Four Points Required

The Republic of Ireland take on Denmark tonight in a 2020 European Championship qualifier and the timing of the game is ridiculous in my opinion. Most of the players involved in this game will not have played a competitive match in nearly a month by the time the referee blows his first whistle. It is at times like this I often wonder what genius came up with the arrangements for these games, oh and by the way Mick McCarthy,s side take on Gibraltar next Monday night in Dublin, the scheduling has put a lot of pressure on the Irish manager as he knows he has had to keep his squad match fit and fully focussed for the length of time his squad have been together.

The manager not only has had to get his tactics correct on the night to get a result, but he has also needed to keep his players from going stir crazy in the hotel. McCarthy has let the players off the lead over the past couple of days and in return the players have not let him down and behaved like excellent professionals. Mick actually took a lot of advice from his assistant Robbie Keane on what they should do in the circumstances, as during the 2012 European Championships Finals in Poland and the Ukraine the players nearly went mad with been restricted to the hotel most days. This was the way former manager Trappatoni approached things and nobody dared to question the wily old Italian. To mix things up for these couple of games the Irish squad headed to Portugal for a short training camp,mind you I have it on good authority it was a great bonding trip and everything went smoothly.

McCarthy took a twenty three man squad to Portugal which included two new call ups that have had the Irish fans getting very excited to say the least. The two players in question are Bournemouth,s Mark Travers and Bolton Wanderers Luca Connell. Mark is a fantastic goalkeeping prospect and has shown in the premier league he is capable of pulling off spectacular saves to keep his side in the game. Darren Randolph will not be around forever and Mark is showing signs that he can step up if needed and become the Irish man between the posts for a very long time, but the Irish manager will have to bring him along slowly so he can settle into the surroundings of International football. Luca has been involved with a struggling Bolton side this season and his call up has been well deserved. Luca is one for the future but like Travers it is great for the lad that Mick has brought him in to give him a feel for International football. These two inclusions into McCarthy,s squad are great for everyone as we go forward, because let us be honest about it, the Irish team needs as much new blood it can manage to find.

Tonight the wait will be over and the Irish team will take to the pitch to face Denmark in what is most definitely a game they must not lose. Hopefully the manager has got his tactics correct and the players turn up and perform. Unfortunately for the Irish manager he has lost Long, Travers and would you believe it Connell from his squad through injury, it leaves him a bit short of fire power up front but the team are ready. A draw in Denmark and three points against Gibraltar would be a great return from the first four games for the Republic of Ireland and it could set them up to be real challengers in their group. We all know what the Danes are capable of, but if the Irish are set up right and they can manage to get the required draw, it will be something that will but a big smile across Mick McCarthy,s face.

By David Meier

Mack is back on Track

A trip to sunny Gibraltar and a home game in the Aviva Stadium against Georgia was exactly what Mick McCarthy would have wanted to start his qualification campaign for the 2020 European Championships. It was an early opportunity to get six points on the board and get a bit of momentum going. Momentum was something the new Republic of Ireland boss spoke about leading up to the games and as we all know momentum in football can sometimes be very hard to derail.

The game against Gibraltar on the Rock was a real throwback to far gone days of international football. The stadium was situated at the end of the runway for the main airport on the island, in fact during the game a plane could be seen landing behind the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph,s goal, now that is something you do not see very often. The game itself was awful and even Mick said it was horrible to watch and did not enjoy one moment of it. The game was destroyed by a wind that blew from one end of the pitch to the other, as you will always find around an airport. The artificial surface did not help either and it was nearly impossible for Ireland to get any sort of rhythm or pattern going. It was one of those games were you just wanted to win and get all three points and get out of town. Although the game was dominated by Mick McCarthys men Ireland goalkeeper Randolph had to pull off a world class save to deny Gibraltar captain Chipolina from giving the home side the lead, and it

d have been totally against the run of play. The game itself was won by a Jeff Hendrick goal after forty nine minutes and although the performance was terrible the victory was well deserved. The Irish fans were looking for a lift and they got it by taking home all three points but nobody inside the stadium was raving about the performance but we can put that down to circumstances, it must not be forgotten that Ireland went into this game without any game time under the new manager. As Ireland left the Rock on that Saturday night they left with the knowledge that they had all three points in the bag and it was mission accomplished.

