BBC BLOGS - Phil McNulty

Archives for February 2009

Parry loses power battle

Phil McNulty | 10:24 UK time, Friday, 27 February 2009

Liverpool's rumour mill has been spinning wildly with claims about a big-name departure from Anfield - now we know it has been a case of right rumour wrong man.

Rafael Benitez was the name in the frame in the hours before Liverpool's Champions League victory against Real Madrid on Wednesday, a suggestion met with wide-eyed incredulity from the manager.

Now we know it will be chief executive Rick Parry going through the exit door at the end of the season after the latest twist in the public power battle being waged inside Anfield.

My understanding is that talks over the past fortnight have led to a "mature" acceptance that Parry and combative American co-owner Hicks' philosophies are so apart that they will never be reconciled.

One of the pair had to go - and in the current climate it was never going to be Hicks.

Read the rest of this entry

England's elite in pole position

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 22:01 UK time, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The English elite were all handed hazardous assignments in the last 16 of the Champions League - but Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool have established a solid platform to move forward into the quarter-finals.

Qualification is still a work in progress for all four, but there is now a clear opportunity for the Premier League to take up half the allocation of places in the last eight of Europe's elite competition.

Liverpool take top honours for an outstanding 1-0 win against Real Madrid in The Bernabeu, but there was real merit in the work of the rest of the so-called "Big Four" as they once again attempt to place their imprint on the latter stages of the tournament.

Not a goal conceded at home or away and a lead in three out of four ties tells the story of a job well done after the first round of games.

Read the rest of this entry

Hiddink's grounds for optimism

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 16:03 UK time, Saturday, 21 February 2009

Chelsea's group hug at the final whistle was a symbolic gesture to silence talk of a divided camp - of more interest to new coach Guus Hiddink will be a display that showed real substance still exists at Stamford Bridge.

It is fanciful to claim Hiddink's new charges produced compelling evidence to suggest Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United face a renewed threat to their supremacy, or that his brief reign will bring a guarantee of silverware.

The air of invincibilty Chelsea carried for so long has been stripped away and they are still clearly a team in need of renovation.

But a victory at Villa Park is an outstanding start and there was enough on offer, particularly during a flowing first half, to give Hiddink genuine optimism for his temporary tenure.

Read the rest of this entry

Moyes & O'Neill lead by example

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 09:54 UK time, Friday, 13 February 2009

Chelsea's sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari briefly sent bookmakers into overdrive as a list of exotic foreign names was produced before the temporary appointment of Guus Hiddink.

Two names that never appeared near the top of any odds were Everton manager David Moyes and his Aston Villa counterpart Martin O'Neill - a tribute to the stability of their positions but also inexplicable given their proven abilities.

O'Neill crept into some quarters at 33/1 and Moyes at 40/1, but might they not have actually been just as suited to doing the job at Stamford Bridge as Hiddink?

Former Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini, Bayern Munich's Jurgen Klinsmann, Croatia coach Slaven Bilic and Spartak Moscow's Michael Laudrup were placed ahead of both in the betting.

Is it because they are not fashionable or showbiz enough for the top four? Is it that the default position for many clubs is to simply reach for the familiar list of foreign names when two prime candidates are actually on the doorstep?

Mysterious, but just perfect for two great institutions of English football who meet in the FA Cup fifth round at Goodison Park on Sunday.

Read the rest of this entry

Let's celebrate Moore and Beckham

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 22:30 UK time, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

David Beckham has split opinions as often as defences in a recent nomadic existence that has taken him from the Bernabeu to Beverly Hills and back to Europe with AC Milan.

So when he matched Bobby Moore's tally of 108 England caps - the record for an outfield player - by coming on against Spain in Seville, it was the signal for another debate centred around one the country's great sporting polemics.

Is Beckham worthy of matching Moore, still the only England captain to lift the World Cup?

It is a debate that must be set in its proper context. In the modern days of more regular internationals, 108 is only a number and we are comparing two players who operated in vastly different eras in different positions.

And unless and until Beckham wins the World Cup with England, Moore's iconic status and reputation will always be preserved in the more precious metal of the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Read the rest of this entry

Capello determined to tame Spain

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 13:10 UK time, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Fabio Capello does not deal in the cheap currency of hype and jingoism - so when he declares he has "big confidence" as England prepare to face Euro 2008 holders Spain in Seville he can be taken at his word.

If a similar bold profession had been made 12 months ago, it would have treated with scepticism or as a bid by Capello to talk up England's squad.

Now, faith in the Italian's iron discipline and tactical adaptability is so strong that it is unlikely many will take issue with Capello's belief that England can flourish against the team ranked number one in the world by Fifa.

Read the rest of this entry

Scolari fails to step out of Jose's shadow

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 17:38 UK time, Monday, 9 February 2009

If anyone ever doubted that Roman Abramovich still takes more than a passing interest in the affairs of Chelsea Football Club, then the brutal sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari on Monday provides the most compelling evidence to the contrary.

The sudden dismissal of Scolari just seven months after he was paraded in a barrage of flashbulbs and a blizzard of optimism in a plush Cobham hotel in Surrey has all the hallmarks of Abramovich's refusal to settle for second best.

Chelsea's hierarchy smiled in satisfaction back on that sunny July day when "Big Phil" charmed allcomers with his sense of humour and clever command of the English language. Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari

Abramovich was absent - but his fingerprints were all over the appointment of the man he wanted to bring the Samba touch to sterile Stamford Bridge.

It all seems an age away now as the coach who won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002, and looked like he would win everything in sight in the opening weeks of the season, is sacked with a ruthlessness that might shock even seasoned Chelsea observers.

Read the rest of this entry

White Hart pain for Wenger

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 06:25 UK time, Monday, 9 February 2009

Harry Redknapp and Arsene Wenger are aiming at contrasting goals as the Premier League campaign enters its final straight - and a swift lesson in body language during the north London derby deadlock told you who was more confident of hitting the target.

Redknapp's eyes are solely on salvation for Spurs after being employed to mount a rescue job at White Hart Lane, while failure to reach the Champions League is an option Wenger cannot afford to contemplate.

White Hart Lane offers almost a "reach out and touch" experience when it comes to examining Premier League managers at close quarters under intense pressure - and what an education it was.

Read the rest of this entry

Benitez relishes vital victory

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 23:14 UK time, Sunday, 1 February 2009

Rafael Benitez looked as satisfied as any man would after recording a major triumph on the pitch and moving closer to securing a significant victory off it.

Indeed, Benitez was so pleased with Liverpool's victory against Chelsea - a win that re-ignited hopes of a first title since 1990 - that he even happily refused to discuss his new contract.

Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett were at Anfield, although pointedly sitting well apart, to broker a deal on the proposed four-and-a-half year extension to Benitez's Anfield tenure.


Read the rest of this entry

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.