Friday, January 4, 2008

Isn't This Lovely?

I can see Becks fitting in quite nicely with the fancy lads from North London.

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Hey Google, Would You Stop Living in the Past?

Sometimes Google's ability to read my mind is uncanny. Holy shit I so do want to read a shocking secret coffee companies don't want me to know about.

Other times, eh... The ads running down the side of the gmail for the longest time were trying to sell me cheese. As best I can discern this was the result of an email exchange that a female friend and I had about STD's (I'm clean, Ladies... no worries).

But seriously, Google, the whole Zidane to MLS thing? It is old. See that dateline? It's from July 26, 2007. That's so long ago the Scousers I co-blog with probably still hadn't had their spirits yet crushed by Rafa's goatee. So could you stop thinking I might care every other time I drop in to check my gmail?

Shit, you're suggesting me football stories within moments of the final gun. Futbol, on the other hand, is the world's most popular sport. Maybe you should work on a script that keep you a little more current because Zidane is Zidone.

M'kay? Thanks.

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Yahoo Fantasy Football (Soccer) Advice

There are no Premiership games this weekend. Stop worrying about your team and spend time with your loved ones.

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Scotland Weekend Preview

Rangers-Dundee United With Celtic off this weekend, this is the lone match with top of the table implications. Simply put, if Rangers (41 points) win, they wrest the top spot away from Celtic, lose or draw and they lose one of their games in hand. Though United (32 points) is playing well, coming off of a 4-1 win against Hearts midweek, the Terrors have an awfully long injury list. United is also without first choice keeper Lukasz Zaluska. Rangers, meanwhile, have won 6 of 7. It must be said, though, that given the competition in the SPL, this is not unusual. Still, look for Rangers to win comfortably at Ibrox against a United team still surly that their request to postpone a midweek game was denied.
Rangers 3-0

Falkirk-Aberdeen Another Top 6 clash. Both teams are undefeated in 5 games in all competitions. Aberdeen's (32 points) road form has been mixed at best this season, and it will probably trip them up here. Falkirk (31 points) is healthy, though they are missing their keeper through suspension. Aberdeen is showing the aftereffects of a busy 2007 and is missing quite a few regulars.
Falkirk 2-1

Hearts-Kilmarnock If you are lucky, you will miss even a recap of this game. Hearts (20 points) have the worst form of any SPL club at this time. The Jambos have not won a match since October 6 meaning that if they fail to take all three points it will have been 3 full months since they have done so. Kilmarnock (21 points) never inspires me. Their last win was only slightly more recent than Hearts. In fact, it was against Hearts--a 3-1 win on October 27. Look for a lifeless draw.
Draw 0-0

Inverness CT-Gretna ICT (28 points) are without their captain, who is serving a three match ban. It should not matter against Gretna (10 points), who would have been better sponsored by a submarine company than Subway, given the way they have sunk to great depths this year. Look for the furthest away road test (245 miles) to not be much of a test at all for the Caley Thistle boys.
ICT 4-2

St Mirren-Hibernian Another less-than-appetizing encounter. St Mirren (19 points) is second from bottom and destined to stay there. They could, however, take all three points against a Hibs (28 points) squad which has not own in seven. My prediction for this match, other than the score, is that St Mirren Park (capacity 15410) will have 4-5000 punters for this one.
Draw 2-2

Celtic (43 points) and Motherwell (35 points) have the weekend off.

Division Two sees a top of the table clash as Raith Rovers (38 points) takes on Ross County (37 points). I have no take on that one, though it will be more entertaining than the Hearts-Kilmarnock match.

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How Do You Say "I told you so" in Geordie?

Mikael Silvestre is a man who speaks his mind. Not that you would know, since no one pays attention to him. But during the Christmas holiday, Silvestre tracked down Jack Bell of The New York Times, dragged him up to his hotel room and told him how he was right to reject a move to Newcastle last summer because of Joey Barton, what with Barton's latest run-in with the law (he's free at last!).

You see, Barton's sparring partner Ousmane Dabo is a good friend of Silvestre's. It just wouldn't have been right to join a club that had just signed Barton. Even if that meant giving up the chance to play for a perennial underachiever with no chance of playing Champions League football, and whose defense is struggling to fill Titus Bramble's oversized clown shoes.

