31 December, 2007

Gameweek 20 – ‘2008 Mindstate’

Happy almost-New-Year then party people, and what is almost certainly maybe our last post of 2007, our birth year if you will. It’s all change at the top again, with West Ham securing a shock victory over Manchester United to leave the door open for their rivals to close the gap. Chelsea and Arsenal dutifully obliged, and the Gunners are back to the top of the tree after destroying an in-form Everton side at Goodison Park. Fourth and fifth placed Liverpool and Manchester City shared a point on Sunday, in a cagey match that was ruled by a selection of the best defenders in the country.

Elsewhere, for the second time this year, Reading scored 4 away from home and still managed to lose, this time against the resurgent Spurs, spearheaded by an untouchable Berbatov. Blackburn and Aston Villa maintained their excellent recent form, each picking up another 3 points, while Pompey continued to look out of the sorts, going down 1 – 0 at home to Middlesbrough. Bolton, Derby, Newcastle and Wigan all lost once more, making this upcoming January transfer window vitally important for their respective plays for survival.

Finally then, many thanks to all our regular readers for helping to spread the word, and a special mention to all the other football blog owners who have helped us get off the ground. Do them a favour and check out their links down the left-hand side of the page when you’re finished here. Until 2008…keep sniffing…

Premier League Team of the Week (based on OPTA stats, Fantasypremierleague.com ratings and my own expert eye):

Keeper – Shay Given (heroics between the posts, only to be robbed by a terrible offside decision for Chelsea’s winner)

Defence – Jaime Carragher (as good as ever from the ex-England man), Richard Dunne (Berbatov aside, performance of the weekend no doubt), Matthew Upson (snuffed out everything defensively and bagged the winner against the current Champions)

Midfield – David Bentley (instrumental in Blackburn’s win once again), Kieran Richardson (great return to form for the ex-Man United man), Michael Essien (dominating as ever), Mark Noble (ran the game and didn’t give the Man United midfield a chance)

Up Top – Dimitar Berbatov (virtuoso effort from the class Bulgarian, but was this 4 goal masterclass just to put himself in the shop window?), Dave Kitson (another great showing from the Reading man, this time against his childhood team), Eduardo de Silva (scarily efficient finishing from the under-rated Croatian/Brazilian)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – Plenty of contenders as ever, but Berbatov’s hat-trick goal was truly sublime, turning on a sixpence to volley low into the corner of Hahemann’s net.

Nutmeg of the Week – Joseph Yobo on his own goalkeeper Tim Howard was a perfect example for all to see.

Save of the Week – Antti Nieme produced a point-preserving double save late on at Birmingham, first to deny a McSheffrey free-kick and then a Franck Quedrue volley.

Skill of the Week – Yakubu shows what he’s made off, flicking the ball expertly one side of Toure and then outpacing the Ivory Coast defender the other side. Shame he chose to dive rather than have a crack at goal though.

Gaffe of the Week – The aforementioned Yobo/Howard incident.

Miss of the Week – Just to show he’s not perfect, Fernando Torres scuppered two gilt-edged chances to take the points home to Liverpool early in the second half yesterday.

Speculative Effort of the Week – Fabio Aurelio had a couple of lovely sighters, cranking up that Brazilian ultra-swerve to the max, but young Joe Harte was a match.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – Inspirational in Chelsea’s late winner against the struggling Newcastle; delivered the cross, tapped the ball in, and blind-folded the linesman, all in one ninja-esque backflip.

Sniper-on-the-roof of the Week – I really thought Cesc Fabregas was above this kind of play-acting, but his theatrics to get Mikel Arteta sent off were truly appalling. A brush to the upper chest from Arteta’s arm turned into a bullet through the jaw for the young Spaniard.

ASBO of the Week – The normally relaxed Nikolas Bendtner got in on the spreading Premier League violence by clattering Andy Johnson just below the knee before the English forward had even been within 10 metres of the ball.

Karate Kid Homage of the Week – Bruiser Aaron Mokoena resurrects Daniel-son’s famous scissors kick, but not on a potentially Nazi bully who smokes and has a dodgy high-top, but Matt Oakley.

Brotherly Love of the Week – For the third time in a row, it was Anton who came out on top in the battle of the Ferdinands. Aren’t they just a modern day Polynices and Eteocles kids?

