James Horncastle

jameshorncastle

Recent Posts

Ciro Ferrara.

Ciro Ferrara.

It’s a regular feature of football history of course that when one club is successful, others try to replicate their success. Barcelona wanted to play the way Ajax did in the late `60s and so they brought in Rinus Michels in 1971 then later Johan Cruyff the player in 1973.

The two won La Liga only once together in their time at the Camp Nou but the cultural impact they had on the club and the legacy they left, which Cruyff would reinforce on his return as coach, showed that over the long-term a foreign style can become the adopter’s own and even stronger so if it coalesces organically with local identity.

Many, however, don’t take the long view or commit fully to change. They want a quick fix and follow like sheep whatever the latest fad or craze is. This approach can have disastrous effects.

In Italy, for instance, during the late `80s and early `90s, Juventus, feeling under pressure after a number of years without a league title, looked to go down the route Milan had taken.

Milan had appointed Arrigo Sacchi, a relative unknown with no background in football, and won the Scudetto, back-to-back European Cups and earned themselves a place in posterity for the style with which they played and the revolution they started.

In response, Juventus completely overhauled their structure. The Old Lady felt she had to get with the times. Long-standing president Giampiero Boniperti was gone. So too was coach Dino Zoff, even though he had just led the team to a UEFA Cup and a Coppa Italia.

It was decided Juventus needed to find their own Sacchi. Rather than looking for the best coach out there, they’d hire the most different, someone who fit the Sacchi profile of “I never realised that in order to become a jockey you had to have been a horse first.”

That coach was Gigi Maifredi.

A former champagne salesman, he wasn’t exactly the toast of Serie A but had guided Bologna to eighth place the previous season, playing a Sacchi-like 4-4-2 with zonal-marking. Imagine what he could achieve with more resources, including Roby Baggio, or so the thinking went.

It was a disaster. Juventus finished seventh. Maifredi was considered a failure and got the sack. Giovanni Trapattoni, the coach who’d won everything with the club through the late `70s to the mid `80s, was brought back.

That has always served as a lesson. Imitation might be the highest form of flattery but it can also be flawed.

When Barcelona won La Liga and the Champions League back in 2009, many looked at how they had promoted from within, handing the job to Pep Guardiola, a former player, someone who knew the club inside out, who understood what it meant to wear the shirt and how the team should play so as to honour its traditions.

Others tried to follow suit. Juventus replaced Claudio Ranieri with Ciro Ferrara. Leonardo succeeded Carlo Ancelotti at Milan. It was called the ‘Guardiola Effect’, although the appointment of Leonardo was more in the style of Fabio Capello, who’d been behind a desk like him before being offered the job.

Ultimately, Ferrara was out of his depth and was replaced by Alberto Zaccheroni in the spring as Juve ended up in seventh place. Leonardo walked having grown disillusioned with Silvio Berlusconi, whom he likened to Narcissus, after producing some fantastic but flaky football.
Read the rest of this entry »

In the mixed zone of the Estádio da Luz shortly after Fenerbahçe had played the second leg of their Europa League semi-final against Benfica, a disconsolate Reto Ziegler didn’t hide his emotions from reporters.

“We’re all sad,” he said. “It’s not easy to talk about it.” Fenerbahçe had lost 3-1 on the night and there was considerable regret. “We played two high level matches but we paid for hitting the woodwork three times in the first leg,” Ziegler added.

What if Moussa Sow’s header had gone in off the bar rather than up and over it back in Kadıköy a week earlier? Or Cristian Baroni had converted his penalty instead of striking the post before half-time? And how about that chance for Dirk Kuyt too that came back off the frame of the goal?

These are the questions Fenerbahçe supporters continue to ask themselves. The tie should have been over there and then. They should have been out of sight. Instead, all that separated them from Benfica was an Egemen Korkmaz goal. It wasn’t enough.

After reaching the club’s first-ever European semi-final in their 106-year history, hopes of winning the competition like Galatasaray had done in its forerunner in 2000 were gone. Their rivals would still have that over them—a major continental trophy that, as they never hesitate to remind Fenerbahçe, they followed up with the Super Cup by beating Real Madrid later that year.

On their return from Lisbon, disappointment, you might say, turned to despair. A 2-0 defeat to Istanbul BB, understandable perhaps after the physical and mental toll of playing in the Europa League only three days earlier, afforded Galatasaray the chance to retain their Süper Lig title, which they did with a resounding 4-2 win against Sivasspor.

Selçuk İnan, one of those wonderful playmakers whose talent deserves recognition beyond the Bosphorus, opened the scoring with a right-footed free-kick pitched up and over the wall. A little while later he got himself a second which, as a moment, will become one of those that defines this season in Turkey.
Read the rest of this entry »

152361938

Hannover could perhaps have been forgiven for thinking that maybe, just maybe this was going to be their afternoon.

Their opponents Bayern Munich, who had been crowned champions of Germany earlier than anyone in the 50-year history of the Bundesliga and for the first time in two years a fortnight earlier, had lost on three of their last four visits to the AWD Arena. And with the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Barcelona on Tuesday night in mind, coach Jupp Heynckes had chosen to rest a number of players.

As the team sheets were read out, club captain Philipp Lahm, fellow defender Dante and midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez were just some of the names conspicuous by their absence from the visitor’s starting line up.

There’s a chance here, Hannover manager Mirko Slomka presumably believed, a slim one admittedly, that a supposedly ‘second string’ Bayern side with nothing to play for, their players’ heads perhaps already distractedly thinking about Barcelona, were vulnerable to a slip up that would allow his own stuttering team, one that’s in transition, to end their recent slump and keep their feint chances of qualifying for the Europa League again alive.

