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The Footballers" Football Column – Alan Curbishley:

ALAN CURBISHLEY: The pressure of a relegation battle is huge… you're playing to keep the dinner lady and groundsman in jobs – as well as themselves

PUBLISHED:

07:19 GMT, 3 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

13:12 GMT, 3 April 2013

Alan Curbishley

Alan Curbishley is one of the most experienced managers in the Premier League – yet he has been out of work for more than four years. After 15 years and 729 games managing Charlton he decided to leave for a new challenge. That came in 2006 when he took over at a struggling West Ham. He kept the Hammers in the Premier League on the final day of the season against Manchester United at OId Trafford. In his debut Footballers' Football Column Curbishley writes about the pressures of a relegation battle and who he believes will go down this season. He also discusses his desire to return to the dug-out after his long absence. Before you read his column, make sure you watch his video.

Alan Curbishley: Footballers' Football column

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I feel for all the managers who are fighting relegation this season because I know how tough it is. There are so many different pressures being a Premier League manager and even more so when you are in a relegation battle.

The main pressure is the finances. You’re aware that if you get relegated you can lose up to 70 per cent of your income.

And if that’s the case you’ve got to start thinking about not just the players and the staff, but the ordinary people at the football club, the people who work in the restaurants and at the training ground. People whose livelihoods depend of the job and when there are cutbacks after relegation, they’re often the first people that take the hit.

Nigel Adkins

Harry Redknapp

Paul Lambert

Roberto Martinez

Tough times: Nigel Adkins, Harry Redknapp, Paul Lambert and Roberto Martinez are all feeling the pressure

So you’ve got the financial pressure, the pressure on yourself, because obviously you don’t want to be associated with relegation, and you know that it could be a long way back for the football club if that happens.

And then it’s the fans and the press and the media that seem to thrive on every bad moment. So there’s loads of different pressures going on, and I’ve not even mentioned the football, but you’ve got to be aware of all that and it takes its toll.

Every situation is different and it all depends how long you’ve been in that struggle for, if you’ve been in that all season it does take its toll and you do have to go game by game. You’re just hoping for that one match, that one thing that turns it around and starts giving people confidence.

Feeling down: Christopher Samba and Clint Hill look dejected after losing to Fulham

Feeling down: Christopher Samba and Clint Hill look dejected after losing to Fulham

More from The Footballers' Column…

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The Footballers' Football Column – Kevin Blackwell: The players I inherited at Leeds turned up in Bentleys… I was signing lads on 1,000 a week who drove battered Fords (and we still reached the play-off final)
26/03/13

JILL SCOTT: How Arsenal are on their way to winning a trophy (no, really) – and why we take the mick out of England's golden oldie
25/03/13

GARETH SOUTHGATE: If we give our young players a chance then the next Messi or Ronaldo could come from England
21/03/13

The Footballers' Football Column: McShane was doing 100 press ups a day at age seven, Meyler's 'as sharp as a spoon'… and brilliant Brady's a phenomenal footballer
20/03/13

RICHARD LEE: I've barely trained all season to the point now that the lads at Brentford call an easy day a 'Rich Lee'
19/03/13

GRAHAM WESTLEY: Being sacked by Preston was a relief… I was hamstrung, I knew the answers to problems but I wasn't allowed to solve them
16/03/13

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

But then there are the other clubs who feel safe and suddenly drop into it the last few games and they’re not used to that pressure, they’re not used to playing under than intense scrutiny and you can’t cope with it.

Sometimes the club that stays up is the battle-hardened one, who has been in it most of the season and just manages to get out of it near the end before the trap-door closes and that’s it.

When you are down there you look for positives but in reality there’s nothing better than winning a game. I’ve often thought, ‘What comes first – confidence winning you matches, or winning matches giving you confidence’

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you get a win, as long as you’ve gone and got the three points on the Saturday, you know it can change the whole atmosphere around the club.

If you are down there then you have got to try different things to turn your fortunes around. Look back to last season, Wigan looked doomed.

But then Roberto Martinez switched his defence to three at the back and gave them a bit more stability, they won a couple of games 1-0 and suddenly the confidence was there, they went on a terrific run until the end of the season and stayed up.

Players react differently when they are in a relegation battle. Some players are affected by it, you know they are good players but they are struggle being in that position.

But then other players thrive on it and can handle it. When you’re in that battle you like to look around the dressing room and perhaps look at six or seven players, or even eight, and know what you’re going to get. Because unless that amount of players are performing you’re not going to win anything.

A relegation battle is tough for everyone and I certainly did not enjoy it. When I went into West Ham they were third from bottom, 14 points from 17 games, and so you know, even if you start taking a point a game, you’re going to be involved in it for the rest of the season. Anything better than that is European form.

I knew when I went into West Ham we had to get out of it quickly and we didn’t. Obviously we stayed in it and with 10 games to go we were doomed, but we got a bit of luck. We won a game at Blackburn where we scored a goal that never went over the line, and suddenly it changed.

We picked up the next result, the team selection was consistent, which it hadn’t been before I was at the club, and along with that came a bit of belief.

Has the luck run out Will Wigan be relegated this season after a number of years of narrow escapes

Has the luck run out Will Wigan be relegated this season after a number of years of narrow escapes

We won seven of our last nine games. Look at who we played – Arsenal, Everton, Bolton who were in a European position, Middlesbrough, who were just outside of European spots, and then the last game of the season at Manchester United.

What I remember about that game at Old Trafford is that nine of the players who played in that game were at the club before I arrived, so it got me thinking, and it’s what I thought all along, the players had the ability, so why were they in the position they were in

I had players in that run-in playing with so much confidence and doing things I couldn’t imagine they could’ve done weeks before. Consistent team selection helped, and results, and obviously the fans.

Often people talk about Tevez, but he hadn’t scored for 20 games before that. We kept five clean sheets, Robert Green was fantastic, Bobby Zamora scored two fantastic winning goals when we won 1-0 at Arsenal and 1-0 at Everton, but the fans played a massive part.

Alan Curbishley

Alan Curbishley

Contrasting emotions: Alan Curbishley shows the strains of West Ham's relegation battle and celebrates staying up on the final day of the season against Manchester United at Old Trafford

One of the games was Wigan away where I
think we took more fans than Wigan had there, it was just incredible, we
just responded and won 3-0 there and that was the first time, after
that game that I felt, ‘We’re going to do this’.

I look at the teams down there at the moment, and Wigan especially, is it finally their year They’ve survived so many times in the last games of the season. And I’ve just got a feeling this FA Cup run is going to cause them a problem; they’re a game behind the rest of the league at the moment, when they play their semi-final they’re possibly going to be two games behind.

If they get to the final they’re going to have to make up at least two or three games when there are only eight games left.

It’s going to take an emotional toll, we’ve seen it before with teams getting to a cup final and going down, I’m just wondering if it’s a bit too much for them. They’ve still got to win games. Having games in hand is nice, but you’ve got to win them.

When I look at the table I think Reading, QPR and Wigan are the three who are going to go down.

Staying up: Carlos Tevez celebrates scoring the goal that kept West Ham in the Premier League

Staying up: Carlos Tevez celebrates scoring the goal that kept West Ham in the Premier League

Playing his part: Bobby Zamora scored some key goals for West Ham in their survival bid

Playing his part: Bobby Zamora scored some key goals for West Ham in their survival bid

Stroke of luck: West Ham beat Blackburn with a goal from Zamora that never crossed the line

Stroke of luck: West Ham beat Blackburn with a goal from Zamora that never crossed the line

I think the timing for Reading to sack Brian McDermott was poor. December is traditionally the vulnerable time for managers as the chairman will think, ‘If I bring a new man in, he’s got to have a chance to bring some new faces in and change it around a little bit.’

But history has shown that no club in the bottom three who have changed their manager in March have managed to survive.

But when you consider whatever the compensation involved in letting McDermott go, the prize, if
they do manage to turn it around, is massive. You’re talking 60-70million, so I can see why they’ve done it.

But I think most people in football would look at it and think, ‘Perhaps if you’d have done it earlier then you might have had a better chance’.

Brian McDermott

Nigel Adkins

Poor timing: Curbishley says it was the wrong time for Reading to sack McDermott (left) and get Adkins

All managers in football, especially in the Premier League, who find themselves down the bottom, know that if they don’t pick up results soon they’re in trouble. I just think that this was so late in the day.

I have not worked in management since I left West Ham in 2008, but my exile has been self-inflicted. When I left West Ham I felt they were in the wrong and I was in the right, and it took its time to be sorted out and that was detrimental to me.

But I’ve had opportunities to come back in and maybe I’ve been a bit too picky. Perhaps the advice to managers that have been out of the game would be to get back in as quickly as possible, because you are easily forgotten.

Plenty of experience: Curbishley managed Charlton for more than 700 games between 1991 and 2006

Plenty of experience: Curbishley managed Charlton for more than 700 games between 1991 and 2006

Final bow: Sir Alex Ferguson is one of only a few managers to have taken charge of more Premier League games than Curbishley

Final bow: Sir Alex Ferguson is one of only a few managers to have taken charge of more Premier League games than Curbishley

I’m still the sixth most experienced Premier League manager and I haven’t worked for some time now. It goes Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Harry Redknapp, David Moyes, Sam Allardyce then myself, so I think I’ve still got a lot to offer.

But someone’s got to be attracted by my record, and, not take a gamble, but I only really want to come back in the Premier League and that is difficult. I’d like a Premier League job. Certainly if it was a Championship club it’s got to be one I think is going to go somewhere.

I’m quite happy doing what I’m doing at the moment, and there’s a lot less pressure. But if anyone wants to look at my record it stands up with the best of them, so we’ll have to see.

Harry Redknapp – Footballers" Football Column: La Liga is better than the Premier League

HARRY REDKNAPP: Life as a football boss is scary… A few bad results, the chairman goes to his golf club, his mates tell him the team's rubbish and the manager is sacked!

PUBLISHED:

09:32 GMT, 15 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

10:17 GMT, 15 March 2013

Harry Redknapp

QPR manager Harry Redknapp was hotly tipped to replace Fabio Capello as England manager. That job went to Roy Hodgson and Harry now finds himself battling relegation at Loftus Road. Redknapp enjoyed a magical four-year spell at Tottenham during which he took Spurs on a Champions League adventure. In his Footballers' Football Column, Redknapp looks at why there are no English clubs in the last eight of the Champions League, explains why he believes La Liga is better than the Premier League and why foreign owners need to give English managers a chance….

One-on-one with Harry Redknapp

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If I am honest, at the start of the year, I don't think you could see an English team winning the Champions League. You looked at Manchester United and thought they might go close. They were unlucky against Real Madrid – the referee's decision to send off Nani cost them.

It has been one of those years for
English clubs in the Champions League. We've not got a single club in
the quarter-finals, but I'm sure next year will be different.

