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January 10, 2011

Is Babel A Twit Or A Menace?

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/jan/09/ryan-babel-howard-webb-manchester-united-liverpool

It seems to be a bit of trend at the moment for footballers to launch their toys directly out of the pram (do not pass go, do not blackmail your club for £200,000 a week) about refereeing decisions affecting Manchester United.

Now obviously in some cases these tweets are just inane and gormless. Wojciech Szczesny, a man who desperately prays every night that he’s at Arsenal because he’s capable of breaking their crap goalkeeper tendency rather than being another exponent of it, tweeted after the West Brom game about Gary Neville’s foul “How can you not get frustrated with decitions [sic] like that going ALWAYS Man Utds way?! Its a clear pen and sending off!”. Bless, you cannot really blame him for having completely failed to notice that mere days earlier United had had to settle for a draw after a Birmingham goal which involved a foul, a handball and a marginal offside decision from Brum. Or the many decisions which have gone against United in recent games with Chelsea. It’s really not been a particularly good 18 months for lovers of the ‘United get all the ref decisions’ conspiracy.

Anyway, so Ryan Babel’s the latest to have a go, tweeting several tweets (thus expending more effort on whining than he has done playing for Liverpool since they signed him) including this good-idea-poor-execution picture of Howard Webb MBE.


He’d still have been better than half the Liverpool players out there on Sunday.

Now the question is, are the FA right to charge him with one of their arcane rules about saying things and being interesting? They didn’t pick on Szczesny, although as he has to play behind Koscielny and Squillaci you have to wonder if this was the FA thinking “He’s suffered enough, leave it”.

It’s tricky, cos Twitter’s just a run of ephemeral ramblings, does it matter what people say on there? But on the other hand no one likes it when players rush up and surround the ref, is Twitter another way to harass the official, albeit one where the can’t respond with a quick red? Plus lots of people were, rightly, outraged by Glen Johnson’s dreadful remarks about Paul Merson on his Twitter page, so is Babel’s comment really harmless banter or should it slapped down?

It’s a hard one – I hate the media managed, say nothing nature of players, but at the same time I also hate the way they surround and harass refs. Is the post match social media thought-blowout an extension of the pitch or not?


March 19, 2010

My MUST (Manchester United Supporters' Trust) Letter To Football's Powers That Be

Dear Sir,

“Sport is part of every man and woman’s heritage and its absence can never be compensated for.” Pierre de Coubertin.

My club, Manchester United, along with Liverpool, Portsmouth, Chester, Wimbledon, and many more, are either being killed or have been killed by the actions of those who seek only their own personal profit from something which is more important than that.

I work for a local organisation which benefits greatly from its associations with Manchester United, but I feel the Glazers represent everything that is the opposite to what we, and our links to United, stand for.

Sport is about more than plain economics, it was founded on principles higher than the mere acquisition of money.

If this sounds idealised then asked yourself how much money you would need to pay 76,000 people in order to persuade them to travel to a patch of earth and sing for 90 minutes – Manchester United inspire 76,000 people to pay for the privilege of gathering in a tiny spot in a north western English city to sing for 90 minutes. This isn’t idealism, this is real.

We need to rectify a system which is tearing the heart out of clubs and communities. We need more regulation, and an end to the vultures who think nothing of crippling institutions.

If you think, as I do, that football (and sport in general) is special, then act now.

Thank you.

Sent as part of MUST’s continuing campaign to get rid of our leeches.


February 05, 2010

Astrophysics And Football

List of things in the solar system which support Manchester City

1. Blue Moon

Despite being blue, Neptune is wuite clearly a Chelsea fan. The glory hunting, johnny-come-lately.

List of things in the solar system which support Manchester United

1. Jupiter’s big red spot

2. Mars, the red planet

3. Pluto, the new red(ish) planet(ish)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8499660.stm

Your move City. :P


December 02, 2009

Who Should The Welsh & Scottish Support Now Ireland Are Out?

