Friday, March 30, 2007

Steven Gerrard for England (v Andorra), 28 March 2007

I am not sure why I invited Swiss to contribute here, to be honest. First he confessed to not actually being a football fan, then he preferred to post about cricket and then admitted to not liking watching the international side.

Heh heh heh. At least you get both sides of the debate, I suppose....

Predictions time again:

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

and some wildcards from the Hamptons:

Wolverhampton 2-1 Southampton
Northampton 2-0 Brighton

Thursday, March 29, 2007

David Nugent for England (vs Andorra), 28th March 2007

Is it bad that I’ve stopped caring about my national football team? There used to be a time when I would avidly park myself in front of the TV to watch any game they played in – friendlies just the same as qualifiers or finals games. It was an event, something to look forward to, something that would bring friends together over a few cans of beer and some salty snacks. We could all sit around before and after the game picking imaginary squads and trying to work out how to solve the perennial “problem” on the left flank, to wonder how successive England managers could pick players like Philip Neville but ignore players like Matthew Le Tissier and to generally chew the cud about football in general.

As I’ve got older though, I’ve become increasingly jaundiced about the whole circus. I don’t know when the rot set in, but it’s now got to the point where I can genuinely take or leave an England international. There are several reasons for this:

1) The games are – almost without exception – astonishingly turgid. How many really good England games can you remember? Poland in 1986? West Germany in 1990? Holland in 1996? The 5-1 against Germany? That’s about it (and let’s not forget that we lost the most important one of those games). Long and bitter experience has taught me that this is 90 minutes of my life that would be better spend doing something else.

2) The relentless hype. Somehow the success of the Premiership and the high profile of our players leads us into the delusion that we are a great side; that we have a ‘golden generation’. On recent evidence, neither of those statements is remotely true. Yes, we have a squad packed full of very high profile and very highly paid players, but they are always less than the sum of their parts when other teams (like Northern Ireland at the moment) seem to be able to punch well above their weight. It’s largely the media that pumps this up and whips up a storm out of the smallest little thing relating to the national side. I’m bored of the fact that the TV and the papers are full of tiresome speculation and uninsightful comment pieces about the players and about the manager. Yes, England have been poor recently, but how much of the crowd reaction has been prompted by the press vultures hovering around Steve McClaren? How many of the journalists who question his competence would have picked a radically different team last night? How many of them really think that changing manager now would help England? How many of them have a constructive suggestion to make? The English Football press delights in pumping up our expectations in the national side by making them out to be world-beaters, and when they inevitably fail to live up to the stratospheric hype, they are pilloried. I’m bored of it.

3) The players. Footballers in general and English footballers in particular make me sick. They represent for me everything that is wrong with our society and what we aspire to. These are kids without much education who suddenly find themselves praised to the skies and earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a week. In a way, I suppose it’s not that surprising to see how they choose to spend that money: on stupid fast cars, on massive houses, on tasteless jewellery. That’s bad enough, but what really revolts me is the way that some of these people think that their money and status enables them to behave. Of course, footballers aren't alone in this, but how many times do we have to read about fights in nightclubs, or marathon drinking sessions, or roasting sessions in hotel rooms? Kieron Dyer, Frank Lampard, Joey Barton, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney.... how many of the current England squad do I need to name? Worse: this is the lifestyle that people aspire to. I saw an advert on the back of the bus the other day which offered people the opportunity to hire a Ferrari or a Lotus for the day. The strapline? "Have a Footballer’s Lifestyle!" No thanks. These grasping idiots and their vacuous, greedy girlfriends are all over the covers of magazines and the television (WAG's Boutique anyone?). They are sated and they are self-satisfied. The world would surely be a better place if they dropped off the face of the planet. They're obscene.

I flew back into the country on Sunday. I had no idea that England had been playing, but when I read the review of the game against Israel in the Observer, I was not in the least bit surprised. In fact, I was amused. How many times have I read a report like that? Enough to know not to bother watching England again.

