Saturday, January 10, 2009

We still want to sell you


At least he saved the world another week of bitching about how dirty Bolton are and how soft and squishy is the Gunners ' pysche with an 84th minute winner. But if Arsene can find a decent bidder, I won't shed too many tears if Bendtner takes leave from Emirates. For today its all good, however, as Arsenal keep pace in the battle for fourth (sigh) with Villa and Everton. The rest of Saturday's results after the jump.

FT Aston Villa 2 – 1 West Brom. Fucking Villans lose one already, ok?!?
FT Arsenal 1 – 0 Bolton Wanderers
FT Everton 2 – 0 Hull City. The Toffees have allowed no league goals in a month and are on a five match unbeaten run. Good time to find form, as they have a brutal stretch coming up.
FT Middlesbrough 1 – 1 Sunderland
FT Newcastle United 2 – 2 West Ham United. The damaged goods bowl. Slightly used Prem club for sale, $100 million OBO.
FT Stoke City 0 – 0 Liverpool. Whoops.

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World Cup Football Comes to Nantes


Foosball: So easy Bush can handle it!*

World Cup football. A quarter-finals match between familiar foes England and Germany. But this is Nantes, France in January 2009, not J-Burg, South Africa in June 2010. The competition at hand is the International Table Soccer Federation's World Cup, and the best players can make up to £50,000 a year.


Make no mistake, this is serious business. In France, which (along with England and Germany) claims to have invented the game, there has been a push to register as an official sport and receive government aid. The argument is that:

“They train for six to eight hours a day, their abdominal muscles are powerful and their busts, arms, wrists and shoulders are in good shape. Everyone knows the game but they don’t know it as a top-level sport.”


Even the more staid Brits are looking to possibly make table soccer an official sport. Boris Atha, the chairman of the British Foosball Association, has noted that

“We are not as far advanced as the French but we are working on it...”
(Ed. note - hey, he said it, not me)

It remains to be seen if the dream of babyfoot (or foosball, or table soccer) will finally receive the recognition it deserves.

*Photo Credit - Doug Mills (AP)

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday Backpasses: Cool graphs

Villareal pledge to hang on to Jozy [Sky Sports]
Best female soccer player in world signs with WPS(L) [LA Times]
How Berbs is blowing it for Man U [BBC]
Sure, it's Arsenal-centric, but this is pretty damn funny stuff about Bolton [Arseblog]

Finally:
Guy from England's ninth level into final group for a spot on Seattle Sounders. This is just so embarrassing to me that a MLS squad spot some window glazer (maybe) from Thornaby. Any idea what the show is that they are referencing? [Gazette Live]

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Head Games



Very few things in life are certain. After death & taxes, the list of certainties (like my patience for C Ronaldo) is short. But, among those gleaming truths is the fact that Alex Ferguson will attempt to play mind games with his opponents. And over the past few weeks, in between whines about United's schedule, he's doled out some well-measured dollops of psychological poison by suggesting Liverpool don't have the bottle to win the Premier League.

Love him or hate him, the man knows what he's doing. (see Keegan, Kevin)

For too long, SAF has acted like the schoolyard bully, roughing up whomever he wishes for their lunch money. Unfortunately, save a few top men (see Mourinho, Jose), very few seem eager to go toe-to-toe with the boot-kicker.

Yet, today that may have changed.

Ahead of his team's meeting with Stoke, Rafa Benitez fired off a volley towards to the red-nosed Scot during his pre-match press conference on Friday. When asked about SAF's comments on a possible Liverpool choke, the Spaniard ratcheted up his rhetoric towards his rival manager.

Within seconds of the posed question, Rafa pulled out a sheet of paper and rattled off a number of 'facts' about Sir Alex's behavior towards the referees and his whinging about the schedule. While reaction to Rafa's 'tirade' has been predictably mixed, it certainly was amusing.

Watch Benitez's diatribe here.
Or, if you live like a savage and can't watch video, here's the text.

My personal favorite excerpt, on SAF's unhappiness with the schedule:

"Or there is another option. That Mr Ferguson organises the fixtures in his office and sends it to us and everyone will know and cannot complain. That is simple."
Now, as a Liverpool fan, I'm eating this up. It's like watching the bully demand milk money for the hundredth time, but this time his target reaches into his pocket and responds with a punch in the nose. Others think this is exactly what SAF wants and that Rafa blew his lid. (hardly)

Nonetheless, it's fun to watch and should give the title run-in just that much more juice. It'll be interested to see how the crusty old manager responds.

Read more on "Head Games"...

Our latest UF Contest Winner speaks!


After Phil's caption competition success, he had more than a few ideas and decided to tackle the terrace chant. Take it away, Phil...

Ah, the terrace chant. They don't come out very often, are often off-the-cuff and are spurred by current events, so they have a pretty short shelf-life; but when they do they are often hilarious, in all of their completely profane and insensitive glory. Some of us kicked a few around in a comment thread a few weeks ago, so when Bigus gave me opportunity to write a post, I figured I'd turn our fun there into fun for everyone.

Besides, the alternative was some sort of bilious pro-Spurs screed, and, really, who wants to read that. So, to get to the point: what's the funniest terrace chant you've ever heard?

Nothing will ever top the classic "There's Only Two Andy Gorams." What better way to keep The Old Firm alive and well than ridiculing Rangers' schizophrenic keeper ? It's the Platonic form of terrace chants. But there are others, not quite so funny, but just as inventive.

Here's a couple of my favorites:

Tweedy, Tweedy, Tweedy
She cannot f*cking sing
And when she's shaggin' Ashley Cole
She dreams of Ledley King.


In spite of the unfortunate mental image of Ledders in the missionary, an excellent chant. In the wholly and completely wrong category, though, there's this:

Eduardo..oh oh,
Eduardo..oh oh,
He's lost his silky skills...
Now he walks like Heather Mills


Only football fans can find a way to make fun of a horrific injury and an actual cripple (miserable harpy though she is). We're a fantastic group of people. Doughy, pasty, spiteful little bastards that we are.

Finally, there's this:

My bank account is f*cked up cause of the prices at The Lane,
Seventy quid you're having a laugh, they've mugged us off again,
I've taken up a mortgage just to cover for this game,
As the autopay goes charging on......
Daylight robbery Tottenham Hotspur, Daylight robbery Tottenham Hotspur
Daylight robbery Tottenham Hotspur, and the autopay goes charging on


Because if you can't ridicule your own club, who can you ridicule? So, what say you, UF'er's? What's the funniest terrace chant?

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UF Quick Throw: British Team "A Must!"

The new British Olympic boss, Andy Hunt, has called the formation of men's and women's British teams 'a must' for the Olympics in 2012. There has been a lot of opposition to the proposal from the Football Associations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland especially, but Hunt is determined to bring the four country's together for the one off event.

"The national football associations need to come together to resolve this matter for the British people." - Olympic Head Honcho Andy Hunt.

I had my say on the matter a while back!

-Bigus



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I don't think this is standard Yoga

From The Offside comes this...intriguing video of Samuel Eto'o. The Barca striker has a history of injuries, so pre-match stretching and warm-up is important, but I'm not sure if that's what this is. I'm not certain but this looks to be similar to the Team America: World Police bedroom scene.

If you have any idea what's going on, please let us know.

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Yahoo Fantasy Football Midseason Report Card

There are a few UF fantasy footie leagues this season. The most populated league is the Yahoo Fantasy Football league with demand so great a second league had to be created. The UF contingent appears split on the best league, either the YFF game or the Official Premier League game. My favorite is YFF because of the many ways to score points. One of my foes in a private league has offered up his YFF opinions and insight to UF. Gman, as he's known, is a worthy fantasy foe and in my experience has top notch insight to the games.

Today, UF runs Gman's midseason report card.

EPL MIDSEASON REPORT – FANTASY STYLE

We’re at the halfway point of the season. While we’re all interested in whether a team will assert itself for the title or who’s going to escape the drop, many of us are more concerned where our Yahoo! Fantasy Football teams are. Let’s look at some of the Winners and Losers of this fantasy season so far.

