Saturday, January 17, 2009

EPL Open Thread: League Position Madness

Love is all around them, it's everywhere they go...


By the end of today, Manchester United will likely be in first, and Spurs could easily be in last. I love this league! (except for the Man U part)

Almost a full slate today, and plenty of traps out there. Can Chelsea be as inept against the Potters as Liverpool were last weekend? I reckon so, especially since the moody Ivorian is left out once again. The Gooners will look to get some revenge at Hull, and Citeh will probably fail at home to Wigan. Oh, and Norwich host Barnsley while they still look for a full-time manager.

Lineups, predictions and fixture list after the jump. We haven't forgotten about you, Hatters fans -- you're on the road at promotion-chasing Darlington today.

10am:
Blackburn v Newcastle
Bolton v Man Utd
Chelsea v Stoke
Man City v Wigan
Sunderland v Aston Villa
West Brom v Middlesbrough

12.30pm:
Hull City v Arsenal
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SUNDERLAND v. ASTON VILLA:
Sunderland: Fulop, Chimbonda, Nosworthy, Ferdinand, Collins, Edwards, Tainio, Whitehead, Diouf, Cisse, Jones.
Subs: Colgan, Bardsley, Chopra, Leadbitter, Reid, Healy, McShane.

Aston Villa: Friedel, Reo-Coker, Davies, Cuellar, Luke Young, Milner, Sidwell, Petrov, Barry, Ashley Young, Agbonlahor.
Subs: Guzan, Harewood, Delfouneso, Knight, Salifou, Shorey, Gardner.

PREDICTION: I'm feeling a draw in this one, probably 1-1. Sunderland are difficult at home, and you figure O'Neill's late own-goal fortunes have to run out sometime.
-----

BLACKBURN v. NEWCASTLE:
Blackburn: Robinson, Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Emerton, Andrews, Kerimoglu, Pedersen, Roberts, McCarthy.
Subs: Bunn, Dunn, Roque Santa Cruz, Grella, Mokoena, Treacy, Derbyshire.

Newcastle: Given, Edgar, Bassong, Coloccini, Jose Enrique, Duff, Guthrie, Butt, N'Zogbia, Carroll, Owen.
Subs: Harper, Barton, Gutierrez, Xisco, Taylor, Kadar, LuaLua.

PREDICTION: Home win. Mark it! The Magpies are dire on the road, and I like what Big Sam's been able to do at Ewood thus far (although they're still in the thick of a relegation battle). Santa Cruz is on the bench; is he coming back from injury, or are they keeping him fresh for an imminent transfer?
-----

BOLTON v. MANCHESTER UNITED:
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Andrew O'Brien, Samuel, Davies, Basham, Muamba, Gardner, Taylor, Makukula.
Subs: Bogdan, Smolarek, Riga, Puygrenier, Shittu, Sinclair, Obadeyi.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Neville, Vidic, Evans, O'Shea, Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson, Ronaldo, Tevez, Berbatov.
Subs: Kuszczak, Giggs, Park, Nani, Scholes, Welbeck, Chester.

PREDICTION: Away win. 2-0, although not having Rooney in the lineup means that Berbatov will actually have to do something today other than score late goals in games they're already winning with ease.
-----

SPARTAK LONDON v. STOKE:
Spartak London: Cech, Bosingwa, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Mikel, Ballack, Malouda, Anelka, Kalou.
Subs: Cudicini, Di Santo, Ivanovic, Alex, Belletti, Mancienne, Stoch.

Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye, Higginbotham, Delap, Whelan, Amdy Faye, Etherington, Beattie, Cresswell.
Subs: Simonsen, Griffin, Olofinjana, Lawrence, Kitson, Pugh, Sonko.

PREDICTION: A squeaky 1-0 home win. Look Phil, starting Malouda and Kalou all the time isn't a good thing. You'll realize that some day.
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WEST BROM v. MIDDLESBROUGH:
West Brom: Carson, Hoefkens, Barnett, Donk, Robinson, Borja Valero, Greening, Brunt, Koren, Simpson, Fortune.
Subs: Kiely, Cech, Beattie, Kim, Moore, Pele, Filipe Teixeira.

Middlesbrough: Turnbull, McMahon, Wheater, Riggott, Taylor, O'Neil, Digard, Shawky, Downing, Sanli, Alves.
Subs: Jones, Mido, Emnes, Huth, Bates, Adam Johnson, Bennett.

PREDICTION: Home win. Mowbray's got his side playing well recently, and they did knock off Citeh, although that's not such an impressive feat these days.
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MANCHESTER CITEH v. WIGAN:
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Onuoha, Dunne, Richards, Bridge, Wright-Phillips, Kompany, Elano, Robinho, Sturridge.
Subs: Schmeichel, Vassell, Jo, Garrido, Fernandes, Caicedo, Weiss.

Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Bramble, Scharner, Figueroa, Valencia, Palacios, Cattermole, Taylor, Heskey, Zaki.
Subs: Kingson, Edman, Brown, Boyce, De Ridder, Kapo, Camara.

PREDICTION: This is your high-scoring game of the day, as Citeh can't defend to save their lives. This reputation won't be changed with the inclusion of Nedum Onuoha, a guy who makes Micah Richards look like an All-Star. 3-2 home win, simply because Robinho is healthy again.
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NORWICH v. BARNSLEY:
Norwich: Marshall, Otsemobor, Doherty, Grounds, Bertrand, Croft, Clingan, Fotheringham, Hoolahan, Cureton, Russell.
Subs: Nelson, Bell, Lupoli, Pattison, Cort.
Barnsley: Muller, Van Homoet, Moore, Guedes, Kozluk, De Silva, Hassell, Leon, Campbell-Ryce, Macken, Rigters.
Subs: Steele, Odejayi, El Haimour, Butterfield, Potter.

PREDICTION: No idea. All depends on which Canaries show up... the desperately unlucky ones, or the determine 1-0 winners?
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DARLINGTON v. LUTON:
Darlington: Gerken, Austin, White, Foster, Ryan, Purdie, Ravenhill, Kennedy, Burgmeier, Hatch, Abbott.
Subs: Kazimierczak, Blundell, Valentine, Main, Carole.

Luton: Logan, Asafu-Adjaye, Roper, Spillane, Beavan, Keane, Jarvis, Henderson, Gallen, Martin, Craddock.
Subs: Brill, Howells, McVeigh, Hall, Wasiu.

PREDICTION: Err, Luton to lose?
-----

Enjoy the day, and get the comments in.

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Soccer Hall of Fame: 2009 Class



The National Soccer Hall of Fame (located in scenic Oneonta, NY) elected its Class of 2009 yesterday. The announcement was made live on Fox Soccer Channel by Hall of Fame President Steve Baumann. Missed it, did you?


This year's inductees are USMNT defender Jeff Agoos and USWNT defender Joy Fawcett. They will officially be inducted on Sunday, August 2nd in Oneonta.

Born in Switzerland (his father was a diplomat), Agoos had 134 caps for the USMNT, which is the second-highest total in history. He played in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups and the 2000 Olympics, but saw his greatest success in MLS play, winning the MLS Cup 5 times (three times with DC United and twice with the San Jose Earthquakes). He finished his career with NY Red Bull, and is now the Sporting Director for that club.

Joy Fawcett had 239 caps for the USWNT (good for 4th all time), winning the 1991 and 1999 World Cups and Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004. She played every minute of the 1991, 1995 and 1999 World Cups, and only received 2 yellow cards (and never a red) in her entire career. Out of professional soccer for some time, she now directs a local club in Mission Viejo, California.

Needing 66.7% of all ballots cast, Agoos received 108 votes (67.9%) and Fawcett received 106 votes (66.7%). Those not receiving enough votes included: (1) Preki; (2) Thomas Dooley; (3) Marco Etcheverry; (4) Earnie Stewart; (5) Joe-Max Moore; (6) Carlos Valderamma; and (7) Shannon MacMillan.

Umm, Etcheverry and Valderamma? In the US National Soccer Hall of Fame?