In Barton's defense, he didn't attack his own teammate this time, and he managed to keep his cigarette butt out of his victim's eyes. Baby steps.

Though we do have to wonder, what's with Newcastle's obsession with the criminally-inclined? Lest we forget, Craig Bellamy logged some jail time at Tyneside, while Lee Bowyer went a whole season without attacking any Asian students, but still managed to get in an on-field brawl with teammate Kieron Dyer, who himself was one of two, ur, unnamed Premiership players questioned the roasting scandal of 2003. Maybe Newcastle can follow the example of Chelsea and the New York Giants, and have some sort of exchange program with the Cincinnati Bengals.

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The Guardian sports blogger, Scott Murray, has launched a scathing attack on Rafa Benitez and to some extent the owners. While he doesn't go after the big name players for Liverpool, who rightfully deserve some blame for the lackluster performance, Murray does provide an insightful assessment of the deficiencies of the club. I suggest reading the whole column, but here is Murray hitting the nail on the head:

Just like they did under Houllier, Liverpool set themselves up not to lose, and anything else is a bonus. Which is fine if all you want to do is win cups, but every single fan at Anfield knows that doesn't cut it any more. Not even in Europe. This is Benítez's fourth season in charge, and Liverpool's attack is still the complete shambles it was under Houllier. As Michael Owen was to Ged, so Torres is to Rafa - and if he doesn't score, it's up to Steven Gerrard to chip in from midfield. With defence the premium to the cost of everything else, players seldom bother piling into the box. Rarely has a team with title pretensions relied so heavily on witlessly welting the ball goalwards from distance, a fact borne out by the presence of two Liverpool players (Kuyt and John Arne Riise) in the Premier League list of top five least accurate shooters.

It's an approach that isn't going to win a title any time soon. Benítez simply does not have a Plan B, and seeing these days even hoof-happy Arsène Wenger can mix it up, it's about time he formulated one. With only the extremely promising but raw Ryan Babel as back-up, and the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Fabio Quagliarella and (yes) Owen out of his price range, Benítez might regret getting shot of Luis Garcia, the one player Liverpool boasted who could come up with something different. (It's a startling testimony to the turgid pap a whole post-Evans generation of Liverpool fans have been conditioned by, that the creatively minded Garcia was viewed with suspicion by a sizable portion of the Anfield crowd).

Ouch. I just got hit by the truth.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

The All-Ugly Team [EPL Edition]

Football is a beautiful game, but it is so often true that many of its professionals and practitioners are not. It's an unfortunate fact, but one we are all aware of, and we stand defiant against their misshapen faces each time we sit down and watch a game or two.

In light of this fact, it's time some of these hapless misfits got recognition for their crimes against beauty. After tireless research [read: 20-25 minutes], and without further ado, I present to you the EPL All-Ugly Team, sponsored by UF.

GK - Brad Friedel [Blackburn Rovers]
He is the archetypal picture of hideousness as applied to football. He is not the first bald-headed man with a weird face to win this award, nor will he be the last. Neanderthal in his look yet often inspired in his play, it is a certainty that his wretched visage can inspire the worst of misses in front of goal. A solid choice between the posts.
DF - Joleon Lescott [Everton]
A tough choice, due to his difficult, painful childhood [almost dying at age 5 after being hit by a car, to name but one example]. However, his face is equally painful. As the hairline slowly recedes, revealing more of his formidable brow and cheek, we are aghast at the horror. He also makes the list because he plays for a team of fucking wankers.

DF - Paul Konchesky [Fulham]
Hideousness personified. Lay off the fake tan, my friend, and sit down a while. Sleep for an eternity, and run from the fact that you're fucking frightening to look at. Is it the piercing eyes that rob your spirit? Is it the hawkish nose, the sharp chin, or could it be the constantly wide open maw? So many possibilities, you ugly tw*t.

DF - Rio Ferdinand [Manchester United]
The Ferdinand brothers, Rio and Anton, are blessed in two ways: soccer skills and awful faces. Whether in cornrows or bouffant afro, Ferdinand's hair is a pleasant distraction from the fright immediately below. Take a bow, young man, for your horse-face awards you captaincy of this facially-challenged lineup.

