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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ole retires

One of Old Trafford's most popular players over the past decade is retiring earlier than expected. 34 year old Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has decided to call it quits for Manchester United after complications from a summer knee surgery.

Solskjaer, whose most famous moment was scoring the winner against Bayern Munich in 1999’s Champions League final, has been hampered by knee problems for the last four years. He scored 11 rather anonymous goals last season as United won the Premier League crown. He was expecting to play out this season and call it quits.

Solskjaer will remain at Old Trafford as a coach and serve his appointment as ‘club ambassador’, whatever that is.

Solskjaer joined United from Molde for 1.5m pounds in 1996 and made 366 appearances for United. He scored 126 goals in the 11 years at the club.

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Pompey out of their minds?

Has Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp got a screw loose? He’s always been, shall we say, eccentric, but selling a player after just a month and a handful of games would be a new record of some kind, surely. It’s always been managers who have traditionally seen short stays at a club but this time it could be a player as the club has admitted David Nugent is on the block with Derby County interested as they attempt to sign Nicolas Anelka from Bolton before the transfer window closes.

Nugent was signed from Preston during the summer and scored his first goal for the club in a Carling Cup win against woeful Leeds United. Selling him to Preston would link the player back up with his former manager Billy Davies.

"Sometimes when you are trying to raise money you have to sell someone you don't really want to sell. That could be David but it could be others. What we need is somebody who can get us 15 to 20 goals a season and if we can do some good business and improve the team we will." –Redknapp

Sorry, ‘arry, but this would not be an example of good business. First off, what message do you send to future young players you want to sign? Second, Pompey don’t seem lacking in goal scoring, 6 goals in their first 4 games is as good as anyone else in the Premiership. Their problem is that they have leaked 5. They should have never conceded in the 84th minute against Derby and if they didn’t, would be sitting on 7 points and a spot in the top 5.

If you sign a young player, he deserves a chance. Nugent is not some girl at a bar you toss off because a cuter one walks by. Harry Redknapp, for all of his ability to make a great deal would become nothing more than a cut-throat shark in my mind. I gave him a pass on his come-go-return to Pompey a few seasons ago when he left for and then left Southampton, but it would change my view on that. Redknapp would become no more than another opportunist in a world already full of them.

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That shirt

Anyone else notice Birmingham City manager Steve Bruce’s shirt over the weekend against Derby County? Was this all-night-disco-Steve ready to show the ladies what they have been missing or what?

Someone help the man. I couldn’t decide whether he was a pimp or a gigolo, defintely not a football manager. He looked like a guy whose overstayed your wedding –first the jacket goes off, then the tie, then, button by button the shirt creeps downward until folks are sniggering with comments like ‘hey, don’t tell Stevie the party is over…’.

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Dressing room is intact

While much has been made recently of the potential replacement of Martin Jol at Tottenham, you can rest assured that the dressing room is intact after the impressive away display against Manchester United on Sunday.

Tottenham lost, but it was not for lack of effort. Spurs work rate was exceptional and they deserved something out of the game.

During the week it was revealed that Tottenham had been shopping for a manager, and while it was denied, it’s a lie. A case of plausible deniability, when you have a 3rd party make the approach for you so you can claim that nobody from your club did it. While that is technically true, its also true that they made an approach for Juande Ramos.

But the club has regrouped. No El Hadji Diouf’s here. Lots of positive statements from players and a positive statement on the pitch. There was a lot of concern that the dressing room had been lost, and this game could, in many ways, be the most important game for Tottenham this season. They lost, but they passed a very important test. For me, it was an impressive display.

Should this talk of Martin Jol being sacked finally stop, Tottenhm can finally get on with their season and Martin Jol given the chance he deserves to finish what he started.

Lastly, how impressive were Tottenham’s fullbacks? Chimbonda was brilliant, Gareth Bale showed some great ability and potential.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Want to watch a crap game? Sunderland vs Liverpool

Sometimes you have to win ugly. Liverpool did that, and considering their away woes last season, I am sure the faithful won’t care much. But to the neutral there was nothing worth watching. Liverpool were jagged and all Sunderland cared about was not letting them play. A timeless classic it was not.

Momo Sissoko and Andriy Voronin both scored their first Premiership goals in either half and it was enough for three points. I could probably end the article here.

Sunderland started the match especially badly. They could have conceded in the first minute. So much for Roy Keane’s bla bla bla after last weeks drubbing. At one point around half time, the possession meter stood at 71-29% for Liverpool.

Sunderland's effort was actually not too bad, you must say they had success disrupting the Liverpool attack, but when they had the ball they just ran out of ideas over and over again and ended up hoofing the ball hoping for a lucky break.

Sunderland’s goalkeeper Craig Gordon is clearly their best player. He stopped the game from being a rout. Sunderland are weak in every part of the pitch and are going to have to fight for every point they will earn.

A funny moment fairly late on was watching Jamie Carragher let Rafael Benitez have it after it took him forever to substitute him after an injury. A bit of trivia, Sissoko’s first goal was Liverpool’s 7,000th League goal.

If you taped Match of the Day, you can safely fast forward this one.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I was right after all: Tottenham shopped for manager

Oh, so after all the abuse and accusations of rumor mongering by Tottenham fans in the comments of yesterday’s article, I am vindicated. Tottenham were shopping for managers, they did approach Juande Ramos, and he rejected them.

Beyond that, you guys sat around buying the line your club was bandying about saying that Jol’s job is secure and that there was no fallout with Dimitar Berbatov. It’s all true. Almost always, when everyone starts making statements denying a ‘rumor’ (chairman, agents, manager, player) all at once, you can pretty much bank on it being true. This was just a means to keep the unity within the club high, but attempting to lie to everyone generally falls on its face. Not to sound like some weathered journalist or anything, but if there is one thing I have learned keeping this blog over the last 4 years it’s that you should just present the truth to the fans about what happened. It’s easier. “Look, we had an argument, I thought this, he thought that, we resolved it and now we are back to focusing on winning”.

Now what you have is an admonition that Spurs approached the Sevilla manager in what he called a ‘dizzying’ offer in this ‘I met with a person who met with a person’ way so it could easily be denied. Too late. Then you have Spurs telling Jol that his job was safe providing he delivered Champions League football and then Jol and Levy out there telling everyone things were dandy. Hug for the camera coys, I mean boys.

The only thing more dizzying than the offer made to Ramos is the web Spurs is weaving. Do you really think the players are going to give 100% to a manager now that everyone knows they are shopping for another? I doubt it. Ever had a guy at work that everyone knew was on the way out except him? Notice how radioactive that guy got? This is one of the reasons there are no trophies in the cabinet.