WINNERS

FRANK LAMPARD
Lamps was money in fantasy terms three years ago. The last two years has seen his star wane as Cristiano Ronaldo has been a fantasy monster. But this year, Frank has been sneaky good. It’s a weird Chelsea team in that no one is really dominating. But Lampard has brought consistency with 13.68 points per game. Slightly behind Ronaldo, but well ahead in value.

FULHAM
Craven Cottage hasn’t been a place to look for fantasy points the last few years, minus a Simon Davies explosion. Ever since Louis Saha left, they’ve been more concerned with avoiding the drop than filling stat sheets. But there are fantasy options for Fulham this season. Especially on the back line. The secret has been out for awhile on John Paintsil, but Schwarzer and Hangeland are averaging 7 points a game as well. Bullard is the real star this year averaging 11 points a game and he’s only scored twice. If he stays healthy(possible, but not probable), then his PPG might outpace his initial price(11.60), which is what every player should aim to do.

ASHLEY YOUNG
Sometimes fantasy value doesn’t always go hand in hand with real team value. But that relationship is in lockstep with Ashley Young and Villa this year. His brace against Everton not only cemented Villa’s status as contenders but confirmed himself as a future Thierry Henry in fantasy terms.

JOSE BOSINGWA
I remember watching Bosingwa intently in Euro ’08 playing for Portugal, knowing that he was going to be a fantasy commodity in August. When he came onto YFF at 5 points, I was ecstatic. Long story short, his first few games left a lot to be desired. I dropped him and have since regretted it. For those who kept the faith in him, he might become the best value in the game by the end of the season.

ROBINHO
This guy was roasted coming into the EPL because people thought he was just doing it for the money(god forbid someone should try to make as much money as they can). In 15 games, he has justified his price tag, fantasy and otherwise. I saw him play in Santos as a teenager, as he played with Diego and Alex. Someone told me that Diego was the real star. Who are you putting your money on now?

LOSERS

CRISTIANO RONALDO
Ronaldo isn’t a disaster this season, but so far he is not earning his fantasy value. I don’t know much about football, but what I see is a changed player and team. And it has fantasy ramifications. Last year, Man U would build up and pass out to Ronaldo. He’d dance over the ball, take on a defender or two and shoot. This would result in a corner won, a shot on target or most likely a goal. Not this year. Ronaldo has for some reason turned into a passing machine. And the build up is through the middle with Carrick and Berbatov. If this pattern doesn’t change, then Ronaldo loses all fantasy relevance.

EMANUEL ADEBAYOR
I just don’t see it out there. Maybe it’s the service. Maybe last year he was on HGH. Whatever the case, Adebayor just doesn’t look the threat.

ROQUE SANTA CRUZ
‘Don’t cry for me Argentina!’ Ok. I know he’s from Paraguay, but can I shed a tear for his abysmal first half? Blackburn is bad and all, but what the f---? This guy was a nice sleeper last year. This year, he just looks asleep.

GRETAR STEINSSON
Last year, Steinsson was sort of like that band that you discovered before everyone else. He was like Alan Hutton, except a better value. This year, he came out of the gates well with a goal. But since then, he’s gone like totally chic to totally geek.

DAVID BENTLEY
In previous seasons, I’m sure were a lot of Bentley posters up on the walls of fantasy players. This year, they’ve been torn down. Blame Juande, the crowded midfield, etc. Whatever the reason, this has been a steep fall for a fantasy god. Can we please get him back on the wing serving in wicked crosses?

2ND HALF PREDICTIONS – The great thing about YFF is that you can adjust week-to-week. But it is important to spot trends and recognize where value lies. Here are some quick thoughts for the second half:

UPSIDE

TOTTENHAM DEFENSE – I see more Clean Sheets in their future. This includes Dumbo in goal.

DAN GOSLING – Yahoo! has him listed as a defender. If Moyes has any brains and plays him, then you will benefit from his attacking role.

JAMES MILNER – He was a fantasy stud a few years ago and he has the potential to become one again. Now that Fabio has anointed him as England’s great hope, maybe that will get him going.

DOWNSIDE

Portsmouth – In their first two years in the EPL, Pompey defied logic by not only staying up, but by becoming mid-table stalwarts. Well, the pied piper has left and the fire sale has begun.

Ronaldo – Nancy Reagan said no. You can too. NOnaldo. He might blow up occasionally the rest of the season with multiple goals, but it won’t be consistent enough to justify the price tag.

Fernando Torres – He was a poor man’s van Nistelrooy last year. This year, considering the injuries and all the juggling by Benitez, I don’t see him having much impact.

Cesc Fabregas – Let’s be honest. He was doing it with smoke and mirrors last year.

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UF Quick Throw: Alan Gow and Biomechanics

Alan Gow, owned by Rangers, on loan to Blackpool, was set to make a permanent move to Wolverhampton after duly impressing Mick McCarthy. Unfortunately for Gow, he failed the physical. McCarthy describes it as "something bio-mechanical". What he heck does that mean, anyway? Your guesses in the comments, please. I'm flummoxed.

[BBC]

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C-Ron Ferrari Update: Good Luck with Insurance Ronnie.



Yesterday Christiano Ronaldo totalled his Ferrari on the way to training. The details were a little sketchy at the time, but now we know more, I'll bestow a brief update upon you.


The motor:
The car was a Ferrari 599 GT Fiorano capable of 0-62 in 3.7 secs and a top speed of 206mph. The car cost Ronaldo 200 thousand U.K pounds. The red Ferrari was just 2 days old and ordered a month ago from a Portuguese dealership. So how long does it take C-Ron to save up for a 200 thousand pound car? Just 2 weeks.

The crash:
Ronaldo wrote off the motor in a 50 mph zone and this is the area where the police investigation will focus. Was he driving too fast? He passed a breathalyzer test at the scene but police will still want to know what happened. How did he lose control of the car? Team mate Manucho was also in the vehicle but I'm sure Manucho saw nada! The Angolan (like C-Ron) escaped unscathed.

Both were taken to training from the scene by Edwin Van der Sar who was following Ronaldo's car at the time of the incident. Ronaldo left training later in the day in his 150 thousand pound Bentley. The flashy git also owns a Rolls Royce Phantom (350 thousand UKP), 2 Porsche Cayennes, a Porsche 911, a BMW M6 and of course a newly crumpled-up Ferrari Fiorano.

Ronaldo may have a collection of fabulous cars but he may not be able to drive them. The AA says that Ronaldo is un-insurable in the UK.

We cannot find anybody who would touch him with a bargepole. The minimum age to get insured for that car would be 25 and then the best price we could find would be £44,000 but if the person had had an accident that would go up to around £100,000."
- AA spokesman.

Poor C-Ron. Maybe he can get his mum to drive him and his mates around, like the old days. Next stop the roller-rink! Anyone want to stop for French fries?

-Bigus

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Matthew Etherington Is Stray Dog

Here, Matty, come on, Matty.

Matthew Etherington is apparently transfering to the Stoke City Animal Shelter. The West Ham midfielder is reported to be on his way to Stoke City for a fee of about 3 million pounds.

Stoke City hopes Etherington will help it avoid relegation this season. Manager Tony Pulis is doing all he can to motivate and inspire his players. Witness his comments on the Etherington signing.


"No disrespect but we are at a club where we can't deal in the top bracket of players we would like to bring here, " said the Stoke boss.

"You are always working below that. We are not at Crufts, we are at Battersea Dogs Home. We are looking for strays. We are looking for people who have gone astray with the aim of bringing them back.

"You look for players who have gone off the rails and for whatever reason have not fulfilled their potential."

Please remind me not to ever invite Tony to give motivational speeches.

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Generation Adidas and the MLS SuperDraft


Photo Credit: University of Akron

Generation Adidas (formerly known as Project 40 when it was sponsored by Nike) is a program designed to increase the talent level of young American players. It encourages early entry (i.e. before college graduation/completion of NCAA eligibility) into MLS with the stipulation that Generation Adidas players chosen in the SuperDraft do not count against a club's senior roster (often ensuring that these players earn only the league minimum salary). It should be noted, however, that since their professional contract ends their NCAA eligibility, the program also provides each player with a scholarship to finish their college studies if they are unable to progress in their professional career.


