Real Madrid

Is The Special One’s Football Dull? No way, Jose

“Ironic cry of boring, boring Chelsea as RAMIRES CLINCHES THE POINTS! The title is almost theirs!” That was the line of commentary when the Brazilian box-to-box midfielder rifled home the third in a 3-1 win over Leic that secured the Blues’ 24th win of the 2014-15 season from just 34 league matches and simultaneously left Jose Mourinho’s side just one win away from clinching the Premier League title for the fourth time.

Chelsea fans have had to put up with their beloved club being labelled boring over the last decade or so which offends the older generation of supporter who grew up in the swinging sixties with the west Londoners being the great entertainers of attacking flair in the age of the football maverick when Tommy Docherty’s men were dubbed ‘the Kings of King’s Road.’

Back then they boasted the names of Ron “Chopper” Harris, Peter “the Cat” Bonetti and the King of Stamford Bridge that was Peter “Ossie” Osgood and a later breed of Chelsea fan were captivated by such names as Roberto Di Matteo, Ruud Gullit as well as a certain Italian who goes by the name of Gianfranco Zola.

When Roman Abravomich invested his Russian billions into Chelsea though Mourinho soon followed off the back of the biggest shock in European football since Louis van Gaal guided a once-in-a-lifetime group of players that made Ajax European champions for the first time in 22 years.

Mourinho’s plucky Porto will never be remembered for being easy-on-the-eye either but it is forgotten that this team of then unknowns got a draw at Santiago Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid who had won ‘Ol Big Ears’ just tournaments previously, and featured the footballing artist Zinedine Zidane as well as Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo and Ronaldo among others. It was not down to sheer defensive solidity either, Porto matched them for goals and outdid the Spanish giants for total shots 8-11.

The Round of 16 would introduce Mourinho to the world. First the Portuguese would guide his domestic champions to a 2-1 home win against Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and the friendliest of rivalries was born. In the second-leg the Blue and Whites snatched aggregate victory with a last-gasp away goal after again dominating one of the world’s best teams. United had three shots to Porto’s nine and the game ended with the first iconic Mourinho image – the touchline run.

Lyon and Deportivo La Coruna were dispatched in the quarter and semi-final respectively and although they may sound easy on paper Lyon were the French champions who had Juninho and Karim Benzema while Deportivo had earlier eliminated holders AC Milan 5-4 on aggregate after losing 4-1 at the San Siro in the first-leg. Porto would then dismantle an AS Monaco side that had knocked-out Real Madrid and Chelsea. Winning a Champions League final 3-0 is only boring to those who want some sort of contest, but viewers got that too as Porto only went 2-0 up in minute 71 and four minutes later it was three. Porto also won the Primeira Liga and scored 63 goals, more than any other side.

Chelsea was next and the ‘boring’ jibes truly began. Mourinho batted the accusation away like only he can.

“Tell me”, he started, musing on a public put down as his famous long-standing feud with Arsene Wenger started to take shape. “In England, which team plays better than Chelsea? Arsenal?”

ITV reporter Gabriel Clarke, already hesitant under the brunt of the enigmatic, brash, arrogant but assured Mourinho hesitantly came back with: “They might get more critical acclaim sometimes.”

Mourinho interrupted: “Better than us, yeah? Yeah. Ten points behind. Ten points behind.”

Chelsea were dominant over Arsenal and every other English club that year by quite a distance, winning the league by 12 points, but contrary to many’s belief it was by style as well as substance. Yes, Chelsea was built on a rock-solid defence of Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry and William Gallas with Claude Makelele in the holding role as well as one of the world’s best goalkeepers Petr Cech behind them and they only conceded 15 league goals all season but on the attack they were fierce, deadly and never hesitated in wiping out the opposition.

They had Frank Lampard in his peak who was joint fourth top scorer in the Premier League with 13 goals from midfield, they had lightning quick wingers in Arjen Robben, Damien Duff and Joe Cole who would kill teams on the counter attack and they had Eidur Gudjohnsen and Didier Drogba who scored 12 and ten goals respectively. Chelsea scored 72 Premier League goals in 2004-05, one more than the ‘Great Entertainers’ that were the Arsenal Invincibles team of the previous season and just seven fewer than the equally famous treble winning Manchester United side that had one of the best striking duos in footballing history – Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole.

