#InsideTheIndustry – School Sport

Next up in our #InsideTheIndustry series we caught up with Health & Wellbeing teacher and junior football extraordinaire Mr Kowbel.

With schools closed or partially closed for a number of months over the last year, teachers have had to be creative in order to make sure their students are being challenged as well as possible when doing school work at home.

1. How has lockdown affected the way you’ve been able to teach over the last 12 months?

It’s been a real challenge to provide anything like the ‘normal’ physical PE experience as guidelines around changing facilities, use of equipment and social distancing has hit us hard.

We’ve not been able to follow Sport Scotland guidelines and have had to wait on guidance from Education Scotland which has led to frustration from learners and parents.

Our approach has very much been about focusing on the cognitive skills and physical qualities such as decision making, teamwork and communication.

The online home learning approach has been new for all of us and undoubtedly tough for learners but it has presented some positive aspects which we can incorporate into our practice in post Covid times.


2. As a PE teacher you’re used to being active throughout the year, how have you coped with being unable to get out of the playing fields/in the sports hall for large parts of the last year?

We’ve been extremely lucky with favourable weather and the response our learners have given to the challenges…there’s been very few moans and groans and they’ve embraced the situation!

We’ve kept activity games based and as I say the approach has been more about being active than skills development.

We utilised the short windows in between lockdowns to assess learners practical performance in the senior phase so have been really fortunate in that sense but there’s no getting away from the fact that experiential learning has been limited.

3. How difficult is it to run a PE lesson via Microsoft Teams?

Our Dance classes have actually been really successful! The staff and learners have worked so well together to keep learning on track. PE has been more problematic and we’ve tried to keep learners engaged with fitness advice and challenges with supporting mental well being the priority for this.  

The major challenge has been the diverse range of access to IT and quality of internet provision…despite the best efforts of schools and other agencies many learners have found accessing learning a significant struggle.

4. Have you and your colleagues had to be creative in the ways to get your students active during home learning?

Absolutely, as I say Dance has worked well but we’ve tried to keep things fun and positive. When the snow came we set challenges around this and it was good to see some of the learners out sledging when I took my own children to the golf course hills!

5. With school and club football suspended for long periods, how much have you missed being able to get out on the training pitch and matchdays in school/junior football this year?

It’s left a significant void!! The more relaxed environment is a huge part of building relationships beyond the classroom and in my view extra curricular opportunities are a fundamental part of school building a positive ethos and helping learners to transition from primary school, make new friends and build school pride.

Being unable to organise trips and tours is also disappointing as over the years the benefits and experiences they offer to learners is life shaping and life changing. Hopefully light is beginning to shine at the end of this long tunnel!

#InsideTheIndustry – Sports Management

Next up in our #InsideTheIndustry mini-series is a look into the world of sports management with Michael from Consilium Sports Group.

Based in Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh, Michael’s primary responsibilities lie within the Football Operations team working with players and personalities across the football world.

Like many sections of the sports industry over the last 12 months, sports management has been forced to adapt to a new way of working. With stadiums empty and meetings taking place online instead of in person, Michael has had to be flexible in his approach to work.

How have the last 12 months affected your working life?

I’ve been in a fortunate position that I actually got a new job during the pandemic, joining Consilium Sports Group in November. It’s been a strange start getting to grips with all that comes with a new job mostly virtually, but I’m thankful for being one of the luckier people during these times.

With so much uncertainty in the football world, has it been a challenging time to work in professional football?

Yes, it has but football has been one of the more privileged industries in terms of being able to return and continue in some form during the pandemic. A lot of clubs had to trim costs to survive and many of the players and staff felt that directly with wage cuts. The fans being unable to attend also hits income generation and in turn results in a knock on effect throughout the industry.

Whilst the top end of football has continued without much of a blip, the lower leagues and women’s game in Scotland were postponed for a prolonged period recently. We have a number of players who were affected by this including a strain on the players mental and physical wellbeing. There are a lot of knock on effects as mentioned, such as some players may have needed to showcase themselves this season for a new contract or a move but are now facing an uncertain future due to them not playing.

What have you been doing to manage working from home – has it been difficult to adapt?

It hasn’t been easy and I am sure everyone up and down the country has felt the same. I live in a flat with my girlfriend and have both been working from the same table in the living room, so that can certainly be a challenge.

