couldn't deal with /accept the fact that we did not win, and that it was all down to our very own 'baby jet'(which is debatable). And so Ghanaians, out of conspicuous frustration which grossly blinded our objectivity, rained insults on the poor man. At that moment, it almost seemed as if Gyan had never even done anything commendable for Ghana(which obviously is not the case). It got to the man. And especially at a time when he had settled in on loan at a club (Al Ain, UAE) who were embellishing his pay check with oodles of dollars, it made the decision to 'take an indefinite break' from his National duties a little easy. He needed to refresh, relax, regroup etc etc. To stay away from all the heat Ghanaians had subjected him to.

Of course Ghanaians saw this as 'adding salt to injury'. They felt he was being 'cheecky' 'childish' 'ungrateful' 'unmanly' etc etc. And so it became a case of leaping from the frying pan into the fire. But Asamoah Gyan remained resolute. He stuck to his decision : which opened the floodgates to more and more abuse. But he was gone.

And so the endless Baby Jet debate began in earnest. The football community in Ghana, from administrators to media men, right down to the fans became heavily polarized. There was the school of thought that firmly believed(still believe perhaps) that Gyan, by his decision, had drawn a battle line : had turned his back on his nation, and so they 'hated' him and refused to entertain not even the slightest thought of a possible return. And of course there were(is) the Asamoah Gyan loyalists who felt that it was just unfortunate and 'unlucky' that he had messed up the Nation's hopes yet again, and so he did not deserve to undergo that degree of abuse. They battled their opponents, arguing that it was rather ungrateful on our part as fans to not welcome him 'with open arms' should he decide to return. It became a really sensitive debate, brewing with passion.

 Unlike the KP Boateng saga, it was definitively two sided, which created an avenue for verbal conflict eruptions. You were(are) either for or against Asamoah Gyan. Ghanaians mean business with their football. And especially with the emergence to prominence of some fine goal poachers in Emmanuel Baffoe and Emmanuel Clottey, both local players, the anti-Gyan movement's voice heightened. ''We don't need him anymore. After all we have quality local strikers who can do the job if called upon'' ''He can stay away for all we care'' ''Bye bye Asamoah Gyan''.

It finally erupted, seriously, when in the full glare of the nation, Berekum Chelsea's Emmanuel Clottey bagged a memorable hat trick vs Zamalek in an African Champions League Group Game in Accra. That was his 9th goal in the competition, which is jaw dropping by all standards. It was almost certain that the majority of Ghanaians had defected and joined the anti-Gyan movement, echoing emphatically that in Clottey, Ghana had found gold(which basically meant ''to hell with Gyan,if he won't,someone will''). It was almost as if the anti-Gyan activists had obtained a commanding majority.We had beaten Lesotho 7-0 without him, and lost to Zambia without him, and so this third phenomenom so to speak seemed to have basically settled things. But there was to be a sting in the tale.

The Baby Jet decided to return.

And so now, it's basically back to square one. The pro-Gyan movement has re-emerged to match their fellows on the other side. Asamoah returns, hopefully more relaxed and rejuvenated : which will do him a lot of good in facing the media circus that'll greet his arrival. The abuse will rear up it's head again, surely, as many will try to resist his re-incorporation into the squad. But it will all be basically up to him to slot back in and shut up his critics up and neutralize the debate; Up to him to prove he's resolute, grounded, focused and tough. At this rate, it's a two way affair: Either Gyan rises up to the challenge and 'murder' the debate, or get swallowed by it's raging pressure.

I hope he's up for it. I really do.

Fiifi Anaman.( @fiifianaman )
July 12, 2012.
Ghana.


Helenio Herrera:A legend forgotten?

         Revolutionary: The man who gave the role football manager a whole new meaning.

 "He who doesn't give it all, gives nothing" Helenio Herrera

Up until the 1950s and 60s, managers of football clubs were predominantly mere marginal figures or even figure heads, whose roles were practically insignificant and hardly seen.Well of course there were highly sophisticated and learned tactical pioneers like the legendary Vittorio Pozzo (who led Italy to two World Cup Titles) and Hebert Chapman, of Arsenal fame.Later on , brilliant tacticians like the Hungarian trio Gustav Sebes, Marton Bukovi and the highly enigmatic Bela Guttman also made landmark contributions to football tactics by pioneering the then hugely popular 4-2-4 formation. But none of them successfully effected a revolutionary change to the football manager's role like the man known as Il Mago, Helenio Herrera Gavilan.

With 16 major trophies won across four clubs, Herrera is considered as one of the greatest trainers of all time. But he is hardly known for his titles, but how he won them. A strict disciplinarian and ruthless authoritarian, Herrera was the imposing figure of his teams, and not his players. He took credit for exceptional performances and the blame for appalling performances. When he was at Inter Milan (his most successful spell), 'La Grande Inter', as the team were heralded, was also known as 'Herrera's Inter'. And this was at a time when team's were branded by star performers(for example Di Stefano's Real Madrid, Pele's Santos, Eusebio's Benfica, Puskas's Hungary etc).

Herrera's teams played in his image, his beliefs and personality. Above all, he was the most successful proponent of the very influential football system catenaccio. Herrera was that influential, and that is even an understatement.

His exact year of birth is not even known, as it was never recorded. He was believed to have changed his year of birth from 1910 to 1916, although this was nothing more than an allegation.One thing known for a fact is that he was born in Argentina, to Spanish Parents and he moved to Casablanca, Morocco ,aged four with his parents,where he adopted French citizenship.Thus he was Franco-Argentine.

He had quite a modest playing career, starting from the early 30s in Morocco then to mainland France and ended in the mid 40s. His playing career had been very quiet,but his managerial career was to be anything but.