The Champions League was no different. Ask any Chelsea, or football fan, if they were bored when the Blues raced into a 20-minute 3-0 lead against Barcelona, a Barcelona even back then with Carlos Puyol and Andres Iniesta as well as Samuel Eto’o, a developing Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho the year he won his solitary Ballon d’Or – Chelsea would end up winning 4-2.

Bayern Munich were on the wrong end of the same score at the same ground in the next round, the quarter-finals, and Mourinho’s men were just as rampant domestically.

After five of Chelsea’s first six league wins were decided by one-goal Blackburn Rovers and West Brom were both hit for four in consecutive weeks as were Fulham a fortnight later, and Charlton a further two weeks after, and Newcastle the following Saturday and Norwich were a further two games in the future. 2005-06 was not much different; you only need to watch the game that wrapped up a second title on the bounce – a 3-0 win over Manchester United who finished second that season, eight points behind the champions.

Both of his two years at Inter Milan, which ended with Scudettos, they were top scorers in Serie A and I Nerazurri scored three or more goals on eight occasions during the 2008-09 campaign and the following year, in a treble winning season, Internazionale netted at least three in seven of their 38 league matches as well as triumphing 3-1 over Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.

Real Madrid’s debut season with Mourinho would end with them losing out on the title to their fierce rivals Barcelona but the all-whites out-scored the Catalan giants, finding the back of the net 102 times compared to the latter’s 95.

Madrid would regain their status as Spain’s top club a year later but what would remain the same is that the modern Galacticos would score more goals than Guardiola’s Barca. Mourinho’s men scored a whopping 121 goals in the 2011-12 season – it remains a La Liga record.

Mourinho at Madrid where they broke a La Liga record for most team goals scored in a season. It still stands today.

Mourinho at Madrid where they broke a La Liga record for most team goals scored in a season. It still stands today.

The Special One’s much-awaited return to Chelsea did not bring about it many goals, but the team who would end up as champions for the first time in five years were back to being incredibly tough to beat. Although, when they did play in an attacking style it always seemed like they were never too far away from being punished.

This was most evident in the barnstorming 5-3 loss to a Harry Kane-inspired Tottenham Hotspur, but there was pre-warning to this before when the Blues, playing in yellow that day, conceded three to the Toffees, unfortunately for the home side however, Chelsea scored double the amount.

Because of his marmite-like qualities of a human being Jose Mourinho may not be remembered for being a man who entertained the neutral fanbases but he may be the man who defines how important it is to be well-rounded as a football manager. The builder of teams who are defensively strong and yes, when needed, dynamic in attack and superb to watch. Boring, boring Mourinho indeed.

 

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How do you solve a problem like Di Maria? Manchester United’s Argie Bargy

Angel Di Maria is again the target for flush French club Paris Saint-Germain, the side that missed out on the Argentine just last summer. After a disappointing debut season in England, should Manchester United dismiss Di Maria?

Numerous reports today suggest that PSG would be willing to splash the £59.7 million that United paid for Di Maria back in August (which broke the British transfer record in the process).

It would not be unfair to suggest that he has been a let down since his arrival, contributing just nine assists and three goals in the Premier League since arriving at Old Trafford.

Only PSG’s financial frustrations prevented the winger signing the dotted line at the Parc des Princes eight months ago, with UEFA implementing a spending restriction on the club after they breached Financial Fair Play regulations.

Di Maria told French broadcaster Telefoot in November that “PSG, I think they had a money problem and they couldn’t buy players, this is the main reason I didn’t go there”.

Real Madrid cast him aside in favour of the more marketable and star of the-then recently finished World Cup James Rodriguez as well as Gareth Bale who was signed for a world record £80 million from Tottenham the previous summer.

Right from the start, life in England seemed like hell for United’s Angel.

In an open letter to the Madridstas (Real Madrid fanbase) after leaving, the unwanted man admitted he never wanted to say sayonara to Santiago Bernabeu.

“Unfortunately, I have to go but I want to make clear that this was never my desire.

“I went to the World Cup with the hope of receiving a gesture from the board, which never arrived. Many things and many lies were told. Someone may not like me. The only thing I asked for was something fair. There are many things that I value and many of them have nothing to do with my salary.”

Big heart, but shown no love: "broken promises" led to Real Madrid binning Di Maria.

Big heart, but shown no love: “broken promises” led to Real Madrid binning Di Maria

Now United could too sell to recoup their transfer fee for a player who has not produced the sort of world class performances that were displayed during Real Madrid’s run to La Decima (a 10th Champions League triumph) just the season before.

