Is Pep Suffering his first Managerial Crisis??

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With the Premier League season approaching that point of the year when the picture becomes clearer on who are the main title contenders for the crown that season, it sees the pundits preseason favourites in Manchester City going from odd’s on to take the title back in September to now being out of the championship race altogether with three months of the season left to play if you believe Pep Guardiola. When the club announced that the former Barcelona and Bayern coach was coming to the Etihad Stadium last summer, it saw a reaction that generated excitement not only for City fans but also for those associated with Premier League and the television companies especially.

With many Pundits and fans believing that the appointment of Guardiola would basically see Manchester City taking that next step and would be leaving all opposition trailing in their wake, with City steamrollering their rivals and not only dominating in England but also at European level. However things don’t always go to plan and this is a good illustration of when don’t go the way people plan. This is without doubt the first time that the footballing world has saw Pep Guardiola under pressure and struggling to solve the problem.

As things currently stand now the Blues are 13 points behind leaders Chelsea going into their game against West Ham on Wednesday night and have already been dumped out of the League Cup by their bitter-rivals in United earlier in the year, that said though they are still in the Champions League at the moment and have made it to the Fifth-Round of the FA Cup with two straightforward victories over London opposition in both West Ham and Crystal Palace respectively, but in all honesty the FA Cup is the only realistic chance that club have of lifting any silverware this season.

At the start of the season City were off and running and were like a runaway train after recording 10 wins out of their opening 11 games in all competitions, with a thrilling 3-3 draw up in Glasgow against Celtic being their only ‘blip’ on their record at that time, but then started their run of indifferent form ever since. After the huge saga that played out involving Joe Hart and the club at the start of the season, it led to the England number one being loaned out to Italian side Torino in Serie A and at the same time saw the club bringing in Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo to be number for Pep Guardiola side.

After impressive team displays in the opening five games of the season, it then saw Bravo making his debut for City at Old Trafford in the Manchester Derby of all games and was at fault for the goal that his side conceded and was also mightily lucky not to give away a penalty too with a tackle on Wayne Rooney.

As the season has gone on, it has saw the goalkeeper coming under fire for a string of costly errors which has led to the Blues slipping down the table and seeing valuable points dropped with a collection of terrible performances too boot and for someone who was deemed by Guardiola as a ‘World Class keeper’ he has failed to show a glimpse of that tag yet in City colours and looked far from that in any game..

The City boss has always liked his goalkeepers to be able to use their feet and do a bit more than traditional goalkeepers would do in making saves. This was one quality that wanted and drafted in Bravo for that exact reason and so far he has yet to show it. There have been games this season where his ability with his feet have landed him in trouble and watching him is equal to someone wading through treacle in the way he has displayed his skills with his feet and been caught out numerous times by opponents.

Fans have also been critical of the goalie for his refusal to come off his goal line and help his defenders out and has led to him being left in ‘no man’s land’ when he chooses to come out at wrong times and gifts opponents easy goals, noticeably the 4-2 loss to Leicester and then his pitiful display against Everton early on at the turn of the of the year His saving ability is up for debate too as after keeper that City have had over the years, none have ever turned away from being hit by the ball and practically allowed the ball to go past them instead of being brave and being how Schmeichel used to be years back and even Joe Hart dare we say.

If that wasn’t bad enough for the Guardiola to contend with, then he has also saw his side subjected to humiliations at away grounds where you felt they would or should be winning with all due respect to Leicester and Everton. Under Manuel Pellegrini and Roberto Mancini, these games were seen as title-winning games and you had to battle, scratch and claw for victories if you wanted to be successful and be championship material.

It isn’t just the goalkeeping situation that needs addressing, it is also his defence too as he has hardly ever kept the same back four together long enough for them to gel and develop an understanding with the keeper or any of the defence at all.

When teams have won the Premier League title down the years their has always been a strong central defensive partnership that has led their respective teams to glory. United had Bruce and Pallister, Vidic and Ferdinand during their time and Chelsea had Terry Carvalho, and Luiz. Arsenal had Adams, Bould, Kolo Toure and Campbell whilst City had Kompany and Lescott for their first title success before Demichelis replaced Lescott as their key centre-back pairing on route to their success.

