Friday, November 30, 2007

SPAOTP's Road to Wembley: FA Cup 2nd Round Proper

We're back on the Road to Wembley today. "You're a bit early," we here you cry. "It's not Saturday yet."

Well no, but in the Second Round Proper of the FA Cup we're following non-league Horsham FC and tonight they're playing League 1 Swansea City, so we're bringing you all you need to know ahead of the game. Oh and in case you didn't know, this is the first time you'll be able to watch SPAOTP's adopted team live on TV as tonight's match is being shown on Sky Sports 1 here in the UK at 7.30pm GMT.

So to recap, the last round of the FA Cup (sponsored by E.ON) saw us following Maidenhead United as they travelled down to Horsham but yet again, we seem to have put a jinx on our team as they crashed 4-1 to the home side. It was therefore 'goodbye Maidenhead, hello Horsham' but shock horror - the Second Round draw saw one of our teams actually playing at home - and against one of the highest placed clubs in the round!

Yes, Horsham will play host to Swansea City this evening and it'll undoubtedly be a tough game, so let's get the low-down on The Hornets while we can, just in case anything unfortunate should happen...

Horsham FC has been in existence for a whopping 136 years. The 1920's and 1930's saw Horsham reach their first peak as they won the County League on several occasions but their first breakthrough into the First Round Proper of the FA Cup didn't come until the 1947-48 season.

In 1974, Horsham arrived in the Isthmian League where they currently reside (see our Football Pyramid for details) but by the end of the 1970's, The Hornets were battling to avoid bankruptcy. Relegation to the Isthmian League Second Division soon followed and the 1980's proved a difficult spell for them.

There then followed a gradual turn-around in their fortunes with the pinnacle of their achievements being promotion to the Isthmian League Premier Division in 2005-06. Last year they finished eighth in the league and they're currently seventh, so who knows - maybe promotion to the Conference South could be on the cards this season?

Their current form suggests Swansea might have a tough task on their hands this evening. Horsham have lost only two of their last eleven games in all competitions and a 1-0 win in the league last Saturday against Harrow Borough was the perfect way to prepare for a visit by The Swans in the Cup tonight.

Horsham's number 10, Carl Rook, is the man to keep an eye open for tonight. He's their top goalscorer so far this season in all competitions with 12 goals, but there's plenty more where that came from with Lewis Taylor, Simon Austin and Jacob Mingle all boasting six goals to their name too.

So can Manager John Maggs do the unthinkable and beat the might of Swansea City? They've been beaten by non-league opposition before as any fan of Nuneaton Borough or Bognor Regis Town will tell you. And given the fact that tickets for the tie sold out on Wednesday morning, I think it's fair to say the locals are more than optimistic it can happen.

Let's wish our team for the Second Round, Horsham FC, the best of luck for tonight and who knows - they might just face Manchester United in the next round...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #40

We're Football fans too, you know...
40 Sports Stars And The Teams They Support

1. Mike Atherton (Cricket) - Manchester United
2. Boris Becker (Tennis) - Bayern Munich
3. Björn Borg (Tennis) - Hammarby
4. Ian Botham (Cricket) - Scunthorpe
5. Eric Bristow (Darts) - Chelsea
6. Sebastian Coe (Athletics) - Chelsea
7. Steve Cram (Athletics) - Sunderland
8. Lawrence Dallaglio (Rugby Union) - Chelsea
9. Frankie Dettori (Horse Racing) - Juventus
10. Roger Federer (Tennis) - Basel
11. Giancarlo Fisichella (Motor Racing) - Roma
12. Andrew Flintoff (Cricket) - Manchester City
13. Stephen Fleming (Cricket) - Stoke City
14. Carl Fogarty (Superbikes) - Blackburn Rovers
15. Sergio Garcia (Golf) - Real Madrid
16. Simon Geoghan (Rugby Union) - West Ham
17. Darren Gough (Cricket) - Barnsley
18. Steve Harmison (Cricket) - Newcastle United
19. Audley Harrison (Boxing) - Arsenal
20. Ricky Hatton (Boxing) - Manchester City
21. Stephen Hendry (Snooker) - Hearts
22. Evander Holyfield (Boxing) - Houston Dynamo
23. Goran Ivanisevic (Tennis) - West Bromwich Albion (and Hajduk Split)
24. Martin Johnson (Rugby Union) - Leicester City
25. Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Tennis) - Spartak Moscow
26. Amir Khan (Boxing) - Bolton
27. Denise Lewis (Athletics) - Wolves
28. Lennox Lewis (Boxing) - West Ham
29. Colin Montgomerie (Golf) - Rangers (and Leeds United)
30. Andy Murray (Tennis) - Hibernian
31. Rafael Nadal (Tennis) - Real Madrid
32. David Nalbandian (Tennis) - River Plate
33. Jarkko Nieminen (Tennis) - Manchester United
34. Ronnie O'Sullivan (Snooker) - Arsenal
35. Michael Schumacher (Motor Racing) - Cologne
36. Sir Steve Redgrave (Rowing) - Chelsea
37. Greg Rusedski (Tennis) - Arsenal
38. Ian Thorpe (Swimming) - Tottenham
39. Raymond van Barneveld (Darts) - Den Haag
40. Michael Vaughn (Cricket) - Sheffield Wednesday

It's a sad, sad situation

It doesn't get any better for Scottish football fans. As if failing to qualify for Euro 2008 at the latest possible moment wasn't bad enough, now they find that their inspirational leader Alex McLeish has resigned and won't be there to begin the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.

It's a shame as the Scottish FA must have considered itself lucky to have appointed McLeish the last time they were in this situation on January 10th of this year when Walter Smith resigned. Under Smith's guidance, Scotland seemed to be pointing in the right direction once again, despite failing to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. After an excellent start to the Euro 2008 campaign which included a 1-0 home win against France, Scotland soon found themselves seventy places higher up the FIFA rankings than when Smith arrived.

When Smith left, however, it seemed as though the momentum Smith he'd brought to the team needed to be maintained at a time when it was needed most. Many fans could have been excused for thinking that their luck wouldn't stretch to seeing the appointment of an equally capable successor, but Alex McLeish soon arrived and before long it was 'business as usual'. Scotland seemed to go from strength to strength, maintaining their place near or at the top of Euro 2008 qualifying Group B and a win over France at the Parc des Princes gave hope of a place in the Finals.

Sadly once again the hopes of the nation were dashed as Scotland missed out on qualification by a single point, but many fans knew that hope remained of future success as long as that hard-fought-for momentum could be maintained. How depressed they must feel now McLeish has been lured back to club football just like his predecessor.

All of which leaves me feeling a little perplexed. Fundamentally one side of my brain is crying out for a Scottish coach that wants to get his team to the finals of a major competition, while the other is savvy enough to realise that a pay cheque four times the size of the one the SFA were offering is just what you need to pay off all those nasty household bills.

I've got to admit to being more than a little disappointed in McLeish though. His spell as coach of Scotland's football team lasted just ten matches which didn't even cover an entire qualification campaign. Being a Scotsman, you'd think it would be your ultimate dream to try and steer the football team of your homeland to glory and success, and yet the lure of the Premier League - and not even a top Premier League club in Birmingham City (no offence intended) - has proven a higher priority for him.

So how do the SFA avoid this happening for a third successive time in future? Well they should start looking for some wealthy private investors for a start. Any generous donations from people like Billy Connolly, Sean Connery or Jackie Stewart might be warmly welcomed as that could be the only way to tempt McLeish's successor to stay in the position.

