Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Champions League draw favours English group winners

The importance of winning your Champions League group was demonstrated to the English teams left in the competition by yesterday's draw.

Manchester City and Arsenal (who both failed to win their group) drew Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively, while Chelsea and Manchester United drew Galatasaray and Olympiakos respectively.

According to the Football Ranking System, Manchester City are 2nd, Barcelona 3rd, Bayern Munich 4th and Arsenal 5th. They would have all liked to have avoided each other!

Of course, winning the group has still given Barcelona and Bayern tough ties, and they are mouth-watering prospects when the competition resumes in February.

Other leading lights include Atletico Madrid (top of the Football Ranking System), drawn to play struggling AC Milan (52), and Real Madrid (6), drawn to play Schalke 04 (30).

The complete draw is:
Manchester City v Barcelona
Bayer Leverkusen v Paris St-Germain
Arsenal v Bayern Munich
AC Milan v Atletico Madrid
Olympiakos v Manchester United
Zenit St Petersburg v Borussia Dortmund
Galatasaray v Chelsea
Schalke v Real Madrid

Friday, 13 December 2013

Tigers: what's in a nickname need not be in a name

I'm right behind Hull City supporters in their fight against the proposed name change of their club to Hull Tigers.


Current Hull City owner Assem Allam has applied to the FA to change the club's name from next season. I have to confess I didn't know a club had to apply to the FA for a name change - I thought that would be a club decision. However, if applying to the FA helps stop this nonsense, then the application process is obviously a good thing. It seems that an FA council has "absolute discretion" over the name change decision.

Hull have been City since their formation in 1904, the nickname "Tigers" seemingly coming from a Hull Daily Mail reporter the following year.

Hull City supporters have formed a "City Till I Die" campaign, and they hope the FA will deny the name change application. It seems that the FA will consult Hull City supporters on the name change. If they do, then it's dead in the water. Allam has allegedly said that opponents "can die as soon as they want". That's helpful and encompassing, isn't it? He reckons the renaming will help with the branding of the club. Not where it matters - in Hull - it won't.

Football could learn a lot from other sports (use of technology, timing of play, treating injuries while the game goes on, among others), but silly suffixes to names is certainly not one of them.

Monday, 9 December 2013

How deadly is England's Group of Death?

So apparently England find themselves in another "Group of Death" in Brazil 2014. But just how deadly is it?

Group D consists of England (13th in the FIFA rankings), Uruguay (6), Italy (7) and Costa Rica (31). If we use a simple addition of the ranking positions to get a total for the group, this comes to 57, and is the second toughest group in these terms.

The hardest group of all is Group G, consisting of Germany (2), Portugal (5), USA (14) and Ghana (24). I can't imagine Germany being too fazed, though, can you? 45 points.

Next is Group C (perhaps surprisingly), consisting of Colombia (4), Greece (12), Ivory Coast (17) and Japan (48). 81 points.

Fourth hardest group is B, with Spain (1), Netherlands (9), Chile (59) and Australia (59 - currently the lowest ranked team in the competition). 84 points.

Fourth easiest group is E, with Switzerland (8), France (19), Ecuador (23), Honduras (41). Total 91 points.

Next is Group A, consisting of Brazil (10), Croatia (16), Mexico (20), Cameroon (51). Total 97 points.

The second easiest group, by rankings, is Group F, with Argentina (3), Bosnia-Herzegovina (21), Nigeria (36), Iran (45). Total 105 points.

And, presumably, the Group of Cruise is Group H, with: Belgium (11), Russia (22), Algeria (26), South Korea (54). Total 113 points.

It is interesting to note that England are the highest third ranked team in any group. and four groups have a second best team that is lower ranked than England. England's group also has the second best fourth ranked team.

Also, by World Cup Winners (by descending order of total rankings);
Group G has one (Germany) with three wins in total.
Group D has three winners (Uruguay (2), Italy (4), England (1)) for seven wins in total.
Group C: Nil wins.
Group B: One winner, Spain (1).
Group E: One winner, France (1).
Group A: One winner, Brazil (5 times winners).
Group F: One winner, Argentina (2).
Group H: Nil wins.