Yesterday I went out to a gig and missed the game entirely. At about 21:45, word of the score began to circulate amongst the crowd. One bloke heard the news and immediately pumped his fist vigorously. “Get in!”. I had to shake my head. I wish I could generate that much passion for a feeble win against Andorra, but I just can’t do it.

I know I'm ranting and I know I'm generalising. I like watching football, but this has just become too painful.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Christoph Preuss for Eintracht Frankfurt (v Bayern Munich), 17 March 2007

101 Great Goals #12 - Christoph Preuss

Here's a wondergoal from last week's Bundesliga which is a deserved matchwinner if ever there was one. Bayern Munich dominated this match but were undone by this astounding effort which Mary Shelley's Oliver Kahn could only watch into his net.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Paul Robinson for Tottenham Hotspur (v Watford), 17 March 2007

The 101 Great Goals series continues apace, and if you missed it, there's a bit of Platini magic here.

International Predictions this week:

Czech Republic 1-1 Germany
Greece 1-2 Turkey
Israel 1-2 England
Liechtenstein 0-2 Northern Ireland
Lithuania 0-1 France
Netherlands 3-1 Romania
Portugal 2-0 Belgium
Republic of Ireland 2-1 Wales
Scotland 1-0 Georgia
Spain 2-1 Denmark

It's wild enough already this week, I reckon....

Monday, March 19, 2007

Michel Platini for Juventus (v Ascoli), 2 December 1984

So, here's a little snippet from Europe's new premier footballing politician but who, lest we forget, was probably the finest midfield goalscorer the game has ever seen.

Platini himself blames his team-mate for this goal. "If he hadn't given me such a bad pass, with the ball slightly behind me and too high to be taken on my thigh, I wouldn't have been obliged to flick it over my head and the goal would never have existed...."

101 Great Goals - #47 - Michel Platini

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Emile Mpenza for Manchester City (v Middlesbrough), 17 March 2007

So. Martin O'Neill. Experienced manager, guided Celtic to the UEFA Cup final, won titles in Scotland, cups in England. Well respected, well known and heralded as a saviour when he took over at a previously huge club suffering a downturn in fortunes.

Stuart Pearce. Great player, novice manager. Struggling with dressing-room division, a lack of goals and his career seemingly in tatters before it has hardly begun. Has one or two games to save his job at a previously huge club suffering a downturn in fortunes.

Have you looked at the Premiership table tonight?

Two teams have played 29 games and garnered 33 points.

You guessed it. Aston Villa and Manchester City.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Aaron Mokoena for Blackburn Rovers (v Manchester City), 11 March 2007

Predictions time again, folks. And no extra bonus points for correctly guessing the score in the penalty shoot-out assuming the match ends in a draw....

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

and wild in the fields:

Carlisle 1-0 Huddersfield
Mansfield 3-1 Boston
Bury 1-3 Macclesfield

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cristiano Ronaldo for Manchester Utd (v Europe XI), 13 March 2007

There are days when I despair for the future of football. No, that's not strictly true - it is the idiots that run the game that I despair of.

The latest genius brainchild of the pillocks who run the game is to abolish draws.

What in the name of 140 years of the game would be the point of that? I know! Not content with fixture congestion (whoever decided to play the FA Cup replays on a Monday night before England fly to Israel for their most important game in months needs lynching also) we could make players play all night long until the small hours when someone dies on the pitch and the opposition score from the resulting error. A 2.30am finish, but At Least Its Not A Draw.

It is complete and utter nonsense. Our American cousins have tried to get their hands on football before (make the goals bigger! make all fans drink Budweiser!) but they had better not influence the beautiful game with this latest bit of lunacy. I know they aren't capable of understanding a draw (a TIE? you mean no-one wins?) but football is played in over 200 countries, not just theirs. Not even theirs, some might say.