Martin Jol is a good, good manager and has solved quite a lot of problems at the club. He's not perfect, notably he gets beaten tactically but he's done quite well and deserves a season of support from fans and front office to show what he can do.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Too many eggs in one basket

Gabriel Heinze banked on a hearing to force his move from Manchester United to Liverpool and was left wanting as they ruled against him. Too many eggs in one basket, and now egg on his face.

United was in dispute with Heinze because the club had given him written permission to seek a new club as long as the fee was 6.8m pounds. The Premiership arbitration panel ruled that the document “envisages only an international transfer".

With the transfer window closing down in 10 days time, Heinze better move fast because he is certain to spend a season in the reserves otherwise.

Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson and David Gill travelled to the hearing to present their case. Their basic argument was that they were under no obligation to sell Heinze to a rival. All along I thought Heinze would lose the argument. It’s up to the club to accept or reject an offer. Even with a written statement that they would allow a transfer, it’s still up to the club to decide where.

If Heinze would have won, it would be the first move since between the clubs since 1962.
Heinze can appeal, but should cut his losses and get out of town fast.

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Fix your Berbatov problem quick, Martin

If there is one player at Tottenham that you should be careful criticizing and should start every game he wants to, it’s Dimetar Berbatov.

Berbatov, with the slightest wink, could have forced a move from White Hart Lane. He’s the best player on the team. He shouldn’t be part of a rotation policy. Can you imagine Man U rotating Ronaldo or Liverpool sitting Gerrard? In fact, Rafael Benitez plans to use a rotation policy this season, but have you seen Steven Gerrard sit? Do you expect to?

The row between Jol and Berbatov is twofold. One is the rotation policy, but the second and much more touchy is Berbatov’s apparent reaction to his substitution at Sunderland. I noticed it in his face too, and so did Jol. Apparently Jol was angered by it and told Chairman Daniel Levy that Berbatov isn’t a team player. If this is true, how did it get out? Did Jol leak it to send his star a message or did Levy to add fuel to the fire of a Jol firing?

While Martin Jol has been under pressure lately, it’s a way too soon to be calling for his ouster. He’s done good things, and consider that Tottenham had a lot of tough problems to solve when he arrived, he’s sorted a lot of them out. On the whole he’s done a very good job and deserves the season to continue his work.

If the rumors are true, then it’s a revolving door at Tottenham. Apparently Tottenham executives were seen in Spain talking Sevilla manager to Juande Ramos. The rumor is also that Jol’s relationship with director of football Damien Comolli has soured.

Tottenham and Ramos admitted a meeting took place, but claimed it nothing to do with Jol's job. Oh, ha ha right, they met to discuss buying a time-share together on the coast and eating paella. What a bad lie!

If I were Martin Jol, I would fix this quick because I think it was Levy that leaked the Berbatov controversy so that Berbatov knew where he stood. I also think, wrongly, that Jol is truly about to be fired.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Move for keeper blocked by club

Carlo Cudicini is angry with Chelsea after the club blocked his chance of a move to Manchester City in the current transfer window.

Cudicini is finally fed up being Petr Cech's No2 after. It only took him 3 seasons. Manchester City have made inquiries but Chelsea made it clear no deal was possible.

At one point last season Cudicini had slipped behind Henrique Hilario in the starting order while Cech was still out with a fractured skull. Fernando Pastorello, Cudicini’s agent made it clear to Chelsea management that his client was not happy thwarting his opportunity to leave and seek first team football.

"They told him he had to stay because there was not enough time to find a new goalkeeper to replace him" - Pastorello

Sven Goran Eriksson was quite keen to sign the player for Manchester City. Cudicini still has 2 seasons to go on his contract.

Cudicini was a former Milan youth player. He arrived at Chelsea in 1999 and was the first choice keeper until Petr Cech was signed. He’s hardly seen the team sheet since, making just 15 appearances and is certainly too good for that.

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Sunderland interest in Old Man River?

Sunderland are apparently interested in Roma defender Samuel Kuffour. Apparently he was offered to the club, having been sent out on loan at Livorno last season and being seen as surplus to requirements.

The extremely experienced Ghana international could provide Sunderland valuable experience but could also become a major liability if his pace does not meet the Premiership’s standard. I have not see him play for a while but what I have read suggests that his sprint is lagging and could easily be caught out as positional defending is not really possible at the pace of football in the Premiership.

Kuffour, former Ghana captain, former African Player of the Year and a Champions League winner with Bayern Munich in 2001, has been keen on a move to England for some time and rejected several offers from clubs in the Bundesliga and La Liga.

Whether Kuffour still has what is needed for the Premiership is still to be see. Sunderland, needing the experience might just get the player cheap enough to make it worth taking a risk.

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Arsenal negotiating for winger (video)

Arsenal are locked in negotiations with Dinamo Zagreb attacking midfielder Luka Modric. Arsenal are pushing forward the negotiations to avoid any potential challenges from Bayern Munich for the 9m pound rated player.

Arsene Wenger has been discussing a move with the player’s agents for over a month now, not new for the notoriously slow to finalize a deal Wenger.

If a deal were to be made, it would be a pair of Dinamo Zagreb players after Eduardo Da Silva, who made his first start for Arsenal, joined earlier in the summer.

Apparently Modric's advisers have spent a few days in England recently to speak to a few different clubs about a move for the player.

At 21 years old, he certainly fits the Arsenal age mold well. Modric, who is most effective as a playmaker can play in central midfield or on the left and would cover the holes left by the departure of Freddie Ljungberg and Jose Reyes.

Here is a clip of Modric in action:


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Middlesbrough bid for Dutch top scorer

In a further sign that Nigerian international striker Yakubu will be leaving Middlesbrough for Everton, the club has made an offer for last year’s Dutch league top scorer Afonso Alves (vid) from Heerenveen.

The official offer was for 6.1m pounds for the talented Brazilian. The 26-year-old scored 34 goals in the Dutch Eredivisie last season and has admitted an interest in moving to the Riverside.

"They are seriously interested in me, Middlesbrough have shown this, too, with their offer. For such a big club and for the Premier League, I am always open and the first talks are really hopeful.” -Alves

The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf claims that Heerenveen have already lined up a replacement for Alves should the deal happen in the form of Paulo Henrique, an 18 year old striker from Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro.

Alves would probably be a big success in the Premiership, combining great foot skills, a nose for goal, pace and a good header. It would be a fairly big swoop should boro make the deal. Alves was a topic of conversation earlier in the season for Barcelona and Manchester United.

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Middlesbrough bid for Dutch to scorer

In a further sign that Nigerian international striker Yakubu will be leaving Middlesbrough for Everton, the club has made an offer for last year’s Dutch league top scorer Afonso Alves from Heerenveen.

