BHAFC: Mathew Ryan signs as Albion begin to show they mean business in the transfer window.

The Australian goalkeeper has put pen to paper on a five-year deal. 

Brighton and Hove Albion have confirmed the signing of Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan from Valencia for a club-record fee.

The 25-year old has signed a five-year deal with the Seagulls, and will join up with his new teammates after the Confederations Cup.

Ryan, who has been capped 32 times by his country, impressed whilst on loan at Genk last season.

There is no doubt he will add much-needed experience to the dressing room. The goalkeeper has a lot of top-flight football under his belt, having played in the Australian, Belgian and Spanish first division. He has also played in European competition.

Ryan’s CV reads many individual and team accolades, which include a Belgian Cup, Belgian Pro League Goalkeeper of the Year 2014 and 2015 and an AFC Asian Cup win with the Socceroos in 2015.

The Australian signed a six-year deal with Valencia two years ago, but failed to secure a spot in the team. He won’t have to worry about that at the Amex, as he will without doubt be the new Albion no.1- especially following David Stockdale’s exit earlier in the week.

The transfer fee hasn’t been published, although we have been told it is a club-record fee. Whispers on social media state the figure to be around the £5m mark, although with four years left on his contract that number strikes a bit too low for my liking.

Saying that, this could be the start of a positive summer for the Seagulls, ahead of their debut season in the Premier League.

One would hope that Brighton’s club-record fee will be broken again (maybe more than once) before the window closes. If the club want to secure a striker who will guarantee goals, or a centre back who will command the penalty area, surely they would cost more than £5m?

You’ve only got to look at other clubs in the league and how much money they are spending on transfers. Leicester City have spent almost £20m on Harry Maguire, whilst Everton splashed £57m yesterday on both Jordan Pickford and Davy Klaassen!

It’s hard to tell until we see Ryan in the Premier League if we got him on the cheap, but if he is just as good as the former Sunderland stopper, a player who cost six times as much, then we can all have a little chuckle to ourselves.

But this shows Brighton’s intent. The club are willing to break their transfer record to bring in the players that they believe will help the team avoid relegation. Chris Hughton has signed two exciting players in Pascal Groß and Ryan, who could become Albion heroes should the club retain their Premier League status.

We should expect more signings in the coming weeks, and following the two deals the club have secured so far, I can’t wait to see who the next person to walk through the Amex doors will be.

A commander within the Toon Army: Cheick Tiote 1986-2017.

This afternoon, the footballing world found out the tragic news that former Twente and Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote had collapsed during a training session in Beijing and died at the age of just 30.

The Ivorian, who made 52 appearances for his country, had only signed for second-tier Chinese club Beijing Enterprises four months ago. He made just 11 appearances for the Asian outfit.

His career took off at Anderlecht, where he won two Belgian titles and a Belgian super cup. He then moved to Holland, where he played for both Roda and Twente. There, Tiote won the domestic double in 2010 with the latter under Steve McLaren.

He then moved to Newcastle United and made 156 appearances for the Magpies during his six-and-a-half-year stay on Tyneside.

When he took to the field, he didn’t light up the stadia with fancy footwork and tricks. Instead he was the man in the middle doing the dirty work: intercepting passes and making crucial challenges for his side.

He was without doubt the commander within the Toon Army. He was a player that dictated any game he was involved in.

Newcastle are one of the country’s leading clubs, with a fantastic fanbase. He galvanised their love for the game on the pitch. He was Newcastle through and through and It’s no wonder he was adored by their supporters.

Tiote wasn’t a prolific goalscorer either. In fact, the Ivorian only netted once for Newcastle, although it was a goal that will live long in the memory of most fans.

His strike secured a remarkable point for the Magpies as they came back from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 with Arsenal at St.James’s Park in 2011.

The central midfielder represented his country at both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups in South Africa and Brazil respectively. He was also part of the Ivory Coast side that won the 2015 African Cup of Nations.

An underrated footballer taken from us all way too early.

RIP Cheick.

 

 

 

MLS Daily: Diego Valeri is proving why he is so instrumental for Portland Timbers this season.

The Argentine has netted five goals in five MLS games in 2017. 

Diego Valeri is certainly the most exciting player in the American top flight currently.

Yes, that is a bold statement. Especially when you consider the starts Josef Martinez and Erick Torres have both made in the MLS this year.

But the Argentinian playmaker has been doing this for Portland year after year since his arrival in Oregon back in 2013.

