Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Michael McIndoe for Doncaster rovers (vs Aston villa), 29th November 2005

Purely because I'm not at home to laugh at all my Villa supporting mates & that Donny is the town of my birth...

Woahhhhh ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hah haaaah!

Etc, ad infinitum...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

George Best for Manchester Utd (v Sheffield Utd), 2 October 1971

Friday saw the passing of one of the game's greats. A man generally regarded, irrespective of partisan bias as one of the most precocious talents ever to grace a football field. The decision was quickly made to honour Best with a minutes silence at every league game up and down the country played this weekend. Some decided to use the minute to applaud the great man.

So, thank you very much to the supporters of Leeds United, Liverpool and Manchester City who decided to honour the passing of a true great with abuse and disrespect as they failed to observe the minutes silence.

I'd denounce this behaviour by anyone. If my fellow Manchester United supporters did the same thing, I'd write a piece here saying how objectionable and distasteful I find that action. And I hope all Leeds, Liverpool and City fans out there feel the same way.

So, thankyou to Kevin Blackwell, Rafa Benitez and Stuart Pearce for having the balls to come out and criticise (admittedly a minority of) their own fans. And perhaps, one day, clubs will decide to ban these pathetic excuses for human beings who haven't even the capacity for dignifying the memory of a true football legend.

Yes, it was a minority. But, as Kevin Blackwell rightly said, it is time to stand up to this cretinous minority. In the name of a civil society I'd love to go even further and kick these bastards out of the game for good.

Friday, November 25, 2005

George Best for Manchester Utd (vs Benfica), 29 May 1968

George Best 1946-2005

There will be plenty of stuff written about him over the next few days, and much of it won't be about football.

Let's do him the honour here of remembering him purely for his football.

The statistics won't do much to paint a picture, but here they are:

- Manchester Utd 1963-74 - 466 appearances, 178 goals
- Also played for: Stockport County, Cork Celtics, Dunstable Town, Los Angeles Aztecs, Fulham, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Hibernian, San Jose Earthquakes, Bournemouth, Brisbane Lions

He finally retired in 1983, aged 37.


- 37 Caps for Northern Ireland, 9 goals
- European Cup winner (1968)
- League Division 1 winner (1965,67)
- European Player of the Year (1968)

One of the greatest players the game has ever produced.


(there's a decent profile here)

Nathan Ellington for WBA (vs Everton), 19 November 2005

Here we go again then.

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

and wildcard, from the Vauxhall Masterfit Welsh Premier League (where else?):

T.N.S. 2-1 Haverfordwest

Monday, November 21, 2005

Marek Heinz for the Czech Republic (v Germany), 23 June 2004

OK, here's an interactive one for everyone...

I love football stadia. There is something about them that is just, well, magical. I can't really explain why, other than the simple fact that when you see one you know you are going to see a live game of football, but walking up the stairs and getting that first glimpse of the green of the pitch still makes me giddy like a child.

I thought we'd have a go and see how many of the 92 league grounds, in total, our readership has visited, and then see what are the best other grounds (Scottish, non-league, foreign) we can list. I reckon we can get quite a way through the 92, and quite exotic with the others as well.

This is my favourite stadium I think. OK, so it is new, and some have the view that new stadia are soulless but I just love the design and the colours of this.

This is the Jose Arvelade Stadium - home of Sporting Lisbon.

OK, so let's have a crack and see how we get on, eh? I'll kick us off.

  • Old Trafford
  • Goodison Park
  • Ewood Park
  • Villa Park
  • St Andrews
  • Vicarage Road
  • Turf Moor
  • Kenilworth Road
  • Ninian Park
  • Loftus Road
  • Gresty Road
  • City Ground
  • Ashton Gate
  • Brunton Park
  • Sixfields Stadium
  • Gigg Lane
  • Sincil Bank

and no longer with us

  • Roker Park (Sunderland)
  • Goldstone Ground (Brighton)
  • Springfield Park (Wigan)
  • Highfield Road (Coventry)
  • Filbert Street (Leicester)
  • Eastville Stadium (Bristol Rovers)

and abroad

  • de Kuip (Feyenoord)
  • Estadio de Luz (Benfica) - the new one
  • Gelredome (Vitesse Arnhem)
  • Sclessin Stadium (Standard Liege)
  • Jose Arvelade (Sporting Lisbon)
  • Amsterdam Arena (Ajax)
  • Philips Stadion (PSV Eindhoven)
  • Nou Camp (Barcelona)

and other UK

  • Shielfield Park (Berwick Rangers)
  • Millennium Stadium
  • Wembley

Come on then, folks - what can you add?

