Saturday, March 14, 2009

Verizon Fios Fail

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Happy Birthday Chelsea

Breast wishes to Chelsea FC on its 104th birthday. Even this can't ruin today's massive victory by Liverpool.

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Weekend Preview and Saturday Open Thread

That's the Liverpool-Manchester Railway, natch!

Oh, if only Liverpool were still in the title race this weekend might really mean something. And to think it was back in September that Liverpool improbably beat Man U 2-1 and seemed well on their way. Now look how things have changed, Man U is 40 points clear. So, we instead get the Liverpool-Manchester United rivalry game, pride and history and all that, which of course is no small shakes right there.

After the jump check out all the weekend action, and but of course leave your comments galore.

Man U versus Liverpool isn't the only big game in the English Premier League (suck it Barclays!) this weekend. On Sunday there are a couple good ones as well.

EPL: (all times EDT)

8:45 Manchester United v Liverpool
11:00 Arsenal v Blackburn Rovers
11:00 Bolton Wanderers v Fulham
11:00 Hull City v Newcastle United
11:00 Everton v Stoke City (on FSC)
11:00 Middlesbrough v Portsmouth
11:00 Sunderland v Wigan Athletic

On Sunday:
9:00 Chelsea v Manchester City
12:00 Aston Villa v Tottenham Hotspur (on FSC)

And now I hand off this post to the very able The Fan's Attic, who will tell you about the action on the Continent...

La Liga

15:00 SS Minnow Valencia v. Recreativo Huelva
17:00 Atletico Bilbao v. Real Madrid

12:00 Sevilla v. Malaga
14:00 Atletico Madrid v. Villareal
16:00 Almeria v. Barcelona


10:30 Vfl Bochum v. Bayern Munich
10:30 Eintracht Frankfurt v. The Hoff
10:30 Hertha Berlin v. Bayer Leverkusen

Serie A

15:30 Juventus v. Bologna

10:00 Siena v. AC Milan
10:00 Sampdoria v. Roma
15:30 Inter v. Fiorentina

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Saturday Morning Backpasses: You know, in a gay way

Xisco is a man's man (in a way) [The Spoiler]
Jimmy Two Saints goes to our least favorite Colaship side on loan [Google]
The disappeared Seattle guy was just a misunderstanding [Seattle Times]

Apparently, Russia has a Ronaldinho clone, and he's going to Spartak London [Premiership Latest]
Q&A with Don Garber [NYT Goal Blog]
The Russian League kicks off in about 4 hours. Here's a helpful map [Bill Sports Maps]

Movies to make you laugh. A collection of some of the best dives ever. I particularly enjoyed Kris Boyd's [The Best Eleven]

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Quick Throw: Jose looks for a way out

From the Sun (now 100% hyperbole!), we learn that the pressure on Mourinho is now so great, especially since they lost to United on Wednesday, that he's on the verge of quitting. He might well end up back in the EPL.

On a scale of 1-10, how awesome would that be?

[The Sun]

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Zizou Loves Him Some Stevie G

At one time a step behind, Zizou now rates Stevie G ahead of everyone.

Everyone knows that Zinedine Zidane is one of the all-time greats to ever step on the pitch. During his time with the Galacticos, he also played alongside some of the world's greatest, suiting up with Ronaldo, Luís Figo, Roberto Carlos, Raúl and David Beckham. So when Zizou says that someone is the best player in the world, we should certainly respect that opinion.

After watching his former club get demolished 4-0 at Anfield, Zizou noted:

“Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of Messi and Ronaldo but yes, I think he just might be...For many years, Patrick [Vieira] was the most complete midfielder in the world and now that award must go to Gerrard. No team will be successful without a heartbeat and you can see Gerrard is that heartbeat."

Obviously arguments can be made for Messi, Ronaldo, or others whom Zizou did not mention (poor Kaka), but the striking thing about this statement is how it reflects (or doesn't) fans' thinking about what constitutes "the greatest player."

All professional sports have a version of an MVP trophy, and some have numerous awards which generally honor similar accomplishments. In footy, we have the FIFA POY (voted on by captains and coaches of international teams), the Ballon d'Or (which is restricted to the "best" player in any European league), and the Golden Boot (which is for leading goal-scorer in any European league). At varying times, the winner of any of these awards has been referred to as "the best player in the world."

But, as with American sports, is the winner of an MVP trophy (or something similar) equivalent to "the best player in the world" or do they reflect different notions? In the NBA, for example, there is debate almost every year about whether the league MVP is truly the greatest basketball player, or just the one who has achieved the greatest individual success. Can an MVP play on a losing team, or at the very least on a team that does not make the finals or win its division? Few people complained last year when Kobe Bryant won the award due largely to the fact that, despite not leading the NBA in any statistical category, he was an NBA All-Star, NBA First-Teamer, NBA Defensive First-Teamer, and led that LA Lakers to the NBA Finals. There had been much more consternation when Kevin Garnett won the MVP in the 2002-2003 season with fairly similar statistics after leading the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals, perhaps because Minnesota had a poor history of playoff performance.

The uproar was even greater when Steve Nash won the MVP trophy in the 2004-2005 season and repeated the feat in the 2005-2006 season (and almost took the award again the next year). Was it because Nash is Canadian (although he was actually born in South Africa)? After all, he was an NBA All-Star and NBA First-Teamer, averaged a double-double, and led the Phoenix Suns to the Western Conference Finals in both of those seasons. No, it was because Nash, despite being declared one of the Top 10 point guards to ever play in the NBA, was not often "showy" when making all of his teammates better. Just like Steven Gerrard.

Stevie G has won almost no individual awards throughout his long and distinguished career. He took home the UEFA Club Player of the Year in the 2004-2005 season (hey, Nash won the MVP that season!), and was the Professional Footballer's Association POY in the 2005-2006 season (same as Nash again). And other than the 2005 Champions League Final victory over Milan, he has not seen the greatest heights of success with either club or country. He has scored over 60 goals (in over 300 appearances) for Liverpool in EPL play and 14 goals (in 70 apperances) for the England senior team in international play, but has failed to win the EPL, a World Cup, or a Euro tournament. In short, Steven Gerrard is Steven Nash.

But then what makes someone like Zidane say that Stevie G is the best player in the world? Watch Liverpool play and notice how Gerrard controls the midfield (much as Zizou in his day), shifting his teammates into position, always talking (occasionally having too much to say to the referee), always probing the opposition's defense. Notice how when he has the ball within 35 yards of goal everyone in the stadium, including the opposing defenders, seem to hold their breath waiting for a bit of magic. Notice how respected he is by teammates and opponents alike (generally), and how he is treated as an ambassador of the game (setting aside a few missteps).

Now all of this may sound strange coming from a Gunner (and a Frenchman), considering the subject. But the truth is that, outside of Arsenal and most of those who have played for Les Bleus, there are few players that I like and respect more than Steven Gerrard (and Michael Owen, as well). Perhaps the fact that I have overcome my natural aversion to someone who plays for England and one of the other "Top 4" is the best compliment yet for Stevie G.

Well, that and what Zidane said.