The decision Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal faces, however, is one of does Di Maria want to be here, or is he just struggling to settle?

Van Gaal defended his stellar signing pre FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, noting “we are all human beings and we all have bad days.

“When you bring players into a team from a number of different countries it always takes time for them to settle both personally and with their family but also on the pitch as part of the team,” he wrote in his programme notes.

“Away from the football you have to adapt to a new culture that you are living in, while on the field you have to learn the new rhythm of the game, which is very high in the Premier League and very different to any other league, plus the competition is also very high”, Van Gaal continued.

“We are all human beings and we all have bad days but I am very pleased with the players we have here. They are improving all the time and I don’t think it will be very long before we see the team competing as a unit.”

Off-the-field issues are beyond simply missing home, though. Di Maria has had his house raided and his wife is rumoured to have recently relocated back to Spain.

Paris Potential: Could PSG be saying "Halo" to Angel this summer?

Paris Potential: Could PSG be saying “Halo” to Angel this summer?

If Di Maria’s debacle is simply down to cultural differences, and these are overcome, then United have the player on their hands that has won domestic and continental honours, but this is a conclusion that needs to be drawn between now and August.

If not, United may not get the required transfer fee and end up selling what could have been a star asset for a cut-price deal next January.

PREVIEW: Real Madrid vs Barcelona (Saturday 5pm BST)

Real Madrid welcome old foes Barcelona to Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday evening but will have to play the side who have still not conceded a league goal this season, without Gareth Bale.

The world’s most expensive player will miss the crunch match due to the same muscle injury that saw him sit out Madrid’s 0-3 midweek mauling of Liverpool in the Champions League.

Welsh wizard Bale was also an unused substitute in Real’s last league match at Levante in which the visitors cruised to a 0-5 win.

Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed however that Sergio Ramos will be fit for tomorrow’s derby.

Barcelona meanwhile will be without Thomas Vermaelen, Adriano and Sergio Busquets.

Luis Suarez is expected to feature in his first competitive game for Barca with this weekend marking his long awaited end to a four month ban that started in June for biting Giorgio Chiellini in Uruguay’s World Cup clash against Italy.

His new side did the double over Madrid last season, winning 2-1 at the Nou Camp and overcoming them again at Santiago Bernabeu in a ding dong battle that saw the away side return home with a 3-4 win.

It was a game in which Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick, two of which were penalties while his Ballon d’Or rival Ronaldo scored only once.

La Liga’s Catalan giants have kept clean sheets in all of their eight games this campaign, scoring 22 and only dropping points once so far (a 0-0 draw in Malaga).

Madrid haven’t been shy in front of goal though, notching 25 goals in their eight matches with Cristiano Ronaldo providing 14 of them.

However they already find themselves off the pace in the La Liga title race, having lost two games this season to Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad.

They are four points behind league leaders Barcelona but Saturday gives them the perfect opportunity to close the gap to just one.

Liverpool 0-3 Real Madrid (Ronaldo ’23, Benzema ’30, ’41)

Reigning champions Real Madrid kept up their 100% start to this season’s Champions League campaign thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and a brace from Karim Benzema.

Ballon d’Or holder Ronaldo set the Galacticos on their way 23 minutes in, capping off a wonderful one-two with James Rodriguez, letting the ball bounce before beating a despairing Simon Mignolet inside the box with an accomplished finish.

Benzema doubled the visitors’ lead on the half hour mark with a looping header from Toni Kroos’ cross, leaving Mignolet stranded in the Liverpool goal once again.

The French forward netted his second of the tie four minutes before the break when he bundled in a badly defended corner. Pepe scrambled the set piece into the path of the 27-year-old to end the contest before half time.

Phillipe Coutinho came closest for the hosts with a rasping drive in the first half that rattled the post but did not find the net to the relief of the under fire Goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Ronaldo, the ex Manchester United star who scored his first ever goal at the home of their arch rivals tonight, was keen to silence the boo boys during the 90 minutes but could not add to his tally, shooting wide on one occasion and was denied by Mignolet on a few occasions.

