28 May, 2009

Final justice

The Champions League final was over before it began. Going into the game Manchester United were, for better or for worse, red-hot favourites, with critics pointing to the semi-final dismantling of an Arsenal team who, like Barce, know only one way to play. To make matters worse for the Catalans, they were missing three out of their four first-choice defenders and as such, were forced into incorporating midfielder Yaya Toure and the aging Carlos Puyol in unfamiliar defensive roles. Targeting this perceived weakness, Ferguson deployed a hardworking and determined midfield four of Giggs, Carrick, Anderson, and Park Ji-Sung to close down the deadly Barce midfield, and then pick a pass to get Rooney and Ronaldo running at the make-shift backline. It was a grave mistake.

The first ten minutes were an unfortunate microcosm of Ronaldo’s out of control ego. Following a confidence-inspiring freekick on target, his quick and predictably direct, runs followed by a fleeting long-range shots, simply frustrated the United players around him. Following this early pressure, United allowed Barce to start playing that dangerous brand of football they’ve showcased all season, exemplified by perhaps the most impressive goal-scoring ratio of the modern era. The creativity that fostered such an unprecedented dominance in the Spanish domestic league slowly started to dominate the English Champions.

Ultimately, the first half was epitomised by a Barcelona side enjoying their predisposition to possession, a characteristic United seemed to indulge by not getting tight to their men or attacking the loose ball with the conviction expected. The Manchester midfield was slow, both mentally and physically, when Barce were in possession or chasing the ball. Ronaldo continued to run head-down and aimlessly for ten minutes before Barce opened the scoring, a mistake from which no lessons were learned. The precise, metronomic passing of the Barce midfield disoriented United, before Eto’o floored Vidic with a simple dummy and toe-poked an early shot past Van der Sar. From then on Barce were quite simply on another plain, strolling every inch of the Stadio Olimpico with the pomp expected from a team of this composite talent. Every Barce pass was quick and sharp, every United pass was under-hit and panicked. In short, Barce were everything United were not: driven, calm, accurate and, more importantly, onside. The first half was played out with increasingly predictable regularity as Barce mesmeric superstars flexed their muscles, buoyed on by the biggest stage imaginable.

While in many ways United limped over the line to a third consecutive Premier League title, Barce romped to La Liga glory with a 6 – 2 demolition of rivals Real Madrid. The second half of the Final simply consolidated and realised this difference in group ability and determination. United continued frustrating each other with misplaced passes and unexpected errors, while Barcelona were relaxed in possession, commanding the respect often forgotten by pampered Premier League footballers, used to an easy win. Tevez was brought on for the ineffective and blundersome Anderson before Berbatov replaced Giggs to give United a 4-2-4 formation. Yet, with Ronaldo neutralised by the excellent Puyol, in new territory at right back, and Rooney increasingly hugging the touchline, United failed to produce any inspiration. By definition inspiration cannot be produced, simply witnessed, and United’s second half was another example of failed attempts, off-side runs and vacant defending. From an innocuous string of passes down the right side Xavi whipped in an inch-perfect cross that Messi was able to meet with what can only be described as grace. It was one of those moments where time seemed to stand still, and from the moment the ball left Xavi’s foot, the die was cast. The remainder of the match was simply a formality.

While the result might not have surprised too many people, the manner of Barce’s victory certainly might have done. Barcelona’s domination of the Spanish League was dismissed by the arrogance of the English, because after all, we’re told week-after-week that La Liga and Serie A are nothing compared to the full-blooded, break-neck Premier League. Pre-match, the Spanish were as self-assured as the English, yet ultimately the truth shone through. Barcelona made Manchester United look like a pub team. Outshone in every position on the park, United deferred to hard tackles and long balls within twenty minutes, and it was this lack of imagination and submission to superior ability that destroyed United in the end.

