9.08.14

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It was a question that Luuk de Jong had been expecting. How does a player’s value drop from €12million to €5.5million in the space of two years?

“The first year was difficult because of my injury and because it is not easy when you go into a big league,” he explained to BILD. “In the second year from the beginning I received no chances.”

Signed in the summer of 2012, De Jong arrived at Borussia Mönchengladbach just as three of its key components were departing. The sales of Marco Reus, Roman Neustädter and Dante to Borussia Dortmund, Schalke and Bayern Munich respectively had seen Gladbach left with a hole in their squad.

Seen as an important cog in the new look side, the pressure placed on De Jong was instant, and significant for such young shoulders: “We don’t just have high expectations of him. He radiates it,” sporting director Max Erbel told the club’s website.

Comparisons were quickly made. Asked if he could be the new Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, many saw the then 21-year-old as the replacement for Reus and the 18 goals he netted in his final season with the club.

Struggling to match those lofty heights he was branded a flop by Kicker. It seemed a harsh evaluation when considering how little service he was receiving. The previous year the club had played fluid attacking football yet that was no longer the case. Cast into a difficult situation his struggle only cemented itself heading into his second season.

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Luuk de Jong lost his way during his spell at Borussia Mönchengladbach

Arriving late to the squad due to commitments with the Netherlands U21 side, in de Jong’s absence Lucien Favre opted to use Raffael and Max Kruse in attack. With the two quickly developing a partnership, it left little in the way of opportunities for De Jong. By January, he had seen less than 90 minutes of competitive action - something had to change.

“The coach did not give me the impression he had faith in me,” De Jong said at the start of the year. “He just did not talk to me that much.”

In a desperate bid to rectify his situation he took a loan move to Newcastle United. His new teammates were instantly impressed: “You can see in training he’s a very good finisher,” Steven Taylor told the club’s official programme in February. “He never snatches at things and is always cool and calm.”

Struggled

Yet despite his composure, De Jong struggled to reignite his career - operating in a deeper role than he preferred. A move to the Premier League had never seemed wise for a player that had struggled to adjust to the added physicality of the Bundesliga.

By the end of the campaign, De Jong had racked up 12 appearances and no goals, leaving little justification for keeping him on Tyneside. Instead, the club acquired his older brother Siem from Ajax - the attacking midfielder taking less than 45 minutes to open his Magpies account during a friendly against Oldham Athletic.

Reflecting on his time in Germany, De Jong remains positive: “The change was not a mistake,” he explained to BILD. “I wanted to take the next step. You do not know what would have happened if I had not taken the step and tried it. It is a pity that I could not reveal what my qualities are.”

Speaking on his departure Erbel said: “We wish Luuk all the best for his future and we look forward to seeing him again in a friendly game that we’ve arranged.” And with that a chapter closed on the young striker’s career.

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The Dutch forward found it tough to find space in the physical environment of the Premier League

Signed to a five-year deal by PSV Eindhoven, de Jong has quickly repaid the faith shown in him with a goal in the club’s Europa League qualifier against Polish side St. Pölten. His first competitive strike in 974 minutes of football, he added to that with another goal in the second leg. “It’s just good for me to get back to scoring a goal, but I have to make a few more,” de Jong told Fox Sports.

Now in the more familiar surroundings of the Eredivisie, De Jong will also be hoping he can keep alive a family tradition. Since 2009, a league winners’ medal has always made its way to the De Jong household, one from his and four from brother Siem.

Speaking on his new side’s title chances De Jong told Telegraaf: “PSV last year had a team with many young players, but they all now have an extra year of experience., I think we will see another PSV this season. My goal is to be champion with PSV and preferably as soon as possible.”

Beginning their campaign with a 3-1 win over Willem II, the club host NAC Breda this weekend hoping for another strong showing. With de Jong now seemingly settled in his new surroundings, ready to get his career back on track he can begin to look forward and plan for his future: “I hope that someday I again get the chance to show that I am not a flop.” 

Watch Luuk de Jong in action for PSV as they take on NAC Breda at 5.30pm on Sky Sports 5 this Saturday

http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/11907/9420357/eredivisie-eye-how-luuk-de-jong-is-aiming-to-reignite-his-career-with-psv-after-disappointment-at-newcastle

9.08.14

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On Wednesday evening, in the Swedish city of Malmö, a piece of Austrian football history is being prepared.

Red Bull Salzburg, a club younger than some of its own players sit 2-1 up from the first leg of their Champions League qualifier against Malmö, knowing that success will guide them delicately into the Champions League for the first time in their brief history.

