For 11 years, Ben Mee was the lynchpin in a mean Burnley backline.
In his seven Premier League seasons with the Clarets, he grew a reputation as one of the division’s more consistent centre-backs. You knew what you were getting. You didn’t want to play against Burnley. You didn’t want to go to Turf Moor. Mee was a big part of that sentiment.
Burnley bit off a little more than they could chew last term, and were relegated back to the Championship on the final day of the season.
“Leaving Burnley was tough after a long time being there. 11 years is a good amount of time in a football career,” he first says to 90min as part of a sit-down for Green Football Weekend.
“It was a nice challenge for me to move away from there as well. Obviously it didn’t end on a great note with being relegated, but I think the club was changing, ready for a change, and they’ve moved on and done well this season in the Championship. That’s great.”
Now under the stewardship of Vincent Kompany, Burnley look shoo-ins to return to the top flight as second-tier champions. Mee’s love for the club is still evident in the way he talks about them, carefully choosing his words of affirmation.
But Mee is also focused on the future. He recently admitted that the chance to join Brentford on a two-year deal as opposed to other offers of just 12 months gave him and his family assurances they needed. Having played almost exclusively in the north in his career, it also gave him the chance to experience a new city, a new community.
Planet League’s Rich Holmes & Sustainable Clarets’ Cat Jebson join Shebahn Aherne to have football’s climate conversation ahead of Green Football Weekend. If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!
“Coming into a club like this, I’ve settled in really well. A new challenge for me. I feel a bit revitalised by the challenges that I’ve faced. I’ve been enjoying playing in a different system under a new manager with new players at a new club,” he continues, clearly stressing his delight at working and living in ‘new’ environments.
Mee played for a decade under Sean Dyche, a charismatic and uniting figure, one who was essentially the voice of Burnley up until his surprise sacking in 2022.
His current head coach is of a similar mould in Thomas Frank, and Mee – who transitioned into a part-time coaching role for Burnley at the end of last season – prefers that charming and at times bewitching style of management.
“I think it’s important they’re the heart and soul of the club,” he says adamantly. “They’re the leaders, people you see every day in and around the training ground. Staff and players look up to them.
“They’ve got a big job to lead the group. It’s an important job, it takes a special person to be able to do that, and I think the two managers I’ve worked under for a long time – Sean Dyche and now Thomas – do fantastic jobs. They’re very different in their approaches, but equally good at doing their job.”
Dyche memorably led Burnley to a surprise seventh-placed finish at the end of the 2017/18 season, securing qualification to the Europa League.
Such a similar dream has been floated in Brentford circles in recent weeks following a superb run of form that has seen them take seven points from a possible nine against Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool.
But Mee refuses to be drawn on making European qualification a target for the Bees. He won’t even try and pick similarities between this Brentford cohort and that iconic Burnley side.
“I think there’s plenty of qualities in this Brentford side. We’re on a good run at the minute, we’ve shown our quality against the bigger teams. I think the way the league is now there’s an opportunity for a team like Brentford to finish high up, but the focus is the near future, upcoming games, and then you get a sense of where you’re going to be in the next month or so,” he says with seriousness rather than wonder.
“We’ve got some big games [coming up], had a good [result] against Bournemouth last time out. After playing well against big teams, it was important to go against a team lower down as well. That was an important victory.”
This club-wide desire to play down a European dream stems from Frank’s insistence on being ‘confident but humble’, a want to be ‘impressed rather than surprised’.
Within Brentford’s walls, they know how good they are. They know what they can achieve. It’s harder to see their progress and vision from the outside sometimes, which is why some are surprised at their recent rise up the table.
“One thing that’s surprised me most is the squad depth we have,” Mee admits. “The players coming in and out of the team. It’s only a lot of the lads’ second season in the Premier League, and how comfortable they are playing and doing well, taking it in their stride. They had a good season last year. Hopefully we can finish higher this season and carry on the way we’re going.
“I don’t think anything that I’ve learned here I didn’t know before, but I know more about it. It’s been great. The way a formation sets up, plays, to be involved in it helps for sure. Obviously from the outside, you do see it and learn about it in football, but being involved in it has certainly helped me, I’ve adapted to it and am enjoying it.”
