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Football Thread 2020/2021


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28 minutes ago, Adrock said:





That's one source. I haven't looked anywhere else but I think that covers it.


It's really disappointing that supposed well adjusted adults can't discuss football without resorting to the playground bullshit this thread descends into every few days. That isn't a dig at you @Pants McSkilland it isn't aimed at anyone in particular, it's a general observation of probably 6 or 7 idiots who support various clubs.



Didn't take it as a dig at all, was asking a genuine question. Completely agree with your sentiment too. 


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20 hours ago, Art Vandelay said:

With England, I know the chat is all about Southgate stifling our prodigious attacking talent, but I honestly hope he plays the stodgiest brand of football going. A flat back five, four players sitting and just cannoning balls into the mixer when we can. Shitty penalties, loading the box, playing for time, sitting back. All your young wingers and ball players growing moss on their arse as they stare off into space on the bench. Imagine winning the whole thing like that, it would be absolutely glorious. 


While that would be funny, the team almost did that in 2018 (at least in terms of just relying on set pieces), not to that anti football extreme. I know there are plenty who say; 'don't care! Win it however! As long as we win it! Do you think Greece care how they did it????' I don't, but my memory is almost non existent as it is, i think if we won it like that i wouldn't be able to recall any of it 5 years later. 


Ultimately all i want is the high stakes drama, the moments, the twists and turns that come with tournament football and of course lots of it, so advance through the rounds for that reason, as opposed to some desperation at finally winning the thing without all that memorable stuff before it. 


I remember some exciting parts of a high scoring game vs Sweden in..Euro 2012? And the 6-1 vs Panama in 2018, the Lingard curler, that sense of the attacking players flourishing. Defensively tight teams win tournaments etc can't be attacking against top teams etc i know. But certainly seeing somewhere near the best of the attackers is important, scoring in open play as well. 

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I've always got a fondness for teams that could pour forward but had no concept of defending.  Germany in the 2006 World Cup, Argentina under Maradona in 2010.  Having had 20-odd years of stodge, at least let's have a laugh.  England are not going anywhere near winning it (France, Germany or Portugal await in the first knockout round, assuming they get there).

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8 minutes ago, Plissken said:

England are not going anywhere near winning it (France, Germany or Portugal await in the first knockout round, assuming they get there).


... and assuming England top the group. If England finish second, they'll play the second best of Spain, Poland, Sweden or Slovakia, while if they finish third it's kinda open season depending on who else qualifies. 

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On 26/05/2021 at 14:07, Marlowe said:

Maguire and Stones has to be the other way round.


I wouldn't risk Henderson when he's barely played recently, definitely Rice in there for me instead. Bellingham we could certainly give a run out against some opposition but for Croatia and bigger games I'd want Phillips in there to sit on Modric. 


Then your forward 4.. Mount is best as a 10 for me, whereas Foden has played the majority of his football this season as a wide forward so I'd have him out there. Then on the other side I'd want someone more pacey to stretch defences and give us an outlet against high defensive lines, so that's Rashford or Sterling. I don't see the balance of the team in playing Mount, Foden AND Grealish. Man City can make it work playing those kind of combinations but that's based on a system that is nothing like what England play, which requires a level of training and understanding between the players that it isn't feasible to coach into an international side. Grealish comes into this side instead of Mount and Foden, either to rotate the squad or as a substitute.


I've been meaning to reply to this, and with 2 friendlies played nothing has changed for me, except i thought Henderson would get more game time so he's a doubt for Croatia now. I think it's Southgate himself who is saying how in 1998 Beckham and Owen didn't start the first game and they combined to create the most memorable England moment of the tournament. 


I don't think playing Mount, Foden, Grealish automatically makes for an unbalanced team, it isn't like I'm suggesting not playing any defensive midfielders in a final so that the top scoring midfielders spend more time deeper than in the final third...

If the biggest issue for England for a long time has been the slower tempo of international football meaning it requires players who are more comfortable on the ball, i think those players should be preferred over the moments players. For that reason, it wasn't a surprise to see Grealish flourish -albeit in a few games as players given their debut often can- because of how Lallana did in the past with him linking midfield with attack and finding pockets of space. He was eventually criticised for not scoring but then Sterling went what was it a few years without scoring. 

While Foden as Pep says needs to slow down a bit to play centrally i'd rather as much as possible went through him as he's the best player in the squad. I don’t think Southgate will be as conservative as people are being already pessimistic about. I think we should at least try the 3 together and not fret about them being too similar as though they'll all want to pick up the same positions.

