Friday, July 31, 2009

Just One Scudetto: Serie A Season Preview 2009/10

Something new for you now on SPAOTP. Here's Sp3ktor with the first in a regular series of round-ups on Italian football - and what better way to start than a look at each of the twenty participating clubs.

Very much a yo-yo club, these close neighbours to the Milanese giants finished a creditable 11th last season. Such is the way in Italian football, only seven of the teams in Serie A are starting with the same head coach as they started the previous season. Atalanta's coach - former Gazza team-mate Angelo Gregucci - is one of the new appointments. His only previous Serie A coaching experience is as assistant to Roberto Mancini at Fiorentina, and a disasterous five-week spell as manager of Lecce. Bodes well, then.

The club that took David Platt to Italy in 1991 returns to the top flight as champions of Serie B. They could struggle, though, as the mastermind of their promotion, coach Antonio Conte, has left the club. In just over a year he turned a team facing relegation into champions. Of course being a stalwart of Juventus in the Nineties and the manager's position there going spare, all the attention he got inevitably led to him being linked with the job - attention Bari didn't like, obviously. Giampiero Ventura, a journeyman coach who's seen his last two Serie A teams relegated has taken the helm. Bari's badge reminds me of cornflakes.

It took a last day victory to keep Bologna in Serie A in their first season back in the top flight. New man in charge, Giuseppe Papadopulo, is their sixth head coach in just over three years. He has a good record of getting promotions so perhaps they're thinking a bit more long term with this appointment.

The Sardinian club finished comfortably mid-table last campaign, winning as many as they lost and having a goal difference of -1. Not bad considering they started by losing their first five games under new head coach Massimiliano Allegri (left) - a young coach with a solid reputation in the lower leagues.

With manager Walter Zenga crossing Sicily to coach their bitter rivals Palermo, Catania have picked a very inexperienced coach in Gianluca Atzori to try and keep them in Serie A for a third season. They finished 15th last time out but that was more down to them taking their foot of the gas after they achieved safety - losing six of their last eight. They have an elephant on their badge; the only other club I can think of with that is Coventry City. Their kit seems to be modelled on Crystal Palace, even down to the white-with-red-and-blue-sash away kit.

Chievo Verona
Chievo seriously struggled at the start of their first season back in the top flight picking up just 9 points in their first 17 games. The appointment of Mimmo Di Carlo as head coach turned their fortunes around, seeing them lose just four games in the second half of the season. Most of these were draws, however, so they only just escaped a quick return to Serie B.

Mired in recent controversy, Fiorentina were given more than a slight helping hand in getting back to Serie A after reforming in 2002. They're back to winning ways too having secured a second consecutive Champions League qualification. Manager Cesare Prandelli is the current Serie A Coach of the Year.

Genoa have been in storming form under coach Gian Piero Gasperini since rising from Italy's third tier in 2006. Both seasons in the top flight have seen them qualify for Europe despite having a very thin squad and regularly losing their best players to bigger clubs. 34-year-old Hernan Crespo from Inter will be leading the line for them this campaign, having to fill the boots of 24-goal-scoring Milito who goes in the other direction. Genoa are one of the few clubs to retain the word 'Cricket' in their full title (Napoli and Milan dropped it years ago). If that's not a good enough reason to like them, I don't know what is.

The dominant team since the Calciopoli scandal in 2006, Inter have won the last four Scudetti and with the Special One in charge there's not much to suggest any different this season. They've lost the league's top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic but seeing as they've got Samual Eto'o and a wad of cash in return, there shouldn't be too many grumbles on the blue side of Milan.

Being runners up last season wasn't good enough for the board at Juve and Claudio Ranieri was out on his ear. His replacement is Ciro Ferrara, a former team captain and latterly youth team coach in his first manageial position - an interesting choice for such a high profile job. The Old Lady welcomes back one of her favourite sons in the shape of 35-year-old Fabio Cannavaro after three seasons at Real Madrid. Regular readers of the Bundesbag on these pages will be intrigued to see how Diego, their €24.5m summer signing from Werder Bremen, performs in Serie A.

Although winners of last season's Coppa Italia, Lazio fans have had to settle for mid-table mediocrity since finishing third in 2007. Davide Ballardini, who was in charge of Palermo last campaign, is new in post following Delio Rossi's decision to step down.

Winners of the Serie B play-off, the Tuscan club enjoyed a brief period of modest success a few years back under Roberto Donadoni. After he left to take up the role of national team coach things all went a bit pear-shaped (for both parties). Currently managerless with the Italian Football Federation blocking the permanent appointment of stand-in coach Gennaro Ruotolo because of insufficient coaching badges.

The headlines may be all about the departure of Kaka but this season is the one where Milan have to get used to life without Maldini. Ancelotti, of course has gone to Chelsea and is replaced by local hero Leonardo, in his first managerial role; he should certainly provide his opposite number at Inter with a run for his money, if only at the press conferences. Honestly, this guy makes Mourinho look like the bloke who collects the sun lounger money.

Roberto Donadoni makes his return to management after a disasterous tenure as national team coach. Napoli had a decent enough start last season but trailed off to finish mid-table. Nowhere near the team they were in the Eighties, they're doing ok considering they've died and been reborn since. Napoli are owned by film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis - nephew of Dino.

Palermo have been a surprise package since returning to Serie A after a thirty-year absence in 2004 and have been buzzing around the UEFA spots since then. The biggest news for them is the installation of Walter Zenga as head coach from fierce local rivals Catania. They play in pink - live with it.

Parma make a return to Serie A after a season down in the second tier. While the heady days of the milk-carton funded mid-nineties are far behind, it was only a handful of seasons ago this club was getting regular UEFA Cup football - even reaching the semis in 2005. Their head coach Francesco Guidolin has made a habit in his professional career of returning to clubs, playing for Verona in four separate stints and having as many periods as coach of Palermo.

Last season was the worst for Roma under coach Luciano Spalletti, having to settle for a Europa League spot after getting used to Champions League football. They've finished runners-up four times since their last title in 2001. They'll be doing very well to get that high this season, especially if they lose Daniele de Rossi to Arsenal, as has been strongly rumoured (but then every decent centre half in the world is being linked with The Gunners). Supporters will be pleased though to see that Mr Roma, Francesco Totti, has signed a new five-year deal (he'll be 37 by the end). The club was formed in a merger at the behest of Mussolini. Don't hold that against them, though.

Samp arrived back in the top flight strongly in 2003 but since only just missing out on a Champions League spot in 2005 they've been pretty ordinary, finishing 13th last season. Luigi Del Neri takes over as head coach, joining from Atalanta. He took over as manager of Porto after Jose Mourinho left, only to be sacked before the season even started. It was the second time that had happened to him so don't be surprised if someone else is in charge come the opening day. Sampdoria have Cassano: that makes them worth watching.

