Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oldie but goodie

AFC Bournemouth are one of two clubs, along with Luton Town, that started with negative points in League Two this season. When the penalties were meted out, I opined that neither club would survive their penalties. We've been keeping an eye on Luton, but what of the other club? Well, they are within shouting distance of 22nd placed Barnet, with 15 points while Barnet have 22.

That's not what this post is about, however. This post is about the greatest goal celebration of the season.

Back on November 21, Bournemouth traveled to Grimsby. It was a pretty necessary game for the visitors, as Grimsby is one of the catchable teams ahead of them. A real relegation six pointer. Bournemouth powered into the lead in the sixth minute behind Lee Bradbury. What follows is pure awesomeness.

For those counting, he was seven for seven on takedowns. What amuses me is that the referee was standing right there and seemingly said nary a word. I do believe that if taking off your shirt in celebration is a yellow, then so is this. Oh, and as for the game, it ended in a 3-3 draw. You know, if you care about that sort of thing.

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Saturday Open Thread: This is Fergie's world

It's all smiles at Old Trafford. Bastards.

To the surprise of no-one: I'm sick of United.

It's been like this for as long as I can remember, but after the recent failures of my team, coupled with Man U's seeming invincibility, the loathing has intensified. I didn't think such a thing was possible. There's 25+ years of hate there already!

I must stand back and express amazement that as of today, United could still win a quintuple, a remarkable feat, but thankfully, even the ringmaster himself doesn't think it's possible.
"It would be very difficult to do that. You would need the luck and you would need to keep all your players fit. If we keep everyone fit then, yes, we'd have a chance. When you're in a competition, you've got to try to win it and, as long as you're still in that competition, you've got a chance. What we have done well recently is that we've had a lot of injuries but the squad has compensated and whatever team I have picked the players have just got on with it. But, realistically, I don't see it."
Well that's a relief. He's sold what's left of his soul just to get this far, but just the fact that such a thing is even remotely possible just angers us all further, not to mention Fergie picking up his 22nd Manager of the Month trophy.

They tussle with West Ham tomorrow, and I'll be praying that Mr. Carlton Cole, aka Can't Control, can dent their juggernaut. Oh, and there's a North London derby or something. I believe preparations are being made for a liveblog there, courtesy of our resident heroin-loving Spurs fan (he's not addicted, but it does take the edge off the fact that Spurs have spent untold millions basically reassembling the squad that failed miserably under both Ramos and the final days of Martin Jol).

But enough about tomorrows! Today, it's all about watching Liverpool, Spartak and Villa struggle, and if you're up early enough (I wrote this ahead of time under the assumption I'd still be dead to the world at 7am), you might get to enjoy Citeh sabotaging themselves again. Robinho alone doth not a Champions League berth make, apparently.

Fixtures and dreadful predictions after the jump. Pray for Rafa's mental health, won't you?

7.45am kick-off
Manchester Citeh v. Middlesbrough
They can't mess this one up, can they? Citeh 2-1.

10am kick-offs:
Blackburn v. Aston Villa
The own goal has been kind to Martin O'Neill over the last month. Not today! 1-1.

Spartak London v. Hull City
Spartak are about as dull as The English Patient at the moment. I'd expect them to right things, although it won't be easy. Spartak 1-0.

Everton v. Stupid F*cking Bolton
The Toffee bastards must be exhausted from 120 minutes on Wednesday, not to mention they have no squad depth whatsoever. 0-0.

Sunderland v. Stoke
You cannot stop Kenwyne Jones, you can only hope to contain. Sunderland 2-0.

West Brom v. Newcastle
homewinhomewinhomewinhomewin. West Brom 2-1.

Wigan v. Fulham
Steve Bruce does a lot with a little. Fulham do little with a lot. Wigan 3-1.

12.30pm kick-off:
Portsmouth v. Liverpool
Oh god, please not another draw. My sanity cannot handle it. Fratton Park is kind to teams in crisis. Liverpool 1-0.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Backpasses: Uncomfortable back rubs for all

Wow. There was a huge turnout for the Facebook group today. I guess it's a lot easier to join when LB puts a link in his post. Anyway, now that we have your last names, we can directly market you a lot easier.

Croatia recall Eduardo for a friendly. So help the Gooner third of us if he gets hurt [Reuters]
It seems that Tottenham players are rather excited about this weekend's game [The Spoiler]
Some ad writers had some fun with the Robbie Keane return to WHL [And Sarah Clapped]
Who caused Kevin Keegan to get banned from driving? Mike Ashley [Off the Post]
Yeah. Why aren't Prem clubs buying from the lower leagues anymore? [Guardian]

Let's get this straight. Gabby Agbonlahor likes to touch, not be touched [Dirty Tackle]

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Hatters Watch

Time for a look at Luton Town. You may remember that UF decided to keep an eye on the Hatters, when they reached 0 points after being docked a whopping 30 by the powers that be. Can they survive the drop into the non-league world of the Blue Square Premier? Lets find out how they are doing.

Ok folks. Not so rosy. Just 2 wins and a whopping 6 draws from the last 10 games (see below). Points are points I guess but they need to find late winners if survival is to be realized.

Luton now have just 2 points and are 19 away from the fishy people of Grimsby and safety. But never fear, there are 18 games left and thats 54 points to play for. However, they are seriously off pace, last time we checked-in they were 14 points from survival.

The Hatters HUGE game with Grimsby was postponed last week due to the snow that shut England down and guess what...The snow is back and taking a grip on the football fixtures for tomorrow. Luton's game with Accrington Stanley is one of many games that has fallen foul of mighty Mother Nature.

Luton's last 10.

Luton 1 Bury 2
Bourenmouth 1 Luton 1
Luton 3 Bradford 3
Brighton 0 Luton 0
Darlington 5 Luton 1
Chester 2 Luton 2
Luton 3 Lincoln 2
Chesterfield 2 Luton 2
Luton 1 Morecombe 1
Luton 1 Colchester o

Luton will head to East Laaandon next, to play the Daggers and UF will be watching!


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Update on the Sky Sports U.K. Broadcasting Rights

Earlier in the week we covered how Sky Sports had retained its four existing broadcast packages. Well, today Sky has indeed executed the boa constrictor-esque move and snagged the Monday evening games away from Setanta. That leaves Setanta with only one of the six U.K. broadcasting packages, the Saturday evening game. And it leaves ESPN with a big old goose-egg when it comes to U.K. broadcasting through 2013.

Although Setanta is doing great job of spin control, as the BBC points out, Sky is now broadcasting 115 games, and Setanta is relegated to lower tier status.

The total price paid by Sky for the five packages is over £1.7 billion, meaning that the Premier League has another three years of guaranteed big-time television revenue. Although the overall income for all six packages (plus the BBC’s rights to show highlights on the Match of the Day) remains about the same as in 2007-2010, the fact that revenue is flat despite the faltering economy amounts to a huge success. Again, you can expect the EPL transfer market to continue to flourish.

Now, from an American perspective, the interesting thing is that Setanta’s successful bid on the Saturday evening games was actually around 50% lower than what it paid last time around. Keep in mind that the European Union prohibits one broadcaster from showing all games, a rule that was promulgated in response to Sky’s monopoly in the U.K. in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. This likely means that ESPN and Setanta agreed not to table competing bids, meaning that there must be some truth to the thought that the two are in some sort of negotiations.

This also means that FSC is in the driver's seat to continue to broadcast games in the U.S. because they can easily share broadcast teams with Sky. There was some discussion in the comments on the last post about whether networks or the league provide the broadcasters -- at least according to that bastion of knowledge Wikipedia, it's the networks. So, as I suspected, this makes it quite cost-prohibitive for ESPN to broadcast games in the U.S. that are shown by Sky in the U.K. because they would be required to provide redundant broadcast teams. Fox Soccer, on the other hand, would only need to share a satellite feed.

I'm still convinced that the Saturday evening game makes the most sense for ESPN to show in the U.S., because it's a 12:30 p.m. start on the East Coast. And now that's the lone game that Setanta owns the rights to in the U.K. Despite college throwball and basketball, that's a good time to try to create an audience for EPL games in America. So it'll be very interesting to see what happens now with the U.S. broadcasting rights.

