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Merry christmas from Football Orphan!

Hi folks,

Due to some regrettable technical issues footballorphan.com has been experiencing, we will have decided to resume our normal service in the new year. Apologies for the interruption, in the meantime have a wonderful Christmas and a terrific new year!

Football Orphan.

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Football Orphan: Shamrock Rovers’ most successful season ever, finally comes to a close.

Leading the way in Irish domestic football.

On a freezing cold winters night in Tallaght, Shamrock Rovers‘ staggering season finally came to a close with defeat to Spurs. In their wildest dreams Rovers could never have imagined how this season would have panned out. Having finally returned to title-winning ways last season, a repeat of this feat was considered the minimum standard. What unfolded throughout 2011 is something that will only truly be recognised as the years roll by. The adventure that followed through qualification for the Europa League in Belgrade was a miricle of biblical proportions.

Michael O Neill’s men will either be viewed as the team that first made a breakthrough for others to follow, or the only Irish club to burst the bubble of the monopoly of the bigger European clubs. It remains to be seen where O Neill will find himself come the beginning of next season. One thing is for sure, he will go down in the history of Shamrock Rovers for his incredible achievements.

As for the club, names like former Ireland and Faroe islands manager Brian Kerr and vastly experienced manager Mark McGee have been mentioned as possible successors to the Ulsterman. One thing is for certain, Shamrock Rovers went from being the most famous club in Irish football, to being the most famous Irish club outside of Ireland. A big congratulations to all involved at Rovers, it is a proud moment in Irish football, let’s all hope the adventure doesn’t stop here.

Football Orphan: Michael O Neill set to bid farwell to Shamrock Rovers.

Image courtesy of independent.co.uk

Michael O Neill it has been announced, will leave Shamrock Rovers at the end of December when his current contract expires. It will no doubt be a bitter-sweet moment as he departs Tallaght Stadium for the last time. The former Northern Ireland international has returned the glory days back to a club that was far from being a sleeping giant, more¬† like a comatose one. Qualifying for the group stages of the Europa League for the first time in the club’s history will be indelibly marked in the fabric of the most successful club in Irish football.

His last game in charge will be against Tottenham in the Europa League tomorrow evening. With nothing but pride to play for at Tallaght Stadium, it will be a fitting end to a wonderful period in O Neill’s tenure as manager of the Hoops. He leaves the club on the back of two league titles also, which will also act as a flashing beacon on a pristine CV as he now enters the interview process for the vacant Northern Ireland job. I personally think it would be a pity to see him go into International management so soon. I feel he would be better equipt to go straight into an English or Scottish league club, and prove himself a success in the UK also. If a fine Irish manager such as Pat Fenlon is considered hot property for the Hibs job, I’m convinced Michael O Neill should be aiming a little higher than the Northern Ireland job.

Football Orphan: Who will cross the Bridge over troubled water as Chelsea entertain City?

AVB will be praying his luck doesn't run out tonight.

The weekend’s action saw Manchester United record a comfortable win over Wolves with Rooney and Nani grabbing a brace each. No headlines of note to be found, as it just looked like business as usual at Old Trafford. Stoke were the biggest winners with a turn up for the books at the Britannia, sending Spurs to their first defeat in eleven games with two first half goals from Matthew Etherington. Not much else to raise any eyebrows over the weekend, as it was all a little predictable elsewhere as most of us lay in wait for tonight’s big heavyweight clash at the Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester City.

This could be a turning point of both clubs seasons. City suffered the indignity of exiting the Champions League at the first hurdle last week, while Chelsea stuck two fingers up to all of the doubters to progress as group winners. A draw tonight plays directly into the hands of the clubs clambering to be in the chasing pack, but defeat for either will see a considerable dent in the confidence of the moral just before the fixtures start coming thick and fast. First talking point of this game is the team line up. Who will be trusted to be drafted into the first eleven? How offensive will either manager set their respective teams up? Most importantly, which coach will be smiling after 90 minutes?

Football Orphan predicts: Chelsea to start the game looking solid, with Manchester City finishing the stronger. A well fought draw is the most likely result here.

Football Orphan: Between the Devil & the deep Blue sea, Manchester clubs pay the price of Europa League on Thursdays.

Who will be playing on Thursdays after Christmas Roberto?

