Ross Barkey’s rise and Billy Davies’ fall overlap
A starting X1 of personalities, topics and thoughts on a busy football week
Ross Barkley could not score against Barnsley on loan under Neil Warnock, but drew comparisons with Paul Gascoigne with his wonder goal for Everton this week. Photograph: Paul Thomas/Getty Images
It has been another one of those weeks when the sheer pace of the game, its themes and personalities overlap while simultaneously veering off on tangents. Here’s a starting XI, of sorts.
1 Billy Davies
Even as someone with a leaning towards the belligerent chippiness of the pugnacious Glaswegian, there was not a whole lot of sympathy when, on Monday morning, Nottingham Forest confirmed the dismissal of Davies – for the second time. Forest had just lost 5-0 at Derby County which, as Davies knew having been manager of both clubs, is not the place were Forest fans want to see their team drubbed.
It meant Forest had lost four and drawn three of their last seven league games and were out of the Championship play-off zone, a minimum requirement. Davies had an injury toll as an excuse, but his behaviour around the City Ground appears not to have helped. No-one threw him a life jacket.
2 Neil Warnock
Even before Davies had been shown the door, there were stories saying Neil Warnock would be Davies’ successor. This seemed an odd choice given Forest’s playing traditions and Warnock’s. But Warnock would later confirm detailed talks had taken place, though this came as part of an explanation as to why he would not be Davies’ successor. So Forest played Charlton Athletic on Tuesday night without a manager. And lost 1-0.
3 Ross Barkley
Also on Tuesday night, Barkley played for Everton at St James’ Park and scored a goal that brought immediate comparisons with Paul Gascoigne.
Neil Warnock may have wondered as to why Barkley, on loan under Warnock at Leeds for a month last season, could not score against Barnsley, or Bristol City or Cardiff or Wolves. Barkley might retort he was an 89th-minute sub against Wolves. Barkley went back to Everton and played in their next game, the 3-0 home defeat by Wigan in the FA Cup.
4 Roberto Martinez
Wigan were managed by Martinez that day and will obviously feature on Martinez’s blossoming CV. Billy Davies could too. Davies, briefly, was Martinez’s manager at Motherwell.
It was Martinez, now Everton’s manager, who indulged the Gascoigne comparison with Barkley. Martinez is known for his lack of hysteria as well as his teams’ style, but he has not been slow to publicly back Barkley, who was 20 in December.
The urge to rush Barkley into a drab England team in a World Cup year has been around since the opening day of the season and it would be considered more strange now for Roy Hodgson not to take Barkley to Brazil than to take him. Barkley in a forward line alongside Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana? At least there would be wit, pace and invention. A new England.
5 David Moyes
Moyes gave Barkley his debut at Everton and must have watched Barkley’s slalom goal on Tuesday and wished he had him in Manchester United red on Wednesday. He didn’t. He had 11 other individuals, who played just like individuals.
The 3-0 home defeat against Manchester City was said to be a tipping point and, indeed, even as one willing to defend Moyes as a manager and man, the performance against City was so bad, you fall back on the fairly unsatisfactory view that some things just don’t fit.
6 Fernando Torres
Watching Manchester United fumble and mis-time their way through the derby, a thought was of Torres and that bizarre change in him when he went, very quickly, from unstoppable natural force to a man out of time. Torres was like someone dancing to a different beat to everyone else in the room.
Against City, so were Manchester United.
Torres’ last Chelsea 90 minutes came on January 11th at Hull. He has been linked with a summer move to Inter Milan and, when he goes, people will wonder about whatever happened to Fernando Torres.
7 Paris St Germain
If Torres had to nominate his “best” moments of the season he could say scoring two at Schalke in the Champions League group stage or the opener at Galatasaray in the last round.
Torres started both games but when Chelsea go to PSG next Wednesday, where will Torres be? It’s unlikely this will be marketed as a Torres/Zlatan shoot-out.
Once it would have been. But Ibrahimovic has galloped ahead, just as PSG have in France. Their lead at the top of Ligue 1 was 10 points before last night’s match in Nice. Goal difference: plus 52.
8 Bayern Munich
In winning 3-1 at Hertha Berlin on Tuesday night, Bayern took their goal difference to plus 66. More significantly, of course, their victory meant Bayern won the Bundesliga in historic haste and ease. They are already 25 points ahead of Borussia Dortmund, Champions League finalists last May.
Bayern’s next trophy aim is to become the first club to defend the Champions League title successfully. They are 1/6 to get past Manchester United in the quarter-final. If United play next Tuesday at Old Trafford as they did against City, 1/6 might be the first-leg score.
David Moyes’s first club, Celtic, won the title in 1981-82 when Moyes was a young defender. Celtic finished two points clear of Aberdeen, then managed by Alex Ferguson. When Celtic clinched their latest Scottish title – at Partick Thistle on Wednesday – they moved 26 points clear of Aberdeen. Celtic, PSG and Bayern Munich – and the leagues in which they play – have a lot of thinking to do. Sport is about competition; business is about monopoly.
10 La Liga
It is 10 seasons since a club outside Barcelona or Real Madrid won La Liga, causing some of the monopoly anxiety that exists in Scotland and now Germany. Valencia, under Rafa Benitez, were the last club to do so; this season Atletico Madrid are bringing the spice of variety.
With eight games left, Atletico are one point clear of Barca and three of Real. Much can happen – beginning for Atletico at Bilbao today – and there is already angst about La Liga’s last fixture: Barcelona v Atletico, and the repercussions for Real. At least Atletico are challenging.
11 The Championship
One of the great, if obvious aspects of England’s second division, The Championship, is that it must have a different winner every season. Variety is in-built. Today second-place Burnley host leaders Leicester City. As for the club formerly known as Billy Davies’ Nottingham Forest, they could be ninth by 5 o’clock. Forest go to Ipswich, managed by Mick McCarthy, who, you may recall, turned down the Forest job pre-Davies.