Liverpool gaffer Rafa Benitez is said to have his sights on Morten Gamst Pedersen as an answer to his problem down the left field. They will no doubt be loaded in the summer with their rich sugar daddy owners and will feel they can prize anyone for the right price but if I had it my way they can take their money and stuff it as we are trying to build something good at this club without the money quite a few of our rival clubs have and to do this we will want to keep our top players.
It has been quite a week for Benni McCarthy which was capped off by the two penalties yesterday against Bolton. He was our hero against Arsenal midweek with the FA Cup replay and he did it yesterday as well putting the ghosts of missing against Bolton when we lost last time; let's hope he can do it again on Sunday against Manchester City in the FA Cup quarter final. He has had quite a season scoring eighteen goals already, bettering Bellamy's sixteen so has proved a hit in replacing him. He is yet to hit his personal target set but I'm quite confident that there are more goals to come from him this season and perhaps he will reach this. Either way he has had a cracker of a first season in English football, especially as a lot of foreign players tend to not settle in their first season so being here appears to suit him fine.
When David Dunn came back here there was no doubt concerns on how he would hold up and if he could remain injury free. Thankfully so far he has held up well, probably largely due to the manner and care that was taken in easing him back into playing and we have reaped the rewards as he looked really good against Bolton playing the full game which has seen him being praised by Hughes as he gets stronger and better Click Here for Full Article. With back to back wins against Bolton and Portsmouth which no doubt helped our European push as they are just ahead of us challenging as well, we have made up ground sitting just three points behind sixth and the target of eight wins out of eleven is definitely possible as we play well to targets just like last season which got us into Europe. We just need to stay strong and focused to reach our goal.
Tuesday 27th February 07
Since breaking his leg against Watford towards the end of January Robbie Savage has obviously been feeling low, even admitting depression but things are now starting to go well with the Welsh chappy and he is in fact ahead of schedule Click Here for Full Article receiving the all clear with his scans and is even set to return to training with the squad and take up jogging in an attempt to make the final weeks of the season and even be back for the semi final of the FA Cup should we beat Manchester City on Sunday…touch wood. So he could be back in the next few weeks, yet Hughes is resisting setting deadlines encase they are not met, which would no doubt cause disappointment.
I am always for youngsters being given a chance to prove themselves as it is no doubt getting harder all the time to get recognition to prove yourself and not many people with talent and skill get the chance to show this. Matt Derbyshire is a fine example as he has come along leaps and bounds coming through quicker than anyone would have expected and has had a fine run of late. Seventeen-year-old Ashley Day who plays in the Midland Alliance League for Westfields and Scarborough's sixteen-year-old Ged Dalton have been given the chance that kids dream of thanks to Hughes handing them a trial. Hughes was impressed with Dalton as he became the youngest scorer in Scarborough's history back in December. Liverpool and Birmingham are also interested so lets hope we beat them in the pursuit and they prove to be gifted young lads for the future.
Wednesday 28th February 07
It was said yesterday about how well Robbie Savage is doing and no one is more pleased than Mark Hughes. Savage went through a spout of depression but after having a bit of time out with his family and getting over this he is now back at Brockhall in his pursuit of a return to action and we happily welcome back the old Robbie, even though he can be annoying as Hughes said. He is a joker and always provides a laugh at the club, known for his tricks and jokes and should he manage to make an early comeback then this will no doubt be a boost and he would probably help build moral for the team as he has no doubt been missed.
I was pleased for Francis Jeffers last night as he scored on his first start for Ipswich and had a hand in another, helping Ipswich hammer Hull 5-2. This will no doubt boost his confidence as the poor chap has had a dreadful time the last couple of years including injuries and has found it hard to forge his way into the Rovers squad due to Matt Derbyshire's unexpected rise of form which has seen him having to play as he was scoring goals and going great guns. Hughes is hoping though that Jeffers can build on this and then have him back for the last month or so f the season so that he can be used as an option which indicates to me that he is still a part of Hughes' plans even if we don't know how long for. As well as Jeffers, on loan midfield player Bryan Hodge featured for seventy minutes for Mansfield's in their 2-1 victory against Chester City.