Read more on "Soccer Hall of Fame: 2009 Class"...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Backpasses: Angry keeper=funny

Keeper doesn't appreciate getting charged by an opposing player [Dirty Tackle]
Video examples of why being a referee sucks [Big Soccer]
Jermain Pennant is going to Portsmouth [Daily Mail] or Inter [Telegraph]

Atlanta withdraws MLS bid [Atlanta Journal Constitution]
St. Louis's bid not up to sniff, says MLS commish Garber [USA Today]
Philly stadium gets some government funding [Delco Times]
Sacha Kljestan to trial at Celtic [SBI]

Finally:
There may be a literary background to the Masal Bugduv hoax [The Run of Play]

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Decisions, Decisions.



As Norwich City head into their game with Barnsley manager-less tomorrow, the board are collecting resumes and arranging interviews. Since Glenn Roeder was canned on Wednesday, that interweb thingy has been rife with speculation and news of possible candidates. After the jump I'll have a butchers at the runners and riders and assess their feasibility for the greatest job on Earth. Well... my Earth at least.

The resumes are stacked up but who is in the pile? Let's speculate.

Aidy Boothroyd
The former Watford man is familiar with Norwich, he used to work as a youth coach at he club. The problem with Boothroyd is that he favors a brand of football that is about as attractive as this. I am so sorry... I won't do that again, I promise.

Boothroyd could certainly get them up the table, but at the expense of the football that all of us Norfolk folks crave. Aidy would likely bring fan favourite Malky Mackay with him. Malky worked under Boothroyd at Watford, in fact he is still there. Boothroyd is the bookies favorite and the current price is 8/15.

Paul Ince
Ince failed at Blackburn, but has been successful in lower divisions with Macclesfield and MK Dons. I'd guess that the egos at Blackburn were a little more of a challenge than those in roundabout city. Santa Cruz and co probably rate themselves as players who are as good as Ince was, and Ince still being young they probably didn't give him the respect he wanted and needed to get the best from his team.

At a lower level he is cut above, a legend who played for Man United and England. He would certainly have the players' ears at Norwich like he did at Milton Keynes and Macclesfield. I suspect that Ince may not be ready for the Premier League yet but one step below? He'd be a good choice for me. One of the lads, but capable of saying what he means. SkyBet has him at 8/15 like Boothroyd.


Ince: 8/15. Could Ince have an impact in the Colaship?

Mark Robins
The former Norwich favorite is currently the manager of Rotherham. Over the last few days I have read about the 'good job' he has done in Yorkshire. If a good job is being 20th in League Two and 2 places away from a drop into the Blue Square, then I must be f**king amazing at my job! I may have to go and ask for a pay rise. Robins is 14/1. No thanks!

Bruce Rioch
Fresh from his time with Aalborg, Rioch lives in Norwich and has done the job before. He is not a bad bloke and lacked money to spend in his previous tenure in the job. Not an ambitious enough appointment for me. Rumors are swirling that the club may look to Rioch or Worthington to do a temporary job a la Joe Kinnear and make a permanent signing in the summer. Rioch is 16/1.

Nigel Worthington
Nigel Worthington was fired in 2006 after a long campaign by the fans. If we'd all had access to a crystal ball, we would have kept our mouths shut. Worthy took City up as Champions and brought us back down again. His failure to get us back up again with the resources he had at the time became his downfall.

Ironically enough, Norwich City are currently in a similar situation to the one he inherited in 2000. Under these circumstances, I think he would do a decent job and replicate his efforts of the first go around. Worthy is currently the manager of Northern Ireland and their FA have turned down permission from Norwich to discuss the job with Nigel.


Worthington: A play-off final and promotion to the Premier League. Can he do it again?

Paul Jewell
Jewell was the choice of most fans when Roeder was handed the job 14 months ago. He certainly has the resume to suggest he could take us to safety and push on for a play-off place over the next two years, but will he want to spend too much? He also walked from Derby after spending all their money and leaving them near the bottom of the table. Not a trait I admire. I'd rather we didn't risk this one. Jewell is 33/1.

Ian Dowie
This guy has had more clubs than Tiger Woods and looks more like Sloth from the Gonies than a football manager, but he does get results. The problem with Dowie is that he tends to fall out with people or walk. Palace chairman Simon Jordan sued him after he quit Palace for family reasons but appeared as the manager of rivals Charlton a few days later. That shows balls, but not the type for Norfolk.

Ultimately, he's too big a gamble. The next Norwich manager may have to get us out of League One and be 100% behind the cause. Dowie has been telling everyone that he wants the Norwich job, he has been out of work since October when QPR canned him. Odds with SkyBet are 33/1.


Sloth: Been to more clubs than Cheryl Tweedy.

Roy Keane
Miserable sod. Like Roeder, not a people person. Rumors from the north of England suggest he fell out with the players at Sunderland and lost the dressing room. There have also been stories of unsociable behaviour and of not turning up for training.
Norwich City just got rid of their most unpopular manager in history, and the last thing Norwich fans want is more of the same. Hell no. Keano is at 66/1.

Dion Dublin
Big Dion is very popular in Norwich. He started his career there and it ended there. To say that Norwich fans would like to welcome him back would be an understatement, but not as manager. Peter Grant arrived with no managerial experience as his run in the job was an absolute disaster, he signed terrible players and had City adrift at the bottom, meaning that Dublin's popularity would only go so far. I am certain the club won't hire an unexperienced man again. Dublin's odds for the job are 50/1.
-----

There are quite a host of ex-Premiership managers available currently. Whether or not they would fancy a drop to the Colaship is unknown, but some of them have been out of work long enough to consider it. Here is a full list of candidates and their odds with SkyBet...

Ince - 8/15
Boothroyd - 8/15
Robins - 14/1
Rioch - 16/1
Calderwood (Jimmy and Colin) - 20/1
Dowie - 33/1
Jewell - 33/1
Sanchez - 33/1
Pardew - 33/1
Bowen - 40/1
Holloway - 40/1
O'Leary - 50/1
Robson - 50/1
Dublin - 50/1
Curbishley - 66/1
Keane - 66/1
Poyet - 66/1
Hoddle - 66/1
Souness - 80/1

The next Norwich manager needs to be able to provide the shot in the arm the club needs to pull away from relegation and the ability to build a team thereafter. Roeder had the shot alright, but the effects of that shot wore off far too soon and there was no sign of a repeat prescription in sight.

The problem with the Norwich job is that you don't have Birmingham's budget or the salary of Rafa Benitez. But what you do have is great support from a passionate bunch of fans and a community that just wants good football. No one is expecting to win the league, hell, we don't even mind losing if the team plays well. But effort and passing football are a must.

After 2 disastrous managers, there's got to be someone out there that's a fit for us, right?

-Bigus

Read more on "Decisions, Decisions."...

High Comedy at the Bernabéu: Down Goes Calderon

Credit goes to the Spanish, who can often manage to raise ineptitude to the level of an artform. That's the lesson I took from George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia at least, and the same goes for the way they run their football teams.

Case in point: Ramon Calderon stepping down as chairman of Real Madrid. The final act that eventually brought down Calderon wasn't his failure to purchase Cristiano "Teletubby" Ronaldo (when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was presented, the fans reportedly chanted "Where is Ronaldo?".... ouch), or the fact that Real Madrid are trailing Barca by 12 points, or that the team has run through three managers in under a year. No, the act that Calderon engaged in is far more hilarious and far more humiliating. Find out the details after the jump....










As always, Sid Lowe is on the story. (Few things make me happier than his reports from Spain on the Guardian podcast, which I'll say yet again you need to be listening to regularly if you don't already.)

You have to remember that Real Madrid, like Barcelona and the Green Bay Packers, are owned by their fans and managed through quasi-democratic elections. The story of Calderon's eventual undoing begins with a vote last month among Real Madrid's 'compromisarios,' i.e. voting members. Calderon narrowly won the vote, which was taken by voice rather than by written ballot.

A few weeks pass, and then stories come out in the Spanish newspaper Marca that ten men had attended the meeting and voted, despite being ineligible to do so. On Wednesday, Calderon held a press conference in which he sacked the Real Madrid employees who were allegedly responsible for allowing the ten ineligible voters into the meeting. Calderon stated that he would stay on as president, and that he didn't know any of the men.

So far so good, except that Marca next reports that these ten people all had connections to Calderon: according to Sid Lowe, at least four were close friends of Calderon's brother, Ignacio, and his son, Jaime. And, to make matters worse, one of the employees who Calderon had fired gave an interview to Marca yesterday in which he insisted that he "only did what I was told to do by those above me".

