Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's..... Your impromptu liveblog of the Red Bulls v. Real Salt Lake MLS match!

Ho-boy! Why not?? *crickets*

Yes, that's right, in a league where the New York Red Bulls are playing in the Western Conference (muh?), it's a liveblog of the Western Conference Final! Will I be able to stay awake? Will I change the channel? Will it actually be a decent match? Let's find out, shall we....

Pregame Welp, the pregame program has started. Apparently it's really cold in Salt Lake City (what a shock). Highlights of the program so far was Landon Donovan accepting his fifth MLS player of the year and basically saying, "yeah I'm off to Bayern," and then an actually pretty funny VW ad (Episode 2 "Juice Boxes"). One of the RSL players is talking about his wife who has a terminal disease.... great, it can only get better from here.

Right, so your starting lineups coming up as soon as I can find them. And, if you want to read a liveblog from someone who actually cares about the game, here's Ives.

Pregame Ugh, I'm bored already.

Pregame Found the lineups!

RSL: Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Jamison Olave, Kyle Beckerman, Dema Kovalenko, Will Johnson, Javier Morales, Clint Mathis, Yura Movsisyan. Bench: Chris Seitz, Ian Joy, Andrew Williams, Tony Beltran, Kenny Deuchar, Robbie Findley, Fabian Espindola

NYRB: Danny Cepero, Chris Leitch, Carlos Mendes, Kevin Goldthwaite, Diego Jimenez , Dave Van den Bergh, Dane Richards, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Luke Sassano, Juan Pablo Angel, John Wolyniec. Bench: Caleb Patterson-Sewell, Gabriel Cichero, Andrew Boyens, Juan Pietravallo, Jorge Rojas, Mike Magee, Macoumba Kandji

1: And they're off. Salt Lake City crowd seem happy. Bless those Mormons.

2: On the plus side the pitch doesn't have American football hash marks, so my eyes are bleeding like the normal MLS match. I'm waiting to see if either team can string together more than 10 passes in a row. Anyone want to give me odds? I'd say 3:1 that it doesn't happen.

4: RSL is attacking. Oh, feel the excitement!

7: Yup, not much happening.

9: Wolyniec had a nice breakaway for the Red Bulls but it was well-saved low and left. Red Bulls get a decent header on the resulting cross. Slightly promising.

11: Red Bulls play kind of a controlling style, a la Arsenal, and RSL play more of a counter-attacking style down the wings, a la Aston Villa. So, it's basically like this morning's match except the players seem to be running in molasses and can't complete a pass. Oh that's right, it's exactly like Arsenal this morning.

13: Color me shocked, but there are honest to god traveling Red Bulls supporters in the crowd.

15: Just when I was starting to wonder what was on another channel, there's some action. Red Bulls make an inch perfect sliding tackle in the box, then turn the ball over on the next play, almost creating an open shot for RSL that predictably fizzles.

17: Clint Mathis is officially a cock. He receives a threaded pass between the defenders that's just a little bit beyond his reach, and so Mathis proceeds to yell at the other player. Okay dude. Just keep yelling I'm sure he'll get it perfect next time.

20: Comical play with players flopping all over each other in a man pile that ends in a wasted free kick for RSL. Pretty much the entire game has been in the Red Bulls half. Sideline commentator says that Red Bulls having trouble deciding who to pick up on the backline. Isn't that what the manager is supposed to tell them before the game?

23: Rojas on for Ubiparipovic who I guess has a hamstring knock

25: Movsisyan has a break on the left and makes a driving shot on goal that's well saved. RSL still attacking down the wings.

28: GOAL 1-0 Red Bulls! Van der Bergh scores off a Wolnyac pass squared into the box. Angel set up the play with a very nice pass down the left. Quite professional! Can RSL equalize?

32: RSL defense looks pretty shaken. Meanwhile, Dane Richards appears to be a pretty good player for the Red Bulls.... Good pace and control down the wing.

35: A lot of flopping around in the box by RSL. The Italians would be proud.

37: And just like that Dane Richards is down and it doesn't look too good. He got taken down on a late tackle, yet somehow play keeps going and RSL gets a free kick going the other way. Richards is up now.

39: RSL off the post on the free kick! Okay, I will admit that this is actually a pretty decent game. I watched the Crew Fire match the other day and it was horrid, but this is, you know, kind of exciting. Lots of open play and lots of plays in the box. MLS, you are not utter shit afterall.

42: RSL's Russell bumped into a Red Bulls player and is now down on the ground holding his shoulder. The dude looks pretty solid so that was a comical "injury." RSL would do well to grow a pair.

44 Goldwaite picks up a yellow for a late tackle against Morales, who is by far the best player for RSL. Free kick is swung into the box but nothing comes of it. Game is petering out a bit. 2 minutes extra time.

Halftime NY Red Bulls up 1-0. Not the worst half of football I've ever watched. Somewhere around Bolton v. Hull quality-wise.

I think the quality of commercials on Fox Soccer Channel pretty much speak volumes... Gotta love those international calling card ads. And now FSC replayed the interview with Lando, who again intimated that he's likely to play for Bayern Munich.

Salt Lake City have a marching band on the field for halftime. During the Columbus Crew match I spied cheerleaders. I'm not a purest at all, but those things really seem out of place. Meanwhile, there's been tons of streamers thrown onto the pitch. Why did MLS have to pick that tradition to copy? Annoying.

Oh, and they also show lots of Proactiv ads. Does this mean that FSC's largest demographic are pimply foreigners?

46: Second half starts with (Will) Leitch with a nasty bodycheck on a RSL player. I like the fact that these two teams are playing pretty physical.

48: Another bodycheck by the Red Bulls. Decent shot by Angel that's saved. And now there's a flare on the pitch. Am I starting to fall in love with the Red Bulls and MLS?

51: Johnson clears the ball for RSL with a totally unnecessary bicycle kick. Why not?

53: And now it's just kicking about, turnovers, and Clint Mathis yelling at people.

54: Gotta say that one of the reasons that this game has been tolerable is that the ref -- who I'm told by the commentators was voted the best ref in MLS -- has done a nice job of letting the players play yet still maintaining control. The EPL could actually learn something there.

56: I might have lost my bet. RSL string together close to 10 passes, then Russell takes a wicked shot from 25 yards out that Cepero saves with an excellent dive to the right. Game is still pretty open and fairly compelling.

59: Findley on, Kovalenko off. Mathis, it should've been you.

61: Kobi Jones, who's the color commentator, says that Mathis can defend when he wants to. Er, okay. So far all he's done is push people and yell.

64: Nice to have you fellas join me. To answer your questions, Deuchar still on the bench. And those lines are the American footy lines that they've actually painted over. Free kick for RSL about 15 yards outside the box, Mathis volleys right at Cepero who pushes the ball away.

66: How did he miss it? Olave has an open goal and sends it over! Granted he's a defender, but still that was the equalizer right there.

68: Richards with a breakaway but he sends it right. Oof, should've done better. There's definitely another goal coming in this game, even with the Red Bulls playing very defensively now.

71: RSL had about three crosses in a row into the box, but no one there on the end to put it away. Wow, and just like that Movsisyan has a breakaway and his shot from just inside the box is saved by Cepero who had come out of goal. RSL with their fifth corner that Mathis sends in low. He's still yelling at people.

75: Sassano is down on the pitch and the clock keeps on a tickin'.

76: Sassano is replaced, RSL with a half-hearted pass into the box that drifts out of play... the ball comes back and RSL earn another corner. Ball pings around for a while until the Red Bulls finally clear. Whew!

79: Wow, Movsisyan receives an unmarked pass in the box and sends the ball into orbit. RSL have had their chances, but no one seems to have any composure to put it away.

81: Again how did RSL not score??? Open play, goalkeeper beat and they hit the post! And now RSL earns another free kick just outside the box!

