Monday, October 30, 2006

Beckham - let the courting begin....

David Beckham has hinted he's not looking to leave Madrid 'at the minute'. There has been talk of a new deal, but so far nothing has been signed and so while this is the case the former England captain will be the subject of intense media speculation.

As with the way with these things, several stories emerged over the weekend in the British tabloid press claiming that there's strong interest for his signature from among others Spurs.

One never knows where these stories originate from, but more often than not they turn out to be kite flying exercises from agents and even clubs themselves. Once you start reading these stories on a regular basis, it can mark the beginning of an elaborate courtship via the media with subtle hints from the player and his would be suitors. Today's story contains the usual tell-tale coded messages with Beckham using the carefully chosen words "I am not considering any move at the minute."

However, Beckham did say he's not looking to leave, which again is message to the Madrid people, in fairness he has to say that to keep on side with the fans. Personally I'd be amazed if Beckham signs this new deal. A move back to England is my best bet.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A season defining game?.....

I don't want to get too carried away about United's win at Bolton yesterday, but at the same time it's worth re-evaluting United's prospects this season, seeing as they are riding high and remain top of the league and are 6 goals better off than Chelsea.

Every season has its games that turn out to defining regarding the remainder of the season. These games usually fall around Easter as the end of the season becomes in sight and while we're obviously nowhere near reaching that critical point, United's performance yesterday was easily the seasons best so far and it will give everyone the belief that just perhaps United can mount a serious challenge for the games top honours.

Prior to yesterday we'd all heard the claptrap about United's title credentials coming out of Old Trafford from Fergie and some of the usual suspects, most of that can be ignored, because frankly we've heard it many times and despite the clubs success under Ferguson United haven't always delivered, and especially in Europe which remains the holy grail for the manager and many of his players.

Personally I still doubt United have a good enough squad to win the title or the Champions League. United are relying heavily on Saha at present because we don't have strength in depth up front and so we remain one injury away from potential disaster.

However, if United could string a few more performances together like yesterday and providing we have a run of luck with injuries then everyone including me might really start to believe the hype.

United have a relatively easy looking run of fixtures coming up, with the exception of Pompey at home and an away trip to Blackburn (don't forget last season Fergie), but the biggest test of the season so far comes on November 26th when the champions visit Old Trafford. Depending on how Fergie tinkers between now and then United's confidence should be sky high.

One thing is for certain, United do stand a better chance of making more of a fist of it this season and even if we don't win any of the big prizes, many will happy if the reds keep on playing as they did against Bolton.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Bolton swamped by red tide..

When the Bolton manager Sam Allardyce recently went to Soho Square to be interviewed for the England managers job, he took four laptop computers with him to show the FA how in touch with technology and the modern game he is.

Today at the Reebok Stadium you do wonder what use those computer stats would be given that his team Bolton didn't have the ball, ergo, sans football one cannot play and that was the pattern of todays game as United thrashed Bolton by four goals to nil.

Rooney's finishing was clinical, he scored three great strikers goals, Ronaldo got the other one. Bolton were outclassed and got what they deserved, precisely nothing.

Despite Rooney's wonderful finishing, my man of the match was Vidic. The Serbian defender looks more at home by the week, the same can be said of all of Fergie's recent signings. Looking good.

Glazer on hunt for Far Eastern fools gold?

According to MarketingWeek the Glazer family has tightened its grip over United with the recent departures of Andy Anson, Nick Humby and Peter Draper. Questions are being raised as to who exactly is pulling the strings at United, it has been suggested that the three high profile departures came about because of the increasing influence of the Glazer family.

One suggestion put forward by a media guru is that United will once again attempt to try to further their interests in the Far East market. The fact is United have already tried and failed with their own United branded Cafe's in that part of the world. Furthermore, the clubs 2005 tour of the Far East was played in front of substantially less than full houses. IF the demand and interest was really there then these games would have been sold out, the fact that they weren't speaks volumes.

The whole Asian football market is a media myth, only fools in the world of marketing believe the myth, it is a myth created by gurus and spin doctors.

Fans in Asia are interested in Football, but they're not passionate followers of any particular English clubs, they are more likely to follow the club who their current favourite star player is playing for, like Beckham or Park, so they are very fickle. As far as football goes, chasing the Far East market will lead to nothing but wasted time, it will be a search for fools gold.

The only serious market is the domestic market - matchday income is by far United's biggest earner. IF United could gain complete control of their own tv rights then things would look very different , but that will never happen because it would take agreement from two thirds of the Premier League clubs - and for them to agree would be like Turkeys voting for Christmas.

Many serious commentators believe that the levels of debt at United are too high and that it's only a matter of time before the whole thing collapses.

Sure United are doing ok on the pitch right now, but United wont be able to compete with Chelsea in the long term without serious investment.

Last summer United were the Premierships lowest net spenders, that was unheard of until the Glazers arrived.

Given the appalling levels of debt perhaps United would have been better off being owned by Murdoch. The bottom line is Glazer couldn't afford United, but he was able to acquire the club precisely because it was so well run. The irony is, if United had racked up a lot of debt prior to the takeover, then Glazer would never have been able to finance such a ridiculous deal.

Now United are in serious financial trouble and it's likely the Glazers will attempt restructure the clubs debts with a securitisation deal which will end up leaving the club locked in with little money for transfers in the years ahead. David Gill rightly told fans at the last AGM that Glazer would be bad for United, because a club like United can only be successful on the pitch with substantial continual investment, Malcolm Glazer cannot afford investment. Glazers plan is flawed, the club and Glazer is on borrowed time.

