Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Michael Owen for Real Madrid (vs Real Zaragoza), 28 May 2005

Well then, the transfer that everyone has been waiting for has finally happened.

As soon as the delighted player has been paraded in front of the starstruck fans, and the transfer window slams shut, we can get back to the serious business of the watching England making hard work of qualifying for the World Cup.

Yes. Jon Harley has finally completed his move from Sheffield Utd. to Burnley for £75,000.

Okay. Maybe that's not the most interesting transfer that's happened today (although, by the by, what happened to Jon Harley's career? It seems like only a couple of years ago that he was at Chelsea and had a bright future in front of him. £75,000 is not a lot of money for a player, even in the Championship).

In case you've had your head in a hole for the past month, the Michael Owen saga has finally been concluded with his desperate, undignified last minute scramble to sign for the only club that really wanted him. He's moving to Newcastle for £17m, about a year after Liverpool sold him to Real Madrid for about half that.

It's World Cup year, and Owen clearly felt that he could not afford to spend another season sitting on the bench at Real Madrid, a club where he just wasn't exciting enough to warrant a starting place, in spite of his pretty good goalscoring record. Initially, it looked as though he was playing it very smart: he released a statement that made it clear that he would ideally like to stay at Madrid, but that failing that he'd love to go to Liverpool, and failing that he would go to Newcastle on loan. This was intended to keep the Madrid fans happy, invite Liverpool to buy him whilst also making it clear to the fans that if he ended up somewhere else, it wasn't his fault. He was never seriously going to go to Newcastle.

And now he's at Newcastle, on a 4 year deal presumably riddled with get-out clauses. The simple truth was that no one wanted him. He's one of the most effective strikers in the world. He is England's 4th highest goalscorer of all time. He is only 25 years old. Nobody wanted him: there was no real interest in Spain. The Italian clubs felt that he was too one-dimensional and didn't have a good enough all round game to break the more disciplined defences of Serie A. Although many at Liverpool clearly wanted to sign him, Benitez was very ambiguous about it, and kept remarking how his priorities lay elsewhere. In the meantime, Newcastle have played a blinder. Owen had stated that he would only go there on loan, but the club offered Madrid £17m. It looks a ridiculous amount of money, but it effectively guaranteed that Liverpool would be priced out of the market. Why would Madrid accept £8m when there was twice that on the table? The fact that there were no other offers would force Owen to look again at heading to Tyneside.

It may be a marriage of convenience, but make no mistake about it: Souness and Shepherd have pulled a rabbit out of their hats here. At a single stroke, Newcastle's season could be turned around. They desperately need goals in their side, and Owen will surely provide those. The signing of Luque is potentially a good one, but he will be equally useful to the club on the wing, with Owen and Shearer marauding up front. More than all of this though, they are a club that have always idolised their centre forwards, and in Shearer's final season, the fans will have a successor to cheer; the handing over of the crown of King of Tyneside to the younger man.

This could also be a good move for Sven Goran Eriksson and England: Owen needs football if he is to be sharp for the World Cup this summer, and Newcastle Utd should certainly be able to provide that.

Interesting. But at the same time, also quite boring. Much like Owen himself.

Glynn Hurst for Notts County (v Bristol Rovers), 27 August 2005

Predictions updated folks.

I think we said we'd do it on a monthly basis to allow anyone else to join in as we went along, so on that basis, with a great 12 point haul for the week, young Dom is the inaugurual winner of the CUAS Predictions League. I'll think of a prize on due course....

Second was Alex, and Charby in third after leading all the way....

New game starts this week with a job lot of international fixtures....

Friday, August 26, 2005

Anthony Le Tallec for Sunderland (vs Manchester City), 23 August 2005

Right then. Predictions League round three.

Are you feeling Luque?

Aston Villa 1-0 Blackburn
Fulham 0-1 Everton
Man City 2-0 Portsmouth
Spurs 1- 3 Chelsea
West Brom 0-1 Birmingham
West Ham 2-1 Bolton
Wigan 0-0 Sunderland
Middlesboro 3-1 Charlton
Newcastle 0-2 MU Rowdies
(should they just be called "Newcastle 0" do you think?)

This week's wildcard fixture: Notts County 3-2 Bristol Rovers

I'm spending my weekend at Trent Bridge, so keep your eyes peeled for 6 blokes dressed as Spanish Cardinals on Saturday.....

Toodle Pip.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Michael Ricketts for Leeds United (vs Oldham Athletic), 23rd August 2005

I've been a bit AWOL from these parts lately so I thought I'd pop by with some

First though a couple of nuggets of randomness:

Liverpool (European champions, remember) were utter plop last night, weren't they?

Michael Ricketts actually scored a goal for Leeds Utd!

Also last night one scoreline in particular caused much mirth. I apologise, for I know some readers will probably cry like girls when they see it again.

Nottingham Forest 2 - 3 Macclesfield town

Tee hee.
Thing is, I actually have quite a soft soft for Forest. Stems from the legend that was Cloughy & the fact that best mate supports them. Second to Elland Road, The City Ground is the stadium I have been to the most.
The beauty of this though is thus: because they are a friends team I can get untold amounts of pleasure from taking the piss! And come on that's one of the best things about footy, isn't it?
Especially when your team has inflicted the damage, Right Swiss?

That said, in the wake of saturday's home defeat at the hands of the mighty Scunthorpe I just haven't got the heart to tease him anymore.
So instead I had enormous amounts of fun at the expense of the only QPR fan I've ever known.
Fancy losing 3-0 to the cobblers!
(As he is the only one I've ever known, I have to wonder if they are all delusional or if it's just him. We've even got a 20 riding on who will finish highest this season. Easy money!)
And I've only just started to lay off on the 6-1 mauling my boys dished out to them last year!