City have not established nor looked anywhere close to establishing any type of commanding centre-back partnership this season and with the captain Vincent Kompany being plagued by injuries since 2012, the side have look disorganised and leakier than a leak in a leaking house. Another challenge the manager has had to contend with since arriving at the club in the summer, has been dealing with a public spat between him and Yaya Toure’s agent Dimitri Seluk, of which Seluk has accused Pep Guardiola of being an ‘average manager’ and said that ‘anyone could manage Bayern and Barcelona and do the same as what he has done’.

The City boss refused to play the Blues talisman till he apologised to him and his team mates for the comments that were made by his agent on the manager and the club as a whole, which in effect meant that the Ivory Coast star was out of action till mid November and saw the Ivorian coming back with a bang when he scored twice in a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace.

However dropping vital points in games has seen City go from top of the tree to now just hanging in there with the chasing pack for what looks like a battle royal for a Champions League place come the end of season.

Formations, suspensions and poor officiating have all contributed to Pep Guardiola’s frustrating debut season in the Premier League to date. But the Spanish coach has given some very quite bizarre press conferences in recent times too and was quoted as saying in on press conference “perhaps i am not good enough for this job” and would further add about retiring later. If Pep had a head full of hair at the start of the season, then he would most certainly be either white as a ghost or bald as he is now with all the the stresses and strains of what English Football and media can throw at him.

The Blues didn’t make any deals in the January transfer window,. but what they did bring in was the addition of Gabriel Jesus to their club after his spell in Brazil finished and he joined his new club from Palmeiras in Brazil. It will certainly need divine intervention to help City manager getting his side back to playing the way they were at the start of the season and that also made them look like a serious title contender at that time.

With Tottenham and Liverpool being mainstays in the top four for most of this season to date, Arsenal are hovering around the 4th Champions League place and have City’s cross city rivals in United hitting form too with Jose Mourinho’s side looking looking like they may have finally found some cohesion to their squad after some very indifferent results themselves like Pep’s side has.

Of course, things can change very quickly in this game and City could go on to win the FA Cup, Champions League and even go unbeaten all season now and finish second or even win the league come May. Fickleness is word well used in football and perfectly sums up the situation too, with managers being under pressure one minute and the next be deemed a genius. A well coined phrase that was used by former Spurs and England striker Jimmy Greaves sums up it best when he said of football, ‘It’s a funny old game’.

 

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Phoenix torn apart by Wildcats

Ice Hockey
manchester_phoenix_logo_2011 Manchester Phoenix  3 – 11  Swindon Wildcats     swindon_wildcats_logo 

With the future of Manchester Phoenix Ice Hockey Club still being shrouded in mystery off the ice, on the ice the side have been nothing short of remarkable and not played like a side are struggling to keep their heads above water. With problems off the ice affecting the number of players that they were able to ice, it led to Phoenix being forced to draft in reinforcements from other teams to help them over the three games this weekend during their troubling time.

Friday and Saturday saw them using players from the Sutton Sting and Blackburn Hawks NIHL teams in their 7-1 defeat against their Roses rivals the Sheffield Steeldogs on Friday, before then loaning players from the Oxford City Stars, Bristol Pitbulls and the Solent Devill for their Saturday night game against the Bracknell Bees in a 5-1 defeat at ‘The Hive’. Sunday’s contest against the Swindon Wildcats saw players drafted in this time from the Bradford Bulldogs, Deeside Dragons, Bristol Bulldogs and Blackburn Hawks respectively in the game at Widnes.

It was predicted by some people that a team with the attacking threat that Swindon posed would only be matter of time before they scored, as the make shift Phoenix iced only 7 recognisable EPL players in their line-up. That said however, it turned out to be correct in it wouldn’t take long for a goal to go in, but much to the shock of everyone in the Silverblades Widnes crowd, it was the hosts that got on the board first with their first shot of the game. It saw Bradford’s Myles Dacres skating over the blue line on the right wing and then unleashed a fierce shot high over Michael Crisp glove for a goal timed at 1:27 to give the Phoenix a stunning lead, would we be seeing a possibly a ‘miracle on ice’ perhaps?

