Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Only three

of last weekends matches went ahead. The rest were cancelled because of widespread snow. Similar havoc to fixtures caused by snow happened last year too. See earlier blog. And at the end of this piece in The Independent ...what the Everton and Man City players wore on Monday evening. Did the less encumbered team win?

The delay could be in Chelsea's favour. They were due to play Man U after a string of 6 games without a win. A delay in fulfilling this fixture could work out better for the Pensioners. Who knows? Rooney may well be recovering from his post-World cup malaise revived by the thoughts of the extra millions from his new contract and run into form. Lampard was due to return to the starting line-up for Chelsea but may need more time to get up to speed.

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Monday, 6 December 2010

Will Chelsea recover their good form in a moment?

"We are not in a good moment," says Ancelotti. There he goes again! Chelsea's Italian manager has used this word 'moment' several times in interviews on television when asked about Chelsea's performance - which has not been good, I know. Of the last 4 matches Chelsea have lost 2 and drawn 2. We know what he means but it is hardly a moment.

An English manager would use 'time' or 'spell', but never 'moment'. Mark Hughes would say "We are going through a bad spell" or "We are having a rough time".

However, 'spell' and 'time' are more difficult to use because the English learner Ancelotti has to know the phrases to go with them. You can see why 'in a good moment' seems to offer a solution in the rush of an interview just after a match.

But wouldn't you think that one of the manager's English aides would have mentioned that the phrase 'at the moment' is what his boss needs to learn?  Preceded by "We are not playing well ....."

Mind you, I wouldn't mind hearing that Chelsea are going to get better 'in a moment'.

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Thursday, 18 November 2010

Step out of the box

The Wayne Rooney contract negotiation is over. He has won an increase on what he was offered by using, with his agent's help, the threat of moving to another team next season. Reputedly, he will now be paid around £200,000 a week. Meanwhile, it is a time of recession, where jobs are scarce and companies are asking more from employees for the same money. Not surprisingly perhaps, Rooney received media abuse for his greed. Even criticism from the pundits on BBC's Match of the Day.

To be fair, though, he was doing what most of us would have done, wasn't he? He was seeking his own best interests, and also seeking status in his profession through his earnings. Isn't that just what most of us would have done?

He is paid a salary for doing what he does. Like most people he is paid both for his work and for the wealth such work creates for others.

The bankers are in the news again. Apparently they have made a profit this year - on the books, at any rate. But these people brought the country almost to ruin until the nation took over the debt they had created.

But wait, that was last season, and for many seasons before that, so it is not included in the assessment of success this year. Some investment bankers are going to receive a life-changing sum of money as a bonus - a reward for doing what they are already well paid to do. And not taking into account the losses they made in previous years!

In any case, I fail to see that by investing our money to create more wealth that these people are any more necessary to a successful economy than the rest of us who earn the money put at the banks' disposal. That they should receive such disproportionate rewards for doing their job - and not paying back anything is outrageous. Perhaps there should be a minus as well as a bonus. For making unsuccessful investments then a deduction of salary would encourage zeal perhaps more than a bonus does.

EDINBURGH, UNITED KINGDOM - (FILE)  Sir Fred G...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Although most of us might do what Wayne Rooney did, it seems clear to me that endless greed as the motivation for doing what we do to earn a living is not the way to inspire a company, a public service, or a life.

Someone has to step out of the box, Wayne Rooney or ex-Chairman Sir Fred Goodwin (Royal Bank of Scotland), and say something like:

'I owe my financial success to the rest of society which gave my skills their opportunity. You have rewarded me beyond reasonable expectation. Please take back my bonuses from the last x years and pay me in future like any skilled man."
And Rooney is still unable to play. Injured in mind and body? While Sir Fred, we hear, has retired injured and out of the limelight. Why would they feel injured do you think?

Maybe to stand up and say the words of regret and restitution offered above would help them feel better. Come on Wayne and Fred - step out of the box.
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Sunday, 10 October 2010

If the speed of the current game is faster .......

shouldn't that include the defenders?

Ryan Shawcross, who broke the leg of opponent Aaron Ramsey last season, and has now been made captain of Stoke City defends Man City's De Jong (who broke the leg of Ben Arfa, Newcastle last weekend) and of Wolves captain  Karl Henry who was sent off the same weekend for a wild tackle ....having left Bobby Zamora of Fulham with a broken leg just three weeks earlier.

By offering the excuse that the game is faster nowadays Ryan opens himself up to the criticism - why isn't his game fast enough to tackle cleanly? Has he not kept up with the faster game? Does he mean that the forwards are faster but not the defenders? Is he confessing that he is too slow for the modern game? ( I don't think he has played in any other at his age)

If he realises that the margin for error is now so small then why does he tackle so recklessly?

There is also the question of whether De Jong will soon become the captain of Manchester City!

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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

"Cheat, cheat, never beat!"

