Friday, November 28, 2008

Weekend TV Preview: 28 - 30 November

Friday 28th November

19:45 Barrow v Brentford, FA Cup 2nd Round, Setanta Sports 1
In theory this should be an absolute ruddy massacre of the highest order, but we all know about the magic of The Cup, don't we? Barrow are currently just two places above the relegation zone in the Conference National and needed a replay to beat Eastbourne Borough in the last round, but with probably the whole town turning out to cheer the home team on, would you seriously bet on a Brentford win?

Saturday 29th November

12:30 Wolverhampton Wanderers v Birmingham City, Championship, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
The battle of the top two should prove an intriguing affair with Wolves currently six points clear of the visitors. Games between these two have often ended in draws in recent years, but Wolves are due a win against Alex McLeish's men. The last time they beat them at Molineux was in 2001, so maybe this is where the home team pull clear of the chasing pack.

12:30 Hearts v Rangers, Scottish Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
Two teams very much in tip-top form. Hearts' lack of a prolific striker may prove to be the difference here, though. Wouldn't be a surprise if this one ends in a draw.

17:20 Preston North End v Bristol City, Championship, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Preston have got there act back together again in time for the visit of the inconsistent Robins. If the home side wins, they could potentially leap up four places to fifth. Unlikely, perhaps, but a home win is certainly on the cards if City continue their recent poor run of form.

17:30 Bournemouth v Blyth Spartans, FA Cup 2nd Round, Setanta Sports 1
A far more enticing encounter, we feel, might be found around the same time on Setanta (if you've got it). The non-leaguers, who amazingly reached the Fifth Round in 1978, find themselves in with a chance of grabbing the headlines again here against the team bottom-but-one in the entire Football League. Harry Redknapp may have seen off Man United back when he was in charge of The Cherries, but Jimmy Quinn may have an even more difficult job on his hands here. Watch with anticipation...

19:00 Getafe v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
There's no doubt about it - Bernd Schuster is on very shaky ground at the moment. Narrow 1-0 wins against bottom of the table Recreativo last weekend and BATE Borisov in the Champions League on Wednesday won't have exactly quelled the disquiet brewing up in his midst, and things may not get any easier against Getafe. Four of their last six meetings have ended up 1-0 as well... and not all of them went in Real's favour.

21:00 Sevilla v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
In fact Sevilla may want to take note from Getafe's performance last week in which they held Barca to a 1-1 draw. Not many teams have halted the Barcelona Bulldozer this season, but it's just possible that in-form Sevilla could repeat Getafe's heroics. Expect a tight encounter and a fascinating tactical battle on the part of both coaches.

Sunday 30th November

11:30 Swansea City v Cardiff City, Championship, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Half-past eleven? Who in Max Boyce's name thought of that bright idea? With Sky's renowned lengthy pre-match build-up, they'll be starting their coverage in the wee small hours if they're not careful. Anyway, it's the big Welsh derby and arguably the most high-profile one for years as both teams are pushing for a play-off place at the moment. Expect the feathers to fly as The Swans and The Bluebirds play each other in the league for the first time in nearly ten years.

11:30 Ajax v Utrecht, Eredivisie, Setanta Sports 2
Well if it's good enough for the Welsh, it's good enough for the Dutch. Another morning kick-off sees Marco Van Basten's Ajax taking on Utrecht, coached by Willem Van Hanegem. The visitor's previous coach was Foeke Booy, the kind of name that could get you locked up if you happen to be a football commentator.

12:15 Histon v Leeds United, FA Cup 2nd Round, ITV1 / HD
This is it, folks - the archetypal 'tie of the round'. Histon, surprise package of the Conference this season, take on '© The Mighty Leeds'. You might not have heard of Histon, but they're storming their way up the league pyramid like there's no tomorrow and Leeds will know they've been in a battle come 1.45 today, that's for sure. Leeds are upwardly mobile too these days, although last week's 2-1 defeat away to Northampton won't have been the ideal preparation for today's match. Should be a corker, though, so make sure you're tuned to ITV1 around lunchtime to catch all the action PLUS the added bonus of the Third Round draw which follows at about 2.15pm.

13:30 Manchester City v Manchester Utd, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Who'da thunk it? City are looking for a third straight victory against United and might just get it after an impressive 2-0 victory over Schalke in the UEFA Cup this week. United haven't scored in their last two games, so we're going for a home win in this one. There, we've said it now.

16:00 Stuttgart v Schalke, Bundesliga, Setanta Sports 1
Yes, Schalke are probably suffering from an attack of the blues at the moment (ahem) while Stuttgart haven't won at home in the league since October 26th. This game reeks of underachievement on the part of both teams and may very well lose out in your attentions to 'Songs of Praise' on BBC1 at the same time.

16:00 Chelsea v Arsenal, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Scolari's been joking this week that he might be heading back to Brazil if his team don't get back on form before long. A defeat at home to a very wobbly Arsenal side might go some way to proving that many a true word is spoken in jest.

18:00 Valencia v Real Betis (2nd half only), La Liga, Sky Sports 1
Betis have only beaten Valencia once in the last five years and we see no reason to suspect anything different here. Mind you, Betis are on a run of four straight wins at the moment. Damn our lack of foresight...

20:00 Atletico Madrid v Racing Santander, La Liga, Sky Sports 1
Same deal here - Racing have only beaten Atletico once in the last five years too, but in this instance we think they might just upset the apple cart. Does anyone know if Racing Santander used to be known as Racing Abbey National many years ago? Oh, only us then...

20:00 Rennes v PSG, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 2
Finally, to France for a 4th v 5th battle between these two teams keen on a Champions League place next season. They've got a long way to go before they reach Lyon's level of consistency, but a win for either team will put them within touching distance of the leaders in Ligue 1. Should be a good way to end your weekend of live TV football.

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #89

Two for the price of one
31 Footballers Past And Present Whose Names Are Made Up Of Two First Names

1. Charlie Adam (Rangers midfielder)
2. Gareth Barry
3. Steve Bruce
4. Tommy Craig (former Newcastle and Aston Villa midfielder)
5. Dixie Dean
6. Mark Dennis
7. Paul Elliott
8. Trevor Francis
9. Charlie George
10. Steven Gerrard
11. Craig Gordon (Sunderland goalkeeper)
12. John Gregory
13. Dickie Guy (former Wimbledon goalkeeper)
14. Nick Henry (former Oldham midfielder)
15. Tim Howard
16. Rodney Jack (former Torquay and Crewe striker)
17. David James
18. Cameron Jerome (Birmingham striker)
19. Paddy Kenny
20. Sammy Lee
21. Alvin Martin
22. Gary Neville
23. Charlie Nicholas
24. Michael Owen
25. Bryan Roy
26. Trevor Steven
27. Paul Stewart
28. Graham Stuart
29. John Terry
30. Jerome Thomas (Portsmouth winger)
31. Robin Van Persie

...plus there's bonus points for getting the only player whose name contains that of a French man and an English woman - Tore André Flo...

SPAOTP would like to give a big 'thank you' to Russell Napier and @harriyott for providing us with so many of this week's list items. If you can think of any others, leave us a comment and tell us!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Seven Shades of... David James

Damn, it's been too long. Our old favourite 'Seven Shades of...' is back once again and for those of you who weren't around prior to October 2007 when we did this last time around, let us explain.

The premise here is to link two disparate souls from football's illustrious past or present over seven spurious steps. Two people who seemingly couldn't ever be connected but are brought together in this best of all possible worlds courtesy of your old friends here at Some People Are On The Pitch.

It's a service we undertake willingly and completely for your pleasure alone, and with that heartening thought in mind, let's start today's 'Seven Shades' with...

David James
Despite his youthful and ever-changing looks, David James is the elder statesman of the English goalkeeping world at a really-quite-old-for-a-footballer 38 years of age. Now at his sixth league club, his career began way back in 1989 (see, we told you he was old) at the then Third Division Watford.

He stayed their for three years and was a huge hit, even winning the club's Player of the Year award in 1990/91, all of which goes to show that if you start your career at The Hornets, you're probably destined for genuine greatness. The same can be said of

Pat Jennings
The mercurial Northern Ireland goalkeeper who at one time held the record for the most international appearances by any player (119). His last appearance for his country came in the searing heat of Guadalajara during the 1986 World Cup where Northern Ireland lost 3-0 to Brazil - a far cry from his first appearance which occurred back in April 1964 in Swansea.

That was in a British Championship match against Wales which Jennings' side won 3-2. Among the men wearing green shirts that day was another little-known player making his debut who was to make a small name for himself in years to come. His name was

George Best
A man that can be summed up in numerous words such as 'legend' and 'icon' although others such as 'inebriated' and 'womaniser' also apply with considerable relevance. Best played at every conceivable level during his career from the giddy heights of Manchester United to the less glamorous depths of Bournemouth, stopping off at clubs like the LA Aztecs and San Jose Earthquakes in between.

