‘I dreamt a dream last night that the salary cap was increased. I have just realised, it was only a dream and cannot carry on signing more players.’ That was the message which Salford owner Marwan Koukash tweeted to the Red Devils’ fans on twitter yesterday.
Super League’s big spenders have dipped into their pockets once more, recruiting 6 new players: 3 for 2015 onwards and 3 with immediate effect.
Whilst a minority of pundits had tipped the Red Devils to be a surprise package for success this season, the reality has been different with Salford lying in 12th and having won just 1 of their last 10 games.
Much has been said about Salford’s ageing squad, full of players who are past their peak. Koukash’s latest recruits will look to rectify this. So who exactly have they signed and how will they fit in to Salford’s reinvigorated side?
There’s no doubting that New Zealand international Kevin Locke is Salford’s marquee signing. Having initially signed for 2015 from the New Zealand Warriors, the move was given the green light to go ahead with immediate effect after Salford released Tim Smith and Shannon McPherson to make room under the salary cap.
With the arrival of world record signing Sam Tomkins at the start of the year, Locke made just 2 appearances for the Warriors this season and had allegedly fallen out with Coach Andrew McFadden.
With Salford’s first choice full-back, Jake Mullaney, out with injury and Greg Eden having been recalled from his loan spell by Hull KR, Locke is expected to make the position his own and rejuvenate his career, starting against Hull FC in Round 20.
Winger, Mason Caton-Brown is another player who will join Salford straight away after joining on a 2 and a half year deal from London Broncos.
The 21 year old has been one of few bright lights in an otherwise dismal season for the Broncos, having impressed this campaign with 12 tries in 18 appearances.
Many top Super League clubs were rumoured to be after the youngster but Salford have won the race for his signature. He’s now expected to make his debut alongside Locke on the 12th of July.
Former Hull KR, Catalan and Wigan scrum half Michael Dobson is another big signing for Salford. The 28 year old Australian has signed a 4 year deal from next season, having had a torrid time since rejoining the NRL this season- making only 5 scoreless appearances for the Newcastle Knights.
In contrast, his Super League record is exemplary, having scored 1292 points in 153 appearances during his 5 years at Hull KR- renowned for his consistent goal kicking accuracy.
Dobson is expected to slot into the halves alongside Rangi Chase, but with Marc Sneyd returning from his loan spell at Castleford next season, as well as Theo Fages being deployed in the Scrum Half position for the remainder of this campaign, there will be plenty of competition for places.
The signing of Ben Jones-Bishop was announced last month, with the winger leaving the Leeds Rhinos after 7 years.
Despite scoring an impressive 67 tries in 97 games for Leeds, the signing of Tom Briscoe this season has restricted Jones-Bishop to just 8 appearances in 2014. A lack of game time has forced the move, and he is now expected to replace Francis Meli on the wing for the Red Devils in 2015.
The Salford switch could be the move which Jones-Bishop needs to make the transition from the England Knights into the England first team.
Amongst the numerous backs that Salford have signed, Weller Hauraki is the first forward they’ve recruited for 2015, with the second rower joining them from Castleford.
The tough tackling New Zealander previously played under Iestyn Harris at the Crusaders in 2010, and will rejoin his former coach at the Red Devils next season.
However, Hauraki will be 30 in 2015, with his signing failing to silence the critics over Salford’s ageing forward line. There’s a feeling that Koukash is yet to finish adding to his forwards for next year.
Announced last night, former Castleford and Wakefield centre Josh Griffin has joined the Red Devils, until the end of the season at least.
Having left Castleford to switch codes last season, Griffin was keen to return to Rugby League in 2014 and began the season at Batley Bulldogs. He had been training with the Salford squad for the past month, and impressed Iestyn Harris enough to be offered a deal to return to Super League.
It’s unlikely he will take a starting place over Martin Gleeson and Junior Sau’u, but could feature in the same side as his brother Darrell as soon as Saturday, when Salford travel to Castleford.
