Friday, March 31, 2006

Robbie Keane for Tottenham Hotspur (v West Bromwich Albion), 27 March 2006

Good day, one and all. Yes, it's that time again.

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

and some random foreign wildcards

Fiorentina 0-0 Roma
Barcelona 4-2 Real Madrid
ADO Den Haag 3-1 Willem II

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Didier Drogba for Chelsea (v Manchester City), 25 March 2006

....and this is the reason people are beginning to hate Peter Kenyon and Chelsea when he uses sentences like this:

"....This is a unique, ground-breaking relationship that not only demonstrates our commitment to the development of US soccer, but will also help Chelsea work towards its aim of becoming the most popular European club in the US, one of our key target markets...."

I know that my club is hardly blameless in this regard but since when did football become about "target markets"?

Joey Galloway for Tampa Bay Buccaneers (v New Orleans Saints), 1 January 2005

You may know that the capacity at Old Trafford is in the process of being increased by the addition of two upper corner quadrants at the stadium. What you may not know is the difficulty the once-great club is having in filling thse seats.

For example, I, along with thousands of other United fans are "league match ticket book" holders. This guarantees me admission to every Premiership match in a given season, plus home Cup matches should I want to (I pay for these on a match by match basis). And, that's it. Supporters with "season tickets" have additional benefits such as the opportunity for away tickets etc.

This close season, all existing League Match Ticket Book holders are being "upgraded" to Season Ticket status. Applications are also being taken for Season Tickets for the additional part of the ground.

For the Wigan game earlier in the season, you could have bought a match ticket on the day of the game. This is the first time I remember this happening for a Premiership game in the last six or seven years.

This is my favourite bit.

The club are trying to flog these grand executive box packages (see here). £205,625 per year for a box that holds 16 people including a host of benefits including Executive Box access, the opportunity of seeing the team train, priority booking etc.

Two hundred thousand pounds per year. Yes, that is two hundred thousand pounds.

However, if you were unsure about paying this amount, you do get half price access to the Museum.

HALF PRICE ACCESS TO THE MUSEUM? Last time I went it cost about a fiver. For a couple of hundred large ones a year, you'd have thought they just *might* have lobbed in a trip round the museum, eh?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Luis Boa Morte for Fulham (v Chelsea), 19 March 2006

Morning all.

I promise I will put something of interest up here in due course. As some of you may know, I am in the throes of moving house and so every waking hour seems to be spent bubble wrapping electrical kitchen items and crockery. I still have two Dutch football experiences to share with you at some point...

Meanwhile, the predictions for this week are:

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

and seeing as eight points separates the bottom nine teams in the League I thought we'd go there for the wildcards....

Bury 1-1 Rochdale
Torquay 2-1 Stockport
Barnet 1-3 Darlington

Finally, just an update on the potential bonus points scoring for the "guess the FA Cup finalists":

Lord B - Chelsea and Liverpool
Flash - Spurs and Chelsea
El Tel - Man Utd and Chelsea
Swiss - Man Utd and Chelsea
Dom - Arsenal and Newcastle
Weenie - Chelsea and Man Utd
Charby - Chelsea and Arsenal
Mike - Spurs and Arsenal
Sarah - Chelsea and Man Utd

By my reckoning there is only me that can score maximum points here (subject to the semi final draw later of course...)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Robbie Fowler for Liverpool (v Fulham), 15 March 2006

Ok, predictions have been updated. Rufus Fan has now become Sarah (now she has got round to getting her own blog up and running....) It is close at the top!

Predictions this week:

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

and lets go for the FA Cup Quarter Finals as wildcards (the 90 minute result counts for these)

Man City 2-0 West Ham
Birmingham 1-2 Liverpool
Chelsea 3-1 Newcastle
Charlton 1-2 Middlesbrough

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Jonny Wilkinson for England (vs Australia), 22nd November 2003

Last month it was announced that Real Madrid had toppled Manchester Utd to become the richest football club in the world. Real topped the table with earnings of £186.2m and United fell back to second place with a paltry £166.4m (Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal also featured in the top 10, with Newcastle, Spurs, Manchester City and Everton all making the top 20).

It should be noted that this list only reflects earnings, taking no account of outgoings (like the estimated £5m p.a. earned by the various Galacticos at Madrid). Yet somehow it still seems significant because for years and years, United have prided themselves on their commericial and financial clout. In addition to declining performances on the pitch, it seems that they are beginning to lose ground elsewhere too.

