Jim White

  • The future of English football is in Roy Hodgson's hands tonight - no pressure

    Jim White says tonight's match against Lithuania is more than just a Euro 2016 qualifier - it's a chance for English football to reassert itself.

    England manager Roy Hodgson during the press conference ahead of the Lithuania gameEngland manager Roy Hodgson during the press conference ahead of the Lithuania game

    It is not an act of unhinged optimism to suggest that England are going to win against Lithuania tonight. Everything is in their favour – from home conditions, through sitting top of the qualifying table to the Billy Beane Moneyball co-efficient that suggests whoever pays more wins the game (and England’s players certainly out-flank their eastern European opponents when it comes to pay scale).

    Such is the weight of favourable circumstance piled up in his corner, in a sense Roy Hodgson is on a hiding to nothing. Lose or draw and he will be pilloried, rightly. Win and everyone will say he was

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  • Harry Kane set to start for England against Lithuania - and quite right too

    Conventional wisdom suggests that players should make their international debuts from the bench, but Harry Kane seems set to buck that trend - and quite right too, says Jim White.

    Harry Kane, EnglandHarry Kane, England

    Roy Hodgson’s inability to keep his notes to himself has told us all we wanted to hear about his thinking. Like a government minister emerging from a cabinet meeting clasping top secret documents open at the relevant page, Hodgson seemed to forget the power of the modern telephoto lens when he was out training with the squad at St George’s Park. There scribbled in his notebook as he pointed out instruction were the two names most English football fans wanted to see together: Rooney and Kane.
    Whether this was simply for a training session, an aide memoire to remind him try it out during

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  • Manchester United-Liverpool really matters – now more than ever

    The Manchester United Liverpool rivalry was a touch manufactured but now it matters more than ever, writes Jim White.

    Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho (L) is challenged by Manchester United's Wayne Rooney during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England December 14, 2014Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho (L) is challenged by Manchester United's Wayne Rooney during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England December 14, 2014

    Louis van Gaal stated this week that he was looking forward to sampling the atmosphere at Anfield for the Premier League version of the Clasico, the most fraught and tense inter-city match in English football. It is as well his English is not yet entirely extensive. His lack of knowledge of some of the least tasteful byways of the language will allow him to rise above the nonsense. It will just be noise to him.

    But to those watching and supporting the two sides it will be anything but. This is a proper, intense confrontation. There is nothing friendly about the rivalry. The standard view is

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  • It's easy to blame Manuel Pellegrini for Manchester City's failure, but the problem lies with the owners

    Manuel Pellegrini will probably pay for City’s European exit with his job – but it is the board who have wasted £300 million on some dubious signings, writes Jim White.

    Manuel PellegriniManuel Pellegrini

    There has long been a policy in recruiting football managers that might be best termed The Swings and Roundabouts Principle. Or maybe The Grass Is Always Greener Method. Or perhaps more accurately The Haven’t Got A Clue Approach.

    [LIONEL MESSI STARS AS BARCELONA KNOCK OUT MANCHESTER CITY]

    It runs like this: a manager is deemed to have failed and a replacement is sought. And generally, that replacement is the diametric opposite of his predecessor.

    If the old manager was an introvert, the new one will be an extrovert.

    If the previous manager was thought a little over combustible, a little too

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  • Chelsea are slumping. Luckily for them, so is everyone else

    Dumped out of the Champions League and struggling for form, Chelsea can take comfort from the fact that their rivals look equally listless, writes Jim White.

    John Terry after Chelsea's Champions League exitJohn Terry after Chelsea's Champions League exit

    This is threatening to be the oddest season. As the Premier League reaches its critical point, few appear to be enjoying themselves. Everywhere you look, flaws are being exposed, weaknesses exploited, problems worsened. Hardly anyone appears ready to exploit the moment, to seize the initiative, to grab the competition by its nether regions. It looks like a division which will be won and lost by default, not by snatching the opportunity.

