Rafa, Liverpool, and More

I was over at a friends, a couple of nights back and we got talking bout the qualities needed to succeed in the premiership, along with many other sports.

Although I do like Benetiz, and admire him as a manager, I have my reservations about his abilities to win trophies in the Permier Leaque. I have already expressed my views in previous posts, and stand by them. I do not believe is the man for the job.

The team under his management shows too many flaws. Too many close run games that should be walk overs. Even with inferior teams such as Reading, Derby, or Birmingham.

I watched a documentary on Jose Mourinho last night. He is a fascinating character and a very good manager/coach. I talked with another Liverpool supporter a couple weeks back and he expressed the view that Mourinho was the next Liverpool manager in waiting.

This is a fascinating idea. But not so wild as to be dismissed as the workings of a mad man. Mourinho has many qualities to succeed as a manager. The qualities required of any successful Liverpool manager. Beneitez lacks some of these same qualities.

After the recent spat with the American owners, Benetiz seems to be on shaky ground. He expressed views that normally are kept in-house. Even if Benetiz and the Yanks, patch things up, I do not see a long term future for him at the club. They want someone who will win trophies. Seems, Benetiz can win the Champions Leaque (half the time), but the Yanks will want more for their money.

Mourinho for Liverpool. Anyone?

England Football Team Head Coach

Well its been a while since I posted about the England Football Team and their manager or management. I stated a while ago the Steve McLaren was not up to the job. Recent events seem to bear this out. He lacked vision. Tactical nous. Strength of character. Resilience and determination. Stubborn, dogged but open minded. With a view to the world. Not shut off.

These qualities are essential in any manager / leader. Alex Ferguson embodies many of these qualities. Although I am not a ManU fan he knows what he wants and how to get it. He controls the players and the team. He has good technical vision and imparts it to his team. That is one reason why Man U have been successful for so long.

Arsene Wenger at Arsenal has many of the same qualities, but is not as tough. He is more intellectual. I'm not an Arsenal fan, but Arsenal play lovely football. The team reflects the personal qualities of the manager. This is why Arsenal are not as tough as ManU. But they play better football. In a scrap ManU would probably win.

If you look at other managers/coaches and their teams, this is apparent. Look at Chelsea when Mourinho was in charge. They played hard, had a ruthlessness and a resilience about them. This reflects Mourinho's character. McLaren lacked that hard edge. He also lacked a tactical knowledge which is essential if your to become a successful manager.

Even "Big Phil" Scolary does not have the strength of character. This was shown when he caved in after the British media swarmed all over him, before McLaren was appointed. He couldn't handle the pressure and pulled out the running to become the next England coach.

The shows goes on. The hunt for the next England manager starts here.
Mourinho has thrown his hat into the ring along with Capello and Klinsmann.

At this point in time I'm not sure of the best candidate for the job. An answer will come with time.

England Football Team - More Woes

A couple of months ago I posted my views on McLaren as England Coach. I didn't feel he was up to the job back then, and I don't feel he's up to the job now.

Today, England were beaten by Russia in the Euro 2008 qualifiers and have a slim chance of qualifying. Russia qualify if they beat Israel and Andorra. England will not be invited to the party.

Its nothing personal against McLaren. I don't see him as capable of producing a strong side, playing fluid, entertaining football. His Middlesbrough team were mediocre at best. Since he's taken the helm at England, their game has been laboured and lacking imagination.

Come on FA, roll out the next failure...

Rugby - England v France

I watched the England-France game on Saturday, and amazingly England beat the host nation. It was a very close game with little great rugby to shout about. What a thrilling encounter between two evenly matched sides. The game could have swung either way, any time to the final whistle. Commiserations to the French team and their supporters.

Considering how poor England performed in the early games of this tournament, and the results they've recently achieved over more strongly favoured nations, what can be attributed to the turnaround in their game? From the newspaper and online reports I've read, there are a number of things.

The return of Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson is such a vital component of the England team, when he's absent, the team limps along. His kicking is superb, most of the time. (Recently his kickin from has been average). Wilkinson has been plagued with injuries and since his return, and has not found his sniper-like accuracy with his kicks. His work rate is truly amazing. He throws himself at any opposing player, no matter their size. This attitude infects his team mates and they develop dogged can-do mentality.

Finding the right team and balance
Brian Ashton, the England coach inherited a dispirited team that limped from one beating to the next. Its taken Ashton a while to get a feel for the team and the players. Getting them to gel, to play cohesively and to play for each other has taken time. Ashton had to rethink his game play in the light of poor early results. Ashton was initially reluctant to play the power-game, in favour of a more attacking approach, as had Robinson his predecessor.

Rediscovering the desire and will to win
A team that has little desire to win, will win nothing. That's a fact. You can see this in nature. When two animals fight over a carcass, the one with the greatest desire and will to win will get his meal. The other will give up and go elsewhere looking for fresh game or scraps. In sport, it is no different. This cannot be over emphasized.

The belief they can win
The desire to win must be allied to a belief you can win. Without this belief acting as a firm foundation, the enterprise will collapse.

