Saturday, May 24, 2008

That Only Took Nine Months **UPDATE**

On Saturday, after three runners-up finishes, Chelsea fired its manager, Avram Grant. The Israeli replaced Jose Mourinho in mid-season and "led" the Blues to second place finishes in the Carling Cup, Champions League and Premier League. The latter two were won by Manchester United.

It was widely believed unless Grant was able to bring home Big Ears with a Champions League victory he would be fired. Even then, it was not clear he would remain.
Common opinion was that Grant was not a good manager. He lacked tactical nous, was not inspirational, and by the end of the season had lost the lockerroom. And, the team actually succeeded in spite of him.

The close season will bring boundless rumors for replacements and transfer targets for Chelsea. Surprisingly, there is an old, familiar face that has already entered the rumor mill.

Update: When asked about Grant's tenure, Mourinho likened it to a "loser." Furthermore, The Guardian has revealed that after the Carling Cup loss, Abramovich bought Mourinho a £2million limited edition Ferrari.

Mourinho had this to say about Grant's reign:

Asked if Chelsea's campaign had been the good one Grant depicted it as, Mourinho said: 'That depends on your philosophy of leadership. In my philosophy it was a very bad one because in football "almost" means defeat and Chelsea almost won the Carling Cup, almost won the Champions League, and almost won the Premier League. Almost is nothing.

'After two titles per season for the last three years there were zero titles this season, which in my philosophy means a really bad season. Maybe in the philosophy of a loser this was a great season, which I respect.'
Mourinho was stunned by the gift.

Mourinho was astounded when Chelsea director Eugene Tenenbaum called in February to inform him that Abramovich had purchased a rare Ferrari for the man he had removed from Stamford Bridge five months previously.

Customised with Mourinho's 'Special One' moniker, the 612 Scaglietti was one of just 60 produced to commemorate Ferrari's 60th anniversary. While still at Chelsea, Mourinho had told Abramovich that if he could have his choice of cars, the four-seat Scaglietti would be it. The list price is around £250,000, but such is its rarity the secondary-market value is as much as eight times that amount.
It must be nice to have the money to buy a £2million gift for an ex-employee.

Read more on "That Only Took Nine Months **UPDATE**"...

Premier League 0 Hull 4

Congratulations to Hull City for making it to the Premier League for the first time in their history, where they can look forward to many a trouncing next season.

(It will probably be quiet here for the next few days -- have a nice Memorial Day weekend!!!)

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Backpasses: Toulon Day 4

Group B was back in action today. Toulon the town was given another break as La Seyne was the site of today's matches.

Ivory Coast 1-0 USA
All you need to know about this match can be summed up in one stat. Ivory Coast had 10 corner kicks, while the USA had one. Ivory Coast was always on the attack while the Americans struggled to pass out of their own half. Full credit must go to Chris Seitz in the net. He stopped wave after wave of Ivorian attacks, looking much better than Cervi in the first match. In fact, where it not for the converted penalty, I think this game could have easily finished 0-0. That penalty came in the 70th minute when Tony Beltran took down Nassa Niangbo. Seitz guessed correctly on the kick, but Constant Djakpa powered the ball into the side netting. With 0 points from two matches, the USA is eliminated.

Italy 2-1 Turkey
This game was a war in midfield with neither team creating clear-cut chances for most of the match. In fact, both of the first two goals came from defensive giveaways. Italy were the first to score with Davide Lanzafame going near post on keeper Onur Kirvak. Turkey equalized shortly into the second half when Aydin Yilmaz took advantage and went far post on Italian keeper Enrica Alfonso. The game continued to stay in the center of the pitch, and the real fun began in the 68th minute. Tiberio Guarante was moving the ball through midfield when Turkish player Eren Gungor threw a hip check on him. As the referee was showing Gungor his second yellow, Guarante gave Gungor a couple of pokes in the back of the head. That set off a bunch of shoving on the pitch and the ref gave Guarante a straight red. Behind the play, one of the assistant referees spotted something, and told the referee who then gave Turkish player Caner Erkin a straight red as well. Italy finally put their 10 on 9 advantage to use in the 89th minute when Claudio Marchisio laced a left-footed half-volley into the net from 22 yards. With the win, Italy advance to the semifinals, while Turkey face Ivory Coast on Sunday for the other semi spot.

Saturday's matches see the conclusion of Group A, where all advancement spots are already decided. France and Netherlands to decide third place in the group, and Japan-Chile for first spot.

Backpass links after the jump.

TIET figures out why Didier slapped Nemanja [This is Extra Time]
Shaka Hislop. Hard to understand on TV. Surprisingly competent MLS beat writer [Guardian Blogs]
Michael Bradley was set to go to EPL until Birmingham got relegated [Birmingham Mail]
Hey Gambia, it might not be a good idea to hire that manager currently suspended for match-fixing (last item) [Reuters]
CL final set US viewing records [Soccer America Daily]
C. Ronaldo waffling on his commitment to Man U [Guardian]
English fans were right to think he was evil. Glazer has saddled Man U with £666million of debt [Daily Mail]
It's awesome when cops get drunk and deny everything in court [Scotsman]

Read more on "Friday Backpasses: Toulon Day 4"...

Don't Forget Vegas

Just a quick reminder, if any of our 12 readers are going to be in Vegas over the next week, keep an eye out for Shrek Wayne Rooney and his crew. Wazza is there for his bachelor party. Any inside info would be much appreciated.

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Euro 2008 Previews: Croatia

We continue our Euro 2008 previews with Croatia. As an Arsenal fan, I was excited to see what Croatia could do this summer, and perhaps even regarded them as a semi darkhorse to go deep into the tournament. After all, they were one of the highest scoring teams in qualification, had humiliated England twice, and had blooming striker Eduardo to lead the line. Then came this. The clumsy tackling of Birmingham's Mark Taylor (enjoy the bus rides to Blackpool asshole!) managed to, at least on paper, KO two teams' chances at trophies. While Arsenal were never able to overcome losing Eduardo, Croatia has a shot. See why after the jump.

The manager pictured is one Slaven Bilic, who outwitted Second Choice Steve both times Croatia beat England, earning himself a pretty serious reputation amongst the Fleet Street hacks. As a result his name is getting some mention when big job vacancies open up. Bilic has Croaita playing an attacking 4-3-3 in the prototypical Dutch mold, and he will surely rely on runs from the midfielders to generate scoring opportunities.

Instead of Eduardo, the focus for Croatia will now be on Luca Modric, an old fashioned creative midfielder in the Riquelme mold. He's the sort of player I might like except that Spurs just bought him for a ridiculous $30 million, so now he's dead to me. Other notables include Nico Kranjcar of Pompey and Corluka of Citeh.