Michael Owen for Newcastle (v WBA), 30 October 2005

The final predictions table for October was as follows:

1. Ben - 53 points
2. Charby - 51 points
3. El Tel - 48 points
4. Mike - 42 points
5. Alex - 41 points
6. Lord B - 41 points
7. Swiss T - 40 points
8. Weenie - 38 points
9. Rufus - 34 points
10. Flash - 33 points
11. Dom - 24 points

We seem to have lost Tricky along the way as well.....

A big "hurrah" to Ben for (finally) stopping Charby from winning something (no offence, it's just that you have been winning *everything*....). November's updated later....

Friday, November 18, 2005

Kevin Nolan for Bolton (v Spurs), 7 November 2005

Good morning, pop pickers. Predictions and the Premiership are back this weekend....

and I am not suggesting anyone is taking this too seriously, but Weenie did email me her predictions for this weekend over a week ago as she knew she wouldn't be here. Dedication or what?

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

and special wild card

Celtic 2-1 Rangers

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Carlos Tévez for Argentina (vs Paraguay), 28 August 2004

Football has been included in every single Summer Olympics, with the exception of 1896 and 1932. Initially there was only a men’s tournament, but women’s football was added to the programme for the Atlanta games in 1996.

The first World Cup was not until 1930, but not wanting to overshadow FIFA’s new showpiece event, football was dropped from the Olympic programme for the 1932 games. It returned for the Berlin games in 1936, but by now professionalism was taking hold of football and the quality of the strictly amateur Olympic tournament was poor in comparison with the World Cup. This ruling played into the hands of state-sponsored teams from the Eastern Bloc, and between 1948 and 1980, 23 of the 27 medals were won by countries from behind the Iron Curtain (East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Poland…. All countries, you’ll notice, with a decent pedigree in the international game since the collapse of Communism). The rules were changed again in 1984 to allow teams from Africa, Asia and Oceania to enter fully professional sides, but teams from Europe and the Americas were not allowed to field any players who had previously appeared in a World Cup. This ruling meant that many European Countries played very young sides, and this idea caught on to the extent that in 1992 the rules were changed again to restrict sides to players under the age of 23 (although each team are allowed 3 overage players). These are the rules we still have today, and the Olympic Tournament is effectively now the Under-23 World Cup.

Great Britain have not appeared in the finals since 1960 (having been gold medal winners in 1908 and 1912), and have not even entered a team into the qualifying competition since the distinction between amateur and professional football was abolished by the British football associations. The main excuse for not entering a team these days though is that Britain is in the unique position of having 4 separate national Football Associations in the same country (England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland), all competing in international football. For some reason, it is thought that producing a single team for the Olympics may lead to calls for the UK's special four-team status to be abolished altogether.

Now that the 2012 Olympics have been awarded to London though, there has been renewed talk that there should be a Great Britain team entered. It seems that the Scottish FA still fear for their independence though, and they have released a statement saying that they will not allow Scottish players to take part in any Great Britain team. That would be a shame. The 2012 Olympics will be a great boost to sport in this country, and kids are apparently flocking to athletics clubs in the hope that they will be able to emulate Kelly Holmes on home soil in 7 years time. To have a Great Britain football team that does not feature a single Scottish player would be sad indeed.

Of course, the cynics amongst you will be quick to point out that Scotland wouldn’t have anyone good enough to be included in the side anyway….

Shame on you! England do not have a monopoly on all the great players that this country has produced. For every Bobby Charlton, there has been a Denis Law, a George Best, a Kenny Dalglish, a John Charles…. Surely there is every reason to believe that somewhere out there could be a teenager playing keepie-uppie, or having a kick about with his (or her) mates, and that this kid might be the one to score the winning goal for Great Britain in the Olympic Final in 2012?

