It's Up For Grabs Now
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Of course we're pleased for West Ham, and even more pleased for those journos finally able to do something with Martin Peters' phone number, but... a victory parade? For finishing sixth after being pre-season favourites and after a great deal of criticism during the season? Did both Sunderland and Wigan get parades?
Ronaldo's personal problems which will prevent him playing against Argentina next week seem to amount to not wanting to play in the Confederations Cup, which from this distance seems fair enough, although in Brazil we suppose the thought is one more tournament can't possibly matter in a calendar already overloaded with games. The picture caption, however, is hardly in the spirit it's intended, is it?
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Saturday, May 28, 2005
When top players go straight into lower division management it's often assumed, and often the case come to that, that they may have a lot of tactical know-how for top class playing but they don't get the still blood and thunder/mud and blunder style of the lower divisions, and so it was when Tony Adams was ejected out of Wycombe's hot seat having failed to make any headway after relegation. We all expected him then to go back to some sort of extended coaching course for a bit and maybe get more involved with Sporting Chance. What we didn't expect was firstly talks with Serie B clubs, and then the possibility of a job at Feyenoord, because with Ruud Gullit having just been fired they really need that kind of high profile player on their staff. We give it mid-July until the stories about him being Wenger's natural successor restart.
Friday, May 27, 2005
A thousand anti-Man Utd jokes wither and die on the vine as Liverpool enter the second World Club Championship
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Ah. Apparently it was a strangulated 'Vladimir' rather than "Bloomin' 'eck". Still, the image is implanted now.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Champions League Final on ITV - as it happened
19:03 "The time has come!" ITV's linkman finally tells us over an image of Stephen Gerrard in a suit. Don't feel so smug about this, ITV, you were doing special break bumpers for Celebrity Wrestling not so long ago. And how do we start? Rafa Benitez on the pitch with team-mates. Nice red tracksuit tops with grey work trousers, sirs. Gabby, in what looks like an army greatcoat presumably to hide her six month pregnancy, welcomes us to Istanbul with intercut images of belly dancers, minarets and action clips which are eventually superimposed onto buildings. Yes, we see. Even Sky's cartoons look like the height of sophistication now. Straight to pitchside for Gabriel sounding like he's trying too hard to be excited about Kewell's selection. "20,000 are officially here - it feels more like 30,000" he declares as Gabby is joined in the studio by, ooh, Steve McManaman. Scored in a final, see. Terry's going for the easy cliche option, declaring "we've not got two Italian teams, we've got one, but they might put a bit of a dampener on it", only to follow by reeling through Milan's attacking strengths. Macca knows Liverpool fans will be in full strength as he "spoke to lots and lots of them last night", wondering "if any of them will go home tomorrow" before looking away with a stupid grin. Gabby contradicts Gabriel's estimate with a declaration "30,000 are expected to be here tonight", and Matt looks like he's going to have most of them gathering behind him for his report ensuring he has to abandon his closing anecdote early. Still finds the elderly lady, though. A film reminds us of "antics on the line" and the like before closing on an overhead view of the trophy.
19:12 Ads. Wonder if Coca-Cola have had the chutzpah to buy up advertising space tonight with their Real Fans Are In The Lower Leagues message.
19:16 "They're singing that song again!" Well, they're singing about three, but Gabby starts talking again just as You'll Never Walk Alone becomes properly audible.
19:17 Fuck off, Keith Wilson!
19:19 Two minutes of lame doggerel later, Gabby seems to have been chuckling at least. Gabriel's got Rafa. "Why Harry Kewell?" "He's a good player." Macca reckons Kewell hasn't done well as "I think stories haven't come out in the press" - about his injury, that is. Gabby wonders if Gerrard needs an "iconic performance" while Macca lauds Jamie Carragher, who we're sure Gabby referred to as someone who "was a Liverpool player", for the reason that "you don't read about him in magazines". Mmm. The captions look oddly early 90s. Onto Milan, Tel describing Maldini as "handsome" to which Gabby, almost under duress, concedes he's "still looking pretty good". Tel sums it up as "if you snooze, you lose" before Gabby turns to more comforting matters, namely that "the sporting glitterati are in their finery tonight". Ned Boulting, a man never knowingly suited to finery, is out and about talking to Alan Kennedy, David Fairclough, Jurgen Klinsmann and, um, Amir Khan. Bolton splitter! Gabby goes into the ads with a Milan retrospective and a promise that we'll find out the "hopes and dreams" of Steven Gerrard. Blimey.
19:30 Would it surprise you to learn Football Guardian are being twats?
19:33 "I'm Steven Gerrard, Liverpool football captain, and this is the team to play AC Milan". It looks like he's delivering off a script while locked in a cellar and tied to a chair like a hostage film. This introduces action shots of the starting XI backed by Gerry Marsden giving it plenty mixed, or possibly played live, with the crowd. Gerrard is interviewed next from many angles, including more of him in that suit. "Will you have any last words?" inquires Gabriel. "Yeah. (long pause) But that's for me and the boys." "I'm nervous now" Macca finally declares over an opening ceremony we're only allowed to glimpse at, and then girls all in white running off in different directions. Destination Football indeed.
19:39 Still going. "It's getting pretty noisy out there", largely because there's loads of people banging drums and waving red and black flags. ITV choose this moment to show 1999 highlights, because Liverpool fans would want nothing less than Manchester United triumphalism. "If there's half the drama there was in Barcelona, we're in for a treat."
19:41 A year ago ITV were in real trouble having just sacked Ron Atkinson and having no obvious other first choice co-commentator on their books. They chose Andy Townsend and everyone assumed this was a temporary measure to tide them over for the last game of the season. A year on, he's still there. "I never dreamt it would take this long for another English club to make it this far" Clive admits, actually referring to Ron in remembering that game. "An emotional night for England's most emotional club" he declares, followed by "seriously, there must be twice that number" of Liverpool fans in the city. "The name has changed but the trophy remains the same" he reckons, citing "envious glances" from other powerhouses as he stops reverentially for the Champions League hymn. He'd never do that for the Premier League anthem.
19:46 Is it important to know the referee is an accountant? "Milan - we'll call them Milan, shall we, not Meeelan..." Clive chides, sounding like an eight year old, and with similar obsessions as he refers to shirt colour omens.
19:47 And we're off...
"Once upon a time there was always an English team in the final..." Clive immediately laments as Andy opens his account by suggesting Kaka might be a handful.
19:48 "And it's volleyed, and it's in!" Ah. Still, Paulo Maldini seems happy as Clive reels off an immediate fact about quick goals. "Nobody even believes he's going to end up pinging that one into the back of the net" Andy speculates. Clive does find a little filip - "a lot of people said it would be a dull and goalless final". Well, it could still be the former by all means. "You can have gameplans, you can have tactics... and then bang, something like that happens" Andy laments while Clive ponders "Carlo Ancelotti did say they could score in the first three minutes and change the Liverpool gameplan. I thought they were mind games". Yeah, cheers for that now. It's not open and shut just yet, though, as Riise volleys into a crowd of players and Clive declares "it was on its way, that". Prove it. At the other end Hyppia gets into a tangle at a corner, Clive reckoning he got it "fortunatuitously" clear. Well, that's easy for him to say. "He was trying to kick it north and it went south" is the eventual diagnosis. After eight and a half minutes he finally finds room to expand on the detail that this one was the second first minute goal in a European Cup final, stressing "there's never been a precise timing of that goal" just in case we've actually just seen history. Andy appears to call Maldini "the outboard for Milan", whatever that means, Clive settling for "a minor miracle". Just as Clive appears to be adopting the fall back position of Chelsea's Hernan Crespo Luis Garcia has to clear off the line. "If that was his first kick what a kick it was" Clive marvels, even though it was a header. "Why are Liverpool having trouble with set-pieces?" he rhetorically asks, referring back to zonal marking even though they're not really doing that. Clive notes Gennaro Gattuso's spell at Rangers alongside Gazza and Ally, wryly labelling them "two fine role models for a young footballer, you wouldn't go too far wrong listening to those boys about how to get on in life." Yes, yes. Neither are in the studio, you know. He cites "a confident air about Milan", marvelling "where does Cafu get his energy from?" before noting, not for the first time during his Liverpool spell, "Harry Kewell is struggling". He'll be glad to know he's been upgraded to "enigma", at least. Gabriel Clarke reports in a box-out in the top left corner, uselessly actually in vision sitting on the sidelines in headphones. The delay in the substitution is because "I understand that Smicer did not have his match boots on", Clive not at all getting word from the touchline, but eventually it's made. "That just sums up Harry Kewell's year, and Liverpool's night is going badly."
