Everton’s disastrous managerial search – a timeline

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unsworth

Ronald Koeman was sacked by Everton on 23rd October following a 5-2 dismantling at the hands of Arsenal. Following the most ludicrous transfer window in the club’s history he left the club in 18th place in the Premier League, following a run of just 2 wins in 9 games.

Before the season began everything was looking rosy for Ron, but the failure to address the loss of their top goalscorer combined with some of the worst defence in the competition gave the club no choice but to let him go.

Caretaker manager David Unsworth took to the helm but other than a surprising comeback to beat Watford 3-2, they’ve been equally abysmal, particularly in the Europa League, where they’ve had one of the worst showings ever by an English side in Europe.

Embed from Getty Images

Surely there were no more trimmings to add to this shit sandwich, Everton fans must have thought. But lo and behold, the club have managed it, and their managerial chase has unquestionably been a nightmare journey, without any sort of clear direction in mind.

It reminds me of Palace at the start of the season, swapping new breed De Boer for old school Hodgson, but at least Palace acted fast, because Everton’s month has dragged and dragged and dragged… Here’s a handy timeline for you.

 

23rd October – Unsworth took the helm and threw his blue blood-stained hat in the mix but reports told that the club were setting their sights in two drastically different directions, with Champion’s League winner Carlo Ancelotti and Championship winner, Sean Dyche on the menu. No disrespect to Dyche, but putting these two in the same pool was a bit of a stretch. http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/everton-next-manager-carlo-ancelotti-sean-dyche-search-for-replacement-koeman-a8015761.html

Later that day, Head of Sport at the Daily Mail seemed sure that Dyche was destined for the job, but since he’s still in charge of Burnley, it is safe to say that didn’t happen. https://twitter.com/LeeClayton_/status/922446876745625601

 

24th October – Highly experienced manager and all-round top bloke Ryan Giggs declared his interest, looking to jump right in at the top of the managerial tree like any level-headed chap would.

http://www.skysports.com/football/news/11095/11095502/ryan-giggs-interested-in-everton-and-leicester-managerial-vacancies

As well as Unsworth and Giggs, Phil Neville also wanted to drink from the poisoned chalice, reported the BBC.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41733364

A man with genuine experience, former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel, didn’t rule himself out, but nothing rose from it, perhaps the memo didn’t arrive at Goodison?

http://www.skysports.com/football/news/11671/11096384/thomas-tuchel-open-to-an-approach-from-everton-over-managerial-vacancy

Marco Silva was very high on Everton’s hitlist too. At Watford he had introduced some very attractive football, so understandably, he was a lovely prospect. However, Watford would have none of it.

https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/watford-to-block-any-approach-for-marco-silva-as-everton-and-leicester-circle-a3666501.html

Embed from Getty Images

 

26th October  – Dyche was flattered by the link to Everton, but largely dismissed the situation, saying: “There’s no story, it’s other people’s stories. It’s not mine, but it’s right that I get asked about it.”

https://www.fourfourtwo.com/news/everton-not-my-story-says-burnley-boss-dyche

 

27th October – BIG SAM ALERT. The man who left Crystal Palace with no interest of returning to management quickly couldn’t resist the attraction of perhaps joining the blue side of Liverpool for another relegation battle. Contact was seemingly made between the parties, presumably over a pint of wine, so we will be hearing more from him later…

https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/sam-allardyce-would-consider-becoming-everton-manager-if-approached-36274021.html

Embed from Getty Images

 

1st November – The list is getting longer! This time an approach was made for Nuno Espírito Santo of Wolves. Some say that they can still hear Paul Merson cursing the idea in the distance. Santo’s side we’re sitting top of the Championship at the time, and they’re 4 points clear at present, but was Nuno still leading the pack?

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/nov/01/wolves-nuno-espirito-santo-everton-manager-offer

 

2nd November – Yea he was. He mugged Everton off in the only way to do so in this modern age, by tweeting a wolf emoji. Class.

https://twitter.com/Nuno/status/926106104416874496

 

7th November – Why stop at Wolves’ manager? Let’s have Atletico’s! Simeone arose at the ‘top target’ for Everton, but I don’t think anyone was ever truly jumping on that crazy train – you can’t fault their ambition, I guess.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/everton-new-manager-latest–13870132

 

 

14th November – The Ev seemingly didn’t hear Watford’s comments earlier in the window and went big for Silva, offering £8.5 million (a large amount for a manager) for the Hornet’s man. They were stung though, as Watford stuck to their guns and rejected such compensation.

https://twitter.com/TimesSport/status/930418430838272000

 