So, I hope this idiotic idea is given the contempt it deserves. If it is agreed upon, we might as well just let players wear shoulder pads and giant helmets and twat the ball into the bleachers with a giant stick.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Trevor Sinclair for QPR (v Barnsley), 25 January 1997

101 Great Goals #76 - Trevor Sinclair

Remember this bit of magic from the FA Cup Fourth Round in 1997? It rightly won the "Goal of the Season", despite being scored by peculiarly-haired "yet another answer to England's left sided problem" Trevor Sinclair....

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Roy Makaay for Bayern Munich (v Real Madrid), 7 March 2007

The latest edition of the brilliant A-Z of Football feature is here.

Go, have a look. I think this is the best selection of pieces yet....

It's a complete random selection of matches this week as there's no Premiership.

Middlesbrough 1-1 Man Utd
Hull 1-2 Preston
Stoke 1-2 Southampton
Scunthorpe 2-0 Nottingham Forest
Tranmere 2-1 Swansea
Barnet 0-1 Stockport
Notts County 1-2 Mansfield
Aberdeen 2-1 Hearts
Chelsea 2-0 Spurs
Plymouth 2-1 Watford

and some completely random wildcards:

who will be Australia's top run-scorer in their Cricket World Cup match against Scotland on Wednesday?

Shane Watson

who'll win the Canada v Kenya game?


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Matthew Henney for Gretna (v Morton), 3 August 2002

And so it's back. The greatest alphabet based football feature on the net, this time featuring odd Dutchmen, subjectivity, Scotland, Joleon Lescott, the 1997 Champions League and Loftus Road.

Without further ado...

The A-Z Of Football

G is for......Gary (Lord Bargain)

Scientists at the University of Grimsby (left) have recently completed a five month long study into England's ongoing failure at major football tournaments. This has long been the subject of saloon banter but a number of leading sports analysts have spent several hundred man hours arriving at their conclusions.

Their findings are interesting to say the least. Many of the long-held views about the national teams relative failure have been discounted by these academics It's nothing to do with the number of games, the lack of a winter break, the reliance on an old-fashioned 4-4-2 formation, the tactical ineptitude of a series of managers or the influx of foreign players.

No, it's more simple than that. The reason for the lack of success is all to do with the naming of players.

Let's look at the facts. In 1979, 8.42% of the players in the top flight of English football were called Gary. 9.21% were called Kenny. 11.23% were called Trevor, 4.25% Derek, 4.81% Geoff and 7.52% Brian.

And, tellingly, 23.8% were called Dave and 18.6% were called Mike.

Fast-forward to 2007 and it is interesting to compare the current Premiership players. Notwithstanding the 1.2% called Cesc, 1.4% called Gabriel and 3.8% called Didier, there are no Dave's and no Mike's. What you do find, however, is an 11.3% David and a 14.8% Michael.

The boffins have termed this the Reverse Cameron Paradox. Whilst it is acceptable for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to be monikered David, it is deemed unacceptable for him to be named "Dave" (despite his best efforts). The paradox works in reverse for footballers. The researchers postulate that England would have won the 1990 World Cup had they fielded Pete Beardsley, Dave Platt and Pete Shilton in the tournament. Similarly, the boffins suggest that England would have been beaten finalists in 2006 had they fielded Mike Carrick, Steve Gerrard, Mike Owen, Dave Beckham and Mike Dawson.

They continue with the theory that England will continue to underperform in tournaments until the current crop of players is replaced. They have calculated that England will struggle to reach even the finals of the next two tournaments fielding a team chock full of Ashley's, Rio's, Kieron's and Theo's.

Terry Butcher epitomised the strong English player. The current number 6, a John, may follow suit. His right back, Gary, is perfectly named and impressed the academics, as do the other Gary's, Lineker and Mabbutt. Other players with a high score on the Flogel-Micklethwaite Index include Geoff Thomas, Frank Lampard and Stanley Collymore. Low scorers included Joleon Lescott, Nigel Reo-Coker and Shola Ameobi.

