Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Football's coming home

Football’s coming home. At last.

Well that’s the hope of many an England supporter and the English FA as they confirm that England will bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

Following FIFA’s announcement on Monday that the previous rotation policy will be discontinued, and the positive comments made by FIFA President Sepp Blatter, FA Chairman Geoff Thompson said: “I’m delighted to announce our intention to bid to host the World Cup in 2018.

“The tremendous support from Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his government has also been a key consideration in today’s decision.

“I’m delighted The FA Board have been so positive in their support for a bid. It would be tremendous for English football and the whole country if we are successful.”


FA Chief Executive Brian Barwick said: “It is very clear that the English football public wants to see the World Cup back in this country”, highlighting some of the key points for England’s bid:-

Maximising support for England internationally
Financing the bid and financial planning for the tournament
Forming a bid team and who will lead it
Identifying the stadiums and training facilities to be used
Working with all stakeholders to ensure we have infrastructure in place to support the tournament – transport, hotels, communications etc.
Plans for supporters – domestic and international
The tournament’s legacy – for football and the whole country
Ensuring the tournament is inclusive to everyone
Making England the number one bid and to host the best World Cup ever.


As for the stadia, well England has a wealth of great stadiums at the moment with the prospect of more to come. In addition to the 'Home of Football', other potential venues include:-

Old Trafford
Emirates Stadium
St James' Park
Stadium of Light
City of Manchester Stadium
Villa Park
Stamford Bridge
Elland Road
planned stadiums at Liverpool, Everton, West Ham and Nottingham.


If successful, it would end a 52 year wait for the World Cup to return to Wembley.

If I were you, I’d start saving your money … now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

MLS play-offs: Could it happen here?

In America as we speak, the MLS season is entering the final straight. Having seen the Eastern and Western Conference competitions completed, the top eight teams now take part in a play-off series where the MLS Cup is at stake for those who can negotiate their way through the tricky knock-out section.

For those of us living outside the States, an end-of-season contest such as this may seem a little alien. In Europe for instance, the league competition is all there is. Whoever finishes at the top of the table after everyone's played everyone else home and away is the outright winner. It's always been like that and probably always will be.

Yet could a play-off series in the style of that used in the MLS be a success for the Premier League? Don't write off the idea for a moment - let's think this through a little…

First of all, play-offs in general. While some of you may think they're surplus to requirements, they do undoubtedly generate much excitement for the watching masses. Anyone that's seen the Football League play-offs over the past decade or so would find it difficult not to agree.

Next, we know what you're thinking - they'd generate more money for the teams involved, and that, of course, means the teams that are among the best in the country anyway. In England, you might argue that they're not short of money in the first place, so by way of a solution let's suggest that all play-off money goes to charity or something. There - that's that little issue sorted…

If you're still in need of a little persuasion, let's loosely apply the MLS play-off model to last season's Premier League table. Obviously the Premier League isn't split into an East and West Conference (although a North and South one might be interesting - discuss), so let's just take the top eight teams and see how the quarter finals would have looked:

Manchester United (1) v Reading (8)
Chelsea (2) v Bolton Wanderers (7)
Liverpool (3) v Everton (6)
Arsenal (4) v Tottenham Hotspur (5)

* Final positions shown in brackets.

Now who doesn't find the prospect of seeing two derby matches mouth-watering, eh? And before you say the other two games would be one-sided, think again: if you take the aggregate scores from the two meetings last season into consideration, Man United would beat Reading 4-3 and Chelsea would beat Bolton 3-2. Even they'd be potentially close encounters.

Continuing the aggregate score theme, you'd then end up with semi-finals that contained Man United, Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea. Whichever way you serve those four up, you'll get a couple of great games to lead into the grand final.

So there it is, the case for play-offs at the end of a Premier League season. Who's ready to sign the petition?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

SPAOTP's Road to Wembley: FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round

Another round, another team for us on our Road to Wembley as today we feature Hayes and Yeading United, the team who knocked out our previous focus of attention Chelmsford City 1-0.

This afternoon saw the Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup (sponsored by E.OR (sorry, 'E.ON')) taking place and Hayes and Yeading found themselves playing away at Maidenhead United. Before we reflect on what happened, let's put everything into perspective for you.

Hayes and Yeading United only came into existence back in May when the merger came about of, yes, you've guessed it, Hayes and Yeading. They play in the Blue Square South (or Football Conference South as it's known in non-commercial circles), and if you're wondering what level that is in the English football pyramid system, here's a diagram to show you (click to enlarge).

Hayes and Yeading are currently 13th in the Conference South table out of 22 teams and are currently enjoying a seven-game unbeaten run that goes right back to the beginning of September. Top scorer in the league so far is Staforde Palmer with four goals although several other players in the squad have chipped in too this season including Will Hendry (3), Nevin Saroya (2) and Simon Martin (2).

Hayes and Yeading United are managed by Garry Haylock, previously manager of Yeading FC until the end of 2006 and a man who knows what its like to play much higher up the football food chain. As a player, Horlock was a prolific goalscorer at clubs such as Huddersfield Town, Shelbourne, Dundalk, Linfield, Glentoran and Portadown (where he topped the Northern Irish league scoring charts in 1996 and 1997).

He's also played in the European Cup during his spell in Irish football as well as Greece where he once played for Panionios GS. While there, he appeared in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1998-99 where Lazio were his opponents.

With that sort of pedigree, you'd think today's oppenents, Maidenhead United, would be quaking in their boots - especially as they're five places lower than Hayes and Yeading in the Conference South table.

Well let's just say they obviously hadn't read his biography before today's encounter because this afternoon's ninety minutes of toil and hard graft ended up in a 1-0 win for Maidenhead. Manny Williams goal just before the half-hour mark wasn't equalled by the time the referee blew his whistle, so that's it - SPAOTP lose another team in an away fixture and we have to say goodbye to Hayes and Yeading for this season.

On the plus side, we now have Maidenhead United as our new team and it's them we'll be following for the thrilling FIRST ROUND PROPER on Saturday 10th November. Oh and hot news folks - they've already done the draw at FA Headquarters, and guess what? Our team will be playing away AGAIN!

Maidenhead were pulled out of the hat in tie number 26 of 40 to play Horsham, who play in the Isthmian League Premier Division where they're currently fourth in the table, three places below one of our previous Road to Wembley teams, Chelmsford City!

Could this be a rare win for SPAOTP in this season's FA Cup (sponsored by E.ON)? Watch this space to find out...

Friday, October 26, 2007

So far, so good? (Part 2)

Continuing our look at some of the close-season transfers and the progress they've made at their new clubs, we begin with...

