English Football Transfer Wrap (Week 1)

Josh Barrett – Reading to Coventry (Loan)

Tim Krul – Newcastle United to Brighton & Hove Albion (Free)

Virgil van Dijk – Southampton to Liverpool (A$129.42 million)

Viktor Gyokeres – IF Brommapojkarna to Brighton & Hove Albion (Undisclosed/Market value: A$ 777,000)

Mikel Merino – Borussia Dortmund to Newcastle United (A$10.87 million)

Louis Moult – Motherwell to Preston North End (A$863,000)

Emiliano Marcondes – FC Nordsjaelland to Brentford (A$3.88 million)

Diego Costa – Chelsea to Atletico Madrid (A$98.36 million)

Ahmed Hegazi – AL Ahly to West Brom (A$6.90 million)

Adrien Silva – Sporting CP to Leicester City (A$38 million)

It took four months but Leicester finally landed their man. In September Sporting announced the sale of the midfielder, but FIFA rejected Leicester’s application to register Silva after they reportedly missed the deadline by 14 seconds. Leicester failed to appeal the decision, leaving Silva to train alongside his new teammates without the prospect of playing. Silva finally made his debut in the Foxes scoreless draw with Fleetwood Town in the third round of the FA Cup.

Adrien Silva playing for Leicester

Terence Kongolo – AS Monaco to Huddersfield Town (Loan)

After a less than impressive start to life at AS Monaco, Dutch centre-back Terence Kongolo will be hoping to show why Monaco paid A$23.1 million for his services in the summer, while on loan at Huddersfield. Terriers manager David Wagner was keen to bolster his defensive stocks in the hope of avoiding relegation. Wagner said Kongolo’s mobility will enable him to fit well into the side.

Daniel Rowe – Ipswich Town to Lincoln City (Loan)

Sylvain Deslandes – Wolverhampton Wanderers to Portsmouth (Loan)

Stephy Mavididi – Arsenal to Charlton Athletic (Loan)

Sean Goss – Queens Park Rangers to Rangers (Loan)

Sean Goss

Jordan Maguire-Drew – Brighton & Hove Albion to Coventry City (Loan)

James Hanson – Sheffield United to Bury (Loan)

Connor Ronan – Wolverhampton Wanderers to Portsmouth (Loan)

Adam Phillips – Norwich City to Cambridge United (Loan)

Yeni N’Gbakoto – Queens Park Rangers to Guingamp (Undisclosed/Market value: A$3.1 million)

Rafael Mir Vicente – Valencia to Wolverhampton Wanderers (Undisclosed/Market value: A$1.6 million)

Billy Bodin – Bristol Rovers to Preston North End (Undisclosed/Market value: A$765,000)

Billy Boden has been a shining star in an otherwise disappointing season for Bristol Rovers. The striker netted 11 goals in 24 games this season, before crossing to Preston North End. Rovers chairman Steve Hamer said the departure of Bodin was “probably” inevitable as the striker was to become a free agent in six months. It will be interesting to see if Bodin can make the step up to life in the EFL Championship.

Tom King – Millwall to Stevenage (Loan)

Sid Nelson – Millwall to Chesterfield (Loan)

Paul Jones – Norwich City to Exeter City (Loan)

Josh Kay – Barnsley to Chesterfield (Loan)

Jimmy Dunne – Burnley to Accrington Stanley (Loan)

Jared Bird – Barnsley to Yeovil Town (Loan)

Ike Ugbo – Chelsea to Milton Keynes Dons (Loan)

Conor Ripley – Middlesbrough to Bury (Loan)

Cameron McGeehan – Barnsley to Scunthorpe United (Loan)

Prince Oniangue – Wolverhampton Wanderers to Angers (Loan)

Robert Dickie – Reading to Oxford United (Undisclosed)

Konstantinos Mavropanos – PAS Giannina to Arsenal (A$3.28 million)

Arsenal snapped up the highly rated 20 year old centre-back for a merely A$3.28 million. According to Greek football journalist George Tsitsonis from AGONASport, Mavropanos was considered one of the best defenders in Greece and is known for his ball-winning capabilities and aerial prowess.

