Friday, 28 March 2008

The Merseyside Derby:

I am prejudiced. I have been a supporter of Everton since I was six years old. Basically it was a toss up between Man U, who my brother supported, Southampton, who my dad supported, and Everton, who my best friend supported. I went for Everton as I liked the colour blue. And I have stuck with them ever since.

This weekend sees the most important Derby in ages. Win and Everton soar to 4th, and will surely gain the confidence needed to successfully fight for that last Champion's league spot. Lose and Liverpool will surely bed down and make the inevitable march to Europe next season with the other Big 3. Again.

So what we have this weekend is not just Red vs Blue. Certainly not Protestant vs Catholic, that went out of fashion years ago. Instead you have a Well Managed Club with a Proud History, like most of the top flight, vs a Club That Has Been Less Well Managed (Financially) of Late but has enjoyed the cash bonanza and BIG 4 status for a long time. So really it is the BIG 4 vs the Also Rans and the apple cart is all set for an upset. (That last bit is my entry in the worst metaphor of all time competition).

Every neutral should be rooting for Everton this weekend. If only so that those of us who spurn the BIG 4 can start dreaming of the end of an era again. That is if you ever bought that in the first place. If Liverpool win it most likely stays as it is for at least another season, with the rest of scratching round for the scraps and the hope of a good cup run. If Everton get 4th spot, Portsmouth get the FA Cup with Spurs having already secured the Carling Cup we'll have had the most significant season in many a year. C'mon you Blues.

What my girlfriend makes of England.

As a Uruguyan she knows a thing or two about football. They've won twice as many world cup's as England. She was a supporter of Nacional in Montevideo in her youth, these days she errs towards Everton, in support of me, and Spurs, in support of her countryman Poyet. But fundamentally she is a neutral.

While her opinion is not founded on any real knowledge of the English game it gives a round impression of how the English game is percieved from outside the UK. She has lived in both Spain and Italy and has lots of German friends so has a good idea of how the game is played and thought of across the continent.

What she makes of....

Peter Crouch: Hilarious. Like some strangely skilfull giant ghoul. Good but hilarious.
Wayne Rooney: Cursed to always disappoint for England. 'He'll always do something stupid or angry. you just need to look at him to tell that'.
Gerrard: Actually pretty good. Always looks like he's trying hard at least.
Beckham: A handsome if insufferable cunt. Not as good as everyone thinks he is although he crosses well. "you have him in the team for crosses'. She is mystified by his continued insistence on taking corners as everyone knows he is going to whip it in 'the way he always does'.
English goalkeepers: Rubbish since Seaman. "Seaman was really good, why isn't he playing still? Did he retire?"
Steve Mclaren: "He is the coach?! He looks and speaks badly. How can someone who looks and speaks like that be the coach?" During the match with Croatia she exclained "why does he have that umbrella?!"
Capello: Very good coach. Very bad for England. He will need Italian style players to get his system to work. And that England can't play like that as 'they are England not Italy.' Besides, Italian football is boring to watch.
JO Cole: England's best player. Even if she alwyas forgets his name.
English Coaches: Important. The French or Italians or Germans would NEVER have an English coach. The English might think they are being modern embracing a foreign coach. Everyone else thinks they look like desperate idiots. "Is there really not one good coach in all of England. He might not be the best but he will be better than any Italian. for England."
England as a football club: England are good but they are never going to win anything and are way too nervous. Why are they nervous 'they are England'. She is as mystified as anyone about why they 'nearly always play badly'.

OK- that is that. Next week 'what my cat makes of English Cricket'.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Ah- I found it!

My TV highlight of the year (this could be because I am am a bit weird)

Ray Stubbs, better known for his likeable yet ever so slighly bland style of sport's presenting, brings a new dimesnion to the idea mediocrity with his rendition of Everybody Needs Somebody To Love. If ever there were more of a glorious carcrash in the name of charitable humiliation then I have yet to see it.

A week of headines.


As you may have gathered England midfielder David Beckham will get his 100th cap tonight against France. He has also said that he is targeting Peter Shilton's record for most England caps, carefully ignoring the fact that Shilton played in goal and only played on so long because being in goal means you don't have to run around much.

Aside from Beckham getting his 100th cap a massive piece of Antarctica melted unexpectedly, over 40 Iraqis died in violence, a Shia rebellion has started in Iraq (not along now until the media start calling them 'Shi'iites' again), Gordon Brown announced actually not insignificant constitutional reform, and, most important of all, England won the cricket.

Fabio Capello still shows no signs at all of having mastered English.