He started management at Puteaux,France.From there,he joined Stade de France,and after a 3 year trophyless period,which caused the owner to sell the club,Herrera migrated to Spain,to ply his trade. It was a slow start really,as he went on to  to have an uneventful spell at Real Valladolid. From there, he had his first successful stint at Spanish club Athletico Madrid,winning the championship(league title/la liga)back to back in 1950 and 1951.By this time, his confidence was on the rise,as well as his reputation.But another uneventful period ensued between then and his next successful stint,as he spent time at CD Malaga, Deportivo La Coruna, Sevilla and CF Os Belenenses in Lisbon between 1948 and 1958.
Then came
his moment in the spot light, at Barcelona. Real Madrid had dominated
Spain and Europe and were a fearsome force when Herrera signed in at
Barca. 
Perhaps it was a daunting task to unseat Madrid,who had star
players like Gento,Stefano,Puskas and the likes. Herrera got to work,and
made his presence felt. In only two years,he unseated Madrid and knocked
them of their perch by winning the Championship(La Liga) back to back. It was a
sensational achievement that brought back belief amongst the Catalonia
faithful. The seat of power had experienced a paradigm shift.And at a time when Catalonia were being opressed under General Franco, usurping Madrid was like an emancipation. It meant an awful lot.
He also won
the Inter City Fairs Cup (Precursor to the UEFA Cup/Europa League) back to
back as well as winning the Spanish Cup. Il Mago however had to leave
after only two years at the helm, as he had a personality clash with star
player Ladislao Kubala. 
Herrera was upset with the fact that
Kubala as a star player wielded considerable power. Any where Herrera
was, he wanted to be the boss - sharing the spotlight, or having peple associate others with him when it came to apportioning credit was just not his thing. He believed his hardwork had earned him the right to be the main man. The one and only.
And so after a European Cup Semi-Final
defeat to Arch rivals Madrid,he was fired by the board.Harsh call,but he
wanted to leave,he was a no-nonsense character. He left the Nou Camp
after two years and 5 trophies.He was by this time the most famous
manager in Europe,his commanding nature had sent shock waves across the region.
The High Priest of Catenaccio: Herrera modified the system invented by Karl Rappan (as the Verrou system) and made it a known phenomenon ,not to talk of the success achieved with it
  .
Herrera's next step was at Inter Milan,in 1960. New Owner and Bank Roller Angelo Moratti(current President Massimo Moratti's father) wanted Inter to be a world football super power,and broke records to get his man. At this time Herrera became a world wide coaching phenomenon, as he earned money that most star players in Europe could only even dream of at the time.(then-record salary for a manager (£35,000 p/a).
At Inter, Herrera's whole personality and philosophy became clearer to the footballing world,as he began in earnest,imposing his strict/control freak self on every aspect of the players' lives.He was a master of psychology,as his motivational skills were a novelty in football.
His fervent mottos and mantras such as "Class + Preparation + Intelligence + Athleticism = Championships'', ''Taca la bala''(attack the ball!) and echoing words from pep talks were posted all around the training ground,players literally chanting words during each session. 
His pioneering techniques extended to having a stern control over every aspect of his players' lives,controlling their diet, sleeping pattern, forbidding smoking and drinking etc. He is credited to have invented a system known as ritiro; a pre-match remote country hotel retreat that started with players reporting on Thursday to prepare for a Sunday game. 
He also sent club trainers to players' homes to check on them,whether they were following strict codes that he outlined. Even to ridiculous heights,he once suspended a player after he(the player) told the press "we came to play in Rome" instead of "we came to win in Rome".He was the whole package.Of course the players initially hated his over-controlling and military style methods,but as it turned out,it became a solid foundation that facilitated the creation of one of the strongest teams in football history.

“His emphasis on fitness and psychology had never been seen before. Until then, the manager was unimportant.” –  Luis Suárez Miramontes (Herrera's player at Barca and Inter,and also former European player of the year.)

HH as he was affectionately known, at the San Siro, adopted the ultra defensive catenaccio system and modified,making it flexible and dynamic to include effective counter attacking. 
Although the origins of catenaccio is highly controversial,as theorists vary inventors and appliers from Karl Rappan to Nereo Rocco even to Giuseppe Viani, there is no doubt about who made the system an established force.
Herrera made catenaccio his own, employing full backs in an attacking way so as to aid swift counter attacks,to hit opponents on the break so to speak.Captain Armando Pichi was his libero(sweeper) who was a free defender not strictly man marking, to pick up lose balls, nullify attacks and launch counter attacks,in which defensive winger/full back Giacinto Fachetti would also propel.
Inter were such a disciplined team under Herrera.The honours poured in, justifying their innovative hard work.They won their first Serie A title for nine years in 1963, going on to
claim their first ever European Cup in 1964 with an emphatic 3-1 victory Puskás and Di Stéfano's Real Madrid in the final. Inter went on to win two more Championships, another European cup and two Intercontinental world titles.This was 'La Grande Inter', Helenio's Inter. He became a celebrity,claiming all praises for his team's domination.
This was a first in football, the manager was the team, and he was Il Mago (the wizard). After that iconic spell at the helm of the Nerrazzuri, Herrera signed out in 1968, his c.v literally glowing with trophies.
                        Serious trainer: Herrera's training methods were strict, very strict.
He moved to Roma,winning only an Italian Cup trophy in 3 years.At Roma,he coached Fabio Capello,whom connoisseurs observe has been heavily influenced by HH in his coaching today.Of course like many great managers,his career fizzled out in the late years,with brief uneventful returns to Barcelona and Inter.
Herrera had his critics.Of course he was not perfect. He was vilified for over working players and being too totalitarian.He was even accused of fixing matches(well the whole Inter team of that era was). At Roma,he once made a controversial statement "This club has not won the championship since 1942 and only did so then because Mussolini was the coach." which insinuated that Roma won the title during Mussolini's rule because he favoured them.Coincidentally,his time at Roma came to an abrupt end soon after making this remark.
His whole personality was strong,oozing with confidence and command,something that divided opinion and polarized the press.He was like a Jose Mourinho in the 60s, or maybe Jose Mourinho is the Helenio Herrera of the modern day. His impact on the game,and on the role of the manager in football cannot be over emphasized.
Today, football coaches are well respected and regarded as integral parts of the football set-up.The status quo is due to Herrera and his immense contributions.I decided to do this piece because of this very reason.Surprisingly,his name is hardly ever mentioned today. 
Many people hardly know him.
Helenio's legend has to be told, his legacy has to be known.For a man that achieved so much not only in terms of trophies but also in terms of enormous innovation, it is worth the time writing on him.So now you know!
Fiifi Anaman.(@fiifianaman)
Wednesday June 13,2012.