 Aaron Drinan – Waterford to Ipswich Town (Undisclosed)

Max Love – Derby County to Shrewsbury Town (Loan)

Marcus Barnes – Southampton to Yeovil Town (Loan)

Lewis Wing – Middlesbrough to Yeovil Town (Loan)

Jonathan Edwards – Hull City to Woking (Loan)

Jake Kean – Sheffield Wednesday to Grimsby Town (Loan)

Corey Whelan – Liverpool to Yeovil Town (Loan)

Aaron Ramsdale – AFC Bournemouth to Chesterfield (Loan)

Shay Facey – Manchester City to Northampton Town (Undisclosed/Market value: A$612,000)

Ross Barkley – Everton to Chelsea (A$26 million)

Having not played for seven months with a hamstring injury and with only six months left on his contract, Chelsea were able to purchase the talented Barkley on the cheap. Barkley’s valuation was cut by half from the summer when Chelsea offered A$52 million for his services. Aged only 24, Barkley has already made 150 appearances in the Premier League and by paying such a small total in todays market, Chelsea have completed the bargain of the transfer window.

Ross Barkley unveiled at Chelsea. Credit: Sky Sports

Liam Walsh – Everton to Bristol City (Undisclosed/Market value: A$383,000)

Gethin Jones – Everton to Fleetwood Town (Undisclosed/Market value: A$383,000)

Cenk Tosun – Besiktas to Everton (A$47 million)

Everton announced the four-and-a-half-year contract with the 26-year-old Turkey international striker at half time in their FA Cup tie against Liverpool. Everton manager Sam Allardyce said Tosun in “the best in the world” at that price. Tosun scored 20 goals for Besiktas last season and has so far netted eight league goals and four Champions League goals this season.

Callum Johnson – Middlesbrough to Accrington Stanley (Undisclosed)

 

*Market value’s courtesy of Transfermarkt.co.uk 

Sport Songs – Devil in Disguise

To the tune of Devil in Disguise by Elvis Presley. 

You look like an angel

Dribble like an angel

Cross like an angel

But you lied

You’re the devil in disguise

Oh Ryan Giggs

The devil in disguise

 

You fooled us with your charm

You cheated with your sister in-law

Sir Alex knows how you lied to us

You’re not the way you seem

 

You look like an angel

Dribble like an angel

Cross like an angel

But you lied

 

You’re the devil in disguise

Oh Ryan Giggs

The devil in disguise

 

We thought you were a gentleman

Who did everything right

Heaven help your brother Rhodri

You’re a Red Devil deep inside

 

You look like an angel

Dribble like an angel

Cross like an angel

 

But you lied

You’re the devil in disguise

Oh Ryan Giggs

The devil in disguise

 

You’re the devil in disguise

Oh Ryan Giggs

The devil in disguise

Oh Ryan Giggs

The devil in disguise

 

 

Promising career cut short by savage assault

July 8 1972 will always be remembered as the day football lost one of its most promising careers. Aged 21, Collingwood’s John Greening was one of the best players in the VFL.

In his fourth year of senior football, Greening averaged 26 disposals a game and had an unforgettable fortnight between rounds 9 and 10, when he accumulated 91 disposals and kicked 10 goals.

Greening was a favourite for the Brownlow Medal, before his season and career was cut short by a savage incident.

Greening started the round 14 clash against St Kilda at Moorabbin in fine fashion, taking the first mark of the game.

Greening leaping above the pack.

The midfielder kicked the ball into the Magpies attack and as fans and the television cameras followed the flight of the ball, St Kilda tough man, Jim O’Dea, viciously hit Greening.

The Magpie was left unconscious and bloodied by the fleeing O’Dea, when Collingwood trainers came to his aid.

Magpie’s teammate Len Thompson recalled the incident prior to his death in 2007.

“I looked down at Johnny and it gave me a dreadful fright. It was a horrific sight, he was severely hurt.”

“Whatever happened, and I didn’t see it, I think part of what did happen is he hit the ground and his head hit the cricket pitch.”