83: The free kick comes into the box and Russell sends his free header wide of the goal, despite the blue smoke bomb. Lamers.

84: Another free header goes wide of the goal for RSL.

86: Red Bulls are playing 11 men deep. Meanwhile, RSL earn another free kick just outside the box. Yes, broken record here. Where will RSL send this one?

88: Into the wall (actually Angel's face) and out of bounds. The quick corner is cleared, and now Leitch is rolling around on the ground. And now here come the smoke bombs.

90 Movsisyan's dive in the box comes to naught. Now another corner for RSL and 4 additional minutes. Again right in front of goal and it doesn't go in. Here comes Deuchar for Mathis (should've done it a long time ago)

92: Richards takes the ball into the corner for the Red Bulls to kill some time.

93: The ball bounces high just inside the box but Deuchar merely clips Leitch, who's now down on the ground again. He is up again but earns a yellow for his troubles.

94: Morales hits the post again, Deutchar sends the ball over and that's it!

FULL TIME 1-0 Red Bulls. Peep peep peep Red Bulls into the MLS Cup. Wow, I'm breathless. What a great match. Three shots hit the post for RSL, the Red Bulls hang on to win, open exciting action up until the end.

Stick around for my liveblog of SNL...

11:30It's a crappy Joe Biden impression. I miss MLS already.

Goodnight all!

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Saturday Open Thread


After last week got chopped in half by the election, this week sure felt pretty long. At least to me. Anyway, the weekend is here and dammit, there are some games to watch. EPL, SPL and Norwich's schedule after the jump.

All times 10.00 EST, unless noted

Stupid Fucking Bolton-Liverpool (7.45)
Arsenal-Aston Villa
Blackburn-Sunderland
Fulham-Tottenham
Manchester United-Stoke City
Newcastle-Wigan
West Ham-Portsmouth
West Brom-Chelsea (12.30)

Norwich-Swansea

Falkirk-Motherwell
Hibernian-Aberdeen
Inverness CT-Hearts
Kilmarnock-Dundee United
Rangers-St Mirren


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Friday Backpasses: Well, it's still Friday somewhere

Fight breaks out in a Chinese Super League match. Reads like a melee [Shanghai Daily]
Spurs fan gets 10-year ban. Worse, he receives the ban at Highbury Corners magistrates [East London Advertiser]
Footballer in Ghana foils a kidnapping attempt [Peace FM Online]

Stuart Pearce thinks Arsenal kids should be loaned out, because they are obviously not progressing under the current set up [The Sun]
MLS loans are the new hotness. DC United's Fred to New Zealand's Wellington Phoenix for six games [Goal.com]
Want to see what a true journeyman's career looks like? [The Best Eleven]

And, finally:
SAF backs Tony Pulis in his war of words with Wenger. Huh. Couldn't have seen that coming [BBC]

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Pop Quiz, Hot Shot!



Why in the name of Tony Meola are the NEW YORK Red Bulls playing in SALT LAKE CITY tomorrow night for the WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP??!?!?

Shoot the hostage, Keanu, I can't take it anymore! Seriously, we here at UF do our best to boost MLS. We're no pimps-- in the footy sense-- but everyone here wants the league to do well.

Give us the chance, we'll be out there singing. "Hey Hey, J! P! A! How many goals didja score today!?" But over and over, the league pushes sitters over the bar. And never in such glaring fashion as today.

Let me explain.


OK. This is how MLS Cup playoff qualification works. (Thanks, wiki!)

Eight teams will make the playoffs - the top three teams in each conference plus the remaining two teams, regardless of conference, that have the most points in the standings upon the completion of the 30-game regular season.

The seeding is as follows[1]:

* The top three teams in each conference qualify and are seeded 1, 2 & 3 in their respective four-team playoff conference brackets.

* The two MLS teams with the next most points, regardless of conference, receive "wildcard" berths.
- The two wild card teams will be seeded according to conference first.
- If more than four teams qualify from one conference, the team finishing lower than fourth in its conference will shift over to the other conference bracket.
- A team switching conference brackets will be seeded below all other teams in its new conference playoff bracket.


Please consult with a quantum physician if you couldn't follow the above explanation. It's the simplest I could find.

So having played out this counterintuitive mess, the Red Bulls qualified for the playoffs despite finishing 5th in the Eastern Conference. They were shuttled into the Western bracket for what was sure to be a fierce mollywhoping at the feet of the two-time defending champion Houston Dynamo.



But then something funky happened. The Red Bulls started kicking ass. They should have beat Houston in the first leg of their q-final home & home, instead settling for a 1-1 draw. In the second leg, in front of a record crowd in Houston, they won. I mean they really stomped the fuckers-- 3-0 and it wasn't that close.

New Yorkers poured into the streets! People were climbing lampposts, hugging and kissing strangers, screaming the name of hat trick hero Barack Obama!!



So, after this epic victory, what next? The lads return home? We wait for them on the tarmac? Flood to MLS.com for tickets to the semi-final?

Nice to think so.

The fact of the matter is that there will be no return trip home. The Red Bulls go directly to Salt Lake City for a one-off conference title game tomorrow night. If they win again-- which could, like, totally happen-- they'd be crowned what? I'll tell you what: Western Conference Champions. (the upside: Bulls win and kids all over the third world get new t-shirts! Yele Haiti!)

In the end, this convoluted set-up would have the underdog Bulls traveling to Carson, Calif., for a potential Cup final. The lone New York franchise in America's premier (chuckles...) soccer league could win a championship... and give the fan pool ZERO chance to jump on the bandwagon. It's one thing for the Giants to win three on the road then head off to the Super Bowl. They have a 20-year waitlist for season tickets. The Red Bulls average... what?... 12,000 a game? What a waste. GRRRRR!!!



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Jesus is Best!



Some people have referred to footy legend George Best as a God but controversial artist Michael Browne has taken that literally. The above painting of the 'Belfast boy' as Jesus is causing a stir with holy rollers across the pond.



It's not the first time that Mr Browne has used footballers in his work. Previous efforts have featured Eric 'the King' Cantona as Christ (see below) and more recently he depicted Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand flanking Winston Churchill.




His latest painting, featuring Best, has drawn fire from local clergy including the Bishop of Bolton. Maybe he is just pissed that Browne didn't feature current Trotters keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, after all he does save!

While many worship George Best on the field, I feel that many people, not just Christians, may find this painting inappropriate. Artists have often tried to portray the life of the Son of God. For those who want to see a genuine attempt at this, I suggest they see the current Holman Hunt exhibition at the Manchester City Art Gallery." - Bishop of Bolton, Chris Edmundson.

Browne reckons the piece makes a 'serious point' about the way Best was perceived. Perhaps that's why he got Page 3 bird Sam Cooke (don't click at work, you've been warned) to pose as one of the women at Christ's, I mean Best's feet.

The painting is on display at the Salford Art Gallery in Manchester. Personally I find the whole thing rather disturbing, I'm off to lie down.

-Bigus

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How Fare the Minnows?



You remember Ebbsfleet United, don't you? It's the Blue Square Premier (Conference National) club that some of us here at UF own. Since November 2007, Ebbsfleet (formerly known as Gravesend and Northfleet) has been owned by its fans through MyFootballClub (similar to the way those crazies in Wisconsin own the Green Bay Packers). When last we spoke of them, our boys had just beaten Torquay United 1-0 to take home the FA Trophy at Wembley.

What has been going on with the 'Fleet since then?


The NY Times recently explored the fate of the 'Fleet, and writer Kabir Chibber (who is an Ebbsfleet owner)was a little pessimistic. Regarding the rematch against Torquay that occurred in the league this season, he noted:

Torquay ended the game atoning for its loss at Wembley with a 2-0 victory. It was Ebbsfleet’s fourth defeat in a row, its worst streak in three and a half years. The club sits in 17th place in the 24-team league.