ESPN got shut out and Sky essentially ran the table. Will the same thing happen here?

(Props to the entire UF crew for helping with this post!)

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This is how you handle the drunks

Aston Villa are having a pretty good season. That goes without saying really. The fans were feeling it early, as shown by 30-year season ticket holder John Billington back in October. Billington, ostensibly bothered by the fact that his team were about to drop two points to Portsmouth, took the opportunity to show his anger by firing a 50-pence piece at assistant referee Phil Sharp. It connected. It drew blood. And now Billington has a criminal record and a five-year ban from football.

Oh, and the judge totally pwnzed him while giving her verdict.

Dr Ann Morrison, whom I just assume is a judge, took the time to reprimand Billington thusly:

There can be absolutely no excuse for an assault on an official doing their duty. Your biggest penalty is the fact that you now have a serious criminal record. Your family and your children have suffered because of your stupidity. A man of 43 should know better than to drink six pints on an empty stomach. You behaved like a stupid, drunken lunatic.
Yowza. That is a verbal beatdown.

There's more to the story here. Of course, because Scotland cannot agree with either England or Wales on banning orders, he's more than free to choose a team north of the border. Given Celtic's recent record of crowd control, I'd say he fits in nicely at Parkhead.

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Oops...There Aren't Any Stadiums Ready For WC 2010.

Earlier this week it was announced that the first stadium for WC 2010 had been completed. Turns out, this was a lie, or as South Africa WC 2010 officials say, a 'miscommunication.'

Not all the renovations at Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld stadium are complete. In fact, they are so not complete, the officials do not even know when the renovations will be finished. None of the other ten stadia scheduled for use at WC 2010 are complete either.

As Charlie Brown would say, good grief!

On a sidenote, we'd like to take this opportunity to note that this news update was tipped to us by a Newspaper man in Texas. Thanks for reading. You like us, you really, really like us.

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Marco Materazzi Wins Damages, Still a Tw*t

Really, wouldn't you believe that this douchebag made a racist comment?

Everyone knows the story of what happened between Zinedine Zidane (Zizou) and Marco Materazzi (Matrix) in the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy. After some shirt-pulling and some pleasant conversation, the Les Bleus legend unleashed the headbutt heard 'round the world. On that day Materazzi was able to use his skills as an asshole to rattle Zizou and affect the outcome of the match in Italy's favor. But everyone wondered exactly what he had said to cause such a reaction.

Several prominent newspapers printed that Materrazi had called Zizou, who is of Algerian heritage, "the son of a terrorist whore." Given the tense nature of post-colonial relations between France and Algeria, along with increased global perception of Muslims as terrorists due to America's "War on Terror", this was a particularly grievous insult. These newspapers (sic) hired lip readers to review video of the match, had alleged witnesses (who? the ball boys?) to the incident, and generally felt comfortable with their assertions. Unfortunately for them, it was eventually revealed that Marco had simply said that he preferred Zizou's "whore of a sister" rather than the Frenchman's jersey, which Zidane had sarcastically offered to give him after Materazzi had repeatedly grabbed it.

Eventually the Matrix realized that he had been so scarred by his treatment at the hands of these newspapers that he needed to go "full American" and file lawsuits for libel. Because, really, who could ever believe that Marco Materazzi, of all people, would do something outside the rules of the game?

After successfully suing the Daily Star, from which he received a formal apology and damages, as well as the Daily Mail, from which he also received damages, Materazzi was able to complete his British trifecta this week when The Sun agreed to a "six-figure settlement."

I've got a finger I would give him. Oh, they said figure? Nevermind.

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So... Liverpool. F*cked, or Proper F*cked?

Despite this discussion almost kicking off on our Facebook page, I thought it should be brought here.

As there is barely anything constituting news, I look at Liverpool and I wonder: just how screwed are they? The media's been having a lot of fun with it, using Gerrard's untimely hamstring knack to lay into Benitez and the sale of Robbie Keane, and not undeservedly either.

Rafa did bank on the Gerrard/Torres tandem as being able to shoulder the burden of that Irishman's departure, and barely 48 hours later, the proverbial Rome was in ruins.

So now Stevie is out for a minimum of three weeks, and will likely miss the 1st leg of the Real Madrid match. I despair, but I ask all of you for your opinions. At least three weeks in the EPL is an eternity, and we can't afford to be behind in the CL fixture before the captain comes back.

So: predictions? Thoughts? Long-term effects on Rafa's tenure?

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Yes There Are Many Causes of the Beckham Saga, But Sadly These Are None of Them

As always, we must first pay tribute to the gone-but-still-not-forgotten Fire Joe Morgan, to which we owe a huge debt of gratitude for the exercise that you are about to witness.

The basic idea is this: sometimes someone writes something so off the mark, it is wholly deserving of a point-by-point deconstruction. We admit that we are no geniuses when it comes to this here bloggery journalism, but when it comes to the marketplace of ideas, there are simply certain boundaries of common sense that shall not be crossed.

Although the story of Golden Balls’ inevitable move to AC Milan bores us to death, it has also created much fodder for both the MLS-loving folks (when they're not defending the league's watchability) and professional American sports journos (when they're not defending Matt Millen’s sportscaster acumen). That brings us to this article titled “Causes of the Beckham Saga” on MLS Talk, a site which claims to be a "leading web site covering the latest MLS and US soccer news."

Join me after the jump, won't you?

Now, let’s first note that our intrepid author Kartik Krishnaiyer also recently wrote an article arguing that the London blizzard somehow shows that MLS does things right by playing in the summer. I bring this up only to point out Kartik’s fundamental problem as a writer: starting out with an utterly flawed premise.

In the case of the London blizzard story, the premise is that a once-in-a-generation storm, which in the end only led to the postponement of a handful of games, somehow is relevant to whether MLS should follow the same domestic league schedule as 99% of the world. And then Kartik calls some of the English “xenophobic and insular,” I guess maybe because they think MLS is a crappy league, or something, I’m not quite sure to be honest. Some guy named Dave seems to come to the rescue in the comments and does a good job picking apart this particular argument, so I’m just giving you a heads up as to what you’re getting yourself into.... Armchair pseudo-journalism with a misguided pro-MLS bent. With typos.

Forewarned is forearmed. Let’s begin, shall we?

David Beckham has now finally declared publically what the football loving public in the United States has suspected for weeks. Beckham has announced rather openly that he would like to stay in Milan. From a pure business standpoint, any transfer fee Major League Soccer can secure for a soon to be 34 year old, one trick pony is of great benefit to the league, its teams and supporters.

Okay, first, it’s “publicly” not "publically." Unless maybe you meant to say “pubically.”

Second, the announcement wasn’t “rather openly,” it was outright “get me the hell out of here I made a huge mistake.”

Third, “one trick pony?” Really? Bitter much? Say what you want, but Beckham at 34 is still more talented than most in your precious MLS. For example, Beckham is currently thriving at AC Milan, just like he thrived at Real Madrid (once he got healthy and Capello decided to put him back in the squad). And no, I’m not going to explain how Kaka, Pato, Maldini. Ambrosini, christ even Ronaldinho have more talent than the MLS All-Stars. We could also note that, despite what some might say about Becks' deservedness to still being in the English national squad, at least he can hold his own at that high a level.

Fourth, and here is where we run into the basic flaw in this article, by claiming that MLS is making a good business decision, the author assumes: a) that MLS has any say in the move and b) that MLS really is better if he leaves. Why was MLS willing to pay Beckham so much money? Because he generates massive amounts of public attention that would never, ever, ever, ever come MLS’s way otherwise. That there was the MLS's business calculation. Beckham is first a global marketing machine, and second a football player. The assumption that Beckham somehow had more to gain by playing in MLS than vice versa is just totally flawed.

Beckham took a chance by coming to MLS, but MLS wasn't ready for him. Simply put, the quality just isn't there. Yet. (You see, I am still an optimist when it comes to the future of MLS. Just not the present.)

