All entries for August 2006

August 31, 2006

Transfer Deadline Day

can it really be true?

has alan pardew pulled of one of the most staggering signings in the history of the premierships? tevez and mascherano on loan for a season?
if they are at west ham, that’s incredible for all at upton park and will be a major blow to man utd and arsenal. something doesn’t seem right about it though, why go on loan to west ham for a season? if corinthians were willing to let them go on loan (perhaps to put them in the market in europe) surely they’d want them to go to a club looking to sign them permanently. and if tevez and mascherano are going to try to get themselves into european football, why west ham?
i’ve got a feeling there’s more to this one, my theory, they both want to play in italy or at real madrid but are waiting a year to see what happens to clubs like AC Milan and Juve, and whether Real madrid can get back to their best. watch this space.

also, how much involvement has this Media Sports Investments (MSI) got to do with this. media reports are suggesting they own the right to the two players (whatver that means) and have arranged the transfer. the company is based in london, any coincidence? im very confused.

ps: im back – the turze

[EDIT – Since Martyn posted this, the deal has gone through with both players being sold to West Ham from MSI for an undisclosed fee – Peter]


August 25, 2006

Chelsea get Barcelona in the Champions League group stage but should i care?

The big news to come out of yesterday's Champions League group stage draw in Monaco was that Premiership champions Chelsea will be renewing their feud with Spanish and European Chapions Barcelona. We can look forward to Frank Rijkaard and Jose Mourinho locking horns again, as a rivalry seems to be brewing between arguably the two best teams in Europe.
However, Chelsea must be wary of Werder Bremen, who finished second in the Bundesliga last season, and it is critical that they pick up points from their back–to–back clashes with Barcelona.

Elsewhere, Manchester United will be involved in a 'Battle of Britain' with Celtic, after being paired with the Scottish Champions, Benfica (Portugal) and FC Kopenhavn (Denmark).

2005 Champs Liverpool will play PSV Eindhoven, Boredeaux, and make a return to Istanbul to face Galatasaray.

Last years runners up Arsenal will face Hamburg, Porto and face an arduous and difficult journey to the Russian capital to play CSKA Moscow.

All in all though the European Cup and Champions League seems completely pointless to me, merely giving absurd amounts of money to the big clubs, which the grops stages heavily favour. If the competition returned to its knockout roots, abandoned in the 1992/93 season, then things would really hot up in my opinion. This will of course never happen as the G14 clubs and UEFA love the money generated by the group stages.

Hover, the competition is almost as much as a procession as the Premiership.
In my opinion, there are only six teams who can win the Champions League this year, and they are – Barcelona, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Olympics Lyonnais.
Should the others bother to turn up? Probably not really worth it in my opinion.


Ball Tampering?

On Sunday the cricketing world was enthralled by the events taking place at the Oval. During the afternoon session, the on–field umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove performed a routine examination of the match ball, and found what they believed to be evidence that some form of 'ball tampering' had taken place, invoking law 42.3 (b) of the 'Laws of Cricket' that "It is unfair for anyone to rub the ball on the ground for any reason, interfere with any of the seams or the surface of the ball, use any implement, or take any action whatsoever which is likely to alter the condition of the ball, except as permitted in (a)" In the event of such an incident law 42.3 goes on to state that the umpires shall change the ball forthwith, inform the respective captains as soon as possible and award five penalty runs to the batting side. All this took place in about five minutes, and the game was swiftly recommenced with the mercurial KP in devestating form, and the audience both in the ground and in the media were enjoying the spectacle again after a largely confusing interlude. The only clue that something was amiss was that Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan Coach was observed striding to the match referee's office rule book in hand.

About an hour and a half later bad light stopped play with England on 298–4 (Collingwood 26*, Bell 9*) and Tea was taken. At about 1620 the umpires and England batsmen were ready to resume play, however the Pakistanis were still in the dressing room, the batsmen and umpires returned indoors, then thirty minutes later amidst frantic discussion and diplomacy the umpires and England batsmen returned to the field and Darrell Hair removed the Bails, apparently signalling the end of the match. Shortly afterwards the Pakistani team did return to the field of play only to be informed that the umpires would not stand as under law 21.3 the match had been forfeited and an England victory declared; England win the series 3–0, this was confirmed late on Sunday evening by the ICC, PCB and ECB.

