FA Youth Cup semi in the balance after five-goal thriller

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Impressive Chelsea centre back Nathaniel Chalobah's brace helped the Blues take a slight adavantage into the second leg


A five-goal thriller at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United ended 3-2 to Chelsea in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup semi final.

Chelsea went in at the break 2-0 up, courtesy of two goals from England U17 captain and centre back Nathaniel Chalobah, who was dominant in both defence and attack.

However, like the first team, these young United players do not give up easily and goals from French midfielder Paul Pogba and striker Jesse Lingard gave them hope despite Bobby Devyne restoring Chelsea’s two goal cushion in the 72nd minute.

Chelsea Youth Team Coach Dermot Drummy was happy with the result after the game, insisting that Chelsea would stick to their philosophy of attacking football in the second leg at Old Trafford.

“You can’t go to Old Trafford and defend for 90 minutes, we will go there and play some football,” said Drummy, who revealed that he had received texts of support from first team players including skipper John Terry prior to the game.

“I was very pleased with the performance today and it is a statement of intent to go up there with a one goal lead,” he added.

Chelsea started the first half as the dominant force, with the central midfield trio of Rohan Ince, George Saville and the impressive Josh McEachran bossing possession, giving United little chance to impose themselves on the game.

Despite their dominance, it took Chelsea till the thirtieth minute to break the deadlock.  A dangerous in swinging corner from McEachran caused all sorts of problems in the United box helping centre back Chalobah to poke the ball home from close quarters.

Chalobah added a second, and his fifth for the season in the 42nd minute as another corner, this time from George Saville, resulted in the languid centre back twisting his head to flick the ball into the far corner of the goal.

Chelsea, who won the competition last year for the first time in 49 years, looked as if they had one foot in the final, but United appeared after the break rejuvenated and took the game to the reigning champions.

United’s second half dominance paid off in the 56th minute when a Larnel Cole corner was flicked on by Irishman Sean McGinty for Jesse Lindgard to volley the ball into the roof of the net.

In the 72nd minute Bobby Devyne ghosted in at the back post and flashed the ball past the despairing Johnstone to restore Chelsea’s lead and make it 3-1 but Paul Pogba, the driving force for United in the second half had different ideas, towering above the Chelsea defence at the back post to make it 3-2 and give United hope going into the second leg.

Chelsea take a slight advantage into the second leg at Old Trafford in 10 days time where the winner will meet Sheffield United in the final after the Blades beat Aston Villa 3-0 on aggregate in the other tie.



“We’re not going to throw it away now” says Canaries right back

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Norwich full back Russell Martin

One is the most capped Brazilian player of all time, the other is a right back for high flying Norwich City. Russell Martin, or as Canaries fans affectionately know him, ‘The Norfolk Cafu’ says his side are not going to throw it away now with seven games to play.

Brighton-born Martin has played every League game for second placed Norwich this season and he believes that Saturday’s clash against fourth placed Swansea will be a great advert for the Championship.

“In my opinion it’s the two best passing teams in the league coming up against each other and it’s up to us to try and impose our game on them and not let them dictate to us,” said Martin, who pinpointed Swansea wingers Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer as the Swansea’s biggest threats.

“It will be an exciting game to watch for the neutrals and the fans.  There will be lots of football played because both teams play the game in the right way and pass the ball a lot,” he added.

Norwich currently lie in the second automatic promotion place, nine points behind runaway leaders Queens Park Rangers and four points clear of Welsh rivals Cardiff and Swansea. Saturday’s game gives the Canaries a chance to go seven points clear of Swansea, and with Cardiff travelling to relegation strugglers Doncaster, three points would cement their position in the automatic promotion spot.

Their promotion push has also been strengthened by the acquisition of Spain U21 star Daniel Pachecho on loan from Liverpool. The Spaniard, who began his career at Barcelona, can play as a striker or as an attacking midfielder, with the twenty-year-old filling the position that has been left by the injured Wes Hoolahan at the head of a diamond midfield.

In an interview before the Swansea game, Martin said Pachecho had “set the game alight” on his debut last week as a rampant Norwich side thrashed Scunthorpe 6-0.

