THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Premier League ~ The absurdity of the "player of the season" award
Although he has only scored a penalty against Wolves in his last seven games, Robin Van Persie deserved to win the PFA player of the year award last night. But with the voting held so early in the year, the players are setting themselves up for some odd choices. Ian Holloway suggested in his Independent column yesterday that Paul Scholes should win the prize, but he was barely out of retirement when the votes were cast. In an age when footballers spout their thoughts on Twitter so quickly they don't even use a spellchecker, surely they could organise a quick poll at the end of the season.

Ched Evans, who was voted into the League One team of the year, will not be available to play for Sheffield United in their last few games of the season as he is now serving a five-year prison sentence for rape. 

Championship ~ Relegation settled as Portsmouth and Coventry drop
Relegation matters were sewn up in the Championship on Saturday as home defeats for Portsmouth and Coventry City consigned both clubs to League One next season. Coventry, who lost 2-0 to already-relegated Doncaster Rovers, will play in English football's third tier for the first time since 1964. Andy Thorn, the Coventry manager, has confirmed that he has been asked to continue in the role next season but he is waiting for assurances from the board before agreeing. "The club has asked me if I will stay and I have asked for assurance that they will give me some help with some good players coming in," he said. "We'll just take it from there. I've spoken to them and said that it needs to be restructured and sometimes out of this you can come back stronger, but the player side needs addressing massively and they have assured me they will."

Portsmouth, who lost 2-1 to Derby at Fratton Park, will also have a rebuilding job on their hands in League One. Their manager, Michael Appleton, is expecting a large part of their current squad to leave over the summer but is not yet sure if the clubs will be able to sign replacements. "We need to regroup and have a think about what needs to be done for next season," he said. "It's frustrating because, from my point of view, I can't offer someone a new contract or tell them if they will be here next season because we don't have owners."

League One ~ Rochdale relegated as others fight on
Rochdale's stay in League One was ended after just two seasons following their defeat away at Chesterfield. Next season they will return to the division they spent 18 years in between 1992 and 2010. Rochdale boss John Coleman blamed his side's relegation on their inability to win away from home. They have the second worst away record in the division but they had a glimmer of hope when Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro put them ahead in the 73rd minute. Chesterfield then scored twice in the final ten minutes to seal the win and give themselves a chance of avoiding the drop. Walsall, in 20th place, lost 4-2 at 23rd-place Exeter, meaning the final three relegation places will go down to the last two games of the season.

League Two ~ Swindon promoted despite their defeat
Paolo Di Canio's Swindon side lost back-to-back league games for the first time since August, but were still promoted to League One because Torquay lost at AFC Wimbledon. Di Canio made eight changes from their midweek defeat at Aldershot but his team still lost 3-1 to Gillingham. The changes were made after members of the Swindon squad angered their manager by getting drunk after the previous Saturday's victory over Plymouth.

The Italian had threatened to field the youth team, but claimed they had an equally poor attitude. He questioned his players' behaviour, even after they had secured promotion: "Now we must win the title. Four teams go up from this league, but only one can be champions, and we want to be the best. If we keep going like we perform it will be difficult to become champions," he said. "We have to celebrate, but they do not have to go out and be drunk. You can celebrate with one, two or three glasses of red wine or champagne, but why go drunk? I do not understand it. You cannot feel and live your moment if you go blurry, I do not see why, and I prefer to stay cool. I want to feel the atmosphere and celebrate with my family."

La Liga ~ Ronaldo's winning goal is all he deserves
It is a shame that Cristiano Ronaldo is viewed so often through the prism of Lionel Messi. Ronaldo's story is so much more interesting than his relationship with the Barcelona player. Ronaldo is rightly criticised for his posing, diving and self-indulgent goal celebrations. Tony Cascarino's once said of Glenn Hoddle that "if he had been an ice cream, he would have licked himself", and the same seems to apply for Ronaldo. But beneath the gaudy exterior lies a player who has worked incessantly to develop his talent.

When he arrived at Manchester United nine years ago he was a scrawny teenager more interested in stepping over the ball than kicking it. But as shown in the documentary Ronaldo: Tested to the Limit, he has developed his body and technique to the point where he can run quicker than an Olympic sprinter, jump as high as an NBA basketball player and move his feet fast enough to avoid being shot by trained snipers. In a scene that must be seen to be believed, Ronaldo uses his spatial awareness to score from a cross that is struck as the lights are switched off in the room.

