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Ipswich Town: 5 Things – ahead of Rotherham clash

I examine five things regarding Rotherham United hosting Ipswich Town on Saturday, in the second week of EFL Championship action.

1. The last result:
It wasn’t the best of starts for Paul Warne’s Rotherham side back in the Championship. They were thrashed 5-1 by Brentford on the opening day. The Tractor boys also didn’t fully hit the ground running, after they were held to a 2-2 draw against Championship newcomers, Blackburn Rovers.

2. The Managers:
Paul Warne manages the South Yorkshire side. He successfully guided the club back to the Championship at the first time of asking, following the club’s 2-1 victory over Shrewsbury in the Play-Off final.

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Ipswich Town manager Paul Hurst was that very manager in the Shrewsbury dugout. He did very well last season with the Shrews, who were one of the relegation favourites. This earnt him the chance to move to Ipswich where he signed a three-year deal. Hurst was also a fans’ favourite at Rotherham, with him playing as a defender for the club.

3. Last season’s finish:
Rotherham: 4th (League One)
Ipswich: 12th (Championship)

4. Ones to Watch:
Rotherham – Joe Newell: He has the ability to be a real threat by creating and scoring goals. The 25 year-old has also been involved in Rotherham’s more recent campaigns in the Championship, and he looks very comfortable in this league.

Ipswich – Gwion Edwards (via @BenRowland1314): “The Welsh winger was the main highlight from Saturday and I think anyone watching the game would agree. The former Peterborough man had a sublime competitive game for ITFC and topped it off with a goal, an assist, and that flick.”

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5. What do the fans think:

Follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport

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Opposition Preview: Brentford vs Rotherham United 04/08/18

With the Millers facing Brentford away on the opening day of the season in the Championship, I spoke to popular Brentford blog, Beesotted about the game and how they see their season transpiring.

What was last season like for The Bees?

“Brentford had another impressive season overall, but we were hamstrung by a poor start to the season results wise, even though the performances were consistent for almost the whole nine months. Clinical finishing cost us a play-off place, but in truth, we weren’t quite good enough and the fans could have all done without yet more end of season lottery heartbreak.”

So how’s this transfer window been for yourselves?

“It’s not over unfortunately. We are bracing ourselves for losing Ryan Woods plus maybe one or two others before the window closes, even though we have brought it some excellent replacements. There’s never a dull moment at Griffin Park.”

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Midfielder Ryan Woods was voted as ‘Supporters’ Player of the Year’ last season and has been linked with Swansea City. The 24 year-old joined Brentford in 2015 from Shrewsbury Town.

Who could be the key player that the Millers should look out for?

“We are hoping for an impressive debut by Said Benrahma, and Marcus Forss could be one to keep a watchful eye on if he gets the nod up front.”

Benrahma is a young, versatile player who can play as a striker or a winger. The Algerian international joined Brentford from French Ligue 1 side Nice for an undisclosed fee, on a four-year deal.

What’s your score prediction for the game?

“Brentford 3-1 Rotherham.”

Finally, how do you see the 2018-19 season panning out for the Bees?

“Another top ten finish for the Bees I reckon, play-offs are not beyond the realms of possibility, but unlikely. We are arguably too lightweight up top to mount a serious promotion challenge in all probability.”

Follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport

 

Thank you to the England National Team – 2018 World Cup

Thank you to Gareth Southgate, the England players and staff:

Strangers were hugging each other, singing ‘Three Lions’ while throwing pints in the air. Roads were shut down with people dancing in the middle of them, and I’m buying 100 waistcoats.

Club loyalties have been set aside and the country has been brought together in inspiration and adoration.

You’ve given us a Harry Kane last-gasp winner against Tunisia.

Harry Kane’s brace against Tunisia.

You’ve given us a thrilling game with six goals against Panama.

You’ve even given us a surreal penalty shootout victory against Columbia, (and I never thought I’d be singing ‘Three Lions’ with that Robert bloke from Emmerdale in the boozer after that win, but there go).

That’s the moment ‘It’s coming home’ went from naive optimism to a feeling of real optimism.