Where are all the Martin's and Bob's? The Kevin's and Ray's? Nowhere to be found. And this is why, say the University researchers, England are destined to fail until something can be done about reintroducing properly monikered players to the international scene.

G is for.....Glenn Helder (Adem)

Glenn Helder was George Graham's last signing at Arsenal and in fact made his debut on the day the Graham was sacked for his part in the bungs scandal. The fact is it wouldn't have surprised me if George had been paid a tidy sum to take Helder from Vitesse Arnhem, but it was clear that this signing along with former Ipswich striker Chris Kiwomya were panic buys on his behalf.
I was actually hopeful that he could be a good player as he was much touted as a "product of the Ajax youth system", and had a lot of pace, but that was about it. He only scored 1 goal for Arsenal and from some of his shooting you can see why he didn't add to that tally. I remember him having quite a few shots that eventally went off for throw-ins which is never a good sign.

What I did like about him though was his hair! Do you remember the Eddie Murphy film 'Coming to America'? Do you remember the 'Soul Glo' adverts that featured in the film by that guy who was in ER? Well I bet Helder used that by the bucketload. He had great hair.

In all fairness he wasn't a bad player but left the club 2 years later and was replaced by the slightly more successful Marc Overmars. The end of an era.

(see more here)

G is for.....gambling (Paul)

There was a time when every football game I went to, I'd pop along to one of the Ladbrokes stands at St James' Park and place a bet on the outcome of the match. Nothing too flash, normally on a combination of final score and first scorer. I thought that it added a little extra frisson to the excitement of watching the match, and the chance of winning £50 for my £1 stake seemed to me to be a worthwhile gamble.

That all changed the night I saw Newcastle play Barcelona in the Champions League in 1997.

Having almost enjoyed success during the previous season's UEFA Cup campaign, thanks to Tino Asprilla's excellent European goal scoring record, I figured it was only a matter of time before I successfully combined that with the final score, and so backed Tino to once again open the scoring, and Newcastle to beat the Catalan giants 2-1. (Obviously I couldn't countenance the idea of betting that Newcastle would lose.)

The game started well, and before too long, Tino had done it again, opening his account for the evening, and scoring a brilliant goal at the Gallowgate end. By half time, he'd added a second, and with him and Keith Gillespie tearing Barcelona apart, it was looking like it was going to be a brilliant night. I remember standing at half time, and surveying the seen as St James' Park soaked up the fact that we'd just witnessed our team rip apart one of the greatest sides in the world. Contentedly I thought, Barca must be about to launch a bit of a comeback - probably nick a goal, and then we would hold on, and I'd be £50 better off. As the teams emerged from the tunnel I settled down to watch the Catalan revival which would see me collect on my bet.

Then Gillespie broke down the right, whipped in a blinding cross and Asprilla slotted home right in front of me. St James' erupted, as Tino went somersaulting into the corner to celebrate his hat-trick, and all I could think was "The bastard's just cost me fifty quid". I couldn't celebrate the goal with my usual enthusiasm, I couldn't share in the delight of everyone around me, all I could think of was the money that I might have won and which I thought was as good as mine barely ten minutes previously.

That Barcelona then started their comeback only darkened my mood and at 3-1 all I could think was that if we hadn't scored a third, I'd be spending the money now. Then the visitors added a second, and I snapped out of my malaise, and got back into the act of encouraging Newcastle to hang on to their now slender lead.

Thankfully they managed it, and I was as delighted as anyone to have been able to witness a magnificent result, and left the ground vowing never to bet on Newcastle again.

G is for.......Gretna - (Skif)

The squat nature of Raydale Park, with its pre-war bus shelter of a terrace along one side, the corrugated iron roofing and the dour wooden fa├žade of the clubhouse betray its recent non-league history. However, the temporary stand recently rebuilt as permanent at the far end hints at their undoubted ambition. Indeed, plans have been submitted for a new 6,000 seat SPL-compliant stadium. With Gretna currently leading the Scottish Division One, at time of writing, by nine points, they will have to get a wriggle on. Whether they are pipped by St. Johnstone, groundshare or need one more season in the second tier, the rise of Gretna FC has been remarkable.

