Friday, 29 October 2010

Top four in Saturday action

This can't have happened for a long time: the top four in the Premier League are all playing on a Saturday - although, admittedly third-placed Manchester United do kick-off at 5.30.

Leaders Chelsea visit Blackbrun Rovers, whose style has been criticised this season (indeed, in previous seasons too). Chelsea, however, are rarely put out of their stride by rugged opposition, having been shown to be the tallest and heaviest squad in the League. Once again, it's hard to see anything but a win for the Londoners.

In second place are Arsenal who host West Ham United. The Hammers have shown signs of picking up recently, but still prop up the table. Arsenal, also, have shown a recent improvement, so given the 18 places between the teams, it seems that an Arsenal victory is the most likely result.

As mentioned, Manchester United kick-off at 5.30, with Spurs as the visitors. United have drawn five of their nine league games so far this season, and are certainly not at their best. They look uncomfortable. The Rooney nonsense won't have helped, but he won't be playing. Spurs are inconsistent, but one can see them raising their game and giving United more frustrations in a draw.

Fourth-placed Manchester City are not yet the real deal, depsite big spending. They visit another of the robust teams in Wolverhampton Wanderers, who only have West Ham below them in the table. This is the kind of game that City must win if they have any aspirations for the title, and I think they will triumph on Saturday.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Notts County management: a poisoned chalice?

Paul Ince has been installed as the latest manager at Notts County.

But is the job something of a poisoned chalice?

Ince is the sixth manager at the club in just over a year, following Ian McParland, Hans Backe, Dave Kevan, Steve Cotterill and Craig Short, who was sacked on Sunday after less than five months at the League One club.

Having achieved promotion last season, County sit 16th in League One. It seems like a reasonable position in a higher division, but maybe not.

County chairman Ray Trew said: "Paul has a wealth of experience as a player and a solid track record as a manager in the Football League, making him the obvious choice for me when we began our search for a new manager."

He added: "When we met Paul it quickly became clear that he was the ideal candidate, he'd done his homework, had some big ideas and was ready to get stuck in straightaway."

Ince has previously managed Macclesfield Town, Blackburn Rovers and MK Dons.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

World Cup winner Nobby Stiles sells his medal

I have just read that Nobby Stiles has sold his World Cup medal for £160,000.

It is unbelievably poignant that one of the heroes of 1966 has had to sell his winners' medal to give himself some financial stability in his later years. When we know of the wages paid to some of today's would-be superstars, it is actually rather galling.

Yes, I know that times have changed and the onset of the Premier League and wall-to-wall TV coverage has taken the finances of the game (especially with regard to players' wages) to unprecedented levels, but it makes me wonder how the serial failures of the England team of the last ten years can hold their heads up in the light of Nobby's sale.

Hardly any of today's England team (who drew 0-0 at home with Montenegro earlier this month) will be earning less in one week than Nobby just got for achieving a once in a lifetime (indeed, maybe a once ever for England) World Cup win.

Nobby Stiles is worth so much more than all of them.

Monday, 25 October 2010

A plea for honesty

Sorry, but Phil Neville. Great professional, blah, blah, blah, all that stuff.


On Saturday, playing for Everton against Tottenham, there was one incident where he brought down a Spurs player and a free-kick was given. "No, no," says Neville, with the customary footballer's finger-wagging denial, "no, no, no."

But, quite clearly on the TV replay: "yes, yes, yes, yes, yes."

The trouble is that footballers of this ilk (and that's pretty much all of them) have no truck with honesty. Why waste their time with that when they're always trying to get an advantage, however tiny, over their opponents? And the poor referee has to sort it out.

It was all so sadly familiar with Neville. Remember Euro 2000 in France? England had led Romania 2-1, but it was 2-2 with only a couple of minutes left. As Romania pushed forward, in stepped Neville to bring down Moldovan in the penalty area. As Neville pointed at the ball (his meaning obvious - that he got the ball, not the man), the referee - quite rightly, as replays showed - gave the spot kick, duly scored by Romania to send England home early.

Let's have a bit of honesty.

Friday, 22 October 2010


Oh my word!

Just as football was once again being dragged through the mud, Wayne Rooney (at the centre of it all) signed a new 5-year contract with Manchester United!

Wayne Rooney has made a shock U-turn and agreed a new five-year contract at Manchester United just days after announcing his intention to leave.

