Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Neanderthal Man Spotted At Hotel Near Watford

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Tweeted by Twop Tips yesterday a thoughtful and intelligent comment on the England captaincy farce: ‘JOHN TERRY. Don’t be so modest. You don’t divide opinion – everyone thinks you’re a c*nt. /via @EatMyStoke

As has been said by various commentators with apparently far more upstairs than the man himself, if the England captaincy means so much to someone then, almost by definition, that person is psychologically unsuitable for the job. Captain of a football team is a fairly ceremonial and symbolic function in any case — it’s not like cricket or even rugby. The captain gets to toss up and, sometimes, gets an extra word from the referee and, er, that’s about it in terms of the game.
Outside the actual game it’s all about ego — leading the team out of the tunnel and lifting any trophy first. This seems to be what Terry wants and, despite his denials in the press conference yesterday, the image rights associated with photos of lifting a big trophy must not be sneezed at. Even so, Rio Ferdinand probably has more chance of lifting silverware this season than Terry — despite his long-term injury.
It’s a classic case of putting the cart before the horse — fantasising about holding up the World Cup like an eight-year-old might while not appreciating the talent and work required to achieve that goal. It’s extremely debatable whether Terry will continue to be an effective selection for England up to the next European championship. He’s ageing and slow and needs a mobile partner at club level (fortunately for him Chelsea have found Luiz) to compensate for his inadequacies. Like previous ego-merchant, Beckham, before him Terry’s best chance of keeping his place in the squad is holding the captaincy — not that he appears to have the humility to realise this.
His comments at the press conference yesterday seem to have been exaggerated a little on the back pages but they still reek of bone-headed, arrogant bullying  — something which seems to complement Capello’s management style. According to Henry Winter in today’s Daily Telegraph:

Having gathered his players far from the TV cameras, Capello announced: “John will be permanentnt captain again. He’s done well on and off the field over the last year. Anyone got any questions or things to say?” Silence. Terry said. “Anyone… who [has] something to say, I’d feel they should have the confidence to say what they feel. I would respect people if they came to me and we dealt with it one on one.”’

So Terry expects players to come up to him one-on-one and tell him he shouldn’t be captain? What is that going to achieve for anyone? This pathetic example of ‘open’ management is typical of weak-minded, cowardly inadequate middle-managers in all kinds of jobs — make a decision without any consultation, present it as a fait-accompli and then challenge anyone to complain about it, knowing full well that since the decision won’t be changed then all that will be achieved is isolating any dissenters. Why not consult in the process of making a decision?

José Mourinho, with typical mischief, has apparently suggested England are blessed with many potential captains — Rio Ferdinand and, er, others. Look at some of the other potential candidates — Rooney (who has just as much commitment and courage as Terry and an infinitesimally better player but who’d be slaughtered by the media), Cashley Cole (the most hated man in the tabloid press), Glen ‘Toilet Seat’ Johnson, Wickle Feo Walcott?

I didn’t see the point in removing the captaincy from Terry in the first place unless there was something more to the story of him shagging a player’s ex-girlfriend than was commonly reported — as far as I’m aware she (who can remember the woman’s name now?) had finished her relationship with Wayne Bridge before taking up with Terry. Of course Terry was exposed as an adulterer, which would seem to undermine all his claim to the supposed heroic qualities of an England captain even though his wife ‘forgave him’ but it was the connection with the team-mate which seemed to cause the furore that led to his loss of the armband.

At least Rio Ferdinand, a prolific Tweeter, has had the dignity not to whinge about Capello’s disrespectful behaviour in public, although he can hardly be surprised that someone else is going to get the captaincy in the interim due to his appalling injury record. He may well get the last laugh anyway as Terry has to become the face of the players sitting in press conferences like a nodding dog to justify more of this joke of a manager’s terrible decisions in the future.

A Modern Caravaggio?

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

I found this amazing photo on the MSNBC photoblog site (the image is a link through to the site) of last night’s brawl in the San Siro started by AC Milan’s Rino Gattuso. It looks like a modern day Caravaggio painting that you could imagine hanging in the National Gallery.