Kwasi Appiah to stake a claim for local coaches?

                                Ghana's new boss: Staking a claim for local coaches.

Friday June 1,2012 was not only the start of a new month,well for most Ghanaians I must say. It signified the start of a new era in the life of the Senior National Football Men's team the Black Stars.

This is because,for the first time in 10 years, a local coach (James Kwasi Appiah)appointed last month, was going to manage the side (on a full time basis)in his first match,against Lesotho(a qualifier for the 2014 World Cup). He had replaced Serb Goran Stefanovic, to whom he had been assisted for two years.

It had been a long wait, although many people had been sceptical and pessimistic about the whole
move to go in for a local trainer.Many argued that  Ghana was ''not ready''
and that a local coach would lack the tactical knowledge and the mental resilience as well as authority to handle all the pressure(and trust me,immense pressure) as well as the egos within the team (as many of the boys play abroad,earning fat salaries and enjoying worldwide fame).

In a nation where almost everyone has a keen interest in football (primarily all issues pertaining to the black stars) the anticipation was intense, many across the opinion divide just couldn't wait for the opportunity to see how things would pan out.While the pessimists were waiting for him to ''mess up'' for them to prove their point, the local coach activists were hoping in tension, that Kwasi would rise up to the task. And boy did he perform!

Bar a potential reputation ruining cum humiliating floodlight failure that held up the game for close to an hour, the game was an absolute beauty(from Ghana's perspective). The Stars's performance evinced confidence and rejuvenation,with every player putting in a 10 out of 10 performance to impress the new gaffer.

The passing was pin point, the organization world class and the finishing top notch. A highly convincing 7-nil drubbing (Ghana's first ever seven nil win in decades) left spectators ecstatic, with critics put in a jaw-dropping trance. In a very fluid 4-3-3 formation that in a very unusual way had two to three players operating in a free role(most notable skipper Sulley Muntari who put in a virtuoso performance), Ghana passed the ball around,almost playfully,dwarfing the confidence of their Lesotho opponents.

One could clearly see the positive change and improvement in the team, as hitherto non-performing and doubted players like Derek Boateng, Dominic Adiyiah (scored a brace) and Jordan Ayew (also scored a brace) put in man of the match performances.

Many would bear me out that this had been the most exceptional Black Stars displays we have witnessed as a nation for many years. Even the skeptics had to back down with that argument of ''Lesotho being a weak team." and just give it to the boys and their coach.

Whichever way you look at it, it was a refreshingly exhilarating performance, something the team desperately needed for the start of a new phase.Besides, it would have been a gross injustice to take anything away from the performance, as even though the opponents were 'weak', not many teams could on any day put 7 past them, and in such a manner.

For most of us who were at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi to witness the dawning of this exciting new era, it was money well spent, even despite the floodlight drama. And yes, Im proud to say (as a pro-local coach activist and firm pan-africanist) that this performance was masterminded by one of our own.

Kwasi Appiah, a former captain of the Black Stars himself, who served as assistant coach for four years under two different managers, has proved, if his first outing is anything to go by, that giving him the job was an astute move. Soon after his appointment, he quickly recommended Maxwell Konadu,a young vibrant title winning coach with Asante Kotoko and as well as an old friend, to the Ghana F.A, to assist him.

Max Konadu's Kotoko side were lauded and acclaimed critically in the just ended season for being a solid side, which brought to the spot light his (Konadu's) tactical acumen. An clever appointment, in my honest opinion, as both had worked together to win Gold for Ghana's Olympic team at the All-Africa Games in Maputo.An ideal team from that perspective.

The new boss has injected a new spirit of renaissance into the squad, with players praising his attacking/possession football philosophy, which he works on at training by drilling the boys through more and more on-the-ball works. Off the pitch too,he has made efforts to stamp his authority in the player selection process,by fearlessly venturing into breaking grounds by conducting a recruitment process based more on merit(something Ghana has hardly experienced under the foreign coaches before him,where players got into the team as ''stars'' even after not having regularly played at club level). Although not a 100% certain that he has done so, there has most definitely been an improvement in that respect.

Also, being a local coach and privy to the knowledge of talent abounding in our local league, he has regularly monitored,fished out and included the crème de la crème  of our local elite into the side,again another thing his foreign predecessors failed to do, much to the contentment of the local media and supporters alike.

Kwasi Appiah is overseeing a  transition at the helm that has a brand new positive outlook, new players, new playing style and most importantly a new identity that most Ghanaians now feel they can relate to.The Black Stars of the 1960s 70s 80s and early 90s is being reincarnated so to speak, in Kwasi's team; a local coach, fluid attacking play, possession domination and above all, a chance for local players.

                                 Maxwell Konadu,Kwasi Appiah's young assistant

 And with the support of Ghanaians (majority of whom were mesmerized and impressed by his debut), he can only go on and achieve great things, to prove a point for local coaches and give meaning to Kwame Nkrumah's famous proclamation that ''the African is capable of managing his own affairs''

It has been a dream, flying start to life in his new job.And in collaboration with his fellow young up and coming assistant,the duo will hopefully represent a new era/ movement of  local coaches embarking on a journey that will ultimately lay the foundation, set the pace and serve as a long lasting legacy for future local coaches who will man the national team.

Hopefully, they'll go on to achieve great things and dispel the general thinking that local coaches are incompetent, inept and not up to the task.Their success or failure could spell out the fate of local coaches aspiring to get the opportunity in the future. A tough task stares them in the face,and inferring from the flying start,we have course as Ghanaians to believe that there is hope.

The future looks bright.

Fiifi Anaman.(@fiifianaman)
Saturday June 2,2012.
Kumasi Ghana.


Brendan Rodgers:A career defining moment.

The King's successor:Brendan ''Buck'' Rodgers has been chosen as heir to King Kenny in the Anfield dugout.

Following weeks of intense rumours, the rise to prominence of ''ITKs'' (People claiming to be in the know,possesing sources and moles) and a media circus rooted in extremely misleading information until the very last minute,Fenway Sports Group (FSG) finally settled on Brendan Rodgers. It, I understand, came down ultimately between himself and Wigan boss Roberto Martinez(whose club chairman Dave Whelan became notorious in the media for being a talkative). According to very reliable sources on twitter,most notable amongst them being Duncan Jenkins, FSG had him in mind soon after Kenny's sacking,or maybe even before that,as he had impressed them with his Barcelona-style of football he had cultivated so well at Swansea last season.