The national team have done our country proud. I’ve never really been nervous watching England before, just when I’m watching my team Rotherham. But my goodness, the way you’ve got myself and millions of others invested in this World Cup genuinely believing, is amazing.

There’s still a game to play against Belgium for third place, but I imagine it’s a bittersweet feeling for the nation.

The likes of the Scottish and the Welsh can make their jokes, but if anything, the jokes’ on them.

The World Cup trophy itself may not be coming home, but football most certainly is.

A country divided is now a country united together. Let’s keep it that way.

Southgate you’re the one…

Kane Image: https://goo.gl/images/AZzTKw

TWITTER REACTS: Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia

Following Russia thrashing Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening game of the 2018 World Cup, here’s how Twitter reacted.

The goal-fest certainly wets the appetite for the rest of the tournament:

Gary Lineker was quick to criticise the Arabian side:

Soon to be in the papers…

After initially thinking that the game would be won by narrow margins, the result came as quite a shock. This is even more evident when you look at the statistics:

Alex Bullions perfectly summed of the match:

Paddy Power showed their class:

Follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport

FULL PREVIEW: FIFA World Cup 2018 – Every country examined

I take a look at every single country taking part in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia ahead of the tournament.

Group A

Egypt – Unfortunately the focus on Egypt’s key player, Mohamed Salah, is for the wrong reasons ahead of the World Cup. Salah who is the Premier League’s highest scorer is facing doubts as to whether he will be ready for the World Cup following the Champions League final where the 25 year-old was forced off with a shoulder injury after being taken down by Sergio Ramos. He has been named in the squad, though. Egypt are currently ranked 30th in the FIFA rankings.

Russia – Could home advantage provide a catalyst for Russia to make history? The answer is, most likely not. However, advancing from their group seems very likely with their favourable draw and it will surely be the least that the host nation’s supporters expect. Most of the sides’ players play in the Russian leagues but the likes of ‘keeper Igor Akinfeev and attacker Fyodor Smolov will be the ones to look out for.

Saudi Arabia – Juan Antonio Pizzi’s team will be hoping to put previous World Cup blushes behind them after failing to qualify for the previous two World Cups. They are clear outsiders and the likes of Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, who is their leading scorer for the national team with 28 goals in 38 appearances, will have to be on top of their game if they are to stand a chance of making it out of the group.

Uruguay – Arguably the most favoured side in the group, Uruguay advanced to the World Cup semi-finals back in 2010 and the veteran team also won the Copa America in 2011 with many players from these tournaments still in the side. With a strong defence and plenty of bite going forwards, they are expected to do well in this competition.

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Group B

Iran – Whilst they may be underdogs, Iran qualified for the tournament fantastically. The Iranians topped their qualification group with 22 points from 10 matches. Moreover, Iran didn’t lose a single match in their qualification group. Sardar Azmoun could prove key, the 23 year-old scored seven goals on Iran’s road to qualification.

Morocco – The Moroccans have only qualified once from the group stages of a World Cup in their history, but could they be dark horses? Even Portugal and Spain may struggle to break down their tough defence and this defensive security will be crucial if they are to finish ahead of the big guns in the group. They are captained by Juventus’ Medhi Benatia.

Portugal – Portugal head to Russia as European Champions after their triumph at Euro 2016, in France. I think nobody needs to be notified about just how good this side can be, and how emphatic a certain, Cristiano Ronaldo can be. The nation’s supporters will expect their team to qualify. Portugal’s best ever finish at a World Cup is 3rd place, in 1966.

Spain – The 2010 World Cup winners exited the competition in an embarrassing fashion in 2014, with a defeat at the hands of Chile following their humiliating 5-1 thrashing by Holland. With the past seemingly put behind them though, Spain managed to qualify for Russia with relative ease, winning nine out of ten games and scoring an impressive tally of 36 goals in the process. However, with the likes of Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa facing issues with form and tension ahead of the tournament, it could prove to be difficult for La Furia Roja for another year.