As for Andy Anson, he was booted off the board by Glazer and then brought back post takeover. Rightly or wrongly Anson has been portrayed as a Glazer stooge in all of this, and so no hardcore United fans are going to lose any sleep over him being muscled out, the only pity is we are stuck with the Glazer regime who are on the road to nowhere.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Ulster's finest son, a fitting tribute...

Dick Best, George's father, and the new five pound note

How many professional sportsmen, never mind famous footballers have been honoured by having their face being printed on banknotes? I don't know the answer to that question, but I doubt there's many, if any. But that is exactly what the Ulster Bank has done to commemorate the legend and the late Georgie Best, it's a fitting tribute to the finest player that I've ever had the pleasure to witness play.

Best gave me countless unforgettable memories of his sublime skill. He will never be replaced by another in the eyes of those who watched him play on a regular basis back in the 60s and early 70s.

Forget the rubbish about being a flawed genius, he was a true genius, only Diego Maradona has come close to what Best could do with a football as his feet. If you get to chance to own one of these notes, they will be collectors items. The legend lives on.

BBC News

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why St Ole is still pure class.......

Last night United fielded 7 full internationals but Crewe still managed to make United look very average and for large parts of the game second best.

One man stood out for United and it was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Despite being injured for two years, the Norwegian still looks class, every touch assured, none more so than his brilliant first half goal, which was superbly taken and it happened in the blink of the eye. No wonder he's called the smiling assassin.

He's a bit like a Rolls Royce, with all of his moving parts in perfect harmony. Long may it continue.

The final score was Crewe 1 United 2. It was entertaining, but largely due to the home side. United's youngsters had a mixed night, but at least reds fans had St Ole to remember on an otherwise largely disappointing night of performances.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

One rule for Rooney another for Defoe...

So following Defoe biting Mascherano the FA have reportedly decided to take no action. Question what would have happened if it had been Wayne Rooney doing the biting? I think it's fair to say we'd be looking at a three game ban, possibly longer and a huge fine. The FA have video evidence, the ref didnt see the incident but tv replays showed Defoe biting, yet video evidence wasn't used. This incident highlights the inconsistency that is all too often evident with the FA. It's one rule for Rooney and United players and another for everyone else.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

'Sack the board and Stuart Pearce'...

City (Manchester) fans as you can probably guess, were more than a bit upset having lost 4-0 to Wigan at the weekend. One City supporters site is calling for the manager and the board to be sacked.

The City chairman David Wardle actually went as far as making a public apology to City fans via the clubs website. The chairman hinted at new faces arriving in the January transfer window, but in the next sentence he invited any would be new investors to come in and join the club. The message is clear, City are skint. This is despite the fact that the club was given the biggest leg-up ever seen in British football club history when the local council provided a brand new ground for them in 2002. £120m of tax payers money was given over to the development of what was formerly known as the Commonwealth Stadium for the Commonwealth Games, if it was a good deal for 'the games', it was a belter for Manchester City. The City of Manchester Stadium aka 'The Council House' should have been the platform for City to make a concerted challenge for a place in the UEFA Cup, it hasn't happened.

Unlike all those clubs who have had to finance the building of new stadiums, City haven't been saddled with any crippling loan repayments nor any huge initial outlay. Sunderland, Derby and Southampton all spent heavily on building new stadiums - all three clubs have been relegated. Granted City pay the council rent, but it only kicks in when attendances go over City's old average gate. So in point of fact City play at the City of Manchester Stadium rent free for any gate under 32,500, they do pay a revenue share on anything over that figure.

Despite help from the council and tax payers, City are like many professional football clubs, they have failed to manage their funds well. The club is in danger of losing supporters if things don't improve on the pitch. As for sacking the manager, City should know from previous experience that isn't the answer. As Wardle says, investment and support is the key otherwise relegation may follow again in the not too distant future. If however City do find themselves out of the top flight and attendances drop below 32,500, then they do at least have the relative luxury of rent free accommodation - how many other City of Manchester council house tenants have that perk?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Wise and Bates = the perfect match?

Apparently Leeds United and their chairman Ken Bates want Dennis Wise to be the clubs new manager. It has to be said these two would appear to be a very good match as both are loathsome. Ken Bates was never short of giving advice and this week he's been caught on camera telling Leeds fans that his first team players are s * * t, together with hints that there's going to be a clear-out. IF you are a Leeds United player then you aren't going to be too impressed with this news. With any luck Leeds will be relegated this season and Wise will hopefully go down with them.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

No passion, no heart, no legs, but wonderful...

..No I'm not describing the love of my life or the lack of it. I'm referring to Liverpool FC, today they lost 2-0 at Old Trafford as United went back to the top of the table following goals by Paul "he scores goals" Scholes, and in doing so he marked his 500th appearance for the Red Devils by scoring 5 minutes before half time. United's second goal came from Rio Ferdinand who scored against Liverpool in the corresponding fixture last season to secure the points, today he bettered that goal with a real belter on 66 minutes.

The worry for Liverpool fans is that United didn't have to be that special to beat them today as strangely the visitors lacked the usual drive and running that we see when they visit United.

These games are normally fairly dour affairs with Liverpool congesting the midfield usually with five men. When looking at the Liverpool formation prior to kick-off, it looked likely to be the same sort of game and that is how it started with Liverpool doing the pressing in the first 8 minutes. During that opening spell the visitors closed United down all over the park. When the home side were in possession they were giving the ball away cheaply throughout the first 15 minutes, with both Giggs and Carrick both guilty of sloppy passing.