The importance is not lost on Sporting director Ralf Rangnick. “These are now the two most important games we have played so far,” he said prior to last week’s first leg.

Qualification to the group stages of the Champions League represents an obvious progression for Red Bull after years spent in the Europa League. Attacking last season’s competition with gusto, their peak came at the Amsterdam Arena against Ajax. Racing into a 3-0 lead inside the first half, it was made more impressive by the fact Ajax had previously let in just six goals in 1440 minutes at home.

The star man that evening was undoubtedly Spaniard Jonathan Soriano. Indulging the home crowd in a spectacular shot from the half-way line, it was a moment that rapidly spread around the internet via social media.

Born in Barcelona, Soriano began his career at Espanyol before being released in 2009. “I was in a very bad situation,” he told El Periodico. “My time at Espanyol came to an end, and no bids were coming. I felt lonely, and thought of quitting football and getting another job.”

However after being offered a chance at Barcelona B under Luis Enrique, he scored 32 goals in 37 games during the 2010-2011 season . Unable to break into the senior side of Barcelona, he was sold to Salzburg in January 2012 for £440,000.

Bargain

Now looking like a bargain fee, the 28-year-old has so often been the success-maker for Red Bull. The most prolific Spanish striker in Europe last season, he recorded a goal on average every 78 minutes in the Austrian Bundesliga.

Yet despite Soriano’s heroics, Salzburg are far from universally appreciated. In previewing their tie against Malmö last week, a Swedish journalist writing for Aftonbladet referred to them as “the most hated football club of our time”.

Not the only club with Red Bull ties, New York, Leipzig, Sao Paolo and Sogakope all house professional clubs with the Red Bull prefix.

Viewed by critics as the tipping point for the commercialisation of football, the team formerly known as SV Austria Salzburg has certainly undergone changes since being bought out in 2005.

Gone are the purple and white colours associated with SV, while the club’s crest has also received a Red Bull themed makeover.

Speaking at the time, Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz was unforgiving: “Ask ten people what violet and Austria means in football and nine will tell you Austria Vienna.”

Eager to lay out his goals, Mateschitz added: “We want to play as early as next season in Austria with the best two to three clubs and establish Red Bull Salzburg in the next three to five years as a top European club,” he said during an interview in 2005.

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Red Bull Salzburg’s sporting director Ralf Rangnick has big ambitions for the club

As well as changes to the crest and colours, the rebranding also impacted the terraces. The presence of the clubs Ultras has waned as they began to attract more children and families. Despite attendances still currently above what they were under SV Salzburg, the club has actually seen a drop in numbers in recent years. 

With designs on challenging at Europe’s top table, that objective has required patience. The club is yet to taste Champions League football, having failed in four previous attempts. Hiring former Schalke boss Rangnick as Sporting Director in June 2012, his arrival came a month before the club was once again eliminated from Europe’s elite competition, this time by minnows Dudelange of Luxembourg.

The defeat represented a tipping point for the club’s hierarchy. Having spent close to €30million on players since Rangnick’s arrival, on the pitch Salzburg have developed an aggressive, attacking playing style that looks to press their opponents.

Preferring to sign younger talents with potential for growth like Kevin Kampl, Sadio Mane and Valon Berisha, Salzburg’s ability to match the wages of smaller Bundesliga clubs while also offering European football places them in a strong negotiating position.

Also able to resist bids from foreign suitors - having already rejected offers for Soriano - the club seem ready to embark on the next step of Mateschitz’s project.

Still with one step to make, a stumble at this point seems almost unthinkable.  and while for some clubs simply arriving in the group stages is achievement enough Rangnick is already planning for more: “Now we have a team that has the quality to make it not only in the Champions League, but to play a role in the group stage.”

Malmo versus Red Bull Salzburg (19:45 kick off) is just one of the Champions League playoff second leg matches available via the Sky Sports red button on Wednesday

http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/11946/9442731/salzburg-hope-to-avoid-champions-league-slip-up

8.22.14

US national team and Stoke City midfielder Brek Shea continues to draw interest from teams across Europe, MLSSoccer.com has learned.

Sources close to the 24-year-old have indicated that the winger is being chased by a number of clubs across Europe after impressing Stoke City’s coaching staff with his attitude during preseason.

Shea moved to the Potters from FC Dallas in January 2013, but has made just three Premier League appearances since his arrival, with the Stoke Sentinel reporting earlier this month that the Texan had been cleared to leave the club on a loan deal in order to receive the first-team opportunities he will struggle to gain with Stoke this season.