You might make comparisons to Wigan Athletic: former non-league club suddenly getting an unshackled hose of ready cash pouring in and rocketing through their leagues. Although the growth appears more at Wimbledon pace and one notable difference is that Wigan’s non-league days didn’t occur in a different country. Indeed not many clubs, let alone Scottish ones, can have once claimed their record attendance as having come against Rochdale.

This is only the 5th season since Gretna ceased to provide an east/west borderland balance to Berwick Rangers’ participation in the Scottish leagues. Prior to that the Black & White’s played their football within the English pyramid, being part of the first intake into a new Northern Premier League second tier in 1982 where they remained before getting elected into the Scottish leagues at their third application, after the demise of Airdrieonians (and then new club Airdrie United’s takeover of stricken Clydebank) left a spare spot in Division 3.

After a couple of decent seasons of consolidation, Gretna ran away with the bottom division the year before last, finishing 20 points ahead of second placed Peterhead, 47 in front of Cowdenbeath in 3rd with a fairly reasonable goal difference of +101. Last season they cantered through Division Two, winning by 18 points. In the same season, they also became the first third tier side to reach the Scottish Cup Final, losing on penalties to the twins-in-a-jar spectacle that is Heart of Midlothian.

For this they could thank their excellent squad of players, many of whom could easily be playing at a higher level. The fact that they are not is due to the input of Gretna’s managing director and 100-a-day smoker, Brooks Mileson, whose JP Getty-style philanthropy is centred on shooting this small town club through the Scottish leagues. It might be argued that should anything happen to their understandably illness-prone benefactor, Gretna’s fairly small crowds (they do, after all, share a catchment area with Carlisle United) could never sustain such a lofty status as the Scottish Premier League. His sponsorship of the Northern League in England is in perpetuity, guaranteed even after his death, but I’m not sure if the same arrangement applies with Gretna. You might also say that Premier Division football might be coming far too soon for them, especially if you consider their UEFA Cup humiliation at the hands of Derry City. Still, if you were a Gretna fan, you’d just lap it up, especially if you’d been there since before their new beginning.

I visited Raydale last season and saw them easily despatch Highland League Cove Rangers 6-1 on their Road to Hampden. The ‘Down Memory Lane’ filler-page in the match-day mag revealed a great deal about their paradigm shift. One year prior to that game (so two years ago now), they apparently beat Elgin 3-0 in front of a developing crowd of 661 (they average around 1,300 nowadays in Divison 1), while 11 years ago they were hosting Worksop in front of 82. They won 6-0 that night, as it goes. The one distinct link between that Northern League era and the Scottish Cup Final one was midfielder Derek Townsley, who played, and scored a brace, in that Worksop win. His inclusion in the starting XI for the final was romantic, but that he should miss one of the penalties in the shoot out was perhaps unnecessarily cruel.

Mileson’s money not only brings in good players, but also enables them to have a modern staffing structure, with well-known names coming in to take on roles from time to time. Former DR Congo and Huddersfield gaffer Mick Wadsworth is currently director of football, while until recently former Bolton man David Holdsworth was there, with a detail of ‘Diet and Fitness’ as well as overseeing the reserve side. He also seemed to be on hand to provide plenty of programme notes and moody portraits to go with them. Well, that was certainly the case when I went to see them.

His contributions to the matchday programme that day really were woks of art. His piece on the stiffs recent turn out against Arbroath were curved around a shot of ‘Reg’ (as he signed himself) wearing a leather jacket, shirt unbuttoned to reveal a cheeky hint of chest and thus seemingly about to film a promo for an unadventurous cover-version of “I Want To Know What Love Is”. Elsewhere he continued his A-Z of football series with Kenny Dalglish at ‘K’. Of most interest here though was another quality headshot of ‘Reg’, deadpan cool above a black polo-neck, which attempted to say “Because the lady loves…”, but actually suggested that he had, at that very moment, sat down too quickly on his bike saddle.

