Was David Moyes doomed from the start at Manchester United?

He went from the Chosen One to the Fallen One in a mere 10 months. It begs the question: was David Moyes reign at Manchester United was always doomed for disaster?

No sooner he had walked into the Theatre of Dreams his nightmare had already started when long time chief executive, David Gill, announced that he too would be following Sir Alex Ferguson out of the exit door. Gill was the organisational puppet master who pulled the strings in the transfer market, and his departure meant that there was no one to really spearhead transfer dealings at Manchester United- one of the biggest clubs in world football.

This worrying disconnect between the football and business side of the club was compounded by the fact that Moyes badly needed to overhaul an aging side, which somewhat miraculously had managed to consistently overachieve under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson. It is a feat tantamount to magic that the old managerial maestro was able to mould a team of champions out of the distinctly average- by elite standards- players he had at his disposal over the last few seasons. Unfortunately for Moyes, lightening did not strike twice.

Whether too long in the tooth, too tender in years or just lacking in the talent department Manchester United’s team needed major surgery.

The deficiencies of the side inherited by Moyes have been laid bare all season, and the lack of much needed investment in the transfer market left him badly exposed before a ball had even been kicked under his watch. Whilst most of the elite teams were given tanks to blast their way to the top Moyes had to ride a war torn camel into battle.

From barely keeping his head above water in the close season, he was quickly out his of depth when the action started in the Premier League. Results started badly and got worse to the point where United- having recorded their worst ever points tally in the Premier League era- are now sinking in a sea of mediocrity, stranded in 7th place without a paddle, in what has been one of the worst seasons in the clubs history. But, still, even given his handicap in the transfer market, David Moyes disastrous record of a solitary victory from 13 games against the top 8 sides in the Barclays Premier League this season is disgraceful. Those sorts of stats just don’t cut the mustard at Manchester United.

Ultimately, Moyes ill-fated reign had to end. There really was no other way. It was clear that he could not properly command the respect of the players and he failed to inspire confidence in the board, who obviously felt he could not be trusted with the task of rebuilding the club with a multi-million pound transfer budget in the summer. It is entirely reasonable to point the finger of blame at the players and the Manchester United board; both parties have blood on their hands and are accessories in the assassination of the 50 year old Scots reputation as a manager. Many senior players made it known, through both their words to the media and their actions in matches, that David Moyes was not their Chosen One.

It was the dream job, but the set of nightmare conditions imposed upon him made it almost mission impossible for David Moyes. However, he was also the architect of his own demise: his decision to banish Alex Ferguson’s trusted back room staff bordered on the bizarre. It was just too bold a move to make so early in his reign at a club synonymous with stability and continuity during Fergusons 27 years in charge.

Ultimately, the football gods were conspiring against David Moyes and his move to Manchester United seemed doomed to failure from the very beginning.

For these reasons, it is in the best interests of everyone involved in this sorry debacle to discard the whole episode into the dustbin of history and move on. The Chosen One is now the Fallen One. But David Moyes will soon rise again, and so will Manchester United.

Thanks for Reading.

Who do you think will be United’s next Manager?

Were the Players as much to blame as Moyes for Manchester United’s terrible season?

I look forward to reading your comments. I hope you enjoyed the article.  

Follow me on Twitter @F1ghtingTalk

Find me on: https://robbiebannatyne89.wordpress.com/

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Was David Moyes doomed from the start at United?

He went from the Chosen One to the Fallen One in a mere 10 months. It begs the question: was David Moyes reign at Manchester United was always doomed for disaster?

No sooner he had walked into the Theatre of Dreams his nightmare had already started when long time chief executive, David Gill, announced that he too would be following Sir Alex Ferguson out of the exit door. Gill was the organisational puppet master who pulled the strings in the transfer market, and his departure meant that there was no one to really spearhead transfer dealings at Manchester United- one of the biggest clubs in world football.

This worrying disconnect between the football and business side of the club was compounded by the fact that Moyes badly needed to overhaul an ageing side, which somewhat miraculously had managed to consistently overachieve under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson. It is a feat tantamount to magic that the old managerial maestro was able to mould a team of champions out of the distinctly average – by elite standards – players he had at his disposal over the last few seasons. Unfortunately for Moyes, lightening did not strike twice.

Whether too long in the tooth, too tender in years or just lacking in the talent department, United’s team needed major surgery.