Hence, Calderon stepping down today in ignominy and high comedy. Again, only the Spanish could manage something so utterly inept, trying to sneak your relatives into a vote of confidence and hoping that no one would notice. Calderon's reign at Real Madrid was marked by mediocrity and disappointments, but wouldn't you know that it was his utter stupidity that finally brought him down.

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Is this the end of the Hoffenheim fairytale?

The Bundesliga is still on their winter break for a couple of more weeks. The teams get back into action on January 30th. When play resumes, Hoffenheim, the club from a small town of about 3000, will look to maintain their improbable run at the top of the table. As of yesterday, though, that looks increasingly improbable.

On Thursday, Hoffenheim took on Hamburg in a friendly. While the game did feature a mildly entertaining slap fight, the only reason anyone outside of these two clubs cares is because of an injury. Vedad Ibisevic, current Bundesliga leader in goals and cause célèbre among UFers who are bothered by the US Soccer's inattention to players who could really help the National Team, went off late in the match with an apparent torn ACL. If the ACL is indeed torn, Ibisevic will be out for at least the rest of the season, and may miss the start of next season as well.

This will be tough for the Bundesliga leaders to overcome. While Hoffenheim do lead the league in scoring, much of the credit must go to Ibisevic, who has scored 18 of the team's 42 goals. When you factor in that Carlos Eduardo will probably be sanctioned for his slapping antics from above, then it becomes easy to picture this team sliding down the table. Just in time for the new 30,000 seat stadium due to open next week. A sliding team will have a tough time filling that up.

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UF Quick Throw: Someone Thinks The Kaka Deal is Done

Soccernet is claiming that "reports from Abu Dhabi suggest that Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour believes his club's chase for Brazilian superstar Kaka has ended in success."

Reports. Suggests. Belief. Make of it what you will.

Kaka can make an assload of cash of it if he wills.

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Play for West Ham? I'd Rather Blow.



16 year old Tyler Rix had a dream shot of playing in the Premier League for West Ham. But oh no, that's just not good enough for the kid. He has decided he would rather play his Saxophone.


Rix has signed a 1 million pound deal with Universal to play the instrument professionally after being discovered on the BBC2 'Classical star' TV talent show.

Tyler said: “I always knew that one day I would have to choose between my music and my football commitments. I could never have dreamt of making that choice in such a spectacular way.”
-Tyler Rix.

Now this is just wrong. A career as a footballer? A career we all want and day dream about while we are waiting for the bus OR A career as a saxophonist? It's not a choice. Tyler you plum, you have really sh*t the bed with this one.


Dublin: The former Villa, Coventry, Celtic and Norwich man played a mean sax.

Tyler should have paid attention to one footballer who chose to play the saxophone in his SPARE time. Dion Dublin was famous for banging in goals but he enjoyed nothing more than a good blow on his sax after the ref had blown his final whistle. But that's what it was people. A hobby!

A true school boy error here by young Tyler. He has disappointed millions of Sunday footballers across the World.

Lets hope he doesn't blow to regret it.

-Bigus.

Read more on "Play for West Ham? I'd Rather Blow."...

Rafa Benitez stands his ground!

"I want that player. That one, the one I'm pointing at. Can I buy him? What do you mean, 'we need to talk about it'???"


As if the Gerrard incident wasn't enough of a distraction (according to the media, anyway), more clouds are looming at Anfield as Rafa decided this morning to reject his contract extension, presenting a neat prepared statement explaining his decision (unlike his scrappy, scribbled tirade against Fergie last week).

This will be cleared up soon, I hope, but it doesn't change the fact that we could be in for another long standoff between manager and owner, the likes of which finished off Jose Mourinho, a superb manager, at Stamford Bridge.

Let's hear it from Rafa first, shall we?
"The owners feel that the manager's decisions need to be subject to the chief executive but I know that I am subject to results and to our fans and they are the best judges I will ever have. I have a lot of experience in football at different clubs and if you do not have a technical director and you are the manager you have to have control of the football decisions. But always within the confines of a budget which is controlled by the owners and the club.

In this scenario the manager knows the amount of money he has available to him and can decide how much he should spend on each player according to the needs of the team. The only person who can decide the value of a player to his squad is the manager because he knows what elements are needed to improve the squad.

My relationship with the owners is better than people think. I have regular contact with them and especially with Tom Hicks who has always been very supportive. The talks between my agent and the advisers of the owners have been very positive and friendly and our differences are about my responsibilities."
What he's asking for isn't much, but conversely, it's a lot to ask for within the context of the modern-day EPL. He wants more control, something I think he's earned over the course of his time there (contrast his power struggle against the relative ease with which 'Arry Redknapp, the game's flightiest manager in history, grabbed full control of Tottenham Hotspur), and the owners are reluctant to give it out.

As American sports owners, the GM/Coach system makes sense to them. It's one they inherited when taking over the club, and it's one they aim to maintain. In that system, they're insulated from shouldering the brunt of the blame, as they can fire the coach and let the GM take the full force of media scrutiny. Shit, it's not like they're in charge of anything at the very top. That's why they hire their GM to do it all for them!

So they're covered on the bad side, and if they are successful, all the praise is shared around, and they seek kudos for their foresight in hiring a wonderful GM who then hired a wonderful manager, something they knew their GM would do, and thus everyone's a winner.

Thank god this system is finally being resisted, although at what cost? Hicks and Gillett remain in charge while we stumble aimlessly with a scorned manager? You'd think that a half-season at the top of the league might grease their wheels a little.

(It's worth pointing out that this system, once used all over Europe, is being dismantled virtually everywhere. Spurs don't do the Director of Football bollocks any more, and big La Liga clubs are realizing it doesn't work also.)

While Lerner and the Glazers let their managers control everything, definitely an honor Ferguson and O'Neill have earned as a result of long and successful careers, Rafa Benitez is once again forced to beg for his supper. They made him beg for Torres, they made him beg time and again for Barry, and now, he has a chance to stand up for himself.

If managers are to be crucified for their failures (see: Keane, Keegan, Ince, Curbishley), then they should be beatified for their successes. Rafa's turned the perennial 4th place team into something different this season, perhaps even a second- or third-placed team, but he's still begging and pleading with the middleman and his overlords like he's a relegation-threatened manager looking for a life raft.

The need for a mandate at a club like Liverpool is essential; you can't be left to manage the club when you're cut off from decision-making at every important junction. The Glazers have the sense to leave SAF to it, as do owners at virtually every other major club, so why are Hicks and Gillett being so different? OH, right, it's because they like to swing their dicks around whenever the mood suits them, just to remind everyone who's really in charge. Meanwhile, they make the transatlantic flight once every 6 weeks to see a game, and are virtually absent the rest of the time.

It's a sad state of affairs, and one that I hope is rectified soon. He's not asking for much. Benitez wants to manage there well into the next decade and try to build the club back up into being a consistent force at the top of the league.

However, he can't do that with one hand tied behind his back while a middleman holds the rope.

[Apparently Hicks is singing the right tune today as well, but there's still a ways to go. I get the feeling Rafa won't sign unless he gets what he's looking for.]

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UF Quick Throw: Palacios to Spurs

In a shrewd piece of business that would make Bernie Madoff quite proud, it appears that Wigan will get a 1400% annual return on their investment by selling Wilson Palacios to Spurs for £14 million -- after having purchased him for only £1 million one year ago.

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Those Mad Hatters: ZERO Baby Yeah!



Luton Town. You had forgotten all about them hadn't you? Condemned to the inevitable fate of non-league football after a 30 point deduction from the FA. The once former top-flight team had left your thoughts. Well they ain't dead yet!

They started on -30, but this week, Luton Town FC are on zero points. Zip!

They currently sit 14 points from safety but after zapping those deducted points they actually have a chance! If Luton's season has started with zero points they would be 13th now. Mick Harford has done a super job on a shoestring but....How big is the task at hand?

The Hatters have played 24 games and taken 1.25 points a game thus far. 22 games remain with a total of 66 up for grabs. They can do it people. Grimsby are in reach, well...14 points away, but when you have gone from -30 to zip, whats another 14 to chase eh?

Here at UF we are quite romantic when it comes to these things, so we will be keeping a close eye on those Hatters. Even if it is a squint, we are watching and praying that the hapless fans of Luton get a break and see their side stay in the Football League. Click here for the League Two table and here for Luton Town's fixtures.