Spain’s shock 2-0 defeat to Chile on Wednesday meant the reigning World Cup champions became the first side to be eliminated from this summer’s tournament. The heavily backed favourites, who have dominated world football in recent times, are not the first team who have underperformed and crashed out early in World Cup history…
5) England 1950
England first took part in a World Cup during the 1950 finals in Brazil. It may sound strange these days, but England were the 3/1 favourites to win the tournament. The side, which contained future World Cup winning manager Alf Ramsey, got off to a winning start with a 2-0 win over Chile. Then came one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history, as England went down 1-0 against the USA- whose team back then consisted of amateurs. The result was so improbable that when it was printed in the English newspapers, fans back home presumed it was a typo which should have read 10-0. A 1-0 defeat to Spain in the Maracana meant that Spain progressed and England crashed out at the first hurdle.
4) Argentina 2002
Argentina began their 2002 World Cup campaign as 2nd favourites, despite being put in a tough group comprising of England, Sweden and Nigeria. They began well with a 1-0 win over the Super Eagles, before falling 1-0 to England, thanks to David Beckham’s infamous penalty. That meant the Argentines had to win their last group game against Sweden to avoid an early exit. They drew 1-1, finishing 3rd in the group. The team hadn’t been humiliated, but had underperformed and therefore failed to progress in a tournament in which many had expected them to do well.
3) Brazil 1966
Brazil entered the 1966 tournament as current holders, and with the likes of Pele, Tostao and Garrincha in their side, were expected to do well. Their campaign got off to a winning start with a 2-0 win over Bulgaria, in a game which was marred by an injury to Pele. However, 3-1 defeats in their final group matches against Hungary and Portugal meant the Brazilians crashed out in the group stages.
2) Italy 2010
Having gone into the 2010 finals as defending champions, and with what appeared to be an easy group comprising of Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand, few could have predicted Italy’s poor campaign 4 years ago. Marcello Lippi’s men began with 2 1-1 draws against Paraguay and minnows New Zealand, before Slovakia sent the Azzurri onto the plane home with a 3-2 defeat. Shocked and humiliated, it was a campaign to forget for the Italians.
1) France 2002
Having shocked the world 4 years earlier by claiming World Cup glory in 1998, the 2002 tournament was a nightmare in contrast for the French. Heavily backed to repeat the feat of 98, France went down 1-0 in a shock opening night defeat against Senegal. A goalless draw with Uruguay followed, before a 2-0 loss to Denmark meant the defending champions crashed out in the group stages. Humiliated and despondent, the French finished the campaign without a win and bottom of the group.
An advert I filmed and directed last November has all of a sudden become very relevant! #Getbehindtheteam and help England to World Cup glory! All the footage was shot on a damaged high speed camera at 150fps. Go Eng-ger-land!
With England’s World Cup campaign kicking off in just a few days time, a few optimistic England fans will be dipping into their pockets to back Roy’s boys. Whilst World Cup success is a long shot at 28/1, what other markets could you be backing?
England face an uphill struggle to progress from their group, with some bookmakers placing England as third favourites to qualify. England not to win any of their 3 games can be found at 4/1 (William Hill) and are best priced at 13/10 (BetBright) not to progress. The more optimistic fans can back England to win all their group games at 12/1 (SkyBet) and not to concede in the opening 3 matches at 16/1 (BetFair). A tricast of Italy topping the group followed by England in 2nd and Uruguay in 3rd is tempting at 6/1 (SkyBet), whilst the eventual winner coming from Group D is 7/2 with Paddy Power. With the difficult conditions in Manaus as well as England and Italy’s notorious slow starts to major tournaments, a draw on Saturday looks a good bet at 2/1 with most bookmakers.
Should England progress, their most likely stage of elimination will be the Quarter Finals where they are expected to meet Brazil or Spain. Odds on them crashing out in the quarters are 4/1 with Winner.
Rooney and Sturridge are both short odds to be England’s top scorer amongst bookmakers at around 11/4, so an outside bet of Danny Welbeck at 14/1 (BetVictor) could be a better move. An England player to win the Golden Boot is 22/1 (BetFair), although no player to score in the tournament is priced at 40/1 with SkyBet.
Penalties are what England players, coaches and fans will all be dreading, and Paddy Power have the three lions to crash out on penalties at 8/1. Joe Hart to save a penalty in a shoot out has good odds of 5/1 (SkyBet), and a price on England’s first goal of the tournament to come from a spot kick can be found at 7/1 (LadBrokes). SkyBet also have England to win the World Cup Final on penalties at 100/1. Now that would end 48 years of hurt.