17th place after 17 games on 20 points, a full 14 points out of first (Southern League, here we come?) while Torquay sit in 3rd. In addition, the club was knocked out of the FA Cup earlier this month in a 1-0 loss to Crewe Alexandra, although they did win the Setanta Shield with a 3-1 victory over Eastbourne Borough.

So, things have been a little less pleasant during this second season of the 'Fleet experiment. Perhaps more importantly:

Ebbsfleet also faces the prospect of 26,000 memberships coming up for renewal at the same time in February. If MyFootballClub can’t persuade enough people to sign in a tough worldwide economic climate, the experiment in fan ownership will end.


I certainly don't foresee any dictators, oligarchs, or royal families stepping in to save Ebbsfleet United, but it seems that those already involved with the club are in it for the enjoyment (there are no profits derived or dividends distributed) and will likely stick it out at least a little while longer. Heck, I even bought the home kit!

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Argentines Wouldn't Make Good Dodger Fans


Premise 1: People in Argentina love soccer.

Premise 2: Many people in Argentina are dependent on public transportation.

Connclusion: It's perfectly okay for Argentines to hijack a bus to make it to a soccer game.

See, when you lay it out like that, it makes total sense.

Anyway, fans of Argentina second-division side Chacarita Juniors hijacked two public buses on Thursday and forced the drivers to take them to the team's game. Oh Chacarita Juniors why can't you be less impulsive and more responsible like the elder Chacarita Seniors?

Police official Carlos Durante said that in two separate incidents in Buenos Aires on Thursday night, Chacarita Juniors supporters forced passengers to get off the vehicles and told the drivers to take them to the stadium where their side were playing Talleres.

Whoa, whoa... Slow down there, Tex. Two separate incidents? Really? Okay, I was totally willing to give a pass—I mean look, if this were Manchester and supporters were having problems getting to, say, the United v. Citeh derby, nobody would think this wasn't a completely practical solution—but two totally different groups of supporters? I have no response other than to tip my hat and say, "Well played."

Apparently sociopathic minds also think alike. If I ever find myself in your fine country, I'll make sure I keep a plan B for transport at all times, just in case there is, you know, a lower-division soccer game being played somewhere.

Anyway, seventy people were detained and at least two were still in custody on Friday. They missed seeing Chacarita pull out a 3-2 win against Talleres.

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How Much Do You Love Us?



Alright, listen up people! You love footy, we love footy, you love us. Simple, right? I mean, where else would you go for all of your irresponsible e-journalism on the beautiful game?

What?

No, the correct answer is nowhere! Don't you want to prove how much you love us? We have low self-esteem (worse than a high-school sophmore girl) and need constant affirmation.


The official website of US Soccer is soliciting nominations for the "Best Soccer Blog of 2008" and you know what that means. Dammit, get your shit together people! It means that you should vote for us, obviously.

To tell them how great we are, please send an e-mail to centercircle@ussoccer.org and let them know that you think that Unprofessional Foul is the greatest thing since sliced bread. If you don't vote for us, Bigus and Lingering Bursitis will cry.

A little something to get you in the mood, courtesy of Bigus.



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A Brief Adieu

This might very well be the first and last baseball-esque post ever put up on UF, but we were huge fans of Fire Joe Morgan. Yes, we use the past tense, as the fine folks over at FJM are closing up shop.

From the site:

We started this site with two purposes: to make each other laugh, and to aid and abet the Presidential campaign of Bob Barr. Although we failed in the latter goal, we gleefully succeeded in the first, and thanks to a grassroots internetty word-of-mouth kind of a deal, we appear to have positively affected the lives of actual citizens as well, which astonishes and delights us to this day. We really never thought FJM would be for anyone but us. We are thrilled and kind of humbled to have been proven wrong.


Ha, ha, Suckers. You were wrong... Oh, wait. Shit.

FJM was maybe the best meta-blog about a former Hall of Famer's inability to speak coherently or sensically ever. They were funny and, more importantly given their namesake, they were consistently funny. Oh, well, people have lives, or at least try to delude themselves into thinking they do. And they want to get on with them instead of blogging about, say, Bill Conlin. As a selfish prick, I really can't get behind this decision but I am powerless to do anything about it. Yes, the world is set up in a cruel fashion that way.

Anyway, thanks to Ken Tremedous, dak, and Junior. You will be missed on the Interwebs.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursday Backpasses: Mouth open, but no ideas come forth


As the joke goes, isn't it about time to put Van Nistelrooy down? [Soccernet]
Ronaldo needs Drew Rosenhaus to help him out [Guardian]
Capello fancies himself the gourmand [BBC]

And, finally:
Eric Wyanlda, never one to keep his mouth shut, weighs in on Donovan's possible move back to Germany [Goal.com]

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David Shames - 3 Wheeler.


That's Pompey keeper David James (A.K.A the Vampire) rolling on his new wheels. All 3 of em. Find out why the England keeper was forced to ditch his Mercedes for a more 'modest' form of transport after the jump.



Q: What happens when you suck at training in Porstmouth?

A: They make you drive a 3 wheeled Robin Reliant!

Being the worst player of the day at Pompey doesn't guarantee a bollocking from the boss or a slap on the wrist. The punishment is FAR more severe. You are forced to drive a 3 wheeled Robin Reliant home. For all you Americans currently asking yourselves "What the f*ck is that?" I will enlighten you.

The vehicle was made famous in the 80's by TV character, wide boy market trader Delboy Trotter and his idiot brother Rodney in the highly popular TV series 'Only fools and horses'. The series ran for 10 years initially (Christmas specials followed) and gave British viewers cult insults to use on each other such as "plonker", "dipstick", "twonk" along with phrases such as "Lovely Jubly" and "Cushty".


Delboy and Rodney with their 'reliant' in France for a Christmas special

The 3 wheeled 'car' was purchased by Pompey players who clubbed together obtain the creative punishment. The vehicle has also been fitted with a speaker that plays farm animal noises as the under-performing player rides home with rosy red cheeks.



All this talk of 'Only fools' put me in the mood to share. Enjoy...



-Bigus.

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Want results? Get Juande.


Nope. No irony in that whatsoever.

Is it just me, or do Real Madrid seem more like a club founded on novelty and entertainment value than actual winning?

I could well be off-base here, but I feel like their recent run of form doesn't have the invincibility that it once did.

They score a lot, concede a lot, and they just got dumped from the Spanish Cup by a team from the third tier of Spanish football.

Now, they appear to be chasing further comedy.

How? By wanting to hire Juande Ramos.


Club president Ramon Calderon's been stirring up trouble in his tenure at Real, slagging off Beckham once he left for Los Angeles (saying he'll amount to nothing more than "an average cinema actor, working in Hollywood), as well as chasing just about every prized footballing possession of every club in Europe. He hounded Fergie about Ronaldo, he went after Kaka, and he tried to unsettle Fabregas. All in all, he's a bit of a dick.

Now, with his team in danger of becoming rather effective and modestly successful under German Bernd Schuster, a guy who brought him a league title and Supercopa trophy last season, Calderon's clearly looking for some more tabloid-grabbing spice with a courtship of Juande Ramos, perhaps the worst manager England has seen for some time. [Ed. Note: I really, really, really love hyperbole]

Of course, with this information coming from The Sun, you can hardly bet the house on it, but the defeat to Real Union in the Cup is clearly hurting behind closed doors, not to mention the inability to stop anyone scoring goals against them (they've let in 16 in 10 games thus far, making them West Brom-esque at the back).

I don't think for one second that Ramos could solve their issues. After all, they're missing Van Nistelrooy for the rest of the year with knee-knack, Raul is slowing down at age 31, and their defense is shambolic.

Still, for the headlines and hilarity, I'd love to see him try.