Right, so Ireland are not going to the World Cup this time. I shall refrain from commenting on the match (let’s face it, I only know how to swear in five languages, it just ain’t enough) and instead concentrate on the most overlooked part of the whole thing – who are Scottish and Welsh people to support? After all, there is no Celtic solidarity left (Brittany alone is not enough, Frenchies), and despite the fact that the Scottish fans love existential pain caused by perennial underachievement, they still won’t support England! So which of the 31 teams left will they go for?

I’ve heard tentative reports from Cardiff and Wrexham that some Welsh might be supporting England. These reports are unconfirmed and startling.

Let’s see who there is:

Australia


Good potential here, sufficiently Anglophone to be followed, a nice green kit lest the Scots and Welsh miss Ireland too much, and they have recent form in annoying England. On the down side this is the nation which got in a mard when the UK won more medals at Bejing, especially when one of those medal thieves was Scotland’s hero Sir Chris Hoy, derided for being king of a “sitting down sport”. Still, they’ve never slagged off curling.

Japan


An exotic choice perhaps, although an island archipelago with a historical tendency to conquer near neighbours might strike a bit close to home for those Scots and Welsh still in a mood about English behaviour hundreds of years ago (and yes, they exist). Presence of Shunsuke Nakamura might attract and repel Glaswegians depending on colours (although it’s worth noting that Rangers fans will have had more time to choose who to support at this WC as they’d support Ireland only if all other countries were destroyed in a nuclear war, and even then grudgingly).

South Korea


One for the Welsh perhaps? The current squad consists of six Lees and six Kims – substitute Lee and Kim for Jones and Williams and the Welsh will feel right at home!

North Korea


Impoverished and overlooked northern neighbour, intent on ideological victories over suffocating southern neighbour? Could the Scots find succour here? Alex Salmond doesn’t quite have the crazy nutter ‘charm’ of Kim Jong-Il, but the promise of a future with nuclear weapons might tempt some of those who think certain parts of England need a good nuking.

New Zealand


Chris Killen plays for Celtic! Who? You know, Chris Killen. Killen. Might be on loan somewhere else now I think about it… Ok, so NZ have the elation of getting there for the first time in decades, there’s lots of sheep, and the rugby occupies people’s thoughts more readily. Oh Wales, look, it’s a match made in heaven. Alas they will crash out in the first round almost certainly, so if NZ are chosen, so must another team to occupy the attention during the later rounds.

Argentina


There are stories which bounce around from time to time of Patagonian connections meaning high profile Argentine players can speak Welsh – it’s a skill attributed to Gabriel Heinze and Gabriel Batistuta, although the evidence is sadly lacking. But for both Scots and Welsh there’s the reassuring rivalry with England, as well as Lionel Messi’s entertaining genius. Sadly there’s also Maradona’s management style which is entertaining but possibly could result in embarrassment by association.

Brazil


Oh come on, who wouldn’t support Brazil, even a little? The history! The names! The way we totally overlook the fact that Brazil haven’t been the most exciting team to watch since 1986! The most likely default for many Welsh and Scots, but really it’s just lazy to go for Brazil.

Chile


Dark horses perhaps? Let’s face it, were Wales or Scotland to reach the WC that’s what they would be – dark horses. Chile offer all that as well as the ‘Who is he?’ quality which Wales’s team of shiny new players offers them against all non-British Isles teams they come up against. Less suitable for Scotland as their problem is not the “Who is he?” factor but the “Is he still playing football?” factor. David Weir, case in point.

Paraguay


Say it fast. Really fast. Now say it fast in a Welsh or Scottish accent. Now tell me it’s not a brilliant idea.

Uruguay


Say it fast. Really fast. Doesn’t work as well as Paraguay in any accent.

Honduras


For a team who seem to be systematically sending themselves over the Wigan Athletic one by one it’s quite impressive that they are in the WC. Definitely one for those who fancy a bit of underdog spirit, so the Welsh will feel quite at home with Honduras.