What is clear is that debacle was played out entirely within the 'Laws of Cricket' and that the on–field umpires had applied the letter of these laws correctly. What is also clear is that the Pakistan team felt sufficiently aggrieved by the actions of umpires Hair and Doctrove to take this stance. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that many 50/50 decsions had gone 'Englands way' during the series, and that Inzamam felt that the integrity and honour of his team and country were being called into question, by a decision which essentially accused them of cheating.

Can any of this be blamed on the umpires? No, as has already been said, in this instance the umpires while perhaps being a little officious applied the laws correctly. However, Darrell Hair has for a long time been a controversial figure on world cricket. It was he who called Murali for 'chucking' in 1995 and also it was he who called Shahid Afridi for damaging the pitch in England's winter tour of the sub–continent. As the senior umpire it was also his 'call' as to the application of the laws and communicating this to the teams. Perhaps on cricticism that could be levelled at the umpires is that their communication could have been clearer at a time when cool heads were needed, the Pakistan dressing room could not have fully understood the ramifications of their actions as I am sure that they did not mean to forfeit the Test. However, much of the blame must sit squarely on the shoulders of the Pakistan team and their Captain Inzamam–Ul–Haq. By ignoring the legitimate methods of appeal after the close of play, when they could quite plausibly have been on the verge of winning the Test, instead taking matters in to their own hands and staging a 'sit in' they left the match officials with little choice but to protect the integrity of the game and obey their set procedures.

The game of Cricket is bigger than one match, thus it was imperative that this conclusion was reached, any other response would have been to undermine the fabric of the game and open up the umpires to 'blackmail' whenever they made a decision that was difficult or contentious. Without doubt the cricket loving public lost out in the short term, the match was after all finely poised, but hopefully the game will have been strengthened by these events and the ICC will be encouraged to review this incident closely. Bring on the Aussies!


August 21, 2006

Premiership Dream Team versus the England team

On last Saturday’s addition of football focus Lawro and Lee Dixon (football brains that they are) were asked to come up with a Premiership Dream Team. In itself the feature was not particularly interesting, however I was surprised by how both pundits had virtually half of their respective sides made up of England internationals. At first I assumed this just to be sheer laziness on the part of Messers Lawrenson and Dixon, but then after a little thought I realised that I’d probably do the same as well.

My Prem Dream Team;

Peter Cech (Chelsea)
Gary Neville (Manchester United)
John Terry (Chelsea)
William Gallas (Chelsea)
Ashley Cole (Arsenal)
Christiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Claude Makelele (Chelsea)
Arjen Robben (Chelsea)
Thierry Henry (Arsenal)
Andriy Shevchenko (Chelsea)

Obviously it’s a matter of opinion, but it is amazing how many England players can sit well in this side. Arguably I could also have put Rooney in for Shevchenko, but I though the Chelsea man would play better with Henry. To remove any sort of England bias United’s Heinze could maybe replace Cole and Ballack for Gerrard, but the fact remains England have an amazing squad of players. I had always kind of assumed people who said we had the best squad at the World Cup were simply believing the hype. In actual fact, maybe they were right.


August 19, 2006

Birming City 2 v 1 Crystal Palace

I get the feeling that I cause Palace to lose, I've seen them 3 times and they've lost all 3 games. Today they were the best I've seen them and both teams should be in the mix when promotion places are dealt out in May.

The Blues failed to get anywhere near Jobi McAnuff as he mazed his way towards goal and then hitting a deflected shot in from 25 yards after just 10 minutes.

Birmingham equalised soon after when Nicklas Bendtner found himself on his own 6 yards out as the ball rebounded to him from a corner.

Birmingham then had a lot of pressure producing 3 cracking saves from the pyjama–ed one in the Palace goal. He spent most the game screaming at the Palace defence who seemed to lose concentration on more than one occasion.

In the second half Palace had most the pressure but not really reulting in any danger on Taylor's goal. In fact the closest they got to a second was an intruiging 25 yard overhead backpass that was bound for the top corner.

