Tag Archives: moxley

Paul Lambert calls on Aston Villa to battle themselves out of relegation trouble ahead of Reading Premier League clash

Lambert calls on Villa to battle themselves out of relegation trouble ahead of Reading clash

By
Neil Moxley

PUBLISHED:

19:06 GMT, 8 March 2013

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UPDATED:

19:06 GMT, 8 March 2013

Paul Lambert says Aston Villa will need to play with 'courage' at the Madjeski Stadium tomorrow as he attempts to drag others into the relegation dogfight.

Villa's boss says he does not sense that his team is playing under pressure and believes that a good result against Reading this weekend, followed by similar against bottom-placed QPR next Saturday will ease the club's lingering relegation issues.

War cry: Lambert believes a couple of wins for his Aston Villa side will pull others into a relegation dogfight

War cry: Lambert believes a couple of wins for his Aston Villa side will pull others into a relegation dogfight

Scrap: Villa are four points ahead of basement club QPR

Scrap: Villa are four points ahead of basement club QPR

Lambert believes two positive results will leave others looking 'edgy' as the Premier League campaign enters its final two months.

'There are loads of teams who will be edgy,' he said. 'It will take courage tomorrow. We will need it all over the pitch. To go and play football and not get caught up with the occasion.

'We certainly don't look like a team that is playing under pressure. We were well in the game against Manchester City – we never allowed them to play their normal fluid game.

In the game: Lambert said his team frustrated Manchester City on Monday, with Gabby Agbonlahor (above) and Christian Benteke (below)

In the game: Lambert said his team frustrated Manchester City on Monday, with Gabby Agbonlahor (above) and Christian Benteke (below)

Christian Benteke

'I would like to think that everyone has fight in them to win a game – it's okay to be aggressive.

'But we need to play the game and not the occasion.'

Lambert has a few injury issues with which to contend. There was some positive news regarding Ron Vlaar who has come through a calf problem and is set to start.

But Fabian Delph's suspension and an ankle injury to Karim El Ahmadi might mean a first start for Yacouba Sylla, signed during the January transfer window from Clermont for 2m.

Aston Villa: (4-4-2) Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Vlaar, Baker; N'Zogbia, Sylla, Westwood, Agbonlahor; Benteke, Weimann.

Suspended: Delph

Injured: El Ahmadi, (ankle) Bent, (foot) Dunne (groin and hip) Albrighton. (toe)

Wolves 1 Watford 1: Sako rescues Saunders after fans voice their anger at board

Wolves 1 Watford 1: Sako rescues Saunders after fans voice their anger at board

By
Neil Moxley

PUBLISHED:

21:42 GMT, 1 March 2013

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UPDATED:

23:59 GMT, 1 March 2013

Bakary Sako struck an equaliser three
minutes into added time to wreck Gianfranco Zola’s hopes of an 11th
away victory of the season.

The winger hit a right-foot shot beyond debutant Jonathan Bond after a long throw caused chaos in the visitors’ area.

Bjorn Sigurdarson flicked on the ball and Sako did the rest, claiming his 10th goal of the season.

Late show: Bakary Sako scored last-gasp equaliser for Wolves

Late show: Bakary Sako scored last-gasp equaliser for Wolves

Match facts

Wolverhampton: Ikeme, Doherty, Johnson, Gorkss, Robinson, Hunt (Cassidy 64), Henry (Davis 70), O'Hara, Sako, Sigurdarson, Doyle (Ebanks-Blake 64). Subs Not Used: De Vries, Edwards, Ward, Batth.

Booked: Sigurdarson.

Goals: Sako 90. Watford: Bond, Doyley, Nosworthy, Ekstrand, Cassetti, Abdi, Chalobah (Hogg 82), Battocchio, Anya (Pudil 84), Deeney, Vydra (Forestieri 78). Subs Not Used: Bonham, Yeates, Murray, Geijo.

Booked: Abdi.

Goals: Abdi 41.

Att: 18,571

Ref: Paul Tierney (Lancashire).

But it was not enough to pull Wolves clear of the relegation zone as they had been chasing the game since four minutes before the interval.

Almen Abdi — one of Watford’s controversial Italian loanees — struck a delightful free-kick from the edge of the area as the division’s top scorers looked to put three points between themselves and third-placed Hull City.

Protests had been planned outside the stadium before kick-off to voice concern about Wolves owner Steve Morgan’s stewardship. But the multi-millionaire had eased their anxiety by appearing before a group of supporters in midweek. He admitted making mistakes and apologised. The group which gathered under the statue of Wolves legend Billy Wright was no more than 50-strong and soon dispersed.

The air of relative calm around the stadium would have changed had Matej Vydra’s seventh-minute shot that deflected off Roger Johnson found the net.

