Friday, January 30, 2009

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #98

Start as you mean to go on...
18 Football Players That Scored On Their Debuts *

1. Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal)
2. Craig Bellamy (Manchester City)
3. Lee Bowyer (Leeds United)
4. Lee Chapman (Leeds United)
5. Jermaine Defoe (West Ham, Tottenham, Portsmouth, Tottenham (again))
6. Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink (Leeds United)
7. Robbie Fowler (Liverpool)
8. Jimmy Greaves (Chelsea, Milan, Tottenham, West Ham and England)
9. Emile Heskey (Aston Villa)
10. Kevin Keegan (Liverpool)
11. Harry Kewell (Galatasaray)
12. Freddie Ljungberg (Arsenal)
13. Mido (Middlesbrough, Wigan Athletic and Egypt)
14. Michael Owen (Liverpool)
15. Robinho (Manchester City)
16. Alan Shearer (England)
17. Ian Wright (Arsenal)
18. Shaun Wright-Philips (Manchester City (2nd time around) and England)

* (not including loan spells or pre-season friendlies)

...and once again we're indebted to our good friend Simon Harriyott for coming up with the suggestion for today's 'Friday List' along with some of the names to go on it. Cheers Simon!

And don't forget - you can send us your ideas for future 'Friday Lists' by dropping us an email to info [at] spaotp [dot] com. We'll do our best to publish your list, thus ensuring your name enters the realms of superstardom and A-list celebrityism.

Weekend TV Preview: 30 January - 1 February

(All times - UK)

Friday 30 January

19.30 Hamburg v Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, Setanta Sports 1
Those lazy Germans finally come back after Christmas. Both these sides finished strongly before the break so a tough start for them, especially considering their nearest rivals Hertha and Hoffenheim have very winnable home ties against Frankfurt and Cottbus respectively. Despite Bayern's fire-power, expect a hard-fought, low-scoring affair. The Bundesbag returns to these pages this week for much more info on all things Bundesliga.

Saturday 31 January

12.30 St Mirren v Kilmarnock, Scottish Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
St Mirren play their first match in their new home in front of a packed house. They could actually win it too.

12.45 Stoke City v Manchester City, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
It's exactly ten years since the last time Manchester City went to the Britannia. That was in what is now League 1 and since then Stoke have been through their own dubious dalliance with foreign ownership. When they met earlier this season, a Robinho hat-trick gave Mark Hughes' men the points. The Brazilian needs a similar performance to make up for his recent off-field shenanigans.

17.15 Manchester Utd v Everton, Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
If Everton have a problem this season (other than injuries) it's been not taking points against the bigger clubs, but after a succession of draws against Liverpool and Arsenal it seems that may no longer the case, as their 4-6-0 formation continues to impress. Of course, it would be hugely ironic if United's amazing clean sheet record was to end against a team with no strikers.

17.20 Sheffield Wednesday v Birmingham City, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Both teams need to get their seasons back on track, especially Birmingham who have slipped down into the play-off spots after Reading beat Wolves midweek. Wednesday don't look in danger of the drop but they don't look like making a burst for the play-offs either. It's a rare thing for a team in the Championship not to be in contention for one of those in January but the Owls season looks to be fading away already.

19.00 Athletic Bilbao v Malaga, La Liga, Sky Sports 2
On the face of it a mid-table clash, but both sides are stringing results together and are upwardly mobile. Either or both could be pinching a UEFA spot by the end of the season. Worth a look if you fancy something different from the usual Spanish offerings.

20.00 Rennes v Toulouse, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 2
Fourth plays fifth. Both teams spent last weekend easing their way into the quarter finals of the French Cup, Toulouse scoring 8 (HUIT) against the hapless Schirrhein. Rennes are unbeaten at home this season and have beaten the visitors here on the last three occasions.

21.00 Numancia v Real Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 2
Not as cut and dried as you'd imagine, Numancia are proving tough to crack at home despite their lowly position in the table (it's their hopeless away form that's let them down). Real Madrid, despite climbing back into second are still looking very beatable on the road, so this could be anyone's game.

Sunday 1 February

13.30 NEC v Feyenoord, Eredivisie, Setanta Sports 2
Feyenoord are having a pretty awful time of it at the moment, with a caretaker manager and just four points above the drop zone. NEC's early season good form seems to have dried up completely and they're steadily slipping down the table. Hardly the most dazzling of matches in prospect.

13.30 Newcastle Utd v Sunderland, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
This tense local derby really couldn't have come at a worse time for the Magpies; in a strop Charles Insomnia will almost certainly not be taking the field nor want-away Shay Given either, and with Michael Owen and Joey Barton sidelined it's looking like lean times ahead for Joe Kinnear.

14.00 Inverness CT v Celtic, Scottish Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
Terry Butcher returns to club management with Inverness following the sacking of Craig Brewster. It's a long time since Super Caley went ballistic, nine years in fact; at the moment Inverness are nailed to the bottom of the SPL on a run of eight straight defeats - a run that started with a 1-0 defeat to today's visitors.

16.00 Liverpool v Chelsea, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
You know sometimes when you're in a job and you think to yourself that everyone knows what they're doing and it's only a matter of time before one of them works out that you're a complete fraud and don't deserve to be there? That's what Rafa Benitez must be like: busy doing things to make himself look like a proper manager but all the while just baffling everyone. Defeat here could see Liverpool's Champion's League qualification hopes crumbling. Yep, you read that right.

20.00 Sporting Gijon v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports 1
Sporting's return to the top flight for the first time in a decade has been eventful: losing their first five games then winning their next five. One thing they haven't done so far this season is draw - 20 games in and they flatly refuse to share points with anyone, a philosophy that looks set to keep them up this season. Sevilla have lost second place to Real, luckily for them they're not falling away as fast as the rest of the not-so-chasing pack.

20.00 Lyon v St Etienne, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 2
Bordeaux are the team to watch at the moment in France, however for French action today you get to see a team unbeaten at home play a side that's managed just four points on their travels. A stern test then for the table toppers.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bundesbag Extra: Konzentrat auf der Liga

There are few things we Englanders enjoy more than a good German stereotype. Efficiency, electronic music, good beer and appalling hair being the most prominent examples. Hard work being another. It's also nice to see some of these stereotypes challenged and the Bundesliga winter break certainly does that.

At the risk of repeating an old rant, it was early December when the Bundesbag last posted on SPAOTP. Now, as Easter approaches, the Bundesliga finally returns this weekend after a lengthy break. Lazy lazy Germans. By way of a precursor, the Third Round of the German Cup kicked off midweek with 16 teams looking to make another step along the road to Berlin.

It's been suggested that the the DFB Pokal has grown in prestige as a competition since the Final was moved to a permanent home, the Olympiastadion in the capital. Another factor could be the timing of the fixtures. A good competitive cup tie is just the ticket in the days before a return to League action after a sabbatical and a cursory glance of the line-ups for of the participating Bundesliga clubs seems to bear that out.

There certainly wasn't any evidence of a weakened team at Stuttgart as the home side welcomed Cup holders Bayern Munich. Both teams fielded strong line-ups and if the 5-1 scoreline is anything to go by, it's going to be a long half-season for Stuttgart and a successful one for Bayern. However, two goals from Schweinsteiger plus contributions from Ze Roberto, Luca Toni and Ribery were all overshadowed by the most hilarious penalty gaff from the Frenchman who spooned his shot into the arms of Jens Lehmann.

Bayern meet Hamburg in the Bundesliga this Friday. Martin Jol's team were in action themselves against Bayern's local rivals 1860 Munich who play in 2 Bundesliga. Ivica Olic was linked with a transfer window move to Liverpool. The Hamburgers will be looking forward to that closing with a resounding bang if this week's display is anything to go by. His whizz hat-trick dispatched the Bavarians with only a late consolation from the visitors by way of reply. Unfortunately, Olic is suspended for the game on Friday.