MF - Ivan Campo [Bolton]
Flowing, curly hair, unshaven face, and giant divide between his eyes. Classic Mediterranean ugliness. He wears the face of a man who's known too many hungover nights, too many empty beds, and too much disappointment. He is lost in his own lack of appeal.

MF - Tomas Rosicky [Arsenal]
Christ, why hast thou forced upon us those cheekbones? Throw in two eyes virtually on top of each other, and it's a miracle he can pass with such accuracy.

MF - Stephen Hunt [Reading]
1970s hair matched with an 1850s face.

MF - Nicky Butt [Newcastle United]
A babyface that tried to grow up a few years too late, a receding ginger hairline, freckles, and a Napoleon complex on the pitch. God is cruel.

ST - Carlos Tevez [Manchester United]
Fucking awful. Part dragon, part unibrow, part fetal alcohol syndrome. Move on.

ST - Marlon Harewood [Aston Villa]
The dome shines, it shines for thee. Suffers from the unfortunate disposition of having all his facial features crammed into the middle third of his face.

ST - Dirk Kuyt [Liverpool]
Ugly speaks every tongue. In this case, it speaks Dutch. A tireless workhorse on the pitch, an actual horse off it.

Manager - Sam Allardyce
Owner of the most wonderful jowls on earth.

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Maybe Liverpool Should Sign This Whole Squad

What could definitely be considered an upset of epic proportions, but Raleigh youth squad CASL 91 Elite beat Chelsea FC 2-1 in the championship of Disney Soccer Showcase U-16 Showcase Division. Sidenote: The tourney name could definitely be improved upon.

I'm not quite sure how Chelsea FC assembles their youth squads, but I am pretty sure they frequently sign players to play for them and recruit them from all over the place. Whereas, most youth club teams in the states don't pay their players (some do it to get some great immigrant to play for them, but in my experience they don't normally) and the recruiting is minimal.

Live it up CASL 91 Elite U-16 because you have reached the peak of your soccer glory and it is all downhill from here on out. Or, maybe I could be an optimist and say this proves a lot about the ascendancy of soccer in the U.S. I prefer the former.

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Your Dreams Can Come True

No, you're not bedding Giselle. But, have you ever dreamed of owning your own football club? Dreams of ü75 FC dancing in your head when it hits the pillow? With the advent of the ebays and intertubes, your dream is only a few clicks and a few Andrew Jacksons away.

The latest trend in club ownership, besides Americans buying Premiership clubs, is purchasing a share of a lower-tier club and participating in the operation of the club. Plus, you can do it any number of languages--English, Danish, French and even American.

If you can't afford to purchase a team, there is always an oppotunity to just participate online of the management of a squad, regardless of whether you want to help or hurt the team. Tel Aviv club Hapoel Kiryat Shalom allows--quick, tell your local al Qaeda member about this wonderous opportunity for pratfalls, hijinks and the such against their most hated enemy.

In 2007, Israeli entrepreneur Moshe Hogeg bought Tel Aviv soccer team Hapoel Kiryat Shalom. Although fans don't own the team, they can go to a Website set up by Mr. Hogeg -- -- and vote for free on team selection and formation. Fans can then watch the game online and vote on substitutions during the match. So far 11,500 fans regularly log on to watch the matches. (In 2006, the Schaumburg Flyers, an independent minor-league baseball team near Chicago, allowed fans as part of an interactive online series to vote on lineups -- which left, on occasion, outfielders playing the infield.)

For Mr. Hogeg's soccer team, there have been a few glitches along the way, as well. During a recent match, fans from rival teams went onto the Web site and voted off Shalom's star striker. This cost the team the match. Another problem: Since fans like to stay home and watch the match interactively on their computers, stadium attendance has fallen. Web2sport is now planning to implement a voting system via text message, and Mr. Hogeg says he hopes to buy a club in England this year.

Take the plunge and you can drop the fantasy from your title of fantasy football manager.

Hat-tip to The Big Lead.

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

Last week I highlighted a kit that some had decried as ugly, but which I though was quite attractive. Today, I will do none of the same. In fact, when your kit is voted the worst of all time in a (small) poll of Britons, well, it's just plain bad. If we had a jump, I'd save it for afterwards, but instead here it is:

Ladies, does that drive you wild with primal delight? Men, do you fear for your safety? Kids, do you want to pet the guy in front of you while cooing "kitty"? I'm guessing that the last reaction is most likely. The only think I can think of that would be worse to wear is if they made an entire kit out of these socks.