Croatia has a very good chance of finishing second in their group behind Germany. Their competition is Poland, as Austria are shit. And since the USA owns the Poles, I figure Croatia can handle them. But the Croats had better take the hosts seriously, as they have to play them in the opener in Vienna, and you would imagine the Austrians will be slightly pumped up. Although they suck so badly that there was a petition to have them removed from the tournament. In the second round, Croatia could definitely upset the Czechs or the pretty boys from Lisbon.

Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa, Vedran Runje, Mario Galinovic

Defenders: Robert Kovac, Dario Simic, Danijel Pranjic, Dario Knezevic, Josip Simunic, Hrvoje Vejic, Vedran Corluka

Midfielders: Nikola Pokrivac, Niko Kranjcar, Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Niko Kovac, Jerko Leko, Darijo Srna, Ognjen Vukojevic

Forwards: Ivan Klasnic, Igor Budan, Mladen Petric, Ivica Olic, Nikola Kalinic

(1) Could England beat this team? Haha, definitely not. They were embarrassed in qualifying.
(2) Can Croatia win Euro 2008? No. But they can upset someone in the later stages.
(3) What is their pre-made excuse for not winning Euro 2008? Edurado's broken leg. Hey if it worked for Arsenal, it can work for Croatia!
(4) What is the biggest question mark surrounding their team? Who is going to score goals?
(5) Who is their worst player? I have no idea, sorry.

Read more on "Euro 2008 Previews: Croatia"...

Manchester bring home another trophy

Some cities have all of the luck. Like Detroit steadily marching to both NBA and NHL titles this year (I hope), Manchester was not content to have their teams bring home just one trophy this month. A week before Manchester United finished off Chelsea in the Champions League final, Village Manchester FC won the GFSN National League Cup. GFSN? That's Gay Football Supporters Network.

Your GFSN League Cup winners

On May 11, Village Manchester defeated Leicester Wildecats 3-2 to lift the cup, scoring the winner deep into extra time. However, the game was not without controversy. The final was held in Mansfield, and some of the locals did not take kindly to the sexual preferences of the players. Possibly because they felt left out at not being invited to the (I hear) fabulous post-game showers, these locals taunted and abused the players, management and supporters of the clubs. Thankfully, the less-enlightened folk were quickly escorted out of the ground.

Don't worry, closeted English homophobes. You'll have another chance to get thrown out of a stadium quite soon. In August, Leftfooters FC will host the International Gay Lesbian Football Association World Championship in London. The FA is helping to organize volunteers and match officials for the tournament, which is being called the "biggest gay sporting event ever hosted in the UK." I guess all of those games with Cristiano Ronaldo playing don't count because of the other players on the field, huh?

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: Toulon Day 3

Today in Toulon (actually Hyeres), two teams kept up their winning ways in Group A and guaranteed passage to the semifinals. Those two may be a bit of a surprise.

France 1-2 Japan
If one thing can be taken away from Japan's first two matches, it is that this is a team that knows how to finish its limited chances. That would be is stark contrast to France which sprayed shots everywhere except at the goal for the first hour of the match. Japan went up within 20 minutes on a powerful wide-open header by Tsukasa Umesaki. France came out after the break determined to even the scoreline, but were consistently stymied by the play of keeper Shusaka Nishikawa. Japan doubled up in the 60th minute. At that point, France had given up 6 goals in 94 minutes since Faty's red card in their first game. France finally broke through in the 71st, but Nishikawa produced a couple of more wonder saves down the stretch to preserve the win.

Chile 2-0 Netherlands
Chile started out fast and ran the Netherlands off the field in today's second match. José Pedro Fuenzalida started the scoring in the 19th minute, dancing through the Dutch back line and finishing with ease. The second half saw two Dutch players shown red. In the 75th, Leroy George was adjudged to have spit on a Chilean defender. While Milano Koenders was sent off in the 88th for throwing an elbow. In between, Chile scored a PK after Fabian Orellana was taken down in the box. Orellana summarily converted the penalty, sending the keeper the wrong way.

Chile and Japan sit jointly on top of Group A at 6 points, with Chile having a two-goal advantage on Japan. France and Netherlands are eliminated from moving on.

Tomorrow's matches:
Ivory Coast (0 points)-USA (0)1230 EDT
Italy (3)-Turkey (3) 1430 EDT

Today's links after the jump.

Manchester United meet with Real Madrid. Definitely not talking about C. Ronaldo. [Sky Sports]
Manchester City beaten by virtual pick-up squad in Hong Kong [Soccerway]
Robin van Persie, injured? No way. [Soccerway]
Jack Warner does his best to get another payday. May cause cancellation of Trinidad & Tobago-England friendly [Soccernet]
In related news, T&T players finally get bonuses for WC2006 [Sporting Life]

Read more on "Thursday Backpasses: Toulon Day 3"...

Now We're Just Piling On

This beauty above has been making the rounds on the intertubes and slipped into the Unprofessional Foul mailbox (send your tips, criticisms, NSFW photos and whatnot to

Also, if you want to watch JT's slipup on a loop go here. I particularly like what sounds like an Armenian scream of anguish in there. Immensely funny on a loop.

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In defense of Didier.

Amid all the storylines generated yesterday -- Terry's miss, Anelka's miss, Ronaldo's relative disappearance in yet another big game -- by far the most interesting talking point involves everyone's favourite petulant Ivorian striker, Didier Drogba.

While the game took place around him, leaving him largely as a bystander [except for a sublime shot that rattled the bar in the 80th minute or so], Drogba was instrumental in the match's most important moment. His slap on Vidic late into the waning minutes of extra time spoke louder than any of his goals this season. On the world's biggest stage, Didier lost the plot. And it might well be the last time he gets to do that in a Chelsea shirt.

So why am I picking on him this morning? I should be happy that he's the scapegoat for an unlucky defeat, shouldn't I? Well, I thought I'd try and defend the miserable cunt, because if we're honest, if he was still on the pitch, John Terry wouldn't need to take any penalties, would he?

Drogba is a walking contradiction. He is capable of tearing teams apart seemingly at will, and yet, when things don't go his way, he turns in awful performances when his club needs him most. It took him an hour to warm up to the conditions, but he was still ineffective against the serene pairing of Vidic and Ferdinand. The one inch of space he did get, and he almost changed the game with a phenomenal shot that rattled the post and set the hearts of Man United fans racing.

It came in the thick of wave after wave of Chelsea attacks, in a second half where they laid siege to Van Der Sar's goal and thoroughly deserved to win. Indeed, amid the small coterie of rabid alcoholics with whom I watched the match, we all thought the same. This is Chelsea's moment. They're gonna steal this game, smash n' grab.

