WSOTP pod: our first threesome

WSOTP - Blog - Season 3 Episode 22.fw

Caught you’re attention with that title, didn’t we? Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone, so long as you listen in to our first ever three-person #Pondcast. So who was our lucky third? D.J. and Jeremy welcomed in their former Cincinnati Saints intern, current editor of Ohio University’s Post Sports, and Norwich City supporter Charlie Hatch (@charliehatch_) to join them for a look back at the weekend Premier League action. We were even so hospitable as to letting him join in on the action of weekly segments of Fantasy Update, League 2 Watch and Winners & Wankers — like a proper threesome, everyone’s involved in everything.

Want to get in on the fun yourself? Suggesting a topic or question for the guys to tackle is as easy as hitting us up on social media or sending an email to And be sure to subscribe using the links below to automatically receive new episodes every Tuesday.

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WSOTP pod: celebrating a century with chris rolfe

WSOTP - Blog - Season 3 Episode 16.fw

Two and a half years ago — despite nothing more to go than an occasional Twitter interaction and a fleeting encounter watching Wigan play at a podunk little high school — two guys that barely knew each other started a soccer podcast. Now into their third season and 100 episodes later, they’re somehow still making it happen.

To celebrate our 100th episode, D.J. and Jeremy welcome on longtime friend of the blog, Dayton native and DC United frontman Chris Rolfe to reflect on the 2015 season, talk Eastern Conference finalists Columbus and New York, and his famous hair/headband. The guys also did their normal Premier League rounds — including Leicester City and Jamie Vardy’s rise to the top, Chelsea remembering how to win and Spurs hot run of form. Too, D.J. recounts his freezing but pleasing trip to Columbus for the Crew-Red Bulls first leg, and your League 2 Watch and Winners & Wankers weekly segments are in there, too.

And as always, if you have questions, topics or suggestions you want us to tackle on the 101st episode, give us a shout on social media or drop us a line to And do us a favor and subscribe — and maybe even a review/rating? — on iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS using the links below.

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the men in line to be the next in line

Angry Spurs Manager Tim Sherwood

he might not like it, but sherwood will (hopefully) be replaced as spurs manager this summer… but by who?

With the Premier League season all but complete — our relegation sides now identified and the Champions League clubs now set, only some relatively meaningless shuffling of table places and the naming of a champion yet remain —  many supporters’ thoughts have drifted on to question and speculate on their clubs’ summer dealings.

How will they look to strengthen for the new season ahead?

The comings and goings of both the playing and managerial staff tend to be the primary focus of those musings, and things are no different in the N17. And with disappointing season for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club playing the role of precursor to what is likely to be another summer of upheaval at White Hart Lane, changes are certainly coming.

But with a £100 million-worth of player moves dominating Spurs’ movements in the last summer window, it’s a safe bet that the most prominent move the club will make this summer will be on the management front.

Of course in order to do that, Spurs will first need to ax current interim manager, Tim Sherwood.

But as has been long speculated — pretty much since the day of his midseason appointment — Sherwood’s days are most definitely numbered. While that’s never been outright said by Levy or the club, the writing has pretty much always been on the wall. Sherwood was never going to be anything more than a makeweight as Spurs waited for a deeper managerial pool to open up in the summer. At least that’s what I’m hoping. Because no club that truly harbors Champions League expectations should ever appoint their youth team coach with no first team management experience as the boss… right?

Anyway, speculation about Sherwood’s eventual dismissal has really amped up over the last few days, and it got me wondering: who would Spurs bring in to replace Tim?

So in an effort to calm my nervous fears that the club is imploding, I figured it might be worth a look at the current candidates being mooted as favorites for the job.  Continue reading

crisis management

Chelsea Fans Want Rafa Out

if you’ve only been in the job for a few days, and fans are already holding up signs like these… you might just find yourself in a managerial crisis.

The midpoint of the European season is often one of the most jam-packed, chaotic and turbulent portions of the yearly footballing calendar. Between the January transfer window, scheduling congestion between all of the major competitions — especially in England where there is not a winter break — and under performing clubs starting to realize that there’s hardly any time to left in the season to really turn their seasons around, the pressure mounting on some clubs and their managers often reaches a fever pitch.

Of course, the media love this time of year for just those reasons. It allows them the ability to not only fabricate report on stories concerning transfer speculation, but also pounce all over clubs who’s managers they feel aren’t able to control the crisis currently enveloping their clubs. Determining whether the agendas those media types are pushing are genuinely those of club’s or their fans’, however, can be a very difficult task. How are we, as media consumers, supposed to really know what’s going on?

Well, we can’t. But it sure can be fun to speculate. So with that in mind, below are listed five managers that the media have deemed to be currently in the hot seat at their respective clubs. For each, we’ll attempt to sift through all of the BS surrounding their situations, and predict a fate for each of these under pressure managers.

Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)

Arsenal's Arsene Wenger

wenger certainly won’t ever admit he’s feeling the pressure, but i think we can all tell he is.