I think we will probably see a stronger Chelsea and a stronger Manchester City. The
Barclays Premier League is exciting, it is probably the most exciting
league in the world. But in terms of actual football, I think the
Spanish league takes some beating.

When you watch a La Liga game, you will always see two teams who are technically very good. Our league has the excitement, every game is a tough game.

It isn't always pretty, but on any given day, you can see an upset in our league whereas you don't get that so much in Spain.

Crashing out: Ryan Giggs and Robin van Persie look on after Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid

Crashing out: Ryan Giggs and Robin van Persie look on after Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid

Turning point: Nani was controversially sent off against Madrid when United were ahead in the game

Turning point: Nani was controversially sent off against Madrid when United were ahead in the game

Turning it around: Lionel Messi helped Barcelona overturn a 2-0 first leg deficit to AC Milan to progress

Turning it around: Lionel Messi helped Barcelona overturn a 2-0 first leg deficit to AC Milan to progress

A real force: Borussia Dortmund's have progressed in recent years under Juergen Klopp

A real force: Borussia Dortmund's have progressed in recent years under Juergen Klopp

More from The Footballers' Column…

The Footballers' Football Column – Luther Blissett: People say Watford have exploited a loan 'loophole' but Zola has established us as a force really quickly
12/03/13

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12/03/13

Steven Reid – The Footballers' Football Column: Liam Ridgewell went to a Justin Bieber gig… he didn't even have the excuse of taking his kids – he went with one of the other West Brom lads!
09/03/13

Curtis Davies – The Footballers' Football Column: I knew I'd score against Blackpool, I always get goals when I play the B-teams
07/03/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Mark McChrystal: I haven't given up hope of winning my first full cap… And don't judge James McClean unless you know him or understand Northern Ireland
05/03/13

Ruud Gullit – The Footballers' Football Column: German teams are doing better in Champions League because they have homegrown players… English clubs have too many overpaid foreigners
02/03/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Brian Clark: Newcastle's 28m super scout on discovering the Ameobi brothers… oh and a chubby lad called Gascoigne
28/02/13

The Footballer's Football Column – Carolyn Radford: Life in non-League It's all fast cars and 70-year-old club secretaries
25/02/13

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

The top teams dominate in Spain. They've got two fantastic teams in Barcelona and Real Madrid. They have also got Atletico Madrid who are outstanding.

For me, technically, La Liga is a better league than the Barclays Premier League. The football they play, the passing of the ball; it's of better quality than the Barclays Premier League.

Why is is it a better league technically Because they don't play like we do.

They don't put crosses into the box too often, they don't have teams taking long throws, they don't have teams just booting the ball up the pitch.

They all play. They play out from the back, pass the ball and their movement is good. But you can see that style coming into our league now.

Look at the way Swansea and Wigan. It's no secret that a Spanish manager, Roberto Martinez, started the Swansea philosophy.

And he has done the same at Wigan. Yes, they are struggling but they have spent no money and Roberto has got them playing to the best of their ability.

As well as Spain, I also think the Bundesliga has come on leaps and bounds. Their two top teams, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, are excellent.

You saw that in Dortmund's Champions League group. They were in with Manchester City, Real Madrid and Ajax but came out on top in that group of death.

I watch plenty of lower division football and you see the ball being booted up the pitch a million times in 90 minutes. The ball is booted from one end of the park to the other so many times the ball must have a headache.

It gets booted up the pitch, one team heads it away and vice-versa. There's too much of that; we need to encourage teams and players to play football.

Nurturing kids to play a passing game has to start from park football. Kids games on Sunday mornings are geared too much towards winning the game.

The priority for them is to win. That absolutely has to change. You need to be able to let kids take chances when they play.

Rio Ferdinand was 17 when he played for me at West Ham, I told him to play. I wanted him to come out of defence with the ball and pass it.

If he made a few mistakes, it wasn't a problem for me. But when you've got parents on the sidelines ranting and raving at their kids because they lose the ball, that's when it becomes very difficult.

Encouraged to pass: Harry Redknapp says he wanted Rio Ferdinand to play from the back when he was at West Ham

Encouraged to pass: Harry Redknapp says he wanted Rio Ferdinand to play from the back when he was at West Ham

Hope for the future: St. George's Park will help develop the future of English football

Hope for the future: St. George's Park will help develop the future of English football

Hopefully, the introduction of St George's Park can improve our elite kids technically. We'll see, let's hope we've got the right coaches in there, that is the key.

The identity of how this country wants to play football has to come from the very top. We have to pick a way of playing and stick with it.

Are we going to play out from the back Are we going to ask the centre backs to spilt and let a midfield player pick the ball up from a goal kick Are we going to try and play our way through

If that's what we want then we need to coach our kids to pass, pass, pass, pass and pass again.

Or are we just going to boot it up to the big centre-forward If England want to do that then what's the point in coaching the kids to pass the ball

Not to be: Redknapp says he does not think about being England manager

Not to be: Redknapp says he does not think about being England manager

The great escape Redknapp is trying to mastermind QPR's survival in the Premier League

The great escape Redknapp is trying to mastermind QPR's survival in the Premier League

Out identity needs to come from the top. We need to pick a way to play and stick with it all the way through the system. Otherwise there is no point.

The problem we've got is that it's difficult to see an end to that cycle of playing long-ball. We are in a results business. We all need results.

We don't have time. It might take a year to change the attitude of the players and change the philosophy. But do you get that sort of time with chairman at half of the football clubs

After a few bad results, the chairman goes to his golf club; his mates tell him the team's rubbish and the next thing you know the manager's sacked. It's scary.

It's like a merry-go-round. How are you supposed to improve teams in six months

Brian McDermott did a great job at Reading and they sacked him, how can you get your head round that decision Nigel Adkins earned two consecutive promotions and still got sacked. ]

Brian McDermott

Nigel Adkins

Out of work: Both Brian McDermott and Nigel Adkins were sacked after winning promotion last season

In many ways, for managers in the Championship, it seems like there is no point in getting promoted because you've got more chance of getting the sack in the Barclays Premier League.

When you're in the Barclays Premier League, unless you've got the resources, you're going to come back down again. And if it looks like you're going to be relegated then the manager is in trouble.

It's crazy, but that's how it seems to work.

British managers just don't get a chance in the top league anymore because of the number of foreign owners. This country will eventually have all foreign owners.

That's why I think it's great to see people like Dave Whelan do so well at Wigan, or if you look at West Ham, they have got David Gold and David Sullivan.

The right people: David Sullivan and David Gold are West Ham fans and Redknapp says football needs more owners like them

The right people: David Sullivan and David Gold are West Ham fans and Redknapp says football needs more owners like them

Going about it the right way: Harry Redknapp is full of praise for Roberto Martinez at Wigan

Going about it the right way: Harry Redknapp is full of praise for Roberto Martinez at Wigan

They are West Ham people, West Ham are their club. We need more people like that in our game,

All the foreign owners are successful people, they are all billionaires. They think whatever they are involved in they should be winning.

They think if they are winning in business, why aren't they winning in football They can't understand it if their team aren't winning every week or top of the league. That's the problem.

They only see they are not winning, they don't think about why they are not winning. They don't think to themselves: 'We haven't got the players.'

They only see they aren't winning games. They don't understand why, so they sack the manager.

He looks older than me! Redknapp says he is not contemplating retirement yet and says he looks younger than Arsene Wenger

He looks older than me! Redknapp says he is not contemplating retirement yet and says he looks younger than Arsene Wenger

BARCLAYS TICKET OFFICE

Harry Redknapp was speaking on behalf of Barclays Ticket Office.

Every 90 minutes throughout the season, Barclays is offering fans the chance to win free tickets to Barclays Premier League matches by going to a Barclays ATM and requesting a receipt, or by visiting barclaysticketoffice.com

People always say I should be managing England rather than be in a relegation fight with Queens Park Rangers now, but I don't look back at what might have been. I don't think like that.

What
happened last year has gone, that's life. Even when I've called it a
day, I won't look back and regret not managing England.

I'm looking forward to the game against Aston Villa on Saturday, that's all. I've been very lucky to have managed in the Barclays Premier League all these years, doing something I love and getting paid for it. It's a fantastic life.

I'm 66-years-old, but I'm not even contemplating retirement at the moment, I'm still enjoying it. Just look, at Sir Alex Ferguson, he is's older than me.

Arsene Wenger is around the same age…even though he looks older!

The Footballers" Football Column – Rohan Ricketts: Globetrotter how he moved from England to Ecuador via India

ROHAN RICKETTS: Cows in the road and Twitter row meant my Indian adventure ended early… but I went back in time to live the dream in South America

PUBLISHED:

08:20 GMT, 18 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

14:06 GMT, 18 February 2013

Rohan Ricketts

Rohan Ricketts started his football career playing for Arsenal and was part of the hugely successful side that won the FA Youth Cup in 2000 and 2001. But a year later he made the move that only four players before him had and crossed the north London divide to join Tottenham. After 30 appearances for the White Hart Lane club, Ricketts began his football journey playing for Wolves, Coventry, QPR, Barnsley before he opted to move abroad and to join MLS side Toronto FC. Since then he has played in Hungary, Moldova, Germany, Ireland and India. He is now playing in South America, in Ecuador. Before you read his first Footballers' Football Column, watch his video.

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I’ve often been called a ‘journeyman’ in my football career and in late 2012 I made my biggest journey to date when I signed for Dempo SC in Goa, India. It doesn’t sound like the most obvious move to make but, as they say, football is a funny old game.

Last summer I was really keen to return to the UK, after a stint at Shamrock Rovers in Ireland so I returned to London to see what I could find.

But it is such a tough market and there were so many players looking for a club. There’s a fine balance between holding your nerve and waiting to find a club or signing somewhere to ensure financial security for your family.

Getting to know the locals: Ricketts enjoyed his short spell in India, despite his issues on the pitch

Getting to know the locals: Ricketts enjoyed his short spell in India, despite his issues on the pitch

There were many players who were still looking for a club even after the season started. It’s easy to assume that players are being choosy about which club they sign for and ruling out lower league clubs but for me that wasn’t the case.

I love playing football, it’s what I was born to do. I may have been nearing 30 but I had no plans to give it up just yet.

After much deliberation with my family and friends, I made the decision to sign for Dempo SC. India isn’t really known for its football, I knew it would be different to Europe but the challenge of living in another country and helping them to build up the reputation of football really appealed to me.

I did it before when I signed for Toronto FC in MLS and I found it really rewarding to help educate a new generation about the sport.

First move abroad: Ricketts moved to MLS and joined Toronto

First move abroad: Ricketts moved to MLS and joined Toronto

I was told how serious Dempo SC were about growing football in India and I was excited to join them so I signed until May 2013.