The official offer was for 6.1m pounds for the talented Brazilian. The 26-year-old scored 34 goals in the Dutch Eredivisie last season and has admitted an interest in moving to the Riverside.

"They are seriously interested in me, Middlesbrough have shown this, too, with their offer. For such a big club and for the Premier League, I am always open and the first talks are really hopeful.” -Alves

The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf claims that Heerenveen have already lined up a replacement for Alves should the deal happen in the form of Paulo Henrique, an 18 year old striker from Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro.

Alves would probably be a big success in the Premiership, combining great foot skills, a nose for goal, pace and a good header. It would be a fairly big swoop should boro make the deal.

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F1 boss’s takeover prompts board into mass resignation at QPR

The Championship side Queen’s Park Rangers board of directors have staged a mass resignation with immediate effect as the club takeover by the Renault Formula One team’s boss Flavio Briatore is set to be complete.

The 22m pound takeover is expected to be complete this week. The outgoing board members Nick De Marco, James Ferrary and Kevin Steele made a statement on the club's website.

"We believe the new investment coming into the club will be the most important for years. It will save QPR from the perilous financial position we have found ourselves in and should put the club in an excellent position to move forward"

Club chairman Gianni Paladini will remain as chairman of the club.

Briatore, aged 57 and a billionaire in his own right will wipe out QPR's 17m pounds of debt and invest a figure that could be as high as 100m pounds to bring the club back into contention. The club have not seen the top flight in over a decade, making their last visit to the Premier League in 1996.

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Rat trying to leave sinking ship

Times are not too good for Bolton Wanderers. Early on in the Permiership season they are bottom of the table, haven’t scored a point, and now, their serial spitter wants to leave. Celtic, Tottenham and Lyon have all been linked by Senegal international El-Hadji Diouf, to their own detriment at that.

Diouf has revealed he wants to leave Bolton for a club with Champions League ambitions and thinks that the club is intentionally overvaluing him so he can’t leave.

Diouf claims that Tottenham, Celtic and Lyon have all made bids, as have two other mystery clubs.

"Bolton want a lot of money for me. They are asking for 10m pounds. I want to play in the Champions League or with a club that wants to be there next season." – Diouf

“Wants to be there next season”, that must sting if you are a Bolton supporter. And judging by the teams performances, you can see that attitude on the pitch as well. But you have to stay together to climb from a hole and clearly Diouf can’t be bothered. When a player starts this kind of talk, get rid of him. He’s a bad influence on the team and generally has a nasty disposition. I would never have signed him in the first place, regardless of what he has achieved.

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Tottenham close to left sided midfielder

Portsmouth left midfielder Matt Taylor, scorer of 9 goals last season appears ready to boyhood favorites Tottenham.

Spurs boss Martin Jol apparently seems set to fix his left sided problems with the 25 year old who often plays left back. Portsmouth are apparently open to a deal, but the fans may not like it too much as Taylor is a crowd favorite and a solid player at that. Just the other day I posted his two incredible 45 yard goals, worth a look.

Taylor is a former England under-21 and is valued at about 5m pounds. Tottenham have realized in the early season just how big a hole they have on the left and must quickly move to remedy the situation. Even though Young-Pyo and Gareth Bale are health again, Tottenham are weak in this area and should definitely move for Taylor.

Portsmouth are looking to put together funds to but Nicolas Anelka from Bolton and appear ready to make some sacrifices to get their man.

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Newcastle tipped for Barcelona pair

Newcastle United manager Sam Allardyce looks set to keep spending as it appears the club is prepared to sign Barcelona fullback Juliano Belletti and midfield maestro Deco.

The Belletti deal looks much closer to completion for a 2.5m pound fee and a 3 year contract, Allardyce will be travelling to Spain this week to negotiate in person and deal with any of the players concerns.

Deco has only recently been added to the potential deal with Barca following reports from within the Newcastle front office that Deco was highly valued by the club. Newcastle will have to fend off interest from Inter Milan, but that shouldn’t be too hard to do considering how loaded the club is with players and the potential lack of first team football. The rumored offer will be in the region of 8m pounds.

Deco has become a peripheral figure in Barcelona's pre-season preparations.

Newcastle United have made several high-profile signings, Deco could be the one with the highest impact yet, similar to what the signing of Jay Jay Okocha did for Bolton.

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Gerrard gets his wish

Referee’s chief Keith Hackett has acknowledged that referee Rob Styles decision to award Chelsea a penalty against Liverpool yesterday was the wrong one.

In an unprecedented move, Hackett publically admitted the error and said that disciplinary action will be taken. I don’t think that’s a good decision. Admitting the error is enough, referees are under enough pressure and disciplining the referee for a mistake makes them even more tentative.

Liverpool were leading the match 1-0 until Styles awarded Florent Malouda a penalty after he appeared to jump over the ball to let it pass and on the back of Steve Finnan. The referee, right on top of it, got it completely wrong and pointed to the spot.

This morning Steven Gerrard hit the papers calling for a public apology and it appears that is exactly what will happen. Styles will now not be allowed to referee this weekend because of the issue.

I think that there should be a public apology for the decision, but taking it any further than that sends a chill thru the ranks. You will see fewer decisions given because of it.

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City win Manchester bragging rights

Manchester City have earned a famous win in the Manchester derby which will send their fans into rapture and Manchester United’s wondering if it’s time to call their situation a crisis.

What do you say when last year’s champions have only earned 2 points in their opening 3 games? What do you say when a relegation candidate from last season is in great form and have earned full points from their first 3 games?

It didn’t start that way. It was almost embarrassingly one sided in the first 30 minutes. Nani should have opened the scoring when Paul Scholes neatly laid the ball off to him at the edge of the 6 yard box, Nani was tentative though and Kasper Schmeichel parried the shot. In the early going Carrick, Scholes and Owen Hargreaves (making his first start) were bamboozling the City midfield. Beautiful, fluid movement saw Nani get his second chance but again Schmeichel was up to the task.

On 25 minutes, Nani produced the pass of the match with a perfect back heel thru ball which beat everyone and sent Evra thru unfortunately he couldn’t capitalize. And twice in the early going Micah Richards saved City as Tevez was thru on goal.

Soon after though, City began to settle to the pace and pressure of United’s quality and the game’s complexion began to even out. They started playing a high line, very risky, but it worked as the space was compressed for United to work and enabled City to press up field more quickly, keeping the United midfield on their toes.

Then, suddenly, and totally against the run of play City took the lead. It was a pass across the midfield which Geovanni struck well enough, and with a slight deflection off Vidic saw van der Sar beaten. For all the quality build up play, United were on the back foot from that point forward. It was only City’s second shot of the game and quite a while before they would get another.

