Friday, August 31, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #27

Pelé Who?
16 Teams That Formed The North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1968

1. Atlanta Apollos
2. Baltimore Bays
3. Boston Beacons
4. Chicago Mustangs
5. Cleveland Stokers
6. Dallas Tornado
7. Detroit Cougars
8. Houston Stars
9. Kansas City Spurs
10. Los Angeles Wolves
11. New York Generals
12. Oakland Clippers
13. St. Louis Stars
14. Toronto Falcons
15. Vancouver Royals
16. Washington Whips

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Just a bit of fun...

A simple one this one... (and no, I'm not reading from Rio Ferdinand's school report)

If you had to pick one and only one player from each Premiership club, who would you choose?

Try to make a squad if you can (ie a 20 man squad containing at least 2 keepers, 4 or 5 defenders etc) but you dont have to if you don't want to.

Thats the kind people we are on 'Some People are on the Pitch'...

Here are my selection's, below which you find a template to use for your replies.

Arsenal - Fibre Glass
Aston Villa - Gareth Barry
Birmingham - Forsell
Blackburn - The Gamst
Bolton - Jaaskelainen
Chelsea - Michael Essien
Derby - Teale
Everton - Mikel Arteta
Fulham - Antii Niemi
Liverpool - Jamie Carragher
Manchester City - Micah Richards
Manchester Utd - Wayne Rooney
Middlesbrough - Jonathan Woodgate
Newcastle Utd - Michael Owen
Portsmouth - Matthew Taylor
Reading - Ingmarsson
Sunderland - Gordon the Keeper
Tottenham - Berbatov
West Ham - Mark Noble
Wigan - Scharner

Template:
Arsenal -
Aston Villa -
Birmingham -
Blackburn -
Bolton -
Chelsea -
Derby -
Everton -
Fulham -
Liverpool -
Manchester City -
Manchester Utd -
Middlesbrough -
Newcastle Utd -
Portsmouth -
Reading -
Sunderland -
Tottenham -
West Ham -
Wigan -

SuperLiga Final 2007

The inaugural SuperLiga reached its climax yesterday as LA Galaxy took on Pachuca in the Final at the Home Depot Center, Carson.

The Mexicans had overcome Houston Dynamo in their semi-final a fortnight ago but did so after a penalty shoot-out which ended 4-3. LA Galaxy, however, knocked out DC United in the other match, 2-0, to set up another classic US/Mexico showdown.

Pachuca took the lead 29 minutes into the Final when Peter Vagenas put the ball into his own net, but it was seen as justice done after Pachuca had dominated the early exchanges. Juan Carlos Cacho and Christian Gimenez both shared a number of chances to score up to that point without doing so. The breakthrough, however, came after a quick one-two between both players that left Gimenez free to centre a ball behind the Galaxy defence which Vagenas didn't clear as well as he'd have liked…

After that, the flood gates opened further. Pachuca found it almost too easy to split open the Galaxy defence at will with Damian Alvarez getting two golden opportunities to extend the lead, neither of which were taken.

The turning point for the Americans undoubtedly came in the 33rd minute when David Beckham suffered a knee sprain following a crude challenge from Fernando Salazar. He was forced to leave the field of play and be substituted, leaving his side ending the first half only 1-0 down but facing an uphill struggle.

The second half started better for LA Galaxy when Landon Donovan forced a save from opposing goalkeeper Miguel Calero after his near-25 yard free kick hit the target. Donovan was denied again when a firm header that looked to be going in was tipped wide by Calero in the 64th minute.

After that purple patch for Galaxy, Pachuca managed to regain control of the game again with Rafael Marquez Lugo guilty of not converting a couple of efforts. The Mexicans remained in control but couldn't find the net - something they'd be made to rue when three minutes into injury time Galaxy sent more men upfield for an equaliser. The result was a Mike Randolph shot which hit the crossbar, cleared only as far as Chris Klein who executed a fine bicycle-kick to level the scores at 1-1.

Extra time had been forced and Pachuca came straight back at Galaxy but once again the finishing was poor and some great goalkeeping by Joe Cannon ensured further goals weren't forthcoming. LA Galaxy also had their chances but after 120 minutes a winner still hadn't been found. Penalties would be needed to separate the two teams.

Vagenas shot first for LA but his miserable night was compounded when his penalty was saved by Calero. That in turn was matched by Cannon who saved from Gabriel Caballero with Pachuca's third penalty and that left the score level at 2-2. Both teams despatched their fourth penalties but missed their fifth, Donovan and Marvin Cabrera the guilty parties.

And so it went to sudden death where the tension quickly reached its peak. Midfielder Carlos Rodriguez stepped up to put Pachuca ahead, 4-3, but when Abel Xavier tried to do the same, he missed the target.

Pachuca had won the first SuperLiga in exciting fashion, setting the new competition off on a sure footing for the future. LA Galaxy, though brave in their attempt to run out champions, were left with the runners-up medals and plenty of time to wonder if things might have turned out differently had Beckham been allowed more of an influence in the game.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Antonio Puerta (1984 - 2007)

Some People Are On The Pitch were saddened to hear of the death of Sevilla midfielder Antonio Puerta yesterday.

Puerta, who made his debut for the Spanish national team last October, suffered a heart attack during the first half of his side's opening game of the season against Getafe on Saturday. Medics attended to the player and prevented him from swallowing his tongue but his recovery was brief as Puerta collapsed again in the changing room after the match. He was given cardiac resucitation and rushed to hospital, but an announcement on Tuesday confirmed that Puerta's condition had deteriorated and a further statement later in the day confirmed his death, caused by "multiple organ failure, stemming from prolonged cardiac arrest."

Sevilla's Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens last night was postponed until next Monday as a mark of respect and all La Liga matches next weekend will be preceeded by a minute's silence. Puerta's body is currently lying in state at Sevilla's stadium prior to the funeral which is due to take place later today.

Antonio Puerta is survived by his girlfriend, due to give birth to their first child in six weeks time.

Our sympathies and condolences go to his family and all those associated with him, particularly those at Sevilla Football Club.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shirts for 2007/08: Middlesbrough (home)

Only five more shirts left for us to survey as we find out which of the new offerings are a hit and which are a miss. Today we look at the first of those five: Middlesbrough's home shirt for the 2007/08 season...



Once again it's made by Errea but unlike recent equivalents the white band across the middle has gone (sadly, from my point of view) and the sponsors have changed too. Out goes 888.com and in comes Garmin Sat-Nav to have their name proudly displayed where it matters most.

So what's your initial reaction to the shirt? Mine was one of dissatisfaction when I first saw it, but having seen it 'in action' on the field of play via the TV, I must admit it doesn't seem too bad. The trouble is Errea have for a long time now made kits which I think are... well.. a little amateurish in appearance.

That said, this one's rather growing on me - probably because it isn't trying too hard like some of its predecessors. Do you agree? Do you think this shirt's not trying hard enough? Either way let us know by leaving us a comment or cast your vote below to have your opinion depicted in bar graph form.