Linked with a potential move to FC Utrecht in the Eredivisie – the club where former Stoke teammate Juan Agudelo spent part of last season and Rubio Rubin currently plies his trade – Shea was also discussed as a target for Bundesliga II side 1860 Munich.

With both clubs holding an interest in the midfielder, MLSsoccer.com has also learned that Shea is being courted by German club FC Nürnberg, as well as a number of English Championship sides including Birmingham City and Millwall.

The source also indicated that Shea had been subject to a loan offer with an option to buy from an unnamed MLS team, but the request was rejected by Stoke City.

The 2011 MLS MVP candidate was loaned out to Championship side Barnsley last season, and made eight appearances before his loan deal was cut short three weeks early following anincident with fans during a defeat to Huddersfield in March.

The current European summer transfer window closes September 1, but teams in the English lower divisions are permitted to sign players on loan from Sept. 10 through November 28.

7.12.14

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/27747989

It was a sight that is still remembered fondly in the Norwegian city of Drammen: Stromsgodset manager Ronny Deila jogging round the Marienlyst Stadion, wearing just his underpants.

The manager had promised to strip if his side survived relegation. Achieving that feat with a dramatic win over Viking in their last home game of the season, Deila duly obliged in a public performance that included a set of press-ups.

When asked afterwards why he had refrained from removing his underpants, Deila replied: “I didn’t want to shock little children in the crowd.”

It was not the last time he would be found wearing very little.

Ahead of the 2010 Norwegian Cup final against Follo, he delivered his pre-match team talk in a thong with an elephant’s trunk.

"There were a lot of high shoulders [tension] and a lot of excitement [in the dressing room]," Delia explained. "Laughter and happiness were vital to get the boys to relax and enjoy the match.

"It was a good way to get the boys to forget about the serious event, which is when it is important for the coaches to stand out."

For those who buy into Deila’s methods success is often forthcoming, as was the case for Celtic midfielder Stefan Johansen

Often unconventional in his approach, Deila allowed new signing Mohammed Abu to live with him rather than stay at hotel, in an effort to make him feel more welcome. It is incidences such as that that have caused him to often be compared to Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp.

Blessed with a chronic case of wanderlust, Delia has visited a number of Europe’s elite - including Klopp’s Dortmund - to learn more about the game and cultivate his own philosophy.

Appointed Stromsgodset manager in 2008, the same year Klopp took the reins at Dortmund, Deila also shares the same boundless positivity and desire to play attacking football.

"I would rather go down than play ugly football," Delia told local newspaper Drammens Tidende when Stromsgodset were tipped for relegation in 2009.

Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp

Ronny Deila has been compared to Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp

Asked if he was aware that his attitude may cost him his job, he replied: “Players’ development is much more important than my own future. My job is to develop the players.”

Tactically flexible, his style often meandered between 4-2-3-1 and a more fashionable 4-3-3 formation as he sought to dominate possession.

Molde winger Josh Gatt said: “We like to get it on the floor and play. Stromsgodset have been a very good team at doing exactly what we do.”

Their meagre budget of just €8m per year, represented just a third of that available to Rosenborg - the side they surpassed to claim last season’s Norwegian title.

Blessed with a fantastic ability to man-manage players, Deila seeks hard work from every member of his squad, as former Celtic man Vidar Riseth knows all too well. Riseth pitched up at Stromsgodset in the twilight of his career. Then five years older than his manager, he was to bring experience to a young squad.

At another club, Riseth’s pedigree may have afforded him an easy ride, but Deila made it clear to the former Norway international that he expected him to work even harder than his younger teammates.

Celtic manager Ronny Deila

I coach humans not footballers

Celtic boss Ronny Deila

For those who buy into his methods, success is often forthcoming, as was the case for Stefan Johansen.

When Delia signed him from Bodo/Glimt, the player who impressed Celtic’s midfield this year was a forward who had spent most of his career on the bench. However, after the departure of Manchester City loanee Mohammed Abu, Deila gifted Johansen the opportunity to be Stromsgodset’s new deep-lying playmaker.

Flourishing in the role, the youngster eventually earned his senior debut for Norway in 2013.

Johansen was not the only younger to thrive. Between 2001 and 2007, not one Stromsgodset player earned a youth cap for Norway. However, in just five years under Deila, the figure reached 179.

The 38-year-old did not completely shun experience, as his title-winning side was led by Peter Kovacs. Chipping in with a handful of vital goals, the veteran striker had only returned to Norway after a stint in Belgium because his girlfriend’s career as a professional footballer had dictated so.

Yet, what remains vital for Deila is the ability to grow something.

A self-confessed fan of Arsene Wenger, he routinely drew comparisons between the way Stromsgodset and the Gunners operated. “I hate to train teams that have no growth potential,” he stated in an interview.