Less than 48 hours after Rooney voiced concerns over the club's squad strength and said that he would not signing a new deal, the 24-year-old has made a U-turn to re-sign.

Rooney stated: "I said on Wednesday the manager's a genius and it's his belief and support that convinced me to stay."

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson said: "I'm delighted Wayne's agreed to stay."

Rooney added: "I'm delighted to sign another deal at United. I've spoken to the manager and the owners and they've convinced me this where I belong.

"I am signing a new deal in the absolute belief that the management, coaching staff, board and owners are t
totally committed to making sure United maintains its proud winning history - which is the reason I joined the club in the first place.

"I am sure the fans over the last week have felt let down by what they have read and seen. But my position was from concern over the future. The fans have been brilliant with me since I arrived and it's up to me through my performances to win them over again."

The game never ceases to amaze!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Goal-line technology on its way

Well, it's about time!

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) met yesterday and announced that it will re-open discussions concerning the adoption of goal-line technology.


Meeting in Newport, Wales, for its Annual Business Meeting, the Board set a November deadline for companies to initially present their technologies to FIFA.

The statement by the Board said: "The technology would apply solely to the goal-line and only to determine whether a goal has been scored or not. The system must be accurate; the indication of whether a goal has been scored must be immediate and automatically confirmed within one second; the indication of whether a goal has been scored will only be communicated to the match officials."

Following the November deadline, technologies will be tested and at another meeting in Newport next March, the next step will decided.
Also, the confirmation or not of a goal will only be communicated to the match officials, with no public display of the result.

There will be no turning back now - the line has been crossed! At last!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Surely Rooney is not part of a Glaziers conspiracy?

It would be impossible not to write about the Wayne Rooney story.

He has indicated that he wants to leave Manchester United - apparently he originally did so back in August, but it's only just come out into the open.

What's going on here? Why would he want to leave Manchester United?

Although United like to style themselves as the biggest club in the world (and not just United, many Brits in general think the same), there is at least an argument that both Real Madrid and Barcelona, to name but two, are bigger. So it IS possible that Rooney wants to go to a bigger club (as named).

It is possible that he wants to improve himself as a player by going abroad. I'm not convinced by this - he seems to have a very high opinion of his own ability already, as do many others (again, usually Brits). Rooney may have touched the realms of 'world class' in the past, but he certainly is not in that bracket now, after his dismal World Cup, and lack-lustre start to the season. I think some time abroad would help his game, but I'm not sure that HE thinks that.

Has he fallen out with Fergie? This is highly possible, as many players have done so in the past: Jaap Stam and David Beckham are big names that fall into that category. However, Ferguson's reaction at yesterday's press conference makes me think that is not the case this time.

Does Rooney want more money? It's ridiculous. How can players tell the difference between £200,000 a week and £300,000 a week. A million every five weeks, or every three and a bit. However, this may indeed be the case. If so, is looking across Manchester to Eastlands and the riches at City. That would be one hell of a story...

...maybe only bettered by: Is there a conspiracy theory here? Are Rooney and Ferguson going along with a huge charade on behalf of the Glazier owners of debt-ridden United, the purpose of which is to sell Rooney, net £50 million and ease the debt figures? "Oh, we didn't want to sell him; he wanted away," they would say.

Now that would be the biggest story of all!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Injured England players return for their clubs

With reference to my post on Friday wondering how many of the England players who cried out of last week's match against Montenegro, the answer is: THEY ALL PLAYED.

John Terry of Chelsea and Phil Jagielka of Everton played the full 90 minutes respectively against Aston Villa (0-0) and Liverpool (2-0), and Darren Bent played the whole game in a dour (as predicted) 0-0 draw for Sunderland at Blackburn Rovers. Finally, Aaron Lennon played most of the second half in Tottenham's 2-1 win at Fulham.

Now, I'm not saying there's any dishonesty or feigning of injury; just citing the facts. You can draw your own conclusions.

Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney, who did play the whole game for England in the 0-0 draw, did not play the full game for Manchester United in their 2-2 draw at home to West Brom, and it now appears that he wants to leave Manchester United. Speculation on the whys and wherefores of his reasoning will fill many column inches for days and weeks to come!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Latest defeat hurts Liverpool more than most

And so Liverpool were on the end of another defeat on Sunday. This one would hurt more than most as it was against their city rivals Everton.