I picked up a second hand bike back in April and found a lot of joy just getting out on that for an hour or heading out for a run, if the dodgy knee allows. I like to try get out for a lunch break or straight after work to break up the day a little bit, so I don’t find myself just moving from bed to table to sofa to bed. I also found it helped when we moved the table to a different place in the living room every 2 weeks or so, just to give it a different outlook. Although, sat next to the window you can end up a little distracted being neighbourhood watch!

With transfers affected by Covid, has the role of a football agency changed over the last year?

Covid has certainly slowed the transfer market down and money, especially in Scotland, is being spent a bit more carefully. I would say our role is still similar to before as we aim to represent the client in the best way we can.

We are there to provide support, advice and mentoring which does include contracts and transfers but we also pride ourselves on being more than that. We have increased our concierge support services including financial advisory, helped to develop long term plans with our athletes including after sport opportunities and also had our staff complete mental health wellbeing courses to be equipped in ways that may be of help to our talent, especially during these times.

We have also had to think of a new way to communicate with our talent and have started recording a talking newsletter that is distributed out to everyone as a way to keep everyone up to date and feel included.

It’s important to us that we are there for every part of our talent’s journey and not just when the contract renewal or transfer is being discussed. The pandemic has shown this to be even more important and the health and wellbeing of our talent is our number one priority.

With no fans at matches and a much tighter number of staff allowed in the stadiums – has it been difficult to miss out on attending games on a Saturday?

I have really missed going to the football. From a work perspective, we would usually be out watching our talent playing and it’s also a good time to catch up with them after a match to see how they are doing both professionally and personally. It also makes recruitment slightly more difficult due to being unable to watch any new talent in person.

From a personal point of view, getting along to games was also a time to see friends and family so that has been a big miss from a social aspect. Whilst there is an abundance of games on the TV at the moment, nothing beats a live stadium atmosphere.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, what are you most looking forward to in your work life?

Getting back to some form of normality will be great. I never thought I would miss an office environment as much as I have, but I have taken for granted the positives of the general day to day interaction and banter you get in an office.

I’m also really looking forward to just meeting everyone in person. Starting a new job and doing a lot of the introduction meetings over Zoom has been rather strange so it will be good to meet more of my colleagues and also the talent as most of them have only ever seen me in a square on a screen. The hardest part of that will probably be having to change out of my pyjama bottoms, but I am very much looking forward to it.

Consilium Sports Group is a Sports & Entertainment Management Agency based in Edinburgh. You can click here to visit their website.

#InsideTheIndustry – Sports Media

Next up in our #InsideTheIndustry series, which takes a look at the impacts of Covid-19 on various parts of the sports sector, we caught up with Lauren, Head of Content at Gulf Youth Sport.

Gulf Youth Sport is a wide-ranging media platform in the Middle East dedicated to all things youth sport, from PE programmes within schools to elite sports academies in the UAE and across the Gulf. Lauren is the brains behind many of the articles and features on GYS, keeping on top of everything newsworthy in the world of youth sport.

Lauren has been based in her homeland of Australia for most of the pandemic due to travel-related restrictions, meaning she has been forced to keep up to date remotely across a number of timezones! She very kindly took time out of her busy schedule to let us know how Covid has affected her work…

How have the last 12 months affected Gulf Youth Sport and its activities?

The temporary halt of all competition and training changed the way we covered sport in the Middle East. Instead of being on the ground at events, the GYS platform focused on publicising positive sporting stories and finding the committed young athletes and teachers who were continuing to keep up their fitness despite the circumstances.

We covered virtual tournaments, ran campaigns to support sports academies and presented daily workouts to help the community keep active. But the highlight has been covering the reopening of sporting academies and return to PE in schools across recent months.

With so much uncertainty in the sports world, has it been a challenging time to work in sports media?

Initially the thought of no competitive sport to cover for an extended period caused uncertainty. However, there are always times when sports news is slower including over the Christmas break or when the football season ends and you need to find creative ways to develop content.

The past year has shown how adaptable the industry can be given the sports sections of newspapers, magazines and websites have continually been updated despite the decrease in sport. In saying that, nothing beats the thrill of broadcasting from a live match or writing about a competitive league!

What have you been doing to manage working from home – has it been difficult to adapt to online meetings and media sessions?

It’s hard to even remember a time when online meetings and interviews weren’t just normal practice so I think I’ve become quite accustomed to working this way.