More famous for its bi-annual horse race Il Palio, Siena have been enjoying themselves in Serie A. A lower league side for much of their history, Siena are beginning their seventh consecutive season in the top flight. They're hardly setting the division on fire but they do well enough. Their head coach is Marco Giampaolo: he's one of the very few managers not new in post.

If Udinese could keep together a run of the form they are capable of, they could be a major force in Italian football. As it is, they tend to fall away at the end or struggle if they're distracted by European qualification. They qualified for the Champions League in 2005 and a repeat certainly isn't beyond them. This will be head coach Pasquale Marino's third season in charge - a veritable eon in Serie A terms.

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #124

Maybe not goodbye, but farewell...
15 Quotes From Sir Bobby Robson

Sir Bobby Robson, former manager of Ipswich Town, Newcastle United and England, died today aged 76 after a long battle with cancer. Before a more formal tribute on our part, here are some of Sir Bobby's many utterances that made us laugh over the years and endeared him to football fans the world over.

1. “Ray Wilkins' day will come one night.”

2. “He never fails to hit the target. But that was a miss."

3. “We didn't underestimate them. They were just a lot better than we thought.”

4. “Eighteen months ago Sweden were arguably one of the best three teams in Europe, and that would include Germany, Holland, Russia and anybody else if you like.”

5. "We can't replace Gary Speed. Where do you get an experienced player like him with a left foot and a head?"

6. "People want success. It's like coffee, they want instant."

7. “The first ninety minutes of a football match are the most important.”

8. "I've had to come out of the dressing room because I don't want to get too excited."

9. “Well we got nine and you can't score more than that.”

10. “Jenas is a fit lad. He gets from box to box in 90 minutes.”

11. “I played cricket for my local village. It was 40 overs per side, and the team that had the most runs won. It was that sort of football.”

12. “Players never know why they are taken off or substituted - until they become managers.”

13. “Gary Speed has never played better, never looked fitter, never been older.”

14. “Everyone's got tough games coming up. Manchester United have got Arsenal, Arsenal have got Manchester United and Leeds have got Leeds.”

15. "Steve Hodge has been unfit for two weeks, well, no, for 14 days."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Football Americana Week 19: Mov rules

The American football psyche may have been dominated by the Gold Cup and the All-Star game lately, but the relentless march of Major League Soccer continues. Week 19 got underway at Rio Tinto on Friday, where FC Dallas gave their hosts a fright - briefly.

Jeff Cunningham mugged Real Salt Lake's Will Johnson on 20 yards and fired past Nick Rimando to put FCD ahead in the 13th minute. Eight minutes later the lead was doubled. David Ferreira found Dave van den Bergh with a perfect first-time ball across the box, and the big man made no mistake in beating Rimando.

The second half was a different story. Yura Movsisyan broke the offside trap in the 55th minute to roll the ball past Ray Burse and pull one back. An "interesting" penalty was awarded to RSL in the 60th minute, converted coolly by Robbie Findlay. Cunningham had no such composure, providing Rimando with an easy spot kick save ten minutes later, and from there on in it was all Real Salt Lake. They got their rewards in the 88th minute, Fabian Espindola's cross turned into the Dallas goal by an unfortunate Daniel Torres. Movsisyan made it four, taking full advantage of his pace to beat Burse with Ease for 4-2. FCD's Drew Moor was dismissed in stoppage time for a horror tackle.

There were no goals at Qwest Field, where Seattle Sounders shared the spoils with Chicago Fire. John Thorrington of Chicago picked up a yellow card in the 40th minute for dissent and was sent off for his second in the 54th. It was fully deserved, Thorrington going to ground to put in a clear and cynical foul. Freddie Ljungberg stupidly joined him, getting himself booked for a dive on the hour and then going face to face with the referee to earn a red card.

It was a right old humdinger at Crew stadium on Saturday. Eddie Gaven fired Columbus Crew in front, but the inimitable Dwayne DeRosario was soon presented with an easy chance to level for Toronto FC and made no mistake. Ali Gerba put the Reds 2-1 up and it wasn't until the 76th minute that Steven Lenhard stabbed Crew level. And it was all to come to nought for Toronto as Jason Garey headed in a 92nd minute winner to turn Crew's winning streak at home into a league record. There was plenty of fiesty tackling too.

There was yet more Beckham-based scandal at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, where Goldenspuds had words with a supporter wearing an England shirt. It was Claudio Lopez of Kansas City Wizards who stole the headlines in the 26th minute, taking possession of the ball in the centre circle and hitting a stunning dipping shot past a retreating Donovan Ricketts. From his own half, folks! Not to be outdone, LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan took the ball from David Beckham in the 33rd minute and ran in from 40 yards to drill the ball past Kevin Hartman for 1-1.

New England Revolution picked up a surprise win at Robertson Stadium. Steve Ralston's 133rd MLS assist provided Kheli Dube with a tap-in to defeat league leaders Houston Dynamo 1-0.

It wasn't nearly as close between Colorado Rapids and the struggling New York Red Bulls. The Rapids demolished Juan Carlos Osorio's side, piling yet more pressure on the Red Bulls coach. Jacob Peterson got things off to a great start for Colorado, racing onto a perfect ball across the box from Omar Cummings. Sinisa Ubiparipovic was sent off on the stroke of half time for a tackle from behind - perhaps slightly harsh - and from then on it was over for RBNY. Pat Noonan made it two in the 46th minute, before Nick LaBrocca tapped in a third and Mehdi Ballouchy thumped in a 30-yard free kick to top off the night.

DC United threw away a two-goal lead in California. Christian Gomez put them 2-0 up with a penalty (after arguing with Luciano Emilio about who should take it) and a tap-in from a rebound, but San Jose Earthquakes managed an uncharacteristic fightback. Ryan Johnson took advantage of statuesque defending make it 2-1, and a 62nd minute Cornell Glen penalty secured the point for Frank Yallop's team.

At the end of Week 19, Houston Dynamo continues to lead the West with 32 points despite a defeat, from Seattle Sounders on 29 points. Columbus Crew take over leadership of the West and sit second overall on 30 points, ahead of Chicago Fire with 29. DC United (28), LA Galaxy (28), Chivas USA and Colorado Rapids (both 27) make up the next four.

Full results and standings here.

For more great football writing by Chris Nee, visit

Friday, July 24, 2009

Socrates - London Football Bloggers Meet-Up 1

Here’s a special announcement for those of you that produce football blogs in London and the surrounding areas.

Socrates is a new event where you can get together and meet fellow football bloggers from around the capital to exchange thoughts, ideas and some good old-fashioned banter.