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I Hate the F**king Eagles, Man

(As anyone who's seen the Big Lebowski or can read the title would know, this vid is not quite safe for work.)

The Dude isn't the only one who hates the Eagles. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, so do the Salt Lake City High School Activities Association, who thought they had the Rio Tinto Stadium booked for this year's high school boys soccer finals. That was until the Eagles snatched the following night for their "Hell Is Still Freezing Over and People Are Still Willing to Fork Over Cash for our Never-Ending Tour."

We can only guess it'll take 24 hours to airlift in Don Henley's bloated body.

So the whitebread Mormons get to listen to the most whitebread of all rock bands, and the Salt Lake high school soccer teams will be playing the finals at Jordan High School instead. Personally, I'd rather pay to see high school soccer than the Eagles any day.

Oh, and know who else hates the Eagles? Steely Dan, at least according to Yacht Rock. (Also nsfw.... "EAGLES!")

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Who's The Ad Whiz That Came Up With This?

Pal Dardai, the Hungarian midfielder for Bundesliga leading Hertha Berlin, that's who.

Pal knows the way to Germany's heart is with a good beer. So, he's pledged (Google translation) to buy 55,000 liters of beer for the fans after the last home match against Schalke. With the condition that more than 55,000 fans attend each of the last five home games.

With Hertha battling for its first league since the Third Reich (I imagine there were some shady dealings for that), this should not be a difficult challenge. Conceivably, Hertha could clinch the title with a victory at its final home match (and penultimate match) since it currently has a four point lead. If they do, the team could celebrate with the fans by drinking beer, like each league winner does.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thursday Backpasses: I'd poke her on Facebook

You know? Greek football is scary [Dirty Tackle]
Seattle may have lost their top scoring threat. And by lost, I mean he's just plain gone [SBI]
But it's OK. Ljungberg may be available for bench duty for the opener [Seattle Times]

Cheryl Cole is almost done with Ashley, again [Showbiz Spy]
Which has led Brit bookies to slash the odds on her leaving him [Mirror]
Picking the top and second XI out of Man U and Liverpool. I think he's being too nice to Liverpool in the first team. Seriously, where is Paul Scholes? [Soccernet]

Danielle Lloyd gets around, and apparently that's ripe fodder for making fun of the lass [The Offside Rules]

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UF After Dark: Meet Danny Mountain.

As an academy lad, and today

Danny Mountain (yes, that's his real name) always wanted to play football, and fought his way into the Southampton Academy in his early teens. With interest from Chelsea, West Ham, and Spurs, his career was on the up-and-up, until a nasty tackle (Wenger has been notified) ruined his knee and prematurely ended his career.

For a 16-year-old with no other aspirations, young Danny was devastated, at least he was until he got into porn and married a porn star.

SFW pictures (no nudity) after the jump (not of him, natch, but of the wife. If you really want that, use the Google), as well as more of his wonderful, irritating life story.

Fast forward 8 years from that awful injury, and Danny's now living in LA with wife Eva Angelina (pictured thusly), they just had their first child, and he stars in straight porn six days a week.

It's not the career he thought he'd ever lead, but as he remembers it:
"I was dating a Page Three girl. Her agent wanted her to get into porn. She wasn’t keen but he gave her the details of an audition in London and I went along. I didn’t know what to expect but I was full of confidence. I wasn’t at all nervous about the sexual part. I was worried about talking on camera – I couldn’t control my face I was so nervous."
There isn't really much more to say, other than well done. I mean, most of us would love a shot at one of these careers, or at least think we would, and yet, Mr. Mountain has tasted the joys of both. Literally.

To maintain this story's tenuous link to soccer, Danny does still play stateside, and definitely enjoys the life that boning women on film for money has provided:
"We have a nice house, we go to restaurants. I play football here for Vinnie Jones’s Hollywood Allstars, with Jason Statham against people like Frank Leboeuf. We go to Vinnie’s house for barbecues and meet his celebrity friends.”
UF salutes you. We think. After all, we're not sure whether hanging out with Vinnie Jones is really a smart idea.

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Rome: Come for the Stabbings, Stay for the Football

Question: What's the difference between a stabbing and a 'stabbing'?

No, that's not rhetorical and this isn't a riddle (and yes, I know the pic has little nothing to do with the post).

According to Sky Sports an Arsenal fan was "stabbed" on the way to the Roma match yesterday. The good news is that, after receiving medical attention, the fan was able to watch the game.

But the events leading up to the stabbing are a bit bizarre as the fan was on a private coach that was attacked:

The minibus in which the fan was travelling is understood to have lost its way en route to the Stadio Olimpico for the second leg encounter. Roma fans started to attack the vehicle before one is alleged to have got on to the bus when the situation escalated.
The gratuitous quotes for "stabbing" might result from a British Embassy spokesperson who said they were uncertain whether there was indeed a stabbing or the injury was merely the result of glass from a shattered window as Roma fans threw rocks at the vehicle.

Okay, we joke. And about almost everything. In fact, if the stabbing involved Cheryl and Ashley Cole, we'd find no end of amusement in it (assuming of course it was the former who stabbed the latter). Not that domestic violence is funny, but Ashley Cole is a twat.

Fans stabbing fans, eh. That's a little less funny, particularly in light of two things. First were the recent attacks on Sri Lankan cricketers in Pakistan. In fact, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger raised concerns about the safety of his team vis a vis such an attack. Additionally, as one pointed out by one UF'er, the Champions League final will be held in Rome this year.

This isn't the first time that Roma Ultras have taken to stabbing British opposition. In '06 three 'Boro fans we knifed before a EUFA Cup quarter. The following year ago, several ManU fans were stabbed near the Stadio Olympico.

And yesterday's incident is on the heels of (unrelated) of two Chelsea fans being stabbed in Turin before Tuesday's return leg against Juventus. Now, this is almost funny because the Spartak London supporters were stabbed in the ass.

There's no chance of the final being moved (even after yesterday's incident). Still, shouldn't fan safety be a greater immediate concern for Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini than how many foreign players are in the Arsenal squad? Especially because there's a history of it in the city where you are holding your sport's marquee non-International event?

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What awaits in the Quarter-Finals?

How will the bastard fix this one?

Now that the CL Round of 16 is over and the dust has settled, we're ready for whatever's next. Platini can't have been happy that all 4 teams from that league he hates have made it through to the next round, which now gives him a week or two to figure out how to rig the draw.

We have a few ideas of our own after the jump. Who do you think will end up playing who?

Not surprisingly, we're all kinda envisioning some all-English clashes. Despite several efforts to figure out probabilities of 2 all-English QFs or no all-English QFs, I don't think we figured it out, so give us your best math professor impersonation in the comments. Sorry. We're just better at crass jokes.

Precious Roy:
Barca v. Porto
Bayern v. Villareal
Arsenal v. Chelsea (fixed)
Liverpool v. United (fixed)

Not bad. Entertainment with the Rafa/Fergie showdown, a London derby is always nice for ratings, while ze Germans get a soft draw and Barca get another plaything to bat around before advancing.