The incident left Greening in a coma for 24 hours and in intensive care for 12 days.

Doctor’s feared Greening would not survive and considered brain damage as the best-case scenario.

As Greening lay fighting for his life, the VFL acted quickly and sanctioned O’Dea with a 10-week ban.

O’Dea escaped legal action for the incident, even though there were reports St Kilda coach Allan Jeans instructed O’Dea to ‘fix up’ Greening.

St Kilda fans taunted Greening, as he lay unconscious on the stretcher, infuriating Magpie fans and beginning a fierce rivalry between the clubs.

Following the incident, Magpie fans adorned boundary fences with a banner bearing Greening’s name, when the two sides met.

Some Magpie fans were so appalled by the incident that they never attended another game.

Spectacularly, Greening returned to football in round 9, 1974.

Against reigning premiers Richmond, Greening booted a goal with his first kick and helped the Magpies to a 69-point win.

But Greening would never again reach the heights of his comeback game.

In his own words Greening said his aim was to return for one game and prove to the doubters that he could still play at the top level.

A lack of motivation saw Greening play only eight more games before announcing his retirement in 1976.

Greening may only have played 107 games, but Magpie fans will always remember him as one of the
most prestigious talents to wear the famous black and white guernsey.

Premier League 2017/18 mid-season report card

With half of the 2017/18 Premier League season behind us, Brayden May, Christopher Chrysostomou, Mitch Keating and Tim Sperliotis from the English Football Podcast grade the form of every Premier League team from the season so far.

Arsenal

A not-so-great first half of the season for the Gunners. For the remainder, they need to keep getting victories and take a big scalp or two to return to the top four. Winning the Europa League is a MUST. A 3-3 home draw to Liverpool and 3-1 home loss to Manchester United could come back to bite them.

Retaining the services of Alexis Sanchez will go a long way in securing a spot in the top four.

Will Alexis Sanchez be at Arsenal after the January transfer window?

Grade: C-

Bournemouth

The Cherries are currently a threat of being relegated at the end of the season. Stuck on four wins, they need to grind out a few results and secure their safety. Key forward Jermain Defoe is missing until late February with a long-term injury. Will be interesting to see where they finish.

Grade: D

Brighton 

Brighton and Hove Albion fans will enter the new year with a big a smile following an impressive start to the campaign. Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan has produced several match saving performances thus far and looks a real smart summer purchase. They will be interesting to watch over the coming months as they aim to stay in the top flight.

Grade: B 

Burnley 

Having flirted with a top four place in mid December, the Clarets have proven they are the best side to break into the top six, as they comfortably sit in limbo between the Premier League giant six and the mid table.

A key factor for Sean Dyche’s success has been his consistent reliance on the starting lineup. Burnley average just 0.9 changes to their starting lineup – the fewest of any Premier League side, with the next fewest being Leicester’s 1.5 changes per week. Centre-backs James Tarkowski and Ben Mee have been the shining light for Burnley’s season, with both defenders having put themselves into contention as the best half backs in the league.

James Tarkowski and Ben Mee have been rock solid in defence.

The next month of football for Burnley will prove their worth in the league, with fixtures again Liverpool and both Manchester sides, the Clarets could see themselves press for a top six spot or fall into the middle of the table.

Grade: B+

Chelsea

It would take an almighty collapse from Manchester City for Antonio Conte’s side to claim back-to-back titles so now it’s about a top four finish.

Alvaro Morata has been a revelation since crossing from Real Madrid in the summer, scoring on a consistent basis. Last season’s title winning defence has been chopped and changed throughout and those rotations have seen the Blues pay.

Alvaro Morata has been a revelation at Chelsea.

Grade: B-

Crystal Palace

The 2017/18 season could not have started any worse for Crystal Palace. After losing their opening four matches without scoring a goal – the first team in 93 years to have begun a top flight season in such fashion, Palace sacked manager Frank De Boer, making him the shortest reigning manager in Premier League history.