Last season's finalists Borussia Dortmund faced Werder Bremen but won't be repeating their journey to the Final. Werder won 2-1 with Claudio Pizzaro scoring the winner. Dortmund's big rivals Schalke faced a tricky tie away at a combative Carl Zeiss Jena of the Third Division. After a difficult first half, the Gelsenkirchen club ran out 4-1 winners in the end.

No decent cup competition would be complete without an upset and if Karlsruhe losing a football match can be regarded as such, then upset there most definitely was at the Wildparkstadion. SV Wehan Wiesbaden are currently sitting second bottom of the 2. Bundesliga. They now have the added burden of a place in the Cup quarter final after their fantastic 1-0 win thanks to a goal by Ronny Konig. Karlsruhe are left to 'concentrate on the league' as we say here in Blighty.

There was a guaranteed Second Division team in the final eight after Freiberg and Mainz were drawn together. It was the latter who won the day with an impressive 3-1 away win. The remaining lower division team were Rostock. They were dispatched 5-1 by Wolfsburg. Grafite was the rounds second hat trick hero. The final berth goes to Bayer Leverkusen who beat Energie Cottbus 3-1, Patrick Helmes was among the scorers.

That's it for the Cup. Bring on the League. It's great to be back isn't it? Shall we end with some predictions? OK then:

Top Five
Champions: Bayern Munich (nothing can stop them now)
Second: Hamburg
Third: Werder Bremen
Fourth: Bayer Leverkusen
Fifth: Hoffenheim

Cup winners

Bottom three
Borussia Monchengladbach

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Midweek TV Preview: 26 - 29 January

Monday 26 January

19:45 Burton Albion v Barrow, Blue Square Premier, Setanta Sports 1
Albion dropped points for the first time since October at the weekend. While hardly a chink in the leader's armour, new boys Barrow will draw some encouragement for their trip to the Pirelli Stadium.

Tuesday 27 January

20:00 Portsmouth v Aston Villa, Premier League, Sky Sports 2 and HD2
Portsmouth are in it right up to their necks as Gregory Peck might have said. This season has seen them lose both Diarra and Defoe along with their manager Harry Redknapp, who seems hell bent on turning Tottenham into the next Southampton. Tony Adams is one of the good guys and you hope that he succeeds in keeping Pompey out of trouble. There are those among the SPAOTP ranks who believe that Villa don't have the squad depth to maintain their top four spot. This fixture will be something of a litmus test.

Wednesday 28 January

19:45 Celtic v Dundee Utd, Co-operative Insurance Cup, BBC1 Scotland
Hmmm. The Scottish League Cup. Perhaps our good chum Seb @ Inside Left has something worthwhile to say about this one...

20:00 West Ham Utd v Hull City, Premier League, Sky Sports 2 and HD2
Zola has laid many anxieties to rest and has got the Hammers playing like a team worthy of their history. Perhaps his best signing was that of Chelsea coach Steve Clarke. I heard a good gag about Hull that they were to be congratulated for suffering Second Season Syndrome in their first season. Both Premier League matches this week should be well worth a watch.

Thursday 29 January

19:30 Quarter Final 2nd Leg, Copa Del Rey, Sky Sports 1
Sky will pick one from Barca v Espanyol, Betis v Mallorca, Sevilla v Valencia or Gijon v Bilbao.

19:45 Cambridge Utd v Oxford Utd, Blue Square Premier, Setanta Sports 1
The BSP play-off zone is not for the faint hearted. Only Histon in second have any breathing space. This clash at the Abbey Stadium sees an Oxford United team, resurgent under coach Chris Wilder. However, with the Bulls' financial status murkier than a peer's bedpan, promotion is a must. Cambridge have only a point more that their Varsity rivals. A decent game is in store for those hardy enough to watch it.

21:30 Palmeiras v Real Potosi, Copa Libertadores, Setanta Sports 2
Great to see Setanta continuing with the 'South American Champions League' which kicks off this week. Presumably, Brazilian giants Palmeiras will be expected to overcome their Bolivian opponents over two legs and progress to the group stages. Or will they?

Obscure Kits From British Football History #9

Chelsea (away)
1978 - 1981

You'll have gathered by now that SPAOTP are big fans of ITV4's brilliant retrospective of vintage football, The Big Match Revisited. The series showing hour-long re-runs of football action from the 1978/79 season is a joy to behold for anyone that yearns for a more innocent time before rampant commercialisation took over.

This week's show featured a First Division clash between Manchester City and Chelsea at Maine Road dated January 22nd 1979, and it's from here that we get the latest in our Obscure Kit series.

With Manchester City playing in all-Sky Blue, Chelsea (managed by Danny Blanchflower) couldn't possibly enter the field of play wearing their traditional Royal Blue shirts for fear of a colour clash. It was therefore time to wheel out the change strip, and even by the rich and varied history of all Chelsea'a change strips, this one was a bit peculiar.

When playing away from home, Chelsea have worn various colour combinations down the years - white and blue, red and white, even yellow and blue, but between 1978 and 1981, Chelsea opted for the rarely seen combo of yellow and green.

A quick check of my True Colours book by John Devlin tells me that ostensibly this was an all-yellow kit with green trim, but on certain isolated occasions (such as the aforementioned match against Man City) green shorts would be worn to create a distinctly 'Norwichesque' ensemble.

Chelsea's kit at the time was made by Umbro and featured their familiar styling du jour, namely the famous diamond logo running liberally along the sleeves, shorts and stocking tops. It was a device they used to great effect on their blue and white home kit back then, but when their yellow away kit was originally launched in 1977/78, it featured blue trim, not green.

Obviously someone in the Marketing department decided to change things around to give the team a more Brazilian feel for the following year, but it didn't do them much good - they were relegated at the end of the 78/79 season and promptly stayed in Division Two for five long seasons.

Oh well, at least they'd make up for that with interest a decade or two later. And as for that yellow and green kit, we've still got the photographic evidence to remind us of a time when Micky Droy et al looked ever so slightly Brazilian. Or like a member of Norwich City's reserve team - one or the other.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Catch the FA Cup 4th Round with

Yes it's FA Cup Fourth Round weekend this weekend, so time for us to obligingly point all you UK football fans in the direction of our good friends at

As you may be aware, ITV have the rights to broadcast all the action from the FA Cup this season on TV, but their website has lots more exclusive stuff to get you in the mood before, during and after the matches take place.

Visit the site now and you'll find preview interviews with all the managers involved in FA Cup games this weekend as soon as they arrive from ITV's many and varied regional newsrooms. There’ll also be running text updates on team news and reports right up to the games, with team news as soon as its available.

Also today, there’ll be some classic Brian Clough moments online to mark the Notts Forest v Derby match that took place last night, as well as some classic cup upset clips.

Ahead of the Hartlepool v West Ham and Man United v Tottenham games that ITV1 are showing live this weekend, you'll find exclusive interviews with Ronaldo, James Collins and any other players ITV Sport speaks to ahead of the games. There’s also a ‘player to watch’ feature for both live matches and an exclusive extra 15 minutes of analysis after the Man United game which will only be available on and via the interactive red button on your remote.

Finally, from midnight on Sunday there’ll be extended highlights of every game from the Fourth Round on - even games that could only be broadcast for a few minutes due to running time on the Saturday evening highlights show will be available with up to 8 minutes of footage on

So there we are. Lots of reasons to visit this weekend and in case you were wondering, no, we're not being paid to plug ITV. We just happen to think they're doing a bloomin' good job covering the competition and are providing a wonderful service for you, our humble audience.