Just yesterday the 2009 Generation Adidas class was announced, with 9 players on the list. These names are always interesting, as last year's Top 3 picks (and 6 of the first 8 picks) were Generation Adidas players. The class features 2 defenders, 4 midfielders, 2 strikers, and 1 lone goalkeeper (Stefan Frei, of Cal; although born in Switzerland, I don't believe he is related to the Swiss international - it's like "Smith" over there). 3 of the players (Omar Gonzalez, Jeremy Hall, and Rodney Wallace) are from the national champion Maryland Terrapins.

The most interesting name on the list, however, is that of Steve Zakuani. The striker from the University of Akron led the nation in goals with 20, and in points per game with 2.14. Originally born in the Republic of Congo, Zakuani was raised primarily in London where he played on the Arsenal youth squad from 1997 through 2003. Spotted by the Zips coaching staff when they were evaluating a different player, Zakuani brought Akron all the way to the #2 ranking in the country and is a finalist for the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy, to be announced tomorrow evening. He was named the Mid-America Conference POY, Soccer America POY, and 1st-team NCAA Division I.

Soccer clearly runs in the family, as Steve's older brother Gabriel came up with Leyton Orient and Fulham (where he was eventually loaned to Stoke City), and currently plays for Peterborough United in the Colaship.

Projected by some to be the #1 overall pick in the SuperDraft, it remains to be seen if Zakuani can keep up his form and be more Maurice Edu than Freddy Adu.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thursday Backpasses: A lingering question (no, not that one)

Marketing indoor soccer in Milwaukee [Music Videos That Suck]
Player in Ireland gets jail for allegedly headbutting a referee [Independent]
Site attempts to rank all 209 teams playing in European competition this year [European Football Rankings]

Referee in Scotland investigated for making racist remarks against former Rangers player [The Press and Journal]
Six scenarios that may define US soccer this year [Fox Sports]
Generation Adidas, 2009 [Soccernet]

Finally:
Lippi echoes Scolari on gay players in football. Bonus fun--the article uses the same picture Pink News used the last time we linked to them. Who are these two people who are the stock photo for gay footballers? [Pink News]

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Caption Competition: FA Cup.



We have a winner! I asked for witty captions for the above image of Hartlepool's Michael Nelson and Jammie McCunnie celebrating the win over Stoke City and we had eleven entries. Not great was it? Eleven. Better than a kick in the balls I spose.

Anyway, the winner is PHIL! Well done mate. You win free speach in the form of a UF blog post. Send your scribble to unprofessionalfoul [at] gmail [dot] com.

The winning caption: Is this what they mean by "the romance of the Cup"?



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Move On People...Please!



The case of Carlos Tevez's ineligibility to play for West Ham during the EPL (suck it Barclay's) relegation dog fight of the 2006/2007 season still refuses to go away. Mainly because Sheffield United refuse to admit that they were crap. Am I the only one who has had enough of this nonsense?


The case against West Ham is set to roll on as the Premier league and FA open another investigation into Carlos Tevez's contract and it's existence.

West Ham United had told the Premier League that the contract in question (which made Carlos Tevez's status as a EPL player illegal due to third party ownership) had been destroyed. But the Independent Arbitrary Tribunal, chaired by Lord Griffiths, reported that the contract was in fact not shredded as stated . West Ham's Chief Executive Scott Duxbury and the Lawyer for Tevez's agent (Kia Joorabchian) told the panel of the contract's existence. The Premier League allowed Tevez to play crucial run-in games for West Ham based on the fact the contract had been destroyed.

The new inquiry will focus on West Ham's dealings with Joorabchian and whether the existence of the contract should warrant more punishment. The Hammers have already been fined 5.5 million pounds for their part in the controversey.

Meanwhile Sheffield United are still chasing 50 million pounds they reckon they are owed by West Ham after they were relegated from the Premier League in May 2007.


Sheffield United: Relegated on goal difference.

The reason Sheffield United were relegated was because they were crap over 38 games and not because Carlos Tevez played for West Ham United. Tevez is just one player. A good one but 'one' player regardless. The Blades are just looking for free cash or an excuse to explain their miserable failure to beat Wigan at Bramall lane on the last day of the season.

The real reason Sheffield United find themselves in the Coca Cola Championship is that they only accumulated 38 points during 38 games. They lost 20 times, conceding 55 goals. They only scored 32 goals and choked at home on the last day of the season when they lost to Wigan and were relegated by ONE goal in the goal differential column of the EPL table.

Ever since they were sent down, they have bitched and moaned about the Tevez affair incesantly. West Ham have been punished and a new regime has been installed at Upton Park. The main players in the Tevez affair are long gone and Tevez himself no longer plays at the club. West Ham are in financial trouble and the current owners are looking to sell. Should the next chairman, three removed from Terry Brown (Chairman in 06/07), have to pay the price?

Sheffied United and Blades Chairman Kevin McCabe need to ask themselves how they managed to blow their big opportunity to survive and allow former player David Unsworth to score the winning goal that sent them back to the second tier of English football. They need to take ownership for their predicament and stop blaming a piece of paper. West Ham have been fined and the parties involved have all moved on. Tevez is at United and Terry Brown is no longer at West Ham. If the contract exists or not, it's irrelevant at this point. The decision was made and the fine handed out.

Lets all move on shall we?


-Bigus

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UF Quick Throw: Justice 1, Juventus 0

Former Juve GM Luciano Moggi has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for his role in the Gea World transfer corruption scandal. No word yet on whether he'll have a January or a summer window in his cell.

[Guardian Sport]

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C-Ron Mangles Ferrari.



Christiano Ronaldo has driven his Ferrari into a wall, writing off the pricey toy. The incident happened at 10.20 am this morning in a tunnel under Manchester International airport. Ronaldo was unhurt and headed from the scene to United's training ground to prepare for Sunday's clash with title rivals Chelsea.

There were no other vehicles involved in the incident and an eye witness told reporters that the car just hit the wall. The left wheel came off the car on impact and was left 200 yards behind the vehicle.

Police will be questioning the star winger about the crash but he did pass a breathalyzer test at the scene. Team mate Edwin Van Der Sar was following behind Ronaldo in his Bentley and was at the scene when the police arrived. Ronaldo is said to have spent 2 million pounds on expensive sports cars since signing for United in 2003.

This is a tough one to explain for sure. What are the chances that he wasn't texting on his mobile?

Click here for video of the wreck.

-Bigus


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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wednesday Backpasses: Lies

Remembering the foreign contingent of the EPL back in 1992 [The Best Eleven]
Ibisevic interview with ESPN. Pretty run of the mill [The Offside Rules]
Tony Adams wants Joey Barton. Sad, really [Sky Sports]
Some unnnamed New York group is in the hunt to buy Newcastle [EU Football]

Finally:
The Fiver takes a look at the transfer talk dealings of Arshavin's agent [Guardian]

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Y'know, this is one of those times...



... where I don't mind being completely and utterly wrong.

So the Nigel Clough era begins this weekend, and he takes over a side that's just beaten a fairly-strong Manchester United side, the current World Champions. What a letdown it will be when they lose at Cardiff this weekend.

See the winning goal here.

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Carling Cup open thread: Like Rams to the Slaughter

Don't be scared, Carlos, it's only Derby! Oh... yeah, that.


Is there anyone on this planet that imagines Derby can unseat the high-priced, high-flying sulk machines of Manchester United? If so, please step forward. Burnley showed us last night just what going up 1-0 before half-time will get you: a 4-goal spanking from the restart. When a mediocre striker from Zenit is scoring goals, you know you're done for.

That said, it's Derby's turn to nip at the ankles of a proud EPL behemoth.

New manager Brian Nigel Clough isn't quite ready to take over, meaning that academy boss David Lowe is in charge tonight. Not that it'll matter; while United will probably rest a ton of first-teamers, this evening feels like one of those 3-0, Danny-Welbeck-scores-an-absurdly-brilliant-goal-with-five-minutes-remaining games. It's unshakeable.