Named by many to be the greatest footballer that ever lived (although ranked only 19th by FIFA in their list of all-time great living footballers in 2004), he's even had an airport in Belfast named after him. It's an honour given to precious few, although

Matt Le Tissier
may find something similar coming his way one day, if he's very lucky. 'Le God', as he was known to many, was the archetypal luxury player, oozing skill and quality from every pore but supposedly lazy in any aspect of his game other than scoring goals. Overlooked for a place in the England team, Terry Venables obviously thought he was dispensable, but to Southampton fans he was just irreplaceable.

Winner of the BBC Match of the Day 'Goal of the Season' competition in 1994/95 and scorer of the last ever goal at The Dell in 2001, Le Tissier is the second highest-scoring Southampton player of all time behind

Mick Channon
who, in his favour, had two spells at the club between 1966 and 1977 and later between 1979 and 1982. His goalscoring rate was second to none with The Saints, almost managing two goals in every three games. Sandwiched in between these two spells with Southampton was a two-year run at Manchester City where he even scored one in every three games there.

While at Man City, Channon played alongside well known names such as Peter Barnes, Colin Bell and Asa Hartford, honing his 'windmill' goal celebration with every passing week. It was also seen many a time when he played for England where he became the 15th highest-scoring player ever, level with his old Southampton team-mate

Kevin Keegan
who, having cemented himself as a Liverpool legend, promptly tried his luck over at Hamburg where he became the European Footballer of the Year twice and won the Bundesliga with his teammates in 1979. In 1980, he just missed out on picking up a European Cup winner's medal when Hamburg lost in the Final 1-0 to Nottingham Forest.

Rather than stay on at Hamburg where he'd have undoubtedly shared top billing with some new fancy-dan arrival by the name of Franz Beckenbauer, Keegan opted for a much more alluring future at Southampton where Lawrie McMenemy wanted him to play alongside stars such as Alan Ball, Mick Channon and

Charlie George
among others. George was the hero of the 1971 Arsenal FA Cup-winning side where he scored the goal which sank Liverpool in the Final that year. One of the key members of the team which won the Double that year, he moved onto Derby in 1975 where he once memorably scored a hat-trick against Real Madrid in a European Cup tie.

His career would see him travel the world to numerous places such as the USA, Hong Kong and even Bournemouth, but by 1983 it was all over. This once great player was left with only memories of the 87 career goals he'd scored on the one hand and the finger he'd once lost in a lawnmower accident on the other. Or not, as the case may be.

All of which brings us full circle with a link from Charlie George to the first name on our list, David James. To play in goal, it's essential at the very least to have all ten fingers, but to be a great player perhaps all you need is a name made up of two first names. Here endeth the lesson.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bundesbag Week 14: Vey To Blue

I suppose the writing had been on the wall for Armin Vey for some time. The Stuttgart boss' last day Bundesliga title triumph two years ago was followed by an indifferent league season and an atrocious Champions League campaign. This season has simply not been good enough given the players at his disposal. On Saturday Stuttgart were beaten 4-1 in appalling fashion by Wolfsburg. Shortly afterwards, Vey was sacked. Marcus Babbel will replace him, although whether this will be in a caretaker role in not clear.

Joining Vey in the queue at the Labour Exchange may be Edmund Becker who is the coach of Stuttgart's bitter rivals Karlsruhe. The Baden club are plummeting down the table even faster than Stuttgart. The loss of last season's heroes Tamas Hajnal and Mario Eggiman seem to have taken their toll and their second season may be their last for a while at this rate. Becker is talking of bringing some new faces to the Wildparkstadion in January which can't come quick enough, especially after their lacklustre display at home to BVB where they lost 1-0 to a Mo Zidan goal.

Speaking of Mario Eggiman (yes we were), his move to Hannover this season hasn't worked out that well so far. He and his team mates suffered a nightmare 4-0 defeat at Frankfurt of all places, Liberopolous bagging a brace for the home team. Both teams are struggling with injuries so will look to the Winter break in order to recharge themselves and start over in February.

Another team that could use a break is Cottbus. Losing to Bayern is no disgrace for a team of Energie's resources but the Allianz has been a real house of pain for them in recent years. Saturday was no exception. Despite taking the lead, thanks mainly to the indecisive Michael Rensing, the visitors were torn apart by the champions in general and Franck Ribery in particular. The great man kicked off proceedings with a free kick and then inspired his team-mates to score another three before declaring. Luca Toni, Klose and Demichelis (yes Demichelis) were the beneficiaries of Franck's genius.

Bayern's triumph has them putting pressure on the top two who entered the weekend with only a single goal between them. The Hoff didn't cave despite a tricky journey to Koln. That man Ibisevic was on target twice in a 3-1 rout at the RheinEnergie Stadion.

Leverkusen on the other hand were shocked by lowly Bielefeld who fought hard for their 2-1 victory. Artur Wichniarek's opener was a beautiful strike. Halfar doubled Bielefeld's tally leaving Patrick Helmes to lead an ultimately unsuccessful fightback

Elsewhere, Schalke put 'Gladbach to the sword 3-1 no thanks to a brace of missed sitters from Kevin Crybaby. Hertha kept their excellent run going but only just. They went 3-0 up at Bochum only for their hosts to fight back to 3-2. It should be noted that Hertha's success has been without their 'talismanic' striker Marco Pantelic who, according to him off the Bundesliga highlights programme is linked with Spurs... Arf!

Finally, Sunday's Northern Derby between Hamburg and Bremen was a typically stirring affair. Both teams have been pretty inconsistent and this unpredictable element lent itself to what looked like a cracking derby game which finished 2-1 to Hamburg. Paolo Guerrero was first to Tim Wiese's saved shot from a Petric free kick and took the lead for Hamburg. Bremen stormed back and Diego first won a free kick and then buried it in spectacular fashion. From them on it was a right ding-dong in front of a packed and passionate crowd. The winning goal befitted the spectacle. Ivica Olic from 25 yards. Seek it our through the usual channels. What a strike.

That's it. Results and tables here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Midweek TV Preview: 24 - 27 November

(All times UK)

Monday 24th November

19:45 Barnsley v Burnley, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
What better way to counter-schedule against a gruff northern Premier League fixture on Setanta that with a gruff northern fixture in the Championship. Burnley are having a great season under Owen Coyle while Big Si's boys are still recovering from last season.

20:00 Wigan Athletic v Everton, Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
The aforementioned gruff northern Premier League fixture. Wigan have some fantastic players while Everton have the whiff of last season's perfume about them. By rights this should be a well contested game in front of five blokes and a dog.

Tuesday 25th November

17:30 Zenit St. Petersburg v Juventus, UEFA Champions League Group H, Sky Sports 2
Zenit have recovered themselves and lie fifth in the Russian league table. Juve, on the other hand, will be smarting from their defeat against the hated Inter. Del Piero has been saving his best for the Champs League. Having said that Juve are through so may keep their powder dry.

19:45 Aalborg v Celtic, UEFA Champions League Group E, Sky Sports 2 / ITV1 (Scotland only)
Both teams are rubbish at this level. Celtic's away record in the Champions League is embarrassing. Aalborg at least have the excuse of being Noobs. Avoid.

19:45 Villarreal v Manchester United, UEFA Champions League Group E, ITV1 (England & Wales) / ITV HD
Eucch! Put a picture from this game next to the term 'Dead Rubber' in the dictionary. ITV need the viewers but there are any number of more interesting games to watch for the neutral than this one.

19:45 Bayern Munich v Steaua Bucharest, UEFA Champions League Group F, Sky Sports Interactive
The conquerors of Cottbus meet the Romanian draw specialists. A win for the Bavarians should settle the nerves, Steaua are playing for pride.

19:45 Fiorentina v Lyon, UEFA Champions League Group F, Sky Sports Interactive
La Viola are not out of it but will be disappointed with their return to the CL especially given their group opponents. This match represents their last chance. More than a few neutrals will be hoping they pull it off.

19:45 Arsenal v Dynamo Kiev, UEFA Champions League Group G, ITV4
The Gooners will be grateful the game's not in Kiev. Even so, a bruising encounter awaits William Gallas and his crew.

19:45 Fenerbahce v Porto UEFA Champions League Group G Sky Sports Xtra
CL aficianados will be sorry to see that Fener haven't followed up on their success from last season but all accounts suggest they're not at the races this year. Still, keep an eye on this one.

19:45 BATE v Real Madrid, UEFA Champions League Group H, Sky Sports Interactive
This game is all about Madrid and their coach Bernd Schuster's tenuous grip on the job. A convincing victory is required, assuming he's still there by Tuesday.

Wednesday 26th November

19:45 Bordeaux v Chelsea, UEFA Champions League Group A, Sky Sports Xtra
Laurent Blanc may be Googling 'Jo Kinnear' and 'tactics'. The Blues need this win in order to put their minds at rest but this is a tough group where nothing is quite what it seems...