England's group is indeed a killer.

I know that FIFA don't actually "seed" teams, but put them in pots according to Confederation and other political considerations. It doesn't always lead to the most level of playing fields.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

World Cup seedings mystify us again

It is now just over six months until the World Cup begins in Brazil and we are just a few days away from the draw.

The recent collapse of part of the stadium under construction in Sao Paulo was very sad, and has brought the usual doubts about whether the venues will be ready in time. Indeed, Brazil has admitted that six stadiums might not be ready in time. FIFA have announced that there are no plans to move the World Cup to a different country, despite the problems. I hope Brazil works through the difficulties and is ready in time.

As for the draw, there is the usual scare-talk of England being in a potential "Group of Death" with the likes of Brazil, USA and France.

However, with the likes of Switzerland in Pot One, how about a group with Switzerland (World Ranking 8), Australia (59) and Cameroon (51). We couldn't complain at that!

The Pots will NOT be organised by World Rankings alone, but I am mystified as to why Switzerland (8) and Belgium (11) are said to be top-seeded, whereas Portugal (5) and Italy (7) are not. Other Pots will hold teams from the same Federations as far as possible.

If the teams were grouped by the latest rankings the Pots would be:

One: Spain (1), Germany (2), Argentina (3), Colombia (4), Portugal (5), Uruguay (6), Italy (7), Switzerland (8).

Two: Holland (9), Brazil (10), Belgium (11), Greece (12), England (13), USA (14), Chile (15), Croatia (16).

Three: Ivory Coast (17), France (19), Mexico (20), Bosnia-Herzegovina (21), Russia (22), Ecuador (23), Ghana (24), Algeria (26).

Four: Costa Rica (31), Nigeria (36), Honduras (41), Iran (45), Japan (48), Cameroon (51), South Korea (54), Australia (59).

Incidentally, with talk of cutting Europe's representation in future World Cups, the top eight teams not to qualify for next year's tournament are: Ukraine (17), Denmark (25), Sweden (27), Czech Republic (28), Slovenia (29), Serbia (30), Romania (32), Scotland (33). ALL are European.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Match-fixing arrests give me that sick feeling

It makes me feel a little bit sick when I read headlines like this "Six arrests in football match-fixing investigation" as on the BBC website today.

I feel sick because someone is playing around with our game for the sake of gambling and money.

And that threatens the integrity of our Beautiful Game. Which makes me feel sick.

Apparently six men (including three footballers) were arrested by the National Crime Agency (NCA) over suspected international illegal betting. But none of the investigations concerned "professional clubs" (whatever they are these days).

The NCA was reported to be working closely with the Gambling Commission and the FA.

The FA said: "We have worked closely with the authorities in relation to these allegations. The FA will make no further comment at this time due to ongoing investigations."

We can't have this sort of scum threatening the integrity of our game. Let's hope they're all wheedled out and locked up.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Manchester City need to travel better to challenge for the title

Manchester City destroyed Tottenham Hotspur yesterday, 6-0. Before the game Tottenham had only conceded six goals in 11 games, but they were on the back put from the first minute as a poor clearance from Hugo Lloris led to Jesus Navas opening the scoring after only 13 seconds.

But the real enigma is Manchester City.

Their home record is 6 wins, no draw, no defeats, scored 26, conceded 2.
Away record: 1 win, 1 draw, 4 defeats, scored 8, conceded 10.

I don't understand how a team costing so many millions, with players from all around the world, find it difficult to travel away from the the Etihad stadium and get points!

(As a side point, no English players started the game for City, though a couple (Lescott and Milner) did get token substitute appearances when the game was well and truly over.

City's league home/away form is not quite reflected in League Cup and European games where their record is:

Home: Won 2, drawn none, lost 1, scored 11, conceded 5.
Away: Won 3, draw none, lost none, scored 7, conceded 1.

