Interview with former Ipswich and England striker, Paul Mariner

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Paul Mariner is one of the finest strikers to ever play for Ipswich Town, scoring 96 goals in 260 appearances, winning the FA Cup and UEFA Cup in the process. Paul also played for the England national team 35 times, scoring 13 goals. In his professional career spanning for over 20 years, Paul made 555 appearances for Plymouth, Ipswich, Arsenal, Portsmouth and various teams in America and Australia, scoring 179 career goals. He was part of the greatest era under Sir Bobby Robson and brought major success to the Suffolk side before moving to the capital to play for Arsenal. He later went into management with Plymouth and MLS side Toronto FC. Dictate the Game were fortunate enough to interview Paul. we asked him about his time in Ipswich, his managerial career and if he had any regrets in his career.
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Why Scotland should not appoint David Moyes

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For all the focus on where Gordon Strachan’s Scotland went wrong, it’s worth remembering the obvious: they need a replacement who will have a strategy in place to help solve their problems.

To give some background, Scotland haven’t qualified for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup and look no closer to discovering how to do so. They are in a strange place right now. Their tried-and-tested route-one formula of bypassing the midfield and relying on loose balls is at odds with Brendan Rodgers’ revolution at Celtic, and seems at best a perverse strategy against opponents they’re expected to beat anyway. The confusion over how to integrate Celtic’s central spine has led to prolific Celtic scorer Leigh Griffiths being left out for much of the qualifying campaign for not being physical enough. Others, such as left-back Kieran Tierney who was played at right-back, and fleeting wingers James Forrest and Callum McGregor, have felt like square pegs in round holes.

Ultimately, following the 2-2 draw against Slovenia, ruling them out of the 2018 World Cup, Strachan left by mutual consent. Frustration rang again. They finished that game with just 33% possession; lower than Celtic managed even in their 3-0 defeat to European heavyweights Bayern Munich. In itself, this isn’t evidence of a flawed strategy, but merely that it is unorthodox to their central spine of players. Like asking them the square root of something.

This isn’t all of Strachan’s doing though. Failure is a term often solely attributed to managers for their team’s performance. By common wisdom, if results are not up to the expected level over a given period, it’s evident that someone has failed their duties and needs to leave. Suggesting otherwise involves making excuses or accepting mediocrity. This line of thinking creates a problem where it’s hard to learn from mistakes and make strategic improvements after the culprit is put out of his misery. After all, the mistakes are unequivocal failures on that person’s track record and the responsibility is entirely on them rather than the overriding strategy. 99 times out of 100, that person is the manager; perhaps fairly considering they usually make every key tactical decision.

Back to the point, it’s obvious that the Scottish Football Association need to either heavily evolve their existing strategy, or create an entirely new one. When they last qualified for an international tournament in 1998, many of the current European powerhouses had not evolved into the teams they are today. Spain failed to qualify from a group containing Nigeria, Paraguay and Bulgaria, while Belgium failed to win a single game in their slightly more competitive group involving the Netherlands, Mexico and South Korea. In Javier Clemente, Spain had a manager known for being authoritarian and defensive, according to El Pais (in Spanish)! Since then, while other more successful nations have had an enriching learning experience, Scotland seem to believe it’s a genetic problem that’s holding them back. As recently as 2015, it was deemed perfectly acceptable for the Under-19s staff to “not see enough” of ex-Real Madrid starlet Jack Harper because his lack of height meant “he can be a luxury sometimes” according to ex-manager Ricky Sbragia.

David Moyes has been heavily recommended as Strachan’s replacement. He has personally told BBC Sport of his interest, while he also comes heavily recommended by former England boss Sam Allardyce. He’s Scottish, has almost two decades of experience managing in English leagues and has played in Scottish ones. He knows the rough-and-tumble required. In other words, he’s a proper football man. But it’s worth remembering that Gordon Strachan was hired on a similar basis. “I know Gordon’s been out the game for a little while but he knows the scene up here,” Pat Nevin said, according to the same website. “Time will tell if he is the right man but I think it is a great appointment for Scotland. It gives everyone a lift.”

In short, coming from the nation in which you are managing is a highly overrated quality. Let me explain. In an ideal world, everyone involved in a national team should be from that nation. After all, the essence of these matches is putting one country’s footballing resources and nous against another’s. However, it should go without saying that a position as crucial as national team manager should be based on pragmatism and calculation rather than idealism. If the manager is not the best man for the job, then why should they be picked based on another person’s vision of what the job should be?