The Situation: Of all the managers that the media are reporting to be in troubled situations at their clubs, as a Spurs supporter, Wenger’s crisis is the one in which I take the most joy. And though the “Professor” has been able to perform admirably on his shoestring transfer budget over the last few years, eight years without a major trophy appears to have rubbed the Gunners’ faithful the wrong way. Sure, sporadic calls for his head echoed around the Emirates in recent seasons, but those calls have grown louder and louder as time has worn on. With just one win in their last four, the discontent within their ranks finally boiled over in last weekend’s loss to Swansea with chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing!” audible even through the television. Wenger’s response? Despite languishing all the way down in 10th in the league table: “This club is in fantastic shape.” Delusional, much?

Crisis Level: 4 out of 10

Predicted Outcome: Despite the malcontent amongst their fans, Arsenal will at least stick with Wenger through the end of the year. Probably longer. Because while the fans are in an uproar, the club’s administration are perfectly content to keep selling off their best players and turning a profit… with or without trophies.

Carlo Ancelotti (Paris Saint-Germain)

“wait, you say that i am the one under pressure?”

The Situation: Despite outspending everyone in France by a country mile over the last few seasons, PSG and Ancelotti currently find themselves sitting second in the Ligue 1 table and facing mounting pressure. Big money signing and footballing anti-hero Zlatan Imbrahimović has come good for the Parisians, but the fact that he accounts for an astounding 54% of their goal tally in the league is immensely troubling for a side that also boasts attacking talents like Ezequiel Lavezzi, Maxwell and Javier Pastore. But as you might predict, Carlo has barely arched his super brow at the issue. “Things are going to change, because they’re not normal right now. The league isn’t finished. We’ll be competitive soon.”

Crisis Level: 5 out of 10

Predicted Outcome: With an ownership group that’s proven quick to pull the trigger on firing a coach (just ask Antoine Kombouaré), and oodles of money to attract a top manager, Ancelotti shouldn’t feel that comfortable at the moment. If results remain stagnant, expect PSG to make a change.

Martin O’Neill (Sunderland)

Sunderland's Martin O'Neill

considering his sunderland side’s current form, martin is justified in having that nervous look on his face

The Situation: For a man known for getting the most out of clubs without a lot of financial backing, O’Neill hasn’t been able to reproduce his successes at Leicester City, Celtic and Aston Villa at the Stadium of Light. And with one less win in his first 24 matches in charge than his predecessor Steve Bruce had in the same span, not to mention the Black Cats currently sitting in the relegation zone, pressure must surely be mounting for the club to dispatch Northern Irishman. With just one win in their last 10 outings, time could be running out for O’Neill to save his hide. And a general rule of thumb is that any time you have to refute rumors of your own resignation, things aren’t going very well for you.

Crisis Level: 8 out of 10

Predicted Outcome: Sunderland’s ownership find themselves in a precarious situation: while O’Neill isn’t producing the desired results, who exactly are they going to replace him with? There aren’t exactly a number of managers in the market that have experience in rescuing clubs embroiled in relegation scraps. Mark Hughes is available, but he seems more apt to placing clubs in relegation battles than he is at getting clubs out of them. I’d doubt they would fancy another round of Roy Keane. And unfortunately, Roberto Di Matteo seems out of their reach. So with options limited, it seems Sunderland might just be stuck with O’Neill for the time being.

José Mourinho (Real Madrid)

Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho

is mourinho feeling madrid burnout?

The Situation: The Bernabéu is a tough office environment, even for a manager known for his mental fortitude like the Special One. Not only are Real Madrid’s fans fickle and demanding, but the club’s history tells us their board and presidents are too. If you thought sacking managers after winning the Champions League was something invented by Roman Abramovich, Real were at it a decade before the revolving door was installed at Stamford Bridge. And with José’s men already 11 points adrift of bitter rivals Barcelona, pressure is mounting on the Portuguese manager’s shoulders.

Crisis Level: 4 out of 10

Predicted Outcome: While winning the league and maintaining pace with their Catalunyan foes is important, the reason why Mourinho was brought it was to help Madrid win their long-sought 10th European crown. And while doing so would most certainly save his job, the odd thing is that he’s likely to leave even if he does win his third European Cup… on his own accord. Just as he did at Porto and Inter, José would probably fancy going out on top. But should he not achieve that goal, he’ll probably abort this project and move on to another, too.

Rafa Benítez (Chelsea)

Chelsea's Rafa Benitez

one look at rafa’s face, and you can tell he knows his days at chelsea are numbered.

The Situation: I saw a quote the other day describing the managerial situation at Chelsea that was pretty interesting. Five managers have won the Champions League in the last six years: Chelsea have fired three of them (Mourinho, Ancelotti and Di Matteo), and the other two (Ferguson and Guardiola) don’t want to manager for them. Benítez, a man who’s won one himself, had to have known that going in, right? And he also had to have known that the Chelsea fans hated him. And with this expensively assembled Chelsea side struggling to handle the high expectations being placed on them, Rafa had to have known the timing was bad, too. I get that a man may like a challenge, but at the same time, taking over the reigns at this point in Chelsea’s chaotic history seemed more like a suicide mission.