Shortly afterwards, Bond, who had been promoted after Manuel Almunia was forced out with a hamstring injury, produced a superb double-stop.

Neat strike: Almen Abdi scores for Watford

Neat strike: Almen Abdi scores for Watford

Watford's Almen Abdi celebrates his goal

Watford's Almen Abdi celebrates his goal

He blocked Kevin Doyle’s fierce drive and then got to his feet quickly, palming Sigurdarson’s follow-up shot over the bar.

The value of that save was seen four minutes before the interval when
Watford took the lead. Karl Henry tried desperately to rob Vydra of the
ball as he advanced to the edge of the penalty area.

But amid a cluster of bodies the Czech fell to the ground and referee
Paul Tierney awarded the free-kick. Midfielder Abdi took responsibility,
curling his shot around the wall and past Carl Ikeme’s outstretched
right hand.

Bond then saved well from Doyle shortly before the hour but at the other
end, Ikechi Anya missed with a side-foot effort from six yards out and
Ikeme pulled off a superb tip-over from Christian Battocchio’s
long-range effort.

Watford may consider this two points dropped, but while the Football
League considers closing the loophole that allowed them to sign a dozen
players on loan from Udinese last summer, Zola’s men are still closing
in on promotion.

Wolves 1 Cardiff 2 – match report: Fraizer Campbell scores both goals for Championship leaders

Wolves 1 Cardiff 2: Campbell bags brace for leaders as Molineux misery continues

By
Neil Moxley

PUBLISHED:

16:10 GMT, 24 February 2013

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UPDATED:

22:06 GMT, 24 February 2013

Frazier Campbell’s headed double ensured Cardiff would have something to crow about this weekend as Dean Saunders’ nightmare start as Wolves manager showed little sign of ending.

Former Manchester United trainee Campbell pounced in each half to extend his side’s advantage over the Championship’s chasing pack to eight points on an afternoon when rivals Swansea grabbed the limelight at Wembley.

Campbell, a 650,000 signing from Sunderland in January, took his tally to five goals in as many games for his new club on a weekend when Cardiff increased their lead at the top of the division following Hull City’s demise at Bolton.

Brace: Fraizer Campbell scored two goals as the Championship leaders won at Molineux

Brace: Fraizer Campbell scored two goals as the Championship leaders won at Molineux

MATCH FACTS

Wolverhampton: Ikeme, Batth (Ebanks-Blake 46), Johnson, Gorkss, Doherty (Foley 78), Doumbia (Doyle 46), Henry, O'Hara, Robinson,
Sako, Sigurdarson.

Subs Not Used: De Vries, Edwards, Ward, Davis.

Booked: Doherty.

Goals: Sako 70.

Cardiff: Marshall, Connolly, Hudson (McNaughton 75), Turner, Taylor, Conway, Whittingham, Cowie (Kim 80), Gunnarsson, Bellamy, Campbell (Helguson 82).

Subs Not Used: Lewis, Noone, Mutch, Mason.

Booked: Whittingham.

Goals: Campbell 20, 67.

Att: 20,930

Ref: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire).

Championship table, fixtures and results

Cardiff manager Malky Mackay said he was not surprised by his signing’s impact. ‘Fraizer needed to get football back into his life,’ said Mackay. ‘The quality of the boy I remember scoring goals for Hull City has not diminished. He needed us and we needed him.

‘Did I expect him to hit the ground running Yes, I did.’

Saunders’ use of a five-man defence backfired in the first half, with Cardiff establishing a grip in the 20th minute. Aron Gunnarsson’s long throw was flicked on by Ben Turner and Campbell headed home from inside the six-yard box.

Saunders brought on Kevin Doyle and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake at half-time, but Craig Bellamy’s inswinging cross in the 67th minute left Wolves keeper Carl Ikeme stranded in no man’s land after leaving his line and Campbell finished at the far post.

Bakary Sako’s deflected free-kick three minutes later made a game of it and Ebanks-Blake sidefooted a shot into the ground and over the bar with the goal gaping following Sako’s 70-yard run late on.

Lead: Campbell heads past Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme

Lead: Campbell heads past Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme

Saunders, yet to win in eight games
since arriving at Molineux but hoping to sign Reading striker Simon
Church on loan, said: ‘We made two catastrophic mistakes. We conceded a
goal from a long throw — and I walked them through how to defend it
yesterday. As a manager, it’s the sort of thing that keeps you awake at
night.’

Hope: Bakary Sako scored for Wolves with 20 minutes to play at Molineux

Hope: Bakary Sako scored for Wolves with 20 minutes to play at Molineux

Lee Clark, Birmingham manager, backs up David Sullivan"s agent violence claims

Birmingham boss Clark backs up Sullivan's agent violence claims and calls for change

By
Neil Moxley

PUBLISHED:

19:20 GMT, 3 February 2013

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UPDATED:

19:22 GMT, 3 February 2013

SCAVENGERS!

