Interview with former Norwich City and Stevenage wonderkid Robbie Sweeney

Today I interview Robbie Sweeney, a young footballer I grew up with in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk in the early 2000s. He went on to play for a couple of academy teams, played for Stevenage under England great Teddy Sheringham, travelled to the United States for a bit of coaching, and is now back in England playing the sport he loves.

Q. Robbie, I grew up with you, talking, playing, and breathing football. I ended up playing youth football for Gorleston FC, whereas you progressed to spend a good few years at Norwich City Academy. How long did you spend there and how was the experience?

A. Yeah I remem
ber those days like it was yesterday, some brilliant memories. I spent three years originally from u9 to being released at u11. I came away and re-signed to my local club of Bohemians (not to be confused with Irish Premier side) before re-joining the Norwich city academy at u15 level.  I was then released at u18 for the second time. My experiences taught me so much and gave me valuable experiences that will help me to continue to progress in my current performances to date. Working daily in such a professional environment helped me to better my technical skills as well as my life skills conducting myself better as a person.

Q. During your time at Norwich City, did you play with any big names, that you can remember?

A. Yeah I played with a few. I was a couple years below training up with the older squad during Norwich’s FA Youth Cup winning year.  With the likes of both Murphy twins (Josh, Milton Keynes Dons andJacob, Newcastle United)  and Cameron McGeehan (Scunthorpe United) that’s gone on to do brilliantly as well! A proud moment for me to say I’ve been able to train along side those boys. I played pretty much my whole academy years alongside probably the most talented footballer I’ve come across in Todd Cantwell who is currently doing really well for Norwich’s u23’s. Also to add to that I grew up with a lot of guidance from Norwich goal keeper Remi Matthews. He helped me a lot when stepping up to the older age groups! He’s a brilliant goalkeeper that’s currently doing really well.


Q. Great to hear! After leaving Norwich the second time, what was your next step?

A. After leaving Norwich, I was quite apprehensive as to what was next for me. I went on a few trials at various clubs like Peterborough but nothing came of it. I started to panic and began to think that it was the end, but after seeing my highlights and reports I received a phone call one evening from Stevenage F.C., saying they like me and what I’m about, asking me to go for a week and see how I get on. A week then turned into two, turning into three and eventually after a lot ofhard work and massive credit to Darren Sarll for his perseverance, I was offered a two year contract at the club which was amazing for me.

Q. I loved following Stevenage whilst you were playing there, a couple of good youngsters coming through the ranks. But how amazing was it playing under Teddy Sheringham?

A. Yeah, there was some really good talent amongst the boys. If you look at Stevenage now with the amount of young players they have in the first team regularly, it’s brilliant for them and a brilliant look for the future there. Playing under Teddy was an unbelievable experience. He would teach you fine little details that helped your game massively. To begin with it was surreal but you have to get over that and stay professional.


Q. After you left Stevenage, where did you go next?

A. After I left, I was confused as to what was next for me, obviously devastated it had come to an end. You start to panic as you’re left without a club. I decided to take the American route and do some coaching in Chicago, which was a great experience. I then came home and decided to take a break from football as i’d played a handful of non-league games and to be honest, fell out of love for the game. But at the start of this season, I received a call from Tom Parke, the Wroxham FC coach, telling me he wants to rejuvenate me and my career. I’m currently with Wroxham and a great group of players.
Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 11.12.57 PM

Q. Well I’m glad you’ve managed to find your passion back in the game we all love. The old Wroxham Yachtsmen! I’ve been having a look through the Wroxham media and it seems like you’re doing quite well for yourself! Now away from yourself, I know you live and breathe Liverpool football as much as I do myself! What’s your opinion on the state of the club since Klopp took over?

A. Yeah I’m happy there and the supporters always give me there best support. It’s a very welcoming place. Liverpool for me, we’re heading in the right direction. I think if you look at the amount of goals we score and the opportunities we create, we lacked that in previous years. I think Klopp is a brave manager with the obesssion to be relentless to the opposition. As everyone knows, we concede a lot of goals aswell but I know it’s something he can address and overcome.