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to chat to some people that are normally hard to catch because they’re busy doing so many things during normal times. To manage working from home, I’ve tried to replicate the office as best I can and work in a quiet space to help me focus.

With schools and academies all over the Middle East looking for creative ways to keep their players active, how important has it been for GYS to give them a platform over the last year?

It has potentially been the most important time at GYS to really showcase schools and academies that had their operations shut down. We thought it was vital to show academies were still present and were ready to reopen with all the necessary precautions when given the all clear.

We did this most prominently through our Support Your Sports Academy campaign which publicised academies struggles and allowed parents and young athletes to show their support.

How important is it to have a community within GYS which allow parents, coaches and players to share best practice?

The GYS community has certainly been a haven of positivity throughout this time, showing support and encouragement for all the efforts teachers, coaches and academies have been putting in to keep kids active.

It’s been a great forum for leaders of schools and sporting organisations to demonstrate ways they are adapting to new rules allowing them to operate safely and students have been able to see opportunities to become involved in virtual challenges.

GYS is home to large numbers of young aspiring media people, how pleased are you that the GYS media programme has continued to allow young people to gain experience in sports media in such difficult circumstances?

Having launched the GYS Sports Media Course during tough lockdowns last year it’s been fantastic to have an avenue where students can still connect with sport while not being able to play. Students have shown incredible skill covering sport, as well as initiative to find creative ways to complete the course, even when there’s been no live sport to attend.

Often this has meant siblings and parents stepping in to be the focus of videos, pictures and articles! As we continue to offer the course, I’m pleased that more students will have the opportunity to cover sport, particularly given they’ll be back competing or analysing sport from the sidelines in no time. 

Gulf Youth Sport is an online platform dedicated to raising the profile of youth sport in the Middle East. GYS aim to celebrate rising stars and encourage increased participation and enjoyment levels in sport and exercise.

You can keep up to date with Gulf Youth Sport by visiting their website here.

#InsideTheIndustry – Sports Events & Tourism

The last year has been strange for us all. Schools have been closed, sports events postponed and played behind closed doors, travel halted and life as we know it changed significantly.

The sports industry, like many others across a wide ranging array of sectors, has been impacted hugely by Covid-19. Over the course of a mini-series of #InsideTheIndustry articles we aim to take a look at how the day to day routines of working within the world of sport have been affected in the last 12 months.

Kicking us off is Rory, Operations & Customer Journey Executive at The Twedex Group based in Edinburgh. Rory’s day to day includes planning and managing sports tours and events in the UK and Europe, with schools and sports clubs leaning on his expertise to plan enjoyable and rewarding sporting experience for their youngsters.

How have the last 12 months affected the sports events industry in general?

The pandemic has had a monumental impact on the sports events industry, with it coming to a complete standstill in March last year. Working directly within the industry we remained hopeful of running our events in the late summer of 2020 and none of us would have predicted that we were going to still be in the same position almost a year down the line.

Particularly for young children who have had an extremely disruptive time in terms of education, the return of domestic grassroots sport last summer was a real boost for kids mental and physical wellbeing and I can imagine it has been tough for them to have had this taken away from them a few months later.

Fingers crossed grassroots sport can come back alongside education, as young people are crying out for a bit of structure and normality of day-to-day life.

Professional/elite sport has been given some flexibility as opposed to other industries since summer last year, which I feel has been important for many people (me included) to help distance yourself from the issues around the globe even though you are restricted to your own sofa.

Besides the obvious exclusion of supporters in stadiums, the top European football leagues, golf, tennis etc have been relatively unaffected financially with the majority of revenue being generated through TV and sponsorship deals. However, the further you are from the top of these respective sports, the more impact the pandemic has had.

Scottish football clubs in the SPFL are struggling to make ends meet until supporters are allowed back into stadiums so fingers crossed the vaccine rollout continues to excel and supporters can get back into stadiums asap at all levels for financial but also atmospheric and social reasons.

With so much uncertainty in the sports world, has it been a challenging time to work in sports events?

Personally, it has been a difficult period with so much uncertainty in terms of a timeline of when things will return to normal. It was extremely frustrating back in March when everything came to a halt as all the work that had gone into specific events went to waste.

It is natural to fear the worst and consider alternative career paths, but I feel that I’m fortunate to work within a close-knit team where we have worked through the challenges as a group and we believe that the hunger for schools and clubs to get back playing sport will help get us back on track as a business.