Whether your team's playing in the FA Cup or not this weekend, enjoy your football!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Weekend TV Preview: 23 - 25 January

(All times - UK)

Friday 23rd January

19.45 Derby County v Nottingham Forest, FA Cup 4th Round, Setanta Sports 1
Ah, if only his Dad could see him now... Another weekend of FA Cup action gets underway with Clough Jnr. reawakening the memories of his Dad's past. Secretly, of course, he'll have one eye on getting Derby further up the Championship table than they are now, but this'll be another fleetingly pleasant distraction for them.

Saturday 24th January

12.30 Aberdeen v Rangers, Scottish Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
Sunday's 4-2 win for Aberdeen against Celtic has provided Rangers with a 'Get Out Of Jail Free' card where the Scottish title race is concerned. The ironic thing is that Aberdeen could very well take it away from them again today. Well worth tuning in for if you can.

12.40 Hartlepool United v West Ham United, FA Cup 4th Round, ITV1/HD and Setanta Sports 2
Life can be cruel sometimes. Imagine the turmoil Jeff Stelling must be going through as he presents Soccer Saturday on Sky while his favourite team plays out a live match against West Ham on ITV1. Imagine if they win! (Oh dear - shouldn't have done that... I've come over all feint...)

17.15 Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup 4th Round, ITV1/HD and Setanta Sports 2
By strange quirk of fate, these two teams meet again in the FA Cup Fourth Round for a second consecutive season. Last year's tie finished 3-1 to United and a glance at the Tottenham side that day shows that over half the team have since moved onto new clubs, namely:
  • Radek Cerny (now QPR)
  • Teemu Tainio (now Sunderland)
  • Young-Pyo Lee (now Borussia Dortmund)
  • Steed Malbranque (now Sunderland)
  • Robbie Keane (now Liverpool)
  • Dimitar Berbatov (now Man United)
United, in theory, could actually put out the same side as last year... all of which is inconsequential as they'll beat Spurs today anyway.

21.00 Barcelona v Numancia, La Liga, Sky Sports 1
30 (THIRTY) points separate these two teams in the league. The rest writes itself, really...

Sunday 25th January

13:30 FC Groningen v Ajax, Eredivisie, Setanta Sports 2
Marco Van Basten must be wondering what it'll take to knock AZ off the top spot in the Eredivisie. Ajax's 2-0 defeat to Louis Van Gaal's side back in late November gains significance with every passing week, so it'll be another case of 'win and keep your fingers crossed' against Groningen this time around.

13:30 Cardiff City v Arsenal, FA Cup 4th Round, Setanta Sports 1
These two teams meet with notable regularity in the Cup. Arsenal were the victors with a 2-1 win in the Third Round in 2006 and it was 2-1 to The Gooners in the same round back in 1980. Last year's beaten finalists will always have 1927, however.

16:00 Liverpool v Everton, FA Cup 4th Round, Setanta Sports 1
Friend of SPAOTP, Il Griff (an Everton supporter), was distinctly hesitant about his side's trip to Anfield on Monday. We reassured him that everything would be alright in the end, and so it proved to be. This'll be the first time the two teams have met in the FA Cup since 1991 when, in a Fifth Round replay, the game finished a memorable 4-4 draw. More of that today, please...

18:00 Sevilla v Racing, La Liga, Sky Sports 1
Sevilla find themselves down in third place now thanks to Real's recent spurt, while Racing are marooned in the desperate wastelands of La Liga's mid-table. Our advice is therefore to give this a wide berth unless (a) you happen to support Sevilla, or (b) the thought of watching 'The Secret Life of Elephants' over on BBC1 is too much to bear.

18:15 FA Cup 5th Round Draw, ITV1/HD and Setanta Sports 1
Imagine the First Round draw for the inagural FA Cup back in 1871... "Number 15... Wanderers... will play... number 7... Harrow Chequers..." They don't draw 'em like that anymore.

20:00 Real Madrid v Deportivo La Coruna, La Liga, Sky Sports 1
Deportivo's amazing run of form during November and December is now starting to unravel with no wins in their last four games. Real, meanwhile, are heading in the opposite direction. With Barca twelve points clear at the top though, is there any point in carrying on with this season's La Liga?

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #97

On the defensive
Manchester United's Last 10 Premier League Matches In Which They've Equalled The Record For The Most Consecutive Clean Sheets

1. Stoke City - won 5-0 (home, Nov 15th 2008)
2. Aston Villa - drew 0-0 (away, Nov 22nd 2008)
3. Man City - won 1-0 (away, Nov 30th 2008)
4. Sunderland - won 1-0 (home, Dec 6th 2008)
5. Tottenham - drew 0-0 (away, Dec 13th 2008)
6. Stoke City - won 1-0 (away, Dec 26th 2008)
7. Middlesbrough - won 1-0 (home, Dec 29th 2008)
8. Chelsea - won 3-0 (home, Jan 11th 2009)
9. Wigan - won 1-0 (home, Jan 14th 2009)
10. Bolton - won 1-0 (away, Jan 17th 2009)

...and a win for United away at West Bromwich Albion on January 27th will see them own the Premier League record outright.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fantasy League's finest?

A year ago almost to the day, SPAOTP pondered on the FA Premier League's Fantasy League competition and wondered whether the players it rated as the best at the time really were as good as they suggested.

Back then, we raided the Fantasy Premier League's points tables and came up with the following as its best individuals as per mid-January 2008:

Green (West Ham)
James (Portsmouth)

Laursen (Aston Villa)
Ferdinand (Manchester United)
Lescott (Everton)
Vidic (Manchester United)
Distin (Portsmouth)

Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Fabregas (Arsenal)
Gerrard (Liverpool)
Petrov (Manchester City)
Bentley (Blackburn)

Tevez (Manchester United)
Adebayor (Arsenal)
Berbatov (Tottenham)

It was an article which generated a considerable number of comments from you all, some of which were from Sp3ktor who suggested we all go off and play Fantasy Football Agent instead. While we're now in a position to promote that more whole-heartedly (following Sp3ktor's introduction to the SPAOTP writing team), we remain committed to seeing just how good the FA's game is in rating the Premier League's players. Just as a bit of fun, you understand.

So to show how committed we are to recycling, SPAOTP gives you the 2009 version of last year's article to see who's cutting the mustard this season. Here's the current highest scoring players at

Van Der Sar (Manchester United)
Reina (Liverpool)

Vidic (Manchester United)
Bosingwa (Chelsea)
Lescott (Everton)
Carragher (Liverpool)
Laursen (Aston Villa)

Lampard (Chelsea)
Gerrard (Liverpool)
Arteta (Everton)
Ronaldo (Manchester United)
A Young (Aston Villa)

Anelka (Chelsea)
Agbonlahor (Aston Villa)
Van Persie (Arsenal)

So in goal, Man United's Edwin Van Der Sar leads the way just ahead of Liverpool's Jose Reina. Given United's recent form (more of which this Friday), you can't argue with him being at the top of the pile, and Liverpool's start to the season has also been built on a decent defence so we can't argue with that either.

Incidentally, last season's top two 'keepers, Green and James are currently 13th and 17th in the table respectively. Above Green you'll also find Sorensen of Stoke, Carson of West Brom and Gomes of Spurs - all of which goes to prove that league position counts for very little in a Fantasy League competiton.

In Defence, 2009 offers up Vidic of Man United (fourth best last year), newby Bosingwa of Chelsea, Everton's Lescott (also third last year), Carragher of Liverpool and Aston Villa's Laursen (top this time last year). Not much of a change all round, we think you'll agree although Rio Ferdinand is currently 28th on the 2009 list and as for Distin of Portsmouth - he's so far down the list that he's practically on the next page...

This year's Midfield top five only highlights the people that were missing from last year. Frank Lampard is in pole position this year and Mikel Arteta is third but both didn't even make the top five last time around. Ronaldo slips to fourth (largely due to injuries in 2008/09) and Ashley Young credibly makes fifth place while Gerrard moves up one place to second.