The deficiencies of the side inherited by Moyes have been laid bare all season, and the lack of much needed investment in the transfer market left him badly exposed before a ball had even been kicked under his watch. Whilst most of the elite teams were given tanks to blast their way to the top Moyes had to ride a war torn camel into battle.

From barely keeping his head above water in the close season, he was quickly out his of depth when the action started in the Premier League. Results started badly and got worse to the point where United – having recorded their worst ever points tally in the Premier League era – are now sinking in a sea of mediocrity, stranded in 7th place without a paddle, in what has been one of the worst seasons in the clubs history.

But, still, even given his handicap in the transfer market, Moyes’ disastrous record of a solitary victory from 13 games against the top eight sides in the Barclays Premier League this season is disgraceful. Those sorts of stats just don’t cut the mustard at United.

Ultimately, Moyes ill-fated reign had to end. There really was no other way. It was clear that he could not properly command the respect of the players and he failed to inspire confidence in the board, who obviously felt he could not be trusted with the task of rebuilding the club with a multi-million pound transfer budget in the summer.

It is entirely reasonable to point the finger of blame at the players and the board; both parties have blood on their hands and are accessories in the assassination of the 51-year-old Scot’s reputation as a manager. Many senior players made it known, through both their words to the media and their actions in matches, that Moyes was not their Chosen One.

It was the dream job, but the set of nightmare conditions imposed upon him made it almost mission impossible. However, he was also the architect of his own demise: his decision to banish Sir Alex Ferguson’s trusted back room staff bordered on the bizarre. It was just too bold a move to make so early in his reign at a club synonymous with stability and continuity during Ferguson’s 27 years in charge.

Ultimately, the football gods were conspiring against Moyes and his move to United seemed doomed to failure from the very beginning.

For these reasons, it is in the best interests of everyone involved in this sorry debacle to discard the whole episode into the dustbin of history and move on. The Chosen One is now the Fallen One. But Moyes will soon rise again, and so will United.

Who do you think will be United’s next Manager?

Were the Players as much to blame as Moyes for Manchester United’s terrible season?

I look forward to reading your comments. I hope you enjoyed the article.

Follow me on Twitter @F1ghtingTalk

Find me on: https://robbiebannatyne89.wordpress.com/

It is Tough at the Top for Floyd Mayweather Jnr

They say it’s tough at the top, and judging by the torrent of abuse aimed at Floyd Mayweather Jnr over his apparently scandalous decision to fight Marcos Maidana on May 3rd, it obviously is in boxing.

Floyd Mayweather could be forgiven if he fails to understand how he has incurred the wrath of the boxing world by wanting to unify the welterweight division when he takes on the murderously powerful Maidana on May 3rd. The hard hitting Argentine is now one of the hottest properties in the sport after destroying Adrien Broner on his way to winning the WBA welterweight title, which is his 2nd world title- he was also a champion in the 140 lb weight class.

Sure, we all know Adrien Broner is an imposter in borrowed robes, but Maidana is the real deal. He has earned his shot at Mayweather, and is fully deserving of the career defining fight and pay day against the sports undisputed Pound for Pound champion. Of course Maidana is a massive underdog, but everyone is an underdog against the genius of Mayweather Jnr.

The only fighter who would have had a 50-50 chance against Mayweather was Manny Pacquaio of 2009. Still, half a decade and countless ridiculous demands later, the fight is yet to materialise. Forgive me, I digress.

I apply a conflict analogy from the Middle East to explain the gulf between Mayweather’s and his normally hopelessly overmatched opponents. Mayweather is like Israel, and his opponents are Palestine: it is a wholly unfair fight from the outset. Mayweather is a boxing outlier, a man who already possessed hall of fame talent and ring intellect before the 1st bell sounded in his professional career. For he marries his supreme god given gifts with a prisoner of war type work ethic and an obsessive dedication to his craft, which means he is as close to pugilist perfection as we are ever likely to see. However, maybe Maidana’s power could be the equalizer- the nuclear weapon Palestine would need to even up the fight with Israel.

Apart from the much anticipated fight with Pacquaio, Floyd Mayweather is fast running out of opponents. But, with regards to the Pacquaio fight, I will dare to be an optimist and say they will fight at least once in 2015. So for now, Maidana is as good an opponent as any. He is a legitimate champion in the most talent deep division in the sport, yet people are outraged that Mayweather wants a unification fight with him! It beggars belief, but it is a clear sign of the deep rooted frustration many feel towards Mayweather for his reluctance to make the Pacquaio fight happen.