Oh and by the way - you can buy the shirt right now via the Middlesbrough FC website. Prices start from £35.00.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

VOTING HAS NOW CLOSED FOR THIS SHIRT
The final results were as follows:

Excellent: 9 (20%)
Good: 13 (30%)
OK: 9 (20%)
Poor: 6 (14%)
Terrible: 7 (16%)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Saturday Shout: A league for champions

I used to like Michel Platini. When I was growing up, I can specifically recall seeing him gliding around the pitch on what seemed like a cushion of air during the 1986 World Cup. His every movement had such grace, every ball he kicked seemed to go exactly where it should and every scoring opportunity he had seemed to result in a goal. The man was a legend.

You can appreciate the optimism I had, therefore, when the former French captain gained the presidency of UEFA in January this year. Here was a man who promised sensibility along with new ideas to make the European game better than it's ever been before.

How sad, then, that I should find myself this week shaking my head in disbelief at the new idea Platini has suggested. Having failed in his bid to reduce the maximum number of participating clubs per country in the Champions League from four to three, he's now produced a compromise: for one of those four teams to be the winner of that country's main cup competition.

Now at this stage I feel the need to give you some sort of tangible image of what that could mean. Going by Platini's grand scheme and based on some of the more recent FA Cup Finals, teams like West Ham, Southampton and Millwall could have come dangerously close to playing alongside the likes of Barcelona, Milan and Valencia.

Incomprehensible, you may think, to give the FA Cup winner a place in the Champions League rather than the team that finished fourth in the Premier League, but it could step closer to reality next week when Platini announces his plans officially. Yet for all the bewildering lack of logic Platini's scheme contains, there's a simple solution which I've managed to come up with.

My idea is to take away the qualification place from the team that finishes fourth, then do so for the team that finishes third and second too. What you have after that is a concept which might seem bizarre, but I think it could work. It'd be a league featuring teams from around Europe who are specifically champions in their own country. A sort of 'European Champions' League', if you will.

But here's the masterstroke. If you take the current format of the competition where the first round proper contains 32 teams, what you'd have is 32 countries from all over the continent represented - not the fifteen that took part last season. It's not easy to get much more European than that, be honest.

So here's my thoughts on your new idea, Mr. Platini: if you want to improve the diversity of the Champions League and do away with the rampant commercialism and money-mindedness that permeates the game these days, forget about cup winners - in fact forget about league runners-up. Make the Champions League a league for champions and let's get a sense of realism back in this competition.

Well now I've said all I've got to say, what are your thoughts? This is, after all, the feature where you're encouraged to put your head over the pulpit and make your thoughts known. Leave us a comment and tell me whether I'm talking sense or talking out of my... soapbox.

Friday, August 24, 2007

SPAOTP Movie Review: In The Hands Of The Gods

You'd think given the hundreds of millions of people around the world who follow football that there'd be more movies on the subject, wouldn't you? Well thankfully there's one about to hit your cinema, and believe me it's well worth watching.

It's called In The Hands Of The Gods and it's a fly-on-the-wall documentary that follows five young football freestylers from England whose ambition is to meet one of the legends of the game - Diego Maradona. The trouble is they've only got enough money to fly to New York and they need to get to Buenos Aires.

The story of how they do it is an entertaining and moving one. Mikey from Liverpool, Sami from Leeds and Danny, Paul and Jeremy from London use their football skills and tricks to busk their way through the United States, Mexico and South America. Though they set out very much as a team with a common goal, their unity becomes fractured along the way as personal grievances and abject adversity start to come to the surface.

Their story is one which plays to many of the human emotions. Firstly and very quickly we get to know about the five men as individuals, their backgrounds and the skills they've developed since entering the exciting world of football freestyling. Though you may not know what freestyling is by definition, the sheer awe-inspiring displays put on by each of our subjects leaves you in no doubt about its appeal and ability to inspire wonderment.

Next we're heartened by their team spirit - the sheer 'one for all and all for one'-ness they exude as they head off to the USA proclaiming "the Americans will be buzzing over our freestyle." To reach Argentina and Maradona, it's essential they are, for it's the American public who'll be bankrolling their airline tickets for the second half of their journey.

Despair soon follows. Despite performing on seemingly every street corner to hundreds of appreciative passers-by, they find they simply haven't generated enough cash to enable all of them to progress into Mexico. It triggers a turn of events that sends us on an emotional rollercoaster with our five heroes as they come to terms with the possibility of losing their dream and their friendships.

With everything that's going on in the film, it's hardly surprising that the 100 minute duration absolutely flies by. There's much to see, hear and feel throughout whether it's Mikey's Scouse humour, the beautiful scenery of the Americas or the passion shown by each of the individuals. It's actually hard to find fault with the film, so my advice is to go see it yourself if you need reassurance of how good it really is. Failing that, get it on DVD when its released - you'll want to watch it again and again.

In The Hands Of The Gods appears in cinemas nationwide from September 14th 2007 (Certificate 15).
Website: http://www.inthehandsofthegods.com

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #26

It'll never last...
14 British Club Football Kits From The Past That You May Not Realise Were Once Worn

1. Manchested United (home, 1922-26)
White shirts with a large red 'V', black shorts, black socks

2. Tottenham Hotspur (home, 1890-96)
Red shirts, navy blue shorts, navy blue socks

3. Celtic (home, 1888-89)
White shirts, black shorts, green socks

4. Wigan Athletic (home, 1933-34)
Red and white halved shirts, black shorts, red socks

5. Reading (home, 1891-1938)
Navy blue and white stripes, navy blue shorts, navy blue socks

6. Bolton Wanderers (home, 1912-13)
Red shirts, white shorts, red socks

7. Motherwell (home, 1900-13)
Blue shirts, white shorts, navy blue socks

8. Fulham (home, 1900-01)
Red shirts with white sleeves, white shorts, red socks

9. Aberdeen (home, 1912-39)
Yellow and black stripes, white shorts, black socks

10. Derby County (home, 1922-23)
Black and white striped shirts, black shorts, black socks

11. Everton (home, 1880-81)
Black shirts with a red diagonal stripe, black shorts, dark grey socks)

12. Liverpool (home, 1892-94)
Summer blue and white halved shirts, Navy blue shorts, navy blue socks

13. Dundee United (home, 1962-69)
White shirts, white shorts, white socks

14. Chelsea (home, 1910-27)
Summer blue shirts, white shorts, black socks)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

And now, a choice of viewing...

With a matter of minutes to go before England play Germany at the new Wembley Stadium, it's hardly surprising to see the BBC frothing at the mouth at the prospect of another blood-boiling encounter with the old enemy. With all that history between the two sides, they'll be at each other's throats tonight, won't they?

Er, I doubt it. It's a friendly, and about as meaningless as they come. Anyone thinking it'll be 1966 all over again are sadly mistaken.

Better, then, to think of that great game in the iconic way many of us English fans always do... immortalised as a game of Subbuteo. If for some reason you're struggling to create that image in your mind, here's some help, courtesy of an old friend of the site - Flicktokick...



...and if that's given you a taste for great games played in Subbuteo form, here's the classic match between England and Scotland from 1967, again played at the old Wembley Stadium, courtesy of Flicktokick (and by the way - that's him in the Scotland shirt...)



Our thanks go to Flicktokick for allowing us to show you these excellent films - we hope you enjoyed them!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

All the Presidential Men (Part 2)

Continuing our look at the Presidents of FIFA from 1904 to the present day.

Part 2: An Englishman in charge
Under the leadership of Frenchman Robert Guerin, FIFA began life in 1904 as the world governing body of Football. Its raison d'ĂȘtre was to ensure that the game be played in a uniform way around the world in accordance with the standards it laid down.