Read David Sullivan's shockingly revealing interview HERE

Lee Clark has added his voice to that of West Ham owner David Sullivan in asking for the issue of players' agents to be looked at.

Birmingham City's boss gave his backing to the claims made by the Hammers' owner that he had felt threatened after a number of deals last week fell through.

Sullivan said he was unsure which representatives were acting for which players as he attempted to push through signings.

Change: Lee Clark believes the current agent system needs to be looked at

Change: Lee Clark believes the current agent system needs to be looked at

GANG WARFARE!

Read Harry Redknapp's verdict on the behaviour of agents HERE

And Clark, who was also on the defensive as he fielded questions about Birmingham's playing staff that the club needed to be off-loaded to meet cash issues, said something needed to be done.

He said: 'I read what David Sullivan had to say about agents and I agreed with him.

'We have had deals in place this week and there have been seven or eight people trying to jump in on them.'

Shocking: West Ham joint-chairman David Sullivan said he was threatened by an agent during the January transfer window

Shocking: West Ham joint-chairman David Sullivan said he was threatened by an agent during the January transfer window

He added: 'I don't know how it happens – perhaps a player says to a friend that he's getting a move and whether they'd like to earn a few quid – but it's getting so difficult to do them.

'Half the time you don't have a clue who actually represents these players.

'What I'd like to see is the player's representative actually listed with the Football Association. That way, it's transparent, it can be checked and everyone knows where they stand.

'Getting agents registered was supposed to solve the problem. It's not solved anything as far as I can see. It needs looking at.'

Alex McLeish"s position at Nottingham forest under threat

EXCLUSIVE: McLeish's position at Forest under threat after bust-up with Kuwaiti owners

By
Neil Moxley

PUBLISHED:

22:30 GMT, 30 January 2013

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UPDATED:

23:54 GMT, 30 January 2013

Alex McLeish’s position at Nottingham Forest is unclear following a bust-up with the club’s new owners over transfer funds.

The former Scotland manager has had a row with the Kuwaiti owners of the east Midlands club after a tense five weeks since succeeding Sean O’Driscoll.

Matters have been bubbling under ever since O’Driscoll’s sacking with chief executive Mark Arthur, head of player recruitment Keith Burt and Forest ambassador Frank Clark all being asked to leave.

Plenty to ponder: Alex McLeish had a bust-up with Nottingham Forest's owners

Plenty to ponder: Alex McLeish had a bust-up with Nottingham Forest's owners

After 14 years of service to Forest, Arthur was handed a letter informing him of his cessation of duties and Burt found out he was being axed after his wife read out a similar missive from the club while he was hosting a scouts’ meeting.

Forest were taken over by the Al-Hasawi family last summer and McLeish was appointed in bizarre circumstances after O’Driscoll was sacked following a 4-2 triumph over Leeds United on Boxing Day, a victory which left Forest just one point from the play-offs.

McLeish was promised a significant kitty to use during the transfer window. However, the club’s technical advisor Dr Tariq Aljalahmah, has held a series of meetings this week with several key figures including McLeish and the remaining members of the club’s scouting team.

In the market: McLeish wants to add to his Forest squad

In the market: McLeish wants to add to his Forest squad

The Scot was told that the club was reticent to sanction any cash deals, with Forest preferring instead to do business in the loan market.

McLeish stood his ground, asking for the money that he believed he was getting after agreeing to take on the job late last month.

The matter had been left in abeyance but some progress looked to have been made last night as Forest mounted a bid to swipe Peterborough United’s George Boyd from under Crystal Palace’s noses.

Peter Odemwingie transfer request rejected by West Brom amid QPR interest

West Brom reject Odemwingie's transfer request as QPR target desperately seeks exit

By
Neil Moxley

PUBLISHED:

17:37 GMT, 25 January 2013

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UPDATED:

17:50 GMT, 25 January 2013

West Bromwich Albion have turned down a transfer request from striker Peter Odemwingie.

The Baggies rejected a bid from QPR for the Nigeria forward earlier this month and the club insist none of their core players are for sale.

Sporting & technical director Richard Garlick said: 'Peter is hugely popular with our supporters and it is disappointing that he has decided to hand in a transfer request.

Snub: West Brom have rejected a transfer request from Peter Odemwingie

Snub: West Brom have rejected a transfer request from Peter Odemwingie

'It was immediately turned down and has done nothing to change our stance during January.

'Peter is under contract until the summer of 2014 and we have no need or desire to sell our core players.

'We want to keep the squad intact to enable us to build on an encouraging first six months of the season.'

Waving goodbye: Odemwingie has expressed his desire to leave West Brom

Waving goodbye: Odemwingie has expressed his desire to leave West Brom

Odemwingie sent a mixed message to supporters after the final whistle against Aston Villa last weekend and said: 'It's normal that players move clubs.