Rodgers is relatively unknown and not tried and tested,well of course compared to the other supposed contenders like Andre Villas Boas, Luis Van Gaal, Jurggen Klopp et al. He had been a professional footballer in his teens, but quit after discovering he hardly had what it took to soldier on as a successful professional. A career threatening injury sustained also made his decision all the easier.

From there, Rodgers set his sights on embarking on a career journey to ultimately lead him to being one of the top managers of our generation. And he was prepared to undergo all the preparatory rough and tumble to make it happen.

One thing that has been his hallmark is that he possesses the passion and the drive to learn and modify, to apply. He underwent coaching courses to acquire the needed licences and certification as well as technical/tactical knowledge. He was sure he wanted to become a coach and he was equally convinced he would blossom into a fine tactician and trainer if only he learned from the right people and institutions.

He had also always believed and admired the Spanish and Netherlands way of keeping the ball/possesion,which he believes is key to controlling a football game--which gives one the upper-hand in the race to win a match. He recalled that, even from way back as in his youthful days, he had always prefered that philosophy as against the orthodox British way of 'hoofing' the ball up the pitch(long ball football).

“Whenever I was playing as a youth international with Northern Ireland
we would play Spain, France, Switzerland and the like. And we were
always chasing the ball. In my mind, even at that young age, I remember
thinking ‘I’d rather play in that team than this team,"
Rodgers.

He invested time,effort and resources, travelling to Spain and the Netherlands to study The Rinus Michels system of total football,which has today morphed into Barcelona's classic tiki taka. It was a matter of preference, as he disliked the British way,s o much so that even before becoming a full blown coach, he was travelling around Europe, studying the Spanish and Dutch systems painstakingly.

Man of the moment: Rodgers during his unveiling

“My big dream is to be a highly successful football manager whose
methods provide innovation for youth and senior footballers and
coaches”
Rodgers

The times spent at Barcelona and Ajax studying the models and blueprints of ''sexy'' football was one that shaped his coaching ideas and philosophy.He carefully sampled bits from everywhere to develop his own system, which he would later use in coaching his sides.He started out at Reading as a youth team coach, experimenting his newly learnt ideas, correcting flaws and perfecting it with time.

Due to his impressive drive and determined character, Jose Mourinho snapped him up from Reading as his first external appointment on his arrival upon the recommendation of Steve Clarke(current LFC asistant manager) at Stamford Bridge in 2004. Jose Mourinho most probably saw himself in Rodgers, and was fascinated by his willingness to learn and develop a unique style so as to equip him with the needed arsenal to succeed. He (Rodgers) recalls,We [himself  and Jose Mourinho] had a similar philosophy – we
believed in the passion for football and the organisation. And he worked
at a big club before becoming a manager. 


''He took me under his wing a wee bit, maybe because he saw something
different in me, or maybe there was a bit of empathy because, like him, I
hadn’t had the big playing career. Anyway, that started one of the best
times of my life. Jose had learnt from his mentor, Louis van Gaal, and I
learnt from him, that there must never be a lazy day in training, and
that preparation is vital.”

"I am very happy with his appointment, especially because he did it as a consequence of all his amazing work at Swansea,Brendan is a good man, a family guy and a friend,when he joined us at Chelsea he was a young coach with lots of desire to learn,but he was also a coach with ideas, who was ready not just to listen but also to communicate and share."Jose Mourinho on Brendan Rodgers.

Although Mourinho had his own distinct style which was different from Rodgers' admired system of possesion football, he(Rodgers) learnt a lot from Mourinho's highly detailed and scientific training sessions, and his conscientious style in emphasizing the importance of every single aspect, and the zero tolerance for laziness. Brendan was learning attentively and well, with knowledge that was fast becoming more balanced and thorough.He had always admired Jose Mourinho and had always dreamt of meeting him and learning from him.

Rodgers recalled of his mentor, ''As you can imagine I was nervous meeting him, a guy I’d read a book about''

Jose Mourinho's influence did certainly not only boost his knowledge base but his c.v as well.He was ready now,after years of painstaking research,studying and observation.His master plan towards reaching his goal was unfolding as it should.

The Master and his protégé  : Brendan Rodgers sees Mourinho as a role model and inspiration

Rodgers started out at Watford, aged only 35,with an impressive 15 years of youth team and reserve team coach written boldly on his c.v, not to mention all the knowledge emanating from his studies and travels. Then through to Reading,where his career took a major blow as he had an unsuccessful stint and was ultimately sacked.This was a really had reality for Rodgers to imbibe, as from all that he had done in preparation for his career,he had hardly anticipated a potential ''failure'' so soon.

But he had to face reality and move on, to forget about the painful impact of the debacle and learn vital lessons from it.He moved on,being appointed manager of Swansea City Football Club in July 2010.The rest they say its history.Guiding them into the Premier League for the first time in their history by contesting and winning the play-off final,Rodgers not only achieved, but he did so with Swansea finally showcasing his long held philosophy.Everything was finally falling in place.

In his first season in the Premier League, not only has the Northern Irish trainer shocked pundits and avoided relgation, he has done so, finishing in 11th place and playing the most attractive football the Premier League has withnessed in years. His side, in a justified relation/comparison (as he's now Liverpool manager) finished only 5 points behind Liverpool last season, with Liverpool spending £120m - compared to his £7m.

Also, according to some OPTA, Brendan Rodgers' Swansea team scored 30 goals from open play last
season, compared to Liverpool's 24 goals from open play.Surely FSG had considered all this in addition to the other impressive factors,including of course two virtuoso Swansea performances vs Liverpool at Anfield and the Liberty Stadium, in making that risky gamble of bringing him to Anfield, even allowing him to bring three of his trusted backroom staff from the Liberty stadium.Liverpool's managing director reflects, "When you meet Brendan you can't help but be inspired by his knowledge, passion and vision for the game.''