In the last few minutes of the game Both teams had shots which went wide, Matty Lawrence from Palace and Mikeal Forsell for Brum who should have done better. Then David Dunn made a great run and played in Sebastian Larsson, on loan from Arsenal, who stuck it just inside the post and put the Blues at the top of the table.

The other major incident of the game was the 80th minute substitution of captain Damien Johnson who, responding to ironic boos from the crowd, threw off his top and stormed down the tunnel. Steve Bruce later said he would speak to the player on Monday and release a statement on the website so watch this space.

Gary McSheffrey made his debut on the left wing and looked lively but well dealt with by the Palace defence.


Premiership Predictions 06/07

I think maybe the Premiership is harder to predict this season than every before. We all know who the top five will be, but in what order? And beyond that virtually anyone is vulnerable to the drop. Anyway here goes:

(1) Chelsea

As much as I would like to say Liverpool will be champions, it’s impossible to look past the West Londoners (or should that be international all–stars?). Man for man they outstrip every other squad in the Premiership by quite some distance and really the trophy is theirs to lose. Obviously keeping all the egos in check will be a challenge and there is always the possibility they will get distracted by the Champions League, just don’t bet on it.

(2) Liverpool

Probably the side best equipped to challenge Chelsea for the title. Last season a slow start and a slightly lightweight frontline cost them dear. Benitez has addressed this by signing Bellamy and Kuyt and has also added quality elsewhere in Mark González, Jermaine Pennant and Fabio Aurélio. For me, though, Bellamy is the key – if he stays fit and out of trouble Liverpool should do really well.

(3) Manchester United

If Hargreaves arrives to compliment Carrick in midfield United’s summer spending is likely to approach the £40m. Hardly a lack of commitment then from the Glazier’s, however the lack of a strike partner for Rooney could cost them dear this season. Good, but not quite good enough.

(4) Arsenal

As in previous seasons Arsenal start with a slimmer squad than the other big three sides. The move to Ashburton Grove will help them compete in the long run, but unless Wenger makes another big signing before the transfer window closes Champions League qualification (more comfortable than last season) and a decent cup run would see the Arsenal faithful relatively happy.

(5) Tottenham Hotspur

After coming so close to Champions League qualification last season expect Tottenham to be challenging again. Jol has brought in a real goal poacher in the form of Berbatov, however only Lennon will provide the side with genuine pace. Spurs also still lack a proper left sided player so don’t be surprised see them get very narrow in some games.

(6) Everton

Every season since David Moyes has been manager of Everton they have continually struggled to score, rarely winning by more than one goal. However the £8.5m purchase of Andrew Johnson to partner Beattie up front should have solved this problem. Indeed if the Johnson/Beattie combo can hit it off and the rest of the main eleven can stay fit I can see Everton causing a few surprises this season.

(7) Manchester City

After a dreadful finish to last season Stuart Peace has been quietly assembling a much improved squad for the upcoming campaign. In goal James has been replaced is by Swedish international Andreas Isaksson and in midfield Hamann comes in from Liverpool (via Bolton) to give a solid base to what was already a decent attacking side.

(8) Newcastle United

Despite the fact that at the time of writing Shola Ameobi is the only striker on the Newcastle books it seems likely that they will sign somebody before the transfer window closes. If not it could be a long season for the Toon Army given that no Newcastle side in the history of football has ever been able to defend a 1–0 lead.

(9) Aston Villa

Despite adding nobody to the squad Villa, Doug Ellis has probably done the best business of any Premiership chairman this summer by replacing manager David O’Leary with the much sort after Martin O’Neil and then selling out to American business tycoon Randy Learner. The first half of the season may be a struggle, but expect major transfer action at Christmas to secure a respectable finish.

(10) Blackburn Rovers

Mark Hughes has spent the summer trying to fill a very large Craig Bellamy shaped hole in his squad. Benny McCarthy and Jason Roberts are the new men, but it remains to be scene if they can deliver the goods. Certainly Rovers fans will be hoping for a better start that last year.

(11) Bolton Wanderers

Big Sam has been very quiet in the transfer market this summer despite clearly having quite a bit to spend (given that Bolton were able to match Everton’s offer for Andy Johnson). Nevertheless Bolton now specialise in the solid mid–table finish, and whilst the top half may be beyond them this time around, they will be as combative and as organised as ever.