Controversy of the Week – Professional waste-of-space Salomon Kalou for pinching Chelsea’s winner from a good 5 yards offside. I don’t wanna sound cynical but I’m guessing the linesman is gonna have a very affluent start to 2008 thanks to Roman Abramovich.

Dodgy Trend of the Week – Clearly the spread of Gallas-esque shit mohawks, with Micah Richards among others now seen sporting them. Unless you’re black and built like a Predator tank, I don’t advise you follow suit…

Return of the Week – Hats off to self-proclaimed “big dog” Kieran Richardson for marking his return to the first team with a goal and an all round excellent performance at the Stadium of Light. Made doubly sweet by the fact that his whore of a cousin Charley Uchea seems to have finally found a corner to go quietly die in.

Jinx of the Week – Portsmouth have now gone over 9 hours at Fratton Park since they last scored. Admittedly that time they scored 7, so maybe they shot their load for the whole year in that one game? I recommend some mild feng-shui, followed by an elaborate exorcism.

Quote of the Week – “I must be the only teetotal player in the Premier League!” exclaimed Man City import Roland ‘Rolandinho’ Bianchi. Well Joey Barton is currently in jail, so make that two of you Roland…

Hero of the Week – Juande Ramos and Gus Poyet for turning things around at Spurs, and finally getting some decent performances out of the team.

Zero of the Week – Given that this is probably the only chance to put him here this year, Christiano Ronaldo gets the STT seal of disapproval this week for missing a penalty and then disappearing off the pitch at Upton Park. Ferguson understandably unleashed his famous hairdryer treatment following the game so let’s hope he managed to spray all that brylcream out of Ronaldo’s hair. The rapist look is so 2005.

Personal Highlight of the Week – Gary McSheffrey aping Gazza and presenting a yellow card to referee Mark Clattenberg after he had dropped it at St Andrews. Kudos as well to the oft-maligned Clattenberg for having a sense of humour and not booking the Birmingham man for the gag.

28 December, 2007

Leg Breakaz 4 Life

In the midst of the post-Rugby World Cup whirlwind of calling all professional footballers wimps and jesses, it seems that some have decided to act out against this. Not however by ceasing to dive and feign injury, but instead by unleashing some of the most vindictive attempts to break opponents’ legs this side of a UFC contest.

In recent months there seems to have been an alarming amount of outright dangerous tackles that anywhere else but on a football pitch, would probably to construed as ABH. Just off the top of the dome I can think of many recent horrors, some of which match the worst tackles I’ve ever seen in history. Efforts from the likes of Ricardo Carvalho, Jon Obi Mikel, El Hadj Diouff and Emmanuel Eboue have beggared belief, especially when in every case the FA has refused to act prohibitively against these players. Even guys that you would never associate such vicious stamps and jumps with, such as Peter Crouch, baby Denilson from Arsenal, Robbie Keane and Brynjar Gunnarson, have been getting in on the act too, and something just has to be done.

It is actually a miracle that, save for John Terry’s broken foot, no-one has been severely injured. That the incidents haven’t garnered the press that Ben Thatcher’s psychotic elbowing of Pedro Mendes is even more of a miracle, given the love of the newspapers to criticise aspects of the professional game at the moment.

Three match bans simply are not enough at the moment, and the FA’s hands have to be untied to act after the event if we are to protect the rapidly decreasing selection of flair players we actually have in this country. Is it any wonder that maestros like Ronaldinho and Kaka are reluctant to play in the English league if that is the sort of treatment they can look forward to week in, week out? Don’t get me wrong, I will always defend the shall we say ‘competitive’ nature of the Premier League over the theatrics and diving of some European leagues, but if that is at the expense of skills and trickery, then I don’t know where I stand.

You know what, this was only meant to be a half serious article. Why does no-one ever direct one of these tackles towards someone like Paul Konchesky or Joey Barton anyway? Surely Barton getting his shin snapped would be justice for all those ‘indiscretions’ of the past that he has so brazenly gotten away with?