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The answer was no sadly, as Swindon shrugged off the early goal off and dominated play not just in the first period but the whole game in truth. A goal you felt was always on the cards for the Wildcats due mainly to their puck retention and being camped inside the Manchester zone for the majority of the period. When the goal game came it was through Jan Kostal, as his shot through traffic tied the game up at the 7:47 mark to make it 1-1. Minutes later it saw the Wildcats taking the lead in the game through Floyd Taylor’s goal, with the Swindon man scoring his first of the night past Steve Fone to make it 2-1 and that followed shortly after by Sam Bullas who flicked the puck over the helpless Fone at 11:04 to make it 3-1 scoreline and have the Wiltshire side taking over.

Tom Rutkis made it four with 41 seconds left to play in the first period and saw the visitors lead 4-1 after 20 minutes. Second period saw the Swindon onslaught continuing on in the middle stanza after Luke Boothroyd was sitting a hooking call against him and that powerplay for the Wildcats saw Robin Kovar gliding around the back of the Phoenix nets before his vision saw Rutkis who in turn fed Tomasz Malasinski, and the Pole finished it off nicely leaving Fone with no chance at all at 20:41.

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Manchester was finding it hard to create any chances at all and in truth just going forward full stop was proving a problem but the lack of cohesion and well placed poke checks from the Swindon side was another problem too. Max Birbraer almost made it six for the visitors when his shot struck the pipe work and that was just not more than delaying the inevitable, as Floyd Taylor scored his second of the game for the Cats’ after he skated over the blue line unchallenged and then unleashed a shot that went top shelf on Steve Fone to make it 6-1 and saw the game becoming a bit lop-sided on the scoreline.

Phoenix players battled hard throughout and were unable to generate anything in the way of good chance, though Dacres did have the only effort of note in the second period as he missed the target from close range. At 37:20 the inevitable occurred in the game, when Robin Kovar on his return to facing his former club slammed home a pass at the back door but was applauded by the Phoenix fans who still idolise their former hero and he in turn took the fans applause as he headed back to the bench after the goal. Swindon then went 8-1 up courtesy of a Floyd Taylor hat-trick goal, with the Wildcats number 12 scoring a replay of his second goal with a shot that he ripped past the keeper and pinging in off the post to give the Cats’ a formidable lead after two periods.

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 In the final period of play it saw Manchester trying to double their scoreline early on and had Phoenix stalwart Ben Wood scoring the hosts second goal of the game with an almost identical goal to Dacres in the first, as the Macclesfield-born player cutting in over the blue line then shooting low on the keeper with a ‘crisp shot’ so to speak on Michael Crisp in the Swindon nets to make it 8-2 and give the home side supporters something to cheer again in this game.  

Swindon’s special teams unit worked well again for the 9th goal with some neat passing and movement by the Wildcats side in the lead up to Jan Kostal’s goal at 47:02, where the Czech forward doubled his own personal tally in the game. Former Phoenix man Michael Stratford that joined on loan for the Manchester club earlier in the season saw him getting on the scoresheet with a touch of good fortune about it, as after Ben Nethersell saw his shot missing the target it had the puck bouncing nicely for Stratford at the side of the net to quickly turn home for the Wildcats 10th goal of the night, 19 seconds after Stratford scored it had Tom Rutkis making it an 11-2 game at 48:56.

With the game well and truly gone now for the Phoenix, they just began to throw caution to the wind and try to play high up the ice and see if they could muster another goal in the final ten minutes of the game. Ben Wood came close with a deflected effort that saw Crisp equal to it, but with the goalie making a couple of decent saves for the ‘Cats it saw his defences broken one final time. After all that has happened with the Phoenix in recent weeks with the whole bringing players in to bolster their team, it was almost bound to happen that one of these game would have these loaned players shine and that player proved to be Myles Dacres in this game with the Bradford Bulldogs man netted his second of the game and Manchester’s third with a well took goal roofing the puck high into the net for 11-3.

One amazing statistic of the weekend though was that netminder Steve Fone had faced an incredible 184 shots this weekend, after Sheffield fired 72 on him on Friday night and then followed that up with a 45 shot barrage facing him on Saturday in Bracknell, before finishing his weekend off with 67 in this game. Fone will probably have gotten used to seeing the imprint ‘Made In Czech Republic’ on the game pucks after this busy weekend for the netminder.