Organised by Some People Are On The Pitch, The Onion Bag and Two Footed Tackle, Socrates will be holding its first get-together in Vauxhall, London on September 9th 2009. The event is sponsored by, the makers of the fabulous micro-Fantasy Football game that’s going down a storm across the web, and they’ll be kindly supplying the food, drink and roof over our head as part of your evening’s pleasurable experience.

So if you’re a football blogger in the London area (or somewhere nearby) and you’d like to come along, visit the Socrates website where you can get your name down on the list and catch up on all the other details about the event.

Look forward to seeing you there!

'I Know The Score' is back!

Everyone loves trying to predict the outcome of a football match, but we know what you're thinking - 'if only I could outscore other decent people like myself who regularly visit Some People Are On The Pitch'? Well now you can with our FA Premier League I Know The Score game for 2009/10!

Many of you will know that last year SPAOTP set up it's own mini-league as part of I Know The Score and this season we're doing the same again. It's very easy to play, so if you haven't taken part before, here's how it all works.

Players score points for their astuteness in guessing the outcomes of each set of games, and the closer they get to the actual results, the more points they score.

But if you're thinking that's a synch, think again. There's a tactical element involved that brings bonus points if you play your chips right. (Don't worry - we're not talking about a new gameshow fronted by Bruce Forsyth…)

Each week you're given two casino-style chips, one called the 'Banker' chip, the other, your 'Insurance' chip. If you feel one of your predictions is a dead cert to come in, you can play your Banker chip against it. If the score matches your prediction, 'happy days' - you'll get double or even triple points.

Conversely, if you think that one of your predictions is looking somewhat shaky, you can play your Insurance chip against it. Why? Because incorrect predictions mean points are deducted from your total and the Insurance chip is a way of making sure that doesn't happen for the match concerned.

Returning to the subject of the Banker chip, you can score even more points by building up your Banker Bonus. If you place the chip correctly, your Banker Bonus will increase to five points. Place it correctly the following week and it'll increase to ten points, then fifteen and so on up to a maximum of twenty which you can maintain week in week out - as long as you correctly place your Banker chip.

So there it is - the SPAOTP I Know The Score mini-league. All you need to do is go along to the FA Premier League's I Know the Score website, register your details and join our Private Mini-League in the Mini-Leagues section. You'll be asked to type in a code number, so enter FC974-QSG to gain you entry to the League.

Once that's done, you're ready to take part when the season starts. Last season's winner was Tokyo Toffeeman who racked up 2,485 points, just 15 ahead of another old friend of ours, ChrissMari. Can they be beaten? Will you be our new champion for 2009/10?

There's only one way to find out. We look forward to seeing your name on the list on August 15th 2009...

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #123

Stand your ground
23 Football Stadium Stands In England That Are Named After Former Players

1. Billy Wright Stand (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
2. Bobby Moore Stand (West Ham United)
3. Brian Clough Stand (Nottingham Forest)
4. Cliff Bastin Stand (Exeter City)
5. Cyril Knowles Stand (Hartlepool United)
6. Colin Bell Stand (Manchester City)
7. Dave Bowen Stand (Northampton Town)
8. David Preece Stand (Luton Town)
9. Don Rogers Stand (Swindon Town)
10. Jimmy Armfield Stand (Blackpool)
11. Jimmy McIlroy Stand (Burnley)
12. Jimmy Sirrell Stand (Notts County)
13. John Charles Stand (Leeds United)
14. Johnny Haynes Stand (Fulham)
15. (Jackie) Milburn Stand (Newcastle United)
16. (Don) Revie Stand (Leeds United)
17. Sir Stanley Matthews Stand (Blackpool)
18. Sir Tom Finney Stand (Preston North End)
19. Sir Trevor Brooking Stand (West Ham United)
20. Stan Cullis Stand (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
21. Stan Mortensen Stand (Blackpool)
22. Steve Bull Stand (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
23. Tommy Johnston Stand (Leyton Orient)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

UEFA Champions League Qualifiers Round Up

The road to the Champions League group stages is long and even more treacherous than Alberto Contador on the mountain stages of the Tour de France.

Of course some clubs are not required to join that road until it becomes a lot wider with tarmac, cat's eyes and those flashing signs warning you against bottle necks at Junction 11. Right now however, we are still at that dusty track stage of the competition where the title winners of leagues ranked between 50 and 53 compete in a two legged round with the reward of a place in the coveted third qualifying round at stake. You'd get pretty long odds on a lot of these teams making it to the big show so let's enjoy them while we can.

Despite what you might think, there are some pretty big names in this round. Last year's heroic underdogs BATE Borisov entered the competition at this stage. They would have made a bob or two from last season's exploits and if they've invested wisely the Belorussians will be confident that they can make a swift return. BATE eased their way past FC Makedonija Skopje from Macedonia 4-0 on aggregate.

Serbian giants Partizan Belgrade may also have their eye on trips to Turin or Madrid later in the year. They are comfortably through after a stonking 12-0 victory over two legs. The second leg finished 8-0 (Cleo scored a hat-trick) and was their biggest ever win in European football. All of which sounds really impressive until you realise that their opponents were Welsh champions Rhyl. Still, you can only beat what's in front of you I suppose.

Winners of the Best Club Name of the Round competition (if there were such a thing) are the Molodovan champions FC Sheriff of Tiraspol. In fact, they are early favorites for the same award in the next round since Inter Turku of Finland failed to shoot the Sheriff, losing out 2-0.

Another recent groupie are Levski of Sofia who, on paper, shouldn't have broken a sweat against the Andorran champions Sant Julia. And indeed they didn't on grass either. 9-0 was the final score. Maryan Ognyanov bagged a brace in the second leg which ended 5-0.

The Slovakian champions Slovan Bratislava are through after beating the Bosnians, Zrinjski. It finished 4-1 overall but Bratislava were a goal down after the first leg and had to pull out some stops to get through. Goals from Juraj Helenar and Gaucho settled the nerves after in the first 20 minutes.

There were some close games. Poland's Wisla Krakow could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Levadia of Estonia in the first leg. The Tallinn club not only held on but manged a last minute winner from Vladislav Ivanov to render the away goal redundant and see the Estonians through.

Another nail-biter was in Kalmar, Sweden, where the Hungarians Debrecen squeaked through. They won the first leg 2-0 with goals by Jozsef Varga and Zoltan Kiss. Varga was on target in the second leg with a precious away goal. However Kalmar stormed back with three goals. It was tense but the Magyars hung on.

While the Swedes crashed out, their neighbours in Denmark are laughing up their sleeves after FC Kobenhavn progressed. Ndoye and Almeida were the goalscoring heroes over the two games for FCK as they demolished Mogren 12 (twelve) - 0.