Many of us will happily say good riddance to Beckham. But the introspection as to why Beckham failed in a league which is below the standard of the top several leagues in Europe must be pressed. What was it about MLS and specifically the LA Galaxy that caused Beckham to flop so miserably as a footballer in the United States?

Pressing your introspection sounds kind of like a proctology exam.

At least Kartik is willing to admit that MLS is below the level of top European leagues. How about like 20 or 30 levels below? But, Beckham did not fail in MLS. MLS failed, or more accurately, the marriage between Beckham and MLS failed.

With AC Milan, by comparison, Beckham is playing at a club with some of the best talent in the world, he’s treated like a God by the Milanese supporters and wherever else he happens to go, and most importantly he is now playing at a high level as he tries to convince Capello to include him in the 2010 English World Cup squad. Oh, and in the process he's helping AC Milan regain their rightful place in the Champions League and challenge for the Serie A title, and if you tuned in to a recent AC Milan match you can see that he's making an impact on the pitch. As opposed to watching Beckham play in MLS, which was simply painful.

Bitch and moan all you want and call him a vapid traitor, but the difference in quality between MLS and Europe is what this move is all about. Beckham could either play for Milan, or he could play on a squad that features Eddie Lewis and Edson Buddle, plays against subpar competition with clumsy defenders who are as likely to execute a proper tackle as break your ankle, on FIELDTURF no less, in a league with a schedule that doesn't even sync up with English international matches.

Oh, and AC Milan will likely be able to pay Beckham quite handsomely, so forget about that silly 250 million dollar contract (not that any of that was anything more than licensing, which Milan can offer as well). Then, at the most you’re talking about Posh having to give up her dreams of an LA lifestyle. But frankly, she can always become a model in Milan anyway... Oh wait, the Beckhams already have contracts with Armani (which is based in Milan, along with the rest of the Italian fashion industry for all you non-fashionistas). So where’s the tradeoff?

But let’s see what Kartik has to say about why David Beckham didn't work out in MLS...

1- Alexi Lalas’ mismanagement of the LA Galaxy

[A list of Lalas' terrible moves snipped].

I agree that all these moves were crap and Lalas has no management ability. But the author is assuming that the Galaxy could have somehow put a team around Beckham that would’ve convinced him to stay. Last season, the MLS salary cap essentially hamstrung the Galaxy to Becks, Donovan and a pile of steaming dog doo.

But let’s just say for the sake of argument that the Galaxy’s management makes the most of this, puts together as good a team as possible under the cap restraints. And let’s even pretend that the Galaxy had managed to make the playoffs and even win the MLS Cup. I’m still saying that Beckham leaves for AC Milan. Because, as already stated, MLS simply does not have the same to offer him.

At most, Becks made a big mistake coming in the first place. Not because he failed in MLS, but because MLS is just a really awful place for a top-flight footballer to play. I’m pretty sure that Kartik would never agree with me in a million years, and yet he calls the English “xenophobic and insular” (I can see the irony of this, and I’m not even ENGLISH!).

2- Lack of adaptability to MLS tactics

Major League Soccer has gotten further and further away from the long ball tactics preferred in the British Isles and by many American coaches reared in the Euro dominated academies of the 1980s and 1990s. While Beckham first played for a manager in Frank Yallop who employed at times a very British style, and then Ruud Gullit who had previously managed in the Premier League, he often times played against team employing a Latin style and did not adapt well.

I literally have no idea what this means. What teams play long ball tactics in the "British Isles"? Bolton? Rangers? Llanelli??

Wait, and Beckham isn’t even playing in the British Isles, he’s playing in Italy. Have you ever seen AC Milan play??? They are the utter opposite of long ball tactics. When has Beckham ever played long ball tactics? Sure he is known to play deep crosses, but that’s not long ball tactics at all.

And what is a Latin style? Did Real Madrid play a Latin style? They are Spanish, afterall. Did Beckham struggle to adapt in Spain? My brain hurts.

3- Pressure to perform for the media

I know many of our readers and listeners don’t appreciate Landon Donovan the way I do. But since Donovan was Beckham’s Galaxy team mate and I don’t want to get into Michael Jordan, Maradona or Pele analogies which I don’t believe fit Beckham, let me make this comparison: Once Landon Donovan was anointed the golden boy of US Soccer, the great American hope, etc, etc, the pressure for him to perform miracles every time the national team stepped on the pitch was immense.

I think I get this point, the more talent you have the more pressure from the media to perform. But wasn’t the thing that made athletes like Michael Jordan and Pele so great is that they relished challenges and tried to meet those lofty expectations? Oh, and Maradona is a really terrible example to use because he imploded at the height of his career.

But back to the point, aren't great players unafraid to take big risks in the hopes of big rewards? Beckham fits that bill, and I’m sure every time he was criticized for failing to turn the Galaxy into a winning team, he didn't say to himself, "Oh boo hoo the pressure is getting to me!" No, he said to himself, “This move made sense at the time, but why am I stuck with this awful team in this awful, awful league?”

Every time Donovan fell short a bevy of football writers in the US and fans who post on Big Soccer and other places would talk about how Donovan was immature, or over rated, or unmotivated or all of the above.

Yes, and now that Lando has left MLS for Bayern, he’s getting approval. Why? Because he's finally left a lesser league for the challenge of a better league and he's fully embraced that challenge. You can't criticize Becks for essentially doing the same thing, unless of course you are unable to admit that MLS is a much lesser league in the first place.

Beckham faced a similar dilemma but more importantly from a hostile mainstream American sports media led by ignorant writers like Jay Marriotti of the south side based Chicago Sun Times and TJ Simers of the LA Times. These writers embodied the conservative/xenophobic sports journalist establishment who ultimately seem threatened by the possible success of football stateside.

I know not of this “Jay Marriotti of the south side based Chicago Sun Times,” as opposed to Jay Mariotti the fascist pig who recently quit the Sun Times.

Every time Beckham failed on the pitch, the sports writers piled on. Not that they’d ever want him to succeed in the first place or even recognize his greatness had it ever appeared in Los Angeles.

True, the American media doesn't really get or care about football, and it would've been great if Beckham had changed that. But this says nothing about football's rightful place as a proper sport in America. Again, this is simply about MLS's lack of quality and Beckham's inability to overcome that lack of quality.

4- The success of Chivas USA

David Beckham never had to worry about Manchester City or Athletico Madrid upstaging him. But in Los Angeles, the Galaxy has not been the best MLS team in town in a while: a long while. The death of the great Doug Hamilton coupled with the hiring by Chivas USA of Bob Bradley turned the tables in southern California.

C'mon Mr. I Hate Xenophones, it's Atletico Madrid, not "Athletico" Madrid.

Not only that, but Bob Bradley left Chivas for the U.S. National Team at least six months before Beckham played his first game for the Galaxy.


During David Beckham’s time in Los Angeles, Chivas USA was consistently the superior team at the Home Depot Center. Even when the Galaxy won t he “superclassico” they’d be force to endure Chivas hosting playoff matches while the Galaxy prepared for their next tour of Oceania.

Sigh. Do you really think Beckham has ever given more than three seconds of thought about Chivas? I don’t think even Beckham is that myopic (look it up). And if Becks did care about Chivas, wouldn't he want to stay in MLS and beat them? No, losing to Chivas was utterly and completely beside the point.

Given these factors perhaps Beckham was always doomed to failure. One will never know, but at this juncture it’s best for MLS, the Galaxy and Beckham to move on.

No "perhaps". I'm pretty sure that now we all know for certain that the marriage with MLS was always doomed to failure and that it’s best for all involved to move on. Kartik's supposed factors had nothing to do with the failure. In the meantime, I suppose that Kartik is too busy bravely flying the MLS flag to at least run a spellcheck.

In conclusion, here’s my own in-depth list of causes for Beckham leaving MLS:

1. MLS is not very good
2. AC Milan is much better
Ergo, any loss of income and embarrassment from not succeeding in America is far outweighed by the gain of playing meaningful football.

It just really isn’t any more complicated than that.