A former Porto loanee, this guy is the real deal. He is someone who will once again be a contender for this year’s MVP in the MLS, an award he won back in 2015.

Why? For one he brings goals to the team. Valeri already has five goals in as many games this term, adding to his previous 37 over a four-year period. He is currently second on the MLS goalscoring charts this season behind Houston’s Torres.

He is also crucial in providing assists for his team. He may only have one so far this season, but he is very good at unlocking defences and playing killer balls into either the channels or into the box for forwards. Overall, he has provided 36 assists during his time at Portland.

The Argentine scored without doubt the goal of the week last time out, with a superb volley against New England Revolution.

He spoke to Portland Timber’s media team after they drew 1-1 to their Eastern Conference opponents, and admitted the result was disappointing.

“We played deeper then we wanted,” he said.

“They are a good team but the result is bad. We did enough to win.

“We will take the positives from this game though and prepare for Philadelphia next week.”

With over 100 appearances for the club, Valeri is a icon at Providence Park. The Timber Army adore their playmaker.

His 42 goals for the Timbers is just three shy of Fanendo Adi and John Bain’s all-time record for goals scored at the club.

Adi has benefited hugely from having the 30-year old behind him. The Nigerian striker joined a year later than Valeri, but his goalscoring record speaks for itself having matched his Argentinian teammate’s tally in 12 months less.

In fact, since both made their debuts for Portland, Adi is second in the MLS goal charts and Valeri is first for assists. That shows how much of an influence they have had on the league these past few seasons.

Portland need him to stay fit if they are to replicate their 2015 MLS Cup win. Without his goals and assist this season, Portland would not be top of the Western Conference. He galvanises the team, and helps players play at their best when they are alongside him, learning from him and using his assets to strengthen their own.

Valeri is heading towards the prime years of his career. Watch this space, he could cause a storm in the MLS for the next few campaigns.

 

MLS Daily: Columbus win again, Minnesota grab first ever MLS victory and Galaxy thrashed in Vancouver.

29 goals have been scored in the MLS this weekend. 

Columbus Crew continue their impressive start to the season with a 2-0 victory against Orlando City at the Mapfre stadium.

Justin Meram scored twice for Gregg Berhalter’s men, as they stretched their winning run to three successive matches.

The Iraqi international netted his first with a low shot into the bottom right corner inside the opening 15 minutes. He then doubled his and his team’s lead in a similar fashion on 76 minutes.

“He’s flying,” Crew SC captain Wil Trapp told mlssoccer.com.

“He’s on another level when he’s confident. He’s been contributing in every single game this year. I think him signing that new deal and getting his footing underneath him and being able to move forward without anything hanging over his head has really been good.”

Minnesota United finally had something to cheer about after a tough start in their debut season in MLS.

A brace from Christian Ramirez, along with goals from Kevin Molino and Johan Venegas helped the Loons to a 4-2 victory over free-falling Real Salt Lake.

RSL, who will now be managed by Mike Petke following the result in Minnesota, have not won a match all season.

“It’s tough when you’re away and don’t finish your chances,” Yura Movsisyan told the Desert News. “It comes back to bite you, and that’s what happened. The last few weeks have been difficult. A new season starts next week with a new coach.

“It won’t matter who you are, whether you’re a designated player or not. If you train well and impress the coach, you’ll play. If not, you shouldn’t.”

Another team struggling for consistency is LA Galaxy, after they were beaten 4-2 in Vancouver.

Despite Romain Alessandrini’s brace which gave the visitors a 2-1 lead at half-time, the Whitecaps scored three second half goals to grab their maiden win this season.

Galaxy sit tenth in the Western Conference, and captain Jelle Van Damme admitted that losing from a winning position was not good enough.

“There were too many mistakes today. We weren’t playing well but we were leading and this cannot happen. You cannot lose a game 4-2 when your leading 2-1 with 20 minutes to go.

“We have to react next week. We have to relax, regroup, start over and do better.”

Elsewhere, Bastian Schweinsteiger scored on his MLS debut as Chicago Fire drew 2-2 with Montreal Impact, and New York City returned to winning ways after they beat San Jose 2-1 at Yankee Stadium.

Erick Torres grabbed a hattrick as Houston Dynamo thrashed New York Red Bulls 4-1. In the capital, DC United won for the first time this season, beating Philadelphia Union 2-1.