I’d like to think so.


If the Olympic Games were next summer, who would be in your men’s Great Britain football team? Remember they have to be all under-23, although you are allowed 3 overage players.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Michael Owen for England (v Argentina), 12 November 2005

It's just bloody typical, isn't it?

I have spent years of my life watching pointless international friendly matches, where England labour with a useless system, make endless tactically inept substitutions and occasionally scrape a lucky win.

So on Saturday I decide to drive an hour to go and visit a pal of mine for the evening, and miss what one of my colleagues has today called" the best football match I have seen for a long time."


So, reflections please? We were good, apparently. Rooney was great, so I gather, and Motty nearly exploded as the third England goal went in. We can play a system with a holding midfielder ("Makaledley" as the Guardian have christened him today), we may have reserve full backs, reports of the end of Becks' career are premature and, shock horror, we might have the mental mettle to tackle a decent side.

anything to add?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Darren Fletcher for Manchester Utd (v Chelsea), 6 November 2005

No predictions this week. This is mainly becuase it is International Friendly Weekend, and predicting the results of friendly matches might as well involve a random number generator.

It is also partly becuase I am two weeks behind totting up the last lot - for anyone who doesnt partake in my ordinary real life blog this is largely becuase I agreed to sign up to the National Novel Writing Month escapade, which involves writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.

This is taking up quite a bit of time as you may imagine, hence the paucity of biting football analysis (ahem) over here as well.

A few years back, through the Manchester FA, I went on the Referees Training Course and qualified to be an authorised football ref. At that time I had a cunning plan to write a book about my exploits on the playing fields of Lancashire, and, for the first time in the public domain, here's the first couple of chapters of my never-finished masterpiece entitled "The B*stard In The Black". It's really not that great, but in the spirit of all things novel-related, I thought I would share it with you.

Saturday 24 March 2001

And so it begins. Certificate framed, exams passed, registration card safely tucked away in the “important documents” section of the filing cabinet. The first step on a football road that will see me leading the teams out in the Maracana stadium in the World Cup Final. Or perhaps striding out followed by Real Madrid and Ajax in the European Super League decider in the Nou Camp. Well… have to start somewhere, surely?…

It is 3pm on a wet Saturday afternoon in March. Up and down the country thousands of players take their respective fields battling promotion, relegation and mid-table mediocrity. My referreing career begins not at the San Siro, not at Anfield, not even at Gresty Road, Crewe. I am standing in the rain on Bolton Street, Bury trying to find a free parking meter in the Saturday afternoon shopping mayhem. Having queued in a bus lane for twenty five minutes I eventually pull into a Pay and Display, deposit my sixty pence and make my way to Bury Sports.

Bury Sports is the Grace Brothers of sports equipment. Rapidly overtaken by brightly lit and massive out of town sports emporia, classifying sports equipment as Manchester United toasters and luminescent leiderhosen, it harks back to those heady days of my childhood when sports shops sold squash rackets and ping-pong balls. In fact, Bury Sports still sells all these things, stored meticulously in wooden drawers behind the long wooden counter. This, I am reliably informed, is the main stockist for referee kit and acoutrements in the North West, and, true to form, everything I request is instantly located and laid out on the counter for me. Shirt, shorts and socks. White turn overs or black and white stripes? My first referring decision. I plump for plain white, and wait for the angry reaction of supporters of the black and white stripes claiming bias. When none was forthcoming, I felt great comfort. Perhaps people will accept my decisions without argument? Perhaps I have an inherent decisive yet fair nature? Perhaps it is only socks and not twenty two beery big blokes?