Still, it is hard to fathom the condemnation Floyd Mayweather has been subjected to over his decision to fight Maidana. He has been accused of ‘cherry picking’ Maidana. But the Argentine has as good a chance as most fighters against Mayweather. Admittedly his chances are slim to none, the same as all of Mayweather’s previous 45 opponents- barring, of course, the 1st fight with Jose Luis Castillo, which Mayweather lost despite getting the decision.

 

It is doing Maidana a massive disservice to write off the fight as a complete mismatch. The naysayers, such as Bob Arum, who called the bout ‘nonsense’, insist Mayweather the matador will embarrass Maidana, the crude, raging bull with his boxing skills and technical brilliance. This brutal assessment may in fact be bang on the money: Maidana could be exposed for being a limited brawler. But, sometimes, the raging bull rag dolls the matador against all the odds. So whilst it is highly improbable that Maidana will emerge victorious on May 3rd, it is not mission impossible for Maidana. He has a ‘punchers chance’.

Maybe the fountain of eternal youth the ageless Mayweather feeds on will finally run dry on May 3rd. Or, perhaps, one of the many precision bombs which Mayweather’s perfect timing turns into near misses, Maidana can make a direct hit right on the target of Floyd Mayweather’s chin. Is it improbable? Yes. Is it impossible? No, definitely not.

Maybe, just maybe, Marcos Maidana will be able to show Floyd Mayweather Jnr how tough it really is at the top on May 3rd.

Thanks for Reading.                                                                           

Follow me on Twitter: @F1ghtingTalk

Find me on: https://robbiebannatyne89.wordpress.com/

Boxing News 24 Fans: Can Maidana pull off a miracle and beat Floyd Mayweather Jnr?

I look forward to reading your comments as usual. Thanks again.

 

 

We must try and learn to love Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Manny Pacquaio

I love Manny Pacquiao. He is my favourite fighter of all time. I was inspired to start writing about the sport of boxing after witnessing the Filipino icon’s 1st fight with legendary Mexican Erik Morales, which was one of most brutal but beautiful 36 minutes of boxing in history. The 35 year old Congressman has a back catalogue of timeless classics that I will watch with my 1st born son when the time comes. I will also introduce him to the genius of Floyd Mayweather. Although instead of taking in the action, I will do something more interesting- like paint my kitchen and watch it dry, or put two identical washing machines on the same cycle and see which finishes first. I’m being flippant, forgive me, please.

Floyd Mayweather Jnr is probably the greatest defensive boxer in the history of the sport, and he definitely deserves his place among the all time greats such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong and Muhammad Ali to name a few. I am trying to learn to love and appreciate the boxing mastery of Floyd Mayweather Jnr. I really am.

The problem is- I just do not care for his unpalatable prizefighting style. I find his fights boring and forgettable. I have never managed to watch any Mayweather bout more than once- boredom always breaks my will in the later stages of the second viewing. In contrast, I have watched Manny Pacquaio’s many classic contests countless times, because although Floyd Mayweather is far superior to Pacquiao in pure boxing terms, he cannot hold a candle to the Filipino when it comes to excitement and inspirational performances.

Put simply, Floyd Mayweather is too perfect. He has been a flawless fighter since his 1st professional contest, no doubt a consequence of being in a lifelong boxing clinic with two world class former fighters and trainers in his uncle Roger and father Floyd Mayweather Snr. At 37 years old, Mayweather is ageless. This is due in part to his defensive mastery, and also to his reluctance to really engage his opponents in a combat situation.

Ultimately, he has never taken any proper physical punishment throughout his entire career. You cannot argue with his counter punching strategy, it fits his style perfectly well and it makes sense for Mayweather to play to his strengths. Anyway, for the fans who continue to religiously buy his bouts on Pay-Per-View under the pretence that he will ‘give the fans what they want to see’ should be well aware by now that Floyd’s pre fight rhetoric of putting on an ‘exciting’ fight is very far removed from the reality. His press conference buzz-words are always betrayed by his actions on fight night- the booing from the bored crowd in the arena every time he is in action testifies to this.

However, Pacquiao has paid the price for the pleasure he has given to fans over the years. At 35 years old, he is now noticeably showing the inevitable wear and tear caused by a career engaging in multiple wars with the greats of his era such as Marquez, Morales and Barrera. Between those three luminaries Pacquaio has had 9 career defining fights. Officially, Pacquaio has only lost two of them, to Marquez and Morales respectively. Yet to my mind, he lost both the 3rd and 4th fights to Marquez, although I think the knockdowns he scored in 1st and 2nd encounters should have been enough for him to emerge victorious in those contests.