15th November – No time wasted, second bid, £10 million. REJECTED. The Watford are not for turning. Silva though, was not playing down the chance of moving to the North and so fire of this story would continue to burn.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2017/11/15/everton-fail-move-lure-marco-silva-watford/

Embed from Getty Images

 

17th November – BIG SAM ALERT. He’s ruled himself out, much to the confusion of David Unsworth. Sam was unhappy with the lack of decision by Everton. I’m sure that’s the last we will see of the former England manager then…

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/david-unsworth-surprised-sam-allardyce-13917119

 

21st November – Who’s that Pokemon?! Its Louis Van Gaal. The man with the mighty bollocks said: “I’ve not yet been asked” when speaking about the job, seemingly writing his own name on the list. His experience could be an attractive prospect, but we’re the board interested? The answer to that question is superfluous as he was apparently never actually interested and probably just wanted to somehow piss off Ronald Koeman.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-5105231/Louis-van-Gaal-confirms-no-contact-Everton.html

https://twitter.com/CarrieBrownTV/status/933048205301907456

 

23rd November – Everton at this point were like a scorned lover, refusing to give up on their one true love. Their final price for love, was £20 million, but Watford said no again and thus ends the tragic saga of Silva and Farhad Moshiri. Fair play to Watford for sticking to their word here, because £20 million is a simply insane amount for a manager, hopefully it doesn’t come back to bite them.

http://www.hertfordshiremercury.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/marco-silva-watford-everton-820964

 

24th November – Unsworth seemingly finds out he is out of the running for the managerial role via TalkSport. Poor David has not had a very fun month has he.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/nov/24/everton-owner-caretaker-david-unsworth-farhad-moshiri

Shareholder Moshiri claimed the club were close to finalising their appointment, with fans wanting off his wild ride.

https://twitter.com/JimWhite/status/934003634098135040

Embed from Getty Images

 

27th November – BIG SAM ALERT. Present day, Everton have apparently re-opened talks with Sam Allardyce and supporters are surely furiously banging their head on the wall. If they get Sam, he will probably keep them up, but why in the piss didn’t they sort this a month ago when he was interested? A complete and utter farce from start to finish.

https://twitter.com/SkySportsNews/status/935167840621158401

 

Surely were approaching the end of this saga now. Coming into the Christmas period in already dangerous waters, they simply have to take action to steady the ship before it is too late.

They’re only out of the relegation zone at the moment because everyone around them has been equally shite and I sympathise with Everton fans because this is beyond a joke now and the club are at real risk of going down.

Some of these reports were simply rumours and some had a little more flavour to them, so

As it stands Big Sam is the favourite at 1/8, but who knows what the future hold for the Ev, is that Marco Silva available perhaps?

Rugby League’s Million Pound Game is a Danger to Mental Health and must be Scrapped

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State of Mind

Catalans Dragons triumphed in the Million Pound Game this Saturday, as a result they survived relegation and sent Leigh Centurions crashing back down to the National League after just a single season in Super League.

Whilst the concept is highly marketable and an exciting situation on paper (a one-game shoot out to see who stays up) this season’s Million Pound Game should be the last.

Many players and fellow Rugby League figures have taken a negative stance towards this weekend’s massive contest. Immediately following the game on the Sky Sports live broadcast, Catalan captain Sam Moa condemned the idea.

‘This isn’t a concept that we enjoy to play in as players,’ stated Moa, who also offered his condolences to the dejected Leigh side as many of the players’ contracts will now be up-in-the-air. Not exactly the reaction one would expect from a player who’s side had just secured their Super League status.

Resting the pressure of players’ livelihoods, mortgage payments and jobs on a single 80 minute match is an absurd, dangerous and irresponsible action from the RFL. How can anyone be expected to perform at their best under such circumstances?

To put it simply, this cannot continue.

 

Tears from both sides

There is absolutely zero joy in watching somebody emotionally break down on national television.

Micky Higham gave the most upsetting interview I have ever seen in the sport following his side’s defeat. In a river of tears and understandably unable to compose himself, he said ‘I can’t put it into words and feel like I’ve let everybody down.’

On the flipside there were tears from the French side’s players too. ‘There’s lots of tears in the dressing room’ told coach Steve McNamara, who added they were tears of relief due to the huge amount of tension and pressure surrounding the contest.

Clearly this has far more impact than a simple case of surviving relegation and can cause a great deal of emotional stress on both players and coaches alike.

A game that reduces both teams to tears is uncomfortable at best; and such tension may have been a factor as to why Leigh crumbled in the second half. They made multiple errors, gave away penalties and seemingly could not get their heads back into the game.