It seems a little self-defeating to highlight particular players for praise, but even amongst the other stars on display, three men in blue and red stood out. They are Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and of course Lionel Messi. Ferguson spoke before the game of Xavi and Iniesta’s ability to put opponents on a “carousel” with their passing, and if anything, they actually superseded the Scotsman’s hyperbole. The ‘pass, move, offer’ school of football was on display for all to see last night, and any doubts that the two Spaniards are currently the world’s two best midfielders evaporated before half-time. And little Lio Messi? Unplayable from start to finish, bouncing off tackles, running at defenders, and constantly on the lookout for that moment of innovation to unlock the Premier League’s meanest defense.

Put short, the self-congratulatory and onanistic undertones of English football were ultimately undone this year, and every minor or major battle was won by the Spanish champions. The evening was billed as Manchester United vs Barcelona, Ronaldo vs Messi, Ferguson vs Guardiola. The representatives of the English League were undermined in every respect by their own arrogance, laziness and lack of imagination. A club owned by a supporters collective and sponsored by UNICEF destroyed the ultimate symbol of global footballing business. It was the final the world had been waiting for.

Last year, a moment of individual brilliance from Paul Scholes put United above Barca in a second. A year on, 93 minutes of footballing perfection undid everything. The gulf, if you’re a United fan, was terrifying.

14 April, 2009

Beat the Spread

Betting on football is great. You know the drill…wake up late on a Saturday morning, stroll down for a cheeky fry-up then spend the next twenty minutes pouring over the Billy Hill Long List picking your accumulator…it’s bliss. Anyway, four Football League players have found themselves in hot water this week after allegedly betting against their own team, Accrington Stanley, to lose to Bury at the end of last season. It’s taken the FA ten months to assemble a crack-team of monkeys capable of blowing this case wide-open, and having spectacularly failed to do that, they’ve just bugged a couple of lamps and sent a patsy in ‘undercover.’ Regardless of how they assembled their evidence, word on the street is that this is the first time the FA has actually acted against players involved in betting on their own team to lose. Pretty low, eh lads? Four of those charged – Jay Harris, David Mannix, Robert Williams and Peter Cavanagh – were registered with Accrington Stanley at the time of the game (Harris and Cavanagh both actually played), while Andrew Mangan was registered with Bury.

All five are reported to have placed bets on Bury to win the match, which they did with a 2 – 0 victory. Mannix is alleged to have placed stakes of approximately £4,000; Mangan £3,500; Harris £2,000; Williams £1,000; and Cavanagh a big-spending £5 accumulator. Several high street bookies, including Billy Hill and Coral, stopped taking bets on the match after noting suspicious ­betting patterns involving rather “larger-than-normal” bets in specific parts of the country, including Liverpool. Reports at the time said £300,000 had been wagered compared to the typical average of £20,000 for a game of this somewhat dubious ‘stature.’ In order to place them above suspicion, the FA changed the officials and also sent an independent assessor to monitor the match.

Interestingly Harris, now registered with Chester City, has also been charged in relation to betting on a game involving his new club and another two League Two fixtures. Quite a tasty lad then, must have an expensive hobby or two if he’s so keen on making easy money. The heart says niche prostitute addiction, but my head says he’s got a problem with the drugs. Cavanagh has also been charged with further breaches in relation to betting on another Accrington Stanley match in which he played, and on a number of other League Two matches. Sounds like a real class act too.

The club issued this helpful statement yesterday: “Accrington Stanley are aware that two of our players have been charged by the Football Association in connection with betting on football matches. They have until later this month to respond to the charges, and we will wait until the Football Association reach a final verdict before any action is taken by the club.” Thanks for that guys, informative as ever.

No Hair on the Wicket

One of the best things about the internet is being able to make long-lasting friendships with people on the other side of the world. One of the worst things however is that these ‘friendships’ can often morph into sordid sexual role-plays, where young girls are manipulated into taking their shirts off by drunk, fat football fans. So just like a town centre Yates’ Wine Lodge on a Saturday night then. This week however, one particularly bad 41-year-old pervert has been jailed for posing as a teenager and luring young girls into stripping for him live over webcam. Paul Quinn, posing as 18-year-old Paul Wilson, somehow managed to convince one 15-year-old to take all her clothes off for him while he presumably sat in his own filth, cheeseburger in one hand, edging himself with the other.