Elano (Man City)
The canny Brazilian has emerged from the mass of Sven's summer signings as one of the more eye-opening talents in the Premier League. Capable of scoring from free-kicks and long distance, Man City seem to have finally found that elusive asset - someone who can put the ball in the back of the net, and they've not had someone like that for a while.
Impact rating: 7/10

Carlos Tevez (Man United)
Much like last season with West Ham, Tevez took a while to find his feet but now finds himself as a key player in Fergie's battalion. Somewhat curiously, he's found more of a sense of purpose as a provider of opportunities for people like Wayne Rooney rather than as a striker in his own right, but given United's slow start to the season, that's something they'll probably be grateful for.
Impact rating: 7/10

Mido (Middlesbrough)
The move north from Tottenham during the summer looked to have breathed a new lease of life into Mido with a goal in his two opening games but since then there's been nothing to report except a few yellow cards. Appears to be trying hard to find his early season form but may be hindered by the whole team's current demise which has seen Boro head towards the foot of the table.
Impact rating: 4/10

Kenwyne Jones (Sunderland)
Roy Keane paid a pretty penny for the services of the Trinidadian but after six appearances he already has three goals to his name and it looks like there'll be more to come. Has the potential to achieve that rare distinction of being a player who did well in the top flight as well as in the lower leagues. In a team as admittedly weak as Sunderland is, Jones has already singled himself out as a decent striker. Imagine what he could do at one of the big clubs?
Impact rating: 6/10

Darren Bent (Tottenham)
Haven't seen that much of him this season, to be honest. One goal from three starts isn't a bad average, but we need to see more of him before we can properly pass judgement. £16.5 million pounds is a lot of money to spend on a player, and without him Spurs have undoubtedly suffered, so it should be fun seeing what sort of impact he'll make when his appearances become more regular.
Impact rating: 3/10

Craig Bellamy (West Ham)
Fortunately for The Hammers, Bellamy has largely evaded the injury curse which has struck practically every other summer signing to arrive at Upton Park. Two goals in the Premier League and two in the Carling Cup suggests the hot-headed striker still has it in him to produce the goods, so as long as he can avoid injury and suspension, we should be able to pencil him in for more goals further down the line.
Impact rating: 6/10

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #35

The Director's Vote of Confidence
11 Managers and Coaches Who Have Parted Company With Their British Teams During October 2007

1. John Gregory (Queens Park Rangers)
2. Dick Campbell (Ross County)
3. John Coughlin (Berwick Rangers)
4. Willie Donachie (Millwall)
5. Peter Taylor (Crystal Palace)
6. Peter Grant (Norwich City)
7. John Schofield (Lincoln City)
8. Steve Thompson (Notts County)
9. Sammy Lee (Bolton Wanderers)
10. Neil Watt (Ayr United)
11. Martin Jol (Tottenham Hotspur)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

So far, so good? (Part 1)

Now that we're ten games or so into the new Premier League season, we thought it was a timely point to see how some of the big-name transfers have been getting on at their new clubs. Here's a short progress report on a selection of those playing at clubs listed A-L in alphabetical order:

Eduardo Da Silva (Arsenal)
Good start for The Gunners. Has scored a couple of goals in the league and is already a regular in Arsene Wenger's side on the basis of his impressive performances thus far. A useful utility striker to call upon, and one of Wenger's more astute purchases in recent seasons.
Impact rating: 7/10

Marlon Harewood (Aston Villa)
Who? Since arriving at Villa Park he's made just three substitute appearances and failed to score any goals. Struggling to get into Martin O'Neill's side thanks to Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor's current good form. A case of 'out of the West Ham frying pan and into the fire'?
Impact rating: 2/10

Nigel Reo-Coker (Aston Villa)
Has picked up where he left off at Upton Park by giving supporters an occasional glimpse of quality, but he's also remained consistent on the disciplinary front, too. Four yellow cards and one red won't please his manager and he may have to improve that side of his game if he's to prosper in future. Overall though, not a bad start so far.
Impact rating: 6/10

Roque Santa Cruz (Blackburn)
An explosive start to the season tailed off a little after the first few games, but the Paraguayan has recently returned to form to maintain his 'goal every other game' ratio. Partnered with Benni McCarthy, he's one half of a potentially lethal strike force who should be in the top goalscorers table come the end of the season.
Impact rating: 8/10

Florent Malouda (Chelsea)
Despite scoring in the Community Shield match, the steady stream of goals that were expected to follow... didn't. He looks a capable enough player and is obviously still adjusting to life in the Premier League, but he sometimes fades from view during matches. An obvious talent but one that isn't currently playing to his full potential.
Impact rating: 6/10

Kenny Miller (Derby)
This proved to be quite an eye-opening transfer at the start of the season and it's not difficult to see why. After a successful spell at Celtic, Miller's already scored two goals in five appearances and could be the single reason why Derby will avoid relegation this season. A quality player who continues to show plenty of promise.
Impact rating: 7/10

Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Everton)
Has chipped in with a couple of goals so far this season, but David Moyes was quick to drop him from the team when he was suspected of not working hard enough in training. If he can up his game somewhat and earn a regular place in the team, we should see more of the sort of form that made him a favourite at Middlesbrough... at least until the African Nations Cup starts in January.
Impact rating: 5/10

David Healy (Fulham)
The former Preston and Leeds man has struggled a little so far this season. A couple of goals early on was a sign of what we thought was things to come, but it's all come to a shuddering halt for the Northern Ireland man. Even his Fulham team-mates are struggling to score, so maybe a few good results will turn the fortunes and restore the confidence of Healy and co.?
Impact rating: 4/10

Andriy Voronin (Liverpool)
The blonde Ukrainian has scored some valuable goals already this season and might have picked up a few more were it not for Rafa Benitez's infamous rotation system. A handy player to have and one who is destined for greater things at Liverpool but needs to see more action before it happens. With many other strikers to choose from, Rafa's probably got his fingers in his ears as we speak...
Impact rating: 7/10

Fernando Torres (Liverpool)
As 'Andriy Voronin', but substitute 'Ukrainian' for 'Spaniard'.
Impact rating: 8/10.

Part 2 follows tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

All the Presidential Men (Part 4)

The war intervenes
The 1934 World Cup was hosted in Italy, only the second to be held and the first to be staged in Europe. Uruguay had won the inaugural event four years earlier in their own country but with only four nations from Europe bothering to make the long trip, Uruguay reacted strongly by boycotting the competition in 1934.

It added a sour note to Jules Rimet's ongoing reign as President of FIFA but this was compounded when the Italian government used the event to maximise its political influence under the leadership of Mussolini. Even so, the second World Cup went ahead, albeit using a new format - knockout matches being played instead of first round pools.

Of the sixteen teams taking part, only four were from outside Europe. Brazil and Argentina were South America's only representatives but they returned home almost as soon as they'd arrived having been beaten in their respective first round games. A similar fate befell Egypt - the first team to represent Africa at the World Cup - as was the case with the United States who were well-beaten 7-1 by the hosts.

Italy proved to be strong contenders and with the advantage of a fervent and partisan home support behind them, they reached the Final which they won 2-1 against Czechoslovakia after extra time.

The competition was already attracting much interest around the world and it seemed the 1938 edition would return to South America again, but when Jules Rimet's home country of France was awarded the hosting rights, the South Americans weren't happy. They felt the location of the host country would alternate between them and Europe.

When the third World Cup finally came around, only Brazil travelled the long journey once again, but they were joined by Cuba and the Dutch East Indies for another treacherous series of knockout games. This time, Brazil made it through to the semi-finals only to be beaten by defending champions Italy 2-1 while Cuba reached round two were they were thrashed 8-0 by Sweden.