Rams striker Rob Hulse is bravely playing the media game, insisting that all the pressure is on United to beat them mercilessly over two legs (although really, a one-leg massacre and a 1-0 at Old Trafford will do the job):
We are the underdogs and we have got nothing to lose whereas United are expected to win, so we can just enjoy pitting our wits against some of the best players in the world. Being the favourites and being expected to win brings with it an added pressure. We have got to try and take advantage of that and make it difficult for them and if we can play and get the crowd behind us, we can give anyone a game. It is a cup game so you never know what could happen, but at the same time we know that whatever team they bring it will be packed full of experienced internationals and great players."
Indeed Rob, this one's truly up in the air.

Come watch Fergie's reserves with us after the jump, with a possible Rodrigo Possebon sighting!

Lineups:
Derby: Carroll, Connolly, Todd, Nyatanga, Camara, Sterjovski, Green, Addison, Commons, Hulse, Davies.

Subs: Bywater, Savage, Teale, Barazite, Dickinson, Powell, Hines.

Man Utd: Kuszczak, Rafael Da Silva, Vidic, Evans, O'Shea, Anderson, Scholes, Gibson, Nani, Tevez, Welbeck.

Subs: Amos, Ronaldo, Rooney, Giggs, Carrick, Fletcher, Possebon.

Sad that Rodrigo only makes the bench, although young Welbeck's primed for his late, meaningless wonder strike. For Derby, a whole bunch of players I've never heard of who are charged with the task of protecting poor former United keeper Roy Carroll.

All joking aside, Phil Dowd's in charge, adding a whole new layer of chaos to the proceedings. Seriously: he's rubbish.




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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

I am of the opinion that things do not get lost in translation inasmuch as translation is imperfect because of the languages themselves. We are hard wired to run everything through our native tongue and to try to fit everything foreign to us in this context. The problem is that language is most often not a one to one construct. Sure, some things do translate directly--numbers being the most obvious--but so many other things do not. It's like the (incorrect) adage of Eskimos Inuits having 40 words for snow. Even if they only have two, that's one more than I, as a native English speaker of the American South, have.

I'm guessing then that the Swiss, when translating into English from whatever dialect of German, French, Italian or Romansch has been used, run into a similar problem. Even if it is only for a two word phrase.


Never has a shirt posed such a short question that is not easily answered. Hundreds of answers could be given for this seemingly innocuous question. The easiest, of course, is "why not?" But that gets you nowhere. One has to consider the framing of the question. Sure, the default I went to is for illegal or illicit drugs, but I'm not sure that is what the shirt is asking. Perhaps this was part of a governmental push to get people to support drug research within the country. Maybe this was a pharmaceutical's attempt to break into the seemingly impenetrable Swiss market "Why drugs? Because you will feel better". Maybe, even, this was Kevorkian's attempt at a inroad into the Swiss suicide market. Who knows? I don't. The shirt refuses to answer the question.

If this was indeed an attempt to make potential illicit drug users ask themselves some hard questions, why was this done in Switzerland? Switzerland has a reputation for being liberal in its views on drug policy. Not like the traditional Dutch policy, but much more permissive than the USA. There was a time in the early 90s, about the time this shirt was produced, when awareness about needles and the spreading of AIDS entered into the conversation. Could that be what this is all about? If so, why not just do a revised West Brom shirt from the '80s?

Furthermore, what reason to fight any drug use do the club have? This shirt is from Grasshopper Club in Zurich. Now, the only thing I've ever known a Grasshopper to beat is my sweet tooth, when I've eaten grasshopper pie. Surely, the fan base of this club must partake in hallucinogens to get behind such a wimpily named club, right? Come on, grasshoppers are one step up from dust motes when deciding how to name your club ferociously. I digress. It's better than the American way of naming all of your teams the same.

Who are we?
The Wildcats!
Who are we gonna beat?
The Wildcats!


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UF Quick Throw: Roque is no longer vogue

The rather average Blackburn striker, long touted this season as the goalscoring answer so many teams would be desperate for in the January window, hasn't seen a single bid come in to Ewood Park. The hype and expectation hasn't yet appeared in the form of eager bidders, or so management would have us believe.

At this point, if Mr. Santa Cruz were a digital music player, he'd be a Zune.

[BBC Sport]

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Roman is burning

Time for another coup, Roman. Might be a good way to get back up to #1


(Via The Guardian)

Four Four Two has had another crack at their lists of the wealthiest owners and players in football, and Roman is slipping a bit. Poor lad. Might this mean the end of the retarded over-spending for the EPL's Big 4?

List of owners and players after the jump. Commence anger/surprise/ridicule in the comments!

Richest Owners
Arsenal has 2 in the Top 10, making Wenger's non-spending surely more frustrating)
---
1. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Manchester City, £15bn in "riches")
2. Lakshmi Mittal (QPR, £12.5bn)
3. Roman Abramovich (Chelsea, £7bn)
4. Joe Lewis (Tottenham Hotspur, £2.5bn)
5. Bernie and Slavica Ecclestone (QPR, £2.4bn)
6. Stan Kroenke (Arsenal, £2.24bn)
7. Alisher Usmanov (Arsenal, £1.5bn)
8. Lord Granchester and the Moores family (Everton, £1.2bn)
9. Dermot Desmond (Celtic, £1.2bn)
10. Lord Ashcroft (Watford, £1.1bn)
11. Malcolm Glazer and family (Manchester United, £1.1bn)
12. Simon Keswick (Cheltenham Town, £0.97bn)
13. Trevor Hemmings (PNE, £0.9bn)
14. Mike Ashley (Newcastle United, £0.8bn)
15. Randy Lerner (Aston Villa, £0.75bn)
16. Tom Hicks (Liverpool, £0.7bn)
17. The Walker family (Blackburn Rovers, £0.66bn)
18. Mohammed Al Fayed (Fulham, £0.65bn)
19. Sir David Murray (Rangers, £0.6bn)
20. Steve Morgan (Wolverhampton Wanderers, £0.4bn)
-----

Well done, lad. Plenty of money in the kitty for when you stab Milan in the back as well


Richest Players
(Is anyone surprised at #1? I was certainly surprised at #5)
---
1. David Beckham (LA Galaxy, £125m)
2. Michael Owen (Newcastle United, £40m)
3. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United, £35m)
4. Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United, £28m)
5. Robbie Fowler (unattached, £28m)
6. Sol Campbell (Portsmouth, £28m)
7. Ryan Giggs (Manchester United, £23m)
8. Michael Ballack (Chelsea, £20m)
9. Frank Lampard (Chelsea, £20m)
10. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool, £19m)
11. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United, £18m)
12. John Terry (Chelsea, £17m)
13. Didier Drogba (Chelsea, £15m)
14. Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea, £14m)
15. Damien Duff (Newcastle United, £14m)
16. Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United, £13m)
17. Ashley and Cheryl Cole (Chelsea, £13m)
18. Fernando Torres (Liverpool, £13m)
19. Emile Heskey (Wigan Athletic, £12m)
20. Gary Neville (Manchester United, £11.75m)

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More Evidence of the Burgeoning South Florida Soccer Scene

This got hit in yesterday's Backpasses, but I just have to point out how it relates to Miami's MLS bid. As you know, wireless magnate Marcelo Claure and FC Barcelona are pairing up in an attempt to bring back MLS to Miami. One of the key elements is that the fans are there and the South Florida soccer scene is just exploding at the seams.

This video shows why the seams are bursting (please note The Miami Herald banner at the 1:20 mark):




Yeah, I can see why soccer is so popular in South Florida. Now they just need to get MLS to adopt the rule that allows for a bull on the field as an all time defender.