De Boer was replaced by Roy Hodgson who also had trouble changing the clubs fortunes. Hodgson lost his opening three matches in charge without hitting the scoresheet, before a 2-1 victory over Chelsea ended the Eagles seven game winless start to the season.

Since the victory over Chelsea, Palace have achieved three victories and six draws and have moved out of the relegation zone. A lot of Crystal Palace’s resurgence has to do with Wilfried Zaha returning from injury. After missing the start of the season, Zaha has netted four goals and has drawn the interest of Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Crystal Palace will be hoping to hold onto Zaha if they are going to avoid a relegation battle.

Grade: C-

Everton

How do you grade Everton’s season? Pre season expectations were high at Goodison Park after the Toffees spent £153 million on new signings. But without Romelu Lukaku up front the Toffees lacked a goal scorer and come late October the club sat in 18th place and sacked manager Ronald Koeman.

David Unsworth was placed as caretaker manager but even he couldn’t restore the sinking ship, winning only two of his eight matches in charge.

The announced appointment of Sam Allardyce had an instant impact on the club and in Unsworth’s final match as manager, Wayne Rooney scored a hat rick to give the Toffees a 4-0 victory over West Ham.

The appointment of Allardyce has drawn criticism from Everton fans, but it is undeniable Allardyce has been able turn the Toffees season around. By the time Koeman was sacked, the club had conceded 28 goals in the league. Under Allardyce, Everton have kept five clean sheets in seven league fixtures. The Toffees have also gone undefeated under Allardyce and sit in ninth position on the table.

Sam Allardyce has steady the ship since becoming Everton manager.

Despite the recent upturn in Everton’s fortunes the 2017/18 has been a failure for the club, given they were expected to challenge for a top four spot this season.

Grade: D

Huddersfield

A great start to the Premier League season for the newly promoted side. Not many expected they would be higher than the bottom half of the table, however they currently sit in 11th position. Aussie Aaron Mooy is key to their success and could be the one to help them finish in the top half.

Grade B+

Leicester 

Many questioned the appointment of Claude Puel following Craig Shakepeare’s sacking but it has worked a treat. The Foxes are back playing some of their best football and it has been a joy to watch. They face a major challenge in January in trying to keep hold of Riyad Mahrez who has been heavily linked to Arsenal and Roma.

Grade: C

Liverpool 

It was made well aware that Liverpool will be relying on their fire power up front to keep them afloat with the fellow top six sides before the season had started.

The inclusion Mohamed Salah has proven to be the signing of the season with the Egyptian having scored 17 goals and five assists to date.

Mohamed Salah has netted 17 goals in the Premier League this season.

Reds fans will be delighted with the signing of Dutchman Virgil Van Dijk, as Jurgen Klopp looks to repair his sides defensive woes after conceding 20 goals away from home. Klopp will be eyeing the mid January fixture against Manchester City at Anfield as the game that  could shape the Reds’ season and hopes for a top four finish.

Grade: B

Manchester City 

Just two points dropped at this stage of the season has Pep Guardiola’s side well on their way to the Premier League crown. The Sky Blues have been exciting to watch not just for their own supporters but also the neutral. Their free flowing football is only going to get better. Right now it’s almost hard to see them losing a match in the league. While Champions League glory is not out of the question.

Manchester City have enjoyed great success in 2017.

Grade: A+

Manchester United 

Surely a team sitting in third place would consider the 2017/18 season a success? That is unless the team has spent close to £300 million in two years and are 14 points behind the top of the table Manchester City. Manchester United have not sat this high up on the table since the Sir Alex Ferguson era came to an end in 2013. Yet there is a sense of disappointment in the fans who have begun resenting Jose Mourinho’s constant negativity.

The fans have been unhappy with Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Shaw has been Mourinho’s whipping boy for over a year and Mkhitaryan has found himself on the outer since his signed for the club last summer. Mourinho has also lamented the clubs lack of depth and claimed he will need to spend even more money to compete with Manchester City.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has found life difficult at Manchester United under Jose Mourinho.

The gap between the two Manchester teams was no more evident than their first meeting of the season. At the time City were only eight points ahead of United on the table. Mourinho deployed a team that would hit City on the counter but against a side that don’t give the ball away, United did not have a chance to exploit City’s defensive weaknesses.

