Knowing me, Knowing you, Saha

Louis Saha’s book is not your bog standard ex footballer text; its not packed full of boozed up shenanigans or recollections of post-training visits to Nando’s , not is it used as a tool to have the last laugh against former foes Partridge style. The former Blue reflects candidly on his upbringing, morality and modern day culture in football along with reflections on the players and key moments which have shaped his career.

Saha on his day was one of the best forwards I have seen play at Goodison. He wasn’t the explosive talent with rapid movement running deep that characterised his time at Fulham and early on at Man United. Injuries clearly took their toll on Saha’s body and by the time he rocked up at L4 he had began to modify his game and specifically his movement around the pitch but his quality and explosive finishing were still sublime. Saha was often unfairly accused of not giving 100% and this critique was perhaps more because he didn’t fit into the striker specification fans prefer of being able to run themselves into the ground even if it is the detriment of their acceleration during key moments of games.

In the book Saha talks highly of Everton and his time at the club although there is significantly more inches dedicated to his days down the M62 at Old Trafford. Perhaps the best recollection from a blue perspective is of a game between the two sides and one of Saha’s first experiences of Goodison. In it, he describes Alex Ferguson being wary of the ‘soul’ of Goodison with Tommy Gravesen being ‘an illegal pitbull biting through to the bone’ as the Toffees recovered from 0-3 down to 3-3 only for a last minute winner to clinch a dramatic win for United. There is interesting anecdotes about how Saha almost played for England and sad reflections of how he missed out on the two biggest games of his career due to suspension and injury.

There were some some aspects of the book I didn’t totally get. Whilst he talks with great respect for former boss Alex Ferguson, there is minimal coverage of his relationship with David Moyes. We can perhaps draw a correlation with his rocky relationship with former Metz coach Joel Muller – due to the physical demands Muller placed on players – with his strained relations with Moyes. The Chapter written by his wife about WAG’s wasn’t really my bag and I didn’t  buy into some of his arguments – notably his loyal / misguided defence of former colleague Carlos Tevez for his Munich no show.  In conclusion, you couldn’t deny that Saha is someone with plenty of opinions and he tackles a lot of issues in the book head on and the text is well worth a purchase for your summer holidays.


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The Top 20 Pundit / Cliche Dead Certs of EURO 2012

1. Alan Hansen will have never heard of Bundesliga winner and Borussia Dortmund top scorer Robert Lewandowski …’Luwon…Lewand…Lewansomethin or other has got a good touch for a big man’ *Shearer sniggers in background*

2. Clive Tyldsley will pronounce Xavi to be a ‘quarterback’

3. Colin Murray will be a bell whiff.

4. Alaistar Mann will refer to Everton defender Phil Jagielka as ‘Jajj-jeelka’ on the highlights programme.

5. Arry Redknapp will call at least one player a ‘triffic laaaaayd’

6. Hansen will try and gain favour with Seedorf by laughing, pointing and shouting something very loudly at him like you would do to a deaf geriatric relative

7. The monumental ball sack Robbie Savage will be controversial for the sake of it.

8. Jamie Carragher will say ‘ya know’ 46 times in the first weekend of the tournament.

9. Peter Reid will deliver his canned content line of ‘you need to keep the ball better at international level’ as England slip out of the tournament at the ¼ final stage

10. Alan Shearer will mention how organised the German’s are…and (with no African sides in the tournament) Hansen will lament how disorganised sides from eastern Europe are.

11. Alan Hansen will have never heard of Denmark’s Ajax dynamo Christian Eriksen

12. Roy Keane will make snide comments about poor players whilst conveniently glossing over the fact that he paid £5m for the worst player in the entire tournament Paul McShane

13. Alan Shearer will be generally confused by whats going on around him and his complete lack of any research and total ignorance of any football outside of the Premier League will be met with laughter by his fellow pundits.

14. Lawro will mince around in the background with his rastapaedic hairdo and barn dance clobber.

15. Dan Walker will be incredibly boring and resort to comments about confectionary before the group stage is over

16. Alan Hansen will mention ‘kamikaze’ defending at the earliest opportunity. Lee Dixon will nod.

17. Adrian Childs will continue to be an utter candle…but will be outdone by the consistently number one melt Garth Crooks.

18. Arry Redknapp will announce at half time of any England game that Scott Scottie Parker always gives 110% to the cause.

19. Martin Keown will continue to look and sound like he should be commentating on Six Nations Rugby.

20. Alan Hansen will have never heard of Dzagoev.


Manuel Fernandes: Part III?

Rumours have linked former toffee Manuel Fernandes with a third stint at Goodison  after he mutually agreed to terminate his contract with Besiktas. The Turkish club had paid Valencia €2 million for his services – a huge drop on the €18m the Spanish side paid Benfica for him in 2007 with Fernandes paid €2m for the 2011-12 season (roughly £31k per week).

The midfielder departed after a financial crisis at the Turkish outfit who couldn’t deliver either his basic salary or the proposed rise of €100,000 for the next 2 years. Fernandes was not the only player to fall victim to the clubs poor financial mis-management with ex toffee Matteo Ferrari also being left out of pocket by the club (he has since departed and rocked up at MLS outfit Montreal Impact). Besiktas were originally handed a suspended sentence and have consequently been banned from European football for one season for their conduct.

On the pitch, the Portuguese had 2 productive loan spells at L4 either side of an ill-fated big money move to the Mestella where he turned out on a sporadic basis for la liga outfit Valencia.  Fernandes was usually deployed for us as a central midfield regista. He has exceptional skill on the ball, using his quick feet to dribble at speed which make him adept at winning fouls (29 in 18 starts during his loan spells). He reserved his better displays for the big games vs Man Utd (goal) and in the wins against Arsenal and Newcastle (2 assists) – all at Goodison. Defensively he is competent with good upper body strength but lacks the drive and intensity in terms of pressing that say Fellaini delivers.  If Moyes is looking to use the big Belgian in a more advanced role next season- and the stats say he should – then we have a more orthodox central midfield role up for grabs. Like Gibson, Fernandes is more right footed and prefers to be on the ball rather than working to win it back so its dubious if they would be a good fit as a partnership. He also has  a tendency to drift out of position and make rash challenges (he conceded 7 bookings last season).

Although he was omitted from Portugal’s Euro 2012 squad this week he showed in the Europa league last season with 5 assists as well as 13 assists and 5 goals in the Turkish top flight he is far from finished and at 26 years of age he will feel he still has something to give. This creative spark is something Moyes will be well aware is the number one priority recruitment wise this summer particularly in wide areas where we have lost last season’s 3 most incisive players in terms of Pienaar, Donovan and Drenthe who amassed 20+ assists between them in their limited game time. The Scot is clearly a fan of Fernandes and his box of tricks having tried and failed to recruit him permanently and then trying to get him on loan for a third time in 2008, so with no fee its clearly a deal the frugal thinking Scot would be keen on. Whilst Fernandes is a character of dubious moral fibre I enjoyed watching him at Goodison and if a deal can be done I’d be confident he could ‘do a job’ for us again.