Tuesday, 24 May 2011

West Bromwich Albion have been linked with....

Gareth McAuley
No sooner has the last ball of the season is kicked the transfer rumour mill is cranked into overdrive. I am going to keep track of all the rumours for the comings and goings at the Albion, I will restrict the rumours to the mainstream media. I reckon we will actually let around 5 players leave and hire a simalar number but I will guess we be linked with upwards of 50 and most of our key players will at some stage be of interest to this or that club

To start the ball rolling we have signed

Gareth McAuley defender from Ipswich Town (Bosman)

Linked with rumours and reported interest


Brad Friedal (now signed by Liverpool)
Andy Johnson
Carlton Cole
Itay Shechter
Stuart Parnaby
Mark Schwarzer
Bradley Johnson
Jelle Vossen
Kevin de Bruyne
David Ngog
Marius Stankevicius
Tomasz Kuszczak


Mulumbu Bayern Munich Aston Villa and Everton
Odemwingie Juventus Sunderland and Everton
Brunt Liverpool

I am going to update this through the summer, time permitting and I suspect it will be a very long post by the time the window closes

Monday, 23 May 2011

Drama free Final Day (well almost)

Mid table finish crack out the Champagne

 Yesterday amongst the drama of survival Saturday the Baggies travelled to Newcastle with nothing much at stake in 11th place. This is remarkably dull for a team that has over the last decade finished either 17th or below in the premiership or 6th or above in the Championship.

Frankly it is a position that looked very unlikely in February when DiMatteo was replaced by Hodgson. At that point we were sliding fast and another relegation looked very much on the cards. The chairman's decisive action in sacking RDM and appointing Roy Hodgson might with hindsight be a pivotal moment in the club's history. Without wishing to fall into results oriented analysis the appointment of Hodgson was a master stroke and without it we certainly would have been going to Newcastle needing something from the game to survive.

The game at St James Park was pretty typical of our season. Some pretty dreadful defending gifted Newcastle a 3:0 lead which was followed by an inspired comeback with Tchoyi sealing a point by completing a hat trick in the 90th minute.
We have won more points from losing positions this season than any other side in the premiership. This reflects our woeful defending which has resulted in just 2 clean sheets all season and the charactor of the players to comeback from some very unlikely situations.

It is appropriate that the team should sign off a rollercoaster season in typical fashion in 11th place. We have been as high as 4th and as low as 18th. There have been performances of breath taking quality (the Arsenal games and Liverpool at home for instance) and performances which left me at the brink despair (the Wigan and Blackburn games). However the same pattern has prevailed throughout going forward we have been lethal but we have never really looked that secure at the back. Roy managed to improve the side as a defensive unit but he will be working hard over the summer to improve this aspect of our play.

Overall a satisfactory conclusion to an excellent season. I am looking forward to next year with genuine optimism just another 80 odd days to go.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Casino Banking With Other Peoples Money

As the legendary Sam Grizzle once remarked "You play with your money any way you want to and I will play with their money any way I want to" Sam a long term poker pro with a gritty sense of humour has been in and out of money for as long as anyone in the game can remember and a lot of the time is playing with borrowed money. Which is okay its his life and his choice. Sam's profits and loses and his daily round of raising the stake money is a matter for him and his creditors. If Sam goes broke he will not be propped up by the Fed or any other government agency although if they were willing I am sure Sam would welcome their assistance for the usual 50% of the profits. More on Sam Grizzle

However Bankers seem to have this deal whereby if they make money they get to keep it but if they make a catastrophic loss the tax payer gets to pick up the tab. The people who make the mistake seem to thrive and survive the shareholder gets wiped out and the public purse deals with any systemic risk involved in so called casino banking. Apparently the industry hates the phrase Casino Banking I must therefore use it a lot although the murky waters of of credit default swaps are frankly less transparent than most casino games.