Crisis Level: 7 out of 10

Predicted Outcome: This one is the easiest outcome to predict by a landslide. Abramovich will fire Benítez. When that will happen is little less easy to predict, but knowing how fickle and trigger happy their Russian oligarch is, another loss for the Blues could just do the trick. But let’s be clear… it is going to happen. Just give it time.

ten words or less #58

US National Team Celebrating at Azteca

two things i learned today: 1) the USMNT can win in the azteca, 2) jermaine jones likes to celebrate like a boss with his oxygen tank.

Though I’m admittedly still on a bit of an adrenaline high just over two hours after the United States’ “historic” win in the Azteca — I won’t elaborate further on it, as tonight’s win has spawned another full-length post where I’ll delve into the topic in greater detail. But it still feels good to beat Mexico, even if it was just a friendly.

So, as is typically the case, I’ve got a TWOL to bridge the gap. And it’s a good thing, as there’s a load to talk about. I’d be positively giddy for the start of the Premier League season, were it not for Spurs recurring ineptitude with transfer dealings. Ligue 1 is back in action already, where Ibrahimović netted a brace to save PSG’s rich asses in a come from behind draw with Lorient. One of Chris Rolfe’s two goals against the Union at the weekend is an MLS Goal of the Week candidates (vote for him in the first link below, okthx). And in Italy, there’s more match fixing… though I suppose that’s almost to be expected at this point. Anyway, the on with the links…

For real though, vote for Rolfe’s goal. –

Levy waits this long for only “£26m plus add-ons”?!?! –

Miniboro provided a smart “faux campaign” for Tailored by Umbro. –

MLS is one step closer to their dream of NY2. –

The Fat Spanish Waiter analyzes the rise of English tiki-taka. –

The things pro athletes throw their money away on… –

His ego knowing no bounds, Eric Wynalda interviews… himself. –

Maksim Molokoedov: Chile’s first professional Russian player AND prisoner.

As an aspiring journalist, this would be a freaking dream. –

Pia has some leverage, and she intends to use it. –

not gonna happen

Forget this writing gig… I’m going to become a bookie. Because if I’m really ever going to make some money out of my life long love affair with soccer, that’s clearly the best avenue.

Mourinho Caught Back in London

turns out having this guy pop up back in london will cause quite a stir. and just in case, i’m NOT talking about the dude on the right.

In order to get paid to play, I’d have to be good (I’m not). In order to manage, I should probably have first been a player (Ditto). I could be an agent or an administrator, but only if I knew the right people (I don’t know enough of them). Or I could always referee, if only I was a bit mental (I’m not that mental). And there’s a million writers out there, so I’m currently a dime a dozen (Sigh). So that narrows my options to just sports betting and organized crime… which are more or less the same industry, anyway.

For instance, take a look at the current betting odds on who will be the permanent manager at Chelsea Football Club at the start of next season, when Roberto “The Players Hate Me More Than AVB” Di Mateo’s stint as caretaker is currently scheduled to end. At the time of writing, the favorites are as follows:

Rank Manager Odds
1 José Mourinho 13/8
2 Fabio Capello 11/4
3 Pep Guardiola 4/1
4 Rafael Benítez 5/1
5 Roberto Di Mateo 10/1

So what about those numbers has me contemplating a career switch? Oh I don’t know… probably because there’s not a chance in hell that the man currently sporting the best odds will actually end up taking the Chelsea job. I think anyone putting their hard-earned money on Mourinho is simply giving it away to someone… why shouldn’t they be giving that money to me?!?!

Now after reading such a bold claim, I can understand if you’re questioning my confidence about the matter, what with so much time before the position will be filled and so many possible indicators already seeming to hint as much. I mean, he made no secret of his recent house hunting trip to London. Many fans will be quick to place a quid or two on Mourinho taking the job for just that reason, like they’ve forgotten that there will potentially be two other high-profile job openings in the same city this summer.

Either way, trust me when I say it’s not gonna happen. And it won’t happen for two very important reasons: what’s happened in the past, and what has to happen in the future.

Study the past, if you would divine the future.
Before we can even truly consider the Special One returning to Stamford Bridge, we have to look at why he left to begin with. It’s very important to remember that prior to leaving, José was literally a Messiah at Chelsea. He led the Blues to Premier League titles in each of his first two seasons with the club — their first in 50 years — and a club-first FA and League Cup double the following season. And while his departure seemed sudden and abrupt in September 2007, the seeds of discontent for the Portuguese manager were actually being sowed as early as 2006.

shevchenko and mourinho at chelsea

mourinho was never a fan of shevchenko, and yet roman insisted that he stay in the squad.