He was replaced later on in the second half by Sami Khedira with Carlo Ancelotti clearly having one eye on Saturday’s El Clasico which promises to be an exciting occasion on Saturday evening.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Lovren, Skrtel, Moreno, Gerrard, Allen, Henderson (Can ’67), Coutinho (Markovic ’67), Sterling, Balotelli (Lallana ’45)

Subs not used: Jones, Toure, Manquillo, Lambert

Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo (Nacho ’85), Kroos (Illaramendi ’82), Modric, Ronaldo (Khedira ’65), Isco, James, Benzema

Subs not used: Navas, Carvajal, Medran, Hernandez

UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw

Manchester City have been handed a tough draw in this season’s Champions League, being matched up with German Champions Bayern Munich in group E.

The Premier League holders will also have to face a tricky trip to CSKA Moscow and AS Roma.

Bayern Munich, Manchester City and CSKA Moscow were all drawn in the same group last season with Munich finishing first and Manchester City second.

Chelsea meanwhile were paired with Schalke 04 for the second season running and they will be joined in group G by Sporting Lisbon and Maribor, who elimiated Celtic in the last round.

Arsenal have been matched up with Borussia Dortmund again as well as Galatasay and Anderlecht.

Liverpool, in the Champions League for the first time in five years, will re-enter the competition knowing they will have to play holders Real Madrid, Swiss Champions FC Basel and Ludogorets of Bulgaria who make their Champions League bow.

Elsewhere beaten finalists Atletico Madrid have been drawn with Juventus and Barcelona will play PSG in a mouth watering tie.

Draw in full:

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiakos, Malmo

Group B: Real Madrid, FC Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets

Group C: Benfica, Zenit, Bayer Leverkusen, AS Monaco

Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasary, Anderlecht

Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, AS Roma

Group F: Barcelona, PSG, Ajax, APOEL Nicosia

Group G: Chelsea, Schalke 04, Sporting Lisbon, Maribor

Group H: Porto, Shaktar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao, BATE Borisov

UEFA Super Cup report: Real Madrid 2-0 Sevilla

Real Madrid carried on their success in Europe by overcoming La Liga rivals Sevilla 2-0 in the UEFA Super Cup with Cristiano Ronaldo providing both the goals.

Homecoming hero Gareth Bale played the full 90 minutes at the Cardiff City stadium and provided the assist for the game’s first goal.

Fans in Cardiff were also treated to the debuts of the latest Real Madrid Galacticos Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez.

Ronaldo opened the scoring when he turned in Bale’s cross with half an hour played at the Cardiff City stadium.

Ballon d’Or holder Ronaldo doubled Madrid’s lead and his tally for the night four minutes into the second half after being played in by Karim Benzema, taking one touch and firing a shot that was too hot for Beto to handle from just inside the box.

Numero Uno: Bale returned to his home city but Ronaldo was the centre of attention.

Numero Uno: Bale returned to his home city but Ronaldo was the centre of attention

Scorer almost turned provider on the 64 minute mark when Ronaldo teed up Benzema but the French forward saw his shot saved by Beto.

James Rodriguez almost had the dream introduction to life at Madrid but his teed up volley was wonderfully saved and out for a corner which came to nothing.

Sevilla were largely outplayed by their Spanish counterparts but did create some sniffs of goal themselves, Vitolo being the first to trouble the Madrid goal but the midfielder had his shot from a tight angle palmed away by Iker Casillas.

Casillas was keen to restore his reputation as much as possible following a dreadful World Cup and was equal to Daniel Carrico’s effort ten minutes before the break following a defensive mix up.

Substitute Diogo Figueiras came closest late on though when his volley whistled wide of Casillas’ post.

Bale was denied the goal he would have wanted on his return to his native Wales but his shot, the last kick of the same, was theatrically kept out by Beto.

Real Madrid: Casillas, Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao (Marcelo ’84), Kroos, Modric (Illarramendi ’86), James (Isco ’72), Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema

Subs not used: Navas, Varane, Arbeloa, Di Maria

Sevilla: Beto, Fazio, Navarro, Pareja, Coke (Figueiras ’84), Krychowiak, Carrico, Suárez (Reyes ’79), Vitolo, Parreu (Aspas ’66), Bacca

Subs not used: Barbosa, Samerio, Iborra, Luismi

Man of the match: Cristiano Ronaldo

Brazil 1-7 Germany: Hosts humiliated as Germany in seventh heaven

Miroslav Klose became the all time top goalscorer in World Cup history as Germany are the first team to secure their spot in the 2014 Final with a thumping 1-7 win over hosts Brazil.