All after all was said and done and the game came to a close, the Phoenix fans were still in great voice as the time ticked down and saw the home fans rising to their feet perhaps for the last time and cheered their heroes on and after the horn sounded too. Attention now turns to this up-coming week and whether any deal with a possible investor can be struck.


MATCHSTATS:

Phoenix: Myles Dacres 2+0, Ben Wood 1+0, Luke Boothroyd 0+1, Ross Kennedy 0+1, Geoff Wigglesworth 0+1, Robert Streetly 0+1, Gareth O’Flaherty 0+1

Wildcats: Floyd Taylor 3+1, Tom Rutkis 2+2, Jan Kostal 2+0, Sam Bullas 1+4, Robin Kovar 1+2, Tomasz Malasinski 1+1, Michael Stratford 1+0, Stephen Whitfield 0+2, Adam Finlinson 0+2, Ben Nethersell 0+2 


GOALIES:

Phoenix:  Steve Fone  SOG 67-11 (83.58%)   Wildcats: Michael Crisp SOG 26-3 (88.46%)


PENALTIES:

Phoenix: 4 PIM  –  Wildcats: 2 PIM  


POWERPLAYS:

Phoenix: 0-1 (0.00%)  Wildcats: 2-2 (100%)

Storm shoot down the Stars to get back to winning ways

Ice Hockey
primarystorm2015logo-1   Manchester Storm   4 – 2    Dundee Stars    photo.jpg

A late Darian Dziurzynski goal sealed victory for the Manchester Storm as they overcame a battling Dundee Stars side to win 4-2 at the Altrincham Ice Arena this past Saturday. It saw the Stars making their third trip to Altrincham this season and had the home side looking to pick vital point in the league after their eventful Scottish triple header last weekend up in Scotland.

Manchester found out late week from the Elite League’s disciplinary panel over the actions of player Eric Neilson last weekend up in Fife, after the Storm player was involved in an altercation with a Fife fan in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss up in Kirkcaldy. The result was a 3-game ban and saw Neilson forced to sit out the second of his three game ban

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Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography

Dundee had the opening shot in the game with the Storm beginning to then put the visitors under some early pressure as the Stars played their part too in a fast paced game. Mike Clemente in the Manchester nets made a couple of good saves early doors, before Joey Sides netted the opening goal of the game and it all came from a poor clearance in the Manchester zone. With the hosts trying to clear the puck away it saw the Dundee man collecting it near the blue line and then his quick release beat the netminder to get his side on the board.

Manchester then got back on level terms though a rocket from Paul Swindlehurst, as the former Stars man ripped one past Joe Fallon in the Dundee goals to get the Storm back in the game at 1-1. Second period saw the home side taking a 2-1 lead through Mario-Valery Trubucco at 4:09, when the Canadian forward tapped home at the front of the net from a Patrik Valcak pass across goal and saw Trubucco putting home.

Minutes later it saw Adam Harding making it a 3-1 game for the Storm, after a quick break up ice saw Jack Prince playing the puck forward for Mark Heatley and his lovely back-handed pass came towards the Welsh-forward for Harding to finish off and have the home side in firm control of the contest at that point. Those two goals in the second period seem to cost Dundee looking back, but the Stars were never gave up and pushed for goals to get them back in this conference clash.

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   Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography

As play moved to the third period, it seemed like the next goal would be a pivotal one in the game and if Manchester scored it would be game over but if Dundee struck it would make things very interest for the remainder of the period. With that being said, it did see the visitors opening the third period up on the power play and saw Joey Sides scoring his second of the night at the 41:27, as his redirected shot from a low Kevin Bruijsten shot left Clemente helpless to prevent the goal and give the Stars hope trailing by a goal with 18:33 left to play.

With the teams playing end to end hockey in a very tight game, it saw Dundee at times trying not to get caught out when going on a rush when in attack. Storm’s fourth goal of the game came something out of nothing in truth by Darian Dziurzynski, as Manchester went up ice through Paul Philips and after the defenceman made a lay-off pass for Dziurzynski in the Dundee zone, it saw the Canadian firing his shot low through the legs of Fallon who was partially screened by Patrik Valcak on the goal at 54:23 and that was effectively the game.

