Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Child Snatchers

09/09/2009

What do Gael Kakuta, Paul Pogba, Jeremy Helan and Max Clayton all have in common? Apart from being unknown they are all under scrutiny this week as part of alleged systematic tapping up and inducing of young players to join bigger clubs.

After Chelsea were banned from signing players for two transfer windows last week, a bunch of other clubs have now started making claims. Le Harve have accused Man United of luring Paul Pogba, Rennes reckon Man City stole Jeremy Helan, and Crewe are not best pleased with Liverpool for allegedly trying to tap up Max Clayton.

I can understand all this stuff coming out now. If Lens got Fifa to ban Chelsea for the signing of Gael Kakuta, it gives hope to other clubs who previously felt they couldn’t do anything about a big club enticing their star player.

Gael Kakuta

Gael Kakuta

It’s an interesting situation and it appears to be clear that it happens all the time, despite the various denials that have come out. A top club will see a player with great potential, and as you only pay nominal fees for players under 17 or compensate for training and development, will then attempt to persuade them to leave for pastures new. If you think that you can get a potential world beater for the price of a house or a £100,000 payment to a representative, it’s no wonder clubs try to steal players at 16 rather than have to pay £25million when they’re 23.

Jeremy Helan

Jeremy Helan

It‘s not a new situation either. Although it was all above board, I remember the likes of PSG and Barcelona complaining bitterly when Arsene Wenger picked up Nicolas Anelka and Cesc Fabregas for a hundred grand here or a quarter of a million there. You can’t blame Wenger for exploiting the rules, but it must be frustrating that you can’t sign a player to a pro contract before 17 even if they’ve been at your club for years.

Leeds have proposed points deductions but I think a transfer ban is more appropriate in cases where rules have been broken. A ban on improving your squad for a year and a half certainly impacts more than a three point deduction for example. Chelsea especially have an experience squad so could do with an injection of youth.

The one problem with ­the transfer window ban is that you can appeal it, and whilst the appeal is heard you’re allowed to buy players. This is understandable if you turn out to be innocent but stupid if they subsequently get found guilty as they can speculate and buy with the assumption they will get banned.

Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba

Another idea of under 18s not being allowed to move has been floated too. I quite like this as it would level out the playing field a bit and ensure small clubs get more money for the talent they produce. The small matter of having the freedom to work anywhere in the European Union might scupper that rather quickly unfortunately.

So what can be done? I think the distinction needs to be made between offering a player a better opportunity at a bigger club (let’s not forget players change academies all the time) and attempting to reward their family by buying houses/giving money etc. In instances of the latter, transfer bans seem like a good way to go, though it might be difficult to prove wrongdoing a lot of the time. That said, Lens told Chelsea what they were doing was illegal and that they would be banned yet it was no deterrent. Now though, Chelsea’s ban will at least make clubs think twice before trying to poach a player for peanuts. It’s a start if nothing else.

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T.

Even More Pickled…

07/09/2009

Back in March we had a look at which European teams were in a bit of a pickle in terms of World Cup qualifying. We talked about Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Sweden who are all good sides and first or second seeds when the draw was made. The main focus though was on France and Portugal, just as the expectations are so much higher and I would genuinely be surprised if they weren’t at the World Cup, something I can’t say for any other team (well perhaps my Polish brothers but that’s different).

Getting close now.

Getting close now.

So what’s changed? Well, France should be ok as they have moved up to 2nd but Domenech is being a bit of a mentalist again with his team selections. A tough away match in Belgrade looms on Wednesday but they’ll get through the playoffs. Bulgaria and Romania are out of it completely so the likes of Berbatov and Mutu will have extended summer holidays. Sweden are up to third in Group 1 while Poland are making it difficult for themselves with defeat to Northern Ireland. I hope they both get through but it looks like Slovakia are too far ahead in Group 3 sadly.