Were it not for injury, Fabregas would perhaps have retained his place among the FPL top scorers while Man City's Petrov is playing well short of his 2007/08 standards.

Finally up front, it's all change. Tevez, Adebayor and Berbatov all slip outside the top three (well outside in the case of Tevez) and they're replaced by Anelka, Agbonlahor and Van Persie. Robinho, Defoe and Zaki aren't too far away, but are well short of the Frenchman, the Englishman and the Dutchman.

And there you have it. As things currently stand in the FA's Fantasy Premier League, these are the best fifteen players you can buy at the moment. And aside from the "is he really that good?" debates which may now ensue, here's a final thing to consider.

As we said at the end of last year's article, the fifteen players listed near the top of this page were worth a total of £120.9 million - well over the £100 million budget the game allows you. But what about the fifteen players listed below them, i.e. the 2008/09 vintage? The answer: £131.8 million. So are this year's best players worth more than last year's? That's for you to decide...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Midweek TV Preview: 19 - 22 January

(All times - UK)

Monday 19 January

19.45 Yeovil Town v Leicester City, League One, Sky Sports 1/HD1
A glance at the League table wouldn't fill home fans with confidence for this fixture, but I reckon they could sneak a draw here. Leicester have been giving their best performances at the Walker's Stadium this season while Yeovil have shared the points in half their home ties. Fans of the early days of aviation may delight in seeing the names Alcock and Brown in Yeovil's defence.

20.00 Liverpool v Everton, Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
First installment of a Setanta Merseyside derby double header with the 4th round FA Cup match coming this weekend. Liverpool lost top spot to Man United this weekend, and I don't think they'll see it again this season.

Tuesday 20 January

20.00 Manchester Utd v Derby County, Carling Cup Semi-final 2nd Leg (0-1), Sky Sports 1/HD1
Ok, so losing at home to QPR was hardly the dream start to the new Clough dynasty but I guess you can forgive the side for having one eye on this huge game. Of course, it's more than likely that United will steam-roller the Rams by three or four - but maybe, just maybe...

Wednesday 21 January

20.00 Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur, Carling Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg (1-4), Sky Sports 1/HD1
Yadda, yadda... early goal could make things interesting... yadda yadda... play without fear... Well I guess you could give it 20 minutes to see if anything amazing does happen.

20.00 Espanyol v Barcelona, Copa Del Rey Quarter-Final 1st Leg, Sky Sports 2
Barcelona actually smell unbeatable at the moment - and let me tell you that's a powerful funk. Over two legs, their lowly neighbours don't stand much of a chance.

Thursday 22 January

11.25 The Big Match Revisited, Series 2, Episode 4, ITV4
If nothing else this series is shining a belated but worthy spotlight on (a) Liam Brady, and (b) Barry Hughes. We're currently scouring through all our old copies of the TV Times as at this rate one of them would have ended up with their own series on ITV, and we're not talking about Liam Brady either.

19.30 Kilmarnock v Ayr Utd, Scottish Cup 4th Round Replay, Sky Sports 1
Second Division Ayr earned a replay thanks to a last minute equaliser from Alex Williams. Can they pull it off again? Kilmarnock's recent SPL form has taken a dip so the visitors may fancy their chances.

19.45 Wrexham v Cambridge Utd, Blue Square Premier, Setanta Sports 1
Is it too early to call this a play-off place scrap? Probably not so that's what we'll go with.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

SPAOTP's Virtual Museum of World Football #1

With all the money sloshing around in the world game these days, it seems odd that no-one has seen fit to build a museum that wallows in all that's good in the sport. Oh sure, there's a National Football Museum up in Preston, but for those of us not living anywhere near Lancashire (or too lazy to go there, more like), there has to be another way.

Fear not, old friend. Some People Are On The Pitch is here to save the day, for it is our intention to create an online virtual museum of world football containing all the things that really matter to you, me and every other football fan around the globe.

And today we start by putting our first item on show in a virtual glass case, and it's

Bob Stokoe's red tracksuit bottoms (as worn during the 1973 FA Cup Final)
There are many things that stick in the mind from Sunderland's surprising win over Leeds United in the 1973 Cup Final. Ian Porterfield's goal, Jim Montgomery's amazing double save from Trevor Cherry and Peter Lorimer, but for us the key moment was when the final whistle blew.

Leeds United, one of the biggest clubs in Europe at the time, had been beaten by a club that were 250-1 outsiders when the Third Round started and no-one gave them a snowball in hell's chance of winning the Final. But Sunderland did win, and nobody was more pleased and excited than their manager, Bob Stokoe.

When the referee put the whistle to his lips, Stokoe ran onto the Wembley turf like the David Pleat of his day (only rather less embarassing). Dressed in smart hat and cream-coloured coat, he looked the image of professionalism and decency - from the waist up. In a fashion statement that would send Trinny and Susannah into convulsions, his lower half was dressed in an ill-matching pair of red tracksuit bottoms.

Put bluntly, they looked ridiculous. Stokoe was found in a strange No Man's Land between training ground coach and boardroom big shot. His outfit was neither one thing or the other, but did he care? Did anyone care? Not at all. This was the biggest day of his managerial career (if not his life) and nothing could have been further from his mind.

To have created such an enduring image because of an innocent but monumentally bad wardrobe malfunction deserves recognition, we feel, so Bob Stokoe's red tracksuit pants become the first exhibit to go into our Virtual Museum of World Football.

If you have a suggestion for an additional artifact to go into our museum, do let us know. Send us an email to info [at] spaotp [dot] com with a short explanation of why (if necessary) and we'll put it alongside the most famous pair of tracksuit bottoms in football history.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Weekend TV Preview: 16 - 19 January

(All times - UK)

Friday 16 January

19:45 Torquay Utd v Wrexham, Blue Square Premier, Setanta Sports 1
Flush from their FA Cup success, The Gulls return to the business of league football. A tough encounter awaits them against a Wrexham team who are unbeaten in five and only a couple of places behind them in the table.

Saturday 17 January

12:45 Preston North End v Burnley, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Sixth meets seventh in the Lancashire derby. Burnley have recovered from their Christmas collywobbles to post two wins in their last two games. The Preston gang are in decent form themsleves with a nice spread of goals throughout the team.

17:20 Bristol City v Wolves, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
City let themselves down somewhat against Pompey this week. So what better than a home game against the leaders to put the fire back in their bellies. Let's hope the Ashton Gate crowd can make it two big gates in a row.

17:30 Hull City v Arsenal, Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
Tough match to call, this. The four-place gap twixt these sides covers up the yawning chasm of 11 points. Add Hull's atrocious form recently to Aresenal's percieved lack of gumption and we're looking at a 0-0.

19:00 Barcelona v Deportivo La Coruna, La Liga, Sky Sports 3
Can Larleegar's surprise packages go one better and stick it to Barca in the Nou Camp? Hell no, but that doesn't mean this game isn't worth a look.

20:00 Nantes v Bordeaux, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 2
Historically, Bordeaux have had the upper hand in this fixture and given the stonking season they're having, it's tough to see past an away win here.

21:00 Sevilla v Numancia, La Liga, Sky Sports 3
It's win-one lose-one for Numancia according to the form guide. Sevilla on the other hand haven't tasted defeat in the league since November.

Sunday 18 January

13:30 NEC v Ajax, Eredivisie, Setanta Sports 2
If Nijmegen could just get a bit of consistency going, they'd be in the automatic qualification places for the UEFA Cup. As it is, they're in danger of meeting a fate worse than death - being boringly comfortable in mid-table.

13:30 West Ham United v Fulham, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Two teams very much on the up at the moment, both tied on 26 points in the top half of the table. Could be a fascinating encounter given that Fulham haven't beat The Hammers in eight attempts but are unbeaten since the start of November 2008. West Ham, however, are admirably hanging onto their best players in the light of much provocation from those Man City types... at least at the time of writing, anyway.

