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Bizarre weekend as Crawley go for glory

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Dan Walker | 06:40 UK time, Thursday, 24 February 2011

I often get asked to give talks to schools and universities. Whenever I do, I always ask the people in the audience to tell me who they support. It's good to know your audience.

Once I have gone through the names of the big teams, I ask for fans of Crawley Town to identify themselves. When every hand stays down, I then ask if anyone has heard of Crawley Town. The occasional mitt would be raised.

This season's FA Cup run has changed all that.

The build-up to last Saturday's third round game at Manchester United was a little bizarre.

There are not many Crawley fans knocking around, so I did my fair share of interviews, including the Crawley Observer, the Crawley Argus and a monthly magazine produced by my old school. I was even asked to pick my favourite Crawley FA Cup song and select a list of my favourite players from the club.

I was also booked to appear on BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast on Saturday to talk about coming from Crawley. I assumed they had tried and failed to get The Cure, Gareth Southgate, Faye White and Eugene from Big Brother.

When Saturday came, I was on my way to the 5 live studio when I got a call from a producer to tell me I had been dropped from the programme. I turned round and made my way down to the Football Focus office instead.

It was while I was making the journey that I realised my career had sunk to its lowest point.

Over the speakers in the lift, which all broadcast 5 live, I heard "We've been talking about Crawley all morning and I'm delighted to say we are joined on the line by Chico from X Factor".

Crawley Town fans had a day to remember at Old Trafford. (Picture by PA)

Apparently Chico moved to Crawley as a 14-year-old before training as a hairdresser and then joining an exotic dance troupe called Extreme Force. How could I compete with that? I'm not sure if he is a Broadfield Stadium regular but his presence gave me a reminder of my place in the food chain.

I put the disappointment behind me and rattled through Focus, even managing to mention my dream about Matt Tubbs scoring the winner in the 85th minute.

I think Lawro was still giggling about that as we jumped in his car after the show was over and headed to Old Trafford. He had a bag of chocolate eclair sweets in the glove compartment and I worked my way through them as we listened to commentary of Chelsea's game with Everton.

When it got to penalties, I was impressed that Lawro called every one correctly. As soon as Leighton Baines missed, he told me Everton would still come out on top. "Really," I responded. "You'll be amazed at how many times the team that misses the first spot-kick wins," announced Lawro as we steamed up the M6. He was right.

When we arrived at Old Trafford, Lawro donned a sophisticated disguise to avoid being spotted... a hat. Apparently, he has had some grief outside the venue before so he had decided that the hat on, head down policy was the way forward. That said, within five seconds of stepping out of the car, someone had recognised him. The man needs a bigger hat.

As Lawro made his way through the crowds to do the co-commentary on 5 live, I went to film for Final Score, only arriving in the press box five minutes before kick-off and missing out on the pre-match meal. The grub at most Premier League grounds is good but the tucker at Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United is worthy of the Champions League.

The game itself was an odd one. The home fans were rather quiet and the 9,000 supporter from Crawley were in full voice, particularly in the second half when both Tubbs and Richard Brodie had chances to secure a replay.

Now I know there are lots of you reading this who have a deep hatred of my team. People take exception to the money Crawley have, where it comes from and the manager who spends it. To a certain extent, I understand the issues but, just for a moment, may I invite you to step down from the high horse, swallow the bile and delight in the fact that a non-League side went to Old Trafford and played well, albeit against an under-strength Manchester United.

On the way home, I was one of the thousands of Crawley fans who were shoehorned into one of the trains back to London. I shared the corridor outside a lavatory with a lady who wondered why the train was packed with slightly giddy middle-aged men and three Lithuanian chaps who liked basketball and whisky. Good times.

Crawley had not won an FA Cup game for seven seasons before this one. Hopefully, we will not have to wait too long for the next one.

Cup football will feature highly on this week's Football Focus. You will hear Alex McLeish, Cameron Jerome, Seb Larsson, Arsene Wenger and Nicklas Bendtner looking ahead to the Carling Cup final, which is being broadcast on BBC One, Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website, while Saloman Kalou will talk about Chelsea and Fernando Torres.

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez will also join Lee Dixon on the sofa. Benitez had some fascinating things to say when we interviewed him recently for Focus, so I am sure he will be just as interesting when he comes into the studio. We hope throw a few of your questions at him in the last few minutes of the show, so get them down below or send them to me at twitter.com/danwalkerbbc.

We also have another beauty of a show lined up for the following week. I went to New York last week to speak to Manchester United legend Eric Cantona about the re-birth of the New York Cosmos and all things football. I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed an interview so much. He jousted, jostled and philosophised for the best part of 45 minutes. Some of what he said was particularly explosive. All will be revealed next week.

If you want to follow the build-up to the show, you can find me twitter.com/danwalkerbbc.

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Sebastian Larsson was of course at one point an Arsenal player so it'll be interesting to hear what if thinks (if asked) about his time at Arsenal. I heard McLeish on the radio last week saying how could a team like Birmingham beat the team who had just beaten Barcelona, but of course the two matches are completely different affairs. If what he said was true, Arsenal would be unbeatable by any other club side in the world.

    I suspect, if this blog is on the front page of the UK website today/tomorrow, that with the subject matter in the blog, i.e. Crawley, Benitez and Cantona, plus the League Cup Final, that there could be some interesting/heated debate going on!

    Tony Almeida

  • Comment number 2.

    Great blog! Can't wait to see the program this weekend

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Dan

    Really enjoyed this blog. So many possible questions for the legend that is Rafa!

    One question which I would love to know Rafa's thoughts on is how was he restricted in player purchasing during his time at Anfield? There are strong rumors that he was forced to buy players from Roma and Portsmouth (Johnson, Aquilani) because they owed Liverpool money for Crouch and Riise.

    I would also be interested in hearing his views on the Alonso, Arbeloa and Mascherano departures.

    Another question is what does he feel is the best way to get Torres back to his best? Torres played better under Rafa's management than anywhere else and I would be very interested to hear his thoughts.

    Would he consider himself as one of the pioneers for the two man holding midfielder system that is so popular nowadays?

    If he was still Liverpool manager how would he improve the squad? Where does he feel the strengths and weaknesses are?

    On my behalf, ask Rafa if he fancies a game of Chess!

    Final question/request for Rafa, Ask if he will do one of the tactics blogs that appear on this website? Maybe for the Carling Cup final that is coming up this weekend? I think that would be very interesting.

    Also on another note congratulations to Crawley. Whilst it is very true that money is the route of all evil in the modern game and the manager is a rather dubious character, what should be highlighted was a tremendous effort by a Non League side who at times outplayed the evil empire. With a bit more luck there could have been a replay and it would not have been undeserved.

  • Comment number 4.

    You know what you are dan?

    You're a steel town girl on a Saturday night
    Looking for the fight of your life

    Now for everyone else, did we all see it? You must have done. What do you mean it wasn't there. Of course it was, you just weren't looking properly. Oh wait, no you're right, it wasnt was it.

    I'm so so sorry.

    Let me buy you cake.

    What cake would we like? If we can't agree we get nothing!


    George mason

  • Comment number 5.

    Very good blog as usual Mr. Walker. I apologise for hijacking the blog for my own needs but can anyone tell me why Torres played in the UEFA cup for Liverpool, and can play in the Champions League for that Russian mob, while Suarez played in the Champions League for Ajax, but is now ineligible for the Reds in Europe. I've asked a few people, but to no avail.
    I realise this has nothing to do with Dan or his blog but its really annoying me!

    Baron von Silas Greenback

  • Comment number 6.

    Looking forward to the King's Speech next week - Long Live King Eric!!!!

  • Comment number 7.

    5th round of the FA Cup featuring Manchester Un**ed.

    I watched Kes last night.

    And this links the two.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3cayRMnVb8

    Who do you think you are?Bremner?

    Brian Glover

  • Comment number 8.

    In response to RobbieSavagesFlowingLocks I'm not 100% but my guess would be that it's to do with the way the competitions are run and the fact teams from the Champions League can 'drop' into the UEFA Cup, whereas teams competing in early rounds of the UEFA Cup can't go the other way. For example if a team fininshes 3rd in the Champions League group they are dropped into the UEFA Cup Knockout Stage meaning that Suarez could, in theory, play against his old team. If you look at the Torres situation, he played in the UEFA Cup and then moved the opposite way, therefore he's unable to play against his old team Liverpool (or any other team he's already played against).