19:45 CFR 1907 Cluj-Napoca v Roma, UEFA Champions League Group A, Sky Sports Interactive
...as evidenced by the fact that Cluj have done so much better than expected and Roma so much worse. However, with the Italians finding their groove, can they go to Transylvania and return unscathed? (Insert vampire gag here)

19:45 Inter Milan v Panathinaikos, UEFA Champions League Group B, Sky Sports Interactive
Victorious in the aforementioned Dei D'Italia, Jose Mourinho's men will be far too strong for the Greeks at the San Siro.

19:45 Shakhtar Donetsk v Basle, UEFA Champions League Group C, Sky Sports Interactive
The Ukrainians aren't out yet but they will be if they don't get maximum points against Basle. They deserve to be out too, frankly.

19:45 Sporting v Barcelona, UEFA Champions League Group C Sky Sports Interactive
Sporting need to be absolutely sure by getting a point at the Nou Camp. Barca may oblige them by taking their foot off the gas. On the other hand...

19:45 Atletico Madrid v PSV, UEFA Champions League Group D, Sky Sports Interactive
Tough one to call since this group is still very much up for grabs. The Madrid club have gone off the boil since their 1-1 CL draw against Liverpool and have won only one in the last four. PSV are bottom but not winless. They may be worth a point.

19:45 Liverpool v Marseille, UEFA Champions League Group D, Sky Sports 2/HD2
A warm atmosphere awaits the Frenchmen at Anfield. The Kop know what is required and so, probably, will the referee. Expect a dubious Steven Gerrard penalty in the 95th minute and a home win.

19:45 Anorthosis Famagusta v Werder Bremen, UEFA Champions League Group E, Sky Sports Interactive
Bremen could still qualify despite being woeful in the early part of the group. While their performances in the Bundesliga have improved, they remain maddeningly inconsistent. It's hard to see them getting a result in Cyprus.

Thursday 27th November

01:00 Estudiantes v Internacional, Copa Sudamericana Final 1st Leg, Setanta Sports 2
'El Grande Uno', as it's probably not called throughout much of South America. The first half of their equivalent to the UEFA Champions League Final sees Estudiantes of Argentina play Internacional of Brazil. Neither side has ever reached the Final before so expect either an all-out exhibition of attacking football or a demonstration in how to defend to the death.

18:00 Schalke v Manchester City, UEFA Cup Group A, Five
Only a fool would write off Mark Hughes' side. Just when you think City are on the slide, they hit the bouncebackability button and the next thing you know, Arsenal's backsides have been whipped. Schalke are back in business following their Bundesliga win at the weekend, so it's anybody's guess how this will finish.

18:00 NEC Nijmegen v Tottenham, UEFA Cup Group D, ITV4
The Dutch side will be hoping not to make it two defeats out of two in this group against the reborn Spurs under the leadership of Lord Harry of Redknapp. Personally we'll be watching this just to see how well the commentator gets on with the names of Nijmegen's Saidi Ntibazonkiza, Patrick Pothuizen and Rachid Bouaouzan. If David Pleat's co-commentating, expect the worst.

20:05 Portsmouth v AC Milan, UEFA Cup Group E, Five
Yes, Pompey fans - you might want to start pinching yourselves now if you haven't already done so. Crouch v Maldini, Campbell v Ronaldinho... but no Jermaine Defoe in all probability. Shame, that - Milan may find their defence isn't quite so threatened as a result. Anyway, it's a cracking tie for the south coast club and an historic night's in store if they can pull off a win here.

Now before we go, here's some useful information for you. If you often read our TV Previews and wonder where you can watch some of the games we talk about, wonder no more. Our good friends at Soccerlens have done all the research for you, so now there's no excuse.

Wherever you are in the world and whichever medium you wish to use, Soccerlens have found the option for you. Just check out their fabbo article which lists all the info you need. You'll thank us for it later, but we'll refer you to Soccerlens of course. We're far to modest too claim the credit for that sort of thing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Weekend TV Preview: 21 - 23 November

Friday 21 November

19.30 Karlsruher v Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga, Setanta Sports 1
It's all going horribly wrong for Karlsruhe, with just one point in their last seven games. That solitary point however was from their last home game against current table toppers Leverkeusen fighting back from 3-0 down, so there's hope yet for them.

Saturday 22 November

12.30 St Mirren v Celtic, Scottish Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
Celtic have won ten league game on the trot, St Mirren have taken one point from the last 15 available. So how do you reckon this one's going to go?

12.45 Plymouth Argyle v Cardiff City, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Two teams that look like good prospects to sneak play-off spots at the end of the season. Couldn't tell you which way this is going to go - but I guess that's why they go to the trouble of playing these games, isn't it.

17.20 Nottingham Forest v Norwich City, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Two teams that look like good prospects to go down at the end of the season. Random fact: these two haven't had an away win in meetings since they faced each other in the Premiership in 1995.

17.30 Aston Villa v Manchester United, Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
After winning at the Emirates, Villa are on the crest of a wave with their players in cracking form. Expect it all to come crashing down in front of a packed Villa Park.

19.00 Real Madrid v Recreativo, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
Real need a win badly. Luckily Recreativo are pretty hopeless. Even a convincing win won't do much to stop the mutterings about head coach Bernd Schuster.

20.00 PSG v Lyon, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 2
Could actually be quite tasty, this one. PSG are in good touch at the moment and might fancy getting something out of this game against the table-toppers.

21.00 Sevilla v Valencia, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
Tie of the weekend from La Liga with two well-matched teams. An early indicator as to who will come second to Barcelona at the end of the season.

Sunday 23 November

11.30 AZ v Ajax, Eredivisie, Setanta Sports 1
Ajax knocked AZ off the top spot last week by beating PSV 4-1. Could be the other teams in the mix that take advantage of these two taking points off each other.

3.30 Tottenham Hotspur v Blackburn Rovers, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Was Fulham a blip or is the honeymoon really over for 'Arry? Worrying times for Paul Ince as Blackburn suddenly find themselves in the relegation zone without a win in their last seven games. A traditionally close game: their last 10 meetings have been draws or been decided by one goal.

16.00 Hamburg v Werder Bremen, Bundesliga, Setanta Sports 1
Two quality sides in danger of letting things slip away from them at the moment... anything could happen in this one. Well not anything... you know what I mean.

16.00 Sunderland v West Ham United, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Such is the nature of the top flight at the moment that should either team win this they'll be nudging the UEFA spots. Defeat and the wrong results elsewhere could see them them skirting the relegation zone. Has the makings of a decent football match, this one.

18.00 Barcelona v Getafe, La Liga, Sky Sports 3
Barca are seemingly unstoppable in La Liga. This one should make it ten wins in a row.

20.00 Deportivo La Coruna v Athletic Bilbao, La Liga, Sky Sports 3
Bilbao's home win against bottom of the table Osasuna ended a terrible run for the club. Deportivo are having another less than astounding season but shouldn't have too many problems taking maximum points here.

20.00 Marseille v Lille, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 1
Marseille's shock 3-2 home defeat to lowly Lorient last week leaves them seven points behind Lyon in an increasingly familiar Ligue 1 table. Lille will be full of confidence after beating St Etienne 3-0 in the TV game last week.

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #88

Passing the baton
15 Great Managers Of British Clubs And The Equally Great (Or Not So Great) Men That Replaced Them When They Left

1. Ron Atkinson replaced by Ronnie Allen at West Bromwich Albion, 1981
2. Dave Bassett replaced by Bobby Gould at Wimbledon, 1987
3. Matt Busby replaced by Wilf McGuinness at Manchester United, 1969
4. Brian Clough replaced by Frank Clark at Nottingham Forest, 1993
5. Joe Mercer replaced by Malcolm Allison at Manchester City, 1971
6. Bill Nicholson replaced by Terry Neill at Tottenham Hotspur, 1974
7. David Pleat replaced by John Moore at Luton Town, 1986
8. Bobby Robson replaced by Bobby Ferguson at Ipswich Town, 1982
9. Jim Smith replaced by Maurice Evans at Oxford United, 1985
10. Jock Stein replaced by Billy McNeill at Celtic, 1978
11. Graham Taylor replaced by Dave Bassett at Watford, 1987
12. John Toshack replaced by Les Chappell at Swansea City, 1984
13. Terry Venables replaced by Ernie Whalley at Crystal Palace, 1980
14. Jock Wallace replaced by John Greig at Rangers, 1978
15. Howard Wilkinson replaced by George Graham at Leeds United, 1998

World Cup 2010 Round-up: November 2008

With 2008 ambling its way wearily to an end, November was the last chance for many countries to pick up some badly needed points in their qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup. In the CONCACAF region, it was more important than that. Some countries had to win or see an end to their dreams of qualifying for the finals. Let's find out what happened over in...

North and Central America

...this week.

As you may recall from last month's update, three of the six Final Round spots had been filled by Costa Rica and El Salvador from Group 3 and the United States from Group 1. The last round of games this week featured a three-way battle between Mexico, Jamaica and Honduras for both the available places in Group 2, plus a two-into-one fight for the remaining Group 1 spot between Trinidad & Tobago and Guatemala.