14:00 Aberdeen v Celtic, Scottish Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
Our friend and ardent Aberdeen supporter Seb from Inside Left must be pretty impressed by his team's recent form. Only a defeat to lowly Hamilton provided a fly in the ointment during their recent charge up to fourth in the table. Celtic away, however, may be a bridge too far but they'll know they've been in a fight, that's for sure.

16:00 Tottenham Hotspur v Portsmouth, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/ HD1
Might be a bit tastier if Pompey were at home. As it is, expect sod all defensive nous.

20:00 Almerica v Atletico Madrid, La Liga, Sky Sports 1 (Second Half only)
Topish meets bottomish in a match so exciting, Sky decided to cut to the end bit.

20:00 Lille v Rennes, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 1
Decent prospect this. Two good unbeaten records on the line and only five points between them. Those of you owning an I-Spy Book of Former Premier League Stars will also be able to tick off Bruno Cheyrou (Liverpool) and Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham) playing for the away team.

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #96

Rest assured
20 European Mid-Season Breaks From The Date Of The Last League Game Of The Old Year To The First League Game Of The New Year

1. Hungary: 97 days (16 Nov - 21 Feb)
2=. Bulgaria: 89 days (1 Dec - 28 Feb)
2=. Romania: 89 days (1 Dec - 28 Feb)
4. Poland: 84 days (7 Dec - 1 Mar)
5. Denmark: 83 days (8 Dec - 1 Mar)
6. Czech Republic: 82 days (1 Dec - 21 Feb)
7. Croatia: 77 days (7 Dec - 22 Feb)
8. Serbia: 73 days (10 Dec - 21 Feb)
9. Switzerland: 55 days (14 Dec - 7 Feb)
10. Germany: 47 days (14 Dec - 30 Jan)
11. Turkey: 35 days (21 Dec - 25 Jan)
12. Belgium: 26 days (21 Dec - 16 Jan)
13=. France: 20 days (21 Dec - 10 Jan)
13=. Italy: 20 days (21 Dec - 10 Jan)
15. Netherlands: 19 days (28 Dec - 16 Jan)
16=. Greece: 13 days (21 Dec - 3 Jan)
16=. Spain: 13 days (21 Dec - 3 Jan)
18=. Portugal: 11 days (22 Dec - 2 Jan)
18=. England: 11 days (30 Dec - 10 Jan)
20. Scotland: 7 days (27 Dec - 3 Jan)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Seven Shades of... Cristiano Ronaldo

With Cristiano Ronaldo adding the FIFA World Player of the Year award to the billions of other prizes he's won lately, we thought we'd try and link the disturbingly orange Portuguese winger to the first winner of FIFA's ultimate accolade, Lothar Matthaeus. Impossible? Not on this website...

Cristiano Ronaldo
Currently the best player on the planet according to FIFA (and when have we ever doubted their judgement), the former Sporting Lisbon star has already achieved so much in the first 23 years of his life. He's played at two European Championships and one World Cup, won the Club World Cup with Manchester United and scored on average a goal every three games for Portugal. Not only that, but he can do fancy step-overs too - he's that good. One of the more obscure honours to be found on his CV is that he was the scorer of Man United's 1,000th Premier League goal back in 2005. Scorer of the 500th was

Andy Cole
Sorry - ANDREW Cole, a Premier League winner with United when Cristiano Ronaldo was only eleven years old. Cole will forever be remembered as the hotshot striker who helped Newcastle United scale new heights in the early 90's before moving onto Man U and Blackburn. Before and after that peak time in his career, you might have found Andy (sorry) at any number of other clubs including Burnley, Arsenal and Bristol City, but life on the road for the Nottingham-born striker appears to be at an end now since he announced his retirement in November 2008. Strangely enough for someone who was the Premier League's top scorer in 1994, Cole only ever scored once for England, a record he shares with

Rodney Marsh
whose only England goal came in a 3-0 Home International match in Cardiff in May 1972. That was the year when Marsh was at the peak of his goal scoring capabilities, having banged in 106 goals in 211 games for QPR. There was no doubt that Marsh's goals helped the Loftus Road club rise from the old Third Division to the First during the time he was there, but by 1972 he was hot property. Snapped up by Manchester City (the Kaka of his day, if you will), Marsh couldn't replicate his QPR goal ratio and thereafter left for the Tampa Bay Rowdies with whom he played in two separate spells. Another former Rowdie is

Sam Allardyce
who left for Tampa after a promising start to his career at Bolton and Sunderland. Having played for nine different clubs in nineteen years by 1991, he got his first taste of management while still a player at Limerick in the Republic of Ireland. A switch in roles proved to be a shrewd move as he helped the club to a League of Ireland title in 1992, but this didn't stop him moving to Preston the following season to work on the coaching staff before eventually becoming full-time manager at Blackpool in 1994, Notts County in 1997 and Bolton in 1999. Big Sam developed a reputation for achieving success wherever he managed, but this came to an end following a brief, disappointing spell as head of Newcastle United where he followed

Glenn Roeder
in the hot seat. Roeder, like Marsh, had some success while playing at Queens Park Rangers (where he captained the side in the 1982 FA Cup Final), but in a managerial sense things haven't always been so good. When at Watford, Newcastle United and Norwich City, he was able to stave off the threat of relegation and push the team up the table before a return to bad form saw them plummet back down the table and he was fired. With Gillingham, Burnley and West Ham, he did away with the need for a recovery period and went straight for one long plummet down the table before being fired. No matter - as a player he can look back on happier days with QPR and Newcastle, the latter of which he also captained after

Kevin Keegan
had held the position prior to his retirement from football in 1984. 'King Kev' was a football legend long before he ever set foot on Tyneside, thanks in no small part to the UEFA Cup and European Cup wins he'd had with Liverpool and the European Footballer of the Year awards he picked up in 1978 and 1979 while with Hamburg. A true embodiment of all that was good about English football back then, he never did enjoy major success while playing for the national team in a ten-year international career. The closest he got was when England reached the last twelve of the 1982 World Cup, a competition he largely missed through injury. His only appearance was in his team's last game against Spain on July 5th 1982, six days after England's penultimate match against West Germany which Keegan watched from the bench just like

Lothar Matthaeus
who was doing likewise for the opposing team. As Keegan's international career was ending, however, Matthaeus found his was just beginning and it would go on to feature more honours than most players could even dream of. A European Championship winner in 1980 and a World Cup winner in 1990, Matthaeus also reached the heights in his club career too. He won the Bundesliga seven times between 1985 and 2000 with Bayern Munich, Serie A once with Inter and the UEFA Cup twice (once for each team). To top all that off, the legendary German midfielder even won the inaugural FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1991 - an honour only bestowed upon twelve other people... the latest of which, you'll remember, is Cristiano Ronaldo.

And there you have it - The Seven Shades of Cristiano Ronaldo via Glenn Roeder and Rodney Marsh, to name but two. A journey worth embarking upon, we hope you'll agree.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When good form goes bad

On hearing the news that Hull City are hoping to snap up the West Ham striker Luis Boa Morte by the end of the week, I have to say I felt a tangible sense of relief rippling through my body. Boa Morte has without doubt fallen well short of the form we saw when he was at Fulham where he scored one goal in every six appearances. Having made 66 appearances for The Hammers over the last two years, the former Portuguese international has scored just once, and that was back in April 2007.

Not exactly the sort of return West Ham would have wanted on their £1.7 million outlay, and it's fair to say that with financial investments like that, who needs a credit crunch? But Boa Morte isn't the only player currently dabbling with anonymity having earned a reputation as a hot shot striker.