Q. I’d say the signing of Van Dijk could sort that out at the back. On to Coutinho, what are you thoughts on his big transfer to Barcelona?

A. Yeah, that’s it. Look at his performance against Everton! Shows early that he’s a great signing. As a Liverpool fan I’m devastated. Coutinho’s been my favourite player and idol over the past few years, watching him every week. It’s a massive loss. However from a football fan, i’m delighted he’s reached the very top. He’s an alien when it comes to his ability. Some of the things he does are breathtaking and he deserved that move!

You couldn’t have described him any better. He’s definitely lived up to his nickname ‘the magician’.
Anyway Robbie, thank you for taking the time out of your day to answer some questions for the website. You’re a great young footballer that we believe is one phone call away from hitting the big time, and we feel privileged to have interviewed you. We wish you a successful rest of the season, and up the Yachtsmen!!

You’re very welcome! Thanks for talking to me. Good luck, wish you and the site all the best!

         Written by Luke Whiting


Interview with former Ipswich and England striker, Paul Mariner


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.
Continue reading

The thankless task of a Director of Football


Nearly every club has one of these, or has sections of fans wanting one. Yet every time their presence is mentioned, usually due to poor performances or transfers, the first topic on the agenda is ‘what exactly do they do?’ Considering the title suggests they should be the director of all football operations, the extent of dysfunction in their use has been understated.

In The Real Deal: My Story from Brick Lane to Dragons’ Den, multi-millionaire entrepreneur James Caan described how Jan Parker, a PA he hired, wanted out after just a week. “You come in with a phone clamped to your ear and have seventeen meetings in a row- most of which aren’t in your diary- and by the end of the day you can’t remember what happened in the first one in any detail” she exclaimed. The solution was to move her desk inside his office, including in confidential meetings. There was no way Parker would be able to change anything about Caan’s working style unless he trusted her enough to let her observe what might be going wrong and then listen.

This kind of harmonious relationship typically exists between managers and their assistants. Ever wondered why managers usually bring the same right-hand man to every club? Yet directors of football, who are also expected to work closely with managers to work on implementing a club’s long-term vision or ‘bigger picture’, are usually incumbents when a new manager arrives. As part of that process, the new manager is often asked about playing style and transfers, and rarely makes reference to what anyone else might want besides themselves. The director of football, who is expected to instill continuity in the club’s strategy, only faces the media when managers come and go.

So, what does this mean for their role? “A buffer” is their perception in the eyes of a manager, according to Dave Bassett, who added that “the director of football is answerable to the board but there to assist the manager. He’s experienced in football and there to help the board members who don’t have that experience.” It’s no surprise that “help” sounds a lot more personal than “assist”, because managers already have the people they trust on the right-hand side to help them. Even if the director of football is only expected to assist in scouting and transfer-related matters, why would a manager trust someone who isn’t privy to how they work help them make such crucial decisions when they could just do it themselves?

Giving a manager and their staff, who are only focused on short-term results and players fitting their current tactics, full autonomy over the club’s long-term assets is often disastrous. You only need to read David Sullivan’s recent interview with The Guardian to understand why. Despite Sullivan being “referred to as the club’s director of football in the most recent set of accounts”, he’s “not involved in the strategy”. Players such as Jose Fonte from Southampton and Robert Snodgrass from Hull were signed as manager Bilic wanted “older, proven Premier League players”; this left West Ham heading for relegation from the Premier League with the 14th highest wage bill in Europe. There are parallels with cases like Sunderland finishing bottom of the Premier League last season despite having the joint 12th highest wage bill after six of their 11 signings were acquired from manager David Moyes’ former clubs, and West Bromwich Albion targeting 36-year old Gareth Barry for weeks until they finally landed him from Everton. The latter club were also lauded for getting Grzegorz Krychowiak on loan from Paris-Saint Germain, but it turns out they were probably one of the only clubs willing to pay a reported £105,000 per week to have him for a season. One suspects that if Michael Emenalo did not have such firm control over Chelsea’s transfers before he left, Conte would’ve beat AC Milan to the £37.8m (per Transfermarkt) signing of 30-year old centre-back Leonardo Bonucci or signed another former acquaintance in the often-linked Giorgio Chiellini. Just setting a strict budget limit does not work if the coaching staff are the only trusted eyes for talent, as an irresponsible use of it can lead to inflated wages and enforce a high squad turnover year after year, burdening a club and their strategy indefinitely.