You might justifiably ask if in its absence, has STT suddenly changed from a football blog to an amateur Crimewatch blog? No, is the unequivocal answer, because you see Mr Quinn was eventually caught by the polis after one girl identified him via a distinctive Celtic tattoo he reportedly always boasted about. Fiscal deputy Ward said: “On a number of occasions he asked her to remove her clothing. He did not show her who he was and having been repeatedly asked to do so, although she was very uncomfortable she did on one occasion do it (strip).”

Upon raiding his Midlothian home the filth found a huge haul of child pornography (more than 500 images of girls aged as young as six) on his computers, as well as a huge cache of hot video clips saved from the jailbaits’ webcams. Some of the files recovered were apparently rated at the highest level on the scale police use to measure depravity. Now I don’t know much about this but it sounds pretty fun, I’d hate to know where I might sit on this scale.

Quinn’s defence in court yesterday? He is simply “addicted” to the behaviour and needs help. Yeah fair enough mate.

01 April, 2009

Marry Mii! Or don’t.

Those regular readers will undoubtedly be familiar with the ever escalating love saga between ex-Liverpool nearly-man Jermaine Pennant and slutty topless model Amii Grove (the extra ‘i’ is for ‘interracial’). 2008 saw it peak and trough like a Shakespearean emotional rollercoaster, with Amii starting the year by kicking the “love rat” to the curb after the not-exactly-intelligent Pennant decided to cheat on her while being filmed by their house’s CCTV cameras. He spent the following ten or so months routing through her bins and just generally following her around until finally late in year he cornered her and proposed.

Now what many people don’t realise is that Page 3 girls are susceptible to that trick from Austin Powers, only if you ask them the same question three times they have to say ‘yes’, not tell the truth. How else do you think they end up being such ho-bags? Anyway, the rest as they say is history. Or is it???

Well no, because as quickly as this heavenly coupling solidified their love and commitment in a £38,000 diamond, it’s all over again. Amii has run away to presumably become a bottomless model, and Pennant has done the sensible male thing and just got back together with his ex-girlfriend, someone apparently famous called Jennifer Metcalfe. But when you’ve been adorned with a ring worth the best part of £40,000 what do you do if it all goes tits up? Embrace the modern age of course and sell it on eBay!

The 2.05 carat ring, which has received 13 bids up to a price of £20,502 at the time of writing, appears to have been posted by Amii herself. Not exactly the most eloquent prose, but she’s got great cans so we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt: “This is the engagement ring of Amii Grove, the ex fiance of a well known Premiership Football star. It is a beautiful ring, and was brought last November, and was worn for only a month and a half as the couple split on new year’s eve 2009. It is a real eye catching ring, with a large diamond in the centre of the ring, on the actual band it has small diamonds going all the 3 quarters of the way around the ring on the top bottom and middle. It is a beautiful ring. The Ring was valued at £38,000. A donation will be made to Brake charity which is the chsrity Amii Grove supports since losing her brother last july 2008 to a quad crash.”

You might justifiably ask why not just give the ring back to Jermaine? Well, word on the street is that he actually refused to accept it after using her Mercedes as part exchange for a new Ferrari. What a class act. Let’s be honest though, when you genuinely propose to your girlfriend in a graveyard, how else do you expect it to end?

16 March, 2009


This week the highs and lows of a Premiership footballer’s pampered life takes us to the quaint Conservative Party haven of Knutsford in Cheshire. Having previously hosted scenes for Spielberg's Empire of the Sun and George C. Scott's Patton, shoppers were witness to a different kind of scene altogether recently as squad cars full of police rushed to apprehend two men “of African descent,” suspected of “casing” a jewelry shop. Ageing and overweight CCTV operators, already alarmed at seeing two black men walking up their North Country High Street, became even more suspicious when they spotted the two men looking in the window of a local jewelry shop. Grabbing batons, handcuffs and knuckledusters, Cheshire county police raced gleefully to the scene of the reported crime only to find none other than Everton's club-footed failure Victor Anichebe, accompanied by a loyal homie.

