Alex Chick

  • Time to overreact

    International football is tailor-made for overreactions. You only play 10 games every year, so each match takes on a far greater significance.

    Lose in the Premier League? Never mind, you have a chance to put it right next weekend or sooner.

    Not in the international game. England will be festering over their dismantling by France until the end of March, when they face Wales in Cardiff.

    If we put our rational hat on, we can point out that Fabio Capello's England team kicked off their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with impressive wins against Bulgaria and Switzerland.

    We can point out that

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  • Chelsea won’t miss Wilkins

    Ray Wilkins's removal as Chelsea's assistant manager is an odd one, alright.

    Last night, he sat next to Carlo Ancelotti during the 1-0 win against Fulham, and today he watched a reserve team match at the Blues' Cobham training ground.

    At half-time, he was reportedly called away and given his marching orders.

    Hardly the most dignified exit for a man who brought a welcome touch of grace and humility to Chelsea.

    Everyone in football agrees that Wilkins is a thoroughly nice man. Yet, whatever the circumstances of his sacking, his absence will not be keenly felt.

    Not because there is anything wrong

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  • Blanc slate shows England the way

    The last time England played France at Wembley it was 1999, and the visiting world champions boasted the following starting XI:

    Barthez, Thuram, Blanc, Desailly, Lizarazu, Pires, Zidane, Deschamps, Petit, Djorkaeff, Anelka.

    On Wednesday night those legendary names will be succeeded by the likes of Rami, M'Vila and Valbuena. They will be selected by one of the legends, Laurent Blanc.

    In one sense, Blanc's untested, experimental and frankly weak side is a mark of how far Les Bleus have fallen.

    But perhaps Blanc's bold renovation of the national team shows the path England might have taken but

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  • The best performance ever

    After Barcelona
    destroyed Real Madrid last night, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho agreed that they
    are not really five goals better than their great rivals.

    Mourinho said:
    "The result today does not reflect the
    difference between the two teams," while Guardiola parroted: "This match isn't representative of the difference between the
    two teams." 

    True, if the game were
    replayed on Saturday it would probably not finish 5-0 again, but the result
    perfectly reflected the gaping chasm between the teams on the night.

    This was not one of
    those drubbings that flatters the winners (England's 5-1 win in

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  • Hughton axe spells danger for Toon

    A few weeks ago, I wrote here that Chelsea would not miss their recently deposed assistant manager Ray Wilkins.

    They haven't won a league game since, in four attempts.

    I argued that Wilkins's tangible contribution to the squad in terms of coaching and tactical input was neither particularly significant nor irreplaceable - and that now Carlo Ancelotti's English was up to scratch he wasn't required to decipher the Italian's words.

    I forgot about the intangibles. About the importance of the pleasant atmosphere engendered by Butch's presence around the Cobham training ground.

    About the

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  • And the Ballon d’Or goes to…

    The Ballon d'Or might be an individual award, but the list of nominees is a triumph of the team.

    A World Cup year is always going to be dominated by stars of that tournament, but the 23-man shortlist leans spectacularly towards those who shone in South Africa.

    Twelve of the 23 nominees played for the two best teams - Spain and Germany - while all of them took part in the World Cup.

    Do more than half of the world's elite players come from two countries? Of course not. They looked good because they were part of successful teams.

    The counter-argument is that Spain and Germany were the best teams

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  • When it’s good to get sacked

    It can't be much fun getting the sack.

    In the real world, most people who get sacked are actually
    'made redundant' - not that the euphemism comes as much comfort to someone who
    is told their job no longer exists.

    But very few people ever get properly fired for being bad at
    their job. In fact, it is damn near impossible to remove them unless they are
    guilty of some terrible act of misconduct - usually perpetrated at a drunken office

    Not so in football management, where people are sacked the
    whole time. It used to be you only got the hook if results were bad, and even
    then at the end

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  • Footballers, don’t get married

    "Marriage helps footballers. It helps them settle down. You know where they are too! It's good for the stability of a footballer." Sir Alex Ferguson on Wayne Rooney, September 2009.

    A year on, just how hollow do Ferguson's words look?

    But he's not alone. Marriage and fatherhood have long been seen as positive influences on a player's career, allowing him to mature and to stay out of trouble.

    Rooney's miserable demeanour and form since allegations of extra-marital monkey business surfaced would beg to differ.

    Even Ferguson confessed last week the media glare was getting to his star player.


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  • Why do we love the Champions League?

    What is it about the Champions League that we just can't quit?

    It is a football competition so overblown, so money-obsessed and so relentlessly hyped it makes the Premier League look like a genteel afternoon of crown green bowls.

    Here we have a format that has made the competition so predictable the mere participation of an English team not called Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United or Liverpool is treated like a seismic shift in the continental game.

    The draw seeding format is so restrictive, and so advantageous to top clubs that our own Jim White went as far to describe it as a fix, not a

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