I part with my seventy quid and walk up kitted up and ready for action. I am particularly pleased with my silver whistle, the famous Acme Thunderer, which I blow repeatedly in my living room all evening, much to the disgruntlement of my wife and nervously dispositioned cats…

Sunday 25 March 2001

Westbury Sports 4 – 3 Victoria
Close Park 6, Radcliffe

At 9.30am, the realisation dawns. This is it. I felt like a 17 year old who has scored top marks in the Driving Theory Test before waking up on the morning of their practical exam having never actually sat behind the wheel of a car before. I successfully negotiate the changing facilities and find the referees room, and notice with glee what looks like an excellent lock on the door. I change, double and triple check my pockets for the necessaries and make my way to the field. Nets checked (I congratulate myself on this as I am sure that was never mentioned during the training), and I then await the arrival of the away team. They eventually appear, swaggering up the touchline, fags in hand and take their place in their obviously cleverly worked out formation. The system they adopt seems to relate to the distance they have to walk, so there are lots of takers for strikers and left sided midfielders, and the last one out of the dressing room seems to be lumbered with playing right back, which necessitates a jog as I am now fed up with waiting.

Whistle goes, and a relatively eventful first half ends 4-1 to Westbury. I have also awarded my first penalty kick. Westbury’s number 7 skips past the full back on the edge of the penalty area down the right wing, and is blatantly tripped from behind as he prepares to cross. I immediately blow the whistle and award a penalty, to which I receive some grief from the defender who also rather comically places the ball outside the penalty area claiming it is a free kick. It takes the intervention of the defenders team mate shouting “Just give them the ball – it’s a f******g penalty, you daft b******d” for the shamed culprit to hand over the ball and watch in awe as his goalkeeping colleague pulls off a fine save low to his left.

The second half is more fraught, and I am guilty of not stopping the game and administering the odd talking to on several occasions for full-blooded challenges and the odd bout of verbal shenanigans. Victoria to their credit pull the score back to 4-3, and in the 88th minute their striker races through on goal and tumbles over sliding tackle from the defending player. The ball carries on in the same direction and so I conclude that no contact has been made with the ball, and award a second penalty kick. I am then the recipient of another verbal assault, rendered unnecessary by the keeper pulling off another fantastic save and me blowing the whistle as soon as the ball went out to stop the game.

Back in the changing room I benefit from the advice of two colleagues, both advocating the use of copious cautions and sendings off and vow to be stricter next week. So there. I bag my first match fee, stick the kit in the wash and vow never, never, never to put myself through that again….

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Paul Mitten for FC United of Manchester (v Nelson FC), 22 October 2005

Even though I am a season-ticket holder at the Buccaneers, with me having my beautiful daughter this weekend I wasn't able to get to the Glazerdome to see the Chelsea game.

So, instead, I thought I'd pay my £7 and make another away trip in the North West Counties League 2nd Division to see the "vigilante" United team in action for the second time this season. Going into the game, FC United were top of the league with a record of played 11, won 9, drawn 1 lost 1, for 41 against 11.

An average of about four and a half goals a game, a family atmosphere at the ground, a cuppa that doesn't cost you a fortune, seats, a good view, the ability to park within a couple of miles of the stadium, players who give a sh*t.....

Today we were up against Eccleshall FC (average crowd 70) who had moved the game (as all teams in this league have so far done to cater for the much larger crowds) and so 2,011 piled into nearby Stafford Rangers Marston Road ground for todays fixture. Of course, I took the nipper.

You can't argue with a Peter Rabbit fruit bar before kick-off, can you? And we were royally entertained for half an hour with Rod Stewart's Greatest Hits. You don't get that in the Premiership.

The FC away support. We were sitting in the posh seats. (Well, I say posh. They were seats.) An entertaining first half finished goal-less, the best chance falling to Eccleshall after a mix-up between FC's keeper and centre half.

And a great chant that went:

"Que sera sera, whatever will be will be, we're going to Timperley......"


"Rio - the man with no shame....." He gets the brunt of all the chanting at FC United games. And rightly so, the useless greedy corn-rowed b*stard.

This is the North West Counties League Division 2 current Manager of the Month - "super"Karl Marginson. Vegetable delivery man by weekday, manager of FC United by weekend.

Although at half time, FC appointed a new, younger manager.....

It's a love thang, apparently.

An entertaining game ended up goalless. Bloody typical after an average of four goals a game all season, and we had deliberately gone in search of goals after the real United's recent spectacular failure to be able to hit a cows arse with a banjo. Anyway, another great day out - if anyone hasn't been to this type of football for a while I would genuinely recommend it. Nice people, some competitive football and grounds, facilities, terracing and refreshments like football used to be.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Gaizka Mendieta for Middlesbrough (v Manchester Utd), 29 October 2005

...well at least I predicted a Boro win, eh? (oh, and for anyone who missed it, it was Kettering 1 Droylsden 0 in Gazza's first game in charge).