'There has been an offer – I'm 31 now and I was thinking to secure my future in the Premier League which is my desire.

'I had a good talk with the owners of the club, I'm here and I'm happy, this is always my club that I love.'

Manchester City have first refusal on Nathan Redmond

Redmond to remain with Birmingham but champions City wait in wings

By
Neil Moxley

PUBLISHED:

11:43 GMT, 24 January 2013

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UPDATED:

12:02 GMT, 24 January 2013

Birmingham's Nathan Redmond is set to stay at the Championship club until the end of the season despite their financial troubles.

Manchester City have first refusal on the highly-rated 18-year-old winger but are in no rush to make an offer.

The Premier League champions agreed the deal when Joe Hart was loaned to St Andrew's for the 2009-10 season.

Staying put: Nathan Redmond (left) will not leave Birmingham this month

Staying put: Nathan Redmond (left) will not leave Birmingham this month

Redmond has impressed for the Midlands club in recent seasons having been on their books since he was spotted as an eight-year-old.

He has represented England at Under 16, 17, 18 and 19 level and has made 27 appearances for his club this season.

Redmond has less than 18 months left on his contract and West Ham Liverpool and Tottenham are all interested but must wait until City show their hand.

Off: Jack Butland (right) looks set to leave Birmingham for the Premier League

Off: Jack Butland (right) looks set to leave Birmingham for the Premier League

Cash-strapped Birmingham, who are struggling to pay their bills, are however expected to offload England goalkeeper Jack Butland in January.

The owners have made it a condition of the sale
that around half of the 6million fee they are demanding is made as a
down-payment.

Birmingham's
coffers are due to be swelled by around 500,000 when Chris Burke makes a
switch to Nottingham Forest in the next few days but it is Butland's
sale that will enable Lee Clark's club to pay their way until the
summer, surviving the threat of administration.

Vincent Kompany tackle: Video special of the football"s challenges

VIDEO: As we face up to a world without tackling, Sportsmail looks back at some memorable challenges

PUBLISHED:

15:49 GMT, 15 January 2013

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UPDATED:

16:12 GMT, 15 January 2013

There was an outcry of disapproval after Vincent Kompany was given a straight red card for his full-blooded challenge on Jack Wilshere.

The Manchester City captain’s challenge was robust but he won the ball, sending out the message that players will be handed their marching orders for aggressive challenges.

Does this signal the death-knell for the old-fashioned tackle And if the letter of the law is followed, we may never see the likes of these challenges – as nominated by Sportsmail’s reporters – again…

Bad Kompany: The Belgian harshly saw red for this challenge on Arsenal's Jack Wilshere

Bad Kompany: The Belgian harshly saw red for this challenge on Arsenal's Jack Wilshere

COLIN YOUNG

KEVIN BALL (Sunderland) on Duncan Ferguson (Newcastle United), St James’ Park, August, 1999

Very few players in the game, never mind the North East, have relished a tackle as much as former Sunderland captain Kevin Ball. And they certainly like a tackle up here.

But on the night Sunderland pulled off a rare win on enemy territory and with the game in the dying minutes, ‘Bally’ pulled off a typically well-timed, hard but fair challenge on Duncan Ferguson. Only the ball flew from the pair who were 30 yards from goal, over Thomas Sorensen and hit his bar, denying Newcastle an equaliser.

This one of the most memorable Tyne-Wear derbies – Ruud Gullit put Alan Shearer and Ferguson on the bench and paid the price in the endless rain. But if Bally of all people had scored the equaliser, even Sunderland’s former manager and current reserve-team boss wouldn’t have been able to live it down.

NEIL MOXLEY

PAUL McGRATH (Aston Villa) against Helsingborg, Olympia, September, 1996

The big man had just been dropped by Brian Little. If memory serves, he came on as a substitute in this game and was seriously peeved. With about five minutes to go, the ball broke down the right, just in front of the dug-outs. McGrath wasn’t the quickest but, my life, he shifted to make his mark. He took ball, man, trainer’s bag, the lot, right in front of Little – and me, sat in the press box towards the back of a small stand.

It was fair. But it wasn’t so much a tackle as a statement. I remember nothing else about this game. The thought of that challenge has stayed with me throughout my career.

McGrath was a solid bloke and I felt a tinge of sympathy for his opponent that night. Honestly, he absolutely cleaned this guy out.

Hardman: McGrath (left) was known for his tackling prowess

Hardman: McGrath (left) was known for his tackling prowess

JOHN EDWARDS

STEVEN GERRARD (Liverpool) on Phil Jagielka (Everton), Anfield, March, 2008

Never one to do things by halves, Gerrard ignited the home crowd with a typically uncompromising double tackle on Jagielka. An initial block challenge near the halfway line sent the ball spinning towards the corner flag, with Jagielka sprinting after it and Gerrard scrambling to his feet and setting off in hot pursuit.