Key to making this happen was getting as many football associations around the world affiliated to FIFA as possible, and this was something that Guerin had enjoyed some success with during his time as President. When Guerin was replaced by Englishman Daniel Burley Woolfall in 1906, however, FIFA still only consisted of European member nations. To develop the game of football around the world, Woolfall would need to persuade other continents to sign up, and top of the list were North America and South America.

Aside from the ensuing recruitment campaign which he initiated, Woolfall also had other pressing matters to deal with, namely the confirmation of a fixed set of rules under which football would be played around the world. His background, working on the Administration Board for the English Football Association, stood him in good stead and so it came as no surprise when the Laws of the Game were put in place during the early years of his tenure.

In 1908, Woolfall assumed responsibility for organising the football tournament of the 4th Olympic Games in London. FIFA's aim of creating a world championship was slow to materialise and in the first two decades of the 20th Century the Olympics were the only place where international competition could be seen. That said, only five countries took part in 1908, all of them from Europe, but this was not its main point of notoriety.

In direct contrast to FIFA's own principles, Woolfall gave the go-ahead for professional players to enter the Olympic tournament which, for the greater part of its history, has been the bastion of amateur competitors only. Given the development of football around the world at the time, few would have raised an eyebrow when Great Britain won the gold medal after a 2-0 win over Denmark in the Final.

FIFA were to benefit from the leadership of Daniel Burley Woolfall for twelve long years and during that time its membership doubled. Football at last started to embrace more distant backwaters as countries such as South Africa, Argentina, Chile and the United States enlisted. At last progress was seen to be made, but tragedy loomed around the corner.

In 1914, the First World War began and although some international football matches still took place in neutral territories, the sport was naturally overshadowed by the conflict going on all around. Many players were sent away to take part in battle and FIFA's Congress struggled to convene as members found it almost impossible to travel from country to country.

FIFA's dream of uniting all nations lay in tatters and in 1918 it also found itself without a President. Daniel Burley Woolfall, the man from Blackburn who had built such a strong foundation for the sport around the world, died aged 66. Uncertain times lay ahead and when the First World War ended, FIFA looked towards a new President who could carry on the good work carried out by Woolfall. Little did they know his replacement would go on to be a legend in the sport for many decades to come...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Favourite quotes from this weekend

After reading the match reports for this weekends Premier League matches, some quotes caught my eye.

Some for stating the obvious, some for an interesting spin on things, and some just for the sheer hilarity...

"Do you think my players surround the referee? I have a naive team. We do not have any divers.”
Don’t laugh, but that was said by Jose Mourinho.

"If that's the case then I'm Little Red Riding Hood!”
Liverpool manager Rafe Benitez, in response to the comment above.

"The manager had a lot to say, - I'll leave it at that.”
Nyron Nosworthy on manager Roy Keane after the 3-0 defeat at Wigan.

"People talked us up before the start of the season and that's why it took only four days to bring us down again.”
Under pressure Tottenham manager Martin Jol.

“If you don't keep clean sheets, then you struggle to win football games.”
Sammy Lee, manager of Bottom of the table Bolton.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Saturday Shout: Play the game, not the Ref...

Let's face it - as much as we love the game of Football, there are some things we'd happily remove from it given half a chance. They're the things that annoy us, frustrate us and often make us downright angry.

It's these things that we at Some People Are On The Pitch feel we can do something about through good old-fashioned dialogue and maybe even heated conversation. To that end, we give you what we hope will be a regular series called Saturday Shout where all opinions are encouraged on a given Football subject, and we begin today by hearing the opinions of guest writer Paddy who has an urgent need to rid the game of diving and play-acting.

He begins by dealing with the relatively new custom of dealing with an injured player on the field:

"Firstly, we need to get rid of this 'kicking the ball out of play' crap and the sham sportsmanship of returning the ball to the opposition at the restart. This started to creep into our game in the Eighties as a sporting gesture to enable genuinely injured players to receive attention. In reality, all this practice has done is to encourage cheating and simulation of injury usually when a side is under pressure and needing to regroup and take a breather.

In other words, just when a game is getting exciting and the crowd are getting what they paid for, someone decides to break up the attack by falling down and gurning. These b******s are paid a fortune to play football, tackle, play the offside trap, read the game, etc., but no. The best way to keep the opposition from scoring is to fake your own death about thirty-five yards out."

Sounds all well and good, but what if the player really IS injured? Paddy has an idea...

"The ref can't take the chance.This is where Part Two comes in. Physios can come on and give treatment during play. It works in both codes of Rugby and they have more players on the pitch. It's simple: a player goes down, the physio gets permission from the fourth official and goes on. On the rare occasion that the injury is deemed serious enough to stop play, the ref can stop the game if needs be.

The main advantage to the fans is more play, less time-wasting and cheating. This brings in the coup de grace. Employ an official timekeeper - someone up in the stands who can add on time at his discretion and inform the ref when time is up, either by phone link or a hooter.

This would take pressure off the ref and reduce deliberate time wasting. Players would realise that they can't run the clock down and would stop their antics. Also, fewer players would be cautioned for time wasting as it would cease to be a useful tactic. This in turn would reduce suspensions and subsequent weakening of teams - our teams.

To those who persist in denying that players don't feign injury, I can only tell them that when I was involved in coaching under-14 football at a professional football club in north-west England, the senior coach ordered kids to fake injury at every opportunity, either to get the opposing player booked and therefore presumably make him more cautious or to give our side a breather.

Often kids were given a talking to because they failed to make the most of a diving opportunity. This was labelled LACK OF AWARENESS. These kids were 13 and 14 and were training to fall over. The coaches were all ex-pros and knew their stuff. Kids looked up to them and were desperate to please them and make the big time so they did as they were told. 'Don't play the rules - play the ref' was the standard.

Feigning injury is a disease and it is not naive or impractical to want to stamp it out. I'm not all nostalgic for a mythical golden age. There are the most amazing players all over the place now. I just want to see more football and less cheating. None of the suggestions I have made involve any actual rule changes to the game itself. Is anyone going to tell me that they like seeing grown men rolling round pretending to cry?"

Fair point, Paddy, but what do you think? Are such changes to the game practical, easy to implement or even needed? Give us your opinions or suggestions by leaving us a comment or if you have a topic you'd like to discuss, do what Paddy did and drop us a line. The address to email us at is saturdayshout [at] spaotp [dot] com.

Our thanks go to Paddy for today's topic of debate and don't forget to check back next weekend when we'll have another Saturday Shout.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #25

Chopra and Other Traitors
13 Players That Have Played For Newcastle United and Sunderland

1. Paul Bracewell
2. Michael Chopra
3. Lee Clark
4. Robbie Elliott
5. Tommy Gibb
6. Shay Given
7. Mick Harford
8. David Kelly
9. Bob Moncur
10. Bryan 'Pop' Robson
11. Len Shackleton
12. Barry Venison
13. Chris Waddle

...and so ends our 300th post on Some People Are On The Pitch... 301 follows shortly...! :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Gray matter

Is it me?

Be honest, because if it is, I'd like to know. I'd appreciate your honesty, dear reader.

It's just that I have watched some of the new Premier League season on Sky Sports and something is already irritating me - and no, it's not the Spurs performances.

