Thursday, April 30, 2009

John O'Shea for Manchester United (v Arsenal), 29 April 2009

I have updated the predictions table so entering the final straight it's still up for grabs (considering there are 15 bonus points on offer for correctly predicting who will be relegated from the Premier League). For reference, your guesses were:

ST: West Brom, Newcastle, Stoke
LB: West Brom, Middlesbrough, Stoke
Andy: West Brom, Portsmouth, Stoke
Shane: West Brom, Middlesbrough, Stoke
Skif: West Brom, Stoke, Newcastle
Weenie: West Brom, Middlesbrough, Newcastle

(looks like Weenie might be the only one to score a full bonus haul, there!)

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

and who's going up and down from the Championship?

Charlton 2-1 Norwich City
Crystal Palace 1-1 Sheffield Utd
Plymouth 1-0 Barnsley
Reading 2-0 Birmingham

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Luka Modric for Tottenham Hotspur (v Manchester United), 25 April 2009

Footballers names Mrs LB has misheard during commentary: Part 4.
"...did he just say his name was Moderate"?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Danny Wallace for Southampton (v Liverpool), 16 March 1984

It's MS Week from 27th April to 3rd May. It's an opportunity to try and raise awareness about a condition that affects some 85,000 people in this country and about which there are many misconceptions.

Multiple Sclerosis can affect anyone, and international standard footballers are no different in this respect to distinctly average 5-a-side trundlers like me. One player affected will be familiar to many football fans of a certain age, and he is one who had his career at the highest level cruelly cut short by this presently incurable condition: Danny Wallace:

Danny's Story

Danny was in his 20’s and at the top of his game playing professional football for Manchester United when he first starting experiencing symptoms that would eventually lead to a diagnosis of MS.

He was unable to bounce back from injury and was spending an increasing amount of time in the treatment rooms.

“At first I thought it was the usual injuries that all professional footballers got, but after a while things didn’t seem right,” he explains.

The turning point for Danny was in 1993 when he signed for Birmingham City. He began to feel pins and needles in his legs and feet and would feel incredibly tired after games. It was the smaller symptoms of the condition that had a major effect on his every day life.

“I would get frustrated that my feet were numb or I had pins and needles in my legs, I just wanted to play football. I couldn’t understand what the problem was.”

After deciding to retire from professional football in 1995, Danny went to speak to a financial advisor about his pension. He was sent for medical tests which diagnosed him with having multiple sclerosis - a condition of the central nervous system which causes the body’s immune system to attack myelin, a substance surrounding nerve fibres, causing confusion and delay in messages from the brain and spine.

MS can cause a variety of symptoms including loss of balance and mobility, extreme fatigue, depression and mood swings. There is currently no cure and few effective treatments, but with the right support and information people can continue their lives.

Now, almost 12 years since his diagnosis, Danny, age 45, has stepped forward to be one of the faces in the MS Society’s new campaign to raise awareness of the condition.

“Since being diagnosed I’ve spent much of my time raising money for others affected by MS and I was happy to take part in the campaign. It’s important to help others understand what the condition is,” he said.

“When I was first diagnosed I kept my condition quiet and only told close family and friends. I found it embarrassing and I couldn’t come to terms with it. Five years after my diagnosis I was able to come out and tell people.”

Unfortunately for Danny, his MS stopped his career as a professional footballer reaching its full potential.

“I would have definitely got more opportunities had I been fit while I was at Manchester United – I couldn’t play as many games as I wanted to and that had a negative affect on my career for sure.”

Now Danny is retired he helps raise money and awareness for MS, along with looking after the family home and his children. His symptoms include fatigue, pins and needles in his legs, problems with walking and regular back spasms, especially in the morning.

“I take regular medication, which helps, but walking is always a problem. I’ve even been out with friends in a social situation and people have presumed I was drunk. I might have had a few drinks but I certainly wasn’t drunk. It made me feel disappointed in people – that they could just presume that that’s the case, but I suppose they weren’t to know.”

MS Week 27 April - 3 May

Apologies for hijacking CUAS for this public service broadcast. Normal service can now be resumed.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Andrei Arshavin for Arsenal (v Liverpool), 21 April 2009

Hello all. Yes, it is that time again.

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

and wildcards from the Champions League semi-finals

Barcelona 2-1 Chelsea
Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mounir El Hamdaoui for AZ Alkmaar (v Vitesse Arnhem), 18 April 2009

A huge congratulations today to Louis van Gaal's AZ Alkmaar side who yesterday became the Dutch Eredivisie champions. They suffered a surprising 2-1 defeat to Vitesse on Saturday, but Ajaz's failure to ebat PSV yesterday (they were hammered 6-2) handed AZ only their second ever league title.

They are actually the only team outside the Netherlands' "big three" (PSV, Ajax, Feyenoord) to win the top flight title since 1964 (AZ themselves won it in 1981) although they have been there or thereabouts for three out of the last four seasons.