“No one expected him to be as good as he was on his debut, he’s got great movement, he’s great with both feet and he can pick a pass.

“He threaded some great balls through on Saturday and if players like Fabregas and Xavi had done the same, we’d have been watching it all week on television,” said Martin.

In Grant Holt, the young Pachecho should find the perfect foil for his range of passing and Martin spoke about how important the target man has been this season for Norwich’s Premier League aspirations.

“The manager has described him as an old fashioned number nine, which is exactly what he is because defenders hate playing against him.

“People outside the club questioned whether he could do it at this level, everyone at the club knew he could do it and he’s proved a few people wrong this year that’s for sure and long may that continue,” said Martin, a week after Holt scored his fiftieth goal for the club against Scunthorpe.

As for being likened to one of the best right backs to have graced the game, Martin admitted he knew nothing about the fans’ nickname for him until a few weeks ago when a supporter spotted him in the cinema and asked him to sign his ‘Norfolk Cafu’ t-shirt.

Martin's performances have prompted fans to sport this t-shirt

“I was surprised at first but it’s great and hopefully it just shows that the fans value the job that I’m doing for the team, I give 100% every game and it just shows they appreciate your efforts.

“I heard a song about it a few weeks ago and when you’ve got a few fans singing your name it’s a great feeling,” said Martin.

The full back’s consistency has been a feature of Norwich’s success this season and he thinks the manager’s decision to give him a decent run in the side has helped him perform week in week out and stay injury free.

“I’m enjoying my football, it’s been a great season for me and I love playing for the manager and playing for this club. It’s an honour to play for a club like this and you can’t help but enjoy it,” he said.

Norwich have a difficult run in with games against Watford (away) and Nottingham Forest (home) still to come, but the big test will come on April 21 where they travel to Portman Road to face fierce local rivals Ipswich Town.

With only seven games between the Canaries and the Premier League, you could forgive the squad for being a little nervous before Saturday’s game but Martin insists the squad are ready for the step up to the big time.

“I’ve not seen any nerves to be honest, the lads are enjoying it that much, they’ve just taken it in their stride, I think its more excitement than anything really, excitement about what we can achieve.

“The lads are really focussed because no one gave us a chance outside of this city and I think it’s a great achievement for us to have been in and amongst the top four for as long as we have. We’ve worked our socks off all year and we’re not going to throw it away now.”



Carlo Ancelotti says “I need to have pressure” as title race hots up

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Ancelotti spoke at Chelsea's training ground before their game against Stoke

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti admitted today that he’s revelling in the pressure of Chelsea’s late push for the Premier League title, referring to tomorrow’s game away to Stoke as “the first of nine finals”.

The Italian has seen his side force their way back into contention with the Blues now lying only nine points behind league leaders Manchester United with a game in hand.

With United travelling to Upton Park for what could be a tricky game against a West Ham side that beat them 4-0 in the Carling Cup back in November, the onus is on Chelsea to produce the goods against Tony Pulis’s physical Stoke side.

“In my opinion, I need to have pressure to focus, to stay concentrated on my job. I need to have pressure on my shoulders. It doesn’t mean that I’m not able to manage this pressure,” said Ancelotti.

“I want to have pressure. When I’m too relaxed it’s not good.”

Ancelotti could be excused for having one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League tie where Chelsea will welcome Alex Ferguson’s United but he insists that his team are focused on tomorrow’s game.

“We have to put out the best team against Stoke, after that we can think about Manchester United. The most important thing is to win Saturday’s game,” he said.

The former Milan and Juventus manager also expressed his enthusiasm for the end of the season, or what his opposite number in the title race would refer to as ‘squeaky bum time’.

“It’s a very exciting end to the season because a lot of teams are involved: Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and at the bottom it’s going to be an exciting fight too,” he added.

Elsewhere in the title race, Arsenal, who also have a game in hand over United, host Blackburn Rovers at the Emirates while Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur have the chance to close the gap on Manchester City to one point  if they beat bottom of the league Wigan.

Lights out at Whaddon Road

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

My view from the Whaddon Road press box

It’s not often that a childhood dream comes true. I don’t know many people who go on to be astronauts and no one I know has captained England to a World Cup Final win but this windy Tuesday I realised one of mine.