[Off The Post via Deadspin]

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tuesday Backpasses: Mess with the bull

There are kickabouts. Then there are kickabouts with a bull [Off The Post]
Klinsi excited about Landycakes. Not excited enough to be USMNT coach, but really, who would? [Soccernet]
Denilson, who flamed out at FC Dallas, to trial at SF Bolton [BBC]
The blog equivalent of that David Huckerby interview. Check the "Update" section [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

Giggs to retire, according to Giggs. Maybe. [Soccernet]
Milan offer deal to Pennant after his contract expires. At least he'll be rested [Guardian]

Finally:
Big Phil not well-liked by Gay rights activists [Soccernet]

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UF Quick Throw: Wenger chases a baby-faced Russian

So it's official: Arsenal want Arshavin. Having watched Spurs flame out with one Zenit St. Petersburg striker, why on earth do they think this one will pan out? Little Andrei looks set to become the latest player to have one good international tournament and then profit. I still have nightmares about El-Hadji Diouf's spell at Anfield.

[Yahoo! Sports]


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BIG Shoes To Fill


Brain Clough was one of the greatest managers in English history. If you don't believe me then click here and see for yourself. He once said "I wouldn't say I was the best manager in the business. But I was in the top one." Whether or not his son Nigel has the same talent to succeed in the big leagues is up for debate. But he will get a shot. He was just named manager of Derby County after 10 years with non league Burton Albion.
Is he ready? Nigel Clough has made it the big time and he leaves his non league team at the top of the Blue Square Premier, 13 points to the good and looking up at League football for the first time. He must be good right? His old man certainly was. Brian Clough managed Derby for 6 years and now son Nigel will get a go. Nigel is only 42 but has 10 years experience as a manager already. This move has to be a risk for Derby. No doubt that Clough has done a super job at Burton, but this is Derby County and not a non league side filled with builders, roofers, car dealers and salesmen. His new players have big wage packets and egos to match.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for me and one that I relish. I know the club inside out. It has always had a special place in mine and my family's heart, and I know that this is one of the most exciting jobs in football. Derby County has everything - tremendous support, a first-class stadium, magnificent training facilities and an ambitious ownership group looking to grow the club even further. Also, we have a terrific squad of players already here and I can't wait to start working with them" - Nigel Clough today.

Derby are sure they have the right man and Chairman Adam Pearson spent the afternoon singing Clough's praises.

"He is right man for this club at this time, he has created a fine legacy at Burton and wants to do exactly the same at Derby. He sees it very much as a long-term project. There was no sentiment or romance involved in the appointment, you can't have that in football. He's tough enough to take the club forward in his own style." - Derby Chairman Adam Pearson.


The younger Clough followed his old man into football and started his career at his dad's club, in his dads old position. He scored 102 goals as a striker at Forest in 317 games. Short stints at Liverpool and Manchester City followed before Clough took over at Burton Albion as player manager. Clough made 300 appearances for the non leaguers and was still registered as a player this year. He leaves Burton riding high with a good shot at making League Two and professional football for the first time.

Brain Clough managed Derby but it was at the Rams big rivals, Nottingham Forest that he made his name, winning the European Cup twice. His team also went 42 games without a defeat. The equivalent of a whole season. A record that stood until Arsenal bettered it with a 49 game run back in 2004. The year 'Old big ead' died at the age of 69.


Clough senior was a real character and always good for a quote. He once said "Telling the entire world and his dog how good a manager I was. I knew I was the best but I should have said nowt and kept the pressure off 'cos they'd have worked it out for themselves."

His son is the opposite and a quiet character, but he seems to have the same confidence of the old man. He will need to be a chip of the old block if he is going to succeed with Derby. They are currently 22 points from Reading in second place and just 5 from the drop.

-Bigus.

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One More Reason None of Us Is Seriously Considering Going to South Africa in 2010

Not sure what's worse here: the story itself, or that it's not the least bit surprising.

Anyway, an African Nation Congress official who blew the whistle on corruption in stadium construction for the 2010 World Cup was gunned down outside of his house. Next to his son. After hosting a party.

Mpumalanga police spokesman Superintendent Abie Khoabane said details of the shooting were sketchy and that police had not established a motive for the attack. Three shots were fired, one at close range, which hit [Jimmy] Mohlala in the chest. Another hit his son in the leg. According to Sibiya, neighbours found Mohlala lying in a pool of blood. He was certified dead on arrival at a local hospital.

Last year, other ANC members wanted Mohlala removed from his post after singling out colleague Jacob Diadia "over alleged irregularited relation to the construction of Mbombela stadium."

Diadia was suspended, but—and this is priceless—the ANC recalled Mohlala. After he refused to step down, the party took disciplinary action against him. So, in South Africa when you expose potential corruption you lose your job and your life in that order?

Yes the rest of the world can't wait to come to a country where "disciplinary action" and "gangland style assassination" are interchangeable terms.

Okay, we're making an assumption that the killing was a direct result of Mohlala's whistleblowing over 2010 stadium construction. And police haven't determined that to be the case for certain. But when you're inviting the world to a party you're hosting, even the appearance that you're killing people who are trying to keep things on the up and up is, well, bad. Suffice it to say South Africa's evite list of "No's" might keep increasing by a few hundred million or so.

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Rumor With A View.



Welcome to the second edition of 'rumor with a view'. We are 5 days into the January transfer window now, newspapers and interweb sites are jam-packed with speculation. After the jump I'll take a look at the day's transfer rumors and discuss whether they are realistic, based on any knowledge or just good old fashioned bullsh*t.

OK... Let's get started. The below rumors are from newspapers and sites in the UK, collected by the BBC.
---
Lyon insist they will not sell their 20-year-old France international striker Karim Benzema, despite speculation linking him with a move to Manchester United. (football365.com - 1057 GMT)

If the price is right then Benzema is for sale. Lyon are not Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United and as soon as the kid gets ambitious it will become hard to keep him, especially if the price offered is north of 20 million and these days that's the norm for a player with Benzema's talent. But this move is unlikely to happen during this window as United have stated that they are done spending until the summer.
--
Manchester City have made a £24m bid for Barcelona's 25-year-old midfielder Yaya Toure and will double his wages to tempt him to Eastlands. (The Sun)

I can see City making an offer but it may take more than 24 mil. Barcelona rate Toure and they know City have money to burn. Toure's price will only go up if he keeps scoring goals like this one (1 min 11 secs in) from last Saturday.
--
City have also offered midfielder Scott Parker £100,000 a week to quit West Ham and join them. (Mirror)

Wow. 100k a week to Scott Parker? I can see him moving there as Sparky is a fan but that's crazy wages for Scott Parker. He is a good player but not a great one. Great players win the EPL (suck it Barclay's). If they give Parker 100k a week they will have to do the same for everyone. Not happening.
--
Tottenham have made a revised bid of £12m for Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing. (The Independent)

This one will drag on all throughout January but Downing wants to join Spurs and 'Arry is just as keen. They offered a ridiculous 6 million and were told to sod off. 12 million should do it.
--
Aston Villa will step up their efforts to sign Emile Heskey after Marlon Harewood was put on standby for a £2m switch to Stoke. (Mirror)

Heskey is a popular lad at the moment. He is back in the England set up and playing well for Wigan. His contract is up in June and that makes him cheap. Villa and Liverpool are both suited to his game and I can see him joining one or the other. But if he goes to Liverpool, what happens to Robbie Keane? Will he enjoy the bench?
--
Tevez has threatened to quit United and that has alerted Real and also Manchester City. (Daily Mirror)

This one is just nuts enough to come true. United are stalling on Tevez while they decide if the 30 million he will cost is worth it. While that's going on, their neighbors spot an opportunity for a coup? They have the cash. Interesting one and totally made up... or is it?
--
Hull manager Phil Brown will tie up the £2.5m deal for Kamil Zayatte this week and then bid £4m for Sunderland striker Michael Chopra. Brown also wants Wigan's 31-year-old midfielder Kevin Kilbane. (The Sun)

Yeah, the Zayatte deal should go through. He has been on loan from Young Boys. No... not Arsenal, but 'Young Boys' from Switzerland.

No-one is paying a large chunk of cash for Chopra again are they? Sunderland were burned by the prolific Colaship forward and they sent him back to Cardiff on loan, where he proved that he is a Colaship man through and through, scoring 3 goals in 4 games. If Chopra moves on, then Sunderland will take a hit on the 5 million they spent on him. 2-3 million is more realistic.


