The dark side of the game

There is something that I really like about women’s football  : it is a small community with fans who mainly get on well with each other.

You also have access to players, coaches and admin people with ease as long as you try. And most of the people are friendly and helpful.

To see the dark side of the game and what happens behind the curtains is an eye opener. There is no doubt the FA WSL creation has helped women’s football to become more professional with all the positive and negatives that it implies.

I have seen and heard things that I did not like at all in the last month.

While primarily a fan of the Arsenal Ladies and therefore writing for the dailycannon website on all things Arsenal Ladies, I also write for the French website footofeminin covering the UEFA and FIFA tournament and France youth and senior teams.

It means I have come into informal contact with many people in the game. So it feels like one team has been set on the path to implosion in recent weeks.

One player that was released earlier in the season seemingly launched a chain reaction that has destroyed the core of the team and has led to the manager being dismissed.

The vicious and unproven (?) allegations have also led to a raft of player departures and the assistant manager is now steadying the ship and has signed  players to replace those who have left.

Obviously I cannot say much more than this due to the case still being in progress but suffice to say the dark side of the game is not one to enjoy.

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FA WSL relegation battle ep 4

It looks to be a three horses race for the relegation battle as Notts County beat Doncaster while Sunderland was hammered at Arsenal and Reading did not play.

Notts County 2 Doncaster Belles 1

Arsenal 5 Sunderland 1

 

Notts County are now seven points of the bottom of the table Doncaster and ten goals ahead on goal difference. They are relatively safe as long as Doncaster, Reading and Sunderland don’t start a winning run.

Reading in seventh place did not play this week-end and therefore stay on four points in six games. No wins so far but only two defeats. Both happened against the Gunners. They have already completed their fixtures against Sunderland with two 1-1 draws.

They will play the Belles away as their 13th game while on final day, they will be at home to the Belles.

Sunderland in eight place have three points from seven. No win and three draws. Something has gone wrong and it actually started last season as their last League win was on the 25/07/2015, 11 months ago.

They are the team most at risk IF Doncaster Belles start picking  wins.

Doncaster have sacked their manager Glenn Harris after three games, something that still seems unlogical unless he had lost the dressing room. Emma Coates his assitant has taken over and her first game ended with a defeat at Notts County.

The Belles still have 75% of their League games to play, so have plenty of time to ctach up three or four points on the other two sides in danger.

Basicaly the first of these three times to register a win will have the psychological edge over the other two teams.

 

The upcoming games for the three teams are :

Sunderland v Chelsea 29/06

Sunderland v Doncaster 09/07

Liverpool v Reading 09/07

Birmingham v Sunderland 17/07

Sunderland v Arsenal 24/07

Chelsea v Doncaster 24/07

Reading v Birmingham 24/07

Doncaster v Birmingham 30/07

Man City v Sunderland 31/07

Reading v Notts County

 

The FA WSL2 promotion race ep 3

There were some big results this week-end with two of the top four teams winning and the other two team losing.

 

Durham 0 Yeovil 2

Big result for Yeovil getting three points from the long trip up North and therefore pushing Durham six points away from them. This is quite a big gap to close and Everton are five points behind the Glovers.

Watford 2 Everton 1

A huge upset with bottom of the table Watford beating a promotion candidate. Watford have raised their level from the previous games. While Everton were better on the ball, they did not manage to be precise  and clinical enough to make their chances count.

A solid performance for Watford that was rewarded with three big points, while Everton disappointed.

Bristol 4 Oxford 1

An important home win for Bristol who come back in to the top 2 places, especially with Sunday’s results that went their way.

 

Top 4 table

1 Yeovil  19 pts +12 (8) av 2.375

2 Bristol  16 pts +7 (8) av 2

3 Everton 14 pts +9 (7) av 2

4 Durham 13 pts +4 (7) av 1.85

 

Upcoming games this week :

Aston Villa v Bristol

Oxford v Yeovil

 

Due to the bizzare schedule, Everton and Durham will have two games in hand with the top two teams at the end of the week.