Toronto were held to a 0-0 draw in their home opener against Sporting KC, whilst Seattle’s match against Atlanta also finished goalless.

 

MLS Daily: Bradley Wright-Phillips is worthy of his new deal at New York Red Bulls.

The former Charlton Athletic striker has become a sensation across the pond. 

Bradley Wright-Phillips has been rewarded with a new lucrative contract at New York Red Bulls following his impressive spell in the MLS.

It’s nothing more than what the striker deserves. The Red Bulls have relied on him heavily for their goals, making him a vital asset for the team. The deal marks another positive chapter in the 32-year old’s career, one that originally took a long time to get into gear.

Wright-Phillips struggled to make a name for himself in English football, and following spells with Manchester City, Southampton and Charlton Athletic, he decided upon a move to America in an attempt to rebrand himself.

His father, former-Arsenal striker Ian Wright, was always going to be a tough act to follow. From the outset, many wondered if he would ever reach the same level as his dad, but finally we seem to have an answer.

Whilst he may not still be a household name here in the UK, he has more than certainly stamped his mark on the Red Bulls and the MLS.

He is the club’s all-time top goalscorer in America’s top division with an impressive 70 goals in 111 games, an average of one goal every 63 minutes.

Wright-Phillips has also broken plenty of records and received many accolades during his four-year spell in the States.

On 23 April 2014, he scored a hattrick in a 4–0 win against Houston Dynamo, which meant he became the first Englishman to score three goals in an MLS game. He also won the golden boot that season after scoring 27 league goals.

Subsequently, he was signed on as a designated player in 2015, and a year later secured his second MLS golden boot award after netting 24 goals during the campaign. He is the only player ever in MLS to score 20+ goals in more than a single season.

Whilst he lost his DP status in 2016, is it just deserved he get it back this season. He is a club legend, and he will be for some time. That goal record is as impressive as any in world football, and at 32 years of age, you can expect him to possibly extend it to 100+ goals in a Red Bulls shirt.

He is a typical striker who gets into the right positions at the right time to score goals. He is good with either foot and with his head. He causes all kinds of problems for the opposing defence throughout the 90 minutes, and that’s what makes him such a crucial weapon in Red Bulls’ arsenal.

“I’d like to thank Jesse Marsch, and everyone at the club for the opportunity to continue wearing this shirt and playing in front of the best fans in MLS,’ BWP said to the media.

‘I am very proud of what has been accomplished in my time here, But my sole focus is on trying to win MLS Cup.”

The Red Bulls won the Supporters Shield back in 2013 and 2015, but are yet to go all the way. However, with BWP still leading the line for this season and beyond, that could well change in the not too distant future.

 

 

 

 

MLS Daily: Real Salt Lake in need of a revival after sacking Jeff Cassar.

Daryl Shore will act as Interim Head Coach until a replacement is found, and will manage the team against New York Red Bulls on Saturday. 

The sacking of Jeff Cassar on Monday evening ended what can be best described as a turbulent last six months at Real Salt Lake.

After nearly a decade at the Utah based club, the 43-year old became the first managerial casualty of the 2017 MLS season.

RSL are winless so far this campaign, with one win and two defeats to their name, but their torrid run actually stretches back to the end of last season.

A 2-1 win at home to Colorado Rapids on the 26th August was the last time this side tasted victory-that was 11 games ago.

The poor run saw them slip from second in the Western Conference to sixth. They were then beaten 2-1 to LA Galaxy in the knockout round.

With the dismissal of Cassar, RSL will hopefully rediscover their form from years back, when current Orlando City boss Jason Kreis was in charge.

Kreis led the club to the Play-Offs consecutively between 2008-2013, winning the MLS Cup in 2009.

Cassar was assistant manager to Kreis back then, before taking over when the latter left for New York City FC.

The 43-year old stuck to Kreis’ successful 4-4-2 in 2014, which resulted in another Play-Off finish, but things began to unravel a year later.

Trying to implement his own style, Cassar switched to a 4-3-3 formation. With the wrong personnel to fit the formation, and a lack of goals being scored, RSL failed to make the Play-Offs in 2015. That was followed by the painful 2016 season as mentioned above.

It’s quite clear that a revival is needed at the Rio Tinto Stadium.