After an inauspicious start to the 2008/9 season (AZ lost their first two games against NAC Breda and ADO Den Haag) they went on a twenty-eight match unbeaten run and have clinched the title and Champions League football with three matches to spare.

Whilst AZ are worthy champions, their march to the title has been helped by poor seasons for all three of the traditional Dutch heavyweights. Feyenoord have had a dreadful season and currently languish in ninth position. PSV have also been extremely disappointing, as have Marco van Basten's Ajax side who face an uphill struggle to qualify for the Champions League next season as they will likely face Steve McLaren's FC Twente side who have spent the vast majority of the season in second place.

Following a spate of "first time/unusual" league winners in Europe this season - the German and French leagues are still up for grabs - there seems to have been something of a sea change in the balance of power in some of the European leagues which, for me, makes things a lot more interesting.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Federico Macheda for Manchester United (v Sunderland), 11 April 2009

Hello all, it is predictions time again. Not long to go, now.

Aston Villa 2-1 West Ham
Middlesbrough 1-1 Fulham
Portsmouth 2-1 Bolton
Stoke 1-0 Blackburn
Sunderland 2-1 Hull
Man City 1-1 West Brom
Tottenham 2-1 Newcastle

and from the FA Cup (90 min results)

Arsenal 0-1 Chelsea
Everton 1-1 Manchester United

and from a very exciting, close Le Championnat (7 games to go, Marseille 61 pts, Lyon 60 pts, Bordeaux 59 pts....)

Bordeaux 2-1 Lyon
Lorient 0-1 Marseille
PSG 2-0 Le Havre

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Neil Eardley for Oldham Athletic (v Carlisle United), 10 April 2009

Oldham Athletic's injury crisis worsened on Good Friday when 7 foot mascot Chaddy the Owl (better known as 34 year old Wayne Hurst) fell off a BMX bicycle when attempting an ill-advised wheelie prior to the League One tie with Carlisle United.

Chaddy ruptured ankle ligaments in the, er "accident" but did bravely maintain the mascot's unwritten rule that "you never remove your head in front of the crowd" by refusing gas and air from the attending St John's Ambulance staff.

He said: “I knew as soon as I hit the ground that I was in trouble. I was shouting to the stewards that I’d hurt myself but they were just laughing.” He was given a standing ovation as he was wheeled off the pitch.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Branoslav Ivanovic for Chelsea (v Liverpool), 8 April 2009

Good day, fellow prediction peeps. Tis that time once more.

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

and wildcards of ex-Premier League teams from Monday's League fixtures:

Norwich 1-0 Watford
Sheffield United 2-0 Nottingham Forest
Leicester 1-1 Leeds United

Monday, April 06, 2009

Florent Malouda for Chelsea (v Newcastle United), 4 April 2009

Newcastle United haven't been short of so-called "messiahs" over the years and the latest local hero to attempt to return the club to some sort of (largely fictional) "former glory" is none other than the man after who this blog was named.

It's hard not to be cynical about the appointment. Eight games remain with a difficult run-in and Shearer has been at pains to maintain he has only taken the job until the end of the season. No doubt the best part of a million quid helped the decision, but the fact that with so little of the season remaining he can either a) keep Newcastle in the Premier League to great acclaim or b) spectacularly fail, pocket the dosh and blame the previous management before hotfooting it back to the safety of the Match of the Day settee.

For a club trying to keep out of the relegation places it's hard to look beyond the senior executiveItalics when apportioning the blame. Considering the level of expectation associated with the club, 2008/9's management appointments reading: Keegan, Kinnear, Hughton, Shearer hardly sets the pulses racing. Shearer has himself little of the coaching qualifications expected for a job at this level.

The best Newcastle can hope for is a surge of optimism and belief that leads to them achieveing the wins they need to stay up. Such optimism was all but absent on Saturday though as Chelsea secured a fairly routine 2-0 win at St James Park. Newcastle are at Stoke next, and a failure to win that fixture would see them edge towards becoming odds-on favourite for the drop.

Having apparently resisted the overtures of his boyhood club before I am not surprised that he has made this shrewdly opportunistic move now. Like I say, he has nothing to lose (other than the pain he will supposedly suffer if the team go down. Yeah, right) and everything to gain. Still, if he succeeds in imparting his dirty tactics and constant haranguing of officials to his team, I suppose they have every chance.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Robbie Keane for Republic of Ireland (v Italy), 1 April 2009

You will notice from the sidebar that it's all of a sudden a bit tighter at the top than it was a few weeks ago. With a bonus 15 points available for correctly predicting the bottom 3 at the end of the season, it's all to play for.

And hello if you've googled "Alan Shearer" today (more on that appointment in due course)....

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

and some wildcards from the bottom of the Championship:

Barnsley 2-1 Nottingham Forest
Blackpool 3-1 Plymouth
Southampton 2-0 Charlton