FA WSL 2 Matchday 8 preview

FA WSL 2 is back after the Summer break and the promotion race is hotting up, while the teams at the bottom of the table will want to improve their position knowing that no relegation is possible.

 

Bristol (4) v Oxford (8)

Bristol trails the leaders by three points and need a win, while Oxford have improved as the season went and have a very efficient football style and a quality goalscorer. it should be an open game with many goals.

Durham (3) v Yeovil (1)

Top of the table class between sides vying for promotion. They both play good attacking football with 11 and 17 goals scored so far, so another game with many goals expected.

Aston Villa (5) v London Bees (6)

Probably a balanced game, London Bees have improved from last season as Dave Edmondson has given them a clear indentity and rigourous organisation while Villa have so many quality players all over the park.

Watford Ladies (10) v Everton Ladies (2)

Everton looking to consolidate their promotion push against a Watford side that is slowly improving and starting to gel with a lot of personnel change. If Watford can keep the score at  0-0 for a sufficient time, there might be an upset on the cards.

 

The mid-season break table

1 Yeovil 16 pts (7) +10

2 Everton 14 pts (6) + 10

——————

3 Durham 13 pts (6) +6

4 Bristol 13 pts (7) +4

5 Aston Villa 9 pts (7) -3

6 London Bees 8 pts (7) – 3

7 Millwall 6 pts (6) -3

8 Oxford 6 pts (6) -6

9 Sheffield 4 pts (6) -2

10 Watford 1 pt (6) -13

 

Bergeroo names a 28 players squad for the Olympics preparation

With the Olympics a month and a half away, Phillipe Bergeroo has named a 28 players squad from which he will have to select 18 players plus four alternates before the 11th of July.

The squad is :

GK
Karima Benameur (FCF Juvisy), Sarah Bouhaddi (Olympique Lyonnais), Méline Gérard (Olympique Lyonnais), Laëtitia Philippe (Montpellier HSC).

DF
Laure Boulleau (Paris SG), Annaïg Butel (FCF Juvisy), Sabrina Delannoy (Paris SG), Jessica Houara d’Hommeaux (Paris SG), Sakina Karchaoui (Olympique Lyonnais), Laura Georges (Paris SG), Griedge Mbock Bathy (Olympique Lyonnais), Wendie Renard (Olympique Lyonnais).

MF
Camille Abily (Olympique Lyonnais), Charlotte Bilbault (FCF Juvisy), Élise Bussaglia (VFL Wolfsburg), Kenza Dali (Paris SG), Kadidiatou Diani (FCF Juvisy), Kheira Hamraoui (Paris SG), Amandine Henry (Portland Thorn FC), Claire Lavogez (Olympique Lyonnais), Marie-Charlotte Léger (Montpellier HSC), Amel Majri (Olympique Lyonnais), Louisa Necib (Olympique Lyonnais), Élodie Thomis (Olympique Lyonnais), Sandie Toletti (Montpellier HSC).

FW
Marie-Laure Delie (Paris SG), Clarisse Le Bihan (EA Guingamp), Eugénie Le Sommer (Olympique Lyonnais)

Note : players’s position as described by the FFF

When you have an 18 players squad, the logic would be that the seven subs are as follows : one goalie, two defenders, two midfielders and two forwards.

If we look at the players that have been used by Bergeroo on regular basis the following 17 players should be in the final squad :

G (2) Bouhaddi, Gerard
D (6) Boulleau, Houara, Delannoy, Georges, M’Bock, Renard
M (7) Abily, Bussaglia, Hamraoui, Henry, Necib, Majri, Thomis
F (2) Delie, Le Sommer

As per the FFF listing there are only three forwards and you obviopusly need at least one sub during the tournament to back-up Le Sommer and Delie, if the 4-4-2 system is used.

So the logic says Le Bihan will be the 18th player selected although she has been out for a long time with an injury. On the injury note, Boulleau has also missed a lot of the season as well.

My guess for the four alternates are :

G Phillipe, D Karchaoui, and either Leger or Diani and /Dali or Lavogez that would mean Benameur, Butel, Bilbault and Toletti to miss out alongside two from the four players above. Lavogez and Dali have missed most of the season due to injury.