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This leaves us with Portugal who are in an even worse situation than before. Now fourth in Group 1 and seven points behind Denmark and three behind Hungary, there’s a very real possibility than Ronaldo won’t be playing on the biggest stage of all. I bet that will screw up any adverts Nike are currently planning. It comes down to this, they play Hungary twice before a gimme against Malta. The problem is, Sweden are ahead of them and play Albania, Denmark and Malta. Now of course the Denmark away game is tough but what chance we see a result both are happy with? Remember a mutually convenient 2-2 to knock out Italy in Euro 2004?

Messi and Ronaldo in a bit of pickle.

Messi and Ronaldo in a bit of pickle.

So while Nike are stressing over Ronaldo messing up their strategies, Adidas aren’t looking too clever with their main star either. Brazil swept aside Argentina 3-1 (the first time they’d ever lost in Rosario, a place they deliberately switched to for this match) leaving Maradona’s men in trouble. They’re still 4th but Colombia and Ecuador are just two points behind. Messi and co have only one home game of the three remaining and it could well go right to the wire. You can’t have a World Cup without Argentina though? Not since 1970 has that happened. As the Football Guy pointed out, it would be very odd without two of the three best players on the planet. Ronaldo in particular should be very worried…

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T.

Arsenal 3 – 1 Celtic (agg 5-1)

26/08/2009

A comfortable win for Arsenal this evening, and they go through into the main draw for the group stages tomorrow. Celtic might be justified in feeling Eduardo dived to get the penalty for the first goal, but truth be told they created very little in the 90 minutes to suggest the result would have been different had the spot kick not been given.

Eboue and Arshavin put a gloss on the aggregate score before Massimo Donati scored the best goal of the tie with a lovely angled volley. Despite having to come through the qualifiers, the Gunners’ recent European record means they are seeded in pot one.

Proof that Eduardo failed to clear Boruc's mini high jump.

Proof that Eduardo failed to clear Boruc's mini high jump.

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The 32 teams qualified for the main draw are as follows:

Pot One: Barcelona, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd, AC Milan, Arsenal, Sevilla, Bayern Munich

Pot Two: Lyon, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, CSKA Moscow, Porto, AZ Alkmaar, Juventus, Rangers

Pot Three: Olympiakos, Marseille, Dinamo Kiev, Stuttgart, Fiorentina, Atletico Madrid, Bordeaux, Besiktas

Pot Four: Wolfsburg, Standard Liege, Maccabi Haifa, FC Zurich, Rubin Kazan, Unirea Urziceni, APOEL Nicosia, Debreceni

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Some interesting teams in each pot and no doubt all the top seeds will be looking to avoid Inter, Real Madrid and Juventus in Pot two. Real especially have paid for three consecutive second round knockouts. What price an immediate return to Anfield or Old Trafford for Xabi Alonso or Ronaldo? Pot three has lots of very capable teams who could hold their own with Stuttgart, Atletico and Fiorentina particularly dangerous.

As for Pot four, Wolfsburg are German Champions no less, and have kept the strikeforce which banged in about 60 goals last season. Rubin Kazan will be a tricky side to face too, having overcome the traditional Russian powerhouses in Moscow and St. Petersburg to become Russian Champions last year. Some potentially long distance trips in that pot as well.

The draw is made tomorrow afternoon at some point and we’ll have reaction once it’s all said and done.

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T.

Leyton Orient 6 – Newcastle 1

25/07/2009

What’s the worst thing about being a Newcastle fan today?

  • Having Mike Ashley as your inept owner?
  • Being managerless with the first game of the season two weeks away?
  • Having a comedy bright yellow deckchair away kit?
  • No new signings this summer?
  • Just watching pretty much your full strength side get hammered 6-1 by League One Leyton Orient?
I like how 6-1 is only classed as disappointing!

I like how 6-1 is only classed as disappointing!

Tricky one isn’t it. Now I know you can’t read too much into pre-season friendlies as it’s as much about fitness and match practice as it is about results. That said it’s not a good sign when a team lining up as Krul, Beye, Enrique, Taylor, Coloccini, Barton, Duff, Nolan, Gutierrez, Smith and Martins gets dispatched so easily.

There was an article I read this morning about how Shearer still expects/wants to become manager but is being frustrated when the delayed takeover means targets such as Frazier Campbell, Chris Gunter and Ched Evans are signing for other clubs. I look at that team above and there is a real lack of pace, something which would definitely come in handy in the Championship.