United v Porto
Barca v. Bayern
Arsenal v. Liverpool
Villareal v. Chelsea

Far more cynical, although the odds of United and Spartak getting the soft draw is rather high. Happens all the fucking time, oh, and with a Gooner/Scouse tilt, we'd be able to spend the week prior arguing over 500+ emails about the games. Get in.

The Fan's Attic:
United v. Bayern
Chelsea v. Arsenal
Liverpool v. Porto
Villareal v. Barca

Magic! A soft draw for the Scouse, United and Arsenal both mired in tough games, and a little La Liga reunion for the remaining Spaniards. The scoreboards shall all be festooned with 1s and 0s.

Barca v. Porto
Bayern v. Villareal
Arsenal v. United
Liverpool v. Chelsea

The Blues fan envisions another go-round of the LFC/CFC bullshit that's bored the masses the last 4 years running. Meanwhile, Arsenal kiss goodbye to their CL hopes, and the other two promise to be walkovers.

Arsenal v. Bayern
Chelsea v. Liverpool
United v. Villareal
Barca v. Porto

Fergie would shit his pants at this draw. They love running the score up on Villareal, while all their biggest competition will invariably scrap the other matches to death, leaving him to defeat the pallid remains. HOPE THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN.

Bayern v. Liverpool
Chelsea v. Villareal
Porto v. Barcelona
United v. Arsenal

This outcome would make Georger's head explode. Who would he root for?

The NY Kid:
Arsenal v. Porto
Chelsea v. Liverpool
United v. Bayern
Barcelona v. Villareal

Christ, can everyone stop predicting Chelsea/Liverpool? Oh, and it figures he gives his team the easiest draw.

Lingering Bursitis:
Chelsea v. LFC
Arsenal v. Barcelona
Porto v. Bayern
United v. Villareal

Doomsday. The Arse/Barca would be good for a few goals (reckon Arsenal would win that one, ultimately), the Germans are safe, United are safe, and I get to relive my recurring nightmare of John Arne Riise and his awful, awful header.

The Likely Lad
Arsenal v. Chelsea
Man. U. v. Bayern
Liverpool v. Villareal
Barca v. Porto

This is more my dream draw than any real prediction. Arsenal/Chelsea would be like the Iran/Iraq war, we could just root for carnage. The Man. U. matchup with Bayern would be fun a)cos either Man U. or the krauts would be knocked out and b)cos we'll get to see all the old school footage from the 99 CL final. Liverpool will dickstomp Villareal, allowing me to crow on about how the Rojos should just pack up and play their league ball in Spain. And finally, I want Barca to win this bitch, and while Porto are no walkovers, I think it's a good matchup. Fin.

Thoughts from y'all? The commenter who gets the most correct will win something. A soccer book or somethin'.

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Acting! (Acting!)

For those that do not remember SNL in the '80s, here is a quick synopsis. It started off badly, got worse fast, picked up a bit under Eddie Murphy (and, oddly, Joe Piscopo), then cratered in '85-'86 with a rather talented cast (Joan Cusack, Randy Quaid, Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Downey Jr.) that could not write or stay sober. The show was briefly canceled after this season, before Lorne Michaels, who had only returned the previous season, convinced NBC to give him six more episodes. He brought in an almost entirely new cast for 1986, including such fondly remembered alums as Dana Carvey, Kevin Nealon, Dennis Miller, Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz.

Phil Hartman, of course, is the one who is most recognized as the guy with the timeless talent. You can see bits of what he was going to bring to SNL in this audition tape.

In the last two minutes of that video, you can see his work with fellow Groundling Jon Lovitz. It was Lovitz who created, by my belief, the best character of SNL at the time. That character was Master Thespian.

Master Thespian was an actor too full of himself to realize just how bad he was. He would attempt to inject his craft into every aspect of his life and impress whoever he was interacting with. He would inspire reactions from those around him, then cut character, yelling out "Acting!" to let others know they had been had.

All of this just to get around to a soccer video. Sergio Escudero plays alongside the newly resurgent Fat Ronaldo for Corinthians in Brazil. Here we see a bit of his acting (Acting!) as he gets felled by an assistant referee's flag.

Just wow. The questions raised by his actions are numerous. What was he trying to gain? Was he trying to get the Lino sent off? Did he try to sell that he was pushed into the flag? Is it just his natural reaction whenever something gets close to his face? I have no idea. What I do know is that he is a Grade A asshole.

Spotted on Champions 365. Go give them some love.

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Special Punch

Does this man look violent to you? Oh, wait.

I can understand if Jose Mourinho was a little miffed yesterday evening. After all, he had just watched his Internazionale Milan side lose 2-0 to Manchester United and drop out of the Champions League competition. Although he was gracious in defeat, both in his meeting with Sir Alex on the touchline and at his press conference, perhaps The Special One had something seething inside him that just needed to come out?

When that anger came out, was it directed at Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Adriano, both of whom hit the post? Or was it at Julio Cesar for "letting" in 2 goals? Or was it at Patrick Vieira, the once-feared patroller of Highbury, for being such a disappointment during the match that he was replaced with Sulley Muntari?

No, it appears that Mourinho vented his anger on one of the numerous Manc supporters who had made his day at Old Trafford completely miserable. Apparently this lovable bloke decided to wait outside near the Inter bus and serenade Jose with chants of "You're going home." Unsurprisingly, Jose was not pleased. Surprisingly, he did something about it, allegedly punching the man in the face. The Red Devils supporter went to the nearest police station and filed a complaint, and now the Greater Manchester Police have asked Man United for CCTV footage of the area in an attempt to clarify what happened.

Manchester United have confirmed that they aware of the allegation and are working with the police to provide them with the footage. Naturally, Inter have denied any wrongdoing on the part of Mourinho. There is no word from Jose's momma on whether he had a tough time keeping his hands to himself as a child.

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Evil Soccer is Ruining Our Children But Holy War Is A OK.

Here at UF we love a reasoned argument. Challenge us to a sensible, smart, well-informed debate over anything football related and we get hard excited. But occasionally you come across anti-soccer rhetoric that is so ridiculous, so absurd and quite frankly worthy of printing and placing in the cubicles of any public toilet.

Occasionally someone will write about something they know little of. With that in mind, let me introduce you to Professor Stephen H. Webb. Mr. Webb is a professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College. He's also written a couple of books. A quick glance at Amazon reveals that he clearly writes his own reviews...

This book is a deeply thoughtful treatise on how to approach the teaching of faith in the classroom and he explains a lot about his own scholarly background.

Wow... Thoughtful? Lovely, so you would think his piece here entitled "How Soccer is ruining America" would also be thoughtful, based on heavy research of the world's number one sport and filled with insight and facts. No sir. Mr. Webb doesn't know his Arsenal from his Arse.

Bend over Professor. Here cometh the UF Truth Train of Reason.

Where to begin?

First of all Mr Webb refers to his uninformed and shallow attack on the beautiful game as a Jeremiad as referenced in the bible by a the prophet Jeremiah. Webb is suggesting with his title that soccer is not only evil but it will be responsible for the downfall of society.