If the game in Gibraltar was awful the match in the Aviva stadium three days later was magnificent. It was the homecoming of the new Republic of Ireland manager and the crowd gave him a great welcome home. The match itself was totally different to the game on the Rock and the Irish performance on the night was excellent. All eleven players put in a great shift and the style of play was top notch. It was very important that the team got the fans behind them and the way they played was a great success. The team passed the ball and found a team mate time after time, it was a style that had not been seen in the Aviva in a very long time. During the lead up the game it had been announced that John Walters was to retire from International football and he was a player who had a role that was very important in the big scheme of the things for the boys in green. John was the runner in the Martin O'Neill system and the player ran himself into the ground for the Irish cause. The new manager need not have worried because Sheffield United,s David McGoldrick was brilliant on the night in a similar role. The striker ran himself into the ground on the night and put in a man of the match performance. On the night, himself and Glen Whelan really stood out and Whelan broke up every attack Georgia mounted. The winning goal came from a magnificent free kick from Conor Hourihane in the thirty fourth minute, after a protest was held by Irish fans against former FAI CEO John Delaney with the throwing of several tennis balls onto the playing field. A protest that some numb nut came up with to cause problems, but the less said about it the better. Overall it was good night for Mick and his team and after two games they sit on top of the group, so it goes without saying that " Mack is Back on Track ".

Rock On Mick

This weekend Mick McCarthy starts his second spell as Republic of Ireland manager. It is also the start of qualifying for the 2020 European Championships and the first game up for the Irish is away to Gibraltar, a game from which they are expected to pick up all three points. It will be Mick,s first chance to set out his plans to take Ireland forward over the qualifying period. He needs to start off with a win to get all the Irish fans on board for a campaign that could take them all the way to the finals. Everybody within the Irish game is willing Mick to come with the goods and let us all hope he can bring his magic to a squad that had become very stale and disillusioned under the former regime of Martin O' Neill and Roy Keane. It is an old road that the powers to be at the FAI have decided to go down, but with McCarthy at the helm there is every chance of qualification. Once the Gibraltar game is out of the way the next in line for the Irish is a home fixture against a well organised Georgia. That game could be a tricky one for the boys in green but it is Mick McCarthy,s home coming and if the fans can get behind the team it could lead to a great start to the campaign for the Irish. The tougher games against Switzerland and Denmark will follow, but if the Irish can get a bit of momentum going who knows what will happen as we go along in this campaign.

The management team may have changed with the return of Mick McCarthy but the squad of players he has to pick from is pretty much the same. Mick and his management team of ex Leeds United strikers Terry Connor

Connor and Robbie Keane have been seen out and about at a lot of games and this has even included games in the SSE Airtricty League. They have been looking to unearth some little gem that might have been missed by the previous regime. But when Mick named his final twenty three man squad for the two upcoming games, he named pretty much the same players as Martin O' Neill had done in previous internationals. There are a few new additions to the squad but nothing that is going to get the juices flowing. Therefore it is most important that the style of play that is produced on the field is vital. Ireland need to have a plan A and a plan B if things are to be successful, for to long under O' Neill if plan A did not work plan B was to hoof the ball long and hope for bits and pieces around the penalty area and that style was like food and drink to most international teams. If this Irish team can get six points from their two opening games it will give the players and the fans the belief that maybe qualification is possible. If they start off badly then McCarthy,s reign could be over before it has even begun. Mick will need one of his strikers to step up to the plate over the coming games and set down a marker for the campaign ahead, unfortunately Shane Long has been ruled out before a ball has even been kicked and that is a blow to the Irish. This will give other players a chance to step up and if the Irish manager goes with Sean Maguire we could have a story on our hands. Come next Tuesday night at nine forty five we will know how the results have gone and have the Irish returned to winning ways, I for one hope we have all six points in the bag as I am a big fan of Mick McCarthy,s and he certainly has some unfinished business to sort out before he finally packs it in.

By David Meier

Let's Bag Bamford

It goes without saying that Robbie Keane is the greatest striker ever to pull on the green shirt of the Republic of Ireland. Since Robbie retired the boys in green have really struggled to score goals and nobody has stepped up to the plate to bag the goals required which has made qualification for the big tournaments almost impossible. Over the years Robbie led the line practically on his own and if it wasn't for him things could have been a lot worse for the Irish. New Irish manager Mick McCarthy needs to get a goalscorer for his squad and he needs to get one quick as the qualification for the 2020 European Championships starts at the end of March. Mick has turned his attention to the Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford who qualifies to play for Ireland under the famous so called granny rule. The same rule in which Declan Rice qualified for Ireland is now been used ironically to try and get Bamford to declare for Mick McCarthy,s squad. Bamford would be a big plus for the Irish side and he will surely work well and take a few tips off the newly appointed assistant manager Robbie Keane. Mick has already made contact with the Leeds United striker and they are set to meet up over the next few weeks to try and sort out what is required to get the player on board. It will be a great coup for McCarthy and it might just soften the blow of losing Rice to England.