Green Football Weekend is the biggest football and climate campaign ever staged, unleashing the power of football to tackle climate change and protect nature. Running until 5th Feb, the campaign brings together football fans, more than 80 professional football clubs, Sky Sports, BT Sport, the FA, EFL, National Trust and many more. Find out more at www.greenfootballweekend.com.
Player ratings as single Ake goals knocks Gunners out of FA Cup
Manchester City knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium as the fourth round kicked off on Friday night, with Nathan Ake the unexpected star of the show with the only goal.
The Gunners made a bright start and right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu stung the palms of City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega after only a few minutes. Leandro Trossard was the architect of a few moves down the left in those early stages, exposing City’s preference to have right-back Rico Lewis operate as an auxiliary central midfielder.
The hosts caught their first sight of goal courtesy of a loose ball that threatened to let Erling Haaland in. Matt Turner was quick to rush out, but as the ball popped up into the air, Haaland attempted the acrobatic – think Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs England in 2012 – but Tomiyasu dropped back onto the line.
Midway through the first half, Ortega’s strong left hand stopped Trossard putting Arsenal ahead after the £27m Belgian drove in-field from his flank. City had their own chance from a Belgian soon after when Kevin De Bruyne whipped a left-footed shot just wide of the far post.
Trossard made another Arsenal chance when he put a teasing cross into Eddie Nketiah at the near post, with the in-form striker sending his flick just wide. It didn’t really feel like an action-packed first half, yet the opportunities kept coming as Haaland missed the target under pressure from Gabriel.
Trossard aside, none of the big players on either side had particularly stood out in the first 45 – the likes of Haaland, De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Bukayo Saka had all be disappointingly quiet.
Given that, it was perhaps fitting that the eventual breakthrough came from an unlikely source. Substitute Julian Alvarez changed things by taking on a shot from distance that rebounded off the post. Jack Grealish recycled it and found left-back Ake, who passed the ball into the far corner of the goal like a seasoned striker.
Both managers made numerous changes to try and shift the balance of the game in their favour as the minutes ticked away. It achieved little as far as the spectacle was concerned, breaking up any potential for a bit of rhythm or momentum.
City dug in in the closing stages, squeezing Arsenal out whenever the Gunners threatened to make something happen in or around the box – in particular Ortega made a couple of vital smothers when Arsenal sub Gabriel Martinelli injected some pace for the hosts.
GK: Stefan Ortega – 8/10 – Needed to make saves from the start, keeping City in it when Arsenal were arguably stronger in the first half. Stayed strong throughout and never looked as though he was going to be beaten.
RB: Rico Lewis – 6/10 – Spent a lot of time in the middle of the pitch as per instructions from his manager. Clearly a good player but it gave Trossard too much space, albeit not his fault.
CB: John Stones – 5/10 – Often looked vulnerable because of how Lewis was playing. A suspected hamstring injury then ended his night before half-time.
CB: Manuel Akanji – 7/10 – Had to switch positions after Stones was taken off but put in a dominant performance regardless.
LB: Nathan Ake – 8/10 – Finished with great composure to put his team ahead and put in a solid defensive shift as well, with Saka hardly given a sniff.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne – 5/10 – Narrowly missed with a great curling effort in the first half and slightly improved after half-time but was far from his best.
CM: Rodri – 5/10 – Unusually sloppy with the ball by his standards.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan – 6/10 – Did both sides of the ball pretty well but not always on the same page as the forwards ahead of him.
RW: Riyad Mahrez – 4/10 – Not really himself. Didn’t have enough of the ball to make any real impact and was withdrawn before an hour had passed.
ST: Erling Haaland – 5/10 – Attempted the spectacular early on and also took a whack to the back of the head before half-time. Didn’t get his usual quality service.
LW: Jack Grealish – 6/10 – Gets an assist for his layoff to Ake and City’s best forward on the night.
SUB: Aymeric Laporte (45+4′ for Stones) – 7/10
SUB: Julian Alvarez (58′ for Mahrez) – 7/10
SUB: Kyle Walker (58′ for Lewis) – 7/10
SUB: Bernardo Silva (75′ for De Bruyne) – 6/10
Pep Guardiola – 7/10 – The way he set up the team didn’t make sense when Trossard kept causing problems down City’s right. Changed shape early in the second half and the substitutes definitely did make a positive impact overall.
