Mails: This is Pogba’s season; battle of the sexes

Date published: Sunday 30th July 2017 6:10

Excellent work, people. Same again for tomorrow?…

Pog’s life
Just wondering who the masses are most excited about watching in the forthcoming season? It’s a tad too early for predictions (Utd to win the league on GD from Spurs) but in terms of players, and in true Fast Show Style, this year…I will be mostly watching…Paul Pogba.

A full pre-season behind him, growing into the shirt and a desire to fulfil his destiny as the heir to Keano’s throne of most complete midfielder in the league. He enjoys the game with a languid style, yet a drive that makes you wonder how the kids in his playground must have stood with arms crossed and mouths agape, watching as he ran halfway home and slammed the ball off the left-hand jumper and in. Watch one of his lung-busting 60 yard runs, with 6 men hanging off him, and try not to smile.

In terms of other teams, I have my eye on Dele Alli. This will be his 3rd season in the Premier League and last season he was phenomenal, coming from deep unannounced and tearing up the Second Season Syndrome handbook. I am not sure how he betters that; a similar season would do him quite nicely.

Speaking of the Fast Show and comedic input, you know it’s a Friday in preseason when Gregory Whitehead gets printed. Dimiflop Berbaflop’s hat-trick must have really scarred that guy for life.
Garey Vance, MUFC


Why clubs persist with youth development
The reason clubs persist with youth development is in the hope of unearthing the holy grail of a fantastic youth team bringing forth a generation of top quality players that all grace the club at the same time.

The 26 May is a significant date to both Arsenal and Manchester United. 10 years apart both clubs managed to win significant silverware in the dying minutes of games calling upon homegrown talent.

Arsenal’s Anfield heroes included the likes of Tony Adams, Michael Thomas, Paul Davis, Paul Merson and dear old David Rocastle, while a decade later United would win the Champions League calling upon Scholes, Beckham, Butt, Giggs and the Nevillers.

Through youth development both clubs conjured up arguably the greatest moments in their respective histories. Let’s not forget Arsenal hadn’t won a league since the double year of 1971, while United hadn’t been European champions for an even longer period.

Would these clubs achieved these feats without investment in youth projects? Possibly, but it would’t have been nearly as much fun.

I couldn’t tell you the date that finally confirmed our status as the first invincibles since PNE but 26 May 1989 is etched into my memory for a lifetime. Nick Hornby called it the greatest moment ever and he was right too – a goal scored by one of our own.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


…To give a simple answer to Brian’s query, UEFA Champions League squad rules. Due to the need to name a minimum of 4 club trained players in your 25 man squad the clubs are fighting a battle to make sure they don’t carry dead weight on their squads. I think the poor performance in the last few years in Europe has woken the clubs up to the need to actually keep hold of the club trained players of quality and try to develop them as the best squad normally wins out versus the best first XI in a season packed with 50+ fixtures a year. Here’s a link to the squad rules, it’s page 40 if you like reading contracts.
Ade (long time reader, first time contributor), PTFC


…Dear Brian, if you have a quick look, just at Wikipedia, you will see that Man City’s academy has quite a proud history, plus quite a few notable graduates – some of whom have played for City regularly, some of whom go on to other clubs. The other part of that history is about the way that our academy integrates the club with the local community.

Since the new facilities were constructed, the work of City’s academy within the local community has expanded considerably. As one of the two biggest clubs in the area, with the most resources, surely it is good to see City investing these resources and their expertise in coaching and development in the local area, in a professional and organised way, in world class facilities? Lots of these kids are also allowed to play for their schools and other club sides if they have the time and energy…

A Man Utd supporting mate of mine has two sons at the City Academy. One of them can hardly walk, he is so young, but aspires to be a goalkeeper, bless him. I’m sure my mate would rather be taking them to Utd, but he has to put up with them wearing City’s kit because Utd, despite all their money, don’t have kits for them. Or training facilities. Or a team for them to play in. Despite their huge annual turnover.