(12) West Ham United

West Ham astounded everyone with their league and cup heroics last time around. This season should also prove quite comfortable for the Hammers, especially if they get a strong start like last year. Expect, however, for Alan Pardew’s smirk to be just a little less wide as his team will get found out on one or two occasions.

(13) Portsmouth

Now under the full ownership of Alexandre Gaydamak, Porstmouth have apparently armed Harry Redknapp with a transfer kitty of £30m. As yet, however, there has been little sign of it and the arrivals at Fratton Park have been decidedly low key. Nevertheless Portsmouth should have enough to beat the drop again this season. Unless of course the conspiracy theories are true in which case expect automatic demotion.

(14) Reading

Although Reading have spent considerably less than many thought they would, I still think Steve Coppell’s side have the best chance of any of the promoted teams of staying up. It could even be that having a settled line–up will play into their hands as they have a relatively friendly selection of early fixtures. No real stars, but as everyone’s tipping Sidwell, I’m going to go for Convey to shine.

(15) Charlton Athletic

Undoubtedly Charlton were beginning to under perform under previous boss Alan Curbishley. Unfortunately I don’t see Ian Dowie being able to address the slide straight away. The signings of Hasselbaink and Reid will help, but the East London side are still very weak in defence.

(16) Middlesbrough

Rookie manager Gareth Southgate will have his first match as the man–in–charge against Reading. It’s impossible to really say how the season will go for Boro, but given the current success of the football league’s other first time managers expect progress to be quite slow. The quality of the squad, however, should save Southgate from the embarrassment of relegation.

(17) Wigan Athletic

Last season I thought Wigan would go down because their defence was too weak and because they lost Nathan Ellington to West Brom on the eve of the campaign. As it turned out they could both score and defend and as a result finished very respectably. This season, however, will be a different story. Roberts, Bullard and Henchoz have gone, De Zeeuw is a year older and the replacements will hardly strike fear into the rest of the Premiership. Expect a struggle.

(18) Fulham

Chris Coleman has done an excellent job down at the Cottage. Not only has he worked for years on a virtually microscopic budget, but he has also had to deal with Mohammed Al Fayed as his boss. This season, however, could be a step too far. With star man Steed Malbranque in the process of freezing himself out of the team the pressure will be on from the start. If the home form cracks relegation will definitely be on.

(19) Watford

Whichever way I look at it Watford should not stay up this season. Man for man they had a weaker squad than many in the Championship last year and have failed to really add to it. Boothroyd will put out a well organised side with a good team ethic, however I just don’t think this will be enough to keep them up.

(20) Sheffield United

After several failed attempts Neil Warnock’s side have finally returned to the big time. Unfortunately it would seem their stay might be a short one as Warnock’s policy of signing large numbers of football league journeymen comes back to haunt them. Akinbiyi and Hulse are not going to be scaring too many defences. Mind you they do have Keith Gillespie……..


August 16, 2006

McSheffrey moves to Brum

Our local side Coventry City have announced today that Gary McSheffrey has been sold to Birmingham City for £4m. Undoubtably this is a massive blow for Coventry's immediate prospects, but with that sort of money on the table you can see why the board took it. £4m is a huge amount of money for a Championship side and really Coventry had no choice, but to accept. Hopefully they will be able to invest well.

Five Good Value Transfers

With transfer values seemingly rocketing again after the collapse of ITV Digital it's been an interesting summer in the world of football. But who has spent the most wisely? Here are my top five value for money transfers so far.

5) Andriy Shevchenko (AC Milan to Chelsea £30m)

Arguably £30m can never be good value for somebody whose primary function is to kick a football around, however when you have just bought a player who was seemingly unbuyable then it's a whole different matter. Shevchenko looked to be way out of Chelsea's league, but they got him and whilst the fee may be high, it's hardly a risk. If Chelsea make chances he will score.

4) Jimmy Bullard (Wigan to Fulham £2.5m)

Wigan's central figure last season, Bullard nipped off to Fulham when contract negotiations stalled. For £2.5m he is a steal especially given the amount that he offers a side. Could be the difference between Fulham staying up or going down.