Secondly, appointing someone who has no desire to manage in the Premier League or SPL would be useful. What about someone who already has done? Suitable names that spring to mind are Jim Jeffries, the 57-year-old Kilmarnock manager who has done wonders on a shoestring budget and would consider this a fitting end to his career, Sir Alex Ferguson, who, let's face it, has done all he can at Man United and might be tempted by a less intense way to ease into retirement, or even Kenny Dalglish who's been there, tried it and didn't like it much.

Paul Sturrock and Craig Levein have had some success at club level but could be considered an unknown quantity in an international context. Graeme Souness? Hardly a bankable success, I'd have thought.

Wait a minute… it says here that the SFA will look into potential candidates regardless of whether they currently hold a managerial position or not. That means it could be someone who's currently managing elsewhere. Well there you are, then - problem solved… go for Gordon Strachan. They'll be able to tempt him with the money gained from the £1 million in compensation Birmingham City may cough up, so what are you waiting for Scotland? Get on the phone to Gordon and tell him 'we sent for you.' He'll understand...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

World Cup 2010 Preliminary Draw

Somewhat later than billed in the Radio Times, we thought we'd take a look at the World Cup Preliminary Round Draw that took place on Sunday. The reason we're a bit late in bringing you this is because we got a bit cocky about how to write the article and it backfired on us a bit. We can only apologise for this, but hopefully you'll see we had the right motives at heart.

Our plans came unstuck because we didn't just want to tell you who had been drawn against who in Durban at the weekend. We also wanted to analyse the record books and tell you which teams tend to get drawn against who most often in qualifying games for both the World Cup and European Championships. All well and good, but the sheer amount of data we had to process was rather more than we anticipated, hence our lateness in bringing you this article. We blame the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. Far too many European countries now, by far…

Anyway, about that draw. Without over-generalising too much, it looks like the usual suspects will be qualifying from North and Central America as their paths have been drawn out to the benefit of all concerned. The USA are waiting to play the winner of the match between Dominica and Barbados while Mexico will play either Belize or St. Kitts and Nevis.

In Asia, there were apparently gasps of surprise in Durban's city hall (hard to believe, we know) when Australia were drawn in the same group as China and Asian champions Iraq. If the Aussies wanted a sterner test than the one they used to get in Oceania section, it appears they now have it.

Equally as intriguing is Group 3 in Asia where North and South Korea face up to each other. Jordan and Turkmenistan may have to act as referees if any 'tensions' come about from any stressful comings-together…

Over to Africa now and Group 6 could be where most eyes will be focused as Senegal, Algeria and Liberia will be facing off in the not-too-distant future. Elsewhere in Group 4, Nigeria will play South Africa even though the hosts won't need to qualify for their own tournament. They're using the 2010 World Cup qualifiers as the preliminary round for the African Nations Cup that year. Go figure…

With the South American qualifiers revolving around a single round-robin competition, it just leaves us to take in the ever-sprawling European section. For 2010, there'll be eight groups of six teams and one of five, with the winners and eight best runner-ups (runners-up?) going into a play-off.

Scotland, the lucky devils, were drawn in Group 9 - the short one - where they'll face the Netherlands for the first time in a World Cup or European Championship qualifier along with Norway, Macedonia and Iceland.

In Group 6, England, as you'll probably now be aware, are set to face Croatia once again after the crashing success of the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. Elsewhere in the group there are first-time meetings with Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine for Steve McClaren's successor to look forward to while a repeat visit to Andorra completes the schedule for England.

Things don't get any easier for Wales. Aside from the obvious impediment of having John Toshack as their coach, they've now got the prospect of facing both Germany and Russia in the 2010 qualifiers to consider in Group 4. Aside from that there's Finland, Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein in the group, so unless Jose Mourinho decides to take over and announces a batch of continental stars with newly-found Welsh parentage to choose his team from, don't expect too many fireworks there.

Northern Ireland's task in Group 3 isn't much better, but at least Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and San Marino will seem beatable even if top seeds, the Czech Republic, aren't.

Of the other groups, there are none that whet the appetite to any great extent. Sweden have a rare chance to play a qualifier against neighbours Denmark along with Portugal, arguably favourites to win Group 1.

In Group 2, Israel and Greece are the top two seeds and they'll be playing each other in a major qualifier for the first time since the 1954 World Cup. Switzerland lie in wait for those two, thereby adding a further competitive element to the proceedings.

Group 5 should be a walk in the park for Spain and Turkey. With a decreasingly efficient Belgium plus Bosnia-Herzegovina, Armenia and Estonia, you should be able to put your house on the first two being at the right end of the group by the close of 2009.

Group 7 similarly has two front-runners in the form of France and Romania while elsewhere there's the potential to see a re-run of the shock 1991 victory for the Faroe Islands over Austria. The way Austria are playing these days, don't be surprised if it happens all over again…

Finally in Group 8, the Republic of Ireland's main concern will be Italy but that should be about all. Bulgaria are supposedly the second-seeds (not our opinion) while Ireland's meeting with Cyprus will be their third in the last four World Cup qualifying campaigns. If that doesn't prove fruitful for the Irish, there's always Georgia and new boys Montenegro to tackle.

For more details about who's playing who in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, head on over to the FIFA website where they've got all the details displayed in a highly efficient manner for your delight.

So as we were saying earlier, we've been doing a lot of number-crunching lately and we can now tell you who gets drawn against who most often when it comes to European Championship and World Cup qualifying competitions.

Think of England and you instinctively expect them to end up in the same group as Poland, but is that a fair assumption? By our reckoning, the answer is 'yes' - Poland are indeed England's most frequent opponents, having met on seven occasions, their last coming in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers.

Ironically, Northern Ireland's most frequent opponents have been England. They've met each other six times, the last being in that same World Cup 2006 qualifying group with England and Poland.

If you're Scottish, the chances are that your team will be picked to play Wales (it must be all those British Championship competitions that doubled up as qualifiers for the major competitions). Scotland and Wales have played each other five times over the years, but the last meeting was back just before the 1986 World Cup.

Finally to Wales themselves. Their most frequent opponents are the Czech Republic (including Czechoslovakia). They've met each other seven times including the Euro 2008 qualifying group where they also played Germany - a team they'll be playing again in the World Cup 2010 qualifiers.

To complete this service to you, here's acknowledgement that England's seven-time match-up with Poland is the joint-record. They share it with Hungary and Greece who met most recently in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. The Netherlands and Belgium have also played seven times in preliminary rounds - the last time for them was ahead of the 1998 World Cup.

So now we have the statistics at hand, we'd like to offer you the chance to ask us a question if you have one. Ever wanted to know how many times Spain have played Italy in qualifying campaigns? Want to know who Belgium play more than any other? Drop us a line at info [at] spaotp [dot] com and ask us - we'll leave your questions and the accompanying answers on the comments page attached...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Champions League 'You Bet' - Week 5

Apologies for the slight lateness in bringing you the latest round of Champions League You Bet, but here we are again hoping that you can help us raise lots of lovely lolly for charity.

The charity in question is Little League Football, a cause that hopes to make it easier for young children in the UK to play for a local team regardless of availability or cost. By engaging the community, Little League Football hopes to get kids into football much earlier so that their passion for the game and skills have longer to develop. The end result will hopefully be a whole new generation of star players that we don't even know exist yet, but that can only happen if you make a generous contribution to their charity or by taking part in our You Bet competition to help raise a decent-sized sum of money.

And so to the job in hand. This week, as with every other, we have £1 just waiting to be placed on a bet which ultimately you will dictate. We give you three to choose from and all you have to do is pick the one you like the sound of most. If the bet wins, the money goes straight back into our 'kitty' and when the Champions League Final has been played next year, all money accrued will go off to Little League Football. Simple as... beating England.