Deila takes great delight in working closely with his players, as he alluded to in his unveiling as Celtic boss, with his philosophy a holistic one.

"I coach humans not footballers," he told Dagsavisen in August last year, adding in another interview: "Good players can explain every step they make on the field. It is useless to tell a player to run somewhere if he doesn’t understand why that is necessary."

Still to be truly tested in European competition, Celtic have acquired a progressive, modern manager that will seek to bring through the next generation.

And, as the 50-year anniversary of the Lisbon Lions’ European Cup win moves into view, what better time to focus on the next generation than now?

4.02.14
3.04.14

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2012/sep/19/mls-colombia-colombians-portland-timbers-diego-chara

Of the 543 players currently active in Major League Soccer, just under half (48.8%) were born in the United States of America. Given that there are three MLS teams north of the border, you may have thought that Canada might be the second-most represented nationality. However, just 3.9% of MLS players are Canadian. Second place actually belongs to Colombia, with almost one in every twenty MLS players (4.7%).

So what has motivated so many Colombians to venture north? ThePortland Timbers midfielder Diego Chará believes he knows:

"I think it’s because Colombian players are able to adapt to various styles of play very well. I have had Colombian players ask me about MLS. They ask about the level of play, and some tell me that they love the speed of play. I tell them it’s a very different game than Colombia. It is a lot faster and a lot more physical. I tell them it is a good league."

Alongside good salary packages, the appeal of MLS to Colombians is clear – in some instances, just being paid on time is enough. In the early 1950s Colombia’s domestic league was considered one of the best in the world, earning it the nickname “El Dorado” (“The golden one”). Today’s situation is a stark contrast. The domestic game in Colombia is struggling financially – a consequence of attempts to cleanse itself of ill-gotten money.

Few clubs illustrate the problem more than América De Cali, which has debts of nearly $2m. The club’s problems date back to the mid-90s, when it was placed on the infamous Clinton List). This meant that the club’s assets and bank accounts on US soil were frozen, due to suspected links to illegal activities. In a bid to clear to the club’s name,the América de Cali hierarchy recently held discussions over changing the team’s name and management.

Such financial insecurity has bred uncertainty amongst Colombian players – as Gavin Wilkinson, the former technical director and now interim head coach of the Portland Timbers, explains:

"When Jorge Perlaza first arrived at the club he came to see me around a month in because he hadn’t received a paycheck yet. I explained to him the money should already be in his account. At the time I was still using an interpreter. We actually ended up going to the bank across the street to check it was definitely in there."

Perlaza’s worries were understandable. In Colombia, players have been known to go unpaid for months. The Timbers defender Hanyer Mosquera, who played for Deportes Quindío and La Equidad in Colombia, has first-hand experience of this.

"It was an unfortunate experience in that they weren’t punctual in their payments at times," he said. "It is very important for me to be able to provide for my family the way they deserve."

When comparing life as a soccer player in the US and in Colombia, Mosquera’s assessment is simple: “I am happy in both places, but I miss my family obviously. The soccer is the same here and there, so there is not much change. One of my dreams was to be successful in a high-level league outside my country. [MLS] is a league that is well-known, and games are broadcast everywhere.”

Chará, like Mosquera, is keen to stress that for Colombians it is the play, not the pay, that provides motivation: “More than [clubs] just paying in full, it’s more about a change of culture for me, and learning this style of play.

"For the most part I was treated fairly in Colombia, but going unpaid does happen. The players that want to come over here appreciate knowing they will have financial stability."

When speaking to Colombians about MLS, the speed of play is often mentioned. Fredy Montero of the Seattle Sounders also admires the opportunity for growth.

"I like how fast the game is here," he said. "The level is good here. The MLS is building a really strong league to develop the young players and the future stars of soccer."

Wilkinson says of MLS clubs’s interest in Colombian players: “For us, South America has been a good market. We’ve needed to get players that can maintain their value. With the salary cap system in MLS, if a player is earning $100,000 they need to be a $100-$150,000 player.”

Given that such value for money is a key component of any transfer deal, Real Salt Lake’s Jámison Olave perhaps provides the best example of Colombian value. The former Deportivo Cali man was named MLS defender of the year in 2010. His cost to RSL? A mere $240,000.

Now that clubs such as Portland are established in the Colombian marketplace, players like Chará are used to provide character references for potential new recruits – such as Mosquera.

