Flying Kiwis – February 5

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Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

At this point there’s nothing special about when Chris Wood plays at Old Trafford or Anfield or Stamford Bridge, etc… he’s done it all before. When he manages to score goals at those hallowed turfs of English football though, that’s another story.

Burnley played away to Manchester United in the midweek and did something to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s MUFC that no other team has managed yet… they didn’t lose. In fact they almost won. Despite struggling for possession, the Clarets put in a staunch defensive display to limit what United were able to offer and then caught them unawares in the second half when Andreas Pereira gave the ball away in a dangerous area and Ashley Barnes completely thwacked it past David De Gea and into the net.

A wake up call for the home side there who sent on Jesse Lingard and Alexis Sanchez off the bench to try and save it only to fall 2-0 behind instead thanks to the big fella, The Woodsman himself. Ashley Westwood with a perfect cross and Woody got free and nodded in for his fourth goal of the Premier League season and one of the most memorable of his career. Get in, son!

That was in the 81st minute of the game and had Burnley on course for a famous win. But that’s not often how it goes at Old Trafford. With three minutes of the ninety still to play, Jesse Lingard got a kick in the shin and a tug on the shoulder from Ben Mee and Paul Pogba scored from the penalty spot. Sean Dyche wasn’t happy with the penalty call afterwards but only because he didn’t seem to have noticed the trip, just the hand on the shoulder.

It was then all out assault with the crowd pumped up and the Clarets couldn’t quite do it. Alexis Sanchez came up with a superb header which was saved but Victor Lindelof put it from the rebound. Again Dychey claimed misfortune with a possible offside (marginal but he had a point this time) but he also, to be fair, was more about praising an excellent showing from his lads for a 2-2 draw, keeping Burnley undefeated in five PL games since getting thrashed by Everton on Boxing Day. Dyche wasn’t the only one keeping the vibes smiling either…

That’s right son, you take those positives. You take them wherever you want. Positive number one being the sound the ball made as it rolled up the back of the net after scoring that goal. Also, two more offsides to extend his lead at the top of the ladder there. The second came with a clever finish, albeit with DDG showing zero interest in bothering with it. A disallowed goal is not a goal but at least it looks cool.

In recent weeks Chris Wood has hammered down a starting gig alongside Ashley Barnes. Starting each of the last five Premier League games, with Barnesy as his mate in every one of them. If you doubted that they were first choice before then it was all over by transfer deadline day when Sam Vokes, who had scored five goals in 28 appearances in all competitions this season but only started in half of them, was sold to Stoke in a swap+cash deal that brought a familiar Premier League favourite back into the top flight once again…

What up, Crouchy? Get him and Chris Wood in the same team and you’ve got enough tall timber to build a house!

Next up it was Southampton in a proper old six-pointer at the bottom there. Each team with a healthy dose of recent form but still needing the points to edge closer to safety. Mate and this was a controversial one yet again. Something about Burnley and penalties, aye.

The Clarets looked good in the first half, Ashley Barnes getting a few decent chances, and Dyche thought they should’ve been awarded a spottie there as Barnes was taken out by keeper Alex McCarthy… only for the ref to point his arm the other way and book Barnes for diving. Maybe there was enough contact for a penalty, maybe not, but a yellow for diving was definitely harsh. Also harsh was that Chris Wood is the designated spot kick taker and Burnley haven’t won one all season in the Premier League… that is, they hadn’t until second half stoppage time of this game.

Lancashire Telegraph: “Chris Wood wasted a great chance just before the half hour. The striker stayed onside to latch onto McNeil’s pass, kept his composure to cut inside Stephens but then lifted his effort over the bar. Burnley were brighter now with everything positive coming through McNeil. The youngster stretched his legs again but his cross was just in front of Wood.”

By then Nathan Redmond had put Southampton in front with a ripper of a shot from outside the box following on from some sustained Saints pressure. Burnley sparked back up after that and Barnes had two more fantastic chances, whacking one straight at the keeper and then hitting the frame with the other after a fantastic dropping volley. You got the feeling that Chris Wood, who’d only really had one decent attempt in this game and put it over the bar, would have scored with the amount of chances that Barnes was getting… but then Barnes was also the one getting in position for those chances. That’s the way the game went.