This is underselling the argument though. There’s another, more reasonable, school of thought suggesting someone from the nation is likely to know the players, staff and federation’s vision better than any overseas candidate. That probably explains why most nations, including the most successful ones, end up hiring domestic candidates. Nonetheless, as we’ve established, the Scottish Football Association’s existing strategy is not the way forward. Unless there’s a Scottish candidate who knows the players better than any overseas candidate, would embark on a new strategy and can create a tactical game-plan to beat most opponents, there’s no clear advantage to hiring one.

Moyes does not appear to be that candidate. A lack of adaptation to his new environments has been a common point of criticism since the beleaguered manager became Manchester United manager all the way back in 2013. Back then, he passed up signing nimble Spaniard Thiago Alcantara and ended up paying over the odds to get his bulky former player in Marouane Fellaini. In addition, according to The Telegraph, ex-Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand has spoke out about how “the whole approach was alien”, adding “Moyes’s innovations mostly led to negativity and confusion. The biggest confusion was over how he wanted us to move the ball forward. Some players felt they kicked the ball long more than at any time in their career.” That theme has been consistent at Real Sociedad and Sunderland since. At the former club, Moyes “didn’t learn a word of Spanish” according to Carlos Martinez and only learned how good Andres Iniesta was in 2015 when managing against him. Last season, he took the latter club down, amassing only 24 points from 38 games, despite having the joint 12th highest wage bill. Out of the 11 players Sunderland brought in during the transfer market, a staggering six were directly from Moyes’ former clubs. Darron Gibson, Bryan Oviedo and Steven Pienaar from Everton; Paddy McNair, Donald Love and Adnan Januzaj from Manchester United. His main reflections on that experience concerned their need for ‘Britishness’ and how no-one would have kept them up!

Scotland have suffered in the last two decades from cherry picking the same types of managers from a limited shortlist. Being Scottish itself is overrated when the institution and its values is in such pressing need of reform, while the development of Moyes’ career since the Manchester United debacle is about as inspiring as the track record of Owen Coyle.

Norwich vs Hull a match review

I was invited out by a mate of mine who had a spare ticket to watch Norwich vs Hull, and it sounded like a good match, two teams pushing for promotion. I saw Norwich play before earlier in the season when I was in the away end when Sunderland won 1-3 and I thought they played quite poorly, so was interested to see if they’ve improved.

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Well from the first ten to twenty minutes, Norwich were all over Hull, a better final third and they would have been winning by one or two goals, for some reason Norwich throughout the game up until the final minutes seemed afraid to go for it, which frustrated the crowd at times.

Hull started coming into the game however, and they took advantage of Pinto going missing several times during the first half, which led to them taking the lead, with Dicko scoring the opener.

 

We went downstairs to get a drink at half time and discussed with other Norwich fans who felt similar to us. No changes for the teams when they came out for the 2nd half and it started the same how the first half ended, with hull being the more aggressive team.

The match however was about to change in the favour for Norwich , David Myler was rightfully sent off after a second bookable offence, Norwich then brought on Nelson Oliveira Ira, who is probably their best player, Norwich grew more and more confident as the 2nd half went on, hull meanwhile were playing for time and knew as the clock was ticking down all they had to do was defend. Norwich were getting closer and closer each time. Then the official announced 5 extra minutes, which encouraged the crowd to really get behind the team, Norwich were giving everything they had pushing for that important goal.

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Norwich pushing for that all important goal

Norwich and hull fans were both waiting for the whistle to go, both for different reasons. Corner after corner Norwich kept getting, Then they got one final chance, a long throw to Jerome, who flicked it in for  Oliveira, who then slid it into the goal. Cue bedlam, fans jumping up and down, hugging their mates or family, limbs everywhere as they say.

 

In the end I think Norwich were the better team and with better finishing and confidence would have won easily. The red card did change the game however and I feel that hull would have been happy to sit back and come out winners if that was the case

Norwich fans I will say are still the best fans I’ve seen this season, loud and proud and still fairly noisy when they were losing.

Hull city fans I felt disappointed me, hardly heard a peep from them no proper celebrations when they scored which I felt strange , and the chants I had heard were stolen off other clubs, so no originality there.

 

Overall it was a really good match and I do think Norwich have a very good chance of getting promoted this season.

Interview with SF Delta defender, Karl Ouimette

We’ve gone a while without an interview – but they make a long awaited return today, as we got the chance to interview SF Delta defender Karl Ouimette, the ex player of MLS sides, Montreal Impact and the New York Red Bulls. Karl, who was part of the Supporters Shield winning squad in the 2015 season for the Red Bulls, has made a number of appearances for his national team. We spoke to him about his time at SF Delta, how he felt when Red Bulls released him, and of course the in famous kicking incident with Romeo Parkes. Here’s what Karl had to say!

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Should internationals still be held at Wembley?