The one single thing people are picking out is Kane likes to drop deep so England absolutely need a runner in behind but in the first friendly he's feeding wide players then not getting into the box to be on the end of the cross so what's the point? Shearer always brings up 'desire' in a player wanting to get into the box and maybe people think it's always a simple obvious point but maybe football is simple sometimes. 'Simple football is the hardest thing to do' etc.


Both Michael Cox and Jonathan Wilson insist on needing that pace in behind, England can't just have all these creative players in front of the defence but it's not like Foden, Mount and Grealish lack pace. Even Grealish who deliberately slows his dribbling to draw in defenders is deceptively quick when he wants to be. Foden has run in behind for City plenty of times, he's fast enough and smart enough and I'd rather have him than any other player running towards goal to either shoot or cross, to make the right decision and time it right. If we play him wide right, I'd like to play the 3 and switch them around.

It's just the phrase 'Kane likes to...' well tell him not to. Son is pretty much the best in the world with his timing of runs, how two footed he is and his pace that it made sense for Spurs to prioritise that method of attack. With Sterling and Rashford having had poor seasons and being in poor form (though contrary to what others seem to think i thought Rashford did well the other night, his ability to run past players is better than so many other wide players we've had) i don't think it makes as much sense. Sancho like Alexander-Arnold i don't think fits, i don't think he beat his man once in the last friendly and while if his shot goes in rather than coming off the bar the whole match becomes about him, maybe it says it all that it didn't. He's never looked dangerous for England.

I agree with what everyone says, strong defences win tournaments, balance is the most important thing in a team, it's better to get the most out of the players on the pitch than play the 2 others on the bench as well and not bring the best out of any of them. Argentina had a generation of attacking talent and didn't get the best out of them. 

Most pundits insist on Grealish now, he makes things happen, is a part of everything England do, and Foden scored a brace for England in what his 3rd game?, his ability to adjust his feet so fast to choose the correct shot is unreal. I think they both have to play. I have more confidence in just the ability of these players, needing to get them on the ball and in dangerous areas and they will create chances and will score. It's not about prioritising players over system but that i don't think the system will work because many times, like the 2 games vs Denmark, like the nothing football set piece dependant end of 2018 world cup it's limited. To me it really comes down to the pace of the premier league being what England players are used to so players who are comfortable on the ball and naturally seek to link up are pivotal.


I think the fretting of how there's less time in international football to train the players together is overstated tbh, i don't know what the England system is really that we're so wedded to. Southgate is changing the formation based on lack of defensive options and i don't dismiss that, just i think anything we've tried we're still so flakey at the back. Mings is a pyschopath, Pickford is flappy handed, Stones is still prone to dawdling on the ball in his box with two opposition players coming at him, most fullbacks aren't fussed about letting crosses go into the box being lazy and naive in closing them down before they happen, Maguire is solid i agree but slow and twice this season has left crosses into the box fly past him so i have no confidence that any of them will prevent goals, it'll come down to the opposition not taking their chances. And we've tried it. I think we need to take the Guardiola obsession of attack is the best form of defence, try to have more of the ball than usual and cause the oppositions problems.

I think we have to embrace how good some of these young players are. Maybe Foden will hit a low as Guardiola expects, maybe his improvement this season has just been fortunate but he's gone from a player who comes in and scores to nab City the win in otherwise mundane games they should probably win to a player who decides big games for City in a Champions league quarter final. It's him and not Haaland who is coming near post at a corner to drill in a shot past the keeper in a way that has to be executed perfectly from standing still to go in.


It's Bellingham too who is stepping up to score. Foden had the best chance in the CL final, Rudiger's brilliant block denying him, Bellingham should have scored a header in the England friendly the other day were it not for the flukey outstretched toe of the defender. Mount would have scored in the FA cup final were it not for Schmeichel's genuine wonder save, but then provided the perfectly weighted assist that won the CL final.


I think all this is significant, they're players who are just at the centre of the big moments when they play for their teams, academy players with technique and composure we rarely produce but with confidence and personality and desire that doesn't always follow. 


Is this too much, i might as well carry on. I think England will win 2 tournaments with Foden and he'll be regarded as the greatest England player ever, he has an almost magical way of playing that seems impervious to the physical rigours of the game, he glides and covers ground with ease, he rides challenges like they're nothing, his desire and confidence are abnormal, his decision making is getting better all the time, it's just the speed of his shooting, the accuracy and how clean he hits it with no backlift coupled with his energy and dribbling ability i think he's that special he will make that much of a difference for England 


Okay i didn't realise/had forgotten that Foden, Mount and Grealish have started before, in the 4-0 win over Iceland last November. Mount got a goal, Rice got one from a Foden set piece cross, and Foden got 2 himself. Really dominated the first half, the guardian min by min had Grealish or Foden as man of the match. 