20:15 "Flag up! It won't count!" Andy adjudges it "very, very tight", usualy commentatorese for 'wrong'. Clive mentions the half time competition 30 minutes in, as if to prove you're still watching ITV. Clive and Andy have spent most of the second half of the first half, if you see what we mean, sounding hugely nervous and Clive sounds fatalistic from about halfway through the move for the second goal. "That hits him on the elbow, Clive!" Andy breathlessly exclaims of the Maldini debate which starts the move, which isn't much help as you can't see it on non-widescreen sets. "It certainly falls into the seen them given category" is Clive's eventual best effort, while Andy plumps for "it denies Luis Garcia a shot on goal" like that matters. Clive does find time to wonder about Cafu "how many Shredded Wheat he has for breakfast" but mostly it's about Nesta's arm for the time being at least. "They will talk about those seconds of football all summer long", and indeed the team appear to be starting the process for the remainder of this game. Minutes later Baros is penalised for handball and Clive almost murmurs that it was "no different to the other decision, except one is a harmless free kick and the other would be a big penalty for the referee to give" before going on about the definition of 'deliberate'. "Certainly went to ground very quickly, didn't he?" Andy pointlessly offers, this debate meaning both miss the build-up to Crespo's "wonderful, wonderful goal." Now Chelsea interest is properly offered as "Stamford Bridge's revenge." Christ, don't make them any more smug!
20:33 "Matador football from Milan" - you didn't think about that, did you Clive? - is cut short by the whistle. When we come back Gabby appears to giggle slightly at the concept of Preston in the play-off final and again shortly after declaring the three of them "slightly shellshocked". Macca muddies the waters by suggesting "everyone in the whole ground thought it hit his arm" - everyone? - and Gabby stops Tel the second he suggests it might not have been a penalty. "We'll talk about how Liverpool get back into this match in a moment" Gabby ventures, but we'll have to wait until the other side of the competition for that enticing prospect. They've already found a Liverpool fan crying. He'll be popular when he gets back home.
20:43 Fuck off Coca-Cola fuck.
20:47 Back in "the Ataturk Stadium in Milan", Gabby questions "if Milan can score three goals in one half, why can't Liverpool?" Because Milan were able to score three, we'd suggest. Clive begins the second half talking about the scrapping of the second group stage and relays information from Gabriel, clearly a man with Rafa's ear, before wondering which players might be leaving Liverpool in the summer. He sounds positively fatalistic. Clive then tries to impress upon us the idea Kaka "plays on the same national team as Ronaldo and Ronaldinho" - he's Brazilian, yes - before suddenly floating the idea Crespo might have been offside for Milan's second.
20:58 "Hello! Hello! Here we go!" Gerrard gives Milan "a grain of doubt" with what Clive declares "a captain's goal" while sensing blood. "Hold on, this could be some ride. You never know. You never know with Liverpool" Well... "hit by Smicer - it's in! It's in! Bloomin' 'eck, Smicer!" We're fairly sure this was what he said, and if it turns out not to be we'll be sorely disappointed. "Miracles are possible" Clive reminds us, still mentioning the ignored offside flag from much earlier. The night's first shot of the great big scoreboard comes at this point while Clive suddenly remembers his high horse, declaring "bound to be a boring final, wasn't it?" The fans have been "the backdrop to the whole night", leading us to wonder when they aren't. The Liverpool numbers are creeping up, anyway, Clive now having the estimate up to 40,000.
21:03 "Was he held? He's given the penalty! He's given the penalty!" Andy sees "he's maybe clipped the back of his heels - Gerrard was just about to hit the back of the net", like he's completely sure. "There is a Spanish international on the ball" Clive reminds us, but... "Saved by Dida, Xavi Alonso! And mission impossible is accomplished!... Liverpool are on terms, yes, on terms!" What abuse of the language is this? "Don't do things by halves, do they?" Andy almost ruefully remarks before a boxout of a celebrating bar in Liverpool allows Clive to work in surely a pre-prepared line, "it's gonna be a hard day's night!" Yeah, cheers. Franco Baresi appears to be in the Milan end as Clive points out "we've still got half an hour to go at least". "It's like the pitch is on a see-saw and suddenly it's tipped the other way" as Liverpool press their sudden domination, Clive reckoning "they all play like Scousers". "The last foreign manager to win the competition?" Yes, he's going to mention 1999 again and again if it kills him.
21:13 "Liverpool's twelth man" gets another namecheck, and they're playing like twelve too. Clive even finds time for a little understatement when he suggests "just looked a shade out of his depth in the first half, Djimi Traore", but seconds later his clearance - "what a rescue!" - is vital, even if Clive still finds time to mention the Burnley own goal before reasserting for no particular reason that Steven Gerrard is indeed any good. There's been no sign of his trademark wry captioning asides, but that all changes when he throws in Crespo's recent wedding. "Where are we going for our honeymoon, love?" "Istanbul. I've asked 35,000 Scousers along, will that be OK?" Unfortunately he feels the need to follow this with "the honeymoon is over for Milan now." Liverpool are now playing like they don't care "whether they will be in the Champions League next season whatever happens" - what, are they petitioning to be let into next season's competition whatever? "Kaka is there, but so is Jamie Carragher!" Substitutions are made, and Andy is particularly pleased about one: "Djibril Cisse is stripping off." "Brilliant." "You referring to his hair?" Indeed, after the match head of late Cisse has shaved all but two patches off, almost the full Taribo West. "Who knows if we'll see him again in a red shirt" Clive laments as Baros departs, because you see there's a clause in his Liverpool contract that forbids him from ever playing in the same colours again. Clive labels it "one of the most extraordinary football matches you will ever see", but can't resist a further dig at the supposedly expected "extra time so many predicted from these two feared defences". "You're not seriously going to send the children to bed, are you?" he taunts, an old Tyldesley favourite utilised in a bid to make him more amenable to the home audience. We assume so, anyway.
21:37 "You have just witnessed ninety of the most gripping European football you will ever see" Clive rhapsodises as the 90 minutes finish. We're actually fearing for Gabby now as she nearly giggles again just throwing back to the commentators. She's a pregnant woman, ITV, let her be! Andy hopes "they can try and get the big man into it as much as possible" without naming him as Clive starts listing Scousers to have scored in the final. Milan start well, but "they must win it again with heavy legs and scrambled brains", much like Clive and Andy's as they spend some time wondering whether Gerrard had permanently moved to the wing. Clive meanwhile has given up counting and declares instead "three quarters of this stadium are Liverpool red." Not Milan red, then. He goes on to refer to to Liverpool's Champions League season opener against "Graz of Australia" and reckons "their name has already been scratched onto the trophy - it could be etched onto the trophy tonight". We think he means figuratively. We hope so, actually.