Wood was subbed off for a club debut for Peter Crouch in the last fifteen minutes and then, extraordinarily, under pressure from Crouch in the air, Jack Stevens left an arm up and was whistled for handball in the dying stages. First penalty kick awarded to Burnley in the Premier League for 68 games (since April 2017!) and it came after The Woodsman had already been subbed off. Goddammit. But Barnes converted and Burnley stole a late point, which was no less than they were worth to be honest.

Lancashire Telegraph Player Ratings: “Chris Wood 6 - Missed a big chance in the first half when he shot over after good initial work. Wasn’t as threatening in the box as his strike partner.”

Up Next: Sunday at 6.30am away to Brighton & Hove (NZT)

Tyler Boyd – MKE Ankaragücü (Turkish SuperLig)

Yeah okay then. Bit of a surprise at the end of the January transfer window, Boyd had disappeared out of the matchday squads for the last couple games with VSC but he’s not exactly got guaranteed a spot there so not necessarily a warning sign. Vitória hadn’t signed anyone to replace him either… however his extended absence with injury earlier on in the season perhaps didn’t help his prospects for extended football. So along comes this news and alrighty, fair enough. Gotta get those minutes.

That news being that Tyler Boyd is joining Turkish top flight club MKE Ankaragücü on loan for the remainder of the season. He’s contracted until the middle of 2020 (one more season after this) and was recently announced as the Revelation of the Year at the sporting club’s annual awards for 2018. Breakout player, in other words. Meaning that this is probably an opportunity to play more games rather than a cheap way to offload him. Score some goals and come back steaming… after all his last loan spell at CD Tondela went pretty bloody good – that’s what got him into the VSC first team in the first place.

Tyler Boyd: “This is a new country for me, it's time to get success in a new city and with a new team. My goal is to play to my best abilities and contribute to Ankaragücü reaching its goals.”

Sweet as, so for the rest of the season he’s now a winger for MKE Ankaragücü in the Turkish Super Lig. He’s not alone either, as the club have also brought in a former teammate of Chris Wood’s at Leeds – Hadi Sacko. Him and a bunch of defenders. Plus before the season they signed Youness Mokhtar who played with Ryan Thomas at PEC Zwolle. What a small world, hey? Except Mokhtar has since left the club so apparently Boydie can replace him or something. If this sounds like a lot of work for a January window, that’s because Ankaragücü are only two points ahead of the relegation zone with the worst goal difference in the league. They lost 6-0 to Galatasaray a few weeks back. They could use the help.

Say one thing for ol’ Boyd, he’s a trailblazer. Haven’t had an NZ-born footy player crack the top league in Portugal ever before and gonna have to assume he’ll be the first All White to play professionally in Turkey as well (at least until he changes affiliation to the USA if indeed that ever happens – eligible for both, his call, no dramas). Turkey… doesn’t really feel like the first country you’d necessarily wanna move to, global politics being what they are, but tell you what… they don’t skimp on the media budgets over there. Look at the creativity involved in this bad boy!

Didn’t quite make the difference in his first game, playing ninety minutes on the right wing as the Ankas lost 1-0 to Trabzonspor. Hugo Rodallega’s cheeky goal was the only one. Definitely the second best team on the night, though Boyd had one of the side’s better opportunities with a long range drive that drew a quality save out of the keeper. The fact that he’s gone straight into the starting team is a positive one, also positive is that Bein Sports tend to pick up the odd Turkish league game if you happen to subscribe to those folks.

Up Next: Home to Kasimpasa, Tuesday at 6am (NZT)

Ali Riley – Chelsea FC (English Super League)

No sign of Ali Riley this week as Chelsea began their defence of the FA Cup with a scrappy but deserved 2-0 win away to Everton, second half goals to Drew Spence and Hannah Blundell the difference. All goods, she’ll be needed over a fascinating next week of footy in which the Blues play Manchester City in the Conti Cup semi before playing the same buggers again a few days later in the league – which is basically a must-win if Chelsea are to have any hope of retaining that trophy too.

