by David Sweeney
With the tragic news of Gary Speeds death surfacing on Sunday morning the weekends football seemed to pale into insignificance however as ever there were some blunders that must get mauled this Monday morning
Wes Brown initially began life at the Stadium of Light making a good impression on the Sunderland fans with his tough tackling displays and no nonsense attitude. Recently however he has suffered a very noticeable dip in form which is contributing to his side’s rapid slide down the table.
Yesterday a mistake from Brown allowed Wigan’s Jamie McArthur time to steal the ball and set up Franco di Santo for a late winner condemning Steve Bruce’s men to yet another home defeat.
It all came about as Sunderland keeper Kieren Westwood distributed the ball back to Brown following a risky pass back. Instead of controlling the pass and clearing the danger the ball came off Brown’s knee and allowed the alert McArthur to fully capitalise on the situation.
Given his previous injury record and iffy performances of late it is not hard to see why Sir Alex let Brown join Sunderland and he must be grateful that one of his old boys Steve Bruce is more than happy to pay over the odds for over-the-hill, over-rated ex United players such as Brown and fellow teammate John O’Shea.
Linesman in the United game
For once it was Alex Ferguson that was correctly aggrieved at a refereeing decision against his side at Old Trafford yesterday as ageing defender Rio Ferdinand gave away a penalty despite making a perfectly timed tackle on Hatem Ben Arfa inside the United area.
Referee Mike Jones gave the spot-kick after assistant John Flynn flagged following the challenge. However originally the ref had awarded a corner and should have definitely stuck to his first decision and not changed his mind.
The increasingly senile Ferguson who already stormed out of a press conference in midweek following his side’s disappointing home draw with Benfica correctly summed up the mood around Old Trafford when he said “I don’t think anyone in the ground thought it was a penalty apart from the assistant referee.”
Toon boss Alan Pardew concured with Fergie’s sentiments however threw in a sly dig claiming
“I thought the tackle was risky. He definitely played the ball. I have seen it,” to which the Scot responded by allegedly calling Pardew ”an idiot”
While the decision was wrong and the penalty should not have been awarded United’s aura of invincibility is rapidly coming to an end and with this dawning realisation descending upon the Red Devil’s gaffer he is becoming more delusional by the day it seems.
Paul Jewell’s Ipswich Town have been on a dreadful run of late losing four on the bounce and their luck did not change this weekend as they once more succumbed to two late goals as Reading stole away from Portman Road with a 3-2 victory. Incidentally Town have now lost their last three games by the same scoreline, leaving them precariously hovering one point outside the Championship drop zone.
Defending set pieces has been The Tractor Boy’s Achilles heal and so it proved again on Saturday as woeful defending saw them once more concede two goals from set pieces. Jewell really needs to rally his troops and turn this abysmal run around or else his side could find themselves in even bigger trouble than they are already in or worse still he could be out of a job.
In my opinion Atkinson should not be allowed to officiate any Liverpool games for the remainder of the season.
Often accused of favouring the red half of Merseyside, referee Martin Atkinson was once again up to his old tricks as he harshly sent off Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli yesterday making Balotelli the third player Atkinson has sent off against Liverpool this season. Arsenal’s Frimpong, Everton’s Rodwell and now City’s Balotelli have all been unjustifiably sent off by this clearly biased ref against Kenny Daglish’s men. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Focusing on yesterday’s antics, admittedly Balotelli should have received a yellow for his first offence, an unnecessary tug on Glen Johnson’s shoulder, however his second offence was purely accidental and occurs frequently in every game. The referee was a ‘homer’ throughout and gave the away side nothing. In my opinion Atkinson should not be allowed to officiate any Liverpool games for the remainder of the season.
Manager Mauling Steve Bruce
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce insisted he won’t quit despite abuse from fans after a home defeat against Wigan although this is all well and good surely his teams under performance this season should lead to him having a serious look at himself. His revamped side sit just 2 points outside the relegation zone and Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to previously bottom of the league Wigan mean that the Mackems have amassed a grand total of 2 wins in 13 games coupled with an early exit to mid table championship side Brighton in the Carling Cup.
One of Bruce’s fatal errors has been to build a team around what is primarily a Manchester United ‘B’ team of yesteryear. Under-performers such as Wes Brown and John O’Shea are often the main culprits and it was O’Shea that dropped his manager in deeper trouble when speaking after The Black Cats latest defeat stating when asked what his manager said after that game – “There was a bit of everything. He (Bruce) is just scratching his head a little bit I suppose”. What manager in their right mind is just scratching their head after a defeat? Surely he should be dissecting, and probably lambasting, his team’s flaws? No doubt the defeat has heaped pressure on Bruce and whilst it may be harsh to criticize him for Wes Brown’s monumental clanger that gifted Wigan their winner what cannot be denied is that after a summer of huge upheaval the fact is this is now Bruce’s team and it was his players who didn’t win. The clueless geordie will be lucky if he is still in a job come next weekend.
RIP Gary Speed a true pro who was shaping up to be a terrific manager for the Welsh national side, you will be missed by everybody in football.