With less than two minutes to go in the contest it saw Dundee head-coach Marc Lefebvre pulling his goalie for the extra attacker and saw chaos ensue around the Storm goals from the following face-off but did see the home side keeping them out. Manchester had a couple of attempts shooting at an empty cage, but the puck would not find its way into the Stars net. Storm held on for the win and opened their weekend with an important two points ahead of their trip to Murrayfield on the Sunday night, as they face the bottom placed team the Edinburgh Capitals.


Match Stats:

STORM:  Adam Harding 1+0, Mario Valery-Trubucco 1+0, Darian Dziurzynski 1+0, Paul Phillips 0+2, Jack Prince 0+1, Cody Cartier 0+1, Matt Heatley 0+1, Matt Bissonnette 0+1, Patrick Valcak 0+1 

STARS:    Joey Sides 2+0, Kevin Bruijsten 0+2,  Joey de Concilys 0+2


Goalies:

Storm:  Mike Clemente   SOG:  38-40 ( 95.0%)     STARS:  Joe Fallon    SOG:  30/34  ( 88.2%)


Penalty Minutes:

Manchester  8 PIMS –   1-4 Powerplay (25.0%)

Dundee 8 PIMS  –   2-4 Powerplay  (50.0%)                     

Divisional Championship game review

American Football

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This past Sunday saw the AFC and NFC Championship games taking place in both Atlanta and New England, and no one could have predicted the outcome in the two games, with the result seeing resounding wins for both the Falcons and the Patriots and will see them both meeting in Houston’s NRG Stadium on February 5th for Superbowl LI.

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ATLANTA FALCONS                  GREEN BAY PACKERS 
             44                                                              21

First on the menu was the NFC Championship game in Atlanta, as the Falcons were playing in their final ever game at the Georgia Dome, before the side make their move across the street to their brand new $1.5Billion home in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium next season.  

Their opponents were the in-form Green Bay Packers and was led by Aaron Rodgers who had helped turn their season around, with the Wisconsin side racking up 8 win on the spin with their last defeat coming in a huge loss to the Washington Redskins back in November in Week 11. Since then however the Packers have been arguably the best team in the whole of the NFL to date.

The teams met back in Week 8 in the Georgia Dome, where on that occasion Atlanta took a late win over the Packers 33-32 thanks mainly to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, whose late drive inspired a win for his side. This time around though it saw the Falcons being far more aggressive and clinical in their play and virtually saw the hosts having one foot in the Superbowl before Half Time.

Atlanta dominated the first half of the game and had Mohamed Sanu opening the scoring for the Falcons on their opening drive, with quaterback Matt Ryan scrambling from the defence and throwing a quick forward pass out to Sanu in the endzone for a touchdown. Mason Crosby then missed a 41 yard field goal attempt for Green Bay as the Packers looked rattled early on in the game, while Matt Bryant added a kick for the home team to move them 10-0 ahead after the first.

Second quarter saw the brilliance of Atlanta’s wide-receiver Julio Jones, as he made play after play after play for the Falcons. Matt Ryan then went in from 14 yards to make it a 16 point ball game for Atlanta and with the point after, it was 17-0 with 7 minutes still left to play in the first half. Green Bay and Rodgers in particular was unable to spark his team into life in the opening half and had the Falcons defence all over him. Desperation reared its head late in the quarter, when Rodgers launched a long deep ball up field that was intended for Jordy Nelson but instead saw Ricardo Allen making the pick and gave the Falcons another chance to add to their total.

Following the interception by the Falcons, it saw them increasing their lead when Julio Jones made a catch right by the whitewash and had managed to pull it in a for a touchdown to see a 24-0 half time lead for the home side. Jones carried on his stunning form into the second half with the former Alabama wide-receiver running it to the house for a 73 yard touchdown, as he brushed aside the Green Bay defenders on his way to a score.

Green Bay finally got on the board through Devante Adams and saw the Packers now having a lot of work to do if they wanted to get back into this contest. Julio Jones then made a stunning catch for Atlanta as he was being tackled by two Green Bay players in the process of making the grab, but somehow still made a play. Devonta Freeman then made a 4 yard catch to increase the Falcons lead to 30 points and lead 37-15 with the hosts already on their way to the Superbowl.