Meanwhile, in other news, MLS Talk is hiring.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thursday Backpasses: Can't say I hate her for it

While we are cleaning up our language (mostly) around here, come join us on the Facebook tomorrow for the First Annual "Cuss in Your Status Post" Day. Also, join the UF group if you haven't already. It makes us feel good.

Edu set up Beasley for a goal last night in Rangers friendly against AC Milan. Nice to see any playing time for those two [The Beautiful Game]
Throwing socks? Really? [The Spoiler]
El Salvador NY under investigation for faking multiple injuries in a match [Trinidad Express]

Kevin Keegan gets his license suspended for driving 6 MPH over the limit (and other stuff) [Soccerway]
Jimmy Bullard will play for Germany if called [Soccernet]

Stevie G's WAG says girls should not get boob jobs. Why? Because, after having kids, she has a hard time fitting into designer duds. Boo hoo [Metro]

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Micah Richards Proves the Old Adage: Footballers and Nightclubs Do Not Mix

20-year-old Citeh defender Micah Richards joins the growing list of footballers who have been hauled into jail for questioning about an alleged assault. In Richards' case, he was arrested and questioned regarding an incident that took place at midnight on Christmas Eve outside a Manchester nightclub. (Yup, kind of a slow news day in these parts!)

One of two things is going on here. Either footballers are very dumb and prone to getting into fights when they are loose on the town. Or footballers are easy targets to make accusations against in the hope of collecting a bit of money.

On second thought, both of those things are probably true.

Such is the state of English footballing that this story elicits a big old yawn. No Phil Collins, no golf clubs, no cigars put out in someone's eye, just garden-variety pre-arranged questioning and release on bail. Chances are the charges will eventually be dropped and this story will fade gently into that good night.

But honestly, why don't footballers just stay at home? At the very least stay home during the season, when you're supposed to be,you know, staying in shape? Or, why not simply step away from any confrontations with obnoxious clubgoers? Ah yes, maybe it's because most footballers are dumb as bricks. God bless them all.

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ITV Blame The Computers.

Don't blame the director, don't blame the producer, don't blame it on the adverts, blame it on computers.

That was the official word from ITV supremo Michael Grade this morning as he had some 'splainin' to do. Apparently the whole of England missed Everton's dramatic extra time winner last night because the automated system that triggers the commercials fired off on time, on schedule, and did not account for the delay in programming due to the extra time at Goodison Park.

Now Bigus works in TV Land and thinks that's absolute bollocks. While computers and automated systems often play large part in controlling a stations programming and hard hits (timed exits to and from commercials to facilitate local and national changes in programming to a specific time). The likelihood of the commercial countdown/play out device being unmanned during prime-time is highly unlikely. Also 'Master Control' would have noticed and switched back (after 10 secs, they did). A 'Master Control' is ultimately in charge of what hits the TVs at home. Master Control with no tech at the switcher? Never. While I don't know the ins and outs of ITV's operation I reckon this is down to good old fashioned human error/miscommunication. But not one to chuck his peeps under the bus, Grade has decided to blame his computers. Whether or not the truth got to Grade is another matter. Who wants to admit to that f**k up?

An official statement described the incident as an "unprecedented transmission error". Unprecedented? Every director in the world will tell you their "oh f**k" moment as they miss a hit, cut to an empty chair, take the wrong feed or accidentally take a break. However, missing a live goal in an FA Cup reply in extra time is one that I certainly can't remember happening. So in that respect, I guess unprecedented works.

Click here to see the ITV screw up through the eyes of Joe Public watching the game.

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Quick Throw: Gerrard Out Three Weeks

A Liverpool spokesman confirmed this morning that Steven Gerrard will miss "about three weeks" of action due to a torn hamstring. The Big Fella's been ruled out for international duty next Wednesday against Spain in Seville, but not the Champions' League match with Real Madrid on February 25-- precisely three weeks to the day he sustained the injury.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Thursday backpasses: Lovely lass

Someone took the time to rate the top 50 January 2009 EPL transfers. Go look [Daily Soccer Blog]
Is AVRAM! primed to make a return to the EPL? [Never Captain Nicky Butt]
Pixels for Podolski. We're considering putting our logo on there [The Spoiler]

Arshavin designs womens clothes. Did it to meet women [Daily Mail]
Lamps gets smug over rescinded red card [BBC]
SWP gets charged by FA over video evidence. You know, this never would have happened if he had stayed at Chelsea [Sky Sports]
Bayern has Landycakes on their CL roster. They'll still lose [Goal]

John Terry likes to dress up, go out on the town. Sometimes, he does it as a man, too [The Spoiler]

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Stay Tuned To ITV For A Special Presentation of 'Heidi' Following Tonight's FA Cup Match

Not to be outdone by Comcast in Arizona, ITV decided to have a laugh with all of England.

Everton were hosting Liverpool Wednesday for their 4th Round FA Cup replay. After almost 3 and a half hours of football (including the draw at Anfield about 10 days ago) the two teams were still even, and seemingly headed for penalty kicks. But two minutes from time youngster Dan Gosling scored the winner to send the Toffees on and the Reds out of the cup. Too bad nobody in England saw it.

On the plus side, they didn't have to see Evan Stone flap his dong around either.

But moments before Gosling's winner ITV inexplicably went to commercials. And fucking weird ones, too. For a second it was like someone put the Altered States of Drugachusetts back on TV. Good to see that ad men in Britain get as high as this kid before they go to work in the morning.

It really is incredible timing. Almost two hours of football on Wednesday and ITV manages to pick the only moments to royally screw things up. Again, this is about 12-and-a-half minutes into the second period of extra time (so maths: after 117:30 of 120 minutes).

But on another level, maybe they were sparing the Reds from a literal telling of events in favor of a more metaphorical one. Two workaday guys go after each other, just like the two Liverpudlian sides of Mersey. And right when the one guy gets defenestrated, that's probably about the exact moment that Gosling scored, a symbolic 'throwing through a window' if you will. As performance art, this was a masterpiece. As broadcasting, this was gross fucking incompetence.

Good thing nobody in Liverpool (or the rest of England) really cares about football.

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Quick Throw: Beckham Wants OUT

In news that should surprise precisely no one, David Beckham went on the record today confirming, for the first time and in no uncertain terms, that he wants to leave MLS and the Galaxy for a permanent stay in Milan.

Initial report after the jump.

GLASGOW, Feb 4 (Reuters) - David Beckham said for the first

time on Wednesday that he would like to quit LA Galaxy in the

United States and make a permanent move to AC Milan.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder

added that he might want to end his career at Milan and that

playing for them would enhance his chances of another World Cup

with England in South Africa next year.

"I have expressed my desire now to stay in Milan and

hopefully the clubs can come to some agreement,"
Beckham, who is

on loan with the Italian giants, told reporters.

"I expected to enjoy it (in Milan), but I didn't expect to

enjoy it this much and play in every game like I have,"

Beckham, who has made a significant impact in Serie A.

"I have said that my intentions are to stay here. Now it is

out of my hands so I have to wait and see,"
he added after

playing for the first half of Milan's friendly against Rangers

at Ibrox.

"My main objective is to stay at this club and I enjoy

playing here and at the highest level and it would give me more

of a chance (of playing in the World Cup),"
the former

33-year-old England captain said.

"I have not spoken to Galaxy, but someone has from my side

and it is literally down to them to come to some sort of

agreement and hopefully they will."

Asked if he would like to finish his career at AC Milan

Beckham replied, "Yes, possibly."

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Quick Throw: One Down Nine To Go

Let's throw a party because the first stadium in South Africa scheduled to be used for WC 2010 has been completed. This leaves nine more to finish.

Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld stadium is supposed to be used for this summer's Confederations Cup. Three other stadiums to be used for that tourney have yet to be completed although they were supposed to be finished last year.

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FA Cup Fourth Round Replay Open Thread

Now that Engerland has managed to dig itself out of that blizzard, there's a few FA Cup Fourth Round replays on tap for today...