As Jagielka caught up with the ball, Gerrard was a good four or five yards behind but that didn’t stop him hurling himself into a full-length studs-first tackle that sent the ball flying into the Kop. A blur of red, the Liverpool skipper might have been inviting trouble in the current climate but there were no repercussions then.

Neither should there have been. It was the cleanest of contacts and Jagielka was rattled but unharmed. Gerrard at his most committed, and it soon spread to his team-mates, who dominated and should have won by more than an early Fernando Torres goal.

LAURIE WHITWELL

PHIL NEVILLE (Everton) on Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd) Goodison Park, October, 2008

Not many tackles can lay claim to changing the course of a team’s season – but, according to Everton manager David Moyes, this one did. United were cruising at Goodison Park, 1-0 up thanks to a Darren Fletcher goal, but on the hour Phil Neville launched a ferocious challenge on ex-team mate Cristiano Ronaldo, who had already been half-felled by Steven Pienaar. Neville’s lunge sparked fury in the away section and he was booked by Alan Wiley. Later replays showed he got the ball but the whistle had already gone.

The incident (48 seconds into this video) whipped up the crowd and Everton began playing with increased vigour. Soon after, Marouane Fellaini scored an equaliser. They had lost three of four at home up to that point but won their next three Premier League games to finish fifth in May. As for the best overall tackler I have seen – Ryan Giggs takes that accolade. His slides are always silky smooth and generally he wins the ball.

LEE CLAYTON

STUART PEARCE (Wealdstone)

Bobby Gould said he went to watch Stuart Pearce playing for Wealdstone and left after the first tackle when the part-time electrician sent the winger flying. Legend has it the winger ended up closer to Bobby and his wife in the stand than the pitch and Coventry, where Gould was manager, soon paid 300,000 for the player who went on to become England’s greatest left back.

It was a huge amount of money to pay for non-League part-timer but money well spent as Pearce went on to play 78 games for his country (even if most of his success came with Nottingham Forest).

Psycho: Pearce wasn't one to shy away from a challenge

Psycho: Pearce wasn't one to shy away from a challenge

Psycho: Pearce wasn't one to shy away from a challenge

Anyway, I guess that’s Bobby’s favourite tackle, not mine. I’m going to pick a player I liked watching tackle for England and that’s Paul Ince. I was there in France, during the World Cup, when he was asked about it. He said this: ‘I love tackling, I really love it. It’s better than sex. My wife is not going to be too pleased, but I love the sound of it, the crunch, the noise, the act of tackling. I was born to tackle.’ I think he was too. I wish I could have tackled like Paul Ince.

DOMINIC KING

JAMIE CARRAGHER (Liverpool) on Andriy Shevchenko (AC Milan), Istanbul, May, 2005

The memory of how Liverpool came back from the dead to win their fifth European Cup remains as fresh as ever, with that incredible three goals-in-six minutes flurry, but it sometimes tends to be forgotten that they also had to withstand a late siege from Milan.

As the Italians tried to pilfer a win late on, Shevchenko powered into the Liverpool area and had skipped past Sami Hyypia but just as he was about to pull the trigger, Carragher swept in to spirit the ball from his toe with immaculate timing. Given what was at stake, it has to go down as the best, most important tackle I’ve seen.

That game was also responsible for the best save I have ever seen, too, with Jerzy Dudek’s scarcely believable parry from the hapless Shevchenko.

Master of the art: Carragher dives in to challenge Mark Viduka

Master of the art: Carragher dives in to challenge Mark Viduka

MARK ALFORD

STEVEN GERRARD (Liverpool) on Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Anfield, March, 2007

Ronaldo – soon to become the most expensive player in the world – and the best tackler on the planet. Gerrard nicks possession just when United are in a threatening position with Ronaldo in possession. Minimum fuss, goes to ground for a split second, nicks the ball and Liverpool are on their way up the field. Pure class.

PHIL GRADWELL

MARK FISH (Bolton) on Michael Owen (Liverpool), Reebok Stadium, November, 1997

The 17-year-old Owen was lightning and nobody could catch him. So when he went through on goal, home fans feared the worst. But Fish, playing one of his first games for Bolton, somehow managed to keep within an outstretched leg of the Liverpool striker and just as Owen was about to shoot slid in, scooped back the ball, got up and played the ball to a midfielder. Easy.