Also Ipswich manager Jim Magilton is delighted with the capture of Jeffers Click Here for Full Article and how well he has played for them. He believes he has brought real quality to the team and has been outstanding in the short time he has been there. He feels that he will always be able to score at that level which is good for the team but could it be a case of perhaps Jeffers might not be capable of doing it consistently at the top level as perhaps he does not have what it takes and if he wants to be a success then maybe he will have to drop a level? I hope not as he is a good player, hopefully he will be able to do it for us on his return and prove people wrong, we will just have to see what happens.
Thursday 1st March 07
We are getting nearer to Sunday's FA Cup quarter final against Manchester City and what a dream it would be to be playing in the final at the new Wembley stadium on May 19th which is what every team in the FA Cup this year dreamed of. I can not see any reason why this could not become a reality as we are only two rounds away from this and there is always a chance that anyone can win as long as they play on their day! Robbie Savage is hoping that he can be back by at least the final and walk down the tunnel of the new complex Click Here for Full Article. He has said that when you are injured at our club you work your nuts off to get back playing again and the injury has made him realise that he wants to go on playing for as long as possible.
Andy Todd has not had the best of seasons with only eight first team starts and has found it hard to nail a regular place in the team. He did get a chance a while back and I thought he took it well putting in a good UEFA Cup performance and league playing solid for us which was rightfully acknowledged by Hughes. There is still doubt about his future though as he has been pushed right down the order as our team gets better and he has now had a small operation on his troublesome knee which will also keep him out for a little while and perhaps we will see him depart in the summer as to be fair he was probably kept here as cover and not moved on in January as he was needed as cover due to our injury problems.
Friday 2nd March 07
So far it looks as though David Dunn is set to be our main absentee for Sunday Click Here for Full Article due to picking up his fifth yellow card during our Arsenal triumph. Other than the existing long term injured casualties and Andy Todd who recently had knee surgery, touch wood no one will get injured during training or fall ill. Tugay will however come back into the fold following being rested against Bolton and hopefully he will prove instrumental for us as we all know what he is capable of on his day if he is given the chance and space that he needs, we just need to play him in the right way.
Shabani Nonda missed the Bolton victory due to illness and injury but appears to have shaken this so should be available to continue his pursuit to win a permanent contract and defender Stephan Henchoz who had a strain looks as though he will recover in good time. Also the admiral Ryan Nelsen picked up a knock against Fulham but is okay to play and will no doubt be looking to make progress to his fourth semi-final in six years which is good going.
Brett Emerton has been with us quite a few years now and admits that playing in the FA Cup competitions has been a dream come true for him. As a youngster he would be up at all hours watching cup games due to the time difference and dreamed of playing in FA Cup ties. Like most players yet to win it, it is his ambition to win the cup and wants to be part of this years special final as it will be the first at the new multi-million complex. The FA Cup is no doubt one of the most enjoyable competitions around, especially with the upsets and the giant killers but I believe we are in with a great chance the way we have been playing.
As we draw closer to the end of the league and cup competitions, things tend to get more exciting, unless of course you find yourself staring at the threat of relegation. For us though things are looking quite good and Hughes believes that following our great form of late, we will have an exciting finish to the season. We are playing great football, are sitting pretty just three points behind sixth which did not look possible a few months back and stand a great chance in the FA Cup at the moment, so other than being knocked out of Europe we have plenty to be excited about. We are winning significant games, confidence is high and good things are definitely possible.
This is the frame of mind Benni McCarthy is in believing that we have it all to play for. He thinks the match will be a humble tie as Manchester City are similar to us. Obviously they are going through a bit of a bad phase sitting seventeenth in the table so obviously that will be playing heavy on their minds but the fact that they are doing well in the cup will no doubt be a welcome distraction for them and they will be hoping to outdo us which would for them be a confidence boost. But I feel we will come out on top the way we have been playing and will be great if we win as I agree with Benni that this is possibly the biggest cup behind the Champions League.
Saturday 3rd March 07
Brett Emerton has again spoke about the FA Cup insisting we have a great opportunity this year to win it and we are more than capable. We have come a long way in the competition with the exception of the replay against Arsenal; this will be our first of the tournament played at home. Hopefully we will have the rub of the green and go on to be victorious. We have beaten Manchester City both times this season scoring seven goals during these but this will count for nothing as we go into the game both sides a-thresh and events before tomorrows game count for nothing, all that matters is the scoreline after the three puffs of that final whistle.