Unless you are a Leeds United fan it is possible that you might have no idea who Patrick Bamford is and where he has come from. The twenty five year old has played for nine clubs during his short career including Nottingham Forest, Chelsea, MK Dons, Derby County, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace, Burnley, Norwich City and his present club Leeds. Patrick is not a total out and out striker as he can be just as effective as an attacking midfielder which can only be another plus for the Republic of Ireland manager. Bamford was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire and started out his career with Nottingham Forest. He qualifies to play for Ireland through his grandmother and has already played for Ireland at underage level before switching to play for England and earning caps up to under twenty one level. McCarthy needs to act fast to get this deal over the line as it will take a couple of months to get any paperwork done. There is no doubt the Irish could do with Bamford,s talent and goals as they move forward and given the chance it could be good for the player as well. Time will tell where this story will end, but it shows a lot about Mick McCarthy and the fact that he is prepared to have a good look around all the leagues to try and unearth any little nugget that can help Ireland,s cause and this can only be good news for the Irish fans.

By David Meier

Friday Night Fever

With the evenings staying brighter for just that little bit longer it can only mean one thing if you live in the Republic of Ireland, it means that the SSE Airtricity League is back. The 2019 season has kicked off and the opening few games have seen an increase in the fans going through the turnstiles from the same period as last season. We are now four games in and the Premier League is now starting to show a little bit of shape. Over the past couple of seasons the league has been dominated by Dundalk and Cork City and it is about time the other clubs stepped up and made things a lot tighter so as to make things more interesting. This season I expect the challenge for honours to come from Saint Patrick's Athletic under new manager Harry Kenny and two more clubs in the shape of Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians.

After four games it is Bohemians who sit proudly at the top of the Premier Division having won three of their opening games including a one nil win over Dublin rivals Shamrock Rovers in Dalymount Park. It is a great start for a team who love to play a passing style of football and so far it has returned great results for manager Keith Long. One big suprise has been the start of the season for Cork City who have managed to win only one game which they did by beating Sligo Rovers away two one. It is worrying times for manager John Caulfield and he must be asking himself where the goals are going to come from this season, because in the opening four games they have only managed to find the net twice. It could be a long season if the men f

men from close to the River Lee don't start to perform, because in the SSE Airtricity League if you start to fall behind a gap can develop and you do not always get the chance to close it. The Cork manager knows it is a long season and he has plenty of time to get it right but the lack of big investment over the past couple of months could come back and haunt him and the board.

The First Division has only played two games so far this season and any one of the top seven teams are in with a chance of getting automatic promotion. The favourites for the title are Shelbourne and they had a magnificent start last Friday week when they came from two nil down to beat Galway three two away from home. It was a superb result as going to Galway and getting a win is not always an easy thing to do. There was a lot of expectant fans in Tolka Park on Friday night last when Shelbourne played host to Cabinteely, a game that nine times out of ten the home side would have been expected to win, but the away side caused a major shock by winning three two. It was only game number two for Shelbourne and they need to learn from this huge wake up call. Bray Wanderers and Athlone Town sit on top of the table with six points but like the Premier Division there is a long way to go and this could be a very entertaining and exciting season and who will get the coveted promotion spots nobody knows, but I do feel Shelbourne will be there or thereabouts.

By David Meier

Ireland Look Forward

As we leave behind 2018, we leave a period that is better off put in the bin as far as Irish soccer at international level goes. It was one problem after another both on and off the pitch and it culminated in the sacking of Martin O'Neill and the appointment of former manager Mick McCarthy, a decision that has been well received by the fans and the media. If the truth was to be told O'Neill should have departed after the play off disaster against Denmark but so much has been said about that result we will just leave it behind. The mood coming to the end of 2018 was very down and disconsolate but things could just be about to take a turn for the better. The draw for the 2020 European Championships has come and gone and it certainly was not the worst draw in the world for the new manager, mind you it could have been a lot worse if it had not been for the removal of the Republic of Ireland from a group which contained Germany and Holland, apparently it was pre planned that hosting nations could not been placed in the same group, you would have to agree that it was not bad as qualifying groups go. Mick McCarthy will have to hit the ground running if his side are to get to the finals and they have had another bit of luck with the way the fixtures have come out. Their first game is away in Gibraltar and you would have to believe that the three points will be in the bag after that game for the Irish.