In the six matches after the Derby Day misery, United were held to three draws and a humiliating defeat to Bristol City in the League Cup.

This season was suppose to be the campaign where Manchester United showed themselves to once again be a Premier League force. Despite being well behind their city counterparts, United have proven to be the ‘best of the rest’ and for the most part of the season, but a recent dip in form has hampered their progress.

Grade: C+

Newcastle 

The Magpies are still a threat to be relegated. Need to win as many matches as possible in order to stay another season in the league. January will be an interesting time to see whether they sign a couple of players to help their fight. However, they will likely survive.

Grade: D

Southampton 

The Saints have only two wins to show since mid September. With just 13 points from a possible 33 at St. Mary’s Stadium this season, Southampton have fallen into the relegation conversation.

The Saints have struggled to piece together a run of consistent football throughout the season as they fail to capitalise on winning positions. They now sit just two points ahead of 18th placed Bournemouth following a lacklustre December.

Virgil Van Dijk’s departure will leave a hole in the Saints defence.

Come January 1st, the Saints will lose half-back Virgil Van Dijk to Liverpool, giving Mauricio Pellegrino a chance to improve his side through signings with money in the bank. Picking up three points against an out of form Manchester United would be a perfect end to the year in the Saints’ hopes of avoiding a drop to the relegation zone.

Grade: D+

Stoke

When Mark Hughes replaced Tony Pulis as manager of Stoke in 2013, it was believed the club would finally break away from the direct, robust style that made Stoke one of the most boring teams to watch in the league. Four years on and Stoke are still a team ever reliant on Peter Crouch up front.

Stoke are a team complacent with being mid table in the Premier League, despite having the most Champions League winners of any Premier League team in their squad.

This season has seen Stoke toil with the prospect of relegation. The Potters sit three points above 18th place Bournemouth and calls for Mark Hughes sacking have intensified.

Stoke have not had a happy end to 2017.

At times this campaign Hughes has deployed a 3-4-2-1 formation, but with the likes of Ryan Shawcross, Mame Biram Diouf and Erik Peters in the team, Hughes using this formation is like trying to build a house out of plywood.

Stoke’s main aim is to avoid relegation, which they so far have managed to avoid the drop zone but a 5-0 defeat to Chelsea will surely put Hughes’ job in jeopardy.

Grade: D

Swansea

The drop seems inevitable for the South Wales club this season, as a change of manager hasn’t appeared to help their cause just yet. Goals have been difficult to come by with just 13 goals to date – which is simply terrible for this level of football. The absence of Gylfi Sigurdsson has been a major reason for their downfall.

Grade: F

Tottenham

Following their second place finish last season, there were hopes Tottenham may make the leap forward and win their first title since 1961. But like fellow teams, the Spurs have been outshone but the undefeated Manchester City. Tottenham sit fifth on the table and have struggle for continuity while playing home matches at Wembley Stadium.

Injuries have tested the depth of the Spurs squad and with Toby Alderweireld having been injured for a majority of the campaign, Spurs have conceded 20 goals so far, six less than their total for the 2016/17 season.

Dele Alli has struggled to recapture last seasons form, but fortunately for Tottenham, Harry Kane has taken his game to another level. Kane leads the EPL scoring with 18 goals.

Harry Kane fast becoming the most lethal striker in the world.

Tottenham may look to improve their squad depth in the January transfer window in the quest of clinching a top four spot.

Grade: C+

Watford

With a forgetful last month and a half, Hornets fans can thank their strong start to the season for their position in mid table. The shining light for Watford’s season has been the emergence of Abdoulaye Doucouré and Brazilian forward Richarlison. The duo have netted a total of 11 goals, with Richarlison also managing four assists this year.

Richarlison has been a shining light for Watford.

Marco Silva will be praying for a change in form come January with his side only managing three wins since October 21st, after losses to newly promoted sides Brighton and Huddersfield and 16th placed Crystal Palace.