Fans of rampant commercialism in football will be as delighted as the enemies of romance to hear that Red Bull Salzburg narrowly progressed to the next round at the expense of Bohemians.

The Irish club are strapped for cash and could really use a decent European run. It looked really good for them too after holding the Austrian giants to a 1-1 draw in Salzburg. It was all back to Dublin for the second leg and Bohs almost made it to a second round tie against Dinamo Zagreb. Tragically for them, Patrik Jezek scored for Salzburg with only three minutes on the clock. It finished 2-1 on aggregate. Gutted.

The third qualifying round takes place at the end of the month. This round features the runners-up from Scotland, Holland, Greece, Czech Republic and so on. SPAOTP will be sure to let you know what happens.

Full results are here. Third Qualifying round is here. The story of Red Bull/Austria-Salzburg is here.

Football Americana Week 18: Beckhamania...ish

It seems like an age ago, but we can only begin this weekend's roundup at Giants Stadium last Thursday, where David Beckham made his second Major League Soccer bow for LA Galaxy. In a relatively uneventful game for Beckham (he saved that for the friendly against AC Milan, during which he became involved in an angry confrontation with LA's Riot Squad supporters), the Galaxy swept aside New York Red Bulls, piling the pressure on Juan Carlos Osorio with a 3-1 win.

Alecko Eskandarian netted his second Galaxy goal in only the third minute, turning a man on 30 yards before launching a left-footed rocket past Danny Cepero. Landon Donovan's goal for 2-0 was even better - I can't overstate the quality of these two goals, folks. World class. Eddie Lewis made it 3-0 just before half time, his clean and well-struck volley catching out the awful Cepero. The Red Bulls pulled one back late on through a Juan Pablo Angel spot kick. His second penalty, in stoppage time, was turned onto the post by Galaxy stopper Donovan Ricketts.

The weekend action got underway in Canada, where Dwayne DeRosario emerged from the confetti to put Toronto ahead against his old club, Houston Dynamo, with a typically cool finish past Pat Onstad in the 37th minute. But the Dynamo are nothing if not resilient, and they withstood Reds pressure before equalising through Bobby Boswell, who followed up his own header to level for Houston.

Having thrashed DC United just a couple of weeks previously, Colorado Rapids went 1-0 up at RFK on Saturday through a Bryan Namoff own goal. Within seconds of the start of the second half, Christian Gomez was tripped in the box and Jaime Moreno levelled for United with a criminally good penalty. Ten minutes later, Namoff made amends with a science-defying diving header. And on the hour it was 3-1, Gomez and Fred combining to provide a simple finish for Luciano Emilio.

At Crew Stadium, Real Salt Lake proved no opposition for their hosts. Columbus Crew were 3-0 up by the 52nd minute thanks to Steven Lenhart's poacher's finish and a brace from Jason Garey, the first created by comedy goalkeeping from Nick Rimando. Lenhart teed up Garey's second before RSL grabbed a consolation through Raphael Cox.

It was a late show at Toyota Park as Chicago Fire finally saw off Frank Yallop's San Jose Earthquakes. Cuauhtemoc Blanco brilliantly set up Patrick Nyarko in the 82nd minute and then added a second himself, sending a wonderful stoppage time chip past Joe Cannon, although the goalkeeper could arguably have done better. This was the Fire's first home victory since April.

It was the same outcome on Sunday night as New England Revolution picked up a much-needed win at home to Chivas USA. Kheli Dube scored the first after having one disallowed, rolling the Revs into the lead off a Shalrie Joseph assist. Steve Ralston pounced on a defensive error to add the second, securing the points for Steve Nicol's side.

A quick word of praise too for Seattle Sounders, who packed out Qwest Field for the visit of Chelsea and made one hell of a noise. On the pitch, goals from Daniel Sturridge and Frank Lampard proved just too much for the Sounders but they gave an excellent account of themselves.

Houston's point keeps them in the driving seat, topping the West on 32 points, with the Sounders in second on 28. Chicago lead the East on 28 points followed by DCU on 27, with the next four spots league-wide being held by Columbus, Los Angeles, Chivas and Toronto.

Full results and standings here.

For more great football writing by Chris Nee, visit

Friday, July 17, 2009

The deal of the century?

The ink has only just dried on the contract, but already the fall-out from the deal that will save quite a few of the SPL clubs is starting to accumulate.

At a meeting held at Hampden yesterday afternoon, the 12 clubs that make up the SPL voted to accept a combined ESPN/Sky TV deal worth £65m which will see the broadcasters show 60 games between now and the end of the 2011/12 season. The deal also included an option to extend the contract for a further two years after that.

On the surface, it would be easy to think that all parties to the negotiations walked away from the table with broad smiles on their faces. In what looks like a win-win situation, member clubs get the security of a fixed income for the next few years, while ESPN/Sky adds more product to their already expansive portfolio of football goodness. And for the fans and the clubs, this means transfer money and the prospect of new signings, together with the ability to view their teams in glorious HD-O-vision.

But as the day wore on details started to emerge from the meeting - and it would appear that not everyone was overjoyed at the decision.

Quite simply, the SPL faced a tricky situation. Caught on the back foot and dealt a weak hand going into the negotiations - especially as Rangers and Celtic, the aces in the pack, where busy putting together their own deal - the league and its member teams had no alternative. Finding themselves looking for a deal that would assure the clubs of at least some income (reduced as it would be by some £60m), the league acquiesced.

The vote that required an 8-4 majority was carried in favour of acceptance, but according to St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour, it was not carried unanimously. Although the exact nature of the vote will not be released it is safe to assume that both halves of the Old Firm voted against the deal, with the rest voting in favour.

Lex Gold, chairman of the SPL, said: "We are pleased that in just over three weeks we have been able to strike this deal".

The statement would imply that furious behind-the-scenes negotiations where taking place to secure an even better deal for the SPL, but the harsh reality is that ESPN/Sky where holding all the cards. The league had been under pressure for some weeks now to secure funding for the upcoming season, in a climate in which Scottish sport generally has been taking a battering from all sides. Earlier on this month, the kit suppliers to the Scottish national side, Diadora, went into liquidation, as did Canterbury, a New Zealand company that supplied kits to the Scottish Rugby Union.

The biggest critics of this new TV deal have been the Old Firm. Both clubs have issued statements in the last few hours voicing their opposition to the deal, but have agreed to go along with the wishes of the other teams. The question though is for how long they're prepared to continue letting the tail wag the dog.

