Tony Cascarino and his Band of Fucking Eejits

Tony Cascarino and his Band of Fucking Eejits
October 6, 2009 Paul Tomkins

Two unbelievably crass articles appeared today, one written by a man who should know better, and one by a man whose brains were clearly in the front teeth that got knocked out during his days as a failed player, which came before his days as a never-manager.

No wonder newspapers are dying a fast death.

For two articles running, Tony Cascarino has been lambasting Liverpool. Now we have Henry Winter putting the boot in on Rafa. It’s like last season never existed, so soon into the new one. Liverpool’s form has been patchy, granted. But come on, it’s a handful of games as the club readjusts to some departures and some new arrivals.

I’ll start with Henry Winter, whose common sense is usually pretty good, and whom I generally like (therefore not a ‘fucking eejit), even if he strikes me as a typical journalist who’s never applied a boot to a football in his life. (Whereas Cascarino is a typical ex-player who has experience within the game, but no natural intelligence.)

Winter takes great umbrage with Rafa Benítez criticising Carragher and Gerrard in public after the Aston Villa game.

“For those gathered in the Anfield media room 20 minutes after that 3-1 defeat to Villa, Benitez’s unflattering verdict on the contributions of Gerrard and Carragher sounded disrespectful to characters who have held Liverpool together from Istanbul to Barcelona. After questioning the marking that allowed Curtis Davies to score Villa’s second (and Carragher was undoubtedly slightly culpable), Benítez hardly backed Gerrard in the build-up to Villa’s third. “Gerrard gave the penalty away and it was a clear penalty.” Ouch.”

What the hell? “Gerrard gave the penalty away and it was a clear penalty.” Ouch.” ? Wow, how could weak men like those two stand such a dressing down? How can Rafa point out that the captain gave away a penalty at a vital time in the game? Surely that’s pure fiction?

“Hardly backed Gerrard in the build-up to Villa’s third”? He gave away a fucking penalty!

Can’t Gerrard, who gets more praise than anyone (including from Rafa in his press conferences), receive criticism when he makes a bloody stupid challenge that costs a comeback?

The media cry out for honesty in interviews, but when someone gives some, they use it to say he’s undermining his own side. If “he gave away a penalty” is a scathing attack, I presume Henry Winter has to take to a darkened room when someone says “hello”.

“Benítez’s conclusion that ‘it is up to the senior players to take the responsibility’ triggered the inevitable negative headlines.”

Why? They are paid the most money, they are the two most senior players, and they have to accept responsibility. They are the leaders of the team. That means standing up and being counted.

They probably do take responsibility; Carra was honest in that he should have dealt better with Drogba for the 2nd Chelsea goal (although that’s never easy; touch him and he falls over, don’t touch him and he turns into the Incredible Hulk and skins you.)

“Well-paid professionals should not retreat into bruised shells just because a manager highlights mistakes, but Benítez’s decision to excoriate stalwarts in public was surprising.”

[Excoriate means “criticize severely”. Am I missing something?]

“It’s not the Liverpool way. At a time when players like Lucas, a Benítez favourite, were patently struggling, the disparaging of two Kop idols was bound to be contentious.”

So Rafa should hang out a young lad to dry rather than two men whose reputations are more in tact, and who don’t get a rough ride from the fans, even though they were equally culpable? Ask Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, who he thought was the best player on the pitch the game before the Villa match. Lucas. Hardly struggling; just an easy scapegoat.

In one recent game when the two were paired in midfield, Gerrard made one successful tackle and Lucas no fewer than nine; the Brazilian also made more passes, at a better success percentage. He was still criticised.

Then there are the excuses from Winter for Gerrard’s poor form.

“Gerrard does not enjoy the swift, precise service of Xabi Alonso, who eventually departed to Real Madrid after falling out with Benítez.”

Bought by Benítez, for £10m, and sold for £30m, after five fruitful years (three especially so), it should be added, after Real Madrid set out to get him by hook or by crook. A player who may well have wanted to return to Spain anyway after five years, and with a new family, and a player who, despite falling out with Rafa, the manager got the best out of last season?