GK: Matt Turner – 6/10 – Stood little chance with the only goal. Always keen to come for crosses or rush off his line.
RB: Takehiro Tomiyasu – 6/10 – Had the first early chance with a good foray forward.
CB: Rob Holding – 5/10 – Got physical with Haaland and took a yellow card for it with 50 minutes still left to play. The danger of getting another saw him removed at half-time.
CB: Gabriel – 6/10 – Did enough to put Haaland off in a key moment.
LB: Kieran Tierney – 6/10 – Would have expected a tougher test from Mahrez. Didn’t offer much going forward to take advantage of that.
CM: Fabio Vieira – 5/10 – Had one shot that missed the target and didn’t do enough otherwise.
CM: Thomas Partey – 5/10 – Didn’t stand out and was surprisingly replaced at half-time.
CM: Granit Xhaka – 6/10 – Successful in stopping City play their usual sparkling game, although a couple of hesitations in key moments were almost costly.
RW: Bukayo Saka – 4/10 – Just 23 touches of the ball tells its own story.
ST: Eddie Nketiah – 5/10 – Couldn’t find the target with a chance in thef first half. The service wasn’t there for him and he touched the ball only slightly more than Saka.
LW: Leandro Trossard – 7/10 – Gave City real trouble from the start and created a number of chances in the first half. Much quieter after the break.
SUB: William Saliba (46′ for Holding) – 6/10
SUB: Albert Sambi Lokonga (46′ for Partey) – 6/10
SUB: Gabriel Martinelli (66′ for Trossard) – 7/10
SUB: Oleksandr Zinchenko (66′ for Tierney) – 6/10
SUB: Martin Odegaard (74′ for Saka) – 5/10
Mikel Arteta – 6/10 – Took no risks with Holding on a yellow card and later responded to going behind by making chances immediately. Couldn’t get one over on his old mentor.
Player of the match – Nathan Ake (Man City)
Wolves finally set to sign Brazilian talent from Flamengo
Wolves are finally set to conclude the signing of Joao Gomes after winning their stand-off with Flamengo, sources have confirmed to 90min.
90min revealed earlier in January that Wolves had agreed terms with Flamengo, but at the point of exchanging contracts the Brazilian club did not return documents at their end.
Wolves then struggled to communicate with Flamengo and it emerged that talks had begun with French side Lyon, who made a bid worth €19m (£16.7m) – that was €2m more than Wolves offered.
However, despite Lyon’s determination to persuade Gomes otherwise, the player refused to move to France. Instead, he insisted he wanted to move to the Premier League and even new Lyon owner John Textor made a personal trip to try and convince him to no avail.
Now, after accepting the Lyon move won’t happen, Flamengo have greenlighted the Wolves deal and given permission for Gomes to join them. The transfer is on course to be finalised over the weekend.
On this edition of Talking Transfers, Scott Saunders hosts Toby Cudworth & Graeme Bailey to discuss some of the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maiximo Perrone & more! If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!
Kieran Trippier signs new Newcastle contract
Kieran Trippier has committed his future to Newcastle with a new two-and-a-half-year contract.
The 32-year-old England international was the first signing made by Newcastle following the Saudi Arabia-backed takeover, joining from Aletico Madrid in a £15m deal in January 2022.
Trippier’s previous deal was due to expire in 2024 but he is now tied to the club until 2025.
After putting pen to paper, Trippier said: “I’m absolutely delighted that I’ve extended my contract here. I’ve got a lot of thank yous to make to the manager, owners, fans and my team-mates.
“When I first arrived here, they made me feel so welcome and I want to help the club achieve great things. It’s a positive moment for us players in the club and there’s no place I’d rather be.”
Newcastle United head coach, Eddie Howe, added: “It’s a fitting reward for the season he’s had. He’s been outstanding both on and off the pitch, showing real leadership at a difficult moment when he first arrived, and now he’s excelled in a team that’s doing well.
“I can’t praise him enough for everything he’s given the club.”
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