Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Keane's Ipswich blow away a two-goal lead

Poor Roy Keane and Ipswich Town. After a dreadful start to the season which had secured just four points from four draws in the opening nine games of the season, they found themselves 3-1 up at promotion hopefuls Sheffield United last night with just 13 minutes left.

But football - as we all know - is a cruel game, and a goal from Darius Henderson and an equaliser from Chris Morgan two minutes into added time denied Town their first win of the season.

To add insult to injury, fellow strugglers Plymouth Argyle won their first game of the season - 2-1 at Peterborough - to leave Ipswich at the foot of the Championship table.

Boss Roy Keane said afterwards: "It's got nothing to do with luck. We were 3-1 up and should have seen it out but it was two bad goals to concede. We gave the ball away cheaply. There was a spell in the second half where we needed one or two players to see the game through but nobody did."

It is interesting that Keane's management is followed so closely by the media. Why is that? The some time bad boy of top flight English football now seems to court popularity rather than controversy. There seems to be an underlying feeling of wanting him to do well.

The trouble is, he's not doing well at the moment. With only five points in the bank from ten games, the patience of Ipswich's fans and board will not last forever.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

What price City?

So, we are six games in and Manchester City's season is well underway. Can we make a judgement about them yet?

City sit in fifth place in the Premier League with five wins out of six games - their only blemish being the late-goal defeat at Manchester United. However, they have a game in hand on leaders United and second-placed Chelsea, both three points ahead. Interesting.

The latest City adventure was last night's 3-1 win over West Ham at Eastlands (City of Manchester Stadium sounds so much better, doesn't it?). It was a pretty good game with lots of efforts on goal (City's 12 to West Ham's 8) with 12 of the 20 efforts being on target - a very high ratio - meaning there was plenty to do for goalkeepers Green (West Ham) and Given.

Strangely, West Ham had 55 per cent of the possession, but for the most part City looked in control of the game. There was only really a period after West Ham had equalised and then for ten minutes after half-time when the visitors mere on top.

Despite the win, and the general feeling that City were the better side, they are not the finished article. A top four finish is a possibility, but the title looks a step too far. And no surprise really. It has been difficult for City boss Mark Hughes to attract the really top quality players without being able to offer Champions League - or even Europa League - football.

if they can squeeze into the top four this season and offer Champions League football in 2010-11, things could get really interesting!

Monday, 28 September 2009

The FA charges West Ham and Millwall

The disgraceful crowd scenes at the Carling Cup tie between West Ham United and Millwall on 25 August have resulted in multiple charges against the clubs by the Football Association.

With three separate pitch invasions, objects being thrown and a Millwall fan stabbed outside the ground, consequences were inevitable.

Both clubs will be charged with having taken insufficient action to stop missile throwing and violent, threatening and racist behaviour at Upton Park, with West Ham facing four charges and Millwall three.

Included for both clubs are allegations of racism. Carlton Cole of West Ham and Jason Price of Millwall both complained of racial abuse by opposing supporters.

If the clubs are found guilty, then they could face hefty fines or even ground closures.

Millwall were said to be "shocked and disappointed" by the charges against the club.

A spokesman said: "We maintain we did everything in our power in regard to ticketing arrangements for this game. We expressed our concerns in advance about ticket allocations and arrangements in general. Our question for the Football Association is what can Millwall Football Club do to control individuals' actions once inside our opponents' stadium?"

West Ham are reviewing the charges, but a spokesman said: "We do acknowledge the appalling behaviour of a minority of fans inside the stadium and, in conjunction with police, will continue to take strong and appropriate action against anyone found responsible."

The clubs have 14 days to respond to the FA charges.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Shrinking goals!

A Danish goalkeeper could get the book kicked at him after being found to have tried to reduce the size of his goal in a recent match.

Kim Christensen, goalkeeper for IFK Goteborg, was discovered to have tried to kick the posts inward to try and make the goals smaller in a recent first division game in Sweden.

His actions were caught on camera before the game against Orebro. He was using his feet to move the bottom of each post slightly inwards.

Nevertheless, it was 20 minutes into the game before referee Stefan Johannesson spotted the shrinking goal and moved the posts back into their correct position.