Somewhere back at the beginning of this post, it was all supposed to lead neatly into teams that you quite like for no real good reason. Which hasn't happened, so let me lead messily into teams that you quite like for no real good reason.

I have a few dotted throughout the divisions.
The one club that I've always had a soft spot for though is Norwich City.
I've never known why, perhaps it's the kit.
It became carved in stone after they larrupped Bayern Munich on their own turf that time.
Jeremy Goss' goal? Blimey!

So am I alone or does anyone else have these little soft spots, & if so, who for?

Michael Owen for England (vs Argentina), 30 June 1998

Well, if you were wee Mikey Owen, what would you do?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Morten Gamst Pedersen for Blackburn Rovers (v Fulham), 20 August 2005

what a scorcher that one was, eh?


Predictions Table Updated. It's close at the top, a 10 point haul for Dom lifts him into second behind Charby who still leads the way. Welcome to Mike also who isn't bottom even though he missed the first week....!

Midweek games too complicated so the next set will be for this weekends Premiership games, later this week.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Kenny Miller for Wolverhampton Wanderers (vs Manchester Utd), 17 January 2004

Which idiot made Wolves favourites for the Championship?

Have they never watched Wolves before? Did they never see us fail to escape from the division season after season for all those years? Did they somehow miss that?

I wish I had.

I'm tempted to say that the year we won the playoffs was a total fluke - we were as hopeless as always for most of the season, beating sides better than us, and losing to the also-rans (as usual), but somehow we got to the final and didn't blow it. In fact, we positively wiped the floor with that really quite good Sheffield Utd side. We did it! The promised land! The Premiership!

We didn't disgrace ourselves in the top division by any means, but it wasn't much of a surprise that we slipped straight back down again, was it? After all those years of heavy investment in the likes of Tony Daley, Andy Sinton and Geoff Thomas, when we finally got up, we hardly spent a penny. Oh well. Surely we'd break the mould amongst relegated sides and bounce back up. Ah. No. Last year was our worst for a long time, and we responded by sacking our best manager for years, Dave Jones and employing Glen Hoddle. The long unbeaten run of 20-odd games that followed looks good on paper, but contained barely any wins. 46 draws in a season will bring you nothing but relegation.

And yet we were amongst the favourites for promotion at the start of the season, and a good start saw more people tipping us for success. So what do we do? we lose our record to Leeds, having dominated the game.

Surprised? No.

Disappointed? Not really.

I think we'll probably finish in the top 6, and then fail in the playoffs. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm not expecting to be.

I can live with the failure. It's the hope I can't stand.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Ruud van Nistelrooy for Manchester Utd (v Aston Villa), 20 August 2005

This post could be applied to a number of teams, I am only picking on this lot because they happened to be at Glazer Field yesterday.


Aston Villa are dull. Other than the Villa fans themselves, does anyone give a flying toss in a high breeze what happens to them? Other teams you can have a soft spot for, perhaps they have one of your ex-players or a good manager, or some good flair players.

Villa have none of these things.

Their manager is a soulless, talentless ex-centre half one trick pony with one excuse (team is young and ergo inexperienced).

Their team is full of the players that induce a coma just by seeing their names. Gavin McCann. Gareth Barry. Ulises de la Cruz. Olaf Mellberg. Liam Ridgwell. Steven Davis. Eric Djemba-Djemba. Not an ounce of flair or talent amongst them.

Their style of play yesterday was awful. As increasing numbers of teams do, they set up their team to secure a 0-0 draw, and to be fair to them, they nearly got one. Four defenders, string five cloggers across the midfield and leaving Angel up front on his own. He hardly had a kick.

Like I say, it's not just Villa. I do think that the fear of relegation, the sack and the money in the game has turned the whole emphasis once more from "winning" to "not losing", hence the few 0-0's and 1-0's we have had already this season. Villa might finish sixth. They might finish sixteenth. But I don't care a jot either way. In fact I;d quite like them relegated for a laugh, along with other "big-time" dull outfits like perhaps Arsenal. or Fulham. or Boro. or Everton.


FC United of Manchester beat Padiham 3-2 in front of 2,500 at Gigg Lane, yesterday, by the way. They're top of the league on goal difference, you know....

Friday, August 19, 2005

Darren Bent for Charlton Athletic (v Sunderland), 13 August 2005

Right, folks. Predictions time for this weekends Premiership. 3 points for the correct score, one for the correct outcome. And don;t forget the lessons from the opening weekend:

Chelsea might find it harder than we thought
Wigan looked less like cannon fodder than predicted
Sunderland are going straight back down with no points

Birmingham 1-0 Man City
Blackburn 2-1 Fulham
Charlton 3-0 Wigan
Liverpool 3-0 Sunderland
Man Utd 2-0 Aston Villa
Newcastle 2-1 West Ham
Spurs 1-1 Middlesbrough
West Brom 1-0 Portsmouth
Bolton 2-2 Everton
Chelsea 1-3 Arsenal

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Dennis Rommedahl for Denmark (v England), 17 August 2005

David James poses for the cameras before yesterday's game, before he's had enough time to properly prepare his makeup

I've always thought that international friendlies were largely pointless affairs. They are usually played with a shadow squad because the best players usually withdraw from the squad in advance of the game with minor niggles (read: need to be fit for a more important league cup game later in the week). As if that wasn't bad enough, they are often played at half tempo, and the sheer number of substitutions that take place totally shatter the continuity of the game and results in International Caps being thrown out like confetti.

Last night was a new nadir.

This is World Cup year. What greater incentive can there be for staking a claim for inclusion in the England squad? Incentive aside, as professional players, we have every right to expect that they will turn up for each game and give their all, whatever the circumstances.... and surely even more so when the game in question is an international match.