The hosts, France, were unable to repeat the achievements of their two predecessors and were beaten by Italy in the second round as well. Italy were still the team to beat on the international stage and they became the first team to defend their title when they beat Hungary in the Final 4-2.

The 1938 World Cup was the last to be played before the outbreak of World War II and though the conflict was still a year away, ominous signs were in evidence. Spain was in the grip of a Civil War and Austria had qualified but then withdrew as they were swallowed up by Hitler's growing German empire.

While Europe was being ripped apart by the Second World War, Jules Rimet took evasive action to ensure FIFA's World Cup trophy didn't fall into the wrong hands. During Germany's occupation of France, Rimet hid the World Cup under his bed to keep it out of sight from the invading army. It did the trick - the war ended in 1945, the trophy remained safe and sound, and the following year FIFA acknowledged the part Rimet had played in ensuring a successful opening period of World Cup history by naming the trophy after him.

With 25 years of presidency under his belt, Rimet looked to restore the World Cup Finals back to their rightful place. Under his jurisdiction, the world's biggest football competition would be held once again in 1950, this time in Brazil. Before that, Stanley Rous, head of the Football Association, had realised that the absence of the British nations from the tournament had gone on too long and was now working against them. Rous decided, therefore, to restore links with FIFA by organising an exhibition match in Glasgow in 1947 between a Great Britain XI and a Europe XI. The aim was to promote a peaceful, unified Europe as well as to raise funds for FIFA who, thanks to the ravages of war, were now well and truly on their uppers.

The match, named by the press as 'The Match of the Century' was a great success and was watched by a crowd of 135,000.. Jules Rimet was understandably delighted to receive the resulting donation of £30,000, but to some more important was the fact that the next World Cup would now feature the home nations of Great Britain for the first time.

And so to Brazil, 1950. The war-ravaged nations of Europe were reluctant to host a sporting competition in the light of recent events and having missed out on the 1938, this was seen as the ideal opportunity to allow another South American country to host the Finals.

Sadly, Rimet would again have to oversee numerous withdrawals before the tournament even began. Scotland qualified as runners-up to England in the Home International Championships but dropped out because they weren't British champions. India withdrew because FIFA wouldn't allow them to play in bare feet and France opted not to fly to Brazil as their first round matches were due to take place in venues 2,000 miles apart.

In the end, thirteen teams took part in four pools, though the fourth consisted only of Uruguay and Bolivia. The former beat the latter 8-0 and subsequently went through to the final pool stage. Hosts Brazil easily qualified from their group while in Pool 2 England suffered a double humiliation when they lost 1-0 to the USA and failed to qualify for the last round. Even double World Champions Italy went out in the first round after failing to beat eventual pool winners Sweden.

Instead of semi-finals, the 1950 World Cup used a round-robin group format to decide which of the last four would win the trophy. Brazil were many people's favourites to win it, especially after a 7-1 demolition of Sweden and a 6-1 thumping of Spain, but they hadn't reckoned on the threat of previous winners Uruguay. In the final match of the group in front of a crowd of nearly 200,000 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's early 1-0 lead was overturned as Uruguay won 2-1. Brazil's time was yet to come but for their near neighbours a golden era had reached its peak.

On June 21st 1954, Jules Rimet (now 80 years of age) announced his retirement. During his time at the head of FIFA, he'd seen its membership grow from 24 countries to 82 with a world championship put in place and growing in stature with every passing year. All that remained was for Rimet to watch the World Cup unfold in Switzerland before stepping down from his position.

The 1954 tournament was the first to be broadcast live on television and what people saw was a tactical masterclass on the part of West German team coach Sepp Herberger. By engineering an 8-3 defeat in the first round to hot favourites Hungary, Herberger considered the resulting route through to the Final to be an easier one, having finished second in the group.

His forecast turned out to be correct. While Hungary had to fend off the strong challenges of Brazil and Uruguay in the knockout stages, West Germany easily dealt with Yugoslavia and Austria before meeting the Hungarians for a second time in the Final.

While some people were expecting a repeat of the 8-3 result two weeks previously, the West Germans had other ideas. Despite going down 2-0 early on to goals by Ferenc Puskás and Zoltán Czibor, Herberger's team fought back with two goals of their own from Max Morlock and Helmut Rahn. The game remained close for a further hour until six minutes from time Rahn scored his second to win the game for West Germany.

It was a thrilling final and a fitting end to Jules Rimet's period as President of FIFA. As he handed the trophy that bore his name over to West German captain Fritz Walter, there was a tangible sense of one era ending and another just beginning. Rimet's successor would certainly have a tough act to follow with many ambitions still yet to be fulfilled.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A ban of two halves

With all the tenacity that could earn them jobs in the UN Peacekeeping Corps, representatives from AC Milan have successfully negotiated with UEFA to ensure that the two game ban on goalkeeper Dida is halved with immediate effect.

Dida, you'll remember, did a fine job of acting out the part of an assassinated bystander when Celtic played AC Milan recently. As the game ended, a Celtic 'fan' ran onto the pitch following what turned out to be a winning goal for The Bhoys and tapped the Brazilian lightly on the side of the face. Dida gave chase before falling to the ground in dramatic fashion whereupon he received 'treatment' and was stretchered off clutching an ice pack.

To my mind, this shows nothing but weak, lily-livered administration on the part of the UEFA officials dealing with the matter. I think they've also missed a trick here. Had I been negotiating with the AC Milan representatives, I'd have said "Sure - we'll cut Dida's ban by half... as long as we can:

a) ...cut Celtic's fine by half"
b) ...cut Dida's match fee by half"
c) ...cut the number of hands Dida's allowed to use in his next game by half"
d) ...cut the number of points AC Milan accumulate in the group by half"

...and so on and so on.

What kind of message does UEFA think this will send out to anyone else who thinks they can bring bad fortune on their opponents by embarking on a career in acting? Dida will now only need to sit out tomorrow night's game against the mighty Shakhtar Donetsk before taking his place back in the side again, so how much of a punishment is that? Nothing short of a ban from the entire competition will do as far as I'm concerned and that's that.

Just keep this little incident in mind the next time you hear about UEFA's Fair Play initiative. If you prevent yourself from laughing openly with derision when you do, congratulations.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Champions League 'You Bet' - Week 3

With the recent internationals out of the way, it's back to European Champions League action once again this week, so that should mean one thing and one thing alone to your good self - who do I bet on in this week's You Bet?!

You may recall that at the beginning of the month, we missed out on winning another £7 by just six minutes when Kaka failed to score when we wanted him to. That means we go into Week 3 with £11.75 in the pot, but there's more money out there to be won, so let's see what your options are this time:

Bet A
Benfica v Celtic
Draw
Potential winnings: £3.20

Bet B
Besiktas v Liverpool
Liverpool to win 1-0
Potential winnings: £6.00

Bet C
Chelsea v Schalke 04
A penalty to be missed by either side
Potential winnings: £10.00

New visitors to this feature should note that a full explanation of what this is all about and how we're raising money for charity can be found in our Week 1 article.