Their league defeats have come at Cardiff City, Aston Villa, Chelsea and Sunderland - at least three of which take a bit of explaining.

Currently fourth and six points behind leaders Arsenal, Manchester City will need to tidy up their away form if they're to make a sustained challenge for the Premier League title.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Where will England's goals come from?

Not very impressive from England. Back-to-back home defeats and not a single goal scored.

I know all the arguments about 'experiments' and 'giving people a game', but it doesn't disguise the fact that, actually, England are not very good.

Roy Hodgson says there is time, but there isn't. I believe there is only one friendly between now and the selection of the initial squad. No time at all.

The major problem is our lack of a goal-scoring threat. Last night against Germany England had NO shots on target. None. Germany had five attempts on target, meaning that Joe Hart at least had the chance to prove himself. And he did.

But going forward England are poor. Andros Townsend makes excellent ground with the ball. Wayne Rooney makes space - by coming deeper - but Daniel Sturridge plainly is not good enough. Rickie Lambert got a few minutes, but not enough to make an impact.

There are also problems at the back. Chris Smalling looked second-best when it mattered. Ashley Cole lost possession, lost tackles and was out of position on too many occasions. His day has surely gone.

Roy Hodgson has got time: many long, lonely nights to contemplate where England's next goal may come from.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Mourinho - graceless as ever as his team salvages a point

Couldn't Jose Mourinho find it within himself to simply admit that his team had been lucky to get their injury-time penalty against West Brom on Saturday?

It was, frankly, never a penalty as Ramires ran into West Brom defender Steven Reid and took the opportunity to "go to ground". Hapless referee Andre Marriner was fooled and awarded the spot kick. This was duly dispatched by Eden Hazard to keep Mourinho's unbeaten home record in the league with Chelsea intact.

Mourinho said after the game: "The penalty came at a moment when it's difficult for the team that is winning to accept. You are waiting for the last minute and the whistle to come, but this one was a penalty. I didn't know, no idea; but on the screen, no doubts."

He also tried to deflect attention away from this poor decision by claiming that his team should have had a free-kick before West Brom's second goal. He said: "It's a free kick just in front of the fourth official [what's that got to do with it?]. It's a big mistake from the referee." Wrong again. Branislav Ivanovic dwelt on the ball and wasn't strong enough to retain it under the challenge of Stephane Sessegnon.

For poor West Brom manager, Steve Clarke (assistant to Mourinho in his previous spell at Chelsea), it was a different viewpoint for the penalty decision: "I'm flabbergasted at the decision. I can't believe he gave it. I saw it at the time. I've been in the game a long time and I knew Ramires was already on the way down before anyone was near him."

Back to Mourinho's comment: it wasn't difficult to accept because of the time of the penalty; it was difficult to accept because it wasn't a penalty - big difference!

Friday, 8 November 2013

A good week for English (and Welsh!) clubs in Europe

It's been a pretty good week for English clubs in Europe.

Manchester City secured qualification with a 5-2 win over CSKA Moscow, but they will probably go through as runners-up to Bayern Munich so the second round draw will need to be kind to them.

Arsenal had a fantastic 1-0 win at Borussia Dortmund, a win that will go a long way to putting them through to the knock-out stages out of a group with three good teams (add Napoli to these two). Aaron Ramsey's excellent scoring record for the season continued with his winning header.

Chelsea have recovered superbly after their shock defeat in the first group match against FC Basel. Their latest win, 3-0 against Shalke '04, pushed them to the brink of qualification.

Manchester United's rather dull 0-0 draw put them top of their group with eight points and another win will see them through. Steady, if unspectacular, progress.

In the Europa Cup, Tottenham Hotspur ensured that they will progress to the second round with a 2-1 win over Sheriff Tiraspol from Moldova. Six wins out of six (including two qualification games) - often with understrength teams - is evidence of a fine European campaign to date.

Wigan Athletic's loss at Rubin Kazan (Russia) leaves them with five points in second place, but work still to do in their final two group games.

