Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Sponsors voice concerns about FIFA

Now sponsors are apparently getting twitchy about the goings-on within FIFA.

President Sepp Blatter has stated that the organisation is not in crisis, but both Coca-Cola and Adidas have voiced their concerns.

A a Coca-Cola spokesperson said: "The current allegations being raised are distressing and bad for the sport."

An Adidas spokesman said: "The negative tenor of the public debate around Fifa at the moment is neither good for football nor for Fifa and its partners."

Blatter is now unopposed for the presidency of FIFA (vot on Wednesday) after Mohamed Bin Hammam dropped out of the race following recent allegations.

"Football is not in a crisis, only some difficulties," Blatter claimed.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Relegation looms for two out of five

While the city of Manchester celebrates its League and FA Cup wins for United and City, at the other end of the table the folk of Blackburn, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Wigan and Blackpool will be living a fearful week as the threat of relegation looms large over all of them. Poor West Ham United already felt the axe as they were relegated after defeat at Wigan yesterday.

At the weekend Blackburn Rovers got a valuable point against the champions, while Wolves, Wigan and Blackpool all recorded wins, which they would have hoped would have dragged them clear of the relegation mire, but didn't. One point now covers all these five teams - Blackburn and Wolves on 40, the others on 39. Of the five, maybe Birmingham City are fearing the most after their dreadful home defeat against Fulham (0-2) on Sunday made them the only losers of this group.

So it will all come down to the final day and no games look easy. Perhaps the stand-out game is Wolves v Blackburn as it involves two of the clubs. In addition, Birmingham City travel to Tottenham (looking for fifth place), Blackpool travel to already-crowned Champions Manchester United (who, even if they field a supposedly weakened team, will still present a mighty threat and will not want to dent an almost perfect home record further), and Wigan Athletic face Stoke City who might be a little deflated after their FA Cup Final defeat on Saturday.

For those involved, next Sunday is going to be an awful afternoon.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Manchester United on verge of record 19th title

Manchester United pretty much clinched the Premier League title yesterday with the 2-1 win over Chelsea.

The fast-start goal after 36 seconds was a body-blow for the Blues from which they never truly recovered. And the second United goal was the clincher.

Chelsea, never a team to lie down, mounted something of a second-half revival, with Frank Lampard cutting the arrears, but, despite some nervous moments for the home team, it was always going to be too much for Chelsea to turn around the early setbacks. In truth, the defending that allowed United to score their goals was woeful, and David Luiz (who has otherwise impressed greatly since his arrival in January) paid the price with his half-time removal by boss Carlo Ancelotti.

Manchester United only need a point to secure their record-breaking 19th English League title and, with due respect to Blackburn Rovers (away) and Blackpool (home), there is no doubt that they will get it. This championship has been won at home, with only one draw denting an otherwise perfect home record. Away from home, United have not been so impressive - even Blackpool have won as many games away.

Indeed, United have not always looked to be championship material. But in this oddest of Premier League seasons, none of the other contenders - Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester City - have done enough to stop the Reds from virtually securing the title with two games to spare.

As for Chelsea, they will lick their wounds from a trophy-less season and try to figure out how to get the best out of Fernando Torres next season. The fact that neither Torres nor Drogba scored a goal while both of them were on the pitch has to be a key pointer.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Leeds and Burnley charged: why?

I am a Leeds United fan, but sadly live over 200 miles away in the south, so getting to see the team in action is an infrequent occurrence. I did, however, get up to see the tense 1-0 win over Burnley last Saturday. It's a shame for Leeds that the hard-fought, but deserved win will probably count for little as Nottingham Forest look certain to claim the last place in the play-offs by avoiding defeat at Crystal Palace tomorrow.

I was rather bemused, however, to read that both Leeds and Burnley are to be charged by the FA for failing to ensure that their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion and/or refrained from provocative behaviour.

The incident happened in front of where I was sitting - only 20 yards away. A high challenge on Leeds's Max Gradel by Chris McCann sparked a melee in which I believe McCann, and Leeds's Neil Kilkenny and Eric Lichaj were booked. The melee was nothing more than the sort of thing you can see on Match of the Day every week. I have no idea why the FA chose to charge these two clubs.

There is a bit of a paranoid conspiracy theory at Leeds (justified, as "they" are always out to get us!), but this did seem over the top.

I am even more surprised to see this morning that Leeds have pleaded guilty to the charge. No doubt they will end up with a more severe punishment than QPR will receive for their misdemeanours (judgement mysteriously delayed by the FA yesterday).

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Norwich City make it back to the big time

Congratulations to Norwich City who secured promotion to the Premier League last night with a 1-0 at Portsmouth.

This followed Cardiff City's inexplicable 0-3 surrender at home to Middlesbrough earlier in the evening. That result meant that Cardiff were left hoping for a Norwich failure at Fratton Park, and results to favour Cardiff next Saturday.

But Norwich were in no mood to let slip their advantage, and a Simeon Jackson header gave them the win they needed to clinch promotion.

Manager Paul Lambert called it "a miracle" as the club has achieved back-to-back promotions - the first club to do son since Manchester City did so in 2000. Lambert took over as boss at The Canaries after his then-club Colchester United won 7-1 and Carrow Road on the first day of last season. They have rarely looked back since then.

Norwich City join Queen's Park Rangers as clubs promoted from the Championship to the Premier League. Cardiff City are left to fight out in the play-offs with Swansea City, Reading and, almost certainly, Nottingham Forest.