    Take Chelsea. All that autumnal talk of a quadruple has proved more than a little optimistic. For a while this season they looked utterly invincible. But

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  • No excuses for Jose Mourinho as Chelsea prop up failing England in Europe

    Jim White analyses Jose Mourinho's claims about the problems English clubs face in Europe, and says Chelsea must go through against PSG.

    Jose Mourinho in training prior to the PSG gameJose Mourinho in training prior to the PSG game

    As he always does, Jose Mourinho had some interesting things to say ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League encounter with Paris St Germain tonight. He was, for instance, brilliantly condescending about the French side’s brisk tackling in the first leg, suggesting they were far more agricultural than the couple of lower division English sides his team had encountered in cup competition this season. Textbook Mourinho, that. The perfect way to focus the mind of the referee.

    But what was more intriguing was his analysis of English clubs’ difficulties in the Champions League. With Liverpool gone in

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  • Inside Hotel Football: Gary Neville, Man Utd and the responsibility to cater for working class fans

    Jim White takes a peek inside Gary Neville's new Hotel Football, and reveals what tensions the construction outside Old Trafford exposes.

    Gary Neville and his pet project, Hotel FootballGary Neville and his pet project, Hotel Football

    Gary Neville was getting upset about tongs. Or rather the lack of them.

    “You put your fingers directly in the sugar bowl to get a cube out and nobody knows where your hands have been,” the country’s favourite television pundit said, his voice betraying the kind of barely suppressed anguish he normally reserves for a failure to note the arrival of the big man at the far post. “We’ve got to have tongs.”

    Neville was speaking over breakfast in the restaurant of his new Hotel Football in Manchester. His disquiet about sugar dispensing was evidence that he is no sleeping partner in the enterprise;

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  • On Saturday I saw a ghost, and his name was Juan Mata

    Jim White takes a look at the curious case of Juan Mata, whose fall from prominence is one of the strangest tales in modern football.

    Juan Mata of Manchester UnitedJuan Mata of Manchester United

    On Saturday I saw a ghost.

    It was at Old Trafford the sighting occurred, just as the game between Manchester United and Sunderland was grinding to an unedifying conclusion. About five minutes before the referee put an end to collective disappointment, there he was: the spirit of times past, as large as life (well, not that large in truth).

    It was Juan Mata, trotting out as substitute for United.

    The same Mata who, but two seasons ago was among the most compelling, coveted talents in the Premier League.

    Mata’s drift into irrelevance is one of the most baffling tales of modern football. For the

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  • What Manchester United REALLY need to address current problems

    Several world-class defenders and midfielders have been cited as the key to Man United's flaws - but Jim White says the solution is much simpler than that.

    Louis Van Gaal would doubtless see things differently, but for Manchester United supporters at Swansea last Saturday there was little to enthuse about in their team’s performance. It was a miserable day.

    Five weeks earlier, Chelsea had come to the Liberty and destroyed the home side with their swift interchanging midfield play. Oscar, Willian, Fabregas, Hazard and Matic had tormented an admittedly weakened Swansea that day, passing them to distraction.

    The quintet’s movement, complemented perfectly by the snorting, bull-like Diego Costa up front, was so quick, so fluid, so hard to predict,

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  • Mauricio Pochettino proving the perfect man to lead Tottenham into the future

    Jim White says Mauricio Pochettino's methods are working at Tottenham and the future is bright for the North London club.

    Mauricio Pochettino has Tottenham performing to a high levelMauricio Pochettino has Tottenham performing to a high level

    In his press conference ahead of this weekend’s game with Tottenham, West Ham’s Sam Allardyce was asked what he thought was the reason behind Spurs’s resurgence this season.

    “They’ve got a good manager,” he said.

    Well, as a manager himself – and one who has rigorously defended the profession all his career – you might expect Allardyce to make such a claim. After all, he is in dispute with the owners at Upton Park about a new contract, so is likely to use every opportunity to big up the role of boss. Managers make the difference: it is the epitaph Big Sam would wish for.

    But then he might also

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