In Saturday's Premier League matches, the sixth set of the season, two instances of cheating by blocking come to mind. 'Blocking' is when a player deliberately runs into an opponent to prevent him getting to the ball. It is a foul and is punished by a free kick, or a penalty if in the area.
In Manchester City v Chelsea, the young defender Boyata was making his second start for the team. In order to stop Drogba's movement in the penalty area he blocked him and they both fell over. The referee apparently did not see the incident, nor did the linesmen, otherwise it would have been an unequivocal penalty that would have changed this match - into at least a draw for Chelsea instead of a defeat. But we all say that!
Pundit, ex-player and ex-manager, Graham Souness said of the incident when reviewing the match in the tv studio, " This was just a young lad" referring to Boyata. He seemed to be suggesting that the foul was due to inexperience! Or did he mean that the crudity of the incident was due to inexperience?!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Watch your tackle

Dutch football (soccer) player Robin van PersieImage via WikipediaThere are only four games completed out of the 38 in the Premier League season, 2010-11. Some players have also played in two matches for their countries and one Eurpoean Champions League match. Already injured after these seven matches  are: Walcott, Van Persie, Ramsey, Bendtner and  Diaby of Arsenal and at Tottenham are Dawson, Defoe, Gomes. Fulham have Zamora and Stockdale injured since the season started. Manchester City have Bridge and new signing Kolarov, who lasted 45 minutes in his first match. And so on with other clubs.
Not all of the injuries may have been caused by opponents' tackles, perhaps, but some wild and wicked tackles are happening. Wenger, Arsenal manager, should not be the only one standing out in favour of some kind of control. The macho culture in many clubs prevents it being an issue. Rough play can be one way of dealing with players who are more skillful and this treatment has been going on for years. It breeds a kind of toughness, perhaps necessary to succeed in this sport. (Cumulative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License. Photo by Wonker)

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Crystal Balls

Two matches into the Premier League, 2010, we have had some sparkling play with lots of goals:
In week 1, Blackpool, newly-promoted, thrash Wigan 4-0  (but get thrashed by Arsenal 6-0 in week 2). Chelsea start with a 6-0 win against WBA and a hat-trick for Drogba. Man U win 3-0 against Newcastle with an uninspiring Rooney. Spurs and Man City draw 0-0.

In the second week of the season there were three 6-0 wins:  Chelsea against Wigan away, and Arsenal at home against Blackpool, plus Newcastle at home against Aston Villa. Drogba, by the way, doesn't score this week but laid on three goals for Anelka (2) and Malouda (1).

Chelsea top the league as the only team with two wins! They do have easy-looking fixtures to begin the season: WBA, Wigan, Stoke, West Ham, Blackpool  .....till Man C in the sixth week.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

No good at all!

England won last night's friendly (v Hungary) thanks to an inspired piece of passion from captain Gerrard with two goals, a lively performance from Adam Johnson plus solid goalkeeping from Joe Hart, but again nothing from a surly Rooney. And the opposition were ranked 72 in the World
In the pre-match television footage of news and comment, the England manager managed some English to describe his own performance in last month's World Cup in South Africa - "not so good" and his comment on Rooney's  performance last night - "he's not in a good moment". The first quote is witheringly weak as a summing up of two years' work with the English team. The second means that Rooney did not play well, or was having a nervous breakdown, or in a huff, or belligerent, or off form, or needed the toilet, or pissed off. Any or all of these!

How many of us in the early stages of trying out another language end up using the word for 'good' or  'well' (as in 'doing well) to excess? It is a classic sign of lack of more exact words but can be admired in some circumstances as 'at least trying to communicate'. It is a sign that you are in the early stages, a beginner.

In Capello's case, in a job which requires clarity and depth in explaining what he wants, his performance is 6 million pounds from being acceptable - his salary is reportedly £6m. Surely, he should do 'gooder' than he does in this most important part of a manager's job. And after two years!

And here's how the Telegraph described his handling of David Beckham's England career. 

And here's the match report England v Hungary, friendly, from the Guardian

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

What went wrong for England in the World Cup, the story continues
This piece by Jim White in the Daily Telegraph discusses Capello's change of status with players and  public just before a friendly match against Hungary tonight at Wembley. The crowd is expected to boo the England World Cup team members but there are lots of new faces in the squad .......let's see what happens in this unneeded match 3 days before the start of the Premier League's season, 20010-11. Let's see what more comes to light to explain the difference between England's strong qualifying performance leading up to South Africa and the team's dismal doings in the final 32 when we got there. England failed to reach the final 16.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Too much Baggage: a new approach to selecting the England team

At England's pathetic exit from the World cup in the round of 16 in South Africa last month I wrote:

The debate or investigation into what went wrong will go on for some time. Was it the manager's fault in sticking rigidly to 4-4-2 or the players' fault for some inscrutable reason like incompatibility as personalities? I suspect there is a lot more to tell about this. Were they bored living and training together for 5 or so weeks? Is that relevant? Wouldn't it make them more eager and enthusiastic to be actually playing?

Well, things are not being investigated and all we may get is bits of gossip and speculation.  

It is time to change to the kind of player who would be better suited for the task. The England team should be chosen from the Championship, the league below the Premier League, plus the under-21s in the Premier League. Both of these categories have talented players who would relish the opportunity. They do not play as many games as those playing for teams in the UEFA competitions (Premier League teams) and would therefore be the fresher to play in the World Cup and European international tournament. Plus the fact that teams with 'stars' do not necessarily do well in these international tournaments: too much baggage!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

World Cup 2010, the final, Sunday July 11th, 2010

The Dutch didn't come out to play. The Spanish can play all night and usually score. It took them some time to do so but they did score once in this World Cup final and they had to keep the ball until extra time to do so. It was enough. The Dutch finished with 10 men.
 As a resident in Spain I was delighted with the result.