Mark-ed man: Fish (left) gets to grip with Owen once more while at Charlton later in his career

Mark-ed man: Fish (left) gets to grip with Owen once more while at Charlton later in his career

SAM CUNNINGHAM

CHRIS SOLLY (Charlton) on Steve Morison (Millwall), The Valley, March, 2010

Nine minutes into this fierce south London derby Morison, one of the most prolific strikers in League One that season, was sent through on goal by a long ball that caught out centre backs Jose Semedo and Miguel Llera. But 19-year-old left back Solly hurtled towards the middle and produced an unbelievable recovery tackle taking the ball first, then the man, and a large chunk of the turf in the process.

CHRIS CUTMORE

BORIS JOHNSON (England) on Maurizio Gaudino (Germany), Madejski Stadium, May 2006

They say great tackles can change games but this one changed an entire career. Boris was seen as a bumbling buffoon before this remarkable rugby-style tackle. Now he’s still seen as a bumbling buffoon but is somehow in his second term as Mayor of London.

OK, it’s not a proper tackle, so don’t try this one at home, kids (or on the training pitch) – it won’t get your football career very far. But it was very funny.

The Midlander: The Midlander: Baggies bow out, but at least they took the Capital One Cup seriously

Baggies crashed out, but at least they took the Capital One Cup seriously

|

UPDATED:

12:56 GMT, 27 September 2012

It was a shame for West Brom that Steve Clarke's best intentions in the Capital One Cup were not rewarded on Wednesday night.

One glance down the team-sheet showed that the Scot was taking the competition seriously.

There were no wholesale changes. No real suggestion in his starting XI that the Baggies have the mother of all derby confrontations at Villa Park to look forward to this weekend.

Serious: Steve Clarke fielded a strong side to take on Liverpool

Serious: Steve Clarke fielded a strong side to take on Liverpool

More from Neil Moxley…

The Midlander: Dan the Man will be a tough act to follow at West Brom
20/09/12

The Midlander: Birmingham need to avoid Paladini for their own good
14/09/12

The Midlander: Whisper it quietly, but Forest could be on the road to success…
07/09/12

The Midlander: Thorn sacking is one of many strange decisions by Coventry
30/08/12

The Midlander: Lambert has work to do in the window to add the goals he craves
23/08/12

The Midlander: How West Brom emerged as the unlikely flag-bearers round here
16/08/12

The Midlander: Tremendous track record Solbakken faces test from the start
09/08/12

The Midlander: All change at Villa but fans will relish new era of Lambert's Lions
02/08/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Of course, Clarke could have taken another option. He could have fielded a below-strength West Brom side. (That on Wednesday night's evidence would have been taken to the cleaners by a very good, young Liverpool team.)

So on that basis, it was pleasing to see him treat the competition like something West Brom actually wanted to be involved in.

Thank goodness.

Why do I say that

The football-supporting public have been brain-washed, believing the Champions League and Premier League is the be-all and end-all.

Of course, for the clubs involved, it is.

The revenues generated by both competitions are staggering.

Next season, when the new television deal kicks in, those participating in the Premier League will see their bottom-line income balloon by over 20m. (That figure includes overseas rights.)

What does that mean

Well, it means if you are a supporter of West Brom it means you have earned the right to play against 19 other clubs during the course of a season in the hope that you will garner enough points to play in the competition again.

Sunk: Nuri Sahin's double saw off West Brom in the end

Sunk: Nuri Sahin's double saw off West Brom in the end

Sunk: Nuri Sahin's double saw off West Brom in the end

Does anyone think the Baggies have a chance of winning the competition

Good lord, no! Any notion of equality in that respect has long disappeared.

So what are fans in it for, then

This may come as a shock to the Premier League. But, first, there are supporters out there who don't follow the top six clubs.

Secondly, there is a notion of glory. A day in the sun. When you can puff out your chest and say: 'West Brom – FA Cup winners 2013.'

It's there. In black and white. 'Birmingham City – Carling Cup winners 2011.'
Under the all-consuming push to sell satellite subscriptions, we are bombarded with messages that the Premier League is the place to be.

But does it really matter to a West Brom fan if they finish 10th or 13th
Of course not.

It matters to the Hawthorns' bean-counters. They will bank an extra 3m in merit money.

But is that passed on to the punters in the form of lower ticket prices or other benefits

Again, of course not. They won't see any 'real' benefit. Hopefully an improvement in the quality of player. But 11 players will still take to the pitch wearing navy blue and white striped shirts, regardless.

If Birmingham City supporters had a straight choice between winning that Carling Cup on February 27, 2011 or another season in the top-flight, I can absolutely guarantee what they would (actually do) say.

They do say: 'I'll take the trophy, thanks.'

Them too: Aston Villa knocked Manchester City out of the Capital One Cup at the Etihad

Them too: Aston Villa knocked Manchester City out of the Capital One Cup at the Etihad

Were I a Baggies' man, it would stick in my throat that Roberto Di Matteo did not play a recognised first-team at Ipswich in the same competition that Birmingham ended up winning.

