M’Vila signs new three year contract at Saint-Etienne

m'vilaSaint-Etienne midfielder Yann M’Vila has been rewarded for his fine start to life at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard with a new three year contract, just six months after his arrival at the club. Having struggled at Rubin Kazan in Russia, M’Vila joined Saint-Etienne back in January and started 17 of the 18 remaining games for the campaign, helping the club get back to happier form after a poor start. The truth is, this is a great bit of business for Les Verts in retaining the services of one of the most talented, cultured players in the French top flight. If M’Vila can continue to contribute to such an upturn in fortunes as he has done in his first six months at the club then the future bodes well indeed.

Continue reading

Jordan Pickford wins the hearts of England


When England secured a place in their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years, the nation celebrated – naturally. The Three Lions are a team capable of ramping up the patriotism and yet disappointing when a major tournament rolls around. During this World Cup, however, they have done exactly what has been expected of them, and now only Croatia stand between them and a first World Cup final in 52 years. Social media has been abuzz for the last few weeks, fans all over the world claiming that football is indeed finally coming home, 22 years after it was predicted to do so by Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and Lightning Seeds. That hasn’t been the only internet meme to go viral though, as a string of tweets about a certain player has excited the nation once again.

Continue reading

Why are Allardyce and Pardew still seen as progressive?

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 20.46.54

So, Sam Allardyce is given his cards yet again, this time at Everton. The fourth job in succession where he’s either been sacked or left via ‘mutual consent.’ Sacked in other words.

Alan Pardew was given the old heave-ho a few weeks ago, and incredibly West Bromwich Albion’s fortunes took a sharp upturn after he’d left.

What is difficult to understand is why the pair, and others of their ilk, continue to be seen as somewhat progressive and are almost the first port of call when Premier League coaching jobs are available.

Overlooking Allardyce’s penchant for a quick few hundred thousand which in itself is a thorny issue, to essentially bring in someone whose best years in management were almost two decades ago and expect them to perform miracles is asking for trouble.

He’s nothing but a saviour, and from the route one school at that.

His teams play as he did. Physically imposing, limited in their capabilities, but willing to battle all day long. Just the ingredients required if you’re in the midst of a relegation battle or need promoting from the lower leagues.

But a European push? Don’t make me laugh.

The Dudley-born former central defender likes to use ProZone and the odd sports science methodology to help get his points and tactics across, but he’s still the same old northern hoofer underneath the Emperor’s new clothes.

And yet, clubs are still falling for it. His agent must be on huge bunce because he’s the true miracle worker here.

Everton, like Crystal Palace, Sunderland and West Ham before them, now have to honour the outrageous contract that was negotiated whilst poring over what exactly they’ve paid him for, for the last six months.

Pardew is cut from the same cloth as Allardyce. Arguably, his last successful stint at any club came at West Ham, where he took them to the 2006 FA Cup final.

Only Steven Gerrard’s desire on the day took Liverpool to the promised land because for long periods, the Hammers were the better team in what has since been labelled the best-ever FA Cup final.

The following season, he took the Hammers on their worst run of defeats in 70 years, but somehow this was enough to convince Charlton Athletic to hire him just a fortnight after his dismissal in east London.

Charlton were in dire straits when he took them over, so their subsequent relegation can’t be pinned on him, but eight games without a win saw them in the Championship’s bottom three. Off he went again.

Southampton was his next port of call but player unrest and low staff morale, allegedly because of Pardew’s insistence at following outdated and unworkable methods, saw a swift exit.

Quite how he then went on to land one of the biggest jobs in the country – Newcastle United – is anyone’s guess… though they did also employ Allardyce!

A four-year stay wasn’t overly successful and neither did his stint at Crystal Palace where, finally, a chairman hit the nail on the head. Steve Parish said of Pardew “his style of football hasn’t and doesn’t work.” Hallelujah.

Five months at West Brom was more than enough for the Baggies, Pardew leaving the club at the foot of the table and 10 games without a win. Their relegation, despite Darren Moore’s best efforts, was ultimately down to Pardew.

Both Allardyce and Pardew are relics from the past, trying to make themselves relevant in a game that’s now far ahead of their level of understanding. Simply put, football has moved on. They haven’t.

There’s a reason why the pair keep being sacked from each club that offer them a route back, but perhaps their reputations are now so tarnished that everyone has learnt their lesson.

One can only hope.

Do you have what it takes to challenge the best Fantasy Managers? If you’re up to challenging the best then play www.eurofantasyleague.com now!