Reports even suggest the owners may have jettisoned their original plan of a tiered administrative structure including a Director of football and a Technical Director,to give Rodgers full control,apparently under a ground breaking ''continental model'' .In what I personally feel is a massive step up,in my honest opinion, i think he is up for it.

“Our idea is to pass teams to a standstill so they can no longer come after you. Eventually you wear them down.” “My philosophy is to play creative attacking football with tactical discipline, but you have to validate that with success.”“I like to control games. I like to be responsible for our own
destiny. If you are better than your opponent with the ball you have a
79 per cent chance of winning the game. For me it is quite logical. It
doesn’t matter how big or small you are, if you don’t have the ball you
can’t score.”
Brendan Rodgers.

 New Era: Brendan Rodgers replaces King Kenny after beating him on the final day of the league.



I have said time and again that I personally feel it's a shrewd appointment.Following his trajectory, he has shown the desire to succeed and the propensity to do what it is that is necessary to achieve that. He also has a sound and effective philosophy, which I must admit will take time to fully transmit to the squad at Melwood, but will eventually fall in place beautifully.

Things certainly look bright transitioning the club into the future. Managers must start from somewhere, and judging from other notable examples, I firmly believe LFC could have just found their own Klopp, Conte or even Guardiola.

Fiifi Anaman (@fiifianaman)
Friday June 1 2012.


Living Legend:The Jose Mourinho Story.

Master of the dugout: Jose Mourinho has impressively passed a string of onerous ronseal tests..

   

 ."We want to follow a dream, yes it's true, but it's one thing to follow a
dream and another to follow an obsession...A dream is more pure than
obsession. A dream is about pride''
Jose Mourinho.

The debate about starting to consider Jose Mourinho as not only one of the greatest but the greatest ever manager gathered steam and became a cause célèbre amongst contemporary pundits a fortnight ago when he led the los merengues to their 32nd league title.

This is primarily because he had finally achieved a feat that most football stakeholders consider a benchmark ie.winning all three traditional top leagues (Spain/Italy/England). This brought his league titles tally to an impressive 7 in 8 years,across four clubs/countries.He had finally achieved 1/2 of what Fiorentino Perez hired him to do; ie.to knock Barcelona of their perch in the La Liga (the second being winning the Champions League,which he has come close to winning on both occasions).

This also meant he has never gone a full calendar year without winning at least one trophy since he began active management in 2000. Jaw dropping stuff.

José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix started out in a perculiar manner.

Unlike most successful coaches,he basically had a non-existent playing career. After starting out as a footballer playing at really small clubs,he realized 7 years later on that he lacked the required pace and power to carry on being a professional footballer, also realizing in the process that he had a passion for coaching.His mother enrolled him in Business School when he dropped out almost immediately to pursue a course in sports science at the Technical University of Lisbon.

He had set out on a mission to become a world class coach with a knowledge base to die for,and he was on the right path.During his time at the university,he applied the sports science knowledge at schools where he taught as a P.E instructor,subsequently obtaining a diploma after 5 years of excellent academic scores.From there,as an ambitious and focused individual with a clear and defined goal,he took the next salient step and attended various coaching courses,notable amongst them, one held by the English and Scottish FAs where Andy Roxburgh (former Scottish Footballer/manager and UEFA Technical Director) revealed he especially noticed his ''drive'' and ''attention to detail''.Thus Jose Mourinho's conscientious style in planning trainings,tactics and general game-plans has been his trademark in his professional career today

Having acquired sports science knowledge and coaching knowledge,young Mourinho set off on a trajectory of coaching success,in a bid to ''redefine the role of coach in football by mixing coaching theory with motivational and psychological techniques'',showcasing his knowledge to the world to impact the beautiful game.He had equiped himself with knowledge that would enable him to revolutionalize coaching with a whole new modus operandi from unconventional perspectives like  physical,motivational and general scientific aspects.

He was prepared to start out as a number two, an apprentice, to learn from masters and top notch managers.He was prepared to be a youth team coach, to try out his philosophy at relatively inferior and disregarded levels. Ready to be an assistant coach to established gaffers, understudying them whilst learning indispensible tips on the job.As he himself recalled from working under Sir Bobby Robson at Barcelona.

''One of the most important things I learnt from Bobby Robson is that when you win, you shouldn't assume you are the team, and when you lose, you shouldn't think you are rubbish" - Mourinho

He studied them,added to his already impressive repertoire of knowledge, and prepared himself for his big break.He worked under Sir Robson and later,his successor Luis Van Gaal,where he reaffirmed his belief in attention to detail by observing Van Gaal's highly conscientious style. He recalled "I was more influenced by Barça's philosophy than by any other coach. They were four years of my life absolutely fundamental."

So much was his passion and dedication that,he gradually morphed from an interpreter/translator to getting heavily involved in tactical discussions under Sir Robson.He worked himself up the ladder slowly and carefully,making sure he was saturated with adequate knowledge before making the ultimate move of becoming his own man.

"The world is so competitive, aggressive, consumive and selfish and during the time we spend here we must be all but that." Jose Mourinho.

He finally made his break through as a head coach at Benfica, replacing the legendary Jupp Heynckes. He however resigned just after 9 games in charge,after club President Manuel Vilarinho refused Mourinho's demand of a contract extension after an impressive 3-0 win over fierce rival Sporting Lisbon.It is widely believed that,during this time his mentor and former boss Sir Bobby Robson offered him a job as an assistant at his new club Newcastle,with the motivation of stepping down after sometime for Mourinho to rise.

He refused on the grounds that Sir Bobby would never step down from ''a club he loved'',but knowing how ambitious Mourinho is,it's safe to believe that the real reason was that he wanted to be his own man.

Controversial: Coming across to many as arrogant,conceited and cocky,Jose is famous for his brutal honesty and enormous confidence.

His own man he continued to be, finding a short stint at Uniao de Leira.whom he took to their highest ever finish in the league of fifth place after joining the club.During his second season, He  went on to challenge and
contest places as high as third and fourth by the new year. Mourinho's exploits at Leiria sparked off attention as he caught the eye Portuguese giants Porto.His biggest break beckoned.He finally had his chance to be seen.

He seized the opportunity. After guiding the team to a respectable finish in his first season,he made a risky promise of making them champions the next year.

So he did!