VOTING HAS NOW CLOSED
The voting period for Week 3 of 'You Bet' is now over. With 62% of the total number of votes cast, you've told us to put our £1 bet on Liverpool to beat Besiktas 1-0 (Bet B). Keep your fingers crossed and let's hope we can make some more money for Little League Football!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Shirts for 2007/08: Portsmouth (3rd)

So this is it, then - the final part of our look at some of the new shirts to be launched for the 2007/08 Premier League season. We've already featured one shirt for each team since we got the ball rolling with Tottenham back in May, but one team remains overlooked as we end our series and that's Portsmouth so let's look at their new 'third' shirt...



Here it is, and as you can see it's black and gold, thereby contrasting distinctly with Pompey's other blue and white kits. It's made by Canterbury, a company from New Zealand that's been making rugby kits for ages and we think they've made a fair attempt with their initial offerings for Portsmouth this year.

OK, so they may not go for the more spectacular line of styling and their shirts might not be universally liked, but as you can see from this one it's smart, subdued and inoffensive. Not only that, but it's also available, so why not head down to the Portsmouth FC online shop and buy yourself one - they're only £39.99! (No? Oh well, at least we tried...)

So do you agree with our thoughts or are we wide of the mark this time? Have you EVER agreed with any of our thoughts?! Probably not, but let's not worry about that now... We'd like you to tell us what you think of the Portsmouth 3rd shirt above, so leave us a comment, choose an option on our online vote below or do both. It's your last chance after all...

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

Excellent: 20 (61%)
Good: 8 (24%)
OK: 1 (3%)
Poor: 1 (3%)
Terrible: 3 (9%)

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And that's about it. We've now featured all twenty Premier League teams, so if there's any you haven't judged for yourself, check out the 'Shirts For 2007/08' links on the right and add your votes. At the end of the year, we'll review the scores and see which shirts were the most popular and which you couldn't give a damn about.

Before we go, a quick heads-up for all you fans of football shirts and strips who might be fearing withdrawal symptoms. Fear not - we're lining up another Kit Legend vote like the England one we did back in February. All we'll say at this stage is if you're Scottish, we think you'll like what we've got to offer... :)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Drogba in shock South American move?

Guest writer: James Ellis

Didier Drogba reportedly wants out of the Chelski revolution, seeking new horizons abroad. It’s no surprise, an inevitable consequence of Mourinho’s departure.

In line with the Ivory Coast hit man's diving antics on the pitch, his comments off it are equally over-dramatic: "I want to get back to playing with butterflies in my stomach for a club who make me dream" states Didier, adding "there aren't 50 clubs who could stimulate this sort of passion, just four: AC Milan, Inter, Barça and Real." Or in other words, a club that can match the astronomical wage he is currently drawing from the Bank of Abramovich.

However, I believe Mr Drogba would be much more at home playing in the Peruvian league. The team below are just as ambitious as Europe’s leading clubs and will certainly match his personality.



What's your reaction to the news that Didier Drogba could be leaving Chelsea? Has he been a loyal servant who's justified in wanting to leave, or is he just another money-chasing international superstar? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment.

For now, we thank James for his article and if you'd like to write one for us like he did, drop us a line to the usual address - write4us[at]spaotp[dot]com.

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #34

You'll never be able to wear THAT on television...
The 17 First Division Teams In England That Had Shirt Sponsorship Deals Twenty-Five Seasons Ago And The Companies That Sponsored Them

1. Arsenal - JVC
2. Aston Villa - Davenports
3. Birmingham City - Ansells
4. Brighton & Hove Albion - British Caledonian
5. Coventry City - Talbot
6. Everton - Hafnia
7. Ipswich Town - Pioneer
8. Liverpool - Crown Paints
9. Luton Town - Bedford Trucks
10. Manchester City - Saab
11. Manchester United - Sharp Electronics
12. Norwich City - Withey Windows
13. Nottingham Forest - Panasonic
14. Southampton - Rank Xerox
15. Stoke City - Ricoh
16. Watford - Iveco
17. West Bromwich Albion - Swan

Notts County, Sunderland, Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United didn't have shirt sponsors in the 1982-83 season.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What shall we do next summer?

So, with little prospect of any home nations at Euro 2008, how can we fill our time next summer?

It's not the same when your country isn't taking part in the competitions finals.

We could go on holiday I guess (not to Switzerland or Austria), or hold our own tournament to make sure one of us wins something?

Answers on a postcard... or in a comment.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

About that pitch...

There's been a lot of talk this last few weeks about the plastic pitch that England will be playing on against Russia this afternoon. On the one hand, Steve McLaren is claiming it won't be an issue while the Russian FA are saying England are whimpering about it too much. Such a lot of fuss over a playing surface, but justifiably so in my opinion.

Now before I start, I'm not making excuses. Really I'm not. I just feel that any team who is used to playing on a pitch where the bounce of the ball is different to what you normally get on grass is bound to get some sort of advantage. That's not to say that I'm expecting Russia to beat England - last month's match at Wembley should ally a lot of people's fears of that - but the plastic pitch at Moscow's Luzhniki stadium will surely be a noticeable factor today.

Frankly, I'm not quite sure why the pitch even exists when it comes to full international matches. Yes, this is Russia we're talking about, a country where snow is often prevalent in substantially deep, crisp and even proportions, so an all-weather surface would appear to be a practical solution.

Surely, though, an even better one would be to install under-soil heating? Have they heard of that over in Russia? If not, perhaps someone should tell them it's all the rage in the civilised world…

It seems the synthetic surface has split popular opinion as to its virtuosity. Several players who've had experience of playing on identical pitches claim that it has more give, thereby meaning more stress on the joints such as the knees and ankles. Others, including FIFA who have tested and passed the pitch fit to play on in Moscow, say it's absolutely fine and is even preferential to play on than natural grass.

We're reliably informed that the surface, made by FieldTurf, is not the kind you'd have found at Queen's Park Rangers or Luton Town twenty-odd years ago. It's much more refined than that and just as well. I've got experience of playing regularly on a pitch that's akin to the QPR sort and while it's acceptable enough in dry conditions, it's absolutely horrendous to play on when it's wet. Should a team-mate decide to play a long, high ball upfield to you, forget allowing it to bounce first before bringing it under control. It'll skid off the plastic and end up in the next postal code.

Still, never mind. I've just checked the weather forecast for Moscow and it's not going to rain. Apparently they're due to have low cloud with some mist. Might be an idea to keep your fingers crossed that the Luzhniki pitch is up to the job, then, just to be on the safe side...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

While we're on the subject of qualifiers…

…I found out this weekend that the World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign was underway. Does that not strike you as remarkable? Here we are barely 15 months on from the end of the 2006 finals and already the next campaign is off and running. I'd barely thrown away my Texaco World Cup coin collection (incomplete and featuring duplicates of David Beckham and Rio Ferdinand) when I heard the news.

What's even stranger is that this weekend wasn't the start of the qualifying competition - just the start of the South American and African section. Over in Asia, matches started last week and in Oceania (a region which sounds like something out of a J.M. Barrie novel that no-one ever refers to by name in the area) they've been playing since August. Two months ago.

