“On Episode 34 of The Runner, Sachin Nakrani is joined by freelance football writer and editor of The False Nine, James Dutton, and Chief Content Officer at Squawka, Amar Singh, to reflect on Jurgen Klopp’s first 12 months in charge of Liverpool. The lads assess how the German has made the team a thrilling attacking force, got the best out of the likes of Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana, won countless ‘big’ matches and turned most, if not all, fans from doubters into believers.”
Nigeria has provided a hotbed of Premier League talent over the years, but it is a pair of rising stars that are leading the attack for the Super Eagles’ new generation.
Nwankwo Kanu, Jay-Jay Okocha and Celestine Babayaro were the headline of previous Nigerian sides that lit up World Cups with flair and imagination.
But following years of decline after their triumph at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, the new standard bearers have been found to follow in their predecessors’ footsteps.
In English football there has always been a fascination with the individual. From the cult of the manager to the star player, the influence of one has often been viewed as greater than the collective.
It is why the job of England manager continues to be sold as among the biggest in world football; the idea that one man can turn around years of infrastructural complacency and negligence.
The Roy of the Rovers phenomenon that has gripped English football for over 50 years still dominates. It is why Manchester United ‘owe it’ to Wayne Rooney to fit him into the first eleven, why dropping Steven Gerrard in his final season at Liverpool became such a seismic issue.
All-action super-heroes and chest-thumping talismanic captains are what England specialise in. And yet, it is a country without a major honour in 50 years, who haven’t since defeated a major nation at the knockout stage of a tournament in normal time.
As Wayne Rooney faces increasing questions over his future in the game, the issue of footballer burn out has come to the fore.
From Michael Owen to Joe Cole and Fernando Torres, countless wonder kids have fizzled out after scaling wondrous heights in their teenage years.
Sportsmail look at some of the most infamous, and some less so, to burn-out before reaching what should have been the peak years of their career…
With the first anniversary of his appointment fast approaching, Jurgen Klopp’s reign at Liverpool is approaching the giddy heights he promised in his first press-conference.
He stated his ambition to ‘turn doubters into believers’ at Anfield and revitalise the fortunes of a club that had gone stale under Brendan Rodgers and the expectations of a fan base that had become increasingly disillusioned.
Two cup final appearances last season suggest the German had little trouble injecting his ‘heavy metal’ style of football into the club.
With 12 goals in his last 13 appearances Islam Slimani is a man bang in form and one that will be giving Jose Mourinho nightmares as Manchester United look to arrest their Premier League slide.
United stopped the rot with a 3-1 EFL Cup win away at Northampton on Wednesday night, but once again failed to impress.
After successive league defeats against Manchester City and Watford, the sight of the buoyant champions – and their new £30million striker – rocking up at Old Trafford will be an unwelcome sight for the already under-pressure Portuguese.
Over the past decade, Liverpool and Chelsea have developed one of the most unlikely yet fierce rivalries in the Premier League.
While attention has been dominated by the 22 players on the pitch, and match-ups that have seen the likes of Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez do battle with Frank Lampard, John Terry and Didier Drogba.
But when they go head-to-head once again on Friday night at Stamford Bridge, you would be forgiven for allowing your attention to drift to the touchline as the two most animated and excitable managers in the Premier League meet for the first time.
‘It’s Neville to Campbell, Campbell to Rio,
Rio to Scholesy, Scholesy-Gerrard,
Gerrard to Beckham, Beckham to Heskey,
Heskey to Owen, it’s a goal, 5-1!’
It is perhaps a sign of the times that Ant and Dec soundtracked the greatest moment of the English football team in the last 15 years. Ignoring the fact the lyrics are incorrect – Michael Owen did not score the fifth goal – ‘We’re on the Ball’ reflected the fresh optimism that had been injected into the national side at the start of the Sven-Goran Eriksson era.
It was England’s official song as they travelled half-way across the world to Japan and South Korea for the 2002 World Cup, a journey that had looked a remote fantasy when Kevin Keegan resigned in the Wembley toilets after a 1-0 defeat to the Germans in October 2000.
The internet can be a ruthless place, Twitter especially. It’s the Western saloon of the Wild West, attracting all manner of people from across the board, shooting from the hip and asking questions later. It takes no prisoners, it leaves no survivors.
Certainly not after a Liverpool game, and not one as demoralising and gutless as the defeat at Burnley. It was awash with the hallmarks that pre-season was meant to wipe out — a slow start, ponderous possession play and a lack of imagination.
That it came a week after the thrilling, if not entirely flawless, victory at Arsenal seemed to heighten tensions among Reds fans. Two games that summed up the Jürgen Klopp reign so far — one step forward and two steps back. A brutal lack of consistency, with brilliance coming in flashes and stodginess aplenty.