EDIT: and how could I forget, having sat through about 115 reminders in the 10mins that I watched BBC Breakfast today. The Apprentice starts again tonight. Let the weeks of greed, fuckwittery, and shaftery commence- as the nation ponders who, apart from Alan Sugar, they would least like to be stuck in the same room as.

Alan Sugar is most famous of course, as far as football goes, for once owning Spurs, and for his acrimonious partnership with Terry "half a pound of apricots, only ahhh tuppence" Venables.

Friday, 21 March 2008

I don't like hyperbole. Honestly.

But as this weekend approaches it is make or break time for Avram Grant's Chelsea. There I said it, and I mean it too. A win and Chelsea are right back in the mix for the Premiership, lose and they will start to look, and feel, like Also Rans. Just looking through the names on Chelsea's team sheet, the depth of expensive talent in practically every position, you realise that failing to win a trophy should be unthinkable for that team. It may be difficult to juggle and manage the egos and big personalities but that, correct me if I am wrong, is what first class managers are expected to do. If Capello can be let go at Madrid having delivered them La Liga, and if Mourinho can be got rid of having brought Chelsea the most success ever, Grant should be fired with a tarnished reputation if Chelsea were to finish third and without one measly trophy, not even the tinware Carling Cup. With such an embarrassment of riches at his disposal it should not be that hard really. I reckon given a squad like that Alan Curbishely, Sam Allardyce, or David Moyes, could do it.

The rush of substitutions and negativity that foxed Chelsea against a rampant Spurs (and I truly rate Ramos and his coaching staff- especially Poyet) reminded me of another Chelsea coach. Not of Mourinho's guile and showmanship, but of Ranierri- the so called 'tinker man'. Difference being of course that Ranierri was a dead man walking at that stage in his career, and may have even be looking to be sacked so as to ensure a hefty severance package; but Grant, having been cherry picked by Abramovic, has the full support of the board. The pressure must be intense.

So it is crunch time at Stamford Bridge. The Kennsington twats and glory hunters expect. It is time for Chelsea to stand up and be counted and show us who they are.

My money is on Arsenal.

Does this constitute a proper footballing article? I have not written one for weeks.

Ooo- how exciting

apparently, according to the folks at Wikio, I have the 91st Top Sport Blog in the country. Not exactly sure what that means, if anything, but I am a vain sonofabitch always looking for compliments and attention so I have added a button advertising the fact. I am only 80 places below the excellent Some People Are On The Pitch now.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Football by The Rules of The Excesses of The Market

At the beginning of every year every team declares how many points they hope to attain in the coming footballing year. On this basis supporters decide which teams to support, and invest accordingly purchasing tickets. Obviously the brighter the prediction the more tickets will be sold. The number of tickets sold will determine how much money the teams can invest in their team. All games however are played behind closed doors. Teams can play in any league domestic or overseas and accumulate points which will determine their overall performance. The registering of points will be made by the teams themselves, and will only be monitored by regulatory authorities. In this way all teams can out perform or meet expectations and predictions, therefore selling more tickets, leading to greater accumulation of capital with which to invest. There is no actual obligation to invest. Confidence and perception of performance drives the profits of clubs.

for example- Manchester Utd make modest predictions of 50 points in all leagues. Supporters believe they will comfortably achieve this and purchase tickets giving them a massive surplus with which to exceed their targets. Manchester Utd actually only play 3 games the whole year (a maximum of 9 points) but nevertheless declare they have attained 60 points. as this is matched by supporter/investor confidence there is no reason not to believe in Manchester Utd's results- whether or not there is any material basis for their market success. The whole thing works fine as long as not too many supporters ever demand to see too much football. The commodity, in this case football, has no real value, only the value given to it to by supporters, and the success with which the clubs, banks etc exposed to the market, have in dealing with it. A commodity is only as valuable as people say it is. Profit is not actually based on the value of the commodity at all but on the perception of the value of the commodity and its performance.


Wednesday, 19 March 2008

It is a day for apologies- first the Express

Now me. It seems the Guardian is more accurate than Latin American TV after all. At least in UK footballing matters.

Theo Walcott is not Aaron Lennon- no matter what the Latino pundits said at the time.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Alternatives to Game 39.