The fact that the Glazer takeover has plunged United into massive debt probably has a little to do with the financial decline, but it's almost impossible not to see the transfer of David Beckham as being significant. Peter Kenyon sold Beckham to Madrid in 2003 for a deal worth £24.5m. On the face of it, that sounded like a reasonable fee for a player a few people doubted was really on a par with Zidane and Ronaldo. Three years on, it looks more and more like Madrid got by far the better of the deal. For starters the deal itself was made up on an initial cash sum of only £5.25m, with the rest being tied up on installments (£12m over 4 years) and on payments triggered by performances in the Champions League (£875,000 every year the qualify, and £875,000 every time they make the quarter finals). On that basis alone, Manchester United will not have received the full £24.5m.

Worse still, the Real Madrid Director charged with the negotiation of the transfer, Jose Angel Sanchez, has revealed how he could not believe how little Peter Kenyon asked for Beckham when he was asked to name his price. Sanchez was apparently authorised by Madrid to pay double the £24m, and was astonished at how little the richest club in the world realised what an incredible commercial property they were giving away. Real put Beckham's commercial worth to them as something like 500m Euros - that's a 1,500% return on their investment. Not bad. (There's a good article on this here).

I wonder how Chelsea feel about this, having been so proud of their acquisition of Kenyon as their chief executive?

Football finances are crazy, as we all know, but I thought it might be interesting to have a quick and completely unscientific look at three England captains in different sports and have a look at their earning potential, together with photographs of them with their partners....

Jonny Wilkinson - England Rugby Union Captain (well, he would be if he wasn't injured all the time)

Salary: about £200,000 per year

Key sponsors: Lloyds-TSB, The Times, Lucozade, Adidas, Hackett

Total income: about £5m per year (probably as much as three times more than any other rugby player in the UK)

Andrew Flintoff - England Cricket Captain

Salary: £160,000 p.a. central contract, £60,000 bonus for winning the Ashes

Sponsors: Barclays Capital, Woodworm Cricket Equipment, The Sun, VW, Red Bull, Thwaites Brewery

Off-Pitch earning potential: estimated at between £1m - £1.5m per year

David Beckham - England Football Captain

Salary: £4.4m per year from Real Madrid (plus bonuses)

Sponsors: Adidas, Police Sunglasses, Castrol, TBC, Marks & Spencer, Tsubasa Systems, Meiji, Pepsi, Upper Deck....etc.etc

Total earnings: £17m p.a. including £12.5m from advertising contracts


I know it's a pointless comparison really, I just thought it was interesting how much more Beckham makes than the other two - even just on basic salary. I appreciate that football is the most popular sport in the world and that it generates far more income worldwide than the other two sports put together.... even so - that's a lot of money.

I suppose you can't blame any of them for cashing in whilst they can, and to be fair, all three have reputations as dedicated professionals.... but it must sometimes be hard not to be distracted by commercial opportunities outside of their day jobs. Beckham for one is often criticised for making trips to the USA / Far East when he would perhaps be better resting.

Let's hope he focuses totally on the football in the run up to Germany this summer, just as Freddie focused on the Ashes last summer, and as Jonny focused on the World Cup in 2003... which remains the last time he played for the national side.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Haris Mendunjanin for AZ Alkmaar (v NEC Nijmegen), 3 March 2006

And so, after a 2.30am start to get to Stansted, Sarah and I arrived in Eindhoven at breakfast time last Friday. After dropping the bags at the hotel, and some coffees, toasted sandwiches and a fiercely competitive game of Star Wars Episodes 1-3 Top Trumps (won by yours truly once I managed to prise Yoda out of my opponents hand by using Jar Jar Binks' height as the tactic), we headed to the nearby town of Nijmegen for the first of our three weekend matches.

I should point out here that Dutch railways are clean, reliable, efficient and reasonable. How is it that every other country's rail systems are fantastic and ours so bloody useless? Although (and this became a regular occurrence), once my head hit a train headrest, I nodded off....

Nijmegen itself was pretty horrid. Once we had got our bearings, we headed into the town centre past a selection of ugly 1960s buildings. I suspect that much of this old town was levelled in the Second World War and most of it looks like it was rebuilt our of concrete and pebble dash sometime around 1950.

The town centre was pretty horrible too - faceless ugly shopping streets and an H&M on every corner. So, after exploring the town (it took about fifteen minutes), we escaped the cold and went for a beer or two.