Covering a Cheltenham Town game live from the Whaddon Road press box isn’t something that many young boys dream of but for me, as I sit here, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

It’s a lot colder and smaller than I imagined it to be but what I’d call a press ‘run’ rather than box is the highlight of my brief journalistic career. Sandwiched between voices I used to listen to intently on the radio and fingers typing the words I hang on I felt strangely at home if a little anxious.

It turned out that my first experience of being a sports journalist would be more eventful than I could have imagined.

Cheltenham Town vs Southend United


K.O. 7.45pm

An impressive performance from Cheltenham Town was cut short in the 66th minute after a floodlight fire led to the game being abandoned.

Despite the underwhelming conclusion, Yates’ men will take some positives out of a game where they consistently bossed the Shrimpers right up until lights out at Whaddon Road.

The wind was the outstanding performer of the first ten minutes with neither team managing to get a foot on the ball in testing conditions. The early indications however, were that Smikle and Goulding were going to have some joy in between the Shrimpers’ back four and their flat three-man midfield.

In the ninth minute, Martin Riley showed his talent with the ball at his feet striding out of defence to beat two players and hit a firm pass to Shroot. The young Birmingham loanee nutmegged an onrushing Southend defender but neither he nor Smikle could collect the ball after it emerged from between the embarrassed defender’s legs.

Southend continued to struggle with the conditions but the Robins seemed to relish their role attacking with the wind at their backs and the pressure began to tell after the initial sparring.

In the 14th minute Smikle turned provider when he flicked on Scott Brown’s kick to Goulding who found himself in the box, facing a backtracking Morris in the Southend goal. Goulding, with the confidence of two goals against Accrington on Saturday, tried to chip the goalkeeper on the volley first time but put too much on it and it sailed into the stands.

The breakthrough finally came in the 24th minute.  Josh Low, deputizing at left back for the injured Andrew used his strength to outmuscle Soares and came away with the ball, playing a lovely ball over the top of the Southend right back. JJ Melligan latched onto the swirling ball and slammed a shot through the legs of Morris as he struggled to get back into position.

The Shrimpers did have a chance to equalize just before half time when a drilled cross was flicked on to Corr at the back post. Corr headed towards goal only to find a larger than life Scott Brown in his way pushing the ball away for a throw in on the far side.

The second half began in much the same vein as the first with the Robins playing into the wind with as much ease as they did playing with it.

A lovely jaunty run through the centre of the pitch by Robin Shroot gave the youngster enough space to find Goulding who was peeling away from his marker finding some space on the right hand side of the box. Goulding however, caught in two minds as to whether to cross or shoot, scuffed a side-footed effort across the goal which Morris watched harmlessly roll past his far post.

Louie Soares who earlier was shrugged off the ball by Low in the run up to the goal tried to redeem himself in the 52nd minute but his left footed shot was spooned high and wide to a soundtrack of groans from the travelling fans.

Cheltenham continued their domination but soon after Soares’ effort Scott Brown was called upon to pull off what can only be described as a wonder save. Brown reached to hook the ball off what looked like behind the line from a Sturrock header. His ability to come away from it without a dislocated shoulder was as magnificent as the save itself suggesting that maybe the spirit of Paul the Octopus is alive and well in the Robins’ shot stopper.

Marlon Pack continued to pull the strings in midfield playing majestic balls into the wind every chance he got and the 19-year-old from Pompey was staking a strong claim for man of the match.

Soares made a good run in the 64th minute turning Josh Low and looking inside but he could only watch as his curling left-footed shot was deflected out for a corner.

In the 66th minute one of the floodlights failed, plunging the stadium into an ambient glow. The game could have gone on but referee B.J. Malone deemed the conditions to be unplayable and abandoned the game.

According to sources within the club it was the Gloucestershire Fire Service who demanded that the game be called off but whoever it was, Mark Yates will have left the ground ruing what should have been another three points for the men in red and white.