I still expect Newcastle to push for promotion straight back up (probably) but it’s just quite funny when you get these kind of results.

Meanwhile the rest of the football world reacts to today’s news…

Wasn't my fault, I play for Wigan now.

Wasn't my fault, I play for Wigan now.

Shouldn't have got rid of me.

Shouldn't have got rid of me.

I'm just the guy with crazy hair.

I'm just the guy with crazy hair.

Screw them!

Screw them!

Steven Seagal is not impressed by this.

Steven Seagal is not part of the football world but is nonetheless not impressed by this. Steven Seagal only talks in the third person.

*cries*

*cries*

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T.

Adebayor Signs For Man City

18/07/2009

Finally. At least he won’t have to change his seat covers…

I guess personalised number plates aren't exclusive enough these days

I guess personalised number plates aren't exclusive enough these days.

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Plenty has been said over the past week or so but I think it’s a good deal for everyone involved. Arsenal get rid of someone who had irrevocably burnt his bridges with the club while receiving the best part of £25million. Man City get an established top four player while Adebayor gets untold riches per week.

I come here to make money and be offside.

I come here to make money and be offside.

Personally, I’m glad to be rid of him and perhaps I’ll write a bit more in depth about it in the next day or two. For now though I’ll leave Man City fans with the good and bad of the season just gone…

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T.

Summer Silliness

13/07/2009

Excuse the lack of posts recently but it feels like not much has been going on. Not much that’s worth writing about at least. A few things have caught my eye I suppose.

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Fergie shuts his pension chequebook early

Hmm, think I’ll take this with a pinch of salt. Apparently after signing Wilson Palacios (must stopped getting them confused) Antonio Valencia (3 league goals last season), Gabriel Obertan (1, yes one) and Michael Owen (8), Fergie reckons that’s enough to replace the 23 league goals from Ronaldo and Tevez last year. I’d be amazed if he doesn’t buy another top player to head into the new season and I think the fact that he was after Benzema suggests he knows that Rooney, Berba, Owen and the two youngsters aren’t enough. Aguero has been mentioned in certain circles and mischievously Torres in others. The former is much more likely to be honest but someone of that ilk (proven international, capable of the spectacular, consistent goalscorer) is certainly needed at Old Trafford.

Hands up who's here to replace Ronaldo. Oh...

Hands up who's here to replace Ronaldo. Oh...

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Micah Richards has man swine-flu

Consummate professional Micah Richards was shocked to find he had swine flu. Good to know he thought it was alcohol poisoning at first after presumably getting absolutely battered on his summer holidays in Ayia Napa (how classy, I wonder if it was a package holiday).  Here’s hoping he passed it on to Craig Bellamy…

Yep, that will clear up the sore throat.

Yep, that will clear up the sore throat.

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Man City after Adebayor

and Tevez and Terry and Eto’o and Lescott and… Now I do believe you can only play 11 players at once but that’s not stopping City trying to sign three more strikers to go with the eight (I guess Jo has gone though) they have already. From an Arsenal point of view, I think we’d be letting Adebayor go cheap if the price is £20-25million. If a 28 year old John Terry is worth £30m then so is a 25 year old Ade. Add in the rich tax that bumps up the price further for any billionaire and I think it would be some good business for Arsenal. I jest slightly of course but I think if City are going to throw silly money around and Adebayor plans to play like he did last season then he is welcome to leave. He wouldn’t improve their team nearly as much as Terry would though.

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David Bentley smacked upside the head

‘England star’ David Bentley was punched while having a meal with his pregant fiancé. Now I wouldn’t quite agree with The Mirror’s assertion that he’s an England star. Let’s be honest he not even a Tottenham star. A bit harsh that he’s just sitting there and his partner had to see it all too but it seemed to be quite a well executed attack, with bills already paid and getaway cars at the ready. Maybe they were just trying to coax him out of his season long period of poor form. Personally I would have done it to whoever decided that paying £17m for him was a good idea in the first place! Though as you can see in this exclusive reconstruction maybe he was asking for it…

Before you ask I couldn't find him doing this in a Spurs shirt

Before you ask I couldn't find him doing this in a Spurs shirt

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T.