Now last time around you may remember that we lost out again so that means our kitty now contains less money than we started for the first time since we started. We can easily put that right though, so let's see what the offerings are for this week:

Bet A
Rosenborg v Chelsea
Potential winnings: £3.50

Bet B
Liverpool v Porto
Steven Gerrard to score from outside the penalty area
Potential winnings: £8.00

Bet C
Celtic v Shakhtar Donetsk
Shakhtar to win 2-1
Potential winnings: £15.00

So which of those do you think could bring us wealth beyond our wildest dreams? Make your choice and let us know by using the voting facility below. You have until 7pm GMT on Wednesday 28 November 2007 to tell us, so choose carefully and good luck!

Unfortunately the voting period for Week 5 of You Bet is now over. With 56% of the vote, the winner this week is Bet B - Steven Gerrard to score from outside the box. Let's hope Stevie G has his sights set from a long way out tonight. Thanks to all of you who voted and good luck to us all!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

World Cup 2010 Poster: And the winner is...

Earlier this week, we told you that FIFA were about to announce the winning design in their 2010 World Cup poster competition. Prior to the announcement being made, we thought we'd show you the shortlist of three that the South African public had to choose from back in September and invited you to do the same in our very own little poll.

Well that poll resulted in us receiving 33 votes from you over the last four to five days (thank you!) and 27 of you overwhelmingly chose Poster B (an outline of the African continent which doubled up as the head of a man heading a football on a yellow background).

And guess what - somewhat earlier than we thought, Sepp Blatter yesterday made his annoucement and told the world that the winning design was indeed Poster B. Well done to the majority of you that voted for it! SPAOTP are proud of you...

The winning poster was designed by South African creative agency Switch and it's now known that the head featured on it is that of Cameroon star Samuel Eto'o.

So that's settled then - Some People Are On The Pitch has effectively chosen the official poster of the 2010 World Cup. Next week, we'll be running a poll to decide who the next England manager should be. It's only right it should be done this way, after all...

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #39

When the Form Book goes out the window
17 Shock International Results From Years Gone By

1. USA 1 England 0 (1950 World Cup Finals)
2. England 3 Hungary 6 (1953 Friendly)
3. Hungary 7 England 1 (1954 Friendly)
4. North Korea 1 Italy 0 (1966 World Cup Finals)
5. Spain 0 Northern Ireland 1 (1982 World Cup Finals)
6. Algeria 2 West Germany 1 (1982 World Cup Finals)
7. Cameroon 1 Argentina 0 (1990 World Cup Finals)
8. Sweden 1 Costa Rica 2 (1990 World Cup Finals)
9. Faroe Islands 1 Austria 0 (1990 European Championship qualifier)
10. Argentina 0 Colombia 5 (1993 World Cup qualifier)
11. Australia 1 France 0 (2001 Confederations Cup)
12. Australia 1 Brazil 0 (2001 Confederations Cup)
13. Honduras 2 Brazil 0 (2001 Copa America)
14. Germany 1 England 5 (2001 World Cup qualifier)
15. France 0 Senegal 1 (2002 World Cup Finals)
16. South Korea 2 Italy 1 (2002 World Cup Finals)
17. England 1 Australia 3 (2003 Friendly)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

There are more questions than answers...

Now's not the time to say 'I told you so'. What's done is done and now we must reflect on the consequences. We now know that England will not next year be playing at the European Championship Finals for the first time since 1984.

It will also be the first time England have failed for any major tournament since 1994, so what do we get from last night's 3-2 against Croatia? As far as I'm concerned, it raised more questions than answers.

First, an answer: the way Croatia played last night (i.e. in a comfortable, self-assured and competent fashion), it's fair to say that England do not deserve to be at the Finals because the quality of their play isn't up to that standard.

Question: Was Steve McClaren right to pick Scott Carson? Yes and no, in my opinion. No because last night's critical decider was not the place to give a 22-year-old with no international experience his debut. And yet given the alternatives (see previous article), perhaps some new blood with no previous reputation for untrustworthyness was worth a shot.

As much as I support Scott Carson in his development as a top goalkeeper, there's no avoiding the fact that the first goal was his fault as his technique was all wrong. That said, he made up for it with a performance that saw his early nerves dissipate and his shot-stopping abilities come to the fore once again.

Are the team playing as a team? No. There are undoubtedly some strong individual talents among England's ranks, but a unified strength seems to be lacking at the moment. Something for either McClaren or his successor to work on, perhaps.

Should David Beckham have played from the start? I doubt it would have done any harm. Though he's certainly not match-fit these days, he still retains a great sense of ball delivery in open play and in dead-ball situations. Maybe that would have been more of a factor if he'd had more of the game to play in.

Should Steve McClaren stay on in charge of the England team? For me, no. As one or two other people have mentioned on this blog, McClaren doesn't seem to be able to inspire his players. They play as if lacking any direction, and that could be something to do with a tactical naivety that brought Middlesbrough precious little in the way of glory while he was coach there.

If McClaren goes, who should replace him? Despite being from Northern Ireland, I'd personally like to see Martin O'Neill given a chance. I think the Terry Venables time has been and gone. Jose Mourinho? Sure, why not… although I doubt the job would interest him enough to take it. Alan Shearer? I think it might be worth giving him a go. Yes I know he has no international experience in coaching, but he definitely knows a thing or two and he undoubtedly has the iron will and mental strength to ram home the players' responsibilities when needed.

There are doubtless more questions and answers to come from England's failure to qualify, so feel free to post any of your own here. For the meantime, we'll try and get used to the idea of a Euro 2008 tournament that won't feature England. Strange. All very strange.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Who'd be an England goalkeper?

On the eve of tonight's match between England and Croatia, it seems the main story in today's newspapers is that Scott Carson will be given a second chance to play between the sticks following his debut last Friday.

While no-one would deny the former Liverpool man a chance of glory after his poor treatment by Rafa Benitez, it seems Carson will be given the nod mainly on the basis that Paul Robinson can't be relied upon. But isn't it fair to say that most England goalkeepers have at some point been deemed untrustworthy? Does Paul Robinson have some justification in feeling a tad peeved accordingly?

We thought we'd look back down the years at England's Number 1 men to see how well their careers stand up to the ravages of time.

Paul Robinson
Caps: 36; Last match: v Estonia (June 6 2007)
The Leeds and Tottenham man came to the fore during the qualifying campaign for World Cup 2006 and made a good start, keeping numerous clean sheets right through to the finals. Unfortunately for Robinson, his confidence took a massive knock when his massive air shot failed to clear a bobbling Gary Neville back-pass in the match against Croatia in October 206 and things went rapidly downhill thereafter.

In a friendly match against Germany this August, Robinson flapped at a cross that led to Germany getting their first goal of the game and that's when the voices in Steve McClaren's head started to get noticeably louder. Likely to figure in England's future plans, but no longer the automatic first choice he once was.

David James
Appearances: 34; Last cap: v Jamaica (June 3 2006)
Possibly the archetypal accident-prone England goalkeeper of recent times, James has won back the hearts of many of his doubters with some strong performances for Portsmouth this season and last.

Unfortunately he's still prone to the occasional lapse and his performances are still capable of being as variable as his choice of hairstyle. Crosses have often been a problem area for James but he remains a good shot-stopper and on current form is worth having as a reserve option in the England squad, but perhaps no more than that.