 

State of Mind

Rugby League’s ‘State of Mind’ programme was introduced in 2011 following the shocking suicide of retired Great Britain international, Terry Newton.

The programme was introduced with the aim of improving the mental health of Rugby League players and ensure the wellbeing of anyone in the Rugby League community. The tagline on the rugby-league.com webpage for State of Mind is, ‘working to improve the mental health, wellbeing and working life of our rugby league players and communities.’

A bit hypocritical don’t you think?

Leigh head coach Neil Jukes addressed this on Saturday too, ‘this is hypocritical of what we stand for’ said Jukes, and when asked would he like the concept to be scrapped he responded, ‘100%.’

Likewise, Ben Cockayne talked about the game before his Hull KR side were relegated against Salford in 2016. He rightly spoke out against the match, stating that it was ‘dangerous’ to mental health as it could leave some players with the massive stress of not having a job come the Sunday morning.

How can the RFL stand by and watch these professionals fear their entire lives may be completely changed for the worst, based on a single 80-minute performance, whilst claiming to be helping to improve players’ mental health?! It’s a disgrace, a shambles, and has been going on for too long already.

 

The Numbers

The biggest of killer of men under 45, is men under 45.

Suicide at this age for males is not a main cause of death, it is the single most common cause of death in this category.

5,668 suicides were reported in Great Britain in 2016, and of this number 76% were males. However, 1 in 8 males have a reported common mental disorder, whilst 1 in 5 women have a reported CMD.

These statistics are unacceptable.

It is time to start talking about mental health in order to ensure that our peers aren’t suffering in silence and instead get the help and support they deserve.

 

To Conclude

The Million Pound Game clearly has a negative impact on the mental wellbeing of the players and coaches involved, as expressed on Saturday. The State of Mind programme means nothing if the RFL put more stress and pressure on players than they have ever experienced before; and ultimately, nobody wants to see another Rugby League player contribute to the statistics effecting men under 45.

Game promotion and viewership is a miniscule price to pay to be sure that professionals do not have the ridiculous and harmful stress applied to them from this single, lifechanging match.

We’ve seen 3 years of this game and, whilst it has produced some good moments from a viewer perspective, 3 years have already been too much. Coaches and players do not enjoy the atmosphere of the concept and the potential ramifications are not worth the risk.

Now it is up to the Rugby League players, coaches, referees, owners and even fans to take a stand against the game and protect the mental health of those involved, before it becomes too late.

Premier League Transfer Window Round-Up – Part 1

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Premier League Teams 2017/18

We’re a week removed from the craziest transfer window that will ever live. Drama was the dish of the year as Donnarumma, Ronaldo, Mbappe and Van Dijk we’re all involved in insane transfer tales, only to be trumped by Neymar, who broke the world-record fee and blew all of our minds. Now that the dust has settled, how did each Premier League team fare in the marketplace this summer?

 

Arsenal

What they needed: Solidity in the centre, and to keep hold of their top stars.

We begin with Arsenal, who started their transfer activity brightly as Lyon hitman Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac both arrived and looked as though they would slot seamlessly into the first 11. Everything looked on the up for the Gunners, but then the season began with 2 losses in 3 games, including a humiliation against Liverpool and everything was suddenly fucked, with little time left for further business.

They dug their heels on the Sanchez front despite a flurry of interest, most notably from Manchester City, and seemingly nobody was interested in the prospect of signing Mesut Ozil, so they did manage to attain their big names. But fragility reigns over the defensive unit as injuries and departures have left Arsene fielding a makeshift defence, something that was not patched up in the final days of the window.

Overall, the window itself wasn’t awful for Arsenal. Sanchez stayed, Lacazette joined and they secured a tidy total for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Arsenals woes – outside of the lack of CB options and Thomas Lemar turning them down due to a lack of Champion’s League football (ouch!) – seem to lie on the pitch, and after just 3 games many fans are already tired… Robbie.

If their transfer window were a WWE wrestler it’d be: Roman Reigns – Started well with some flashes of brilliance, but some bad mistakes have go the fans turning on them.

Bournemouth

What they needed: Upgrades on last season’s players to ensure safety again.

I’ve often been one to criticise Eddie Howe for his dealings in the transfer window as he seemingly has a tendency to overpay for unproven talent or dire players, see: Jordan Ibe for £15 million and Lewis Grabban for £7 million. Christ.