Grade: C+

West Brom 

For a club known for its strong starts to a Premiership campaign, the Baggies have had a forgetful first few months to the 2017/18 season.

Oliver Burke has failed to make an impact at West Brom.

With Alan Pardew now at the helm, West Brom are eyeing an alteration for on-field performances. They are currently winless in their last 10 matches and continue to fall deeper into the bottom three, as they currently sit just two points above last placed Swansea. The inclusions of Oliver Burke, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Jay Rodriguez have failed to spark the side and Pardew will now have to spend in January to keep the Baggies in the Premier League.

Grade: D

West Ham

A horrible start to their season for the Hammers. Manager Slaven Bilic was sacked and replaced by David Moyes. You would think that the former Manchester United and Everton manager will guide the Hammers to safety. Some momentum will see them finish mid table. The 1-0 victory over Chelsea and the draw against Arsenal in December will no doubt give them some hope and confidence.

Grade: E

You can hear Brayden, Mitch, Tim and Chris weekly by subscribing to the English Football Podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud

Moneyball fever hits Barnsley City

English Championship side Barnsley City have agreed to a takeover by a duo of investment groups that includes the creator of Moneyball, Billy Beane.

Chinese-American billionaire investor Chien Lee and US film financer Paul Conway have agreed a fee in the region of $17 to $35 million with ailing Tykes owner Patrick Cryne for control of the club.

In a statement to fans Barnsley Chief Executive Gauthier Ganaye said:

“We would like to thank every member of our loyal fan base for their patience and continued support over recent months. An exciting chapter is opening for Barnsley Football Club and we are looking forward to the future together.”

New owners Lee and Conway will look to have as much success with Barnsley as they have had with French side Nice.

Nice were the surprise packets of the 2016/17 Ligue 1 season, finishing in third place and qualifying for the third round of the Champions League.

In the wake of the takeover, some Barnsley fans have shown apprehension, believing their club may be used as a feeder club for the French outfit.

Conway allayed fears yesterday, but did add resources will be shared when circumstances dictate.

“Any investment we do is our own independent investment. But we will look for sharing resources when they make sense,” Conway said.

“[But] all the decisions make here at Barnsley will be made for the long-term benefit of Barnsley.”

Oakland Athletics Executive Vice-president Billy Beane is known to be a keen follower of European football and according Conway, was attracted by the clubs way of doing things.

“Part of the attraction of Barnsley is that they embraced some of his sports philosophy and analytics and they have seen some of the results of that,” Conway said at the new owners’ first press conference.

“With his philosophies, having him in this is important because he brings a unique knowledge-base to the club. He is an executive of the A’s and he will continue to be, he is involved here because he saw a matching of philosophies.”

Moneyball is the name of the book written by Michael Lewis in 2003. The book is about how Beane and the Oakland A’s used stats and analytics to trade and draft players in the 2002 Major League Baseball season.

In 2011, Moneyball was turned into a Hollywood film, with Brad Pitt portraying Beane.

Billy Beane portrayed by Brad Pitt in the 2011 film ‘Moneyball’.

Since Barnsley’s one and only season in the Premier League in 1997/98, the Tykes have spent most of their time in the second division of English Football.

The Tykes have worked on a shoestring budget and have sold their best players to make financial profits.

This season Barnsley sit 20th in the league table. But Tykes manager Paul Heckingbottom believes the club will be able to avoid relegation with the aid of the new owners.

Heckingbottom held transfer discussions with the new owners, who have confirmed the club will be “active” in the January market without spending “crazy” money.

 

 

 

 

 

Blurring the lines of a heel

Tensions heated up on Smackdown Live after Daniel Bryan sabotaged Shane McMahon’s attempt to fire Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn at ‘Clash of Champions’.

McMahon was ready to plant his hand on the mat to signal a three count pinfall that would have ended the WWE careers of Owens and Zayn, but was prevented by Bryan, who ‘accidentally’ fell on the guest referee.

To make matters worse, Bryan was on hand for the three count that saw Owens and Zayn defeat Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura.

On the following episode of Smackdown Live an angry McMahon called out his General Manager Daniel Bryan to explain his actions.

