Friday, 31 July 2009

Bobby Robson

Football mourns the passing of a true gentlemen.

R.I.P. Bobby

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Terry commitment reveals his influence at Chelsea

It was the news that Chelsea fans were waiting for. As the media stories grew over the summer Blues supporters were beginning to get twitchy and the thought of John Terry leaving the club started to enter the realms of reality.

But the England football team skipper has finally made his thoughts public over the weekend and committed his future to Chelsea, saying he wants to end his career at the club he has been at since he was a schoolboy.

I feel this is the outcome many people will have foreseen – the prospect of ‘Mr Chelsea’ leaving for Man City would have been the transfer coup of the decade. But why has Terry taken so long to speak out?

Read the rest of this entry.

PMP World Cup Competition - win a Sony Ericsson Mobile Phone!

Yes that's right we here at PMP towers have a brand new mobile to give away!

As you know, the FIFA World Cup is next year in South Africa and Sony Ericsson is one of the main sponsors of this epic football event.

To celebrate this fact we are offering you the chance to win a brand new FIFA branded Sony Ericsson W995 handset worth £500!

You can check it out by clicking here

And that's not at all!

If you are the lucky winner of the handset enter your details at, including the IMEI number and you’re in a draw for the Golden ticket! The prizes are:

Grand Prize: 1 x 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Golden Ticket
The Ronaldo of footy prizes, this golden ticket entitles the winner to a pair of tickets to every game their country plays – including the final. This once in a lifetime prize includes flights and 4-star accommodation are included.

Weekly Prizes: 2 x pairs of tickets to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™
Winners will see the drama unfold. Each week we’re giving away two pairs of tickets to a 2010 FIFA World Cup™ match. Flights and three nights in 4-star accommodation are included.

Daily Prizes:1 x Sony BRAVIA TV
Every day a stylish 40-inch Sony BRAVIA TV will be won so fans can follow all the action live for edge of the sofa viewing.

To enter this competition send me a message (by clicking the link in the right-hand sidebar) containing your name, e-mail address the answer to the following question:


Entries should be received by the 23rd August. The winner will be chosen at random and contacted by email.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Views on the week

John Terry has finally spoken out over his future, pledging his allegiance to Chelsea and ending another of the most tedious transfer stories of the year, mainly because nothing ever really happened bar one rejected bid.

I have to say though, if he is so committed why stay silent for so long?

He is labelled Mr Chelsea, given his loyalty to the Blues, but as Mr Scolari found it is also because he wields a lot of influence at the Bridge – perhaps too much for a player?

Read the rest of this entry.

What happened to Sheva?

It is one of the mysteries that I and fellow non-footballing folk will never comprehend. How a player can go from world beater to unwanted cast-off in such a short space of time.

One such player is Andrei Shevchenko. Prolific at Dynamo Kiev alongside Sergei Rebrov (Spurs fans shudder at the memory) he helped the Ukrainian side to five league titles and a Champions League semi-final before joining AC Milan in 1999. A magic seven year spell at the San Siro saw him become second in Milan’s all-time top scorers list with 173 goals in 298 games and he was one of Europe’s most feared strikers.

Read the rest of this entry.

Sven and Notts County

It was an announcement that made many people check their calendar to see if it was an April fool. But no it is true; Sven Goran Eriksson has joined Notts County.

The Nottingham side play in League two, England’s basement division, and finished a lowly 19th last season. But after years in the doldrums a recent take-over by a Middle Eastern consortium has breathed new life into the Magpies (I blogged about their takeover on this site a few weeks ago.

Now with financial backing they have lured the former England boss to Meadow Lane as director of football. He will work with current boss Ian McParland, setup a scouting network, a training infrastructure and hunt down new players. In a press conference this week Sven revealed he is aiming for the Premier League. No pressure then.

Read the rest of this entry.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Everton Takeover deal?

Lets face it we all needing cheering up after today, so why not send all Evertonians to bed dreaming of Arab riches??

My mate has relatives in Dubai who first alerted me of the rumours of a takeover by a “UAE-based business consortium” and it has since spread like wildfire across the Everton internet community.

