Tag Archives: stardust

Premier League players continue to choose the MLS over mid-ranking European careers

Beckham sprinkled his stardust and more players are crossing the pond – so is the MLS booming or is the US just a place Premier League careers go to die

season – more than regularly pack in to watch Chelsea and not
far off the number who turn up at Anfield – you begin to
understand his excitement.

MLS crowds generally were up last
season. An average attendance of 18,807 made for the seventh-most
popular football league in the world in terms of bums on seats.

Biggest star in the Galaxy: Beckham moved to Los Angeles amid a blaze of publicity in 2007

Biggest star in the Galaxy: Beckham moved to Los Angeles amid a blaze of publicity in 2007

David Beckham

Hollywood ending: Beckham and his sons celebrate the MLS Cup win in his final game

Hollywood ending: Beckham and his sons celebrate the MLS Cup win in his final game

Paltry television viewing figures for MLS in the US remain a
cause for concern, however, as evidenced by a drop in the number who
watched the 2012 MLS Cup from the previous season’s final. Not even
David Beckham’s walk off into the sunset could save that one.

No talk of MLS progress is complete without referencing Beckham’s legacy of course. Having arrived at LA Galaxy from Real Madrid in 2007, the world’s most bankable footballer played a defining role in building the profile of the league.

Even when things weren’t going right on the pitch, Beckham was still selling the Galaxy brand and putting MLS in places it had never before been able to reach.

Beckham made everything to come possible. Seven new MLS franchises launched during his five years in LA, and the increased profile he generated for the league has helped lure the likes of Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, Carlo Cudicini and Alessandro Nesta to bring their considerable reputations in his wake.

Keane to raise the profile: The Ireland striker (left) has followed Beckham to America

Keane to raise the profile: The Ireland striker (left) has followed Beckham to America

Republic of Ireland striker Keane has
won two MLS Cups in two seasons at LA Galaxy and was named in the
league's best XI for 2012.

Among the other ex-Premier League players to
be found in the US include former West Brom midfielder Giles Barnes, now
plying his trade at Houston Dynamo, and Wales striker Robert
Earnshaw, who arrived at Toronto FC this season.

Former Arsenal and Manchester United full back Mikael Silvestre is another recent arrival. The Frenchman signed for Portland Timbers this season, whose goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts will also be a familiar name to those who follow the lower reaches of the English game. And then there's Tim Cahill, the Australian who left Everton to join Henry at New York Red Bulls in 2012.

New York Red Bulls team-mates: Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, respectively once of Arsenal and Everton

New York Red Bulls team-mates: Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, respectively once of Arsenal and Everton

Tim Cahill

Tim Cahill

It’s not just the quality of players
arriving in the MLS that we should be looking as testament to progress.
There’s also the evidence supplied by MLS graduates able to adjust to
supposedly superior leagues when they leave.

Carlos Bocanegra, Clint
Dempsey and Michael Bradley are shining examples. Brek Shea is early in
his career at Stoke but already being talked about as a potential
Premier League game-changer. Meanwhile, American goalkeepers are
everywhere.

Could the
Premier League one day have enough faith in the MLS to use it as a
feeder league It may be a natural next step, especially when you
consider the desire of English clubs to market themselves aggressively
in the US market.

Premier League exports: Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and Mikael Silvestre

Premier League exports: Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and Mikael Silvestre

Everywhere you look there are signs the MLS is building slowly on its foundation — one laid on the back of the US hosting the 1994 World Cup.

We shouldn’t expect a league to compare with the best in Europe any time soon, but well-planned growth is pointing towards a product that will only get better in time.

Perhaps the biggest achievement of Beckham’s time in American will be seen if the MLS continues to grow without him.

Robert Earnshaw

Giles Barnes

In a land far, far away: Robert Earnshaw and Giles Barnes are both plying their trade in MLS

London 2012 Olympics: Stuart Pearce not under pressure to pick David Beckham

No pressure on Pearce to pick Beckham for Team GB, says Olympic chief

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UPDATED:

14:19 GMT, 20 June 2012

Stuart Pearce is under no pressure to select David Beckham for the Team GB football team for London 2012, the chief executive of the British Olympic Association has insisted.

Pearce has travelled to California to watch Beckham in action for the Los Angeles Galaxy but BOA chief Andy Hunt says there has never been any suggestion to the Olympic coach to choose the 37-year-old in order to sprinkle some stardust on the squad.