Throw in the demolition jobs of Ricky Hatton, Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and the murderous beating he meted out to the much bigger and taller Antonio Margarito in 2010 it is easy to see why Pacquaio ran away with the ‘Fighter of the Decade’ award. Similarly, Floyd Mayweather in the last fourteen years has embarrassed a roll call of Hall of Famers with his boxing brilliance and his career is still yet to suffer a blemish. It really is unbelievable what both men have accomplished in the sport. Their dominance of the welterweight divisions defies logic as Mayweather, who walks around at 150lbs, is probably a natural Lightweight whereas Manny Pacquaio should belong in the Featherweight divisions.

Whilst I will never be compelled to offer any resistance to the contention that Floyd Mayweather is a far better boxer than Pacquaio, there simply is no doubt that Manny Pacquaio is, by a country mile, far superior offensively and in terms of the raw excitement and emotion of his performances.

On one hand, I obviously favour Pacquiao. But on the other, I fully appreciate the magic of Floyd Mayweather. This is why I cannot understand how the two must be mutually exclusive to boxing fans. Its seems you are either a diehard fan of Manny Pacquaio or an ardent apostle of Floyd Mayweather Jnr. Rarely is the dichotomy of support broken by fans who really love and appreciate both men for what they are: Boxing legends and all time greats of the sport.

The caveat to this is that regardless of whom we choose to blame for the fight failing to materialise we must learn to love both men for their incredible contributions to the sport, because the whole of the boxing world will miss Manny Pacquaio and Floyd Mayweather Jnr when they are gone.

Thanks for Reading.                                                                           

Follow me on Twitter: @F1ghtingTalk

Find me on: https://robbiebannatyne89.wordpress.com/

Manny Pacquaio has to leave Top Rank to get the bigger fights

After being captivated once again last Saturday night by the flawed genius of Manny Pacquaio’s pulsating fighting style my joy quickly turned to despair upon hearing his familiar post fight statement that ‘my promoter Bob Arum will decide who I fight next. I am a fighter, my job is to fight’.

The ‘Fighting Pride of Philippines’ is once again a World champion after he exacted revenge against Tim Bradley in there rematch, in doing so reclaiming his WBO Welterweight title he ‘lost’ to the Desert Storm in a ridiculous decision in 2012. After his performance, Pacquaio is now again near the top of the Pound for Pound rankings in the sport. Also, in a few months time he could be free to pursue the most prominent pugilists in the talent rich 147lb division, including Floyd Mayweather Jnr.

However, despite his contract with Top Rank expiring in December, his aforementioned statement indicates that Pacquaio has no real desire to defect from Bob Arum’s dwindling stable in order to chase career defining fights and paydays free of constraint in 2015. To many observers this seems unfathomable. Pacquaio has long since established himself as one of the most popular and profitable P-P-V prizefighters in the sport, so why, at this late stage of his career, does he even need to be tied to one promoter? Simple answer: he doesn’t. Everyone wants a piece of Pacquaio but many can’t get anywhere near the pie never mind get slice.

When you consider how Miguel Cotto’s career has flourished since he became a free agent, it seems even more incomprehensible that Pacquaio continues to stay committed to Top Rank instead of following the lead of his counterpart.

The Puerto Rican has the chance to become the 1st four weight World champion in his countries rich boxing history when he takes on long reigning middleweight king Sergio Martinez in July. Furthermore, he may even get another crack at Floyd Mayweather’s crown and looks like a certainty to clash with Canelo Alvarez regardless of whether he wins or loses to Martinez. Not so long ago Cotto’s career looked dead and buried.

If Pacquaio signs a new contract which ties him to fight exclusively against Top Rank fighters for the rest of his career then he is effectively depriving himself of the chance to compete against the elite fighters in the welterweight divisions. Why would he make such a prohibitive career choice? I cannot understand his misguided sense of loyalty towards Bob Arum- he owes him nothing. In both boxing and business terms, it makes no sense for him to stay shackled to the chains of his promotional and network television allegiance with Top Rank and HBO respectively.