Also, read this…

Up Next: Conti Cup semi vs Man City, 8.30am on Thursday (NZT)

Myer Bevan – Unattached

Been waiting a while for news of Myer Bevan. Last we heard of him he was training with the Wellington Phoenix to stay fit, though that was only ever a low-key temporary thing. Got released from the Vancouver Whitecaps and maybe could have gotten a deal at a USL club if he wanted one but just like the other NZ Whitecap to get the flick recently (that club has changed more than half their squad from last season, it’s mental), that teammate being Stefan Marinovic of course, Myer Bevan has made treks for Europe.

Poland, specifically. Where he’s been training with Polish second tier club Puszcza Niepołomice. Not the most glamorous situation out there but The Forest (there’s a big forest by the town - Niepołomice Forest) are only eight points off promotion and ready to give that a good crack, plus they’ve made it into the quarterfinals of the Polish Cup having knocked top div side Wisla Plock out in the last round. And they lost three strikers recently and needed some help.

Bevan featured in the first 45 minutes of a 1-0 friendly win against GKS Tychy, starting with the first team before the gaffer made a full eleven changes at half-time. He was one of a few trialists and youth team players to get a run in this game and interestingly according to the club director Bevan’s gonna stick around for a few more days.

Roman Koroza, Puszcza Niepołomice: “He came to England and we were recommended to look at him. We will look at him in two trainings and in the Saturday friendly with Korona Kielce.”

Bevan did hang around for that friendly with Korona Kielce and the Niepolo’s won it 2-0, Bevan playing the first half with the main jokers again. The gaffer then said he’d take a look at the replay and make a call within the next 24 hours… which he did…

Tomasz Tulacz: “We have decided that we will not try for him at this time, he will not stay with us.”

Moving on then. No new news on Stefan Marinovic either this week.

Up Next: Good question.

Ria Percival – West Ham United (English Super League)

Following a rough month of January, the Hammers needed this FA Cup fixture with Blackburn Rovers to help get things back on balance but they had a pretty horrid start going down 1-0 to a Natasha Flint strike in the 14th minute. With Ria Percival given the chance to play in the midfield, that meant a little more influence in things going forward (as well as practice for the Footy Ferns at the end of the month) and WHU did settle into the game and create a fair few chances. Alisha Lehmann, Erin Simon and Lucienne Reichardt all went extremely close… but just as it looked like the underdogs were going to take a lead into the break Adriana Leon tied it all up.

Perfect time to score, taking that boost into half-time. Always makes the oranges taste sweeter. And Leon must have loved it most of all because she came out and almost scored another straight away. Ria Percival swung in an inch-perfect ball to Kate Longhust but her shot went over the bar as well. Finally Brianna Visalli broke the deadlock after 71 mins and then Leon made sure of it in the 79th. 3-1 to West Ham. 90 minutes for Ria Percival. They’ll play either Charlton or Huddersfield in the next round.

Up Next: Nothing ‘til Thursday 21 Feb when they’re away to Reading

Sam Brotherton – North Carolina FC (American USL Championship)

Anyone who’s watched that excellent (if a little voyeuristic) Netflix doco series Sunderland ‘Til I Die knows that the last couple years have not been a great time to be a Sunderland Football Club player. When the Black Cats were relegated from the Premier League a few months after Brotherton signed on, it felt like maybe that would be an opportunity for him to move closer to the first team with them in a lower division. Didn’t work out like that at all though. Things went from worse to disastrous and Brotherton was stuck just trying to get a crack in the U23s, never even getting close to the first team. And once compatriot Michael Woud left, the writing was on the wall for Brotherton.

So in the English summer he left on loan for Blyth Spartans in the National League North, possibly a lower division than ideal but at least he’d be getting games… then he only lasted 46 minutes in his first game before a bout of ligament damage struck him down and he missed several months, eventually recalled from his loan without appearing again for the Spartans. His contract with Sunderland was due to expire at the end of the season and it was all a bit of a bummer, really, for one of the country’s best young defenders.