22:00 "Everybody who's played in it will remember it" reckons Clive, like they wouldn't anyway. "Fact is stranger than fiction" he reckons, which suggests he's not read much bad fiction. The Liverpool defence are working overtime, one stretch by Jamie Carragher causing real concern as well as a race onto the pitch - "these stretcher boys are determined to get some business". "It's four minutes past midnight local time" Clive mentions in passing before uttering perhaps the most debilitating sentence of his commentary career - "we will be on the Celebrity Love Island at some stage tonight." Andy, who truth be told has improved since his dark days in the Truck but still isn't a great one for the kind of tactical analysis suggested by the job description, is worried about Dudek, suggesting he's "a little all over the place tonight". Unless he was talking about his colleague, of course. "It's just attack v defence" Clive suggests, which is surely all games. Then, "what a save!" "Jerzy, I apologise!" Andy proffers as a startled Clive explains "that is beyond belief - just when you think you've seen it all..." Indeed he's hardly going to get over it, suggesting "If he dares come up with an explanation for that save afterwards I will call him a liar. A brilliant liar." At least he finds time to worry about viewers having heart attacks, with scientific backup. "The incredibles, because that's what Liverpool are tonight" waste a free kick after half a minute's build up but make it to penalties, just about. "Do you think Liverpool would have taken a penalty shoot-out at half time?"
22:16 Penalties, then, which Clive manages to call a "fairground sideshow" and "Russian roulette" within one sentence before conceding "let's face it, even the World Cup final has gone to penalties". McManaman can't bring himself to exert any energy into his voice, something Gabby seems permanently to be making up for tonight. "No German in goal, anyway, for Milan - that always bodes well for Liverpool, doesn't it?" she offers before an overkeen "enjoy it, guys!" back to the commentators, only for Clive to quote the circumstances of the first British football penalty shoot-out.
22:22 "Fingers crossed for Liverpool!"
22:22:30 "Not even close! Not even close!" Dudek's Space Invaders dance on the line already looks set to become the millennial Grobellar Wobbly Knees.
22:23 "Dida is massive and does take some beating", so he gets beaten.
22:24 Clive and Andy enjoy a private giggle at how "he (Dudek) was nearly stood next to the spot".
22:25 "Smiling Scousers" greet 2-0. "Step forward Jon Dahl Tomasson!" Hang on, Clive, he's one of theirs!
22:26 Tomasson isn't even put off by the ambulance that passes behind the goal right as he takes it.
22:27 "No more room for error if Riise makes it", which puts him off immediately. It couldn't match the game itself and end 3-2 Milan, could it?
22:27:30 "A bit of the Grobellar wobbly legs", and an attempt to charge down the kick, but no dice.
22:28 "Prayers being offered to a higher force... match point Liverpool!" Even now Clive can't resist a "man possibly kissing that badge for the last time".
22:29 "The weight of the world on his shoulders... he's saved it! The European Cup is returning to England!"
22:31 "Arise, Sir Rafael!" Hang on, one step at a time.
22:34 Gabriel's on the pitch in big glasses, making him much the Newbon, to grab Jamie and bellow at him in a hoarse voice. "This is going to put you up with the very best - you know that!" he offers in concentration. Rafa then literally wanders over, not finding himself a man of many words. Gerrard then pops by (Gabriel: "you talk about your moment of history!") and congratulates the chairman. Inevitably, he's asked about his future, like he'll be able to think coherently now. Jerzy provides a classic moment of doubletalk when asked about his save - "What do you want to know?" "I want to know how you did it!" "I don't know how I did it!" - and cites Bruce as his extra time inspiration. He'd better watch his phone for journalists over the next few days.
22:39 "He said it. Football - bloody hell." You've encouraged children to watch, Clive! He then quotes Liverpool's penalty record a bit late - "I thought you wouldn't want to know that."
22:43 Djibril Cisse does some very odd salsa dancing around the trophy. We can't see it catching on.
22:45 "Liverpool have their hands on the European Cup again"
22:46 Why is Morientes wearing a Liverpool shirt? "Never mind English football, it's Liverpool's night" before referring to "old big ears". We think he means the trophy. At least he doesn't handwring when some bloke with a VIP pass but black polo shirt joins in.
22:47 "Superlatives were invented for nights like this." Yes, ITV, but advert breaks weren't. You did this in 1999, albeit with less leeway after the trophy was raised.
22:51 Back. With a plug for the Formula 1 coverage. Er... "We said 4-3 jokingly..." Gabby starts properly, only for McManaman to claim "I wasn't joking!" On Dudek he says "he put me off and I was 400 yards away". Back to the celebrations in the Liverpool hostelry, "Steve, I don't know if you've been in this particular bar..." getting the inevitable "I've probably fallen out of it late at night." Gabby ends up so overcome by events she can't even come up with a pithy phrase to finish with, although the closing montage is a lovely Eleanor Rigby orchestral version. Then ITV go and cut the final Champions League bumper short for no reason.
Football. Bloomin' 'eck.
A big hello to aggressive global branding as Sky One and Chelsea launch a search for a player aged 16 to become a Chelsea player aged 17 and given a free transfer to Harrow Borough aged 18. Neil Duncanson, who was producer of Gazzetta Football Italia and thus should know about glamour ending in disappointment, reckons they've not taken up the many previous pitches (which suggests it was Chelsea's idea, yes) for Pop Idol But, Like, For Football because "the concept has not been good enough". Obviously offering a talent search winner a playing contract is a major breakthrough in football/reality TV thinking.
The Match is coming back to Sky One later in the year too, god help us all.
See What Mawhinney's Done Now? part two: the song from the cloying, us-too Coca-Cola advert is being released as a single in June. Just to reinforce what passes for the point in an advertiser's world, the band have been christened The Real Band. Because they're real fans, you see?
Of course it's encouraging that Football League attendances are at a 45 year high, but what's Brian Mawhinney read into this surely heartening figure? That it exonerates his "re-branding programme" and thus supposedly proves calling Division 2 the Championship was the key to this increase. Twat.
Coming soon: much handwringing about a drop in Premiership average attendances accompanied by long broadsheet thinkpieces about how it's all because of fans turning against commercialism and the TV hype, when in fact it's because the three promoted clubs all have much lower average gates than the three teams relegated the previous season.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Fair to say official England songs have declined somewhat since the days of lions and motion - 1998 was not Three Lions '98 but a confused England United deal centring on Echo and the Bunnymen, We're On The Ball convinced nobody in 2002 and last year was All Together Now, as recently revived by Sky and nobody else. So giving the job, somewhat in advance you have to say, to Kasabian isn't going to be a poisoned chalice at all, then? Tim Lovejoy's doings, you'll note, unless he was somehow offered it first. Luckily for the behatted Leicestrian baggy revivalists, Rooney and LSD just about rhyme.
So it's the White Horse Bridge, probably the most comfortable fitting and most neutral of the five suggested names for the Wembley connecting footbridge. Better than calling a whole structure the Millennium Stadium.
Monday, May 23, 2005
We know they have their reasons today, but it cannot escape our attention that the BBC Sport website sub-heading currently reports that "the FA charges Newcastle manager Graeme Souness with bringing the game."
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Rangers have won the SPL on the same day the kind of professionalism that's brought Alex McLeish's side to this point is brought into focus - Craig Moore, let go by Gers for playing in the Olympics, is sacked by Borussia Moechengladback for turning up drunk to training
Saturday, May 21, 2005
The FA Cup Final on the BBC - as it happened
13:00 "A few predictions and all the build-up" is all that's promised by the continuity announcer, as if the game is much later or not worth the effort of tuning in. The titles are a montage of action shots, notably with a lot of rowing and pushing involved, almost as if this means it'll be a disappointment if there isn't any. Gary's on the pitch, fighting with the tannoy that starts with his second sentence and managing to squeeze in the word "enmity", which "compares with great rivalries in world sport". So the big introductory idea, it seems, is to compare the rivalry as level with those on the wider international stage, so Schmeichel and Wright introduce clips of the Ryder Cup, Ashes, Coe v Ovett, Borg v McEnroe, Ali v Frazier and for some reason Spassky v Fischer. Yes, yes, BBC, you have an impressive archive, but what does any of this mean in FA Cup terms? These are or were all huge international scale events, although in fairness, much like Arsenal-Man Utd, you could argue there are far more intense rivalries in all these sports on the international stage.