Something different must have been in the south coast water this summer though as ‘England’s next great manager TM’ executed some smooth and efficient purchases. Impressive loanee Nathan Ake returned on a permanent basis, fellow Chelsea man Asmir Begovic joined to provide experience between the sticks, and Jermain Defoe arrived to provide some extra firepower up top – successfully strengthening the spine of the team throughout.

Josh King, who was outstanding for the Cherries last campaign also signed on for 4 extra years. So even with Howe missing out on Demarai Gray, who he has not-so secretly admired for some time, this window looks a successful one and survival is not only achievable, but should be expected.

If their transfer window were a WWE wrestler it’d be: The Usos – Sometimes you forget they are even there because everything is done so fast and with such efficiency. Solid, with just the right amount of excitement.

 

Brighton & Hove Albion

What they needed: Premier League quality and cutting edge.

A large portion of Brighton’s squad are Premier League newbies or haven’t seen too much success when stepping into the world of the Barclays. Rather than bringing in bodies with experience in England’s top flight however, they’ve opted to pull in players from all across Europe in an attempt to survive their initial Premier League season, so if you listed really closely you can hear the sound of steam resonating from Paul Merson and Ray Wilkins’ ears.

Now I’m not going to pretend to know all about Brighton’s new boys and bullshit you all. But I do know that Matthew Ryan can be a solid replacement for David Stockdale in the sticks, that Davy Propper looks like he could produce that extra quality needed to break up tight games and that Izquierdo performed well during his stint in Belgium with Club Brugge.

Adaption will be key then. Their business looks fairly effective but inconclusive, as it all rests on whether the players who faired so well in the Championship can step up and mesh with those new arrivals like hand in glove. Only time will tell for Chris Houghton’s side.

If their transfer window were a WWE wrestler it’d be: Rusev – Looking to the evil foreign lands rather than opting for some hyper-expensive British talent. How dare they!

Burnley

What they needed: Players that will work hard and fit their system.

Sean Dyche and Burnley had a wonderful 2016/17 season and proved many doubters wrong; they avoided relegation thanks to their outstanding home form and defensive capabilities. This year looks tasty for them too as they have already amazed fans by taking points from Stamford Bridge and Wembley in the initial 3 weeks of the season.

In the window itself they’ve been very effective too. Walters and Bardsley are limited players but look like they will operate well under Dyche, and young Charlie Taylor could really blossom into a fantastic defender under his new gaffer too. Taylor’s Leeds teammate Chris Wood also joined later in the window, admittedly he is inexperienced at the top level but he has arrived in a rich veins of scoring form and looks to be a direct replacement for Andre Gray, who left for Watford. Jack Cork becoming a Claret was the move that tickled my fancy the most however. The midfielder is a gifted distributor of the ball and could work wonders when combined with the big men Vokes and Wood up top.

Burnley’s only downside from the window is admitted a large one. Michael Keane’s slot has not been filled which, should anything happen to the equally impressive Ben Mee, could leave them high and dry in arguably their most important area of the pitch.

If their transfer window were a WWE wrestler it’d be: Big Show – Steady, safe and reliable despite getting on a bit and not providing too much excitement.

Chelsea

What they needed: World class reinforcements, perhaps a RWB upgrade.

Champions Chelsea have has a rollercoaster window not at all befitting of their league-winning status. We had the Diego Costa ‘seasono’ saga, questions over Conte’s leadership and some key targets slipping through their fingers, most notably of all, Romelu Lukaku, who opted to move to Mourinho’s United side instead.

Several youngsters, such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek Tammy Abraham and Kurt Zouma, we’re loaned out and other commendably bit the bullet and called time on their Chelsea careers, most notably Chalobah and Solanke, who linked up with Watford and Liverpool respectively. However, it was Nemanja Matic who got alarm bells blaring as he left for close rivals Manchester United at an arguably cheap-for-this-market £40 million.

So who were the replacements? Well, Bakayoko and Drinkwater – the powerful Monaco midfielder seems like a good plug for the midfield hole left by Matic and the heroic duo of Drinkwater and Kante may sink right back into the groove if necessary. Despite missing out on the aforementioned Lukaku, Chelsea managed to claim Alvaro Morata who appears to be settling into Premier League life nicely and will be expected to weigh in with the goals that were formerly the responsibility of Costa. Finally, they got some defensive cover in the form of Rudiger and Zappacosta, who will challenge for spots in the first team at the very least, meaning Chelsea have an ultra-competitive squad across the board, which will surely motivate players to perform to their best every single week. Sure, it may not have been the smoothest transfer window, but they got a fair bit of effective business done and look set in decent stead to defend their trophy.