Scolari: Skint!

Chelsea have told manager Luiz Felipe Scolari he will not be given any money to spend in the transfer window. (Daily Star)

Not a rumor this one. Chelsea are tightening their purse strings. Abramovich has taken a huge financial hit recently and his days of bank rolling mega-star moves for silly money are done. He has a good squad, and one that should be challenging for the Champions league and Premier League titles. They won't spend a dime.
--
Manchester City want Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz, West Ham forward Craig Bellamy and his midfield team-mate Scott Parker, Arsenal defender Kolo Toure and Newcastle keeper Shay Given. (Daily Star)

These rumors are oldies. But can the five players above win the EPL (suck it Barclay's)? I am not so sure. City will need to sign better players than Scott Parker and Roque Santa-Cruz if they have ambitions of making the top four next season.
--
AC Milan are also keen on Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant. (The Sun)

And so are Real Madrid, if you believe the papers. Norwich are said to be interested in Lionel Messi too. Pennant will turn up at the JJB in Wigan before January is done.
--
Wigan boss Steve Bruce has compared midfielder Antonio Valencia to Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo and says he will not be sold during the transfer window.

Steve Bruce is on crack. Which is another reason why Jermaine P will sign for Wigan, Brucey will get on well with Pennants dad. Valencia is better than most and he will be at a better club soon, but Ronaldo? Yawn. A weak attempt at massaging Valencia's fragile ego while jacking up the price. They may be able to keep him this season and fight off suitors this month, but any decent bid will be accepted. Wigan cannot afford to turn down the big clubs. Not while they still have empty seats.


Bruce: Crack addict?

The £15m-rated Valencia, 23, is a target for Liverpool, Tottenham and Real Madrid. (Various)

Thats more like it. As I said. If the bid is right, he's gone. United are also very interested in the winger.
--
Liverpool and Tottenham will miss out on defender Glen Johnson, who will sign a new deal with Portsmouth. (Daily Star)

I'm sure Johnson will stay at Pompey. He's a crowd favorite and has made the England team recently. Why would Tottenham sign a right back when they have Corluka? Madness. Pompey have offered Johnson a new contract and I am sure that it will make him one of the club's top earners if not the top earner.
--
Sunderland striker El-Hadji Diouf has issued a come-and-get-me plea to Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce. (The Sun)

Sunderland are holding talks with Diouf to discuss his future this week but the former Bolton and Liverpool man is a tough player to deal with. Allardyce is good with big-headed players and rates Diouf. I can see this one going ahead.
--
Everton and West Ham have been alerted to the availability of Manchester City midfielder Michael Johnson. (The Sun)

Johnson is a great prospect but it's clear that Mark Hughes is not keen on the lad. City have been linked with every midfielder in Europe and it's no secret that they will be aquiring one or two this month. Johnson will move on and Moyes is deffinately a fan. But Everton's priority is a forward, not a midfielder. Still, can they look a gift horse in the mouth?
--
Sunderland and Wigan are chasing £800,000-rated Plymouth winger Craig Noone. (The Sun)

The 21-year-old winger appeared from nowhere this season for Plymouth after a career as a roofer. He certainly has set tounges wagging. It's far too soon to tell if he can make it in the Prem and while I am sure Sbragia and Moyes are watching from a distance, this move is too early for a player who has only started 9 Colaship games.
--
Newcastle want to sign former Portsmouth and Tottenham midfielder Pedro Mendes on loan from Rangers, with a view to a £1.5m move. (Mirror)

Why not? Mendes is still Premiership quality and he has an eye for the spectacular goals from long range. Newcastle's midfield could certainly do with some creativity and this rumor could become reality.
--
Edgar Davids wants to return to Tottenham on a play-as-you-pay basis. (Metro)

And I want to fly to the moon. Of course he wants to re-join Spurs, but this rumor is just bonkers. Davids was let go last season and again by Ajax this season. He is also closing in on his 36th birthday (March). Redknap is after a left sided winger, a forward and a center back. Davids is no longer equiped for the Premier League (was he ever?)and this is just crazy talk. But wait? What's this? If Redknapp signs Davids then he has lost the plot, just like Davids has lost all of his pace.
--
Leeds boss Simon Grayson is plotting a £300k move for Norwich midfielder Wes Hoolahan. (The Sun)

Utter codswallop. Hoolahan was chased all summer and signed as a replacement for Darren Huckerby. That didn't quite work out, but he has found a home in the hole in Roeder's new 5 man midfield. Why would Norwich sell a player, who has appeared 18 times this season, for 300k to a team who are tenth in League One? Grayson is a fan of Hoolahan and was forced to sell him to Norwich as Blackpool coach during the summer, but this is just craziness. Not happening.
--
Doncaster want to sign Oldham striker Lee Hughes but only if the price is lowered from £400,000. (Star)

Hughes is 32 now and spent time in Jail after being involved in a car crash that killed the other driver. He was a goal machine before prison and has been one at Oldham since the Owls took a risk on him upon his release. He has scored 20 goals in 39 appearances for Oldham and he is still good enough to play in the Colaship in my opinion. This one is likely. However, 400k does seem a lot for a 32 year old League One forward.
--
Reading and Wolves look set to miss out on midfielder Andrew Surman, who says he is happy to stay at Southampton. (The Sun)

Surman is a real talent and lots of clubs are looking at him. He appears to want to stay at Southampton and help them avoid relegation. Who says loyalty is dead? Should the Saints go down this term, then he will certainly be off for a nice fee in the summer.
--
Birmingham City will launch a £3m offer for Rangers striker Kris Boyd within days. (The Sun)


Krissy big boots.

When will McLeish learn to stop signing Scotsmen who will surely fail in the Premier League? That said, Bongo are not certain of returning to the Premier League this term and Boyd certainly won't fancy a year in the Colaship. A risky move for Boyd and Bongo. He is not good enough for the Premier League (he thinks he is for sure.)

His 'Krissy big boots' attitude was on display for all to see when he quit Scotland a few months back after George Burley benched him. I can't see him joining Bongo just yet, he is having a nice season for Rangers and will wait to see where McLeish's men are in May. If Bongo go up, then this move is likely. McLeish may have to wait until the summer to make a huge mistake.

-Bigus

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Shola Ameobi is an idiot

Shola is not a squatter, he's just a footballer


I realize that the highly-paid footballer of today leads a life more in line with Caligula than Jesus Christ, but a line has to be drawn somewhere, and perhaps Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi has found it. Apparently, the lad lives in such rockstar-esque dishevelment that he can't even tell whether he's been burgled or on a bender.

From the wonderful journalism of the Daily Mail:
The Newcastle striker called Northumbria Police to report a number of items had been taken from his home, including his chequebook. But Ameobi soon realised his £500,000 pad in Jesmond, a leafy suburb of Newcastle, had not be targeted at all - it was just a complete mess. In a scene straight from a Yellow Pages advert, the striker had to call the police again to admit his mistake.
No word on whether Michael Owen's talent was lost and buried amid the detritus.

Still, if nothing else, Shola could look to Dave from Stoke/Newcastle as a possible housemaid. Maybe then the lad could devote more time to remembering how to score goals.


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Well It's Not Like They Were Going to Put 50 People on the Roster

Linked with transfer targets Villa, Buffon, Fabragas, Tevez, and Jesus (great left footed shot, the Messiah), Manchester Citeh is making room at the Middle Eastlands for its drastically diminished transfer target estimations by shipping out—or attmepting to ship out—three malcontents.

And by 'malcontents' we mean people who may or may not want to see manager Mark Hughes take a mudshark up the pooper.

From Al Guardian:

Mark Hughes has identified a small but influential group of Manchester City players he fears are trying to lead a dressing-room mutiny against him. There has already been one meeting at which the ringleaders shared their grievances, and a fringe player has complained about Hughes to the club's executive chairman, Garry Cook.

The coup plotters? Two Brazilians and a Jew.

So, Mark Hughes is an anti-semite, eh. Actually he's just stupid.

That's not our assessment, that's merely an inference based on the fact that his squad is sitting 2 points from safety. But he's trying to move Jo, Elano, and Ben Haim, which also makes him kind of stupid.