I am currently reading an account of the 2008 meltdown in financial markets To Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin. The book is a narrative of events following the failure of Bear Stearns which culminated in the failure of Leahman Brothers, RBS, Lloyds TSB and AIG. The consequences are still felt across the developed world in lower economic growth stubbornly high unemployment and a fall in real wages.

A number of things are striking. The key players who created the problem in the first place are still in place and whilst they might have lost some of their vast wealth they are hardly destitute. Secondly three years latter the regulators and governments have yet to tackle in any meaningful way the key issue of To Big to Fail.

Here is the conundrum. If a financial institution's failure poses a systemic risk to the whole financial market place governments are pretty much have to step in. The consequences in the real economy are just too severe for the market to deal with the fall out. It was the near collapse of AIG that prompted the Bush administration to bail out Wall Street having let Leahman's fail (which was entirely in keeping with Republican free market orthodoxy). Had AIG collapsed it would have taken half of the Banks in America with it and the economic fallout might have impoverished a generation.

The problem has gone away as speeches by Lord Turner  and Mervyn King have made abundantly clear (see blog by Robert Peston for highlights or this) It is worth remembering that these are not a couple of anti establishment Marxists but absolute pillars of the UK business community. 

It would now appear that attempts to bring the mega casino banks to heal are faltering. In the US the tier 1 capital requirements look likely to be set at pitifully low 8% and  the some of the major players are being allowed to return capital to their shareholders. Have the US authorities taken leave of their senses or are being lenient on the banks to try and garner short term economic gain? 

The industry is now waiting with baited breath for the findings of the banking commission which in the light of the comments by Lord Turner and Mervyn King will not recommend the status quo and the casino banks are not likely to like the outcome. Barclays, HSBC and Standard Chartered the three major UK banks that are not state owned are now threatening to quit the UK.

This is an interesting stand off between a global industry which only exists in part because of an implied state subsidy in the form of guarantee's and a sovereign state which is trying to regulate the activities which it is subsidising in a way that reduces the subsidy.

It is plain to me that the State has to call the Bankers bluff almost no matter what the short term economic consequences. Failure to regulate will only bring the next banking crisis closer and if you want to see what that looks like go to Ireland or Iceland.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Roy of the Baggies

I have resisted the temptation to hail the arrival of Roy Hodgson as the start of a new era at the Hawthorns because I have been here so many times before and have nearly always been disappointed. Too often new managerial appointments at B71 have started brightly only to stumble when it came to the task of keeping the Baggies in the top flight.

I always think each regime will be different, we will play with more flair or learn to defend properly but all have eventually failed. The truth of the matter until this season the squad the managers were working with were simply not good enough. Through the last decade Albion team's seem to be in a league of their own too good for the Championship but not good enough for the Premier League.

This was not true this season the squad assembled was good enough, it had a balance between experience and youth and there is equally balance between the artists and the artisans. Sadly Di Matteo and his coaching staff could not plug the leaks in our defence and although enterprising going forward we had started to look shambolic and were in danger of entering into free fall.

Enter Roy Hodgson. Having witnessed 2 of his 3 opening fixtures courtesy of Sky I feel that I am right in my conviction that this squad is good enough to survive and seeing the team look solid and well organised against Stoke and Blues I am filled with a new optimism. Yesterday's win against a lacklustre Blues hopefully will be a major step along the road to survival.

We still have a mountain to climb and maybe our best chance of survival has gone (3 home fixtures agianst Wolves Wigan and West Ham with just 3 points to show for them might yet be telling) but for the first time for a couple months we looked like a team rather than ragged collection of players. I have tickets for the next 2 home games and I will travel to the Hawthorns with a bit of hope.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Rise & Fall

The news that the Baggies had parted company with Roberto Di Matteo came as a bit of a shock not least because our Chairman has backed managers even through terrible campaigns that resulted in relegation. The irony is that despite going on an extended run of poor results Di Matteo's team is still better placed than any previous Baggies team at this stage of a premier league season.

