A Night of Frustration for Seamus Coleman

We’ve all had that friend, relative or co-worker who always goes against the grain, sometimes it can be annoying because it seems they are only doing whatever it is they do just to be different. They are doing it because very few others would. After a while they do it so often, to do anything else would be a massive surprise. It is a little like the disgruntled teenager who gets into an alternative rock band because they are exactly that, alternative. That is until everyone else hears about the band and through a numbers game they gradually become mainstream. At this point the disgruntled teenager must jettison the band and seek out someone else just as obscure as the original band were at the original point of discovery.
Maybe that friend, relative or co-worker is being different just to annoy or maybe they know more than the rest of us. Maybe they realise that the majority of people haven’t a clue what they are talking about. Maybe also mainstream music is absolute rubbish.
In the lead up to last night’s friendly between the Republic of Ireland and Norway all the speculation surrounding the Irish camp was about Seamus Coleman. Originally Coleman was hotly tipped to make some kind of appearance against the Scandinavians, and following the numerous withdrawals from the squad there was speculation that Coleman may even start. This speculation had a sound base in reason; Coleman has been in fine form for Everton in the Premier League of late and has proved he can create a goal as well as score a goal. Coleman in fact scored recently against Blackpool, a club where he was out on loan last season and was a driving force in their ascent to the promised land of the Premier League. Coleman has proved his versatility at Everton by operating both in defence and midfield.
Giovanni Trapattoni named his first eleven and there was no sign of Seamus Coleman. The back four included rare starts for Stephen Kelly, Darren O’Dea and Greg Cunningham.  Cunningham it must be said had a fine night and did his chances of future inclusion no harm at all. Having said that Cunningham, on loan from Manchester City at Leicester City in the Championship, is operating a full division below Coleman.
Other possible slots for Seamus Coleman on the starting eleven were on either flank of midfield, he has had a lot of time out wide right for Everton this season. This wasn’t to be as Damien Duff was named on the left wing and Liam Lawrence got the nod in the right hand side. In a game where the result was always going to be of secondary importance it has hard to see what was to be gained by evaluating what either Duff or Lawrence could do in these positions, surely Trapattoni is well aware of both players ability at this stage.
The game itself ended 2-1 to the visitors, a result that will be even more meaningless next Monday morning than it was twenty seconds after the final whistle. Ireland opened the scoring on five minutes from the spot courtesy of the very impressive Shane Long. This advantage was overturned following two sweet strikes of the ball by Morten Gamst Pedersen. The first was a glorious free kick on thirty four minutes after Stephen Kelly was unlucky to land on the ball with his hand while challenging on the edge of the hosts penalty area. A glorious strike no doubt, however Shay Given may have settled a step to close to his left hand post after setting up his wall. A mistake or evidence or rustiness? Then on eighty six minutes Pedersen found himself on the left hand side of the Irish penalty area with the defence severely stretched. He played a beautiful arcing ‘daisy cutter’ of a cross between defenders and keeper, the very grateful Huseklepp was on hand at the back post to slot the ball home.
In between the two result changing swings of a leg by the Blackburn Rovers midfielder Trapattoni made four changes, but still no room for Coleman.
The most puzzling would have been the introduction of Aiden McGeady at half time and Stephen Hunt on seventy four minutes, both employed on the midfield flanks. Just as Trapattoni was fully aware of the abilities starting wide men, Duff and Lawrence, absolutely nothing Hunt or McGeady could have done would have surprised the Irish supremo or anyone in the Aviva Stadium last night. One has boundless energy and displays the enthusiasm of a Jack Russell chasing a tennis ball but his touch all too often lets him down. The other can show off some lovely touches, spin away from most defenders around today but frustratingly seems to perform 98% of the task on an all too regular occurrence.
Seamus Coleman can now only hope to get his first cap in next year’s Carling Nations Cup. A tournament that despite the impending sales job and some level of hype can only be expected to rise to the level of a collection of friendlies with some silverware at the end to ensure the sponsors get a nice photo shot. A start or a significant period on the pitch against the Norwegians, ranked thirteenth in the world, would surely have provided a better test of the International credentials of Coleman than an outing against Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
On the positive side Greg Cunningham performed admirably at full back. Shane Long again showed his worth to the Irish cause, and if Robbie Keane does not get out of White Hart Lane in January it would not be unreasonable to suggest that Ireland would get more out of a Long and Doyle partnership than any version containing Keane. Keith Fahey may have found the restrictions of playing in a Giovanni Trapattoni centre midfield a little frustrating and Darren O’Dea reminded all that his concentration can lapse for a split second.  The twenty seven year old Jon Walters made his senior debut and showed he is full of endeavour and running but not a huge amount else, but then again Giovanni Trapattoni has proved he is a big fan of both endeavour and running.  
Read More