On that very night, when Nikola Zigic's scrambled goal defeated Aston Villa, I know for a cold-stone certainty that Alex McLeish would not have fielded his strongest XI had it not been a quarter-final against the club's rivals from across the Aston Expressway.

What happened subsequently bears out the absolute folly of not treating this competition seriously.

Birmingham went on to win it. Alex McLeish picked up another job (at Villa) because of it.

There's no way that he would have been employed at Villa Park without that triumph on his CV. No way.

A set of players received greater exposure, enhanced their reputations and probably, when Birmingham were relegated, also picked up lucrative transfers because of it.

And the supporters

They enjoyed one of the best days out…ever.

It is a difficult line for some managers to tread. Their own personal short-term futures might depend on staying in the Premier League.

But Jose Mourinho went hammer and tongs at the League Cup. It was the first trophy he won with Chelsea.

Brian Clough had bigger priorities than the same competition when Nottingham Forest won it a couple of times in the early 1980s.

Troublesome: Gabriel Agbonlahor wreaked havoc in Manchester

Troublesome: Gabriel Agbonlahor wreaked havoc in Manchester

And I didn't see Sir Alex Ferguson cocking a snoop at it either, when it was the only pot Manchester United won in 2006 against Wigan Athletic.

Those top-six clubs may now have different priorities.

But – and this isn't just aimed at West Brom, it's directed at every other club of a certain size out there – there has to be room for glory in this game.

The glory of a League Cup win, or FA Cup final win. It does matter to the fans, it does.

Don't field reserve teams. Treat the competition seriously. Who knows, you might end up winning it.

Let's face it, if just staying in the Premier League is the be-all and end-ell, what really is the point of that

This column is supposed to reflect the week's events in the Midlands.

So the stand-out stories

Villa's win at Manchester City Yes, a fantastic result to follow a second-half wipeout at St Mary's.

It was heartening to see Villa defeat a team they aren't supposed to. ie One of the Champions League mob.

It happens every so often. Like at Chelsea last December. And at the Emirates against Arsenal the season before.

But not nearly as often as it should. It was genuinely heart-warming. Promising, although you suspect the season may contain lows as well as highs.

Over at Coventry, they have welcomed a new manager's arrival with a 6-1 drubbing at Arsenal.

Pick your battles: Clarke (right) knows that West Brom fans relish the cup competitions

Pick your battles: Clarke (right) knows that West Brom fans relish the cup competitions

I was quietly impressed with Robins hearing him speak during the pre-match press conference. I think the Sky Blues may have landed a good 'un there.

Other than that, what else is there

Derby's reversal to Burnley was surprising as I'd seen the Clarets lose to Leicester last week.

They were nothing to write home about so I did raise an eyebrow at the Rams' defeat – although with Charlie Austin back in the team at the King Power Stadium, Eddie Howe may have been missing a cutting edge.

No, all that apart, the most alarming story of the week was Birmingham City 0 Barnsley 5.

I watched that particular horror unfold from the press room at the Baggies.

After being fortunate enough to witness about 80 live matches during the course of a season for the best part of two decades, I have to say it was the single most inept, lifeless and gutless showing I can remember from any side, anywhere, at any time.

And remember, I've only just returned from watching Wales ship six in Serbia.

The players were bad, the manager's decision to switch to a three-man defence was ill-conceived and Barnsley – average at Wolves a few weeks ago – should have filled their boots.

You can say what you like – and there is no doubt that there is a current malaise at the club – but those responsible out on the pitch – and in the dug-out – need to take a long look at themselves.

Bigger fish to fry: Teams like Manchester City will be more focused on the Premier League and the Champions League

Bigger fish to fry: Teams like Manchester City will be more focused on the Premier League and the Champions League

I'm not just talking about Clark either, what are Terry McDermott and Derek Fazackerley supposed to be doing The latter was part of England's set-up under Kevin Keegan, after all.

With away-days to follow this weekend at Brighton and Cardiff next week, Lee Clark could be treading on the thinnest of ice if he is not careful.

The least Birmingham City supporters demand is effort.

When even that vital ingredient is missing, you really are in trouble. Clark would be wise not to let it happen again.

Finally, talk about being put in your place.

I pitched up at Ryton to speak to Mark Robins and was greeted by first-team coach Lee Carsley, full of his gently teasing humour and dry wit.

After pleasantries are exchanged, the conversation goes as follows:

Carsley: 'Me and Kev (Kilbane) are thinking about doing a bike ride for charity next summer, do you fancy coming

Me: 'Er, dunno. How far is it'

Carsley: 'Well, it will take about a week, possibly a bit more.'

Me: 'Well, if you really think I could do it. Do you think I'd be fit enough'

Carsley: 'I don't need you to ride a bike, you muppet, we need someone to drive the van….'