"I knew Diego Chará beforehand and I talked to him about joining the Timbers," said Mosquera. "He told me about what a great opportunity the team provides, both professionally and personally. I saw fellow countrymen who were successful here, and that interested me a lot. MLS is an attractive league. There’s always talk about the American dream and the peace of mind people have here. It goes beyond the soccer aspect to quality of life, too."

Wilkinson is keen to stress just how much research was involved prior to his decision to look for players in Colombia.

"Normally I get a good sense of the player and his club, why he’s at where he’s at," he said. "I think it also helps to know the clubs transaction history: whether the club need the money or not and how that will affect the player’s price. I’m not going to say the price on Diego Chará was driven up, but Deportes Tolima has a reputation for not being the easiest club to work with, because they don’t need the money. With Hanyer Mosquera we knew the club were coming into financial trouble that heated up the pursuit of him and we were able to get him."

The Timbers also secured loan deals for Sebastián Rincón and José Adolfo Valencia, despite the latter having a knee injury that would rule him out for six to 12 months.

"He’s only 20," Wilkinson said of Valencia. "We believe he has the ability, the talent and the athleticism to make a full recovery and be an impact player for the Portland Timbers."

Wilkinson says the deal was a chance for the Timbers to show how they operated.

"Yes we could have sent him back and washed our hands of it but I think that sends the wrong message to every other player we’re trying to bring into this organization and every player already here. One of the things we’d like to be recognized for is how we treat our players and how professional we are on and off the field. I think José is an indication of how we value players in general."

The work doesn’t end when the player arrives at the club. For the Timbers, that’s when Beto Angulo enters the fold.

"Beto is a tremendous person," Wilkinson said. "He’s a full-time player-relations manager. Beto speaks fluent Spanish and is someone that’s helped every Colombian on board. I don’t think it’s wise to invest money in a player and expect them to play well – they need to acclimatize be happy at home with their family and feel comfortable."

Angulo is given a similar endorsement by Chará and Mosquera, both of whom have not gone unnoticed by rival clubs since their arrival in Portland. Wilkinson says that any further sale would have to benefit the club as well as the player.

"If we can continue to upgrade the squad by selling player X to bring in Y and Z then we will," he said. "We’ve had offers from both within the continent and in Europe, but it hasn’t made sense. If it makes sense from all angles then we’ll consider it more."

However, despite more Colombians looking to move to MLS, Wilkinson says that the Timbers are not looking to invest in more of Chará or Valencia’s compatriots.

"We still think you need quality American players to succeed. It’s important that when we bring the Colombians in they learn the American culture, I think if you start to get eight or nine Colombians then the locker room becomes a concern, not because they are bad people but because the Colombians no longer have to learn English. The dynamic of a locker room changes, which can be a hard cycle to break. There’s very many reasons why we won’t continue to add Colombians right now, and if maybe one was good enough, they may replace one we currently have on board."

It seems fair to suggest, however, that the influx of Colombians to MLS has not reached its peak – and Wilkinson agrees: “If you can offer personal growth [and] consistency with pay, its often easier to get a Colombian that has had trouble with their club. So Colombia will be a viable market for MLS clubs for years to come.”

You can bet that the Timbers’ MLS rivals will be more than happy to draw from such a deep well of talent.

3.04.14

SARPSBORG, NORWAY — At 08:30 in the morning, Brian Deane is already hard at work. The former Sheffield United and Leeds striker, now manager of Sarpsborg 08 in Norway’s top flight, has an important work call to take but has set aside some time to talk about his unconventional route into management.

Life in the Tippeligaen is a far cry from his native Leeds. Taking the first steps of a managerial career in a foreign land is never easy, but the 46-year-old admits he felt somewhat forced into the change after seeing a lack of opportunities at home. Indeed, Deane found it difficult to gain the much-needed experience, and even former employers were not as welcoming as they may have once been.

“I always felt (and I might have been wrong), there was an undertone of ‘what is he doing here?’ Are you trying to worm your way in?” he told ESPN FC. “I thought, you know what, this isn’t for me, there has got to be another way.”

Becoming director of football at Leeds University, the road to Norway was not as smooth as it now appears. “I played with quite a few Norwegian players when I was at Leeds, Sheffield United and elsewhere,” Deane explained. “One of those was [former international striker] Jan Age Fjortoft.” 

Through Fjortoft, he met former Blackburn and Wimbledon defender Tore Pedersen and was able to quiz him on the Norwegian game. Deane had long held an interest in Norwegian football that stemmed from his time working with the International Academy of Football and Education, which looks to recruit players from Scandinavia. 

Not too long after their initial chat, Pedersen got in touch: “He thought it [the Sarpsborg job] would be perfect for me,” Deane said. “It is a small club but they are well run. They play good football, which fitted with how I wanted to take my philosophy forward.” 