Thomas Muller and Sami Khedira also netted while Toni Kroos and substitute Andre Schurrle both scored a brace in one of the worst nights in Brazil’s fabled history.

Muller opened the scoring when he hit a side footed volley past Julio Cesar from Bastian Schweinsteiger’s corner just eleven minutes in.

Golden Boot candidate Muller, 24, was unmarked in the box and it was a sign of things to come as Brazil’s defense was lackadaisical throughout.

Thiago Silva missed the game through suspension and Germany were quick to test out the new partnership of Dante and stand-in skipper David Luiz and exposed it to maximum effect.

Klose netted his record breaking goal with 23 minutes played after a neat passing move from the Germans. Kross picked out Muller who laid it back to Klose, his initial shot was saved but the Lazio striker had no problem converting the rebound for 0-2.

Marcelo and Fernandinho the men to blame for the goal, Mesut Ozil and Phillip Lahm had little trouble on the left to work it to Kroos while Fernandinho missed the vital interception that gave the Bayern play-maker the space to orchestrate the play.

Not even Klose: Miroslav Klose scores Germany second to become the finest marksmen in World Cup history.

Not even Klose: Miroslav Klose scores Germany’s second to become the finest marksmen in World Cup history as Brazil are thrashed.

Full back Marcelo was suspect again for the third that arrived just seconds after too. Ozil and Lahm again enjoying the space on the left, Lahm found Kroos with a pinpoint cross that was smashed home first time. Cesar got a hand to it but to no avail.

Germany ran rampant in Belo Horizonte and added a fourth only a minute later – the most embarrassing of the lot. Stupid, careless passing finished with Fernandinho losing the ball cheaply to Kroos who played in Khedira who unselfishly squared it back to Kroos for a simple tap in.

The wait for the fifth wasn’t too long either, three minutes after number four went in, Germany added to their rout with a carbon copy of the previous strike. Former Real Madrid teammates Khedira and Ozil with a one-two that the current Galactico slotted in.

179 seconds separated Germany’s second goal from their fifth.

Joachim Loew’s side didn’t let up in the second half either, Schurrle converted Lahm’s low cross for six. Again Marcelo outdone on the left, again Luiz failing to organise his back four like the absent Silva does so well.

A bad night for Luiz continued to get worse when his former Chelsea colleague Schurrle added his second and Germany’s seventh.

The £50 million PSG man rampaged forward as he so often did throughout the course of the game and ended up being caught out again this time by long, direct Jerome Boateng throw in that Muller flicked on to the path of Schurrle who beat Cesar at his near post with a half volley that went in off the underside of the bar.

Oscar did hit back with a the most worthless consolation goal. Brazil broke following a poor miss from Ozil, Oscar escaped through the middle, sidestepped the last defender and buried the shot.

It was Brazil’s joint worst ever defeat and the biggest margin of victory ever in a World Cup Semi Final.

Brazil fans expected their players to return as heroes but instead they go back humbled as Deutschland are in dreamland.

Germany 4-0 Portugal: Germans ease past Portugal.

A typically ruthless Germany side cast aside Portugal 4-0 but the game was overshadowed by a moment of madness by Pepe.

The Brazilian born defender was involved in an innocuous challenge with Thomas Müller who threw himself to the floor with minimal contact. Pepe took exception to this in typical Pepe style and aimed a headbutt at the Bayern Munich forward while he was down and was sent off.

Germany struck an early lead when Mario Götze was brought down in the box by João Pereira the spot-kick was dispatched by Müller with ruthless German efficiency to Rui Patricio’s right for the first of his three goals. Pereira only received a yellow card for his offense but probably should have seen red as he denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

Sami Khedira could have struck gold for Germany before that when after eight minutes, a dreadful clearance by Patricio landed at the feet of the Real Madrid midfielder but he shot just wide from a long way out.

The second wasn’t too far away though. A magnificent pass from Toni Kroos found its way to Mesut Özil who cut it back to Götze whose shot was deflected wide by Bruno Alves.

Kroos’ resulting corner was powerfully headed in by Mats Hummels in the 32nd minute.

Spot on: Müller puts Germany ahead.

Spot on: Müller puts Germany ahead.

It was 3-0 soon after when, following the red card, Portugal were exposed at the back, Müller took a touch before firing past Patricio’s from twelve yards after another Kroos delivery.

Müller bagged his hattrick twelve minutes from time when substitute Andre Schürrle’s cross shot was parried by Patricio into the path of Müller who had the simple task of prodding home from all of about four yards.