Are they true? Well I'll believe it when I see it. We have heard too many of these rumours before to get too excited.......... would be great though wouldn't it!!!!

The source? click here.

There is, of course, a long way to go before we can even think about drawing up a Man City style shopping list, but to quote our chairman:

Watch this space!

Naughton chase lost

After another typical Evertonesque drawn out transfer saga it looks like we will have to admit defeat in the chase for Kyle Naughton.

I have to admit the whole deal has been blown out of all proportion, he is only a 20-year-old full-back untested in the Premier League after all.

But given the scarcity of genuine transfer deals this close-season (again!) we have clung top this one as a desperate sign the we are going to avoid a repeat of last season's torturous summer.

Sheff United's behaviour leaves a lot to be desired, accepting our offer before changing their minds at the last minute. After playing the victim for so long after the Tevez saga they have lost a lot of sympathy after their behaviour over this deal.

Rumours of PFA and FA involvement further muddy the waters, but it looks like the Blades will get their way.

As will Tottenham who, although they technically haven't done anything wrong, have been a little sneaky in waiting till we have a bid accepted before gazumping us.

It does irritate me they way Spurs seem to throw money around with no tangible reward (except a Carling Cup or two) yet the continue to keep on spending, and players still want to sign for them.

Money has talked once again in this deal, but look at the full-backs grave yard already at the Lane?!

If I were a Spurs fan I would question Redknapp's transfer policy, spending £8 million on two young full-backs when other areas of the team need strengthening. But as ever with Spurs I am sure they will have plenty more cash in reserve.

Part of me now hopes that Naughton 'does a Bale,Hutton,Gunter etc.' and go shit in the reserves, but I guess that would be being bitter...........

Anyway with that saga finally over who should we get in to bolster the right hand side?

Well Alan Hutton has been mooted (Spurs have a few right backs now). If we can get him on the cheap (Spurs spunked £9 million on him last January) and help him replicate the form of a couple of years back (i.e. before he signed for Spurs) he could be yet another Moyes master-stroke. The least Redknapp could do is give us a good deal on him.

That Swedish bloke looked quite handy on YouTube too,we need a right-winger as desperately as a right-back. But as ever with The Blues these stories surface then disappear without a conclusion. leaving all of us wondering what the hell is going on.

I feel another deadline day scramble coming on................

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Blackburn v Burnley

I wrote this last week for EPL Talk, it was since picked up on BBC 606 and published on Burnley fans online site

It was generally well received on 606 and on the Burnley site, though some of the comments on EPL Talk questioned my decision to call the two town centres 'similar'(a bit picky perhaps? Or maybe just a bad reflection of my writing as that it is the only thing they can say about it!)

Anyway hope you like it:

Unless you are familiar with both towns it would be easy to confuse an image of Burnley for its near neighbour Blackburn. Both share the marauding rows of tight Victorian terraced housing, offering a window to England’s past and evoking images of men in cloth caps and the bustling noise and billowing smoke of busy cotton mills.

For those who don’t know the two East Lancashire towns played a key role in Britain’s industrial revolution at the end of the 19th century. Much of its growth surrounded the cotton industry and indeed, fuelled by the growth of the cotton mills, Blackburn became one of the first industrialised towns in the world, while Burnley became the biggest cotton producer on the planet.

What has this to do with football you may ask? Well alongside the cobbled streets and coke filled chimneys were two football clubs, whose roots are born in the industrial revolution. Both Blackburn and Burnley were founder members of the football league in 1888 and have established a rivalry older than the likes of Everton and Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs.

Read the rest of this entry here, here or here.

Mikel Arteta for Spain - at last?

Injuries never come at a good time for a footballer, but Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta has revealed the serious knee injury he suffered last February came at the worst possible time.

The former Rangers and Real Sociedad man told the local press in Liverpool that he had been told he was set for a first call-up to the Spanish national side for the friendly with England, just days before he crumpled to the St James’ Park turf in agony. A scan revealed a cruciate knee ligament injury, instantly ruling him out for six months, once again dashing his international ambitions.

Read the rest of this entry.