It
certainly was a world away from London. It gets so hot there that we
were doing all our training sessions and practice matches early in the
morning before it got too unbearable.

It was fascinating to live in such a different culture, I was late for training on a couple of occasions due to cows in the road which was certainly something I had not experienced before and was I confronted with severe poverty in certain areas, which was difficult to see.

On the pitch, it was great to taste victory on the first day of the season after such a long break away, but it really was a different game to the one I am used to. It was the tactics that were lacking, rather than the players' skill level, so I was confident we would improve as the team gelled.

Rohan Ricketts

Mobbed: Ricketts helped Shamrock Rovers win the Irish League

Luck of the Irish: Ricketts enjoyed his spell with Shamrock Rovers and helped them win the Irish league

Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to see if that would be the case. I had joined the team under the impression that they wanted me to play as I do and that they wanted to develop a passing style.

However the coach soon made it clear that he was expecting me to adapt to the way they played. It didn’t help that he was trying to play me as a striker rather than an attacking central midfielder.

I had some discussions with him about this in the early days and he did start to play me in the
right position.

Young stars: Rohan Ricketts was part of the Arsenal Youth team that included Steve Sidwell, Moritz Volz, Jermaine Pennant and Jay Bothroyd

Young stars: Rohan Ricketts was part of the Arsenal Youth team that included Steve Sidwell, Moritz Volz, Jermaine Pennant and Jay Bothroyd

Ricketts playing for Spurs

Rohan Ricketts

Crossing the divide: Ricketts moved to Spurs after starting his career in the Arsenal youth team

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I mentioned everything that was happening on my Twitter account, something the coach was not happy about. When the Indian press asked him about the things I was saying he denied it and said that I had misunderstood.

I knew that I hadn’t, although I do recognise that talking about it in 140 characters on Twitter was perhaps not the best forum. I was just frustrated because I wanted the team to do well.

As a result of my comments I was put on the bench for the next four games, in both the Goa and
I League.

The team did not do as well as we had been doing and it was really hard to sit and watch, but I remained professional and trained hard. It was a big plus to have moral support from a lot of the key members of the squad. This is something that can be rare being a player in a foreign country.

Eventually after keeping my focus and positive spirit, I was re-instated in the starting XI against Salgoacar FC. The game was tough but we ended up winning 2-1, and I scored my first I League goal and then set up the winnner.

After the game the coaches and players were in a good mood and we had gone two points clear at the top of the table. I had hoped that was the turning point for me but unfortunately things didn’t improve with the head coach.

It was a really uncomfortable situation with him and again I spoke out about the difficulties I was having on Twitter. After my first tweets I had spoken with the President of the club, who is a great guy, and he was supportive but obviously I understood that he needed to run the club successfully and for that he needs a united team.

I wasn’t trying to unsettle things with my later tweets but I couldn’t stay silent.

After further discussions with the President it became clear that my position at the club was untenable.

I can’t talk about everything that happened there but suffice to say that I have the utmost respect for the President and my team mates at Dempo SC along with the many fans who I met while I was there. I wish them every success this season.

Fortunately for me, when I knew that I was leaving Dempo, I was able to sign very quickly for a new club – 10 hours back in time at Deportivo Quevedo in Ecuador.

Playing in South America has always been a dream of mine so when my agent told me about this opportunity, I jumped at the chance.

A new excuse for being late: Ricketts was later for training due to cows in the road (file picture)

A new excuse for being late: Ricketts was later for training due to cows in the road (file picture)

Fans' favourite: Ricketts is surrounded by fans as he leaves training

Fans' favourite: Ricketts is surrounded by fans as he leaves training

I have been here for a month now and am settling in well. My team-mates have been very welcoming and I have joined in pre-season, which is refreshing after my last couple of moves where I have joined mid-way through and struggled to get to the same fitness level.

We played our first game of the season at the end of January against the Champions and biggest club in Ecuador Barcelona SC. Before the game I could feel the hype surrounding the game and for me it felt like I was involved in a Premier League fixture back home against Manchester United.

Fans all over our city, Quevedo, were stopping me daily to let me know how big the game was for them.

Talk about pressure on your first game.

This pressure was not new to me but I could still feel the anticipation and excitement all around. I'm grateful to be part of such moments. This is no doubt the stuff of dreams for others but for me it is reality.

I knew I was starting in the game a week before, so I did not have the annoying waiting game surrounding team selection.

On the move: Ricketts left India to move to Deportivo Quevedo in Ecuador

On the move: Ricketts left India to move to Deportivo Quevedo in Ecuador

Once the game day arrived and we got to the stadium and the energy around the ground was almost tangible. Salsa music was playing and the people were chanting an hour ahead of
kick-off.

I just tried to remain cool as I did not want to lose energy. Good thing I did because the game turned out to be a real scrap due to the bad weather which turned the pitch into a mud bath.

I was hoping to get on the ball and play our passing game, but it was not to be for either side.

ROHAN RICKETTS

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @RohanRicketts

It was all about winning the second ball and playing on the counter attack. We adapted really well to the conditions and took the lead early on but the referee seemed to have his own agenda, in the second half when he gave Barcelona as penalty which was never a penalty and then didn't give us a penalty for a blatant handball in their box.

I won't go too much into the incident as I may get myself in trouble, but the game ended 1-1. A good point for us against the champions and a good team performance.

I was relatively pleased with my performance but I know the conditions limited my chances of being more active in dangerous areas.

I'm adapting quickly and learning the lingo, which will only speed up the settling in process and help me get the most out of my latest football adventure.

David Beckham better than Cristiano Ronaldo – The Footballers" Football Column by Adam Eckersley

ADAM ECKERSLEY: I played with Beckham and Ronaldo – but Becks was better… and on one of the few occasions Fergie spoke to me, he warned me of dangers of gambling

PUBLISHED:

08:36 GMT, 6 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

10:01 GMT, 6 February 2013

Adam Eckersley, Port Vale

Adam Eckersley played one first-team game for Manchester United, before moving to Denmark to play for Horsens and AGF Aarhus. The 27-year-old attacking full back also played for Port Vale, and had loan spells at Royal Antwerp, Brondby, and Barnsley. Here, he talks about life as a Manchester United youngster – and what it’s like being an Englishman abroad…

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BY ECK: CAREER HISTORY

2004-2008: Manchester United
2006: Royal Antwerp (loan)
2006: Brondby (loan)
2007: Barnsley (loan)
2007: Port Vale (loan)
2008: Port Vale (loan)
2008 – 2010: Horsens
2010 – AGF Aarhus

Man Utd 4-1 Barnet
League Cup third round, Oct 2005
Scorers: MU – Miller, Richardson, Rossi, Ebanks-Blake. Barnet – Sinclair

TEAM: Tim
Howard; Phil Bardsley, Gerard Pique, Wes Brown, Adam Eckersley; Lee
Martin (Darron Gibson), Ritchie Jones, Liam Miller, Kieran Richardson;
Giuseppe Rossi, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.

My Manchester United debut (at home to Barnet in the League Cup in 2005) was one of the best nights of my life. I was so nervous though.

We met at the hotel about 1pm, I couldn’t sleep, so I spoke to some first-teamers for advice.

I said to Wes Brown, who was playing that night but had made his debut seven years earlier: 'I’m really nervous, are you'

He just looked at me and said: 'I’m not that bothered, to be honest, mate'. I was like: 'Thanks mate!'

I actually found out I was playing the week before. Wes used to have poker nights, once a week on a Monday night. It started off with just a few, but we ended up with 25 to 30 down there. You’d get first-teamers but reserves too, people like me, Chris Eagles, Mark Howard.

At one, Rooney said to me: 'I’ve seen the team, you’re playing next week.'

The manager (Sir Alex Ferguson) once had a word about my poker. I was with the first team on the way back from Birmingham City, playing cards at the back of the bus with the lads.

The next day, the manager had a word. We weren't playing for big amounts, but he told me to stop playing poker, concentrate on my football.

He actually brought up Keith Gillespie, who had gambling problems. It wasn’t the hairdryer, but it was good advice.

I didn’t often speak to the manager at United. If you walked past him at Carrington, he’d make conversation but I worked more with Brian McClair and Jim Ryan.

Debut: Adam Eckersley (No 44) joins the melee of Manchester United players as they swamp goalscorer Liam Miller during the 4-1 Carling Cup win over Barnet at Old Trafford in 2005

Debut: Adam Eckersley (No 44) joins the melee of Manchester United players as they swamp
goalscorer Liam Miller during the 4-1 Carling Cup win over Barnet at Old Trafford in 2005

Rocket man: Eckersley scores against Peterborough during a pre-season friendly at London Road

Rocket man: Eckersley scores against Peterborough during a pre-season friendly at London Road

Larking around: Wes Brown has a giggle at Ruud van Nistelrooy's expense during United training in 2005

Larking around: Wes Brown has a giggle at Ruud van Nistelrooy's expense during United training in 2005

Still, you knew that he knew everything: how you were playing, how you were training.

When I left for good, his last words to me were: 'You’re going to have a great career, you’ve been fantastic here.'

That was really good to hear.

I was in Puccini’s restaurant in Swinton, Greater Manchester, when I first heard about going to Denmark. In 2006, our reserve team manager at United, Rene Meulensteen, went to manage Brondby.

He signed Mark Howard from United. I’ve known Mark since I was five – we played for the same junior team in Salford, Barr Hill – and one day he phoned me up. He asked if I wanted to sign on loan. It was the first I’d heard of it!

Brondby wasn’t my first loan spell abroad. Earlier that year, I went to Antwerp in Belgium. It came as a shock: I came into training one morning, Jim Ryan dragged me in, and said you’re going to Antwerp this afternoon.

There were a few of us over there: Danny Simpson (now at Newcastle United), Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (Wolves), Lee Martin (Ipswich). We lived in a hotel for six months. It was a good opportunity to play first-team football.

What’s the difference between the reserves and first-team games It’s a feeling. In a first team, you’re someone important. You’re doing a job. You’re playing for points, for people’s livelihoods, for the manager’s job.

We would get six or seven thousand people at Antwerp, rather than 300 down at Altrincham for United reserves. I saw my career as a ladder, and this was another step up the ladder.

Injuries aren’t funny. I came back early from my loan spell at Brondby because I did my hamstring. I couldn’t take being injured.

I missed the buzz of the crowd, so I came back too soon. When you get older, you know when to stop. You think, 'You can either miss three games or three months'. When you’re younger, you don’t think like that. You just want to be out there.

