Aston Villa

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Official: Scotland national team brings back McLeish

1 Comment

Scotland’s new boss has had the job before, as former Rangers and Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish is set to hold the hopes of the Tartan Army.

[UPDATE]: The Scotland FA announced on Friday morning the appointment of McLeish. While contract numbers and length were not disclosed, both McLeish and the Scotland FA mentioned that Scotland would be hosting matches at Hampden Park during Euro 2020, making it an even bigger priority for the Tartan Army to qualify.

[ MORE: Batshuayi the talk of BVB ]

An announcement is expected Friday for the 59-year-old, who led Scotland during EURO qualifying in 2007. Scotland went 7W-3L in his time with the club, including a win away to France.

McLeish was also capped 77 times for Scotland as a player and is a member of the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.

Scotland hasn’t qualified for the World Cup since 1998 and has missed every EURO since 1996.

Championship Focus: Halfway through, who’s coming up?

Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Just as the second half of the 2017-18 Premier League season began on Tuesday, so did the Championship’s decisive half of football, with one former PL side threatening to run away with the title and the rest of the top half separated by just 13 points.

Sounds somewhat familiar, doesn’t it?

[ MORE: Boxing Day blues for Man Utd; joy for Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers, who were mostly recently a PL side before being relegated in 2012, are unbeaten in their last 10 league games (eight wins) and eight points clear of their nearest title challengers, though Nuno Espirito Santo’s side did drop points for the second time in four games on Boxing Day. The Championship’s most prolific scoring side is spearheaded by 23-year-old Brazilian forward Leo Bonatini (12 goals) and 21-year-old Portuguese wonderkid Diogo Jota (10). If Wolves somehow don’t end up promoted this season, a bump in league is still likely for the prolific duo. Tuesday’s 2-2 draw away to 16th-place Millwall left the door slightly ajar for newly-established second-place Bristol City to trim the gap into single digits.

Everyone will first recall Bristol’s famous victory over Manchester United in the League Cup last week, of course, but that triumph at is hardly an outlier in what has been a fantastically consistent season for Lee Johnson’s Robins. With just one defeat from their last 11 league games (eight wins), Bristol have shot up the table following a draw-filled start to the season which seemed likely to preclude them from the promotion discussion. 24-year-old English forward Bobby Reid leads the way with 11 goals this season, with no one else bagging more than a half-dozen for an effectively balanced side.

Cardiff City had shown themselves to be worthy adversaries of Wolves, until back-to-back defeats in the last week saw them tumble from second to third in the table. First, it was a 2-0 defeat away to 23rd-place Bolton, followed by a 4-2 humbling at home against Fulham on Tuesday. 27-year-old Canadian winger Junior Hoilett is still kicking around the Championship and leads the Bluebirds with six goals.

Leeds United are the hottest team in the league (this side of Bristol), as Thomas Christiansen’s men are unbeaten in their last six (five wins) and are now just three points back of fourth-place Derby. A pair of sides relegated in recent seasons, Middlesbrough (2017) and Aston Villa (2016), currently sit just outside the playoff (top-six) places.

[ MORE: Man City take on Newcastle seeking 18th straight win ]

After 24 of 46 rounds played…

Place Team Points GD
1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 55 +26
2 Bristol City 47 +15
3 Cardiff City 47 +13
4 Derby 45 +17
5 Leeds United 42 +10
6 Sheffield United 41 +10
7 Middlesbrough 38 +9
8 Aston Villa 38 +8
9 Preston North End 37 +4
10 Ipswich Town 36 +4
11 Fulham 35 +2
12 Brentford 34 +5

Beckham reportedly wants Steve Bruce in Miami

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

He’s got the same initials as South Beach, you know?

Steve Bruce is being tipped to be the first manager of David Beckham’s Miami MLS outfit, according to The Sun.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup ]

It’s going to be some time before Bruce would have the opportunity. The 56-year-old former Manchester United star has Aston Villa in a Football League Championship promotion push, and Miami does not even have a start date for life on an MLS pitch.

Of course, managerial life tends to be short, so there’s no guarantee Bruce will have a job at any point during the build-up to Miami in MLS. And several expansion clubs have named their coach very early in the team building process (Jason Kreis and Bob Bradley amongst others).

Bruce on MLS’ parity-driven playing field, if not as one of the big spenders, would be intriguing to watch. He’s a terrific man motivator and has the connections to combine with Beckham to make something special happen in terms of personnel.

Barry joins Manchester United legend Giggs in history books

Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gareth Barry‘s fourth appearance for West Bromwich Albion is a big one.

The Hawthorns is just about the only place where Barry is the new guy, as the 36-year-old midfielder is making his 632nd Premier League appearance with a start versus West Ham United on Saturday.

[ MORE: Palace loses again ]

Oddly enough, Barry’s played more matches against Giggs (27) then he had against any other player besides Wayne Rooney (28). Frank Lampard, Jermain Defoe, and Michael Carrick have also played 27 times against Barry.

Those are mostly unhappy times for Barry, whose teams lost 21 of those encounters, only winning four times.

Some other stats:

— Giggs drops down the list when it’s limited to PL-only matches (22). In this case, Defoe’s 27 tops the chart.

— The first came with Aston Villa on May 2, 1998, a 41-minute run-out in a 3-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday.

— The next one was a start, and 365 of the 632 came for Villa. He scored 41 goals in that 11-year senior tenure.

— In 2009, Barry moved to Man City. He’d make his next 132 PL matches there, scoring six times.

— Barry left City on loan in 2013-14, heading to Everton. Thirty-two PL appearances came during the loan, with another 99 after he permanently joined the Toffees.

West Brom bought Barry for an undisclosed fee in August, after the midfielder had pitched in during a pair of Europa League qualifiers for Everton.

Also:

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?