Swansea and Sunderland losing vital ground


In 2011, Swansea City became the first Welsh club to play in the Premier League. Judging by their efforts this season and with Cardiff City struggling at the bottom end of the Championship, it may be a while before we see any Welsh club in the Premier League after this season.

An opening day win after spending five consecutive seasons in the Premier League looked like business as usual for Swansea. After four solid showings, and never finishing below twelfth in the league, they are really struggling this season and are without a win since that opening day win away to Burnley. Leroy Fer, who scored the winner on that day, remains in reasonable form and has chipped in with four goals this season, but a leaky inconsistent defence has cost them dearly.

They now sit second bottom of the table with five points from their opening eight matches, and a drastic improvement is needed. After selling top scorer Wilfried Bony two seasons ago to Manchester City, again they sold their top scorer last season (Andre Ayew) this time to West Ham United.

They are still showing signs of a recovery and a 0-0 draw at the weekend at home to Watford may have instilled some confidence into that shaky defence. They have pushed Arsenal (going down 3-2), Liverpool (losing 2-1) and Manchester City (3-1) hard this season, but ultimately, still cannot find the winning formula.

With Manchester United, Everton, Crystal Palace and Tottenham all looming on the horizon, they wont have much time to find their form and after that run of games they may become adrift at the bottom of the table, alongside Sunderland of course.

Sunderland, still without a win after nine matches showed some signs of improvement at the weekend and looked like picking up a point against a West Ham side that have struggled in recent weeks. However, switching off in the 93rd minute is never a good idea and Winston Reid took advantage to score his first goal of the season and give West Ham a much need three points. With Middlesbrough and Stoke both picking up points, Sunderland now find themselves five points off seventeenth place which assures Premier League football next season.

So, although it’s still relatively early in the season, it is looking more and more like it’s going to be a real struggle for both Swansea and Sunderland.

Play European Fantasy Football against your friends and colleagues, sign  up now with Eurofantasyleague.com


Sunderland looking likely to take over Derby County’s long-standing record


At the end of season 2008, Derby County looked back on a dismal performance which had seen them collect the lowest points tally ever in the Premier League. They were relegated in March and by the season end they had managed to amass a shocking eleven points from their 38 matches. Judging by the way they have started their campaign, Sunderland are looking to threaten the record that has stood for eight seasons, and unless they start putting in some decent performances they are well on course.

David Moyes must be scratching his head and wondering what to do next. The ex Everton and Manchester United manager is rumoured to have spent 27 million (not including loan deals for Jason Denayer and Adnan Januzaj) in the close-season on players such as Didier Ndong, Patrick McNair and Papy Djilobodji, they are far from looking like a finished outfit and are still looking for their first Premiership win.

After eight matches, they are rooted to the bottom of the table with just two points to show for their pitiful displays this season and the club who hold the record for least amount of home wins in a season, one, (shared with the aforementioned Derby County) may even go one step further this season. With serious Premier League challengers Arsenal and Liverpool coming up, the matches they have upcoming against West Ham United, Bournemouth and Hull City take on even more significance.

None of their big money close-season signings have managed to score yet and it has left striker Jermaine Defoe with a huge burden. After scoring fifteen goals alst season, the veteran striker still looks to have the knack of finishing a chance and has manged to find the net four times this season in eight matches. As he know approaches his twilight years, they will have to find a solution for this problem position, although they may well have a season or two in the Championship to get this right.

With an ever-growing injury list which has sidelined Jason Denayer, Fabio Borrini and Sebastian Larsson, they face a West Ham United side on Saturday that are themselves struggling this season. A win here for the Black Cats may well kick-start their season and see them going on a run that will lift them up the table. Otherwise, it looks like it’s going to be a long season for the bookmakers new favourites to be relegated.

Play European FAntasy Football against your friends and colleagues, sign  up now with Eurofantasyleague.com

Bottom three earn valuable points in the English Premier League

Euro 2016

The three teams currently occupying the relegation zone in the English Premier League all recovered from a goal down to earn a point from their latest game.

Whereas Sunderland and West Ham staged comebacks to draw 1-1 at home against West Brom and Middlesbrough respectively, Stoke City’s achieved the same accomplishment in their game with Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Swansea surrender home lead

In contrast Swansea City, who sits just one point above the bottom three, lost 2-1 at home to Liverpool after surrendering a one goal lead at the Liberty Stadium.

Whilst Leroy Fer capitalised upon indecision among the Liverpool defence to open the scoring, goals from Roberto Firmino and James Milner, with the 32-year-old midfielder converting a Panenka style like penalty, gave Jurgen Klopp’s side their fourth successive league victory.

In order to achieve that Liverpool displayed great determination and resolve, amidst testing conditions to vividly illustrate their evolution into an excellent side under the guidance of Klopp is continuing to undergo steady progress.