I am lost for words. The sheer stupidity of over dramatizing Webb's shared and very American dislike for soccer devalues his whole argument. How can a sport adored by EVERY country in the world be imorral and wicked? Soccer not only brings people together but it is a worldwide language. Go to Africa and walk into any poor, deprived village. You won't be able to talk the lingo but break out a soccer ball and you will have 100 new friends instantly.

What other game, to put it bluntly, is so boring to watch? (Bowling and golf come to mind, but the sound of crashing pins and the sight of the well-attired strolling on perfectly kept greens are at least inherently pleasurable activities.) The linear, two-dimensional action of soccer is like the rocking of a boat but without any storm and while the boat has not even left the dock. Think of two posses pursuing their prey in opposite directions without any bullets in their guns. Soccer is the fluoridation of the American sporting scene.
This tells me that Professor Webb is basing his opinions on children's soccer and not on any experience of professional soccer. Boring to watch? It's 90 minutes of action played at a furious pace by 22 men who average 7 miles of running per game, while also displaying tremendous skill and teamwork.
Any sport that limits you to using your feet, with the occasional bang of the head, has something very wrong with it. We can even talk with our hands. Have you ever seen a deaf person trying to talk with their feet? When you are really angry and acting like an animal, you kick out with your feet. Only fools punch a wall with their hands. The Iraqi who threw his shoes at President Bush was following his primordial instincts. Showing someone your feet, or sticking your shoes in someone’s face, is the ultimate sign of disrespect. Do kids ever say, “Trick or Treat, smell my hands”? Did Jesus wash his disciples’ hands at the Last Supper? No, hands are divine (they are one of the body parts most frequently attributed to God), while feet are in need of redemption. In all the portraits of God’s wrath, never once is he pictured as wanting to step on us or kick us; he does not stoop that low.
This is the argument a seemingly intelligent individual uses against soccer? Perhaps if the refrain were "Trick or Schmand" children might reply "smell my hand."

I am starting to think that either Professor Webb is a pie short of a picnic or that for anything to be logical it must involve Cochran-esque rhymes. What an absurdly redundent and ridiculous amount of garbage. Feet are disgusting and hands are divine? I am stunned. Stunned by the stupidness of such nonsensical bollocks.

All of Mr. Webb's beloved baseball players used their feet to get to the steroid dealer, no? They walk to the plate and they run the bases. Let's see A Rod steal a base standing on his hands. Not to mention that the bible is a collection of fiction, rewritten time and time again by who-knows-who about people who never existed!.Webb's whole career is based around false prophets. He endorses the teaching to children of a story book as fact. Who's wicked now? Now I certainly cannot say whether God exists or not because I do not know. Neither does Webb. But I do know that soccer brings joy to people throughout the world.
Sporting should be about breaking kids down before you start building them up. Take baseball, for example. When I was a kid, baseball was the most popular sport precisely because it was so demanding. Even its language was intimidating, with bases, bats, strikes, and outs. Striding up to the plate gave each of us a chance to act like we were starring in a Western movie, and tapping the bat to the plate gave us our first experience with inventing self-indulgent personal rituals. We also spent a lot of time in the outfield chanting, “Hey batter batter!” as if we were Buddhist monks on steroids. Our chanting was compensatory behavior, a way of making the time go by, which is surely why at soccer games today it is the parents who do all of the yelling.
Baseball? Baseball? I like baseball as much as the next chap, but to call soccer evil and use baseball as a reason because it was "so demanding"?

As a child, baseball requires you stand around for 3 hours waiting for the opportunity to swing a bat a few times. Here's all you need to know about the demands of baseball: John Kruk played the game professionally.

As a kid, baseball starts with t-ball. Hitting a ball from a static position. Demanding? Have you seen half of the pitchers who play professional sports? Big fat monsters chewing tobacco. Soccer is a sport that keeps children fit, teaches teamwork and coordination. If baseball is demanding, then I shall write to the Olympic Committee immediately and request that couch potato-ing be included at the next Olympiad.
Everyone knows that soccer is a foreign invasion, but few people know exactly what is wrong with that. More than having to do with its origin, soccer is a European sport because it is all about death and despair. Americans would never invent a sport where the better you get the less you score. Even the way most games end, in sudden death, suggests something of an old-fashioned duel. How could anyone enjoy a game where so much energy results in so little advantage, and which typically ends with a penalty kick out, as if it is the audience that needs to be put out of its misery. Shootouts are such an anticlimax to the game and are so unpredictable that the teams might as well flip a coin to see who wins—indeed, they might as well flip the coin before the game, and not play at all.
Death and Despair. True fact: Sartre was a West Ham supporter. If a game that billions of people adore inspires thoughts of 'death and despair' in Mr. Webb, may I suggest some kind of therapy (not the physical kind either). To hear this from a man who studies and translates the 'death and despair' that features in the bible is nothing short of hypocrisy. Sudden death? Coin tosses? What tosh. Sudden death decisions do not occur in regular league play and only in knock out competitions. So they take place in what, maybe 1% of all professionally contested soccer matches.

Is Professor Webb aware of how Hockey games are decided? Or that the coin toss of an NFL play-off game in OT decides the winner most of the time? His mention of soccer as a 'foreign sport' smacks of the typical insular attitude of the American sport fan who sees the rise of the beautiful game in the U.S as a threat to their beloved 'national pastime'.

If there's any invasion going on, it's by 'us' over 'their' game. Who owns Manchester United, the richest club in the world? Americans. Who owns Liverpool FC, perhaps the most storied club in the world? Americans. Who owns Aston Villa, the most promising upstart in the league? An American.

And why do they own these teams? Death? Nope. Despair? Don't think so. They own them because they make plies and piles of money. And what's more American than leveraging the ever-loving heck out of your business to make an assload of money?
And then there is the question of gender. I know my daughter will kick me when she reads this, but soccer is a game for girls. Girls are too smart to waste an entire day playing baseball, and they do not have the bloodlust for football. Soccer penalizes shoving and burns countless calories, and the margins of victory are almost always too narrow to afford any gloating. As a display of nearly death-defying stamina, soccer mimics the paradigmatic feminine experience of childbirth more than the masculine business of destroying your opponent with insurmountable power.
Now we have reached the bottom of the barrel. "A game for girls." Soccer is the number one sport for men worldwide. It's one of the most physically demanding, powerful, competitive sports availavle to man. Period! No 300 lb men can play professional soccer yet they can pitch or run for a 5 second-long play before screaming for oxygen on the football field.

Webb concludes his elongated sheet of imprudence by stating "I am an overworked teacher, with books to read and books to write, and before I put in a video for the kids to watch while I work in the evenings, they need to have spent some of their energy. Otherwise, they want to play with me!

Maybe Webb should play soccer with his children instead of wasting his valuable shot at fatherhood by scribbling baseless foolishness about a sport he doesn't understand or have any fruitful knowledge of. Maybe I should write a stinging rebuke discussing why Major League Baseball is devoid of any talent and skill after watching my 2 year old play t-ball. Even better, I once watched children pretend to be airplanes, perhaps that qualifies me to write a text on Aerospace engineering. Webb has clearly based his article about soccer on his daughters local league.

