Once a great winger who flourished with Sheffield Wednesday, Marseille, Tottenham Hotspur and hometown club Newcastle United, Chris Waddle’s vast football wisdom is conveyed to the patronage of the many media outlets he currently commentates for. A veteran of 62 England caps, Waddle sat down for a natter with news.bwin where Spurs’ title challenge, Newcastle’s survival bid and the Three Lions’ chances at Euro 2016 were discussed amongst other things…
CW on Newcastle United’s current form and chances of survival…
I think Newcastle were hard done by against Manchester City and probably came off the pitch thinking that they could have grabbed all three points, but when you’re scrapping for relegation every point is vital so they won’t be too disheartened.
Newcastle have another game to play before Norwich City play again so if they continue to take points, they’ll exert a lot of pressure on the Canaries and Sunderland. Liverpool is a difficult game for them and they never do well at Anfield so the games they need to target are Crystal Palace, who might have one eye on the FA Cup final, and Aston Villa, who look absolutely hopeless at the moment.
It’s going to be a great end to the season and with two of my former clubs (Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur) facing off against each other on the final day, it’s going to be tough. I loved playing for both clubs and I’d hate to see Newcastle go down and Tottenham not win the league, but if it came down to that situation on the last day with Spurs needing a win and Newcastle needing to avoid defeat, Tottenham would be very confident.
If you’d asked me ten days ago if Newcastle were to go down, I would have said absolutely. Since then, they’ve won against Swansea and drawn against City, which has given them newfound confidence. In my opinion, it’s between Sunderland and Newcastle as to who stays up and it will go right to the last day, I don’t think Norwich will stay up.
CW on what’s gone wrong at Newcastle…
I thought they started the season very sloppily and took some drubbings on the road.
What’s completely baffling is how all of a sudden with four games to go they decide to show the spirit and passion to get themselves out of the situation. I was talking to a few Geordies the other day and they were convinced that Newcastle wouldn’t go down. If only the players had shown that sort of passion and fight five or six games earlier.
I feel a lot of players are looking at their futures, looking for a move, so they’re charged up to impress now. If you’re in a relegation battle, your squad clearly isn’t good enough but it’s amazing to see them switch on and fight now when they hadn’t all season.
CW on whether Rafa Benitez should have been hired sooner…
Yes. Steve McClaren is a good manager and was particularly unlucky but unfortunately when the team’s winning, the players are brilliant; when they’re not, the manager’s rubbish. Rafa Benitez’s attitude towards this team, which is particularly ruthless, looks like it’s working on these players.
If Newcastle are relegated then unfortunately Rafa will leave next season but, if they stay up, I think he’ll be given the time and funds to help rebuild this great club.
CW on Tottenham this season and their title challenge…
I predicted Spurs will win the Premier League a few weeks back and I’m sticking to my guns.
Leicester City are in the driving seat, being five points clear, but one thing’s for certain – when you get to the top and you have a team chomping at your heels, the pressure is really on. We’ll see what Leicester are made of over the next few weeks.
Spurs are currently playing with little pressure and you can see it in their football. They have timed their run well and look sharp going into the last few games, but if Leicester slip up as the pressure on Spurs will increase. The key word in football is confidence and when you have that it makes life much easier – everything Spurs are doing is instinctive.
The title could well hinge on Jamie Vardy’s ban. He’s had a fantastic season but there are several unsung heroes in that Leicester team so I don’t think his ban will matter too much. However, it’s certainly bad luck for Leicester as Vardy does offer the out ball that can help flip defence to attack. It’ll be a huge challenge without him for sure.
CW on Mauricio Pochettino and his managerial style…
Pochettino has been around Europe and has witnessed various styles of football. He’s brought that to Spurs, but put his own spin on it with a fast-paced, high-pressure style, much like what Barcelona are well known for.
Spurs are hunting for the ball and then they move the ball, looking to break teams down. They will gradually grind teams down with their high-tempo style and you’ve got to credit Pochettino for bringing a fast, exciting brand of football to White Hart Lane.
CW on Jamie Vardy and non-league footballers…
A lot more players will come from non-league, like Vardy, for one simple reason – top clubs have much small squads these days and, with the pressure to succeed straight away growing all the time, you don’t have the time to coach younger players now.
Nowadays, young players don’t get as many opportunities and unless you’re on the fringe of the first team, you’re out the door and looking for lower league clubs where you’ll get a game. As a result, a lot of good players are falling by the wayside, so they go to the lower leagues to develop physically and mentally. While the injection of money in to the Premier League has been great, it’s preventing young talents from developing.
I was released from Coventry City at 16 and I suddenly had a chip on my shoulder, desperate to prove everybody wrong and you can see that same hunger in Vardy. It’s great when people slate you, then you prove them all wrong and you can see with Vardy and Harry Kane, who was loaned out here, there and everywhere before finding his shooting boots at Spurs. Sometimes it takes moving down a league or going in to non-league to hone your craft and then you can come back to prove everyone wrong.