Gradually United started to dominate the possession with Fletcher pressing Liverpool and all too often winning back the ball for United. That was the story of the first half until Scholes got the vital opening goal, it came after United broke down the left and Giggs found Scholes completely unmarked to beat Reina at the second attempt. It was a gift of a goal in many ways, but Scholes got into position A when the ball came inside the box, the 31 year old United star finished off the move to score only his second goal against Liverpool.

From then on United pretty much controlled the game. On 66 minutes Ferdinand secured the points with a wonderful piece of skill beating the fullback and then cutting the ball back inside the area before crashing home an unstoppable left foot drive into the top corner giving the keeper no chance. United might have expected a backlash from Liverpool - it never came - there was no reaction. United were worthy winners. Liverpool were very poor and got what they deserved.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Premier league stamps down on Blogger..

The English Premier League is stamping down on a football goals blog site in a bid to protect its copyright.

  • BBC News
  • Friday, October 20, 2006

    Can father Christmas save Leeds United?

    Leeds United are sitting one place off bottom in the Championship table today, defeat away at Luton could see them dropping to the foot of the table. It was only five years ago that Leeds were contesting for a place in the Champions League final, they lost the second leg of that semi with Valencia 3-0. Since then, it has gone from bad to worse.

    Peter Ridsdale and his fellow directors left the club in a shambolic state with huge debts, relegation followed plus a succession of changes on and off the park with much of the clubs family silverware being sold off.

    Ken Bates eventually came in and tookover from Gerald Krasner, who is a company insolvency specialist and has no background in football, but he helped to steady the ship and make it more of an attractive proposition for prospective buyers. Enter Ken Bates and the £10m for his 50% stake in the club. The former Chelsea chairman famously bought Chelsea for £1 and in his eyes helped to save Chelsea's future.

    Others see his time at the West London club differenty. Not so long ago Chelsea were £90million in debt and there was talk of the banks calling in their loans. Bates and Chelsea were saved by Oligarch Roman Abramovich, for now, all is well at his former club.

    This week Leeds lost at home to Leicester City, they were watched by a crowd of just over 16,000, this for a one club city like Leeds is appalling. There's talk of even closing down the Lurpack stand for some games. Where did it all go wrong? That is a question that many Leeds fans must ask themselves now and again.

    Father Christmas in disguise? He might look cudly but Bates has an eye for a bargain, and so there won't be that many seasons of goodwill - would Leeds fans really care if Roman MkII turns up bearing gifts?

    However, it isn't all bad, Leeds debts have been largely wiped out, the club announced that it was in nearly in the black recently. Is the time right for Bates to cash in again like he did at Chelsea?

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    "The Cannibal" tames the Matador...

    As I predicted on here yesterday, Barelona badly missed Samuel Eto'o last night. Chelsea deserved that 1-0 victory, the blues were better organised and created by far the most clear cut chances. We only saw brief glimpses of Barca's quick first time slide-rule passing. Whenever Barca attacked Chelsea had four or five men behind the ball, this is the organiser in Jose Mourinho, every move is worked out in advance, every player knows where he should be during the game.

    Barca on the other hand play a more cavalier type of game, they attack in numbers and at times allow the opposition to counter attack, which is what happened last night. At times Deco and Ronaldinho lost the ball and didn't work back, this left the Barca defence exposed.

    Chelsea should have perhaps had more goals, Shevchenko was off key again missing what was for him an easy chance. Once again it was the brilliant Didier Drogba who scored the vital goal - it was a quality strike, but it didn't stop Sky's Andy Gray making a bit of a clown of himself again when he tried yet again to make out that the Ivory Coast star isn't the real deal.

    Andy Gray once again making himself look foolish

    Barca missed Samuel Eto'o and so they were always going to have to rely more on Ronaldinho but the big Dutch defender Khalid "The Cannibal" Boulahrouz never gave the Brazilian a moments peace and more often than not he hussled him off the ball.

    Ronaldinho is currently being depicted as a Matador on Spanish TV adverts, he is seen toying with the snorting bull by manipulating a football using his trickery, last night the roles were reversed as the Matador was dumped on his sorry ass by the bull that is "the Cannibal". There wasn't many "Ole's" from the crowd, but they were enjoyed seeing the world's greatest footballer being brought down to earth.

    The feeling is that Barca aren't the same side that they were last year. So I'm going to stick my neck out and say we could well have a new name on the European cup this year and it could be a London club. Barca wont retain the trophy, that is my gut feeling - though I'm not ruling them out. I can see one of five teams lifting it. Lyon are my outside tip, but British interest remains strong, it is going to be very interesting.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    Chelsea prepare to meet their nemesis, but Brits looking good...

    Tonight's clash at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and the Champions League holders Barcelona should be very interesting for a number of reasons. IT goes without saying that the blues could have done without losing their first and second choice keepers for their biggest game of the season so far. No matter, Chelsea will have to get on with it and hope that third choice keeper Hilario doesn't give tomorrow's headline writers the opportunity of an open goal with a poor or error ridden performance.

    You can understand Jose Mourinho being a tad upset about the situation, it would have been bad enough having to face Barca at full strength, because so far in the clashes between these two sides, in boxing parlance Chelsea have yet to lay a glove on Barca.