Wales's Swansea City got a 1-1 draw at Kuban Krasnodar and they have eight points to date. Second behind Valencia in their group, another two points will certainly see them through (and one, or even none, might be enough!).

All round, an excellent week for teams from the English League in Europe.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Spurs need goals

Watching Tottenham against Everton yesterday, it was obvious what Tottenham's problems are.

They do not have sufficient goal-scoring threat.

They have only scored nine goals in ten games, yet still sit fourth in the table. Their defensive record (5 conceded) is second only to the unlikely Southampton in the division.

But as long as Tottenham can't score, they will not represent a long-term threat to the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.

Yesterday's first half was completely dominated by Spurs at Goodison Park, but Everton held them at bay, and the second half was much more in Everton's favour.

If Andre Villas-Boas cannot find a combination with his current players, then he will be very keen to delve into the transfer market come January's window.

And yet Spurs are reported to be happy to let Jermain Defoe go. Defoe may never have quite reached the heights that his earlier potential promised, but surely he's worth a run in the Spurs line-up.

They need goals.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

With all that money washing around in the game

As chairman of a small local football club (Weysiders FC) I sometimes wonder what the FA does for us.

We are an adult club, and have been in existence since 1973. In that time we had a maximum of four teams at one time (currently we run two), have played a total of 2,453 games and used 787 players. We have never risen above Surrey Intermediate League level (we won that league in 1985, but didn't have the facilities to progress any further) and play on a pitch hired from the local council.

The Leagues over the years have provided us with organised competitions and the Surrey FA has provided us with County Cup competitions.

We pay both the League and the Surrey County FA for the privilege.

With all that money washing around in the game.

"They" say that there are not enough coaches in the game, yet to take a coaching course you have to pay (several times as there are several levels).

With all that money washing around in the game.

Adult clubs get no help at all at our level. We have to charge our players a match fee to play and the club runs on an annual budget of less than £7,500.

With all that money washing around in the game.

All the people who run the club (e.g. chairman, secretary, treasurer, managers) do so for free. They talked about volunteers at the Olympics. What about volunteers at local sports clubs (not just football) who have carried out their duties for free for years?

With all that money washing around in the game.

What does the FA do for a club like us?

Monday, 28 October 2013

If you really want to apply zero tolerance, Blatter, take the World Cup away from Russia

I find it fascinating that Sepp Blatter "calls for zero tolerance towards racism" (BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/24690192).

Blatter said: "If we are not able to go zero tolerance, we have failed."

Yet it was his organisation that gave the 2018 World Cup to Russia, the country in which Manchester City's Yaya Toure complained about monkey chants last week. IT is, of course, not the first time such incidents have been reported.

Blattter, speaking at a news conference in London, said: "In the first case there should be a warning, in a second case sanctions, disciplinary sanctions or to play without spectators. But the third one is that you have to deduct points or expel a team from a competition."

"The [Fifa] congress has said we have to go zero tolerance. The congress was standing, there was not one voice against that.
"Everybody wants it to happen. Now we have to apply it and have to have the courage to have to do it."
Fine words - applicable to clubs - but awarding the most high-profile sporting event in the world to the country of Russia is a deed that gives lie to those words.
The courageous thing to do would be take the World Cup away from Russia.
THAT would demonstrate zero tolerance to racism.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

European play-offs throw up interesting ties

The European play-offs for the World Cup threw up some interesting ties - and emphasised the importance of England qualifying top of the group rather than having to make it through the play-off system.

The ties with the teams' current FIFA rankings are:

Portugal (14) v Sweden (25)
France (21) v Ukraine (20)
Greece (15) v Romania (29)
Iceland (46) v Croatia (18)

Imagine if England had failed to win their group and had to face France to qualify! As it is Ukraine, seeded as one of the top-four ranked teams, have a tough draw facing the country one below them in the rankings.
Portugal and Sweden provide a tasty looking tie, but there will be fewer British eyes watching Greece battle with Romania or Iceland tussle with Croatia.

Portugal, France, Romania and Croatia are my picks to make it to Brazil.