Fitness battle: Eckersley at a Danish hospital with his legs in a special recuperation chamber

Fitness battle: Eckersley at a Danish hospital with his legs in a special recuperation chamber

More from The Footballers' Column…

The Footballers' Football Column – Edgar Davids: If Platini can't stop racism, he should step aside and get someone in who can… Blatter and Cruyff should be leading by example
01/02/13

MARTIN ALLEN: There are so many good, young English managers like Parkinson and Tisdale… But they are being overlooked for foreigners who have done nothing
01/02/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Karl Henry: Only a handful of Premier League players can do everything – work hard, tackle, score goals… Gerrard, obviously, but Wilshere is the best
29/01/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Graham Westley: It was cancerous when I arrived at Preston. Did anyone turn up drunk for training Probably… but I made 24 signings to clear out and start again
28/01/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Stephen Constantine: In England we coach the life out of players by the time they're 21… In Spain the emphasis is 'the ball is your friend', at home it’s 'get rid of it!'
25/01/13

KEVIN KEEGAN: I don't like players kissing the badge – show you care by the way you play… Suarez needs to sort himself out, fans are desperate to worship the ground he walks on, not falls on
21/01/13

RAHEEM STERLING: I get kicked a lot – it's annoying trying to sleep with your legs in pieces… Ivanovic is the scariest man I've played against but he's not dirty, he's a tank
18/01/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Richard Lee: I should've been a striker… you can be dreadful but bang in the winner and be hailed a hero, says the goalkeeper who is allergic to goalkeeping gloves
18/01/13

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

If you’re coming back from loan spells injured every week, it doesn’t look good. You look at other people who’ve had good loan spells and it really helps them: Tom Cleverley at Wigan, Jonny Evans at Sunderland, Danny Simpson at Sunderland and Blackburn, others.

Injuries held me back a little bit: I’m not saying I’d have been good enough for the first team, but they didn’t help.

In 2007, I had a loan spell at Port Vale and was sent off on my debut (at home to Brighton). I was booked in the first half for a good tackle, threw the ball into the floor, and gave the ref some stick.

In the 80th minute, the attacker was through, I caught him, it was almost a professional foul. I think the ref remembered the stick – he couldn’t get the red card out quick enough!

I still got man of the match though, so not all bad.

Looking back, I rushed my permanent move to Port Vale in 2008. No disrespect, but I think I could have signed for a team higher up the leagues. But I was at the end of my tether with reserve-team football.

I needed a new challenge. I had Evra, Heinze, Silvestre ahead of me. I thought 'you’ve got no chance'.

I signed a six-month deal at Port Vale, but I didn’t really like the football. The Horsens manager, Kent Nielsen (who played at Aston Villa from 1989 to 1991), had seen me during my loan spell at Brondby, and took me over there.

I knew the league, I knew the living conditions. In my first season, I injured my knee and we were relegated, but we won the First Division (the Danish second tier) the next season.

I then went to AGF, who’d been relegated from the Superliga. We went straight back up. Now we’re five points off second, although Copenhagen are running away with the league.

Take a look: Reading manager Brian McDermott watched Eckersley last year but a deal never materialised

Take a look: Reading manager Brian McDermott watched Eckersley last year but a deal never materialised

Living in Denmark was a lot easier after I met my Danish girlfriend, Elizabeth – she's now my wife. I’ve got to know her family; it’s like a home from home.

Do I speak Danish Elizabeth’s trying with me every day. The problem is, everyone here speaks English so well. I’m taking lessons though, and this time next year I reckon I’ll be OK. I don’t want my wife and kids, when we have them, speaking behind my back!

I’m not desperate to come back to England. If a Premier League team came in for me, of course I’d consider it.

Brian McDermott at Reading watched me last year but it didn’t work out. But there’s nowhere I wouldn’t go: Germany, Holland, anywhere. Moving abroad has made me grow up fast.

Family guy: Eckersley with his daughter in Denmark

Family guy: Eckersley with his daughter in Denmark

David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo are the best I’ve played with. If I had to choose Beckham.

I remember a first-team session at United, eight versus eight. Roy Keane was on my team; Beckham was on theirs. He kept crossing, and they kept scoring from them. I couldn’t get near him. Keane was shouting at me, going mad: 'Adam! You’ve got to get out to him, stop the crosses!'

I thought: 'The best full backs in the world can’t stop him, so what chance do I have!'

Keane just wanted the best though. I’m a bit like that with the younger players now.

Top class: Cristiano Ronaldo

Simply the best: David Beckham

Simply the best: Adam played with David Beckham (right) and Ronaldo at United but rates Becks as better

FOLLOW ADAM ON TWITTER

CLICK HERE TO FOLLOW @ADAMECK6

There are some really good players in Denmark – Lars Jacobsen (Copenhagen, formerly Everton, Blackburn and West Ham), Dennis Rommedahl (Brondby, formerly Ajax and Charlton), Martin Jorgensen (AGF, formerly Udinsese and Fiorentina). It’s a tough league and I enjoy it.

If you’d told me 10 years ago how my career would go, I wouldn’t have believed it. I’ve spoken to my mum about it. It’s amazing how it’s gone.

Elizabeth says it was all mapped out so I’d meet her.

The Footballers" Football Column – Craig Lindfield: I meet at a Little Chef for a lift, have breakfast in a pub and then discover at training…

CRAIG LINDFIELD: I meet at a Little Chef for a lift, have breakfast in a pub and then watch a team-mate do a 'Klinsmann' through a freezing puddle in his underwear!

PUBLISHED:

12:54 GMT, 16 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

15:38 GMT, 16 January 2013

Craig Lindfield

As Sportsmail's Footballers' Football Column continues to lift the lid on the lives of those who play, coach and administer the game, Accrington Stanley midfielder takes us through his typical week. A product of the famed Liverpool Academy, 24-year-old Lindfield has scored five times in 73 appearances for Stanley. Here's his take on life in League Two…

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THURSDAY
(Sportsmail asked Lindfield to start his diary on December 13)

TRIBUTE: STANLEY'S MOST FAMOUS FAN… DAVID 'BUMBLE' LLOYD

Bumble

'Craig is enjoying his second spell
with us and is a midfielder who has filled in really well at full back in
emergencies.

'He's a real team player who would do anything for this club,
including playing out of position if that's what we need.

David Lloyd Accrington Stanley U18s

'We are in a really
difficult situation at the moment and need committed players like Craig.

'He's a
good lad and we are in safe hands with the likes
of him in our colours.'

Bumble is a cricket columnist for Sportsmail and played for Accrington Stanley Under 18s (second picture) before embarking on his cricket career.

8.45 am My day starts by meeting at the Little Chef to share a lift to training. In League Two, money is tight and finding a ‘car school’ is vital to save petrol.

It is my turn to drive and the lads hate my car, a Renault Megane convertible, with zero leg room in the back. I wouldn’t mind but Charlie Barnett is about four-feet tall. It’s a 45-minute journey and today I receive 45 minutes of abuse about my car.

9.30 am The lads arrive in their ‘car schools’, the usual banter about people’s choice of clothing is rife. The same old faces wearing the same embarrassing clothes.

Dean Winnard is the main culprit,
wearing his Diesel jeans with his Asics running shoes. Then it’s over to
the pub for breakfast, the owners are paid a monthly sum by the players
to provide us with breakfast and lunch.

I
have a bowl of Alpen, whereas some of the more adventurous members of
the squad have Nutella on toast, mainly Rommy Boco our Benin winger,. He
often tries to be different from us British lads with such acts.

Breakfast
is followed by a game of darts for Charlie Barnett, Padraig Amond and I
that ends in a rare win for Charlie, who only needs two darts at double
18. The dartboard is one of the perks, of having breakfast in a pub.

Youth club: Lindfield (left) with Adam Hammill celebrate Liverpool's 2006 FA Youth Cup victory over Manchester City at the City of Manchester Stadium

Youth club: Lindfield (left) with Adam Hammill celebrate Liverpool's 2006 FA Youth Cup victory over Manchester City at the City of Manchester Stadium

How they stand in npower League Two

How they stand in npower League Two

11am Training today is indoors, the temperature is minus-three. We start with a possession circle and Peter Murphy has a season ticket as a chaser, as he’s constantly giving the ball away.

Then we have possession games, these got a bit ‘tasty’ and there is a real competitive edge, fuelled by some dodgy refereeing decisions from the staff.

The highlight was when Toto Nsiala, our 6ft 2in centre half, squealed like a girl when he got his little toe stood on.

1pm Back to the pub for our lunch and we are having pasta bolognese, I think Emma, the cook, may have got our food mixed up with their dogs today.

Some lads are rationed on food because yesterday there wasn’t enough to go round. Marcus Carver, a first year pro, ate a whole tray to himself. This didn’t go down well with some of the senior pros, to say the least.

2.30pm The gaffer (Leam Richardson) has called for a fitness session for the lads who have not played as much football recently. Unfortunately, as I share a lift, I have to wait in the Starbucks with Peter for our third member Charlie to be put through his paces.

4.30pm Arrive back to the meeting point after a journey of our creative midfielder Charlie Barnett rapping to 50 Cent, sometimes I think he’s in the wrong business.

RECENT RESULTS

Jan 12: Aldershot 2-0 Accrington

Jan 5: Accrington 0-2 Dag & Red

Jan 1: Accrington 1-0 Chesterfield

Dec 29: Rotherham 4-1 Accrington

Dec 26: Bradford 2-1 Accrington

Dec 22: Accrington 1-1 Plymouth

Dec 18: Oxford 2-0 Accrington
(FA Cup 2nd rnd)

Dec 15: Accrington 0-2 Wycombe

FRIDAY

11am Today I had a lie-in as we didn’t have to report for training until 11am, this was to let the Astroturf thaw out to train outside.

Firstly we had a team meeting to take us through some clips showing the strengths and weaknesses of tomorrow’s opponents Wycombe.

Our physio Les Parry controls the laptop and as usual starts the session with a funny picture to lighten the mood.

Today it is as rude as ever – his banter is usually far more intelligent – but we don’t have the brightest of squads so he has to stoop to a very immature level to give the likes of Will Hatfield a chance to understand the joke.

Will is possibly the dumbest lad in football. One evening Padraig Amond said he was thinking about placing a bet on the horses, Will asked: 'It’s eight o’clock at night how can the horses see where they are going'

12pm The lads arrive for training at the local college, getting up there quickly is a must as parking spaces are limited and today Peter Murphy reversed into a grass verge when attempting a three-point turn after arriving last.

The starting XI is named by the gaffer and they are taken separately to go through set pieces while the remaining lads, who often call themselves the ‘bomb squad’, have a game of possession which is taken by coach, Paul Lodge.

Lodgey gets the short straw as he has to put up with the grumpy faces of us players who are not starting this week and today I’m unfortunately in this group.

It is freezing cold today and the southern softies, mainly Matty Whichelow, are really feeling the pain.