Jordy Nelson completed a 3 yard play from Aaron Rodgers to see the Packers hitting double figures but was more in consolation. Tevin Coleman ran in unchallenged for an easy touchdown to all but put the final nail in the coffin for the Packers side this season as Atlanta was heading back to the big dance for the first time in 19 years. Green Bay though had the last word in the NFC Championship game, and in truth summed up the Packers season as after a poor start to the game it then saw them coming back late on, but even a Jared Cook touchdown couldn’t prevent the Falcons from victory. 

The only question now was, who would the Atlanta Falcons meet a fortnight on Sunday at Houston’s NRG Stadium at Superbowl LI? 

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ne                                                    pits

New ENGLAND PATRIOTS        PITTSBURGH STEELERS 
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In the AFC Championship game it pitted the two most successful teams in that division historically, with the Pittsburgh Steelers facing the New England Patriots and saw both teams hoping to not just take their place at Superbowl but also edge ahead of their rival in the AFC titles win column too, with both sides winning 8 AFC Championships a piece.  Tom Brady was also hoping become the first quarterback in history to win 7 AFC championships titles and they looked good after the opening quarter as they led 10-0, courtesy of a Stephen Gostkowski field goal and a Chris Hogan touchdown to have the Patriots in charge early on.

DeAngelo Williams then smashed his way through the New England defence to get the Steelers on the board, but the extra point was missed and was the second kick to be not converted by Chris Boswell in the postseason. Hogan then recorded his second touchdown of the game, after he connected on a Tom Brady pass for a 34 yard score and saw New England beginning to pull away in the game. Pittsburgh managed to get up to the Patriots goal line, but despite all their efforts they had to resort to kicking a field goal and was a chance missed for the ‘Steel City’ side.

Third quarter saw the Patriots effectively put the game to bed early, as after a Gostkowski field goal from 47 yards out moved the home side further ahead, it then saw LeGarrette Blout going in for a touchdown and made it 27 to 9 game in favour of the hosts. Pittsburgh fumbled on one play and that gave the Patriots another chance to make the most of it before the quarter was out. From the resulting turnover it saw four plays needed before Tom Brady found his man Julian Edelman in the end zone for a touchdown pass and  all booked their place at Superbowl with a quarter to go. 

With 3:36 left to go in the game, it then saw Ben Rothlisberger then throwing a pass out to the corner of the end zone and saw Cobi Hamilton connecting for a 30 yard touchdown to see the Steelers replying late on. Victory for New England sees them as the undisputed kings in the AFC Division now with 9 titles to their name, but the much bigger prize is that on February 5th as they travel to Houston and will be huge favourites to make it five World titles at Superbowl LI.

Belle Vue Speedway saved

Speedway

Belle Vue Aces were handed great news by the British Speedway bosses this week, as the announcement was made that the Manchester club had been saved from possible extinction, thanks in large to the combination of the British Speedway Promoters Association (BSPA) and the Manchester City Council, as they found a solution to keep everyone happy and keep the most famous name in British Speedway history on the shale.

October 31st of last year saw the start of this messy situation beginning to unfold, when one of the Belle Vue C.E.Os in David Gordon stepped down from his role at the club and left the club with immediate affect. However the following days after Gordon’s decision to quit the Aces then saw shocking revelations coming out of the club, with the league bosses dropping a huge bombshell on the club. It was said by a joint statement with the BSPA and Manchester City Council, that Belle Vue’s promotion hadn’t paid rent on their new stadium and that also included details of riders not being paid either.

This in turn saw the BSPA making the decision to revoke the license of the Belle Vue club as it was and also against the promotion of the club namely, David Gordon and Chris Morton. Belle Vue and speedway fans in general, were left wondering how on earth this had gone on for so long and saw a slight divide with people backing the words of the promotion and the other half on what the Council and speedway authorities were saying. Gordon had gone to the local newspaper and waxed lyrical on how the club suffered tremendous losses on opening night due to the contractors not doing their job correctly and trying to absolve himself and the club from all that went on that ill-fated night. 