For those who wonder Gaetane Thiney is still persona non grata and therefore not being called up by the coach.

France will play two friendlies prior to the tournament :

Sat 16 of July against China now managed by France previous manager Bruno Bini in Paris  ko 9pm CET live on D17

Sat 23 of July against Canada in Auxerre ko 9pm CET live on D17

They will travel to Brazil on the 25th of July.

 

FA WSL 1 matchday 8 preview

The League is back in action after the Summer break and some teams will be halfway thorugh their season after those while others will be into a quarter of their season.

Now the last fact is just absurd. Would you imagine the Premier League with teams playing Matchday 10 and other Matchday 19 at the same time, people would not take that League seriously surely ?

Sat 25 Jun

Arsenal (5) v Sunderland (8)

Two teams that have had a poor first half of the season and need the three points. Sunderland are only three points above the relegation zone so cannot afford to slip up if the Belles get a win. Arsenal are desperate for a win to keep dreaming of a runner-up place.

Sun 26 Jun

Man City (1) v Liverpool (4)

Prior to the break Liverpool were the only team that managed to take points off the leaders with a 0-0 draw. City have not conceded a goal yet, an exceptional performance.

Notts County (6) v Doncaster Belles (9)

Notts are four points clear of the relegation zone and a win would put them on the right track for safety.  The Belles will need to kickstart their season as they are currently pointless and need points against direct contenders for relegation. If they do not get anything from that trip, that will just add more pressure on the team.

Teams not playing : Chelsea, Reading and Birmingham

 

 

Glen Harris ‘ sacking :a curious situation

It is now clear that Doncaster Belles have sacked Glenn Harris during the mid-season break, a bizzare situation that was first disclosed by the media before any official statement.

 

The tweet from Jo Currie from the BBC :

The two days later the Belles confirmed Harris’ departure :

 

“Doncaster Rovers Belles confirm that Glen Harris has left the club.

Glen was an integral part of our promotion success last season as we returned the FA WSL 1 and we are thankful for all of his hard-work. We wish Glen every success in his future endeavours.

The appointment of the new Head Coach will be officially announced shortly, once FA clearance for our new appointment has been obtained.

Whilst we recognise that our fans would like to have the earliest possible information about changes to the club we had hoped to conclude all matters before making a public statement.”

 

And today Glen Harris  confirmed he had been sacked :

Now it is quite clear from the Belles’ statement that a new coach has already been lined-up, since the sacking but you do wonder why the Belles pulled the trigger.

If we look at the table, the Belles have no points in three games and it is true that no team has ever reached the mid-season break with nil points.
So basically the Belles have such a lack of trust in his ability, that they don’t think he would be able to catch up three huge points with three games in hand over Sunderland or four gigantic points over Reading with also three games in hand?

What kind of madness is this ? The Belles FA WSL 2  2015 record stands at 45 points P18 W14 D3 L1, they finished level on points with Reading and only lost the title to goal difference. Can a manager work quality detoriate in five months ?

 

Let’s see the current season results :

20/03 FA Womens’ Cup R 5  H Chelsea  L 1-4

24/03 FA WSL  H Chelsea L 1-4 ( Chelsea currently 2nd in the League)

27/04 FA WSL A Birmingham L 2-1 ( Birmingham currently 3rd in the League, although favorite to many to be relegated)

02/05 FA WSL A Man City L 6-0 ( City currently top of the League and unbeaten)

 

If that form is rationally considered to be sufficient to sack a manager ie losing one winnable game against Birmingham and losing two difficult games against top quality sides, you could probably sack all the FA WSL managers except Cushing, Hayes and Parker.

The only logical reason for a sacking would be  a players’ revolt behind the scene, something that has happened in the past in the FA WSL, otherwise there is no real rational justification for that sacking.

Unless the Belles have lined up someone the same way Liverpool got Jurgen Klopp to replace Brendan Rogers.

 

 

Seattle trip to watch the Reign v Arsenal Ladies friendly

I have not blogged about an Arsenal Ladies away trip for a while, so I thought I would put a few words on the Seattle away trip.

