BBC BLOGS - Phil McNulty

Archives for February 2012

Pearce's England captaincy dilemma

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 18:24 UK time, Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Stuart Pearce listed the qualities required and knows the man with all the credentials - but the identity of England's new captain remained shrouded in mystery at Wembley on Monday.

Former coach Fabio Capello, who sent his former assistant a "good luck" text ahead of Wednesday's meeting with the Netherlands, never fully grasped the honour the English attach to the captain's armband.

And those who shared the Italian's refusal to buy into the cult of captaincy would have had a harrowing couple of hours as the subject of John Terry's replacement topped the agenda at caretaker manager Pearce's pre-match media briefing.

Pearce makes no attempt to disguise his emotions about leading his country out as captain - "the greatest honour of my career" - so he was well prepared for the fuss that greeted his decision to delay the coronation until the day of the game.

He denied it had been a political decision, insisting this has always been his policy since his days as Manchester City manager and also as England Under-21s coach.

Read the rest of this entry

Young strikers look to fill Rooney void

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 17:14 UK time, Monday, 27 February 2012

Wayne Rooney's sore throat is an inconvenience for himself, Manchester United and Stuart Pearce - but it also offers the caretaker manager the opportunity to find a remedy to a more pressing England ailment.

The absence of Rooney, compounded by the ankle injury which has ruled Aston Villa's Darren Bent out of the rest of the season, shines a harsh spotlight on the striking resources that may or may not be available to England at the start of Euro 2012 this summer.

As England's players gathered at their Hertfordshire headquarters to start serious preparations for Wednesday's Wembley friendly against the Netherlands, the list of orthodox strikers would almost read like a "who's that?" of attacking talent when presented to the world's elite group of defenders.

Read the rest of this entry

Arsenal must make this the norm, Spurs the exception

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 21:28 UK time, Sunday, 26 February 2012

At Emirates Stadium

Arsene Wenger’s stubborn resistance to the voice of the masses has been listed among his faults during Arsenal’s plunge into reduced circumstances this season.

Wenger has often appeared alone with his principles amid calls for changes in personnel, policy and even the manager himself in some cases as Arsenal’s stretch without a trophy extends to seven years.

Even those who argue against a change in Arsenal manager have voiced the view that the current Arsenal manager needs to change.

And yet that stubborn streak, that belief that what he is doing is right, was a compelling force for Arsenal’s good in a north London derby that took all logic and shook it until the bits dropped off.

Read the rest of this entry

FA Cup is alive and well in Stevenage

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 20:44 UK time, Sunday, 19 February 2012

At The Lamex Stadium

From the moment Harry Redknapp arrived at the Lamex Stadium to the applause of Stevenage supporters and high fives from a man trapped inside a giant bear's outfit, this was a day with an old-fashioned FA Cup feel about it.

The circus was in town and a giant big top festooned with stars and stripes towered over one end of the compact stadium Stevenage hoped would be home to an FA Cup fifth round shock against Tottenham.

To call this goalless draw a contender for the greatest show on earth would stretch the elasticity of reality to breaking point - but there was more than enough in the ingredients to keep the romantics happy.

It was the sort of occasion that reassures the waverers that the FA Cup is alive and well. It was certainly thriving along Broadhall Way on a crisp Sunday lunchtime.

Read the rest of this entry

Suarez misses chance to move on

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 21:25 UK time, Saturday, 11 February 2012

At Old Trafford

The romantics hoped Luis Suarez would end it with a handshake. The flaw in this theory is that, at least between Manchester United and Liverpool, the age of romance is long since dead.

In truth not much romance exists anyway, and certainly less since Liverpool's striker received an eight-game ban after the FA found him guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra at Anfield in October.

But the fervent hope of most observers was that the pair could at least limit further damage from the saga by observing the formalities of the Premier League's traditional pre-match handshake.

Read the rest of this entry

Wembley feels Redknapp's presence

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 17:48 UK time, Thursday, 9 February 2012

At Wembley

Harry Redknapp may have been in his trademark pose, conducting interviews out of an open car window many miles away - but in spirit he was almost in the room with the Football Association's delegation at Wembley.