Call it lunacy. Call it stupidity. Call it blindpatriotism. England WILL win the World Cup in Brazil this summer, and this is why…
1) The Omens are in our favour
For the more superstitious England fan, the omens are certainly in our favour. The last time that Athletico Madrid were crowned La Liga champions whilst local rivals Real Madrid were champions of Europe? 1966. The last time a team came from 2-0 down to win the FA Cup Final 3-2? 1966. The last time Austria won the Eurovision Song Contest? 1966. And the last time England won the World Cup? It’s just meant to be.
2) Compare Roy’s squad to 2010
Whilst some of England’s stars also represented the country 4 years ago in South Africa, it’s unthinkable this time round how some of the names could make it into the national team. With Matthew Upson and Stephen Warnock providing cover at the back, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon out wide and Emile Heskey partnering Peter Crouch up front, why did theynot progress further?
3) It’s not how old you are, it’s how good you are
Too much youth and a lack of experience at international and major tournament level have been some of the criticisms of Roy Hodgson’s England team; however, this could in fact work in England’s favour. A young, energetic, attacking-minded team with pace, tempo and a willingness to impress could prove to be an unstoppable force (providing they also learn how to defend). The likes of Adam Lallana and Ross Barkley will be unknown to most teams, and could be our secret weapon.
4) The group is not as bad as people fear
Despite FA Chairman Greg Dyke jokingly making a slit throat gesture at the World Cup draw last December, England don’t need to fear their opposition as much as some people are making out. Uruguay are heavily dependent on forwards Luis Suarez (who is battling to be fit on time) and Edinson Cavani. If England can nullify that threat, the rest of team is not as strong. Italy are dangerous but have an ageing side, and tend to start slowly in tournaments. Costa Rica seem to be dismissed by everyone, but they could well cause an upset or two in the group. There’s no reason England can’tprogress.
5) Expectation is low
And that is key. The atmosphere going into this tournament isn’t one of ‘anything other than lifting the trophy is a failure’, like at previous World Cups. The expectation of success is lower, resulting in the pressure to perform well being eased slightly. England’s players have the license to play free flowing football, as opposed to slow and tentative tactics.
6) Players have a point to prove
All eyes will be on Wayne Rooney, who has a point to prove on the world stage having not scored in 8 matches in the previous 2 tournaments. Should this drought go on, the pressure will increase. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will also be looking to finally form a formidable central midfield partnership. The World will be watching, and everyone will be looking to impress.
7) Roy is in charge, not Fabio
The blame for failure in the 2010 tournament has always been pointed at then manager Fabio Capello. His long and tiring training methods, frosty relationship with the media and lack of understanding with his players resulted in the breakdown of any success during his tenure. Roy Hodgson is different in his approach, with a reliable coaching team the players can trust (including a psychiatrist), warm weather training tactics and measures to deal with fatigue after a tough Premier League season for most, England are much better prepared to do well this time round.
8) Players are in-form
It’s no surprise to see Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Strurridge join Captain Steven Gerrard in the England squad. Impressive Premier League campaigns from them all not only saw them nearly take their side to Premier League success, but enhance their reputation as creative and skilful footballers. Southampton’s Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw fully deserve their place in the squad, and will both be looking to make an impact. Wayne Rooney has been a shining light in a dismal season for Manchester United, while Joe Hart has proven his doubters wrong having bounced back from a disappointing start to the season to help Manchester City lift the Premier League last month. Let’s just hope they all click in the England team.
9) It’s only 7 games unbeaten
Technically, you could afford to lose a group stage match too. Knockout football always favours an underdog, and once on a roll with momentum and a winning mentality behind them, England could progress through to the final no problem. A quarter final against Brazil or Spain would suggest otherwise, but at the start of each game when it’s 0-0 and 11v11, you never know.