Read more on "Want results? Get Juande."...

2008-09 EPL (Suck it, Barclays!) Milestone

This past weekend an EPL (Suck it, Barclays!) milestone was passed, although it seems it may have gone unnoticed by the masses. Actually, it was only equaled, but I am going on vacation next week and wanted to write about it now while I am still in country. But let's play a little guessing game. I will provide two clues and after the jump the answer. You may need to click on the image to get a better view of the clues.



Got it? Good.

In only 12 matches every EPL (Suck it, Barclays!) club has either matched or surpassed Derby County's record for futility set last season. West Bromwich Albion stands on the precipice of not making history for futility and it has 26 matches to ensure it does not. I imagine Derby County's record is safe this year. So, lets give a nice round of applause to this year's EPL (Suck it, Barclays!) class for not sucking as bad as 2007-08 Derby County.

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U R Out. LAWL


At least that Walsall lad got his news face-to-face, unlike poor Bnei Sakhnin coach Freddy David, who was informed on Saturday of his dismissal via text message. Naturally, he took the news well, ripping into management over the weekend as he starts to look for a new job.

Step 1? Hold an angry press conference.


David took the low-level team to a dizzying fourth place finish in the Israeli Premier League last season, his achievements right up there with the likes of Martin Jol or Steve Coppell with Reading in 2006/07. Sadly, this season began rather Ramos-esque for Bnei, with his side languishing at the bottom with just 5 points from 9 games.

Ergo, the sack. And as I mentioned, it was via text. I realize that the act of dumping someone is now acceptable via text (can't say I've done it or had it happen to me), but firing someone? That must be tough to express in just 140 characters. Or maybe not.

So David took the chance to slam the club on his way out the door, surely enhancing his upside for any other club willing to take him on:

"It's hard to argue with results, and our results weren't great, but you couldn't do more at Sakhnin than I did. Mazen Ghanaim asked me to bring Sakhnin to tenth place. He knows that after last year's fourth place finish, it's impossible with the conditions there, with the budget and management, to do more than just hold on to the Premier League spot."
Yep, I'm sure it's everything but you that's at fault here.

Still, the method of dismissal sucks. Here's hoping at his next job, they at least use a picture message should he fail to impress.

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Demon Sacked.



Walsall have found a demon amongst their ranks and exorcised the beast with a P45. Ishmel Demontagnac was canned today for THREE YEARS of bad behavior.



The final straw was Demontagnac's arrest this weekend for 'a breach of the peace'. It's the latest in a long line of incidents involving the winger. Demontagnac has been sent off on numerous occasions including after just 8 mins on the pitch last Saturday for violent conduct.

The winger joined the Saddlers from Charlton in 2005 and has made 98 appearances for the west midlands club, but enough is enough and today he was given his marching orders.

It's the culmination of three years of indiscipline, the lad is a fantastic talent, who on his day can open up any defence. That's why it is a complete and utter shame that it has been necessary to take this course of action.
-Walsall manager Jimmy Mullen.

I'm sure this isn't the last we have heard of Ishmel Demontagnac. This is football and someone will be willing to take a risk in trying to tame a player who is still young and apparently very talented.

-Bigus

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Drogban?

Money trouble. Drogba throws a coin into the Burnley fans last night.

Chelsea forward Didier Drogba is in hot water this morning after launching a coin into the away section of the crowd during last night's defeat (on penalties) to Burnley. Surely he was just trying to give that nice, angry looking gentleman his money back?. He could have claimed that defence but he sealed his fate with a well executed finger salute.




The incident happened on 27 mins after Drogba had fired the blues in front. A Burnley goon lobbed a coin which Drogba picked up and threw back. He then flipped the visiting fans the bird! The Football Asociation and Police are investigating the incident which could see Drogba handed a lengthy ban as well as a hefty fine.


Drogba soon realized his faux pas and was very apologetic last night...

“The big mistake I did was to throw it back so if someone was hurt I just want to apologise. This is not something I should show and I want to apologise. It was an incident in the heat of the moment and I regret it. It was just a mistake and nothing more.”
-Didier Drogba.

Forethought is a wonderful thing isn't it? Drogba's stupidity capped a horrid night for Chelsea as they were dumped from the Carling Cup 5-4 on Penalties by Burnley. The game ended 1-1 after Ade Akinbiyi had levelled late on to force extra time.

After 4 years of being unbeatable at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea have now lost there in 2 of the last 3 outings. Throw in a 3-1 defeat at Roma last week and Chelsea are starting to look mortal again.

Drogba's absence certainly won't help them out, I should imagine a minimum ban of 5 games is headed his way.

-Bigus.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday Backpasses: No! Fatty, don't go!

What to peruse while dealing with the rumors that Maradona may step down before managing a single match.

Japan to punish clubs for putting out weakened sides for cup matches. I wonder what Chelsea's assistant manager has to say about this? [Goal.com]
Bild asks readers if Donovan will make it at Bayern. Readers say no, 62-38 [Bild]
Speaking of Landon, Ives has some choice words about him winning USPotY [SBI]

Jermaine Pennant, smooth operator [With Leather](NSFW-ish)
This never would have happened if he had not turned his back on Canada [Guardian]
It's safe to say the Elano is not a Sparky fan [Guardian]

And, finally:
Six months ago, Paul Coutts was playing for Cove Rangers in Scotland's Highland League while working full-time in an oil refinery. He has since moved to Peterborough United in England and just got called up Scotland's U-21 team. That's a pretty swell half-a-year, I say [Sporting Life]

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Mickey Mouse Cup Open Thread



I'm jealous after seeing the Arsenal tweens absolutely massacre a nearly full-strength Wigan side yesterday. I wonder what Liverpool's 2nd XI will do against Spurs' 2nd XI?

3 games on tap... join us after the jump, won't you?


The schedule and lineups: (all kick-off at 2.45pm ET)

Chelsea vs. Burnley
Chelsea: Cudicini, Ivanovic, Alex, Belletti, Bridge, Ferreira, Deco, Mineiro, Malouda, Drogba, Kalou.
Subs: Hilario, Lampard, Di Santo, Mikel, Sinclair, Terry, Woods.

Burnley: Jensen, Alexander, Duff, Caldwell, Jordan, Eagles, Gudjonsson, McCann, Elliott, Blake, Paterson.
Subs: Penny, McDonald, Akinbiyi, Mahon, Rodriguez, Kay, MacDonald.
=====

Sunderland vs. Blackburn
Sunderland: Fulop, Bardsley, Nosworthy, Ferdinand, Collins, Henderson, Whitehead, Richardson, Malbranque, Cisse, Jones.
Subs: Colgan, Tainio, Diouf, Murphy, Leadbitter, Reid, Kay.

Blackburn: Robinson, Simpson, Khizanishvili, Samba, Olsson, Kerimoglu, Derbyshire, Mokoena, Treacy, Fowler, Haworth.
Subs: Brown, Ooijer, Warnock, Nelsen, Roque Santa Cruz, Villanueva, Judge.
=====

Tottenham vs. Liverpool
Tottenham: Gomes, Hutton, Dawson, Corluka, Bale, Lennon, Zokora, Huddlestone, O'Hara, Pavlyuchenko, Campbell.
Subs: Cesar, Bentley, Bent, Modric, Gunter, Boateng, Rocha.

Liverpool: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Agger, Degen, Babel, Leiva Lucas, Ngog, Plessis, Torres, El Zhar.
Subs: Gulacsi, Riera, Alonso, Benayoun, Insua, Carragher, Darby.

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

I have Germany on the brain right now. Like many other hopeful Americans, I can only pray that Landon Donovan does not destroy the Bundesliga with his awesome talents. With the once-great league about to fold under His Hairline's greatness, I am taking a break from the recent run of German shirts in order to go back to that wonderful bastion of crazy: South America. Argentina is our destination for this week's shirt. Happy traveling.