The men's Olympic squads are restricted to players aged under 23 but three over-age players are also permitted.

Golden oldie: Veteran David Beckham could be lining up for Team GB in London

Golden oldie: Veteran David Beckham could be lining up for Team GB in London

Hunt said: 'Stuart Pearce will make a decision on the best squad available given where he is in respect of now having assessed the players that are not involved in the Euros and the current state of injuries.

'He will then make the best call he can – on merit. I am not putting any pressure of him whatsoever to pick anyone. We discussed the whole topic of selecting over-23 players back more than a year ago but I haven't subsequently.

'We have been very clear from the outset, it's absolutely Stuart's choice and he is totally free to make the selection of the team he believes will put in the best performance. It's as simple as that.'

In charge: Stuart Pearce (2nd right) will pick Team GB

In charge: Stuart Pearce (2nd right) will pick Team GB

The Football Association have agreed that any player involved Euro 2012 with England will not be selected for the Olympics as well.

Pearce is expected to name his squad at the end of next week. Manchester United have already indicated they do not want any over-age player – such as Rio Ferdinand – to be considered apart from Ryan Giggs.

Opposition to the British team remains from the other home nations apart from England but a number of players such as Wales duo Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale have already stated their desire to be considered.

No pressure: BOA chief Andy Hunt says Stuart Pearce calls all the shots

No pressure: BOA chief Andy Hunt says Stuart Pearce calls all the shots

Hunt said that for some players the Olympics would be their only chance to appear in a major tournament finals.

He said: 'For those who are unlikely to play at the highest international level for their country – well here's a chance.'

West Indies need some old heads in their young side: Nasser Hussain

West Indies must find room in young side for a few old hands

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UPDATED:

22:05 GMT, 28 May 2012

West Indies have played much better cricket and pushed England much harder than India, who arrived here last year as the No 1 team in the world.

For all the talk about India’s batting superstars, West Indies have already managed to provide a much tougher test for the England attack.

Darren Sammy’s side are well drilled and have shown a lot of character, fight and discipline with so many star names missing and they did it again on Monday to make England wait for their win.

Plenty of character: Darren Sammy has a good team but needs some older heads

Plenty of character: Darren Sammy has a good team but needs some older heads

They are very professional but what they just need now is to be sprinkled with a bit of stardust because they can’t keep on collapsing to something like 40 for four and expect to win.

It’s all well having 11 committed young players but every team needs its older heads, and just as I wanted Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart in my England side, it could well be that West Indies need to bring back one or two of those on the outside.

Return Chris Gayle would be an asset if he buys into what the West Indies are doing

Return Chris Gayle would be an asset if he buys into what the West Indies are doing

Their results were hardly better when Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan were in the side and there were times when they did not seem committed, but it is all about man-management and the way Sammy and coach Ottis Gibson handle them.

People always told me what Andy Caddick and Phil Tufnell couldn’t do when I became England captain but I was more concerned with what they could do. Sammy and Gibson need to think now about what the missing players could bring to their side.

If Gayle, or whoever, returns they will have to buy into what this West Indies side are doing but, again, that is a challenge for the captain and coach. And if they come back but won’t comply then it would be a case of thank you and goodbye.

Marlon Samuels is the classic example of what West Indies can achieve. He’s been around since 2000 and has always been talented but now the penny has dropped that he needs to make the most of that natural talent.

The penny has dropped: Marlon Samuels is an example of a player who has improved

The penny has dropped: Marlon Samuels is an example of a player who has improved

I spoke to Marlon at the team hotel the other night and told him to keep going. He said, ‘I’ve been through too much and missed too much cricket not to keep going now.’

Yes, he’s a bit eccentric and kept on chatting to England players again yesterday but, apart from maybe Jimmy Anderson, I think England like him. We need characters in this game, not clones.

England, meanwhile, have been thoroughly professional again here at Trent Bridge from the captain all the way down. They are turning every home Test ground into something of a fortress and it will take a very good side to beat them in home conditions.

Thierry Henry can show Arsenal the route to success

Former talisman Henry can show Arsenal route to success

Arsenal, with a striker shortage looming and inspiration sources in short supply, desperately need Thierry Henry back.

But his presence is required not just to alleviate the pressure on Robin van Persie and bring the stardust which might help provide a feel good factor and, in turn, more momentum.