Gattuso vs Joe Jordan

Gattuso vs Joe Jordan -- via MSNBC

There was something quite remarkable about the incident, mainly because it involved Joe Jordan. Ironically Jordan played himself for AC Milan for two years in the early 80s after he’d left Man Utd. Before which he’d been a member of the notorious Leeds United side of the 1970s and, as expected for that team, was the sort of Scottish centre-forward who looked as if he’d been carved out of granite. But the most notorious thing about Joe Jordan — that anyone who followed football in the seventies would remember was his missing front teeth (knocked out in an early Leeds United match) which made him look like the most intimidating player ever seen on a football pitch — looking less like a human in the photo below than some sort of werewolf from hell.

Joe Jordan minus teeth

Joe Jordan minus teeth (via Telegraph website)

This is the sort of collective memory from an era well over 30 years ago that seems (to paraphrase Laurie Lee) to be almost from another country — the sort of childhood recollection that makes a TV series like ‘Life on Mars’  so popular. Joe Jordan, or at least his image, is forever a peculiar sort of icon for a huge portion of the population — an icon of looking hard — and now he’s sixty and wears glasses (although he took them off ready at the end) we all feel outraged that a mouthy, theatrical primadonna like Gattuso dares to assault that memory.

Ray Wilkins, who will have played with Jordan at Man Utd, was outraged during the commentary and in the post-match discussion Graeme Souness, a player himself with a reputation for being one of the ‘hardest’ midfield players and a Scotland contemporary of Jordan, looked as if he wanted to get into the Milan dressing room to sort Gatusso out himself, although he speculated that Jordan would have been able to so that on his own in five minutes.

The whole Sky end-of-match summary had something of generational respect to it as Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, surely the least cosmopolitan of Premiership managers, turned up on the panel with his son Jamie and they looked at the replays of the shocking Flamini (given almost surreal spice due to his Arsenal past) tackle as well as Gattuso’s raging bull act — it was almost like being in their living room as they bridled against a family insult. (Click here quickly to read a less-than-flattering Wikipedia summary of Flamini’s career before it is changed.)

Even eighteen hours after the game, Gattuso and Jordan are still trending on Twitter in the UK, such is the amazing interest in the incident, which perhaps shows underlying codes of human behaviour that are still almost primeval. Looking at some of the tweets randomly after the game there were probably more women than men who wanted Jordan to have nutted Gattuso back. Hayley McQueen (who, despite looking very much her part as a Sky Sports News female presenter is a good source of sports news on Twitter) mentioned about how her dad (Gordon McQueen — also ex-Leeds, Man Utd and Scotland) and her ‘Uncle Joe’ used to scare the living daylights out of her prospective boyfriends and posted this amazing retro photograph of the two ‘out on the pull’. That wallpaper alone should have been enough to floor Gattuso.

The Nihilism of ABUs

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

One troubling facet of this country is represented by the legions of ABUs (Anything But United) whose motivation seems to be purely pessimistic, destructive and nihilistic. I can understand why supporters of another football club may dislike Manchester United but they seem absolutely the wrong club to be the recipients of blind, unquestioning, hateful negativity — although Alex Ferguson’s defensive truculence could invite dislike on a personal level.

Take the last two Premier League games — both have been described by commentators as classics (at least the second half of the Liverpool game). Against Everton both Fletcher and Berbatov scored goals that, as examples of fast-paced, one-touch football, were beautiful. Berbatov’s second goal against Liverpool was absolutely extraordinary. Most overhead kicks are opportunist attempts when a player can’t connect with the ball any other way but Berbatov’s was absolutely deliberate — he started with a perfect first touch, knocked the ball to the perfect height and dispatched it with incredible accuracy. Reina was rooted to the spot as he didn’t expect any sort of shot from a player with his back turned but the kick was so well placed he wouldn’t have saved it in any case.

I like Berbatov as, like Cantona, he gives the impression he isn’t really that interested in conforming to the expectations placed on footballers. He doesn’t run around like a screaming and putting in obvious displays of headless chicken shirt-kissing loyalty for ‘the fans’ — one pundit said he had invented football as a walking game and you imagine he might have a cigarette in his hand as he plays. As with Scholes, he doesn’t need the artifice — they produce a pieces of skill and vision that are at another level compared with everyone else and they shrug their shoulders and say ‘that’s what I do’.