Poor old Franny Jeffers, nothing seems to stay right for him. He was starting to come into his own on loan at Ipswich town having a goal to his name during his first start and proving to be a quality loanee and what the club needed. But now it looks as though he could be coming back to us due to pulling his hamstring in today`s match. Jeffers seems to think it is a tear which is a shame as he was enjoying his football there. Ipswich manager Jim Magilton will feel gutted as he was more than pleased with his capture. Ipswich physio Dave Williams will now be talking to us to find out if we want them to do the scan or send him back but either way he will be out for a while and Hughes' plans of having him back for selection in the final month or so of the season could be up in smoke. Hopefully it will be nothing too major.
Sunday 4th March 07
After pursuing Stephen Warnock since the summer we finally got him in January which has from our point of view been a very good signing as he has looked very good for us so far. It has proved to be a positive move for him as well as he has no doubts about leaving the mighty Liverpool to join us; in fact he has gone as far as saying it is one of the easiest decisions he has ever had to make. He did not want to be a fifty games in ten years man which is the way it should be as if you are happy to get paid a packet to sit on your arse then you would obviously not be that passionate about playing the game; what we want as footy fans is someone who is passionate about the game and the game meaning more to them than the quid's that line their pockets. No worries Warnock, there is no chance of you becoming a forgotten man here and good things for us lay ahead
Matt Derbyshire is first to admit that the success he has had with us this season has even surprised him, especially as we signed new strikers in the summer, being Franny Jeffers, Shabani Nonda, Jason Roberts and of course the on fire Benni McCarthy. This must have been daunting to the lad as he felt he was not ready yet, but with that wealth of talent ahead of you it makes you work that little bit harder and it has paid dividends as he has scored two league goals for us and today's FA Cup strike has made it four in the competition. Carry on this way mate and you will have a very bright future. Just make sure you stay loyal to your local club as Hughes gave you that chance and together the future looks bright...the future is blue and white!
Obviously any match in the FA Cup is a tough match but we did what we needed and gained our ticket to the semi-finals, despite the fact that our unlikely opening goal scorer could have gone from hero to zero. But we won 2-0 thanks to the fact that we played well and also that Manchester City failed to test us to be honest which appeared to cheese some of their fans off. Aaron Mokoena scored the opening goal, it fell nicely to him after luckily deflecting off a City player and he fired it sweetly into the bottom left hand corner finishing it in a striker kind of style. He was later sent off for a second yellow card offence when he was caught pulling the last player but we still went on to seal the game with a nice little move started by Jason Roberts which ended with young Matty Derbyshire slotting home making it look oh so easy. I also noticed that Joey Barton was getting a little nasty towards the end when he tried stamping but seems to have got away with it; he is a good player but he don't half have a bit of a nasty temperament at times.
Striker Benni McCarthy has said that playing in the FA Cup final would surpass anything that he has achieved as a player and I guess this includes winning the Champions League with then Jose Mourinho's Porto. He got one step closer to that tonight though but saw himself being taken off in the second half, ending his record of scoring in every round so far. Hopefully though there will be more goals to come from him in the semi-final and the ultimate round of the final.
Hughes is also one step further to getting what he wants, as well as winning the FA Cup, a place again next year in Europe. It was highlighted to Hughes that winning the FA Cup would open the door for us into Europe. That would be fantastic being FA Cup winners and getting back into Europe, all that hard work would have paid off and it will show people that we are serious about contending with the big boys.
Naturally Mark Hughes was delighted that we came out on top and comfortably went through at the expense of a lacklustre Manchester City. He felt we looked comfortable which we were throughout the game and he is pleased that we got the job done. He had no doubts about the red card after seeing it again, at first he felt it was a bit harsh but after seeing it again he was aware that the referee was following the letter of the law. All the lads dug in and did what they were paid to do. So Hughes is happy, the lads are happy and we the fans are very happy.
Next up is West Ham which we will hope to get maximum points from if we are going to push for a top six finish. But the Hammers will be no push over as they are scraping for their lives being at the foot of the table so we will have to be consistent and take them seriously, especially following their recent match where they amazingly finished losers after scoring three times. It shows they can score the goals so we will have to keep that door shut; in our favour we definitely know that they concede them and as we are scoring I feel confident with this one. If we were to win and results go our way against the four above, we could see ourselves sitting level on points with the team in sixth place.