Showing 41 posts tagged fa cup

Liverpool vs Manchester United - Fields of Anfield Road at Anfield

All round the fields of Anfield Road

Where once we watched the King Kenny play (and could he play!)

Stevie Heighway on the wing

We have dreams and songs to sing

Of the glory, round the Field of Anfield Road


Eden Hazard - Lille - Belgium - Somebody Sign This Kid!

Eden Hazard - Somebody Sign This Kid

Eden Hazard is the most skilled football to burst on the scene since Cristiano Ronaldo. I said it. I did. The Belgian international has the skill to be a competitor in just about any league in the world, and at only 21 he is developing nicely into a world class footballer. He helped guide Lille to the Ligue 1 & Coupe de France title in 2010/2011 and shined scoring 12 league goals and 10 assist in all competitions.

The best attributes about Hazard are his skill, speed & vision. He’s fast. Really, really fast. Really, really, really fast, enough for me to type it five times fast. Not all speed is the same, there is a difference between being fast and being quick. Most wingers and strikers in football are fast, but there’s another level to speed that is more valuable than just blistering speed and Eden Hazard has it: change of pace.

Eden Hazard is an exciting young player for Lille in Ligue 1

It only takes a split second, one moment of hesitation and winger is behind you. Hazard has a unique ability to combine trickery with change of pace, which could make him one of the most dangerous players in the world at the age of 21. He can lull a defender to sleep before switching to high gear and blowing right by them. There are only 6 other players in the world that I can think of that have this skill: Messi, Ronaldo,Tevez, Suarez, Aguero, Alexi Sanchez. He’s no where near their level yet, but he actually could be.

They combine skill with speed without any time in transition. Hazard doesn’t have to completely stop to perform a step over, he does it at almost full speed. This is a very valuable asset, because this ‘change of pace’ is what gives you that extra yard or two to get by the last man, put in a good cross, or get a shot on target. Hazard has the ability to use quickness to make time and space, creating opportunities for himself and his teammates which can lead to more goals.

Besides quickness and pace, Hazard has one of the best arsenals of skill in the game. It’s yet to be seen whether or not he can execute trickery at the skill level of Messi & Ronaldo in big matches with everyone watching, but the fact that he can perfectly place a reverse cross from 20 yards out is pretty amazing. Jaw dropping. His step overs are perfectly fluid and he has the ability to combine 2 or more skills at the same time to enable him to go by defenders. It’s incredible to watch him take players on. Sure, it’s Ligue 1, but at almost any level a player with this skill would be able to mesmerize a defense. He just has to get tougher, and execute smarter. He’s got incredible technique in just about every aspect of his game, including his ability to shoot the ball. It’s very impressive, and he seems to just be getting better. As long as he has the mentality to keep learning, Hazard could go very far.

Some would say the French Ligue 1 or the Dutch Eredivisie are the best leagues for young attacking players. The defenders tend to be weaker than in some of the other better leagues. The valuable experience players learn in Ligue 1 or the Eredivisie enables them players to build confidence & try things in every match that they may not get the chance to in the Premier League or Bundesliga. I believe the Eden Hazard is out there testing himself, trying new things as preparation for his future. That is the best way for him to hone his skills.

He’s young, but Hazard also has great vision. He enjoys the art of picking the pass. He can perform the simple ball threaded in or the cheeky back heel pass. The mark of any great player can usually be summed up in how much their head moves during the course of the game. Great players are always looking for options. They always want to score goals, make assists and create things for their team.

Eden Hazard is only 21, and has expressed his desire to play in England. He has been at Lille since 2005 and has risen through the ranks at the club. But, there comes a time when every player must test himself. It’s one thing to pull off flashy skills and knock in goals in Ligue 1, but it’s another to be continually productive in the Premier League. Either way, this kid has a bright future and will be a name heard in the game for a long time. He’s not the complete footballer yet, he needs to get tougher, he needs to be more accurate with his passing as a midfield player, but that is something yet to come with more experience.

Looking forward to seeing a lot of Eden Hazard for a long time to come.

The rise of Demba Ba has been anything but meteoric. That would imply that Ba came from no where, and that his rise has been instantaneous. 

Ba, a French-born Senegalese striker currently representing Senegal at the African Cup of Nations, has spent the better part of the last decade fighting for a way to get a club to let him on the training pitch. He has had unsuccessful trials at Olympique Lyon, AJ Auxerre, and League One side Barnsley before finally getting his chance at Watford, only to be freezed out of the squad by manager Aiyd Boothroyd, who informed Ba that there would be no place for him in the first team.