What have you been doing to manage working from home – has it been difficult to adapt to online meetings etc?

It’s not been too difficult to adapt as we have needed to work remotely prior to the pandemic. Saying that, I am very much looking forward to getting back into the office for general social interaction with colleagues on a day-to-day basis as opposed to an hour’s chat on Zoom once a week.

It has been difficult to measure productivity with there being a lot less work to do, although I do believe that a majority office-based role with flexibility to work from home is the way forward and I think we will see a major shift towards flexible working across all industries when the dust finally settles.

How important is it to give players and coaches something to look forward to when things return to normality?

It has been a hugely disruptive 12 months educationally. Grassroots sport offers a massive release for young people, so the sooner they can get back playing safely the better.

Teams have endured so much disappointment on several occasions with tours and tournaments taken away from them, which is why I have everything crossed that we will be able to provide some positivity at the end of this extremely frustrating period by delivering our tours and events.

Tours and tournaments will probably look and feel quite different when they return later this year – how important is it to ensure everything is done to make them as safe and enjoyable as possible?

If we are able to ensure that tours and events are conducted in as safe a manner as possible I believe the enjoyment will come naturally for everyone involved. Although these are likely to be only domestic for the rest of the year, to be able to return to a setting with teammates, friends and family after such a difficult period will be such a relief as everyone will be able to see that we are slowly returning to normal life.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, what are you most looking forward to in your work life?

I am looking forward to delivering successful events and tours as to play a part in providing something positive for young people is something I will take great satisfaction in. On a personal note I am very much looking forward to getting back into a structured lifestyle, returning to the office full time and working with new and existing schools and sports teams.

The Twedex Group comprises several unique companies, each specialising in a different area of the sports industry. With offices in the UK, Spain, and the UAE, our products and services are varied but our approach remains consistent – passion, honesty, reliability and unfaltering quality in everything we do.

For more information please send us an email by clicking here.

Benefits of Event-Based Sports Tourism

Hosting the world’s major sporting events come with a large price tag attached. Some countries are willing to expend millions of pounds each year to hold a tennis or golf Grand Slam or Grand Prix race, while others pump billions into the hosting of an Olympics or World Cup.

Cities rely on some of that money being recuperated when people from all across the region and world descend on a city, first to watch the sporting event, but with spare time allowing them to explore what a city has to offer.

For that reason the sport tourism industry has an estimated value of £610 billion according to a study by Eurosport.

The competitive (and expensive) exercise of bidding for these major events begins the thinking process for fans who start dreaming of a holiday destination based on sport.

The Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Cups of any sport are major examples of events where fans go into ballots for their preferred matches and events, long before they’ve left their house.

But before any fans have booked their tickets, hotels are already filling up with athletes, coaches and families of players An estimated 10,000 athletes alone need to be housed during the summer Olympics, but this is one of the few events where a Village is built specifically for them.

Aside from the sporting event, the allure of a particular stadium can be enough for some. Cricket fans travel from far and wide for the chance to watch a Test match at Lord’s , while others will travel the same route only to divert at the last moment and head down the road to Old Trafford.

This is in addition to the many who are content to not even see an event, but just to walk around a stadium and bask in the glory of an empty ground steeped in sporting history. Stadiums like Camp Nou receive around 32 million tourists a year, including those attending matches.

But big events put the city on the global stage sparking future tourism occurring long past the events finish date. During each major event images of the country are beamed around the world. This means even the casual sports observer might be drawn to a country–as one is to the French countryside while watching the Tour De France. In addition sporting lovers that have attended are likely to return with glowing reports of where they’ve visited.

Paris is in the ideal position to benefit from tourism when it hosts the 2024 Olympics. As a city used to hosting major sporting events, much of the infrastructure is in place like the Stade De France built for the 1988 World Cup. With less expenditure, money spent from sport tourists is more likely to go directly into the local economy.

Fond memories alongside the ability to say ‘I was there’ during the world’s greatest sporting events will continue to be a driver as the event tourism industry builds up again.

But it’s not just the Olympics that draw spectators from around the globe. Tourism based on sport participation continues to grow and just as many people are looking forward to travelling with their team or school again.

Events like the popular World School Games Event Series bring more than 200 schools and their supporters together across the year at tournaments in the UAE, UK and Spain.

Again these events make a beneficial impact on the economy as many participants are making a trip to a new country and ready to explore beyond their hotel and visit the attractions on offer.