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This was how many empty seats that was at Wembley for the World cup qualifier between England and Slovenia. The atmosphere was beyond terrible and yet the previous weekend there was 80,000 NFL fans watching two games of American football. So why was this the case? It’s partly to do with the fact England are crap, yes they’ve always been fairly crap but this was different, with the so called ‘golden generation’ we had players that could give us  the little extra bit we needed, Beckham, Rooney, Gerrard and others were so important during that period, but now we don’t really, even the likes of Kane and Alli really haven’t done anything for England since coming into the squad. But the attendance has been slowly dying and so has the atmosphere, so what should we do?

 

Simple, instead of playing all the England games at Wembley, play them all over the country, other countries do it just fine, last year when England had a mini tour round England and played at the Stadium of light and the Etihad the atmosphere improved, and we sold out each stadium, granted they are far smaller than Wembley but still my point stands, other international teams tour round their own countries , so I don’t see why we should be any different, it worked for years while Wembley was being built, and I think many fans would agree with me.

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England vs Australia

I went to the friendly last year between England and Australia at the Stadium of Light, it was a sell out, and the atmosphere  was  really good, and it’s been proven before when England have played away from Wembley the atmosphere has been far better.  I’m not sure what causes Wembleys atmosphere to be terrible, a lot of new stadiums suffer from poor atmosphere but the attendance has been slowly dipping  and something needs to change, if it means having a trial run of games played at lets say, Anfield, Old Trafford, St James Park/Stadium of light and see how  many tickets are sold and what the atmosphere would be like.

 

What do you think? Should we have the international  games all around the country or should they stick to playing them at Wembley? Let me know in the comments

 

USMNT’s Saviour #1

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The United States of America – the home of Wendy’s, the statue of liberty, Mahattan Skyline and soon to be the home of World Cup (hopefully!). I have been appointed as the USMNT’s team manager after Bob Bradley was sacked after just 349 days in the job. A bit of a backstory, I started this save as a beta save when the game first came out as New York Red Bulls’ manager, and since the save started I have enjoyed huge success at the Red Bulls winning 2 MLS Cups, 2 US Cups, and 1 Supporters Shield in just 3 seasons. But the big question is can take I take my club success up to a higher level and get the World Cup the USMNT wants?

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Match review : Ipswich vs Sunderland

 

Tuseday the 16th of November, Ipswich played Sunderland, as a Sunderland fan living in the south I took this opportunity to go. I had never been to Portman Road before and I always love a classic old ground. The ticket was £15, which was very reasonable and I left for Ipswich  around 6pm. With each match review I’ll do, I’ll split it into two parts. One reviewing the match and the other part on what I thought of the facilities.

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The Match

Well from a Sunderland fan point of view it was awful. Ipswich took the lead after 5 minutes, we equalised after 10 minutes but conceded again  quite quickly.

Sunderland kept hoofing the ball up towards the strikers, which Ipswich cut out nearly every time,  kept misplacing passes as well, apart from a 15 minute period in the 2nd half 4-1 down, we were toothless and clueless on the pitch, Every goal Ipswich scored could and should have been avoided, every goal the away fans predicted would happen, no one closed anyone down when it came to set pieces, and we were slaughtered by the left and right wingers playing for Ipswich.  Ipswich were clinical with their chances and it’s why they’ll be further up the table than us.

I wouldn’t say Ipswich played well either, I thought at times they had a few moments where they played quite sloppy, like I said earlier for 15-20 minutes we played quite well and I think if we had better strikers and people who could actually take a free kick could have seen us score a couple more goals.

After we scored, Ipswich turned it up a gear and gave us the final blow. I was quite disappointed  how quiet the Ipswich fans were, even when 4-1 up I was expecting something from them, I didn’t hear anything from them till 5-2. The Sunderland fans were decent for the majority of the game, for some reason got even louder 4-2 down, and it was far better than last weeks away following at Everton.

 

The facilities

Portman Road is an old ground, so it won’t have everything a newer stadium will have, so for example how tight the space is between the seats, the view you’ll get  as well for example. But I found I had a really good view of the pitch and apart from a few rows that had a pillar in the way, the majority of the Sunderland fans had a good view of the pitch.

 

 

Final thoughts

I think Sunderland will go down this season, the way we played was just awful. Nearly every single ball was won by Ipswich and they deserved to win. Sunderland fans in the last week have spent hundreds of pounds going to Liverpool and Ipswich in a space of 6 days to see us turned over once again. Sacking the manager isn’t the answer, while it’d solve a tiny bit of our problems, with our current owner we don’t stand a chance in doing anything decent. We’ll linger in the lower leagues for some years yet while under Ellis Short.