Lampard rattled the bar, Terry made an unbelievable reflex header to divert Giggs' shot just enough that it went wide, and they had the belief to push on and snatch the win.

And yet, in the 115th minute, a seemingly benign foul and confrontation between Tevez and Terry turned into a scrum, and as Vidic pushed Didier away, out came the slap right in front of the referee.

This was it. Drogba's moment of madness, while not leading any of us to believe that Man U would push on and score the winner in the remaining 5 minutes, was crucial. It was the difference. Without their second-best penalty-taker, their superstar do-no-wrong striker, they'd need someone to make up the numbers. Grant did his best, but it was not to be.

With the last-minute changes on both sides as they brought on penalty specialists Belletti and Anderson, Chelsea's chart could have looked like this:

A. Cole

They might have moved Drogba up a couple of spots, but after Ronaldo predictably missed his penalty [which we all predicted while watching the match], you're on Easy Street. Cole and Drogba left to shoot, and there's no danger of your best goalscorer missing the winner, is there?

Of course, this is mere conjecture, and Terry did his best by even having the balls to step up and take the reins, but you have to wonder how different it might have been had Didier not lashed out.

In fact, assistant coach Hank Ten Cate even went so far as to spell this out for the hungry media, thus magnifying the issue further.

So, how can this be justified? It really can't, but I'm going to try.

Drogba is an individual. He's a nation without a state. He always has been. Derided in the past for not being more of a team player, he is the consummate professional: show up, do the job, get rewarded for it, and move on.

He's made no effort to mask the desire to leave Stamford Bridge in the near future, and while it would be crass and absurd to even hint at the slap being an act of parting sabotage, it fits with the player.

It fits with the man.

It fits with the actions and expectations we've always had for Didier, both on and off the pitch.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, and yet we're still all rather lost for words.

Just three weeks ago, Drogba and Vidic had a collision in the match on April 26, in which Vidic lost a tooth and needed stitches. Two years before that, in November 2006, Drogba was accused of deliberately elbowing Vidic as they went up for a header, and despite video replays that suggested premeditation, the incident was reviewed and quickly forgotten.

And then, last night, the two fought for 115 minutes, fouling each other and scrapping for every inch of territory. An innocuous argument between other players gave them an opportunity to square up yet again, and Didier couldn't resist. Call it a moment of blind rage, call it playful, call it a sign of respect [did Drogba really think a brute like Vidic couldn't take a gentle tap?], call it what you will.

I feel bad for Drogba, albeit in a very different way than I feel sympathy for John Terry, the physical embodiment of Chelsea FC. Didier never recovered from the loss of Mourinho, an obvious mentor and role model to someone who never really had that. Always slighted, always overlooked, always underappreciated, Didier didn't want to play at Chelsea anymore, simple as that. His slap makes for a very photogenic farewell.

In that situation, under that scrutiny, and with that well of frustration having failed to get the job done to that point, I might well have done the same thing. I think if we're honest, a lot of us would. After all, it's not every day you get to find brief moments of satisfaction like that, no matter what the context. A difficult evening released in one flick of the wrist to the face of the man responsible for all your toils. The surroundings dissolve as you enjoy the moment, and then reality kicks in. The impact, the consequences, the lack of thought for those around you.

Anyone ever been bullied at school? It sucks. It's decidedly not fun. My school bully was a big kid with red hair. He teased me for four years, and then I threw a desk at him. You know the ones: the old-school desks that have a storage bin under the tabletop, made of heavy fucking wood, sometimes with a chair attached? I lost my temper, gained some freak Hulk strength, and broke his fucking leg. Felt great until the adrenaline wore off.

Then, I was faced with a long school suspension and his hospital bills to pay.

Decidedly not smart.

For Didier, I imagine the same principle. Tired and weary of the treatment all day, and he reacts with a passionate, stress-relieving slap. Petty, minuscule, harmless, but, in the eyes of UEFA, it's a fair red. You can't hit players in the face on purpose. Not allowed.

Drogba got his flicker of satisfaction, his brief revenge against that imposing bully, and now he'll probably get the rest in the form of a long-overdue move to Serie A. It's just a shame his teammates go home empty-handed.

Read more on "In defense of Didier."...

Oh Lord..... What a beauty!

(View of Wembley from..well Wembley)

She's new on the scene, she's big in town, she's got pair of giant monitors and she's home to 90,000 men. No I am not talking about Avram Grant's wife..... but Wembley!

Last weekend I was very lucky to be treated to the FA Cup final. Wembley can only be described as amazing....As we walked up the steps to enter the place my jaw hit the floor. It truly is fit to be called the home of English football. The atmosphere was electric. The spectacle of the event unrivaled and the stadium itself an edifice of carefully designed beauty.

As you can probably tell this was my first visit to the new Wembley and my first FA Cup final. We flew in on Friday for a 2 day beer sandwich filled with Welsh over achievers and seamen from the south coast (hello sailor!)

The build up to the game reached a climax as female drummers danced on a stage, and the noise levels slowly reached pandemonium. A sea of flags to our left and right indicated that for both sets of supporters the temporary nerve-induced equivalent of Parkinson's had well and truly set in.

First half.
Cardiff were always over matched in this game but they got off to a flyer and had a fair spell of the possession in the first 20 minutes. Even forcing David James into action twice. After 20 minutes Pompey set off on their first counter attack with Utaka on the ball and pretty much looked comfortable for the rest of the half. After missing a sitter, Kanu pounced on Cardiff keeper Enckleman's fumble and popped the ball into the empty net. Cue stupid dance.

Second half
Pompey spurned second half chances to kill off Cardiff only to give the Welsh minnows hope as the clock ticked down. It was obvious to all except David Jones that Hasselbaink was impotent to Campbell's height. The former Chelsea striker wobbled along the back line line like an old lady running for a bus. Cardiff replaced him for the younger (taller) Stephen Thompson and they suddenly started to hold the ball around the Pompey area. Jones also brought on lively teenager Aaron Ramsey.

Ramsey jinked his way through the midfield on no less than 4 occasions in just 10 minutes or so. He will soon be jinking his way out of Cardiff as this is one kid will soon be plying his trade in the Premiership very soon. He creates space by receiving the ball close to his opponent only to sprint away, turn and take on all comers. The second half showed why both teams were playing in different leagues. Cardiff played simple passes and Portsmouth created space with skill and speed.

The fourth official waved his board indicating 4 minutes of stoppage time and the Cardiff supporters roared. The players raised their heads and found the energy for another pop at the Portsmouth defence. Why these four minutes seemed more important than the four before baffled me but there you are. Cardiff bossed the closing minutes and flooded the area.