You must credit Micah Richards for his brilliant display. What a defender, just top class in every category. He muzzled Carlos Tevez when it mattered. His finest moment was on 55 minutes when he cleared a low cross across the box when there were 2 United players ready to score. For all their effort from that point forward you could just see the belief drifting away. It showed in little ways like uncharacteristic concessions of possession and signals of frustration.

You must also credit Dieter Hamann for his intelligent drifts backwards allowing the defenders to avoid long balls and pass to him instead to steady the game. In general City did very well getting men back to protect their lead. United didn’t pressure Hamann, with Tevez the perfect player to do it and force City into the sort of long ball that would allow United to develop some pressure going forward.

United continued to have the majority of possession but United just couldn’t score despite some very close calls. How they missed Ronaldo and a striker which crashes the box.

For all of United’s 21 trophies since the Premier League was created, it was City’s day. Is there a crisis for United? Not yet, it’s more bad luck, Vidic hitting the post right after the half is proof of that. Was I wrong about City? It’s looking like I was, but for both teams, a few more games will tell the story better.

Regardless of crises, United have dug themselves quite a 5 point hole. It’s so hard to play comeback, especially in a Premier League which seems to have so much parody.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Reading into it

Considering the strength of the opposition, for Reading to step away from the first three games of the season with 4 points is a fantastic result. For Everton, it was a tale of 2 players and how when they go missing, they lose.

After such an excellent season last year, Mikel Arteta was really off song yesterday. Never a player to beat you with pace, he relies on an excellent sense for the game and great passing to be effective. He was at sea yesterday. He made countless bad passes and bad decisions and was unable to link the midfield up with the strikers to any degree. When the ball did make it forward, Andy Johnson was owned.

Johnson didn’t play badly but couldn’t get a foot into the game because Andre Bikey had a brilliant match in central defense. The Cameroonian made a few crucial tackles but more importantly marked Andy Johnson completely out of the game. You’d think such a gap in quickness would be exposed at least once in the match but it wasn’t. Bikey, and his powerful but clumsy style, of defending was the central figure on the one half of the pitch as was Stephen Hunt on the other.

I must admit, I don’t like Stephen Hunt as a player but I can appreciate his determination. He just always comes across to me as a bit of a dirty player, always willing to stick a foot in or push a moment on the pitch a bit too far, and I am not taking about the Peter Cech injury (but I do feel he should have considered Cech’s safety and pulled out of it) but a pattern of such play. His work rate and ability to create situations for the defense are excellent though, and I think he actually left the game yesterday from exhaustion, having run his boots off the entire game.

Yesterday, I saw two very evenly matched sides and a fairly good game. It was Hunt’s goal that was the difference and on level, it was Reading that deserved the result. Everton started well but couldn’t maintain any pressure on the game after the first 20 minutes. After that, Reading played good football and kept at the Everton defense which eventually gave way before the half.

Reading kept control for most of the second half until that 80th minute controlled panic set in. Why does this happen to most teams that have a single goal lead? A good team, playing well, will just suddenly realize that they might win and start hoofing the ball up field when just 10 minutes earlier they were passing smoothly and keeping control of the play. And too often, I see teams get an equalizer. Do players really think that thru these worthless clearances, giving the opposition the ball in their own half over and over again, that they are more likely to win than by sticking to the tenant that wins games? Keeping possession is the best way to claim your three points, and it was during this controlled panic that James McFadden hit the post (followed by Johnson) and almost cost Reading their result.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

One from 40 yards out is incredible, but two?

Matthew Taylor was in rare form last season for scoring incredible goals. Against Sunderland and Everton last season he uncorked a pair of incredible goals for Portsmouth from over 40 yards out each.

He scored them both from almost the same spot on the pitch as well. It reminds me of something my grandmother once said on a visit which even today makes me laugh. To put it in context, she knew nothing about football or television for that matter, she didn’t even have one. I was about 10 years old, she was walking thru the room as a goal was scored; she saw it and pretended to care by asking who was winning. My father told her. She stared at the TV for a moment and as they showed the replay she remarked “oh, dear look, they’ve scored another one exactly the same”. Everyone broke out laughing and she couldn’t understand why.

Taylor’s goals were truly world class. In both instances, the goalkeepers were left with no chance. A player would be lucky to score one like this in an entire career. Taylor scored both of his about a season apart.

Here is the first one against Sunderland, October 29, 2005:


And the second, my pick of the pair against Everton, December 9, 2006:


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The Butcher of Bilbao

In 1983, Diego Maradona joined Barcelona and was instantly a marked man. Atletico Bilbao defender Andoni Goikoetxea produced one of the worst tackles in history when he broke Maradona’s ankle.

Today, Goikoetxea is known as the Butcher of Bilbao and was given a 16-match ban for the incident. He had the boots which he was wearing put in a glass case which features in his living room. Great guy:

When Maradona recovered he sparked a fight between the teams in retrobution.

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He’s just too good

He’s too good to let play. And it was on display again when Manchester United drew against Portsmouth midweek. And it’s getting worse. Cristiano Ronaldo is taking a lot of lumps and it will eventually end in a injury.

Last season Ronaldo laid down the gauntlet on the Premiership. This season, as if any more notice needed to be taken, clubs are actively taking to fouling him more than ever in a bid to stop him from playing. I must agree with Alex Ferguson’s comments about the situation, the referee’s need to do more to protect him, and those like him.

I’m by no means suggesting favoritism, more a recognition that “hey, everyone is after him, and the stats prove it, he was the most fouled player in the Premiership last season and is on course to see the same happen again –let’s send a message that you can’t target a player”.

Remember Maradona in the 1990 World Cup? He was fouled incessantly to the point where he said he’d never play internationally again until the rules were changed. Remember “The Butcher of Bilbao” injury? Ronaldo is going to sustain a serious injury if this continues.

Unfortunately, Wednesday the fouling got to him, Ronaldo was sent off for headbutting Richard Hughes. The situation got where it did because referee Steve Bennett didn’t deal with the situation.

“If you have got weak referees then you are going to be suffering. There is a concern players like Ronaldo are going to be the victims ... because it will end up with someone getting a serious injury."

And

"It's very difficult to completely punish Ronaldo or be angry with him, some of the things that are happening to him are not right." -Ferguson

Ferguson is correct. I think you should let the players play but not this. Ronaldo is being hacked up. We don’t want to see him go the way of Marco van Basten and see his career end early.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tottenham Flopspur?

Everton looked the stronger side as they made a model display of efficiency to take the win away against a Tottenham side struggling to find their feet in the new season.

