All 43 entries tagged Football

She plays football badly

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May 14, 2008

Five Plus Six Somehow Doesn't Go

According to The Times, and various other newspapers, the presence of three English teams in the Champions League semi final this year is proof that there is a need for a quota system in football to force six home grown players to be present in every team’s starting line up, according to FIFA president and perennial foot-in-mouth champion, Sepp Blatter.

Aside from the ambiguity of “home grown” (surely not a return to nationality caps a la the early 1990s which are illegal) this is an interesting observation of Mr Blatter’s. Obviously he must think these quotas would level the playing field and prevent big nasty imported devils like Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes and Frank Lampard from forcing their English paymasters through to major tournament finals. Oh how Blatter must have lamented the way European football has gone when a sloppy pass from Italian Zambrota failed to fnid his Argentine team mate Messi, leaving Englishman Scholes to fire in a hammer blow of a shot to send Owen Hargreaves and Michael Carrick into the European cup final. And Rooney, Brown, Ferdinand and Neville. And Vidic who’s so fucking hard as nails he could tell you he’s any nationality he wants, you’d believe him.

Blatter’s idea of home grown players is a veiled attack on the premiership’s ability to attract foreign stars as we never heard this rhetoric when Real’s Galacticos were winning and challenging for the CL with some regularity. It’s sour grapes from a man whose dislike of the English in particular, and British in general, makes you wonder why he is taken seriously anymore. Actually he can’t be, a long string of gaffes has seen to that, and only reportedly massive FIFA corruption seems to ensure his grip on power.

In any case, a short case study might prove illuminating. Take the Manchester United vs Barcelona tie. Two talented and interesting to watch teams. Let’s peruse the squads and see what we can find. Manchester United’s first team squad consists, according the Wikipedia, of 28 players, eleven of whom are English 1 and Ryan Giggs lived in England for several years. Barcelona would prefer to be seen as Catalans, but are officially Spanish and have a first team squad on Wikipedia or 24, with nine Spaniards. 2 That’s 39% Englishness at Manchester United (I’ve not counted Giggs) and 37.5% Spanishness at Barcelona. And it’s the English clubs killing the game so much it needs Blatter’s plan?

Spreading the net a bit wider we find other top European teams with the following percentage nationality ratios:

AC Milan – 46% (but also 28.5% Brazilian)
Real Madrid – 32%(they’ve got an Equatorial Guinean!)
Bayern Munich – 55%
Chelsea – 27% (although one of those is Sidwell so really it’s more like 24%, hahaha)
Inter – 26% (with a staggering 21% Argentine)
Lyon – 61.5%
Roma – 48%
Liverpool – 30.5%
Olympiacos – 50%
Celtic – 41%
Porto – 44%
Sevilla – 48%
Fenerbache – 66.6% (although seven (26%) of the squad claim a duel Turkish-elsewhere nationality so it’s dubious if they count as home grown)
Arsenal – 28% (Almunia not counted)
Schalke 04 – 46%

The English teams are hardly the leaders in home recruitment, Lyon seem to be best at that (Fenerbache don’t really count – Colin Kazim-Richards as a home grown Turkish star?) but they probably stand to lose several of their best players, most likely to Arsenal. In fact, Manchester United seem to weather the storm fairly well, especially considering how many of the English players are first choice players for the national team (Rio, Rooney, Hargreaves), how many should be (Carrick) and how many are Paul Scholes, the man many English fans want back (Scholes). But the one main detail appears to show that the lower the number of home players, the more likely a club is to really succeed. The highest home player percentages are usually eliminated in the earliest rounds – first qualifying round victims included FC Olimpi Rustavi (87.5% Georgian), FK Pobeda (82% Macedonian), Derry City (100% of players from the island of Ireland) and TNS (erm, 90% English apparently… and the non English players are from Canada and the Cayman Islands).

I’m not saying that the English clubs aren’t guilty of having a lot of foreigners. You can’t really blame them when the number of top class English players is so low (Ferdinand, Rooney, Gerrard, they’re the only ones other big nations would covet) but surely by this logic the big Italian and Spanish clubs should be swimming in homegrown players and their fancy qualifying-for-Euro-2008 skills. That they’re not is a telling indictment. Blatter is once again picking the English because he doesn’t like England. This isn’t paranoia. He doesn’t. Why else would he come up with this after an all English final, ignoring a recent all Spanish final, or the repeated wins and dominance of AC Milan, Real Madrid or Barca?