If he does indeed elect to stay on at Top Rank after his current deal expires his decision will be subject to huge derision from the boxing world. Quite rightly so, as it shows a serious lack of ambition on his part that he would want to spend the closing stages of his career raking over old graves, fighting rematches against familiar faces when he can be a free agent and take his pick of the opponents in the welterweight divisions. Just this minute, I have read via this site that Marquez wants no further part of Manny Pacquaio. The great Mexican clearly thinks he has exhausted his rivalry with the legendary Filipino, as do many boxing fans and experts alike. Marquez also joined in the clamour for a Manny Pacquaio and Floyd Mayweather contest. He stated to Univision, “I think that the fans want Manny vs. Floyd, and they want to see and should do it,”

I already have four fights against Pacquiao, and many people prefer to see these two rivals in the ring.”

For pure excitement and spectacle, I feel a 5th encounter with Marquez would be the perfect parting gift from Manny Pacquiao to Bob Arum. Then he can leave the party with peace of mind, content in the knowledge that he has fulfilled his obligations and made his promoter a very financially prosperous man.

Yet somewhat inexplicably, Pacquaio seems to have a deep rooted sense of devotion towards Bob Arum. For one reason or another, their alliance obviously goes way beyond that of most business partnerships. But Bob Arum is big enough and ugly enough to take care of himself and Pacquaio must look at the bigger picture and fix his eyes on the prize. The prize I refer to: a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jnr in May 2015.

The general consensus seems to be that it will forever remain as the ‘Greatest fight that never was’. On the contrary, I genuinely believe that the most anticipated, transcendental boxing match in decades can materialise, but only if Pacquaio abandons Bob Arums Top Rank promotional outfit.

Since Pacquiao destroyed a prime Miguel Cotto in 2009, I genuinely believe that Floyd Mayweather has avoided Manny Pacquaio at all costs. Some of Mayweather’s excuses and ridiculous demands have been so baffling they have crossed the border of bizarre.

In contrast, the regularity with which Timothy Bradley was able to find the target on Pacquaio’s chin with clean, hard counter right hands over the top must convince Mayweather that he could also repeat the trick. The main stumbling block is Bob Arum, a man who Mayweather will just not do business with.

Mayweather will not swallow his pride, hopefully Manny Pacquaio can. If he does, the collective despair of the boxing world will disappear to be replaced by unbridled joy and delight.

Thanks for Reading.                                                                           

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Find me on: https://robbiebannatyne89.wordpress.com/

When Messi and Barca’s ‘Baby Dream Team’ took on Rangers in the Willem II Cup Final

In 2001, I played in the Willem II Youth Football Tournament for Glasgow Rangers FC under 13’s. After a narrow 1-0 defeat by Arsenal in our opening game we got, to use a colloquial term in the West of Scotland, ‘pumped’ in all of our remaining fixtures by opposition including Alax, Nante’s and Feyernoord- who were technically, and physically, far superior in every department.

To further compound our misery, our pathetic performances were the polar opposite to those of the gifted U15 side, who prodImageuced a string of dominant displays en route to the final of the prestigious tournament. Since its inception in August 1993, the Willem II youth tournament has featured the top international clubs and some of the most talented young football players in the World on an annual basis.

But no other youth side will ever face a team as talented as Rangers’ opponents in the 2001 Final of the Willem II tournament; a Barcelona side orchestrated by Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique. The team was also supplemented by a further three current professionals in Victor Vasquez (Club Brugge), Marc Valiente (Real Valladolid) and Marc Pedraza of CD Numancia.

Unsurprisingly, this vintage crop of La Masia youngsters routinely routed their poor, hopelessly overmatched opponents. A comment from Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, after Francesc Fabregas arrived at the Gunners, a mere 18 months after that youth tournament, summed up their superiority, he stated, “When Cesc arrived here (Arsenal) I spoke with his mother and she told me that his team (Barcelona Academy Team) were used to winning 6-0, 7-0, 8-0 and 9-0,”

Yet despite Barca’s embarrassment of riches, the final was a keenly contested affair- which the Catalans edged 2-0. Although the classy Catalan side were clearly a step up in quality, the young Ibrox hopefuls were not totally outclassed, and contributed significantly to an absorbing final, rich in technical ability and skill. That final seems to have been a catalysing event for the young Catalan side who, in the very next season, became the all-conquering group of young Cule’s who won an unprecedented treble in the unforgettable, and now legendary, season of 2002-2003.