After a final round of ping pong in the Portsmouth box the ball was cleared and the ref blew for time. The Portsmouth fans started their party and the Welsh tears started to flow.

I couldn't help thinking how cruel the Wembley steps must be for the losing team. A slow hike up several flights of stairs only to be handed a shiny silver medal that brands you a loser. Then the bluebirds had to stand on display in the middle of the pitch as the Portsmouth players marched to the top of the steps to get their hands on the FA Cup. Harry finally had his trophy and the players pranced around the pitch in ridiculous hats.

Portsmouth fans had waited a long time for their second cup win in their history and they celebrated accordingly. As a neutral I enjoyed watching the joyous scene with a sad jealousy. The notion set in that I may never enjoy this party as a Norwich fan. Maybe one day...and then Wembley old girl.....

I'll be back!

Wembley picture gallery

(Cardiff fans at Wembley)

(Cardiff V Portsmouth Kick off)

(Portsmouth parade the FA Cup in front of their supporters)

(We can see you! A couple of Cardiff players mope in the posh area high above us as we leave)

(Cardiff City players watch as Harry lifts the Cup)

(Bobby Moore overlooking Wembley Way)

(Paul is overawed at the sight of Tottenham's new socks)

(Ballack is nothing!)

(Pompey Party)

(Paul celebrates the existence of beer)

(Mickey points to his new spot 'Torres'. The name stems from his/it's ability to dribble and shoot!..Gross..I KNOW)


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Congratulations Manchester United

[Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images]

As much as many people rooted for the meteor to win the Champions League Final, it was not to be. Manchester United and Chelsea put on a dramatic show with the Reds prevailing in a shootout over the Blues.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard scored the goals and Ronaldo, John Terry and Nicolas Anelka missed their spot kicks. It was not a defensive stalemate. Rather it had plenty of action, good and bad.

So, I doff my hat to the Mancs and say job well done.

After the jump, a photo essay of the final.

Ronaldo scores the opener off a header.
[AP Photo/Alastair Grant]

Frank Lampard scores the equalizer.[Reuters]

Drogba sees red all over.
[AP Photo / Owen Humphreys/PA]

Petr Cech saves Ronaldo's spot kick with his face.
[AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev]

Ronaldo reacts to his miss.
[AFP/Getty Images]

John Terry slips and misses his spot kick.
[AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev]

John Terry reacts to his miss. Poor John Terry. I feel terrible for him.
[AP photo/Alastair Grant]

Chelsea players react to John Terry's miss.
[AP Photo/Alastair Grant]

Edwin Van der Sar with the winning save of Anelka.
[Photo: The Sun]

Opposite Angle of Anelka's miss.
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

United celebrates Van der Sar's save.
[AFP/Alexander Nemenov]

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: Well, someone had to win

You know, by now, how the Champions League final ended. I'm proud of calling the 1-1 score line and the Ronaldo PK miss and was actually a little miffed when Brave John Terry missed his. Still, I had no dog in the fight, so, congratulations to Manchester United, champions of Europe. On to the links.

CL fans could have blown England's 2018 bid for the World Cup. Has anyone heard anything out of Moscow yet? [Guardian]
Ryan Giggs passed Bobby Charlton's all-time ManU appearances record, wore special boots [The Sun]
John Terry's boot bag. Is it the reason he missed the PK? [Daily Mail]

Non-CL links and a Toulon update after the jump.

Roberto Baggio was pretty good, despite taking Terry-like penalties [NYTimes Goal blog]
Torres finally got a haircut. It looks, well, not so good [This is Extra Time]
Looking at future MLS expansion [WV Hooligan]
New York Times discovers some NBA players also like soccer [NYTimes]

Toulon Update

Turkey 3-2 USA
USA looked about two steps behind today. Both first half goals could be attributed to ball watching. The Americans started off brightly in the second half, and gained a goal in the 58th minute. However, off the kickoff, keeper Dominic Cervi did not communicate with his center backs and allowed Turkey to score again. Ochoa notched a second for the US, but did not make up for his first half miss. Thankfully, given his rustiness, Cervi will miss the rest of the tournament. He spilled an early ball, and was clearly at fault on that last goal for not taking control of his box and instead assuming the defenders running with their back to the ball could make the play. Also, Feilhaber limped off injured in the 2nd half and will not be seen again at the tournament as he joins the full NT in training for England.

Italy 2-0 Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast dominated the first half of play, but could not translate the dominance into goals. They did have a golden chance after earning a PK, but Sekou Cisse's weak attempt was smothered by the Italian keeper. After the break, Italy started to come alive and took the game to the Ivorians. Sebastian Giovinco, who plays for Empoli, scored a brace, and the Ivorians just seemed worn out by the end of the game.

France - Japan 1200 EDT
Netherlands - Chile 1430 EDT

Oh, and if you read Spanish better than I do and want to keep up with Toulon, go here

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Open Thread: Champions League Final

It doesn't appear any of us are able to liveblog this match, but we encourage all of you to contribute to the dialog of the match by posting comments here. We'll try to provide updates after the jump as our schedules permit.

Starting Lineups:


Cech, A. Cole, Terry, Carvalho, Essien, J. Cole, Ballack, Makalele, Lampard, Malouda, Drogba


Van Der Sar, Brown, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Ronaldo, Scholes, Carrick, Hargreaves, Rooney, Tevez

I'm on the record for a 3-1 Man U victory. I hope there are lots of goals, but I'm not optimistic about it.

The pitch looks green, but that might be from paint. It's supposed to keep raining today so the pitch could become a factor. A factor that would likely help Chelsea.

0:00 - Kickoff. Of not Park not on Man U bench. And, check out this new feature on Soccernet. I will be keeping an eye on it.

22:00 - Shit...I had to deal with the A/C subcontractor and come back to a bloody Scholes and two yellow cards.

26:00 - Ronaldo with his 42nd of the season. A nice header off of a cross from Wes Brown. Ronaldo truly is quite good in the air.

27:00 - On the other end Ballack wastes a good chance.

34:00 - Wow...Chelsea had a great chance. Drogba received a cross on the touchline and headed it back across to the middle of goal box with Ferdinand getting between Ballack and the ball just getting the ball but almost scoring an own goal but Van der Sar saves.

34:00 - On the ensuing play Rooney comes all the way back to steal the ball, then makes a run to midfield but about 10-15 yards prior to the midline, launches a cross across to the left side to Ronaldo who receives outside the Chelsea 18 and then crosses it to Tevez who almost puts it in but Cech blocks and then Carrick threatens to score but Cech saves again conceding a corner. Really thrilling play. My words don't do it justice.