Stay tuned.

-Bigus

Read more on "Those Mad Hatters: ZERO Baby Yeah!"...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday Backpasses: Partyboy!

Gooch has a WAG. The Spoiler has pictures. [The Spoiler-NSFW]
Man U's trick corner kick. You have to make sure the linesman is watching [Soccer Training Info]
Barcelona and Osasuna both get pissy at other team's injuries [101 Great Goals]
Interviews with DC United's new draftees: Rodney Wallace and Chris Pontius. How come no one refers to Pontius as Partyboy anymore? [Behind the Badge]

Is Daniel Agger leaving Liverpool? [Soccernet]
Australian player attacked by fans in car park. His wife had to run them off [Sydney Morning Herald]
Small Scottish club in expensive mess as their pitch is three meters too narrow for the SFA [The Courier]
Team by team look at the most expensive signings in the EPL. Littered with typos [Daily Mail]

Finally:
That Paulson family sure is government money-hungry, huh? Guardian looks at Portland's MLS bid and the family that stands to profit [Guardian]

Read more on "Thursday Backpasses: Partyboy!"...

Masal Bugduv is Moldovan for Sidd Finch

There's a pretty good piece over at Soccerlens about teen phenom Masal Bugduv. He's Moldovan. He's 16. That can only mean that he's coveted by Arsenal.

And as such, he was listed at #30 in the Times Online's list of 'Football's Top 50 Rising Stars' published Monday of this week.

Only one problem. Masal Bugduv doesn't seem to exist.

Soccerlens runs through a complete run down of any existence of non-existence of the player in the cyber ephemera.

There is of course one more twist to the saga. Or at least a very silent mea culpa.

The screen cap above is from soccerlens where they merely quote the blurb about Bugduv and his number 30 ranking. But if you go to the link of the article here, then you'll notice that Bugduv has now been removed from the list (assumiing he was once there... we never saw the original).

In his place? "Homer" Jay Simpson. Another Arsenal teenybopper (Oops, no, he just turned 20 late last month). They didn't even bother to shift things around, just subbed one Gunner (on loan to West Brom) for another (on loan to Harchester United).

Really, check out the Soccerlens piece (here). It's a quick read and totally worth the time. It wasn't just the Times that got fooled either. Given the ease with which an identity can be created and talked about, and the general laziness of people (hey, you find 50 names worth talking about) it's almost amazing this kind of stuff doesn't happen more often.

Oh, and for those of you not familiar with the original George Plimpton piece of Sidd Finch, it is also totally worth a read.

UPDATE: The Guardian has has picked up on the story. Additionally there is a nice bit of literary background to some of the entymology (or is this etymology) in the Bugduv story over at Run of Play.

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What brought you here?

One of the pleasures of this website has been watching how everyone gets here. Most of you regular readers go with the direct link. That's satisfying because bookmarks mean you are likely to return. Others come in because of links from other blogs. Most of those just hit up the one page and leave. Not ideal, but it keeps us happy to see certain stories blow up across the web. Still others pop in from social sites, such as Facebook (thanks for the continued linkage, Spinach Dip).

The most entertaining category, however, is the web search. Google is the overwhelming favorite as search engine of choice, and most of the stuff that directs to this site is pretty vanilla. Of course, Eva Roob (NSFW) is pretty popular, as well. Sometimes, though, the search is a little bit different. This post will focus on those.

The first two that caught my eye were a double search for players Issiaka Traore and Alou Traore. These searches undoubtedly found our short-lived (and unfinished) series Better Know a Traore. Part 1 is here, while Part 2 is here. Part 3 is in the ether with that FA Cup of British Rock final. Norwich would have won, just so you know.

Another search that caught my eye is how good do you have to be to get into oxford united. Not entirely sure where this directed to, though this G,B,WTF is a probable. To answer the question: not very good. You do have to register, though, or else your team will lose points.

christmas is for handjobs We agree

unprofessional prone sex Someone does not like his ladies (or men) moving during intercourse. This is where our name gets us in trouble. Or at least dissappoints those who get here.

best hitler i can be Uh, what? I think you get your kids taken away.

what happened to referee hockalee I want to know what happened to commenter hockalees? He pops in from time to time, but is more often seen in DS soccer threads. Oh, and the searcher is looking for the last name Hochuli. Get it right and you'll find out.

where can i buy the liverpool fragrance Desperation and fear? I don't know. Have you tried rubbing a dying ferret against your face?

unprofessional pics of vaginas Our name, again, leads to disappointment for the searcher. We only show knockers.

corner kick by pele which hit the wrongly placed goal post I hate it when the goal posts are placed incorrectly, and the blind footballers get confused. Seriously, what was this search for and how did it get here?

And my favorite all-time search, which has shown up repeatedly over the last few months:
Bulgarian watch me fuck or some variation thereof. Last February, Martin Petrov ruined Precious Roy's fantasy week, and PR vented with this post. Since then, no lie, the above search shows up at least once a week. Bulgarians must be way into dogging.

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UF Quick Throw: Rooney hurt

Young Wayne scored the winner for Man U last night in the first minute, and then pulled up lame in the 10th. Diagnosis: hammy knack, and a minimum of three weeks on the sidelines.

Not good for a team just hitting their stride... of course, I'm hoping it gets worse.

[BBC Sport]



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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday Backpasses: One for the thumb

Jozy updates his NYT blog [NYT Goal Blog]
Becks' ancestors not so glamorous [The Northern Star]
Rooney's brother-in-law apparently runs with Stevie G [The Run of Play]

Robbie Fowler to MLS? [SI]
Top 10 over-inflated transfer fees. Brit centric [The Spoiler]
Livingston in Scotland missed out on an SFA emergency payment because a printer called in a debt and had sherrifs collect it [Print Week]
Making fun of a correspondent's call-in report [The Beautiful Game]

Finally:

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He Already Knows What He Looks Like In White

Well the silly season sleuthing has taken it's first techie turn (why yes, I do also write headlines for 'Variety').

Explanation. There seems to be an unpaid army of people who cruise patent applications to guess the next gadget coming to the market (you'll see this with Apple especially). It feeds much of the rampant speculation in the tech world about who is doing what and probably costs employers millions in lost productivity (really, how did people waste time at work before the Web?).

Anyway, now it has come to sport. The Telegraph is reporting that Cristiano Ronaldo has copyrighted the term "CR9" in his native Portugal.

Why is this news?

Well, the nanceboy currently wears the number 7. So, why trademark a term with a number he doesn't wear? Because he won't be wearing it when he goes to Real Madrid. El numero siete currently belongs to Raul. So Ronaldo takes the number 9 (Number 9... Number 9... Number 9... Number 9) and cashes in on owning CR9. Somehow.

None of this is hindered by the daily rumors coming out of Spain that a secret deal has already been brokered for the World Player of the Year to move from United to Madrid after this season.

Any why not? What's left for him to do at United? He's, what, barely 23? He can go to Spain, return to home (sort of, at least it's Iberia), and if he returns Madrid to glory he'll be immortalized. Also, Spain is less physical than the EPL, so his body will hold up better longer. Oh, and the rumored £77M transfer fee with £210,000 per week in wages is probably also in the "Pro" column of the decision sheet.

Just a thought: You sure you want to trademark something that sounds so much like "Cryin'" in Ingles when your repuatation is already that of a diving pansy?

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

'Round these parts, black and orange mean one thing--Halloween (Hallowe'en if you are a Brit). For a League Two club in north London, it means team colors. Barnet are that team. Poor guys.

As you can see on this page, the current club descended from a couple of different clubs with disparate color schemes. Black, purple, khaki and green somehow were all combined into a club that wore yellow and black. In the 30s, they did so in hoops, giving rise to the nickname of The Bees. Then, in 1992, some genius decided to change the yellow to orange. I think it made for a much better shirt.


Better, I guess, is relative.

I'll be honest. I picked this shirt for two reasons, one of which I was mistaken about. First the mistake. I thought that this shirt was orange and brown. It certainly looks that way in the picture above. At least, I think it does. That would have been awesome. I could have riffed on that for at least 3 minutes. Black and orange? Meh.

Secondly, the shirt sponsor is Loaded. At the time of this shirt, it was probably my favorite magazine. I liked that they put large-breasted comely lasses in football shirts. Now, I don't think I could get through an issue. Times change, I guess. Double meh.