But I digress again. The main reason I got into this all was to post the below video. Check out some of these bad boys, I especially like modified WWF favourite, the Frankensteiner, around the 1:30 minute mark:

27 December, 2007

Gameweek 19 – The Footballing Feast of St. Stephen

Happy day-after-Boxing-Day then faithful readers, hopefully Santa brought everyone what they wanted, and being covered in family for three days wasn’t too painful. To help choke down further mouthfuls of Turkey over the Trivial Pursuit board we were treated to a 29 goal-packed Boxing Day, while Arsenal were finally disposed from the top of the tree by Manchester United for the first time since the league table meant anything.

Yesterday saw a contender for game of the season at Stamford Bridge (see extended highlights above) as the Blues shared 8 goals with rising Aston Villa, in a match that contained 3 red cards, 2 penalties and an absolute (Christmas) cracker from the re-born Shevchenko. Elsewhere, Spurs drummed hapless Fulham to continue their ascent to the business end of the table, while wins for Liverpool, Everton and Birmingham also extended their top-notch recent form. Finally, Newcastle suffered yet another defeat, but this time by fellow strugglers Wigan, in a game where they showed literally no evidence that they’d actually ever played the sport before.

Premier League Team of the Week (based on OPTA stats, Fantasypremierleague.com ratings and my own expert eye):

Keeper – Lewis Price (great debut against a determined Liverpool side)

Defence – Ryan Taylor (solid at the back and a fantastic winning freekick), Nicky Shorey (marauding wideplay and excellent delivery throughout), Sol Campbell (heavyweight performance against his old club)

Midfield – Christiano Ronaldo (constant threat with the bag of tricks well and truly open for all to see), Steven Gerrard (single-handedly secured the victory in the dying seconds), Shaun Maloney (great brace topped off an all round decent showing), Tom Huddlestone (pick of the superb Spurs midfield on the day), Tim Cahill (continuing his excellent run of form)

Up Top – Andrei Shevchenko (is he finally back to his Milan best?), Robbie Keane (sublime interplay with Berbatov and two classic poachers goals)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – Sublime individual skill from STT wet dream Fernando Torres for the opener at Pride Park is in contention, but Ronaldo’s slice of freekick perfection from 25 yards has to take this.

Nutmeg of the Week – The Portuguese sleaze-meister takes this as well for a classic drag and backheel through Paul McShane in the build up to Rooney’s goal at the Stadium of Light.

Save of the Week – The aforementioned Lewis Price seemed to defy the laws of physics to palm Xabi Alonso’s thunderbolt up onto the cross bar late on.

Skill of the Week – Many examples from Mr Ronaldo once again; innumerable stepovers, flicks, pirouettes and backheels to remind everyone how smug he is against the lesser teams.

Gaffe of the Week – A collector’s item this; human brick wall Petr Cech lets a tame Maloney’s finish dribble through his arms to put Chelsea 0 – 2 down in the first half at Stamford Bridge.

Sniper-on-the-roof of the Week – It’s good to see him back but Michael Ballack’s unbalanced topple to win Chelsea’s penalty had bullet in the spinal cord written all over it.

Miss of the Week – Next Big ThingTM Giles Barnes somehow puts a header from two metres out wide of Reina’s goal.

Speculative Effort of the Week – Professional barbequer Mark Viduka tries to work off those Christmas burgers by athletically lobbing Kirkland from outside the penalty box with a bicycle kick.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – It all proved a bit much for Frank yesterday as he decided to give Aston Villa a chance by retiring early in the first half. Was superlative up until then though, touched the ball almost 5 times.

Wrong-Place-Wrong-Time of the Week – Of all the Premier League players you don’t want falling on top of you, part-time stone column Darren Moore has to be up there with van Persie and Jonny Evans. Stephen Pearson obviously came off worse in this encounter and is now nursing a broken arm. Happy Christmas.

Fraggle Rock Character of the Week – The unfortunately named Martin Waghorn made his debut for Sunderland in their raping by Man United.

Return(s) of the Week – Nice to see Ledley King, Damian Duff and Thomas Graveson back in action. Duff perhaps wishes he’d stayed in the treatment room though.

Olympics 2012 Audition of the Week – Joleon Lescott shows another string to his bow by busting some kind of high-jump/scissors kick to clear off the line at Goodison.

Controversy of the Week – I guess it would have to be the last minute penalty at Stamford Bridge given for Ashley Cole handling on the line when it appeared to hit him in the face. Given Chelsea’s own dodgy penalty though, this was probably justice.