Mexico


Another country oppressed by association with its big, English speaking neighbour. If more Scots could speak Scottish (more than the fifteen or so who) this might make a nice comparison. As it is some Scots can feel at home with Mexico, if only because living in a drug gang infested, borderline failed state built on the plundering of imperial oppressors has to be preferable to some parts of Glasgow.

United States Of America


They think Scotland was liberated by Mel Gibson and don’t know Wales exists. Unless they are of Scottish or Welsh descent in which case they know the history of Scotland and Wales better than you, in which case avoid also lest you feel inferior.

Algeria


There’s one thing for certain, they’re probably the only nation out there right now more desperate to beat the French than the Irish are! Worth a follow for passionate entertainment value, they’ve had to fight (literally in the case of their fans) to overcome Egypt to qualify and they haven’t been at a World Cup since 1986. Plus Rangers fans can watch Majid Bougherra in action, something they can’t do at Ibrox since he got in trouble for coming back late from international duty with Alge… oh.

Cameroon


Their last WC appearance was ended by the Irish in the group stage so absorbing potential Ireland fans into their ranks would be very satisfying for the Cameroonians. One of the most successful African teams of recent years, they have the potential to do very well so are unlikely to satisfy the Scottish fan’s need for existential pain.

Ivory Coast


In 2006 Ivory Coast named a WC squad compromised entirely of players who played outside of Ivory Coast itself. This wanderlust approach will feel very familiar to the Welsh, most of whose squad play in England, and those few who remain at Welsh clubs play in the English league. Plus, as you can see, no need to shell out any more cash on flags to replace the Irish ones bought in hope.

Ghana


Qualified for five consecutive Olympic football tournaments before reaching a WC for the first time, for the Scots this will be familiar – recognition and success under the IOC not replicated much under FIFA is a common theme. Also one of their squad plays for King Faisal Babes, the best named team in the world after Peru’s Deportivo Wanka.

Nigeria


Slightly fallen from grace in recent years, but historically one of Africa’s strongest teams… almost writes itself really! A nation recently reduced to stereotypical, internet-based, mockery courtesy of a few dodgy emails, there’s also lots of natural energy resources just waiting to be utilised. So yes, Scotland with nicer weather.

South Africa


MacBeth Sibaya, midfielder and holder of fifty two caps, as well as king of Scotland. Can’t be nutmegged by any man of woman born.

Denmark


Responsible for France’s biggest ever footballing defeat (a 17-1 shellacking), whilst it is unlikely they will ever repeat such a satisfying performance again, it is nice to dream and as fellow Celts it would be much appreciated if the Scottish and Welsh could give a little love to those who have so comprehensibly smashed the French football team. It takes more than a handball to overcome a 17 goal handicap. Evil laugh

France


Just no. Apart from anything else they are taking Domenech with them as coach which should ensure, if not a first round exit (always possible), certainly a second round capitulation.

Germany


England’s biggest footballing foes, there are probably lots of good reasons why it’s worth supporting the Germans (they play quite nice football these days despite all stereotypes) but let’s face it, being England’s bete noir is enough.

Greece


Which Celtic fan doesn’t love the slightly ineffectual flappings of Georgios Samaras? Greece suffer for being really rather boring to watch, but as the unexpected (to the power of ten) winners of Euro2004 they stand as the shining beacon of hope for the smaller teams in a world where big nations seem to win everything. And they have really long names which anlgophones find hard to get their tongues around, although not quite to the extent of Welsh!

Italy


Y’know, they weren’t all that in qualifying. Qualifying in a group featuring Ireland. Who really should have showed the spirit they showed against France in which case it would have been Italy in the qualifiers and then all hell would have broken loose. Which would have been funny. One for those Scots with surnames like Macari, Ancona and Spiteri.

