The magic of Barney Ronay

The Article, as it is, is of little importance, Barney Ronay of the Guardian is a magician of the written word,

Sample this:

More recently José Mourinho seems to have decided the best approach at Manchester United is to spend his first few weeks standing on the touchline looking crumpled and sad and heroically betrayed, like a man on the hard shoulder of the M6 staring balefully across the nearside lines above his raised bonnet, rain gluing his shirt to his back, phone dead, credit card maxed out, kids living in Bicester, golf clubs repossessed, 800 units of polyester carpet samples scattered across the back seat.

And this

For an essentially unflashy footballer he remains an oddly compelling sight throughout all this, not obviously quick but mobile and relentless, not tricky but precise on the ball, and with a pummelling shot from a low backlift. He is also very dear and likeable, a man slightly out of his time, resembling as he stands to attention in the pre-match lineup the ghost of a kindly Victorian chimney sweep. Albeit with something steely and slightly frightening.

The Article is here.

Xabi Alonso / Rafa benitez / Gareth Barry [Mythbusted]

Commentary from wiakywbfatw at the Guardian, for This Article. Xabi Alonso is one of my favourite footballers, I quite like Gareth Barry, and I am okay with Rafa; but rewriting history is not cool.


Still absolutely unbelievable that Rafa tried to sell Xabi because he wanted to replace him with Gareth Barry. Baffling.

Not if you actually bother examining the facts.

Xabi Alonso’s Liverpool career started brilliantly with two very good years. However, partly because of injuries he sustained, his form in his next two years with the club were well below the standard he first established.

It was after the second of those two years that Rafa Benitez explored the possibility of selling Alonso and replacing him with Gareth Barry, partly because of Alonso’s two season slump and partly because UEFA were on the brink of introducing home grown player quotas again.

For various reasons the sale of Alonso didn’t happen so nothing changed. Alonso then went on to have a brilliant year at Anfield, undoubtedly his best at the club, and you could make a fair case that part of the reason for his improvement was the shock that he actually wasn’t indispensable and had to prove his worth to the team.

At the end of that season, in May 2009, Alonso gave an interview in which he said that he was happy at Anfield, that he was looking forward to the next season with the club, etc. Then Real Madrid made their interest known as Marca started producing a steady stream of articles about Alonso joining the club. Eventually a deal was done even though, with Alonso having turned his decline around, Benitez and Liverpool wanted him to stay.

People conveniently forget the context which is all-important, especially those two poorer seasons. But what the trolls who love to use Alonso as a hammer to bash Benitez and Liverpool with forget is that in summer 2008 Liverpool received only one offer for Alonso and it was for £10 million and it wasn’t from Real – and even that offer fell through. Twelve months later Alonso joined Real and they paid £35 million for him.

In short, if it was so obvious that trying to sell Alonso in summer 2008 was such a bad move then why didn’t anybody want to pay only £10 million for him then?

Jose Mourinho, the football coach : the good and the bad

I would not talk about the pantomime villain act, or the eye-gouging antics, or the fawning by the media. This is what I think about Jose Mourinho, the football coach, in plain-speak football terms.

Jose is a superb reactive manager, one of the best. His best comes in setting up his team against attacking teams, nullifying the attack and knowing how to win, eventually. Only Rafa Benitez, of modern-day managers, compares. And Jose is better than Rafa.

Against weaker teams or teams that are playing on the counter against them ( or even, bless the term, parking the bus), his team’s always depend on individual talented players creating that one moment of magic – and his team’s always had such players- Deco, Maniche, Robben, Drogba, Duff, Eto’o, Sneijder, Cristiano, Benzema, Ozil, Hazard, Fabregas et al.

Most teams in the premier league have figured it out by now. Every team plays on the counter against them. And Hazard’s and Cesc’s poor form has made their attack rather impotent. Mourinho will not create great attacking movement, and set up his team to eviscerate opponent defenders. That is the reason his teams are floundering.

Is he a cheque-book manager, then? Yes and No. To win for Real Madrid or Chelsea, he would need a massive amount of money, as he is not much good in setting up to play attacking, winning football. But if you give him, say, a Stoke or a Villarreal to manage, he will overperform – he will have to be reactive then, and he is the best reactive manager around.

Note this, though. His team’s will do rather well against Man City, Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool. And in the Champion’s League.

And no, I will resist commenting about Jose Mourinho, the person.

My Amazing Football Coach

A personal anecdote today, okay? A bit of a teary-eyed personal anecdote. Don’t you love those? Read on.

Debabrata Ghosh was the Arts & Crafts teacher at St. Vincent’s. He also used to stay at our neighborhood in Apcargarden, Asansol. As in most small towns (or as it was in those days), neighborhoods are communities, so my parents knew him well. He was a big, gruff, heavyset man with a bit of a temper. I was terrified of him in the lower classes in school (not least because I had no skill whatsoever at art and crafts). I also hardly played sports those days. I was a docile kid.

One day, my mom came back from office, and asked me, “Why don’t you play football?”