The club, unlike others, is struggling to acquire high calibre players such as Andrea Pirlo, David Villa and latest MLS newcomer Bastian Schweinsteiger. With better players coming through, and the leagues standards continuously improving, there has never been a more crucial time for designated players to come in and make a real difference for their team. Unfortunately, those at RSL aren’t quite to the same level as those at New York City or Orlando.

The spine of the side also presents fears of a bleak future. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Kyle Beckermann, both part of the successful 2009 side, are coming towards the end of their careers at 37 and 34 years of age respectively. Javier Morales, the heart of RSL’s flowing attack, left at the end of last season.

Those players will ultimately need replacing with good, young talent. However, according to transfermarkt.com, RSL have the second oldest squad in the league. This is just an example of what needs to be addressed.

Saying that, one thing the club can pride itself in is it’s impressive youth development. Homegrown players like defender Justin Glad have intergraded well into the first team setup and are now vital for the team going forward. More of the same will mostly definitely help the team in future seasons.

In terms of a replacement for Cassar, Toronto’s Assistant Coach Robin Fraser is one of the favourites for the job. The former Chivas USA manager has previous ties to RSL and could be good for what the club are looking to do, which is to rebuild from the ground up.

Other names mentioned include Wade Barrett, Mike Petke and sensationally Sigi Schmid.

Whoever comes in will have a lot to do if they want to make this club great again, and fans may have to wait a few years down the line before they see their club competing for major honours once again.

BHAFC: Two years of Chris Hughton.

From relegation candidates to promotion favourites, Chris Hughton has transformed Brighton and Hove Albion into a formidable Championship side in just 24 months. 

Following two Play-off semi-final defeats to Crystal Palace and Derby County respectively, the 2014-15 season was beginning to look like a disastrous campaign for Brighton.

Manager Sami Hyypia, who had replaced Oscar Garcia at the start of that season, resigned after registering just one win in 18 league games, leaving the club in the bottom three with half the season to go.

On New Year’s Eve 2014, club chairman Tony Bloom unveiled Hughton as the new Seagulls boss on a three-and-a-half year contract.

Having previously taken Newcastle United up and guided Birmingham City to the Play-Offs, Hughton had the vital experience of the league, but more importantly, he had the man-management skills needed to help rejuvenate a squad lacking belief.

Two players to have benefited massively from Hughton’s man-management are goalkeeper David Stockdale and striker Sam Baldock. They were signed for the club when Hyypia came in, and both endured poor starts to their Albion careers.

Since Hughton’s come in, both have grown in ability and confidence, which has lead to them both becoming two of the first names on the team sheet.

Another quality Hughton has brought to the south coast is an improved recruitment team.

An early sign of this was the signing of Beram Kayal from Celtic in January 2015.

The Israel international midfielder was influential in the middle of the park for the Seagulls, helping them to survive in England’s second tier.

The Sussex side ended the season in 20th position, six points clear of relegation.

The summer of 2015 saw major changes at the Albion, with Gaetan Bong, Liam Rosenior, Tomer Hemed, Niki Maenpaa, Conor Goldson, Uwe Hunemeier, Jamie Murphy all joining the club- along with the returning Bobby Zamora.

Although the fans, players and the manager didn’t expect Brighton to struggle again in 2015-16, no-one would have expected what was to come.

The Seagulls went 21 games unbeaten- a club record- spanning from August to December.

Hughton’s simple use of 4-4-2 was proving effective, with the two central midfielders holding and breaking up play, they were able to set up counter-attacks for the two wingers and strikers. The tiki-taka style Poyet and Garcia implemented at the club had now finally evolved into the attacking style fans had been hoping for since the club moved to the Amex five years ago- and that is thanks to Hughton.

The quality continued to come through the doors, with Anthony Knockaert and Jiri Skalek signing in January of this year.

But more importantly, the belief and character within the dressing room was unlike any seen at the club before. Fans began to believe that promotion was very much possible, and that had an effect on the players.

The only thing lacking was a goalscorer. Hemed was the team’s top-scorer with 17 goals, but Zamora was second with just seven. In this division it’s not just about winning, but winning convincingly.

Michael Keane’s equaliser in stoppage time for promotion rivals Burnley at the Amex in April was an agonising blow, and a home draw to Derby County in the penultimate game of the season left the Seagulls on the verge of missing out on automatic promotion by the faintest of margins.

A final day showdown with Middlesbrough up at the Riverside was always going to be a tough match, and although the game ended a draw, Boro went up automatically by a single goal.

The players were on burnout after a long 46-game campaign, and were undone by Sheffield Wednesday in the Play-offs.