Webb calls soccer boring yet he also says that "girls are too smart to waste a day playing baseball." What a contradiction. Webb's lack of research into professional soccer is completely immature for a man who appears to teach and write for a living. He should know better.

Professor Stephen Webb (wearing glasses)

So to Webb, soccer is evil but religion is not? I can't remember the last time soccer caused a war, unlike religion which has been responsible for just about every man made war in the history of the world. Thousands of people die yearly because of religion and yet soccer continues to bring joy. My little man wants to play every night, to him soccer isn't boring, wicked or for girls. He is two-years-old and finds it fun. Just like I did before before being introduced to fantastic professional game that inspires more passion and excitment to people all over the world than Professor Webb is capable of understanding. Amazingly, I didn't grow up to pursue a career in despair. Although I am suspicious that I might indeed die. So he's got me there.

We happened upon this ludicrous 'Jeremiad' as a reader pushed it our way. Should this irrational drivel find it's way to more respected sports media outlets Mr. Webb would become an international laughing stock and not just one to us.

Read more on "Evil Soccer is Ruining Our Children But Holy War Is A OK."...

Quick Throw: 2009 MLS Cup Host Named

The 2009 MLS Cup hosting privilege has been given to the expansion Seattle Sounders club. I'm not sure that November weather in Seattle will be a big draw, but I'll be there anyway. It's only a three hour drive for me and I'm sure tickets will not be that difficult to obtain.

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The English Really Are Just Like Us

Dear Victor Anichebe, don't come, to MLS—not that you would as you are young and talented and already playing in the best league in the world—as being black here in the United States is often a crime as well.

At least that's what my lilly-white suburban-bred ass has learned through rap music and urban films.

The Nigerian born Everton player and a friend were confronted by Cheshire police for looking in a King Street jewelry store window and, well, maybe because Anichebe also has a broken leg. Chesire police say they took action because of a series of "violent robberies in the area":

"Police attended the location within minutes and upon speaking with the two men, a heated dialogue developed in an attempt to ascertain exactly what the two persons were doing outside the jeweller's premises.

"During the course of this exchange, an officer took the decision to restrain one of the two men concerned by applying handcuffs.
The area has been under increased surveillance because of a series of "violent robberies targeting jewellers." And the police have plans to respond quicly to "any suspicious activity at or in the vicinity of jewellers' premises."

So, suspicion here is, what? Looking in the window? Having a broken leg?

According to an Everton spokesman, Anichebe is now waiting for a full apology. Once that happens, the club and the player will "consider the matter closed."

The Beeb link is above, but there's also this fun link via South Africa where the all of the text is centered. Peculiar, huh?

More peculiar is that there is absolutely no mention of race whatsoever in the BBC blurb but the African pub claims "Cheshire Police would not answer alleged comments from the pair that white men would not have received the same treatment. But a police source said no complaints had been received."

You know all potentially race-based news reports should be centered. They look more like poems that way. And poems, well, they're just less threatening.

Read more on "The English Really Are Just Like Us"...

MLS Expansion Update

Yesterday, an unnamed source stated that Portland and Vancouver will receive the MLS expansion bids. It seems premature and MLS has hinted the decision may be delayed, but the Portland City Council approved a proposal yesterday for the Portland bid. It was the same deal detailed the other day with one huge difference. To secure the one city commissioner vote needed for approval, $15 million in funding from the city was pulled.

The amendment is a big deal out here, as many people have been up in arms that the city would put any money towards this deal when essential services are facing cuts due to the poor economy. It will at least buy some further support from the public. It remains to be seen if Merritt Paulson can locate the funds either privately or from another public source, but at least there is some public approval.

Of note, the local paper had a liveblog of the city council hearing about the MLS expansion proposal. The hearing started 9:30 in the morning and finished around 4:00 p.m. I'm not sure what that says about Portland. Either soccer is a big deal, this political issue is a big deal, or there isn't much news here. I'm going with the last one.

Read more on "MLS Expansion Update"...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday Backpasses: Why weren't Roma in a line?

If, like me, you missed the Roma-Arsenal penalty shootout (and judging by the thread, most of you did), here is the video.

The We're-not-in-FIFA World Cup is set to become an annual event. Here's a breakdown of this year's field [SoccerLens]
Kris Boyd always seems to hurt his vagina while on the bench [BBC]
Why Becks leaving is good for MLS. Keep telling yourself that, WWL [ESPN]

Finally (because I'm too busy trying to remember Statistics class):

The five most overpaid players in MLS. Some of us have a problem with the last entry [Soccer Tickets Online]

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UF Quick Throw: MLS Expansion

We have received word from an unnamed source that the next two MLS teams are Portland and Vancouver. Official word to come next week. Stay tuned!

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Champions League Open Thread: Where The World Prays for an Inter Victory

Welp, yesterday was a goalscoring orgy. So, get out your purity rings because we don't usually get two CL matchdays in a row like that. I still can't get over 7 goals from Bayern and Liverpool's stunning display of efficiency and skill, something they continually lack in league play and domestic cup action.

Half the field is set for quarterfinals with Liverpool, Chelsea, Bayern and Villareal all advancing and the other half will be set in about two hours time. The quarterfinal draw will be on March 20, 2009.

Champions...follow me after the jump.

Atletico v. Porto (2-2 Agg) - Porto will hope to salvage some Portuguese pride after Sporting's showing yesterday. Prediction...death. I mean no more Portuguese squads.

FC Porto: Helton, Sapunaru, Rolando, Bruno Alves, Cissokho, Lucho Gonzalez, Fernando, Raul Meireles, Lopez, Hulk, Rodriguez.
Subs: Nuno, Stepanov, Mariano Gonzalez, Costa, Madrid, Sektioui, Farias.

Atletico Madrid: Franco, Perea, Pablo, Ujfalusi, Antonio Lopez, Maxi, Paulo Assuncao, Raul Garcia, Simao, Sinama Pongolle, Aguero.
Subs: Coupet, Pernia, Heitinga, Maniche, Miguel, Camacho, Forlan.

Lyon v. Barcelona (1-1 Agg) - Barca will be out to prove its poor league form is in the past. Prediction...Catalans catapult to the quarters.

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Marquez, Pique, Sylvinho, Xavi, Toure Yaya, Iniesta, Messi, Eto'o, Henry.
Subs: Pinto, Caceres, Keita, Hleb, Busquets, Victor Sanchez, Bojan.

Lyon: Lloris, Clerc, Cris, Boumsong, Grosso, Delgado, Juninho, Toulalan, Makoun, Ederson, Benzema.
Subs: Vercoutre, Bodmer, Kallstrom, Pjanic, Keita, Mounier, Tafer.

Arsenal v. Roma (1-0 Agg) - Will Arsenal end the season on fine form? The Magic 8 ball says: outlook Good.

Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Clichy, Toure, Gallas, Nasri, Denilson, Eboue, Diaby, Bendtner, Van Persie.
Subs: Fabianski, Djourou, Gibbs, Vela, Walcott, Song, Eduardo

Roma: Doni - Motta, Diamoutene, Juan, Riise - Brighi, Pizarro, Tonetto - Taddei, Vucinic, Totti.
Subs: Arthur, Loria, Aquilani, Gomez, Julio Baptista, Montella, Menez

Inter v. Man U (0-0 Agg) - The marquee matchup of the day. I hope ManU crashes out, but that will be a difficult challenge for Inter. I predict that a Portuguese male will be happy with the result.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Berbatov.
Subs: Foster, Anderson, Park, Evans, Fletcher, Gibson, Tevez.

Inter Milan: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Cordoba, Samuel, Santon, Zanetti, Cambiasso, Vieira, Stankovic, Ibrahimovic, Balotelli.
Subs: Toldo, Maxwell, Figo, Cruz, Adriano, Muntari, Rivas.

Let's have fun out there folks.

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The Good, The Bad, The WTF

Last week's look at Watford's '90s stylings led Goat to ask if anyone had ever worn a flannel third shirt in the same time period. Amused by this, and armed with too much knowledge on the Scottish game, I answered that the closest we could get was Scotland's temporary plaid (for ease of reading, I am going to refer to all tartan patterns as plaid; I'm American that way) shirt rage. I even stated that a round up post would be nice. Since I figured that no one else was going to do it (because I am quite tight-fisted with these posts), I decided to take a look back.

None of these are good, some are quite bad, and one team earns WTF status for going to the well at least three times.

This is the best place to start. Yes, Scotland wore a plaid home shirt back in the '90s. I even own one. I pull it out for special occasions. You know--those days where I really don't care what I look like. No, I have no idea why they made the sleeves solid. I guess they were trying to keep away from overkill.

East Fife used plaid as a third jersey. Not too bad, it just looks like a golf pullover.

Kilmarnock also used a plaid pattern. This one looks more like a pair of boxer shorts I had in high school. Plus, I think those are buttons. A pair of suspenders and this shirt is great for a skinhead.

This was St. Johnstone's effort. The listing for this shirt implied it was used for a special occasion. I don't know about that, but I do know that this was from the time when the team manufactured its own shirts. Presumably because it could not find a decent sponsorship deal. It's liveable, considering.

It might be going a little too far to call this a plaid. The colors don't quite interplay correctly and it's terribly plain. Still, I do think Partick Thistle were trying to copy some other teams on the plaid bandwagon, and this is how it turned out. Bloody awful, especially with that sponsor logo.

The most dubious entry of the day, though, is Peterhead's. The rendering of this kit sure does look like it's meant to be plaid, but the one picture I saw, which purports to be from the same year, is definitely not. I will argue that the two shirts have enough differences in sleeve and collar style and color that the linked pic may be from the previous season. I'll put this one in the maybe column.

Raith Rovers get a special commendation for not following the herd. They did not put out their version of a plaid shirt until the new century. A bit dark, but possibly the most wearable of all of these.

But the real winner in the plaid sweepstakes is Greenock Morton (just Morton if you must). For a team that usually wears blue and white hoops, these are just odd.

See these? These are from the same season. The one on top was the home shirt. The second one was the third shirt. In between, a plain yellow shirt sufficed for the away games. My question is: which team could they have possibly played that would clash with both the blue plaid and bright yellow shirts enough to warrant a third shirt that season?

And this is where it got ridiculous. Somewhere along the way, Morton decided that they really missed that plaid home shirt from the '90s and decided that 2005 was the right time to bring back the look. Why, oh why?

While I'm guessing that this list is not definitive, I have not been able to find any other occurrences of Scottish teams wearing plaid. If you know of some, shoot us an answer in the comments or at the email address. Finally, I must thank both Historical Football Kits and Old Football Shirts (and the people who upload there). Without those two sites, This would have been a much shorter post.

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

Quick Throw: Who Is Britain's Most Hated Celebrity This Week?

Not surprising, it's Ashley Cole. A man who has just about all of the benefits life could ever possibly grant him, boatloads of cash, an insanely hot wife who won't leave him even when he cheats on her, celebrity status and life as a professional athlete. It's only for this week, but I bet he could make a run for the yearly title.

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Blackburn Are Too Fat To Win

Pot. Kettle. Blackburn.

Sam Allardyce thinks his players could stand to lose a few. That's pounds. Not points. They're accomplishing the latter just fine. But for the Blackburn manager, the two are probably related.

So he's called out Benni McCarthy.

Says Fat Big Sam: "We need to get a little bit more body fat off him so he can be more mobile."

Allardyce goes on to say that all of the players need to control their diet. He then blames the demon sugar: ‘Most have been brought up on sugars they shouldn’t have been, and those are addictive. It is not easy to wean yourself off those sort of sweets.'

Allardyce should know, as a kid he ate several candy stores out of business by himself. Okay, he's not mammoth, but he's not exactly svelt. We're just slightly amused that of all the things Allardyce could be addressing to help his team avoid relegation he picked sugar.

Cheer up, Sam. At least they're not addicted to blow. Although, maybe a casual coke habit would help with the weight loss.

Read more on "Blackburn Are Too Fat To Win"...

Norwichomon by Bigus: Part 1.

This post is part one of four. Two for the Saturday of our trip and two for the Sunday, from TWO perspectives. Did Lingering Bursitis and I see the same games, have the same fun?

Well we are back from an epic weekend. We took in 2 matches and drank enough bitter to float a battle ship in. In fact, its taken me until today to recover enough to write this. My body was so bloated by beautiful meat products such as chicken balti, steak and mushroom pies and scotch eggs, that I couldn't reach the keyboard with my arms until now. But never fear, I'm back in shape and ready to detail my trip to Norwich and day out at Wembley with Lingering Bursitis, Relegation Zone Mikey, Kopper, Lumberjack and his man-slave 'The Turk'.

My liver is out of the washing machine and my memory has returned. Lets go...

Saturday 28th Feb 2009

My day started rather differently than the rest of the boys. While they nursed hang-overs from an evening that Lingering will describe in detail in his blog, yours truly had a nice relaxing evening with my folks. Followed by the sleep of a thousand sleepy sleepers. Just what the doctor ordered ahead of a day in Norwich to be followed by a bumper evening of fun. I headed to Norwich with my dad while the others had the pleasure of being driven from London in a coach that Lumberjack had hired. What transpired on THAT journey nearly lead Kopper's brain to explode, but again, that's one for Lingering to tell as I heard it second hand.

I checked into the hotel at the greatest ground on earth at noon. The Holiday Inn Carrow Road is situated between the Barclay stand and the Jarrold. It offers some lucky buggers a view of the glorious pitch as they awake from their slumbers. Not me however. My morning view was the tire shop across the street. Anyway, I digress. The lads were late, but I was already in the bar with a pint in hand.

But while the boys and their 'genius' of a driver wound their way down narrow c roads to Norwich from Ip..Ip..Ip..That place, I was having pre-game beers with Ex Norwich midfielder Mike Milligan and my mate (Norwich Academy coach) John Revell.