Group C

Australia – Veteran striker Tim Cahill played an important role in the Socceroos’ qualification, scoring eleven goals. Huddersfield’s Aaron Mooy and Brighton’s goalkeeper Matthew Ryan are the Premier League starlets to feature in the team.

Denmark – Denmark qualified for Russia after defeating the Republic of Ireland 5-1 in the play-offs. Tottenham maestro, Christian Eriksen was Denmark’s most creative player throughout qualification and scored 8 goals in the 10 qualifying matches, and it is likely that he will be of similar importance in Russia. They will be very much fancied to qualify from the group stage.

France – The clear favourites of Group C, France, qualified for the World Cup ahead of Sweden and Holland. France have a clear attacking threat, but the way in which France will be able to protect the ball by utilising players like N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi ahead of the solid defence, will make them very difficult to beat. Could Les Bleus make amends for their Euro 2016 woes, with glory in Russia? They are ranked 7th in the FIFA world rankings.

Peru – Los Incas qualified for the World Cup after defeating New Zealand 2-0 in the play-offs. A key player to look out for is Andre Carrillo, who was on-loan at Watford this season. Whilst during his time with the Hornets he has not been particularly prolific, but the winger is more than capable of causing trouble in the final third due to his rapid pace.

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Group D

Argentina – All eyes will be focused on Lionel Messi in this talented side, and the striker will be hoping to finally win an international competition. Of course, this is by no means a one-man team, with Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria accompanying Messi up front. Defending could prove to be the hindrance in Russia for Jorge Sampaoli’s squad, such frailties nearly saw them miss out on qualification. They should make it out of the group stage though. They are currently 5th in the FIFA world rankings.

Croatia – Another team who could be a surprise hit this summer is Croatia. A midfield consisting of Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic wets the appetite, and this could mean that the nation ranked 17th best by FIFA could be very pleasing to watch.

Iceland – This is Iceland’s first ever appearance at a World Cup and following their historic victory which knocked out England from the Euros, the famous ‘thunderclap’ will most likely echo around the streets of Russia. With few massive names in the team, but a clear togetherness of the side, the Icelandic squad will be ready to surprise many.

Nigeria – For Nigeria, this is their sixth time participating in a World Cup. Nigeria have never made it past the last 16 at the World Cup and were knocked out in 2014 by France. Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa stand out as the key players. Unfortunately for Nigeria, this group seems like it will be tough to get out from, but if they play as good as their kit looks, they’ll be fine.

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Group E

Brazil – The stand out moment when thinking of Brazil is how they must overcome nerves from the infamous defeat in the 2014 semi-final, where they were crushed 7-1 by Germany. After scoring over 40 goals in qualification, Tite’s side promise to bring entertaining, high-intensity football this year, and as such they are the group favourites. Clear stand-out players in the team are Neymar, Phillipe Coutinho, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva and Gabriel Jesus.

Costa Rica – Group E underdogs Costa Rica surprised many by qualifying from their group in 2014, as they finished second. They will be hoping to do the same again. Real Madrid Goalkeeper Keylor Navas will be key to success.

Serbia – Serbia have likes of Aleksandar Kolarov, Branislav Ivanovic, and Nemanja Matic in their ranks to take to Russia. Their manager, Malden Krstajić, may be inexperienced, but with him being considered a Serbian legend he has the backing of the supporters.

Switzerland – Switzerland defeated Northern Ireland in the play-offs to secure themselves their place in Russia. Switzerland are a strong side with players such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Yann Sommer at their disposal. They are currently ranked sixth in the FIFA rankings.

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Group F

Germany – The 2014 champions, Germany are heavy favourites to win the coveted trophy again, in Russia. However, in their recent friendly games, the performances are nothing special to go by. Manager Joachim Low has had a selection issue for all the right reasons ahead of the tournament, as there are so many terrific players available to select.

Korea Republic – Korea qualified for the 2018 World Cup after finishing second in their qualification group behind Iran. They have a few Premier League players in their side including Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son. Son was awarded the title of International Asian player of the year in 2017.