Saka played too though so Mount was deeper and there's lots of fretting about whether Mount can play alongside Rice like that. Was advanced and wide a lot in the highlights and i wouldn't play that. I do at least think Rice-Bellingham or Phillips-Bellingham. Jonathan Wilson wants Phillips-Rice against Croatia. 


I hope and will assume Southgate will look to a positive performance, albeit against not the strongest opposition in Iceland and base more of his decisions now on that, it did come after the 2 Denmark horror shows. 


Southgate said before the Iceland win; 'this is another chance to see Mount a little bit deeper, another chance to see Phil in his first between September, and the interplay between him and Harry and Jack in particular. They'll have some freedom to move off of the shape. It's a nice balance'. 


So there you go, balance confirmed. Not unbalanced. :P

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I'm not Southgate's biggest fan from a tactical POV but he seems like a throughly decent sort and has just the right temperament for an England manger at this point of history. 


He's released a letter to the England fans. Easy to be cynical about football at times, but this does read like it's from the heart. It's a really impressive statement he's made on  The Players Tribune.




Dear England,

It has been an extremely difficult year. Everyone in this country has been directly affected by isolation and loss. But we have also seen countless examples of heroism and sacrifice. It’s given us all a new understanding of the fragility of life and what really matters. When you think of the grand scheme of things, perhaps football doesn’t seem so important. And what I want to speak about today is much bigger than football.

As we go into this summer, I know that there will be a lot of emotion tied up in the Euros, and in this England team. I can’t possibly hope to speak for an entire country, but I would like to share a few things with you, as we begin this journey.

There’s something I tell our players before every England game, and the reason that I repeat it is because I really believe it with all my heart.

I tell them that when you go out there, in this shirt, you have the opportunity to produce moments that people will remember forever.

You are a part of an experience that lasts in the collective consciousness of our country. 

We saw that during Russia 2018, with the street parties, the barbecues and with every drop of beer thrown into the air in celebration. When England play, it’s not a few thousand — or even a few million — watching on subscription. You are representing more than 50 million people. 

You remember where you were watching England games. And who you were watching with. And who you were at the time.

The first England match I really remember watching was in the 1982 World Cup, when I was 11. It was the first World Cup England had qualified for in my lifetime and I was obsessed. I had the wall chart, ready to fill in with every result, every goalscorer, every detail.

I rushed home from school for England’s opener against France to see Bryan Robson score after just 27 seconds! To witness that as a young Manchester United-supporting midfielder whose hero was Robson … well, it’s safe to say I was hooked. 

Later that same year, I watched Luther Blissett get a hat trick in a 9-0 win over Luxembourg. That specific result might have been forgotten by many but it really stuck for me.

Every game, no matter the opposition, has the potential to create a lifelong memory for an England fan somewhere. 

Why do we care so much?

Like with our own memories of watching England, everyone has a different idea of what it actually means to be English. What pride means.

For me, personally, my sense of identity and values is closely tied to my family and particularly my granddad. He was a fierce patriot and a proud military man, who served during World War II. 

The idea of representing “Queen and country” has always been important to me. We do pageantry so well in Britain, and, growing up, things like the Queen’s silver jubilee and royal weddings had an impact on me. 

Because of my granddad, I’ve always had an affinity for the military and service in the name of your country — though the consequence of my failure in representing England will never be as high as his. My granddad’s values were instilled in me from a young age and I couldn’t help but think of him when I lined up to sing the national anthem before my first international caps.

My belief is that everyone has that pride. And that includes the players. 

What is sometimes forgotten is just how much it means to the players. 

Players are fans too, after all. That’s how it starts. It starts with kids sitting in front of TVs, with wall charts and heroes.

Undoubtedly, we’re in a different era now, where footballers aren’t as accessible to fans as they once were. They don’t ride the same bus home from games, or meet in the pub for a pint and a post-match analysis. 

But, despite all the changes in modern football, what cannot be questioned about the current generation of England players is their pride in representing this country.

This idea that some players don’t know what it means to play for England — or don’t care — has become something of a false narrative.

You don’t need to dig deep to realise that.

You only need to see what I see when an under-15 comes into St. George’s Park for the first time, or when a senior player arrives on their first call-up. The pride for them, their families and their communities back home is huge.

The journey to earn an England cap is an incredibly difficult one, regardless of background or circumstance.

Only around 1,200 players have represented England at senior men’s level. Ever.

It’s a profound privilege. Don’t forget, many of our lads started out at Football League clubs like Barnsley, MK Dons and Sheffield United. Their backgrounds are humble. For them to make it to this point as one of the chosen few in England’s history … well, it simply doesn't happen without pride.