I hope these are on TV, so we get a chance to watch without suffering!
The two-legged ties will be played on 15 November and 19 November.

Monday, 21 October 2013

This non-story about Roy Hodgson

This story about Roy Hodgson and what he said at half-time in Tuesday's to improve England's possession and use of the ball is a joke.

The use of the word monkey does not automatically have racist connotations. The use of the word monkey in the context he used it was a perfect metaphor for what he wanted Chris Smalling to do for Andros Townsend - give him more of the ball.

Mischief makers have tried - and some are still trying - to make this into something it never was.


You have to wonder who from within the England dressing room tweeted this non-story to try and make something out of nothing. That disloyalty is the real story.

Hodgson's only purpose was - and is - to improve England as a football team. That includes making enquiries about the availability of "Belgian" teenager Adnan Januzaj.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

England make it to the Brazil World Cup

England made it to the World Cup Finals in Brazil next summer after their 2-0 win against Poland last night. When Steven Gerrard's toe-poke went in with just a few minutes remaining, it was at last time for England fans to relax.

England left themselves having to win their last two games in the group after failing to beat any of the other main contenders in the group in the first four attempts, drawing with Montenegro, Ukraine (twice) and Poland, and only beating group minnows Moldova, and ultra-minnows San Marino.

However, the performances in the final two games have been fairly impressive, with the 4-1 win against Montenegro preceding last night's victory.

What a breath of fresh air Andros Townsend has been, taking the pressure of England's defence by running 30, 40, 50 yards with the ball and moving the balance of England's play deep into the opposition half. Such a change from the sideways passing or depressing chips forward to nothing that we have suffered for so many years.

And what a delight it is to have a left full-back who is willing to get past people and cross with his left foot rather than always come inside to nothing. Surely the Baines v Cole debate is over, and is decisive in Leighton Baines's favour?

There are some good youngsters coming through, although Gerrard (33), Carrick (32), Jagielka (31) do not count, and Baines (28), Cahill (27), Rooney (28 next week) should not either!

But let's not carried away. England are not good enough to win the World Cup, but might be good enough to make the quarter finals - as we often do.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The downward plight of English football

Surely no one can be surprised at today's news that English players account for about one third of playing minutes in the Premier League.

The question, I guess, is: does it matter?

Personally I think it does matter. It can't be right that an ENGLISH League has:

  • more foreign players than home players
  • foreign owners
  • foreign managers
What is English about the English Premier League?
The grounds and the referees.

And even on the subject of grounds, "they" came up with some bright idea of playing a "39th" game abroad a few years ago!

And on referees, some called for Pierluigi Collina to take the whistle in English games a few years ago.

It seems that nothing is sacrosanct in the modern times of global shrinkage.

The problems are:
  • The England team has about 75 players to pick from - and yes, the success of the England team does matter in the long run.
  • Nearly all the money in the game goes to players, so that's 2/3 of a huge amount of money going OUT of England in the long run (not good for the economy).
  • Every bubble bursts in the end.
  • There is no foundation to the short-termism that plagues the English game.
What can be done about it?
I'm no lawyer so I don't know what laws are in place or would be broken to try and fix this. 
  • Player quotas have been mentioned, but sound unlikely in the European Union (despite plenty of non-European players in the league).
  • I guess we can't insist on home ownership.
  • Perhaps we need UEFA or FIFA to put in place some rules that mean that leagues are representative of the country.
For the moment though, I weep at the downward plight of English football.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Poyet will hope for a quick turnaround

Gus Poyet needs a quick turnaround at Sunderland after being named as boss this morning.

The Black Cats are already six points adrift of safety with only one point from seven games so far this season. Yet that will soon seem insignificant if they can pull a couple of wins out of the bag.

After the international break Sunderland face Swansea City before hosting Newcastle United on Sunday 27 October. Poyet could make himself an instant hero by winning that match!

After the short-lived reign on Paolo Di Canio, I'm sure the Sunderland fans will want a long and stable relationship with Gus Poyet - but that will only happen if he achieves some success on the field. Given the start they have had, success will presumably be retaining their Premier League status.