So what the hell was David James thinking when he came out after the game and told us all about his lack of preparation for the game? He's one of the most experienced members of the side. Surely he should know better than this. Fair play to the guy for being honest: he certainly wasn't the only guilty party in the England side - on that performance, Rio Ferdinand isn't worth a fraction of his £100,000 a week. Best defender in the world? Do me a favour.

Frankly being sorry isn't enough, and the apology is not accepted. We already know what a bunch of overpaid, childish prats the majority of players in the grossly over-hyped Premiership are. With every fight, with every sex scandal, with every cigar, we see that more and more clearly. Inevitably this total lack of professionalism now stretches out onto the pitch.

These players are bloated on their fat salaries and on their own publicity. They should be ashamed of themselves, but I'm sure they are not.

See you at the weekend for the next round of games in the self-styled "Most Exciting League In the World".

We're one of the favourites for the World Cup, by the way.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Paul Rideout for Everton (v Manchester Utd), 20 May 1995

Mr & Mrs Davies – Part 2

At the Beach.

Maureen: “What a lovely day.”

Barry: “yes, you join us on this lovely Sunday afternoon with the sun blazing high in the bright blue sky. The temperature is noticeably hotter than it has been over recent days, I was walking past here yesterday and it certainly wasn’t this warm.”

Maureen: “Can you put me some sun tan lotion on my back?”

Barry: “Oh no. Oh no. I can’t believe that decision. Factor 8 when it should clearly be Factor 4. I remember in 1972 when the lotion was chosen with much more care than in the modern day. Terrible. Terrible.”

Maureen: “Ah, look at that little lad over there.”

[Barry looks at the boy playing with his bucket and spade for eight minutes]

Barry: “oooooooooooooooooooooooooooof. Marvellous! Marvellous!”

Monday, August 15, 2005

Denis Compton for Arsenal (v Preston North End), War Cup Final 1941

I went out for a run through a park alongside the river Trent this evening. As usual there was a game of football taking place: small boys in the park, jumpers for goalposts... you know the kind of thing.

Do you know what though? I counted four games of cricket taking place in the same park. Four! 4-1!


It's the greatest, most exciting sport in the world and what's more, isn't it refreshing to see two sides giving absolutely everything they have to secure victory for their team, but at the same time respecting the authority of the officials and generally not behaving like overpaid, spoilt babies. Compare and contrast the behaviour of someone like Andrew Flintoff with someone like Wayne Rooney. Well, there's no comparison is there? The sportmanship shown by the Australians and the English in the Ashes series has been fantastic to see: England won an amazing game at Edgbaston, and the victorious Flintoff had the compassion to commiserate with the beaten Brett Lee as the rest of the team celebrated, and the whole Australian team went into the English dressing room to share a beer and congratulate the victorious side. What do you get in football? A foodfight in the tunnel after a game. Pretty much the first thing I noticed of the new Premiership football season was Ruud van Nistelrooy launching himself backwards in the Everton penalty area about 5 seconds after his shirt had been pulled.

To be perfectly honest, I will find it a little hard to get too excited by the new football season until the cricket has finished.

Roll on the Trent Bridge Test in 9 days time.

Hernan Crespo for Chelsea (v Wigan Athletic), 14 August 2005

Chelsea? Lucky? tsk.

Anyway, you will notice I have updated the predictions thing after the first round of games. Charby had a freakish number of correctly predicted score lines and takes an early lead. And it was her birthday (happy birthday!) and her beloved Charlton opened with a good away win.

And Flash is no doubt rueing the day he ever came up with this idea....

Keep an eye out later in the week as I'll request next weekends "wild stabs in the dark"...

(incidentally points awarded as 3 for a correct score and 1 for the correct outcome. My lack of predicting any draws cost me big time with it being Premiership 0-0 heaven).

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Steven Spence for FC United of Manchester (v Leek CSOB), 13 August 2005

So, in the pouring rain of a sleepy Staffordshire market town this afternoon, a football club was born. A club formed less than two months ago by a group of impassioned football fans disenchanted with an American takeover of their own beloved football team. Whilst their PLC was being indebted to the tune of £500million, they worked tirelessly and in under eight weeks raised enough money from fans donations to start a brand new club. 930 players applied to join the squad. 260 were invited to trials. 700 people attended the clubs first general meeting.

At 3.15pm this afternoon at Harrison Park, Leek, FC United of Manchester took their first step on their route to the Barclays Premiership, a mere ten promotions away. This was the Moore and Co Solicitors North West Counties League Second Division where the average crowd in 2004/5 was 75. United Buccaneers were playing in front of 40,000 at Goodison Park.

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Harrison Park (which sounds like something from a Raymond Chandler novel) is Leek Town's ground, although it is shared with Leek CSOB who were the opposition today. (Leek County School Old Boys, to give them their full title. Formed in 1945, you know.)

We arrived in Leek at about 1pm in absolute torrential rain and sought refuge in a local hostelry for a quick drink. Lord Bargain's mum and daughter Madeleine here in the White Lion, Leek.

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Bearing in mind we had someone celebrating their 18 month birthday today, we went into the ground early in order to get three good seats in the Main Stand. I had paid £6 each for the tickets, compared to the £24.50 I pay at Buccaneerseers. Leek CSOB's average crowd last year was 70. There were 2,500 at the game today netting them over £10,000 in gate receipts.

The first stop was the catering hut. Now, on the odd occasion I have used the refreshment facilities at Glazer Field (sorry, Old Trafford), I have spent £1.60 on a weak lukewarm cup of tea, and £2.00 on a limp soggy meat pie. Frankly rubbish.

I got chatting to a very nice lady on the catering stand, and ended up with two trays of meat and potato pie, chips and mushy peas and two large teas for £4.10. And it was fantastic.