 

In the last few years I have not done many away Arsenal Ladies games. Mostly because the timing is inconvenient or the ground is difficult of access by public transport as I don’t drive. Notts County or recently Doncaster Belles come straight to mind.

So when it was announced that Arsenal Ladies would play a friendly against the Seattle Reign I tought it was a great occasion to do some sightseeing and watch the girls in another country to add to my list.

Obviously, I had to spend a couple of days there to make it worthwhile, so I set up on Wednesday from London and flew back on Friday from Seattle because I wanted to be back on Saturday for the Development cup final played near Birmingham.

So I flew from London on the 25th of May and being a lucky traveller, I spent a lot of time at the airport. First my boarding pass did not go through the automatic gates. I went through the manual ones operated by staff and he sent me back downstairs to the ticketing office to have another one issued as my print at home one was not valid.

Considering I had already spent more than half an hour queueing at pre-check to have my passport pre-controlled before going to security it was a good start of the day. When you consider that I actually did not have any check-in luggage which would have added at least another hour queueing, you understand why it is better to come three hours before flight departure on the way to the USA.

So I went through the normal security, when I had to do the full body scanner, which was fine and then at the gate they had another security layer, where the guy just checked everything in my backpack and my hand luggage. That was about 15 minutes extra checking every item in my possession.

Then I got on the plane, upgraded to premium economy with more leg space and I was close to the toilets which is always a bonus. It means you don’t have to walk all along the plane and queue for a long time. The trip was uneventful, even if long as I managed to watch four movies. It felt longer than the trips I did to Japan to watch the girls over there.

Arriving in Seattle it was the usual long queue for the foreign tourist as US immigrations are very tough on visitors and the questioning can be very long. Luckily enough, they had a queue opened for resident as usual as for those who had already entered the country with their ESTA, something I had done as I came in 2014 for the USA  v France game and the NWSL draft in Baltimore earlier in the year.

So that did not take too long and I was out to find my hotel using one of those courtesy bus that are hidden somewhere in the airport. After a long wait, the courtesy bus arrived and it took us three minutes to get to the hotel. I could have walked actually to it and it would have been quicker.

Interestingly enough the hotel was close to the public transport, the link light rail that goes straight to downtown Seattle so after checking-in and showering I went straight into town as the jet lag effect was not strong enough to send me to bed.

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Off I went to meet a Canadian journo @harjournalist I was meeting that day to give her a Panini Euro 2016 album and a few stickers. While I was waiting for her popped up Danielle Carter, Marta Corredera and Dominique Janssen. Dan recognised me as she has been with the club for many years and had a quick chat. I am not sure if the other players knew who I was and probably thought I was a local fan with an Arsenal shirt. As I don’t do program signing and post game selfies, they cannot recognise the fans like me. They must know the Car Park Crew from Borehamwood though.

So I met Harjeet did some sightseeing and then went back to my hotel as it was about 3am UK time and needed a good sleep.

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The next day was game day. Another day of sightseeing before the main event at 7pm. I went round the town and then back to the hotel in the afternoon to have a nap again as my body clock was messed up as expected. I saw the space needle and many other things. Below is the Memorial Stadium view from the Space Needle and the entrance.

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Then it was game time. The memorial Stadium is quite big with two main stands with the cheapest seats starting at $18, so a bit more expensive that the prices in the England or France. There is some restricted view on those seats as well but the tactical view is superb.

20160526_182507

I met two nice people at the game a Thorns fan Nicole @endibs_rn and another friendly journo @jacobcristobal. It always nice to meet IRL the people that you come across on twitter.

The game itself was interesting in the first half when the Reign put their best team on the pitch and chanegd in the second half when both sides made a lot of substitutions. You can see the full game here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWdWIhRAV_I

For the Arsenal fans, it will be remembered as the first Arsenal game for Jodie Taylor and the ankle injury that put Leah Williamson out for the a few months and maybe until the end of the season.

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At the end of the game, the Arsenal players went to speak to the Cascadia Gooners and there were many Arsenal fans in attendance and they  went to the fan zone behind one of the goal that was extremey busy.