Sky co-commentator Andy Gray, he of Everton and Scotland 'fame', just won't shut up.

Now, before you leap in with both feet, legs, arms, torso and kitchen sink, I would like to point out that I am fully aware that he has always been a 'bit of a chatter-box' - to put it politely. But thus far this season his co-commentary seems to have extended into the realms of main commentary, psychic phenomenon, and Uri Gellar-style mind-bending tricks.

The usual quips of "Good hit, son" and "Take a bow, son" are still there for our aural pleasure, but this season he is being particulary adventurous.

He's talking more and sometimes talking over the main commentator (which sounds good in theory, I'll grant you). No longer content with commenting on action replays he seems to have taken it upon himself to oust the commentator and describe the action to us himself.

I'd love Sky to equip the commentary booth with just one microphone. It'd be great to listen to the muffled bashing of the mic during the ensuing 'I had it first' argument.

What's getting to me most, however, are his comments telling the players what to do. Does he really think they they can hear him?

"Pass it now, son…"
"Go wide, son…"
"{insert name of player here} is unmarked, son…".


That's all well and good when you have a great vantage point up in the rafters as he has, but when you are in the heat of the battle with instant decisions to make, it is somewhat different.

Heaven help the player who doesn't make the move as suggested / predicted by 'The Gray One'? My god do we hear about it, and usually for the next minute.

"He chose the wrong option there..." {I wish I could recite the rest of whatever follows, but luckily my brain switches off at that point. Suffice to say it's usually a minute of inane drivel on why Andy is right and everyone else is wrong.}

It's all well and good thinking these things, as I'm sure we all do it. You're at a match, you see something and think "Pass it now!" If it happens, you applaud (yourself?) and if it doesn't, you curse the player. In the main, they are comments that don't leave your head but with Andy Gray it's different. He's like the devil on your shoulder, the voice in your head telling you to do something when all you want to do is scream "SHUT UP!"

Andy Gray is the bloke behind you at the football match, who won't shut up, the one someone ends up asking to "Shut up", who's tries to play the game 'his way or no way', acting like a frustrated father yelling at his son, living his football via his offspring whilst pacing up and down the touchline of a youth football pitch on a Sunday morning.

Or is it me? Be honest…

Guide to the Premier League 2007/08: Part 4

And so to the final part of our look at the prospective futures laid out ahead for the Premier League's great and good. We begin today with...

Reading
Chris O: "I get the impression Steve Coppell won't find things quite as easy this season. I know people talk about the 'Second Season syndrome', but I think there's definitely something in it. Aside from that, though, he's released Steve Sidwell to Chelsea and have made precious few signings of any note to replace him. They still have some quality players, but my feeling is they'll slip down the table a little bit." Verdict: Bottom half.
Smart: "Second season syndrome. Sold Steve Sidwell. ('She sells sea-shells…') I don’t see Reading being relegated, but I can’t see them finishing as high up the table as they did in their first season." Verdict: Bottom half.

Sunderland
Chris O: "I was one of many to be impressed by the way Roy Keane turned things around for Sunderland last season, and I think he'll give them the strength and spirit they need to hold their own in the top flight in 2007/08. If he can get the best out of Michael Chopra and Kieran Richardson, maybe a top-half finish could be possible..." Verdict: Bottom half.
Smart: "Quite a few signings, but £9 million on a keeper? I can't help thinking that would have been better spent on a midfield playmaker or center-forward, but time will tell. The strongest of the promoted sides? I think so. I also think the will still be close to the relegation zone. And I can’t wait to see Roy Keane face to face with the Arsenal Wenger on the touchline. Get tickets for that one at all costs!” Verdict: Bottom half.

Tottenham
Chris O: "I think the time has come for Tottenham to leapfrog Arsenal and become one of the top four this season. Berbatov and Keane were particularly impressive in 2006/07 and with new signings like Gareth Bale and Darren Bent, it can only get better - but Jermaine Defoe needs to start pulling his weight and that defence needs to tighten up a bit. Expect more greatness from Martin Jol, though... Verdict: Champions League spot.
Smart: "Plenty of people are tipping Spurs to finish fourth, but I can’t see it, personally. With clubs such as Portsmouth, Newcastle and Manchester City strengthening well I think Spurs will have a battle on their hands to retain fifth place, let alone go any higher. Plenty of options upfront, but it’s the conceding of soft goals that will be undoing of the Spurs season. So a normal season then. Keep an eye on Adel Taarabt though, quite a talented young fellow." Verdict: UEFA Cup spot.

West Ham
Chris O: "One thing's for certain - West Ham won't top last season for dramatic incident. Out goes Tevez, sadly, but in comes a wealth of exciting prospects in all areas: Scott Parker, Craig Bellamy, Freddie Ljungberg, the return of Dean Ashton... it can only strengthen the side, but can Curbishley get them performing well as a unit? I think they'll improve on last season without setting the league on fire." Verdict: Top half.
Smart: "West Ham’s strength seems to be up front with Craig Bellamy and Dean Ashton looking like a good pairing. But beyond that I don’t see too much else. Robert Green and Scott Parker shine out in a team with the likes of Hayden Mullins, Matthew Etherington, Lee Bowyer… Alan Curbishley loved the mid-table with Charlton and I think he will be thereabouts this season." Verdict: Mid-table.

Wigan Athletic
Chris O: "Paul Jewell's gone. Arjan de Zeeuw's gone. Leighton Baines has gone. Even Emile Heskey's legs have gone, and all that can mean one thing - Wigan's chances of staying in the Premier League have gone. Chris Hutchings' new signings of Sibierski, Melchiot and Bramble might freshen the look of the side up a bit, but there's only one outcome for me - The Championship next season." Verdict: Relegated.
Smart: "I really feel that Wigan will struggle this season. Chris Hutchings has a lot of work on his hands, and if a relegation dog-fight ensues then he may not be the best man to be at the helm. Sibierski, Koumas and Landzaat all have the potential to save Wigan but it will be a big ask." Verdict: Relegated.

Just when you thought it was all over...

from bbc.co.uk:

"Sheffield United are to sue West Ham for the cost of their relegation from the Premier League.

The Blades were relegated after the Premier League opted not to dock West Ham points for fielding an ineligible player in Carlos Tevez.

Sheffield United have estimated the cost of their relegation at between £30m-£50m.

The Blades claim West Ham gained an unfair advantage by signing an illicit player in Tevez."


Great... that means we might see Sean Bean on the news again...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Caption Competition #3

A brief respite now from the Premier League and all its flim-flam. It's time to indulge in another Caption Competition and today's picture is sent to us by Frank Rooney who gives us this curious vignette from the recent friendly match between Manchester City and Valencia...



I'm sure there are many things racing through your mind at the moment, and if that's the case, why not share them with us by leaving a comment? Tell us what you think's going on in this picture and make someone smile.

A big thank you to Frank for sending us the above picture and if you'd like to do the same, email it to us at captioncompetition[at]spaotp[dot]com. We'll try our best to use it in a future Caption Competition. And now, get those thinking caps on - we want to see those captions!

Guide to the Premier League 2007/08: Part 3

Moving on now to the next five teams in our alphabetical list, and today we start with...