The story for the night was set in the first minute as Everton took a very early lead from which Tottenham could not battle back despite an equalizer soon after. Two more goals followed for Everton as they left the pitch for halftime up 3-1 and played out the second in an exercise of how to frustrate an opponent.

Amazingly, Tottenham have 0 points after 2 games. It’s of course too soon to write the team off as pretenders, but they suddenly have a small mountain to climb to get back into the kind of contention to which they were touted. You could see the frustration on the faces of Martin Jol, the players and the fans of the stands.

I think what went wrong yesterday is the same thing that went wrong against Sunderland: no width. I thought Martin Jol would have started with Wayne Routledge but chose instead to use Berbatov and Bent up front with Robbie Keane tucked in behind in a free role. It didn’t quite gel, and was frustrating to watch as the team passed well in midfield but stuttered over and over again when the defense tightened up. Tottenham tried over and over again to poke a hole thru the center and it just doesn’t work unless your opponents respect your width. This is a team desperately missing Aaron Lennon.

Beyond the tactical problems, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of fight in Tottenham. While they are not exactly soft, they aren’t exactly the sort of chew you up and spit you out team which can win ugly -thankfully so in many ways. But what happened to Tottenham last night has been symptomatic of the team for the last few seasons. Look at the personalities: King, Dawson, Bent, Stalteri, Lennon, Routeledge, etc… I mean pass the bong dude, if ever a team needed a Gattuso, it’s this one. A controlled intensity and willingness to grind is missing and while I think Tottenham need to keep their core style they must at least be willing.

Lastly, except for the injuries at left back I don’t buy the argument that Tottenham should be excused for having a makeshift defense. Look around the Premiership and tell me how many teams would welcome Anthony Gardner, Younes Kaboul and Ricardo Rocha in central defense. While they are not household names, they are not slouches. Yes, Gardner went missing on the first goal, yes, Rocha’s a bit out of sync, but these are not bad players, they are all capable of holding a starting place.

Are Suprs a flop? By no means, yet. I said over the weekend that the loss to Sunderland might prove a positive and kick start the team into performing but it hasn’t, it’s looking more and more like a 40m pound bad dream. Tottenham need a left winger before the window closes, Martin Jol needs to decide who his 2 best strikers are and play them, and he also needs to consider a 5 man midfield if the team can’t produce the width.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gudjohnsen offered 80k per week

Icelandic international striker Eidur Gudjohnsen has been in talks with West Ham United after Barcelona have informed the player that his chances will be limited due to the arrival of Thierry Henry.

Barcelona are rumored to be asking a very reasonable 6.8million pounds for the player, but Gudjohnsen is demanding an unreasonable salary. West Ham have been chasing his signature for the majority of the summer as Hammers chairman Eggert Magnusson is also Icelandic and has confirmed that he’ll do what it takes to sign the player.

West Ham have offered 80,000 pounds per week but apparently Gudjohnsen is holding out for 100,000 –an outrageous sum.

Gudjohnsen should care more about first team opportunities than money. He’s really being greedy to ask a sum that very few clubs in the world can afford and are generally saved for elite players, which he is not. Come back down to Earth and get yourself back in the papers for the right reasons, Eduir.

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How can you fire a manager after a single game?

In a new low for treatment of managers, Carlisle United have embarrassed themselves and manager Neil McDonald by firing him after just one game, obviously making him the first manager to be unseated this season. And not even for a loss!

McDonald was a coach with Bolton and Crystal Palace looks set to renew his ties with Sam Allardyce at Newcastle after the announcement.

McDonald took over the job from Paul Simpson a year ago and led Carlisle to an average eighth place in their first season back in League One. Respectable for a promotion.

Carlisle drew 1-1 against Walsall on Saturday, and afterwards the firing took place.

The decision has been rightly condemned as “deplorable” by the League Managers Association.

Gregg Abbott has been appointed caretaker manager.

"This is obviously a major surprise to me. I am absolutely amazed this has happened so early in the season but I am not prepared to say anything more at this point." - McDonald

The club’s board claim to have lost confidence in the manager; if that is the case, why wait until now? If there was no confidence now, then there was none a few weeks ago. It’s ridiculous.

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Lehmann or rued chances, which is the real clanger?

Man, I gotta tell you, over the weekend Arsenal should have won against Fulham by the score of 37-1.

Jens Lehmann gifted Fulham a goal within the 1st minute of play, a debut goal by David Healey when Lehmann failed to pass the ball cleanly back to his defense. In his first seasons at Arsenal I thought he was the worst goalkeeper with his feet that the Premiership has ever seen. Is it just me or does anyone remember all the shaky reactions to back passes and tense clearances under pressure? Unfortunately for Arsenal it re-emerged in a moment of uber clang.

But, worse for me, was the incredible number of chances Arsenal wasted in front of Fulham’s goal. Tony Warner, it must be said, was a rock at the back, but this was a pure lack of finishing and attempts to walk the ball into the net.

On quite a few occasions Arsenal took the extra touch which caused the defense to close down and the attacker lose nerve, Hleb was guilty of this on at least 4 occasions that I counted. Then, the penultimate “perfect ball or else” moment was in the 56th minute when Fabregas had Rocisky wide open on the left and chose to try and play the perfect thru ball instead to van Persie before the inevitable offside flag went up.

Van Persie should have finished 3 chances easily. Rocisky at least 3. Hleb a couple as well and a horde of other shots on goal in which Arsenal should have done better.

Ok, enough complaint. Arsenal are pleasing on the eye aren’t they? Does any team carve up the midfield better? No. Sagna and Eboue were a fantastic combination on the right, Rocisky silky, Hleb’s footwork unmatched and Fabregas’s quality is just marvelous. I sure hope Eboue continues to start on the right in midfield, he’s so effective. Wasted chances aside, Arsenal did enough. They got their goals very late on and won the day but it shouldn’t have been so tense and frustration filled. It took a penalty and Hleb’s 90th minute heroics.

Like many teams I saw over the weekend Arsenal spent money but haven’t seemed to solve their problems. The buildup was brilliant, the finishing not so. Look at the history of this blog and see how many times you’ve seen that written.

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Turkish football embarressment

How is this for class? The Turkcell Super League season started this weekend on an ugly note when Sivasspor's Israeli striker Pini Balili was harshly tackled by Trabzonspor defender Ayman Abdelaziz.

Players circled eachother and fans stormed the pitch and the referee abandoned the match. Turkish football has been mired in a cycle of violence for some seasons now. Here is the ugly mahem:


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Monday, August 13, 2007

Everton target refuses to travel with club

Everton target Manuel Fernandes has refused to play for his club side SL Benfica to their home Champions League draw against Danish side FC Copenhagen. Everton have made a formal offer for the player and he looks set to force his departure from the Lisbon giants.

