The Final Whistle!

Around four and a half years ago, I started writing a cricket blog. Only last year, I commenced scripting a football (Soccer) themed alternative. My interests stretch beyond those two subjects however, so I am slowly winding down both sillypointcricket.com and leftbackfooty.com.

Thank you very much to anybody and everybody who has ever taken the time to view, let alone comment on either of my blogs.

I intend to start from scratch with a new blog that will of course feature cricket and football but also primarily film and book reviews regardless of the subject matter. I might also detail other things in life such as hiking or anything else that might pique my interest.

I enjoy writing and think that it’s healthy to get some opinions off my chest and share them. I’m particularly looking forward to sharing my thoughts on films. With two young children, one of whom has some additional needs and with neither of them currently in education, it’s been challenging to find the hours to watch movies. Last night, I finally got around to watching Loving Vincent on DVD (Yeah that’s right…DVD!).

I’ve also got plenty of books to read. Once again, thank you for viewing my blogs and I look forward to meeting you in a new guise sometime in the future.

Paul aka Silly Point aka Left Back Footy

Random Rankings

Hi football fans

Please see below for some interesting current rankings in world football. We all expect Brazil and Germany etc to be near the top, for Chad and Oman to not but every team has the rank somewhere…

Men’s

https://www.fifa.com/fifa-world-ranking/ranking-table/men/

Venezuela

Currently ranked 28th in the world, the South American nation’s highest placing was 25th around one year ago. They’ve never won the Copa America nor qualified for the World Cup. They’re the only CONMEBOL team not to have done so. Unless anybody can tell me otherwise, Solomon Rondon is their most famous player!

Greece

For a team that held the European Championship trophy aloft not that long ago, 53rd place is a substantial fall from grace. Their league is a passionate one but may not possess the strength in depth that they would like. The country has a population of over ten million. Obviously not all of those people are professional footballers but that’s twice as many as Croatia and look at what they’ve achieved. Well, okay, they haven’t actually won anything but they’ve consistently reached the latter stages of major tournaments whilst Greece’s successful campaign was a flash in the pan!

Who are Greece’s star players? Who knows? They hardly have a history of cracking the Premier League or other top flights. 2004 and the exploits of Angels Charisteas and co. must seem like a lifetime ago for Greek football fans.

Women’s

https://www.fifa.com/fifa-world-ranking/ranking-table/women/

I’ll give you one guess which nation currently ranks in 10th place…

North Korea!

Errr… well I think they were when I started writing this article quite some time ago! They now seem to have no ranking at all. It seems that some of the things mentioned below might have forced FIFA to act.

North Korea pulled out of Olympic qualifiers because they were to be held in neighbouring South Korea. The two nations are of course, technically at war.

https://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1088659/north-korea-confirm-football-withdrawal

They did trounce Singapore 24-0 back in 2001 and have regularly performed well at Asian Games, winning Gold on multiple occasions. They were however disqualified from the 2015 World Cup for committing multiple doping violations.

New Zealand

Aotearoa are placed 22nd. Now in Men’s football New Zealand have suffered from playing ‘competitive’ qualifying matches against only Australia and the Oceanic island nations. This hasn’t helped them raise standards. Of course Australia quit Oceania all together to play in Asia. With a population of only around four million people but rugby and cricket being embedded in local psyche, football has always faced an uphill battle in New Zealand. Since Women’s football really broke out though, Anglo nations such as USA, Canada and Australia have been at the fore on a global scale, in contrast to their achievements (Or lack of!) in the men’s game. Alongside trans-Tasman neighbours Australia, New Zealand is set to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Quick Trivia: In 2004, New Zealand lost 11-0 against… North Korea!

Those are my selections but are there any current rankings that have peaked your own interest?

Randy for Goals!

It’s a huge relief to see 21-year-old forward Randal Kolo Muani banging in the goals for Les Canaris. Okay, well, he’s got two goals!