  • Comment number 9.

    Final question/request for Rafa, Ask if he will do one of the tactics blogs that appear on this website? Maybe for the Carling Cup final that is coming up this weekend? I think that would be very interesting.

    Also on another note congratulations to Crawley. Whilst it is very true that money is the route of all evil in the modern game and the manager is a rather dubious character, what should be highlighted was a tremendous effort by a Non League side who at times outplayed the evil empire. With a bit more luck there could have been a replay and it would not have been undeserved.

    ---------------------------------

    Not often we agree but well said

  • Comment number 10.

    The Premier League would be an interesting place if Benitez (and Mourinho) came back as they both seem to want to. It would be a major battle of the ego's, but interesting nonetheless to see them all grappling (not in a wrestling kind of way) together once more.

    Ryan Chappelle

  • Comment number 11.

    brillant blog as always just one small thing - crawley played man utd in the 5th round not the 3rd

  • Comment number 12.

    10. At 10:20am on 24th Feb 2011, Surreybloke123 wrote:
    The Premier League would be an interesting place if Benitez (and Mourinho) came back as they both seem to want to. It would be a major battle of the ego's, but interesting nonetheless to see them all grappling (not in a wrestling kind of way) together once more.

    Ryan Chappelle
    -------------------------------------------------------
    It is not inconcievable that we could see Rafa back at Liverpool and Mourinho back at Chelsea one day!

    Ramon Salazar

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    Dan Man,
    So New York one week, Manchester the next weekend... where are they sending you to next- petition the beeb to send you on assignment to your wife and kids, "lest they forget..."
    I bet NY was cold, or were you lucky enough to get the brief warm spell we have had over here? I have not seen my back lawn since the morning of Dec 26.
    On a different note, do you know roughly how many miles you travel in a year, discounting flights?

    I was pleased to read of Crawley towns exploits at MUFC. Fergie appeared to be fairly respectful too. Can you tell me one thing about your beloved CTFC- why do people object to the cash flowing in to the club, but APPARENTLY say nothing about CCFC, QPR, Leicester, or Liverpool, MUFC, MCCFC, or Chelsea etc...
    Ok, if the cash was coming from Mouammar Gadaffi or some such source, then fine- protest and complain; after all Gaddafi's vestal virgin bodyguard need his money. BUT if you just have an ordinary Joe investing his cash in a small town team then what is the problem?

    Also ANDY CONNOR you need to get back to the meds.
    great blog Dan man. If your Canotona interview rivals your Raffa interview then i will encourage other reporters (Matt Frey etc) to mentor under you.

  • Comment number 15.

    Reckon #8 is spot on re: the UEFA/CPL workings

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi Dan, what were your thoughts of #dontbuythesun trending on Twitter? PS I'm sorry they sponsor your team.

  • Comment number 17.

    #14 then i shall include them in the cake so everyone can partake!

    woo woo im a poet and i wasnt aware!

    bill buchanan.

  • Comment number 18.

    I was pleased to read of Crawley towns exploits at MUFC. Fergie appeared to be fairly respectful too. Can you tell me one thing about your beloved CTFC- why do people object to the cash flowing in to the club, but APPARENTLY say nothing about CCFC, QPR, Leicester, or Liverpool, MUFC, MCCFC, or Chelsea etc...
    Ok, if the cash was coming from Mouammar Gadaffi or some such source, then fine- protest and complain; after all Gaddafi's vestal virgin bodyguard need his money. BUT if you just have an ordinary Joe investing his cash in a small town team then what is the problem?
    ---------------------------------------------------

    I think the dislike is on several grounds.

    Firstly Crawley have been in administration a couple of times in the last 5 years and a lot of businesses lost money as a result

    Secondly 40% of the investors are unknown although they are stated to be UK based so where the money comes from is not known.

    Thirdly there is a lot of dislike of Steve Evans due to his time at Boston United and this resentment isn't just confined to non-league. A lot of League 2 teams were very bitter as a result as well.

    Lastly plain jealousy the same way a lot of fans do hate the clubs who spend money that can't be accounted for by turnover and are over-reliant on rich owners dipping in to fund signings while the clubs concerned post huge financial losses. A key example being Chelsea who lost c£70M last year yet after announcing that spent in excess of that on deadline day

  • Comment number 19.

    Thanks animoetfide for explaining that, it makes perfect sense.

    Dan, could you ask Rafa how he would feel about Jose Mourinho taking over at Liverpool. There are rumours he wants to come back to England and I know the two of them didn't see eye to eye when they were both here last time.

    Arthur Daley

  • Comment number 20.

    One question that would be a good one to ask of Benitez would be how he'd feel about going up against the Mourinho were he to take control of Chelsea again, as well as his old "friend" Alex Ferguson, and of course Arsene Wenger (I think they have a more amicable relationship)?

    It's good that there now seems to be a better mix of British/English managers along with the foreign managers these days. It's also immensely encouraging to have a club like Blackpool trying to emulate the top teams in the division in their style of play, rather than some of the kick and rush football that other sides have employed. I sincerely hope Blackpool's (Holloway's) philosophy is rewarded with Premier League survival.

    I don't have any strong feelings regarding Crawley other than to say that you can't blame the players for the perceived faults felt towards the directors there. The players did an excellent job against Manchester United, and if people can't feel a generosity of spirit towards the club, maybe they could feel some towards the players?

    Nina Myers

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    #21 your comment is awaiting moderation, but I don't think I'm being presumptious in guessing the tone of your comment with your name being what it is!

    Teri Bauer

  • Comment number 23.

    I would say his user name is enough for the mods - the irony being that simply by having that name he is getting his point across

  • Comment number 24.

    #21 shoots, and hits the post. As #23 says though, the name is enough to convey his feelings.

    Amusing to see a 24 theme going through some of the sign-off's this week.

    Question for Rafael Benitez... would he consider taking a Premier League job if the Liverpool one weren't up for grabs, or is it a case of if it's not Liverpool, it's not for me?

    Victor Drazen

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/lincolnshire/6268996.stm

    Evans admitted the charge that he was a cheat.

    Back to my original question - Dan, how do you feel about this man being in charge and the sudden unexplained riches?

    Crawley fans do not deserve the fate we suffered.

  • Comment number 27.

    Rafa will consider any club with a big cheque book#

    Jack Bauer

  • Comment number 28.

    #26 is taking another shot... will he score this time?

    #27 you are probably right, but I wonder whether he would express anything other than wanting to go back to Liverpool out loud? There would also be some irony if he did come back bearing in mind you've got Houllier at Aston Villa and Hodgson at West Brom, so there would be quite a complement of ex-Liverpool managers.

    President David Palmer

  • Comment number 29.

    Good blog Dan.

    You and Rafa must be pretty tight now surely? I mean, chess at his gaff a few weeks ago, now you got him on the show! Any indication of his eating habits? I get the feeling he likes sweets...and fine dining, you know the type of restaurant I mean, the sort of places you have to order your sides seperately to your meat or lobster etc...

    Anyway, must have been good meeting King Eric. I saw some of your twitter photos and I must say the one of him siting over the other side of the room in his flat cap looked like it was taken by hiding your phone behind a chair with only the lens showing, in the hope he didn't notice!

    Brilliant.

    Geaorge Weah's 'Cousin'

  • Comment number 30.

    Try again - username changed in case that is the offending bit.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/lincolnshire/6268996.stm

    Dan, How do you feel about Steve Evans and your sudden riches?

    No ill-feeling towards Crawley fans or players - just against the man responsible for nearly destroying my club. I hope history does not repeat itself for your sakes.

  • Comment number 31.

    Keep going #30, you'll get there in the end!

  • Comment number 32.

    "you'll be amazed at how many times the team that misses the first spot kick wins"
    Unless the opposition is GERMANY

  • Comment number 33.

    Dan - another brilliant blog. No, really. It was, honestly. Keep up the erm, the work.

  • Comment number 34.

    I look forward to you describing your culinary experiences in New York in your next blog. I bet donuts get a mention somewhere !!