2:45 EST Nottingham Forest v. Derby County
2:45 EST Aston Villa v. Doncaster
3:00 EST Blackburn Rovers v. Sunderland
3:10 EST Everton v. Liverpool

I think this makes for the ninth Merseyside derby in two weeks. Have your say you know where!

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

Animals on soccer jerseys just don't work well. I don't care if you are putting purple dragons on there (NSFW language (sorry)) or if you are dressing in tiger stripes, it just does not work. So, class, what's going to happen when why try another mythical beast? That's right, it's not going to work.

This, for those of you who slept through mythology and book learning in general, is a griffin. Griffins are AWE-SOME! It has the body of a lion, head and front talons of an eagle, and feathered ears. Plus, wings! What's not to like? It looks majestic when you put it on your governmental buildings too. Yay, griffins!

Unfortunately, it doesn't look right printed on a shirt. Now, this is better than the oddly abstract dragon from above. The problem is, if anything, that the griffin is too detailed. I'm sure the image is taken from the same ancient etching that Perugia bases its badge off of, but this would have been a good time to go with a simplified line-drawing of the creature. The fat lines of silver bleed into the red of the shirt.

What's going on with that one white sleeve, anyway? Is it supposed to balance out the two white stripes on the other side? Then you have one red and one maroon-ish stripe on said sleeve. I'm so confused. Why introduce another red-based color on the shirt, if only to use it as a pencil-thin hoop on one sleeve? Too many rhetorical questions.

Of course, Perugia is the current home (on loan) of American Gabriel Ferrari. Ferrari, unlike that turncoat Giuseppe Rossi, has stated that he will play for the US if called. Plus, his middle name is Enzo. How is this kid not a UF favorite? Bob Bradley, give this kid a call up. And put griffins on the US shirt. Just don't make them so detailed. OK?

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Sky Sports to ESPN: Nice Try, Sucker! Or, Everything You Wanted to Know About Football Broadcasting Rights but Were Afraid to Ask.

Around these parts, we’ve been carefully following ESPN’s not-so-quiet moves to expand into the English Premier League (suck it, Barclays!). We certainly haven’t been the only ones to notice that Sportscenter has been covering more and more European football in its highlight package and on its score tickers. Then there is the prominent placement of “soccer” on the ESPN homepage, which directs you to soccernet (of course, we can debate the quality of soccernet’s news coverage, but that’s for another post). We’ve even heard rumors that ESPN planned to convert ESPN Classic into an all-football channel. Well, yesterday Sky Sports took a major step to curtail ESPN's moves into football.

After the jump, it's time for me to go into full-on sports business wonk-mode....

As far as I could tell, ESPN’s expansion strategy looked (note the past tense) like this: snag one or more of the British broadcasting packages that were coming up for bidding in order to expand into the British market, and then start incorporating more English football into the U.S. market. You see, the model that works quite well for Sky/FSC (both owned by Rupert Murdoch) and Setanta is simply to broadcast the same games in both markets using the same broadcasting team – it’s a cost-effective move, and is only possible because the U.S. and England are separated by a common language (as opposed to, say, broadcasting NBA games in China – you still need a separate broadcast team). Plus, it’s a win-win because it allows ESPN to start expanding more into Europe, where the network is newer and has a relatively poor reputation, by drawing in viewers with football.

The other piece of background you need to know is that the English Premier League divides the broadcasting rights into six packages. Essentially, by dividing up the broadcasting rights into separate packages, the Premier League increases the overall value by forcing broadcasters to bid against each other on multiple fronts. As things currently stand in the United Kingdom, Sky paid £1.3 billion for the rights to four packages through 2010. Each Sky package includes 23 games, and consists of the two Sunday games, the first-choice Saturday afternoon game and another "floating" game. Setanta owns the other two packages, which are slightly less valuable overall and include the Saturday evening game and the Monday night game. Bids for the 2010-13 British package were due last week, and the bidding on the U.S. rights (along with the rest of the world) is expected to start once the British rights are settled.

Okay, so far so good. And this brings us to yesterday, when Sky decided they’d like to keep things the way they are, thank you very much, and were indeed re-awarded their four existing packages by the Premier League. As the Financial Times reports, for the league to shut down the bidding so soon after the bids were submitted indicates that Sky must have made a “really good knockout offer.” And, the Daily Mail reports that the bid was for an amazing £1.7 billion, which is a huge chunk of money considering the global recession.

If you take nothing else away from this story, it’s that the Premier League is in great shape financially and you can expect clubs to continue to splash out lots more cash on transfers and salaries given the large guaranteed income from T.V. rights.

As for the remaining two packages that are currently owned by Setanta, the Premier League has opened up another round of bidding. The Independent surmises this can mean one of three scenarios: (1) the bids were below what the league was expecting; (2) Setanta has a major rival and the league wants to encourage a bidding war; or (3) Setanta and ESPN were bidding together in anticipation of a possible merger. In my mind, this is where things get very interesting, because no one really knows for sure what’s going on behind the scenes. But, if I’m ESPN, I’m looking at two things: First, that Saturday evening package probably makes the most the sense for U.S. broadcasting because the games air at 12:30 p.m. on the East Coast. Second, although Setanta and ESPN have denied they are in talks, a merger makes a lot of sense if ESPN is still serious about expanding in both Europe and the U.S.

At the same time, Sky has demonstrated that they aren’t afraid to spend a large sum of money to retain their British broadcasting rights because their entire network essentially revolves around football. Sky might be willing to spend even more money and essentially stranglehold its competitors out of the market.

So, this is a still-unfolding story. To me, it is one of the more fascinating things to happen on the business-side of football because it gives a window into all the machinations that occur but are rarely seen. There’s simply way too much money involved for any of these decisions to happen at anything less than a fever pitch.

Update: Just saw on, appropriately enough, Sky Sports News that the European Union prohibits one broadcaster from having a monopoly on all games. So, that changes things a bit -- Sky likely can't bid on those last two packages, meaning it's Setanta v. ESPN for the remaining games. This also helps explain why the EPL divides up the broadcasting rights in the first place. More info here. Again, stay tuned.... we'll try to stay on top of this story.

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Mercy for Bosingwa is not bestowed upon the linesman

In a season marred by contentious referring decisions, the rakish move of unibrowed right-back Jose Bosingwa is perhaps the worst, as both Riley and the linesmen decided no action should be taken. In the insane world of the FA, the non-call on the pitch has rendered them impotent and unable to review and properly discipline Bosingwa, despite the fact that they set the rules and could/should probably change that particular clause so they can ban the lad for 10 games or so.

That said, the mercy shown to Bosingwa by Mo Matadar, aka the guy who was inches from the incident and shown on tape waving his flag like a man possessed, was not returned in kind, as the FA have dumped him down to League Two for a while.

Mo will be running the touchline at the Grimsby Town/Exeter match, where he'll no doubt realize the error of his ways and will perhaps learn to assert himself better on the pitch next time.

I do like that the FA punishes its staff for egregious errors on the pitch (still waiting for Riley's rebuke, by the way), but honestly, is this the right way to do it? Now all it means is that some poor, struggling lower league minnow is stuck with incompetence that could possibly ruin their game as well.

To further emphasize this point, the ref in Matadar's game will be Stuart Atwell, the moron who gave a goal even though it hit the side netting in a recent Reading/Watford Colaship clash.

So look out Mariners and Grecians fans, the failed officials are heading to your game.

Prepare rotten fruit/veg accordingly.

(In case you missed it the first time...)

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UF POWER POLL: Now That's Just Wrong.

Dear readers, I hope you enjoyed the introduction to the UF Power Poll which featured yesterday. Bigus had an issue with the voting criteria that allowed a certain, sliding, nonperforming club, to appear in the top ten. I lodged my complaints formally and provided a compelling argument to state my case. In fact Perry Mason would have been proud.

Alas, the UF crowd denied my request to remove the votes for Chelsea based on my research. Instead my blog-eagues implored me to follow up with a post. Follow me after the jump to find out why Chelsea FC's inclusion in the top ten of our Power Poll for European football is just outright ridiculous.