Considerably richer than you

Imagine the headline spoken in an intolerably thick Birmingham accent and you will surely remember Harry Enfield and his nouveau-riche comedy characters Stan and Pam Herbert ,who revel in their new found wealth and are desperate to convince those around them that this guarantees them greater happiness and social importance.
Swap Stan and Pam for Garry Cook and Mark Hughes and the situation is similar over at Middle Eastlands. After years of footballing mediocrity the rapid rise to the richest club in the World has left the press, the club, their fans as well as their opponents struggling to comprehend their new found position.

Read the rest of this entry.

Should Beckham give it all up and return home?

He said he would never go back, but this week David Beckham did an about turn and left the door ajar for a possible return to the Premier League

It is perhaps no surprise his comments have come in the wake of the frosty reception he received upon his return to the L.A Galaxy after his brief sojourn with A.C. Milan.
I have to admit I feel some of the criticism of Becks has been a bit harsh, especially as other players chose to play in Europe during the MLS break – Landon Donovan being one of them. But I can understand American ‘soccer’ fans' frustrations.

Read the rest of this entry.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Match day in the Premier League

One of the amazing things about the Premier League today is thanks to advancements in technology and its rapid growth in worldwide popularity a match can be enjoyed not just by the 40,000+ people in the stadium, but millions across the world in pubs, clubs and front rooms.

Whether it is in the middle of the night, early in the morning, tea-time or lunchtime, It doesn’t seem to matter, devoted fans of EPL clubs will make sure they catch all the action, be it via dodgy internet feed, cable TV, their local pub, or the ground itself.

Read the rest of this story.

David Beckham

He said he would never go back, but this week David Beckham did an about turn and left the door ajar for a possible return to the Premier League

It is perhaps no surprise his comments have come in the wake of the frosty reception he received upon his return to the L.A Galaxy after his brief sojourn with A.C. Milan.
I have to admit I feel some of the criticism of Becks has been a bit harsh, especially as other players chose to play in Europe during the MLS break – Landon Donovan being one of them. But I can understand American ‘soccer’ fans' frustrations.

Read the rest of this story.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Most predictable transfer of the summer

Stewart Downing is set to move to Villa for 12million. Lets face it, it was going to be them or Spurs, well he always goes there on Football Manager anyway.

Bit risky on O'Neill's part though as the lad is injured until October, you would think he would hold fire and see him return to fitness (at Boro's expense) and poach him in January. Unless Ashley Young has something to do with it? Again Spurs have been linked but at the very best it would be a sideways step for him - plus O'Neill labelled him a genius earlier in the year, hardly the type of praise you bestow on a player you are going to sell.

I guess its all part of the summer transfer fun.

On a brighter note the Blues are now allowed to talk to Naughton again after Sheff United blocked any moves by us after Spurs gazumped our offer. If the Echo is to be believed Naughton favours a move to Goodison while the other Kyle, Walker, wants to move down south (why? why? why? he will become the next Gareth Bale!)

Therefore it looks like we will revert to the original deal agreed last week before all the kerfuffle over the weekend. I hope so because its all getting a bit tiresome.

Elsewhere the press are still pushing the John Terry to City line. At first I completely discounted this story but as the weeks pass I have become more convinced he might go. It would be a major coup for City if he does, giving the side a more balanced look after buying no-one but strikers for most of the summer. I have to admit I am now highly jealous of City. I do occasionally scoff and try to take the moral high ground, pointing out how we are doing things properly at Everton, but when it comes down to it 'doing things properly' wont get us into the Champions League or win us anything. Here's hoping a lifelong Toffee with a few billion in the bank is out there....

Despite City's madness in the transfer market there is one deal that is proof that transfer fees have gone ridiculous - Bobby Zamora to Hull for 5 MILLION!!

Hodgson must be pissing himself.

The Beckham experiment

In what is perhaps the true definition of hypocrisy, American author Grant Wahl is looking to cash in on David Beckham’s celebrity persona by writing a book about…. that very same David Beckham circus that moved across the Atlantic three years ago.

Some notable quotes taken from the book were from Beckham’s Galaxy team-mate Landon Donovan, who is quoted as saying Becks ‘wasn’t committed,’ sees his spell at Galaxy ‘as a joke’ and is a ‘tightwad’.