Right now, with the director of football only having a supervisory role while the manager is heavily involved in all aspects of the club’s on-pitch performance, they are only truly accountable for getting the best deals for players at most English clubs. This is in stark contrast to the Italian model, where “the coach has to do with whatever the chairman and general manager bring in. They may be able to say ‘I want a striker or a defender’ but it is up to the chairman to decide who they get”, according to journalist Giancarlo Galavotti of Gazzetto della Sport newspaper. It’s interesting then that wider opinion has suggested that clubs like Arsenal will only be able to move on from their long-serving manager when they appoint a director of football to accompany their next manager; the structural division in objectives and priorities between the roles mean the former will lack influence unless they are given the authority to make big decisions themselves. Steve Walsh’s input in Everton’s unsuccessful recent signings is likely to be as minimal as it was with Leicester’s successful signings. Crediting them with signings seems like holding the medical staff accountable for injuries; flawed because all decisions are made in the manager’s blueprint.

There is an uncomfortable truth when it comes to defining a director of football’s role, as it is understood that they help clubs, yet managers running said clubs has been a sacrosanct part of the game. Giving a club ‘stability’ between seasons and windows is essentially doing what anyone in charge of transfers should do, but better than managers. A scarcity of clubs seem to allow them to do their job in this way, though.

Nottingham forest vs Sunderland : A match review

This game was huge for Sunderland, it seems a lot of the games I’ve been to this season have been huge for Sunderland and that’s because obviously we needed the  points. Anyway after a absolutely class boxing day loss to Sheffield United, I can guarantee you the 2000 Sunderland fans who were going to Nottingham already were having second thoughts, I know I was.

With very little sleep, I and my  mate were on the bus towards the train station at 7am. We arrived in Nottingham at 11 and quickly found a pub to go to. We got to the seats about 2:30 and noticed up front again was Maja, very promising youngster who I think will go far for Sunderland.


My view from the stands 

The match kicked off in typical Sunderland fashion, we were very nervy, Forest were all over us, I think it was Donald Love who kept getting exposed several times and their left winger was left unmarked several times.

They never really challenged the keeper however, and Ruiter wasn’t troubled one bit. The crowd got on edge a bit, they knew after the performance they saw on the tuseday that it was inevitable we’d implode and concede 2 or 3 goals.

At the 40th minute mark  we hit them on the break, a cross from Matthews led to Mcgeady heading it in! Bedlam in the away end, we have actually scored! (for the record I’ve seen Sunderland score 7 goals in 18 months and seen them win twice). Question now on everyone’s mind was would we hold the lead?


Second half 

Sunderland started off again I thought a bit nervy, this time however everytime they gave the ball away we were better defensively, Forest really didn’t look like scoring at all.

The atmosphere at the game was pretty tame up until the hour mark, I’m not sure what kicked it off but the forest fans started getting mouthy with the Sunderland fans. Thought after that the away end was absolutely brilliant.

The last 15 minutes or so were incredibly tense, Sunderland kept giving the ball away easily or making tiny mistakes. Then it was announced 4 minutes of extra time. Time seemed to slow down, everyone was checking their watches and phones. Then on the 94th minute, forest got the ball in the box, it went past  Ruiter and smacked off the post!

Sunderland fans at this point including me had just aged 40 years from that shot.

Sunderland cleared it and the referee blew his whistle, Sunderland had won! The away end celebrating the final whistle like we had scored another goal!


Sunderland fans at the final whistle

Sunderland pulled themselves out of the relegation zone, it’s days like Saturday that make following Sunderland worthwhile.

I think Sunderland performed very well, big shout out to Gibson who’s been playing fantastic under Coleman, under Moyes and Grayson he was shocking. Hopefully he can recover quickly from his injury and come back onto the side. If we’re going to stop up, we’re going to need players like him.