David Seaman
Appearances: 75; Last cap: v Macedonia (October 16 2002)
Even 'Safe Hands' Seaman, once held in high esteem among almost all England fans, fell prey to Lady Luck after a career that saw him pick up the second highest number of caps to Peter Shilton. His penalty-saving heroics in Euro 96 saw our moustachioed hero quickly ride a wave of unprecedented popularity but as we're already finding out, pride often comes before a fall, and so it turned out to be…

The World Cup of 2002 saw England face Brazil in the quarter-finals in what should have been a day to remember for Seaman, but alas a long, high, curving cross-come-shot by Ronaldinho caught him napping. The ball looped perfectly over the straggling Seaman and with one shot his credibility had been erased, particularly among the British sports journalists who were only to pleased to pin the blame on any individual they could find. A sad end to the career of a much admired player.

Chris Woods
Appearances: 43; Last cap: v USA (June 9 1993)
Almost a professional understudy to Peter Shilton throughout out his England career, he finally got his chance to shine after Italia '90 when he became first choice 'keeper under Graham Taylor. An often overlooked player in England's history, Woods was highly capable in his role and prided himself on the fitness and agility he gained while at Norwich City and Rangers, amongst others.

Sadly the writing was on the wall for Woods when he was seen to be at fault for Norway's first goal in a qualifier away to Norway in June 1993 and after that he only played one more game wearing the Three Lions. He might also put the blame for his demise on the emergence of DAvid Seaman as a goalkeeping option, but that's just incidental, perhaps.

Ray Clemence
Appearances: 61; Last cap: v Luxembourg (November 16 1983)
The nearest thing you can get to an England goalkeeper that doesn't have a blemish on his record. Clemence, as you probably know, had a constant battle for that yellow jersey with Peter Shilton who was also reaching the peak of his game during the 1970's, and it was his form with Liverpool that got him so many call-ups.

Both Don Revie and Ron Greenwood made use of Clemence's services at a time when England were sadly struggling to qualify for any major tournament, but that was no fault of Clem's. With Liverpool, he got his hands on numerous pieces of silverware and it was ironically one of his Reds team-mates, Kenny Dalglish, that gave Clemence his only real moment of embarrassment when Dalglish slotted the ball through his legs in an England v Scotland match in 1977.

Fortunately for him, it didn't jeopardise his entire career and he went on to play for England for another six years afterwards. Ray Clemence was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005, the treatment for which has seen him spend time away from his current role as England's goalkeeping coach. We'd like to wish him a full and complete recovery from the condition and hope that England can earn a win tonight in his honour.

Peter Shilton
Appearances: 125; Last cap: v Italy (July 7 1990)
Dear old Peter Shilton. With 125 caps, you'd think he was second to none on the list of all time great England keepers… but it's not quite as simple as that. Shilton's career seemed to get better and worse in equal measures as the years went by. At Leicester City, he gained a reputation for making many a fine and spectacular save and before long he was getting selected for England. Sadly, just as he was getting into his stride after Gordon Banks' retirement, he made arguably his biggest faux pas of all.

During a World Cup qualifier that England had to win against Poland in 1973, Shilton allowed a relatively comfortable shot to squirm beneath him and into the net. Poland went on to win and qualify for the 1974 World Cup, leaving England - and Peter Shilton - considerably red-faced.

Though he went on to have a successful spell at Nottingham Forest during the 1980's, the end of the decade saw Shilton's responses and reflexes start to slow, and this was particularly in evidence during Euro 88 in West Germany. By the time Italia 90 arrived, Shilton's inability to dive quickly and react to dead-ball situations was all too noticeable and even in the Third-Place play-off there was still time for one last calamitous vignette where he lost control of the ball, allowing the Italians to score. A case of a great player being used well past his sell-by date, many would say.

So there you see it - anyone wanting to be an England 'keeper is almost certainly destined to a future of shame and humiliation in one form or another, and we didn't even get to Peter Bonetti. Hopefully tonight Scott Carson can do enough to prove he can buck the trend, but give it a few years and you can be sure he'll be cast on the scrapheap, just like almost all his recent predecessors.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pick a poster...

As you may have noticed recently, we're in 'World Cup mood' just now (despite the fact that the Euro 2008 qualifiers are about to reach a thrilling finalé) and today we thought we'd indulge ourselves further still by fulfilling a long-held ambition of ours.

Ever since we started this ramshackle little site we call SPAOTP, we've wanted to bring you much in the way of art and culture. Luckily for you, the 'culture' bit has never been in short supply due to our refined conversational skills, however the 'art' bit has been largely overlooked - until now.

That's because for the remainder of this week, we'd like you to peruse three posters - one of which will be selected as the official 2010 World Cup Poster at this Sunday's World Cup Preliminary Draw in Durban, South Africa.

Now the deal is this: in recent history, FIFA have held a kind of competition where the inhabitants of a host country get to choose the poster they like best as the one for their World Cup. This September, it happened once again and it was the turn of the South Africans to make their choice.

Well, the votes have been counted and the decision will soon be made, but we thought we'd show you the three posters they had to choose from and ask you to pick the one YOU like. On Sunday when Sepp Blatter or one of the other FIFA suits tell us which one has been chosen, you'll be able to see if your selection matches theres.

So here they are folks - the three posters that made the shortlist. Have a look, see what you think, then use the voting facility below to register your choice. Any comments you wish to make will, as ever, be warmly accepted.

Sorry, but voting on our poll has now closed, but the final votes went as follows...

POSTER A: 3 votes; POSTER B: 27 votes; POSTER C: 3 votes.

Want to know which one FIFA finally selected? Click here...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Not the end, just the beginning...

If you were in any doubt, it seems there is no justice in this world. On the one hand you have Scotland, a team who have proven to be formidable opposition to the likes of France, Italy and Ukraine and on the other you have England, a team that have regularly failed to convince its supporters that it can beat anyone, regardless of stature.

For Scotland, sadly, qualification to Euro 2008 is now no longer possible. The 2-1 defeat to Italy on Saturday was enough to give their opponents enough points to edge out the Scots, and yet in that game, as with so many others during this competition, the Scottish players have shown enough creativity, fighting spirit and a will to win to almost earn a place in the Finals on merit alone.

For England, however, things no longer look quite as gloomy thanks to Israel's 2-1 win over Russia. Where previously the nation braced itself for the imminent elimination that a win for the Russians would have brought, now, rather surprisingly, a chance to qualify has reappeared. All England need to do is secure at the very least a draw at home to Croatia on Wednesday night and they can book their flight to Austria and Switzerland next year.

Frankly, the whole situation leaves me feeling a bit frustrated. If England had played as well as Scotland have done and were denied qualification to the Finals, I'd be feeling pretty bereft right now, and yet here I am supporting an England team lacking in sufficient levels of skill and desire that could well be taking their place.

My only hope is that McLaren's men call on their deepest reserves to play in the manner which we all want to see - that of a team which is strong in ability and ambition, one that wants to show the world that it can be the best in Europe.

Aside from the commiserations I pass onto the Scotland team and all its supporters, I have a message of hope for you. This Sunday, FIFA makes its Preliminary Round Draw for the 2010 World Cup and it's there that Scotland will find out which opponents they'll face as they attempt to qualify for the Finals in three years time. Regardless of who ends up in their group, I feel that Alex McLeish can get his team through to the 2010 World Cup, as long as he can continue the momentum that has carried his team thus far over the last couple of years.

I've no doubt that what we saw on Saturday wasn't the end of a sorry tale, merely the end of the beginning. If Scotland's trend of gradual improvement continues as it has every chance of doing, the end of the story will be a glorious one, not the rain-soaked affair we witnessed last weekend.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Apology to all our visitors

I'd like to extend a personal apology to all of you who were unable to access our website yesterday. It seems Webfusion, the company that looks after our domain name ( suffered from some sort of service downtime which was entirely out of my control. I had no warning of it, no time to make alternative arrangements and therefore we were all left high and dry.