Manchester City
Smart: "Sven's back and everyone in Manchester denies ever disliking him. He has bought a lot of new players to combine with the talents of Richards and Onuoha but most are players you haven't heard of. It could all go well…or it could all go the way of the pear. Me, I think they'll do OK.” Verdict: Mid-table.
Chris O: "Logic suggest that a new owner, new coach and new players could make for a team that doesn't knit together very well, but with Eriksson having an impeccable track record at club level, they might just have the important component they need. I'm personally unsure about the wealth of summer transfers, few of which have any great reputation to speak of, but they had a good defence last season and should consolidate their position this time." Verdict: Mid-table.

Manchester United
Smart: "Stronger all-round except in the goalkeeping department, where I think Van der Sar isn't quite United standard. Still, when your team are banging in goals left, right and centre you can afford to leak a few goals, right? Silverware heading to Old Trafford, but will it be in the shape of the Champions League trophy?” Verdict: Champions.
Chris O: "Man U surprised me a little last season, as I thought Chelsea were going to collect a second consecutive title, but what can I say - Ronaldo, Rooney, Tevez, Nani, Hargreaves, Anderson… with players of that quality, I doubt that anyone can match them again - and that's without mentioning the likes of Giggs, Scholes, Van der Sar, Carrick et al. (Damn, just mentioned them…) No contest as far as I'm concerned." Verdict: Champions.

Middlesbrough
Smart: "Yakubu and Woodgate aside, I can't see much to look forward to when watching Middlesbrough. I don't think they will go down, but they wont be too far away, unless they can find some of the strength and resolve their manager used to show.” Verdict: Bottom half.
Chris O: "I really don't think Boro are going anywhere this season. Gareth Southgate has brought in Luke Young to bolster an already strong defence, but apart from that it's Tuncay from Fenerbahce - who admittedly has potential - and Jeremie Aliadiere who no-one seems to want. Their away form was poor last season, and I wouldn't mind betting their home form might suffer too this time." Verdict: Bottom half.

Newcastle United
Smart: "If Newcastle could have kept away from injuries they might have had some success in recent years I feel. Owen, Carr, Given, Duff to name a few. This year however, they have a big enough squad to cope with the long term injuries they have. Alan Smith is a good signing and Taylor is a good defender. With Martins and Owen due to form a partnership, perhaps the Toon will fulfil there potential this season.” Verdict: Mid-table.
Chris O: "Now here's something you don't often hear - Newcastle might do well this season. Sam Allardyce was a great choice to replace Glenn Roeder and already he's making all the right moves. Out went some of the dead wood and in comes a selection of fresh talent, none of which are exceptional in my book, but if anyone can get them working together well it's Big Sam. With Michael Owen chomping at the bit to get back, he might just have someone who can score goals, too…" Verdict: Top half.

Portsmouth
Smart: "I think Harry Redknapp has strengthened the squad really well. Distin, Hair Dryers Son, Utaka should make Pompey a strong side, and with no European competitions to hinder there progress, they should have their best season yet. Pompey fans - get your passports ready.” Verdict: UEFA Cup spot.
Chris O: "Who'd have thunk it? Portsmouth avoided relegation and finished 9th last year, and for what it's worth, my opinion is they'll do even better this year. Adding to established names like David James, Sol Campbell and Linvoy Primus, Harry Redknapp can also now boast David Nugent, Sylvain Distin, Sulley Muntari and John Utaka. Consistency is the key for Redknapp, though, and that alone could guide Pompey into UEFA Cup territory - just wait and see…" Verdict: UEFA Cup spot.

The concluding part of our guide to the Premier League comes tomorrow with our look at the potential fortunes of Reading, Sunderland, Tottenham, West Ham and Wigan.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's just not Cricket

Wayne Rooney is injured. Michael Owen is broken. Peter Crouch is suspended. Fernando Torres is Spanish.

With such a long list of unavailable strikers, its no wonder Steve McLaren has resorted to dusting off his filofax and looking up a few of his reserve strikers in time for the forthcoming Israel match.

But wait! What’s this? It seems as if Steve need search no more as other available strikers are contacting Steve. Isn’t that nice? That’ll save the FA paying his phone bill.

Well, when I say ‘contacting Steve’ what I actually mean is ‘shooting their mouths off in the National press’.

Haven’t scored in 12 months? Had a season long injury? Didn’t score at the weekend? Then you’ll be fully justified in saying “I can be your new number one striker” in the press then, wont you? Well Dean Ashton seems to think so.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking Ashton’s ability, potential etc, etc, and yes I am fully aware of the bad injury Ashton suffered - which is why I find it all the more surprising that someone who has scored less than Mr Bean in the past 12 months deems himself worthy of shouting from the roof tops. How about finding a bit of form first and start scoring some goals - you know, ‘putting your money where your mouth is’? Ever heard of that saying?

Perhaps he should have taken the more subtle approach of getting someone to do the shouting for him, such as his manager. Oh no, too late. David Moyes claims that Everton hit-man Andy Johnson could be "the answer to England’s problems upfront". At least he has scored of late, I guess.

Maybe I’m just having a bad start to the morning. Perhaps my morning coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned. It’s just that I’m used to players scoring goals, then the manager pondering “Hmmm… who is in form at the moment?“ whilst chewing the end of their pencil. All this “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!” business just isn’t cricket you know, especially if you’ve played only one competitive match in over a year.

Is there anybody else out there willing to let the England boss know that they are fit, available, and the answer to McLaren’s prayers? I would add my name to the list, but due to an old war wound I doubt I’d do my country justice.

Then again, Stewart Downing was picked last time.

Pass me the coffee…

Guide to the Premier League 2007/08: Part 2

Continuing our look ahead to the potential fortunes of this season's Premier League teams, today we continue in alphabetical order with...

Chelsea
Chris O: "I see very little changing in Chelsea's status this season - that is to say they'll remain second best to Man United. The Blues' fantastic defensive line will no doubt continue to do well (especially if John Terry stays fit) and their midfield with Lampard and Essien will be strengthened further by the arrival of Florent Malouda. Add to the equation last year's top scorer Didier Drogba and they can hardly fail… until half the team fly off to the African Nation's Cup in January." Verdict: Runners-up.
Smart: "Chelsea have a stronger squad than last year with the additions of Malouda, Ben Haim, Alex and Pizarro. That should help avert another injury crisis at Stamford Bridge - although an injury crisis for Chelsea seems to be John Terry being injured. As for too many fixtures, well perhaps Jose should think about what he wants to concentrate on winning. Last year they missed out on the Premiership and Champions League yet won both domestic cups. Maybe this time it will be the other way round." Verdict: Runners-up.

Derby County
Chris O: "Great to see Derby back again but I fear it won't be for long - unless Billy Davies can prove his managerial strengths at the top level. Like Birmingham, they've had problems scoring goals but Davies has enlisted Rob Earnshaw to address that problem. Other well-known names arriving at Pride Park like Andy Todd and Andy Griffin should bolster the squad but they still look ill-equipped to face life in the Premiership." Verdict: Relegated.
Smart: "Probably the weakest of the promoted sides and I can see them struggling this year. They don’t seem to have a strong point and haven’t strengthened since gaining promotion. Let's hope they prove me wrong." Verdict: Relegated.