The first major sign of any trouble brewing between the Russian and Portuguese came with the 2006 summer signings of Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack. Neither fit the mold of a typical Mourinho signing — both were proven/veteran superstars instead of up-and-coming youngsters or relative unknowns — and many rightly wondered whether they were more of Roman’s signings than José’s. Shevchenko in particular had long been admired by Abramovich, and when his €30m signing effectively ate up all of Mourinho’s transfer budget for the summer, he was bound to be displeased.

Of course, the media were quick to jump all over the emerging rift, labeling these so-called “Abrambovich signings” as the proof that the Chelsea manager was being undermined by his owner. And while neither player ever lived up to their star billings, Shevchenko’s inability to adjust to life in West London was particularly glaring. Yet despite the Ukrainian’s obviously poor form, Roman continued to pressure his manager to play his pricey signing… something that did not sit well at all with Mourinho.

But even as these troubles were brewing in the background, José was able to rally his troops and produce successes. Disciplined counterattacking and a vice-like defense were the key tenets of the Mourinho’s ability to produce trophies, but by late 2006 it became quietly known that Roman was not pleased with such “unattractive” methods. The Russian oligarch desired free-flowing, attacking football out of his side. He wanted Chelsea to be the Barcelona of London, yet the complete opposite was on display week in and week out with Mourinho at the helm.

So when Roman appointed Avram Grant as a Director of Football — a position normally responsible for overseeing player transfers — at the beginning of the 2007/2008 campaign, the not-so-private lack of backing was finally enough to push the Special One to the breaking point. After a string of disappointing results and a series of crisis meetings between Mourinho, Abramovich and the rest of the board, it was clear that there was no reconciling and the Special One walked away.

Saying that “bridges were burned” between Mourinho and Abramovich would be a gross understatement. It was more like the bridge had been bombed by Allied troops in World War II: if you hadn’t known there was a bridge there before, you would never know one had been there at all.

And though there’s been talk that some reconciling has taken place since, you have to wonder how much José trust his former employer anymore. If he were to come back to Chelsea, would the boss man be able to guarantee Mourinho the total (and I mean total) autonomy to run the club as he sees fit? Judging by the latest rumors indicating that Mou would be willing to return only if that autonomy is promised — along with absurd wages and that the guarantee that Ronaldo would be purchased too — shows that the Russian will have to put his money where his mouth is if he wants to convince him to go against his gut instinct.

To be honest, aside from the ridiculous wage demands, I don’t think Roman can promise Mourinho any of those things.

The future ain’t what it used to be.
Let us imagine for a minute a strange world where Roman Abramovich would actually be willing to give Mourinho all of the control his heart desires, and that Mourinho accepts said offer and returns to Chelsea. What tasks await him before he can right the ship? To answer that question, you have to first look at the current state of affairs at Stamford Bridge.

drogba, terry and lampard at chelsea

would mourinho even want to break up the “old boys club” that he help put together?

The anchor that’s been dragging the Blues down this season hasn’t necessarily been the manager — though AVB’s tactical and personnel choices weren’t always the wisest for the squad that he’s had — but rather an aging core of players that have an unusually large amount of influence at the club. Terry, Cole, Drogba and most notably Lampard were all reportedly at fault for undermining Villas-Boas both in the locker room and the board room. Yet aside from perhaps Lampard, none have performed well enough this season to justify such importance and sway.

When André Villas-Boas was brought in this summer, his first action should have been to break up the veteran-core. One thing that would allow him to do is implement his new playing system without the friction of the older players who are used to the old style of play. Secondly, breaking up that group would also lessen the odds of anyone challenging his authority.

Lampard and Drogba could have easily been shipped out for decent money, despite their lofty ages. Ashley Cole could have been put on a tighter, don’t-shoot-the-staff leash. And don’t get me started on how John Terry’s toxic ego is poisoning the drinking well. But due to drawn out nature of his appointment, AVB didn’t have enough time to flip them for new players before the start of the season… so he was stuck with them.

Unfortunately, this core group of influential players still remain very close to Mourinho. After all, he was the one that assembled and guided them to prominence. That they all admitted to regularly communicating with their old boss this season underlines how close they are to the guy still.

How is Mourinho possibly supposed to come back and tell them — the guys he’s still friends with — that he’s going to have to give them the boot?

Sure, he’s got a steely personality and doesn’t take smack from anyone. But would you have the cojones to tell a friend, who you’ve been propping up and reassuring all season through text messages, “Sorry guy, you actually do suck and need to move on”? I don’t think I could.

Even if Mourinho could push some of the old guard out, he still won’t be out of the woods. The Chelsea Mourinho would inherit now is not the up and coming squad that he took over in 2004, but rather a fading one with its best years behind it. There’s still a good deal of rebuilding left to do at the club, and he’ll need not only financial backing to bring in fresh faces, but he’ll also need time adjust them to the Mourinho code.

And time, if you recall, is exactly what Villas-Boas was reportedly assured of when he was charged with the project of overhauling the squad. We saw how well that worked out for the young manager. There’s no way a man as smart as the Special One could have overlooked that as anything but the same type of broken promises he’s seen before, right?