Read the rest of this story.

Peterlin signs in

It is a story more familiar with the big screen and the football movie ‘Goal’ but 22-year-old midfielder Anton Peterlin has proved miracles do happen as he secured a move from Ventura County Fusion, in the US Premier Development League, to English Premier League side Everton.

The route from the fourth tier of US football to arguably the toughest league in Europe is not a well worn path but does show that hard work and application can be rewarded.

Read the rest of this story.

Hoddle fixes young player’s broken dreams

With the number of big money deals and unscrupulous transfer rumours flying around Europe currently, the free transfer of Ikechi Anya to Spanish football side Sevilla is perhaps not one to fill the column inches.

But take a closer look at Anya’s story and it perhaps deserves greater prominence. It's certainly one to cling to for the hundreds of youngsters who have been released by their clubs and seen their dreams of football stardom shattered.

Read the rest of this story.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Naughton drama

Here we go again..

Everton have made great strides in recent years, the obvious improvement is on the pitch as David Moyes patient re-building is starting to bear fruit. Off the pitch our media relations have got better, resulting in a increased media profile. Commercial business has also taken an upturn with the opening of the Everton One and Everton megastores evidence of that.

But every year without fail there is some sort of transfer drama that drags on over the summer months, driving us to despair and making us curse the transfer window. Even if the player eventually signs the saga had been going on for so long the new player has lost all of his new signing 'novelty' value - Kanchelskis was one of the first ones I remember.

In the past I feel it has been down to slapdash negotiations on behalf of Everton (remember Nigel Martyn being left in Park Foods reception before shooting up the motorway to sign for Leeds?) but on this occasion I feel its Sheff Utd who have done the dirty on us with regards to Kyle Naughton.

It was revealed last week that a deal had been agreed for Naughton, a player who if rumours were to be believed, has been on Moyes' radar for months now. That wouldn't surprise me as the ginger one always gives any prospective transfer target the full once over to ensure he is good enough for the Blues.

Naughton has allegedly agreed terms and was due for a medical before Spurs decided to gazump Everton with a £8 million double bid for Nuaghton and fellow full back Kyle Walker. United have now refused Everton to talk further to Naughton, whose representatives are now heading to London.

This is from a club who kicked up such a fuss and played the victim in the Carlos Tevez affair, where is their upstanding morals now? And Spurs, why not be pro-active in the transfer market rather than pinching other club's targets!!

I can appreciate the need for the Blades to get as much money as possible but an agreement is an agreement. I applaud Moyes for sticking to his guns and not entering a bidding war (which I imagine a club like Spurs would be more than willing to do, besides we couldn't afford it anyway) but he must fear the worst, especially as Spurs will no doubt offer more wages.

I can only hope Naughton rejects the move and the lure of Goodison proves too much to resist, after all he only has to look at Jags, Lescott and Baines to see how a career can take off with the Blues.

Spurs, while a big club that can offer big money and the bright lights of London, is a grave yard of over paid over rated players who had potential but whose careers stall and splutter to a halt at White Hart Lane.

Your honor I give you:

Gareth Bale
Alan Hutton
Pascal Chimbonda

All talented full backs, costing a combined £23 million, all have done nothing.

Reports also suggest Naughton prefers a move to Goodison. I hope he pushes for move as I rate him and feel he is the perfect replacement for the committed but limited Tony Hibbert. But if he can't even talk to us he may not have a choice.

Some people will argue that Everton should have flown to Malta, where Naughton was training with United, there and then to complete the deal, but I guess we don't know the vagaries of the transfer system and from the outside it looks like we played it by the book. It's a pity Sheff United won't do the same.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The Best Premier League strike partnerships

2420137465 2d5a91b34e m1 The Best EPL Strike Partnerships

Michael Owen’s shock transfer to Manchester United gives him the chance to be re-united with Wayne Rooney, a strike partnership that proved so fruitful with the England national side.

A successful pairing up front is often at the heart of a side’s success and if they develop a mutual understanding can prove greater than the sum of their parts.