This is a special group. Humble, proud and liberated in being their true selves. 

Our players are role models. And, beyond the confines of the pitch, we must recognise the impact they can have on society. We must give them the confidence to stand up for their teammates and the things that matter to them as people.

I have never believed that we should just stick to football. 

I know my voice carries weight, not because of who I am but because of the position that I hold. At home, I’m below the kids and the dogs in the pecking order but publicly I am the England men’s football team manager. I have a responsibility to the wider community to use my voice, and so do the players.

It’s their duty to continue to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate.

Social media has been a key resource in giving our players a platform and has been a positive tool in so many ways. In fact, I feel like this generation of England players is closer to the supporters than they have been for decades. Despite the polarisation we see in society, these lads are on the same wavelength as you on many issues.

That said, there are times when my parental instincts kick in. I can’t help it. After all, I’m old enough to be a father to most of my players!

I see players scrolling on their phones straight after the final whistle and I think … Hmmm, is that a particularly good idea? 

Reading abusive comments on Twitter or Instagram is never going to help performance. 

There are genuine risks for our players online and I will always want to protect them, but I would never put rules on how or when they use their accounts while on England duty. I trust them and know they are mature enough to make their own decisions, to do what’s right for their mental health and to keep being a force for good as we strive for a better society.

The last 18 months have put added pressure on everyone, I know. Venting that might have taken place while walking out of the stadium, or in the pub has been transferred online. I get that. However, there are things I will never understand.

Why would you tag someone in on a conversation that is abusive? 

Why would you choose to insult somebody for something as ridiculous as the colour of their skin?


Unfortunately for those people that engage in that kind of behaviour, I have some bad news. You’re on the losing side. It’s clear to me that we are heading for a much more tolerant and understanding society, and I know our lads will be a big part of that.

It might not feel like it at times, but it’s true. The awareness around inequality and the discussions on race have gone to a different level in the last 12 months alone. 

I am confident that young kids of today will grow up baffled by old attitudes and ways of thinking.

For many of that younger generation, your notion of Englishness is quite different from my own. I understand that, too. 

I understand that on this island, we have a desire to protect our values and traditions — as we should — but that shouldn’t come at the expense of introspection and progress.

Regardless of your upbringing and politics, what is clear is that we are an incredible nation — relative to our size and population — that has contributed so much to the arts, science and sport. 

We do have a special identity and that remains a powerful motivator.

In a funny way, I see the same Englishness represented by the fans who protested against the Super League. We are independent thinkers. We speak out on the issues that matter to us and we are proud of that.

Of course, my players and I will be judged on winning matches. Only one team can win the Euros. We have never done it before and we are desperate to do it for the first time. 

Believe me.

But, the reality is that the result is just a small part of it. When England play, there's much more at stake than that. 

It’s about how we conduct ourselves on and off the pitch, how we bring people together, how we inspire and unite, how we create memories that last beyond the 90 minutes. That last beyond the summer. That last forever.

I think about all the young kids who will be watching this summer, filling out their first wall charts. No matter what happens, I just hope that their parents, teachers and club managers will turn to them and say, “Look. That’s the way to represent your country. That’s what England is about. That is what’s possible.”

If we can do that, it will be a summer to be proud of.


Gareth Southgate


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He put that perfectly. I have to say the booing has disillusioned me supporting England, but reading that puts my mind at ease. We may have some knuckle draggers as fans but the manager and team are a top bunch. 

I usually like watching England games in public places don’t think I will this year. Any booing at taking the knee will just piss me off and I wouldn’t be able to help saying something. 

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21 hours ago, feltmonkey said:


I can certainly see the argument against taking injured players, it's something that comes up every single England squad, it seems.  What's your opinion of England taking Henderson?


In this case, with the mitigating factors at play - the larger squad, Maguire's quality and importance to the squad, how poor the back-ups are - it seems a gamble worth taking.  Centre back is a position where it is sometimes easier to return from injury, I think.  This is based on nothing more than my own observation over the years, by the way, and may be nonsense.  


Talking of nonsense, I wasn't posting to stir up another round of Man Utd vs Liverpool, and I have no interest in hate boners.  I only mentioned club bias as I felt it was leading your opinion of Maguire as being "clanger prone" and wanted to point out that saying he had been out "months" was factually wrong.  The fact that you were using Maguire to illustrate your point about not taking injured players and ignoring Henderson kind of pointed to club blinkers and undermined your point.