I think this is the nub of the issue. In previous seasons things were so hopeless and frankly the squad was so completely out classed changing the coach was like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. However this time is different the squad is good enough to stay in the division. There are real rumblings of discontent amongst the supporters who have watched a side starting to disintegrate after a promising start to the campaign. A straw poll on West Brom.Com was split 50:50 on whether DiMatteo should stay or go which I found surprising.

Against this backdrop a change of coach might be the right thing to do if it saves our season and preserves our Premier League status then plainly it is the right move but it is a gamble and it does fly in the face of the clubs avowed aim to shun the short term ism that is rife in football.

The stark fact is that our form has been poor for 2 months and DiMatteo seemed almost powerless to put things right. Some of his team selections have been downright erratic and he has taken to bemoaning poor refereeing decisions and injuries as the root cause of the malaise. Yes there have been some shocking decisions go against us but in many instances we were already behind in the game because of our own ineptitude.

Personally I would have preferred us to back DiMatteo and give him a chance to turn things around but equally I had a growing sense of unease about our prospects for the rest of the season.

A lot now hinges on the next appointment.  To general relief it would appear that Big Sam has ruled himself out of the running. Derek McInnes would be a popular choice amongst fans because of his previous association with the club and a growing reputation as a dynamic young coach albeit at St Johnstone. If Roy Hodgson could be persuaded to take over the reigns I would be delighted but I suspect the answer will be no. The prospect of the Wally with Brolly just fills me with dread.

It is never dull following the Baggies

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Rocks for Brains part II

Keys and Gray contemplating a move to Qatar
The best bit of news from the whole sorry Keys and Gray debacle is that the disgraced pair might be on their way to Qatar to front up football on Al Jazeera. http://tinyurl.com/6fu53un.

The irony is just so rich. A couple of old chauvinists being shipped out to Qatar where they will fit in well with the local misogynistic culture.
I am pretty sure that given the conservative nature of the 2020 World Cup hosts that Sian Massey or any other female will not be officiating.

The other interesting points  I noted from the affair was that how nobody rushed to their defence and how quickly other clips of the disgraced duo emerged. This would suggest the pair were not particualrly well liked at Sky and certainly at least one member of the backroom staff was eager to expose them. Whilst almost certainly not a conspiracy as suggested by Keys in his frankly bizzare interview with Talksport, I suspect Sky's internal enquiry into the leaked footage will not be that vigorous.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Welcome to the Roller Coaster

Hello 2011 on the evidence of the first few weeks you are going to be er.. interesting if not just a little scary. Yesterday was my first trip to the Hawthorns this year.

On the back of 5 straight league defeats what fans and players needed was a nice straight forward comfortable win no drama 3 points thanks very much. However given that Blackpool were the visitors and with Albion's defence being about as leaky as a colander it was never going to be the case.

The two teams traded defensive blunders and were committed to all out attack hence a 3:2 scoreline which as Ian Holloway said could have been anything. If I were a neutral it would have been entertaining however as a Baggies fan who along with the bulk of the club's supporters is absolutely desperate not to be relegated again it was more than my nerves could stand.

If we are to stay up the defence has to improve. Too often players were left unmarked with Jara in a particular wondering out of position apparently oblivious to the Blackpool players flooding down his side of the pitch. The imminent return of Olsson should  improve matters because he is very vocal, organises the back line and keeps the other 3 on their toes.

Going forward we looked sharp and there is growing evidence that Dorrans is starting to find his form which is a massive plus point going into the 2nd half of the season. Odenwingie remains a potent goal threat, whilst he is fit and on form the Albion have a player capable of winning any game provided we are not shipping goals at the other end.

I left the ground shaking and relieved that the worst run of defeats in the club's recent history had been bought to an end. The result moves us away from the relegation zone but it is desperately tight and there will be more ups and downs before the season is over.

Away from football the rest of my life seems equally prone to wild swings of fortune. I feel I am just about hanging on at times and as with Albion's defence there a things that need to be improved. I do not make New Years resolutions but the dead time between Christmas and the New Year has prompted a little bit of soul searching with the conclusion that things need to change.