Dundee United midfielder, Paul Paton, was a member of the Rangers team who played Barcelona in the Willem II cup final. In an exclusive interview, Paton recalled his memories of the tournament, the 26 year old stated, “We performed well in the tournament playing against Brugge, Willem II and Arsenal. We defeated Feyenoord, who had De Guzman, (Swansea midfielder and Dutch International in the semi finals,”

“But the Barcelona team were a step up in class, physically bigger, stronger, fitter and faster. At the time, I didn’t realise there players would go on to be some of the best players in the world. But it was obvious that they were a special side. Almost every player in that team has gone on to carve a career in Spanish football.”

The fact that the same youth team has produced three of the greatest players of their of generation, and in Messi, probably the finest player in football history, ensures that the ‘Class of 87’ will forever be enshrined in the history of FC Barcelona and their legendary talent conveyor belt academy, La Masia.

A simple Google search on ‘Barcelona’s Class of 87’ yields a litany of literature written about the fabled ‘Baby Dream Team’. Yet an identical search about the Rangers class of 1987 offers up nothing. The brilliant batch of young boys at Ibrox literally became forgotten Men. Surely the strong showing at the Willem II tournament should have been a platform for further success, right? Wrong. Soon after, the team seemed to plateau before alarmingly beginning their rapid descent into footballs abyss, where the vast majority of the players remain.

The aforementioned Paul Paton of Dundee United, and Bob Harris, who plays for English League One side Sheffield United are the only two players from that gifted Ibrox youth side to have properly made the grade in the professional game.

Tellingly, they were both released from the Ibrox club at 16 years old. In what is befitting of the Scottish ‘way’, the concerns about both players seemed to be in regards to there of lack height rather than deficiency in ability.

At the same time, many of their teammates from the Willem II tournament team, who have since faded into obscurity, were awarded professional contracts by the Glasgow giants. Paul Paton, without a hint of bitterness or resentment, recalls his painful snub from his boyhood heroes, he stated, “There are always favoured players in every set up and it was them that were rewarded with pro contracts. I was released along with Bob Harris and funnily enough we’re now playing at a higher level than anyone else in that side. Maybe that shows that Rangers failed to spot what we knew we had. We weren’t given a chance and that’s my only regret. If I went full time at 17 rather than 21 I’d be a much better player.

Now I am in no position to disagree with Paton, who has plenty more knowledge and experience of football than I will ever have. But, in some respects, I think he has risen to the top level because of his snub from Rangers, not in spite of it. Instead of staying cocooned in the prosperous comfort zone of Murray Park, being lulled into a false sense of security of dominating games in the U19s or Reserve Leagues, he started at the very bottom of the senior football ladder, with 3rd Division side Queens Park, and made his way up the leagues the hard way.

His experience of the harsh and unforgiving environments of the lower leagues strengthened his resolve to be a success in the senior game, and gave him a greater appreciation of the toil it takes to really make it as a footballer.

His undeniable talent was complemented by; commitment, hard work, dedication and a desire to better himself- qualities which I am sure were refined and developed during his apprenticeship in the lower leagues. He is now thriving in the top tier of the Scottish game. So much so, in a miraculous twist of fate, today Paul Paton got ‘Man of the Match’ for Dundee United in their 3-1 victory over, you guessed it, Rangers at Ibrox! The result sent Paton’s side into the Scottish Cup Final, and typically, the combative 26 year old was in the thick of the action in the Dundee United engine room, enjoying every minute against his boyhood heroes.

When asked about his opinion on the failure of his former teammates to make the grade in the senior game, he said, “Murray Park was a good experience and it felt like a privilege at the time. Maybe the boys that went full time took it for granted, got too much too young and read their own press. At the time they were the best players in the county at their age. Maybe they never applied themselves and didn’t work hard enough.”

Although the national approach to youth development in Scotland has been notoriously archaic for a number of years, perhaps Rangers youth academy coaches and the Murray Park policy makers were especially negligent in their duty of care to diligently develop the potential of their youth team products. This is a quote from the clubs former Chief Executive, Martin Bain, given in a press conference in 2004, which seems to add credence to this conviction.

He stated, ‘”If I’m very honest, the focus was on the first team for most of the nine years that I’ve been here”

Alarm bells should have been ringing when one of the most influential men at Rangers publicly denounced his clubs antiquated approach to youth development. The statement basically lays bare the brutal truth that the Ibrox powerbrokers abandoned the process of youth development in favour of procuring established talent for the 1st team for a close to a decade. This is in spite of the fact that fully three years prior to his comments Rangers spent £14 million on the plush Murray Park complex.

When I quizzed Paul Paton about the success of Murray Park, the former Rangers youth stated, “As far as I’m concerned no real talent has came through Murray Park. The young boys playing in the first team wouldn’t make the reserves in years gone by.”