    Up and until this season Chelsea's squad have looked pretty much invincible apart from in the FA cup and especially in Europe where Liverpool have managed to knock them out and last season it was Barcelona who did the damage.

    Following the defeat by Barcelona there was undoubtedly a period of reflection and introspection at the West London club. The feeling was that perhaps Chelsea needed to add yet more quality to the squad, step forward Roman Abramovich - the man who has made it all possible and enter Michael Ballack and Andrei Shevchenko. So what impact have the two big name arrivals had so far and have Chelsea's chances of beating Barca this season improved?

    So far this season it's fair to say Sheva hasn't quite been the real deal, but he will deliver and you'd back him in any big game to take his chances, the same can be said of Ballack really.

    As for Chelsea's overall team play, this season they've relied on Drogba up front, a player that I rate very highly. Drogba hasn't exactly been written off by the British tabloid journalists (I'm being polite today) but much has been made or Chelsea 'needing a top striker'.. since the arrival of Sheva and Drogba's brilliant form, we haven't heard that line. The revisionist views on the Ivory Coast striker will no doubt be trotted out as the season goes on, as ever 'there's none so blind as those who cannot see'.

    Chelsea have some class players of that there's no doubt, and Joe Cole is in my opinion is the most improved player within the British Isles. The blues really missed Cole early doors this season when he was injured, he's back now and could make a big difference when fully fit. One player who is out and missing for Barcelona is Samuel Eto'o, the Catalan club will badly miss him and it will even things up as Barca will have to rely even more on the brilliance of Ronaldinho and Messi.

    All in all Chelsea haven't quite found their rhythm yet and I seriously doubt they'd have wanted to meet Barca at this stage of the Champions League - the two results will be very important in the minds of the both sets of players and managers. If Chelsea lose both legs it could have an adverse affect on their whole season. Win both and it could well work the other way around. Both will qualify for the knockout stages come what may, but whoever comes out on top over both legs matters psychologically, as Fergie would say, 'there's no doubt about that'...

    Instead of the usual psychological pre-match mind games with his opposite number at Barca, Jose has spent the whole week talking about events at Reading. While I can understand him being upset, you do wonder if he didn't want to talk too much about last season and Barcelona, because in a bizarre and unfortunate way the spotlight has been off purely footballing matters with concerns over Cech and Cudicini.

    As far as other British interests go in the CL go. Liverpool take on Bordeaux and are well capable of grinding out a result. Arsenal lost last night but will qualify as will Celtic and United. Looking good.

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Danish sizzle fizzles out as Reds win 3-0..

    United made it three Champions league wins out of three with a 3-0 win over FC Copenhagen tonight. United were always in control of this game and should have gone ahead in the opening minute, but Saha missed a sitter after good work by Rooney, who was United's skipper on the night.

    The reds made a few clear cut chances but none were taken, but as the half progressed so did the Dane's confidence as the visitors had a few shots on target. Then five minutes before the interval, Scholes got on the end of a good United move and crashed home his shot past Christiansen, who was the best player on the park until that point having denied Scholes and Saha on two occasions.

    Straight after the break United made it 2-0 courtesy a very lucky goal by John O'Pie aka John O'Shea, the Irishman missed the ball with his first attempt, but luckily the ball hit his standing leg and went it. From then on the contest was effectively over and Fergie sent on a few substitutes to give them much needed games.

    Alan Smith replaced Scholes and it was long before the blunt Yorkshireman was throwing this weight around. Smith was presented with a golden chance to score after St Ole gifted him an open goal, but alas the former Leeds man put his effort horribly wide of the post.

    Another 'nearly man' Richardson came on and within minutes of doing so secured the points with a long range effort that Christiansen should have perhaps kept out, alas the ball crept over the line after the stopper failed to block what was admittedly a swerving shot.

    The game was quite enjoyable because unlike many European games it wasn't tight in midfield, it was never a snoozefest as these occasions so often are. Copenhagen brought over 3,000 fans to this game, that's the biggest travelling contingent they've ever taken to an away game, they certainly enjoyed themselves judging by their singing which never abated. Another club who share the same sponsor in Carlsberg face United on Sunday when Liverpool are the visitors. It's doubtful in the extreme events will be so cordial on or off the pitch.

    Rats leaving sinking ship?...

    Well, well, well, two non executive directors both quit United on the same day. I smell a rat.

    I refer to Nick Humby and Andy Anson, both men have supposedly been doing good work at United. Nick Humby (finance director) was responsible for delivering the stadium expansion on time, and Andy Hanson supposedly was key to the latest shirt deal.

    People don't quit United unless there's a jolly good reason. One is left to assume all is not well behind the scenes. Many fans have long believed that the Glazers financial plan would fall apart. How significant this double exit will be, time will tell.

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Chelsea keeper crisis - let's not get carried away...

    First off, no one wants to see injuries of the like we saw at Reading at the weekend, but Cech and Cudicini were victims of clumsy challenges, both were accidents as replays have clearly shown.

    Since then some fans and some in the media have been asking for greater protection. The fact is goalkeepers have never been so well protected.

    In the 1957 FA cup final, United lost their keeper Ray Wood after Aston Villa's McParland crunched him causing him to fracture his cheek-bone.

    A year later in the '58 cup final Bolton's Nat Lofthouse fouled United's Harry Gregg bundling him and the ball into the net, it was one of the biggest football injustices of all time - but the goal stood.

    Things needed to improve and they have done. Keepers these days are something of a protected species. Let's keep things in perspective, we don't need any more protection for keepers.

    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    BBC 606 site flooded with complaints...