42:00 - Rooney is playing out of his mind. Just crossed the ball over the 18 and Tevez blew is second chance at a goal completely missing the cross with the goal wide open as Cech closed out.

42:00 - Ferdindand takes down a Chelsea player justoutside the penalty box. Drogba and Ballack stand over the ball. Ballack sends it over the bar.

44:00 - Goal!! Terrible defensive play by Man U. United gives up the ball and Lampard latches on to it to equalize. If Tevez had capitalized, this wouldn't even matter.

45:00 +2 - Carvalho comes in late and takes Ronaldo out at the shins. Nasty tackle and a yellow for the Portuguese defender.

Halftime: 1-1

2nd Half

46:00 - No changes in the lineups. ManU dominated the first half but came out tied. Let's see if they can continue to dominate. Tevez needs to capitalize on his chances.

A/C's fixed, but it's not hot here anymore.

57:00 - Vidic with a great play, keeping the cross away from Drogba conceding a corner that did no harm.

58:00 - Ballack marches down the middle of the pitch and booms a shot wide and high. Impressive but ineffective.

59:00 - Makalele bloodies another Red. Hargreaves this time with a vicious elbow but no card.

60:00 - Will we see any subs? Giggs for the record? Somebody for Makalele before he gets a red?

30 minutes to go and the blood is starting to boil. More cards are definitely in the offing as Ballack is upset at Tevez. He should be happy with Tevez because his country took a bunch of German immigrants a few years back.

68:00 - Ferdinand is down. Looks like a calf cramp.

71:00 - Maka down and Chelsea concedes a corner.

77:00 - Really boring stretch, until Malouda goes down in the box appealing for a penalty to no avail.

78:00 - Drogba finally decides to show up and gets off a great shot that was only saved by the right post.

82:00 - Tevez gets a long shot off but off the mark.

84:00 - Giggs is warming up and looks set to come in and break Sir Bobby Charlton's record for United appearances.

87:00 - Giggs on for Scholes. There's the record.

90:00 + 2 -- This is riveting. United is finally attacking again.

Full Time 1-1

Intrepid sideline reporter Dave Roberts (?) says the rain is coming down and the pitch isn't holding up. Great.

I just wanted to point out that 4-time CL medal winner Clarence Seedorf is not a good color commentator/contributor in English. It's not because he's black, it's because he is difficult to understand. This is compounded by the fact that he sounds like he's commentating from satcom in Iraq.

We're underway. No changes.

93:00 - Kalou on for Malouda. I like it. Not defensive.

94:00 - Somehow Chelsea didn't score again as United's defense was scrambling. Lampard made a nice turn in the box but was denied by the crossbar.

96:00 - Joe Cole throws a tantrum and won't get up. Fan shot...Russian guard puts on ManU jersey.

98:00 - Essien finally appears on the offensive end with a nice run into the box but it is cleaned up easily by Vidic. Had good potential.

Anelka on for Joe Cole. More offense. Nice.

101:00 - Giggs blows a sure fire goal after Evra made a beautiful run. replays show terry just got a head on it.

Rooney off for Nani. He had a great game. I am surprised to see him go off.

103:00 -- Ronaldo comes back to retrieve the ball and makes a nice feed to Tevez who shoots it right into Cech's chest.

105:00 - Man U gets really lucky with a Vidic tackle, otherwise Chelsea was off to the races.

End First Period of Extra Time

106:00 - Back again. It's looking like the teams are settling in for PKs with an occasional frontward foray.

110:00 - Still waiting for some magic. We have had potential magic.

111:00 - Vidic with a hard tackle on Anelka and gets a card. Not sure it was deserving. Chelsea with a freekick from 25 yards.

112:00 - Drogba splays it wide right.

114:00 - Nice bit of work by United with a couple of chances but Chelsea held firm until Hargreaves' cross was too close to Cech.

115:00 - Ashley Cole scratches his crabs. The commentators just mentioned that it is 1:00 a.m. local time. That's ridiculous.

115:00 - a little scrum going on right now. Tevez was livid. Ballack gets a card. Vidic had to be restrained. Drogba gets RED!!! Tevez with a yellow.

Drogba slapped Vidic in the face. What a bitch! Good ridddance. Hopefully they ship your ass off to the boot tomorrow.

118:00 - Essien with a yellow. It's dropping buckets of rain now.

120:00 - Two minutes of added time. Looks like it will be PKs.

120:00 + 1 - Nani and ACole clash heads in the box. Cech shows his concern and runs over to Nani to check on him. Experience, unfortunatley, means Cech is like this.

120:00 + 5 - Belleti on for Makelele, Anderson on for Wes Brown. It's PKs nows.



All kicks on the ManU end. ManU goes first

Tevez -- slots low right; Cech dove left.
Ballack -- slots high right, VDS guess correctly but couldn't get there.

Carrick -- goes left, Cech right.
Belletti -- low right, VDS left.

Ronaldo -- Ronaldo misses...with his little giddyup. Poor kick. Sheva all over again?
Lampard -- slots Right, VDS got a hand on it but not enough.

Hargreaves -- Upper left V. Wow! Perfect.
Ashley Cole -- low left, VDS had it but couldn't save it. That was really close.

Nani -- left side netting, Cech guessed correctly.
Terry -- This is it! Misses wide right!!! Grace of God saves ManU.

Terry's foot slipped as he kicked.

Anderson - up the middle, and Cech can't get a hand on it.
Kalou - slots home to the right. VDS guessed left.

Giggs -- low right, Cech left.
Anelka -- I've got a feeling.


Ronaldo cries on the ground. He owes VDS a car, a bunch of money, tons of stuff.

Chelsea goes down on PKs to another team in Red, yet again.

John Terry is crying.

Tommy Smyth described Ronaldo crying, pitching a fit in the center circle while the rest of the team celebrated downfield with VDS and the fans. What a putz. That is until Gary Neville, in a suit, came out and told him to celebrate with his team.

Congratulations is in order for ManU. They have the double. They have the Big Ears.

I always feel bad for a team that loses on PKs, even if it is Chelsea. It is such a difficult way to lose. Even moreso when the last PK was lost perhaps because of a slip.

It just hit my inbox...English players and PKs...discuss.

Good question. Although, I think this was just bad luck. Not a choke.

Just read that this was SAF's first PK shootout win ever as a manager.

Sir Bobby Charlton leads ManU up to the trophy. For some reason, Ronaldo is right behind him and not the captain, Rio Ferdinand. What selfishness.

At least Ferdinand and Giggs get to raise the trophy.

Read more on "Open Thread: Champions League Final"...

