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Farewell To Final Generation Of Honest Players

So that was the season that was!

Farewell to three legends
John Terry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and probably Wayne Rooney, Premier League legends all, bowed out from their clubs or from the game altogether. I can’t help but think that if we had he 25-year-old versions of all three, with their skill, professionalism, dedication and determination, that this 2016/17 season would have been much, much better.

“Of course it would Stan, what are you talking about?!”

I’m talking about four players that all won the Champions League, all drove their clubs onto better things and crucially for me, were flag bearers of the final generation of English players who had all of the attributes that our league expects on the pitch, which this season was sadly lacking. Honesty.

Not the diving or cheating kind but the kind that sees players really want to push their clubs onto the next level rather than bail out when China or other European clubs come calling.

Who’s the flag bearer now for the Premier League? The poster boy? Eden Hazard? Alexis Sanchez? I don’t think I’d be too far off.

Problem is, both guys, great players that they are, would drop Chelsea and Arsenal like a hot potato if one of the big boys came calling.

This leaves all of our top clubs at the mercy now of Madrid, Barca and even Shanghai Shenhua, rather than staying, fighting and making sure that English clubs get back to the domination of Europe of yesteryear. So farewell to those legends, we will miss them, I guarantee that.

European Anfield nights!
As a former Red, I’m delighted Liverpool have got into the Top 4. My earlier season prediction that United would finish above them in the table was wrong.

Although United have the chance to make it a far more successful season than Liverpool’s (two trophies AND Champions League would prove that), Liverpool and Klopp can now concentrate on fleshing out a decent but not great squad, attract some of those players who think London is the only place to play in England and add those magical Anfield European nights to the calendar again.

Failures
Arsenal have failed massively. Twenty years in the Champions League should have provided the cash and knowhow to add some of the world’s greats over the last five years but Arsene’s stubbornness allied to behind the scenes inertia have proven that unless you’re constantly moving forward in this game, you are basically going backwards.

A massive wake up call to Le Professeur and one which may not, even with a huge summer spend, guarantee the Gunners being back anytime soon.

I’d throw Southampton into the failure pot too.Way too inconsistent from a side who had so much momentum under Poch and Koeman that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see them, with a fair wind, nick into the Top 5 this season, so whether it’s the constant change of manager and selling players that has finally caught up with the Saints, I don’t know, but I feel as though the team was capable of much more.

Successes
Successes for me would include WBA, who after a miserable start to the season when “Pulis Out” wasn’t far off the lips of many Albion fans, they became organised, dealt with the Berahino situation well, and did what Pulis sides do, out work you and ask questions from set pieces.

That wouldn’t be their only success though, as often they got the ball down, played some decent stuff, so maybe Tony in his older years is letting the brakes off a little.

Everton fascinate me. If you’re under 21 you think of them like a Villa or Newcastle, one of those clubs that used to be good. But now they have cash, a manager used to success and a big profile, a potential stadium move and some very good young players coming through.

If, IF, they can put the building blocks in place (Unsworth with the U-23s for example) in the coming seasons, the People’s Club has the support, history and cache to be a force again. I’ve a soft spot for them so I hope I’m right!

And finally the biggest pound for pound success of them all. Spurs.

Super Spurs
Forget the trolls who say “but they didn’t win anything”. Neither did Barcelona for donkey’s years in the Champions League until they built up enough momentum, expertise and confidence to feel like “Més Que Un Club”.

Success, as Fergie would tell you, takes time, but the evidence is overwhelmingly good. A quality manager, a tightly knit team, a world class training complex, ex-pros (like Ugo Ehiogu) who didn’t even play for the club, embraced, and a stadium move that guarantees a high profile, glamorous home for players to play in.

My only hope is that Kane, Alli and co, even Poch, don’t see short term gains elsewhere and decide to play the long game and stay.

A gamble for the modern “I want it all now” footballer, but if they do, not only North London will be theirs, the whole league could be.

And finally, the league itself. Was it good? Great? Crap?
In my honest view, teams need to be more adventurous and play more without fear, like Rooney, Lampard and Gerrard as highlighted earlier. There were just too many average games, particularly between “small v big” clubs where the little boys were just happy to be there rather than go to the old order and win.

Maybe this is all new for Hull, Boro, Watford, Bournemouth, Palace, Burnley and co. but Burnley’s great home but woeful away record probably highlights the issue. Teams are looking to play the numbers game. Win at home, don’t give a toss away.

I played in a promoted Forest team in 1994 that went everywhere and played expansive, open and attractive football. This can yield results. We got them and finished third, so come on those teams just hoping to do enough to stay up, UP YOUR GAME, it’s entertainment as well as filling the club coffers.

A season for me that won’t live long in the memory but hopefully, with Klopp, Pep, Jose and Conte at the helm of some of our biggest clubs, we can compete in Europe again soon.

My…

Manager of the season – Poch
Player of the season – N’golo Kante
Highlight of the season – The growth of Spurs
Lowlight of the season – Arsenal v Bayern over two games




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