Both Rangers and Celtic, along with Aberdeen, had been against signing up with Setanta in the first place, citing their concern over the future financial viability of Setanta. The three teams preferred to enter into the deal offered by BSkyB, which, though worth less money, they felt provided more security. The other nine SPL teams however thought the risk was worth it, especially when taking into account the enormous sums of money on offer at the time. And so, the SPL entered into the now infamous deal with Setanta, valued at approximately £31 million a season, and which is to this date still the most lucrative TV contract in Scottish football history.

We all know what happened next. Setanta overstretched themselves with the various packages they purchased and failed to meet already ambitious subscriber targets, targets which looked even more unrealistic when Setanta won only one of the six big EPL football packages on offer. The Irish broadcaster went into liquidation at the beginning of June, an outstanding payment of £3m to the SPL being paid by the SPL themselves in order - it has been reported - to save some senior clubs from financial ruin.

It emerged in recent days that both Rangers and Celtic had been in private negotiations to launch a bid to purchase the TV rights themselves, given the combined ESPN/Sky deal was very low (£60m less than the previous Setanta deal). But whether the Old Firm would have been able to put together not just the financial package but also the infrastructure to broadcast the games was remains doubtful.

Some saw the move as an attempt to force ESPN/Sky into increasing their offer, using the four Old Firm games as leverage, as these are undoubtedly the biggest draw to any broadcaster looking to show Scottish games. If this was indeed the strategy behind the Old Firm move, then it was one always doomed to fail: both ESPN/Sky make enough money from the EPL rights they have picked up following Setanta's demise that the additional SPL revenue would be a mere drop in the ocean.

Simply put, ESPN/Sky could take it, or they could leave it.

Perhaps in a move to save the deal before ESPN/Sky walked away, the SPL met at Hampden and held a vote on accepting the deal, foregoing its own rule that member clubs must be given two weeks advance notice ahead of any vote on such issues. This didn't go down well with the Old Firm who felt they where not given enough time to put together an alternative offer. But while both clubs have stated that they'll comply with the wishes of the SPL (they have little choice), Celtic chairman John Reid has said he's bitter at having been locked into a deal that will cost his club some £70m over the terms of the contract.

The armchair fans can now look forward to watching 60 games a season, split between Sky and ESPN. For those lucky enough to already have Sky, the games will be free, but those games shown on ESPN, they'll have to pay an extra £9 (if already a Sky subscriber) or £12.99 on a pay-per-view basis.

That neither Rangers or Celtic are happy with the new deal means that while peace reigns for now, don't expect this to continue. John Reid has said that both his club Celtic and Rangers would "continue to consider alternative plans for the future", meaning that at the end of 2011/12 season, another debate will no doubt rage the future of televised Scottish football and who owns it, and who is going to be showing it.

And they're right to force the discussion.

We have already seen that putting all your eggs in one commercial basket, no matter how large that basket may be, carries with it a big risk. We've seen in the days and weeks following the collapse of Setanta just how many clubs counted their chickens before they hatched. We are currently in the middle of an global recession the world had not seen for a long time, and while ESPN and Sky are both thriving now, what guarantee is there that this state of affairs will continue into the future?

Both ESPN and Sky have bet heavily on the continuing appeal of the EPL, but the balance of power seems to be shifting away from the English leagues, and over to La Liga. Spain, reigning European Champions and tipped by many for a glittering World Cup 2010 campaign would appear to be the place to be.

Real Madrid have spent more money on three players than the entire Setanta deal would have paid out over the duration of their deal with the SPL had they survived. With Barcelona installed as the current Champions League winners, it is to Spain that the big guns are heading - no doubt lured by big money, a lovely climate, away from the top clubs in England, with its 50% tax rate and overly physical play, if Andrei Arshavin and Ronaldo are to be believed.

If the appeal of the EPL is indeed declining (evidenced by the lack of activity in the transfer window of players coming to play in the EPL), it's not unreasonable to expect both ESPN and Sky to be looking to renegotiate their deals in years to come. And if that happens, you only need to look at the debacle in Scotland to see what that would mean.

Perhaps the SPL should have given the Old Firm more time to put together an alternative. Perhaps this alternative could have seen the clubs take ownership of their own TV rights, removing the dangers of tying themselves to deals with companies as much at risk as any other in this fragile economic climate. We'll never know.

In the boardrooms of the clubs outside of Glasgow, sighs of relief can be heard. In the medium-to-short term, Scottish football can continue. Perhaps not with the grand plans it had a year ago when the Setanta deal was signed, but continue it will.

For now.

For more articles about Scottish football, please visit Inside Left.

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #122

Wot no 'Special One'?
16 People That Featured In The 2008 Chelsea FC Version Of The Board Game 'Monopoly'

1. Steve Clarke (Old Kent Road)
2. Marcel Desailly (Whitechapel Road)
3. Peter Bonetti (Euston Road)
4. Petr Cech (Pentonville Road)
5. Ashley Cole (Whitehall)
6. Nicolas Anelka (Marlborough Street)
7. Joe Cole (Vine Street)
8. Didier Drogba (Strand)
9. Michael Ballack (Trafalgar Square)
10. Gianluca Vialli (Leicester Square)
11. Ron 'Chopper' Harris (Coventry Street)
12. Frank Lampard (Regent Street)
13. Peter Osgood (Oxford Street)
14. Gianfranco Zola (Bond Street)
15. John Terry (Park Lane)
16. Luiz Felipe Scolari (Mayfair)

Equivalent spaces for the UK Standard edition shown in brackets. Any Chelsea personnel you think should have been included, and if so, on which space? Leave us a comment and let us know...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Football Americana Week 17: Greenwash

There is probably only one place to start our weekly round up of the MLS and that's in LA. Not just because of the much publicised spat between the Galaxy's two alpha's, Landon Donovan and the other fella but because the Super Classico took place last weekend between the Galaxy and their house-mates Chivas USA. And it was Edson Buttle who stole the headlines for about five minutes after his glancing header beat Zack Thornton in the Chivas goal to settle the derby.

That's three wins on the bounce for the Galaxy who will, no doubt, be hoping that they can take advantage of Whatsisname's return and push on for a place in the Post Season. Assuming he can make peace with Landon that is.

From LA to San Jose and a rare goal from Darren Huckerby. The Earthquakes striker was always an explosive player and judging by last season, the MLS seems to be his level. However, this year has not been kind to him or his team. The former Norwich, Man City and Newcastle striker's goal proved to be a consolation as his team collapsed to a 3-1 defeat to Toronto. Chad Barrett scored two but there was more than an element of good fortune about his second. Running onto a through ball down the middle, the Earthquake's defender Aaron Pitchkolan looked to have the pass covered only for him to suddenly fall over clutching his groin. Barrett, was free to round the keeper and score. The replay showed no contact between Barrett and Pitchkolan, the poor guy's groin just popped at the worst possible time.