First of all, let's take a look at Chelsea over the last couple of months. They have a manager who clearly cannot communicate with his team, evidenced by some fallouts with key players (see: Drogba, Didier). Scolari is a man with little league experience and none in the top leagues of Europe, a man who often looks confused in front of the press.

They leak goals and futz with new defence routines that the players cannot understand (see: Southend highlights). They are playing an unfamilar formation with players out of position (see: Malouda, Florent and Kalou, Salomon) They have lost their coach (Steve Clarke) whose impact was pivotal to their success. Their defence leaks like a sieve, while Clarke's new team (West Ham) look defensively sound and unbeaten in six.

Meanwhile, their owner and bankrolling fantasy football tzar Mr Abrahmovich, appears to have lost interest. He spends more time worrying about his financial affairs than those at Stamford Bridge, something that's clearly demonstrated by his absence at games and lack of financial support in the transfer window that just closed. Chelsea just loaned a player who appears (to many of my friends) to have failed elsewhere. Quaresma appeared very little for Inter Milan this year and Jose sent him packing. Chelsea have sold in January and spent nothing in return, while European rivals splash the cash and enjoy good form on the pitch. Domestically Aston Villa have strengthened, Arsenal too.

Now let's look at the football. Over the last 2 months they look uninspired, lazy and lack any kind of creativity in the final third. The lack of any width is evident and it has damaged them greatly. The creativity to create chances has gone. Even during games that they have won, it has not been there. They hold plenty of possession but offer nothing in the final third of pitch.

Last weekend they could only offer a paltry 2 shots on the Liverpool goal and were bossed around with 10 men AND with 11. Their previous game, against Boro', was no different. They needed late goals at home to beat a side struggling to stay in the Premiership. They were manhandled at Old Trafford. Slapped around. They just managed to scrape through in the Champions League also, beating CFR Cluj 2-1 at home. This ain't the Chelsea of last year. Not close. This is a team on the skids.

The Blues have also won just 3 of their last 8 Premier League games. West Brom, Stoke (a game in which they needed a late injury time winner from Lampard) and Middlesbrough, three teams that are struggling around the relegation places of the Premier League. They also failed to win at home against Fulham and West Ham.

Two months, 12 points. Terrible form for a team that sits in the UF European Power Poll at number 9, above Arsenal no less. The Gooners may have had a ropey season but they are currently unbeaten in the last 2 months, after losing 4 of their best players to long-term injury to boot.

Dazed and confused: Scolari demostrates how Alex and Terry should stand still at corners

So where should Chelsea really be in the standings of Europe? Well let's look at the form of teams in the top four European leagues, Italy, Spain, Germany and England.

The below is the order of points gained over the last 8 domestic fixtures:

Barcelona WWWWWWWW 24 points
Manchester United DWWWWWWW 22 points
Aston Villa WWDWWWWD 20 points
Real Madrid LLWWWWWW 18 points
Hertha Berlin DWWWWLWW 19 points
Genoa WDWWWDDW 18 points
Roma WLDWWWWD 17 points
A C Milan WLWDWWDW 17 points
Inter Milan WWWDLWWD 17 points
Bayern Munich WWWDWWDL 17 points
Cagliari WLDDWWWW 17 points
Juventus WWWWDWLL 16 points
Hoffenheim WLWWWLDW 16 points
Hamburg LWLWDWWW 16 points
Atlhletic Bilbao LWDWWWLW 16 points
Everton WDWWWDDL 15 points
Fiorentina WWWLLLWW 15 points
Arsenal DDDWWWDD 14 points
Liverpool DDWWDDDW 14 points
Wigan WWWWLLDD 14 points
West Ham DLWWDWWD 14 points
Sevilla WWDDWWLL 14 points
Malaga LWDWWWDL 13 points

Chelsea are currently the TWENTY-THIRD best team out of the top 4 leagues in Europe based on form. West Ham are better than Chelsea right now. Oh Bigus? What's against the French? They have representatives in the Champions League?

That's what French football fetishist and UF scribbler the NY Kid is going to argue.

Ok Kid. Now let's add France:

Bordeaux DDWWWWWD 18 points
PSG WLWWDLWW 17 points
Lille WDDDWWWD 16 points
Nantes LWWDDWLW 14 points
Toulouse LDDWDWWD 13 points
Rennes DWDDWWLD 13 points
Nancy DWLLWWLW 13 points
Lorient WDWWLDDD 13 points

So out of the top FIVE leagues in Europe...Chelsea are the THIRTY-FIRST best team in Europe... THIRTY-ONE!

I could add the top sides from Portugal, Holland, Czech Rep or any other nation that allows Champions League entry for its elite. But if I did that, Chelsea would likely disappear from the top 40.

But Bigus, that's just two months, what if you make it 10/12 games? Want that instead, Chelsea fans?

I doubt it. I would have to include a home draw with Newcastle and a home defeat by Arsenal, a team who are unbeaten in 11, signing a top player this month (Arshavin) and just 5 points behind Chelsea in the EPL table. So if I add those results along with their win against the mighty West Brom, it is likely that Chelsea will slide further down the European form rankings.

Look, don't get me wrong. Chelsea have been a big side in Europe over the last few years, especially last year. After reaching the Champions League final and challenging for the Premier League title they would have been in the top 4, but now? Really? Top Ten?

My original point here was to prove that currently, through form and circumstances Chelsea FC do not belong in the Power Poll top ten. I was called a fu*ktard by my good friend and UF's very own Chelsea rep, Autoglass. But research prevails, It appears that they should rank way outside of the top ten, let alone be ninth! Who's the fu*ktard now?

Am I nuts to conclude this and ask for a team's current form to be considered as criteria for the top ten? Shouldn't results count for something? Am I crazy to ask for Chelsea's removal from the UF PP? At the expensive of Juventus? Bayern? AND Roma, who have taken 17 points in the last 8 and have won 4 of their last 5? The same Roma that beat Chelsea in the Champions League 3-1 in November?

You decide...Comment below.


By the way I used for my research.

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Kiddies + Toxic Waste Dump = Soccer Field?

If these kids grow third hands, I blame the EPA.

Thanks to a binational partnership between the US and Mexico, little tykes in Tijuana now have a brand new soccer field. A field right on top of a giant toxic waste dump.

Seems a US owned lead smelter used Mexico as an illegal toxic dump in the 1980s. Shocking, I know, but they made movies about this...movies called Men at Work. The dump was discovered in the early 1990s.

Now, thanks to the wonders of concrete, the waste is now entombed in the hard stuff. And, the playing fields are painted onto the flat surface.

Call me a skeptic, but I don't think soccer was intended to be played on concrete.

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Ligue 1 Transfer Roundup

Olympique de Marseille make some transfer moves.

So the January transfer window has ended for Ligue 1, and there weren't any blockbuster moves. But that's not to say that there isn't a significant difference in lineups (alright, mostly reserves) for several clubs. Will any of these moves make a difference?

In their order in the table, the following moves were made:

1. Olympique Lyonnais - Players in=0; Players out=1 (Anderson); Nothing to see here.

2. FC Girondins de Bordeaux - Players in=0; Players out=2 (Obertan; Marange); Obertan had seen some action for Bordeaux, but as they push to close on Lyon they needed to stay with their more established players so they sent him out on loan to FC Lorient.

3. Paris Saint-Germain - Players in=0; Players out=2 (N'Goyi; Sankhare); Neither had a chance to get any time on the pitch for PSG, and both have been loaned to Ligue 2 clubs for further seasoning, with both loans likely to be made permanent.

4. Olympique de Marseille - Players in=2 (Brandao; Wiltord); Players out=8 (Givet; Grandin; Erbate; Cesar; N'Diaye; Begeorgi; M'Bow; Krstic); Wiltord got the immediate start in his first match with L'OM and played well enough; Givet was sent to Blackburn on loan, where he is likely to partner with Ooijer, Samba and Warnock in the back (he was used as a substitute in the club's last FA Cup match); Apparently, Nenad Krstic divides his time between the Oklahoma City Thunder and L'OM, but now he will have to commute to AC Ajaccio.