Most of the kids who attend and/or play for one of City’s numerous youth teams will never play for City. In fact, most of them will never play professional football at all. But they will be given something to occupy their minds, give them confidence, and to motivate them to become responsible, healthy human beings.

Why are City bothering with that? Can’t think of a reason. You are right – the money would be better spunked up the wall.

Some of these kids will take the world class coaching they have had, and go to play for other clubs around the UK, having been trained from a young age in a way clubs with less resources would be unable to provide. Worthless.

Some will go to these clubs for free! For shame. At least some might be transferred for a fee – probably a pitiful return on an investment that could have been better spent on Masal Bugduv or Dembele Dembele, bit still…

Despite the bullshit in the press, the odd one, for example the clutch on the pitch and bench in the recent 4-1 friendly win over Madrid, will be within the 25 players that make up the club’s first team squad this season. Even if we do sell Iheanacho (who wasn’t in the squad to face Madrid.)

The new facilities have been open for seven years. So, City have brought in a few half-cooked teenagers to go along with the kids who we have trained from scratch, admittedly. Nice little mix, the English contingent of which, along with Chelsea’s trainees, did a decent enough job for the various national sides this summer. Waste of time and money, clearly.

Is it really so ridiculous for a team that aspires to win the Premier League and Champions League to not have a first team full of this first generation of teenagers, produced in the last seven years? Is it a sign that City are wasting their time that in seven years, they haven’t produced this team of world beating super-human teenagers? Is the fact that our first 15-20 players has not yet been fully infiltrated by these kids, proof that their route to the first team is blocked, and hence that they will never be given the chance to play for City?

No. It isn’t. If the other clubs who aspire to achieve what City aspire to achieve had a team full of teenagers developed in the last seven years, and weren’t spending rafts of cash on new signings, you might have a point.

However, barring a few notable exceptions at clubs who have been doing what City are trying to do at the top end of the game for much longer than we have, they aren’t.

If the young players trained by City and Chelsea would be receiving the same quality of footballing education that these clubs are providing, you may have a point. However, the summer’s ground breaking international successes at youth level suggest that you don’t.
Ben, MCFC, Manchester


…In response to Brian’s question of why do the big clubs persist with youth development the answer is simple: at worst breaks even or at best makes a profit. Chelsea had 38 players out on loan last season and although it is not reported like transfer fees there is often a loan fee for most of those players. I think Swansea are paying them a few million to borrow Tammy Abraham, and I’m guessing Brighton are paying a seven figure fee to borrow Izzy Brown. Chelsea benefit as if either player is good enough there is a small chance they could break into the first team, or more likely be sold on for a reasonable amount of money, making the club money to buy more established players for the first team from elsewhere.

For Man City investing £200m is a one off cost and four Kyle Walkers. If they produce one or two players that go into the first team that is offsetting half the cost of setting up the facility if £50m is the going rate for a first team player these days. The running costs will be considerably lower and are probably covered by loan fees and sales of the talent they produce.

The rules on academies mean that Category One clubs can pick up players from smaller clubs for nominal fees, so the odds of picking up talent and either utilising it or making a profit from it are stacked heavily in their favour.

So in summary Brian it all comes down to money.
David Williams


…In response to Brian – Why do clubs persist with youth development?

It is precisely because, as you say, football is a business. If you understand the concepts of fixed costs and variable costs, this strategy makes a lot of sense to the big football clubs

The fixed costs are one time investments, usually amortized over a long period of time. Yes, the facility may cost $200 million to build, but you do not spend the same amount every year. You build the facilities, grounds, equipment etc once. Additionally a good portion of fixed costs are common to the first team I would presume, so they occur in any case.

The variable costs to train and support 50-100 odd youth players hardly is significant. If a school can feed and house children and pay teachers, surely football clubs spend a few million on year on variable costs on kids and coaches.

