Down to the last sixteen in the FA Cup and only Liverpool are in a position to do any sort of domestic double this season. It is usually once we get into February that we hear and read about how triples and quadruples are possible for some club or another – needless to say such premature postulations prove to be as effective as a board vote of confidence in a manager.
With Manchester City and Manchester United out of the competition we have six of the top ten already through to the 5th round and another, Sunderland, could join them if they can see of Boro’ in a 4th round replay. Everton and Bolton make up the rest of the Premier League contingent.
The transfer window will close shortly but it has been one of caution and loan deals so far. Tucked away over the weekend was the announcement of Newcastle loaning Alan Smith to MK Dons on League One. Ironically it is the most we have heard of Smith for over a season as he has very much become the forgotten man of English football.
Smith emerged with Leeds as an 18-year-old striker in the latter part of the last century and immediately made an impression with his touch, ability to lead the attack and his aggression. His form was instrumental to Leeds European adventures in reaching the last four of the 2001 Champions League and he narrowly missed going to the 2002 World Cup.
Few would have predicted at the time that once Alan Smith left Leeds his best days were behind him. After Leeds were relegated Smith moved to Manchester United but he never convinced as a striker and there was also the ludicrous suggestion that Smith was going to replace Roy Keane in United’s midfield.
A badly broken leg at Anfield certainly did not help Smith but it was clear long before then that Smith did not have the pace to play as a front line striker anymore and he certainly did not have the temperament or positional discipline to play in the centre of midfield.
After a move to Newcastle the pattern of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole continued with the same predictable result. Now with Smith clearly not able to challenge for a place in Newcastle’s squad, he has opted for a place in League One with MK Dons.
With a gap that has now extended to seven points Barcelona now needs help from multiple teams if they are going to pull in Real Madrid and win the Spanish title again. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that if Barcelona don’t win this season’s La Liga then it will somehow impact on their “legacy.”
The thing is if you go back to the great Real Madrid side of the 50s you see that their greatness was defined by five European Cups rather than European trophies and Spanish league titles.
During the years Real Madrid picked up the European Cup between 1956 and 1960 they only won two league titles – 1957 and 58.
Athletic Bilbao won in 1956 and Barcelona won consecutive titles in 1959 and 1960. What’s more Real never completed a domestic double during that time.
The sixties were far more successful from a domestic perspective with eight titles in nine seasons between 1961 and 1969 for Real Madrid. The club only won one European Cup during that spell and that was in 1966 against Partizan Belgrade.
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