If their transfer window were a WWE wrestler it’d be: Brock Lesnar – Even they were wounded they bounced straight back and snapped up some targets. No chance they will release their title without a war.

Crystal Palace

What they needed: Player to help establish Frank De Boer’s new tactics.

Palace seemingly cannot catch a break. First, stability under Pulis, then turmoil under Pardew, stability again under Big Sam before launching right back into turmoil after the end of the season. Following survival Sam left the club and in came an entirely new philosopher, Frank De Boer. Given that these 2 are polar opposites on the tactical scale, surely the Palace board would need to invest in some shiny new goods, right?

Wrong. Palace were the 5th lowest spenders in the window and until they finally liberated Mamadou Sakho from his Liverpool-shaped hell, they had only spent £8 million on new signings. Sakho will bring certain stability and leadership to a backline lacking in confidence, just as he did during his previous loan spell. Loftus-Cheek, who arrived on loan from Chelsea, could provide some game changing quality further up the pitch if the new system clicks.

Ultimately that is a big ‘if.’ Riedewald looks solid on the ball at the back but many others will take time to relax into the new passing style, which cannot be afforded given the cut-throat nature of the Premier League. A clear cohesive plan was required before the season started but instead there has been little backing and the club’s direction is all over the place. I quite like Palace and hope they ride out the storm, but times are worrysome.

If their transfer window were a WWE wrestler it’d be: Dolph Ziggler – Directionless. Everything keeps changing too fast for anyone to invest into.

Everton

What they needed: A squad ready to perform in the Europa League.

Here comes the money! Everton and Koeman wasted little time this summer and made big moves throughout the window, enhancing their squad for a Europa League scrap, which is probably their only route to the Champion’s League. Long game are the days of cash-strapped Everton, who will look to claw above 7th place if at all possible this season.

Michael Keane, Davy Klaasen and Jordan Pickford quickly arrived at £20+ million fees; top signings, with an eye to both the present and the future, as the trio could be mainstays in the first 11 for years to come. Other attacking midfield options Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney are very much transfers for the now with both expected to contribute large numbers towards the goal and assist tally of the Toffees.

Even with these additions however, it looks like scoring goals will be a key issue for the blue side of Liverpool. Top scorer Romelu Lukaku was replaced by the exciting but unproven Sandro Ramirez at a surprisingly cheap £5.3 million. If they can find a focal point of their attack they may manage to break into the top 6, but Romelu’s boots are huge ones to fill and a lot of hope rest on the shoulders of their new mercenaries.

If their transfer window were a WWE wrestler it’d be: Shane McMahon – They have the money and the style, but do they have the finishing touch required to beat the very best? I’m not so sure.

Huddersfield Town

What they needed: To keep Aaron Mooy on the books and add some extra quality around him.

Related image

The ultimate underdogs, Huddersfield Town, are in dreamland. David Wagner has worked wonders and bought the Yorkshire club for average Championship finishers into the land of the giants.

Simply making it to this stage doesn’t appear good enough for them either, as they have followed up their promotion miracle with some smart dealings in the window. Wagner has been savvy and loaned in keeper Jonas Lossl, right back Florent Hadergjonaj and Kasey Palmer from Chelsea – all of whom will be challenging for spots in the starting line-up, producing some healthy competition in the squad. Tom Ince arrived permanently from Derby, and despite the days of him turning down Internazionale being long gone he’s still a canny operator and can provide fruitful service to fellow new forward, Steve Mounier.

Aaron Mooy signing on a permanent basis at £8 million is their cherry atop the Huddersfield cake and could well be the signing of the window if he leads them to safety. The Australian was incredibly influential in their Championship run and is certainly Premier League ready, which could be the vital difference at the end of gameweek 38.

If their transfer window were a WWE wrestler it’d be: Daniel Bryan – It seems absurd that they are even mixing with the very best. They will be everyone’s favourite underdog and their dealings show they have the ability to keep up.

Leicester City

What they needed: To replace any key outgoings successfully.

After the ecstasy of the 2015/2016 season, a large portion of last year’s campaign was very much forgettable as they stumbled out of the blocks, sacked their legendary manager through the middle, before accelerating across the finish line.

Impressively, Leicester managed to keep a majority of their top talent again and have imporved the squad well. Danny Drinkwater was a final day departure but a replacement in the form of Iborra had already arrived in a £12 million steal. Missing out on Adrian Silva by 14 seconds sucks, but they should be fine without him until the winter should their appeal be unsuccessful.