Weekly Photoshop – Setanta’s Struggles

18/06/2009

Another Thursday, another Guardian Gallery entry. This week it was the struggles of Setanta amidst the news they are *this* close to going bust. The common link between the Guardian and Setanta is James Richardson so this formed the basis of our entry this time round.

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The extra Guardian shifts begin to take their toll as James Richardson looks to replace his lost Setanta income.

The extra Guardian shifts begin to take their toll as James Richardson looks to replace his lost Setanta income.

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More entries can be found here.

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T.

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Older stuff here.

The Six Pointer – Portsmouth Safe, Fergie’s Favourite & more…

27/04/2009

The final word on the weekend’s action…

 

1. Portsmouth got the point this evening that keeps them up I think. They remain seven points clear of the relegation zone but now with just four games remaining. They would have to lose all four remaining fixtures to be in danger of going down and even then Newcastle or Boro would have to go on a monster run of form (especially given their remaining fixtures). Newcastle were very flat and you wonder whether the defining moment of their season will be the great one on one chance Owen missed in the second half. 

Strewth, that was a tiring 10m sprint.

Strewth, that was a tiring 10m sprint.

 

2. After Blackburn got an important win over Wigan, in my eyes the relegation battle focuses solely on the northeast. West Brom are down, and it leaves two spots to be filled by Sunderland, Hull, Newcastle or Middlesbrough. Four points separate them and they each have four games left. All face a top four team, which in theory leaves three games each to gain points from. The former two have a head start but Newcastle have a better goal difference, which will be worth a point should they ever catch up. Right now, I reckon Hull and the losers of the Newcastle vs Middlesbrough match go down.

 

3. Has Everton’s chance of winning the FA Cup gone with the injury to Phil Jagielka? Maybe not, but he is certainly their best defender and his calmness will be missed in the end of season showpiece. In a funny way I reckon his replacement Yobo is actually better equipped to individually deal with Drogba, but as a four the Everton defence is certainly more solid with the ex Sheffield Utd man in it. His presence will missed. 

There goes the cup.

There goes the cup.

 

4. Was it a penalty for Man Utd on Saturday? No, probably not. Carrick did get to the ball first, but then Gomes took the ball not the man. Howard Webb is quickly turning into Fergie’s favourite ref, given how many decisions he gives in Man Utd’s favour. He is one of the better refs around but in recent high profile games seems to be forgetting that the best game a referee can have is one where he isn’t noticed. I don’t really know why Spurs are moaning so much though. After C-Ron converted they were still 2-1 up – they only have themselves to blame for conceding another four goals. I only caught highlights after the game but was surprised to see that Ledley King played. When I first saw the score I thought he couldn’t be playing, but evidently he can’t defend Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez and Berbatov all on his own. A thought on that fearsome foursome too. I know it isn’t particularly balanced when you play all four of those guys, but boy can they be effective going forward.

Carrick falls in three, two, one...

Carrick falls in three, two, one...

 

5. Considering Middlesbrough are a team fighting relegation and fast running out of games where they can feasibly pick up points, the lack of fight and commitment against Arsenal was quite worrying. They only need to leapfrog one side, yet there seemed a real air of resignation about them. Perhaps they felt they were never getting anything from Arsenal away, but given their good recent record against them it was odd they didn’t go for it more. we’ve speculated before on whether Southgate is someone that could fire you up, and judging by recent performance it seems not. This coupled with Boro’s strikers spells doom. 

 

6. The biggest problem the teams at the bottom have is the fear factor. The second half this evening saw Newcastle team that had frozen, so paralysed were they by the fear of losing. Getting teams to play without fear and pressure is perhaps asking too much given the gravity of their situations, but managers will do will to remind their players that three points will go a lot further at this stage than one. Going for broke and winning one of two games while losing the other leaves you in a better position than drawing both. It’s got to stage where you need to gamble and no team will want to leave it to the last day needing a win. Why? Just look at the final day opponents for the team in trouble…

Sunderland v Chelsea

Hull v Manchester United

West Ham v Middlesbrough

Aston Villa v Newcastle 

 

T.