The confidence to support the above
Finally confidence, the all-important ingredient, essential for any success. Without confidence your going nowhere.

Even Liverpool FC's manager Rafa Benitez, realises how important confidence is in achieving results. Listen to his post match interviews and how often he states lack of confidence as a factor in the teams poor performance.

Fasting and Glycogen

As a result of the stomach bug I picked up in Egypt, I stopped taking solid foods last Saturday. The last time I ate anything solid was Friday 5th October. I haven't taken anything since then.

I know I've lost weight, as my jeans are looser than a week ago. I weighed myself last Friday and I was 11st 10lbs (164 lbs). I decided to have a weigh-in today to see how much I lost. Last weigh-in I stood on the scales completely naked. This removes the possibility of shoes or clothes providing a misleading reading.

I fired up the electronic scales and in my best (make that only) birthday suit, I stood on the scales. The reading swung up, then down and settled at 11st 2lbs (156 lbs). I've lost 8 lbs in a week.

I know from past experience some of the weight will come back when I start eating. I will add back 2 or 3 lbs. This is explained by the glycogen stores in the body slowly depleting during the fast. When you start eating, the glycogen is restored to its normal level. One of the reason you feel drowsy or light-headed during a fast. Insufficient glycogen stores to meet demand.

Its also the cause of frustration and disappointment among dieters. They normally hit their target weight and stop. Get off the diet and back to eating normally, add back 3 lbs and get cheesed off. Now you know why.

Today I feel fine, taking fruit juice, weak coffee and water. Its well into day 8, and I'm gonna watch the England v France, Rugby World Cup semi-final on TV in a couple of hours.

I'll update again in a few days.

Lack Of Willpower

I Have None

"I can resist everything except temptation" -- Oscar Wilde

All around we see products advertised to help us lose weight. It seems there's a new fad diet every week. The Low-Carb diet. The No-Carb diet. The Pineapple diet. The Atkins diet. The Fruit-Only diet. A couple of days ago I saw the Baby-Food diet is vogue in Hollywood. How silly.

Why is it people have so much trouble losing weight. Surely, its just a case of getting on the diet and sticking with it. The diet does the rest. I got thinking about this in the light of my recent experience.

Why do people keep chasing the latest fad diet? Is the newest fad better than the last one? Reflecting on this I realised its not the diet that fails, its the dieter.

I saw a TV ad the other night, part of the Government drive to get people to quit smoking. Bottom of the screen in small print said: "Willpower required". There's the rub. You hit the same problem whether you give up smoking, give up food (ie go on a diet), give up sweets, give up drugs, give up computer games. Giving up any of these activities "Requires willpower".

Lets talk about dieting for a moment (though this applies to other things). Most diets fail in the first few days. This is when we experience the greatest onslaught of desire. It comes at you in waves, overwhelms you and the dieter throws in the towel. A person may start a diet with great conviction, desire and will to succeed, but after a couple of days, their willpower disappears like the darkness of night before the morning sun.

The hardest part is when the desire to eat hits you. No diet can give you this willpower, you have to get it yourself, or at least cultivate it. When the desire hits, you need to grit your teeth and hang in there. Abandoning your existing diet or changing to a diet you believe will be more successful, misses the point. Your gonna come head-to-head with your desires whichever diet your on.

Its funny. I've heard people say: "I tried xxxxx diet and it didn't work". What they mean: "I tried xxxxx diet and I caved in when the hunger pangs and the craving started. I just couldn't take it, cos I have little or no willpower".

Its the same for smokers. People decide to quit smoking, smoke their last cigarette. Throw away the pack with whatever cigarettes are left. Give away their lighter. Next day its Cold Turkey. All the resolve and willpower they had when they quit has disappeared. Its deserted them. They chew gum, eat sweets, use patches, smoke plastic cigarettes. Pace the floor till they can't take it anymore, then light up. "I'll give up next week".

Willpower is not a commodity you can buy. Its not for sale in supermarkets. You don't get it in diet books. It's an individual characteristic and a personal quality. If you don't have willpower and wish to quit smoking or go on a diet, you got problems. No diet can give you willpower. No nicotine patch can give you willpower. You have to supply willpower yourself. But most people don't know how.

If you don't have willpower, how do you get it?

Egypt, Stomach Bugs and Fasting

This summer I went on holiday to Egypt for two weeks. I picked up a stomach bug. On returning to England, I suffered from sickness, nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, and sleepless nights. This continued for weeks, I was hoping it would sort itself out, the body would deal with it and normality would return. No way.

Its now October and little has changed. Each time I think its getting better, another wave of nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhoea. I went to my doctor, who put me on a course of anti-biotics. They didn't work. He was at a loss and sent me to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in central London. There they took blood, urine and stool samples, and instructed me to return in two weeks. Their early diagnosis was "Amoebic Dysentery", but this was unconfirmed. On returning home, I looked it up on the web, its a form of parasite and the body has no way of dealing with it.