The 2-0 defeat for the Reds exposed their lack of confidence and the vulnerability of their defence. They now sit second from bottom in the Premier league table, only goal difference keeping them above West Ham United.

After eight games, it may be too early to start talking about relegation (after all, Everton were one place above Liverpool before game, and the win took them up six places to 11th), but when you're in the relegation zone, it's unavoidable.

One thing Liverpool should definitely avoid is thinking they're "too good to go down" or they're "too big a club to go down". Football doesn't work on sentiment.

Liverpool now have new owners, but the hopes that may go with that were dashed yesterday by the goals from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta. It is time for the players, and manager Roy Hodgson, to stand up and be counted. No more blaming the American owners (they've got another one anyway), and no more blaming the debt. These things have little relevance to what happens on the pitch, but now any excuses are gone.

I have little doubt that Liverpool will turn things round. There is nothing wrong here that a deflected shot to earn a lucky 1-0 win will not cure. Having said that, the next two games against Blackburn Rovers at home, and Bolton Wanderers away, are just the sort of games that clubs in a relegation scrap must take points from.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Will the injured English return to Premier League action?

It's back to Premier League action this weekend after the international break.

It will be interesting to see how many of the injured English players make recoveries to enable them to play for their clubs.

John Terry (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), Darren Bent (Sunderland) are examples.

League leaders Chelsea travel to Aston Villa for a Saturday 5.30 kick-off. Often a testing ground for the Blues, I full expect them to carry on their imperious form and take three points from Villa Park.

Everton take on Liverpool on Sunday at lunchtime, and rarely could the pair have both been placed so low - Everton are 17th, Liverpool 18th. A defeat for either, while not catastrophic, would be another downward step on a treacherous path.

Tottenham travel across London to visit draw specialists Fulham. Spurs haven't really built on last season's fourth place, and could do with a win at The Cottage. However, a draw remians the likeliest result.

Darren Bent's Sunderland play at Blackburn Rovers in the Monday night match. A dour draw looks entirely possible!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Italy and Serbia face sanctions for violence in Genoa

The abandonment of the Italy v Serbia game in Genoa on Tuesday as a result of violent scenes involving Serbia fans is a disturbing occurrence. The violence, I mean, not the abandonment itself.

After the kick-off had been delayed due to flares being thrown by Serbian supporters towards Italian fans, the game was called to a halt after only six minutes by Scottish referee Craig Thomson as the flare-throwing continued, one landing near Italian goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano.

Uefa has launched an investigation into the problems.

Although it appears that Serbian fans perpetrated the violence sanctions could be given to both Serbia and Italy, as the home team, who se federation has responsibility for organising the game. It has long been a mystery to me how fans get flares into stadiums, as they have done in Italy for many years.

Serbian Football Association chief Tomislav Karadzic said the violence had “brought embarrassment and shame on our country.” He added: “the state must react.”

Italian Football Federation security chief Roberto Massucci said that Serbia should have prevented troublemakers from travelling. “They should have been stopped by the Serbian officials,” he said.

Let us hope this is not the start of a violent trend.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Clueless England remain in the World Cup doldrums

The England football team cannot escape the doldrums of the summer's World Cup. Last night's showing against 40th-ranked nation Montenegro was another sorry display.

The 0-0 draw leaves England with seven points from two games; Montenegro have ten from three. England face trips to Bulgaria as well as Montenegro and the tricky double-header against Wales, who are bound to raise their game against their local rivals, in addition, of course, to having a new manager and a potentially revitalised squad come March (Wales v England in Cardiff).

Scoring the England team out of ten:
Hart (9); G.Johnson (6), R.Ferdinand (7), J.Lescott (6), A.Cole (7); A.Johnson (6), S.Gerrard (6), G.Barry (4), A.Young (6); W.Rooney (5), P.Crouch (5). Subs: K.Davies (3), S.Wright-Phillips (4)

The trouble is we have no one creative, no one with imagination. We have no one who can carry the ball forward through the middle with menace, to turn the opposition defence and give them problems. Adam Johnson did so on the right flank, and Cole and Young tried to do so on the left, but there is no threat down the middle. Gerrard was too deep, Barry was very poor and Rooney (still way below his best) came so deep as to present no problem for the Montenegran back line.

It was dismal.