In Group 2, Mexico were standing on the precipice. A fixture in every World Cup since 1994, they now had to at least draw away to Honduras to stand a chance of reaching their fifth consecutive Finals. A defeat against Jamaica last month showed a worrying change of form for Sven Goran Eriksson's men, so naturally anything was expected to happen at the Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday.

In the end, Mexico's poor away form was maintained when Ricardo Osorio scored an own goal early in the second half without reply. As the game lumbered on towards its end, the Mexicans became more frustrated and they were to finish with only nine men.

Gerardo Torrado was booked for the second time in the match three minutes from the end for a poor tackle on Honduras' Carlos Costly (a Costly challenge if you will, ho ho) and a minute later Arsenal's Carlos Vela received a straight red for lashing out at Ramon Nunez.

The game ended 1-0 to Honduras which secured their passage through to Round 4, but Mexico were now waiting on the outcome of Jamaica's game at home to Canada.

The Reggae Boys admittedly needed a high-scoring win to leapfrog Mexico in the Group 2 table, but they very nearly achieved it. Former Sheffield United player Luton Shelton put his side 1-0 up after 27 minutes before Marlon King (currently on loan to Hull City) made it two with a 58th minute penalty. Though Colorado Rapids' striker Omar Cummings was to add a third four minutes from the end, it would prove not enough.

Jamaica's 3-0 win over Canada gave them a total of ten points - level with Mexico - but their goal difference was just four goals short of what was required. John Barnes' men ended their third round qualifying campaign unbeaten at home, and it only remains to wonder just what sort of effect he might have had on his team had he taken over as head coach earlier.

Sadly, Jamaica had to admit defeat while Mexico and Guatemala breathed a sigh of relief at reaching the final round. Would Trinidad & Tobago get the draw they needed against Cuba to take the last spot, or could Guatemala surprise everyone with a win over the USA to take it from them?

As it turned out, both matches finished in predictable fashion. The US team, despite already having qualified, were easily the better team as they beat Guatemala 2-0 thanks to second half goals from Freddy Adu and Kenny Cooper. As for T&T, they cruised to an easy 3-0 win at home to Cuba. Sunderland's Kenwyne Jones was first on the scoresheet after 67 minutes, swiftly followed by Dwight Yorke and later Keon Daniel.

All of which wraps up the third round of qualifying in North and Central America. The final round-robin group begins in 2009 and will consist of the following six teams:

Costa Rica
El Salvador
Honduras
Mexico
Trinidad & Tobago
USA

The top three go through to South Africa 2010 while the fourth-placed team enters a play-off with the fifth-best team from South America.

Asia

Over in Asia, things haven't been quite as exciting but they are working their way quietly through their own final round of qualifiers.

Australia have hit the top of Group 1 and are already the team to beat with three wins out of three thus far. This week they inflicted a 1-0 away win on lowly Bahrain thanks to a goal from Palermo's Marco Bresciano. They're now two points clear of Japan who last month slipped up by drawing at home to Uzbekistan but this week thumped Qatar 3-0.

Qatar are a further three points behind Japan in third place while Bahrain and the Uzbeks trail on one point in fourth and fifth respectively.

In Group 2, the four-way tie for the lead we reported on last month has now been simplified thanks to South Korea's admirable 2-0 away win against Saudi Arabia. That win puts South Korea top of the group, two points clear of Iran who gave the United Arab Emirates their first point of the round in a 1-1 draw in Dubai.

North Korea didn't play but hold third place in the group, level on four points with Saudi Arabia in fourth while the UAE trail behind in last place.

And that's just about all for now with regards to the World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign. We'll be back in 2009 to pick up the threads on the final run-in and tell you who's in and who's out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bundesbag Week 13: Mladen-sane

It’s almost impossible not to feel a frisson of nostalgia when 'Gladbach and Bayern play each other. In the 1970's these two giants of the game fought like titans for Bundesliga supremacy. Think of those days and you think of Franz Beckenbauer and Gunter Netzer. These days its Bayern with the upper hand. With their triumvirate of Klose, Luca Toni and Franck Ribery they have attackers worthy of those great days. For 'Gladbach… well they do have Marco Marin, many of whom feel is destined for great things. He may have to move away from Borussia to achieve them, however.

After a year’s absence, 'Gladbach welcomed Bayern and resumed hostilities. The encounter certainly did justice to their historic rivalry. Bayern went two goals up thanks to goals from Toni and a penalty from Ribery after 65 minutes. It was smiles all round on the Munich bench and Franck even felt relaxed enough for a touch of showboating. More fool them as Rob Friend and Michael Bradley carved out two second half equalisers. The second goal was thanks to some wonderful tenacity from Roberto Colautti. Marin also had his say. The result is another kick up the backside for Klinsi's players. Yet another demonstration of attacking flair is one thing but that Bayern defence is entirely another.

As Bayern's progress is halted, slightly, Bremen are recovering from their abysmal start and are now a top-half team thanks to a 3-1 win against the much improved Koln. The third was a thunderbolt form Hugo Almeida. Stuttgart on the other hand are going backwards. A 0-0 draw against Bielefeld isn't going to do much for their ambitions this year. There's a five point gap between them and the bevy of seven struggling teams from Frankfurt on 13 points to Cottbus at the bottom of the league.

Frankfurt were tonked by BVB 4-0 at the Westfalon, Neven Subotic scoring a brace. Hannover drew 1-1 with Bochum (look out for Schlaudraff's overhead kick, it was a stunner). At Cottbus there was a six-pointer twixt Energie and Karlsruhe whose happy memories from their return to the Bundesliga last season were wiped out by Branko Jelic's strike on 80 minutes sealing the points for the bottom side. Karlsruhe have got problems, it seems.

At the top, Hoffenheim are back in action after a scintillating 3-2 win against Wolfsburg. You will not be surprised to learn that Ibisevic scored yet again. Just above them by a single goal are Leverkusen who vanquished Schalke with a classy display and two goals from Kiesling and Helmes. Kevin Crybaby scored for the Royal Blues and Bayer lost Gonzalo Castro on 67 minutes thanks to a rash challenge and a red card.

Finally, the early season pace-setters are finding the going tough now that their rivals have found their feet. Martin Jol's latest setback was in Berlin against a Hertha team who are clearly in for a good season after a prolonged period of mediocrity. Hamburg's Mladen Petric's opener was trumped by goals from Cicero and Domovhiyski. The writing was on the wall for Hamburg after Petric's incredibly cheesy goal celebration where he imitates the drawing and shooting a bow and arrow. Still, he aims to please, I suppose.

That's it (he said reaching for his coat). Results and tables here.

Revisit Football's golden age...

Nostalgic football fans in the UK - can we have your attention please!

Some People Are On The Pitch are proud to announce that a new series of The Big Match Revisited is returning to ITV4 on January 1st 2009. Covering the final 20 weeks of the 1978/79 season, the first programme has an absolute gem of a game in the shape of West Bromwich Albion's 5-3 victory over Manchester United.

So if you want to hear plenty of this...



...see some of this...



…and wallow in the masterly presentation of this man...



…make sure you tune into ITV4 in the new year on Thursdays or Sundays for a huge helping of football 1970's-style.

The previous series (looking back at the 1982/83 season) was broadcast at the start of this year and was hugely successful - so much so that many people wrote about it at the time from national newspapers to… well, us, frankly.

And rightly so, in our opinion. There's little enough vintage football on our screens as it is these days and ITV4 have realised this by giving fans of a certain age plenty of what they're looking for.

Throughout the course of the second series of The Big Match Revisited, you can expect to hear lots about the league title race between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool, the dwindling fortunes of Chelsea, QPR and Derby and the race for promotion to Division 1 involving Crystal Palace, West Ham and Brighton.

And of course you can remind yourself of all the great players of the day that were doing the rounds. Names like Liam Brady, Steve Coppell, Mick Channon, Cyrille Regis and the recent arrivals at Spurs, Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa are all there on show for your televisual entertainment.

So go on - immerse yourself in nostalgia. Make a note in your diary for New Year's Day on ITV4 - The Big Match Revisited is back on your screens again.



With thanks to our friends Laura Wootton and Gary Andrews at ITV for providing us with the above information.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Midweek TV Preview: 17 - 20 November

(All times UK)

Monday 17 November

19.45 Northampton Town v Leeds United, FA Cup 1st Round Replay, Setanta Sports 1
Northampton took an early lead in the first game, only to be reduced to ten men in the middle of the first half, then conceded a penalty before the break. Swindon's conquerors Histon await in the next round, for almost certainly another TV appearance.

Wednesday 19 November

19.15 Denmark v Wales, International Friendly, BBC2 Wales & BBC Interactive
Anyone who saw Wales' narrow defeats to Germany and Russia will see the promise that John Toshack's teams have. This tricky tie should put them in good stead for the rest of their qualifying campaign.