It's given us a bit of a wake-up call in no uncertain times as it does of course mean we've got to cover the event from start to finish. So here goes then - for your delight and delectation, this is the story so far in the 2010 World Cup qualifying competition:

OCEANIA
So back we go to Samoa where this whole sorry affair started with the 2007 South Pacific Games - a competition which acted as the first round of qualifying for the Oceania section. Ten teams competed and the three that qualified for round two were Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. They'll join New Zealand in a group of four which in itself is a competition with its own title - the OFC Nations Cup. Never let it be said that the Oceanians don't have a sense of occasion…

Among the more eye-opening results in round one were the Solomon Islands beating American Samoa 12-1, Fiji beating Tuvalu 16-0 and Vanuatu handing out a 15-0 thrashing of their own to American Samoa. Donations to the American Samoan Football Federation can be made after this article…

So anyway, a series of two-legged matches will ensue in round two and the top two will play off for the right to play the fifth-best team in the Asian section. With Australia now out of the equation, put your money on New Zealand to be that team…

SOUTH AMERICA
First out of the traps this weekend were Uruguay who put five past Bolivia, so they lead the single qualification group at this early stage. In hot pursuit are Argentina following their 2-0 win over Chile, and Venezuela who earned a commendable 1-0 away win against Ecuador. In other action, Peru and Paraguay drew 0-0 as did Colombia and Brazil.

Playing today are Venezuela and Argentina, while the pick of the games tomorrow feature Uruguay playing Paraguay and Brazil playing Ecuador.

ASIA
Round one in Asia started last week and here you'll find a whole bunch of home-and-away ties featuring many of the lesser lights in the area alongside some of the big names from this year's Asian Cup.

Out of the games that have been played so far, Thailand have already played both legs against Macau, winning 13-2 on aggregate while the United Arab Emirates squeezed through with a 1-0 win in Vietnam and Uzbekistan thrashed Chinese Taipei 9-0 in their respective first legs.

More games follow throughout October including Asian champions Iraq playing Pakistan and China playing Myanmar. Watch this space to find out more…

AFRICA
Just one game has been played so far in the African section. Madagascar beat Comoros 6-2 thereby setting the ball rolling (so to speak) on the first round where the first heap of chaff will be deprived of its wheat.

The big guns enter the fray well off into the future in the next round, but in round one Sierra Leone will need to fend off the attentions of Guinea-Bissau, so it's not all hum-drum this early on, oh no.

And that's about all for now - join us again in a month's time where we'll have another update for you. Thank us later if you like...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Euro 2008 - The 'Need to Know'...

Another weekend of international action passes us by and with it we get another step closer to finding out who will join the co-hosts Austria and Switzerland at Euro 2008. As you'll no doubt be aware, we're in the middle of another of those double-headers - the second half of which takes place on Wednesday - so let's assess what happened on Saturday and what might happen in two days time.

Poland extended their lead at the top of Group A to four points thanks to a 3-1 home win against Kazakhstan while Portugal returned to second spot with a 2-0 win in Azerbaijan. Finland dropped to third after their 0-0 draw in Belgium, so that means Poland now need a couple of draws in their last two games to virtually seal their place in the finals. If Finland lose either of their remaining pair of games, Poland will qualify by default. Serbia lost ground on the top three following their 3-2 away defeat to Belgium.

Wednesday night sees Portugal travel to Kazakhstan and Serbia travel to Azerbaijan. A win for Scolari's men will narrow Poland's lead to a single point going into the last round of games while Serbia can take third spot ahead of Finland if they win. Portugal need to win all of their last three games to ensure Finland miss out on qualification, but somewhat intriguingly the last round of matches see the two teams play each other in Portugal.

What can you say about the Scots that hasn't already been said? Another impressive victory at home to Ukraine means that Scotland now need just four points from the remaining six to take their place in Austria and Switzerland. Italy and France both kept up the pressure with wins of their own at the weekend, the former winning 2-0 at home to Georgia while the latter ended a tubulent trip by beating the Faroe Islands 6-0.

Next up for Scotland is a visit to Georgia this week while France play host to Lithuania. Both teams have already won the first meeting with their opponents, so if history repeats itself, we should see France leapfrog Italy into second spot while the Scots extend their lead to two points. If Alex McLeish's men only draw in Georgia (unlikely if you ask us), it'll mean they face Italy on November 17th needing to win to make sure of qualification. Don't even think about it...

Defending champions Greece opened up a four-point gap at the top of Group C after beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-2 at the weekend. Second-placed Turkey lost ground following their surprising 1-1 draw with Moldova while Norway sat out the weekend's games.

This week, Turkey can cut that lead to one point again by beating visitors Greece while Norway will be hoping to revenge their 2-1 home defeat to Bosnia-Herzegovina back in March in the reverse fixture.

The big news from Group D is that we have our first qualifier of the competition. Germany's 0-0 draw in Ireland on Saturday means the Germans can now book their hotel over the border for next summer and probably get their towels ready by the pool too.

The Czech Republic didn't play but they'll travel to Germany on Wednesday knowing that anything other than a victory for the Irish at home to Cyprus at the same time will see them through as well. Frankly it's all a bit of a formality as the Czechs face Slovakia in their last game at home so if they don't qualify this week it'll almost certainly happen next month.

Anyone wanting to put a bet on England winning five successive qualifiers 3-0 back in March would have (a) been rushed off to the nearest mental institution and (b) earned a pretty penny at the weekend when Estonia became the latest team to be beaten by that scoreline against Steve McLaren's men. It means England retain second spot in the table while Croatia do likewise at the top following a narrow 1-0 win over Israel.

The crunch match, of course, will be this week's game between England and Russia in Moscow. A win for the hosts will mean England have to beat Croatia at home on November 21st while Russia may need maximum points from their trips to Israel and Andorra. As for Croatia, they can practically wrap up qualification if they beat Macedonia away on Wednesday.

Spain seem to have remembered what their intentions were - at last - with a second successive win, this time 3-1 away to Denmark. That means Northern Ireland must repeat their earlier victory over the Spaniards in November AND beat Sweden and Denmark before they get there to deny Spain a place in the Finals. And it all looked so good for the Irish...

Sweden are temporarily level on points with Spain at the top of the group, so a win against Northern Ireland on Wednesday will keep their necks in front again while the Spanish take a back seat on the night.

Finally in Group G it was all change at the top as Romania pulled off a surprise win to overtake opponents the Netherlands 1-0 at the weekend. Dorin Goian's goal means the Dutch now have Bulgaria breathing down their necks and only two points behind them in third.

This group looks set to go right down to the wire so keep an eye on those remaining fixtures. If Romania beat Luxembourg this week and beat Bulgaria at home November 17th, they'll be in the Finals. The Netherlands, however, have an easier run-in with Slovenia, Luxembourg and Belarus standing in their way. With that in mind, Bulgaria will hoping not to drop any points at all in their remaining games (two of them coming against Albania and Slovenia) which will of course require a win against group leaders Romania.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

SPAOTP's Road to Wembley: FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round

Apologies for the lateness but here's news of what happened on the third step of our 2007/08 Road to Wembley.