Grab your chance to be heroes – Collicutt

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Paul Collicutt has challenged his Bishop’s Cleeve players to go from zeros to heroes in their FA Cup tie against Woking on tomorrow after their dismal league defeat on Tuesday.

Collicutt, who described the performance against Stourport Swifts as the worst of the season, has called upon his players to put things right against a Woking side who are used to being David rather than Goliath.

“Saturday’s game is a bonus as the lads have got a chance to go from zeros to heroes and cause an upset after a poor game,” said Collicutt.

“Not a lot went right that night, to be honest, I tried something different tactically, but I hold my hands up and say that didn’t work.

“It didn’t help that we conceded after four minutes. You can plan all you like, but when you concede that early it all goes out the window.”

Woking, who have a rich history as giantkillers in the FA Cup, are managed by Graham Baker, a man who Collicutt remembers playing with at a trial for Southampton.

“I played for Southampton Reserves with him and they offered me a contract as an apprentice,” he said.

“Cheltenham accepted on the condition that Southampton arranged a friendly.

“They even brought the FA Cup with them which had been won that year by the senior team.”

Woking head to Kayte Lane tomorrow as favourites, but Collicutt believes his side have what it takes to cause an upset, despite their poor performance against Stourport.

“The players didn’t play as well as they know they can and I’d say that was the poorest showing of the season, but my job is to make sure they get it out of their system,” he said.

A rejuvenated Julian Alsop will be available for selection tomorrow, but Sam Avery and Richard Mansell are doubtful after not being involved in Tuesday night’s game.

“Jules is fine for Saturday but Sam Avery and Richard Mansell are 50/50, so we will have a look at them at training and then make a decision,” said Collicutt.

“Perhaps we are underdogs, but the players are wound up and will raise their game come Saturday.”

Alsop facing fitness race for Cleeve trip

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Julian Alsop is a doubt for tonight's game against Stourport Swifts

TOP scorer Julian Alsop faces a race to be fit for Bishop’s Cleeve’s trip to Stourport Swifts tonight.

Boss Paul Collicutt said the big striker was nursing an ankle injury and might not be ready to play.

“Julian is struggling with his ankle and is a real doubt for tonight,” said Collicutt.

“Sam Avery has a problem with his hamstring too and Robert Mansell is definitely out after spending Saturday night in hospital with concussion.”

However, the return of Steve Jones and Mark Pritchett from a one and three-match ban respectively “evens it out a bit” according to Collicutt, who will be looking to build on his side’s draw against Almondsbury on Saturday.

When asked what he knew about Stourport Swifts, Collicutt admitted he didn’t know much about the latest team to be added to the South and West Division from the Midland league, but was concentrating on making sure his team were focused.

“A win in this league can lift you up four or five places so we really want to get the three points tonight,” he said.

“The league is the bread and butter and it is important we win tonight so we can take that positivity into the FA Cup tie against Woking on Saturday.”

Collicutt said Saturday’s game against Almondsbury was two points lost rather than one point gained and described Cleeve’s home form as “patchy”.

“I had a chat with their manager after the game and he said that was the fifth or sixth late goal they’ve scored this season,” he said.

“It was a disappointment as our goalkeeper only had one shot to deal with all game and before you know it, he was picking the ball out of the net.

“The only time they threatened us was set-plays and corners, so we showed a bit of a lack of concentration to concede so late on.

“When the ball was in play they didn’t look like troubling us at all.

“The most important thing is that we learn from it and concentrate on tonight.”

With Cleeve currently lying around mid-table in the Zamaretto League South and West Division, tonight’s game gives them the chance to move up to sixth as one of only four clubs to be involved in midweek games.

high five

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Here at strong on paper we like to cover a spectrum of topics regarding the footballing world but there are times when our partisanship gets the better of us – this post being the perfect example.

Wes Thomas, if you didn’t know, is Cheltenham Town’s newest striker and has got off to a flyer this season with 6 goals already. Now Wes is a breed of goalscorer we’ve missed at Whaddon Road over the last few years so his emergence got me thinking about other net-bulging heroes to grace the hallowed turf.