Yes, Gerrard misses Alonso’s passing; who wouldn’t?

But does that explain why Gerrard’s miscontrolled so many passes this season in central midfield or off the striker; given away sloppy 10-yard balls; failed to track back after giving away possession; and conceded penalties and silly free-kicks?

I’m the first to praise the captain, as he’s a phenomenal player, but this season he has had two or three sublime games, and the rest have been terrible by his own high standards, and pretty poor by anyone else’s. Blaming that all on Alonso’s exit is crazy.

“Carragher must organise defensive fortifications inevitably weakened by Alonso’s exit and Glen Johnson’s frequent disappearances upfield.”

Sorry, but this is bullshit, plain and simple; this is drawing conclusions without watching every minute of Liverpool play this season. (Which, one way or another, I have.)

Johnson has been excellent defensively, and hardly any of the goals have been down to him. When Carragher was beaten by Zavon Hines and Didier Drogba down the left channel, was that Johnson’s fault? Was the foul by Gerrard against Villa for the penalty Johnson’s fault, or the goals from corners? Did Johnson force Carra to be too slow on the ball at Upton Park when Hines robbed him to hit the post?

While Johnson has been exposed at times for England, for Liverpool that has not been the case at all. If anything, I’ve been surprised by how solid he’s looked, but then again, he’s strong and quick, and playing for a manager with a track record of improving defenders.

Against Chelsea he was superb, and was only caught out of position for the opening goal because Mascherano was stupid in trying to beat two men when passes were on.

“Such a driven manager, who made himself one of the most respected tacticians in Europe through constant research and self-improvement, now needs to work on his man-management skills.”

What’s he been doing with Lucas? How many times has he defended his own players in public only to be criticised for being blind to their faults? Can he not win?

How many times did he stand by Ryan Babel, only to finally lose patience at the start of this season? And even then, he rehabilitated the Dutchman after an outburst when many people felt the player was heading for the exit. Since then, Babel has been ten times better. If Harry Redknapp had been as generous with playing time and compliments with misfiring strikers like Crouch and Keane, when each went what felt like a year without scoring, he’d have been knighted. Was that not great man-management by Benítez?

Both were only rested after they found form, when the manager presumed they had enough confidence in the locker to sit a game out. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it makes sense to me: rest them when it can be called resting, rather than dropping.

“Unlike Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger, Mark Hughes, Martin O’Neill, Harry Redknapp, Carlo Ancelotti and David Moyes, Benítez is an incredibly difficult person to warm to. Too detached, too cold.”

Ah, so here’s where the press agenda comes in. You don’t like him. Now we see. It’s personal.

“Everyone has heard the stories of Gerrard joking that he will retire in shock when he gets a ‘well done’ off Benítez.”

Well, seeing as Gerrard’s form, before this season, had improved, improved, and improved again, why even mention that? Surely that method works?

And Fabio Capello? Wasn’t he being praised by every journalist who’s ever appeared on The Sunday Supplement for utilising such methods? Distant, non-friendly to the players, and a perfectionism that is obsessional; getting away from Steve McLaren’s need to be every player’s best mate?

“Emerging more recently has been Fernando Torres’s account of joyfully entering the dressing room after the birth of his first child to be greeted with presents and plaudits from team-mates. Benítez’s reaction? A comment about the importance of the near-post run.”

Team-mates are peers; Benítez is his superior. And what’s wrong with the manager trying to improve a player by giving him information rather than cooing over baby photos?

Go speak to Torres about how highly he rates Benítez. Go think about why Torres chose to play for him, and why he has improved so much under him, having been seen as slightly lacking when Rafa splashed the money on him.

Hell, go give Rafa some credit, if it doesn’t kill you.

“Does it matter that this footballing obsessive seems to show no interest in his players as human beings? After all, this is the manager who stayed on for the 2005 Club World Championship in Tokyo despite learning that his father had passed away back in Spain. In Benítez’s eyes, he was merely being professional, being devoted to his team’s pursuit of trophies.”