Three really good descriptions below from English newspapers.
 The Independent

The Telegraph

The Guardian

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The second semi-final was last night: Germany and Spain. World Cup, 2010

The result was a repeat of the score in the European championship final two years ago between the same two nations. Do you remember what it was?

For most of the match Spain played their 'tiqui-taki', pass and move, game successfully keeping the ball for most of the time. There was an occasional break forward from Germany when they looked dangerous and one scoring chance for sub Kroos, saved by Casillas.

The Independent's report is an excellent one as usual. Remind yourself of this patient game of artistry by reading it I will do myself from time to time.

If you want to know the result right now, then click below.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The first semi-final: World Cup 2010

Last  night little Uruguay met fat Netherlands - in terms of relative populations represented.

I was impressed by the spirit of a team which fell behind but never gave up. Uruguay went 0-1, then 1-1, then 1-2, 1-3 and near the end 2-3 when the Dutch managed to hold on. This quote from the Guardian shares my feelings:

"The opposition had too much pride, however, to let the game fade away and Maxi Perreira's perfect, curled drive cut the deficit in stoppage."

Saturday, 3 July 2010

World Cup 2010, two quarter finals, Friday 2 July

Netherlands national football team (cropped fr...Image via Wikipedia
My World Cup blogs are primarily to remind me of what happened and how the tournament unfolded by using links to the reports from newspapers. However, I do not know how long these links will be sustained. I am hoping that they will always be there. How can I get information about this?

Brazil  v Netherlands
I had backed the Brazil defence to be too rugged for Robben and Van Persie by choosing Brazilian defenders in my team for the Deloitte Fantasy League. Good to watch: the moves, the spite, and then the falling to pieces of .....which team?

The Guardian

The Independent

Then Ghana and Uruguay entertained, with the former team lively and unafraid. The latter threatening often. Just at the end of  full time Ghana were awarded a penalty ............. a very dramatic ending as this penalty did not decide the match. Read what The Independent said.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

World Cup exit, 2010: England Lost 4-1 to Germany

in the round of 16 teams. They joined France and Italy to make three teams with big reputations and well-known players from the Premier and European Champions League teams to make an early exit.

The debate or investigation into what went wrong will go on for some time. Was it the manager's fault in sticking rigidly to 4-4-2 or the players' fault for some inscrutable reason like incompatibility as personalities? I suspect there is a lot more to tell about this. Were they bored living and training together for 5 or so weeks? Is that relevant? Wouldn't it make them more eager and enthusiastic to be actually playing?

The links below are two representative views from  Michael Owen and Roy Keane, both players with World Cup experience: (Roy Keane)

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Four hours to go before England play Germany in the round of 16

World Cup in South Africa, June 27th 2010.

There is little evidence that England can play well enough to win this afternoon. Two shaky draws and 1-0 against Slovenia who didn't qualify. This result was received like a reprieve while playing out time instead of going for more goals to finish as top of the group and an easier route forward.

The Independent newspaper sums the situation up very well, as it often does. The Guardian and Telegraph go in for a mix of the vainglorious and the analytical. But fundamentally, they are all saying 'Can England suddenly find some form?'

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Italy and France left this week. There but for .....

...... the luck that every successful team needs Go England!

Yes, France lost to South Africa in their last group game. Anelka had been sent home and captain, Evra, was not chosen to play. One report said that the team went home 'economy class'. Domenech, the manager, seems to be an unyielding and opinionated character.  More to come on this soap opera as the French government orders an investigation to find out Who Is Responsible! Or maybe, who is more responsible than others.

Italy were in the same position as England going into their last match with two draws and had to beat Slovakia, compared to England's Slovenia. They lost 2-3, so home went the World Cup holders!! England with the win over Slovenia coming second in their Group play Germany tomorrow afternoon. Despite the confident English press comments I think the German mixture of mature and younger players will win......... but hope to be wrong.

Brazil and Portugal played an ugly boring match last night. 0-0, and both teams go through to the next round.

Netherlands, Germany, Brazil and Argentina: one of those four. One of the two latter?

But, wait a minute, Spain left some of their tiki-taka out of their play last night, were more direct with Torres in the centre. David Villa was the one who settled them with a first goal from distance into an empty net. The Chile goalie had charged out to hunt down a loose ball but only succeeded in scuffing it into Villa's path. Ended 2-1 to Spain. They have got the class to win the World Cup. But how would they fare against the iron men Maicon and Lucio of Brazil? (Two of the Mourinho's Milan Champions' League winning team)


Sunday, 20 June 2010

A Disheartened Team

I had decided not to write about the World Cup as there would be plenty of others doing so.

But .......... here we are just over halfway through the group stage with most teams having played two of their three matches and the situation with the England team is dire, miserable, stultifying, alarming and weird. Something is wrong after two draws when the second against Algeria produced little skill and no goals. Surely England have never been so completely downbeat and disheartened in a competition. Rooney seems to have taken over a media theory that he was the lynchpin (kingpin) of the team and all would depend on him. Now he finds that he cannot perform as we know that he can. Other players follow suit.

No doubt there will be some kind of investigation as there is a group psychological problem with the team. Thank goodness there are no penalty shoot-outs in this group stage or there would be players running away to the dressing room to hide rather than take a penalty. It would mean trusting the feet to make contact with the ball.
(In contrast, read Cool Foot Frank - when Lampard had to re-take a penalty twice in an English Premier League match)

This Guardian piece (see link below) expresses what happened in the last match (against Algeria) as well as any that I have read in the last two days

England have to play Slovenia next, the only team in the group to have won a match - each team having played two games. A win against Slovenia is needed but can this England team shake off their fear and actually turn up to play?