A really quick and rushed attempt at a CL Final preview

Today's programming should be fun, if not a little ire-inducing: after all, the two teams fighting for this mighty honour are two of the three teams I hate the most in the world. Manchester United, and Chelsea. [There's no danger of Everton ever reaching a prestigious game like this, really]

On one side, you have a team run by a drunk Scot, hell-bent on infecting the world with Cristiano fever. He's got a deep, talented squad, and he's smug about it.

The Russian, before he became old and evil

On the other side, the blue menace from London, a team owned by an unscrupulous Russian oil merchant who is intent on ruining the transfer structure by paying top dollar for damaged goods.

Lesser of two evils? Is there such a thing in this one?

Putting personal hatred aside for just a moment, there are enough juicy storylines to keep us entertained.

Could this be Drogba's last game for Chelsea? Or, as I indulge in the most ridiculous of weekend gossip, Cristiano Ronaldo's? He'd really love a move to Spain, you know... as would Frank Lampard.

Furthermore, could this be the end of Sir Alex Ferguson? He's won just about everything there is to win, and while his retirement would be a serious shocker, it could happen. After all, he's got enough cash in the bank to inhabit a bar stool for the rest of his days. The temptation is pretty strong, I'd imagine.

It's been less than a fortnight since Man U won the title from right under Chelsea's nose. Avram Grant, passive and morose as he might seem, would love a bit of revenge. Not only would this be Chelsea's first CL win [remember, there was a time when Liverpool would simply knock them out in the semis... alas, that duck is broken], but it would prevent SAF from winning the silverware that's eluded him the longest. They did win it in 1999, but nary a sniff since then. Racking up EPL titles is one thing, but what good does it do when you can't win Europe's biggest prize?

Nothing spices up a big game like an early red card [just ask Richard Dunne]. Today's referee is Lubos Michel, the guy who awarded Luis Garcia's goal in that cagey 2005 semi-final against Liverpool. You know the one: just over the line, Terry and co. protesting vigorously [some things never change], the one that put LFC in the final where they had that comeback you might have seen.

Well, he's the man in charge today, and if the last Chelsea/Man U encounter wasn't violent or contentious enough, I expect nothing less than bloodshed and late tackles from both sides today.

Evra better keep a lid on it this evening.

In true prognosticating spirit, I took a quick poll of UF brethren to see what they think will happen today.

I swear: if it ends up being 1-0, I will murder someone.*

The Fan's Attic:
Since Ronaldo never comes up big in the big matches. I can't go with him for MoM. I think United wins. 3-1. Terry is injured. Drogba flops 14 times only to be outdone by Ronaldo with 16 flops. Tevez scores a brace and is MotM. Ballack scores for Chelsea, and Ferdinand finishes the job. Ferdinand plays out his mind and permanently takes the armband from Terry. Van Der Sar saves a Lampard PK that would have put Chelsea up 2-0 to send him off to Italy.

Precious Roy:
Chelski wins 2-1. Ballack and Malouda for Chelsea, Rooney for Man U.

Chelsea after PKs. 1-1. Tevez and Ballack to score. Ronaldo misses his spot kick. Brave John Terry MotM.

You guys are such optimists. I'm voting for Ronaldo to score in the first half, followed by a very questionable awarded to Chelsea deep into second half injury time. Chelsea then manage to scrape through in penalties. 1-1 (Chels wins on PKs)

Moonshine Mike:
As much as i hate to say it, 1-0 in favor of ManU. I feel dirty now.

Lingering Bursitis:
I will be optimistic in saying that there will be many goals.
3-2 Man U
Man U: Ronaldo, Vidic, Scholes
Chelsea: Drogba 2

So there you have it folks. We've reached the end of the European football season, barring some minor former Soviet bloc countries who are wrapping up their domestic leagues. We have 90 minutes of potentially good football left before the tidal wave of average football at Euro '08 [why yes, of course I'm still bitter that we didn't qualify].

Let's hope we get what we all deserve: some good goals, and one set of players crying openly for the cameras after the final whistle.

*A figurative "someone"

Read more on "A really quick and rushed attempt at a CL Final preview"...

Tales of Travel Endurance

Suppose you are a Manchester United or Chelsea fan. What would you expect to play for travel from England to Moscow? Would you be willing to fork over the equivalent of $4000 just for travel? Or would you try to do it a bit cheaper?

There are some fans out there now, possibly still traveling, who made the trip for considerably less money. Inside, a quick look at the lunacy of trying to travel thousands of miles on a strict budget.

Martin Sheehan is a Manchester United supporter. He is also rather cheap, it would seem. Instead of plunking down the bug bucks to get to Moscow, he is being a bit more creative. His estimated travel cost is $170, round trip. Of course, his entire trip will take five days, and will involve two 28-hour long train trips, but dammit, he's thrifty.

Others are making the same low-cost effort. This involves planning plane trips that criss-cross Europe in a manner which, if filmed, would look like an Indiana Jones parody. Others are taking a week and a half to drive both ways. No thanks.

You know what? I can watch the game on my TV in the comfort of my own home. If I need a little camaraderie, I would go to a friendly pub to watch the match. Of course, I'm old, so that may have a lot to do with it, but still. That's a lot of money to spend or time to spend on a trip to somewhere where the weather isn't even nice. Me, I'd rather be on a beach in the Caribbean. Or at Wayne Rooney's bachelor party.

Read more on "Tales of Travel Endurance"...

Champions League Final: Exclusive Ashley Cole News!

It has been reported that Ashley Cole is questionable for the Champions League Final today between Chelsea and Manchester United. During a training session, Cole was tackled by Claude Makelele (we French really hate the English), injuring his ankle. However, there is more to the story - information on the reasons behind Cole's injury are after the jump.

Unprofessional Foul has obtained an exclusive from Chelsea physio Thierry Laurent (we French stick together) regarding the Cole injury.

The reason that Ashley was so easily injured? It's his time of the month. Recent research has found that menstruating footballers are more prone to injuries on the pitch. Poor Ashley - not only does he have those nasty cramps, but now he has a sore ankle to contend with as well.

Read more on "Champions League Final: Exclusive Ashley Cole News!"...

The Good, The Bad, The WTF

A special edition of everyone's favorite weekly post today. In honor of the two teams playing for the ultimate European club title today, we will take a look at one past horror each from Manchester United and Chelsea. Then, as an added bonus, you can vote on which one is the worst. Or the best. Or which team you think will win today. Plus, you can vote as many times as you like. We're nice like that.

As league winners, Manchester United get the honors. I am not sure just how much of an honor it is when this is what you lead with. I can tell you one thing, despite who the sponsor is, these shirts are not Sharp at all. I am not sure if adidas were trying to imitate snow flakes or pot leaves. Either way this shirt is a certified eyesore. But is it worse than the Chelsea offering?