Not only did he win the title,he did so with an impressive (W-D-L) record of 27-5-2. Eleven points clear of second place challengers Benfica,with a Portuguese record of 86 points.That was not all, Jose won a treble,adding the Portuguese Cup and UEFA Cup to the title.

He,by this time,had built a formidable c.v and established himself as a hot coaching prospect.As if that was not enough,he surprised the world by winning the Champions League in 2004, beating Monaco 3-0 in the final.Mourinho's Porto had a distinctive tactical system that was based on pressão alta ("high pressure") where his side applied physical pressure on attacking fronts to disintegrate defences. He was also known for holding highly scientific and detailed training sessions, planning every aspect meticulously.After 6 trophies in 2 years,he bid farewell.A legend had been born.

 "If I had wanted to be protected in a
quiet job, I could have stayed at Porto. I would have been second, after
God, in the eyes of the fans even if I had never won another thing."
Jose Mourinho

Chelsea snapped him up in 2004,with new owner Roman Abramovich initiating a long term project to put Chelsea up there among the top European Clubs.Jose Mourinho was up to the task and made it happen! He won their first League title in 50 years on his very first attempt, hauling a record breaking 95 points (highest ever achieved in the Premier League), and the fewest goals conceded (15).

He won the League cup as well. Abramovich had found gold.This man was the real deal.A master with an unrivaled passion to succeed.

Mourinho's time at Chelsea saw them become one of Europe's most feared top clubs,winning everything except the holy grail,the European Cup,where two unfortunate phenomenons of a ''ghost goal'' and penalty shootout in two grueling semi finals encounters in 2005 and 2007 respectively against Rafael Bennitez's Liverpool, unfairly denied him a possible win.

But that hardly took away his shine, he bowed out amidst disagreements with Roman in late 2007 with six trophies in three years.The nomadic son of Portugal once more set out to prove himself in another difficult territory. Italy called out. Massimo Moratti hired him to bring back the glory days of the Nerrazurri in the mid sixties,where his father,Angel Moratti bank-rolled ''La Grande Inter'' to two succesive European Cup wins,with the legendary High Priest of Catenaccio, Helenio Herrera in charge.

 ''So I know all about the ups and downs of football, I know that one day I will be sacked.'' Jose Mourinho.

Challenge accepted. Mourinho secured a scudetto in his first season in charge.Although he failed to win the UCL, he asked Moratti to be patient.

The second season is always vital for Mourinho.

Then it happened.. BAM! A treble. The first in Italian soccer history.

He secured the holy grail at the Bernabeu against his former boss Van Gaal and his impressive Bayern Munich side,after knocking out the world's finest,Barcelona. The Serie A, Coppa Italia and the UCL made up the glorious major treble.

He achieved this with a unified squad that was the personification of character.He employed a modified version of his system at Porto and Chelsea,this time highlighting defence and employing a counter attacking system rooted in a contemporary catennaccio structure.Inter were widely heralded as the 'best team in the world without the ball.'

They were so organized.They had a 30%possession of the ball in the final in Madrid, but still won by two goals to nil. Mourinho once again proved he's a master.

He could have,connoiseurs argue,stayed on to win the UEFA Super Cup, The FIFA Club World Cup and the Italian Super Cup to equal Pep Guardiola's single calendar year sextuple record,but he left when the applaud was loudest.Spain called out. Fiorentino Perez lured him to Madrid. Mourinho again set out to prove his worth in the biggest challenge on the biggest stage yet.

                          Bring it on! : Mourinho has proved himself on the biggest of stages.

"I am Jose Mourinho and I don't change. I arrive with all my qualities and my defects,'' he echoed on his arrival at the Bernabeu. Challenge accepted, once again.

Mourinho has won two major trophies in two seasons. Now this is especially a highly impressive statistic because he is up against possibly the world's greatest team, Barcelona.

On his first attempt,he took Madrid past the last 16 stage of the UCL for the first time in years,making it eventually to the semi-final,losing honourably to Barcelona. He won the King's Cup against Barcelona.Any other coach would have been given the sack, especially after losing a humiliating 5-0 to Barca in his first classico, a result club president Perez dubbed ''the worst  in the history of Real Madrid.'' This is Real Madrid,where second chances are as rare as a blue moon.

But Mourinho got it. He got it. And he took the opportunity.

 "I am prepared. The more pressure there is, the stronger I am. In
Portugal, we say the bigger the ship, the stronger the storm.
Fortunately for me, I have always been in big ships. FC Porto was a very
big ship in Portugal, Chelsea was also a big ship in England and Inter
was a great ship in Italy. Now I'm at Real Madrid, which is considered
the biggest ship on the planet,"
Jose Mourinho

He won the La Liga 9 points clear of the world's finest, Barca (beating them at the Nou Camp to basically seal it) alongside a record most away wins (16), most points obtained in any of the top European
leagues (100), and finishing the season with the highest goal
difference (+89).

Mourinho - style.The highly impressive La Liga campaign overshadowed a Copa del Rey run - where they quite unluckily got knocked out by foes Barca, in a match where Mourinho matched Guardiola's charges boot for boot (after many unsuccessful previous attempts) in a pulsating 2-2 draw (Barca winning on aggregate score after beating them 2-1 at the Bernabeu) - as well as a a heart-breaking penalty shoot-out loss to Bayern Munich in the Semi Final of the Champions League,shattering a dream record of becoming the first manager to conquer Europe 3 times with three different clubs).

In the process, Mourinho proved his critics wrong by showcasing dynamism by transforming his system(compared to the Inter years) from an organized Herrera style catenaccio to free flowing attacking football with devastating effect.He recently just signed a four year contract renewal at Real to keep him at the manager's office till 2016.Not many managers get offered a four year deal at the Bernabeu after just two trophies,with no Champions League win.He is that special.As he himself put it at Chelsea on his first press conference..."Please don't call me arrogant, but I'm European champion and I think
I'm a special one,"
which resulted in the media dubbing him "The Special
One"

 "If I am hated at Barcelona, it is their problem but not mine. Fear is not a word in my football dictionary," Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho has managed to emerge as an influential tactician in a world where a team's exploits are hardly attributed fully to managers.His impact has been felt immensely on every team he has managed,winning almost every major trophy in Europe whilst setting and breaking a long line of mind blowing records.He has also managed impressively high winning percentages at all his clubs (69% at Porto,70% at Chelsea, 62% at Inter and 76% at Real), a feat which no other trainer can boast of with multiple clubs,in top leagues.He has also proved himself on all club football fronts,considered by all as standard criteria for measuring greatness and efficiency.