So, let's hear it for extra research bumming you out. At least that extra searching brought this picture of the same era's keeper shirt. So there's that. Maybe a Chelsea loss today will make me feel better.

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UF Quick Throw: No Didier at Southend tonight

The Chelsea fun continues as Drogba gets omitted from the squad, although this smells like one of those media efforts to drum up controversy and intrigue where there isn't any. You know how they do that, right? Was he really going to risk his precious Ivorian body in the chill of a lower-league stadium?

That said, when your manager keeps being so gung-ho about the notion of losing his job, the media doesn't really need the help.

[Guardian Sport]



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Roeder Sacked


Norwich City fired manager Glenn Roeder this morning after the teams woeful and embarrassing performance against Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup last night. Fan protests after the game signaled the end was near. Roeder's relationship with fans has been strained this season and it seems the board recognized that his position was completely untenable once the demonstrations had begun. Assistants Paul Stevenson and Adam Sadler have also been sacked.

Once the fans of Norwich start to call for your head, staying behind to protest outside the board room windows, the axe is coming. The board understood this all too well and moved this morning to remove Glenn Roeder from what has become a horrid season for Norwich City.

My beloved Canaries currently sit 21st and only outside of the relegation zone by goal difference. Without a win in their last five, the slide looked unstoppable. City will now need to move fast to find a replacement before a host of crucial fixtures against teams around Norwich at the bottom of the table.

Last season Roeder arrived in a whirlwind of enthusiasm and turned the club on it's head. He changed key personnel, removing coaches and physios from their long standing positions. He cut dead wood from the squad and signed a host of loan players who pulled Norwich City from the bottom of the table to Colaship survival.

This is Roeder's speciality, riding in on a horse, rocking the boat and keeping a team up. The second season of his tenure however (Newcastle, West Ham and now Norwich) brings trouble. Roeder is not the most likable man and his arrogance and lack of respect for the Norwich fans quickly went against him.

This is a part of the world where fans have a say. The club listens and respects the 25,000 bodies that pile through the door during the good times and the bad. Roeder often lost his fuse with supporters at road shows and most famously at the AGM, when he countered a supporter's criticism with the response "I must have missed your tenure as England manager." Often stubborn, often rude, it was no surprise that Norfolk was not the place for a man that didn't understand this part of the country and what the people of Norfolk expected from their manager and his team. No one expects us to win the league, but good football, effort and respect will always go a long way in East Anglia.

Roeder may be a terrible manager, but, to his credit, he has a super eye for signing good players and has many contacts within the game. He brought in some promising players and captured some good loans from Premiership clubs. However, once they arrived, he had no clue how to use them. If anyone was ever suited to a 'Director of football' role it is Glenn Roeder.

A major factor in Norwich City's recent slump in form has been conceding soft goals. inexcusable mistakes. Roeder's naivety in selecting his center backs has led to 8 center back partnerships this season and zero consistency. This is the one position where a rapport between two players needs to be developed and consistency instilled. It's the backbone of any team. We have often had right backs and left backs occupying the central defence roles to disastrous results.

It wasn't just at the back that Roeder tinkered. He played midfielders up front while experienced forwards sat on the bench and played midfielders out of position, changing the team so often that no 11 players really had time to gel as a unit.

Many criticised the man's use of loan players, but I cannot go there. When played in the right places he brought in better players than we could afford to buy permanently. Leroy Lita and John Kennedy being two examples. But once they left, we looked in desperate need of fresh blood in those positions. Especially at the back where just one center back currently plays.

One fit center back (Gary Doherty) in the entire squad!

Roeder did make mistakes with his loan policy for sure. Troy Archibald-Henville arrived from Tottenham and proceeded to rot in the reserves. According to Roeder he was 'raw'. The youngster watched from the stands before being sent back to Tottenham. I believe we are still paying a portion of his wages as the deal was a season-long loan. But Roeder's stubborn defiance to use the player meant that the void left by Dejan Stefanovic's long-term absence was filled by a number of bodies, with only one being a center back (Kennedy), and he was often injured.

Roeder's relationship with his players is also a major factor in the product on the pitch. He often threw his players under the bus during press conferences. When Wesley Hoolahan arrived from Blackpool, he was a confident and talented prospect. Roeder destroyed his confidence in a matter of weeks by publicly criticizing the player.


Roeder: Not a 'people' person.

I can not remember a more unpopular manager at Norwich City. His stubborn refusal to recall out of favor forwards ahead of last nights game with Charlton, left the squad extremely thin and lacking options. Fan favourite Jamie Cureton was shipped off on loan to Barnsley but not welcome back under Roeder.

Even last night Roeder refused to bring the forward back even though his only striking options were loanee Arturo Lupoli and an un-fit Carl Cort. Another Norwich forward, Chris Martin, scored for Luton last night and press suggestions of his return were quelled by Roeder. A man who never seemed like the type to dwell on a problem long. It was his way or no way, and his lack of thought about what he was going to say often isolated his players and landed him in trouble with fans AND the FA.

"The crowd were against us - they were against the team and against me at
times, but I have very broad shoulders, I've been in the game a long time. I
enjoy a fight and I'll stand up to anybody."
-Glenn Roeder last night.
At the end of the day, any patience he may have been afforded in Norfolk was destroyed by his rude attitude and one way relationship with the clubs fans. He never understood that this particular club is all about the fans and not about one man's personal quest. Even last night after the loss to a team who hadn't won in 18 outings, the man "vowed to carry on" and, as often, his comments above suggested that he was at war with the club's supporters.

There is a lot of work ahead for the new man, whoever he may be, to salvage this club from a drop to League One, but they will have some good players to work with. The only positive aspect of Roeder's tenure was that he had an eye for talent. Roeder signings David Bell, Matty Pattison, Sammy Clingan and Wes Hoolahan, along with the inherited Russell and Croft leave the new man a good midfield to work with. The immediate concern, however, is a lack of goals and a leaky defence. These are areas that will need to be addressed straight away in the January window to get City back on track.

The board took their time appointing Roeder last year, but they don't have two weeks this time around. Crucial games at home to Barnsley, Southampton and a trip to Doncaster could define the rest of the season. Every point counts now.

Norwich City supporters are a special breed who enjoy a healthy relationship with their local club. The fans deserve much better than they have had in recent times. How many clubs can boast gates of 25,000 when the team sits in the bottom 3? Not many!

The board has little money to spend and a large challenge ahead.

Anyone seen my prayer mat?

-Bigus

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UF Quick Throw: Kaka Turns Down the Opportunity to Trade the Champions League for an EPL Relegation Fight

That was fast. Although AC Milan accepted Citeh's ridiculous transfer fee, Kaka has rejected a move to Citeh.

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Seppsis Blather Approved

Via The Offside Rules comes this wonderous video about the beauty of footie and women.

I'm pretty sure Seppsis Blather would approve of the uniforms.

Enjoy. (Note of caution...prolly NSFW but women fully clothed).


keep on jumping from eltio sain on Vimeo.

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Citeh is Playing with Monopoly Money

Welcome to the brave new world. Rumors of Man City making an unprecedented offer to AC Milan for former World Player of the Year winner Kaka spread through the British rags yesterday, and the Daily Mail was the first to report the details: 100 million pounds in cash to Milan; 500,000 pounds per week to Kaka.

How do you pry a world class player from a team that says it won't sell? You make AC Milan an offer they can't refuse. How do you convince a world class player to come to a team that's currently sitting 15th in the Premier League? You make Kaka an offer he can't refuse.

No matter the outcome, this is the equivalent of Godzilla landing in Tokyo -- the normal rules of the game have changed, and all transfers up until now seem quaint by comparison, even the 48 million pounds that Real Madrid paid for Zizou. Or maybe it's more like Frankenstein -- doesn't City know that, when you play god, you only create monsters that want to rip your arms out?

The simple fact is that Man City has just raised the stakes exponentially on gaudiness. There just doesn't seem to be much design or plan to the way they're building this team: splash obscene amounts of Abu Dhabi cash at an underperforming and dysfunctional squad and then hope for the best (i.e., it'll be Mark Hughes's fault when the team continues to underperform).