Well, there it is in all of its polygonal glory. Interestingly, this is Chelsea's away shirt form the same era as the Man U one above. The glory years, you ask? 1990-92. What can be said? Umbro took the opportunity to put as many of their diamonds on the shirt as possible. Also, they didn't really use a strong red, so when viewed from a distance, this shirt looks pink. Does that make it worse than the Man U shirt? Who is to say?

You are. Poll below, just for you to mess around with. Enjoy the match, an we will be back to our non-thematic ways next week.

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: What are we going to write about tomorrow?

Just a couple of quickies for tonight.

Lingering Bursitis successfully ticks off some very dedicated female Bon Jovi fans [Vote Number 1]
Darren Huckerby mum on talk of MLS move. Maybe he can go to RBNY and become a NY Canary [Sporting Life]
NSFW celebration at Portsmouth FA Cup win. Won't someone think of the children (in the NSFW pic)? [Mr. Irrelevant]
Scientists finally solve Drogba problem. He's narcoleptic [Null Hypothesis]

See you tomorrow when the only game in town is the Toulon Tourney, right?

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: What are we going to write about tomorrow?"...

Toulon: Day 1

The Toulon Tournament started today. It's an eight country international under-23 tournament. The eight countries are divided into two groups which play a World Cup style round robin. The top two team of each group go to the semifinals with the winners playing in the finals two days later.

This year's Group A consists of hosts France, Chile, Japan and the Netherlands. Group B has USA, Italy, Ivory Coast and Turkey. Most nights the update will be folded into the Backpass section, but tonight I had to post this:

That's French player Vincent Muratori losing his shorts and revealing a somewhat see-through pair of black bikini briefs. Thanks to commenter kenny in the US Youth National Team blog for posting the video.

Writeups of today's action after the jump.

All Group A action to start today.

In the first match Japan took on the Netherlands. Japan seemed to counterattack a lackluster Dutch squad. The first half produced nothing of consequence. It was so dull that I decided to take my son for a walk rather than watch the last ten minutes before halftime. The second half really wasn't much better. The Dutch would try to build, then give the ball away or shoot off target. About 20 minutes in, one of Japan's hopeful long balls from the keeper was misplayed by multiple French Dutch defenders, allowing Tadamari Lee to poke home with his left foot. The Netherlands continued with their useless attack for the rest of the game, but Japan successfully parried all attacks. A slight upset for Japan, 1-0.

The second match was much more interesting with two spirited teams looking to attack. France struck fast, with two goals in the first 25 minutes. Though they seemed to have the game under control, Chile was able to sneak back in with a goal 10 minutes before the half. Two minutes after the break, France scored again to take a 3-1 lead. However, the home side lost the momentum soon after with what the English pundits call "a rush of blood to the head". Ricardo Faty was tracking back in the midfield when he attempted to make a tackle from behind, way behind. He missed the ball by about two feet and went studs up into the Chilean player's ankle. The referee was trailing the play and issued an immediate red card. Chile scored on the ensuing free kick, then throttled France down the stretch. The goal to draw level was scored of a French defender's face, and Chile got two more in the last four minutes. 5-3 to the Chileans.

USA-Turkey 9.30 A.M. EDT
Italy-Ivory Coast 12 noon EDT

Read more on "Toulon: Day 1"...

I'm Guessing "Owning a Football Team" Is Not on a List of "The Best Things In Life"

"A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money."
—Sen. Everett Dirksen

I learned two things today. First Dirksen apparently never really said the above, which is often attributed to him. Second, Chelsea and Manchester United are accumulating enough debt that it's rapidly approaching "real money" status.

From the Guardian:

Chelsea and Manchester United, the Premier League's two representatives in tomorrow's Champions League final, owe creditors £1.5bn between them. According to the latest accounts of Chelsea Limited, the company which owns the football club, Chelsea owed £736m to all its creditors. United's accounts, also recently filed at Companies House, showed total creditors at £764m.

Translating from English to American that's about $3 billion between them. Hey, that's about enough to buy Liverpool.... three times over.

Chelsea's debt is somewhat fictitious. The bulk of it is actually a loan from owner Roman Abramovich to the club, an interest free loan that apparently has no repayment schedule on it either. It only becomes an issue if Roman decides he wants it back (or in the event of a sale), in which case the club has 18 months to come up with the dough.

United's debt on the other hand is real in the sense that they just can't pay it back whenever. Worse, unlike Chelsea's "debt" which, if you know the least bit about inflation you understand is actually getting cheaper by the day, United is actually paying a hefty interest rate on theirs.

In summer of 2006, United re-financed the loans it used to buy the club so that the overall interest charge would drop to about £62M per year (down from £90M per year) but the overall debt increased from about $£580M to about £660M (to convert those numbers into dollars, pretty much just double them).

There's a decent rundown of United's financial situation here. More fascinating is the financial statement itself (warning PDF link). About 60% of the increase in their net cash flows in the year ending July 2007 came from the increased financing (i.e. they retired about £620M in debt and took on over £650 in new debt).

So if they hadn't refinanced United would have been cash flow negative for the second year running, that with substantial debt payments (about £150M the borrowing is to hedge funds at a rate of 14.5%). Hell, Glazer could have got a similar deal if he had just used this.

Additionally, United's debt-to-equity ratio is over 10, which is pretty high for a billion dollar operation (for comparison Dell, Coca-Cola, and Amgen all have debt-to-equity ratios under 1). It's a risky profile, but it only becomes problematic when your cash flows can't cover the debt payments. But, as stated above, without the debt restructuring United would have been cash flow negative last year.

So any hiccup in cash flows—tickets, merch, TV, CL money—and United could (emphasis *could*) be in trouble.

Just something to think about when watching the Champions League final tomorrow. Sure, both teams really want to win, but in a very real financial sense, United needs to win for reasons that Chelsea doesn't.

Read more on "I'm Guessing "Owning a Football Team" Is Not on a List of "The Best Things In Life""...

What is UEFA playing at?

No Bon Jovi concert here to take the blame

Now time for our second turf story of the day.

As if we needed any more ready-made excuses or realizations that tomorrow's Champions League final will be rather, ahem, boring underwhelming, UEFA is currently playing defense against concerns that the pitch is absolute shit, and that it will not be adequately fixed in time for the centerpiece of the club football season.

How did Moscow get the bid again? (Here's looking at you, Roman)

At present, officials and grounds staff at the Luzhniki Stadium are working to upgrade and improve certain areas of the pitch after replacing the entire surface just 15 days ago, and groundsman Matt Frost has talked the talk, but not really walked the walk so far.

Frost had claimed last week that he would provide a "Rolls-Royce of a pitch" for the final, but now he has clear reservations.

