Spain need new ideas for young talents as dominance ends

Publicado originalmente en WSC.co.uk / Originally published on WSC.co.uk

 

It’s the end of an era. After Spain’s early exit of Euro 2016, Spanish fans and media agreed that La Roja’s dominance of international football is over. The so called “tranquil transition” led by manager Vicente del Bosque after the shocking flop at the 2014 World Cup hasn’t been successful. Now, broader changes are required.

It was good while it lasted but we are not longer the best was the front page headline in the influential sports newspaper Marca after Spain’s defeat against Italy. And that was, by far, the least critical media reaction. Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo used a pun on La Roja – La Floja(Weak) – to describe Spain’s performance, meanwhile prestigious daily El País thanked Del Bosque for his services but called for a change in the team management.

Unlike Roy Hodgson, who resigned minutes after England’s defeat to Iceland, the former Real Madrid manager refused to confirm his departure. His comment that “I have to talk with the president of the federation first” was typical of his calm personality, but has not satisfied anyone. In a poll on Marca.com93 per cent of the 60,748 voters demanded a change on the bench.

Obviously, Del Bosque’s legacy is unquestionable. Considered more of a manager of egos rather than a tactical master, his ability to cope with a dressing room packed with world-class footballers and their strong personalities extended the Spanish dominance established at Euro 2008 under Luis Aragonés with another two major titles.

Sadly, the ability to keep everyone happy doesn’t look like enough now. In France there were press reports about a divided squad, with some players unhappy at being reserves – Spain being the only team along with Iceland to have played all their matches with the same starting XI.

The situation was publicly exposed when Chelsea’s Pedro told reporters that “being selected for not playing isn’t worth my time”. But it wasn’t the only evidence of lack of control by the Spanish manager. After Sergio Ramos missed a critical penalty kick against Croatia Del Bosque declared that his role “wasn’t to interfere on who has to take it” – a contentious stand for someone whose team has failed close to half their attempts from the spot since he took charge.

That wasn’t the most serious situation Del Bosque had to cope with. David de Gea’s alleged involvement in a sexual assault case, revealed days before the start of the tournament, created a major debate in Spain about whether he should be in the team. While De Gea was ultimately chosen as the No 1 ahead of Iker Casillas, the accusations continue to hang over him.

Tactically, Del Bosque was out-thought by Antonio Conte just as he had been by Louis van Gaal in Brazil two years ago. Even Georgia managed to beat La Roja in the last friendly before Euro 2016. Gerard Piqué reflected on what needs to be done: “We have young players coming through who are very promising and veterans who have to keep on bringing their experience to the team. But the level isn’t the same and we have to accept that”.

Finding a new boss has to be the priority. To create a team able to reach the final stages of Russia 2018 requires new ideas which suit the younger talents. If Spain is to rejoin the international elite, no time needs to be wasted.

Lancaster honours skipper whilst maintaining their unbeaten run

By Javier Mercadal

Lancaster City drew in their match against Droylsden FC, 1-1, and extended their winning streak to seven games without losing. The Lancastrian side is now seventh in the table, with the play-off positions only two points away. City are in good form, reflected in the mood around the club.

Last Thursday, the captain of the Dolly Blues and local legend, Neil Marshall, announced his decision to leave football at the end of the season, sadly battling cancer. The news sent shockwaves around Giant Axe, with all concerned offering their good wishes to Marshall. What better tribute than potentially being promoted in his final season.

Nicknamed ‘El Capitano’, Marshall has played more than 400 matches for the Dolly Blues wearing the shirt with pride, an achievement which is proudly commemorated with a plaque at the Shed End of the Lancaster football ground. Marshall has battled cancer for several years and has finally decided to end his career in order to spend more time with his family.

“Over the last 10 years I have put a lot of time and effort into training and playing so now I need to spend some quality time with my young family”, said Marshall in an open letter published in his weekly column in the Lancaster Guardian.

However, there is still work to do this season. The skipper, Lancaster born and bred, has decided to carry on until the end of the season, and certainly did that on Saturday versus Droylsden, leading his team on the pitch as always.

It was an unexpected tough match for the Dolly Blues. There was a crowd of 266 at Giant Axe and a supportive atmosphere against a rival struggling to avoid relegation. The scene was set for a fifth consecutive victory for Lancaster City, however, from the first whistle, it became clear that this wouldn’t be an easy match for the hosts.

The home team manager, Phil Brown decided to start the match with a 4-1-4-1formation, with midfielder Jacob Davis acting as a third centre back when the opponents had the ball. This was clearly a defensive tactic which was reflected in Droylsden’s tentative approach, also not effective in what City were perhaps aiming to achieve, as they lacked dominance and control. In the first half, Lancaster resorted to long ball tactics, continually trying to free striker, Tom Kilifin, and a wide range of set-pieces, almost all of them delivered by Ryan Winder with various outcomes.

The best attempt by the hosts came in the 13th minute, when central half Ricky Mercer connected to a cross from Winder following a foul on the halfway line. Unfortunately, the header went over the bar.

At the other end, goalkeeper Mike Hale had a fabulous game in what was a man of the match performance. In the 21th minute, following a dangerous foul by right back Rob Henry on the  visitor’s captain Domaine Rouse, Hale saved a free-kick curled in by Billy Hasler-Cregg which was heading to the corner of the net. Only 10 minutes later, Hasler-Cregg had another chance, this time with a powerful shot from inside the six yard box which Hale saved brilliantly.

“We’ve got the best keeper in the League”, chanted the crowd at the Shed End. Certainly, they had a point.