So who did Mick McCarthy and his boys green get in the qualifiers ?. Out of the hat came Switzerland, Denmark, Georgia and Gibraltar and you would have to agree that as qualifying groups go it is not all to bad. Mick will know he has to hit the ground running if his side are to get to the finals and they had another bit of luck when the fixtures were announced as Ireland,s first game will be away against Gibraltar and you would have to believe they can win that one. One thing for certain on the horizon for Mick that his Ireland side are struggling to find a regular goal scorer and with that in mind he has been trawling the leagues to find one. It is reported that he is to have a chat with Leeds United,s Patrick Bamford and hopes to get the striker to declare for Ireland. The Declan Rice saga is continuing and has to be sorted out sooner rather than later. Mick and his newly appointed assistant manager Robbie Keane have sat down with the West Ham United player and discussed the future. As I put this article together the management team are reported to be very confident that Declan will return to the Irish team but as of yet no announcement has been made. If Rice comes back on board it will be a real coup for McCarthy and it could give him a rock in the defence that he could build a team around.

There is no doubt that the mood around Irish football has lifted since the appointment of Mick McCarthy and now there is a lot of hope and belief that the boys in green will actually qualify for the 2020 European Championships. Mick knows that he will have to start off winning games and this will produce a happy factor in the camp and should get a momentum going for the Irish. Football can be won and lost on momentum and as it stands at the moment the Irish need to get back to winning ways. 2018 was an awful year and we do not want to see the likes of it again. There will be a huge difference in the style of play that Mick McCarthy will have his side playing compared to what was played under O'Neill as at times under Martin it seemed like the Irish were making it up as it went along. Mick is a manager who likes to see his team pass and move and insists on total commitment to the cause. It will be a very interesting 2019 for Ireland and one that I expect will be very exciting as well and it all starts in earnest for Mick McCarthy and his team in March.

By David Meier

Pulisic to Join Chelsea

​Chelsea have officially agreed the signing of Borussia Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic after the German club announced that a €64m (£58m) deal is in place for the United States international to move to Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.

The 20-year-old American, who was due to be out of contract at Dortmund, immediately becomes Chelsea's player but will remain at Westfalenstadion until summer. There is no 'loan fee' payable by Dortmund to keep him for the next six months.


"It was always Christian's dream to play in the Premier League," Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc told as the arranged transfer was confirmed.

"That certainly has to do with his American background, and as a result we were unable to extend his contract. In this context, we have decided to accept an extremely lucrative bid by Chelsea, given the low contract maturity," he added.

Zorc also remains in little doubt that Pulisic will continue to give his all for Dortmund in the remaining six months of his time with the club as they fight for the Bundesliga title.

"Christian Pulisic is a perfect character. I am sure that in the coming months he will do everything in his power to bring his high quality to the team and to achieve his sporting goals with his team-mates Borussia Dortmund," he said.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1998, Pulisic has previously briefly lived in England for a year as a young child before returning to his native USA. After developing under the eye of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy system, he joined Dortmund as a 16-year-old in February 2015 and made his first team debut just under 12 months later.

He later went on to become a regular in the side, playing 85 games across 2016/17 and 2017/18, also establishing himself as a generational star of the United States national team.

Injury worries and competition from emerging England starlet Jadon Sancho had seen Pulisic struggle to match his previous Dortmund impact during the first half of this season.


Leicester City crash helicopter rotor controls failed

(L-R): Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Kaveporn Punpare, Nusara Suknamai, Izabela Roza Lechowicz and Eric SwafferImage copyright Getty Images/Facebook/Instagram
Image caption (L-R): Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Kaveporn Punpare, Nusara Suknamai, Izabela Roza Lechowicz and Eric Swaffer were killed in the crash

The helicopter which crashed killing Leicester City's chairman and four others spun out of control after a mechanism became disconnected, investigators said.

An Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) report found cockpit pedals had disconnected from the tail rotor.

This caused the AW169 aircraft to turn uncontrollably to the right before it crashed near the King Power Stadium.