13:04 Lee Dixon and Gary Pallister are the first studio guests, Dixon tracing the rivalry to Brian McClair's penalty miss and Nigel Winterburn's mocking. Gary suggests it might have really kicked in when "every player on the pitch gathered round the referee fighting", which brings up an unlikely image.
13:07 The menu, followed by crowd milling shots just like Sky do. The Interactive option's in action today, although it's worrying how Road To Cardiff appears to only be on Interactive. Sort it out, Sinstadt. Pallister looks forward to "when the game gets kicked off" while Lee confesses "personally I think the referee will decide the game today". "He's going to score both goals?" Gary rejoins.
13:09 '1979 The Five Minute Final' is the caption on black as Frank Stapleton, Sammy McIlroy, Brian Talbot and Joe Jordan are pictured looking longingly in silence. The usual throwaway but no less good for that feature follows, after which we see Alan Sunderland is in the studio. He's told he's "not changed a bit", possibly in irony given his wool-coloured hair if still the well maintained tache, looking not unlike a brother of former Premier League chairman Rick Parry. "I'm not biased, but I did back you to be the first goalscorer that day" admits Gary, but then he grew up at a top flight 1970s football club so you expect the betting from him. Sunderland does claim the first, Gary rebutting "that's not what you said off air". Alan does seem to be playing the kindly uncle part, suggesting his celebrations of the winner were "the first foreign language I ever learnt" and bantering oddly with Lee - "you're quite slim there" "I'm quite slim now, bob's your uncle". We're introduced to "the AS AS", or the 'Hong Kong Gooners Alan Sunderland Tour' as the banner says of five blokes in perm wigs and taches who drop the banner as soon as it appears on camera to run towards the camera.
13:19 As Chelsea fans will allegedly be reminding both during the day, "it just adds to the mutual loathing" that they haven't won a trophy yet. This is where we join Adrian Chiles in a blustery back garden with the trophy and, yes, soup and pizza on a table with three fans of each, only to 'discover' United fans aren't that bothered really. We're bothered, conversely, by the references to how United Fans Don't Come From Manchester and Arsenal Fans Are Really Quiet. It nearly works, because of Adrian, but doesn't, because everyone just shouts over each other about who's the dirtiest and possibly because you can hear the wind on the boom mikes. More fans join Gary in the studio, but unfortunately it's Shane Richie and Rory McGrath, Gary starting with a joke about how Rory might eat the pizza. Rory seems to be trying to take Gary's job while Shane reveals he's hoping for a call-up. All very pretend chummy.
13:32 The traditional revelation of how many countries are allegedly showing the game live comes at this point, the figure of 169 illustrated by unnamed reporters in a New York bar, empty Soweto bar, Bangkok nightclub and Sydney hotel balcony, Michael Peschardt claiming "many people staying up to watch". Essentially, everyone's waiting for the match to start. "That apparently is the Manchester United team bus, or it will be when Malcolm Glazer takes control" Gary bafflingly jokes, followed by Arsenal's - whither reports from hotels? Rob Styles braves some slightly stupid Garth questioning before the United players arrive, Gary pointing out Motson seemingly waiting for them by the door. The Strachan View turns up, but with Gordon standing behind a CGI stadium moving looped mini-versions of actual players, during which the graphics make half his finger disappear. Gary and Lee take the piss, which hardly helps. Then we get Adrian's Top 10 of the Cup season, entertaining as you'd expect with Ljungberg's semi-final miss top even if he rated Blackburn-Leicester boredom ahead of all giantkillings. Lee calls the miss "the worst in football ever".
13:48 Arsenal arrive, Gary pointing out the Manchester United player pictures but not the Arsenal ones on the opposite wall. Strachan gives it the full whack for them, moving running players so they look very odd. Curiously, not all the players are represented, some represented by Andy Gray-style counters except in 3D. Gordon's main question is how United counteract the Arsenal midfield, represented by a spinning question mark. This could all have been done a lot easier, and not in a way that distracts from what Gordon's saying, which even Gordon himself manages by suggesting all that he's just said might be proved wrong but he's looking forward to the game anyway. Yeah, cheers.
13:53 Arsene's inspecting the turf, something that only on Cup final day takes up to twenty minutes but Wenger does briefly as nobody's joined him. Maybe this is the new Arsenal way. Gary talks over the band as Lee and Gary are dismissed predicting their own teams will win. We're then in for a good few minutes on the Ferguson-Wenger rivalry featuring ex-players in various situations, Jaap Stam in a garden, Marc Overmars seemingly in a sports shop mentioning, seemingly without prompting, the curly haired shouty bloke who in 1998 was nearly the most famous man in Britain. "Normally at this time of proceedings we'd be seeing the players on the pitch" Gary laments as they've not turned up yet so Alan, Peter and Ian are brought in early. Ian doesn't sound too comfortable being reminded of his own playing arguments with Schmeichel, Alan playing the grump as usual.
14:05 Clearly we're not going to get a chat with Sir Alex but Arsene is happy to talk to an echoey Jonathan Pearce. "Ian, you played under him - in fact he got rid of you" Gary reminds his guest while Peter wonders on sight of the teams if Bergkamp can manage the whole game - "what is he, 52 years old?"
14:14 Carlos Quieroz "sneaked out the tunnel and Garth Crooks grabbed him", which is bad news when Garth opens "Carlos, you've now picked the team..." Actually, we think Alex did that, but never mind. No Arsenal players or officials are coming forward. There's a clip of Gary's interview with Jose Mourinho which appears to be taking place in a dining room, Gary on a high backed chair, Jose really reclining. "You can hear a lot more from the special one on Monday night... and the Chelsea manager too!" Gary ventures, to Hansen comedy umbrage. We then get into the meat of the pre-match analysis, Hansen talking about Arsenal undeterred by the music put on the illustrative clips for no good reason that nearly drowns him out. Ian mentions that he and Thierry Henry enjoy "banter" about their respective achievements and teams.
14:28 "Coming to a school near you!" Ian appears to mutter as a Bergkamp goal montage finishes. Ruud reveals little in an interview with Ray Stubbs before we go back round the international pundits, from inaudibility in New York to half-empty Soweto, now joined by a topical Tampa bar housing four people, two in United shirts, and Basra squaddies giving predictions. There's a US flag in the Arsenal end, which hardly helps, although not so much as it would have done had Tim Howard been playing. Gary introduces a Rooney montage with "he's been pretty tasty - I'll swear he has". Notably all the pundits have annotated team sheets in front of them.
14:44 "Patrick's a nice guy... for a French fella" Ian, Theirry's mate you'll recall, suggests. "Let's be having you, man! Delia Smith!" he then chides as Peter stalls on his score prediction, while Alan goes for United with an eye on the referee. Over to Lawrenson and Motson, who reels off the differences between 1979 and now, ending "just think about this - the Cup final was one of three live games on British television" almost triumphantly. The final tradition of Abide With Me is upheld, as is the tradition of nobody in the stands taking a blind bit of notice apart from five or six people who know all the words. It's immediatelly followed by Gwen Stefani over the tannoy at equal volume. "I met the male singer in a bar last night" Lawrenson reveals somewhat undiplomatically, later revealing he also met Rob Styles. "Is there anybody you didn't meet in the hotel last night?" Motson challenges, to which Lawro bafflingly responds "there aren't many". Motson finds time to reel off the mascots' names - "quite a few Manchester United fans in Cornwall, anyway" - as Prince Michael of Kent is revealed as guest of honour, Motson nearly talking over the national anthem. Lawro mentions the self same 'Manchester United Buccaneers' banner in the Arsenal end that had been highlighted earlier while Motson compares Jens Lehmann to Bert Trautmann. Patrick Vieira eventually commences the much discussed handshakes virtually holding the mascot in front of him, Lawro commenting "I think he's using him as a shield".