The full name if this week's club is Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro. As you can see from their badge, it's a handful just to compress the initials onto a crest.
So you can imagine how difficult it would be to try to fit the name of the club onto the shirt, even if it is just once. Well, in this case, just once would have been a blessing.

Mere words cannot describe my reaction upon seeing this. Maybe this video can.

My ROFLCopter does all kinds of things.

Alright, I know I've said it before, but it bears a repeat asking here. What the hell were they thinking? Who in their right mind thought it would be good to try to fit the name of the club all over the shirt, place it vertical, interchange the colors, and then never ensure that the club's name can be read bottom to top on any of the columns? The column that came closest to achieving this is interrupted by the badge. Real smart thinking there, fellas.

Beyond that, what else is there to say? The words dominate the shirt in such a way that you can't nitpick anything else. Maybe you can be bothered by the manufacturer's name on both sides of the collar, as well as the sleeves, but that's just small potatoes compared to the body of the shirt. The only other thing that tick me off is that I don't have a picture of the back of the shirt. Would be nice to know if there is anything the least bit redemptive back there.

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GTA: Ackerville

Who's up for a Blind Item Guessing Game? 'Cept that the item ain't really blind, it's just withheld. What with these foreign newspapers and their ethics? I mean, once the guy is arrested, you can actually publish it as fact, right? Apparently not in South Africa. Join me below for scant, but juicy, details.

It's the land of the 2010 World Cup and, in case you haven't heard, it has a bit of a crime problem. Kind of like my home state, except amped up a good bit. Since crime apparently pays, and well, in South Africa, it ensnares all kinds of folks. Including men so powerful, their names cannot be printed, and only their job titles alluded to.

A "top soccer boss" in Soweto has been arrested for his involvement in a fairly sophisticated car theft ring. He was caught when an arrested accomplice snitched his part in the plot to the police. Obviously, this is not a Barksdale-scale organization, or else that kid would have been iced a lot earlier.

Now, onto the interesting part. The paper knows the name of the man arrested, but will not release it. They do dance around it a bit, giving the names of his former clubs, but don't go any further. I have no idea what South Africa's libel laws are like, but this seems extreme.

Anyway, if you have any insight on a high-ranking soccer official around Soweto who used to play for Vaal Professionals and Bush Bucks, then please tell us who it is in the comments. Otherwise, make up stuff for you own personal amusement. Me, I vote Roy Wegerle.


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Democracy works...



... and not just in America. It appears that our UF campaign to elect Plamen Konstantinov as Bulgarian Man of the Year, ahead of Dimitar Berbatov, was successful.

Rejoice knowing that justice has been served.

After the jump, a video of our noble volleyball hero, the man who shall forever be known as the guy who beat Berbatov.




The man can act too!


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Merseyside Money Muddle.



The current credit crunch appears to be threatening a number of football teams over the next few months. One man who certainly seems to be making money in these tough times is former Football League supremo Keith Harris.



Harris' firm brokered the deals to bring new owners to Aston Villa, Manchester City, West Ham and Hull in recent times and Harris says that Liverpool could be in trouble if they do not find a new sugar daddy to lift the burden of the hefty debt currently held by Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Harris believes Liverpool may have to cash in on some of their players or face the risk of the bank repossessing the club.

"Liverpool's debt is due in January, with maybe a six-month extension. The two banks which are the principal lenders - the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia - are two of those that have suffered. Whether they want to lend it again or not, they may not be able to."- Keith Harris.

The situation is not much better for Liverpool's close neighbors Everton either. Harris has been trying to pimp out the Toffees for weeks with not much luck.

"The demographics of Liverpool as a city are not hugely compelling" says Harris who quit his position as Chairman of the Football League in the face of the much publicized fiasco that was the ITV Digital farce.

Harris' firm Seymour Pierce Investment Bank is currently charged with finding new owners for Newcastle, Norwich and Everton. What is interesting is that Harris says that "it's never been harder to find investment", yet he is taking on the task anyway. What a hero.

Delia Smith at Norwich should certainly not hold her breath over Harris' efforts. His difficulty in finding buyers for Premier League clubs does not credibly indicate that he will be able to find some mug wants to pony up to buy a Championship club. However awesome that club may be!


-Bigus

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Old Hucks as Best Newbie. Norfolk Still Angry.


Norwich legend Darren Huckerby has been named MLS 'Newcomer of the Year' at 32. Huckerby has put in some excellent work in his new league in the last few months, scoring 6 goals in 14 games from the left wing, but Norwich fans are still irritated at Manager Glenn Roeder's decision to axe Hucks during the summer, and they let the Norwich boss know exactly how they felt at last night's Annual General Meeting.


When Huckerby was shown the Carrow Road exit at the end of last season, many Norwich fans were miffed at Glenn Roeder's decision to shun the most popular footballer the team has had for many years, maybe ever! What also irked the fine people of Norwich was that their hero was not given the send-off that he deserved when Roeder clearly knew that Huckerby was no longer part of his rebuilding plans.

Six months later, with the team sitting 2 points above the relegation zone and Mr. Huckerby back in Norwich last weekend, as a spectator in the Jarrold stand, the Norwich City AGM became the perfect forum for City fans to air their displeasure.

While I am sure that if Huckerby's replacement this season, Wes Hoolahan, had been en fuego for the Canaries, the people of Norwich may have been a little more forgiving with the decision to send their wing-king packing, but he hasn't. Roeder has even dropped Hoolahan from the squad recently, and he's featured in just 9 games this term. While David Bell has been impressive in that position in the last couple of games, Bell arrived as a right winger and it appears that Roeder may have gotten lucky with the Irishman, who's starting to look tasty on the left in Huckerby's old role.

That said, this season's inconsistent performances, tenuous league position and many different line-ups has kept Huckerby fresh in the memory.

Last night's AGM should have been filled with questions regarding the club's financial situation, its on-and-off flirtation with Billionaire Peter Cullum and concerns over the future of a team that sits 19th in the Championship with a home crowd of 25,000 weekly.

Instead, a large portion of the proceedings were taken up with questions from angry supporters bringing Roeder's decision over Huckerby into question.

"It was not an easy decision for me to make. But it was my decision and my decision only. Don't hold anyone else responsible. It was a tough call. I targeted a couple of players in Darren's position - younger players - and I decided to let him go and bring in two others. Football is about opinions. You will never please everyone all the time. We have to move on. The future is now, today and tomorrow. Lets stop living in the past."
- Glenn Roeder last night.
Meanwhile thousands of miles west, Huckerby is gathering hero status with another set of supporters, those of the San Jose Earthquakes. Huckerby's trademark runs have given the Earthquakes fans a new paladin in their first year in MLS.

Huckerby chants can be heard at 'Quakes home games and fan message boards are filled with messages of excitement for next term and a full season of Hucks magic.

Huckerby only played in 14 games this past campaign yet he established himself as a key figure for the 'Quakes, scoring 6 goals and setting up 4. His arrival started a 9-game unbeaten streak which lifted San Jose within touching distance of the play-offs for a short while. Huckerby's performances have been noticed across the league resulting in Huckerby being essentially named 'Rookie of the Year'.

An ironic accolade for a player who is 32 years old and a veteran of the game. He also appears to have settled down well in his new part-time home of San Jose as he told me back in September. Other notable awards Mr Huckerby can place on his Norfolk mantle include San Jose's MVP, Earthquakes golden boot winner and MLS Player of the Month for September. Quite an achievement to be named a team's 'player of the year' after only 14 games!
"Darren had phenomenal run for us right from his arrival to the team. He brought an attacking mentality to our team that helped spark us on our run for the playoffs. His experience and professionalism were also great assets to the team this year. He is very deserving of this award."
- San Jose Coach Frank Yallop on Huckerby's M.L.S recognition.
Just a fan: Huckerby watches on at Carrow Road last weekend.