Which is why this is such good news…

Sam Brotherton has signed with North Carolina FC for the upcoming 2019 USL Championship season. Back in the country where he had such a decorated college career over two years at the University of Wisconsin. The American pro “soccer” scene is a bit of a dodgy one at times, but with Miguel Almiron getting a big money move to Newcastle FC after leading Atlanta to the MLS title last year and with big changes in the structure of the USL, better aligning it as the division below MLS, things are getting better.

Cool thing about North Carolina FC is that it’s the male affiliate of the North Carolina Courage, the NWSL team that Abby Erceg just captained to the championship… so inspirational kiwi defenders are a bit of a beloved sight in the city. Should bode well, the coach sounds like he digs him.

NCFC Head Coach Dave Sarachan: “Sam is an experienced international center back and will be an important piece to our back line defending. Sam is excellent in the air and comfortable in distribution. More importantly he has the ability to organize and lead a backline. I look forward to having Sam play an important role for us this season.”

And there’s always a huge kiwi presence in the USL. Brotherton joins a crew that in 2018 featured James Musa, Elliot Collier, Bill Tuiloma, Kyle Adams, Myer Bevan, Monty Patterson, Kip Colvey, and Cory Brown - Tuiloma and Collier on loan from MLS clubs. Plus kiwis Simon Elliott (Sacramento Republic) and Cam Knowles (Portland Timbers 2) were and remain head coaches in the division.

As for the 2019 crew, James Musa and Kyle Adams are already confirmed to be back with their same clubs. Same deal with Tuiloma and Collier at the MLS level. Myer Bevan you’ve already read about. Kip Colvey has retired. The other two we’re still waiting on news from.

Up Next: Preseason battles

Tommy Smith – Colorado Rapids (American Major League Soccer)

Up Next: More of that

James Dunn – Woking FC (English National League South)

Pretty sweet way to get things up and running. A 5-0 win over Egham Town in the Surrey Senior Cup, sending the team into the quarters. He’s also snuck onto the bench for a couple of league games. Already making himself at home at Woking.

Up Next: Home to Dartford at 8.45am on Wednesday (NZT)

Aimee Phillips & Malia Steinmetz – Northern Tigers FC (Australian National Premier League)

With a World Cup on the near horizon, playing minutes are a necessity and a couple of fringe Ferns are making sure they’re playing their best footy at the right time. Both Aimee Phillips and Malia Steinmetz have signed with Northern Tigers in Sydney for the upcoming 2019 season. For Steinmetz, she’s jumping over the ditch from Northern Lights in Aotearoa, where she helped lead the side to the NWL final in December. She was a part of the Ferns squad that won the Oceania Nations Cup but was not included in the latest squad.

Tigers co-coaches Jason Eagar/Pat O’Sullivan: “We have some new faces already in the 2019 squad which has added strength in key areas and we are confident Malia’s skills and experience will add further value to the squad for the 2019 season.”

Phillips, meanwhile, has taken a more extravagant journey to get here. Having been one of the stars of the NWL for Canterbury Pride for a number of years, she’s spent the last two playing in Serbia, Wales and Germany and you’d imagine this is definitely a move made with the World Cup in mind, looking to play solid minutes and score plenty of goals right under the eyes of a certain Tom Sermanni after impressing him enough in training camp to earn selection for the Cup of Nations squad. Both Phillips and Steinmetz will be assisting with coaching the younger girls squads at the club as well as starring for the top side.

Tigers co-coaches Jason Eagar/Pat O’Sullivan: “We are very pleased that a player with Aimee’s skill and experience will be playing for Tigers in 2019 and strengthens an already excellent squad that we have for the 2019 season.”

Up Next: Season kicks off in March and runs ‘til August

Ryan Thomas – PSV Eindhoven (Dutch Eredivisie)

Mark van Bommel: “The Australia internationals Aziz Behich and Trent Sainsbury will join up with the senior squad after the weekend, while long-term absentee Ryan Thomas has embarked on his first running sessions.”