    The BBC has recently relaunched its 606 website and has mounted a publicity campaign about the re-launch. Sadly in the eyes of many users, the site leaves an awful lot be desired and 606 is getting flooded with complaints about the relaunch.

    Chris Russell of BBC Sport Interactive development is the man responsible for the site, but he's ignoring many of the complaints and is trying to give the impression that the new site has been a success. It is not a success, so far it has been an unmitigated disaster. Watch this space for further developments.

    Guru and spin doctor hinder McClaren's position..

    So four days after the defeat in Croatia, McClaren's assistant Terry Venables talks to the News of The World and hints that the England manager needs to be more single minded and not to listen to those in the media (McClaren could start by ignoring the Venables column). This from his own assistant. Even if Venables has a point, wouldn't it have been better to have conveyed this message to his boss in private, rather than to the rest of the nation via the turgid NOTW?

    IT's not been a good few days for McClaren, losing to Croatia and drawing with Macedonia was bad enough, then on Friday, Max Clifford (media spin doctor) announced he was no longer assisting McClaren because the FA were doing the job of handling the media for the England manager. Clifford also hinted that McClaren was too easily led and influenced by others saying "......he (McClaren) is not making his own mind up any more, people are making up his mind for him".

    Clifford clearly has issues with the FA and anyone can understand his position, because as he rightly points out, previous England managers have suffered badly at the hands of the British press.

    Personally, I think Venables comments have been very unhelpful and McClaren could have done without Clifford's suggestion that his mind is being made up by others.

    Results will dictate McClaren's length of term in office, to achieve that he will need real assistance. Ill advised soundbytes given to the many Witchfinder Generals among Her Majesty's gentlemen of the press, don't help the situation, it's like throwing petrol onto the fire instead of cold water.

    Never short of a target when there's a media witch-hunt.

    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    Reds fightback to win after Baines blockbuster..

    United fought back to win 3-1 away Wigan in the Saturday lunch time fixture today. The game started badly for the reds as United were rocked on their heels on only 5 minutes after Leighton Baines pile-drived home an unstoppable shot from a free-kick from just outside the United penalty area.

    A blast from history, Leighton Baines was on target today (left) and Leighton James of Burnley and Wales circa 1970. Both graced the left wing, but can / could hit a ball.

    But United fought back strongly and at one point had 73% of the possession without being able to unlock the door. Rooney came closest after beating his man and then crashing his shot against the bar. The referee was having a very mixed game, he wrongly booked Rio Ferdinand and then John O'Shea, when replays showed neither was deserved, but Steve Bennett is one of the worst refs in the game, so it came as no surprise.

    At half time Fergie sent on the flying Welshman Ryan Giggs and his introduction saw United switching back to a more familiar and comfortable looking 4-4-2 with Rooney coming in from the left to support Saha.

    United started to click and ironically it was Rooney who was supplying the killer balls from wide left. First he found Saha with a superb flick of the right boot. Saha took the ball beat his man and only had the keeper to beat but somehow pulled his shot wide. You got the feeling it might not be United's day. But then United were awarded a corner and Vidic powerfully headed home Giggs in-swinger from the right. IT was a superb header and it gave Kirkland no chance.

    United's second goal came from another great ball in from Rooney who found Saha, who somehow controlled the ball and scored with just two touches. Technically, it was a great piece of skill by the Frenchman. United had more chances to have won the game comprehensively and were denied what looked like a cast-iron penalty. The travelling red army weren't disappointed though as St. Ole hammered home the final nail in Wigan's coffin, following a backheel from Rooney. The Norwegian scored with a fine effort, after a defender attempted to hack him down on the edge of the box, Ole kept his footing and his composure to make it 3-1.

    Star man. Rooney - for never giving up and supplying all three goals.

    Poorest performance of the day. Steve Bennett - he gave his usual appalling standard of refereeing.

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Much Adu about size of pay packet?..

    So then, American teenager Freddie Adu, 'rated as one of the best talents on the planet' (so the story goes) has announced that he's in talks with two big clubs and Chelsea. "I am still talking to Chelsea and Manchester United, as well as Real Madrid," Adu is quoted in the Daily Star. "I am looking forward to getting my opportunity with the team that offers me the best deal". "Hopefully it will happen next year."

    This is only my opinion, but I think someone should tell Adu that he's sounding like a football mercenary at the tender age of 17. It's bad enough when one of these so called stars performs the 'badge kissing act' for his new club, then does it again when he moves on to the next club a season or so later, but to announce to the world that you will move to the club who offers you the biggest pay day is no news at all. Some things are best left unsaid, this is one of them. Freddie, we didnt need to know this.

    Next Freddie will be telling us 'it was always my dream to play for x'.

    What did football fans do prior to the Internet?

    I've often wondered what football fans did before the arrival of the Internet, because these days many football fans use the net to curse about their favourite club who may have just lost an important match, courtesy of the players or the manager under performing - it's usually both.

    There's rarely a shortage of targets in these situations. There is of course good times too, but the good times don't seem to generate as much depth of feeling over the net on such matters. For some reason, the internet brings out the worst in many football fans.

    There is alternatives to the internet, as you can, if you so wish, make a complete fool of yourself on radio phone-in's like BBC 606. Then there's newspapers, but no one actually writes to the sports editor using ye olde pen and paper any more. We write in via email and so it goes.

    In the olden days before the digital revolution, if you wanted to swear and curse at someone until you turned blue in face without fear of getting arrested, there was only one place to go - a live football match! Remember them?