The 21-year-old midfielder’s rights are 50% owned Benfica. Everton would want to buy the player outright to avoid third-party ownership complications which hounded Carlos Tevez.

Everton are still well short of the 12m valuation set by Benfica. As the player is unceremoniously attempting to force a sale, this fee might be set to drop. Fernandes has really angered the local fans, though. Just days ago he announced his happiness at the club and willingness to lead the midfield, a bit unfair to the club to turn around and refuse to play. Well, more than a bit. There are better ways to handle this, refusing to travel, especially as his transfer would make him cup tied. I’ve been extremely high on Fernandes, but this move makes me wonder. Don’t be surprised if an agent is behind it.

Fernandes spent the last half of last season on loan at Goodison Park and was very impressive, scoring one of the goals of the season against Manchester United.

If he does play tomorrow, Fernandes would not be able to play for Everton in the UEFA Cup. Note to Fernandes: push for your transfer earlier stop pissing off the fans.

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Chelsea quickening the Premiership pulse

Chelsea were impressive against newly promoted Birmingham City. And exciting to watch, summoning a new era of ‘let it loose’ football and in the process treating us all to a great game.

While it was excellent watching, 3-2 didn’t match the run of play. Chelsea were totally dominant in a match they could have easily scored 6 or 7 goals. Mourinho was quoted in the pre-season saying he would bring more entertainment to the pitch and he didn’t disappoint. Five goals as Chelsea were on the attack for 90 minutes was a definite departure from the often dour result grindings of the last couple of seasons.

Most exciting was Chelsea’s wing play. Shaun Wright-Phillips bathing in new found freedoms, Salomon Kalou was at the touch-line more often than the mid-line, and Florent Malouda efficient and dangerously effective. I beg to wonder whether Birmingham’s full-backs are a shambles, but one way or another Chelsea owned the wings where 80% of their chances emerged.

Claudio Pizarro, who scored, made an impressive debut. Olivier Kapo for Birmingham was also excellent, you will be hearing more about him this season, he actually scored the best goal of the game and second only to Obafemi Martins stunning overhead smash for the goal of the weekend.

Wright-Phillips may finally be coming good. Inconsistency was his trademark, but slowly and steadily he’s been growing into the club and I expect him to cement a regular starting place as Chelsea have plenty of size to cover. His quickness was a huge asset and for me he was man of the match.

Chelsea have now set the record for the longest home unbeaten streak ever, at 64 matches. An astonishing achievement. Add to that the fact that only 4 teams scored more than one goal at home last season and you have a daunting place to play.

My money is on Chelsea to win the Premiership this season. From what I saw in pre-season and in their first match, they have the discipline to win ugly and the class to put on a show. As for Birmingham, there is nothing to be ashamed of. They have a good squad and look certain to stay up this season.

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Is it time to try a different boot?

Wayne Rooney broke his foot again, this time in a 0-0 draw that saw Manchester United camped out in the Reading for almost the entire 90 minutes and fail to score. That makes it 3 times he’s suffered broken bones in his foot. Is it time to try a new boot? The Nike’s he’s been wearing don’t seem to offer any protection.

The injury, considered a hairline fracture of his left foot, will see the striker sidelined for up to 8 weeks and will see his contribution for the season last just 45 minutes for a long time. Already 2 points down on Chelsea, and it could be a tough road to repeat this season for United.
The injury was sustained when Reading defender Michael Duberry accidentally stepped on Rooney’s foot after a shot on goal.

Rooney missed much of last year's World Cup with a broken metatarsal in his right foot and his campaign for the Euro 2004 trophy ended after a metatarsal injury to his other foot.
The injury means Rooney will also miss Euro 2008 qualifiers against Israel and both games against Russia.

3 broken feet, hey, let’s watch the Nike commercial again!

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Newcastle steamroll

Man, when I saw the Premier League’s day 1 schedule, I felt sorry for Bolton. Getting Newcastle and thus playing a guy that knows your every player inside out could only go one way, and it did.

Sammy Lee looked out of his depth. He was tactically dismantled by Sam Allardyce. Bolton was physically dismantled by Newcastle. Newcastle looks a totally different side than in the last, oh, decade and the North of England may just get to watch some great football again.

Starting for Newcastle was Mark Viduka and Obafemi Martins up front, both preferred to Michael Owen who certainly faces a fight for a place in the starting lineup. New boy Alan Smith was in midfield and the new look defense was on display.

Bolton manager Sammy Lee started with 8 players who were on last year’s books.

It was one way traffic from the start and 2-0 within the first quarter of an hour. Obafemi Martins showed extraordinary agility to score the second with a fantastic overhead kick slammed into the goal -certainly a goal of the month contender.

Soon after, Newcastle made it 3-0 as it started to look like a home game.

At the half Ricardo Vaz Te was substituted in favor of El Hadji Diouf but that was an excuse. Bolton’s back 4 were a shambles, all over the place. Kevin Davis, Mr I always start but can’t score, was useless, but the 20 year old had to take the blame. Bolton were brighter after the half and it could only have been Anelka to get a goal back.

Newcastle gave the best performance from Saturday, Liverpool a close second. Bolton were tied with listless West Ham for the worst. Bolton should bounce back, its a team loaded with experienced professionals and Vaz Te should retain his starting position and be given the chance he deserves.

Big Sam got his dream start. The funny thing is that Newcastle looked like last year’s Bolton, and Bolton like Newcastle. If there were ever an example of how the basics matter at the top level, here it is.

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Tottenham blow it against Sunderland

Tottenham against Sunderland was not the best football but an intriguing exercise in measuring up what each side would bring to the Premier League this season.

In fact it was a touch boring. I struggled to sit thru it. Opening match and all, I expected better.

Sunderland, to their credit, were not very talented but eager. Their new goalkeeper Craig Gordon looked very good with what little he had to do. They were fighters, that’s for sure and for a Sunderland crowd grown accustomed to winning in the Championship, the newly promoted team did not disappoint. You can consider this a major coup: 3 points, 90th+ minute, a touted top 4 side –it was an even bigger dream start than that of Manchester City’s.

For Tottenham, where is the improvement? Lots of new signings, but no pace on the wing and an obvious hole on the left where the team tried and failed to sign a noted winger –time to make a buy, and quick. That hole will only grow larger as the season wears on. Moving Robbie Keane out there in the second half didn’t help, in fact it probably hurt the team as Keane didn’t settle into the role (maybe sensing a season in that position).