An apparent player revolt spelt the end for Di Canio, so Poyet will hope he can get the trust of the players quickly. Poyet was sacked by Brighton for 'gross misconduct' after being suspended at the end of last season. Such troubles must be put behind him.

Sunderland showed some good signs against Manchester United on Sunday - although they ultimately lost 2-1, demonstrating that, despite their poor start, they are by no means a lost cause.

Sunderland fans will be hoping that the speedy action of getting rid of Di Canio will give their team plenty of time to turn their problems around.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Leeds see off ten-man Bournemouth

I support Leeds United and I made my annual (sometimes twice a year) trip to Elland Road on Tuesday evening with my son. It's a 430-mile round trip up the M1 from where I live, and I'm involved with a local club down south, so it's not a trip I can make very often.

I felt the atmosphere around Elland Road was a little gloomy, and no real surprise there after four defeats in a row and only two goals scored in the previous six games. Equally, however, with plenty of goods for sale in the club shop being printed with 'The Past is the Past ...' it is evident that the club is trying to move on from the Ken Bates era, and that brings with it a new mood of optimism.

We sat in the huge East Stand (on the lower tier) with a superb view of an excellent playing surface.

The visitors for the game were Bournemouth who, likes Leeds, have had a troubled recent few years with points deductions, relegations and flirtation with demotion from the Football League. Last season, however, with the return of manager Ernie Howe, they were promoted from League One and have made a topsy-turvy start to the new season, but started the game above Leeds in the table.

Roared on by a 21,749 crowd, Leeds were, frankly, not very good. It was evidently not a confident team. In the first half an hour the game was fairly even, but nothing much happened. Then came the match-changing moment. Noel Hunt - who otherwise was extremely disappointing - burst into the penalty area and was brought down by Bournemouth goalkeeper Ryan Allsop. It was a penalty and Allsop was sent off.

Even then, however, it appeared Leeds could not take advantage as Ross McCormack's penalty was saved by replacement keeper Darryl Flahavan. But gradually the extra man began to tell as Leeds took the lion's share of possession. Seven minutes into the second half a beautiful curling cross from the left by Stephen Warnock was steered home by McCormack and the relief from the crowd was palpable.

Other chances were missed - some inexplicably - which gave Bournemouth hope and belief that a forward-looking gamble might pay off. And they were right as after 72 minutes a free-kick from ex-Leeds Ian Harte was not cleared and Lewis Grabban finished from eight yards to equalise.

Crowd frustration could have weighed heavily on the home side, but there was enough time left for them to gather themselves and mount purposeful - rather than desperate - attacks. With nine minutes left a half-cleared cross looped up to substitute Dominic Poleon who volleyed home sweetly from ten yards.

Leeds held on as Bournemouth had another go, and the home side claimed the three much-needed points and rose to 11th in the table. Overall, however, it is difficult to see this Leeds side making any significant impact on the Championship. Unless boss Brian McDermott can bring in some influential loan signings it looks like another season will drift by for the once-mighty Elland Road club.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The time-wasting substitution must be stopped

The scandal of time-wasting substitutions goes on.

The winning team - as soon as the board goes up at 90 minutes showing how many minutes will be added on - immediately get their substitute ready. When the ball goes out play they wait until the last possible moment before telling the fourth official that they want to make a substitution and then the board goes up with the number of player to be taken off. He's usually on the far side of the pitch and facing the other way. When he, with some apparent amazement, realises his number his up, he turns to face his own fans and applauds them before beginning to walk off the pitch. When encouraged by the referee to get a move on, the player makes a jogging motion (usually on the spot) for a second or two. After about a minute the player is finally off the pitch and the substitute can come on.

For some reason the TV cameras always show this farce in close-up. It would be much more revealing to show it in long-shot to demonstrate just how slowly the substituted player is moving.

The whole thing is a time-wasting disgrace.

Notwithstanding this, the winning team manager, having wasted a minute of added time, will then point animatedly at his 'watch' the instant the added time is up.