Elsewhere Mahrez looked like her was going to go full Peter Odemwingie but in airport mode, as he looked to secure a deal in Europe, but he ended up staying put and will prove a valuable asset once again. Demarai Gray was subject to a few bids but will look to explode into the next level at Leicester instead and their talismanic striker, Jamie Vardy, also remains a fox. Ihenacho, Maguire, Jakupovic and Dragovic are all very nice signatures in my eyes, with Maguire and his England bin bags being the cream of the crop. A top half finish should certainly be achievable for Shakespeare and company thanks to their business.

If their transfer window were a WWE wrestler it’d be: Chris Jericho – They’ve become a household name again and have replaced their outgoings with some shiny new ideas, should be a fun watch on the pitch.

Liverpool

What they needed: A new centre back, a new left back, more players ready for the Champion’s League.

Liverpool’s transfer window shouldn’t really be described as bad, instead the adjective should be closer to baffling, or questionable. They were in clear need of certain resources but bolstered in other areas instead. Mo Salah is absolute wheels and has already impressed in a Liverpool shirt, and they did give themselves an option at left back with Andrew Robertson coming in from Hull.

Naby Keita joining in 2018 is an exciting preposition but ideally he would have been around for the current Champion’s League campaign. More sagas ensued too. Barca tried and tried to poach Coutinho with no luck and likewise Liverpool shot themselves in the foot by approaching Virgil Van Dijk by inappropriate means. Following such, they seemingly dropped their search for a centre back and sold Mamadou Sakho to Palace, leaving them very light at the back with zero chance of bringing somebody else in before the deadline struck.

Finally there’s the Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain problem. Did they really need him? Is he another James Milner as he is a jack of all trades but a master of none? Or is he just a £35 million player who will provide cover? It seems clear that he isn’t wanting to play left or right back either, so his role is murky. Maybe I’m being a little harsh but simply put, it’s a move that raises more questions than answers problem for me.

If their transfer window were a WWE wrestler it’d be: Sami Zayn – Clearly have a ton of quality in their squad, but their usage and business has question marks all over it.

Part 2 should be up tomorrow, how do you feel the transfer window went for these clubs? Did they get what they needed? Or did they leave fans wanting more?

Un’Goro’s Quests in the Knights of the Frozen Throne metagame and beyond

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We’re 2 weeks into the Frozen Throne right now and it’s very clear that Druid is the granddaddy of them all as its various decks dominate large portions of the metagame, with Pirate Warrior, Murloc Paladin and Resurrect Priest just some of the other decks knocking about.

Hero cards are our exciting new toy this time out, but other than the Exodia Mage deck our previous gamechanger, the Quest cards, have been massively struggling as many received little support from the latest expansion, a highly disappointing scenario.

I was personally hoping Blizzard wouldn’t drop the quest archtypes like they have with other mechanics in the past such as Inspire, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. What is especially frustrating, is that they spent so long trying to make certain decks viable (Taunt Warrior being the prime suspect) only to leave them high and dry just a single expansion later. Correct me if I’m wrong, but what is the point in pushing a deck so hard if you’re just going to drop it as soon as it experiences some success?

Which Quests are Viable at the moment?

There is the aforementioned anomaly. Quest Mage has experienced an upsurge in viability, in large parts as the meta has slowed down, despite receiving only a few cards that would directly support the quest:

· Ghastly Conjurer – Adds a copy of Mirror Entity into your hand.
· Arfus and The Lich King – Both can add Lich King cards to your hand.
· Simulacrum – Copies the lowest cost minion in your hand and can be manipulated to get an extra Apprentice.

So even the most powerful quest in the current meta wasn’t given a handout by Blizzard and instead its success came from the pace of the overall expansion. The meta seems to have stabilised so Exodia Mage could remain a tier 1 deck, but of the next expansion produces a ton of new ideas and this deck gets no support, that may not continue.

Priest’s Awaken the Makers got a little bit of support with Obsidian Statue, Eternal Servitude and Shadow Essence, and other playable neutrals such as Skelemancer and Bone Drake – but these cards are playable without the quest and have done little in the way of pushing ‘Awaken the Makers’ up the ranks.

Outside of that most quests got next to nothing to help them. It could be argued that Ultimate Infestation helps out the Druid quest and the Blood-Queen Lana’thel helps the Lakkari Sacrifice but right now Druid is too powerful without another cook to spoil the broth and discard is still a downright dreadful RNG based mechanic which I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

Are Quests a Dead Archtype?

They may be on the brink of extinction, but they’re not dead yet. It’s not worth writing quests off in their entirety until we have seen what another expansion has to offer up but given Blizzard’s track record of injecting life into previous ideas, there perhaps isn’t a lot to cheer about if you’re a fan of quests.