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It was nice to be able to see the Arsenal Ladies in the USA and on Friday I was on my way back to London. I went to the early flights and to my surprise the check-in opens four hours before the flight time because the baggage drop is slow and the TSA queueing is really bad and travellers seem to miss flights because of it.

I went in the queue at H-4, got to the desk at H -3.30 to be told the flight was full and my ticket was not valid. For those who understand the jargon my PNR was not linked to the ticket number and the girl at check-in could not be bothered doing it and had no time doing anyway. They were actually looking for voluntary passengers to get on the next flight, the famous DBC passengers.

So I missed the morning flight and my chance to make it on time to London and go the Development team Cup final which annoyed me greatly. For the record the Dev Team beat Sheffield 2-1 aet to complete a cup treble with the 1st team and the u17 team.

After a few hours being bored at the airport, I went to the check-in desk and the supervisor linked my ticket to the PNR and confirmed I would get on the next plane as there were 20 seats available.

So I got wandering in the airport waiting for my plane and bumped into a few players who were all going to eat and a funny scene with Jordan pushing Leah around who was in a wheelchair. Then I went to collect my seat ticket and the whole team was also waiting to board at the gate.

They did a few pictures with some Reign fans who were really appreciative and we all went on the plane. Most of the players were seating a few rows behind me actually but I did not bother to speak to them.

Firstly, because I had a window seat besides two old German people who were asleep most of the flight and every time I wanted to go out, I had to wake them up and they were not happy bunnies lol

And secondly because when you are on a long trip home for the USA I am sure the players don’t need to be bothered by a fan, while they tried to rest and sleep. Saying that I bet if the Car Park Crew had been on the plane, they would not have been so considerate for the players 😉

In the end, I managed to get Jemma Rose to sing my shirt on the shuttle train at Heathrow Terminal 5. I remember well when Jem was a promising player back in 2009/10 with Birmingham City Ladies. She is a good centre back and need to be back to her best while Josephine Henning is unavailable due to the Olympics in August.

Overall a nice trip to Seattle and it was a competitive game to watch.

 

 

 

 

Wales so close but so far from qualifying for the Euros 2017

Yesterday’s defeat to Norway means Wales cannot qualify for the 2017 Euros, but there are have been some improvements since Jayne Ludlow took over from Jarmo Matikainen.

The Finnish manager built some solid foundations and the former Arsenal Ladies legend has come to try to take the Wales team to the next level and qualify for an international tournament. She is also tasked with structuring women’s football in Wales.

Those who are familiar with Ludlow’s training method’s  at Reading and for Wales know that she is keen on fitness. Although it is obviously painful and involves a lot of running in training, the Norway game showed why fitness is a key component at international level.

As mentioned during the BBC broadcast and the shekicks report  Wales competed for 70 minutes and then their energy level went down, something that Jen also mentioned on twitter an hour into the game :

 

There is no doubt that with many Welsh players playing now full-time football, the squad fitness level has vastly improved  and it is likely to get better and better.

Once that the required standard is reached by the whole squad, Wales will be able to compete for 90 minutes with all the top teams.

At the same time, developing an attacking minded style will be key to progress as the current team is superbly organised to counter bigger team but can definitely improve on the attacking creativity side.

On the attacking side  is a shame that players like Ellie Curson or Sarah Wiltshire have not been called up recently, while Megan Wynne is having a good season with Millwall.

I would think, if Wales can add a couple of quality left footed players to get a good balance in the team and maybe a more creative midfielder, they would certainly be able to compete and qualify for the World Cup 2019. Wales are stacked in quality defenders, defensive midfielders and box to box central players and quick attackers, but do not have a yet a quality attacking midfielder or maybe Jayne is not playing her, that’s a debate for another day.

If they can find a player that can find in transition   the killer vertical  pass  to the forwards and link well in midfield with Fishlock/James/ Ladd/ Rowe etc, they would certainly have a chance to make the next tournament.