When stadium capacity is increased for major events, this paves the way for young athletes to return to large-scale competition and have their family and school mates cheering them on.

Champions League Preview: Tuesday 18th February

Liverpool vs Atlético Madrid

Liverpool host La Liga giants Atlético Madrid at Anfield this evening in the first leg of their Last 16 tie, with the Premier League champions elect looking to continue the defence of their Champions League crown.

The main feature of this meeting is the different situations in which both teams arrive. Liverpool lead Manchester City by 25 points in the Premier League and their league nightmare almost 30-years seems to be coming to an end.

Atlético Madrid on the other hand are fourth in La Liga and they are looking to secure their place in the Champions League for the 2020/21 season with a strong finish to their domestic season.

In a huge blow for the Spanish side, important players such as Joao Felix, Trippier, Morata, and Gimenez are injured and unavailable to play tonight. Despite this, it must be taken into account that the Wanda Metropolitano is a difficult place to play, with Simeone’s teams always demonstrating confidence and a style of play which is difficult to break down.

In their group matches at the Wanda Metropolitano Atleti achieved 7 points out of a possible 9, with a draw against Juventus the only occasion where they dropped points. After being eliminated from the Copa del Rey, Atlético Madrid now find themselves at a turning point of their season.

The team is now focusing on the only two fronts it has available: finish in Champions League qualification positions at the end of the season and lifting the Champions League trophy for the very first time in their history.

Atlético’s recent record against Liverpool includes two wins, a draw and a loss in the last four games between the two teams. This is the game with perhaps more friction and tension of this week’s Champions League knockout stages. Amazing players on each side with great ambition will make this a very interesting and enjoyable match to watch.

Borussia Dortmund vs PSG

Two European giants go head to head at Signal Iduna Park this evening, but this match is mainly characterized by the fact that neither of these teams have done particularly well in the European elite tournament in the last few years.

During the past few seasons, both sides’ European dreams have been drowned by unexpected disappointments. As a matter of fact, the French side has lost in the Last 16 in each of the last three seasons, whilst Dortmund was also beaten at this stage during the 2018/19 season against Pochettino´s Tottenham Hotspur and have not reached the quarter-finals since the 2016/2017 season.

The game promises to be really intense, as Dortmund’s talented youngsters such as Sancho, Haaland, Hakimi, and Brandt have proven to be very efficient in the final third of the pitch – Dortmund have scored 18 goals in their last 4 Bundesliga matches.

Nonetheless, PSG has the best defensive record in this season´s Champions League, having conceded only twice, both goals against Real Madrid.

The trending Norwegian star, Erling Haaland, who has scored 9 goals in his 6 first matches with Dortmund, is one of the most important weapons in the German side for the match and has already proven to have the necessary skills to play in the Champions League with 8 goals in this season’s competition.

Thomas Tuchel will see some familiar faces as he plays against his former club in one of the most amazing football atmospheres in European football at Signal Iduna Park, in a match that promises good football, lots of pace and vivid support from both sides fans.

Premier League Team of the Decade

If you’ve been keeping a keen eye over on our Trans World Soccer social media channels, you’ll notice we’ve been selecting our Premier League ‘Team of the Decade’ recently.

If you’ve not seen it, take a look at our team in full below – we’ve gone for an attack-minded 4-3-3.

Petr Cech (Chelsea & Arsenal)

The former Chelsea & Arsenal goalkeeper holds a number of records, including the most clean sheets in Premier League history. A Champions League winner with Chelsea in 2012, Cech tops the tree when it comes to goalkeepers this decade!

Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City & West Ham)

The Argentinian joined Manchester City on the eve of their financial revolution and his exceptional performances have helped City to many domestic trophies in the last ten years. At 34 years old he is still hanging in there…

John Terry (Chelsea)

Known for his world class reading of the game and rock solid performances in defence, Terry was a mainstay at the heart of the Chelsea defence in many trophy filled seasons, making him one of the league’s all time greats.

Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)

The towering Belgian is one of the best defenders in the Premier League era and one of City’s greatest ever. The captain led his team to their first league title since 1968, winning three more before leaving in 2019.

Patrice Evra (Manchester United & West Ham)

Rounding off the back four is Patrice Evra. A fantastic servant to Manchester United during a very successful period for the club, the left back had quality in abundance in both attack and defence – making him one of the finest defenders to play this decade.