3) Craig Bellamy (Blackburn to Liverpool £6m)

Whilst Newcastle search desperately for a striker Liverpool have snapped up their former star for a bargain thanks to a get–out clause in his Blackburn contract. Bellamy could be the difference between 1st and 2nd for Liverpool so long as he stays fit and Benitez can keep the famous temper in check.

2) Tomas Rosicky (Dortmund to Arsenal £7m)

A global superstar for under £10m? No, I couldn't believe it either but Wenger is a sneaky guy. Should be immense for Arsenal and still only in his mid twenties.

1) Damian Duff (Chelsea to Newcastle £5m)

Without doubt the bargain of the summer so far. £5m for a player of Duff's quality is extraordinary, but then given Newcastle's recent transfer dealings it's about time they got someone on the cheap. It could all be futile though it Roeder can't find at least one striker to go with him.


August 13, 2006

Athletics Review

A week of top class competition finishes with Britain 10th in the medals table, but thanks to some really good performances from a very young team they exceeded the target of 10 medals.

Here's my verdict on the British medalists:
GOLD:
Men's 4×100m team: Got the baton round safely which is not always a given for the team but this team were much stronger in depth than any of the other countries. Darren Campbell throws a massive strop and refuses to celebrate but doesn't explain why – may have something to do with Team mate Dwaine Chambers return after a drugs ban.

SILVER:
Greg Rutherford (Long Jump) out of GB's 3 finalists, 19 year old Rutherford was the only one to be in contention and a superb last round jump of 8.13m took him from bronze to silver and one of our best performances of the week.

Mo Fareh (5000m) A gutsy run from 1000m out and very unlucky to be beaten by the spaniard Jesús España on a sprint finish. Theres a lot more to come from this guy.

Nathan Douglas (Triple Jump) Lying 12th with his 3rd jump and needed to get into the top 8 to have 3 more attempts and recorded 17.12 then 17.21 to move him into silver a long long way behind Christian Olsson who "literally burried the opposition".

Women's 4×100m: Helped in part by the German's dropping the baton but also by a rejuvinated Joice Maduaka, who finished 4th in the 100m and then cried about not being given any money or being coached over the phone. She deserved this medal along with Brummie Anyika Onuora.

Men's 4×400m: A strong run from all 4 athletes but not quite strong enough to beat the French. Tim Benjamin ran 44.5s to beat the Poles on the line.

BRONZE:
Rebbecca Lyne (800m) Was pushed off stride with 100 to go by the eventual winner Olga Kotlyarova and had to fight for third past the Ukrainian Petlyuk – who pushed her over in the Europa cup earlier in the season. Fantastic run and expect more from her in the next few years.

Rhys Williams (400m Hurdles) In last place coming into the home straight but came through so fast he just scraped a bronze on the line. Put himself into a relay team place aswell.

Marlon Devonish (200m) Caused Colin Jackson and Michael Johnson to have an arguement over whether he could keep his speed going for 200m but he couldn't and faded into bronze when silver looked possible. Was never going to beat Fransis Obikwelu who won the 100m too.

Andy Turner (110m Hurdles) Had a chance at gold in a relatively poor quality field but hit a few too many hurdles slowing him down. With a bit more work, he is another bright prospect.

Sam Ellis (800m) Made it through the rounds as a fastest loser each time but then in the final charged his way into third. It could well have been first but his progress was stopped by the barrier of the first and second placed athletes. Lucky not to be disqualified.


August 08, 2006

A few observations from Gothenburg

After watching the morning's action from day 2 of the Europeans one of the best performances came from British women's 400m and 800m runners (those who passed their drugs tests) all qualified for the semis.

The best performance from Marilyn Okoro (400m) who helpfully the BBC pointed out is a singer with a jazz band "Felonius Monks" knocked half a second off her personal best and this was only her third 400m since she is normally an 800m runner. What made it more impressive was that she thought she was in the 3rd heat and had to rush to the start line for the first race that she was supposed to be in.

I don't see why the TV show athletes in slow motion when the most impressive thing about this sport is their speed. Also look out for the BBC's new toy – the stro–motion picture which superimposes an athlete in various parts of their event. Very nice!


August 2006

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