Indeed, for a team that sat near the bottom of the league for much of last season, Sarpsborg certainly don’t play how you might expect them to.

“I believe in players being comfortable on the ball, finding solutions,” Deane explained. “I think if you can find solutions in tight areas, when the pitch opens out I feel you’ll be more confident to deal with what’s in front of you.

“I give my players a lot of freedom of thought. I ask them to be creative going forward. Obviously at the back I try to instil in them a hunger to realise that we have to protect ourselves.”

But Deane was not simply handed the reins 12 months ago. Engaged in a drawn out interview process that took six weeks and three meetings, every aspect of Deane’s make-up was scrutinised. Eventually, impatience got the better of the former striker and he sent a text message to the club’s chairman demanding the job. 

If it was a bold move, it worked. Having finally secured his first job at the newly promoted club, Deane had a tough task to ensure they would stay in the top flight. He had been made aware of the club’s modest financial blueprint prior to joining, but it was still something that needed to be addressed as the season began in March 2013.

“If you looked at our budget, and you looked at Rosenborg’s next to it, their budget was 10 times ours,” Deane explained. 

So tight were the constraints, that Nigerian striker Aaron Samuel was initially deemed too expensive [even at a fee that was likely to be less than six figures], before a mid-season reshuffle allowed for the move to happen. Now one of the club’s most promising players, Samuel is more than just a goalscorer and his role has allowed Deane to showcase his own tactical intelligence too.

“Aaron’s got blistering pace,” he said. “It didn’t mean our philosophy necessarily changed but it meant that we had the option in behind [the defence], which meant we had an option in front. If teams are scared of what you’re going to do in behind they’re going to drop off which meant we had option of going beyond them, or coming short before going beyond them.”

With Samuel signed at the beginning of an eight game losing streak in July, life at the bottom presented a number of testing moments for Deane. Desperately scrapping to avoid the drop, it put an intense spotlight on his philosophies but a win over Brann and Molde in the penultimate four games [and the fact all of the bottom five lost their final game] gave them a chance to seal survival in the playoffs and sent Tromso and Honefoss down.

Indeed, victory in their playoff game against Ranheim secured another season in the Tippeligaen, but as the on-pitch celebrations took hold, Deane chose to lock himself in the dressing room toilet. “It was just an opportunity to reflect on everything that had happened that year and enjoy that moment, because believe me you can’t do it for long,” he said.

Now a year into what he calls his ‘apprenticeship,’ Deane feels he is thriving in his new surroundings and he appreciates the flexibility of his employers.


“I’ve come to Scandinavia because it’s a good opportunity to do things away from England,” he explained. “I could have gone after that run of eight [losing] games, but it was a case of the people, the chairman , the directors seeing that we were struggling into the right direction.”

Heavily invested in the small town of Sarpsborg, Deane is also the man who scored the first ever Premier League goal [for Sheffield United against Manchester United in August 1992]. Just the mention of that feat brings out a small laugh from the former striker: “It’s nice, but I don’t want to be just remembered for scoring that goal. I want to create my own legacy and see how far I can go with coaching.”

An England international [he won three caps between 1991-92], and formerly of Portuguese giants Benfica, it will surprise many that for Deane, survival with Sarpsborg is his greatest accomplishment. 

“My journey to get to where that season ended was a tougher road [than my playing career],” he explained. “It was about going on coaching courses, sticking at it, being up at the University, out of my comfort zone.

“That’s the thing with football, you’re always in your comfort zone. As a manager I’m doing something completely different that I wasn’t born to do. It means that, as an achievement for me, I actually achieved more last season. I think it’s a case of looking further than what it did for me, it’s what it did for other people too and being responsible for that.”

3.04.14

http://goal.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/15/pochettino-shows-promise-on-the-englands-south-coast/

It was a subtle compliment, but one that echoed long after it had been uttered.

“I really like the way this side play, they remind me of us,” said Pep Guardiola of Barcelona’s intracity rival Espanyol, managed by the former Argentine international Mauricio Pochettino. His evaluation was a fair one. Defensively aggressive, pressing high up the field, many of the traits that are associated with Barça’s success were also being used by the city’s other team.

Those same ideals were also on display when Pochettino took his new club, Southampton, into the intimidating atmosphere of Old Trafford to face Manchester United. While his team may have lost that day, the result did little to reflect the true complexion of the game.