For that alone, I think I will always have a soft spot for Gretna.

G is for.....Grass (Ben)

When weighing up the relative strengths of two teams pre-match, it’s often the case that, on paper, one is significantly superior to the other. But, as smugly self-satisfied pundits and brainless footballers never tire of pointing out, football is played not on paper but on grass.

Well, mainly.

Last time out, I was writing about foosball, played on wood, and there’s also Subbuteo, played on a felt pitch laid out on a table or the floor. 5-a-side takes place in gyms and on knee-shredding sand-doused AstroTurf – and who, as a child, hasn’t enjoyed having a kickabout in the street, belting the ball off gable end walls and garage doors while all the while ready to scarper at the sound of a shattering window or a wailing car alarm?

Even “proper” football hasn’t always been played on grass. Remember the brief fad for plastic pitches in the ‘80s that saw them installed at QPR’s Loftus Road, Oldham’s Boundary Park, Luton’s Kenilworth Road and Preston’s Deepdale? (Thank Christ the FA saw sense and banned them in 1988.) And, as cursory examination of the ‘Match of the Day’ archives reveals, in the ‘70s football was played on mud, by improbably haired men in tight shorts who liked nothing better than slugging it out toe-to-toe and then laughing it off over a meat pie and a pint.

Since that “golden age”, the quality of pitches has improved dramatically. Groundkeeping has become both a science and an art, while technological advances such as undersoil heating and sophisticated drainage systems mean that, in the UK at least, top-flight football is generally played on immaculately slick and manicured grass surfaces.

I say “generally” because there are occasional exceptions – like the Chelsea v Charlton match in January 2003, dubbed the Battle of Stamford Beach. In the ensuing sandstorm, on grass”, adding that a Chelsea official had said the surface was “the base on which a new pitch was to be directly laid”. Hardly the sort of thing on which the Blues’ multi-million-pound talents and egos would be expected to strut their stuff.

But at least it was flat. Those who turn out for pub teams on Sunday mornings, already labouring under hangovers incurred as a result of the previous evening’s team-building session, have to contend with the constant danger of turning their ankles in potholes and on molehills – not to mention performing balletic manoeuvres just as they’re about to shoot, as a consequence of skidding in shit. When was the last time you tuned in to Radio 5 to hear Alan Green saying: “And it’s Ronaldo … Ronaldo advancing on goal … oh no, he’s trod on a dog egg”?

For us fans, the pitch at our team’s home ground is the “hallowed turf”. Restricted to cheering from the sidelines, we all harbour a desire to take to the field, feel the pitch beneath our feet and tread in the footsteps of our heroes. This curiously passionate attachment to a patch of grass is the reason why, when clubs move to swanky new stadia, they often seize the opportunity to make some money by portioning up and selling off bits of the turf. What I want to know, though, is what people then do with that square of grass and soil. Keep it on the mantelpiece? Add it to their own lawn? Answers on a postcard (or, alternatively, in the comments box).

G is for…. Greatness (Swiss Toni)

Once the dust had settled on his (admittedly spectacular) farewell to football, Zinedine Zidane was widely acclaimed to have ascended into the footballing pantheon as one of the true greats of the game.

“Great”. What does that mean exactly?

The culture of the superlative rides roughshod across the game and “great” is surely the most overused word in football. The English language is just another casualty of football’s relentless war of escalating hyperbole. In this world, a goal is never just “a goal”, it is “a great goal” or a “superb goal”; the pass that led to the goal is a “majestic pass”; the players are “fantastic” or “brilliant”…. And if Sky are to be believed, the Premiership is the greatest league in the world and the quality is so high that a game can happily be declared “Super” before a ball has even been kicked. It’s a Premiership game? Satisfaction guaranteed. No, you’ll be more than satisfied. You’ll be mesmerised. Gripped. Riveted. You are about to see the greatest game in the history of the world’s greatest game. And as if that excitement wasn’t enough - coming up next on Sky Sports 3 – Speedway! Don’t touch that dial.