  • Comment number 35.

    Crawley fan here. Completely understand all the bitterness we are subject to, but in all honesty:
    1 - Evans may not be a popular figure but to condemn a whole club because of their current managers actions in prior employment is a little blinkered.
    2 - The influx of money would be welcomed by any supporter of any club and anyone that says otherwise is kidding themself - but I agree, it's very easy to feel pangs of jealousy towards these clubs, particularly ones that are buying Premiership success. And I also think that honesty should prevail over the whereabouts of the investments, whether it will or not I don't know. Due to previous concerns under different owners, we are shall we say, a little concerned ourselves....but then these 'cloak and dagger' ways within football applies to the sport as a whole - why for example are several transfer fees still remaining 'undisclosed'?
    3 - The administration problems were a nightmare for the supporters but happened under different owners. The club was brought to it's knees by these previous owners and the bitterness towards them was immense for what they were doing to our club; the fans finally got their wish and they were bought out but not before they had dragged the name of the club through the mud and took us to the brink of extinction. A negative points situation at the beginning of the season became the norm under these owners which as you can imagine is devastating to a club and its supporters; crowds dwindled as the fans boycotted in an attempt to right the wrongs that we felt were being done. Now thankfully we have moved on but perhaps the majority of people do not know all the facts? It is still a business, and despite someone stating on Phil McNulty's blog the other day that Crawley should repay the creditors that were not paid in full previously by the previous owners, that isn't how business works.
    4 - I was extremely proud to be amongst the 9000 fans that travelled up for the day (almost 10% of the Crawley population). To come away from OT feeling disappointed we lost is unbelievable. No matter how many people try to put Crawley down, they can never take this day away from us and the joy it brought to all us long-suffering fans. And despite what many people here are saying, the well-wishers from supporters of many different clubs on their way to various fixtures on Saturday was overwhelming and made you proud to be part of it. Well done boys, you did us proud and this day will be with us for the rest of our lives.

  • Comment number 36.

    Dan Wrote:-
    When Saturday came, I was on my way to the 5 live studio when I got a call from a producer to tell me I had been dropped from the programme. I turned round and made my way down to the Football Focus office instead.
    It was while I was making the journey that I realised my career had sunk to its lowest point.

    Being Replaced by chico!! How did you cope with the rest your day? Did you cry? Did nothing in the world make any sense anymore? Did the choco ecliars help? Dan..... big hug to you!

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    Great blog Dan, hope you enjoyed your day.

    President Charles Logan

  • Comment number 39.

    Great blog Dan. Really enjoy it.

    Can you ask Rafa whether he would like to see Aquilani back at Liverpool? I think that we might have seen the best out of him this season and it's a shame that we let him go out on loan.


    Also as a couple of people have pointed out, I'd love to see Rafa do a tactical blog on this site.

  • Comment number 40.

    Dan - you gotta see this and show it on FF on Saturday!! It's taken diving on the pitch to a whole new level!!! It's ridiculously bad!!

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 41.

    The next few matches will make or break Arsenal's season with the League Cup Final, Man Utd playing Chelsea for their first league encounter of the season, and of course the return match in Barcelona next week. Do you think all three matches will go in Arsenal's favour to see them in with a chance of still winning four trophies this season?

    5Live must have been scraping the barrel to think it was "Chico time" rather than get a footballing journalist on instead. Perhaps the Sony CEO got on the line to ask them for a favour (assuming Chico is still with them).

    Habib Marwan

  • Comment number 42.

    Petshop boys for Never (#18) and various others,
    Thanks for some of this info., you pretty much answered my questions concerning Creepy Crawley and the finances.
    I'm not saying that I am reading what you wrote as the infallible truth, I never take anything I read on the internet as gospel truth (unless it is from Dan the man himself...), but still there is no smoke with out a fire. I guess having read your opinions I can see more of the pic. I had no idea about Boston United etc...
    I am of the opinion that the finances do matter.
    Last year Sir D.W. and I disagreed a little about CCFC's financial mire and their promotion prospects. They owed the tax man loads, had transfer embargoes slapped on them and by the mid season were a prospect for promotion via the play offs. I said they should get more of a semblance of financial order and propriety before being (in order to be) promoted, Dan said: let the results on the field determine the matter.

    None of this detracts from the performance of the Crawley players at OT. Great stuff. The fans should be proud of that.

  • Comment number 43.

    Hello again Dan.

    I was surprised I've never realised you are a Crawley supporter, fair play to you. Those who moan about the money etc, you ask them if they would love pots of money to splash, every fan would, it's just fortunate to those who are invested in.

    Are you a full time Crawleynator (don't know what else to put)? Or are you one of those who supports United for example, but when there is a bit of hype arround them, quickly revert back?

    I had a mate, die hard Manchester United fan, who supports Hull as well. Made it interesting when they surprisingly made the Prem!

    Les Pogliacomi

  • Comment number 44.

  • Comment number 45.

    Great blog as usual Dan. Can't wait for the interview with the King. Could I ask, if Cantona played Rafa at chess, who do you think would win? Also, I'd like to echo the calls for Rafa to do one of the tactics features, along with some other features: "How to handle the media", "how to buy a dozen full backs", "how to find that rare combination of Brazilian and awful"...I'm sure there must be more ;)

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    That was a good blog. Shame about the whole Chico thing. What I would say is there were 9,000 crawley fans at old trafford and their average home attendance is 1,300. Also what about that man who has attended every crawley away game since 1983? He was probably at old trafford thinking where the jimminey cricket have you been for all these years? I dont buy all this lark of feeling good for the "little clubs".

  • Comment number 48.

    Gotta say in response to the Crawley finance comments... as a Torquay United supporter, I am damn proud of the fact that we are a club that operates within our means, even if it means scrapping together squads from free transfers, and would never swap that for a big-spending financial model that'd always have me in fear of everything going belly-up and leaving the club's existence in peril.

    That said, I'm chuffed (but obviously jealous, since it so nearly could've been us) for Crawley's fans and players having their big day out, and I certainly don't hold my issues with the club's financial model against anybody who was playing and/or singing their lungs out for the club.

    Never will understand the fascination with Rafa, though...!

  • Comment number 49.

    Hi Dan,

    Could you ask Benitez what he would call some white liquid in a bottle?

    Did Lawro really call each penalty correctly? eg. Miss, Score etc?

    I'd also suggest there would be a high percentage of those who scored a penalty within the 120 mins often go on to miss in the shootout.

    Heitinga, Neville, Baines, Jagielka - surely a first to have 4 out of 5 takes being defenders.

    Possibly explains why we are failing to score goals and win games when the forwards will not man up to the responsibility of taking a free shot on goal from 12 yards.

  • Comment number 50.

    On a serious note, could you ask him if he has any more of these spanish sayings of his. The mountain of sugar was also good.

  • Comment number 51.

    Good work as ever Dan, most enjoyable blog on the BBC.
    Thought Crawley did themselves proud and gave United a few scares, especially late on. On topic, you could ask Rafa... Why do the big clubs make so many changes for cup games and then end up going out or with another fixture?
    Surely it would be better to rest one or two, look to win the game within the hour and then make further changes.
    Chico
    http://scottssportsandsocial.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 52.

    http://afterthefulltimewhistle.blogspot.com/

    My blog about Manchester United going forward

  • Comment number 53.

    #52
    Guess what... that won't be staying on here long.

    All you seem to do is advertise your own website without taking the trouble to comment about the one you're posting on. Lazy, and you don't deserve to have any readers with such behaviour.

    Ike Dubaku

  • Comment number 54.

    Just to clarify, where does Crawley's money come from? I'm away to find out.....


    Vladimir Bierko

  • Comment number 55.

    #54
    Maybe it was the bank that likes to say "yes"?

    Yuri Suvarov

  • Comment number 56.

    #52
    Your blog is verbose. I don't understand why "we" should be interested in it? What angle do you have that should make it anymore interesting than anything on the BBC website, or any of the offerings provided by the Daily newspapers?

    I noticed no-one has commented on it, or your previous one... not surprised. If you had something interesting to say on here, maybe you would attract people to your blog. Simply posting a link without even having a reference to the blog that Dan has put on here isn't going to get anyone eager to read what you've got to say in my opinion.