Group C

Monday, 7 June 2010

The World Cup, a near miss!

2010 FIFA World Cup logoImage via Wikipedia

Most English football fans remember the year that England won the World Cup even if  they had not been born when it took place. The tournament's  final stages were from 11th to 30th July. And the year was, of course, 1966.
In that year I was in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, with my wife and three young children. I had a 3 year contract with the government there which had started on 31st Dec, 1963. I didn't realise when I signed the contract that the World Cup would become relevant. 

Our three years would not be completed until the very end of 1966. There was no chance of watching any of the matches in Kaduna even on television. And in any case it might never happen again in my lifetime that this competition could take place in my own country!  We might actually win the thing! How could I get back to England to see the matches?

I talked to people in the Ministry and it turned out that it was in the public interest that leave could be taken in early July, 1966!  It is marvellous how accommodating people can be. But it was a near miss! No sooner off the plane and the tournament started; the next three weeks were spent in a darkened  room where my father-in-law and myself watched England win through round after round to the final and a national victory.

My wife would have liked us to take a stopover holiday in the Canary Islands on the way home from Kaduna.  She has not quite forgiven me for not doing it and of course the current atmosphere of interest in the World Cup 2010 reminds her. But for me there was only ever one choice.

What did the 1966 England players do the day after winning the World Cup?

Monday, 24 May 2010

Blackpool tower over Cardiff

Saturday 22nd May, Blackpool beat Cardiff at Wembley in the final of the play-offs for the third club from the Championship to rise into the Premier League. Cardiff score early on, Blackpool equalise. Cardiff score another, Blackpool equalise, and then just before half time Blackpool score again to lead 3-2. And that was the final result in a heat wave with 106 degrees Fahrenheit at the pitchside. Reportedly the Blackpool squad were offered a 5 million pound bonus for a victory. An entertaining match, even in the second half when the pressure was on both teams to endure and succeed. Blackpool did. They had finished the season in 6th position, the lowest of the play-off teams.

The Blackpool manager, we were told regularly by the television people, is an amusing character. At the end of the match he said he was proud of his players and glad to have played a part in getting more money for them! Some people have no class. You are not supposed to mention the money, Mr Holloway!

So a touch of tangerine, and memories of Stanley Matthews to add to the Premier's 2010-2011 season, and a player to add to your Fantasy League team perhaps: Charlie Adam, mid-fielder, good at free-kicks.

Monday, 17 May 2010

2010 Cup Final: biting your nails or what?

Chelsea 1 Portsmouth 0, the result suggests it was a close call for Chelsea who were 6-1 on to win and complete the Premier League and FA Cup double. The contrast  between the League champions and the relegated, financially ruined Pompey made you wonder if the underdogs would leave the scene with a bite. And they could well have.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

No misdeliveries please, Postman Fabio.

Fabio Capello. via Wikipedia

Serious, authoritative, no-nonsense he might be, but Fabio Capello has a strong resemblance to Postman Pat. Of course, this is not his fault.

Capello after more than two  years of watching matches has chosen a squad of 30 players. From this group he will choose 23 players as the England squad to take to South Africa to represent this country in the World Cup competition.(Photo of Fabio Capello by Paulblank) (and click here for a photo of  Postman Pat)

England's 30-man provisional squad for the World Cup finals:
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, David James, Robert Green.
Defenders: Leighton Baines, Jamie Carragher, Ashley Cole, Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand, Glen Johnson, Ledley King, John Terry, Matthew Upson, Stephen Warnock.
Midfielders: Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard, Tom Huddlestone, Adam Johnson, Frank Lampard, Aaron Lennon, James Milner, Scott Parker, Theo Walcott, Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Forwards: Darren Bent, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney. 

In fact, any schoolboy fan, any Fantasy League player (more than 2 million in the  Premier League's own competition), any current or retired English footballer from whatever league, his father, and children, and many more ......................
could have picked the same bunch. By phone-in, if you like.

 Capello- the-Postman's main task is addressing the men so that they deliver without error in their final rounds in South Africa.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Drogba, the Didier and Lamps to show the way

 This is the very human tale of Drogba and Lampard, Chelsea footballers. Drogba is the brilliant big baby who when tackled to the ground will writhe about for a while and then get up and limp. More than the average player. He is known for appealing to the referee dramatically and persistently. On two occasions in Champions league matches he has been sent off  for drama of one sort or another, thus weakening his team. He seems to feel hurt and wronged more than most and these qualities in a top-class sportsman, 32-year-old father, African hero, Captain of the Ivory Coast national team and millionaire are ridiculous.

But Didiers are found in most human groupings. And in each of us there is at least some of this Didier quality. We are what we are, what genes and environment made us. A touching understanding and tolerance of others was demonstrated on the field of play yesterday by our other personality, Frank Lampard, known as Lamps, one of Chelsea and England's most consistent  players. He is a great penalty taker, who earlier this season re-took a penalty twice because of infringements by his teammates, and was allowed to register with the third one. 
(See Cool Foot Frank, earlier in this blog)

At the start of the match Drogba was level with Man U's Rooney on goals scored this season.  There is an award for top-scorer called The Golden Boot. Early in the match with Chelsea leading by only one goal, they were awarded a penalty - of course, Lampard normally takes the penalties.