Berbatov has a way to go before he can compare with Scholes who, sadly after he was scandalously wasted by England, is now becoming acknowledged as the best midfield player this country has produced. Some of the football that comes from the Ginger Prince’s boots is as awe inspiring as a great work of art — the 25 yard bullet against Fulham being one example. And all this is from a quiet, small, red-haired bloke who you’d hardly notice in the local pub.

I suppose the casual way that some United players produce flashes of genius might irritate some but that must be offset against the team’s astonishing capability to self-destruct — losing two farcical goals in injury time at Everton being one example. Almost as bad was gifting Liverpool a penalty and free-kick with two challenges that were almost comical in their clumsiness. United don’t need ABUs to detract from them — they’re very capable of doing it themselves.

Fortunately, against Liverpool United had enough time to show the quality which probably infuriates ABUs the most — their determination to keep going (something that is so ingrained that it’s shocking to watch performances when it has been lacking — such as the Champions League final in 2009 and the capitulation to Bayern Munich last season, although that was a great game). As Steve MacLaren once said, United never lose, they just run out of time.

This may also be a point that grates on the ABUs — an unwaveringly optimistic psychology. Alex Ferguson used to always maintain that United played better after Christmas. It’s beside the point whether this was actually true or not (it often wasn’t) but it maintained the belief that things would get better if you carried on trying.

It’s the kind of advice that’s often given to anyone aspiring to do something difficult — keep trying, perseverance is all. This advice is very difficult to disprove — if someone gives up they won’t achieve anything and a lack of success might be explained by the need to persevere more. For most football teams and people trying to demonstrate talent, an infinite amount of perseverance still probably won’t compensate for an innate lack of ability but it’s easier to attribute a lack of success to a failure of determination. Perhaps this is what’s at the root of ABUism — the frustration and emptiness that comes from a defeated realisation that they — or their team — will never achieve their dreams no matter how hard they try.

Is It All A Big Lie?

Monday, August 30th, 2010

The controversy surrounding the allegations of match-fixing (well, not actually match fixing, more like no-ball fixing) in the test match between England and Pakistan strikes me as potentially more hypocritical and deceitful towards the sports spectating public than the alleged offences themselves.

The partisan nature of sport makes it ripe for corruption. Supporters are so desperate to will on their teams that they will celebrate the most unlikely and implausible of circumstances as elements of drama — the missed penalties, the ‘inexplicable’ refereeing decisions (which are very explicable if looked at from a more cynical perspective), peculiar substitutions and so on.

Commentators and pundits almost make their living by walking the line between applying the language and analysis of fiction to events and emphasising that these events are opposite of fiction — where you must NOT suspend your disbelief. For watching sport to make any sense you must believe it is true. How often do they say ‘That’s unbelievable’ or ‘I can’t believe he did that’ or ‘miraculous recovery’.

This is why the indignant self-righteousness of the sporting establishment towards any suspicion of lack of integrity in sport — match fixing, positive drugs tests and so on — is so nauseating in that it primarily serves to protect the sporting establishment’s self-interest. As I wrote in a piece after a diabolical refereeing display in the last world cup: ‘almost all football journalists [could be viewed as] part of a self-preserving conspiracy to maintain the illusion at all costs of results being determined solely by honest endeavour on the pitch.’

Their reaction is hysterically two-fold: firstly demand the most draconian treatment for those suddenly-discovered rotten apples who besmirch the reputation of the great game; secondly, deny that the corruption goes any deeper than the individuals whose misdeeds the newspapers are confident enough to report publicly. Basically it’s a case of hang those out to dry who got caught and pretend nothing else has happened.

A scenario that suggested that certain sports were riddled with corruption and cheating would not be welcomed by anyone who makes their living from sport and their reactions to such allegations need to be judged in this context.

In this case, it’s quite curious that it was the News of the World that broke the Pakistan cricketing story — as Sky Sports have paid a lot of money to broadcast the test that the NOTW brought into question. In a world where people cast aside their bigoted prejudices and self-interests one might expect journalists from the BBC or Guardian to be praising this piece of investigative journalism. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

World Cup Predictions

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Two and a half months after the end of the most forgettable football World Cup — only memorable points for me were really the Dutch violence in the final and Lampard’s goal-that-wasn’t — I looked up Charlie’s prediction for the draw against the final results.

