Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cristiano Ronaldo for Manchester United (v Portsmouth), 30 January 2008

I cast a glance over Fabio Capello's first England squad today, and reading the list I was overwhelmed by quite how, well, average it is.

Honestly, take a look. It's really a bit thin and not terribly inspiring....

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

We'll stay in the Football League this week, I think:

Blackpool 0-0 Leicester
Carlisle 1-1 Walsall
Rochdale 1-2 Peterborough

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Felipe Melo for Almeria (v Valencia), 27 January 2008

I tell you, Ronald Koeman's a managerial legend.

He did a reasonable job at Vitesse Arnhem which got him the Ajax job. Despite a promising start, he left Ajax trailing in the wake of PSV when he left and headed for Benfica, where he guided them to third (which, lets face it, is the worst possible finish for a big club in Portugal). He then headed back to PSV where he almost contrived to throw away a 12 point lead, winning the title on goal difference.

I saw some of that season. I could have guided PSV to the title.

He also famously played Liverpool in the Champions League at home without a recognised striker in his starting XI.

This Hoddlesque CV got him the Valencia job on 31 October 2007. Koeman won his first game in charge, and that's where the honeymoon ended. His Valencia side have now not won a league game since 10th November. Seven defeats and three draws in the last ten games, including three consecutive defeats have left the Bats in eleventh place, a massive 26 points off Real Madrid and only five off the relegation places. For Spain's third biggest side, a G14 member with an excellent recent European pedigree, it's way off being good enough, but for those who have followed Koeman's managerial career, no surprise at all.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Joe Cole for Chelsea (v Everton), 23 January 2008

It's FA Cup time this weekend, and so the hapless thrashing around with numbers gets even less scientific this week.

up the 'Looville!

Arsenal 2-1 Newcastle
Coventry 2-0 Millwall
Derby 2-0 Preston
Liverpool 3-0 Havant and Waterlooville
Mansfield 0-2 Middlesbrough
Peterborough 1-2 West Brom
Portsmouth 2-0 Plymouth
Southampton 3-0 Bury
Wigan 0-1 Chelsea
Manchester Utd 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur

and some wildcards from the African Cup of Nations

Cameroon 2-1 Zambia
Egypt 4-0 Sudan
Tunisia 2-1 South Africa

[coming soon: the A-Z of Football returns....]

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jamie Collins for Havant and Waterlooville (v Swansea City), 16 January 2008

[the return of super Kev is celebrated here]

Predictions are in this e-mail - please scroll down.....

Some of you may be unaware that one of our long-term CUAS contributors, predictions league competitors and A-Z of Football gurus, Skif, is a fan of non-league footie. His superb website Hobo Tread details his experiences of all brands of football with great comedy and insight.

What you probably don't know is that, whilst being a generic football fan, he is also a very specific fan of Isthmian league side Havant and Waterlooville.

Not content with having their fifteen minutes of fame in last seasons FA Cup by reaching the first round proper and drawing the relative giants of Millwall, this season they have exceeded everyone's wildest expectations by eliminating York City, the oldest team in the League and the current League One leaders.

Now, they're off to Anfield for a fourth round tie with Liverpool.

Having someone we "know"'s small non-league outfit go on a Cup run such as this has been brilliant, and I found myself cheering loudly during goal flashes from West Leigh Park last night. It's easy to be a vicarious supporter of underdogs in Cup competitions; the fact one of our own is involved ups the ante several-fold.

An upset will be the longest odds seen in football for years, but I sincerely hope the players and fans have a bloody marvellous trip to Anfield and put up a great show. If they beat the five times European Cup winners, they should stop the tournament then and give them the trophy.

*insert "magic of the Cup" cliches here*

Anyway, predictions ahoy:

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

and let's have some wildcards from La Liga (there's a proper exciting league. Seven points separates Valencia in 7th with Osasuna in 18th).

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Real Madrid
Real Zaragoza 2-1 Murcia
Valladolid 1-1 Espanyol

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kevin Keegan for Newcastle (vs Queens Park Rangers), 28 August 1982

I see that Kevin Keegan's Soccer Circus ("A unique and exciting visitor attraction for the whole family...[aiming to] engage visitors in a series of fun challenges culminating in an incredible final game, kicking footballs in a fully automated, fully themed football shooting range.") is opening a new branch just south of the border then.

I think the Newcastle Utd official website puts it best:

"Breaking News: King Kev To Make Toon Return

Geordie messiah Keegan to be unveiled as new United manager."

Messiah, no less. No excitement or expectation there then.

Would they be getting so excited if Gerrard Houllier had been named? I don't think so.

If Alan Shearer is named as his assistant, I don't think there will be a dry eye in the house.

Brilliant news for the general entertainment value of the Premier League.... the quality of post-match interviews with the manager will definitely improve anyway.

Great news.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Gary MacDonald for Oldham Athletic (v Everton), 5 January 2008

So, we've taken our winter break and we're back refreshed and raring to go.



I've updated the tables, though! If there was money on this, the bookies would have paid out on Shane already....

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

and it's the Scottish Cup! Really, it is!