Everton
Chris O: "The Toffees impressed many last season (me included), and no wonder. David Moyes has created a settled and talented squad that proved a match for most teams and I see no reason why that shouldn't continue this season. Moyes quite rightly got rid of James Beattie who didn't seem up to the job of scoring on a frequent basis and if he can get Phil Jagielka to do so instead, everyone should be happy." Verdict: UEFA Cup spot.
Smart: "Everton have grown into a good side under David Moyes. They will do well this season but they don’t have a large squad. I fear that any success in UEFA will come at a cost in the Premier League come the end of the season." Verdict: UEFA Cup spot.

Fulham
Chris O: "The team that just won't get relegated won't get relegated again this season either, but again it will be a close run thing. Lawrie Sanchez could make a name for himself if he gets Fulham back up to mid-table again, but despite a number of interesting signings I can't see him achieving it. He'll have to fix his defence - the worst in the league last season - and get the best out of some of his other players… a tall order for a new manager." Verdict: Bottom half.
Smart: "What do we make of Fulham then? A new manager and plenty of new signings - yet still I can see them struggling. It seems to be quantity rather than quality when it comes to the Fulham players and I can't see them worrying too many teams this season." Verdict: Bottom half.

Liverpool
Chris O: "The gradual rise and rise of Liverpool under Rafa Benitez now means The Reds are arguably the third best team in the land, but becoming second-best will remain a step too far, despite their big-money summer signings. I do, however, think they'll improve - not easy when you've got one of the best defences and many high-calibre internationals like Gerrard, Alonso, Kuyt and Crouch. Second place will be a major achievement, but it won't happen this season." Verdict: Champions League spot.
Smart: "Unlike Fulham, Liverpool have both quantity AND quality. If they can get a good start this season, unlike previous seasons, they could have a successful year. I can see them winning the title, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they finished as runners-up." Verdict: Champions League spot.

Tomorrow: Part 3 (featuring Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United and Portsmouth).

Monday, August 13, 2007

What we learned from the weekend

Another weekend passes us by, but this one was different. A new Premier League season got underway, but what did we learn from all the hoo-hah and the nitty-gritty? Here's our thoughts on the matter...

1) Here in the UK, TV viewers tuned to Sky Sports for live coverage of the first game of the season, Sunderland v Tottenham, but something had changed. Yes, it was their on-screen graphics which always gets a new look at this time of the year, but this season Sky have opted to show the score in the corner of the screen using only two letters for each team instead of three. Whereas before you might have seen Aston Villa's scoreline against Blackburn Rovers depicted thus:

AST 1 - 2 BLA

...now it might look something like this:

AV 1 - 2 BR

Call me a pathetic little schoolboy if you like, but I'm looking forward to Sky's coverage of Cambridge United's home game against Northampton Town in the FA Cup...

2) Over on the BBC, Gary Lineker introduced the first edition of 'Match of the Day' from a studio which looked like one of the pods on the London Eye decorated to look like the shelving section at Ikea. Not the way to gain the trust of your viewers.

If anyone's listening at the BBC, here's my advice: sit Lineker behind a desk with the 'Match of the Day' logo on the wall behind him and give Mark Lawrenson the same treatment while you're at it. They'll be renewing their TV licenses quicker than you can say 'Tony Gubba'.

3) On the pitch, we discovered that Wayne Rooney's got a foot that's susceptible to injury. (Technically not something we learned at the weekend because we've had that discussion at least twice before - usually on the eve of major footballing events. Sorry to have brought it up.)

4) Sven-Goran Eriksson really does seem to know what he's doing. So where did he go wrong as coach of England? He guided a team made up of nothing but Englishmen. Simple when you think about it.

So what did you learn from the weekend? Did we miss anything? Leave us a comment and let us know...

Guide to the Premier League 2007/08: Part 1

With the Premier League now underway and West Ham's solicitor barely back to his day job, Smart and I thought it'd be a good time to look at the potential fortunes of all twenty teams involved.

In order to make the list a little more digestible, we're breaking it down into four small parts - this one being the first. So let's get underway with Part 1 and don't forget, whether you agree or disagree with what we have to say, why not tell us what you think? Leave us a comment and share your thoughts with your fellow fans...

Arsenal
Smart: "Everybody is talking about the loss of Thierry Henry - so I won't. Wenger is no mug and still holds a talented squad and it's time for a few of the youngsters to make the step up. The squad doesn't have the talent-in-depth of other title contenders but injuries aside they should be fine." Verdict: Champions League spot.
Chris O: "I think Wenger was crazy even to consider letting Henry go, given how prolific he was. He's now left with a bunch of young players and new signings, some of which are undoubtedly good but I wonder if they'll perform consistently as a team. Should be worth backing in the Cups, I'd say. Verdict: UEFA Cup spot.

Aston Villa
Smart: "A mixed summer in the transfer market with the departure of Liam Ridgewell and the arrival of Marlon Harewood and Nigel Reo-Coker, but who am I to question Martin O'Neills decisions - the man knows what he is doing. If Laursen stays fit and Petrov finds his goal scoring form an interesting season beckons." Verdict: Mid-table.
Chris O: "For once I'm questioning O'Neill's judgement. He's sold some useful players like Ridgewell, Gavin McCann, Stephen Davis and Juan Pablo Angel, and replaced them with Nigel Reo-Coker and Marlon Harewood from West Ham. Unless there are more purchases to come, I think Villa are going to struggle. Verdict: Mid-table.

Birmingham City
Smart: "All of a sudden The Blues have players with Premiership experience and quality. Queudrue and Ridgewell will join Jaidi to strengthen at the back, plus they have an interesting signing in De Ridder. If (and it's a big if) Forsell stays fit, they may avoid relegation... but I can't see it." Verdict: Relegated.
Chris O: "If there's one thing that Birmingham are renowned for in recent years, it's scoring few goals. To my mind, they haven't addressed that with their many summer signings and though Steve Bruce will instil some spirit into them, I think they'll ultimately fail, sadly. Verdict: Relegated.

Blackburn Rovers
Smart: "How much of a toll will the UEFA Cup qualification process have on Blackburn? Hughes has strengthened well to add to the talents of Gamst Pedersen and Bentley but I fear that an early start to a long season will eventually undo a promising start to their Premier League campaign." Verdict: Top half.
Chris O: "Not much dabbling for Mark Hughes in the transfer market this summer, but Roque Santa Cruz and Maceo Rigters could make up for that. A side which already boasts the talents of Brad Friedel, Benni McCarthy, David Bentley, Morten Gamst Pedersen and my tip for the top, Matt Derbyshire, should do well again this season, if not slightly better. Verdict: Top half.

Bolton Wanderers
Smart: "Big Sam - or Sammy Lee as he is known - knows he has a lot to live up to, but he has a large enough squad to do it with. Boasting a midfield featuring Speed, Campo, Nolan, McCann and Stelios plus new boys Braaten and Wilhelmsson, it's not all gloom and doom at the Reebok Stadium. But is Sammy Lee up to the task?" Verdict: Bottom half.
Chris O: "I'm inclined to agree. Sammy Lee just doesn't seem to have the tactical insight and authority of his predecessor, so he'll be keeping his fingers crossed that his attackers - Anelka, Diouf and Davies - can score plenty this year. That and his defence leaking far fewer goals than last season. I think Lee might be a contender for 'first coach to be sacked' if things go as I suspect. Verdict: Bottom half.