Netherlands


For Rangers fans with long memories, here’s Gionvanni van Bronkhorst’s team. Yes, he’s the captain. I know, I can’t really believe it either. Definitely one for the Scottish, not only does Orange (sic) complement blue perfectly, they can also relive the colossal infighting which did for Bonnie Prince Charlie, Mary I, James I, James III, John Comyn, and quite a lot of the other monarchs, claimants, regents and general nobles of Scottish history. It’s unlikely that any of the Dutch players will meet the same fate as Henry Darnley the notion of Nigel de Jong blowing up Ryan Babel is hilarious.

Portugal


By repeatedly knocking out England on penalties, the Portuguese have done everything necessary to incur undying Celtic (the race, not the football team) love for ever and ever, amen (both a Catholic and Protestant amen).

Serbia


Željko Brkić? Dragan Mrđa? Vladimir Dišljenković? Look at all those consonants! Look at the relative lack of vowels! Insert really obvious punchline about who they’d be ideal to support.

Slovakia


Living the dream – split from Czechoslovakia in a manner which the SNP loves to cite as an example of what they want to see happen (ignoring the obvious problem of only a minority of their countrymen wanting independence really), so for the Alex Salmond fans out there, the answer’s right here.

Slovenia


The only non-seeded team to get through Europe’s qualifiers, supporting Slovenia would involve making the point that the seeding was unfair and ridiculous as mere FIFA rankings cannot truly indicate how good a team is (does anyone really believe that Australia are better than Sweden, or that Wales are inferior to New Zealand?), and besides, why do some teams deserve seeding? Of the four that were, one lost, one had to cheat, one was boring and the other will probably live to knock England out on penalties for the third showing in a row. Sorry, I said I wouldn’t rant… Support Slovenia!

Spain


Glory hunter.

I’ll be following them too, once England get knocked out.

Switzerland


Is it wrong to want them to crash out because Sepp Blatter is Swiss? No. No it is not. One for Rangers fans and no one else.


November 30, 2009

Spoonerism Of The Year

And the winner of this weekend’s spoonerism of the year award goes to…

“Jilly Bummard!”


September 14, 2009

Only City

Follow-up to City vs Blackburn from Hollyzone

So with reports that Emmanuel Adebayor’s imminent and inevitable ban for his behaviour at the weekend will be fast-tracked so it starts with the Manchester derby I can’t help but join every last City fan I know in shaking my head and wondering how the club I mocked not so long ago for being able to field an entire team of strikers has managed to concoct a striking crisis just in time for the trip to Old Trafford.

Emmanuel Adebayor – £25m – possibly banned for being a silly billy.

Carlos Tevez – £25m officially, £47m according to rumours – injured whilst trying to make Diego Maradona look like a competent manager.

Robinho – £32.5m – injured somehow, although seeing as Old Trafford is an away game (heck, not even in Manchester if you listen to pedantic Citeh fans) he probably wouldn’t have made an impact even if he did play.

Roque Santa Cruz – £18m – when I contended to a City fan that we (United) also had some injuries, she said I couldn’t count Hargreaves. By that logic, I said, she couldn’t count RSC, who does seem rather fragile (although admittedly not in Hargreaves league).

So that’ll be £100.5m spent on attacking talent, and it looks like it’ll be Craig Bellamy and Benjani playing.

Only City.


July 23, 2009

City vs Blackburn

The Manchester City lineup (probable) for the first game of the season against Blackburn at Ewood Park.

Given

Richards - Onouha - Dunne - Bridge

De Jong - Barry

SWP - Ireland - Petrov

Bellamy - Caceido - Bojinov

Benjani - Evans

Robinho - Adebayor - Tevez

Santa Cruz


The innovative 4-2-3-3-2-3-1 line up will surely overwhelm Blackburn Rovers who will probably revert to their preferred lineup of 9-0-1 where the one up front is defender Christoper Samba. Either way, City are leading the line in the Premiership this year for tactical innovation. With the vast wealth of the oily owners City should have no trouble persuading the FA to accept their brave new approach to the game of association football.