Goalkeeper Christensen later admitted that it was not the first time he had done this and had tried the same thing before several other games.

The Swedish FA will investigate what happened. Disciplinary chief Kheneth Tallinger said: "I have never heard anything like this before. It's unique."

The game ended 0-0. IFK Goteborg are top of the Swedish league with just a few games of the season left.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Men's Under 20s' World Cup starts today

The men's under 20s' World Cup starts today in Egypt and runs through to the final on Friday 16 October.

It's a 24-team tournament and starts with six groups of four.

Egypt kick off the competition today with a game against Trinidad & Tobago in group A at 7pm, BST.

England are in group D along with Uruguay, Ghana and Uzbekistan, the first game being against the South Americans on Saturday.

Other nations involved are: Paraguay and Italy (group A); Nigeria, Spain, Tahiti, Venezuela (B); Cameroon, Germany, South Korea, USA (C); Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Czech Republic (E); Honduras, Hungary, South Africa, UAE (F).

Coach of the England U20s team is Brian Eastick who joined The FA as a National Coach in August 2005. He initially took charge of the U18 and U19 teams.

You can catch up with all the action on British Eurosport.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Campbell can leave Notts County if he wishes!

There is an extraordinary news story this morning is about Sol Campbell.

Money-laden Notts County's highest-profile signing made his debut on Saturday after signing from Premier League Portsmouth, but he couldn't prevent a 2-1 defeat for the League Two side away at Morecambe.

BBC reported that Notts County would not stand in Sol Campbell's way if he was determined to leave.

It's incredible as he's only been there such a short time.

The club fell to eighth in the league after their third away defeat in a row.

Former England defender Campbell said his new side were guilty of hesitating in possesion. He told BBC Radio Nottingham: "We have got to wake up.

"If you hang on to the ball for too long that's when the other guys can get tackles in. When you're away from home you've got to pass the ball early."

It would surely be the quickest player turnaround in the history of the game!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Faked injuries to put the ball out must be stopped

One of the most irritating aspects of the game these days is the fiasco of "putting the ball out" when a player is lying down, apparently injured.

Frankly, it's become a joke.

Several years ago, when the practice became the expected norm, it did seem a sporting thing to do. If a player was lying down injured, the player with the ball would put the ball out of play so the injured player could receive treatment.

Many years before that, it was the referee's decision whether to stop play or not. I'm not sure how, when or why it changed into the players' decision.

Then, after the practice got out of hand - about three years ago - as players were obviously using the ploy to stop opposition attacks, the Premier League decided once again that it would fall to the referee to make the decision. That didn't last long.

It's gone back to the players once more. But while it seems all right to play on if it's one of your own players who's lying injured, apparently it's not all right to carry on playing if it's one of the opposition down on the ground.

Two incidents from Sunday's Chelsea v Spurs game indicate the farcical nature of this appalling gamesmanship - for that is what it is.

In the first half Didier Drogba went down to the ground and stayed down. Spurs had the ball and the referee waved play on. Tottenham's Robbie Keane ran forward, as the crowd began to whistle (wanting the Spurs player to put the ball out). Then, despite the referee having waved play on, Chelsea's Michael Essien made it quite clear he was no longer playing and pointed to Robbie Keane to put the ball out. Keane, left with no choice, did so. Suffice to say, that Drogba carried on after "treatment". (As a quick aside, the ball was thrown back to Spurs, but, incredibly, Drogba made to tackle Ledley King who had just received the ball! Drogba feigned innocence and "sportingly" kicked the ball out again - now deep in Tottenham's half. How is this sporting?)

The second incident was in the second half. A Chelsea attack was mounted when the ball was knocked into the Tottenham half and Drogba, with a good turn was away with the ball. As he did so, Ledley King went down with an injury - which proved to be genuine, as he couldn't carry on - but Drogba carried on. Play developed and ended with a Frank Lampard shot a few yards wide. No putting the ball out, no crowd shouting or whistling at Chelsea's players, no "sporting" behaviour, no Michael Essien pointing to stop play!

What if Chelsea had scored from that attack?

It's actually my view that that attack should have carried on. It's the farce of the first incident that is wrong.

