Tomorrow will see The Football Association hear our case appealing the sending off of Stephane Henchoz on Saturday. Hughes feels we were again hard done by in the fact that Henchoz won the ball and then clipped the player clumsily to give away the free kick. Hughes agrees that it was a foul yet far from a professional foul preventing a goal scoring opportunity. I think both sets of supporters were probably surprised at the red card decision.
The suspension of Henchoz looks as though Andy Todd could come straight in to start in our next matches as we are getting down to the bare bones with injuries etc. Todd did a good job Saturday and with a point to prove could hopefully stand tall and rise to the challenge Click Here for Full Article. Obviously we all know of the long term injuries and also Zurab Khizanishvili, Brett Emerton and Francis Jeffers are temporarily out. Hughes feels that suspensions are adding insult to injury and this is all impeding our quest to climb the table away from danger. I hope players get back quick and we can avoid suspensions and further injuries as things are starting to look desperate for the rest of the month. Hopefully we can scrap through and should we need additions, recruit what we need in January.
Tuesday 12th December 06
Michael Gray has spoke ahead of Wednesday`s final UEFA Cup group match against Nancy and how important it is to win the game and win the group to help make the path easier to get past the next round. Nancy are currently ahead of us on top but level on points so obviously a draw will be no good to us as we will remain second and face a Champions League drop out but obviously we want to win as will then face a third qualifying placed UEFA team. I think it will be a tough match, perhaps the hardest yet as they are playing some nice footbHughes is hinting that he will be making some changes with the squad tomorrow to try and avoid further injuries to key players Click Here for Full Article. Obviously this is wise as should we go losing anymore then we will be pretty much screwed and no disrespect to those that do not regularly get in but we will end up with a sub B-team which will not cut it in this league. We also have to be careful not to go into the match too weak as we obviously want to play to win this match so that we have an easier route through Europe; the joys and dilemmas of being a manager hey! Hughes has said though that he will not make extreme changes and will pick a team he feels can win the match, hoping also that the determination will see us to victory. I`m sure he knows what he is doing and will come good, even if it is not the prettiest of matches.
It is thought that despite putting in a good performance against Newcastle and more than likely to start against Nancy tomorrow, Andy Todd will still be leaving come January. Sheffield United, Wigan and Charlton are thought to be keen on him along with many Championship clubs. It is no secret that he has become disgruntled with life on the sidelines and until recently I had always been led to believe he was surplus to requirements but if I was Hughes I would not do anything with Todd until I knew we had the squad depth and sufficient cover. Also during the Newcastle game Lucas Neill received some boos. This is obviously down to the fact he wants to leave but Hughes will rightly keep playing him and keep him captain if he puts in the performances which is the main thing after all.
Wednesday 13th December 06
Hughes has said that he is considering dropping Lucas Neill for today`s UEFA match which some fans might be delighted at. It is however nothing to do with the boos or the fact he wantIt has been noticeable for a while now that Shabani Nonda has not adapted quite as we all would have liked and found it not too easy to settle in the English game and to our style of play. Although he has only scored two goals I think his work rate is very good and tries hard for the team. People are now saying that he will be leaving in January either by our doing or by his own choice but he is adamant this is rubbish and he just needs to settle into the English game and style Click Here for Full Article. Like many foreign players he is not quite use to the physicality and the way we play. He is aware that we are a very English physical team in the way we play and believes that he will adapt. Watch this space and I hope that he is right as I like him.
I was pleased to hear that Feyenoord have recently received their second European fine. Do you remember when we played them and Gamst Pedersen had that beer and cup chucked at him? This has been investigated and they have since been fined the equivalent of £8,100 for this and been warned that should they offend again they will have to play the next two European games behind closed doors. The first fine they received was for £85,000 due to the fans rioting away to Nancy two weeks ago. Obviously the club are not responsible for the fans actions but somebody has to be punished I guess and it is down to them to control their home fans and try to stop incidents like this happening which I bet is not easy.
This week has seen us being linked with Chris Baird of Southampton as a replacement to Lucas Neill when he finally leaves. However Saint`s boss George Burley has said that we have not contacted them and should we they will not find it hard to refuse as he is going nowhere as they don`t want to or need to sell him. If this is true and we did want but can`t have him I`m sure Hughes has oAfter watching tonight`s match against Nancy I am obviously glad that we snatched it in injury time with Lucas Neill`s goal Click Here for Full Article but I`m not sure that I am so positive about the performance as Hughes was. Fair due to our lads they kept on battling and trying to up the tempo of the slow pace that Nancy were setting but I`m not sure we were better than them and they perhaps should have won it with the chances that they had. I am pleased for all the youngsters that Hughes played as it is vital experience for them and I guess it can only spur them in the right direction as they know that should they perform well on the pitch and in training, theses are the kind of games they can be playing in. Jay McEveley and Eddie Nolan had decent games at the back and Matt Derbyshire looked quite pacey up front.