Worries of a Play-off hangover were squandered by Hughton, claiming the club would come back stronger both mentally and physically.

His wisdom, calmness and genuinely nice personality instantly reassured fans. They knew with Hughton in charge they could compete with the likes of Newcastle, Aston Villa, Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday.

The signing of Glenn Murray on a season-long loan from Bournemouth has another fantastic piece of business from Hughton, as well as the record £4.5m deal for the services of Ireland international Shane Duffy and the capture of Northern Ireland midfielder Oliver Norwood.

Hughton has proved his worth by keeping the same belief in the squad since he came in and that has reflected in Brighton’s results this season.

Having lost just twice all campaign, the club are currently on a 17 games unbeaten since September.

The difference this season is the jump in quality on the pitch. The team is now able to keep up wins without playing well- which is always a sign of a good side.

Duffy and Lewis Dunk have formed a rock-solid partnership, meaning that Brighton have the best defensive record in the league.

Murray, Baldock and Knockaert has also formed a fearsome partnership up top, with the three contributing to a majority of the Seagulls goals this season.

Under Hughton, Brighton have picked up 96 points in the calendar year, the most out of any side in the top four divisions.

Going into 2017 and Hughton’s third year in charge, the Seagulls are second in the Championship. They are just one point behind leaders Newcastle but more importantly they are eight clear of third placed Reading, with a much healthier goal difference.

Promotion to the Premier League with this team would be his most memorable achievement, and it would make 30,000 fans dreams come true.

 

 

 

Whoever comes in at Swansea has a major job on their hands.

Bob Bradley’s ill-fated tenure at Swansea City ended on Tuesday night following a 4-1 home defeat to West Ham United on boxing day. 

The 58-year old became the first ever American to manage in the Premier League, but he only lasted 11 games and 85 days at the Liberty Stadium.

Swansea won just twice during Bradley’s brief spell, with the team conceding 29 goals in that time.

Once again, pundits and fans alike have questioned the mentality of the Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins and American owners Stephen Kaplan and Jason Levien.

Ever since Brendan Rodgers left south wales for Liverpool in 2012, the club have sacked four managers in four years- Michael Laudrup, Garry Monk, Francesco Guidolin and Bradley. As a result, the constant change in management has slowly affected the Swans’ league stature.

After five seasons of mid-table stability, the club now faces a major battle to avoid relegation to the Championship.

So who should take over the managerial reigns at a club short of confidence and lacking Premier League quality.

Wales boss and former Swansea player Chris Coleman (left) is thought to be one of the front-runners, along with Bayern Munich assistant manager Paul Clement (centre) and unemployed Gary Rowett (right).

Ryan Giggs is not being considered for the job, according to BBC Sport.

Of the three listed above only Chris Coleman has Premier League experience as a manager.

The 46-year old previously managed Fulham in the top flight between 2003-07, winning 61 of his 171 matches.

Clement and Rowett have proven their worth in the Championship, with both unlucky to lose their jobs at Derby County and Birmingham City respectively.

Clement was assistant to Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea between 2009-2011, during which the west London club won the Premier League in 2010.

Rowett is yet to coach in the top flight, and considering the job that needs to be done at Swansea, he would be a major gamble.

The club needs a man with experience and knowledge of the league. Sam Allardyce would have been a good fit, but he was snatched up by Crystal Palace last week.

He replaced Alan Pardew, and if he is looking for a quick return to management, then he should consider the Swansea job should he be approached.

The owners have money they can give him to buy better players, especially in defence, and his work at Newcastle United and Palace (pre-2016) has proved his worth in this division.

What we definitely know is that Alan Curtis will take charge of Swansea’s home match against Bournemouth on Saturday, with the club hoping to have their new manager installed before the crucial six-pointer at Palace (Even more incentive for Pardew you’d think) on Tuesday.

Following that is an FA third round match at fellow Premier League strugglers Hull City, before tough fixtures against Arsenal (H), Liverpool (A) and Southampton (H) to end the month.

The new manager will need to improve a fragile defence that has only kept three clean sheets all season and struggled to defend set-pieces.

Ashley Williams has not been replaced since he departed for Everton in the pre-season, and the club needs to try and buy a central defender who will be vocal and command the defensive line.

Barnsley’s Marc Roberts and Leeds’ Pontus Jansson are two players that have impressed in the Championship this season, but could they make the jump up to the Premier League? Would buying from the league below show a lack of ambition?