Funny, but Titi Camara was roundly praised for playing for Liverpool on the day of his father’s death, as were other players for returning to action so soon, such as Frank Lampard following the passing of his mother. Benítez, however, is a cold-hearted bastard?

I agree that trying to stop Xabi Alonso attend the birth of his child was a mistake, and led to problems between the two men, but it was on the eve of a massive game and Benítez was under pressure to get a result in Milan.

“Those who know Benítez speak of a personable soul.”

Well then. Why is he so hard to like then? – maybe because he doesn’t pander to journalists who show a shocking lack of knowledge about the game.

Even Alan Hansen’s at it, although he does make some good points about Carra (out of form, but too good to ditch). However, this is punditry-by-numbers:

“Gerrard bailed them out at Bolton earlier this season and Torres did the same at West Ham, but the goals and inspiration have to start coming from somewhere else.”

Can we knock this tired cliché on the head? Liverpool can boast four players with three goals or more this season; United and Chelsea cannot. Take Rooney and Berbatov out of United’s team, or Drogba and Lampard out of Chelsea’s, and what have you got? (And how did Man Utd rescue a point at home to Sunderland? – thanks to the brother of one of their players scoring an own goal. Or against City, two more points gained after the ref played excessive injury time.)

Kuyt, with four goals, and Benayoun, with a hat-trick and countless excellent assists, spring to mind, and even Babel has done more in about 20 minutes this season than Nani or Valencia combined. Aquilani was bought for creativity and clever passing in the final third. There’s still over three-quarters of the season to go, and he can add something extra; after all, he’s the manager’s second-most expensive signing, so he must believe in his talent.

The decision by Benítez to omit Benayoun on Sunday was controversial (as hinted at by Hansen), but Liverpool needed to be a little tighter in a game like this, without the wandering Israeli.

Had Torres scored his header, or the ref given the penalty at 0-0, then the decision would most likely have been vindicated.

Benayoun was excellent when he came on, but by then the Reds had to gamble; the kind of gamble that, if taken too early in a game, can see you 2-0 down inside ten minutes.

Now onto Tony Cascarino, the thinking man’s idiot (closely challenged by Stan Collymore).

“Watching Liverpool labour to defeat against Chelsea on Sunday [labour? Oh do shut up! Liverpool had chances to take the lead, then chances to draw level], I was struck by the similarities between Rafael Benítez’s side and the one fielded by Gérard Houllier during his final season at Anfield. That’s how far they’ve fallen in a short space of time.”

You can tell that from eight league games, five of which were won, and two of which were away to the current top three? – with key players like Aquilani and Agger yet to play, and other key players like Carragher and Gerrard off-colour?

I don’t recall Liverpool scoring loads and loads of goals in the final Houllier years. But Jesus, give us a sample size of more than eight games before making such a damning statement. Liverpool’s league record throughout 2009 is superb.

“I make the Houllier analogy for several reasons. First, Liverpool are again relying far too much on a couple of top-class players because of a dearth of quality in their squad; second, there have been far too many players signed who are not of the required standard for a club of Liverpool’s stature and aspirations; third, they have developed a habit of conceding bad goals; and, finally, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer to put all of these problems right.”

Or: I make the Houllier analogy for many reasons. First, I have no imagination and a low IQ; second, I like to jerk my knee and base all assumptions on the last few weeks, despite few differences from Liverpool’s best season in 19 years; third, I don’t really know the qualities of the Liverpool squad because only last week I slated Insua and Skrtel as not good enough, after rare off days, and with the latter playing with a broken jaw and the former just 20 years of age; fourth, I’m paid to write controversial stuff as it gets a reaction (doh!); and finally, I don’t have the ability to see how things can be changed because that requires real insight.

“If Liverpool were a club of immense wealth, all could potentially be corrected in the next transfer window. But we know that money is in short supply at Anfield and even if they were rolling in it, Benítez’s record in the transfer market does not inspire confidence that the right players could be recruited.”