Hughes was delighted with their performances and the rest of the team. He felt there was times when we should have dealt with some situations better and I agree on that but he feels we deserved the win. That`s the most important thing, the fact that we won and have got through the best possible way despite our injuries etc. Now hopefully we can get the injured back and strengthen in January so that we stand a good chance of doing well in the tournament and can also move up that league table away from the relegation.
Thursday 14th December 06
Mark Hughes has today said that the fate of Lucas Neill rests solely in his hands and he will not be pressured into selling him. It is good to see that Hughes has this kind of control as not all managers get to make these decisions. We all know that if Neill is here past January that he will walk away free come the summer as he is a high target for many top clubs and I`m sure he would still be come summer. Hughes has not given up hope that he will stay and wants all tFriday 15th December 06
Our league position is not looking too great at the moment but I am sure we can resolve this and start heading in the right direction. I know I have said this before but we are too good a team to go down and I am sure everyone will agree despite Robbie Savage having his nightmares about switching places with Birmingham in the Championship. Savage thought that by joining us from them that he had left the relegation struggles behind but not many things in this game are guaranteed. He acknowledges that he did not lave Birmingham on the best of terms yet he thinks of them as a great club believing they will come straight back up yet he would hate for them to pass us on the way as he would find that devastating. He has spoke of the tough matches ahead and how they do not get any easier and also Europe and how we now get a break from that until February so at least we can concentrating on rectifying our position in the league.
Also on his mind was the abuse that Lucas Neill has been receiving from the fans. Savage himself is all too aware of the abuse and hate you can get following his departure to us from Birmingham and has stuck up for him saying that he is a loyal servant and that it should be appreciated what he has done. I agree with Savage that the modern day footballer is entitled to keep his options open and that as long as he is playing for us we should all behind him and be united with support.
We are said to be closing in on Ukrainian defender Andrei Nesmachny who is highly regarded in his homeland. He featured 100% for Ukraine during the World Cup and will fill left back nicely. He is waiting to hear when he can fly out from Dynamo Kiev and hold talks and undertake a medical but he seems confident that a deal will go through. If he is as good as people think then I will be happy to give him a go as all new signings are a gamble to an extent no matter how established they are so you have to give people a chance.Today`s UEFA Cup draw has seen us drawn against German side Bayer Leverkusen Click Here for Full Article which I think will be a tough task. Looking at some of the other teams we could have been drawn against you could argue that had we finished second in our group, we could have had easier opponents, well at least on paper. They are a very good team and going by what they have done in the past it look as though we are in for a tough match. Then again though if we want to win this competition we will have to beat the best so that is hopefully what we will do.
Saturday 16th December 06
Andy Taylor has returned from Crewe Alexandra due to our defensive crisis we are having of late. I thought he was going to at least be on the bench with Ryan Nelsen, and Zurab Khizanishvili injured and Stephane Henchoz suspended for that unlucky red card last week. Andy Todd was thought to be sidelined following his injury he got during the week against FC Nancy but pulled through okay which is good as he has done well especially after not getting a look in and not playing. He will probably still go come January but with some good performances who knows what could happen. Taylor did not make the squad for Reading today Click Here for Full Article but he is still young and will get his chance as he is a good player.Finally we got the result we were looking for Click Here for Full Article. I thought it was going to be one of these days against Reading when we were 1-0 against a tough high flying Reading, especially with three Benni McCarthy goals disallowed for offside. I bet Benni felt sick until his fourth was finally allowed but even though the others were disallowed they still would have shook Reading as they were able to see that we were a threat and we knew we could cause them problems. The 4-1-4-1 that Hughes set up in the first half did not appear to work but the second half was a fine performance and we definitely deserved it. David Bentley`s individual effort was a beauty and his goals do not surprise me anymore as we all know that he is more than capable of doing wonder stuff. We now have Arsenal, Liverpool and Middlesbrough left to play this year and it appears to be a daunting task yet if we want to remain a Premiership team we will have to be looking to get something from these types of games as that is what you have to do.
Sunday 17th December 06
Next Saturday`s home tie against Arsenal looks to be made even harder due to the fact that Benni McCarthy will miss it following his yellow card against Reading; his fifth of the season. When he finally scored one that counted yesterday he rolled the ball to linesman Andrew Williams who had disallowed two of the three as if to say this one counts. For this he was yellow carded for dissent and Hughes feels he was a bit hard done by. He feels that referee Graham Poll should have been more understanding and lenient as Benni had so many disallowed. I`m not surprised he got carded as these days you are not allowed to do anything and you are always going to be punished for anything aimed at the officials. He is a great player though even though he is known for being caught offside a lotI was pleased with the performance we put in yesterday and so was Hughes. One player I have been aware of is Andy Todd and have been watching how he manages to fit back into the squad following the fact that he has had very few chances this season and been often said to be surplus to requirements. I am pleased that he has been playing well and with the shortage in squad depth we have if he keeps doing well then it will be worth keeping hold of him I think. Hughes was quick to acknowledge his performance yesterday saying that he was as solid as a rock which is what every defender wants to hear. I wonder if the club will be as quick to sell him now come January. I think he will move on but at least he has been seizing his opportunity these last couple of weeks and showing what he is capable of.