Monday, December 31, 2012

Time for Bentley to Shine

Once described as the “next David Beckham”, David Bentley has found it hard to live up to the mantle of one of the great icons of the game but, with the midfielder set to return to English football, it might well be time for Bentley to show what he is capable of. 

Having burst onto the stage at perennial football betting favourites, Arsenal, and learning his trade with some of the Premier League greats in the early 2000s, Bentley soon found first-team games with the Gunners hard to come by.
Manager, Arsene Wenger, clearly saw something in Bentley that was not fitting in with his ethos at the north London club and the youngster was shipped on loan to the likes of Norwich City and Blackburn Rovers, before making a permanent move to Ewood Park.

Bentley has pretty much been a nomad ever since and a move to Tottenham Hotspur saw further loan spells with the likes of Birmingham City, West Ham United, and, most recently, Russian outfit, Rostov.

However, the now 28-year-old looks like he has done plenty of growing up and a return to White Hart Lane is set for next month with a host of clubs interested in the midfielder.

Bentley told Sky Sports: "I have really enjoyed my time at Rostov and I am feeling fully fit after playing on a regular basis.

"I will return to Tottenham in January and find out what is happening with regards my future, but ideally I want to be playing - whether that be at Tottenham or somewhere else."

It remains to be seen whether he has a future under Spurs boss, Andre Villas-Boas, but Bentley is looking forward to getting back to England and having one last proper crack at the rigors of the Premier League – and, with it, a shot at playing for his country at World Cup 2014.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another FIFA project leading to World Cup schedule worries

Work on a number of projects for the 2013 FIFA World Cup are reportedly behind schedule, with transport infrastructure and stadiums lagging behind construction deadlines.

There is a major concern in the footballing world that Brazil won’t be ready to host the tournament with just 18 months to go before the first match is scheduled to be played. Only last month FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke revealed host city Manaus was lagging behind schedule and was less than 50% complete despite needing to be ready by December 2013.

Although Manaus may be ready for the World Cup, Brazil must have the stadium up to FIFA-recognised standards six months before the world descends upon Brazil, in order to carry out extensive safety and events testing. If they fall too far behind, Valkce suggested cities may even be struck off the schedule.

“You cannot have the stadium six weeks in advance, that is technically impossible,” he said.

“There is no plan B, you can always decide to take one stadium off. We did it in Germany for the Confederations Cup and South Africa for the Confederations Cup. It works.”

Indeed, Valcke’s words should come as a real warning to Brazil to get their act together over preparations for the World Cup. The same warning was given to South Africa before the 2010 tournament, with the Rainbow Nation spending way above budget to ensure operations eventually met deadlines.

The same is destined to happen in Brazil, where the country’s Audits Court have already condemned a $650m light railway project as being so far behind schedule it won’t be completed by summer 2014.

FIFA, it seems, have once again got themselves in a mess. Thankfully Brazil’s jewel in the crown, the Maracana Stadium, is only slightly behind schedule. Yet this is a real warning to future World Cup hosts like Russia and Qatar that work must be started as soon as possible if they are to avoid delay problems and spiralling costs.

Don’t forget to check out the Betfair Capital One cup odds specials ahead of Leeds v Chelsea next week, as well as the latest news, tips, expert opinion and the latest  FA Cup odds

Monday, December 10, 2012

Turkey deserves Euro 2020 final rights

The one nation to reject UEFA’s proposals for a continent-wide 2020 European Championships was Turkey. They were right to do so. The Turkish FA had been planning a bid to host the tournament themselves yet were scuppered by UEFA president Michel Platini’s insistence that Euro 2020 should have numerous host cities.

The corridors of the Turkish FA must have been shaking as UEFA’s executive committee made the decision in Lausanne last Thursday. It was the brainchild of Platini and received much criticism when first voiced last year, yet support has grown for the idea after witnessing financial and infrastructure difficulties leading up to Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

So, UEFA have taken the decision to stage a Europe-wide tournament, leaving Turkey in the cold. Instead of welcoming nations to bid for the tournament, potential stadiums will vie for the chance to become one of 12 or 13 host cities across the continent.

As good as this idea may be, does anyone else not feel that Turkey has been cast aside here? Had FIFA pondered the possibility of hosting a global 2018 World Cup when England were bidding for the rights two years ago there would have been uproar.