The lads finally arrived and after they had bitched about their driver, we all made our way to the Gunn club, which is housed in the Barclay stand. After a couple of beers, the NY Canary members of the crew (myself and Kopper) were asked questions (in front of the Gunn clubs audience) by Norwich legend Jeremy Goss. Kopper was asked how a yank could become a Norwich fan and I explained how the NY Canaries came to be. I'm sure we ruined lunch for many folks and for that I appologize now.

Kopper and Jeremy Goss.

The mention of the great Gossy gives me the perfect excuse to share this....


Get in Gossy! Now those are two, truly super strikes!

After our turn on the mic, the queen of Carrow Road herself came to find us. For those of you who have never heard of Delia Smith, I will briefly explain. Delia is England's Martha Stewart but just for cooking. Best selling books and TV shows have made her a household name. A lifelong City fan, Delia and her husband are majority shareholders of Norwich City.

Kopper tells Delia where she can get a good steak in NYC.

To say I was excited to meet the great lady is an understatement. Kopper and I presented her with an NY Canaries t-shirt, and Kopper suggested some restaurants she might enjoy in New York. Glad he spoke up, I'd probably have sent her to Hooters.

Now those of you who DO remember Delia and read this site will no doubt remember a certain incident that was played to death by the media. A certain incident from a certain Premiership game and a half-time plea for noise. I won't be sharing that video. But for those in the dark, this was a sketch that aired on soccer am that I found amusing, based on 'that' incident.

"Canary, canary, canary". Hilarious.

Right, back to business, where were we? Ahh the game itself. Hmmm, well, after meeting Delia AND Captain Canary (see below). Norwich took to the field in a crucial home game with Coventry. Not a great game at all, as like much of this season we failed to take the chances we created. Jordan Hendersen gave Coventry the lead on 19 minutes when he arrived at the far stick to hit home a cross from former Norwich player David Bell. Carrow Road was nervy and quiet. I've never known it to be so, well, morbid in atmosphere. Rattling chains would not have sounded 'out of place'. It was as if we have already accepted relegation. The half-time pie hit the spot but I wasn't happy. 3,500 miles to watch Carl Cort 'not bother' to try to win headers was depressing.

Kopper with Captain Canary. That's Kopper on the right if you were wondering.

A first half corner comes to nothing.

The second half started much better. Otsemobor created a chance for Cureton, but the luckless striker missed a sitter with the goal gaping from 6 yards (and has since been dropped). Cureton is a confidence player, when he is on form he is great but when he stinks? Well, boy does he stink. The effort is always there with him but he misses open goals and simple tap ins.

The good spell continued and following a corner and a scramble in the box, Grounds hit the ball through a crowd of players and equalized on 53 mins. Carrow Road erupted and finally the crowd perked up. Soon after Norwich were denied a blatant penalty when Cort's marker jumped with him and handled the ball as it looked set to arrive at the big mans head. Cort was much better in the second half, his movement was good and he challenged for the ball. One can only think that Bryan Gunn had a word in his ear over a half-time cup of tea.

On 71 minutes the game was decided and we were all dealt a kick in the nuts as we watched a super player score a super goal. But not for us. Daniel Fox turned Carl Cort 3 times from just inside the box on the right and then picked his spot with a left footed shot into the top corner. It was frustrating to see no one move to help Cort as Fox took his sweet time. What was even more frustrating was to see our captain Mark Fotheringham slowly walk back to the box casual as can be, watching this event unfold 6 yards away in front of him. With effort like that we don't stand a chance of staying up. Fotheringham was replaced soon after and stormed off down the tunnel. He hasn't played since. Nor will he again I hope! Russell and Pattison are far more committed and better players in my opinion. Fotheringham has never really wanted to be here and only signed a one year deal, which screams of the desire needed to be made captain right? Glenn Roeder thought so. Fotheringham also talks a great game in the press. Always the first to scream a war cry in papers and the last to close someone down.

Fotheringham. Talks a good game.

Chris Coleman's Coventry looked very balanced and he is building a nice team there. Daniel Fox is superb and 19 year old Aron Gunnarsson didn't stop running all day. He is a star of the future for sure. He looked like he was going to create a chance every time he touched the ball.

After 4 mins of stoppage time the final whistle blew. The boos echoed around the ground and we all sulked, shrugged, shook heads on the way back to the Gunn club. I didn't see enough commitment and desire to stay up to be honest. Since our trip, City won at QPR but lost on Saturday in a crucial 6 pointer to Blackpool.

Staying up will be a mammoth task now. But one that is only achievable with wholesale changes to the starting line up. We have nothing to lose at this point. Our relegation rivals have hit form and some of our players look as if they have thrown in the towel. I would like to see Cody McDonald, David Carney and maybe a couple of the youth kids get a run out. Players who will be here next season and have something to fight for.


I scribbled that last paragraph YESTERDAY. The glass was half empty. But today? The glass is half full. Last night Norwich beat Cardiff 2-0! Cue the woo girls and the marching band. Cue the flag waving midgets. Cue the clinking of beer glasses throughout the canary kingdom. We are Alive....ALIVE I say.

Not only did we win but results have gone our way elsewhere in the contadiction that is the current Colaship. We now face what could be our biggest game in 50 years this weekend as Plymouth (4 points ahead) visit Carrow Road. I will pray every day from now until Saturday. Oh please lord, I will believe if you just let us win this one game. Ever said that as a kid?

I will also invoke the magical powers of the 1973 canaries! It worked yesterday. No really! I had to leave the office and my trusty BBC Norfolk audio feed just before half-time. Armed with a platoon of instant messaging buddies and the humble refresh feature on my blackberry browser, I finished the game in a frenzy of communication.

On the train I decided that maybe listening to the Wembley 73 song "The Canaries" may help me 'will' a victory. It was working, we scored. 5 times in a row the song played, the trumpets of the cheesy football number blasting in my ears as I stared, glued to the BBC results page. Shoot, the results started to go against us. But wait..The song had stopped again and I had forgotten to start it up. Back on it went, along with the repeat feature. The results started to go our way. The instant messages brought news of Derby equalizers and a goal from former Norwich loanee Martin Taylor at Barnsley. A Swansea winner. And then it happened...We scored again!

I have vowed that this weekend, that song will be be playing continuously as we take on Plymouth. Want to hear the magical number? The song that holds the power of survival and victory? You know you do...

It's the song what done it.

Of course, the result had nothing to do with outstanding debut performances from McDonald, Mooney and a blinder from Alan Gow! Incidentally, McDonald was working as a scaffolder on the London Underground just a few weeks ago. Gunn had decided to freshen things up with some new faces, hungry players. Players who hadn't quit yet. Like Cody McDonald, Mooney had never played at this level either. Both Mooney and McDonald took their goals like they had been playing at Championship level for years. No fear, just confidence. Get In!

I will now return you to a Saturday in Norwich.

Back in the Gunn club, man of the match Gary Doherty looked like a rabbit in the headlights as he had to answer some tough questions about City's performance and spend 30 mins shaking hands and smiling for pictures when I am sure he would have rather been banging his head against a wall somewhere else. Like a disappointed child I asked him to keep us up, as if the man known as 'Ginger Pele' holds the keys to 21st place.