The Earthquakes are languishing at the bottom of the Western Conference and enjoy the dubious honour of being even worse than FC Dallas who got no change from a visit to Colorado. Kosuke Kimura's near post strike was enough for the Rapids to claim the points.

Elsewhere, Columbus and Chicago contrived a goalless draw. Ditto New England and Kansas. So that leaves us in the Pacific North West and Qwest Field, the home of the villainous Seattle Sounders. The thirty thousand plus support base of the 2009 expansion team dominated the popular vote in the line up for the upcoming All Star game against Everton. Despite the vote being open to the entire MLS fanbase, ten of the eleven players selected by the fans were Sounders. Only Landon Donovan survived the Greenwash.

The fan vote represents 25% of the ballot so once the coaches and media had stuffed the boxes with their block votes, a more balanced line up was selected with only two Sounders (Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg) making the team.

On the pitch, the Sounders half-tracks keep rolling across the US Soccer landscape. They entertained Houston in a top of the table clash and emerged 2-1 winners despite going down 1-0 after a well worked goal by Brad Davis. The equaliser came from Freddy Montero who's exquisite half volley was saved off the line by a fantastic clearance from Davis again. The only problem was that the linesman saw it differently and gave a goal. Someone needs to have a word with that fella as it looked pretty clear cut and you wonder if MLS officials need to guard themselves from getting carried away by that Sounders crowd. Anyhoo, shortly after the start of the second half Patrick Ianni's scored with an overhead kick from a corner and Seattle closed the game out.

That's it. Results and tables here. Badly edited highlights below.

Chris Nee is on holiday.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Fantasy League is back!

We know, we know... it is only July but hey - you weren't doing anything else during the Summer break were you?

Yes, it's the wonderful return of the official Fantasy Premier League competition for 2009/10 and more specifically SPAOTP's very own mini-league, custom-made just for you.

This'll be the third year SPAOTP has had a Fantasy Premier League running and we're hoping to attract even more competitors than the 67 we had in 2007/08 and the 121 we had in 2008/09. Chris Gordon was our winner last year with his team Leeds From The Front, but perhaps you can knock him off his perch?

If you think you can, here's what you do. First, take a trip to the FA Fantasy Premier League website and register to play. It's absolutely free and no harm will come to you.

Once you've done that, you need to pick a squad of fifteen players that you think will play well enough to score a hatful of points for you every week (more of which in a moment). From that fifteen, you'll choose eleven to play in your starting line-up whenever there's a match on and it'll be those eleven that will get you the points (hopefully).

The trick is to have enough decent players in your squad while not sending its overall value higher than the virtual sum of £100 million. Each player has a 'fantasy' value, and that generally reflects how good he is, so bear that in mind when you're about to pick Gerrard, Lampard and Robinho as it might leave you with no money left to buy any defenders or a goalkeeper.

And how are the points scored? Well your goalkeeper and defenders pick up four points for keeping a clean sheet (providing they've played for an hour or more in any given match), plus they'll pick up an extra six points for scoring a goal at any point. Midfielders score five points for every goal scored plus one for keeping a clean sheet and Attackers score four points for every goal they stick in the back of the net.

There are also added points if your player's voted one of the best in a match or has assisted a goalscorer, just as there are points deducted for missing a penalty or receiving a red or yellow card. Oh and if your nominated captain scores any points, they'll be doubled - a handy tip worth remembering, if you want our opinion...

Once you've had a quick look at all the rules and regulations that are available on the site, all you need to do is to name your team, give them an appropriately coloured strip (utterly pointless, but it gives your team some sort of identity) and find the option to 'Join a private league'. You'll be prompted to enter a code number, and that's where you'll type in 119473-33332 in order to be part of the SPAOTP Fantasy League experience.

And that's about it. All you need do then is sit back and wait for the action to begin on August 15th, assured in the knowledge that dozens of other players will soon be bowing to you as you race to the top of the league table. Well that's the theory anyway.

Feel inspired? Want to take part and help us make it an even bigger and better competition than last year? Then what are you waiting for - get along to the Fantasy League site and register your team now!

Oh and before we go - watch this space for more news about our other great games that you can play during the course of the season. We don't want you getting bored now, do we?

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #121

LOAD "football"...
17 Computer Games Endorsed By Famous Players

1. Brian Clough's Football Fortunes (ZX Spectrum/C64, 1987)
2. Diego (Amiga, 1992)
3. Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (ZX Spectrum/C64, 1989)
4. Franco Baresi's World Cup Kick Off (Amiga, 1992)
5. Gary Lineker's Hot Shot (C64, 1989)
6. Gazza's Superstar Soccer (Amiga/C64/Atari ST/ZX Spectrum, 1989)
7. Graeme Souness Soccer Manager (ZX Spectrum, 1992)
8. Graham Taylor's Soccer Challenge (Amiga, 1992)
9. John Barnes European Football (Amiga CD32, 1994)
10. Kenny Dalglish Soccer Manager (ZX Spectrum, 1990)
11. Kevin Keegan's Player Manager (Super Nintendo, 1993)
12. Michael Owen's WLS 2000 (Nintendo 64, 2000)
13. O'Leary Manager (Game Boy Color, 2000)
14. Peter Beardsley's International Football (ZX Spectrum/Amiga 1988)
15. Peter Schmeichel Soccer (Amiga, 1994)
16. Peter Shilton's Handball Maradona (C64, 1986)
17. Ronaldo V-Football (Playstation, 2000)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Football Americana Week 16: Happy Days for Cunningham

Another stunted week in Major League Soccer, and another week of surprising results and solid if unspectacular footballing goodness Stateside. The focus was very much on the Eastern Conference as DC, Chicago and Columbus were all in action looking to cement their playoff challenge.

Week 16 kicked off at the altitude of Rio Tinto on Friday. San Jose Earthquakes went ahead just after the hour with a brilliantly taken goal by Arturo Alvarez, darting through with the ball on a string to finish past Nick Rimando in the Real Salt Lake goal. Fabian Espindola had seen plenty of the ball for RSL and created a sackload of chances, but the frustration got to him more than anyone - he was dismissed for scything down Brandon McDonald with 14 minutes to go. RSL still bagged the point, Chris Leitch pinching the ball off Yura Movsisyan's toe but placing it beyond his goalkeeper Joe Cannon.

On Saturday, DC United took their lead in the East to Columbus Crew, for whom a win would be enough send them above United. Tommy Soehn's men took the lead thanks to Christian Gomez who pounced to sweep in a loose ball after 33 minutes. United had enough chances to be home and dry, but it was Crew who found the net, Alejandro Moreno equalising from close range.