The stomach pains were bad. Each time I ate food I was feeding the bugs. They seemed to be celebrating, particularly if I had dairy produce.

Last Friday I ate heartily, not a blow-out but I ate well. The next day, Saturday, I was in trouble. When was this going to end. So much stomach pain. Enough was enough. I vowed not to eat again till this thing had been diagnosed and treated.

All day Saturday, I drank fruit juice, and small amounts of diet coke and diet lemonade. The diet coke tasted foul and I switched to weak coffee. Sunday, things seemed a little better, as the bugs had been deprived their usual nourishment. I stuck with the diet, drinking fruit juice and the occasional weak coffee.

Monday was uneventful, it passed quietly. Tuesday I was wacked. I felt sick and slept for 2 - 3 hours in the afternoon. I was sticking to the fruit juice.

Wednesday it was back to the hospital, for the results. More urine samples and wait to see the consultant. He was really nice and understanding. He admitted they had not identified the parasite, but all the evidence seemed to indicate it was "giardia lamlia".

"Here take these pills, but no alcohol for 4 or 5 days, or you'll vomit". "Another thing, they may leave a metallic taste in your mouth". I was put on a course of Tinidazole. "Take four today and four more in five days time". "Remember, no alcohol". I explained that the stomach cramps were so bad, I had stopped taking solid food. "That's okay. Take the pills, stay off the solids for another 24 hours, then eat what you like". On the train home, I took the pills, the metallic taste slowly over-ran my taste buds.

Thursday, the diarrhoea returned with a vengence, I was on and off the pan all day. The stomach cramps returned, along with the nausea. I felt ill. Had they got the diagnosis wrong. Were these the wrong pills? Considering I hadn't eaten in 6 days, how come I was passing so much stuff?

I'd got used to going without food and when I felt a little faint, I'd take a sugar hit. This lifted my blood sugar level and I was back on track. Slowly the desire for food fell away. The rest of the house was eating and I could smell the delicious dishes being prepared in the kitchen, but it was okay. It didn't bother me much. My main aim was to stablise the cement mixer that was churning in my stomach. Avoiding solids seemed to help.

Its Friday evening on day 7. I don't feel weak and I have a mind to stick this out for another week... I'm gonna record my progress in this blog.

When I started I weighed in at 11st 10lbs (162lbs). I know I've lost weight, cos my jeans are loose. I'll weigh myself tomorrow and report back. I'm also gonna take some photos to record the change and include them in the blog.

Liverpool's FC's Failure

I don't get it. Liverpool were top of the premiership. The team were rampant, strong and confident. They were unbeaten. Had not conceded a goal in open play since the start of the season. The two goals conceded were from penalties and one of the penalties (against Chelsea was a non-penalty) it was so poor a decision by the referee that he was suspended for the next game by the football authorities. Everyone agrees it was not a penalty.

Liverpool travelled to Portsmouth today to do battle. Liverpool are No. 1. Portsmouth are No. 13.

Everyone (except Portsmouth fans) expect Liverpool to win. Final result result: it's a draw.

What went wrong?

Benitez will say something like we played well, created many chances, dominated the game, but were unlucky not to win... That's a stock quote. He says something similar after every poor result.

He seems to be missing the obvious. If you have a winning team. Don't worry about the reserves. Worry about the team. Keep the team together to build "team spirit" and cultivate understanding. Benitez does not seem to understand this part of the equation.

There is no doubting Benitez abilities as a coach and as a strategist. He is without doubt of the highest calibre. But there seems to be a worrying part of his game plan... namely his dependency on squad rotation.

Squad rotation will probably work if you have a number of players that are underperforming. Its a kick up the back-side, get your arse in gear. Get out there and perform to the level that is expected of you. But when a team is on a roll, why change it?

I don't get it. I have my doubts about Benitez. He may not be the right man for the job. Watch this space.

England Football Team - The Woes Continue

I was invited to watch the friendly football match against Germany tonight, but I declined the offer. I went to see my mother instead.

Why?

I guessed it was going to be a dire affair and opted to miss out on the pain and humiliation.

How did I know?

First, it was a friendly, and friendlies are always tawdry affairs.

Second, Gerrard along with others opted to miss the game.

Third, McClaren the England coach, gave a sorry preview to the game

Fourth, McClaren selected Beckham. The old warhorse.

I feel sorry for McClaren, he's in a no-win situation. Having accepted the poisoned chalice that is the England coach, he's not up to the job. He wasn't the FA's 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th choice. McClaren may believe he's the right man and fully capable, but this does not align with reality, as we will see in time. In the past, others felt they were right choice and they also failed.

Examples include: Sven Goran Eriksson, Kevin Keegan, Glen Hoddle, Howard Wilkinson, Graham Taylor, Don Revie to name a few. Many of these were capable managers at club level. Managing England requires stepping up a level.

McLaren will fail and the FA will appoint another underperforming coach/manager and embarress us once again at the next major football tournament.

England will still hold the title:

Greatest Underperformer of the Major Footballing Nation.

Wait and see.