19.45 Northern Ireland v Hungary, International Friendly, Sky Sports 3
Erwin Koeman's record with Hungary shows promise, with just one defeat in his eight games in charge. Like Northern Ireland they haven't qualified for anything since the 1986 World Cup, and look, on paper at least, reasonably well matched.

19.45 Republic of Ireland v Poland, International Friendly, Sky Sports 2
Despite all the shenanigans involving the Polish FA and the possibility of being expelled from international football and stripped of the 2012 European Championships, Leo Beenhaker is quietly steering them through another qualification campaign. For the Irish, the home fans will be happy if they can score more than one goal - something the team haven't achieved over the last two years.

20.00 Scotland v Argentina, International Friendly, Sky Sports 1
All eyes on the bench in this game as the legend that is Diego Maradona takes over the reins of the Argentinian national team. He's there because they've been a bit rubbish of late and it would be a huge morale booster for Scotland if they could take advantage of the transition. They won't.

20.00 Germany v England, International Friendly, ITV1 & ITV HD (Freesat only)
Capello's taking a lot of young and more importantly in-form talent to Berlin for this tie. A good atmosphere will once again be ruined by that sodding brass band playing the theme to The Great Escape.

Thursday 20 November

19.45 Crawley v Ebbsfleet, Blue Square Premier, Setanta Sports 1
Both teams are in worrying league form: Crawley are struggling to string decent results together while Ebbsfleet's 1-0 win over Barrow halted a run of five successive defeats. Expect to hear a lot more about Ebbsfleet in the coming months as their PR machine try desperately to re-engage the 28,000 MyFootballClub members whose subscriptions renew in February.

23.15 Estudiantes v Argentinos Juniors, Copa Sudamericana Semi-final 2nd leg (1-1), Setanta Sports 2
An all-Argentinean affair, last week's first leg was a hard fought tie that saw both teams reduced to ten men. The two teams played each other in the league two days later and Argentinos strolled away 5-0 winners. The winners will most likely be playing Brazilians Internacional in the final, who hold a first leg 2-0 away lead over Mexicans Chivas.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #87

Footballing high-fliers
10 Nicknames For British Football Teams That Happen To Be Birds Of Some Variety

1. The Bantams (Bradford City)
2. The Bluebirds (Cardiff City)
3. The Canaries (Norwich City)
4. The Eagles (Crystal Palace)
5. The Gulls (Torquay United)
6. The Harriers (Kidderminster Harriers)
7. The Magpies (Newcastle United and Notts County)
8. The Robins (Cheltenham Town, Bristol City, Swindon Town, Altrincham and Wrexham)
9. The Seagulls (Brighton & Hove Albion)
10. The Swans (Swansea City)

Weekend TV Preview: November 14th - 16th

(All times UK)

Friday 14 November

19.30 Hannover v Bochum, Bundesliga, Setanta Sports 1
Is it too early to call this a basement battle? Probably not. Keep a look out for former Brum and Chelsea Striker Mikael Forssell and the exciting Jan Schlaudraff for Hannover.

Saturday 15 November

12.45 Bolton Wanderers v Liverpool, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 & HD1
Megson's team are on the up, Rafa's mob have had a bit of a wobble. An engaging encounter is on the cards with Torres almost certain to start.

17.20 Doncaster Rovers v Ipswich Town, Championship, Sky Sports 1 & HD1
Donnie will need to keep the Ipswich attack locked up if they are to avoid a real cuffing.

17.30 West Brom v Chelsea, Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
It's all starting to unravel for the Albion. Tony Mowbray is to be admired for his purist stance but the supporters will worry that he does not have the squad to pull off a relegation scrap. They could really use Kevin Phillips back to snaffle some goals late doors. Hard to see beyond a Chelsea win.

19.00 Valladolid v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
Real's midweek exit of the Copa del Rey at the hands of Segunda B (Spain's third tier) side Real Union has been making all the headlines in Spain. More worrying for Real is the loss of Ruud van Nistelrooy for the remainder of the season after knee surgery. Valladolid's low league position is down to their hopeless away form. At home they are a different prospect and will make life tough for Bernd Schuster's men.

20.00 Lille v St Etienne, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 2

Sarah Cracknell: must stay at least 100 yards away from.

21.00 Valencia v Sporting Gijon, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
Gijon's return to the top flight looks like being a white knuckle ride - having lost their first five games of the season they then registered four wins on the spin. Shouldn't really be a problem for the home team.

Sunday 16 November

11.30 Ajax v PSV, Eredivisie, Setanta Sports 2
The Big One. A must watch for aficionados of the European game and a chance for Ajax to test their championship credentials.

13.30 Everton v Middlesbrough, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 & HD1
Tough to call this fixture given the fluidity of the League right now. If Tuncay turns up it could end 3-3. If not, then we could be in for another edition of the Louis Saha Show.

14.00 Hamilton v Celtic, Scottish Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
The dream is over for the Accies. As is this preview.

16.00 Hull City v Manchester City, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 & HD1
Tasty fixture this. By common consent Hull were denied by the Bolton keeper last week. City on the other hand are struggling. By rights this should be a home win. However, defeats leads to loss of confidence so it's difficult to know how Hull will react to three on the spin. All of which means the neutral is treated to another unpredictable game in front of an impassioned and hopefully full KC Stadium.

18.00 Athletic Bilbao v Osasuna, La Liga, Sky Sports Interactive & Sky Sports 1 (2nd half only)
Two teams in desperate form looking for a good result to start their seasons. The Cup has been one "Rey" of sunshine (geddit!) as both teams progressed this week, with Osasuna registering their first win in over six months.

20.00 Recreativo v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 1
Recreativo's last win was on the opening day of the season, the same day as Barcelona's only defeat. Barca are in devastating form in the league, scoring 15 goals in their last three games and on a run of eight straight wins.

20.00 Lyon v Bordeaux, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 1
"Le Grande Un" is how this is probably being touted. Top hosts third (Marseille currently hold the "Lucky Pierre" position between them). Bordeaux are good value for money but they'll need to improve on their away form if they are seriously going to challenge Lyon.

Warnock to quit as Palace boss...?

Some strange news release activity has taken place casting doubt over the future of Neil Warnock as Crystal Palace manager.

Yesterday, the following Tweet was sent from a Crystal Palace news Twitter account.

"Warnock confirms quit plans: Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock has announced that he will retir.. ERROR"

Being a Palace supporter I frantically scanned the news to learn more of the timing of Neil Warnock's departure form the Eagles. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I found nothing from any other news source.

Baffled as to why such an announcement could go unnoticed by the football media ('it's only Palace' was not a sufficient reason, I decided) I went back to the Tweet to check that I wasn't mistaken and I wasn't.

The interesting thing about it was the big 'ERROR' at the end which is where the web address to the story was supposed to be. This Twitter feed uses an application that periodically scans certain RSS feeds called Twitterfeed. Once it finds an updated RSS it cleverly puts it together as a tweet, adds the web address of the original story and sends it out. Anyone following that Twitter stream has it pop up on their own stream just like that, as Tommy Cooper would say.

The absence of the web address suggests that the story was originally published but removed shortly thereafter. By that time the RSS feed had already updated @crystalpalacefc's Twitter stream and would have picked up the updated feed as usual. The big difference was that the web page containing the story no longer existed, hence the big 'ERROR' instead.

So far, so mysterious. There is a rumour knocking about that Warnock will retire at the end of the season and it would appear that something was about to be published on this subject and for some reason was either removed or stopped at a very late stage followed by a retraction.

It may have been a genuine mistake based on a rumour. It may have been an angry phone call from the Palace Press Office. It may be nothing at all since we do not know the source of the original material. It may have come from a buck of part time bloggers who have put two and two together and got five.

However, professional hacks have gone with less so Some People Are On The Pitch are going to confidently, nay stridently state that we understand that Neil Warnock will retire as manager of Crystal Palace at the end of the season... of course we may have misunderstood.

...and for a news feed that always gives you the facts straight, follow @spaotp on Twitter to keep abreast of all the latest info from Some People Are On The Pitch.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

League Spotlight: Uruguay / Primera Division

Those of you who that have been following our regular feature 'League of the Week' will have by now spotted two things: (1) editions of 'League of the Week' have been anything but regular of late, and (2) this feature you're reading now seems to be more or less the same thing but with a different name.

There's a reason for that. We've decided to rename 'League of the Week' to 'League Spotlight' as, frankly, we couldn't keep up with the pace of researching and writing a sizeable feature like this along with all our other stuff on a weekly basis. We therefore thought we'd take a more flexible approach by bringing you the same feature whenever we could, but without any specific guarantees as to its regularity.

And with that weak excuse out of the way, let's crack on with today's League Spotlight and further to a request some time ago from Chris C Paul at Football Overdose we're on the road to Uruguay and their Primera Division...