14:59 "Twenty members of (Rob Styles') family in the stand - other refs helped him get tickets" Motson reveals. That's jumping the system, surely. Urs Meier is also there, "the referee who took so much hammer (over the Euro 2004 disallowed goal)... a good decision by the FA to show there are no hard feelings." What?
15:00 And we're off...
"We're all sitting here waiting for the first tackle, aren't we?" Motson admits a minute in, almost celebrating when Vieira fouls Rooney. That's pretty much how the game starts, and while everyone appears to have learnt from past experience this year and nobody's predicted a classic game in advance John's losing hope when he comments that the teams are "paying each other great respect" - playing badly, yes - after four minutes. Arsenal's first foul against in a decent area completely confuses him ("Well... yes...") until he eventually realises at the end of the replay that it was a Scholes foul after all. When the commentators start moaning about players going off the pitch when injured sixteen minutes in you know they've touched bottom, especially when Motty starts wondering what recent game it was when he saw two players from the same team go off. No time to mull over that, though, as Ashley Cole gets booked and Motty sounds almost jubilant. Well, something had happened.
15:20 "Roy... Roy Keane is down. Challenge by Fabregas. And now he comes in on Bergkamp!" Erm, except Mikael Silvestre got booked anyway, so Motson's excitement about something happening one half of The Battle That Might Decide The Game comes to nothing. Motty even had to check with Lawro just to make sure. It's Lawro who notices the resultant free kick goes through the wall, "which is a worry". "A foul - it's really warming up now" gets an off-mike laugh out of Lawrenson. "Keane's worried, isn't he?" Motson ponders at a close-up, although he actually appears to be castigating Roy Carroll for the length of time he's taking over a goal kick. It's becoming apparent that there's a lot of fuss signifying nothing going on when "Rooney... goalkeeper's feet, Ferdinand! It's offside!" "I think it might have been van Nistelrooy who strayed offside, and was he interfering with play?" No, John, he was exactly level with Rio, but you ignored the side-on replay that clearly showed that to be the case was shown. Good save, anyway, and a second from Rooney three minutes later as Motty's comfortably up to first goal voice levels. There's a camera in the back corner of the goal, possibly in memory of Ian Rush. "Four shots in five minutes from Rooney, something like that?" Motson wonders as a shot fizzes over, to which Lawro really does think he's some sort of comedian: "he'll be getting tired - I told you he was struggling to get into the game." A bit later he goes down in the box without reward, Lawro agreeing as "you'd have known by Rooney's reaction." Thank you, Schools FA head. "I don't want to put the jinx on him, but he's having a good game, Rob Styles" Motty ventures, Lawro chiding "that's a worry".
15:39 "It was billed as a titanic battle, but it's more of a tactical one at the moment" Motson ventures as the game settles back down. Eight minutes later that's it for the first half, 0-0 "as we feared... as we thought" he Freudian slips. Ah, cameras in the tunnel. That might help. "Absorbing" Gary calls it, which is one word for it. Alan praises Sir Alex's restraining tactics, Peter slags them off, Ian isn't too upset as they're getting the possession. Everyone spots Rio being offside now with no reservations, Alan and Ian pointing out they were only able to do so due to poor defending, Wright calling the United play "lucky" before suggesting of Rooney, and perhaps Motty too, "I think I heard he was the youngest player to have that many shots in that many minutes." Gary attempts to riff on this in the form of a mock quiz question, none of the pundits quite recovering quickly enough. Wright then attempts to demonstrate the art of the flicked header physically, relating it to something about "manufactured" headers. The new tradition of launching Summer Of Sport trailers continues. "And the last time there was that much sport in that many months was... probably last summer."
16:00 Who asked Jane Moore and Piers Morgan to comment on Jose Mourinho? "I don't think it's going the way they'd think it is" Peter appears to nonsensically comment. Trevor Brooking turns up chatting to Styles in the tunnel, which leads Ian to admit "I'd never thought the referee would be nervous", because of course referees are not human. (Don't say it.) Motson's reduced to discussing the price of the programme right at the start of the second half, seemingly because everyone wants him to bring one back, but United and "twinkletoes Ronaldo" are keeping up their charge, Lawro citing Lauren frustration because "Ronaldo's had him on toast." For no really explicable reason Motson refers to a chat he'd had with Sir Clive Woodward about swingeing penalties for ref backchat in rugby as Styles tells Lauren off for persistent fouling. "You won't need a Premier League enquiry to work out what happened there" as Ashley Cole miscues a cross is trying too hard, as the cameras find assorted Lions - Woodward, Wilkinson, Henson, Alistair Campbell for some reason in a matching jacket to Sir Clive's. Ruud van Nistelrooy is caught overrunning a Rooney cross and an attempted overhead kick goes well over, Lawro judging a scoring effort with the shot being like "a scene from The Incredibles". If you want.
16:23 "It's the end for Bergkamp" Motson announces gravely as Ljungberg comes on, but it doesn't help much. "Coming near post is - oh, Rooney's hit the post!" Nobody saw that one coming, "the element of surprise" nearly working at last. When van Nistelrooy doesn't quite connect with a Ronaldo cross a minute later Motson sounds actually frustrated while Lawro notes "the substitution hasn't changed the system". The director finds an elderly grimacing lady in the Arsenal end, Lawro commenting "she's happy really" before laughing off camera. As the game evens up slightly Styles somehow spots Rooney moving the ball at a free kick, leaving Lawro to gasp "the man's got eyes in the back of his head!" and Motson to take all the fun out by observing "a good cameo, that". Much of a muchness ensues, as does a thunderstorm outside (in case we miss a bit) as Motty and Lawro start discussing Urs Meier again. Oddly, the sign of him on the big screen leads to some localised booing. We thought everyone had forgotten him and just blamed Beckham anyway, but never mind.
16:40 "I quite like extra time, actually" Lawro ventures. Well, there's one. "I don't think Arsenal have had a shot, have they?" Motson points out, just after a screen caption has pointed out exactly the same. United are going for it, van Nistelrooy's header being headed onto the bar by Ljungberg being met by renewed high vocal levels by Motson. "Arsene Wenger's trying to win the game now, would you believe?" Lawro suggests as van Persie comes on as Motson wonders "are we going to have a five minute final this year?", but no such luck. By minute 93's free kick into the box Motson's exclaiming "ahh, it's come back out!", even though it hadn't really, but we're into extra time. Good news for Lawro, at least.
16:52 "Nearly all the Arsenal players are lying down but Manchester United are together, stood up" is Lawro's last spot. Motson throws back to studio voiceover for a bit with "if ever a picture told a story it's this", to which Gary, perhaps caught unawares, appears to say "what?" before recovering his composure. Ian and Peter nearly have an argument about the same point but don't get to discuss much before Gary is tipped off about Ryan Giggs' arrival accompanied by what sounds like Ian sneezing. "Do you know what was important about 1912 (the year of the last final 0-0 after 90 minutes, Mark? The Titanic sank." Thank you, John.
16:58 Lawro sees Giggs being "launched inside left channel, if you will" while Motson ponders whether he's ever seen a more exciting 0-0. "Which one's which?" Mark then unhilariously comments at a Sven and Nancy cutaway before pondering what Glazer will make of it "the Americans don't have draws, do they?" Neither do they in this game, Motson is forced to point out. There's a lot of thwarted hope and brief voice raising going on, no more so than when Ruud heads over and Motson virtually screams "it was a chance!" Yeah, we'd noticed. Lawro refers to Henry as "different gravy", thinking he's Tim Lovejoy all of a sudden despite being a regular on an opposing programme.