Chris Coleman. A review so far: Part 1

Back in August I did a review on what I thought of Simon Graysons performances so far as Sunderland manager, 2 draws and 1 win seemed a pretty decent start for a team in financial ruin . But it soon fell apart rather quickly, defeats to teams like Bristol, and draws to teams like Bolton and meant he had to go, and 10 minutes after the draw to Bolton he was gone. So who would take the role of managing the circus that is Sunderland AFC?

After weeks of speculating, Chris Coleman was unveiled as Sunderland manager, he’s done incredible for Wales but his club management history wasn’t so good. It was quite a big risk and we still don’t know if he’ll be the man to keep us up  but the signs are promising. Currently he’s on 2 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses, and with the squad we’ve got I still thinks that’s a fantastic record so far, so what’s changed? The players under Grayson are still there, so what has changed? Let’s take a look at first the tactics side of the new manager





Under Grayson we’d continually smash the ball up towards our lone striker, Moyes did this and to an extent under Big Sam as well but what the difference is between that under Sam it wasn’t aimless, Ruiter smashing the ball towards Grabban in hope we’d get lucky and he’d receive it was pointless and it kept happening. It worked the first few games because teams weren’t sure how we’d play, eventually they sussed us out  and it all went to pot .

Under Coleman however he wants to install a philosophy  that you don’t have to panic and smash the ball in hope of reaching your team mate, and it showed in the game for example against Burton, it took a while but we eventually broke Burton down and scored 2 very important goals.

In his first game against Villa you could see it almost working, he just needed more time and I think if he came in a bit earlier we could have got a result there. After Burton was Reading at home, again we played decent football up until McManaman got himself sent off with an incredibly stupid handball and we collapsed and lost 3-1.

The next game was against Wolves, a team that’s pretty much promoted already, 10 points clear of 3rd, this game for the majority of Sunderland fans was a write off, I think what most Sunderland fans thought was hopefully to try and weather the storm and not concede too many. However Sunderland had a game plan, and although it’s deemed incredibly unpopular, it worked. Sunderland parked the bus, Wolves couldn’t  get past any of our defenders, they were quickly shut down, O’shea maybe in decline but he proved exactly why he’s been chosen for years by various Sunderland managers. He was calm and made sure the back 4 knew exactly what they were doing.

Cattermole almost messed things up getting himself sent off with 2 bookings with a minute of each other, but we held on and got a very valuable point. It was far from a pretty performance but it got us that point.

The next game was very important for lots of reasons, firstly we needed a win, teams around us were picking up points and secondly if we failed to beat Fulham it’d be a full calendar year without a win at home.

We started off very strongly, forcing their keeper to make a save within 60 seconds. Slowly though Fulham started coming into the game, but unlike previous games, Sunderland wouldn’t die, we wanted that win. Another thing I’ve noticed is Coleman has put faith in the youngsters, and they’ve been a huge help. Asoro got the assist against Burton for Honeymans goal who is  another youngster who has performed great for us since coming into the team. Anyway 70th minute Coleman brought on Asoro and Maja both youngsters who haven’t had their proper chances yet under previous managers


75th minute though, the ball was passed through to Maja who slotted it past Bettinelli. Sunderland were winning at home! Coleman had broken the voodoo, after almost a year Sunderland had actually won a game at home. But tactics isn’t the only other thing that Chris Coleman has brought in, I’ll be looking into more of that in part two


My FM18 Journey Part 3

After last episode we had won 3-0 vs Bristol Rovers! Lets hope we get a good cup draw…

Cup Draw rip

Well there’s always the FA Cup isn’t there! Will bring in some nice revenue as a large team travels down to the south coast but I’m not expecting anything from this match. Even though they have a very tricky set of fixtures surrounding our game I still don’t feel we can win it. This is in fact the last game I play today, so you’ll see how it goes later!

Anyways back to the football, our first match was against Southampton, who are doing significantly better than us this season. After conceding early (A regular occurrence) we managed to claw one back thanks to Anthony Knockaert and went on to take a good draw from a game we may not have deserved to.