Tottenham as a whole didn’t play badly, but they didn’t play well. Tactically they were good, Berbatov played well enough, but there were so many errant passes and carelessness in possession. This could work in Tottenham’s favor though, a wake up call might be just what the team needs.

A bright spot for me was the play of newly signed defender Younes Kaboul. I thought he did very well for the most part. He was agile, great in the air, played some classy touches and made some impressive forward runs only to be let down by poorly weighted passes.

While Sunderland have a long way to go and Tottenham have many injuries in defense, this might be a blip on the radar for both teams but, at least in terms of the Premiership table, the teams couldn’t be farther apart.

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Manchester City lay it down

Finally. Football again. There were some interesting developments and lots of new players on the pitch yesterday as Manchester City steamrolled West Ham.

While Manchester City were world beaters in the first 20 minutes against West Ham, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and call the team re-born. They may just be: sharp and purposeful away at Upton Park, but did we get an accurate reflection?

The reason I say this is because West Ham were a tactical nightmare and a disaster in central midfield. Man City ran them over in the middle of the park. In fact a non-league side could have run the team I saw over.

Manchester City played 5 in midfield to great effect, allowing new signing Elano to run rampant. Martin Petrov was excellent and Micah Richards, for me, was the best player on the pitch. Header after header, clearance after clearance, Richards kept the back a locked gate and played some truly class football.

City were also well organized, credit to Sven, and looked in-sync with each other. As for West Ham, they need Julien Flaubert badly. Dean Ashton, first time on the pitch in a year was doing his best impression of Ronaldo in the first game of the last World Cup. He needs fitness, badly. West Ham have not improved yet.

New signings Freddie Ljungberg and Craig Bellamy played respectably, Ljungberg in particular missing a tap in by inches. A sign of hope for West Ham was their performance in the second period improved significantly.

I fully expected West Ham to win this match at home against a team that has hardly played together, losing 2-0 the way they did, it could be a long season for them. Manchester City deserve full credit for their quality and win, with a long season ahead, stiffer tests will appear.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Remember this cynical foul?

The 1980 FA Cup Final was contested by West Ham United and Arsenal and contained one of the most cynical moments of football I have ever seen.

The moment occurred minutes before the end when un-fancied second division West Ham had a breakaway on goal as Paul Allen, just 17 years old and ready to take a chance on goal that would have brought him glory was tackled from behind in a shocking display of un-sportsmanship by Arsenal’s Willie Young.

Unfortunately, at the time, this offence was not on the rule books as a strait red, but it should have been. It was a sad moment, a cynical central defender ruining a clear goal scoring chance with only goalkeeper Pat Jennings to beat. Allen made an appearance as the youngest player to ever appear in an FA Cup Final and had a chance stolen to make it a fairytale.

Here is the moment:


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Leeds minus 15

Leeds United are a little lighter in the points department and will be at the bottom of the table for at least the first five games of next season as their appeal of a 15 point penalty has been denied.

The penalty was levied as a breach of the Football League's insolvency policy.

The chairmen and other Football League clubs voted today to uphold the original punishment with more than ¾ of clubs voting to uphold the punishment.


In typical “old boys network” style, a fine was not levied on Leeds, something that would hurt Mafia-owner Ken Bates, but instead deduct points, hurting the clubs fans. It’s a pathetic saga.


I have documented the story here and here, I don’t even want to get into again, it’s so pathetic and Ken Bates such a low-life.

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Chelsea beaten out to Brazilian wunderkind signature

Chelsea had been heavily linked with Brazilian teen sensation Alexandre Pato from Internacional Porto Alegre but has been beaten out by AC Milan to the young star’s signature.

Pato will leave Brazil and start training with Milan from September 3rd onwards but at age 17, he will not be eligible for the Milan first team until the new year.

Pato was the center of the biggest transfer speculation for a player his age for a very long time. Milan beat Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea to a deal following protracted negotiations and will join fellow Brazilians Kaka and Ronaldo at the club.

The rumored price for the player was 15m pounds, the contract will run for 5 years at a rumored 1.4m pounds per season. It’s a big time signing, Pato has all the talent to become the best striker in the world.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

When Harry Kewell scored that goal against Arsenal….

Remember when Liverpool winger Harry Kewell scored a brilliant goal when he was with Leeds United against Arsenal back in 2003? Those were better days for Leeds, now mired with a mafia of ownership and a good change at sinking to League 2 with a 15 point deduction.

Let’s focus on something positive, though.

It was only the 5th minute, the ball was in the Leeds half with Arsenal passing well and finding their stride. The ball was cut out in defense as Jason Wilcox launched a 40 meter ball over the top of 2 Arsenal defenders.

Kewell does brilliantly to control the ball with the top of his chest, it looks like a hand ball but it’s not. Watch the replay. With the ball on the ground Kewell decides to load up and go first time for goal across David Seaman with a searing shot. Excellent quality, the best goal he’s ever scored.

Here is the goal:



PS: This post will make it one million page views on the blog since it started, thanks for the kind email, readership and support!


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Record broken

Sunderland have broken the Premiership transfer record goalkeepers by splashing out on Hearts Craig Gordon.

Smart move. Quality keeper. Nothing worse than trying to stay promoted and leaking goals. It’s the fastest way to get relegated, even worse than being unable to score. Lots of draws can keep you afloat. Losing 3-2 when you can score won’t.

The 24 year old Scottish international has signed on for five years for an initial 7m pounds, which could reach 9m pounds after a certain number of appearances.

The previous record was held by Manchester United for Fabien Barthez from Monaco back in 2000 for 8m. Sunderland managed to sign Gordon on their 4th attempt, having 3 bids rejected.

Gordon may play in Sunderland's opening match at home against Tottenham this Saturday.

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Everton to bid for pair

Everton are set to test the resolve of Middlesbrough for striker Yakubu in a surprise inquiry as well as lodging an 8m pound bid for Benfica midfielder Manuel Fernandes.

Now that Everton have sold James Beattie to Sheffield United where he also won’t score any goals, that are looking to sign someone that will. Premiership tested Yakubu should fit the bill, but you can be sure there will be much negotiation before a deal could be reached.

Moyes is expected to lodge a bid, which should start around 8m.

I think it would be ridiculous for Middlesbrough to sell Yakubu but rumors say that Southgate wants to firm up other areas of the team. What good is that when you can’t score goals and have already lost Mark Viduka to Newcastle?

Moyes at first balked at the 12m pound price tag slapped on Fernandes by Benfica, but signs are in Lisbon there may be no room for negotiation. In my opinion, Fernandes is top class and is good value at 12m, at 21, a great player with mountains of potential. After a successful loan period at Everton last season, he has proven his worth in England.