Mexico – El Tri come in to the competition having only lost one of their qualifying games. Carlos Vela, who scored three goals on the road to Russia, will be the man to watch in Juan Osorio’s team. West Ham striker Javier Hernandez will also bring his own attacking impetus. This is their 7th consecutive World Cup finals this year.

Sweden – The Swedes managed to defy the odds by beating Italy to qualify so they should be brimming with confidence ahead of the start of the tournament in Russia.

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Group G

Belgium – Belgian are another side tipped for success, and rightly so. With a plethora of top class players in the squad, the Red Devils proved themselves by finishing qualification very well. The won nine out of their ten qualification matches, only dropping points in a 1-1 draw against Greece. Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne will be able to express themselves safely knowing that the likes of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen have them covered. They promise to be dazzling to watch.

England – Will 52 years of hurt finally be over for the Three Lions? Well, England would have to pull off a few shocks in order to this to happen, but why not have some perhaps naïve optimism? There’s no denying that Gareth Southgate’s squad is full of talented players with, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Eric Dier and Gary Cahill to name just a few. The newly appointed captain, Kane Harry was the most prolific goal scorer in world football during 2017 and he finished as the second highest scorer in the Premier League this season. Let’s just hope he’s not taking any corners…

Panama – Panama qualified for the World Cup in dramatic fashion, finishing one point ahead of the USA and beating Honduras to a place via goal difference. Can they cause an upset in their first ever World Cup, in a difficult group?

Tunisia – The winners of the 2004 African Cup of Nations, Tunisia, look like they could struggle to make it out of the group. The main players in the team play their football in France’s first and second divisions. Wahbi Khazri, who used to play for Sunderland, is the one to watch.

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Group H

Columbia – Well known for their attractive, attacking football, Columbia also have a number of young defenders ready to break on to the international scene. Such examples are Tottenham’s 21 year-old centre back, Davinson Sanchez and Barcelona’s, Yerry Mina. Columbia have already proved that they can compete sufficiently against more fancied countries, by securing a draw against both Uruguay and Brazil.

Japan – The Japanese managed to secure their place in Russia by beating Australia 2-0 in the penultimate fixture. All eyes will be on Leicester’s Shinji Okazaki who will spearhead the attacks. The Japanese have also conceded just 7 goals throughout qualification, keeping four clean sheets in their ten matches.

Poland – Poland will have a point to prove after being unlucky to lose on penalties to Portugal in the quarter finals of Euro 2016. Poland did very well in the qualifiers winning 8 out of their 10 matches and scoring 28 goals in the process, however they have struggled to replicate this when entering the competition. They are arguably favourites to top the group due to the number of players that they have playing in the top divisions.

Senegal – Turn the clock back 16 years and the Senegalese defeated World Champions France before reaching the quarter finals of the World Cup. It’s also been 16 years since they were last in the tournament. Senegal now have a solid team that’s filled with many Premier League players, but arguably the best of the lot is Liverpool’s Sadio Mane who has scored ten times for the Reds this season.

Follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport

Football’s coming home!

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Rotherham United: Promotion means so much more than going up to the Championship

After eventually sobering up from the League One play-off final on Sunday, here are my thoughts on the day where the Millers secured themselves Championship football.

The night before Rotherham United’s play-off final against Shrewsbury Town, I was understandably, extremely nervous. However when the day arrived my emotions were completely contrasting. Now it might have been the lager taking its toll, but I was very calm ahead of the game.

We’d had a fantastic season already, particularly taking in to account the mess we overcame following our woeful campaign in the Championship. I simply thought to myself, as cliché as it sounds, ‘Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be’ and that if we do manage to go up then it will be a bonus on what has already been quite a terrific season.

The coach journey down didn’t seem to last two minutes, with lots of chanting and a real sense of optimism in the air. A special mention to Paul Delaney and everyone at the Bridge Inn pub, who must be mentioned here for their terrific work and patience to organise so many coaches taking avid Millers supporters to games all season, in addition to the massive numbers to the capital.