Eleven days is a long time in a Newcastle managers tenure

Eleven games played, seventeen points garnered, eight points off top spot. Newcastle United are now sitting proudly in fifth place in the Barclays Premier League – the Europa League qualifying spot.
It now seems barely credible that a mere eleven days ago the Newcastle United board felt it necessary to issue a statement backing their manager Chris Hughton. That statement was issued amid growing speculation over Hughton’s future in the St. James Park managerial office. That evening Newcastle were at the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline at home to Arsenal in the last sixteen of the Carling Cup. A drubbing no doubt but Newcastle were ninth in the Premier League at the time, a very respectable position for a promoted side in late October. To many observers the negative speculation surrounding Hughton’s tenure that evening seemed harsh and premature in the extreme, now it is revealed to have been ludicrous and ill-founded.
The speculation seemed well timed to increase the pressure even more on Hughton to produce a result in the impending Tyne – Wear derby the following Sunday. One thing that is sure to raise the ire of the Toon army is a negative result against Sunderland, especially at St. James Park. If Sunderland could turn over Newcastle then Hughton could start to lose some of the supporters. Suddenly those that dismissed the speculation the previous Wednesday as nonsense may start to look for the fire that allegedly accompanies all manifestations of smoke.  The speculation that could have been dismissed as smoke and mirrors may now resemble cloak and dagger, the statement of support issued by the Newcastle United board would now be categorised as ‘the dreaded vote of confidence’.
Its four minutes into first half stoppage time and Shola Ameobi steps up to take a penalty, penalty converted, Newcastle United 3 Sunderland 0. Crisis, what crisis, the smoke is now drifting off into the air; whatever fire was supporting it is not even a pile of glowing embers now. The game ends in a morale boosting 5 -1 victory to the home side. Chris Hughton is the toast of Newcastle. The cloak and dagger will be put away for another day. The white hot passion and supposed unpredictability of a local derby aside, this weekend’s plundering of the Emirates for three points further illustrates Hughton’s nous as a manager and should add to his credentials among the more informed sections that follow football.
  Chris Hughton it seems has always struggled to get due credit for his achievements in the dugout. He was twice caretaker manager at Newcastle before he was entrusted with the top job, and it wasn’t until late October and a very positive start to the Championship season of 2009 – 2010 before the Newcastle board finally out their confidence in Hughton, albeit with an eighteen month contract. Not exactly handing him the keys to the kingdom just yet.
Hughton started his coaching career at Tottenham Hotspur in 1993 and in his fourteen years as coach and assistant manager at White Hart Lane he saw ten managers come and go. His demise at Tottenham came when he was on board the sinking ship that was the Martin Jol regime, this despite Jol leading Tottenham to two consecutive fifth place in the Premier League.
It was at White Hart Lane where Hughton spent the bulk of his playing career, winning two FA Cups and one UEFA Cup along the way. Hughton represented his country, the Republic of Ireland, fifty three times in an international career that spanned twelve years. He was part of the Republic side that made the breakthrough qualifying for their first tournament, Euro ‘88. A side that were the width of a post away from a European Championship semi – final. Hughton again answered his country’s call in 2003 when Brian Kerr asked him to serve as assistant during Kerr’s ultimately unsuccessful two years at the helm.
If come the end of the season Newcastle United are still in fifth position it would be a remarkable achievement. This scenario hardly seems likely but their start to this season suggest that they are most definitely of the required standard for a top half finish. Such an outcome should ensure Hughton secures a contract longer than 18 months, one that demonstrates the trust that he would surely deserve. A finish anywhere above the relegation zone is normally considered a successful outcome for any side promoted to the Premier League. Even though both Blackpool and West Brom, now sitting eleventh and ninth respectively in the table, may currently have loftier ambitions one suspects they would now gladly settle for the guarantee of a seat at the top table of English football for the season 2011 – 2012.
Recent speculation indicates that a seventeenth place finish may not be enough for Hughton to secure a contract extension at Newcastle.  This illustrates the uphill struggle that faces Hughton, and most recent managers at Newcastle. Those who follow this so called ‘sleeping giant’ expect their giant to be wide awake and smiting all comers. This unreasonable expectation leads to unreasonable pressure which leads to unreasonable decisions being made where reason is most called for. 
Read More