Portugal were disappointing throughout and Cristiano Ronaldo did little to inspire his colleagues and had limited service, even less so when they were down to ten men.

He did however test Manuel Neuer with one his trademark free-kicks in added time but could not get his goal.

A truly miserable day for Portugal was compounded with Fábio Coentrão tearing a muscle when going in for a challenge, he was subbed straight away and his tournament future looks in doubt.

 

Top 10: Best young League 1 players

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10: Dele Alli (MK Dons)

The first, and youngest, member of this top 10 list, Bamidele Jermaine (Dele) Alli is a real star in the making. A third tier regular at the tender age of 18 (having been 17 for the majority of the season), making 26 appearances for Milton Keynes this season and scoring six goals in the league along with two assists does not go unnoticed.

Those six goals makes him the third highest goalscorer at Stadium:MK and his impact would have both surprised and delighted his boss Karl Robinson who is a young Manager himself.

Alli has already got International recognition, with nine England Under 17 caps to his name.

Despite being so young, Alli has already scored his first senior hat-trick in a 1-3 away win at Notts County.

“He’s one of the most gifted 17-year-olds this country has ever seen” Robinson announced at the final whistle. High praise indeed.

9: Luke Freeman (Stevenage)

Stevenage’s go to man for success is former Arsenal man Luke Freeman.

The 22 year old winger is the Boro’s third leading scorer with six strikes and the club’s main provider with a further six assists. Freeman sadly couldn’t save Stevenage from the drop back down to League 2 but without him the Hertfordshire club would not have been as close to survival as they were.

Dartford born danger man Freedman is attracting attention from clubs in the higher divisions and following Stevenage’s relegation, it seems even more unlikely that he will stay at Broadhill Way.

8: Matt Tootle (Crewe) 

It would not be a list of young talents in League 1 without a Crewe player, would it? The Alex’s esteemed youth academy that has developed talents such as Leeds United’s Luke Murphy, Dean Ashton, Nicky Maynard and most notably Manchester United’s Nick Powell, has found another gem in Matt Tootle.

A Crewe regular since 2009, the 23-year-old has already notched up over 150 games for the Gresty Road club and has been an ever present, not missing a single game as the Railway Men avoided relegation from League 1 for a second successive year.

If Tootle keeps this sort of form up, don’t be surprised if the latest export from Alex’s Academy goes on to bigger and better things like many before him.

7: Harry Maguire (Sheffield United)

In a season that has seen Sheffield United perform well below what they are capable of, Jacob Harry Maguire has been a rare consistent performer at the back and was one of the key men during the second half revival under new boss Nigel Clough.

Thanks to Clough and also to Maguire’s performances at the heart of the Sheffield defence, the Blades soared from relegation fears to finish just one place outside the play offs in 7th along with an FA Cup run that would see them eliminated 5-3 by Hull in the Semi Finals.

Maguire has been a key figure at Bramall Lane since 2011, missing only nine league games in the last three seasons as Sheffield United seek to return to the Championship after three disappointing seasons in League 1.

With an ever improving Maguire, next year might just be their year.

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6: Nouha Dicko (Wolves)

11 August 2013 and Nouha Dicko comes on as an 86th minute substitute for James McCarthy at Wembley as Wigan go down 2-0 to Manchester United in the Community Shield. Fast forward eight months and he’s at Wolves in League 1.

Dicko had spent a brief loan spell in Wolverhampton last season, four appearances, all off the bench, one goal. Not enough as Wolves found themselves in the third division having been in the top flight two years previous.

Five goals in five goals for Rotherham United from November to January was all it needed to convince Kenny Jackett to bring Dicko back to the Midlands and the Frenchman’s goal scoring form has not slowed down with him netting 12 in 19 for Wolves as they powered to the League 1 title.

The winger/striker, who is also eligible to play for the Mali international team scored two goals on his return debut at Molineux, a 3-1 home victory over Bristol City while he also grabbed a hat-trick in a 6-4 win over Rotherham, showing no love for his former club.

21 year old Dicko finished the season as Wolves’ second top scorer, with only one behind Bakary Sako on 13. Not bad for a bloke who only joined in January. Wigan could yet rue letting this boy go.

5: Moses Odubajo (Leyton Orient)

Arguably the division’s surprise packages this season, Leyton Orient have sealed themselves a play off spot thanks to a number of quality performances from their young squad.