The lads with Gary Doherty, John Revell and Dick Mills.

After a few more beers and some tears in those beers, I had a chat with former manager Dave Stringer to see what he thought of the game and of the current situation at Carrow Road. After that I really needed a drink! It was back to the hotel for a quick change of clothes and then out for a curry.

The day and evening was arranged by my mate John Revell. The Rev is a top bloke, Norwich academy coach and a real character. He parties with the best of them and has no idea of his age, except for that he thinks he is about 21. Now that's the way to be! Top man. Talking of being 21. John Jr WAS 21 on this very day. He is the tall lad on the left in the black shirt. Oh to be 21 again....

The Rev, his boys and their mates.

There were 40 of us at Spice land in Norwich for a ruby, and I thought this was the ideal time to settle a little bit of UF business. A while back Lingering had made (and lost) a bet with 'The Fans Attic'. Now, if you read this site a lot (or a little) you will know that Lingering Bursitis has a deep, deep hatred for David Beckham. It's completely unnatural and unexplainable. Ask "What did David do to you Lingering?" and he will reply "he lives". Bizarre and weird I know. I mean...Who could possibly hate David Beckham? It's like harbouring a dislike for small kittens or Bruce Forsythe. Just weird. Anyway, the bet was lost and the punishment must be issued! Lingering would have to wear a Beckham shirt in a public place causing a damaging amount of embarrassment and a hefty blow to his self esteem and his anti-Beckham rhetoric.

Well, little did Lingering know, but a Beckham shirt was with me and Saturday night in Norwich, in front of a full restaurant was the perfect time. After a brief explanation and a round of applause, out it popped. BBC commentator, ex-Norwich player and top bloke Neil Adams presented the shirt to Lingering as he turned the color of a his favorite Liverpool Jersey. After the horror of the moment subsided, he bowed his head, slipped it on and took his medicine. Fair play to the lad, it stayed on all through dinner.

Lingering B stands at the top of the table as everyone has a good giggle at his distressed mug.

LB starts to lighten up and see the funny side.

As dinner came to a close, Neil Adam's cell phone rang, except it wasn't for him. He passed the phone to me and said "it's Gunny for you". Gunny for me? I said? Wowzer...I'd met Gunny on a few occasions but that's one bloke who meets more people a week than the toilets at Penn station, surely he didn't remember?

He did you know, what a fantastic surprise. Bryan Gunn had called to acknowledge that we had flown 3500 miles to see us lose and to have a quick chat. He told me he was doing the best he could to keep us up and they were all working very hard to do so. How about that? This wouldn't happen at any other football club. I don't remember hearing about Rafa calling Lingering, or Relegation Zone Mikey getting a ring from 'Arry after the Cup final. Wonder if Precious Roy ever got a call from Wenger?

"Hallo Roy, if youz writez one more ting about Eboue, yooo ant me are done!"

Norwich Manager Bryan Gunn: I added the phone headset for this realistic 'Crime watch' style reconstruction of the phone call.

This kind of effort is what sets Norwich City football club and it's people well above any other club. Bryan Gunn had bothered to make my night after a disappointing result when I am sure he had plenty on his mind and better things to do. Top man.

Well. After the Curry we all hit the local night spots for beer, shots, lots of chat and more shots. And If you think I'm telling you all about that you can think again!

'Norwichomon' part two will be Lingering B's account of the day in Norwich and parts 3 and 4 will be all about the Carling Cup final. Watch out for those shortly.


Read more on "Norwichomon by Bigus: Part 1."...

South Africa is Now Safer

Looks safe to me.

We've all heard by now that things in South Africa are not exactly going according to plan with respect to World Cup 2010. On top of the construction issues facing the various stadia, there is the ever-present threat of violence. But fear not, this threat has been addressed by a huge influx of foreign aid!

The French government has recently committed R16.7 million to anti-crime efforts in South Africa in preparation for the World Cup. The money will be used to focus on intelligence-gathering (and sharing) regarding transnational crime and terrorism. Except, that's only 16.7 million South African Rand, which amounts to $1.65 million (€1.26 million) so it's not exactly big-time money. Heck, you could spend all of that just on a good AFIS or IBIS system, not to mention all of the money it takes to train officers in their use.

But apparently that doesn't matter, as tourism experts believe that widespread criminal activity is just a myth, albeit one that may unfortunately ruin the World Cup atmosphere.

"People will really be amazed when they come here next year to see the true picture of South Africa. A lot of international tourists are afraid to come here because of the high crime rate and because of security issues, but I think what we see on the news is over-exaggerated. It's a different picture once you get here."

Umm, yes, it's all a big exaggeration. While it's true that the murder rate has stabilized, and that South Africa has better statistics than many other African nations, (caution! opens a PDF) that doesn't by any means indicate that it is safe. Car-jacking, for example (see sign above), is extremely widespread and Capetown and J-Burg make Newark in the 90s seem quaint. Robbery is also popular, and in July 2008, the Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA) raised the security classification of the capital's restaurants to "caution areas". Even worse, the country as a whole is known as the "rape capital of the world" due to the high incidence of the crime.

But, hey, it's all just an exaggeration, right? I mean, South Africa is perfectly safe and ready for 450,000 people. Besides, how could it not be safe? Everyone speaks like this, don't they:

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Arsenal Acquires New Transportation

Now, I would consider myself to be a fairly large (in passion, not weight) Arsenal supporter. And my car is getting up there in years (but still going strong at 120,000 miles!). But even I don't think that this is a good idea.

Are the Gunners just looking for new modes of transportation to get to the stadium for their Champions League match against Roma? Actually, it turns out that this travesty of a vehicle is going towards a good cause - raffle tickets for £2 get you a chance to win the car, and all proceeds go to Arsenal's season-long charity partner, the Teenage Cancer Trust. The Citroen C4 will also be on display at the Emirates for Arsenal's next 3 home matches.

At the far left is Arsene Wenger, Almunia is in yellow, and RvP is pointing to himself. But who is between Wenger and Almunia?

The design is by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, and Citroen (who are Arsenal's vehicular coroprate partner) donated the C4 to the cause.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday Backpasses: The one where I said Becks would be injured

That picture to the right is pretty awesome. It's from [ONTD]
Speaking of, Juande went one further on his chairman. Delivered a promise and leaked more goals [The Spoiler]
Interview with Ivan Gazidis, who went from Deputy commish of MLS to CEO of Arsenal [Big Soccer]
Not all moves from MLS are as glamorous. This guy went from Player Development Director in Colorado to Goalkeeper coach in Scotland's second division [Tribal Football]

Corinthian fans say there is only one Ronaldo and back it up with a shirt [The Republik of Mancunia]
Disappeared keeper resurfaces. Says "Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?" [The Offside]
I called it in last night's Backpasses [Eurosport]
Goal of the day [Off The Post]
The Mexican team is going to get very bad, very fast [Soccer by Ives]

Since their on-air talent has been very nice to us today, we'll let you know that FSC is going to start a text message alert system soon [Fierce Mobile Content (lol)]

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