Football may, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, taking all things into consideration, be a game of two halves, eleven men against eleven men, just a game, and a silly that only encourages ritualised prancing, but it is other stuff as well. It is a passion. From the slums and favellas of Rio to the painted houses of Buenos Aires, to the bazaars of North Africa, the ex tenement suburbs of London, there are literally millions, billions, of stoic fans addicted to soccer and intoxicated on its promise of excitement and the whiff of displaced glory. So when the head honchos over at the Premiership talk of a global game they ain't exaggerating. And this makes for big business in an age like this. Football is no more a colloquial expression, it is rather an international marketing phenomena. This is why an idea that truly maximises the games global appeal is such an appealing idea, tantalising, and not one without merit. Despite all this frontier crossing razzamataz there are some things you can't get away from. Football is built on local foundations that you can't fuck about with. But nothing will replace the drama of a local derby- be that River vs boca or Mersey Reds vs Mersey Blues. And the logic and symmetry of a league system is kind of sacrosanct. It was the disregard for this which made the Game 39 idea such a poor one; and why it was snubbed by the fans, and ultimately ridiculed by FIFA. This does not mean however that something similar couldn't and shouldn't happen.

In light of this, when all is said and done, at the end of the day, taking all things into consideration, Football Is not My God Football Overdose proposes somethings that the game surely has enough of already but that does not mean there isn't room for more. The ultimate dream of football after all is football every day, all year, 365 days of games forever. Another meaningless cup competition.

Let me float this up the flagpole then and see what sticks.

The Football Ryder Cup

Or inter-continental Cup- 8 teams from Europe and 8 from the Americas (that is both north and south) play off to decide which is the best footballing continent. The first four games are euro club vs american club (Barcelona vs River for example), the second four games are played between teams representing the best of the continent. Effectively Europe vs Americas. But, in order to ensure fairness and a degree of tactical complexity, at least three players from every club must play at least once in one the eight games. A Continental Captain must decide which clubs play in what order- and take the responsibility for coaching and selecting the continental teams. The contest can take place anywhere in the world. It would happen every year, in the summer, when there is not a European or World Cup.

In short this competition would have both partisan and international appeal, and would not fuck with any domestic arrangements. Complex it might be- but it surely has a lot more going for it than the Game 39 idea. And we would probably get to stick it to the yanks once in a while.

If in the unlikely event of this taking off this please remember where you read about it first....

Thursday, 13 March 2008

When Southampton left The Dell

and went to the Saint Mary's stadium their home form suffered. The Dell was a claustrophobic little ground and the Saint's fans always made enough noise there to give every home game a Turkish style atmosphere. It was a tough place to go and win. Or a tough place to go "and get a result." So The Dell was known by the media then, somewhat inevitably, as "a fortress". St Mary's, that replaced The Dell, isn't a cramped ground however. It is rather nice and modern by all reports. The problem with nice is that it doesn't naturally bond with other adjectives like imposing, or intimidating, the kind of words you would like to associate with a home ground. If only the architects had considered this and instead of making an airy all-seater they would have wrought the stands from sheer granite, so the home end could hurl down rocks and boiling oil onto the visiting team. Then Saint Mary's could have really been like a fortress. As it was though the pleasant open plan atmosphere lent itself only to a string of poor home defeats for the Saints, in what was their new ground. Cue a stroke of genius from then manager Gordon Strachan. He decided his players were associating the new ground with bad luck, and that they missed The Dell, and called therefore, not for the sports psychologist to help them like you would sensibly expect, but for a Witch. A white witch. An emergency witch. And this white witch blessed the Saint Mary's ground, and blessed the players, and cast away the demons and pixies of bad luck. And while the Saints never did capture the sort of home form they had previously enjoyed at The Dell things did get an awful lot better. The blessing cum exorcism worked.

Right now, having watched two English teams crash out on penalties last night in the UEFA Also Ran's Cup (both having played well against good opponents) I would really like to call on the services of that white witch and ask her to lift another curse. The British Isles are obviously smite by the god of penalties. It certainly seems that way; that it is written in the stars that all clubs hailing from the British Isles will suffer nerves, bad luck, and on form goalies, when it comes to the cruelest and most dramatic of contest conclusions. So could this witch, or any witch, please come and clean the national psyche? Please.

I know many of you will be cynical about this. You do not believe in magic, or voodoo, or hoodoo. But, let me ask you this- was there anyone anywhere in Britain last night, or overseas, watching either Everton or Spurs, who did not think to themselves, "Oh no! Not penalties" when it came to penalties? Of course you thought that. We have been programmed by decades of tears and failure to think just like that. I am sure other nations do not get so excited, in fact I imagine the Germans look forward to it. I just knew what was bound to happen last night from before the first fateful kick. Even then I still had to watch it though- the sense of inevitability looming larger and larger. Multiply this sense of impending doom by all British fans watching and all that negativity has got to have an effect.