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Out came the two respective teams to warm up, and for the first half an hour our concentration was taking up trying to determine which team was which. The team in the dark sweatshirts were doing all sorts of tricks and looked pretty cool, whereas the ragbag team in white shirts had a couple of kids on the pitch and a very fat goalie. Sure enough, the white team turned out to be United. A cool away kit, though in a 1970s Crystal Palace style, with a white shirt and diagonal black sash.

At 2.45pm an announcement came over the tannoy. "Just to let you know the result from Goodison. Everton 0, that other lot 2. Oh, and for safety reasons the kick off will be delayed by fifteen minutes." So, to kill time the United players attempted the Crossbar Challenge, trying to hit the crossbar of the goal from the half way line. Maddie was also getting involved, cheering randomly from her own seat.

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And at 3.15pm, we kicked off. The standard was better than I anticipated, although it was frenetic and neither team had a lot of time on the ball. The teams felt each other out and, slightly against the run of play, Leek took the lead in the 20th minute when a mistake on the half way line let them in for an easy finish, Colin Fletcher beating the keeper from close range.

FC United hit back and levelled within five minutes with Steven Spence's excellent drilled shot from the edge of the penalty area . Ten minutes later United went 2-1 up after a clanger from the home goalkeeper spilled the ball into the path of Jon Mitten.

After 40 minutes, the main bright spot of the first half. One of the floodlights adjacent to our stand started shedding bulbs and assorted bits onto the touchline.

Just as half time was approaching, Leek hit back with an excellent long range drive from Jake Johnson which the keeper looked like he had covered but only succeeded in palming the ball into the net.

Half time, an entertaining 2-2 scoreline.

It was interesting also to hear the chants from the FC United end of the ground. I thought this one summed up the day perfectly:

We don't care about Rio
He don't care about me
All I care about, is watching FC

I also liked:

Follow, follow, follow, cause United are going to Barrow


Stand up, cause we've got no seats....

The second half was a totally different game. Leek CSOB hardly got past the half way line, and though it took United until the 68th minute to restore their lead, they had threatened right from kick off. The Leek keeper had made a couple of smart saves before Steven Spence hit another well struck shot from the edge of the area which landed in the corner of the net via a cruel deflection.

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We were also treated in the second half to a good view of the fattest linesman I have ever seen in my time watching football.

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And then as both sides made substitutions, and the sun came out, United started to play some excellent football and added two more goals, an excellent direct free kick from Steve Torpey and a smart finish by substitute Adie Orr.

Final score: Leek CSOB 2 FC United of Manchester 5

United look well equipped to do well in this league. Some of their starting XI have dropped several leagues to play for the new United team, and you could tell in some of the skill and general knowhow. The weak link looked to be a somewhat shaky goalkeeper and some occasionally hesitant defending, but in midfield and attack there seemed to be a good balance of flair and graft. So, the majority of the 2,500 crowd went home happy, including me, my mum and an eighteen month old girl having seen her first match.

Like I have said before, I am not going to stop going to the Buccaneers. In fact I will be there for the Villa game next Saturday. However, with lovely people, a family atmosphere, a crowd who played and flirted with my daughter all afternoon, seven goals, a great meat pie and no extortionate car park or two hour queue to get in and out, I may well go and watch some more of the new United. How football should be.....

Friday, August 12, 2005

Peter Osgood for Chelsea (v AC Milan), 16 February 1966

I hate Barry Davies.

There, I have said it. I feel better. Now I know this statement is akin to saying that you hated the Queen Mother and that you thought she was a doddery old wench with a penchant for boney fish and a tenner on the 3.30pm at Uttoxeter (eh? Oh.), but nonetheless I am going to stand by this assertion.

Thankfully, he has retired from football commentary. Although the same cannot be said for all the other sports which suffer from Barry’s patronising musings. I have heard him commentate at Wimbledon, on ice-dancing, on obscure Olympic events. The BBC applaud his wide ranging skill and general sporting knowledge. I say “jack of all trades, master of none”.

When was the last time you heard Motty commentating on pursuit cycling? Or badminton? Quite right. Never. Motty is a proper one sport commentator.

The problem with Barry Davies is that he applies his (and I use the word very loosely) “style” to everything he does. As I see it, this style involves:

1. Setting the scene by using language that makes it sound like you’re watching a 1950s police drama.

2. Patronising every mistake, foul or infringement by using words like “quite unnecessary”.

3. Spending five minutes saying nothing because you think the viewer respects you for doing that (when actually what they want is commentary which is what you are being paid for)

4. After the five minutes of silence, making a noise that sounds like you’ve just been walloped in the gonads.

It’s the noise that angers me the most. Yelling “oooooooooooooooooooooof” when something of importance happens. Making a career out of the noises Paul Whitehouse makes as the “suits you” character is frankly preposterous.

Anyway, I am going to start a regular feature called “Mr And Mrs Barry Davies” telling the ordinary day to day tales of an ordinary sports commentator....

Mr And Mrs Davies – Part 1

At the restaurant.

[Barry and Maureen Davies walk into the Chinese restaurant. They are seated by the waiter.]

Maureen: “It’s nice in here isn’t it?”

Barry: “Welcome to the Woo Sang. It’s a balmy night in Romford as you join me for this Chinese meal. It’s the sixteenth time we’ve met in this restaurant and so far it’s nine-six to me in terms of who has paid the bill. The restaurant has been decked out for the occasion in the colours of the Dong-Hang-Ming dynasty dating back to several thousand years ago.”

Maureen: “What are you having for a starter, love? I’m having the Sesame Prawn Toast.”

Barry: “Oh, that’s dreadful. A dreadful mistake, and I wouldnt be surprised if that costs you the whole meal. Terrible. What were you thinking? I can’t believe you didn’t even consult the assistant for a second opinion before making that decision. Frankly that could alter the whole outcome.”

Maureen: “And them I’m having the Sweet and Sour Chicken”.