It was to prove wishful thinking. By half-time, Bayern had a 3-0 advantage. A Lars Stindl own-goal and strikes from Frank Ribéry and Mario Gomez allowed Heynckes to rotate his squad even further. Ribéry was taken off at the interval and replaced by Xherdan Shaquiri while Arjen Robben stood in for Thomas Müller. There was no let up.
Read the rest of this entry »

If you’re ever strolling down Istiklal Avenue in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul do pop into the Galatasaray museum. Across from a photograph of Graeme Souness provocatively celebrating victory over Fenerbahçe in the 1996 Turkish Cup final by planting a huge red and yellow flag in the centre-circle, there are several glass cabinets.

One of them contains a pair of Lotto football boots. They’re tatty, all black and were pulled on and laced up by striker Mário Jardel for the European Super Cup at the Stade Louis II in Monaco on August 25 in the year 2000.

That night Galatasaray, the UEFA Cup winners, were playing Real Madrid, the Champions League holders. Few gave them a chance.

Coach Fatih Terim had left for Fiorentina and had been replaced by Mircea Lucescu. Top scorer Hakan Şükür had joined Inter Milan. Jardel was brought in to take his place. Signed from Porto for $16m, he was one of Europe’s most prolific strikers. His record in Portugal was 166 goals in 169 games. A Golden Shoe winner in 1999, he is still one of only 10 players in history to actually have a pair of them.

By opening his account for Galatasaray on this stage and against this Real Madrid team comprising a young Iker Casillas, Roberto Carlos, Claude Makélélé, a soon-to-be elected Ballon d’Or winner in Luís Figo and Raúl, Jardel would make himself an instant hero among the fans of his new club. To them he wouldn’t just be Jardel anymore, but Süper Mário Jardel the Super Cup winner.

Lining up against Real Madrid’s centre-backs in Monaco, you could forgive Jardel for feeling confident he’d score. One was Iván Helguera. The other was his future Bolton Wanderers teammate Iván Campo. By bringing down Hakan Ünsal in the box just before half-time, he presented Jardel with his first opportunity from the spot. The Brazilian made no mistake and gave Galatasaray the lead.
Read the rest of this entry »

164055681

Forgive the people of Uruguay if they weren’t as preoccupied by Luis Suárez’s comments about his future at club level as many were in England. They have more to worry about right now. His country needs him.

Tonight’s qualifiers against Paraguay at the Centenario in Montevideo and next week’s visit to Santiago where they are due to face Chile will have a significant bearing on whether Uruguay make it to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil or not.

How could it have got to this? Not long ago Uruguay had a legitimate claim to be considered South America’s best team. They reached the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa then won the Copa América in Argentina the following year.

Coach Óscar Wáshington Tabárez was feted all over the world and rightly so. He’d turned back time. This small nation of just over three million people were an unlikely power again just as they had been when they’d won the World Cup in 1930 and again in 1950.

A run of 18 games without defeat had been established whilst a promising new generation of players was also apparently being integrated into the squad. The future looked bright. Yet quite unexpectedly, 2012 was to reveal itself to be an annus horribilis for Uruguay.
Read the rest of this entry »

163163354

While Jose Mourinho was at Inter, he was visited by four university students. They were seeking to understand his methods with a view to writing a thesis about them. He was happy to oblige. “People have a general idea of what I do,” Mourinho said, “and it’s insufficient.”

The insights he gave over the course of an interview were fascinating particularly because so much of it was centred around unlocking the mind’s potential.

Mourinho discussed the subconscious and procedural memory. That’s the memory of the performance of particular types of action. Take driving, for instance.

Initially, when you start to learn, you’re concentrated on what gear you’re in, how fast you’re going and when to check your mirrors, to signal and maneuver.

With time, however, this all becomes second nature. You drive without making a conscious effort. Adjustments are made more or less automatically, whatever road you’re on, so you can focus on other things and make other decisions.

This is what Mourinho sets out to achieve in training. But how exactly?

Every exercise is done with the ball. Most if not all sessions last 90 minutes, the duration of a game, or a maximum of 120 minutes, like one that goes into extra time.
Read the rest of this entry »

When Philippe Coutinho arrives at Melwood for his first training session as a Liverpool player, one wonders how he will introduce himself: with a simple handshake or a nut-meg? The start he made to his Inter career provides us with an insight.

Coutinho came over from Vasco da Gama on a visit during Inter’s treble-winning season. A deal had been in place for a couple of years already, though in accordance with a law in Brazil, it couldn’t be completed until the player turned 18 in the summer of 2010.

In the meantime, Inter thought it would be a good idea for him to fly to Italy, have a medical and while in town, familiarize himself with his new surroundings and future teammates. He was invited by coach Jose Mourinho to participate in a couple of sessions too.

It was during one of these that the teenage Coutinho, to the consternation of many, had the bravado to put the ball through veteran World Cup-winner and former Everton defender Marco Materazzi’s legs.

Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, you have been warned.

“When I got back in the dressing room,” Coutinho told Placar, “the [club] masseur promised me that if I did that again he would buy me snacks for the rest of the week. Materazzi told me he’d put me in hospital.”

It was quite the first impression. “[Coutinho] really is a phenomenon,” Inter president Massimo Moratti said at the time. “He’ll be back at the beginning of July and will be the surprise of the season.”

Everything Inter had seen and heard about him—Careca sensationally claimed he was the second-coming of Zico—appeared to be true. Coutinho had caught the attention of chief scout Pierluigi Casiraghi and the imagination of technical director Marco Branca and director of sport Piero Ausilio.

His performances playing futsal and the regular game at youth level for Vasco and his fine displays for the Brazil side that won the South American championship at Under-15 level in 2007 were causing quite a stir.
Read the rest of this entry »