Tomorrow: Part 2 (featuring Chelsea, Derby, Everton, Fulham and Liverpool).

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Famous at last!

Please excuse our momentary bout of self-congratulation but we here at Some People On The Pitch are feeling rather pleased with ourselves.

That's because yesterday's edition of The Guardian mentioned our humble little site in its feature on football blogs. To be more specific, it was in their pull-out booklet 'The Guide' but let's not diminish the sense of achievement here...

OUR SITE APPEARED IN THE NATIONAL PRESS!!!!

It makes us feel very proud and naturally we're going to take the appropriate page from 'The Guide', put it in a frame and hang it on the wall in our toilet. It means that much to us.

In addition, we see this as payback for all of you, our loyal visitors who have helped to make the site a success over the last fifteen months. Not only that, but our grateful thanks go to all of you that have written articles for us during that time too. We couldn't have done it without you!

And now if you'll excuse us, we have work to do. Acclaim like this doesn't generate itself, you know... ;-)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

It's back!

Thank the Lord - the football season is back!

How many times have you heard people complaining - “But the season has just finished!”? We’ll you wouldn’t have heard it from us at Some People Are On The Pitch. We can’t wait for the kick-off. It seems like ages since we have seen a football match worth watching.

Let’s face it, when the football season ends, other minority sports come to the fore and clutter our TV. Presenters try to convince us that they are about to show something of interest, but can you really get excited about the summer sport selection?

Tour de France? Tour de Farce morelike. A load of drug ‘pedallers’ cycling around in lycra. Marvellous... The biggest single televised sporting event? On yer bike…

How about Wimbledon? Well for starters, that runs the risk of giving Cliff Richard a chance to sing in public again. ‘Balls’ to that.

Chess? Tiddly-winks? Paint-drying Championships?

Hopefully, you can see why we can’t wait for it to kick-off on Saturday and with the transfer comings and goings this summer it could be the best Premiership season ever.

Liverpool and Manchester United have both spent big this summer with Chelsea and Arsenal adding wisely to their squads. As always, Spurs have spent plenty of money too, giving some people enough courage to say they will finish in the top four.

We doubt that will happen - some people seem to be writing off Arsenal this season and they could regret doing so.

Portsmouth, Blackburn and Everton have all strengthened their squads and Sam Allardyce’s arrival should have the same effect at Newcastle.

Premiership new boys Sunderland, Birmingham and Derby face a battle to stay up this year. Derby look way out of their depth with Sunderland possibly having the best chance of the three of staying up.

Most eyes, however, will of course be focused on Manchester - but on the blue part for once. Every Englishman’s hate figure, Sven Goran Eriksson, is now in charge of Manchester City and has already made quite a few changes to the squad. Will the fans eat their words from Sven’s reign of the English national side? And if so, for how long?

If you listen closely, you can hear the media sharpening their pens already.

Yep, we're glad its back. New season optimism is running through our veins. Match of the Day is back on telly. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and if your team gets off to a flying start, the world will be a perfect place once again.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #24

Red Devil openings
37 Opening Day League Fixtures For Manchester United Since 1970


1. Man.Utd. 0-1 Leeds (1970/71, Division 1)
2. Derby 2-2 Man.Utd. (1971/72, Division 1)
3. Man.Utd. 1-2 Ipswich (1972/73, Division 1)
4. Arsenal 3-0 Man.Utd. (1973/74, Division 1)
5. Leyton Orient 0-2 Man.Utd. (1974/75, Division 2)
6. Wolves 0-2 Man.Utd. (1975/76, Division 1)
7. Man.Utd. 2-2 Birmingham (1976/77, Division 1)
8. Birmingham 1-4 Man.Utd. (1977/78, Division 1)
9. Man.Utd. 1-0 Birmingham (1978/79, Division 1)
10. Southampton 1-1 Man.Utd. (1979/80, Division 1)
11. Man.Utd. 3-0 Middlesbrough (1980/81, Division 1)
12. Coventry 2-1 Man.Utd. (1981/82, Division 1)
13. Man.Utd. 3-0 Birmingham (1982/83, Division 1)
14. Man.Utd. 3-1 QPR (1983/84, Division 1)
15. Man.Utd. 1-1 Watford (1984/85, Division 1)
16. Man.Utd. 4-0 Aston Villa (1985/86, Division 1)
17. Arsenal 1-0 Man.Utd. (1986/87, Division 1)
18. Southampton 2-2 Man.Utd. (1987/88, Division 1)
19. Man.Utd. 0-0 QPR (1988/89, Division 1)
20. Man.Utd. 4-1 Arsenal (1989/90, Division 1)
21. Man.Utd. 2-0 Coventry (1990/91, Division 1)
22. Man.Utd. 1-0 Notts County (1991/92, Division 1)
23. Sheffield Utd 2-1 Man.Utd. (1992/93, Premier League)
24. Norwich 0-2 Man.Utd. (1993/94, Premier League)
25. Man.Utd. 2-0 QPR (1994/95, Premier League)
26. Aston Villa 3-1 Man.Utd. (1995/96, Premier League)
27. Wimbledon 0-3 Man.Utd. (1996/97, Premier League)
28. Tottenham 0-2 Man.Utd. (1997/98, Premier League)
29. Man.Utd. 2-2 Leicester (1998/99, Premier League)
30. Everton 1-1 Man.Utd. (1999/2000, Premier League)
31. Man.Utd. 2-0 Newcastle (2000/01, Premier League)
32. Man.Utd. 3-2 Fulham (2001/02, Premier League)
33. Man.Utd. 1-0 West Brom (2002/03, Premier League)
34. Man.Utd. 4-0 Bolton (2003/04, Premier League)
35. Chelsea 1-0 Man.Utd. (2004/05, Premier League)
36. Everton 0-2 Man.Utd. (2005/06, Premier League)
37. Man.Utd. 5-1 Fulham (2006/07, Premier League)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

All The Presidential Men (Part 1)

This new series looks at the people who, over the past 103 years, have sat at the top of the tree in the world governing body of Football. This is the story of FIFA's Presidents from 1904 to the present day.

Part 1: In the beginning
Ever since the sport of Football began in earnest back in 1862 with the creation of the English Football Association, international competition was always uppermost in the minds of those countries that played the game.

In 1900, a Football competition was held in the Paris Olympic Games and by the 1920's it had come to be looked upon as a world championship of sorts. Yet back in 1904, a group of visionaries decided that an official world championship needed to be organised by the federations that managed the sport in each competing country, rather than the IOC.

So it was that Robert Guerin, a Frenchman who wrote for the newspaper 'Le Matin' and a secretary involved with the administration of French football invited senior figures from France, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden to create FIFA - the federation of international football federations.

Guerin himself was elected President of the seven-nation governing body and one of his first tasks was to expand FIFA's membership to include the so-far absent football-playing countries around the world - particularly those from Great Britain where the laws of the game had first been laid down.

Within a year, England had joined along with Austria, Germany, Hungary and Italy. Scotland, Wales and Ireland followed soon after and with talk of an international competition due to take place in 1906, it seemed everything in the FIFA garden was looking pleasantly rosy.

Reality suggested it was anything but. The competition in Switzerland was a failure, the French governing body was divided and some of FIFA's member countries were doubtful about their role in the administration of the sport.