No worries. I wouldn’t take Henderson if he’s not 100% but as a Liverpool fan I’d rather be sat this one out so soon after injury. From an England point  of view if he’s match fit then a month on the sidelines wouldn’t be the worst and I’d have him in the first 11 every game if he was. Even if he’s not I can imagine that Southgate wants his leadership and experience in a very young squad. 

I love you too dude :hug:

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Ireland second best tonight, and have Bazunu and especially Kelleher to thank for some excellent saves to keep the score at 0-0. Probably the best chance for Ireland wasn't Egan hitting the bar, but rather the ball over the top that Horgan took brilliantly on his chest, immediately flicked it to Idah who was unlucky to have a defender on him immediately. One wonders if Irish defenders would have been so alert.


Creativity remains a problem and Horgan looked one of the few out there who could offer something. In addition to the move above, he played Ogbene in late on for a very good opportunity that probably needed a patient look up to try and find someone square, then sent another ball shortly afterwards into space down the right for Ogbenie. So it was extremely frustrating that after coming on and teeing up Idah, he would be absent for large stretches of the game. I couldn't quite tell if that was because Hungary nerfed him effectively, or because Ireland seemed to prefer to play it down the right, but when he did pick upt he ball in an attacking position, he was offering more than pretty much any other player.

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1 hour ago, skadupuk said:

Nuno to Palace?


I'd be bloody delighted (I'm not holding my breath though)


All but done apparently. I will always love that man.


I'm really really not happy that he left us - we've got a gargantuan summer ahead of us and it seems like we've given ourselves a fuckload of headaches. Bruno Lage should be appointed our new head coach within the next few days but he's got to get off to a good start or I fear our fans will turn.


We're really not used to losing managers who are pretty much universally adored by the whole fan base.

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2 hours ago, skadupuk said:

Nuno to Palace?


I'd be bloody delighted (I'm not holding my breath though)

Strange one, for me. That honestly seems like a step-down for a manager that many people in the game rate. I don't really see Palace being a team he can push forward all that much as they are never going to give him sufficient funds to work with. It doesn't show much ambition on his part, it's not as if they are a project he can really build into something, is it?

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30 minutes ago, Gabe said:

Strange one, for me. That honestly seems like a step-down for a manager that many people in the game rate. I don't really see Palace being a team he can push forward all that much as they are never going to give him sufficient funds to work with. It doesn't show much ambition on his part, it's not as if they are a project he can really build into something, is it?


We have over 20 players out of contract, 12 of those are part of the named 25 man squad, its an ideal place/time to build his own team.


Any new manager we get will have to get a budget to rebuild and we have a load of big earners off the books who weren't really contributing freeing up wage capacity.


I'm still surprised he'd consider it/hasn't had a better offer though.


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@skadupukThat's the thing though, Steve Parish was all over TV when the super league stuff was kicking-off talking about the club living within their means so I can't imagine the trimming of the wage bill is going to suddenly mean the purse strings will open to the extent at which it is needed. How many of those 20 players do you expect to be replaced, for example? And how much time do you think Nuno would get if it all went south quickly (which wouldn't be unsurprising given the influx of new players who would need to gel)?

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Nuno seems to be pretty good with promoting young players to the first team and improving them. Palace have an excellent academy set-up so he’s there right type of manager to make the most of this. But he’s still going to need to sort out the spine of that team with some decent signings. 

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8 hours ago, Gabe said:

@skadupukThat's the thing though, Steve Parish was all over TV when the super league stuff was kicking-off talking about the club living within their means so I can't imagine the trimming of the wage bill is going to suddenly mean the purse strings will open to the extent at which it is needed. How many of those 20 players do you expect to be replaced, for example? And how much time do you think Nuno would get if it all went south quickly (which wouldn't be unsurprising given the influx of new players who would need to gel)?



Hard to know how many we will get but our biggest issue recently has been the wage bill (in terms of adding players) reather than transfer fees and some of the players that are 100% going from the 1st team are on silly money even more so when you look at their recent contributions, for example of the 5 defenders on that list only one made more than 20 appearances (including substitute appearances) this season and the highest paid made 6, we are also sending Batshuayi back who was costing us £100k a week (18 appearances mostly 5 minute cameos, 1 goal).


Arguably, if you bought fit and capable players, you only need 3 new defenders to make the same contribution and using the wages for the 3 of them mean you can probably attract some half-decent options.


How long he'd get?


A decent stretch I think, Palace have a historic reputation for changing managers but they weren't all Palace decisions, the fans tend to be patient and less-fickle than some (football under Hodgson has been dreadful for 3 seasons, it's only this last one that there has been any meaningful unrest)







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2 minutes ago, disperse and recoagulate said:

Nathan Ferguson better be 4.0 on FPL next season.


