By Joe Behan
David O’Leary was recently fired Leeds United, a club that has little or no tradition of long-term coaches and managers. There may have been a few in the past who did manage to become part of the United furniture, but try counting successful managers at Leeds and few stayed around for very long.
It now looks as though Terry Venables will take over at Elland Road with yet another short run on the horizon for the tactical master. But then again one never knows with El Tel. Nevertheless, O’Leary’s firing caused major concern for Glasgow Celtic supporters when Leeds expressed interest in Martin O’Neill.
Irish supporters are not getting too much recovery time from their World Cup saga. There was talk of O’Neill being offered a trip down to Elland Road. But O’Neill was busy on the Emerald Isle itself as Celtic trounced Shelbourne 4-1, while the Hoops could only grab a later equalizer against Shamrock Rovers. O’Neill has made it clear that he will be staying at Parkhead, but his comment that “nothing lasts forever” will remind Celtic fans he is a very ambitious man with success his number one priority. Do not be surprised if O’Neill leaves Parkhead with Henrik Larsson.
Irish interest is ongoing at the moment in the football world. The green and white army could do with a rest after being voted top supporters in Korea/Japan. It never seems to stop and a break is probably the order of the day, especially for those who watched the World Cup around the clock. This is usually a downtime period for soccer supporters and fans — at least it used to be. But now everybody wants to know what Mick McCarthy’s plans are. Surely it’s a no-brainer for him to stay with the Republic of Ireland and take them to Euro 2004, and that would be without Roy Keane. Things, as always, will settle down.
With O’Leary gone and McCarthy staying with Ireland, all eyes are on O’Neill’s Celtic. Expect another SPL title and for Celtic to qualify into the last group phase of the Champions League.
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Arsenal are laying low and the Gunners’ cruising style is concerning Manchester United, who are going Samba style with new coach Carlos Queiroz. For United, it’s a matter of bringing in a new and fresh brand of football.
Sounds like there are busy fingers hovering over the panic buttons at Old Trafford. Whereas at Highbury, the Gunners are firing on all cylinders with David Seaman negotiating that he wants to play another season for his beloved Arsenal. The veteran goalkeeper contemplated quitting after Ronaldinho’s brilliant free kick that sailed over him and into the corner of the goal. Many pointed the finger at the Arsenal servant and blamed him for England’s loss to Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinals. A closer look shows that Seaman had lost sight of Ronaldinho’s initial contact with the ball. An English player moved right between the dead ball and Seaman’s sight of it. The rest is history.
So, for all the critics who call the goal bizarre, lucky, bad goalkeeping and any other excuse in the world, the fact that a player obstructed Seaman’s sight of the strike explains all the excuses.
Besides England didn’t deserve to move on. They simply were not good enough.
The one party that is not overly concerned with Seamans’s World Cup episode is Arsenal. They will gladly take Seaman back with open arms. Arsenal has helped their reliable goalkeeper to recover and once he gets over his experience, the club can get cruising again. Arsene Wenger is solidifying the spine of his team starting with goalkeeping. On his shopping list is Lille’s central defender, Pascal Cygan, and PSV Eindhoven midfielder Mark van Bommel.
Lee Dixon has finally hung the boots up with Tony Adams and Martin Keown already undoing the laces. But for now the best and oldest central defenders in the EPL may well be the foundation for another successful season at Highbury.
Wenger is quite happy with his style of football under the coaching of Pat Rice. For the Gunners, it’s about filling in the rolls and playing the way they have been. If they manage to keep in touch with the top flight, Arsenal will be a force upon the return of Robert Pires and Fredrik Ljungberg.
Keegan marches on
Manchester City’s Kevin Keegan is licking his lips at the prospect of rekindling the Manchester derby with Alex Ferguson. Keegan has been busy building his attack on the premier league. Nicolas Anelka joins forces with King Kev, who will unlikely go away from scoring goals. At the same time, Keegan has shown he has learned from his past emphasis on attack-attack with the purchase of Peter Schmeichel.
City chairman David Bernstein is a little concerned that Keegan has too big of a squad. Keegan will not be pushed into impulsive selling. He will want time to develop his numbers and create a level of competitiveness that City has not seen since the days of Francis Lee. While the Irish stories begin to simmer down some of the older names in the game, like Venables and Keegan, never go away.