“Uh, football? I cannot run. I am slow, no?” What I did not say was that the fitter, slimmer kids would invariably be better players. Then, the one skill I had, that of merging seamlessly into the background, will be broken. This was the reason I was hardly ever bullied at school.

“Oh that is rubbish”, Ma said. “Listen, Debu Ghosh is running a football coaching class in the neighborhood park. Go and join. I saw him while coming back from office, and he told me that if he, at 100kgs of weight, can play and teach football, surely you can as well. I have enrolled you.”

Oh God! I was terrified. All will be lost now.

And truth to be said, all was lost. Debabrata Ghosh was an impossibly hard taskmaster. He made us run and run, and shoot and shoot, and trap and trap, and receive and receive, and tackle, and head, and shoulder-charge, and overlap and cross and take free-kicks and do push-ups and sit-ups and do a hundred drills. Endlessly. The other boys were all better than me at football. It was horrible. Horrible.

Then one day, it was not that horrible anymore. I did not become fast overnight (that would come later), but I developed the art of the tackle. I figured out the nuances of trapping and receiving. I developed a reasonably decent shot, I could shoot equally well with both feet, and I could even do it on the run.

Suddenly, one day, I was not the plump boy who was to be picked last anymore. Suddenly, one day, I could give a passable impression of a footballer. Suddenly, one day, I was part of the pack. Suddenly, one day, I had a nickname – I was Chima, named after the fearsome Chima Okorie of East Bengal Club. Suddenly, one day, I was playing for the neighborhood team, for the school team.

Suddenly, one day, I belonged.

In later years, Ghosh Sir from school would become Babu-da of the neighborhood. He was still large, still gruff, he still had a temper. He was also the person who helped make me fall in love with the sport. A few days before I would leave my Asansol for good, I went by to his house and touched his feet.


We are old Asansole-ites. We are old Vincentians, Me, then my cousin, and then the other cousin. The middle cousin, Prith Bakshi, sent me a PM today morning. “Bro, check out my recent fb update. On one of the SVS legends”.

I saw the video that is attached to this post. And choked up a little.

Debabrata Ghosh, our Babu-da, is still changing lives. Like he changed mine, a quarter-of-a-century ago.


The best football books- as suggested by Football365

This is target, and I will scratch the ones that I have already read. Only scratch out the first word of the books that I have but have not read yet.

The Ball Is Round – David Goldblatt – The bible. The best football book I’ve ever read, documenting the game from ancient times until the present day around the world. Meaty, but wonderful

The Miracle Of Castel Di Sangro

How To Score – Ken Bray – Scientific look at football

Inverting The Pyramid – Jonathan Wilson – The tactics bible

Brilliant Orange – On culture and history of Dutch Football

Calcio – The same on Italy

Tor – The same on Germany

Feet of the Chameleon – Sameish on Africa

Morbo – Same on Spanish.

La Roja – Another same on Spanish

Futebol – Same on Brazil

Behind the Iron Curtain – Same on Russia

Bamboo Goalposts – Same on China

Teambuilding – Rinus Michels – The famous coaching guide

Why England Lose – Stats and science on England

The Manager – Barney Ronay

A season with Verona – Tony Parks

Those Feet – David Winner

The football men – Arthur Hopcraft

Dick Kerr’s Ladies – Barbara Jacobs

World Is A Ball – John Doyle

Once In A Lifetime – Gavin Newsham

The Last Game – Jason Cowley

Beautiful Game? – David Conn

Left Foot Forward – Garry Nelson

Floodlit dreams – Ian Ridley

Broken Dreams – Tom Bower

Only a game – Eamon dunphy

The Glory Game – Hunter Davies

The Nowhere Men – Michael Calvin

Football Against The Enemy – Simon Kuper

Football Business – David Conn

Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby

My Father and other working class heroes – Gary Imlach

Bios and Autobios

Paul McGrath

Robert Enke

Cantona – Philippe Auclair

Bergkamp – Stillness and Speed

Garrincha – Rui Castro

Keeper of Dreams – Ronald Reng

Duncan Edwards: The Greatest

Paul Lake

Kasey Keller – Guardian Small Talk

Fine, fun interview. Click here to read. Excerpt below.

Which was your favourite out of England, Spain and Germany? Think carefully about this one.

You know, I’ve had such good times everywhere I’ve played – from Millwall being my first club and the new experiences I had there, to Leicester City, where people expected us to be relegated by Christmas but instead we finished in the top-half of the Premier League in all of my three seasons there, as well as getting to to two cup finals. Then I got to go to Spain and be the first American to play in La Liga. With Rayo Vallecano we got promoted and I believe after 16 games we were one point ahead of Barcelona in first place. The next year we lost in the quarterfinals of the Uefa Cup. Then it was Spurs, where I played every minute of every game, league and cup, for over a couple of years, then Gladbach before the World Cup, then Fulham and one of the greatest relegation escapes in Premier League history. And after all that I got to come home to Seattle to 40,000 fans a game in America. It’s been a pretty cool ride!