Cove Rangers 0-2 Ross County
Hearts 2-1 Motherwell
Morton 1-2 Gretna

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Sam Allardyce (for Bolton Wanderers) vs York City, 26th October 1974

I honestly don't know what disgusts me more about Sam Allardyce's sacking.

-> The fact that Newcastle Utd are 11th in the Premier League with 26 points in 21 games. We're just over halfway through the season. It's not a great start, but it's hardly disastrous.

-> The fact that the owner of the club and the Managing Director have repeatedly said that Allardyce's job was safe and that they were in it for the long term, that they knew it might take some time for their patience to bear some fruit.

-> The fact that Allardyce was only given 8 months in charge before his sacking

-> The fact that the fans (urged on by press and the media) began to chant against their own manager in the very early stages of the season. I'm sure that can only have helped the manager and the team

-> The fact that the club let him give a press conference detailing his plans for the club on the very same day that he was dismissed

-> The fact they let him spend something like £26m during his stay but weren't prepared to wait for that investment to mature. They'd rather start again with another manager with different plans

-> The fact that apparently the club are apparently seriously considering replacing this experienced and (relatively) successful manager with someone who might be a club legend, but who has absolutely no practical management experience and is even crap when talking about the game on Match of the Day

-> The fact that since they sacked Bobby Robson (who had led the club back into the top 4 in the league and whose only crime appeared to be a poor-ish start to the season) in August 2004, the club has gone through another 3 managers (and 2 caretakers) and managed a best league finish of 7th. Last season they finished 13th. The facts tell us that they are a mediocre side at best. How is their current position false, exactly?

-> The fact that, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, the club and their fans seem to think that they have a right to be in the top 4, winning trophies and playing beautiful football.... and they are happy to blame every successive manager who fails to change the deep-rooted malaise at the club the very instant they arrive

-> The fact that a club this unsuccessful seems to place a greater premium on the concept of "good football" than they do on "winning football"

-> 11 managers in 11 years. Says it all. Arsenal have made do with just the one in that period. As have Manchester Utd.

-> etc.

I know that there's a lot of money at stake in the Premier League, but really, is this any way to run a business? Is all of this chopping and changing going to be for Newcastle Utd's long term benefit?

Who are the most consistently successful clubs in the country? Manchester United and Arsenal. Is it purely coincidence, do you think, that they are also the ones with the longest serving managers? Manchester United's loyalty to Alex Ferguson in particular is worth noting: the board's patience with their new manager and his sticky start has been repaid a hundred times. Perhaps those 8 Premier League clubs who have changed their managers should have paid a little more attention to that fact.

Newcastle United appear to be run by a committee of idiots. I thought this would change with the departure of Fat Freddie Shepherd, but apparently not.

Football makes me despair sometimes, it really does.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Chris Brass for Darlington (v Bury), 22 April 2006

101 Great Goals #53 - Chris Brass

Great goals come in all shapes and sizes. Long-range, acrobatic, skilful, mazy. This one is absolutely none of those, whatsoever. "Great" in terms of superlative ability it may not be, "great" in terms of "brilliant" it most assuredly is.

In fact, I'm not sure there is a better word to describe this than "great".

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Carlos Tevez for Manchester United (v Birmingham City), 1 January 2008

Seven years after Roy Keane's famous "prawn sandwiches" rant, Fergie's been at it this time, comparing the atmosphere at yesterdays United game to "a funeral". Accusing the supporters of "letting down the team", Fergie continued by saying "It was so quiet....I don't think that helped us. The players need the crowd sometimes but the atmosphere inside the ground wasn't good."

Can no-one at United put two and two together and work out what some of us have been telling them for years?

Anyway, I've sent Sir Alex a note.

Dear Sir Alex

I read with interest your comments pursuant to the United v Birmingham match on New Years Day where you criticise the home crowd for their lack of support during the game.

Rather than taking out your frustration at a limp performance on the fans, I think it would be prudent to consider the overriding reasons why the atmosphere in the ground may be less vocal than in recent years.

The pricing policy of the Club over recent seasons, culminating in a 15% increase in season ticket prices and the implementation of the hated "automatic cup ticketing scheme" have been the straw that broke the camels back for thousands of loyal, dedicated United supporters. The season ticket renewal rate amongst loyal supporters has been lower this season than for many, many years and the Club has managed to successfully drive away a great swathe of its long-term support in favour of itinerant corporate supporters.

With the best will in the world it is the fans brought up with the club - my mother and I cancelled our season tickets in protest this season after a combined eighty odd years support - that are the vocal, enthusiastic supporters at games. A series of carefully considered policies at Board level has contributed to the decline in the Club's "everyman" support. By focusing on those more able to afford expensive ticket prices and on corporate guests, it follows that these customers (as I believe we should call them these days) are going to have a very different experience at a home United game than the loyal fan they replace.

I can't believe that you can be naive enough to ignore the Club's gradual alienation of it's core support as a contributing factor to the lack of atmosphere. By all means claim this as a reason, but then direct your vitriol at the Board members who implement and maintain these policies as they are the ones who prefer the £40 plus from irregular "football tourists" than the cash of the United faithful. Any corporate guests or Japanese tourists know the words to "We are the pride of all Europe...."? No, I didn't think so.



It's going bloody mad, football. It really is.

[thanks to Ian for the link]