It seems that Drogba wanted to take this penalty to add to his total for the Golden Boot. Lampard refused to allow him and promptly took the penalty and scored. Drogba did not come to congratulate him. Then before play resumed Lampard was to be seen hugging Drogba and trying to mollify, comfort, persuade, calm, or whatever the big baby. What he said we can guess,

"You will get a chance later, the next penalty if it comes is yours, but first I had to make sure we had a good lead. It is my responsiblity."

Drogba was still sulky for a while. In fact, television pundit, former Chelsea manager Glenn Hoddle, speculated that the Didier might not return on the field for the second half. He did and scored three.  The first of these was a headed goal, the ball lifted to him over the goalmouth by Lampard. His second was a penalty - Lampard threw the ball to him to take the kick.
Didier was cavorting with his teammates during and long after the presentation of the trophy: one of the team again.

Just because you are famous, a celebrity, a father, a big brother, even confident and expert at what you do ........ there's still a baby in there somewhere!  And what impressed me most was that Frank Lampard recognised this and offered comfort, not scorn.

Well, I hope I interpreted the situation correctly. It could be that Frank said, 

                                                    "Why don't you pull yourself together?"

What do you think he said to the Didier?

If you want to read more about the drama of the season's last day then .....

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Hostage to Fortune

Chelsea's squad in 1905. (L to R) Back Row: Jo...Image via Wikipedia
Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea manager, said at the weekend that the Premiership will not go to goal difference to decide the winner. This was just after Chelsea had beaten Stoke 7-0. It was a public message to his team not to rely on anything but winning the next two matches.

If Chelsea lose at Liverpool by 2-0 and Man U draw 1-1 at Sunderland in their penultimate match then they will be equal on points but Chelsea will have a goal difference of 6 to put them at the top of the table. Both teams are expected to win their final matches at home. Suppose Chelsea beat Wigan by 2-0 and Man U hammer Stoke by 7-0 then Chelsea win the Premiership by a goal difference of 1!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Reviewing the situation: Who will win the English Premiership, 2009-2010?

The weekend ahead sees Chelsea and Man U play Liverpool away and Sunderland away respectively.

Chelsea are one point ahead since last weekend's matches. The last match of the season for all  Premiership teams is on May 9th KO 3pm UK time. On that day Chelsea are at home to Wigan, and Man U are at home to Stoke City (beaten 7-0 by Chelsea last weekend).

So -  only two matches remain of the most important English football competition lasting 38 games; started last August.

How about a report on this situation as seen from South Africa - where many Premiership players will be headed in June for the World Cup final stages?

Other comment:

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Pictures of men

English Premier League trophy, inscribed with ...Image via Wikipedia
An early kick-off on Saturday saw Man City drawing scoreless and clueless against Man United - four points behind Chelsea at the top of the Premier League.

At the end of 92 minutes Man U were 18-1 against to win the Premier league with three matches and 30 seconds remaining. 30 seconds later they were 4-1 on to win the Premier League - from quick re-action bookies. Why?

Paul Scholes had headed a goal after playing the whole game at the advanced age of 36 - an even more remarkable achievement than the header? Poor Paul's reward was a kiss from his captain, Gary Neville. A hand on each side of his face with fingers spread, the fanatical Gary gave Paul a mouth-to-mouth. I dare you to have a look !

See Scholes header.

The importance of the last gasp goal was increased when later in the same afternoon Chelsea lost 2-0 to Spurs and reduced the former team's Premiership lead to one point with 3 matches to play.

In Sunday's punditry on this match Paul Merson made the usual obeisance to Andy Gray about heading the ball. The prevailing myth promoted by Sky commentators, especially by Andy himself, is that he, Andy, is the best header of the ball since Adam first headed the apple in the Garden of Eden.  Merson said,
"That would have been a difficult one even for Andy"  
Merson and Andy Gray were watching video of Scholes's header. Personally, I think that Scholes was so knackered that when he saw a fuzzy mass coming towards his head he tried to nod it away.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Strictly Come Footering

Last Saturday Man U were at home to Chelsea in the English Premier League. It was the 33rd league match of the season and only 5 more to play.  Man U were leading the League with 72 points; Chelsea were second with 71 when the match began. This game was obviously going to be critical in deciding the league and the plaudits, the prestige, and the extra millions from sponsors and fans worldwide. Chelsea won 2-1 and now stand two points clear of their immediate rival.

Drogba scored their second goal but was clearly offside when seen on video replay. Man U's goal looked to have been involuntarily pushed over the line in a goalmouth scramble by their substitute Macheda. Each team should have had a penalty but the officials did not see things that way.

And the FA are doing sweet FA about making sure that referees get help to make the judgements they have to make. In this vacuum, conditions are ideal for another method of making judgements. It seems that everyone: pundits, columnists, even my ManU fan friend, Ivan, stated that Chelsea deserved to win despite the offside goal by Drogba.

So the field is open for a panel of judges and a phone-in open to the public to give their verdict on matches. Whatever, the score the final result will be what the public decides.

(Sometimes I don't know where I get my ideas from)

Sunday, 28 March 2010

How does it feel to lose 7-1? Or 13-2?