NOT impressed, I have to say, but I shall be taking issue with them over the matter. Meantime, here below is an article I wrote yesterday which was meant to be topical - sadly now it isn't, but you get the drift...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

World Cup 2010 Update

It's been a month since our last look at what's going on in the FIFA World Cup 2010 qualifiers, so let's get you up to speed with recent happenings...

Asia has been by far the busiest continent of late with lots of First Round matches going on recently. There'll be five rounds of qualifying to get through before we find out which four or five teams make it to South Africa, but here's an overview of how it all works.

There are 43 teams taking part, of which the five that are ranked highest (Australia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Iran) get a bye to Round 3. The 38 that remain all take part in the home-and-away knockout games of Round 1, and of the 19 winners that come from that, the 11 that are ranked the highest will also get a bye to Round 3.

The remaining 8 teams play in Round 2 where four further home-and-away knockout games will ensue. The four winners of these games join the 16 teams that have been waiting impatiently for their arrival in Round 3. We won't concern ourselves with Rounds 4 and 5 as frankly it'll only blow your mind at this stage.

So anyway, Round 1 has seen most of the higher ranked teams win their two-leg ties with a few exceptions. Bahrain beat Malaysia 4-1 following a goalless first match to go through while Uzbekistan finished off the first leg demolition of Chinese Taipei to win 11-0 on aggregate.

There were other big wins for China (surprisingly unseeded) who beat Myanmar 11-0 on aggregate and Hong Kong whose 8-1 second leg victory over Timor-Leste ensured an 11-3 overall win.

Leaving the competition at the first stage were Palestine who lost 4-0 and 3-0 to Singapore, India (beaten 6-3 over two legs by Lebanon) and Asian Cup 2007 quarter-finalists Vietnam who lost 6-0 on aggregate to the United Arab Emirates.

Of the other big names on the continent, there were comfortable aggregate wins for Asian champions Iraq, Qatar and most comfortable of all Indonesia who qualified automatically due to the withdrawal of Guam.

Round 2 is already underway and the first-leg scores are as follows:

Yemen 1-1 Thailand; Singapore 2-0 Tajikistan; Indonesia 1-4 Syria; Hong Kong 0-0 Turkmenistan.

The second-leg ties all take place tomorrow (November 18th 2007) and we'll have news of those in our next update a month from now.

This month saw the start of Round 2 in the Oceania section and we're now down to the final four teams who are hoping to qualify for a play-off with the fifth-best team from Asia. New Zealand are tipped to be hot favourites to get that chance and they began the second round last month with a 2-0 win over Fiji and earlier today they picked up another three points by securing a 2-1 win over Vanuatu. Also taking place earlier today was Fiji's second game, this time against New Caledonia which ended in a 3-3 draw.

Coming up this Wednesday are two more games - New Zealand at home to Vanuatu and New Caledonia playing host to Fiji.

Meanwhile over in South America, all ten teams playing in the round-robin league have now played their second games and will later today play their third before getting a fourth under their belt on Wednesday.

So far, only Argentina can claim to have won both their opening matches, winning 2-0 away to Venezuela after a win by the same scoreline against Chile in the opening game. Brazil are second in the table having drawn 0-0 against Colombia and beaten Ecuador 5-0, while Paraguay also have four points having beaten fourth-placed Uruguay 1-0 in their most recent tie.

At the bottom, Ecuador are the only team without a point so far having lost to Brazil and before that Venezuela (1-0). Bolivia and Peru have only one point each so far, and it doesn't get any easier for them as they look forward to playing Argentina and Brazil respectively this weekend.

Finally to Africa where the Round 1 draws to a close this weekend. Djibouti are through to Round 2 already having beaten Somalia in a one-off game by one goal to nil, and they'll be joined by the winners of the matches between Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau (First leg: 1-0) and Madagascar and Comoros (First leg: 6-2)

Round 2 is where the rest of Africa joins the party. There'll be a total of 48 competing countries in twelve groups of four where the winners of each group go into the final round to determine the five qualifiers for South Africa 2010.

If you're wondering whether the action's underway in Europe or the CONCACAF sections, the answer is 'no', but good news - next Sunday (November 25th) sees the draw take place in Durban, South Africa, for the 2010 World Cup Preliminary Round, so that's where we'll see who's playing who and when in those continents where play hasn't already started.

You can rest assured that a review of the draw will feature here on SPAOTP as soon as possible thereafter...

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #38

The Tartan Standard
25 Players That Made 50 Or More Appearances For Scotland

1. Kenny Dalglish : 102 (1971-1986)
2. Jim Leighton : 91 (1982-1998)
3. Alex McLeish : 77 (1980-1993)
4. Paul McStay : 76 (1983-1997)
5. Tom Boyd : 72 (1990-2001)
6. Willie Miller : 65 (1975-1989)
7. Christian Dailly : 66 (1997-)
8. Danny McGrain : 62 (1973-1982)
9. Richard Gough : 61 (1983-1993)
10. Ally McCoist : 61 (1985-1998)
11. David Weir : 60 (1997-)
12. John Collins : 58 (1988-1999)
13. Roy Aitken : 57 (1979-1991)
14. Gary McAllister : 57 (1990-1999)
15. Denis Law : 55 (1958-1974)
16. Maurice Malpas : 55 (1984-1992)
17. Billy Bremner : 54 (1965-1975)
18. Graeme Souness : 54 (1974-1986)
19. George Young : 53 (1946-1957)
20. Alan Rough : 53 (1976-1986)
21. Kevin Gallacher : 53 (1988-2001)
22. Joe Jordan : 52 (1973-1982)
23. Colin Hendry : 51 (1993-2001)
24. Asa Hartford : 50 (1972-1982)
25. Gordon Strachan : 50 (1980-1992)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Euro 2008 - The (last) 'Need to Know'...

So this is it: we're about to embark on the Euro 2008 qualifying 'endgame'. This Saturday sees the first half of the final double-header of games that will confirm the final list of fourteen countries heading for Austria and Switzerland next year.

England are already heading for Austria of course, but sadly that's just to play a friendly match tomorrow. Yes folks, things have got so desperate for Steve McLaren's men that this might be the only chance they'll get to see an Alpine country before next Summer.

Anyway, before this Saturday's games and the crashing finalé that follows next Wednesday, here's our ever-handy guide to what you need to know regarding who could qualify, who already has qualified and who might fail *COUGHENGLAND*...

Finland v Azerbaijan; Poland v Belgium; Serbia v Kazakhstan; Portugal v Armenia;

Portugal v Finland; Serbia v Poland

If Poland beat Belgium at the weekend, Poland are through to the Finals. A draw will mean Serbia and Finland will have to win both their remaining games to overhaul the Poles, and even then they'll still have Portugal to contend with. A defeat for Poland will mean they have to travel to Serbia on Wednesday and possibly pick up three points then. Sooner them than us...

A defeat for Serbia or Finland on Saturday would effectively end their chances of qualification, so we think the key match to look out for will be Portugal's home game against Armenia. A win for Portugal could seal their qualification and potentially see Poland through as well. Lots of permutations with this one, but the Poles and Portuguese are undoubtedly in the box seat as things stand.

Scotland v Italy

Italy v Faroe Islands; France v Ukraine

If Scotland beat Italy on Saturday, party on! If Scotland lose, they're out. That's just about all you need to know, really.