Oddly, though this shirt was only used for one season, the next one used was little better. As you can see on this page (scroll down), they next time out they went with a shirt that looks like what happens to carbon paper when you crumple it up tightly. Luckily for Hull City fans, their club chooses a much more sensible combination of colors today, even if they have that Umbro mess under the arms this season.

Before I go, one more full-frontal picture for your pleasure. Feel free to link to other horrible shirts in the comments.

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A Rebuttal: My EPL Team of the Half-Season

One my co-conspirators recently posted his first-half All-EPL squad. It was well done, but as such lists are wont to do, there was some lively email debate that ensued. Shortly followed with a challenge to put up our own lists. Here is mine although there is much common ground.

GK -

Almunia -- The credit for much of Arsenal's success must be given to the Spanish (maybe English, soon?) goalkeeper. The Gunner defense is not the greatest, although it does have an attacking verve, so it has fallen on the Aluminium man and he has performed admirably.


Vidic -- ManU has allowed the fewest goals this season and the inspired play of Vidic has been integral in that stat.

Laursen -- The Aston Villa defender has been a offensive force this season and is a must on this list.

Micah Richards and Richard Dunne -- Man Citeh's goal differential is only seven but Sven-Goran Eriksson has the team in the fourth spot. This duo has been crucial to Citeh's ability to walk the fine line and be able to come away with points in the matches.


Ronaldo -- Quite simply one of the top three players in the world right now. He leads the league in scoring and is the driving force of ManU's offense.

Fabregas -- He is the maestro of the sexy football at Emirates Stadium. He seems to have cooled off right now, but it will be important for Arsenal for him to heat back up with the loss of Eboue and Toure to the African Nations Cup.

Gerrard -- He is the most impressive all-around force in the English game. He imposes his will on matches and frequently wills his squad to better performances that its manager cannot coax out of the club.

Bentley -- Blackburn's young midfielder has been exquisite for the Rovers creating many opportunities for himself and his new teammate Roque Santa Cruz. (If we had gone with a 4-3-3 lineup, Bently would lose out.)


Tevez -- The Argentinian has been a true brute for the Red Devils with 8 goals (5 match winning goals) and 4 assists. He has been a savior for Sir Alex with Rooney's persistent injuries.

Torres -- This was the player we had most dispute over and I have some bias as a LFC supporter, but I believe he is the class of the strikers right now. While some may argue that the leading scorer for the league, Adebayor, might belong here, Torres has been the far more dynamic force in the season so far. He has 10 goals (1 matchwinner and 4 game-tying goals) in the league and 16 goals overall. He has been worth the transfer fee for Liverpool as he has saved the squad's bacon on several occasions already. Torres creates problems for opposing defenses very few other strikers in the world create. He has size, speed and great ball control. He's not the poacher like Adebayor, Keane or Berbatov. Just watch this video to see his class.

*Please keep an eye on Roque Santa Cruz for the second half. He is really heating up right now, although he came off with an injury against Sunderland. Also, the Aston Villa strike force (Young, Carew and Agbonlahor) has been really good as group. If they can shore up the defense this a good squad to watch.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Smile, asshole.

Enjoy the moment while it lasts, you season-killing fuck. Fuck you and the entire Bramble clan. Your late strike today [not something you EVER FUCKING DO, until recently] has destroyed my team's season, and for that, I hate you.

Send angry letters [keep it clean, people] to:
Wigan Athletic Football Club
The JJB Stadium
Robin Park Complex

If you need me, I'll be out back crying uncontrollably.

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Are Man City for real? Definitely Maybe

18 months ago, in the wake of yet another limp dick exit from a major tournament on penalty kicks, Sven Goran Eriksson was given the sack by the FA, to the delight of the myopic and xenophobic English press. As 2008 dawns, it is Sven who is having the last laugh, guiding Manchester City to their best league position in years. With 21 games played Man City sit on 39 points, which is good for fourth place, ahead of mighty Liverpool (you give up equalizers to Titus Bramble, you don't deserve to play in the Champions League). Whats more, for those of us who suffered through the kick-and-hope Neanderthal tactics employed by Stuart Pierce last year, Sven has got City playing something close to a Continental style. For those who think that the lower reaches of the Premiership play unattractive football, its refreshing to see something different emerge from Citeh.