Southampton was able to maintain 57 percent of the possession during the game, according to Opta, and produce almost twice as many attempts as their prestigious opponents. Pochettino added to his list of admirers when United Manager Alex Ferguson cited Southampton as the best visitors to Old Trafford all season. Pochettino admitted before the game he was more concerned that Ferguson would not enjoy his postmatch wine selection.

His changes have been small, but noticeable.

“It may seem like we are running more, but really we are just running in a more organized way,” midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin said. Now in his fifth year with the club, Schneiderlin, 23, is a stellar example of the benefits Pochettino’s changes have provided.

“I like midfielders who cover a lot of ground and go into the opposing team areas,” Pochettino said. Against Manchester City 60 percent of Schneiderlin’s interceptions occurred in the opposition half of the field — a drop from the even more impressive 80 percent, according to Opta, that he had recorded a week earlier during their game against Wigan Athletic. This is despite the Frenchman being perceived as the defensively minded member of Southampton’s central midfield.

Discussing his mantra, Pochettino condenses it simply: “Our style of play is to win back the ball as soon as possible and then play it. We moved forward our lines and play more upfield. When we lose the ball we must have the mentality of winning it back as soon as possible.”

Earning his first victory as Southampton manager against defending Premier League champions Manchester City, the visitors to the St. Mary’s also recorded their lowest pass completion rate of the season, just 76 percent. The win left Southampton with 27 points, and in 15th place in the Premier League.

Such high-intensity tactics have a drawback if your opponent is able to play around you or get in behind. That style of play also requires high levels of physical fitness, something Pochettino has in the aforementioned Schneiderlin and the former Chelsea youngster Jack Cork.

Nicknamed the Sheriff at Espanyol, Pochettino used training methods that, much like his tactics, were noted for their intensity

“At times you want to kill him because he makes you suffer like a dog, but you get the results,” striker Pablo Osvaldo said.

Osvaldo was one of many stars that Pochettino saw leave Espanyol during his time as manager. A crippling financial situation meant players like Victor Ruiz, José Callejon and Osvaldo were sold. It was a situation Osvaldo is unlikely to see repeated at Southampton — its summer acquisition of Gastón Ramírez for a little more than $18 million was followed by a January bid for Inter Milan’s Coutinho.

One of the more notable facets of Pochettin’s time with Espanyol as he guided it away from relegation in his first season was his nurturing of young talent.

Southampton has a strong history of player production. The Arsenal stars Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, as well as Tottenham’s Gareth Bale represent a few who have come through the system at St. Mary’s.

On Pochettino’s current squad, James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw find themselves as the academy graduates supplementing the first team. It should be expected that Pochettino will not only aid their development but encourage some of their fellow young players, including the American goalkeeper Cody Cropper, to become more involved with the first team.

Despite Pochettino’s gravitating from player to manager at Espanyol, past relationships did not hamper his ability to manage. One of his assets in Barcelona was his ability to grow close to his players yet maintain the distance an authority figure requires.

“I don’t see a football player unless I first see the person,” he said. “Respect must be there between the players and the manager and the players themselves. It’s a minimum requirement.” It was a simple explanation of his management style, one that will receive its greatest litmus test while at Southampton

At the height of his powers, Pochettino was linked with Real Madrid, but having also spurned offers from Valencia and Sampdoria, he showed loyalty in the face of adversity that was admirable.

“My children sleep in Espanyol pajamas,” he told reporters.

Though Pochettino left Espanyol in relegation, when he and the club agreed to terminate his contract it was with the understanding that much had been achieved. After all, he was the third-longest serving manager in the club’s 112-year history.

“For someone like me it is sad to leave this institution, but these decisions are made for positive reasons,” he said at his final news conference.

Still with much to learn, Pochettino must now also master a new language. Although he speaks only basic English, it is clear that his easily understood message transcends the language barrier, proving football is a universal language.

“I feel I’m communicating well with the players and most of the time the communication is about gestures rather than verbal communicatio,” he said. “Footballers are able to understand better a gesture of positioning or movement than a word.”

1.27.14

http://espnfc.com/feature/_/id/1457510/kristan-heneage-emotional-farewell-toon-legend?cc=5739

They were saying thank you. Choosing the 37th minute to rise in unison and applaud their longest serving player, Newcastle fans were thanking Steve Harper for never choosing to leave them. Impossible to truly condense a 20-year career in a moment, his time on Tyneside began with Kevin Keegan and ‘bright yellow shell-suit bottoms’ and ended with a minute of unbridled appreciation that his loyalty deserved.

And for the first time in his career, he allowed himself to get caught up in the emotion of playing for his favourite club, a puff of the cheeks serving as the precursor to a trickle of tears to roll down his cheek. Having already seen his Dad, a miner, wobble before kick-off, he knew he had cart blanche to indulge in a moment of sentiment.