[Barry looks at the menu in silence for six and a half minutes]

Barry: “Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooof. Lovely rice. Lovely rice.”

(Admittedly, this feature may not run to a whole series. That won’t stop me trying, though.)

Stelios Giannakopolous for Bolton (vs Norwich), 19 March 2005

Right, after several hours of agonising, I have finally finished my Fantasy League team (the deadline is of course the kick-off tomorrow afternoon). This is always a tricky business, but I seem to have done a lot more hand-wringing than usual this time around. I like to play the Classic Game on FantasyLeague.com, where you have £75m and have to pick a squad of 16.

I spent ages doing this, and I'm still not happy with it at all, but I have had to shrug my shoulders and just get on with it, as tomorrow morning at 07:44 I'm on a train to the cricket at Old Trafford, so it's very much now or never.

So, who has made the cut for my team?

GK: Van de Sar (MU - £4.3m)
FB: Hibbert (EVE - £3.9m)
FB: Edman (TOT - £3.8m)
FB: Thatcher (MC - £3.6m)
CB: Terry (CHE £5.5m)
CB: Cunningham (BIR £3.7m)
CB: Southgate (MID £3.9m)
MF: Giannakopolous (BOL £4.0m)
MF: Mendieta (MID £4.2m)
MF: Milner (NEW £3.7m)
MF: Gera (WBA £3.8m)
MF: Croft (MC £3.4m)
MF: Ljunberg (ARS £5.9m)
MF: Lampard (CHE £7m)
ST: Cisse (LIV £7.2m)
ST: Defoe (TOT £7.1m)

total: 75m

There were several near misses: I almost selected Bent from Charlton, but he's the same price as Freddie Ljunberg, and in the end I thought he was poorer value, and went for the extra midfielder. What makes me especially nervous is that this is the first time I have entered a team into this game without Thierry Henry, but at £11.4m he was just too expensive this year. Despite saying I wouldn't, I've also ended up with a Newcastle player...

I'm not at all convinced though, and I'll probably be tinkering with this all night.

What do you think? Have you got a Fantasy League secret? Any tips?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Didier Drogba for Chelsea (Vs Arsenal), August 7th 2005

I have a proposal.
How's about every Friday we have a little "Predict the Prem" competition.
You know the deal: Predict the scores of the weekend's games, you get 3 points if you get the score spot on & 1 point if you get the right outcome.
I figured that as this blog's readership will be ever expanding, we'd do it on a monthly basis.

Assuming that you all think it's a good idea I'll set the ball rolling today (away from puter land tomorrow, y'see) & you all do your bit in the comments section.

Everton 1-1 Manchester Utd
Aston Villa 0-2 Bolton Wanderers
Fulham 1 - 2 Birmingham city
Manchester City 3 - 1 West Bromwich Albion
Portsmouth 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Sunderland 2 -1 Charlton Athletic
West Ham United 0-0 Blackburn Rovers
Middlesborough 2-2 Liverpool
Arsenal 3-0 Newcastle United
Wigan 0-2 Chelsea

That's my bit, now your turn.
And please do use the comments section to let us know if you're into this idea or not.

Michael Chopra for Newcastle Utd (vs FK ZTS Dubnica), 17 July 2005

Over at Black & White & Read All Over, some of the finest talents in the world of football blogging have been asked to give up their opinions on Newcastle Utd's prospects for the forthcoming season. The latest 'View From the Away End' contains the views of Danny of Bitter And Blue, Pete of Round And White, Dom from Mist Rolling In From The Trent..., Terry Venerables of Footballist, Watford fan Jez, and ---ahem--- Swiss Toni of Cheer Up Alan Shearer.

You should go over there and read what everyone else thinks, but as I am an incorrigible egotist, here is what I had to say:

I sat down to last night to one of the most important tasks of the year: the selection of my fantasy football team. Over the years, I have made a few absolutely blinding selections. Your Matthew Le Tissiers and Thierry Henrys are all very well, but the selections that have given me the most satisfaction have been the ones who cost tuppence and came up trumps – your Claus Jensens, Claus Lundekvams, Rory Delaps and Stewart Downings. The players that you picked up from the bargain basement and who chipped in with precious points at crucial moments (although I like to put my selection of Silas down to temporary insanity).

Perhaps more than any other club, Newcastle Utd has a proud tradition of providing me with key players: Les Ferdinand, David Ginola, Phillipe Albert, Nolberto Solano, John Beresford, Rob Lee and, of course, Alan Shearer have all made regular appearances in my side as I lifted title after title in competition with my mates. As I looked at this year's player list though, the St James’s cupboard looks bare, and not a single player in the famous black and white stripes is going to make the cut. Goalkeeper? Not with that defence. Defenders? No chance. Midfield? Doesn't look like producing many goals. Wingers? What wingers? Strikers? What strikers? Michael Chopra?

I know that fantasy league form is not always the best guideline for judging a player's worth, but it strikes me that this it is a pretty sad indictment of the current Newcastle squad that I can't see a single player worth investing in (except possibly JJ, but only then because he's likely to move on to a better side and is thus decent value). Is Graeme Souness the man to make something out of nothing? To rebuild the squad and bring exciting football back to Tyneside? Judging by his alienation of Craig Bellamy and Laurent Robert – no, I just can’t see it. Even if he had the talent, would he really be given the opportunity to do so by a chairman who seems to have all of the brains of a small piece of cheese? Doubtful.

I like Newcastle Utd. There's something about the passion of the fans and their long, patient wait for success that strikes a chord in this Wolves fan. I'm afraid to say that I think you are going to have to be patient a little longer yet. I predict a struggle to finish inside the top six of the Premiership and no joy in the cups. Sorry about that. I hope I'm wrong.