Oh yeah, I suppose it could be a draw, technically speaking. If that's the case, Ukraine will need to beat France next week to see the Scots through. That said, a win for the Faeroes against Italy would also help. (I know - why did we even mention that?)

Norway v Turkey

Malta v Norway; Turkey v Bosnia-Herzegovina

Since last we spoke, Bosnia-Herzegovina's chances have ended and Greece have qualified, so that leaves a straight head-to-head battle between Norway (now second in the group) and Turkey (third). As you'll see, the two teams play this weekend, and a win for the Norwegians will earn them qualification. A draw will almost certainly be insufficient for Turkey who will have to hope that Norway lose to Turkey next week. Unlikely, we think.

As you can see, the Czech Republic have joined Germany as qualifiers from Group D, so there's nothing more to add here, except to say that Wales play the Republic of Ireland this Saturday.

It'll be just like the old days of the British Championship again! (except England, Scotland and Northern Ireland won't be involved.) Ahem...

Macedonia v Croatia; Israel v Russia

England v Croatia; Andorra v Russia

What more do we need to say? A win for Russia against Israel on Saturday and all us Anglophiles will have to look forward to next Summer will be a resurrection of the old England v Scotland fixture. Even then, it will only happen if (a) anyone can be bothered to arrange the fixture and (b) Scotland don't qualify for Euro 2008 either. Oh the misery of it all...

Northern Ireland v Denmark; Spain v Sweden

Spain v Northern Ireland; Denmark v Iceland; Sweden v Latvia

Good news! Northern Ireland can still qualify! All they need to do is beat Denmark and Spain, then hope Spain lose against Sweden - what could be easier! Shame on all you doubters...

A draw between the top two on Saturday will ensure qualification for them both if Northern Ireland and Denmark draw or slip up next week while the Danes have a better chance of qualifying if they win both their remaining games, but that'll still depend on Spain slipping up. It has been known, as Lawrie Sanchez will tell you...

Bulgaria v Romania; Netherlands v Luxembourg

Slovenia v Bulgaria; Belarus v Netherlands

Romania are home and dry, so it's between the Netherlands and Bulgaria to grab the final qualifying spot in the group, but don't worry - it's all been sorted out. A win for the Dutch against Luxembourg at the weekend will snuff out Bulgaria's chances. We dare you to bet against it...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vision of a Super League future...

Speaking on the BBC TV programme Inside Sport last night, Celtic manager Gordon Strachan made clear his belief that in the not-too-distant future the Champions League would be replaced by a form of European Super League.

In reply to the oft-repeated suggestion that Celtic and Rangers might one day join the Premier League in order to benefit from playing sterner opposition, Strachan said:

"I think in years to come there will be a European league with 54 or 60 clubs. That's the way everybody will get round it.

"There will be a new structure, a new body" he went on. "The powers that be, the businessmen coming into football now, will say 'forget FIFA, forget UEFA - we're so powerful, we'll have three leagues with the best 60 clubs'.

"And you know what? Preposterous and unthinkable though it might seem at the moment, I personally think it'll happen too. By my reckoning, I'll see it towards the end of my lifetime, which in real terms means 'by 2050.'"

Anyway, we here at Some People Are On The Pitch like a bit of prophesying so we thought we'd put our thinking caps on and try and work out what a European Super League would look like based loosely on the best that the continent has to offer right now.

Though this was anything but a scientific experiment, we were quick to realise that there are any number of ways you could calculate such a metaphoric notion. How many clubs would you allow per country? At the moment, the most you'll find is four, so that's the maximum figure we adopted for our own means.

Yet could this figure rise higher? Knowing the way big business and high finance gets involved in football these days, I for one wouldn't be surprised if a European Super League might end up featuring anything up to eight big clubs from places such as England, Germany, Italy and Spain.

And what of the smaller clubs and the countries they derive from? How many places would they be allowed in a system featuring three leagues of twenty clubs? Again, the cynic in me can see the lesser lights on the continent barely getting a look in.

Luckily for us in our fair-minded, level-headed fantasy world, we can put that straight though. What we've therefore done in our allegorical list is allowed at least one club to take part from most, although not all, the main countries in Europe.

So here it is then - your first glimpse at a future world where, according to Gordon Strachan, FIFA and UEFA would look on helplessly as an independent body took over the running of European football's biggest competition. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the European Super League (sponsored by Some People Are On The Pitch...)

League 1
Arsenal (ENG)
Barcelona (SPA)
Bayern Munich (GER)
Benfica (POR)
Bremen (GER)
Chelsea (ENG)
Dynamo Kyiv (UKR)
Internazionale (ITA)
Lazio (ITA)
Liverpool (ENG)
Lyon (FRA)
Man. United (ENG)
Milan (ITA)
Porto (POR)
Real Madrid (SPA)
Roma (ITA)
Schalke (GER)
Sevilla (SPA)
Stuttgart (GER)
Valencia (SPA)

League 2
Ajax (NED)
Anderlecht (BEL)
Besiktas (TUR)
Bordeaux (FRA)
Celtic (SCO)
Club Brugge (BEL)
CSKA Moskva (RUS)
Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)
Fenerbahce (TUR)
Galatasaray (TUR)
Marseille (FRA)
Olympiacos (GRE)
Panathinaikos (GRE)
Slavia Prague (CZE)
Sparta Prague (CZE)
Sporting (POR)
Steaua (ROM)
Zenit (RUS)

League 3
AIK Solna (SWE)
Anorthosis (CYP)
Basel (SWZ)
Brann (NOR)
Copenhagen (DEN)
CSKA Sofia (BUL)
Drogheda (IRE)
Groningen (SWE)
Hajduk Split (CRO)
Hapoel Tel Aviv (ISR)
Maccabi Tel Aviv (ISR)
Rangers (SCO)
Ried (AUT)
Rosenborg (NOR)
Salzburg (AUT)
Shakhtar (UKR)
Spartak Moscow (RUS)
Tampere (FIN)
Zurich (SWZ)

A reminder then that this is just a bit of fun - if we've put a team in the wrong league, don't get shirty with us! It's just our spin on how a European Super League might look.

That said, given the lists above, who would you put in which league and who do you think might win or be relegated in each case? Let us know what your imagination's telling you, or if you have an opinion about whether a European Super League is even viable, tell us that too. We look forward to hearing your thoughts...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Caption Competition #4

Time now for you to come up with a suitable caption for our fourth competition (of sorts). No prizes for the best entry, but see what you can do with this image taken from the Man United v Blackburn game at the weekend...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

SPAOTP's Road to Wembley: FA Cup 1st Round Proper

This is it, folks - this is the bit where the FA Cup starts getting really serious. Today saw the First Round Proper of the 2007/08 FA Cup (sponsored by E.On) where only those amateur teams with nerves of steel and toughness to boot can win against the might of the professionals who enter at this stage.

In two rounds time, the big boys from the Premier League and the Championship join in the fun, but for now those non-leaguers that thought it was tough so far now have the League 1 and League 2 sides to contend with.

Luckily for us, we were following Maidenhead United from the Conference South who today travelled to play a team below them in the 'league pyramid' - Horsham, from the Isthmian Premier League.

Maidenhead, you may remember, became our latest team on the Road to Wembley by beating the previous incumbents Hayes & Yeading United in the Fourth Qualifying Round. So what do we know about them?

Well Maidenhead are fresh back in the Conference South having been relegated two seasons ago. They gained promotion again in the summer but so far this season they've been struggling. Last Saturday's away defeat to Bishop's Stortford saw them drop into the bottom three so another sortie into the FA Cup will no doubt come as a welcome respite for them.