When we think of players who have made the most of their ability, we tend to think of defenders like Gary Neville, who use their brains and graft to make up for a lack of natural gifts. Ronaldo can be placed at the very top of that group. He has transformed his body shape, become two-footed and is now both strong enough to bully centre-backs and fast enough to embarrass full-backs. When asked to imagine a perfect footballer, Rio Ferdinand said he would choose Ronaldo not for his speed, strength or goalscoring, but for his "mentality". His decisive goal in the game that will take the Liga trophy back to Madrid from Barcelona is so much more than one over Messi, his supposed nemesis. It is the reward for those thousands of hours of practice. Tom Hocking and Paul Campbell

Comments (6)
Comment by Gangster Octopus 2012-04-23 14:13:44

I see that by saying Rochdale's stay in the bottom division started in 1992 even WSC has fallen for the world begins with Sky narrative...

Comment by geobra 2012-04-23 14:21:07

Just three days after his funeral the 'Morosini Effect' is already over in Italy. With their relegation-threatened team 4-0 down at home to Siena, a group of not more than 100 infuriated Genoa ultràs caused a 45-minute interruption to the game. First with firecrackers and flares on the pitch, then by 'ordering' their players to remove shirts that they were deemed not worthy to wear. And amazingly, and it appears with the agreement of club president Enrico Preziosi, most of them did as they were ordered. Only one, Giuseppe Sculli, had the courage to face his tormentors and refuse.

Meanwhile the few police officers present stood by, and did not even intervene when the ultràs blocked the exit to the tunnel, thus making it impossible for Genoa's players to leave the pitch, as Siena had done. Their fellow officers were not so reticent back in July 2001 when the G8 met in Genoa, as a film just released, 'Diaz', recounts in vivid detail. Then the victims were largely if not wholly innocent, this time the chance to make arrests in flagrante was passed up.

So Italian football plumbs new depths. And all the good intentions on show at Morosini's funeral go out of the window.

The game should have been abandoned, but resumed pro forma with Siena eventually winning 4-1. But it was a pyrrhic victory, because the damage to the already gravely sick body of Italian football is incalculable.

In all sorts of ways, which seem to have come together at the same time, 'Il calcio' is discovering that if you agree to live with the devil, sooner or later there is a price to pay.

The media here has contrasted the events in Genoa with the reaction of Wolves' fans to their club's relegation. And Genoa not only are not yet relegated, they are still a point above the relegation zone.

It has not passed without comment either that this is the same stadium in which 'Ivan the Terrible' caused the abandonment of Italy v Serbia in October 2010. The boot is well and truly on the other foot now.

Preziosi has thundered against the ultràs. Unfortunately, in a way he is one himself having been found guilty of bribing Venezia to lose a game that would ensure Genoa's promotion in 2005 but which eventually saw them relegated to Serie C. In a normal country, he would have been banned from football for good. In Italy he has continued to preside over Genoa's fortunes.

Comment by jonmid 2012-04-23 15:09:09

Geobra could you links to the comparing and contrasting of Wolves and Genoa's relegations please?

Comment by geobra 2012-04-23 16:01:03

@jonmid

Genoa haven't been relegated yet. It's in the balance. The fear is that they will follow their city rivals Sampdoria, in Europe at Christmas last season and relegated in May. Their lead over Lecce, 12 points not so long ago, is now down to one with five games to go. That is without taking into account 'betgate', which is almost certain to see the final standings radically altered.

But in answer to your request, here is an example, the last paragraph of the editorial on page 24 of today's 'La Gazzetta dello Sport':

'Yesterday in England, which was once the home of the hooligan,the historic Wolves were relegated. The fans greeted the event with tears in their eyes as they waved their scarves. Old gold and black, the colours of their faith. They remind us that football is joy when you win and suffering when you lose. When will we realise this?'

It was also mentioned on TV last night.

They have forgotten, though, that when Atalanta were relegated in 2005, the fans demanded and got a lap of honour from the team in recognition of the tremendous fight they had put up in the second half of the season. But it remains a unique event in the annals of Italian football.

Comment by santos_l_halper 2012-04-23 17:55:24

From above: "Ched Evans, who was voted into the League One team of the year, will not be available to play for Sheffield United in their last few games of the season as he is now serving a five-year prison sentence for rape."

I should imagine he'll be unavailable for a few more games than that. The article makes it sounds like he's picked up a minor injury, rather than having been convicted of a very serious crime.

Comment by Spadams96 2012-04-24 12:34:31

Why do we have to keep playing this Giggs and Scholes game?

Yes, they're great players.

Yes, they've been great players for 20 years.

But Scholes the best player this year? F... off Holloway. He probably made his mind up about that the day Scholes made his comeback.

It helps to explain though how Vincent Kompany, Joe Hart and David Silva, fantastic for almost the whole season, are nowhere to be seen in the Writers' top 4.

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