You'll remember from the last thrilling instalment that we were following Chelmsford City in the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Cup (sponsored by E.On) as they travelled away to play Hemel Hempstead Town. Well the good news is that they won that match 2-0 thanks to a couple of early goals from Stuart Ainsley and Kezie Ibe...

"There were good performances all over the pitch and I think we were more than worthy winners" said Head Coach Glenn Pennyfather, adding "We don't mind who we get in the next round, as long as it's at home."

Unfortunately for Pennyfather, the draw for the Third Qualifying Round that took place two days later saw Chelmsford City hitting the road again - this time to Hayes & Yeading United.

Going into yesterday's match, Chelmsford were reeling from a number of injured and sick players which inevitably weakened the squad. Pennyfather was left with no option but to select the walking wounded that was available to him, and though they did the best they could, it proved to be insufficient. Chelmsford City lost 1-0 in the resulting one-sided match that went in favour of the home team for whom Tom Cadmore scored the winning goal on the hour mark.

A brave effort by Chelmsford City, then, but it was not to be. Still, if there's a motto that we should make our own on this Road to Wembley, it's "The king is dead - long live the King" for now we adopt the victors as our new team of choice. In the Fourth Qualifying Round of the FA Cup (sponsored by etc, etc), we'll be right behind Hayes and Yeading United who ironically play just nine miles or so from Wembley Stadium itself.

So near and yet so far from Wembley, it seems we've nearly reached our destination, but there's still a long way to go yet. Join us again soon as we embark on the next stage of our epic FA Cup quest.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hamburg 'til I die...

Bill Shankly, one-time manager of Liverpool football club, once commented that 'football isn't a matter of life and death - it's more important than that'. It's a contentious statement, depending on your devotion to the beautiful game, but fans of SV Hamburg can now make sure their life and death is intrinsically linked to their club. Hamburg have announced plans to build a club cemetery just fifty metres away from the AOL Arena.

For the price of a season ticket, ardent Hamburg fans can now buy a plot in the new cemetery grounds which, when built, will be a fitting resting place complete with goalmouth shaped entrance, terraced surrounds and blue-and-white coloured gravestones.

It's the first time such a facility has been planned for a football club anywhere in the world that we're aware of, although here in the UK it's not unknown for fans to have their ashes scattered on the pitch of their favourite team when they die. In Germany, there is no law which allows this to happen, but once the new burial grounds have been created in a few years time, Hamburg's great and good can ensure they remain true to their club right to the very end.

"Many people think it's crazy and a strange idea," admits Christian Reichert, a member of the board of Hamburg SV. "Yes it is. But it's strange to follow your team to away games all around Europe, to Moscow or Bulgaria," he says.

"These people are strange. They supported the club all their lives and so now they can feel that after their life, it's going on," Mr Reichert adds.

Strange, but very true. So next time you're sitting in your home team's stadium thinking how they've bored you to death for the last 90 minutes, imagine what the consequences might be. A short walk out of the stadium to the afterlife, perhaps?

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #33

Wear the badge with pride...
9 Football Club Badges From Around The World That We Like

1. Benoni Premier United (South Africa)



Cute bunny rabbit but with a slogan like that, who needs myxomatosis?


2. Hello United (Cameroon)



What a splendidly cheery name. Simple but effective...


3. Newcastle United Jets (Australia)



Look - they've got their own aerobatic display team and everything!


4. Laval Dynamites (Canada)



Any badge that features a football with its black patches being blown off can't be all bad in our book...


5. Lorient (France)



It's a performing fish! Or is it a shark? I suppose it could be a salmon of some sort...


6. JS Libreville (Gabon)



Now this is a fine work of art from the modernist era. The tangential offset of the circle from the triangle indicates... something or another.


7. Singapore Armed Forces (Singapore)



More animal tomfoolery - a rhino, no less! Standard line of conversation at the Singapore Armed Forces FC ticket office: "How much do you charge for tickets?"


8. Salgaocar (India)



Another fine artistic piece using a series of stylised S's. For some reason, it reminds us of one of those old-fashioned carpet-beaters...


9. Newell's Old Boys (Argentina)



No, we're not going to say what you thought we were going to say...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jose Mourinho's guide to Football Fans

Hi,

I'm Jose Mourinho.

You know, the good looking one, formerly of FC Chelsea.

In my new book you can read lots of things about football, not about football, eggs (good or bad), and my "quick start" guide to Football fans.

For instance...

Most of the black community are fans of Arsenal, the Jewish community support Tottenham, in the most disadvantaged area of London they’re fans of West Ham, and Fulham are a small club but with a strong nucleus of fans.

Chelsea, a cosmopolitan club, with fans famous around the world, like Bryan Adams, Claudia Schiffer and Chelsea, the daughter of ex-president Clinton.

There is a common denominator among them all — they’re foreigners, which fits in with the general profile of the fan of the club.

Whoever is a foreigner and leads a life above the means of the average citizen is a fan of Chelsea, because Chelsea have the most expensive tickets, the most expensive meals, their social life around the game is more important than that of other clubs.

Because they have that spending power, the Chelsea fan is more ‘society’ and, of course, that’s reflected in the stadium, with the support they give the team.

It’s the soft sort of fan who doesn’t get behind the team a lot, who don’t organise themselves into fan groups, with the cheering on that is characteristic of the image of English football.

They create a different atmosphere because a lot of our fans also go to the opera, the theatre, other types of shows that don’t lend themselves to lots of shouting.

That’s the Chelsea fan. That’s why Chelsea have some difficulty in asserting themselves as a great club of English football.


Enjoy the book, won't you!

"Mr. Robinson - you're trying to excuse me..."

Consider this: England manager Steve McLaren is about to announce his starting line-ups for the upcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers against Estonia and Russia, and if yesterday's edition of The Guardian is anything to go by, he's set to stick with Paul Robinson in goal.

So what's your first reaction to hearing that? "Has McLaren gone crazy?" "Is he out of his mind?"

I must be honest, mine was a somewhat watered-down version of those comments but when you read about the reasoning behind the decision, it gives you cause to think.

McLaren realises that all players tend to go through a bad patch at some time or another. Strikers stop scoring goals and goalkeepers start making mistakes. It's just something that happens. Yet in order to restore the confidence in a player like Robinson and get him back to his former self, McLaren feels it's important to show understanding and faith in times of crisis. As a result, McLaren intends to stand by his man for the two upcoming qualifiers despite the murmurs of dissatisfaction coming from certain quarters.

Putting yourself in Robinson's shoes for a moment, you can imagine how heartening it must be to know that your manager hasn't just thrown you on the scrapheap after making a few mistakes in recent games. Your determination to do well (or at least better) would swell and any thoughts of diminishing capability would be cast aside going into the crucial games England are about to play.

Well done, then, Mr. McLaren. You've decided to get the best out of your goalkeeper by sticking with him rather than dropping him.

Is this the right thing to do, though? Putting your England fan's hat back on again (you can kick off Robinson's shoes at this point), wouldn't you rather see the Spurs keeper work through his current inconsistent spell at Spurs, or at best on the England training field rather than in an important qualifying match?