Okay, if they are going to bring in around £100M in transfers in January, then some bodies have to go. Ben Haim has been offered to Blackburn as part of the Santa Cruz deal. That's no biggie. He's more than serviceable, but to get Santa Cruz that's an easy sacrifice.

But cutting the Brazilians loose? It's no secret that Hughes and Elano aren't bosom buddies—but the image of them in drag does make me giggle—but Elano was maybe one of the 5-7 best attacking mids in the Prem last season. Plus, if the Abu Dhabi owners want to continue to bring in Brazilians, it might help to keep some others around. Robinho barely knows that he's there to begin with, and seems to get the fuck out of there any chance he can. So, not the wisest move from a recruiting standpoint, but when you can pay players by the truckload, maybe that matters less.

In any event, this might all be desperate attempts by Hughes to stave off the inevitable: his getting sacked. Again, the team is just a couple of point from safety (but to be fair so is about half the table) and got humiliated in an FA Cup match 3-0 against Nottingham Forrest over the weekend.

As the Guardian article points out: "Yet Hughes's problems can be gauged by the fact that one of the players who was involved in Saturday's game was seen laughing and joking in the showers directly afterwards."

Bet it was the Jew. Oh, and Mark, just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

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UF Quick Throw: Carlos Tevez has had enough!

Whether it was the continual benchings because of the slew of 30-million-pound strikers already at Old Trafford, or the fact that his only games came against crap opposition, one thing is for certain: Tevez is on the outs. I'd be sick of playing second fiddle to Dimitar Berbatov as well.

Well done Fergie, you handled this situation admirably. Now when Rooney has one of his petulant phases and Dimitar begins sulking, you won't have as much goalscoring to call on from the bench. As a Liverpool fan, I approve.

[Guardian Sport]

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UF Quick Throw: Defoe Deal Done.



Lots of reports this morning that Jermaine Defoe's return to Tottenham Hotspur is done, and just relies on a routine medical today. The exact fee is unknown but believed to be in the region of 15 million. Spurs will not have to shell out the full amount however, as Portsmouth still owe Spurs some cashola from the purchase of Youness Kabul. Defoe could be unveiled at White Hart Lane tonight as Spurs take on Burnley in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi final.



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Monday, January 5, 2009

Monday Backpasses: How do these work again?

It has been a while since I put one of these together. Bear with me.

Arsenal to lose their best shot at silverware this year [Guardian]
Tevez sick of Man U not giving him a contract [Guardian]
19 red cards, one match [The Spoiler]
Hucks homesick, it would seem [EDP 24]

Ashley Cole a child in a man's body. Also a money-grubbing dick [The Sun]
Ashley young priced at £75m. That's a lot of money for diving against Gillingham [Daily Mail]
England beat Scotland 1-0 [Gulf Daily News]
South Florida soccer columnist has tasted the Kool-Aid [Sun-Sentinel]

Finally:
MLS has an interesting new foe for American born talent: Mexico [SI]

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Uzbek Club at the Heights of Scandal!


A new scandalous video has emerged which has cast doubt on the future of one of the minnows of global soccer. During an after-match interview, one of the players on the club decided to be extremely forthcoming regarding recent allegations, and it is only a matter of time before the league officials take action.

This shocking video is presented below, followed by a translation of the relevant questions and answers.



Steve Dassidot, the player seen giving the interview, plys his trade for the Uzbek club Pakhtakor Tashkent. When the French-born player gave this interview to a reporter for a Paris news agency, Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini must have both had an aneurysm. Allow me to take you step-by-step through the outrageousness.

5 secs in - We see Dassidot's line for the game; CSC (contre son camp; i.e. an OG) in the 47th minute and 58th minute)

25 secs in - After being asked about scoring 2 OGs, Dassidot admits that the club president of the opposition paid him off, and that it was difficult to resist the offer of $4000 on the table

55 secs in - After noting that these were his 3rd and 4th OGs this season, Dassidot states that his tactics have allowed him to move to 3 different clubs this season, ensuring future financial opportunities

1:10 in - When the reporter asks why Tirec had such a horrible game, Dassidot replies that their coach had instructed them not to pass to him

1:20 in - Dassidot says that Tirec slept with the coaches wife the previous night, and the coach was determined to ruin his career

1:30 in - Dassidot notes that the referee, who is the cousin of the club president, gave Tirec a red card just as instructed (at this point in the video we can actually see the ref come out of the locker room with money in his hands)

1:35 in - the reporter notes that Tirec's red card was completely undeserved, and Dassidot agrees, noting that it was he, not Tirec, who called the referee "a son of a whore"


Overall this is just an unbelievable video. There are allegations of match-fixing, bribery of referees, and inter-club shenanigans which cause much consternation for the proper officials. Stay tuned for more news as this story continues to develop!

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FA Cup Third Round Liveblog: Blyth Spartans v. Blackburn


Well, if Notts Forest can do it, surely the non-leaguers from Blyth can as well, right?

A spot of afternoon fun following a lazy morning finds the ultimate example of FA Cup mismatches as an amateur team hosts an EPL team that's not exactly lighting the world on fire at the moment. Big Sam takes his patchwork side to Northumberland, where the pressure will be immense and the pitch will surely be of awful enough quality to make things interesting.

Come join the eventual 7-1 thrashing after the jump.

Lineups:
Blyth Spartans: Mark Bell, Boyle, Pell, Leeson, White, Reay, McCabe, Williams, Gildea, Dale, Dalton.
Subs: Farman, Brown, Hume, Poole, Todd, Wright, Watson.

Blackburn: Bunn, Simpson, Mokoena, Khizanishvili, Olsson, Vogel, Grella, Treacy, Judge, Villanueva, Derbyshire.
Subs: Brown, Andrews, Roberts, Hodge, Gunning, Doran, Haworth.

A fairly experimental side for Blackburn that should still have little trouble with Blyth, but that's the magic of the FA Cup, see.

4 mins: Little to note thus far; Blackburn's mish-mash XI are struggling to get with the pace on that non-league pitch.

The crowd's certainly up for it as they cheer Danny Simpson's hilarious mis-hit, and the boos are loud every time Blackburn have possession.

7 mins: A heavy tackle by Gary Brown gets the fans cheering. I wouldn't fancy being one of these Rovers reserves tonight. Carlos Villanueva tries a speculative (there needs to be a more emphatic word) shot from halfway, hoping to catch the keeper out. It drifts well over the bar.

9 mins: Villanueva has another effort from the edge of the box, but it's not troubling Mark Bell in the slightest.

11 mins: Blackburn are finding rhythm, and it looks simple enough: pass, move, shoot. Keith Treacy forces a fine save from Bell low to his right after a neat build-up. I'll be the first to tell you that there will be no upset here, on basis of the first 13 minutes. Three good scoring chances, and as good as Mark Bell is in goal, it won't be long before the first of many Rovers goals.

14 mins: It's Villanueva time again as he sets Treacy free on goal, only to watch the Irish international shoot weakly at Bell.

17 mins: Blackburn are dominant and are playing every pass in the Blyth half. It's been nowhere near reserve goalie Mark Bunn's net as of yet. Another Rovers corner amounts to nothing, but on balance, all signs point to a Blackburn goal shortly.

25 mins: The Blackburn flirtation with scoring continues, but Danny Simpson's cross from the right is blocked by three different Blyth players.

Whoops, almost a gaffe for Rovers there... Mark Bunn came out to tidy up Aaron Mokoena's mess as his defender passed it right into Ged Dalton's path, but the Blyth hero from the 2nd Round hurries his shot and puts it closer to the corner flag than the goal. There's a lesson about complacency in here somewhere.

28 mins: It's Blyth's turn for a bit of pressure as they win a corner or two. For the slow-witted among you, this means they've been into the Blackburn half, something they hadn't managed thus far. Well done, you Blue Square North Conference battlers, you.

33 mins: A nifty run down the right by Alan Judge wins Blackburn another corner, but it's fizzed across goal to no avail.