Hey alright, that’s what we love to hear! Back into the ol’ running stuff and that means he should only be a couple months away from a full return. One more milestone ticked off. Thommo was initially hurt in August and a cruciate ligament tends to take nine months to recover, longer if things go awry but it’s been so far so good for Thomas to hit that nine month schedule. Which would mean he’s cutting it fine to get out there before this season comes to an end but he’ll be all good for a full preseason at the least.

As for the club without him, absolutely no dramas there. PSV just beat Fortuna Sittard 5-0 at home, with Luuk de Jong scoring a hattrick, and that puts them five points clear at the top after 20 games. 18 wins in those 20, with 1 draw and 1 defeat. Champions League is basically a certainty again sitting 16 points clear of third place with 14 games to play.

Up Next: More running

Winston Reid – West Ham United (English Premier League)

Speaking of injury news, here’s some more sparse Winston chat…

Up Next: ???

Olivia Chance – Everton (English Super League)

Up Next: Keep on stepping up the recovery

Rebekah Stott – Melbourne City (Australian W-League)

Melbourne City knew exactly what they needed to do going into their final game against Sydney FC. They had to win and they had to win big if they were going to overturn enough goal difference to sneak into the top four for a chance to defend their title. So if you’re here to see how a kiwi centre-back went then know that she didn’t have a whole lot to do. City came out firing, searching desperately for goals. They should have had one in the 15th minute but after Tameka Butt was fouled in the area, only for Yukari Kinga to put her penalty kick wide of the target. A few minutes later Stotty got forward from a corner and volleyed one clean but it was cleared off the line. There was more where that came from too…

Kinga finally made amends and City finally had that goal they needed in the 64th minute with a close range finish. A couple nice saves along the way from Lydia Williams ensured that City didn’t concede anything at the other end and in the 86th minute Theresa Nielsen set up Butt for a pretty goal to make it 2-0. That was the way it finished, not enough to overhaul Sydney on goal difference so it became a waiting game…

The last chance Melbourne City had was for Perth Glory to lose by four goals to Melbourne Victory, who were playing to wrap up first place. At half time that looked a possibility too, with Victory up 2-0… alas ‘twas not to be.

Sam Kerr pulled one back in the second stanza and it ended 2-1, ending Melbourne City’s season with it. One more point along the way would have done it. Stott’s won four W-League championships over the years (and she’s only 25!) but there’ll be no fifth… not this season anyway, there’s always the next one.

Stott now leaves for Avaldsnes in Norway for the 2019 season where she’ll be teammates with fellow Footy Fern Vic Esson. Probably a little less high profile than playing in the NWSL in America but considering how poorly Sky Blue did last season this is probably a step up for Stott all the same. And that decision looks clearer with recent news of Sky Blue’s top two draft picks refusing to sign with the club after finding the club facilities to be a long way from suitable for a pro club. Number two overall pick Hailie Mace actually ended up with Melbourne City for the tail end of the season, while number six overall pick Julia Ashley has signed in Sweden with Linkopings.

Up Next: Avaldsnes begin their season away to Klepp (Kirsty Yallop’s club!) on Saturday 23 March (NZT)

Jeremy Brockie – Mamelodi Sundowns (South African Premier Soccer League)

The Emiliano Tade thing happened. From playing for Auckland City for years, he’s been in South Africa about nine months and has already booked a transfer to the top team in the country… where he’s now a teammate of Jeremy Brockie. Although… Brockie’s situation is far from clear these days. He survived the transfer window but after a good run of starts it seems that brief first XI status has expired. At least with this club you know that things can change pretty quickly.

Against AmaZulu in the PSL, Sundowns found themselves down 1-0 at the break. On came Jeremy Brockie as a sub to try and fix things. Emiliano Tade followed 25 minutes later, Jose Ali Meza another attacking sub in between those two. But Sundowns fell 2-0 in the end, their challenge for the league title still well alive but their undefeated start to the season (through 15 PSL games) was ended. They then won 3-1 at home to ASEC in the Champions League to get that particular campaign back on the tracks, though Brockie was not even included in the squad. He’s been struggling to get games in the CAF CL lately despite his excellent record of scoring in continental comps. Tade, by the way, came off the bench to score his first goal for the club in stoppage time. A lot quicker than it took Brockie to get his first for the club.