Banter of the Week – Both Arsenal and Portsmouth fans at Fratton park singing “England’s Number 1” about their goalkeepers.

ASBO of the Week – Jointly shared by semi-professional pantomime pirate Ricardo Carvalho and Icelandic hardman Brynjar Gunnarsson, who both joined the rapidly-expanding Leg Breakers Inc. To be fair, both have since apologised.

Whinge of the Week – Arsene Wenger cannot stop complaining about Portsmouth: “They played in one half of the pitch. I don't think offensively they had a special performance, they played with 10 players at the back and in the end they got the maximum they could from this kind of game.”

Hero of the Week – Steven Gerrard for the last minute drive that gave Liverpool the win at Pride Park. Running on fumes, the Scouse captain carried the ball more than 50 yards before finishing off expertly in the 94th minute to keep the Reds in touch with the top 3.

Zero of the Week – For not the first time this season it has to be Sam Allerdyce following another indifferent (to say the least) Newcastle performance. With Chelsea and Everton up next in the league, and in-form Championship highflyers Stoke City in the FA Cup, this is going to be the most crucial 10 days of Allerdyce’s career yet…

Personal Highlight of the Week – The countrywide encouragement of fancy dress for all supporters. Kind of made the hooligan fights a bit of a farce though, there’s just something ultimately depressing about glassing someone dressed as Tigger.

You’re A Long Way From Home Pretty Boy

Those crazy Far-Easterners eh. In a friendly Christmas Eve match in the Johor province, Malaysia, a referee produced first a red card, and then a handgun. After both teams in the local derby got a touch “unruly” after a controversial sending off, the part-time policeman dashed to his nearby meat wagon to pick up a weapon, before discharging what he described as “warning shots” into the air.

The mob understandably dissipated as this furor threatened to reach boiling point and police back-up arrived. Johor police chief Hussin Ismail told STT (via sister affiliate the New Straits Times) that they are currently “investigating as to whether the policeman was justified in taking out his firearm and discharging it, and also why he had it with him during the match.” The un-named Judge Dredd wannabe is being held in custody at the moment pending this inquiry, while five players are also being detained for “suspicion of rioting.”

Far from it for STT to encourage fire-arms but perhaps arming our Premier league referees with small-caliber weaponry would make players think twice before surrounding and threatening them. Maybe make them actually Nerf guns and just don’t tell the players?

26 December, 2007

Party Season

As you might have heard, The Manchester United Christmas party went off with a bang, as there were allegations of rape directed at Johnny Evans and various reports of lude behaviour. In recent weeks, Chelsea Players have also been accused of naughtiness and high jinx in the company of partially clothed ladies, while it was revealed that John Terry isn't actually a very good dancer.

To wash away the nasty taste that these stories leave in the palate, here is a selection of the finest costumes from this year's sport-themed West Ham party and last year's 80s-themed Liverpool party: (click on all pics to enlarge)

Luis Boa Morte dressed as a pixie? Oh no, he thinks he's a matador. Maybe Lee Bowyer was the bull.............

Pepe 'Pepys' Reina decided to go as a zombie. A lady zombie at that.

The ever-unpopular Carlton Cole reminds us more of Carlton Banks in his riding get-up, while Matthew Upson looks like he's at home in a scrum cap.

The legendary Rob Green.

Stevie Gerrard changed his all-weather-grade-6-all-over haircut for this punky number at Liverpool's bash last year. It's nice to know that the bloke's actually got a sense of humour.

Luis Garcia. Looks like Prince. P-I-M-P.

Pete Crouch. Looks Like Parrot. G-I-M-P.

Dean Ashton would gladly stamp on your head and drink Guiness for money. Are Ashton and Upson in the wrong game?

Freddie Ljungberg turned up to this year's West Ham party in an imported Samurai suit. Why? Because he can't hide that fellating midget of his in any other outfit.

James Collins + Drag = No one getting raped tonight.

Emmanuel Eboue's Tiger costume has yet to make an appearance during this party season. But don't worry - if it emerges, you'll be the first to know!