The payoff from well respected academy can reap significant ROI. To recoup a fixed cost of say even $500M, the club has to sell 10 players at $50M each. 10 players over a 10 year period. Assume 50 kids a year graduate through the academy. 10 / 500 = 2% of the players needs to be not even world class, but at a John Stones level.

In any case, the clubs sell much greater than 2% of their graduates to a host of European and Football League clubs for a good sized chunk of money. So in reality, they are already recouping their investment. The brand value of a good academy already sets a base price.

And you just need 1 Ronaldo or Messi or Neymar from a pool for 500 graduates over 10 years to individually provide a ROI much greater than all your investments, adding intangibles like Marketing, Increasing supporter base, etc

So, its a no brainer really.

Champak, USA


Battle of the sexes
I’d like to share a little anecdote if I may.

Despite being English, I spent a few years playing for a local hurling side in Switzerland (for those who don’t know it, google it, it’s a great sport). Anyhoo, hurling clubs in Europe are thin on the ground, with even fewer players (hence why an Englishman got a game at all) and this meant that, on occasion meant that clubs would play a female player amongst the lads.

So it was that I came to be playing full back in a tournament game marking a young Irish lady. I had been playing maybe a year, she had been playing maybe all her life, including having played to a decent level in Ireland I believe. I was not very good – she was very good. Physically I was taller, probably just faster, I’d like to say stronger but perhaps not. Anyway, ten minutes later she had scored a hat trick against me and left me looking foolish on multiple occasions. This was of course the source of many jokes at my expense, but to my mind it just clearly illustrates that whether male or female, if you are good at that sport, then you are good – and if you aren’t, then you aren’t.

The main reason I share this anecdote is to illustrate to Alex, LCFC why I would expect that his team of Sunday league cloggers would probably not do very well against England lionesses – because ultimately, technical ability and talent does tell and the difference between a professional and a non-professional is much wider than any amateur would like to admit. That said, put that same team of professional women against a team of professional men (of whatever age) and suddenly the technical gap closes and physical prowess then does make more a difference (as the match against the U-18 side demonstrates).

However to say that he finds it “…difficult to accept that women get paid to play football and get to play at a World Cup…” – wow. I don’t even know where to start with that one. Seriously Alex – read that sentence back to yourself, and sit and have a long hard think, and when you’re ready, you can e-mail the mailbox with your apology.
Terry Hall, Switzerland (Does the same logic apply to female athletes at the Olympics..? And I’m not even going to mention the Paralympics…oh wait I did)


…Seriously, I had to google eyebleach after reading Alex (LCFC – Champions of …. oh, damn it) mail. Comparing Women’s football to men’s based on who will beat who is just moronic. I suppose Alex doesn’t watch Serena Williams for that same reason or any womans athletics. Hold on, we can apply the same moronic reasoning to following:

– No point in watching the lower weight lifting categories either
– Dont get me started on the Paralympics!
– Welterweight / Featherweight Boxing… HAHA if its not heavy weight Alex wont watch it. That Mayweather fella cant pull a crowed like David Haye

Put simply, competing to be the best in your class in a strong competition is what matters. The rest is marketing. Therefore up and coming sports or competitions that were not taking seriously in the past due to sexism will struggle to gain viewers as they need to compete with very wealthy sports. A lot of why we find something entertaining is because of the fancy graphics and adverts we see and not purely on the quality of the sport
Mohammed K, London


…Alex, it’s quite simple my friend. You invest the same amount of time and money into these girls as they boys have since the age of 4 and then see what quality of play they achieve then. Think about the recent examples of the Irish(Football) & American woman(hockey) that had to stage walk outs to get ¼ of the funding the men do. Your attitude is of a wealthy kid who went to the best private schools who wonders how the kid born in the ghetto can’t achieve the same results.

Think about it. That’s not PC, just the reality of our world.