So- anyone know any reliable witches or sorcerers please? It is the only solution. If not we, as a nation, are condemned to live forever under the shadow and heartache that is 12 yards.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Are English Teams Really The Best In Europe?

On the surface of it, with Liverpool, Arsenal, Man U, and Chelsea all in the the last 8 of the Champions League it would seem so. I beg to differ however. These teams may have purchased overseas commodities to a more successful extent than any other but they are far from greatness. And as we approach the end of the of this decade it is worth noting that English teams have failed to dominate Europe over the last 20 years in the way that they did in decades past. Only Liverpool and Man U have waved the Big Cup aloft and bukkakaeed themselves in winners' champagne of late.

Point Two: These teams are not English. Or put another way, they are not owned by the English. The players are mostly not English. In fact, a more accurate question would be "Are English based teams the best in Europe?" Really the premiership top 4 are like those car firms, still operating on English soil, that everyone still pretends, and imagines, are English.

I don't want to start the jingoistic breast, brow, and drum beating all over again now though. After all- it is the capital I have problems with and not immigration, foreignness, or any other kind of otherness.

Meanwhile it is worth mentioning however that if Cardiff City win the FA Cup they will not be eligible to compete in Europe next year- as they are a Welsh team competing in an English competition. Perhaps Cardiff should temporarily relocate to the other side of the Bristol Channel in order to get round this. A Russian owned team competing from West London are currently among the favourites to lift the trophy though. Funny Old Game.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Roy Keane

once famously described Mick Mcarthy as "a crap manager and a crap player." For the record I agree with him- Mcarthy hardly set the world alight. It is worth noting however that Keane's record at Sunderland is fractionally worse than Mcarthy's right now. So what do we make of this- Roy Keane "great player, crap manager"?

Who put money on all of the FA cUp semi-finalists then?

No me that's for sure. My only comment on this weekends unexpected results is this
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHBarnsleyHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHA yes there were bad decisions Mr Ferguson, just as there has been at Old Trafford for years HAAHAHAHAHAHACardiff.

I can't see Portsmouth being as soft as Boro were against set pieces, whoever they play next.

In the premiership I was impressed to see Chris Kirkland deliver a goalkeeping masterclass. Too bad Fabio Capello was not there to see it. Where was Fabio Capello on Sunday? Why, he was at home with his family of course, like all Italians. After Mass he went home and started to prepare the Pasta Al Sugo. A dish of delicious simplicity that takes 3 years on a Sunday morning to prepare. Fry garlic onions meat and tomatos, add water, simmer for an age. Serve with parmesan cheese.

I was also disappointed the see Newham's finest thrashed by Spurs. There must have been tears in the curry in Green Street.

What is it about Alan Curbishley that he such a good, and such an average, manager at the same time? West Ham are now leaking goals like Spurs were at the beginning of the season.

this is a scrappy, bitty post, isn't it?

Friday, 7 March 2008

I have another Mars Bar on offer!

Who can tell me what PSV stands for? With only a passing knowledge of Dutch my best guess errs towards the absurd- Presengangen Skribensbok Vullen. I fear this is wildly incorrect.

Dutch is of course a beautifully silly language, spoken like comedy German. Despite this the Dutch have built one of the most liberal societies on earth. A nation of funny, intelligent, multi-lingual, cool people. With cool sounding names like De Witt and Vint Boomers. Good football teams too. As Spurs learnt last night. I was shocked watching PSV play in the first half, I got bored after that. They played more like a German team, and the only 'dutch style football' came from the two Latinos in the team. That Peruvian Farfan looked pretty tasty too. As the ultimate feeder club, a bit like Spurs are traditionally, although they have taken to buying more recently, I am sure they will sell Farfan for a good profit soon.

Elsewhere in the Also Ran's cup Everton lost to Fiorentina. And I know why. I have sussed Everton out. Let me explain...

Basically Everton are not, in strict terms of quality, a top four side but perversely this works in their favour. they are an organised and passionate unit with enough flair to score good goals, and well briefed by one of the nation's astutest coaches in David Moyes.

When playing top 4 teams other premiership sides see the exercise as damage limitation- with maybe a point, even three, on offer for the bravest and luckiest. Yet when playing Everton the intensity is different- every team will play them thinking 'we can get something here, we can win it, they are not that much better than us.' This plays right into Everton's hands. However, when they play teams who have an eye on damage limitation, as defensive Italian teams nearly always do, Everton struggle. This explains not only Everton's defeat last night, but also their poor cup form, especially against lower league opposition. As soon as teams across the premiership start treating them like they would Liverpool, or Arsenal, and adopt a more defensive attitude towards them- Everton will struggle. Let's hope this doesn't happen anytime soon and that Liverpool implode in the under the pressure of boardroom uncertainty.

