The Warm-Up: Newcastle and Rafa are back in the Premier League
Plus Jeff Stelling wields his power, and Leo Messi's glaring weaknesses are exposed...
TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Newcastle are back, back, back
Goals from Ayoze Perez, Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu secured the points which confirmed promotion, and while they will in all likelihood ‘only’ finish second behind Brighton, the relief around St James’s Park that they had just got the job done was palpable. We are only left to ponder where it would rank in the lists of great footballing bottle-jobs had they managed to make a mess of this.
Rafa Benitez, as you might imagine, did not do cartwheels after the final whistle. The man who offered Jamie Carragher tactical advice in the moments after the 2005 Champions League final was quickly looking to next season, and tipped a wink to his employer that made clear he’s the man wearing the trousers in this relationship.
“Now is the time to enjoy what we have done,” he said. “But then I must make sure we do the right things. We have to prepare everything to be strong enough for the Premier League.” When asked if he will definitely still be in charge next season, Benitez grinned and said “You never know.”
Does Antonio Conte know who he’s managing?
Interesting words from Antonio Conte this week, ahead of their game against Southampton. The Italian is rightly proud of the work he’s done at Chelsea, but you can’t help thinking he’s swinging at the wrong targets when he had a little pop at some of their ostensible rivals for spending money.
" I think, this season, it’s very important to understand it’s not always about who spends the most money. In this league, this season, the name of the team wasn’t Chelsea or Tottenham or Arsenal or Liverpool. You understand? This season isn’t the only season the Manchester clubs have spent a lot of money. It’s normal."
Hmmmmmmmmm, Antonio. Hmmmmmmm.
The power of Jeff Stelling
Sky Sports presenter and rememberer of obscure statistics Jeff Stelling is, he may or may not have pointed out down the years, a Hartlepool fan. You wouldn’t guess it to watch Soccer Saturday, but the man does occasionally mention his team, who are currently floundering around the grim end of League Two.
The very grim end, in fact, a run of no wins in the last seven taking them into the relegation zone, and on Saturday Stelling used his pulpit to demand the resignation of manager Dave Jones, and if that didn’t happen he asked the club – where, incidentally, he’s president – to sack him.
Jones, perhaps understandably, wasn’t best pleased with the whole thing. “It’s OK Jeff Stelling saying it in his comfy chair,” he said. “He doesn’t know. He’s such a big hero, but I’ll go up against him. Does he say it about anyone else? (Arsene) Wenger? It’s not his job, his job is to report. He hasn’t phoned me – a few weeks ago he’s sat in my office crowing about us going five games without losing, how we’ve changed it around. What’s changed? I haven’t changed or has he forgotten that? I’m fighting for my life, how about a bit of support Jeff, rather than the rubbish you are giving out?”
But what Jeff wants, Jeff gets, because on Monday the club agreed that Stelling had a point, and binned Jones with just two games of the season remaining. Still, it seems Jones didn’t go into the job with the greatest attitude in the world…
IN OTHER NEWS
Liverpool forget their kit
Liverpool’s men’s team didn’t have the best weekend, losing as they did to Crystal Palace, but their ladies’ side suffered a snafu of their own, after they showed up for a Women’s Super League game at Yeovil without their kit.
An error and no mistake. They had to instead play in Yeovil’s away strip, but it didn’t seem to do them much harm – they still won 4-1.
This breakdown of how Messi has scored his 500 goals (500! Pah! Romario scored that many just with toe-punts!) displays some glaring weaknesses in the Messi technique.
Only 74 goals with his right foot? How embarrassing that a professional footballer is so one-footed. And only 22 headers? He could really do with getting John Fashanu in to train him on how to really dominate in the air. ‘Other’ with two? Who is this guy trying to kid. So, in summary, this very much looks like a player who hasn’t fulfilled his potential…
Souness plants his flag
Graeme Souness was never one to think there’s such a thing as ‘enough’ aggro, so when his Galatasaray side beat Fenerbahce in the 1996 Turkish Cup final, at their rivals’ ground, he planted a flag in the centre circle. As you do, if you want to get out of somewhere alive. Here’s a quick documentary on the subject.
"It was Friday, February 27, 2015. In the bars and cafes flanking the historic Vieux Port, Marseille fans sipping their morning coffee learned of their club’s interest in Caen midfielder N’Golo Kante in local paper La Provence. As fate would have it, Kante was to play against Marseille at their Stade Velodrome that very evening. It was the perfect chance for his prospective future employers, and their army of fans, to size him up. The Marseille midfield boasted the talents of Dimitri Payet, Andre Ayew and Giannelli Imbula. The 24-year-old Kante wiped the floor with them. "
Just the one game to concentrate on this evening, but it could be a doozy, as Chelsea take another step on their relentless march to the title…or could they actually slip up and allow Tottenham another sniff? Who’s to know? Tune in.
Wednesday’s Warm-Up will be brought to you by Jack Lang – he’ll know if you’ve read every word and will be issuing a test on it. So look sharp.