With United and Crew sharing the spoils, Chicago Fire had a chance to close the gap. They led Colorado Rapids 2-0 after just 37 minutes. Marco Pappa got the first, bending it confidently into the corner from 12 yards. A towering Wilman Conde header converted a Cuauhtemoc Blanco corner for the second. Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch made a difficult save from a Conor Casey header in the 76th minute but was unable to make the ball safe, allowing Jacob Peterson to tap in the Rapids' consolation.

One goal was enough for Houston Dynamo at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. Kei Kamara headed in a Mike Chabala cross to defeat Kansas City Wizards before whipping a white glove out of his shorts and paying tribute to deceased popstar Michael Jackson, chamone.

Pizza Hut Park hosted the Battle of Ineptitude between FC Dallas and New York Red Bulls, and FCD emerged victorious thanks to a lightning brace from Jeff Cunningham, playing up front to cover for USA Gold Cup pick Kenny Cooper. He got two goals in three minutes, the first a neat finish after a poor backpass by Luke Sassano and the second a tap-in from a pinpoint cross by Dave van den Bergh. Juan Pablo Angel almost missed from a yard, but the cross which he controlled towards the net just squeezed in for 2-1. He thought he'd levelled after half time but was ruled offside, a sight familiar to supporters of Aston Villa.

Alecko Eskandarian stole the headlines after moving to Los Angeles Galaxy from Chivas USA last week and scoring on debut against New England Revolution. The finish was simple but assured, Eskandarian turning a deep, diagonal cross into a gaping net to give the Galaxy all three points at HDC.

Results in the East leave DC United top from Chicago Fire, but both have 24 points. Houston Dynamo (31), Chivas USA (27) and Seattle Sounders (25) head up the West. Columbus Crew, Toronto FC and Colorado Rapids currently occupy the remaining playoff spots.

Full results and standings here.

For more great football writing by Chris Nee, visit

Obscure Kits From British Football History #10

Sheffield Wednesday (home)
1965 - 1972

As a football fan of some advanced years there comes a point in your life when you find yourself pondering some of the quirkier aspects of the game's history. Things like 'When was the last time Ron Atkinson was a colour other than orange?' or 'Was Bryan Robson born injured?'

One such question that recently crossed my mind (and frankly didn't have far to travel) was "Why are Arsenal the only team to wear a shirt that has white sleeves contrasting another main colour?" It did, honestly.

The answer I arrived at was a simple one. Arsenal's white sleeve motif is not unique in the history of world football. North of the border, Hibernian have worn green shirts with white sleeves for many years while other teams such as Middlesbrough and Manchester City have had brief dalliances with the same white-sleeved approach in the not-so-distant past.

One team, however, abandoned the longest traditions of their football kit history for seven long years back in the mid-60's as they opted for white sleeves on a blue shirt. They were Sheffield Wednesday.

If ever a club remained unflinchingly attached to the uniform they wore, it was this one. For as long as anyone can remember, Sheffield Wednesday have always entered the field of play wearing blue and white striped shirts - even going back to the late-19th century when they were simply known as 'The Wednesday'.

So many players have been seen wearing those stripes over the years: Tommy Craig, Terry Curran, Carlton Palmer (OK, perhaps not Carlton Palmer...) The team's on-field identity remained strong and resolute throughout, yet between 1965 and 1972 it was all thrown away in favour of the strip you see here.

And make no mistake - this wasn't a 'here today, gone tomorrow' affair either. This was a genuine attempt at injecting some life into a famous old club at a time when they were on something of a high.

Having established a foothold in the old Division 1 in the late-1950's, The Owls pushed on and reached the FA Cup Final in 1966, although sadly this kit wasn't seen at Wembley thanks to Everton having first choice of shirt colours. No matter - Wednesday's kit was seen by a great many people before it disappeared without trace in 1972, never to be seen again.

From that point onwards it was back to the tried and trusted blue and white stripes, but distinctive though they are, who here would like to see the white sleeves return? I would, but then that's because I have a mind that ponders on quirky stuff like Ron Atkinson's skin colour and Bryan Robson's medical record.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

EPL Talk: Legends of English Football

It's now our great pleasure to point you in the direction of a new series of articles over at EPL Talk that focus on the great players to emerge from the home of football.

Legends of English Football by Paul Bestall gives us a timely reminder of the icons that emerged in England while the sport still retained an innocent joy among its millions of followers.

Long before football went truly global and the money men moved in, England was a land where some of the finest players in the world could be seen every Saturday afternoon up and down the country. Epitomising all the skill and flair we still appreciate to this day, these legends of the English game would carry the dreams of young and old alike with their brilliant playing ability - and all before TV became the norm and decent wages were handed out in abundance.

Legends of English Football gives us the chance to remember some of those great and often overlooked players in history, and Part 1 of the series begins with arguably the best of them all - Sir Stanley Matthews.

For more of the same, keep checking back to as the series continues.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

World Cup Bid 2018: Indonesia

Think of the countries that have hosted World Cups in the past and you'll soon find yourself contemplating some of the legendary names from football history. Brazil, England, Germany, Italy, Argentina… the list goes on, but can you imagine that same list featuring Indonesia? If FIFA's committee of representatives decide to take a more adventurous and imaginative line, you might just find them on it in the years to come.

It's only been seven years since the World Cup first decamped on the Asian continent and if truth be known Indonesia may be overlooked in favour of near neighbours Japan for 2018. That said, many may find it an affront to return to Japan again so soon, so it’s possible Indonesia will benefit from playing the novelty card.

As it is, Indonesia can rely on rather more than just novelty to convince their doubters. Its population of 235 million are football mad and television audiences regularly top everything else on offer. It has one of the fastest growing football markets in the world, and the Indonesian Super League (Indonesia's top flight football competition) is expanding more and more with every passing year.

If FIFA wanted to ride the wave of outright passion and enthusiasm for the game over there, the 2018 World Cup might be the best excuse to do so. There are, however, many question marks hanging over key aspects of Indonesia's bid which FIFA will need some assurances over.

As far as stadia are concerned, there are only three of any note which could be used if a World Cup had to be held in Indonesia tomorrow. The government-owned Bung Karno Stadium (left) in Jakarta is where the national team play. It has a capacity of 88,000 and was the setting for the Final of the 2007 Asian Cup competition. Elsewhere there's the 60,000-seater Palaran Stadium in Samarinda where local team Persisam plays, plus the multi-use Sriwijaya Jakabaring Stadium in Palembang which can seat 40,000.

Many other stadia in Indonesia have capacities between 25,000 and 30,000 and some of these will be upgraded to meet FIFA's minimum limit of 40,000. In addition, many venues have a running track which the world governing body generally frowns upon and would like to see used only sparingly.