Using the previous expansions as example, we can determine a feature which was heavily pushed, that hasn’t seen much action since.

• GvG landed a bunch of Mechs into our collections, with Un’Goro and Frozen Throne producing just one between them of late. That one, Meat Wagon, which sees zero play outside of terrible meme decks.
• TGT introduced Inspire, no such cards have been released since.
• WOTOG unleashed the highly-popular C’Thun decks upon us but following the expansion dropping it was stated that no further C’Thun cards will be released in future.
• MSOG gave us tri-class cards, which have yet to show their face since.

Of course, I have to give credit to them for continuing to push the successful discover mechanic from LoE and the fact that a few viable dragons have been available following Blackrock Mountain. Clearly though, less has stuck that has dropped off.

The present issue however, is that a number of the quests require very specific cards in order to influence the usage of the quest cards.

Despite not getting too much support, Mage’s quest deck is in already in a very good spot and may see even more play if any Druid cards are neutered in future, but other than that, things aren’t looking promising.

Druid itself will always get some 5+ attack minions as they’re easily printable and non-specific and Paladin will likely see more buff spells appear over time, but the power level of these quests is just too low at present. Similarly, Warlock’s quest is simply too unreliable to run unless the discard situation is addressed and Rogue’s once-powerful quest is no more, having been nerfed into the abyss.

Priest has been dealt a strong hand of deathrattles in this expansion, but Anduin may not be so lucky in future as such powerful cards like this may not re-occur again. Perhaps worst of all though, Warrior and hunter got no class cards to help push their quest decks to the next level; with the only viable taunts introduced being The Lich King and Saronite Chain Gang and the only neutral 1-drop of note being Arherus Veteran. Likewise, Shaman only received one slighty playable murloc, Brrrloc, and a shaky draw in the form of Ice Fishing. Hopefully this isn’t a case of they simply don’t care for the archtypes anymore because all 3 of their quests are very interesting concepts.

To Conclude

So all in all, it seems that only Exodia Mage will keep the quest idea alive for this expansion, and without any specifically designed cards or mechanic reworks there’s a slim chance that things will improve moving forward. Personally, I’m sad to see that. Many quests have untapped potential because they didn’t see very much play during Un’Goro and treating these unique cards like an afterthought is a complete waste of a wonderful concept.

They’re extremely unlikely to ever buff the weakest quests, so many of them need a great deal of upkeep, but I don’t see why when a new door opens, we must close another. Hopefully Blizzard take a careful look into the situation and in future expansions they give quest cards a second crack of the whip as I would really love to see lesser seen quests such as The Marsh Queen and Jungle Giants find some kind of place within a future metagame as there’s some truly interesting decks that really deserve a boost.

Pokemon Go – Raids, Legendaries, and why I’m still Playing

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Cast your mind back to this time one year ago, Pokemon Go was in its infancy and had the world hooked. Every smartphone owner as far as the eye could see was glued to Niantic’s innovative new application.

The game suffered from unstable servers, a lack of features and the removal of key components (step counter died for our sins). But the world was entranced, it was like Pokemon-shaped crack, except legal, and everyone could get involved and you could jump ship anytime you so desired.

And jump ship people did. A serious lack of communication, updates and the novelty effect wearing off caused vast number of players to phase PoGo out of their lives. The fanbase was slashed – no longer were the street jam-packed with avid trainers – but despite all of this, many fans, much like myself, have stuck it out and Pokemon Go is in a true period of resurgence.

But was has changed in order to keep people on board? In short, quite a lot, so please allow me to elaborate on the details…

Updates that Scratched the Itch

Around the turn of the year Niantic released their biggest update to the game as generation 2 Pokemon were made available for capture. Suddenly players had another sizable sample of creatures to hunt down, powerful attackers to battle with such as Tyranitar, and new baby Pokemon to hatch from eggs.

Niantic also managed to wet our appetite with in-game events occurring at an increasing pace. Examples of such include the Halloween ghost event where more ‘spooky’ Pokemon appeared and more candies were awarded, or the Water Festival, where an increased number of water types could be found all over the globe.

Admittedly the experience grew stagnant, just like if you eat a delicious pizza every day for 6 months, the effect just isn’t the same, and the longer you go on without change, the worst it will taste. During this time the dynamic of the app changed; gym battles were no fun as most were filled with unstoppable Dragonites and Blisseys, so other than filling up your Pokedex there was almost nothing else to explore.