However it is widely believed that City have a backup plan if the FA gets a bit clingy to the outmoded notion of 11-a-side football, and have designed the following lineup to accommodate their recently acquired talents:


Given

Caceido - Evans - Benjani - Bojinov

Bellamy - Jo (recalled) - Tevez - Robinho

Adebayor - Santa Cruz


This will allow for City's vast array of attacking talent to thrive whilst eliminating the possibility of any, or indeed all, of them getting major strops about the splinters in their arses from the most overstuffed attacking bench in the entire history of history.

Naturally if city ever need tips they should only look across the city to their neighbours Manchester United, who will be approaching this season with the equally intriguing tactical innovation of a strike force made up of two foetuses, a man who doesn't do very much, and a man who does too much like shout at refs, defend and assault corner flags.

Full season guide coming soon.


June 18, 2009

Looking For Eric Sequels

Writing about web page http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1242545/

One of the more unusual recent films (as in there are no giant killer robots at all) is Looking For Eric a film about a postman called Eric, whose life is a mess. In his time of need he starts to hallucinate that Eric Cantona, the second best no.7 United ever had (come on, Best shades it) and certainly the most entertaining Frenchman to play football in England ever (yes, more than Theirry Henry) comes to visit him. Eric Cantona in this film gives advice in a cryptic-poetic way, delivered in a thick French accent, with a hint of enigma and mystery to him. “I am Cantona” he reminds us.

Now in this day and age of franchises left, right and centre, this project clearly needs sequels! So here are some proposed sequel ideas. Feel free to take the ones you like and give me half the takings. I’ve decided that it’s best to tailor them to other clubs, as we cannot let Manchester United hog the limelight.

Looking For Shearer

Alan is a down and out pub landlord whose life is a mess. In his time of need he starts to hallucinate that Alan Shearer has come to visit him. After an initial mix up, in which Alan Shearer assumes Alan is a defender and elbows him in the head, Alan Shearer sets about giving bland and insight free ‘advice’ which inspires Alan to take his shirt off in very cold weather and support Newcastle United. Warning – film does not have a happy ending.

Looking For Carragher

Jamie is a down and out-of-work docker whose life is a mess. In his time of need he starts to hallucinate that Jamie Carragher has come to visit him. Jamie Carragher may or may not be offering Jamie some fantastic advice on how to sort his life out, but it’s almost impossible to tell as he has an accent thicker than Cantona’s French one. Subtitled.

Looking For Zola

Jonny Francis is a down and out city banker whose life is a mess. In his time of need he starts to hallucinate that Gianfranco Zola has come to visit him. Gianfranco Zola teaches Johnny Francis that he used to be likeable before he got too much money and started making everyone else’s lives harder. Johnny Francis gives up his job in the city to become an East End Cockney barrow-boy. He ends the film really popular again, only for the cliffhanger as the city bank ask for him to come back… Contains scenes of wealthy bankers some viewers may find offensive.

Looking For Steve Bull

Stephen is a down and out Wolves fan whose life is a mess. In his time of need he starts to hallucinate that Steve Bull comes to visit him. Stephen learns from Steve Bull that it’s not always necessary to be famous to be a hero to lots of people in the Black Country. Stephen takes up the challenge, and wins Black Country Idol, a regional pop contest. He becomes a huge hit in Wovlerhampton, has minor success in Dudley, and is never heard of by anyone outside of the area. Warning – this film contains parochial humour.

Looking For Louis Saha

Lewis is a physiotherapist in Liverpool whose life is a mess. In his time of need he starts to hallucinate that Louis Saha is injured again and needs his help to get him fit enough to walk from one side of the room to another without shattering into thousands of tiny fragments. Lewis tends Louis Saha back to health and sets him loose on football. A few days later Lewis gets the call that Louis Saha is injured again. Lewis then realises he is not hallucinating and is, in fact, trapped in an endless Groundhog Day style reality. A documentary.