Conversely, Klopp’s Swansea counterpart Francesco Guidolin is experiencing difficulty in his efforts to engineer an improvement in the current form of his team, since of the six games they have played after beating Burnley on the opening day of the season, the Welsh club have drawn one and lost five.

Payet rediscovers magic touch

Subsequently the 2012-2013 League Cup winners are now level on four points with West Ham, after Dimitri Payet scored a wonderful solo goal to salvage a point for Slaven Bilic’s side from their game with Middlesbrough at the Olympic Stadium.

The French internationalist embarked upon a slaloming run to brilliantly drift past several defenders before finishing precisely beyond Victor Valdes.

A palpable wave of relief swept through West Ham’s support following Payet’s goal, which arrived shortly after Middlesbrough had taken an early second half lead courtesy of a header from Christian Stuani.

The 30-year-old is Aitor Karanka’s team’s leading marksman this season, with him previously scoring twice as Middlesbrough recorded a 2-1 win over Sunderland.

Light relief at the Stadium of Light

The Black Cats are currently at the foot of the table, despite earning their second point of the season against a dominant West Brom, with Patrick Van Aanholt scoring a late equaliser, following Nacer Chadli’s first half goal.

Although the result ended a run of three successive defeats for David Moyes’ team, they are still searching for their first win of the season whilst so too are Stoke City.

Stoke secure precious point

Nevertheless given that Joe Allen scored a late equaliser to deny victory to Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, who had taken the lead courtesy of an Anthony Martial goal, Stoke are now unbeaten in two games, since prior to their excellent performance at Old Trafford, they had drawn 1-1 at home to West Brom.

Trio strive to enhance their prospects for the season

Therefore Stoke have now constructed a platform from which they can potentially climb up the English Premier League table, with that ultimately also being an aspiration shared by both Sunderland and West Ham.

Although none of the trio won their latest league game’s they each, earned valuable points, to brighten their respective outlooks for the season.

Nevertheless in the case of Sunderland, they currently have two less points than that amassed after the same number of games by the club’s team who ended the 2005-2006 Premier League season with just 15 points, which is the lowest total in their top flight history.

Subsequently so as to prevent the materialisation of a similarly dismal campaign, Moyes must galvanise his players to embark upon an improved run of form after the international break.

Such a task also faces both Mark Hughes and Bilic at Stoke and West Ham respectively, as the bottom three clubs aspire to ensure they remain competitive in the English Premier League and avoid spending the entire season at embroiled in a battle at the bottom of the division.

Play European Fantasy Football against your friends and colleagues, sign up now with Eurofantasyleague.com

Injury crisis compounds Sunderland’s problems

Euro 2016

When Sunderland set the club’s lowest ever points total for a Premier League season by amassing just 15 during the 2005/2006 campaign, they lost five and drew one of their opening six games.

Furthermore after those games, then managed by Mick McCarthy, Sunderland had a goal difference of minus seven, as they sat at that foot of the table.

That record perfectly mirrors the dismal start to this season which David Moyes’ side have made, as the 53-year-old awaits a maiden league win as manager.

Sunderland short on belief and confidence

Not only has Sunderland’s results been poor under Moyes, but so too have been the majority of their performances, with the team lacking in both belief and confidence, as testified when they lost their last league game 3-2 at home against Crystal Palace after surrendering a 2-0 lead.

A septet of injuries

Whilst the result in itself represented a major disappointment for Sunderland, that was amplified by the injuries which Lee Cattermole, Adnan Januzaj and Steven Pienaar sustained during the game.

Subsequently the trio, along with Victor Anichebe, Fabio Borini, Sebastian Larsson and Vito Mannone, are set to miss their team’s home clash against West Brom, as an injury crisis has developed at Sunderland to compound their current on-field problems.

Plagued by lapses in concentration

In order to rectify those problems Moyes faces an extremely difficult task, particularly given his team’s current defensive fragility, whereby on average they have conceded two goals per league game this season despite goalkeeper Jordan Pickford performing tremendously.  Ahead of the 22-year-old lapses in concentration, such as that made by Papy Djilobodji which enabled Harry Kane to score the only goal as Sunderland lost 1-0 to Tottenham, have cost Moyes’ team dearly.

A similar scenario faced McCarthy in the 2005/2006 season as the now Ipswich Town manager oversaw a disastrous Premier League campaign, for all but four weeks of which Sunderland were at the bottom of the table.  With five games of the season remaining, the relegation of McCarthy’s team to the Championship was confirmed, as of their 38 league games they lost 29 and won just three.