The MLS season is done for Huckerby as the Earthquakes missed out on the postseason, and the popular number 6 is back in Norwich where his heart really lies. He was in the crowd amongst his people last Saturday as Norwich failed to hold on to a 2-1 lead to beat Preston North End, and as a season ticket holder, you would assume he will be there again this weekend for the visit of Swansea. A visual reminder for City fans of some good times behind them and some rocky ones ahead.

-Bigus

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday Backpasses: A lighter load


Not a lot to get to tonight. Just three links. Enjoy it.

Tomas Rosicky is never coming back [Goal.com]
Landycakes gets a prize [AP]
Jermain Defoe's new WAG. SuperWAG? Need more pictures to tell [Daily Star]

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Mickey Mouse Cup- Live Blog. Wigwam at Arsenal Day Care.


One of Arsenals starters tonight!

Alright. It's Mickey Mouse Cup day and Setanta has chosen to show Wigwam V The Wenger Boys. Beggars cannot be choosers so I will be grateful to the soccer gods for Tuesday afternoon footy. Join me after the jump for a Bigus Live blog extravaganza!




There are a few games this afternoon and I'll try and keep up with those also.

Man United are hosting Q.P.R.
Derby are playing Dirty Leeds at Pride Park.
Rory Delap will throw bombs into the Rotherham box for 90 mins.
The Swans are at home to Watford.

Interestingly, Swansea beat Watford 3-1 at home just 3 days ago. I wonder if Watford even bothered to go home? I Wonder what there is to do in Swansea? Ice skating aparently! There is also a place nearby called 'Mumbles'. Could this be the birth place of the Welsh language?

Ok. Enough mumbling. Team news! Wenger is going to rest his first team and bring out the kids. No surprise there. Wilshire, Ramsay and wonder boy Carlos Vela are all slated to start.

Arsenal 11 from...

Arsenal squad: Fabianski, Mannone, Hoyte, Djourou, Song, Gibbs, Wilshere, Ramsey, Randall, Merida, Bendtner, Vela, Lansbury, Simpson, Coquelin, Emmanuel-Thomas, Frimpong, Ogogo, Toure, Diaby, Bischoff


Wigan. Heskey tweaked his ham-string on Saturday and as a result Henri Camara will get a rare run out.

Wigan 11 from...

Wigan squad: Kirkland, Pollitt, Melchiot, Taylor, Bramble, Scharner, Boyce, Figueroa, Kilbane, Valencia, De Ridder, Cattermole, Brown, Palacios, Koumas, Zaki, Camara

Line-ups as we near kick off...

Also appears that Fergie is letting the nippers have a run out. Rafael Da Silva, Jonny Evans, Darron Gibson and striking duo Manucho and Danny Welbeck could start.

Anyone smell an upset? Camon the hoops!

Manchester United (from): Kuszczak, Foster, Amos, Rafael, Evans, Cleverley, O'Shea, Chester, Possebon, Gibson, Hewson, Fletcher, Park, Anderson, Carrick, Nani, Giggs, Welbeck, Manucho, Rooney, Tevez.

From the look of that the bench will be stacked, just in case! Staying with You Man You? Owen Hargreaves is out for the season. Bum knee. I'm sure they will miss him with Scholes, Fletcher, O'shea, and Anderson.

20 minutes to go and Mrs Bigus has not returned to baby sit the Bigus nippers. This could get interesting. Standby for my 2 year old sons take on the opening exchanges.

Lets see if he can offer us a match preview...
hdsdff nfheiosdio jdfsdsf f fdssfpgg fsoi fsfosdfid vvoos idtyv difh didf Elmo.

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Newsflash...

The line ups are IN..

Arsenal: Fabianski, Hoyte, Song Billong, Djourou, Gibbs, Wilshere, Randall, Ramsey, Merida, Simpson, Vela. Subs: Mannone, Bischoff, Coquelin, Fonte, Lansbury, Ogogo, Frimpong.

Wigan: Kirkland, Cattermole, Boyce, Bramble, Melchiot, Valencia, Koumas, Palacios, De Ridder, Figueroa, Zaki. Subs: Kingson, Taylor, Scharner, Kilbane, Brown, Cywka, Camara.

Who on earth is Frimpong? Anyone? Sounds like a kids game involving props. "Frimpong! Frimpong! I win!"

Keiran Gibbs is getting a run out for the Gooners tonight. He is a big lad and can play anywhere across the middle. Norwich had him on loan last year and although he didn't play much, he looked a good prospect when he did.

Carlos Vela and Cardiff wonderboy Aaron Ramsay both start.

Wigan have selected a pretty strong line-up. Heskey is missing but Zaki, Valencia, and Palacios all start.


Right. TV is on and Setanta are showing a re-run of Arsenals big win from the weekend. Lucky omen?


Ok Wigwam are apparently lining up with a 4 3 3. De Ridder and Koumas will flank Zaki.

Zaki has 9 goals this season. Cattermole is in the middle and will have Placios and Valencia alongside him for company. Wigan have never won at Arsenal according to Jeff Stelling. Wowser. They won't get a better chance than tonight.

The teams are in the tunnel. Arsenal look young. Real young. Not even bumfluff!

Wigan are wearing what appears to be last years Chelsea away strip. Bright yellow. No one is getting hit by a car this evening. Jay Simpson is going to start up front with Vela. Simpson was at Millwall last year and played 46 times for the Lions. Jack Wilshire is the youngest in the Gooners line-up tonight. He is just 16! His mum is waving from behind the bench. Hope she packed a snack for half-time.

0 mins. And they are off! Wigan kick off. Right to left for those who like imagine.

Bramble has been man of the match in Wigwams last 2 games. Surely we are due a Bramble moment of Titus proportions.

4 mins. Bit of a midfield battle although Wigan are having the better of the first few minutes. Vela is sitting behind Simpson and tried to set him through with a nice chip but Wigan swept that away.

8 mins. Koumas and valencia link up well on the edge of the box but the resulting cross is headed away by Djourou. Wilshire looks bright but his wayward pass sets De ridder away but his cross is sent out for a corner. Fabianski fumbles the cross but the ball is cleared.

12 mins. Phew..ACTION. Vela breaks through and tries to round Kirkland who palms the ball away before making another save from Vela. Simpson then gets the ball on the right and lets one fly, hitting the bar. The Arsenal babies have their tails up.

15 mins. Vela and Simpson are on the same page. Vela slips a tidy ball through on the left side of the box and the pacy Simpson latches on before firing a shot goal bound. Kirkland makes another fine save. At the other end De Ridder finds space and forces a save from Fabianski. End to end stuff now.

20 mins. Wislshire is dynamite! 16 and boy does he have some tricks. Vela is brought done 30 yards out and Aaron Ramsay takes a cracking free-kick which forces a stretching save from Kirkland to his left. Arsenal are looking tasty. Full of confidence.

Fabio Capello is watching on and Kirkland knows it.

22 mins. Wow. Kirkland is a busy boy. Vela lets one fly from 2o yards, right side and forces another terrific save.

26 mins. Wigan are coming into the game a tad more. First Koumas finds space on the left hand side of the box after a long cross from Palacios and then he finds row Z high above the Arsenal goal. Wigan are having luck down the right time and time again, Gibbs is struggling to contain Palacios. The last few minutes have been all Wigan.

31 mins. Some lovely football from Wigan but they have no end game. The Arsenal babies are creative and lively thus far and they nearly score as a long Corner from the right finds Djourou at the back post, 6 yards out, he looked completely surprised and tried to take the ball down before Melchiot bundles the ball away from him.

38 mins. Arsenal are back in control. Gibbs makes mince meat of Melchiot before winning a corner. That results in open play and the young gooners have spent the last few minutes trying to find a way into the box.