Bryan explained that despite the actions of Owens and Zayn in the previous weeks, Smackdown Live was the ‘land of opportunity’ and both wrestlers deserved to have their chance to fulfil their talent.

Bryan even went as far as to suggest Shane’s spiteful persona was resemblant of his father Vince McMahon.

In reply Shane said Owens and Zayn had ruined their chances on Smackdown after attacking his father and sabotaging Smackdown Live’s chance of beating Raw at Survivor Series.

Then Shane rose the possibility of the Authority by saying Bryan went against what was ‘best for business’.

The line about business is resemblant of Bryan’s past rivalry with the authority. The ‘Yes’ movement was the symbol of Bryan contesting the people in charge of the WWE.

Bryan was considered not the ideal WWE Champion and was put down at every possible opportunity by Stephanie McMahon, Triple H and their puppet Randy Orton, until Bryan finally claimed the WWE World Heavy Weight Championship at Wrestlemania 30.

Back in 2013/14 when Bryan was making his push for the Heavy Weight Championship it was easy to work out who was the face and the heel in the storyline.

Bryan was the underdog hero who was trying to achieve every WWE fans lifelong dream, while being held back by the Authority, who still believed wrestlers had to be in the mould of a Randy Orton.

In todays feud the lines are not so clear. Bryan is still a fan favourite and has the best interest of the wrestlers in mind but is aligning himself with two men who have acted in an unfashionable manner and have destroyed the opportunities of the rest of the roster, as evident by their exploits at Survivor Series.

Shane on the other hand is showing glimpses of turning into a heel by raising the ‘best for business’ agenda. But while he may become a heel, Shane has every right to be aggrieved by Owens and Zayn. Owens head butted his father, Zayn interfered in his match against Owens and the two then allowed Raw to defeat Smackdown at Survivor Series.

Ironically, despite seamlessly transitioning into a heel, Shane is alligned with two faces in Orton and Nakamura.

In a sideshow to the storyline Daniel Bryan is in an actual feud with the authority. Bryan has been given the all clear by doctors to return to in-ring action but has not been given the green light by the WWE.

The WWE are in the midst of a lawsuit with 53 former wrestlers who claim there is a link between the head injuries sustained during their time with the company and CTE, the progressive degenerative brain disease.

Allowing Bryan to return to in-ring action would be contradictory by the WWE, who have reduced the number of head injuries to wrestlers since the 2007 Chris Benoit double murder and suicide.

There are two paths the Bryan and McMahon feud can take. One is an encounter between the two at Wrestlemania. The match would be the massive draw card for the event and would be the perfect way to kickstart Bryan’s career.

The other path would see Bryan’s time with the WWE come to an end. Bryan would let his contract run out with the WWE and take his talents to New Japan Pro-Wrestling or Ring of Honor.

Bryan will wrestle again at some point in the next year. It just depends what the WWE decide is ‘best for business’.

Docherty to miss 2018 AFL season

Carlton defender Sam Docherty has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and will likely miss the entire 2018 AFL season.

The 2017 All-Australian injured his left knee in a seemingly innocuous incident when running in pre season training.

The 24-year-old will undergo traditional surgery over the coming days before commencing rehabilitation.

Carlton Head of Football Andrew McKay said the club would fully support the defender throughout his recovery.

“Sam is a total professional and a resilient young man and we know he will face his rehabilitation process with the utmost dedication,” McKay said.

“As a terrific young leader at our club, Sam will continue to work with the leadership group and assist in the development of our young players both on and off the field.”

“While we are incredibly disappointed by the long-term nature of Sam’s injury, it provides an opportunity for our young defenders to continue to train hard over the pre-season to solidify their spot in the backline in Sam’s absence in 2018.”

Since crossing to Carlton in 2014, Docherty has played in 79 of a possible 88 games for the Blues.

The former Brisbane halfback won Carlton’s best and fairest last year and was selected in this years All-Australian team.

The injury will be a massive blow for the Blues who were hoping to rise up the ladder in 2018.