So once the existing stadia are upgraded and the new ones are built, Indonesia will have a decent selection of venues available for the tournament, but with so much work to do to turn them into the finished article, FIFA's bid committee will need a lot of convincing that such a huge project can be completed on time.

Of course it's all very well having the stadia, but what if you can't travel easily between them? Here lies another issue for the Indonesian bid. Made up of over 17,500 islands, the country relies heavily on air travel to shuttle anyone affluent enough in and out of the country and between any of its major cities. Here, however, Indonesia is well set up with 161 airports and an extensive domestic airline network. What isn't so impressive, though, is the fact that Indonesia has one of the worst air travel safety records in the world. Hardly inspiring, you'll no doubt agree.

Elsewhere, the only decent rail facilities can be found on Java and Sumatra and all the motorways are tolled - not that that'll be a concern as the cost of privately owning a car makes them a rarity on Indonesia's roads.

Passenger ships run regularly between the islands and the best way to get from A to B is undoubtedly by bus but when half the world descends on this place for a World Cup, you have to wonder whether the existing transport infrastructure will be able to cope.

Dishonesty and devastation
Aside from the stadia and transport issues are some altogether more sinister concerns. Indonesia, like several other south-east Asian countries, has a problem with corruption that infiltrates various aspects of everyday life such as politics, economics and, specifically, football.

Anyone hoping to make a living from coaching can expect to be frustrated and put off reaching any level of greatness. Many of the people that run football in Indonesia are administrating the sport to their own financial benefit, as has been reported by foreigners that have witnessed this first-hand.

Peter Butler, a former West Ham player and coach in Asia was recently quoted as saying: “I myself am owed over $45,000 by my ex-club, Persiba Balikapapan, and over 50 players are presently fighting their cases with FIFPro at FIFA to receive what they are owed.

“There is no protection for coaches and players, and sadly many club officials manipulate the system for their own personal gain, sack coaches and players at will and refuse to pay what is owed on their contracts. The Indonesian FA turn a blind eye."

Whether FIFA choose to turn a blind eye remains to be seen, but the spectre of terrorism is one issue that you can be sure they won’t dismiss. In 2002, the island of Bali was rocked by a bomb explosion which killed 202 people and injured a further 209. The bombing was said to be the work of a violent Islamist group and though several people were convicted, a second incident three years later resulted in 20 more people dying from the work of three suicide bombers.

Indonesia has witnessed several other bombing incidents over the years that may or may not have been carried out by the same terrorist organisation, and security has naturally been stepped up to counter this threat. Only a sustained period of calm, however, will assure FIFA that a World Cup can forge a more peaceful path if it arrives in nine years time.

Let’s not delude ourselves then. Indonesia is without question the rank outsider of all the bidding nations for the 2018 World Cup, and though it isn’t a complete impossibility that the competition will be held there, it is difficult to look beyond the negative issues that need to be resolved.

Yet Indonesia have cleared the first hurdle on the road to hosting glory: believing that they have a right to be ambitious and to submit a bid in the first place. They know that on the football map they are a small entity with an incredibly low profile, but that needn’t always be the case. They are a nation of football-loving people and their appetite for the game deserves to be recognised. FIFA’s body of decision makers will certainly be quick to acknowledge that fact, but the less-palatable realities of Indonesia’s bid will be probably prove a little too hard to swallow.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Friday List of Little or No Consequence #120

Poor ex-samples
19 Players That Failed Drugs Tests

1. Frank de Boer
Former Dutch international defender. Tested positive for nandrolone while playing for Barcelona in 1994. Joined Rangers in 2004.

2. Lee Bowyer
Formerly of Leeds, Newcastle and West Ham. Tested positive for cannabis in 1995 and banned for several months. Made one appearance for England in 2002.

3. Chris Armstrong
Formerly of Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Bolton. Tested positive for cannabis in 1995 and banned for four matches.

4. Mark Bosnich
Former Australian international goalkeeper. Tested positive for cocaine while playing for Chelsea in 2002 and banned for nine months. Claims he'd drunk someone else's drink which had been spiked.

5. Danny Cadamarteri
Formerly of Everton, Bradford and Sheffield United. Tested positive for ephedrine in 2005 and banned for six months. Claims the substance formed part of a flu remedy he'd taken.

6. Fernando Couto
Former Portuguese international. Tested positive for nandrolone in 2001 while playing for Lazio and served a four month ban.

7. Edgar Davids
Former Dutch international midfielder. Tested positive for nandrolone in 2001 while playing for Juventus. Served a four month ban.

8. Rene Higuita
Former Colombian international goalkeeper and Scorpion Kick specialist. Tested positive for cocaine in 2004 while playing in Ecuador. Banned for six months before being caught again.

9. Willie Johnstone
Former Scotland international winger. Tested positive for the stimulant Fencamfamin during the 1978 World Cup. Accidently taken as part of an over-the-counter medicine.

10. Bernard Lama
Former French international goalkeeper. Tested positive for cocaine in 1998 and banned for two months. Was briefly coach of the Kenyan national football team in 2006.

11. Stan Lazaridis
Former Australian international. Tested positive for Finasteride while playing for Perth Glory in 2007. Finasteride is a prescription anti-alopecia medication but can be used to cover other performance-enhancing substances.

12. Diego Maradona
World football superstar and currently Argentinean national team coach. Tested positive for cocaine in 1991 while playing for Napoli and suspended for 15 months. Tested positive for ephedrine during the 1994 World Cup and was sent home.

13. Adrian Mutu
Romanian international striker. Tested positive for cocaine in 2004 while playing for Chelsea. Banned for seven months by the Football Association before joining Juventus.

14. Shaun Newton
Formerly of Charlton, Wolves and West Ham. Tested positive for cocaine in 2006 following The Hammers' FA Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough and banned for seven months.

15. Quim
Portuguese international goalkeeper. Tested positive for Nandrolone and consequently missed the 2002 World Cup Finals.

16. Romario
Former Brazilian international striker. Tested positive for Finasteride in 2007 despite claiming he was taking the substance as part of an anti-baldness treatment. Banned for four months.

17. Euzebiusz Smolarek
Formerly of Feyenoord and Borussia Dortmund. Tested positive for cannabis in 2002 and banned for two European matches by UEFA. Consequently nicknamed 'The Hash Bomber' by Feyenoord fans.

18. Jaap Stam
Former Dutch international defender. Tested positive for Nandrolone while playing for Lazio in 2002. Went on to join Milan.

19. Abel Xavier
Former Portugal international defender. Tested positive for anabolic steroid Methandrostenolone in 2005 and banned by UEFA for twelve months. Joined Middlesbrough in 2006.


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