I think I did as well as most pundits. I got Spain as finalists and I got five of the eight quarter finalists — and two exact matches. Bear in mind this was probably the most unusual World Cup to predict with not only England playing calamitously but also France and Italy and the performances of Uraguay, Germany and Paraguay also were unexpected.

I expected both Brazil are Argentina to progress to the semis (but not the finals) so I think that gives me one over on many of the pundits who, Spain apart, always bowed to the big two Latin American sides. So that explains why I had Holland and Germany falling at the quarters.

I still think that had the Lampard goal gone in then England would have won that game and the Argentinian side were poor (even with the much over-hyped Messi) so I think England would have gone out at the semis against Spain. So one adjust for my hopeful bias towards an England win then I effectively picked the winners. I reckon I did as well as most of the ex-pros and anticipated more of the shock results than they did.

Know-Nothing Idiots

Monday, June 28th, 2010

This could be applied to the England players as well but is more appropriate to all the idiotic pundits whose collective self-loathing of themselves and the country immediately emerges after the sort of disaster that England suffered yesterday.

People are queuing up on phone-ins and message boards to come out with garbage along the lines of England produces inherently technically poor players who are only motivated by money. Total bollocks. Admittedly, Capello committed professional suicide by selecting some poor (Johnson, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Milner, Upson), underconfident (Green, Carrick, Heskey) and unfit (Rooney, King) players — and in the case of Barry a combination of all of those. Capello also made some idiotic team selections and substitutions.

Nevertheless, players like Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, Cashley Cole, Lennon and Terry (and perhaps some others) are the among the best players in teams that include players who have shone in the World Cup. Brazil and Argentina contain players who are good but not head and shoulders above those they have played with in the Premier League — Heinze, Tevez, Gilberto Silva — and some who weren’t even good enough for Man City — Elano, Ronaldinho.

To say England as a whole lack technical ability is rubbish. Everything about the performance was psychological. The players were mentally weak — capitulating easily because, for some reason, they lacked any confidence. The defence was nervous and panicky, sat way too deep and the midfield dropped back accordingly — leaving the two up front isolated. There was no organisation or leadership on the field and certain players have to be held personally responsible — Gerrard’s performance looked like panic personified — he hit about three shots from long range in total alarm at having the ball anywhere near the goal.

And anyone who thinks the appointment of that referee — who has past form for exactly the same ‘errors’ — was just unfortunate chance is either totally naive or, like almost all football journalists, part of a self-preserving conspiracy to maintain the illusion at all costs of results being determined solely by honest endeavour on the pitch.

England v Germany

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Under an hour and a half away from England against Germany — yet again.

I watched the Slovenia match in the place where the rules of association football were drawn up — the Freemason’s Arms in Long Acre, Covent Garden. It seems a bit of a football venue anyway — about half a dozen screens all around the walls — sensibly high up to ensure everyone has a good view.

The place was heaving to the rafters with ‘laads’ — as packed as terracing used to be at real matches and the floor was like a beer lake by the end of the match.

I patriotically consumed Shepherd Neame Spitfire throughout the game — that would be rather appropriate for this afternoon’s fixture given the opposition.

I shall have to watch today’s match virtually sober as I need to drive into London to see who, IMHO, is the greatest cultural figure of the 20th century — bar no-one: Paul McCartney. Ordinarily this would be the highlight of the day — or week — and it’s been expensive enough to get the tickets. It’s in Hyde Park so I guess by turning up late and, unfortunately, missing Elvis Costello and Crowded House, I’ll see a tiny little figure several hundred yards away and I’ll no doubt be too far away to see the screens properly. Nevertheless, he’s 68 now and how long is he going to be able to keep this up for? Even if his voice isn’t what it was, it’s going to be a very rare experience to hear some of the greatest pieces of music ever written performed live by their composer.