Think about it like this: to José Mourinho, this Chelsea job is like a hot ex-girlfriend. Despite all of the feelings of nostalgia, the familiarity, and the everyone will totally understand why you hooked back up with her… because she’s hot. But everyone also knows that you really shouldn’t be hooking up with her either, since she’s got a crazy dad that says he likes you one day, but the next day he’s got a shotgun to you pushing you out the front door.

Long story short, I just don’t think there’s anyway that an ambitious Mourinho will take this Chelsea job. There’s too much history there, and deep down he knows he won’t get the control that he wants. Unless Abramovich promises he’ll stay far away in Russia and not pay attention to team affairs, a Mourinho-Chelsea reunion feels very unlikely.

Besides, there are potentially other jobs in London that he would be a much better fit for…

the right man for the job

Landing a management position in big-time, professional football has to be such a bipolar experience.

before we hang hodgson up on the cross, consider that it might not be all of his fault.

On one hand, I would have to imagine you would probably be ecstatic to have landed a high profile job. The prestige, the perks, the chance to compete with and against the best of the best, knowing that you’ve reached the pinnacle of your profession… all of the things that make you want to go out and celebrate over a few pints.

On the other hand, landing a high profile manager’s position must also be incredibly nerve wracking. The pressure, the weight of expectations of the directors/players/fans, knowing that you have a gun pointed at the back of your head from the minute you sign your contract… all of the things that make you want to go and drown your sorrows in a pint or ten.

For most, the latter is often enough for us to rule ourselves out of contention for such a line of work… as if any of us are really that qualified. Of course, that doesn’t keep any of us fans, pundits and so called experts from crucifying those who do have that ambition and turning up our noses from our lofty positions as armchair managers.

However, there is a small subset of the general populace that not only enjoys the great parts about becoming a manager, but also thrives on the negatives that scare the rest of us off. Without that pressure, the job wouldn’t even be fun for them. Unfortunately, most of the current men employed in these top positions the world over aren’t in this category. many of them are impostors, feigning fearlessness to land their “dream job,” only to quickly find themselves in over their heads.

carlo deserves a cigarette... even top managers struggle from time to time.

For every José Mourinho — ever cool as a cucumber despite taking on the most demanding jobs on the planet — there are ten Phil Browns, liable to bite your arm off because they’ve gone mad from the grind. And thus we have part of our explanation for the continuous carousel of management hirings and firings that are common place in the sport… each club desperately searching for their own Sir Alex, del Bosque or Bruce Arena (kidding).

What can even be more frustrating though is even if you land one of those special managers, he just might not be the right fit. Whether it be he doesn’t mesh well with the players, doesn’t get along with the director. Think of Juande Ramos at Tottenham, Manuel Pellegrini at Real Madrid or Rafa Benítez at Inter Milan… sometimes it just doesn’t click.

Then again, some of the above may have been the impostors I mentioned previously. Some of them may have finally succumbed to the pressure cooker and gone bananas (the Fat Spanish Waiter in particular). Maybe some were better cut out for serving mid-table sides, as was the case with Ramos and Pellegrini (Ramos with Sevilla, especially). It’s almost always a shot in the dark; a hope and a prayer.

So as we all patiently wait for the January axes to fall on the likes of Liverpool’s Roy Hodgson (a mid-table guy), Aston Villa’s Gerard Houllier (he’s French), Avram Grant (an imposter), and — shockingly — Carlo Ancelotti (a top tier manager, though his players are certainly to blame)… remember that it’s not always their fault.

Finding the right man for the job is likely just as easy as finding a needle in a very expensive haystack.

ten words or less #11

an overly liverpool and rooney filled post for you this saturday. i would type more, but i’m busy watching this stunning west ham-arsenal match. can someone please explain to me how robert green hasn’t fudged one of his amazing saves yet?

the only person not lauging at this? rafa benitez. –

this was NEVER going to happen. –

your club is broke if you bumb rides from rockstars. –

define “jumping the gun.” –

ronaldo. <looks down, shakes head.> –

bad idea: suing your employers. –

video evidence of an ass kicking. –

it hurts worse when it’s from mum. – i don’t remember where this came from

“what i want” and “what will” are rarely the same

as the saying goes, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

i hate that saying; it makes absolutely no sense to me. who has ever had some cake and not eaten it? certainly not my soon to be wife. she loves cake. she even eats cake that other people have.

and though i hate the saying, i suppose i understand what it actually means: while you can want everything, you shouldn’t expect to get it all. why do people use this silly saying when they can just say what they actually mean?!

madrid's champions league failure is likely a bad omen for current manager manuel pellegrini.

but to use the stupid anaology anyway, as a real madrid fan i’m constantly used to having my cake and eating it too. in fact, madrid is just like my fiancée… they eat everyone’s cake. the cake being superstars, of course.

the only cake the merengues haven’t been eating as of late (and by “as of late” i mean “the last six years”) is the champions league flavored kind. i touched on why we’re not getting our dessert in a post from last week. and like any spoiled brat who doesn’t get their cake, real’s fans and management are likely pitching a fit about it in the privacy of their homes, boardrooms and newspapers.