Demba Ba for Newcastle United

Ba never put his head down. Despite these tough moments, Demba Ba was determined to be a professional footballer in Europe. He wanted to make his dreams come true, and he eventually was signed by a French third division club Rouen. A successful season with Rouen saw him claim 22 goals from 26 appearances and once again got him back on the radar of potential suitors. Ba secured a move to Belgian side Mouscron in 2006, but suffered a terrible leg break. He made a wonderful recovery from a broken tibia and fibula, and went on to score 8 goals for the club that season, also earning his first cap for Senegal.

In 2007, Ba joined 1899 Hoffenheim for €3 million and was an major factor in the squad earning promotion to the Bundesliga in 2008. He went on to lead the club to a seventh place finish in their first season in the Bundesliga. Ba scored 37 goals for Hoffenheim, before demanding a move to England after promises were not fulfilled on his contract. Ba was all ready to sign for Stoke City in the January transfer window of 2011, but shockingly failed a medical in which Tony Pulis described his knee as a “ticking time bomb that could go at any moment.”

Demba responds: My life, your life and the life of everybody is a ticking time bomb. I mean, you never know when you’re gonna go. So everyone’s a ticking time bomb. My right knee [could be] as much of a ticking time bomb as my left knee. You never know, tomorrow I could step on the pitch and get injured. You never know what’s gonna happen. Things go ‘today, I’m fit, I’m working.’ I will just say that’s all for me: no ticking time bomb, just life.Newcastle United snapped him up on a free transfer this past summer.

Demba Ba is a fighter. His talent was never instantly recognized, and hardly appreciated during all those years in the game. He did not let that deter him. He believed in himself, he was confident in his ability to work hard and be rewarded.You only get what you deserve in life, and if I have it today, it is because I deserve it," says Ba. Whether it’s working out in the weight room to deal with Premier League defenders or working on his movement off the ball as a striker, Ba is constantly finding ways to improve each day. In that way, he finds his fulfillment in football.

Ba is focused. He has a mature understanding of the game that not many strikers possess. Even the most talented players fail to understand the mental exercise that is also involved in being a professional footballer. Ba is able to play to the best of his ability because he is able to master himself as a person, and not just a footballer. Ba has respect for the game, which is a trait that is dwindling in the world today. There are many young players out there that play the game for the flashing lights, big paychecks, and the model girlfriends. Ba seems to treat football as one would treat a true profession. He has a love for his trade. He watches football. He loves to watch himself play, and is very critical of himself because he wants to reach perfection. He is a student of the game. “You can always learn,” he says. “When you watch football, you can always learn… I just want to reach perfection, I know no one can reach perfection, but… I just want to come close to it. I want to look at the good things I’m doing, to reproduce them, and I want to look at the bad things I’m doing and change them. So I just watch myself because I want to get better, but also because I want to enjoy it. For me, that’s part of my work.”

Demba Ba for Newcastle United

With character like this, I would sign Demba Ba if he didn’t have any legs at all. He would find a way to compete. A demeanor like his will always produce a winner, and more than likely breed a champion. 

I wish the best of luck to Demba Ba, and with writing this piece I have discovered a new favorite of mine among footballers. It’s not often the most talented players are the best. There are many instances that prove the mental approach to the game is far more potent than physical ability. This is why Manchester City could never beat FC Barcelona. This is why the short, sweet, placed pass will always yield better results than the booted long ball. This is why the team who moves as one, working hard off the ball, will always win. This is why Mario Balloteli’s will always get red carded. 

Demba Ba is an example of how intelligence in football that is hardly appreciated by the mainstream press. Intelligence is something stats can’t prove. It’s harder to learn than a free kick. At the heart of every great team, there is always an engine that understands all the other moving parts on the pitch. The better the team, the more the engines are capable of understanding each other. It’s improbable to believe that Demba Ba’s attitude has failed to rub off on his Newcastle teammates. Newcastle are currently in 6th place in the Premier League table, and were as high as 2nd place in October. It’s clear now that Newcastle miss their Senegalese striker with that 5-2 thumping at Craven Cottage where they conceded 5 second half goals in a game that they lead at half time.

At the age of 26, Demba Ba is a player to watch. I’m not the only one who wishes they’d seen him earlierKnow Your Football New Haven wishes Demba Ba the best of luck in the English Premier League, and African Cup of Nations this year. We hope he gets his 19 goals, and finds an incredible way to celebrate.