But to the match — I’m rather annoyed with the USA that they scored in the last minute to prevent us from playing last night. Anyway, I thought England were pretty useless in the closing stages of the Slovenia match — once Rooney had gone off. However, they’ve defended pretty well. The only goal conceded has been the error from Green. I think the Germans will find it hard to score against us. We can’t play badly indefinitely and I think the occasion will bring the best out of Rooney (if fit), Gerrard, Terry and, who knows, perhaps even Fat Frank?

I’m going for 1-0 to England — scored in the first half by Rooney — and then a second half of the Dunkirk spirit. If it gets to penalties I’ll be listening in the car so that will be agony.

Rabbits in the Headlights

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Even the day afterwards, I’m stunned by the level of incompetence shown by England against Algeria. I’d watched the USA comeback against Slovenia and was encouraged that a win against Algeria and just a draw with Slovenia would ensure qualification provided Algeria could be beaten by two clear goals (more than they’d lost by to Slovenia).

I’d also thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the Hop Pole on Thursday night and watching the imploding France side being dismantled by Mexico. But England were even worse…

It’s difficult to think of a worse performance that I’ve seen by any team ever — even when non-league teams play Premiership teams in cup games or the champions of Andorra or Lichtenstein play in the qualifying stages of the Champions League.

For most of the match England could neither pass the ball nor retain it — countless times the Algerian players stepped in and dispossessed the likes of Heskey, Lennon, Lampard, Johnson and, worst of all, Rooney. There were also staggering displays of cowardice and loss of nerve — most particularly from Gerrard who a few times had the sort of opportunity that he regularly buries for Liverpool. Three of the team came from Liverpool — who’ve had their worst season in many years and lost a shocking number of matches. Surprisingly the right hand side of the defence was from Liverpool who conceded the third lowest number of goals last season and the left was from Chelsea, who shipped second least — Man Utd let in the lowest number which makes one wonder why Wes Brown was left behind. He couldn’t have been any worse than Carragher. Neither Carragher or Terry have any pace so they committed the classic England mistake of defending too deep and stretching the team. (How many offsides were there? Not many.) This leads to all sorts of sins, particularly defenders aimlessly hoofing the ball forward.

Barry played so deep as to be a sweeper so with Gerrard supposedly out left and Lennon isolated on the right we were left to Fat Frank to be the midfield — something that would be a challenge for him even in his Chelsea form. As it was, the game totally passed him by. He’s got to be dropped for the next match — accommodating this perpetual international level underachieved totally disrupts the team.

Rooney even said on television that he’d rather play as the only true forward and here was the proof he was right — Heskey was clueless — even popping up on the right wing at one point. Why? It’s typical of the media to try and build up Rooney as the villain of the piece for mouthing off about the fans. I tend to think fans should boo more, especially at England. They’re paying (a lot) to be entertained and the players should be reminded who pays for their over-lavish lifestyles — but at least Rooney was showing some frustration and anger. The likes of Fat Frank were just rabbits in the headlights. At least Gerrard admitted that England were crap.

Useless England Needed a Ginger Prince Not A Cauliflower King

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

So much for Capello instilling some purpose into England. After a qualifying campaign that saw them largely confident and purposeful they regressed into massive underachievement and paranoid nervousness last night.

I still can’t believe how bad some players were. The midfield was dreadful — Henry Winter has written in The Telegraph singing Gerrard’s praises but he must have filed his report after four minutes. Perhaps Gerrard was the best of a bad bunch and scored a good goal but hardly a hero. We also found again that Fat Frank Lampard seems to shrink to a point of insignificance when he put on an England shirt. It seemed like he was kicking that cauliflower around from the Tesco advert — or just maybe thinking he was in Tesco’s choosing a menu for Christine Bleakley. With two attacking wingers we needed two central midfield players who were both interested in the match and could be bothered to try and play together.

If there’s one sight that seems to suggest we’ll be lucky to even get to the quarter finals, it’s Jamie Carragher coming on to play in central defence, particularly as Johnson (the toilet seat hero) had such a brainless match — hoofing the ball aimlessly upfield in the second half. Seeing as Carragher was mainly cover for Johnson, we have the prospect of being stuck with both these lumps from a club whose defence was so poor they finished seventh in the league. Why didn’t Dawson or Upson come on instead? And Gary Neville or Wes Brown should have been in the squad. And Milner was a poor choice — you can’t haul every player off after they get booked so Capello must have realised he made a mistake. At least SWP had a go but if your midfield can’t supply the ball to the two wingers then it’s like playing with nine men.