And then for Capello to bring on Kevin Davies and Shaun Wright-Phillips gives real concern for his football judgement. Wright-Phillips has continually shown that he is not up to it at this level; control all over the place, passing never the right weight, woeful shooting. Every time the ball goes near Davies the result is a free kick (usually against him); he can't score; and he's 33.

What is going on?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Ferdinand back as England need a win

England face the surprise package of Group G in this evening's Euro 2012 qualifier at Wembley.

Rio Ferdinand is back as England skipper, despite managing to play in only two games since boss Fabio Capello named him as his captain. This will be Ferdinand's first competitive England game for a year.

Meanwhile, injuries continue to dog the England team, with Darren Bent joining John Terry on the unavailable list. Phil Jagielka and Aaron Lennon also dropped out of the squad a few days earlier. Stewart Dowing of Aston Villa and Gary cahill of Bolton Wanderers have been called in as replacements.

Wayne Rooney has been pronounced fit, and Capello will be hoping for a return to top form for the out-of-sorts striker, although Rooney did get one of his two goals this season in England' last game in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, Montenegro have beaten Bulgaria, Wales and Switzerland, all by one goal to nil, to take nine points from their first three games and head the group. England are second with maximum points from only two games.

Anything other than an England win will suddenly make qualification look extremely tricky.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Home nations fail to trouble the scorers

All three home nations in action on Friday night in the Euro 2012 qualifiers failed to score.

Scotland lost 1-0 in the Czech Republic, and now sit second in the group. Already qualification looks difficult with Spain in command, and the Czechs looking a threat.

Northern Ireland got a creditable 0-0 draw against Italy and remain unbeaten after two games. The Italians - in a state of change, with several youngsters now in the team - have made a good start, with seven points from their first three games.

In England's group Wales followed up their 1-0 loss to Montenegro with another 1-0 defeat, this time at home to Bulgaria (their first points). The surprise package in the group, however, seeems to be Montenegro, who have now won their first three games, all by the scoreline of 1-0, and are now, with nine points, three points clear of England.

Tuesday's game at Wembley has suddenly gained a whole lot of significance.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Liverpool face a nine point penalty

Things might get a whole lot worse for Liverpool.

Already in the bottom three of the Premier League with only six points from seven games, it now comes to light that they might get nine points deducted.

This could happen if parent company Kop Holdings goes into administration, and that might happen if a sale to the owners of the Boston Red Sox is not completed by 15 October - only a week away.

A final act of defiance by current owners Hicks and Gilette could make this happen. If they block the £300m takeover of Liverpool by New England Sports Ventures (NESV), their holding company could be put into administration by the Royal Bank of Scotland as a result of their £280m debts.

A nine point deduction would almost certainly follow. There is a precedent in the Football League, where Southampton were docked ten points when their holding company went into administration.

If Liverpool lose nine points, they really will be in trouble.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Lack of strikers exposed for Capello

The dearth of fit England strikers has been exposed by Fabio Capello's latest England squad for the game against Montenegro next Tuesday.

The four forwards selected are: Darren Bent (Sunderland), Peter Crouch (Tottenham Hotspur), Kevin Davies (Bolton Wanderers), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).

The inclusion of Bolton's Kevin Davies has raised a few eyebrows. Davies, now 33, whose career has spanned Chesterfield, Southampton, Blackburn Rovers, Millwall (on loan) and Bolton Wanderers, had scored 98 goals in 515 appearances before this season.

Injuries to Jermain Defoe, Bobby Zamora and Gabriel Agbonlahor have helped Davies, but Capello has overlooked Andy Carroll of Newcastle, and the door seems firmly closed to Michael Owen (160 goals in 342 English league appearances).

As for Capello's attempt to coax Emile Heskey out of international reitrement - I am lost for words.

Monday, 4 October 2010

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Friday, 1 October 2010

Sheffield Wednesday get another winding-up order

Sheffield Wednesday have been served with another winding-up order by HM Revenue & Customs over £600,000 in unpaid tax owed. It is third such order in as many months for the League One club.

With the new order due to be served on 17 November, chairman Howard Wilkinson says the club is looking at a loan from a potential investor to see them through, and chief executive Nick Parker said an overseas oilfield company had offered the £600,000.

Wilkinson said he was confident the Owls would come through this latest winding-up order, but didn't want it to go to the last minute.

Wednesday were relgatede from the Campionship last season and, although they started the season well, have slipped to 16th in League One.

The club estimates that the drop has already cost them a fifth of last season's income.