This weekend I shall mostly be at Stafford Rangers ground watching Eccleshall v FC United of Manchester. On Sunday I shall be hiding behind the sofa hoping to escape with a maybe three goal defeat.

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

and from the FA Cup First Round:

Colchester 3-0 Leamington

(have you noticed, by the way, that the last three post titles have been goals scored against United? There's a theme developing, here.....)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Milenko Acimovic for Lille (v Manchester Utd), 2 November 2005

It's been a little while since I raised the issue of my own personal club, and with them hitting the news again this week, I thought it was perhaps time for a review of where we are so far this season.


Commentators have this slightly bizarre opinion of United that we have recently been genius and it's all just a matter of time before we click and give someone a walloping. This is utter, utter fallacy. United haven't actually been any good, other than a very odd game or two, since 2000. The second Juan Sebastian Veron was unveiled in the centre of our midfield, we have never recovered. I'm not blaming Veron specifically, but this whole idea that we have remained at the top of the pile since that time are frankly ludicrous.

Yes, we, slighly luckily, won the Premiership title in 2002/3. The season before we finished a distant third, the seasons after we finished a distant third both seasons. For a club that wasn't put of the top two since 1991, this represents quite a fall.

If you watch United on a regular basis, week in, week out, you will realise one truth. We are not very good anymore. We can't score goals. We can't defend. We are about as exciting as watching Midsomer Murders in slow motion.

And this season we are plumbing new depths of hopelessness. The 4-1 defeat, entirely deserved against Middlesbrough on Saturday was the final straw for long-serving captain and Ferguson mouthpiece Roy Keane. In an interview pulled by GMTV earlier this week, Keane is believed to have named and shamed several members of the current squad he felt were either playing by reputation, or not understanding the need to play with passion for the side.

Ask a United fan - Roy Keane is quite, quite correct.

I have no panacea to our problems. I don't think it is the manager, or the board, or the takeoever. I think teams have certainly caught up (and overtaken) us, but the biggest problem we face is that our current first team squad is simply not good enough. And, the so-called "big name" players on that teamsheet are largely underperforming.

Our starting line up against Middlesbrough on Saturday was one of the weakest I have seen for a long while. Our central midfield threesome of Darren Fletcher (promising but should be being gently bedded in), Paul Scholes (woefully off form) and Alan Smith (yet to convince anyone he is a holding midfielder).

The players that can escape general hostility at present are few and far between. Rooney and Ruud are working hard with zero service. Ronaldo will be genius when he learns that falling on his arse won't win a free kick every time.

The one player I will single out for abuse is £120,000 a week clown Rio Ferdinand. Was there ever a player who owes a club a decent set of performances over months and years having (i) dropped them in the doo-doo by forgetting to take a piss and sitting watching the season go down the toilet whilst pocketing £80,000 a week and (ii) stringing the same team along for months whilst deciding whether he'd settle for a mere 50% pay rise.

(Paul Scholes contract negotiations during this same period took one hour. He walked into the office, had his accountant check the deal, signed it and left.)

Rio needs to be very careful. If we had more than three fit defenders, he wouldn't be playing. England found a couple of better ones and had no hesitation in playing them instead. The main chant to be heard at FC United of Manchester games goes:

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

Which says it all.

United are a team in irreversible decline. The squad isnt strong enough, teams are no longer afraid of them and the manager is, now we are in the Glazer era, on very shaky ground. Pity the poor bloke who ends up taking over from Ferguson as he is going to inherit an aging, increasingly complacent side who haven't shown any sign of winning a significant trophy (discounting beting Millwall in an FA Cup Final) since 2003.

I find it depressing yet at the same time mildy amusing. Oh, and we're now 1-0 down to Lille in the Champions League as well. On the basis we can't score more than about a goal a game, that's a draw at best, then.

Our next game? Chelsea this weekend. Want my advice? Stick your house on the Champions. And pick up two houses at 6pm on Sunday.