He is most definitely an International trophy(European Championship or FIFA World Cup) away from becoming arguably the greatest coach in history. At the moment, he is ranked alongside greats like Helenio Herrera, Bela Guttmann, Nereo Rocco,Rinus Michels, Ernst Happel, Stefan Kovacs, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Gustav Sebes etc. His tactical brilliance(extensive systems,unorthodox approaches and ability to vary and modify),his renowed man management, amazing trophy wins and long chains of records set and broken are just beyond impressive.

 "For me, pressure is bird flu. I'm feeling
a lot of pressure with the problem in Scotland. It's not fun and I'm
more scared of it than football."  -  on whether he ever feels pressure to perform/succeed."
Jose Mourinho

In a career spanning twelve years now, Jose Mourinho has won 19 trophies overall (16 majors) including two European Cups,a UEFA Cup,7 League titles,and a host of domestic cups. He has won almost all the highly rated and most respected club competitions in the world.

Also,between 23rd February 2002 and 2nd April 2011(9 solid years), Mourinho went 150 home league matches unbeaten: 38 (W36–D2) with Porto, 60 (W46–D14) with Chelsea, 38 (W29–D9) with Inter Milan and 14 (W14–D0) with Real Madrid.His all-time winning percentage stands at 69.49% ,ie. almost 70%,playing 567 games in his career(winning 394,drawing 109 and losing only 65).

Widely known for his strong personality,outspokenness and controversial mannerisms, Jose has received dozens of personal awards that other managers can only dream of. He can speak Portuguese, Spanish,Italian,French,English and Catalan fluently,learning intelligently and quickly whilst on the job in most of the countries he's worked at.He is known ,with players bearing witness, as an outstanding motivator and a source of confidence and belief for his players. His astonishing success rate means he's the first choice on every club in search of a manager's radar.

He gets the job done, almost always.

Conquerer of Europe,Success like no other: Mourinho has won a record equalling two UCL titles with two different clubs, and a UEFA Cup as well. Remains in pole position to become the first manager to win the UCL/European Cup 3 times with three different clubs.

 


"God must really think I'm a great guy. He must think that, because
otherwise He would not have given me so much. I have a great family. I
work in a place where I've always dreamt of working. He has helped me
out so much that He must have a very high opinion of me."
Jose Mourinho.

With such charisma and personality like no other, Jose Mourinho has endeared himself into the heart of many. His strong personality has divided opinion about him, with people strongly admiring him, and the others, well, not quite. But he's Mourinho, and he hardly ever gives a damn..

Jose Mourinho is a living legend, an astute tactician and an enormous achiever. At only 49, God knows what else he has in store for his critics and admirers alike. A man for the big job,he is still well and truely going strong.

Fiifi Anaman (@fiifianaman)
27th May,2012.


Liverpool; the past season in perspective.

A truly bitter- sweet campaign: One trophy in the cabinet and three Wembley appearances but stark contrast to the poor league form...

A lot has changed since my last post. Liverpool reached the Carling Cup Final,outplayed Cardiff City and won very luckily on penalties.Since that win,the club's form took a pathetic nose dive.An undeserved loss at Anfield against Arsenal after the League Cup win at Wembley kick started the club's worst run in so many decades.

Liverpool's ineptitude infront of goal emanating from conspicuous mediocrity(considering the huge amount of money invested in average players and the inability to secure the services of an out and out goal scorer)was elucidated and bared over the past few weeks,as that wastefulness coupled with apathy driven showings  left the club finish a staggering 37 points behind champions Manchester City at 8th place,with hitherto average teams like Newcastle and Everton finishing above it and ''smaller'' teams like Fulham,West Brom ,Sunderland,Swansea and Norwich breathing down it's neck.

Its has been a sad time for all Liverpool fans.This season has been awkward and weird. The club won the League Cup(its first trophy in six years) and went to the  Final of the F.A Cup(Losing 2-1 to Chelsea as part of a third Wembley appearance).This would have been great if we had at least,and I must emphasize least,secured 4th place and Champions League football.Trust me there has not been many clubs who have won a trophy in a season after a trophy drought and STILL have fans dissatisfied. Now you understand just how weird the status quo is. Liverpool could hardly manage three consecutive wins during the season.

At some point,in one of the disgraceful losses against Wigan at Anfield,Kenny Dalglish said something after the game that lost him my trust and support of him. He said the club does not have enough players to deal with the demands of the many fixtures Liverpool have had to deal with this season! This same gaffer said in January that Liverpool needed no new players and that he was satisfied with the quantity and quality of the side! Sense something?

For a coach of his calibre to make such pathetic excuses is just not acceptable.Liverpool only played in three competitions ONLY! Some clubs played in 4 and five, but yet still did not complain and still found themselves in respectable positions on the league log,which tallies with their investment they made prior to the season. Liverpool spent a cumulative sum of £ 80 million on Caroll (£35 million)Henderson( £16 or possibly £ 20 million)Downing (£ 20 million) and Charlie Adam(£ 9 million) all of whom have proved to be grossly over priced mediocre British players,costing us so much this season.

Everyone who has followed my posts on here and on twitter all season know just how much I defended Kenny when he was being mercilessly vilified earlier this season.But now,I will just say I'm not sure if he is the right man for the job.Should the owners resort to keeping him, theres still so much he has to put in place and change in order to gain back my trust, and I firmly believe,the trust of all other dissatisfied Kopites across the length and breath of the globe.

He kept sticking to maintaining Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing in the starting line up ahead of Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy: all of whom individually and collectively had contributed more to the team's performances/goals over the course of the season. I personally felt it would only be right to keep the duo on the bench as they are both very ineffective, so as to give the more effective and experienced trio the chance to make an impact.