None more so than from 20-year-old midfielder Moses Adubajo. The Leyton Orient club graduate scored 10 goals from midfield this season and added six assists to his season tally.

Premier League clubs have been alerted to the goal scoring midfielder’s achievements with Tottenham among the clubs reportedly after his signature this Summer and if Russell Slade’s side fail to cross the promotion line then it may be difficult to keep hold of Odubajo.

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4: Callum Wilson (Coventry)

Few would have predicted how much of an impact Callum Wilson would make this season following a poor showing this time last year. His total of one goal in 11 last season became 21 in 36 after just a year.

Wilson enjoyed a prolific partnership with Leon Clarke in the first half of this campaign but while Clarke’s goals dried up as he switched Midlands allegiances, Wilson continued to flourish.

21 goals makes Wilson the joint third top scorer with Rotherham’s Kieran Agard, some achievement for a man who missed ten games and being part of a side with -10 points at the start of the season. On top of that, every match being theoretically an away trip with Coventry playing their “home” games 33 miles away at Sixfields in Northampton.

Coventry finished the season in a very respectable position of 18th considering their points deduction and small squad, in addition to losing Clarke midway through the season. Without Wilson, it could well have been a very different outcome.

3: Britt Assombalonga (Peterborough)

Powerful striker Britt Assombalonga has proved to be the signing of the season in League 1 this term. A relative risk by Darren Ferguson to sign him as the Zaire forward had never played third tier football, and had never scored for Championship Watford (playing five games).

Five goals in five for Conference side Braintree Town in 2011/12 and 15 in 43 for League 2 Southend the following season though was enough to convince Ferguson Jnr to snap up Assombalonga for a club record fee, which is unknown, but the 21-year-old proved he was worth his weight in goals, notching 23 in 40 games.

He would turn out to be a villain to Swindon fans, first netting on his Posh debut at London Road in a 1-0 win over the Reds and then leveling the scores in the JPT second leg to force the tie into penalties. Peterborough won to book a spot at Wembley.

Assombalonga would keep up his JPT scoring habits, slotting home a penalty in Posh’s 1-3 win over Chesterfield to win the competition for the first time in their history.

The former Watford man will be looking to show the Hornets what they have let go next season with Peterborough looking to bounce back to the Championship at the first attempt via the play offs. Should Posh earn promotion, they have a certain Ferguson risk to thank.

2: Alex Pritchard (Swindon)

Out of the four loan signings from Tottenham (a further two joining permanently), one young Hotspur stood out from the crowd. So much so that on Tottenham’s first game since Pritchard’s return to North London he was named on the bench away to West Ham.

Voted the second best player in League 1 and short-listed for the football league young player of the year award, the tiny midfielder clearly has a huge future ahead of him.

The 5 foot 6 inch winger ended his time in Wiltshire with six goals to his name, one of them being a fantastic free-kick away to MK Dons, something he is fast picking up a reputation for.

Pritchard may find himself back out on loan next season, quite probably a division or more up from this term with QPR reportedly keen on him but the 21 year old has expressed his desire to prove himself at Tottenham after signing a two year contract  in January last year to quash interest from the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

One thing is for sure is that he will be fondly remembered by Swindon supporters and the feeling is mutual. Pritchard calling this “the best season of my career”. Hopefully many more to come for the England Under 20 International.

1: Adam Forshaw (Brentford)

League 1’s player of the year, Adam Forshaw has been exceptional in the Red and White of Brentford, contributing eight goals and four assists from the centre of midfield as the Bees recovered from the sting of losing out on promotion on the final day of last season.

Brentford also had to show mental toughness to bounce back after then suffering more heartbreak that season, losing the play off final to Yeovil.

The Griffin Park faithful finally saw their side gain promotion to the Championship thanks largely to Forshaw’s performances and Manager Mark Warburton keeping the ship steady midway through the season following Uwe Rosler’s departure to Wigan in early December.

Everton reserve player of the year 2012 Forshaw, 22, was linked with a move out of West London in January but committed his future to Brentford stating “My aim is to get promoted with Brentford. I’m really enjoying it here.

“I feel I’m gaining a lot of experience playing regularly. Last year was a massive learning curve for me.”

Bees fans will be hoping Forshaw shys away from speculation for a second successive season in the Summer and stays on at Brentford with the club looking to establish itself as a Championship side.

Forshaw will very much be key to any chances of that.

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