    I'm surprised it hasn't been whipped off, but maybe the moderator's are becoming more tolerant.

    Kim Bauer

  • Comment number 57.

    Great blog as always Dan - can't believe you got dropped for chico! didn't know of his crawley connection, does he support crawley town as well - did he make the trek up to old trafford?

  • Comment number 58.

    I'm here... will comment shortly comrades

    Jimmy Traore

  • Comment number 59.

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the blog and for speaking today at St James' Palace. Really wanted to ask you how you became a Christian in the questions at the end as it would have been great for all of us to hear. Sadly I was too slow off the mark though.

    All the best,

    Peter (SE4)

  • Comment number 60.

    hey dan,

    great blog , i know this sounds like a cliche but do we really care what the rest of the non league think about us?

    I can understand how it looks being 5 minutes away from folding a few years ago to now suddenly having money to throw at the club. What people need to understand is that the previous owners (a certain couple of brothers that i shall not name) basically didnt know what they were doing and the fact one of them is now in prison tells its own story. Im just delighted that the new owners actually have the clubs interest at heart and not their own personal gain.

    Anyway fantastic day in manchester, 9,000 of us desending on old trafford, what an atmosphere. Then back to earth with a bump watching us play southport on tuesday in one of the worst games of football i have ever payed money to watch but we did scrape a win courtesy of pablo ad AFC lost to wrexham.

    Must admit i havent seen Chico frequenting the redz bar or indeed the broadfield stadium, funny how these people come out of nowhere.

    Keep flying the flag for us Dan.


  • Comment number 61.

    I've never heard of Chico but I do know who you are Dan if that makes you feel any better.

  • Comment number 62.

    58. At 22:39pm on 24th Feb 2011, Dan Walker wrote:
    I'm here... will comment shortly comrades

    Jimmy Traore
    ------------------------------------

    Hi Dan

    Afraid to say, but it should be Djimi Traore!

    Igor Biscan

  • Comment number 63.

    Dan also i guess this school you attended is Hazelwick?

  • Comment number 64.

    Here we go then...

    Thanks for all the comments so far chieftains. Very much appreciated and I’m delighted that so many of you are enjoying the blogs.

    JamTay1 #3 those are some serious questions you’ve got there chief! Thanks.

    Andy Connor #4 do you scribe on other blogs or just this one? I am sure there are some people who come on here just to read your comments.

    RobbieSavagesFlowingLocks I don’t think I could answer it anywhere near as well as animoetfide #8. Strong work.

    PetShopBoys_Forever #9 Good man

    bestchelseasteven #11 I may be blind but where is the reference to the 3rd round big man? I probably am blind.

    blaenorynyclwyd #14 Things have been busy lately. Everyone is annoyed by the idea of buying success. I just think Crawley have to get on with it. They are in a privileged position but every other club would do the same.

    Red-eye #16 Can’t say I was delighted with the sponsorship and – having lived in Liverpool for 4 years - I fully understand the reasons behind the strength of the campaign.

    steveevansisacheat various... I admire your dedication. I have written about Evans in a previous blog. I hope we do avoid that fate.

    England_TheGreatEscape #29 that was a bit of a stalker shot wasn’t it?

    Windsor Horne Lockwood III #33 I’ve switched on the sarcasm monitor and I think it’s pointing at your comment. Would that be right?

    neiljwhitehouse #36 don’t... it still hurts

    LordSirSteveTreacle #37 Treacle... I remember your rage from way back. I’m struggling though... it’s that rage, annoyance or just a genuine comment. If it is rage it seems a strange thing to get miffed about!

    davemathieson #43 Aye up son. I am a full time Crawley person. If you were to twist my arm for a PL club it would be Spurs because my dad is from Enfield and he took me to see them in 1984 and I was slightly obsessed with Hoddle as a kid.

    Aledgog #45 Benitez would win – he does Jedi stuff.

    Piers_Arsenal_Moyles #47 You’ve got my goat up there. You tell me one non-league club who hasn’t taken way over their average gate to a big match like that in the FA cup? You’ve got to remember 1. It hasn’t happened for years 2. It might never happen to Crawley again 3. What’s wrong with it anyway? “You know you’re right, I haven’t got my stubs for the whole season so I’m not going to the biggest game in the clubs history!”.

    Tomefccam #49 “ Did Lawro really call each penalty correctly? eg. Miss, Score etc?” Rather freakily... YES. It was a bit Mystic Mark and very impressive.

    AfterTheFinalWhistle #52 Ha! You could at least put a comment before advertising your own stuff pal! Lift your game and pay attention to Jason Bourne #53 & Surreybloke123 #56 me thinks. I’m half tempted to go on your blog and advertise my mum’s welsh cakes!

    See you soon.

    Chloe O'Brien



  • Comment number 65.

    Read this list out to Benitez and ask for his response to each.

    Sir Alex Ferguson.
    Paco Ayestaran.
    Mourinho.
    Italy.
    Inter.
    Massimo Moratti.
    Wesley Sneijder.
    Real Madrid.
    England.
    Spanish Waiters.

    Then ask a body language expert to see if he was lying. ;p

  • Comment number 66.

    More comments while I’m here...

    Hannahbigface #57 great name. Has hannah got a big face?

    Anoan #59 Hi pal. It was nice to meet you all today. Not sure what came over me when I asked the Duke of Edinburgh to come on Football Focus... sadly he said ‘no’. Send me an email or letter to Football Focus, Room 5070, BBC TV Centre, W12 7RJ and I’ll get back to you on the other stuff.

    Ktfoot #61 a lot better. Thanks pal.

    JamTay1 #62 Good point. Spelling failure there.

    Right. Good night all. Wembley is called my name in the morning for some filming. Guten nacht.

    Michelle Dessler

  • Comment number 67.

    @Sir Dan Walker - re your comment numero 64. I think you have been whooshed big time, my liege!

    Noah Daniels

  • Comment number 68.

    good blog dan, I'm a Man U fan and having watched 70 mins of my team play dreadfull football even I wanted crawley to score, they earned a replay and were very unlucky not to get one.

    Will you ask rafa benitez if he would consider taking a championship job, considering his obvious lack of ability at the top levels?

  • Comment number 69.

    68. At 09:51am on 25th Feb 2011, stezzacoat wrote:
    good blog dan, I'm a Man U fan and having watched 70 mins of my team play dreadfull football even I wanted crawley to score, they earned a replay and were very unlucky not to get one.

    Will you ask rafa benitez if he would consider taking a championship job, considering his obvious lack of ability at the top levels?

    ----------------------------------------

    Hi Dan,

    Rafa is known to be excellent at calculating and analysing data so perhaps you could ask him the following?

    As Man Utd played 70 minutes of poor football last weekend, could he estimate how many of their plastic fans (as above) will now be off to buy a Man City/Barcelona/Chelsea shirts? and would the money to be made in the replica shirts business be sufficient to make up for the huge losses that will be made in the North Sea Prawn business?

    From a concerned Trawler man ;)

  • Comment number 70.

    68.) Will you ask rafa benitez if he would consider taking a championship job, considering his obvious lack of ability at the top levels?

    -------------------------------------------------------------

    Yeah obviously Rafa can't manage at the top levels. His Champions League, 2 La Ligas, Uefa Cup, FA Cup, European Super Cup, Italian Super Cup, World Club Chamiponship medals prove this.

    Obviously he is a very defensive manager as well and the fact that Liverpool scored the most goals in the 08/09 premier league season without Torres and Gerrard for just under half a season proves this.

    Obviously Liverpool were a two man team and the fact that they were only 4 points off winning the title in 08/09 with Gerrard and Torres only playing 14 games together proves this.

    Obviously he can't buy players and players like Torres, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt, Agger and Reina proves this, not to mention players like Vidic, Daniel Alves, Simao, Barry and Silva who he missed out on because of not having enough money or money going straight in to pay off debts.

    Obviously he didn't use Gerrard to full effect and him averaging 18 goals a season under Benitez proves this.

    Obviously zonal marking doesn't work and this shows by us conceding the least goals from set pieces in 05/06 season and coming near the top in defensive charts in virtually every of his seasons.

    Obviously Torres hated playing under him and the fact that the only manager he has consistently scored goals under is Benitez shows this.