Yes, Uruguay - twice world champions but these days an also-ran in the global game. While the national team labours on in the vague hope of capturing a qualifying berth for the 2010 World Cup, its top domestic league remains a melting pot for some of the most well-known clubs on the planet.

Back in days of yore when the champion clubs from Europe and South America played for the FIFA Intercontinental Cup, it wasn't unusual to find a Uruguayan club in the Final. Penarol appeared in three of the first seven from 1960 onwards, and two of those they won against Real Madrid and Benfica.

Nacional were the next to take part, beating Panathinaikos in 1971 and Nottingham Forest in 1980 before Penarol returned to see off Aston Villa in 1982. Both teams would enjoy one more appearance in the Final - Penarol losing 2-1 after extra time to Porto in 1987 and Nacional beating PSV Eindhoven on penalties the year after, but since then there's been nothing. Uruguayan club football, it seems, has been left behind by the rising fortunes of other countries in South America.

But is the Uruguayan First Division just a perennial two-horse race and do Penarol and Nacional still have the game by the throat these days? Not any more, so it seems, but change has only recently started to happen.

Despite Nacional or Penarol winning all but one of the league titles between 1992 and 2005, some new names are now starting to emerge. The current champions are Defensor Sporting, renowned for their ultra-defensive approach and a hot bed for talent that often finds greater exposure abroad.

Last season, they won the Torneo Apertura and went onto beat the Penarol 2-1 on aggregate in the two-legged Final.

Now at this point we should explain that the Uruguayan First Division is played out in two halves (as in many other Latin American countries). The first half of the season is called the 'Opening Tournament' (Torneo Apertura) while the teams play each other again in the second half, known as the 'Closing Tournament' (Torneo Clausura). The winners of each tournament play each other in a Final at the end of the season to decide the overall champions.

All of which is frightfully messy and not a little unnecessary, but never mind. Defensor are currently in sixth place in the Apertura, three points behind second-placed Danubio who are the only other team to break the Nacional/Penarol cycle by winning the championship in 2006/07.

Danubio can claim to have had many well known players pass through its doors over the years. One-time Middlesbrough curio Hamilton Ricard played there in their championship-winning season while the likes of Alvaro Recoba and Ruben Sosa - both legends of the national team - also donned the diagonal sash of La Franja.

They also have the current leading scorer in the Primera Division, Sergio Leal, who recently arrived from Gimnasia in Argentina and has so far scored six goals in this season's Apertura. But what of the two giants and biggest rivals in the Uruguayan top flight, Penarol and Nacional? What's to know about them?

Well Penarol, famous for their yellow and black striped shirts, are one of the oldest clubs in the world created around the workforce of the local British-owned railway company back in the late-1900's. They've been Uruguayan champions more times than any other club (36) and have been runners-up for the last two seasons.

They're obviously still a team to be reckoned with and having such strong support means they're justified in making regular use of the nearby Estadio Centenario - the monolithic stadium that staged the first World Cup Final in 1930. Not that they can call the Centenario their own, mind you - they have to share it with their fiercest rivals, Nacional.

Winners of five out of the last ten championships, Nacional are based in Montevideo... but then again so are 13 of the other 15 teams in the Primera Division. Historically speaking, it's played a big part in Uruguayan football and provided most of the players for the national teams that won the 1928 Olympic soccer tournament and the World Cup of 1930 (above left). Also, as eluded to earlier, they're the only team to win the Intercontinental Cup (World Club Cup) three times.

And to leave you in no doubt as to their credentials, Nacional are also currently top of the league, one point ahead of Danubio. So who else do we need to know about before we draw a line under this little old summary?

Well there's Liverpool... no, not that Liverpool - Liverpool FC Montevideo, so named (supposedly) because some of the club's founder members had heard of the English port and like the sound of it. They've never won the league but are currently fourth in the Apertura and managed a third place finish back in 1995. Further success is long overdue, one feels...

Then there's River Plate, third place last season and eighth at the moment, Cerro, a relatively unknown quantity but currently third in the table, and Bella Vista who won the league title once in 1990 and were third in 1998.

To be honest, there are many other teams that make up the top division in Uruguayan football, but the important ones are those listed above. Some might say even they are doomed to achieve only limited success for the simple reason that any player showing a feint glimmer of quality tends to get snapped pretty quickly by another club in another country.

A case in point can be gleaned from the team that started in Uruguay's last World Cup qualifier against Bolivia a month ago. Of the eleven players that kicked off, only two - Carlos Bueno of Penarol and Hugo Arismendi of Nacional - play their club football in the Primera Division.

And that's why there's a kind of forlorn air about Uruguayan league football. As much as the fans get behind their teams and cheer them on to their next victory or their next trophy, they must surely be aware that in the overall scheme of things, the Primera Division barely shows up on the world football radar.

Whether their star will rise again, though, one can't be sure, but at least Uruguayan club football has a proud history that many countries would yearn for. That alone is something to be rather proud of.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bundesbag Week 12: Ride The Tiger

Wolfburg's Brazilian attacker Grafite is a fine player. Strong, good first touch, very fast, knows where the back of the net is. Had he been five years younger he may have had hungry, jealous eyes watching him from across the water in England. As it is, he's 29 and if he's going anywhere after the Wolves, its Bayern.

Grafite scored a hat-trick at the weekend in a game against the hapless Cottbus. The 3-0 scoreline made it look easy for the home team and in truth it was, eventually. However, Cottbus had a perfectly good goal ruled off and conceded a penalty thanks to a pretty theatrical dive from Dzeko which deserves a retrospective booking if that's at all possible. After that it was the Grafite show and he managed to keep Wolfsburg sniffing around the top end of the table, albeit in seventh.

Another fantastic attacker in the Bundesliga is Bayer Leverkusen's Patrick Helmes. His ninth goal of the season was scored in the first minute just as the folks at the Wildparkstadion, Karlsruhe were settling down for the afternoon and what proved to be top notch attacking football. Helmes sent Leverkusen on a mad goalscoring spree putting the visitors 3-0 up after 24 minutes.

With a recent record of played four, won four, scored eight, conceded none, things were looking pretty good for the Bayer club to put another notch on their Bundesliga bedpost. However, they reckoned without a free kick from Karlsruhe's Antonio Da Siva which took a wicked deflection to beat Rene Adler in the Leverkusen goal.

From then on the result was inevitable and KSC fought back to level the game 3-3. While Adler berated his defense at the final whistle, he at least could console himself with the fact that his team had still climbed to the summit of the Bundesliga table.

This is thanks to Hertha Berlin who have finally stopped the Hoffenheim Express in its tracks. All it took in the end was a goal from a Liverpool striker. Andrei Voronin, to be precise, who is on loan at the Berlin club. Despite the Hoff's unpopularity there were 59,000 people at the usually quiet Olympic Stadium so they must be doing something right. On the other hand HSC haven't lost at home in four games so maybe the Berlin public are rewarding them for a job well done.

Warming to the attacking players theme, great things were expected of Borussia Monchengladbach's Marko Marin this season. In fact great things were expected of 'Gladbach this season. Little of that promise had materialised until this weekend when the 19-year-old midfielder score two smashing goals against Bielefeld. One was a free kick, the other a jinking passing moving run with a lovely finish and only the teeniest hint of offside from his team mate Rob Friend. Arminia were left cursing their luck and some missed chances early doors during this six pointer. 2-0 was the final score at the Schüco-Arena and 'Gladbach shoot up the table.

Elsewhere, Hamburg's two Croatians strikers Olic and Petric (the latter playing against his old club) put BVB to the sword 2-1 and moved into fourth place. Stuttgart are going backwards. This week they fought back to scrape a 2-2 draw against Frankfurt, a match which saw Jens Lehmann in bother.

Having pasted Berlin last week, Bremen couldn't manage a single goal against Bochum. Fortunately, for Thomas Schaaf's men their opponents proved just as miserly in front of goal. Koln's excellent form has done nothing for Dieter Hecking's aforementioned eyebrow line (see Bundesbag's passim). Cologne won 2-1 at the RheinEnergie Stadion and their supporters will be delighted to see their team sat above Dortmund in the table.

Finally, Schalke welcomed champions Bayern Munich to the Veltins Arena. The game got off to a flyer with two goals in the first five minutes. Bayern took the lead with a lovely strike from Luca Toni. The Royal Blue's summer import Jefferson Farfan (who sounds like a 70's prog rock group to me) scored the home side's equalizer. Franck Ribery, who is playing catch up following his early season injury, buried the winner and his fourth goal of the season thanks to some excellent work on the flank from Ze Roberto.

It was a tense encounter which could have ended in a draw had Heiko Westermann not missed a header at the far post in the final minutes. If only Kevin Kuranyi had been there instead. No doubt he was off sulking somewhere about some percieved slight. Kevin Crybaby more like.