    I'm not sure that the Internet has made better citizens out of us, it has changed the world we live in for sure. But there's been a price to pay, we have a nation of bedroom generals who are ready to pick a fight with almost anyone, providing there's no danger of it really happenging of course. Mr Hyde of 'Jekyll and Hyde' fame would no doubt meet his match on many a football forum.

    I'll just knock back this pint of Stella and then I'll sort out that b*stard **** *** *** via my PC

    Why was David Healy never given a chance at United?

    The day after I posted that United should retain the services of Johnny Evans at all costs, comes the news that former United striker and Northern Ireland team-mate David Healy has had a four million pound price tag slappped upon his head, by Leeds United.

    Healy was never given a half decent chance by Fergie. Why? I've never understood that one personally. I'd like Lord Stevens or whoever to investigate that, not that I'm suggesting there was anything dodgy about it, I'd just like to know why a kid with talent wasn't given a fair crack at the first team.

    The worry is this summer United have been loaning out many youngsters, possibly with a view to selling them - and almost certainly to save on the clubs wage bill as decreed by the Glazer clan?

    A prime example is Rossi. Even though United have problems up front, and Fergie hinted Rossi would stay if United didn't sign a replacement for RVN, Rossi went on loan to Newcastle and the club didn't replace RVN.

    Fergie hasn't made that many mistakes with youngsters, with the exception of possibly Healy. Let us hope he doesn't do it again with Rossi and Evans et al.

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Why United must hang on to Johnny Evans...

    I noticed that Roy Keane is being linked to United's brilliant young Northern Ireland defender Johnny Evans. IT will in my opinion be one of the biggest mistakes in United's recent transfer history if he's sold, and by god there's been some almighty big dropped bollocks.

    Evans looks to be the real deal, he is potentially as good as John Terry, he looks like a leader and an organiser. He must stay at United at all costs.

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Does anyone really give a toss about England?

    Ok, cards on the table. I really don't care if England win or lose tonight against Croatia. This isn't a new thing, I didn't much care back in 1970 for the World Cup in Mexico. Reason? I've always been a fan of attacking / exciting football. Brazil used to 'light my fire' and Argentina in 1978 were good. More recently both teams have been something of a dissapointment, Brazil appear to have forgotten about their attacking traditions and they hugely under performed during the World Cup.

    As for European teams, Holland were about the best I've seen back in Johan Cruyff's days, and course Germany have always played a pragmatic sort of game. Excitement isn't a word many would associate with Germany.

    The Italian's are ok if you like tactics. However, I still haven't forgiven them for the cynical side to their game which was so much in evidence during the 70s.

    Sartorial elegance personified - if the cap fits wear it - the BCA's headgear of choice.

    So back to tonight. What can we expect? For starters, a studio full of 'experts' sat on the sofa telling us all what the England manager should do, or not do, as the case may be. IF it's a dull as dishwater, there's always the hope that the BCA (Burberry Clad Arseholes) will provide some entertainment on the terraces.

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    McClaren "The gloves are off"....

    According to the press 'the gloves are off' following that hugely disappointing 0-0 draw with Macdedonia on Saturday. However, as I predicted members of her majesty's press went on to tell readers that everything will be ok 'because Terry Venables is assisting the England manager'....

    However, as I have previously alluded to on this blog, Venables never hangs around long enough for anyone to judge how good a coach he really is, and to that end it was interesting to read over the weekend that he's turned down the offer a four year contract with England. Reason? Because he wants to see 'how things go with McClaren'. More likely, could it be the case that if things aren't going well for England Venables will once again jump ship before he gets pushed?

    Here's a competition. Which one of these two will be labelled as a donkey in the not too distant future by her majesty's gentlemen of the press?

    Here's a clue, they both look like laughing mules, but it's the one with only two legs.

    Saturday, October 07, 2006

    Beckham linked to US clubs, good or bad move?

    Soccer USA style, at the Lincoln Financial Field 2002

    According to the Sun newspaper David Beckham could move to either LA Galaxy or the New York Red Bulls next season. There's no doubting from Beckham's perspective the timing is perfect. Despite assurances that he's still part of Cappello's plans, he's been on the bench for Real Madrid recently and he's been axed by England boss Steve McClaren, so he's in need of a career boost.

    Moving to the US would also open up new commercial opportunities for 'brand Beckham'. His wife Posh has her own designer clothing label and the Beckham's would love the added media exposure that they'd receive in the US. What's more the spotlight might not be quite as bad as it can be in Madrid and elswhere in Europe's bigger cities with the Papparratzi always on the case.

    The question is, would Major League Soccer benefit from Beckham coming to the USA? I think back to Pele joining New York Cosmos after leaving Santos in 1975 and a year later George Best joined LA Aztecs, along with Bobby Moore who played for San Atonio Thunder and later Seattle Sounders, while 'Der Kaiser' AKA Franz Beckenbauer also played for New York Cosmos and 'Der Bomber' Gerd Muller plied his trade at Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

    Some observers look back and say that it was the wrong thing to do for US soccer, because at the time the US game needed building from the grass roots up and bringing in this circus of world stars wasn't the right way forward. Maybe now the time is right for Beckham. I went on Manchester United's tour of the USA in 2002 and I was quite impressed by the numbers who'd turned out, they weren't all expats by a long way, the game looked to be increasing in popularity. It would be great if the USA could really take to soccer/football and if Beckham can make that happen, then let it be.