City of SheffieldImage via Wikipedia
Owners of photos: Lewis Skinner, Wikityke, Ian Parkes, Warofdreams, Wedesoft
Chelsea defeated Aston Villa yesterday by seven goals to one. I wondered how the losers felt.  I can come pretty close with my memories of losing 13-2. 

It was in 1955, one Saturday afternoon in Sheffield. It had been raining most of the week when we turned out at 3pm. I saved the first shot. It skidded a bit but squelched out of the mud and up towards my chest.  I got a slippery hold on it, then booted it out to beyond the halfway line. That was the last time in the match that I managed to kick it so far. You probably guessed by now that I was the goalkeeper - otherwise there would have been a penalty for getting hold of the ball?

My team was St  John's College, York Second XI. Our opponents were Sheffield University Third XI, or it could have been Fourth XI - just not sure now.  It was not only the goals going in, it was the mud that I had to dive into for little purpose. It was the growing lack of confidence in the rest of my team and their sheer incompetence. Until we were about halfway through the eventual 13 they would stretch out a hand to help me up from the mire where I had semi-stuck after the ball went past me. But I gradually got less and less assistance in unsticking myself as my teammates got more and more depressed by what was happening to us all.

Thoughts like 'How can I avoid going into dinner tonight back at St John's in York? Answer: 'Only by going without dinner' only made me feel worse. I wanted to hide somewhere for a month or two. Then came more anger with my teammates because the jokes would be focussed on me, the guy who was the last line of defence. The one who picked up the ball from the mud and threw it towards the middle of the field 13 times. Why did I choose to be a bloody goalie anyway? ( A subject for a future blog perhaps)

They don't have the same quality mud any more but nevertheless read this and empathise if you can with Friedel, the Aston Villa goalkeeper: Chelsea 7 Aston Villa 1 

Personally, as a Chelsea fan I was just delighted.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Chelsea will not be one of Champions League last 8, March 16th, 2010

Chart showing the progress of Chelsea F.C. thr...Image via Wikipedia

Email to my son, Nick. We are both Chelsea supporters
This report is pretty much as I saw the game. Inter were evil, knew it, and fed on it. Chelsea couldn't match their ferocity. With no help from the ref, when at corners we should have had penalties, we had nowhere to go. Anelka was poor, tried his game of holding and passing but never to much effect.
He had one flash of a chance and got in a shot while off balance but it was blocked immediately by Lucio. Joe Cole came on and knew he had to do something good. He started by shoving someone over and giving away a free-kick, then ran round and round. Too desperate! It was hardly fair on Cole to be in the role of rescuer. So much more playing time had been given, for example, to the big Ballack.
Drogba's free kicks were poor.  I could sympathise with him on his sending off  but Graham Souness was right. Souness had played at the top level and could mix it with the best. So I have to respect his verdict that the ref had to send Drogba off when the matter was brought to his notice. Drogba had fallen to the provocation almost at the end of the match. (Graham Souness,  former player and manager, was speaking from the tv studio)

Monday, 8 March 2010

The England Team

Here's a start. Gordon Brown in goal. I know he only has one eye but, hey, you often get into less trouble that way. His bullying manner would get the lads lined up for free-kicks and corners pretty smartly and also intimidate opposing strikers. And his record in punching the ball well away speaks for itself.

I know he is notionally a leftie but Tony Blair has to be in the centre. He will roam to the right a lot but never go near the left-wing. And he does like pushing forward in the limelight. He was quick to make the strike against Iraq, although I admit he was substituted well before extra time in the on-going match in Afghanistan. He sends a lot of shots over the bar but puts away a fair number of chances. His goalscoring celebrations, posturing around all over the field, are also over the top - but that's the way the game is going, I'm afraid.  He gets in the team as a lone striker.

I have given a lot of thought to David Cameron's position. I know he has done a lot of attacking lately but that was because of his team's position in the league. If promoted he is going to have to defend like mad and so his best position could be defensive mid-field, but he still has a lot to prove. He could do well with some sterling defenders behind him. Will Ken Clarke come in there, do you think? As a central defender on the left side?

Ed Balls is also in the mid-field somewhere, certainly left side, but ready to fill in anywhere he thinks he will do well. I am not sure that he himself has any definite preference, as long as he is in there with the lads.

William Haigh is definitely right back. No, I don't mean 'right back behind the  goal'! He would definitely be an attacking right flanker, running up and down the wing and talking to anybody he can find to listen: the linesman or supporters in the crowd. He could talk the hind leg off a referee and would be useful complaining and arguing about whether there should have been a red card for the opposition or a corner or throw-in for his team. Always in a dignified manner. And after the match he can always drink his fifteen pints with the lads, of course.

For left-back there are several candidates, but for me Nick Clegg is left back by a long way.

Which other players would you have in the England team? Milliband?  I know I have chosen the obvious ones but what do you think? And I would really welcome your suggestions to complete a team. Write something below where it say Comments or send them directly to me at:


In the Premier League on Saturday the prize for insouciance went to Bendtner, the Arsenal striker. He missed maybe five chances near the goal with his team and manager desperate for a decider as the match went on with only a 2-1 lead over Burnley. By far the better team and playing highly watchable touch and take-it-with-you football, Arsenal did not put things to a satisfactory end until the last  minute of added-on time when Arshavin (on late as a sub and also missed a couple of good chances) made it 3-1.