With that in mind I thought I would delve into the history books and pick out a number of memorable Premier League strike partnerships that can compare with Owen and Rooney. I am sure many of you will disagree with my picks or have some of you own, so feel free to write your comments below.

Shearer and Sutton.

Way back in 1994 Blackburn broke the British transfer record to sign Chris Sutton from Norwich for £5million. His capture meant they could boast two of the most feared strikers in the English game, with a certain Alan Shearer already banging them in at Ewood Park. Powerful, direct and clinical in front of goal, the pair bagged 49 goals between them as Blackburn stormed to their first league title since 1914.

Cole and Beardsley

Back in 1993 Newcastle, resurgent under Kevin Keegan, took the Premier League by storm. Central to that were the goalscoring feats of young striking sensation Andy Cole and Geordie legend Peter Beardsley, who had returned to the club from Everton that summer. Together they hit 59 goals between them as the Magpies secured an impressive third place finish, playing some exciting football on the way - a far cry from what is currently going on at St James’ Park

Collymore and Fowler

A partnership that perhaps never realised its potential, Collymore had hit 22 goals with Nottingham Forest in the 1994-95 season which tempted Liverpool to pay £8.5 million to bring him to Anfield in the summer of ‘95. Already in the Liverpool ranks was Robbie Fowler, often the labelled ‘the best finisher of his generation’. They hit 42 goals between them in their opening season but after a loss of form Collymore was eventually sold to Aston Villa for £7 million in 1997.

Cole and Yorke

An unlikely partnership perhaps but the two goal poachers gelled magnificently at Old Trafford for three years between 1998 and 2000. Renowned for almost having a ‘sixth sense’ they would often combine quickly and unlock defences by instinctively knowing each others positions. They hit 35 goals between them in 1998-99 as Alex Ferguson’s men marched towards the treble.

Henry and Bergkamp

Arguably the most complete strike partnership Thierry Henry’s speed, finishing and moments of magic combined with Bergkamp’s sublime skill and inventiveness to devastating affect for the Gunners. Their 31 goals helped Arsenal towards the title in 2001-02, a smaller total than most partnerships but such was their skill they set up as many goals as they scored. Three years later things would get even better for the two as they formed the axis of the ‘invincibles’ side that went the whole league season unbeaten.

So there is my pick, but are they deserving of my top five list? Are we discounting the influence of great midfielders? For example would Cole and Yorke have scored so many without the service of Beckham and Giggs?

Feel free to add your suggestions, I know I have missed some notable ones off.

A few others to get you started include:


Let me know your thoughts!

First published at EPL Talk.

Michael Owen shock horror

Well we didn't see that one coming did we?

Just when Michael Owen looked set to check out property in Stoke or Hull Sir Alex Ferguson gave him the phone call he dreamed of and snapped him up from under the nose of perma-tanned wonder Phil Brown.

The destination of Owen’s next club had been one of a handful of tedious, recurring stories over the summer, along with Ronaldo and Man City and their Arabian chequebook.

The big four were quickly discounted - ‘he isn’t good enough for them’ they said. Logic then pointed towards Everton and Aston Villa, the sides immediately below them, and stories linking Owen with moves to Goodison or Villa Par emerged. But their silence was deafening. When Stoke and Hull declared their interest the media began to take great satisfaction in sounding the last post of Owen’s career.

Granted the now infamous glossy brochure didn’t help Owen’s image, it stank of desperation. The media immediately seized upon it, relishing Owen’s downfall. It is a classic British media tactic, build them up only to knock them down. I can imagine them desperately waiting for Owen to sign for Stoke or Hull to seal his demise in their eyes.

But as soon as Fergie picked up the phone the obituaries were postponed and all of a sudden, Owen was once again one of England’s greatest goalscorers available on a free on knockdown wages. Not an injury prone has-been without a club who was a shadow of his former self and had just helped to carry a team down into the Championship.