These damning comments seem to confirm that the supposedly fertile terrain of Murray Park, which should have been used to cultivate and maintain a dedicated and focussed philosophy, that prioritised, above all else, organic long term sustainable development, was instead turned into barren landscape after being sabotaged by the prevailing, and fundamentally unsustainable principle of investing in readymade success for the senior team.

This subordination of youth development in favour of buying expensive foreign players the club couldn’t afford literally killed Rangers FC on 13th June 2012. The current incarnation in the club now is officially named ‘The Rangers Football Club Limited’. As a direct consequence of the fatal financial problems, which still plague the Ibrox club, they do not have any sort of scouting infrastructure in place at the club. No need to rub your eyes in disbelief: you read that last sentence correctly the club has no scouting network whatsoever.

Unsurprisingly, this approach is the antithesis to that of Barcelona’s where the emphasis has been on consistently producing quality home grown players to complement the 1st team since the appointment of Laureano Ruiz, as the general coordinator of youth football for the club in 1974.

From that point on, the overwhelming focus of youth development has been on cultivating a style of football based on the philosophy of possession play, through the marriage of touch and technique, as opposed to relentless running and physique, which prevails in Scotland. The long term result of this vision: the inimitable brand of ‘tiki-taka’ football played by all Barca teams from the academy to the Camp Nou. The talent conveyor belt, which continues to churn out world class individuals and sides such as ‘The Baby Dream Team’, from the La Masia breeding ground, could not be contrasted more sharply with the barren land of Murray Park.

Whilst the Barcelona players are literally living out their dreams, the former Rangers youth prospects suffer the nightmare of tainted memories, broken ambition and bitterness that they failed, or were prevented, from truly fulfilling their huge potential, which was abundantly clear to anyone who watched their fantastic displays at the famous Willem II tournament.

Ultimately, Rangers’ negligible approach to youth development was one of the main culprits for the creative cull of such a promising batch of players that went off the boil so badly, so quickly. But there were certainly other chief protagonists in this tale of woe and tragedy.

Still, it can be said, with a fair degree of certainty, that the Murray Park powerbrokers had a significant part to play in the failure of their class of 87. They flagrantly undermined the process of youth development in the pursuit of 1st team success. On the other hand, Barcelona’s meticulous and careful cultivation of youth talent at La Masia doubtlessly allowed their gifted young footballers to bloom into solid professionals in some cases and global superstars in others.

However, in 2001, the whole process of youth talent development in Scotland was in a state of decay. So whilst Rangers cannot shoulder all of the blame for the suffocation of a generation of potential stars, the Ibrox club stands accused of the culpable homicide of the Class of 87.

But in Britain we live in a society which abides by the mantra of ‘rehabilitation and reform’ of our offenders. So let’s hope the Ibrox club and, Scottish youth football in general, can make the most of their second chance and begin to make a ‘meaningful contribution to society’ by turning the potential of our most talented young starlets into tangible success for our clubs and our country.

Has Arsene Wenger become a Specialist in Failure?

After Arsenals latest damaging defeat against one of their closest rivals Everton, who swept them aside 3-0 with embarrassing ease at Goodison Park on Saturday, my mind instantly reverted back to Jose Mourinho’s comments about how Arsene Wenger had become a ‘specialist in failure’.

That statement from Mourinho, a master of mind games and psychological warfare, reignited his long running feud with his Arsenal adversary and he received a lot of criticism- in certain football circles- for his comments. Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker even took to twitter to publically condemn Mourinho, who he is insisted was “out of order and wrong with Wenger comments”.

Many more people dismissed Mourinho’s comments as outlandish, which, at the time, was understandable considering Arsenal were only one point behind Chelsea who occupied the top spot in the Premier League. However, not everyone was so quick to leap to the defence of the Frenchman. Indeed Mourinho’s withering assessment of Wenger produced a dichotomy of opinion among fans who expressed their thoughts in the comments section of various online media outlets. For every person who thought Mourinho crossed the line with his comments you found another who thought he was spot on with his views.