I actually watched back-to-back games where he had strikes disallowed for offside by the narrowest (And I mean narrowest!) of margins. At least one wasn’t even for him being offside. You could see how frustrated the France under-21 cap was. Fortunately, he’s now upto two goals (Plus one assist) for the season and his contribution is a huge positive for a Nantes side who are… doing okay. Nantes have a recent history of hinting at doing well then just getting by. I must admit that I’m pleasantly surprised by how things are going in 2020-21. Having some genuine goal threat is a huge plus. Ludovic Blas amongst others is one who can help create scoring opportunities for Muani and co.

Full back Sebastien Corchia, signed after a few years spent out and about on loan from Sevilla, seems to have been a shrewd acquisition too.

Fingers crossed that the Beaujoire side can maintain their encouraging performances and finish comfortably in the top half of Ligue 1 this season.

In Appreciation of Joe Cole!

It’s safe to say that the standard of football commentary/punditry around the Premier League and other competitions on English TV is pretty abysmal. Many ex-footballers sit there, spouting absolute nonsense. They lack insight and are both biased and unoriginal. I don’t have Sky TV but what little I’ve ever heard from Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher on highlights etc mean that I’d never be in a rush to buy it. I generally watch BT Sport (Though I don’t have it myself) and a little BBC (Though I don ‘t have a TV) at my parent’s house. I’ve found Micah Richards a refreshingly appealable pundit and hope that he doesn’t get dragged down by those around him. I enjoy Steve McManaman’s co-commentary. He’s knowledgeable, well researched and observant but sounds nicely casual at the same time. He’s not too much on his own perch. One person who has stood out to me though is… Can you guess? Has anything given it away?

Joe Cole!

I’ll be honest, I genuinely think that tactics are overrated, that many in football try to convince us that there’s far more to what is actually quite a simple and limited thing. They want to make out that football requires far more thought than it actually does. Don’t get me wrong, of course tactics are part of the game and in multiple ways. I just think that some try to overcook them. As for Rio Ferdinand’s borefest when discussing tactics… yawn!

Joe Cole however comes across as particularly passionate when in-front of a tactics board/screen. In stark contrast to many smug ex-players sitting back and boring us to death, Cole is both insightful without taking it too far and just seems genuinely happy to be sharing his insights with everybody. Of course we’re all going to have preferences/dislikes when it comes to presenters, commentators and pundits etc but I really do feel that we should expect a high standard from those who’ve spent a career playing the game or even coaching/managing. Compared with many, Cole reaches that standard.

The former West Ham and Chelsea man would definitely be in my preferred presentation line-up!

Career Watch #4) Luca Gagliano

Luca Gagliano scored and assisted on his full debut against Juventus at the tail end of last season and has been rewarded with… a loan move to Serie C!

Judging by online images, it looks like there are worse places to be loaned to than Sardinian side Olbia. It seems a bit extreme though to send him to the third tier of Italian football. Surely his development would be better served by playing in Serie B. However, the geographical proximity makes Olbia a regular outpost for Cagliari players. One of Gagliano’s new teammates has been on loan from the duo’s parent club and island neighbour since 2017!

Fingers crossed that in the next Career Watch I’ll be letting you know about the bucket load of goals that 20-year-old Alghero native Gagliano has been banging in!

Serie A Starts Again!

Following on from similar posts featuring players from other leagues, here are three players to watch out for as Serie A (Italy’s not Brazil’s) kicks off once again…

Samuel di Carmine – Hellas Verona

Di Carmine came into his own post lockdown and having finished the 2019-20 campaign with 8 goals in 22 appearances, will look to pick up where he left off. His is a familiar Italian story, lots of clubs but getting better with age. He’ll be 32 soon but that’s nothing in Serie A where ageless frontmen continue to thrive.

Ahmed Benali – Crotone

An English born Libyan international, former Manchester City and Rochdale player… no seriously! Benali is an attacking midfielder with a decent knack for contributing goals and that habit has helped fire Crotone into Serie A. He’s got an interesting background but has also provided substance on the pitch. Crotone will need him to step up to help them cope in Italy’s top flight but the evidence suggests that he’s capable of doing so.