N’Golo Kante (Leicester City & Chelsea)

First up in our midfield three is N’Golo Kante. Renowned for his tireless work in central midfield, Kante was a major contributor to Leicester City’s miraculous title win in 2016, earning himself a move to Chelsea where he is the heartbeat of their team!

Frank Lampard (Chelsea & Manchester City)

Lampard was one of the finest footballers of his generation known for his late surging runs into the box. Lampard captained Chelsea to the Champions League in 2012 and had a major influence in multiple domestic successes.

David Silva (Manchester City)

Completing our three-man midfield is Manchester City’s Spanish magician, David Silva. Central to everything good that City have achieved in the last ten years, Silva’s ability on the ball means he glides around the pitch creating chances and scoring goals!

Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Outstanding with both feet, Eden Hazard’s ability has gathered praise from all over the football world. A key man for Chelsea for many years, his move to Madrid has left big shoes to fill!

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United & Everton)

Playing for Manchester United and Everton during the 2010s, scoring over 100 Premier League goals, Rooney is a natural goalscorer who has been vital to his former clubs with some memorable strikes along the way!

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

What else needs to be said other than AGUEROOOOO? Scorer of the decade’s most memorable Premier League goal when Manchester City lifted the title in 2012, the Argentinian striker has netted 173 times in the league since his arrival in England in 2011!

Alternative Premier League Preview 2019/20

With the 2019/20 Premier League season set to kick off this evening when Liverpool take on new boys Norwich City at Anfield, we preview the new campaign with a difference…

Most Turbulent Summer

Newcastle United

With rumours of Rafa Benitez’s departure circling at St James Park for months this year, the time finally came during the summer when it was revealed that the Spaniard had turned down the option of a new contract, instead heading to the Chinese Superleague to take charge of Dalian Yifang.

Benitez’s departure sparked another round of fan protests against owner Mike Ashley, which has created a difficult environment for new manager Steve Bruce to walk into. Bruce’s appointment came when the Newcastle first team squad were in China for the Premier League Asia Trophy, with the Englishman flown out to meet up with his new club well into their pre-season preparations.

Players came and went throughout the summer with no one quite sure who was in charge of making the signings. £40 million striker Joelinton is the biggest name to arrive on Tyneside during the transfer window, but was he a Steve Bruce signing? Probably not, with the scouting team and people above Bruce making the decision before his arrival.

Injury prone Andy Carroll arrived at St James Park on deadline day, in a move which could be a hit or a miss in terms of the amount he will contribute to the team.


Best Business

David Luiz

The maverick Brazilian was a centre piece of Chelsea’s pre-season tour to Japan and has played over 160 games for the Stamford Bridge club over two spells. A £50 million signing for French giants Paris St Germain five years ago, David Luiz’s £8m move to Arsenal on deadline day seems to be the best business of the summer transfer window.

At a time when Arsenal were crying out for a new centre half, after club captain Laurent Koscielny sealed a move to French side Bordeaux, David Luiz will slot right into the heart of the Gunners defence. Key players from rival clubs do not come around very often, let alone for £8m in the age of big money signings.

Luiz is a player who will fit in well to the ball playing style of football fans have come to expect at the Emirates. With Celtic’s Kieran Tierney also recruited on the final day of the transfer window, Arsenal fans can expect to see a new look back four over the course of the season.


Worst Value for Money

Harry Maguire

Although there is no denying Harry Maguire’s ability as a centre half, with solid performances at club and international level over the last few seasons – it is quite astonishing that he has garnered a move to Manchester United for £80 million pounds – eighty million pounds.

Even in the times of astronomical transfer fees, £80 million is a sum which you’d expect to see paid for a match-winning centre forward or a play making midfielder, at very least a top-class player who has solid experience in the Champions League.

In Harry Maguire Manchester United have signed a strong, solid defender who reads the game well, but who will not make a remarkable difference to the United starting XI on the whole. United’s goals against record in the 2018/19 Premier League read 54 goals last season, more goals than Wolves, Everton, Crystal Palace and Newcastle.

Defence was clearly an area United needed to strengthen – but at £80 million for a centre half, it must be said that the money may have been used more wisely elsewhere. Toby Alderweireld, a player who has a wealth of Champions League experience and is only four years older than Maguire, reportedly has a buy-out clause of £25m – and that says it all.