Carlton will enter the new season without Docherty and Bryce Gibbs, who both finished in the top four in the Blues Best and Fairest this year. Gibbs was traded to Adelaide during the trade period.

 

 

“We are struggling,” says Conte

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is eager to see his team respond from Tuesday night’s 3-0 Champions League defeat to Roma.

Speaking ahead of Monday morning’s match with Manchester United, Conte has called for his players to show character through a time of adversity.

“We are struggling a lot, because we are facing a lot of important problems,” Conte said.

“To solve these problems is not simple. In this moment you can see it you are a winner or a loser.“

“It’s important to show character, to be strong, to face the problem in the right way.”

Conte said he will try to transfer his suffering to the players in the quest of turning the Blues fortunes around.

“I try to transfer my suffering to my players. Sometimes I am able to do this, to have a good answer.”

The Blues sit nine points behind top of the table Manchester City in the Premier League and defeat to Manchester United this weekend will make defending their championship all the more difficult.

But Conte insists he is happy with the commitment of his players.

“I’m happy to work with my players. The commitment is always good but this season we are struggling a lot because we are facing a lot of problems and resolving these problems is not simple.”

The Blues will host a Manchester United team that includes former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and former player Nemanja Matic.

Last year Mourinho criticised Conte for trying to humiliate him, after Chelsea’s 4-0 victory over the Red Devils.

Conte refused to add to the animosity when asked about his relationship with Mourinho.

“It’s not important, the relationship between the coaches. We have to respect the job of the other coaches.”

“He’s an opponent and I’m an opponent for him. After the game it will be the same.”

Conte will be hoping for the return of midfielder N’golo Kante for the weekends match.

Kante has been sidelined for six matches in all competitions since picking up a hamstring injury on national duty in early October.

Conte said Kante is “progressing well”, but will not risk the midfielder if there is any chance of reinjuring his hamstring.

 

 

Kung-fu Evra

Olympique de Marseille defender Patrice Evra was sent off before Marseille’s Europa League match against Vitoria SC for kicking a supporter in the head.

The former Manchester United star was involved in a heated exchange with the travelling French fans in the pre-game warm up.

According to tweets from journalist in attendance, Evra was the victim of insults and chants from the Marseille fans, before the defender decided to retaliate.

Evra had been named on the bench for the game, but was still issued a red card, meaning Marseille had to start the game with six players on the bench.

Marseille manager Rudi Garcia revealed Evra had been taunted by fans but still criticised the defenders actions.

“Pat has experience and he must not react, it’s obvious,” Garcia told BeIN Sports.

“Patrice is a more than just an experienced player. You can’t respond, of course, to insults as bad as they are and as incredible as they might be because they come from one of our supporters.” “He must learn to keep his cool. That’s all I can say.”

Garcia did however blast the fan who taunted the 81-times capped French international.

“He’s not a supporter of Marseille, because you can’t insult your own players, you have to be behind all of us.”

The club will likely face a hefty fine from Uefa, while Evra will be looking at an extended stint on the sideline.

Evra will receive an automatic three-match ban for the red card, but will almost certainly receive a further suspension for the kick.

The incident draws comparisons to another kung-fu kicking French footballer.

In January 1995, Manchester United striker Eric Cantona launched a flying kick at a Crystal Palace supporter, who jeered him after he was sent off for a kick on opposition defender Richard Shaw.

As he walked off the field, Cantona launched a kung-fu kick on the Palace supporter, who had directed insults towards the hot-headed Frenchman.

Cantona was handed an eight-month suspension from all football and had to complete 120 hours of community service.

In 2008 Evra was handed a four-match ban and fined $25,000, following a clash with Chelsea groundsman Sam Bethell as Manchester United warmed down after a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Evra was found guilty of pushing Bethell with his chest and then striking him on the side of the head.

In December 2011, Evra accused Liverpool striker Luis Suarez of racial abuse, which resulted in the Uruguayan being banned for eight games and hit with a $68,000 fine.

The pair then clashed three months later when the Liverpool striker refused to handshake the Frenchman.

Uefa are expected to confirm they are investigating the incident involving Evra.