    Do your reseach before you criticise him!

    He had to buy before he spent so before you criticise him for letting players like Bellamy, Crouch and Alonso go bear in mind that we had to do this to buy players.

    His net spend shows this and I suggest you read this before you criticise his spending as well. http://tomkinstimes.com/2011/02/benitez-the-great-money-waster/
    Net Spend is more important than straight money spent without bearing in mind how much has been gained.

    Before anyone goes mentioning Inter, you have to bear in mind that they have one of the oldest squads in Europe, he had terrible trouble with injuries that were out of his power to stop, he was trying to make them more attacking and lastly he wasn't given any money to spend on players. He bought a couple of youngsters I believe and one of the deals had already been done.

    Do your research before you criticise Benitez.

  • Comment number 71.

    @ 70

    Where is he now exactly?

  • Comment number 72.

    He's unemployed. So? All managers are unemployed at some point. Mourinho was unemployed for almost a whole season after he left Chelsea. Doesn't mean he can't manage a top club.

  • Comment number 73.

    I hope Lee Dixon will say something about the shambolic piece of work on the BBC Football page right now that set up straw men against Wenger's criticisms of other teams.

  • Comment number 74.

    @70

    You are only as good as you are now,

    Big Phil Scolari and his world cup winners medal will tell you this.

    Roger Lemerre with his European Championship Medal will confirm.

    Howard Kendall was not considered a good manager in 1998, despite being considered the very best just years previously.

    Klinsmann was king in 2006, Jester in 2009

    He is very lucky in that all of the trophies he won...

    (let's forget a meaningless runners up medal in 2009, or are we gonna hype Keegan up too for his '96 effort, or Big Ron for his effort in 1993 and FA Cup Winners medal)

    Have been predominantly in the first season of taking charge of a very strong squad (Valencia were Champions League finalists in 2001, and 2002) (The Liverpool side was predominantly Houllier signings and youth team graduates. Benitez did not bring one youth player through the ranks between 2004-2010 which is quite disgraceful for a "good manager") (Inter were European and Serie A Champions and the trophies he won were limited competitions in terms of the amount of games required to win them and questionable standard of opposition)

  • Comment number 75.

    @72

    Where is Benitez now?

    Mourinho is currently manager of Real Madrid

    I like to talk about facts. Benitez is currently jobless, he was sacked from Internazionale for not being very good.

  • Comment number 76.

    He is very lucky in that all of the trophies he won...

    Have been predominantly in the first season of taking charge of a very strong squad (Valencia were Champions League finalists in 2001, and 2002) (The Liverpool side was predominantly Houllier signings and youth team graduates. Benitez did not bring one youth player through the ranks between 2004-2010 which is quite disgraceful for a "good manager")

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    First of all, his best season with Valencia was his thrid season winning the league and Uefa Cup.

    Second of all to say that he took over a very strong squad at Liverpool is quite frankly a joke. A squad consisting of Diao, Traore, Biscan, Baros, Diouf, Diarra, Le Tallec is not a very strong squad. It had some decent players, no world class ones but some decent players but it was in the main a very mediocre squad. Hence why they finished in 4th with 60 points, 30 points off Arsenal. He had a far worse squad than Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd and I mean far far worse. He had to totally rebuild it.

    Thirdly, a lot of bringing in youth players is out of your hands. There were no players good enough in for most of his time there and eventually he rearranged the whole academy in 2009 and bought in two youth coaches from Barcelona. It is now widely acknowledged that we have some top players coming through now and Kenny Dalglish has praised him for the way the youth set up now is. In terms of buying youth players he never had the money to take risks on them. He apparently had players like Ramsey, Walcott and Aguero in his office way before any big clubs were interested in them but we didn't have the money to take a risk on buying them.

  • Comment number 77.

    #70 - 71:
    I am neither a Mourinho fan or a Raffa supporter.... but you cannot have a beef for a guy being unemployed unless he is a lazy bum who quit his job. Mourinho taking a season to himself is brilliant. What else was he to do, jump at the first vacancy that came along, after all I think there was a managers position in Transylvania came up soon after he was out of work.
    Also if you gave me a year off and money was not an issue, I can think of 1,000,000 good, productive and industrious things I would do.
    ALSO CAN WE GOT RID OF THE LINKS TO PERSONAL BLOGS OR WEBSITES. I COULD PUT UP LINKS TO MY WHITETAIL DEER HUNTING BLOGS BUT IT IS JUST IMPROPER SELF PROMOTION ON SOME ONE ELSE'S BLOG. MODERATOR PLEASE BAN FOR LIFE ALLT HOSE WHO PLASTER THEIR OWN BLOG URL'S ON THIS BLOG.

    Buzy times Dan, glad you can keep the blog going though. Good stuff. Am definitely sending Matt Frie to you for training.

  • Comment number 78.

    74. At 13:57pm on 25th Feb 2011, tomefccam wrote:
    @70

    You are only as good as you are now,

    Big Phil Scolari and his world cup winners medal will tell you this.

    Roger Lemerre with his European Championship Medal will confirm.

    Howard Kendall was not considered a good manager in 1998, despite being considered the very best just years previously.

    Klinsmann was king in 2006, Jester in 2009

    He is very lucky in that all of the trophies he won...

    (let's forget a meaningless runners up medal in 2009, or are we gonna hype Keegan up too for his '96 effort, or Big Ron for his effort in 1993 and FA Cup Winners medal)

    Have been predominantly in the first season of taking charge of a very strong squad (Valencia were Champions League finalists in 2001, and 2002) (The Liverpool side was predominantly Houllier signings and youth team graduates. Benitez did not bring one youth player through the ranks between 2004-2010 which is quite disgraceful for a "good manager") (Inter were European and Serie A Champions and the trophies he won were limited competitions in terms of the amount of games required to win them and questionable standard of opposition)
    --------------------------------------------------------

    Some questions for you.

    1. How short term is your view that 'you are only as good as you are now'? For example if Ferguson loses his next match as Utd boss is he (by your own definition) bad? When Mourinho's Madrid were beaten 5-0 by Barcelona did he become a 'bad' manager? When Mourinho was out of a job for nearly a year was he worse than the likes of Allardyce that were in a job?

    2. Are you aware that Rafa totally revamped the Liverpool youth set up during his time as manager? (Kenny Dalglish recently complemented him on the work done) It is now bearing fruit with Pacheco, Suso, Kelly, Sterling and Ecclestone (to name a few) all showing great promise. Or has this process taken too long for someone who has such short term views as yourself?

    3. How does a 'lucky' manager win so many trophies? How is luck involved?

    4. So the Liverpool squad that Rafa inherited from Houllier, had they even come close to winning a Champions League before Rafa became manager? Yes a lot of players were from Houlliers time in charge, but with the clever additions of Alonso and Garcia, Rafa moulded a team which included the likes of Kewell, Traore, Biscan and Le Tallec! Into European Champions!

  • Comment number 79.

    75. At 14:03pm on 25th Feb 2011, tomefccam wrote:
    @72

    Where is Benitez now?

    Mourinho is currently manager of Real Madrid

    I like to talk about facts. Benitez is currently jobless, he was sacked from Internazionale for not being very good.

    ---------------------------------------------

    If you are interested in facts, Perhaps you should look at the 'fact' that Rafa left Internazionale by mutual consent?

  • Comment number 80.

    @79 - And the fact that as I've already mentioned you have to bear in mind that they have one of the oldest squads in Europe, he had terrible trouble with injuries (Milito, Maicon, Motta, Samuel, Coutinho, Chivu, Muntari, Mariga were all injured around November/December time. Eto'o got banned for three matches as well.) Plus he was trying to make them more attacking by pushing up and keeping the ball better and lastly he wasn't given any money to spend on players. He bought a couple of youngsters I believe and one of the deals had already been done.

  • Comment number 81.

    When Liverpool faced Leverkusen in 2002 under Houllier, the Season they finished 2nd in the league...

    Dudek, Carragher, Hyppia, Riise, Gerrard, Hammann, and Smicer featured. That's 7 players who played a very significant part in 2005.

    2 of them scored in the final! Dudek Carragher and Gerrard had possibly their greatest games. Riise, Smicer and Hammann all took penatlies.