Sorry, but this last point makes my blood boil!

Torres, Reina, Mascherano, Alonso, Kuyt, Benayoun, Agger, Skrtel, Insua, Crouch, Arbeloa, Johnson and countless other successes, particularly with value for money, as seen in sell-on value to reinvest in even better players. But why focus on these when you can just list the flops and the also-rans? Why not do that with Wenger and Ferguson, who also spunked money on some right garbage? (I’ve listed such players in the past, can’t be arsed doing it yet again.)

Benítez has generated around £20-£30m a year from the Champions League, and made large profits on a number of players; neither of which was the case under Houllier. How much have the new owners put into the transfer kitty? I’m struggling to find much as the Reds fall further and further behind in the spending charts.

“It beggars belief that a club such as Liverpool, who target the Champions League and the Premier League every season, could go into a new campaign with just one frontline centre forward.”

Jesus Christ, Liverpool were the top scorers in the league last year, and going into another tough game last weekend, were the top scorers in the league this season! Torres missed over half of last season, and still the Reds scored 77 league goals!

Kuyt is a centre-forward, if needed, but damn him for being versatile and scoring goals from the wing (although he’s now scoring when he plays up front, which is nice).

Steven Gerrard scored 24 goals last season off the front striker, and Benayoun is in great goalscoring form. David N’Gog, just 20, has yet to play much football, but his goals-per-minute ratio is outstanding. Andriy Voronin is a decent player to have on the bench, if not a world-beater. But then, is a perma-crocked Michael Owen? Is Daniel Sturridge? Is Nicklas Bendtner?

Which really top-class strikers will be happy on the bench every week; because, after all, pundits like you said that Torres should never be rotated?

“Look at the attacking options available to Carlo Ancelotti, Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson. All Benítez has is Fernando Torres.”

Indeed, if you ignore attacking options like Gerrard, Kuyt, Benayoun and Aquilani, who plays ahead of the midfield! Ignore all of Liverpool’s best attacking options, and of course they lack them.

“Andriy Voronin is not good enough, there are still question marks over Ryan Babel’s ability at this level and David Ngog has hardly set the world alight.”

David N’Gog is 20; give the lad a chance. As it’s acknowledged that Liverpool lack the funds of two of those clubs, it seems weird to put the blame at the feet of Benítez.

“It is little wonder that at times this season, Torres has looked ridiculously isolated and increasingly frustrated at the lack of support he is being given. The big worry with Torres is that he doesn’t have to put up with this.”

Go try and praise Benítez for the same reasons listed earlier in this piece. But no, that doesn’t fit with your pathetic agenda. Torres came to Liverpool to work for Benítez as much as anything. Torres is the league’s top scorer; he must hate being so isolated, eh?

“There are so many problems it is difficult to know where to begin. Their back four is the worst Liverpool have had for years and it’s no surprise that they are conceding so many goals, and bad goals at that.”

For starters, the back four has been disrupted by injuries, and has a new right-back settling in. Aurelio and Agger are only now returning. Johnson’s defending for Liverpool has been near-faultless.

“On the wings they lack penetration, while in attack they lack imagination.”

I despair. Benayoun doesn’t provide penetration? I must have missed all those great runs drifting past players on the way to 22 goals being scored in the league by the Reds. Johnson doesn’t provide penetration? He’s overlapped to brilliant effect for much of this season. Kuyt doesn’t provide penetration? Go view Liverpool’s goals again; look at that chest-pass for Torres’ goal at Bolton.

I mean, FUCK ME, Liverpool lack penetration and imagination, and have just had their best goalscoring start in over 100 years, so soon after finishing as the league’s top scorers? Really, is this what people get paid to deduce? Are people so fucking stupid they actually believe such shite?

And Liverpool lack imagination up front with Torres and Gerrard, and Benayoun in those areas, too? – and Aquilani to make his debut soon?

Do. Me. A. Favour.

Right, I’m off for a coffee, and to flush my daily Cascarino down the toilet.

Sa

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