My personal view is that the Premier League should reiterate - and keep doing so until the message gets home - that the decision to stop play is the referee's alone. No matter how much the crowd whistle or the players point, play carries on.

The faked injury to stop play has become such an outrageous act of gamesmanship (nay, cheating) that it must be stopped now. Indeed, Fifa need to take a lead on it before the World Cup is ruined next uear.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Mark Hughes questions added time in Manchester derby

Last Tuesday I talked about putting a stopwatch on actual game time.

Never has been more apposite that in yesterday's Manchester derby.

A pulsating game was 3-2 to United in the last minute when a mistake by Rio Ferdinand invited Craig Bellamy to race half the length of the pitch to equalise with just six seconds remaining on the clock.

When the game restarted we were told (on Sky TV's coverage) that there would be four added minutes. Presumably those added minutes were decided and conveyed to the fourth official before the goal had been scored.

Once the goal had been scored almost a minute was wasted by City in their celebrations (45 seconds). A few moments later more time was taken up when Michael Carrick came on as substitute for United. It's officially 30 seconds for each substitution. Thus, there was at least 1 minute 15 seconds to add to the four minutes, taking us to 95 minutes 15 seconds.

Michael Owen scored United's winner after 95 minutes and 26 seconds.

Manchester City manager Mark Hughes complained after the game about this added time and the game running to 97 minutes. Obviously referee Martin Atkinson added further time on after the winner for the time taken to celebrate that.

If you also take into account the fact that the free-kick that led to the goal took about a minute from the foul to the taking, then I'm sorry, but Hughes can have no argument. The game should probably have run beyond 97 minutes!

However, it proves me right.

Put a stopwatch on actual playing time. This change is needed quickly.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Extra officials for the Europa League

Two more assistant referees were introduced into games in the Europa League last night (the Europa League is this season's replacement for the UEFA Cup and is a copy of the Champions League format).

It means there are now five officials helping to make decisions on the game, plus of course the 'fourth' official - now the sixth official!

The two additional assistant referees stand at each end, behind the goal line to the goalkeeper's right. Their duties are to help the referee rule on incidents in the penalty box. It could be an arduous duty for them on a cold winter's night in a dour midfield battle in Moscow, but a sound overcoat in fetching eggshell blue should do the trick.

Whether they will help cut down on shirt-tugging and the like in the box only time will tell, and one round of games is certainly too soon to make a judgement.

(Picture courtesy of TimesOnline)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Kenyon to leave Chelsea

Peter Kenyon will leave his post of chief executive at Chelsea at the end of October. It is his decision to leave the £1.25 million per year post (plus bonuses).

Although both he and Chelsea deny a rift, it appears likely that owner Roman Abramovich has gradually pushed Kenyon aside, having grown tired of splits in the Chelsea camp. It seems that Frank Arnesen, Chelsea's new sporting director, may have won the power battle at the club.

It is apparently an old Russian business tactic to give an employee less and less responsibility until the employee himself decides his position is untenable and leaves. In this case, Kenyon is leaving the position on his own terms.

Peter Kenyon joined Chelsea as chief executive in 2003, having left Manchester United, whom he joined in 1997, and became chief executive in 2000. Both United and Chelsea won two league titles under his tenure.

At the 2008 Champions League final, Chelsea attracted criticism when Kenyon led the team up for their losers' medals, whereas Bobby Charlton led Manchester United up for their winners' medals.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Catching the divers

I watched the Chelsea v Porto game on TV last night, and was delighted to see less histrionics than is perhaps normal in a European club game. Chelsea won 1-0, but were never entirely comfortable and Porto gave a good account of themselves. With the other game in the group (Atletico Madrid v Apoel Nicosia) ending goalless, these two already look like favourites to qualify.

However, it was the way the game was played and refereed that caught my eye. Well refereed by Mr Plautz, none of the players resorted to diving or overt time-wasting. Excellent!

Maybe they had read the report (reported here: from psychologists at the University of Portsmouth who have found that footballers use a series of distinct actions when faking a fall during a match. Indeed!

The report says: "These include clutching their body where they have not been hit, taking an extra roll when they hit the ground and taking fully controlled strides after being tackled but before falling."

We've all seen it!