    Finnan, Kewell, Traore, Baros and Ciise who featured were all Houllier signings.

    Then at Valencia. Players who were present for both the 2001 Champions League Final and "Benitez' best season" of 2004 were

    Canizares, Ayala, Pellegrino, Carboni, Baraja, Aimar, Vicente, Albelda and Juan Sanchez.

    9 players this time.

    I believe these stats show that Benitez worked well with an already very strong squad with both Liverpool and Valencia.

    Strong as they were both challenging for honours in the years before he arrived, and were predominantly the same pool of players.

    @78

    1. I'd jusge it by your last 2 seasons. 2 sackings does not read well. (Technically people may point out he wasn't "Sacked" , the board wanted him out at both clubs they may have agreed mutually to terminate but this would only be after a compensation figure was agreed, otherwise Benitez could have stayed in the job and waited to be sacked to receive full settlement of his contract)

    2. None of the players you have mentioned have yet made an impact on the domestic or international scene. In stark contrast, Arsenal have produced players younger than this in their first team for years. Wilshere the latest example.

    3. Lucky. His two Trophies with Liverpool were won on Penalties. A way of deciding a game that all professionals agree there is an element of luck to.

    4. See above for the players who won trophies in 2001, finished runenrs up in 2002 and subsequently featured in the 2005 ECL Final

  • Comment number 82.

    81. At 14:57pm on 25th Feb 2011, tomefccam wrote:
    When Liverpool faced Leverkusen in 2002 under Houllier, the Season they finished 2nd in the league...

    Dudek, Carragher, Hyppia, Riise, Gerrard, Hammann, and Smicer featured. That's 7 players who played a very significant part in 2005.

    2 of them scored in the final! Dudek Carragher and Gerrard had possibly their greatest games. Riise, Smicer and Hammann all took penatlies.

    Finnan, Kewell, Traore, Baros and Ciise who featured were all Houllier signings.

    Then at Valencia. Players who were present for both the 2001 Champions League Final and "Benitez' best season" of 2004 were

    Canizares, Ayala, Pellegrino, Carboni, Baraja, Aimar, Vicente, Albelda and Juan Sanchez.

    9 players this time.

    I believe these stats show that Benitez worked well with an already very strong squad with both Liverpool and Valencia.

    Strong as they were both challenging for honours in the years before he arrived, and were predominantly the same pool of players.

    @78

    1. I'd jusge it by your last 2 seasons. 2 sackings does not read well. (Technically people may point out he wasn't "Sacked" , the board wanted him out at both clubs they may have agreed mutually to terminate but this would only be after a compensation figure was agreed, otherwise Benitez could have stayed in the job and waited to be sacked to receive full settlement of his contract)

    2. None of the players you have mentioned have yet made an impact on the domestic or international scene. In stark contrast, Arsenal have produced players younger than this in their first team for years. Wilshere the latest example.

    3. Lucky. His two Trophies with Liverpool were won on Penalties. A way of deciding a game that all professionals agree there is an element of luck to.

    4. See above for the players who won trophies in 2001, finished runenrs up in 2002 and subsequently featured in the 2005 ECL Final
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    @81

    1. You have contradicted yourself! Benitez did not get sacked at either club! Now his departure at Liverpool was due to the clowns running the club at the time! At Inter Milan he arrived at an aging squad and was given the impossible task of making them play more attractive, whilst winning everything and with no money to make new signings! Added to this Balotelli was sold without his consent, a squad that was exhaused after a long season and World Cup, and players such as Maicon and Milito who were openly expressing disappointment in not been allowed to transfer to Real Madrid! It was an impossible job!

    2. So you are comparing with Arsenal who have the best youth policy in the whole of England (Maybe the whole of Europe!) Also as I mentioned Rafa revamped the whole youth process at liverpool and it takes time for it to bear fruit. It probably wont be too long before Kelly receives an international callup.

    3. Yes both finals were won on penalties, but I suppose in your mind their route to these finals was all just Rafa been lucky as well? Knocking out Juventus, Chelsea etc was just luck was it?

    4. Finnan, Kewell, Traore, Baros and Ciise who featured were all Houllier signings. They are/were all mediocre players at best. Rafa moulded them into a team that won the Champions League, that was an incredible achievement.

  • Comment number 83.

    @81

    I don't know why I bother sometimes.

    Anyway in terms of squads left - Valencia, fair enough he had a good squad, but they hadn't won anything. It's well known that in his second season there, he asked for players and they gave him none and they finished 5th.

    He won the title in his third season again but they still wouldn't buy him players. His overall squad wasn't great, there wasn't much strength in depth and he asked for players like Eto'o (before moving to Barca), Ronaldo (before going Man Utd), Drogba (before going to Chelsea) and Cafu. Bear in mind the positions they finished before he came - 5th, 3rd, 4th, 9th, 10th and the positions after he left - 7th, 3rd, 4th, 10th, 6th. Seems like he overachieved to me.

    Ok in the Liverpool team there were some decent players who were still in there. But none of them were world class. The rest of the squad was in a very poor state. Smicer himself was very injury prone and very rarely played under Houllier a lot of the time. Gerrard mainly played defensive mid under Houllier and averaged around 7 goals a season or something like that under Houllier whereas it was 18 goals a season under Rafa. Carragher was rarely played in his best position under Houllier and was only played at centre back consistently under Benitez who transformed him into a top centre back.

    In terms of the final itself, Carragher had an outstanding extra time but wasn't very good in the first half. Dudek was fairly sloppy in parts and Gerrard was shocking in the first half. To say these players had their best ever games in that final is a poor statement bar maybe Carragher.

    1. In both 'sackings' it was unfair. Moratti especiall as he never backed him and expected instant results with a new type of play with one of the oldest squads in Europe.

    2. Very unfair, the average age of those players is about 16/17. How many Arsenal players have come through at that age. Wilshere is 19, naturally very gifted and is destined to be a top player. You can't do much if you don't have top players coming through. And as already mentioned, we may well do.

    3. This is an argument. But Benitez and his team gave Dudek and Reina information on the penalty takers. He signed Reina knowing that he is probably the best penalty kick stopper in the world. We didn't play well in the 06 final but we still deserved to win. In the 05 one we beat Monaco (last season's finalists), Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus (won Serie A with players like Buffon, Cannavaro, Nedved and Ibrahimovic) and Chelsea (premier league champions and Carling Cup winners after spending about £80 million in the summer). None of these were lucky. We thoroughly dominated Monaco and Leverkusen, we tore into Juve at home and tactically outhought them away (Capello admitted that Benitez tactically outclassed him - never said by him before apparently) and Chelsea we did the business away and hung on to an early lead at home.

    4. The last two seasons under Houllier as you say you judge managers by, we bought Diao, Diouf, Cheyrou, Kewell finished 5th then 4th and finished 30 points of Arsenal in the title race. Our best players were Hamann, Hyypia (who had had is best days of his career and was slowly falling), Gerrard and Owen (who left at the start of Benitez' first season). Man Utd's best players (bear in mind they were way behind Arsenal and Chelsea) were Ferdinand, Rooney, Giggs, Van Nistelrooy etc. Chelsea's were Terry, Lampard, Makelele, Cech, Drogba, Robben (three arrived when Mourinho came). Arsenal's were Henry, Pires, Vieira, Ljungberg, Campbell, A. Cole (all pretty much at their peak). Even our best players were a lot worse than the other three top teams. And yet Benitez was expected to challenge for the title with these. He had to rebuild his squad to get their. And to rebuild he didn't have the money so he had to sell to buy. A very difficult task.

  • Comment number 84.

    @82

    1. You can't speculate over players "wanting to go to madrid" and you keep naming the age thing. These players were only 3 months older than the team who won the Champions League and Serie A in May!!!

    Benitez was effectively sacked, however it is dressed up, he has stated he didn't wish to leave either club. Therefore the matter was out of his hands, not very mutual by my book.

    2. No, I used Arsenal as an Example. The recent England squad contained just Steven Gerrard as a product of the Liverpool youth system and he was a regular long before Benitez. For the players in that squad who have come to prominance since 2004 (Benitez arrival date) You have Cole of Chelsea, Hart of Shrewsbury, Green of Norwich, Johnson of West Ham, Lescott of WOlves, Baines of Wigan, Dawson of Nottm Forest, Cahill of Aston Villa, Downing of Middlesbrough, Walker of Sheff Utd, Milner of Leeds, Walcott of Southampton, Young of Watford and Rooney of Everton.