…Alex (LCFC – Champions of …. oh, damn it), fine work sir.

Moaning about “PC Nonsense” and getting told to think and say certain things, shortly after stating, “If you think the game you saw was of a better standard than a premier league game, you are wrong.”

You’re either a troll or a walloper.
Doug, Glasgow


…Re: Alex LCFC and women’s football: If crowds are attracted by quality, how did Coldplay manage to sell out Wembley?

Reinoud, Cercle Brugge KSV


I’m only going to address two of the points made by Alex LCFC because of the whole, ‘Calling me small minded?! You’re just too open minded!’ debate bores me.

…Firstly, it’s really not that simple, Alex. In the mid-nineties, there was something called the Pepsi challenge. Pepsi ran a blind taste test between Pepsi and Coke. They found that most people preferred the taste of Pepsi but, in spite of this, Coke held a lionshare of the market. People said, and believed, they preferred Coke. They actually preferred Pepsi. It worried Coke so much they invented a new Coke, blind taste tested it and found people preferred new Coke to Pepsi and old Coke. Announcing the new Coke was a PR disaster. It was rejected by the masses because people believed, or thought they believed, old coke was better. You see, marketing has a huge amount of impact on what people think of a product.

Secondly, the question isn’t ‘do i have to watch it and say its good?’ The question is, have you ever watched it?
Liam Gabriel Hoskins (I prefer the taste of Coke…or do I?) AFC


The lone voice agreeing with Alex LCFC
Sorry, but had to say that Alex was wrong…

The USA women’s team, number one in the world, was beaten by a Dallas under 15s boys team 5-2. Yup, a boys team and not a national team either.

Unfortunately this sums up the women’s football game. Lacking skill, especially ball control, football nous, pace and stamina. Someone suggested in an earlier email box that women should play on smaller pitches, which I thought was weird, at the time. But after watching another Euro 2017 game realize he was onto something.

Some women’s sports do offer attractive, reasonably skilled and competitive games that are watchable – tennis comes to mind. Sure, the top female would get beaten by quite a low ranking makle, but the games are watchable. In football, it appears the women’s game is so far off a local boys outfit can take apart the world champions.

It needs some sort of revamp to take it to another level.
Paul McDevitt


Come in, No.9
I’ve no idea why Lucas is so bothered about losing his squad number.

Eduardo, Merse, Podolski, Suker, and loads of others I can’t be bothered looking up wore the number 9 – it’s jinxed I tell yers!

And before some smart arse writes in to say that Merson wore the number 10, as someone did when I made the point about Merse before, I know that but Merse wore the number 9 in his final seasons when the great man joined us from Inter and took his squad number.

Spending £50m on a striker and giving him that number is plain stupid – give the number to Wilshere – he’s always injured anyway.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Mourinho moan
Firstly to avoid the need to scroll down , I am a Liverpool fan but this is in no way a rant at United , to further emphasize that they are the biggest club in England in terms of titles ( our greatest managers bread and butter) fan base , revenue etc. In fact ( not a Rafa one) I have a grudging respect for them and genuinely enjoy our rivalry as without rivalries where would the beautiful game be.

But for f*ck’s sake can that self anointed special one stop being given so many column inches when all he does is spout rubbish. I am away in the Far East and have tried to avoid my daily fix of 365 but basis it’s transfer season have relented to keep up with the latest. Now to be fair I didn’t open the link but did Jose say’ certain clubs are spending too much on players”. Is this the same manager who basically changed the face of English football when Chelski spent about a billion roubles on Essien, Drogba, Geremi , Carvalho , Duff etc. Who last year broke the transfer record by spending 90m on Pogba and has spent 75m plus on Lukaku this summer, and who knows may bid a billion dollars for Bale.

United as one of the top ten global sporting franchises are entitled to spend whatever they like but is he referring to PSGs apparent willingness to spend 196m euros on Neymar. That’s just sour grapes and another gripe at United board , but didn’t they back him to the tune of 250m last year and possibly similar this year. Please shut him up.