Since November the club has practically been left in limbo and have had a great deal of uncertainty over the future of the club status not just in the Elite League, but also in the sport too. That all changed though this past week, with the news breaking that the Aces future had been secured but just leaves a few questions remaining on a number of things. One huge question that hasn’t been addressed as of yet, is just who are the new management that have taken on, as it seems to date a thankless task of restoring not just the Aces side on the track, but mostly off the track too. The opening meeting saw the clubs great name dragged through the mud and tarnished ever since then, and despite hosting a successful World Cup Final event last year too, the scars of that night are still on show and hurt Belle Vue to this day within the Speedway fraternity.  

In early December and to use a different take on a famous quote from William Shakesphere when speaking on the on-goings of British Speedway this winter, then the term “Now is the Winter of our discontent” would prove to be an idea motto for the sport on this off season. It was always mentioned throughout the winter by speedway bosses that Belle Vue would in some way, shape or form be riding next season in some state and gave hope to the fans of seeing some speedway at their new home.

However with three teams struggling this winter with one of them being Belle Vue, the remaining two in Leicester Lions and the Coventry Bees, have saw the Leicester side being saved and saw a turbulent one for Coventry. The Bees had completed their line up way before Christmas time and this then led to Brandon Stadium where the Bees call home, being gutted and leaving the club homeless. This has since led to at the time I’ve written this blog, still having a massive uncertainty on the state of play for the Coventry with two months away from the start of the new season.

Also in December news came out of the AGM for the National League, that both Belle Vue and Coventry would be co-sharing a team in the competition next year. Confused, you will be. Manchester to Coventry is not particularly close to one other in truth, with both sides having to drive 2 hours and 7 mins from their respective stadiums door to door. It was also revealed that the fixtures would be split between the two teams as well, as this was released when Belle Vue was still trying to find investors for the club and had Coventry starting to go through the process of what was happening at their home.

For now Belle Vue fans are just awaiting to see who is their new management team going forward at the National Speedway Stadium and have all but locked in four riders reported for the new season, after the team came agonisingly close yet again to a first league title since 1993. Those riders reportedly reserved by the Aces are in the form of the Worrall brothers Steve and Richie, Australian youngster Max Fricke and one of Great Britain’s heroes last year in the World Cup in Craig Cook.

Another huge question is what is the situation with the Team Manager’s job, as Mark Lemon who had done a remarkable job to lead the Aces to back to back grand final appearances against Poole and Wolves respectively, currently awaiting like us to see if he is asked back to work with the new promotion. This will be their 89th consecutive season in the sport, and remains the longest if not the longest running speedway club not only in Britain but also the world, and they are very lucky to have made it to eighty-nine years after the chaos this winter for sure.

Storm suffer double setback against Fife

Ice Hockey

primarystorm2015logo-1

Manchester Storm   2 – 4  Fife Flyers   ctjwxjowiaqqeqn

Three third period goals saw the Fife Flyers inflicting another home loss on the Manchester Storm on Saturday night, as the Flyers completed a double over the Altrincham based club to see the Storm remain winless since the turn of the year.

After last weekend’s losses to Sheffield it saw the Storm meeting Gardiner Conference opponents in the Fife Flyers and a team that they have had a good record against this season. Manchester came out the traps quickly and put Fife’s netminder Greg Owen under early pressure in the game.

Fife towards the second half of the period forced play in their favour and had both teams cancel each other out with their play. A scoreless first period was brought to an end and was in truth a pretty uninspiring one for the fans.

Second period saw the deadlock broke in the game, as Ryan Dingle who seems to like playing against the Storm, put home after he pulled away from his defenseman and beat Mike Clemente for a 1-0 lead. Taylor Dickin then replied for the home side as the Canadian deflected a Patrik Valcak shot and the puck found its way in the back of the net.

Manchester’s powerplay unit has gone a bit stale of late and had the home side the perfect chance to cash in on their three powerplay opportunities that came their way, but the Storm were unable to make the most of them.

In the third it saw Fife being the more clinical side in front of goal and getting some luck their way too. The go ahead goal for the Flyers was very fortunate indeed, as a pass round the boards bounced nicely off the skate of Patrik Valcak and in what would have been a too many men call, instead saw Dingle tucking it past Clemente for a 2-1 score.

Three goals in a crazy forty-six seconds spell and saw the contest being settled. Sebastien Thinel made it a 3-1 game for the visitors before Matt Bissonette brought it back to a one goal game thirty-two seconds later and hopes of a comeback was short-lived as new signing at the Kirkcaldy club in Brett Cameron made sure of the points with a fourth goal for the Flyers. 