Who could have possibly guessed that both Manchester clubs would have made an early exit from the Champions League before christmas? Certainly not me. Even though looking back at the warning signs, while it’s easy to be clever after the fact, Manchester United were 1/100 on to qualify to the knockout stages from the group with the bookies. Manchester City on the other hand had quite a tricky group from the word go. Villarreal who eventually finished the group without as much as 1 point have had a decent amount of success in this competition the past.

The result of the Manchester failure is that both clubs must face the task of Europa League football on Thursdays, while rarely playing Premier League on Saturdays. This is something that all top clubs wish to avoid at all costs. The big wigs at Sky and the premier League must be pulling their hair out with these two clubs being a priority in their Tv scheduling. While City have been installed as Europa League favourites with the bookies, I can’t see United treating this tournament with anything other than contempt, fielding weakened teams in every other fixture.

It looks to me as if this could well be Fergie‘s swan song. He is now further away from getting his hands back on the holy grail of the Champions League trophy. United are out of the Carling Cup, and realistically don’t look capable of making a sustained challenge to City’s title aspirations. If they were to get the FA Cup back in the trophy cabinet, would that be enough? I personally don’t think so. The signs are ominous, but if they somehow aren’t obvious, they really should be.

Football Orphan will return on Monday with a round up of the weekends action.

Football Orphan: Farewell to CL football until February, when the real tournament begins

Well I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised to see a rejuvenated Chelsea team last night. With a strong Didier Drogba and a rock solid back four, they looked impenetrable against Valencia. Things also took a unexpectant turn for the better for AVB, as Genk held Bayer Leverkusen to a draw to ensure that Chelsea topped the group. It was a breath of fresh air as the Chelsea manager had a right old go at the TV and written media for being doubters and making him a scape goat. The Portuguese feels that it has been a witch hunt against him. In my opinion, he took a job that has more pressure than most, it comes with the territory. On the other hand, I believe he handled the retort with good grace and a cheeky sense of humour. 

Tonight, one must make a choice of watching Manchester City attempt a Houdini-esqe escape from their group or Manchester United secure the win to guarantee progress to the knock out stages. City must beat Bayern Munich and hope that Villarreal take points from Napoli. I cannot express my pleasure enough that we have finally reached the point in the Champions League where we can get a little excited at the prospect of a decent competitive game. I have said all to often, that the group stages of this competition is just to top up the major clubs’ bank accounts. I challenge anyone who has followed this tournament this season to point out a really thrilling game from match day one through five?

With all that said, I think it is most likely to be a routine evening ahead of us. City are most likely to slip into the dreaded Europa League , while I don’t see United making hard work of Basel like they did in the first meeting at Old Trafford. I was well wide of the mark in my prediction for last night’s game, but I have every confidence that I will redeem myself this time around.

Football Orphan predicts: Manchester United to beat Basel 3-1 to progress. Manchester City to beat Bayern Munich but Napoli will qualify with a win in El Madrigal against Villarreal.

Football Orphan: Make or break for Chelsea in Champions League.

If Valencia progress, they will most likely have this man to thank.

Tonight’s action for me will be centred around what looks to be the standout fixture in this season’s Champions League so far, Chelsea verses Valencia at Stamford Bridge. If AVB thought the pressure was mounting previously, wait until he see’s the wrath of the supporters and media if his team come up short after 90 minutes this evening. In my opinion, Chelsea go into this game like a boxer who has been stunned by a knockout blow, while thinking he can survive until the bell rings. The bell is a long way off for Chelsea and Valencia possess more than one fatal knockout punch.

The tiring legs of John Terry and arguably Chelsea’s biggest liability David Luiz, will struggle to contain one of La Liga’s in form strikers in Roberto Soldado. Valencia are a well organised, well-balanced team who currently sit 3rd behind Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga. Like so many have pointed out, if you place the two super powers of Real Madrid and Barcelona in any league they would occupy the number one and two spot every time. This game truly is a watershed moment in the West Londoners recent history. Fail to progress to the knockout stages and it will surely be curtains for AVB. If they overcome the Spaniards he may just have bought himself a January shopping spree to shape his shaky revolution.

Football Orphan predicts: Valencia to win with Roberto Soldado hammering the final nail in the AVB coffin.