Those who subscribed to Mourinho’s school of thought then will have even greater courage in his conviction now. Since the Chelsea managers comments, Arsenal have plummeted from being one point off the summit of the league into fourth place with failure to qualify for the Champions League now a very realistic possibility. After witnessing Arsenal’s worrying descent down the table, which culminated in their most recent capitulation against Everton, you cannot really counter Mourinho’s claims with any sort of convincing argument: Arsenal are now synonymous with failure. There barren run of going 8 years without winning a trophy will not be broken this season and there recent form suggests there long suffering fans may yet have to wait a lot longer until they taste tangible success again. Wenger’s salvation is that he has never failed to reach the Champions League throughout his long running reign of Arsenal, yet 5th placed Everton, who are only point behind and have a game in hand over the North London club, are in the ascendancy at this critical stage of the campaign.

Sure, Arsenal only lost 3 points against Everton, but they may bear a far greater psychological toll. What is most alarming from an Arsenal point of view is that they do not just get beaten by the big teams they get battered on a routine basis by their closest rivals. This season, Arsenal have only managed one solitary victory over the other three sides who make up the top four and they have been on the receiving end of several soul destroying drubbings from the big boys. Aside from the latest 3-0 nil defeat against Everton, they have also been defeated 6-0 by Chelsea, 5-1 by Liverpool, and 6-3 against Manchester City. Those stats would make for painful viewing for any Premier League team let alone a club such as Arsenal who have never finished out with the top four since the season 1995/96.

Yet in many defining games you can almost see the morale seep out like sweat from the players pores when things don’t go their way. Of course the men on the pitch must shoulder some of the responsibility for their abject performances. On the other hand, Wenger also must be the bear most of the burden of bad results as he steadfastly refuses to replace some of the famous Arsenal panache with some much needed power, both physically and mentally.

For years it has been universally acknowledged that Arsenal’s Achilles heel is there lack of strong personalities in the squad. Yet rather than replenish his team with some mentally tough characters, he persists, almost without exception, with his policy of buying players who are all style and no substance. You have to admire Arsene Wenger’s vision of how the beautiful game should be played, and in an era of relentless pressure for managers it is somewhat heartening to see that he doesn’t compromise his principles. In contrast, surely Wenger’s philosophy cannot be to assemble a succession of spineless sides that lack the desire and discipline to achieve any real success. By success, I mean winning trophies.

The summer capture of Mezut Ozil is symptomatic of the flaws in Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy. Whilst there is no disputing that the German international is a world class talent, in terms of pure technical ability, there are serious doubts whether he has the mentality of a very top player. Before his record breaking 42 million pound transfer to the Emirates, it was widely reported that Ozil was abandoning life at the Bernabeu because he didn’t ‘feel loved’. That should have set alarm bells ringing for Arsene Wenger. The Arsenal manager didn’t have enough hours in the day to drape his arm around the shoulders of the dispirited players he already had at his disposal without adding another technically gifted but temperamentally fragile creative midfielder to his ranks. Yet Wenger blew his entire transfer budget on the 25 year old German when his defence and forward line needed major surgery.

Yes, the club is in robust health financially, but off the field fortunes offer little comfort to the fans that consistently see their team’s chances of success on the field compromised by reluctant or reckless spending in the transfer market.

The sight of Mezut Ozil and many other mainstays of the Arsenal team going missing when it matters most is not an uncommon occurrence. The way Arsenal strut incisively when they sweep smaller teams aside contrasts sharply with how they stagger around aimlessly when they get bullied by the league’s elite. It is abundantly clear that Arsenal flatter to deceive in the truly defining moments, which begs the question: is Arsene Wenger taking Arsenal in the wrong direction?

The Arsenal fans are among the most loyal of all, and thus are loath to entertain such a notion. They have so far resisted the temptation to call for the head of Wenger. This is mostly due to the huge affection they hold for him and the way he revolutionised the club from the grassroots up to the first team when arrived in North London in 1996. The deep rooted devotion both the board of directors and the fans feel for Arsene Wenger is a rarity in the modern game and is a testament to the memorable legacy he has established at Arsenal. But one cannot survive solely on former glories for an infinite amount of time. There is probably no other manager of an elite club in world football who would still have a job after going nearly a decade without winning any trophies the way Wenger has.

Conversely, it remains to be seen whether the olive branch of good faith extended to Arsene Wenger will finally break along with the patience of the fans if Arsenal fail to qualify for next seasons Champions League.

If Arsenal do indeed relinquish fourth place and fail to make the Champion League the demand for change may well reach an unprecedented level of decibels among the Gunners faithful.

In the same way as the fans, surely the Arsenal board also must have a breaking point.

That point may be soon unless Arsene Wenger can prove that he is not a specialist in failure by salvaging Arsenals season and securing the clubs Champions League future for another year.