24 December, 2007

Gameweek 18 – ‘Happy Birthday Jebus’

Happy Christmas Eve then everyone, and welcome to what is most likely our penultimate post of the year. Hopefully this finds at least a couple of readers checking over the holiday period! Anyway, going into the hectic Christmas schedule, the league is finally starting to stack up the way most would’ve predicted it before the kick-off way back in August; the top six shouldn’t change too much from now until May, and neither will the bottom six.

Wins for the so-called Big 4 solidified their ongoing dominance, while nearest contenders Everton, Manchester City and Portsmouth have experienced a slight wobble as of late. Cruel heartbreak for Sunderland underlined their frustrations once again, but a glimmer of hope for Derby against Newcastle should suggest that at least the fight is there for the side currently propping the whole pile up…

Premier League Team of the Week (based on OPTA stats, Fantasypremierleague.com ratings and my own expert eye):

Keeper – Petr Cech / Henrique Hilario (Cech helped Chelsea to their 11th clean sheet this season in the league before limping off but Hilario came on to do his part too, with a spectacular save from Santa Cruz to deny the Blackburn man his 6th goal in 3 games. “Hilario-us” he is not.)

Defence – Bacary Sagna (excellent as part of an unusually defense heavy performance from the league leaders), Martin Laursen (superb effort again from the STT favourite), Phil Jagielka (countless crucial interceptions and tackles to keep the defending champions at bay)

Midfield – Dave Kitson (great contribution from the large man with the ‘autumn sunrise’ hair), Christiano Ronaldo (constant threat, topped off by a cracking goal with his left peg), Scott Parker (continuation of his excellent form after long term injury), David Bentley (another class 90 minutes from the Blackburn man who looks more and more like David Beckham in his prime with every game), Tim Cahill (superb going forward as ever but some defensive heroics as well for the big Aussie)

Up Top – Nicolas Anelka (great brace to keep smiles on Bolton fans’ faces), Fernando Torres (involved in everything and another two goals)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – Several contenders this week, with team efforts from Arsenal and Liverpool coming close, however just for the sheer timing and composure, a round of applause for Scott Parker please ladies and gentlemen.

Nutmeg of the Week Kenny Miller does Rozenhal for Derby’s second at St James’, but Spurs sub Taarabt on Sagna should’ve won another penalty at the Emarites too.

Save of the Week – Two heroic efforts to claw off the line from Craig Gordon but unfortunately the latter one was actually given as a goal.

Skill of the Week – Cesc Fabregas’ beautiful backheel to tee up Adebayor for the opener in the North London derby.

Gaffe of the Week – Johan Djorou will be wanting to forget his disastrous throw-in straight to opposition hitman Anelka as quickly as possible.

Miss of the Week – Robbie Keane clatters the bar from 5 yards and then compounds things further by then missing a penalty two minutes later.

PETA-Bothering Moment of the Week – Jaws look-a-like Dean Whitehead brings the pain to Reading’s lion mascot Kingsley, but the Royal gets the last-laugh as they snatch the points a minute later.

Speculative Effort of the Week – Professional scumbag Paul Konchesky fires a bullet into the cross bar from about 35 yards early on at Craven Cottage.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – Actually forced a great save from Brad Friedel but was otherwise his usual ‘effervescent’ self.

Sniper-on-the-roof of the Week – Kenwyne Jones skips over the contact but takes one expertly to the shoulder to win Sunderland’s penalty at Reading.

Narcolepsy of the Week – Darren Bent struggles to stay awake at the North London derby. At least now he knows how everyone feels watching him.

ASBO of the Week – Papa Bouba Diop tries to break pint-sized Argentinian maestro Javier Mascherano’s legs at Anfield.

Super-sub of the Week – Nikolas Bendtner nets Arsenal’s winner with his first touch.

Coolest Scandanavian of the Week – ‘Big’ John Carew for finally capturing the electric form he had at Lyon for so long.

Controversy of the Week – Parallel incidents at Villa Park and the Madjeski underline the need for video technology to confirm when the ball crosses the line.

Brain Donor of the Week – Everton hang with Man United for 90 minutes then Steven Pinaar ruins everything by tripping Giggs in the box.

Quote of the Week – “Well that’s ruined Christmas then” – Tony Gubba stays upbeat describing the above incident.

Mispronounciation of the Week – For some reason, “Tom Cuddlestone” proved to be a popular player with the ladies I watched the North London derby with…

Zero of the Week – Someone indiscriminate at the FA for continuing to ignore the need for video replays. Linesmen at Villa and Reading had no chance of making the correct decisions from their positions and consequently both failed spectacularly.