"I'm totally disappointed with the whole project and what we are presenting for the final," he said.

Yeah, you and the 80,000+ who will attend the game, the 22 people playing, the 2 people managing, and the millions of people worldwide who will be watching.

While there is little doubt in the minds of UEFA officials that the original turf at the stadium was absolute pants and needed to be replaced, can you imagine a bigger gaffe happening in the US? This is the big European final, the showpiece, the advertisement of top-class football to a world audience, and UEFA allowed them to start switching turf just two weeks before kick-off?

Of course, they are confident:

"We are slightly worried about the look of it," Uefa spokesman William Gaillard told Radio 5 Live.

"In terms of the quality, we have made some tests in the last few days and it is perfectly fine. It may not look very, very green on television, but, essentially, it is a good pitch to play football on. At this stage, we are confident it will be fine."

Sounds like a vote of confidence, yes?

If nothing else, it will give Ronaldo and Drogba a lot more creative freedom in their diving habits thanks to the abundance of new divots to get stuck in.

The Telegraph explains a little bit more about the turf details, but there's little one can do to deflect the ineptitude of the planning and execution process. If we get treated to a crap game tomorrow night, it's just one more thing players and managers can blame. Just watch: the winning goal will be an extra-time tap-in following a weird bounce off the pitch. Doesn't shit like this just sum up why people still take the piss out of football?

ü75 Update: UEFA president Michel Platini has spoken on the controversy. His take? Let the players decide if it is playable, intimating that the players could call off the final if necessary. Well, that's what FoxSoccer's headline would have you believe at least. In reality, he called for armchair pundits to let the players actually use the pitch for training first before we declare how bad it really is. I saw some video earlier, and I'll say this--it looks a lot like DC United's pitch when groundsharing with the Nationals. You can see the seams all over the place. Whether or not that affects the play will remain to be seen.

Read more on "What is UEFA playing at?"...

Bon Jovi: living on Man City's prayer

Bon Jovi: obviously a Man United fan. If nothing else, he fulfills the fan requirement of living thousands of miles from Old Trafford, like most of their BMW-driving supporterati

Despite making the backpasses last night, I couldn't resist a little look at the operations of Maine Road, and how their best-laid plans might well be derailed by Jon Bon Jovi. It's one of those things that nature couldn't have planned any better.

Having just scraped into the UEFA Cup through the dubious back door that is the Fair Play table, the blues face having to move their home opener in the tournament to another stadium because a Bon Jovi concert scheduled for late June will probably not leave them enough time to re-turf the pitch.

I know that there are a lot of BJ fans who love the grass (groan), but is this really happening?

From the Guardian:

The club had initially believed there was plenty of time to prepare the pitch before the start of the season but at that stage they had little idea that England would be allowed an extra place in the Uefa Cup. City did not even have the best disciplinary statistics in the Premier League but the five clubs with better records - Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, United, Arsenal and Everton - have already qualified for Europe.
Now there's optimism for you: plan for the UEFA Cup, then realize it's unlikely, so schedule soft-rock concerts to keep the stands full through the summer?

Sven's optimism shines even brighter:

"It is a step in the right direction because the target for this club in the future is to play in the Champions League. The Uefa Cup is a very good school to learn about European football. It is a confirmation that we are a good team but also a team that behaves well on the pitch."
Ahem. We'll just casually ignore the fact that you don't need to be a good team (as Fulham almost beat you for the spot, and they were in the relegation zone virtually all season), and we'll overlook the Dunne red card that almost removed you from the running entirely.

But I digress. There's just something about this story that makes me laugh uncontrollably. Did Bon Jovi ever think he'd have this much influence? Could Man City stand the ignominy of asking Huddersfield Town if they can borrow the stadium for a night while they host a limp 1-0 win over a side like SK Brann or Skonto Riga?

The mind boggles. All I do know is that if Oasis were playing a summer concert that jeopardized the new turf, no-one would mind in the slightest. Still, the very idea of Bon Jovi soiling their dignity to begin with is frightening enough. He'll be exiting quickly on his steel horse if he knows what's good for him.

Read more on "Bon Jovi: living on Man City's prayer"...

No Toast For Me

As we all know or maybe not, Wayne Rooney is betrothing Coleen McLoughlin this summer. Wayne will tie one on for his bachelor party in Vegas on May 26, while Coleen attends to the last minute wedding details. Things like seating arrangements, centerpieces and the sort. Luckily for her, the champagne has already been selected.

While the guests will be treated to anal fresco champagne reception and barbecue, bride-to-be Coleen has decided to follow her own diet.
What? I have no clue what that is, but me no want. Frankly, it could just be a translation issue since the story is from the Thaindian News.

But, the story has several other delightful nuggets--not the kind you would expect to find in an anal fresco champagne--but nuggets nonetheless.
  • Coleen doesn't want the wedding to be to chavvy.

  • To lessen the chavviness, Coleen is toning down the fake tan to appear less orange.

  • All female guests are asked to wear black so Coleen will stand out.

I wish Coleen the best for her nuptials, but I think this story shows she is fighting a losing battle against chavviness.

Read more on "No Toast For Me"...

Joey Barton jailed. England's long national nightmare over

Joey Barton has been sentenced to six months in jail for assault stemming from two separate incidents in one night last December. Barton, out with some of his loutish family, drank 10 pints and five cans of lager. That's what I refer to as a "blackout amount" of beer. Unsurprisingly, Barton ran into trouble, this time at a McDonald's, and now has to pay for his transgressions.

Barton, already used to wearing jail stripes

On December 27, Barton was arrested for instigating two one-sided fights. The first occurred after arguing with a group of youths. Since Britain is awash with CCTV cameras, the entire incident was recorded. Barton knocked
an unidentified man to the ground. He then straddled him and punched him four or five times as his cousin threw food at the victim before the Premier League player punched him up to 15 times more.

Awesome. But our boy Joey wasn't done for the night. A couple of minutes later, Barton went after a 16 year-old. Barton left the scene after breaking several of the youth's teeth.

I don't know what you do when you go out, but damn, that's a full night out. Hell, I would not be surprised if the night didn't at least feature an attempted rape on that fetching cousin of his. Okay, I apologize. That's going too far. Joey would have paid her.

So now, Joey's got six months to think about what he has done wrong. Also, he has to pony up $5000 to the kid whose teeth he broke. Considering that he probably makes that amount during his overnight sleep, I don't think he will be that bothered.

One thing that Barton should strive for is getting along with his new jailmates. Unless he plans to find out the hard way that if you stab your cellmate, you can't just get transferred to a new jail and start over.

Read more on "Joey Barton jailed. England's long national nightmare over"...