Good times: Thierry Henry with Arsene Wenger (right) after joining from Juventus in 1999

Good times: Thierry Henry with Arsene Wenger (right) after joining from Juventus in 1999

As much as that, Arsenal need their former talisman to complete his loan switch from New York Red Bulls to remind them of the path they have to rediscover.

The route that would persuade the doubters that Arsene Wenger retains his magic touch and satisfy the money men who hold the club's purse strings so tightly.

More from Leo Spall…

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Leo's London: To be Frank, competition for places is good… unless my place is under threat
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Leo's London: You're not safe yet AVB, you still have to face Manchester City
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Leo's London: Spurs aiming to be kings of the capital – but it could be a short reign
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Leo's London: Chelsea's arrogance could be their downfall
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You know the one – it involves the manager taking a good player for a reasonable fee and turning him into superstar who transforms the team.

When Henry first signed for Arsenal, in 1999, he was a 22-year-old wide player struggling at Juventus who cost close to 11million.

Wenger taught him how to play as a striker in the Premier League and Henry's subsequent contribution to the club cannot be underestimated.

His impact on the manager's reputation should not be undervalued either. That signing, more than any other, showed that Wenger knows best in the transfer market. It was probably a once-in-a-career moment and there have been plenty of deals since which have not turned out nearly as well.

But such is the strategy of Arsenal now, they need something close to a repeat soon to stay as contenders over the coming seasons.

Their recent spending – and it cannot be just down to Wenger – suggests their target of staying in the top four and aiming higher will have to be done with a fraction of the fees budget of their rivals.

There is young talent coming through in the impressive Aaron Ramsey; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain already has a growing army of fans, too, even before establishing himself in the team.

However, Arsenal need results now and they cannot wait for the next Theo Walcott to find consistency at the top level.

They have done well to be patient with Walcott's development as it is and the fact that they need to return to Henry now is proof that they have lost their way.

Loan deals from the MLS, discounting the special commercial case of David Beckham, are the sort that Everton indulge in, that Aston Villa are showing interest in.

Generally speaking, the biggest clubs, the title contenders, look to loan players out in January rather than take them in apart from in unforseen emergencies.

Arsenal knew the African Cup of Nations was coming, that Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh would be off but they had no cover. Wenger has expressed fears that the competition will exhaust them, too.

Yet the pair's contribution while they have been around this term, in goals at least (five combined in the Premier League), suggests Arsenal are short in that area anyway.

So, Arsenal need Henry back alright even though he is not match fit yet and a couple of yards slower than at his peak.

But his return, at best, will only provide a sticking plaster over a transfer problem that, as things stand, requires a magic touch to solve.

Frank Lampard

Shirty: Frank Lampard

No lip service from Ramires

After Chelsea beat Wolves this week all the talk was about Frank Lampard and the internal politics at the club, which remain as spiky as ever.

The midfielder thought he had proved a point by scoring the winner and, afterwards, was carping about not playing regularly enough, yet again.

His goal proved, equally well, that Andre Villas-Boas' treatment of Lampard is producing fine results from the England man but that didn't seem to occur to him. The sideshow, apart from ensuring more tension at Chelsea, helped to overshadow the contribution of the team's other goalscorer in the game: Ramires.

The Brazilian has adapted impressively since joining the club in 2010 and his contribution deserves praise, too.

Ramires is well known for his running and hard work but his goal against Wolves was his fourth in the Premier League this season (Lampard has eight), meaning Chelsea are not limited to just one goalscoring midfielder. Not that anyone would know it.

On the up: Martin Jol

On the up: Martin Jol

Jol on way up at Fulham

Fulham meet Charlton in the FA Cup on Saturday, a club whom they used to want to copy.

After Mohamed Fayed dropped the idea of his club becoming the Manchester United of the South, he wanted them to become the Charlton of the south west (of London).

The sensible spending of the club from The Valley turned out to be not quite so sensible, however, and their fall through the divisions has been painful.

So as the impressive Chris Powell takes a step back into the limelight with his resurgent League One Charlton team, who do Fulham, still known for their relatively recent Europa League run, want to be now They are not quite Everton-like (great history, no money) or West Bromwich Albion (a sensibly run yo-yo team) and the direction they are headed in remains unclear.

If Martin Jol is allowed the time and resources to reshape their squad Fulham can be an upwardly mobile mid-table side once again with an eye on cup success. They just have to create their own identity this time.