and though i consider myself a madrid fan, i’m trying my best to quell the feeling in the pit of my stomach that is telling me to panic. like i said in my earlier post, i think that madrid’s new galácticos need to build on the success they’ve had so far and carry that into next season. i never expected them to pull the rabit out of the hat and win the champions league this year: teams just don’t gel that fast.

i also emphatically requested that real’s head honchos hang on to manuel pelligrini for next season, too. i think the chilean manager is a very qualified coach, and that his team strategy and tactics need time to sink in and become habit for the playing staff. my belief is that he can push this team to greatness in the coming seasons, if given the opportunity to remain at the helm.

but the “shock” defeat by lyon in the champions league, eliminating the chance for los blancos to win europe’s most coveted prize in their home stadium this season, is probably the last nail in the coffin for real’s management. i would be shocked if he wasn’t sacked after the season, even if they can wrestle the la liga title away from barcelona this season. the directors and board are just not getting to eat the cake they want so bad.

so with pelligrini seemingly heading out the door, that means the vacant hot seat will need to be filled quickly. but the question remains, who is going to fill it?

just as real madrid like to fill their match day squad sheet with big-time names, they also like to have a big time name picking the names on the sheet. and while it’s never beyond real to throw piles of money at club to get the big name they want (ahem… villareal for pelligrini), they might not have to do that this time around.

two of the biggest names in the world of football managers appear to have one foot out the door at their current clubs. and while i would definitely want one of them to take over the reigns at madrid, what will likely happen is the other result which i really really don’t want.

what i want
i can answer this with three short words: the special one.

if pelligrini does fall victim to real’s oft-used managerial axe, the manager i want more than any other is the enigmatic josé mourinho. and the former chelsea and current inter milan manager looks like he is lining up an exit from the san siro this summer, perfect timing for real to swoop in.

the special one seems like the best choice for the job. i doubt real's fans and management would agree with me though.

the indicator of mourinho’s exit from inter is imminent comes from the portuguese manager himself, stating multiple times that he desires to coach in spain and england again at some point in his career. and sooner rather than later. the special one has also said he doesn’t really fancy the italian game. i don’t blame him: those guido’s spend at least half as much time on the ground as drogba does… so about half a typical game.

even inter seem to be pushing him out the door, as reports indicate they’ll axe him themselves if he can’t produce the champions league trophy they brought him in for.

so why do i want mourinho in the spanish capital so bad? the first reason: track record.

josé has an impeccable record with the teams managed. i tweeted an amazing stat a few weeks ago before inter’s first champions league tie against chelsea: he hasn’t lost a home fixture, in any competition, since 2002. that run of unbeaten home matches includes his entire time at inter, his entire time at chelsea, and stretches all the way back pto his days at porto. during that span, mourinho also filled up quite the trophy case:

  • porto: 2 league titles, one protuguese cup, a protuguese supercup, a uefa cup and a champions league trophy (6 total)
  • chelsea: 2 premier league titles, one f.a. cup, two league cups and a charity shield (6)
  • inter: one serie a title (with another likely this season), and an italian supercup (2)

in addition to his winning pedigree, the other aspect that mourinho brings to the table to make him so appealing to me is his ability to effectively handle big name players. chelsea dumped millions into big name after big name, but the special one was still able to mold them into a successful and competitive side. madrid obviously have this problem, and it’s one i feel he is more adept to handle than any other manager out there (aside from perhaps sir alex and vicente del bosque).

while tottenham gaffer ‘arry redknapp agrees with me that real will be mourinho’s next stop, there’s a good chance i may find myself in the minority as far as real supporters are concerned. the madrista management and fans desire free-flowing, artistic, attacking football. this desire is so strong that it can even be partially blamed for capello being fired twice at real, despite providing league trophies both seasons he was there.

attacking oriented football is not something that josé brings to the table. instead, mourinho is like a grand master in chess: tactics and sound defense are his primary weapons, and he’s damn good with them. his teams, primarily during his time at chelsea, were labeled as efficiently dull. through mourinho’s scientific approach to the game, they grind out results instead of piling on goals.

this is one of the reasons why i fear he won’t be picked as pelligrini’s potential successor. the fans and president will reject him on principal alone.

that and the fact that mourinho seems to have wet dreams about england on a regular basis. i honeslty think that if mourinho does leave inter this summer, he’ll most likely land at liverpool when they inevitably let the fat spanish waiter go this summer.

my only possible saving grace is that i firmly believe that the special one has his heart set on returning to england for one job, and one job alone: manchester united. when (and if) sir alex ever retires, mourinho seems like the only logical choice to replace old red nose. and i’m sure that mourinho is fully aware of that.

what will
ultimately, i don’t think mourinho is going to land in madrid, despite the fact that he’s the one person who can right their ship. and unfortunately, that leaves only one “logical” option for madrid.

the fat spanish waiter himself, rafa benítez.

the fat spanish waiter knows his time is almost up at liverpool, and he'll have options once he leaves.