In the second half, City manager Brown decided to change his strategy. He brought on Tom Watson as a substitute for Terry Cummings, and moved Winder from the right wing to the left reverting to a 4-3-3 formation. This was a significant decision, as, Lancaster’s football became more fluent and chances started to be created.

Captura de pantalla 2016-01-28 a las 18.36.55

Evolution of the tactics used by manager Phil Brown during the match. Pic: Javier Mercadal using sharemytactics.com

In the 54th minute, Billy Akrigg split Droylsden’s defence with a through pass to Winder. The winger drove the ball into the box, dribbled past two opponents and crossed to Kilifin, who hit the net but was offside. City were starting to turn the screw as they tried to win the three points. Brown brought on striker Zach Clark for defensive midfielder Davis, a gamble which paid off as in the 75th minute, Craig Carney pounced on a mistake, crossed the ball and supersub Clark found the net to make it, 1-0.

Disapointingly for the locals however, Droylsden managed to equalise a few minutes later, thanks a penalty kick converted by Hasler-Cregg. It could have been worse, but Hale made another miraculous save off the line and the match finished all square. Lancaster keep themselves in sight of the for the play-offs, a worthy reward for captain Neil Marshall.

The Wytches dark storm fell all over Preston

Publicado originalmente en SensesMag

It was a cold, drizzle night in Preston. Probably, the perfect background curtain for a The Wytches gig. The Brighton-based band made a stop into their UK tour to fulfil The Ferret with their distinctive dark energy. Suddenly, the storm was happening inside the venue.

It was a sold out event. That means almost 200 people ready to enjoy the music of one of the most promising bands in Britain. After his first reference was released, ‘Anabel Dream Reader’ (2014), the trio has been described as “psychedelia painted in black” by The Guardian. Reminiscences of Nirvana’s Bleach album on their sound are inevitable as well.

With the venue full packed, The Wytches opened their Preston’s showcase with ‘C-Side’, a new song where band showed their new addition: an organ. The instrument expands their roundness, giving them a new dimension.

Following, instant classics as ‘Wide at night’ or ‘Gravedweller’, both from their album debut, were recognized by the crowd, which started to move furiously. A mosh-pit appeared on the dancefloor and things went more intense with ‘Wasteybois’.

Then it sounded ‘The holy tigtrophe’ and, later, ‘Summer again’ calmed the mood again, preparing the audience for the big end with ‘Robe for Juda’.

As soon as the last note was played, the band left the stage without muttering a single word. An abrupt end which forms part of the band’s ethos. The end of the storm.

The Wytches were supported by Baby in Vain, a noise rock trio from Denmark with female vocals and grunge attitude and local band Moon & The Beams, who played a 60’s psychedelic rock and roll.

“Better go to Manchester”, an approach to Preston’s Live Music Scene

Publicado originalmente en Senses Mag

September 2015. A foreign student arrives to Preston for a new academic year. Completely lost in an alien environment, the innocent newbie asks to Dave – the Bed & Breakfast’s reception guy where he is staying, about a place to enjoy some live tunes and drink something. No matter what – either music style and drink type, as long as its contains alcohol. The answer was as graphic as hopeless; “if you want live music, better go to Manchester”.

Well, Manchester is a worldwide music mecca. So, clearly, the reception guy had a point. But, what about the Lancashire’s capital?

On a first approaching, music venues scene in Preston doesn’t look as dramatic as Dave’s view could suggest. Has seen Preston music scene better days? Yes, of course. During the 70’s and the 80’s, such a relevant and iconic bands like Joy Division or Led Zeppelin played in the town. But it’s also truth that the whole music world has seen better days. So, talking about the present, there still a few pubs and clubs struggling to offer a place to go an enjoy while a band is doing their thing at the stage. And they deserve a go.

Obviously, or maybe not so obvious, who knows, there isn’t any massive venue on the city to host the biggest names in the industry. So yes, if you are only interesting in big bands or some Lady Gaga alike showbiz product, better go to Manchester. Or even London, actually.

The biggest venues in Preston are the Guild Hall, at Lancaster Road, and 53 Degrees, in Brook Street, with a capacity of 2,034 and 1,500 respectively. In fact, maybe not enough to hosts mid-size bands nowadays. This could be the reason why both of them have been threatened to close doors recently. The Guild Hall was sold to a local investor by 1 pound by the Preston City Council about one year ago. Meanwhile, 53 Degrees – which depends of the UCLAN’s Student Union, reconsidered it’s original decision of closure after a last-minute deal with HD Concerts, a gig promotion company.

Ben Latham, Student Union President at that time, explained the close down option this way: “Like many students’ unions, civic and high street venues; 53 Degrees faces the challenge of changing leisure habits and student demographics, developments in the music industry and the recent recession”.

Probably, young people is not as much interested as used to be in live music. Or, at least, they select more where and when they attend to a gig. Only four years ago, an article published on ‘Preston blog’shortlisted four music venues of what it described as a “vibrant and diverse scene”. Nowadays, only one of them, The Ferret, located in 55 Flyde Road, still open and celebrating gigs regularly. An authentic local institution, its small capacity creates an intimate atmosphere being the place to be in Preston for sure.

Fortunately, The Ferret it’s not alone on its mission of fulfill Preston’s nights with live music. The Continental, in South Meadow Lane, offers a wide range of gigs every weekend, being a great option for those ones which still searching for some fun while a band is playing. Also, nightclub Blitz, has re-opened in Church Row after its first localization was demolished during the past year.

Summarizing, The Ferret, The Continental and Blitz, are the three wheels of Preston’s live music scene tricycle.

Just in case someone is wondering about what happened with that lost student who wanted to know about. Well, he headed to Deepdale and watched North End being beated by Derby County, 1-2. Then he decided to investigate by his own.