The camera went to Bendtner's face after two of his misses and found him chewing gum. Subsitituted late, he came off slouching and chewing with a kind-of-defiant attitude which said "What did I do wrong?"
Nothing, it seemed as his colleagues on the bench and his manager gave him a pat on the hand or arm. He was still chewing. One of the 21st century's aristocracy (taking over from bankers and estate agents), this young man certainly looked the part. I'll bet that inside, though, he was burning up. And where does he get fresh gum?

Monday, 1 March 2010

The last Saturday in February: A sad day

The relationship of Terry and Bridge whose teams, Chelsea and Manchester City, met on Saturday with a rare home defeat 2-4 for Chelsea was given a high profile by the media and by curiosity from the rest of us. Would they shake hands during the pre-match ceremonies? Proferred by Terry, the  hand was ignored by Bridge as the visiting team walked the line formed by the home players.

This kind of 'sad' which involves the relationship two players had with the same woman can be considered to be beside the point in football. The fact that the relationship was unknown to Bridge until reported by a newspaper added public shame to the issue. And of course it does affect the way people in a team, in football and in other kinds of work, think about the way they co-operate.  It can affect respect but can it affect performance? Well, Chelsea lost at home for the first time in 25 matches. And Chelsea had two players sent off.  Was this a coincidence? I think so - there was a fault in squad selection.

The pair sent off were both experienced 33-year old players who have played for their countries. Belletti scored the winning goal for Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final. Ballack is captain of Germany and has played in the last two World Cup competitions. His first yellow card was for complaining needlessly to the referee about a corner-kick. His second, when Chelsea were losing, was for wrapping his legs around an opponent from behind. Off he had to go! Belletti got a red direct when he chased Barry into the box directly behind! The inevitable happened: he seemed to touch feet with Barry, who fell. 

After two such incompetent acts committed when their team was losing and desperately needed goals you have to ask what these two players are even doing in the team playing for Chelsea.Where are their priorities?  Match Report.

What made the day truly sad was that Aaron Ramsey, the 19 year-old Arsenal mid-fielder had his leg broken in the match against Stoke. The faces of those on the field showed their shock and sympathy for the injured player. Shawcross, Stoke, was sent off  for the tackle he made on Ramsey and walked off in tears at what he had done. Match report.

Later in the day Shawcross would hear that  he had been chosen for the England squad for a midweek 'friendly' game against Egypt. His first cap.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Dimitar Berbatov's brilliant moment

Saturday's game against Everton shown on Sky television produced a wonderful picture of Berbatov. It typifies what I imagine to be the man. He's a player of great skill that I admire. He also cost Man U more than 30 million pounds. However, he is not famous for running about a lot. He is just not a Wayne Rooney breasting through tides of opposition covering acres of ground.

Berbatov scored the first goal of the match and the only one scored by his team in their 3-1 defeat. (See my blog below, same date). It was a volley that came to him from the right to his position just outside the 5-yard box with players all around him. He touched it once with the top of his foot and then hit a rising volley into the top of the netting.  It was an elegant moment and a brilliant goal.

However, the wonderful picture of Berbatov that I referred to in the first sentence was not the vision of his goal, it was later, just before the kick-off, second half. There was some brief delay and the camera settled brilliantly on Berbatov. While waiting he was carefully smoothing his shorts where they were slightly rucked. There is a badge on these shorts just above the hem on the right leg and it means that they are not quite straight enough. For some players!

The Scots Succession?

At Goodison Park on Saturday Everton took on Manchester United As equals. Both teams went for the win from the start and Everton were the better team on the day. They won 3-1.

I remembered another match where I was watching in the heat of a Costa Blanca summer. It was the first Premier League match of the new season on August 15th, 2009, and Everton's visitors were Arsenal. The result looked like very bad news for Everton's season. They lost 1-6. Five different players scored for Arsenal, including their two central defenders, Gallas and Vermaelen.

Around the world, managers of Fantasy League teams made a mental note to remove the Everton players from their teams. I had Leighton Baines in my team - a regular full-back who took free-kicks and looked likely to score a reasonable number of points.  I  did - perhaps unwisely - remove him. Photo link

There was a background to Everton's early season results. At season's start Everton had an unsettled defender, Joleyon Lescott, who was wanted by Manchester City, a team whose owner had money to spend. Manager Moyes did not want to release Lescott but after this shattering start to the season he must have changed his mind. The uncertainty about Lescott dragged on through the transfer window until in fact it did happen.

David Moyes has managed Everton since the 2002-3 season when owner Bill Kenworthy, theatre entrepreneur, persuaded him to leave Preston where he had gone from player to manager at the end of an average career on the field as a centre half. Compared to the top teams he has had to choose carefully on a lower budget to bring in players to the less fashionable of the Liverpool teams, the ''Toffies'. He seems to have chosen  players who are adaptable, who can play in different positions. For example, Cahill, a midfielder is currently playing as a striker.  Fellaini, one of his most expensive signings, can play as a second striker or as playmaker in the centre of midfield, or even as a defender.
On Saturday his team were better trained than the temporary league leaders, now second, the great Manchester United - whom Everton also defeated in the FA Cup semi-final last season. (In the final, they lost to Chelsea)

Interviewed on Sky television after the match, David Moyes admitted to being on friendly terms with Sir Alex Ferguson, fellow-Scot from the Glasgow area. What are his chances as the successor to Sir Alex when the older manager finally retires. At 46-years old, he has proved that he can put the necessary metal into his men. Given the opportunity to bring in the calibre of players that have come to United since the Premier League began, he seems to have the qualities to succeed on the scale expected of the Manchester manager. He only lacks the opportunity. His weakness compared to foreign coaches who may be considered for the top football manager job in England, eg Mourinho, is that he does lack experience in the Champions League. Everton's performances in the UEFA league have not reached the heights so far. However, Moyes seems to have something more fundamental: an understanding of footballers and the capacity to train them to work for him, and much greater experience of playing and managing in England than any foreign import. That latter point is important: knowledge of other managers, the pitches, the nature of the crowds, the history and traditions that can inspire or intimidate players; this kind of national knowledge is already his.