Perhaps a loan move for Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho would be better?  We are really pulling at strings here. There aren’t too many defenders in England available that have good Premier League expereince.

The team has also been heavily reliant on Icelandic international Gylfi Sigurðsson. The 27-year old is Swansea’s most influential player with five goals and five assists this season.

Striker Fernando Llorente hasn’t lived up to the expectation many had of him, and club-record signing Borja Bastón still needs to adapt to English football since his summer move from Atletico Madrid.

A proven goalscorer is needed to help the club at the top end of the pitch.

Chelsea pair Marco Van Ginkel and Kenedy  could be good loan signings for the club, if they can afford their wages.

These are some suggestions, as its been proven that players from other leagues in Europe aren’t always the best solution short-term, just look at how Aston Villa turned out last year.

Whoever comes in, they really do have a job on their hands.

 

 

Russia not solely to blame for hooliganism at Euro 2016

Euro 2016 has been quite a slow burner on the pitch. After 28 matches, the tournament has produced just 51 goals, an average of just 1.82 goals a game. It hasn’t been as exhilarating as Brazil’s group phase two years ago, but off the pitch it has been far from being boring, all for the wrong reasons.

With security tightened up, many were fearing that a terrorist threat or attack could potentially ruin the footballing spectacle. No one was quite ready for the mess that was about to unfold in the streets and stadia from Eastern European Nationalists.

Why have they decided to bring violence across to France when the nation is already on red alert? Because it is a place where they feel they have a voice. The Croatians and Russians have been the leading forces both in the stadiums and in the streets, proclaiming that “UEFA is poisoned by fraud and corruption.”

If that’s so why don’t your national teams agree? The fact they are taking part in the competition must mean they are content with how it has been governed.

It may well be that internal affairs in their own countries have led to the outburst of violence, or that they just enjoy the hooligan lifestyle- maybe they have all watched Green Street one too many times.

Too many England fans felt like they were as hard as Vinnie Jones and Danny Dyer when squaring up to the Russians, but they were in fact just adding to the mixing pot of sour tasting stew these hooligans had already conjured up.

Are the French and UEFA right to have part of the blame thrown towards them? Of course they are. The segregation at all stadiums is not policed enough, meaning a repeat of the events at Marseille could well happen again.

Marseille is where it all began, where English and Russian fans collided for three solid days.

Following the two nations’ 1-1 draw at the Stade Velodrome 10 days ago, Russian “supporters” lit flares, a passive way of signalling their troops to get ready to charge. The referee’s whistle was like a starting gun used at an 100m final, as at the very moment the whistle touched his lips, the Russians sprinted towards the England fans.

Many of the Three Lions supporters, especially the ones with children, jumped over barriers at least 10ft high to avoid the inevitable violence that was about to erupt.

Russia were given a pre-determined disqualification by UEFA, should their fans cause any more trouble inside the grounds, the only place that Europe’s football governing body could control.

Outside the grounds, it was the French police who had to deal with the violence out in the streets. Water cannons and tear gas have been used frequently in an attempt to stop the fighting, with mixed results.

Russian fans again were the centre of attention in Lille when they came up against the England and Welsh fans last Wednesday, before more than 10 Russians were kicked out the country by the time they faced Wales in their must-win clash last night. They lost 3-0.

During Croatia’s match with the Czech Republic in Saint-Etienne, Croatian fans threw flares and firecrackers onto the pitch, with one set of firecrackers exploding right next to a steward. Within the Croatian stand, fighting broke out between themselves.

The Croatian national team manager described them as “hooligans, not fans, hooligans who don’t deserve a place in any society.”

The incidents seemed to unsettle the Croatian players on the field, as they let their 2-1 lead slip to the Czech Republic as the game ended 2-2.

Four Poland fans were today arrested ahead of their match with Ukraine, who themselves have caused trouble over the last ten or so days.

With Marseille once again the battleground, police used pepper spray and batons to try and end the fighting, to no avail.

With Russia and Ukraine exiting the competition, one would think the violence should calm down.

But things aren’t that simple. With the recent scenes of violence that have occurred in France, it makes one wonder with trepidation that in two years time, the World will be travelling to Russia for the FIFA World Cup.

With fierce cities like Kazan, Sochi and St.Petersburg hosting matches throughout the tournament, is it right for them to host such a mega event that tries to make the world feel together and safe. In doing so that includes equality for all genders, race and sexuality.