One showstopper is Manchester City’s apparent interest in Fernandes who have money to spend. Once again a manager holds out for a better price only to see a nouveau-riche club step in with cash.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Welcome back!

Hossam Ghaly is on his way back to Tottenham to re-unite with teammate Mido after he was unceremoniously booted out of Birmingham City after a major bust up with manager Steve Bruce.

I don’t ever recall anything like this. Ghaly is also the player that once threw his shirt on the ground at Martin Jol's feet after being substituted.

The transfer was subject to a work permit which technically still made Ghaly a Spurs player. Bruce took advantage of that loophole, and an embarrassed Tottenham issued a statement claiming it was Ghaly’s decision to return to the club.

Apparently Ghaly ridiculed the ability of his new teammates. Bruce confirmed the player demonstrated an unacceptable attitude during training, he received the full backing of the board to boot him out.

The source of the problem was that Ghaly was asked to do extra running in a one-on-one session with a fitness coach since he had not trained regularly lately. Ghaly complained.
Then Bruce received a message from Ghaly’s agent saying he wasn’t happy with the standard of the players. Bruce was quoted as saying:

"I couldn't believe what I was hearing - and I've kept the message on my voicemail”

Then, Ghaly whined about the extra running, Bruce again:

"When he had his one-to-one session with Dan, he was moaning we 'don't do this, don't do that' at Tottenham, it 'wasn't right' and 'ridiculous'. He had a right petted lip on. Yes, strong words were said and he was told in no uncertain terms that if he didn't like it, he should clear off”

And:

"I've had this before with a former captain [Kenny Cunningham] complaining about all sorts and I'm not going to keep fighting things like that. Yes, we train our players hard and we expect them to put the work in.”

What I find hilarious about this guys arrogance is that he was nothing more than a Tottenham reserve and he comes into a new club comparing them. Are you kidding? At least get a first team place before you say anything.

Unfortunately for Tottenham, they are now stuck with a pair of deadweights, and Ghaly, showing what he is all about (basically lazy) is less than likely to attract a new suitor.

His fine moment:

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Old boys network give Ken his way

15 points, so what. So Leeds get to play next season and the “old boys” sanctions the less than upfront legal dealings of one Ken Bates: a man who promised a lot, delivered nothing and still manages to maintain control of a club who sorely needs something better.

For a background of the scheme which saw Bates buy back Leeds even when there were higher bids for the club, I discussed it in detail here. In that article I predicted the old boys network within the League would sanction these dirty dealings -and they did. Like clockwork. To cover their tracks they have imposed a 15 point penalty which is something, but not enough to force one of the worst owners in history out.

The only thing that would have achieved that is to withhold the club’s CVA and force Bates to sell to a ‘fit and proper person’. In typical Bates style, he has appealed against the sanction imposed by the Football League.

Like I said in my previous article, this is how soft corruption works. No disrespect to you Leeds fans, buy you’d have been better off missing the season. Now all you have is a crappy owner and a 15 point hill to climb.

And to top it off, a club statement said:

"The club has received an amount of criticism from supporters for not keeping them up to date with developments during what has been a very difficult time for us all.

We appreciate this policy was difficult for fans to accept, but please be assured that this has been done in the best interests of Leeds United, which is justified by the return of the share.”

That is the most pathetic piece of PR crap I have ever seen. The best interest of Leeds is to get rid of blood-sucker Ken Bates who ran your distinguished and historic club into the ground and likely League 2 next season. Just remember, neither the League or Bates was thinking of you: Bates is by no means bankrupt, your club is.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

9 year old wunderkind joins Manchester United (video)

Manchester United have snapped up nine year old sensation Rhain Davis who lives in Brisbane, Australia.

The youngster’s grandfather sent United a DVD of Rhain’s highlights across a number of games for his local club. With skills very similar to 12 year old Turkish wunderkind Muhammed Demirci, Davis looks every bit the young superstar. Claimed to resemble Wayne Rooney, I would suggest he looks much more a young Matt Le Tissier, although he brings the traditional Brazilian stopovers to the table.

Rhain's family will move with the youngster to England. Here is a video of his exploits:

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hopefully Scottish League will start a trend

New Scottish Football Association chief executive Gordon Smith should be given a metal for his ambitious scheme to cut out cheating from football. Starting next season, Scottish Premier League refs will begin using video replay evidence to retroactively impose penalties. We’ll now see if the blame on foreign imports at big clubs like Rangers and Celtic turns out true or not.

Smith’s scheme will clamp down on diving and faking injuries. Unfortunately, the project will only begin as a project but will go into effect on January 1, 2008.

Referees will review match footage and can punish a player retrospectively. Smart coaches will expressly forbid this behavior. I hope the retroactive fines are severe as well. A statement made here will quickly spill over to the Premiership and the rest of Europe. UEFA should have already done this within the Champions League.

The new initiative is not just aimed at video evidence. Refs are being told to take stronger action against holding and pushing in the penalty area, mass confrontations, surrounding the referee, and managers out of line.

Good work. Great to see.

Eboue: a natural in midfield

With the recent signature of Bacary Sagna, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has started playing right back Emanuel Eboue in midfield during pre-season. For my money, he’s a natural.

I don’t know much about Eboue pre-Arsenal, so maybe he has played as a winger before, but at Aresenal, I have only seen him in defense where I thought he was instrumental in Arsenal’s run to the Champions League final a couple of seasons ago.

Since then he continued to play in defense throughout last season but during this pre-season against PSG and Inter Milan, he has been very effective in midfield.

Eboue has moves. I recall a number of instances last season where I thought to myself “whoa, nice pass” or “great fake”. Having been given the winger role, he’s more potent than ever. In fact, during the game against Inter, he was driving the play for large parts of the game. At one point he drew 3 yellow cards from Inter players in quick succession, one being from the dirtiest player in Europe, Marco Materazzi. By the way, he was whistled at every touch of the ball… wonderfully deserved.

Whether this was an experiment or there is real intent behind moving Eboue to this position, I don’t know. But Eboue should stay and play there, and for my money, should start. Theo Walcott has yet to impress me. Eboue, while still a bit rough around the edges, has.

By the way, Arsenal looked great against Inter. Against PSG the first half was a stutter start, but since then Arsenal have been solid for that second half and for virtually 90 minutes against the Italian Champions. Passing was fluid, movement was good, van Persie was striking the ball well, youngster Kieran Gibbs looked lively, and of course Eboue was asking significant questions of the defense.

The Arsenal I saw will do better this season than the detractors think, and Eboue should be awarded the place in midfield on the right: he looked great going forward and can defend, a combination Arsenal have not seen since the Ray Parlor days, this time with pace.

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