Damn I'm good. All media requests to the normal address

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Brian Deane for Sheffield Utd (vs Manchester Utd), 15 August 1992

A post in which I peer into my crystal ball and offend the fans of all Premiership clubs with my almost completely arbitrary (but blessedly brief) predictions for the 2005/6 Premiership season.

Leggy Leader lost to Old Lady. Can Gallic genius galvanise greatness for final fling before the Grove? Fortune drives a Renault Clio.

Prediction: 3rd
Player to Watch: Cesc Fabregas – filling big boots
Aston Villa
Young, thrusting manager WLTM generous chairman for European away days. Not likely to happen here. Where’s Peter Ridsdale when you need him? Mid-table. Mediocre. Average. Uninspired and uninspiring.

Prediction: 12th
Player to Watch: Kevin Phillips – the new Darius Vassell?
Birmingham City
They play a bit like Steve Bruce’s nose looks: ugly, crooked, damaged and yet strangely effective… Destiny wears an electronic tag.

Prediction: 11th
Player to Watch: Jermaine Pennant – will he let his football do the talking?
Blackburn Rovers
Guaranteed to turn any game into an undignified scrap. The wise man gives Premiership Plus a miss if this lot are on. Actually, I think the wise man gives Premiership Plus a miss full-stop.

Prediction: 13th
Player to Watch: Craig Bellamy – you’ll certainly hear the gobby git
Bolton Wanderers
Since Southampton’s relegation, Big Sam is now the undisputed king of the Used Car Salesman school of management. An often bizarre mix of the sublime (Okacha) and the ridiculous (Diouf)

Prediction: 7th
Player to Watch: Stelios – goal-scoring midfield dynamo
Charlton Athletic
It must be very frustrating to be a Charlton fan. On the one hand they have a really good manager who has taken them to undreamed of heights. On the other hand they appear to be stagnating fast. Outside bet for an early managerial casualty?

Prediction: 14th
Player to Watch: um. Not spoilt for choice here. Franny Jeffers?
The Special One is Abramovich’s best buy, by miles. The best players gelled into the best team. Should be even easier this time. England fans will be praying Lampard & Terry stay fit for summer. I should hate them, but somehow I don't. Peter Kenyon is clearly a worm though.

Prediction: champions
Player to Watch: Shaun Wright-Phillips – better than Beckham
Only 2 words are needed to summarise the disappointing season ahead: Phil Neville. Oh, and maybe four more for good measure. "Early", "exit", "from" and "Europe". Destiny wears a mullet.

Prediction: 8th
Player to Watch: Phil Neville – 52 cap England legend
Struggle ahoy! If Malbranque leaves, relegation beckons.

Prediction: 17th
Player to Watch: Claus Jensen – injured for much of last year
Freakishly European Champions. Not so much luck in Europe this time, but surely a stronger showing in the league.

Prediction: 4th
Player to Watch: Peter Crouch – hard to miss (good touch for a big man, etc.)
Manchester City
Psycho Therapy, Psycho Therapy !

Prediction: 9th
Player to Watch: Joey Barton – what will he do next?
Manchester Utd
At last – a reliable goalkeeper in Methuselah. Fortune wears the #25 shirt.

Prediction: runners-up
Player to Watch: Alan Smith – is he really the new Roy Keane?
It’s not exactly a tourist destination, but Steve McClaren is definitely building a decent team up on Teeside. Like him though, slightly dull.

Prediction: 6th
Player to Watch: Gaizka Mendieta – occasionally one of the best players in Europe
Newcastle Utd
This great club is being reduced to a laughing stock by the ineptitude of its board and management. Shame. Souness won’t last the season, but Freddie Shepherd has little to be proud of here.

Prediction: 10th
Player to Watch: Scott Parker – point to prove
With no Yakubu, goals will be hard to come by and Laurent Robert will storm off in a huff. Azahar Karadas has always been good for me in Championship Manager though, so you never know.

Prediction: 16th
Player to Watch: Laurent Robert – says what he sees
They just popped up to say hello, and now they’ve gone back down below.

Prediction: 18th (relegated)
Player to Watch: Brian Deane? Are you serious?
Tottenham Hotspur
More optimistic than usual with a young squad yet to taste the bitterness and disappointment that are their destiny. Expect to see dazzling 1-8-1 formations to get the best out of their squad. Look out for a tall dark stranger - it will probably be Freddie Kanoute.

Prediction: 5th
Player to Watch: Michael Dawson – if he can stay clear of injury
West Bromwich Albion
The team that broke the rules – bottom at Christmas and avoided relegation. Should be easier this time around. Bryan Robson may be a decent manager after all. Who knew?

Prediction: 15th
Player to Watch: Robert Earnshaw – will Robson put him in the starting lineup?
West Ham Utd
Nice to have them back, but I don’t expect an extended stay.

Prediction: 19th (relegated)
Player to Watch: Anton Ferdinand – it’s in the blood (allegedly)
Wigan Athletic
Back to the Championship quicker than you can say “parachute payments”

Prediction: 20th (relegated)
Player to Watch: Nathan Ellington – goals at this level?


FA Cup: Tottenham Hotspur
European Cup: Juventus

I support a Championship club, you see... it's a much more competitive league, you know.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Gareth Barry for Aston Villa (vs Newcastle united), 2nd April 2005

Again going back to Red One's comment about avoiding the results on Saturdays, allow me to share my philosophy on the issue.

Much like Red One, I go to all sorts of lengths to avoid hearing the results simply because Match of the day holds no appeal at all if one already knows the scores. The biggest downside of this came last year when I often didn't find out how my boys had got on until Sunday morning.
The upside is obvious.

Sometimes though Match of the day gives one hell of a ride.