Leicester City will be laughing all the way to the bank having made a £68m profit on a player they signed for £12m from Hull City in June 2017.


First Manager Sacked

Javi Gracia – Watford

With expectations at all Premier League clubs increasing every year and clubs around Watford spending heavily in a bid to secure domestic success, the pressure could be on for Javi Gracia in his first full season in charge of the north-west London side.

Summer signings Danny Welbeck and Ismaila Sarr will be looking to make an instant impact as the league season kicks off tomorrow at home to Brighton and Hove Albion. With Arsenal, a rejuvenated Everton and reigning champions Manchester City to face in the first six fixtures, Gracia will be looking to pick up as many points as possible in matches against Newcastle and West Ham United.

With fans and owners expecting another solid season at Vicarage Road after last year’s run to the FA Cup final, Gracia will be hoping for a quick start to league proceedings in 2019/20 – otherwise the pressure could be on.


Bottom at Christmas

Sheffield United

Newly promoted sides are always tipped to struggle in the Premier League and Sheffield United could be in for a tough season back in the top flight.

Fellow promotion winners Aston Villa have spent big money during the summer window, with nine signings made in the hope that it will boost their survival chances, while Championship winners Norwich should build on a very successful season in 2018/19 with a core squad who know each other well.

Chris Wilder’s side will be looking to prove the doubters wrong and have new signings Phil Jagielka and Oli McBurnie to come into the team which will start the Blades’ first season in the Premier League since Neil Warnock’s side in 2006/07.

Premier League Season Review

As the latest football season comes to a close, the English Premier League has once again proved itself as the superior domestic league across the world.

A nail-biting title race between Manchester City and Liverpool, full of twists and excitement stretched all the way to the final day of the season, with fans of all clubs hooked.

There were also fantastic European campaigns for Liverpool and Spurs, who meet in Madrid for the Champions League Final and Chelsea and Arsenal, who will travel to Baku to battle for the Europa League. Today we will look back on another emphatic season and see who were the standout players, teams and managers of 2018/19.


Manager of the Season:

Josep Guardiola – Manchester City

Following last season’s record 100 points haul for the season, Guardiola became the first manager in Premier League history to successfully retain the title. Playing an elegant, attacking style of football, similar to that of Pep’s former Barcelona side, City won 32 of their 38 league games, scoring 95 goals. This also included an impressive 14 game consecutive winning run to finish the season and beat Liverpool to the prize by just a single point.


Player of the Season:

Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool

Virgil van Dijk has had a major impact on Liverpool since joining in 2017/18, with the Dutch defender becoming a clear fans favourite at Anfield this season. Powerful in the air, strong in the tackle and comfortable in possession, the commanding centre-half helped Liverpool to their highest ever Premier League points total, keeping 20 clean sheets in the process. Van Dijk has also contributed with some important goals at the other end for the Red’s and is now regarded by many as the top defender in world football. A worthy winner.


Surprise Package:

Wolves – 7th Place

One of the biggest surprises of the season was the success of Wolves. Promoted from the Championship the previous season, Wolves could yet be playing in Europe next season following a 7th place finish should Manchester City defeat Watford in the FA Cup Final. With their resilient defending and fast counter attacking approach, Manager Nuno Espirato Santo has gained plenty of plaudits for his side’s performances, with impressive defeats of Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal at Molineux this season. The strike partnership between Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota in particular has been key to the sides success with 13 and 9 goals respectively.


Under Performers of the Season:

Manchester United – 6th Place

Yet another disappointing campaign at Old Trafford. Arguably the world’s biggest club, United have missed out on Champions League football for next season with many question marks now clouding over the futures of a number of players. Despite spending millions of the playing squad, 3-time Premier League champion Jose Mourinho was unable to meet expectations and was shown the door. His replacement, former United goal scorer Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived, and despite an initial up-turn in form, it appears as though the wheels may have come off for Ole, with his long-term future now also looking uncertain. A big summer rebuild required.


Signing of the Season:

Salomon Rondon – Newcastle United

Venezuelan frontman Salomon Rondon has enjoyed a successful season for Newcastle since joining on a year-long loan from relegated West Brom last summer. Identified by manager Rafa Benitez as the man to lead the line for the magpies, Rondon has been involved in 47% of United’s goals this season, having contributed 8 assists in addition to his 10 top-flight strikes. With West Brom failing to achieve promotion back to the Premier League, Rondon’s contract contains a £16.5 million release clause, however it remains to be seen whether he returns to St James’ Park next season.