Here’s some context on the attacking shape of the Brazilians…

Soccer Laduma: “Last season, Sundowns netted a league-high 49 goals in their 30 matches as Percy Tau scored 11 goals and assisted 13 times. His departure, as well as that of Khama Billiat, has seen a transition period of sorts for Masandawana as Gaston Sirino and Lebohang Maboe have become first choice attackers. Anthony Laffor’s excellent form has seen a false nine system being used on occasion, with Maboe usually the furthest man forward.  Sundowns’ scoring has taken a dip with just 19 goals scored in their 16 games so far. The side is on course to score 13 fewer league goals this season at their current rate, prompting Pitso Mosimane to bring in Emiliano Tade from AmaZulu in a cash-plus-player deal, as Bonginkosi Ntuli made his loan deal permanent at Usuthu. Downs’ shots have dropped this season (0.5) whilst their shooting accuracy has dropped slightly too. Jeremy Brockie has scored just once this league campaign after big things were expected of him in Tau’s absence. Mosimane has even used Thapelo Morena as a striker to good effect in the win against Highlands Park, as Brockie has dropped down the pecking order. ”

There had been talk that Brockie was being shopped around as bait in the transfer window, player plus cash sort of thing, similar to Burnley’s Vokes/Crouch swap. But the window closed and Brockie remained. And it’s worth acknowledging that Tade’s signing might not be the best for Brockie but it doesn’t mean the end of him at Sundowns, as a ruthless schedule is going to test the entire depth of the squad over the next few months. Plenty more toast in the toaster (as they don’t say).

Up Next: Home to Black Leopards on Thursday at 6.30am (NZT)

Joel Stevens – Husqvarna FF (Swedish Division 1 Södra)

Not Husqvarna FF any longer, mind you. Joel’s found his way back to the green pastures of Team Wellington – just in time to give their season a good old jolt after Justin Gulley and Mario Barcia both left. Stevens was briefly joined by Myer Bevan in Sweden, and did quite well himself with 21 total appearances, along with three goals. But at the same time there was internal drama at the club with the manager trying to force a rudimentary style of play that didn’t suit the players he had – Stevens included. That led to Stevens missing a lot of games towards the end of 2018 and the team struggled as a number of other regulars were in the same boat, left on the outside looking in. Eventually there was a bit of a showdown and three assistants quit, with the gaffer sent packing two days later.

This is all from an Otago Daily Times piece last week and it feels worth including to give a bit of indication what these folks go through trying to chase the pro footy dream. How the best intentions can go awry because of nothing but bad luck and poor circumstance. Here’s what happened after Stevens left Sweden, before ending up at Team Wellington again…

ODT: “Stevens decided to pursue options in Europe, but that became difficult when his old club warned others off. A top league Slovakian club offered him a trial and a contract. However, its coach was sacked and that fell through. He began getting offers for trials as word got out he was heading home, but it was too late.”

These are the tales we don’t usually hear when we wonder why some joker ain’t getting enough games or why another old mate ends up playing lower leagues when we know they’re capable of cracking it at a higher standard. Things are never as simple as they appear.

Joel Stevens: “I was just over it by that point. I said, 'I really don't want to do this anymore'. 'It had been four months of hell, pretty much, an emotional roller coaster. I just wanted to come home... I didn't read too much into it, but in football you need a lot of luck. It is obviously your skill and everything, but for me especially, my experience, I'd say it was 30% skill and 70% luck. It's just about the timing and going to the right place at the right time, the right coach and stuff. So that's the most frustrating thing for me.”

It’s a good read, hit the link up there and breeze through the whole thing. Here’s hoping Joel Stevens has paid enough dues and more fortuitous shot at the professional scene emerges down the line.

Up Next: Team Welly, mate

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