Back in April, I was round my friend's house as I often am on Saturday nights. By 10.30 Reckless (that's his name!) & I had consumed several Vodka's & smoked one or two jazz fags. We settled down for Match of the day.
Initially we were far from thrilled that the main match was Newcastle Vs Villa.
Little did we know what was instore.
It started brightly enough when Jaun Pablo Angel opened the scoring after only 5 minutes, putting the proverbial cat amongst the disease ridden birds. The fact that we actually saw Angel scoring a goal would normally be shocking enough!
In truth the remainder of the first half offered little else in terms of entertainment.

The second half was a different story altogether. 2 minutes in & the ref waved away the Toon's appeal for what looked a stonewall penalty. Eee, we did laugh.
This was one of 3 really good penalty shouts that Newcastle had. All 3 were turned down. By now Reckless & I were pissing our collective pants as we watched Souness getting progressively closer to another run in with his cardiac specialist.
We were really enjoying this. Any excuse to laugh at one of football's most dislikeable characters.
Still it just kept on getting better.
In the 72nd minute Darius Vassell saw his goalbound shot kept out by Steven Taylor's hand. The hapless defender then feigned being shot! It was fantastic, he really did clutch his stomach & writhe about as if poleaxed by a sniper's bullet. Ace! By now Reckless & I were pissing the whole of Northampton's collective pants.
When confronted by the red card he simply got up & sheepishly scuttled off the pitch, abandoning his cunning "honest ref, I never handled it but I did get shot" plan.
Gareth Barry stepped up & duly put Villa 2-0 up.
With the Toon down to ten men & trailing at home to a very average Aston Villa side you'd be forgiven for thinking that things couldn't get any better for the viewers.
Five minutes later & Newcastle conceded another penalty! Barry again dispatched the spot kick to give the visitors an unassailable 3-0 lead.
My friend & I had already agreed that this was quite possibly the funniest, most rip-roaringly entertaining Match of the Day ever when all of a sudden Lee Bowyer biffs his team mate Kieron Dyer! After everything else that had happened we were now treated to the sight of 2 of Newcastle's remaining players actually having a fight in front of 52000 people! Utterly stupendous! Believe me, if there were any dry pants in the county of Northamptonshire, we would have pissed them. I can declare without fear of contradiction. I have never, ever laughed so much while watching football.
To his enormous credit, Aston Villa's Gareth Barry (universally acclaimed as Man of the match) separated the dueling twosome before the ref quite rightly sent them both off, reducing Newcastle to 8 men.
When the final whistle went, we still had the pleasure of the press conference to come. Hurrah!

So what's the point I hear you cry.
Well, If we'd had not avoided the day's footy news then we would never have such a truly memorable & hilarious Match of the Day experience.

Monday, August 08, 2005

David Johnson for Nottingham Forest (v Huddersfield Town), 6 August 2005

The local BBC News were interviewing fans prior to the opening day of Nottingham Forest's League One campaign to determine their routine on a match day.

They picked on a jolly looking fan carrying a plastic takeaway tray and a tinny for a synopsis of his matchday Forest routine. I quote:

"Chips. Beer. Fanzine. Defeat".


Javier Zanetti for Argentina (v England), 30 June 1998

Say what you like about Alan Shearer -- cue Lord "here's what you could have won" Bargain -- but the reason that he gives so little of himself to the press is because of his total contempt for their profession. And so it comes to pass that one of the greatest English players of his generation is portrayed as boring. I don't think he is boring at all, he's just refusing to play their game, refusing to give the 'gentlemen' of the press anything to talk about except his football. I also think that as he's got older, the old deadpan routine is starting to be mixed in with a certain amount of wit, and there's a bit of a twinkle in the old warhorse's eye as he plays a straight bat. Oh yes - Alan has a whole lot more to say, he's just not saying it to the press (although at this point I will admit that applying this attitude to his punditry isn't great for the viewer - personally I like my pundits to tell us their opinions). Clearly I'm not alone in thinking this about Shearer, because he has long been touted as a manager in waiting, and not just because of the fact that he has clearly wielded more influence at Newcastle than most of the last 5 managers.

Compare this to Michael "aces wild" Owen. Amazing though it seems, given that he seems to have been around for so long, Owen is still only 25. He will have watched Shearer in his pomp at Blackburn and no doubt wanted to be like him. Judging by his press conferences and interviews, he has modelled himself on Shearer in more ways than just his desire to score goals. He's boring. Unlike Shearer though, I've never got the feeling that there's anything much going on behind those eyes that would suggest that he has got anything else in his head except bland football platitudes. His gambling habit threatened to make him mildly interesting for a while, but then I worked out that his spending was the equivalent of me putting £5 on the National - no more than he could afford on his salary.

Owen got his "dream move" to Real Madrid in 2004 (when you speak in platitudes, how could it be anything other than a dream move? I'm sure the only thing that stopped him from saying it was the club he had supported as a child is that he was leaving the club he had supported as a child). He had a pretty good season, scoring 16 goals in 26 starts, but spent most of the season on the bench. No one said that Real Madrid was a meritocracy, and in spite of his goals, Owen remained very much below Ronaldo and a woefully out of form Raul in the striking pecking order. This summer, Madrid have signed two more strikers: the Brazilians Robinho and Julio Baptista. With the World Cup in Germany looming at the end of this season, Owen surely cannot afford to not be playing regular football. So he's been angling for a move. He's been making lots of noises about how he wants to stay at Madrid and fight for his place, how he won't let transfer talk distract him from his pre-season training, but he's also made it absolutely clear that he wants to come back to England. Ideally to the North-West, and presumably to a club in the European Cup (sorry Newcastle, but did you really think he would?).

For England fans, this raises the interesting possibility that he could be paired with his England striking partner Wayne Rooney at Manchester Utd. Or he could make an emotional return to the European Champions. Where will he go? Will the move happen before the start of the season, or will he have to wait until January? Will he be given a chance at Madrid? Where would you put your money?