Stale Solbakken faces tough test at Wolves – The Midlander

Tremendous track record New Wolves boss Solbakken faces tough test from the start

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UPDATED:

14:18 GMT, 9 August 2012

Stale Solbakken arrived at Molineux with a 'tremendous track record,' according to the man who appointed him, Wolves' owner Steve Morgan.

Neatly brushing aside the car crash at Cologne, the former Wimbledon midfielder's success with Copenhagen was highlighted as a principal reason for his appointment.

Let's hope the Norwegian truly is the 'real deal'. Because what is becoming more evident with each passing day is that Solbakken will be tested from the very first kick of the ball in competitive action against Aldershot in the Capital One Cup first round this weekend.

Tough task: Stale Solbakken is charged with getting Wolves promoted at the first attempt in the Championship

Tough task: Stale Solbakken is charged with getting Wolves promoted at the first attempt in the Championship

More from Neil Moxley…

The Midlander: All change at Villa but fans will relish new era of Lambert's Lions
02/08/12

Season review part 1 – Aston Villa, Wolves, West Brom, Birmingham and Coventry
24/05/12

The Midlander: Solbakken faces uphill struggle to restore Wolves' fortunes
18/05/12

The Midlander: Council are the only ones who can revive Coventry
11/05/12

The Midlander: No more Mr Nice Guy if Villa want bums on seats
03/05/12

The Midlander: Wolves fans seem to have an over-blown sense of entitlement
13/04/12

The Midlander: Player power would be recipe for disaster at Leicester
05/04/12

The Midlander: Villa failed to muster up a single shot at Arsenal… that's shameful
30/03/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Stepping into what is the most competitive league in English football with a fair wind behind you is one thing. Trying to engineer a flying start amid uncertainty with a couple of your more influential players is another.

No supporter should be surprised that the hired hands who pass for the modern professional footballer can dictate whether they stay or go when the merest whiff of a more attractive offer is in the air.

So it was with Michael Kightly. So it is with Matt Jarvis. And so, too, it is with Steven Fletcher.

It happened to Birmingham City last season. It will happen to another club in 12 months' time.

However, where Solbakken, chief executive Jez Moxey and Morgan can count themselves unlucky is the timing of these offers.

Demands: Steven Fletcher has handed in a transfer request

Demands: Steven Fletcher has handed in a transfer request

For the uninitiated, a footballer's contract runs from July 1 to June 30. When that date passes – and yes, I appreciate the irony of this – they are often due another portion of their signing-on fee or 'loyalty' bonus as the next 12 months of their deal kicks in.

Unless a buying club wants to make a statement regarding season-ticket sales by unveiling a name signing, it is normally only after this time that deals are struck, although the 'Fletcher to Sunderland' bandwagon has been rolling since mid-May.

Think about it. Fletcher could bank another portion of his signing-on fee after his move from Burnley on July 1. Then negotiate himself another chunk of cash when he moves to the Stadium of Light in late August. Nice work if you can get it.

Given Martin O'Neill's past dealings at Aston Villa, it is little surprise that the Irishman has waited almost until the season's start to make a concerted effort to prise the Scotland international to Wearside. He routinely waited until the last week before the transfer window closed to make his moves at Villa Park.

Jarvis has also been at the centre of bids by West Ham and Fulham to move him back into the Premier League for some time.

And Moxey explained that Kightly's sale was forced by the player entering the final year of his deal. It was, given the player's pay hike, probably a deal which suited both parties (although, I'm sure like me, plenty of Wolves' supporters would have liked to have seen him form part of a successful promotion campaign).

It may well be that Wolves' coffers are swelled by over 20m by the time that the transfer window closes in the Premier League (it appears to be a case of when, not if, both depart).

Fair recompense some might say. It would, though, have been far more helpful had this whole situation been finalised weeks ago.

Departure: Michael Kightly has signed for Stoke

Departure: Michael Kightly has signed for Stoke

The continuing swirl of uncertainty around Molineux with a situation not under the club's control is not conducive to Solbakken producing performances on the pitch.

Do the disaffected players remain part of the group Do they train with the first-team Are they named to start, safe in the knowledge that before the next match is played, they could be on their way How does that affect the squad Can it be allowed to affect the group

Solbakken has to deal with that in the early part of the season and put out a competitive team in this toughest of leagues.

Make no mistake, Championship managers will be smelling blood in the opening few weeks of the campaign.

The Norwegian has to get to grips quickly in a division in which he has no practical experience and manage those who want to get away and those who want to stay.

It is the first examination in what is sure to be a testing campaign. Let's face it, there is always a sense of impatience among supporters whenever a team drops out of the Premier League.

So, Solbakken might boast a 'tremendous track record.' But this Championship campaign already looks like providing him with an acid test as to whether he can cut it in English football.

And, you suspect, in just ten months' time we will have the answer about whether his stay in the Black Country will be a long one.