The Watford winger was heard on many occasions this morning saying: 'You can’t be serious, bruv'

All in the timing: Accrington's Craig Lindfield has kept his League Two diary for Sportsmail's Footballer' Football Column

All in the timing: Accrington's Craig Lindfield has kept his League Two diary for Sportsmail's Footballer' Football Column

The bosses: Accrington manager Leam Richardson (left) and player-coach James Beattie share a joke before the match at Northampton earlier this season

The bosses: Accrington manager Leam Richardson (left) and player-coach James Beattie share a joke before the match at Northampton earlier this season

Third choice: Stanley's Padraig Amond (left) and Luke Joyce sport Accrington's new third away kit

Third choice: Stanley's Padraig Amond (left) and Luke Joyce sport Accrington's new third away kit

1pm The lads have never been as grateful for the Accrington Stanley shower facilities as they are today, rushing to get our wet kit off and get the first places in our four available slots.

The worst part of the day has to be queuing for a shower and in today’s temperatures I made sure I was one of the first four. Whichelow decides to offer 50 to any player who is brave enough to provide the lads with some entertainment by performing a ‘Klinsmann dive’ on the pitch in the ice cold rain, the catch being they have to do it in just their undies.

Toto Nsiala has very little common sense and quick as a flash he’s out of the door, all the lads run out to see our big centre half slide head first straight through the biggest puddle on the pitch.

Everyone’s buzzing including Toto, until he realises that he is not getting his 50 as the lads back Matty up when he says he had his fingers crossed, Toto’s not happy and now has to queue back up for the showers!

SATURDAY

11am It’s Saturday morning, game day, as it’s a home match I am only just waking up. I have my usual match-day breakfast of poached eggs on toast with brown sauce, made by my girlfriend as my cooking skills stretch to a piece of toast.

I watch Soccer AM, then put my tracksuit on, grab my wash bag and I’m on my way to meet the ‘car school’.

12.15pm
Meet the lads at the Little Chef and get into Charlie Barnett’s car
today, he has little legs so there is no fighting about getting the
front seat, because you have just as much room sat behind the little
man.

1pm
My ‘car school’ usually arrives at the ground at 1pm on the day of a
home game, we don’t have to meet until 1.30pm, but we always allow some
time for traffic.

We
go on two of the quietest motorways, the M58 and M65, so delays are rare
but it’s better to be cautious. Good preparation is a vital ingredient
to success and I feel that it is important to have a routine on match
days.

Not everyone has
the same preparation, I like to watch the early kick-off on the TV in
the home dressing room, read the match programme, and get changed pretty
early.

I hate the
time between arriving at the ground and going out to warm-up, usually I
am one of the first changed and desperate to get out on the pitch.

Others
are far more relaxed and take their time getting changed, Charlie
Barnett, Rommy Boco and Toto Nsiala are examples of this.

Stanley standards: Linfield's revelations show life in League Two is hard, fun and extremely professional

Stanley standards: Linfield's revelations show life in League Two is hard, fun and extremely professional

I’m usually kit on, boots and all, and then look to my left to see Charlie still in his tracksuit. We have the music on the speakers, James Beattie has his tunes on, occasionally we let the captain Luke Joyce have his music on, but he plays it very safe with a lot of David Guetta and for some reason won’t let the lads put his iPod on shuffle – we all know he has some awful songs though so it’s probably for the best.

I can’t imagine the boys being motivated for the game by listening to The Kooks or Take That. Some of the lads get pre-match massages, Murph must be the stiffest 23-year-old around because he gets one every game.

Some people have superstitions such as Podge (Padraig Amond) who has a picture of his girlfriend on his shin pads and wears a bobble of hers round his wrist, but each to their own and all that…

2pm Gaffer names the team and subs, usually we know the starting XI from the day before. Then he gives information such as which people are to mark from set pieces, once the opposition’s team sheet is in.

2.15pm Go out for the warm up. Match-day warm-up is taken by Lodgey and is the same for every game, jog, stretches, passing drill, possession and five minutes of individual work.

3pm Kick-off, all the work and preparation during the weeks training is geared to the next 90 minutes and this is where we have to earn our money and keep our shirt.

We don’t get the biggest gates but Stanley Ultras are the best and most loyal fans you could ask for and it’s a great feeling to walk out onto the pitch for the start of the game.

Unfortunately the team have a bad day at the office and concede two first-half goals without reply. In the second half Wycombe are reduced to 10 men, but despite some late pressure, the ball just would not fall to a Stanley man inside the oppositions penalty box.

We lose the match 2-0 and the lads are very down.

Head boy: Lindfield climbs high to beat Dagenham's Luke Wilkinson to the ball

Head boy: Lindfield climbs high to beat Dagenham's Luke Wilkinson to the ball

5pm Gaffer has his full-time team talk, some managers like to go into detail straight after games, but Leam Richardson prefers to keep this initial assessment very brief and watch the video before he speaks to us at more length in the following days.

One of the worst feelings in football is a defeat, especially a home defeat and the sound of silence in our changing room in comparison to the loud music and laughter coming from the visitors changing room is a sound that makes you sick to the stomach.

5.15pm After the race for the showers comes the race for some food, the pizzas are brought into the changing room, and if you’re not quick you may not get many slices.

As a general rule of thumb the lads know to make sure the starting XI have all eaten a slice before they tuck in. Then it's tracksuit back on and depart in our separate ‘car schools’.

SUNDAY

9.15am Meet the lads at the Little Chef and pile into Murph’s car, I think he’s the worst driver out of our ‘car school’ so I make sure I keep my eyes open for the duration of today’s trip.

10am The day after a game we generally do one of two things either go to the gym and split into two groups, lads who play cool down and the rest of the lads do some fitness work or we come to the ground for some video analysis.

More from The Footballers' Column…

The Footballers' Football Column – Joe Hart: We go into every game thinking a draw is not a good enough result for us… And I'd have both RVP and Rooney up front in my all-Premier League team
11/01/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Kevin Nolan: Sometimes I wish I was Ryan Giggs… But if I scored with my elbow to knock United out of the cup, there's no way I'd tell the referee
11/01/13

The Footballers' Football Column – Jill Scott: I get called Crouchie because I did the robot when I scored on debut… People thought women can’t play football but the Olympics has changed all that
10/01/13

FRANK McPARLAND: What does it take to be a Liverpool player Personality… We had one German lad who said: 'I've had a look at my wage slip and I want to opt out of this tax thing!'
08/01/13

CAROLYN RADFORD: Suarez a cheat I'd like to think one of my players would own up but football's not like that… And the secret to a swinging Mansfield party: Elvis and Bob Marley (of course)
07/01/13

THE FOOTBALLERS' FOOTBALL COLUMN – KEVIN BETSY: Why my boss Hill is the non-league Harry Redknapp… And these lads are hot – the best lower league talent available this transfer window
04/01/13

THE FOOTBALLERS' FOOTBALL COLUMN – MARTIN ALLEN: I can't believe people pay 70 for Premier League football, it's like watching chess… Diving I did it all the time, 'course I did
21/12/12

THE FOOTBALLERS' FOOTBALL COLUMN – EDGAR DAVIDS: Players are predators that's why Benitez may struggle at Chelsea… And sometimes the best players are not the most talented – just look at Roy Keane
20/12/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Today we meet at the ground and watch the DVD of yesterday’s match. It’s never enjoyable to relive defeats and as a player it has to be one of the hardest things to do but it is important that you can take criticism the right way and learn from the mistakes, because watching it again is all geared to improving and not repeating the same errors in the next game.

It’s a common name in football: ‘video nasty’ but we do watch DVD’s of positive results too, analysis and statistics are vital components of the modern game.

Different gaffers have their own way of approaching these sessions, some like to just dictate to the players but our gaffer Leam likes the players to have their say and is very open to our opinions.

Today it isn’t pleasant viewing but a lot of issues are addressed and with a massive FA Cup fixture coming up on Tuesday night it’s good to clear the air and stick together and be positive.

A short memory is a must in football, as you don’t have time to sulk after setbacks as the games come thick and fast.

12.30pm We go out on to the pitch to do some light training. We do a warm-up and a circle of keep ball, a passing drill and finish with some crossing and shooting.

It’s an enjoyable session, Luke Clark is ‘on fire’ crossing with his weaker left foot but James Gray blasts two out of the ground, the stand behind the goal is only 10-rows deep, but it still takes some doing to clear it.

1.30pm Leave training and with it all the negative thoughts from the weekend.

MONDAY

8.45am Meet the lads at the usual meeting place and put some diesel in as it’s my drive today. We decide to treat ourselves today and get a coffee for the journey.

9.30am Just arrived with the ‘car school’ to training in my Megane, surprisingly not much moaning about the lack of leg room today.

Over to the pub for breakfast, the mood among the lads is a positive one, the weekend defeat is a forgotten occurrence now. No darts today, a shorter breakfast as there is a team meeting at 10.30 in preparation for the biggest game of our season so far.

10.30am The reward for a victory is a lucrative tie in the FA Cup third round at home to Sheffield United and a sum of money that will keep the club away from financial trouble for the next 12 months at least.

The gaffer takes the meeting and talks us through the shape that we will be playing.

11.15am We then go out on the pitch and put it into practice what has been said. Some of the lads struggle to understand on a screen and find it easier when stood on the pitch in the positions this is the reason for the two methods being used.

We then play an 11 v 11 match on the pitch and the side in bibs are set up in the same formation that the manager expects the opposition to play tomorrow.

Then we play freely until a situation occurs where the manager or coach feels a coaching point is necessary to help should it arise in the game the next day.

This is tough for a player on the bibs team because it usually means you are not starting the game, but you are very important to help the lads who are starting as you will be instructed to play like the opposition and help prepare the starting team for what they are to expect to come up against.

In a football squad we win together and we lose together and everyone is behind one another. We finish by taking penalties. Obviously you cannot replicate the pressure involved on the night, but Beatts (James Beattie) of all people was one of the few to miss in practice. Today though there is no messing about, everyone is focused on the importance of tomorrow’s match.

1.30pm Cottage pie for lunch with peas and gravy, at least this is what it was meant to resemble, I think. Then once the gaffer passes a couple of sheets with the squad to travel and details of times and meeting points, its time to go home and prepare for the biggest game this season to date.

The club that wouldn't die: Players of Accrington Stanley and Fulham walk out ahead of their 2010 FA Cup tie

The club that wouldn't die: Players of Accrington Stanley and Fulham walk out ahead of their 2010 FA Cup tie

TUESDAY

1.15pm Meet the coach on the M6 junction 19 at the Windmill pub, pay 5 to park and jump on the bus. Today is FA Cup day and an away fixture with Oxford United.

Usually the lads take their own pre-match meal, but today we are stopping at a hotel near to Oxford’s stadium to have pre-match laid on for us.