OK. that is it. Who wants this Mars Bar?

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The best bit of Arsenal's win last night

was not Theo Walcott's dazzling display or even Fabregas' goal. But the face of Burlesconi as he put his jacket on to leave the stand. Priceless.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

It is the EuroAll Star Gala again tonight

Arsenal in the San Siro, Celtic in the Nou Camp, and again I consider my mentality towards such games, some would say occasions, as akin to schizophrenia. You see, while I admire Man Utd I hate them at the same time. I hate the way they have dominated throughout the 90s leaving only room for a handful of other UK clubs to win anything. I hate that arse of a faced manager forever chewing gum on the touchline. I hate Ronaldo's swagger, Roonie's withering contempt and latent aggression, and I hate Wes Brown for no reason in particular other than I do not like his name. Yet, having said all that, Man Utd are responsible for some of the most exciting footballing nights in Europe in recent memory. When it comes to Europe its OK to like Man Utd a little bit, and I am secretly glad if they win. Yet, even as I type this, I know I will chortle if they lose. The expression of disbelieving disappointment on Ronaldo's face will be a moment to cherish. Yet, as local vs national tribal loyalties fight against one another for dominance I think to myself, it would be a shame if such an attractive footballing team like Man Utd went out. My football supporting mind is really just a mass of manipulable, and conflicting, emotions. I will cheer (a bit) if they lose, and cheer (a bit) if they win, at the same time. Basically football makes me happy whatever. It is quite unhealthy. Almost something Orwellian. Doublekthink as a psychological tool in the armory of the modern day football fan.

To a certain extent the same is true in the Premiership. Take Bolton playing Liverpool over the weekend for example. Bolton annoy me intensely. I have no connection with the region. I dislike the coach, they play a non to appealing style of football. As they were playing Liverpool, who hover menacingly and unfamiliarly beneath Everton however, I found myself routing for them. Just on a temporary basis. For 90 minutes no more. Even then though I was swept up in the euphoria when Liverpool one the chmpoin's league a season or so back. It wasso damn exciting.

In this way football fans are most of them pragmatists. Able to see the merit in the temporary alliance, or a convenience fuck. The enemy of my enemy is my friend etc. This I guess is what categorizes tribal politics. Like when native Americans fought alongside the english in the US war of independence. Except that was all about survival. Football is not really about anything really. We love it.

Post Cigarette edit: I was watching that Last Man Standing tribe hero rubbish the other night. There were these tribes in the Amazon who had wrestling competitions instead of going to war with each other. I thought to myself well that is like football, only they have formalised the deal and don't actually go to war anymore. Admittedly the structure of the tribe was much less complex than what we are used to in the West but, well, at least they weren't butchering each other for oil. Enough of this though, I digress... and I have work to do.

Monday, 3 March 2008

tenuous football link

According to the ever reliable British press Harry Saxa Coburg Hewitt is right "pissed off" to be home after his 10 week long photo opp in Afghanistan. Apparently he misses the arid climate and the chance that he might actually get to shoot, maim, and torture, muslims. In doing so he becomes the first soldier ever to miss the front and proves conclusively to anyone left in the UK with independent thought just how divorced from reality the swastika sporting rare bird marksman is. I cannot imagine that in the history of warfare there has ever been another soldier who has been perturbed to finally get back home. How warped a vision of reality Harry must have that his sense of normalcy vibrates more keenly with his pals at the front than anywhere back in good old Blighty. Any sympathy I may have with Harry stops there however. If he really wanted to be a normal bloke and serve his country he could refuse to take one more penny from the civil list, pay backdated tax on the considerable sum he inherited from his grandmother, abdicate from the responsibility to ever be in line for the throne, and work in a care home taking care of the elderly for little more than the minimum wage. If he did that he would have my respect. I may even think of him as a hero.

And now to the tenuous football link. Harry's proclamations that he is "pissed off" to be coming home are the equivalent of Gary Megson, Roy Hodgson, or Kevin Keegan suddenly announcing "we are looking forward to playing in the Championship next year." A bit. Told you it was tenuous. My spleen though is well and truly vented. At least until the next time I chance to read the royal reporting tabloids.

Oh, one last thing- anyone out there better sourced than me in such things know if there is any truth to the Jenas bisexual porn clinch rumour? Apparently he's been doing an Ashley Cole.