It may turn out to be an inspired move by Ferguson, there is no doubting that, but it is amazing how quickly the media’s view changes when someone as respected as Fergie goes after a player. I am surprised the realities of the situation have been brushed over by the majority of the press who have instead preferred to stare, misty eyed, at the grainy images of Owen scoring against Argentina at the ’98 World Cup. Yet on the face of things United have sold their best player for £80 million, missed out on their top transfer targets before signing a 29 year old on a free.

I get the impression many supporters hope Owen is a success. He is, after all, one of the best ever Premier League players and doesn’t deserve the amount of stick he has received the past few years. But similarly I don’t think he deserves all the praise he is getting at the moment; he can’t turn the clock back after all. In true tabloid style the hacks have swung from one extreme to the other when I suspect the truth will lie somewhere in the middle.

First published over at Dangerhere.

Football Filter

My new blog over at the excellent Football FIlter has been published.

Check it out here.

Dodgy money?

There were some interesting reports in the English press this week suggesting that football has now become the top target for money launderers seeking to wash their dirty cash.

They cited a report from a unit of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which said "Football clubs are indeed seen by criminals as the perfect vehicles for money laundering," because football is "an obvious candidate to examine money laundering through sport,” due to its global scale.

It believes the massive money that flows in and out of tax havens, huge and irrational transfer payments, inflated agent fees and betting networks can all help criminals wash their cash clean. With the rewards of success and the price of failure so massive the report also says that clubs are less likely to report money laundering for fear of tarnishing their image and losing lucrative corporate sponsors.

The report also mentions an on-going investigation involving a club in Italy where "Proceedings for money laundering, insider trading, extortion, unfair competition and other offences are ongoing."

It is perhaps no surprise given the vast sums of money that are changing hands in football. Only this summer Spanish football giants Real Madrid broke the world transfer record twice, splashing out £56 million on Kaka and then £80 million on Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo.

Now I am not suggesting in any way that those transfer deals are dodgy, but it is an example of how vast sums of money can change hands across vast distances very quickly.

The desperation of clubs to compete may also lead to them forgetting their morals when it comes to the true source of their transfer kitty. Similarly those clubs who over-stretched themselves and face financial oblivion will be less choosy when it comes to picking a new owner who promises riches to bail them out and push on for success.

This was shown at Man City a few years ago when Thakasin Shinawatra took over at Man City, despite been wanted in his own country for corruption and human rights charges. He has since sold up and moved on.

The Premier League may have introduced a ‘fit and proper persons’ test, which will attempt to weed out any unscrupulous prospective owners, but should that go further with a full and proper investigation of football’s finances?

Whenever there is a large amount of cash there will be people looking to make a quick buck and football is no exception.In fact this sort of practice could have been going on for years, the credit crunch may have just brought it to light. I just hope the powers that be can tackle it as it would be a shame to see such a global sport irreversibly tarnished by crime.

The Real Deal for Madrid?

It has been the talk of the summer as the Galacticos 2.0 era burst into life and threatened to smash every transfer record in sight. We all expected some sort of fireworks when Florentino Perez returned to the Bernabeu with lavish promises of a return to an era when the world’s best players made an annual migration to the Spanish capital. Many expected Ronaldo to follow in the footsteps of Beckham, Zidane et al but the transfer fee, even by Madrid standards, took me by surprise, especially coming immediately on the back of Kaka’s £56 million move to Spain.

But the noises coming from Perez were one of work beginning, not ending, and the two deals merely signalled the start of spending. No doubt fuelled by the success of rivals Barcelona, who swept all before them last season, Perez has stated he wants to do three years work in one and spend up to 300 million Euros in order to compete with Barca. He has duly delivered s far with deals for Raul Albiol and most recently Karim Benzema set to be completed.

But will this galacticos policy work? Well last time it did bring success, with three Spanish titles and two Champions League trophies between 2000 and 2006. But the drought then began when the likes of Figo, Zidane and Ronaldo began to show their age. With so much money spent on their marquee players the others around them couldn’t carry the side when things stated to go wrong. But the main difference between now and then is age. Figo was 28 when he signed for Madrid, Zidane 29 and Beckham also 28. Players at their peak yes, but also only three or four years away from fading out. Compare that with Ronaldo, 24, Kaka 27, and Benzema, 21 - Younger players with their best years ahead of them. Therefore if success isn’t instant there are plenty of years ahead of them in order to win things for Real.