The match referred to above also featured two young players, aged 20 and 18, Gosling and Rodwell, who were sent on as substitutes by David Moyes and promptly each one scored. See link below.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Over the top with Field Marshall Lord Kitchener

Screen grab from British TV show 'Football Foc...Image via Wikipedia
Over the top
In mid-week Nani went in over the top for Man U against Aston Villa and was sent off in the 28th minute. His manager said he was naive (rather than malicious) with a two-footed late tackle. Unfortunately I am now minus three points as I had just brought him in to my Fantasy League team.

Your country needs you!
Martin Keown on BBC Television´s Football Focus today commented on whether Wayne Bridge would play alongside John Terry in England's World Cup tournament this summer given recent personal causes of friction. Keown echoed the words of Lord Kitchener.                     
"His country needs him," declared Keown.

I think that M. Keown was being naive in using these words when calling on W. Rooney to put aside personal grievance with J. Terry and play for his country. The words he echoed were from Lord Kitchener on a poster with the Lord's likeness, his pointing finger, and the words: Your country needs you! The purpose was to stir men to face death and disfigurement by volunteering to join the army in the First World War. And if you survived you then faced unemployment on your return from the war.

I think Martin was over the top. A red card from me for going in with this phrase on this occasion.
(The photo is a screen grab from Football Focus, copyright owned by the BBC . I consider that it  is used here fairly  for identification and comment)  All that Wayne Bridge would sacrifice would be a summer holiday - in return for extra money, honour and the chance of greater fame if England won the World Cup.

Celebrity Soccer, the film?
I am looking forward to watching David Beckham  on Tuesday night when he will surely play in Milan against his former team Man Utd in a Champions League match. Wayne Rooney, the Man Utd striker, is reported elsewhere saying that another member of the Milan team is the best footballer he has ever played against. The man in question also appeared in video footage on BBC's Football Focus this morning. Who was he? He has won three Champions League medals, one with Real Madrid last century, the other two with Milan. He also played in that famous final in Turkey against Liverpool in 2005 when his team were beaten after leading 3-0. He returned to the final the following year to win his third medal. Against ............. Liverpool, of course!

The drama of the football game is hard to match in any soap opera or other fiction -  as is the career of this admirable Dutch player called Clarence.

You'll recall his surname and remember his achievements if you follow the link:

The Italian press are reporting that Clarence is going out with George Clooney's former girl-friend. I look forward to hearing that George will play the part of Clarence in an upcoming film.

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Saturday, 30 January 2010

Guess the headline!

Chelsea played Burnley today k.o. 1730. Captain John Terry had been revealed earlier in the press, eg Daily Telegraph front page report, as trying by an injunction naming News of the World to hide an affair with a fellow player's girl-friend.  (The player is no longer at Chelsea)

As current England captain, he would have to step down, said Henry Winter. Presumably because you cannot have a public figure having it off with anyone but his wife. To whom he was married on a grand scale not long ago at Blenheim Palace (hired for the occasion).

Anyway, during the match at Burnley, the first time in 36 years since Chelsea had played at Turf Moor, with the score 1-1 my son, Nick, watching on television in his London pub, sent me a text
'What if Terry got the winning goal? Think of the headlines in tomorrow`s papers!'
I did.
'0h, yes!!!' I replied.
And 30 minutes later John Terry headed the winning goal for Chelsea, reported Nick by mobile on the way home from the pub.
And so here is the headline before the newspapers get there:

                                   "Terry scored!"   (in purple prose)

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Manchester Soap Opera (or not just Coronation Street)

Carlos Tévez
"Fantastic! Tevez is ripping a hole right through Manchester United... as I predicted he would. Just blowing them seven ways from Sunday and Ferguson is looking at his shoes, chewing and looking most  glum. What an idiot; first for letting him go and more for not utilizing his extraordinary talent.
Go baby go!"

The above gem is from a friend watching (in Japan) last Tuesday's Carling Cup first-leg  semi-final between the Manchester teams, City and United. During the summer Ferguson, Man Utd manager, decided not to keep Tevez at  United. A substantial fee to keep the player was needed and there may have been other contractual factors involved. Fortunately for Tevez, City's new owners had plenty of money to splash on top players and they bought him. At the core of the hostility described in the links below is the fact that the United players were training together just months ago plus the fact that on parting Ferguson implied Tevez was not good enough for his squad. So Tevez scores twice in Tuesday's match and.............bring on the second leg at Old Trafford! Can't wait!
Photo of Tevez, CCA 2.0 Generic Licence with attribution to photographer Gordon Flood 

Note the Ryan Giggs quote above in the Telegraph piece. Why do newspapers and television reporters do this? Of course, Giggs would say that his team will win next time. He is the captain most of the time nowadays and a senior player. But even the ball-boys would say this. How can it be news?
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