I'm sorry to say, but I don't really have the energy to care. He's a great little player, and he is a proven provider of the most valuable currency in the game -- goals. But he's so dull. Insipid. Vacuous. Uninspiring.....

And frankly he's no Peter Crouch is he?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Eric Djemba-Djemba for Man United (v Leeds United), 28 October 2003

In response to the comment by the lovely RedOne, I think it may be important to make a few things clear.

This blog isn't really intended as a results videprinter service. Flash is no Jeff Stelling (so I gather) and I am certainly no Ray Stubbs (thank Christ).

No, the idea is not for general "did you see that Oldham beat Yeovil 2-0 today" (although clearly if we get manic Oldham Athletic commentators, be my guest) but more for it to be a general football appreciation type place.

Hence posts about next weeks FC United game, the 1988 Sherpa Van final (I didn't realise there was a lot of need for cargo transport in the Himalayas. Do the Sherpa's need a lot of vans then?) and the genius of Matthew Le Tissier.

So shall we say, no results for at least 24 hours after the game? even in passing? Unwritten rule #1. (except I have just written it, but you know what I mean).

Right. what next? Apparently, not including the actual rules (seven letters, no proper nouns, duplicate letters etc), the leading points scoring Premier league footballer in Scrabble is West Brom keeper Tomasz Kuszczak (36 points). Can that be right? Apparently Aston Villa "legend" (I use "legend" as a definition for "shower of shite") Eric Djemba-Djemba is an equal second on 36 points also. (He clearly isn't in the running to win anything, not even "Cameroonian Footballer Of The Year With A Double Barrelled Surname 2005".)

any more suggestions? Surely little Manchester City legend Georgi Kinkladze scores a few points? and if you got Joey Barton on a triple word score, well, frankly anything could happen....

David Healy for Leeds United (Vs Millwall) 7th August 2005

So I figured I'd better nail my colours to the mast.

I am Leeds Leeds Leeds!

And we got of to a good start with 3 points on day one.

And that's it really.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Matthew Le Tissier for Southampton (vs Arsenal), 19th May 2001

I was incredulous to discover that Everton new boy Phil Neville somehow as amassed 52 England caps.


This man only ever got 8.

He's shown here wheeling away after scoring in the last minute of the last ever game at the Dell.
The goal gave saints a 3-2 victory over the Arse, hurrah!

8 caps though, it's mental!
And Phil Neville's got 52!!!!

Matt Le Tissier is one of my favourite players ever. He was a magician, conjuring up some of the finest goals ever seen.
He was almost unique in remaining with his club for his whole career. Some called him lazy. Fine, let him be lazy! He obviously had enough talent to justify a little stroll now & again. He also had enough talent to keep Southampton in the top flight almost single-handedly.
The fans down on the south coast call him Le God, yet he only ever got 8 England caps!

And Phil Neville got 52!!!!

It's a funny old game.

Ricci Crace for AFC Wimbledon (v FC United of Manchester), Saturday 23 July 2005

I have just got my tickets for my first competitive match of the season.

Manchester United v Debrecen in the Champions League 3rd Round Qualifier next week? No.

Away tickets for Everton v Manchester United in the opening game of the Premiership on 13th August? No.

My local team, Nottingham Forest v Huddersfield Town tomorrow in League One? No.

I am starting my football season off at 3pm on Saturday 13th August at Harrison Park, home of Leek County School Old Boys. My tickets are costing me £6 each, and my mum, Maddie and I are off to see the first competitive game of FC United of Manchester, the supporters club set up in response to the Malcolm Glazer takeover of Manchester United Plc.

I am really looking forward to it. Poor little Leek CSOB (average crowd just over 100) have had to make the match all ticket in anticipation of a 3000 sell-out. It will be the biggest game in their history. They will make more money on that day than they ordinarily do in a full season. Bless them, they have even posted a list of pubs nearby that will be showing the "proper" United game at 12.45pm.

I'll post some pictures and a report when I get back from the game. It promises to be brilliant.

(and then the following week I will be at Old Trafford for our game against Aston Villa, don't think that I have turned my back on the club full time for a flirtation with the new team...!)

Andy Mutch for Wolverhampton Wanderers (v Burnley), Sunday 29 May 1988

Ah, the winning goal in the 1988 Sherpa Van Trophy at Wembley Stadium.

Happy Days!

Andrew Todd Mutch. Legend.

Does this answer any outstanding questions there might be about my football allegiances?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Philip Neville for Manchester United (v Rangers), October 22 2003

So. It's the end of an era. Phil Neville has broken the umbilical cord and left the MU Rowdies to head over to Everton.

Has a player with a smaller talent ever been so decorated? 386 games for Man Utd, 6 Premierships, 3 FA cups, the European Cup and an amazing 52 England caps.

52 !

He's also captained England a couple of times (presumably when all other 10 players have left the pitch and not been replaced).

52 caps. George Best only got 37 caps for Northern Ireland, so I guess that makes Super Phil 15 caps better and counting, yeah??

Steve Bull for England (v Scotland), May 27 1989

The Premiership season kicks off at 12:45 on 13th August when Manchester Utd take on Everton.

When that happy moment arrives, I will be sat in my seat at Old Trafford, hopefully slightly the worse for wear and cheering on a triumphant home team to a well deserved and important victory.


It's the third day of the third test of the 2005 Ashes at Lancashire's Old Trafford Cricket ground. In a five Test series, this could easily be a crucial day in deciding the fate of one of sports most famous trophies and one of sports oldest rivalries.

Bollocks to the football.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer for Man Utd (v Bayern Munich), May 26 1999

Welcome to the Cheer Up Alan Shearer "all things football" blog.

Cheer up Alan Shearer
Oh what can it mean
To a sad Geordie bastard
And a shit football team...

The English season starts in three days. Bring it on.....