rafa has been teetering on the edge of being sacked just about all season, after his side has drastically underperformed for a majority of the campaign. as i’ve said multiple times, even if the reds somehow stumble into a champions league spot (please no, please no, please no… come on you spurs!), i think benítez will still be on his way out.

the only thing keeping the scousers from giving him the boot so far has been rafa’s move to sign a five year contract extension before the start of this season. the buyout of the rest of his contract would cost the cash-strapped club a whopping amount of money, something their american owners would probably both agree not to part with.

so you’re probably wondering why i don’t want benítez at real at this point, and the answers i’m going to give you are the same reasons why he has failed so miserably this year at anfield.

up until this season, rafa had always claimed that the reason why liverpool couldn’t quite get over the hump was because he didn’t have complete control of the club’s transfer decisions. he argued that to win the premier title that their club so strongly desires, he would need to have all of the power he currently shared with chief executive rick parry, and that he wouldn’t sign a new contract unless his demands were met.

the board eventually caved to rafa’s desires, and parry chose to exit the club before this season started. throw in that he also wanted full control of the youth and reserve teams at liverpool (leading to the departure of their highly successful youth team manager) and this was the beginning of the end for liverpool. having engineered his devilish plans to take complete control of the liverpool footballing reigns, rafa signed his new, long-term deal to ensure his future regardless of performance. this contract might have been the only smart move he made in this entire process.

liverpool have certainly paid for making such an ignorant decision, as benítez’s transfer dealings have been pretty much misses instead of hits. he’s got no one to blame for these gaffs either; they’re all on him this time around.

the engine of last season alonso was sold off, and an injured aquallani brought in despite the fact that they knew he wouldn’t play for nearly half the season. a refusal to sign another quality forward to take the pressure off of torres. selling off your only quality wing back (arbeloa), and only bringing in one quality replacement (johnson) when you actually needed two.

at madrid, he won’t be given this complete control –thank god– and this is something he’ll likely want. nothing like adding a little more drama into the mix, right?

additionally, benítez is notorious for being disliked by his players. they describe him as callous, uninvolved, and uncaring. there have been numerous reports on how he’s divided the locker room at anfield this season in particular. he drove alonso away by trying to use him as a pawn in trying to land gareth barry. we’ve all seen how well he get’s along with riera.

but the most poignant example of rafa’s inability to relate to players comes from one of their best players. in his recent autobiography, fernando torres stated that after his child was born, benítez approached him at the training ground and congratulated him. torres went on to thank him and went on to say how excited he was to be a father. the fat spanish waiter stared back at torres with his head cocked like a confused dog, before explaining that he was congratulating him on the nice game he had the previous weekend. he had no clue that his star striker had just become a dad. clueless.

yet despite all of rafa’s short-falls, he’ll still likely end up in madrid hot seat. because if there’s one thing madrid love as much as signing superstars, it’s signing spanish superstars.

though just like with mourinho, there’s a saving grace for me on this front too. while madrid themselves have been mum when it comes to expressing interest in the fat spanish waiter, juventus certainly haven’t held their tongue.

and regardless of who eventually lands benítez, liverpool will gladly let him go to them, as they will hit a lottery of sorts because whatever club that is will have to buy him out of his contract. it’s like someone will pay them for their problems… win-win for the kop, right?

well, rafa’s potential arrival is potentially a no win for real madrid. his inability to navigate the transfer market should be the largest red flag, though a boundless budget (something that is quite foreign to anyone at liverpool’s helm) at madrid may help to alleviate his shortcomings. but even more worrisome, to me at least. is the fact that rafa can’t people manage well enough at “big time” liverpool. at madrid, he’ll have infinitely larger egos and more of them to boot.


so the question remains: what cake will i be eating come this summer?

one would think that i would be happy with all of the cake madrid have fed me over the last 12 months. i mean, apparently i’m not happy with a cake topped with ronaldo, kaká and alonso, right? but honestly, i’d prefer to keep eating that same cake (let’s hang on to pelligrini). but if i had to choose, i would want a portuguese flavored treat. what will happen is probably a completely different story.

if only things were so simple in madrid.

liverpool = lindsay lohan

I know I’m stating the obvious right now, but Liverpool are a mess.

Top to bottom, the club is pitiful. Nobody is living up to expectations, and nobody is doing their job the way they should. Not the owners, not the board, not the manager, not the players… no one.

liverpool’s current situation is the lindsay on the left. although their fans always start off the season with the hopes that the club will be like the lohan on the right.

And you know what, there’s really only one way to adequately explain Liverpool at the moment: they are the footballing world’s version of Lindsay Lohan. I know this may seem like an incredibly off the mark analogy to come up with, but just try to think about it for a few minutes. The more I think about it, the more sense it starts to make to me.


  • Extremely high expectations: Lindsay was a child star that everyone seemed to think would be able to bridge the gap and become a big adult (not XXX… though, that seems ever more likely) star. She was this cute little girl that could sing and act; straight out of the Disney mold. Millions of fans and critics alike seemed to think that Lohan would some day become a major Hollywood actress. But let’s not forget how most teen stars turn out: train wrecks.