Robbie Keane's faltering start to his Liverpool career has been well documented thus far and for good reason. Having signed from Spurs at the start of the season, Keane didn't hit the back of the net for The Reds until his eleventh game against PSV Eindhoven and had to wait until his twentieth before he scored in the Premier League.

It's fair to say that Robbie Keane is now gradually turning a bit of a corner in his form, scoring three times in Liverpool's last three games. His goal ratio is now one in every 3.1 appearances - not quite up to his Spurs standard of one every 1.2, but it's early days yet.

Bobby Zamora was West Ham's saviour when he scored the play-off goal that earned them promotion back to the Premier League in 2005 and his form at Upton Park reflected that, but since signing for Fulham last Summer, things haven't been quite as exciting for him. A solitary goal in twenty appearances for Roy Hodgson's men is but a shadow of his ratio for West Ham where he bagged one every 3.8 games.

Go back a few years and you'll remember all the talk surrounding Kevin Philips and whether he was good enough to play in the Premier League, let alone the England team. At Southampton he knocked in a goal every 2.7 appearances, but at Villa that average was down to one every five and the next thing you knew, he was heading back down to the Championship with West Brom.

As it turned out, this proved to be a great move for him. In under two years, he hit the net 46 times in 71 games, and even after signing for Birmingham last summer, he's still scoring about once every other game.

So when a player's goal supply suddenly dries up, what's the reason? Is it because different clubs have different abilities to maximise the skills of these strikers? Is it because they never get enough matchplay under their belt as they constantly try to avoid the substitutes bench? Or is it because some players have to accept that they're just not cut out to play in a higher league?

Usually one of these three is the answer. Certainly if Luis Boa Morte starts scoring for Hull City we can put a tick next to Option 1 and if Kevin Philips is snapped up by a Premier League team next summer we'll find out whether Option 3 is true. As for Option 2... well that may require a call to Marlon Harewood.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Midweek TV Preview: 12 - 15 January

(All times - UK)

Monday 12th January

19.45 MK Dons v Colchester United, League One, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Both teams are experiencing good form at the moment, particularly Roberto Di Matteo's Dons who look like strong contenders for an automatic promotion place. Colchester lost 3-0 at home when these two met earlier in the season, but expect a closer result this time following Paul Lambert's introduction as U's manager.

Tuesday 13th January

19.45 Bristol City v Portsmouth, FA Cup 3rd Round Replay, Setanta Sports 1
An intriguing one, this. Pompey are looking a shadow of the team that waltzed its way to Wembley last season and have notched up only one win in the last eight. That said, Bristol City are treading water in the Championship, languishing in mid-table, however both sides had to sit out their weekend fixtures due to snow, and both sides have lost key players in the transfer window (e.g. Diarra, Defoe, Trundle, etc.) Don't rule out a penalty shoot-out to decide this one...

20.05 St Johnstone v Rangers, Scottish Cup 4th Round, BBC1 Scotland
If Walter Smith wanted an easy draw in the Cup to help his side re-focus for the league, he must have been disappointed with this one. St Johnstone currently sit top of the Scottish First Division and are unbeaten since the end of August. If Bristol City v Pompey doesn't appeal tonight, try Sky channel 971 for this instead.

Wednesday 14th January

19.00 Valencia v Racing, Copa Del Rey 5th Round 2nd Leg, Sky Sports 1
The first of part of Sky's Copa Del Rey triple bill this week, and this should be a formality. Though Valencia's form of late is nothing much to write home about and despite the first leg finishing as a 1-1 draw, they're still doing much better than their opponents in La Liga, and for that reason we recommend a home win for all you aspiring punters out there.

20.10 Southend United v Chelsea, FA Cup 3rd Round Replay, ITV1
The match ITV1 have chosen to upset 10 million Coronation Street viewers is an unlikely one in that Chelsea appeared to be home and dry against The Shrimpers in the previous match. Lucky for us, The Cup enthuses a never-say-die attitude in big and small clubs alike and Peter Clarke's 90th-minute header was enough to give us this once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Southend on primetime terrestrial television.

21.00 Barcelona v Atletico Madrid, Copa Del Rey 5th Round 2nd Leg, Sky Sports 1
The chorizo in this Copa Del Rey sandwich would be a little more appetising were it not for the fact that Barca effectively ended this tie with a 3-1 win in the first leg. Still, those of you who are curious to know who constitutes the Barcelona second-string will have ample opportunity to get the necessary information before this evening's out.

Thursday 15th January

11.30 The Big Match Revisited, Series 2, Episode 3, ITV4
It's about time we featured this on a regular basis in our Midweek TV Previews because quite frankly it's brilliant. ITV4 have really earned the respect of us football nostalgists for showing so much of their precious archive material which under normal circumstances would never see the light of day. Thanks to them, however, we get to peer through the looking glass back to a wonderful period in British football history - in this case, the 1978/79 season.

Things were so much different back then. Take last week's episode, for example. Because of the bad weather conditions at the time, ITV could only find two games to point their cameras at, but point them they did. Their first game was an FA Cup Third Round tie between Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal, the highlight of which was undoubtedly the delayed start to the second half caused by Wednesday fans relentlessly pelting Pat Jennings with snowballs.

This was followed by a match between Stoke and Oldham. Unlike the previous game, the ground staff didn't even bother removing the snow from the pitch and the match went ahead as normal, complete with regulation bright orange ball. And here you had another of those "am I seeing things" moments that you only get with old footy footage - Howard Kendall and Garth Crooks playing together side by side in an almost improbable overlapping of football generations.

With that game being abandoned at half time because of safety reasons, Mooro had some time to kill, so what better than to show a clip from Australian TV of Elton John singing the track 'Georgia' from his (then) new album, A Single Man. The football connection? He'd invited his Watford squad to come along and sing harmonies behind the piano in the way only Elton John can.

Finally we had evidence of ITV's hopeless inability to come up with innovative features the way Match of the Day did on the BBC. While Jimmy Hill could happily rely on the trusty old 'Goal of the Month' competition, Brian Moore was not quite so lucky. In an effort to avoid blatantly copying the Beeb (we know - how things have changed...), it was his dubious pleasure to announce the 'Personality of the Month' competition.

The four contenders included Ray Clemence who the week before had given away a goal to Arsenal and lost his place in the England team, a Brazillian player called Juary who celebrated a goal by doing a not particularly funny dance around the corner flag, and Barry Hughes, one-time West Brom player and, in 1979, manager of Dutch side Haarlem. His nomination came courtesy of the fact that he was caught on camera acting like a drunken old grandad with a squeaky blower from a Christmas cracker during a match in the Dutch First Division. All rather strange, but charmingly innocent as indeed football coverage tended to be back then.

And today's episode? Expect a close-fought encounter between Arsenal and Nottingham Forest featuring legendary names like Frank Stapleton and legendary advertising boards like 'Unipart' and 'Tetley Bittermen'. Cracking stuff.

19.45 Torquay United v Wrexham, Blue Square Premier, Setanta Sports 1
Hard to tell which of these two title contenders is the more likely to buy a golden ticket back to League Two. So which is best: Paul Buckle's Torquay United or Dean Saunders' Wrexham? There's only one way to find out...

20.00 Athletic Bilbao v Osasuna, Copa Del Rey 5th Round 2nd Leg, Sky Sports 1
Finally to the last Copa Del Rey match of the week and here we find two teams that are grinding out every point they can muster at the moment, but while Bilbao have hauled themselves towards mid-table safety in the league, Osasuna are currently rock bottom. Another tie that finished 1-1 after the first leg and another that may very well go to penalties too.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Weekend TV Preview: 9 - 11 January

(All times - UK)

Friday 9 January

20.00 Reading v Watford, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Two free-scoring sides promise entertainment for those spending Friday night in. Reading's chase of Wolves faltered a little over the Christmas period while Watford's form has gone back to awful.