That's it. Results and tables here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Midweek TV Preview: November 10th - 13th

(All times UK)

Monday
10 November

19:45 AFC Wimbledon v Wycombe Wanderers, FA Cup 1st Round, Setanta Sports 1
Amidst the fawning tributes and triumphalism at Wimbledon, there is a decent cup tie here. Neither team are used to losing and it will be refreshing to see a Dons game on telly that does not take place in front of a half-empty stadium.

19:45 Ballymena v Newry, JJB Premiership, Sky Sports 1
Three of the last four fixtures between these two teams have ended in 2-2 draws. This, presumably, is why the Sky match pickers selected this fixture. May prove a decent alternative for contrary types unwilling to join in the FA Cup hoop-la.

Tuesday 11 November

19:45 Arsenal v Wigan Athletic, Carling Cup 4th Round, Sky Sports 2/HD2
Arsenal Juniors turn out to dish another helping of humiliation on another club's first team. Steve Bruce's men are the latest potential victims anxious to tear up the script and give the snotty-nosed toerags a thorough birching.

Wednesday 12 November

18:30 Sampdoria v Empoli, Coppa Italia, SportsXchange
Possibly the only Italian football available on any TV channel in the UK right now. A relatively smart move this by SportsXchange, given the undoubted interest in Serie A, to go for a domestic cup competition which will be much cheaper than the league yet should yield an audience.

19:45 Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool, Carling Cup 4th Round, Sky Sports 1/HD1
With a Champions League place out of sight for Spurs, this represents their first pressure fixture since Redknapp took charge. As holders, Tottenham supporters will expect their players to put up a stiff defence against a Liverpool team whose collective eye is on a much larger prize.

19:45 Motherwell v Rangers, Scottish Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
The pick of the midweek fixtures in Scotland. A local derby, the match report of which will include the words dogged, stubborn, battered, inevitable and Rangers.

There is also a Copa Sudamericana and FA Cup Replay scheduled on Setanta on Thursday. No team details were available when we went to print.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Weekend TV Preview: November 8 - 9

Hello there and first of all do accept our apologies for the late arrival of this Weekend TV Preview. What it lacks in punctuality, we're sure it'll make up for in the sheer depth of quality in the writing. And if it doesn't, there's always this informative piece of alternative text for you...

As ever, all times shown are for GMT...

Saturday 8 November

17:20 Southampton v Bristol City, Championship, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
The struggling Saints are currently averaging a goal scored every 90 minutes. Given the fact they scored three against Preston last week, one might expect Bristol City to be in with a chance here - especially since The Robins recently took Southampton's striker Stern John on loan from them. That said, the visiting side were whipped 4-1 at home to Reading last time out, so frankly the jury's out on this one.

17:30 Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion, Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
Will The Reds be affected by Rafa's delay in signing an extension to his contract at Liverpool? Will West Brom be able to take advantage if the minds of Gerrard, Alonso and co. are on other things? No and no. Home win.

19:00 Real Madrid v Malaga, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
It's a tale of two setbacks here as Real Madrid (twice losers to Juventus recently) take on Malaga who lost to Barcelona last week, thereby ending a run of four consecutive wins. Real will be without Robben, Pepe and Diarra so expect Malaga to get at least a draw, if not... no, we dare not say it...

20:00 Nantes v Toulouse, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 2
Nantes are without a win in three while Toulouse lost last week. The Canaries are struggling though, so we figure there's nothing Toulouse by betting on the away team (ahem...)

21:00 Barcelona v Valladolid, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
Don't be fooled by Barca's midweek Champions League draw against Basel. Many of their regulars were rested and should return to face a Valladolid side that have scored once in four away games this season. Without wishing to influence who you might want to place a bet on, Valladolid have only beaten Barcelona twice in the last eleven years. Home banker.

SPAOTP SPECIAL MENTION...
22:35 FA Cup 1st Round Highlights, ITV1
Yes, a special mention because this season's FA Cup begins in earnest today with the First Round Proper and ITV start their coverage accordingly with this initial bundle of highlights which may just grab your attention before Match of the Day kicks in on the other side.

We strongly urge you to check it out as not only will you see stuff like Blyth Spartans v Shrewsbury Town and Sutton United v Notts County but you'll also get to hear ITV's new opening theme tune - a rendition of Abide With Me by The London Community Gospel Choir. It's always been a favourite of ours as it always makes us cry, soppy sods that we are. Tune in and blub out - it's alright by us.

Sunday 9 November


13:30 Ajax v Sparta, Eredivisie, Setanta Sports 2
Jolly old Ajax are on a run of five wins on the trot at the moment and we don't see that coming to an end here. Sparta are hovering dangerously close to the bottom of the table and are likely to be even closer to it by 3.30pm on Sunday.

13:30 Blackburn Rovers v Chelsea, Premier League, Sky Sports 1 / HD1
Hands up who had a sly snigger at Roma's twonking of Chelsea during the week? Thought so. We did too. John Terry was as mystified as his coach at what went wrong on Tuesday night, so expect The Blues to be rather more water-tight against Paul Ince's Rovers. Could be a point apiece gained here, especially given Blackburn's recent ability to pick up draws.

14:00 Havant & Waterlooville v Brentford, FA Cup 1st Round, ITV1 / HD
It's ITV's first live FA Cup match on TV since 2001 by our reckoning, and what better way than to focus on last season's giant killers Havant and Waterlooville in the First Round this season. Can they repeat their high-flying feats against a buoyant Brentford of League Two? We asked a selection of Swansea City fans what they thought and the answer we got was a resounding 'Yes.'

14:00 Kilmarnock v Rangers, Scottish Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
Rangers remain tantalisingly close to Celtic at the top of the Prem and you'd think they'll pick up another three points here as their last four meetings against Kilmarnock have ended either 2-0 or 2-1. Having said that, Dundee United nearly turned them over this week so expect a close run thing this time out.

16:00 Schalke v Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, Setanta Sports 2
Fourth place plays third here as a resurgent Bayern claw their way back to the summit. Both teams are on good run of form at the moment but Schalke haven't beaten Bayern since March 2005. You get the impression both coaches will settle for a draw here, albeit for differing reasons.

18:00 Sevilla v Recreativo, La Liga, Sky Sports Interactive / Sky Sports 1 (Second half only)
Without sounding pessimistic, this might be one to miss. Sevilla, despite being fifth in the table, have lost their last four matches, while lowly Recreativo haven't won since Franco was in charge. More or less.

20:00 Getafe v Valencia, La Liga, Sky Sports 1
Bit of an odd one, this. Both teams are very evenly matched, but Getafe aren't too good at home while Valencia are very good away. Ah, what the hell - a draw and let's hear no more about it.

20:00 PSG v Lille, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 1
Lille are a team in form at the moment. They last lost near the end of September, and that was in the League Cup. For all that plus PSG's recent inconsistency, both matches ended in draws last season and we fear that'll be the case again after this encounter.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #86

We will remember them
34 British Football Players That Lost Their Lives During World War I

1. Donald Bell (Bradford Park Avenue)
2. Robert Craig (Celtic)
3. Peter Johnstone (Celtic)
4. John McLaughlin (Celtic)
5. Donnie McLeod (Celtic)
6. Archie McMillan (Celtic)
7. Leigh Richmond Roose (Celtic)
8. Patrick Slavin (Celtic)
9. William Jonas (Clapton (later Leyton) Orient)
10. John Allan (Heart of Midlothian)
11. James Boyd (Heart of Midlothian)
12. Duncan Currie (Heart of Midlothian)
13. Ernest Ellis (Heart of Midlothian)
14. Tom Gracie (Heart of Midlothian)
15. James Speedie (Heart of Midlothian)
16. Henry Wattie (Heart of Midlothian)
17. Walter Tull (Northampton Town)
18. Freddie Wheatcroft (Swindon Town)
19. J. Fleming (Tottenham Hotspur)
20. J. Hebdon (Tottenham Hotspur)
21. Alf Hobday (Tottenham Hotspur)
22. J. Jarvie (Tottenham Hotspur)
23. E.J. Lightfoot (Tottenham Hotspur)
24. W.H.D. Lloyd (Tottenham Hotspur)
25. A. MacGregor (Tottenham Hotspur)
26. Finlay Weir (Tottenham Hotspur)
27. A. Wilson (Tottenham Hotspur)
28. N.A. Wood (Tottenham Hotspur)
29. Frank Cannon (West Ham United)
30. Fred Griffiths (West Ham United)
31. William Jones (West Ham United)
32. William Kennedy (West Ham United)
33. Arthur Stallard (West Ham United)
34. Leigh Roose (Woolwich Arsenal)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Bundesbag Week 11: Where's Beeks?

To the best of my knowledge, the Baden Derby between Hoffenheim and Karlsruhe has never taken place before. It certainly hasn't happened in the Bundesliga. Whether it endures depends chiefly on a couple of things: can Karlsruhe keep swimming against the Bundesliga tide and stay in the division over the long term and is Dietmar Hopp about to announce that all has cash was tied up in Hedge Funds and has lost the lot after taking a misplaced punt on Volkswagen going down the tubes.