Maybe this will unite 99% of football fans in wishing that the Citeh experiment ends in disaster. It sure would be hard for anyone to argue that this good for the game, except maybe the most diehard City fan, but even they must feel some sort of trepidation at where this is all heading. And to think, it was less than six months that Thaksin was at the helm of City.

Quoth Ian Curtis, "Where will it end?"

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday Backpasses: Yay, blogs!

All blogs today. Real news can go eff itself.

EPL Talk has an interview with the author of one of my favorite sites, Bill Sports Maps [EPL Talk]
Have there been secret drug bans in football recently? [Kickette]
Handicapping the race for MLS expansion bids. The #5 pick is rather interesting [The 24th Minute]

Gareth Bale, King of Fail (hey, that's catchy) [The Spoiler]
Viagra may improve on the pitch ability [The Offside]
Nemanja Vidic is the world's smartest player [Kick The Balls]
When stats in soccer go too far and get useless [The Run of Play]

Finally:
So, who was the best player ever drafted in the MLS in the 35th slot? Michael Bradley, obvs. A breakdown of MLS draft picks by draft position [Climbing the Ladder]

Read more on "Tuesday Backpasses: Yay, blogs!"...

UF Quick Throw: Strange Things Are Afoot at the Circle K

That crashing sound you heard was the end of a relatively quiet transfer market. Sky Sports is reporting that Man City's executives are in Milan to open up talks for Kaka, and 'Arry Redknapp is in discussions on a deal that would bring Adriano to Spurs and Gareth Barry Bale to AC Milan Inter (yeah, yeah... what do you want, accurate reporting?).

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Handbags at Stamford Bridge


Nicolas Anelka waits on the bench at Old Trafford.

Despite being beaten like a rented mule at Old Trafford on Sunday, Chelsea have insisted that there are no problems at Stamford Bridge. Big Phil is fine! Nothing to see here! Move on, lads!


The Sun, bastion of truthiness that it is, is reporting that Scolari and Anelka had something of a 'disagreement' concerning formations before the match against Manchester United this past weekend. It appears that Le Sulk was not happy about having been benched the past few matches, and things got worse when Big Phil informed him that in order to start at Old Trafford he would have to play on the left side. Naturally, Anelka refused and demanded to be played through the middle, which resulted in his continued benching.

Although Scolari has continued to deny that anything is wrong, it is clear that all is not well at Stamford Bridge. In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that both the board and the players are beginning to rethink things, and Scolari may not last much longer with Spartak London, particularly if he manages to lose in the replay against Southend.

Scolari has said that he is in the position of having to placate both Anelka and Didier Drogba while trying to do what is best for the team. Apparently, what is best for the club is a wacky rotation policy which keeps the EPL's (suck it, Barclay's!) leading scorer on the bench. Did he take lessons from Rafa?

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FA Cup Round 3 Reeeeeeeeeplay

Even though the FA Cup Round 4 matchups have already been announced, there's still the matter of Round 3 to settle. Today is the start of the Round 3 Reeeeeeplays. How many games will go to penalties? How many minnows will be moving on? How many Norwich jokes can we make at Bigus's expense?

Fixture list after the jump, and as always have your say in the comments.










Today's FA Cup Round 3 Reeeeeeeplays (all games at 2:45 EST)...

Bristol City v Portsmouth
Norwich City v Charlton Athletic
Peterborough United v West Bromwich Albion
Crewe Alexandra v Millwall
Burnley v Q.P.R.


These next four are not replays per se but rather weather-delayed first matches....

Birmingham v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Leyton Orient v Sheffield United
Histon v Swansea City
Cheltenham Town v Doncaster Rovers


Tomorrow it's the big fishes, as Chelsea hopes to avoid embarrassment and Noocastle does battle with brave Hull City...

Southend United v Chelsea
Newcastle v Hull City
Crystal Palace v Leicester City


Oh, and while we're at it, tomorrow is also the makeup Man U v Wigan match in the Premier League. Hoorah for midweek fixtures!

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Manager Midterm Grades

It's a bit past the halfway point, but this shit takes time. We've got to compile the homework grades and the test scores and average it out. And that's math. That shit's hard. Plus how do you really quantify a 0-0 draw at SF Bolton? We're borderline geniuses just for figuring out how to attach a number to that.

And that was the easy part.

The hard part is going to be getting the report cards signed by the managers' parents so that we know they saw them.

Anyway, midterm grades for the EPL (suck it Barclays) managers are in. It's not hard to figure out the folks at the top of the class. There is an astounding amount of mediocrity from the bulk of the managers though.

Alphabet evaluations after the jump.

A+

David Moyes: At the end of October Everton looked like a possible relegation candidate. They had 3 wins in their first 10 fixtures. Two of those were against Prem newbies West Brom and Stoke, the other against Stupid Fucking Bolton. But Moyes has led Everton to a 4-0-1 record in their last five, and they haven't conceded a goal in that span, Yep, five straight clean sheets for Tim Howard (USA! USA! USA!). What's more impressive is that Moyes has done it with no healthy strikers for much of that span. Everton are currently in sixth, just 3 points behind Arsenal. He's also brainwashed Arteta into staying. Moyes might be a Jedi.


A

Martin O'Neil: Pretty much every other UF'er would have put O'Neil tops. The only reason he's sitting on an A behind Moyes is that Moyes has had less to work with. O'Neil has a loaded team with young talent, and even better, speed. Speed doesn't go into a slump. But he's got the Villains playing flowing but physical football. If their current form holds up they might be challenging for third, leaving Arsenal and Chelsea to battle for the final Champions League spot.

Steve Bruce: Wigan spent all of last season flirting with the bottom of the table. Past the halfway point, they are five points clear of the 10-team relegation logjam on the bottom. Since getting pasted by Villa in November, Bruce's team is unbeaten at home, and their only loss in the Prem was a hard fought 1-0 loss to Arsenal at the Emirates. Good news for SAF, it looks like at least one of his proteges isn't going to be a complete failure.


B+

Rafa Benitez: His team tops the table. And that's with one of his two best players having been hurt for a good chunk of the first semester. That counts for something.

Roy Hodgson: People don't score against Fulham. Especially at Craven Cottage. Bullard is a beast in the midfield. Pantsil is having a career year on defense. And they've managed to eek out enough goals between Dempsey and Johnson to climb into the top half of the table. Like Moyes, maximizing what he gets from what he's got.


B

Phil Brown: If this had been done a month ago, Brownie would have gotten an A for doing a heckuva job. Despite being the feelgood story of the first few months of the Prem, Hull is on a serious slide. They've won once since the start of November and have given up a cornucopia of goals in that span. Riding on momentum from the early results and a bit of sentiment as at least Brown sends out his sides to play (won at Arsenal and scored 3 at United) and not pack it in. But this is a team with a -11 goal difference.

Sir Alex Ferguson: Eh, what else do you give him? He's got more talent than anyone else in the league and he wins with it. He's like the Phil Jackosn of the EPL. And while they look like they've been on cruise control at times and flirted with some bad results, they've gotten some clutch goals (and some beneficial whistles). But if they win their games in hand they'll be atop the table. Fuckers.


B-

Gianfranco Zola: Early on Zola seemed out of his league but since the middle of November, the Hammers are 3-2-4. That stretch includes fixtures against Chelsea, Liverpool and Villa. They are playing good defense and Craig Bellamy is enough of a pest to make them opportunistic.


C

Arsene Wenger: You could argue that Wenger is actually doing a fantastic job. He's been hit hard with injuries at key positions and still has the team on the cusp of Champions League qualification. But the lack of depth is killing the side right now and the lack of depth is his doing. By chasing kids instead of veterans who can grind out results and provide some leadership he's made his bed. So he might soon find out how uncomfortable UEFA Cup sheets are. Quit whinging, start managing.

Phil Scolari: Oof. For a team sitting in second place with 42 points Chelsea are on the verge of becoming a disaster. It wasn't just that they lost 3-0 to United Sunday, it's that they could have continued playing until the Feast of the Ascension and still never have threatened goal.

Joe Kinnear: Cunt. Fuck. Ah ha ha... Eh, they're not as dreadful as when Kevin Keegan was in charge but everyone seems to want out of Newcastle.


C-

Gary Megson: He's got SFB in 12th, but like half of table, he's one match away from the relegation zone. Semi-signature win is against maybe West Ham or Man City. Already out of the FA Cup.