GOAL GOAL GOAL GO-ALMOST for Rovers. Matt Derbyshire wastes his bicycle kick as he was offside. A comedy goal, almost; Derbyshire's bicycle kick skidded off his right foot towards the sideline, only to meet a Blyth defender's face en route. Off the lad's face and into the net past a diving Bell, but the flag was up. An uglier non-goal you will never see. The fans loved that one.

Derbyshire then has a chance to atone for it, but his volley doesn't trouble Mark Bell.

37 mins: And we settle for midfield boredom once more. Blackburn's second XI look absolutely clueless in and around the penalty area, which is very much like their first-choice side, truth be told. At least the coaching is consistent from top to bottom.

40 mins: The hopelessness continues, although the longer it drags on, the more I'm convinced some North Country voodoo has put an invisible shield around the Blyth goal. A lofted corner to the back post finds Vince Grella, but his volley is somehow kept out despite several chances for the visitors on the rebound. Perhaps it had something to do with the 4 Spartans on the goalline.

43 mins: Blyth push forward via the long ball, but stand-in captain Zurab Khisanishvili gets the better of Shawn Reay.

45 mins: Mark Bell does well under Treacy's cross/pass from the left, beating Derbyshire to the ball in midair.

Just one minute of added time to follow.

Half-Time: Blyth Spartans 0, Blackburn 0
Despite seemingly continual pressure by the EPL side, it's scoreless at the break thanks to Mark Bell's goalkeeping heroics and some dogged, desperate defending. You have to fancy Big Sam's side to find an opening eventually, but the longer it stays 0-0, the more you must pray and hope for the upset.

47 mins: Back underway, and right there where we were at the end of the first half: Rovers wasting possession with Spartans nipping at their heels, pressuring them like little terrier, or some other plucky animal or dog breed.

Are Matt Derbyshire and Robbie Keane related? The Rovers lad squanders another chance, and Big Sam must be wondering where the goals are coming from. The bench isn't exactly full of proven match-winners.

50 mins: Villanueva is the next to go close, blasting a shot just wide of the post from 25 yards with Bell beaten. For those of you keeping track at home, it was Blackburn's 10th shot to Blyth's one. Still, it's anyone's game.

52 mins: Simpson wins another corner after Robert Dale's last-second block, but it amounts to nothing. Blyth get into Rovers territory and win a free-kick after Martin Olsson uses the Spartan as a jungle jim, and they turn the screws, earning a corner as Rovers get nervous and struggle to clear. Mokoena then steps in late to knock the ball out of Reay's path with Bunn coming off his line to collect.

Jason Roberts begins his warm-ups as the crowd noise increases and the home fans sense some FA Cup magic in the air.

57 mins: Villanueva, easily the game's most industrious player thus far, wins a free-kick 25 yards out after skipping past two defenders and getting hauled down from behind. Will this be the breakthrough?

GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and I was right! Carlos Villanueva, about to be subbed out for Roberts, bends the free kick across goal with his left foot, catching Mark Bell unawares. A brilliant, deserved goal. I think that might buy him a few more minutes on the pitch, but it doesn't as Big Sam makes the substitution anyway. Blyth Spartans 0, Blackburn 1

Another Big Sam substitution: Keith Andrews on, the rubbish Vince Grella off.

61 mins: With the Spartans forced to push forward, Keith Treacy gets space to shoot and volleys just over the bar, aided by a deflection. Trying times for Blyth now; they need to start attacking.

Subs for Blyth: Simon Todd on, Alex White off. Part-timer for newly-signed Part-timer via Stranraer.

Sad that Blackburn's goal came amid Blyth's best attacking spell, but them's the breaks. The crowd's still urging their side on, and as Gillingham almost proved yesterday, that makes all the difference.

66 mins: Spartans win a free kick as sub Keith Andrews gives away a needless foul on Ged Dalton. Club captain Gareth Williams floats it to the back post, but Matt Derbyshire clears.

69 mins: More desperate defending for Blyth as they prepare for another substitution, but Derbyshire eases the pressure by giving away a free-kick in the Spartans' penalty areas. 20 minutes to go... COME ON SPARTANS

Sub for Blyth: Andrew Wright on, Ged Dalton off.

71 mins: Some life left in Blyth as they win a free-kick 30 yards out thanks to a strong run by Shaun Reay...

Williams goes for goal, and it is on target; however, an easy save for Bunn.

73 mins: First yellow of the night is shown to Aaron Mokoena for his tackle-from-behind. Those never used to be yellow cards, but it gives Blyth another free-kick in Rovers' territory. Williams doesn't get it nearly deep enough and it's cleared with ease.

75 mins: It's just not your night, Mr. Andrews. Alan Judge slips past his man on the right, brings the ball to the byline and slides it across the 6-yard-box, but Andrews somehow manages to blast it over the bar from close range. Awful stuff, and the crowd lets him know.

Best chance for Blyth coming down the other end as Simon Todd gets free down the middle, and it requires a perfectly-timed challenge from Mokoena to snuff out the danger. That would have been 1-1, easy. Mokoena then leaps highest to clear the corner, and back down the other ends it goes.

78 mins: More pressure around Blackburn's goal, and another free-kick deep in Rovers territory. Better delivery from Williams, but Aaron Gildea's volley goes over the bar.

80 mins: Jason Roberts gets free in the box after some nice skills, but puts his shot well wide of the mark.

83 mins: Blackburn just like to keep things interesting as they let Blyth attack time and again as Shaun Reay's gorgeous volley is blocked by Khisanishvili at the last minute, this just moments after Khisanishvili headed over from 5 yards out to keep the score at 1-0.

Sub for Blackburn: Brian Hodge on for the awful Matt Derbyshire.

86 mins: How did Blyth not score that?!?! A gorgeous cross from the left by Alex Gildea finds sub Andy Wright at the back post, and he somehow puts his sidefooted volley inches wide of the post with Bunn beaten. So close.

87 mins: Another golden opportunity for Blyth from a free-kick as Williams finds Gildea right in front of goal, but he puts it just over the bar from 6 yards out.

89 mins: Big Sam's nervously pacing as the Spartans pile on more pressure. A deep throw for Blyth is wasted as Robert Dale fails to control the pass.

90 mins + 1: Close, but no cigar. Dale's speculative flick loops toward goal, but it's no trouble for Bunn.

90 mins + 2: Sums up Blackburn's confidence, really, as Roberts tries to kill clock near the Spartans' corner flag. Another long ball for Blyth, but Simpson's there to knock it clear, and that should do it.

Full-Time: Blyth Spartans 0, Blackburn 1
To be fair to Big Sam, his side could have scored 4 in the first half alone, but it was left to a brilliant Villanueva free-kick to separate the two sides. Blyth played a lot better from a goal down, and Andy Wright will be kicking himself for missing a glorious chance to equalize. Still, the Spartans' dream ends, and Rovers will face Sunderland in the 4th round.

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UF Quick Throw: Downing Move Request Denied. Spurs Quibble Over 1.5 million On Defoe.



So the Stewart Downing transfer saga is set to dominate January much like the Gareth Barry saga dominated the summer. Downing handed his written transfer request in after Spurs tabled an offer for the left winger, but Middlesbrough have refused to accept the request and will try to hang on to their star player. Downing signed a 5 year deal under a year ago and it is likely Boro are holding out for a silly offer. They are in a good position financially and don't really need to sell.

Stay tuned for this one to drrrrrrraaaaaaaaag.

In other transfer news, Spurs say that Portsmouth want too much for Jermaine Defoe. Harry Redknap has been gibbering non-stop about how much he misses his tiny forward and the BBC says the clubs differ in valuing Defoe by around 1.5 million. Now come on Tottenham, If you are willing to admit you made a mistake by selling one of your best players, you should be prepared to pay for that mistake when trying to re-sign him. This is the desperation of January and if Wayne Bridge is worth 10 million, then 16 Million should secure Defoe's signature. I am sure this one will be quicker than the Downing Saga (sounds like a Jeffrey Archer novel eh? Brad Pitt film to follow). Defoe missed Saturday's FA Cup game due to 'illness'. Yeah right! Ismellcash-itus is more like it!



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