Footballers Are Stupid – Giggs Wins PFA Player of the Year

27/04/2009
I'd just like to thank my fellow pros for being thick.

I'd just like to thank my fellow pros for being thick.

 

The news that Ryan Giggs has won this season’s PFA Player of the Year award just goes to show how stupid footballers really are. We wrote back in February about how he would not be a deserving winner of the award and my opinion has not changed since. We’re told voting took place in February/March. For arguments’ sake let’s say the cut-off date was United’s last game in February – Blackburn Rovers on the 21st. Here is a man who has only started 12 games for Man Utd this season (only nine at the time of voting) and has completed 90 minutes just nine times (six at the time). You might say “Ok, but a man of his age (35) won’t be playing 90 minutes week in week out”. “Well let’s take a look at the stats” I shall reply. At the time of voting he had one goal and five assists. Man Utd had scored 46 goals by the end of February. Hmm, real influential…

Oh dear. Where to start?

PFA Team of the Season. Oh dear, where do we start?

 

Now of course stats aren’t everything and a lack of goals/assists doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be an important player. Giggs has been playing in a deeper central midfield role after all. But having watched plenty of United this season, I know for sure that he wasn’t the driving force behind their dominant football earlier in the season. A lot of that was based on the defence which went fourteen consecutive league games without conceding. If any Man Utd player deserved the award it was Nemanja Vidic. The only reason I can think of for his fellow pros voting for him was that at the time he had two recent man of the match performances which lingered in the memory (partly because he actually finished the game!). The first was the 5-0 destruction of West Brom at the Hawthorns in which he had three assists, and the second was a tight 1-0 win over West Ham at Upton Park in which he scored a lovely winner.

Coupled with a good performance against Derby in the FA cup, it meant there was lots of talk about vintage Giggs and how he has kept going for eighteen years. This is true, but footballers clearly don’t have long term memory so obviously just decided to vote for whoever was on the backpage of The Sun that day. If United do end up winning the title, I can guarantee Giggs won’t be seen as the key reason for it. I await to see who the football writers vote for as Footballer of the Year. Everyone knows that’s the more prestigious award to win and it generally goes to the actual best player of the season, not someone who’s had about five influential games this year. History has shown this wouldn’t be the first time players have got it wrong. There have been plenty more over the years such as Terry over Lampard in 2004/05, Shearer over Zola in 1996/97 and the prime example in 2001/02 when the players choose Ruud Van Nistlerooy and the writers choose Robert Pires. Bear in mind Arsenal won the Double that year and Man Utd won diddly squat.

 

A word too on Ashley Young winning Young Player of the Year. Last season yes, this season no. Just how must Steven Ireland feel? The solution to all this of course is to have the vote at the end of the season. That however would be far to sensible and intelligent for the professional footballer to comprehend. 

 

T.

Shearer to Manage Newcastle

31/03/2009

Until the end of the season. All I can say is ‘finally!’

 

It's time

It's time.

I’m amazed he’s taken it now as so often he’s gone on about how it’s not the right time for him to take over. So much so that we wrote a blog post/rant about it back in early December. I guess with Kinnear not being able to come back it was essentially now or never. If he rejected the chance to takeover for a umpteenth time (going by number of managers at St James Park since he retired) he would never have taken it.

As irritating as I find him, I’ll give him credit for accepting it at a time when Newcastle are a mess (no change then) and firmly routed in the bottom three. It will take a great deal of motivational power to get them out of trouble but if anyone can make the Geordies feel good again it’s him. That said, if he keeps them up he basically has a job for as long as he wants. Surely the expectations at St James Park must be so low now, hence there would no real pressure next season.

The final eight Newcastle games this season (Chelsea, Stoke, Spurs, Portsmouth, Liverpool, Boro, Fulham, Aston Villa) will be very interesting. What price victory over Hiddink in his first game?

 

T.


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