Gareth Southgate: The best thing about him is the nickname given him by one of our commenters: Dr. Teeth. Anyway, 'Boro aren't giving up a lot of goals (only conceded more than two goals three times in the first 21 matches) but they also aren't scoring. Only four teams have found the back of the net less often than Boro.

Tony Pulis: Pulis has perhaps the least talent in the Prem. Stoke's biggest offensive threat is the throw-in. They've got a few good home results, but they are still in 17th. But for a team that seemed a lock for relegation, they've got a better than even-money chance of staying up.

Harry Redknapp: Well fortunes at White Hart Lane seemed to get a boost when 'Arry replaced Juande Ramos, but things seem to have reverted to (poor) form. Not even sure why Redknapp is only getting a C-, he's got a ton of talent on that team. Of course almost none of it is on defense. Must be time to remake the team. Again. It's like a semi-annual event at Spurs. Can food poisoning really fuck up an organization for two years?


D

Mark Hughes: Only Chelsea have scored more goals than Man City. Yet the Blues are in second while Citeh sits two points clear of the drop. Hughes doesn't play his best talent because of personal reasons and Richards is regressing daily under his tutelage. Hard to see him surviving much longer if there aren't some inertial changes.

Tony Adams: Like Zola, he seemed in over his head early. Unlike Zola, he still has yet to break the surface.

Tony Mowbray: West Brom are in DFL. Of the teams that came up they seemed the most likely to stay up. Then play started (okay, they actually acquitted themselves quite well in Week 1, just not much since). Mowbray doesn't have much to work with but he's not doing much with it to engineer enough results.


F

Roy Keane: Quitter.


Incomplete:

Sam Allardyce: Big Sam hasn't been at Blackburn long enough to merit a grade. But Benny McCarthy seems to be flourishing under the management changes.

Ricky Sbragia: I almost couldn't remember who had replaced Keane.

Read more on "Manager Midterm Grades"...

UF Quick Throw: Sol Campbell abusers charged

The Fratton Park homophobes have been rounded up, and charges for "indecent chanting" (it means what it says, I guess) have been handed out. Included in the mix was a 13-year-old boy, which reinforces the ageless adage that you're never too young to become a bigot.

[BBC News]


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Donovan On The Blitzkrieg


The shirt seems to finally fit.


Landon Donovan is having a good time in the Middle East during Bayern Munich's winter training. Yesterday, Donovan played a full 90 and had an assist in the German side's victory. Today, the American all-time goal scorer earned his first Bayern goal in injury time.

A halftime substitute for Luca Toni, Donovan hammered the nail in on the Saudi side Al-Wehda's coffin. Landon managed to secure possession of a misplayed header in the box and made good on a nice turn and shoot from the eighteen.

This all comes at a time when Klinsmann is savaging Podolski for not having enough fight in him to earn more playing time, there are press rumors that Podolski will be transferred out, and Klinsmann is naming Donovan his number three striker behind Toni and Miroslav Klose.

Whether this is all a ploy to motivate Podolski remains to be seen. But, it seems the stars could be aligning for a return to Deutschland for Donovan. He is playing well and there may be room for him. I hope it works out for him.

Soccer By Ives has the video.

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Homecoming Scottish Cup 4th Round


The Fourth Round of the SFA Cup is much like the Third Round of the English FA Cup, but without some of the magic. It is the round where the big boys (such as they are) enter the competition with their smaller counterparts. This post is slightly premature, as three Fourth Round games have yet to kick off, but, since the Fifth Round draw is done, and I have a cool link, I'm going to run with it anyway.

First off, the matches that have yet to be played. All kickoff later today:
Brechin-St. Mirren
Forfar-Forres Mechanics
St. Johnstone-Rangers

Rangers, Forfar and St. Mirren should move on, but the fun is watching them fail, right? On to the results so far.

Airdrie United 2-1 Spartans
Airdrie took out the non-leaguers from Edinburgh, though the result was shaky. Spartans advanced to the Fourth Round after a defeat to Elgin City. On review, it seems Elgin had used an ineligible player, so a replay was hastily scheduled. Spartans won 2-1, and got yet another away fixture. Airdrie welcomed the travelling fans and treated them with two first half goals. For Airdrie, not Spartans. Spartans pulled one back early in the second and put one more in the net, but that one was disallowed for a foul on the keeper.

Alloa Athletic 1-2 Aberdeen
Aberdeen also snuck through, playing on the plastic pitch at Recreation Park. Lee Miller scored early, redirecting a Chris Maguire shot into the net. Alloa equalized in the 43rd, scoring on a penalty after Scott Severin fouled in the box. Sone Aluko spared Aberdeen embarrassment in the 57th with a tap in.

Ayr United 2-2 Kilmarnock
The Southwest derby was poised to go to the SPL side until Ayr's Alex Williams volleyed home in extra time. That produced a wild celebration from the goal scorer where he took of his shirt, hugged the ref, accepted a yellow card, then hugged the ref again. There is poor quality video of the whole deal here. The replay is scheduled for January 20.

Celtic 2-1 Dundee
Artur Boruc produced a Gomes-esque display in allowing Dundee to go up early when Colin McMenamin put away Boruc's spilled cross. Aiden McGeady, fresh off his first-team ban by the club, was Celtic's hero, scoring the team's second just before halftime. Celtic squandered multiple chances on the day, but go through nonetheless.

Dunfermline Athletic 2-0 Clyde
I can't be expected to write up all of these can I?

Falkirk 4-2 Queen of the South
Take that, Euro failures. Two goals in the last 20 minutes sent the SPL club through. No more worries for Aberdeen, then.

Inverness Caley Thistle 3-0 Partick Thistle
There is no way this wasn't a faked draw, right? The two thistle squads meeting up and all. ICT was never threatened in this name-derby match.

Peterhead 2-2 Queen's Park
See Dunfermline-Clyde. Replay January 20.

Ross County 0-1 Hamilton Accies
Celtic loanee Paul McGowan sent in the corner that Chris Swailes headed home halfway through the first half. Other than that, well, this was a long road trip.

Stenhousemuir 0-1 East Fife
Pass.

East Stirlingshire 0-4 Dundee United
East Stirlingshire may no longer be the worst team in the SFL, but they didn't look very good against the visiting Tangerines. 0-3 at the half, and the scoring was completed after a 55th minute penalty. Unsurprisingly, the last half hour was written up to be rather dull.

Hibernian 0-2 Hearts
According to Hibs' manager Mixu Paatelanien, Hibs were done in by overzealous refereeing. According to all write-ups I've seen, Hibs were done in by an overzealous and clumsy tackle by Steven Fletcher in the 31st, which brought him a red card. Fletcher had started out brightly for the home side, but when he was sent off, the game changed entirely. Hearts scored seven minutes after the sending off, but waited until the 90th to ice the game with a second.

Inverurie Locos P-P Motherwell
Icy Pitch. Rescheduled for January 21.

Fifth Round Draw
To be played week of February 7.
Aberdeen-East Fife--the matchup of the two teams I am most drawn to in Scotland. Kind of like this year's DC United-Charleston Battery US Open Cup final.
Airdrie United-Dunfermline
Celtic-Peterhead/Queens Park
Forfar/Forres Mechanics-Rangers/St Johnstone
Hamilton-Dundee United
Hearts-Falkirk
ICT-Ayr/Killie
Inverurie Locos/Motherwell-Brechin/St Mirren

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Cold Reception for Bog Standard Blues.


Southend pier is slippery this time of year. A trip to Roots Hall is just as hazardous.

Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea. All of the news about the billion dollar team stuttering must be piling pressure on old Phil Scolari. But, before he can address his teams league form, he has a tricky tie at Southend in the cup to deal with. Tricky on the pitch AND off. The away dressing room at Roots Hall has no heater and one loo. No hot water and barely the room for Joe Cole to swing his manbag. Poor Chelsea. It never rains but pours.


Southend gaffer Steve Tilson says he doesn't go into the away dressing room much. I don't blame him. It's a far cry from the luxury baths and showers at Stamford Bridge. The blues players will have to line up to use the one toilet tomorrow night and if anyone needs a shower they will be taking it cold. The heater in the small room is also busted. Maybe Anelka and Scolari can hug to keep warm. Oh maybe that's not a good idea.