KSC, on the other hand, will hope that there will not too many more of these derbies if they end up like the one on Saturday in Mannheim where they were given a 4-1 (gerd) mullering by the home side. Two of the Hoff's goals came from Vedad Ibisevic. This brings his tally to 13 (thirteen) goals for the season. He's only played 11 (eleven) games. As Kurt Wagner would say "Unglaublich!"

Ralf Rangnick's team's latest demolition job keeps them top of the table above the only slightly less impressive Bayer Leverkusen. Their 2-0 win over Wolfsburg was their fourth in a row and has removed the wind from Felix Magath's sails somewhat. Bayer continue to play some scintillating stuff under coach Bruno Labbadia and Setanta viewers in the UK got the opportunity to watch them in action last Friday.

Slipping into third place are Bayern. The mercurial Ribery is back on the pitch and back among the goals. The former played a significant role in the Bavarian's 3-1 victory at home to Bielefeld. He scored one of the goals, made a sufficient meal of a foul on him by Rober Tesche to persuade the ref to send Tesche off. He then tried out for the Munchen Amateur Dramatics Society to earn a penalty on 84 minutes which Podolski converted. Ribery was substituted immediately afterwards by Klinsmann, possibly to protect him from angry Bielefeld players. Perennial consolation goalscorer Artur Wichniarek scored Bielefeld's er... consolation goal.

Elsewhere there were a couple of other derbies to tell you about. BVB and Bochum played out the only draw of the weekend. 1-1 was the final score at the Westfalon however, set your YouTube for Bochum's goal by Tomasz Zdebel. David Bentley eat you heart out. Up north, Hannover earned some respite from their torrid season with a fantastic 3-0 win over Hamburg. Each goal was superbly worked but could not lift Dieter Hecking's eybrows by the 3 millimetres required to remove the perma-frown on his face.

Koln are starting to get a little more comfortable in the top flight. They won 3-1 at Stuttgart. Schalke kept the momentum going with a straightforward 2-0 win at Cottbus. Martin Fenin's return to form is great for Frankfurt but bad for 'Gladbach. 2-1 the final score at Borussia Park.

Finally, Bremen are showing signs of a return to type following a devastating 5-1 spanking of a decent Hertha side. The pick of the goals was Diego's volley which I urge you to seek out through the usual channels. Spectacular and beautiful. Bremen are eighth and on the move. Probably best not to mention the Champions League, eh?

That's it. Results and tables here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Shirt Legend: Liverpool (home)

It's been a long time, folks. Almost a year has passed since our last Shirt Legend poll which aimed to find out what you thought was the best ever Scotland home shirt since 1964.

At the time of writing, 369 of you have registered your vote and the most favoured Scotland shirt so far is the one worn during the 1978 World Cup. We'd like to thank all of you for voting, especially to those of you on the Scotland bulletin boards, forums and fan sites for showing such an interest.

Now, finally, we bring you a new Shirt Legend poll which, as ever, asks you to choose your favourite shirt for a particular team - regardless of whether you support them or not. This is a poll for fans of football shirts and football kits everywhere, and this time we have something a little different for you.

Whereas before we've focused on England and Scotland, this time we're looking at our first club and it's Liverpool FC. So without further ado, let's survey the sixteen shirts in question before we ask you to pick your favourite.

[IMAGE REMOVED PENDING REPLACEMENT]

We begin by travelling back in time to 1969 when Liverpool wore Shirt A - a simple but very effective design replete with round white collar and cuffs, plus a white Liver bird badge. Very much in the style of the day, it was modified in 1976 to make it look more '70's' than '60's' (Shirt B).

Made by Umbro, the white collar became v-shaped and the badge turned yellow, yet the change came at a time when Adidas were transforming the look of football shirts everywhere with the use of silky material and features such as pinstripes. Within a few seasons, it would start to look out of date and the next change wasn't due until 1982...

When it did arrive, Liverpool FC finally had a kit that looked truly modern and was a firm favourite with many fans around the world. Again made by Umbro, Shirt C featured some new white pinstripes plus a new sponsor - Crown Paints, who replaced Hitachi.

By the mid-80's, pinstripes were becoming old hat and a new design was required, but rather than stick with Umbro, Liverpool turned to Adidas in a partnership that was to last eleven years. Their first offering, Shirt D, featured a vertical shadow pattern and the legendary three stripes of the manufacturer in white along the shoulders. Two years later, those three white stripes would extend all the way along the sleeves on Shirt E, plus there was a new stylised round neck collar, a new version of the club badge and a new sponsor - home appliance manufacturer, Candy.

Two years later in 1989, Adidas tweaked the design slightly by bringing in a curious shadow pattern based on a series of white pointed flecks for Shirt F. This was the shirt Liverpool would wear the last time they won the League Championship in 1990 and couldn't have been more different from the one that replaced it in 1991.

n the early-90's, Adidas changed their company logo and decided the best way to show it off was to plaster it over any new football kits they'd produced. Liverpool were among the first on the list and their new shirt (Shirt G) was nothing if not bold. With three huge white stripes draped over one shoulder and very little else of note, this was always going to be one of those 'love-it-or-hate-it' designs. Yet if fans weren't keen on the all-too-striking use of the Adidas logo, they probably wouldn't have been fond of the 1993 version either.

Shirt H had two sets of stripes attacking the chest from either side plus a splash of white and green around the collar and cuffs. Add to that a further reworking of the club badge (plus a change of sponsor to Carlsberg) and followers of The Reds had much to talk about, shirt-wise. In 1995, Adidas toned down the use of their three-stripe logo by reverting to a plain red shirt with a very wide white and green v-neck collar (Shirt I). It was to be their last for Liverpool for ten years and the shirt itself would last for just one season before Reebok took over the reins.

Reebok began their decade as Liverpool FC's kit designers with a shirt that seemed strangely devoid of the originality Adidas had employed over the previous eleven years (Shirt J). With a new 'flappy'-style white collar and white cuffs, it looked a little amateurish to be frank, yet over the next two seasons it came to be accepted on its own merits as Liverpool continued their fight to return to the top of English football.

Shirt K was something of an improvement in that it perfectly echoed the classic Liverpool shirt we featured right back at the beginning (Shirt A). The important thing with retro designs is that they should not only bear a decent resemblance to the original but also look modern too. This one ticked all the boxes where that argument was concerned and was a very respectful acknowledgment of a once great era in the Anfield club's history.

In the year 2000 it was a case of 'back to the future' as Reebok brought out a kit which definitely had both feet in the modern era (Shirt L). Back came the flappy collar but this time there was just a minimal use of white piping along the sleeves so as not to distract too much from the understated simplicity of the basic shirt.

Two seasons later, Reebok's new shirt (Shirt M) brought back the round collar last seen in 1991 (Shirt F) but removed all other traces of white (apart from the sponsor's name and other bits of shirt furniture). What remained was fundamentally a plain red shirt, yet on closer inspection the main piece of styling appeared to be a line of near-invisible red stitching running in a curve across the chest. Different, if nothing else...

Shirt N was to be Reebok's last, and to bow out they produced another minimalist design. Like the previous one, there was barely any white to be seen except for a strange shape on either side of the chest that could only be seen if a player lifted his arms up in the air. That aside, it was smart, stylish and certainly subscribed to the 'less is more' approach.

Adidas took over from Reebok as Liverpool's kit supplier two years ago, ironically just a matter of months after it had taken over Reebok itself. Their first new shirt for The Reds since 1996 (Shirt O) inevitably saw the return of the three white stripes down the sleeves, plus some curvy white piping that ran from the flappy collar all the way down either side of the body.

Finally this year, Shirt P arrived with a much less fussy look that featured shortened Adidas stripes and a nifty stylised v-neck collar. Arguably their best for some time, Liverpool's current shirt strikes the perfect balance of style, simplicity and modernity.

But enough of our waffle. It's time for you to place your vote on which Liverpool home shirt from the last forty years is the best. Simply click on your preferred choice below and hit 'Vote' - it's as simple as that. Like all our other Shirt Legends (see menu right), we'll keep the poll running open-endedly so that we can catch as many of your votes as possible.

Which is the best Liverpool home shirt since 1969?
Shirt A
Shirt B
Shirt C
Shirt D
Shirt E
Shirt F
Shirt G
Shirt H
Shirt I
Shirt J
Shirt K
Shirt L
Shirt M
Shirt N
Shirt O
Shirt P
Free polls from Pollhost.com

We'd also like to hear your comments on why you particularly like or dislike any of the shirts shown, so don't forget to tell us your thoughts.

And one last thing - we know many of you out there like to play "Who's that in each of the pictures?" whenever we do our Shirt Legend polls. If that applies to you and you'd like a list of all the players featured by way of an answer sheet, drop us a line to info [at] spaotp [dot] com and we'll tell you all you need to know.

For now, our thanks go to friend of SPAOTP Kris Jones for helping to research the images you've seen above and also to you for taking part in our Shirt Legend vote!

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