Game Stats:

Manchester:  Taylor Dickin 1+0, Matt Bissonnette 1+0, Dallas Ehrhardt 0+1, Cody Cartier 0+1, Mark Heatley 0+1, Patrik Valcak 0+1

Fife:  Ryan Dingle 2+0, Sebastien Thinel 1+1, Bryan Cameron 1+1, Russ Moyer 0+2,  Carlo Finucci 0+1 

SHOTS ON GOAL:

Manchester: 39   Fife 22

Penalties in Minutes:

Manchester : 6   Fife : 10 



Fife  3-1  Manchester

Sunday saw the sides renew acquaintances up north of the border, and saw the Fife Flyers making it double over Manchester with a 3-1 victory at the Fife Ice Arena.  The visitors led after the first period of play thanks to Paul Phillips finding the back of the net, but that was cancelled out in the second period by goals from Brendan Brooks and Ryan Dingle to see the hosts taking a lead into the third. 

Fife saw out the game and had Justin Fox scoring an empty netter with time expiring, but his goal put the exclamation point on the victory for the Scottish side and see the Storm continuing their search of their first win in 2017.

Steelers continue hoodoo over the Storm

Ice Hockey

primarystorm2015logo-1 Manchester Storm   1 – 4  Sheffield Steelers     steelers_logo_square

A sold out crowd at Altrincham Ice Arena saw the Manchester Storm falling to their neighbours from over the Pennines in the Sheffield Steelers, as ill discipline cost Omar Pacha’s side with his team having to face 11 powerplay in the game and almost play the second half of the contest with a man down.

Last year saw a thrilling game between the two sides in the last sellout game at the rink, however for one reason or another the home side never really got into the contest. Sheffield got the better of Storm the night before in the ‘Steel City’ with a late goal and with powerplay chances falling the way of the team in Orange, it was always likely that they bury one sooner than later.

That chance came in 13th minute when Mike Ratchuk put the visitors ahead on the powerplay as Manchester captain Trevor Johnson was serving a penalty. The home side had chances themselves but Sheffield’s netminder Ervins Mustukovs was equal to the shots. Manchester felt aggrieved in the game throughout, as some clear calls in the game were not being given in their favour and instead had them taking the bulk of the penalties of which some were born out of frustration.   

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Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography

One example was Mario Valery-Trubucco getting a high hit on the glass from a Sheffield man, but then after making a comment towards referee Michael Hicks he sat for an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty. That comment led to a frantic passage of play, as firstly Mark Heatley saw his effort bouncing off the bar and then had the Steelers breaking up ice and making it a 2-0 game through John Armstrong.

Second stanza saw the ill discipline rearing its ugly head again for the Storm and after having a rare powerplay opportunity it then saw Mark Heatley landing a big hit on a Sheffield man from behind and picking up a 10 minute call. Towards the back end of the period it got worse for the home side as they lost Connor Varley to a game penalty for a high sticks, which made Storm’s short bench even shorter.

Third period had Sheffield making the most of their bigger bench and tired Manchester side with all the penalties the home side had taken when Mike Ratchuk fired in his second of the game when unmarked at the front of goal and that made it 3-0 and game over. Manchester did have one moment of joy as Darian Dziurzynski found the back of the Steelers net to make it a 3-1 game and give a glimmer of hope to a slim comeback.

Those hopes were dashed with 11 second on the clock as Robert Dowd fire the puck into an empty net and gave the Sheffield side a 4-1 win and sees the South Yorkshire -side still unbeaten against the Storm in the Elite League.

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Game Stats: 

Manchester – Darian Dziurzynski 1+0, Matt Bissonnette 0+1, Mario Valery-Trubucco 0+1

Sheffield – Mike Ratchuk 2+0, John Armstrong 1+0, Rob Dowd 1+0, Levi Nelson 0+2, Ben O’ Connor 0+2 Mathieu Roy 0+1, Markus Nilsson 0+1   


Penalties; 

Manchester 55 PIMS                                          Sheffield 8 PIMS


Goalies;

Manchester – Mike Clemente  33 Shots – saves 30

Sheffield  – Ervins Mustukovs  28 Shots  – saves 27