Even though Henderson and Downing(£40 million cumulatively) hardly put up a substancial performances to at least repay one millionth (no sarcasm intended) of their colossal transfer fees, Kenny still believed they are better than the others. Also,Jamie Carragher,who is now aged(football wise) and clearly poor(performance wise)was also fielded ahead of a young and effective Coates (who is a tried and tested defender in the Copa Libertodores and Copa America) whenever there was an empty slot in defence.

In short,Kenny is presided over questionable decisions,and his legendary status is insulated him from objective criticism, creating an auror of infallibility around him.This was not healthy for the football club. He is was by virtue of his managerial capacity and not a legendary capacity. Everyone just kept quiet and handled the failures as normal, just because he is King Kenny the legend. Any time I saw teams like Madrid,Manchester City,AC Milan,Barcelona and Bayern Munich(just for comparative analysis in terms of quality of players as against the financial propensity to acquire them) as a Liverpool fan,it was inevitable to escape the intense inferiority complex that griped me. Class VS Mediocrity is a simple but harsh summary I can come up with.

Its especially frustrating since we were in such a financially powerful position, with John Henry and Tom Werner at FSG pumping in millions of dollars, bringing in Warrior Sports(Kit Manufacturers)in a record deal and giving Kenny such immense support. I'm was surprised and disappointed in how he stuck to buying average Brits over exceptional foreigners.I'll always say, if you want to build a core of British players, you use your Academy(in Liverpool's case,very endowed academy) to that effect, rather than going out to buy average Brits at ridiculously high prices as against buying quality foreigners who can make a huge difference in matches.Clearly,Kenny and Commolli failed in the transfer market, perhaps thats why the latter parted ways with the club by mutual consent
.
For a team that is in Kenny's own words ''work in progress'' surely this is not the way to go.It is even justified to think the club could have gradually introduced prodiguous talents like Suso,Sterling,Coady,Eccleston,Morgan and co into the squad and groomed them professionally to save money than go out for pure mediocrity(I'm aware I'm abusing the word).

I'm not saying Caroll ,Henderson, Downing and Adam are 'wack' players who will never come good.

No.Far from that really.

All I'm saying is that if Kenny did not spend/waste (I know its harsh) so much money on them and bought them at low prices that tallies with their current performance value,nobody would complain.This Liverpool team lacked star players of skill and impact. It was filled with a host of average players who lacked the required character. As simple as that.

That 1-0 loss at the Liberty stadium on the final day was one of many frustrating losses Liverpool fans have been used to all season.The team's performance oscillated between highly impressive, average and unacceptably poor far too rapidly and frustratingly.

Kenny Dalglish always blamed poor showings on bad luck, and always claimed it'll get better one day. Sad. A manager who depends on luck and fails to correct blatant weaknesses is a remedy for disaster. He clearly lacked the tactical acumen to steer the club to greater heights. An 8th place finish for a club that invested over £100 million is just failure,to be brutally honest.

Kenny does not cut it.

And worst of all, he seems to show no signs of changing his ways that have made the club the personification of pure mediocrity over the past season. He failed to meet the pre-season target of a fourth place/Champions League spot finish despite the huge investments.He should've known better not use the Carling Cup win and F.A Cup Final appearance as an excuse for the disappointing failure the season has been. Moreover,it'll be incredibly surprising to see him keep his job whilst all other key personel who were part of the season's clear debacle have been axed. He is the manager and should also be held responsible. Its only right and fair.He should not be immune to ''the sack'' due to his legendary status,as he wields his current office on a purely professional basis.

At this rate and in this direction, I beg to differ with people who say Liverpool has made substantive progress. A great, great deal has to change.

Unless more quality is injected and the mediocrity (theres that cliche again!)is seen out or worked on for massive improvement,the club will still be stagnant,(even if it has won a trophy),as incongrous as that sounds.

Fiifi Anaman. ( @fiifianaman )


Barca really are the best team in the world

Okay, so I just finished watching Barca thrash Santos 4-0 to win the FIFA Club World Cup. I'm so impressed that the first thing I think about doing is to write something down, something about their greatness.

What more can I say.This team is the kind of team that plays so well to render insignificant,the quality of their opposition.They are just that good.They beat the best,convincingly.Their movement,flair and finesse,the grace,the flow,the ease,the sheer class.Simple:Class Act.Pep Guardiola has truely created one of the best teams to ever grace the game.One thing i wld like to really really really know is how they did it.

 I mean lets travel back 5 yrs ago ; May 2006, Paris. Barca vs Arsenal: Final of the European Cup.Where the hell were Messi,Xavi and Iniesta? You know, when people start arguing that Guardiola is not really the one pulling the strings, I just don't know where they are coming from.

He got rid of Ronaldinho and Deco because they were grossly egotistical and posed a threat to squad unity and the execution of a squad approach vis a vis tactics. Messi,Xavi and Iniesta are the three best players on the planet at the moment because Pep built his team around them during the re-building period in the 08-09 pre-season. He re-instituted and slightly modified the Totaal Voetbal(Total Football) tactic originating from Rinus Michels, through it's most succesful proponent Johan Cruyff (during the early 90s/Dream Team era).

 The modification was the incorporation of the Traditional Spanish Tiki taka style into the total football system. Tiki taka had been practiced and mastered by Luis Aragones's Spanish side that dazzled and won the Euros that summer. Pep placed emphasis ball possession, skill, ground play and short passing.The importance of positioning and discipline was also synchronized into it. Now Barca play the kind of football that illustrates the saying ''If u have the ball ur opponents can't score''.

90% of the time they are in possession of the ball, so it is virtually impossible to see their defensive frailties and vulnerabilities.They know each other so well that any pass they make finds it's way onto the right/intended player or space.

Their finishing? Superb.

They hardly miss a chance when it matters most.An interesting observation is how they recruit players within their ranks.They are very conservative and meticulous during transfer windows.They just don't buy because they have money or the intended target is a superstar. They buy players that fit the philosophy, players that want to play the Barcelona way.Their policy has helped facilitate a resilient and resplendent team outlook that has star players of non-catalonia origin mixing perfectly with the existing core stock of fine, home grown players.

 What more can I say.The team is now club football's unprecedented Masters. I am just waiting for that time when a team dethrones them.That is if it will even ever happen anytime soon.

Fiifi Anaman (@fiifianaman )
December 11, 2011.