Derby are beating Dirty Leeds 2-0. Villa and Ellington with first half goals.

41 mins. GOAL, GOAL, GOAAAAAAAAAL.

Jay Simpson. Wowser Jack Wilshire threads a 25 yard pass from midfield into the path of the speedy Simpson and he slides the ball under the on-rushing Kirkland

Arsenal 1 Wigan 0.

Half time. Entertaining game. Vela, Wilshire and Simpson have been very impressive. The future looks rosy for Arsenal. Wilshire looks especially, well special. The composure he showed to take his man, turn and lay a ball through with the outside of his boot was incredible. He is just 16! He has earned his half-time snapple for sure. Simpson is lightning fast and took his goal very, very well. Oi Roeder, get this kid on loan NOW.

Right. BRB, the kettle is whistling.


HT scores..
Derby 2-1 Leeds
Stoke 1-0 Rotherham
Swansea 0-1 Watford

United V Q.P.R kicked off at 3pm Eastern and is still scoreless.

Phew...How am I doing people? This is hard work.

Wigan need to step up in the second half if they are to make a game of this. They have played some nice football, but they have not had the ball enough and wasted the final ball when they have had the chance to make the Arsenal babies pay.

Break time is over, the kiddies are back on the field.

and we are off!


49 mins. Song has this habit of bringing the ball forward and then forgetting to join Djourou back in the defence. I'm sure Arseene is making notes. Wigan have started brightly. They are deffo missing Heskey up top though, holding the ball.
Gibbs and Merida link up well on the left side of the box but Simpson heads Merida's cross over.

57 mins. Figueroa has a nice long throw. He is no Delap but it's a good un. Wigan are probing but still have no final ball. Zaki looks frustrated. Arsenal look confident on the ball and the major difference between this Arsenal and the normal Arsenal is that THIS Arsenal are not afraid to shoot from distance. Ramsay, Merida and Vela have all tried more than once from 20 yards or so. Wigan make a change. Camara is on for Koumas. 4 4 2 for Wigan now. Koumas has been quiet.

61 mins. Arsenal are having lots of posession and Ramsay makes a mockery of the Wigan midfield. No one tackled him as he ran with the ball before sliding a nice pass through to the left of the box for Kieran Gibbs to strike. Kirkland saves well.

65 Mins. GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL....SIMPSON!!!!

Vela does all the work. Song sets him free on the left and he takes melchiot before squaring the ball past Kirkland for Simpson to blast home. Great stuff. Vela looks fantastic.

Arsenal 2 Wigan 0.


69 mins. Wenger has to be delighted. For all of Arsenals time on the ball, they have converted the real chances. Are you watching Van Persie? Surely Vela will be knocking on the door of the first team after tonight, he has had a cracking game. Beating Sheffield United in the last round is one thing, but comfortably doing a Premiership side with the kids must make Wenger happy. A real test for his kids and they get an A+.

71 mins. GOAL GOAL GOAL GOOOOOOOOAAAAAL!!!!!

VELA!!!!

Oh Lordy. Vela has just scored a peach, he has just chipped Kirkland from just inside the box. A long pass, he takes a touch and runs on to it and THEN chips the big Wigan keeper from 15 yards or so. Special stuff. What a finish!

Arsenal 3 Wigan 0


75 mins. How many will the Arsenal babies score? Wigan must go a huntin' now. But doing so will give Vela and Simpson the space to punish Steve Bruce's men even more.

Bischoff and Angela, I mean Henri Lansbury are coming on for the Arsenal babies. Double goal scorer Simpson (19 years old) and Jack Wilshere (16 years old) are the players heading off for a treat. Well done boys. Maybe a lolly pop from uncle Arsene.


80 mins. Vela to Merida, a deft chip over the top back to Vela, this is gorgeous stuff from the babies. kirkland makes it to the ball first to save Brambles blushes.

I will be surprised if Vela is not in the first 11 very, very soon. What a handful.


84 mins. Ramsay, Song, Wilshere, Gibbs, Simpson and Vela have been outstanding. One baby who has not been that impressive is Mark Randall. He was on loan at Burnley last year and I reckon he will be back there permanently soon. Vela is off to a standing ovation as yet ANOTHER Arsenal baby takes to the field. Rui Fonte is his name.

86 mins. The MEXICAN wave is making it's way around the stadium. Spectator, the MEXICAN wave is named as such after it showed itself to the World at the Mexico World Cup in 1986.

Wow. Wigan just missed the best opportunity to find the Arsenal net tonight. Fabianski does well, he makes a save from DeRidder before finger-tipping the follow up from Zaki onto the bar. Great stuff.

90 mins. 3 mins on the board and 3 mins to the quarter finals of the Carling Cup for the Arsenal babies. They have been smashing tonight and deserve their place in the next round. can they go all the way? who knows, but they are fun to watch.


93 mins. Ding Ding Ding, time Gentleman please! It's all over at the Emirates and the Arsenal babies are in the quarters. Great stuff. they played some lovely football tonight. Vela was truly amazing and will be knocking on the first team door. Merida, Gibbs, Simpson, Wilshere and Ramsay won't be far behind him. Steve Bruce and co should not feel too embarrassed about being tucked up tight by the Arsenal babies tonight as I reckon these kids would have done the same thing to many Premiership teams.


Well that was exhausting! I am off to take a nap. Thanks for stopping by.

-Bigus.








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Bundesliga Watch


You know, the post title would be much better if this were Switzerland, but what can you do? Since it is undoubtedly Germany Day here on UF (on Armistice Day, no less), with one, two, three stories so far, why not add another one? A quick look at the woefully-ignored-by-us Bundesliga thus far will do nicely, I think.

The story, so far, tn Germany is undoubtedly that of TSG Hoffenheim. The small-town club (and I do mean small--population 3000) is in its first season in the Bundesliga and acquitting themselves quite nicely. How nicely? Well, until a 1-0 loss at Hertha Berlin this weekend, the team was in first place. That's pretty damn swell, I think. This is not your usual small club, though. They are backed financially by Dietmar Hopp, one of the founders of SAP. Hopp used to play for the youth side of Hoffenheim, and has used his billions to build the squad up. As it stands, this is a very international club now, with players from nine countries on the squad, including three cherished Brazilians. This season is a transition season for the club, as they are moving out of their former 5000-seat stadium into a newly-built 30,000 seater. What remains to be seen is if the club can fill those seats when the newness of the Bundesliga wears off.

Sitting atop the Bundesliga at this point is Landycake's former club, Bayer Leverkusen. Leverkusen hold the slightest of leads at this point, being even on points with Hoffenheim, while holding a one goal better goal diffential. Since Hoffenheim are also the top scoring team in the league, this is a tight race. Leverkusen ascended to the top after a scrappy 3-3 draw with Karlsruhe on Saturday. High scoring games are not the norm for Leverkusen, as their four previous results had been 2-0 wins since an early October 1-0 loss to . . . Hertha Berlin. Head to head with Hoffenheim, however, Leverkusen hold the advantage having topped the small club 5-2 in the season's third week. There is also a big match upcoming with perennial favorites Bayern Munich in three week's time.

Bayern Munich sit third in the table, one point behind the top two. They must be considered the hot team right now, having run off 19 points in the last seven matches since a disappointing 2-2-2 start. Whereas Jurgen Klinsmann was probably on the early hot seat before, the team is looking much more solid now. Klinsi's big question right now must be why the hell he would care about bringing in Donovan. He is replete with attacking options to the point of Lukas Podolski--the Pole transplant who starts and scores copiously for the German national side--cannot be considered a starter for his club team. Tough times are ahead for the American.