Hero of the Week – Mark Viduka for showing his class once again with two great goals to save Sam Allerdyce’s blushes going into Christmas.

Personal Highlight of the Week – Looking outside of the Premier League, it has to be being treated to both the Milan derby and ‘El Classico’ in one weekend. Good job I definitely didn’t fall asleep during both of them…

21 December, 2007

Great Commentators Slip-Ups

A metaphorical tip of the hat has to go to Private Eye here, as many of these have also appeared in their famous ‘Colemanballs’ section (and subsequent series of books) over the years. For those not down, David Coleman is an old sports commentator famed for his verbal faux-pas and the magazine started a 'Colemanballs' section years ago, which was then extended to cover all sports casters, as the yanks like to call them. Here then are the very best of the football related comments from years past:

"The new West Stand casts a giant shadow over the entire pitch, even on a sunny day."
Chris Jones

"I would not say he (David Ginola) is the best left winger in the Premiership, but there are none better."
Ron Atkinson

"Both sides have scored a couple of goals, and both sides have conceded a couple of goals."
Peter Withe

"Youu don't score 64 goals in 86 games at the highest level without being able to score goals."
Alan Green

"I was saying the other day, how often the most vulnerable area for goalies is between their legs..."
Andy Gray

"The lad got over-excited when he saw the whites of the goalpost's eyes."
Steve Coppell

"They (Rosenborg) have won 66 games, and they've scored in all of them."
Brian Moore

"If you can't stand the heat in the dressing-room, get out of the kitchen."
Terry Venables

"It's now 1-1, an exact reversal of the score on Saturday."
Unknown commentator on Radio 5 Live

"...but Arsenal are quick to credit Bergkamp with laying on 75% of their nine goals."
Tony Gubba

"What will you do when you leave football, Jack -- will you stay in football?"
Stuart Hall

"Ardiles strokes the ball like it was part of his anatomy."
Jimmy Magee

"Mark Hughes at his very best: he loves to feel people right behind him..."
Kevin Keegan

"If history is going to repeat itself I should think we can expect the same thing again."
Terry Venables

“Gary always weighed up his options, especially when he had no choice."
Kevin Keegan

"We threw our dice into the ring and turned up trumps."
Bruce Rioch

"I'm not a believer in luck..... but I do believe you need it."
Alan Ball

"The Uruguayans are losing no time in making a meal around the referee."
Mike Ingham

"I spent four indifferent years at Goodison Park, but they were great years."
Martin Hodge

"Souness gave Fleck a second chance and he grabbed it with both feet."
James Sanderson

"Tottenham are trying tonight to become the first London team to win this Cup. The last team to do so was the 1973 Spurs side."
Mike Ingham

"Merseyside derbies usually last 90 minutes and I'm sure today's won't be any different."
Trevor Brooking

"A contract on a piece of paper, saying you want to leave, is like a piece of paper saying you want to leave."
John Hollins

"In terms of the Richter Scale this defeat was a force eight gale."
John Lyall

"...an excellent player, but he (Ian Wright) does have a black side."
Gary Lineker

"I'm going to make a prediction - it could go either way."

Ron Atkinson

"What I said to them at half time would be unprintable on the radio"
Gerry Francis

"If we played like this every week, we wouldn't be so inconsistent"
Bryan Robson

"He's one of those footballers whose brains are in his head"
Derek Johnstone

"They compare Steve McManaman to Steve Highway and he's nothing like him, but I can see why - it's because he's a bit different"
Kevin Keegan

"The only thing I have in common with George Best is that we come from the same place…play for the same club...and were discovered by the same man"
Norman Whiteside

"I never comment on referees and I'm not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat"
Ron Atkinson

"For those of you watching in black and white, Spurs are in the all-yellow strip"
John Motson

"I don't think there is anybody bigger or smaller than Maradona"
Kevin Keegan

Jimmy Hill: "Don't sit on the fence Terry, what chance do you think Germany has got of getting through?"
Terry Venables: "I think it's fifty - fifty"

"And he's got the icepack on his groin there, so it’s possibly not the old shoulder injury"
Ray French

Christmas Bonus Quotes!!!