Saturday 10 January

12.45 Aston Villa v West Bromwich Albion, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
A close fought affair which will see Villa snatching victory late on (copy for repeated use).

17.20 Burnley v Swansea, Championship, Sky Sports 1/HD1
On the telly twice within a week, Burnley can consider themselves unlucky to be on the receiving end of a Carling Cup hammering midweek. Cup success has hardly been a distraction for them as they've followed their three previous ties against Premiership opposition with wins in the Championship. Swansea are on a run of eight, (yes, eight) consecutive draws, a record held with six other clubs. Another here sees them claim it for themselves.

In true 'Friday List' style, the other holders of the most consecutive draws are...

1. Torquay United in the Third Division (1969-70)
2. Middlesbrough in the Second Division (1970-71)
3. Peterborough United in the Fourth Division (1971-72)
4. Birmingham City in the Third Division (1990-91)
5. Southampton in the Championship (2005-06)
6. Chesterfield in League One (2005-06)

17.30 Stoke City v Liverpool, Premier League, Setanta Sports 1
It's been a season of shock results but you can't see anything but a Liverpool win here. Stoke are in serious trouble, lacking a Plan B in the absense of Rory Delap. It's unlikely they'll get anything against a Liverpool side that doesn't look like breaking their point-getting habit anytime soon.

19.00 Deportivo v Sevilla, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
People who know reckon Depor are on their way back after a decade in the doldrums. A win here will see them going above Sevilla who are currently fourth in a tight chasing pack.

20.00 Auxerre v Marseille, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 2
If you read Duffman's review of Ligue 1 last week and thought to yourself "I'm gonna get me some of that Frenchie action" here's your first opportunity to catch some after their winter break. You really could pick a better place to start: Marseille's challenge to Lyon is probably the wobbliest of the chasing pack while Auxerre couldn't find three points on a fork. Come back tomorrow.

21.00 Valencia v Villarreal, La Liga, Sky Sports Xtra
With Barcelona looking set to win the title before the end of March, the battle for the remaining Champions League spots seems the only thing left - and there's six teams with a decent shout for them. Valencia currently hold second place, a position Villareal held until a woeful Christmas period saw them playing three of their closest rivals and losing them all.

Sunday 11 January

12.15 Hibernian v Hearts, Scottish Cup 4th Round, Sky Sports 2/HD2
These two ground out a 0-0 SPL match on telly just last weekend. Hearts will be hoping for a repeat of the last time they went to Hibs in the Cup: coming out 4-0 winners in the semi finals, going on to beat Gretna on penalties in the Final of 2006.

13.30 Wigan Athletic v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
With the Transfer window open, this can be seen either as a shop window for Wigan's players or a parading ground for whoever Tottenham have paid too much for this week. If Spurs play the way they did in the second half against Burnley this could be a cracker. However, if they play the way they did in the first half...

16.00 Manchester Utd v Chelsea, Premier League, Sky Sports 1/HD1
Oh look, it's so big. You want it, don't you. DON'T YOU!

20.00 Osasuna v Barcelona, La Liga, Sky Sports 1
Port and cigars with your three away points, Sir?

20.00 Bordeaux v PSG, Ligue 1, Setanta Sports 1
Well if you skillfully avoided yesterday's offering, this could be the start of your French odyssey. Two clubs with a real possibility of taking the title away from Lyon this season - a possibility that will diminish if they end up sharing the points here.

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #95

Names and places
22 Football Players Whose Names Feature Towns, Cities, Countries, Etc.

1. Dean Ashton (West Ham)
2. Ryan Babel (Liverpool)
3. Gareth Barry (Aston Villa)
4. Deon Burton (Charlton Athletic)
5. Lewis Buxton (Sheffield Wednesday)
6. Clark Carlisle (Burnley)
7. Michael Carrick (Manchester United)
8. James Chester (Manchester United)
9. Jamie Clapham (Notts County)
10. Jack Cork (Watford)
11. Matt Derbyshire (Blackburn)
12. Ryan France (Hull City)
13. Simon Hackney (Carlisle United)
14. Stephen Ireland (Manchester City)
15. Kevin Kilbane (Wigan)
16. Neil Kilkenny (Leeds United)
17. Lewis Montrose (Wigan)
18. Kris Renton (Norwich City)
19. Roque Santa Cruz (Blackburn)
20. Jason Scotland (Swansea City)
21. Antonio Valencia (Wigan)
22. Dwight Yorke (Sunderland)

And at this point we'd like to wholeheartedly thank Simon Harriyott for coming up with the idea for this Friday List along with most of the names on it. If you'd like to suggest a few of your own, feel free to do so by leaving us a comment.

Alternatively, why not send us your ideas for future Friday Lists we could tackle? It's very easy - just drop us an email to info [at] spaotp [dot] com and we'll do our best to convert your ideas into reality!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Midweek TV Preview: 5 - 8 January

(All times UK)

Monday 5 January

20:00 Blyth Spartans v Blackburn Rovers, FA Cup 3rd Round, Setanta Sports 1
Setanta have developed a habit of hiring actors to deliver corny monologues prior to some of their bigger live games, Danny Dyer's cringe-worthy effort before the Belarus v England game being a hideous example. Given the inherent romance of this quintessential 'David meets Goliath' Cup tie, it hardly seems necessary to add further layers of cheese. However, given the unbridled northern-ness of the encounter, I predict an out-of work ex-Corrie actor reciting some loathsome Alan Bennett durge just before the final ad break. That and a score draw.

Tuesday 6 January

19:45 Weymouth v York City, Blue Square Premier, Setanta Sports 1

Lower mid-table clash between two sides with only one win in the last five between them. The form book just tips York as does the head-to-head. Weymouth have never beaten City in the League.

20:00 Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley, Carling Cup Semi-final 1st Leg Sky Sports 1/HD1
Spurs have kept their 'Cup Specialist' tag. Still going in all competitions, Harry's team will feel in good shape to take on Burnley over two legs. Owen Coyle's men have had a rough Christmas and will hope to keep Tottenham's score down so they can have a crack at them at Turf Moor.

Wednesday 7 January

19:45 Derby County v Manchester United, Carling Cup Semi-final 1st Leg, Sky Sports 1/HD1

Will Nigel Clough be the manager of The Rams by Wednesday? If so, will he appoint Peter Taylor as his assistant? One thing is certain. Derby's League Cup dream ends at Old Trafford.

Thursday 8 January

19:45 Woking v Northwich, Blue Square Premier, Setanta Sports 1
Woking are unbeaten in five but all those pesky draws means they're languishing near the foot of the table. Three points against bottom club Victoria should move them up the table, for the time being.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

League Spotlight: France / Ligue 1 / Le Championnat

Our first League Spotlight of the year focuses on France as Some People Are On The Pitch checks out Ligue 1 and asks the vexed question 'Can anyone challenge Lyon for the title?' Then, once we've answered with an emphatic 'Yes', we'll have a look at some of the other great clubs in Le Championnat, a league so good they named it twice.

It is impossible to start any round-up of French football with any other team except Lyon (seriously - I checked). It's also illegal for any Englishman to write about the French without referring to at least one tired cliché based on a national stereotype, so be warned.

The current French champions are leading the table once more, despite a recent blip in form. Recent defeats to Nantes and PSG plus goalless draws with Marseilles and Valenciennes has given the pretenders to their throne some hope. However, OL entered the Christmas break with a win at Caen. Furthermore with the Champions League group stages now successfully negotiated, top scorer Karim Benzema and the gang have a clear run until late February which should be plenty of time in which to get a stack of points under their belts.

One of the more interesting facts about Lyon's seven year 'Reign of Terror' is that they've gone through four different coaches in that time. Claude Puel is the latest, replacing Alain Perrin. You'd think that consistency at the coaching level would have been key to their success. Some credit should got to the Lyon board who, no doubt, have put their Champions League revenue to good and maintained their dominance. Another factor could be the decline of their rivals.

