I’m beginning to get the feeling Dick Advocaat doesn’t like my column.
The night before my debut piece, his team secured Premier League status by winning a point at the Emirates.
Cue frantic celebrations and enough coverage (rightly so) to make sure my debut was delayed going online somewhat.
Prior to my second column being printed, Dick announced he wouldn’t be staying on as manager, again garnering all the attention for himself and sparking heated discussion on who the club would now turn their focus to.
Then, just when I thought I could have centre stage all for myself at last, Dick did the biggest U-turn in football since Sir Alex decided gardening just wasn’t for him in in 2001.
So, there I was, pushed to the back of the queue again as an afterthought. Cheers, Dick.
So, I won’t be at all surprised if moments after I’ve filed this, the club will have made a double swoop for Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and the back pages will be filled with their faces with me peeking over the fence at them like a nosey neighbour on the other page.
Either that or Dick will have changed his mind again. I’m joking, but Wednesdays do seem to have been busy lately.
Anyway, it’s been a momentous week for me after making another debut, this time on Talksport radio co-hosting the post Champions League final show with Danny Kelly.
Like a first-time caller to Alan Robson’s Night Owls (is that still on?) I was a bit nervous, but once I regained my compusure, I mastered the art of speaking again and I loved every second of it.
We chatted about Barca and Juve, and the main question Danny was posing was is there a huge gulf between the Champions League winners and the top teams in England, and if so, why?
Clearly, if our top four and the Spanish champions played at their full capacity, Barca would always come out of top in terms of the quality of football, the only anomaly being a Jose Mourinho side performing a defensive masterclass like his Inter Milan side did in 2010.
After establishing that, we seemed light years behind Barcelona’s entrancing intricate style, we got on to the “Why?”.
Well, the top division in our country is filled with foreign managers and foreign players so it can’t just be as easy to say we’re footballing dinosaurs. The average tempo played in the Premier League might be higher to that on the continent, but football isn’t the same stereotypical world it used to be. The globalization of football has morphed all different styles to take generic forms.
It got me thinking further about English players though. Perhaps it was the English contingent that was letting our teams down. Perhaps we are the ones to blame for not being able to match Barca’s ingenuity, passing and movement.
That’s when two names sprang to mind; Theo Walcott and Raheem Sterling.
Both blessed with scintillating pace, but perhaps not the footballing brains nurtured at Barca’s La Masia academy.
Do they have the knowhow needed to make the subtle runs off the shoulder of defenders or the movements to create space for others with their movement? Not from what I’ve seen.
That’s why I would love it if they didn’t sign new deals at their current clubs, or for any other Premier League team for that matter, and go and get themselves a real footballing education in Spain or Italy.
They should forget about the money and think long term, especially Sterling.
Both have been given a good grounding from their current managers, but to improve as a player you need to push and test yourself, and moving to clubs in Spain would force them to broaden their knowledge and become.
When games are high tempo in England, players live off their instincts, where the first thought and decision is usually the right one because of the pressure put on them by opponents, passing opportunities reduce quickly.
But sometimes having more time on the ball can create its own problems.
If there is only one pass on for you it’s easy to make the decision to play it, but if you have more time and more options, playing the correct pass calls for you to think a little deeper and see two or three passes into the future.
Coming up against a different, more thoughtful, considered approach would help them become more rounded footballers.
Even if it is only for two years, they will come back to this country with their horizons broadened, benefitting the England national team in the long-term too.
Money shouldn’t be an issue at their level, but if they move abroad and become a success, they would be able to write their own contracts and name their price if they decide to come back home again.
In fact, we should be looking to send many more of our 16-21-year-old players who aren’t getting first team chances to foreign clubs, even if it’s only to Scandinavian countries.
I certainly wish I’d taken the opportunity earlier in my career when I had the chance to move to a Belgian club when I was leaving Sunderland.
Going to Denmark at 29 was like learning to play football all over again and I definitely didn’t go there for the money, as I was earning less than I was at Aberdeen.
I wanted to make myself richer with the experience of a different approach.
Wherever Theo and Raheem end up, money will never be an issue. I just wish they’d be brave, like Micah Richards for example, and see the bigger picture in view.