In his exclusive column for CaughtOffside, former Liverpool attacker Stan Collymore discusses some of football’s biggest talking points, including how football can help Sandro Tonalo overcome a gambling addiction, what the January transfer window could have in store for Kalvin Phillips and Scott Mctominay, as well as a look ahead to this weekend’s Merseyside Derby, plus much more.
Newcastle will stand by Sandro Tonali but football must do more…
I’m sure Newcastle United would have been shocked when they heard Sandro Tonali’s agent confirm he has a gambling addiction, and although they won’t come out and say it, they would have felt disappointed but the club will look after him. They, like all clubs, have a responsibility to look after their employees and that’s what they’ll do. I thought Eddie Howe’s press conferences, which have obviously been dominated by questions about Tonali, have been handled impeccably well.
Tonali isn’t the first player to suffer from a crippling addiction. Although gambling isn’t something I have ever suffered with, I know of a lot of players, past and present, who do struggle with it.
It’s a really big problem. The phasing out of gambling-related front-of-shirt sponsors is a good step to take, but we need to do more to shield addicts and also to help prevent the next generation from becoming addicts. I think there should be a total ban on all gambling-related advertisements. We should make football a gambling-free environment; this would allow those who do have a problem to enter a ‘safe space’ while not totally forbidding those who do gamble responsibly from doing something they enjoy. I think that is probably the fairest way to manage it, but we have to do something because this can’t continue.
Kalvin Phillips and Scott McTominay on the move?
Obviously, Tonali is now facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines; just like Brentford’s Ivan Toney, and of course, should the inevitable happen and his number eight is suspended for a period of time, Howe will need cover.
A few names have already been thrown around, including Manchester City’s Kalvin Phillips and Manchester United’s Scott McTominay.
I think both of these players, who aren’t getting the game-time they need at their current clubs, will be on the lookout for new teams once the January transfer window opens, and although I rate both, I would be leaning toward Phillips if I were a manager.
He’s a very aggressive midfielder, who can get forward in search of a goal when he needs to. He also has an excellent range of passing and would certainly complement a Newcastle United team. I’m not sure I see him at St. James’ Park though.
I saw some reports recently about Bayern Munich being interested in him – it wouldn’t surprise me if Harry Kane is influencing his club’s transfer policy. I am sure Kane would love to welcome an international colleague to Bavaria, and if they can’t get Joao Palhinha out of Fulham in January now he’s signed a new contract, Phillips would be the ideal alternative. It’s definitely a move I can see materialising.
As for McTominay, it seems unlikely he’ll ever become a regular at Old Trafford under Erik Ten Hag, and he would certainly be the type of player who could fit Howe’s high-work rate system, but I have a sneaky feeling David Moyes and West Ham will be back again in the New Year for him. McTominay would thrive under Moyes; I am sure of it – can United get a £30 million, or higher, offer again though? – We’ll have to see.
Jude Bellingham’s biggest tests are yet to come. How he responds to them will define his legacy…
Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great player, but I don’t want to get too carried away.
He’s had a monumental rise. Not only did Birmingham City retire his shirt when he left as a teenager, he went to Borussia Dortmund and did very well before moving to Real Madrid and starting excellently.
It’s hard to think he’s still just 20 years old. But let’s not forget… Everything is going well for him at the moment, but that won’t always be the case. He will have down periods in his career, whether that comes from Real Madrid not playing well as a team, or bad luck with injuries. It’s in those challenging moments that I want to see what Bellingham does. I want to see how he responds from a five or six-week injury lay-off. That will show exactly the player he is and is capable of becoming.
If he continues on this upward trajectory, he certainly can become one of, if not, the world’s best midfielder. At the moment, I don’t think he can claim that title because he’s pretty good at everything. What I mean by that is that he isn’t exceptional at one or two particular disciplines. He has been scoring a lot of goals recently, which is great, but can he keep it up? – Can he become the next Frank Lampard? – Only time will tell, but he definitely has the potential to go on and become the best English player of all time.
Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp get their way (again)…
Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have not shut up about ‘player welfare’ and how our crowded fixture list is too demanding on players, and after the FA confirmed they’re scrapping third and fourth-round replays, it seems both have once again got their way.
Listen, I don’t necessarily disagree with what both managers have said. There is more football than ever being played these days and footballers, although paid very well for what they do, are still just human beings. They feel the mental and physical effects of things and we shouldn’t pretend they don’t.
However, the issue I have with Guardiola and Klopp, and other managers who are demanding a reduction in games, is that they only ever target the English game’s heritage, and never Europe’s. They want fewer Carabao and FA Cup games, but never fewer Champions League games, so is it really their players’ welfare they have in mind, or do they just know what side their bread is buttered?
The day one of those two comes out and says ‘Right, our players are playing too much, in addition to scrapping third and fourth round cup ties, let’s do more, let’s reduce the number of European competitions’ is the day I will take them seriously.
To be this season’s Premier League champions, you will have to finish higher than Liverpool…
This weekend’s Premier League action should kick off with a bang. It’s the Merseyside Derby at Anfield and, like always, I am sure it’s going to be a brilliant contest. There haven’t been many occasions where the divide in quality between Liverpool and Everton has been as big as it is now so Sean Dyche has his work cut out. Obviously, Liverpool are the overwhelming favourites, and rightly so, but if Everton can put in a solid performance and show heart, determination and desire, their fans will forgive them even if they lose – the most important thing for the Toffees is that they are hard to beat, and I think they have a chance of being just that.
Liverpool still have a very new squad, especially in midfield, so it’s going to be interesting to see how some of those new names handle their first Merseyside Derby. I suspect they’ll come through it and continue to have another great campaign. I think if any team finishes above Klopp’s men, they’ll be champions. For me, Liverpool will either win the league or they’ll finish second. I think they’ll finish higher than Spurs and higher than Arsenal – the only team I see doing better than them over a 38-domestic game season is Manchester City.