Turkey’s build-up efforts for their bid have been completely ignored by UEFA and European football in general; isolating their FA and making them look like ‘the bad guys’ for objecting to Platini’s idea.

There must be some sort of compensation for Turkey, who were led down a glitzy avenue only to be bundled into a dark closet and muffled. There are reports the FA will bid for Wembley to host the final. Well, why not give that honour to Turkey, the only country that bothered to show interest in the first place? Turks will certainly be of a nervous disposition when the IOC decides between Turkey, Madrid and Tokyo for the right to host the 2020 Olympics next September.

Istanbul has hosted major games before and Turkey was ready to invest millions into infrastructure. Galatasaray’s fantastic new 52,000-seater stadium proves the Turks can stage games to UEFA standard and so should rightly host the Euro 2020 final.

Don’t forget to head to Betfair for all the latest CapitalOne Cup Betting markets now we have reached the quarter-final stage. Plus you can also use their Football In-play betting markets to have a bet while the match is being played.

Adebayor should be going to Nations Cup

Emmanuel Adebayor’s decision not to play for Togo in the 2013 Africa Nations Cup due to a dispute of match bonuses has shocked football fans already disenchanted with the vast sums of money their heroes earn on a weekly basis.

Instead of playing for his home country, Adebayor will instead stay at Spurs and aid their chase for a Champions League spot come the May, something manager Andre Villas-Boas is reportedly happy about.

“We’ll probably have the player here in January, which is a massive boost as you know, it gives me other options and possibilities,” the manager said.

“[Adebayor is] very very important, we are speaking about a player that has meant so much to us.”
Indeed, Adebayor may give the boss options but whether or not Villas-Boas should take them is quite another thing. For while the majority of football fans would argue the striker should play in the Nations Cup to represent his country, others will further suggest the tournament could improve his game.

For Adebayor has hardly been a success this season at White Heart Lane. The 28-year-old earned a contract in the summer after scoring 18 goals last year, yet has netted just twice for Spurs this campaign. He’s made just five starts, been sent off and has appears more of a hindrance than the far more affable Jermain Defoe.

Villas-Boas may say the striker gives him options, but what options are they exactly? He is strong and makes himself known in opposition penalty boxes yet is also temperamental and selfish. Spurs have won just three games with him this season and one of those was against Maribor, where Defoe scored a hat-trick.

And, as good as he was against Panathinaikos we must remember he was up against an abject defence. At the Nations Cup he would get game time, scoring opportunities and the chance to win something for his country.

Of course, it is better AVB has him in the squad than not, but one cannot help thinking that a stint in a Togo shirt could have done Adebayor a world of good.

Don’t forget to head over to Betfair for all the latest FA Cup betting, football news, odds, expert opinion and the best Champions League tips.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Football now not about winning trophies

UEFA’s recent proposals to do away with the Europa League and instead increase the size of the Champions League to a leviathan 64-team tournament may hold sound financial benefits but it highlights the changing mentality of club football.

Rather than have a Champions League hosting the best teams in Europe and a Europa League that gives smaller clubs the chance to win a European trophy – for it is only in England where people have major problems with the Europa League – UEFA have proposed streamlining their competitions into one tournament.

The problem with this is, in creating a continent-wide tournament UEFA will detach football from one of its major sporting attributes: winning a trophy.

Football is now about balance sheets, sponsorship deals and revenue streams. Disappearing are the days when your team’s main aim was to win a trophy rather than qualify fourth for the Champions League. Success is now viewed through profits not cups, with Arsenal a perfect example of a club run purely for business in sacrifice of what fans deem success. They have qualified for the knock-out stages of the Champions League once again but have not win a trophy in seven years.

If UEFA absolve the Europa League then that’s countless more teams without a chance of winning a tournament. Ask Fulham fans if they would have rather played a boring group stage with 63 other disinterested sides or reach a European final in 2010.

Ask Atletico Madrid fans if they would have swapped Europa League success last year for six pointless games against middling clubs before falling by the wayside as Barcelona surge to the final yet again.

Granted, the Europa League format needs changing but not casting aside. Football should be about winning trophies: about pitting our team against yours and seeing who is the best. It should not be about having a great day out in Milan and dining off that 2-0 defeat for the rest of your life.

UEFA will make the wrong move if they drop the Europa League, with teams happy to play for the money rather than go for a cup.

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