June 16, 2009

Football Fixtures Link

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/paulfletcher/2009/06/secrets_of_the_fixture_compute.html#097608

Just wanted to signpost this brilliant BBC football blog post which talks in some depth about the issues and tribulations surrounding the compiling of the football fixtures.

I’m really curious to see the full list of teams who are linked to other teams and why.


January 19, 2009

Manchester City To Buy Moon On A Stick?

Ok, maybe they aren’t going to buy the moon on a stick. Maybe just a Brazilian midfielder who isn’t Elano.

In fact, a lot of talk has been dedicated to Manchester City’s apparently audacious attempt to sign Kaka from AC Milan with a lot of talk of those two dreaded words ‘fantasy football’. There seems to be a section of the press, and presumably the football fan public at large, worried that were this move to go through it would unbalance the transfer and wages market, as well as act as the catalyst to turn City into a dream team of the most expensive and luxurious players in the world.

Certainly securing a big name would show the world that City’s money and words can be persuasive, and could in theory encourage others to move, in a way in which Chelsea chose not to, and which QPR haven’t even bothered to try despite being owned by Formula 1’s big wigs. This certainly is a worry reflected in many newspaper columns, and the hope a lot of City fans have for their team which still languishes in the lower half of the table.

But it’s not that simple. For City to buy players they need to persuade the clubs to sell and the players to sign. Reports suggest that Kaka is being offered £500,000 a week and a clause saying he can leave if City aren’t in the Champions’ League by 2010. But even then it’s also because AC Milan have apparently accepted the £100m bid from City’s Arabian oil billionaire owners. And that in itself might be misleading.

If Kaka is worth £100m then there probably a few others players worth a similar amount – Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, possibly Torres, with players like David Villa, Buffon, Rooney, Fabregas, Gerrard, Aguero, etc, being worth anything between £50m and £80m. But what’s to say the clubs will accept.


Kaka and an elderly gentleman from England.

AC Milan could really use £100m. Really really use the money. A quick look at Milan’s squad list would give Arsene Wenger a heart attack of epic proportions. Whilst most of Milan’s squad are proven winners, they also tend to be old.

Maldini 40
Favalli 37
Kalac 36
Inzaghi 35
Dida 35
Beckham 33
Emerson 32
Seedorf 32
Nesta 32
Shevchenko 32
Abbiati 31
Zambrotta 31
Janulovski 31
Ambrosini 31

In fact the number of Milan players under thirty is startlingly small – Pato, Boriello, Pirlo (just, he’s 29), Flamini, Ronaldinho, Kaka may be big names but they are only a few names. Milan are in serious need of new players, younger players, and ones of the quality needed to get into the Champions’ League don’t come cheap. Most Champions League teams bring in younger players on a regular basis, at least two or three a season to keep regenerating, but Milan probably need at least a team’s worth, nine or ten at least, within a season or two. £100m would go a very long way to easing that problem (reportedly Adebayour and Clichy of Arsenal are targets) which suggests that Milan wouldn’t be too devastated by Kaka leaving if they can get a decent amount of good players from hat money.

If City wanted to make a big signing to demonstrate their clout Kaka would be the most logical player to go after after securing Robinho, who was sold as an unhappy rebel wanting out of Real Madrid at any cost. Very few of the world’s top players play for teams who want or need to sell but Milan do and have a player City are willing to use as an overpriced symbol of intent. It is beneficial to City’s owners and Milan themselves. But it is not indicative of the rest of the big clubs.

What would it really mean? It would probably mean that City will be in, at overinflated prices, for any talented player at a non Champions League contender (the Benzemas and Arshavins of the the world) but would be unlikely to catch big fish already at big clubs, despite the press’s hyperbolic speculation of a team featuring Buffon, Sergio Ramos, Rio Ferdinand, CRonaldo, etc. But that doesn’t really make for good newspaper copy I guess.


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