Southampton vs Brighton

After the Southampton match, we faced 18th placed Burnley which was conveniently on my birthday in game! Glad to see that lady luck was on our side that day too with two penalties both converted by Hassan! A red card for the second penalty meant the game died fairly quickly after that but we’d racked up two good results on the trot!

Brighton vs Burnley

Next up; Man Utd

and we didn’t lose! Again we conceded early but managed to score so late on that I was delighted we kept it going til the very end. Our counter attacking tactic paid off and I’m glad to have frustrated a struggling United side who are mid table at the time of writing.

Brighton vs Man utd

Our final match of the article is the cup tie vs Chelsea, but between these matches I was just doing a bit of scouting as you do and came across this gem of a player called José Javier García; an 18 year old attacking midfielder from Spain who showed some really promising stats at such a young age. I decided to use the ‘tranfer target’ feature as I’ve always found that the function never really worked. However to my surprise he was snapped up for a low low price of £3.2m but with £27,000 WAGES WHAT ARE YOU DOING.

Jose Javier Garcia Inbox

but his stats are pretty good I think

Jose Javier Garcia Stats

Anyways let me know what you think of him, but I’m holding out for something special here! The Chelsea game went terribly, we were outplayed and eventually lost 2-1 thanks to a rubbish goal, I was rather disappointed.

Brighton vs Chelsea (CUP)

I’m hoping to just crack out a load of games and maybe even get to Christmas in game by the time the next article comes out! Hope you guys enjoyed the read/picture book. I like to keep it short and sweet with the text as match stats tell you more of a story than words in my opinion but I can write more if you like! Thanks for reading!

My Top 10 Football Bucket List


Football has provided us with some amazing memories, from the infamous “AGUEROOOOOOO!!!!” in 2012 to “The fans are on the pitch, they think it’s all over…it is now!” in the 1966 World Cup Final, but it has also provided us with some amazing stadiums from Wembley Stadium to Emirates Stadium in England to Camp Nou to the Bernabeu in Spain.

Here are the top 10 from my Football Bucket List, in no particular order.

Continue reading

Lets head to South America – Venezuela


I’m the boss now.

Some players don’t like meeting new faces whether it be players, manager or coaches. That was the welcome I received when I strolled up to training the day after being officially appointed to take charge. The players didn’t take too me, they had a very positive relationship with the previous Head Coach so naturally, when I was appointed things looked very different. I’m unproven, untested and untried, but somehow I’m the new Head Coach.

I’d been tasked with the challenge of taking the team through the playoff system to win the Copa Tracki, not just that competition though, we also had the Copa Venezuela Final to deal with on top of that. The players, although unhappy, gave it everything in the final stretch of training sessions. They knew how important it was to win the league for the first time since 1985 & so did I.

Player stats.

  • Top Goalscorer – Over Garcia (47)
  • Highest Average Rating – Yeferson Velazco (7.72)
  • Most Assists – Yeferson Velazco (23)
  • Best Pass Completion – Richard Ruiz (94%)
  • Most player of the match awards – Over Garcia (15)
  • Most Yellows – Juan Paez (19)
  • Most Reds – Danilo Ferreria (2)
  • Fans player of the season – Yeferson Velazco (42%)
  • Goal of the season – Jose Yeguez
  • Signing of the season – Over Garcia (Free Transfer)
  • Young player of the season – Andris Herrera


Over Garcia

Over Garcia signed for us at the beginning of the year & he has been simply fantastic, his contract expires at the end of the month & we’re yet to offer him a new deal although his agent has signalled that he isn’t prepared to start negotiations as he chases a big move to Brazil. Yeferson Velazco has been another good signing, his influence off the ball was superb and to top it off with 23 assists is fantastic, Yeferson is a key player for my plan next year as we enter the 2018 Copa Libertadores & test ourselves against some of the biggest clubs in south america.


Yeferson Velazco

We have 23 players off contract from next month & not many of them are prepared to sign a new deal which worries me. I’ve had some reports from our Under 20’s coach who’s gave me some advice and options to add to the squad by dipping into our youth academy. Several players are ready to make the jump to the first team, but I’ll be making sure they fit into my plans during pre-season.