On the FFP bit , I wrote a few months ago about how on earth was anyone complying .I think PSGs alleged bid explains it. 100m up front to stay within the rules and then20m a year for 5 years. Now we all know transfers are paid in installments but basis clubs are now mortgaging their futures due to potential TV money when subscriptions are actually dropping surely this has a whiff of Risdale and future gate receipts being spent.

This bubble is going to burst mark my words , good luck to all for next season.
DL, LFC , Geneva (well, Langkawi).


Spurs’ finances
Dear John, some points on your assessment of Spurs’ financial situation:

Firstly, the valuation of a company has nothing to do with how much it can spend.

Joe Lewis does not personally own Spurs, the investment company ENIC (which is owned by Lewis and Levy) owns Spurs, which is very different. Spurs spend the money they generate as a business, not Joe Lewis’ personal money. Even if Joe Lewis did personally own Spurs, FFP rules mean that he cannot pump his own personal money into the club as Abramovich etc. have done in the past at other clubs.

Spurs’ turnover is not over £300 million pounds as you stated. The most recent accounts showed our turnover to be £210 million. That’s the sixth highest in the league. We’re £92 million behind the team in 5th, Liverpool. Man Utd’s turnover is more than double ours.

Chelsea’s most recent reported wage bill was £224m. Liverpool’s was £208m. Man Utd’s was £232m. Those clubs pay more in wages than Spurs earn in total, so no, we’re not able to pay those kinds of wages but choosing not to. We couldn’t do it even if we spent every single penny we earned on wages!

We could just about match Arsenal and Man City’s wage bills which are just under £200m, but I don’t think even Levy is clever enough to stretch the £10-15m left over to cover all the other operating costs of a Premier League football club.

There is no Spurs wages myth. Spurs have the sixth highest turnover, the sixth highest wage bill, and spend within their means (there’s no secret stash of cash, or vast profits every year that they’re refusing to spend). The only myths are thinking that a person’s personal wealth, or a high company valuation, automatically means a business / football club can spend whatever it wants.
Edward, THFC, London


Nature v nurture II
Alex G, My mail was long enough as it was without raising and addressing every possible exception but I’ll do my best to answer the specific points you’ve raised.

1. defines meritocratic as “an elite group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent”. I think that covers that one.

2. Of course natural talent is hard to define; I would define it as the potential maximum level of performance a player could achieve, if this player was maximally developed in all aspects (which has probably never happened in practice – Cristiano Ronaldo is probably close though).

3. I agree many talented youth players fail to deliver what was expected (and vice-versa, many unheralded youth players go on to forge surprisingly impressive careers). However when looking at global, multi-decade trends it’s better to focus on the averages rather than the outliers.

4. Again for reasons of length my mail focused on players’ performance, rather than team performance; multi-decade trends, and the pace of innovations, both tactically and behind the scenes, is a subject that deserves proper treatment (hopefully from someone more knowledgeable than me). I am not saying the number of high-level, outstanding games last year was higher or lower than any other year; I am saying I think the average level of individual player performances has steadily increased over the years. The speed, skill, movement and athleticism of modern premier league players is really amazing to watch

5. I’m not sure what your point was with the rugby comparison, although I agree football can learn a lot from the way rugby is run – not least how the country’s interests seem to take priority over the clubs (with the possible exception of France). Although if you felt more strongly about your club than your country I think it’s reasonable to be unhappy about this; I guess it’s difficult to keep everyone happy.

6. England invested a lot of money into the youth set-up a few years back, which has been reflected in the very impressive recent results. Why England didn’t do this before, whether they can keep this going, and whether this can be translated to the senior men’s team remains to be seen.