I really hope it works out for him as from his interviews he seems like a decent guy, but the risk of him not being able to come back fully from his injuries and be the same player are high, 4.0 might be a waste of budget...


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Lage confirmed:



Could be a masterstroke, could be a decision that sets the club back several years - I really have no idea what to expect.  A very mixed reaction from our fans, a lot of that will have been caused by losing Nuno.


I really really hope this comes off, because it's a risk no matter how you look at it.  Hopefully we'll see the mega attacking, goal-laden days he enjoyed when he first took charge of Benfica and not the poor run that led to his departure. 

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It's good that Wolves got him in pretty quickly and gives him a fair amount of time to get working with the squad before the new season kicks off.


Nuno to Palace would b a masterstroke although I imagine there must be some interest from Everton although the gossip is around Christophe Galtier. And then there's Spurs.


Man, there are a fair few teams starting with new head coaches next season. 

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Honestly I think he’s known he would be Wolves head coach for months now, so I’d hope he already knows how the squad will shape up. 

He wants to anyway as I think we have big problems as it is right now. 

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From the Athletic, about Lage:


It was a phone call in early January 2019 that changed Bruno Lage’s life forever.

The Benfica B coach was getting into his car when his mobile started to ring. A quick glance at the screen and Luis Filipe Vieira’s name popped up, the Benfica president.

Lage was asked if he wanted to become caretaker boss of the first team, replacing Rui Vitoria, who was paying the price for a 2-0 defeat to lowly Portimonense which left Benfica fourth in the table, seven points off the lead.

He didn’t need long to answer. After 20 years as a coach this was his first offer of a senior management position, at a club he knew inside out having worked there for nine years, over two spells.

He instantly began thinking of what he’d do to revitalise the team. By the time he’d started driving he’d come to a decision that would define his reign and now, two and a half years later, lead him to realising his dream of managing a Premier League club: he’d give youth a chance. And he’d attack.

Four months, 19 games, 18 wins and 72 goals later, Lage had led Benfica to a stunning title success. It’s partly this title – and the stylish manner in which Benfica achieved it – that has led him to Molineux. But that’s been underpinned by two decades in the game working at various coaching levels and in three different countries, where Lage has moulded his style and perfected his coaching methods.

When Lage decided he would make a better coach than footballer aged just 21, his humble ambition was to be a physical education coach and a fitness trainer.

Having earned a degree in physical education, health and sports, he began his career as an assistant youth team coach at Vitoria de Setubal, his hometown club, in 1997 and moved around various lower league and amateur clubs in Portugal in the next few years, working as an assistant at the likes of Comercio Industria, Sintrense, Fazendense and Estrela de Vendas Novas.

It wasn’t until he joined Benfica in 2004, six years later, that he realised he had an opportunity to pursue a professional career in the game.

Lage’s amiable and driven personality saw him thrive at Benfica’s academy, working first at school level then up through the age groups, winning two national titles and two district championships along the way with players like Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo and two names very familiar to Wolves supporters; Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro. He was a mentor to them all. Cancelo calls Lage one of his biggest influences and compares him to a father figure.

Lage celebrates winning the league at Benfica with Jardel and Ruben Dias (Photo: Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)

In 2012 Lage decided to broaden his horizons, taking a job at Al-Ahli in the UAE, working in Dubai with the club’s under-19 and B teams. It was more valuable experience under his coaching belt, but it was a friendship that Lage struck up while in Dubai that would take his career in an unlikely new direction. He met Carlos Carvalhal, the former Sporting and Besiktas boss who was taking a break from management.

They shared ideas on coaching, on training, on developing youngsters, on technical, attacking football. They even wrote a book together; ‘Soccer: Developing a Know How’, essentially a coaching manual detailing training methods and explaining the key principles behind attacking and defensive strands in Carvalhal’s preferred 4-3-3 formation.

When Carvalhal was offered the Sheffield Wednesday job in 2015, he took Lage with him. And then to Swansea in 2017.

“I arrived at English football with Carvalhal, without him it was not possible,” Lage said in 2018. “I had already done several internships with him. I trained at Benfica in the afternoon/night and watched a lot of his training in the morning, at Belenenses and Vitoria de Setubal. We became friends in Dubai.

“The Premier League is a coach’s dream and I managed to get there as assistant to Carvalho. We had an extreme friendship, there was total autonomy depending on (the club’s) ideas. He managed to get the best out of me and my skills and helped me to evolve to become a professional football coach.”

At Wednesday, Carvalhal led training sessions with Lage tasked with overseeing units like defence or midfield. He worked mainly on tactics, both in groups and with individual players on video analysis.