However how much time will the team have? With substantial investment comes expectation and if new coach Manuel Pellegrini fails to get results quickly he could soon be out of the door. On the other hand with the players at his disposal he could kick off a new magical era for the club.
So what about Barca?

Well the European Champions have been silent in comparison, though admittedly they already have a world-class squad. Much of the talk has involved Samuel Eto’o, linked with a move to the other big spenders of the summer, Man City. It had been reported Barca boss Pep Guardiola didn’t see Eto’o in his plans for next season though he has since been offered a new deal.

Incoming much of the talk involves Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas, again. Much like the Ronaldo to Madrid story the Gunners midfielder has been perennially linked with a move to the Catalan club, who he left for London as a 16-year-old in 2005. Barca President Joan Laporta admitted this week that he wanted Fabregas at the Camp Nou, though again this one could run and run for longer than this summer.

Fabregas or not Barca have been forced to sit up and take notice at events at Madrid. Their majestic 6-2 win in El Clasico at the end of last season highlighted the gulf in class between the two sides. But with an unprecedented spending spree underway Real are doing their best to close the gap. A ‘Harlem Globetrotters’ star-studded approach doesn’t always work - a glut of new signings need to gel and the team needs to better than the sum of its parts.

But if it works at Real, the likes of Kaka, Ronaldo, Sneijder, Benzema, Raul and Huntelaar all clicking together will be a sight to behold.

First published at La Liga Talk

Thursday, 2 July 2009

New Balls Please

Yes, the headline is a coded reference to the fact that Wimbledon is still on, though so rather bizarrely is the football.

This week saw the Confederations Cup final, a sort of World Cup warm-up tournament that the Brazilians did their best to pretend they were interested in winning, as well as the Euro Under 21 Championships which featured England and Germany in the final.Both of course can be seen as contained within the 2008/09 football season calendar, which began last August. Yet also this week 2009/10 pre-season started for most Coca-Cola League clubs. So, in fact, the football seasons have now merged into one year long campaign.

Great some football fans might say, but can you get too much of a good thing? Is it another example of the commercialisation of football? After all if you want to make money out of the game you won’t want a break, you want to maximise the product and maximise profits, even if the quality drops rapidly. ‘If they like it, give em more,’ the money men will say.

Apart from making the players’ holidays shorter year on year, what we also have to put up with now is all manner of promotional tours masquerading as pre-season friendlies. They usually involve trips to ‘untapped markets’ like North America or South East Asia where they, somewhat patronisingly, expect to turn up and all of a sudden half the population will become fans and spend millions of pounds a year on merchandise.

The players spend as much time signing shirts, smiling and showing off the new kit as playing football and preparing for the new season. I doubt some of these trips have much tangible benefit to the players, jetting off all over the world with all that encompasses is hardly the best way to get fit ahead of a new campaign. But once again the chairman needs to pay the bills and if that is to be funded by opening a shop in China then so be it.

The ironic thing is they are a) giving me something to talk about over the summer and b) giving me something to watch other than tennis.

Maybe the money men are right after all?

First posted at

Footballers and the mafia

Footballers and glamorous models perhaps go hand in hand nowadays. The WAG generation now means a footballer’s other half gets as many, if not more, column inches as they do.

This is especially so in the slow summer months when, without a major tournament to focus our minds on (we have all had a go with the Confederations Cup but it hasn’t quite ‘got it’ has it?) the headlines drift towards what a particular WAG is wearing on holiday or some long lense shot of them lying on a beach somewhere.

With pre-season training still a couple of weeks away the new season is still a while away yet, so getting your daily football fix becomes harder and harder. So in my search for REAL football news I stumbled upon a little beauty that you really couldn’t make up.

According to a certain English broadsheet Liverpool’s Nikolay Mihailov (no I hadn’t heard of him either – he is their reserve goalkeeper, apparently*) is currently under armed guard in his native Bulgaria after getting on the wrong side of a well known mafia boss over a glamorous model.