"Tell the Kraut to get his ass up front. We don't pay a million for a guy to hang around in defence."
NY Cosmos executive, on Franz Beckenbauer's positioning

"I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered"
George Best

"That's great, tell him he's Pele and get him back on."
John Lambie, Partick Thistle manager, when told a concussed striker did not know who he was

"We didn't underestimate them. They were a lot better than we thought."
Bobby Robson after England nearly lost to Cameroon, WC 1990.

"We'll still be happy if we lose. It's on at the same time as the Beer Festival."
Niall O'Mahoney, Cork City manager before UEFA Cup game v Bayern Munich.

"It's hard to be passionate twice a week."
George Graham speaking about Arsenal's punishing schedule in 1991.

"I've told the players we need to win so that I can have the cash to buy some new ones"
Chris Turner, Peterborough manager

"Unfortunately, we keep kicking ourselves in the foot."
Ray Wilkins

"Football today, it's like a game of chess. It's all about money."
Newcastle United fan on Radio 5 Live

20 December, 2007

Youngsters + Futsal = An English Ronaldinho?

For those of you not in the know, Futsal is a 5-a-side game played on a basketball-sized pitch using a weighted ball, with the emphasis placed on improvisation, creativity and technique rather than fitness and physicality. Not dissimilar from those awesome Nike Scorpio adverts from the 2002 World Cup, Futsal is prevalent throughout Brazil, Portugal, Italy and Spain especially, with such luminaries as Christano Ronaldo and Deco citing the skill-centric game as a major part of making them the players they are today.

Excuse the shit music / epilepsy-inducing flashes and check some examples of it here:

Is it a coincidence that those aforementioned countries just happen to do so well in the professional FIFA world rankings as well then? England’s senior Futsal team on the other hand has won, I kid you not, just 1 game out of 46, and recently suffered a 6 – 3 drumming by Andorra. Sound familiar? Coach Graeme Bell has stated to the BBC that this statistic is representative of the wider problems associated with English football in general, especially the manner in which players are coached at youth level. Flair is outlawed as being ‘too risky,’ while the emphasis is placed on being ‘competitive’ and ‘hard to beat.’ Crunching tackles and hoofing the ball upfield have no place in futsal however. Using my footballing idol as an example, Zinedine Zidane once famously said he felt fortunate to have played football on the streets of Marseille until the age of 14, meaning that no-one had the chance to coach skill and improvisation out of him.

When you look at how composed young foreign players (Fabregas and Messi are prime examples) are on the ball compared to our lot, the chasm is almost insurmountable. Bell continued: “Players find it challenging because space is at a premium on a futsal court, the ball has to be manipulated far more closely to the body. Players also have to do clever things with the ball and their foot skills improve. There is no hiding place on the court, so decision making is absolutely paramount.” Does that not sound exactly like what our national side needs more than anything?

Trying to think of current homegrown players who have what anyone outside of this country would call ‘skill’ is tough. Looking through Premier League squads, few names jump out, with Joe Cole, Wayne Rooney and David Bentley the only ones that really resonate. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw an English player do a great trick during a game, and wanted to try and replicate it myself. It simply does not happen anymore because our young wingers and strikers are being discouraged to take defenders on. Even foreign wingbacks, such as Patrice Evra and Juliano Belletti to name just two in our league, are able to beat people for fun and are certainly not afraid to do it on the big stage. Our so-called world class players however, are praised for their strength and commitment, rather than for any genuine footballing ability. From a pure entertainment perspective, our league may to the fastest in the world, but without the foreigners, it would undoubtedly be the most boring by a considerable distance.

Graeme Bell concludes ominously: “Unless we start bringing the futsal concepts to the way in which we train young players, we could be having this conversation again in 15 to 20 years' time.”

The Arsenal Youth Team / Carling Cup Team

It’s not often that this site will dish out gushing praise about Arsenal of it’s own accord, but there’s only so long you can ignore what’s in front of you. I strongly believe that Arsenal’s youngsters have now got to the stage where, if entered in the Premier League, they would comfortably finish in the top half.