17:15 We doubt that the Junior Mastermind final, which has been postponed, will ask who won the Cup final, actually. Second half of extra time and they're really going for it as one moment Ruud misses an elaborate flick - "my goodness, van Nistelrooy missed it!" Motty almost hyperventilates. Giggs' run through the centre is stopped by "a good advance by the German keeper", the kind of line that would have been received with war jokes a few years ago. With two and a half minutes left Motson raises the possibility of Tim Howard coming on just for penalty duty. Two minutes later he's raising the spectre of Andy Linighan, but no dice. And then, in the 122nd minute, "wait a minute, Rob Styles is showing another card to Vieira... and Vieira is off" "Reyes, isn't it?" "Well, he showed the card to Vieira!" "Reyes has gone up the tunnel." So, while the cameras focus on an unmoved Vieira for some time, suddenly one shot swings round to see a crowded tunnel but not much in the way of Arsenal player, and then the whistle blows anyway. "All that means now is he can't take a penalty. Didn't really matter, did it?"
17:35 Two things we've always seen as ravens/Tower-style immovable FA Cup facts - only Kevin Moran has ever been sent off in a final, and there's never been a penalty shoot-out in a final. Even after a World Cup Final shootout, we always thought the sanctity of the FA Cup Final would be preserved by those two facts, and then in the space of a minute both are shot to pieces. Gary and the pundits get confused by the coin tossing routine before Alan declares "all the best, boys!" amid much talk of places in history. Tim Howard didn't go off, then. "What a finish to a season" Motson suggests, luckily nobody taking the Don't The Fans Just Love Penalties attitude of ITV.
17:40 "Ohhh, and Lehmann! Has saved from Scholes!"
17:41 Are all of these Arsenal penalties going to be chips?
17:42 Rooney just thumps it. "The keeper's lucky he didn't get in the way of that one"
17:43 As Ashley Cole goes off on his celebrations Motson for some reason briefly thinks Styles has ordered a retake. That'd completely ruin it for him, wouldn't it?
17:44 You knew from the moment it went to penalties that Man Utd wouldn't win now, having done everything but in the 120 minutes. "Patrick Vieira could win the Cup... and he has!" More people than we thought so much as worked for Arsenal pile on top of Vieira as Motson laments that penalties still isn't the way to settle a match and van Persie dances very oddly.
17:46 We blame David Beckham. Lawro suggests Scholes "shouldn't beat himself up about it, he's been their saviour." Er, has he?
17:48 Ivan Gaskell turns up for the first time all day, talking to an out of breath Jens Lehmann, which makes his declaration that "the English season is too long, sometimes you need a breather" all the more ironic. Motson surveys "the scene here is, er, waiting for the trophy to come out." "That's quite a shot" Gaskell comments immediately after John throwing to him and Patrick Vieira. How can he see it?
17:58 "We've just hauled Ian Wright off the ceiling", and he now feels safe in referring to Arsenal as "us". "Sometimes you feel a team's not meant to win it, Peter?" Gary rhetorically asks, and Schmeichel concurs, also referring to "our". Back to Ivan with Henry, who feels sorry for United at least on the surface. He's picked up "name on the cup" from the language, as the team do the now traditional dive. Alan picks up on "error there from a couple of the Arsenal lads - putting tracksuit tops on. In twenty years no-one will believe they played in the match." Never mind that, "Philippe Senderos wants to talk to us." "Does he?" Alan asks - no, he's been dragged into talking to Ivan, who's sent off after two questions to go and rejoin his team-mates.
18:06 Back across the world, most notably a large man in Soweto ripping off his jacket to reveal the Arsenal shirt and then trying to take that off in one movement. This is to lead to Wright's reaction, the expected yelling and dancing following Gary's comment on presumably Vieira, "he's got a great left foot, this kid. Fancy him to death." Gary sums it up as "fighting spirit, Mr Wright" to the panel and to us as "very exciting - United, of course, paid the penalty for missing their chances." Not immensely inventive, nor is the closing montage music of Paul Weller's You Do Something To Me (the edit team stuck The Brakes under the rivalry profile!) Still, it's possible nobody had any nerves left to put thinking time into anything better.
While we mentally prepare ourselves for The FA Cup Final Minute By Minute, Kind Of (starting just after the BBC coverage at 1pm and updating every so often), we note yet again the line has been trotted out that big money has been spent at a football auction to stop the item going overseas, because of course there is nobody with any money in Britain who's interested in high profile football memorabilia. In this case David Gold, who's probably heard all the jibes about it being the closest Birmingham will get to the FA Cup by now, seems to think he was only bidding against Germans, so he bought it "on behalf of the nation's football fans". And then stuck it in a display case at St Andrews, obviously.
By the way, Birmingham have never won the FA Cup. Aston Villa did lift that very trophy, though. Twice.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Science 'proves' red is the best colour to wear in sport. Can't researchers come to the same conclusion by counting?
They do things differently in China in sacking unpopular coaches. We're looking forward to Freddie Shepherd calling Newcastle players "ruffians" while the Toon Army let off firecrackers at the training ground.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Following up our earlier story, and in light of news that David Ginola is promoting his first proper film alongside Pele at Cannes this week, of course there's an Escape To Victory website! "The Greatest Football War film ever made" it contends, a controversial statement given all the opposition.
The Premiership Season: 38 Dull Facts For 38 Games
Don't worry, it's not always like this. It's just that, in compiling Armchair Football, we make great use of a piece of software that can bring up all manner of information and statistics about the data therein. So, as it's the end of the league season, we thought we might as well interrogate it and see what it brings up:
1) Chelsea's title win was only the fourth time in 12 Premiership seasons the championship has been decided by May.
2) Not only was their 15 goals against a Premiership record, but it equalled Preston's all time record from 1888-1889 - and they played 16 games less.
3) Those were however under the strict original offside rule, meaning Chelsea's is the technically best defensive record ever in the English leagues.
4) Those fifteen scorers: James Beattie, Nicolas Anelka, Zoltan Gera, Papa Bouba Diop, Kevin Davies, Radhi Jaidi, Thierry Henry (2), Leon McKenzie, Aki Riihilahti, Kevin Phillips, Walter Pandiani, Collins John, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Geremi (og).
5) Frank Lampard wasn't the only club top scorer to come from midfield - Nol Solano and Damien Francis led Villa and Norwich's scoring lists.
6) Chelsea put out thirty players during the season, 20 of whom played ten or more games. Robert Huth was on six games with five left but played in four of those remaining, making him the 04-05 Martin Keown.
7) Frank Lampard last missed a league game on 30th September 2001, when he was suspended for a trip to Fulham having been sent off against Spurs a fortnight earlier. Slavisa Jokanovic took over, got sent off and that was the start of Lampard's 144 game run. He's only so much as been substituted six times during that run.
8) One of those substitutions came this season at West Brom, which means he missed out by seven minutes on joining the six players who've played for all 3420 minutes - Jamie Carragher, Maik Taylor, Craig Fleming, David James, Brad Friedel and Ledley King.
9) Friedel's pre-eminence meant Peter Enckelman spent every minute of every game on the Blackburn bench. Remarkably, the same thing happened to him in 2000-01, when David James was Mr Reliable for Aston Villa. Paul Robinson, Nigel Martyn, Steve Harper and Kevin Poole have all suffered the same fate in the last five seasons.
10) As well as the aforementioned seven, Sylvain Distin, Robert Green and Wayne Routledge also started every game...
11) ...while Kevin Kilbane, Zoltan Gera, Danny Murphy and Gary Speed complete the ever-presents list.
12) At the other end of the scale we find Chelsea's Anthony Grant and Steven Watt, Fulham's Liam Fontaine and Everton's Nick Chadwick, all of whom made one substitute appearance during the season in second half injury time, officially not registering any time on the pitch at all.
13) But these are comprehensively trumped by Middlesbrough's 19 year old central defender Matthew Bates, who came on late twice, against Manchester City and Blackburn while Boro were defending tight leads. Bates ended the season on loan at Darlington.