CW on Jack Wilshere and being put in to the set up too early…
Unfortunately with Wilshere he seems to make the news on and off the park and has suffered with terrible injuries. With the way he plays, I think he’ll pickup a few more injuries but there’s always the question that hangs over him as to whether he’ll be a great player and until we see enough of him on the pitch, we can’t comment.
Some Arsenal players such as Theo Walcott, who hasn’t developed to the extent we all hoped he would and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has struggled for consistency, were hyped up too much, too early. There are too many people that jump on youngsters too quickly today, players such as Walcott, Jack Rodwell, Ross Barkley. Sometimes you need to hold back from putting additional pressure on players and just let them play.
Rather than judging them now, we need to judge them over their careers when you can fully evaluate whether they were great and whether they realised their potential.
Paul Gascoigne was a great example of that. He always tried to let his football do the talking whilst everyone was raving mad about him.
CW on his former clubs Bradford and Burnley’s promotion chances…
It’s very tight in the Championship at the moment and, for that, you’ve got to give credit to Chris Hughton and Brighton, who are bang in form with great momentum.
Burnley and Middlesbrough three or four weeks ago would have been thinking that promotion was done and dusted but are now constantly looking over their shoulders because if one misses out, they’ll have to play some dangerous teams in the play-offs.
Sean Dyche has done a great job at Burnley. He plays a 4-4-2, which not many teams play anymore and deals with a budget very well. He’s built a good spirit with the team and he’ll be thinking that it’s automatic promotion or bust because if they drop in to third there will be massive pressure on them as favourites to win the play-offs. Crucially, it’s all about momentum towards the end of the season and I feel that with Brighton’s current form, Burnley can ill-afford to drop out of that automatic promotion place.
Bradford have great support from an incredible fan base and while their status in the play-offs is unknown, I think they’ll go in to it with great pressure to perform as they’ve had previous success.
If they’re able to get to Wembley, I feel they’ll do the job as the club will bring fantastic support. In my opinion, the teams they need to watch out for are Barnsley, who are in great form, and also Rochdale, who are teetering on the edge of the play-off positions. Players you’re playing against in League One aren’t on long-term contracts; they’re fighting for their lives each and every week and that’s what makes every result so unpredictable.
CW on England and the relative inexperience in the team…
I’m a great believer that this team isn’t as inexperienced as people are making out as there are players in that team who have played in top European competitions. Yes players like Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling are young but they all play at a very high level. Granted we were very poor at the World Cup in Brazil but I think we play a very different style of football in the Premier League to how we play in international football so you can see why they struggle to adjust.
Looking at the group – Slovakia, Russia and Wales – all those teams will be content with sitting back and soaking up England pressure and then trying to hit us on the counter. We have to be careful to avoid being too attacking, but we certainly shouldn’t throw caution to the wind in France.
There’s an unbelievable amount of pressure on England at every tournament and with Euro 2016, we’ve got players who will go there with great confidence like Kane and Alli, but they’ll have to adjust as England won’t play with the same style as Spurs.
CW on potential selections and the style of play England should adopt…
I think we have to go 4-3-3 at the tournament and change it to a diamond if it’s not working, with two up top. I think Wayne Rooney will start on the left as, based on this season, you have to start Kane and Vardy through the middle. Alli deserves his place behind Kane and if you want to play fast and attacking, you have to play Danny Rose at left back and either Kyle Walker or Nathaniel Clyne on the other flank.
Our main problem is our defensive situation, especially at centre half. They have to be protected. I think John Stones’ best position is defensive midfield. I’d like to see him play there in the upcoming friendlies to see how he performs because one of him or Eric Dier has to protect the two centre backs.
CW on Wayne Rooney…
Rooney will be walking out as captain in England’s first game. He’s experienced and has played in international tournaments and, more importantly, he’s needed in the dressing room to help the younger players. It difficult to say what position he plays and that’s something Roy Hodgson will need to decide, but he’ll be guaranteed a role in the team. Whether people agree or disagree, Rooney should be in the team.
CW on England’s star man and his prediction for the tournament…
I think Alli could be our surprise package as he plays with a free spirit but I also feel Wilshere, if fit, will also have a great tournament. If Wilshere plays in three of the last four games for Arsenal and shows he’s ready, then he’ll go to the Euros and he could well start as a deeper midfield player who plays box-to-box.
There will always be the question as to why you’d take a footballer who hasn’t played all season but Hodgson is a big fan of his and he said he’ll take Wilshere if he’s fit.
I’d be very surprised if we don’t win our group and then you come across the big boys – France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Belgium – so it’s difficult to predict. I think we’ll get to the quarter-finals and then it’s anyone’s guess.
Key man – Dele Alli
Prediction – Quarter Finals