Former Wolves midfielder David Jones worked closely with Lage when he moved to Hillsborough from Burnley in 2016.

He found the Portuguese coach to be both likeable and knowledgeable.

“He’s fairly quiet off the pitch but also very passionate,” Jones tells The Athletic. “That passion comes across on the training field…when he’s talking football he comes alive. Away from football I can imagine him being quite understated and quiet. But on match days you’d see that emotion. He’s very enthusiastic.

“You can see he’s not afraid to show his emotions. I’d describe him as quiet and reserved but a likeable character when you get to know him. He wasn’t your best mate straight away, he was someone who tried to work on my game and I had a good relationship with him.

“With me individually we worked on playing through the lines, playing forward and taking risks on the ball.”

Carvalhal was a huge influence on Lage’s career. He was preparing him for management, just as he’s also done with Lage’s younger brother Luis Nascimento who is set to join him at Wolves, having recently worked with Carvalhal at Rio Ave.

Carvalhal told The Athletic last year, when talking about Lage and others, that he intentionally recruits staff to prepare them for management on a three-year timescale. Three years after hiring Lage, he was boss with Benfica B and then a few months later, Benfica’s first team.

“It is a requirement for our coaches to have a career and want to achieve something in the future, so when we bring in this kind of person we know that we are preparing them and they will be ready after two or three seasons to be a manager,” Carvalhal said.

“We know that these kind of people that work with us, the future managers, we recognise that they are clever, they will understand us, they will bring something to us and they will be ready to be a manager. They go back experienced and they come every day with questions, we will put questions to them and they give good answers. These new people are always bringing something new to us and we can give to them the philosophy, experience and knowledge — and this is important for us and to them to be managers in the future.

“The best thing that I can do is read a lot. Nowadays there is a lot of books, a lot of information and courses at university and so on. You must be very selective with the things that you read to upgrade your philosophy.”

There are indeed a lot of books and Lage was moved to write his own (with a foreword from Carvalhal) in 2017, entitled ‘Training: From Initiation to the B Team’, which focuses on the organisational matrix of a B team and the importance of training in youth development.

As an assistant boss, training was seen as Lage’s greatest strength. He once wrote: “You must work to win but without giving up what is best for the evolution of the players and the team.”

Lage loved his time in England and he and Carvalhal (as well as coach Joao Mario and analyst Jhony Conceicao as part of an all-Portuguese coaching team) enjoyed success with Wednesday, with finishes of sixth and fourth (having been 13th the season before their arrival) but suffering play-off agony both times. Season three didn’t go as well and they left (by mutual consent) in December after a seven-game winless run that saw Wednesday drop to 15th. Their penultimate game was a 1-0 home defeat to Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves.

A few days later Carvalhal and Lage were immediately back in work, surprisingly a division higher with the Premier League’s bottom side Swansea. One of their first games was against Nuno’s Wolves (of course!) in an FA Cup tie, which went to a replay with Swansea going through. However, at the end of the campaign, Carvalhal left having failed to steer the Swans to safety, with them finishing three points adrift of 17th.

Lage returned to work six months later and it was a familiar setting; Benfica B. It was here that he began to work with the youngsters he would call on when landing the main Benfica job in January 2019, particularly Joao Felix.

The first 12 months of Lage’s Benfica reign were revelatory, eye-catching and spectacular. He immediately changed formation, introduced a number of talented youngsters into the side and unleashed them via a brand of aggressive, fast-paced attacking football.

Felix had made his first-team debut at the start of that 2018-19 season but had only played seven times in the league (163 minutes), scoring twice. Lage knew how special the teenager was. In fact, so convinced was he of Felix’s impending superstardom that he engineered a formation (4-4-1-1) specifically designed to play to his strengths, accommodating him as a deeper second striker behind Haris Seferovic, allowing Felix the freedom to roam, to run, to shoot, to create and to generally frighten the hell out of opposition defences, while the full-backs bombed on down either flank and the technically-gifted midfield were encouraged to protect and create.

Felix was the star of Lage’s exciting Benfica side (Photo: Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

He told Felix to play his natural game, “like you would in the street”. The youngster responded by firing Benfica to the title.

He scored twice in Lage’s first game, a come-from-behind 4-2 victory over Rio Ave, he scored a ridiculous hat-trick against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League (becoming the competition’s youngest-ever hat-trick scorer), the equaliser in another memorable comeback win away at Porto and struck again in the final-day 4-1 victory over Santa Clara that confirmed Benfica’s title. Felix started 28 of the remaining 29 games in all competitions that season, scoring 17 goals and setting up another 10. He moved to Atletico Madrid that summer for £113 million. A star was born, thanks in no small part to Lage.