UEFA and FIFA will need to re-examine the videos of the Russian mob, and make a decision quick, with threats of boycotting the World Cup already being voiced over by African countries and players.

 

 

7K to MK: A look back at a huge win for Brighton and Hove Albion

When the away support makes up one third of the match attendance, it can really spur a team on. That could not have been more evident than at the Stadium:MK yesterday, where Brighton and Hove Albion held on to win 2-1 against MK Dons.

With over 7,000 albion fans making the trip up to Buckinghamshire, there was a sense of optimism in the air. The recent drop in form for promotion rivals Middlesbrough, Derby County and Hull City have coincided with the Seagull’s regaining there early season momentum.

It was just one defeat in 11 prior to yesterday’s vital clash, and Chris Hughton’s men knew that a win was a must ahead of a tricky looking April.

20160319_142827
Stadium: MK ahead of MK Dons vs Brighton and Hove Albion. (Image Credit: Liam Richner)

It was a first visit for me to Stadium:MK and what a lovely ground it is. It’s just a shame it wasn’t filled to it’s maximum capacity of 30,500 as the place would have been absolutely rocking.

It was certainly a party atmosphere in the away end- compared to the subdued home MK Dons supporters. Balloons and confetti  were being thrown about as if the fans were already celebrating what has been a magnificent season for the Seagulls.

With such a carnival like build-up, the first half of the match was an anti-climax. The game was very stop start, with the referee blowing for a foul every time a player went down.

The ground went from party central to a rather loud silence within those opening 45 minutes- something had to give the place a bit of noise again.

Step up Gully and the team mascots. As part of the MK Dons family fun day, the mascots had a race from one side of the pitch to the other (Watch here). Forget Usain Bolt, this was the 100m race that we all wanted to see!

Gully flew out the blocks and by the time he crossed the halfway line he was in the lead. I’d like to say he won, but I think it was too close to call with the chicken on the outside who came out of nowhere!

With the feel-good factor back, Brighton went on the offensive early in the second half. Tomer Hemed came on to replace Sam Baldock, who went straight down the tunnel, and the Israeli striker made an instant impact.

Brighton’s number 10 won and then converted a penalty to give the Seagulls the lead. Six minutes later, he latched onto Jiri Skalek’s cross to head home powerfully for his 13th goal of the season.

The crowd were going crazy. 2-0 up and controlling the match, it looked like it was going to comfortably be a fourth win in six games.

James Wilson came close to making it 3-0 but his first time effort was saved brilliantly by Cody Cropper.

But, as many Brighton supporters will know, the Seagulls never make life easy for themselves. Bruno, who usually is superb at the back, gave away a cheap free kick, and MK Dons scored from the resulting set piece to get back into the game.

Hemed was again involved in Kyle McFadzean’s red card with fifteen minutes left. The MK Dons defender appeared to elbow the albion striker in the face, resulting in an early bath.

The striker could have gained his hattrick when the ball fell to his feet 10 yards from goal, but he hit the ball wide of the post.

He did guide the ball into the net eventually with a couple of minutes to go, but he was ruled offside by the linesman.

Then the controversy started. Dons swung a corner in which hit Tomer Hemed in the face. However the referee adjourned the ball hit his arm and gave a penalty in stoppage time. Incensed, half the Brighton team got booked for complaining and time wasting.

The albion fans’ hearts were in their mouths. Shocked, they knew if this went in it would be a huge blow to their promotion charge.

Carl Baker stepped up for the hosts…and missed the target to send the Seagulls’ players, coaches and supporters into raptures.

The coaches were jumping around the touchline in delight at the miss, they knew how much this game meant, and when the full time whistle blew, the fans had a belief this was their year.

The Brighton players also celebrated passionately at the final whistle in front of the travelling support, with Chris Hughton applauding the fans for a good two minutes.

The chanting began. “WE ARE GOING UP! SAY WE ARE GOING UP!” The noise was deafening. Fans jumping around, celebrating, some with tears of delight. They had been through it all in those last 20 minutes, and in the last few seasons they would arguably have seen their team draw that game. They just sense it’s their time.

The coach journey home was a quiet one. A majority of the fans slept, others trying to soak up what had just happened.

But one thing’s for sure. This club is together, and the good run keeps going. You just sense this could finally be the year Brighton break into the top flight for the first time in 36 years.