We then caught the bus out towards the stadium and then had to walk for about fifteen minutes from the bus stop over towards the De Goddert stadium. It was *freezing*. There was about four inches of snow and I was absolutely chilled to the bone. We arrived at the stadium and found the ticket office and spoke with a very nice chap called Pim who I had been e-mailing beforehand to source our tickets for us.

The stadium holds 12,500 and by the time the 8.30pm kick off time arrived, it was probably about two thirds full. Once interesting point that was immediately apparent (and was borne out over the course of the weekend) is that the away support in Holland is absolutely useless. Bearing in mind it's a fairly small country, and AZ are third in the league, they must have had no more than about 100 fans. These poor blighters were behind one of the goals in what can only be described as a cage - penned in on both sides and fenced in from the pitch.

The first half was a pretty drab affair. The hard pitch didn't help, and chances were few and far between. An amusing interlude occurred when I saw about the first ever goalkeeper "airshot from a backpass" that I have ever seen. I have seen plenty of keepers shank clearances into the back of the stand from a backpass but hardly ever them swinging and missing it completely so it goes out for a corner. So, thanks to Raymon van Emmerik for that.

Another strange fact about this game is that NEC have an English centre half called David Jones. The odd fact about this is that David Jones has never played football in the UK. He has made over 325 appearances in the Dutch league since 1992 for Vitesse Arnhem, Dordrecht 90, NEC Nijmegen and FC Twente but no-one outside Holland has probably ever heard of him.

The second half opened a little more brightly and two goals in three early second half minutes effectively sealed the result. A quick AZ counter attack saw Haris Medunjanin score with a smart turn and left foot shot from the edge of the penalty area. Almost straight from the restart, Medunjanin escaped down the left wing and although his cross eluded Steyn Huysegems, Danny Koevermans was there to finish smartly from close range.

Although NEC played some tidy football, other than a volley over the bar by Edgar Barreto when he should have done better they didn't pose AZ much of a threat, and a series of substitutions broke up the already dull game and AZ ran out comfortable 2-0 winners.

So, NEC woolly hat perched on my freezing head, we walked for ages, waited ages for a bus and escaped Nijmegen. Next stop, Eindhoven...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Pascal Chimbonda for Manchester United (v Wigan Athletic), 6 March 2006

Sorry there's not been much here of late. I do have match reports and snaps of the whole Dutch footie odyssey thing but work and The Feeling has taken over recently and so I will bore you with NEC Nijmegen stats in due course....

Meanwhile, the predictions for this week are:

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

and some random alliterative Coca-Cola wildcards:

Luton 1-2 Leicester
Bournemouth 2-0 Bradford
Brentford 2-0 Barnsley

Friday, March 03, 2006

Peter Crouch for England (vs Uruguay), 1st March 2006

Hello results pickers. Here are this week's fixtures for the CUAS predictions league:

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

....and this week's Lord B weekend away inspired wildcards:

NEC 0-1 AZ
PSV 3-1 Heerenveen
Ajax 3-1 Sparta Rotterdam

Not 'alf.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink for PSV Eindhoven (v AZ Alkmaar), 26 February 2006

So, then, I am off for a bit of a random weekend.

A few weeks ago I decided I needed a bit of a break, and picked this weekend as the most likely. I searched the low cost airlines for cheap flights and then, having found an odd destination, looked online to see if the weekend I was planning matched a home fixture of this city's local football team. It did. So I booked the flights and some tickets for the game.

A couple of weeks ago it dawned on me that the league fixtures in this country are spread across the whole weekend, rather than all being played on Saturday afternoon. So, with a train timetable online and a fixture list, I emailed two further clubs who both came back to me with tickets for their respective games as well.

So, on Friday night I am going to the De Goffert Stadion in Nijmegen:

for NEC Nijmegen v AZ Alkmaar.

On Saturday I will be at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven:

for PSV v Heerenveen.

and on Sunday I will be at the Amsterdam ArenA:

for Ajax v Sparta Rotterdam.

A veritable cornucopia of random Dutch football. I shall be accompanied by my good friend Rufus Fan (who is now Sarah here for those interested) and am looking forward to a slightly unusual football based long weekend in the Netherlands. Pics and reports on my return (especially from the "world famous" Ajax SoccerWorld Cafe (where we are having lunch))....