Any justification of this mad scheme on the grounds of strengthening national teams is a bit rich if he really wants to see plucky punching-above-their-weight national teams like Wales, Ireland or Sweden watch their legions of foreign based players sent home for lack of space. Ryan Giggs, Shay Given and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not benefit themselves or their countries by turning out for TNS, Shamrock Rovers or Helsingborgs.

Maybe more English players at top clubs would be a nice thing, but the fact that top English players will be on astronomical wages from age 17 and don’t seem to have the patience or will to really achieve is a bigger factor than having some Ivorians or Serbs in our league. England has a big population s should be producing plenty of good players to compete. But it doesn’t. England’s problem is finding out how to properly train and motivate what it has. Sepp Blatter’s problem is he’s an idiot. Simple as.

1 Gary Neville, Owen Hargreaves, Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Wayne Rooney, Ben Foster, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Chris Eagles, Tom Heaton, Danny Wallbeck.
2 Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Jose Manuel Pinto, Santiago Ezquerro, Oleguer Presas, Albert Jorquera and Bojan Krkic.

April 05, 2008


Writing about web page,,2270256,00.html

One thing to come out of Rome last week which has baffled (apart from the way the British fans and Italian managed not to kick the shit out of each other for once) is Roma player David Pizarro’s reaction to Cristiano Ronaldo’s mild halfway line fancy footwork. Calling it spiteful and disrespectful the Chilean argued that it was the wrong thing for Ronaldo to do. Sorry, did I say argued, I meant whined.

Pizarro’s complaining might gain sympathy from some, those who argue that it is disrespectful to fellow professionals to do such a thing, and this tacitly (in my opinion) endorses the sort of heavy handed response which leaves people like Eduardo with broken legs. I’m not saying Martin Taylor meant to smash the Croazilian, but I certainly think his unsubtle approach was formed by the same line of thought. A little heavy handedness to remind the skilful ones you’re about. I’ve done it myself, as a keeper I’ve occasionally been known to not pull out of runs once the ball has been collected purely because to do so would avoid bumping an opponent I want to unnerve a little. It’s not always malicious, it’s just something that’s done. The really good player is the one who ignores this and still shows off their fancy skills, and if a player does that to me I don’t mind any fancy skills, they’ve earnt the right to demonstrate (though I still won’t let them score where possible).

Pizarro’s whining smacks of immaturity. The response to being outsmarted should not be to complain about having been outsmarted. It’s a team game. Sure, one player’s fancy feet might have left you feeling stupid, but no team on earth, not even Brazil 1970 was made up of eleven men doing funky tricks and juggling – Félix was just another goalkeeper. Roma have already proven a couple of times recently that they can solve the problem of Ronaldo by simply stifling him. So have Portsmouth, Manchester City and most of the other teams who have beaten Manchester United in the last year or so. Just because Pizarro himself isn’t good enough to stop Ronaldo showboating doesn’t mean the Portugese shouldn’t, it means Roma should have tried harder as a team. Anderson didn’t play amazingly, and Carrick shows no exceptional skill in getting away from players marking him (although he has the most exquisite passing ability).

The 7-1 thrashing Utd dealt Roma last year also elicited complaints that they had done it to humiliate their opponents. Find me one person, who’s not a Roma fan and a rabid ABU, who didn’t watch that game in amazement. The best argument for that was that Utd know no other way – we cannot play defensive football like Chelsea or Liverpool, we only know how to attack, and on that day Roma forgot to defend. Completely. But how much happier did it make neutrals than watching Utd sit on the ball safe at 4-0 for an entire half (yes, 4-0 at half time)? Roma could and should have played better, they won the first leg 2-1! After the 4-0 spanking in the FA Cup this year, Arsenal came up with similar gripes about Nani’s showboating and the scoreline, but this is the same Arsenal who drew 1-1 in the previous league game and should have played better.

If a team is showboating it’s skill being used for the sake of it. No one complains about skill when it’s needed to help a team. Ronaldo’s outrageously fancy goal against Villa last weekend drew no complaints from Villa as it was the first goal, Utd needed anything they could to take the lead at that stage. So why do people complain when it’s not necessary? Threatened? Insulted? Humiliated? It’s not the cloggers who get remembered, fans want these fancy skills an these players would not complain if their team were the one demonstrating them.