14) However, surely the winner of getting a few minutes is Man City's Lee Croft, who clocked up 76 minutes in seven sub appearances.
15) Duncan Ferguson was the player brought on as sub most often, coming on what we think is a Premiership record 29 times (plus five starts). Luke Moore is the only other player to top 20.
16) Bradley Wright-Phillips tops the list of subs who didn't start once, on 13.
17) Colin Cooper was the most benched without being used outfield player on 15 sub namings, although at least he played 14 times.
18) A fact more than likely related to number 12, Marcus Bent was the most subbed player, exchanging 19 high fives, a record he shared with Eidur Gudjohnsen.
19) There were a total of 975 goals, the third time in Premiership history the total has been under a thousand although 16 up on 1998-99.
20) Andy Johnson is the twentieth Premiership player to top 20 goals in a season.
21) Staying up with 34 points isn't as good an indicator of declining quality as some would have you believe. A team with 34 would have stayed up last season and in 1999-2000, the year Wimbledon went down.
22) Is it better to be lucky in December than bad? While West Brom became the first Premiership club to stay up having been bottom at Christmas, Norwich became the fourth in five years to go down having been 17th at that point. Conversely, Palace were the first club then 18th since 1999 (Blackburn) to be relegated.
23) Against Everton, Arsenal became the first club to score seven since Blackburn beat West Ham 7-1 in October 2001 and achieved the biggest winning margin since Newcastle put eight past Sheffield Wednesday in September 1999.
24) Spurs 4 Arsenal 5 was the first time nine different players had scored in a Premiership match.
25) Ray Parlour led the yellow cards table with 12, Jamie Redknapp and Tim Cahill also breaking into double figures.
26) Gonzalo Sorondo, Papa Bouba Diop, Lee Bowyer and Damien Johnson were all sent off twice, out of 72 red cards.25) Graham Poll and Steve Bennett both broke the ton of bookings barrier, Poll showing 104 yellow cards in 31 games, Bennett 102 in 26.
27) Philip Dowd, Mike Riley and Rob Styles all outdid them for reds, though, all giving out seven.
28) Norwich are the fourth club to go through a Premiership programme without an away win, following Leeds, Coventry and Wolves, the first two actually having stayed up.
29) Chelsea's 48 away points is another Premiership record.
30) Everton finished fourth with -1 goal difference, still three goals up on what Norwich managed when ending up third in 1992-93.
31) Frank Lampard, naturally, is credited with the most assists, 18. Thierry Henry is next with 16, then the 12 of Dennis Bergkamp.
32) Crystal Palace's 13 penalties? Another Premiership record, as is Andy Johnson's eleven scored.
33) 82 penalties were conceded in total, 16 of which were missed. Fulham conceded the most, with nine.
34) Petr Cech, inevitably, kept the most clean sheets, 24. Brad Friedel and, perhaps surprisingly, Roy Caroll were next with 15.
35) Southampton conceded the most own goals, six; Middlesbrough had the most scored for them, four.
36) The highest squad number to appear was 44, on Willo Flood of Manchester City's back.
37) The alphabetical range? Yakubu Aiyegbeni to Reto Ziegler. Don't worry, nearly finished...
38) And finally... 516 players made an appearance during the season, 259 of whom scored. The first was by Djibril Cisse in the opening day's early kick off against Spurs, the last Emile Heskey's winner over Arsenal. And we'll pick the story up again in August, shall we?
A sequel to Escape To Victory? We've barely got over the cultural impact of the first one yet! Wonder if Jim Magilton and Jason De Vos have been sounded out yet.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
It's been a bad season for Nottingham Forest, so you'd imagine a little decorum might set in immediately after the season. Or alternatively, Des Walker might get arrested after his own testimonial game.
Samuel Eto'o "spat in the plate from which I ate", apparently. Funny how they'll immediately act on a Barcelona player calling Real Madrid "bastards" but nothing the fans might be responsible for at any stage.
Carlton Palmer considering returning to playing at the age of 39. Even though he declared the situation at the club not good enough from top to bottom a couple of months ago, as reported here, this does seem a somewhat drastic attempt to remedy the situation. Maybe he'll play at right back again.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Might as well - congratulations to West Brom for staying up and congratulations to everyone for the excellent last day's entertainment, even if it should have been Andy Johnson missing the late penalty for completeness' sake rather than Robbie Fowler, Fulham's Fanzone bloke was an annoying shouting git and some of West Brom's players are already sounding a trifle smug about it.
Wasn't it Stuart Pearce who, on picking a team as a caretaker manager, only realised when his wife told him that he'd forgotten the keeper? Well, they do say the first things you learn in management are the most important.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
The very definition of pyrrhic victory as Wrexham, relegated last week, hold their LDV Vans Trophy parade
Mark Ward, once of Everton, Man City, West Ham and Oldham, on drugs charges. For some reason he's only described as ex-Everton on that page, which obviously proves the BBC's anti-Everton bias, it says here. Drugs are of course a society problem, but it's worth noting that Billy Kenny, one of the top players in the original version of Championship Manager 2 (ah, Amiga...) also ended up in trouble on the stuff.
Friday, May 13, 2005
What do you get for making the Football League the laughing stock of the country with a stupid name change, while dismissing lower clubs losing revenue as a direct result as "life"? A peerage, that's what! And Tony Banks too!
The worst thing about the Malcolm Glazer takeover is of course that it means the meaningless homily "football is a business now" will be in increased usage over the next week or so. We'd vote for any political party that suggested in its next manifesto that uttering that sentence in public is punishable by death. Football is a business? Name a business that depends on so many external factors as football, then.
Really, though, this does look like Glazer's chosen precisely the wrong moment to make his move, not only because he's managed to piss off his own customers (an apposite choice of word in this case) but also ticket take-up is slowing, the on-pitch brand is arguably declining (worse Champions League performance, third domestically for the second season running) and analysts reckon Glazer, most of whose fortune is hypothetical unlike Abramovich's (he has mentioned £20m for players, which may make Mourinho wonder where the pluralism of 'player' came from), will have to take out massive loans that can only be repaid by aggressive merchandise/global brand marketing and, yes, price increases, unless he either sells the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (for whom he once tried to force through a seat in perpetuity scheme not unlike the Arsenal Bond), which is unlikely, or consider selling Old Trafford itself to lease it back. You know how Arsene Wenger's hands are tied by the expenditure going into Ashburton Grove? This is more of a potential debt than that. On Sport On 5 last night Jeff Randall pointed out that Glazer is also looking to negotiate the club's own TV deal outside of the banding together of Premiership rights, which the courts have previously upheld as the best way to ensure some semblance of a level top flight playing field. And then people would have a proper reason to only hate Man United.
For the full picture, however, let's come back this time next year and see what effect it's had.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
When Harry Redknapp had Amdy Faye on trial at Portsmouth he was aware that there were plenty of other suitors after him, so played him in a friendly under an assumed name and then put him up for the night so agents couldn't find him. Following up from yesterday's story, it appears either Chelsea do things less subtly or their new young Norwegian signing (or possibly Man Utd's) really has gone missing. Be aware of his agent's name and try to stifle the sarcastic chin stroking at the idea "there are extra editions" of papers being printed in Norway over this.
We appreciate they're not a club who've ever been lacking on hubris, but what can anyone possibly make of the Real Madrid film being fiction-based? Of course short-sighted idiots are going "David Beckham's made a film! He wants to break into Hollywood!!!!!!!", but that's seemingly only true insomuch as it's his glorious follow-up to Manchester United - Beyond The Promised Land. But really, even by Real standards this is unseemly and untimely. "In New York, a teenage girl suffers an injury playing soccer similar to one sustained by Ronaldo"? Who's writing to this sort of pitch?
You may now write your own cynical response to "a boy learns a secret from his grandfather about the club."