2.30pm Been on the bus an hour now and most people are doing different things: Will Hatfield is listening to his iPod and tweeting the world, he loves his Twitter account and never puts his phone down; Peter Murphy is trying to win promotion back to the Premier League and is concentrating all his focus on this (on Football Manager of course); Rommy Boco is spending hours on the phone talking French, him and Ian Dunbavin usually play cards together but Bavo is injured and I think Rommy is a bit lost without him. The majority of the other lads are watching DVDs, Beattie never buys his own he’s always lending them off Luke Joyce.

No bad food (e.g. sweets and chocolate) are allowed on the trip only healthy snacks such as fruit and yoghurts, but the odd chocolate bar is usually knocking about, I’m not going to grass anyone up though…

5pm Pre-match at the hotel, some lads eating more than others, but everyone having the standard chicken, pasta and vegetables, I usually have a coffee too.

6pm Once we have all eaten we have a brief meeting about the game, where the Gaffer runs through some small details, then we all pile back on the coach to the ground.

By now everyone’s mind is totally focused on the game, all the individual bits and bobs are placed away and the majority of lads have headphones in listening to music and visualising what they are going to do on the pitch.

This is usually the time that sees a lot of water being drunk to keep hydrated, our bottles are like shot glasses so Naz the kit man is usually up and down passing them round every two minutes.

Old struggles: Mrs Sarah Dewhirst taking away the washing machine from the Peel Park ground at Accrington after the club was forced to resign from the league in 1962

Old struggles: Mrs Sarah Dewhirst taking away the washing machine from the club's former Peel Park ground at Accrington after the club was forced to resign from the league in 1962

6.30pm Arrive at the Kassam Stadium, all the players go out to inspect the pitch and see what type of stud you are going to wear. It’s a chance to stretch our legs after the journey, and gives the kit man a chance to lay the kit out.

7pm We have been listening to Joycey’s rubbish music now for too long and everyone is about ready to get out the changing rooms to warm-up.

Beatts likes to do some stretching before we go out, I like to get changed quickly then sit and relax before I go out, others like Dean Winnard get fired up and loud even at this early stage, everyone has different routines.

7.45pm After a quick run through set pieces and some final words of advice from the coaching staff and manager, we are sent out to battle, this is our livelihood, this is what makes all the training and hard work worthwhile, we now have 90 minutes to win a football match.

All the preparation has been geared towards this moment and this is the best part of being a footballer at any level.

10pm We lost the game 2-0 and we are out of the Cup. We had some injuries to key players and it’s a bitter pill to swallow, this results in a very disheartened and quiet bus journey home.

The lads tuck into the pizzas that are on the bus and the journey drags on much longer than on the way there.

The bus has a very different atmosphere after a win, loud music lots of laughter and banter, but tonight is unrecognisable to the likes of that.

Joe Hart – The Footballers" Football Column: I"d have Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney in my all-Premier League team

JOE HART: We go into every game thinking a draw is not a good enough result for us… And I'd have both RVP and Rooney up front in my all-Premier League team

PUBLISHED:

10:54 GMT, 14 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

11:06 GMT, 14 January 2013

Joe Hart

The latest columnist in MailOnline's exclusive Footballers' Football Column series is Joe Hart, arguably the finest goalkeeper in the Barclays Premier League, England's No 1 and a champion last season with Manchester City. Fresh from yesterday's 2-0 triumph at the Emirates – City's first league win at Arsenal for 37 years – Hart lifts the lid on life on the Carrington training ground, his goalkeeping rivals and Lionel Messi's dress sense.

Hart, an ambassador for head&shoulders, at 25 has made almost 250 senior appearances, 146 of them at City. Watch the video, then enjoy his column…

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With Roberto Mancini we all know where we stand and that's how we work. He sets the team and it's up to us. He's played me so I can't ask for anything more from a manager so I try to repay that faith by playing as well as possible and training hard.

He's got his methods and we do our best to adapt to them but it's up to us, basically, when we go on the field.

It's different for me in training because I disappear and for 80 per cent of the training I'm nowhere near him. But he's got his ways, we try to adapt to them and hopefully that works.

Thanks for coming: Joe Hart (centre) joins team-mates Matija Nastasic (left) and Joleon Lescott applauding City fans, who paid 62 each, for travelling down from Manchester

Thanks for coming: Joe Hart (centre) joins team-mates Matija Nastasic (left) and Joleon Lescott applauding City fans, who paid 62 each, for travelling to London yesterday

Training aid: Hart uses a crash mat to cushion his dives last week. As a goalkeeper he trains away from the rest of the squad for 80 per cent of the time

Training aid: Hart uses a crash mat to cushion his dives last week. As a goalkeeper he trains away from the rest of the squad for 80 per cent of the time

We know where we stand with Roberto: Man City boss Mancini gives James Milner and Co specific instructions during training last Friday

We know where we stand with Roberto: Man City boss Mancini gives James Milner and Co specific instructions during training last Friday

We go into every game thinking that a draw is not a good result for us. That's our mindset, that's how we feel and that's how we line up, player to player.

We don't go into any match fearing anyone. I can't see us losing to anyone but we will lose and we will draw, that's football but our attitude is not like that.

Roberto has brought in players with that mindset already instilled into them and I think every single player has got that attitude in our place – that it's win or die. It's the only way you're going to win things.

Manchester United have that refusal to accept to defeat and have been great about it over the years and it's certainly something everybody wants. But I feel we have that at our place, we feel strong and I do feel like we're not going to lose. Sometimes you do, of course, but we come back late sometimes and sometimes we wrap it up early.

The Champions League has been tough for us but we're playing against champions. We've just not been great. It sounds horrible to say it and some of the games we've done all right but our below par performances have unfortunately been in the Champions League.

Against some teams in the domestic league you might get away with it but in that competition you don't.

The first result is key for us. We had a bad one in Madrid and drew 1-1 the year before at home but it depends how your group goes. You could qualify with seven points or you might not and it's difficult.

Top of the stops: Real Madrid's goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas in action against Celta Vigo last week

Top of the stops: Real Madrid's goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas in action against Celta Vigo last week

Joe Hart

Joe Hart is an ambassador for head&shoulders

Well, the World XI It is what it is. I
think everyone's got their opinion and if the captains all voted for
those players then it's probably deserved. I didn't look at the team too
closely but most of the names on there speak for themselves. I never
thought I'd be involved in something like that but to come close to
getting in there is great for myself. But I think Iker
Casillas deserves it. He's been amazing for so many years so there are no
questions about that one.

But there are a lot of players I'd like
to see on there. Some that I'm friends with, some that I see a lot and
some that I play with, but it's only opinions so as long as you're
playing well for your team then you're happy.

For my Premier League XI, I purposely won't pick any City players
because it's not fair to pick them because their my team-mates. Keeper
wise, on this year alone, it would be either Petr Cech, Simon Mignolet
or Asmir Begovic.

Wayne Rooney of Manchester United

Robin van Persie of Manchester United

Prize picks: Hart, who excluded all City players from his thinking, would have United duo Wayne Rooney (in training last week, left) and Robin van Persie in his Premier League All-stars team

Simon Mignolet

Asmir Begovic

No 1s: Sunderland's Simon Mignolet (left) and Stoke's Asmir Begovic (right) are both highly rated by Hart

HART'S PREMIER LEAGUE XI

(4-4-2)* Cech, Mignolet or Begovic; Johnson, Jagielka, Shawcross, Cole; Lennon, Cazorla, Mata, Bale; Rooney, Van Persie.

* Hart excluded his Man City team-mates from his considerations due to fairness

In defence I'd have Phil Jagielka and
Ryan Shawcross in the middle and Ashley Cole at left back with Leighton
Baines a very close second. And at right back I'd have Glen Johnson.

In the middle I'd have Santi Cazorla
and, I know he doesn't really play there, but I'd have Juan Mata. On the
wings I think Aaron Lennon has done really well this year and then
obviously Gareth Bale would be on the other side.

Up front it'd have to be Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney.

Save of the century: Sportsmail's simulation shows Hart keeping out a penalty from Lionel Messi

Save of the century: Sportsmail's simulation shows Hart keeping out a penalty from Lionel Messi

I said your Football Manager simulation would throw up a 5-0 win for the Premier League XI,
so it's sad to see us lose 2-0. But if I saved a penalty against Messi
then it must be real! But if I did have to face him for a penalty, I'd
definitely dive the way the ball went.

I missed the Ballon d'Or awards but because it doesn't have much to do with the Premier League it's hard to take an interest.
I just waited to see the news. I did hear about Messi's jacket but he
can do whatever he wants and nobody could say anything to him. He could
turn up naked if he wanted.

I've had a few fashion faux pas though. We
had a fancy dress do for our Christmas party and I was quite dotty. I
think I had an orange outfit with blue dots all over it, it was a good
look.

Silver fox: City boss Mancini (in the hat) says goodbye after enjoying lunch with his friend Robbie Savage (right) in Alderley Edge, Cheshire earlier this month

Silver fox: City boss Mancini (in the hat) says goodbye after enjoying lunch with his friend Robbie Savage (right) in Alderley Edge, Cheshire earlier this month. The pair became close when playing at Leicester City together

 Lionel Messi

MANCHESTER CITY FOOTBALLER JOE HART IN FANCY DRESS

Spot of bother: Hart reckons that if anyone can pull off the polka-dot look, it's the world's finest footballer Lionel Messi (left), but Joe's own dotty effort left a little more to be desired

In our changing room Pablo Zabaleta
is a pretty bad dresser, mainly because everything he has is free. He
will turn up in anything that anyone will give him. Anything with two
arms and two legs will do him.

Mancini's got quite a bit of style about him too for the older guy I suppose. He likes to think he's a bit of a silver fox.

With Casillas at Real Madrid, I don't know what's going on and I wouldn't even want to get involved. It seems like it's got a few twists and turns that I wouldn't have a clue about. But he's an amazing keeper and I've played against him a few times now and of course I look up to him. There's a few keepers I look up to and he's definitely one of them.

In the Premier League, too, we've got a lot of brilliant goalkeepers. There's not a team in the league where I think they've got a weak point in goalkeeping.

There's so many good young goalkeepers and I think some of them get overlooked because of the ones that stand out, your Buffons, your Casillases, your Neuers. They deserve the praise they get and I think they're awesome goalkeepers. I've played against each of them and they seem like really good people as well, which is even more interesting for me personally because you always want to meet your heroes.

There's the likes of Mignolet coming through and Asmir Begovic is the same age as me so I hope he's still classed as a young talent. There's Tim Krul, there's the Chelsea keeper Thibaud Courtois on loan at Atletico Madrid, there's Fraser Forster, there's Jack Butland, John Ruddy, I could go on and on.