Fabio Capello's decision to quit as England manager brought the world's media to FA headquarters as chairman David Bernstein led the response with a detailed timeline of four hours on Wednesday that ended with the Italian walking away from his £6m-a-year post.

And throughout what was a measured response, Tottenham manager Redknapp played the part of the elephant in the room.

Read the rest of this entry

New boss, new England?

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 21:36 UK time, Wednesday, 8 February 2012

As Fabio Capello clears his desk at Wembley, the Italian's successor as England coach will discover that he has left a congested in-tray behind him.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp is at the front of a short queue of contenders to replace Capello following his resignation at the conclusion of a chain of events that moved rapidly after the Football Association board stripped John Terry of the captaincy.

And when the FA's new man is appointed, there will be no time for gentle introductions or a period of acclimatisation with England preparing for Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine in June and matters of pressing urgency to be resolved.

Read the rest of this entry

Suarez makes return but Liverpool continue to misfire

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 08:05 UK time, Tuesday, 7 February 2012

At Anfield

Harry Redknapp could not make it but Fabio Capello did. Luis Suarez, the man all Liverpool supporters came to see, arrived late but still had enough time for another brush with authority and headlines.

The stories and sub-plots proved more intriguing than a match that failed to deliver on its promise of entertainment as Liverpool and Tottenham played out a 0-0 draw that did not serve the purposes of either side.

If England coach Capello was seeking a low profile away from his public disagreement with the Football Association over its decision to depose his captain John Terry, he failed to find it at Anfield.

Read the rest of this entry

Old habits die hard for Manchester United

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 19:36 UK time, Sunday, 5 February 2012

At Stamford Bridge

The great old champions often play from memory in moments of crisis, recalling the spirit that brought success to defy the odds and defeat. It all came flooding back to Manchester United for 40 minutes at Chelsea.

If Manchester City need reminding, and it is unlikely they do, that they take their eyes off their neighbours from Old Trafford at their peril in these decisive Premier League months, then let events at Stamford Bridge be their lesson.

Sir Alex Ferguson rails at the very suggestion that this is not a vintage United side, not a team that stands true comparison with the previous great monuments to silverware that he has assembled.

The fact that they are current Premier League champions adds weight to his argument, but study personnel, performances and current Champions League pedigree and it is a truth he may have to accept, even if it is done with fierce reluctance.

Yet when United drag themselves back from a three-goal deficit as they did in the second half at Stamford Bridge, they still present all the evidence needed that City - or anyone else for that matter - will have to drag this title from their dead hand.

Read the rest of this entry

Terry saga gives Capello captain dilemma

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 09:17 UK time, Friday, 3 February 2012

The end of John Terry's first tenure as England captain came at the conclusion of a brutally brief 12-minute meeting with coach Fabio Capello at Wembley.

When Capello stripped Terry of the captaincy in February 2010 after claims of an alleged relationship with the ex-girlfriend of England colleague Wayne Bridge, it was accepted the Italian was making a footballing judgement as opposed to a moral one.

Capello clearly felt Terry's credibility as captain had been damaged and his ability to lead - and perhaps more importantly unify - England's squad was beyond him.

Read the rest of this entry

Mancini must find Manchester City's missing spark

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 00:53 UK time, Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Roberto Mancini - as he waved Yaya Toure off to the Africa Cup of Nations - declared he was confident that Manchester City would win the Premier League if they were still top at the end of January.

Mancini's mission has been duly accomplished even without the influential Ivorian as the title race moves into February, but only just and with confidence jolted by the 1-0 defeat against Everton on a raucous night at Goodison Park.

City's season of such promise is hardly crumbling as one glance at the table will confirm and their current league position would have been accepted gratefully had it been offered to the Italian in August.

There is no doubt, however, that City are suffering their first serious uncertainties in a month that has seen them exit the FA Cup and Carling Cup and have their lead at the top of the table over Manchester United reduced to goal difference.

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.