One of those wins was a 2-0 success against their local rivals Middlesbrough, as Sunderland earned their first league victory of the season at the seventh attempt, with that being a feat which Moyes will endeavour to inspire his players to achieve at home against West Brom.

Defoe vital to Sunderland’s prospects

The last game between the two teams at the Stadium of Light ended goalless in April, as despite having eight efforts on goal, Jermain Defoe was frustrated in his best efforts to score.

Nevertheless the 35-year-old striker has scored four of Sunderland’s five league goals this season, including two clinical finishes against Crystal Palace, to become the joint ninth all-time leading scorer in the history of the Premier League alongside Teddy Sheringham with 147 goals.

Therefore in defiance of his team’s current troubles, Defoe has continued to exercise his wonderful finishing ability, to vividly portray that he will be vital to Sunderland’s prospects of recovering from their disappointing start to the season.

Januzaj’s injury a major blow

Another player who could potentially help Sunderland achieve that is the mercurially talented Januzaj, although the 21-year-old Belgian internationalist is forecast to be out of action for six weeks due to damaging ligaments in his ankle against Crystal Palace.

Given his ability to create the type of goal-scoring opportunities upon which Defoe thrives, Januzaj’s absence constitutes another problem with which Moyes must contend, as the former Everton, Preston North End and Manchester United manager aspires to lead Sunderland off the foot of the table.

Moyes faces extremely difficult task

Despite having yet to win a league game this season, Sunderland have enjoyed success in the League Cup, with them progressing to the fourth round by virtue of beating lower league opposition in the form of Shrewsbury and Queens Park Rangers.

Therefore Moyes’ team have proved themselves capable of winning games, although that is a habit which they are yet to develop in the Premier League but require to do so soon, so as to avoid suffering a similar fate to that experienced by McCarthy’s team of 2005/2006.

Whilst the former Republic of Ireland manager did not have his problems to seek that season, neither does Moyes at present.

Play European Fantasy Football against your friends and colleagues, sign up now with Eurofantasyleague.com

Moyes realistic on Sunderland prospects in the transfer market

arsene wenger

New Sunderland manager David Moyes is fully appreciative of the need to exercise realism in his search for new players, according to the BBC.

Moyes aims to strengthen Sunderland squad

Since his appointment on 23 July, Moyes has identified it as being necessary to strengthen his squad, which at the moment consists of just 16 senior members, with Sunderland still to make their first signing of the summer.

That is despite the club being linked with moves for a number of quality players, including Manchester United’s Belgian duo of Adnan Januzaj and Marouane Felliani, both of whom are well known to Moyes.

Whilst Manchester United manager, Moyes gave Januzaj his debut, ironically, against Sunderland in 2013, with the 21-year-old scoring twice as the Red Devils won 2-1.

In terms of Moyes’ relationship with Felliani, that began when the 53-year-old Scot signed the Belgian internationalist during his time managing Everton. That was from Standard Liege for a then club record fee of £15m in September 2008.

Subsequently after spending five years with Everton, Felliani became Moyes’ first signing in his role as Manchester United manager, with the 29-year-old transferring to Old Trafford for £27.5m.

As such Moyes is understood as being interested in signing Felliani for a third time but admits that is unlikely to happen, since he believes Sunderland are not currently in a sufficiently strong position to draw such players to the Stadium of Light.

“I’d love to have a player of Felliani’s level. Realistically however, that is not going to happen,” revealed Moyes, who signed a four-year-contract with Sunderland.

Realism prevails over potential transfer targets

Therefore he is being extremely pragmatic relative to the players he can realistically expect to bring to Sunderland. Nevertheless Moyes is likely to receive significant financial support from the club’s chairman Ellis Short in order to strengthen his squad, which he is actively endeavouring to do.

“We’ve got bids in for players just now. We’re trying to strengthen the squad and I’m hopeful some of them will come off. In this market at the moment, you just never know,” said Moyes. His predecessor Sam Allardyce criticised Sunderland’s player recruitment policy, with Moyes indicating that as being an area in which he can definitely help the club improve.

“It does take a bit of time but we’ll make it work. We’ll get signings in. I am confident because if you look at the transfers we had at Everton, I think we had the best transfer record of any club in the Premier League. I hope to somehow replicate that during my time at Sunderland,” the Daily Mail quoted Moyes as saying.

Progressing towards a first signing

Ultimately however his primary ambition is to secure a first signing as Sunderland manager, which he is currently working towards, with The Sunderland Echo reporting that, in addition to Felliani and Januzaj, Moyes is also pursuing Rubin Kazan midfielder Yann M’Vila and Tottenham full back DeAndre Yedlin who both spent last season on loan with the Black Cats.