10) Patriotism conquers all
It’s coming home, you know it is! Let your heart rule your head and sing it for England. Because in football, anything is possible…
The World Cup is here! It’s time to put up your England flags and gather round the telly, as Roy’s boys battle it out in Brazil. Will they finally end 48 years of hurt? No. And this is why…
1) The conditions do not suit England
Most South American experts have stated that it’s unlikely a European team will acclimatise to Brazilian conditions and win the tournament. The statistics back this up, with no team from outside of the Americas having won the 7 previous tournaments staged in South America. Much has been documented of England’s opening game against Italy being played in Manaus, a city in the centre of the Amazon rainforest with fears over high temperatures and humidity. Luckily England’s other two games are in more reasonable conditions, although temperatures of mid-twenties will still be difficult for Premier League players used to playing through the English winter.
2) The group of death
FA Chairman Greg Dyke’s slit throat gesture at the World Cup draw last December pretty much sums up how the majority of us feel about England’s chances of progressing out the group. England are 3rd favourites with most bookmakers to qualify from the group stage behind Italy and Uruguay. The sides are two of the most successful teams in World Cup history, and England’s defence may not be a match for both team’s attacking talents. England beware.
3) There are simply better teams
Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, etc. The FA’s commission into the state of improving the national team has highlighted how far behind England is at grass roots level compared to the leading nations. League structure and English quotas have also been called into question, but any chance an England side has of being the best in the world is a long term plan, and not something Roy’s boys will be achieving in the short term.
4) Not enough experience
Most of the criticism people have voiced about Roy Hodgson’s squad is at the inexperience of most of the players at international level. Four years ago, Fabio Capello selected England’s oldest and most experienced squad at 29.8 years and 39.2 caps on average. This time round, Roy has put his faith in youth, with an average of 26 years and 26.5 caps, and 11 players having played 10 caps or less. Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney will offer some experience, but let’s hope Roy doesn’t regret leaving Ashley Cole out or not making an attempt to reintegrate John Terry into the national side.
5) Penalties are always a possibility
England have the worst penalty shoot out record of any world cup side, having lost 3 in 1990, 1998 and 2006. The players have been practising their spot kicks in training, but will be looking to do all they can on the pitch to avoid going to a penalty shoot out.
6) Warm up games nullified optimism
A 2-2 draw with Ecuador and a 0-0 stalemate against Honduras didn’t raise expectations about England’s chances of winning the World Cup. Roy will claim the results were incidental, with the focus being on trying out tactics and getting the players used to the humid conditions. England fared much better in a 3-0 win over Peru, but the players will find that playing Peru at Wembley was a lot easier than playing Italy in Manaus.
7) Weak defence
Whilst much has been said of Roy Hodgson’s young and attacking forwards, more focus should be on how England deal with their opposition without the ball. The thought of a central defensive partnership of Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka worries you more than comforts you against the big names in the tournament, with Glen Johnson and Leighton Baines being good at the back but nothing more. Defensive cover is offered in Phil Jones and Chris Smalling who have both had a disappointing season for Manchester United, as well as 18 year old Southampton left back Luke Shaw, who is relatively new to international football. Against great attacking sides such as Brazil or Spain, I’d be worried.
8) No strength in depth
Much has been said of the youth in the side, and it counts for a lack of proven ability on the world stage once we dig a little deeper than England’s first choice 11. If called upon Barkely, Lallana, Lambert, Sterling and Shaw will all look to impress, but you wonder how much we would prefer to have the option to have a stronger second string side with more experience at the top level, which teams like Spain and Germany can call upon. However, at future World Cups, the young players inclusions in this year’s squad will be very beneficial.
9) Premier League Fatigue
22 of England’s 23 man squad go into the tournament on the back of a long, tough and physical premier league campaign. The premier league is notorious for its faced paced and physically tough ethos, as well as most players also having to play European football for their clubs. The premier league is the most represented league, however, with 119 players, followed by 5 other European leagues. Roy Hodgson has made a point to measure fatigue and energy levels amongst his players, and it should therefore only be a small factor if England fail to win the tournament.
10) Tough route to the final
Should England progress from their group, the route to the final in the knockout stages won’t be much easier for them. Having overcome Italy and Uruguay, facing either Colombia, Greece or Japan would be a positive prospect, but England would look to avoid playing the Ivory Coast. A quarter final against either Spain or Brazil would then be on the cards, with Germany in the semi-finals. If England somehow manage to make their way to the final in Rio, it will surely be either Spain or Brazil which they avoided in the Quarters for the World Cup. We can dream, but our heads are telling us it isn’t meant to be.