5. Stade Rennais - Players in=0; Players out=2 (Wiltord; Sorlin); Wiltord had only played in 6 matches, so Rennes is fine to keep pushing for the top of the table without him.

6. Toulouse FC - Players in=0; Players out=1 (Fort); Meh.

7. LOSC Lille Metropole - Players in=0; Players out=1 (Franquart); Meh.

8. OGC Nice - Players in=2 (Adeilson; Sable); Players out=1 (Gace); Adeilson joins Arsenal's Denilson as Brazilians who do not play like Brazilians; Sable is a good transfer as the veteran midfielder spent several seasons with AS Saint-Etienne and has seen significant football.

9. FC Lorient - Players in=2 (Obertan; Caive); Players out=3 (Buron; Marin; Jacobsen); Obertan should get much more run than he did at Bordeaux (although he had played in 11 matches there) and will look to build on the 2 goals that he scored in the League Cup.

10. AS Nancy-Lorraine - Players in=1 (Gunnarsson); Players out=3 (Calve; Fortune; Camerling); Fortune had made 15 appearances (with only 1 goal) before being loaned out to West Bromwich Albion where he will have to complete with Arsenal loanee Jay Simpson for playing time.

11. AS Monaco FC - Players in=2 (Lolo; Vallaurio); Players out=5 (Bernadi; Kaita; Ligati; Cufre; Joneleit); If things continue as they are, Monaco may rue the fact that Ligati was recalled by AC Milan.

12. FC Nantes - Players in=0; Players out=1 (Gravgaard); Meh.

13. Le Mans - Players in=4 (Makaridze; Goulon; Nkwelle; Dominique); Players out=2 (Keita; El-Bahri); Le Mans bring in Goulon from Middlesbrough, although the transfer has not yet been approved by Ligue 1.

14. Grenoble Foot 38 - Players in=4 (Grandin; Boya; Cesar; Kucukovic); Players out=3 (Kamissoko; Dja Djedje; Alphant); Grenoble bring in Grandin from L'OM to partner with Akrour up top, as he had 2 goals in 8 matches for the southern club; Dja Djedje had been playing well, but he gets shipped out to Ligue 2 club RC Strasbourg.

15. SM Caen - Players in=1 (Quellier); Players out=2 (Svensson; Thiam); Nothing of import to note.

16. AJ Auxerre - Players in=1 (Birsa); Players out=3 (Traore; Huyghebaert; Akakpo); Yet another Traore.

17. AS Saint-Etienne - Players in=0; Players out=1 (Nilsson); Apparently the all-time leader in Ligue 1 titles feels that they can avoid relegation even by doing nothing.

18. FC Sochaux-Montbeliard - Players in=2 (Sverkos; Mikari); Players out=3 (Perisic; Birsa; Mezague); 2 in, 3 out, with only 1 point to make up to emerge from the drop-zone.

19. Valenciennes FC - Players in=1 (Darcheville); Players out=2 (Khiter; Bezzaz); Darcheville (transferred from Rangers) has already paid dividends, as he provided an assist on the match-winner this past weekend.

20. Le Havre AC - Players in=4 (Hantz; Diallo; Franquart; Marange); Players out=3 (Faure; Soumare; Kharbouchi); None of these 4 players will make a bit of difference as Le Havre are 9 points from safety and virtually guaranteed relegation.

Whew. That was exhausting.

Read more on "Ligue 1 Transfer Roundup"...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday Backpasses: Adios for now

The Mike Georgers of the world can breathe safe. ESPN did not win any of the UK EPL rights.

Johnny Two Saints still at Spurs because of a bum ankle [Daily Mail]
Philippe Mexes is a lover, not a fighter [Goal]
Interactive map of Americans in Europe [The Best Eleven]
Headline: Why U.S.-Mexico is soccer's greatest rivalry [Goal]

DuNord goes on hiatus. Hopefully, it's just a short one [DuNord]

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UF Quick Throw: Fattie is free!

Fat Frank's red card has been stricken from the record, and rightly so. He'll be free to play on Saturday, unlike England's Blowhard John Terry, who picked up a yellow for yelling at Riley and now has enough to miss a game or two.

Still, the biggest injustice still remains: Jose Bosingwa's cleat dance on Yossi Benayoun will never be punished, although hopefully karma can still have a say.

[Guardian Sport]

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UF POWER POLL - Debut Edition

People love lists and we are people who love football. With this in mind, it is our pleasure to introduce UF's first semi-weekly European Power Poll.

The formula was simple. Each of our intrepid scribes posited his own Top Ten. Then, using an algorithm specially designed by the foremost quantum physician at Nassau Community College, we came up with the following results. Enjoy. Debate.

1) Barcelona - 1.14

Unbeaten in their last 20 league matches. One loss in 21 games total. That, in their first match, aaaall the way back in August. Messi is unstoppable-- two more goals off the bench this weekend. Barca are 12 points up in the table, +33 over second place Real Madrid in goal differential. Lock for Champ League, surely...

2) Manchester United - 1.86

...Oh, but for those devils at Old Trafford. If anyone can suppress the Barcelona attack it must the Death-defying van der Saar and his now famous backline. They also have this guy... this Portuguese jerk.

3) AC Milan - 4.71*

Sorry Lingering, but they are a whole lot better with Beckham in the lineup.

4) Liverpool - 4.71

Rafa is either a demented genius or just demented. Or fat and ordinary. We'll know soon enough.

5) Inter Milan - 5.14

I think the consensus here is that any club managed by that other Portuguese jerk (just kidding, much love for the Jose) is a threat. Along with a pretty safe hold on Serie A, that's enough to earn a place in the Top 5.

6) Real Madrid - 6.28

Damn, these guys have been real good since... yea yea... since Juande took over. That Raul and Robben have scored in almost every game since New Year's doesn't hurt.

7) Aston Villa - 7

Will a bargain move for Emile Heskey put the Villans over the top? We're officially at the point where it'd be a disappointment if they didn't crack the Champs League.

8) TSG Hoffenheim - 8.43

We're hot for the Hoff. Simple as that. (But the Ibisevic thing hurts... a lot.)

9) Chelsea - 10.86

By far our most controversial entry. Bigus's opinion to follow later this afternoon.

10) Arsenal - 14.14

Like toilet paper stuck to your sole (or soul in my case), they've trailed into the room unnoticed and uninvited. To be fair, if Arshavin is half the magic man he seemed in Austria/Switzerland and Cesc can get back on the field, Arsenal become kind of threatening again.

In the mix - AZ Alkmaar, Bordeaux, Juventus, Roma, Bayern, Olympiakos, (Genoa!)

*had 2 Third Place votes to Liverpool's 1.

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Who Will Host World Cup 2018? 2022?

The most important question that I did not take into account was which country will give us the best female footie fans. The answer to that would have to be Spain/Portugal with the Netherlands/Belgium a close second followed by Russia.

Thirteen whole countries decided it was worth their time to submit a letter to FIFA by February 2 expressing interest in hosting the world’s biggest sporting event in either 2018 or 2022. (Belgium and The Netherlands, however, submitted a joint letter of interest. I bet the Belgians made the Dutch write the letter, in 5 languages.)

I can’t imagine the trouble these countries went through to draft the letter.
Dear Herr Blatter,

We are interested in hosting the 2018 and/or 2022 World Cup.


The US of A.
Without further ado, the complete list of countries submitting letters of interest—Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands, England, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, Spain and Portugal, and the United States.

Now let’s handicap these potential suitors to the Golden Orb. Since it’s early on, I’m just going to put them into tiers.

Tier 1:

England – The motherland for soccer has to be high on the list for everybody. It would certainly be well attended and much of the infrastructure is already in place to support the event and given the current economic situation, it may be difficult to come up with funds for large infrastructure improvements for other countries. Downside: It’s really expensive in England and people sometimes don’t like fait accompli.

USA – 1994 was a huge success and I think the soccer world still wants to try and develop the soccer market in this country. Plus, the infrastructure is there to have a hugely games at every venue. In 1994, this country was just getting to know soccer. With the advent of the internet and the concomitant increased exposure of soccer in the US, the event will be even bigger. Downside: Hosted the event in 1994. Not a huge soccer country. And, it is America. We are not well liked even with President Obama.