That same watering of the eyes returned moments later when Lukas Podolski fired a shot at what Harper described as his ‘family allowance’ - a wry smile coming across his face as he remembered his last big save for Newcastle United, a large roar following seconds after his block. After two decades, promotion, relegation and everything in between, Harper is finally making his way off the roller-coaster that is Newcastle United. Highs and lows not quite in equal measure, witnessed by a man who is stitched into the very fabric of a club that has baffled many a visitor.

"I will miss the intensity of this club," he said in reflection. "It is the city. It is a heavy shirt to wear, an amazing club to play for if you can handle it.

Many of his former team-mates couldn’t. He never shirked the responsibility bestowed upon him. Detractors will call him unambitious, a man happy to collect his wages at his boyhood club. What those people tend to forget is that for many (self included) playing for your club is the dream. It’s better to play a minute with your own than an hour with someone else - regardless of what division that may be in.

Games against Juventus in the Champions League are polarised by midweek trips in the Championship on Newcastle’s ascent back to where they belong. More than just experience at the back during their brief stay in England’s second tier, Harper was also a member of the players committee that under Chris Hughton dragged Newcastle back to the Premier League.

A game short of 200 appearances, he could and should have earned more, but by his own admission, Harper had the unfortunate luck to be managed by Sir Bobby Robson. A master tactician, Sir Bobby could sell ice to Eskimos: “I’d enter his office like a bear with a sore head and leave it giving him a hug,” he told the Independent last week.

He did receive the occasional loan spell, but he would always return home. Competing with Shay Given for the number one spot, it was fitting that for so many of his seasons on Tyneside, Harper inhabited the number 13. Luck always evaded his gloves.

Just as he seemed to have finally defined himself as a Premier League number one for Newcastle - through no fault of his own - he suffered a dislocated shoulder at Goodison Park. Few could have predicted the form of his replacement that day, Tim Krul, with not even a tinge of bitterness held by Harper in his programme notes: “I couldn’t have wished to hand it over to anyone better,” he said as he reminisced about a gangly 17-year-old who, in Harper’s opinion, “worked his socks off”.

Allowed to walk out on Sunday with his young children, emotions were high. “We paid our own tribute to him in the dressing room,” Alan Pardew said afterwards. Allowed to captain the side in place of Fabricio Coloccini, his admittance that playing the game still appeals means Harper will not take up the coaches role that Pardew has said is always open to him.

It means Newcastle will lose a significant and composed voice in the dressing room. Having almost completely deconstructed the team that brought them back to Premier League, as another leader prepared to leave, he spoke of the big characters in the dressing room. Yet as Harper will know all too well, exuberance and leadership are two very different traits.

Understated in his approach, he always brought a calm to the pitch. As Pardew noted last week, with the club’s Premier League future in the balance at Queens Park Rangers, the solution presented itself: “We had Harps, who came on as if it was a Sunday afternoon and he was going down the pub with his dog,” he told the Evening Chronicle.

Still it felt like more than just a safe pair of hands was leaving St James’ Park on Sunday. A one club man, Harper embodies many aspects of football that are fading away. Sir John Hall once spoke of his desire to name an eleven comprised of local players, never has that dream seemed more unlikely than when looking at the current squad. A career that gained its beginnings at local side Seaham Red Star, his journey from nearby Easington in Co, Durham and rapid ascension to reserve team football was not without hiccups.

"My Dad told me not to leave the club house until I had the £25 they [Seaham Red Star] owed me," he remembered fondly. When that was achieved, he had another decision to make, a deferred university course in Sports Science the victim of Kevin Keegan’s decision to offer him a one year contract. It was from there the crazy journey began. 18 managers (if you include the 6 caretakers) have worked with Harper since he began at Newcastle. "It’s too many," he said to the Times last week, and he’s right.

In many ways, Harper has remained the bastion of stability against a wall of uncertainty that is so often Newcastle. Now the club must untether itself from his relaxed grip, knowing that a repeat of his final season on Tyneside is unacceptable.

As for Harper, the immediate future holds more playing time, with a view to coaching. Sampling the life of management with Red House Farm Hawks under 10s, the team of his young son James, Harper has binders full of notes on games and training sessions. The indexing of a 20-year-career that will serve him well in the future.

Sharing a post-match joke or two with the journalists that have chronicled his life for two decades, he was able to keep his emotions in check, before allaying fears of those who may themselves have begun to indulge in an emotional moment. “It’s the end of the chapter, not the book,” he said, before calmly departing stage left.

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