Pokemon Go therefore no longer felt like a game, in fact, it became little more than a glorified collection. But collect I did. Something extremely rare popping up, or hatching something cool after walking 10K kept me coming back for my PoGo fix, and I even managed to finish the EU 1st generation Dex – I was beaming when I finally caught the elusive Hitmonlee to fill the final piece of the first gen puzzle.

Tying in with this timeline, I has a personal boost in reason to continue playing. My Dad finally ditched his old useless phone in favour a of a shiny new iPhone and immediately caught the Pokemon Go bug. Watching his excitement as he captured more and more Pokemon reminded me of how wonderous the game was initially and it got me amped up to search for new Pokemon too. It really showed me the fun of playing Pogo alongside someone else, rather than slogging through a solo mission.

He’s still playing now, with my highlight of his tenure being in his Pokemon Go infancy as he didn’t realise he could tap the Pokemon on the map and instead thought his character had to bump into them, meaning he was clambering around in trees and bushes attempting to collect his first Hoothoot. What his plan was for those located in water, I do not know.

Aside from my Dad getting involved, the mild shake-ups from the events and updates (we’re talking Korma-levels of mild) meant that I, and many others, ferried through the storm. No longer would I actively hunt Pokemon like a wild caveman, instead I would simply keep an eye on the PokeWorld whilst out and about. However, then the Spring/Summer updates arrived.

Niantic Drops the Legendary Bomb

This summer Niantic and the Pokemon Go franchise delivered in a huge manner. Either side of an utterly disastrous Pokemon Go Festival in Chicago, they really managed to enhance the player experience and sailed the rough seas back to the top of the highest-grossing app list – have some of that Candy Crush!

First came the very much needed gym re-work. Gone we’re the days of 10 uber-powerful beasts, as gyms were edited to only allow for 6 Pokemon defenders, with each of these needing to be unique. This has led to increased diversity, faster gym turnover, and has even allowed the glorious Team Instinct player to take control of a few gyms too.

Honestly, I never cared for the gym battling aspect of the app, I found it primitive, boring and hollow. Now though, even if the combat remains monotonous, it is entertaining to tackle gyms. Seeing them flip control like pancakes gives the feeling that finally, you can challenge the highest-level players and you can earn coins for your efforts, even if your best Pokemon is more Caterpie and less Charizard.

As we sunk our teeth into the tasty new battle system however, a colossal addition was taking shape beneath the surface. The aforementioned catastrophe, Pokemon Go Festival, acted as a launching pad and BOOM, Niantic unleashed legendary Pokemon into our virtual stratosphere.

Legendary birds Lugia and Articuno (followed by Moltres and Zapdos) were thrust upon players and a wave of avid Pokemon hunters were back on the trail, desperately trying to get their hands on these new targets. Now I don’t need to tell you how Pokemon usually spawn in the game, but legendaries are obtained in a new and interesting fashion.

As opposed to locating critter on the map, Niantics freshly floated ‘Raid Battles’ became the sole method of capturing these magnificent flying types. Raid battles are similar to gyms in the sense that you battle to defeat a foe, with the task here being to topple the legendaries before you can even get an opportunity to capture them.

These aren’t your ordinary monsters though, they are incredibly powerful and one lone ranger simply cannot slay such as a singleton. Groups of up to 20 people are required, a decision which has been a large success on the developer’s part. Now Pokemon Go feels similar to those sweet, sweet first few weeks again; I’ve been playing with huge groups as we have collectively slain Lugias, Articunos and the like, leading to the sense of community in Pokemon Go to shine bright once again.

Raid battling together epitomises everything that made the app so successful in the short-term whilst injecting it with long-term nutrients, as trainers are actively going out and meeting up with others, all in an attempt to claim the rarest Pokemon available.

Currently I am sans-legendary despite my various attempts and victories when battling these challenging birds. Every time I’ve had an opportunity to throw my Pokeballs at them, they’ve fled, leaving me dejected and frustrated by the ordeal as the empty slot in my Pokedex taunts me each time I view such. The blue-balling that these legendaries cause is unlike anything else Pokemon Go has produced thus far and you can be certain that when I finally net a legendary I’ll be punching the air will glee.

Do you know what that feels like then? It feels like an actual, genuine, exciting, encapsulating video game. It is challenging, it is irritating, but most of all it is fun, really fun, the exact element that the game was sorely missing for months. Niantic have released the ‘glorified collection’ shackles and managed to capture the hearts and minds of players, and I’m thankful for that.

Whether they be veterans, returning, or even novices, Pokemon Go has got its mojo back and given that we haven’t even seen the likes of Ho-oh, Mewtwo or any of the further 5 generations yet the game looks to be riding the wave of success once again, with no signs of slowing down.