The enthusiasm with which Guerin gave FIFA such a great start was now starting to disappear as problems accumulated. Guerin opted to lessen his involvement with Football and as a result his administrative duties were handed over more and more often to Vice-President Victor Schneider.

The time had therefore come to find a new President, and with Schneider taking temporary charge, FIFA looked to its pater familias, England, for Guerin's successor. Enter Daniel Burley Woolfall to take up the baton…

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Shirts for 2007/08: Sunderland (home)

Welcome to the latest in our series 'Shirts for 2007/08' - sponsored by Umbro.

(It's not really sponsored by Umbro - it's just that we've reviewed so many new Umbro shirts in the Premier League recently that we're wondering if they know someone at the F.A., if you catch our drift.)

Today we ask you to cast your eyes over the new home shirt for Sunderland. If you can excuse the fact that their photographer clearly had one leg shorter than the other, this is what it looks like...



For full details of the Umbro styling, see our previous 'New Shirt' articles on Birmingham, Blackburn, Everton, West Ham and Wigan as we have no intention explaining that all over again.

Meantime, here's my view. This is actually quite a nice smart-looking shirt which looks pleasantly unsullied by some of the extra bits and pieces that Umbro are known to throw into their designs. It should go down well with Black Cats fans and others alike. If you're thinking about buying it, head off to Sunderland's website where you can expect to part with 35 of your English Pounds Sterling.

All that aside, what do you think of the shirt? Is it something you'd consider buying if you were a Sunderland fan, or is it so good that you're thinking of buying it even though your not? Leave us a comment and tell us your thoughts, or simply cast your vote using the facility below. We're waiting to hear what you think...

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

VOTING HAS NOW CLOSED FOR THIS SHIRT
The final results were as follows:

Excellent: 7 (28%)
Good: 9 (36%)
OK: 1 (4%)
Poor: 5 (20%)
Terrible: 3 (12%)

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Fun and games

In case you were unaware (like us until very recently), there's less than a week to go until the start of the new Premier League season. That also means you've got less than a week to get your team registered for the SPAOTP.com Fantasy League, so if you haven't done it already, you'd better get your skates on!

It's free, comes with a five-year warranty and comes in a choice of 3 eye-catching colours. And now you're through the unnecessary sales pitch, you might want to know how to take part? Well the simplest thing to do is to visit our previous post where you'll also find that crucial piece of information - the entry code number. Without it, you won't be able to join the thirty-five other teams that have already signed up to play with us!

But if you REALLY like your football games, the fun doesn't end there. There's the small matter of predicting what will happen in the season to come because, let's face it, we all want to say "I knew that'd happen" to our friends and colleagues when the time comes. If you can see yourself in that happy disposition nine months hence, here are two ventures you might like to take part in.

SPAOTP's Premier League Table Prediction Bonanza
Like Wayne Rooney, it's simple, but effective. All we ask you to do is predict how you think the Premier League will finish - from top to bottom, champions to those relegated and everything in between.

All you need is a writing implement of your choice, plus a sheet of paper (or office desk). Sit, think, ponder, stare out of the window for inspiration, then jot down the positions where you think the teams will finish in the table from 1 to 20. Once you have done that, email us your version of how you think the Premier League table finish come next May.

At the end of each month we will send you a copy of how you and the other entrants are fairing, and like last year we will also add the predictions of football magazine FourFourTwo to see how you're doing against people who 'should know better'. If you're a bit daunted by the sound of that, you needn't be - some of us faired better than the magazine did last season.

And that's all there is to it. Something simple for a work day lunchtime, sitting in the pub garden and nursing a pint. Or something to do whilst the wife is putting the kids to bed (he says, adopting his best 'male sexist' voice.)

Send your predictions to premierleagueprediction@spaotp.com before 12 p.m. BST on Saturday 11th August 2007 and we'll do the rest...

The Football Prediction League 2007/08
Way back in, oooh, 2006 when this site was just finding it's feet, we spread the word about Some People Are On The Pitch thanks to some cross-promotion with The Football Prediction League. Well, they're back again with a new competition for 2007/08, and once again we're more than happy to usher you in their direction.

It's dead easy to play and best of all its free - all you need to do is visit http://football-prediction-league.co.nr, register your username and password, then after that just predict the results for each match in whichever competition you want to take part in. You get three points for a correct score and one point for a correct result. The winner, unsurprisingly, is the one with the highest total score at the end of the competition, and if it's you, don't be surprised if they immortalise your name for all eternity in their Hall of Fame.

So that's the SPAOTP.com Fantasy League, the SPAOTP Premier League Table Prediction Bonanza and the Football Prediction League. Three great games to take your mind off all those nightmarish new Umbro kits these season.

Don't say we never look after you at Some People Are On The Pitch...

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #23

Leave this to me, lads...
13 Goalkeepers That Have Scored From Open Play


1. Luis Martinez (Colombia) v Poland, 2006
2. Paul Robinson (Tottenham Hotspur) v Watford, 2007
3. Mark Crossley (Sheffield Wednesday) v Southampton, 2006
4. Peter Keen (Carlisle United) v Blackpool, 2000
5. Mart Poom (Sunderland) v Derby County, 2003
6. Pat Jennings (Tottenham Hotspur) v Manchester United, 1967
7. Brad Friedel (Blackburn Rovers) v Charlton Athletic, 2004
8. Peter Scmeichel (Manchester United) v Rotor Volgograd, 1996
9. Carlos Bossio (Estudiantes) v Racing Club, 1996
10. Steve Sherwood (Watford) v Coventry City, 1984
11. Steve Ogrizovic (Coventry City) v Sheffield Wednesday, 1986
12. Jimmy Glass (Carlisle United) v Plymouth Argyle, 1999
13. Peter Shilton (Leicester City) v Southampton, 1967

Has your team's goalkeeper scored from open play? Do you know of another that put the ball in the net (apart from in a penalty situation)? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Shirts for 2007/08: Blackburn Rovers (home)

Not long to go now before the start of the new Premier League season, so on we go in our quest to check out at least one new kit for each team before the action gets underway.

Today we bring you yet another new Umbro kit which, in this instance, belongs to Blackburn Rovers. This is what they'll be wearing at home (if not away) during the 2007/08 season:



Regular followers of this feature will know the drill by now when it comes to Umbro shirts. The diamond logo is high up on the shoulder, there's a diamond pattern running along the top of the shoulders and a bit of fancy business under the arms and down the sides which appears to be made from left-over pyjama fabric.

Unfortunately the new shirt won't be officially launched until August 23rd so those of you wanting to properly worship Mark Hughes' band of merry men will have a little longer to wait. Meantime, let's give the shirt a quick once over...

If I'm honest, it doesn't look too bad, but at the same time it doesn't look wildly different from other recent Blackburn 'home' shirts. Perhaps that's what'll appeal to a considerable section of the shirt-buying public, but what do you think? Is it the height of fashion or simply crap apparel?

Leave us a comment or alternatively give us your opinion by taking part in our online vote. You know what to do by now - click one of the buttons below that reflect your true feelings and hit 'Vote'. It's as simple as... Robbie Savage.

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VOTING HAS NOW CLOSED FOR THIS SHIRT
The final results were as follows:

Excellent: 64 (48%)
Good: 28 (21%)
OK: 19 (14%)
Poor: 10 (8%)
Terrible: 12 (9%)

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