Hilariously dubbed a “Premiership ace” by The Sun, Anichebe is currently injured and out for the season, spending most days counting his cash, masturbating and playing Pro Evo. Not simultaneously though. That would take about five hands. This particular day however, he had taken a day off from home life to hobble around town looking for some new earrings, before being swiftly accosted and subjected to rigorous interrogation by Knutsford's finest. Protesting "I'm a footballer - I play for Everton. Why would I want to rob a shop?" disbelieving officers confiscated his crutches and handcuffed his friend during the ensuing “heated dialogue.” With hopes of taking the pair into custody away from the prying eyes of the public for some good old-fashioned brown bashing, disappointed officers were forced to let them go after a crowd gathered and long held dreams of reinterpreted scenes from office-favourite American History X were saved for another day.

Obviously never told that being black in a middle England village is equivalent to wearing a sign saying ‘I will rob your shops, burn your homes and rape your daughters,’ Anichebe continues to remonstrate, demanding a full and unconditional apology from the Cheshire police force in response to the incident. Strangely this appears to still be pending. Conflicting and unconfirmed reports have it that the officers involved were either disgruntled Everton fans furious that Anichebe's six Premier League goals in four years had cost the club roughly £520,000 a piece, or simply members of the local BNP out to show a couple of immigrants the strength of standard issue riot boots.

Seriously though, recent claims that racism within the police force is a thing of the past are, frankly, galling in the light if this and other recent events. Further digging here at STT has discovered that the overwhelmingly middle-aged and middle-class demographic of Knutsford favour reading everyone’s favourite hate-rag, The Daily Facist, coincidently the only major news publication not to publish this story. Go figure.

02 March, 2009

Safety First Kids

Often when approaching real life sex with a girl you have to make a difficult choice between club loyalty and using a recognised method of contraception; you either wrap your scarf around your piece in the ultimate show of allegiance, or you bottle it and use an actual condom. Burnley football fans rejoice however because apparently this troubled times are now well and truly behind you!

As part of a drive to encourage a responsible attitude to sex in Lancashire (I think that’s where Burnley is), the club will be giving away free branded condoms at the ground. Presumably this involves the club colours, but rumours have been bouncing around the STT office that the prophylactics will actually each feature one of the players’ or backroom staff’s faces, with kids encouraged to collect the whole team in the style of a Panani sticker album.

The club’s social liaison officer had these sensible words: “Due to the reported rise in STIs, there needs to be a radical and creative approach to ‘normalising’ condomas use and we hope that as well as seeing the fun side, supporters will recognise the serious message behind using Burnley FC-branded condoms.”

Bizarrely though, there two conditions for receiving the freebies; fans must be under 25 and they must complete a chlamydia screening. How incredibly pointless! No-one under 25 cares enough to use condoms, and if you already have chlamydia, then again, why would you bother bagging up!

Thanks to The Spoiler for a guiding hand on this one.


While it might’ve escaped some peoples’ attention, this week it is Carnival in Brazil. For the uninitiated, this is an excuse for all day binge drinking and ridiculously hot girls to not wear tops. Concurrent to all of this are huge parades and probably some political nonsense that no-one else really understands.

Anyway, already it’s proving difficult to write anything about what is essentially just a photo I wanted to bring to everyone’s collective attention. Part of the major parade yesterday in downtown Rio, alongside other equally weird floats, was the above representation of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. Now even putting aside the obvious Spitting Image-esque distortion of his remarkably handsome features, this is plain bizarre in every possible way. Note how he appears to be straddling some kind of golden dungeon for one, but even more distressing is the phantom left testicle flapping out from under his shorts for the whole world to see. Whoever is responsible for this needs some serious mental help.

27 February, 2009

Bad Twin

Travel back in time almost 16 years exactly and jump across the pond to Caeser’s Palace in Las Vegas and you will find yourself at Wrestlemania IX, one of the greatest events in the history of sports entertainment. Why is this relevant you might justifiably ask? Well it’s relevant folks because Sir Alex Ferguson thinks it’s relevant as he has clearly been watching the video over the last few days for ideas.