Beyond those moves, the report suggested that the biggest giveaway was when players "hold up both arms in the air, with open palms, chest thrust out, legs bent at the knee in an 'archer's bow' position."

Dr Paul Morris, at the University, specialises in how people show emotions and intentions. He said: "Referees have a very difficult job and given the demands of the task, they do it remarkably well.

"We think even experienced professionals could enhance their decision-making by studying the categories of deceptive behaviour we have identified."

Let's hope they do.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Stop the clock when the action stops

As we enter the group phase of the Champions League, it reminds me that we will see the standard "European one minute" added on at the end of the first half, and the "European two minutes" at the end of the second. Unless there is an outstandingly long stoppage, I guarantee that is what you will see in whatever matches you watch over the next two nights.

Is it something to do with TV schedules? I don't know, but I have certainly noted this standardisation over the past few seasons.

It is, of course, ridiculous as six second-half substitutions (by no means unusual) should mean an extra three minutes, let alone the odd injury, and - even more so - the thinly disguised time wasting by whichever team thinks it's in the strongest position.

As spectators we rarely get our money's worth of real action. Proper time keeping is long overdue.

Let's put a stopwatch on the real action. As in many American sports, let's stop the clock when the ball is dead, and run it on when the ball's in play. Let's then say we'll have 30 minutes of action per half - which would take about 50 minutes to an hour.

We'd see about the same amount of action, but we'd know exactly what we were getting and would stop feeling cheated.

Start the clock now!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Adebayor turns game ugly

The beautiful game turned ugly on Saturday when Emmanuel Adebayor of Manchester City lost his head.

In the 81st minute of his club's game against his old club Arsenal Adebayor scored with a header to make the score 4-1, and proceeded to sprint 100 yards down the pitch to slide on his knees to within 10 yards of the Arsenal fans. Madness!

Following recent events at the West Ham v Millwall game when rival fans clashed, it was at best irresponsible of Adebayor. Mark Hughes, Manchester City manager, described the occurrence as "understandable to a certain extent". He was alluding to the acrimonious departure of the player from Arsenal in the summer and the less than love-love relationship he had with the Gunners' fans.

Nevertheless, the FA is likely to be less understanding of such behaviour, and Adebayor will probably receive a ban, and may miss next weekend's game with arch-rivals Manchester United. He may also be investigated for a possible stamping incident on Robin van Persie.

Togo international Adebyaor himself said: "The emotion took over and I have to say sorry, but when you are on the pitch and score a goal, you cannot control yourself. I am very sorry for my celebration."

Friday, 11 September 2009

Friends in places

My local club Woking Football Club rose to fame in 1991 when they "giant killed" West Brom in the FA Cup second round, 4-2. At the time West Brom were languishing down near the bottom of Division 2 (equivalent to today's Championship) and Woking were in the Ryman League Division 1 (equivalent to today's Ryman League Premier Division). It was a friend of mine - Tim Buzaglo (who used to play for Weysiders) - who scored a hat-trick on the day to give them victory.

Woking climbed through the leagues to the Conference (finishing runners-up in 1995 and 1996 in the days before two went up to the Football League) and lifted the FA Trophy on three occasions in the '90s (incidentally, without Buzaglo, who had moved on).

Sadly, last season Woking were relegated out of the Blue Square Premier to the Blue Square South, where they currently sit in second place behind Dover Athletic.

Now another friend of mine - Shahid Azeem - is Chairman of Woking Football Club, and I wish him every success in his new role. Given their current position, things seem to have started well with new manager Graham Baker in charge.

Yet another friend of mine, John Moore, is one of the press officers down at Kingfield, so I wish him well too!

I've not been to watch Woking for a season or two, but with a couple of pals down there, I must get along!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

World Cup - eleven qualifiers

Now eleven nations have qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Three nations were added to the list last night (9 September 2009).

These were England and Spain from Europe (both with eight wins out of eight games) and Paraguay from South America who beat Argentina 1-0, which leaves Diego Maradona's team in peril of failing to qualify.

The other eight are:
South Africa
South Korea
North Korea

Sadly for the UK, Scotland lost 1-0 to Holland and failed to qualify; Wales were already out, and Northern Ireland still have a chance of making a play-off place.

