Q&A With Tony Evans: USA Will Become Genuine World Power in Soccer Before Long


Dec 1, 2011

Q&A With Tony Evans: USA Will Become Genuine World Power in Soccer Before LongNESN.com returns for another soccer question and answer session. We conduct weekly interviews with interesting people who have interesting things to say about the beautiful game.

We have a heavy hitter this week as one of the world’s most respected soccer journalists joins us. We’re pleased to be have Tony Evans as our guest. Tony is the Football (soccer) Editor at The Times of London and the author of Far Foreign Land: Pride and Passion the Liverpool Way.

NESN.com: What do you make of Liverpool’s season to this point? How about its chances of a top-four finish?

Evans: It’s very much as I expected. I thought it would be a season of highs and lows, with more highs. I’ve always been confident that they will finish in the top four. Kenny Dalglish is a football genius. He’ll build a team that is greater than the sum of its parts.

NESN.com: Liverpool played well against Manchester City on Sunday. Is LFC stronger than people thought, or is City a bit weaker than its current record suggests?

Evans: The Citizens are a good side with some fantastic players. David Silva, in particular, is a superstar. However, they’re vulnerable at the back and tactically naive, which they’ve shown in Europe. They should win the Premier League at a canter but teams who hit them on the break and get behind the midfield can hurt them. They could have been 3-0 up at Anfield but, in the end, Liverpool should have won. City is by far the strongest side in a weaker top four than in recent years.

As for Liverpool, I found it hard to comprehend the sense of negativity that was taking hold in October and November. This is a good and developing side. The Reds need to put the ball in the net but, aside from the Tottenham Hotspur match, they’ve only had one bad 45 minutes in the season, the second half against Sunderland.

NESN.com: Was Manchester City’s win at Old Trafford a blip or a power shift in English soccer (football)?

Evans: The power has been shifting for half a decade. There’s two reasons. The most obvious is City’s spending power after 2008, which at times has had a scattergun approach but it’s paid dividends. The other thing is Sir Alex Ferguson’s inability (or refusal) to sign a midfield player comfortable taking the ball from his defenders and turning to distribute it. It’s left a gaping weakness in the center for Manchester United. Chelsea has found a way to chew up and spit out some of the world’s best managers and Arsene Wenger never had a plan B when the rest of the league caught up with his brilliant sides of the early 2000s. Oh, and Liverpool’s previous owners… well, we all know about that.

NESN.com: Gary Speed’s death sent shockwaves around the British game. Did you ever interview him personally? What were your impressions of the man?

Evans: I never interviewed him but met him on occasion. He was a very nice, affable man. There have been very few bad words said about him. He was a good player, too. He began playing in the late 1980s when the game was very different and straddled two eras. When he was young, he was a thrusting, forward-going midfield player. He changed and developed his game to play a more considered, deeper role and his football intelligence prolonged his career.

NESN.com: The biggest story that nobody’s talking about is the Carlos Tevez saga. He made headlines around the world with his refusal to play against Bayern Munich. But the player has gone AWOL in his native Argentina, and the press hasn’t had too much to say about it. Why do you think this is the case? How do you see the saga ending?

Evans: I groan when I hear the name Tevez. He and his “advisor” Kia Joorabchian have been a blight on the game here. The saga will end with him getting another big-money move to Europe. The thing is, he’s not that good. Last season, he held the ball too long and slowed City’s attack. And worse, kept the ball away from Silva. Ferguson tried to accomodate him to Wayne Rooney‘s expense; Roberto Mancini to Silva’s. Teams featuring Tevez tend to be less than the sum of their parts.

NESN.com: Major League Soccer just concluded its 16th season, with David Beckham and Landon Donovan leading the Los Angeles Galaxy to the championship. What does the British press and sporting public make of U.S. soccer? What do you think of the game as its played in our country? 

Evans: It’s largely about Beckham here. There’s still the urge to think of “soccerball” with its image being thirtysomething superstars frolicking in Studio 54, such is the lingering legacy of the old NASL. Beckham’s jaunt in LA reinforced that stereotype. It’s a shame because some of the football is entertaining and the US is producing some fantastic players. I lived and coached in California some 20 years ago and you could see the generations of players improving. The mixture of technique, physical excellence and attention to detail that characterize American sports were being applied to football in a way that wasn’t happening in Britain. It’s only a matter of time before the USA is a genuine world power in football, even if the domestic league is unlikely to displace American football, baseball and basketball in the affections of the sporting public.

Thanks again to Tony Evans for answering our questions. Learn more about Tony’s book, Far Foreign Land: Pride and Passion the Liverpool Way by clicking here or follow him on Twitter @TonyEvansTimes.

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