Of course, City's resurgence has much to do with the players brought in over the summer, thanks to the transfer largess underwritten by one Trashcan Sinatra, the deposed Thai president. Elano, the Brazilian who Sven bought from the Ukrainian mafia, is one of the most technically gifted attacking players in the EPL. He forms the spear of a skilled midfield, along with Petrov, Hamman, Ireland, and Corluka. In the back, City have what might be the best centerback tandem in the Premiership, with the emergence of Micah Richards alongside Richard Dunne. The strikers, led by Vassel, have been serviceable, especially with the support they have been getting from Elano & Co. The only real question mark is in goal, where the hilariously green Kasper Schmeichel has been replaced by Joe Hart. At the moment, neither are exactly world class.

Sven was often accused of playing too conservatively and lacking attacking flair when he was in charge of England. He still keeps it close to the vest tactically, but he has City playing with some verve. If they could start winning more games on the road - today's beat down of Big Sam and the hapless Geordies was a step in the right direction - then City could legitimately push Liverpool for the final Champions League spot. And given the squad that Sven has assembled, you would have to say that City wouldn't look too out of place taking on the giants of European football. Hide your women and booze, citizens of Rome, Milan, Madrid, and Munich, because Liam and Noel Gallagher could be headed to your city in 2008!

Photo from the BBC.

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ü75's EPL Team of the Half Season

Disclaimer-In no way are these picks representative of all of the writers. These are mine alone. The fact that they are correct should in no way influence your beliefs in who you like or don't like.
GK: Manuel Almunia. He stepped into the morass left by Jens Lehmann's messy start of the season and anchored a team on a surprising run. He has come a long way over the last two seasons in terms of technique and stature in the net.

DEF: Richard Dunne. This may be a personality pick, but I really enjoy the way he plays. Tough without being (too) dirty. Early in the season, he made Kasper Schmeichel look like the second coming. There have been some shockers in there, but his recent display against Liverpool shows he can still shut down a team's offense almost single-handedly.

Nemanja Vidic. A force in the air in both boxes. Along with Rio Ferdinand, he has made the central defense of Manchester United very secure. I rate him slightly higher simply because he seems more intimidating--it could be the skinhead, Romper Stomper look.

Martin Laursen. He's here not for his defending skills per se, but for his scoring skills. Aston Villa has scored more than half of their goals through set pieces this season, and 5 of those have gone to Laursen. He gets free in the box with ease. Doesn't excuse his shock miss yesterday, though.

Sol Campbell. Who needs wide players? Just stack the middle. Campbell's inclusion is also a sort of "comeback player" award. Arsenal wanted nothing to do with him a couple of years ago and let him walk. Portsmouth's defense has been resolute, giving up a maximum of 1 goal in 17 of 21 matches so far.

MID: Cristiano Ronaldo. Leads the EPL in scoring. Stopped diving every single time a defender is close. Still hasn't gotten rid of that face that makes it look like he smells his own farts. He is the most influential player in the EPL, no matter how much it pains me to type that.

Francesc Fabregas. One of these days, he is going to get into a scrap with someone who will crush his diminuitive frame. Before his injury against Sevilla, he was the best player on the pitch every game. Along with Adebayor, the reason Arsenal is top.

Steven Gerrard. Simply put, he provides for his squad. His England form may be horrible, but his Liverpool form is inspiring. In the 16 games he has played for more than a half, he has scored or assisted in 11 of them.

Martin Petrov. Second to Fabregas among midfielders in assists. Seemed to have a little trouble getting settled in England, but has responded favorably over the last few months. His stats suggest, though, that he is a streaky player when it come to providing, so he could easily fall off in the second half of the season.

FW: There are simply too many choices to reasonably cut down to two and feel good about it. Fuck it, I'm going for it.
Emanuel Adebayor. Yes. I pull for Arsenal. While Almunia's inclusion above could be seen as a Gooner pick, this one cannot. With Robin van Persie out for most of the season so far, Adebayor has spent most game playing the role of lone striker. The result? He is the league's second leading scorer and Arsenal's win talisman. When he scores, Arsenal do not lose. If Eduardo continues his form, Arsenal could score 95 goals this year.