Once in London there was only one thing to do, head to pub and shaft myself for overpriced lager. We chose the main Millers supporters’ pub, The Green Man. The beers were flowing, chants were being sung, and Richard Wood’s bricks were being tossed in the air. The atmosphere was fantastic and that alone would’ve been worth the lengthy trip.

RW MAGIC

Millers supporters outside the Green Man pub as polystyrene bricks are thrown in the air.

I had to almost pinch myself when I eventually walked down to my seat at the home of English football, as the key thought going through my mind was: ‘We’ve actually managed to make it here.’

The atmosphere was good and credit to the Shrewsbury fans for playing their part in proceedings, too.

I was clearly enjoying myself, as you can see below. (Some people have given me some stick for me wearing my black bomber jacket, but I thought it was necessary to spare the people next to me my disgraceful sweat patches.)

I don’t think anything specific needs to be said about the game itself, the only thing I will claim is that we fully deserved that victory. We all know what happened there and how good it was.

I’ve also reached the conclusion that when I die, I’m leaving everything I own to Richard Wood and Paul Warne.

This promotion means so much more than going up a division and all the various financial benefits that it brings. It’s given the town its pride back. I can’t put in to words the enormous thanks and praise that must go to Warney and his team.

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I’ve always been proud to wear my Rotherham shirt, but from being a university student in Leeds, I received constant abuse and banter from supporters of other clubs last season, in our terrible Championship campaign. Even some Doncaster fans had the audacity to give me some lip (I know, it was THAT bad).

Now when I walk along the streets of Leeds, Rotherham, or wherever I am, I will wear my Rotherham shirt with an even bigger sense of pride. A sense that the players genuinely care about the club again. A sense of feeling that I have my football club back.

Perhaps I’ll even have, what can only be described as ‘a smug Jeremy Clarkson expression’ across my face as I walk past a supporter of a rival team, as I swagger down the streets with the tune of New York, New York by Frank Sinatra in my head.

I can’t wait for next season.

“Happy to be a Rotherham fan, until my dying day.”

Follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport

PREVIEW: Rotherham are hoping to clinch fourth place against in-form Blackpool

In the final game of the regular League One season, Rotherham United host in-form Blackpool as they look to hold on to fourth place in the table.

Paul Warne’s Rotherham United side narrowly lost 2-1 in their last fixture to Plymouth Argyle, conceding a contentious penalty in the 91st minute which was scored by Graham Carey. Despite performing admirably in that game, Warne is looking to tweak his side that will face Blackpool in order to give more of his players additional match sharpness ahead of the play-offs.

The Millers are in fair form after winning three out of their last five games.

The visitors who are in 12th place in the league table have entered a period of great form and are unbeaten in their last five games. What is even more impressive is that four of these matches have resulted in the Lancashire side clenching all three points. The Tangerines drew their last game 1-1 with Shrewsbury.

The home side have no fresh injury concerns going in to the game. Darren Potter has returned to training but is not match-ready due to getting hurt in training. Striker Jamie Proctor has been ruled out for the whole season.

Gary Bowyer’s Blackpool side may have to do without Armand Gnanduillet after taking a knock in their previous game with Shrewsbury. Their top scorer Kyle Vassell who has scored eleven times so far this season also has some slight fitness concerns ahead of the game.

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Blackpool have clenched 14 clean sheets this season while the Yorkshire side also have the exact same number of clean sheets, this includes the exact same number for those at home and away which is seven for both.

Rotherham will only need a draw in this game to hold on to fourth place in the league.

In the last meeting between the two sides, Millers striker David Ball scored twice in the last 15 minutes to give Rotherham their first win in eight league games. Defender Kelvin Mellor put the hosts 1-0 up just after the 20th minute mark in style after smashing the ball in to the net with the outside of his foot, from 25 yards out. Richard Wood’s header in the second half could only find the crossbar in the 69th minute as the Millers piled on the pressure. Moments later Ball equalised for the Millers and he then completed his brace in the 87th minute with a header.

The game takes place on Saturday 5th May, 5.30 KO.

Follow me on Twitter: @GeorgeS_Sport