7. While the best coaches do cost the most money and England’s coaching set-up will be better than Indonesia’s for the foreseeable future, the crux of my argument was that the gap is narrowing, as the low-hanging fruit has been picked. Basically, it’s easier to improve from terrible to good than it is to improve from good to really great. For example, it probably took a lot of money, experimentation and creative, intelligent nutritionists to design the first nutrition program tailored specifically to professional footballers. Now you can google it and get 20+ examples. While you probably can’t get the 100% optimised plan for free online, you can probably get one that’s at least 80% optimal; that’s why Indonesia can steadily close the gap on England in terms of developing individual players, and why the likelihood of an Indonesian player making the Ballon d’Or longlist should increase over time.

8. Finally, Alex asks whether a Premier League full of Harlem Globetrotters should be considered a good thing, at least by the people of the UK. I’m not from the UK, so that’s not for me to decide. I would argue that the benefits of having all these great players in a stadium near you, playing on TV at convenient times for you to watch and often for a team you grew up supporting is really fantastic, and probably under-appreciated by those who have never had it any different – the turnout of fans in Asia, Australia and North America to see these players take part in meaningless pre-season games shows how much it means to those who don’t have that opportunity. At the same time, you can’t put a price on tradition and the deep connection devoted fans feel to their local club, and I’m sure for some people losing this connection is not worth the higher standard of football on show. Maybe you could sort this out with a referendum? Sorry, couldn’t resist!

Got a bone to pick with a fella who emailed in a few weeks ago.

There was a Bournemouth fan who sent a lovely mail about his routine when going to the match, only for some pompous arse to give him a kicking and say it sounded sh*t.

Well it wasn’t sh*t, it was great.

I love this site more than life itself, but there’s seldom any mention of people’s experience inside the stadium. Away trip to Elland Road? Tell us about it. Long queue for a pint? Fill us in. Shit pie in Wetherby Services? I’m all ears. More of that sort of thing.

On an NUFC front it’s been an interesting summer. Impossible to tell how our signings will turn out. Lejuene has looked the business in pre season against week opposition, Murphy ticks every imaginable box with the added bonus that he supports the club, but its Mikel Merino that’s set pulses racing. He’s raw but with a bit of love from Rafa he could be an incredibly astute signing and a major upgrade on what we have.

In the stands there has been much consternation from certain section of the support about a rainbow NUFC pride flag that is set to make an appearance at SJP this season. I think it’s a fantastic idea. We’ve made excellent progress on kicking racism out of the game and its about time homophobia followed suit. If this flag helps one lad on the pitch or in the stands feel more comfortable at the match then ultimately its been worthwhile.



Big in Botswana
Hello. I have a question for all of the East African F365 readers (although anyone else can answer if they know).

I have just completed a wonderful overland trip from Zimbabwe through Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania and am now sitting by the side of the Indian Ocean in Zanzibar. During this time I saw many amazing things from the superlative Victoria falls to magnificent wildlife and outrageously friendly people. However, one thing still surprised me and that this the prevalence of football shirts.

From my unscientific sampling the top 5 in the region are:
> =5th – Real Madrid / Barcelona / Bayern Munich
> 4th – Liverpool
> 3rd – Chelsea
> 2nd – Manchester United
> But 1st, by a considerable margin – Arsenal

Apart from demonstrating the global reach of the English Premier League, my question is why are Arsenal so popular? I’m a Gooner, so was delighted to be wearing my shirt amongst so many like-minded East Africans, but can anyone explain how and why this is the case?

Must rush now. Time for my afternoon swim in the gloriously warm water.

Phil Lewis


Keep trying, City
Apparently, “Pep Guardiola says [Man City] will try to sign central defender”. Well, they have been trying for the last 4 summers and they have only managed to get Mangala, Otamendi and Stones, so maybe they need to try a bit harder.

Alex Stokoe, Newcastle upon Tyne


Para mim, para você
I like the sound of ‘Coutinho&Firmino’ – the Brazilian Chuckle Brothers!
Andy (LFC)

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