AFC Ajax Academy Success Stories

After a 4-1 win over Real Madrid in this year’s UEFA Champions League, Ajax have earned themselves a quarter final match up against Italian giants Juventus. They have one of the most famous youth academies in world football, a set up which has been copied and envied by clubs all over the globe.

We have taken a look at some of the academy’s best success stories over the years.

Christian Eriksen

Eriksen began his youth career at Ajax in 2008 and made his breakthrough to the first team in a 1-1 draw against NAC Breda. Eriksen went on to play 113 times for Ajax, also earning an international call up for Denmark whilst in the Eredivisie.

Eriksen moved to Tottenham for a fee of £11 million in 2013 and has gone on to become one of the most recognisable figures in the English Premier League. The Dane, following in the footsteps of compatriots Michael and Brian Laudrup, became an icon at Ajax in an era when they were losing some of their status in European terms. Eriksen’s subtle football and vision were a reminder of the club’s fine creators of the past. Inevitably, his talent outgrew the confines of the Netherlands, but he patiently waited for what he felt was the right stage of his maturity to move to Tottenham Hotspur.

Wesley Sneijder

Sneijder began his career at Ajax, joining the youth academy in 1991 as a seven-year-old, following the footsteps of his brother. He made his first professional appearance in February 2003 in a 6-0 win against Willem II. After leaving the Amsterdam giants, Sneijder went on to play for clubs such as Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Galatasaray. Classed by many as a brilliant, diminutive playmaker, Sneijder inherited the fabled number 10 jersey at Ajax and made 126 appearances for the club.

Real Madrid paid an eye-catching €27 million for Sneijder in 2007 and he won the Primera Liga with Madrid. Upon joining Inter Milan, the midfielder won a Serie A title and the 2010 Champions League whilst guiding for the Netherlands, for whom he holds the record for appearances, to the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa.

Rafael van der Vaart

Midfielder Van der Vaart spent seven years at the Ajax youth academy, between 1993 and 2000. He went on to make 117 appearances and score 52 goals in a five year stretch with the 1st team. Van der Vaart has made over 400 professional football appearances scoring 135 goals, for clubs such as Real Madrid, Tottenham, Hamburg and Real Betis. Van der Vaart represented his country in three World Cups and three European Championships.

Ryan Babel

Ryan Babel began his career at Ajax in 1998, staying with the youth squad for six years until 2004. Whilst he was still 17, Babel made his first team debut in a 4-0-win vs. ADO Den Haag. He scored his first senior goal against De Graafschap in a 5-0 win and went on to make 54 appearances for the Dutch national team. Since leaving AFC Ajax, Babel has appeared for Liverpool, Hoffenheim, Besiktas and Fulham.


Daley Blind

Following on from his father, Danny, Daley Blind joined the Ajax Youth Academy in 1998. Consistently performing with the A-juniors in the 2006-07 season, Blind earned his place in the first team in the 2008-09 season, signing his first professional contract aged 17. Blind’s debut arrived later that season, in December 2008, in an away match vs. FC Volendam. Blind went on to play his trade for Manchester United before returning to his boyhood club in 2018. To date Blind has made 60 appearance for the Netherlands, scoring two international goals.


Edgar Davids

Davids made his senior debut in 1991. Recognized by Pelé as one of the world’s 100 greatest living footballers, Edgar Davids, a Suriname native, is one of the most complete midfielders to have played the game in the last twenty-five years. Davids spent six years in the youth set up at AFC Ajax before spending five successful years in the first-team.  Moves to AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur and a return to Ajax were all part of his impressive football CV.


Dennis Bergkamp

Bergkamp joined Ajax Academy at the age of 11. Working his way through the squads, Bergkamp was handed his debut by another academy legend, Johan Cruyff, in a 2-0 victory against Roda JC. Winning the league title, the European Cup Winners’ Cup and the UEFA Cup on one occasion. Bergkamp moved to Inter Milan in 1993 and won the UEFA Cup once in his 2 years at the club. Bergkamp then moved to Arsenal in 1995 and became a club legend. Winning the Premier League on 3 occasions, being part of the team that went unbeaten in a season. Bergkamp came runner-up in the 1993 Ballon d’Or and 3rd place in 1992. He was also named in the Fifa 100, which is a list created by Pele of the 100 greatest living players.


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