It has been a decidedly ropey 21st Century for Marseille. Once the daddies of French football, OM's decline can be traced back to the misdeeds of former president Bernard Tapie. Under the charismatic businessman, Marseille won the European Cup in 1993 (beating AC Milan in the Final). Unfortunately, allegations of corruption and match fixing meant the club were stripped of their French championship and were subsequently relegated. Worse was to follow after they signed former Millwall and Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino.

Since then, Marseille have never been able to hit the heights of before. In the early noughties they finished fifteenth for two consecutive years and have only finished in the Champions League places three times since the turn of the decade, two of those occasions being the last two seasons. Currently, OM lie fifth in the table, only three points off the leaders.

Above them are Paris Saint Germain. The capital's only top flight club are perennial under-achievers and rarely live up to the expectations that befit a club in their location. While they have done OK in the cup competitions, the closest PSG have come to winning the league was in 2000 and 2004 when they finished second. However, coach Paul Le Guen has slowly turned the club around and while a tilt at the top spot seems unlikely, they will fancy themselves to finish in those precious top three places.

That is, of course, if they can get past Stade Rennes who have only lost once so far this season. Rennes are on a roll, however their greatest concern is all those draws. Ten of their 19 games have ended in stalemate and coach Guy Lacombe will need to get a little more out of them if they are to truly live the dream.

Just one point above Rennes in second are Bordeaux. Laurent Blanc's team have enjoyed their season in the Champions League. Assuming they can keep hold of their manager, Bordeaux look well placed to challenge Lyon's hegemony.

Another team to look out for is St Etienne. This famous name of the past and ten times League Champions are not the force they were. However they enjoyed a brief renaissance last season and finished fifth, qualifying for the UEFA Cup. Unfortunately Les Verts had a terrible start to the season and have lost 12 games so for this campaign, only one less than bottom club Le Havre. Despite all his good work last time around, their coach Laurent Roussey was sacked and replaced by Alain Perrin. To his credit the former Pompey boss is turning things around and Saint-Etienne have one three from their last four. Nevertheless, they sit perilously above the drop zone with only Valenciennes , Sochaux and Le Havre beneath them.

Notable players in France include the aforementioned Benzema at Lyon along with Hatem Ben Arfur at Marseilles. Ligue 1's top scorer is Andre Pierre Gignac who plays for Toulouse. There is, however, a fantastic story in 30 year old striker Steve Savidan at Caen.

Savidan was a journeyman lower division striker for many years. In 2004 he pitched up at Valenciennes who were a third tier club at the time. Three seasons and forty two goals later, Savidan was a top flight striker and moved to Caen in a deal worth around £4 million. In November last year he made his debut for France as a substitute in Les Bleus' 0-0 draw with Uruguay. Quite a story.

Are you a fan of Ligue 1? Who is your team in France and which players do you rate? Fill in the gaps in our knowledge and leave us a comment...

Friday, January 02, 2009

FA Cup 2008/09: Third Round Preview

If it's January, it must be the Third Round of the FA Cup and the starting point for many a dream of reaching that Wembley Final (at least if you support a team from the top two flights of English and Welsh football).

The first match of the round - Tottenham v Wigan - has already taken place tonight (Spurs winning 3-1), but 28 more follow tomorrow with another two taking place on Sunday and one final match bringing up the rear on Monday.

So what can we expect and which are the games to look out for? Here's our summary of what's what in this year's Third Round...

Current holders Portsmouth might just find themselves on the receiving end of an upset as they face a Bristol City side that are looking for a third straight win. To be honest, The Robins have been on a pretty poor run of their own since early November, but their last two games have seen them pointing back in the right direction again. With Portsmouth without a win in their last seven outings, who wouldn't bet against Gary Johnson's men at least forcing a replay tomorrow?

In rather more confident mood will be Arsenal as they play host to Plymouth Argyle at the Emirates Stadium. This will be a repeat of the 1987 Fourth Round tie which George Graham's side won 6-1 and though the scoreline tomorrow will be less one-sided, Arsenal should come through it unscathed. That said, Burnley dumped them out of the Carling Cup this time last month, so you never know...

The Third Round has, if nothing else, dined out on the potential for 'David v Goliath' ties over the years, and fortunately this season's no different. Top of the Shop is surely the game between non-league Histon and Swansea City. The Swans, you'll remember, rode their luck last season when they limped through a gruelling Second Round match against Horsham only to go out in a second successive replay against Havant and Waterlooville.

This year they'll be feeling a little uneasy again as they travel to the team currently second in the Football Conference. Rather curiously, Swansea have drawn all of their last eight matches stretching back to November 25th. Maybe this is the one where the sequence will be broken, but we'd rather not say which way if it's all the same with you...

Derby, on the other hand, travel to Forest Green Rovers, sitting near the other end of the Football Conference table from Histon. This is the furthest Forest Green have ever gone in the FA Cup, and we hope they go a bit further still - if only so we get to see a bit more of their Barcelona rip-off badge which truly has a comedy value all of its own.

Two places above FGR in the Conference table are Barrow who travel to Middlesbrough tomorrow in an attempt to go one better than their only Third Round finish in 1991. They were knocked out 1-0 by Bolton that year and you have to say the challenge they face tomorrow looks even harder for them, but they'll take solace from their win over Brentford they had in the last round.

If you're looking for a dead-cert when it comes to non-league teams getting through to the Fourth Round, check out the match between Kettering Town and Eastwood Town. Kettering admirably survived an attempt at management by Paul Gascoigne in 2005 and have since gone from strength to strength. This season, they've already disposed of Lincoln and Notts County in the Cup and now have to be just as clinical against their opponents who have already claimed Wycombe Wanderers as a scalp from the Second Round.

Further up the league ladder there's a re-run of the 1976 FA Cup Final as Southampton welcome Manchester United to The Dell. There'll be no Lawrie McMenemy this time around, which always makes us a bit sad as we love an excuse to re-run those old Barbican adverts. Anyway, Southampton are in a bad way these days and must be hoping there's a Bobby Stokes lurking somewhere in the squad that can come up trumps tomorrow. If nothing else it would certainly take their mind off a doom-laden Championship campaign.

For a Tie of the Round, though, how about Hull at home to Newcastle? Both teams are desperate to be treated seriously as quality top-flight teams (albeit for different reasons) and for The Tigers it'll be a chance to get past their opening FA Cup tie for only the second time in seven seasons. Newcastle themselves haven't won any silverware since they nabbed the Fairs Cup in 1969 so both teams will surely be going all guns blazing tomorrow when the ref gets things underway at the KC.

Best of luck to you this weekend if your team's still involved in the Cup, and here's to a few days packed with great football and goals galore too.

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #94

All downhill from here...
14 Randomly Chosen Countries And The Point At Which The Reached Their Peak In The FIFA World Rankings

1. Belarus (57th from June to September 2008 - currently 84th)
2. Cameroon (11th from November 2006 to January 2007 - currently 14th)
3. Canada (40th in December 1996 and January 1997 - currently 90th)
4. Costa Rica (17th at various points between May 2003 and January 2004 - currently 53rd)
5. Finland (33rd in March 2007 - currently 55th)
6. India (94th in February and March 1996 - currently 143rd)
7. Japan (9th in February and March 1998 - currently 35th)
8. Paraguay (8th in March and July 2001 - currently 17th)
9. Poland (16th in September 2007 - currently 34th)
10. Romania (3rd in September 1997 - currently 21st)
11. San Marino (118th in September 1993 - currently 201st)
12. South Africa (16th in August 1996 - currently 76th)
13. Tunisia (19th in February 1998 - currently 46th)
14. Turkey (5th in June 2004 - currently 10th)


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