And TV commentators are fooled for some reason. "Well, the time is up," they'll say, "We're into time added on to added time," as if they can't quite understand where the time has come from.

Of course, the referees never add enough time on.

In European or international games it's even worse, as the referees add NO extra time to cater for this. In fact, they always blow early.

We're being cheated out of footballing action. When is this scandal going to be stopped?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Not the start Moyes would have wanted

Manchester City stunned Manchester United yesterday afternoon with a 4-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium. The games won (and lost) in five minutes either side of half-time, those goals being scored by Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri.

Apart from that Manchester United must have felt they had reasonable control of the game. But what use is having greater passing success (86.2% to 80.5% in United's favour) or territorial advantage (56.3 % to 43.7% in United's favour) if you're one, two, three, four goals down? None at all.

Wayne Rooney scored a sublime free-kick after 87 minutes, but it was merely a consolation.

It cannot be the start that new manager David Moyes had envisaged. He did bemoan the fixture list when it was published and he won't have changed his mind now. Chelsea (home, 0-0), Liverpool (away, 0-1) and Manchester City have been three extremely tough opponents in the first five league games - too tough for the current Manchester United team.

What must David Moyes do?

He was unlucky yesterday with the late withdrawal of Robin Van Persie, but it was the inability to stop City's rampaging attacks that let him down yesterday. Fellaini must settle in quickly and the wide men (yesterday it was Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia) need to ensure that the full backs have better protection. He also needs more attacking thrust through the centre of midfield.

There are options, and no need for Moyes to panic yet.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

At last football turns to technology

It's been a while. I've been busy.

What significant things have happened in the world of football?

Perhaps the best thing is the implementation of goal-line technology in the Premier League. Although things have been rather quite on the disputed goals front, I'm sure the referees are enjoying the 'buzz' they must be getting every time a goal is scored.

Plus One (at last) for a step into the 21st Century for football and technology.

Perhaps we could implement the same technology for the ball in and out of play as it seems to me that assistant referees are over-zealous when calling the ball out of play when it gets anywhere near the touchline. Not quite as important as a goal or not, of course, but do they really think the whole of the ball has crossed the line when it touches the white stuff?

A short re-start, but I'll be back again soon.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Barcelona have no answers

Barcelona face an uphill struggle to qualify for the quarter finals of the Champions League after losing 2-0 to AC Milan in the first leg at the San Siro last night.

What went wrong?

Barcelona had a lot of possession, but lacked a cutting edge. Sounds a crazy thing to say when they've got a player who has just broken the record for the number of goals scored by an individual in a calendar year, but Lionel Messi was very quiet last night.

You have to give credit to the disciplined defence maintained by the Italian club. Apart from the fact that Italian teams have been doing just that for years, they must have learnt from the way Chelsea went about winning the trophy last season. Again last night, Barcelona had no answers.

It may not be what we want to see, but endless possession with very few shots (Barcelona last night) may not be what we want either!

Having watched Bayern Munich put Arsenal to the sword on Tuesday night, it may sound odd to say, "Come on the Germans!"

Monday, 4 February 2013

Liverpool play on to score as Dzeko lies on the ground - YES! PLAY ON!

I have nothing against Manchester City. In fact, I quite admire the way they have become challengers and winners of the Premier League title.

However, I was quite delighted when Daniel Sturridge scored a goal against City for Liverpool yesterday. The circumstances were that a challenge on Edin Dzeko on the halfway line left the City striker on the ground - and he decided to stay there. The Manchester City fans - not their players, I must emphasise - howled for Liverpool to kick the ball out of play, but they didn't and went on to put the ball out of play in the best possible way - into City's net. (Sturridge, in deference, presumably to his old club, City, did not celebrate.)

AT LAST, someone has scored while a player lies on the ground. There is NO RULE that commands a team to put the ball out of play when a player is lying on the ground. The REFEREE can stop the game if he perceives an injury to be serious. This, quite obviously, was not serious, and I don't believe Dzeko received any treatment after the goal was scored.