So, with this in mind, here are my top 5 Robins strikers, but before we begin the countdown I must warn you, this is my opinion – feel free to disagree and, I’ve only picked players I have seen, so those of you with longer memories please do tell me if I’ve missed someone off the list. Without further ado, here they are…


Wes Thomas

With 6 goals in 7 appearances Wes Thomas, who was acquired from League One-bound Dagenham, has certainly proven his ability when given the chance. Beginning his career in non-league football, Wes was soon snapped up by John Still at the Daggers but never got the chance to shine with the likes of Paul Benson keeping him out of the side. A player with a great burst of speed and positional awareness – attributes that back up his reputation as Cheltenham’s very own “fox in the box” – Wes appears to have a bright future ahead of him at Whaddon Road.


Jason Eaton

My number 4 is the man who cemented my love affair with the club when I was a bright-eyed 10-year-old. The day was May 17th, 1998, and the man, Jason Eaton, punctuated a relatively boring Wembley final with a goal to bring the FA Umbro Trophy home to Cheltenham. A real poacher, Eaton was an old fashioned forward with a knack for scoring important goals. A hat trick against unbeaten Halifax was his finest moment, where, interestingly enough, his opposite striker was none other than a young Geoff Horsefield.


Tony Naylor

One half of Cheltenham’s ‘little and large’ strike force, Tony Naylor struck up a formidable partnership with Julian Alsop in 2001-2002 and quickly became a fan favourite. Picked up from Port Vale by Steve Cotterill, Naylor wowed the Cotswold crowds with clever flicks and link up play showcasing probably the best footballing brain to wear the red and white stripes. The height difference between Naylor and Alsop was the largest in the Football League (a dubious record I’m sure you’ll agree), but what Naylor lacked in size he certainly made up for with footballing magic.


Julian Alsop

Coming in a close second, Julian Alsop, or ‘Jules’ as he’s affectionately known is a mountain of a man with a heart to match. During the 2001-2002 season, Jules scored 26 goals of which the majority were headers (it is said he scored more headers that season than anyone else in the the premier league, football league or SPL) and used his height and strength to forge a dangerous partnership with number 3 on our list – Tony Naylor. Returning in the 2009-2010 season, Jules managed to walk away with the Fan’s Player of the Season award after his committed performances confirmed his place in the hearts of Robins fans.


Neil Grayson

There was only one choice for the top spot and that man is Neil Grayson. Scorer of our first Football League goal, Grayson is a legend of the club in every sense. A dynamic striker who’s goals fired us into the Football League and onwards. He also scored what I consider the best Cheltenham goal of all time where, from a goal kick he let the ball bounce once, then, positioned on the halfway line, “Larry” swiveled and volleyed the ball over the stunned opposition’s keeper (please if anyone knows when and against whom this goal was, let me know, I can only remember it from the we are football league videotape!). Voted the best Cheltenham player of all time in a Sky Sports poll, Grayson has always been a player afforded heroic status amongst fans, and for good reason – in 162 appearances for the club he scored 48 times, a feat unmatched by any other Robin of the modern era.

So there you have it, my top 5 Cheltenham strikers, who knows, maybe Wes Thomas can force is way up the order in the coming seasons and as for you guys, thanks for indulging me and supporting the blog! If you have an opinion on your favourite Cheltenham Town strikers please do comment or take part in the poll below…

Stay tuned for more posts and some guest bloggers to give us a different perspective on the beautiful game.

kodak moment #2

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Fabregas begins the 6-0 rout of Braga with a well struck penalty

six shooters

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

Continuing the theme of 6 here at strong on paper, here are 6 players plying their trade at different levels of english football that you must see this season!

little pea

Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez

Chicharito, or as it means in Mexico, ‘little pea’ is Alex Ferguson’s marquee signing for the season and a bit of shrewd business from the thrifty scotsman saw him get his man before the world cup where after some great performances, his price, I’m sure, would of skyrocketed.

With the ability to play on either flank and up front, Hernandez looks a great prospect and should thrive in the premiership. If he can strike up a partnership with Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes continues to roll back the years, then Man United could well take back the title from Chelsea.

The only question is whether he can deal with the physicality of the English game – something which of course he can get used to over time – but is Fergie patient enough to give the little pea time to settle in? Time will tell.