    Statistically, since 2004 all these teams and their managers have been better at bringing through English talent than Liverpool. Other teams have also produced foreign National teams with youngsters coming through, such as Fabregas, Macheda, Hitzselsperger etc.

    3. Semi-Final vs Chelsea, the was it in or not goal. Still not proven by technology and really hard to tell even now, 6 years on. If luck is with you, which it was that night also, then the goal is given.

    4. Unfortunately you can never prove what Houllier would have gone on to do had he remained in charge. As proven, it was largely the squad he assembled and afterall, in 2004 he managed to qualify for the Champions League by finishing in the originally allocated league placings, something that Benitez didn't manage as his side came 5th in 2005

  • Comment number 85.

    @83

    It seems we will forever disagree. However your arguements are reasoned and backed up with statistics unlike JamTay1 - @82

    What I can do is respect the views of others, and Benitez will forever divide opinion because of his 6 year stint at Anfield.

  • Comment number 86.

    Personally I'd rather listen to Chico than you any day of the week Dan.

  • Comment number 87.

    84. At 15:44pm on 25th Feb 2011, tomefccam wrote:
    @82

    1. You can't speculate over players "wanting to go to madrid" and you keep naming the age thing. These players were only 3 months older than the team who won the Champions League and Serie A in May!!!

    Benitez was effectively sacked, however it is dressed up, he has stated he didn't wish to leave either club. Therefore the matter was out of his hands, not very mutual by my book.

    2. No, I used Arsenal as an Example. The recent England squad contained just Steven Gerrard as a product of the Liverpool youth system and he was a regular long before Benitez. For the players in that squad who have come to prominance since 2004 (Benitez arrival date) You have Cole of Chelsea, Hart of Shrewsbury, Green of Norwich, Johnson of West Ham, Lescott of WOlves, Baines of Wigan, Dawson of Nottm Forest, Cahill of Aston Villa, Downing of Middlesbrough, Walker of Sheff Utd, Milner of Leeds, Walcott of Southampton, Young of Watford and Rooney of Everton.

    Statistically, since 2004 all these teams and their managers have been better at bringing through English talent than Liverpool. Other teams have also produced foreign National teams with youngsters coming through, such as Fabregas, Macheda, Hitzselsperger etc.

    3. Semi-Final vs Chelsea, the was it in or not goal. Still not proven by technology and really hard to tell even now, 6 years on. If luck is with you, which it was that night also, then the goal is given.

    4. Unfortunately you can never prove what Houllier would have gone on to do had he remained in charge. As proven, it was largely the squad he assembled and afterall, in 2004 he managed to qualify for the Champions League by finishing in the originally allocated league placings, something that Benitez didn't manage as his side came 5th in 2005
    -------------------------------------------------------

    1. Yes they had only aged 3 months in that time, but as mentioned they had lost their most promising young player (Balotelli). Players such as Sneijder, Maicon, Milito, Lucio, Cesar, Eto etc had completed a season where they had played to the end in 3 competitions and then had a World Cup to compete in. The majority arrived back injured or unprepared.

    Benitez didn't want to leave Liverpool (and most of the supporters wanted him to stay) but the American owners wanted him out! Benitez leaving had nothing to do with his performance as manager!

    2. Benitez does not have to bring through English players! Also as stated (repeatably) the youth policy that Rafa revitalised is just starting to bear fruit now. Also to pick just one player on your list, how did Chelsea bring through Cole? Do you mean the player they signed from West Ham or the player they signed from Arsenal???? Also it has to be said that very few of those players are or will be good enough for a top 4 club. As for bringing through non English players Alonso, Insua, Reina to name 3 who became internationals during Rafas reign.

    3. Scraping the barrel here! If it wasn't given as a goal then it would have been a penalty to Liverpool and Chelsea down to 10 men! Also name any team EVER who have won something without having a bit of luck along the way?

    4. Who knows how things would have continued under Houllier? (Who was and is a decent manager who unfortunately suffered greatly with his health whilst Liverpool manager)But Rafa's record both domestically and in Europe is far superior.

  • Comment number 88.

    86. At 16:09pm on 25th Feb 2011, petepostlethwaite wrote:
    Personally I'd rather listen to Chico than you any day of the week Dan.

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    I think you are in a minority there, by the way, Who is Keyser Soze? :)

  • Comment number 89.

    @87

    1. Please come back in May and tell me out of the teams that contest the Champions League Final, how many of their players were involved in Domestic Leagues, Cups, Champions League and the World Cup in 2010. Probably the majority i'd guess. So a void arguement.

    2. Benitez doesn't have to bring in Englsih players, but any player coming through the system for free is a better alternative than blowing millions on players such as Josemi, Nunez, Rieiera, Gonzalez, Pennant, Aquillani etc. There will be no "Bearing of fruit" until these players become first team regulars, and go onto achieve things within the game. Ie Honours and International Caps

    The Cole I was referring to was Carlton, Currently of West Ham a Cheslea academy graduate, and a Benitez transfer target during his time at Liverpool.

    3. Someone asked me about luck, I have now given two prime examples. The alternative to the goal you say? Ask your very own striker Luis Suarez how this one can pan out. :)

    4. Domestically, i'd have to argue. Both only ever recorded a 2nd placed finish as a high point in the league. Houllier won The Fa Cup in 2001, League cup in 2001 and 2003. That is 3 domestic trophies compared to the one of Benitez.

    Time to do it? Houllier 1998-2004 (6 years)
    Benitez 2004 - 2010 (6 years)

  • Comment number 90.

    89. At 16:29pm on 25th Feb 2011, tomefccam wrote:
    @87

    1. Please come back in May and tell me out of the teams that contest the Champions League Final, how many of their players were involved in Domestic Leagues, Cups, Champions League and the World Cup in 2010. Probably the majority i'd guess. So a void arguement.

    2. Benitez doesn't have to bring in Englsih players, but any player coming through the system for free is a better alternative than blowing millions on players such as Josemi, Nunez, Rieiera, Gonzalez, Pennant, Aquillani etc. There will be no "Bearing of fruit" until these players become first team regulars, and go onto achieve things within the game. Ie Honours and International Caps

    The Cole I was referring to was Carlton, Currently of West Ham a Cheslea academy graduate, and a Benitez transfer target during his time at Liverpool.

    3. Someone asked me about luck, I have now given two prime examples. The alternative to the goal you say? Ask your very own striker Luis Suarez how this one can pan out. :)

    4. Domestically, i'd have to argue. Both only ever recorded a 2nd placed finish as a high point in the league. Houllier won The Fa Cup in 2001, League cup in 2001 and 2003. That is 3 domestic trophies compared to the one of Benitez.

    Time to do it? Houllier 1998-2004 (6 years)
    Benitez 2004 - 2010 (6 years)
    ----------------------------------------
    1. Not a void argument. You have taken it out of context. The point I was making was these players were not at their physical peak at the start of the season (Injured, tired etc) This was not Rafa's fault but played a huge part in Inters shaky start to the season.

    2. Fair enough! I forgot that Carlton Cole was called up as a replacement for the last English squad - still another limited player and not really Liverpool class (Or Chelsea class as they got rid of him) He was linked to Liverpool under The Hodgson reign, but then Hodgson thought that Konchesky was a good player!

    Nunez came on a free as part of the Owen transfer, Josemi was for peanuts, Gonzalez was sold at a small profit. Pennant was a disaster fair enough! Aquilani is quality but unfortunately Hodgson loaned him to Juventus (Where he is having a good season). I know that there will be no bearing of fruit till these players are first teamers, but that's my point it takes time! Rafa's youth project will bear fruit for Liverpool over the next decade.

    3. So Benitez was lucky to win Liverpool the Champions League because the final was on penalties and a disputed goal in the semi? Seems very bizaare to me! Yes Liverpool could have missed the penalty, but would have had a huge majority of the game playing against 10 men!