Dimitar Berbatov. While Tevez and Robbie Keane could definitely fit in this slot, I'll give it to Berbatov as a going away present. He won't be there for the second half of the season, but his first half was pretty damn good. He's not just a sniper, either, as his 9 assists attest. I will be glad when he is gone (hopefully before the Carling Cup semis).

Other picks:
Best American: Clint Dempsey. Perhaps his playing up top at Fulham will allow him to do the same effectively at the national level. So far, he has not done well at the position for the NT.
Worst American: Marcus Hahnemann/Carlos Bocanegra. Hahnemann could be the reason Reading goes down. It's not that they are close now, but if he keeps letting balls go through his hands Scott Carson style, I don't see them having much of a chance. It's a shame, too, because he is by all accounts a swell guy. Bocanegra was handed the Fulham captaincy when McBride went down. Two months later, he was riding the bench. His form has been bad for two years, how much longer can he hold out?
The "What the hell did they do with the promotion money?" Award: Derby County. May easily set a futility record for the Premier League. Buys players that could help, then sits them on the deep bench. May give up 100 goals before it's all over. Bennie Feilhaber should have stayed at Hamburg.
Crowd show of emotion I miss already: Lusty booing of England NT members after their failure to qualify for Euro 2008. Those were a great couple of weeks of schaudenfreude, weren't they?

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The 07/08 Scottish Premier League: A quick review with a hint of preview.

Surprising no one, the Old Firm squads take the top two positions at the turn of the year. Celtic hold a slight advantage on Rangers today, but that could easily evaporate quickly as Rangers hold two games in hand—against the bottom two squads in the league. Still, I favor Celtic for the title based on the fact that Rangers will run into some serious schedule congestion. They will have at least three matches to make up by the time the SPL splits for its final five matches (an idea so convoluted I will leave it for another time). Because of these rescheduled matches and possible European fixtures, Rangers could face double the matches that Celtic does in March, leaving them spent after the split.

The real story of the Scottish season so far is that three teams are still in European competition past Christmas. Celtic had their famous win against AC Milan at Parkhead propel them into the knockout rounds of the Champions League, where they will lose to Barcelona. Rangers surprised some by qualifying for the group stages in the Champions League, and probably surprised some more by finishing third in their group. While that doesn’t get you a date in the knockout stages in that competition, it does qualify you for the UEFA Cup. Rangers have a home and home with Panathanaikos of Greece, who ran over Aberdeen 3-0 in group play. Aberdeen left it late to get through in the UEFA Cup, needing a last day victory to get through. The first half was a tense scoreless affair, but Aberdeen produced four second half goals to win over FC Copenhagen and advance to a tie against giants Bayern Munich. In the league, though, the Dons have not been so great. A slow start has given way to up and down form, leaving them 5th in the table.

Last week, this part of the article would have been about the surprising play of Motherwell and lauding their 3rd place standing. That, of course, changes with the death of captain Phil O’Donnell. I conceive of no way that they will be able to maintain their pre-holiday form when dealing with such a tragedy. They will, emotionally, be everyone’s second-choice-support team, if not first, but will probably struggle to pull off a top six place before the split.

Now to address the split. The SPL season goes through three rounds of play—each team gets 33 matches. After the three rounds, the top six squads go into what is effectively a championship round robin, while the bottom six do the same for relegation. A team with a top six slot at the split cannot be surpassed in the table by a bottom six team. This leads to interesting final season tables where the 7th place squad often has more points than the 6th place finisher.

I get into all of this because currently the 4th through 8th teams are only separated by a point. Dundee United, Aberdeen, Hibernian, Falkirk and Inverness Caledonian Thistle all reside here. Past form, as well as squad size and ambition, would seem to tip Falkirk and ICT to falter, but with everyone so close, this will be the secondary race to watch.

Kilmarnock—They’re 9th, who cares?

Hearts—that Lithuanian revolution is never going to pay off, is it? They sit 10th and are on horrible form, having pulled one point out of their last six matches. They and St. Mirren, sitting in 11th, must be thankful that there is only one relegation spot.

That spot is undoubtedly going to Gretna. After 3 successive promotions, this team has petered out. Because of Premier League restrictions on ground size, they’ve had to play home matches 75 miles away. In addition, they started the season with a coaching controversy. Depending on who you believe, they hired a new manager while failing to inform the old manager that he had been relieved. He, of course, knew about the new guy, but still tried to get into the ground and coach the lads at the first game. He was strong armed out of the park. They also sold off some veterans and failed to sign adequate replacements in the off season. It’s sad, really. I thought this squad would have the backing and gumption to go top six, but instead will be officially relegated before the April split.

In other divisions, Dundee and Hamilton Academicals are fighting for the lone promotion spot to the Premier League, five squads have a chance to make it out of the Second Division (one automatic and one playoff), while East Fife (yay!) have a virtual lock on the Third Division crown. Also, East Stirlingshire may not finish last this season, and that would be one hell of an achievement for them.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Reinforcing Stereotypes

Manchester City striker Rolando Bianchi is endearing himself to his club, teammates and its supporters. Bianchi was one of the many summer signings of new Citeh manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and has had a recent run of good form scoring three goals in the last five premiership matches. The italian striker has great ambitions for this season:

'I hope to score at least 10 goals and I want to win a place in the next Champions League with City. It would be like winning the championship,' he said in an interview published in La Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday.

'I want to become a European top scorer. After the 18 goals I scored with (Serie A side) Reggina, I want to reach double figures in the Premier League too.

Hey, a man's got to have goals and should be a solid contributor for Citeh. But wait...what's that, Rolando? You have additional thoughts?

'Then I'll pack my bags again and go in search of new adventures. I'd like to wear the shirt of Atletico Madrid and score 15 goals in the Primera Liga too.'
He's a regular soccer nomad. And, opinions on England? Do tell.

'I have raised the white flag with English food. I don't like it,' he said. 'I think I'm the only teetotal player in the Premier League. My team mates were surprised when I refused a beer. They looked at me as if I were an alien.'
I'm not one to perpetuate stereotypes, but, this is the first time I have ever agreed with loud, hand-gesticulating, grease-ball spaghetti-bender. English food is terrible and all Premier League players are drunks. Look at George Best. I'm glad someone is finally willing to step up and tell the truth. Now, only if England can do something about those damn foreigners in the Premier League.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

Tips from the West Ham training ground

On this side of Atlantic, the hypocrites running the NFL flatly deny that gambling is a main pillar of the sport's popularity, despite the fact that the league's draconian injury reporting rules are primarily intended to create the illusion of a level playing field for casual bettors. In England, however, the puritan instinct is less prevalent, so gambling is much more open. For instance, the advertising boards around the pitch sometimes display live odds during matches, and players more or less bet the yearly salaries of most of their supporters during game day bus rides. West Ham's slow start to the season last year was more or less blamed on the propensity of the sterling lads on the team to lose shitloads of money to each other on a regular basis. Keeper Roy Caroll even checked himself into rehab last year for his "gambling addiction". So in honor of the boys from East London, I've been tasked with helping all of you win enough money to occasionally pay your bar tabs at Kinsales. On to this week's action.

Fulham 5/1 to beat Chelsea

No, before you ask, I haven't been masturbating to this. I freely admit that Fulham are absolute shit and definitely look like relegation fodder, despite the best efforts of our boys. But the club is due at least some boost in form by getting rid of the metrosexual and bringing in Roy Hodgson, even though his only previous managerial experience in England was running Blackburn into the ground less than 3 years after they won the Premiership. Chelsea continue to get lucky(bullshit) goals at the death, and at some point the injuries are going to catch up to them. Furthermore, Fulham have actually played quite well against thier local rivals in recent years. So there's your homer/not entirely insane pick for New Years. By the way, you can also get 50/1 odds on Carlos Bocanegra scoring the first goal.

Arsenal 11/4 to draw with West Ham

As a certified fan of le sexy football, this pick is close to heresy. But West Ham did just beat Man U, and they beat Arsenal last spring. Arsene's boys have been spectacular of late, no doubt, but things have been almost too easy. The worrier in me thinks they are due for a slight slip up. And the odds are good, as well.

Everton 7/5 to beat Middlesbrough

For the last several years, I have thought that Boro was a likely candidate for the drop, and this year is no exception. Garreth Southgate is deluded if he thinks he can play some sort of Arsenal-lite style with the crap players he has. And yet we are more than halfway though the season and the club is not in the relegation zone. In fact, they beat Pompey and kept a clean sheet at Fratton Park over the weekend. But I'm betting that Boro hit the sauce on the long ride home, and will suffer a metaphorical, if not literal hangover against Everton. The Toffees were ok against the Gunners in the first half, and then completely fell apart in the second as they got waxed. But they are better than they showed on Saturday, and Everton will be motivated to get a result.

By the way, I use tradesports when I want to indulge my gambling jones, but I don't really want to the explain futures contracts to you people, so the odds are from Ladbrokes.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

I'm Probably the Only One Here Who Finds This Funny

See that? That's a screenshot of the four-letter's gamecast of the Liverpool v. Cit-teh match from earlier today. Actually, it's just the second half.

It's also a picture of epic failure (unless maybe you are the City keeper).

Those little dots, they are shots. There are eleven of them for Liverpool and... uh, hold on, let me count 'em... Yep, that's zero for Cit-teh.

For the record Liverpool outshot Man City 20-4 for the game. And the Reds still couldn't get one in the back of the net, which is the object.

Liverpool remains a point ahead of Sven's kids in the table, and with a game in hand, but all three of Liverpool's remaining matches against the other members of the Big 4 will come on the road in the second half of the season. The sky of winning the league hasn't yet fallen at Anfield, but those clouds are soon going to be low enough to rub the bald spot on Rafa's head.

There's really no shame in drawing at City. Withouth looking it up, I'm pretty sure they are still unbeated at home this season, but that doesn't make this picture any less funny.

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Damn, We're Good

It was probably funnier in theory than in execution when the idea was hatched inadvertently in an email thread. Someone asked for a preview, and someone else replied with a string of 10 random scores. It was only one small step to make that the schtick for our weekly Prem preview (and in my defense, that was the first time I ever used the BPL locution, but I'm trying to curry favor with the people who have, you know, money).

Anyway, the idea might have fallen by the wayside if we hadn't done so fucking spectacular. It wasn't just that we nailed four of the matches, but we nailed maybe the three most unlikely outcomes among the weekend's fixtures.

We were damn close on four others and only completely missed two. Hell, Roy Keane has blown that many PKs in the last two weeks. We rule.

Call Me Ishmael Kreskin (with Dick Jokes)

Portsmouth 0 - 1 Boro

Just off the draw with Arsenal, who saw a home loss to craptastic Boro? We did.

West Ham 2 - 1 Man U

How quickly people forget that West Ham beat Manchester both home and away last season. Not us.

Wigan 1 - 2 Villa

Wigan sucks. But we'll take the credit.

Sunderland 3 - 1 Bolton

Sunderland (see: Wigan) and yet they still beat Bolton.

Close Enough to Pat Ourselves on the Back (Our call in parenthesis)

Everton 1 - 4 Arsenal (0-4)

I'll gladly give up the clean sheet. Why? Because I had Cahill on my fantasy team.

Derby 1 - 2 Blackburn (2-2)

Were we really stupid for thinking Derby might draw? Didn't some relegation fodder drop a 5-spot on Blackburn last week?

Birmingham 1 -1 Fulham (2-2)

Fulham either draws or loses. We just got the total wrong.

Chelsea 2 -1 Newcastle (3-2)

Really, is Avram Grant going to luck into a stoppage time win every week? A few weeks ago, Big Sam and that mod fag from Fulham would see each other on the sideline. Soon, they run into each other in the unemployment line.

Not Even Fucking Close

Tottenham 6 - 4 Reading (3-0)

Berbatov was scoring like Evan Stone at the AVN's

Man City 0 - 0 Liverpool (3-2 )

Stupid of us not to see a nil-nil draw someplace over the weekend.

So what it lacked in comedy, it might have made up for in accuracy. And that's enough to try it again. If nothing else, this migh be like that time back in the day where Letterman came out every night for a week and started his monologue with the same joke about the sound of fat people getting up off vinyl furniture during the summer in NYC. By sheer force of will he was either going to make it work, or kill it in a horrible death over and over, shortlived though it might have been.

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