The AAIB said its inquiries into the 27 October crash were ongoing.

Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, two members of his staff Nusara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, and pilots Eric Swaffer and Izabela Roza Lechowicz were killed in the crash.

A public memorial for Mr Swaffer and Ms Lechowicz - who police said was a passenger at the time of the crash - is taking place at Guildford Cathedral on Thursday.

An inspection at the crash site found parts of a mechanism linking the pilot's pedals to the tail rotor had become disconnected and there was a "build-up of black grease" on one component.

The failure of the system led to the pitch of the tail rotor blades being changed "until they reached the physical limit of their travel".

The report stated: "The initiating cause and exact sequence of the failure that resulted in the loss of tail rotor control is being investigated as a priority."

Widely shared video footage of the helicopter's last flight, taken from inside the King Power Stadium, shows the AgustaWestland AW169 climbing normally for about 40 seconds before it pauses and goes into a downward spin.

The aircraft reached an altitude of approximately 430ft then crashed to the ground.

It was rapidly engulfed in a post-impact fire and all five people on board were killed.

Following the crash, the European Aviation Safety Agency ordered safety checks to be carried out on the tail rotors of AW169s and similar models.

At the memorial service for the pilots in Guildford, Ms Lechowicz's sister Kate paid tribute to the pair saying "they were just an incredible couple and amazing pilots".

"[They were] always there for their family and friends, ready to fly across the globe to be with us or anyone who would need it."

She said both had been excited at the prospect of becoming aunt and uncle to her son who is now 18 days old.

She said: "I wish you could meet each other. We have already applied for his passport, as you wished, so he can fly before he walks.

"You have touched the lives of every single person you have met... I know I am not alone in feeling a part of me is missing that never can be replaced."

Source: BBC NEWS

Shrewsbury set to appoint Ricketts

Sam Ricketts is expected to be announced as the Shrewsbury manager in the next 24 hours, according to Sky sources.

Sky Sports News reported on Saturday that the Sky Bet League One side were close to appointing the current Wrexham manager as their new boss.

Ricketts was told to stay away from the National League club's FA Cup second-round tie against Newport on Saturday amid the "speculation" surrounding his future.

The 37-year-old will replace John Askey, who left Shrewsbury in November after just five months at the club.

Ricketts took his first steps into management in May when he was appointed Wrexham boss and has enjoyed a fine start, losing only three of his opening 22 league matches.

Source: Football Webpages

Monk: We've lost our toughness

Gary Monk said he was hugely disappointed to lose the Second City derby 4-2 at Villa Park but remained positive about aspects of their performance

Garry Monk wants his Birmingham City side to regain their toughness after watching them throw away a lead to lose 4-2 to Aston Villa in Sunday's second city derby.

The visitors had been leading through Lukas Jutkiewicz's 28th-minute strike, only for Villa to turn the game on its head with two goals in two first-half minutes at Villa Park.

Despite Kristian Pedersen briefly giving Birmingham hope of an unlikely second-half comeback after Tammy Abraham's penalty had further increased the hosts' lead, Alan Hutton's solo run made it 13 league games unbeaten for Villa against their rivals.

As a result, Birmingham have now conceded 10 goals in three games and Monk admitted his team need to rediscover their steel.

"It's disappointing, hugely disappointing to lose against your local rivals," he said. "The last three games have been a learning curve for this group.

"In the first 35 minutes we were excellent. We had a chance to make it 2-0 which came off the post, but I don't look at it like that.

"It's been the last three games where we have got ourselves into good positions, but have come away from our little bit of toughness.

"We've been a little bit too easy to score against and we've been heavily punished. This is a tough one for us to take. We know how important it is, but this group have come a long way.

"It is all about timing, but at the end of the day we have lost a game and we are disappointed to lose this game especially against your close rivals, but we have to get back to that toughness.

"It has only been three games, but it has proved costly. There is work to be done, but that is part of this group's learning curve."

Villa had gone in 2-1 ahead at half-time, only for Abraham to add a crucial third from the spot six minutes into the second half.

Monk, though, was adamant the spot-kick should not have been awarded, claiming his centre-back Michael Morrison had been fouled by the Villa striker in the lead-up to the penalty.

"It is a foul on our player first - he throws him out the way and never has the chance of getting the ball afterwards," he said.

"But it is all ifs and buts and at the end of the day we have conceded goals we are really disappointed with."

Source: Football Webpages