Peter Crouch? Scott Carson? This American tour (of two games, which makes it more of an American stopover) really is Eriksson's equivalent of the four Australasian games in 1991, isn't it? It's not something club managers would stand for. They've got, in Chelsea's case, sponsorship commitments in South Korea to attend to once the season's over.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Ian Wright shocked that reality show badly edited him. While noting the "own goal" simile and being shocked that he hasn't shown The Apprentice the red card, we have to ask how the idea he was portraying a hardman image was supposed to square for most viewers with his light presentation persona. And hooking up with Alan Sugar? Do any Spurs fans have televisions left that they didn't put bricks through at that point?
We like the thought Chelsea might have kidnapped, or thereabouts, a Nigerian teenager from Lyn Oslo. If Michael Howard had won the election none of this foreigner trialing would have been allowed!
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
The Wembley connecting bridge soon to be named. The names in the frame will be announced on Friday, accompanied by a debate on 5 Live. A debate? It's the name of a bridge! How will that be stretched out for public interest?
Ian Holloway's at it again - it's on the subscription only QPR World service, we see, but we'd love a proper transcript of it. Anyone? (More specifically, Matt?)
Monday, May 09, 2005
Some thought arising from the last day of the Football League season:
1) Good to see the old fashioned end of season celebratory pitch invasion back among us after years left to waste by the wiles of stewards. It seems every league club promoted, play-off bounds or escaping relegation were met on the final whistle by hordes of men in sports jackets.
2) Memo to Brian Mawhinney: had they not been deducted points for having to go into administration to save themselves, Wrexham would have stayed up and MK Dons would have been relegated.
3) Of course, Jonjo Dickman!
Terry Butcher, not a man known as someone to be trifled with, is encouraging Motherwell fans to give up a whole stand to Celtic's away support. He seems surprised that this has turned out to be an unpopular suggestion, as there could be "mayhem" otherwise. Presumably there's been 'mayhem' at every home game this season due to the club's hitherto unsafe segregation policy, then?
Sunday, May 08, 2005
A good week for Hartlepool United, as they make the play-offs at the first attempt and H'Angus The Monkey is re-elected. No proper pictures on file for him, then? Seems he's made a decent hash of the three years so far despite running a Sunday league team in his spare time, which is surely more stresful than handling an annual town budget of £106m.
Note to Graeme Souness - if you're going to embark on any more baffling, incoherent diatribes against referees before mentioning that you actually agreed with their biggest decision against Newcastle, you might want to get your own players' names right. He sent off Stephen Carr against Villa for the penalty, did he? We'd always thought it was Steven Taylor who handballed before collapsing and being red carded, but there you go.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Friday, May 06, 2005
Hello, Liverpool! (copied by someone or other from the FA website before they sportingly took it down - see under 'What if?')
Frank Lampard has won the Football Writers Association's best player award, which leads onto the linked article about the FWA itself. Their list of objectives makes fine reading in itself - apparently football writers have a prestige that requires maintenance at all times (insert own 'yeah, and their stomachs too' line here), Sir Alex Ferguson might wonder about maintaining "a friendly liaison with all football associations, leagues and clubs", and we understand Rob Shepherd had his own special way "to promote social intercourse".
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Last thing we'll do on this, unlike some, but regarding Liverpool's goal on Tuesday that Sky so successfully disproved with their OFFICIAL!!!! Virtual Replay pictures - if the goal was disputable, why didn't William Gallas, who actually cleared it, appeal against it?
Anyway, their opponents in the Not As Important As Finishing Fourth Final will be AC Milan, who we now think Mourinho may have actually been referring to with his "best team lost" soundbite as they again put in a performance against result dichotomy so severe that Richard Keys asking Gary McAllister if Liverpool's name was fated to be on the trophy given their earlier results sound like so much English club internalism. Having had all the game except the two goals in the San Siro, PSV Eindhoven played out of their skins for virtually the whole game yet got beaten by the 91st minute away goal, Milan's second shot on target. This is unfortunate if only because there is no greater sound in football than a commentator having to quickly shout 'Vennegoor of Hesselink!'
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
A big how you're doing to all our new readers over the last day or so (cheers, No Rock!), and can we recommend looking just to the right at the top of the page for the homepage of our Armchair Football weekly TV mailout. It's sent out on Wednesday evenings, so get on there quick and find out in what way we'll be mocking ITV Sport this week.
Of course, if Liverpool played Chelsea enough times this season they'd have ended up winning eventually. The pattern of their five meetings this season under their new management: Chelsea 1-0, Chelsea 1-0 with a stonewall Liverpool penalty missed, Chelsea win AET, 0-0 with Liverpool having a decent penalty claim turned down, and finally a win with a 'controversial' goal, albeit one the ITV pundits were happier to talk about the controversial nature of than actually debate or use their edit suite science on whether it actually had crossed the line. The penalty would probably have been given for Cech flattening Baros, in any case.
The other talking point the game's progression after that goal seemed to suggest is that, for all their wealth and stealth, Chelsea cannot buy a proper out and out goalscorer to seal the team of all the talents. It's no coincidence that every October or so Eidur Gudjonssen re-emerges as their top attacking force no matter who's come in over the summer, or that Frank Lampard, never previously noted for his goalscoring, is going to be their top league scorer. Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman have been no slouches previously in their careers or indeed in Europe, but between them they hardly looked able to unsettle a defence playing as deep as Liverpool's ended up, almost standard procedure in a second leg - and indeed about as deep as Chelsea have been known to play when 1-0 up, and who'd have thought they would be hoisted by their own deep-lying petards in the same situation reversed against them. Even then, though, you got the feeling Baros and later Cisse could have made something happen. Drogba didn't look like he'd make himself happen for most of the game, and Dudek was forced into one save in the whole 180 minutes. Carragher and Hyypia should have got a picnic hamper out, such was their comfort with dealing with speculative long balls into the box. Mourinho's response was to shove Robert Huth - Robert Huth! - on for fifteen minutes and try even harder, or at least hope for knockdowns and flaps that came about once, and that was completely wasted. Liverpool being in the final presents a problem for journos now, though - how are they going to write off their second leg chances if there is no second leg?
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
OK, we believe Fabio Cannavaro when he says his filmed injection was of a legal form of creatine, and indeed we believe players at top clubs are still given courses of legal injections - Frank Lampard has admitted as such to get over injuries. One major question remains, though - why film it for his own video library?
(Congratulations, incidentally, to Lilian Thuram, who reckoned RAI screening the incident was "to increase audience figures". Leaving aside the thought Zdenek Zeman has become the head of RAI, what sort of weapon in the ratings battle is hand-held footage of a man being injected? Is there a RAI station about diabetics?)
Sunday, May 01, 2005
So, well done, Chelsea. There are many who fear this could lead to complete domestic dominance and a weakening of the Premiership's pure competitive bargaining tool, but we suspect not many of those are Liverpool or Man Utd fans. Someone somewhere will however still suggest Abramovich should put spare money into clubs going into administration regardless.
It's worth noting, though, that for a team so easily dominant from day one - well, not technically, but they've been top since 6th November - it's taken them until game 35 to actually win the Premiership. Arsenal sorted it four games from home last season, and that was one short of Man Utd's 2000-2001 record, when the title was declared on 14th April. Chelsea even had to win a game to be crowned, rather than watch in a hotel or someone's house Leeds 1992-style while their nearest challengers lose at home to a relegation threatened club. The other underlying fact is that, of a league where orthodoxy says a title winning side can't lose more than five games in a season, Arsenal and Man Utd currently have four in the L column, and by rights they shouldn't lose more than one of their remaining fixtures. There have been times, not just recently, where Chelsea have looked uneasy for spells - a few more injuries at crucial points and who knows what could happen next season.
Who do you think Mourinho was singing down the phone to in the otherwise empty dugout at the end?