Through the middle of the table, there are some weird issues with team's records and their goal differentials. Fourth-place Hamburg have a 7-2-3 record, but have an even goal differential despite the four more wins than losses. The fact that all three of their losses have been 3-0 definitely plays into that. On the other hand, there is Werder Bremen. This is an up and own team who, despite holding a 4-5-3 record, have a +5 GD, which leaved them 10th in the 18 team Bundesliga. It must be because they can pump in the goals at times, having put up 5 against Hoffenheim (5-4), Bayern (5-2, away!) and Hertha (5-1).

What of this Hertha team that keeps getting mentioned? They sit 5th currently, four points behind the leaders. Between 5th and 11th is pretty hotly contested with Schalke, Wolfsburg, Koln, Borussia Dortmund, and Stuttgart joining Werder and Hertha therein.

From Stuttgart, there is a gap to the third tier of the Bundesliga. Four points separate the 2007 champs from 12th place Eintracht Frankfurt who in turn hold a one point lead over Hannover 96. Borussia Moenchengladbach and Karlruhe sit a little further back in the last safe spots.

Sixteenth place in the Bundesliga goes into a two-leg playoff against the third-placed team from 2.Bundesliga. Currently, the 16th place team is VfL Bochum. The final two spots in the table are held by the woefully out of form sides Arminia Bielefeld and Energie Cottbus. When it comes down to it, Bielefeld has the better chance of surviving, while Cottbus have the look of EPL's Derby County last season. They have one win against eight losses with three draws. Who did that win come against? Hertha, of course. Who else?




Read more on "Bundesliga Watch"...

Landycakes Landing in der Deutschland

Pretty amazing that Landycakes, one of the more innocuous players to ever sashay onto the pitch, is also one of the most divisive figures for American footy fans. We've got blue states and red states, rich and poor, and pro-Lando and against-Lando. But, in this new spirit of bipartisanship, I say we all come together and wish our receding-hairlined pygmy best of luck during his trial at Bayern Munich.

Look, credit where credit is due. Despite being a four-time MLS player of the year, the all-time USMT assist and goal leader, and having a century of caps, Landycakes has enough self awareness to know that his reputation will always be tainted by those two failed stints in Europe. The move to Bayern has been long-rumored and probably makes the most sense, with Klinsmann at the helm (for the time being at least) and a less-physical continental style that would suit Lando well compared to the EPL. You also gotta think that the Galaxy will be motivated to sell to clear up some salary for a couple players for Becks.

Assuming that Landycakes' trial turns into a permanent deal with Bayern, the trick will be if Donovan is willing to be a role player rather than the key man. Perhaps the Galaxy's abysmal season was a good preparation, as in how could it get any worse? On the plus side, Lando can play any midfield or forward position, has good speed, can deliver nice crosses into the box, can finish, works hard and he's still only 26 years old. But is he willing to accept a lesser role with a top-quality team? Will he be willing to stick it out if Klinsmann gets canned or the team underperforms? What happens when Lando is forced to sit on the bench?

And, for all the Lando haters, the most important question is how long until he comes sniveling back to MLS.

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Hey look, Rory Delap can throw stuff

Delap, sans ball


In World War 2, he'd have been the lad with the grenades. He was born too late for that, but even so, Rory Delap's superhuman ability to throw round objects has caught the attention of the Irish Pointy Stick Throwing Association back home, and they've got big plans for Delap in 2012.

They're eyeing up Olympic gold with the javelin, and who better to use than Stoke's bearded chucker?


I can't quite believe that it's true, but the Daily Star (think three steps below the Daily Mail for journalistic integrity) says it is, and they've got the quotes to prove it:
Mary Coghlan, head of Athletics Ireland, said: We don’t have any javelin throwers competing at the World Championships next year so of course we would welcome him. To reach the acquired standard would be extremely difficult but nothing is impossible. Certainly, if he wanted to try and throw the javelin for Ireland we would be more than delighted to have him."
So there you have it: Delap for 2012. It'd be a wonderful story, rivaling those legends like the Togolese medalist in canoeing and of course, the Jamaican bobsled team.

Athletics Ireland hopes to get Delap to sit down with Irish javelin "legend" Terry McHugh (of course I would never mock him to his face considering his prowess with a javelin) to talk strategy and see if there might be any interest.

Watch the vid of Delap's long-throw magic in action, and ask yourself: could he really do for a pointy stick what he's done for a leather-stitched ball?




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Argentine defender giving it too much lip


Look at them smackers!


Conjecture or not, stories alleging plastic surgery and cosmetic enhancement for footballers are always welcome around here. I must admit I was surprised that the recipient of such treatments was not Cristiano Ronaldo. He must get those synthetic looks naturally, then.

No, this concerns a defender of the Argentine persuasion, Bayern Munich marauder Martin Demichelis, and his fondness for Botox.


According to the Daily Mail, bastion of all that is factual and un-sensationalized in the world, a leading South American cosmetic surgeon has outed Demichelis as a frequent benefactor of the lip-numbing treatment normally used by ladies to acquire the DSLs (although they don't know it yet).

Cristian Perez Latorre, the surgeon in question, was concise: "Demichelis is a footballer I have worked on. He injects Botox into his lips before games. He wants to look good."

Simple enough, although Demichelis was quick to scoff at the rumours: "It's laughable. I don't have an earring, any piercings or tattoos. And yet I am supposed to be using Botox?"

I'm sure it's a simple mix-up. The German newspaper Bild that initially broke the story believes that it could be slanderous revenge for comments Demichelis' girlfriend made about Latorre and his sub-standard surgery performed on a mutual friend, so there's your conspiracy theory right there.

Either way, true or false, the notion is hilarious. A footballer with puffed-up lips? John Terry might benefit from such a service before his next attempt to kiss up to the referee.


John Terry, are you interested?

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Werder Bremen Foils Neo Nazis

I know we promised some more upbeat stories today, but this one came across the desk, and, well, it bears telling. In Bundesliga play this past Saturday, Werder Bremen and Bochum drew 0-0. I know, not especially noteworthy except for the fact that some Neo Nazis unfurled political banners. The perpetrators were promptly arrested after being fingered by other fans.

I hate to ascribe intelligent, cogent thought to Neo Nazis, but Saturday was November 9, a day of historical significance for Germany. So much so, the Germans call it Schicksaltag. A day that marks two significant Nazi landmarks--the Beer Hall Putsch and Kristallnacht. It also is the same date that the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Bremen officials are banning the offenders thankfully. And, hopefully, we'll have more uplifting stories for the rest of the day.

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At Least Police Departments Can Find a Use for All of Those Unsold Beckham Dolls

We're starting to get a little weirded out by the frequency with which we come across these things. And it doesn't really help keep the mood light around here but we feel compelled to pass these along, because, well, not sure we have a good reason. The world is a fucked up place and increasingly some of that fuckedupness is springing up in American youth soccer.

Today's winners are Daniel Cope, 23, of El Mirage, Arizona and Stephen Martin Myers (that's him there in the orange jump suit), 45, of Littleton, Colorado (Littleton is most famous as the town of Columbine High School).

Cope is a youth soccer coach in Mesa and collector of child porn. Officers were called to a home investigating the possible molestation of two boys, ages 3 and 5. Cope was arrested on charges of child molestation, then when police returned to search his possessions they found 2000 pics and 400 vids of kiddie porn on his computer. That seems like a lot.

Myers is a goalkeeper coach who admitted to kidnapping one of his 13-year players and sexually assaulting her after taking her to motels in Colorado Springs and Walsenberg.

This one is particularly creepy as: "At one point, the girl told police she was 'in love' with Myers and he was in love with her." Yikes.

The article in the Denver Post says Meyers was a goalkeeper for the Tulsa Roughnecks from 1984-85. Not sure how that works out though as the NASL folded up shop in 1984. That's also probably not that big of a deal given that the story is about a 45 year old molesting a 13 year old.

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