5-1 - England qualify for the World Cup finals

Well, blow me, England delivered in style last night. All doubts about World Cup qualification dispelled in an exciting and enterprising first half which ended with a two-goal lead which really should have been double that.

Cheered on by a boisterous crowd - the atmosphere definitely enhanced by undaunted and undiminished Croatian supporters - England rose to the occasion and were good value for the 5-1 win.

Fabio Capello has made this collection of good - with one or two very good - players into a team - something Steve McClaren patently failed to do. It comprehensively demonstrates the value of having a top manager in charge. The riches that English football (World Cup qualification is reported to be worth around £100 million) will reap from the World Cup make Capello's salary dwarf into insignifance. Well done Fabio!

And well done the England players, many of whom shone: Lennon, Johnson, Gerrard, Lampard were excellent; Terry, Cole, Barry and Rooney were very good.

The biggest doubt must remain about Heskey. Although he obviously stands out as a target man, his heading wasn't great, his control was poor, and his finishing was woeful. Nevertheless, he is a handful for the opposition, and Capello is likely to stick with him for some time yet.

As for Beckham - he got the biggest roar of the night when he came on, and he still looks worthy of a squad place.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

England v Croatia

Tonight it's England v Croatia in the World Cup qualifier, and a win for England will see them qualify for South Africa 2010 with two games to spare.

Indeed, should Ukraine and Belarus draw their game earlier in the day, then England will only need a draw to qualify.

If it sounds simple, then consider that the last time England met Croatia at Wembley it was a European Championship qualifier and England only needed a draw against the Croatians who had already qualified. And we lost 3-2.

Wembley should not play host to "Mr Cock-up" this evening, thank you very much!

Of course, since that dreadful defeat, England have travelled to Croatia and beaten them 4-1 in an earlier World Cup qualifier. Advantage England.

If England do mess things up tonight, there are still two games left and a win in either would suffice to give them the group win. Those games are Ukraine away on 10th October, and Belarus at home on Wednesday 14th October.

We wouldn't want to leave it that late, would we?

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

How on earth did this happen?

As England approach their latest World Cup qualifier with Croatia, it brings back to mind the European qualifier of two years ago and England's 3-2 home defeat to the same nation. With Steve McClaren in charge.

How did we come to end up with this man in charge? For he unquestionably proved incapable of doing the job.

Following the era of Sven-Goran Eriksson, the clamour of the English press was for a return to an Englishman to take charge. McClaren had managed Middlesbrough and won the League Cup in 2004 and finished runners-up in the UEFA Cup in 2006. He was also assistant manager to Sir Alex Ferguson when Manchester United won the Treble in 1999. That was apparently enough. It reminded some of us of the appointment of Graham Taylor, who had only had minor successes with Watford.

However, the choices were few. Glenn Hoddle had been sacked and Kevin Keegan had resigned prior to Sven's appointment, but the dearth of English managers in the English league (and the situation is just as bad now) meant that McClaren's flimsy CV was sufficient to get him the job. (Note that the last England manager to win the English league was Howard Wilkinson with Leeds United in 1992.)

McClaren managed England between 1 August 2006 and 22 November 2007, and was dubbed 'The Wally with a Brolly', after he used an umbrella to protect himself from rain during his final game in charge.

Note to the English press: Be careful what you wish for!

Monday, 7 September 2009

World Cup qualifiers to date

So far eight nations have qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

South Africa were first - as host nation.

In June, Japan, Australia, South Korea joined them, as did the first European nation, Holland.

A few days later North Korea joined them - and the seeding committee is already working at keeping the two Korean nations apart!

At the weekend the first South American nation qualified - inevitably, Brazil. And so, too, did the first African nation, Ghana.

So, eight nations have qualified, and 24 will join them. This midweek's fixtures could see some more qualifiers, and many more nations see their hopes dashed.


I'm here to let off steam about football from time to time. Here's a bit of background about me.

Nationality: English
Supports: England
Supports: Leeds United
Lives: Woking
Follows: Woking F.C.
Born: Guildford
Assists with: Guildford City Weysiders F.C. (
Facebook: Garry Pierrepont
Twitter: Weysider
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