    There is a chance Beckham could return to Manchester United, there's talk that Fergie might quit this summer, which could open the door for a United return - which would also be hugely popular with David Beckham, if not Posh.

    Friday, October 06, 2006

    Terry Venables the monkey on McClaren's back?

    Let the guessing games begin..

    When it was announced that Terry Venables was to assist Steve McClaren, I really didn't know what to make of it. The thing is, Venables has always come across as a bit of a wide boy, and his managerial record isn't that great. He's never stayed anywhere long enough to really make himself stand out in the way that great coaches have done down the years, I'm thinking of Busby, Shankly, Clough, Stein and Ferguson. Venables isn't in that class of manager. So why do British journalists rave about him so much? I don't honestly know the answer to that. But they recently reported that during an England training session it looked like TV was the England manager in waiting.

    And another thing, at the press conference where TV was unveiled, he said that his lordship and SM would work as a team and that he'd give 'hints' about this and that and then it's up to SM 'to work it out'. IT was along those lines at any rate. IT was as if he was going to give McClaren some clues about what action was needed - hardly the type of advice you'd expect from a much valued assistant. The last thing you need in the heat of a battle or in the pre-match tactical think-tank, is a game of Cluedo with your assistant...

    England are of course going to adopt this much talked about 3-5-2 formation, of which much has been made by the press on the run-up this weekends game. Now the thing is, who will take credit if all goes well?... I suspect it will be TV, but let us not forget McClaren has deployed this formation with some success while at Boro, they beat Man Utd 4-2 not so long ago at the Riverside playing 3-5-2.

    It remains to been seen what the future holds for Steven McClaren. No doubt the press will see him off in time honoured fashion, it will be death by several thousand poisoned words as opposed to being bludgeoned over the head in the library with a solid silver candlestick. TV will live to fight another day though, of that I'm sure....

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    National Poets Day: An ode to Sir Alex Ferguson..

    Alex Ferguson was his name,
    ship building and toolmaking was his game.

    From the tough streets of Govan in Clydeside,
    did the Ferguson family clan reside.

    Cathy was his first love and the apple of his eye,
    but he also loved his football, och aye.

    His first professional club was Queens Park,
    who played at mighty Hampden Park.

    St Johnstone was his next destination,
    he signed as an amateur, such was his desperation.

    What followed next was the blood rush of adrenaline,
    with a hat full of goals for the club Dunfermline.

    Back to Hampden this time with the old firm,
    playing for Rangers was his next star turn.

    As night follows day, down follows up,
    he played for Falkirk he was down on his luck.

    It all ended at Ayr United,
    after 432 games and 222 goals his playing days ended.

    East Stirlingshire of Firs Park,
    is where he started in the management lark.

    Then it was St Mirren of Love Street,
    where he next wet his feet.

    Next stop Pittodorie and Aberdeen,
    where he built his all conquering Scottish red machine.

    Finally to Manchester and the kingdom of heaven,
    where the fans loved Fergie and the gods wear seven.

    The treble of 1999 will live long in the memory of men,
    they do still say it'll never be done again.

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    BBC 606 moderators = monkeys and peanuts?

    Oh dear. At the last count the number was 384 who'd signed the online petition complaining about the BBC 5 Live's new message board... So what is the problem?

    The BBC have apparently decided to close down the old style message boards, I guess this was because of potential legal issues arising, stemming from fans posting libellous material on the board.

    606 scrapped the existing boards and launched a new site format where members can post articles on football related issues. Nothing wrong with that really. Well actually, there is something very wrong it. As is often the case when you have a moderator approving posts, as with the revamped 606 site. The moderator can make or break the site. In this instance, whoever is doing the job is in the opinion of many doing a very bad job.

    The moderator has to know when something is ok and when it isn't. In September I came across this issue and I have posted about it on this blog (see September archive). In my case, the moderator removed something from a post that should never have been touched. Which was later confirmed by bosses of the 606 site Sportstalk and the offending item was eventually re-instated.

    I complained bitterly to Sportstalk, and I have no doubt this led to me being black-balled by the 606 moderating team, and as a result none of my articles appeared on the main site despite being given the highest accolade of 'manager's pick' and completing my profile as requested.

    I have been told by staff at Sportstalk, that moderating is done by an outside source. Is this another case of paying peanuts and attracting monkey's? There's no doubt about the monkey's in my experience, the peanuts are the only remaining question.

    Tuesday, October 03, 2006

    The Alan Green log..

    I've decided to keep a log on BBC 606s 5-live commentator Alan Green. Reason being? He's likes to have a pop at United, and truth be known, he doesn't like United at all, that much is blatantly clear. He's a Liverpool fan too isn't he?

    For starters we shall roll back the log clock to United's recent draw with Reading. Following the game he said of United fans "you lot are fickle, you really are"..

    This weekend just gone, Alan had a go at the facilities in the Old Trafford Press box, he was complaining because there's no tv replay facility, which I can understand to be honest.

    He then had a go at the South Stand regulars complaining that 'these United fans never watch the game, they just stare at the opposition fans all the way through the game'...he also had a go at United's attendance figures stating that they didn't matter.

    In fairness even Fergie has had a got at the Old Trafford support recently. I never thought I'd ever be lumping him in with Al though. Watch this space for more updates.

    There's none so blind as those who cannot see...

    What is it with some of our so called 'experts' that they cannot see quality when it's smacking them in the face?