Essentially this pool of players were enterprising and fearless last season, reaching the Carling Cup final with relative ease. This season however they seem to have brought even more to the table, most notably, resolve and fight. Tuesday night’s game against Blackburn was the thinly-veiled motivation behind this piece, and anyone who saw the game could not fail to have been impressed by a dogged performance against what was 95% Blackburn’s first team. Arsenal meanwhile had made 11 (count ‘em) changes to the side that beat Chelsea at the weekend, with the average age of the starting team a staggering 21.

First team players such as Fabregas and van Persie have been rightly drowned in praise over the last couple of years, and it seems that since the departure of talisman Thierry Henry, Arsenal as a club have gone from strength to strength. The great thing about all of this is the attention that Wenger seems to devote to those players coming through into the side, wanting them to play the same style of football no matter where they are or who they’re playing. We have already seen the likes of Diaby, Diarra, Denilson, Eduardo and Bendtner run riot in the Premier League when given the chance, but looking past these (still young) guys even further into the future, there is a wealth of talent unmatched in this country.

Of those we have actually seen at professional level, the below are ridiculously impressive, while also being depressingly young. Note also, Arsenal nay-sayers (and I include myself in this category) how many are English also:

- Vito Mannone (goalkeeper, Italian, aged 19)

- Gavin Hoyte (centre-back, English, aged 17)

- Paul Rodgers (centre-back, English, aged 18)

- Kieran Gibbs (midfielder, English, aged 18)

- Armand Troare (left-back, French, aged 18)

- Henri Lansbury (midfielder, English, aged 17)

- Mark Randall (midfielder, English, aged 18)

- Nacer Barazite (striker, Dutch, aged 17)

- Fran Merida (striker, Spanish, aged 18, footage from his days as a Barcelona trainee -

When you then think about the number of first team squad players who are themselves under 25, including playmaker Fabregas who is still only 20, you have the makings of a true dynasty to match that of the Liverpools and Manchester Uniteds of the last 20 years…and this is coming from someone who hates the club with a passion, ask anybody!

19 December, 2007

Moan Moan Moan Whinge Whinge Whinge Boo Fucking Hoo

Let me just preface this by saying that I have always been a big fan of Sol’s and he’s one of the few footballers who I actually respect. However, last night he called up the BBC to complain that abuse and chants from the Premier League crowds are “out of hand now,” which reminded me somewhat of a playground whinge. “Please teacher, that boy told me I was stupid and took my Quavers!” I’m sure the readers of this site will join me in collectively feeling very sorry for ‘Big’ Sol on this one:

“You get to the stage when people say you've got to be immune to this. I may be immune but I'm playing football, and should not be subjected to that type of abuse. I am an international player who has given his whole career to club and country. I think I deserve more than this. I know some people may be a little bit disgruntled at how I left certain clubs, I totally understand that, but when you get to the level of personal abuse that I and other players are subjected to, it's got to stop now.”

Hang on a second mate, you get paid more in a week than 99% of the supporters in these stadiums do in a year just to stay fit and play football, which you love, for maybe 180 minutes a week, are you can’t put up with some overweight drunkards telling you you’re shit, or calling you Judas? Grow up man! Obviously no-one can condone racist abuse, but Sol specifically said that this wasn’t about racism, merely personal abuse in general, saying that fans are always “trying to belittle you and it is downright out of order.”

Ever the hyperbolist, Campbell continued: “This is a human rights situation where professional sportsmen - managers as well - want to do their job professionally and people are abusing them verbally.” So what about the unbelievable amount of personal abuse and physically threatening behaviour demonstrated by players towards referees and linesmen then? Intimidation and every swearword under the sun is fine when it’s directed towards an official, but when fans chant a few home truths, the toys all come out of the pram! When you pay the extortionate prices charged by football clubs these days for entry, and those players you paid to see let you down, are you not well within your rights to let them know?

Personally, given how out of control noise at football grounds has got in general, I think the FA should just ban the supporters from speaking at all and make every ground just like the Emarites and Stamford Bridge. In fact, fuck it, scrap the crowd altogether and just run a laughter track from an old episode of Friends over the tanoy on a loop instead. That’d be ace.

I can haz lolfutbawler?

Over the last few months, STT has brought you the finest in lolcat-related humour, with our own special twist. Here are a few pictures of new England gaffer Fabio Capello which have got the treatment recently, along with a selection from our archives.


The orignals:

The Managers:

The Players: