Saturday, February 2, 2008

Today's matches

I'm stuck at work this weekend (have I complained about this enough?). Meanwhile, a large medium-sized contingent of UF was at Kinsale, enjoying today's matches. Even Hirshey is somewhere in Arizona right now hanging out with Maradona, Beckham, a waitress, scorpions and the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson (or something like that). Well, here is a quick update on today's action, as seen from my office.

In the early game, Arsenal beat Man City, who are no longer undefeated at home and frankly have looked pretty poor the past couple months. At the beginning of the season, Sven-Goran said City would wind up mid-table. Looks like that might be accurate. Adebayor netted two goals and set up the third for the Gunners. I think that makes 400 goals in the last 10 matches. So Arsenal go back to the top of the table, until Man U played later in the day when....

Man U only manage a draw against Spurs (great defending on that corner in the 93rd minute), so Arsenal stay tops. I hate being such a pessimist, but champions always manage to get super late equalizers like that. I hope, hope, hope it doesn't happen, but Man U still look like they have what it takes to win the Premiership this year, barring another Rooney broken foot, or maybe another Munich Air Disaster (what, too soon?).

Chelsea-Portsmouth ends in a draw, with Defoe scoring in his first match for Pompey. Think he's happy to finally get into the starting lineup?

Liverpool returned to a bit of respectability today against Sunderland, but I'll leave that result to my fine Liverpudian friends.

Bolton ruins our contest by scoring two goals today against Reading, who haven't won in two months. But, not to worry, Bolton have Portsmouth, Blackburn, Liverpool and Man U coming up in the Premier League. The Wanderers shall be returning to their normal state of futility shortly.

And at the bottom of the table, Derby manage to get a draw (alert the media!) and even Wigan get a win against West Ham.

So, that was today's action. Right now our UF friends are probably still at Kinsale laughing and having a great time. Meanwhile, I'm here, doing God's work, or some such. And, sure this was very half-assed, but Deadspin isn't even bothering to do half-assed EPL recaps anymore (although fair play for this post), and besides no one reads the Internet on weekends, and I'm avoiding work, so why not?

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Don't Fuck with Otay Ranch

Because they will set your facts straight.

Coach Eduardo Jimenez Arenas showed San Ysidro's fighting spirit when, after an Otay Ranch player fouled one of his own, he started choking the player. If that weren't enough, he then punched another player in the face who tried to stop the choking.

At that point, all hell broke loose. Two hundred spectators and players are said to hav.e joined in a melee on the pitch. When the cops arrived, the fighters scattered, because no one likes getting pepper sprayed. Arenas has been arrested, with charges to follow.

I'll say this, Millwall fans better think twice about that American tour if it stops in San Ysidro. Them folks will fuck you up.


All apologies for the previous misstatements. No harm was meant.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

I Don't Know How These Guys Are Laying Off These Pitches


I feel like Harry Doyle.

"One hit? We only got one goddamn hit?"

The future came to us last week with a message. "Lots of scoring." It was wrong. Maybe it meant I was supposed to get laid a lot last week, in which case it was still wrong.

Thirty-four goals. That's what was in the cards for match day 24. Instead the total scoring was on par with the average daily temperature I've endured for the last week. Count 'em up. I got 14. That's a solid 20 shy and it's also fucking cold.

One right, we got one goddamn game right: 2-0.

That's the score. It's either Man U v. Portsmouth or Sunderland at Birmingham. Everything else was off. Way off. Not even hand grenades close. We had lots of 3's and 4' and it reality it was lots of 1's and 0's.

So I'm not going to bother with the other 8 fixtures.


Instead I'm going to bitch that the Gunners have to go to Manchester to play Citeh (where I believe they are still undefeated) 48 hours after they pick up a competent striker in Benjani.

Meanwhile, without even looking at the fixtures, I'm going to guess that Chelsea is playing at Stamford Bridge against a club that just sold it's biggest offensive threat to foreign league for a bag of magic sand.

This weeks predictions are chasing last weeks scores. And there won't be much scoring. Hopefully, it is again wrong about my romantic prospects for the week.


0-0
1-1
2-1
1-0
0-1
1-1
2-2
0-1
3-1
0-2


We'll check back in on Monday. Not so much to see if these predictions are any good, but more to count the remaining live bodies left around these parts if that last item on the list is for the Liverpool v. Sunderland match.

[Update: Arsenal kicks at what time? Fuck.]

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Counterpoint: LFC fans should buy their club back

The American duo of Hicks and Gillett may appear to be getting their act together, with more loans and renewed promises that they're in this ownership lark for the long haul, but let's face it, time is ticking and something needs to give at Anfield.

The recent news that a supporters' group is going to make a run at buying back the club could not come at a better time. For my money, it is not a bad idea at all.

Without looking too much at the financial side of it [mainly because I don't quite understand all the numbers], I'm going to focus on the symbolic side of such actions, because the spirit and passion behind such a move cannot be disputed.

Far-fetched as it may come to be, the fan-led movement by Share Liverpool FC Group is directly addressing the problem of Liverpool's foreign ownership.

The battling between the Dubai Investment Consortium and the American team of Hicks & Gillett has been distracting and disheartening to us, the average, born-and-bred fan. Neither side is really any better than the other; the Americans leave a trail of bad business practices behind them, while the Dubai investment wing, connected directly to the Dubai ruling class, have their hands dirty with human rights issues and grossly un-democratic ways.

Each option becomes even less appealing to the Liverpool faithful when you consider that the drama off the pitch is shadowing and distracting events on it.

According to surveys taken by the Liverpool Supporters' network, 76% of 2000 fans polled said that they'd "seriously consider reducing their financial commitment to the club" if things remain as they are. Such a drastic pull-out would be crippling to an already crippled club; with so much debt being hung on the club [somewhere around 105 million pounds] that will inevitably be recouped by raising ticket and merchandise prices, the high percentage of disillusioned fans would ruin those plans and plunge the club into financial ruin.

Fan ownership is not a new concept. In the new era, we've seen Ebbsfleet United touted as the crossroads of football fandom and democracy in the modern era, but there are many successful franchises across different sports that have fan ownership to varying degrees: Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Primera Liga, and the Green Bay Packers in the NFL.

In my eyes, it's the best remedy for the tumult and hostility that comes with major foreign investment, or any ownership group that doesn't understand what they're getting into. It ensures the long-term stability of the franchise, as there's no ulterior financial or profit-driven motive in the eyes of the fan/owners. While profits will be made, that money is turned back into the club, with the aim of making it better and stronger, the case in point being the Champions League, won 6 times in the last 15 years by fan-owned clubs.

The misconception is that this is a pathos-led charge, a disorganized mutiny simply to seize control in the short term, ultimately destroying the club over the long-term thanks to emotionally-charged decisions. That is simply not the case. The shared desire for success throughout the invested fans is a steadying force, not a destructive one. Barcelona may make questionable signings over the year, but the effect on the pitch cannot be disputed. I believe that fans could make the hard choices, as other fan-led franchises have had to, in order to keep the ship steady. While this may lead to a drop-off from being part of the Big 4 for a time, anything is preferable to the current mess.

The time is right for a fan-ownership initiative taking over a major English club, and with Liverpool's recent uncertainty and embarrassing run of stories in the media, it couldn't be better-timed. A fan-owned club is the best way to guarantee Liverpool's long-term success and stability.

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MLS Expansion Fever: Catch It!

Reports have started streaming out of the Philadelphia area that the Commonwealth (what the rest of us call a "state") of Pennsylvania has agreed to help fund a waterfront stadium in Chester meant to be the home of a MLS franchise. Prior to the announcement, commissioner Don Garber had already said that Philly was a step ahead of other cities looking for that 16th franchise. This is especially good news for Sons of Ben, a Philadelphia soccer fan club who was just waiting on a team.

SoB, as they are alternately known, formed last year and made an immediate impact on other MLS clubs by traveling to their games and heckling them. Opinion is mixed as to whether this is a good thing or not. Some fans praise them for their passion, while others say that SoB is a continuation of the bad behavior of other Philly sports fans. Furthermore, they don't stop at MLS games. Sons of Ben will also go to Philadelphia Kixx (ugh) games and sing their songs there.

To put it succinctly, these are fans who are passionate about the sport and just want a club to call their own. Luckily, they will soon get one. Now if we could just get that KC team out of their minor-league baseball park and moved to St. Louis, we'd be just about set.

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I Don't Have a Joke for This Post

So here's the deal - Manchester City wanted to bring in Nashat Akram, the star of Iraq's 2007 Asian Cup winning team, but Akram didn't qualify for a UK work permit, since Iraq isn't ranked in the top 70 in the FIFA rankings (Iraq just misses the cut, its average ranking for the last 2 years around #71). Which was fine, because there's an appeal process so you can get past technicalities like that, so deserving players do get their chance to play. Well, except the Home Office ruled against him.

Now, I don't want to get on a soapbox here, but WTF? It's hard for your country to move up in the rankings when your country's war-torn and can't play home matches. And when they did get a chance to play against quality opponents, they won their continental tournament. And remember them in the Sydney Olympics. They're clearly better than the rankings suggest.

So if we're going to ignore the footballing merits of letting Akram (and really, who is anyone to argue with Sven's ability to evaluate talent?), what about everything else? Here's a soccer player from Iraq, where the Coalition of the Willing (!) isn't all that popular, and he wants to make his living in England. It wouldn't kill to have good news involving Iraq and Britain, no? Or consider Britain's Muslim youths who are alienated from the mainstream and vulnerable to being radicalized - not that one player is going to change all that, but it would certainly help to have someone they could follow.

Now the Iraqi ambassador and a PM are getting involved, which seems more trouble than it's worth, but then, it shouldn't have come to this in the first place.

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I own part of a football team

I own part of a football team. (LOLZ!) No, I really do! (ROFL!) By now you’ve likely heard about myfootballclub.co.uk. For those who haven’t, here’s the deal: members pay 35 quid, which comes out to around U.S. $20,000 (thanks to the Bush administration), in exchange for one share in a trust that owns a real, live football team.

As of a couple weeks ago, that team is Ebbsfleet United, which currently play in the Conference League. Because I am an now part owner of Ebbsfleet United, I have also learned that the team used to be called Gravesend & Northfleet. However, I could probably not tell you exactly where the team is located. No matter. I paid my 35 quid, I have an equal say! This is democracy in action, or at least poll taxes in action.

After the jump, find out how it works.

The idea of community or supporters ownership of teams is not new. In fact, in the United Kingdom there is a government-sponsored organization called Supporters Trust that “provides advice to trusts on how to organise and acquire a collective shareholding in their clubs on a not-for-profit basis for re-investment.” (I am familiar with Supporters Direct because they helped Exeter City avoid bankruptcy, and the team is still owned by a supporters trust.) There are also higher profile examples of fan-ownership of athletic teams, such as the socios in Barcelona and Real Madrid, and the cheeseheads in Green Bay.

But myfc is different for the obvious reason that, rather than a local community of supporters owning the football team, the Internet allows membership for anyone willing to pony up the cash.

One of the great things about the Internet is that it acts as an aggregator of people with common interests. In other words, myfc was able to bring together over 25,000 members from around the globe, with each individual sharing an interest in owning a lower-tier football team.

At least for the short term, the venture led to a lot of free publicity for Ebbsfleet, which can only enhance the value of a team that was apparently in pretty a dire financial state before the purchase. (For more on the particulars on how myfc works, I recommend checking out the website's faq.)

Once you are "inside" the webpage, two things immediately jump out: First, the fact that the people behind the site have taken a people-powered approach by setting up message boards and a blog-esque system, whereby members can each have their own page to have their proverbial say.

Second, and to me probably my least favorite thing about the site, is that there are plans for a "team selector" whereby members get to choose the squad for each match. There is a healthy debate among the members over whether this feature actually makes sense, given that beyond an Abramovich here or there, owners rarely usurp managers' job of picking who plays.

The big problem is that Ebbsfleet does indeed have a very capable manager. There are just so many intangibles that go into picking a team, especially a relatively thin team at the lower rungs of English football. As perhaps would be expected now that myfc actually now owns Ebbsfleet, the organizers have backed off somewhat from allowing members to actually pick the team.

The team selector function has not gone live yet, but it looks like it will function more as a "suggestion" for manager Liam Daish to take into consideration.

Those who want to keep the team selector function say that it is the reason they joined in the first place.

There other members (I'm one of them) who are in favor of scrapping the idea of team selection all together. I, for one, believe that it's totally inappropriate for any owner to dictate management decisions in this way. It just seems kind of crass to turn ownership into a glorified version of Football Manager.

Whatever the outcome of this debate, one of the more amazing things is the way that myfc has cultivated a true community. As some have argued way more eloquently than I ever could, the power of the Internet is to create truly democratic communities. It is the power to aggregate small amounts of money or interest into movements that are able to accomplish things that were heretofore unimaginable (this is sometimes referred to as crowdsourcing).

In essence, this is why I paid my 35 pounds, because I wanted to be a part of something unique and exciting. There is a pretty high chance that the venture will fall apart after a year or two, because members must re-subscribe each year to remain active, and the novelty of being part owner of a Conference League team might very well wear off. But the fact remains that myfc was able to raise over 500,000 pounds in a short period of time and actually take the reins of a football team. I have been very impressed with the professional way the site is run, which suggests that myfc might be able to sustain itself for the longterm. This is also a model that we're likely to see tried again and again in the coming years. If not sooner.

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The Loan Arranger


Bang.

As the transfer window slammed shut last night, I looked back on the signings my beloved Norwich had made and I couldn't help but be happy. We tried to sign two players for cash yesterday but were scuppered by a ridiculous price for one (Scunthorpe wanted 5 million for Martin Paterson-Who??) and circumstance buried the other.

Martin 'Tiny' (he is 6ft 4) Taylor was top of the shopping list for Norwich boss Glenn Roeder but Bongo FC decided not to sell. Had Villa reject Gary Cahill committed himself to years of Derby Day abuse at Bongo, we would have nabbed our man. Instead Cahill went to Bolton, leaving Bongo short at the back. This one is definitely not dead though. I expect 'Tiny' to reappear in the summer or maybe as soon as next week!

Championship clubs can still arrange a loan starting in six days. I will be keeping my fingers crossed that Bongo's African backline return from the sunny cup in Ghana sooner rather than later. Roeder also revealed today that he was victim to Gary Megson's deadline day decisions twice! Apparently we were close to signing Gregorz Rasiak before he decided to spend his time patrolling Bolton's halfway line waiting for chances that won't come.

So what did we learn about the January transfer window? Its for mugs that's what!

Check out this list of late movers:

Andy Reid: 4 mil from Charlton to Sunderland.
David Norris: 2.5 mil from Plymouth to the scum.
Alan Hutton: 9 mil from The Pope's Rangers to Spurs.
Gary Cahill: 5 mil from Villa to Bolton.
Afonso Alves: 12 mil from Heerenveen to Boro (they will be having a schmoke and a pancake in Holland tonight!)

All of the above would have been at least half those prices come June. No doubt Spurs did good business yesterday. They grabbed Brazil left back Gilberto for under 2 mil, but spending 9 mil on a player that's only been tested in the inferior league that is the SPL is just plain bonkers. Benjani was going for the same price and he is a proven net buster at the highest level.

Another sign that the window is for desperados was the revelation that Reading wanted 7 million for Leroy Lita!!

While Roeder could have spent his war chest on one or two pricey players what good would that have been? After an awful start to the season super Glenn saved the day and currently has City on a 10 game unbeaten run and 9 points from the playoffs.

However.... The playoffs are still a mile away and splashing the cash on 2 now instead of 4 maybe 5 in the summer would NOT have guaranteed a top 6 end either (are you listening Namath?). Instead Roeder opened his little black book this month and signed 6 of the hottest young stars of tomorrow to help us push on today.

In came Chelsea left back of the future Ryan Bertrand. Highly rated Arsenal winger Kieron Gibb. Gibb proved a handful for both Blackeye Rovers and West Brom in Arsenals Carling Cup run this season.

Sven Goran Erikkson kindly lent us Ched Evans till the end of the season also. Ched had already been on loan at Carrow Road but his longer stay relied on Human Rights FC's transfer activity. Ched has already scored four goals for us.

Add Boro defender Matthew Bates and Reading pair Alex Pearce and James Henry and Roeder's new year transfer work looks to be woth a good pat on the back. Henry was wanted by Spurs but Steve Coppell obviously rates the lad as one for the reading team of the future. All of these future Premiership stars will be hungry an that can only be good news for Norwich fans.

I nearly forgot to mention that we had already signed Mo Camara from Derby Yankees and Matty Paterson from Newcastle earlier this month. This is how you deal in the January window.

So a recap for any Ipswich readers:

8 players in.
10 games unbeaten.
9 points from the playoffs.
Converting a title contenders average of 2 points per game.

January rocks. If you are not a mug!


-Bigus

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Nothing like a questionable draw



Two draws, one of them was well-played, but the other match was played by nancy boys too scared to lose. But now the quarterfinal matches are all filled out, and we're ready to move forward.


Thursday's Matches


Tunisia 0 - 0 Angola Both teams needed a draw, and they both acted like it. Too timid to play an aggressive style, and settled into a long ball, passing game of little consequence. I curse both teams for this, and I suspect the soccer gods will down on them. Before this match, I was thinking of putting Angola into the Semi-finals, but less now. Angola advanced for the first time ever.

Senegal 1 - 1 South Africa Now this was a match played by teams who knew they had little chance unless they won, but played strong. South Africa got things started with a really great von Heerden volley, that followed a really clinical example of a 6+ pass run starting at the keeper and ending in the back of the opponent's net. Senegal tied it up a Camara's score after getting behind a South African mistake.

No matches until the Quarter Finals on Sunday. I'm hoping to have a recap over the weekend before the Quarterfinal matches, and some predictions for the finals.




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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Transfer Deadline Linkdump

Sunderland, the orgy-filming swingers of Tyne & Wear, have been busy today, along with Spurs and a few other perennial wheeler-dealers in the EPL.

The last day of the transfer window before the summer is always a frantic one, full of gusto and outrageous events that ultimately disappoint, much like any film directed by Michael Bay.

Join me after the jump for a round-up of today's action, including tasty news about Jermain Defoe, Benjani, and Andy Reid!

After some classic will-he, won't-he bollocks, Defoe finally left White Hart Lane on his way to Portsmouth. It was thought that the deal would hinge on Benjani bolting for Man City, but as of this moment, Benjani is staying put and Jermain finds himself in yet another logjam of strikers - Kanu, Benjani, Defoe, Utaka, Baros, and Nugent. Good luck!

Middleborough landed their dream striker in Afonso Alves, the man who's scored more in Holland than a million backpacking students. One wonders whether he can make the switch to the EPL, where so many Eredivisie strikers have faltered, but heck, it's their money [all 12 million pounds of it].

Fulham bag two Finns and a Canadian in Jari Litmanen, Toni Kallio and Paul Staltieri. Hodgson is still on the way down, though. Enjoy Litmanen [just like we did at Anfield].

Sunderland lure the fat, injured Irishman Andy Reid from Charlton Athletic, no doubt with a string of sausages. Roy Keane's dream of fielding a full Irish XI moves one step closer to being realized.

Man City ship two out in Dabo [Lazio] and Ishmael Miller [West Brom], bringing in 19-year-old Ecuadorian striker Felipe Caicedo [Basel] and 17-year-old Filippo Mancini, the son of Italian "legend" Roberto.

Spurs grab defender Gilberto from Hertha Berlin, despite the rumours that he failed his 2nd physical and that the deal was in the shitter.

Everton snag one-time England call-up Anthony Gardner from Spurs, in a move no-one saw coming, and perhaps a move no-one cares about.

In the most retarded move of the day, Newcastle lose David Rozehnal to Lazio in a loan move until the end of the season. Koogan managed to sign no-one as of yet, and just tossed his most experienced defender out to Serie A after he played virtually every game for them this season. We wonder when Koog will catch the shitstorm for that one. In the meantime, we can only hope he knows what he's doing.

---
As is often the case, it was a dismal day. The January deadline often is. There is the chance of some transfer deals to be completed or formally announced tomorrow, especially considering the raft of rumours and possible sightings at stadiums all around the country. It's a normal practice, so if anything clicks tomorrow that's worth noting, we'll make it known.

Until then, this is the pick of the crop. Not one of the Big 4 made a signing, although Arsenal and Chelsea did let a couple of young'uns go. In the same breath, a lot of the next tier made significant moves in attempt to chase down that last Champions League spot. We shall see how it all pans out.

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Point: Accept your new American overlords

These two aren't the problem at Anfield
(photo credit: The Sun)

Discontent with the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett has reached a new high, with word that a group called Share Liverpool FC plans to raise 500 million pounds to buy the club. The scheme, in which 100,000 fans would plonk down 5,000 pounds each, is modeled after the ownership structures of Real Madrid and Barcelona, the supporter-owned Spanish giants. If the supporters' takeover went through, it would be a bad thing for Liverpool FC.

A bit of digging, though, reveals the comparison to be facile. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona enjoy certain structural advantages, notably their duopoly at the top of La Liga and the ability to negotiate separate TV deals. The clubs are also figureheads for the big rift in Spanish politics, which means they enjoy heavy political support and have at various times received subsidized loans from friendly banks.

Liverpool, on the other hand, play in the most unabashedly competitive and capitalist league in Europe, and must compete with the financial resources of Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United. What happens to the supporter owned team if they miss the Champions League and the fans are forced to make a further capital contribution to pay wages and buy players absent the extra TV and gate revenue? Would a fan owned team be able to make unpopular business decisions, like raise ticket prices, so that Liverpool could keep up with the Big Three?

The real issue here is not foreign ownership, and it’s not the fact that Hicks and Gillett have used debt to finance their takeover. You don’t see many Chelsea fans complain that their club is owned by a shady Russian billionaire. Up north, the Glazers are far more guilty on both counts, especially since the original 374 million pound loan to fund the takeover of Man U in 2005 was refinanced the following year into a 575 million pound loan. Where the newly borrowed 200 million pounds went is anyone’s guess, although I would bet a fair bit found its way into Malcolm’s trousers.

Plus, the debt is manageable, given that they don’t cancel the Premiership due to a recession, which means revenue is pretty stable. With the new TV deals and increased worldwide exposure, now is a critical moment for a big club to make savvy business decisions and build its global fanbase. Whether it’s good for the long term health of the EPL or not, the actions taken this decade by the big clubs have served to cement their places at the top, and put a widening gulf to the rest of the league. If you are a fan of a big club, now is not the time for provincial thinking.

Chelsea and Man U fans don’t complain because their teams have won the league the last three years. The real issue with Liverpool is not foreign ownership, no matter how tone-deaf and bumbling Hicks and Gillett have been. The problem is that the club isn’t winning. And the blame for that rests on the shoulders of Mr. Benitez, not the Yanks. Chelsea fans also backed Jose over their foreign owner, but once the switch was made and winning resumed at Stamford Bridge, they forgot all about their tiff with Roman.

Hicks and Gillett have been generous with the transfer funds; Torres and Babel did not come cheap. It’s not their fault that Rafa either a) can’t buy the right players or b) won’t put his best players on the pitch every time out. A managerial change and a few wins would do wonders to soothe the vitriol directed at the Americans.


A counterpoint from Lingering Bursitis to follow in the morning. He's lazy and unreliable, much like Harry Kewell.

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Deco's drunk-driving exploits

Cheers to Bigus Dickus for more Photoshop magic.


Thanks to the magic of late reporting, we learn that Barcelona's midfield marauder Deco got busted for drunk-driving almost 2 weeks ago.

He was pulled over while driving in the city, and thanks to La Vanguardia, it is reported that he blew a .35, far above the .25 limit.

Impressive work, sir.

While I imagine that playing in the Nou Camp with all superstars is an intoxicating experience, I had no idea it would translate to this.

What's the punishment? A fine of up to $886 and a three-month suspension on his license.

Maybe Ronaldinho can drive him to work until this matter blows over.

After the jump, some video highlights of Deco [and no, none of them involve him driving].


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As the Rafa Rotates

Above on the left is Scott Skiles, former coach of the NBA Chicago Bulls, and on the right is Rafa Benitez, current manager of the English Premiership club Liverpool. These two have more in common than receding hairlines, agape mouths, natty attire and striped ties. Despite the differences in the sports they coach and manage, respectively, these two men have much more in common than one might expect and Rafa could learn something from Skiles.

Skiles was the successful coach of the Bulls until Christmas Eve of 2007. Skiles had led his team to the playoffs the past three seasons and the Bulls were the preseason pick to come out of the Eastern conference of many pundits. The team was young and played inspired under Skiles. Yet, the season did not go as expected. The team was only 9-16 before Skiles was fired and had been severely underperforming. There were small cracks that had appeared in the summer and during the season, particularly the contract negotiations of Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, but also the enigma and cancer that Ben Wallace has been for the team.

Much like Skiles, Rafa has been underperforming even after getting the funds this summer for a big summer signing, Fernando Torres. Liverpool was expected to challenge for the Premiership title with a new proven goal scorer and a deep squad would allow it to challenge for Champions League and FA Cup glory. After a strong start to the season, Liverpool stalled with lackadaisical draws and fell behind the leaders, nearly crashed out of the Champions League and is now in a full-fledged downward spiral having not won since Boxing Day, Dec. 26.

Four successive draws and the most recent loss to West Ham in stoppage time.

Much of this time has been marked by a public row with the owners started by Rafa about funds for the January transfer window. Then there was a hubbub with the refinancing of the debt used by the owners to purchase the club last season. And, the revelation that the owners had approached Juergen Klinsmann about taking the manager's post during the fall. All of it has been a distraction, but it is clear that much blame falls to the manager.

Rafa has stuck to his beloved rotation system with little success this season and when he does rotate he never seems to be able to come up with right chemistry as he has in the past. The defense has had too many lapses and frequently the team has solely relied on Torres or Steven Gerrard to rescue them in the dying minutes.

Skiles, when confronted with the disappointing season, reportedly recognized that his team was no longer motivated by him. He had lost its attention and the players failed to respond to him any more. He went to the chairman and reportedly told him that "I think the team needs a new voice." Quite simply, he recognized, after 4 seasons, his methods were not working.

It is time for Rafa to recognize this. His petulance and stubborn adhesion to rotation no longer work. He himself has caused much of this friction and distracted his squad. He is no longer the voice to lead Liverpool and he needs to recognize this, go to the owners and negotiate his severance since it is clear they feel the same.

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If Maradona Could Turn Back Time


From the Department of Apologies That Are a Day Late and a Dollar Short comes Diego Armando Maradona. In an interview with The Sun, which I am told is the British equivalent of The New Republic, Maradona apologized for his infamous Hand of God goal, more than 20 years after his illegal use of hand helped Argentina defeat England in the 1986 World Cup,

But wait, he didn't apologize! Maradona said,

"If I could apologise and go back and change history I would."
Operative words being "if I could". That's almost as bad as the Andy Pettite non-apology! Maradona continued with a heavy sigh and his best attempt at "wistful",
"I cannot change history. All I can do now is move on."


Maradona also expressed regrets over his cocaine use, claiming,

"If I had never touched cocaine I would have been three times as good a player. There would be no debate about who was the best footballer the world had ever seen — me or Pele. Everyone would say me."

A cynic would suggest that it's all too easy for Maradona to say "sorry" when he's been enjoying folk hero status all these years. And an armchair psychologist would suggest that the same personality traits that drove him to cocaine addiction probably also gave him the drive to become a great athlete. You know what? I am a cynic and an armchair psychologist.

For what it's worth, I dislike Maradona much, much less than I did in the past. As a media figure, I'll take Maradona's provocations (his interview on the History of Soccer DVD is an absolute gem) over Pele's polite stupidity any day.

Read more on "If Maradona Could Turn Back Time"...

Eto'o is Enough for Cameroon



Samuel Eto'o pulled a brace setting a new record in goals, and helping the Cameroonians reach the quarter finals. Meanwhile, Egypt squeaked in with a draw. Zambia and Sudan are on their way home as Group C has been settled.


Wednesday's Results

Cameroon 3-0 Sudan Eto'o's two goals pushed him ahead of Laurent Poku of the Ivory Coast, who previously held the record of African Cup Goals. The Barcalona striker has been a beast this tournament. He toyed with the Sudanese. I'm thinking he heard that his country received some camels from Libya, and was looking to put a request in for one.

Egypt 1-1 Zambia Egypt came out in their attack formation, determined to win and not hope for the draw. But once their first goal on a great volley that showed some great play. The play was almost dead as the feed outside was too hard, but Moawad made a great save and cross, and Zaki was there to place it in. Sweet! When Zambia equalized, they did it was equal panache, on a great finish by Katongo. The Danish footballer side-stepped the Egyptian defenders and settled it into the near post.

Cameroon will play the winner of Group D on Sunday.


Thursday's Matches

Senegal v South Africa, D, 17:00
Tunisia v Angola, D, 17:00


The last matches in group play, then a few days off before the quarter finals kick in on Sunday. Senegal and South Africa have little chance, and lots of luck will be needed. Primarily a clear victory in the Tunisia/Angola match. Senegal was picked to go far in the tourney, and now is likely going home. A sad state for them. Tunisia and Angola need to really draw for both to advance. Otherwise it will fall into one of those complicated goal differential equations that we'll skip for now.

Over the weekend we'll run a recap of the Tables, and highlight some of the nice scores so far. Mostly because I like watching video of little balls spinning around and hearing middle aged men scream in languages I can't yet dechiper.

Read more on "Eto'o is Enough for Cameroon"...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Linkdump

I'm in a foul mood, as you can expect. Rafa coughed up another 3 points thanks to some of the worst managing since Ken Lay first sat in the Enron hotseat. And so, vitriol aside [well, saved until tomorrow when I've been able to verbalize it properly], here's today's inaugural linkdump:


Another American teen jumps to Europe for playing time [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

Mia Hamm and Nomar rally their famous friends for a good cause. [ESPN Soccernet]

The US Men's National Team has a blog? Really? [The MNT Blog]

3 Canadian soccer teams eligible to participate in the CONCACAF club championships. [Vancouver Sun]

MLS team Colorado Rapids finally win some silverware.... for their turf. [Our Sports Central]

Qatar looks to recruit young African players for their Academies. [Newsday]

Fabio Capello formally welcomes Stuart Pearce aboard his regime. [BBC]

Read more on "Linkdump"...

It's Contest Time! How useless are Bolton?

We're not sure why football lends itself so well to contests -- "contests" are gambling minus money -- so we thought we'd run one here. After Bolton Wanderers sold Nicolas Anelka, they have been on a squalid run of goal scoring: only one goal in four matches.

Things are so bad they couldn't even score against Fulham! (uh, the goal is that-a-way)

So here is our contest:

How many goals do you reckon that Bolton will score in the Premier League during the 14 games that remain in their season?

The tie-breaker is how many goals will Bolton score against Atlético Madrid in their two UEFA Cup matches (penalty shootout doesn't count, and we'll assume Bolton won't advance past Atlético so any other goals scored in the UEFA don't count either).

The winner of the contest earns a Harrier Jump Jet (just kidding!). Actually, the winner only gets bragging rights, but around here that's as good as gold.

We invite you to play along at home, or in our comments section. We'll declare the winner after Bolton gets relegated. I compiled the scores "blindly" so no one knew what the others picked (and no, I didn't cheat - I picked mine before everyone else). Here's the scorecard:

Precious Roy: 5 league goals - 0 in UEFA
Moonshine Mike: 5 league goals - 1 in UEFA
Sven: 6 league goals - 2 in UEFA
Spectator: 8 league goals - 1 in UEFA
Badly Drawn Boykins: 8 league goals - 2 in UEFA
Ian: 10 league goals - 0 in UEFA
The Fan's Attic: 11 league goals - 1 in UEFA
Lingering Bursitis: 11 league goals - 1 in UEFA
ü75: 23 league goals
- 1 in UEFA

Good luck! And remember, when Bolton fails to score a goal, everyone wins!

Speaking of winners, Eidur Gudjohnsen just turned down a move to the Wanderers, so things are looking good for our contest. Although, I can't imagine Gudjohnsen would give up the chance to move from Barcelona to northeast England.

photo: EUROSPORT.CO.UK

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

I'll admit, I am of two minds on this week's pick. The first time I saw this shirt, I though that no shirt could ever be worse. As time passed, and I saw the shirt some more, I came to admire the ballsiness of putting this mess on a shirt. It was better than those shirts that look like a Jackson Pollock knock-off. This was a Gustav Klimt inspired creation.

The fact that this jersey was once worn by the team I support above all others played absolutely no bearing on my change of heart, I swear.


This was the change strip from 1994-96. Luckily for me, having long since moved away from Scotland, I never saw this in the flesh. It wasn't until the interwebs made it possible for me to follow my club again that I saw these. I'm guessing your reaction was pretty close to mine. As in, "Who ever thought this was a good idea? It's horrible!" Or something like that. I submit to you, give it time. Let it wash over you. Bookmark this page and come back to it. You'll like it. You'll love it. You'll be the one guy on ebay that actually will pay for it.

Truthfully, this will probably not happen. You'll be like me and take another long hard look at the shirt. You'll admire the boldness of the print, but then you'll look at that stupid, striped collar and just know it will scratch your neck. You'll look at the badge and ask yourself just why it's so big on the shirt. Eventually, you'll just decide to cut out the middle man and get your coed-impressing Klimt T-shirt from ebay instead.

Aberdeen shirt courtesy footballshirts.dk
Klimt shirt is really from the ebays

Read more on "The Good, The Bad, The WTF"...

Spurs thank their lucky stars

A fairly innocuous Associated Press puff piece on Hank Steinbrenner this weekend yielded very little in the way of things worth reading, except for a small paragraph or two tossed in towards the end.

Hank, 50, the de facto boss of the Yankees, played soccer at Central Methodist and coached for a while at Ocala Vanguard High, and revealed to the AP that they would love to purchase a soccer team.

From the article:

In the early 1990s, the Yankees were approached to buy a 33 percent interest in England's Tottenham Hotspur for about $32 million. New York passed, a decision Hank regrets.
Fuuuuuuuck me. To think that Spurs, the team of Mabbutt, Gazza and Lineker could have been slowly pulled under the clean-shaven, short-back-and-sides regime of the Yankees... imagine how different that club would be now.

He went on to say that he'd still be interested in Spurs or, incredibly, Notts Forest, if the price was right.

All joking aside, the Steinbrenners are fairly good businessmen, despite the cash cow spending of the Yanks in recent years. They couldn't care less about another American franchise in any of the major sports, but soccer is the apple of their eye from here on out.

Malcolm Glazer's purchase of the Red Devils has opened the floodgates for serious American and foreign investment, and I suppose now that fat Hank is on the trail, the lid's truly blown off the EPL as a place to store some money.

Just imagine.... Spurs under Yankee ownership. Fuck. They'd be worse than Man U, QPR, Chelsea and Liverpool combined.

At least Ronaldinho would know that once he begins his sharp decline in talent, Tottenham would buy him for 40 million pounds.

Read more on "Spurs thank their lucky stars"...

Koog's on the Klock

Prodigal sons don't often get a lot of comfort time once they return, and it's only fair that Mr. Keegan gets the same treatment. After all, the fanfare surrounding his arrival was so incredibly deafening that it was hard to miss.

He's three games into his second tenure with the Magpies: two 3-0 pastings at the Emirates, and a 0-0 affair at home to Bolton. Three games, no goals. 394 minutes since the last Newcastle goal in the EPL, and 270 scoreless minutes under the Koog.

Joey Barton got a run out last night [to little effect], Koog's struggling to add new players, and now that Dennis Wise has been brought in by Mark Ashley to breathe down Kevin's neck, one wonders when the rains will come.

In light of this development, we're begun the Koogan Klockwatch.

Thanks to Bigus Dickus, we have the Meter in place, and we'll bring you updates whenever these bloody Magpies can find themselves a goal.

We don't expect to have to update this very often.

After the jump, the game tally.

LAST EPL GOAL: Nicky Butt, 56" at Chelsea - Dec. 29th

SINCE THEN:
Newcastle 0, Man City 2 - Jan. 2nd
Man Utd 6, Newcastle 0 - Jan. 12th
Newcastle 0, Bolton 0 - Jan. 19th**
Arsenal 3, Newcastle 0 - Jan. 29th**


** under Koogan

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Nigeria is bequested a gift, move on




Nigeria, whom I had written off for as done as a bad 419 scam, received some serious help from a suddenly inept Mali, and will now move forward. Ivory Coast took care of the business as expected. Nigeria will party on tonight, more out of relief than joy.

(SSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

Tuesday's Matches
Nigeria 2-0 Benin Benin was the team that was expected to not do well, but they just played all around poorly. Nigeria's first goal was a nice header at the end of a broken play following a free kick. Great finish, and you could see them gettting would up. Their second goal and they knew they had it in the bag. Nigeria now goes on to play host Ghana.

Ivory Coast 3-0 Mali Mali just screwed the pooch here. They played a great attacking game against Nigeria, and were able to keep them down. Perhaps Ivory Coast is just that good. Drogba got the party started for Ivory Coast with a nice clinical example of beating the defenders and then the keeper. But it was the header by Zorro on a corner kick that got the whole team celebrating. And the party was on. Ivory Coast goes on to play Guinea.


Wednesday's Matches
Cameroon v Sudan, C, 17:00
Egypt v Zambia, C, 17:00

Sudan is effectively out, but they can play the spoiler in this match if they can defeat Cameroon (unlikely, but nothing is unlikely). They need to play to win. Egypt is at the top of the table, but they still are not safe. A tie rolls them in easily, as does a win. A loss could backfire on them if Cameroon also wins. Three teams fighting for two spots. The conventional wisdom is that Egypt and Cameroon will advance, but I've been wrong before.


In other news, the family of Ghana's striker Gyan has received death threats over the quality of his play. The 22 year old missed a few chances in the earlier matches, and was booed lustily. He will need all the help he can get when Ghana goes after Nigeria.

Read more on "Nigeria is bequested a gift, move on"...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Liveblogging for the F*ck of It

The Magpies visit the Emirates in a rerun of a 3-0 FA Cup pasting over the wekend. The Gunners are undefeated at home and Newcastle still has yet to score a goal under Kevin Keegan. Should be a laugher, right? Eh, I've got a bad feeling about this. Like a Birmingham City 1-1 draw kind of bad feeling. Rosicky was doubtful, the backline is thin and has been suspect after being depleted by the Cup of Nations. Kick in a few minutes. Explitive-filled updates will come after the jump

Guners in a 4-4-2. No Rosicky. Eduardo and Adebayor up front. Someone tell Alain Smith that Fauxhawk = Douchebag.

Kick.

2nd Minute: Nice ball to Adebayor, if he could have controlled it he would have had a great shot on goal. Arsenal is uncharacteristically playing long balls.

Well, fuck, I can't get the 'jump' fucntion to work again. I don't want to hog the homepage though. Oops. Newcastle is keeping evreyone back and only pushing forward slowly. Nice counter by the Gunners.

9th Minute: Fuck. Diaby down. And Clichy limping. Gunners are going to run out of bodies by half.

12th Minute: Fucking sweet move by Eduardo, but a crap cross to no one in particular. Wasted.

If that's a challenge Ian, then accepted. When did Michael Owen start looking so fucking old?

17th Minute: Nice cross from Hleb, headed into the ionosphere by someone in red.

The long strides. The boney knees. The cornrows. The offensive threat. Adebayor is the Randy Moss of the EPL this season. Wonder if he runs over cops in his spare time?

20th Minute: Yellow for Hleb.

Someone tell Kevin Keegan that you have to score to win. Smith collects his 3rd whistle in about 26 seconds. Nice work.

I swear Newcastle has packed 16 people into the box. Yet Arsenal is still getting cracks at the edge of the 6 yard.

26th Minute: Nothing happening.

I'm warming to Eduardo, but man, that guy cannot stay wide. Ooh... Nice pressure from Adebayor. Forced the keeper to give a corner.

29th Minute: Oooh.. Owen looked onside. And he had a clear path to Alumnia. Shit... great cross from Sagna on the counter. Two people in the box. Again put high and wide.

31st Minute: Some really pretty football yields nothing. Might have been a handball on N'castle.

Barcary Sagna is really not an attractive man. Wonder what kind of ass he pulls.

Someone get Cesc Fabregas a time machine so he can go back to being the terror he was before the injury. He hasn't done dick since the December doubles.

38th Minute: Shay Given looks less comfortable than Harvey Firestein at the RNC. Adebayor just skies one that should have been netted. Fuck.

40th Minute: And I like my Randy Moss analogy even more. BEAUTIFUL cross from Flamini and Adbeayor nets it. His 19th of the season. Man is on fire and I am glad that Togo sucks total ass at futbol.

44th Minute: Nice response from Newcastle. Nicer clear from Flamini... and we're on a counter. Too high from Clichy. Dick. Gunners had numbers in the box.

46th Minute: Owen again on the edeg of being offside, but forces Almunia to come way out. Whistle.

Half: Could be similar to the weekend's match. Now that Arsenal have a goal, the Magpies are going to have to attack more. Provided the defense can hold up, the Gunners should be able to get one or two more on attack. I'm being greedy, but I'd like to think the win is likely and that Arsenal can go to work on the GD with Man U.

Linesman was replaced by the 4th official. Wonder what happened.

Second half kick.

46th Minute: Diaby killed a good early chance by being indecisive. Pass the ball to fucking Adebayor. It's working a lot, so maybe make that a default response. kthnxbye.

Holy crap. Newcastle looked downright competent for a few passes there.

49th Minute: Long ball. Owen offside.

50th Minute: Someone levels Eduardo. No whistle. Smith misses from point blank on the counter.

And another point blank chance for Newcastle, but the ball just sits there. Newcastle still not familiar with the concept of scoring.

51st Minute: Magpies seem to want to finally make a game of it. Thanks for showing up finally, guys.

52nd Minute: That would have been the most sensational goal ever. Instead it was just Adebayor falling on his ass.

Diaby shot wide.

Maybe Owen thinks you get points for being offsides.

56th Minute: Flamini puts one halfway to Slough. How on earth did he manage to shoot that so wide? Joey Barton comes on. Emirates boos him lustily.

58th Minute: Senderos is going to be the death of me. Shitty clearance gives Newcastle a chance. Owen follows it up by being offside again.

Sagna wins a corner. Near post. Cleared.

Newcastle playing well enough that I have to watch and don't have enough time to be snarky. Fucking pricks.

Too much weight from Hleb for Eduardo. Almost... dammit.

63rd Minute: Nice series from Arsenal. Save on the sideline. Great tackle. Good run. Nice cross, but ultimately Flamini is still white and not fast enough to get to a rebound.

Arsenal looking a little shakey in the midfield. Not something I think I'd ever type. Newcastle is getting possesion. Enough to keep it interesting. Still can't finish. Or even take a shot at finishing.

Fucking work call... "Do I here British people in the background.?"

60th Minute: Owen looked to be offside, but I think he tricked it up by actually fouling before the ball was played.

And Bendtner looks to be coming on. This could be Newcastle's best hope.

71st Minute: Bendtner on. Eduardo off. So Abedayor's got someone to headbutt. I'm starting to get the "Arsenal is going to rue wasting all of these chances" feeling.

72nd Minute: Holy fuck. There's no defense for that. That was beautiful from Flamini. Given could only watch.

74th Minute: Nice effort from N'Zogbia and it gives Newcastle a shot. They might be pretty much dead, but they're not rolling over.

Bendtner give away at midfield. Apparently Owen was booked when Flamini was celebrating. No reprt on what for. Flamini almost had another run. Given way out to clear it.

77th Minute: Sagna is just a bulldog. Shuts down a run. Then makes a play to win a throw in. Gilberto is coming on. Diaby off.

Adebayor offside by a good solid postal code.

Give Keegan some credit. He's moved to what looks like a 3-4-3. So he's pushing people up. Maybe credit is another word for stupid though.

80th Minute: CESC! 3-0 Fucking finally. And it was actually a nice assist from Bendtner.

That was VERY close to offside, but Bendtner settled a long ball very nicely then just flipped it over to Fabregas who had his pick of which corner to tuck it into.

82nd Minute: Huge applause for Adebayor as he comes off for Walcott. Walcott will get some time up the middle.

Gunners keeping possesion in the midfield. Wasting time more or less.

Whoa... Senderos caught up to a brother there. Huh? He really has those kind of wheels?

LATE challenge from Carr. No card? Really? That could have been ugly.

86th Minute: Cesc skies what should have been number 4. That ball went all the way across the box.

Free kick for Magpies right at the edge of the box. Almunia I need the clean sheet for my fantasy team.

Don't know if he tipped that or it just hit the crossbar, but that was inches from 3-1.

Break on the counter. Walcott holds it too long looking for someone in the middle. Then makes a poor cross to Bendtner.

Nice tip up from Bendtner and Carr almost OG'ed it.

90th Minute: Three minutes of stoppage? Really? How?

Holy crap. Defensive lapse almost gifts a goal. Almunia makes a quality save to keep the sheet clean.

Last chance for Newcastle and Smith wiffs. Whislte. Gunners are top of the table for now. Sweet.

Oops. Far more updates than I had planned, but, eh, I got into it. Newcastle actually did a good job of coming out after the half and trying to make a game of it, but Flamini's strike was super sweet. Given had zero shot. And that was pretty much it. Newcastle still sans goal under Keegan.

Read more on "Liveblogging for the F*ck of It"...

One Man's Opinion: Why the English can't manage their own team

Former Fulham miracle worker Chris Coleman has left his latest post in Spain after a seven month stint. The smart money is that he will make a move back the isles when the opportunity arises. Coleman may not have had the best run is Spain, but he did gain a little of what most British managers lack, international experience. In the long run, I believe the ingrained reluctance of British managers to go to the continent for experience will hurt the Home Nations', and specifically England's, ability to find a home-grown coach to successfully manage their national squads.

Seriously, this is a long post. Go grab a drink and come back.

Coleman does not have a long C.V. at the manager's position. His first position came at Fulham, initially as a caretaker, then as permanent manager in 2003. He has been cited as the manager who did the best job with the least amount to work with in his time at Fulham, steering the team clear of relegation every season. He was sacked in 2007 late in the season, on the heels of a seven game winless streak. Despite Coleman's relative inexperience, John Toshack recommended him for the job at Real Sociedad, one of Toshack's former clubs.

Chris Coleman

John Toshack is an interesting character. In an era where many British and Irish managers played hot potato with jobs in England, he has forged a thirty year managerial career holding only one British job, his first position at Swansea City. Since he left Swansea, he has taken top spots in Portugal, Spain, Turkey, France, and Italy while also helming the Welsh national team twice. In short, he's just the kind of NT Manager one would like, successful at many different clubs in many different leagues, and a man who knows how players and managers from other continental leagues think.

John Toshack

Toshack had three stints in charge of Real Sociedad, twice leading them to Copa del Rey titles. It is safe to say that he is well regarded in San Sebastian. So, after their relegation last season, when the club was looking for a new manager, Toshack brought Coleman to the club. He acted as a go between, allowing the sides to feel each other out. A couple of interviews later, Coleman was hired, and his adventure began.

It started out rough for Coleman, as he did not speak the local language. When he showed up 90 minutes late for a press conference, he cited a broken washing machine instead of telling the truth, that he was hung over after showing some visiting friends the town. Still, as time went on, he made headway. He produced and won with a young squad with local talent, and he scaled the language barrier, taking on pressers without an interpreter. However, in the fickle climate of Spanish football, he felt hung out to dry when new team president Inaki Badiola was elected. Despite assurances that he would be allowed to continue to run the team, Coleman felt the writing was on the wall and resigned.

Sadly, this deprived Wales of something they could use in the future, a native manager with lots of international experience. But, as stated above, at least he has some. England, on the other hand, has no one waiting in the wings for when Capello leaves. Almost every English manager whose name was brought up in the last go around suffered on two fronts--no international experience, and lack of long-term experience overall. If England do not start to produce managers with a combination of these two parts, one of two things will happen. Either we will see England's NT job filled by foreign managers, an unappetizing thought for many Englishmen, or we will continue to see England languish on the International stage.

Why England will not see success with an English coach

If you look at World Cup winning managers of the last 20 years, three things stand out. They either had long-term experience at the National level (Beckenbauer), had extensive international experience (Parriera, Scolari) or had extensive (20+ years) experience managing domestically (Jacquet, Lippi). I submit to you that each of these different experiences helps significantly on the international stage. Long-term work with the National Team leads to a great understanding of wht you have to work with. Globe-hopping allows for a coach to get to know many different styles of play. Not only to implement within his own squad, but to know what to expect from other teams. While long-term domestic managing means that you learn subtle nuances of how your countrymen play, allowing a manager to better fit a squad together. In the last English NT manager search, the only candidate who approached these stats was Capello.

What is interesting is that from Terry Venables and before, England managers often fit the above mold. Venables had the international experience, Taylor had the long-term domestic experience, Robson had the long-term NT experience, and so on all the way back to Alf Ramsey. But in 1996, there was a sea change. Glenn Hoddle was hired on the back of five years experience with two domestic clubs. Kevin Keegan similarly had managed two squads for seven years. Steve McClaren had coached one squad for five years. Only one England manager over the last 12 years has had a NT worthy C.V., the foreigner Sven-Goran Eriksson. Who, incidentally, was the most successful English NT manager over that time frame. Why is it that England no longer produces successful native managers?

The easiest way to rectify the current situation would be to hire managers that have scads of experience in the domestic top flight. Unfortunately, the current state of English managers in the EPL (suck it, Barclay's) would not help. Of the 20 squads, only 10 have English managers. Of those 10, only 3 meet my criteria, Roy Hodgson, Steve Coppell, and Harry Redknapp. Of these three, Redknapp is tainted by scandal, Coppell is sorely underrated and was not seriously considered, and Roy Hodgson, well, he's an enigma.I

Why not Roy Hodgson?

Hodgson would seem to fit the profile--30 years of experience, most of that international, and he has managed 3 NT teams to boot. Yet his name never came up when the most recent search was conducted. I attribute this to two reasons magnified by one source. First of all, Hodgson, before taking over at Fulham, had not managed in England since a brief stint at Blackburn in 1998. Therefore, he effectively had no face time before the FA, the press or the fans. Out of sight, out of mind, it would seem. Secondly, his record is not the best, especially in England. I think a good but of this comes because he often manages squads that are overmatched against their competition, but I would need to invest more time on this before I strictly believed this for myself. That said, the press would never give him a shot, and in today's climate, the press run opinion in England.

Roy Hodgson

We see it every time there is a new manager opening in England. Immediate, uninformed speculation rules the initial reports. I mean, how many managers were in line for the top spot before Kelvin Koogan took over at Newcastle? The fact is, that in England, when it come to football, the press seems to make the speculations fact instead of gleaning facts out of speculation. Hodgson could never get on a short list in England prior to now because the press wouldn't know what to do with him. He was a forgotten man, and since the press didn't rate him, it seems that the FA did not either.

Who else is out there for England?

This is bound to meet with skepticism, and believe me, I understand why. But there is one manager out there whom I think will make a solid candidate once Capello moves on, pr even after. That man is Stuart Pearce. Currently in place as the England Under-21 manager, he seems like a man who wants to do the job at the National level. He does have a modicum of experience at Manchester City, but openly lobbied for his current position while he was there. With his job, he will see the young players coming up, and will presumably have access to the coaches at the full national level. The wild card here is whether or not Pearce goes back to club coaching. Given the way he went after the position, and his knowledge of the necessity for immediate results at the club level, I don't think he will be tempted. Given a couple of years seasoning at the U-21 level, followed by a stint as an assistant on the full NT squad, I think that Pearce could be up for the challenge of taking England to a level it has not seen in decades.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your next trophy winning England manager

Depending on the players, of course, but that's a whole other article.

All images courtesy of bbc.co.uk

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Rams welcome businessmen with the worst website ever

GSE is here! GSE is here!


As we so-very-briefly reported on over the weekend, Derby has joined the ranks of the Yank-owned, their fate now in the hands of General Sports and Entertainment Group.

They're a company shrouded in mystery, one that's seemingly snuck in overnight with foreign, anonymous investors and a cast of former-NBA executives to join current chairman Adam Pearson on the boad of directors.

So what does it all mean?

As Mihir Bose pointed out in his BBC blog yesterday, doing a bit of business like this is a smart, sweet move. It's a purchase for £50 million, about 20 of which goes to the existing directors, 15 covers the 30-year mortgage on Pride Park, and 8 to cover the existing debt. Factoring in roughly £10 million for players and acquisitions, and the club's looking firm again [especially when you consider the exorbitant price tag on so many other clubs in the EPL, like my Liverpool].

GSE went for Derby because they're the first "global brand" they could get their hands on. We can get to that claim in a minute, but the sweetness for GSE lies in the mighty parachute payment doled out by the EPL to relegated clubs [payments in the amount of £6.5 million over the club's first two seasons in lower leagues, although a figure that's set to rise to £11.2 million per year for clubs relegated in 2007–2008]. So, whether Derby fulfill their prophecy of slumping back down to the Coca-Cola wastelands, they'll still make a nice payday and stand the best chance of springing right back up.

Bose also points out the planning permission to develop the area around Pride Park, which will surely net them some increased revenue in a developing area.

But this is all information best found elsewhere. I'm more concerned with the dog-and-pony show that is GSE.

Who the hell are the General Sports and Entertainment Group?

Well, cursory review brings us to their website, which is an absolute fucking mess. Branding is so important in this day and age, and GSE's online presence is terrible. Like, absolutely terrible.

Their "About Us" page gifts us with this gem:

"General Sports and Entertainment is a multi-faceted sports and entertainment firm with a national reputation for excellence. General Sports was founded with the notion that the most effective way to build a successful business is through developing strong, sound relationships. We are convinced that there is no better way to build strong relationships than through the power of sports and entertainment."
If that isn't a lot of words saying absolutely nothing, I don't know what is.

Try to navigate their site with the sound turned up, and every page you click on yields a terrible .wav soundbite of a whistle being blown, someone yelling "PLAY BALLLL!", a golf club being swung, or a crowd cheering. It's amazing stuff, straight out of the web 1.0 range when you factor in the mess of generic clip art that also festoons the site.

Ragging on the web site is one thing, but I'm still confused as to what they do. They name things, host events, consult on stuff and place executives in jobs.

In addition, their team ownership record is questionable, at least according to their own website copy: from 1999 to 2006, they owned the Fort Wayne Wizards, a single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Sure, they turned that team's finances and organization around during that time [so their website proudly proclaims], but this is the EPL we're talking about now. From Fort Wayne to Derby? I don't see it just yet.

GSE chairman, Andy Appleby, has gleefully spent his first couple of days in charge trumpeting all the ways they differ from the likes of Hicks and Gillett, two egotistical businessmen that admittedly have much stronger portfolios and track records than Appleby himself.

Jewell's happy to have them, and happy for the assurances that his job won't be shopped around behind his back. That's more than I or Benitez can say, that's for sure.

All I can say is that GSE looks rank amateur, if their online presence is to be believed. One can only hope Derby doesn't feel the burn in the long run.

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An Open Letter to the Italian Serie A


Dear Serie A:

Look, we've never been close. In fact, we barely see each other. It'd be hard to call our relationship even platonic. And I'm going to blame you. I know it's shallow and selfish of me, but admit it, you haven't always been the prettiest thing to look at.

Is Elvis Costello a Serie A watcher? I'm not sure how else he came up with a title like "All This Useless Beauty."

Because I go way back with Italian soccer. The Azzurri are my people. Okay, they are my dad's people. But that still makes you half my people.

One of my first memories of me and you is Paulo Rossi in the 1982 World Cup. A hat trick to knock out favorites Brazil almost single handedly. Then his second half strike against West Deutschland in the final opened up a deluge at the Bernabeu from which the Alles could never Uber come.

I even died a little inside in 1994, even though I thought Roberto Baggio was a complete douche with that rat tail and deserved to sky that PK alone for sporting one of those.

And Holy Shit if you knew the spoils I had won from making wholly inappropriate bets for the 2006 Final with the two French girls I know back home in Texas.

In fact I almost feel like I owe you for the semi-final match from that Cup. You were so good to me that day. When I really needed it, you were there for me. Man, that was awesome. Just as taut as 120 minutes of football can be. You more or less played attacking football, or at least you played to win. You didn't just pay Lippi service to that idea. You had actually changed. And I felt like you changed for me.

Then to top it off with Fabio Grosso's strike, that was a thing of beauty. If I were a wuss of a man, I might have cried. Instead I got super, super drunk.

It's a little late in coming, but you know what they say about late and never. Yes, there is a large difference between International and Club soccer, but I'm willing to give the Serie A—and, yep, I'm going to use the c-word—a chance.

The only problem is that I need to be wooed. I know you've been wanting me for a while, so somebody step up and win my affection. I can't do it myself.

If I chase after Inter am I not just front-running after the prettiest girl in the class? And Milan, who looked so good last year, might have been rode too hard and put away a little wet. Plus, I'm not a Jesus freak. That just seems like a problem waiting to happen. I could maybe even see myself with Torino, Siena, or Parma. For me, your going down isn't a problem at all. You could come back up and go right back down again. I'd like that.

What I'm saying is that I'm open, but I can't be the aggressor. The ball is on your half of the pitch.

Flowers and candy will get you nowhere. A good solid blow job? That will go far. And if you're Roma, I suggest starting with Totti's wife. Ilary Blasi makes Jessica Alba look like Ann Richards.


Soon to be someone's truly,
Precious Roy

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Coach, you've been Hansen'ed


Here, have a seat...."


Since the Howard University Men's Soccer season wound down to an end in November on the back of 5 straight losses, their head coach Joseph Okoh has been hard at work. What's he been up to? Strategizing for the upcoming season? Working on a plan to bounce back from a 3-8-5 record?

Nope, he's been on the internet.

From the NBC affiliate:

"The Louisa County Sheriff's Office said Joseph E. Okoh, 40, allegedly traveled about 90 miles from his home in Arlington for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a person who he thought was a 13-year-old girl. The person was actually an undercover agent."
D'oh. Why does this keep happening? Will the wave of delusional, lonely, middle-aged men ever grow suspicious of this internet thing? Hasn't every man over the age of 25 with an IQ in the triple digits figured out that they are not who they say they are on the Internet? Howard University has suspended Okoh pending completion of the investigation, so the soccer team becomes the real victim of all this [sarcasm], lost in the scandal without a mentor.

Okoh is/was in his first year as soccer coach of Howard University, a small predominately black college in the District of Columbia. Before that he was coaching at Division II Shepherd College in bucolic Shepherdstown, WV, where he was their all-time winningest coach, posting a 38-19-3 record.

So what will the team do now? They could always look to Okoh's son, Michel, who is currently on the team. There's the other fun part of this story. Okoh brought his son onto the team before the 2007 season, his first at Howard, and in addition to trying to implement his "Total Football" philosophy to the team, he's now got to try and explain to his son that he's a pedophile. Perhaps "Total Football" is his euphemism for "proper ball control?"

Okoh's being held without bond until a hearing on Friday. No word on what video tapes the team will be watching during the offseason.

All I know is that on the Internet, no one knows I'm really a dog.

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Guinea and Ghana are moving on up...



Ghana breaks out the Rally Caps and uses the power of the home field (along with a touch of Essien) to put down Morocco, and move onto to the quarter-finals. Guinea needed only a draw, and they managed to do just that against a prideful Namibia squad who didn't fold when they could of.


Monday's Matches

Ghana 2 - 0 Morocco Michael Essien was the man of the match, showing the world why he's the best Chelsea striker that wears pants. Look at Essien's no-look volley for his first goal. Truly a work of high speed art. He follows that one up with a near post score that left the poor Moroccan goalie flat-footed. Morocco can always take solace in the fact they can soon shoot down the competition next time they fall behind.

Guinea 1 - 1 Namibia Guinea needed just a draw to move forward, and this match dragged out. They scored in the 62nd minute on a long ball that left Namibia defenders a bit off-guard. Namibia equalized it with a low strike, and they finished the match more stronger and more aggressive than Guinea.

Tuesday's Matches

Ivory Coast v Mali, B, 17:00
Nigeria v Benin, B, 17:00


Ivory Coast is assured of moving forward with their 2-0 record, but Mali needs at least a tie to be able to move forward. We'll see how lax Ivory Coast plays this one. Nigeria, on the other hand, is a loss away from losing their manager. Vogts will either step down, or he will be fired if Nigeria do not advance. Should he be on the block? Mali is a better team than they are given credit for. Nigeria has to beat Benin by two goals, and hope that Ivory Coast defeats Mali.

Other News
In other news, Egyptian midfielder Aboutrika showed off shirt under his uniform showing his support for Gaza. He's been warned, and he swears he won't do it again.

Meanwhile, South Africa is having major power problems. Due to strong growth, they are having problems meeting demands. Why is this a problem now? Well, in 2010, the World Cup is scheduled to be played there. Of course, Officials from South Africa rush to assure everyone there is no problem. Not at all. Personally, two years is too early to panic on such things. I like to save my panicking until the last moment, but I'm not much of a planner.

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