Kamil Glik – Benevento

Centre-back Glik has 73 caps for Poland and has previously clocked up over 100 appearances for Torino. After a few years in Monaco, he’s back in Italy with newly promoted Benevento. They’ve got some decent players but the addition of his experience at the back will benefit them immensely and despite being 32, he should be able to cope with the demands of Serie A.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that any players featured in One to Watch have not been considered.

The Premier League Returns!

Following on from similar posts featuring players from other leagues, here are three players to watch out for as the English Premier League kicks off once again…

Sam Johnstone – West Bromwich Albion

Johnstone is a former England youth international who progressed through the ranks at Manchester United. There were plenty of loan spells including a good stint at Aston Villa but now he’s now settled as West Brom’s number one. Suddenly England have good competition for goalkeeping spots and Johnstone’s arrival in the top flight can only be good for the national team. Aged 27 he’s a mere pup by goalkeeper standards and has earned the right to challenge himself at the highest level.

Miguel Almiron – Newcastle United

The Paraguayan has been a real live wire since arriving in the northeast but end product has often been lacking. Post lockdown however and goals started to come with more regularity. Newcastle have a host of problems with their strikers, whether it be injury, form… ability but Almiron’s pace and directness from the midfield is exciting and Newcastle will hope, result in the floodgates opening!

Pablo Hernandez – Leeds United

Hernandez is 35 and is unlikely to play every minute for Leeds this season but the former Valencia and Swansea City player is both stylish and high on quality as well as being capable of creating and scoring goals. Despite his advanced years, he should contribute for an Elland Road side that play to their strengths and like to entertain.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that any players featured in One to Watch have not been considered.

La Liga is Back!

Following on from similar posts featuring players from other leagues, here are three players to watch out for as La Liga kicks off once again…

Shinji Okazaki – Huesca

Okazaki wasn’t prolific in front of goal when helping Leicester City to a sensational Premier League title but his indefatigable work rate helps tire opposition defenders and create goals for his team. After an ill-fated move to Malaga, Okazaki banged in 12 goals in 36 games to help fire Huesca into Spain’s top flight. He may be no spring chicken aged 34 but he’s as fit as many younger players. Huesca will benefit from having the experience of a Premier League winner who also has the small matter of a half-century of international goals to his name.

Ivan Alejo – Cadiz

Alejo is a 25-year-old winger at another newly promoted side, Cadiz. He came through the ranks at Atlético Madrid but has had a rather nomadic career whilst picking up 12 Spain under-19 caps along the way. More goals and assists would be welcome but now could he his time to step up.

Yassine Bounou – Girona

Having starred for Sevilla in their successful Europa League campaign, it’s hard to fathom that Canadian born Moroccan shot stopper Bounou will be dropping down to the second tier of Spanish football at parent club Girona. He’s one who could earn a move to a top flight side before the season is out.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that any players featured in One to Watch have not been considered.

Dream Team: My Team for 2020-21

Hi followers

Above is my Dream Team for the 2020-21 season.

For those of you that aren’t in the know, in Dream Team players accrue points via performances not only in the Premier League but in the FA Cup and League Cup as well as the Europa League and Champions League. I’ve mixed it up between a few players that are in Europe and some players that I just like for one reason or another. I’ve also selected two teams for my daughters which are detailed below:

Daughter One’s Team:

Daughter Two’s Team:

All teams have four players that will be competing in Europe alongside a mixed bag of teammates including some of my favourite players. I wanted to keep it fair across all three teams and enjoy it. My daughters and I will be competing in our usual ten team league with other family members. My wife picked her own team and it looks alarmingly strong!

If I was providing serious advice then I’d suggest selecting an XI almost entirely from players that will be playing in European competition packed with as many set-piece takers as possible.

https://www.dreamteamfc.com/g/#login/season

I’ll update you in May 2021 as to how I got on.