It all started when renowned mafia boss Georgi 'The Head' Stoilov began dating Mihailov’s former girlfriend, model and 2006 playmate of the year, Nikoleta Lozanova. Mihailov, who spent the end of last season on loan at Steve McLaren’s Twente (that’s why we hadn’t heard of him), allegedly decided in his infinite wisdom to taunt Stoilov saying if his new girlfriend was a Ferrari, Lozanove was a broken down Trabant from the old East Germany. Not a good idea.

Mihailov woke up the next day to find his Ferrari (his real car not his girlfriend) had been attacked with acid causing about £17,000 worth of damage. Stoilov and his notorious family – one of the most powerful clans in Bulgaria - are suspected to be involved and Mihailov is currently in hiding deciding his next move.

Well it certainly breaks the monotony of the Ronaldo saga. Get the hell out of there would be my plan.

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Hosts look ready for 2010 World Cup

It ultimately ended in heart-break for South Africa in the Confederations Cup semi-final against Brazil, but Bafana Bafana will be back.

The competition is seen as a trial run ahead of next year’s
World Cup and the first real test of South Africa’s ability to host such a large sporting contest. There are, of course, the obvious things to assess such as transport and infrastructure, however another important factor is the reaction of the South African public to the competition and their enthusiasm for the tournament.

In that respect it has been an unqualified success. From their Vuvuzela horns emitting a sound akin to a swarm of giant bees to the bizarre custom made hats, the passion of the South African fans has been a real highlight. That passion has been matched with no little skill on the pitch as their side has progressed to the semi-finals and put up a brave fight against 2002 World Champions Brazil. They were the better side for much of the game with Steven Pienaar a constant menace in midfield, but a late Dani Alves free-kick broke their hearts and sent the South American side through to the final to face the USA.

The home fans were devastated, but such reactions bode really well for next summer. In any major tournament the performance of the home side and the support of the home fans are vital to its success. South Africa’s performances on the pitch over the past few weeks certainly suggest they have what it takes to at least be competitive next year. Off the pitch there are no such doubts; the fans have passed with flying colours and they will already be counting down the days until next June when we kick off for real.

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Hull City shirt

Newcastle United raised a few eyebrows this week when they released their new away shirt. The er… two tone yellow striped effort has been widely panned by media and fans alike, with some naming it the worst kit ever. It comes on the back of a tough few months for the Magpies who are still reeling from relegation to the Championship and are yet to appoint a manager or find a new owner. An embarrassing kit bringing them more ridicule is the last thing they need.

But rather than make their pain worse I thought I would try and make them feel better by looking back at a kit that makes Newcastle’s ‘custard cream’ effort look positively beautiful - step forward Hull City.

Flashback to 1992 and Hull were a very different team to the one they are now. The bright days of the Premier League were a distant dream as the club struggled in the old division two, fighting to stave off relegation to the conference in a crumbling Boothferry Park.

But in an era that is largely to forget for their fans they had a kit that will go down in history as one of the worst ever, though it holds a place dear in the hearts of all Tigers supporters.

The shirt was a gold and black tiger print, yes that’s Tiger print, in affectionate reference to the club’s nickname, with black shorts and black socks. The shirt sponsor was Bonus for the 1992-93 season before being changed to Pepis for 1993-94. It attracted no end of mockery with many suggesting that it looked like what you would find on the seats of an old Ford Escort in the 1980s.

On the field the uniqueness of the kit failed to inspire the players. They began the 1992-93 campaign in the re-branded division two and briefly topped the table with a flurry of early wins. However the season soon tailed off and boss Terry Dolan only just managed to save the side from the drop to the conference, losing 22 games and finishing 20th out of 24.

Things marginally improved in 1993-94 as they finished 8th, just outside the play-offs. One of their star performers that year was a certain Dean Windass, a Tigers legend who would later return to the club and hit the goal that secured them promotion to the Premier League in 2008.

After their near miss in 1994 there were big hopes among players and fans that the club could earn promotion the following year. But despite holding a top six place for much of they year a late dip in form saw them finish 9th. The follwing year the tiger print was consigned to the history books as they reverted to the more conservative, if a little boring, gold shirt with black trim.

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