Edgar Davids

Edgar Davids

Unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere, you won’t of missed one of the most audacious transfers of the summer, namely Edgar Davids signing for Crystal Palace on a pay-as-you-play deal.

The midfield enforcer, who’s previous clubs include Milan, Barcelona, Juventus and Tottenham hasn’t played a competitive game for two years and is seen by many at the club as a huge risk.

However, it appears he will be playing at left back so that 37-year-old engine may not be as big a problem as it would of been if he was integral to the hustle and bustle of the midfield. Also, as a club famed for producing young talent, Palace may be seeing Davids as a scholar, there to share his worldly wisdom with the next generation of Palace players.

Either way, his and indeed Palace’s season should be fascinating and also picking Davids was a great excuse to show you this….

Tom Huddlestone - "a graceful giant"

Tom Huddlestone

I’ve always had a soft spot for Tom Huddlestone, mainly because he can do this…

and this…

But mostly I just love how graceful he is on the pitch and of course, the way he passes that ball is a joy to behold. In past seasons he has failed to get the games due to his lack of defensive ability, but as last season showed, he is now a lot better positionally and has settled into the centre midfield ‘quarter back’ role very nicely.

Showing the sort of passing  we haven’t seen from an englishman since messrs Beckham and Hoddle, maybe this season is also the year this giant among men breaks into the England setup – here’s hoping.

Adam Le Fondre - just too good for League Two

Adam le Fondre

I’ve mentioned this man before and nothing’s changed since, he’s still way too good for League Two, and he’s still at Rotherham.

With 30 goals last season and 5 goals already this season, Le Fondre is showing the sort of form that has got the scouts of Championship teams climbing over each other to buy him – or so you’d think.

Derby seem to be the most likely but Rotherham seem to be either waiting for a big offer or just telling everyone “F’ off! He’s ours.” which is highly commendable.

Whatever the outcome, he certainly won’t be playing at this level after this season (unless he has some massive drug problem that we don’t know about, a la Trundle) as his finishing is sublime off either foot, he’s quick and strong and his movement is intelligent. Basically, he’s the best player in the league.

England's future number 1?

Joe Lewis

All the talk about young english keepers this season has been directed (quite rightly) at Man City’s Joe Hart who after shoehorning Shay Given out of the number 1 spot has preceded to do his best impression of superman in goal for the Citizens.

But in Peterborough there is another bright young thing playing in League One and his name is Joe Lewis. The 22-year -old is an excellent shot stopper, quick to come off his line and has good distribution.

One thing that may be in his favour is the luxury for him to be able to play at a lower level for now, without all the pressure of the premier league. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it will be long before this guy is playing at the highest level, but for now, maybe it’s better if he hangs around at Peterborough.

Poulsen - Liverpool's answer to a Mascherano-shaped hole?

Christian Poulsen

My final choice may be a surprise to many but it is as much to do with circumstance as it is to do with the player (although I do think Poulsen is a very talented footballer). Christian Poulsen has the unfortunate job of filling Mascherano’s large boots after his £17.25m move to Barca. If you’re unsure in his ability to do so, watch this video of him doing a job on jesus-loving Kaka…

Liverpool’s season will depend on a number of things not least whether Poulsen can do a job in midfield – he certainly has the ability, great positional awareness, does the simple things well and has a bulldog like spirit – basically, just what liverpool need right now.

The only problem may be his discipline as the great Dane has got a habit of picking up cards and has, what some may call, a short fuse. If he can link up with Gerrard well and break up play then Liverpool may just have a top four chance, despite their abysmal start.

So there you have it, strong on paper’s six to watch this season. Stay tuned for more posts, a review of the weekend’s action and even a report from a serie D match in the coming weeks!

kodak moment #1

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Here’s kodak moment #1, strong on paper’s first attempt at trying to pick the best football pictures each week and stick them up on the  blog for your enjoyment! The first in the series is a lone Trabzonspor fan before the Turkish side were beaten 2-1 by Liverpool in the Europa League qualifiers (more fans did turn up).

Nope, it's not the Martin O'Neill Fan Club, it's a flag-bearing Trabzonspor fan