The Magpies (they play in black and white striped shirts, you see) were once managed by former West Ham midfielder Alan Devonshire but currently have Johnson Hippolyte in charge who, with considerable irony, was once joint manager of Yeading.

Of the players in his squad, Manny Williams was easily the man to keep an eye on today as he's scored six goals in the Blue Square South so far, while Lee Newman's scored three and Errol Telemaque and Dwane Lee have picked up two each.

And so it was that our brave men headed down to Horsham for today's First Round clash, but little did they know that the SPAOTP jinx was about to strike once again. In front of a crowd of 3,000 at the Atspeed Stadium, it was the home side that rose to the occasion first. Nigel Brake's excellent long-range shot put Horsham 1-0 up just before half time and Lee Carney's overhead kick doubled their lead after 62 minutes.

Shortly afterwards, Maidenhead's dead-ball specialist Dwane Lee pulled a goal back from the penalty spot but Horsham were able to finish the game off with two goals in the last eight minutes thanks to a second from Carney and one from substitute Lee Farrell. Maidenhead were out of the Cup 4-1 and their return to an arduous and thus far largely unfulfilling league campaign once again becomes their main priority.

We therefore send our sympathies to Maidenhead and welcome Horsham as our new Road To Wembley team. We also send our congratulations as today's convincing performance means they can now look forward to a place in the Second Round of the FA Cup for the first time ever.

Who will they play? We'll find out tomorrow when the draw for the next round of the FA Cup (sponsored by somE.ONe) takes place at FA Headquarters at 17:15 GMT.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Premier League Trivia

Some nuggets of interesting and not-so-interesting trivia relating to Premier League teams so far this season...

Arsenal are yet to lose this season in the 19 games they've played in the Premier League, League Cup and Champions League.

Aston Villa, though ninth in the Premier League table, are yet to win away from home this season.

Birmingham City have failed to score in five of their twelve Premier League games so far.

Blackburn Rovers have lost only one game all season and are still unbeaten away from home.

Bolton Wanderers have won just one of their twelve Premier League games so far, at home to Reading in August.

Chelsea remain unbeaten at home in the league after five matches and have conceded just two goals - both against Birmingham City in their first game of the season.

Derby have won just one game all season and are yet to win or score away from home. Their only win in the Premier League came at home to Newcastle in September.

Everton have drawn only one Premier League game all season - against Blackburn in August.

Fulham are yet to win a league game away from home all season, scoring only four goals in five games.

Liverpool have conceded only six Premier League goals all season - the joint best defence along with Manchester United's.

Manchester City have won all seven of their home games in the league this season - five them by a 1-0 scoreline.

Manchester United remain unbeaten at home in the Premier League and have conceded only one goal there all season.

Middlesbrough have won just two games out of twelve in the Premier League thus far and have lost five out of six away from home.

Newcastle United are yet to play an away game in London in the Premier League this season.

Portsmouth are on a run of seven consecutive unbeaten games in the Premier League and are second only to Arsenal in terms of goals scored.

Starting with their loss to Sunderland on September 15th, Reading are currently alternating between winning and losing games in the Premier League.

Sunderland's last Premier League win was that same 2-1 win over Reading on September 15th.

Tottenham Hotspur have won just one game all season (at home to Derby in August) and have conceded on average two goals in all Premier League matches.

West Ham United have managed to score more than one goal only once in their last six Premier League games.

Wigan Athletic have won just two games all season - both within the first three games of the Premier League campaign.

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #37

If the cap fits...
22 Footballers That Played Once For England And Once Only

1. Joey Barton (Man City) against Spain in 2007
2. Lee Bowyer (Leeds) against Portugal in 2002
3. David Dunn (Blackburn) against Portugal in 2002
4. Charlie George (Derby) against Republic of Ireland in 1976
5. Lee Hendrie (Aston Villa) against Czech Republic in 1998
6. John Hollins (Chelsea) against Spain in 1967
7. Francis Jeffers (Arsenal) against Australia in 2003
8. Chris Kirkland (Wigan, on loan) against Greece in 2006
9. Bill Nicholson (Tottenham) against Portugal in 1951
10. David Nugent (Preston) against Andorra in 2007
11. Phil Parkes (QPR) against Portugal in 1974
12. Steve Perryman (Tottenham) against Iceland in 1982
13. Jimmy Rimmer (Arsenal) against Italy in 1976
14. Neil Ruddock (Liverpool) against Nigeria in 1994
15. Tommy Smith (Liverpool) against Wales in 1971
16. Nigel Spink (Aston Villa) against Australia in 1983
17. Brian Stein (Luton) against France in 1984
18. Alex Stepney (Man United) against Sweden in 1968
19. Alan Sunderland (Arsenal) against Australia in 1980
20. David Unsworth (Everton) against Japan in 1995
21. Theo Walcott (Arsenal) against Hungary in 2006
22. Mark Walters (Rangers) against New Zealand in 1991

Thursday, November 08, 2007

While I was away...

Many of you won't be aware but I've been feeling a little poorly of late, hence the lack of new articles going on recently. First of all, may I pass on my apologies for the temporary drop in service levels on our part, however I'm able to reassure you that my recent period of convalescence hasn't been a completely useless exercise.

While confined to my sick bed, I was at least able to view the goings-on in world football through my laptop-shaped porthole so that I can now report back to you as I begin the long road to recovery.

A couple of things to begin with, then. First of all, we have Sir Alex Ferguson, knight of the realm and all-round curmudgeonly messiah of Old Trafford. He's decided that it's about time he could choose from seven substitutes during a Premier League match rather than the current five. That, it would seem, would solve all his problems and help Man United retain their number 1 spot in England.

Excellent, except those of us wearing our far-sighted spectacles can discern right now that Mr Ferguson will only end up moaning again. That's because he'll need more players ready to send into battle alongside him on that draughty stadium bench that ought to be recuperating from injury in the comfort of their own home (or at the very least up in one of the executive boxes). There'll be more potential for even greater numbers of injured players because more will be available for each match.

So here's the rub: whatever happened to picking a starting XI that could win a match regardless of which subs might come on? If the subs are any good, why not pick them in the starting XI anyway?

Moving on, the BBC have made a shock announcement that from 2009/10, they'll be showing live games and highlights of Football League Championship matches, as well as those in the Carling Cup. My first reaction was 'why?' but this was easily explained by their failure to retain the rights to show England and FA Cup matches.

I was then filled with a feeling of optimism. Although Sky have done more than anyone by showing countless Football League games in all their exciting and fascinating glory over the last few years, the BBC will undoubtedly increase the potential audience and interest in the sub-Premier League levels for a number of reasons.

For a start, not everyone subscribes to Sky. The BBC's two main channels, on the other hand, are freely available and show the biggest football programme in UK TV history - Match of the Day. It was and always has been known as 'appointment-to-view' TV - the ability to make people sit down at the same times on the same days every week to watch a highly desirable programme. By getting fans of the Championship and Leagues 1 and 2 to watch a similar brand-leading show, a real sea-change in viewing habits could be on the cards.

The real question to be answered, though, is when would their programme(s) be shown? Saturday night is out of the question as that's when Match of the Day takes to the air. Sunday afternoons are out too - that's when Sky show their live games. Sunday nights are now where you'll find Match of the Day 2, the BBC's mopping-up exercise for the Premier League action that didn't happen on any given Saturday, so that leaves Sunday morning… which is when ITV pigeon-holed their weekly programme, and only seven people in the UK used to watch that.

Even then, we're talking about when to schedule a highlights programme. The BBC also has the rights to show ten live games too. I wonder when they'll be shown and on which channel?