Mexico – North America will likely get one of these bids since, Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America have all hosted since 1994. Also, CONCACAF President and FIFA Vice President Jack Warner wants to bring the World Cup back to North America and will likely play the USA against Mexico to his advantage (read: line his pockets). Mexico is a soccer mad country and hosted in 1986 so it has at least an aging infrastructure for the event, and is currently building 13 stadiums. Downside: It would be really freaking hot down there.

Tier 2:

Australia – FIFA is always trying to increase it’s footprint and Asia is one of the main places it has been focusing its efforts. Now, Australia isn’t technically Asia, but it’s geographically close. It’s also the one inhabited continent that has never hosted a World Cup. Everybody loves Australia and wants to visit. Downside: It’s a long ways away from everything and it would be the third consecutive WC in the Southern hemisphere.

Belgium and Netherlands – Who doesn’t want to go to the Netherlands (or Belgium, I hear it’s nice)? The upside to this bid is that it is in Europe and easily accessible to millions, strong soccer infrastructure, and it’s not one of the big European countries. Downside: Not big European countries and may not have the political pull.

Spain and Portugal – Another European destination with infrastructure and warm climes. Given Spain’s recent soccer success, some may be inclined to bump them up to Tier 1. I thought about it, but I just see this as a three-horse race for the two spots. They could play the spoiler but I don’t see it happening. Downside: Cristiano Ronaldo is from Portugal.

Russia – This is a tough one to place. The corruption in Russia is rampant and seeing how it is going in South Africa, I can’t see FIFA wanting to battle that again. Plus, the economic crisis has severely affected Russia’s wealth at the moment, so getting stuff built might be an issue with corruption and financial problems. On the other hand, FIFA may see this as an opportunity to extract reforms out of Russia. Downside: I have no idea how the Russian soccer infrastructure is currently situated. I don’t know how traveling in Russia would go, it is a very big place. Corruption. Could very well move them to Tier 3.

Tier 3:

Japan – Just co-hosted in 2002. Not a big enough country to host again so soon.

South Korea – Ditto.

Qatar – One of my cohorts thinks Qatar should be higher because they have dumptrucks full of cash to line the pockets of FIFA executives. That cash would also come in handy when building state-of-the-art stadiums. Downsides: While Qatar is safer country than some of the other Middle Eastern countries right now in regards to Islamic extremists, it is still located in the heartland of that activity. I say that is a con. Moreover, it’s a Muslim country so booze and hookers would be seriously limited. Finally, it’s hot as balls there all the time. Do you remember how much trouble the teams seemed to have in the 2006 World Cup when it got “hot”? It was Germany!!! Not as hot as Qatar.

Tier 4:

Indonesia – No way in hell. I’m sure they have no infrastructure. Plus, they have some issues with Islamic extremists. I don’t think that would sit well with some of the FIFA power players.

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UF Quick Throw: Arshavin move done

It's taken long enough, but Sky Sports News is reporting that Andrei Arshavin's move to Arsenal has been approved by the EPL. How long until he reaches match fitness? I'm guessing March.


[Update: Hey look, here's actual visual proof that Arshavin is a Gunner. -Spectator]

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And With Freddie Ljungberg's Injury Problems He'll Soon Be Starting

Is everyone in the Seattle area either a coder or a barista (well, everyone whose not a smack addict)?

The Seattle Sounders finished their federally mandated "Sounders Super Search" competition over the weekend—you know, the PR building exercise where the local team gives a spot to an average schmoe. And the winner was a 20-year-old guy who works at an espresso stand.

Even better, he was born in Brazil, which already makes him better than Denilson.

His name is Vinicius Oliveira. From a pool that had been reduced to 10 men, he and Junior Garcia—really, I'm starting to think this whole competition never happened and the information is simply the result of some stereotype Mad Lib—faced off in a 1-on-1 battle royale to the death.

Service for the vanquished will be held Thursday at Memorial Gardens. The family requests instead of flowers that donations be made to... Okay, there was no actual death involved. Garcia even outscored Oliveira 5-3 but apparently there were other criteria involved in the final decision. So Garcia gets to go back to his job at Boeing (I assume).

After winning Oliveira told local television "I'm ready for this." How did he know? "God told me I'm ready for this."

What a coincidence, God told me to blog about it. But he also told me you'll likely spend all season on the bench.

Viva! Sea-Tac (Warning, mp3 link).

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday Backpasses: It's going to happen

Whether or not it's a good thing will be decided later. I just wanted a reason to post this picture stolen from Sarah's blog. Easily one of my top football photos of all time.

The inevitable Mike-Riley-should-never-ref-a-big-match-again post [EPL Talk]
Colaship player shown how to take a throw-in by an opposing fan [Off The Post]
Crazy fan, foreign language [Dirty Tackle]

For a slight change, here is your Graham-Poll-says-Mike-Riley-should-never-ref-a-big-game-again post. [Guardian]
Harry Redknapp interview with aid of Harry Redknapp interview flowchart. Scary stuff [Off The Post]
(English) Football's Top 10 trouble makers [Daily Soccer]
*sigh* Becks shows off his package some more. Consider this payment, Sarah, for stealing the Arshavin pic [Sports Crackle Pop]

We hope Drew Carey is better as a part-owner than he is kicking a ball [The Offside Rules]

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A Snowy End to the Silly Season

The transfer deadline open thread turned into a bit of an impromptu liveblog in the comments. So we'd like to thank everyone who participated as we waited to see primarily if Robbie Keane would go back to White Hart Lane and, given the twists and turns, if Andrei Arshavin would turn out to be Kaiser Soze.

It seems to be well enough reported now that both are done deals (with the latter only waiting to be signed off on by the Premier League).

The Gunners ultimately get their man, but is it what they needed? Central defense and defensive midfield are still the areas of greatest need, but after a lackluster home draw to West Ham over the weekend, it's hard to argue with adding some creative attacking to the side.

There will be a lot of ambivalence among the Gooners over Wenger finally flashing cash for this guy, but I think for simply avoiding embarrassment there is at least relief that the Russian will be suiting up at the Emirates.

As for their "rivals" at Tottenham, Harry seems busy reassembling the team that finished in 11th place last season. That's good managing. With Jermain Defoe now out 10 weeks with a broken foot, Keane's return certainly addresses an immediate need. It's a bit puzzling though, not from a Spurs standpoint, but from Liverpool's.

The Reds paid £19M for the striker in the summer. Now they ship him back for a fee reported to be around £12M (with escalators). Did they not keep the receipt? Why take a loss on a player especially when Spurs had to have been desperate to get him back (was this Rafa basically saying "Up yours" to Rick Parry?).

It actually seemed like a brilliant move when rumors started swirling that David Villa would be coming in to Anfield (click-drag the image into your browser's address bar to get a better view of the highlighted bits of the wikipedia screengrab—and hat tip to commenter Mike Georger for the heads up). Valencia are going broke, so they need money. If Liverpool could unload Keane and get Villa to pair with Fernando Torres (even with a modest net loss), then Liverpool instantly look like an immediate threat to fight United for the league title. As it is, no Villa, and suddenly Liverpool's chances hinge on El Niño's tender hammy because after that it's Babel, Ngog, and Kuyt.

All in all it was relatively quiet closing with other moves of note including:

Ricardo Quaresma in at Chelsea
Henri Camara in at Stoke
Jo in at Everton
Oliver Dacourt in at Fulham
Angelos Basinas in at Portsmouth
Charles N'Zogbia in at Wigan
Tal Ben Haim in at Sunderland
Youssouf Mulumbu in at WBA

Oh, and Norwich brought in Rangers man Alan Gow as well as Cody McDonald (Dratford) and Adrian Leijer (Fulham).

Ten bucks says that, at season's end, everyone agrees that Moyes made the best move bringing in an out of favor Jo. Of course if you're Jo there's small consolation in knowing that at season's end you'll still be in the Premier League and Mark Hughes won't.

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