    I'm referring to Drogba and Cristiano Ronaldo. Drogba has been the subject of intense scrutiny ever since he arrived in West London, and quite right too given the fee. But I've never understood how people like Andy Gray and even some Chelsea fans cannot see what a great player Drogba is. I'm not referring to just this season, because he's impressed me more or less every time I've seen him play.

    Jose Mourinho doesn't often make mistakes where it concerns big players, and make no mistake for Jose, Drogba is a very big player. The 'experts' told us 'all that Chelsea needed was a goal scorer'.... enter Shevchenko - only to be outscored by the big man from the Ivory Coast, the Ukrainian star has been largely in his shadow.

    And what about Cristiano Ronaldo, even some United fans wanted him out this summer, following the media witch-hunt. What do they think now following his performances this season? Some United fans are never happy.

    It remains to be seen what lies ahead for both players. Many in the media are taking the revisionist view, praising both stars, while at the time trying to justify these revised opinions... Drogba has been called a cheat for diving and rolling around on the deck, 'doesn't Johnny foreigner know we don't do it like that over here?'..

    Drogba has a long way to go to catch up with 'Lee Won Pen' (AKA Francis Lee - king of the bog rolls) formerly of Manchester City. In '71/'72 Lee scored a record 15 penalties, most them earned by himself!

    IT's a pity the fans cannot pass judgement on the hacks. No need for revisionism here, most of them haven't got a clue!

    Monday, October 02, 2006

    No close shave for Rooney...

    Forget Robin Van Persie's brilliant volleyed goal against Charlton. Forget Didier Zakora's match winning dive at White Hart Lane against Pompey. The main talking point of the Premiership weekend was the eventual likely length of Wayne Rooney's beard. Rooney has apparently stated he won't shave it off until he scores a goal.

    While chances around the goal-mouth are few and far between at present, surely Rooney's sharp suited advisers will be quick to try and exploit any new advertising opportunities and product endorsements that present themselves to the England striker, courtesy of his new growth.

    George Best was football's first superstar and the first to endorse commercial products in a big way, he was also uniquely loved in equal measure by women for his looks and by men for his football skills.

    David Beckham is probably the nearest thing we've seen since Best. Brand Beckham is of course worth an absolute fortune. David Beckham has even gone a step further in the loving stakes, the former England captain is loved by women for his looks and admired by men for his footballing skills, but he's also something of a gay icon.

    Rooney is different, he's a man's man, you would never see Wayne poncing around in a Sarong.

    The former Everton star was recently described by one newspaper columnist as 'the last of the back-street footballer's'.

    I'm not quite sure why he's going to be the last working-class lad to make it to the top of the English game. British sport has been built on the back of working class sporting heroes, both in the flesh and in fiction.

    IF you were looking for inspiration to create a new comic book hero, Rooney would be perfect. He reminds me of Alf Tupper of 'Alf Tupper - the tough of the Track' fame, the comic book hero who appeared in both the 'Victor' and 'Rover' in the 60s. Tupper for those who don't know, Alf, was as 'hard as nails' and a working class lad, he was a welder by trade who lived on a diet of fish and chips and on occasion even slept in a tin bath. At weekends Alf the athlete wiped the floor with fellow competitors on the running track leaving others in his wake.

    As far as the silver screen goes, the late Richard Harris played the part of a gritty northern working class hero in the 1963 film 'This Sporting Life', and to lesser acclaim as did Sean Bean in the football film 'When Saturday Comes'. You can imagine someone making a similar film about Rooney one day.

    For now, product endorsements will no doubt be sought. Rooney might never be the new face of Hugo Boss, but how about the new face of 'Captain Bird's Eye'? There's bound to be a sponsored shave-off, with the proceeds going to Rooney's favourite charity. Obviously, we cannot rule out a big deal with Gillete Razor's too.

    Last weekend was like the rest of his season so far, with no close shaves on or off the pitch. United fans will be hoping the goal comes soon, certainly before any potential promotional link-ups with ZZ TOP are mooted.

    Sunday, October 01, 2006

    A brace for St. Ole sees off the Geordies...

    Goals either side of half-time by St. Ole (aka Gunnar Solskjaer) at Old Trafford today saw off the 'Geordies' as United of Manchester beat United of Newcastle by two goals to nil.

    It was a proverbial 'walk in the park'. Pat Nevin, the former Scottish International star said " was one of the easiest Premiership wins that I've ever seen, and the thing is, Manchester United didn't have to play that well". Oh dear.

    IF this game had finished up five or six nil, it would have reflected how much of the game and chances the home side had. Ronaldo hit the workwork three times and once again the Portuguese winger was United's best player. A good job he wasn't allowed to move to another club in the summer then.

    The most worrying news for United fans was that Heinze had to leave the field injured with what looked like a serious hamstring injury.

    Elsewhere, West Ham lost 0-1 at home to Reading, courtesy of an early goal by Seol Ki-Hyeon.

    Much to the relief of Martin Jol the Tottenham manager, Spurs won 2-1 at home to Portsmouth, by virtue of a controversial penalty award, which was converted by Defoe. That was after Murphy had given Spurs a lead on two minutes, but Pompey came back through Kanu on the half hour.

    Blackburn had to come from behind at home to Wigan, who took the lead on two minutes through Emile Heskey. The visitors took the game to Blackburn and had the better of the exchanges during the first half, but former Arsenal star Bentley scored an excellent goal deep in first half injury time to take the teams into the break on level terms. Benny McCarthy wrapped up the points late in the game with a tap-in following a goalkeeping error my Chris Kirkland.