Hart stopper: the Manchester City and England No 1 at a dark Etihad Stadium

Hart stopper: the Manchester City and England No 1 at a dark Etihad Stadium

More from The Footballers' Column…

The Footballers' Football Column – Kevin Nolan: Sometimes I wish I was Ryan Giggs… But if I scored with my elbow to knock United out of the cup, there's no way I'd tell the referee
11/01/13

FRANK McPARLAND: What does it take to be a Liverpool player Personality… We had one German lad who said: 'I've had a look at my wage slip and I want to opt out of this tax thing!'
08/01/13

CAROLYN RADFORD: Suarez a cheat I'd like to think one of my players would own up but football's not like that… And the secret to a swinging Mansfield party: Elvis and Bob Marley (of course)
07/01/13

THE FOOTBALLERS' FOOTBALL COLUMN – KEVIN BETSY: Why my boss Hill is the non-league Harry Redknapp… And these lads are hot – the best lower league talent available this transfer window
04/01/13

THE FOOTBALLERS' FOOTBALL COLUMN – MARTIN ALLEN: I can't believe people pay 70 for Premier League football, it's like watching chess… Diving I did it all the time, 'course I did
21/12/12

THE FOOTBALLERS' FOOTBALL COLUMN – EDGAR DAVIDS: Players are predators that's why Benitez may struggle at Chelsea… And sometimes the best players are not the most talented – just look at Roy Keane
20/12/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Going out on loan really helped me develop as a player but I wouldn't like to tell people what to do because you look at people like Steven Gerrard who have spent their life at one club.

It works for some people and it's what i needed to do because i wasn't going to play where I was so I had to go on loan otherwise I would have just been sat around so it was good for me.

I think there's still plenty of life left in the cups. The League Cup has really kicked on another level and I think it's really good. It's a good way to get some silverware for your club and teams have started to play stronger sides more and more – it's really good to watch.

I missed Luis Suarez's handball last week. We've had a couple of days off and I've been away from everything so I haven't seen it but i heard about it, though it didn't sound too great. But the refs are there to do a job. It's their job to see things like that so you play to the whistle, you're always told that.

You go to any Sunday league side and at the age of eight they're told to play to the whistle and I don't think that changes in the Premier League.

Crazy stuff happens in football. You look at when Paolo Di Canio caught the ball but I don't think anyone would have gone mad if he'd smashed it in the goal because at the end of the day it's a business and you need to win.

I'm not into any of the social network sites. I've got a phone and that's it. It's a big part of the world at the minute and it's interesting to read about but some of the stuff is pathetic and ridiculous.

I think everyone appreciates that. It makes the news and everyone reads it but nobody actually really cares. There's obviously some more serious issues but if it's officially you on one of those sites then you've got to be responsible for your actions.

Joe Hart head&shoulders

Joe Hart is the
ambassador for new head&shoulders Itchy Scalp Care shampoo, giving you an
instant save from an itchy scalp and leaving your leave hair 100% flake free

The Footballers" Football Column – Martin Allen: Balotelli is detrimental, disrespectful and unsettling, Fergie wouldn"t tolerate him……

MARTIN ALLEN: I can't believe people pay 70 for Premier League football, it's like watching chess… Balotelli is detrimental, disrespectful and unsettling, Fergie wouldn't tolerate him… Diving I did it all the time, 'course I did

/12/21/article-0-16953763000005DC-68_196x175.jpg” width=”196″ height=”175″ alt=”Martin Allen” class=”blkBorder” />

Martin Allen is the second in a series of new columns for Sportsmail titled The Footballers' Football Column. They're columns
about the game by people involved in the game. A manager of eight professional clubs, Allen, who follows Edgar Davids' column yesterday, made almost 200 appearances for West Ham and well over 100 for QPR in a marauding career which saw him earn the nickname 'Mad Dog'. He never once shied away from a tackle and here, in his first column, he doesn't shirk an issue…

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MEET THE MAN…

Name: Martin 'Mad Dog' Allen

Age: 47

Current job: Gillingham manager

Former clubs:

Player – QPR, West Ham, Portsmouth, Southend

Manager – Barnet, Brentford, MK Dons, Leicester, Cheltenham, Notts County.

International honours: England Under 19, 20, 21

You're probably wondering why I'm called Mad Dog. It goes back to when I was at West Ham. My central midfield partner was a guy called Ian Bishop. He was very calm, relaxed and enjoyed playing nice football. I was uptight, intimidating, I had a skinhead haircut. When I played next to him it was my job to get the ball back.

We were playing at Upton Park in front of the Chicken Run and he once looked at me and said 'you've got all froth round your mouth', this is while the game was going on. He laughed. I just looked at him with those horrible eyes I've got. It was around the time when it was all over the news that these dogs bred in America to fight were being imported over here. He laughed and said: 'you look like a mad dog'.

And that's how it happened. Instead of wiping the froth from mouth I just left it on.

Since I became a manager I'm usually brought in as a firefighter to save clubs from relegation. But at Gillingham it's the first time I've taken over a club in the right position.

I've been employed at most clubs when they've been near the bottom in trouble. They've got me in to turn things around. It's always been having to fight to stave off relegation.

I've had one play-off final at Cardiff, play-off semi-finals with Reading, a play-off semi-final with MK Dons, play-off semi-finals twice with Brentford. So we've always been there or there abouts, but haven't managed to quite get up. That's through having clubs that in the previous season had been in the relegation zone.

People would say 'why haven't you managed to do it' You could turn around and say a year ago you were fighting relegation and now you're fighting for promotion. Well since I took over Gillingham in the summer we're top by five points, been there for five months.

I've never been top of the league and the only thing I want is one promotion. I can't even imagine what it'll be like if we do it. Then from that the dream is to take a team from the Championship to the Premier League. I know I can do it, I know I can.

Still growling: Allen has lost none of his trademark bite

Still growling: Allen has lost none of his trademark bite

Premier class Watching top-flight football is like watching chess!

Premier class Watching top-flight football is like watching chess!

But you know what The Premier League ain't all it's cracked up to be. I've been to some Premier League games and sat there bored. No shots or crosses. Everyone backs off to play the counter attack.

I know friends with season tickets for Premier League clubs and they find it boring. Bloody well right they do.

They come and watch Gillingham and say what a good football match that was. They love coming here. We don't make 20 passes on the half-way line. They see our football a bit more how it used to be.

The game's changed. In the old days we lined up 4-4-2 and smashed each other to bits, go hell for leather. It ain't like that now. Now everyone drops off and it's chess football. You pay 70 quid for a ticket for that – and I ain't doing it.

The game has changed in other ways, too, players are on massive wages now. Some people moan but I think they deserve it.

I don't think players are on insane wages. I've just been to a hospital in Gillingham to see a lot of sick children who have nurses to look after them.

There was one called Anna, from Liverpool, she spoke with such enthusiasm and love for the children. The remarkable job that lady does she would probably not be earning too much money.

But footballers are entertainers. The ones at the top of the game it's not just in England they're watched, like it used to be in the old days. Everyone in Asia wants to watch the Premier League. It is growing in India and Africa.

When I was a boy my dad used to take summer schools in America and I'd go along with him. You wouldn't see a football goal anywhere, now you go there and they're everywhere.

Oh my god can you imagine what it's going to be like in another 20 years It's just going to get bigger. Do footballers earn too much money Compared to that nurse Anna in Gillingham – yes they do. But people want to watch it and pay for it and I think they should get their fair share.

He's not for me: Allen wouldn't toerate Mario Balotelli's antics - and neither would Sir Alex Ferguson, he reckons

He's not for me: Allen wouldn't toerate Mario Balotelli's antics – and neither would Sir Alex Ferguson, he reckons

I say footballers are entertainers but one of them who's taken it too far is Mario Balotelli – he's not for me. He's got amazing talent, but I'm with the Jose Mourninho school of thought who had him but washed his hands with him pretty quick. You wouldn't see him playing for Sir Alex Ferguson.

I think he'd be detrimental, disrespectful, unsettling. I saw him play at West Ham 18 months ago, he got subbed in 55th minute, hardly broke a sweat the whole game.

When he came off he walked from the centre circle down the tunnel. Never acknowledged the Man City supporters, and that's disrespectful, I don't like that.

The way he walked off the pitch was disrespectful to his team-mates, the sub coming on, the manager. I wouldn't tolerate it.

He needs to come and watch my development squad train and play. Sundays and Mondays they do team work, pattern of play, technical work.

Then Thursdays and Fridays they do three sessions a day, first session 9.30am in the gym with their core work, stability and weights. Second session 10.30am a working football session.

Then after lunch they go back to the training ground to do fitness work without footballs. Same again on Fridays but they go to the local parks where there are lots of hills. It's hard work.

Away win: Allen's Gillingham continue to set the pace at the top of League Two thanks to Chris Whelpdale's winning goal at Southend on New Year's Day

Away win: Allen's Gillingham continue to set the pace at the top of League Two thanks to Chris Whelpdale's winning goal at Southend on New Year's Day

We had a reserve match against Millwall recently and one of my players ended up with seven stitches and a fractured cheekbone. That was not nice. The lad's only 19. Pure accident the Millwall player headed his face instead of the ball.

It brought back horrible memories for me when I was 19 playing for QPR and had exactly the same thing, spookily the same.

I glanced a header and the Millwall centre-back headed my cheekbone and I had a depressed fracture. George Graham was my youth-team manager.

When I saw it I half-knew what to expect. The blood was just gushing from his head – that's fine but I could see the cheekbone depressed.

I rang his dad to let him know he was going to hospital but was OK.

Hammer time: Allen is a West Ham legend

Hammer time: Allen is a West Ham legend

That's all part of the game – but I'll tell you what's never going to be part of the game with my teams.

I watched Spurs play Swansea last weekend and Chico Flores went down like he'd broken his ankle or ruptured a ligament. He squealed like a pig, I could hear him from where I was.

Then he gets up two minutes later. I thought that was diabolical. I wouldn't at all be happy if one of my players had done that. I would definitely not be happy with that.

I don't like any players to feign injury. If they get tackled take it like a man and get on with it. Give it and take it the same.

I hate blatant cheating but I think that's different to diving. People complain about it but it's a skill – and I did it all the time.

From my experience of the last few years there's no diving in the lower levels.

That cements my view that the introduction of continental and South American players has changed it. It's just normal there.

Jose Mourinho's Porto played at Celtic a few years ago and Martin O'Neill refused to shake his hand.

Said
he would never want a team to play that way. It was like Swan Lake they
were diving everywhere. But it's part of the game. You play for fouls
and penalties. It's in their culture and it's now come to our country.

Schoolboys
and youth players on the continent get taught how to win fouls. It's
part of training. They teach them how to win fouls at Barcelona's
academy.

If you're
good technically, players want to tackle you, to destroy you and destroy
your skill. You run into a player's pathway so they foul you. That's
skilful play.