2016 game count : 44

1. 10 Jan Fulham Foundation 0 Lewes Ladies 10 FA Women’s Cup Round 2 POM  Khassall

2. 24 Jan Crystal Palace 1 West Ham 2 FA Women’s Cup Round 2 POM Edwards

3. 31 Jan Arsenal Ladies 2 v Millwall Lionesses 1 FA WSL Dev League Southern POM : –

4. 06 Feb Arsenal U17 5 Middlesex U17 1 FA Girls Youth Cup QF POM : –

5. 07 FebWatford Ladies 1 Millwall Lionesses 3 aet  FA Women’s Cup Round 3 POM :  Heaslip

6. 14 Feb Yeovil 2 Bradford 0 FA Women’s Cup Round 3 POM : Williams

7. 17 Feb PSG 1 Chelsea 5  friendly POM: –

8. 21 Feb London Bees dev 3 Watford dev 2 POM : –

9. 27 Feb Arsenal U17 3 Chelsea U17 0  U17 LSE POM : James

10. 28 Feb Spurs Ladies 2 Aston Villa Ladies 3 aet FA Women’s Cup R4 POM : Baptiste

11. 05 Mar Arsenal U17 4 Liverpool U17 3 FA Girls Youth Cup SF POM: –

12. 07 Mar France B 0 USA U23 2 Istria Women’s Cup POM : Lavelle

13. 08 Mar West Ham Ladies 1 Spurs Ladies 0 FA WPL  POM : Keown

14. 13 Mar Chelsea 7 Bristol 1 Friendly  POM : –

15. 20 Mar Reading Millwal FA Women’s Cup R5 POM : Robe

16. 23 Mar Arsenal 3 Reading 1 FA WSL POM : Carter

17.24 Mar Oxford 3 Millwall 5 FA WSL 2 POM : Hincks

18. 26 Mar Bristol 0 Sheffield 0 FA WSL 2 POM : –

19. 27 Mar Arsenal Dev 2 Reading Dev 3 FA WSL Dev League POM : –

20. 03 Apr Arsenal 2 Notts County 2 FA Women’s Cup QF POM :

21. 10 Apr  – v  – ( behind closed door) POM : –

22. 14 Apr Spurs 0 Charlton 0 ( 4-3 pso) POM: –

23. 16 Apr Arsenal 5 Man United 1 FA Girls Youth Cup final POM : –

24. 17 Apr Arsenal 7 Sunderland 0 FA Women’s Cup POM : Van de Donk

25.  20 Apr Arsenal dev 11 Oxford Dev 0 FA WSL dev League POM : Filbey

26. 21 Apr Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2 F WSL POM : Kirby

27. 25 Apr France U16 2 England U16 1  friendly POM: Lakrar

28. 27 Apr Reading 1 Arsenal 2 FA WSL POM: Carter

29. 30 Apr Millwall 0 Yeovil 4 FA WSL 2 POM : Wiltshire

30. 01 May Arsenal 0 Birmingham 0 FAWSL POM : –

31. 02 May Reading 1 Sunderland 1 FA WSL POM : Earps

32 08 May Watford 0 London Bees 2 Conti Cup POM : Anderson

33 14 May Arsenal 1 Chelsea 0 FA Women’s Cup final Pom : Carter

34 15 May London Bees 1 Yeovil Dev 1 POM: –

35 16 May Watford 0 London Bees 5 FA WSL 2 POM : Cooper

36 19 May Chelsea 0 Man City 2 FA WSL POM  :-

37 21 May Peterborough 1  West Ham 5 friendly POM : –

38 22 May London Bees 2 Durham  2 FA WSL 2 POM : –

39 26 May Seattle 1 Arsenal 1 International friendly POM : Nobbs

40 29 May Brighton 4  SCA Ladies 2 Women 1 POM : –

41 02 Jun England U19 0 France U19 2 POM : Gavory

42 04 Jun England 7 Serbia 0 Euro qualifier POM: –

43 12 Jun Arsenal Ladies Dev 7 West Ham Ladies 2 friendly POM : Brunton-Wilde / Dean

44 25 Jun Arsenal Ladies 5 Sunderland 1 FA WSL POM : Van De Donk