At least Capello realised before the tournament that his midfield was lacking and it’s a shame he didn’t turn earlier to the best English midfield player of the last twenty five years — the Ginger Prince himself. At least he can pass the ball better than a cauliflower.

Official National Drinking Day?

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

If the police had been involved in scheduling the World Cup draw there’s no way they would have allowed England’s game on a Saturday to kick off at 7.30pm. They would have preferred it to be 7.30am (as would be the case with a World Cup in the Far East).

The next game is a Friday evening so most people won’t have been able to drink all day and the next one is 3pm on a Wednesday.

Should England win the group, we’ll have another all day drinking marathon as it will be 7.30pm on a Saturday again. Should they come second then it’s a 3pm Sunday kick off.

If we get to the quarter finals then drinking opportunities are lowered with either Friday evening or Saturday afternoon the options. The semis are mid-week evening kick offs so not much chance there.

Of course, should we get to the final — at 7.30pm on Sunday 11th July — that would be the cue for an Official National Drinking Weekend — the like of which has never been seen before.

Even if we don’t win the football World Cup this country is a world-beater in the drinking one.

Charlie’s World Cup Predictions

Friday, June 11th, 2010

I was looking for a World Cup interactive fixture diagram (one that calculates the tables and predicts the next round) but couldn’t find one on the BBC or a newspaper website. I eventually found this one on a betting website. It downloads a template into Word.

I hope it works ok up to the quarter finals then I think it goes wrong. I’ve had to modify my draw below. I’ve entered some predictive scores based on my best guesses with a bit of randomness thrown in. These are the teams I had going through from the groups.

Winners: France, Argentina, England, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Brazil, Spain (no real surprises there)

Runners Up: South Africa, Nigeria, USA, Serbia, Denmark, Slovakia, Portugal, Switzerland

This leads to the following second round matches: France v Nigeria; England v Serbia; Germany v USA; Argentina v South Africa; Netherlands v Slovakia; Brazil v Switzerland; Italy v Denmark; Spain v Portugal.

I then predicted the quarter finals: Argentina v Germany; Netherlands v Brazil; England v France; Italy v Spain. Some corkers there.

Being patriotic I backed England all the way so ended up with semis of : Brazil v Spain; Argentina v England.

This led to a final of England v Spain.

So before a goal has been scored that’s the way I’m calling it. I predicted the opening match 0-0 by the way.

Haggis and Kangaroo Crisps for Tickers?

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Seems like Walker’s Crisps have learned something from many microbreweries — give the same old product a new, gimmicky name and people will queue up to buy it for the novelty value.

For the World Cup Walker’s has introduced a national range of crisps based on World Cup qualifying nations (mostly!). They are listen on Wikipedia but also listed below:

  • England-Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding
  • America-Cheeseburger
  • Argentinean-Flame Grilled Streak
  • Australia-BBQ Kangaroo
  • Brazil-Salsa
  • Dutch-Edam Cheese
  • France-Garlic Bread
  • Germany-Bratwurst Sausage
  • Ireland-Stew
  • Italy-Spaghetti Bolognese
  • Japan-Teriyaki Chicken
  • Scotland-Haggis
  • South Africa-Sweet Chutney
  • Spain-Chicken Paella
  • Wales-Rarebit
  • While these flavours may be completely honed to resemble their inspiration dishes, there’s a certain similarity between various ingredients — a few cheese (Rarebit, Edam, the cheeseburger, etc,). Also the meaty flavours: English Roast beef, Flame-Grilled Steak, Spaghetti Bolognese, Haggis, Kangaroo and so on aren’t probably very different from each other.

    It reminds me of the microbreweries that produce a differently named brew every month which are so beloved of the CAMRA ticker tendency. Surely their beers are not that radically different from each other once around half a dozen styles have been covered. I’ve never understood why the novelty seekers are so easily taken in by a gimmicky name or pump clip design. If I drink a decent beer I’d like to be able to go out and find it again — not for it to disappear into the oblivion of a few tickers’ notebooks.