Gareth Bale
is being accused a lot – the one against Fulham was
theatrical. Then again I wouldn't know what it's like to be that fast
and to be tackled at that speed,

I
was certainly not like that. It's part of the change. You bring in
talented players like Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, David Silva, Juan
Mata, Oscar.

In the red: Gillingham manager Martin Allen is a new hard-hitting columnist for Sportsmail

In the red: Gillingham manager Martin Allen is a new hard-hitting columnist for Sportsmail

More from The Footballers Column…

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20/12/12

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You bring them in, technically top drawer, they play for fouls. Get used to it 'cos it ain't going away.

I dived all
the time anyway. 'Course I did. Any opportunity to win a foul I made
sure I put my body between the ball and the player. To give us
possession.

If I could
give us a foul for a penalty I would do, definitely. I was more unique
back then, I was a bit different to everyone else. I'd do anything I
could to win.

What do I tell my players at Gillingham I don't encourage it. I don't say to them 'go into the penalty area and dive to win us a penalty'.

But
what happens if see player running really fast into box and if you run
in their path they're going to push you over and you'll win a penalty

I
don't encourage my players to dive but drawing fouls and penalties is a
skill and I don't think there's a manager in the country wouldn't want
them to do it.

Adrian Durham: Useless Liverpool need Jamie Carragher, make Arsenal play at Stoke on Boxing Day

Keepers make mistakes so back off England's undisputed No 1 Hart… Useless Liverpool need Carragher… And make Arsenal play away on Boxing Day (at Stoke)

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UPDATED:

09:52 GMT, 27 December 2012

I hope Joe Hart didn’t bother looking at Twitter on Boxing Night. According to some tweeters, he became the first top class goalkeeper to ever make a mistake. Every goalkeeper in history has made mistakes.

From a Manchester City point of view I’d be more worried about Aguero and Tevez failing to score again. From an England point of view the question is whether Joe Hart has been dislodged from his position as the number one keeper

The only realistic contender is Fraser Forster (who made a mistake earlier this season against Kilmarnock). I rate Forster very highly and I've always been puzzled why he never received an Under 21 call-up.

Jeepers keepers: Joe Hart was caught out of position for Adam Johnson's winner for Sunderland at the Stadium of Light

Jeepers keepers: Joe Hart was caught out of position for Adam Johnson's winner for Sunderland

Hart hurts: The Manchester City No 1 was consoled after the defeat

Hart hurts: The Manchester City and England No 1 was consoled after the defeat

Follow Adrian Durham on Twitter – @talkSPORTDriveCLICK HERE TO READ ADRIAN'S DEBUT COLUMN FOR SPORTSMAIL

Thankfully, his ability has now been recognised by Roy Hodgson and he's now in the England squad, although yet to make his debut.

I first noticed Forster when he had a season on loan at Norwich and helped them win the League One title in 2010.

He broke records for keeping clean sheets and was voted player of the season by his Norwich team-mates. He was superb that season.

Able deputy: Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster provides competition for Hart's England jerseyAble deputy: Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster provides competition for Hart's England jersey

Able deputy: Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster provides competition for Hart's England jersey

He was also sent off against Gillingham,
and gifted Leeds a last-minute winner when the two sides met. I’m not
criticising Forster, I’m just highlighting the fact that all goalkeepers
will make mistakes.

I hope Hodgson gives Forster some minutes on the pitch when England meet Brazil in a friendly at Wembley in February.

But let's keep it real – Joe Hart is the undisputed No 1 with the current English champions. England fans should be proud of him.

USELESS LIVERPOOL NEED CARRAGHER

I see Liverpool were useless again. There has been a lot said about Brendan Rodgers being short of firepower, with Luis Suarez the only recognised striker at the club.

But I’m wondering what’s happening at the other end of the pitch Liverpool have conceded eight goals in their last four games, and the goals Stoke scored on Boxing Day were cheap to say the least.

Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel are the preferred partnership but they’re not doing their jobs properly and it’s costing Liverpool points.

Get back: Defender Jamie Carragher watched Liverpool's Boxing Day defeat by Stoke from the bench

Get back: Defender Jamie Carragher watched Liverpool's Boxing Day defeat by Stoke from the bench

Perhaps it’s time for Jamie Carragher to come back into the first team. Liverpool clearly need leadership at the back, and Carragher would provide that.

He celebrates his 35th birthday next month, so he’s not the long term answer. But stability at the back would help Liverpool right now, and give some of the younger players another respected pro to look up to in the dressing room.

MAKE ARSENAL PLAY AWAY ON BOXING DAY… AT STOKE!

I still can’t quite get my head round Arsenal Football Club's inability to stage a Premier League game on Boxing Day because of a tube strike.

They talked to the police and others before taking the decision, saying the 'paramount concern was always the duty of care towards the Arsenal supporters, West Ham supporters, matchday employees and everyone who was planning to attend the game.'

I went to Craven Cottage on Boxing Day
and had no problem getting to or from the game by car. Just up the road,
Queens Park Rangers also had a home game – combined crowd at the
Cottage and at Loftus Road was just over 43,000.

Capital gains: Fulham and Southampton managed to defy the London tube strike and play out a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage

Capital gains: Fulham and Southampton managed to defy the London tube strike at Craven Cottage

Happy shoppers: Westfield Shopping Center was full to the rafters despite the tube strike

Happy shoppers: Westfield Shopping Center was full to the rafters despite the tube strike

Then throw in the thousands who packed Westfield shopping centre literally round the corner from QPR's ground and you start to realise the enormity of Boxing Day in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

It doesn’t reflect well on Arsenal that they couldn't stage their game. They've had extra rest time, and the fixture will be played at the end of January when the Gunners may already have made signings in the transfer window.

The Gunners got what they deserved with Spurs, Everton and West Brom all winning and going above them.

The best way around this in the future (Arsenal also postponed this fixture last season) is to force Arsenal to play away on Boxing Day. Ideally at Stoke.

HODGSON MUST FOLLOW FERGIE'S LEAD AND KEEP FAITH IN CARRICK

I've always been an admirer of Michael Carrick and have struggled to understand why Sir Alex Ferguson has faith in him but no England manager over the past ten years has felt the same way.

Fergie has been successful, all those England managers failed miserably. You do the maths.

So I watched Carrick at Swansea put in his usual display of world class passing, and regularly breaking up play. Then in the 4-3 win over Newcastle, Carrick was roasted by his critics for giving the ball away in the build up to Newcastle's opener.

Keep the faith: Michael Carrick was instrumental in Manchester United's 4-3 victory over Newcastle

Keep the faith: Michael Carrick was instrumental in Manchester United's 4-3 victory over Newcastle

Those same critics were strangely quiet when Carrick found Hernandez with a precision pass for the winner. And, indeed, they said nothing when he poked an instinctive ball to set up Robin van Persie for his goal.

England have always struggled to keep possession, and yet one of the best passers of the ball in the Premier League has consistently been overlooked.

People only want to talk about Carrick's mistakes. That's probably why he rarely gets talked about.

Follow Adrian on Twitter – @talkSPORTDrive… Adrian hosts talkSPORT's Drivetime Show on weekdays between 4pm–7pm alongside former England cricketer Darren Gough

Aaron Cook switches allegiance to Isle of Man

European taekwondo champion Cook to switch allegiance to Isle of Man after London 2012 snub

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UPDATED:

00:04 GMT, 7 December 2012

Aaron Cook has stated his intention to switch his allegiance to the Isle of Man after being overlooked by Great Britain for the Olympics.

The 21-year-old was world No 1 in the under-80kg category but Lutalo Mohammad was instead selected by British Taekwondo leading to a drawn-out process which was eventually ratified by the British Olympic Association.

Mohammad won the bronze medal at London 2012 in what was a successful Games for taekwondo as Jade Jones won gold in the women's 57kg category while Martin Stamper reached the semi-finals.

Jumping ship: Cook (right) was snubbed by Team GB at London 2012

Jumping ship: Cook (right) was snubbed by Team GB at London 2012

However, it was Cook who dominated the column inches in the run-up to the Games and now he has decided to compete for the Isle of Man in all events bar the Olympics.

Manx athletes compete under the GB flag at the Olympics but, according to Cook, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) may introduce a route to the Games based on rankings rather than discretionary selection which saw him miss out this year.

Cook told Sky Sports News: 'I was reigning European champion, world No 1 – I am never going to work with those people (British Taekwondo) again.

'They have made their minds up with what they have done to me and I've made my mind up.

Unforgiven: Cook is still furious at British Taekwondo

Unforgiven: Cook is still furious at British Taekwondo

'I think I am quite lucky at the moment, the WTF are looking to organise new competitions, such as a grand prix, which they have said will open up a different path to the Olympics based on world rankings so all I have got to do is go and win the World Championships, the European Championships and make sure I am top ranked in the world and I can get there off my own back which we didn't have in the past.'

Of his disappointment on having to look on rather than participate in the summer, Cook added: 'I am extremely jealous obviously, I wish that was me.

'She (Jade Jones) did fantastic and so did Lutalo and so did Martin Stamper. I just wish I could have been on that team, I felt I deserved to be on that team.

'I've got to find some peace and I've to go move forward and this Isle of Man [opportunity] has come up and I can't wait to be hopefully world champion next year.'

Bobby Zamora should quit, says Tony Cascarino

Just quit! Zamora told to hang up his boots after admitting to falling out love with the game

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UPDATED:

11:15 GMT, 5 November 2012

FALLING OUT OF LOVE

Read the interview with Bobby Zamora in which he discuss his feelings for football

Bobby Zamora has been told to quit football after admitting he'd fallen out of love with the game.

The QPR forward has endured a difficult 12 months since leaving Fulham for Loftus Road, and last found the back of the net in the September defeat to Tottenham.

Zamora was a late substitute in Sunday's draw with Reading – a 10th winless game of the season for Rangers – and missed a glorious opportunity to secure the points.

Chance gone: Bobby Zamora has admitted to falling out of love with football

Chance gone: Bobby Zamora has admitted to falling out of love with football

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday on the morning of the match, the former England international admitted that, off the field, he has little interest in football

He said: 'For so many years football has been your life and it’s all everyone wants to talk about, everywhere you go. I don’t like talking about it. I’m not a massive football fan, really. Quite a lot more players than let on are the same.

'I don’t watch games on an evening or anything like that. A lot of people find it strange [that I don’t like football].

'I’m not sure what I want to do after I finish playing but if it means watching football then I don’t want to get involved.'

But reacting to Zamora's surprise comments, former Chelsea and Republic of Ireland star Tony Casacarino believes the is no space in a squad for someone so detached from the game.

Writing in his Times newspaper column, Cascarino said: 'Bobby Zamora shoudl hang up his boots. The QPR forward admits he doesn't watch or even like football much.

'I assure you, players like him are few and far between. If your heart's not in it, Bobby, get out of the game.'