South Americans apparently regard excessive tricks as the worst thing a player can do (like the English view diving*) and yet they are so much better at these skills than we are. And yet the 1970 Brazil team are remembered as one of the best of all time.

As several people have said, if we have to pay £50 for a ticket to a top flight game, we want to see top flight skills. And if the other teams don’t like it then they’d best up their games too. Citeh have proven it can be done – their double over Utd is the only thing their season will be remembered for. The reward for taming skill is more interest than that for merely being consistent (Blackburn, Villa, Portsmouth…).

And finally – Kerlon’s seal dribbling:


*By foreigners. No one moans when Michael Owen or Wayne Rooney does it.

February 06, 2008

6th February 1958

True fans know their history. To one of the greatest what ifs in footballing history.

January 25, 2008

SAF Backs Rafa

Writing about web page

The papers the other day had coverage of Sir Alex Ferguson’s support for Rafa Benitez in his apparently endless battle with the two Yanks who now run Liverpool, a battle I get updates about from my Liverpool supporting mother and her adventures on various marches, protests and general Scouse sulks (although this year they are Capital of Culture sulks). SAF has reportedly said that “What happened with [Klinsmann] was a bad piece of business on Liverpool’s part, there’s no doubt about that. That sort of thing can be very upsetting for a manager. You should allow a manager to get on with his job.”

Now many in the media and various comment boards on the internet are pointing out that Benitez’s Liverpool seem rather incapable of challenging Manchester United either in the league, or one-on-one, and that it does just come across as SAF wanting a manager he knows he can outsmart at one of his potential big rivals.

But does it not seem interesting that SAF wasn’t too vocal about the Chelsea treatment of Mourinho, or the uncertainty surrounding the two attempted takeovers of Arsenal which Wenger seemed unhappy about? Russian oligarchs coming in a taking over a club don’t appear to rile SAF as much as Americans coming over, loading a club with debt not stolen oil money, and upsetting the fans.

Cough cough Glazers cough cough

SAF has been left alone to do his job, but he’s won the league and challenged well for it in recent years (ok, every year since 1991). But who really thinks he’d have been given as much leeway if we’d not won the league last year? If we were in Liverpool’s shoes? Longterm plans and management are out of fashion everywhere except Arsenal now. I genuinely think once SAF goes Manchester United are at risk of a high manager turnover as impatience with new managers will set in, like after Busby retired. And I think SAF knows this. His messages to the Liverpool owners aren’t meant for them, they are direct missives to the Glazers, warnings that just because their countymen are doing this doesn’t mean it’s actually a good idea. Who knows if the Glazers know enough about English football to realise the second longest serving manager in the country knows what he’s talking about, but you’d hope they are paying attention.

Owners should own and support and if they know about football then maybe take a hand, but always respect the boundaries of the manager. It’s common sense. Yanks and Russians who probably weren’t even interested in football five years ago are now flooding over and need to be careful though you wonder how much they are willing to listen to those who know what they are talking about? It’s enough to make you pine for the days of Elton John being the fanciest club owner in the country…

Oh, and as an aside, can Citeh fans please respect the minute’s silence at the Derby. I know most will, but I fear a small minority are set on ruining it.

September 10, 2007


Writing about web page

I love a bit of hyperbole as much as the next ten million billion gazillion people, but just sometimes it can all go a little bit far. From today’s BBC Sport round up of the newspapers comes this worrying revelation:

Wales boss John Toshack slaughtered his players after the disappointing 2-0 defeat by Germany. (Daily Star)

I now can’t shake the mental image of Toshack forcing Koumas, Bellamy et al into a an abattoirs and turning them into Welsh International sausages!

I’d fancy my chances if I were Slovakia.

July 01, 2007


Follow-up to Charlton Athletic Women's Team Gone from Hollyzone

Any chance Charlton can buy back their women’s team now, or do they need the money from Bent to buy more crap men who will never finish second and win silverware?

Look, this is the sort of England international talent which is both proven and not setting you back £16m!

From Charlton Athletic’s website

June 28, 2007

Charlton Athletic Women's Team Gone

Writing about web page

I was going to write about the winding up of Charlton Athletic’s women’s team, the second most successful women’s club of recent years, and one of the few (indeed, two) teams who were any challenge at all to an Arsenal Ladies whose purchase power and success rate would make Chelsea men’s seem completely inferior by comparison.

However the BBC have today published a column from Danielle Murphy, one of Charlton’s players, which says everything which needs to be said about the situation elegantly.