You see, in this historic wrestling extravaganza evil clown Doink was able to pull a fast one on oversized opponent Kona Krush by producing an identical twin from underneath the ring to knock seven bells out of Krush while he was incapacitated. Ferguson isn’t even oblique about his evil plans: “We have two great Brazilian defenders in Fabio and Rafael and it’s impossible to distinguish who is who. My dream would be to start one and replace him with the other without anyone noticing. They are extraordinary.”

Having already tried this scheme with the purchase of Nani, to swap Ronaldo on and off at will, Ferguson seems now to be confident that he has two players who are actually good so it’s full steam ahead. Of course by joking about this with the press he probably couldn’t get away with it in a proper game, but hell, it’d sure make a great pitch for a high concept sitcom.

Do You Want Chips With That, Love?

Manchester United are so relaxed these days that, rather than actually make their players train during the week, they allow them to just get stoned and appear in the occasional programme for MUTV. While previously this was an egotistical mish-mash of reserve games and masturbatorary player profiles, MUTV has now evolved into a fully-functional media node, producing its own entertainment shows with a view to have a film development department up and running by the end of the year.

Those of you lucky enough to have both a subscription and a free Sunday night were this week treated to the premiere of Red Devil’s Kitchen, in which United resident chef Romain Camos helps footballers prepare a fancy meal. “Traveling all over the world with United, I wanted fans to go behind the scenes and see what I see – a different side to the player and the manager,” enthused Camos. “RDK is a very relaxed programme. I make sure we have some good football banter while we’re preparing the food. And as you might expect when you’re cooking with professional footballers, all the recipes are healthy!”

So in last night’s episode then, first guest was Frenchman Patrice Evra, who was given the opportunity to make his first ever meal for himself. Advisedly not starting with something easy like cheese on toast, Evra plumped for lobster ravioli: “It wasn’t easy but I am very happy. I made the dish with all my heart. It was very funny and a good experience.”

Other Manchester United personalities scheduled to appear on the show include Denis Irwin, Bryan Robson and Sir Alex Ferguson. In anyone needs me I’ll be right here, on the edge of my seat…

Sit Down. Shut Up.

The football world is going increasingly mad. When you go to a game these days you can’t stand up, you can’t drink, you can’t smoke, and now apparently at Middlesbrough, you can’t actually make any noise. At Saturday’s bore draw with Wigan, supporters of the free-falling team were handed out letters telling them to only cheer when the team scores. Seriously. Consider then that Boro have failed to net in more than eight hours at the Riverside, which would obviously render the stadium all the atmosphere of a morgue, or worse still, The Emirates.

The circulated note (uncovered by our good friends over at The Spoiler - click above to enlarge), was sent from safety officer Sue Watson, also asked fans not to stand up too much during games: “I am receiving more and more complaints from our own fans about both the persistent standing and the constant banging and noise coming from the back of this stand. Please stop. Make as much noise as you like when we score, but this constant noise is driving some fans mad.” Stunned supporters couldn’t believe it when the letter was dished out at the Riverside Stadium before Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Wigan. The written request was given out by stewards to fans in the stadium’s South East corner, where many specifically moved last season to create a singing area.

Furious fans have since set up a Facebook group calling for Watson to quit, with one fan intoning: “The letter’s an utter disgrace. The anger and resentment it’s caused shows what a PR disaster it is.” Another supporter told journalistic juggernaut the North East Gazette: “Are they going to give us prompt cards to tell us when we can sing and when we can’t? You would think that given our current league position, the club would be wanting us to help rally the team and get behind them. This is a working class sport and it’s a passionate sport. When we were at Ayresome Park, if you weren’t at the game you used to be able to hear the crowd from the town centre. We need to bring back the Riverside Roar!”

Despite this, last night Boro’s chief operating officer Neil Bausor maintained that the club did still “encourage passionate and noisy support,” adding: “we understand the strength of feeling on this issue and we accept the letter could easily have been misunderstood. We apologise to any supporters who have therefore been understandably annoyed.”

This anti-atmosphere campaign comes just months after the Premier League’s most famous fan, Mr Portsmouth FC, was told to stop singing so much and ringing his bell at Fratton Park because it was disrupting other fans’ enjoyment of the game. Whatever next? A coffee ban in Starbucks? A nudity ban in Browns??!!