    Like Lohan, Liverpool’s board and fans have lofty expectations for the club each season. Talk to any true Scouser before each season, and they are fully convinced that “this is the year” they’ll challenge for silverware on all fronts. “We’re going to win the league this year!” or “I could easily see us winning two trophies this year.” The Koppites truly believe those statements, despite the fact that they’ll also say, “Who cares if Rafa sold Alonso!? He won us a the European CuP! I trust him, even though he sold one of our best players and replaced him with a guy who hasn’t played in six months.”

  • Gives you reason to believe, as long as you ignore the cracks in the foundation: Lohan had some initial successes in her grown-up acting career, which seemed to build up her expectations even more. Movies like Freaky Friday, Mean Girls (where Lindsay was at her absolute hottest… I’ll admit it, Lindsay was my “unicorn” for quite a while), and Herbie: Fully Loaded were all box office successes earning in excess of $100 million. And though none of them were critically praised films, directors and fellow actors said she was a very talented actress with a bright future. But the early warning signs of Lohan’s future troubles began to appear bubble to the surface. While shooting Georgia Rule, she was twice hospitalized for “exhaustion.” We later came to find out that her exhaustion was caused by constant late night partying, and that the studio thought she was unprofessional and irresponsible. However bad her off-set life was, she was still garnering praise from coworkers for her abilities. And she was still able to find work despite persistent rumors of her hard partying and poor work ethic.

    Likewise, Liverpool have a similar problem: they lead their fans on just enough to give them fuel for their high expectations. They’ve got top notch players in their roster (Gerrard, Torres, Mascherano, Reina, etc.) that should make them competitive ever year. They consistently reach the later stages of the Champions League. The reds, led by “tactical genius” Rafa Benitez, even won the 2005 Champions League title. But even in their that magical campaign, there were were warning signs. In the final, the team looked particularly poor against AC Milan, aside from the 11 minute span that saw them score three goals to send the game into extra time. Rafa’s men finished outside of the Champions League qualification spots in the league that season too, necessitating UEFA to make up a new rule so that they would be allowed to defend their title.

    Then last year, they stood at the top of the premier league table before narrowly falling short in the last few weeks. Being forced to sell off starters in order to buy “better quality” players (Alonso was last year’s fallen star, while in year’s past it’s been Peter Crouch or Michael Owen). In reality they should sell off second string players, then move the current starters to the bench when “better quality” players arrive. But a lot of that has to do with the poor amount of investment in the club by the American ownership group.

  • The color red: Well, this one is obvious, right? But just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not relevant. Lindsay Lohan is a ginger kid. Liverpool wear the color read. Just because it’s simple doesn’t me it doesn’t add to the argument.
  • Now spiraling out of control: Ever since Lindsay’s initial pitfalls on the set of Georgia Rule, her life has been a swirling tornado of disaster. She’s been in and out of jail more often than you’re average drug dealer. The same goes for rehab. There have been two reported DUI’s, one of which she’s still trying to complete her sentencing for. Though adamantly denying she has a drug problem, she’s been caught on film doing blow. She’s been caught stealing thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from a store. It’s likely she’s had an on again, off again, eating disorder. She has been stalking her ex-girlfriend, and probably some ex-boyfriends  that we’re unaware of, too. The list goes on and on and on.For Liverpool, they’ve been a similarly turbulent downward spiral. An extremely rough and tumble start to the season (losses to my Spurs and Aston Villa) left them as a long-shot for title favorites, something that continued poor league results (losses to Portsmouth and Arsenal, draw with Stoke) have all but assured. They’ve been knocked out at the Champions League at the group stage. They’re already out of the Carling Cup, having been taken down by Arsenal. Liverpool then completed their “treble of suck” (copyright WSOTP, 2010) by being knocked out of the FA Cup by Championship strugglers Reading.

    fernando torres won’t want to play for “team lohan” forever.

    Off the field, the problems are mounting too. The Kop faithful has never been pleased with the American ownership group lead by Tom Hicks and George Gillette. They’ve never given Benitez much money to work with in the transfer market, and there are growing concerns that they’ve saddled the club with too much debt. The American owners may have also torpedoed the chances of Liverpool building a new stadium. And [now former] club board members are now telling fans “Blow me, fuck face.” I’m guessing that fosters nothing but happiness among the fans.

    Adding insult to injury is the reds’ growing injury sheet. It would be one thing if the injuries were happening to Philip Degen or the maligned Ryan Babel, people who don’t really make the daily team sheet. No, it’s happening to stars like Torres, Glen Johnson, Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun. It’s no wonder that many are questioning whether this team can even qualify for next year’s Champions League.

The similarities are striking, aren’t they? Looking at the facts, it’s no wonder that so many Liverpool fans and are calling for Rafa’s head. Would you want you’re team to be the Lindsay Lohan of football? I certainly wouldn’t.