    4. So Rafa getting Liverpool's highest ever domestic points total has been forgotten? Or the two La Liga titals have been forgotten? Because Houllier won a couple of League Cups!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 91.

    Hello everyone...

    Good to see a healthy debate in full flow. I wanted to thank petepostlethwaite #86 for the best comment so far... "Personally I'd rather listen to Chico than you any day of the week Dan".

    Excellent stuff. thanks for the support ;)

    Right. Programme editor is telling me to hurry up. He is hilariously called Michael Jackson... brilliant!

    See you soon

    Bubbles





  • Comment number 92.

    Could you ask Rafa if he would sign my Istanbul 2005 shirt for me if I send it to him? would be a dream come true

  • Comment number 93.

    Good blog. You could ask Rafa 2 very important questions...what did he say to the players at half time in Istanbul?...and what made him decide to grow a goatee beard?

    So your work mate is called Michael Jackson?...When I was at college doing my YTS in carpentry, the man in charge of accounting etc was called Les Dawson.

    Blankety blank

  • Comment number 94.

    @92

    Ha ha best question so far. I'd love Rafa to sign a couple of my things too. That would be awesome.

    @tomefccam
    I can't really see many of your arguments at all. I don't think you fully undertsnad how limited Rafa was at Liverpool in terms of what he wanted to do and the funds he had. I would recommend that you read Paul Tomkins' blog - http://tomkinstimes.com/
    You may need some spare time but have a good look through some of the older posts and you may be enlightened to hear how Benitez' methods do work and how well he did considering some of the circumstances he was under. It's a very interesting read.

  • Comment number 95.

    Dan you really should get Rafa to do a tactical blog on a match.

  • Comment number 96.

    Question for Rafa. If he was offered the Man Utd job would he take it?

  • Comment number 97.

    @94

    Perhaps the greatest trick that Benitez ever played was to turn fans against the owners of every club he has worked for in an attempt to paper over his own shortcomings.

    At Valencia, Liverpool and Inter he was happy enough with each board to shake hands and sign his contract, but as soon as his team fails to perform, it's all of a sudden a problem behind the scenes. Don't attempt to tell me that Benitez was restricted in anyway.

    Benitez inherited Gerrard at the age of 24, the peak of a player who's possibly in the top 3 of Liverpool's greatest ever players.

    Carragher, well he must be pretty special considering how many games he has played at the elite level.

    To inherit these two players was possibly the equivalent of having a £25 million defender and £50+ midfielder at the club.

    Add to this the fact that the Liverpool board sanctioned the signings of the following players:

    £10m on Xabi Alonso
    £6.3m on Fernando Morientes
    £7m on Peter Crouch
    £9m on Dirk Kuyt
    £22m on Fernando Torres
    £18m on Mascherano
    £7m on Pennant
    £12m on Babel
    £6m on Skrtl
    £7m on Dossena
    £19m on Keane
    £8m on Riera
    £18m on Glen Johnson
    £21m on Aquilani

    These are very high transfer figures. Despite the overall profit and loss calculations, how can this man argue that he was not given the funds to succeed.

    There are 7 players there brought in for more than £10 million.

    Plus the Gerrad and Carragher who he inherited. You'd assume he could have made performing team from that rather than the dire finish he led liverpool to last season

  • Comment number 98.

    Ok I'll go through every player. Bear in mind I'm not saying Benitez was perfect in any way, but managers make mistakes but his get pointed out far too much and far too often there is nothing wrong anyway.

    Xabi Alonso - Top player, came to Liverpool because of Benitez. Had a couple of bad seasons and Benitez wanted Barry because of the English quota in the chamipons league and the fact that he is more versatile, has more pace and is a better defensive player. Didn't get him and Alonso then had the season of his life and left for a profit of £20 million which went into paying off debts.

    Fernando Morientes - Bought into bring some class and goals up front. Never materialised and didn't adapt to English football.

    Peter Crouch - Many questioned this signing but turned out to be an important player and scored some good and crucial goals like the winner in the FA cup against Man U and a hat trick at home to Arsenal. Benitez wanted him to stay and offered him a contract but couldn't give him enough to stay on the bench as he was so evidently behind Torres. He then forced his way out.

    Dirk Kuyt - Good signing. Versatile, hard working player whom he mainly played on the right. Had a great season in 08/09 when he got 12 goals and 9 assists in the league.

    Fernando Torres - Many questioned this signing. After all he hadn't got any higher than 14 goals in a season at Atletico Madrid. But Benitez turned him into a world class striker. Had an average of a goal every 2 games under Benitez. Very telling that when he left his average soon dropped to a goals every 3 games overall. Eventually sold for £50 million with a handsome profit.

    Javier Mascherano - Hardly got a game at West Ham but Benitez 'rescued' him and he soon turned out to be a top class defensive midfielder notably dominating Kaka in the 2007 Champions League Final, the year when Kaka won the World Player of the Year. Formed a strong partnership with Alonso in midfield and was a basis for a strong league finish in 08/09. Sold for around £18-20 million after Benitez left.

    Jermaine Pennant - Benitez took a risk with Pennant. Pennant was a second/third choice player behind Daniel Alves who was the preferred option. Turned out to be a mistake.

    Ryan Babel - Looked a good young player with a lot of potential. But he wasted it and didn't work hard enough and was quick to point the finger. Left in January for around £6 million

    Martin Skrtel - No nonsense defender and not a bad one at that. Was a key player in the defence to cover for Agger and put in some good performances. Unfortunately not been at his best recently but still a talented defender.

    Andrea Dossena - A decent enough player with a lovely left foot and some good pace but turned out to be a bad buy and was sold for £4.5 million.

    Robbie Keane - Not really Benitez' fault. He wanted Barry and Keane and had a tactical blueprint for it to work. Barry was first choice and if he only got one he wanted Barry. Rick Parry pressed ahead with the Keane deal despite the fact that the Barry deal looked on edge and in the end Benitez ended up selling him to Tottenham. Was criticised for where he got played for Liverpool and how often he got played and even how he got treated. But he didn't play well enough. Went to Tottenham where Redknapp treated him a lot worse than Benitez did yet somehow gets glossed over by the media.

    Albert Riera - Good player who added a lot in 08/09. A genuine winger who gave us width and balance on that left hand side and had some very good games for us. Sadly let us down in 09/10 when he didn't play anywhere near well enough and then moaned about and left at the end of that season.

    Glen Johnson - Very good attacking full back. The reason we came second in 08/09 and not first was the amount of draws at home. He brought an extra attacking option and the ability to create by bombing up the right hand side. Not sure whether him and the next buy were Benitez options as (not sure if true but is extremely plausible given certain circumstances) he was apparently told to buy from Roma and Portsmouth because they owed us money.

    Alberto Aquilani - Came as a risk and with an injury but a very good player. Very creative player and also one to break down teams with a bit of flair. Certain rumours as to why he wasn't played earlier on in the season when he was fit (only rumours but very relevant if true). Sadly Purslow decided to play football manager and send him out on loan to Juventus who are very keen on keeping him.

  • Comment number 99.

    And to say Benitez wasn't restricted in any way is pure ludicrousness. If you knew half the story you wouldn't go round saying things like that.

    When you have just been so close to winning a title then you need to improve your squad. The fact that net spend in the summer of 2009 is about £0 then you have a problem. Imagine asking your chairman for money to buy players and then he tells you that you can't have anything. You'd be annoyed. That was basically what it was like. We therefore had a squad that was slightly unbalanced because Benitez didn't get half the players that he needed and he then gets criticised when we have our worst injury crisis for years.

    I'm not saying he is faultless and he quite clearly made mistakes in his final season but he was placed under obscene restrictions and much of what went wrong was not his fault.

    I could name loads of bad buys that Ferguson has made. No criticism of Ferguson, all managers make mistakes but you can't just go saying that this shows that he is bad in the transfer market. Veron, Hargreaves, Anderson, Smith, Bebe etc. Just off the top of my head. They cost loads yet turned out or have turned out to be bad buys. Every manager makes mistakes but you can't go listing players that just so happen to be bad. Many of Benitez' mistakes came through having to take risks on second or third choice players because he couldn't afford his first choices that (crucially) his rivals could. For every bad buy that he made there is a good buy. 50% on a lot of second choice players isn't bad in my opinion.

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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