    It might be a good business opportunity for Walker’s to get the kind of multiple hand pump pubs beloved of tickers to stock the full range of these crisps — perhaps rotating them through the run up to the World Cup — and see if the beer lovers start ticking them off too.

    Talking of beer that’s worth seeking out again, ‘Trashy Blonde’ from Brewdog was on at ‘The Angel’ — a Wetherspoons opposite the eponymous tube station in Islington. I would have had a pint but I’d already ordered a ‘Dark Rider’ from Kelham Island — which was strong and rather nice so I had another pint.

    He Scores Goals

    Sunday, March 14th, 2010

    Sky Sports put together a 30 minute compilation of the 100 goals that Paul Scholes has scored in the Premiership — all, of course, for Manchester United. It was accompanied to a bit of music from the times — which go back to 1994 when he scored his first goal.

    While it’s been said that several other players have reached their century a little more quickly, I doubt whether any has done so with a higher ratio of spectacular shots. Around 20 per cent of the goals must have come from going-on for 30 yards from goal and all the long-range efforts (at least half the total, though I know I stand to be corrected on this) were hit with such a ferocity that it almost seemed impossible — more like a shot coming off a tennis racquet at speed. The quality was utterly compelling. The prize pieces were the volleys from outside the area including the famous one (against Bradford I think) direct from Beckham’s corner which might be one of the best goals ever, technically.

    Scholes is a model professional and has a totally refreshing contempt for spin and presentation — when he did an interview after his 100th goal it was fascinating to hear him speak. Another great thing about him is that while he’s supremely gifted at most footballing skills, there are some which he is pretty poor at, notably his tackling, but it doesn’t stop him trying. He’s the opposite of the saccharine, showbiz mediocrity who excels at nothing but presentation and having the rough edges removed. For that everyone should be thankful.

    The current Manchester United team possesses arguably the two best English players of the last 20 years when both the Ginger Price and the Big Man are in town.

    How To Clean Up Football

    Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

    In the ultimate expression of Blair’s victim culture (C)Ashley Cole is apparently now feeling ‘victimised’ after Chelsea have threatened to fine him a whole two weeks wages (a paltry £200k for him) for tarnishing the club’s image according to the Telegraph. Someone close to Cole seems to have responded by ‘linking’ Cole with Real Madrid and Barcelona — the implication being, as he revealed in his autobiography, that Chelsea ought to be grateful that he deigns to stay with them.

    He’s apparently upset that the club has supported Terry in his marital problems when he’s been fined. Terry appears to have got his wife’s backing (in public at least) whereas Cole can’t really be surprised that his high-profile spouse doesn’t particularly like being made to look a fool in public. He should also remember how he’s not exactly worked hard to cultivate respect from the public either — with his famously greedy reaction reported in his autobiography to being offered ‘only’ £55,000 a week by Arsenal.

    Apparently Abramovic is not too impressed with Cole’s effect on PR.

    Cole isn’t even particularly popular with Chelsea fans either. Most probably wouldn’t be sad to see the back of him. Maybe the the Premier League should consider how the wider reputation of footballers has been tarnished and fine clubs in this position with a points deduction. As it’s not a first offence for either Cole or Chelsea then a 6 points would be fairly reasonable.

    ‘Most Footballers Are Knobs’

    Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

    The immortal words of Joey Barton on this morning’s Today programme. It was guest edited by Tony Adams so every other item on the programme was about football or sport. Barton gave a long interview about his ‘troubles’ which was quite entertaining and he wasn’t quite as stupid and inarticulate as you might have thought, although he didn’t pull his punches about the immaturity of the personalities of his fellow professionals — explaining that they have often come from backgrounds of ‘nothing’.

    It’s surprising how many ex-professional players make lucid and intelligent summarisers and analysts (although you tend to think they usually pull their punches due to the old pros’ Omerta).  However, being a great player is no guarantee of intelligence as several high profile names have shown recently.

    I listened to the programme from about 7.45am onwards and it was surprisingly interesting — quite a bit about sportsmen and addition, as one might anticipate.