It wasn’t just Felix who Lage gave a chance to. Defensive midfielder Florentino Luis and centre-back Ferro were lifted from Lage’s former B team and played important roles in the stunning unbeaten run that season. The squad numbers of that young trio added up to 237 (Felix 79, Florentino 61, Ferro 97), showing how insignificant and obscure they were before Lage’s intervention.

It truly was an astounding title win. Benfica obliterated the competition, registering wins of 6-0, 5-1 (twice), 4-1 (thrice), 4-0 (twice) and, the piece de resistance, a 10-0 shellacking of Nacional, when they became the first Portuguese top-flight team to score 100 goals in 56 years. Benfica’s goal tally for the season was 103, matching the club’s record.

His team produced, statistically, the best second half of a season in Liga NOS history.

How on earth do you top that? Well, the first half of the follow-up season started in similar fashion, with Lage’s team winning 18 of their first 19 league games, giving him an overall record at that point of 36 wins in 38 league matches, albeit having dropped out the Champions League, finishing below RB Leipzig and Lyon (and then lost in the Europa League last 32 to Shakhtar).

From February things started to unravel. And fast. Recruitment perhaps hadn’t helped (Felix had gone, while expensive new summer striker Raul de Tomas from Real Madrid was such a flop he was sold in January) but to go from an almost 100 per cent winning league record to just two victories from the next 10 (either side of lockdown) and four defeats including to Santa Clara and Maritimo was alarming. And it did for Lage. A recovery to win four of the last five that season wasn’t enough; Benfica finished five points behind champions Porto and Lage left at the end of the season, reportedly via a resignation rather than a sacking.

What went wrong? Well, in hindsight, with Benfica having finished third this season (nine points behind new champions Sporting), Lage’s failings may be subject to revision. Indeed, it’s felt Benfica have missed his link to the B team and under-23 setups in seamlessly promoting youth.

However, there was a feeling that training had gone stale in the final months of his reign, leading to the players switching to autopilot and becoming detached. Lage had spiced up and refreshed the first team when he was first appointed, but when it came to needing another refresh, he struggled.

Twelve months later and staff were googling his name at Molineux and Compton Park on the day Nuno left the club. He’s not well known in English football yet, but he’s certainly about to be.

A client of Jorge Mendes, Lage has been touted as a possible successor to Nuno ever since Wolves considered sacking their now-former boss in January, after a disastrous 3-2 defeat to rivals West Bromwich Albion.

Chairman Jeff Shi met Lage for the first time two weeks ago and was wowed by the presentation he made outlining how he’ll attempt to implement his attacking style in the Premier League. While other names like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were considered, it’s felt that Lage offers a much more natural fit to Wolves’ Portuguese-heavy dressing room and of course their close ties with Mendes, who has been so influential over recruitment for the past five years. Without Mendes, would he have been appointed? It’s hugely unlikely, but there are reasons to suggest he can be a success at Molineux.

Lage (left) worked under Carlos Carvalhal at Swansea (Photo: Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Promoting youth and developing talent from within are key philosophies of Fosun’s vision for the club and that aligns with Lage’s career history. It’s worth recalling again his quote: “You must work to win but without giving up what is best for the evolution of the players and the team.” That could easily be from the book of Nuno. The players he left behind will be familiar with the sentiment.

Shaped and moulded by youth football, Lage will relish working with the likes of Fabio Silva. Players aged 21 and younger took up almost 20 per cent of Wolves’ minutes in the Premier League this season. And for attacking flair, Pedro Neto, Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore isn’t a bad start.

Having worked with him closely at Sheffield Wednesday, Jones believes Lage has the man-management skills and the tactical acumen to hit the ground running.

“Nuno did great work at Wolves, Bruno’s just got to build upon that,” he says. “The players will move on quickly, they won’t be dwelling on what’s happened, especially with the clean slate of a new season. Pre-season’s the ideal time to try and get them playing, hopefully, from the word go.

“He really used to emphasise quality. These sound like simple things but making passes perfect, the weight of pass, he used to say that all the time. The players at Wolves will do this and understand the importance of it. I could tell Bruno had high standards, talking to me about my role and the technical requirements of it. To be working with these guys at Wolves, it should be a good fit.”

An inexperienced manager with just 18 months in a top job? Or an intelligent, football-obsessed tactician who’s been working towards this moment his whole adult life? It’s a big job, but Bruno Lage believes he’s more than ready.

(Top Photo: TF-Images/Getty Images)


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23 minutes ago, DirkCrisis said:

Christophe Galtier

He sounds like Shampoo or Aftershave , I wondered who he was, didn’t realise he was the Lille manager who just won the league and then resigned

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