Pre Season Planning

While we work had during our training session, our Scouting Network are working hard to add quality to our already talented side. Lots of quality is available without a fee, however need atleast 12 new signings to compete in the Copa Libertadores, the biggest competition in South America. The board are expecting us to reach the Group Stage so we have to work incredibly hard to make it through the qualifiers, I believe we can cause some big upsets during this competition.


Copa Libertadores Group!

The draw for the Libertadores was slightly unkind on us. We’ve been drawn against Millionarios of Colombia, Nacional of Uruguay & lastly, Palmeiras of Brazil so it’s a tough task but I believe in my squad to get the job done. I honestly believe we can beat all of the teams we’ve been drawn against, I know it won’t be easy but we’re assembling quite the squad.



  • Salomao – Sao Raimundo (RR) – £14.5K
  • Renatinho Silva – America (MG) – £1.7K
  • Ganso – Cliper – £6.75K
  • Andres Arboleda – Jaguares FC – £7K


Andres Arboleda

  • Francisco Vega – Juan Aurich – £41.5K
  • Claudio Pombo – Free Transfer
  • Samuel Cacares – Free Transfer


Samuel Cacares

  • Isael – Free Transfer
  • Emanuel Bilbao – Free Transfer

The clubs ambition

  • Copa Tracki – Finish in the top 3
  • Copa Venezuela – Win the Cup
  • Copa Libertadores – Don’t get outclassed in the group

We open our Copa Tracki Open Stage campaign against Atletico El Vigia FC who’re expected to finish 15th, the newly promoted side are currently 1000-1 to finish top & they look more likely to struggle. We’ve been listed as an expected 8th placed finish, although we’ll be looking for a much higher placed finish than that.

We open our campaign in three days time, the squad are ready & they’ve been working very, very hard during pre-season. Over Garcia came to me during pre-season and asked for a move away, I’ve told him to use this Libertadores campaign to put himself in the window & if a suitable offer comes in, then we’ll consider it. The problem with that is in Venezuela, no one scores goals like he does, he’s a player that would be incredibly hard to replace.

As for the Libertadores, the board have asked for us not to be out classed, I’ve told the lads to go on and win in, we’re a small team in comparison to most others in the competition but we have the passion and pride, our fans deserve it more than anything else.

Opening day

Atletico El Vigia – Estudiantes De Merida

Ramon “Gato” Hernandez Stadium

Our stating XI

  1. GK – Emanuel Bilbao
  2. RB – Ismael Paez
  3. CB – Samuel Caceres
  4. CB – Andres Arboleda
  5.  LB – Jose Yeguez
  6.  CM – Yeferson Velazco
  7.  CM – Juan Paez
  8.  AMR – Rodrigo Castro
  9.  AMC – Francisco Vega
  10.  AML – Jesus Vargas
  11.  ST – Over Garcia

Pre Match Build Up

“Merida are looking like favourites to everyone in the stadium, newly promoted Atletico will struggle to keep pace with Over Garcia. We see 5 debutants for Merida & it’ll be interesting to see how they fare. Looking over to Atletico, they struggled for signings during the off season so manager Dario Martinez uses the same line up from the last game that secured them promotion to the top flight. We’ve got hold of Merida manager in the tunnel, lets see what he has to say.”

“Dario, you are looking to carry on where you left off last season, how do you think you’ll do?”

“Obviously I’m confident that we will win, we are using a similar system to last year and you saw how effective that was under the previous manager.”

“What have you said to the guys in the changing rooms?”

“I’ve told them to go out and play our game. We’ve got to start on the front foot, make ourselves known & show Atletico that they are in for a real game here today.”

“Thanks, Dario. Good luck today.”

Before the game, you would never have thought that Atletico would’ve had 70% possession would you? But they did & they still came away with no points. It was a rather strange day game with the 70% of the game being played in the Merida half, however both of Meridas goals came from classic counter attacks, new signing Francisco Vega scoring a classy shot from the edge of the box, looking up and putting it right into the top corner. His second came from a shot from 7 yards which curled past the Atletico keeper.

Final Score

Atletico 1 – 2 Merida