Furthermore Moyes is believed as not only wishing to sign a full back of Yedlin’s quality, but also a new centre-half and striker.

As yet the identities of potential targets for those latter two positions remain are still to be revealed but what is clear, is that Moyes faces a race against time to strengthen his squad before Sunderland’s first game of the 2016-2017 season, which is against Manchester City on 13 August.

Sunderland take a big step to Premier League safety after comeback win over Chelsea


Sunderland are dreaming of Premier League survival after pulling off a miraculous comeback against Chelsea on the weekend. The Black Cats went behind twice at the Stadium of Light, courtesy of goals from Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic, but fought back well with goals from Wahbi Khazri, Fabio Borini and Jermain Defoe.

The North-East outfit conceded a second goal in first-half injury time, but Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce urged the players not to let the game slip as they’d worked very hard to be in a position to get a result. His motivational speech clearly worked as the Black Cats turned the game on its head with two goals three minutes after the hour mark, finishing the weekend just one win away from survival.

“We switched off just before half-time and it was about picking the lads up in the dressing room to say let’s not waste what we have done. Let’s get ourselves back in the game because if we continue to show the passion and desire to shut Chelsea down as we did in the first half with a bit more quality, then we will get chances,” Allardyce revealed.

“It was extraordinary and nerve wracking. A wonderful comeback and result, particularly in the circumstances. In the second half we caused Chelsea problems and there was clinical finishing which we have been waiting for for a while. Our destiny is in our hands and a win against a very good side Everton will secure our Premier League future. Hopefully we can achieve it, it will be difficult but we have an opportunity to do it,” he added.

Sunderland are 17th in the Premier League with 35 points from 36 games. They are one point ahead 18th-placed Newcastle United with a game in hand, and four points clear of 19th-place Norwich City. Sam Allardyce’s side are coming off the back of two wins and two draws in their last four games, and have suffered just one league defeat in their last nine.

The Black Cats’ form in 2016 has been outstanding considering their lowly position, picking up points against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Southampton, Arsenal and Chelsea among others, and they’re now favourites to stay in the division. They next face Everton in midweek, where a win would confirm their Premier League status for another season, relegating Newcastle and Norwich in the process.

Their destiny is finally in their own hands, so can Sunderland fight off relegation?

The battle for Premier League survival intensifies

benitez smile

Entering the penultimate weekend of the Premier League Season, the battle to avoid relegation between Newcastle, Norwich and Sunderland is finely poised.

Following Newcastle’s recent resurgence under Rafa Benitez, the Magpies have climbed out of the relegation zone, after collecting 8 points from the last available 12.  That excellent run of form, beginning after a 3-2 defeat away to Norwich, has been inspired by the outstanding play of Andros Townsend and far improved defensive performances, directed by stand-in goalkeeper Karl Durlow.

Ironically since then the Canaries have lost each of their previous three games to slide to 19th place in the table, one below Sunderland who recently defeated Alex Neil’s side 3-0 at Carrow Road.

Subsequently the Black Cats have maintained their survival prospects by earning two creditable draws at home to Arsenal and away to Stoke.

Jermain Defoe’s last minute equaliser at the Brittania Stadium moved Sam Allardyce’s men to within a point of their fiercest rivals Newcastle as the battle for Premier League Survival intensifies.

Although this weekend none of the three sides involved can either secure safety or be relegated, the outcome of the fixtures will go a long way to determining the team who is to continue playing in the top flight next season.  The reward – along with the prestige – of doing so is estimated to be at least £100m.

In the ascendancy to earn that are Newcastle, who travel full of confidence to Villa Park to face already relegated Aston Villa. Victory for the Magpies is vital in their efforts to survive, since they have played a game more than both Norwich and Sunderland, who host Manchester United and Chelsea respectively.

As previously mentioned contrasting to Newcastle’s recent upturn in form, Norwich have lost 3 consecutive games, whilst Sunderland have collected only 5 points from their last available 27.

The Black Cats are well versed in finishing seasons strongly, as they have done in each of the past three seasons, and will require to do so again to retain their Premier League Status.  Ironically following tomorrow’s fixtures their remaining two opponents are the same as those of Norwich – mid-table Everton and Watford.

St James’ Park will be the venue for Newcastle’s final game against runners-up Tottenham, a week on Sunday, when the outcome of the battle for survival will be determined.  Should the Magpies emerge from that triumphant, then Mike Ashley’s decision to replace Steve McClaren with Rafa Benitez at the beginning of March will undoubtedly prove to be one of his best as Newcastle owner.