Another mistake like the one Robinson made in the game against Croatia last year could seriously jeopardise England's chances of making it to Austria and Switzerland in 2008. So is McLaren taking a big risk picking Paul Robinson for the starting XI on Saturday and next Wednesday and if he opted for an alternative goalkeeper, would they be any better? What are the alternatives?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

'New' Camp

The biggest stadium in Europe is to undergo a rather spectacular redesign - and Wembley Stadium architect Norman Foster has been trusted with the job.

The new design, looking like a colourful cake, will fit into Barcelona perfectly as it's basis is the mosaic style famously used by Antoni Gaudi, who's work can be seen all over the city.

The colours for the 'tiles' are blue and scarlet, the colours of the teams home kit, and red and yellow, taken from Catalonia's flag. The tiles are fitted with lighting elements allowing it to be used for some stunning visual displays - from simply changing colour to a rather impressive way of displaying pictures.

The current 50 year old structure will largely remain intact with the coloured tiles being placed as an 'outer layer' to the current stadium allowing all Barcelonas home fixtures during the period to be played at Nou Camp as normal.

The stadium will increase its capacity by 10,000 (to 106,000) and will also gain a retractable roof.

Construction work should begin in 2009 and completion is anticipated in time for the start of the 2011-2012 season.

Unless Multiplex build it...

Click here for more information

Monday, October 08, 2007

In praise of the 'round ball game'

One of the things that makes my life interesting is that my wife was born in New Zealand. It therefore follows that she sees things from a distinctly non-British angle that adds a nice element of variety to your day-to-day existence.

As her husband, I've had to come to terms with one thing above all others - her compulsion for watching Rugby Union at every opportunity. This isn't something I share her passion for particularly, although I've tried to catch one or two games involving the All Blacks by way of 'showing an interest'.

Anyway, as you can imagine, my TV watching schedule has been severely disrupted this last few weeks by the arrival of the Rugby World Cup 2007. With some inevitability, I've ended up with no other choice but to watch some of the action taking place from time to time, although I can at least claim to be supporting the current world champions - even if I don't know most of the England team that won four years ago.

It's with this new-found knowledge that I now feel capable of giving all you non-Rugby types out there my concise guide on how the Rugby World Cup differs from the Football equivalent. Here's what you need to know…

1) Tiny countries that barely ever appear on the radar internationally qualify to play in the Rugby World Cup Finals purely because they own a ball. When did the likes of Tonga, Fiji and Western Samoa ever take their place alongside the Brazils and Germanys of this world in Football?

2) The Rugby World Cup Finals feature only sixteen teams but last for seven long weeks. That's how long it takes the FIFA World Cup to take place including all the qualifying games.

3) Because of the small number of teams capable of playing a decent standard of game and the long duration of the tournament, the International Rugby Board are thinking of downsizing everything for 2011. By contrast, FIFA's tournament has grown and grown to the point where we could soon actually see Fiji and Samoa qualifying as of right.

4) When FIFA say they've award a country the rights to host the World Cup they mean a country. The 2007 Rugby World Cup was awarded to France, however the IRB in their infinite wisdom pencilled in five games to take place in Cardiff and Edinburgh. Go figure.

5) Frequent stoppages take place in Rugby World Cup games so that the referee can call up a video replay of a contentious incident. These instances only delay the game by about 5 minutes at a time and happen no more than 8 or 10 times in a game. Matches last for eighty minutes which means fans get to see a good half an hour of action every time. Football World Cup matches don't use the video replay system. Discuss…

6) Players are only allowed to receive medical treatment when a referee deems it to be life-threatening. Broken bones, dislocations and blood seen emanating from flesh wounds are not considered reason enough to allow players to leave the field of play. In the football equivalent, a player only needs cough to ensure the game is stopped for 25 minutes while a priest administers the last rights to him.

7) The controversial issue of the 2007 Rugby World Cup has been the 'roundness' of the official match balls. In the last football World Cup, one of the main issues was that the ball was too round. This caused many shots to fly over the cross-bar - a positive boon in rugby matches.

There may be more things I can think of, but I'll leave it up to you to add more if you like. Personally, it's made me all the more hungry for South Africa 2010...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Shirts for 2007/08: Aston Villa (away / 2nd)

Yes folks, we're nearly there. Only two teams remain unfeatured in our look at some of the new shirts on show this Premier League season, and today's penultimate offering is the Aston Villa away shirt:



Just when you thought the pinstripe was dead, here it is again in all its glory. (Actually this isn't the only shirt you'll see paying homage to the pinstripe - Umbro's new Northern Ireland away shirt is a tribute to the one worn in the 1982 World Cup and made by Adidas, curiously enough, but we digress...)

This shirt's made by Nike and is in itself a visual nod in the direction of the one Villa wore between 1981 and 1983. It's just come out on sale and you can pick one up via Aston Villa's online store at the slightly pricey price of £45.00.

Is it worth it? Well perhaps so. Nike's recent trend for minimalist and slightly plain kit design appears to have been shelved temporarily to make way for this nostalgic and well-executed piece. To us it's got clean lines, is unfussy and makes good use of colour but hey, what do we know having judged nineteen shirts already? This feature's all about you telling us what you think, and you can do that by leaving us a comment or by registering your basic feelings on this handy online voting facility...

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

Excellent: 40 (66%)
Good: 12 (20%)
OK: 4 (7%)
Poor: 3 (5%)
Terrible: 2 (3%)

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Tell us what you think and let the world know how good a shirt this really is. Next time around we'll have the last in the series, and that'll be looking at the new Portsmouth 3rd shirt.

Get your handkerchiefs ready - it could be quite an emotional occasion...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Seven Shades of... Cesc Fabregas

Today sees the return of one of our old features where we attempt to link two football personages through seven spurious steps. Today we're trying to link Cesc Fabregas with Ray Clemence - just because we can, you understand - so let's begin naturally enough with:

Cesc Fabregas
Currently being touted as the Emirates Messiah and heir to the throne recently vacated by Thierry Henry. Not that they're the same type of player you understand, oh no. Spanish midfielder Fabregas isn't your out-and-out striker although these days you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference. He's already scored six goals this season compared to four for the whole of 2006/07. Anyway, Cesc Fabregas holds the record as the youngest player ever to appear in an Arsenal shirt, entering the field of play in a League Cup third round match against Rotherham in 2003 aged just 16 years 177 days. Former holder of the record was

Jermaine Pennant.
Yes, you know - him - that fella that plays for Liverpool now. Anyone remember him playing for Arsenal? I don't, but then I'm getting a bit old now. Anyway, Pennant himself was capable of going a bit funny in the head from time to time as the Police in Aylesbury will testify. Back in January 2005, a drunk Pennant crashed his Mercedes car into a lamppost. When the local constables turned up and asked him to confirm his name, he replied:

Ashley Cole.
Funny the way alcohol can make you forget who you are, isn't it? Cole himself is a figure of some controversy. In 2006, The Sun and The News of the World ran stories that suggested he'd been involved in a 'homosexual orgy' with a DJ although Cole later sued them both for damages and had the allegations retracted. The year before, he'd been embroiled in the infamous tapping-up incident where Chelsea representatives had seemingly made an illegal approach to the former Arsenal star without notifying his club. By the time Cole left to sign for Chelsea, the Arsenal fans were unhappy with his apparent willingness to play for whoever waved the biggest cheque-book in front of him, and when he recently released his autobiography, some Arsenal fans began an internet campaign urging people to instead by the autobiography of

Perry Groves,
the winger who became a stalwart in the early days of George Graham's reign as manager of the Highbury club. Groves has come to be something of a cult figure at Arsenal, even featuring in a fan's chant which is sung to the tune of 'Yellow Submarine' called 'We all live in a Perry Groves world.' Bless. Groves main claim to fame was that he was the man who provided the pass that led to the winning goal scored in the 1987 League Cup Final by

Charlie Nicholas.
'Champagne Charlie' as he was known (due to his laddish exploits in London outside of work hours) was the bright young thing who earned his reputation as a hot-shot goalscorer while with Celtic in the early 1980's. Sadly that reputation waned after Terry Neill signed him for The Gunners in June 1983 but he did at least stay for four and a half seasons, scoring 54 goals. His career before and after Arsenal was considerably worthy of higher praise, and with Celtic in 1981 he won the Scottish PFA Young Player of the Year award. The following year the award was won by

Frank McAvennie
who was almost signed by Arsenal in 1989. He instead decided to return to West Ham United for a second spell after an initial period of success with the Upton Park club between 1985 and 1987, and then Celtic for the following two seasons. Unfortunately by 1989 his regular supply of goals had started to run out and his career in the Scottish national side was over. This, despite scoring the goal in 1985 which helped Scotland qualify for the following year's World Cup in the first leg of a qualifier against Australia. Exactly six months prior to that match against Scotland, Australia had played a friendly at home to Tottenham Hotspur which they won 1-0. Tottenham's goalkeeper that day was

Ray Clemence,
the former Liverpool and England goalkeeper who was one of the most successful players ever to play between the sticks in this country. He won countless honours with Liverpool including five League Championships, the FA Cup, three European Cups and two UEFA Cups but success with the England team wasn't as easy to find. He did at least win the UEFA Cup with Tottenham at the tail-end of his career before retiring in 1988 to join their coaching staff. Clemence is in a select band of players who have appeared in five FA Cup Finals, the last of which was in 1987. It took place on May 16th, just twelve days after the birth of one Cesc Fabregas.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #32

A Clutch of Dynamos
17 Top-Flight Teams From Around The World With 'Dynamo' In Their Name

1. Dynamos (South Africa)
2. Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
3. Dynamo Stavropol (Russia)
4. Lusaka Dynamos (Zambia)
5. Samarqand-Dinamo (Uzbekistan)
6. Power Dynamos (Zambia)
7. Dinamo Minsk (Belarus)
8. Dynamos (Zimbabwe)
9. Dynamo Makhachkala (Russia)
10. Dynamo České Budějovice (Czech Republic)
11. Dynamo Dushanbe (Tajikistan)
12. Dynamo Berlin (Germany)
13. Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)
14. Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia)
15. Houston Dynamo (USA)
16. Dynamo Dresden (Germany)
17. Dynamo Bryansk (Russia)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Champions League

After a week of tough fixtures for some British clubs, congratulations have to be given to both Rangers and Celtic for their impressive results.

Rangers 3-0 result away to Lyon has to be the result of the week, although most Celtic fans would argue the case for their 2-1 victory over holders AC Milan.

Add to that the Chelsea result. Most people were expecting them to fail - the rest were hoping it. A 2-1 win at Valencia is a very good scoreline, especially given the current circumstances.

High flying Liverpool hosted fourth from bottom Marseille... with Manchester United and Arsenal also winnning their respective ties 1-0.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

When Saturday Comes

I can remember when I was young lad (everything was in black and white) and how much I loved Saturdays.

In the afternoon I would go over the park with my friends to play football, then back home in time for tea. Food was usually dished up at around the time all the ‘final scores’ would be coming in. My Dad would be putting X’s on his pools coupon, I’d be eating my toasted crumpets, peeking through my fingers to see how many Spurs lost by before sitting through a wealth of family entertainment – the usual suspects being Jim’ll Fix it, Doctor Who, Tripods, Generation Game, Allo Allo, News and Weather – before finally getting to Match of the Day.

How times have changed.

Now, I’ll come home from the park with my children and sit down in front of the TV as all the final scores get bounced off a satellite. The pools coupon has been replaced by the national lottery so it’s a case of just sitting down to eat my toasted crumpets, peeking through my fingers to see how many Spurs lost by.

But not this weekend – and not just if you support Spurs. Fans of most Premiership teams won’t be able to see their teams results whilst chomping on there Saturday evening crumpet. Why? Because there are only TWO Premiership games this Saturday – only ONE of which kicks off at the traditional time of 3pm.

The feast of football this Saturday consists of Man United v Wigan (12:45pm) and Aston Villa v West Ham (3pm).

Great.

What am I supposed to do whilst eating my crumpet now? Take a keen interest in the Championship? “Crikey, look at that Scunthorpe result.” Perhaps the Scottish Premiership? ”Oh look, the wife, I see Glasgow Rangers won...”

Match of the Day should be ‘interesting’ too. Let's see the BBC fill that show with those two corkers of matches. Doubtless Mark Lawrenson will still say Liverpool deserved to win, even though they weren’t playing.

Unlikely I know, but imagine if both games are goalless. If that’s the case, the BBC should scrap Match of the Day for the night and show a repeat of “Jim’ll Fix It”, just for old times sake.

How I miss the 3pm kick-offs on a Saturday.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Champions League 'You Bet' - Week 2

It's Week 2 of SPAOTP's Champions League You Bet and what a great start we made last time around!

Two weeks ago, you asked us to put our £1 bet on Arsenal and Seville sharing three goals in 90 minutes, and joy of joys, Arsene Wenger's men popped up with all three to earn us £3.75!

That means we go into Week 2 with £12.75 in the kitty, bursting at the seams with confidence and not a little amount of cockyness. Let's now see if you can pick us another winner as we look at the following three choices relating to this Wednesday's Champions League games:

Bet A
Valencia v Chelsea
Chelsea to win
Potential winnings: £2.80

Bet B
Celtic v Milan
Kaka to score the first goal of the match
Potential winnings: £7.00

Bet C
Liverpool v Marseille
Marseille to win 1-0
Potential winnings: £15.00

Don't forget, all proceeds we make from the Champions League campaign this season go to Little League Football, a charity which gives kids the chance to play the beautiful game in a local team where otherwise it wouldn't be possible.

For more details about that, visit the Little League Football website, and for a recap on what this whole crazy You Bet thing's about, check out our Week 1 article.

UPDATE...
Time's now up for you to cast your votes. With 75% of the share, we can now tell you that we'll tonight be hoping that Bet B comes up trumps, so keep your fingers crossed that Kaka weaves his magic against Celtic before they do! Thanks for all your votes, and watch this space to find out how we got on...

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