HOORAY! Let's stop this nonsense of kicking the ball out of play for players lying on  the ground, and get on with the game.

Monday, 28 January 2013

FA Cup still has magic

The magic of the FA Cup lives on!

Although clubs in the Premier League prefer to finish in the top four of the league than to make progress in the FA Cup, the spirit of the world's oldest football competition lives on.

It lives on in Luton Town, who became the first non-leaguers to knock out a Premier League club, beating Norwich City 1-0.

It lives on at MK Dons of League One, who sprinted into a devastating 4-0 lead at Premier League, QPR, and ultimately ran out 4-2 winners.

It lives on at Boundary Park, where Oldham Athletic (League One) humbled Liverpool 3-2 in an amazing game.

It lives on at Brentford (League One), who, playing their rather more illustrious neighbours from five miles up the road, Chelsea, twice took the lead and eventually held the European Champions to a two-all draw and earned a replay at Stamford Bridge.

It lives on at Elland Road where Championship Leeds United knocked out fourth-placed Premier Leaguers Tottenham Hotspur.

And to a lesser degree, the spirit lives on at Aldershot Town (League Two) who ran Championship Middlesbrough close, before losing 2-1 to a late, late goal.

And Barnsley, Brighton and Macclesfield Town will all have their own FA Cup tales to tell this morning.

It was a stirring FA Cup weekend, and we should all look forward to Round 5 with relish.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Shameful ballboy incident is easily solved

Eden Hazard will probably have re-run the disgraceful incident with the ballboy through his mind many times as he struggled to get to sleep last night. What was he thinking - trying to kick the ball from under the ballboy who was lying on top of it?

Of course Hazard was trying to get the ball back so that play could restart, saving a few precious seconds in Chelsea's quest to overturn a 2-0 deficit and reach the Capital One League Cup Final. With a only a few minutes of the match left, a Chelsea triumph was looking less and less likely, so his gesture was futile, and led to him being sent off, with a suspension to follow. What other repercussions there might be we have yet to see.

What on earth was the ballboy doing, grabbing the ball as it went off for a goal kick to Swansea and then falling to the ground and lying on it to prevent the anxious Hazard from getting it? Sadly - and let's not for one moment try and deny this - he was aping the actions of professional footballers in trying to waste time for his beloved Swansea City, as they - ultimately successfully - tried to win their way into their first major Cup Final. I'm sure the ballboy won't be as ashamed as Hazard of his actions but they will no doubt bring him a certain notoriety and a few more twitter followers. Ten minutes of fame.

The reason for all these shameful actions is because the clock runs when the ball is out of play in football. The solution is easy and I have addressed it before in this blog (http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=5550910041293158157#editor/target=post;postID=8598919878957640325). Put a clock on the action; stop it when the ball's out of play.

Then Hazard could smile at the ballboy and trot back leisurely to wait for the goal kick.

And everyone's happy.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Pointless rules in place as technology is ignored

So, what happened to the rule about sock tape having to be the same colour as socks?

Preyed on by some referees in park football, forcing poor park footballers to remove tape keeping their shin pads in place in the early weeks of this season, it is apparently a rule which top referees such as Mike Dean now feel is unnecessary to enforce.

On Sunday afternoon, it was quite clear that at least Gareth Barry and David Silva of Manchester City had white tape (or at least a very strange whiter shade of blue) on their sky blue socks in their game against Arsenal. James Milner had a much darker blue tape.

But who cares? The rule is quite unnecessary. What is it for? In the same game, Arsenal's white socks had a thin blue and a thin red hoop around the middle.

Is the rule to differentiate the players of one team from another in some way?

The same question applies to the 'same colour undershorts' rule? What's it for - especially at park football level?

If it's to differentiate the players, then let's start with the shorts themselves. In the same Arsenal v Manchester City game on Sunday, both sets of players wore white shorts!

Fifa is quick to implement such pointless rules. In the meantime, as they filibuster about goal-line technology, goals continue to be allowed or disallowed incorrectly.

Get your priorities right, Fifa.