Monday Verdict: Pellegrini hard to beat; Defoe an option?

Date published: Monday 9th May 2016 11:53

Manuel Pellegrini: Will be replaced by Pep Guardiola at City

An under-appreciated Manuel Pellegrini will leave Pep Guardiola a tough act to follow at Man City, while the Hillsborough documentary and Jermain Defoe’s brilliant form at Sunderland are also discussed.


‘Charming Man’ Pellegrini never truly appreciated by Man City

Manuel Pellegrini: Fans pay tribute to Chilean

Manuel Pellegrini: A gentleman, a great manager – and as the banner from Manchester City’s faithful said on Sunday – very much a charming man.

But has the Chilean’s time at the Etihad been one where his record has been largely unappreciated? One Premier League title and two League Cups is certainly no bad record for his three years in charge – and their progress to the Champions League semi-finals is certainly proof of progress in Europe too.

The note from the club in their programme notes certainly recognised the strides the club took under his leadership – and the challenge now will be to keep that progress going.

But it seemed City were always on the lookout for that ‘better, more glamorous’ option – and one which they duly took up with the appointment of Pep Guardiola – one of the most decorated managers the game has seen over the last decade.

Guardiola arrives with a massive reputation and he certainly needs no introduction to Premier League supporters having crossed swords with many of our sides during his time in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich. But managing City represents (pardon the pun) a whole different ball game – and a difficult task given this new era in the Premier League where seemingly anyone can win the title.

Pellegrini leaves the Etihad with a home record of 43 wins in his 57 Premier League games (D5, L8) – a win percentage of 75.4% – and one Pep will be expected to match if not improve on if City are win a first Premier League title in what will be three years by the time next season rolls around.

Ultimately, Pellegrini’s reign may well be judged on whether he can secure Champions League football for the club next season – a matter now out of his hands. But whether or not he secures it, the Chilean in my eyes, leaves the Etihad never truly appreciated.

James Marshment


England time for Defoe?


Jermain Defoe said the Euros were in the “back of my mind” after scoring the equaliser against Liverpool in February and the striker would be forgiven for those thoughts now coming to the fore.

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce admitted his side would be dead and buried without Defoe and he’s right.

“You give Jermain Defoe a chance and generally at least hits the target. We’ve crawled out of the bottom three by the number of goals that he’s scored. Without him I dread to think where we’d be as a team,” said Big Sam after Defoe fired Sunderland to three precious points against Chelsea on Saturday.

Defoe has been phenomenal for Sunderland, dragging them to the brink of Premier League survival – again – with 15 league goals in 27 starts and surely he should come into Roy Hodgson’s thinking?

“I have not seen anything in the papers about the Euros but I did say a few weeks ago that it is in the back of my mind.

“I am not fully focused on it anyway. All I can do is keep playing well and try to get some goals. I am not totally focused on that. I am totally focused on playing for my club,” said Defoe in February.

England coach Hodgson will name his travelling party on Thursday and Defoe is unlikely to be included in the 23-man squad, but if Hodgson wants a goalscorer in France then Defoe is an option.

Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Wayne Rooney look certs for Hodgson, although Rooney could be picked as a midfielder. Daniel Sturridge is also likely to get the nod, but with Danny Welbeck now a huge injury doubt, there might well be an extra forward place up for grabs and Defoe will be waiting anxiously for Hodgson’s announcement.

The 33-year-old has not played international football since November 2013. He moved to Toronto in Major League Soccer soon after that and that move looked like signalling the end of his career at the top level. However, Defoe returned to the Premier League with Sunderland in January 2015 and to describe that piece of business, which also took Jozy Altidore the other way, as shrewd is an understatement.

The former Spurs man’s renaissance has been remarkable and there is no reason why he cannot do a similar thing with his England career. It will be two and a half years since Defoe’s last England appearance, but he looks as sharp as ever. Just ask John Terry, who was so worried by him on Saturday he tried to nobble him in Chelsea’s defeat.

His finish against Chelsea was that of a striker in form. And his goals have won Sunderland 12 points this season and looking at his stats he would not look out of place alongside Kane and Vardy. In fact Defoe’s shooting accuracy is second to none with 64 per cent of his 55 shots on goal on target – the highest in the league. He also scores a goal every 164 minutes and only Kane and Vardy can better that from the current crop of English forwards.

Defoe has 55 caps and played in two major tournaments, he was the last man to score an England hat-trick, and the last to score the winner for England at a World Cup. He would never be a starter in France, in fact he has only played two England games from start to finish in 11 years, but from the bench his experience and coolness in front of goal could be crucial.

Defoe’s age may well count against him though with Hodgson focused on taking a youthful squad to the finals, but 35-year-old Germany striker Miroslav Klose showed age is no barrier for a goalscorer when he scored twice at the 2014 World Cup en route to Germany’s success.

Will Defoe go the France? Probably not, but if Andy Carroll is being discussed as an option then Defoe certainly needs considering.

Matthew Briggs


Hillsborough documentary essential viewing

Hillsborough tragedy, 1989

The Hillsborough documentary shown by the BBC for the first time on UK television was met with acclaim on Sunday night – and rightly so.

The Daniel Gordon feature-length film was originally aired in the USA two years ago – yet it could not be shown in Britain for legal reasons.

And for those who did see it, they’ll have witnessed one of the most harrowing pieces of television ever made. But this wasn’t your US drama, or an highly-acclaimed British programme – this was real life.

You could divide the programme into three parts:

  1. How the disaster happened, and the South Yorkshire Police mismanagement that led to the crush
  2. The cover-up and how South Yorkshire Police moved to cover their tracks and absolve themselves of blame
  3. The 27-year fight for justice from the families affected.

The two-hour documentary provides a comprehensive account of what happened during that tragic FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15, 1989.

It features harrowing and heartbreaking never-seen-before footage, capturing the catastrophic crush that occurred on the Leppings Lane terraces.

The moving film details the horror of Hillsborough told by those directly involved, including families of the victims and police officers who were on duty during the fateful day that also saw 766 fans injured.

And those who watched it for the first time on Sunday, took to social media to salute the outstanding piece of film-making which recounts the 27-year campaign for answers and justice.

The documentary puts the viewer through the full range of emotions – best summed up by these tweets.

The programme is still available on the BBC iPlayer. I’d urge anyone who ever remembers that fateful day all those years ago, or anyone who ever cared about football, to watch it.

James Marshment

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