All being well, we'll get the answer sometime in the next two to three years.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Champions League Review : Liverpool Record Breakers

(Dedication's what you need...)

For those that missed it last night, here is some reaction to the record-breaking Liverpool v Besiktas match.

(This has been translated from Turkish to 'Northern' English)

OK, the scoreline is "8 (bloody) - 1" but it always makes me laugh...

Taken from BBC's Ripping Yarns 'Golden Gordon' episode.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Champions League 'You Bet' - Week 4

It's another Champions League week so that must mean it's time to play 'You Bet' once again and we're on a bit of a bad run, it has to be said. After a win in Week 1, we've lost our stake money in the last two rounds so we're more or less back to the £10 we started off with. Time to win some more, wethinks, so cast your eyes over this week's selection and tell us which you'd like us to put our £1 bet on:

Bet A
Barcelona v Rangers
Potential winnings: £5.00

Bet B
Manchester United v Dynamo Kiev
Rooney to score from outside the penalty area
Potential winnings: £8.00

Bet C
Slavia Prague v Arsenal
Arsenal to win 3-0
Potential winnings: £10.00

Voting is now over for Week 4 of 'You Bet' and with 47% of the total number of votes cast, you've told us to put our £1 bet on Wayne Rooney to score from outside the penalty area for Manchester United against Dynamo Kiev (Bet B). Keep your fingers crossed and let's hope 'Spud-U-Dislike' keeps his goalscoring run going!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

World Cup 2018: Who's got the stadia?

To continue this week's main theme, i.e. The 2018 World Cup and who may end up hosting it, I decided to look into the stadia that might be used in each of the countries showing an interest.

Now that England have officially thrown their hat into the ring, it's tempting to suggest that if FIFA asked the FA to host the competition, the least significant problem would be finding a dozen superior stadia. Such is the development of the Premier League that venues are of an excellent standard these days, but would they all be capable of accommodating a sufficient number of people?

In Germany last year, the lowest stadium capacity of the twelve used was that belonging to FC Nürnberg which could house just under 42,000. The average capacity of all twelve was just under 53,000. So let's apply that to the Premier League. Which stadia would get the nod?

The answer: those belonging to Manchester United, Arsenal, Newcastle United, Sunderland, Manchester City, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Chelsea. Add the new Wembley Stadium onto that and you have nine, which leaves us three short.

It's been suggested that Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest could put forward their grounds for use, but even they fall short of the 42,000 target mentioned earlier, albeit only just. Perhaps the proposed new homes for Everton and West Ham could be used instead (if they're built by then)?

It's almost certain that England will be there or thereabouts when it comes to having the required number of good-sized stadia. They're also relatively well spread apart, geographically speaking, although a few of them are bunched together in the same cities. Ho hum... So what about the other contenders?

If you take Russia's best 12 stadia that are capable of hosting football matches, ten of them are currently in use by football teams at the moment and of the other two, one is Moscow's Olympic Stadium (left) and the other is a multi-use stadium in St.Petersburg. The trouble is, five of them are in Moscow, and only three are above that 42,000 capacity total. Some of them have capacities below 29,000.

Looks like the Russians have got some work to do if they're to give us some decent places to watch our football in.

The Australians have got a strong case. They're riding on the crest of a wave following their progress to Round 2 of last year's World Cup and they've never hosted the competition before. They did host the Olympic Games back in 2000 and made a fine job of it... but what about their stadia?

In Australia, if you bump into a sporting venue it's likely to be purpose built for either soccer, rugby, Australian Rules football or cricket, and therein lies a slight problem. Although most of the usable stadia 'down under' are well above the required size, many of them would require a little modification. Places like The Gabba, the SCG and the MCG have hosted soccer matches before and have the potential to hold considerable crowds, but the oval or round pitches mean that without some changes here and there someone's going to have a rather distant view of the game.

As for the stadia used by teams in the A-League, some would be suitable such as the Telstra Stadium in Melbourne and the Sydney Football Stadium, but most of the others are of a far smaller size. It should at least be interesting to see how Australia deals with this scenario and the building of a few new venues may well be required by the looks of things.

The United States hosted the World Cup not so long ago in 1994 and back then nine stadia were used, all of which had a capacity of 57,000 or more. They could all be used again in 2018 if necessary, yet the staggering thing is the USA could actually put into use twelve venues with a capacity of 70,000 or more if they wanted to.

Huge stadia are not hard to come by in the States as many are used for American Football, either at college or professional level. Some, as seen in 1994, can be used for soccer too - think Giants Stadium and the Soldier Field. If they all could be converted to host soccer matches (which at the moment I see no reason why not), you'd potentially end up with the highest aggregate crowd figures for any World Cup in history.

If, however, you look at their top-flight club stadia, as in Australia, the figures aren't quite so impressive. Most are in the 20-30,000 capacity range and wouldn't be suitable for a competition the size of the World Cup.

Still, plenty for the Americans to be optimistic about there, thanks to the groundwork laid down in the world of Gridiron, and they're all nicely spaced out across a vast area. Can the same be said of China?

The answer is yes. In fact from what I can make out China looks like being the one country that can tick all its boxes when it comes to stadia. Of all the venues that are available for football there, most need no modifications as they're being used for football already, the rest are generally multi-use stadia (so no great problems there), they'd all be well over 40,000 in capacity and they're all well located in different cities (with the exception of a couple that are located in Beijing).

More good news for the Chinese is that the new stadium has been built in the capital for next year's Olympic Games which will hold 80,000 people after the event, and the Guangdong Stadium that will host the 2010 Asian Games has the capacity to welcome 82,000 people into its stylised and cavernous structure.

All of which leaves the joint bid by Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands (if they so choose to get together). FIFA are still a little dubious as to the benefits of having two co-hosts after the Japan & South Korea venture had a slightly diluted geographical impact, so to have three countries co-hosting may prove a bridge too far.

Anyway, the Netherlands and Belgium have done all this once before in 2000 when they co-hosted the European Championships. Seven years ago, they both stumped up four stadia each but while three of them had a 50,000+ capacity, the other five were able to house more like 30,000.

Since 2000, nothing's changed - no new stadia have been built therefore you're left thinking that with only three good-sized stadia to use, the Benelux bid will be somewhat weak and in need of much building work to be done across both countries.

And did we mention Mexico? Probably not, but then that's because (a) they've already hosted the competition twice, and (b) out of the five large-capacity stadia they have, three are in Mexico City. Don't even think about it, Mexico...

And that, my friends, is that. If I were a betting man, I'd say the 2018 World Cup hosting competition was a straight three-horse race between China, the USA and England. My brain says it'll be China, my sixth sense suggests it'll be America, but my heart... well, you can probably guess the rest.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #36

"And the winner isn't..."
11 Countries That Have Previously Made A Bid To Host The World Cup Finals But To This Day Still Haven't Done So

1. Hungary (1930)
2. Netherlands (1930)
3. Colombia (1986)
4. Canada (1986)
5. Greece (1990)
6. USSR (1990)
7. Morocco (1994, 2006 and 2010)
8. South Africa (2006)
9. Egypt (2010)
10. Libya and 11. Tunisia (2010)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Quiz Time

For this you will need a pen, pencil, some sticky-back plastic, plus an impressive knowledge of ‘Pythagorean Theorem’ and\or ‘Newton’s Third Law of Physics’.

The question is :

There are eight teams left in the Carling Cup – and all eight are Premiership clubs. How did that happen?

There is (not) a prize on offer for the best and correct answer, and multiple entries are allowed - so get posting.


  © Blogger template Psi by 2008

Back to TOP