But life (and comparative adjectives) cannot work like that. In order to have a superlative, you must have something that it exceeds. By the very definition of the word ‘superlative’, not everything can be superior to everything else. To have a great game, you must also have a long catalogue of average games or dull games (and I think I must have seen them all). And yet here we are: every game is better than every game that came before; players now are better than players have ever been before. It’s relentless, it’s stupid and it’s clearly not true. Great games are few and far between indeed. When was the last great game that you watched? I remember the Liverpool vs Alaves UEFA cup final as being an absolute corker, but I’m really scratching my head to think of the last really genuinely all-time-great game that I sat and watched.


But here’s the puzzler: in the discussions that followed Zidane’s retirement and the general acceptance that he had been one of the genuinely great players in the history of the game, I was struck by how few other players were universally hailed as greats. Zidane was apparently ascending into a select group that certainly included Pele and Maradona, and arguably included Alfredo Di Stefano, George Best, Johann Cruyff and Franz Beckenauer. You can argue until you are blue in the face about the merits of hundreds of other players, but basically that was it. That’s quite a select gathering indeed for over 100 years of the organised game. The selective use of the word “great” when applied to the very best players in the history of the game forms an interesting contrast indeed to its liberal overuse in the day-to-day coverage of football. Maybe I should just send Clive Tyldesley a thesaurus?

Of course, the pedants amongst you will already have noted that the word “great” is not actually a superlative at all. Where can you go from “great”? The answer is simple: “greatest”.

And that, dear reader, is where I throw the floor open to you for the perennial debate: who was the greatest player? And, more parochially, who was your club's greatest player? It’s subjective of course, but isn’t a subjective view of the world what football is all about? Nail your colours to the mast and tell me what you think.


Thanks as ever to all the contributors. And this time som questions that need answering. Who are your clubs/the world's great players? Do we need more Trevors? What do people do with sacred turf? Ever been denied huge winnings by a late goal?

The floor is open....

(and in an idea vaguely related to the Spine Line competition on "Four Four Two", the goal above was Gretna's first in the Scottish League, relating to Skif's article about the same team....)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Carlos Tevez for Argentina (v Serbia and Montenegro), 16 June 2006

Predictions are here.

So, West Ham United have been charged by the Premier League regarding the signings of Argentinian duo Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. The charge relates to irregularities regarding the third party ownership of the players with Media Sports Investment.

What amuses me today, however, is their possible penalty. Arriving in August fresh from an excellent showing in the World Cup, the transfers were seen as one of the biggest transfer coups in the games history. Two seasoned world-class South American internationals signing for West Ham United.

Mascherano played seven times before joining Liverpool in January. Tevez has played thirteen times without scoring.

Non-league side AFC Wimbledon are currently facing an eighteen point penalty for fielding ex-Wimbledon (!) player Jermaine Darlington without the requisite international clearance (there is an excellent article about AFC's plight here). He played eleven times for AFC Wimbledon and their penalty for a complete administrative oversight is deduction of the 18 points gained during those games.

West Ham's possible penalty for the fifteen or so games they fielded seasoned Argentinian internationals without the correct registration?

Five points.

It was hardly worth it, was it?

Didier Drogba for Chelsea (v Arsenal), 25 February 2007

Morning all.

For this first instalment of our new shiny 101 great Goals series featuring an absolute belter from God-botherer Glenn Hoddle (....."they say Hoddle's found Jesus. That must have been one hell of a pass....") go here.

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

and shall we skip overseas for our wildcards this week?

Anderlecht 2-0 Charleroi
Sevilla 3-2 Barcelona
Alemania Aachen 1-2 Mainz