“I don’t go in the away dressing room much. But unless the heater has been fixed since the last game, there’s no doubt it will be cold in there. The away dressing room at Chelsea was very nice. It had carpet. Ours has a concrete floor and even that’s chipped. There’s certainly no room to have a massage unless they decide not to turn on the big bath and have one in there! We also hope it’s windy and the ground’s a bit firm, as that will be a bit of a leveller. Coming here will definitely be a bit of a culture shock for Chelsea.” - Southend manager Steve Tilson.


Will Chelsea's big ego's fit into this small room?

Chelsea head into the replay with Southend after just one win in their last six outings. Southend forced a replay after a late leveller at Stamford Bridge on the 3rd of January.

Scolari's blues will will receive a cold reception on the pitch also as the fans at Roots Hall sit right on top of the action at the tiny ground. Tomorrow night's game could be a deciding factor for Scolari's Chelsea career. Rumors are already swirling over Big Phil's lack of control in the Chelsea dressing room, he will have little control over the heat in Southend's either. But lose to the Shrimpers and he will feel some heat alright.

-Bigus


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Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday Backpasses: That's a NY Kid trademarked term, mmm'kay?

Wait. Podolski would only cost about £6.75M? He's young enough for Arsenal, right? [The Offside]
Why he's moving: Klinsi rates Landycakes as third best Bayern striker (trust TFA on this one) [T-Online]
FIFA's ones to watch includes a certain Haitian Sensation [The Original Winger]

Owners of stadium in Vancouver looking to retrofit roof to lure MLS. Two things here. One, that scoreboard would be a prime target of mine if I were in the league. Two, that $365 million price tag may look hefty, but the Canuck dollar sucks again, so no worries [Metro News]
Graham Poll says SAF does not intimidate referees, except when he does [Soccernet]
Kaka, and Lingering Bursitis, wants Becks to stay in Milan [Times Online]
Japan coach will not let three players become men [Reuters]

Finally:
Do WaGs make good role models? [BBC.com]

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UF Quick Throw: Fernando begins his own mind games

Mr. Torres has decided to weigh in amid the Rafa v. Fergie fight, calling Manchester United the favourites for the EPL title. It's January 12, and LFC have taken the "underdog" moniker. Will this even be a fight by the time the two sides meet on March 14?

[BBC Sport]



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Football Managers Gone Wild III



Alright, so I've figured it out. Harry Redknapp is either the Bill Parcells of English football or he's just gone batshit from his time at Spurs. He wouldn't be the first. Arry's outburst after Sunday's display-- moderate in nature, given the breakout performance put on by Joe Kinnear upon his introduction at Newcastle or Rafa's queer little tantrum the other day-- was notable not so much for a particular line or profanity, but rather the breadth of his scorn. My favorite, the mocking: "They had two points from eight games when I came here. How do you get two points from eight games?" It's a good question. Let's go back in time, watch Harry mix magic and malice... and then yesterday.

Presenting... Redknapp's Road to Red-faced Rage! Buckle up.

Note: Scroll down to the bottom for Sunday's highlight reel. Still I'd say it's more fun to watch it ebb and flow and ebb.

In their greatest success and most efficient action, on the pitch or off, this season, Spurs axed the terrible triumvirate of Ramos-Poyet-Comolli on Saturday evening, October 25, immediately introducing Harry Redknapp as the replacement. That the negotiation with Portsmouth remained clandestine is a miracle. You might even say Daniel Levy learned from the Jol debacle. Maybe.

Anyway, Harry arrived and bam! Spurs beat Bolton, exceeding in one afternoon their season's point total through eight games (two, you'll remember.)

Before and after the match, it was a lovefest. Building up the players, the club, Redknapp was going to get the most from his NME.

"I am a big follower of the history of the game and Tottenham have been a great club over the years. I followed Tottenham, I trained there as an 11-year-old, 12-year-old so I know the history of the club. It is a big, big, club."
After the 2-0 win:
"I've taken over clubs before where I looked at it and thought 'how do we get out of this one?' There is real quality in this group of players here. You look through and there are international players. We have to start working as hard as we did today for each other, picking up points, playing as we did - they passed the ball with real quality which I was really impressed with."
So yea, apparently we're really good after all. Let's go score four at Arsenal... two in the last couple minutes!! Yea, some trouble with corners, c'mon... Road derby draw! Arry!
"It really was an amazing game of football to be involved in. We gave away some bad goals, from set-pieces too, even though we worked hard on that on Tuesday at training. But the boys have been fantastic, there's a real spirit there, a determination. They are jumping for joy in the dressing room."
A week after beating City 2-1 in MancTown (with two Darren Bent goals no less), Spurs hand Liverpool their only loss of the season. It's actually the first of two wins over 'Pudlians in the week, the latter a Carling Cup KO. Here's Harry after the league win.
"It was a good win and a good performance - even if we could have done better on corners! That's 18 goals we've scored in my five matches in charge - we're bringing in Les Ferdinand as a striking coach and I've told him if we stop scoring it's his fault!"
So are we jumping for joy in the locker room? We just beat Liverpool twice in a week, who cares about crosses? This isn't fun Harry from October.

Right around this time, Gomes went through his "crisis of confidence." There wasn't a warm sweater in Jimmy Carter's basement that could fix this. The question after an especially disturbing performance at Craven Cottage was when... not if... So Harry, is it Cesar time? This keeper sucks, give it 'em!
"It's difficult, he's my goalkeeper. He's got to do the job, in all honesty. I've got another keeper, a Spanish lad of 37, and then I've got kids. I've got to stay with him."
Redknapp sticks with Gomes. And so, after the Fulham game (Nov. 15) Gomes plays the next six, conceding two goals, and earning four clean sheets. A Nil-nil draw with Man U. on Dec. 13 his crowning achievement. One impossible save after another. Harry, the floor is yours. Tell us of this Brazilian genius!
"If he can keep these performances up we haven't got a problem. But I'd like to bring in another keeper as cover."
Huh?!? Oh, I see. Let's not be overconfident. And to prove we're not so good, how bout a miserable loss at Newcastle(1-2) and a Boxing Day abortion home to Fulham (0-0).
"It was ok but we lack punch up front. I couldn't see us scoring. We had a lot of the ball but didn't create enough chances. We looked solid at the back they had one or two chances but other than that we kept them quiet. We're short in certain areas to make the difference. I thought Bobby Zamora was outstanding, in the first half he held the ball up very well. I wish he was still at Tottenham."
Bobby Zamora... right. Anyway, so much for having all the talent we need right here in the room. Looks like Levy's wallet might not be so safe after all. A 0-2 loss at the Baggies makes the point.
"We need a certain type here. We've got an awful lot of good little players but we need more strength and a bit more power in the team. It is a badly-balanced put-together squad, in all honesty, from day one."
And with these words, so opens the transfer window. Brilliant stuff. Jermain Defoe is back in town about 12 minutes after these comments come across the papers.

But even with the little fella back in Spurs strip, the league goals and results remain elusive. Sunday's 0-1 at the JJB might have actually been the most lopsided disgrace of the season. He can Take No More... Cue 'Arry... and our latest edition of Football Managers Gone Wild!
"If you look at the results of Tottenham over the last year you have to be concerned. Look back to the end of last season after the Carling Cup - where Spurs beat Chelsea in the final - and see how many points they have got. They had two points from eight games when I came here. How do you get two points from eight games?? They (the players) put the club in it, it is up to them to get us out of it. There is plenty of flair, but we are in a relegation scrap and we need some men and some characters to get us out of it, that is what you are looking for when you are in the position we are in. "We've got some but not enough. You'd put your life on Jonathan Woodgate, Michael Dawson, Didier Zokora, Jamie O'Hara."
'Arry-- how 'bout Your Boy Defoe?
"We didn't see a great deal of him. He needs someone up there with him who is going to get hold of the ball."
So you're saying Roman Pavlyuchenko, subbed after 53 mins didn't do the hold up work? That's a rhetorical question, thanks.

Anything else?
"At the moment we have some players who cost this football club a lot of money and they need to be better for the team. They are supposed to be quality players - and they have got to show that on the football pitch. If you look at our results - two points from eight games - it cannot always be the manager's fault, can it?"
I mean, it can if it's Spurs.
"There are still an awful lot [of players] who can do a lot better than they are doing. We need some improved performances, especially away from home. We have thrown three games away - in the last minutes of each game - that cannot be right."
No, that most certainly cannot.

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