I’m well aware that football is now a business (as Manchester United ladies, Leeds ladies and Fulham ladies have all found to their cost) but it’s still an unpleasant sight to see that the uselessness of the men has cost the brilliant ladies’ team their existence.

When I mentioned this elsewhere the other day someone said “But you can see Charlton’s reasons, they’d rather save money by getting rid of their women’s team than one of their decent players”. Maybe if Charlton men’s had any decent players they wouldn’t have gotten relegated in the first place. Oh and what’s this? Darren Bent to Spurs for £17m? Decent players? My arse.

Good luck to all the Charlton girls in finding other clubs.

April 19, 2007

Dave Bassett – A Poor Man's Mike Newell?

Writing about web page

Nice little Grauniad blog piece on the strange furore over Match Of The Day using a female commentator, Jacqui Oatley, for the first time this weekend. Apparently Dave ‘remember me’ Basset has decided to use this to launch himself as the Tesco Value Mike Newell, a half hearted attempt to embody old school sexism in football. As we recall (or don’t) Newell criticised a female assistant ref for a decision blaming it on her gender, then passed it off by proudly declaring himself to be sexist. Cue outrage, rows about political correctness, the assistant ref herself just getting on with her job, and then attention spans flitting elsewhere.

Possibly aiming for some profile (after all even his Wikipedia entry cannot actually tell us what he is currently contributing to the football world since Southampton sacked him two years ago) he managed to find this amazing piece of critique with which to attac Oatley:

You must have an understanding of the game and tactics, and in order to do that you need to have played the game.

Maybe it is a good criticism, although it does rather rule out the likes of Johnathan Pearce and Alan Green. And it fails to account for how useless people like Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer (he’s boring and crap!) are at this lark. But, like the lefty party poopers they are, the Gruaniad point out that:

Oatley was a keen amateur footballer until the age of 27, when she was stretchered off the pitch with a dislocated kneecap and ruptured ligaments.


So she knows and loves the game enough to get battered into tiny little pieces for it? Begone Tesco Value Newell!

I’m going to have a watch and a listen to MOTD this weekend, I think, and it’ll probably be nothing, a storm in a teacup. And I accept I’ve probably given Bassett more publicity than he deserves, even if he does now look like a spanner. But as a figure of a certain breed of men who’ve never really come to terms with women liking ‘their’ sport it’s nice to see his argument build on such flimsiness.

And there’s no way on earth she could possibly be any worse than the mumbling banalities which characterise ITV’s coverage. As has been said a lot recently, the FA Cup’s going to be unwatchable (or rather, unlistenable) for the next few years…

November 25, 2006

Coventry City Vs QPR

Writing about web page

Anyone see this? Obviously the result was fairly good for Cov, but the best bit is they arrived at QPR by Tube after their bus got stuck in traffic. The quote of the article must be manager Micky Adams’ gem:

We bought 23 single tickets at Hanger Lane station and our unsung hero was Jay Tabb, who knew we had to change at Hammersmith to go to Shepherd’s Bush. I feel a bit sorry for him as well, as I did not even put him in the team.


This ended a good run by QPR and shows that clearly the best preparation for a football match is to inhale large amounts of stinky fumes in a tunnel filled with people, rats, pigeons and chips. A lesson learned.

November 16, 2006


Writing about web page

So Manchester United tried to sign a talented young player whose name is some combination of the words “Jon”, “Mikel” and “Obi”, and failed when he mysteriously decides he wants to play for Chelsea instead. Everyone at Man Utd cries “Foul play!” and Chelsea just wave money (£12m) at them knowing that Mikel Obi Jon won’t play for Man Utd when his head has been so successfully turned. The papers talk darkly of underhand tactics though chances are there weren’t any by Chelsea, merely them being opportunist (annoying but let’s not kid ourselves that other clubs don’t do it), and Obi Jon Mikel comes across as a bit of a mercenary, albeit a talented one.

Obi Mikel Jon’s stats for the season:
Mniutes on pitch 89
Substitute appearences 4
Starts 1
Sendings off from starts 1
Assists 0
Goals 0

And now he’s apparently in the doghouse with Mourinho after showing a “poor attitude” in training.

scha‧den‧freu‧de  /ˈʃɑdnˌfrɔɪdə/ [shahd-n-froi-duh]
satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.
[Origin: 1890–95; < G, equiv. to Schaden harm + Freude joy]

Best £12m we’ve earned in years.

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